New Age Islam
Sat Nov 28 2020, 08:58 PM

Islamic World News ( 11 March 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Iranian Intellectuals, Academicians Urge UN Secretary-General and Other Official to Save Indian Muslims







• Actemra Drug Shows Healing Effects on Coronavirus Patient in Central Iran

• US Refers To East Jerusalem Palestinians as ‘Arab Residents’

• Malaysian Health Watchdog Calls For Suspension of Friday Prayers, Church Masses as Covid-19 Cases Rise

• Gaddafi Supporters Rise against ICC’s Decision to Put Saif al-Islam On Trial

• Muslims Make Metal Statues, Hindus Worship Them

• Taliban Reject Afghan Proposal to Free 1,500 Prisoners Ahead Of Negotiations

• Egyptian Trade Unions Could Be Branded Terror Organisations under New Law

 

Mideast

• Iranian Intellectuals, Academicians Urge UN Secretary-General and Other Official to Save Indian Muslims

• Actemra Drug Shows Healing Effects on Coronavirus Patient in Central Iran

• Spokesman: Over 100,000 IRGC, Basij Forces Mobilized to Fight against Coronavirus

• Iranian Defence Industry Unveils Home-Made Thermal Camera Amidst Campaign against Coronavirus

• Turkey’s Erdogan says Greek authorities ‘acting like Nazis’ in treating refugees

• Iranian President Calls for People’s Full-Fledged Cooperation to Prevent Coronavirus Epidemic

• Iran agrees to send black boxes of downed plane to Ukraine: Official

• Palestinian teen shot dead by Israeli forces in West Bank: Ministry

• Israeli forces shoot dead Palestinian teen boy in northern West Bank

• Turkey’s former deputy premier launches party to challenge Erdogan

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North America

• US Refers To East Jerusalem Palestinians as ‘Arab Residents’

• Russia Trying to Stoke U.S. Racial Tensions before Election, Officials Say

• Biden Sidelines Pro-Modi Indian-American as Muslim Outreach Coordinator after Liberal Firestorm

• US Congress passes final resolution to restrain Trump on Iran

• US drone kills six civilians in Somalia

• Syrian whistle-blower demands US end Assad killings

• Paterson: 3rd US city green lights Muslim call to prayer

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Southeast Asia

• Malaysian Health Watchdog Calls For Suspension of Friday Prayers, Church Masses as Covid-19 Cases Rise

• Appointment of Mufti As Religious Affairs Minister Avoids Controversy: PAS

• Putrajaya Prepares Working Papers for Muslim Gatherings amid Covid-19 Pandemic

• ‘Malay first’ government takes hold in Malaysia

• MOH identifying 95 Singaporeans at religious gathering in Malaysia after Covid-19 cases confirmed

• Indonesian singles propose ‘marriage without dating’

• Malaysia’s Mahathir Says New Government Expected to Rule Until 2023

• Indonesia arrests six over coronavirus internet hoaxes

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Africa

• Gaddafi Supporters Rise against ICC’s Decision to Put Saif al-Islam On Trial

• Kano emir’s fall shows limits for Nigerian traditional rulers

• NAF rains bombs on Sambisa as Boko Haram fighters regroup

• 8 killed in Boko Haram attack on army post in southeastern Niger

• Terrorist groups 'on the march' in West Africa and the Sahel, US general warns

• Sudan says FBI to help probe PM Hamdok assassination bid

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India

• Muslims Make Metal Statues, Hindus Worship Them

• Kashmiri Held For IS Link Is A Techie, Ex-Cricketer, Start-up Founder

• Rajya Sabha to discuss Delhi violence, two bills to replace ordinances today

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South Asia

• Taliban Reject Afghan Proposal to Free 1,500 Prisoners Ahead Of Negotiations

• U.S. Warns Taliban That Level of Violence 'Not Conducive' For Peace Process

• Court intervenes to halt Bangladesh church dispute

• Ghani dissolves Office of the Chief Executive

• Dostum says the ‘fight is not over’ as he congratulates Abdullah for the victory

• Former president Karzai blames US for crisis in Afghanistan

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Arab World

• Egyptian Trade Unions Could Be Branded Terror Organisations under New Law

• Coronavirus: Iraq’s Kurdistan Region Bans Nowruz Festivals

• Riyadh: Iran Supports Terrorism in Yemen, Lebanon

• Coronavirus: How Lebanon is responding with preventative measures

• Lebanese doctors at Beirut hospital to go on strike due to coronavirus pressures

• Lebanon detects seven new coronavirus cases, two deaths

• Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia bans travel to 39 countries including EU states

• Saudi Arabia closes cinemas until further notice over coronavirus concerns

• Guide: Saudi Arabia health measures for arrivals from coronavirus-hit countries

• Saudi Arabia expands travel ban to and from EU, 12 more countries as coronavirus cases in Kingdom jump to 45

• Saudi students, educators take on virtual education challenge amid coronavirus suspension

• ISIS launches attack on Iraqi Army, PMF bases in Iraq’s Diyala: Security

• Air strikes kill 18 Iraqi fighters in Hashed al-Shaabi locations in Syria: NGO

• Three US personnel killed, 12 injured in rocket attack on Iraqi base

• Egypt reports seven new coronavirus cases, increasing total to 67

• Syria says will stand by allies on resistance axis to expel US from Western Asia

• Two Americans, Briton killed in attack on base housing US troops near Baghdad: Report

• US, UK troops among 3 dead in Iraq rocket attack

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Europe

• Terrorist, 29, Who Admits Hoarding ISIS Propaganda Sent Almost £2,700 To Help 'Fighter • Brothers' In Iraq, Court Hears

• Far-right extremists still threaten New Zealand, a year on from the Christchurch attacks

• British forces to begin their final retreat from Afghanistan

• Turkish-Greek top officials discuss migrants on border

• 'If Russia were stopped in Crimea, it wouldn't be in Syria'

• Turkey deports 2 terrorists to Germany, North Macedonia

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Pakistan

• ECP Urged To Stop Qureshi from Interfering In By-Poll

• US team visits Islamabad airport to monitor flight to Manchester

• ‘No plausible ground for Maryam’s London visit’

• Pilot martyred as F-16 crashes in Islamabad

• Communication vital to strengthen ties with Pakistan, says Wells

• ‘TTP commander’ killed in IED blast

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/iranian-intellectuals,-academicians-urge-un-secretary-general-and-other-official-to-save-indian-muslims/d/121287

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Iranian Intellectuals, Academicians Urge UN Secretary-General and Other Official to Save Indian Muslims

Mar 11, 2020

“It is hoped that the High Commissioner for Human Rights will carry out its legal duties in accordance with the principle of impartiality and, by presenting a factual report, will draw the attention of the Secretary-General and relevant UN bodies to this important issue and take immediate and urgent action to rescue the oppressed Muslims in India,” a group of Iranian elites, analysts and academic academicians wrote in a letter on Wednesday.

Last month, in the worst communal violence in decades in New Delhi, nearly 50 people were killed and over 100 wounded as groups chanting Hindu nationalist slogans torched mosques and dozens of Muslim houses.

Last month’s worst anti-Muslim violence by Hindu nationalists began on the eve of a state visit by US President Donald Trump, infamous for his anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies.

Anti-Muslim violence started in India amid widespread protests over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government introduced in December, offering a path to Indian citizenship for six religious groups from neighboring countries, specifically excluding Muslims.

Critics insist the law is discriminatory, coming in the wake of other severe government measures against the country’s Muslim population such as withdrawal of autonomy for Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir province that has intensified discord across India about the future of its 200 million Muslims.

Last Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif condemned the outburst of violence against Indian Muslims, urging New Delhi to protect all of its citizens regardless of their faith and ethnicity.

“Iran condemns the wave of organized violence against Indian Muslims,” Zarif said in a tweet, while highlighting amicable relations between Tehran and New Delhi

“For centuries, Iran has been a friend of India,” he said, adding, “We urge Indian authorities to ensure the wellbeing of ALL Indians & not let senseless thuggery prevail.”

“Path forward lies in peaceful dialogue and rule of law,” Zarif concluded.

Before Zarif, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi voiced his country’s serious concern about the rising atrocities against Muslims in India, adding that Tehran is consistently following up the case.

“We are following the news coming from India with concern,” Mousavi said in his weekly presser.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran is following up on the issue through many channels and we have heard that some Muslim countries have had some movements.”

“We know India as a country where all ethnicities and religions live peacefully side by side,” he said, adding, “We hope that violence against Muslims in India would come to an end.”

“Considering the wisdom of Indian authorities that we are aware of, the country will become a peaceful place for all ethnicities,” he said.

https://en.farsnews.ir/newstext.aspx?nn=13981221000904

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Actemra Drug Shows Healing Effects on Coronavirus Patient in Central Iran

Mar 11, 2020

“One of the patients infected with coronavirus was in dire and disappointing conditions before prescribing the Actmera drug, but after taking the medicine, his treatment process showed good progress and he is now in good conditions,” President of Isabn-e Maryam Hospital Amin Reza Tabatabayee said on Wednesday.

Yet, he cautioned that the drug has only been tested on one patient, noting that the physicians are waiting for his response to Actomera in the next few days.

China had earlier approved the anti-inflammation drug Actemra (tocilizumab) to treat patients developing severe complications from coronavirus (Covid-19).

China said that the biologic drug Actemra can now be used to treat coronavirus patients with severe lung damage and high IL-6 levels.

In 2010, Actemra secured approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The drug is capable of inhibiting high Interleukin 6 (IL-6) protein levels that drive some inflammatory diseases.

Researchers in China are also testing the drug in a clinical trial, expected to enrol a total of 188 patients with Covid-19 and run through 10 May.

https://en.farsnews.ir/newstext.aspx?nn=13981221000957

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US refers to East Jerusalem Palestinians as ‘Arab residents’

11 March 2020

The US State Department changed its standard description of East Jerusalem Palestinians from ‘Palestinian residents’ of the city to ‘Arab residents’ or ‘non-Israeli citizens’ in an annual global human rights report released on Wednesday.

The overwhelming majority of East Jerusalem's more than 340,000 Palestinians identify as such. The Palestinians have long sought the city’s east, which Israel captured in a 1967 war and later annexed in a move not recognised internationally, as capital of a future state.

Palestinians in Jerusalem hold Israeli residency permits but few have citizenship in Israel, which considers the entire holy city as its eternal, undivided capital. Jerusalem is also home to more than 500,000 Israelis.

The change in US terminology comes amid increased wrangling over the contested city following the release of President Donald Trump's Middle East plan, which says Jerusalem should “remain the sovereign capital of the State of Israel” under any Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.

State Department reports on human rights practices from 2018 and 2019 referred to East Jerusalem Palestinians as “Palestinian residents of Jerusalem” in sections on civil judicial procedures, discrimination and freedom of movement. Those same sections in the 2020 report referred to Palestinians as “Arab residents” or “non-Israeli citizens”.

‘Eradicating identity, history and culture’

Palestinian leaders criticized the change.

“Palestinian Jerusalemites are Palestinians, and they've been living there for centuries,” said Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestine Liberation Organisation official who herself holds a Jerusalem residency permit. “Just to decide this, to eradicate their identity and history and culture and rename them at will, is not only preposterous, its unconscionable,” Ashrawi said.

Israel embraced Trump's Middle East plan, released in January, while Palestinians rejected it out of hand, in part because it designated the urban sprawl to the north and east of Jerusalem but cut off from it by an Israeli military barrier as a future Palestinian capital.

The Palestinians have boycotted Trump’s peace efforts since he recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital in 2017 and later moved the US Embassy there, accusing Washington of pro-Israel bias.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/03/11/US-refers-to-East-Jerusalem-Palestinians-as-Arab-residents-.html

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Malaysian Health Watchdog Calls For Suspension of Friday Prayers, Church Masses as Covid-19 Cases Rise

Robin Augustin

March 12, 2020

PETALING JAYA: A public health think tank has urged mosques, churches and temples to suspend weekly and regular prayer gatherings in the wake of new Covid-19 cases detected at houses of worship.

The Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy said Friday prayers, church masses and temple ceremonies should be temporarily stopped.

This comes after authorities confirmed that a man who had attended a massive “tabligh” gathering at a mosque was among the latest batch of Covid-19 patients, with efforts underway to track thousands of others who were at the same event.

The health ministry said yesterday that the man, the 131st Covid-19 patient in Malaysia, was among the 10,000 who had attended the tabligh convention from Feb 27 to March 1, held at a Sri Petaling mosque used as the base of the Muslim missionary movement.

Galen said the matter brings to light a worrying lack of awareness over the Covid-19 outbreak, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) last night declared as a pandemic amid a sharp rise in casualties worldwide.

“This is worrying,” Galen CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib told FMT.

Health authorities had warned of a second wave of the outbreak, and recommended restrictions on public programmes to minimise its spread.

But Azrul said the latest trend calls for more drastic measures, adding that Catholic religious bodies in Italy have already cancelled masses, following an alarming rise in the number of Covid-19 cases there.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/03/12/health-watchdog-calls-for-suspension-of-friday-prayers-church-masses-as-covid-19-cases-rise/

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Gaddafi Supporters Rise Against ICC’s Decision to Put Saif al-Islam On Trial

11 March, 2020

The decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to reject the appeal submitted by Saif al-Islam, son of late President Muammar Gaddafi, before The Hague, angered many Libyans, especially supporters of the former regime who stressed that local laws “prevent the extradition of Libyans to foreign countries.”

The Appeals Chamber of ICC unanimously confirmed on Monday the admissibility of the case against Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi before the Court and rejected his appeal against the Pre-Trial Chamber’s decision dismissing his challenge to the admissibility of this case.

In this regard, Issa Abd al-Qayyum, a Libyan political analyst, said that the decision “has no effect at the local level for several reasons, mainly because Libya has not signed the Court’s protocol, and therefore it is not a party to it.”

In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, he explained: “The constitutional declaration and Libyan laws since the monarchy did not allow extradition of Libyans to foreign countries.”

He also pointed to “a popular refusal to surrender Saif al-Islam, given that he had previously appeared before a Libyan court.”

In a statement, the ICC said that having considered “the submissions of the Defense, the Prosecutor, the victims, Libya’s government and others, the Appeals Chamber found that the Pre-Trial Chamber did not err in concluding that the Libyan judgment of 28 July 2015 against Saif Gaddafi was rendered in absentia.”

It added that this was also supported by the Libyan Government’s submissions to the ICC.

“Thus, under Libyan Law, the Tripoli Court’s judgment cannot be considered final. The Appeals Chamber further agreed with Pre-Trial Chamber I’s decision that the Libyan Law No. 6 (2015) in respect of amnesty is not applicable to the crimes for which Saif Gaddafi was convicted by the Tripoli Court. Accordingly, the Appeals Chamber rejects Mr Gaddafi's appeal,” the ICC explained in the statement.

Mohamed Lamloum, Minister of Justice of the Libyan National Accord government, had called, during his participation in the sessions of the Appeals Chamber of the ICC on November 10, last year, to “hold Saif al-Islam accountable for the charges against him.”

But Abd al-Qayyum responded to the National Accord government’s insistence on trying Saif al-Gaddafi before the ICC, saying that it was a “flawed act, which was criticized by legal and human rights groups, and a political decision to serve the government’s survival in power.”

https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/2174906/gaddafi-supporters-rise-against-icc%E2%80%99s-decision-put-saif-al-islam-trial

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Muslims make metal statues, Hindus worship them

BY DANISH

MARCH 11, 2020

Hyderabad: The rustic charm of Mahbub Chowk does not ooze only through its dilapidated book stalls selling Urdu literature in derelict condition or the majestic clock tower named after the sixth Nizam.

The colossal clock tower, a symbol of Mahbob Ali Pasha’s legacy, attracts the upward gaze of any passerby. However, upon entering the Chotelal Statue Manufacturing and Wholesale Centre from the Chowk’s main road, a giant figurine of Emperor Shivaji alongside many miniature versions make one think they might have entered Maratha territory. 

That too, in an area named after his Deccani rival’s descendant.

Then out comes Ahmed Mohammed, the individual who owns the statue enterprise receives orders to construct several Shivaji figurines.

Most of these early shops in this area were started by four brothers Niyaz Mohammed—Ahmed’s father, Mohammed Khaja, Mohammed Sardar and Mohammed Pasha.

“When it comes to black metal, India still looks to Hyderabad,” he exclaims.

He also mentions, Mahbub Chowk — or simply “Chowk” — was once known for its bustling metal market.

During the walk from Ahmed’s office to the kaarkhaana, tucked between two perpendicular bylanes, this could not be more apparent. The clucking of chickens keeps supplanting the pops and crackles of welding machines.

Hyderabad — A Bygone Bastion of Black Meta

En route to the kaarkhaana, we stop at Mohammed Khaja’s shop. Here, gold-coloured decorative lamps — known as farshis — only display rather than statues. There two gentlemen are approachable with their inputs regarding this industry and other external factors dismantling it. One of them is a former merchant who once owned a shop in the market. Mohammed Abdul Aqeel reveals that only 15 years ago he quit metal market. In a semi-nostalgic tone, he recalls a time when the four brothers used to export their statues all over the country.

Aqeel states that he made a graceful exit from this line of work as his kids went onto pursue more professional occupations. The worker named *Pasha (name changed) ferociously intervenes, “Jis ke paas taaleem nahin hai, woh nahin daalna chaarai apne bacchon ku yeh line mein. Sob jane OLA ya to Uber mein jaana chhaarein (Those who cannot educate their kids don’t want their children to pursue this path, they are opting for Uber and OLA cabs).”

After reprimanding Pasha in a friendly way for such unparliamentarily language, rather than dwelling on the NRC elephant in the room, Aqeel takes us back about two decades. He claims, “Every state used to buy from this market, but when Chinese imports started coming here in 2000, the metal industry began to fall.”

He also states that the Chowk black metal market is one that contained almost 200 shops but now there are only around 25 to 30. “This industry used to feed 1,000 families, now only about 50-60 families are barely subsisting on this,” he adds.

No wonder the golden and gaudy-looking farshi that are now fixtures in many wedding functions are more lucrative than the metal that Chowk is famous for.

What’s in a Name?

Continuing to Chotelal’s kaarkhaana besides Ahmed’s worker, Kishore Kumar’s evergreen voice asking, “Meri sapnon Ki Rani kab aayegi tu? from a shop guides us into the alley containing mini emporiums of effigies.

Here though, it is not a majestic emperor that greets us this time, but rather goddess Saraswati and Lords Balaji and Ganesh.

While familiarizing ourselves with the extensive process — be it the hollowing part where the model of what is to be the final product is given shape, the moulding phase during which the actual production happens, the welding procedure that merges metals — the following question vexes some of these workers.

“What is your name?” sometimes elicits a straightforward a rebuff.

He then slightly reprimands us, “NaamaaN nakko poocho! (Do not ask for our names!)”, before telling us that he has been doing this for 10 years.

Mohammed Afroz, the fellow who oversees and handles the moulding phase, is more forthcoming with his name.

As we move to another area of the kaarkhaana, a different upbeat Kishore Da tune, “Jai Jai Shiv Shankar,” starts blaring from the little speaker. This welding is a sheer joy to watch as one guy, a Muslim, is literally coalescing two metal segments of a Hindu Lord together. As the flame from his welding gun melts the edges of the work pieces and he uses aluminum filler material to merge the two sides of Ganpati Bappa, we ask the same touchy question.

“What is your name?”

Irked, he then says “NRC chalrai bhai, naam mat poocho please (With this NRC stuff going on, please don’t ask for my name).”

After a little prodding, he tells us about the process further. “I was born in Old City. My father and his father were born in Old City. I do not even know which document I should provide to prove my citizenship.” 

Idol Creation ≠ Idol Worship

Back at Ahmed’s office, he tells us that 90 percent of his clientele is Hindu. Muslims have always been involved in creating statues of deities. They also played a role or two at the management and labour level. Many a time, this facet of the enterprise has been used to project India’s secular image, domestically and internationally. 

However, he continues to receive the jabs of shirk (association of partner with what is believed to be one God) and tarvej-e- butparasti (promotion of idol worship). But these comments have ceased to have any effect on him.

He says brushing aside all direct and indirect criticism, “I say, it is also a means of sustenance for me and my workers who come from both communities. God is providing livelihoods to many people, both Hindus and Muslims, through me.”

