New Age Islam
Mon Nov 30 2020, 06:31 PM

Islamic World News ( 14 Dec 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Is the Islamic State Now in Pakistan’s Balochistan Province?















Locals paid tribute to the victims of the recent terror attack in Beşiktaş by leaving flowers and Turkish flags at the scene.

 

Is the Islamic State Now in Pakistan’s Balochistan Province?

Air Force Personnel Can’t Sport Beard, Rules SC as It Junks Muslim Man’s Plea

Saudi Arabia and Gulf States 'Support Islamic Extremism in Germany,' Intelligence Report Finds

Myanmar's Rohingya Insurgency Has Links to Saudi, Pakistan

UN Furious As Israel Implies School Glorifies 'Terrorism'

 

Pakistan

Is the Islamic State Now in Pakistan’s Balochistan Province?

COAS Vows Indiscriminate Operation to Eliminate Sleeper Cells of Terrorists

‘Ahmadi families leaving Dulmial village after mob violence’

Premarital blood testing bill not finalised due to senators’ concerns

Testing times for new Pak army chief as forces working to undermine him

KP govt website defaced by hackers

Pakistan, Russia hold consultation on regional issues

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India

Air Force Personnel Can’t Sport Beard, Rules SC as It Junks Muslim Man’s Plea

BC Commission Begins Hearing on Quota for Muslims

No proposal to reduce Indian mission strength in Islamabad: Govt

Need To Increase Sufi Centres Stressed At Int’l Conference

Soldier’s return: Army wants it taken up with Pak at diplomatic level

Malegaon blasts: Court orders detailed inquiry into ‘custodial violence’ against accused

India-Pak War 45th Anniversary: Veterans to take part in Bangladesh function

Meet on Islamophobia in Kerala from Friday

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Arab World

Saudi Arabia and Gulf States 'Support Islamic Extremism in Germany,' Intelligence Report Finds

Islamic State Threatens Egypt Sufis after Claiming Cleric Murders

West cares about terrorists, not civilians: Assad

Aleppo Evacuation Starts after Militants Agree Fua'a, Kafraya Civilians Evacuation

Syrian Army Wins Back One of Terrorists' Last Bastions in Aleppo City

Saudi Arabia planning to 'inoculate' schoolchildren from 'Westernisation' and atheism

Iraqi gains reveal huge scale of IS arms industry

Terrorists Leaving Aleppo for Idlib in 20 Buses, 10 Ambulances

Russian Center: Syria Reconciliation Plan Joined by Over 1,055 Regions

Political Analyst: Turkey's Al-Bab Military Operation to Pave Way for Direct Syria-Turkey

Syria: Pro-Gov't Military Source Says More Comprehensive Agreement Needed over Aleppo

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South Asia

Myanmar's Rohingya Insurgency Has Links to Saudi, Pakistan

Bangladesh: Tension over Facebook Post on Islam

NATO supports preservation of Afghanistan’s historic and cultural sites

Close relationships lead to accurate artillery in eastern Afghanistan

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Mideast

UN Furious As Israel Implies School Glorifies 'Terrorism'

Islamophobia and Terror at the Heart of 'Islambol'

Yemeni forces pound Saudi positions with artillery shells

Houthi militias carry out heavy shelling on Taez

Iran hosts Taliban leaders at a conference in Tehran

Police discover 11 bodies in Yemen’s Aden

Palestinian hunger strikers nearing death: Rights groups

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Southeast Asia

In Indonesia West Lombok Tradition Celebrates Tolerance among Muslims, Hindus

Chinese Muslim Website Blocked After Xi Jinping Letter

Prospective female suicide bombers took orders from Indonesian Islamic State militant

Malaysia says it is not being 'un-Asean-like' by protesting human rights violations in Rakhine

From radical to terrorist: The man behind five terror plots in Indonesia

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Europe

France 'Worst in the World' At Guessing Muslim Population

ISIS Jihadis Were 'Moving In Migrant Flows, Hiding In Plain Sight': British Air Chief

ISIS recruiter's wife lost lawsuit against police over alleged brutality

As Aleppo falls, Russia and Iran see Mideast influence surge at US expense

Italians overestimate country's Muslim population by 500 percent

Muslim population of Britain greatly over-estimated as fewer than one in 20 actually practice religion

Russia blocks United Nations tribute to Ban Ki-moon for promoting LGBT rights

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Africa

South Sudan 'On Brink of an All-Out Ethnic Civil War,' UN Warns

How America's First Somali Muslim Lawmaker Responded To an Islamophobic Attack

Nigeria: tensions persist after Zaria mass killings

Suicide car bomb explodes at checkpoint in Mogadishu

Four Al Shabaab militants killed in Garissa

Suicide attack in Mogadishu injures at least 5

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North America

Anti-Muslim Hate Group Brags About Influence in Trump's White House'

Trump's fight against ISIS has to include Russia and China, says former Asian leader

White House: claims of US inaction in Syria 'offensive'

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/is-the-islamic-state-now-in-pakistan’s-balochistan-province?/d/109387

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Is the Islamic State Now in Pakistan’s Balochistan Province?

By Shah Meer Baloch

December 14, 2016

Pakistan has been a hotbed of Islamic militants for years. Over 45 known terrorist and extremist organizations have sprung up or split off since the 1980s.  The government, however, has continued to deny that the Islamic State (ISIS) is present in the country. Speaking in London last year, then-Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif said “even a shadow of ISIS would not be allowed.” Senior officials in both Karachi and Punjab province have admitted, however, that their forces had carried out raids against ISIS militants.

Now it seems that the government is admitting to the presence of ISIS after the military says it thwarted planned ISIS attacks on foreign embassies and the Islamabad airport, according to military spokesman Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa.

The targeted killing of the president of the Balochistan Bar Association, Advocate Bilal Anwer Kasi, on August 8, 2016, marked the beginning of the self-proclaimed presence of the Islamic State in the province. When his body was brought to Civil Hospital Quetta, hundreds of lawyers gathered there to pay homage. That was when a suicide bomber struck, killing 63 of them. The total death toll that day was reported to be 93, with scores of others injured. This time responsibility was claimed by ISIS.

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It was the first, but not the last, devastating attack in Balochistan province claimed by this terrorist group, whose stronghold is in the Middle East. It was followed by two other major attacks – one on the Police Training Academy in Quetta, and the second on a Sufi shrine near Lasbela known as Shah Noorani. In these three attacks over four months, approximately 250 people were killed and more than 300 were injured.

Why Balochistan?

One might question why Balochistan has been selected for the expansionist policy of Islamic State into Pakistan. The answer is that Balochistan shares borders with Afghanistan and Iran on the west, and also borders the other provinces on the east. Suffering defeat and losing territory in the Middle East, ISIS sees Balochistan, with its rugged mountains, as a safe haven. Because of the porous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the newly established Islamic State could carry out attacks in both countries. The Afghan war sent approximately 3 million refugees to Balochistan. It would not be out of the question for ISIS to try to recruit these refugees to carry out terrorist activities. Also, while having a strong foothold in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, ISIS might easily expand to Iran’s Sistan Balochistan province. Iran is a Shia-majority state, which treats the Sunni with an iron hand. There is already an ongoing Sunni-backed movement that keeps attacking Iranian forces. Pakistani Balochistan and Iranian Balochistan share a boarder, so Pakistani Balochistan would be the logical point for ISIS to expand into Iran.

The set-up for Islamic militants is already in place in the form of the madrassas in Balochistan, established to counter Baloch nationalists who fought the original annexation of Balochistan into Pakistan and the non-secular government that they have had to live under. Most of those religious schools in remote areas of Balochistan are already under the control of jihadi networks, and are also recruiting people. The same protocol given to the government forces to counter the nationalist movement could then be used against them by ISIS, just as the Taliban turned against the very forces which created them for the purpose of defeating the Soviet Union.

However, countering an insurgent movement with a jihadi-sponsored movement has never been a smart move, and a disastrous policy in the long run as demonstrated by the insidious tactics of the Taliban.

Strategically and geopolitically, Balochistan is very crucial as it shares borders with Afghanistan and Iran. Being the largest province of Pakistan by area, it is linked to all Pakistani provinces. For decades Balochistan has been witness to the Baloch national insurgency movement, calling for freedom from Pakistan. However, compared to the other provinces, Balochistan has been far removed from religious extremism. Sunni, Hindu, Shia, and Zikri (a group of Baloch people who believe that Mahdi will come back as a Prophet before end of the world) have all been living in peace and harmony without clashes, discrimination, and hatred.  It is a known fact that the Sunni-Baloch and the Zikri-Baloch, despite different religious beliefs, often intermarry and respect one another’s religious practices.

But today Balochistan is not what it once was in terms of peace, tolerance, and harmony. Extremist religious doctrine implanted in the province to impede the Baloch nationalist movement is now out of the control.  In a conversation with Akthar Mengal, Balochistan’s former chief minister, about the presence of ISIS in Balochistan, he said, “Pakistan is a safe haven for local terrorist groups like the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Taiba, etc. Why would it not be a safe place for ISIS?  I think there is no surprise in it. During the East-West cold war, then Dictator Zia-ul-Haq cashed in on what he saw as opportunity while in creating and sponsoring Taliban.”

