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Islamic World News ( 23 March 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Iraqi Popular Forces: Wahhabism behind Brussels Terror Attacks

New Age Islam News Bureau

23 March 2016

An injured woman at Brussels Airport after the explosions on Tuesday morning David Crunelle


 What Is The Risk Of A Brussels-Style Attack By Islamic State In The UK?

 Hezbollah: Europe in Flames of Own Fire in Mideast


Arab World

 Iraqi Popular Forces: Wahhabism behind Brussels Terror Attacks

 Syrian Army Kills 70 ISIL Militants in Battle East of Palmyra

 Abu Sayyaf Group battalion defects to Islamic State

 Iraqi Militia Leader Wants to Model PMF after Iran’s Revolutionary Guard

 ISIL Claims Responsibility for Brussels Attacks

 Car Explosion in Qamishli, ISIL Retreats in Hasaka Province

 Syrian Army Encircles Quaryatayn, Palmyra Battle Continues

 Syrian Army, Hezbollah Liberate Palmyra Triangle

 Iran Invited to Doha Oil Talks

 EC Secretary: US Untruthworthy, Seeks to Dismantle IRGC

 Iranian FM Calls for Global Action against Terrorism



 What Is The Risk Of A Brussels-Style Attack By Islamic State In The UK?

 Brussels Airport Bombers Named As Brothers Linked To Paris Suspect: Report



 Hezbollah: Europe in Flames of Own Fire in Mideast

 Syrian Refugees Rescue German Neo-Nazi after Car Crash: Reports

 Three ISIL suspects detained in Istanbul


South Asia

 12-Year-Old Suicide Bomber Surrender to Afghan Forces in Nangarhar

 3 Senior Taliban Commanders among 13 Killed In Ghazni Province

 Drone Strike Kills Two Militants in Nangarhar

 NDS detain 4 suspects involved in terrorist attacks in capital Kabul

 Taliban show readiness for prisoner swap

 Dissident Taliban group rejects Mullah Rasool has been detained in Pakistan

 NATO commander Gen. Nicholson says the coalition will not abandon Afghanistan


North America

 US Adds Emir of Mujahidin Indonesia Timur to List of Global Terrorists

 US Airstrike Hits Al-Qaida Training Camp in Yemen

 Hillary Clinton Says She Is the Only Candidate With a Plan to Defeat the Islamic State

 Donald Trump calls for surveillance of Muslims and advocates water boarding terror suspects after Brussels attack



 Security Is Increased but West African Residents Brace Themselves amid Spate of Islamic Extremist Attacks

 'How I Almost Became A Boko Haram Suicide Bomber'

 Islamic group signs MoU with Chinese fund to boost investment in Africa

 Shabaab overruns Somali military base

 Bureaucracy harming businesses in Africa - Kofi Annan



 17 Die after Consuming Illegally-Made Alcohol in Pakistan

 Armed Forces Display Military Might On Pakistan Day

 Peshawar High Court stays execution awarded by military court

 Pakistan Prepares for Rouhani’s Visit



 Pakistani Team to Probe Pathankot Attack Applies For Indian Visa

 PM Modi greets Pakistan on national day

 On Pakistan Day, Asiya Andrabi's party hoists Pak flags in Srinagar


Southeast Asia

 Indonesia Region Tells Beauty Parlors to Stop Employing LGBT People


Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Iraqi Popular Forces: Wahhabism behind Brussels Terror Attacks

Wed Mar 23, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iraqi popular forces, known as Hashd al-Shaabi, condemned the Tuesday terrorist attacks in Brussels, and said the only way to stop similar attacks from happening again is to stand up to Saudi Arabia and its deadly ideology of Wahhabism.

In a statement on Wednesday, the resistance movement said, “The ongoing terror attacks across the globe have their roots in ideologies that are being nurtured and supported by certain countries. These countries use it for their own political and economic agenda.”

The statement added, “The key in the fight against terrorism is to stand up to Saudi Arabia and curb its ideology of Wahhabism. It is also important to stand up to Turkey because of its support for ISIL.”

At least 36 people were killed and well over 200 others wounded in a series of bomb attacks in the Belgian capital on Tuesday, where ISIL bombers targeted the airport with a pair of suicide blasts, and subsequently bombed a subway train at Maelbeek station, near the EU headquarters.

There appear to have been three bombers at the Brussels Airport, two of them killed as suicide bombers, and the other leaving a nail-bomb and leaving the airport. He is still at large, and authorities recovered his bomb, which never detonated.

The deadliest attack came an hour after the airport bombings, however, when a man opened fire in a subway train before detonating, killing over 20 people. Officials say they recovered a Kalashnikov rifle from the scene.

Brussels has been under virtual lockdown since then, with the airport closed, and all public transportation shut down. The Eurostar train system, despite not being targeted, has similarly been shut down in the wake of the attacks.

Several nations have offered travel warnings against going to Brussels since then, and indeed it would be difficult to do so even if one was of a mind to. The fear of more ISIS attacks is spreading far beyond Brussels, however.

The seemingly co-ordinated attacks in Brussels come only a day after Jan Jambon, Belgium’s interior minister, warned that jihadis could be looking to counter-attack after the arrest last week of Salah Abdeslam, a suspected leader of November’s Paris terror attacks.

The Iranian foreign ministry deplored the Tuesday multiple terrorist attacks in Brussels which killed several innocent people, and stressed the need for united efforts to fight terrorism.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari condemned the blasts, and sympathized with the Belgian nation and government, specially the bereaved families of victims.

"Continued terrorist operations in different parts of the world shows that terrorism and extremism are common threats to the entire world, and indicate the necessity for integrated and comprehensive confrontation against this ominous phenomenon and the centers which support them politically, ideologically and financially," he added.


What Is The Risk Of A Brussels-Style Attack By Islamic State In The UK?

22, March, 2016

The British security agencies worry that Islamic State is plotting large-scale terrorist attacks in the UK by coordinated commando-style groups similar to those in Brussels and Paris.

Isis propaganda videos have frequently identified the UK as a major target and intelligence officers have repeatedly said, as a caveat, that it is only a matter of time before there is a successful attack in the country, whether lone wolf-style or a large-scale assault.

The agencies stopped seven plots last year but have emphasised again and again that they do not believe their luck – and operational efficiency – is going to hold forever.

Brussels: Islamic State launches attacks on airport and station – as it happened

Follow live updates on the aftermath of two explosions at Brussels airport and a blast near EU buildings

The threat level in the UK is “severe”, meaning an attack is designated as “highly likely”. That sounds alarming but it would need specific information to raise that to the next and highest category, “critical”, and the agencies have no such intelligence.

Raffaello Pantucci, who focuses on counter-terrorism and radicalisation issues and is director of international security studies at the Royal United Services Institute in London, said he did not think the British security services could be accused of complacency but there were a number of significant differences from continental Europe: “There are realities on the ground that make it harder in the UK [to mount an attack] than on the continent.”

First, it is harder to get weapons and ammunition in the UK than, say, Belgium. “You can make a bomb instead but that needs expertise and it is harder to sneak in and out. To make a bomb yourself, you have to practise and if you practise you attract attention,” he said.

Pantucci also identified a shift in Islamist terrorism. The heart of global jihadism had been in south-east Asia, with close connections to the UK, but has shifted to the Levant, with connections to Arab communities in continental Europe.

UK ports provide a barrier and though they have proved more porous than the agencies would like, security is still better than on continental Europe, which has a direct land link to Isis-controlled territory, he added.

This ability to intervene early is due to the security services, having learned one of the biggest lessons from the attacks on London in 2005, establishing good networks in communities with large Muslim populations across the UK. Resources were shifted out of London to the Midlands, the north of England, Wales and Scotland. Another lesson was that the old barriers between the domestic agency MI5, the overseas agency MI6 and the surveillance service GCHQ were partly broken down, with increased coordination and staff seconded to work with sister agencies.

Another consequence is better collaboration between the intelligence services and the police, a change that contrasts sharply with Belgium where lack of coordination between the two branches of security has been cruelly exposed.

The British security services would also claim they enjoy a significant advantage as a result of the amount of raw data being hoovered up by GCHQ and its US counterpart, the NSA, though this is disputed by privacy campaigners. Although there is some intelligence sharing between the UK and other European countries, it is not on the scale of the cooperation between the “Five Eyes”: the UK, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

One of the world’s leading counter-terrorism experts, the Australian David Kilcullen, who was an adviser to the US military and state department, offers a bleak assessment of the future, regarding the west as being in a conflict that looks set to last at least a generation and one that the west is losing.

Bombers take advantage of Belgium’s history as a country divided

In a recent interview with the Guardian, Kilcullen said the attack on Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris last year marked a shift from spontaneous actions by one or two individuals to more coordinated, sustained tactical assaults – what he referred to as Mumbai-lite, the 2008 attack by gunmen that created mayhem in India’s financial capital.

He was speaking after the Paris attacks but before Brussels and his words proved prescient. “The evidence is that this is here to stay and will not go away any time soon.”

Kilcullen, author of the newly published Blood Year: Islamic State and the Failures of the War on Terror, acknowledged that the UK appeared to be a little more secure than continental Europe.

“We are protected by the Channel a little bit. But that is not a complete protection. The ability to move things by boat and even to move things and people in containers is still there. I think the risk is a bit less for the UK but for the rest of Europe it is pretty serious.”

Since the 7/7 bombings, there have only been a handful of fatalities from terrorism in the UK. Fusilier Lee Rigby was murdered in a spontaneous attack in London in 2013; the Muslim pensioner Mohammed Saleem was stabbed to death by a Ukrainian white supremacist the same year; and only last week, the prison officer Adrian Ismay died in Belfast from a bomb planted by dissident Republicans.

There are at least four potential kinds of attacks in the UK. One is from returning volunteers, which Kilcullen thinks is overblown. An estimated 800 British volunteers have returned to the UK from Syria and Iraq but Kilcullen argues that the attrition rate among foreign fighters is high, with many killed on the frontlines.

The second is the kind of “spectaculars” favoured by al-Qaida and which Isis also engages in, such as bringing down the Russian plane in Egypt. But the Isis bomb was a crude device, one that would be harder to smuggle on to a plane in the UK.

That leaves the spontaneous lone wolf attacks influenced by Isis propaganda and the coordinated urban guerrilla-style attacks seen in Brussels and Paris. Pantucci sees this a worrying combination. “A threat picture going aggressively in two ways at the same time,” he said.



Hezbollah: Europe in Flames of Own Fire in Mideast

Wed Mar 23, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Lebanese Hezbollah resistance group condemned the Tuesday terrorist attacks in Brussels, and said it takes courage and cooperation on regional and international levels to defeat terrorism and extremism in the the world.

Hezbollah said it is wrong to remain silent in the face of terrorism and extremism, and added, “Europe is burning in the same fire it helped to inflame in Syria and the Middle East in collaboration with certain regional regimes."

On a similar note, Iraqi popular forces, known as Hashd al-Shaabi, condemned the terrorist attacks in Brussels, and said the only way to stop similar attacks from happening again is to stand up to Saudi Arabia and its deadly ideology of Wahhabism.

In a statement on Wednesday, the resistance movement said, “The ongoing terror attacks across the globe have their roots in ideologies that are being nurtured and supported by certain countries. These countries use it for their own political and economic agenda.”

