New Age Islam
Wed Nov 25 2020, 06:29 AM

Islamic World News ( 15 Feb 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

In Muzaffarnagar, Hindus Chant Allahu-Akbar, Muslims Har Har Mahadev

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Visit My Mosque launch at Al-Manaar Islamic Centre. (Social media)

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In Muzaffarnagar, Hindus Chant Allahu-Akbar, Muslims Har Har Mahadev

Violence in Name of Religion Cannot Be Justified: Indian Supreme Court

Lashkar, Jaish Want Hizbul Chief Syed Salahuddin to Step Down

Non-Muslims Welcomed To UK Mosques for Annual Open Day

Report: Taliban, Uighur Jihadists Expanding Influence in Afghan Province Bordering China

Appeals Court Said Trump Travel Ban ‘Tainted With Animus toward Islam’

 

India

In Muzaffarnagar, Hindus Chant Allahu-Akbar, Muslims Har Har Mahadev

Violence in Name of Religion Cannot Be Justified: Indian Supreme Court

Hassan Rouhani Lauds Peaceful Co-Existence of Multiple Faiths In India; Calls Islam Religion Of Kindness

Cleric Made No Bribe Demand, Will Probe Complaint, Says Sri Sri

Encounter breaks out between security forces, terrorists in J&K

Hyderabad Mecca Masjid blast case: Shrikant Purohit declared hostile witness

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Pakistan

Lashkar, Jaish Want Hizbul Chief Syed Salahuddin to Step Down

Public Hanging: Islamic Punishment Means to Stop Crime, Says CII

Pakistan asks Trump to help fund border fence with Afghanistan

US move to put Pakistan on FATF politically motivated: FO

Army says troops being sent to Saudi Arabia

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Europe

Non-Muslims Welcomed To UK Mosques for Annual Open Day

More Afghan Civilians Being Deliberately Targeted, U.N. Says

Australia 'under attack' for 15 years from group of Muslim men, judge tells court

Turkish community in Germany to sue far-right lawmaker over abusive remarks

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South Asia

Report: Taliban, Uighur Jihadists Expanding Influence in Afghan Province Bordering China

Miracles Multiply At Bangladesh's Top Catholic Shrine

Judge showed `thought and respect´ in handling Muslim prayer case, says lawyer

‘ISIS accused’ denied Turkish visa before coming here to study

Cross-border shelling also inflicted casualties to Afghan civilians: MoD

More than 10,000 civilians killed, wounded in 2017 in Afghanistan: UNAMA

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North America

Appeals Court Said Trump Travel Ban ‘Tainted With Animus toward Islam’

Regina Mustafa Receives Death Threats in US Mayor Race

US and Russia dispute over Syria in UN Security Council

Tillerson meets Turkey's Erdogan for 'open' talks after weeks of strain

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Southeast Asia

Not Advisable For Chinese Muslims to Use Dog Symbol For Chinese New Year, Group Says

Don’t Review Fatwas on Transgenders Just For Popularity, Islamic Scholars Told

Zahid: Monitor ‘instant Islamic preachers’

Zakir Naik cheated of RM12 million in property investment?

Court Indicts Cleric Accused of Masterminding Attacks

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Mideast

Turkey Demands U.S. Expel Kurdish Militia from Anti-Islamic State Force

Oman's Foreign Minister Visits Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem

Saudi forces repel Houthi border incursion, kills 25 militants

Yemeni retaliatory attacks leave five Saudi soldiers dead

Takfiri groups, a creation of West to divide Muslims: Iran president

Turkish Army Crippled in Operation Olive Branch

German claim about Iran role in Syria-Israel tensions baseless: Official

Tillerson, Erdogan meet amid heightened strain over Operation Olive Branch

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Arab World

Celebrating Valentine’s Day Does Not Contradict Islamic Teachings: Saudi Sheikh

Syrian Army Sends Extensive Military Forces, Equipment to Lattakia

ISIL Gains Control over Tahrir Al-Sham Positions in Southern Damascus

Egypt army: Militants looking to Sinai for new home base

Tillerson: Growing Hezbollah arsenal a threat to Lebanon

Syria to deploy troops to Afrin under deal with Kurdish militants: Reports

Supporting terrorists, main objective of US-led coalition: Syria

Over 1,500 Kurdish Fighters Killed in Turkish Military Operation in Northern Syria

Russian toll in Syria battle was 300 killed and wounded, report says

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Africa

Islamic State Has Landed In Lawless Somalia, Bishop Says

Nigerian Army Places New Bounty on Boko Haram Leader, Shekau

Egypt foils 'infiltration attempt' across Libya border

Somali forces destroy Al-Shabaab bases in southern Somalia

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/in-muzaffarnagar,-hindus-chant-allahu-akbar,-muslims-har-har-mahadev/d/114306

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In Muzaffarnagar, Hindus chant Allahu-Akbar, Muslims Har Har Mahadev

Mohd Dilshad

Feb 15, 2018

MUZAFFARNAGAR: For years after the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013 that left 63 dead and more than 50,000 homeless, Hindus on one side and Muslims on the other bayed for each other's blood. Hundreds of cases were lodged against members of both communities and the social strain was apparent, with the two sides wary, apprehensive and angry.

Of late, though, there has been a transformation. Peace committees are working overtime to bring back the harmony Muzaffarnagar lost, and it is bearing fruit. Nowadays, often after "unity meetings", Hindus can be heard chanting Allahu- Akbar and Muslims Har Har Mahadev.

Adding to the urgency, politicians of all hues have joined in. Recently in Delhi, Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav met a Hindu-Muslim group. RLD's Ajit Singh has followed suit as have some others.

With local village heads and activists lending their weight to the mission, the two warring sides seem to be intent on making peace, to leave the bitter memories behind. In such meetings these days, mostly to withdraw cases against each other, Hindus and Muslims can be heard ending the sittings with cries invoking Allah and Shiva.

"We're tired of fighting," said Mohd Hasan on Wednesday, coming out of a meeting called by Ajit Singh. "I lost my mother in Kutba during the riots. What did the violence achieve? We lost lives, homes, work, years of social harmony. I think realization has finally come."

Yakub Ahmad, another riot-affected who is now living in a resettled colony at Budhana having lost his home in the violence, said, "These past years have been harrowing. We were uprooted, some of our relatives were killed. But who benefited from this mayhem? Only politicians. We are people at the grass-root level, more concerned with making both ends meet. Who has time for inter-faith rivalry? If someone is trying to engineer peace between the two communities, it is good because we have through years depended on each other for sustenance."

National president of Jaat Sangharsh Samiti, Vipin Balian, said, "We want to bring unity between the communities. It is not just about the court cases. Many found it difficult to find labourers for their fields. There were losses everywhere. Muzaffarnagar has to change its own history."

Kiran Pal, another resident of Kutba village, said he has no problem saying Allahu-Akbar. "I think there's nothing wrong with it. These slogans send a message of unity and respect for each other's religion."

Before the Muzaffarnagar riots, Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) was known for making Hindus and Muslims jointly shout such slogans. "Such chants in unison is not something new and could be seen during BKU protests. It's just that riots created polarisation and damaged the social fabric," said former village pradhan Chaudhry Shakir Ali.

RLD state spokesperson Abhishek Gurjar said two big public meetings for communal harmony in Muzaffarnagar, one on February 19 and another in March, has already been planned and "more than one lakh are expected to take part in them".

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/meerut/-in-muzaffarnagar-hindus-chant-allahu-akbar-muslims-har-har-mahadev/articleshow/62922014.cms

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Violence in Name of Religion Cannot Be Justified: Indian Supreme Court

Amit Anand Choudhary

Feb 15, 2018

NEW DELHI: “The fault of the deceased was only that he belonged to another religion. I consider this factor in favour of the accused ... ,” the Bombay High Court had said in its order while granting bail to three accused belonging to Hindu Rashtra Sena for allegedly killing a Muslim youth in 2014.

Taking exception to the observation made by the high court, the Supreme Court on Thursday said that such remarks were uncalled for and reminded that the judiciary must be fully conscious of the plural composition of the country while adjudicating issues pertaining to rights of various communities. It said that any kind of violence in the name of religion or community could not be justified.

A bench of Justices SA Bobde and L Nageswara Rao quashed the order of the Bombay high court granting bail to the accused saying that there was little discussion on the other relevant factors relating to granting or withholding bail in a murder case. It asked the the high court to reconsider the bail plea of the accused afresh as per law on merit without being influenced by any extraneous reason.

“We have carefully perused the impugned order(s) granting bail and we find that there is little reference to/or discussion on the merits of the bail applications but we are satisfied that the significant reason for release is mainly the one stated above. We find that the aforesaid reason can, on a fair reading, be understood or misunderstood almost as a mitigating circumstance or a kind of a justification for the murder and it is obvious that the fact that the deceased belonged to a certain community cannot be a justification for any assault much less a murder,” the bench said.

“While it may be possible to understand a reference to the community of the parties involved in an assault, it is difficult to understand why it was said that ‘the fault of the deceased was only that he belonged to another religion’ and further ‘I consider this factor in favour of the applicants/accused.’ We have no doubt that a court fully conscious of the plural composition of the country while called upon to deal with rights of various communities, cannot make such observations which may appear to be coloured with a bias for or against a community,” it said.

“It is possible that the learned Judge wanted to rule out a personal motive against the victim, but only emphasize communal hatred. It is also possible that the learned single judge may not have intended to hurt the feelings of any particular community or support the feelings of another community but the words are clearly vulnerable to such criticism. The direction cannot be sustained,” the court said.

The high court had on January 12 last year granted bail to Vijay Gambhire, Ganesh Yadav and Ajay Lalge, accused of murdering 28-year-old Mohsin Shaikh on June 2, 2014 in Pune. As per the prosecution, the trio had attended a meeting of Hindu Rashtra Sena to protest against defiling of a statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The accused armed with hockey sticks and bats roamed the streets on the night of June 2 when they came across Shaikh and thrashed him to death.

Their bail plea was rejected by lower court but the high court granted them relief. "The meeting was held prior to the incident of assault. The accused otherwise had no other motive such as any personal enmity against the innocent deceased Mohsin. The fault of the deceased was only that he belonged to another religion. I consider this factor in favour of the accused. Moreover, the accused do not have criminal record and it appears that in the name of the religion, they were provoked and have committed the murder,” a bench of Justice Mridula Bhatkar had said.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/violence-in-name-of-religion-cannot-be-justified-supreme-court/articleshow/62934313.cms

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Lashkar, Jaish Want Hizbul Chief Syed Salahuddin to Step Down

Feb 16, 2018

NEW DELHI: Intelligence inputs suggest Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) chief Syed Salahuddin is under pressure to step down, with Jaish and Lashkar mounting pressure on him, developments that point to deepening rivalries in the ranks of Pakistan-based Jihadi outfits that target India.

Salahuddin, who has for years led Hizbul with the support of ISI and headed the United Jihad Council (UJC), is battling HM’s depleting influence in Kashmir-centric operations and facing the growing ambitions of aggressive terror groups. He is even understood to have “expressed his willingness” to step down as the chief of the terror outfit, which operates only in Kashmir.

The military intelligence input, accessed by TOI, states the Hafiz Saeed-led Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Maulana Masood Azhar’s Jaish-e-Mohammad are spearheading the campaign against Salahuddin. “ISI is under pressure from LeT and JeM to remove Syed Salahuddin,” the input reads. The intelligence reports said Lashkar and Jaish have pitted Salahuddin’s commanders such as Amir Khan, Imtiyaz Alam and a few others against him.

The HM chief, who is a UN-listed global terrorist like Saeed, has enjoyed considerable prominence as head of UJC, formed by Pakistan army as an umbrella organisation for coordination between anti-India terror groups. Hizbul leaders are lobbying against Salahuddin, the input adds.

Several reasons are being cited for HM’s downturn in Kashmir, including specific intelligence-based operations of the Army, J&K police and the CRPF in the last two years in which top commanders of the outfit, including Burhan Wani, Sabzar Bhat, Sajad Gilkar, and Abdul Qayoom Najar, have been killed.

HM has also not carried out a major attack on security forces in the Valley, which has apparently irked the Pakistani establishment that has increasingly preferred Jaish and Lashkar, as was the case in the recent strikes on the Sunjuwan and CRPF camps, said counter-terrorism officials.

A senior home ministry officer, requesting anonymity, said “Fidayeen attacks on the camps of the BSF, the CRPF and the Army in the last couple of months are proof of JeM and LeT taking over the operations and that they want to expand their reach.”

The security agencies also see this as Saeed and Azhar’s pressure tactics to bring HM under their control, as they probably want Kashmiri militants, who largely make up the HM cadre, to be part of fidayeen squads of well-trained fighters from Pakistan.

“It’s good that these groups are fighting with each other but if Kashmiri militants are moved towards JeM and LeT, it could be a dangerous trend,” said another officer.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/lashkar-jaish-want-hizbul-chief-to-step-down/articleshow/62939163.cms

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Non-Muslims welcomed to UK mosques for annual open day

15 February 2018

LONDON: Non-Muslims will be welcomed with tea and biscuits at mosques across the UK this weekend during an annual open day that encourages integration and understanding among people of all faiths.

Visit My Mosque 2018 marks the fourth edition of the event which will see more than 200 mosques from London to Wales run tours and talks covering Islam, prayer practices and daily Muslim life.

Under this year’s theme “Open doors, open mosques, open communities,” participating mosques will also outline some of the benefits they bring to their communities, including projects for homelessness, hunger and refugee support.

Harun Khan, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, which is behind the event, emphasized the “positive difference” mosques make to their local communities.

Speaking at a launch on Thursday at the Al-Manaar Center in Kensington, which has been holding mosque open days for years, he said, “Mosques are part and parcel of the fabric of British society.”

The Al-Manaar Center was proactive in the response effort following the Grenfell Tower fire, which devastated the community in June 2017.

“We saw last June how they stepped up without hesitation when others didn’t,” said Kensington and Chelsea MP Emma Dent.

“This is a very important day to highlight the existence of local institutions like mosques that can be accessed by anyone,” said Abdulrahman Syed, Chief Executive Officer at Al-Manaar. “For us every day of the year...is an open day.”

“Mosques are more open than ever before,” Khan added, expressing his hope that Visit My Mosque would be, “A small step toward greater community cohesion in Britain today.”

Organizers anticipate a high turn-out building on last year’s event when around 10,000 people took part, with the highest number visiting Cumbernauld mosque in Glasgow, which welcomed up to 3,000 people and York Mosque, where around 1,000 showed up.

A YouGov poll commissioned by the Muslim Council of Britain, which is hosting the event, found that 90 percent of Britons haven’t been inside a mosque while almost 70 percent haven’t seen inside another faith’s place of worship. In addition, one in four Britons said they did not know a Muslim.

“Despite the multi-religious and multi-cultural society we live in, these poll results show that the majority of Britons have not seen what the place of worship of another faith looks like,” Khan said.

The event helps counter misconceptions around Islam and mosques in the UK. It’s a way of showing “There’s nothing sinister, there’s nothing strange” about mosques, Khan added. “Mosques are very welcoming places.”

The day comes during a time of increasing islamophobia in the UK, with hate crimes against Muslim places of worship more than doubling between 2016 and 2017.

