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In Myanmar, Pope Francis Calls for Peace without Saying ‘Rohingya’

New Age Islam News Bureau

29 Nov 2017

Myanmar’s civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, right, has been criticized for failing to denounce the crackdown on the Rohingya. “It is the aim of our government to bring out the beauty of our diversity and to make it our strength,” she said Tuesday. Credit Vincenzo Pinto/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images



 In Myanmar, Pope Francis Calls for Peace without Saying ‘Rohingya’

 Aung San Suu Kyi Stripped Of UK Award over Rohingya Genocide

 Who’s The Egyptian ISIS Militant Who Issued Fatwa to Kill Sinai Worshipers?

 'Love Jihad' Case: Cannot Have A Terrorist in the Family, Says Hadiya's Father

 'I'm Lashkar's Biggest Supporter, They like Me Too', Says Pervez Musharraf


South Asia

 In Myanmar, Pope Francis Calls for Peace without Saying ‘Rohingya’

 Taliban Militants Execute Prayer Leader Of A Mosque In Nangarhar

 New ISIS-Taliban clash leaves 6 dead, wounded in Nangarhar

 Three extremists killed in Bangladesh before Pope's visit

 Catholic priest goes missing in Bangladesh day before Pope Francis is scheduled to visit country

 Hekmatyar confirms Russia is supporting the Taliban group

 Bangladesh’s island home for 100,000 Rohingya refugees



 Aung San Suu Kyi Stripped Of UK Award over Rohingya Genocide

 Greek Police Raids Find Explosives, 9 Held Over Links to Banned Turkish Group

 Russia censures OPCW for 'politically-biased' probe into Syria chemical attack


Arab World

 Who’s The Egyptian ISIS Militant Who Issued Fatwa to Kill Sinai Worshipers?

 Egypt Forces Kill 14 Militants in Wake of Bloody Sinai Massacre

 Syria Regime Agrees To Join Peace Talks, With Conditions

 Saudi Cabinet Voices Support for Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition Efforts to Wipe out Terrorism

 Syria: ISIL Terrorists Hoist SDF Flag over Command Centres, Positions in Deir Ezzur

 Executing Seven, Saudi Arabia Brings 2017 Beheading Toll To 130

 ISIL Pushes Rival Terrorists back from over 20 Regions in Hama Province

 Bahrain presents Iraq with list of persons wanted for terrorism

 Lebanon is latest target in Saudi intimidation campaign: Qatari FM



 'Love Jihad' Case: Cannot Have A Terrorist in the Family, Says Hadiya's Father

 NIA Arrests Man, Says He Is Lashkar Operative on Recce Mission

 Muslim ‘Disowned’ For Singing Vande Mataram



 'I'm Lashkar's Biggest Supporter, They like Me Too', Says Pervez Musharraf

 14 PML-N Legislators Submit Resignations to Spiritual Leader

 I Believe In Allah’s Angels Not Military Angels: Capt (R) Safdar

 IS adopts new strategy to gain foothold in Peshawar

 A Politically Unstable Pakistan Is a Threat to Global Peace

 Iran fumes as Pakistan embraces KSA

 Govt Does Not Take Political Parties On Board over Sit-Ins: Siraj

 Trouble shifts from Abbasi govt to Shahbaz administration



 Dozens of Israeli Settlers Attack Al-Aqsa Mosque

 Hamas's Weapons May Block Path to Palestinian Unity

 Saudi-led military alliance has divided Muslims: Iran

 Turkey issues warrants for 360 people amid ‘Gulen army unit’ probe

 Erdogan: We are ‘on same wavelength’ with the US in latest talks

 Violent car explosion rocks Aden kills 4

 Coalition-backed Yemeni forces liberate strategic mountain from Houthis



 Boko Haram Founder's Home 'To Be Museum'

 Benghazi 'Ringleader' Cleared Of Most Serious Charges

 US warns South Sudan to end its nearly four-year war

 Macron seeks support to rescue migrants trapped in Libya

 UN considers sanctions to fight Libya slave trade


Southeast Asia

 Publisher IRF Gets Court Nod To Challenge Govt Ban on Books By Founder, Mustafa Akyol

 Saudi-Iran Rivalry Rooted In Politics, Says Scholar

 Indonesia poised to expand global role in family planning: UNFPA executive

 Indonesian 'Trump' says has no plans to run for president


North America

 Over 1,000 US Troops To Patrol with Afghans in 2018: US General

 Driver Held in Deadly Manhattan Terror Attack Pleads Not Guilty

 Canada sees drop in reported Muslim hate crimes

 Ahmed Abu Khatallah cleared of murder over 2012 attack

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




In Myanmar, Pope Francis Calls for Peace Without Saying ‘Rohingya’


NOV. 28, 2017

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar — Since his election in 2013, Pope Francis has constantly used his pulpit to champion the downtrodden and draw attention to the misery of the powerless and the persecuted.

He risked the fury of Turkey by describing the mass killings of Armenians in World War I as a genocide. He apologized for the silence of church leaders in the Rwandan genocide of 1994. And three months ago, he denounced “the persecution of our Rohingya brothers,” referring to the Muslim minority that has suffered a systematic campaign of murder, rape and arson by Myanmar’s military.

“I would like to express my full closeness to them,” he said at the Vatican at the time, “and let all of us ask the Lord to save them, and to raise up men and women of good will to help them, who shall give them their full rights.”

On Tuesday, Pope Francis had a singular opportunity to be an advocate for the Rohingya as he stood next to Myanmar’s de facto leader and in front of a hall full of military officials, prelates and diplomats in this ghostly fortress of a capital.

But in a much anticipated speech, Francis studiously avoided using the name of Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya minority or directly addressing their situation, after church leaders advised him that doing so would only aggravate the situation and put the country’s tiny Catholic population at risk.

“The future of Myanmar must be peace, a peace based on respect for the dignity and rights of each member of society, respect for each ethnic group and its identity,” the pope said as he stood next to Myanmar’s civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate whose own reputation has suffered for failing to speak out against the killings. Francis said that respect for rule of law and the democratic order “enables each individual and every group — none excluded — to offer its legitimate contribution to the common good.”

“Rohingya” is a highly polarized term in Myanmar, and the pope’s own advisers had warned him that using it during his visit could antagonize the military, embolden hard-line Buddhists and even make the situation worse for the Rohingya. What the pope said in private about their plight is not known.

But critics worried that Francis’ caution in public, while perhaps prudent, risked diminishing his reputation as the world’s megaphone against injustice.

“I’m disappointed,” said Lynn Kuok, a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for East Asia Policy Studies, who had hoped the pope would acknowledge the Rohingya and their plight. Instead she called his speech “tepid” and added: “When even the leader of the Catholic Church doesn’t speak out, it really shows the desperate situation they are in.”

The decision whether to publicly utter the name Rohingya was perhaps the most difficult diplomatic balancing act of his pontificate, and it became a dominant narrative of the first papal visit to Myanmar.

It was a visit that even his supporters considered an unforced error as it potentially put him in a moral quandary not entirely unlike that of Pope Pius XII, whose reputation forever suffered for his calculation that speaking out against the genocide of Jews during World War II would risk the lives of Catholics.

Francis is still wildly popular, and he is expected to meet with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh later in the week. But here the diplomatic demands of the local politics outweighed any temptation the pope may have risked to directly denounce the treatment of the Muslim minority.

The pope is a good guest. He is often loath to publicly criticize his hosts when traveling, and in visits to countries from the United States to Egypt he has chosen to issue broad reminders about principles of democracy and justice, rather than dwell on specific shortcomings. But many believed the situation in Myanmar, which the United States and the United Nations have called ethnic cleansing, cried out for condemnation.

More than 620,000 Rohingya have fled across the border to Bangladesh since August, when the military began a crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, in response to Rohingya militants’ attacks on security posts.

Myanmar has stripped the Rohingya of citizenship and does not consider them to be a distinct ethnic group. Instead, most of the majority-Buddhist population regards them as interlopers from Bangladesh.

Because of this, the term Rohingya is essentially taboo. Cardinal Charles Maung Bo and others in the church had urged the pope not to use it during his trip, for fear that any appearance of taking the side of the Muslim minority could provoke a violent backlash against Catholics in the country, who number about 700,000.

“I have come, above all, to pray with the nation’s small but fervent Catholic community,” Francis said on Tuesday. “To confirm them in their faith, and to encourage them in their efforts to contribute to the good of the nation.”

The Rohingya crisis has already done reputational damage to Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, who was stripped of her Freedom of Oxford award for failing to denounce the military’s crackdown.

Speaking immediately before Francis, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi acknowledged that “the situation in the Rakhine has most strongly captured the attention of the world.” She said that in the face of a breakdown of trust “between different communities in Rakhine,” she especially valued the support of friends who wished for the government’s success.

“It is the aim of our government to bring out the beauty of our diversity and to make it our strength, by protecting rights, fostering tolerance, ensuring security for all,” she said.

But Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, who won a landslide election in 2015, is also in an excruciatingly tight political spot. She has no authority over the military, which ruled the country outright for decades. Her defenders, including Cardinal Bo and others in the church, argue that she is powerless to stop the campaign against the Rohingya, and that for her to speak out against it would only weaken her, strengthen the military and jeopardize the country’s fragile democratic gains. She conferred privately with the pope before their public speeches.

But analysts here said the more important meeting for Francis came on Monday evening, when he met with Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, who has led the campaign against the Rohingya and essentially sidelined Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi. The crackdown is popular in Myanmar and has helped coalesce support behind the general, who is believed to have designs on the presidency.

In a Facebook post after Monday’s meeting, the general denied that religious prejudice existed in Myanmar. “His speech is always the same,” said Mariano Soe Naing, a spokesman for the Myanmar Catholic bishops conference.

For that very reason, many humanitarian groups had hoped Pope Francis would say something very different. Instead, he spoke broadly about religious differences as a source of enrichment, tolerance and nation-building.

“The religions can play a significant role in repairing the emotional, spiritual and psychological wounds of those who have suffered in the years of conflict,” he said. “Drawing on deeply held values, they can help to uproot the causes of conflict, build bridges of dialogue, seek justice and be a prophetic voice for all who suffer.”

Some diplomats thought it was for the best that the pope had not explicitly mentioned the Rohingya.

“The problem is that with the press, maybe some human rights organizations, the expectations are very high,” said Nikolay Listopadov, Russia’s ambassador to Myanmar, after exiting the International Convention Center, where the speeches took place. “They usually expect some miracles. But even the pope can’t just produce a miracle right now.”

The pope emphasized similar themes earlier Tuesday at the archbishop’s residence in Yangon, where he met for 40 minutes with Buddhist leaders, as well as Hindu, Jewish, Christian and Muslim representatives. He said that diversity was a source of strength and that uniformity eroded humanity.

But that view is anathema to many Buddhists in Myanmar. Many see the Rohingya, who have lived in Myanmar for generations, as unassimilated Muslim separatists whose propagation poses a threat to Buddhist, and nationalist, identity.

“We don’t like them. We’re angry,” said Naing Win, a 19-year-old novice monk who was walking around a pagoda complex in Yangon on Monday afternoon.

Nor does the view of Rohingya as, essentially, trespassers in Myanmar appear to be limited to hard-line Buddhists. Asked if any Rohingya had been present at the morning meeting in Yangon, Father Soe Naing, the spokesman for the Myanmar Catholic Bishops conference, explained that it was unlikely, as the Muslims who called themselves Rohingya were not allowed to move around the country.

The designation Rohingya, he added, was “a sudden creation” that reflected a separatist movement in Rakhine State: “For us they are called Bengalis.”



Aung San Suu Kyi stripped of UK award over Rohingya genocide

Nov 28, 2017

The British city of Oxford has stripped Myanmar’s de facto ruler Aung San Suu Kyi of a prestigious award over her government’s brutal persecution of Rohingya Muslims.

The city’s councilors retracted Suu Kyi’s 1997 Freedom of Oxford award, which she personally collected in 2012 for her “pro-democracy” campaign as the leader of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

In a statement following a special meeting on Monday, councilor Mary Clarkson said the “unprecedented” move was in response to Suu Kyi’s lack of action to stop what the international community has blasted as Maynmar army’s “ethnic cleansing” of the Muslim minority group.