The statement added, “The key in the fight against terrorism is to stand up to Saudi Arabia and curb its ideology of Wahhabism. It is also important to stand up to Turkey because of its support for ISIL.”

At least 36 people were killed and well over 200 others wounded in a series of bomb attacks in the Belgian capital on Tuesday, where ISIL bombers targeted the airport with a pair of suicide blasts, and subsequently bombed a subway train at Maelbeek station, near the EU headquarters.

There appear to have been three bombers at the Brussels Airport, two of them killed as suicide bombers, and the other leaving a nail-bomb and leaving the airport. He is still at large, and authorities recovered his bomb, which never detonated.

The deadliest attack came an hour after the airport bombings, however, when a man opened fire in a subway train before detonating, killing over 20 people. Officials say they recovered a Kalashnikov rifle from the scene.

Brussels has been under virtual lockdown since then, with the airport closed, and all public transportation shut down. The Eurostar train system, despite not being targeted, has similarly been shut down in the wake of the attacks.

Several nations have offered travel warnings against going to Brussels since then, and indeed it would be difficult to do so even if one was of a mind to. The fear of more ISIS attacks is spreading far beyond Brussels, however.

The seemingly co-ordinated attacks in Brussels come only a day after Jan Jambon, Belgium’s interior minister, warned that jihadis could be looking to counter-attack after the arrest last week of Salah Abdeslam, a suspected leader of November’s Paris terror attacks.

The Iranian foreign ministry deplored the Tuesday multiple terrorist attacks in Brussels which killed several innocent people, and stressed the need for united efforts to fight terrorism.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari condemned the blasts, and sympathized with the Belgian nation and government, specially the bereaved families of victims.

"Continued terrorist operations in different parts of the world shows that terrorism and extremism are common threats to the entire world, and indicate the necessity for integrated and comprehensive confrontation against this ominous phenomenon and the centers which support them politically, ideologically and financially," he added.



Arab World


Syrian Army Kills 70 ISIL Militants in Battle East of Palmyra

March 23, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army and its allied militia took full control of the Haya mountain range east of Palmyra, killing at least 70 ISIL militants in the past 24 hours, a source in the command of the Syrian Armed Forces in Palmyra said on Wednesday.

Last week, the Syrian army accompanied with popular militia group Desert Falcons finished the first stage of their offensive to drive terrorists from the ancient city of Palmyra, Sputnik reported.

"The militia from the Desert Hawk Brigade directed by the Syrian Air Force and the artillery completely took control of the Haya mountain range and a strategic crossroads on the road   Damascus- Deir Ezzur via Palmyra. About 70 ISIL militants were been killed in a single day," the source said.

The Desert Falcons or the Desert Hawk Brigade is an armed branch of the Syrian Arab Army fighting on the side of the Syrian government.

Palmyra has been under ISIL control since May 2015. The terrorist group, which is outlawed in many countries, including Russia and the United States, has already destroyed part of the ancient city, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.



Abu Sayyaf Group battalion defects to Islamic State

March 22nd, 2016

Another battalion from the Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) has reportedly defected to the Islamic State in recent days. Their pledge of allegiance was recorded and released by the Islamic State’s Furat Media, a largely Russian-language propaganda media outlet.

At least 22 fighters and one child from the former ASG battalion Jund al Tawhid are shown pledging their allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi somewhere in the southern Philippines province of Sulu. Some of the fighters appear to be teenagers, while others are adults. Almost all of the jihadists are equipped with M16 or M4 assault rifles, which were likely captured from Filipino security forces.

Jund al Tawhid joins two other ASG battalions which have defected to the Islamic State. Last month, Furat also released a video showing the Ansar al Sharia Battalion and the Marakah al Ansar Battalion pledging to Baghdadi. That video also featured the overall leader of ASG, the US-designated terrorist Isnilon Hapilon. The three now join several other groups in the region to join the Islamic State’s ranks. (See LWJ report, Philippines-based jihadist groups pledge allegiance to the Islamic State.)

It is unclear if all of ASG has sided with the Islamic State or if individual battalions of the group continue to release videos showing their defections. Traditionally, ASG has been tied to al Qaeda. In June 2014, a master ASG bomb maker thought to have been killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan, Pakistan, turned up in the Philippines before being killed last year. The operative, Abdul Basit Usman, was wanted by the US for his involvement in multiple bombings in the Philippines and also had ties to JI.

Additionally, ASG was funded and financed by Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, one of Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-laws, according to Khaddafy Janjalani, the leader of Abu Sayyaf, before he was killed in 2006. Khalifa, an al Qaeda financier and facilitator, was killed by US special operations forces in Madagascar in 2006. In recent hostage videos released by ASG, no mention of the jihadists holding the hostages in the name of the Islamic State is made, rather the jihadists refer to themselves as being from ASG. It is unlikely that fighters loyal to the Islamic State would use the ASG moniker.



Iraqi militia leader wants to model PMF after Iran’s Revolutionary Guard

March 22nd, 2016

This Associated Press article on the growing influence of the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Force (PMF or Hashed al Shaabi) is a must read. The Long War Journal has warned about the danger of the Popular Mobilization Force since it was established in the summer of 2014 after the Islamic State broke the Iraqi military and police.

The Long War Journal reported from the beginning that the Popular Mobilization Force is dominated by Iranian-supported militias such as Asaib Ahl al Haq, Hezbollah Brigades, Badr Brigades, and Sadr’s so-called “Peace Brigades,” as well as offshoots like Saraya Khorasani, Harakat al Nujaba, Kata’ib Imam Ali, Sayyed al Shuhada, while being directed by Iranian Qods Force pawn Abu Mahdi al Muhandis.

Despite these facts, the US military has – either directly or indirectly – aided the PMF and by extension, Iran, by launching airstrikes while the PMF was on the offensive, and sent weapons to Iraq that are then funneled by the government to the PMF.

The AP article is important because it neatly summarizes how the PMF has grown to become a dominant force in both Iraqi politics as well as in the military sphere. Iraqi officials are now worried that the PMF will supplant the military and government, as the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps did in Iran. A militia commander was even quoted stating that the PMF wishes to model itself after the IRGC:

“We want to be a third power in Iraq,” alongside the army and police, al-Jazaeery [the commander of Saraya Khorasani] said. “Why can’t the Hashd be like the Revolutionary Guard in Iran?”

An excerpt of the AP article is below. Note that Iraqi militias are currently fighting in Syria, militia commanders have threatened to attack US forces in Iraq and beyond and said they would overthrow Iraq’s government if ordered to do so by Iran’s supreme leader, while the militias have attacked and intimidated Iraqi minorities. From the AP:

Two top generals warned that the army could eventually come to blows with the militias, known collectively as the “Hashd,” Arabic for “mobilization.”

“They (the militias) have now infiltrated the government and are meddling in politics,” said Ali Omran, commander of the army’s 5th Infantry Division and a veteran of numerous battles against IS. “I told the Hashd people that one day I and my men may fight them.”

The more than 50 Shiite militias in Iraq have between 60,000 and 140,000 fighters, according to estimates from the government and the Hashd itself. They are backed by tanks and weapons, and have their own intelligence agency, operations rooms and court of law.

The larger militias, like Asaib Ahl al-Haq, the Hezbollah Brigades, Badr and the Peace Brigades, have been in place since soon after the 2003 ouster of Saddam Hussein. They are linked to political parties, effectively forming armed branches for politicians.

But the ranks of the militias swelled dramatically after IS overran nearly a third of Iraq in the summer of 2014 and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, called on able-bodied males to fight IS. At the time, tens of thousands turned out.

Those same militias now want to remain a permanent, independent armed force and are resisting attempts to integrate them into the military or police, the AP found from interviews with more than 15 government officials, army generals and militia leaders and visits to Tikrit and Samarra, Sunni-majority areas where the militias now hold power. The militias insist they have earned a special status, pointing to the 5,000 militiamen killed and 16,000 wounded fighting IS.

“Those who sacrificed more are entitled to more,” said Hamed al-Jazaeery, head of the al-Khorasani Brigades militia. “What is written with blood cannot be removed. It is not ink on paper.”

Al-Jazaeery wears the black turban of a cleric and the camouflage fatigues of a fighter. The walls of his office are adorned with photos of the leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and its current supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Other photos show al-Jazaeery posing with Iranian Gen. Qassem Suleimani, the powerful Revolutionary Guard figure who helped organize the Iraqi militias against IS.

“We want to be a third power in Iraq,” alongside the army and police, al-Jazaeery said. “Why can’t the Hashd be like the Revolutionary Guard in Iran?”

The model of the Revolutionary Guard, often cited by militia leaders, would be a dramatic change for Iraq’s militias. In Iran, the Guard is an elite force independent of — and better armed than — the military, tasked with “protecting” the Shiite cleric-led power structure. It is effectively a state within a state, rivaling the political strength of Iran’s supreme leader.



ISIL Claims Responsibility for Brussels Attacks

March 23, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- A media agency close to the ISIL terrorist group announced that the group is responsible for the attacks in Brussels, which killed at least 34 and left more than 100 injured.

Aamaq news agency said in a statement, “The militia [of ISIL] carried out a series of explosions on Tuesday using bomb belts to target an airport and a metro station in the middle of the Belgian capital,” Egypt's Daily News reported.

Belgium raised its terror alert to the highest level following the attacks, which took place near the European Parliament and the US embassy.

Belgium’s federal prosecutor said that at least one of the attacks was the result of a “suicide bomb”.

The deadly attacks caused the Belgium, French, and Italian governments to raise their terror threat level to high, and deploy security forces in the streets.



Car Explosion in Qamishli, ISIL Retreats in Hasaka Province

March 23, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- A powerful explosion hit an area near a military academy in a Kurdish-majority area in Northeastern Syria, leaving an unknown number of people dead and injured.

Local sources said the blast had targeted an area near the Kurdish district of Torbesi in the Northeastern city of Qamishli, Defense News reported.

Reports suggest the explosion may have been caused by a car bombing attack.

Further details regarding the incident have not yet been released.

Meanwhile, ISIL terrorists have reportedly executed nine people, including two children, in the village of Kafr Sakeer, Northeast of Aleppo.

Reports indicate the killings come after the Syrian army forces killed nine ISIL militants and arrested 45 others in the area before regaining control over the village.

This comes shortly after the Syrian government and the Arab League (AL) rejected a request by the country’s Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) to form a federal government system in Syria.

Kurdish parties are already in control of three administrations in Syria’s North near the Turkish border. The regions are known as Afrin and Kobani, both in Aleppo Province, as well as Jazira in Hasaka Province.

Syria has been grappling with a foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. More than 470,000 people have been killed in the turmoil, according to a February report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research.



Syrian Army Encircles Quaryatayn, Palmyra Battle Continues

March 23, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army’s 11th Division and 3rd Division have secured all hills around al-Qaraytayn city, a battlefield source reported on Wednesday.

According to the reports, the Syrian Government prefers the latter as they do not wish to suffer the casualties which will naturally be sustained by attacking a large town filled with improvised ISIL traps and potential suicide bombers, therefore, they have left a line of retreat open for the ISIL militants.

Not long ago, ISIL actually caused a temporal predicament for Syrian military commanders as they were able to advance westwards of al-Quaryatayn and captured both Maheen and Sadad while marching dangerously closely to the government strongholds of Qarah and An-Nabk.