Mengal also observed, “Most of the religious militant groups are based in Punjab but they carry out terrorist attacks in Balochistan. The establishment has been using religious militant groups as a tool to counter nationalist movements for years in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Because of these ill-advised policies of the past, the establishment has learned nothing. It is the high time to change all these bad policies, not only in theory but also in practice.”

Foreign policy expert Malik Siraj Akbar told me he that believes the Islamic State is being led by a nexus of Taliban leaders who have been hiding in Quetta, Balochistan for years.  And there are people within Jammiat Ulema-e-Islam (Nizriyati group) that feel passionate about jihad but are unhappy with the pace of jihadist activities. They feel that JUI is not committed enough to the cause, nor supportive of the Afghan Taliban.  Thus, “we have a breed of angrier local militants who see in ISIS hope for the revival of jihadist activities in the entire region.”

“The Islamic State represents a mindset that has always had a large following in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” says Akbar. “While the Pakistani government claims to have conducted a successful operation against the Pakistani Taliban, attacks by the Islamic State and its local supporters indicate that the menace still exists, although players have changed. The longer Pakistan denies the existence of the Islamic State, the MORE ROOM it will be providing them to deepen their roots in the country and promote their mission.”

He added, “The Pakistan military supports Lashkar-e-Taiba because it fights India in Kashmir, but PML-N’s support leans more toward Lashkar-e-Jhangvi – not because they share the same ideology but because of a shared vote bank.” PML-N, or Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, is the ruling party of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The Rise of ISIS in Pakistan

There have been more than 26,000 terrorist attacks since 2002 in Pakistan, according to security analyst Amir Rana. On the Capital TV talk show “Cross Check” on November 17, he remarked that ISIS had become a terrorist brand, attracting terrorists from all over the world. Host Awais Tauheed brought up the report by the Sindh Counterterrorism Department, which concluded that the central character in the recent attacks on Shah Noorani in Balochistan and Safoora Goth in Karachi was Shafiq Mengal, son of Balochistan’s former caretaker chief minister, Naseer Mengal. However, these attacks were also claimed by Islamic State. Does that mean Shafiq Mengal is now acting as ISIS?

Jibran Nasir, a civil rights activist who has been one of the leading figures in the movement against cleric Abdul Aziz for refusing to condemn the terrorist attack on Army Public School in December 2014, says that while Pakistan has been denying the presence of ISIS, the truth is that the group does exist in Pakistan. It is not like that they are coming from the Middle East; they are recruiting the religious extremists within Pakistan. In one of his interviews, Abdul Aziz told TV journalist Saleem Safi that he is not involved in warfare; rather, he has been working on “ideology” – preaching the ideology of Islam.  Aziz and his followers negate the idea of democracy. Instead they demand “Islamic Sharia.” And from this you have the makings of the potential ISIS recruit.

Commenting on the recent win of Maulana Masroor Nawaz Jhangvi, son of slain Sipah-e-Sahaba founder Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, in the by-election for Punjab Assembly Constituency PP-78, Jibran said that a person involved in spreading hatred against the Shia sect of Muslims winning such an election is a defeat for Pakistan’s political process and justice system. A person who has been promoting intolerance and making hate speeches is now going to be a member of the Assembly. It will only serve to promote hatred, religious intolerance, and extremism in Pakistan; it will, indeed, be catastrophic.

Federal Minister Mir Hasil Bezanjo, whose National Party is in a governing coalition with the ruling PML-N, said in an interview, “There is no Islamic State in Balochistan specifically. But most of the religious terrorist organizations like the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and the Islamic State are the by-products of Wahhabism [an offshoot of Sunni Islam which originated in and is being sponsored by Saudi Arabia]. The religious terrorist groups who are operating are coming from the Wahhabist school of thought. So whether it is ISIS, al-Qaeda or Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, they are same.”

Bezanjo added, “To clamp down on these terrorist groups, the modus operandi must be eliminated, which is the generating and spreading of terrorism. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is known to be the mother of terrorism in Pakistan. If people are joining ISIS, they are coming from Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and other groups. There is now the National Action Plan to clamp down on terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. They must be suppressed if terrorism is to be eliminated in Pakistan.”

Results of the Government Crackdown

A few months ago, Lieutenant General Bajwa declared that Islamic States’ plans to expand into Pakistan had been foiled when four plotters were arrested in a raid in Lahore. But with the recent attacks in Balochistan, it seems that it has succeeded in securing the allegiance of some terrorist groups in Pakistan.

In the view of Malik Siraj Akbar, “Pakistan is not a self-starter in terms of going after Islamic extremist groups. The last time Pakistan took action against al-Qaeda or the Taliban was because of force and incentives from the Americans. This time, the Americans or other world powers will not be pushing Pakistan very hard to take action unless ISIS carries out a 9/11-like attack on the United States. I am not very hopeful that Pakistan will go after ISIS only because it carried out some terrorist attacks on Balochistan and killed a few hundred people. The Pakistani state is too confident that Islamists will not be able to overthrow the government and gain control over the state.”

Of the 20-point National Action Plan to crack down on terrorists which was established in January 2015 after the Peshawar school attack on December 16, 2014 killed 145, including 132 children, it is quite obvious that several key points have had no real results. There has been no signs of strict action against the literature, newspapers and magazines promoting hatred, extremism, sectarianism and intolerance; choking financing for terrorist and terrorist organizations; registration and regulation of religious seminaries; or completely dismantling the communication network of terrorists (points 5-8). Nor has the government actually implemented zero tolerance for militancy in Punjab (point 15) or dealt firmly with sectarian terrorists (point 18).

If Pakistan is really serious about defeating ISIS and putting an end to other religious terrorist groups – and having the world take it seriously – it should consider a four-pronged approach.

First, it must actually enforce the ban on identified terrorist groups, which has been in existence for four years.

Second, it must target and eliminate the recruiting tactics of terrorist groups, which start with radical clerics preaching hatred to a naïve citizenry.

Third, it must stop foreign funding of terrorist networks.

And fourth, it must put a stop to those serving and retired military officers who volunteer to “train fighters of ISIS and other like-minded organizations” in West Asia. Because of such training sessions,“it has not been a surprise that almost all recent attacks by ISIS-affiliated ‘lone wolves’ have had a Pakistan connection.”

So far Pakistan has not seriously addressed any of these critical tasks. Small wonder, then, that Islamic State has managed to secure a foothold in the country.

Shah Meer Baloch is a former Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg, a fellow of the Swedish Institute and the Institute for Foreign and Cultural Relations (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen/IFA), and a freelance writer. He graduated from the National University of Modern Languages (NUML), Islamabad (Pakistan) in International Relations. His research focus is on Asia-Pacific politics, Balochistan issues, extremism and human rights. He is from Pasni, District Gwadar.

http://thediplomat.com/2016/12/is-the-islamic-state-now-in-pakistans-balochistan-province/

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Air Force Personnel Can’t Sport Beard, Rules SC as It Junks Muslim Man’s Plea

By Utkarsh Anand

December 15, 2016

The Supreme Court Thursday upheld sacking of an Air Force man for keeping long beard and said that armed forces’ regulations are meant to ensure discipline and uniformity.

A bench led by Chief Justice of India T S Thakur added that regulations do not interfere with religious rights of individuals and that they have the sanctity of ensuring discipline.

Discharged from service, petitioner Ansari Aftab Ahmed had asserted sporting beard as a facet of his fundamental right to freedom of religion, and seek equality with Sikhs, who are allowed to sport unshorn hair and turban. Advocate Irshad Hanif urged the court to fix a date of final hearing on a batch of petitions filed by the Muslim personnel, who had either been thrown out of service or faced disciplinary action for sporting beards.

Muslim Reservation: Telangana Deputy CM Urges To Fill Their Memorandum Before Dec 19

Ansari was discharged from service by IAF in October 2008 while his petition was still pending before the top court. The court had issued notices to the government and the IAF in 2008.

In the same year, two more petitions were filed on the issue — one by a fellow IAF personnel and another by a Maharashtra policeman.

In its response, the IAF told the court: “All Muslims do not carry beard. The practice of growing and keeping beard is optional and sporting a beard is not universally recognised in the religion of Islam. Therefore, it cannot be said that Muslim religion prohibits the cutting of hair or shaving of the face of its member.”

But later that year, then defence minister A K Antony said the UPA government did not want Muslim personnel to suffer and that his ministry was issuing instructions to armed forces telling them not to act against a Muslim jawan or officer for sporting beard.

In October 2009, the UPA government told the court that it was taking a fresh look at the issue. However, two months later, it backtracked and informed the court that the government and the IAF would “contest the petitions” by Muslim personnel rather than allowing this concession.

In December 2009, the court listed the cases for final hearing and ordered expediting the matter. With the matter yet to come up for hearing, Ansari sought an urgent listing of the matter.

Currently, the defence ministry’s policy of “hair, beard and wearing turbans” as notified in 2003 is in force. It says: “Only those Muslim personnel, who had kept beard along with moustache at the time of commissioning /enrolment prior to 01 Jan 2002, would be allowed to keep beard and moustache… Muslims who have grown beard after joining service should shave off the beard. Under no circumstances, a Muslim person who had beard at the time of joining service before 1 Jan 2002 shall be allowed to maintain beard without moustache. Moustache would be a part of the beard.”

The two previous regulations were issued in 1980 and 1999.