Last week saw a life sentence handed down to Darren Osborne, who drove a rented van into a crowd of people outside Finsbury Park Mosque, killing Makram Ali and injuring others as they left Ramadan prayers.

Discussing the need to address islamophobia, Dent added, “We have to counter ignorance with knowledge and hate with love and this is what we’re doing here.”

Nadeem Ali, with the Muslim Cultural & Welfare Association of Sutton, which is taking part in the open day, said: “We see this as an opportunity to welcome our non-Muslim neighbours and for them to find out that we are normal, non-violent, law-abiding and hopefully nice people, contributing to British society.”

“We hope the event gives them the chance to dispel negative impressions of Muslims they may have from the media, and to see first-hand the kinder, warmer and more welcoming side of the Muslim community.”

The Reverend Anna Macham, priest at St Philip's church in Camberwell, London said the open day “brings greater understanding.”

“It’s so easy for people to get the wrong idea about what Islam or any religion is from the media, but the impression you get from actually meeting Muslims, sharing food with them and enjoying their hospitality is very different.”

A poster advertising the open day at Derby Jamia Mosque invites people to “Pop in, meet the Imams (spiritual leaders) and ask questions,” while an advertisment for Quwwat-ul-Islam in Newham, London reads: “Come and see beyond the walls.”

Others promise traditional British refreshments. “Sharing tea and cakes is really the best antidote,” Khan added.

Mufiti, Mohammed Amin Pandor of The Peace Institute in Leeds, said “The most important thing for us is the Q&A. We want people to ask us any questions… we will never be offended. We will answer the questions truthfully.”

This year Visit My Mosque merchandise was released for the first time, including branded pens and balloons available for participating mosques to order.

The Muslim Council of Britain has also recently launched “Better Mosques: A Community Consultation” inviting anyone to submit ideas on how mosques can become better in Britain today.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1247061/world

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Report: Taliban, Uighur Jihadists Expanding Influence in Afghan Province Bordering China

15 Feb 2018

Taliban and Chinese Uighur jihadists are reportedly increasing their presence in a province in northern Afghanistan that borders Tajikistan, Pakistan, and China.

“We are concerned that an estimated 200 foreign fighters are active. They include citizens of Uzbekistan, members of the Uighur Muslim minority from China, and citizens of Tajikistan,” Mohammad Dawlat Khawar, the governor of Badakhshan’s Warduj district, told Gandhara, a component of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).

“The militants collect one-tenth of wheat crops, walnuts, and other produce in the name of collecting an Islamic tax, Usher. They also frequently force villagers to feed them,” added Abdul Wahab Majruh, a schoolteacher whom the Taliban forced out of his home in Badakhshan.

China, Islamabad’s major ally, has rebuked U.S. assertions that Pakistan harbors terrorists who operate in Afghanistan, namely the Afghan Taliban and their Haqqani Network allies.

The most prominent jihadists groups in the region — the Taliban, al-Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), and the Uighur’s East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) – maintain strongholds along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

According to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, China faces a significant terrorist threat from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, which the Pentagon has repeatedly stressed is home to the “highest concentration” of U.S.-designated terrorist groups.

Gandhara reports that the Taliban is increasingly conquering territory in Afghanistan’s Badakhshan, home to Uighur jihadists from neighboring China’s Muslim-majority province of Xinjiang.

“The Taliban control large swathes of rural Badakhshan. Their growing influence there is now prompting concerns that the province will become a bastion for regional terrorism because it borders Pakistan, China, and Tajikistan,” notes the news outlet.

Mohammad Dawlat Khawar, the governor of Badakhshan’s Warduj district, told Gandhara that Taliban jihadists “have recreated a mini version of the Taliban emirate from the 1990s.”

The RFE/RL wing notes that the Taliban terrorists “have imposed harsh rules in the two districts in the name of implementing the Islamic Shari’a law.”

“After capturing the region, they first collected all television sets to enforce a ban on watching it, and they banned women from going to the local bazaar without a male guardian,” Khawar told Gandhara. “They have established roll calls at the mosques to know if any men are missing prayers.”

A Taliban-affiliated mullah now “whips and beats” locals if he deems them to be committing a “vice,” indicated the governor.

Taliban jihadists held power over the Afghan government from 1996 to late 2001, when the U.S. military overthrew the regime in response to 9/11.

Terrorists, primarily the Taliban, now control or contest about 45 percent of Afghanistan, according to the U.S. military.

Reconciliation between the Taliban and Kabul is a major tenet of U.S. President Donald Trump’s strategy to end the more than 16-year-old war in Afghanistan.

Chinese Uighur terrorist from ETIM, a jihadist organization linked to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, is known to operate in Badakhshan.

“The number of Uighurs is now over 50, but they are aiming high,” Gul Mohammad Baidar, the deputy provincial governor of Badakhshan, told Gandhara. “They want to increase their number and then move into China through the Wakhan Corridor.”

Baidar noted that terrorists are also crossing into Afghanistan from Pakistan.

The U.S. military recently expanded its airstrike campaign to Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province, targeting Taliban and ETIM training camps in the region.

Following the Islamic State’s (ISIS/ISIL) fall in Iraq and Syria, the United States has made Afghanistan the main effort of its air campaign.

Taliban operations have reportedly forced Badakhshan residents to flee their homes by the “thousands,” Gandhara reports.

A top Pentagon official recently told lawmakers that the U.S. is promoting counterterrorism cooperation with China in Afghanistan.

On Wednesday, Adm. Harry Harris, the chief of U.S. Pacific Command, cautioned members of Congress on Wednesday that China’s military buildup might soon challenge America in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2018/02/15/report-taliban-uighur-jihadists-expanding-influence-afghan-province-bordering-china/

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Appeals court said Trump travel ban ‘tainted with animus toward Islam’

February 15, 2018

Yet another federal appeals court ruled Thursday against President Trump’s revised travel ban, saying it is “unconstitutionally tainted with animus toward Islam.”

The 9-4 decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Richmond, Virginia, is the second appeals ruling to spank the president, saying his third attempt to try to block dangerous visitors from terrorism hot spots is still illegal.

The issue is already before the Supreme Court based on previous rulings.

But Thursday’s decision adds more legal weight to the opposition to Mr. Trump, with the 4th Circuit, ruling en banc, saying the president’s statements about Muslims, from the campaign and up into his time in office, show a bigotry that cannot be ignored.

“An objective observer could conclude that the President’s repeated statements convey the primary purpose of the Proclamation — to exclude Muslims from the United States,” wrote Judge Roger Gregory, first nominated to the court by President Clinton.

“In fact, it is hard to imagine how an objective observer could come to any other conclusion when the president’s own deputy press secretary made this connection express,” Judge Gregory wrote.

Mr. Trump first issued his travel ban in January 2017, proposing a blunt halt to all arrivals from seven majority-Muslim countries identified by Congress and the Obama administration as terrorism threats.

After courts struck that down he returned with a narrower plan aimed at six countries, and that allowed some citizens of those countries to come under certain circumstances. That plan, too, was rejected by federal courts — though the Supreme Court reversed them and allowed it to take partial effect.

After a long global review of countries’ cooperation, Mr. Trump released a third version of the travel ban last fall, identifying a broader set of countries — including several nonmajority Muslim ones — that earned restrictions. Still, the most severe restrictions were chiefly imposed on majority-Muslim countries.

The court battle over the three orders has been fierce — and deeply partisan.

Nearly every judge who ruled against Mr. Trump was nominated by a Democratic president, while nearly every GOP appointee has ruled in favor of Mr. Trump.

Thursday’s ruling was no different, with all nine of the judges who said the president was anti-Muslim having been appointed by either Mr. Clinton or President Obama.

Still, one Democratic appointee — Judge William Traxler Jr. — sided with Mr. Trump this time, even though he’d ruled against the travel ban in a previous go-around.

He said that while the first two policies were tainted by animus, this one didn’t appear to be.

The three GOP-appointed judges who dissented Thursday said courts have gone too far in trying to stop Mr. Trump, at times “substituting judicial judgment for that of elected representatives.”

“It appears that the temptation may have blinded some Article III courts, including the district court and perhaps the majority of this court, to these obligations, risking erosion of the public’s trust and respect, as well as our long-established constitutional structure,” wrote Judge Paul V. Niemeyer.

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/feb/15/appeals-court-said-trump-travel-ban-tainted-animus/

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India

 

Hassan Rouhani lauds peaceful co-existence of multiple faiths in India; calls Islam religion of kindness

Feb 16, 2018

Hyderabad: Iranian president Hassan Rouhani on Thursday lauded India's cultural diversity, saying multiple faiths and schools of thought co-exist peacefully in the country.

Speaking at a meeting with Muslim intellectuals, scholars and clerics in Hyderabad on Thursday night, Rouhani, who arrived in Hyderabad on a three-day India visit, said Islam is not a religion of violence, but one of moderation.

"Iran wants unity, independence and support for the East. Iran wants fraternity with India. We do not want to have any differences with other countries as well," said Rouhani who is on his first India visit since assuming charge as president in 2013.

The Iranian president lauded India's culture and traditions, and said the country was a "living museum" of religions and schools of thought.

"We see a lot of temples, other places of worship, and they are living in peace. They are having peaceful co-existence," he said.

Muslims, non-Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs are coexisting in peace in India, he said.

However, the West has created fissures between nations, he said.

"The enemies of Islam want to represent Islam as a religion of violence. Islam is not a religion of violence. Islam is a religion of moderation, Islam is a religion of kindness," he said.

Iran believes that there is no military solution to problems which are diplomatic in nature, Rouhani said.

"When a war is imposed, people have no other option but to defend themselves, and those who defend are the true companions and true followers of the almighty God," he said.

"The Western world oppressed and exploited the Eastern world and its resources" and caused tensions and differences to arise between oriental countries, he said.

"When we Muslims (in the past centuries) possessed universities and technologies, and others did not possess (them), we...transferred our teachings and science to them."

"However, when they (West) reached the (same level of progress), they did not (give) the same treatment. They did not provide us with technology fairly and justly," he said.

Calling for unity among Muslims, Rouhani said his country wants to clear the "hurdles" faced by the people of war-torn countries such as Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Yemen are facing.

"We want to clear the hurdles for the people of Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen. The solution is unity and brotherhood in joint effort," he said.

Despite tight security, Rouhani allowed some of those present to click selfies with him after the speech.

Iran Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif also spoke at the event.

The Iranian president is scheduled to visit the famous Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad and offer prayers on Friday. Later, he would be leaving for New Delhi.

Earlier, he arrived in Hyderabad on a special flight from Tehran and was received by Union Minister of State for Power RK Singh and Telangana and Andhra Pradesh Governor ESL Narasimhan along with senior officials of Telanaga government.

http://www.firstpost.com/india/hassan-rouhani-in-india-iranian-president-lauds-peaceful-co-existence-of-multiple-faiths-in-india-calls-islam-religion-of-kindness-4353785.html

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Cleric made no bribe demand, will probe complaint, says Sri Sri

Feb 16, 2018

LUCNOW: Reacting to the bribery allegations against sacked executive member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board, Maulana Salman Husaini Nadwi, Art of Living (AoL) founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said on Thursday that the cleric made no such demand during his interaction with him last week.

Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir Nirman Nyas general secretary Amarnath Mishra had on Thursday filed a police complaint against Nadwi alleging that he demanded Rs 5,000 crore, 200 acres of land and a Rajya Sabha seat for helping in settling the Ayodhya dispute out of court. The complaint has not been turned into an FIR so far.

“Some people seem to be working to derail and discredit the dialogue process,” Sri Sri said in a statement. “We will probe the genuineness of his (Mishra’s) complaint. As far as our interaction with Maulana Nadwi is concerned, there were no such demands,” he added. Speaking on behalf of Sri Sri, AoL director Gautam Vig said no team had been set up for settlement of Ayodhya dispute.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/cleric-made-no-bribe-demand-will-probe-complaint-says-sri-sri/articleshow/62939477.cms

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Encounter breaks out between security forces, terrorists in J&K

Feb 16, 2018

SRINAGAR: An encounter broke out on Friday between terrorists and security forces in Pattan area of north Kashmir's Baramulla district, police said.

Security forces launched a cordon and search operation in Tantray Mohalla area of Pattan in the early hours, a police official said.

He said the search operation turned into a gunbattle when the hiding terrorists fired on the joint search party.

No casualties have been reported so far, the official said, adding that the operation was underway till last reports came in.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/encounter-breaks-out-between-security-forces-terrorists-in-jk/articleshow/62940971.cms

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Hyderabad Mecca Masjid blast case: Shrikant Purohit declared hostile witness

February 16, 2018

Lieutenant Colonel Shrikant Purohit, who was made a witness by the NIA in the Mecca Masjid blast case, on Wednesday told the special NIA court that his statement as a witness was never recorded either by the CBI, which first probed the case, nor by NIA, which took over the case in 2011. Following Purohit’s deposition, the prosecution declared him hostile.

NIA’s Special Public Prosecutor N Harinath told The Indian Express that Purohit was listed as witness number 106 to the conspiracy to carry out the blast at Mecca Masjid in 2007; to identify Swami Aseemanand, Sunil Joshi, Devendra Gupta and other accused; and prove that Aseemanand called him after the murder of Joshi, an accused in Ajmer Dargah blast case.

Appearing on Wednesday before the IVth Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge cum Special Court for NIA cases, Purohit told the court that he knew Aseemanand and other accused like Gupta and Joshi, but only in his capacity as an Army intelligence officer trying to gather information. He denied ever meeting any of them.

Purohit also denied that he received a call from Aseemanand on December 29, 2007, inquiring if he knew who was behind Joshi’s murder.

Harinath said, “Purohit denied knowing of the conspiracy and declined that there was any conspiracy at all. He said he knew Aseemanand and the others, but only because he was gathering information about them. He said that in his statement recorded under CrPC Section 161 before the investigating officer of CBI, there was no mention of Mecca Masjid. Due to this, the prosecution declared him hostile.” He said Purohit turning hostile would not impact the case. “He was not the main witness. Of the 222 witnesses examined, only 35 have turned hostile,’’ Harinath said. He said that only eight witnesses remained to be examined in the case, and the trial may be over by end of April.

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/hyderabad-mecca-masjid-blast-case-shrikant-purohit-declared-hostile-witness-5065901/

Terrorists open fire at CRPF camp in Awantipora, security forces retaliate

 February 15, 2018

An encounter between security forces and a group of terrorists broke out after the latter opened fire at a CRPF camp in Panz Gam village in Pulwama’s Awantipora area in Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday evening, the ANI reported.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/jammu-and-kashmir-terrorists-open-fire-at-crpf-camp-in-awantipora-security-forces-retaliate-5065624/

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Pakistan

 

Public hanging: Islamic punishment means to stop crime, says CII

Ansar Abbasi

February 15, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The Council of Islamic Ideology on Wednesday officially conveyed to the Senate that the government and the courts can go ahead with public hanging of a convict without amending any law.

In its response to the Senate’s reference on the question of public hanging, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) on Wednesday House. The one-page reply of the CII, which had deliberated upon the issue last week, based its recommendations on the teachings of Islam.