For Ahmed and other metal merchants and statue manufacturers, creating idols doesn’t amount to worshipping them. “Ever since my father Niyaz Mohammed started Chotelal 30 years ago, Hindus and Sikhs who have placed bulk orders never had issues buying from us. When they do not have problem in buying from me, why should I have problem in selling things I get manufactured?” he adds.

The manufacturers are more worried about new taxes like GST, than dealing with different sets of communities.  However, they see how the influence of North Indian communalism is seeping into the city.

Ahmed forewarns, “If this communal discord that is surfacing more often, it could very well spell the end for this metal market. It will not only be great loss to me but also to my dear country.”

A Call to Action

Upon exiting Chotelal’s store and traversing upon the slightly larger bylane that leads to the Chowk main road, there is another shopkeeper named Ibraheem who is a little more pragmatic than Ahmed.

He also harbours the same complaints regarding the appendage — the 12 percent GST — adding onto the albatross of a handicraft tax.

Like Aqeel, he reminisces about a time where the margins of profits were higher.  Now they have become more competitive and hence decline in savings.

Businessmen across the city believe that the government should provide incentives to both manufacturers and the artisans with a view to stopping the industries from further decline.

https://www.siasat.com/muslims-make-metal-statues-hindus-worship-them-1852643/

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Taliban reject Afghan proposal to free 1,500 prisoners ahead of negotiations

11 March 2020

The Taliban on Wednesday rejected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offer to release 1,500 insurgent prisoners ahead of peace talks, saying it wanted 5,000 captives freed before opening negotiations.

Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen told AFP the prisoners should be released “as a trust-building measure” before intra-Afghan talks.

Any changes amounted to a violation of the deal struck between the insurgents and Washington in Doha last month, he added.

Although Kabul was not a signatory to the deal, it stated that up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners held by Afghan authorities would be released, prompting an angry reaction from Ghani.

Shaheen’s announcement came hours after Ghani issued a decree saying the government would release 1,500 captives starting Saturday – but only if the insurgents cut violence.

Another 3,500 prisoners would be released after talks started, a spokesman said on Twitter.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/03/11/Taliban-reject-Afghan-proposal-to-free-1-500-prisoners-ahead-of-negotiations.html

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Egyptian trade unions could be branded terror organisations under new law

March 12, 2020

TRADE unions could be branded terrorist organisations in Egypt following their inclusion in a draft law passed unanimously in the country’s parliament claiming to combat “money-laundering and fighting terrorism.”

The regulations extended the definition of “terrorist entity” to new categories including businesses and trade unions as Egypt redefined “the crime of financing terrorism.”

The law defines as a terrorist entity any association, organisation, group or gang set up “for the purpose of disturbing the public order, endangering the safety, interests or security of the community or harming national unity by any means.”

Under the amendments, trade unions could see their assets, finances and property seized and added to the terrorism list “even if the use of any of the resources mentioned above in financing any terrorist activity has not been proven.”

Journalists, opposition parties and public-sector workers are also threatened under the draconian legislation.

Egypt’s authoritarian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has moved to crush all dissent in the country. His regime sees independent trade unions as a threat to its grip on the country.

In 2015 the Egyptian Supreme Administrative Court ruled that the right to strike was against Islamic teachings and incompatible with sharia law.

The pronouncement came just a day after Mr Sisi shared a Labour Day rally event organised by the pro-government Egyptian Trade Union Federation.

Its president Gebali al-Maragh drafted a “code of honour” that rejected strike action and committed the federation to dialogue with bosses and the government. He later said it was the role of Egyptian workers to support and implement the policies of the president in “fighting terrorism.”

In March 2018 independent trade unions were dissolved and required to reregister within 60 days; just 122 of 1,000 survived after the deadline passed.

https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/w/egyptian-trade-unions-could-be-branded-terror-organisations-under-new-law

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Mideast

 

Spokesman: Over 100,000 IRGC, Basij Forces Mobilized to Fight against Coronavirus

Mar 11, 2020

More than 100,000 Basij and IRGC forces are serving people against coronavirus, General Sharif said.

He underlined the IRGC experiences during the eight years of Iraqi-imposed war against Iran as well as helping the Resistance Front in recent years to confront the chemical attacks by the enemies of the Islamic Ummah and using the experiences in Iran's fight with coronavirus.

"The IRGC's extensive system, including personnel and specialized capacities as well as stationary and field hospitals, care camps, medical centers, and relief and sanitary items and equipment available in the IRGC and Basij are available for the specific circumstances of the country in the fight against coronavirus,” General Sharif said.

He added that in addition to achieving a diagnostic kit in the field of disease diagnosis and treatment, researchers in the field of healthcare under the Baqiyatallah University of Medical Sciences (supervised by the IRGC) are studying around the clock to test safe medicines which the authorities have reported promising progress in this area.

The Iranian health ministry announced on Wednesday that the number of people infected with COVID-19 virus has grown to 9,000, while deaths have increased to 354.

“Based on laboratory results, 958 new patients infected with COVID-19 have been identified in the country since Tuesday noon and the number of infected people has increased to 9,000 cases,” Health Ministry Spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said in his daily report on Wednesday.

He expressed regret that 63 corona-virus patients have passed away in the past 24 hours, and raised the number of deaths to 354.

Jahanpour, meantime, said that 2,959 patients infected with COVID-19 virus have also recovered so far.

More than 119,000 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the world with over 4,300 deaths so far, the vast majority of them in China where the virus originated late last year.

The coronavirus is spreading in the Middle East, Europe, US and other parts of the world, while parts of China begin to lower their emergency response level as the number of new cases reported there continues to slow.

Authorities across the United States reported over 1,000 cases of coronavirus and 31 deaths as of Tuesday.

More than 60 million people in Italy have been placed under lockdown after the government extended emergency measures across the entire country in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Italy is struggling to contain Europe’s worst outbreak of Covid-19, which has claimed 631 lives and infected over 10,000 people.

As the death toll from the virus surges, Iran intensifies its preventive safety measures. Closures of schools and universities have been extended for the next two weeks.

The government also imposed travel restrictions, specially on Iran’s north, which is among the red zones. The country has also adopted strict digital health control procedures at airports to spot possible infections.

Iranian Health Minister Saeed Namaki announced last week that a new national mobilization plan would be implemented across the country to fight against the coronavirus epidemic and more effectively treat patients.

Namaki said that the plan will include all the 17,000 health centers and the 9,000 medical and clinical centers in all cities, suburban areas and villages.

He added that the plan will include home quarantine, noting that infected people will receive the necessary medicines and advice, but they are asked to stay at home.

Namaki said that people with a more serious condition will stay at the hospitals, adding that the public places will be disinfected, the entries of infected towns and cities will be controlled to diagnose and quarantine the infected cases.

He added that the necessary equipment and facilities have been provided, expressing the hope that the epidemic would be curbed.

Namaki said that the number of medical laboratories to test coronavirus infection has reached 22, and will increase to 40 soon.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says Iran's response to the virus has so far been up to the mark. Still, it says the US sanctions are a big challenge, and Washington would be complicit in the rising death toll in Iran if it would not remove its sanctions.

The World Health Organization has considered priorities in combating coronavirus and Islamic Republic of Iran obeys and follows up priorities as defined by WHO.

The WHO is dispatching separate delegations to all countries.

https://en.farsnews.ir/newstext.aspx?nn=13981221001008

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Iranian Defence Industry Unveils Home-Made Thermal Camera Amidst Campaign against Coronavirus

Mar 11, 2020

CEO of Iran Electronics Industries (SaIran) company Brigadier General Shahram described high precision measurement - that monitors and registers less than half a degree centigrade - as one of the advantages of the thermometer-recording camera, saying that it can measure body temperature of several people simultaneously.

General Shahram said that production of such systems had earlier been monopolized by a few countries, including the US, Japan and China, and added, “The cameras will be mass-produced soon after being successfully tested in several airports and sensitive crowded centers.”

Meantime, the Iranian health ministry announced on Wednesday that the number of people infected with COVID-19 virus has grown to 9,000, while deaths have increased to 354.

“Based on laboratory results, 958 new patients infected with COVID-19 have been identified in the country since Tuesday noon and the number of infected people has increased to 9,000 cases,” Health Ministry Spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said in his daily report on Wednesday.

He expressed regret that 63 corona-virus patients have passed away in the past 24 hours, and raised the number of deaths to 354.

Jahanpour, meantime, said that 2,959 patients infected with COVID-19 virus have also recovered so far.

More than 119,000 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the world with over 4,300 deaths so far, the vast majority of them in China where the virus originated late last year.

The coronavirus is spreading in the Middle East, Europe, US and other parts of the world, while parts of China begin to lower their emergency response level as the number of new cases reported there continues to slow.

Authorities across the United States reported over 1,000 cases of coronavirus and 31 deaths as of Tuesday.

More than 60 million people in Italy have been placed under lockdown after the government extended emergency measures across the entire country in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Italy is struggling to contain Europe’s worst outbreak of Covid-19, which has claimed 631 lives and infected over 10,000 people.

As the death toll from the virus surges, Iran intensifies its preventive safety measures. Closures of schools and universities have been extended for the next two weeks.

The government also imposed travel restrictions, specially on Iran’s north, which is among the red zones. The country has also adopted strict digital health control procedures at airports to spot possible infections.

Iranian Health Minister Saeed Namaki announced last week that a new national mobilization plan would be implemented across the country to fight against the coronavirus epidemic and more effectively treat patients.

Namaki said that the plan will include all the 17,000 health centers and the 9,000 medical and clinical centers in all cities, suburban areas and villages.

He added that the plan will include home quarantine, noting that infected people will receive the necessary medicines and advice, but they are asked to stay at home.

Namaki said that people with a more serious condition will stay at the hospitals, adding that the public places will be disinfected, the entries of infected towns and cities will be controlled to diagnose and quarantine the infected cases.

He added that the necessary equipment and facilities have been provided, expressing the hope that the epidemic would be curbed.

Namaki said that the number of medical laboratories to test coronavirus infection has reached 22, and will increase to 40 soon.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says Iran's response to the virus has so far been up to the mark. Still, it says the US sanctions are a big challenge, and Washington would be complicit in the rising death toll in Iran if it would not remove its sanctions.

Full report at:

The WHO is dispatching separate delegations to all countries.

https://en.farsnews.ir/newstext.aspx?nn=13981221000846

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Turkey’s Erdogan says Greek authorities ‘acting like Nazis’ in treating refugees

11 March 2020

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Greek authorities are acting like the Nazis as they resort to violence in preventing thousands of refugees from crossing the Turkish border into Greece.

At a televised speech on Wednesday, Erdogan also referred to Greek authorities as “barbarians” and “fascists,” saying he would keep his country’s border open for refugees to cross to Europe until the European Union (EU) met all his demands.

“There is no difference between what the Nazis did and the images we are seeing from the Greek border,” Erdogan said.

“With the warming of the weather in the spring, the influx of irregular migrants heading to Europe will not be limited to Greece but spread all over the Mediterranean,” he said.

Tens of thousands of refugees have been trying to cross into Europe via Turkey since Ankara late last month decided to loosen controls on refugees seeking to reach Europe through its territory, violating a 2016 deal with the EU. That has caused tensions on Turkey’s border with Greece, where Greek forces have been clashing with the refugees to block them.

Greece has tear-gassed the refugees and is accused of beating and stripping them of their belongings if they make it across the border. Athens has denied those accusations.

Greece and the EU have, in turn, accused Ankara of deliberately encouraging the refugees to cross the border as a way of pressuring European leaders into offering more financial assistance or backing Turkey’s campaign in Syria.

Earlier, Erdogan made an unsuccessful trip to Brussels to resolve the tensions with the EU over Turkey’s decision regarding its border controls.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/11/620621/Turkey-Greece-refugees-Nazi-barbarian-fascists

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Iranian President Calls for People’s Full-Fledged Cooperation to Prevent Coronavirus Epidemic

Mar 11, 2020

“I want people to take this issue seriously,” Rouhani said, addressing a cabinet meeting in Tehran on Wednesday.

He underlined the need for people to abide by the health ministry recommendations, including health and hygiene rules and avoid unnecessary intra and inter-city travels.

Rouhani also urged people not to travel during the upcoming Nowrouz (Iranian new year) holidays that will start on March 20, asking the population to avoid New Year meetings and gatherings.

He said that coronavirus has infected many countries of the world and left negative impacts on the global economy.

More than 119,000 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the world with over 4,300 deaths so far, the vast majority of them in China where the virus originated late last year.

The coronavirus is spreading in the Middle East, Europe, US and other parts of the world, while parts of China begin to lower their emergency response level as the number of new cases reported there continues to slow.

Authorities across the United States reported over 1,000 cases of coronavirus and 31 deaths as of Tuesday.

More than 60 million people in Italy have been placed under lockdown after the government extended emergency measures across the entire country in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Italy is struggling to contain Europe’s worst outbreak of Covid-19, which has claimed 631 lives and infected over 10,000 people.

On Tuesday, the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in Iran rose to 291 with 8,042 confirmed cases.

Some 2,700 patients infected by the coronavirus have so far recovered from the disease in Iran.

As the death toll from the virus surges, Iran intensifies its preventive safety measures. Closures of schools and universities have been extended for the next two weeks.

The government also imposed travel restrictions, specially on Iran’s north, which is among the red zones. The country has also adopted strict digital health control procedures at airports to spot possible infections.

Iranian Health Minister Saeed Namaki announced last week that a new national mobilization plan would be implemented across the country to fight against the coronavirus epidemic and more effectively treat patients.

Namaki said that the plan will include all the 17,000 health centers and the 9,000 medical and clinical centers in all cities, suburban areas and villages.

He added that the plan will include home quarantine, noting that infected people will receive the necessary medicines and advice, but they are asked to stay at home.

Namaki said that people with a more serious condition will stay at the hospitals, adding that the public places will be disinfected, the entries of infected towns and cities will be controlled to diagnose and quarantine the infected cases.

He added that the necessary equipment and facilities have been provided, expressing the hope that the epidemic would be curbed.

Namaki said that the number of medical laboratories to test coronavirus infection has reached 22, and will increase to 40 soon.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says Iran's response to the virus has so far been up to the mark. Still, it says the US sanctions are a big challenge, and Washington would be complicit in the rising death toll in Iran if it would not remove its sanctions.

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.ir/newstext.aspx?nn=13981221000586

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Iran agrees to send black boxes of downed plane to Ukraine: Official

11 March 2020

Iran’s aviation authority has agreed to send black boxes from the downed Ukrainian jetliner to Kiev for analysis, Iran’s representative at the United Nations’ aviation agency told Reuters on Wednesday.

Farhad Parvaresh, who heads Iran’s delegation at the UN’s Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), said Tehran’s civil aviation authority had also invited other interested countries to participate in reading the data.

The move ends a two-month stand-off over the fate of the recordings from the jet, which was shot down by the Iranian military on January 8 with the loss of all 176 people on board.

Two sources directly familiar with the matter said Iran had made the announcement to ICAO’s governing council.

“They did agree ... that in the next two weeks or so they will bring the black boxes to Ukraine for reading and if that isn’t possible they would go to France,” a Canadian government source said. ICAO was not immediately available for comment.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/03/11/Iran-agrees-to-send-black-boxes-of-downed-plane-to-Ukraine-Official.html

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Palestinian teen shot dead by Israeli forces in West Bank: Ministry

11 March 2020

A Palestinian teenager was shot dead by Israeli forces during clashes in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, the Palestinian health ministry announced.

Mohammed Hamayel, 15, “died as a result of being shot in the face with live ammunition by the (Israeli) occupation” during clashes in Nablus in the northern West Bank, a ministry statement said.

The Israeli army said it was looking into the incident.

An AFP correspondent in Nablus said hundreds of Palestinians had gathered in an area south of the city following rumors that Israeli settlers would arrive and seize some land.

Clashes broke out from early morning, with Israeli forces firing tear gas, live ammunition and rubber bullets to break up the demonstration.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/03/11/Palestinian-teen-shot-dead-by-Israeli-forces-in-West-Bank-Ministry.html

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Israeli forces shoot dead Palestinian teen boy in northern West Bank

11 March 2020

Israeli military forces have shot and killed a Palestinian teenage boy as tensions continue in the occupied Palestinian territories as part of the aftermath of US President Donald Trump's announcement of his so-called deal of the century on the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Palestinian sources, requesting not to be named, said clashes broke out on Wednesday between a group of Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops at Mount al-'Arma on the outskirts of Beita town, located 13 kilometers (8.1 miles) southeast of Nablus.

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Israeli soldiers fired live rounds, rubber-coated steel bullets as well as tear gas canisters in order to disperse the crowd.

Palestinian Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Tarif Ashur announced in a statement that 15-year-old Mohammad Abdul-Karim Hamayelhad had been shot in the head and taken to Nablus’ Rafidia Surgical Hospital in critical condition.

The statement added that Hamayel succumbed to his injury upon arriving at the hospital.

Ashur noted that 17 Palestinians, including head of the Anti-Wall and Settlement Committee Walid Assaf, were treated for gunshot wounds. 

Residents of Beita have continued their daily sit-ins atop Mount al-'Arma since February 28, when extremist settlers made their first attempt to seize it and turn it into an Israeli territory.

More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

Emboldened by Trump, Israel has stepped up its settlement construction activities in defiance of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which pronounced settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds “a flagrant violation under international law.”

On January 28, the US president unveiled his so-called deal of the century, negotiated with Israel but without the Palestinians.

Palestinian leaders, who severed all ties with Washington in late 2017 after Trump controversially recognized Jerusalem al-Quds as the capital of the Israeli regime, immediately rejected the plan, with President Abbas saying it “belongs to the dustbin of history.”

Thousands of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip poured onto the street in immediate condemnation of the plan.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said "a thousand no's" to the plan.

He said the Palestinians remain committed to ending the Israeli occupation and establishing a state with its capital in east Jerusalem.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/11/620646/Palestinian-teen-West-Bank

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Turkey’s former deputy premier launches party to challenge Erdogan

March 12, 2020

ANKARA: Turkey’s former deputy prime minister, Ali Babacan, on Wednesday launched a new political party to challenge his ex-ally President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The 52-year-old former economy minister, who quit the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in July last year over “deep disagreements” with Erdogan, officially applied to the Turkish Ministry of the Interior to register his party under the name Remedy (Deva).

Since his resignation, Babacan has claimed that Turkey was passing through a “dark tunnel” and has warned about the dangers of “one-man rule” in the country.

Turkey’s economic recession, high unemployment rates, and government loss of management over major cities such as Istanbul and Ankara in last year’s municipal elections, have sparked the formation of new breakaway parties from the AKP.

At the launch event in Ankara, Babacan called for wide-ranging reforms to strengthen the rule of law and democracy.

The mainly young and female profile of the Remedy party’s council not only includes ex-ministers from the AKP but also key names from the business sector, military, and civil society along with managers of multinational companies.

Having presided over Turkey’s economy from 2009 to 2015, Babacan blamed the country’s economic deterioration on its democratic deficit. He also repeated his opposition to the shift from a parliamentary to a presidential system in Turkey, criticized the crackdown on the media, and lamented the Central Bank’s lack of independence.

“Our citizens are worried about their future; human rights violations and curtailing of liberties are making it impossible for our society to breathe. Our women are concerned about living under constant threat. Turkey is such a great country that cannot be restricted to one wisdom and a narrow establishment,” he said.

Political analyst Nezih Onur Kuru, from Koc University in Istanbul, said the democratic, professional and technocrat image of the party’s founders’ council gave Babacan a political advantage.

“Babacan showed a positive performance toward economic development and democratization during his term under the AKP. Therefore, his past records and achievements are very valuable references,” he told Arab News.

In promising a cure for the country’s political and economic deficiencies via his new party, Kuru added that Babacan still had a high brand value at home and abroad. As a politician coming from a conservative and industrialist family, he also has ties with the Turkish business community.

However, Remedy’s success and that of another breakaway party, former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s Future Party, will depend on their approach to Erdogan’s policy style and political alliances.

According to Kuru, the Remedy party will appeal not only to disillusioned AKP voters but also to center and right segments of society and those with no political allegiances.

Babacan’s party program also put emphasis on youth unemployment, which had reached 24 percent according to latest statistics.

