New Age Islam
Wed Dec 02 2020, 05:20 AM

Islamic World News ( 8 Jan 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Indian Probe Agency Finds Violent Jihad Was Being Taught in Religious Classes in Tamil Nadu Module







• Indian Probe Agency Finds Violent Jihad Was Being Taught in Religious Classes in Tamil Nadu Module

• SEAL Who Shot Bin Laden Mocks Iran: ‘Killed More People In Their Funeral Stampede Than In The Missile Attack’

• Leader: Military Reprisal Not Enough, US Should Leave Region

• Every Muslim Has Obligation to Quran as Code Of Life, Says Perlis Raja

• Education Chiefs Set To Reject Plan to Open Separate Islamic Schools for Boys and Girls

• How Shared Islamic Identities Boost Russia-Gulf Ties

• Shia Ulema Council on Wednesday Urged the Muslims to Raise a United Voice against the US

• Sri Lanka: Five Bills Amending Muslim Marriage Laws Presented

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/indian-probe-agency-finds-violent-jihad-was-being-taught-in-religious-classes-in-tamil-nadu-module/d/120750

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India

• Christians,Muslims’ Exclusion from SC/ST Category Needs Review: CJI

• No Open Attacks on Priyanka, Firming Up Muslim Vote Base without Hardcore Polarisation:

• No, Deepika Padukone’s ‘Chhapaak’ Does Not Portray Muslim Acid Attack Convict As Hindu Named Rajesh

• Govt bans refined palm oil imports targeting Malaysia over Kashmir, CAA criticism

• Hyderabad: As CAA stir rages, Tricolour supplies hit

• BJP workers from Muslim community divided over CAA

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North America

• Trump announces powerful economic sanctions on Iran: Highlights of his address

• US and Iran stand down, veer away from outright war

• Prague’s Former Imam Admits Support of Islamic Fighters

• Anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ conspiracy theorist Frank Wuco has left the Trump administration and returned to punditry

• Trump says no Americans injured in Iran’s retaliatory attack, promises new sanctions

• Reality check: Trump distorts facts on Iran payout, Islamic State’s continuing threat

• Pentagon chief: US has restored 'level of deterrence' on Iran

• US House to vote this week to limit Trump's military actions on Iran: Nancy Pelosi

• Trump says Iran appears to be 'standing down' after strike

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Mideast

• Iranian DM Warns of Appropriate Response to Any US Reaction to Missile Attacks

• Senior Hashd Al-Shaabi Official: Annihilation of Israel, US "Price of Gen. Soleimani's Blood"

• Southern California’s Muslim Leaders Call for De-Escalation of Tensions With Iran

• Soleimani’s Unique Role in the Mullahs’ Export of Terrorism

• Iraqi Shia cleric whose militia killed American troops says crisis is over following Iran strike and Trump speech

• Why Iraqis Are Worried About an Islamic State Resurgence After Soleimani's Death

• Imam Khamenei offers condolences over recent accidents in Tehran, Kerman

• Over 180 rallies planned across US to protest Trump's ‘march to war’ with Iran

• Spain says it has withdrawn some of its troops from Iraq

• US, Israel obvious enemies of Muslims: Ansarullah leader

• Two rockets hit Iraqi capital's Green Zone: Security sources

• Four Turkish soldiers killed in car bombing in Syria

• Ex-IRGC Commander: Iran's Finger on Trigger

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Southeast Asia

• Muslim activist tells why conference graced by Anwar a letdown

• Indonesia president visits islands also claimed by China

• Indonesia deploys fighter jets, warships to disputed waters in China spat

• India palm import curbs to start Malaysia, Indonesia price war: Association

• 1MDB scandal: Malaysia’s former PM 'asked UAE to fake evidence'

• Indonesia Deploys Fighter Jets, Warships to Disputed Waters in China Spat

• Philippine Troops to Evacuate Citizens in Iraq

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Europe

• An Exhibition at British Museum Explores Islamic World's Influence On European Art, Design

• Germany withdraws some troops from Iraq as tensions soar

• After slapping incident, pope kisses nun who vows not to bite

• EU promises to try to save Iran nuclear deal despite setback

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Arab World

• Eleven Yemeni soldiers killed in Houthi missile attack

• UN monitors say Houthis not behind Saudi Aramco attacks: Report

• Yemen heads list of countries facing worst humanitarian disasters in 2020

• 20 sculptors to take part in 2nd Tuwaiq symposium in Riyadh

• Saudi ministry inks deal to improve its asset and facility management

• Saudi Arabia’s new visa policies boost tourist numbers

• Yemen denies considering deal with Turkey to run ports, airports

• Making Fun of Men or Emboldening Sex Pests? Egyptian Song Spurs Debate

• UAE energy minister Suhail Al Mazrouei 'We will not see a war'

• New Dubai forum to fight illiteracy in region

• Saudi FM Prince Faisal affirms Kingdom’s support for Iraq

• Saudi Arabia stands with Iraq, says Vice Defence Minister Prince Khalid

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Pakistan

• Karachi Students Come Out In Support Of JNU Fellows, Teachers

• World Bank revises Pakistan's growth projections downward

• SC concerned over delay in completion of NAB cases

• Suspected shooter in Saddar attack affiliated with Jamaatul Ahrar: police

• Sea Guardians drill expected to boost security cooperation with China

• PM for boosting Pak-Oman ties

• Pakistan, Japan agree to increase bilateral trade

• ‘Judges providing justice despite dearth of facilities

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South Asia

• Islamic Calligraphy Exhibition Opened at National Gallery in Afghanistan

• 25 Taliban Joined Government in Ghor

• President Ghani, US Defence Secretary Exchange Views on Current Political Situation

• Air Corridors Increase Afghanistan Exports by 33 Percent

• Taliban Insurgents Killed in Nooristan Strike

• Armed Oppositions Killed in Four Provinces: MoD

• A Historic Event in Alignment of Afghan Education System with the Rest of the World

• Over 11,000 metric tons of Afghanistan products have been exported through air-corridor

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Africa

• Bandits Kill Four, Kidnap Chief Imam, 20 Others in Niger

• Kenya bus attack: 'My passengers are like my brothers and sisters'

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Indian Probe Agency Finds Violent Jihad Was Being Taught in Religious Classes in Tamil Nadu Module

09.01.2020

New Delhi (Sputnik): India’s terror combat National Investigation Agency (NIA) has been carrying out searches in southern India’s Tamil Nadu state against people associated with terrorist organisations like Daesh or Al-Qaeda who may be planning to carry out terror attacks in India.

India’s anti-terror probe agency NIA on Wednesday submitted a charge sheet in relation to the “Ansarulla terror module” case of Tamil Nadu state, involving preparations to carry out militant attacks in the country as part of a bid to establish Islamic rule.

In the charge sheet, the agency has mentioned that the accused in the case were conducting religious classes and propagating violent Jihad (religious extremism).

“This module was carrying religious classes and was teaching violent Jihad to prepare them for carrying out war against the government of India. They were being funded by many Islamic terror groups,” said a senior official of NIA.

The official said they have named 11 accused in the charge sheet, with most of them already in the agency’s custody. “We have been carrying searches in the past related to these modules in order to curb them.”

This case is related to the arrest of 16 accused and their associates from Tamil Nadu state who had conspired and were preparing to wage war against the Government of India by forming the terrorist group Ansarulla.

The NIA registered a case on 9 July under several sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

It is alleged that the accused persons and their associates had collected funds as a part of preparation to carry out terrorist attacks in India with an intention to establish Islamic rule in the country.

https://sputniknews.com/asia/202001091077981764-indian-probe-agency-finds-violent-jihad-was-being-taught-in-religious-classes-in-tamil-nadu-module/

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SEAL who shot bin Laden mocks Iran: ‘Killed more people in their funeral stampede than in the missile attack’

by John Gage

January 08, 2020

Robert O'Neill, the Navy SEAL who claims to have killed Osama bin Laden, made fun of the Iran regime for not killing any U.S. troops during its missile strike on American military sites.

"Iran killed more people in their funeral stampede than in the missile attack," O'Neill said Wednesday on Twitter. Iran struck U.S. military sites Tuesday night, but preliminary reports cite no American deaths.

The burial of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani was delayed after dozens of Iranians were killed in a funeral stampede. The stampede also injured another 200 people.

Soleimani was killed by a U.S. airstrike last week in response to an Iranian-backed militia storming the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. Iran's latest missile attack was meant as revenge for the killing of its top general.

O'Neill responded last night to Iranian airstrikes by suggesting the United States should potentially drop a nuclear bomb on Iran. "Wanna know what Tehran and Hiroshima have in common?" he said. "Nothing yet."

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/seal-who-shot-bin-laden-mocks-iran-killed-more-people-in-their-funeral-stampede-than-in-the-missile-attack

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Leader: Military Reprisal Not Enough, US Should Leave Region

Wed Jan 08, 2020

TEHRAN (FNA)- Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei underlined that although the US has just received a slap across the face by Iran's early Wednesday morning retaliatory attacks, military reprisal is not enough and the American forces should leave the region.

"For the time being, the Americans have been given a slap, revenge is a different issue," the Leader stressed in his remarks on Wednesday.

"Military moves like this are not enought. The Americans' corruption-stirring presence should come to an end," he added.

He also praised both the Iranian and Iraqi parliaments' approvals in the last few days. The Iranian parliament approved a bill that designated the US as a terrorist organization and the Iraqi parliament approved a bill that requires the US army to leave the Arab country.

Earlier on Wednesday, the IRGC Aerospace Force launched heavy ballistic missile attacks on US Ein Al-Assad airbase in Southwestern Iraq near the border with Syria and a US operated airbase in Erbil in retaliation for the assassination of IRGC Qods Force Commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani.

Ein Al-Assad is an airbase with a 4km runway at 188m altitude from sea levels, which is the main and the largest US airbase in Iraq. Early reports said the radar systems and missile defense shields in Ein Al-Assad have failed to operate and intercept the Iranian missiles. Unofficial reports said the US army's central radar systems at Ein Al-Assad had been jammed by electronic warfare.

Some 80 US army personnel have been killed and nearly 200 more wounded in the missile attacks.

The second IRGC reprisal attack targeted a US military base near Erbil airport in Iraqi Kurdistan Region in the second leg of "Martyr Soleimani" reprisal operation.

All flights have been cancelled at Erbil airport.

Iraq said the attacks have not taken any toll from its army men stationed at these two bases. The US army had blocked entrance into Ein Al-Assad to everyone, including the Iraqi army.

This is the first direct attack on the US army ever since world war two.

IRGC officials said none of the missiles had been intercepted.

Following the attack, the IRGC issued a statement immediately after the attacks, declaring that it has fired tens of ground-to-ground missiles at "the airbase occupied by the terrorist and aggressive army of the United States known as Ein Al-Assad" in reprisal for the martyrdom of IRGC Qods Force Commaner Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani.

The IRGC warned the US to avoid retaliating the Wednesday attack or else "it will face a more painful and crushing response".

The IRGC Statement also warned "all the US allied states where the terrorist army has a base, any territory that becomes the origin of any hostile and aggressive action against the Islamic Republic of Iran in any way will be targeted".

"We believe that the Zionist regime by no means stands aside from the criminal US regime in these crimes."

The IRGC also called on the American nation to pressure the White House to pull their troops out of the region to avoid further damage and not allow the US rulers to endager the lives of their military men through increasing hatred.

All Iranian underground missile towns are on alert.

The missile attack came hours before the body of General Soleimani was laid to rest.

Lieutenant General Soleimani was martyred in a targeted assassination attack by the US drones at Baghdad International Airport early on Friday morning.

The airstrike also martyred Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), or Hashad al-Shaabi. The two were martyred in an American airstrike that targeted their vehicle on the road to the airport.

Five Iranian and five Iraqi militaries were martyred by missiles fired by the US drone at Baghdad International Airport.

The attack came amid tensions that started by the US attack on PMF units that killed 28 Iraqi popular forces. A day later, Iraqi people attacked the US embassy in Baghdad.

The targeted assassination attack represents a dramatic escalation by the US toward Iran after months of tensions. The tensions take root in Trump’s decision in May 2018 to withdraw the US from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, struck under his predecessor.

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13981018000411

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Every Muslim has obligation to Quran as code of life, says Perlis Raja

Thursday, 09 Jan 2020

KANGAR, Jan 9 — The Raja of Perlis Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Putra Jamalullai yesterday said every Muslim has an obligation to the Quran as a complete code of life.

He said the Quran was not a collection of words that could be taken lightly, practised selectively, or ignored when viewed as being incompatible with personal desires and interests.

“The meaning of believing in the Quran does not merely stop at saying that the Quran is the word of Allah, the purpose of the Quran is to benefit and prevent mankind from harm, both in the world and in the Hereafter,” he said when opening the state-level Quran Recital and Memorisation Ceremony at Dewan Warisan here last night.

Raja Perempuan Perlis, Tengku Fauziah Tengku Abdul Rashid also attended the event.

Also present were the Raja Muda of Perlis Syed Faizuddin Putra Jamallulail and Raja Puan Muda Perlis Lailatul Shahreen Akashah Khalil, and Perlis Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azlan Man.

His Royal Highness said that all the laws, advice, warnings and glad tidings in the Quran should be adhered to and practised, as much as possible.

“We have to work hard to reflect the Quran in our daily lives,” he added.         

Meanwhile, Mohd Anas Abdul Hadi, 31, and his wife Nor Husna Mohd Salleh, 30, emerged the best qari (male reciter) and qariah (female reciter) at the ceremony.

Both of them brought home RM5,000 in cash each as well as other prizes presented by Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin. — Bernama

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/01/09/every-muslim-has-obligation-to-quran-as-code-of-life-says-perlis-raja/1826087

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Education chiefs set to reject plan to open separate Islamic schools for boys and girls

ByJane Haynes

8 JAN 2020

Education chiefs are considering plans to allow two Islamic faith schools in Birmingham to legally teach boys and girls separately to get round equality laws.

Applications by Redstone Educational Academy in Balsall Heath and Greenfields Primary School in Small Heath to create new separate girls' and boys' schools to allow for lawful gender segregation are currently under consideration, the Department for Education said today.

The schools, in Balsall Heath and Small Heath, were both pulled up by Ofsted and deemed 'inadequate' after inspectors found boys and girls were being taught in separate classes, in defiance of the Equality Act.

Co-ed schools are prohibited from separating children by gender.

At Redstone, inspectors found that boys were favourably treated in some areas of school life and 'enjoyed school' more than girls as a result.

They also reported that one ex member of staff had told pupils that 'university was not for females.'

Head teacher of both schools, Saadat Rasool, defended the policy on faith grounds and disputed girls were disadvantaged.

Today a Department for Education spokesman confirmed applications by the primary and secondary schools were being considered and would be ruled on shortly - but Ofsted inspectors had ruled that both schools did not meet the expected standards.

Said the spokesman: "Redstone Educational Services Ltd has proposed to open a single-sex girls’ school – Redstone Academy for Girls (alongside Redstone Academy for Boys.)  Ofsted inspected the school last year and found it unlikely to meet the required standards if it were to open. The Department will be responding to the school’s application shortly.

"Greenfields Primary School Ltd has also proposed to open a new single-sex girls’ school - Greenfields Upper Junior School for Girls. Ofsted inspected the school twice last year and on both occasions found it unlikely to meet the required standards if it were to open. The Department will be responding to the school’s application shortly."

The spokesman added: “All independent schools must meet the Independent School Standards and those that fail to do so must improve or face closure.

“Any school not complying with the law regarding the segregation of pupils by gender should make the necessary changes as quickly as possible - that can include splitting into two separate schools.”

Redstone came under fire when Ofsted inspectors visited in November. In their report, published this week, inspectors ruled the school was  openly favouring boys by giving them first choice of work experience options and by barring girls from some sports.

Boys and girls take separate school trips, with the girls having to wear school uniform on those trips while the boys did not.

"University is not for females"

One group of pupils told inspectors a member of staff, who has since left, had told them: "University is not for females."

The report concluded: "Leaders are aware that segregating pupils by gender is unlawful and that they are in breach of the Equality Act 2010."

Head Saadat Rasool disputed Ofsted's findings and defended the segregation practices, which he said were in line with the Muslim faith of parents.

He told BirminghamLive that teaching girls and boys separately was not a practice confined to Islamic schools. "Elsewhere in Birmingham are plenty of schools that educate girls and boys separately, without criticism," he said, referring to the city's highly rated boys' and girls' grammar schools.

It is not the first Islamic-ethos schools in the city to have come up with alternatives to allow them to continue to educate boys and girls separately.

The co-ed Al-Hijrah School in Bordesley Green has decided to axe secondary years after it was criticised for its segregation policy.

A new four-form entry school, called Eden Girls Leadership Academy, is to open on a new site in Small Heath in 2021, along with a separate Eden Boys Leadership Academy in Alum Rock, both run by Star Academies.

https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/education-chiefs-set-reject-plan-17534369

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How shared Islamic identities boost Russia-Gulf ties

January 08, 2020

DIANA GALEEVA

Under Vladimir Putin’s leadership, especially since 2013, Russia has used “religious soft power” as a pragmatic tool toward the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states to deepen bilateral relations.

This term was introduced by Sherrie Steiner in 2011 in an effort to expand the definition of the well-established term “soft power,” which was coined in 1990 by Joseph Nye. Soft power was defined by Nye as “the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments.” Russia’s use of religious soft power toward the Middle East, and especially the Gulf states, given their special status in the Islamic world, is possible because it has a Muslim population of about 20 million.

The Russian republics with large Muslim populations — such as Chechnya, Ingushetia and Tatarstan — play an important role in this regard, sharing Islamic identities that potentially open doors to close relations between Russia and the GCC.

Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov is a supporter of Putin’s policies. Due to his active position in building close relations with states in the Middle East, and the Gulf in particular, observers view him as the main representative of Russian Muslims in the region. While the heads of other republics also play important roles in building bilateral relations with the Gulf states, Kadyrov’s personality undoubtedly helps Russia’s relations with the “brothers,” as he refers to the leaderships of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.

Shared Islamic identity is Chechnya’s key political card for building bilateral relations. In 2018, Kadyrov performed Umrah in Saudi Arabia, but it was also an opportunity to meet with the Kingdom’s leadership to discuss deepening economic, cultural and scientific relations. Additionally, the Chechen leadership strongly supports the course of moderate Islam in the Islamic world, as led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Last year, Kadyrov gave a speech supporting moderate Islam under the patronage of King Salman.

Chechnya has close bilateral relations with the UAE, with interests based on economic cooperation and shared Islamic identity. Investments from the UAE were reportedly used to build the Grozny Mall and the under-construction Akhmat Tower, which will be one of the tallest buildings in Europe once completed. It will be managed by Emirati hotel operator The Address Hotels and Resorts.

While Kadyrov defends Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s goals of moderate Islam, the former leader of Ingushetia and current deputy defense minister of Russia, Yunus-bek Yevkurov, built close diplomatic relations with Qatar and its religious clerics. In February 2018, during an official visit to Qatar, Yevkurov met Ali Al-Qaradaghi, the secretary general of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, which is headed by Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, a spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is officially banned in Russia. Yevkurov posted on his Instagram account: “I expressed gratitude to the sheikh for his efforts to consolidate Muslim society, for his contribution to strengthening stability in our region.” This indicates that the then-leader of Ingushetia clearly supported an Islamist-friendly state, which is where Qatar finds its place along with the likes of Turkey and Iran, as opposed to moderate Islam.

None of this is surprising, as it allows Russia to use religious soft power to further develop relations with all GCC states. Yevkurov is reportedly a reliable intermediary for the advancement of Qatar’s economic interests in Ingushetia and, from there, the rest of Russia. Doha has invested in Ingushetia since 2014, when Russia’s economic crisis began. In addition to energy facilities, it promised to invest in a wide range of sectors, including the automotive industry, tourism and technology parks. Qatari investors will reportedly help Ingushetian authorities construct an Islamic complex — the largest religious, cultural and educational center in the country — in Magas, the republic’s capital.

Given the historical background, geographical location and uniqueness of being home to more than 100 nationalities, Tatarstan has branded itself under the slogan “Where East Meets West.” This allies it with efforts being made by the UAE, which is home to people of many nationalities and religions, although most are Muslim. The UAE promotes its values based on tolerance. For example, it has established a specific tolerance ministry and has a Supreme National Committee for Tolerance. During 2019, the UAE’s “Year of Tolerance,” Pope Francis carried out his landmark official visit to Abu Dhabi.

In November, Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov, who is also the chairman of the Strategic Vision Group Russia-Islamic World, took part in the opening ceremony of the second World Tolerance Summit in Dubai. Tatarstan was recognized for its development of tolerance at this summit. At the same time, Minnikhanov met with the UAE leadership to discuss the establishment of an international center for Islamic finance in Tatarstan and the development of halal production.

This shared identity on tolerance, especially promoting the idea that Muslims live with other nations in peace and coexistence, serves as religious soft power for both. At the same time, Minnikhanov often attends economic forums in the UAE, especially in Dubai, as he has a doctorate in economics and is especially interested in developing economic ties.