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/air-force-personnel-cant-sport-beard-rules-supreme-court-as-it-junks-muslim-mans-plea-4427848/

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Saudi Arabia and Gulf states 'support Islamic extremism in Germany,' intelligence report finds

Dec 15, 2016

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar are supporting extremist Islamic groups in Germany, according to a leaked intelligence report.

A brief seen by the Süddeutsche Zeitung and broadcasters NDR and WDR raised concern over a reported increase in support for fundamentalist Salafism in Germany, warning that the ideology already has 10,000 followers and is growing.

The report, by Germany’s BfV domestic intelligence agency and Federal Intelligence Service (BND) reportedly accused Gulf groups of funding mosques, religious schools, hardline preachers and conversion or “dawah” groups to spread the ideology.

Missionary movements were part of a “long-running strategy to exert influence” by the three states, it found, naming the Saudi Muslim World League, Sheikh Eid Bin Mohammad al-Thani Charitable Association and Kuwaiti Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS), which has been banned by the US and Russia for allegedly supporting al-Qaeda.

The report said all three organisations were “closely connected with government offices in their home countries”.

The BND and BfV have not confirmed the accuracy of leaked excerpts but sources told Deutsche Welle that some members of the security community believe it was internally leaked to pressure the German government into stopping controversial arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

The country’s ambassador to Germany, Awwas Alawwad, rejected accusations of supporting Salafism, saying his government does not build mosques or export imams and has “no connection with German Salafism”.

He added that the Muslim World League was not a Saudi government organisation and discontinued activities in Germany in 2013.

The Sheikh Eid association and RIHS have also denied connections to jihadi terrorism in the past.

The report comes weeks after the German government banned an Islamist missionary group linked to more than 140 Isis fighters following raids on mosques, offices and homes across the country.

Die Wahre Religion (DWR), meaning “The True Religion”, started in 2005 and claimed to spread Islam in Germany “in a modern form and with the help of new media”.

The Salafist group gained prominence with a Quran distribution campaign called Lies!, meaning “Read!”, which has since spread to countries including the UK, France, Bahrain and Brazil.

But officials said the initiative was “bringing jihadi Islamists together across the nation under the pretext of preaching Islam” while spreading hate and conspiracy theories.

Thomas de Maiziere, the German interior minister, said that the prohibition of DWR aimed to stop the “abuse of a religion by people, who under the pretext of spreading Islam are propagating extremist ideologies and supporting terrorist organisations”.

“By banning this organisation, a major source of radicalisation has been eradicated nationwide,” he added.

A terror network radicalising young Muslims and sending them to fight for Isis in Syria was also dismantled by authorities last month.

Germany has been on high alert since it was hit by two terror attacks carried out by Isis supporters in July, with other plots subsequently uncovered amid warnings that attempts to attack Europe will continue.

Jaber al-Bakr, a suspected Isis supporter detained on suspicion of planning to attack a Berlin airport with homemade explosives, killed himself in prison days after being arrested in October.

According to figures released in May by intelligence services, 820 jihadis have left Germany for Syria and Iraq, with a third known to have returned, 140 killed and 420 remaining abroad.

Tensions have risen following the arrival of almost 900,000 refugees in the country last year, driving support for right-wing groups and a national debate on Islam and integration.

The issue sparked Angela Merkel's call for a burqa ban earlier this month, as she seeks a fourth term in office.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/saudi-arabia-gulf-states-fund-islamic-extremism-germany-salafism-wahhabism-qatar-kuwait-islamists-a7473551.html

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Myanmar's Rohingya insurgency has links to Saudi, Pakistan

Dec 15, 2016

A group of Rohingya Muslims that attacked Myanmar border guards in October is headed by people with links to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said on Thursday, citing members of the group.

The coordinated attacks on Oct. 9 killed nine policemen, and sparked a crackdown by security forces in Muslim-majority Rakhine State in northwest Myanmar.

At least 86 people have been killed, according to state media, and the United Nations has estimated 27,000 members of the largely stateless Rohingya minority have fled across the border to Bangladesh.

Predominantly Buddhist Myanmar's government, led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, blamed Rohingyas supported by foreign militants for the Oct. 9 attacks, but has issued scant further information about the assailants it called "terrorists".

A group calling itself Harakah al-Yakin claimed responsibility for the attacks in video statements and the Brussels-based ICG said it had interviewed four members of the group in Rakhine State and two outside Myanmar, as well as individuals in contact with members via messaging apps.

The Harakah al-Yakin, or Faith Movement, was formed after communal violence in 2012 in which more than 100 people were killed and about 140,000 displaced in Rakhine State, most of them Rohingya, the group said.

Rohingya who have fought in other conflicts, as well as Pakistanis or Afghans, gave clandestine training to villagers in northern Rakhine over two years ahead of the attacks, it said.

"It included weapons use, guerrilla tactics and, HaY members and trainees report, a particular focus on explosives and IEDs," the group said, referring to improvised explosive devices.

It identified Harakah al-Yakin's leader, who has appeared prominently in a series of nine videos posted online, as Ata Ullah, born in Karachi, Pakistan, to a Rohingya migrant father before moving as a child to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

"Though not confirmed, there are indications he went to Pakistan and possibly elsewhere, and that he received practical training in modern guerrilla warfare," the group said, noting that Ata Ullah was one of 20 Rohingya from Saudi Arabia leading the group's operations in Rakhine State.

Separately, a committee of 20 senior Rohingya emigres oversees the group, which has its headquarters in Mecca, the ICG said.

Groups like Islamic State and al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent have referred to the plight of the Rohingya in their material, and the battlefield experience of at least some of the Rohingya fighters implied links to international militants, the ICG said.

However, ICG said the group has notably not engaged in attacks on the civilian Buddhist population in Rakhine. And Harakah al-Yakin's statements to date indicate its main goals are to end the persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar and secure the minority's citizenship status.

"It is possible, however, that its objectives could evolve, given its appeals to religious legitimacy and links to international jihadist groups, so it is essential that government efforts do not focus only or primarily on military approaches, but also address underlying community grievances and suffering," the ICG said.

http://in.reuters.com/article/myanmar-rohingya-idINKBN1432JL

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UN furious as Israel implies school glorifies 'terrorism'

December 15, 2016

JERUSALEM : UN officials reacted furiously on Wednesday after a spokesman for Israel's prime minister implied a new United Nations-financed school in the Gaza Strip was being used to "glorify terrorism."

Ofir Gendelman, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, last week tweeted three photos of children carrying what appeared to be fake guns as part of an exercise in an apparent school playground.

He also tweeted another photo of a sign launching the new UN-financed Jamal Abdel Nasser School in Gaza.

"This school was built by @UNDP and @UNICEF. The message is clear: the kids glorify terrorism," he tweeted.

The UN says there was no connection between the photos with the apparent fake guns and the new school.

One UN official, Roberto Valent, said the photos were taken in 2013 at a school not funded by the United Nations.

Robert Piper, UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, tweeted on Wednesday: "Appalled at these fabrications against the UN.

"Such misinformation from a Government about @UNICEF & @UNDP cannot stand."

Construction on the new school in question in Gaza has just begun, Piper added.

Contacted by AFP, Gendelman had no immediate comment. He responded to Valent on Twitter by saying: "problem is that schools all over the Gaza Strip have weapons training programs for kids & celebrate terrorism."

Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008. The Palestinian enclave is run by Hamas movement and has been under an Israeli blockade for a decade.

Gaza's border with Egypt has also remained largely closed in recent years.

UN officials have called for the blockade to be lifted, citing deteriorating conditions in the enclave of some two million people.

Israeli authorities say it is necessary to prevent Hamas or other groups from obtaining weapons or the materials to make them.

http://nation.com.pk/international/15-Dec-2016/un-furious-as-israel-implies-school-glorifies-terrorism

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Pakistan

 

COAS vows indiscriminate operation to eliminate sleeper cells of terrorists

15-Dec-16

KARACHI/ISLAMABAD: COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa has emphasised that all out efforts will be made to consolidate gains made so far during operation Zarb-e-Azb and indiscriminately eliminate remnants of terrorists with their sleeper cells. COAS General Bajwa visited Corps Headquarters and Rangers Headquarters Karachi on Wednesday. He was given a detailed briefing about operational preparedness of the formation and security situation in Sindh, particularly in the city of Karachi. Overall accomplishments of the operation so far and the way forward remained the focus of the briefing. The COAS commended the army, Rangers, law enforcement agencies and intelligence agencies for noticeable improvement in the law and order situation.

"Karachi is the economic hub of the country and security in the metropolitan has a direct bearing on overall business climate and economic activity of the entire country," General Bajwa said in a press statement issued by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR). General Qamar Javed Bajwa particularly lauded the support and sacrifices of people of Karachi in this journey towards peace. He said operations would not be allowed to be reversed and the operations would continue till attainment of sustainable peace.

He directed a focused and synergised effort of all military and civil intelligence agencies for optimum effects to preempt potential threats to peace in Karachi. The COAS further said that the Pakistan army will render all necessary assistance to the provincial government for capacity building and training of LEAs for long term effectiveness against organised crime and enduring peace for the City. General Bajwa appreciated the improvement in the law and order situation in Karachi and said that the Pakistan Army, Rangers and other law enforcement agencies have played an important role in this regard.

Previously, he was briefed about operation and security issues by Corps Commander Karachi and DG Rangers Sindh. The COAS visited the mausoleum of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah where he laid a floral wreath and offered Fateha.