Babacan gained a master’s degree from Northwestern University in Chicago between 1990 and 1992 with a Fulbright scholarship from the US. He has also worked as a financial consultant to top executives of major American banks.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1640276/middle-east

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North America

 

Russia Trying to Stoke U.S. Racial Tensions Before Election, Officials Say

By Julian E. Barnes and Adam Goldman

March 10, 2020

WASHINGTON — The Russian government has stepped up efforts to inflame racial tensions in the United States as part of its bid to influence November’s presidential election, including trying to incite violence by white supremacist groups and to stoke anger among African-Americans, according to seven American officials briefed on recent intelligence.

Russia’s lead intelligence agency, the S.V.R., has apparently gone beyond 2016 methods of interference, when operatives tried to stoke racial animosity by creating fake Black Lives Matter groups and spreading disinformation to depress black voter turnout. Now, Russia is also trying to influence white supremacist groups, the officials said; they gave few details, but one official said federal investigators are examining how at least one neo-Nazi organization with ties to Russia is funded.

Other Russian efforts, which American intelligence agencies have tracked, involve simply prodding white nationalists to more aggressively spread hate messages and amplifying their invective. Russian operatives are also trying to push black extremist groups toward violence, according to multiple officials, though they did not detail how.

Russia’s more public influence operations, like state-backed news organizations, have continued to push divisive racial narratives, including stories emphasizing allegations of police abuse in the United States and highlighting racism against African-Americans within the military.

And as social media companies more vigilantly monitor for foreign activity than they did in 2016, Russia has also adjusted its methods to evade detection. Rather than disseminate messages as widely as possible, as in 2016, Russian operatives are using private Facebook groups, posts on the online message board 4chan and closed chat rooms that are more difficult to monitor, according to intelligence officials.

Russia’s primary goal, according to several officials briefed on the intelligence who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information, is to foster a sense of chaos in the United States, though its motivations are under debate and difficult to decipher in the absence of high-level intelligence sources inside Moscow.

The direct effect of its interference on presidential politics is less clear, though some American officials said that Russia believed that acts of violence could bolster President Trump’s re-election bid if he could argue that a response to such an episode demanded continuity and that he represented a law-and-order approach.

The F.B.I. and other intelligence agencies declined to comment on specific Russian activities.

“We see Russia is willing to conduct more brazen and disruptive influence operations because of how it perceives its conflict with the West,” David Porter, a top agent on the F.B.I.’s Foreign Influence Task Force, said last month at an election security conference in Washington.

He added, “To put it simply, in this space, Russia wants to watch us tear ourselves apart.”

Because Russia is trying to amplify the messaging of existing groups, its interference is difficult for American officials to combat given First Amendment protections for speech. The government does have the legal authority to stop hate speech that explicitly advocates violence, and social media companies continue to take down accounts linked to Russian intelligence or disinformation groups.

Attempts to exacerbate racial divisions are only one strand of Russia’s influence operations in 2020; Moscow’s intelligence agencies promote a variety of narratives and divisive issues. But perhaps no more difficult issue exists in the United States than racial justice and privilege, and officials expressed worry that amplifying divisions among races could do the most damage to the country’s social fabric.

The Russian intelligence services took note of the divisive nature of the 2017 white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va., which led to the death of a counterprotester, and concluded that promoting hate groups was the most effective method of sowing discord in the United States, according to American intelligence reports described by the officials.

Some American officials believe that Russia is trying to undermine American democracy and the nation’s standing in the world by driving debate to the extremes.

“One of Russia’s goals is weakening institutions and the weaponization of race is a way they can do that,” said Laura Rosenberger, the director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy. “A divided America is a weaker America. When we are unable to solve our challenges together, Russia is more able to flex its power around the world.”

American officials are divided about whether Russia is provoking racial division to influence the presidential election. Some officials think the effort is separate from any Kremlin effort to favor Mr. Trump. But others argue that Russian intelligence officials believe their efforts could help turn out more of Mr. Trump’s core voters, though their understanding of American electoral politics is unclear.

American officials are also examining ties between Russian intelligence and some white supremacist groups, according to an intelligence official.

The F.B.I. is scrutinizing any ties between Russian intelligence or its proxies and Rinaldo Nazzaro, an American citizen who founded a neo-Nazi group, the Base, according to former American officials. He lives in St. Petersburg, Russia, and is married to a Russian national, according to former government officials. The Guardian first reported his identity.

Going by the aliases Norman Spear and Roman Wolf, Mr. Nazzaro has said publicly that he and members of his group put less emphasis on campaigns to influence the public and more on developing military and survival skills.

Mr. Nazzaro bought property in Washington State in December 2018, a transaction that has come to the attention of the F.B.I. as part of its investigation into the Base. A left-wing anti-fascist group has said the Base intended to set up a training camp on the land.

The F.B.I. arrested three Base members in January ahead of a pro-gun rights rally in Richmond, Va. Three others in Georgia with ties to the hate group and another in Wisconsin were also arrested as part of the bureau’s attempt to blunt its activities.

Russia or Russian oligarchs are already funding far-right groups in Europe, according to current and former officials. The Night Wolves motorcycle club has received support from Russians and has worked to sow chaos in Eastern Europe. The Russian Imperial Movement, another right-wing group with the implicit backing of Moscow, has sent fighters to eastern Ukraine, and other Russian organizations have offered weapons training to far-right groups in Europe.

The tactics date at least to the Cold War, when the Soviet Union tried to exacerbate racial tensions in the United States. “The most successful efforts in these kinds of interference activities are those that exploit real division,” Ms. Rosenberger said. “Race is certainly one in the United States.”

Independent researchers continue to identify social media accounts with Russian links. Race was among the top issues that such accounts tried to foster division over, said Young Mie Kim, a University of Wisconsin professor who studies political communication online. Others included nationalism, immigration, gun control and gay rights.

Ms. Kim tracked posts on Instagram last fall that used tactics similar to Russian operatives’ 2016 efforts and confirmed that more than two dozen were Russia-linked. Facebook, which owns Instagram, subsequently took them offline.

“Russia’s trolls pretended to be American people, including political groups and candidates,” Ms. Kim wrote in a post for the Brennan Center for Justice. “They tried to sow division by targeting both the left and right with posts to foment outrage, fear and hostility. Much of their activity seemed designed to discourage certain people from voting. And they focused on swing states.”

In addition to the social media posts, Russian-backed news organizations have also emphasized racially divisive themes, as have Russian government Twitter feeds, though it is only a small portion of their overall postings.

Russia Today, the television station controlled by the Kremlin, has fanned division on both sides. Last week, RT ran a story about a video of New York police arresting a black man that sparked outrage. The organization has also posted tweets aimed at stirring white animosity, publishing an article in January accusing The New York Times of hating white people and criticizing Hank Azaria for quitting as the voice of Apu on “The Simpsons” because of its stereotyping of South Asians.

Matthew Rosenberg contributed reporting from Washington, and Sheera Frenkel from San Francisco.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/10/us/politics/russian-interference-race.html?referringSource=articleShare

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Biden sidelines pro-Modi Indian-American as Muslim outreach coordinator after liberal firestorm

Mar 11, 2020

WASHINGTON: Former US vice-president Joe Biden’s campaign has sidelined an Indian-American associate from its Muslim outreach efforts following complaints of purported "Islamophobia," which critics of his appointment say is manifested in his closeness to India's prime minister Narendra Modi and the BJP.

Amit Jani, a long-term Democratic operative has been under fire for several weeks now from a section of Biden supporters, many of them Muslim, after he was named the campaign’s Muslim outreach coordinator, in addition to being the National Asian American Pacific Islander Director to the presidential campaign for Biden. Petitions and critical commentary have been floating online demanding that he be removed from the posts because of his and his family’s ties with the BJP and RSS and its alleged Islamophobia.

Jani’s father Suresh Jani and Modi go back to their teenage years in Vadnagar, Gujarat, where they enrolled in the same RSS Shakha. Jani received Modi at the JFK airport during his first visit to the U.S in the early 1990s and photos he emailed to ToI of Modi in front of White House and Universal Studios are in wide use today. Jani was also a co-founder of the Overseas Friends of BJP in the U.S.

The appointment of his son Amit Jani, who has worked for several Democratic lawmakers and leaders over the years, has now irked Biden liberal and Muslim supporters, ostensibly because of his continued support for BJP in recent months. Critics have dredged up photos and commentary by Amit Jani celebrating Modi's success, to demand he be sacked.

"For Amit Jani to be #Muslim outreach coordinator for the @JoeBiden campaign is beyond insulting. At a minimum, the coordinator of Biden’s Muslim outreach should not be a man who praises one of the world’s leading Islamophobes,” said an editorial comment in the online journal MuslimMatters. And from an open letter published March 6 by Equality Labs, a South Asian American advocacy organization read: “To hire a supporter and friend of Narendra Modi opens the door to embracing anti-Muslim and Hindu nationalist politics. Progressive Asian Americans and South Asian Americans cannot stand by a candidate with relationships to fascists, here or abroad.”

Responding apparently to the criticism, the Biden campaign announced early this week that Farooq Mitha, a former Clinton aide as well as a founding board member of Muslim advocacy group Emgage, will be the new senior adviser on Muslim American engagement. It is not clear though if Jani has also been removed as the National Asian American Pacific Islander Director. Both the Biden Campaign and Jani had not responded to messages at the time of writing.

The controversy also brought an angry response from some Indian-Americans who argue that the U.S is seeing an uptick of Hinduphobia. “Global defamation of Hindus is out of control. Liberals want Biden to fire a small staffer Amit Jani because his dad belongs to a group that celebrated Modi's victory! The dad of Huma Abedin, who was Clinton's chief of staff, was closely connected to Muslim brotherhood, but so what?” asked one agitated Indian-American on social media, warning that such actions would simply drive Indian-American voters to President Trump and the Republican Party.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/biden-sidelines-pro-modi-indian-american-as-muslim-outreach-coordinator-after-liberal-firestorm/articleshow/74582191.cms

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US Congress passes final resolution to restrain Trump on Iran

12 March 2020

The US Congress on Wednesday gave its final approval to a resolution to restrain President Donald Trump from attacking Iran after months of soaring tensions.

The House of Representatives voted 227-186 to join the Senate in support of the resolution, which bars any military action against Iran without an explicit vote from Congress.

But the resolution is virtually certain to be vetoed by Trump and the coalition of most Democrats and a handful of war-skeptic Republicans lacks the votes to override him.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/03/12/US-Congress-passes-final-resolution-to-restrain-Trump-on-Iran-.html

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US drone kills six civilians in Somalia

11 March 2020

In Somalia, six civilians have been killed in an airstrike by a US drone, says a lawmaker and relative of one of the victims.

"A drone killed six people in a mini bus yesterday, including a 13-year-old boy named Abdifatah Farhan Mohamud," Mahad Dhore, a lawmaker from Somalia's South West state, told Reuters, providing the news agency with the names and clans of the six victims.

"Six of them were civilians and they were buried near the area where they were bombed by the drone, because they could not be carried as they were burnt into pieces."

The US Africa Command claimed the strike near the town of Janaale had killed "five terrorists," an apparent reference to al-Shabab. It added that reports of civilian casualties would be investigated.

Meanwhile, Mohamed Aden Bare told Reuters he was the brother of the minibus driver, and that his brother was a civilian and the others aboard were farmers and local residents.

"The drone hit the front part of the mini bus which my brother was driving. We found no trace of him save a small piece of flesh that was found stuck on the destroyed seat," he said.

Al-Shabab was forced out of Mogadishu in 2011, but it continues to wage deadly attacks around the city and in other parts of the country.

The Pentagon stepped up its airstrikes in the country after getting President Donald Trump’s approval in 2017 for expanded military operations there.

There have been many ambiguities surrounding such airstrikes and bombardments in the rural regions of Somalia, with human rights groups regularly complaining about civilian causalities.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/11/620659/Somalia-airstrike-civilians

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Syrian whistle-blower demands US end Assad killings

Safvan Allahverdi

12.03.2020

WASHINGTON

A former Syrian military photographer, using the pseudonym Caesar, demanded Wednesday that the U.S. stand with the Syrian people and halt the killings by the Bashar al-Assad regime.

Speaking at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Caesar said the Assad regime has used the international community's inaction as a green light to continue his crimes against Syrians.

"For nine years, the United States has watched as we live in bombardment and torture. We beg of you, as an administration, to do right for the Syrian people and look at the Syrian people as brothers and sisters in humanity.

"Simply I would ask the [U.S.] administration to please end the killing in Syria," he added.

Caesar, now a whistleblower, was working as a forensic photographer for the Syrian army before exposing tens of thousands of high-definition photos of people tortured to death at a military hospital near the capital Damascus.

He said the Syrian regime's detentions and killings have increased since he left the country about five years ago.

The international community must indict the Syrian regime for its "systematic machinery use" against the Syrian people and to bring the perpetrators of the longstanding violence before international courts, he said.

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since March 2011, when the regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million others displaced, according to UN officials.

Raed Al Saleh, director of Syrian civil defense group the White Helmets, also testified before the committee, which included Sen. Jim Risch, the committee's Republican chairman, and Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, a ranking member of the committee.

Saleh said the consequences of the world's inaction cannot be confined to Syria's borders.

"Millions more refugees will flee Syria to Europe's safer shores. No border wall can contain them. An entire generation of children will be left uneducated. Extremist groups will foment the chaos necessitating future global coalitions and trillions of dollars to defeat new threats," said Saleh.

The hearing also addressed the humanitarian crisis in Idlib province in northwestern Syria and the operation by Turkey to prevent the offensive by Assad forces backed by Russia and Iran.

Saleh said Ankara's campaign last month shattered the myth that the use of force to stop possibilities might cause further escalation.

"In fact, the opposite happened after Turkey's brief military intervention. Last week, there was a complete stop in aerial attacks. But Turkey cannot do this alone. It needs your support and leadership," he added.

In his opening speech, Senator Risch took aim at the Russian government and said Moscow does not have an interest in ending the war in Syria.

"A deeply fractured Syria will never heal. The Syrian people deserve better, much better," he said.

Idlib falls within a de-escalation zone laid out in a deal between Turkey and Russia in late 2018. The Syrian regime and its allies, however, have consistently broken the terms of the ceasefire, launching frequent attacks inside the zone.

The de-escalation zone is currently home to some 4 million civilians, including hundreds of thousands displaced in recent years by regime forces from throughout the war-weary country.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/syrian-whistleblower-demands-us-end-assad-killings/1762977

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Paterson: 3rd US city greenlights Muslim call to prayer

Mucahit Oktay  

11.03.2020

NEW JERSEY

The third-largest city in the U.S. state of New Jersey has greenlighted mosques making the call to prayer over loudspeakers.

The city council of the city of Paterson made the move in a 5-4 vote late Tuesday, with the support of Maritza Davila, the council president.

The measure allows the adhan, or call to prayer, to go out over speakers from mosques between 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. with a maximum decibel level and the time allotted to not exceed five minutes.

Davila told Anadolu Agency that she supported the bill "with the idea of equal freedom for everyone."

The vote made Paterson the third city in the U.S. allowing the call to prayer, following Hamtramck and Dearborn, both in Michigan, a Midwestern Great Lakes state.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/paterson-3rd-us-city-greenlights-muslim-call-to-prayer/1762317

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Southeast Asia

 

Appointment of mufti as Religious Affairs Minister avoids controversy: PAS

10 Mar 2020

Pas viewed the appointment of the former Federal Territories mufti Zulkifli Mohamad as the minister in charge of religious affairs as a move which could prevent political controversy.

PAS vice president Mohd Amar Abdullah said if a politician is given the post as practised in the past, it would create a controversy.

"(The former) FT mufti has a neutral image and well-received by many people from various backgrounds.

"We hope with a figure like him, all kinds of people will understand more about Islam, and (he would help in) accomplishing hopes and aspirations in regards to Islam in the future.

"If we put a politician either from Pas or Umno, it could create a controversy," he told the media in Kota Bharu today.

He was asked to comment on Zulkifli's appointment as announced by the Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin yesterday.

The state deputy menteri besar stressed that Zulkifli (above) does not have to join any political party although he is in the government.

"I think he does not need to join any party because in this government anyone can be a minister, there's no problem to that.

"The important thing is the person is an elected representative or appointed as a senator," said Mohd Amar.

https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/514067

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Putrajaya prepares working papers for Muslim gatherings amid Covid-19 pandemic

Mohamad Fadli

March 12, 2020

PUTRAJAYA: The Prime Minister’s Department has prepared five working papers including one on Friday prayers in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak which, just hours ago, was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization.

Minister in charge of Islamic affairs Zulkifli Mohamad said the working papers, which would also suggest related guidelines, would be completed in two or three days’ time.

“This includes on greeting people, weddings and the handling of corpses. We have a few suggestions,” he told reporters after an event at Masjid Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin today.

On congregating for Friday prayers, Zulkifli said the department had made several proposals to reduce the risk of infection, including shortening the sermon and for ablution to be done at home.

“The mosque must also provide hand sanitisers, while any gathering must be held at venues that have not been exposed to Covid-19,” he added.

Earlier today, a public health think tank urged mosques, churches and temples to suspend weekly and regular prayer gatherings in the wake of new Covid-19 cases detected at houses of worship.

The Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy said Friday prayers, church masses and temple ceremonies should be temporarily halted.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/03/12/putrajaya-prepares-working-papers-for-muslim-gatherings-amid-covid-19-pandemic/

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‘Malay first’ government takes hold in Malaysia

By NILE BOWIE

MARCH 11, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR – As the dust settles after a tumultuous political transition, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s new coalition government has taken shape against a backdrop of rising economic uncertainties.

Muhyiddin announced his Cabinet appointments on March 9 after pledging to unveil a “clean” line-up that would rise above ethnic and socio-economic divisions.

Among those returning to power are politicians with the United Malays Nasional Organization (UMNO), the former ruling party that expelled Muhyiddin in 2016 after he spoke out against top-level corruption. UMNO was trounced at the May 2018 polls, leading to the rise of the now ousted Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition. 

Malaysia’s new premier had served as deputy to disgraced ex-leader Najib Razak, who now faces trial on numerous corruption charges related to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.

Though many who served in Najib’s discredited administration have risen again under Muhyiddin, those selected to join his Cabinet were reportedly required to pass criminal and graft screenings.

Party leaders involved in corruption and criminal cases, such as UMNO president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, were not brought into the Cabinet.

As expected, the new Cabinet is overwhelmingly dominated by ethnic Malay Muslims. A drop in ethnic minority representation was seen as inevitable given that the new Perikatan Nasional (PN) government is comprised of the country’s three largest parties opened exclusively to the Malay Muslim majority.

Muhyiddin, who once controversially claimed to be “a Malay first” in multi-ethnic Malaysia, now presides over one of the least diverse Cabinets in the country’s recent history, with only one minister from the Chinese and Indian communities respectively. Combined, Chinese and Indians represent about 30% of the population.

“The main message being sent to the electorate is that the new government will prioritize Malay concerns,” said Prashant Waikar, a research analyst with the Malaysia Programme at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) in Singapore.

“The fact that the Cabinet is overwhelmingly Malay will assuage Malays who may have felt that Pakatan Harapan undermined Malay interests,” he said in reference to the country’s previous multi-ethnic ruling coalition led by Muhyiddin’s immediate predecessor, elder statesmen Mahathir Mohamad, who resigned last month.

Muhyiddin’s Cabinet has been expanded to 70 positions, up from 55 under PH, with several ministries including finance, education, home affairs, health, agriculture, rural development, and farming given two deputy ministers.

That has already given rise to perceptions of a “bloated” administration built expressly to widely divide the political spoils of government.

“The large number of positions shows the precarity of the governing coalition,” said Waikar. “Perikatan Nasional is also unstable. Muhyiddin therefore had to keep as many people as possible content, as quickly as possible. Negotiations for positions can take a long time. The easier option was to pick as many as possible instead.

“The new government will have to work extremely hard to reach out to non-Malays and convince them of Perikatan Nasional’s merits. This is probably going to be difficult given that the new coalition is a motley of parties and personalities with a turbulent history of competition between each other,” he told Asia Times.

For the first time in Malaysian administrative history, Muhyiddin did not appoint a deputy prime minister, a move that some analysts see as aiming to contain the aspirations of an heir apparent and safeguard against political rifts of the sort that caused the PH coalition’s demise.