All these examples demonstrate how shared Islamic identities can help Russia’s religious soft power to develop relations with the GCC. This benefits both the Russian federal government and the Muslim republics.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1610121

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Shia Ulema Council On Wednesday Urged The Muslims To Raise A United Voice Against The US

January 9, 2020

DERA ISMAIL KHAN: Condemning the killing of Iran’s military commander Qasem Soleimani, the Shia Ulema Council on Wednesday urged the Muslims to raise a united voice against the US and its allies responsible for creating disharmony in the region.

Speaking at a media conference, Alama Ramzan Tauqeer, the central vice-president of the council, stated that West was keeping silence over the blatant violation of international borders by US. He said that such an attitude of so-called superpower and its allies was giving way to a potential threat of war in the region. He urged for joint reaction on the Muslim countries. Tauqeer described the killing of Qasem Soleimani a terrorist act. He was killed in a missile attack in Baghdad by the US on Friday last. The Shia leaders also urged Muslim countries not to become part of the war against Iran. They appealed to the Pakistan government not to allow any country to use Pakistani soil against Iran because Pakistan had brotherly ties with Iran.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/595958-shia-leaders-call-for-unity

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Sri Lanka: Five Bills Amending Muslim Marriage Laws Presented

January 9, 2020

Five bills to amend the Muslim marriage laws deeming the marriage of underage Muslim girls a crime, were presented to Sri Lanka’s Parliament on Wednesday.

The five bills presented in the form of Private Member Bills were from MPs Ven. Aturaliye Ratana Thero and UNP Kegalle District MP Dr. Thusitha Wijemanne.

MP Rathana Thero presented two bills, with one to amend the Marriages (General) Ordinance No. 19 of 1907, and another to repeal the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act, No. 13 of 1951.

The first bill would amend the Marriages (General) Ordinance No. 19 of 1907 by deleting the words “other than the marriages of Muslims” from its preamble.

The second bill seeks to repeal the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act, No. 13 of 1951.

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India

 

Christians,Muslims’ exclusion from SC/ST category needs review: CJI

Jan 09, 2020

Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad Arvind Bobde on Wednesday called the social exclusion of Christians and Muslims from the Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) backgrounds a pertinent issue that requires the Supreme Court’s consideration.

He made the observation while hearing a National Council of Dalit Christians’ (NCDC) petition seeking reservation benefits for the Christians of the SC origin. The petition came up for hearing on Wednesday before a bench also comprising justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant. The bench separately issued a notice to the Centre in the matter.

In its petition, the NCDC has challenged paragraph 3 of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, which says that no person professing a religion other than Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism shall be considered to be an SC. The petitioner has called the exclusion of Christians from the paragraph discriminatory and violative of right to equality under the Constitution’s Article 14. The petitioner has pleaded that religion should not be a consideration for the SC/ST status. It has sought the status for Christians of the SC/ST origin so that they can avail the reservation benefits as well as protection extended to the SC and ST communities, including under the SC and ST (Prevention) of Atrocities Act. The SC and ST communities enjoy reservation in jobs, education as well as legislatures.Of 543 seats in Lok Sabha, 84 are reserved for the SCs, while 47 for the STs. Of 4,120 seats in legislative assembly segments in the country, 614 are reserved for the SCs, while 554 for the STs.

The NCDC has submitted that social exclusion is different from religious practice and caste-based discrimination based on birth is practised throughout South Asia.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/christians-muslims-exclusion-from-sc-st-category-needs-review-cji/story-2LV0WMmcvQ9miTUbN9XwdK.html

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No open attacks on Priyanka, firming up Muslim vote base without hardcore polarisation

By Aman Sharma, ET Bureau

Jan 09, 2020

NEW DELHI: No open attacks on Priyanka Gandhi Vadra unlike by Mayawati, focus on law and order on which the BJP knocked it out of power in 2017, and firming up of its Yadav-Muslim vote-base through overt gestures but no hard-core polarisation — the Samajwadi Party under Akhilesh Yadav is finetuning its political strategy in Uttar Pradesh against the BJP.

The latest move by the party to declare a Rs 5 lakh aid for all families who lost a member to police bullet in the recent protests against the citizenship law is a “concrete gesture” towards the minority community rather than the “token visits” by Congress general secretary Vadra to the affected families, an SP insider told ET. Yadav, who has begun visiting such families after Vadra had visited several of them, however, is desisting from publicly attacking her though Yadav has said the SP would  ..

“There is no point attacking Vadra and giving the Congress undue importance when that party exists nowhere on the ground,” the SP insider said, adding that Vadra was attempting “hard-core polarisation” by rallying for Muslim votes which was a mistake that the SP could not afford to make. “The BJP cannot be defeated in an 80-20 battle (20% signifying the Muslim population in UP). The BJP wants to polarise the electorate, but the SP does not want to fall in that trap,” this person said.

Mayawati has attacked Vadra, given the challenge she poses to the BSP supremo’s monopoly image of ‘UP’s woman leader’

“Should we fight the BJP or fight within the opposition,” SP spokesperson Udayveer Singh said, when asked why party leaders had desisted from attacking Vadra. Singh said the SP remained the main opposition challenger given its strong network on the ground.

“Our MLAs and local leaders helped the families get post-mortems done and participated in their last rites and our party president has now started visiting them,” Singh said. He added that questioning the Yogi government in the state on law and order was a major plank of his party. “The situation on crime has never been this bad in UP,” he alleged.

The SP is also unsparing on its former ally BSP, with Singh pointing out how the BSP voted with the government in Parliament on issues of Triple Talaq and Article 370. “Even during CAA protests, Mayawati issued an appeal asking Dalits to not step out to protest,” Singh said.

SP leaders also said the BSP had not helped any affected family financially but appealed the government to compensate them. “The BSP and Congress are in competition to not finish last in UP. The Samajwadi Party under Akhilesh Yadav is the only challenger to the BJP, having credibility of its work performance in the past,” Singh said.

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/no-open-attacks-on-priyanka-firming-up-muslim-vote-base-without-hardcore-polarisation-akhilesh-yadav-finetunes-strategy-in-up/articleshow/73165542.cms

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No, Deepika Padukone’s ‘Chhapaak’ does not portray Muslim acid attack convict as Hindu named Rajesh

Pooja Chaudhuri,

On Tuesday, actor Deepika Padukone attended a protest meeting at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University to express solidarity with students who had been injured in violence unleashed by a masked mob on Sunday. Many have blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party’s student wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, for planning the violence.

Padukone’s gesture irked some people, who took to social media to make #BoycottChhapaak one of the top trends on Twitter. Padukone’s Chhapaak, which will be released on Friday, has been inspired by the life of acid attack survivor Laxmi Aggarwal, who was attacked by 32-year-old Naeem Khan in 2005.

A section of the media has claimed that the attacker in Chhapaak has been given the Hindu name Rajesh. Among the publications making the claim was the right-wing magazine Swarajya. It based its assertion by reading the online IMDB film database, which lists the screen name of one cast members as Rajesh.

Opindia’s Nupur Sharma tweeted, “If secularism means changing “Nadeem” to “Rajesh”, set secularism on fire.”

BJP Haryana IT cell head Arun Yadav tweeted a photograph of attack survivor Aggarwal and wrote, “This is Laxmi Aggarwal. Chhapaak is based on her. In 2005, a man named Nadeem Khan threw acid on her in Delhi’s Khan Market. To keep the fabric of secularism intact, our Bollywood has named Nadeem ‘Rajesh’ in the film. #NameItLikeBollywood.”

National media in-charge of J&K BJP youth wing BJYM Rohit Chahal made the same allegation.

Advocate Ishkaran Singh Bhandari tweeted, “If a different name is used & especially a name typically used by different religions will send a Legal Notice.”

Referring to Bhadari’s tweet, BJP MP Subramanian Swamy wrote, “…if they have changed name of accused from Muslim in real life to a Hindu name. That is defamation.”

False claim

Alt News contacted Newslaundry co-founder Abhinandan Sekhri who attended the screening of Chhapaak in Delhi. “I watched the special screening of the movie which was organised for acid attack survivors, and the claim on social media that the accused is portrayed as belonging to the Hindu community is false,” he said. “The person who is convicted is presented as belonging to the Muslim community, and so are his relatives, with one of them shown in a burkha.”

Sekhri also called-out Swarajya’s erroneous report on Twitter.

According to PTI journalist Radhika Sharma’s report, “In the Meghna Gulzar directed film, there is no mention of any Nadeem or Naeem Khan. Moreover, Rajesh is the name of Malti’s boyfriend.”

The screening was organised by the National Commission for Women. “The person convicted for the acid attack is known as Bashir Khan urf Babboo in the film, whereas Rajesh is the name of the boyfriend of the acid attack victim, Malti,” Sharma informed Alt News.

https://scroll.in/article/949250/no-deepika-padukones-chhapaak-does-not-portray-acid-attack-convict-as-a-hindu-named-rajesh

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Govt bans refined palm oil imports targeting Malaysia over Kashmir, CAA criticism

08 Jan 2020

Rajendra Jadhav

MUMBAI : India imposed restrictions on imports of refined palm oil and palmolein on Wednesday, a move sources said was retaliation against top supplier Malaysia after its criticism of India's actions in Kashmir and a new citizenship law.

The commerce and industry ministry issued a notification declaring that the import of refined palm oil "is amended from 'Free' to 'Restricted.'"

Four industry sources told Reuters that the memo was an effective ban on imports of refined palm oil, meaning India can now only import crude palm oil. It will hit Malaysia, the main supplier to India of refined palm oil and palmolein, but is likely to help Indonesia, the biggest exporter of crude palm oil.

Indian government and industry sources told Reuters that Modi government was seeking to target Malaysia after recent criticism of India by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Mahathir said in October that India "invaded and occupied" Kashmir, a disputed Muslim-majority region also claimed by Pakistan. Last month he said India was stoking unrest with its new citizenship law, which critics say undermines the country's secular foundations.

Palmolein is a liquid form of palm oil used in cooking.

New Delhi had earlier this week informally asked palm oil refiners and traders to avoid buying Malaysian palm oil.

The decision to restrict all imports of refined palm oil is also likely to boost business for Indian refiners of the vegetable oil.

Indian crude palm oil, soyoil soybean and rapeseed prices jumped after the announcement.

"This move in a way will punish Malaysia and will help local refiners as well," a Mumbai-based refiner, who declined to be named, said.

The commerce and industry ministry did not respond to a request for further information. Malaysia's primary industries minister Teresa Kok, who is responsible for the palm oil industry, declined to comment.

"Malaysia is in a lose-lose situation with this ruling," said Sathia Varqa owner and co-founder of Singapore-based Palm Oil Analytics, adding "India will ramp up buying of CPO from Indonesia."

Indonesia traditionally corned around two-third of India's palm oil imports, but a lower duty on refined palm oil helped Malaysia to overtake Indonesia as India's biggest supplier in 2019.

Palm oil is crucial for the Malaysian economy as it accounts for 2.8% of gross domestic product and 4.5% of total exports. State-owned and private Malaysian refineries will likely have to scramble to find new buyers for their refined product.

Indian refiners need the boost as refining activity in the country has been hit in the past year by imports of cheaper refined palm oil, said B.V. Mehta, executive director of the Solvent Extractors' Association (SEA), a Mumbai-based trade body.

"Indian refiners were struggling for survival ... The ban on refined palm oil imports will help refiners, local farmers and help in creating new jobs," Mehta said.

Palm oil accounts for nearly two-thirds of India's total edible oil imports. The country buys more than 9 million tonnes of palm oil annually, mainly from Indonesia and Malaysia. Indonesia is the world's biggest producer of palm oil, followed by Malaysia.

https://www.livemint.com/

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Hyderabad: As CAA stir rages, Tricolour supplies hit

Jan 9, 2020

HYDERABAD: With both supporters and opponents of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) carrying the Tricolour during their rallies, suppliers of the National Flag have for the first time run out of stock ahead of Republic Day.

The anti-CAA rally on January 4, which saw thousands taking to the streets in Hyderabad, shrunk the stock further. Retailers sold an estimated 3.5 lakh national flags for the rally, among the biggest non-violent gatherings for a cause in Hyderabad in six decades. In fact, flag sellers have sought fresh stocks from manufacturers, who are working overtime to meet the huge demand.

Suppliers say Hyderabad is likely to see a further spurt in the demand in next two days as Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM has proposed a mega rally from Mir Alam Idgah to Shastripuram in the city outskirts on January 10. Owaisi, who announced that he would hoist the National Flag at Charminar on the Republic Day, has ordered a 10 feet by 30 feet Tricolour.

“Generally, demand for the National Flag goes up before Republic Day and Independence Day. But the last fortnight has seen huge demand across the country. Retailers in Delhi are calling us to enquire if we can arrange fresh supplies,” said flag bulk manufacturer Mahendar Reddy of Vidy Arts Flags at Nagole in the city.

Shaik Osman of SK Group, a bulk manufacturer at Mailardevpally, told TOI that the flag market in Osmangunj had virtually run out of stock. Retailers have now placed orders to meet the demand for Republic Day. “We have hired extra workers to stitch flags. On January 3 and 4, retailers had jacked up prices. A 20x30 inch flag, normally sold for Rs 15, was sold for Rs 30 while 30x45 inch flag was sold for Rs 50 as against Rs 30 on other days,” he said. Osman is making the huge flag for Owaisi.

M Chanda, who runs ARC Flag shop, said an estimated 10 lakh flags have been sold in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh since the CAA protests began three weeks ago. “We have never seen such demand for the Tricolour during the period considered as off-season. There is a demand from small towns too. We have ordered for more flags to meet the requirement,” he said.

Tehreek Muslim Shabban leader Mushtaq Malik, who organised the January 4 rally, said they had bought small flags for even Rs 100 while they are sold for Rs 20 during normal days. “The city has never witnessed such a large number of people carrying the tricolour during a protest for a cause,” he added.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/as-caa-stir-rages-tricolour-supplies-hit/articleshow/73163026.cms

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BJP workers from Muslim community divided over CAA

KANIZA GARARI

Jan 9, 2020

HYDERABAD: A good number of BJP workers belonging to minority community have distanced themselves from the pro-Citizenship Amendment Act meetings being organised by the party. After the million march against the CAA in Hyderabad, they are even abstained from interacting with people.

There is a deep divide within members of the BJP minority wing, with many upset and angry with the party. During its membership drive in 2018 for the minority wing, BJP enrolled 40,000 members in the state. More than half of them have distanced themselves from the party after the Citizenship Amendment Act was passed in Parliament.

A senior member of the party in Hyderabad explained, “We are very upset. There is no one listening to us within the party. Majority of the members are introspecting on their future role in the party. Few are vocal about it. Those, who believe they still have a future in the party, have decided to keep quiet on this issue.”

This is the reason why they are not attending the pro-CAA rallies or interacting with people. If anybody approaches and questions them about CAA, they maintain they have no idea, just like the common man. A member of the BJP belonging to the minority community says they have been hurt by the decision of the government on CAA. “Shia Muslims in Pakistan are suffering. They have been targeted in that country from time to time. The BJP patronised a large number of Shia Muslims. The Shia community in Uttar Pradesh even sided with the BJP. But what has the community got in the end? The persecuted Shia minorities in Pakistan have not got justice,” the party member from minority community lamented. There are 400 families belonging to the Shia community in Hyderabad, who have relatives in Karachi and Quetta in Pakistan. These Shias had migrated to Pakistan from the Nizam state after its accession to India. These families were hopeful that after aligning with BJP, there would be a reprieve for them. But the stand taken by BJP has left them in lurch. The CAA provides for granting Indian citizenship only to non-Muslim minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

“We have been left with nothing. Shias have not been politically active in all the three countries of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and have suffered due to this reason. There was some hope in India, but even that has been lost now,” the minority wing leader remarked.

National vice president of BJP minority cell Farid Sheikh Liaquat Ali says, “Party workers and common people are asking the same question.”

I have told them what union home minister Amit Shah has said in Parliament, that CAA is not against Indian Muslims. But people are not convinced. Every meeting or social function that I attend, I find that people are angry and upset. I have been with the BJP for 33 years and whatever I hear from the people is being conveyed to the party.”

The incident that occurred at the madarasa in Uttar Pradesh has led to a pointed question: “If this can happen to Muslims in UP, will it not repeat elsewhere?”

https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/090120/bjp-workers-from-muslim-community-divided-over-caa.html

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North America

 

Trump announces powerful economic sanctions on Iran: Highlights of his address

Jan 8, 2020

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday addressed the nation after Iran's retaliatory missile strikes on American bases in Iraq following the killing of General Qassim Suleimani. Here are the highlights of his address:

* Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon as long as I am President

* Iran is a leading sponsor of terrorism

* The US will impose powerful economic sanctions on Iran

* No Americans were harmed in last night's attack by Iran. All our soldiers are safe and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases

* Iran appears to be standing down which is a very good thing for the world

* Iran must abandon its nuclear ambitions and end its support to terror. We must work together to make a deal with Iran to make the world a more peaceful place

* Iran can be a great country. Peace and stability cannot prevail in the Middle East as long as it continues to foment violence

* We want people of Iran to have a great future filled with prosperity and harmony. The US is ready to embrace peace

* The world must unify and send a message to Iran's regime that their campaign of terror won't be allowed to go forward

* Nato must become more involved in the Middle East process

* Gen Qassim Suleimani fueled civil wars all across the world and viciously murdered thousands of our troops. He had been planning new attacks on the US

* We have killed the savage leader of ISIS, Al-Baghdadi. He was a monster. He was trying to rebuild the ISIS caliphate and failed. Thousands of ISIS terrorists have been killed under by administration

* Iran chanted death to America despite our assistance. Then it went on a terror spree funded by the nuclear deal and created hell in the region

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/trump-addresses-nation-on-iran-missile-strikes-highlights/articleshow/73160746.cms

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US and Iran stand down, veer away from outright war

Jan 8, 2020

WASHINGTON: The United States and Iran appear to be veering away from imminent war with Teheran saying it had “concluded proportionate measures” against the US after launching a wave of missile attacks against American bases in Iraq and affirming it does not seek escalation and President Trump in turn indicating Iran’s showy offensive was ineffective by tweeting "All is well!"

In a short address on Wednesday on fracas with Iran, Trump claimed that “Iran appears to be standing down,” and said Americans should be grateful and relieved that no lives were lost in Iran’s missile attack on the bases, mainly because on account of “an early warning system that worked very well.” The President’s account appeared to gel with expert opinion that suggested Iran pulled its punches during the missile attack to avoid escalation while at the same time appeasing its restive domestic constituency.

All is well

The "fierce offensive" that Iran promised in retaliation to the American assassination of its top general Qassim Suleimani involved 22 missiles fired at two bases in Iraq that according to US officials caused some structural damage and no human casualties. Some analysts suggested it was a deliberately pared down attack aimed at public posturing and defusing domestic anger in Iran, while others felt it was a decoy for a more serious covert attack to follow.

President Trump, who had promised disproportionate response should Iran retaliate, was also circumspect, saying the US will “continue to evaluate options” which includes imposing additional, unspecified sanctions.

"All is well! Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq. Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far! I will be making a statement tomorrow morning," Trump had tweeted on Tuesday night.

All is well! Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq. Assessment of casualties & damages… https://t.co/5OSmLxzhin

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 1578451524000

On his part, Iran’s foreign minister Javas Zarif wrote, "Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defence under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched. We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression."

At least one US expert suggested that Iran deliberately chose targets that would not result in loss of US life pursuant to a “minimum damage, maximum warning effect” policy.

Iraq was also reportedly notified by Iran about the impending retaliatory attack on the US base in Ayn al-Assad from where the drones that killed Gen Sulemani and Abu Mahdi al Muhandis were said to have taken off. The Iraqis in turn warned US, enabling it to take precautionary measures to avoid loss of life.

However, the country’s "Supreme" leader Ayatollah Khameini said US was given a "slap" but strikes alone are "not enough" and called for US troops to be kicked out out the region.

While there was disbelief – and also relief – over how a wave of missiles in what Iran called "Operation Martyr Suleimani" failed to take a single life, the Iranian media called it "the first step in revenge" for the assassination of a storied general whose funeral resulted in even more loss of life in Iran - more than 40 people were killed in a stampede.

In the US too, there were people itching for action. “Your fate is in your own hands in terms of the regime’s economic viability. You continue this crap, you’re going to wake up one day out of the oil business,” warned Senator Lindsey Graham.

But Trump himself was restrained in his address, going so far as to say the US did not want to use its lethal missile arsenal after boasting about its capabilities. In fact, he attacked his predecessor Barack Obama (without naming him) as much as Iran, saying the “foolish nuclear deal” engineered by the Obama administration had put $ 150 billion in Iranian hands, and instead of saying “thank you” to America, the Iranian regime said “death to America” and went on a “terrorist spree” in the region.

The US President wanted European allies to re-evaluate and breakaway from the remnants of the nuclear deal while pledging that as long as he was the President, Iran would never be able to acquire nuclear weapons.