The CII said that in Sharia, the purpose of punishment is to set an example and create deterrence against the crime. The Council’s reply said that in the case of Had-e-Zina (punishment for fornication), the Holy Quran explains that a group of people- Taifa- should be present to witness the execution of the punishment. The Council added the word Taifa is defined by the Islamic jurisprudence as a group of people whose number can vary from three to forty.

The CII said in the severe forms of dacoities, the Sharia envisages the punishment of public execution. Regarding other punishments in Islam, the CII added an example should be made out of the culprit for deterrence in the society against the crime.

Referring to interpretation of Islamic scholars and jurisprudence, the CII explained today in the presence of media the purpose, of creating deterrence and making an example out of the culprit, can even be achieved through media publicity of the execution of the punishment.

Regarding the Senate’s question of amending Section 364-A of the CrPC to include the words “Public hanging”, the CII said that no such amendment to the law is required as the purpose could be achieved under the prevalent law. The CII while referring to Rule 364 of the Prison Rules 1978 and Section 10 of Special Court for Speedy Trial Act 1992 concluded that in the presence of these laws and rules, the court and the government can go for public hanging of a convict.

The CII response further said the present judicial system requires reformation for speedy justice not only to the satisfaction of the affected family but also to ensure the impression of certainty of punishment in the society. In the case of heinous crimes, the CII said the culprits should be punished by the courts without any waste of time.

Of late, the Senate Secretariat had referred to the Council a proposed amendment to CrPC to allow public hanging. The Senate Committee on Interior under the chairmanship of Senator A Rehman Malik had recommended the amendment to publicly hang the convicts like the one involved in Kasur incidents.

The CII’s position on public hanging, does not go in line with the opinion of some politicians and even the Chief Justice of Pakistan. Initially Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had said that he wanted to publicly hang the murderers and rapists of the young girls in Kasur to set an example but the law does not allow him to do so. The chief minister said he would get the law amended to pave the way for public hangings.

The Chief Justice of Pakistan during the hearing of suo moto case of Zainab murder was reported by the media to have told the father of the murdered child that he too wanted to publicly hang the culprit but it was not permissible by the law of the land.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/281251-public-hanging-islamic-punishment-means-to-stop-crime-says-cii

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Pakistan asks Trump to help fund border fence with Afghanistan

15 Feb 2018

Pakistan is building a fence along its border with Afghanistan, and it wants Donald Trump to pay for it – or at least some of it.

The 1,800-mile barrier being constructed will help end “the prolonged agony” of the Afghan war and reduce terrorism inside Pakistan, said Nasir Khan Janjua, the national security adviser to Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the prime minister.

Janjua said that Pakistan would like the US president to pay for the barrier – or at least the Afghan side – arguing that the $532m (£378m) price tag will be a lot cheaper than the $45bn annual estimated cost of the Afghan war.

At a briefing in Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan – one of the semi-autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas – Pakistani officials laid out a timetable for construction of the 10ft wire fence running the length of the porous border with Afganistan.

In a bunker at the headquarters of the army’s 7th Infantry Division, Col Wasi Uddin said 11,136 border posts and 443 forts are being installed on the Pakistani side – seven times more than on the Afghan side.

Uddin said Pakistan planned to complete the fence by 2019, apart from a section in the extreme north of the country. The border will be fitted with underground movement sensors and a network of CCTV cameras, Uddin said.

“We will know exactly who is entering and or exiting at every crossing point,” he said.

The plan is part of an effort to show that Pakistan has a plan to ease the Afghan crisis – rather than simply rejecting Trump’s preferred outcome of a military defeat of the Afghan Taliban.

“The Muslim world is in turmoil and what has been bothering it most has been the instability of Afghanistan for the last 16 years,” Janjua said.

Janjua, a retired three-star army general, said that Pakistan is still willing to cooperate on intelligence with the Americans.

Relations between Islamabad and Washington were thrown into disarray at the start of the year, when the White House abruptly announced it was suspending some security assistance to Pakistan, arguing that its military and intelligence services were giving sanctuary to the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network.

Trump’s actions have put US-Pakistan relations into their most fragile state since the US discovered Osama bin Laden living under the noses of Pakistan intelligence in 2013.

Anti-Americanism is rife across the country and, in an election year, is being exploited by all parties.

Trump could take further measures, and has endorsed further unilateral US drone strikes inside Pakistan territory – something Janjua said undermined Pakistan sovereignty. The US is pushing to have Pakistan included on the Financial Action Task Force’s “grey list” of countries failing to crack down on terrorism financing.

Janjua said Pakistan wanted to cooperate with the US. “The Americans have blamed us, and said we are responsible for safe havens but when we say ‘lets work together to find the safe havens, and isolate them’, there is no answer.”

For more than a decade, the CIA has accused Pakistan’s Inter Service Intelligence of playing a double game in which it pledges to destroy the Afghan Taliban, but protects its fighters, which it views as a useful proxy to destablise the Kabul government.

The issue has as much to do with geo-politics as counter terrorism. Pakistan military regard the country’s chief strategic threat as coming from an Indian-backed government in Kabul completing a hostile encirclement of Pakistan.

As a result, Pakistan’s powerful intelligence service has always been more willing to chase down terrorists representing an internal threat to Pakistan – al-Qaida, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and more recently Islamic State – but have been more tolerant of the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network. Politicians – such as Nawaz Sharif, the ousted prime minister – who challenge the military orthodoxy or the generals’ near autonomy in foreign policy, find there are career consequences.

Major general Asif Ghafoor, the Pakistani military spokeman, said Trump’s Afghan strategy – retaining more 10,000 US troops indefinitely, modernising the Afghan air force by providing US equipment, and retraining Afghan security forces – is essentially the same failed recipe that has been tried for 16 years.

Pakistan hopes to see the start of independently brokered peace talks with the Taliban.

Many in the Pakistani elite – both civilian and military – believe that the west has ignored the sacrifices made by the country during a decade of interconnected conflicts with separatist insurgents, religious extremist politics, criminal gangs and jihadi terrorists.

“Those who fight us, blame us. Those who side with us, blame us. We are made a scapegoat and we are a poor country – so it is easy to try to blame us,” said Janjua.

In response, Islamabad has stepped up its efforts sell its own narrative, taking a steady stream of reporters, analysts and politicians by helicopter to Miranshah – once a hotbed of homegrown and foreign fighters.

This was the setting for a bitter two-year war launched by the Pakistan army after militants attacked Karachi airport in 2014. Much of the town was obliterated in the fighting.

In a surreal attempt to show how the extremists operated, the army has built a Jihadi museum, including a replica warren of underground tunnels, an execution room, and a room for the preparation of suicide bombers. Two goats are tethered in the courtyard to lend reality.

The army takes visitors on a coach tour of the town to see the “new normalcy” – a sports stadium, park and bazaar being built along with health centres.

These are unprecedented public investments in a long neglected area. But the town is eerily empty, and its inhabitants forced back from the road by soldiers. Others have been sent to de-radicalisation centres.

Ghafoor said that by the end of March, Pakistan wants to start “a dignified return” of as many as 2.5 million Afghan refugees, some of whom have been in the country for decades. Humanitarian agencies say Afghanistan could not cope with an influx of repatriated citizens.

In a further sign of a tougher strategy, provincial governments are trying to bring religious seminaries – often criticised as a conyeyor belt to religious extremism –under the control of provincial education departments.

On Wednesday, authorities also banned two charities linked to Hafiz Saeed, the radical Islamist cleric who the US says was behind the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks which killed 166.

Plans have been laid to install 1,400 CCTVs across Quetta, the garrison capital in Balochistan, and allegedly home to many in the Afghan Taliban leadership.

At least three serious terrorist attacks have hit the city in the past few months.

Parked outside his office, Balochistan’s chief minister Abdul Quddus Bizenjo’s car is riddled with bullet holes.

Quddus complains that Pakistan is misunderstood, and the terrorist threat is more complex than a Trump tweet could ever allow.

“We have sacrificed more than 70,000 lives here and in our province suffered billions in damages, far more than in America. To say we are harbouring terrorists is discouraging and insulting.”

Full report at:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/15/pakistan-asks-trump-to-help-fund-border-fence-with-afghanistan

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US move to put Pakistan on FATF politically motivated: FO

Feb 16, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday lashed out at the United States for its attempt to put the country on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) watch list, saying the move is “unprecedented, politically motivated” and aims to hamper economic growth.

The FATF, an intergovernmental organisation, sets global standards against illicit finance, is set to meet next week to take up the motion jointly moved by the US and the UK and also backed by Germany and France.

During his weekly media briefing, the FO spokesperson said that the FATF is an international body that sets standards relating to combating money laundering and terrorist financing. “Such motions are aimed to hamper the economic growth of Pakistan”, he added.

He said that Pakistan remains committed to combating terrorism in all forms and manifestations and ongoing terrorist combating operations by Pakistan army are proof of our commitment towards defeating this menace which was created by others.

He stated that Pakistan was never apologetic regarding its foreign policy and is fully committed and capable of defending itself against any act of aggression.

“We expect the international community to take cognisance of the belligerent and repeated Indian statements against Pakistan, which are not only against the international law but also threatens regional peace and security”, said Dr Faisal.

Since 2015, time and again the goalposts have been shifted for reporting by Pakistan. This has made it into a never-ending monitoring process. The objective of raising these new issues seems to be to suddenly raise an alarm on the overall integrity of Pakistan’s AML/CFT framework.

He further said the initiation of this action without waiting for completion of Pakistan’s Mutual Evaluation was designed to manipulate the FATF process.

“The real aim of this politically-motivated move is to hamper Pakistan’s economic progress,” the spokesperson told reporters.

MINISTER FEARS ECONOMIC HARM: Minister of State for Finance Rana Muhammad Afzal echoed the FO’s apprehension regarding the economic harm to the country. He said that foreign investment in Pakistan will suffer if the country is put on a global terrorist-financing watch-list.

The minister further said that the US is forcing other countries to join the motion, adding that foreign investors will be reluctant to spend money in the country if this happens.

Pakistan has been scrambling in recent months to avert being added to a list of countries deemed non-compliant with terrorist financing regulations by the FATF; officials fear these developments could hurt its economy.

The US has been threatening to get tough with Islamabad over its alleged ties with militants, and last month President Donald Trump’s administration suspended aid worth about $2 billion.

PAKISTAN MANEUVERING TO BE NOT PUT ON LIST:

The Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance, Miftah Ismail, told Reuters the United States and Britain put forward the motion several weeks ago, and later persuaded France and Germany to co-sponsor it.

“We are now working with the US, UK, Germany and France for the nomination to be withdrawn,” Ismail said, speaking by telephone from Europe. “We are also quite hopeful that even if the US did not withdraw the nomination that we will prevail and not be put on the watch-list.”

National Assembly on Thursday expressed concerns over the United States’ efforts to put Pakistan on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), saying the move was a failure of Pakistan’s foreign policy and success of Indian narrative of alienating Pakistan.

NA BLAMES POOR FOREIGN POLICY FOR THE MOVE: Lawmakers belonging to multiple political parties showed apprehensions at the failure of diplomacy of the country, as some of them blamed the government for ignoring the issues on the diplomatic front and focussing on the political gains.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Shireen Mazari criticised the government for failing to cash in on the arrest of Indian spy Kulbushan Jadhav, saying that “despite the arrest of the Indian spy, Pakistan could not tell the international community that it is India which is involved in terrorism, not Pakistan”.

She chided the ruling party for ignoring the diplomatic front and said that “the entire focus has been on mujhay kion nikala”.

Criticising the government for its failure to formulate the foreign policy, she said it was the failure of Pakistan’s foreign policy that a resolution was being moved against it.

Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Naveed Qamar, who was chairing the sitting due to the absence of the speaker and deputy speaker, demanded that the foreign or interior minister brief the assembly on the issue.

However, the minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination, Riaz Hussain Peerzada, told the house that both foreign and the interior ministers were on foreign tours and the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Shaikh Aftab Ahmad would brief the house.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/02/15/us-move-to-put-pakistan-on-fatf-politically-motivated/

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Army says troops being sent to Saudi Arabia

Baqir Sajjad Syed

February 16, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Taking a major decision, the army on Thursday announced that it is deploying troops in Saudi Arabia under an existing bilateral security pact.

“In continuation of ongoing Pak-KSA bilateral security cooperation, a Pakistan Army contingent is being sent to KSA on training and advice mission,” the Inter-Services Public Relations announced after a meeting between Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa and Saudi Ambassador Nawaf Saeed Al-Maliki at the General Headquarters, which was said to be about “regional security situation”.

Gen Bajwa had earlier this month quietly visited Saudi Arabia, where he stayed for nearly three days and his only known meetings were with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Commander of Ground Forces Lt Gen Prince Fahd bin Turki bin Abdulaziz. This was his second visit to the kingdom in two months.

Saudi Arabia has been demanding deployment of Pakistani troops since the start of the Yemen conflict in 2015, but Pakistan has been struggling to evade the demand despite a unanimously adopted parliamentary resolution affirming the country’s “neutrality” in the conflict.

Last year Pakistan sent its retired army chief Gen Raheel Sharif to lead a Saudi coalition. Therefore, it was always speculated that the deployment would take place even though it could not happen as quickly as the Saudis wanted.

The ISPR insists that the new deployment and nearly 1,000 Pakistani troops already stationed there would not be “employed outside KSA”.

There was no word on the size of the deployment.

However, multiple sources hinted that it might be the size of a composite brigade. Another version is that the numbers are still being worked out.

When contacted, ISPR Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said the deployment would be much lesser than a division, and he would give the details at a press conference.

The deployment is being made at a time when Saudi Arabia’s Yemen woes are aggravating. The kingdom’s air campaign against Houthi militias has failed to achieve victory, whereas on the ground local Yemeni allies of Saudi Arabia and the UAE have turned the guns on each other, further complicating the conflict. The Houthis have, meanwhile, intensified missile attacks on Saudi targets, though most have been intercepted by the Saudi air defence systems before they could hit the targets.

The phrasing of the last Foreign Office statement condemning the Houthi missile attacks had clearly shown that a shift in Pakistani policy was in the offing.

The FO had said that the Houthi attacks posed a threat to the security of the kingdom and holy places there. Threat to holy mosques was always mentioned as a red line.

The decision to deploy troops is expected to ruffle feathers in Pakistan’s neighbourhood.

The ISPR statement, therefore, made it a point to reassure that the Pakistan “Army maintains bilateral security cooperation with many other GCC/regional countries”.

It should be recalled that the ambassadors of Iran and Turkey had earlier this week met Gen Bajwa, and it is believed that they were briefed about the army’s decision. A day before the meetings with the Turkish and Iranian envoys, Gen Bajwa reportedly made a secret trip to Doha to meet Qatar’s emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1389722/army-says-troops-being-sent-to-saudi-arabia

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Europe

 

More Afghan Civilians Being Deliberately Targeted, U.N. Says

By ANDREW E. KRAMER

FEB. 15, 2018

KABUL, Afghanistan — An annual United Nations report released on Thursday offered a stark assessment of the 16-year Afghan war, showing a slight decline in civilian casualties from an all-time high but a rise in complex bombing attacks that have taken a heavy toll in the capital.