However, this entire offensive was halted within weeks and now, ISIL remains bogged down at al-Quaryatayn.

Meanwhile, in Palmyra, the Syrian government troops have also experienced some successes with capturing hilltops, however, they have not begun the operation to enter the historic city due to extensive minefields and fortifications of ISIL warriors in the area.

Syrian Army enjoys support from several units including, the Tiger Forces, the Syrian Marines, the Desert Hawk Brigade, Hezbollah along with several volunteer Iraqi paramilitary groups.

In total, some 5,000 to 5,500 soldiers are stationed on the Palmyra frontline and with the Russian Air force aiding their every operation and the eventual capture of Palmyra within weeks seems within their reach.



Syrian Army, Hezbollah Liberate Palmyra Triangle

March 23, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- At approximately 11:45 P.M. (Damascus Time) on Tuesday night, the Syrian Army’s “Tiger Forces”, backed by Hezbollah, the Desert Hawks Brigade, Iraqi militia forces of Liwa Imam ‘Ali, and the Syrian Marines, imposed full control over the Palmyra (Tadmur) Triangle after advancing Eastward from Jabal Hiyyal.

According to battlefield reports in the Palmyra suburbs, the Syrian Army and their allies liberated this strategic area after a fierce battle with the ISIL militants, Al Masdar reported.

The sources added that the Syrian Armed Forces and their allies suffered minimal casualties, while the ISIL terrorists lost an estimated 20-30 combatants before their positions were overran by the government forces.

With the Palmyra Triangle under their control, the Syrian Armed Forces are now within a afew miles away from Palmyra, this is also the closest that the government forces have been to this city since their complete withdrawal on May 21st, 2015.

Meanwhile, north of the Palmyra Triangle, the Tiger Forces and Desert Hawks are pressing ISIL’ defenses at Jabal Al-Tar, as they are reportedly close to capturing this important mountaintop in Western Palmyra.



Iran’s EC Secretary: US Untrustworthy, Seeks to Dismantle IRGC

Wed Mar 23, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council (EC) Mohsen Rezayee said President Obama’s Persian New Year message to the Iranians as well as US threats with regard to Iran’s missile tests show uncertainty in the ranks of US government officials.

Speaking to the state TV on Tuesday, Rezayee said the US government has no intention to recognize the Islamic Revolution of 1979, arguing that they seek to restore their previous hegemony and control over Iran.

“The Americans dream of dismantling the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC). They have made it clear that Iran could only join the World Trade Organization if it dismantles the IRGC. This is wishful thinking," he added.

He further noted that the Americans couldn't be trusted, adding, “President Obama is not sincere in his Persian New year message. They seek to curb Iran’s missile defense program at the Congress. This shows their political uncertainty. The upcoming months and years will determine just that.”

In relevant remarks, Supreme Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei also lashed out at the US for not remaining loyal to its undertakings based on the July nuclear agreement between Tehran and the world powers.

"The Americans did not act on what they promised in the nuclear accord (the JCPOA); they did not do what they should have done. According to Foreign Minister (Mohammad Javad Zarif), they brought something on the paper but prevented materialization of the objectives of the Islamic Republic of Iran through many diversionary ways," Ayatollah Khamenei said on Sunday, March 20, addressing a large group of people in the holy city of Mashhad, Eastern Iran.

"What a hue and cry did they launch in the case of the missiles: Why Iran has long-ranged missiles? Why they (Iranians) aim and point to the target so precisely? Why they (Iranians) tested and why you (we Iranians) do military exercise?" he added.

"The Americans and one of the regional countries launch wargames every now and then in the Persian Gulf, which is several thousands of kilometers away of their country, while they have no responsibility there. Iran carries out military exercise in its own security boundary and home," Ayatollah Khamenei stated.

Elsewhere, he referred to his message on the advent of the Iranian New Year, and said, "The reason we designated the new year as the Year of Resistance Economy, may be some would have minded giving preference to cultural issues, I wanted to develop dialogue with the public opinion under the topic of economy."

The Supreme Leader also said that he supported the Iranian nuclear negotiating team and encouraged the people to cooperate with the government to achieve the goals set for the economic development.

In his message on Saturday, Ayatollah Khamenei felicitated the Iranian nation on the advent of Nowruz, and called on people and officials to double efforts to improve economy and turn the threats into opportunities.

"The main issue is that the Iranian nation should be able to do something to bring its vulnerabilities to zero point, and we should have the art of using opportunities and turning threats into opportunities," Ayatollah Khamenei said in his message after the start of the Iranian New Year.

He underlined that improvement of economy is the country's main priority, and said increasing national production, creating jobs and fighting recession are among the issues which should receive attention in the New Year.

Ayatollah Khamenei described the resistance economy as the remedy to all economic problems and the way to stand against enemies' threats and create opportunities, and said, "Therefore, what I choose as the slogan of this year is 'the resistance economy; action and implementation'."

Praying God Almighty for a life full of blessing for all Iranians, the Supreme Leader wished that the New Year will be a year that the Iranian nation deserves.

Nowruz, which coincides with the first day of spring on the solar calendar, is mostly celebrated in Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan.

The International Day of Nowruz was registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on February 23, 2010.

For Iranians, Nowruz is a celebration of renewal and change, a time to visit relatives and friends, and pay respect to senior family members.



Iranian FM Calls for Global Action against Terrorism

Wed Mar 23, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif denounced Tuesday’s terrorist attacks in a phone conversation with his Belgian counterpart Didier Reynders, and called for global action against terrorism.

Foreign Minister Zarif said terrorism and extremism are global problems and tackling the two threats needs global action involving all nations.

Earlier, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also "firmly condemned" the terrorist attacks.

Posting a message on his Twitter account, the Iranian president offered his deepest condolences to the Belgian government and people, particularly those who lost their loved ones.

"I firmly condemn terrorist attacks in Brussels. My deepest condolences to the government & people of Belgium, especially those who lost loved ones," he twitted.

At least 36 people were killed and well over 200 others wounded in a series of bomb attacks in the Belgian capital on Tuesday, where ISIL bombers targeted the airport with a pair of suicide blasts, and subsequently bombed a subway train at Maelbeek station, near the EU headquarters.

There appear to have been three bombers at the Brussels Airport, two of them killed as suicide bombers, and the other leaving a nail-bomb and leaving the airport. He is still at large, and authorities recovered his bomb, which never detonated.

The deadliest attack came an hour after the airport bombings, however, when a man opened fire in a subway train before detonating, killing over 20 people. Officials say they recovered a Kalashnikov rifle from the scene.

Brussels has been under virtual lockdown since then, with the airport closed, and all public transportation shut down. The Eurostar train system, despite not being targeted, has similarly been shut down in the wake of the attacks.

Several nations have offered travel warnings against going to Brussels since then, and indeed it would be difficult to do so even if one was of a mind to. The fear of more ISIS attacks is spreading far beyond Brussels, however.

Officials reported stepped up security in several major US cities, and travel firms say they believe that summer vacations to all cities in Europe are likely to be down dramatically over last year because of fear about security risks.

With Belgian officials focusing their efforts on the third bomber at the airport, US intelligence officials say they believe there is “more than a handful” of other ISIL figures involved in the attack who are yet to be tracked down.

ISIL was quick to claim credit for the strikes and bragged about more coming, but US officials say there is no credible evidence that any specific threat exists against any particular target in the US.





Brussels Airport Bombers Named As Brothers Linked To Paris Suspect: Report

23 March 2016

Two suicide bombers who blew themselves up at Brussels airport are believed to be brothers who were being sought for links with key Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam, RTBF television reported on March 23, citing police sources.

RTBF named the two as Khalid and Ibrahim El Bakraoui, saying Khalid last week rented an apartment in Brussels under a false name where police found Abdeslam's fingerprints after a raid.

Police arrested Abdeslam, Europe's most wanted man, in a dramatic operation in Brussels on March 18 that had been hailed as a "victory" in Belgium's campaign against terrorism.

Khalid is also linked to renting an apartment in the southern Belgian city of Charleroi from where Abdeslam and the other Brussels-based Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadists set off to carry out the November 13 Paris attacks which left 130 people dead.

A police source told AFP on March 22 that a man in the middle of three men seen on closed circuit television at the airport just before the twin blasts could be Ibrahim El Bakraoui.

Other reports on March 23 said one of the brothers, who they did not name, could have been involved in the separate attack on March 22 on the Brussels metro station of Maalbeek, which left about 20 dead.

Belgian police on earlier March 23 issued an appeal for information about the two men believed to have blown themselves up at the airport.

The police posted several tweets with the caption "Terrorism: who knows this man?", showing CCTV close-ups of two men pushing trolleys with suitcases through the airport departure hall.

They gave three slightly different images for each of the two men who the federal prosecutor said on March 22 had likely blown themselves up in the attack.

A third man, dressed in a light colored jacket and wearing a dark hat, who was shown with the two others in a CCTV grab issued Tuesday, is believed to have fled the scene and is now the subject of a massive manhunt.





Syrian refugees rescue German neo-Nazi after car crash: Reports


A German neo-Nazi politician who crashed his car into a tree was rescued by Syrian refugees who happened to be passing, German media reported on March 22.

Stefan Jagsch, 29, a member of the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD), was badly injured in the crash last week, local newspapers and national news agency DPA said.

The first responders were two Syrian asylum seekers from a passing minibus that stopped at the crash site near the town of Büdingen in the central state of Hesse.

They pulled Jagsch from the wrecked car and administered first aid, a spokesman for the local fire brigade told DPA, confirming eyewitness reports from March 16.

Büdingen hosts one of many new refugee shelters set up across Germany since more than one million asylum seekers from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere arrived in Europe’s top economy last year.

The record influx has sparked a xenophobic backlash from which far-right parties, including the NPD, have benefited. 

The party scored 10 percent of the vote in March 6 municipal elections in Büdingen and in nearby Altenstadt, where Jagsch was the NPD’s main candidate.

The NPD’s Hesse state chief Jean Christoph Fiedler called the rescue effort “apparently a very good, humane act,” adding that Jagsch himself could not clearly remember the accident, the Frankfurter Rundschau daily reported.

Germany’s constitutional court is currently considering a parliamentary request to ban the NPD, which Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office has labelled an “anti-democratic, xenophobic, anti-Semitic and anti-constitutional party.”

Social media were abuzz with users noting the irony of foreigners coming to the aid of a member of the openly-racist NPD party.

“Now the foreigners are even taking away our first aid,” quipped one user on Facebook, while another commented that “destiny has a sense of humor.”



Three ISIL suspects detained in Istanbul


Three suspected members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) were detained in Istanbul on March 22 following intelligence received by police concerning a planned attack targeting German institutions and schools in the city.

Intelligence and counter-terrorism police units elaborated on the recent terror intelligence which led to the closure of the German consulate in Istanbul and Deutsche Schule Istanbul last week.

Three suspects, Muhammet Nas along with Iraqi İbrahim Ghanem Alshalawey and Syrian Ali Al Faraç, were detained in a joint operation with Turkish and German intelligence units for allegedly planning attacks on German institutions and schools in the city.

The suspects were taken to the anti-terror branch directorate on Istanbul’s Vatan Street, while security procedures were ongoing.