Iran, which claimed 80 American casualties (the US Joint Command said there was no loss of life), was also in the dock over a Ukrainian Boeing 737-800 that crashed shortly after takeoff from Tehran's main international airport, killing all 170 people on board. While Iranian state media claimed the plane crashed due to technical difficulties, speculation was rife that it was hit by a stray missile, a theory compounded by Iran’s refusal to hand over the plane’s black boxes to Boeing.

The incident caused many airlines to reroute flights away from Iran and Iraqi airspace.

Experts also weighed the longer term consequence of the US-Iran clash, from higher oil prices to the near-certainty that Tehran will go all-out to quickly go nuclear to acquire the kind of protective shield North Korea and Pakistan have.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/us-and-iran-appear-to-de-escalate-after-missile-attack/articleshow/73160469.cms

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Prague’s Former Imam Admits Support of Islamic Fighters

BY PRAGUE MORNING

JANUARY 8, 2020

Former Prague imam Samer Shehadeh admitted on Tuesday that he had helped his brother and sister-in-law travel to Syria to join a terrorist organization, Jabhat Fatah as-Sham (Conquest of Syria).

Along with his brother Omar and his sister-in-law Fátima Hudková, were all charged with supporting terrorism. For these offenses, they face up to 15 years in prison.

Shehadeh said he does not consider it a criminal act because he does not recognize the Syrian government or perceive Jabhat Fatah as-Sham as terrorists.

In November 2016, Shehadeh first helped his brother to travel to Syria and join the terrorist organization. Later, he arranged for Fátima Hudková to leave as well.

“I raised funds to help people affected by the war in Syria – to buy food, and secondly I traveled to Istanbul with a sum of money I collected. Then, I contacted jihadists, and I wanted to join them,” Shehadeh said in court.

Czech intelligence services began investigating the trio in 2016. He left his post as imam in 2014 and was eventually expelled by the Czech Muslim community, according to Radio Prague.

Shehadeh is Czech-born with Palestinian roots. Having secured a degree from the Islamic University of Medina, he took a leadership position in the Prague Islamic Centre and began preaching across the country.

Over time, Samer’s statements sparked controversy. When asked about the 9/11 attacks in 2001, he admitted that he could not condemn the deed. In 2010, he preached that “anyone following a different code of law from that set down by Mohammed is ungrateful and an apostate”. In the meantime, Samer and his followers translated a number of Arabic works into Czech, enriching the discourse with such colourful authors as Bilal Philips and Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

There are roughly 20.000 Muslims currently living in the Czech Republic, and only a minority of them are considered regular worshippers.

https://www.praguemorning.cz/pragues-former-imam-admits-support-of-islamic-fighters/

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Anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ conspiracy theorist Frank Wuco has left the Trump administration and returned to punditry

ERIC HANANOKI

01/08/20

Conspiracy theorist Frank Wuco has left his senior adviser position at the State Department and returned to being a pundit. Wuco frequently made anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ remarks as a right-wing commentator.

Wuco is a retired naval intelligence officer who initially joined the Department of Homeland Security in January 2017 and became a senior adviser, helping implement Trump’s orders to the agency, including his ban on travelers from some Muslim-majority countries.

Media Matters first reported on Wuco in March 2017 and noted that he had a history of making anti-Muslim remarks, such as stating on Fox News in 2014 that banning visas from “Muslim nations” is “one of these sort of great ideas that can never happen.” Media Matters later reported further on his anti-Muslim commentary, including his statement that Muslims are dangerous because their core faith purportedly instructs them that they can’t “coexist peacefully with other religions.” Wuco also made anti-LGBTQ remarks, such as claiming that “societies and nations for millennia have suffered greatly” because of LGBTQ acceptance and that those places have no “cultural” and “moral center.”

CNN’s KFile team also reviewed Wuco’s past remarks, including finding that he pushed “claims that former President Barack Obama's memoir was ghostwritten by former anti-Vietnam War radical Bill Ayers, that former CIA director John Brennan had converted to Islam and that Attorney General Eric Holder had been a member of the Black Panthers.”

On November 27, The Washington Post reported that Wuco had become a senior adviser at the State Department’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance. The publication added that during a 2016 radio appearance, Wuco had “suggested dropping nuclear bombs on Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks.”

Military Times Managing Editor Howard Altman tweeted on December 14 that Wuco “has resigned” and “declined comment on the record.”

Wuco has started making appearances again in the media, where he's been identified as a former Trump administration official. He appeared on the Tampa Bay, Florida, station WFLA on January 3, January 7, and January 8 to discuss Iran. On January 3, Wuco said he was “glad to be back on the air with you guys after such a long break.” He also discussed Iran on WWNC in Asheville, North Carolina, on January 8.

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.

https://www.mediamatters.org/donald-trump/anti-muslim-and-anti-lgbtq-conspiracy-theorist-frank-wuco-has-left-trump

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Trump says no Americans injured in Iran’s retaliatory attack, promises new sanctions

January 8, 2020

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): US President Donald Trump announcing no Americans were harmed in Iran's retaliatory attacks against US bases in Iraq.

During a White House statement, Trump also signaled a de-escalation of tensions.

"Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world," Trump said.

An early warning system worked well and no American or Iraqi lives were lost, Trump said.

Trump also outlined new sanctions on Iran and reiterated his vow that "Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon."

"The United States will immediately impose additional punishing economic sanctions on the Iranian regime," Trump said during an address to the nation from the White House, noting his administration is continuing to review other options to respond to the Iranian missile strike on Tuesday.

"These powerful sanctions will remain until Iran changes its behavior," he added. "In recent months alone, Iran has seized ships in international waters, fired an unprovoked strike on Saudi Arabia and shot down two American drones."

Iran fired a number of missiles at two IUs bases in Iraq Wednesday local time in retaliation for the American strike that martyred General Soleimani last week.

https://en.abna24.com/news//trump-says-no-americans-injured-in-iran%e2%80%99s-retaliatory-attack-promises-new-sanctions_1000666.html

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Reality check: Trump distorts facts on Iran payout, Islamic State’s continuing threat

January 8, 2020

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump wrongly dismissed the continuing threat of the Islamic State group and spread a false tale of the U.S. paying out billions of dollars to Iran as part of the multinational deal freezing its nuclear program in an address Wednesday that fell short on facts.

A look at some of the president’s claims in his remarks on Iran’s missile strike on two Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops:

TRUMP: “Three months ago, after destroying 100% of ISIS and its territorial caliphate …”

THE FACTS: His claim of a 100% defeat is misleading as the Islamic State still poses a threat.

IS was defeated in Iraq in 2017, then lost the last of its land holdings in Syria in March, marking the end of the extremists’ self-declared caliphate.

Still, extremist sleeper cells have continued to launch attacks in Iraq and Syria and are believed to be responsible for targeted killings against local officials and members of the Syrian Democratic Forces.

As recently as this week, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the fight against ISIS in Syria was continuing.

IS controlled large swaths of northern and eastern Syria, where it declared a caliphate in 2014, along with large parts of neighboring Iraq.

UN experts warned in August that IS leaders are aiming to consolidate and create conditions for an “eventual resurgence in its Iraqi and Syrian heartlands.”

TRUMP: “Iran’s hostility substantially increased after the foolish Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2013. And they were given $150 billion, not to mention $1.8 billion in cash.”

THE FACTS: There was no $150 billion payout from the U.S. treasury or other countries.

When Iran signed the multinational deal to restrain its nuclear development in return for being freed from sanctions, it regained access to its own assets, which had been frozen abroad. Iran was allowed to get its money back. The deal actually was signed in 2015, after a 2013 preliminary agreement. Trump has taken the U.S. out of it.

The $1.8 billion is a separate matter. A payout of roughly that amount did come from the U.S. treasury. It was to pay an old IOU.

In the 1970s, Iran paid the U.S. $400 million for military equipment that was never delivered because the government was overthrown and diplomatic relations ruptured. After the nuclear deal, the U.S. and Iran announced they had settled the matter, with the U.S. agreeing to pay the $400 million principal along with about $1.3 billion in interest.

The $400 million was paid in cash and flown to Tehran on a cargo plane, which gave rise to Trump’s previous dramatic accounts of money stuffed in barrels or boxes and delivered in the dead of night. The arrangement provided for the interest to be paid later, not crammed into containers.

Associated Press writers Lolita C. Baldor and Cal Woodward contributed to this report.

https://globalnews.ca/news/6383212/donald-trump-iran-payout-fact-check/

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Pentagon chief: US has restored 'level of deterrence' on Iran

Jan 9, 2020

WASHINGTON: US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Wednesday that the United States has reestablished some deterrence toward Iran in the wake of the January 3 drone strike that killed Iranian general Qassim Suleimani in Baghdad.

"I think at this point with the strikes we took against KH in late December and then our actions with regard to Soleimani, I believe that we've restored a level of deterrence with them," he told reporters, referring to Kataeb Hezbollah, an armed Iraqi group backed by Iran.

"But we will see. Time will tell," Esper said. Esper's comments came after Iran fired a volley of ballistic missiles Wednesday into two bases in Iraq that house US troops, in response to Suleimani's killing.

No US or Iraqi personnel were killed in those strikes, and reports said the US knew that an attack was coming.

The Pentagon also said its own "early warning systems" detected the incoming missiles in advance, allowing personnel to avoid injury.

Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley dismissed suggestions that Iran did not intend to kill Americans with its missile barrage, which struck the sprawling Ain al-Asad airbase in western Iraq and a base in Arbil, both housing American and other foreign troops with the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group.

"I believe, based on what I saw and what I know, is that they were intended to cause structural damage, destroy vehicles and equipment and aircraft and to kill personnel. That's my own personal assessment," Milley told reporters.

"But we took sufficient defensive measures that there were no casualties to US personnel, coalition personnel, contractors or Iraqis." Esper also downplayed the firing of two rockets into Baghdad's fortified Green Zone late Wednesday, where the US and other foreign embassies are located and many US troops are based.

"We should have some expectation that the Shia militia groups, either directed or not directed by Iran, will continue in some way, shape or form to try and undermine our presence there, either politically or, you know, take some type of kinetic actions against us or do Lord-knows-what," Esper told reporters.

A top Iraqi paramilitary commander, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, was also killed in the strike on Suleimani last week.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/pentagon-chief-us-has-restored-level-of-deterrence-on-iran/articleshow/73165303.cms

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US House to vote this week to limit Trump's military actions on Iran: Nancy Pelosi

Jan 9, 2020

WASHINGTON: US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Wednesday the House would vote on a resolution intended to limit President Donald Trump's military actions regarding Iran, stating that concerns about the administration's strategy and decisions were not addressed in a briefing with lawmakers.

Pelosi said on Monday the House would vote on a war powers resolution, but did not provide many details on its timing then.

The resolution will likely sail through the House of Representatives, where the Democrats hold the majority, but its passage in the Senate, controlled by Trump's fellow Republicans, is less assured.

"Today, to honor our duty to keep the American people safe, the House will move forward with a War Powers Resolution to limit the President's military actions regarding Iran," Pelosi said in a statement.

"This resolution, which will be led by Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, will go to the Rules Committee this evening and will be brought to the Floor tomorrow," she added.

Trump said in remarks earlier on Wednesday that the United States did not necessarily need to respond militarily to Iranian missile attacks on military bases in Iraq that host US troops.

The comments stood in contrast to his fiery rhetoric in previous days. On Saturday, he threatened to destroy Iranian cultural sites, before backtracking and saying he would obey international law on the issue.

The overnight strikes in Iraq were in retaliation for the US killing of Iranian military commander Qassim Suleimani last week.

“Members of Congress have serious, urgent concerns about the Administration’s decision to engage in hostilities against Iran and about its lack of strategy moving forward," Pelosi said. Our concerns were not addressed by the President’s insufficient War Powers Act notification and by the Administration’s briefing today." (Reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/us-house-to-vote-this-week-to-limit-trumps-military-actions-on-iran-nancy-pelosi/articleshow/73165056.cms

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Trump says Iran appears to be 'standing down' after strike

Jan 8, 2020

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that Iran appears to be "standing down" and said no Americans or Iraqis were harmed in Iran's Tuesday ballistic missile strike on two Iraqi bases housing US troops.

Speaking from the foyer of the White House, Trump announced that the US will immediately place new sanctions on Iran "until Iran changes its behavior." He defended his targeted killing last week of General Qassim Suleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds Force. He added that Americans should be "extremely grateful and happy" with the outcome.

Trump reiterated his position that "Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon" and called for new nuclear negotiations to replace the 2015 nuclear deal from which he withdrew the US.

Trump also announced he would ask NATO to become "much more involved in the Middle East process."

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/trump-says-iran-appears-to-be-standing-down-after-strike/articleshow/73161643.cms

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Mideast

 

Iranian DM Warns of Appropriate Response to Any US Reaction to Missile Attacks

Wed Jan 08, 2020

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami warned the US to avoid reciprocating Iran's early Wednesday retaliatory missile attacks or wait for Tehran's crushing response.

"Certainly, the next measure will be proportionate to what they will do, but the dear Iranian nation had a bigger demand too whose materialization will continue and it is ending the malevolent presence of the Americans in the region which has always brought nothing to the regional nations but war, misery, terror and crime," General Hatami told reporters in Tehran on Wednesday after a cabinet meeting.

He underlined that Iran has embarked on taking revenge, but the resistance forces will certainly continue the path, expressing the hope that Iran's retaliatory attacks would be an ever-lasting lesson for the Americans.

Elsewhere, General Hatami blasted Germany and Britain's support for the US assassination of IRGC Qods Force Commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, regreting that they have obeyed the US after the WWII and they have never been able to make a correct decision.

The IRGC Aerospace Force started heavy ballistic missile attacks on US Ein Al-Assad airbase in Southwestern Iraq near the border with Syria and a US operated airbase in Erbil in retaliation for the assassination of General Soleimani.

Ein Al-Assad is an airbase with a 4km runway at 188m altitude from sea levels, which is the main and the largest US airbase in Iraq. Early reports said the radar systems and missile defense shields in Ein Al-Assad have failed to operate and intercept the Iranian missiles. Unofficial reports said the US army's central radar systems at Ein Al-Assad had been jammed by electronic warfare.

The second IRGC reprisal attack targeted a US military base near Erbil airport in Iraqi Kurdistan Region in the second leg of "Martyr Soleimani" reprisal operation.

All flights have been cancelled at Erbil airport.

Iraq said the attacks have not taken any toll from its army men stationed at these two bases.

The IRGC issued a statement immediately after the attacks, declaring that it has fired tens of ground-to-ground missiles at "the airbase occupied by the terrorist and aggressive army of the United States known as Ein Al-Assad" in reprisal for the martyrdom of IRGC Qods Force Commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani.

The IRGC warned the US to avoid retaliating the Wednesday attack or else "it will face a more painful and crushing response".

The IRGC Statement also warned "all the US allied states where the terrorist army has a base, any territory that becomes the origin of any hostile and aggressive action against the Islamic Republic of Iran in any way will be targeted".

"We believe that the Zionist regime by no means stands aside from the criminal US regime in these crimes."

The IRGC also called on the American nation to pressure the White House to pull their troops out of the region to avoid further damage and not allow the US rulers to endanger the lives of their military men through increasing hatred.

All Iranian underground missile towns are on alert.

The missile attack came hours before the body of General Soleimani was buried.

Lieutenant General Soleimani was martyred in a targeted assassination attack by the US drones at Baghdad International Airport early on Friday morning.

The airstrike also martyred Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), or Hashad al-Shaabi. The two were martyred in an American airstrike that targeted their vehicle on the road to the airport.

Five Iranian and five Iraqi militaries were martyred by missiles fired by the US drone at Baghdad International Airport.

The attack came amid tensions that started by the US attack on PMF units that killed 28 Iraqi popular forces. A day later, Iraqi people attacked the US embassy in Baghdad.

The targeted assassination attack represents a dramatic escalation by the US toward Iran after months of tensions. The tensions take root in Trump’s decision in May 2018 to withdraw the US from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, struck under his predecessor.

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13981018000813

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Senior Hashd Al-Shaabi Official: Annihilation of Israel, US "Price of Gen. Soleimani's Blood"

Wed Jan 08, 2020

TEHRAN (FNA)- Cultural Chief of Iraq Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces) Seyed Hashem al-Heidari said nothing but annihilation of Israel and the US can compensate for the assassination of IRGC Qods Force Commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani.

"This aggression (assassination of General Soleimani) should be responded by the tough revenge stressed by Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Khamenei) and all options are on the table and all US bases in the region, the US embassy in Baghdad and all their soldiers are within the range of resistance missiles because annihilation of Israel and the US is the price of the blood of martyr Soleimani, and God willing the entire region will be liberated," al-Heidari said, addressing a gathering in Qom in Central Iran on Tuesday night.

He noted that General Soleimani did not merely belong to Iran and his assassination was aggression against the entire resistance front, stressing that taking a tough revenge is the responsibility of all resistance forces from Lebanon, Syria, Kashmir, Bahrain, Palestine and Yemen to other countries.

Early on Wednesday, the IRGC Aerospace Force launched heavy ballistic missile attacks on US Ein Al-Assad airbase in Southwestern Iraq near the border with Syria and a US operated airbase in Erbil in retaliation for the assassination of IRGC Qods Force Commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani.

Ein Al-Assad is an airbase with a 4km runway at 188m altitude from sea levels, which is the main and the largest US airbase in Iraq. Early reports said the radar systems and missile defense shields in Ein Al-Assad have failed to operate and intercept the Iranian missiles. Unofficial reports said the US army's central radar systems at Ein Al-Assad had been jammed by electronic warfare.

Some 80 US army personnel have been killed and nearly 200 more wounded in the missile attacks.

The second IRGC reprisal attack targeted a US military base near Erbil airport in Iraqi Kurdistan Region in the second leg of "Martyr Soleimani" reprisal operation.

All flights have been cancelled at Erbil airport.

Iraq said the attacks have not taken any toll from its army men stationed at these two bases. The US army had blocked entrance into Ein Al-Assad to everyone, including the Iraqi army.

This is the first direct attack on the US army ever since world war two.

IRGC officials said none of the missiles had been intercepted.

Following the attack, the IRGC issued a statement immediately after the attacks, declaring that it has fired tens of ground-to-ground missiles at "the airbase occupied by the terrorist and aggressive army of the United States known as Ein Al-Assad" in reprisal for the martyrdom of IRGC Qods Force Commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani.

The IRGC warned the US to avoid retaliating the Wednesday attack or else "it will face a more painful and crushing response".

The IRGC Statement also warned "all the US allied states where the terrorist army has a base, any territory that becomes the origin of any hostile and aggressive action against the Islamic Republic of Iran in any way will be targeted".

"We believe that the Zionist regime by no means stands aside from the criminal US regime in these crimes."

The IRGC also called on the American nation to pressure the White House to pull their troops out of the region to avoid further damage and not allow the US rulers to endanger the lives of their military men through increasing hatred.

All Iranian underground missile towns are on alert.

The missile attack came hours before the body of General Soleimani was laid to rest.

Lieutenant General Soleimani was martyred in a targeted assassination attack by the US drones at Baghdad International Airport early on Friday morning.

The airstrike also martyred Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), or Hashad al-Shaabi. The two were martyred in an American airstrike that targeted their vehicle on the road to the airport.

Five Iranian and five Iraqi militaries were martyred by missiles fired by the US drone at Baghdad International Airport.

The attack came amid tensions that started by the US attack on PMF units that killed 28 Iraqi popular forces. A day later, Iraqi people attacked the US embassy in Baghdad.

The targeted assassination attack represents a dramatic escalation by the US toward Iran after months of tensions. The tensions take root in Trump’s decision in May 2018 to withdraw the US from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, struck under his predecessor.

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13981018000593

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Southern California’s Muslim Leaders Call for De-Escalation of Tensions With Iran

By Angie Crouch

Leaders in Southern California’s Muslim community had some sharp criticism Wednesday for President Donald Trump.

They held a press conference in which they said his administration has shut Muslims out of the conversation and they want to help bring about peace with Iran.

"We are in a difficult time right now, and we want peace; we don’t want war," said Hajj Khalil Dewji of the Shia Muslim Council.

The leaders called for a de-escalation of tension with Iran, saying war will harm innocent people and devastate economies.

"It will bring more hatred and more division in the world. It will create more animosity toward Americans when they’re traveling abroad," said Dr. Ahmad Soboh with the Islamic Shura Council.

NBCLA spoke with Iranian-Americans who celebrate the death of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. But Wednesday, Salam Al-Marayati, the head of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, criticized the U.S. strike that killed the general.

"If a person is committing war crimes, then we should get the international criminal court to intervene and take him to the world court," he said. "But no, we decided to engage in a political assassination of a military and policital leader of a sovereign country."

Muslim leaders met in Washington, D.C. with customs officials and the Department of Homeland Security to demand an investigation into Iranian-Americans being detained and questioned at the border this week.

"We are tired of having our civil liberties suspended for the false sense of security,” Al-Marayati said.

Major airlines are cancelling some flights to the Mideast following an Iranian missile strike on U.S.-led forces in Iraq, and the Federal Aviation Administration barred U.S. carriers from flying over parts of the Gulf.