The report said at least 10,453 Afghan civilians had been wounded or killed in 2017. At a time when the American and Afghan governments are releasing fewer statistics — the Afghan Army stopped publishing military casualty numbers in November, for example — the United Nations report on civilian casualties is one of the few reliable indicators of how the war is proceeding.

“The chilling statistics in this report provide credible data about the war’s impact,” Tadamichi Yamamoto, the United Nations secretary general’s special representative for Afghanistan, said in a statement.

The report came out a day after the top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, issued an upbeat assessment of the Afghan Army’s recent progress, saying that “the Taliban cannot win.”

In contrast, the United Nations report focused on a rise in attacks deliberately targeting civilians in 2017. Those attacks, intended to undermine the authority of the American-backed government, accounted for 27 percent of all civilian casualties last year.

This category includes casualties caused by suicide bombers detonating in populated areas and targeted killings, but excludes those caused by ground fighting, airstrikes and explosions aimed principally at military targets, like some roadside bombs.

Over all, the 84-page report notes, the number of civilian casualties declined 9 percent compared with the record numbers seen in 2016, driven primarily by a drop in casualties caused by ground clashes. It was the first annual decline in overall civilian casualties since 2012.

The report also says that despite a stepped-up pace of aerial bombardments aimed at the Taliban and Islamic State militants under President Trump’s new strategy for the war, civilian casualties from airstrikes rose only 7 percent. The United Nations credited better targeting in the American-led air campaign, compared with previous years.

The Taliban’s response to the airstrikes, however, has been ferocious, indicating that what Afghan officials openly call a Pakistani-backed insurgent group is hardly a spent force.

The report put a spotlight on “complex attacks,” a type of suicide assault that is becoming more deadly, United Nations officials say. These involve two or more commandos with suicide vests seizing a building or taking hostages, fighting for hours and detonating their explosives only when security forces close in.

Such attacks have recently become a hallmark of the war. The ensuing mayhem sends a clear message: that the Taliban can strike at will, even in ostensibly safe cities like Kabul, where the “ring of steel” security cordon around the capital has been looking more like a colander.

Deaths from complex attacks and other suicide bombings rose to 605 last year from 398 in 2016, according to the report, with the highest number of civilian casualties in Kabul.

One of the deadliest single episodes of the war for civilians took place last May, when a gigantic truck bomb estimated to contain two metric tons of high explosives went off on a Kabul street during rush hour, killing 92 and wounding 491 people.

The Taliban have also stepped up assassinations in the countryside, targeting doctors delivering polio vaccinations, workers on demining teams and religious leaders who preach against the group, among others, the United Nations said. The report blamed the Islamic State’s Afghan branch for 1,000 civilian casualties — 399 killed and 601 wounded.

In a statement that the United Nations included with the report, the Taliban denied targeting civilians and blamed the United States and its allies for waging war in Afghanistan in the first place. “For the past 17 years, hundreds of thousands of innocent Afghans were killed after the influx of foreigners, and they are still being killed,” it said.

Atiqullah Amarkhel, a retired general and military analyst based in Kabul, said the report illustrated the failure of peace talks, as both the government and the Taliban were striving now for victory rather than a negotiated settlement. “The war has intensified. More airstrikes mean more suicide attacks” in retribution, he said.

Airstrikes — which are carried out only by the United States-led international forces, in an operation now called Resolute Support, and the Afghan Air Force, not by the Taliban and their allies — killed 295 civilian bystanders and wounded 336 more, the report said. That was the highest toll since the United Nations started counting in 2009, and possibly for the entire war.

But the casualty rate did not rise as fast as the tempo of air operations, a cornerstone of Mr. Trump’s new strategy. The report said that reflected better targeting. “While emphasizing that no civilian casualties are acceptable, the reduced harm ratio suggests improvements,” it said.

Still, the air war continued to take a toll on innocents.

The report cited an airstrike on Aug. 30 in the eastern province of Logar, apparently targeting a Taliban fighter who was lurking beside a house with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. The strike killed 10 children and three women in the house, according to witnesses who spoke to United Nations researchers.

The report quoted a family elder, who was not identified, as saying, “This was too much for just one Taliban.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/15/world/asia/afghanistan-civilian-casualties.html?mtrref=www.google.co.in&gwh=7DCD46750EEF4CB59EF3370F78A69116&gwt=pay

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Australia 'under attack' for 15 years from group of Muslim men, judge tells court

Feb 16, 2018

Australia has been "under attack" from a group of Muslim men wanting "to kill as many unbelievers as they can" for about 15 years, a Supreme Court judge has said.

Justice Desmond Fagan made the comments while sentencing Tamim Khaja, 20, who pleaded guilty in October to planning and preparing a terrorist attack two years ago.

The then 18-year-old was arrested while preparing for a lone wolf massacre, either at the US embassy in Sydney, an Army Barracks in western Sydney, or at a court complex at Parramatta.

Counsel for the defendant, Ian Temby QC, tendered to the court a list of recent sentences handed down to other men who had been convicted of terror offences.

In response, Justice Fagan told the court that Australia had "been under attack for 15 years by about 40 Muslim men, to kill as many unbelievers as they can and impose Sharia law."

Sitting at Sydney West Trial Courts at Parramatta, Justice Fagan referred to verses in the Koran which he said described the duty of "a Muslim to wage Jihad".

He said he was not making generalisations about Islamic beliefs and that his courtroom was "not a forum for the rights and wrongs of the Islam or Christian religions".

An agreed statement of facts tendered to court revealed that Khaja had twice attempted to travel to Syria or Iraq, where he "intended to join the Islamic State terrorist organisation and engage in hostile activities".

After his passport was cancelled in March 2016, Khaja began communicating via an encrypted messaging app with an overseas police officer, who he believed to be an ISIS supporter.

On May 7, 2016, Khaja told the police officer, known as Person A, that he "wanted so badly to be on the battlefield with my brothers", but since his passport had been cancelled, he would "fulfil my obligation here".

"I am thinking more along the lines of Boston Marathon .. I know how to make a portable microwave b..b [sic]"

Even with a handgun I would be able to cause a lot of damage."

Khaja told person A that he had been considering locations for an attack, including the US Embassy in Sydney, but it was likely to be heavily guarded, court documents revealed.

He told Person A that another option was the Timor Army Barracks in Dundas, where he could "launch an attack by ramming the lot of them by car and then firing head shots when they are on the ground".

Mr Temby argued that at the time of the arrest Khaja was only at "a preliminary stage" of planning the offence and that he "had no accomplice".

However the crown prosecutor said Khaja had accessed documents about bombs and creating suicide vests.

Full report at:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-02-16/australia-under-attack-by-a-group-of-muslim-men,-judge/9453516

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Turkish community in Germany to sue far-right lawmaker over abusive remarks

Feb 16, 2018

The three-million-strong Turkish community living in Germany is to evoke hate speech laws to sue a far-right lawmaker who earlier used abusive language to describe the German Turks.

An organization representing the Turks called the Turkish Community in Germany announced on Thursday that it would be taking legal action against Andre Poggenburg, a senior member of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

Poggenburg had on Wednesday called the Turks in Germany “camel drivers” who should return to their “mud huts and multiple wives.”

Gokay Sofuoglu, the chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany, said the organization would sue Poggenburg over the remarks.

“It’s high time Germans realize the danger coming from the far-right,” Sofuoglu told AP.

Poggenburg attacked the Turkish group for its earlier criticism of reported German plans for a new “homeland” ministry as part of a coalition deal between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the Social Democrats (SPD).

“These camel drivers should go back to where they belong, far beyond the Bosphorus, to their mud huts and multiple wives,” Poggenburg said. He said Germany did not need advice on culture and history from Turks, who he said bore responsibility “for their own genocide,” a reference to the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in the World War I-era.

The far-right AfD, known for its extremist viewpoints on matters of policy, captured nearly 13 percent of the votes and almost 100 seats in parliament in general elections in Germany in September last year.

The latest controversy involving AfD came as Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim was due to meet Merkel in Berlin on Thursday in an attempt to improve weakened relations.

German president against hate speech

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has said he condemns extremist politicians who make “ruthlessness and hatred...their strategy.”

“What I see are politicians who make a strategy out of excessive language, and their recklessness and hatred,” Steinmeier said in a speech on Thursday. “I only hope that citizens of this country do not allow themselves to be carried along.”

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/16/552525/Turkish-community-Germany-farright-AfD-camel-drivers

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South Asia

 

Miracles Multiply At Bangladesh's Top Catholic Shrine

February 16, 2018

Zolekha Begum is eight months pregnant but the Muslim primary school teacher still travelled more than 150 kilometres across Bangladesh on a wintry morning in late January to worship at a miracle-bestowing shrine that has gained fame nationwide.

The 31-year-old drove from northern Siranjganj district to St. Anthony of Padua shrine in Panjora village of central Gazipur district to thank the Portuguese saint for a "great favor."

"I got married seven years ago but I failed to conceive. My in-laws became frustrated and used to abuse me verbally and physically,"Jolekha said.

"I came to know about St. Anthony's miraculous power and visited the shrine last year with the intention of having a child. My wish has now been fulfilled," she told ucanews.com.

Jolekha said she also prayed for a healthy child.

"I will continue to travel here [to give thanks] for as long as I can," she said.

Hindu couple Rajesh Das, 38, and Sunita Debi, 25, are also believers.

They visited the shrine with their 10-year-old son from Munshiganj district, about 100 kilometers away. They took with them a pair of pigeons to give blessing.

"Our son became ill from a disease the doctors were unable to diagnose about two years ago and his health was deteriorating," said Sunita, a housewife.

"I heard about St. Anthony from a Christian man so we came here to pray to the saint for our boy's recovery. And now he has completely healed," she added.

At the shrine, such stories of faith and miracles being bestowed are increasingly common.

It now draws hundreds of devotees of all faiths and ethnicities year-round.

During an annual feast that is usually celebrated in February, it turns into the largest annual Christian gathering in Muslim-majority Bangladesh.

This year, about 50,000 devotees flocked there to attend the feast on Feb. 2, which was presided over by Cardinal Patrick D'Rozario. Traditionally, it is celebrated ahead of Lent, which begins on Feb. 14 this year, rather than on June 13, St. Anthony's feast day in the church's liturgical calendar.

Most devotees are Catholics from Dhaka Archdiocese's Bhawal region, one of country's oldest and largest Catholic strongholds covering seven parishes.

Panjora village is part of St. Nicholas of Tolentino Church in Nagari, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Bhawal region.

On the day of the feast, thousands lined up and waited for hours to touch the statue of the saint to pay their respect.

Many carried with them a manot, a gift for granting a favor, in the form of candles, gold ornaments, pigeons, biscuits and so on.

There are about a dozen Catholic shrines in Bangladesh but the frenzied devotion seen at the St. Anthony shrine in Panjora is unparalleled. 

Over a period of nine days in early February about 5,000-6,000 people attend two novena masses and prayers there.

While non-Christians like Jolekha and Sunita don't put their faith in Jesus, they consider St. Anthony as a "demi-god."

Alexander Ascension, 74, a Catholic from Panjora village, says he has witnessed the miraculous power of the saint.

"I believe St. Anthony helps find lost objects. Once my boat was stolen and I got it back after I prayed to the saint," he told uncanews.com.

"Similarly, my daughter had problems with her eyes and she got cured with the blessing of St. Anthony," he added.

St. Anthony is a symbol of interfaith harmony, says Abdul Kadir Mian, a Muslim and chairman of the Nagari Union Council, a local government body.

"He is a saint for all people and we feel proud and honored to receive people from all over the country in our area. This feast is a great example of interfaith harmony in Bangladesh," Mian said. 

The origins of this annual outpouring of devotion at the shrine are unclear but local people claim the practice has been going on for nearly 200 years. Legend has is that a small statue of St. Anthony appeared and reappeared several times in the place where the shrine is now located, and people started going there to pray.

Later, Catherine Peries, a local Catholic woman, donated the land and a local church authority built a small chapel there.

Dom Antonio da Rosario, a 17th century Bengali Catholic preacher who was the son of a Hindu king, is also believed to have helped popularize the shrine.

Arakanese pirates are said to have kidnapped him when he was a child and then sold him to a Portuguese Catholic missionary.

The priest later baptized him and named him Dom Antonio. Dom is the Portuguese word for "prince."

Antonio learned catechism, language skills, music and dance. He became a prolific preacher.

His eloquent preaching, accompanied by devotional music and dance, helped spearhead the conversion of thousands of lower-caste Hindus in Bhawal and other areas of what today ranks as the Dhaka Archdiocese.

Antonio is believed to have composed Thakurer Geet, a devotional folk song about the life of St. Anthony that is still hugely popular in the region.

"Dom Antonio didn't just preach and convert people. He also made St. Anthony popular, but not many people are aware of his contribution," Father Proshanta T. Rebeiro, a Canon Law professor at Holy Spirit Major Seminary in Dhaka, told ucanews.com.

Last year, in recognition of people's unwavering devotion, two Franciscan friars from St. Anthony of Padua Basilica in Italy took an 800-year-old relic of the saint on a nationwide tour of Bangladesh.

Father Rebeiro says the time has now come to recognize the high esteem in which the saint and shrine are held.

"The shrine needs to be extended and a basilica can be built, and it needs national and international recognition. I have been in Padua and I can say St. Anthony of Panjora surpasses St. Anthony of Padua," added Father Rebeiro.

Father Joyanto S. Gomes, the parish priest of St. Nicholas of Tolentino Church, said the archdiocese will develop the shrine.

"There is a plan to extend it and set up a basilica here. We want to see a resident priest assigned to look after the shrine, and a permanent place to accommodate pilgrims," he said.

St. Anthony was born in Lisbon, Portugal on Aug. 15, 1195. He was ordained a priest and later became a Franciscan friar.

He was widely acclaimed for his unwavering love of the poor and the sick, as well as his expert knowledge of scripture.

He died in 1231 at the age of 35 in Padua, Italy from a chronic case of edema. The Vatican canonized him a year later and in 1946 he was declared a Doctor of the Church.

https://www.ucanews.com/news/miracles-multiply-at-bangladeshs-top-catholic-shrine/81492

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Judge showed `thought and respect´ in handling Muslim prayer case, says lawyer

15 February 2018

A High Court judge showed “thought and respect” to the Islamic community when he ruled in favour of two Muslims who complained that dirty conditions in immigration centre cells hampered their prayers, a solicitor has said.

Mr Justice Holman decided the men’s ability to pray at specified times in a clean area was hindered when they were locked in 12 metre square cells with other detainees between 9pm and 8am at Brook House immigration removal centre near Gatwick Airport.

He concluded earlier this month that their human right to freedom of religion, enshrined in Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, had been infringed without justification.

Lewis Kett, who represented Mohammad Hussein and Muhammad Rahman and works for Duncan Lewis Solicitors, said Mr Justice Holman has sent a “good message” to the Muslim community.

“The High Court have certainly taken on board the importance of the conditions required for Muslim prayer,” said Mr Kett.

“Ultimately, though, it is now down to the Home Office in its review to show the same amount of respect and thought.”

Mr Kett said the judge had not said how long the Home Office would have to review its “lock-in policy” and its impact on Muslim detainees, but added: “This will realistically have to be done over the coming months.