"Oxford has a long tradition of being a diverse and humane city, and our reputation is tarnished by honoring those who turn a blind eye to violence,” Clarkson said.

"We hope that today we have added our small voice to others calling for human rights and justice for the Rohingya people," she added, blasting Suu Kyi for denying what the United Nations has described as “a textbook example of genocide.”

More than 600,000 desperate Rohingya Muslims have fled the violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and crossed into Bangladesh since late August.

The crackdown, backed by radical Buddhist monks, has left scores of Rohingya villages torched and completely destroyed. Aid organizations have also reported numerous cases of sexual abuse against Rohingya women and children.

"The burning of their villages has been independently confirmed by satellite images… yet Aung San Suu Kyi has denied any ethnic cleansing and dismissed numerous claims of sexual violence against Rohingya women as 'fake rape',” Clarkson said in her statement.

Satellite imagery reveals Myanmar’s ‘ethnic cleansing’

UK Prime Minister Theresa May said earlier this month that the situation in Myanmar "looks like ethnic cleansing" and the Southeast Asian country's military and government "must take full responsibility."

Before the latest snub, Suu Kyi’s portrait was removed from her alma mater of St Hugh's College, where she studied between 1964 and 1967.

Petition urges stripping Suu Kyi’s of Nobel prize

Suu Kyi has also been under pressure to return a Noble peace prize she was awarded in 1991. However, the Norwegian Nobel Institute, that oversees the prize, says it cannot be revoked despite growing calls from former previous Noble laureates and an online petition signed by over 400,000 people.



Who’s The Egyptian ISIS Militant Who Issued Fatwa to Kill Sinai Worshipers?

28 November 2017

On December 7, 2016, Al-Naba'a, an Arabic-language journal belonging ISIS terrorist organization, published an interview with a leader calling him Amir al-Hesba in Sinai.

Rumeya, another magazine also issued by the organization, published an interview with ISIS militant who threatened to target Sufi Zawiyas (corners) and mosques in Egypt.

The leader of ISIS, who was also known as Abi Musab al-Masri, identified 3 Mosques of Sufism and threatened to target them.

This is in reference to Al-Rawdah Mosque in Sinai, which witnessed the massacre last Friday, killing 305 worshipers, the Arab Zawiya in Ismailia and the Saoud Zawiya in Sharqeya and Ahmadiyya Zawiya in Sinai.

ISIS organization in Sinai shared many photos of this leader. Sources told Al Arabiya that the photos confirm he is Mohammed Magdi al-Dula’ei, a young Egyptian man the Muslim Brotherhood group claim disappeared since 2015.

Information about this young man may be the beginning of the thread to reach the perpetrators of the massacre.

Investigations revealed that his full name is Mohammed Majdi al-Dula’ei, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood group, and that he was born in Riyadh.

Maher Farghali, a researcher in the affairs of Islamic movements, confirmed to Al-Arabiya that al-Dula’ei was studying at the Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University, and disappeared since January 2015.

He appeared again in March 2017 inside Sinai, specifically in the village of Rumaneh, in Be’r Al-Abd, and that he is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood group.

In a visual transmission called "Nour al-Sharia," by ISIS organization airing in March, the al-Dula’ei threatened the Sufis and their leaders and gave them a period of time to repent considering them infidels, because they follow their sheikhs, obey them blindly, and take blessings in the shrines.

He specifically threatened followers of Ahmadeya Seynaweya and Al-Jareeria sects.

Capturing al-Dula’ei will lead to the perpetrators of the massacre, and may uncover many other surprises hidden in the details.



'Love jihad' case: Cannot have a terrorist in the family, says Hadiya's father

Nov 29, 2017

NEW DELHI: The father of the Kerala woman, at the centre of the alleged 'love jihad' case+ , on Tuesday welcomed the Supreme Court decision allowing her to continue her studies.

Asked about his stance on inter-religious marriages, Hadiya's father K M Ashokan said he believed in one religion and one god but could not have a terrorist in the family.

"Hadiya does not have any idea about Syria, where she wanted to go after converting to Islam," Ashokan said.

"I cannot have a terrorist in the family," he added.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday freed Hadiya+ , 25, alleged to be a victim of 'love jihad', from the custody of her parents and sent her to college to pursue her studies, even as she pleaded that she should be allowed to go with her husband Shafin Jahan.

"I was sad that she had to undergo all these unpleasant experiences because of which her studies were interrupted. But now I am happy as the court has allowed her to study further," Ashokan told reporters.

He denied allegations that she had been kept under house arrest and added, "She was fully surrounded by police inside and outside the house."

Ashokan said he was not worried about her security in Salem, Tamil Nadu, as she was now under the protection and observation of the apex court.

"I accept the Supreme Court's decision. She is under the protection of the Supreme Court as it is monitoring the case and so I am not worried about her security," he said.

He also said he would go to Salem and meet her as and when necessary as the court had allowed him to do so.

"The court has not given anyone guardianship, including Shafin Jahan, of my child," Ashokan said, adding that only close relatives like him were allowed by the court.

Hadiya on Tuesday left for Salem under the protection of Kerala Police and is expected to reach there by evening.

The apex court, which on Monday interacted with Hadiya for nearly half-an-hour in the courtroom against the wishes of her father who had sought an in-camera interaction, had directed the Kerala police to provide her security and ensure that she travels at the earliest to Salem to pursue her homoeopathy studies at the Sivaraj Medical College there.

Hadiya was in the custody of her parents for almost six months after the Kerala High Court had on May 29 anulled her 'nikah' with Shafin Jahan.

Hadiya, a Hindu by birth, had converted to Islam several months before her marriage.



'I'm Lashkar's Biggest Supporter, They Like Me Too', Says Pervez Musharraf

Nov 29, 2017

NEW DELHI: Former military dictator of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf said this week that he is banned terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba's (LeT) "biggest supporter" and that he's aware they "like" him too.

When asked by Pakistan's AryTV if he's similarly appreciative of LeT's founder and mastermind of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks Hafiz Saeed, Musharraf nodded, saying Saeed "is involved in Kashmir" and he "supports" that involvement.

Saeed, a United Nations-designated terrorist was freed from house arrest last week on an order from the Lahore high court. Musharraf, meanwhile, was declared a fugitive from justice by Pakistan in August this year.

"I am the biggest supporter of LeT and I know they like me and JuD (Jamaat-ud-Dawa) also likes me," said Musharraf, referring to both groups founded by Saeed. JuD is the LeT's 'charitable' wing.

The US has also branded Saeed a terrorist and put a $10 million bounty on Saeed's head after the 2008 Mumbai terror attack. Musharraf claimed Saeed was not involved in the Mumbai terror attack in 2008 because Saeed "himself denied the charges" of being the attacks' mastermind.

The LeT is banned in Pakistan since 2002 and it was, in fact, the Musharraf government that banned the group. When reminded of that fact, Musharraf said he didn't know much about Saeed at the time. He implied that he wouldn't have banned LeT if he had known more about Saeed.

"We had banned LeT because the situation was different at that time. We were moving towards peace and as such I thought we should reduce 'mujahids' (religious warrior) and increase political dialogue and frankly I had very less knowledge about him," said Musharraf.

LeT, though banned, it is widely believed to orchestrate attacks in India, especially in Kashmir. For Musharraf, that makes Saeed a-ok.

"I was always in favor of action in Kashmir and of suppressing the Indian Army in Kashmir and they (LeT) are the biggest force. India got them declared as terrorists by partnering with US," said Musharraf.

The former military dictator was also reminded that he calls himself a liberal and a moderate. The interviewer wondered if that was at odds with Musharraf's admiration for LeT. He said it isn't.

"Yes I am liberal and moderate... these are my thoughts but that doesn't mean I am against all religious leaders," said Musharraf.

This kind of hypocrisy is typical of Pakistan's establishment. On the one hand, you will have Pakistan's foreign minister saying on a public forum that Saeed is "a liability" for Pakistan - like minister Khawaja Asif did in New York in September - and on the other, you have the country's army and its intelligence agency providing safe havens for terror groups and terrorists.

Which is why the president of an infuential US think tank said this week it's a "mystery" why Pakistan is still considered a 'major non-Nato ally'.

Richard Haass, president of the prestigious think tank Council on Foreign Relations, tweeted this week saying Pakistan has "harbored terrorists for years and provides sanctuary to the Taliban" and others, including Saeed,

The Council on Foreign Relations president joins what's becoming a chorus of influential domestic voices asking that Pakistan's status as a 'major non-Nato ally' be taken away.

After Saeed was freed last week, a top American counter-terrorism expert told PTI news agency that it's time to remove Pakistan 'non-Nato ally' status.

"Nine years after 26/11, its mastermind still eludes justice. It is time to rescind Pakistan's status as a major non-NATO ally," said Bruce Riedel, a top U.S. expert on security, South Asia and counter-terrorism.

Saeed's release by the Lahore High Court came despite entreaties by a senior Pakistan finance ministry official who said that freeing Saeed would bring diplomatic and financial problems to the country, reported Pakistan's Dawn newspaper.

Those entreaties obviously fell on willingly deaf ears as the emboldened Lahore High Court even ignored the US administration's August threat to cut off all aid to Pakistan if it doesn't stop providing "safe havens to agents of chaos and terror".

The US hasn't really followed up with stringent punishment since those fighting words in August from US President Donald Trump.

In fact, a significant alteration to a bill that would have pinned Pakistan down on the Saeed-founded and banned organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) was watered down last week in its final iteration. The US Congress decided against including action against terror group LeT as a condition to reimburse Pakistan for its cooperation in the 'war on terror'.

In September, the version of the bill passed by the US Senate said Pakistan must show "it has taken steps to demonstrate its commitment to prevent the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e- Taiba from using any Pakistan territory as a haven and for fundraising and recruiting efforts".

Now, Pakistan must only show it has acted against the Afghanistan-oriented Haqqani Network (no relation the Haqqani cited in this article) and not the India-focussed LeT.



South Asia


Taliban militants execute prayer leader of a mosque in Nangarhar

Nov 28 2017

The Taliban insurgents have executed the prayer leader of a mosque in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, the local officials said Tuesday.

The incident took place in the vicinity of Khogyani district late on Monday evening after a number of the Taliban stormed into a mosque in the area.

The provincial government media office in a statement said the insurgents stormed into Sheikh Qambar Baba mosque and executed Qari Jamil due to unknown reasons.

The statement further added that Qari Jamil did not have any links with any group or government institutions and yet the reason behind his execution by the Taliban insurgents remains unclear.

The Taliban insurgents group has not commented regarding the report so far.

This comes as the local officials earlier had said that the Taliban insurgents have executed one of their other local leaders amid ongoing violence in this province.

According to the local officials, the Taliban group was executed by the insurgents in Ghani Khel district but the main motive has not been ascertained so far.

The provincial government media office in a statement confirmed that a key Taliban group member identified as Khadem who was also famous as Dadullah was killed by the insurgents.

The statement further added that Khadem was apparently killed due to the persistent differences among the Taliban ranks and ongoing infighting with the ISIS terrorist groups militants.



New ISIS-Taliban clash leaves 6 dead, wounded in Nangarhar

Nov 28 2017

At least six militants were killed or wounded in the latest clash between the Taliban militants and loyalists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group in eastern Nangarhar province.

The provincial government media office in a statement said the latest clash broke out in the vicinity of Khogyani district.

The statement further added that two ISIS militants were killed and four others including one ISIS militant and three Taliban insurgents were woundded.

According to the provincial government, the anti-government armed militant groups continue to clash with each other and several of them have been killed or wounded ahead of the latest infighting in Khogyani.

The anti-government armed militant groups including the Taliban and ISIS militants have not commented regarding the report so far.

This comes as the local officials had earlier said the Taliban insurgents have executed one of their other local leaders amid ongoing violence in this province.