"We have to deal with these personal inconveniences that we can't travel to visit family,” Al-Marayati said.

The Muslim leaders say the Trump administration has refused to consult with Muslims, leading to ignorance about Islam and the Middle East.

"With this administration the doors have been shut. I don't know if it's the John Boltons or Stephen Millers that are running the show over there. If they are, we are in deep trouble,” Al-Marayati said.

These Muslim leaders say they support a bill sponsored by Democrats that would prohibit funding for a military strike against Iran without congressional approval.

https://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/socal-muslim-leaders-call-for-de-escalation-of-tensions-with-iran/2287673/

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Soleimani’s Unique Role in the Mullahs’ Export of Terrorism

Written by Shahriar Kia

08 January 2020

The mullahs’ supreme leader Ali Khamenei went to great lengths in explaining the vital role Qassem Soleimani, IRGC’s Quds force commander killed last week in a US drone attack in Iraq, played in the mullahs’ regime’s strategic line of exporting terrorism and chaos to the region.

In his meeting coinciding with Soleimani’s funeral ceremonies with a delegation of Qom city’s diehards, Khamenei openly spoke of the slain Quds force commander’s role in fomenting chaos and instability in the region. 

“Through his aid to the countries in our region, Soleimani managed to defuse all illegitimate US plans in the western Asian region. He helped small and weak countries in the region stand in the face of America,” Khamenei said. 

Then he explained a few specific cases. 

“The Americans wanted to let the Palestinian cause be forgotten, they wanted to keep the Palestinians in a position of weakness. Soleimani gave the Palestinians what they needed, enabling them to turn a small region like the Gaza Strip into a resistance center against the Zionists, and bring the Zionists to propose a cease-fire in 48 hours. This was done by Qassem Soleimani. Our Palestinian brethren admitted this fact several times in my presence. Of course I was in the picture.”

What Khamenei meant from the Palestinian needs answered by Soleimani is nothing other than millions of dollars given in cash to Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip by Soleimani, and the destructive role he played in weakening the Palestinian state through instigating Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

After Palestine, Khamenei turned to Lebanon. He boasted Hezbollah’s power and role in Lebanon. “Today, Hezbollah is Lebanon’s hand and Lebanon’s eye. It has been reinforced day after day. Soleimani’s role in this is quite evident. Khamenei, however, did not mention the Lebanese people’s distaste for Hezbollah evident these days in the streets of Lebanon and the actual deadlock the country is in.

He praised Soleimani’s destructive role in Iraq and Syria much in the same way. “Brave Iraqi believers and Iraqi youth, as well as the clergy, stood in the face of the US, and Soleimani helped them and supported them as a great supporter and an active counselor.”

In heaping praise upon Soleimani, Khamenei confirmed the fact that the regime’s foreign policy when it comes to the countries in the region is prepared and implemented not by the mullahs’ foreign ministry, but by IRGC’s Quds force. 

“Soleimani was not active only in the military aspect, in politics he was the same. More than once I told those who are in politics that they should learn from Soleimani, the way he was brave in politics, he was very wise and at the same time very influential.” 

The mullahs’ regime ambassadors to the region are systematically assigned by the Quds force. In fact, the regime’s ambassadors to Iraq have always been ranking members of the Quds force. Their actual ambassador to Iraq, Iraj Masjedi, as well as his predecessor, Danaifard, played an active role in Iraq after the regime change in that country in 2003.

Both were behind deadly attacks against the MEK when the latter was based in Ashraf and Liberty camps in Iraq, causing 146 deaths among the residents before they were evacuated to Albania in 2016.

https://www.ncr-iran.org/en/news/terrorism-fundamentalism/27190-soleimani-s-unique-role-in-the-mullahs-export-of-terrorism

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Iraqi Shia cleric whose militia killed American troops says crisis is over following Iran strike and Trump speech

A controversial Iraqi politician and Shia cleric said Wednesday that the crisis is over following ballistic missile strikes from Iran against U.S. troops in Iraq and a speech by President Donald Trump claiming Iran was “standing down.”

Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Mahdi army led a resistance against American troops following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, also called for restraint and patience, according to a message posted to Twitter.

In the message, Sadr called for Iraqi factions to not start military action and he asked militias to restrain extremist voices within the various groups.

He also asked for Iraq to form a government within 15 days.

Moreover, an Iran-backed militia group believed to be responsible for a series of rocket strikes against coalition forces — which nearly sparked war between Iran and the U.S. — is calling for patience from its followers, according to a message posted by the group.

The message from Kata’ib Hezbollah was translated and posted by SITE Intelligence Group Wednesday.

The Iraqi Hezbollah group told its followers that “passions must be avoided” for the organization to achieve its goal of expelling America from Iraq. While the group called for patience, the Iran-backed was still seeking a “calculated response."

SITE Intelligence Group told Military Times that the Iraqi Hezbollah group post its message before Trump’s speech Wednesday.

But the messages from U.S. antagonists Sadr and Kata’ib Hezbollah send some signals of a desire to deescalate tensions in the region.

U.S. officials believe Kata’ib Hezbollah is responsible for a number of rocket attacks against Iraqi bases housing coalition troops, including the deadly rocket attack on Dec. 27 that killed an American contractor and wounded four U.S. troops.

The rocket attacks precipitated a series of events that led to a U.S. airstrike on Dec. 29 against the militia group and a decapitation strike killing revered Iran Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani as well as Kata-ib Hezbollah leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

On Tuesday, Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles at al-Asad and Irbil — both Iraqi air bases housing coalition troops — in retaliation for the U.S. strike that killed one of its most important commanders.

No U.S. troops were killed or wounded in the strike, but the attack sparked widespread worries of an impending military clash between Washington and Tehran.

Trump said Iran appeared to be “standing down” following the ballistic missile strike but warned of sanctions and military retaliation if it continued its malign behavior.

“Peace and stability cannot prevail in the Middle East as long as Iran continues to foment violence, unrest, hatred and war,” Trump said at the White House on Wednesday.

“The civilized world must send a clear and unified message to the Iranian regime that (their) campaign of terror, murder and mayhem will not be tolerated any longer," Trump said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi said he received advanced warning that Iran would soon start its retaliation against U.S. positions.

With no U.S. casualties and a number of the missiles landing in the dirt, some Pentagon leaders believe there is a chance to ameliorate tensions.

But Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned the attack was not enough during a speech in Qom Province, Iran, following the ballistic missile attack, Iran state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

“They were slapped last night, but such military actions are not enough. The corruptive presence of the U.S. in the West Asian region must be stopped," Khamenei said, according to IRNA.

Khamenei said the U.S. must leave the region, IRNA reported.

Iran could turn to its extensive network of proxies and militias to orchestrate attacks against American troops.

Hezbollah in Lebanon has warned of attacking U.S. ships and troops in the region.

https://www.militarytimes.com/flashpoints/2020/01/08/iraqi-shia-cleric-whose-militia-killed-american-troops-says-crisis-is-over-following-iran-strike-and-trump-speech/

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Why Iraqis Are Worried About an Islamic State Resurgence After Soleimani's Death

BY VIVIENNE WALT

JANUARY 8, 2020

As the conflict between the U.S. and Iran simmers, there is a mounting fear within Iraq that a conflict of another kind could take shape amid the upheaval: A terrorist comeback from the remnants from the Islamic State, or ISIS.

Nearly a week after a U.S. drone strike killed Iran’s top military commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani near Baghdad International Airport, regular Iraqis and officials see his death as a blow to their fight against the terrorist group, which was almost entirely crushed in 2018 after a four-year war, fought by the U.S.-led coalition and a collection of Iraqi military forces and militia groups, as well as some Iranians themselves.

“People are talking not only about ISIS but a new version that might arise now,” Dhia Al-Asadi, an Iraqi politician and former Member of Parliament aligned with Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr, told TIME by phone on Wednesday. “Soleimani is going to be missed by almost all those who were serious about fighting against Al-Qaeda and ISIS.”

The U.S. strike against Soleimani has handed the ISIS remnants an unwitting victory, by stoking anger among Iraqis against the group’s archenemy, the Americans, and diverting their attention from other grievances.

For several months this fall and winter, tens of thousands of Iraqis poured into the streets in giant protests against government corruption and against Iran’s dominance in their country, nearly bringing Iraq to a standstill and forcing Iraq’s Prime Minister Abd Al-Mahdi to offer his resignation; he remains as a caretaker head of government while the fractious parliamentary groups squabble over who will succeed him.

But in recent days, that discontent has been swept aside, as Iraqis brace for what might come next. As head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, Soleimani crafted the ground tactics against ISIS, training Shia militia groups to fight local battles, including helping drive ISIS out of Iraq’s second city Mosul in 2017 in the biggest urban warfare since World War II.

“The war against ISIS was America in the air and God on the ground,” says Mowaffak al-Rubaie, a former Iraqi National Security Advisor, by phone from Baghdad, referring wryly to the Shia militia as “God;” many Shia joined the fight against ISIS after appeals from clerics.

The battle against ISIS created a curious wartime alliance between the U.S., with its heavy firepower, and Iran, with its deep penetration into Iraqi communities. Yet it is unclear how closely they cooperated. Hundreds of secret Iranian intelligence documents, leaked to the news site The Intercept last November, exposed vast Iranian influence in Iraq, much of it stitched together by the hugely powerful Soleimani. But it also included one document dating to the four-year battle against ISIS, in which Iranian intelligence officers complained about “The Americans’ insistence on not cooperating with Iran in the war against ISIS.”

In the aftermath of ISIS’s defeat, many Iraqis credited Iran for the victory. “Without Soleimani, the ground war against ISIS would have been much weaker,” Al-Rubaie says. Now, he says, “There is a very good chance that ISIS will come back.”

On Sunday, the American-led coalition that has been fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria since 2014 said it had “paused” its campaign against the group in Iraq in order to protect the Iraqi bases that host coalition troops, giving another strategic opening to the group.

Just a few thousand ISIS fighters are believed to have survived the war, driven underground and scattered in different parts of Iraq. Its leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi blew himself up last October in Syria’s Idlib province, during a U.S. operation to capture or kill him, according to President Trump’s account.

Those ISIS fighters left alive are severely weakened. “They are not a threat yet, but they are not gone,” says Renad Mansour, senior research fellow and director of the Iraq Initiative program at Chatham House, or the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London.

While the combined military forces crushed ISIS, Mansour says Iraq’s enduring problems of corruption and dysfunction—which he believes partly allowed ISIS to flourish in the first place—remain. “It was a military solution, but not a political solution, about why this group was able to emerge and take over so much of Iraq,” he says. The group could take advantage of the Iraqi government’s dysfunction after months of protests to once again rally people to their cause, as they have in the past. “They wait and see that the Iraq government is not being effective.”

If ISIS or an outgrowth of it does emerge from the crisis, the U.S.-led coalition would likely unite rapidly to fight it. In addition, Mansour says Soleimani’s death has helped to unify Iraq’s rival Popular Mobilization Forces, which waged the ground battle against ISIS, and have battled each other for political control since their battlefront days. Those divisions, like the street protests, have also been engulfed by the crisis in recent days, perhaps making the militias a force in any future anti-terrorism fight. “One of the biggest immediate impacts is the unifying of the Shia political bloc,” he says.

But this week at least, the U.S. appears isolated in its war talk against Iran. Some of its closest allies have been scrambling to staunch the conflict and to deal with the fallout of Soleimani’s death, in part fearing that a spiraling conflict could send fresh waves of refugees fleeing in their direction.

In a long phone call on Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron appealed to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to “abstain from taking any action that would aggravate mounting tensions,” according to the Elysée Palace, and to stick to the 2015 deal, negotiated by the U.S., the European Union, and the United Nations, in which Iran agreed to halt its nuclear enrichment program. Iran said on Sunday that after the U.S. strike against Soleimani, it no longer felt obligated to abide by the deal, a move that could trigger new sanctions against Iran; President Donald Trump has already withdrawn the U.S. from the deal, which Europe has struggled to keep alive.

The French leader also told Rouhani on Tuesday that France, which has troops in Iraq, was committed to “Iraq’s sovereignty and security,” and that the “sole objective” of the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq was to fight ISIS, according to the Elysée.

Soleimani’s death has already complicated the coalition’s presence in Iraq. The Iraqi parliament took a non-binding resolution on Sunday to expel U.S. forces from the country, and, after the coalition announced the suspension of its anti-ISIS activities, Germany, Canada and Croatia have all said they intend pulling some forces out of Iraq, for fear of being embroiled in a U.S.-Iran war.

Such a war would be calamitous, says al-Rubaie, adding that the talk on the streets of Baghdad since Soleimani’s death has been“all war.”

“It will not be short, with a winner and a loser,” he says. “It will be a long, protracted, suffering war in the region, and the beginning of the end of the American presence in the region.”

That could be bad news for the fight against ISIS, whose resurgence is a deep fear among Iraqis. “It has already been a concern, even before this event,” Mansour says, referring to the U.S. strike last week. “Now American troops are being forced or asked to leave, and the troops are there to fight ISIS.”

Good news, then, for those ISIS fighters still left alive.

https://time.com/5761448/why-iraqis-are-worried-about-an-islamic-state-resurgence-after-soleimanis-death/

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Imam Khamenei offers condolences over recent accidents in Tehran, Kerman

January 8, 2020

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei expressed condolences over the loss of lives in two separate incidents in Tehran and Kerman.

A stampede erupted in Kerman on Tuesday due to the unprecedented participation of millions of people at the General Soleimani’s funeral and claimed 56 lives while leaving more than 200 others injured. And on Wednesday, a Ukranian airliner crashed right after takeoff from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport, killing all 176 passengers and crew on board.

The tragic accident that happened during the funeral of General Soleimani and also the passenger plane crash which took lives of Iranians and non-Iranians are among two tragic points of the past two days, said the Leader in a message on Wednesday night.

“While expressing my deepest sympathy with the afflicted families, and expressing my deepest condolences and affections, I pray to God Almighty for patience and mercy for the survivors, and mercy for those who have lost their lives.”

https://en.abna24.com/news//imam-khamenei-offers-condolences-over-recent-accidents-in-tehran-kerman_1000670.html

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Over 180 rallies planned across US to protest Trump's ‘march to war’ with Iran

January 8, 2020

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): A coalition of progressive advocacy groups in the US have called for massive rallies across the country to protest President Donald Trump's "military brinksmanship" against Iran and demand immediate de-escalation of tensions with Tehran following the US assassination of a top Iranian general.

"We will not be forced into another war," said the coalition, led by MoveOn, Indivisible, Win Without War, and other groups.

"On Thursday, January 9, at 5 p.m local time, the anti-war majority in this country will get visible to oppose Trump's war and say #NoWarWithIran," the coalition said.

As of Wednesday, over 180 protests have been planned across the US, up from just 50 when the protests were first announced Tuesday afternoon.

The protest organizers said we “will demand that Congress intervene to stop Trump from taking the advice of war-hungry right-wing pundits and launching a devastating war with Iran.”

"America, this is an emergency," said activist Kai Newkirk. "If we spiral into war with Iran, millions could die. We have a short window of time to stop it. We need a massive protest. Everyone, if at all possible, must come out this Thursday, nationwide."

"We need everyone in the streets," tweeted US Representative Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from the state of Washington and co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

"This is a critical time for the American people to be heard," she added.

“This is Trump’s fault. Since being elected, he has escalated, provoked, and threatened Iran. He chose to assassinate one of its political leaders, knowing that Iran would retaliate,” Indivisible, one of the protest organizers, said on its website.

Angel Padilla, the national policy director of Indivisible, said in a statement on Tuesday that the missile attack by Iran was an "entirely predictable" and "avoidable" consequence of the White House's hawkish policies toward Iran and urged Congress "act decisively and fast to stop Trump's warmongering."

Early on Wednesday, Iran responded to the assassination of Iranian Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, the Middle East's most prominent anti-terror commander, striking the American airbase of Ain al-Assad in Anbar province in western Iraq and another in Erbil, the capital of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.

In an editorial on Wednesday, CNN said the US assassination has brought America to the “brink of its first hot war” with Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

US Democrats said that Iran’s missile attack was not a surprise, saying that it was an inevitable response to Trump's decision to assassinate the top general.

https://en.abna24.com/news//over-180-rallies-planned-across-us-to-protest-trumps-%e2%80%98march-to-war%e2%80%99-with-iran_1000657.html

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Spain says it has withdrawn some of its troops from Iraq

January 8, 2020

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): Spain has pulled out some of its troops from Iraq due to security concerns, acting Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said on Wednesday.

“Those who were in riskier positions have left for Kuwait,” Calvo told state broadcaster RTVE. “There is only a reduced number left there.”

The decision comes as NATO announced it would move some of its military training personnel out of Iraq amid fears of a regional conflagration.

https://en.abna24.com/news//spain-says-it-has-withdrawn-some-of-its-troops-from-iraq_1000648.html

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US, Israel obvious enemies of Muslims: Ansarullah leader

January 8, 2020

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): “The Islamic Ummah is faced with obvious enemies, who seek doing harms, and the pioneers of those enemies are the US and Israel,” Abdul-Malik Badreddin al-Houthi, leader of the Yemeni revolution movement Ansar Allah, said on Wednesday.

He noted that the US has interfered in the affairs of Arabic states and has made conspiracy plots against Islamic countries.

“The US does not respect countries which follow or obey it,” he said.

“American people talk of Trump’s arrogance but Saudi media praise him,” al-Houthi added.

“The US milks Saudi Arabia and protects it; that is the relation between the shepherd and its cow,” he added.

He named the US’ assassination of Lt. Gen. Soleimani and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis as a true sample of aggression.

“The US is not rightful to do any military operation in Iraq,” he underlined.

“US’ presence in the region will improve conspiracies, stabilize colonization and suppresses regional nations,” he added.

Al-Houthi lauded Iran’s airstrikes against US airbases in Iraq as wise.

https://en.abna24.com/news//us-israel-obvious-enemies-of-muslims-ansarullah-leader_1000645.html

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Two rockets hit Iraqi capital's Green Zone: Security sources

Jan 9, 2020

BAGHDAD: Two rockets crashed late Wednesday into the Iraqi capital's Green Zone, the high-security enclave where foreign embassies including the US mission are based, security sources told AFP.

Just before midnight, AFP correspondents in Baghdad heard two loud blasts followed by the wailing security sirens of the Green Zone.

The attack came nearly 24 hours after Tehran launched ballistic missiles at Iraqi bases housing American and other coalition forces, which did not cause casualties.

The strikes were in retaliation for a US drone strike that killed top Iranian general Qassim Suleimani and Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis last week.

Muhandis had been the deputy head of the Hashed al-Shaabi, a web of armed groups incorporated into the Iraqi state but which also have close ties to Tehran.

The United States had accused Hashed groups of being behind a string of rocket attacks on the US embassy in Baghdad and bases hosting American troops across the country.

On Wednesday, the Hashed's hardline factions vowed they, too, would take revenge for the US raid.

Paramilitary chief Qais al-Khazali -- blacklisted as a "terrorist" by the US -- said Iraq's response to the US "will be no less than the size of the Iranian response."

Harakat al-Nujaba, a hardline Hashed faction, vowed to avenge Muhandis.

"To American soldiers: Do not close your eyes. Revenge for the martyr Muhandis is coming at the hands of Iraqis -- until the last soldier among you leaves," it said.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/two-rockets-hit-iraqi-capitals-green-zone-security-sources/articleshow/73164308.cms

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Four Turkish soldiers killed in car bombing in Syria

January 08, 2020

ANKARA: Four Turkish soldiers were killed Wednesday in a car bombing in northeastern Syria, Turkey’s defense ministry said.

The soldiers were conducting road patrols when the attack happened in the region captured by Turkish forces after the latest operation against a Kurdish militia last year.

The ministry did not provide further information on exactly where the bomb exploded or who was to blame for the attack.

Turkish soldiers supporting Syrian proxies launched an offensive against the US-backed Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia in October 2019.

Ankara says the YPG is a “terrorist” offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.

The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Turkey and its Western allies.

Turkey previously launched two military operations in northern Syria against the Daesh extremist group in 2016 and the YPG in 2018.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1610276/middle-east

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Ex-IRGC Commander: Iran's Finger on Trigger

Wed Jan 08, 2020

TEHRAN (FNA)- Secretary of Iran's Expediency Council (EC) and former commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Mohsen Rezayee praised the IRGC's retaliatory missile attack on the US bases in Iraq, and warned Washington that the country's finger is on trigger to respond to any US retaliatory strike.

"We will wait for (the US) reaction. We monitor the situation with fingers on trigger and have forces on full alert," Rezayee said in an interview with the state TV on Wednesday morning.

He warned the US against the slighest mistakes, and cautioned the regional states' rulers not to allow the American forces use their territories as a platform to attack Iran, saying, "Do not think that we will sit idly for being a neighbor."

"We do not have any redline before us. Try to prevent their flights (of the US fighter jets) and expel them, otherwise, we will retaliate and our revenge will be very tough. You will be blamed for this situation and it will not be our fault."