“We still believe the lock-in regime itself is unlawful because there is no statutory justification for it. And we’ll be reviewing the situation of other clients.”

Mr Justice Holman heard that Mr Hussein, who is in his 20s and comes from Ethiopia, and Mr Rahman, who is in his 30s and comes from Bangladesh, have left Brook House after being detained there for spells during 2017.

The judge analysed the case in a hearing at the Family Division of the High Court in London, and delivered a ruling on Thursday.

Lawyers representing the men, who were detained after asylum claims were rejected by immigration officials, said damages would be considered at a later date.

They said the ruling would have implications for other detainees.

Lawyers representing Home Office ministers had contested the men’s claims. They told the judge they would consider whether to mount an appeal.

The men said their religion required them to say prayers at certain times including dawn and sunset. They also said they needed a clean area in which to pray.

They said they could not get to a prayer room at the centre when they were locked in a cell, and a “smelly, dirty” cell toilet was upsetting when they prayed.

They also said other detainees in the cell distracted them.

Mr Justice Holman said the men were victims of “indirect discrimination” because of the particular prayer requirements of the Muslim religion.

Full report at:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/pa/article-5395005/Judge-showed-thought-respect-handling-Muslim-prayer-case-says-lawyer.html

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‘ISIS accused’ denied Turkish visa before coming here to study

AMANDA HODGE

February 16, 2018

A Bangladeshi student facing ­terror-related charges after allegedly stabbing a Melbourne nurse last week was denied a Turkish visa in late 2014 to study there, Bangladesh counter-terrorism auth­orities say.

Yet just over two years later, Momena Shoma, whom Bangladesh police believe has links to Islamic State-linked terror group Neo-JMB, won a study visa here.

Bangladesh police Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime Unit chief Monirul Islam said Ms Shoma became radicalised through social media and by 2014 had struck up a relationship with a marine engineer who had also been radicalised, Najbullah Ansari. He went to Syria after Ms Shoma’s family refused to allow the two to marry.

Mr Monirul confirmed Ms Shoma had applied for a Turkish visa but it had been denied by the embassy in Dhaka. At the time, many Bangladeshis were being denied visas to Turkey for fear they would seek entry to the Syrian battlefield or Islamic State-held territory, as thousands of ISIS supporters had done.

A spokesman for the Turkish embassy in Dhaka told The Australian at least half of all Bangladeshi applicants are still denied visas, primarily for financial reasons or security concerns.

Ms Shoma was granted an Australian student visa and a partial scholarship to study for a masters degree in linguistics at Melbourne’s La Trobe University this year after satisfying standard requirements that she be enrolled in a course, could financially support herself, passed medical tests and could produce a Bangladesh police certificate affirming she had no prior serious convictions.

It is not known whether Ms Shoma was asked to fill in a “Form 80” that includes questions about whether an applicant has been involved with a terrorist organisation, or has been refused a visa to another country.

A spokesman for Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton would not comment on whether Australian authorities were aware Ms Shoma had been denied a Turkish visa when she was granted her Australian student visa, but said she was “subject to all usual checks as part of the visa process, with no ­adverse findings identified”.

“Visa applicants are checked against … national security-­related watch and alert lists. These checks will highlight an individual of concern, if the individual has been watch-listed,” the spokesman said.

Family members have told police under questioning that Ms Shoma became markedly more religious after she began a bachelor of English degree at Dhaka’s North South University in 2012, the private campus attended by two of the five attackers responsible for the 2016 terror attack on Dhaka’s Holey Artisan bakery cafe in which 22 people were killed, many of them ­foreigners.

By 2013, Ms Shoma was wearing a burka and full-face-covering niqab, and had insisted her family stop watching TV as it was considered un-Islamic.

Ms Shoma arrived in Australia on February 1. On February 9 she allegedly stabbed her student homestay host, Roger Singaravelu, in the neck while he was sleeping next to his five-year-old daughter in his Mill Park home in Melbourne’s northeast. Police alleged it was an ISIS-inspired attack and charged her with engaging in a terrorist attack.

On Monday night, Ms Shoma’s sister Asmaul Husna was taken into custody in Dhaka after allegedly attacking a senior police officer with a knife when counter-terrorism officers came to the family’s apartment to question them over the Melbourne attack. She too now faces terror-related charges.

Full report at:

https://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/national-security/isis-accused-denied-turkish-visa-before-coming-here-to-study/news-story/97cf674f357edfa53c4ea91c8274d055

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Cross-border shelling also inflicted casualties to Afghan civilians: MoD

Feb 15 2018

The Ministry of Defense of Afghanistan (MoD) says the cross-border shelling on Afghan provinces along the Durand Line also inflicted casualties on the civilians.

MoD spokesman Gen. Dawlat Waziri informed in this regard during a press conference and shortly after the UN mission in Afghanistan released its latest report regarding the civilian casualties in 2017.

Gen. Waziri further added that thousands of artillery shells were fired on the Afghan soil from the other side of the Durand Line during the year 2017.

He said several people were killed or wounded during the shelling but did not elaborate further in this regard.

In regards to the civilian casualties during the operations, Gen. Waziri said necessary precautions have been considered for the coming fighting season.

UNAMA saya total of 10,453 civilian casualties – 3,438 people killed and 7,015 injured – were documented in the 2017 Annual Report released today by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN Human Rights Office.

The report by UNAMA further states that the second leading cause of civilian casualties in 2017 was ground engagements between anti-government elements and pro-government forces, although there was a decrease of 19 per cent from the record levels seen in 2016.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/cross-border-shelling-also-inflicted-casualties-to-afghan-civilians-mod-04498

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More than 10,000 civilians killed, wounded in 2017 in Afghanistan: UNAMA

Feb 15 2018

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released its latest findings regarding the civilian casualties in Afghanistan during the year 2017.

According to the latest annual UN report documenting the impact of the armed conflict on civilians in Afghanistan, more than 10,000 civilians lost their lives or suffered injuries during 2017.

The report further adds that a total of 10,453 civilian casualties – 3,438 people killed and 7,015 injured – were documented in the 2017 Annual Report released today by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN Human Rights Office.

The report further states that the second leading cause of civilian casualties in 2017 was ground engagements between anti-government elements and pro-government forces, although there was a decrease of 19 per cent from the record levels seen in 2016.

The report attributes close to two-thirds of all casualties (65 per cent) to anti-government elements: 42 per cent to the Taliban, 10 per cent to Daesh / Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIL-KP), and 13 per cent to undetermined and other anti-government elements.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/more-than-10000-civilians-killed-wounded-in-2017-in-afghanistan-unama-04496

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North America

 

Regina Mustafa receives death threats in US mayor race

Feb 16, 2018

A woman seeking to become the first Muslim mayor of a city in the US state of Minnesota has claimed receiving a death threat online.

Regina Mustafa, running for mayor in the city of Rochester, which is about 160km southeast of Minneapolis, said a threat to "execute" was made online by "Militia Movement" earlier this week.

"I have no way of knowing if the person is nearby or across the country," Mustafa told the Post-Bulletin.

On her Twitter page, Mustafa said: "It won't derail me. But any threats must be taken seriously. No one should feel threatened when wanting to serve their community in elected office."

Mustafa said the threat, made on a post she made on Google Plus last year, has been reported to the police.

Almost 12,000 of Rochester's 114,000 population is Muslim.

In response to the threat, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) requested police to investigate the matter.

"We urge state and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate this implicit threat of violence targeting a member of a minority community seeking to take part in our nation’s political process," said Jaylani Hussein, CAIR Minnesota chapter's executive director.

According to a report in the Star Tribune, Mustafa had people shout at her from passing cars.

The report adds that a man walked up to her at a coffee shop last year and told her to "go home".

Rochester Police Department told The Independent that it was investigating the incident but as the threat was directly not aimed at Mustafa, it would be difficult to prosecute the individual.

"I'm concerned they're considering this as harassment," she said.

"I've suffered harassment. I know what harassment is. This is a threat."

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/02/death-threat-city-mayor-aspirant-180215070014540.html

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US and Russia dispute over Syria in UN Security Council

15 February 2018

The U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN on Wednesday said it is time for Russia to use its influence over the Syrian regime for peace in Syria.

"Russia was supposed to guarantee adherence to these de-escalation zones to help the political process. But then again, Russia was also supposed to guarantee that all chemical weapons would be removed from Syria," Nikki Haley said at the UN Security Council meeting on Syria.

"Instead, we see the Assad regime continue to bomb, starve, and yes, gas civilians."

Describing Bashar al-Assad regime as "a front for Iran and Hezbollah", she also criticized Tehran for having the irresponsible behavior for the Middle East.

“The Assad regime has become a front for Iran, Hezbollah, and their allies to advance the irresponsible and dangerous agenda for the Middle East. On every front of this conflict, we find fighters imported by Iran from Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan," she said, adding that Hezbollah is also directly behind the atrocities committed by Syrian regime.

She said the U.S. cannot offer support for peace while ignoring Iran's support for terrorism in the Middle East and its terrorist militia's effort to settle in the country.

“Ultimately, we must recognize that the Assad regime does not want peace unless it’s peace on their terms – a peace in which every person in Syria who opposes the regime is murdered, tortured, starved, imprisoned, or forced to flee the country,” she added.

Complaining about the constant demands to Russia, Moscow's Permanent Representative to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia said the U.S. and its allies should use their influence over the regime-oppositions to prevent violence in response to Haley's criticism.

Nebenzia added that the political process in Syria must be free from international pressures.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/america-canada/198849/us-and-russia-dispute-over-syria-in-un-security-council

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Tillerson meets Turkey's Erdogan for 'open' talks after weeks of strain

FEBRUARY 15, 2018

ANKARA (Reuters) - Top U.S. diplomat Rex Tillerson and Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan had a “productive and open” talk on Thursday about improving ties strained recently over their policies on Syria, in a meeting following weeks of escalating anti-American rhetoric from Ankara.

Tillerson arrived in Turkey on Thursday for two days of what officials have said would likely be uncomfortable discussions between the allies, whose relations have frayed over a number of issues, particularly U.S. support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, seen as terrorists by Turkey.

Turkey launched an air and ground assault last month in Syria’s northwest Afrin region to drive the YPG from the area south of its border. Ankara considers the YPG to be an arm of the PKK, a banned group that has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey. The militia is the main ground element of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which the United States has armed, trained and aided with air support and special forces to fight Islamic State.

“The two engaged in a productive and open conversation about a mutually beneficial way forward in the U.S.-Turkey relationship,” said a U.S. State Department spokesman traveling with Tillerson.

In a photo distributed by the Turkish presidency before the start of the more than three-hour meeting, the two are shown shaking hands, although only Tillerson was smiling.

Erdogan conveyed his priorities and expectations on Syria, the fight against terror and other regional issues, a Turkish presidential source said.

Ahead of the meeting, Turkey had called for the United States to expel the YPG from the anti-Islamic State SDF forces it is backing in Syria.

“We demanded this relationship be ended, I mean we want them to end all the support given to the Syrian arm of PKK, the YPG,” Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli told reporters in a briefing in Brussels, a day after meeting U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on the sidelines of a NATO meeting.

“We demanded this structure be removed from SDF,” he said.

TACTICAL DIFFERENCES

Tillerson, who is on a five-city tour, told a news conference in Beirut before arriving in Ankara that the United States and Turkey had the same main objectives, and put their differences down to tactics. He is due to meet the foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, on Friday.

Islamic State fighters were driven last year from all the population centers they occupied in both Syria and Iraq, but Washington still considers them a threat, capable of carrying out an insurgency and plotting attacks elsewhere.

Ankara has placed greater emphasis in recent months on the need to combat the Kurdish militia and has said the United States is merely using one terrorist group to combat another.

Turkey says the United States has yet to honor several pledges: to stop arming the YPG, to take back arms after Islamic State was defeated in Syria, and to pull YPG forces back from Manbij, a Syrian town about 100 km (60 miles) east of Afrin.

Canikli also said that Mattis had told him the United States was working on a plan to retrieve weapons given to the YPG, especially heavy weapons. However, Tillerson later said that Washington had “never given heavy arms” to the YPG and there was therefore “nothing to take back”.

Turkey is the main Muslim ally of the United States within NATO and one of Washington’s most powerful friends in the Middle East dating back to the Cold War era. But widening differences on Syria policy are just one of a number of issues that have caused a rupture in that strategic relationship.

Speaking with reporters on the sidelines of the NATO meeting in Brussels, Mattis said his talks with his Turkish counterpart were open and honest, but acknowledged the differences.

“I believe we are finding common ground and there are areas of uncommon ground, where sometimes war just gives you bad alternatives to choose from ... We continue to collaborate on ways to ensure their legitimate concerns are addressed.”

The Turkish offensive against the YPG in Syria has so far been limited to Afrin, a border region where the United States is not believed to have troops on the ground.

Full report at:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-turkey-usa/tillerson-meets-turkeys-erdogan-for-open-talks-after-weeks-of-strain-idUSKCN1FZ0LN

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Southeast Asia

 

Not Advisable For Chinese Muslims To Use Dog Symbol For Chinese New Year, Group Says

BY JOHN BUNYAN

February 16, 2018

IPOH, Feb 16 — It is not advisable for the Chinese Muslims to use the dog symbol as part of their Chinese New Year home decorations, a group has said.

Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association president Prof Taufiq Yap Yun Hin said the animal is considered “unclean”, and should be omitted from the cultural celebration.

“We do not encourage it as Islamic teaching prohibits such acts of having animal statues or pictures in the house especially when it comes to the animals which are considered ‘unclean’.

“Chinese New Year for us is merely a cultural celebration and not a religious festival,” he told Malay Mail. 

However, Taufiq pointed out that there is no harm for the Chinese Muslims to visit houses with such animal decorations.

“There is nothing wrong for them to visit the houses or attend a dinner where there are dog symbol decorations,” he said, referring to Chinese Muslims.

“We may not practise it, but at the same time we should also tolerate and respect the belief and culture of other races as well.”

Taufiq also added that the majority of Chinese Muslims will not even have any animal pictures or symbols as part of their house decorations during the Chinese New Year.

In Chinese astrology, the 12-year zodiac cycle is represented by an animal each year.

The 12 traditional Chinese zodiac animals include a dog and a pig, two animals which Muslims consider “unclean”.

Already, some Malaysian businesses are skirting around or playing down the portrayal of canines in Chinese New Year decorations this year, wary of offending the country’s Muslim majority in the Year of the Dog.

Meanwhile, Chinese Muslim Datuk Nazrin Cheong Abdullah told Malay Mail that decorative items are just part of the celebration, but the importance in ushering the New Year is to have a good family bonding time.  

“Whether to use the animal symbols decoration or not is not the matter. For us the important thing during the celebration is the family reunion,” he said.

Nazrin also said the way Chinese Muslim celebrates the Chinese New Year is similar to the Chinese community, except for the prayer part.

“The celebration will be the same, we will have the house cleaning, family gathering and ang pao giveaway, but we will not perform any ritual or prayers,” he said, referring to red packets filled with cash.

Nazrin said when it comes to decorative items, he would usually prefer the character decoration such as the fu dao le (elements of luck or fortune) compared to decorations which contain images or symbols.