Later, Commander Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan General John Nicholson called on the Chief of Army Staff on Wednesday at GHQ. Matters of mutual interest including regional security issues and border management mechanism along Pakistan-Afghanistan border were discussed. General John Nicholson lauded the achievements of Pakistan army in fight against terrorism and continued efforts for peace and stability in the region, ISPR said in a statement.

http://dailytimes.com.pk/pakistan/15-Dec-16/coas-vows-indiscriminate-operation-to-eliminate-sleeper-cells-of-terrorists

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‘Ahmadi families leaving Dulmial village after mob violence’

NABEEL ANWAR DHAKKU

Dec 15, 2016

CHAKWAL: Members of the Ahmadi community in Chakwal’s Dulmial village have left the village because of security concerns, sources said on Wednesday, days after a violent mob attacked an Ahmadi place of worship.

Two people were killed and one injured in the attack. Among the dead was Malik Khalid Javed, an Ahmadi who was present at the religious site when the attack happened and suffered a cardiac arrest. His body was taken to Chenab Nagar, where he was laid to rest.

A number of people who went to the funeral have not returned to the village yet, and other families have left the village for their own safety.

“There are three Ahmadi families living next to my house, but they left their homes and moved to safe places after the incident,” a villager told Dawn.

“Their cattle are tied up in their homes. I arranged some fodder for their cattle today and gave them some water; the animals were tied up, hungry and thirsty since Monday,” he said. The villager added that many other members of the community have also left the village, and the few who have remained are guarded in their homes by police, Rangers and military personnel.

A member of the local Ahmadi community also told Dawn some families have moved from the village, but the district police officer (DPO) and the district coordination officer (DCO) have said Ahmadis are staying in their homes.

Army, police and Rangers personnel are still deployed in the village, where they can be seen patrolling.

The police have also arrested 32 people involved in the attack, two of whom are Ahmadi.

The FIR of the attack includes charges from the Anti-Terrorism Act and the Pakistan Penal Code. Lodged by Sub-Inspector Mohammad Nawaz, who is also the station house officer (SHO) of the Choa Saidan Shah police station, the FIR states that he, accompanied by 20 other police officials were deployed at the Dulmial Rabiul Awwal procession.

The SHO said in the FIR that three men who were leading the procession of 2,800 to 3,000 people incited anti-Ahmadi sentiment within the crowd. The leaders of the procession resolved to take over the Ahmadi place of worship, claiming they would take possession of their mosque from the Ahmadi community.

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/news/1302398/ahmadi-families-leaving-dulmial-village-after-mob-violence

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Premarital blood testing bill not finalised due to senators’ concerns

IKRAM JUNAIDI

Dec 15, 2016

ISLAMABAD: A joint Senate committee meeting on Wednesday failed to finalise a bill on premarital blood testing after the Council of Islamic Ideology argued that the test should be voluntary and one of the chairmen, Hafiz Hamdullah, said it was insulting to direct a couple to be tested before marriage.

The heads of the National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) and the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW), Justice Ali Nawaz Chohan and Khawar Mumtaz respectively, supported the bill, but failed to convince committee members to make further improvements in the draft.

The committee, in the end, directed the ministries of law and justice, human rights, religious affairs and national health services to submit a consensus draft of The Premarital Blood Screening (Family Laws Amendment) Bill 2016 within three weeks.

The bill was tabled by PML-N Senator Chaudhry Tanvir in July this year. It states that, because thalassaemia is one of the greatest health challenges in the city it should be made mandatory for the couple to be tested prior to their wedding in order to eradicate the disease in the country.

Joint Senate committee meeting gives ministries three weeks to submit consensus draft

If two thalassaemia carriers have children, the child could be born with thalassaemia major, which causes the body to stop making red blood cells. Patients need regular blood transfusions, and the only cure is a bone marrow transplant, which is not only expensive but also requires a donor. A thalassaemia patient requires medication worth thousands of rupees, and blood transfusions once or twice a month. The disease can be detected by a simple blood test.

Wednesday’s joint meeting of the Senate standing committees on law and justice and religious affairs and interfaith harmony was held so members could consider the draft and finalise it after removing all their respective concerns. The meeting was chaired by Mohammad Javed Abbasi and Mr Hamdullah.

In response to the CII’s recommendation that the test be made voluntary, Justice Chohan attempted to persuade members of the committee on the bill’s provisions using examples from Islam and from Islamic countries.

“Saudi Arabia has already declared premarital blood screening mandatory and [calls] it a step towards a healthy nation. Turkey has also done legislation, which seems to be influenced by Saudi Arabia, to curb diseases such as thalassaemia, HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. Imam Malik has also suggested making good laws,” Mr Chohan said.

Meanwhile, Ms Mumtaz of the NCSW supported the law but suggested the inclusion of tests to detect HIV and hepatitis.

She added: “As the quality of the labs is poor, legislation should be done to ensure quality testing. A subsidised service should be provided and there should be a special section on medical tests in the [marriage certificate].”

The mover of the bill, Mr Tanvir, said the inclusion of other tests would complicate the bill, as people do not want to talk about HIV.

A representative from the Ministry of Human Rights said that since there is a lack of awareness about thalassaemia, voluntary tests should be recommended.

Although it was expected that the health ministry would support the bill, the national coordinator for the Safe Blood Transfusion Programme, Dr Hasan Abbas Zaheer said public sector hospitals are already over-burdened, and if the bill is approved, hospitals will not have the capacity to serve more people.

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/news/1302401/premarital-blood-testing-bill-not-finalised-due-to-senators-concerns

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Testing times for new Pak army chief as forces working to undermine him

December 15, 2016

Having superseded six senior officers to be appointed Pakistan's 16th Chief of Army Staff (COAS) by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, many would have thought that General Qamar Javed Bajwa would ease into the all powerful position, but contrary to expectation, it seems that his immediate future is rocky as powerful forces are working to undermine him.

According to well placed sources, not only are there forces within the Pakistani political and military establishment who are unhappy with his appointment and are working to undermine him, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who appointed him the COAS, is also expected to prevent him from becoming too powerful and not allow him to overshadow the civilian leadership like his predecessor General Raheel Sharif.

The first indication of this came within hours of his appointment when he went to meet Prime Minister Sharif and had to pass through a metal detector test like any other visitor, something unheard of when it comes to an army chief of Pakistan.

Sources say this was a sure sign that General Bajwa was being "shown his place" by the Prime Minister.

Sources have also said that General Bajwa was definitely not the choice of General Raheel Sharif, who over the years, had emerged as a larger than life personality, an image created by an overactive Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), revered by the ordinary Pakistani and supported by the country's Islamic extremist leaders.

Undoubtedly, the new COAS is expected to face resistance from officers within the army supporting General Raheel Sharif. There are also reports indicating that many religious extremist groups supported by the army were not in favour of General Bajwa's appointment.

Forces working to undercut General Bajwa and unlikely to work in tandem with him; have already been quick to unsettle the new incumbent. Therefore, immediately after he was named COAS, a media campaign was launched across the country on his Ahmadiyya connections through marriage.

As is well known, the Ahmadiyyas have been declared non-Muslims by a law passed in 1974 and are regularly persecuted by Pakistan's majority Sunni population.

Though attempts were made later to deny these claims, the damage has already been done. In Pakistan's increasingly radicalised society, it would be unthinkable for the country's COAS to have any links to 'Kafirs'.

And to make matters worse, immediately after media reports on General Bajwa's Ahmadiyya links, on December 5, Prime Minister Sharif approved of a plan to rename the Physics Department of the Quaid-e-Azam University as the Dr.Abdus Salam Centre for Physics, in the memory of Pakistan's only Nobel Laureate and an Ahmadiyya.

The government's late but sudden recognition of Dr. Abdus Salam, who moved from Pakistan to the United Kingdom in protest, after the 1974 law declaring Ahmadiyyas as non-Muslims, only left many speculating as to whether more such 'anti-Islamic' steps were in store, especially with a COAS who was positively inclined to the Ahmadiyyas.

The backlash against the Ahmadiyya community was immediate as the same day that the Prime Minister recognised the contribution of Dr. Salam, a team from the counter-terrorism department of the Punjab police raided the publication office of the Tehrik-e-Jihad, the Ahmadiyya community magazine in the town Rabwah and closed it down.

Full report at:

http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ani/testing-times-for-new-pak-army-chief-as-forces-working-to-undermine-him-116121500147_1.html

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KP govt website defaced by hackers

Dec 15, 2016

The official website of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government has been hacked by a group calling itself the 'Pashtun Cyber Army', it emerged Thursday.

The hackers defaced kp.gov.pk with a message criticising Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, whose party governs KP.

"Shame on KPK people who elected a party run from Bani Gala," reads the text.

The hackers have also criticised what they allege is the "illegal occupation of Fata, Pashtunistan and Balochistan".

As a footnote, the hackers have asked that they be given the "credit" for the hacking instead of Indian intelligence agency RAW.

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/news/1302501/kp-govt-website-defaced-by-hackers

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Pakistan, Russia hold consultation on regional issues

December 15, 2016

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan and Russia aim at becoming leading regional partners amid India’s propaganda to isolate Islamabad, said foreign ministry officials.

Citing the first ‘Pakistan-Russia Consultations on Regional Issues’ held here, the officials said Islamabad and Moscow were heading to a new start after the cold war rivalry where Pakistan sided with the US.