The German Foreign Office had closed down the German embassy and the German consulate in Istanbul on March 17 and March 18, along with a German school in Ankara and Deutsche Schule Istanbul, over terror concerns.



South Asia


12-Year-Old Suicide Bomber Surrender to Afghan Forces In Nangarhar

Wed Mar 23 2016

A 12-year-old child assigned for a suicide mission surrendered himself to the security forces in the eastern Nangarhar province of AFghanistan.

According to the local security officials, the child was recently taken to Jalalabad city from the neighboring Pakistan for the suicide mission.

Provincial police Chief Fazal Ahmad Shirzad said the child was trained in a Madrasa in Pakistan regarding the suicide attack and the kid handed over himself to the security forces on Tuesday.

The child said he was motivated to refrain from the attack after witnessing the Afghan people are offering prayers and there are plenty of mosques open in the country, apparently gesturing towards the terror groups claims regarding the ruling un-Islamic system, a claim which is mainly used to brainwash the children and young people for the terrorist attacks.

This comes as the Afghan children have regularly been recruited by the militant groups, the Taliban and the Haqqani network for the terrorist related activities, including suicide attacks.

Madrasas are described as the main recruitment source for the militant groups as poor families in Pakistan and Afghanistan send their sons to such madrassas for free education and lodging.

According to the testimonies given by the children recruited for suicide attacks, their handlers promise them heaven and an end to all problems by carrying suicide attack, a similar testimony given by the 12-year-old child who surrendered to security forces in Jalalabad yesterday.



3 Senior Taliban Commanders among 13 Killed In Ghazni Province

Wed Mar 23 2016

Taliban fightersThree senior Taliban commanders were killed together with their eleven fighters during a gun battle with the Afghan security forces in the restive southeastern Ghazni province.

According to the local security officials the Taliban commanders were identified as Zalmai, Fedayi and Ghulam Rasool who were killed after attacking the security posts in Gilan district.

Provincial police spokesman Fahim Amiri confirmed that the security forces repulsed the Taliban attack, leaving 13 dead, including the group’s 3 senior commanders.

He said six militants were also wounded during the gun battle together with a member of the Afghan National Police (ANP) forces.

The Taliban militants group has not commented regarding the incident so far which comes as the group’s insurgency has been rampant during the past several months.

Ghazni is among the volatile provinces located in the southwest surrounded by other volatile provinces including the restive Wardak, Logar, and Zabul.

The Taliban militants are frequently staging attacks on security forces in different districts of Ghazni province besides the group’s militants are involved in kidnappings and terrorist related activities.



Drone strike kills two militants in Nangarhar

By ZABIHULLAH MOOSAKHAIL - Wed Mar 23 2016, 10:58 am

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DroneA strike by Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) has left two militants killed in Kot district of eastern Nangarhar province.

A statement released by the media office of Nangarhar Police Headquarters says the militants were targeted in Janjal Ghondi area at 2 pm on Tuesday.

Although, the press release does not specifically say the attack was carried out by a UAV but when Nangarhar Police Headquarters issues statement and it only says militants were killed in air strike, it usually means drone strike.

If the strike is conducted by Afghan forces, it would then specify it.

Yesterday’s attack comes a day after eight militants were killed in a drone strike in Kot district of Nangarhar province.

U.S. Forces have increased air campaign against militants in Nangarhar which is considered the stronghold of Daesh in Afghanistan.

The coalition officials estimate between 1,000 to 3,000 Islamic State fighters are stationed in eastern Afghanistan and are trying to establish a base of operations in the rugged mountains of Nangarhar Province.



NDS detain 4 suspects involved in terrorist attacks in capital Kabul

Wed Mar 23 2016

The Afghan intelligence operatives have arrested a group of 4 suspected militants in connection to terrorist related activities in capital Kabul, mainly involved in planting Improvised Explosive Device (IED).

The National Directorate of Security (NDS) said the intelligence operatives seized 2 magnetic bombs and a vehicle from the detained militants.

NDS further added that the detained individuals have been identified as Ahmad Khan son of Abdul Qayum who is also famous as Asad Khan.

The other suspects have been identified as Tela Gul son of Haji Ghamai, Omran son of Gulab and Wali Khan son of Mohammad, NDS said.

NDS also added that the detained suspects have confessed that they were looking to carry out terrorist activities during Nowruz celebrations by using the magnetic bombs.

This comes as the Afghan intelligence arrested a group of militants including suicide bombers who were looking to stage attacks during Nowruz celebrations in the capital.

The militants were arrested during a special military operation conducted by the intelligence operatives in Shahzada market which is the main currency exchange market in the city.

The anti-government armed militant groups have not commented regarding the reports so far.



Taliban show readiness for prisoner swap

Wed Mar 23 2016

Taliban on Wednesday said they are willing to start the process of swapping prisoners with government.

A statement released by the group, undersigned by one of its spokesperson Qari Mohammad Yousuf Ahmadi, states that they have prepared a mechanism which could be applied through a commission in an environment of confidence.

The statement further states that Taliban have also talked to a number of neutral organizations and informed them about their readiness for the prisoner swap.

According to the press release, Taliban showed willingness to exchange soldiers detained after their helicopter crashed in northern Faryab province on November 24 last year but were not given a green light by the other side (government).

The helicopter made an emergency landing after experiencing a technical error in Pashtun Kot district of Faryab province that is partly controlled by Taliban.

Reports surfaced then suggested that the militant group seized over a dozen soldiers.

Government is yet to release information about fate of the hostages.



Dissident Taliban group rejects Mullah Rasool has been detained in Pakistan

Wed Mar 23 2016

Mullah RasoolShortly after reports emerged regarding the arrest of top Taliban dissident leader Mullah Mohammad Rasool in Pakistan, his deputy rejected the reports as ‘enemy propaganda’.

Mullah Rasool’s deputy Mullah Abdul Manan Niazi has said Mullah Rasool is in Afghanistan and leading his fighters.

Niazi further added that his group’s survival did not depend on one leader. “Our resistance will not stop with the arrest or killing of Mullah Rasoul or any other leader,” he told Reuters.

Rasool is a senior Taliban leader and arch rival to the successor of the Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar who se death was confirmed last year.

Reports regarding his mysterious arrest raised questions regarding the preference of ‘Good and Bad Terrorists’ as Mullah Rasool had rejected to participate in the talks led by Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, calling it an effort dictated by the Pakistani government.

Rasool appeared to have a moderate thinking towards the reconciliation process but was strongly opposing with Mullah Mansoor’s appointment as Taliban supreme leader

However, two senior Pakistani officials have also confirmed that Rasool is not their custody and told Reuters “Our last information is that he fled in fighting in Afghanistan.”



NATO commander Gen. Nicholson says the coalition will not abandon Afghanistan

Tue Mar 22 2016

The commander of the NATO-led Resolute Support and US Forces for Afghanistan General John W. Nicholson said Tuesday that the coalition forces will not abandon Afghanistan.

During a visit to the restive northern Kunduz province, Gen. Nicholson, said “You may have heard that the Taliban want to take Kunduz again – they will not,” stated Nicholson. “The Taliban want you to think that your government and the Coalition will abandon you — we will not. The Taliban think that by posing threats to you, the brave people of Afghanistan, that you will surrender to them – you will not.”

Gen. Nicholson joined the acting Afghan Minister of Defense Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai and Acting Afghan Minister of Interior Taj Mohammad Jahid during the official visit to Kunduz province.

Gen. Nicholson and Omarkhil discussed Resolute Support’s commitment to the Afghan National Defense Security Forces (ANDSF) as they prepare for the upcoming spring offensive, according to a statement by the alliance.

“Additionally, Nicholson met with representatives of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), family members of victims, and leaders of the Kunduz community. During this meeting he expressed his condolences to members of the MSF staff as well as those affected by the hospital strike that occurred on October 3rd, 2015,” the statement added.

Gen. Nicholson further added “As Commander, I wanted to come to Kunduz personally and stand before the families, and people of Kunduz, to deeply apologize for the events which destroyed the hospital and caused the deaths of the hospital staff, patients and family members. I grieve with you for your loss and suffering; and humbly and respectfully ask for your forgiveness.”

The Taliban militants briefly took control of the strategic Kunduz last year, forcing the US forces in Afghanistan to intervene and carry out airstrikes to support the Afghan forces as the Taliban militants were close to take control of the Kunduz city airport.

The air support by the US forces helped the Afghan national security forces to drive out the Taliban militants and regain control of the city from the Taliban militants.



North America


US Adds Emir of Mujahidin Indonesia Timur to List Of Global Terrorists

March 22, 2016       

The US Department of State added the emir of the Islamic State-linked Mujahidin Indonesia Timur (MIT) to its list of specially designated global terrorists. Abu Warda Santoso, the MIT leader, swore allegiance to the Islamic State in 2014. His group was previously listed by the US as a terrorist group last year.

Santoso, whose full nom de guerre is Abu Warda Santoso As Syarqi Al Indunisi, has frequently appeared in MIT propaganda in the past. He has called on Indonesians to attack Special Detachment 88 (Densus 88), the Indonesian counter-terrorism police force put in place to target jihadists after the Bali bombing in 2003.

“MIT, under Santoso’s leadership, has been responsible for numerous killings and kidnappings in Indonesia over the past few years,” State’s designation noted. “In August 2012, MIT killed two police officers; in September 2012, it conducted a bomb attack against an Indonesian police station; in November 2012, was responsible for the shooting of an Indonesian police chief; and in December 2012, it shot four Indonesian National Police (POLRI) Mobile Brigade (BRIMOB) personnel.”

Not listed in State’s designation was a June 2013 suicide bombing which targeted police headquarters in Poso. The suicide bomber was the only one to die in the attack. MIT claimed credit for the bombing in a statement released in October 2013, and warned of further attacks if the Indonesian government did not sever ties with the US and Australia.

“We inform you that you will not be safe until you stop diplomatic relations with America, Australia and the other countries that take part in the massacre against Muslims around the world, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Burma, Palestine, and elsewhere; and until you release our mujahideen and Muslim brothers in this country that you call terrorists,” read the statement, which was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.

Santos also called on Indonesians to reject Special Detachment 88, which he claimed “has been slaughtering your parents and killing your children.”

He claimed Special Detachment 88 to be a tool of the US and Australia. Special Detachment 88 has captured and killed numerous Indonesian jihadists since it was created in June 2003.

“They [Special Detachment 88] are defending Australia and America,” Santoso continued, according to the SITE Intelligence Group. “They are soldiers infiltrated by Australia and the US to destabilize the existing system in Indonesia, especially to eradicate the Islamic Ummah [community] in Indonesia in any possible way, either by killing them, or giving money to people that would enter Christianity, or want to obey to laws that are not based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah.”

Santoso pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi on July 1, 2014, just days after Baghdadi announced the formation of the Islamic State and was named its “caliph.”

The US listed MIT as a terrorist entity in September 2015. “MIT has become increasingly bold in its attacks on security forces, which includes the use of explosives and shootings,” State proclaimed in its designation.