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/not-advisable-for-chinese-muslims-to-use-dog-symbol-for-cny-group-says#OcdTOEBVwrZ0A4JE.97

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Don’t review fatwas on transgenders just for popularity, Islamic scholars told

BY AZRIL ANNUAR

February 16, 2018

BANGI, Feb 16 — A representative from Islamist think tank Malaysian Islamic Strategic Research Institute (Iksim) has reminded Muslim scholars, or ulama, against revisiting or reviewing any previously issued fatwas on transgenders.

At an anti-LGBT forum organised by Muslim students’ coalition Gamis last night, Iksim senior fellow Engku Ahmad Fadzil Engku Ali accused some in the LGBT community and supporters of trying to identify scholars who are seeking popularity by amending fatwas against the transgenders.

“I am giving a general statement that Islamic laws cannot be changed just to please certain groups of people. Religious laws cannot be changed just to cheer some people up, as this will damage the religion. This is my general advice.

“Religious authorities must remain united when it comes to Islamic laws and fatwas issued in the past in order to overcome certain groups,” he said in the forum titled “LGBT: A Chronic Cancer on the Nation”.

Engku Ahmad Fadzil raised his concern at the forum in response to a meeting between civil society Pertubuhan Kesihatan dan Kebajikan Umum Malaysia and Federal Territories mufti Datuk Zulkifli Mohamad yesterday.

During the meeting, Zulkifli had reportedly said religious authorities should revisit a fatwa declaring transgenderism as un-Islamic, adding that there is a difference between “men impersonating women”, and those who were assigned male at birth but identify with the female gender identity.

Despite that, Engku Ahmad Fadzil later stressed that his remark was made generally, and was not directing it specifically to Zulkifli.

“I only read the [news] report. I do not know what transpired in the meeting and what the mufti said.

“I’m merely voicing my worry that there are efforts to change fatwas to suit [LGBT] agenda. This should not happen,” said Engku Ahmad Fadzil, but he did not provide any proof to back his claim.

Full report at:

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/dont-review-fatwas-on-transgenders-just-for-popularity-islamic-scholars-tol#TdtR1iTtSUkbr1gH.97

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Zahid: Monitor ‘instant Islamic preachers’

February 15, 2018

PUTRAJAYA: Efforts to tackle the spread of fake hadith (sayings of Prophet Muhammad) should not only involve monitoring of printed materials but also on the “instant Islamic preachers”.

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also the home minister, said it was easy to monitor printed publications as they had permits and were subject to certain standards, such as the International Standard Book Number (ISBN), which allowed them to be withdrawn from the market if found to contain elements that were contrary to true Islamic teachings.

Speaking at a conference on hadith here today, Zahid drew the attention of the audience to the spread of fake hadith via talks presented by instant Islamic preachers, posted on social media networks such as YouTube.

“Even though their talks do refer to the right sources, interpretation is different … even more, they (instant Islamic preachers) have a great number of obsessive followers, which can lead to wrong Islamic practices among the community,” he said.

As such, Zahid urged the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) and the home ministry’s Publication and Quran Text Control Division to look into the matter seriously and expand efforts to address the issue immediately.

Zahid said both agencies must act firmly to stop these instant Islamic preachers from continuing to mislead their followers through the spread of fake hadith when presenting talks.

In addition, he said the home ministry’s Hadith Review and Evaluation Committee, or Lajnah Tahqiq Sahih, could also use the social media as one of its channels to share the Guidelines on the Hadith Text Writing and Publication through the use of hashtag #hadithsahih.

Zahid also reminded instant Islamic preachers that the sources of reference of the Islamic law should not be interpreted in their own way as this could lead to an uneasy situation among their followers and the general public.

“When a fake hadith is given a wrong interpretation and given a sense of humour, it can be very attractive … thus tarnishing the image of Islam and disintegrating Muslim unity,” he said.

Full report at:

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2018/02/15/zahid-monitor-instant-islamic-preachers/

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Zakir Naik cheated of RM12 million in property investment?

February 16, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR: Investigators in India say controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik may have been cheated while on a spree to invest in properties allegedly using the names of other people.

The Asian Age quoted officials of India’s Enforcement Directorate (ED) as saying they had found, in their probe into Naik’s activities, that construction on five of Naik’s recently identified ‘benami’ properties had been stuck for years. Naik is said to have invested more than Rs 20 crore (RM12 million) in these residential flats located in Mumbai and Pune.

Benami refers to any transaction in which property is transferred to one person for a consideration paid by another person.

“We had summoned the two persons in whose names the properties were registered. The property documents in their possession revealed their incomplete status,” The Asian Age quoted an ED officer as saying.

The two mentioned as owners on the documents are not related to Naik. While one building had no walls, the other only had a plinth which had been constructed, officials said.

Officials told The Asian Age the money invested in these properties had allegedly been sent by Naik. Several bank accounts belonging to Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), and its media arm Harmony Media Private Limited, allegedly received donations worth Rs200 crore between 2013 and 2016. The transfer was allegedly supervised by Naik’s point man Amir Gazdar, who is currently out on bail. Out of the Rs200 crore, around Rs60 crore came from Saudi Arabia and was routed via Dubai, the ED probe stated.

The ED had earlier found benami properties registered in the name of Naik’s brother, sister, and distant relatives, the report said. The ED attached properties worth Rs 18.3 crore owned by Naik and his non-profit IRF in March last year, under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

Naik is wanted by the Indian enforcement authorities for questioning over allegations of spreading hatred through his speeches, funding terror groups and laundering money. He has, however, fled the country. Naik, who enjoys Malaysian permanent resident (PR) status, has been seen frequently in Malaysia.

Naik’s presence in Malaysia had caused tensions and apprehensions, mostly among non-Muslims. Hindraf chairman P Waythamoorthy and 18 activists filed a suit against the government for allegedly harbouring the fugitive Muslim preacher and granting him PR status, but the case was thrown out by the High Court on Feb 13.

Full report at:

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2018/02/16/zakir-naik-cheated-of-rm12-million-in-property-investment/

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Court Indicts Cleric Accused of Masterminding Attacks

February 15, 2018

Jakarta. An Indonesian court indicted radical Islamic cleric Aman Abdurrahman on Thursday (15/02) over allegations he masterminded from his jail cell a series of attacks in the Muslim-majority nation, including a deadly 2016 gun and suicide bomb assault in Jakarta.

Abdurrahman arrived in a Jakarta courtroom under police escort and at least a dozen heavily armed officers stood guard outside as prosecutors read out allegations against him.

According to the indictment document, he was on trial for "planning and/or mobilizing others to carry out terrorist acts ... to create an atmosphere of terror among the public."

Prosecutor Anita Dewayani told the court Abdurrahman had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State militant group in 2014 and then urged others to undertake a series of attacks.

She cited one alleged plot for a "Paris-style attack" targeting foreigners, particularly French and Russian citizens.

Dewayani read out the names of the victims of some of the attacks Abdurrahman is accused of masterminding, including one in January 2016 in which eight people were killed, including four attackers, after suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the heart of the Indonesian capital.

She also alleged he was behind a suicide attack last year that killed three police officers at a Jakarta bus station and the bombing of a church in Samarinda on Borneo island that wounded four children.

Abdurrahman, who wore orange prison clothes with a checkered scarf tied around his head, told the court he understood the charges and did not object to the indictment.

His lawyer was not immediately available for comment.

The cleric and ideologue is the founder of Islamic State-linked Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), a militant group in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country that the United States has designated as a "terrorist organization."

He was immediately re-arrested by police last year after serving time in prison for setting up a militant training camp in the Indonesian province of Aceh.

Abdurrahman had reportedly also managed to keep spreading his jihadist message on social media from jail.

"To put it generally, he is the mastermind behind many of the terrorist acts in Indonesia," prosecutor Dewayani later told reporters. The maximum penalty for such charges is the death sentence, she said.

Full report at:

http://jakartaglobe.id/news/court-indicts-cleric-accused-masterminding-attacks/

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Mideast

 

Turkey Demands U.S. Expel Kurdish Militia From Anti-Islamic State Force

Feb. 15, 2018

BRUSSELS/ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey said on Thursday it had demanded the United States expel a Kurdish militia from forces it backs in Syria, setting up the visiting U.S. secretary of state for tough talks on an issue that has strained ties between the allies to the breaking point.

Rex Tillerson arrived in Turkey on Thursday for two days of what are expected to be uncomfortable meetings between allies whose relations have been fraying over a number of issues, above all Washington's support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which Ankara calls terrorists.

Turkey launched an air and ground assault last month in Syria's northwest Afrin region to drive the YPG from the area.

Ankara considers the YPG to be an arm of the PKK, a banned group that has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey. The YPG is the main ground element of the Syrian Defence Forces (SDF), which the United States has armed, trained and aided with air support and special forces to fight Islamic State.

"We demanded this relationship be ended, I mean we want them to end all the support given to the Syrian arm of PKK, the YPG," Turkish Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli told reporters in a briefing in Brussels, a day after meeting U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on the sidelines of a NATO meeting.

"We demanded this structure be removed from SDF," he said.

Speaking with reporters on the sidelines of the NATO meeting, Mattis said his talks with his Turkish counterpart were open and honest, but acknowledged differences.

"I believe we are finding common ground and there are areas of uncommon ground, where sometimes war just gives you bad alternatives to choose from ... We continue to collaborate on ways to ensure their legitimate concerns are addressed."

Tillerson, who is on a five-city tour, told a news conference in Beirut before arriving in Ankara that the United States and Turkey had the same main objectives, and put their differences down to tactics.

He met Erdogan at the president's palace in Ankara on Thursday evening and was due to meet the foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, on Friday.

"FIGHTING TERRORISTS WITH TERRORISTS"

Islamic State fighters were driven last year from all the population centers they occupied in both Syria and Iraq, but Washington still considers them a threat, capable of carrying out an insurgency and plotting attacks elsewhere.

Ankara has placed greater emphasis in recent months on the need to combat the Kurdish militia and has said the United States is merely using one terrorist group to combat another.

Turkey says the United States has yet to honor several pledges: to stop arming the YPG, to take back arms after Islamic State was defeated in Syria, and to pull YPG forces back from Manbij, a Syrian town about 100 km (60 miles) east of Afrin.

Canikli also said that Mattis had told him the United States was working on a plan to retrieve weapons given to the YPG, especially heavy weapons. However, Tillerson later said that Washington had "never given heavy arms" to the YPG and there was therefore "nothing to take back".

Turkey is the main Muslim ally of the United States within NATO and one of Washington's most powerful friends in the Middle East dating back to the Cold War era. But widening differences on Syria policy are just one of a number of issues that have caused a rupture in that strategic relationship.

Ankara also accuses Washington of sheltering a cleric it blames for plotting a failed coup in 2016. The United States convicted a Turkish banker mast month for violating sanctions on Iran in a case that included testimony alleging corruption by top Turkish officials.

Despite the tense language, military relations between the two allies appear, at least so far, to have avoided strain. The top U.S. general in Europe, Curtis Scaparrotti, said there had been no impact on its operation from Turkey's Incirlik air base, used by the Americans for strikes against Islamic State.

"Despite some of the rhetoric that you see, the most recent meetings ... are very productive," Scaparrotti told reporters in Stuttgart.

The Turkish offensive against the YPG in Syria has so far been limited to Afrin, a border region where the United States is not believed to have troops on the ground. But Turkey has openly discussed extending it to other areas where its forces could potentially come into contact with units supported by the Americans. It says Washington should pull its forces out of the way; the United States says it has no plans to withdraw.

https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2018-02-15/turkey-demands-us-expel-kurdish-militia-from-anti-islamic-state-force

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Oman's foreign minister visits Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem

Feb. 15, 2018

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Oman's Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi made a rare visit by such a senior Arab dignitary to Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque Thursday and said the establishment of a Palestinian state was necessary to achieve stability and development in the region.

Bin Alawi's visit to pray at the third holiest site in the Islamic world was confirmed by Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, director of the Islamic Waqf in Jerusalem which is responsible for running the site inside Jerusalem's walled Old City.

Arab officials visit to pray at al-Aqsa occasionally, but the appearance by a country's top diplomat is comparatively rare, and will be interpreted as a signal of support for the Palestinian claim to East Jerusalem after the United States recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December.

Bin Alawi made the stop at Al Aqsa while visiting the West Bank, occupied by Israel but under the control of the Palestinian Authority. Israeli officials declined to comment about whether they were aware in advance of his stop in Jerusalem. To enter the West Bank he would have had to pass through an Israeli checkpoint.

Last week two officials from Qatar and Kuwait visited the mosque, which was built in the 8th century. Another Kuwaiti minister visited in September last year.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has long urged Muslims to visit Al-Aqsa out of solidarity with the Palestinians.

Speaking in Ramallah after meeting with Abbas, bin Alawi, whose country is a U.S. ally, said: "We have to encourage Arabs everywhere to come to Palestine because, as I said, hearing is not the same as seeing. What is needed now is for them to see the Palestinians."

"It is not possible to achieve what the world wants - stability and development and building a culture of tolerance - except by the establishment of the Palestinian State," he said.

Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in a move not recognized internationally.

Israel’s government regards all of Jerusalem as the capital of the country. Palestinians feel equally strongly that East Jerusalem must be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital broke with decades of U.S. policy and drew widespread criticism from America’s allies, and across the Arab and Muslim world.

Full report at:

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2018/Feb-15/438167-omans-foreign-minister-visits-al-aqsa-mosque-in-jerusalem.ashx

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Saudi forces repel Houthi border incursion, kills 25 militants

15 February 2018

The Saudi military repelled a cross border attack by Houthi militias on the southern border town of Nahran late on Wednesday,

The operations carried out by the Saudi forces killed 25 Houthis and wounded others with a targeted bombardment by Saudi artillery guns.

Saudi Apache helicopters furthermore destroyed 3 military vehicles belonging to the Houthi militias.

Last Sunday, Saudi forces dealt with a similar attack by the militias, killing 17 members..

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/02/15/Saudi-forces-repel-Houthi-border-incursion-kills-25-militants.html

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Yemeni retaliatory attacks leave five Saudi soldiers dead

Feb 15, 2018

At least five Saudi soldiers have been killed when Yemeni army soldiers and fighters from allied Popular Committees launched an attack in Saudi Arabia’s southwestern border region of Jizan as they continue their retaliatory raids against the Riyadh regime’s aerial bombardment campaign.

Yemen’s Arabic-language al-Masirah television network reported that Yemeni forces and their allies fatally shot the soldiers in al-Qamar village of the region, located 967 kilometers southwest of the capital Riyadh, on Thursday evening.

An unnamed Yemeni military source also said that a number of Saudi troopers lost their lives and sustained injuries, when Yemeni soldiers and their allies launched a salvo of artillery rounds at Ramazah military camp in Jizan.

Separately, Yemeni army soldiers and Popular Committees fighters targeted the gatherings of Saudi soldiers in al-Tal'a Rajla area of the kingdom’s Najran region, located 844 kilometers (524 miles) south of Riyadh, inflicting heavy losses on Saudi forces.