“We are slowly engaging in partnerships and hope to become leading regional partners in the years to come. The cold war is over now. Russia is very positive towards us,” said a senior official.

He said India had failed to isolate Pakistan despite its vicious propaganda. “In fact we have a new friend in Russia and (Donald) Trump’s (upcoming) administration is also friendly towards us,” he maintained.

Yesterday, the foreign ministry said Pakistan and Russia “discussed whole range of regional issues as well as key areas of mutual interest.”

“These included economic cooperation and connectivity. The two sides also exchanged views on important global and regional developments,” a foreign ministry statement said.

The statement said the two sides decided that the next round of consultations will be convened in Moscow next year.

The Russian side was led by Alexander V Sternik, Head of the Third CIS Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia while the Pakistani side was led by Ahmad Hussain Dayo, Director General (West Asia), Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the latest meeting.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Syed Tariq Fatemi - who is in the US these days on a mission to win over the Trump team - said in his latest interview that diplomatic outreach to Russia was aimed at enhancing political and economic ties.

Fatemi said Pakistan was also considering Moscow’s participation in building an oil pipeline from Karachi to Lahore. Construction of a power plant is also being discussed.

The special assistant said Pakistan’s military ties with Russia were not designed against India or in reaction to India’s growing defence ties with the US.

Another official said Pakistan and Russia were planning exchange of visits in the coming months to enhance the relationship further.

“We have a huge potential in different sectors to work on. Both Pakistan and Russia are positive about the future of partnerships for regional progress,” he said.

Defence analyst Lt-Gen (r) Abdul Qayum said Pakistan and Russia were moving in the right direction leaving the past behind. “The cold war is long over now. We need to move forward. The Pak-Russia leadership has demonstrated wisdom by joining hands,” he said.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/national/15-Dec-2016/pakistan-russia-hold-consultation-on-regional-issues

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India

 

BC Commission begins hearing on quota for Muslims

DECEMBER 15, 2016

Several Muslim organisations presented their views on 12 per cent reservation for backward people in Muslim community on the first day of public hearing on Enhancement of Reservations for Socially and Educationally Backward Communities among Muslims in education and employment.

The public hearing was conducted by the Telangana State Commission for Backward Classes. Representations were also submitted by various BC organisations on the issue.

So far, 12 organisations have presented their representations to the Commission, said Chairman B.S. Ramulu. Mohd. Iftekharuddin, representing the Muslim Reservations Front, Telangana State, said the Sudhir Commission’s report recommending 12 per cent reservation to Muslims should be forwarded to the government immediately for acceptance. He said earlier Commissions such as Sachar Committee, Amitab Kund Committee, justice Dalwa Subramanyam Commission had also revealed the backwardness among Muslims.

He also suggested to the BC Commission to tour all the districts to understand the poor living conditions of the BCs among Muslims.

Mr. Ramulu said that the hearing would continue till December 17 at the BC Commission’s Office from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Individuals and organisations can also send their opinions in writing or online or by post before December 19.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/telangana/BC-Commission-begins-hearing-on-quota-for-Muslims/article16807169.ece

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No proposal to reduce Indian mission strength in Islamabad: Govt

December 14, 2016

There is no proposal to reduce the strength of Indian High Commission in Islamabad, the government said on Wednesday. Eight Indian officials have come back in the last two months after Pakistan levelled “baseless allegations” against them and endangered their safety and security by making their identity public. The “baseless allegation by Pakistan against these officials followed Pakistan’s decision to withdraw six Pakistani diplomats reportedly named by Mehmood Akhtar, who was apprehended by Indian law enforcement authorities on October 27, 2016 while indulging in anti-India activities,” Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh said in a written reply in Lok Sabha.

“The positions falling vacant in the Indian High Commission, Islamabad consequent to the return of the aforementioned eight officials to India are to be filled through normal administrative process. There is no proposal with the government to reduce the strength of the High Commission,” Singh said.

Singh also said while change in the leadership of Pakistan’s State institutions, including its army is an internal matter, there has been a sustained escalation this year of cross-border terrorism and infiltration of armed terrorists across IB and LoC tasked to carry out terror acts in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere in India.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/no-proposal-to-reduce-indian-mission-strength-in-islamabad-govt-4426682/

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Need To Increase Sufi Centres Stressed At Int’l Conference

Dec 15, 2016

Gholamreza Ansari, Ambassador of Islamic Republic of Iran in India, inaugurated the two-day 6th International Sufi Conference on “Tradition of Welayat in Sufism” at the Punjabi University’s Senate Hall here today.

The conference, being organised by the Baba Farid Centre for Sufi Studies of Punjabi University, in collaboration with Walayat Foundation India, was presided over by Vice-Chancellor Jaspal Singh. Agha Mahdi Mahdavipour, representative of the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatullah Khamenei in India, delivered the keynote address.

While defining Welayat as the intimacy and friendship with the God as the quintessence of Sufism, Gholamreza Ansari said it had attained a high level of sophistication in the realms of Sufism. It outlined the most vibrant thoughts of Sufism as the voice of peace, compassion and universal brotherhood. The acts of terrorism anywhere in the world in the name of Islam constitute a great conspiracy against Islam and the community of Muslims.

He emphasised the need to increase the number of Sufi centres, which, along with ‘dargahs’, should act as centres of learning and guidance in solving the problems during the sensitive contemporary period. India, he said, constituted the prime land for Sufism to flourish as it comprised great tombs and shrines for the lamp of spirituality to shine brightly.

In his presidential remarks, Punjabi University Vice-Chancellor Jaspal Singh said Sufism had no place for the people playing double standards. He quoted several examples for bringing out the fundamental message of Sufism crystal clear that appearance and character deserved to be matched. It helped transform the concept of ‘god-fearing into ‘god-loving’ with love for all underlining its basic principle.

Full report at:

http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/chandigarh/community/need-to-increase-sufi-centres-stressed-at-int-l-conference/337031.html

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Soldier’s return: Army wants it taken up with Pak at diplomatic level

by Sushant Singh

December 15, 2016

More than two-and-a-half months after Sepoy Chandu Babulal Chavan crossed over from his post on LoC, the Army is still awaiting a word from the Pakistani side about his return. While Pakistan army has acknowledged the presence of Chavan in its custody during telephonic talks between the two DGMOs, it has been silent on any plans about his return to India.

Defence Ministry sources told The Indian Express that the two DGMOs had discussed the matter on November 23 and November 29. In both these conversations, the Pakistani side acknowledged that Chavan was in its custody but did not give any information about his return.

Indian Sepoy Chandu Babulal Chavan In Custody, Confirms Pakistan

The Army has been concerned about the lack of response from Pakistan army, which it believes, is not following the protocol on inadvertent crossing of individuals across the LoC.

At one point late last month, the top brass of Army even discussed the idea of threatening to withdraw the Indian defence attaches from Islamabad, if Chavan was not returned by Pakistan army. That proposal was eventually shot down, but the Army is keen that the matter be raised at the diplomatic level as DGMO-level talks are not leading to the soldier’s release.

“We are aware that Chavan crossed over in the area of the same Pakistani battalion where we had hit them with our surgical strikes. We understand that the Pakistani soldiers may have roughed up Chavan out of anger. But we expected him to be returned within two weeks or so . But more than two months have passed now and there is no sign of his return,” a top Army official said.

Even Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had expected that Chavan would return in some days. On October 2, he said, “There is a well-established mechanism through DGMO which has been activated. Since the situation is tense now, it will take some days to bring the soldier back.”

Chavan, posted with 37 Rashtriya Rifles battalion, had “inadvertently crossed over” from his post on the LoC on September 29, hours after the surgical strikes by Indian forces on terror launch pads across LoC. The Army maintains that Chavan’s battalion was not part of the surgical strikes and the 22-year-old crossed over from the LoC in Mendhar sector after a tiff with his superior at the post.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/chandu-babulal-chavan-loc-indian-soldier-return-india-pakistan-dgmo-4427497/

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Malegaon blasts: Court orders detailed inquiry into ‘custodial violence’ against accused

December 15, 2016

A SPECIAL court has directed a magisterial inquiry into allegations of custodial violence against Malegaon 2006 blast accused Manohar Narwaria by officials of Arthur Road jail. On December 7, Narwaria was produced before special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court Judge V V Patil with both his hands fractured. The judge recorded Narwaria’s statement, where he named three jail officials and one prison guard as having assaulted him after an altercation on the jail premises.

Days After Cyclone Vardah Hit Chennai, City Goes Offline: Here's What Happened

On Wednesday, Judge Patil directed the Metropolitan Magistrate, 13th court, Bhoiwada, to conduct a detailed investigation based on Narwaria’s statement against jail officials A S Pansare, H S Minta, Sachin Zinzurde and guard Shivaji Devkar, and to pass appropriate orders. The court has directed all case papers to be sent to the magistrate court for the inquiry.