US Airstrike Hits Al-Qaida Training Camp In Yemen

Wed, March 23 2016

Shiite group, known as Houthis, attend a protest against Saudi-led airstrikes, in Sanaa, Yemen, March 18. Saudi Arabia said Thursday its military coalition will scale down operations in Yemen, an announcement that came as the death toll from an airstrike by the alliance on a market in the Houthi-controlled town of Mastaba north of the Yemeni capital on Tuesday reached at least 115. A U.N. official said over 20 children was among those killed in an area controlled by Yemen's Shiite opposition known as Houthis. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

Shiite group Houthis attends a protest against Saudi-led airstrikes, in Sanaa, Yemen, March 18. Saudi Arabia said Thursday its military coalition will scale down operations in Yemen, an announcement that came as the death toll from an airstrike by the alliance on a market in the Houthi-controlled town of Mastaba north of the Yemeni capital on Tuesday reached at least 115. A U.N. official said over 20 children was among those killed in an area controlled by Yemen's Shiite opposition known as Houthis. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

The U.S. military conducted an airstrike Tuesday against an al-Qaida training camp in Yemen, causing dozens of casualties, a Pentagon spokesman said.

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said the training camp was located in the mountains, and was being used by more than 70 terrorists belonging to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

Cook did not specify the location of the camp. But Yemeni security officials and a witness said the airstrike hit a former military base that had been taken over by al-Qaida militants about 75 kilometers (47 miles) west of the terror group's stronghold city of Mukalla.

"We continue to assess the results of the operation, but our initial assessment is that dozens of AQAP fighters have been removed from the battlefield," Cook said.

A tribal member at the site said about 40 people were killed and wounded in the Brom Maifa district on Tuesday. He didn't give a breakdown and said that bodies were still being counted. He spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing for his safety.

The Yemeni officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to talk to reporters.

"This strike deals a blow to AQAP's ability to use Yemen as a base for attacks that threaten U.S. persons, and it demonstrates our commitment to defeating al-Qaida and denying it safe haven," Cook said.

Yemen has been left fragmented by war pitting Shiite Houthi rebels and military units loyal to a former president against a U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition supporting the internationally recognized government.

The war has given AQAP a freehand to expand and seize cities and large swaths of land. Militants from the extremist Islamic State group have also taken advantage of the chaos to wage a series of deadly attacks across the country.



Hillary Clinton Says She Is the Only Candidate With a Plan to Defeat the Islamic State

Wed, March 23 2016

EVERETT, Wash. — Hillary Clinton portrayed herself on Tuesday as the only presidential candidate who has presented a detailed plan to defeat the Islamic State, which took responsibility for the terrorist attacks in Brussels earlier in the day.

“I’ve laid out a very specific agenda for defeating ISIS, not just on the battlefield,” Mrs. Clinton said at an event with union members here. She went on to explain her plan to use Kurdish and Arab forces and American airstrikes to weaken the group in Syria and Iraq, stem the flow of foreign funds used to arm the group, and increase efforts to stop recruitment online.

“We’ve got to defeat them online,” Mrs. Clinton said. “That is where they radicalize and that’s where they propagandize.”

Campaigning in Washington ahead of the state’s caucuses on Saturday, Mrs. Clinton used the events in Europe to question the readiness of her Republican rivals and, in particular, the leading Republican candidate, Donald J. Trump. “I see the challenge ahead as one where we’re bringing the world together, where we are leading the world against these terrorist networks,” she said. “Where some of my opponents want to build walls and shut the world off.”

“Well, you tell me,” Mrs. Clinton said in an obvious reference to Mr. Trump’s promise to build a wall on the Mexican border. “How high does the wall have to be to keep the Internet out?”

In the outskirts of Seattle, home to Amazon and Microsoft, Mrs. Clinton called on “our great tech companies to be helping us” in the fight against ISIS. On Wednesday, she is scheduled to deliver a speech on counter-terrorism at Stanford University, including her plans to defeat the Islamic State, her campaign said on Tuesday.

After Senator Ted Cruz of Texas outraged some American Muslims earlier in the day when he said that the terrorist attacks in Brussels called for American officials to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods,” Mrs. Clinton struck an opposite note, calling for American Muslims to be a part of the fight to help the F.B.I. and law enforcement root out extremists.

“I want them to feel like they are part of our defense,” she said. “Not that they’re being insulted and isolated and left out.”

“Leadership isn’t about fanning those fears and that anger,” Mrs. Clinton concluded. “Leadership is saying we can do this together, because if we’re in a state of fear, we turn on each other.”



Donald Trump calls for surveillance of Muslims and advocates water boarding terror suspects after Brussels attack

March 22, 2016       

Donald Trump commented on the attack in Brussels which killed at least 34 individuals and ISIS has claimed responsibility for on Tuesday

Trump said in that interview on Fox & Friends that the US needs to 'shut the borders' and stop allowing Muslim refugees into the country

He advocated the use of water boarding on terrorist suspects, saying he would go further if the laws allowed him

Trump said Paris terror suspect Salah Abdeslam probably knew about the attack Tuesday and that had he been tortured it could have been stopped

He told CBS This Morning; 'This is going to happen in the United States'

Trump also called into FBN's Mornings with Maria Bartiromo saying the US must have surveillance of Muslims in this country, particularly at mosques

Hours after this comment, Ted Cruz said that law enforcement should be allowed to patrol and monitor Muslim neighborhoods in the US

Hillary Clinton called Today after declining an interview during Trump's press push and criticized him, saying; 'We don't need to resort to torture'

Donald Trump commented on the suicide bombings that occurred in Brussels Tuesday morning just hours after the brutal terror attacks, saying; 'This is going to happen in the United States.'

Trump then said in an interview on Fox News the US needs to 'shut the borders,' a statement he repeated later in the morning while appearing on Today.

In that appearance he also told Matt Lauer he is a firm believer in using torture to get information from people behind attacks like the one in Brussels, stating; 'Waterboarding is fine.'

Hillary Clinton also called into today, two hours after Lauer said she had declined an interview with the program.

She criticized Trump's comments about waterboarding he had made earlier in the morning on the show, saying; 'We don't need to resort to torture.'

Trump also called into Fox Business Network's Mornings with Maria Bartiromo saying that the US must have surveillance of Muslims in this country, particularly at mosques.

The series of bombings in the Belgian capital - which occurred near the American Airlines terminal in the city's airport and at a Metro station close to the headquarters of the European Union - have claimed the lives of at least 34 individuals.

ISIS has since claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement released through their Amaq news agency. 

Trump called in to Fox & Friends to discuss what he would do as president if an attack like this ever happened on American soil.

'Well I think I've said it. I would close up our borders until we figure out what is going on,' said Trump.

'Look at Brussels, look at Paris, look at so many cities that were great cities. Paris is almost as bad. Paris is no longer the City of Lights, Paris has a lot of problems. All you have to do is speak to the people who live there where the same thing has happened and they are in fear. The city is in fear.

'And we have to be smart in the United States.'

He then began to speak about immigrants, saying that in the US we are currently 'taking in people without any real documentation.'

Trump continued; 'We don't know where they're from, who they are. They could be ISIS. They could be ISIS related. We just don't learn.'

He also said Brussels is now a 'disaster' but used to be a 'crime-free city.'

Trump previously called Brussels a 'hellhole' in January when asked about the city during a Fox Business interview.

The New York Times reached out to Mayor Yvan Mayeur in the wake of that comment, who told the paper; 'We don't react to Mr. Trump's comments. Have a nice day.'

Trump also made an appearance on Today Tuesday morning, where he spoke more about the attack and what he would do if he was in office for a catastrophic event like the one that happened in Brussels.

Matt Lauer asked Trump what he would do if elected president had this attack happened in the United States.

'Well first of all this is a subject that is very dear and near to my heart because I have certainly been talking about it much more than anybody else, it's why I'm probably number one in the polls because I say we have to have strong borders,' said Trump.

'We have to be very vigilant and careful who we let into our country. I know Brussels well and Brussels is a total mess, and I'm not talking about the attack today.

'I'm talking about, generally speaking, it is a city that used to be one of the finest, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and now its a catastrophic and very dangerous city where the police have very little control.'

At this point Lauer cut Trump off and again repeated his initial question to see if the Republican front-runner had a different response from the comments he had previously stated and one that was more concrete as to what he would do as president.

'Well as president I would do probably what I would have been doing since the time I was president,' explained Trump in a garbled reply.

'I would be very tough on borders and I would be not allowing certain people to come into this country without absolute perfect documentation.

'We're allowing thousands of people already to come into this country who don't have proper documentation. We don't know where they're coming from.

'They happen to be in the migration. They happen to come in from perhaps Syria, but nobody really knows.

'Nobody knows because they don't have the documentation.'

This time around it was Lauer's co-host Savannah Guthrie who interrupted Trump to once again ask if he had a response that gave examples as to what he would do as president.

'I would exclude the people from Syria who do not have documentation coming in from the migration line that interestingly have cell phones,' said Trump.

'In many cases they get the cell phones and where do they get their bills? I would certainly exclude those people from coming in.'

He then added; 'The assimilation has been a disaster.'

Lauer and Guthrie then switched gears to ask Trump about Paris terror suspect Salah Abdeslam, who is in currently in custody in Brussels.

Trump was asked to weigh in on how far law enforcement and members of the military should be able to go to get information from the man, who is believed to have rented the cars used to take the terrorists to the Stade de France soccer stadium and Bataclan theater last November, also driving one of the vehicles that night.

'Well I would say they should be able to do whatever they have to do to get the information and i would say...'

The co-hosts then cut Trump off asking for specifics.

'Waterboarding - if it was up to me and we changed the laws - would be fine.'

He then added; 'If they could expand the laws I would do a lot more than waterboarding. You have to get the information from these people we have to be smart and we have to be tough and we cant be soft and weak which is what we are now.

He was then asked if he was in the camp that torture works, to which he replied; 'Yes I am.'

When Guthrie and Lauer pointed out that Abdeslam was in the custody of Belgian law enforcement and not the military to perhaps get him to modify his answer, Trump said; 'Let the military take him over.'

Clinton called in to Today as well over an hour later, saying; 'The idea that the terrorists are continuing to strike at the heart of Europe is deeply distressing.'

She also told Lauer and Guthrie; 'We've got to stand in solidarity with our European allies as they have stood with us on so many occasions.'

When asked how the US should handle this situation or one similar Clinton advocated a 'smart and steady' response.

Clinton was also asked about the effectiveness of closing borders, both in Europe and the United States, to which she replied; 'We do have to be realistic about how people move from place to place. It's unrealistic to say we're going to completely shut down our borders.'

Trump's third phone interview of the day was with Fox Business Network's Mornings with Maria Bartiromo, where he took time to criticize President Obama and Mayor Bill de Blasio while calling for more surveillance in this country.

'President Obama is taking in thousands of people and distributing them all over the United States. We don't know how many and we don't know where they are going. And these are people that have no documentation.

'They have no anything. Nobody know anything about these people we are bringing into our country and it's going to lead to catastrophic problems.'

Trump also said that Germany is doing 'very poorly' after their decision to allow Syrian refugees into the country.

'I have friends in Germany and they want to leave. They say what's happening in the streets is from a different world.

He added that he has 'lost all respect' for Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Trump then turned the conversation back to the United States, and a halt on allowing Muslim refugees into the country.

'It's time to stop, and frankly we're having problems with the Muslims coming into the country,' said Trump, who used as an example the terror attack in San Bernardino, California last December where Muslim husband and wife Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik killed 14 of their coworkers.