Instead, four “senior ministers” were named as representatives of blocs that have pledged support for Muhyiddin’s fragile coalition including UMNO, his own Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), and a faction of defectors from Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), the PH government’s then-largest component party.

Significantly, former PKR deputy president Mohamad Azmin Ali was among the four named senior ministers. The 55-year-old was instrumental to PN’s rise, having masterminded the defections of 10 lawmakers, including himself, to Muhyiddin’s PPBM, without which the new “backdoor” coalition would not have had the numbers to form a government.

Some analysts, however, regard his new role as a demotion. Notoriously ambitious, Azmin was PH’s economic affairs minister, considered to be among the most powerful portfolios with its control over the approval and distribution of state contracts, through which domestic political consolidation and influence is often exercised.

Muhyiddin chose to dissolve the Economic Affairs Ministry and bring the portfolio under the Prime Minister’s Department, where it will be under the purview of Mustapa Mohamed, a former UMNO minister who headed the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) during Najib’s tenure.

Azmin has effectively switched places after being appointed to lead MITI, which gives him control over only 865 million ringgit (US$204 million) in outward-oriented developmental expenditure compared to the 2.7 billion ringgit ($643 million) in domestic-designated project expenditure he oversaw as economic affairs minister.

Najib’s cousin, Hishammuddin Hussein, a former UMNO defence minister and home minister, will lead the Foreign Ministry, a relatively less powerful portfolio compared to his past appointments. Along with Azmin, he is regarded as one of the key conspirators of the so-called “Sheraton Move” that brought down the PH government.

Muhyiddin appointed a political outsider, CIMB group executive chief officer Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, a respected banker with over two decades of experience in the financial industry and family ties to the new premier, to head the Finance Ministry.

“The private sector regards Zafrul quite highly, so placing him as finance minister is a signal to revive investor confidence in Malaysia,” said Waikar. “Placing a non-partisan technocrat like Zafrul in one of the most powerful ministries allows Muhyiddin to project a degree of neutrality to his partners.”

The appointment of Federal Territories mufti Zulkifli Mohamad as religious affairs minister, a figure who is seen as relatively progressive and more moderate than leaders from Islamist party Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), one of PN’s key component parties, caught many observers by surprise.

PAS, which has long sought to implement harsher sharia criminal laws and turn multi-religious Malaysia into an Islamic state, is viewed with suspicion by many in the country. Its president, Abdul Hadi Awang, was not appointed to the Cabinet, though his deputy will lead the environment ministry.

“The absence of PAS in most senior positions is curious,” said Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs. “PAS did not get a lot of seats in this Cabinet despite its comparatively large number of MPs in the coalition.”

It is unclear whether those sacrifices will lead to concessions in service to its hardline religious agenda, he said.

Oh believes that the exclusion of Hadi, who in the past has argued that only Malay Muslims should be Cabinet ministers and policymakers, aims to “reassure the international and business communities that such a fringe figure is not included in Cabinet, despite him being the head of one of the major component parties.”

Appointing either a PAS or UMNO leader as religious affairs minister would have potentially created issues for the government and done little to assuage fears that non-Muslims have about PAS, Waikar believes. “Zulkifli is not as conservative as religious leaders in PAS and UMNO. His appointment was the most neutral option possible,” he added. 

Meanwhile, Federal Court judge Idrus Harun was appointed as Attorney General, replacing PH-appointee Tommy Thomas, who resigned after the coalition’s collapse. Idrus’ appointment was welcomed by the Malaysian Bar, which noted his breadth of legal experience, including as a former solicitor general.

Lawyer Gopal Sri Ram, who is leading the high-profile criminal corruption prosecution against Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor, among others, has reportedly been given Idrus’ early go-ahead to continue handling the landmark cases.

Other prominent UMNO leaders also face graft charges, and many had questioned whether criminal proceedings would continue under Muhyiddin’s government given the fact that UMNO, with 39 representatives, is the largest component party in his PN coalition.

“Idrus was in the Attorney General’s Office for decades before he joined the judiciary and has been involved in major cases as a deputy public prosecutor. He is seen as someone who has integrity and is the sort of person who would be expected to pursue these trials given his past track record,” said political scientist Chandra Muzaffar.

Full report at:

https://asiatimes.com/2020/03/malay-first-government-takes-hold-in-malaysia/

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MOH identifying 95 Singaporeans at religious gathering in Malaysia after Covid-19 cases confirmed

Clement Yong

March 12, 2020

SINGAPORE - Singaporeans have been urged to be mindful of Covid-19 when carrying out their religious practices, as reports emerge that 95 Singaporeans had attended a mass religious gathering in Malaysia in which several cases of the coronavirus were confirmed.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said in a Facebook post on Thursday (March 12) that the Ministry of Health is in the midst of identifying and investigating the Singaporean attendees.

The event is believed to have taken place at a mosque on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur between Feb 27 and March 1, involving around 10,000 people from several countries.

The Malaysian authorities are currently tracking around 5,000 of its citizens who were at the gathering and who are believed to now have dispersed across the country.

In his post, Mr Masagos cited efforts made by the local Muslim community to limit contact as examples of good practices, coming at a time when the World Health Organisation has declared the outbreak a pandemic.

"For example, many are refraining from our usual handshake or 'Salam' and instead are adopting what I call the 'Mufti Salam', where one places his hand on his chest to convey his greetings.

"Many are also bringing their own personal prayer mats and paraphernalia to the mosque," he said.

The total number of coronavirus cases worldwide has now exceeded 120,000, with the United States announcing the suspension of all travel from mainland Europe to the country for the next 30 days from Friday.

Latest updates from Singapore's Ministry of Health put the number of confirmed cases of infections here at 178, of whom 96 have recovered and been discharged.

Mr Masagos in his Facebook post also reiterated that Singaporeans should "step up our personal hygiene and keep our public places clean to minimise the risk of disease transmission", even as Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Wednesday that Singaporeans should be prepared for the situation to worsen.

He said Singaporeans should make three good practices their "new way of life": using tissues when sneezing or coughing, properly throwing tissues away in bins instead of leaving them on trays or tables, and refraining from attending group activities or social gatherings if feeling unwell.

Two churches have emerged as clusters here since the first imported case was reported on Jan 23.

Full report at:

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/coronavirus-moh-identifying-95-sporeans-at-religious-gathering-in-malaysia-after-covid-19

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Indonesian singles propose ‘marriage without dating’

March 11, 2020

JAKARTA: Frustrated after a string of break-ups, Dwita Astari Pujiartati quit the casual romance circuit and turned to a growing trend among Indonesian singles – marriage without dating.

The 27-year-old professor exchanged resumes with prospective suitors – helped by a Muslim cleric-cum-matchmaker – until she was contacted by a long-lost acquaintance who also wanted to give contact-less dating a whirl.

There was no hand holding or kissing. The pair didn’t even meet in person for almost a year, chatting on the telephone instead.

“Once we felt ‘the click’, (my now husband) asked my parents if he could propose to me,” Pujiartati said.

The practice known as taaruf, or introduction, is derided by critics as old fashioned and more fitting to conservative Gulf nations like Saudi Arabia than relatively liberal Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim majority country.

But Pujiartati saw it as a way to ditch dating that went nowhere and be a devout Muslim at the same time by avoiding pre-marital touching and sex.

“Why should I choose something that wastes my time and doesn’t please God?” she said.

Mass breakup

While the practice isn’t widespread, Pujiartati is not alone.

A movement called Indonesia Tanpa Pacaran (Indonesia without dating) is blossoming in the Southeast Asian nation where people born from the mid-Nineties make up about one-quarter of its more than 260 million people.

The nuptials-focused group, which has a million followers on its Instagram page alone, targets this enormous Generation-Z audience largely through social media.

Any pre-marital contact should be supervised and getting married younger is ideal, according to the group, which portrays pre-marital dating as a sinful product of Western decadence.

Pujiartati’s courtship was long by the standards of many marriage-without-daters who often tie the knot in a matter of months.

To get its message out, the group also sells branded products including hats, keychains and hijab head coverings worn by many women in Indonesia.

The movement was kicked off in 2015 by then university student La Ode Munafar, who recently hosted a “mass breakup” on New Year’s Eve in Kendari city on Sulawesi island.

With dozens in the audience, the 29-year-old denounced dating and called on attendees to break up with their partners.

One young man walked on stage and broke it off with his girlfriend over the phone, eliciting cheers and clapping.

“I’ve researched dating from a scientific and psychological point of view,” Munafar told reporters after the event.

“It’s harmful in every respect,” he added, without elaborating.

‘Public piety’

Cheery stories about marriage-without-dating bliss populate Indonesia’s huge Internet space.

Among them is the tale of Muhammad Alvin Faiz, son of a prominent pro-polygamy cleric, who married his 19-year-old wife, a Catholic convert to Islam, through a no-contact relationship.

Faiz shares the couple’s story with 1.4 million social media followers under the hashtag #NikahMuda or young marriage.

The seeds of this trend may have been planted back in 1998 – when many adherents were toddlers – in the ashes of Indonesia’s collapsed Suharto dictatorship, which largely suppressed religious expression.

“This era of democracy has opened up space for religious expression,” said Sidiq Harim, a sociologist at Gadjah Mada University.

“Public piety through religious symbols is emerging and taaruf is one of them.”

In recent years, Indonesia has seen a shift toward religious conservatism, with some celebrities announcing they’ll adopt a more pious lifestyle.

And last year the government unsuccessfully tried to push through a criminal code overhaul, backed by conservative Islamic groups, which would have banned pre-martial sex, sparking a public outcry.

Marriage-without-dating is also a pushback against fears that two decades of democracy have broken down traditional values in a country where arranged marriage was once the norm, and still endures in some rural areas, experts said.

‘Sudden marriage thing’

Advocates insist the practice empowers women by giving them control over choosing a partner without feeling compelled to have sex before marriage.

And it doesn’t require permission from family members like arranged unions do, they say.

Still, a successful marriage means both partners must follow Islam’s teachings on what’s expected of a husband and wife, said Taufiq Andika, who married his wife after about three months of non-contact courtship.

“It’s a problem if the couple doesn’t know each other’s rights and obligations,” the 28-year-old said.

“That could lead to divorce.”

But even the most liberal interpretations of those obligations tend to call on women to prioritise their husband and children’s needs over their own.

Critics say brief, resume-based relationships can set couples up for failure – and put women at risk.

“I’ve heard many stories about domestic abuse,” said Kalis Mardiasih, a Muslim feminist and gender campaigner at Gusdurian National Network, which represents thousands of grassroots social activists.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/world/2020/03/11/indonesian-singles-propose-marriage-without-dating/

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Malaysia’s Mahathir Says New Government Expected to Rule Until 2023

2020-03-11

Malaysia's new government will last until the next general election, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad predicted Wednesday, as he conceded that he no longer had the majority parliamentary support he claimed just before Muhyiddin Yassin was sworn in to replace him.

Mahathir’s comments, which seemingly acknowledged the strength of the new government, came as Muhyiddin convened his first cabinet meeting and told reporters that he and the 94-year-old former leader had exchanged letters.

“[Muhyiddin] can retain [government] until the next general election,” Mahathir told the Malay-language newspaper Sinar Harian, referring to the next balloting expected to take place in 2023.

Mahathir also acknowledged that a no-confidence vote in parliament against the new leader would likely “not succeed.”

“We had more than 114 seats but now that has become less. … This is because he [Muhyiddin] has taken my people to his side,” Mahathir said, indicating that his supporters had switched sides after being lured with ministerial posts.

Muhyiddin, who once served as an interior minister in Mahathir’s cabinet, agreed with the former prime minister’s comments that he had enough support from legislators to survive a parliamentary challenge.

“Of course. If not, I would not be here,” Muhyiddin told his post-cabinet news conference while thanking Mahathir for his comments.

Muhyiddin, 72, stormed into power last week after back-door political maneuverings led to Mahathir’s resignation, which sparked the collapse of the pro-reform ruling alliance. He was sworn in by the king on March 1.

The new premier on Monday unveiled a roster of 31 Cabinet ministers dominated by ethnic Malays, the majority of Malaysia’s 32 million people. The appointments include nine posts going to politicians from the corruption-tainted United Malays National Organization (UMNO) party.

He also chose 38 deputy ministers but scrapped the position of deputy prime minister. Instead, he appointed four senior ministers – Ismail Sabri Yaakob for defense, Azmin Ali for international trade and industry, Fadillah Yusof for public works and Radzi Jidin for education – allowing them to chair cabinet meetings in his absence.

Muhyiddin told reporters that he sought forgiveness from his predecessor in a letter sent last week, in which he also asked for an endorsement of his new government.

“I asked for his forgiveness if I hurt his feelings with the things that happened over the last few days,” Muhyiddin said. “I want Tun [Mahathir] to endorse this government. It is legal it is constitutional.”

He said Mahathir replied in a letter, saying “it was not the time yet for a meeting.”

Muhyiddin’s rise to power came after a week of political crisis with twists and turns that kept the nation riveted to news reports.

He consolidated his legislative support by forming a new coalition with the Islamist party PAS and the old ruling party United Malays National Organization (UMNO), which has ex-leaders including former PM Najib Razak who are facing trial for corruption charges related to the alleged multibillion-dollar theft from state fund 1MDB.

The new leader’s first cabinet meeting occurred as health authorities across the globe grappled with alarming clusters of COVID-19, including Malaysia, where 149 cases had been reported as of Wednesday. Worldwide, about 118,000 have been infected and more than 4,200 have died.

Muhyiddin said he would review to determine if a planned 20 billion ringgit ($4.73 billion) stimulus package announced by the former government last month should be increased. He said he would create a council to tackle the economic and trade impacts of the virus.

He also appealed to Malaysians to allow the new government to prove itself.

“Come on, give us a chance,” he said.

Malaysia to mend ties with Saudi Arabia, India

Meanwhile, after reporting to work for the first time as Malaysia’s new foreign minister, Hishamuddin Hussein said he would focus on repairing ties with Saudi Arabia and India, which frayed under the previous government’s convening of a Muslim summit and criticism of Delhi’s crackdown on Muslim-majority Kashmir.

Hishamuddin, who served as defense minister in Najib’s government until Mahathir’s coalition scored a stunning election triumph in May 2018, said he had called his Saudi counterpart prior to his first cabinet meeting under the new government.

“The leadership of Saudi said they will ask Prince Faisal bin Farhan to come to Malaysia to meet the new foreign and foreign deputy minister,” he said.

The Prime Minister’s Office had received calls and expressions of support from foreign ministries of China, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, Muhyiddin said.

During his news conference, Muhyiddin said Malaysia will continue hosting direct peace talks between neighbor Thailand and Deep South insurgents “as long as it is good for the country and the people concerned.”

Abdul Rahim Noor, the facilitator of the Kuala Lumpur-brokered peace process in the Thai Deep South, told BenarNews early this month that he would brief Muhyiddin about efforts to end the long-running separatist insurgency.

Thai officials had confirmed that Thailand and BRN had opened direct talks aimed at settling the long-running conflict, which has claimed more than 7,000 lives in the mainly Muslim and Malay-speaking Deep South region since 2004.

“We will look in a general way at government foreign policy which we have implemented to date, which is quite good. We will continue it,” Muhyiddin said, replying to a question from BenarNews.

“However if there are certain changes that we need to execute to make our policy more clear, we will do it,” he said.

Gen. Wanlop Rugsanaoh, the chief Thai peace negotiator, met with a panel from Barisan Revolusi Nasional (National Revolutionary Front, or BRN) led by Anas Abdulrahman (also known as Hipni Mareh), during a second round of Malaysia-brokered talks last week, Thai officials said.

The military wing of BRN, the largest of armed separatist groups in the Deep South, had stayed out of Malaysia-brokered negotiations until early this year between Thailand and MARA Patani, an umbrella group representing rebel factions in peace talks launched in 2015.

Since the start of this year, 24 civilians and Thai security personnel have been killed and 28 others injured in insurgency-related violence in the region that borders Malaysia, according to statistics compiled by the regional police bureau. Seven fighters have been killed on the rebel side.

Full report at:

https://www.benarnews.org/english/news/malaysian/first-cabinet-03112020164616.html

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Indonesia arrests six over coronavirus internet hoaxes

March 10, 2020  

Six Indonesians have been arrested for allegedly spreading misinformation online about the deadly coronavirus, police said Tuesday, as the Southeast Asian nation's confirmed infection cases jumped.

A woman in Indonesia's second-biggest city Surabaya was arrested Monday for spreading inaccurate claims on Facebook a patient was being treated for the virus in the city, police said.

Five others were also detained for spreading false information on social media, including claims a Muslim woman flying to Saudi Arabia for a religious pilgrimage had died suddenly from the virus at Jakarta's international airport.

All six suspects are accused of violating laws banning the spread of misinformation, which carries as much as six years in prison.

"It should serve as a lesson for other people not to spread hoaxes about coronavirus in Indonesia," senior communications ministry official Semuel Abrijani Pangerapan said.

Last month, two Indonesian women were arrested for allegedly posting virus-linked misinformation in a country with some 130 million people online -- among the globe's biggest internet audiences.

On Monday, the country reported its confirmed cases had jumped to 19 from six.

Scientists have questioned the relatively low number of cases in the world's fourth most populous country, and suggested there could be many more people with the illness.

COVID-19 has killed more than 4,000 people and infected over 110,000 globally since it emerged last year.

Full report at:

https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/03/10/indonesia-arrests-six-over-coronoavirus-internet-hoaxes.html

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Africa

 

Kano emir’s fall shows limits for Nigerian traditional rulers

March 12, 2020

KANO, Nigeria: An outspoken ruler mired in conflicts is ousted without warning from his palace and banished under armed guard into an uncertain exile beyond the borders of his realm.

This is not the plot of a Shakespearean tragedy, but the real-life drama that has played out in northern Nigeria’s influential Islamic emirate of Kano as traditional leader Muhammadu Sanusi II was unceremoniously deposed by the local governor.

The sudden fall of one of the country’s most revered hereditary rulers on Monday rattled the 1,000-year-old kingdom — and has shown the difficult balancing act facing the ancient monarchies of modern-day Nigeria.

Sanusi, also known by his birth name Lamido, had been a mold-breaker since ascending to the throne of the emirate of millions in 2014 after the death of his great-uncle.

The 58-year-old former central bank governor was already known for his outspokenness when he claimed the title and carved out a reputation as a modernizer willing to criticize practices like having multiple wives and children without being able to support them.

He was also not afraid of taking on the powerful politicians running northern Nigeria — lambasting them for leadership failures.

“It’s no secret that many of our political leaders are inept and not well educated,” the emir wrote back in 2017.

“Nigerians have learnt from experience not to expect much from them.”

The ruler’s main nemesis — and the man who ultimately unseated him — was regional governor Abdullahi Ganduje.

Ganduje suspected the emir of backing his political rival and had already divided up his territory and launched a corruption probe to try to bring him to heel.

On Monday their feud came to a head when Sanusi was unexpectedly removed for “total disrespect.”

“The governor decided that enough is enough and moved against him,” said Adewunmi Falode, a history professor at Lagos state university.

“It’s a signal that the ultimate power rests with the government while the emir is just a symbol of spirituality, culture and tradition without real power and influence.”

The deposed ruler was detained by police at his palace before being spirited out of Kano to exile in a remote village in another state where he is expected to remain incommunicado.

There are dozens of traditional rulers across Africa’s most populous country.

They have no official constitutional powers but are important cultural custodians who often wield great influence over their followers.

Relics from a period when monarchies dominated this region, they rely now on regional governments for their funding and their succession is regulated by elected officials.

While they lack practical power, their patronage can be key at elections when Nigeria’s notoriously cutthroat politicians jostle for votes.

But their role remains ambiguous — and when Sanusi began to talk up some complained that he was overstepping the boundaries and flouting the strict protocol of the palace.

“It is an established custom that the emir should be seen not heard,” a Kano court insider said on condition of anonymity.

“But Sanusi violated that important tradition and would talk like a parrot anywhere, anytime and on any topic — this eroded the mystic and prestige around his person in the eyes of the people.”

That could in part explain the muted response to his removal on the streets of his former kingdom.

While moves to depose previous emirs provoked deadly violence in decades past, this time around there have been no major protests.

If anything highlighted the uncomfortable divide between modernity and tradition that the monarchies straddle — it was the nature of Sanusi’s removal.