On December 5, advocate Prashant Maggu, counsel for Narwaria, filed an application in the court, submitting that his client had been assaulted at Arthur Road jail and sought for him to be sent for medical examination. The court ordered Narwaria to be produced before court on the next day for recording his statement. Though he was not brought from prison, Narwaria’s lawyers pleaded for him to be produced through a video link. On seeing that accused had severe injuries on his body, the court directed Narwaria to be brought before it immediately. In his statement in the in-camera proceedings before the court, Narwaria said that he had been beaten. The special court referred the case to the principal judge, who directed the court to take further action.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/malegaon-blasts-court-orders-detailed-inquiry-into-custodial-violence-against-accused-4427455/

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India-Pak War 45th Anniversary: Veterans to take part in Bangladesh function

by Shubhajit Roy

December 15, 2016

A series of events have been organised to mark the 45th anniversary of the India-Pakistan war that led to Bangladesh’s creation in 1971.

A five-day visit starting Wednesday to Bangladesh of 28 Indian war veterans and four serving officers is the most high-profile event that the Indian government has organised for the anniversary.

The veterans will participate in the victory day functions besides meeting Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the service chiefs and the armed forces division’s principal staff officer. “They will also get an opportunity to interact with Muktijodhas (freedom fighters) during separate receptions being hosted by the ministry of liberation war affairs, war course foundation of Bangladesh and the Dhaka club,” an Indian diplomat in Dhaka told The Indian Express.

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Days After Cyclone Vardah Hit Chennai, City Goes Offline: Here's What Happened

Simultaneously, a delegation of 30 Muktijodhas and six serving officers arrived in Kolkata on Wednesday to participate in the Vijay Diwas celebrations at Fort William. Bangladesh Home minister Asaduzzaman Khan is leading the delegation of three parliament members, a supreme court judge, retired Bangladesh armed forces officers, diplomats, bureaucrats and civil society members. The delegation would interact with Indian war veterans besides visiting Shanti Niketan, Indian officials said.

“The reciprocal visits by Muktijodhas and war veterans on victory day started in 2005 and more than 280 Muktijodhas from Bangladesh and 125 Indian veterans have joined the celebrations in Dhaka and Kolkata,’’ said the Indian diplomat in Dhaka.

The diplomat said such engagements bring together veterans, who had fought shoulder to shoulder in the war. “As they relive their experiences and share their stories, they bring to life the spirit with which the peoples of both countries had supported each other during the difficult times. They share the eternal bond of camaraderie having shed blood together while fighting a common enemy.’’

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-pak-war-45th-anniversary-veterans-to-take-part-in-bangladesh-function-sheikh-hasina-4427411/

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Meet on Islamophobia in Kerala from Friday

DECEMBER 14, 2016

A three-day academic conference on Islamophobia will begin at the Calicut University auditorium on Friday.

Over 20 academic papers on different aspects of Islamophobia will be presented at the conference which is being organised by the Solidarity Youth Movement. The rapidly growing trend of hate campaigns against Muslims across the globe and their European origins and their effective use in electoral strategies in various countries will be discussed.

A. Anas, the director of the conference, told The Hindu that while Islamophobia was a major academic and social debating issue in Europe and the US, it was not so in India though hate campaigns were intense here too.

He said that though Kerala had a great liberal and tolerant tradition, Islamophobia was fast gaining ground in the State. Three scams in the recent past — the love jihad, the Kashmir terrorist recruitment and the Muslim orphanage issue — were clear examples of Islamophobia campaigns. All the three scams were, he claimed, fabricated by vested-interest groups. The scams had largely contributed to the discrimination against Muslims as well as fear and hate of the community.

Full report at:

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kozhikode/Meet-on-Islamophobia-in-Kerala-from-Friday/article16805734.ece

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Arab World

 

Islamic State threatens Egypt Sufis after claiming cleric murders

December 9, 2016

Cairo: The Islamic State group has threatened Egyptian followers of the mystical Sufi strand of Islam after claiming it beheaded two of their clerics in its Sinai Peninsula stronghold.

The group`s affiliate in Egypt released pictures last month of a scimitar-wielding executioner beheading two elderly men it accused of "divination," a practice traditional Islam forbids.

Relatives identified one of the two men as Suleiman Abu Heraz, a Sufi sheikh in his late 90s. The second man was identified as one of his disciples.

Their bodies have not been found.

In the latest edition of the IS weekly newsletter Al-Nabaa issued on Thursday, a militant identified as the head of the jihadists` "morality police" in the Sinai warned Sufis to renounce their beliefs.

He said Abu Heraz and fellow cleric Qatifan Breik Eid Mansour were executed for "professing knowledge of the occult".

"We tell all Sufi lodges, sheikhs and followers inside Sinai and outside that we will not allow the presence of Sufi orders in the Sinai or Egypt," he was quoted as saying.

Reports of Abu Heraz`s murder drew condemnation from Muslim clerics in Egypt and abroad.

Egypt`s top Sunni authority, Al-Azhar, denounced his killing as "an ugly crime."

The Islamic State group follows the puritanical Salafist school of thought -- the dominant one in Saudi Arabia -- which views some Sufi practices as heretical.

Salafists accuse the Sufis of polytheism -- the greatest sin in Islam -- for seeking the intercession of saints and visiting their graves.

Jihadists have blown up Sufi mausoleums across the Islamic world from Afghanistan to Mali.

Many Muslims in Egypt and elsewhere regard the Sufis as part of the mainstream.

The head of Al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayeb, practises Sufism, as have many leading Sunni Muslim clerics over the centuries.

http://zeenews.india.com/news/world/islamic-state-threatens-egypt-sufis-after-claiming-cleric-murders_1957103.html

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West cares about terrorists, not civilians: Assad

Dec 14, 2016

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says Western governments are concerned about SAVING the foreign-backed terrorists in Syria and not the lives of civilians in his country.

“They (Western governments) do not worry when… the terrorists are killing those civilians or attacking Palmyra and destroying the human heritage — not only the Syrian heritage,” Assad said in a Wednesday interview with RT, referring to the city of Palmyra, which recently fell to Daesh terrorists for a second time.

He made the remarks in response to the question of why Western media outlets were silent on Palmyra’s fall but creating hype about the defeat of militants in Aleppo, another Syrian city, by Syrian forces.

“If we liberate Aleppo from the terrorists, the Western officials and the mainstream media, they are going to be worrying about the civilians,” Assad said, adding that if the opposite happens and the terrorists engage in attacking and killing civilians, the West expresses little concern.

He warned that the statements by Western governments should not be taken at face value.

Syrian residents fleeing the violence gather at a checkpoint manned by government forces, in the Maysaloun neighborhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, December 8, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Referring to the Daesh offensive on Palmyra, Assad said, “If you look at the timing of their attack, [it] is related to what is happening in Aleppo. This is the response to what is happening in Aleppo [and] the advancement of the Syrian Arab Army. They wanted to undermine the victory in Aleppo and at the same time to distract the Syrian Army from Aleppo,” he said. “But, of course, it did not work.”

The Syrian president was asked about Western pleas to Russia and Iran to convince Syria to agree to a ceasefire in Aleppo at a time when Syrian forces were significantly advancing. He responded by saying that what the Western governments were in fact asking for was that Russia and Iran “stop the advancement of the Syrian Army against the terrorists.”

“That is the meaning of their statement. Forget about the rest. [What they mean is] ‘You went too far in defeating the terrorists, that shouldn’t happen.’ You should tell the Syrians to stop this. We have to keep the terrorists and to SAVE them,” Assad said.

Syrian forces have almost completed the liberation of Aleppo, the country’s second-largest city, which had been occupied by foreign-sponsored militants since 2011. Fighting had generally ended in eastern Aleppo on Tuesday but resumed again on Wednesday.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2016/12/14/497844/Syria-President-Bashar-alAssad-Aleppo-Palmyra-Western-governments-Daesh

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Aleppo Evacuation Starts after Militants Agree Fua'a, Kafraya Civilians Evacuation

Dec 15, 2016

Local sources close to the dissidents said that all preparations have been made for the evacuation of militants and their families from Aleppo.

The latest reports from Eastern Aleppo said tens of ambulances and Green Buses have arrived at militant-held territories, and terrorists are readying to start evacuation any moment.

Evacuation of wounded militants started at 9am (Syria Times). Reports said the ambulances are heading for medical centers in Western Aleppo.

Earlier reports also said that 15,000 residents of Fua'a and Kafraya in Idlib who are under the terrorists' siege would be evacuated.

Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin had told the UN Security Council meeting in New York on Tuesday that the fighting in Eastern Aleppo stopped and the Syrian government regained control over the territory after the withdrawal of militants from the city was agreed.

But, terrorists resumed fire Wednesday morning and pushing the DEAL into complete failure.

Jeish al-Fatah coalition of terrorist groups has been targeting the Eastern and Western districts of Aleppo city regardless of the ceasefire declared on Tuesday night, inflicting heavy casualties on the people and blocking their exit from the war-hit city, local sources stressed.

The sources said that clashes resumed between the militants and the Syrian government forces in the Eastern Aleppo neighborhoods of Salahuddin and Seif al-Dowleh after Jeish al-Fatah terrorists dropped agreement on the exit of militants and violated the truce.

The sources added that the militants opened fire at the army and civilians in flagrant violation of the ceasefire, killing and wounding scores of people, including children.

Following the attacks, evacuation of the last group of militants from the Eastern part of the Syrian city of Aleppo delayed, if not cancelled at all.

"Everything has been ready for the withdrawal (of militants from Aleppo) since the night fell," RIA Novosti quoted a sources as saying, adding "It was expected that the withdrawal would start early in the morning, but it has not started yet".

Another news website reported that Fatah al-Sham Front (previously known as the al-Nusra Front) is disturbing the exit trend of the militants from Aleppo city.