He then called for the monitoring of Muslims in the United States, saying; 'We need surveillance. You need to deal with the mosques, whether you like it or not. We have to be smart, we have to be vigilant.

'I mean these attacks aren't done by Swedish people. We have to be smart. We have to be vigilant. We have to watch very closely whats going on.'

Trump attacked Mayor de Blasio later in the program for shuttering a NYPD unit that was devoted to the surveillance of Muslim communities in the city.

'We have to study what's going on,' said Trump.

'They were getting great information from what people were saying. They were stopping attacks.'

Fear: A man with blood on his shirt is evacuated from Brussels Airport shortly after the bombings on Tuesday

Trump and Clinton were not done either, with both presidential candidates calling in to Good Morning America as well which ran an extended broadcast instead of airing Live With Kelly and Michael and Rachel Ray.

Trump once again advocated the use of torture, and said that had it been used on Paris suspect Abdeslam the attacks in Brussels could have possibly been prevented.

'He probably knew these attacks were going to occur,' said Trump.

'If we had techniques that were strong and the way we should have ... you know, we play by the rules they don't play by the rules.

'If they're not going to play by the rules and we're going to play by the rules we're not going to have too many victories.

'We could have probably cut this off if they had the right technique and used the right technique on him.

'Instead he's sitting in a jail, probably has 15 lawyers around him telling him "don't speak, don't speak, don't talk' and that's the way the world is being run right now. It's certainly the way our country is being run.'

Trump also said about ISIS; 'You've got to take them out.

'And you've got to get the people, the surrounding states, you've got to get them to put up the manpower because that's what it's going to take.

'We have a lot of people in our country right now that probably and definitely have the same feelings and the same feeling of hate as the people in Brussels.'

Trump once again spoke about conditions in Brussels, saying; 'It's like an armed camp. Anybody that goes there will tell you it's like an armed camp.' 

Clinton meanwhile said in her interview the country needed to 'strengthen our resolve' and up 'security operations in our country.' 

She also said of Trump's calls for waterboarding; 'That is just another one of his claims that doesn't bear up.'

Trump manged to get on every major morning show by calling in to CBS This Morning as well, where he said rather bluntly; 'This is going to happen in the United States.'

Republican hopeful Ted Cruz also commented on the attacks Tuesday, saying; 'Our hearts break for the men and women of Brussels this morning.

'Make no mistake - these terror attacks are no isolated incidents. They are just the latest in a string of coordinated attacks by radical Islamic terrorists perpetrated by those who are waging war against all who do not accept their extreme strain of Islam.'

He then began to attack President Obama, saying; 'Radical Islam is at war with us. For over seven years we have had a president who refuses to acknowledge this reality.

'And the truth is, we can never hope to defeat this evil so long as we refuse to even name it. That ends on January 20, 2017, when I am sworn in as president.

'We will name our enemy - radical Islamic terrorism. And we will defeat it.'

Cruz also held a press conference in Washington DC to comment on the attacks after not appearing on any of the morning news programs.

'Today’s attacks in Brussels underscores this is a war, 'said Cruz.

'This is not a lone war. ISIS has declared jihad.'

He then, once again, attacked President Obama, saying; 'It is way past time we have a president who will acknowledge this evil and will call it by its name and use the full force and fury to defeat ISIS.

'Until they are defeated, these attacks will continue. Their target is each and every one of us.

'We need a president who sets aside political correctness. We don’t need another lecture about Islamophobia.'

Cruz also went after Trump for his comments made just one day prior that the US contributes too much money to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which is headquartered in Brussels.

'Donald Trump is wrong that America should retreat from Europe, retreat from NATO, hand Putin a major victory and while he’s at it, hand ISIS a major victory, ' said Cruz.

'It is striking the day after Donald Trump called for America weakening NATO, withdrawing from NATO, we see Brussels - where NATO is headquartered - the subject of a radical Islamic terrorist attack.'

Cruz, like Trump, also advocated for the monitoring of Muslims in the United States, saying; 'We need to immediately halt the flow of refugees from countries with a significant al Qaida or ISIS presence.

'We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.

'We need to secure the southern border to prevent terrorist infiltration.'

President Obama spoke about the attacks during an appearance in Cuba Tuesday morning, where he is on a trip with his wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha.

'We stand in solidarity with them in condemning these outrageous attacks against innocent people,' said Obama.

'This is yet another reminder that the world must unite, we must be together, regardless of nationality or race or faith in fighting against the scourge of terrorism.

'We can and we will defeat those who threaten the safety and security of people around the world.'

Trump wrote on Twitter shortly after Obama's speech; 'President Obama looks and sounds so ridiculous making his speech in Cuba, especially in the shadows of Brussels. He is being treated badly!'

Prior to Obama's speech, Republican hopeful John Kasich called in to Fox News and said the president should end his trip and return to Washington DC.

'What I hope he will say is he's leaving Cuba and heading back to the White House,' said Kasich.

'He’s gonna begin to organize meetings with the leaders around the world and at the same time get himself in the position of where we can send teams of people immediately to Europe to begin to dig in terms of what we need to do to address the vulnerabilities we have.'

He also released a statement saying; 'Along with every American, I am sickened by the pictures of the carnage, by the injuries and by the loss of life.

'The wave of terror that has been unleashed in Europe and elsewhere around the world are attacks against our very way of life and against the democratic values upon which our political systems have been built.

'We and our allies must rededicate ourselves to these values of freedom and human rights. We must utterly reject the use of deadly acts of terror.

'We must also redouble our efforts with our allies to identify, root out and destroy the perpetrators of such acts of evil.

'We must strengthen our alliances as our way of life and the international system that has been built on our common values since the end of the Second World War comes under challenge from these and other actors of evil.'





Security Is Increased but West African Residents Brace Themselves amid Spate of Islamic Extremist Attacks

March 22, 2016

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Armed police now patrol the Ivory Coast beach where Islamic extremists killed at least 19 people earlier this month. And in Senegal's capital, Dakar, cars are pulled over for security checks of trunks, back seats and bags.

Across West Africa, security measures are being beefed up following a spate of deadly extremist attacks, including the assault Monday on a hotel in Mali that houses a European Union military mission.

Despite the precautions, there is widespread fear over where the jihadis will strike next.

"Of course I am scared. I am scared that these people will continue their attacks. But this is not Islam. Islam is peace," said Papis Sane, 42, who works at the Sea Plaza Mall in Dakar that is popular with foreigners. "It's God who protects ... Even with security, no one is 100 percent secure."

The attacks include one on the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, Mali in November, a popular hotel and cafe in Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou, in January, and the shootings earlier this month at the Ivory Coast beach. Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, claimed responsibility for those attacks. Mali was targeted again Monday when gunmen attempted to invade a Bamako hotel where the EU training mission stays.

"Al-Qaida was undoubtedly aware of the recent intensification of security measures at hotels, restaurants and bars in major cities across West Africa, including in Abidjan. Targeting a popular beach just outside the capital illustrates how jihadist groups will almost always be able to circumnavigate heightened defense mechanisms and find soft targets," said Sean Smith, an Africa analyst at Verisk-Maplecroft Risk Consultancy after the Ivory Coast attack.

Killing civilians in cosmopolitan locations generates fear, he said, warning that Senegal's capital may be the next target.

"Dakar represents an attractive target for jihadists owing to its status as a regional hub for many Western businesses, U.N. agencies and international NGOs," he said. "Penetrating Dakar — particularly given Senegal's longstanding alliance with France — would constitute a major coup for AQIM because it is perceived as being far safer than capitals in the Sahel." Senegal also contributes more than 800 security personnel to the U.N. peacekeeping mission in northern Mali, he said.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb said it staged the Ivory Coast attack as revenge against the West African country for handing over prisoners to Mali, and as a warning to France, African and Western countries that it will destroy security for its citizens if not left safe in their lands in the Sahel, the region below the Sahara Desert.

Ghana also contributes troops and police officers to operations in north Mali, and could be the first target in English-speaking Africa, but Smith said: "For the moment Francophone countries remain at greater risk."

Ahouoi Albert, who works for a youth association in Ivory Coast, urged greater security.

"Terrorism didn't exist here before. Now it does. It is not acceptable," he said. "We are asking the government to take all measures to prevent this terrorism ... and the international community must help combat this in the region."



'How I Almost Became A Boko Haram Suicide Bomber'

22 March 2016

From the section Africa

On Tuesday 9 February, two Nigerian girls entered a camp for displaced people in the country's north-east. Minutes later they detonated their explosive vests, killing 58 people. A third girl refused to take part in the suicide mission for Islamist militant group Boko Haram. This is her story.

Hauwa, not her real name, doesn't know her age, but she looks 17 or 18.

She had been held by Boko Haram for more than a year when her captors suggested the plan to attack the Dikwa camp.

In return for carrying out their mission, the three girls were told they would go to paradise.

But Hauwa knew that she had to defy them.

'Spiritual problems'

"I said 'No', since my mum is residing in Dikwa, I won't go and kill people there. I would rather go and stay with my family, even if I die there," she tells me through a translator.

Both her parents and her siblings, except for one brother who had been captured with her, were staying in the camp at Dikwa in Borno state, along with about 50,000 others forced from their homes.

The Dikwa camp is home to tens of thousands of people

Hauwa explains how she ended up being lured into joining the group.

"I had spiritual problems and so the Boko Haram told me they could help get rid of them," she says.

We do not know exactly what Hauwa was suffering from, but these so-called "evil spirits" had caused her to soil herself and even put her hand into a fire.

Whatever the reason, she saw Boko Haram as the answer to her problems, and they took her in.

"They said since I refused to re-marry, I should take the bomb"

She remembers a typical day living with the militants.

"We were living in grass-thatched houses. When my husband was around, I cooked three times a day... the men would steal meat and bring it for us to cook."

After a while, Hauwa separated from her husband and then got remarried.

Her second husband then ran away and when she refused to take a third husband, the group suggested their plan:

"They said since I refused to re-marry, I should take the bomb," she says.

A staff inspects on August 6, 2013 a burnt student hostel in the Government Secondary School of Mamudo in northeast Nigerian Yobe state where Boko Haram gunmen launched gun and explosives attacks on student hostels on July 6, 2013, killing 41 students and a teacherImage copyrightAFP

Image caption

Boko Haram, which means "Western education is forbidden", has often attacked schools

The Dikwa camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) was 85km (50 miles) north-east of Maiduguri, the state capital of Borno and the birthplace of Boko Haram.

Hauwa knew it well and it was not far from the place she was being held by the militants, so the night before the attack was due to take place, she sneaked out very early in the morning.

Her plan was to alert her family and others staying at Dikwa of the impending attack.

But she was too late.

An army officer showed the BBC team the scene of the attack.

"This is the spot where the first explosion went off," he said pointing to brown patches on the tarmac, where blood stains had been darkened by a layer of dust.

The camp stretches across both sides of the road and so residents still have to pass the scene of the attack every day to get water and food.

There are 15,000 people still living here and they are scared.

But they have nowhere safe to go, so they are staying here.

Now, they say they cannot trust anyone, not even children.

An elderly woman, Falmata Mohammed, remembers the minutes before the attack.

"A soldier was trying to arrange our queues... There was this woman wearing a red veil and she had long hair."