The lightning move to turf him out was down to a powerplay typical of the political tussles of contemporary Nigeria.

Within hours a replacement had been installed — and the former ruler released a video message pledging his allegiance.

But the decision to detain and banish Sanusi to an undisclosed location proved controversial.

Amnesty International’s Nigerian branch complained on Twitter that “placing him incommunicado violates his human rights.”

The tactic dates back to the days when the British Empire dominated Nigeria with its strategy of divide-and-rule and would exile leaders viewed as troublesome.

“The archaic practice of banishment of deposed Emirs, a colonial practice, has no basis under Nigerian law or the constitution,” Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud, a lawyer for Sanusi, said in a statement.

His legal team insisted they would go to court to challenge the legality of his treatment.

“We are totally perplexed at the resort to this practice in present day Nigeria by its political leaders.”

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1640407/world

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NAF rains bombs on Sambisa as Boko Haram fighters regroup

March 12, 2020

Boko Haram terrorists have relocated their fighters to Bula Korege in the Sambisa Forest region of Borno State, prompting the Nigerian Air Force to deploy jets to bomb the locations.

The insurgents were planning to embark on an attack on bases of the Nigerian Army troops and civilian communities in the area when the NAF Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance platforms sighted them.

The air force noted on Wednesday that the strikes on the Boko Haram camps were part of the ongoing Operation Decisive Edge and they killed scores of the terrorists.

The NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, said in a release that the air force, operating in concert with surface forces, will sustain its air campaign against the terrorists’ hideouts.

He said, “In continuation of Operation Decisive Edge, the Air Task Force of Operation Lafiya Dole has neutralised dozens of Boko Haram terrorists at Bula Korege on the fringes of the Sambisa Forest in Borno State.

“The massive air strikes were conducted in two waves of attack sequel to credible intelligence reports indicating that the terrorists had relocated some of their fighters to the settlement to reinforce the location preparatory to attacks on troops’ locations and surrounding civilian settlements. Consequently, the ATF dispatched an enhanced force package of several attack aircraft and a surveillance platform to engage the location.

Full report at:

https://punchng.com/naf-rains-bombs-on-sambisa-as-boko-haram-fighters-regroup/

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8 killed in Boko Haram attack on army post in southeastern Niger

2020-03-10

Niamey – An attack by Boko Haram jihadists on an army post in the southeastern Niger region of Diffa left eight dead and three missing, state radio said on Monday.

Local sources had said on Sunday that a "major" attack had killed soldiers who were hospitalised in Diffa, but they did not give figures.

Chetima Wangou came under attack by Boko Haram by around 20 heavily armed vehicles, the radio report said.

"On the friends' side there were eight dead, eight wounded, three missing. On the enemy side almost all the assailants were neutralised," the radio said.

'Almost all neutralised'

It said there were three successive clashes and that vehicles that had managed to cross the border into Nigeria were "almost all neutralised" by air strikes by a joint multinational force of Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon.

The region which abuts Nigeria and Chad has repeatedly suffered attacks by the Boko Haram jihadist group since 2015, but they have subsided since late last year.

The new attack was partially enabled by a lower water level on the Komadougou River marking the border between Niger and Nigeria, a humanitarian source told AFP.

In February last year, seven Nigerian soldiers were killed in an attack in the same village of Chetima Wangou.

Full report at:

https://www.news24.com/Africa/News/update-8-killed-in-boko-haram-attack-on-army-post-in-southeastern-niger-20200310

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Terrorist groups 'on the march' in West Africa and the Sahel, US general warns

11 March 2020

Terrorist organizations are "on the march" in West Africa and the Sahel with international efforts failing to curb the increase in violence, a four-star American general in charge of U.S. troops in Africa warned on Tuesday.

The stark message came as the State Department is ramping up its diplomatic efforts in the region by appointing the first-ever U.S. special envoy.

But that high-level engagement may be undermined by a potential cut to the U.S. troop levels on the continent, with the Pentagon still reassessing its force presence there. Lawmakers of both parties and allies including France have warned the Trump administration that a reduction in troops could exacerbate problems and increase the threat of terrorism to the American homeland.

In a hearing on Tuesday, Gen. Stephen Townsend, the head of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), said that in the last year alone there's been a five-fold increase in terrorist activity in the Sahel region -- the stretch of semi-arid land south of the Sahara Desert from Mauritania and Senegal in the west to Sudan and Eritrea in the east.

The region has at least five major terrorist organizations, whose members often flow between them and with weapons flowing south from Libya, according to U.S. officials. At least 2,000 civilians were killed in violent conflict in just 2019 in the largely ungoverned spaces where Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso meet, U.S. Agency for International Development chief Mark Green said Tuesday. There are at least 600,000 people displaced by fighting and humanitarian needs in Burkina Faso alone, according to the United Nations.

The groups, including two ISIS branches that were sanctioned by the United Nations last month, do not have the "capacity" to attack the U.S. homeland, according to Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale, "but they certainly are ambitious in the long run."

The U.S. military, along with allies, have partnered with local security forces in places like Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso to contain the growing threat from ISIS and al-Qaida affiliates that have destabilized the region. There are some 1,000 U.S. troops in the Sahel region, largely assisting French forces with intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance or logistics support. American forces also conduct large- and small-scale training exercises with African partner nations.

"In West Africa and the Sahel region, I think that the Western, international, and African efforts there are not getting the job done," Townsend said. "ISIS and al-Qaida are on the march in West Africa. They're having success, and international efforts are not."

But instead of increasing the U.S. presence, Townsend called on America's European allies to provide more assistance, saying "problems will manifest" in Europe before they reach the United States.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper initiated a review of AFRICOM's posture in order to see if some of its approximately 5,000 troops on the continent can be realigned toward focusing on future fights against Russia and China.

While no decision on a possible reduction in forces has been made and the AFRICOM review is part of a broader look at adjusting U.S. troops globally, the review has been criticized by some lawmakers, including top Republicans, such as Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., who are concerned that the U.S. military's presence on the continent is vital to containing the spread of terrorism.

"This is one of the parts of the world you pay now or you pay later, and I'd rather pay smartly now," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Tuesday. "I would like us to show up, and our assistance programs are, I think, national security in another form."

To that end, the State Department appointed Dr. J. Peter Pham as the first-ever U.S. Special Envoy for the Sahel Region on Sunday. Pham, who had been serving as a special envoy for Africa's Great Lakes region, will "maximize U.S. diplomatic efforts in support of security and stability in the Sahel," State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a tweet.

Morgan Ortagus

@statedeptspox

.@SecPompeo is pleased to appoint @DrJPPham as the first-ever U.S. Special Envoy for the Sahel Region of Africa to maximize U.S. diplomatic efforts in support of security and stability in the Sahel.

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10:34 PM - Mar 8, 2020

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In particular, Pham will focus on combating the growing threat of violent extremism by boosting fragile governments in the region, their security forces and their legitimacy and control over their territory.

Outside of the Sahel, Townsend specifically called out al-Qaida's affiliate in Somalia, al-Shabaab, as a "significant threat to American interests in the region" that could "manifest into an international threat," if left unchecked.

Al-Shabaab was behind the January attack on Manda Bay, Kenya, that killed three Americans.

Townsend said the group is also a threat to embassies in the region. And less than two weeks ago, the U.S. embassy in Kenya said terrorist groups were plotting an attack against a major hotel popular with westerners in Nairobi.

"Al-Shabaab is the largest and most kinetically violent arm of al-Qaida," Townsend said. "And they are a serious threat to not only the Somali people but to the entire region."

Full report at:

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/terrorist-groups-march-west-africa-sahel-us-general/story?id=69511422

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Sudan says FBI to help probe PM Hamdok assassination bid

11 March 2020

American investigators will help Sudan with inquiries into a failed assassination attempt against Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, the Sudanese culture and information minister said on Wednesday.

A Federal Bureau of Investigation team “arrived this morning and will join Sudanese investigators,” Faisal Mohammed Saleh told journalists.

Sudan’s post-uprising leader Hamdok escaped unharmed on Monday after an assassination attempt using explosives targeted his convoy in the capital Khartoum.

The American investigators will bring relevant “expertise and techniques for this kind of case,” Saleh said.

The US team comprises three people, local media cited the interior ministry as saying.

Sudan’s security and defense council met on Monday evening and called for foreign assistance.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack.

Sudanese authorities have made several arrests, including of foreigners, Saleh said, without giving further detail.

On Tuesday, the interior ministry said the blast was caused by an improvised explosive device placed on the route taken by Hamdok’s convoy.

After the fall of longstanding ruler Omar al-Bashir in April 2019, Hamdok, a seasoned economist, took the reins of a transitional government last August.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/03/11/Sudan-says-FBI-to-help-probe-PM-Hamdok-assassination-bid-.html

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India

 

Kashmiri Held For IS Link Is A Techie, Ex-Cricketer, Start-up Founder

Mar 11, 2020

SRINAGAR: The 32-year-old Kashmiri man arrested along with his wife in Delhi last Sunday on suspicion of working for Islamic State is an IT professional who went to two of Srinagar's top Christian missionary schools, played competitive cricket at various levels and ran a software startup before unrest in the Valley cut short his entrepreneurial journey and forced him to take up a job, his family said on Wednesday.

Sehrish Sami, the younger sister of Jahanzaib Sami Wani, said her brother did not have any adverse police record or history of radical behaviour. "My brother and sister-in-law read the Quran and other religious books, like many Muslims do. How are those 'incriminating' material, as claimed by Delhi Police? Is reading religious literature a crime?" she said.

Till late on Wednesday, J&K Police apparently hadn't found anything on Jahanzaib or his wife Hina Bashir suggesting their involvement in illegal activity in the Valley. "We are gathering details as of now," Srinagar SSP Haseeb Mughal said.

An alumnus of Burn Hall and Tyndale Biscoe schools, Jahanzaib is the son of businessman and councillor Sami Wani. The family resides in the upmarket Shivpora locality of Srinagar, adjacent to the military headquarters in J&K.

According to Sehrish, her brother wouldn't have left home late last year had the internet shutdown since August 5 not made it impossible for him to work out of the Valley as a project manager of a UK-based IT company. "The last time we spoke, he and my sister-in-law were all set to return home as internet services have just been restored in Kashmir," she said.

Jahanzaib and Hina, an MBA in finance and marketing, got married on October 6 and moved into a rented home in Delhi's Okhla neighbourhood on October 26. His employer arranged the accommodation, Sehrish said.

Muzaffar Shah, a neighbour of the family in Shivpora, said there was nothing in Jahanzaib's behaviour to suspect he had been radicalised and roped in by a terror outfit like IS.

Back in 2016, when Kashmir was in the throes of unrest over Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani's death in an encounter with security forces, Jahanzaib was too busy trying to keep his startup WalurSol afloat, his sister said.

“My brother worked in Bengaluru for some time after completing his BTech there. He then returned home to launch WalurSol, which shut down in the wake of the violence in 2016,” Sehrish said. “He again took up a job in Pune, although his heart was always here despite our father wanting him to settle outside Kashmir."

Jahanzaib's father Sami and father-in-law Bashir Ahmad Beig are currently in Delhi trying to arrange "legal remedies" for their wards, family sources said.

On Sunday, Delhi Police’s special cell announced the arrest of a Kashmiri couple living in a rented flat at Jamia Nagar in Okhla for their alleged links with the Khorasan module of IS. Claiming to have found "objectionable material" in their possession, the police accused the couple of also inciting protests against CAA.

Sehrish said she came to know about her brother and sister-in-law's arrest from their landlord. "I then spoke to one of our cousins in Delhi and asked him to find out what had happened."

Jahanzaib's mother, a former schoolteacher, is still in shock. “She can't believe her son and daughter-in-law have been picked up on frivolous charges. Our mother has always been proud of Jahanzaib's calibre, and for him to be accused of being radical and an IS operative is beyond imagination," Sehrish said.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/kashmiri-held-for-is-link-is-a-techie-ex-cricketer-startup-founder/articleshow/74583323.cms

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Rajya Sabha to discuss Delhi violence, two bills to replace ordinances today

Mar 11, 2020

NEW DELHI: Rajya Sabha will discuss the communal violence in Delhi on Thursday along with two bills to replace ordinances — the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Bill and the Mineral Laws (Amendment) Bill.

The House was adjourned for the day on Wednesday after opposition members raised concern on the government not listing the two bills in the regular list of businesses in the morning. Despite repeated requests from deputy chairman Harivansh to discuss the two bills as the ordinances are set to lapse this week, the opposition members refused to relent.

“If this was so important, why was it not listed in the list of business?” TMC leader Derek O’Brien asked.

The House witnessed three brief adjournments after 2 pm as government and opposition parties tried to reach an agreement on discussing the bills.

When the House met at 3.40 pm, parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi said, “As agreed in the meeting in the deputy chairman's chamber, the two ordinances (listed in supplementary agenda) will be discussed tomorrow at 11 am. Thereafter, there will be a discussion on Delhi violence in the House.”

Leader of opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “We have agreed that we will finish the discussion on the two ordinances in the morning tomorrow and discuss the Delhi violence in the afternoon.”

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/rajya-sabha-to-discuss-delhi-violence-two-bills-to-replace-ordinances-today/articleshow/74583377.cms

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South Asia

 

U.S. warns Taliban that level of violence 'not conducive' for peace process

10 March 2020

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS, March 10 (Reuters) - The United States warned the Taliban on Tuesday that the current high level of violence by the insurgents was "not conducive to advancing the peace process" as the United Nations Security Council backed a U.S.-led push to end Afghanistan's 18-year war.

The United States signed an agreement with the Taliban last month. It calls for a phased withdrawal of U.S.-led foreign forces if the Taliban keeps its commitments and for the start of talks between the insurgents and an Afghan government delegation on a political settlement to end decades of conflict.

"We acknowledge the Taliban have taken steps to stop attacks in cities and against major bases," Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Cherith Norman Chalet told the U.N. Security Council.

"But more needs to be done and we urge them to also reduce violence against Afghan forces in the countryside to give intra-Afghan negotiations and peace the opportunity to succeed," she said after the 15-member council unanimously adopted a U.S.-drafted resolution on Afghanistan.

The U.N. resolution welcomed "the significant steps towards ending the war and opening the door to intra-Afghan negotiations" enabled by separate U.S. agreements with the Taliban and the Afghan government.

The council also expressed a "readiness upon the commencement of the intra-Afghan negotiations to consider the start of the review of the status" of Taliban sanctions.

Compounding the challenges faced by Afghanistan, an escalating political feud is also threatening political chaos.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was sworn in for a second term on Monday, but the ceremony was marred by a rocket attack and his political rival, former chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, held his own inauguration ceremony.

Both Ghani and Abdullah say they are Afghanistan's rightful leader following a disputed election in September.

"We are strongly against the establishment of any parallel administrations or government structures and we call on all concerned to come together and resolve differences constructively," British U.N. Ambassador Karen Pierce said in remarks directed at Adbullah.

Earlier on Tuesday at the United Nations, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared to take a swipe at the U.S. deal with the Taliban, saying: "It is difficult to have an agreement when you leave out the government of the country that you are expecting to uphold and live under that agreement."

Speaking at an event on Afghan women's rights, she also stressed the need for women to be at the negotiating table.

"Afghan women today are rightly afraid... that the gains they have made with all of our help will be washed away in a rush to achieve a peace that will not hold anyway," Clinton said. "This is not just morally wrong, this is dangerous."

Full report at:

https://news.trust.org/item/20200310205430-8uchk/

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Court intervenes to halt Bangladesh church dispute

March 11, 2020

Bangladesh’s top judicial body has intervened to bring an end to a long-running dispute over management and leadership of a Protestant church in the south of the Muslim-majority country.

A two-judge High Court bench issued an injunction with a rule on March 9 that nobody should impede or meddle in the activities and affairs of Chandrakanta Memorial Church, an independent evangelical church in the Uzirpur area of Barishal district.

The court also asked several government bodies to explain within four weeks why an apparent attempt by some state officials to meddle in church affairs should not be declared illegal.

The respondents include secretaries of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives, Barisal deputy commissioner S.M. Ajior Rahman, the chief government officer of Uzirpur and the officer in-charge of Uzirpur police station

The ruling was in response to a recent writ petition filed by three people including Rev. James Ananda Biswas, the acting pastor of the church, which was established in 1974 and has about 2,500 members.

The complaints included threats and attempts by some excommunicated members to take over the church’s properties and physical and verbal attacks on its management, including pastors and preachers.

Rev. Biswas said some former church members had been trying to take over the church for their personal interests with support from government officials.

“Ours is a small but strong community of faithful and we have been living peacefully for more than four decades. But a group of former members involved in various anti-church activities have been threatening and panicking the community for their personal gains,” Rev. Biswas, 76, told UCA News.

He said the rival group is led by Milton Samadder, a businessman and former church member based in capital Dhaka.

Rev. Biswas alleged that Samadder and his group want to take over the church and its properties to use for business ventures and had bribed local officials to gain support.

The group has been angry with the current church leaders for revoking their membership and banning them from attending liturgy on legitimate grounds, he said.

“As per our church rule, a member can be excommunicated if he or she marries outside the church and faith, which all of them have done. That is why they are very angry and they want to drive away the current authority at any cost,” added Rev. Biswas, a celibate pastor and preacher for 58 years.

The dispute has been long-running but some state officials have “overexercised” their power, said barrister Jyotirmoy Barua, a panel lawyer for Bangladesh Legal Aid Services Trust, who represented the petitioners.

Samadder’s group exploited the chief government officer of Barishal and used a fake letter from the Religious Affairs Ministry to form a so-called new church committee, which was absolutely illegal, Barua told UCA News.

“On Feb. 6, a group of 25-30 supporters of Milton [Samadder] and the group went to the church with the deputy commissioner and informed the current authority about the formation of a new committee and asked them to hand over all responsibilities. As the deputy commissioner left, the group attacked and beat up pastors and those who opposed them. They left after locking down the church and adjoining buildings,” Barua said.

As the church officials had failed to get support from the local administration and police, they approached the top court as a last resort, he added.

Samadder told UCA News that the allegations against him were “baseless and fabricated.”

“My uncle was a founder of the church and my family donated the land where the church now stands. I have no reason to attempt to take over the church for any purpose,” said Samadder, a businessmen and chief executive of Child and Old Age Care, an NGO in Dhaka.

“The current church authority dislikes me because I have made a good name through businesses and philanthropy and tried to protest against their unethical activities.”

Samadder, 36, claimed that none of the five banned members married people of other faiths but had married members of other churches, which the church constitution permits. He also denied that pastors and preachers were attacked by dozens of his supporters on Feb. 6.

He said that besides offering a shelter for orphans, unwanted babies and abandoned elderly people, he also buries bodies left to rot in hospitals and has donated a good deal of money to people in need over the years.

“They have banned us from attending church liturgy illegally and resisted my philanthropic activities in the area whenever I tried to do something for poor people, such as distributing blankets during winter. They have also filed several cases against me in court with false allegations, but I have not filed any,” he said.

Samadder claimed that they have requested church officials to soften their stance many times but failed.

Full report at:

https://www.ucanews.com/news/court-intervenes-to-halt-bangladesh-church-dispute/87431

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Ghani dissolves Office of the Chief Executive

11 Mar 2020

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has dissolved the Office of Chief Executive amid looming political crisis following the controversial announcement of presidential elections.

Sources in ARG Palace have said President Ghani has issued a decree dissolving the Office of the Chief Executive.

The sources further added that the decree specifically states that none of the official letters issued from the Office of the Chief Executive status.

This comes as both Abdullah Abdullah and Mohammad Ashaf Ghani held parallel oath taking ceremonies in capital Kabul on Monday.

The Independent Election Commission announced incumbent Ashraf Ghani as the winner of the controversial presidential elections last month.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/ghani-dissolves-office-of-the-chief-executive-04503/

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Dostum says the ‘fight is not over’ as he congratulates Abdullah for the victory

12 Mar 2020

The leader of Junbish-e Millie Party General Abdul Rashid Dostum congratulated Abdullah Abdullah for his victory in presidential race and forming an inclusive government.

In a statement posted online, Gen. Dostum said the Stability and Partnership team led by Abdullah established an inclusive government despite facing betrayals from majority of the members of election commission, widespread systematic fraud and interference in the election process.

Gen. Dostum called Abdullah’s victory in the election as historic, however, he emphasized that the fight is not over as he called on his supporters to remain determined and continue to their fight with resolve.