Earlier on Wednesday, the IRGC Aerospace Force started heavy ballistic missile attacks on US Ein Al-Assad airbase in Southwestern Iraq near the border with Syria and a US operated airbase in Erbil in retaliation for the assassination of IRGC Qods Force Commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani.

Ein Al-Assad is an airbase with a 4km runway at 188m altitude from sea levels, which is the main and the largest US airbase in Iraq. Early reports said the radar systems and missile defense shields in Ein Al-Assad have failed to operate and intercept the Iranian missiles. Unofficial reports said the US army's central radar systems at Ein Al-Assad had been jammed by electronic warfare.

Some 80 US army personnel have been killed and nearly 200 more wounded in Iran's Wednesday missile attacks.

The second IRGC reprisal attack targeted a US military base near Erbil airport in Iraqi Kurdistan Region in the second leg of "Martyr Soleimani" reprisal operation.

All flights have been cancelled at Erbil airport.

Iraq said the attacks have not taken any toll from its army men stationed at these two bases. The US army had blocked entrance into Ein Al-Assad to everyone, including the Iraqi army.

This is the first direct attack on the US army ever since world war two.

IRGC officials said none of the missiles had been intercepted.

Following the attack, the IRGC issued a statement immediately after the attacks, declaring that it has fired tens of ground-to-ground missiles at "the airbase occupied by the terrorist and aggressive army of the United States known as Ein Al-Assad" in reprisal for the martyrdom of IRGC Qods Force Commaner Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani.

The IRGC warned the US to avoid retaliating the Wednesday attack or else "it will face a more painful and crushing response".

The IRGC Statement also warned "all the US allied states where the terrorist army has a base, any territory that becomes the origin of any hostile and aggressive action against the Islamic Republic of Iran in any way will be targeted".

"We believe that the Zionist regime by no means stands aside from the criminal US regime in these crimes."

The IRGC also called on the American nation to pressure the White House to pull their troops out of the region to avoid further damage and not allow the US rulers to endager the lives of their military men through increasing hatred.

All Iranian underground missile towns are on alert.

The missile attack came hours before the body of General Soleimani was laid to rest.

Lieutenant General Soleimani was martyred in a targeted assassination attack by the US drones at Baghdad International Airport early on Friday morning.

The airstrike also martyred Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), or Hashad al-Shaabi. The two were martyred in an American airstrike that targeted their vehicle on the road to the airport.

Five Iranian and five Iraqi militaries were martyred by missiles fired by the US drone at Baghdad International Airport.

The attack came amid tensions that started by the US attack on PMF units that killed 28 Iraqi popular forces. A day later, Iraqi people attacked the US embassy in Baghdad.

The targeted assassination attack represents a dramatic escalation by the US toward Iran after months of tensions. The tensions take root in Trump’s decision in May 2018 to withdraw the US from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, struck under his predecessor.

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13981018000557

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Southeast Asia

 

Muslim activist tells why conference graced by Anwar a letdown

Sean Augustin

January 9, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: The head of an Islamic reforms group said the recent conference on diversity featuring Anwar Ibrahim and three foreign Muslim speakers did not live up to its theme as it failed to address sectarianism and intra-Muslim differences.

Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa, who heads the Islamic Renaissance Front, also questioned why speakers at the “International Unity in Diversity Conference” did not elaborate on the Sunni-Shia divide, despite the issue making headlines in the Muslim world, including in Malaysia.

But he said he was not surprised, saying the speakers at the half-day event yesterday might be ill-equipped to address a complicated issue that “required more than motivational soundbites”.

“The conference to me was benign and somehow suits the Taman Tun and Bangsar crowd very well,” he quipped when met yesterday on the sidelines of the conference, where he was invited as a participant.

“That type of lectures on becoming good Muslims and the choice of speakers have been their forte all this while.”

The three foreign speakers were American Muslims Omar Suleiman and Yasir Qadhi, both of whom are active in fee-based Islamic courses tailored to the needs of busy professionals and English-speaking Muslims.

Another speaker was Nuruddin Lemu from Nigeria, who is also sought after to conduct Islamic training courses.

Anwar delivered the main speech at the conference, organised by his International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), the Malaysian Muslim Youth Movement (Abim) and the Muslim Professionals Forum (MPF).

Organisers had earlier rejected a suggestion that the conference was a response to the KL Summit hosted by Dr Mahathir Mohamad last month, which made global headlines after it came under attack from Saudi Arabia.

Farouk said while he did not believe the conference yesterday was to counter the KL Summit, any conference themed on Islam and diversity should not miss the Shia-Sunni animosity, which he described as “the most salient and pertinent issue” in talking about diversity to a Muslim audience.

“I do not think the reason for them — being speakers from abroad —not knowing about such a problem is acceptable. This is a global issue and we are facing a similar problem in this country that must be addressed before it becomes a chronic problem to our society.”

Shia, the second-largest branch of Islam, is predominantly followed in Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon and several parts of Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Pakistan.

Malaysian Islamic authorities have, over the years, been enforcing a fatwa declaring Shia teachings as “deviant”.

Farouk said the speakers could have at least spoken out against a recent speech by a Saudi diplomat in KL condemning Shias as heretics.

“Failing to address this issue of paramount importance at this time, in particular, is very regrettable. This is especially so when Shias were not only demonised by the Saudi diplomat, but also by local imams during every Friday sermon in Selangor,” he added.

“Where else in the world could we find such hatred towards the same brothers that believe in the same God, the same prophet, and the same Quran, except in this country?”

Farouk said “Unity in Diversity”, the theme of yesterday’s conference, could mean either diversity in a multicultural society or diversity in Islam’s denominations.

“The main and acute problem we are facing in this country is the second form of diversity — to accept religious minorities such as Shias as our brothers in faith,” he said.

“Similarly, the issue of Islamophobia was addressed (at the conference), though this is more pressing in the West when compared to our milieu.”

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/01/09/muslim-activist-tells-why-conference-graced-by-anwar-a-letdown/

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Indonesia president visits islands also claimed by China

Jan 8, 2020

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Wednesday reaffirmed his country's sovereignty during a visit to a group of islands at the edge of the South China Sea that China claims as its traditional fishing area.

Widodo, accompanied by top military officials, toured Natuna Islands on a naval ship in a move designed to send a message to Beijing.

"Natuna is part of Indonesia's territory, there is no question, no doubt," Widodo said in a speech after the trip.

"There is no bargaining for our sovereignty."

He then presided over a meeting with local administration officials and fishermen, discussing issues including development of the remote islands, about 1,100 kilometers (680 miles) north of the capital, Jakarta.

His visit came a week after China's foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang in a news briefing in Beijing insisted that Chinese fishermen are free to conduct activities in their traditional fishing ground, which partly overlaps with Indonesia's exclusive economic zone.

"Whether the Indonesian side accepts it or not, nothing will change the objective fact that China has rights and interests over the relevant waters," Shuang said.

Shuang's statement drew a nationwide indignation in Indonesia and prompted the military to beef up its forces at the islands.

Although China has been making such claims for years, recently dozens of Chinese fishing boats, escorted by its coast guard vessels, were reportedly making more aggressive moves in the area and ignoring Indonesia's warnings to leave.

Indonesia's military spokesman Maj. Gen. Sisriadi said scores of warships and fighter jets had been deployed to the area and the government would also to activate a maritime information center as part of the country's efforts to monitor foreign incursions.

"We are on full alert," said Sisriadi, who goes by a single name.

"Today, none of the foreign vessels has been detected violating Indonesia's sea borders for fishing."

China's "nine dash line," which it uses to roughly demarcate its ambitions for maritime boundaries that cover most of the South China Sea, overlaps with a section of Indonesia's exclusive economic zone extending from Natuna Islands.

Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago nation with more than 17,000 islands, has taken a tough stance against illegal fishing since Widodo took office in 2014.

It has sunk more than 500 illegal fishing vessels since October 2014, many with explosives.

China has been embroiled in territorial disputes with smaller neighbours including Vietnam and the Philippines over islands, reefs and lagoons in the South China Sea. Beijing has constructed seven man-made islands and equipped them with military airstrips and missile batteries in a move criticized by Washington as the militarisation of one of the world's busiest waterways.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/rest-of-world/indonesia-president-visits-islands-also-claimed-by-china/articleshow/73161791.cms

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Indonesia deploys fighter jets, warships to disputed waters in China spat

January 09, 2020

JAKARTA: Indonesia has deployed fighter jets and warships to patrol islands near the disputed South China Sea, the military said on Wednesday, escalating tensions with Beijing after a diplomatic spat over “trespassing” Chinese vessels.

President Joko Widodo also headed on Wednesday to the fishing-rich waters around the Natuna islands, which border the South China Sea, most of which is claimed by China despite competing claims from other Southeast Asian nations including Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia.

The Indonesian military said it had deployed eight warships and four jet fighters ahead of Widodo’s visit in an apparent bid to assert its sovereignty over the region.

“I have said many times Natuna is our sovereign territory,” Widodo told reporters.

“There is nothing to be debated...I hope this is clear.” A Chinese coast guard vessel was spotted in Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone Wednesday, the government said.

“We have deployed eight warships,” said Navy spokesman Fajar Tri Rohadi.

The air force said fighter jets had also been deployed.

“(But) our personnel have been told that we are not going to make provocations but rather protect our territory,” said Air Commodore Ronny Irianto Moningka.

China’s foreign ministry downplayed the incident and said there was “no dispute over territorial sovereignty” between Beijing and Jakarta — though the two have “overlapping claims for maritime rights” in the South China Sea.

Indonesia does not lay claim in the South China Sea, but said it would not tolerate incursions by China — a key trading partner — into its nearby waters.

“We are willing to continue to properly handle differences with Indonesia,” said spokesman Geng Shuang at a press briefing in Beijing on Wednesday. “China and Indonesia have always maintained communication through diplomatic channels on this matter,” Geng said.

Indonesia’s move to send in warships follows the deployment on Friday of around 600 personnel from the navy, army and air force to Natuna as the military launched what it called a regular patrol to secure the area due to the presence of foreign vessels in Indonesian waters.

Jakarta said it would also send hundreds of fishermen to the area to keep an eye out for foreign vessels.

That followed Indonesia summoning the Chinese ambassador last week and lodging a “strong protest” over a Chinese coast guard vessel escorting Chinese fishing boats around the islands in mid-December.

Beijing responded that it has “historic rights” in the region and that fishing boats had been carrying out “legal and reasonable” activities.

Beijing lays claim to huge swathes of the South China Sea, where it is accused of building military installations and artificial islands — and ramming fishing vessels.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1527203/indonesia-deploys-fighter-jets-warships-to-disputed-waters-in-china-spat

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India palm import curbs to start Malaysia, Indonesia price war: Association

Jan 09, 2020

India's restrictions on imports of refined palm oil will lead to a price war between the world's two biggest suppliers of the commodity, Indonesia and Malaysia, the Palm Oil Refiners Association of Malaysia said on Thursday.

The Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry issued a notification on Wednesday declaring that the import of refined palm oil "is amended from 'Free' to 'Restricted.'

"This puts Indonesia and Malaysia at loggerheads," Jamil Haron, chairman of Palm Oil Refiners Association of Malaysia, told Reuters. "There will be a price war between Indonesia and Malaysia, and we are at the losing end."

https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/business/economy/india-palm-import-curbs-to-start-malaysia-indonesia-price-war-association-4799821.html

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India may slap trade curbs on Malaysia for its J&K, CAA stand

Jan 9, 2020

NEW DELHI: Looking to flex its trade muscles, an option India has not often resorted to, the Modi government is reviewing its economic engagement with Malaysia and may impose formal checks on shipment of palm oil and electronic goods in retaliation to Kuala Lumpur's stance on Kashmir and Islamic preacher Zakir Naik.

"We are looking at some curbs on refined and crude palm oil as well as electronics. Various ministries are involved in the exercise," a source in the government told TOI. It is perhaps the first such trade retaliation that India has used against a partner country.

India has run out of patience with what it sees as provocative statements by Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad on subjects like abrogation of J&K's special status, Citizenship (Amendment) Act and controversial preacher Zakir Naik, who is facing a probe by the NIA and the ED.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/india-may-slap-trade-curbs-on-malaysia-for-its-jk-caa-stand/articleshow/73163705.cms

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1MDB scandal: Malaysia’s former PM 'asked UAE to fake evidence'

Wed 8 Jan 2020

Malaysia’s former prime minister, Najib Razak, allegedly sought help from the United Arab Emirates’ crown prince to fake evidence in an effort to cover up for the 1MDB scandal, according to audio clips revealed by Malaysian anti-corruption officials.

Najib rejected the allegations. The UAE government communication office, the National Media Council, which also represents the palace, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) played audio clips for the media of nine telephone conversations from 2016 that it believes are linked to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) multibillion dollar scandal.

Besides Najib, the MACC said UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, and Malaysian and Emirati officials were on the calls.

The MACC chief, Latheefa Koya, said the audio clips, which were handed to the agency anonymously earlier this month, were proof of a “high-level criminal conspiracy” to cover up wrongdoing.

Latheefa said forensics showed that the nine recordings were authentic and would be shared with the police and other authorities for further investigation.

Najib told reporters on Wednesday he was “shocked by this revelation” and was looking at legal options as the audio clips would have allegedly been recorded while he was the head of government.

“I’m studying the content and I have referred this matter to my lawyers. This has never been done in the history of this country,” he said. Najib did not confirm or deny the authenticity of the recordings.

Najib faces 42 criminal charges in five separate trials related to the alleged theft of billions of dollars from 1MDB, the subject of investigations in at least six countries including the US, Singapore and Switzerland. He has pleaded not guilty.

Malaysian and US authorities say about $4.5bn was misappropriated from 1MDB, co-founded by Najib in 2009.

Latheefa told a news conference that the audio recordings raised issues such as “abuse of power, criminal conspiracy, obstruction of justice, compromising national security, fabrication of false evidence through foreign aides and connivance”.

In one recording, Najib allegedly asked the crown prince to help fabricate a loan agreement to show that Najib’s stepson, Riza Aziz, had received financing from the UAE state-funded International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) and not from money siphoned from 1MDB.

“The premise is relatively small, if there can be an agreement with Sheikh Mansour to have a loan agreement signed that will show that it is a legitimate financing package, it’s not money laundering,” Najib allegedly said on the audio clip, referring to UAE’s deputy prime minister, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who was then chairman of IPIC.

A lawyer for Riza, whose firm produced the 2013 Hollywood movie The Wolf of Wall Street, did not respond to a request for comment. UAE fund Mubadala Investment Co, formed after a merger between IPIC and Mubadala Development Co in 2017, declined to comment.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/08/1mdb-scandal-malaysias-former-pm-asked-uae-to-fake-evidence

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Indonesia deploys fighter jets, warships to disputed waters in China spat

Jan 08, 2020

JAKARTA: Indonesia has deployed fighter jets and warships to patrol islands near the disputed South China Sea, the military said Wednesday, escalating tensions with Beijing after a diplomatic spat over "trespassing" Chinese vessels.

President Joko Widodo also headed Wednesday to the fishing-rich waters around the Natuna islands, which border the South China Sea, most of which is claimed by China despite competing claims from other Southeast Asian nations including Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia.

The Indonesian military said it had deployed eight warships and four jet fighters ahead of Widodo's visit in an apparent bid to assert its sovereignty over the region.

A Chinese coast guard vessel was spotted near the islands Wednesday, Indonesia said.

"We have deployed eight warships," said Navy spokesman Fajar Tri Rohadi.

An AFP reporter confirmed with the air force that fighter jets had also been deployed.

It follows the deployment on Friday of around 600 personnel from the navy, army and air force to Natuna as the military launched what it called a regular patrol to secure the area due to the presence of foreign vessels in Indonesian waters.

Jakarta said it would also send hundreds of fishermen to the area to keep an eye out for foreign vessels.

The moves come after Indonesia summoned the Chinese ambassador last week and lodged a "strong protest" over a Chinese coast guard vessel escorting Chinese fishing boats around the islands in mid-December.

Beijing responded that it has "historic rights" in the region and that fishing boats had been carrying out "legal and reasonable" activities.

This week, China's foreign ministry said the dispute was being handled diplomatically.

"China and Indonesia have been communicating on this matter through diplomatic channels," ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Tuesday, describing the two countries as "comprehensive strategic partners".

"Both countries shoulder the responsibility of maintaining regional peace and stability," he added.

Beijing lays claim to huge swathes of the South China Sea, where it is accused of building military installations and artificial islands -- and ramming fishing vessels.

China claims the majority of the resource-rich waterway through the so-called nine-dash line, a vague delineation based on maps from the 1940s as the then Republic of China snapped up islands from Japanese control.

Indonesia does not have a claim in the South China Sea, but said it would not tolerate incursions by China -- a key trading partner -- into its nearby waters.

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/indonesia-deploys-fighter-jets-warships-to-disputed-waters-in-china-spat/articleshow/73150832.cms

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Philippine troops to evacuate citizens in Iraq

January 09, 2020

MANILA: The Philippines on Wednesday ordered the evacuation of its nationals from Iraq amid rising tensions between the US and Iran.

The Philippine government expressed deep concerns over security in the region and raised the threat alert in Iraq to the highest level.

“The Philippine Embassy in Baghdad has been tasked to effect the mandatory evacuation of Filipinos estimated to be around 1,640 in that country,” the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced. The level-4 alert, according to the DFA, is raised when “there is large-scale internal conflict or full-blown external attack.”

The repatriation efforts will be led by Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, who is set to fly to the Middle East on Thursday.

“We will do everything to bring out Filipinos there,” Cimatu said, adding that those who refuse will be forced to leave.

He also said that as Iraq is practically landlocked, Filipinos residing there would either be airlifted if the Baghdad airport is still open, or moved by land to transit points from where they could board ships or planes to the Philippines.

If they are evacuated by land, they would go through Amman in Jordan or Irbil in northern Iraq. From Amman or Irbil, they would be flown to Doha in Qatar or to Dubai in the UAE, and then board flights to Manila.

The highest alert level was also imposed for Iran and Lebanon, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said, adding that senior labor officials are being sent to different Middle Eastern countries — including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE — to brief Filipinos of the government’s action plan should tensions escalate.

The government is also prepared to bring home Philippine nationals from Iran and Libya.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Philippine military will send two battalions to help repatriate Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) from Iraq.

“The two battalions will not be there to engage in combat,” he said, “but to facilitate or help assist in the repatriation of the OFWs, especially in Iraq,” he told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

The two battalions will comprise the Philippine Army’s Special Operation Command marines and troops. A battalion is composed of between 350 and 500 officers and enlisted personnel.

Lorenzana added that if the need arises, the troops will also protect the Philippine nationals and those helping them in the evacuation process.

Asked whether they already have rules of engagement for these soldiers, the defense chief said that everything is still in the planning stage.

Lorenzana said that a brand-new Philippine Coast Guard offshore patrol vessel, the BRP Gabriela Silang, which is now in Malta, is expected to reach Jeddah in Saudi Arabia by Thursday.

The ship will be held there “for a while in case we will need the ship to shuttle OFWs from Iran or Iraq to Qatar and then from there we can maybe charter a plane or charter ships to bring them home,” he said, adding that other military assets that can be used to transport the OFWs are two landing docks — the BRP Tarlac and the BRP Davao Del Sur — with a combined capacity of 500 people.

Also to be deployed for the operation are two Air Force Lockheed C-130 cargo planes and the EADS CASA C-295 military transport aircraft.

If the need arises, the government will engage commercial planes and cruise ships as well.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1610256/middle-east

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Europe

 

An exhibition at British Museum explores Islamic world's influence on European art, design

David Tresilian

Wednesday 8 Jan 2020

Entering the darkened spaces of “Inspired by the East”, an exhibition at the British Museum in London on ways in which the Islamic world has influenced European art and design, many visitors may feel that they are entering a kind of Oriental treasure-house, with glittering spot-lit treasures winking out at them from the surrounding darkness.

The darkness is necessary because of the fragility of some of the items on display, which could be damaged by stronger light. However, this Aladdin’s cave aspect of the show, of opulent treasures heaped up in darkened rooms, perhaps also aptly catches some of its main motifs. The Islamic world is explored here in terms of what European observers from roughly the late 16th to early 20th centuries saw as being its main characteristics of mystery, extreme wealth co-existing with sometimes crushing poverty, and the presence everywhere of the decorative arts in textiles, ceramics, metal and glasswork, and architectural design.

All this and more is present in the British Museum show, which reproduces subjects and styles from the Islamic world as seen by European visitors, their roving, magpie eyes always looking out for fine Oriental pieces to spirit away back home where they could serve as models for European Orientalist art. While the show itself is something of a mixed bag, originating in a joint project between the Islamic Arts Museum in Malaysia and the British Museum and being an opportunity to show off the Malaysian Museum’s treasures in Europe, it is also a useful reminder of the range of responses materials from the Islamic world could give rise to in Europe and the changing nature of particularly European-Middle Eastern relations.

Perhaps inevitably the work of the late Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said inflects the show, particularly his 1978 book Orientalism that introduced an entire generation of writers and critics to a more politically conscious way of studying the relationship between Europe and the Arab world, replacing notions of disinterested scholarship with a language of power and domination. However, Said’s categories of self and other and his idea that Europeans writing about or producing images of the Islamic world were consciously or unconsciously reproducing patterns determined by European political and economic colonial control are not uncritically accepted in the exhibition.