Founded in 2002, initially focused on opposing Western-style education - Boko Haram means "Western education is forbidden" in the Hausa language

Launched military operations in 2009

Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria, hundreds abducted, including at least 200 schoolgirls

Joined so-called Islamic State, now calls itself IS's "West African province"

Seized large area in north-east, where it declared caliphate

Regional force has retaken most territory this year

Falmata says she looked round when the woman began complaining about the soldiers, who were trying to disperse the crowds.

"As soon as we moved onto the road, she shouted 'Wayyo', saying she had a pain in her stomach… People rushed to help her and tried to lift her up and that's when the bomb detonated."

"We saw fireballs around us," she tells me, saying that suddenly she became aware that she was surrounded by dozens of mutilated bodies.

Hauwa did not see the attack herself, but she was shown footage of the aftermath by military investigators and reflect on the fate of the two girls.

"It wasn't a pleasant thing to see. It wasn't good to carry a bomb to go and kill fellow human beings," she says.

"I don't know if the other girls knew they would die when they went on the mission."

For parents in this part of Nigeria, the fear of Boko Haram is all too real.

The group is prepared not only to abduct their children, but to send their own young back as assassins in the very places they have sought refuge.

This is the same state where Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in April 2014. Most of them are still missing.

Hauwa chose to defy the group and to escape, saving her own and the many lives of her would-be victims.

We talk about her future, but when the topic of children comes up, she laughs it off.

"I'd like to get an education," she says.



Islamic group signs MoU with Chinese fund to boost investment in Africa

March 22, 2016

On the side lines of the landmark China-OIC Forum 2016 taking place in Beijing, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), the private sector arm of Islamic Development Bank (IDB) Group and China-Africa Development Fund (CADFund), a Beijing-based private equity firm focusing on Africa.

According to a press statement issued here Tuesday by the African Press Organization (APO) on behalf of Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), the MoU envisages to enhance trade and investment opportunities in 19 African countries through co-financing and co-investments, with the aim of promoting inclusive growth and financial inclusion.

Research collaboration and capacity-building programs that are tailored and demand-driven will also be conducted to better serve target markets. In addition, efforts will be focused on boosting support for African small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs), widely recognized as an important economic driver and key contributor to sustainable GDP growth.

The MoU was signed by Mr. Khaled Al Aboodi, the Chief Executive Officer and General Manager of ICD, and Mr. Shi Jiyang, Chief Executive Officer and President of CADFund.

During the signing ceremony, Mr. Khaled Al-Aboodi commented: “ICD and CADfund are founded on similar principles and mandate. We share the vision of promoting trade, foreign direct investment and inclusive economic growth on a continent which is full of potential. By joining hands, we can better combine our expertise and commitment to achieve greater economic prosperity for the benefit of all.

“Additionally, as we focus on the SME sector, we hope to unleash entrepreneurial energy and help attract private investment in ideas that are new, inspiring, and useful.”

Mr. Shi Jiyang said, “In recent years, although Africa’s economy has grown rapidly, questions are sometimes raised regarding the sustainability of this growth. I believe this MoU has an important role to play. It will not only help stimulate business and investment in Africa moving forward, but it will also contribute to the sustainable economic development of the selected African countries by expanding the private sector and most importantly, creating quality jobs.”



Shabaab overruns Somali military base

March 22nd, 2016

Al Qaeda’s official branch in East Africa has reportedly overran a Somali military base southwest of Mogadishu, furthering its control in southern Somalia. While Somali officials have conceded the fall of the base, numbers have differed wildly on the total number of casualties.

According to Shabaab’s propaganda arm, Shahaada News on Telegram, the jihadists killed “more than 70 members of government militias” just 27 miles southwest of Mogadishu. The jihadist outlet reported that Shabaab used “light and heavy weapons” in the attack, “seizing nine vehicles” in the process. Shahaada News also released photos of the vehicles, as well as almost a dozen rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) and several crates of ammunition.

While Shabaab claimed that “more than 70” were killed, Somali officials told Reuters that only one soldier was killed in the battle and the rest were able to “flee the base.” Both Shabaab and Somali officials often exaggerate numbers, so without photo evidence it is difficult to assess just how many were killed in the attack on either side.

Shabaab has been regaining ground in southern Somalia in 2016. Last month, Shabaab briefly recaptured the coastal town of Marka, which it originally lost in 2012. African Union (AU) forces recently retook the town. Nonetheless, Marka marked the third major town in a span of just a few weeks that Shabaab was able to wrestle African Union (AU) and Somali forces.

On January 26, Shabaab marched into the towns of El Ade and Badhadhe after Kenyan forces withdrew, leaving a security vacuum. (See LWJ report, Shabaab regains ground in southern Somalia.)

Shabaab has mounted attacks in the region despite the presence of a large African Union mission in Somalia. The jihadist group has also launched numerous suicide assaults on heavily guarded hotels in Mogadishu this year. It has continuously targeted African Union troops in southern Somalia, building on their operations in the central part of the country, Puntland and neighboring Kenya. In late November, Shabaab said its forces temporarily took control over a Kenyan town bordering Somalia.



Bureaucracy harming businesses in Africa - Kofi Annan

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The Former United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan

The Former United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, has bemoaned the perennial frustratingly long processes that African businesses go through before getting permits and licences to engage in economic activities, which he believes encourages corruption.

According to Mr. Kofi Annan, who was speaking on the sidelines of a conference that was held in Accra dubbed ‘Forest for future, new forests for Africa’, said African governments can learn from countries like Rwanda that have simplified processes to provide convenience and ease in doing business within the country.

“Today there is too much bureaucracy, too much red-tape in Africa -- which also encourages corruption. Each time you need to get a permit for something, a hand comes out.“There are simple ways of doing business and African countries can do it.

Rwanda is very high up the list of countries where it is easy to do business. They transformed themselves -- and other African countries can do that and set up structures and reduce bureaucracies in the system,” he said.

The former head of the United Nations opined that African governments must develop the needed political will in order to surmount this hurdle.

“We have also seen incredible reforms in Ethiopia in the area of agriculture…so there are a couple of examples of African countries that demonstrate it can be done.

It is a matter of political will and determination, and cleaning up the social environment that can enable people to do business simply, honestly and straightforward,” he said.

The World Bank’s Doing Business report shows that Ghana is placed 112th out of 118 economies in countries that have systems which facilitate ease of doing business in the world.

The report further reveals that registering a business takes as long as 48 days, while dealing with construction permits takes as many as 237 days -- a further confirmation that doing business in Ghana is very complex and inconvenient.

Mr. Kofi Annan is not the only person who has realised this problem -- as a recent study by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), a German not-for-profit organisation, which surveyed 3,000 households across the country reveals that frustrating business registration processes, and difficulties with administrative procedures in trying to adjust to the country and its systems, are key factors making the country unattractive for returnees.

A publication authored by Fred Atogiyire and Abdul Haki Bashiru-Dine, published in the B&FT, further adds to the assertion that doing business in the country is problematic.

The article reveals that the country’s ports are full of both legal and illegal processes that have contributed to high cost of doing business in the country.“A number of factors have been noted as contributing to the high cost of doing business at the country’s ports and borders.

These include illegitimate and indiscriminate charges by service shipping providers: such as charges of shipping agents, charges of clearing agents, charges of freight forwarders, and charges of consolidators among others.“Other factors include cumbersome Customs-clearance procedures, delay by shipping lines/agents in processing and releasing cargo documents, cumbersome processes involved in obtaining the necessary licences and permits from Statutory bodies, delays in obtaining Final Classification and Valuation Reports from Destination Inspection Companies, and cost of securing adequate infrastructure at the ports,” the article stated.

“Studies carried out by the Ghana Shippers Authority estimate the yearly payment to shipping lines for demurrage charges by shippers at US$40million and payment of US$20million in rent charges, as a result of delays in the clearance of their cargoes,” the article added.





17 die after consuming illegally-made alcohol in Pakistan

March 22nd, 2016             

At least 17 Hindus have died after consuming illegally-made alcohol during religious celebrations in southern Pakistan.

Police spokesman Niaz Shah said 37 people from the Hindu community in Tando Muhammad Khan district were rushed to hospital on Monday.

He said they consumed the hooch during preparations for Holi celebrations, which will begin on Wednesday.

Mr Shah said 11 people have since been discharged, but nine remain in a critical condition in hospital. He said four people have been arrested over brewing the illegal drink.

With the exception of a few licensed shops permitted to sell alcohol to non-Muslims, it is against the law to drink or sell alcoholic drinks in Pakistan.

Numerous incidents of mass poisonings from home-made alcohol have been reported in the past.



Armed forces display military might on Pakistan Day

March 23nd, 2016

ISLAMABAD: The nation commenced celebrations for Pakistan Day on Wednesday with a pledge to make the country stronger by wiping out the menace of terrorism, achieving sustainable economic growth and political stability.

The day marks the historic event of 1940, when the Lahore Resolution was passed demanding a separate homeland for Muslims of the subcontinent, dawned with a 31-gun salute in the federal capital and 21-gun salutes in provincial capitals.

The highlight of the day is the joint military parade which was held at the Parade Ground near the Shakarparian hills in Islamabad.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, President Mamnoon Hussain, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Mohammad Zakaullah and Defence Minister Khawaja Asif witnessed the parade, and were later joined by Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman on the podium.

Paratroopers demonstrate

Paratroopers from the three armed forces jumped with the national flag and the flags of the three services, landing smoothly on the ground.

The participating paratroopers represented the three services, with jumpers from the Shahbaz team of Army's Special Services Group (SSG) leading the jump, followed by the Sea Eagle team of Pakistan Navy and Shahpar team of the PAF.

The divers jumped from 10,000 feet. Paratroopers also have the capability to jump from a height of 25,000 feet, at any time of the day.

The national flag was carried to the ground by General Officer Commanding (GOC) SSG Major Gen Tahir Hussain Bhutta, who presented the flag to President Mamnoon Hussain. The president was also introduced to the paratroopers by GOC SSG.

Army Aviation fly-past

Multiple aircraft belonging to Army Aviation and Pakistan Air Force performed a fly-past and demonstrated aerobatic performances for the audience present.

Chinese Z-10 attack helicopters, AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters, Puma transport helicopters and Mi-17 transport helicopters were part of Army Aviation's fly-past contingent.

Army Aviation's fly past was followed by an aerobatic performance from PAF's Sherdils, JF-17 Thunder and a F-16 fighter from the storied No.9 Squadron of the PAF.

Armed forces hold march-past

Contingents of the Pakistan Army, Pakistan Air Force, Pakistan Navy, Frontier Corps and Pakistan Rangers held a march-past and performed a salute to President of Pakistan.

Troops of the parade included contingents of the Pakistan Army, navy, air force, Frontier Corps, Northern Light Infantry, Mujahid Force, Islamabad Police, tri-service Lady officers, tri-service Armed Forces Nursing Service, Girls Guide, Boys Scouts, Special Service Group from three Services, mechanised columns of Armoured Corps, Artillery, Army Air Defence, Signals, Engineers, Army Strategic Force Command, Camel Band and President's body guards.

Pakistan Army's tanks, including Al-Khalid and Al Zarrar tanks, also performed gun salute in front of the chief guest on the occasion

Pakistan never took part in arms race: president

President Mamnoon Hussain delivered a speech to the participants of the parade in which he lauded Pakistan Army’s sacrifices and repeated that Operation Zarb-i-Azb, the anti-terror operation started after the Karachi airport attack, will not be stopped until the elimination of last terrorist from Pakistani soil.