According to the local officials, the Taliban group was executed by the insurgents in Ghani Khel district but the main motive has not been ascertained so far.

The provincial government media office in a statement confirmed that a key Taliban group member identified as Khadem who was also famous as Dadullah was killed by the insurgents.

Full report at:



Three extremists killed in Bangladesh before Pope's visit

November 29, 2017

DHAKA -  Three alleged extremists were killed Tuesday in a raid by Bangladesh police as security was stepped up before Pope Francis's landmark visit to the Muslim-majority nation, officials said.

Police said the trio died in suspected suicide blasts after they opened fire and threw bombs at anti-terror officers who cordoned off a house where they were hiding near the Indian border.

Rapid Action Battalion police surrounded the home following a tip-off and urged those holed up inside to surrender but they opened fire instead, the force's local commander Mahbubul Alam told AFP.

"Moments later there were several loud explosions and the house caught on fire. Later we found three mangled bodies, one of them with a severed head," he said.

He said the three were active members of Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) - a homegrown militant group blamed for a string of deadly attacks on foreigners, atheist bloggers, rights activists and religious minorities in recent years.

Since 2015 at least three Christians including two converts from Islam have been hacked to death in attacks blamed on the JMB. Hand grenades, pistols, explosives and chemicals to make bombs were found at the home. Pope Francis arrives in Bangladesh on Thursday for a three-day visit , the first by a Vatican leader in 31 years.

The trip will be dominated by the plight of more than 620,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled ethnic unrest in Myanmar and taken refuge in Bangladesh .

Bangladesh authorities have tightened security in the capital, with police patrolling around Christian churches and places where Francis will visit . "There will be the highest security measures for the pope ," Dhaka police spokesman Masudur Rahman told AFP. "We have taken the measures in consultations with the Christian community here," he added.

The pope will meet a group of Rohingya refugees in Dhaka and conduct a mass at Suhrawardi Udyan, a colonial-era park in the capital, with at least 80,000 people expected to attend.

Christians make up less than 0.5 percent of Bangladesh 's population and the minority has in recent years faced attacks by Islamist radicals. In July last year militants stormed a Dhaka cafe and massacred 22 hostages including 18 foreigners in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group.

Full report at:



Catholic priest goes missing in Bangladesh day before Pope Francis is scheduled to visit country

Nov, 29 2017

Dhaka: A Catholic priest has disappeared in Bangladesh, police said Wednesday, a day before Pope Francis starts a landmark visit to the Muslim-majority nation wracked by Islamist extremism.

Walter William Rosario, 40, is from the same village in northern Bangladesh where suspected Islamist extremists in 2016 hacked a Catholic grocer to death as he opened his shop.

A major search has been launched for Rosario, who is also headmaster of a Catholic school in Natore district, after his family reported him missing, police said.

"He has been missing since late Monday. His mobile has been switched off," local police chief Biplob Bijoy Talukder told AFP.

Gerves Rosario, the bishop of the nearby city of Rajshahi, said he believed the priest had been kidnapped and that Catholics in the region were deeply worried.

"He was organising for around 300 Catholics to travel to Dhaka to see the Pope and attend his holy Mass. But his disappearance has marred their joy. They don't want to go to Dhaka anymore," said the bishop.

The family received a phone call from someone using Rosario's number to demand a ransom, but Talukder said police believed this was a hoax.

They have not ruled out the possibility he was abducted by Islamist extremists, who have carried out attacks on religious minorities in the region in the past four years.

Pope Francis arrives in Bangladesh Thursday on the first visit to the country by the head of the Catholic Church in 31 years.

The trip will be dominated by the plight of more than 6,20,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled ethnic unrest in Myanmar and taken refuge in Bangladesh.

Christians, who make up less than 0.5 percent of Bangladesh's 160 million people, have in recent years faced attacks by Islamist radicals.

Since 2015 at least three Christians, including two converts from Islam, have been hacked to death in attacks blamed on the militant Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).

In July last year militants from the same group stormed a Dhaka cafe and massacred 22 hostages including 18 foreigners in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group.

Full report at:



Hekmatyar confirms Russia is supporting the Taliban group

Nov 28 2017

The leader of Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has confirmed that Russia is supporting the Taliban group.

In an interview with the Al-Jazeera, Hekmatyar said the ongoing war and violence in the country has been left as a legacy to the NATO forces by the former Soviet forces.

Hekmatyar further added that the country is not facing a new war but it is the same old war with the similar formation as NATO supports the same forces that were supporting the Soviet forces.

According to Hekmatyar, Washington and Moscow once had a similar view regarding Afghanistan, blaming the two countries that they had reached to an agreement to maintain the violence in the country and prevent the formation of a Islamic government under leadership of the Mujahideens, with Hezb-e-Islami remaining the main focus.

He says Moscow was supporting Washington from 2001 to 2014 and was cooperating in all sectors including the customs and logistics supply of NATO was done through Russia.

The leader of Hezb-e-Islami also claimed that the differences between Moscow and Washington sparked after 2014 with the tensions in Eastern Europe in Ukraine playing a central role.

He says the differences between the two nations also persist in Syria and Iraq which is growing as each day passes.

Full report at:



Bangladesh’s island home for 100,000 Rohingya refugees

Nov 28, 2017

Bangladesh approved a $280 million project on Tuesday to develop an isolated and flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal to temporarily house 100,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in neighboring Myanmar.

The decision came just days after Bangladesh sealed a deal aiming to start returning Rohingya to Myanmar within two months to reduce pressure in refugee camps.

A Bangladeshi government committee headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina approved the plan to develop Bhashan Char island, also known as Thenger Char, despite criticism from humanitarian workers who have said the island is all but uninhabitable.

Planning Minister Mustafa Kamal said it would take time to repatriate the refugees, and in the meantime Bangladesh needed a place to house them. The project to house 100,000 refugees on the island would be complete by 2019, he said.

“Many people are living in dire conditions,” he said, describing the influx of refugees as "a threat to both security and the environment".

More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have sought sanctuary in Bangladesh after the military in mostly Buddhist Myanmar launched a harsh counter-insurgency operation in their villages across the northern parts of Rakhine State, following attacks by Rohingya militants on an army base and police posts on Aug. 25.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali appealed in September for international support to transport Rohingya to the island.

Bangladesh, one of the world’s poorest and most crowded nations, plans to develop the island, which emerged from the silt off Bangladesh’s delta coast only 11 years ago and is two hours by boat from the nearest settlement.

It regularly floods during June-September monsoons. When seas are calm, pirates roam the nearby waters to kidnap fishermen for ransom.

Full report at:





Greek police raids find explosives, 9 held over links to banned Turkish group

28 November 2017

Greek police found bomb-making equipment and detonators in raids in Athens on Tuesday and were questioning nine people over suspected links to a banned militant group in Turkey ahead of an expected visit by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan next week.

Eight men and a woman thought to hold Turkish citizenship were being detained after morning raids at three different addresses in central Athens.

Earlier, police officials told Reuters the individuals were being quizzed for alleged links to the leftist militant DHKP/C, an outlawed group blamed for a string of attacks and suicide bombings in Turkey since 1990.

The police found materials available commercially and which could potentially be used in making explosives were found, they said in a statement. They also retrieved digital material and travel documents.

Witnesses saw police experts in hazmat suits and holding suitcases entering one address in Athens. Tests on an unknown substance found in jars were expected to be concluded within the day.

Turkey's Erdogan is widely expected to visit Greece in December, although his visit has not been officially announced. It would be the first visit by a Turkish president in more than 50 years.

Another official told the semi-official Athens News Agency that the case was unconnected to domestic terror groups or militant Islamists, and described those questioned as being of Turkish origin.

DHKP/C, known also as the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front, is considered a terrorist group by the European Union, Turkey and the United States.



Russia censures OPCW for 'politically-biased' probe into Syria chemical attack

Nov 28, 2017

Russia has slammed the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for its biased probe into an April incident in Syria where civilians died of the use of chemical weapons.

Russia’s representative to the OPCW said Tuesday that the probe by the global chemical weapons watchdog into the incident in Khan Sheikhun, a village northwest of Syria, was based on “unprofessional and politically-biased working methods.”

Georgy Kalamanov said in his speech to the annual gathering of OPCW members in The Hague that the probe was heavily influenced by Western governments that have sought over the past years to hit Syria with “unfounded accusations.”

The official, who also serves as Russia's deputy minister of trade and industry, said “some of the Western countries wanted their own version of the bombing in Khan Sheikhun with chemical weapons.”

He said the accusations against Syria came despite the fact that the Arab country “has been combating terrorism and extremism that has been sponsored from outside.”

He said such probes were dominated by “double standard,” which was only "undermining the credibility of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the OPCW."

Syria has denied the findings of a joint investigation by the OPCW and the United Nations, known as JIM, into the incident in Khan Sheikhun, saying its air force had not dropped bombs in the village, as claimed by JIM.

Russia has also called for JIM to be dismantled and a new mechanism to be launched to probe the incident. Russian authorities have maintained since the incident took place that it was the militants who triggered the tragedy and killed over 80 people. Moscow said at the time that the militants had deposited chemicals in the area that may have exploded in a Syrian or Russian air raid.

Full report at:



Arab World


Egypt forces kill 14 militants in wake of bloody Sinai massacre

Nov 28, 2017

Egyptian security forces have killed at least 14 militants in two separate operations in the wake of the massacre at a mosque in the northern part of the restive Sinai Peninsula last week that killed over 300 people.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Egypt’s Interior Ministry said that security forces killed at least 11 "terrorist elements" during a raid on a suspected militant hideout in the Sinai-bordering province of Ismailia. The area was being used by militants to train and store weapons and logistical equipment for attacks in North Sinai.

Police also arrested six suspected militants and three people thought to have smuggled communications equipment to them.

Security forces were able to identify "a group of these elements and the hideouts they were using to hide, train, and store means of logistic support ahead of smuggling them to terrorist groups in North Sinai," the statement said, adding that weapons, ammunition and communication devices were recovered during the operation.

Police were pursuing the leaders of "terrorist groups in North Sinai that aimed to carry out a series of hostile operations targeting important and vital buildings and Christian churches," the statement said.

Separately, Colonel Tamer el-Rifai, a military spokesman, said three suspected militants were killed in central Sinai. The spokesman did not provide any further details.

The Friday attack on the mosque was the deadliest assault by extremists in Egypt’s recent history. The dead included 27 children and another 128 people were wounded.

Thousands of students on Monday staged a protest in Sinai Peninsula to condemn the terrorist attack.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but it had the hallmarks of the Daesh-affiliated Velayat Sinai terrorist group. 

Over the past few years, militants have been carrying out anti-government activities and fatal attacks, taking advantage of the turmoil in Egypt that erupted after the country's first democratically-elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was ousted in a military coup in July 2013.

Velayat Sinai has claimed responsibility for most of the assaults. The group later expanded its attacks to target members of Egypt’s Coptic Christian community as well as foreigners visiting the country. That has prompted the government to impose a state of emergency and widen a controversial crackdown which critics say has mostly targeted dissidents.



Syria regime agrees to join peace talks, with conditions

November 29, 2017

GENEVA - Talks aimed at ending the war in Syria restarted Tuesday with the Damascus regime enforcing its will, warning the United Nations it would not tolerate any discussion of President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster from power.

Assad’s negotiators did not travel to Geneva for the opening of the UN-backed talks, delivering another blow to the negotiations that have achieved little through seven previous rounds.

Opposition representatives, united in one delegation for the first time, were scheduled to meet UN mediator Staffan de Mistura on Tuesday.

After arriving in Geneva late Monday, rebel delegation chief Nasr al-Hariri told reporters that his camp was still insisting on Assad’s removal as part of any peace deal, defying calls for moderation.

Damascus had initially refused to confirm it would attend the talks with the opposition maintaining its hardline stance on the president, but the UN and Syria’s official Sana news agency have announced that government representatives will arrive on Wednesday. But before agreeing to come, Assad’s envoys secured key concessions from de Mistura.