Moreover, scores of Saudi-backed militiamen loyal to former Yemeni president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, were killed in the Khabb wa ash Sha'af district of Yemen’s northern province of al-Jawf, when the explosion of two roadside bombs destroyed their vehicles.

On Wednesday, six civilians, including women and children, were killed when Saudi military aircraft hit a home in Hajlan area of Yemen’s central province of Ma'rib.

In the Red Sea port city of Hudaydah, Saudi airstrikes targeted a gas station in the populated district of Garrahi, killing at least two women and injuring dozens of residents.

At least 13,600 people have been killed since the onset of Saudi Arabia’s military campaign against Yemen in 2015. Much of the country's infrastructure, including hospitals, schools and factories, has been reduced to rubble due to the war.

The Saudi-led war has also triggered a deadly cholera epidemic across Yemen.

According to the World Health Organization’s latest tally, the cholera outbreak has killed 2,167 people since the end of April 2017 and is suspected to have infected 841,906.

In November 2017, the United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF, said more than 11 million children in Yemen were in acute need of aid, stressing that it was estimated that every 10 minutes a child died of a preventable disease there.

Additionally, the UN has described the current level of hunger in Yemen as “unprecedented,” emphasizing that 17 million people were food insecure in the country.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/15/552509/Yemen-retaliatory-attacks-Saudi-soldiers

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Takfiri groups, a creation of West to divide Muslims: Iran president

Feb 15, 2018

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani says the West has created Takfiri outfits that have nothing to do with the holy faith of Islam in a bid to sow discord among Muslims.

Rouhnai made the remarks in a meeting with a group of elites, religious clerics and leaders of the Muslim community in the Indian city of Hyderabad on Thursday.

"The Western world has made Muslim countries preoccupied with themselves through creating discord among them," he said.

"The existing differences are while Shias and Sunnis lived brotherly together for centuries, where in Iraq and Syria all religions had peaceful coexistence," Rouhani added.

The president called India a "living museum of peaceful coexistence of different religions, faiths and beliefs."

The West, he said, has created split among Muslims and established groups in the name of Islam and Jihad that have nothing to do with Islam and are known as Takfiri outfits.

Rouhani said the Islamic Republic, from its very inception, has been calling for unity and independence and a "Look East" policy and standing with the regional nations to eradicate war and violence.

The president also said problems in Muslim countries cannot be solved through the barrel of guns and military means, adding there is need for logic, reasoning and dialogue to sort them out.

"We do not want to have any gap with any Muslim country or regional states and friendly nations," Rouhani pointed out.

Rouhani has traveled to India at the head of a high-ranking politico-economic delegation.

Tehran and New Delhi are expected to sign almost 15 agreements on trade and economic cooperation during Rouhani's three-day visit to India.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/15/552493/Iran-Hassan-Rouhani-India

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Turkish Army Crippled in Operation Olive Branch

Feb 15, 2018

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) reported on Thursday that they have repulsed a fierce offensive by the Turkish army against Talat Balilkeh in Rajou region, killing a number of Ankara-backed militants and forcing others to withdraw.

The SDF added that they have also seized a large number of weapons and military equipment after warding off the Turkish-backed militants' offensive against the village of Qouda.

They also said that a tank belonging to the Turkish army was also smashed and heavy tolls and damages were inflicted on the Ankara-backed militants during clashes in Bolbol region.

The development came after the Turkish Army General Staff announced in a statement on Wednesday that a sum of 1,485 Kurdish militants have been killed in military operation by the Turkish army and Ankara-backed militants in Afrin region.

The army's statement said that 46 Kurdish fighters have been killed in the air and ground attacks of the Turkish army and allied militants in Afrin region in Northwestern Aleppo in last 24 hours.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961126000543

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German claim about Iran role in Syria-Israel tensions baseless: Official

Feb 15, 2018

Tehran has dismissed Germany’s “baseless” claim about the Iranian role in the recent escalation between Syria and Israel, saying the Tel Aviv regime, whose survival depends on chaos and confrontation, is to blame for the rising tensions in the region.

On Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said Iran as “a stable and stability-giving” country sees no need for a rise in tensions and confrontation in the already-troubled region.

Qassemi was reacting to recent comments by the German government’s spokesperson, Steffen Seibert, who voiced “concerns” about Iran’s “military engagement” in the region and claimed such a role “is leading to a dangerous escalation” in the conflict gripping Syria. Seibert also called on Iran “to abandon its aggressive stance towards Israel.”

The German official made the remarks days after the Syrian military shot down at least one intruding Israeli F-16 warplane that attacked positions inside Syria, where Iranian military advisors and the Russian air force have been helping the national army in its battles against Takfiri militant groups, including Daesh.

Israel later claimed that it had launched those assaults after it intercepted an “Iranian drone” launched from Syria, an accusation rejected by Tehran as “ridiculous.”

Qassemi further said the legitimate government of Syria has the “legitimate and legal right to defend its national sovereignty and the country’s territorial integrity in the face of any aggression,” rejecting the claim about the role of Iran in that incident as “baseless.”

“This is the occupying and aggressive Zionist regime which has posed a grave risk to the regional security, stability and tranquility and it should be reprimanded for that,” the Iranian official stressed.

He also called on the international community to take a decisive step against Israel’s occupation as well as its destabilizing acts of aggression, and give a firm response to Tel Aviv’s “warmongering” and “bogus” propaganda campaign.

Over the past years, Israel, which is viewed as a supporter of anti-Damascus militants, has frequently attacked targets in Syria, often claiming that it hit positions or convoys belonging to Iran.

This is while the Islamic Republic says it has no military presence in the Syrian territory, only offering military advisory assistance to the Syrian government fighting terrorists.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/15/552427/Iran-Germany-israel

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Tillerson, Erdogan meet amid heightened strain over Operation Olive Branch

Feb 16, 2018

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have had a meeting as relations between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) partners have frayed in the wake of Ankara’s ongoing cross-border offensive in Syria’s northwestern region of Afrin against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

A Turkish presidential source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the top US diplomat and the Turkish leader sought ways to improve strained ties during their Thursday meeting in Ankara, which lasted for more than three hours behind closed doors.

The source noted that Erdogan conveyed his priorities and expectations on Syria, and also discussed Iraq, regional developments and the fight against terror with the US secretary of state.

Moreover, a US State Department spokesman travelling with Tillerson said the top US diplomat and Turkey had a “productive and open” talk.

“The two engaged in a productive and open conversation about a mutually beneficial way forward in the US-Turkey relationship,” he said.

Ahead of the meeting, Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli told reporters at a news briefing in the Belgian capital city of Brussels that Ankara expects Washington to expel the YPG from the US-backed alliance of Arab and Kurdish militants, known as the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

“We demanded this relationship be ended. I mean we want them to end all the support given to the Syrian arm of PKK, the YPG. We demanded this structure be removed from SDF,” Canikli said.

The Turkish defense minister also said that his American counterpart Jim Mattis had told him the United States was working on a plan to retrieve weapons given to the YPG, especially heavy weapons.

Tillerson, however, later said that Washington had “never given heavy arms” to the YPG, and there was therefore “nothing to take back.”

The remarks came as the Pentagon had earlier confirmed the existence of heavy weapons in the YPG's hands, which had been provided by the US.

“It is our intent to regain large vehicles and heavy or crew-served weapons once specific threats have been defeated,” Pentagon spokesman Colonel Rob Manning said last November.

Ankara views the YPG as the Syrian branch of the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) that has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.

Erdogan has repeatedly said that Afrin should be cleared of “terrorists,” and demanded the deployment of Turkish troops there during a speech back in November 2016.

This is while US officials regard the YPG as the most effective fighting force against the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in northern Syria, and have substantially increased their weaponry and technology support to the terrorist group.

The controversy over a possible Syria border force first started on January 14 when a report emerged on Reuters saying that the military coalition led by the United States in Syria was planning to set up a large border force of up to 30,000 personnel with the aid of its militia allies.

The Syrian government has already condemned the “brutal Turkish aggression” against Afrin, rejecting Ankara’s claim about having informed Damascus of the operation.

Damascus "strongly condemns the brutal Turkish aggression on Afrin, which is an inseparable part of Syrian territory," Syria’s official news agency, SANA, cited a Syrian Foreign Ministry source as saying on January 20.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/16/552513/Tillerson-Erdogan-meet-amid-heightened-strain-over-Operation-Olive-Branch

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Arab World

 

Celebrating Valentine’s Day does not contradict Islamic teachings: Saudi sheikh

February 16, 2018

A prominent Saudi sheikh told a newspaper on Thursday celebrating Valentine’s Day did not contradict Islamic teachings, defying the hardline position of the kingdom’s religious police on the holiday. Sheikh Ahmad al-Ghamdi, the former head of the Mecca region’s Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, said in an interview with Arab News that Muslims could celebrate love on February 14.

“Celebrating Valentine’s Day does not contradict Islamic teachings as it is a worldly, social matter just like celebrating the National Day and Mother’s Day,” he was quoted as saying. The push for a more moderate Islam accompanies efforts by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to modernise the kingdom. He has loosened social restrictions, scaling back the role of religious police and permitting public concerts. The government announced plans to allow women to drive this year.

Valentine’s Day has in the past been usually preceded by a clampdown from the religious police, ordering florists and other shopkeepers to remove items associated with the festival. But last year, the force was barred from pursuing suspects or making arrests.

Florists said they easily sold red roses and bouquets on Wednesday and Thursday without getting into trouble. “I didn’t expect this,” one flower seller laughed. “It’s not like past years, people are comfortable buying (red flowers).” “That’s it, it’s over,” he added.

Sheikh al-Ghamdi is known for his liberal stances. He published a paper in 2009 questioning the legality of gender segregation in Islam, as enforced by the Commission. He was sacked from his position but the decision was quickly reversed. In 2010, he said he did not consider it wrong for women to drive. Al-Ghamdi resigned soon afterwards, going on to create uproar in 2014 when he said that while women should dress modestly, the full face veil was not necessary. He appeared on television with his wife, she wearing the traditional black long robe and headscarf, but with her face uncovered.

http://indianexpress.com/article/world/celebrating-valentines-day-does-not-contradict-islamic-teachings-saudi-sheikh-5066047/

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Syrian Army Sends Extensive Military Forces, Equipment to Lattakia

Feb 15, 2018

The Syrian army forces engaged in clashes with the al-Nusra Front (Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at or the Levant Liberation Board) terrorists who had attacked the army positions near Kinsibba, killing and wounding a number of militants.

Field sources also confirmed that the Syrian army has sent a large number of its forces and equipment to Kinsibba in Northern Lattakia.

The army soldiers have been dispatched to this region after their positions came under repeated attacks by the terrorists.

In a relevant development last Sunday, the Syrian army troops fended off a heavy offensive of a group of terrorists in Northern Lattakia, killing the entire members of the group on Sunday.

Full report at:

The army men warded off the attack and killed all the gunmen of the terrorist group. 

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961126001036

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ISIL Gains Control over Tahrir Al-Sham Positions in Southern Damascus

Feb 15, 2018

Local sources confirmed on Thursday that the ISIL terrorists attacked Tahrir al-Sham positions in Yarmouk in Southern Damascus, winning control over Haifa street.

They added that during the clashes which took several hours, a number of militants from both sides were killed and wounded.

In recent weeks, the ISIL has several times attacked the positions of three rival terrorist groups in the Southern countryside of Damascus city, imposing major losses on other militant groups.

Sources said late in January that the ISIL militants launched another wave of attacks on rival groups in the Southern suburbs of Damascus city, targeting the positions of Jeish al-Islam, Al-Nusra Front (Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at or the Levant Liberation Board) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) throughout the district of Tadamun.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961126000641

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Egypt army: Militants looking to Sinai for new home base

15 February 2018

After crushing blows in Iraq and Syria, global militants could be eyeing Egypt's Sinai Peninsula as a new home base, the army said Thursday, as it presses an offensive in the region.

Cairo last week announced a major operation against militants across swathes of territory, including the volatile region which has been at the heart of a persistent ISIS group insurgency.

The security sweeps in the Sinai, Nile Delta and Western Desert near the border with Libya comes as the country prepares for polls next month in which President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is seeking re-election.

Army spokesman Tamer el-Refai said at a press conference broadcast Thursday that intelligence showed that the militants were planning “to create a new terrorist home base in another area that could potentially be the Sinai Peninsula”.

The spokesman told a tightly controlled press conference that 53 militants have been killed since the start of the operation, while more than 600 people have been detained.

There was no way to independently verify the figures given.

In November, Sisi ordered his armed forces chief of staff to restore security in Sinai within three months after militants killed more than 300 worshippers at a mosque.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/02/15/Egypt-army-Militants-looking-to-Sinai-for-new-home-base.html

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Tillerson: Growing Hezbollah arsenal a threat to Lebanon

15 February 2018

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Thursday Hezbollah’s growing arsenal and its involvement in regional conflicts threatened the security of Lebanon.

He said that Hezbollah "is a terrorist organization" and there is no distinction between its political and military wings."

He stressed that "Hezbollah has increased the conflict in Syria and the region" and it must stop its activities abroad.

Tillerson, in a Beirut news conference, also urged Lebanese leaders to uphold the country's commitment to staying out of regional conflicts.

Tillerson said in a joint press conference with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri that Washington was engaging with Lebanon and Israel to ensure the border remained calm.

"Hezbollah is not just a concern for the United States. The people of Lebanon should also be concerned about how Hezbollah's actions, its growing arsenal, bring unwanted and unhelpful scrutiny on Lebanon," Tillerson said in Beirut.

"Hezbollah entanglement in regional conflicts threatens the security of Lebanon and has destabilizing effects on the region," he said of the Iran-backed Shiite movement, which is part of the Lebanese government.

Hezbollah, branded a "terrorist" organization by the United States, is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has fighters on the ground in the war-torn country supporting the regime.

"Their presence in Syria has perpetuated the bloodshed, increased the displacement of innocent people and propped up the barbaric Assad regime," Tillerson said at the news conference with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

Tillerson added that he had not asked Lebanon "to give up anything" on its dispute with Israel over their maritime border.

"We are looking for a solution," he said.

On Wednesday, speaking in Amman, Tillerson had appearing to soften Washington's tone, conceding that Hezbollah is part of the "political process" in Lebanon.

Hezbollah's influence was at the heart of a political crisis in Lebanon over Hariri's shock resignation announced from Saudi Arabia in November that was later rescinded.

Tillerson's visit comes at a time of tension between Lebanon and Israel -- which fought a devastating war with Hezbollah in 2006 -- over issues such as offshore energy exploration.

Lebanon is upset about Israel's construction of a dividing wall along the border between the two countries, which are still technically at war.

Lebanon says part of the wall follows the UN-demarcated "Blue Line" that was drawn up after Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000, and insists some sections will cut into its territory.

"We are engaging with the governments of both Lebanon and Israel to ensure Lebanon's southern border remains calm," Tillerson said.

"And we remain committed to helping Lebanon and the Lebanese people prosper through the development of their natural resources in agreement with all of their neighbors."

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Lebanon on Thursday for a short visit, during which he was expected to announce a firm stance against the militia.