The Syrian Army troops and popular forces restarted their attacks on Jeish al-Fatah's positions in the Eastern districts of Aleppo city after the militants breached the truce.

Militants in Aleppo violated the agreement on leaving the city and used the ceasefire to regroup and begin hostilities again, the Russian center said in a statement on Wednesday.

The center added that it had prepared means for evacuation of militants to Idlib, in accordance with the DEALreached by the Syrian authorities and the militants.

"When the transport arrived at the previously agreed loading place, the militants began shelling the convoy. Having used the ceasefire, the militants regrouped at dawn and RENEWED hostilities, trying to break through the positions of the Syrian army in the Northwestern direction," the statement read.

According to the statement, the army repelled the attack and continued the operation to liberate Eastern Aleppo.

Media reports say the buses that have gone to Aleppo to take militants and civilians out of the city returned to depots.

The Syrian Army's victories in Eastern Aleppo finally forced militant groups to leave the war-torn city as Jeish Al-Fatah terrorists are now encircled in a very small area left with the only two options of surrender or die.

The terrorist groups in Eastern Aleppo asked the Syrian Army to allow them leave the city for Idlib similar to other militant groups throughout the country that have opted for the same choice.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950925000196

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Syrian Army Wins Back One of Terrorists' Last Bastions in Aleppo City

Dec 14, 2016

The Syrian government forces liberated on Wednesday the Al-Sukri district of Eastern Aleppo, one of the last neighborhoods in the embattled city remaining under control of terrorists, the Russian center for Syrian reconciliation said, adding that "as a result, the total area controlled by terrorists has shrunk to 2.5 square kilometers."

Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin had told the UN Security Council meeting in New York on Tuesday that the fighting in Eastern Aleppo stopped and the Syrian government regained control over the territory after the withdrawal of militants from the city was agreed.

But, terrorists resumed fire Wednesday morning and pushing the DEAL into complete failure.

Jeish al-Fatah coalition of terrorist groups has been targeting the Eastern and Western districts of Aleppo city regardless of the ceasefire declared on Tuesday night, inflicting heavy casualties on the people and blocking their exit from the war-hit city, local sources said minutes ago.

The sources said that clashes resumed between the militants and the Syrian government forces in the Eastern Aleppo neighborhoods of Salahuddin and Seif al-Dowleh after Jeish al-Fatah terrorists dropped agreement on the exit of militants and violated the truce.

The sources added that the militants opened fire at the army and civilians in flagrant violation of the ceasefire, pushing the Eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo city into fierce clashes again.

The terrorist groups have targeted the neighborhood of al-Mokambu, al-Nil Street, fresh-fruit market in al-Khalediyeh and the humanitarian corridor in Bostan al-Qasr (Bustan al-Kaser) in Eastern Aleppo with tens of mortar shells.

The terrorists also launched heavy artillery attacks on Ramouseh district South-West of the city, killing two children.

At least ten civilians, including three children, were killed and over 50 others were injured in terrorists' missile attacks on Aleppo's neighborhoods.

Following the attacks, evacuation of the last group of militants from the Eastern part of the Syrian city of Aleppo delayed, if not cancelled at all.

"Everything has been ready for the withdrawal (of militants from Aleppo) since the night fell," RIA Novosti quoted a sources as saying, adding "It was expected that the withdrawal would start early in the morning, but it has not started yet".

Another news website reported that Fatah al-Sham Front (previously known as the al-Nusra Front) is disturbing the exit trend of the militants from Aleppo city.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950924001549

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Saudi Arabia planning to 'inoculate' schoolchildren from 'Westernisation' and atheism

December 15, 2016

Saudi Arabia is said to be considering plans aimed at warning schoolchildren against 'Westernisation' and atheism.

The kingdom's education ministry is thought to be preparing a project called 'Immunity' which is described as 'inoculating' children from ideas that could threaten their 'ideological security'.

Among the list of threats the ministry lists to children are westernisation, atheism, liberalism and secularism.

And according to the Middle East Media Research Institute, the only threats that come after this are extremism from the likes of ISIS and al-Qaeda.

However, news of the new plans for schools provoked an angry reaction from some Saudi citizens on social media.

They protested against the ministry's perception that liberalism was a bigger threat to the country than extremists.

Media personality Nadine Al-Budair wrote on Twitter: 'If only our highly intellectual education minister would tell us what his very personal definitions of 'liberalism' and 'secularism' are.'

However, others praised the plan and tweeted under the hashtag 'Liberalism is a dangerous group.'

Saudi Arabia, one of the world's most conservative nations, has long been accused of fuelling extremism by promoting the teachings of 18th century Sunni preacher Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Wahhab.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/15-Dec-2016/saudi-arabia-planning-to-inoculate-schoolchildren-from-westernisation-and-atheism

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Iraqi gains reveal huge scale of IS arms industry

December 15, 2016

Max Delany - Factories churning out tens of thousands of munitions and an entire street turned into a conveyor belt for car bombs: advances by Iraqi forces around Mosul have laid bare the scale of the Islamic State group's arms industry.

In the more than two years since it seized control over swathes of the country, IS established a sprawling and highly organised system that experts say no other insurgent group has matched.

The capability has seriously boosted the threat from the group as it battles ferociously to cling to territory in Iraq and Syria - and the fresh intelligence could now prove vital in countering its plots to carry out attacks on the West.

Iraqi army deminer Hashim Ali picked his way carefully through the rubble as he explained how IS transformed Mart Shmony street in Qaraqosh, some 16 kilometres (10 miles) southeast of Mosul, into a production line of death after seizing the town in 2014 and forcing the mainly Christian population to flee.

Once it was a bustling thoroughfare of car workshops and stores selling Turkish furniture, but for the militants it offered all they needed to make the armoured car bombs they use to blow up civilians and slow advancing Iraqi troops.

In one building they stripped the vehicles, in the neighbouring one they cut the metal plates for armour. A few doors down they made the explosives. Just up the road they loaded the bombs into the car.

"These people are not stupid, they are very well organised," Ali told AFP. "If you give them more time then they always find ways to surprise you." Nearby the remnants of a pickup truck with a metal plate welded to its front stood inside a former furniture shop devastated by an air strike from the US-led coalition backing Iraqi troops. In towns, villages and districts retaken from IS the pattern was repeated. AFP visited a number of sites where the group cannibalised existing infrastructure to create their own improvised arms factories.

In a former cement plant in the town of Areej the lathes in a cavernous hall had been put to work manufacturing mortars and rockets. Moulds for shells lay on tables and unfinished casings littered the floor.

At another location nearby, part of an abandoned gas storage facility was strewn with the deadly improvised explosive devices IS produced there.

The white powder of homemade explosives spilled out of large bombs that the group had not had time to lay in the path of the advancing Iraqi troops.

'Something else'

"In terms of scale, planning, centralised command and control and the precision to which they are manufacturing, this is something else," James Bevan, director of Conflict Armament Research, a UK-based group which investigates arms flows around the globe, told AFP.

"I can't name another armed group that manufactures on such a scale and with such a degree of coordination."

Bevan and teams from his organisation have been on the ground in Iraq cataloguing the extent of IS arms production.

Their findings, detailed in a report released Wednesday, show a sophisticated system that pours out tens of thousands of standardised mortars, rockets and explosives on an "unprecedented scale" and under strict quality controls.

While the raw materials for shell casings and missiles come from scrap metal and spare parts in the cities that IS have captured, the explosives and propellant are made from precursors mostly procured in bulk from the open market in Turkey and diverted through Syria.

As proof of their high standards the final IS products are often painted a military green, branded with the group's logo and packed into specially made crates to be dispatched to the various fronts it is fighting on.

Lessons for West?

On the battlefield the weapons they manufacture themselves have proven an important way for IS to supplement their flow of factory-made arms seized from government forces or rebel groups in Iraq and Syria.

Commanded by former Iraqi military and intelligence officers, the group has fought conventional campaigns with the help of its own improvised weaponry.

But now, as the group faces increasing fragmentation with the territories it controls under pressure from various offensives, the intelligence being gleaned could prove invaluable for countering its threat beyond its shrinking heartland.

"This will be critical for future efforts to counter the spread of this group," said arms expert Bevan.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/15-Dec-2016/iraqi-gains-reveal-huge-scale-of-is-arms-industry

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Terrorists Leaving Aleppo for Idlib in 20 Buses, 10 Ambulances

Dec 15, 2016

According to the Russian reconciliation center, about 20 buses and 10 ambulances will carry out evacuation of the militants.

The Russian reconciliation center said in a statement that it is "preparing to evacuate the remaining militants and their family members from the Eastern districts of the city of Aleppo in collaboration with the Syrian authorities".

The reconciliation center is monitoring the situation in the area using surveillance CAMERAS and drones, adding that Russian soldiers will also accompany the militants during the evacuation from Aleppo to Idlib.

The Syrian authorities are guaranteeing that all members of armed groups who decide to leave Eastern Aleppo will be safe, the center said.

"The Syrian authorities are guaranteeing safety of all members of armed groups who decided to leave the Eastern districts of Aleppo," the center added in the statement.

The Syrian authorities and terrorist groups stationed in the Eastern parts of Aleppo reached an agreement to evacuate militants from the region in return for relocating thousands of besieged civilians from Fua'a and Kafraya in Idlib to government-ruled territories.