“During intense discussions over the last two days, de Mistura pledged to the government delegation that there would not be any... discussion of the Riyadh statement”, an opposition text that references Assad’s ouster, a source close to the government told AFP. Keeping the Assad issue off the table may also suit de Mistura, who has said he wants this round to focus on a new constitution for Syria and UN-supervised elections.

- Same old deadlock -

The UN envoy had voiced hope the coming round would mark the first “real negotiation” on a possible deal to end the six-year war which has claimed more than 340,000 lives and left Syria in ruin.

Well ahead of the talks, de Mistura had warned the opposition that intransigence on the Assad issue might no longer be tenable.

In September, he said the opposition needed to be “realistic” and accept that “they didn’t win the war”, a statement supported by facts on the ground.

Backed by Russia’s decisive military support, Assad’s government has regained control of 55 percent of the country, including major cities including Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and Hama.

The rest is carved up between rebel factions, jihadists and Kurdish forces.

The decision last week by Syrian opposition groups to send a single delegation to Geneva raised hopes of a possible breakthrough.

The new rebel negotiating team includes members of the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee (HNC), which insists on Assad’s departure, as well as representatives of groups based in Moscow and Cairo that have a more moderate stance on the president.

But without a formal notification from the rebel side that its position had softened, the talks may remain deadlocked.

That could spell more trouble for the UN’s peace push, which has been overshadowed by negotiations spearheaded by Moscow.

Russia and its fellow regime ally Iran, along with rebel-backer Turkey, have hosted negotiations in the Kazakh capital of Astana that led to the creation of four “de-escalation zones” which produced a drop in violence, though deadly air strikes and battles continue in some areas.

Western powers are concerned that Russia is seeking to take a leading role in the peace process and will carve out a settlement that will largely favour Assad.

US President Donald Trump said Monday following a phone conversation with French leader Emmanuel Macron that the two men agreed the Geneva talks were the “only legitimate forum for achieving a political solution in Syria .”

Full report at:



Saudi cabinet voices support for Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition efforts to wipe out terrorism

29 November 2017

RIYADH: The Saudi Cabinet has expressed support for an address by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the first meeting of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) and the need for strong coordination between Islamic countries in fighting terrorism.

The Cabinet, chaired by King Salman at Al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh on Tuesday, also supported the crown prince’s statement about terrorism distorting the image of Islam, killing and terrorizing innocent people in Muslim countries, the need not to track down and eradicate it in all its forms and manifestations.

The final declaration of the IMCTC meeting was also praised. It stressed that terrorism represents a continued and growing threat to local and global peace and stability. It also voiced support for the determination of the IMCTC member countries to coordinate efforts to wipe out terrorism in all areas, ideologically and militarily, and dry up its funding resources.

At the regional level, the Cabinet welcomed the outcome of the expanded meeting of the Syrian opposition forces held in Riyadh, which unified their ranks and the creation of a negotiating team representing all the opposition parties that will enhance their position in the Syrian peace talks.

The Cabinet was also briefed on the outcome of the meetings of the Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (COMCEC), held in Istanbul, Turkey, and their stressing the need to address economic challenges facing the Islamic countries.

The success of the first meeting of the Muslims of the ASEAN countries which was organized by the Kingdom in Kuala Lumpur was mentioned, and the Kingdom’s role in serving Islam and Muslims, spreading moderation and tolerance of Islam, and renunciation of terrorism and extremism.

Efforts exerted by all concerned bodies in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, and Bahrain on fighting terrorism were commended, and their work with partners in all parts of the world to curb the activities of terror and extremist groups.

Full report at:



Syria: ISIL Terrorists Hoist SDF Flag over Command Centres, Positions in Deir Ezzur

Nov 28, 2017

The sources said that more ISIL fighters have left positions in Deir Ezzur for the regions that are under the control of the US-backed SDF.

The sources went on to say that a number of ISIL snipers put aside the group's flags and replaced them with the SDF flags, adding that the move is another evidence for the US' back up for the ISIL terrorist group and the operation of the group for Washington's interests in Eastern Syria.

Local sources confirmed earlier this month that the ISIL continued to surrender its positions to the SDF within the framework of its earlier agreement on the territories that it holds in Eastern Syria.

The sources reported that the ISIL delivered the town of al-Shahil in Eastern Deir Ezzur to the SDF, adding that the ISIL handed over the key town of al-Basireh to the US-backed forces.

Full report at:



Executing seven, Saudi Arabia brings 2017 beheading toll to 130

Nov 28, 2017

Saudi Arabia has executed six Yemeni men and a Saudi man, bringing to 130 the total number of the people beheaded by the kingdom since the beginning of the year.

The Saudi Interior Ministry said in a statement cited by the SPA news agency on Tuesday that the Yemenis were executed in Abha, the capital of the southern province of Assir.

According to the statement, the Yemeni men were convicted of murder and robbery in three separate attacks on homes in Assir.

The ministry added that the seventh convict, a Saudi national, was executed in the northern city of Tabuk after being convicted of smuggling pills.

The figure 130 is according to data compiled by AFP.

In Saudi Arabia, convicts are executed by sword and their corpses are then dangled from a helicopter to make sure the public could see the result of the execution.

Concern is growing about the increasing number of executions in Saudi Arabia. Authorities say the executions reveal the government’s commitment to what is described as maintaining security and realizing justice.

The kingdom has come under particular criticism from rights groups for the executions carried out for non-fatal crimes.

Amnesty International says Saudi Arabia has one of the highest execution rates in the world. It argues that Saudi Arabia uses the death penalty as a means to silence the Shia dissent.

Human Rights Watch has also called on the Saudi regime to abolish its “ghastly” beheading processions.

Full report at:



ISIL Pushes Rival Terrorists back from over 20 Regions in Hama Province

Nov 28, 2017

The sources said that the ISIL has captured 21 towns and villages that were previously under the Al-Nusra control in Northeastern Hama.

They added that heavy infighting started between ISIL and Al-Nusra in Northeastern Hama in early October.

The sources said that Al-Nusra has been carrying out fresh attacks on ISIL's position to retake the villages and towns of Abu Harij, Abyan, Abu Marw, Abu Khanadiq, al-Masiriyeh, al-Wasiteh, al-Mazayeh, Abu Kasour, al-Shalou, Talihan, Ma'asran, Rasm al-Sakaf, Shayhat al-Hamra, Abu Ajou, Tawal Dabaqin, Janah al-Sawareneh and Sarouj.

The sources further said that over 150 terrorists have been killed and many more wounded in clashes between the ISIL and the Al-Nusra in the last five days. 

Full report at:



Bahrain presents Iraq with list of persons wanted for terrorism

29 November 2017

The Bahraini ambassador to Baghdad, Salah al-Maliki, announced that his country has submitted to the Iraqi authorities a list of people wanted by the Bahraini judiciary authorities currently residing in Iraq.

Al-Maliki said that the wanted people stand accused of committing acts of terrorism in Bahrain and have fled to Iraq.

In his statement, Maliki added that those wanted are currently plotting harmful acts in Bahrain and some neighboring countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The ambassador said that they also seek to abuse Iraqi Bahraini bilateral relations.

Full report at:



Lebanon is latest target in Saudi intimidation campaign: Qatari FM

Nov 28, 2017

Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani says Lebanon is the latest target in a Saudi campaign of intimidation, stressing that the Riyadh regime is simply a “bully” that risks destabilizing peace and stability in the Middle East region.

Speaking at a round table discussion at a conference in London, the top Qatari diplomat stated that the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri was a Saudi decision and forced on him during his time in Riyadh.

“Lebanon is a fragile country, and pressuring the prime minister to resign and leave a vacuum in a country – which is very sensitive for everybody – is a counter-productive policy,” Al Thani said.

He added, “This is a big country bullying a small country – we have seen it in Qatar and now we are seeing it repeated in Lebanon.

“Thanks to God and all the allies that contained the situation before it evolved and got worse … If it was not contained from the beginning we would have a horrific impact.”

Hariri arrived in Beirut late on November 21, more than two weeks after unexpectedly announcing he had quit his post. All political factions in Lebanon had called on him to return home.

Top Lebanese officials and senior politicians close to Hariri had earlier said that he had been forced to resign, and that Saudi authorities were holding him captive.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun had also refused to accept Hariri's resignation.

Al Thani also made a reference to the ongoing Saudi-led diplomatic and trade boycott against Qatar, saying a list of 13 demands issued by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt in exchange for lifting the restrictions were impossible to meet, and a “clear indication that they don’t want [the agreement] to be accepted.

“They don’t want to resolve this - they want our country in submission, which is the main reason they started the entire thing. This is just part of a pattern of impulsive leadership … They entered this conflict with no exit strategy,” he added.

“No one has identified a strategy; no one has any idea on the way forward with them,” the Qatari foreign minister pointed out.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt all cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar on June 5, after officially accusing it of “sponsoring terrorism.”

The administration of Saudi-backed and resigned Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, Libya, the Maldives, Djibouti, Senegal and the Comoros later joined the camp in ending diplomatic ties. Jordan downgraded its diplomatic relations as well.

Qatar's Foreign Ministry later announced that the decisions to cut diplomatic ties were unjustified and based on false claims and assumptions.

Al Thani noted that the Middle East could not afford more turbulence as conflict continues in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Although the Middle East was once a region of peace and co-existence, it has unfortunately been transformed into a region of turbulence and totalitarianism, where extremism flourishes,” he said.

“What is the root cause of terrorism? Tyranny, totalitarianism, aggression and the absence of justice,” the Qatari diplomat said.

Al Thani said 24 million children across the Middle East were being left vulnerable to recruitment by terrorist groups, authoritarianism and a lack of education and opportunity.

Full report at:





NIA arrests man, says he is Lashkar operative on recce mission

November 29, 2017

The NIA has arrested a man from Maharashtra on suspicion of being a Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative and allegedly carrying out reconnaissance on behalf of the terror outfit. The arrested person, identified as Abdul Nayeem Sheikh, was held from Varanasi recently, it is learnt.

An officer said some photographs and maps were recovered from him, and claimed that he has carried out reconnaissance of some vital installations, including Army camps and power projects.

The accused is learnt to be a resident of Aurangabad, Maharashtra, and was reportedly on the radar of intelligence agencies for the past few months. Sheikh has visited various places across the country in the past few months and had been in touch with an LeT handler, according to a source in security establishment.

The officer said that Sheikh had visited Kashmir recently and carried out reconnaissance of an Army camp and a hydroelectric project there. He had also allegedly visited Kasol in Himachal Pradesh. The agency suspects the visit may have been part of a plan to harm Jews, as the hill station is very popular among Israeli nationals.

The accused was being interrogated by NIA and Intelligence Bureau officials to get further leads on his associates and his handlers, a source said.



Muslim ‘Disowned’ For Singing Vande Mataram

Anuja Jaiswal

Nov 29, 2017

AGRA: Gulchaman Sherwani, a self-proclaimed lover of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay's 'Vande Mataram', has said he has been facing "unprecedented problems" from certain groups within his community in Agra for his fondness for the national song.

Sherwani said that his family is being persecuted and his children are not being given admission in Muslim-run schools due to his passion for the national song.

Sherwani, 34, who lives in Azampura here, which is dominated by the minority community, wears clothes stitched in the three colours of the national flag. He told TOI that his children were removed from school after other people from his community objected to his singing 'Vande Mataram'. Sherwani transports parts of shoes which his wife stitches to various shoe manufacturers.

The school confirmed it had taken "action" against one of Sherwani's children. Aslam Khan, who runs the school, said, "Sherwani's daughter was enrolled here. But after the other parents objected, I was forced to remove her name from the rolls. Many people from the community have objected to the girl and her family wearing tricolor clothes. There have also been objections to her father singing the national song, despite there being a fatwa against it."

Mohammad Idrish Ali, president of AIMIM's Agra unit, also confirmed that Sherwani had been disowned by the community as prescribed under the Shariah for reciting 'Vande Mataram'.

Sherwani said, "The Shahi imam of Delhi Jama Masjid, Maulana Ahmed Bukhari, issued a fatwa against me and even called me a 'Kafir' (unbeliever). But the fatwa has not deterred me from singing the song. Even my family disowned me when I was nine years old because of my love for the song. I have never met them since then."