He emphasized that the fight will continue until the final objective is achieved to rescue the country from the risk of division and to end the war, injustice, monopoly of power, instability, discrimination, terrorism, extremism, poverty and misery.

Tensions remain high on political level following the controversial announcement of final election by Independent Election Commission last month.

The Independent Election Commission announced incumbent Ashraf Ghani as the winner of the controversial presidential elections. However, Abdullah rejected the results emphasizing that he had won the presidential race and that he would form a parallel government.

Abdullah announced the formation of an inclusive government after holding a parallel oath taking ceremony in Kabul on Monday.

He also issued a statement late on Wednesday stating that Ghani is no more the President of Afghanistan and his decrees will no more have credibility.

The statement further added that the term of the Government of National Unity formally ended with the formation of the inclusive government and that the new Chief Executive would be formally introduced in the near future.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/dostum-says-the-fight-is-not-over-as-he-congratulates-abdullah-for-the-victory-04505/

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Former president Karzai blames US for crisis in Afghanistan

11 March 2020

Afghanistan’s former president Hamid Karzai has blamed the United States’ policies and “insulting” and “divisive” treatment of Afghan people for the current political crisis in the country.

“In all my meetings with US officials in recent months, especially with US special envoy (Zalmay Khalilzad), I expressed my deep concern about the lack of sincerity and transparency in the US’s policies regarding moving the election process forward and parts of the peace process [with the Taliban militants],” Karzai said in a statement carried by the local TOLO News.

On Monday, Afghan incumbent President Ashraf Ghani and opposition candidate and former chief executive Abdullah Abdullah both held inauguration ceremonies in the capital. Abdullah has contested the official results of the recent presidential election in the country, which showed Ghani had won.

Karzai said if the US had been sincere about seeking an end to the crisis in Afghanistan, it would have prevented divisions and political instability by making constructive and on-time moves ahead of the inauguration ceremonies.

“I have reiterated that the election and peace should result in strengthening national unity and stability in the country and in the establishment of a legitimate and powerful national government,” the ex-president added, referring to his meetings with US officials.

Karzai said that under the current situation, there was a need for unity among Afghans so that they could “foil plots” from abroad.

UNSC adopts resolution backing US-Taliban ‘peace’ deal

Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) unanimously adopted a resolution Tuesday afternoon endorsing a deal between the US and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

All 15 Security Council members supported the resolution — proposed by Washington — that endorsed a joint US-Afghan declaration on peace and a deal signed between the Trump administration and the Taliban.

This is while the Taliban have been engaging in attacks against the Afghan government since the deal was signed on February 29.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/11/620616/Afghanistan-Karzai-Karzai-US-policies-Taliban-deal

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Arab World

 

Coronavirus: Iraq’s Kurdistan region bans Nowruz festivals

11 March 2020

Iraqi semi-autonomous Kurdistan region has banned the Nowruz New Year festivals due later this month due to coronavirus fears, a statement said on Wednesday.

The region will also limit personal travel and trade activities, the self-autonomous government said in a statement.

The entry of people from other regions into Iraqi Kurdistan will be halted from March 14 to 28 unless special approval is granted, it added. Iraqi-Kurds had until March 16 to come back from Iran, afterwards their entry would be denied.

Travel between cities of the Kurdistan region from March 14 to March 28 would be allowed only for medical or UN staff and security forces, the statement said. Earlier, Iraqi officials in the Shi'ite holy city of Karbala banned Friday prayers due to concerns about the coronavirus.

Karbala, like the neighboring holy city of Najaf, attracts Shi'ites pilgrims from Iraq and abroad. Prayers were also canceled last Friday, while Najaf has stopped arrival of any non-residents. At least 67 coronavirus cases have been reported in Iraq, mostly from travelers who came from neighboring Iran, where the death toll has topped 350.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/03/12/Coronavirus-Iraq-s-Kurdistan-region-bans-Nowruz-festivals-.html

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Riyadh: Iran Supports Terrorism in Yemen, Lebanon

11 March, 2020

Saudi Arabia said Iran’s preoccupation with supporting terrorist groups in Yemen and Lebanon has deprived its citizens of their right to development and the rights of citizens of those countries to enjoy security and stability.

During a meeting of the UN’s Human Rights Council on Tuesday in Geneva, third secretary of Saudi Arabia's permanent delegation to the UN Mohammed bin Essam Khashan called on Tehran to comply with the international treaties and covenants to which it has signed up.

He also urged it to focus on the development of Iran and providing better lives to its citizens

Khashan said Iran needs to halt its interventions that are leading to human rights violations in neighboring countries.

The Kingdom is concerned about violations of the economic, social and cultural rights of minorities in Iran, and the treatment of Kurds, Al-Ahwazi Arabs and Azerbaijani Turks who are being subjected to discrimination in a number of ways that have “a great impact on their basic rights.

Full report at:

https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/2174296/riyadh-iran-supports-terrorism-yemen-lebanon

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Coronavirus: How Lebanon is responding with preventative measures

11 March 2020

As the number of coronavirus cases are on the rise around the world, officials in Lebanon announced plans to halt all flights to and from Iran, Italy, China and South Korea Wednesday, shortly after the syndicate representing the struggling restaurant industry announced plans for its members to voluntarily shut their doors.

They gave Lebanese citizens in France, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom four days to return before travel is banned from those locations.

The government had previously announced plans to restrict flights from heavily affected countries, including Iran and Italy, but the Beirut airport’s flight tracker has continued to show flights arriving from those countries.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab said on Wednesday he had asked for the halting of flights to the most affected countries.

“We are facing a disease that is spreading in most countries in the world, and the government has not lagged behind any measures to protect the Lebanese,” he said in a statement.

The government committee tasked with following up on the issue of coronavirus and putting preventive measures in place announced a series of other measures after a meeting Wednesday, including asking public administrations and municipalities to reduce their daily staffing and prevent gatherings in “public and private spaces” including parks, cafes, restaurants, and shopping centers.

Meanwhile, the governorate of Mount Lebanon issued an order to close businesses where large numbers of people gather – including arcades and gaming spaces, amusement parks, playgrounds, theme parks, wedding and event halls, skating rinks, and sports pitches.

The government had previously ordered the closure of schools and nightclubs, with security forces patrolling popular entertainment neighborhoods, including Mar Mikhael and Hamra, to close down businesses that failed to comply.

Also Wednesday, the Syndicate of Owners of Restaurants, Cafes, Nightclubs & Pastries in Lebanon announced its members - in an already struggling industry - would be closing their doors as a voluntary measure beginning Thursday, as a preventive measure against the spread of coronavirus and only offering delivery services.

In a statement, the syndicate noted that after “many meetings” with Tourism Minister Ramzi Msharrafieh, “we considered that closure for a period of time is in the interest of all.”

The syndicate added, “We call on all vital sectors to accompany us in this measure, in order to preserve the preventive security and public safety of all citizens in Lebanon.”

Syndicate head Tony Ramy could not be reached for comment.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/03/11/Coronavirus-How-Lebanon-is-responding-with-preventative-measures.html

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Lebanese doctors at Beirut hospital to go on strike due to coronavirus pressures

11 March 2020

Doctors at the Rafik Hariri University Hospital in Lebanon that has been treating coronavirus patients will go on strike beginning Thursday, local media reported Wednesday.

The doctors said they would begin their strike on Thursday morning, according to local media outlet Al Jadeed.

“Because of the dangers, hardships, and harsh conditions under which hospital staff suffer, and the indifference that has become evident by management and stakeholders, the decision was taken…. to go on strike,” a statement from the committee of employees, contractors, and procedures at the hospital read.

Lebanon recorded its first coronavirus death earlier on Tuesday, a 56-year-old man who had been receiving treatment at the state-run Rafik Hariri hospital. There are 68 known cases nationwide as of Wednesday.

The country was already facing some medical supply shortages due to the months-long economic crisis in the country, and hospitals had reported shortages of blood bags and stints as early as October.

The health care system in the country is also in disarray from years of mismanagement with the government owing private facilities an estimated $1.3 billion in unpaid dues – used to pay staff and purchase medical supplies – since 2011.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/03/11/Lebanese-doctors-at-Beirut-hospital-to-go-on-strike-due-to-coronavirus-pressures.html

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Lebanon detects seven new coronavirus cases, two deaths

11 March 2020

Lebanon has detected seven new cases of the coronavirus in the country, bringing the total number of infections to 68 as of Wednesday, according to Lebanese MTV television station.

A second person died of coronavirus in Lebanon on Wednesday, according to the Lebanese health ministry. The man who died was in his 60s and had a preexisting condition, according to Lebanon’s NNA news agency.

Visit our dedicated coronavirus site here for all the latest updates.

Lebanon's crippling financial crisis could pose a threat to managing its relatively limited coronavirus outbreak that has been kept in check but is expected to spread, health officials say.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/03/11/Lebanon-detects-seven-new-coronavirus-cases-two-deaths.html

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Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia bans travel to 39 countries including EU states

12 March 2020

Saudi Arabia temporarily banned the travel of its citizens and residents to 39 countries including: European Union states as part of the Kingdom’s efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus, state news agency SPA reported on Thursday citing a ministry of interior source.

Visit our dedicated coronavirus site here for all the latest updates.

“The Kingdom’s government decided to temporarily suspend the travel of citizens and residents, and to suspend flights to the European Union countries, Switzerland, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Sudan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Eritrea, Kenya, Djibouti, and Somalia,” said the source at the ministry of interior.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Saudi Arabia stood at 45 cases as of early Thursday.

The government will also be suspending the entry to those coming from the aforementioned countries and entry to those who were in those countries within a time period of 14 days prior to their arrival to the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia also suspended passenger traffic through land crossings with Jordan, while commercial and cargo traffic is still allowed. The government’s decision grants Saudi nationals and citizens of those countries with valid Saudi residency visas to return to the Kingdom before the travel suspension comes into effect.

The travel ban excludes Indian and Filipino medical practitioners working in the Kingdom and evacuation, shipping and trade trips, taking into account the necessary and required precautions.

On March 9 the Kingdom suspended travel to Oman, France, Germany, Turkey, Spain, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Italy, and South Korea. It also suspended the entry of those coming from those countries, and entry of those who were there during the 14 days prior to their arrival.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/03/12/Coronavirus-Saudi-Arabia-bans-travel-to-EU-India-Pakistan-Philippines-Sudan.html

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Saudi Arabia closes cinemas until further notice over coronavirus concerns

11 March 2020

Saudi Arabia is temporarily suspending all cinema theaters until further notice as part of precautionary measures against the coronavirus outbreak, according to a report from the Saudi Press Agency.

Saudi Arabia has taken several measures in Islam’s holiest site of Mecca, erecting a barrier around the holy Kaaba to protect it from worshippers and temporarily suspending entry for pilgrims embarking on the Islamic pilgrimage of Umrah.

The Kingdom has also halted foreign travel into the country from several countries and gave its citizens 72 hours to return from the UAE or Bahrain starting on Tuesday.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/03/11/Saudi-Arabia-to-temporarily-suspend-cinemas-as-part-of-anti-coronavirus-measures.html

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Guide: Saudi Arabia health measures for arrivals from coronavirus-hit countries

12 March 2020

Saudi Arabia has imposed several travel restrictions as part of its efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus in the Kingdom.

The Ministry of Health issued a set of guidelines which categorize the countries where the coronavirus has spread into two categories and listed the health procedures put in place for those showing symptoms of acute respiratory infection arriving in Saudi Arabia.

Those subject to new surveillance include patients with acute respiratory infection, including a fever or recent history of fever, cough, or sore throat, and within the 14 days prior to the onset of symptoms have a history of travel to areas with presumed ongoing community transmission (China, Iran, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong), have come in close physical contact with someone who tested positive for the virus, or work in or attended a healthcare facility where coronavirus patients were admited.

Others arriving to the Kingdom who will be subject to new guidelines include adults with severe acute respiratory illness who have tested negative for MERS, influenza, and coronavirus and after clinical assessment show no evidence of epidemiological link to COVID-19 cases and also have no known cause for their illness after assessment.

Visit our dedicated coronavirus site here for all the latest updates.

Category A includes nine countries: China, Egypt, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Japan, South Korea, and Spain.

Arrivals from those countries will be admitted to a hospital under contact and droplet precautions regardless of the case’s clinical severity until the COVID-19 test result is reported negative and the person is clinically cleared.

Category B includes 32 countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Congo, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Senegal, Singapore, Switzerland, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, UAE, UK, US, and Yemen.

If arrivals from those countries are clinically stable, home isolation may be considered only if the standards are acceptable to the authorities.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2020/03/12/Guide-What-to-do-on-arrival-to-Saudi-Arabia-from-coronavirus-affected-countries.html

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Saudi Arabia expands travel ban to and from EU, 12 more countries as coronavirus cases in Kingdom jump to 45

March 12, 2020

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Thursday temporarily stopped all travel to and from almost all of Europe and 12 more countries in Asia and Africa as the number of coronavirus cases in the Kingdom jumped to 45.

The Ministry of Health on Wednesday said the latest cases include a man and a woman who were tested and placed in quarantine when they returned from Iraq, and a 12-year-old girl in Al-Qatif. It is believed she contracted the virus from her grandfather, who recently returned from a trip to Iran.

The remaining 21 cases involve Egyptians who had contact with a visitor from their home country who previously tested positive for the coronavirus.

Of the 45 people infected by the virus, one has recovered and the rest are in isolation and receiving health care according to accepted and approved practices.

Earlier in the day, the ministry announced the patient who has been given the all clear was the Saudi national who on Mar. 2 was the first to test positive for COVID-19.

Included in the new travel ban are member-countries of the European Union that had earlier been left out in last Monday's travel ban list, as well as Switzerland, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Sudan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Eritrea, Kenya, Djibouti, and Somalia.

A statement by the Saudi Ministry of Interior said Saudi citizens and nationals of the countries covered by the ban who have valid residency in the Kingdom are given 72-hour period to return to Saudi Arabia before the travel suspension decision becomes effective.

Transportation through all land ports with Jordan is also suspended, except for the passage of passengers considered as "humanitarian cases" and except for commercial and cargo traffic.

Excluded in the travel ban are health workers in the Kingdom from Philippines and India, and evacuation, shipping and trade trips taking necessary precautions.

COUNTRIES IN SAUDI ARABIA'S TEMPORARILY TRAVEL SUSPENSION LIST

MENA Region

1. Bahrain

2. Egypt

3. Iraq

4. Kuwait

5. Lebanon

6. Oman

Syria

7. Turkey

8. UAE

ASIA

1. China

2. India

3. Pakistan

4. Philippines

5. South Korea

6. Sri Lanka

AFRICA

1. Djibouti

2. Eritrea

3. Ethiopia

4. Kenya

5. Somalia

6. South Sudan

7. Sudan

EUROPE

1. Austria   

2. Belgium   

3. Bulgaria

4. Croatia   

5. Cyprus

6. Czech Republic

7. Denmark

8. Estonia

9. Finland

10. France

11. Germany

12. Greece   

13. Hungary   

14. Ireland

15. Italy   

16. Latvia

17. Lithuania

18. Luxembourg

19. Malta   

20. Netherlands

21. Poland

22. Portugal

23. Romania   

24. Slovakia

25. Slovenia

26. Spain

27. Sweden

28. Switzerland (non-EU member)

On Monday, the Kingdom suspended travel for citizens and residents to the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Oman, Italy, South Korea, France, Germany, Turkey and Spain.

Since early February, Saudi Arabia suspended travel to and from China, where the COVID-19 started.

The Saudi Health Ministry repeated its call for anyone who recently visited a country in which the coronavirus has spread to immediately contact its service center by calling the toll-free number, 937.

In addition, it urged members of the public who are concerned about the virus, or want more information about it and precautions that can be taken, to contact the ministry. It stressed that only official sources can be relied on to provide accurate information.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1640286/saudi-arabia

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Saudi students, educators take on virtual education challenge amid coronavirus suspension

RUBA OBAID

March 11, 2020

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia began a distance education system as it closed schools and universities across the Kingdom over coronavirus concerns earlier this week, but students and educators have faced problems shifting to a virtual learning experience.

The name of international virtual learning platform Blackboard Learn has been trending on Saudi Twitter over the past couple of days. Many university students have complained about poor Internet connection in their area, problems logging on to the platform and accessing lectures, and the lack of ability to upload assignments or even understand their instructors.

Other issues included lack of commitment as well as technical knowledge — whether from students or educators — and lack of technical support from universities.

This situation is also pushing instructors at universities as well as schools to shorten their courses for this semester and suspend or cancel projects and assignments.

Bayan Sayf, a graphic design student at a private university in Jeddah, highlighted how this was affecting her.

“As a graphic design student in my freshmen year, our educational experience is more than theoretical lessons. We do a lot of manual work that needs direct one-to-one guidance from our professors; this situation is making it impossible,” Sayf told Arab News. “Major assignments were dropped because of this condition, which will have an impact on my educational attainment. We are missing many things that we actually paid for.”

“In such cases I would say it would be better for us if they suspended education until the crisis is over instead of rushing everything like this,” she said. “And on top of it all, many professors are struggling more than students because they are not used to teaching virtually.”

However, other students said that they were extremely comfortable with virtual education.

Zainab Al-Noori said on Twitter: “I like distance learning, it saves two hours of my time spent daily in transportation, it allows me to repeat the lecture and even ignore the instructors who don’t know how to teach, moreover, I can attend lectures in my pajamas while eating or having a cup of coffee.”

The situation, as described by many people on Twitter, has also triggered students’ sense of humor as they flooded different social media platforms with memes. They also several reported embarrassing moments that took place during lectures — such as students falling asleep, loudly sipping coffee, or arguing with a sibling after they forgot to mute their devices’ microphones.

The current Education Ministry “preventive and precautionary” measures cover all educational institutions, including public and private schools, and technical and vocational training institutions.

The ministry has not yet clarified how long the suspension will be continued.

The government wants to ensure the continuation of education through digital learning methods by establishing a new committee to ensure that virtual schools are functioning through the distance learning methods provided by the ministry.

These include the virtual school platform (Vschool.sa) and materials available from the Apple and Android stores, as well as lessons through the “Ain” TV channel and on YouTube. The Saudi Telecom Company (STC) has announced that it will allow free Internet browsing for these educational platforms.

Nonetheless, teachers and parents are finding it difficult to adapt, “since this is the new modern orientation of education in the country and worldwide, we should have been prepared before anything happened,” Sharifa Al-Ghamdi, Arabic section assistant director at Nahdha Academy, told Arab News.   

According to Al-Ghamdi, although most learners enjoy Internet connection and availability of devices, education staff are not well prepared to depend on technology and the available virtual alternatives are not sufficiently equipped with the necessary virtual education tools and skills.

“Teachers have to figure out accessible ways to deliver their lessons and ensure that young students are able to acquire the necessary skills remotely.”

Al-Ghamdi said that there was a lack of a culture of commitment and discipline when it came to e-learning as many people were not familiar with it, especially children. “I cannot think that a child suddenly dropped out of school is asked to study the next day from home through a method he had not tried before. This poses a problem for parents and students.”

“Parents should be fully aware of the necessity of their role in completing the educational process, as it is no longer a responsibility in the hands of the school alone . . . teachers are also parents who have children to follow up with at home,” Al-Ghamdi said. “It is not the parents’ role to make sure that homework is done correctly; it is their role to follow up with their children, not do their homework on their behalf.”

The head of the English department at Al-Andalus private girls schools in Jeddah agreed with Al-Ghamdi. “Parents’ cooperation is essential to achieve the best outcome from this experience. It might not be as effective as it is when students are attending school but we can secure a good educational experience for students with the least possible negative effects,” she told Arab News.

Although it might seem difficult to teach young students online, the director confirmed that the younger generation’s familiarity with the technical tools would facilitate the learning process in this emergency period. “They are attached to their devices, therefore they would possibly find learning this way more fun and encouraging.”

“This is  an emergency situation, therefore it is a new thing for our staff as well as it is for the students and their parents,” she said. “We will start the actual virtual-learning system on Thursday. We have been preparing for it during the past two days with our teachers and students, and we are keen on making sure that students maintain their commitment and attachment to the school atmosphere.”