Writing in the exhibition catalogue, which also serves as a splendid introduction to its wider themes, UK historian John Mackenzie says that “a sense of racial exclusiveness and superiority often lay at the heart of the imperial ideology” of 19th-century Europe and that this could explain some of the recurrent motifs of the European art of the time that drew on Islamic styles or subject-matters. These include the crumbling buildings and immobile figures that fill much European Orientalist pictorial art and that may have acted as a way of justifying, in the artistic field, a political project of forcible modernisation through European imperialism and colonial control.

But the European artists and writers of past centuries were seldom if ever employed by the political authorities of the time any more than they usually are today, and their attitudes to such colonialist ideology were ambiguous. It seems just as likely that there was a range of messages to be found in Orientalist art for those who made it, commissioned it, bought it, or hung it on their walls. This could never have been reduced to simply a desire to enjoy a position of supposed superiority over the societies and individuals that it portrayed, if this message was ever consciously present at all.

Mackenzie puts this nicely when he suggests that while the work of the 19th-century European Orientalist painters was packed with depictions of Islamic tiles, metalwork, fabrics, woodwork, architectural mouldings and inscriptions, jewellery and other objects, often overflowing with the abundance of such things, this may have been not so much in order to tout the superiority of European industrial processes as to “rediscover the craft values that lay behind the Victoria and Albert Museum [founded in London in the 1850s] and the Arts and Crafts Movement” associated with one of the best-known late-Victorian artist-designers William Morris.

Far from proclaiming some imagined European superiority over the Islamic world, as Said has sometimes been taken to suggest, the 19th-century European fashion for Islamic designs and subject-matter may have signalled a search for the renovation of European arts rendered lifeless and mechanical by industrial mass production, as Morris and others claimed.

It may have been more about a desire to tap into alternative artistic traditions and still-living crafts than about an assumption of European power.

GATHERING OF OBJECTS: Perhaps searching too hard for an argument behind the exhibition is the wrong way to go, however, particularly since the curators seem to have envisaged it as being all the stronger for not having some single take-away that the objects on show have been corralled to illustrate.

The purpose of the exhibition, write curators William Greenwood and Lucien de Guise in their introduction to the catalogue, is “to place Orientalism in art and culture into its broad context”, which ranges “from the historical to the political and the technological”. Part of that concern for contextualisation means pushing the exhibition back in time to the 17th and even the late 16th centuries when relations between Europe and the Islamic world were very different from what they were to become during the apogee of European political influence in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Another part means extending the materials on show away from painting and towards the decorative arts, a “broad variety of material”, Greenwood and de Guise say, that includes “ceramics, enamelled glass, music, literature, and architecture” and looks both at what caught the eye of visiting Europeans and the way that this was later incorporated into European art and design.

The show opens with objects mostly lent by the Malaysia Islamic Arts Museum that give historical depth to the relationship between Europe and the Islamic world and illustrate an apparent desire to cooperate, notably through diplomacy and trade, rather than to enter into an unequal relationship of power. Two paintings by French painter Jean-Baptiste Vanmour, resident in Istanbul throughout the first third of the 17th century, show members of the European diplomatic corps seeking an audience with the Ottoman sultan, for example, in which the power and magnificence of the court are emphasised.

Other items, one by the 17th-century English court painter Anthony Van Dyck, show the interchange of occidental and Oriental identities, with English envoy to the Persian court Sir Robert Sherley shown wearing robes gifted to him by the Persian Safavid shah Abbas I. Another set of images, this time watercolours by Ottoman court artist Abdulcelil Levni (died 1732), show “European gentlemen” dressed in the formal dress of perhaps the French court at the time.

A second set of objects, oddly termed “popular culture” for what in fact are objects drawn from the decorative arts, includes Ottoman ceramics and imitation Mameluke glass. Most of the pieces in this part of the exhibition illustrate European responses or imitations of Islamic designs, with pages from the English designer Owen Jones’s Grammar of Ornament (1855) showing a variety of traditional Islamic geometrical designs and ceramics by the 19th-century French manufacturer Théodore Deck in imitation of Egyptian Mameluke and later Ottoman designs.

Such objects were often pictured, along with textiles, architectural decoration, and calligraphy, in the work of the European Orientalist painters of the time, sometimes in photographic detail, and they gave rise to a thriving European market in Islamic-style ceramics and other items for domestic use. Persian silks were earlier used to make French handbags, as a collection of early 17th-century French purses reveals, and on a rather grander scale some European enthusiasts, among them the 19th-century English society painter Frederick Leighton, had their whole houses remodelled along Islamic lines.

A high point of the exhibition is an extensive collection of 19th-century European Orientalist paintings covering the usual subject-matters of street markets, buildings, landscapes (usually deserts), human figures, often in cafes or palace guards, and groups of men or individual men engaged in prayer. Drawn from the collection of the Malaysian Islamic Arts Museum, most of these are by central European artists, often German or Austrian, showing how geographically widespread this style had become before it petered out after 1900.

An interesting catalogue contribution by UK art historian Briony Llewellyn reconstructs the career of the British artist John Frederick Lewis, visited in Cairo by the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray in 1845 and found to be living “the lifestyle of a wealthy Ottoman merchant” with clothing and other accoutrements to match. Lewis, it turned out, often took himself as a model, trying on various iterations of Middle Eastern costume as if escaping, for a time at least, into some private Orientalist fantasy world.

Lewis appears in Bedouin robes in his painting An Arab of the Desert of Sinai (1858), in the costume of an Ottoman merchant in In the Bezestein El Khan El Khalili (1860), and as a young Mameluke warrior in A Memlook Bey (1868). Perhaps it was a way of escaping the drabness of 19th-century British dress for men, bringing in, like for Leighton in his unlikely London house, elements of colour, romance, and alternative life-options, in fantasy if not in fact.

“By equating himself with each of these characters” in these pictures, Llewellyn comments, Lewis “has, for the moment, elided his own identity with theirs.”

Inspired by the East — How the Islamic World influenced Western Art, British Museum, London, until 26 January.

http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/50/1205/359137/-.aspx

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Germany withdraws some troops from Iraq as tensions soar

Jan 7, 2020

BERLIN: Germany on Tuesday said it had temporarily withdrawn some of its troops deployed as part of the anti-IS coalition in Iraq, in the latest fallout over the US drone strike that killed a top Iranian general.

A total of 32 German soldiers based in Camp Taji near Baghdad were flown by a military transporter A400m to the al-Azraq airforce base in Jordan, the German military said in a statement.

Three German soldiers stationed in Baghdad, the headquarters of the coalition fighting against the Islamic State jihadist group, were transferred to Kuwait.

"These troops can be brought back at any time if the training in Iraq is to resume," the statement added.

"The safety of our soldiers remains a top priority." Germany has deployed about 415 soldiers as part of the anti-IS coalition, with about 120 of its troops stationed in Iraq.

Germany's move came after the Iraqi parliament passed a resolution asking the government to end its agreement with the US-led coalition.

Foreign minister Heiko Maas said late Monday the basis for the Germany military presence in Iraq is "that we have an invitation from the Iraqi government and Parliament."

"If that is no longer the case... then the legal basis for us to be there is missing. We have to clarify this with those responsible in Baghdad as soon as possible."

Chancellor Angela Merkel, France's President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had in a joint statement on Sunday urged Iraq to not jeopardise a battle against IS jihadists.

"Preserving the (anti-IS) coalition is of great importance in this context. We call on the Iraqi authorities to continue to provide the coalition with the necessary support," they said.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/europe/germany-withdraws-some-troops-from-iraq-as-tensions-soar/articleshow/73141629.cms

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After slapping incident, pope kisses nun who vows not to bite

Jan 9, 2020

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis, who last month angrily slapped the hand of a woman who yanked him toward her, gave a light-hearted reaction more typical of his papacy on Wednesday when a nun asked him for a kiss. He said yes, although only after she promised not to bite him.

The good-natured exchange took place at the start of Francis’ weekly general audience. As he was walking into the large hall where thousands of people were waiting, an excited nun asked if he would kiss her, shouting in Italian "Bacio, Papa!" (A kiss, pope!)

Francis responded: "Oh, (but) you bite!", prompting laughter from the people near them.

Then Francis joked: "Stay calm! I will give you a kiss but you stay calm. Don’t bite!"

The diminutive nun promised, saying "Si" (Yes). He then kissed her on the right cheek, leaving her even more ecstatic than before. She jumped up and down shouted "Grazie, Papa". (Thank you, Pope).

On New Year’s Eve, Francis, 83, angrily slapped a woman’s hand after she hold of him and forcefully yanked him toward her in St. Peter’s Square.

The video of that incident went viral on social media and the next day Francis apologized, saying he had set a "bad example".

Francis, unlike some of his predecessors, is usually very informal with well wishers at such non-religious events, stopping to kiss babies, bless the handicapped, and allowing hundreds of people to touch his hand.

But he frowns on allowing people to kiss his hand at large events, saying he does not want that gesture of reverence to spread germs.

Last month’s slapping incident was an exceptional one. It was similar to another several years ago when Francis chastised an over-exuberant woman who had pulled him so hard he nearly fell onto a person in a wheelchair.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/europe/after-slapping-incident-pope-kisses-nun-who-vows-not-to-bite/articleshow/73165241.cms

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EU promises to try to save Iran nuclear deal despite setback

Jan 8, 2020

BRUSSELS: The European Union said Wednesday it "will spare no efforts'' in its attempts to keep alive an international deal preventing Iran from developing atomic weapons.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said her foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell will continue to work "in the midterm" to reach out to all participants in the global deal in the hopes that the 2015 nuclear agreement can still be saved despite a rollback on commitments from Tehran.

Von der Leyen also reiterated the need to de-escalate the tension in the region, especially after Iran's missile attack on two American bases in response to a US strike that killed its top general.

Speaking alongside von der Leyen, Borrell urged all parties involved in the growing tensions to eschew more military action.

"The latest rocket attack on airbases in Iraq used by US and coalition forces, among them European, is yet another example of escalation and increased confrontation. It is in no one's interest to turn up the spiral of violence even further,'' he said.

Borrell has invited Iran foreign minister Javad Zarif to Brussels for talks. The EU foreign ministers have organized a special meeting on Friday to discuss the ongoing crisis.

After its top general was assassinated in the US drone attack, Iran announced over the weekend that it would no longer respect limits set on how many centrifuges it can use to enrich uranium.

Zarif said the move was a "remedial step" taken within the framework of the nuclear deal and he said it could be reversed.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/europe/eu-promises-to-try-to-save-iran-nuclear-deal-despite-setback/articleshow/73154002.cms

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Arab World

 

Eleven Yemeni soldiers killed in Houthi missile attack

7 January, 2020

Eleven Yemeni soldiers were killed and more than 20 wounded on Tuesday in a Houthi missile attack on a military camp housing government troops, a military source said.

The missile hit the Al-Sadrain Camp in Ad-Dali province while soldiers were gathering in the morning, the source told AFP.

It is the second rebel attack in the province in little more than a week. On 29 December, five soldiers of the UAE-backed southern separatist Security Belt Forces were killed in a similar attack in Ad-Dali.

Despite a lull in fighting in most of Yemen in recent months, Ad-Dali province has remained a flashpoint.

The province straddles the old boundary between north Yemen and the formerly independent south and the Houthis are in close proximity to government forces along the front line.

Despite a Saudi-led military intervention launched in March 2015, the Houthi rebels, who are allied with Iran, remain in control of the Yemeni capital Sanaa and much of the north.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions more displaced in what the United Nations have been killed in Yemen’s conflict, which has been described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2020/1/7/eleven-yemeni-soldiers-killed-in-houthi-missile-attack

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UN monitors say Houthis not behind Saudi Aramco attacks: Report

A report by United Nations sanctions monitors has said Yemen's Houthi rebels did not carry out an attack in September that set ablaze two major Saudi oil facilities, Reuters news agency reported.

The United States, European countries and Saudi Arabia accused Iran of being behind the attack on Saudi Aramco oil plants in Abqaiq and Khurais that was claimed by the Houthis. Iran has denied any involvement.

According to the report seen by Reuters on Wednesday, the independent UN experts to the Security Council Yemen sanctions committee said: "That despite their claims to the contrary, the Houthi forces did not launch the attacks on Abqaiq and Khurais on 14 September 2019."

Riyadh, which is backing Yemen's internationally recognised government in its fight against the Houthis, has long accused Iran of supplying the rebels with weapons. Tehran says it supports the rebels diplomatically and politically but has repeatedly denied providing them with any military aid.

The reported findings by the UN monitors come amid escalating tensions in the region after the US assassinated top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in Iraq last week and Tehran retaliated on Wednesday by firing missiles at Iraqi bases housing US troops.

The UN investigators said they doubted that the drones and land-attack cruise missiles used in the September 14 attack "have a sufficient range to have been launched from Yemeni territory under the control of the Houthis."

"The panel notes that Abqaiq and Khurais were approached respectively from a north/northwestern and north/northeastern direction, rather than from the south, as one would expect in the case of a launch from Yemeni territory," the report said, according to Reuters.

The investigators, who monitor sanctions on Yemen, also said they do not believe that "those comparatively sophisticated weapons were developed and manufactured in Yemen." They were not tasked with identifying who was responsible for the Saudi attack.

The attacks that targeted the Abqaiq and Khurais oil plants caused an increase in oil prices and shut down more than 5 percent of global oil supply. Saudi Arabia said on October 3 that it had fully restored oil output.

The Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, signalled in September that Riyadh was waiting for results of UN investigations before announcing how his country would respond.

UN experts monitoring UN sanctions on Iran and Yemen travelled to Saudi Arabia days after the September attack.

Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, told the Security Council in a separate report on December 10  that the UN was "unable to independently corroborate" that missiles and drones used in the attacks "are of Iranian origin".

The report is from the independent panel of experts that reports twice a year to the Security Council on the implementation of sanctions related to the conflict in Yemen that were imposed in 2014 and 2015.

It was submitted to the UN Security Council Yemen sanctions committee on December 27, but will not be made public for a few more weeks.

"The Houthi forces continue to receive military support in the form of assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, anti-tank guided missiles, as well as more sophisticated cruise missile systems," the report found.

"Some of those weapons have technical characteristics similar to arms manufactured in Iran," it said.

A Saudi-UAE-led military coalition intervened in Yemen's conflict in 2015 in support of forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who had been forced out by the Houthis.

Since then, tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions driven to the brink of famine in a war the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/01/monitors-houthis-saudi-aramco-attacks-report-200109062732396.html

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Yemen heads list of countries facing worst humanitarian disasters in 2020

Tue 7 Jan 2020

Yemen has topped an annual watchlist of countries most likely to face humanitarian catastrophe in 2020, for the second year running.

Continued fighting, economic collapse and weak governance mean that more than 24 million Yemenis – about 80% of the population – will be in need of humanitarian assistance this year, according to analysis by the International Rescue Committee (IRC), which found that another five years of conflict could cost $29bn (£22bn).

Along with Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria, Nigeria and Venezuela are among the top five nations most vulnerable to humanitarian risk in 2020, with war, droughts and flooding, disease and restrictions to humanitarian access all having major impacts on civilian populations, the IRC found.

All five countries ranked within the top 10 of last year’s IRC watchlist as well, proving that the international community had collectively failed to resolve the root causes of these disasters, the IRC said.

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/jan/07/yemen-heads-list-of-countries-facing-worst-humanitarian-disasters-in-2020

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20 sculptors to take part in 2nd Tuwaiq symposium in Riyadh

January 09, 2020

RIYADH: Riyadh will host the second Tuwaiq International Sculpture Symposium in the Saudi capital’s Diplomatic Quarter from Jan. 10-30. Twenty artists from around the world will attend the symposium and create new works inspired by Tuwaiq Mountain — one of the Kingdom’s most famous landmarks — from local white marble.

Saudi Arabia will be represented by sculptors Essam Jameel and Faisal Al-Naaman, who will be joined by artists from America, the UK, Russia, France, Japan, Greece, Bulgaria, Iraq, Italy, Brazil, Spain, Germany, Romania, China, Taiwan, Georgia, Egypt and Tunisia.

The first Tuwaiq International Sculpture Symposium, also organized by the Ministry of Culture, was held in March 2019, with the participation of 23 artists.

The symposium, according to a press release, aims to “prepare cultural platforms where Saudi artists can meet other artists from around the world, and establish a comprehensive empowerment system that enriches the cultural and artistic scene in the Kingdom, supports contemporary Saudi artists, talented people and agencies concerned with the arts sector to achieve sustainable development for this vital sector.”

Recently, an art residency program in Jeddah’s Al-Balad district has also been launched by the Kingdom’s Ministry of Culture.

The program will host Saudi and international artists. It is designed to create an environment for cultural dialogue and the exchange of knowledge and experience.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1610331/saudi-arabia

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Saudi ministry inks deal to improve its asset and facility management

January 09, 2020

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Finance recently signed an agreement with the National Project Management, Operation, and Maintenance Organization in Public Entities (Mashroat) to help improve its asset and facility management.

Under the agreement, Mashroat will provide consultancy services and technical support to the ministry.

Assistant Minister of Finance Hindi bin Abdullah Al-Suhaimi said the deal will help the ministry improve its facility management, and raise service standards provided by operating and maintenance contractors.

Mashroat will also evaluate the ministry’s assets and train employees in international best practice, including a computerized system of facility management, he said.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1610356/saudi-arabia

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Saudi Arabia’s new visa policies boost tourist numbers

HALAH AL-SHATHRI

January 09, 2020

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s decision to allow US, UK or Schengen visa holders to obtain a visa on arrival in the Kingdom will help to boost the tourism sector and the country’s economy, according to business insiders.

However, visitors wishing to access the facility need to have used their UK, US or Schengen visas before entering the Kingdom and the visas should be valid until their departure from Saudi Arabia.

Ghazi Al-Onaizi, a local tour operator, said: “Following the announcement of tourist visas, we experienced a 200 percent increase in the number of tourists.”

He said with the new service, these numbers were likely to increase by 300 percent.

Al-Onaizi said that people from all around the world were being attracted to the Kingdom. “We can see Russians, Dutch and South African nationals at various cultural activities taking place across the Kingdom,” he said.

“I have met people of around 45 nationalities and they all want to visit the Kingdom again,” Al-Onaizi said.

According to the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), tourists are allowed to stay in the Kingdom for a maximum of 90 days during the year during which they can enter the Kingdom multiple times.

Citizens from 49 countries are eligible to apply for an e-visa online or get a visa on arrival.

Omar Alrshood, another businessman associated with the travel industry, said that the expansion of the visa services would add new impetus to the Saudi tourism sector.

Previously, he said, it was difficult for tourists or people who would come to the Kingdom for business meetings to find interesting places to visit or entertainment spots. However, the situation has changed.

“We have multiple destinations, including heritage sites, across the Kingdom where tourists can spend a nice time,” Alrshood said. “In addition to that, loads of fun-filled activities continue around the year as part of Riyadh Season or Jeddah Season etc.”

Alrshood said that it was good news for travel and tour companies based in Saudi Arabia, who were preparing to do brisk business all year round.

He said that many companies, including his, are planning packages and services to take advantage of the boom.

The introduction of tourist visas is in line with Vision 2030. The rapid development in the tourism sector in Saudi Arabia is the first of its kind in the history of the Kingdom.

The sector is witnessing a strategic transformation, as the Kingdom is developing tourism and transport infrastructure.

The infrastructure includes many development projects and state-of-the-art tourist destinations that can attract domestic and international visitors.

The Winter at Tantora festival is currently underway at AlUla Valley, which is attracting large local and international crowds. Mohammed Alkhani, CEO of a travel and tourism company, told Arab News: “We expect bookings to increase by 20 percent. Tickets for AlUla are already sold out and we had to reject many requests.”

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1610346/saudi-arabia

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Yemen denies considering deal with Turkey to run ports, airports

SAEED AL-BATATI

January 08, 2020

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s government has issued a firm denial of reports that it intends to allow Turkish companies — whether private or government-run — to run key ports and airports in the war-torn country.

The denial was a response to remarks made by Yemeni Minister of Transportation Saleh Al-Jabwani on a recent visit to Istanbul. Al-Jabwani then said he agreed with his Turkish counterpart that the two countries should form a joint committee tasked with developing Yemen’s transport infrastructure — including ports and airports.

The government issued a statement saying that any cooperation with other countries would always take Yemen’s interests into consideration. Without mentioning Al-Jabwani, the statement made it clear that his remarks do not represent the government’s stance on the matter.

“Circulated remarks about arrangements related to seaports and airports do not represent the government, and some officials’ visits to friendly countries are personal,” the statement said.

The internationally recognized government in Aden is in control of all of the country’s major ports on the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea, with the exception of Hodeida, which is currently under the control of the Iran-backed Houthi militia. The government also runs functioning airports in Hadramout and Aden.