Rex Tillerson's six-hour visit, amid tight security, is the first visit by a US official in four years.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/02/15/Tillerson-says-growing-Hezbollah-arsenal-a-threat-to-Lebanon.html

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Syria to deploy troops to Afrin under deal with Kurdish militants: Reports

Feb 16, 2018

The Syrian government is reportedly set to deploy troops to the northern district of Afrin, which has been the target of a month-long Turkish offensive, as part of an agreement with the Kurdish militants operating there.

Citing “special” sources, Lebanon’s Al Mayadeen broadcaster reported Thursday that Damascus had reached an agreement with militants of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) to station troops in Afrin with the aim of countering Turkish military attacks.

Russia’s Sputnik news agency also quoted a source familiar with the situation as saying that Syrian forces would enter the flashpoint region within “the next few days.”

“The agreement has been reached on the deployment of the Syrian Armed Forces at the Syrian-Turkish border in Afrin in the north of Aleppo in the next few days. The agreement was reached between the Syrian government and the Kurds,” the source said.

According to Sputnik, the US, a longtime supporter of the anti-Damascus Kurdish militants, has no knowledge of the deal.

Ankara views the YPG as a terror organization linked to the homegrown militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for autonomy on Turkish soil over the past decades.

Angered by a Washington plan to set up a 30,000-strong Kurdish force at its doorstep, Turkey launched on January 19 the so-called Operation Olive Branch in northern Syria to cleanse those regions of the YPG, which forms the primary component of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Turkey has threatened to expand its military operation to the nearby Kurdish-controlled Syrian city of Manbij and beyond to the Iraqi border. It has also warned the US, its NATO ally, to halt its support for the Kurds or risk confronting Turkish forces on the ground in Syria.

In an exclusive report on February 11, Reuters said the Kurdish militants controlling Afrin are getting indirect assistance from Syrian government forces in the face Turkish assaults.

Kino Gabriel, the SDF spokesmanm said the “fundamental route” to get reinforcements to Afrin is via government forces, adding, “There are understandings between the two forces ... for the sake of delivering reinforcements.”

The developments come a few weeks after Kurdish authorities in the Afrin district appealed to the government of President Bashar al-Assad to send troops and help defend them against the Turkish incursion in line with protecting Syria’s sovereignty.

The Syrian government has given a degree of authority to the Kurdish regions to run their own affairs in the face of a foreign-backed militancy. The US, however, has used the vacuum to establish a foothold in those regions with the help of militants.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/16/552524/Syria-Kurds-Afrin-deployment-Turkey

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Supporting terrorists, main objective of US-led coalition: Syria

Feb 15, 2018

Daesh Takfiri group, is supporting terrorists operating in the Arab country.

Bashar Ja’afari said in a statement to the UN Security Council on Thursday that the US presence in Syria violates the 15-member body's resolutions and the UN Charter.

He also accused the US, France and Britain of having "made every effort to undermine Syria and its people and exploit the media to reach this end, distort the reality of what is happening and mislead the public opinion regarding the humanitarian suffering of civilians due to the practices of armed terrorist groups."

He further stressed that "the main task of US-led coalition is supporting terrorists in Syria," citing the February 8 "illegitimate attack" on pro-government forces fighting Daesh in Syria's eastern Dayr al-Zawr Province as a proof.

"The US decision on military intervention in Syria was illegitimate and unilateral under the pretext of fighting the Daesh terrorist organization, then Washington declared that it wants to establish military bases to preserve the strategic security and the security of its allies and later on it made clear that they are in Syria to create armed militias which will control oil, gas and water resources and establish a mini-state," he said.

The US and its allies back militants fighting to topple the Syrian government. They have also been bombarding what they call Daesh positions inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate.

The strikes, however, have on many occasions resulted in civilian casualties and failed to fulfill their declared aim of countering terrorism.

Elsewhere in his statement, the Syrian envoy criticized the Western countries for remaining silent on the repeated Israeli attacks on the Syrian territory, the most recent of which was the February 10 aggression.

Israeli warplanes attacked several targets inside Syria and in response the Syrian army shot down at least one intruding Israeli F-16 warplane.

Ja'afari accused the US and its allies of blocking a Security Council resolution which condemned terrorist attacks on residential areas. He also accused them of supplying the terror outfits with toxic chemical materials to be used against innocent civilians.

The Syrian official also welcomed Russia’s efforts to hold the Syrian Congress of National Dialog in the resort city of Sochi on January 29-30.

The congress, he said, proved once again that the political process in Syria would not be possible unless it were led by the Syrians themselves without any foreign intervention.

The 12-point final Sochi statement forms a fundamental basis for the political track in Syria and a solid foundation for any upcoming talks, he added.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/15/552470/Syria-Daesh-Bashar-Jaafari

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Over 1,500 Kurdish Fighters Killed in Turkish Military Operation in Northern Syria

Feb 15, 2018

The army's statement said that 43 Kurdish fighters have been killed in the air and ground attacks of the Turkish army and allied militants in Afrin region in Northwestern Aleppo in the past 24 hours.

It added that the total casualties of the Kurds in Operation Olive Branch in Northern Syria stand at 1,528 now.

The Turkish army troops and Ankara-backed militants continued Operation Olive Branch in Afrin region in Northwestern Aleppo on Wednesday and pushed the Kurds back from one more village and several key hills, militant-affiliated websites reported.

The sources said that the forces of Operation Olive Branch advanced against the Kurdish fighters again and captured the village of Arshli and its surrounding hills, deploying near the town of Jandaris.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961126000571

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Russian toll in Syria battle was 300 killed and wounded, report says

16 February 2018

MOSCOW: About 300 men working for a Kremlin-linked Russian private military firm were either killed or injured in Syria last week, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

A Russian military doctor said around 100 had been killed, and a source who knows several of the fighters said the death toll was in excess of 80 men.

The timing of the casualties coincided with a battle on February 7 near the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor where, according to US officials and associates of the fighters involved, US-led coalition forces attacked forces aligned with Moscow’s ally, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

Russian officials said five citizens may have been killed but they had no relation to Russia’s armed forces.

The clashes show Moscow is more deeply involved in Syria militarily than it has said, and risks being drawn into direct confrontation with the United States in Syria.

The casualties are the highest that Russia has suffered in a single battle since fierce clashes in Ukraine in 2014 claimed more than 100 fighters’ lives. Moscow denies sending soldiers and volunteers to Ukraine and has never confirmed that figure.

The wounded, who have been medically evacuated from Syria in the past few days, have been sent to four Russian military hospitals, according to five sources familiar with the matter.

The military doctor, who works in a Moscow military hospital and was directly involved in the treatment of wounded men evacuated from Syria, said that as of Saturday evening there were more than 50 such patients in his hospital, of which around 30 percent were seriously wounded.

The doctor, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to disclose information about casualties, said at least three planeloads of injured fighters were flown to Moscow between last Friday and Monday morning.

He said they were flown back on specially equipped military cargo planes, which can each accommodate two or three intensive care cases and several dozen less severely wounded patients.

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, said initial information was that five Russian citizens in the area of the battle may have been killed, but they were not Russian troops. She said reports of tens or hundreds of Russian casualties were disinformation inspired by Russia’s opponents.

The Russian defense ministry did not respond to Reuters questions about casualties in Syria. A Kremlin spokesman, asked about Russian casualties on Thursday, said he had nothing to add to previous statements. The Kremlin said earlier this week it had no information on any casualties.

Reuters was unable to make direct contact with the contractors’ employers, the Wagner group, whose fallen fighters have in the past received medals from the Kremlin.

The military doctor said that a fellow doctor who flew to Syria on one of the recent medevac flights told him that around 100 people in the Russian force had been killed as of the end of last week, and 200 injured.

The doctor who spoke to Reuters said most of the casualties were Russian private military contractors.

Yevgeny Shabayev, leader of a local chapter of a paramilitary Cossack organization who has ties to Russian military contractors, said he had visited acquaintances injured in Syria at the defense ministry’s Central Hospital in Khimki, on the outskirts of Moscow, on Wednesday.

He said the wounded men had told him that the two units of Russian contractors involved in the battle near Deir Ezzor numbered 550 men. Of those, there are now about 200 who are not either dead or wounded, the wounded men had told him.

Shabayev said the ward he visited contained eight patients, all evacuated from Syria in the past few days, and there were more in other wards in the hospital.

“If you understand anything about military action and combat injuries then you can imagine what’s going on there. That’s to say, constant screams, shouts,” Shabayev said. “It’s a tough scene.”

A source with ties to the Wagner organization, and who has spoken to people who took part in the February 7 clashes, said his contacts told him more than 80 Russian contractors were killed.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the total of about 300 killed or injured was broadly correct.

He said many of the injured had shrapnel in their bodies that was not showing up on X-rays, making treatment difficult. “The prognosis for most of the wounded is dismal,” he said.

Other military hospitals treating the contractors are the Third Vishnevskiy hospital in Krasnogorsk, near Moscow, the Burdenko hospital near Moscow city center, and the Military Medical Academy in St. Petersburg, according to the doctor, Shabayev, and three other people who know dead or wounded fighters.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1247491/middle-east

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Africa

 

Islamic State has landed in lawless Somalia, bishop says

Feb 15, 2018

NAIROBI, Kenya - As it loses its grip in the Middle East, the Islamic State is finding a foothold in Somalia, said a bishop who oversees the Catholic Church in the troubled country.

The insurgent group - linked to mass killings, abductions and beheadings in Iraq and Syria, where it is facing defeat - sees Somalia as a suitable base due to its lawlessness, says Bishop Giorgio Bertin, apostolic administrator of Mogadishu, Somalia.

“I think they have chosen Somalia because there is no central authority. The country also represents a good possibility for them to continue their search for an Islamic state or, at least, they can continue their ideology without many obstacles,” Bertin told Catholic News Service.

Somalia has experienced chaos since 1991, when warlords overthrew President Mohammed Siad Barre. The conflict remains one of Africa’s longest civil wars.

But in 2006, the war took a different twist with the emergence of the al-Shabab extremist group, which swept across the country, enforcing a radical form of Shariah (Islamic law). Since then, the country has served as the traditional base for the militants who are the al-Qaida network affiliate in East Africa.

The emergence of the Islamic State faction will complicate the scenario in an already fragmented country, Bertin said.

The faction is based in Puntland state in northeastern Somalia and is believed to be recruiting. Foreign fighters fleeing Iraq and Syria are joining the faction, as well as former al-Shabab fighters.

The insurgents initiated attacks in 2016 and 2017 while receiving funding from Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, according to the U.N. Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea.

The U.S. military launched an airstrike on the militant bases in November, but Bertin called on the international community to coordinate their efforts against the new group.

“Unfortunately, some (international) actors may want to use the group for their own gains,” the bishop warned.

“The Church cannot intervene. It can only pray and advise. … The government should simply try to reconcile with the Somali population by giving good services,” he said.

While there are almost no churches in Somalia - after the only one in Hargeisa closed in 2017 because of threats - churches in neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya present possible targets for the militants, the bishop said.

In the past, al-Shabab has attacked churches, public places and government institutions in Kenya.

Some Kenyan Catholic priests have watched the developments with interest. Recently, there were reports of young Kenyan Muslims pledging allegiance to Islamic State.

“We cannot rule out they have some interests here (Kenya) as well. We have no evidence of their existence, but we know terror groups share ideology, secret purchase of weapons and distribution,” said Father Wilybard Lagho, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Mombasa, Kenya.

Father Alfred Muriithi, who ministers in the border town of Wajir, Kenya, said local people believe al-Shabab has left, but they still hear of terror attacks.

“I think another force could be facilitating these attacks,” he said, without mentioning Islamic State.

https://cruxnow.com/global-church/2018/02/15/islamic-state-landed-lawless-somalia-bishop-says/

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Nigerian Army places new bounty on Boko Haram leader, Shekau

February 15, 2018

The Nigeria Nigeria Army has promised a N3 million cash reward for credible information on the hideout of Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, whom it declared a fugitive.

Army spokesman, Sani Usman, a Brigadier General, made this known in a statement issued on Thursday.

This would be the third bounty placed on the Boko Haram leader since 2012.

In November 2012, the federal government offered a N290 million cash reward for any information that would lead to arrest of Mr. Sbekau.

In June, 2013, the United States of America officially declared Boko Haram a terrorist organisation and placed a $7 million ransom on Mr. Shekau.

About four years after, it appears the worth of the Boko Haram leader has gone down following the degrading of his once formidable terror group.

The army has repeatedly claimed to have killed Mr. Shekau, who appears later in videos to dismiss the claim.

Mr. Shekau has appeared in at least two new videos this year taunting the military’s effort to completely defeat his group.

Mr. Usman’s statement on the promised ransom reads:

“The Nigerian Army will give out Three Million Naira (N3,000,000.00k) cash reward for any credible information that leads to the arrest of Abubakar Shekau, the fugitive factional Boko Haram terrorists’ group leader.

“Anybody with such credible information can either contact the Military Command and Control Centre, Operation LAFIYA DOLE, any military location, security agencies or call the Nigerian Army Information and Call Centre 193”.

Full report at:

https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/258768-nigerian-army-places-new-bounty-on-boko-haram-leader-shekau.html

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Egypt foils 'infiltration attempt' across Libya border

15 February 2018

The Egyptian army on Thursday announced it had foiled a fresh "infiltration attempt" across the border with Libya.

“The air force succeeded in foiling an infiltration attempt by 10 4x4 vehicles loaded with arms and ammunition on the western [i.e., Libyan] border,” the army announced in a televised statement.

“The vehicles were completely destroyed,” the army asserted without providing a death toll or identifying the alleged infiltrators.

The border area between Egypt and Libya continues to witness sporadic clashes between Egyptian security forces and smugglers or gunmen, according to previous army statements.

In recent months, the army has reportedly foiled numerous attempts by “infiltrators” to enter Egyptian territory from neighboring Libya.

Libya has remained dogged by chaos since 2011, when a bloody NATO-backed uprising led to the ouster and death of longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The ensuing power vacuum led to the emergence of several rival seats of government and a host of heavily-armed militia groups.

Last week, Egypt launched a wide-ranging security operation -- involving elements from both the army and police -- aimed at finding the perpetrators of a recent string of militant attacks.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/africa/198862/egypt-foils-infiltration-attempt-across-libya-border

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Somali forces destroy Al-Shabaab bases in southern Somalia

2018-02-15

MOGADISHU, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) -- Somali forces backed by African Union forces destroyed Al-Shabaab bases in the Lower Shabelle region in southern Somalia, the military said.

Lower Shabelle region military commander Ibrahim Aden Najah told journalists on Thursday that the forces raided the bases in Kurtunwarey and destroyed the bases used by the militants to attack Somali and Amisom forces.

The military officer said the forces were going on with operations in the regions to flush out the militants. Lower Shabelle region remains one of the strongholds of Al-Shabaab.

"We will not relent until we kick out all Al-Shabaab in the region," added Najah.

Security forces Tuesday also destroyed explosives in Lower Shabelle region suspected to have been destined for the capital Mogadishu. They also destroyed an FM station run by Al-Shabaab.

Full report at:

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-02/15/c_136978126.htm

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URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/in-muzaffarnagar,-hindus-chant-allahu-akbar,-muslims-har-har-mahadev/d/114306

 

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