As an international department, teachers are relying on different educational platforms than the ones offered by the ministry. “Teachers will deliver their lessons online and provide students with supporting materials from the original curricula supplier or YouTube, surely after ensuring that the content is appropriate for students and their age groups.”

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1640211/saudi-arabia

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ISIS launches attack on Iraqi Army, PMF bases in Iraq’s Diyala: Security

March 10-2020 

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Remnants of the so-called Islamic State on Sunday night launched an insurgency attack in Iraq’s Diyala province, killing two members of the Iraqi Army and one Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militia, a local security source said.

The attack took place in the vicinity of Khanaqin, a disputed Kurdish town, where the Iraqi Army soldiers and Shia militia, known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), are stationed.

“The attack killed one member from the Iraqi army and another one from the PMF, while injuring two more from both sides,” the security source said on condition of anonymity.

The activities of the terror group, including insurgency attacks, ambushes, and kidnappings continue to grow in different parts of Iraq, particularly in the provinces of Diyala, Kirkuk, and Nineveh.

Local officials in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq have repeatedly expressed their concerns about the increasing number of the group’s attacks in the country, calling for further military and security cooperation with the international community.

Full report at:

https://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/7ea5bc0f-3054-4da9-9851-f8270704c39e

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Air strikes kill 18 Iraqi fighters in Hashed al-Shaabi locations in Syria: NGO

12 March 2020

At least 18 fighters from an Iraqi paramilitary group were killed in air strikes in eastern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, suggesting the international coalition was to blame.

“The 18 Iraqi fighters” were killed in raids on positions of Iraq's Hashed al-Shaabi military network in the area of Boukamal, on the border with Iraq, the observatory said.

Before the strikes, at least 18 Katyusha rockets were fired at military camp Taji in Iraq, killing three US personnel and injuring at least 12.

Read: Three US personnel killed, 12 injured in rocket attack on Iraqi base

Previous rocket attacks targeting US soldiers, diplomats and facilities in Iraq in recent months have killed one US contractor and an Iraqi soldier.

None of the attacks have been claimed, but Washington accuses pro-Iran factions of being responsible.

Two days after the death of an American in rockets fired on an Iraqi military base in Kirkuk at the end of last year, the US army hit five bases in Iraq and Syria used by the pro-Iran armed faction Kata’ib Hezbollah.

Tensions then rose further between arch foes Washington and Tehran, leading to the assassination in Baghdad on January 3 of the Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani and an Iraqi paramilitary commander in a US drone strike.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/03/12/Air-strikes-kill-18-Iraqi-fighters-in-Hashed-al-Shaabi-locations-in-Syria-NGO-.html

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Three US personnel killed, 12 injured in rocket attack on Iraqi base

12 March 2020

The US-led coalition fighting ISIS confirmed on Wednesday that three personnel had been killed in a rocket attack on a military camp in Iraq and that about 12 additional personnel were wounded.

In a statement, the coalition said that approximately 18 Katyusha rockets struck the base. Camp Taji is an Iraqi base that hosts Coalition personnel for training and advising missions.

"The attack is under investigation by the Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces," the statement said.

The US leads an international coalition - comprised of dozens of countries and thousands of soldiers - formed in Iraq in 2014 to confront ISIS, an extremist group that Baghdad declared defeated in late 2017.

Previous rocket attacks targeting US soldiers, diplomats and facilities in Iraq in recent months have killed one US contractor and an Iraqi soldier.

None of the attacks have been claimed, but Washington accuses pro-Iran factions of being responsible.

Two days after the death of an American in rockets fired on an Iraqi military base in Kirkuk at the end of last year, the US army hit five bases in Iraq and Syria used by the pro-Iran armed faction Kata’ib Hezbollah.

Tensions then rose further between arch foes Washington and Tehran, leading to the assassination in Baghdad on January 3 of the Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani and an Iraqi paramilitary commander in a US drone strike.

Iran retaliated by launching a volley of missiles at an Iraqi base hosting US soldiers days later.

The Iraqi parliament voted to expel all foreign soldiers from the country in the wake of the killing of Soleimani, a decision that must be executed by the government.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/03/12/coalition-personnel-wounded-in-attack-on-iraqi-base-coalition-official-.html

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Egypt reports seven new coronavirus cases, increasing total to 67

11 March 2020

Egypt has registered seven new coronavirus cases bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 67, the health ministry said on Wednesday.

Of the total number, at least 45 cases have been detected on a River Nile cruise ship in the popular tourist destination of Luxor, and a German tourist who died in a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada.

Visit our dedicated coronavirus site here for all the latest updates.

Twenty-seven people of the registered cases have recovered and eight of them were released from a quarantine hospital, including six Egyptians and two foreigners, the health ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

Egypt took several measures to reassure travellers that it is safe to visit after the virus outbreak on the Nile ship, including testing hundreds of tourists and tourism workers for coronavirus, and sanitising hotel facilities and cruise ships in Luxor and Aswan.

The tourism sector is an important source of hard currency for Egypt.

Sixty-three tourists on board the infected Nile ship travelled to their home countries on Tuesday and Wednesday after spending a period in quarantine and testing negative, the tourism and antiquaries ministry said on Wednesday.

The government also decided to suspend events that include big gatherings such as religious festivals, concerts, exhibitions and concerts.

On Wednesday, the education ministry ordered schools to suspend activities like sports and music events, but insisted study would not be stopped, the state news agency MENA said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/03/12/Egypt-reports-seven-new-coronavirus-cases-increasing-total-to-67.html

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Syria says will stand by allies on resistance axis to expel US from Western Asia

12 March 2020

A senior adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad hails “constant coordination” between Damascus and its allies in the fight against terrorism, saying the Arab nation will stand by the resistance front to help drive the US out of not only Syria but the entire Middle East region.

Assad’s political and media adviser, Bouthaina Shaaban, made the remarks in an interview with Lebanon-based Arabic-language al-Mayadeen TV channel on Wednesday.

She said that Washington has been supporting the Takfiri al-Qaeda and Daesh terrorist groups, and that its sponsorship for the al-Qaeda-inspired al-Nusra Front terrorist outfit is of no surprise.

The Syrian people living east of the Euphrates River have been fighting against American occupation forces and enjoy the Damascus government’s backing for their resistance, she added.

Shaaban also stressed that the battle on eastern bank of the Euphrates is complicated and takes time, noting, however, that the Syrians will eventually expel US troops from their homeland.

The Syrian army has the backing of Iran, Russia and Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement in its battle against a host of militant groups, which have been wreaking havoc on the country since 2011.

Thanks to that support, the Damascus government has managed to win back control of almost all regions from the foreign-sponsored militants.

Syria has been engaged in a liberation operation in Idlib Province, the last major bastion of terrorists in the country.

Shaaban further emphasized that her country supports its allies on the regional resistance axis to drive American military personnel out of the entire West Asia region.

Syria in constant coordination with Iran, Hezbollah

There is complete and constant coordination between Damascus on one side and Tehran and the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement on the other side in political and military spheres, the Syrian official pointed out.

She hailed Tehran-Damascus relations as historical and strategic, reiterating that both Iran and Russia prioritize Syria’s sovereignty and independence.

Taking advantage of the mayhem in Syria, the US has deployed troops to Syria under the guise of fighting Daesh. It has been running military bases in the eastern part of the country, which many reports have revealed serve as training camps for terrorists.

The US has also been supporting anti-Damascus Kurdish militants in the country’s northeastern regions, calling them allies in the so-called fight against Daesh, which lost its territorial rule in the Arab country in late 2017.

In recent months, Washington has also deployed more troops and military equipment near Syrian oil fields to “secure” them, in what Damascus, Tehran and Moscow have denounced as an attempt to steal Syria’s crude resources.

In turn, Turkey supports militants fighting to topple the Damascus government. Those elements continue to target Syrian troops and allied Russian personnel.

Last week, Russia and Turkey agreed on a ceasefire to stop clashes in Syria’s northwestern Idlib Province that brought the two countries close to direct confrontation amid a Moscow-backed Syrian counter-terrorism operation.

Idlib truce paves ground for more Syrian gains

Elsewhere in her interview, Shaaban said the Idlib truce has no confidential terms and paves the way for the liberation of the districts of Arihah and Jisr al-Shughur.

In recent weeks, she added, the Syrian army wrested control over 2,000 kilometers of the country and inflicted casualties on militants and Turkish forces.

Shabban also slammed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for serving Israel’s interests in the region.

Erdogan, she added, uses the Palestine issue as a mere bargaining chip and dreams of occupying Syria.

A meeting between Assad and Erdogan is not possible as long as Turkey occupies parts of the Syrian territory, she said.

Syria keen to forge ties will all Arab states

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/12/620676/Syria-Bouthaina-Shaaban-resistance

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Two Americans, Briton killed in attack on base housing US troops near Baghdad: Report

11 March 2020

Two Americans and a British personnel are killed after over a dozen Katyusha rockets hit a military base housing American troops near the Iraqi capital Baghdad, a report says.

Citing two unnamed US officials, Reuters reported that based on preliminary information, about a dozen coalition members had also been injured in the Wednesday attack against Iraq's Taji military camp, located some 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) north of Baghdad.

The US-led military coalition in Iraq said in a statement that 18 107mm Katyusha rockets struck the base and suggested they may have been fired from a truck.

It confirmed three troops were killed and about a dozen wounded but declined to disclose the nationalities of the casualties or offer any other identifying information.

"The attack is under investigation by the coalition and Iraqi security forces," the military coalition said.

Earlier, the Iraqi Interior Ministry's Security Media Cell announced in a statement that the incident took place in the evening when 10 rockets landed on Camp Taji, located some 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) north of Baghdad.

The statement added that a Kia Bongo pickup truck with a missile launcher was found south of Baghdad's al-Rashidiya district. It had three missiles in its back.

خلية الإعلام الأمني🇮🇶

@SecMedCell

سقوط عشرة صواريخ كاتيوشا داخل  معسكر التاجي  بدون خسائر , تم العثور على عجلة نوع كيا بنكو تحمل منصة صواريخ فيها ثلاث صواريخ متبقية جنوب منطقة الراشدية.

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10:56 PM - Mar 11, 2020

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No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack, which came less than a week after two Katyusha rockets were fired at the heavily fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad.

An Interior Ministry official said at time that the incident took place on March 5 evening when the projectiles were launched at the zone, which houses the US embassy as well as some of the main Iraqi government offices.

The official added the rockets landed on empty area and caused no casualty. A third rocket landed on a nearby area west of the Green Zone, without causing casualties.

On January 14, Iraq's military announced in a statement that the military camp had been targeted by two Katyusha rockets.

Four Katyusha rockets hit the same base on December 29 last year.

Anti-American sentiment has been running high in Iraq following the assassination of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the IRGC's Quds Force, along with the deputy head of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and their companions in US airstrike authorized by President Donald Trump near Baghdad International Airport on January 3.

On January 8, Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) fired a number of ballistic missiles at Ain al-Asad air base, which houses US troops in Iraq’s western province of Anbar, in retaliation.

Two days after the US attack, Iraqi lawmakers unanimously approved a bill demanding the withdrawal.

Later on January 9, former Iraqi prime minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi called on the United States to dispatch a delegation to Baghdad tasked with formulating a mechanism for the move.

According to a statement released by his office at the time, Abdul-Mahdi “requested that delegates be sent to Iraq to set the mechanisms to implement the parliament's decision for the secure withdrawal of (foreign) forces from Iraq” in a phone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/11/620657/Nearly-dozen-rockets-hit-military-base-housing-US-troops-near-Iraq's-Baghdad

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Two Americans, Briton killed in attack on base housing US troops near Baghdad: Report

11 March 2020

Two Americans and a British personnel are killed after over a dozen Katyusha rockets hit a military base housing American troops near the Iraqi capital Baghdad, a report says.

Citing two unnamed US officials, Reuters reported that based on preliminary information, about a dozen coalition members had also been injured in the Wednesday attack against Iraq's Taji military camp, located some 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) north of Baghdad.

The US-led military coalition in Iraq said in a statement that 18 107mm Katyusha rockets struck the base and suggested they may have been fired from a truck.

It confirmed three troops were killed and about a dozen wounded but declined to disclose the nationalities of the casualties or offer any other identifying information.

"The attack is under investigation by the coalition and Iraqi security forces," the military coalition said.

Earlier, the Iraqi Interior Ministry's Security Media Cell announced in a statement that the incident took place in the evening when 10 rockets landed on Camp Taji, located some 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) north of Baghdad.

The statement added that a Kia Bongo pickup truck with a missile launcher was found south of Baghdad's al-Rashidiya district. It had three missiles in its back.

خلية الإعلام الأمني🇮🇶

@SecMedCell

سقوط عشرة صواريخ كاتيوشا داخل  معسكر التاجي  بدون خسائر , تم العثور على عجلة نوع كيا بنكو تحمل منصة صواريخ فيها ثلاث صواريخ متبقية جنوب منطقة الراشدية.

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134

10:56 PM - Mar 11, 2020

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No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack, which came less than a week after two Katyusha rockets were fired at the heavily fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad.

An Interior Ministry official said at time that the incident took place on March 5 evening when the projectiles were launched at the zone, which houses the US embassy as well as some of the main Iraqi government offices.

The official added the rockets landed on empty area and caused no casualty. A third rocket landed on a nearby area west of the Green Zone, without causing casualties.

On January 14, Iraq's military announced in a statement that the military camp had been targeted by two Katyusha rockets.

Four Katyusha rockets hit the same base on December 29 last year.

Anti-American sentiment has been running high in Iraq following the assassination of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the IRGC's Quds Force, along with the deputy head of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and their companions in US airstrike authorized by President Donald Trump near Baghdad International Airport on January 3.

On January 8, Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) fired a number of ballistic missiles at Ain al-Asad air base, which houses US troops in Iraq’s western province of Anbar, in retaliation.

Two days after the US attack, Iraqi lawmakers unanimously approved a bill demanding the withdrawal.

Later on January 9, former Iraqi prime minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi called on the United States to dispatch a delegation to Baghdad tasked with formulating a mechanism for the move.

According to a statement released by his office at the time, Abdul-Mahdi “requested that delegates be sent to Iraq to set the mechanisms to implement the parliament's decision for the secure withdrawal of (foreign) forces from Iraq” in a phone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/11/620657/Nearly-dozen-rockets-hit-military-base-housing-US-troops-near-Iraq's-Baghdad

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Europe

 

Terrorist, 29, who admits hoarding ISIS propaganda sent almost £2,700 to help 'fighter brothers' in Iraq, court hears

10 March 2020

A terrorist who admits hoarding pro-Islamic State propaganda helped raise thousands of pounds for 'fighter brothers' in the Middle East, a court heard.

Ayub Nurhussein, 29, is charged with entering into a funding arrangement - totalling £2,699.19 for the purposes of terrorism between April 11 and July 11 last year.

Jurors at the Old Bailey were told that multiple communications had taken place between the defendant and another man, Said Mohammed, 30, via the private messaging app Telegram.

It is claimed that Mohammed was in contact with a third person in Iraq, known as Wassim.

Prosecutor Alistair Richardson said multiple messages had been exchanged in which Wassim had asked Mohammed to help raise funds from 'brothers from abroad' to support IS activities.

'The situation is bad, my brother. The situation is bad at all levels in Iraq,' he said.

'If there are brothers...that would still give support, tell them this is a time of seriousness and this is a time when the Mujahedin (fighters) really need you.

'This is a time of vulnerability and this is a time when we need brothers from abroad to help.'

Mr Richardson said that Wassim had arranged for a European go-between to allow money to be sent to support IS - also known as Daesh - with 'no problems'.

In a voice message which was forwarded on to Nurhussein on April 19 by Mohammed, Wassim said: 'Brother, this is the name of a sister in Denmark - you can transfer to it.'

The defendant responded to Mohammed by saying: 'With Allah's permission I will finish in four hours' time and I will transfer the amount.'

The court heard that on April 20 a transaction of £1,300 was made from an account in Manchester to a Western Union bank branch in Copenhagen to a woman, named as Rwan Ebrahim.

Mr Richardson said that in June the defendant had contacted Mohammed with confirmation that his request to open a Western Union account had been approved, saying 'the next transfer would be easier'.

A second transaction of £599.19 was made by Nurhussein on June 5 to the same bank in Copenhagen and collected by another man, Ali Aga, who was accompanied by Ms Ebrahim.

Mohammed subsequently sent a message to Wassim that said: 'Brother, the brother has sent the money and he is at work.'

Mr Richardson said that the proximity of the calls and transactions between the two men and Wassim 'clearly' demonstrated the defendant's involvement in the funding.

The court heard how, on July 2, the process was repeated again - with Nurhussein transferring £800 to the Danish bank.

Jurors were also shown extracts from clips with 'graphic and grotesque propaganda' shared from Nurhussein's phone that, Mr Richardson said, demonstrated the defendant's 'mindset' at the time when the transactions were made.

Nurhussein has already pleaded guilty to seven counts in relation to possession and dissemination of terrorist material.

Mr Richardson said there was a 'shared and declared intention' between Mohammed and Nurhussein to 'travel to Syria to join their Mujahedin brothers'.

A message from Wassim to Mohammed read: 'Brother this may be the last time you have to send [money] I have found you a way to Iraq.'

'Preparations were made to travel to Iraq to join Islamic State,' said Mr Richardson, adding that Mohammed had told Nurhussein 'you'd better learn the Syrian language'.

Nurhussein, of Urlwin Road, south west London, has pleaded not guilty to entering into a funding arrangement for the purposes of terrorism.

He wore a blue tracksuit in the dock and smiled as the prosecution gave its opening. 

Mohammed, from Manchester, is not before the court.  

The trial, which is expected to last two weeks, continues.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8096489/Terrorist-accused-sending-2-700-help-fighter-brothers-Iraq.html

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Far-right extremists still threaten New Zealand, a year on from the Christchurch attacks

10 Mar 2020

In the hours after the Christchurch mosque attacks on March 15 last year, I wrote that I hoped New Zealand would finally stop believing it was immune to far-right extremist violence. A year on, I’m not sure enough has changed.

I’ve researched far-right extremism for decades – and I would argue it remains a high-level threat in New Zealand, not just overseas.

My assessment is that there are about 60 to 70 groups and somewhere between 150 and 300 core, right-wing activists in New Zealand.

This sounds modest alongside the estimated 12,000 to 13,000 violent far-right activists in Germany. But proportionate to population size, the numbers are similar for both countries. And it only takes one activist to act out his extremism.

In the past year, there has certainly been greater investment by New Zealand’s security agencies in monitoring extremist groups and activists. There has been more media coverage. The government moved quickly to ban assault weapons and further controls on the use and possession of arms are underway. Other initiatives, including a royal commission of inquiry, are pending.

But I also feel there is a tendency to see the Christchurch attacks, which killed 51 people, as a one-off or an aberration – rather than something we still need to guard against.

New Zealand’s home-grown extremists

New Zealanders should now be more aware than a year ago of the presence of local right-wing extremists. There has been plenty to remind them.

In June last year, Philip Arps, who has been involved in white supremacist activities in Christchurch for some time, was sentenced to 21 months in jail for sharing video of the Christchurch shootings. I am puzzled by the limited public awareness that the imagery on the side of his van – a reference to 14/88 and Nazi signage – was a clear indicator of his extremist views.

Arps was released early in January this year under strict conditions, including a GPS monitor that alerts authorities if he goes near a mosque.

Even though the white nationalist group Dominion Movement folded after the mosque attacks, one of its leaders, a soldier in the New Zealand defence force, was arrested in December last year for “accessing a computer for a dishonest purpose” and disclosing information that “prejudiced the security and defence of New Zealand”. He had been active since 2011 on the neo-Nazi site Stormfront and attended a free speech rally in Wellington in 2018 along with another extreme-right activist.

He also appears to be a member of Wargus Christi, a group formed in September last year by a neo-Nazi, Daniel Waring. It is a “martial-monastic” group of body builders who are homophobic, anti-Semitic and Islamaphobic.

Another group new to New Zealand’s extreme right is Action Zealandia. Their slogan is “building a community for European New Zealanders”. Apart from their online presence, their main public activity is placing stickers in public spaces highlighting their ultra-nationalism.

Confronting NZ’s place in a global web of hate

Information from agencies such as the Southern Poverty Law Center or the Anti-Defamation League in the US shows a significant increase in extremist activity since 2016.