On Wednesday, a senior government official told Arab News that the prime minister was “angry” with the transport minister and that the government’s statement was intended to send a message that only President Abed Rabbo Mansour and his government have the authority to decide who manages Yemeni seaports and airports.

“Neither Al-Jabwani nor any other official has the right to give permission to other countries to run Yemeni facilities. This is a sovereign decision that can be made only by the president and the government,” the official, who asked to remain anonymous, said.

Meanwhile Yemen’s Minister of Information Muammar Al-Aryani took to Twitter to call for the international community to designate the Houthis as a terrorist group.

“We call on the international community to … deal with the Houthi militia on an equal footing with other Iranian arms in the region by speeding up its designation as a terrorist movement,” Al-Aryani wrote.

Yemeni officials including Vice President Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar, Al-Aryani, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Al-Hadhrami, have all backed the US strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, the former head of Iran’s Quds Force, widely believed to be responsible for the training and arming of the Houthis.

On Wednesday, Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi praised Iran’s retaliatory missile attacks again American bases in Iraq, accusing America of killing Yemenis.

Meanwhile, fighting continues to rage in Yemen.

Minister of Defense Mohammed Al-Maqdishi said Houthis had attacked loyalists in the western province of Hodeida — despite both sides having signed the Stockholm Agreement, which was designed to stop fighting in Hodeida and other cities.

On Tuesday, the Yemeni army’s news site, 26 September, said government troops had foiled a Houthi attempt to seize control of military locations in Beit Al-Fagiah district, triggering clashes with government forces.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1610241/middle-east

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Making fun of men or emboldening sex pests? Egyptian song spurs debate

January 08, 2020

CAIRO: An Egyptian pop song where a man threatens a woman to force her to give him her phone number has caused a storm as it was released the day after a video emerged of a woman being sexually assaulted by a mob — a common crime during the Arab Spring.

Singer Tameem Youness has defended the track “Salmonella” — where he prays for the woman he is wooing to become sick with salmonella — as a satire on men’s reactions to being spurned in the conservative Arab country.

“I was making fun of the men who appear very romantic but when they get rejected, they go nuts and start to treat the woman badly or curse her or say things that are not true about her,” he said in a video on his Facebook page.

Egypt is the Arab world’s most populous country and its pop music is listened to across the Middle East. “Salmonella” has been viewed more than 7.5 million times on YouTube since its release on Jan. 1.

Women’s rights advocates say many men will not see the joke and the catchy tune risks encouraging harassment in Egypt, where sexual assault was rife during and after the 2011 uprising that ousted veteran president Hosni Mubarak.

Youness, who is shown with blood splattered around his mouth at one point in the video, sings, “I will not go away until I get your number so do not refuse.”

More than 60% of Egyptian men said they have sexually harassed a woman or girl in a 2017 survey by UN Women and the gender equality group Promundo, which also found that most men believe women sometimes deserve to be beaten.

“This (kind of song) can really incite young people to practice violence against women and violate their rights without giving them the freedom to say no,” said Nehad Abu El Komsan, head of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights.

The timing of the song’s release — a day after footage emerged of a woman being groped by a mob during New Year’s Eve celebrations in Mansoura, about 130km northeast of Cairo — was insensitive, she said.

Authorities have said they are investigating the incident.

President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi ordered a crackdown on sexual harassment after a woman was assaulted in Cairo’s Tahrir Square during his 2014 inauguration, with a law introduced that year prescribing a minimum of six months in jail or a fine.

Not everyone is worried about the song.

“The song is insulting and humiliating to women but I am against banning it,” Maggie Mamdouh, a 25-year-old engineer, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“This will be a violation of freedom of expression.”

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1610201/middle-east

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UAE energy minister Suhail Al Mazrouei 'We will not see a war'

January 08, 2020

Dubai: The energy minister of the United Arab Emirates said on Wednesday he saw no immediate risk to oil travelling through the vital gateway of the Strait of Hormuz after Iran attacked bases housing U.S. forces in Iraq.

The situation is not a war, and what is happening now should not be exaggerated, Suhail Al Mazrouei said on the sidelines of a conference in Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital.

"We will not see a war," he added. "This is definitely an escalation between the United States, which is an ally, and Iran, which is a neighbour, and the last thing we want is more tension in the Middle East."

Iranian officials have said the missile strikes were a response to Friday's killing of top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad.

Mazrouei said he saw no situation to provoke a fear of supply shortage, with demand healthy and global oil inventories hovering around the 5-year average.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) would respond to any possible oil shortages if necessary, but it also had "limitations", he said.

"We can't replace any quantity with the spare capacity we have." He stressed that he did not forecast any shortage unless the situation changed.

"We are not forecasting any shortage of supply unless there is a catastrophic escalation, which we don't see."

https://gulfnews.com/uae/government/uae-energy-minister-suhail-al-mazrouei-we-will-not-see-a-war-1.1578465258622

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New Dubai forum to fight illiteracy in region

January 08, 2020

Dubai: A new UAE-based initiative will unify efforts of separate governments, entities and individuals to eradicate illiteracy in the Arab world, where 21 per cent of people cannot read or write, a senior official said on Wednesday in Dubai.

The first Literacy Challenge Forum, scheduled for February 24 in Dubai, will gather experts and officials from Arab countries on a single platform, said Jamal Bin Huwaireb, CEO of the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation, the forum’s organiser.

His comments came during a press conference announcing details of the forum, held in partnership with UNDP and UNESCO.

2030 target

The foundation aims to eradicate illiteracy in the Arab world by 2030, following the vision of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Bin Huwaireb said.

The forum comes in line with the vision of Shaikh Mohammad and Shaikh Ahmad Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation.

‘No magic cure’

At Wednesday’s press conference, Bin Huwaireb pointed out there is “no magic cure” for illiteracy.

“We are trying to spot the challenges and find the resolutions for them. They [entities and individuals] don’t have a magic cure to eradicate illiteracy, particularly given the fact that they are working separately,” he said.

New ideas

“This forum will bring them all together under one umbrella to exchange the know-how, experiences and expertise. So the forum will come up with white papers, proposals, suggestions and initiatives aiming to tackle illiteracy in the Arab world.”

Following the forum, which will be an annual event in Dubai, workshops will be held in Arab countries, starting with Egypt, Bin Huwaireb added.

Main focus

The forum and the foundation is focusing mainly on fighting illiteracy among the youth because “if you don’t tackle illiteracy at the level of the youth, it will carry on until it reaches the elderly”, the CEO said.

More than 14 per cent of males and around 25 per cent of females in the Arab world are illiterate, with the rate reaching as high as 60 and 80 per cent, respectively, in some countries in the region, Bin Huwaireb said, quoting research.

‘Saddening situation’

“Other countries are focusing on ICT [information and communication technology] literacy and we in the region are still talking about reading and writing; that’s a saddening situation.”

Exemplary progress

Bin Huwaireb said due to the vision and leadership of the UAE’s founding father, the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, illiteracy has been virtually eradicated in the UAE. In 1967, before the UAE was formed in 1971, the illiteracy rate was around 50 per cent – it is less than 0.5 per cent today.

On the other hand, illiteracy in Iraq had risen from 21 per cent to 57 per cent after the 2003 conflict in the country.

Collective duty

When asked about the potential impact of instability in the region on illiteracy rates, Bin Huwaireb said fighting illiteracy “under any kind of security situation is a duty”. He added that despite any challenges, the foundation’s work and support in this regard will continue.

The forum will also honour governments, organisations and individuals who have made significant contributions in promoting literacy in the Arab world.

https://gulfnews.com/uae/education/new-dubai-forum-to-fight-illiteracy-in-region-1.68885673

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Saudi FM Prince Faisal affirms Kingdom’s support for Iraq

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan affirmed on Thursday that the Kingdom will support all efforts so that Iraq achieves security and stability.

“Iraq is a brotherly Arab country, and it is the most urgent need today for its wise sons to join forces to avoid war and not be a battleground where it is the biggest loser,” said Prince Faisal in a tweet.

For his part and separately, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir tweeted saying that the Kingdom watches closely the situation in Iraq and “works to keep this fraternal country away from sliding into fighting and war” so that the Iraqi people “will live with what they deserve of development, prosperity, and security.”

He added that the Kingdom “will stand with Iraq to overcome everything that threatens its security and stability.”

Earlier, Prince Khalid bin Salman, Vice Defense Minister, stated in a tweet that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its leadership “always stand with brotherly Iraq and its dear people, and will do everything in its power to spare it the danger of war and conflict between external parties.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/01/09/Saudi-FM-Prince-Faisal-affirms-Kingdom-s-support-for-Iraq.html

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Saudi Arabia stands with Iraq, says Vice Defense Minister Prince Khalid

Thursday, 9 January 2020

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its leadership “always stand with brotherly Iraq and its dear people, and will do everything in its power to spare it the danger of war and conflict between external parties,” Prince Khalid bin Salman, Vice Defense Minister, stated in a tweet on Thursday.

Prince Khalid expressed hope that the Iraqi people may enjoy prosperity “after what they have endured in the past.”

“Everyone who loves Iraq today wants the country to avoid the disturbances and all that negatively affects its security and stability,” he tweeted.

Prince Khalid also hoped that Iraq would enhance its role in the Arab world and “attain the position that befits the capabilities and energies that God has endowed.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/01/09/Saudi-Arabia-stands-with-Iraq-says-Vice-Defense-Minister-Prince-Khalid-.html

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Pakistan

 

Karachi students come out in support of JNU fellows, teachers

Shazia Hasan

January 09, 2020

KARACHI: Scores of students belonging to the Inter University Feminist Union (IUFU) held a protest demonstration outside the Karachi Press Club on Wednesday to express solidarity with the students, professors and other citizens against India’s discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

The protesting students spoke about the incident of Jan 5 when a right-wing student organisation, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, brutally attacked students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi with the support of the Indian government. Armed with rods, hammers, bricks and sticks and with their faces covered, members of the organisation had charged into the university campus and assaulted students in the presence of police.

“The reign of terror is part of the ongoing resistance to the CAA and the changes being brought to India’s National Registry of Citizens will be used by the Indian government to target marginalised groups including the Muslim populace. Students across India are protesting against this bill and they are being attacked by the state in the process,” said a student at the protest, who refused to share his own name or the name of his university.

But he reminded how also in December last year, students of Jamia Millia Islamia were openly fired upon by the police, injuring many. He also gave the example of Aligarh Muslim University where many students were also subjected to police brutality.

The students urge Pakistan and India to improve bilateral ties

“We, at IUFU, strictly condemn this kind of violence against students by India. We feel the pain of these students and can identify with them as such kind of violence is also used against students here. Our friends are abducted and detained often,” said another student, who also refused to share her name or the name of her university.

“We cannot give you our names because we are afraid. And yes, we stand in solidarity with our fellow students from across the border because we know what they are going through only too well,” she said. “Female students have to go through more than male students here. We are harassed in our own universities and then if we complain, we are also harassed by the people in admin while we are put on surveillance,” she pointed out.

“Today this protest is taking place simultaneously outside the press clubs of many big cities of Pakistan. It is a message of solidarity from all across Pakistan [...] solidarity with our fellow students from across the border. We demand that the United Nations urge the Indian government to end this reign of terror against students. We also urge the governments of both Pakistan and India to improve bilateral ties and allow for their populations to coexist the way people from other neighbouring countries do all over the world,” said another student, who had flown in from Lahore to join the protest.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1527087/karachi-students-come-out-in-support-of-jnu-fellows-teachers

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World Bank revises Pakistan's growth projections downward

January 09, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The World Bank on Wednesday slightly lowered country’s growth rate projections for the current fiscal year and next two years owing to continuation of tight monetary policy and fiscal consolidation coupled with external factors.

In its latest report “2020 Global Economic Prospects” released on Wednesday, the bank forecast Pakistan’s current year growth rate at 2.4 per cent — about 0.3pc lower than its estimates of June 2019 — before touching 3pc next fiscal year and 3.9pc in FY2022.

“Pakistan’s growth is expected to rise to 3pc in the next fiscal year after bottoming out at 2.4pc in FY2019-20, which ends June 30”, said the bank adding that macroeconomic adjustment in the country including a continuation of tight monetary policy and fiscal consolidation is expected to continue.

The lower growth rate forecast is generally in line with a similar (0.2pc) decline in global growth rate during the current year and 1.5pc decline in the South Asian region.

While growth in Bangladesh is projected to remain above 7pc through the forecast horizon, “growth in Pakistan is projected to languish at 3pc or less through 2020 as macroeconomic stabilisation efforts weigh on activity.” Growth in India is projected to decelerate to 5pc in FY2019/20 amid enduring financial sector issues.

Revisions in line with falling growth rates across the world

Key risks to the regional outlook include a sharper-than-expected slowdown in major economies, a re-escalation of regional geopolitical tensions, and a setback in reforms to address impaired balance sheets in the financial and corporate sectors. South Asian growth is estimated to have decelerated to 4.9pc in 2019, substantially weaker than 7.1pc in the previous year.

The regional deceleration was pronounced in the two largest economies: India and Pakistan. Weak confidence, liquidity issues in the financial sector in India, and monetary tightening in Pakistan caused a sharp slowdown in fixed investment and a considerable softening in private consumption.

Export and import growth for the region as a whole moderated, in line with a continued slowdown in global trade and industrial activity. Business confidence was hampered by subdued consumer demand in India and security challenges in Sri Lanka. Demand faltered amid credit tightening, reflecting structurally high non-performing assets in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and liquidity shortages in the non-bank financial sector in India, and tightening policies in Pakistan.

The bank said the growth had decelerated in the country to an estimated 3.3pc in FY2018-19, reflecting a broad-based weakening in domestic demand. “Significant depreciation of the Pakistani rupee (the nominal effective exchange rate depreciated about 20pc over the past year) resulted in inflationary pressures. Monetary policy tightening in response to elevated inflation restricted access to credit. The government retrenched, curtailing public investment, to deal with large twin deficits and low international reserves.”

Also progress in fiscal consolidation has broadly weakened. Pakistan’s budget deficit rose more sharply than expected. Contributing factors were a shortfall in revenue collection, combined with a sizable increase in interest payments.

The regional outlook for 2020 has deteriorated recently, and risks are tilted to the downside. Financial sector weakness will likely weigh on activity unless balance sheet vulnerabilities are addressed. Although recent tensions between India and Pakistan have abated, a reescalation would damage confidence and weigh on investment in the region.

For countries with elevated debt levels and large current account deficits like Pakistan and Sri Lanka, an unexpected tightening in global financing conditions could sharply raise borrowing costs and lead to stops in capital inflows.

Growth in the region is expected to rise to 5.5pc in 2020, assuming a modest rebound in domestic demand and as economic activity benefits from policy accommodation in India and Sri Lanka and improved business confidence and support from infrastructure investments in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1527162/world-bank-revises-pakistans-growth-projections-downward

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SC concerned over delay in completion of NAB cases

Nasir Iqbal

January 09, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has summoned a list of cases pending before different accountability courts across the country, expressing concern over delay in completion of cases instituted by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

A three-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Justice Mushir Alam, requested Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed to constitute a special bench and initiate suo motu proceedings over the delay in prosecuting the accused before the trial courts.

The members of the bench were Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah.

The top court asked the bureau to furnish a report highlighting reasons behind the delay in trials.

Bureau asked to furnish a report highlighting reasons behind the delay in trials

The bureau has also been asked to furnish a list of accountability courts in the country, the number of corruption cases these courts were seized with and how many courts are short of presiding judges and the reasons why the vacancies have not yet been filled.

The bench also issued notice to the law secretary.

The delay in completion of corruption cases caught the attention of the Supreme Court during the hearing of a bail plea filed by Allah Dino Bhayo.

The accused was arrested by NAB in August 2018 on charges of suspicious transactions to the tune of Rs4 million during 2013-15 — a period when he was acting as head of the PPP’s Sindh chapter.

An amount of over Rs40 million also came into the bank account of his driver/manager Maqsood Ahmed.

Senior counsel Shah Khawar, who appeared on behalf of Allah Dino Bhayo, told Dawn that on April 8 last year, the Supreme Court had issued a directive for NAB to complete the trial of the accused expeditiously.

Since then the accountability courts have adjourned proceedings 14 times and except for one instance, all other postponements were done on the request of the NAB prosecutor, the counsel said.

He explained that the accused was indicted for amassing wealth beyond his known sources of income on Dec 22, 2018, but even though NAB had provided a list of 13 witnesses before the trial court, and only two of them have been examined so far.

According to the counsel, Section 16 of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) requires that the trial against the accused should be completed within a period of 30 days, but here not even the regular hearing has commenced.

Only the other day, the same bench had questioned the performance of the anti-graft watchdog by asking why the bureau always sends the suspects to jail first and then start looking for the evidence.

Then the court had taken up the bail application of Faisal Kamran Qureshi, who was facing the allegations for defrauding innocent people to the tune of Rs33 million.

Justice Alam had also wondered why NAB never expedites in completing the procedures like holding inquiry and the collection of the evidence against the accused.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1527194/sc-concerned-over-delay-in-completion-of-nab-cases

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Suspected shooter in Saddar attack affiliated with Jamaatul Ahrar: police

Mohammad Asghar

January 09, 2020

RAWALPINDI: Police have said that the man believed to have been the shooter in an attack on police in Saddar on Tuesday was affiliated with the banned Jamaatul Ahrar.

The police have registered an FIR under section seven of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) and on murder charges on the complaint of Constable Hassan Mehmood, from the police’s Dolphin Force.

The FIR said that Mr Mehmood was on duty with Mohammad Waqas, Mohammad Ali and Saeed Ahmed on Adam Jee Road Tuesday night when a person opened fire at them from near the old Government Transport Service bus stand.

He said Ali and Ahmed were seriously injured and later died. Hearing the gunshots, Dolphin Force officials Hassan Akram, Sarwar, Shahzad and Farhan reached them and were also fired at. Mr Akram was injured, along with bystander Sumaira and two others.

FIR registered under 7ATA over shootout between suspect, Dolphin Force personnel

The police retaliated, killing the alleged shooter. The police later recovered a CNIC from the suspected shooter’s pocket, identifying him as a native of Pasrur, Sialkot.

City Police Officer Mohammad Ahsan Younas told Dawn that the suspect was killed while he was reloading his pistol. He said the police have obtained the suspect’s family history, but no one has claimed his body so far.

Mr Younas said: “The shooter who was killed during yesterday’s encounter with the police was affiliated with the Jamaatul Ahrar group and some evidence available with the police also suggests that he was trained in Afghanistan.”

In addition to the police, the Counter Terrorism Department and other law enforcement agencies have been investigating the shootout as well.

Mr Younas speculated that there may have been a handler or two who were either with the suspect or facilitating him, but this has yet to be ascertained by the police. He said the suspect had allegedly previously been involved in criminal activity, and later became affiliated with terrorist organisations.

He said the police have received threats of terror attacks on police establishments from terrorist organisations. He also praised the police official who killed the suspect.

The police are investigating on various lines, and teams have been sent to the suspect’s hometown for more information about him.

The police official who was shot and injured is stated to be in stable condition and the woman who was injured was discharged from hospital on Wednesday.

The police have obtained CCTV footage from nearby buildings and are working on geo-fencing the area.

Funeral prayers for the martyred police officials were offered at Police Lines on Wednesday.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1527127/suspected-shooter-in-saddar-attack-affiliated-with-jamaatul-ahrar-police

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Sea Guardians drill expected to boost security cooperation with China

Shazia Hasan

January 09, 2020

KARACHI: Naval officers of Pakistan and China on Wednesday emphasised the importance of a joint exercise, saying it strengthens ties between the two forces.

This was stated by Commodore Raja Rab Nawaz of Pakistan Navy and Senior Captain Zhou Han Wen of China at a media briefing held in connection with Sea Guardians Exercise-2020. They spoke about the objectives, contours and conduct of the exercise.

Commodore Nawaz said that Pakistan is a responsible state cognisant of its role and significance.

“Pakistan has substantial stakes in the maritime domain. Our interests in the safer and crime-free seas are rooted into three conspicuous realities — extraordinary dependence on the seas for trade, operationalisation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and strategic location astride the global energy highway,” he said.

“Cumulatively, these realities make the maritime stability as the top agenda of our national security. Pakistan considers that maritime security isn’t just important for itself but for all other countries whose prosperity and progress are strongly bonded with the seas,” he said.

He said that Pakistan and China shared common understanding on various regional and international issues.

He expressed the hope that this exercise would strengthen decades-old and time-tested friendship of both countries and would also open new vistas for future cooperation and coordination in the region.

Briefing about the history of the exercise, he said that the PN-PLA(N) Bilateral Exercise Sea Guardians started in 2014 and had regularly been conducted each year alternately in Pakistan and China. During this sixth iteration of the bilateral exercises — being conducted from January 6 to 14 — frontline Destroyers, Frigates, Fast Attack Crafts along with Air and Sub-surface assets as well as Marines and Special Operations Forces from Pakistan Navy and the Peoples Liberation Army’s Southern Theater Command are participating in both the harbour and sea phases of the exercise.

Besides social gatherings, the harbour activities are designed to understand each other’s perspective and sharing of expertise in various naval domains through the conduct of seminars, table top discussions, joint training sessions and demonstrations.