He reiterated the country’s stance that Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile is for country’s safety and it does not intend to go to war with any country unless forced to take such a route.

"We are a peaceful nation and have never participated in any arms race," the president said

"This parade shows our resolve to fight all the enemies of our beloved country. This display of weaponry and skills shows that our forces are next to none in bravery, courage and valour," said the president.

The president said many a detractors predicted a bleak future of Pakistan but today, the whole world recognises Pakistan as a reality.

"Kashmir is our jugular vein and we will continue our moral, political and diplomatic support for our Kashmiri brethren," he said.

Chief of Air Staff leads fly-past

Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Sohail Aman leads a fly-past of Pakistan Air Force jets presented to President Mamnoon Hussain over the parade venue.

The arrival of President Mamnoon Hussain, the chief guest of the event, started the proceedings at the joint military parade.

The ceremony began with the singing of the national anthem.

The celebrations for the day were kicked off shortly after midnight on Tuesday with a grand fireworks display at the Minar-i-Pakistan in Lahore, the site where the historic Lahore Resolution was passed on March 23, 1940.

The national flag was hoisted atop all government buildings to mark the day, a public holiday.

Special prayers were offered in mosques after morning prayers for the integrity and solidarity of the country.

Pakistan held a similar parade last year to mark Republic Day after a gap of seven years in Islamabad.

This year, Pakistan Day will be celebrated at the United Nations for the first time, with a concert planned in the prestigious General Assembly hall.

Change of guard in Lahore

Earlier during the day a change of guard ceremony was held by the Pakistan Air Force at the mausoleum of national poet Dr Allama Muhammad Iqbal in Lahore.


A 31-gun salute was fired before sunrise to commemorate Pakistan Day in the federal capital city. Similarly 21-gun salutes were fired in the provincial capital cities.

Rawalpindi Police as part of security measures for Pakistan Day have depoloyed around 2000 policemen to avoid any untoward incident.

Heavy vehicles will not be allowed to enter the city on March 23 and all the entry and exit points of the city will be sealed.



Peshawar High Court stays execution awarded by military court

March 23nd, 2016

The lawyer of convict Bakhat Amir contents that his client was not given the basic right of a free and fair trial.—PPI/file

The lawyer of convict Bakhat Amir contents that his client was not given the basic right of a free and fair trial.—PPI/file

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Tuesday suspended the execution of a death-row inmate, who was sentenced to death by a military court for involvement in terrorism.

A two member bench of the PHC, comprising Justice Mahzar Alam Main Khel and Justice Younis Thaheem, heard the application of convicted militant Bakhat Amir, staying his execution.

The bench asked the interior and defense ministries to submit details of the case in the next hearing.

The application filed by the convict's brother prayed that Amir had surrendered himself to security forces in 2009 in Swat, after which there was no information about him.

A few weeks ago the family was informed that Amir had been awarded the death sentence by a military court, his brother maintained in court.

The convict’s brother said "we do not know when and where the trial was conducted or who conducted tried the case".

The lawyer of Bakhat Amir contented that his client was not given "the basic right of a free and fair trial."

This is the second instance the PHC has intervened to suspend a death sentence awarded by a military court.

In August 2015, PHC suspended the death sentence of Haider Ali — a 10th grade student at the Malakand Public High School, Swat.

Military courts

The Parliament passed the 21st Amendment and the Pakistan Army Act, 1952, to establish special military courts after the Taliban massacred students in the Army Public School Peshawar in 2014.

On April 16, 2015, the apex court had suspended the executions of six militants who were awarded death sentence by these military courts.

However, in August last year, the apex court in a majority ruling had upheld the establishment of military courts in the country.



Pakistan Prepares for Rouhani’s Visit

Wed Mar 23, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Pakistan has invited Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to Islamabad to enhance trade cooperation between the two neighbors.

Ahead of Rouhani’s visit – scheduled at the end of the month – Pakistani Minister for Commerce Khurram Dastgir Khan has directed officials to draft a comprehensive strategy to enhance trade cooperation with the country.

With Iran free of most economic sanctions, potential to strengthen business ties with the neighboring country has increased substantially with many state and private representatives looking to take advantage of the situation.

Khan instructed the ministry while presiding over a meeting to prepare proposals for Rouhani’s visit.

The meeting was attended by officials of Ministry of National Food Security and Research, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Federal Board of Revenue, representatives of traders, rice and kinnow associations. Two officials of the Iranian ministry of trade visiting Pakistan also attended the meeting on the special request of the minister.

The meeting was informed by the collector customs Quetta that there has been a three-fold increase in revenue at Pakistan-Iran border as a result of better border management which has discouraged illicit trade.

The representative of the SBP informed the meeting that there is no restriction on trading through formal banking channels with Iranian companies in Euro.

Khan’s decision to call for a trade proposal may just be a step in the right direction since a recent research report by the Pakistan Business Council (PBC) has revealed huge discrepancies in the bilateral trade data available.

Although Iran and Pakistan have some trade links through sea routes, most of the trade is done through road channels.





Pakistani team to probe Pathankot attack applies for Indian visa

Mar 22, 2016

NEW DELHI: A five-member Pakistani joint investigation team on Tuesday applied for visa to come to India to carry forward the probe into the Pathankot terror attack, a week after the announcement by foreign ministers of the two countries that it will come here on March 27.

External affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said the modalities of the visit of the JIT will now be finalized as Pakistan has given the names of the delegation to Indian high commission in Islamabad.

"We have today received visa applications of five members of Pakistan's joint investigation team. The modalities of the visit will be discussed now as we have the composition of the team," he told reporters.

Asked whether the JIT will be given access to the Pathankot air base and duration of their stay, Swarup said details like where they will go, how they will go and what kind of access they will be given are being finalized.

"All these will be subject of discussion as modalities will now be finalized," he said.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, after a meeting with her Pakistani counterpart Sartaj Aziz, last week in Nepal's Pokhara on the sidelines of a Saarc foreign ministers' meeting had announced that the Pakistani JIT will arrive in India on March 27.

When asked who will represent government at the Pakistan National Day celebrations at their high commission on Wednesday, Swarup said a senior minister will attend but did not give the name.

Asked whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington next week, he said though there are "slots" for the bilaterals but no concrete schedule has been firmed up so far.

Aziz, after the meeting with Swaraj in Pokhara, had said that the two prime ministers would be possibly holding a bilateral in Washington.



PM Modi greets Pakistan on national day

Mar 23, 2016

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday greeted the people of Pakistan on their national day, close on the heels of President Pranab Mukherjee stating that India remains committed to peaceful, friendly and cooperative relations with the neighbouring country.

"Greetings to the people of Pakistan on their national day," Modi said on twitter.

Pakistan high commission here has organised a series of events to mark the day, including a reception which is expected to be attended among others by Kashmiri separatist leaders.

Why Mr. Modi is trying to make peace with those Pakistanis who are back stabber for the peace.

Binit Ambastha

On who will represent the government at the Pakistan national day celebrations at their High Commission, External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said a senior Minister will attend.

Mukherjee had on Tuesday said, "India remains committed to peaceful, friendly and cooperative relations with Pakistan. I am of the firm conviction that our cooperation will lead to progress and prosperity in our region. I take this opportunity to extend my best wishes for your good health and well-being," he had said in his message on Pakistan's national day.



On Pakistan Day, Asiya Andrabi's party hoists Pak flags in Srinagar

Mar 23, 2016

SRINAGAR: Members of the Asiya Andrabi-led separatist outfit Dukhtaran-e-Millat (DeM) hoisted Pakistani flags at several places in Srinagar on Wednesday, a day that India's neighbour celebrates as 'Pakistan Day'.

DeM party workers hoisted the flags at several places in the city including in Civil Lines and Lal Chowk , officials said.

Police later removed the flags.

Andrabi's party has been hoisting Pakistani flags every year on Pakistan Day and on Pakistan's Independence Day. Andrabi was booked last year under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for unfurling the Pakistani flag.

It was on March 23 in 1940 that a mammoth gathering of Muslims at Minto Park in Lahore adopted a resolution that paved the way for the creation of a separate Pakistan out of India.

Pakistan has been inviting Kashmiri separatists every year to attend the 'Pakistan Day' function at its high commission in the national capital.

Pakistan's envoy to India Abdul Basit celebrated the event at the country's high commission in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Hardline Kashmiri separatist Syed Ali Geelani and Andrabi were invited by Pakistan to attend the event.

"They have been coming to our receptions for years now, so this is not an issue," Basit said when asked about the invitation.

Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh represented the government at the Pakistan Day reception last year.

The meetings of Kashmiri Hurriyat leaders with Pakistani establishments have always raised eyebrows in New Delhi. In August last year, a controversy erupted over the proposed meeting between Pakistan's former national security adviser Sartaj Aziz and Hurriyat leaders ahead of NSA-level talks in India.

India had then advised Pakistan that it would not be appropriate for Aziz to meet with the Hurriyat representatives. Pakistan then called off the talks.



Southeast Asia


Indonesia region tells beauty parlors to stop employing LGBT people

The Aceh order alarms local transgender people – many of whom work in the beauty industry

March 22nd, 2016

The Bireuën Regency – a region in Indonesia’s northern province, Aceh – has told local beauty parlors to stop employing LGBT people – specifically openly transgender people.

Religious leaders have voiced concern over the influence such employees may have on young people.

Indonesia, with a population of 250million, is home to more of the world’s Muslims than any other country. Aceh is Indonesia’s most northern province. Since 2001 it has been allowed specific autonomy and is allowed to make its own laws based on Islamic Sharia.

The order came in a letter from the head of Bireuën’s Sharia agency, DSI Chief Jufliwan, reports Jakarta Post.

Many transgender people work in the beauty industry, and Sharia police have been known to raid transgender-owned beauty parlors in the past.

‘It is a call to LGBT people and the beauty parlors’ owners,’ said Jufliwan.

The letter said that transgender people should change their clothing if they wish to worked in beauty parlors – to be more in fitting with the sex they were assigned at birth.

There has been widespread alarm among LGBT advocates at the decree.

‘Working at beauty parlors is the only skill we have. If we are not allowed to work, what shall we do for a living?’ Dina, a transgender employee at a beauty parlor, told Jakarta Post.

‘There are many reasons why transgenders prefer to work at beauty salons. Aside from skills, many customers prefer to be handled by transgender staff.’

Another trans spokesperson, Yuli, chairperson of the transgender group Arus Pelangi, also expressed anger at the ban.

‘We do not have many job opportunities. This is too much. How can they just ban it?’

Indonesia has recently seen a crackdown on LGBT rights. Last month, the Indonesian Psychiatrists Association’s (IPA) move to classify homosexuality and gender dysphonia as mental disorders that could be cured with treatment.

In the same month, the country’s Minister of Defense, Ryamizard Ryacudu, described the LGBTI movement as posing a greater threat to the country than nuclear warfare, while local Islamic group Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) issued a statement saying it would not recognize LGBT groups and called on the Government to criminalize homosexuality and LGBT rights activism.

The Indonesian Broadcasting Commission also banned any screen depictions that showed LGBT people as ‘normal’.

Human Rights Watch has said that the ‘growing sense of clear and present danger to Indonesia’s LGBT population is troubling.’