What has been most concerning is that the rise in online hate speech has real-world implications. Research shows an increase in online hate speech will be accompanied by hate crimes in a region or locality. Internet outages reduce both.

In the aftermath of the Christchurch attacks, it was good to see rapid action on limiting automatic weapons. And the Christchurch Call – Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s initiative to stop people using social media to promote terrorism – certainly helped put pressure on online platforms such as Facebook to monitor and remove objectionable material.

But we could move to ban right-wing organisations and put restrictions on individuals who breach agreed thresholds of speech and action. We still do not have clear guidelines for what constitutes hate speech, apart from s61 of the Human Rights Act and the Harmful Digital Communications Act.

I do worry that we don’t have sufficient resources and skills locally to adequately monitor what is happening, even if agencies have been working together more closely internationally.

It would be good to know more from the agencies that have oversight. The New Zealand Security and Intelligence Service (NZSIS) refers to the threat value, but often in relation to international threats.

More openness about their concerns and the extent of local groups and activists would help: for instance, something like Tell MAMA in the UK or the reports other security agencies provide.

It was refreshing to see the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) provide its annual threat assessment in February this year. It assessed the terrorist threat in Australia as probable but the possibility of a right-wing extremist attack as low in terms of capability.

But it acknowledged that advances in technology are “outstripping our technical capabilities”, which must be a concern everywhere.

One thing is certain. The Christchurch mosque attacks have become part of the lexicon whenever white supremacist terrorism is discussed. The events on 15 March have become something of a guide – and, unfortunately, an inspiration to other right-wing terrorists.

It is challenging that many of these extremists are self-radicalised, ideologically motivated, and with a small or no digital footprint. Often there is no prior warning of an attack.

Full report at:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/11/far-right-extremists-still-threaten-new-zealand-a-year-on-from-the-christchurch-attacks

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British forces to begin their final retreat from Afghanistan

11 March 2020

After nearly two decades of military intervention in Afghanistan, the UK finally looks set to depart the country following the US peace deal with the Afghan Taliban.

According to the Times newspaper, “hundreds” of British troops are set to be withdrawn from Afghanistan by “mid-July” as part of the “first phase” of the US-Taliban peace deal.

Altogether, 330 British soldiers are scheduled to leave Afghanistan by the end of the summer. Currently there are 1,100 “regular” UK military personnel stationed in Afghanistan, most of them in and around Kabul.

The full evacuation of the British troops, as part of the “second phase” of the drawdown, is dependent on the sustainability of the volatile peace agreement between the US and the Taliban leadership.

The Times defence editor, Lucy Fisher, tweeted that there is “doubt” about durability in view of the Taliban’s propensity to engage in further resistance against US and UK forces.

Lucy Fisher

@LOS_Fisher

• 22h

EXCL: Britain will withdraw c.330 troops from Afghanistan by mid-July.

Around 30% of the 1,100 UK personnel in Kabul are set to be pulled out in first phase of US-Taliban deal, in line with the 30% drawdown of American forces.https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/uk-troops-to-leave-afghanistan-after-taliban-agree-peace-deal-6jr8m7g2h …

UK troops to leave Afghanistan after Taliban agree peace deal

Hundreds of British troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by mid-July in the first phase of the fragile US-Taliban peace deal, The Times has learnt.The UK is to remove 330 of the 1,100 regular

thetimes.co.uk

Lucy Fisher

@LOS_Fisher

Drawdown of remaining US/British/allied forces in phase two of deal (a 14-month process) is dependent on Taliban keeping its end of bargain.

Top US commander in Middle East yesterday gave bleak assessment so far - heaping doubt on Taliban honouring deal as violence still high

2

2:11 PM - Mar 11, 2020

Twitter Ads info and privacy

See Lucy Fisher's other Tweets

Crucially, it is not clear at this stage if British Special Forces, notably soldiers from the Special Air Service (SAS) and its sister unit the Special Boat Service (SBS), will be withdrawn in tandem with regular forces.

Currently SAS and SBS soldiers are embedded with US forces in areas well beyond Kabul, notably in the southern Helmand province.

News that British forces are finally retreating from Afghanistan will come as a big disappointment to military families, particularly those who lost loved ones in the conflict.

Since April 2002, 456 British military personnel have been killed in Afghanistan, whilst more than 2000 have been injured.

In addition, British military veterans who served in Afghanistan continue to suffer acute psychological distress with reports that at least 14 former and serving soldiers (with service experience in Afghanistan) have committed suicide in this year alone.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/11/620656/UK-Afghanistan-Military-Withdrawal-July-

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Turkish-Greek top officials discuss migrants on border

Firdevs Bulut 

11.03.2020

Turkey's Ambassador to Athens Burak Ozugergin on Wednesday met Greece's Foreign Ministry Secretary General Themistoklis Demiris.

According to diplomatic sources, Ozugergin and Demiris discussed recent developments on the Turkish-Greece border and the Aegean Sea in the meeting held at the Greek Foreign Ministry.

Referring to a near collision between a Turkish and Greek Coast Guard patrol in Turkish seas in Bodrum, southwest Turkey earlier in the day, Ozugergin said Greek security forces had violated Turkish territorial waters.

He added that Greek security vessels had acted in violation of international law, and their acts could not be evaluated in the context of "innocent passage rights."

The envoy said Turkish coastal security acted in line with international law, sending off the Greek vessels.

"Turkey is one of the strongest supporters of freedom of navigation in air and sea, and it will not tolerate acts threatening its sovereignty and violating international law," Ambassador Ozugergin was quoted as saying.

Demiris expressed his concerns, saying they did not want further conflicts.

Turkey recently announced that it would no longer try to stop asylum seekers from reaching Europe.

Thousands of asylum seekers have since flocked to Turkey’s Edirne province -- bordering Greece and Bulgaria -- to make their way to Europe. 

The Greek reaction to asylum seekers has been harsh, with many battered, attacked, or tear-gassed, and even killed by Greek forces. 

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/turkish-greek-top-officials-discuss-migrants-on-border/1762664

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'If Russia were stopped in Crimea, it wouldn't be in Syria'

Busra Nur Bilgic Cakmak and Firdevs Bulut 

11.03.2020

Six years have gone by since Russia illegally annexed from Ukraine the Crimean peninsula on the northern end of the Black Sea, largely populated by Crimean Tatars.

Russian forces entered the peninsula in February 2014, with Russian President Vladimir Putin formally dividing the region into two separate federal subjects of the Russian Federation the following month.

Since then, Crimean Tatars have kept up their struggle for Ukraine's territorial integrity against Russian occupation.

Speaking exclusively to Anadolu Agency, Tatar leader and chairman of the Crimean Mejlis Refat Chubarov lamented that had Russia faced a "stern response" when it invaded Crimea in 2014,the country would not be that much involved in the process that led to the current conflict in Syria", referring to Moscow's support for the Syrian Bashar al-Assad regime.

Chubarov said Russia's influence in Syria was rooted in the inability of international actors to take preventative measures against its forays ahead of time.

"If Russia had been prevented in August 2008, the annexation of Crimea would not have happened either," he underlined, this time citing Moscow's war with Georgia, a former Soviet republic.

Tbilisi fought a five-day war with Russia in 2008 over Georgia’s breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Georgia lost control of both areas, and Russia later recognized them as independent states.

Chubarov asserted that Turkey's support for Ukraine's territorial integrity and the Crimean Tatars forced Moscow to "take more careful steps."

Since the occupation began, Turkey has pushed to protect the Crimean Tatars as "brothers and sisters" and have not accepted the occupation of Crimea, he said.

"We don't know what more Russian occupying powers could have done to us without Ankara's protection," added Chubarov.

Chubarov also voiced concern for the continuity of the occupation in Crimea and said: “We think if Russia stays 15-20 years more in Crimea, they will continue to oppress our kin and will try to eradicate them.”

"Russia's centuries-long Crimea policy is to completely take control and eradicate the population in Crimea. Our history shows that all of these catastrophes came from Moscow. For that reason, Crimean Tatars living around the world are more than those who live in Crimea," he added.

International response

Crimea's occupation shocked the world with the UN, European Council and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) calling for action that failed as none of these organizations had any influence on Russia, Chubarov said.

"The U.S. and EU sanctions on Russia were important for us Ukraine supporters. However, they were not enough to stop Russia. These sanctions harmed Russia to some extent, but were not enough to make Russia retreat from Crimea," he added.

However, he ruled out military action, arguing that this would not bring a peaceful solution to Crimea, instead, it would risk larger conflict.

"Had there been a diplomatic, political or economic consensus among western countries, they could have helped Ukraine," added Chubarov, suggesting that an embargo on Russian oil and natural gas would have been beneficial.

"But this is too hard. Many countries need Russia’s oil and gas. Russia kills people with the money it earns through these."

Life in Crimea

Lacking freedom of speech or thought, Crimeans continue to live under occupation forces.

"If you live there today, and if your ideas and approaches are not similar to those of the Russian government, then you shouldn't voice your ideas. The state would work against you if you did this. This freedom does not exist there. There is no freedom of ideas. There is no free press," said Chubarov.

"Since 2014 -- the Russians' arrival -- Crimean press organizations have either worked in line with Russia's demands, have been shut down or shut themselves down. We had two media organizations there, one TV channel and a Crimean news agency. We had to move them to Kiev," he added.

Russia came to the Crimean peninsula not only physically but also mentally in a bid to make the region a Russian province, Chubarov said, imposing the Russian curriculum and language on its schools.

"In Crimea, we had 14 schools teaching in the Crimean Tatar language. They have not been shut down, but the education systems have been changed, they have been Russified," he said.

Chubarov claimed Russia has sought to secure the Tatars' "voluntary" exodus from out of the peninsula.

"And they want our kin to leave with their own will. How can they leave? Russians raided peoples' homes. They abducted our young, and some of our kin living in Crimea were jailed. Some were accused of being extremists, terrorists, but this was not true. It is completely made up, serving the sole purpose of scaring people off and forcing them to leave," he explained.

Russia regularly raid homes, people were then imprisoned, some of them transferred to Russia, according to the Crimean Solidarity, a Kiev-based media organization of the Crimean Tatars.

Russia claims the arrested have links to terrorist organizations.

Chubarov said the Tatars have been supporting Ukraine in the conflict with Russia because Ukraine's political system is "based on freedom and democracy, and they recognize the Crimean Tatar people."

Crimea's ethnic Tatars have faced persecution since Russia’s 2014 takeover of the peninsula, a situation Turkey has decried.

Russia and Ukraine have been at loggerheads since Russia annexed Crimea after a controversial referendum.

The U.S. and Turkey, as well as the UN General Assembly, viewed the move as illegal.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/if-russia-were-stopped-in-crimea-it-wouldnt-be-in-syria/1762426

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Turkey deports 2 terrorists to Germany, North Macedonia

Burak Bir  

11.03.2020

A German and North Macedonian terrorist were deported to their countries, the Turkish Interior Ministry said Tuesday.

The ministry said, without naming a terrorist group, that Turkey would continue returning foreign terrorists to their home countries.

The issue of handling Daesh/ISIS terror members and their families detained in Syria – including foreign members of the terror group – has been controversial, with Turkey arguing foreign-born terrorists should be returned to their countries of origin.

Ankara has said several European countries resisted its efforts to send Daesh/ISIS members back to their countries, but it will nevertheless press forward.

Turkey deported almost 780 foreign terrorists to their countries of origin in 2019, according to Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/turkey-deports-2-terrorists-to-germany-north-macedonia/1761560

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Pakistan

 

ECP urged to stop Qureshi from interfering in by-poll

Iftikhar A. Khan

March 12, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Peoples Party has accused Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi of influencing the coming by-election for a Sindh Assembly seat in Tharparkar.

Head of the PPP Central Election Cell Taj Haider has asked the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to act against Mr Qureshi under the law.

In a letter to the chief election commissioner, Mr Haider said that the foreign minister has breached the code of conduct by interfering in the by-election in PS-52 Tharparkar.

The PPP leader said that Mr Qureshi, while being a member of the federal cabinet, addressed his spiritual followers in PS-52 by telephone on the night of March 10 (Tuesday) and urged them to vote for former chief minister of Sindh Dr Arbab Ghulam Rahim.

“This indulgence by the foreign minister is a clear and blatant violation of the Code of Conduct. We wish to bring to your kind notice that Arbab Ghulam Rahim as the Chief Minister Sindh of the condemned military dictator General Pervez Musharraf had been the chief architect and implementer of record rigging for Mr Shaukat Aziz in Tharparkar when more than 200,000 votes were stamped in his favour without the candidate even visiting the NA constituency,” the letter says.

Mr Haider apprehended that the address by the foreign minister was only the start of a “fresh rigging tsunami” in the constituency, if it was not checked by the ECP in the very beginning.

As many as 13 candidates, including Dr Arbab Ghulam Rahim, have submitted nomination papers to contest the by-election on April 15.

The seat fell vacant after the death of Ali Mardan Shah of the PPP.

Political analysts expect a close contest between PPP candidate Amir Ali Shah, son of late Ali Mardan Shah, and Dr Arbab Ghulam Rahim, who is a candidate of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, supported by the Grand Democratic Alliance.

During the 2018 general elections, Ali Mardan Shah had secured 52,647 votes, while Dr Arbab Ghulam Rahim got 32,148 votes.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1540246/ecp-urged-to-stop-qureshi-from-interfering-in-by-poll

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US team visits Islamabad airport to monitor flight to Manchester

Mohammad Asghar

March 12, 2020

RAWALPINDI: A team from the United States Transport Security Administration (TSA) currently in Islamabad to assess Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) visited Islamabad International Airport on Wednesday to monitor PIA flight PK-701 from Islamabad to Manchester.

The TSA team observed the check-in system and the workings of an additional layer of security deployed by the PIA through a special taskforce.

They also observed the search methodology deployed by PIA security and the Airport Security Force, aircraft access and baggage, cargo and catering loading onto the aircraft. On Tuesday, they assessed cargo, catering and handling services, facilities and procedures.

The PIA formally requested a TSA check and clearance to begin operating direct flights to the US after a meeting between the airline and the US consul general in Karachi, who visited the PIA head office in April 2019.

A subsequent meeting on preparedness and assurances was held in Washington D.C. between the US undersecretary of transport, the TSA team and a PIA team led by the CEO.

The PIA set up a strict security protocol based on the outcomes of that meeting, which redefined its security operational procedures according to TSA standards, and carried out trainings and implementation of those protocols. The PIA also conducted IT standard modifications for greater integration between PIA and TSA systems.

According to sources, the final assessment will be conducted after detailed deliberations by the TSA in two months. PIA plans to launch its flight after Ramazan to cater to holiday traffic.

If the TSA approves PIA’s request, this would be the first time direct flights are operated between the two countries.

PIA’s US operations used to require an intermediate TSA-cleared stopover, which meant there were no direct flights to the US. The stopover and the incremental costs involved therein meant that the flight economics were not feasible and the PIA temporarily suspended the route in October 2017.

Aircraft range restrictions also prevented the airline from operating direct flights, and stopovers would be made in Europe. In the early 2000s, when the PIA acquired the B-777 long range aircraft capable of direct flights, restrictions were imposed on Pakistan post 9/11.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1540137/us-team-visits-islamabad-airport-to-monitor-flight-to-manchester

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‘No plausible ground for Maryam’s London visit’

March 12, 2020

LAHORE: Additional Attorney General Ishtiaq A Khan argued before the Lahore High Court on Wednesday that PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz apparently left with no plausible reason to visit former primer minister Nawaz Sharif in London since the federal government had already initiated process to bring her father back.

However, Ms Nawaz’s counsel Amjad Pervez rejected the stance of the government saying his client had a right to visit her ailing father abroad.

A two-judge bench comprising Justice Ali Baqar Najafi and Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh was hearing a petition by Ms Nawaz seeking a one-time permission to visit London to inquire after Mr Sharif.

At the outset of the hearing, Addi-AG Khan explained to the bench that Attorney General of Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan could not make his appearance due to his unavoidable engagement before Supreme Court in Islamabad.

On last hearing, the bench had decided to hear point of view of the attorney general on points involved in the petition. The hearing was fixed for March 11 after the bench was informed about the availability of the top law officer.

“Should we consider that the attorney general does not want to appear in this case,” the bench asked Addi-AG Khan.

The law officer requested the court to allow a one-time adjournment to the AGP.

The bench allowed the request but observed that it will not wait for the AGP to decide the matter.

Coming back to the case, Justice Naqvi asked the petitioner’s counsel what kind of freedom of movement a convict enjoyed under Article 15 of the Constitution. The judge noted that the bench would also require assistance on laws from international jurisdiction.

Advocate Pervez said meeting father for a daughter amounted to perform Umrah. He said his arguments would also cover the rights of a daughter in light of Islam and Hadith.

Addi-AG Khan asked the bench to consolidate the matter of Mr Sharif and Ms Nawaz as both involved common questions of law. However, the petitioner’s counsel argued that both cases needed to be heard separately.

The bench observed that it will decide this point on next hearing.

It also asked the petitioner’s counsel whether he wanted to continue with same petition since the government was taking some steps for extradition of Mr Sharif.

The counsel pointed out that the court while permitting Mr Sharif to go abroad for medical treatment had observed that his return would depend on the advice of the doctors. He said the case of Ms Nawaz was entirely different from the one of Mr Sharif. He said allowing any convict to visit abroad was the jurisdiction of the courts.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1540224/no-plausible-ground-for-maryams-london-visit

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Pilot martyred as F-16 crashes in Islamabad

March 12, 2020

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistan Air Force (PAF) pilot was martyred early Wednesday morning when an F-16 fighter jet crashed near Shakarparian in Islamabad during the Pakistan Day rehearsals.

According to the PAF officials, Wing Commander Nauman Akram was martyred in the crash.

Rescue teams rushed to the site of the crash while a board of inquiry has been ordered by the Air Headquarters to determine the cause of the accident, the statement added.

Islamabad Mayor Sheikh Anser Aziz said officials from the Pakistan Army and PAF cordoned off the area and conducted further rescue operations.

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa paid glowing tribute to Akram. He said, ”Laying one’s life is the ultimate sacrifice one can make for defence of the motherland. May his soul rest in peace. My thoughts and sincere prayers for the bereaved family,” the Inter-Services Public Relations said quoting the army chief.

His funeral prayer was attended by the army chief, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Nadeem Raza, Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan, Naval Chief Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi and other high officials of the Armed Forces of Pakistan.

In 2020 alone, three incidents of aircraft crash have been reported. In January, a PAF FT-7 aircraft had crashed while on a training mission near Mianwali. Both pilots – Squadron Leader Haris bin Khalid and Flying Officer Ibaadur Rehman – aboard the aircraft had lost their lives in the crash.

On Feb 7, a PAF Mirage aircraft, which was also on a routine operational training mission, had crashed near the Lahore-Multan Motorway. Pilots in both cases had ejected safely.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/03/11/paf-jet-crashes-in-islamabad-pilot-martyred/

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Communication vital to strengthen ties with Pakistan, says Wells

March 12, 2020

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells said on Wednesday that communication was vital to strengthen the United States relationship with the Pakistani people.

The US diplomat passed the remarks in a tweet shared on her behalf by the State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs. The US diplomat was welcoming the ‘excellent news’ of the US Consulate in Karachi’s relaunch of their new website in Sindhi.

“Communication is vital to strengthening our relationship with the people of Pakistan and this effort will bring us closer together,” the US diplomat had said.

The US Consulate took to Twitter on Tuesday to announce that it has relaunched its website in Sindhi.

“Relaunching our Sindhi website is another way in which we are honouring the rich culture and traditions of Pakistan and Sindh,” said the US Public Affairs Officer Jason Green in a video message attached to the tweet.

The US official added that we should celebrate the diversity of cultures and languages that make Pakistan beautiful and strong.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/03/11/communication-vital-strengthen-ties-pakistan-says-wells/

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‘TTP commander’ killed in IED blast

March 12, 2020

BANNU: Adam Khan, a commander of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), was allegedly killed when an explosive device planted in a motorcycle went off in Khwaja Darkhel area of Jani Khel on Wednesday.

Police said that Khan was killed early Wednesday morning when he was targeted with a bomb planted in a motorcycle.

Police further said that Khan belonged to the Malik Ishaq group of the outlawed militant organisation. Police have cordoned off the area and started search operation.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/03/11/ttp-militant-killed-blast/

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