However, Sherwani's stepmother, Ajeejan, said, "We never disowned him. He left home on his own."

Sherwani's younger brother, Shakir Ali, said, "He never listens to anyone and does whatever he likes. Everyone in the family is annoyed with him. But our anger has nothing to do with his love for 'Vande Mataram'."

Sherwani had reportedly protested against a fatwa issued in 2006 by Sunni Ulema Board president Maulana Syed Shah Badruddin Qadri in Hyderabad against the singing of the national song in schools. He had then gone on fast under the Bharat Mata statue in front of the Agra civil court, calling the fatwa an anti-national act.

"I had demanded action against the maulana for the fatwa, but nothing happened. So I took a pledge of not eating any cereals. The fact that my son and daughter were born on August 15 and January 26 proves beyond a doubt my love for the country. Even during my wedding, the band had played Vande Mataram and people had danced to it," Sherwani said.

His neighbour, Farman Saifi, said, "The community is against Sherwani because of his habits, such as colouring everything in the tricolour, reciting 'Vande Mataram' and opposing the fatwas. Most of the people here do not speak to him."

Full report at:





14 PML-N legislators submit resignations to spiritual leader

Nov 28 2017

ISLAMABAD: In wake of the friction between a religious group and the ruling party, as many as 14 federal and provincial lawmakers affiliated with Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) from Punjab have submitted their resignation to Pir Hameedud Din Sialvi. Speaking in Geo News' show Capital Talk, on Monday night, Member National Assembly Sheikh Muhammad Akram confirmed that 14 legislators have submitted their resignations to Sargodha-based Pir Sialvi and have given him the authority to make any decision on their behalf.

"We will not compromise on Khatam-e-Nabbuwat (Finality of Prophethood) laws and follow whatever decision Pir Silavi will make," Akram informed.

Punjab Auqaf and Religious Affairs Minister Zaeem Qadri, who was also present on the show, said that he will immediately meet Pir Sialvi in a bid to resolve his reservations.

Meanwhile, Nisar Jutt, another federal legislator from Faisalabad, refuted the news of his resignation and said that there is no truth in any growing demand within the party for the resignation of provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah.



I believe in Allah’s angels not military angels: Capt (r) Safdar

Nov 29, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Captain (r) Safdar, son-in-law of ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, said Tuesday that he only believes in Allah’s angels instead of military angels.

While talking to reporters outside the accountability court, Safdar said, “My belief in Allah’s angels is strong, but I cannot say the same for military angels.”

He said that someone had aired a television programme which accused him of giving Rs 50 million to an unknown person, adding that a honourable judge had taken notice of this matter, for which he was thankful to the court.

“I am chairman of the Standing Committee on Information Technology; therefore, I will also seek a reply about the incident from Pakistan Telecommunication Authority,” he added.

Replying to a question about Faizabad sit-in, Safdar said that present day sit-ins were held in the name of music concerts and entertainment, but the Faizabad sit-in was organised to provide a gathering to people where they could recite poetry in praise of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), also known as “Mehfil-e-Milad”.

Full report at:



IS adopts new strategy to gain foothold in Peshawar

Nov 29, 2017

PESHAWAR: The Islamic State—also known as Daesh, ISIS, and ISIL—has adopted a new strategy to gain a foothold in Peshawar, according to security forces.

Security forces are on alert as the terrorist outfit has devised a new strategy to gain influence in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in general and Peshawar in particular.

According to details, members of IS picked up by security agencies have disclosed that members of the banned outfit are now operating under the guise of tailors and street vendors.

Security agencies, during the past five months, have nabbed as many as 55 members of IS from Peshawar and surrounding districts. According to sources, the arrested members of the terrorist network had been feigning appearances of tailors and street vendors.

Security forces have also issued an important warning that as compared to Taliban, IS members were more trained and possess sophisticated security weapons.

Moreover, the outfit also reportedly has links to Afghanistan from where it obtains weapons, as well as funding, to carry out destabilising activities in Pakistan.

Full report at:



A politically unstable Pakistan is a threat to global peace

Nov 29, 2017

Monday showed yet again why Pakistan is dangerously poised.

The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) government genuflected to the demands of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, a little-known, radical Islamist group, which agreed to call off its three-week long protests across Pakistan after law minister Zahid Hamid resigned. The fringe group, headed by Khadim Hussain Rizvi, demanded the head of Mr Hamid after he released a new version of the electoral oath which it saw as blasphemous. The government blinked, tried to pass off the change as a clerical error, and restored the original version, but that was not enough for the radicals.

The PML(N) government has been on the back foot ever since Nawaz Sharif was disqualified on corruption charges. Last week, a court ordered proceedings to declare finance minister Ishaq Dar a proclaimed offender in a graft case. Mr Hamid’s resignation is the latest, and clear sign of the civilian government losing its grip on power. Meanwhile, in an all-too-familiar scenario, the army is tightening its grip.

The government, now headed by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, also failed to present in court a credible case against 26/11 Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed. Islamabad has come under international censure for Saeed’s release from house arrest. The general elections in Pakistan are to be held next year, and given the army’s proclivity for toppling civilian governments, the recent developments are disturbing.

What magnifies the threat to democracy manifold in Pakistan is the role the army played in brokering peace between the fringe group and the government. Rizvi, while calling off the protests, appreciated the efforts of army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who played go-between. The judiciary and media in Pakistan criticised the army and government for “surrendering to radicals”, but that is likely to change nothing, especially given the disproportionate power army GHQ Rawalpindi enjoys.

In its recently-released report, Asia in the Second Nuclear Age, US think-tank Atlantic Council, noted how Pakistan’s nuclear-weapons programme was a security threat to the world and “the surest route to escalating conventional war to the nuclear level”.

Full report at:



Iran fumes as Pakistan embraces KSA

November 29, 2017

ISLAMABAD -  Pakistan’s closeness to Saudi Arabia and former army chief Gen Raheel Sharif’s formal appointment as the Islamic Military Counter-Terrorism Coalition commander has left Iran fuming as Tehran asked Islamabad not to support a “sectarian” alliance, The Nation has learnt.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry said Iran had contacted Pakistan to reconsider its decision of spearheading the Saudi-led military alliance.

“They insist it is a Sunni alliance against the Shias. We are struggling to convince them [Iran] that this is an anti-terrorism alliance. They [Iran] are drifting away as we get closer to Saudi Arabia,” one official told The Nation.

He said the diplomatic contacts between Pakistan and Iran were ongoing on the issue and Pakistan hoped to placate Iran in the coming days. “We have assured them that we will quit the alliance if it proves to be sectarian. So far we are planning to eliminate terrorism not any Muslim sect,” the official added.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa were in Saudi Arabia this week for talks with the top Saudi leaders on expanding the bilateral relationship.

General Bajwa had earlier visited Iran and held talks with President Hassan Rouhani. The meeting was termed “positive” by the officials on both sides.

Pakistan had allowed Raheel Sharif to command the Saudi Arabia-led military alliance of several Muslim states after a request from Riyadh. The alliance was formed by Saudi Arabia in December 2015 with its headquarters in Riyadh.

Iran had objected to the formation of the alliance fearing it was a Sunni-alliance rather than a Muslim alliance.

Pakistan had also delayed approval-to Raheel Sharif - considering Iran 's objections - for several months before finally giving a nod to the former army chief.

This month, Iranian Ambassador Mehdi Honardoost had said the Saudi Arabia-led military alliance did not have the necessary ingredients of an alliance.

“From the very beginning of its inception there have been a number of ambiguities about they have persisted so far. Saudi authorities have announced that objective of that alliance been fight against terrorism. While Iran , Iraq and Syria the main victims of terrorism are not part of that alliance,” he had told The Nation.

Honardoost said Iran on the basis of non-inference in the internal affairs of other countries, considered presence or non-presence of Pakistan in this alliance as the discretion of Pakistan .

“Joining or quitting the Saudi[-led] alliance depends on Pakistan . But the alliance is contrary to its motto of fighting terrorism,” he maintained.

Another official at the foreign ministry told The Nation that Pakistan had defended the Saudi-alliance in talks with Iran .

“There are misunderstandings but we believe Iran will understand that this alliance is not against them. We have assurances from Saudi Arabia in this regard,” he said.  Press attaché at the Iranian Embassy, Abbas Badrifar, said the alliance included only the Sunni-majority states, which damaged its image.

“Pakistan is a sovereign country and can join or quit any alliance but we feel the Saudi coalition is only designed against Shias. It is not an alliance but a Sunni grouping,” he told The Nation.

Badrifar said the victims of terrorism were not members of the coalition and had not even been invited to join the alliance.

“It is a grouping to safeguard Saudi interests. People in Yemen are being massacred by Saudi Arabia itself,” he added.

Defence analyst and former major general Farooq Malik said Pakistan could not support any anti-Iran block as it had friendly relations with the Muslim-majority country.

“Pakistan allowed Raheel Sharif's services to Saudi Arabia for the anti-terrorism alliance. This is not against Iran ,” he said.

Dr Shaheen Akhtar from the National Defence University said Iran was as important to Pakistan as Saudi Arabia so Islamabad should not lose Tehran at any cost.

Full report at:



Govt Does Not Take Political Parties On Board over Sit-Ins: Siraj

Nov 29, 2017

Jamaat e Islami Ameer Senator Sirajul Haq has said that the government did not take parliamentary parties into confidence on the issue of Islamabad sit-in, which clearly means that the rulers themselves were lowering the status of the elected houses.

He was talking to the media at the residence of JI Youth VP Raja Zohaib, who was martyred during the police operation at Faizabad. He offered his condolences to the father of Raja Zohaib.

Sirajul Haq demanded a judicial enquiry to expose the persons behind the conspiracy to amend the oath of the legislators in Khatm-e-Nubuwwat and the firing that resulted in the martyrdom of several people and injuries to many others. He said that besides the law minister, there were other persons involved in the conspiracy.

He said the government itself was responsible for the entire situation as it did not give due respect to the institutions and a narrative was issued against the judiciary every day. He said, ‘If the politicians want to do politics, they must also accept the judgments of the courts’.

Sirajul Haq said the people had given their mandate to the rulers for progress and prosperity and not for bloodshed and added that the government could not be run from behind a container.

He said that ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had been saying that the people wanted liberal and secular Pakistan. However, he said the message of the martyrdom of Mumtaz Qadri and Raja Zohaib was that the people did not want secular or liberal Pakistan. He said it was unfortunate that the rulers were looking up to the US instead of Makkah and Madina and wanted the goodwill of the infidels.

The JI chief said the people of Pakistan had offered huge sacrifices for a declaration that the Qadyanis were non-Muslims and the JI founder Maulana Syed Abul Ala Maudoodi was awarded death sentence on the same issue.

Full report at:



Trouble shifts from Abbasi govt to Shahbaz administration

Zulqernain Tahir

November 29, 2017

LAHORE: Trouble for the embattled Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz is not over yet as it has shifted from the Abbasi government to the Shahbaz administration in Punjab after another faction of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYRA) that is camping on The Mall has included more ‘pressing demands’ in the agreement it had signed with the Punjab government some weeks ago.

On Monday, the federal government had an agreement with a TLYRA faction led by Khadim Hussain Rizvi to end the 20-day Faizabad sit-in.

However, for the Punjab government the test has just begun. As the TLYRA faction led by Dr Ashraf Asif Jalali has refused to end the sit-in on The Mall till the acceptance of all its demands by the Punjab government.

A three-member team of the government headed by Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique had negotiated with the TLYRA leadership and agreed that Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah would appear before a board of clerics to explain his position regarding his comments about the Ahmadi community.

On Tuesday, Mr Jalali came up with a demand for law minister’s resignation, in addition to some more strict conditions.

A PML-N leader, who is holding negotiations with Mr Jilali’s faction, asked it to withdraw its demand for Mr Sanaullah’s resignation because Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was not ready to accept it. “Let me tell you...unlike the Abbasi government, the Shahbaz administration will not go for Sanaullah’s resignation,” he told Dawn.