The sea phase that will be conducted in the North Arabian Sea from January 10 to 13 would have basic to advance level joint tactical drills and naval manoeuvres to deal with a variety of threats at sea.

Briefing the audience, Senior Captain from PLA (Navy) Zhou Han Wen said that the main purpose of the exercise was to enhance bilateral security cooperation to develop Pak-China all-weather strategic partnership.

He also said that the exercise is aimed at enhancing capabilities of both navies to jointly deal with terrorism and crime at sea and to promote efforts for a safe maritime environment.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1527192/sea-guardians-drill-expected-to-boost-security-cooperation-with-china

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Opposition, govt agree to legislate on NAB powers

January 09, 2020

ISLAMABAD: After smooth sailing of the three key bills on tenure of the services chiefs through the parliament, the government and the opposition on Wednesday agreed to discuss and build consensus for legislation on other important matters including the powers of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

As a first step to shun their differences causing delay in the legislation process, teams of the government and main opposition sat together for the first time in the chamber of National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaisar in the parliament house to forge consensus on five different bills including National Accountability [second amendment] Ordinance-2019.

“We sat for the first time to discuss the five bills, including NAB ordinance with Speaker Asad Qaisar in the chair,” federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said while speaking to Dawn.

He said the second meeting of the government and the opposition representatives would take place at the same venue on Monday. “It’s a good sign that members of treasury and opposition benches are sitting together to resolve pending issues,” he added.

The minister said the two sides would try to make unanimous legislation on the recently promulgated five ordinances which were withdrawn on the insistence of the opposition and it was decided that they would be converted into bills and presented before the parliament for approval.

The bills included: Letters of Administration and Succession Certificates Ordinance, 2019, Enforcement of Women’s Property Rights Ordinance, 2019, Legal Aid and Justice Authority Ordinance, 2019, Superior Courts (Court Dress and Mode of Address) Ordinance, 2019 and the National Accountability (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

On Dec 27 last year, President Dr Arif Alvi had promulgated an ordinance making some significant changes to the 20-year-old NAB laws to give maximum protection to the bureaucracy and business community.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had said the new ordinance would “insulate the business community” from the scrutiny of anti-graft watchdog after which the federal cabinet also gave approval to the ordinance.

The National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999 has been amended keeping in view of frequent complaints from the bureaucracy that the government officers had refused to sign official files due to fear of NAB’s actions. Similarly, the business community had also complained that due to NAB’s undue actions, businessmen and industrialists had suffered losses and were reluctant to make any investment or take initiatives.

It is believed that the ordinance has made NAB a ‘toothless’ body.

One of the significant aspects is that if cases of relevant organizations were sent back to them for an action, they [the cases] will be dealt by relevant laws of those departments and not under NAB laws.

Similarly, the ordinance curtailed certain powers of the bureau’s chairman and Pakistan president including the power to appoint NAB prosecutor general. The power to appoint the prosecutor general for accountability was recently given to the federal government.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1527189/opposition-govt-agree-to-legislate-on-nab-powers

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PM for boosting Pak-Oman ties

January 9, 2020

The Prime Minister, Imran Khan, noting the traditionally close fraternal relations between Pakistan and Oman, has expressed his desire to further strengthen bilateral cooperation in all fields betwen the two countries.

The Prime Minister said this while talking to Minister for Endowment and Religious Affairs of Oman, Sheikh Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Abdullah Assalami, Wednesday. He extended cordial greetings and best wishes for His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al-Said.

Imran Khan highlighted the dire human rights and humanitarian situation arising from the inhuman lockdown in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir over five months and noted the discriminatory policies of the Indian BJP government against minorities, especially Muslims. He stressed that the international community had to take urgent steps to address this situation.

The recent developments in the Middle East and Gulf region also came under discussion. Expressing deep concern over the evolving situation, Imran Khan underlined the need of avoiding any further escalation.

The Prime Minister, stressing that war was in nobody’s interest, called for immediate measures for de-escalation.

https://pakobserver.net/pm-for-boosting-pak-oman-ties/

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Pakistan, Japan agree to increase bilateral trade

January 9, 2020

Muhammad Hammad Azhar, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs, called on Taro Aso, Deputy Prime Minister/Finance Minister of Japan, in Tokyo on Wednesday.

During the meeting, both sides exchanged views on the ways to enhance the existingbilateral economic relations. It was agreed that there was a huge potential to increase the current level of bilateral trade and investments from Japan into Pakistan.

Minister Azhar, while appreciating Japan’s role as one of the premier development partners of Pakistan over decades, briefed Minister Aso on the current economic situation of Pakistan. He highlighted the difficult policy decisions that the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan had to take to bring the economy out of balance of payment and fiscal crisis. It was emphasized that owing to timely and appropriate decisions, Pakistan’s economy had stabilized and Pakistan was now looking to revive faster growth. The recent successful review of the IMF programme by its Board, improvement in Pakistan’s ranking by Moody’s and the 28-point improvement in Pakistan’s Ease of Doing Business in just one year were also highlighted by the Minister.

Minister Taro Aso appreciated the steps taken by Pakistan to stabilize its economy and expressed the desire of the Japanese government to comprehensively take the existing economic and commercial relations to the next level.

Minister Hammad Azhar is currently visiting Japan to explore and discuss way to enhance the economic relations between Pakistan and Japan.

https://pakobserver.net/pakistan-japan-agree-to-increase-bilateral-trade/

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‘Judges providing justice despite dearth of facilities

January 9, 2020

Multan

Senior Justice Lahore High Court, Multan bench Justice Qasim Khan said on Wednesday that judges were dispensing justice despite dearth of facilities in their offices. Addressing a ceremony organized after inauguration of a sewerage project at district Kutchery here, he said a higher-level committee had decided to provide highway land to High Court Multan bench in near future. Justice Qasim Khan said he studied law from Multan, and vowed that he would make every effort to play his role for betterment of High Court and District Bar as well. He elaborated that in order to excel in any field of life a congenial environment was first-hand requirement, saying it could be achieved through good working relationship among all the stakeholders. District and Sessions Judge Sohail Akram, while speaking on the occasion, appreciated the district administration for donating funds for sewerage project of district Kutchery.—APP

https://pakobserver.net/judges-providing-justice-despite-dearth-of-facilities/

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South Asia

 

Islamic Calligraphy Exhibition Opened at National Gallery in Afghanistan

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Kabul (BNA) Mohammad Rasul Bawary, the deputy minister of information and culture on cultural and art affairs inaugurated a 2-day exhibition showing calligraphy of the Islamic era at the National Gallery, BNA reported the other day.

Up to 60 manuscripts from the Ghulam Maimanagi Training Center artists have been displayed at the exhibition, said the agency.

Attended by a number of the ministry's officials, Prof. Bawary said the exhibition has been held to welcome Kabul as the center of the Islamic culture in 2024.

The deputy minister shared information about the Islamic era works and calligraphies and added that despite new technology in calligraphy, various types of handwritten manuscripts have special position in this art, the agency quoted.

He also called holding such exhibitions effective in the growth of art and artists in the country, according to the agency.

http://www.bakhtarnews.com.af/eng/culture/item/41778-islamic-calligraphy-exhibition-opened-at-national-gallery.html

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25 Taliban Joined Government in Ghor

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Ferozkoih (BNA) Twenty-five Taliban rebels were joined government in Ghor yesterday.

Abdul Maroof Ramish spokesman for Ghor security commandment told BNA, the militias led by Mohsen Khan one of Taliban local commanders in Kamang region, Shahrak district of that province were joined to government.

Meanwhile, 69 Taliban also surrendered in Shahrak District, Ghor province two days ago and joined the government.

http://www.bakhtarnews.com.af/eng/security/item/41771-25-taliban-joined-government-in-ghor.html

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President Ghani, US Defense Secretary Exchange Views on Current Political Situation

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Kabul (BNA) President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has held a telephonic conversation with the US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper the other day, Bakhtar News Agency reported.

During the conversation, the two sides spoke about the current security situations in the region, particularly the recent tension between the US and Iran, said the agency.

Both sides emphasized on addressing the tension via diplomatic channel, according to the source.

Yarzada

http://www.bakhtarnews.com.af/eng/politics/item/41777-president-ghani-us-defense-secretary-exchange-views-on-current-political-situation.html

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Air Corridors Increase Afghanistan Exports by 33 Percent

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Kabul (BNA) Afghanistan’s Ministry of Industry and Commerce has announced that 11,087 metric tons of the country’s products have been exported to the world since the air-corridors establishment.

“Since the inauguration of air-corridor program, we have exported 11,087 MTs of goods via 1,111 flights valued 238 million dollars to the world”, Ajmal Ahmady, Minister of Industry and Commerce has tweeted.

According to Ahmady, 5,376 metric tons of Afghanistan goods, valued 130 million dollars have been exported through 855 flights in the year 2019.

A statement published by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce said the air-corridor has caused a 33% increase in Afghanistan’s export. Afghanistan air-corridor program was launched 3 years ago through which Afghan exporters and businessmen can export products to the world.

Products exported through the air-corridor program include Afghan saffron, fresh fruits, dry fruits, handicrafts, carpets, vegetables, herbal medicines and Karakuls. Afghanistan has business cooperation with European countries, Central Asia, China, India and the Middle East through the air-corridor program.

http://www.bakhtarnews.com.af/eng/business/item/41774-air-corridors-increase-afghanistan-exports-by-33-percent.html

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Taliban Insurgents Killed in Nooristan Strike

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Paroon (BNA) Four Taliban insurgents were killed in Nooristan last night.

The insurgents were suppressed near Durand Line by security troops while wanted to plant a mine in a convoy of border police forces.

Border senior commander in east of the country told BNA, four Taliban insurgents were killed in the strike.

The Taliban had just arrived from Pakistan to Nooristan province.

Another report says, police of Nooristan discovered and confiscated six mines from crowded ways of the province and prevented from a series of explosions.

No one has been detained in connection of the failed planting mines.

http://www.bakhtarnews.com.af/eng/security/item/41780-taliban-insurgents-killed-in-nooristan-strike.html

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Armed Oppositions Killed in Four Provinces: MoD

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Kabul (BNA)  The national defense ministry reported from killing of 16 armed oppositions in clearing operations conducted by defense forces in various parts of the country.

National defense ministry press office told BNA, the security and defense forces in the last 24 hours conducting joined offensive operations in Faryab, Helmand, Herat and Kandahar provinces, killed 16 armed oppositions and injured two others.

http://www.bakhtarnews.com.af/eng/security/item/41769-armed-oppositions-killed-in-four-provinces-mod.html

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A Historic Event in Alignment of Afghan Education System with the Rest of the World

Wednesday, 08 Jan 2020

In the Afghan context, it is culturally embedded that everyone is capable of doing everything with a high level of resiliency and persistence. Therefore, this notion provides a strong collective efficacy among the members of the society and the collective efficacy provides a ground for individual efficacy.

According to Leithwood (2019a) “Efficacy beliefs determine how much risk people will take, how much effort they will expend, and how long they will persist in the face of failure or difficulty. The stronger the self-efficacy the longer the persistence” (p. 40).

Afghan people are known for their resiliency and persistence which is backed by collective and individual efficacy. Over the course of its history, especially in its contemporary history, Afghan people faced numerous challenges and yet persist with resiliency in the face of difficulty.

And now the people of Afghanistan are trying to come out of the miseries of war and conflict and align its social, economic, and educational standards with the rest of the world to become a prosperous country again.

On January 6, 2020, the Afghan MoE hosts a 3 days symposium with the objective of redefining structures and responsibilities of Afghan MoE, which will be discussed accordingly:

Redefinition of the main and supportive responsibilities of MoE based on regional and international standards to enhance the quality of education and improve learning outcome

Definition of educational services provision model of MoE

Provision of quality educational services based on regional and international standards

Balancing the responsibilities between MoE, provincial, district, and school’s leadership to enhance the efficiency of educational services, and

Provision of a logical and result-oriented plan at the central and provincial levels.

The objectives are discussed in greater details of:

Familiarization with the redefinition of Afghan MoE roles and responsibilities

Redefinition of job descriptions at school, district, provincial, and central level

Redistribution of decision-making power from the ministry of education to provincial, districts, and school-level leadership

Determination of the leadership, policy, and monitoring role of Afghan MoE

A renewed organogram from MoE to school level

The position of the religious education within Afghan MoE

The position of literacy programs within Afghan MoE

The position of teacher’s education, their promotion to the bachelor level in the employment structure

Publication and distribution of textbooks to schools, j) the curriculum development and evaluation at the Afghan MoE

This is the first time in the history to Afghanistan that the school principals will be given greater leadership power. A distributed leadership approach in the education system in Afghanistan was long overdue.

The Ministry of education with its national and international partners are collaborating to achieve this goal. In OECD countries, the People Republic of China, the Republic of Singapore, and Hong Kong are top-performing countries.

They are using a framework called Instructional leadership framework that is contextualized within their respective contexts. This framework provides greater leadership power for school principals that facilitates teachers’ instructional approaches to enhance student learning outcomes.

This symposium and discussions regarding reforms will boost Afghan school principals, vice-principals headteachers, and teacher’s moral to enhance their individual and collective efficacy to persist in the face of new challenges and enhance the quality of teaching and learning to achieve student learning outcome.

We can learn from the international frameworks to enhance our school principal’s leadership practices to achieve student learning outcomes compatible with the rest of the world.

This three-day symposium is a start for improvement of schools’ standards that aligns with the rest of the world.

https://www.khaama.com/a-historic-event-in-alignment-of-afghan-education-system-with-the-rest-of-the-world/

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Over 11,000 metric tons of Afghanistan products have been exported through air-corridor

Tuesday, 07 Jan 2020

“Since the inauguration of air-corridor program, we have exported 11,087 MTs of goods via 1,111 flights valued 238 million dollars to the world”, Ajmal Ahmady, Minister of Industry and Commerce has tweeted.

According to Ahmady, 5,376 metric tons of Afghanistan goods, valued 130 million dollars have been exported through 855 flights in the year 2019.

A statement published by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce said the air-corridor has caused a 33% increase in Afghanistan’s export.

Afghanistan air-corridor program was launched 3 years ago through which Afghan exporters and businessmen can export products to the world.

Products exported through the air-corridor program include Afghan saffron, fresh fruits, dry fruits, handicrafts, carpets, vegetables, herbal medicines and Karakuls.

Afghanistan has business cooperations with European countries, Central Asia, China, India and the Middle East through the air-corridor program.

https://www.khaama.com/ahmady-over-11000-metric-tons-of-afghanistan-products-have-been-exported-through-air-corridors/

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Africa

 

Bandits Kill Four, Kidnap Chief Imam, 20 Others in Niger

January 9, 2020

Laleye Dipo in Minna

Armed bandits have abducted the Chief Imam of Beni Central Mosque, Mallam Umar Mohammed and 20 others in Munya Local Government Area of Niger State.

This is coming as the state Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, has told security agencies to adopt new tactics in their fight against insurgency and banditry across the country.

The latest attack occurred four days after bandits killed an Army Captain and three others in an ambush.

The bandits, who were up to 50, were said to have invaded Beni Community in Munya LGA and Kudami in Paikoro LGA in the early hours of yesterday.

They were said to have met stiff resistance in Kudami but they had a field day in Beni where they looted shops, houses and kidnapped the Chief Imam on his way for a naming ceremony.

The invasion also led to the death of four others while several others were severely injured.

They are said to be receiving treatment at the Kafin Koro General Hospital.

The District Head of Beni, Alhaji Jafaru Umar Sarki confirmed the recent attacks.

He said that the invasion of the community by the bandits is the second in three days.

“They came three days ago and stole over 200 cows from Fulani men, and this morning (Wednesday), they came again in their numbers. As I speak to you now they are busy looting shops and moving from house to house and collecting people’s property.

“So far, four people have been killed, they shot another boy in the head and we don’t know if he will survive. They are so many in number, I cannot count them and they are all with guns.

“The unfortunate thing is that we informed the security agents about it after the first attack but up till now nobody came to our rescue. This community is under siege at the moment and we are helpless,” he lamented.

Meanwhile, the state Governor, Bello, has told security agencies to adopt new tactics in their fight against insurgency and banditry across the country.

The governor’s advice came on the heels of escalating bandits’ attacks in some parts of the state which have left four soldiers dead and almost 2,500 people displaced.

In a statement on the recent attacks in Munya LGA, Bello called for “a fresh, holistic approach to be introduced by the security agencies in tackling banditry that has resurfaced in the state.”

In the statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Mary Noel Berje, the governor described the attack and loss of lives and property “as sad and unfortunate.”

Bello believed that “the bandits may have crossed the river from Kaduna to launch attack in Munya,” adding that “the issue of insecurity is a collective battle which must not be left to the security agencies and government alone.”

He regretted that normalcy had earlier been restored to the affected areas until the recent attack by the bandits who were said to have laid ambush on the soldiers on routine patrol in the area.

https://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2020/01/09/bandits-kill-four-kidnap-chief-imam-20-others-in-niger/

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Kenya bus attack: 'My passengers are like my brothers and sisters'

By Emmanuel Igunza

"I am not a hero," said softly spoken Raymond Juma.

The bus driver was speaking after his actions saved his 47 passengers from a militant attack in the east of Kenya.

"My passengers are like my mothers, my brothers and sisters.

"I just did what anyone else would have done to save myself and those I love," he told the BBC.

Mr Juma was driving one of the two buses, owned by the Mobasa Raha company, which were attacked by heavily armed men on 2 January on the road between the coastal towns of Mombasa and Lamu.

He said the men, who were wearing military fatigue jackets, appeared without warning from behind a minivan that was parked at the side of the road and fired in the air, ordering him to stop.

"It was like a scene from a horror movie," he said. But he drove on.

"When I didn't stop, they fired directly at the bus. I knew if I stopped, that would be the end of me and my passengers.

"People were screaming and crying when the shots were fired. From my rear-view mirror, I saw some duck on the floor of the bus as I sped off."

'Scariest moment of my life'

The bullets grazed the side of the bus and punctured the front tyres, which meant it finally ground to a halt 100m (330 feet) up the road.

"When I stopped... people started jumping out of the bus windows trying to get to safety. People were just running everywhere, including into the forest."

The 46-year-old father of four said he didn't stop running for an hour before he was spotted by the driver of another bus, who gave him a lift.

"This was the scariest moment of my entire life," he said, his voice still shaking.

"It's just by the grace of God, as we are lucky the bus didn't roll over and we are all alive."

But the driver of the second bus, Aboubakar Hemed, was not so lucky.

'My conductor was killed'

Unaware of what had happened ahead of him, he complied with the gunmen when he was ordered to stop, thinking they were security officers.

All 41 passengers were asked to get off.

"They asked passengers to recite the Muslim Shahada [declaration of faith]. Those who couldn't were shot," Mr Hemed told the BBC.

He said that he was so afraid that he trembled as he recited the Shahada himself.

Three men in the bus were killed by the militants, believed to be members of the Somalia-based al-Shabab group. Several others were injured in the attack and are recovering in hospital.

"How do you ever get over something like this?" Mr Hemed asked.

"My conductor was killed by the attackers. It's traumatic. I can't explain it."

He said people were trembling and crying as they alighted from the bus while the gunmen waited for them. Some got out and immediately ran for their lives while they were being shot at, but luckily none was hit as they escaped.

"As a driver, you keep hearing these stories of al-Shabab attacks on this road but nothing can ever prepare you for something like this," says Mr Hemed, who has been plying the route for more than five years.

Al-Shabab has not said it was behind last week's bus attack, but the jihadist group has carried out similar attacks on this road over the last few years.

Kenya has troops in Somalia as part of the African Union force supporting the UN-backed government in its fight against al-Shabab.

The militant group has lost territory but has carried out guerrilla attacks across the border, including an assault on a Kenya-US military base on 5 January in which three Americans died.

Overall, hundreds of civilians have been killed or injured during the raids.

Since 2015, in an effort to combat the militants, the security force have been conducting an operation in the Boni Forest, believed to be a hideout and training ground for al-Shabab fighters.

The unrest has severely affected the region.

For several years, teachers, and also nurses, who aren't from the area have refused to be deployed there, meaning some schools are struggling to function.

Schools were due to reopen this week after the holidays but once again, many were deserted.

Dozens of families have left their farmlands, saying they are too afraid to work in the fields.

One Chinese company working at the planned Lamu Port has announced it would be temporarily shutting down and sending home nearly 2,000 casual workers due to security concerns.

Lamu is a popular tourist destination but Western holidaymakers are shying away from the picturesque island.

As for the drivers, Mr Juma says he wants to continue working but will be scared if security doesn't improve.

Astonishingly, he was back at work the following day - driving another bus along the same route, under heavy military guard.

He said that as he approached the scene of the attack, he felt a chill down his spine.

Mr Hemed also had to work the next day. He said he was seriously thinking about quitting for the sake of his family and children.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-51021844

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URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/indian-probe-agency-finds-violent-jihad-was-being-taught-in-religious-classes-in-tamil-nadu-module/d/120750

 

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