Mr Sanaullah told Dawn that he had already called on a board of ulema to clarify some video clips (about his comments on Ahmadis) and they had been satisfied.

He said the federal government had already signed a six-point agreement with the TLYRA and Mr Jalali was part of it. “Now responsibility lies with the guarantor to implement the agreement,” he said, adding that Mr Jalali was angry as he was not taken on board by Mr Rizvi. “We will not accept any more demand of the protesters,” Mr Sanaullah made it clear.

Saad Rafique having the blessing of the Punjab government had signed a six-point agreement with Mr Jalali’s four-member team when the TLYRA activists were leaving for Islamabad to hold a sit-in. Minister of State for Interior Talal Chaudhry and Islamabad Deputy Commissioner retired Mushtaq Ahmed were other members of the government team.

According to the agreement, blasphemy convict Christian woman Aasia Bibi would not be allowed to leave the country and the government would implement the court decision in her case.

“Those responsible for change in the Khatm-i-Nubuwat clause should be identified and punished and the government should take ulema on board in this regard. The ban on use of more than one loudspeaker in mosques should be lifted forthwith. A consultative committee of ulema should be constituted to see matters related to those conspiring against the Khatm-i-Nubuwat and the misuse of this law,” the agreement says.

“Now Mr Jilali who says he is the main stakeholder of this matter, and not Khadim Hussain Rizvi, has added more strict conditions to this agreement which are not easy for the government to accept,” the PML-N leader said, adding that the protesters seemed to have “some other designs”.

To give a goodwill gesture to the Mall Road sit-in protesters, Shahbaz Sharif on Tuesday ordered immediate release of leaders and workers of the TLYRA who were taken into custody a few days ago.

Sit-in continues

The TLYRA continued its sit-in on the Mall on Tuesday.

Talking to Dawn, Tehreek leader Asif Jalali said his movement’s three demands had not been met so far. These include resignation of the Punjab law minister for his controversial remarks, Qisas for those killed during the nationwide sit-in and making public the report of Raja Zafarul Haq-led committee.

“The government had promised to provide the Haq report within 20 days. It has been more than 20 days now,” he said, adding that the withdrawal of FIRs against those arrested during the sit-in and their release was a secondary issue.

About the longevity of the sit-in, Mr Jalali said only the Tehreek leadership could decide when to wind up, but it would most probably happen only after these demands were met.

So far, he added, the Punjab government had only offered to send its law minister to explain his point of view and background of the controversial statement, which had not satisfied the movement.

With the main artery of the city blocked, a huge traffic mess was witnessed on The Mall and all adjoining roads. The situation was so bad that the motorists on some sections of the roads covered a distance of half a kilometre in two hours or so.

Full report at:





Dozens of Israeli settlers attack al-Aqsa Mosque

Nov 28, 2017

Dozens of Israeli settlers have stormed the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Israeli-occupied Old City of East Jerusalem al-Quds amid frequent acts of violence committed by Israeli forces and settlers against the Palestinian people.

An unnamed official from the Department of Islamic Waqf and Islamic Higher Council said a total of 52 settlers and an archeologist forced their way into the holy site through the Bab al-Magharibah under tight protection of several groups of Israeli soldiers and special police forces, Arabic-language Safa news agency reported.

The settlers performed acts deemed provocative by Palestinians in the mosque courtyard before leaving the sacred site through the Chain Gate (Bab al-Silsileh).

Israeli settlers desecrate Muslim cemetery

Israeli settlers have reportedly desecrated the graves at a Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem al-Quds, which marks the latest in a long line of settler attacks in the occupied Palestinian territories.

A group of settlers entered the burial site near the Golden Gate on Tuesday, and started trampling on the graves. 

Officials from the Department of Islamic Waqf and Islamic Higher Council called Israeli police authorities, who removed the extremists from the cemetery at last.

The occupied Palestinian territories have witnessed new tensions ever since Israeli forces introduced restrictions on the entry of Palestinian worshipers into the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem al-Quds in August 2015.

Some 300 Palestinians have lost their lives at the hands of Israeli forces in the tensions since the beginning of October 2015.

The Tel Aviv regime has tried to change the demographic makeup of Jerusalem al-Quds over the past decades by constructing illegal settlements, destroying historical sites and expelling the local Palestinian population. Palestinians say the Israeli measures are aimed at paving the way for the Judaization of the city.

The al-Aqsa Mosque compound is a flashpoint Islamic site, which is also holy to the Jews. The mosque is Islam’s third holiest site after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.



Hamas's weapons may block path to Palestinian unity

29 November 2017

THEIR faces covered with black balaclavas, AK-47s in hand, militants from Hamas's armed wing have become a familiar presence in the Gaza Strip – and for many that remains a key problem.

Hamas, the Islamist movement that has run the Gaza Strip for a decade, has been seeking to end its long feud with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah, but its powerful armed wing may prove to be a dealbreaker.

The Palestinian Authority is due to take control of Gaza by Friday under a reconciliation agreement signed in Oct, but Hamas is flatly refusing to disarm.

Security control could derail the long-awaited accord, with Abbas warning he will not accept a situation akin to Hezbollah in Lebanon, where the Shiite group's militia wields major power.

"The weapons of the resistance are a red line that is non-debatable," Khalil al-Hayya, deputy head of Hamas in Gaza, said at a press conference on Monday.

"These weapons will be moved to the West Bank to fight the (Israeli) occupation. It is our right to resist the occupation until it ends."

The size and strength of Hamas's armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, has been a source of speculation.

Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in 2007 in a near civil war with Fatah, does not comment on such details.

Al-Qassam membership has been estimated at 20,000-25,000 – roughly the size of the Czech Republic's active military personnel, according to figures cited by the World Bank.

Before a devastating 2014 war with Israel, militant groups in Gaza were believed to have a total of some 10,000 rockets, including 6,000 for Hamas, an Israeli military analysis at the time said.

With flowers, with roses

Most were short- and medium-range rockets with a range of between 20 and 45 km, the analysis said.

But there were also a number of longer-range rockets that could reach up to 200 km, it said.

It is thought that around half to two-thirds of the rockets were fired during the war, said Neri Zilber of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who often writes on defence issues.

Zilber said it is believed that rocket arsenals in Gaza have since been rebuilt to around 10,000 – though with a greater focus on shorter-range weapons since they are more difficult for Israel's missile-defence system to shoot down.

Beyond those and small arms, militants in the Gaza Strip are thought to have other weapons including rocket-propelled grenades, he said.

Many were likely smuggled through tunnels.

In Aug, Hamas's leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar said newly improved relations with Iran had made it the "biggest supporter" of Hamas's military wing.

The weapons are key to Hamas's ideology, with officials from the group, labelled a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union, saying they are needed for defence against Israel.

It does not recognise Israel – unlike the Abbas-led Palestine Liberation Organisation – and has fought three wars against it since taking power in the Gaza Strip.

"When Israel occupied Palestine, Israel did not come with flowers, with roses," said Gaza-based academic Asad Abu Shark.

"We have to have arms in order to defend."

Israel says that Hamas is determined to attack it, and in October its forces blew up a tunnel stretching from Gaza into its territory, resulting in the deaths of 12 Palestinian militants.

Such tunnels have been previously used for attacks.

Division will remain

But Hamas's armed resistance has recently run up against other pressures in the Palestinian enclave of some two million people.

Under an Israeli blockade for more than a decade and with its border with Egypt kept largely closed in recent years, Gaza has seen worsening humanitarian conditions.

Abbas has piled further pressure with punitive measures against Hamas, including cutting electricity payments, worsening an already severe power shortage.

Hamas has sought help from Cairo – hoping to have the Rafah border with Egypt opened – and has faced pressure to pursue reconciliation in return.

A deal mediated by Egypt was signed on Oct 12, though it lacks details on security control.

A first deadline was met, with Hamas handing over Gaza's borders to the Palestinian Authority on Nov 1.

The next, more important deadline comes on Dec 1, when Hamas is supposed to give up its decade-long dominance of Gaza and hand power to the PA.

But there are doubts over what kind of transfer will occur and whether it will be mainly symbolic.

Full report at:



Saudi-led military alliance has divided Muslims: Iran

NOVEMBER 29, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Iranian Ambassador in Islamabad Mehdi Honardost Tuesday said that the Saudi-led Islamic Military Alliance meeting in Riyadh had “created misunderstanding among Muslims instead unity”.

The ambassador said in reported comments he hoped that Pakistani leadership will take decisions advisedly. The Iranian envoy’s comments came a day after Saudi crown prince praised Pakistan’s active participation in the alliance during meeting with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

The Iranian ambassador said Tehran wanted better relation with Saudi Arabia, adding that tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia was affecting the Islamic world. “The Europe and the America are fully enjoying the wealth of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and they are selling their weapons there,” he regretted. Talking about the allegations of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri that Iran is destabilising Lebanon, he termed the allegations baseless and said, “We believe that Lebanon is now being made a safe haven for the Islamic State (IS) and we have reservations over the Saudi leadership’s Lebanon policy.”



Turkey issues warrants for 360 people amid ‘Gulen army unit’ probe

29 November 2017

Turkish prosecutors have issued detention warrants for 360 people in an operation targeting supporters of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen within the army, broadcaster CNN Turk and other media reported on Wednesday.

They said the operation was focused on Istanbul and that 343 of those facing arrest were soldiers. Ankara accuses Gulen and his network of orchestrating an attempted coup last year. Gulen denies the charge.



Erdogan: We are ‘on same wavelength’ with the US in latest talks

28 November 2017

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday his talks with U.S. President Donald Trump last Friday were the first occasion in a long time the two NATO allies were "on the same wavelength" and the communication would continue in the coming days.

In a speech to deputies from his ruling AK Party in parliament, Erdogan said discussions would continue on the issues of Syrian Kurdish forces, defense industry cooperation and the fight against the network of a US-based cleric whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating last year's failed coup in Turkey.



Violent car explosion rocks Aden kills 4

29 November 2017

Four people were killed Wednesday when a car bomb exploded in the headquarters of the Ministry of Finance in downtown Aden, sources told Al Arabiya.

The sources said that several houses surrounding the site of the bombing at the district of Khor Miksir were severely damaged, while ambulances were seen rushing to the scene. Severla injureis were also reported.

Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed Obaid Bin Dajar, on Tuesday met in Aden with Brig. Gen. Ahmed Abu Majid Commander of the Arab Coalition Forces in Yemen and Brig. Gen. Massoud Al Mazrouei Commander of the UAE Forces.

During the meeting, Ben Dagher said that the government is continuing to fight terrorism, drying up its sources and chasing its elements wherever they may be.

Full report at:



Coalition-backed Yemeni forces liberate strategic mountain from Houthis

28 November 2017

Coalition-backed Yemeni forces have liberated Jabal al-Asayda, a strategic mountainous range in Yemen controlled by the Houthi and Saleh militias, located just off the Saudi border.

Al-Arabiya correspondent reported that Jabal al-Asayda was considered critical for the Houthi militias’ operations. This was the area in which its battle plans were conducted with the help of military experts from Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Full report at:





Boko Haram founder's home 'to be museum'

28 November 2017

The home of the founder of Nigeria's Islamist militant group Boko Haram is to be turned into a museum, in the hope it will boost tourism in the area.

Borno State is also considering plans to transform the Sambisa forest - the group's base - into a tourist centre.

But critics say the plans risk immortalising founder Mohammed Yusuf.

About 20,000 people have been killed in Boko Haram's eight-year insurgency, with dozens still dying in deadly attacks on a regular basis.

"They should look for a place like the police college, which the group destroyed," human rights lawyer Anthony Agholahon told the BBC's Pidgin Service.

"They should not be using the house of someone who killed people."

Boko Haram's founder Mohammed Yusuf began the group in 2002, focusing on opposing Western education.

It was not for another seven years that it launched its military operations in an attempt to create an Islamic state.

The same year, Yusuf was killed in police custody.

Since then, the group, which officially is called Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad, meaning "People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad", has spread into neighbouring countries.

However, the Nigerian government says it is winning the war against the group, and it seems officials in Borno state, one of the worst affected areas, are looking to the future.

Mohammed Bulama, Borno state commissioner for home affairs, information and culture, told reporters the house in Maiduguri would become a museum "where all the things that had happened relating to the insurgency will be archived".

"We want to document and archive all that had happened so that our future generation will be able to have first hand information," he said, according to the News Agency of Nigeria.

He added they hoped to restore the Sambisa forest, where the Chibok girls were kept after being kidnapped in 2014, back into a game reserve.

"What we intend to do when stability is fully achieved is to convert the forest into a tourist centre in order to show the world what has happened," he said.



Benghazi 'Ringleader' Cleared Of Most Serious Charges

Nov 29, 2017

The man accused of masterminding the 2012 attack on a US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, has been acquitted by a US jury of the most serious charges.

Ahmed Abu Khattala was convicted of terror charges but found not guilty of other charges including murder.

The attack on the diplomatic compound resulted in the death of US ambassador Chris Stevens and four US guards.

Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time, was accused by Republicans of not doing enough.

A jury in Washington acquitted Khattala of 14 of the 18 charges after deliberating for five days following a seven-week trial.

He was convicted on four charges including conspiracy to provide material support for terrorism, maliciously destroying and injuring dwellings and property as well as using and carrying a semi-automatic weapon during a crime of violence.

Khattala faces up to 60 years in prison.

He was captured by US special forces in Libya in 2014.

Ahmed Abu Khattala

• Native of Benghazi in eastern Libya

• Construction worker by trade

• Spent several years in Col Muammar Gaddafi's notorious Abu Salim prison in Tripoli

• Formed his own small militia during the anti-Gaddafi uprising

• Denies any links to al-Qaeda but has expressed admiration for it

• Also denies any role in the attack on the US embassy in 2012, but eyewitnesses report him being there

• US state department says he is a senior leader in Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia

According to prosecutors, the first wave of attackers assembled outside the gates of the mission about 21:45 local time on 11 September 2012.

They were armed with AK-47-type rifles, handguns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

Stevens and diplomat Sean Smith died in the fire, while the remaining state department workers escaped to a separate US facility nearby.

That building soon came under attack, and security officers Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed by mortar fire.

Prosecutors said Mr Abu Khattala entered the destroyed US mission and "supervised the exploitation of material from the scene" by armed men.

According to US prosecutors, in the days following the attack, Mr Abu Khattala "attempted to obtain various types of equipment, including weapons, to defend himself from feared American retaliation for the attack".

Full report at:



US warns South Sudan to end its nearly four-year war

Nov 28, 2017

The US government has threatened to take unspecified measures against South Sudan unless it moves to end the nearly four-year war and stop harassing United Nations peacekeepers and international aid workers.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley on Tuesday put the responsibility squarely on South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir to take action, telling the UN Security Council that "words are no longer sufficient."

"The United States is prepared to pursue additional measures against the government - or any party, for that matter - if they do not act to end the violence and ease the suffering in South Sudan," Haley said.

"Going forward the United States will judge President Kiir and his government by their actions, not their words," she said.

Last year, Washington unsuccessfully pushed for an arms embargo on South Sudan and international sanctions on senior officials.

Haley said Kiir must uphold ceasefires, join a new regional peace initiative, stop placing restrictions on UN peacekeepers and allow access for aid groups.

A report released Tuesday by UN monitors accused South Sudan’s government of using food aid as a weapon of war during its campaign against opposition forces in the northwestern city of Wau.

After aid finally reached civilians in August, the first time in a year, humanitarian workers "witnessed significantly high levels of malnutrition, with high rates of severe acute malnutrition," the report said.

Between January and September, 164 young children and elderly persons died from hunger and disease in that area, it said.

The United States is South Sudan's biggest aid provider and a key supporter of its 2011 independence from Sudan. Haley traveled to South Sudan in October and held talks with Kiir, becoming the highest level US administration official to visit Juba.

South Sudan has been gripped by conflict since his main deputy and current opposition leader Riek Machar defected in December 2013 over allegations of plotting a coup.

Full report at:



Macron seeks support to rescue migrants trapped in Libya

29 November 2017

OUAGADOUGOU: French President Emmanuel Macron called the trafficking of migrants a “crime against humanity” on Tuesday as he began an African visit in Burkina Faso with his first major address on the continent.

Macron proposed a crackdown on human smugglers’ networks between Africa and Europe after video footage broadcast on CNN this month showed the auction and sale of migrant men as slaves in Libya. Migrants hope to survive an often deadly voyage across the Mediterranean from the chaotic nation.

Macron said he wants “Africa and Europe to help populations trapped in Libya by providing massive support to the evacuation of endangered people.” He said he will formally detail his proposal at a summit of the EU and the African Union (AU) in Ivory Coast Wednesday.

The footage prompted widespread outcry across West Africa, where many migrants pressured by climate change and high unemployment set off in search of a better life.

Already Burkina Faso’s foreign affairs minister has recalled his ambassador from Libya, calling it “unacceptable to have slaves in this 21st century.” Concerns about the treatment of migrants are expected to feature prominently at this week’s summit. Also high on the agenda is regional security, including the growing threat of extremism.

Macron is urging international support for a new military force that includes Burkina Faso and four other regional countries and is meant to counter a growing terror threat. Burkina Faso has seen two attacks on restaurants popular with foreigners, including one in August that killed 18 people.

The threat was underscored late Monday by an attempted assault on a French military vehicle just hours before Macron’s arrival. Authorities said two people on motorcycles had intended to use a grenade to attack a bus carrying French military members. The assailants missed their intended target but several people nearby were wounded, police said.

Also Tuesday, the French presidency’s spokesman said stones were thrown at a vehicle transporting members of the French delegation accompanying Macron’s visit, despite heavy security.

Bruno Roger-Petit said on his official Twitter account that Macron was meeting with his Burkina Faso counterpart, President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, at the time. No vehicle was destroyed and there were not “hundreds of assailants.”

In his first major Africa address at the University of Ouagadougou, Macron sought to refocus the France-Africa dynamic away from a colonial past. The 39-year-old president said he is the child of “a generation that has never known Africa as a colonized continent,” and he stressed the “undeniable crimes of European colonization.”

Macron also said he wants conditions to be met in five years so that pieces of African cultural heritage can return to African museums “temporarily or definitively,” saying that “I cannot accept that a large part of African heritage is in France.”

The French leader also referred to his comments that prompted controversy in July, when he suggested that it is a problem when African women have “seven or eight children.” He said Tuesday that “I want a young girl to have the choice not to have children at the age of 13” and that “When you see families of six, seven, eight children per woman, are you sure it’s a choice from the girl?”

Full report at:



UN considers sanctions to fight Libya slave trade

by Creede Newton

Nov 29, 2017

France's ambassador to the UN has urged the Security Council to impose sanctions on the people involved in Libya's slave trade of African refugees and migrants.

Francois Delattre's comments come as human trafficking in Libya has become a burning topic since a CNN investigation produced footage of West Africans being sold at slave markets in November.

"France will propose to assist the sanctions committee ... in identifying responsible individuals and entities for trafficking through Libyan territory," he told the council on Tuesday.

"We count upon support of the members of the council to make headway to that end."

A sanctions programme set up in 2011, the year of the US-supported invasion of Libya which saw the overthrow of long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi, allows the Security Council to place sanctions on "individuals and entities involved in or complicit in ordering, controlling, or otherwise directing, the commission of serious human rights abuses against persons in Libya".

Slavery and human trafficking have been present in Libya for years.

"This has been going for quite some time," Omar Turbi, a Libyan human-rights defender, told Al Jazeera.

Even under Gaddafi, Libya "struggled" with arms trafficking, drug trafficking and human trafficking, according to Turbi, who has worked with the US government to save lives in the North African country.

Libya descended into a civil war in 2014 and is widely considered a failed state.

There are competing governments - the National Transition Council recognised by the UN and the Khalifa Haftar government which controls more territory - and the presence of groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group and al-Qaeda that control large expanses of territory.

'Treated like cattle'

Other members of the Security Council have condemned modern-day slavery in Libya.

"To see the pictures of these men being treated like cattle, and to hear the auctioneer describe them as, quote, 'big strong boys for farm work,' should shock the conscience of us all," Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, told the Security Council last week.

"There are few greater violations of human rights and human dignity than this."

Asked if sanctions could help end the sale of human beings in Libya, Turbi, the rights defender, said he was not sure.

"It's going to be extremely hard to control the borders," he told Al Jazeera.

"What is really needed is work to institute a viable government in Libya, not a failed state. The government in Libya is helpless."

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


Publisher IRF gets court nod to challenge govt ban on books by founder, Mustafa Akyol


November 29, 2017

the publisher's judicial review application to be heard.

The judge had said the government lawyer's preliminary objection should be raised later during the hearing on the substantive matters of IRF's case.

“Because he said this is not the time to raise any objections,” he said after a hearing in chambers before High Court judge Datuk Kamaludin Md Said.

Muslim think-tank IRF had on November 7 filed for leave for judicial review of the Home Minister's book bans on September 6.

The Home Minister had on September 6 issued an order to ban the Malay-language Wacana Pemikiran Reformis (Jilid I) and Wacana Pemikiran Reformis (Jilid II) written by IRF founder Datuk Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa and published by IRF on June 10, 2012 and October 2014 respectively.

Dr Ahmad Farouk, who was also present today, confirmed that these two books ― which are two volumes of anthologies on Discourse in Reformist Thought ― are already “out of print”.

In a separate order on September 6, the Home Minister also banned both Mustafa's Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty which was available since 2011, and its Bahasa Malaysia translation Islam Tanpa Keekstreman: Berhujah Untuk Kebebasan that was published by IRF on January 23, 2016.

In IRF's lawsuit, it is seeking for a court order to quash the two book ban orders otherwise known as Printing Presses and Publications (Control of Undesirable Publications) (No. 31) Order 2017 and (No. 32) Order 2017, as well as a declaration that these two orders are null and void as they are unconstitutional.

The organisation that seeks to promote Muslim intellectual discourse also sought for a declaration that Section 7 of the Printing Presses Publications Act ― which the Home Minister cited as conferring him the powers to ban the books ― is unconstitutional, null and void.

IRF's lawsuit will come up for case management on December 13.

Senior federal counsel Shamsul Bolhassan, who acted for the Home Minister, said he had raised a preliminary objection on IRF's bid to have Section 7 declared unconstitutional in the judicial review, as it should go by way of Article 4 of the Federal Constitution where it has to be brought before the Federal Court.

“We raised preliminary objection but then the court said it can be dealt in the substantive stage,” he told reporters.

Under Article 4 which states that the Federal Constitution is the supreme law of the land, proceedings for a declaration of a law as invalid for being inconsistent with the Constitution shall not be commenced without leave of a Federal Court judge.

Earlier, Tunku Farik said IRF's legal team had informed the High Court that they had already filed a separate application at the Federal Court to challenge the constitutionality of Section 7.

No date has been fixed yet for the Federal Court application which was filed on November 24.



Saudi-Iran rivalry rooted in politics, says scholar

Sheith Khidhir Bin Abu Bakar

November 29, 2017

PETALING JAYA: A sociologist has criticised public figures who speak of the animosity between Saudi Arabia and Iran as being caused by religious differences.

Syed Farid Alatas, who teaches at the National University of Singapore, said it was important for the Muslim public to realise that political differences were at the root of the quarrel between the two countries.

He told FMT he found it unfortunate that the political rivalry had been interpreted and expressed as a rivalry between Sunni and Shia Islam.

Syed Farid’s remarks followed statements made during the recent Khayr Ummah Conference in Kuala Lumpur about the alleged dangers that Shia Islam posed to the Muslim world.

International Islamic University College Selangor lecturer Hafiz Basir, speaking to the press during a break in the conference, said he considered Shia Islam to be more dangerous than the Islamic State (IS) militant group because of its association with Iran, a major international power, and Hezbollah, a Lebanese political party and military group.

Senior Umno leader Mohd Puad Zarkashi told the conference Shia Islam and IS were equally dangerous.

Hitting out at both Hafiz and Puad, Syed Farid said it was fundamentally wrong to compare IS with Shia Islam.

“IS is a network of extremist groups whereas Shi’ism is a school of thought within Islam,” he said. “It would be more correct to compare IS with certain extremist Shi’ite groups.”

A political scientist from Iran, Seyed Mohamad Sadegh Emamian, said research had shown that radicalisation was brought about by environmental influences and not religious belief.

“It’s about the economy, political isolation and polarisation within societies, among other things,” he told FMT.

Emamian, who heads the Governance and Policy Think Tank at Tehran’s Sharif University of Technology, cited studies done by King’s College in London, which pointed to contextual situations rather than ideologies as causes of radicalisation.

“It’s mainly a political phenomenon coming out from contextual situations in vulnerable countries and vulnerable societies,” he said.

Emamian also said data collected over recent years had shown that the Salafi-based school of thought, which is Sunni, was more vulnerable to radicalisation than any Shia school of thought.

Full report at:



Indonesia poised to expand global role in family planning: UNFPA executive

November 28, 2017

As a middle-income country with a Muslim-majority population and given its relative success in family planning, Indonesia can play an expanded role in sharing its experiences with other members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to strengthen the role of Muslim religious leaders in family planning, a UNFPA executive has said.

UNFPA executive director Natalia Kanem said Indonesia had a wealth of experience to offer to other countries entering similar demographic stages, especially in Africa, such as on how to take advantage of the demographic dividend while at the same time reaping the population bonus across sectors.

“I look forward to Indonesia playing a greater role in this area,” she said on day one of a two-day international inter-ministerial conference on population and development in Yogyakarta on Tuesday.

Around 250 delegates from 26 member countries of Partners in Population and Development (PPD) are attending the meeting.

National Population and Family Planning Agency (BKKBN) principal secretary Nofrijal said PPD was an intergovernmental initiative created to expand on and improve South-to-South collaboration in the fields of reproductive health, population, and development.

Kanem expressed appreciation toward the Indonesian government for having been active since the early 1980s in sharing its experiences among developing countries.

Full report at:



Indonesian 'Trump' says has no plans to run for president

NOVEMBER 28, 2017

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Indonesian business tycoon Hary Tanoesoedibjo said on Tuesday he was not planning to stand in the country’s 2019 presidential election, and that he would support current President Joko Widodo if he chose to run again.

Tanoesoedibjo, a business partner of Donald Trump whose political ambitions have led to similarities with the U.S. President being drawn, said in January he would decide before the end of next year whether to run in the ballot.

He previously stood as a candidate for vice president in the 2014 election and subsequently founded his own political party, which will contest Indonesia’s general elections in 2019.

“Looking at the constellation today, I think President Jokowi will run again and I am in the position to support him,” he told Reuters at the Asia TV Forum and Market in Singapore.

Asked if he would stand, he replied: “No, I don’t think so.”

Widodo is expected to stand for a second term against Prabowo Subianto, who also rang against him in 2014.

Religious and political tension in Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, escalated to its highest level during a divisive election for Jakarta governor earlier this year.

Tanoesoedibjo said the political climate in Indonesia remained stable but that the country needed a president that “stands in the middle of everyone”.

“He (Widodo) is the strongest candidate. He is very moderate and he is very nationalist,” added Tanoesoedibjo.

As a business partner of Trump, Tanoesoedibjo believes his relationship with the U.S. President could help ties between the nations and he is not worried about the impact U.S. trade protectionism may have on the Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

“At least Mr Trump knows Indonesia better because of the relationship we have between our group and the Trump organization,” he said.

“But what he is doing about reviewing the trade relationship with other countries I think is right....but Indonesia is too small...for the U.S. in terms of the amount of trade between the two countries and I don’t think that would have any impact at all.” Tanoesoedibjo is Trump’s business partner in two resort developments in Indonesia - on the island of Bali and in West Java.

Turning to his other business interests Tanoesoedibjo said he had plans to list a division of his company - MNC Studios International - on the Jakarta stock exchange next year.

Full report at:



North America


Over 1,000 US troops to patrol with Afghans in 2018: US general

Nov 29, 2017

A top US military commander in Afghanistan has announced an increase in the number of forces patrolling with Afghan counterparts next year.

General John Nicholson, who commands US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said on Tuesday that "well over 1,000" advisors would be performing combat operations on the front lines at any given time during the fighting season in 2018.

The commander stressed that such operations have already been conducted by smaller numbers of US troops this year but the ranks would "increase dramatically,” as "There will be greater risk.”

Nicholson claimed that the measure came as part of Trump’s revamped strategy designed to “turn the corner” on the 16-year war against the Taliban militants in the Central Asian country, which has already seen a sharp uptick in airstrikes and an additional 3,000 troops flow in.

The commander vowed that Washington would go to “great lengths” to ensure American troops near the front lines are as well protected as possible to help Afghans hunt down Taliban militants in simultaneous offensive operations across the country.

Nicholson said the troops would be backed by a full array of air support and surveillance capabilities.

Calling the new strategy “a game changer,” the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan boasted, “That’s why I express confidence that we are on our way to a win.”

The Tuesday remarks came while Nicholson said earlier this week that the fight in Afghanistan was “still in a stalemate.”

In August, Trump announced his controversial war strategy for Afghanistan. In a blatant U-turn from his campaign pledges to end the 16-year occupation of Afghanistan, the businessman-turned-politician said that his views have changed since entering the White House and that he would continue the military intervention “as long as we see determination and progress” in Afghanistan.

The United States -- under Republican George W. Bush’s presidency -- and its allies invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban regime from power, but after more than one and a half decades, the foreign troops are still deployed to the country.

After becoming the president in 2008, President Barack Obama, a Democrat, vowed to end the Afghan war -- one of the longest conflicts in US history – but he failed to keep his promise.

Trump, who has spoken against the Afghan war, has dubbed the 2001 invasion and following occupation of Afghanistan as "Obama's war," but he has also announced to deploy thousands of more troops to the war-torn country, signaling a policy shift.

Since 2001, 1,874 US soldiers have been killed in action in Afghanistan and more than 20,000 more have been wounded, according to Pentagon data.



Driver Held in Deadly Manhattan Terror Attack Pleads Not Guilty


NOV. 28, 2017

The man accused of driving a pickup truck down a crowded Manhattan bike path in what officials called the deadliest terrorist attack on New York City since Sept. 11, 2001, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to multiple charges of murder and attempted murder in aid of racketeering.

The man, Sayfullo Saipov, was charged in Federal District Court in Manhattan with eight counts of murder in aid of racketeering activity, 12 counts of attempted murder in aid of racketeering activity, providing material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization, and violence and destruction of motor vehicles.

The racketeering activity referred to the terrorism of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS; according to the indictment handed up by a grand jury on Nov. 21, Mr. Saipov acted “for the purpose of gaining entrance to ISIS.”

After plowing through bikers and pedestrians on the Hudson River Greenway shortly after 3 p.m. on Oct. 31, Mr. Saipov leapt out of his rented Home Depot truck and brandished a pellet gun and a paintball gun, shouting “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” before he was shot by a police officer, the authorities said.

Investigators also found handwritten notes in Arabic near the truck that indicated allegiance to the Islamic State. On Mr. Saipov’s cellphone, F.B.I. agents discovered thousands of videos and images, including those of Islamic State fighters and instructions for making an explosive device, according to the criminal complaint filed Nov. 1.

At Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan, where Mr. Saipov was taken after being shot, he asked officials to hang the Islamic State flag in his hospital room, the complaint said. He told them he “felt good about what he had done.”

Mr. Saipov, 29, appeared before Judge Vernon S. Broderick on Tuesday in greenish-gray pants and a dark blue shirt that hung loosely on his rail-thin frame. While he arrived in a wheelchair to his first court appearance on Nov. 1, he walked on his own on Tuesday.

His lawyer, David Patton, the chief federal public defender in New York City, announced Mr. Saipov’s not guilty plea. Mr. Saipov spoke only once, answering “Yes” in a loud, strong voice when the judge asked if he could hear his Uzbek interpreter. (Mr. Saipov immigrated from Uzbekistan in 2010.)

The murder charges and the charge of violence and destruction of motor vehicles carry a possible death sentence. President Trump has called for Mr. Saipov to receive the death penalty, but officials have not decided whether they plan to pursue it. The final decision usually rests with the attorney general.

After the attack, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the administration would use “all lawful tools at our disposal” to prosecute terrorism.

Mr. Patton told the judge he plans to submit a recommendation for learned counsel, or a lawyer with experience in death penalty cases, within a month.

It is rare for federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty. In Manhattan, federal prosecutors have not sought the death penalty since the case of Khalid Barnes, who was convicted in 2009 of two drug-related murders. A jury sentenced him to life in prison.

In the murder of two New York police detectives, juries in Federal District Court in Brooklyn sentenced Ronell Wilson to death in 2007 and again in 2013, after an appeals court vacated the first sentence. A federal judge struck down the second sentence in 2016.

Full report at:



Canada sees drop in reported Muslim hate crimes



Hate crimes in Canada directed at Muslims dropped in 2016 after four years of steady increases, according to a Statistics Canada report released Tuesday.

Police recorded 139 such crimes last year, down by 20, marking a decrease from 159 in 2015. Hate crimes against Muslims had increased by 250 percent between 2012-2015.

The report noted, however, that changes in police procedures and unreported crimes could skew the true figure.

“Fluctuations in the annual number of incidents can be influenced by changes in local police service practices and community involvement, as well as the willingness of victims to report incidents to police,” the report stated. “The number of hate crimes presented in this release likely undercounts the true extent of hate crime in Canada, as not all crimes are reported to police.”

While reported hate crimes against Muslims dropped, there was a 3 percent overall increase in hate crimes to 1,409 in 2016, due to “more incidents targeting South Asians and Arabs or West Asians, the Jewish population, and people based on their sexual orientation,” the StatsCan report said.

That’s 47 more reported hate crimes in 2016 than the previous year.

Most of the drop in Muslim-targeted hate crimes is attributable to Quebec, where 16 fewer incidents were reported than in 2015.

Full report at:



Ahmed Abu Khatallah cleared of murder over 2012 attack

Nov 29, 2017

A federal jury in the United States has cleared a Libyan man of the most serious charges in connection with a deadly attack on a US diplomatic compound in Libya's Benghazi five years ago.

Ahmed Abu Khatallah was accused of orchestrating the September 11, 2012 attack that killed Christopher Stevens, the US ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans.

On Tuesday, he was acquitted of murder but convicted on lesser terrorism-related charges.

Al Jazeera's Shihab Rattansi, reporting from Washington, DC, said Khatallah had overall been charged with 18 counts but was cleared of all but four of those, including "providing material support for terrorism".

Yet, he still faces 45 years in prison if he is given the maximum sentence for each of those four convictions, Rattansi noted.

"The prosecution had presented him as a ringleader for the attack, the defence though had said he was simply a bystander who appeared on the scene ... after the attack had taken place," said Rattansi, adding that this was a point that the prosecution "did have to concede".

"The defence also tried to poke holes in the prosecution's argument by saying that its star witness was paid $7m for his testimony," he added.

"In addition, they raised questions about the manner which Khatallah was interrogated - he was seized and then kept on a boat at sea for two weeks and interrogated without a lawyer, according to the defence."

Political storm

Khatallah has been awaiting trial since 2014 when he was captured by a team of US military and FBI officials in Libya and transported on a 13-day journey to the US aboard a navy vessel.

Before his capture, he was part of a revolutionary armed group aimed at overthrowing Muammar Gaddafi's government.

Stevens was killed in the attack along with Sean Patrick Smith, a state department information management officer.

Nearly eight hours later, at a CIA complex nearby, two more Americans, contract security officers, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, died in a mortar attack.

The Benghazi attack stirred up a political storm in the US, where Republicans repeatedly accused Hillary Clinton, the then-secretary of state, of failing to adequately protect the diplomatic compound.

Full report at:




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