Local sources close to the dissidents said that all preparations have been made for the evacuation of militants and their families from Aleppo.

The latest reports from Eastern Aleppo said tens of ambulances and Green Buses have arrived at militant-held territories, and terrorists are readying to start evacuation any moment.

Evacuation of wounded militants started at 9am (Syria Times). Reports said the ambulances are heading for medical centers in Western Aleppo.

Earlier reports also said that 15,000 residents of Fua'a and Kafraya in Idlib who are under the terrorists' siege would be evacuated.

Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin had told the UN Security Council meeting in New York on Tuesday that the fighting in Eastern Aleppo stopped and the Syrian government regained control over the territory after the withdrawal of militants from the city was agreed.

But, terrorists resumed fire Wednesday morning and pushing the DEAL into complete failure.

Jeish al-Fatah coalition of terrorist groups has been targeting the Eastern and Western districts of Aleppo city regardless of the ceasefire declared on Tuesday night, inflicting heavy casualties on the people and blocking their exit from the war-hit city, local sources stressed.

The sources said that clashes resumed between the militants and the Syrian government forces in the Eastern Aleppo neighborhoods of Salahuddin and Seif al-Dowleh after Jeish al-Fatah terrorists dropped agreement on the exit of militants and violated the truce.

The sources added that the militants opened fire at the army and civilians in flagrant violation of the ceasefire, killing and wounding scores of people, including children.

Following the attacks, evacuation of the last group of militants from the Eastern part of the Syrian city of Aleppo delayed, if not cancelled at all.

"Everything has been ready for the withdrawal (of militants from Aleppo) since the night fell," RIA Novosti quoted a sources as saying, adding "It was expected that the withdrawal would start early in the morning, but it has not started yet".

Another news website reported that Fatah al-Sham Front (previously known as the al-Nusra Front) is disturbing the exit trend of the militants from Aleppo city.

The Syrian Army troops and popular forces restarted their attacks on Jeish al-Fatah's positions in the Eastern districts of Aleppo city after the militants breached the truce.

Militants in Aleppo violated the agreement on leaving the city and used the ceasefire to regroup and begin hostilities again, the Russian center said in a statement on Wednesday.

The center added that it had prepared means for evacuation of militants to Idlib, in accordance with the DEALreached by the Syrian authorities and the militants.

"When the transport arrived at the previously agreed loading place, the militants began shelling the convoy. Having used the ceasefire, the militants regrouped at dawn and RENEWED hostilities, trying to break through the positions of the Syrian army in the Northwestern direction," the statement read.

According to the statement, the army repelled the attack and continued the operation to liberate Eastern Aleppo.

Media reports say the buses that have gone to Aleppo to take militants and civilians out of the city returned to depots.

The Syrian Army's victories in Eastern Aleppo finally forced militant groups to leave the war-torn city as Jeish Al-Fatah terrorists are now encircled in a very small area left with the only two options of surrender or die.

The terrorist groups in Eastern Aleppo asked the Syrian Army to allow them leave the city for Idlib similar to other militant groups throughout the country that have opted for the same choice.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950925000319

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Russian Center: Syria Reconciliation Plan Joined by Over 1,055 Regions

Dec 15, 2016

The Russian Peace Coordination Center in Syria announced on Thursday that militants in four more regions of Lattakia and Tartus provinces have laid down arms and signed peace agreement with Damascus, increasing the number of regions joining the peace plan to 1055.

Meantime, sources said that negotiations still continue with the field commanders of terrorist groups in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Hama and Quneitra to persuade them to join the peace plan.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950925000225

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Political Analyst: Turkey's Al-Bab Military Operation to Pave Way for Direct Syria-Turkey

Dec 14, 2016

"If Turkey wants to MAKE UP FOR its Aleppo defeat by launching fresh military operations in al-Bab, direct confrontation between the Syrian and Turkish armies will be of much likelihood," Syrian political expert on Turkey and Kurds Khorshid Deli told FNA on Wednesday.

He reiterated that Turkey was the big loser of Aleppo battle, and said, "Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party imagined that the Aleppo battle would be the main bridge towards the collapse of the Syrian government."

Deli underlined that the Syrian army's control of Aleppo city has been a heavy blow on Turkey's strategy towards the Syrian crisis and a slap across Erdogan's face.

"The terrorists' defeat in Eastern Aleppo not only put an end to the strategy of overthrowing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government, but also discredited Turkey in the eyes of the terrorists that had been told by Turkey that Assad would fall," he added.

Deli warned that Erdogan might want to intensify attacks on Aleppo in ORDER to compensate for its defeats in Aleppo city.

On December 1, Syrian military aircraft targeted positions of the Free Syrian Army terrorists in the area of al-Bab in Aleppo province and halted the advance of the Turkey-backed militants in the area.

The bombing carried out by the Syrian Air Force on the positions of the Free Syrian Army militants in the area of al-Bab, previously controlled by ISIL, had halted the advance of the FSA fighters.

After recapturing Manbij from ISIL by Kurdish forces, al-Bab and Deir Hafer have turned into the largest bases of ISIL in Aleppo province.

In late November, a Syrian official underlined that Ankara is technically at war with Damascus given its lack of coordination with the Syrian army in al-Bab city.

"Considering its campaign against the terrorist groups in Aleppo, the Syrian army is fighting against Turkey indirectly" as the latter is in on the opposite side and helping the terrorists in the same region, Samir Sulayman, a high-ranking official at Syria's defense ministry, said.

He explained that since the Syrian army is fighting against the terrorists in different parts of the country, SPECIALLYAleppo, it has indirectly entered a battle against Turkey because the terrorist groups are enjoying Ankara's arms support and consultations.

Sources close to the Syrian dissidents disclosed last week that the Turkish army has deployed anti-aircraft 'Stinger' missile system to the regions near al-Bab city Northeast of Aleppo province.

Ahmad al-Khatib, a journalist with close links to the Free Syrian Army terrorist group, disclosed on his twitter page that Turkey is EQUIPPING its affiliated forces stationed near the strategic city of al-Bab with Stinger missile system.

The Turkish media had also reported that a number of TRUCKS carrying air defense systems were moving from Oguzeli region in Gaziantep towards the Syrian borders.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950924001500

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Syria: Pro-Gov't Military Source Says More Comprehensive Agreement Needed over Aleppo

Dec 14, 2016

Speaking to the Arabic-language Al-Mayadeen TV CHANNEL, the source underlined that "the talks on the evacuation of terrorists from Eastern Aleppo displayed that they only intend to continue the war through deceit".

"They initially told us that a sum of 2,000 people would leave Eastern Aleppo, but we later came to realize that the numbers are way higher than their stated figures and amount to 15,000 people, including 4,000 militants and their families," he added.

The source whose identity and nationality was not revealed by the Arab TV channel further underlined that any kind of agreement over Aleppo "needs to be endorsed by all the parties engaged in the war with the Syrian government standing atop of them".

"Any agreement should also NATURALLY be accepted by the Russian and Iranian allies (of Syria)," he reiterated.

The source underscored that exit of such a large number of militants and people from Eastern Aleppo needs "a political trend at international levels".

He also touched on the several-year-long siege of the two pro-government Shiite towns of Fuaa and Kafraya in Idlib, and said, "The continued siege of Kafraya and Fuaa requires more comprehensive talks."

"We should also remember that terrorists are still holding a large number of abducted people, prisoners and dead bodies of the martyrs of Syria and its allies," he said, implying that if 15,000 militants and their family members are to be relocated to Idlib, these issues should also be included in a comprehensive agreement with the militants and their state-sponsors.

Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin had told the UN Security Council meeting in New York on Tuesday that the fighting in Eastern Aleppo stopped and the Syrian government regained control over the territory after the withdrawal of militants from the city was agreed.

But, terrorists resumed fire Wednesday morning and pushed the DEAL into complete failure.

Jeish al-Fatah coalition of terrorist groups has been targeting the Eastern and Western districts of Aleppo city regardless of the ceasefire declared on Tuesday night, inflicting heavy casualties on the people and blocking their exit from the war-hit city, local sources said minutes ago.

The sources said that clashes resumed between the militants and the Syrian government forces in the Eastern Aleppo neighborhoods of Salahuddin and Seif al-Dowleh after Jeish al-Fatah terrorists dropped agreement on the exit of militants and violated the truce.

The sources added that the militants opened fire at the army and civilians in flagrant violation of the ceasefire, pushing the Eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo city into fierce clashes again.

The terrorist groups have targeted the neighborhood of al-Mokambu, al-Nil Street, fresh-fruit market in al-Khalediyeh and the humanitarian corridor in Bostan al-Qasr (Bustan al-Kaser) in Eastern Aleppo with tens of mortar shells.

The terrorists also launched heavy artillery attacks on Ramouseh district South-West of the city, killing two children.

At least ten civilians, including three children, were killed and over 50 others were injured in terrorists' missile attacks on Aleppo's neighborhoods.

Following the attacks, evacuation of the last group of militants from the Eastern part of the Syrian city of Aleppo delayed, if not cancelled at all.

"Everything has been ready for the withdrawal (of militants from Aleppo) since the night fell," RIA Novosti quoted a sources as saying, adding "It was expected that the withdrawal would start early in the morning, but it has not started yet".

Another news website reported that Fatah al-Sham Front (previously known as the al-Nusra Front) is disturbing the exit trend of the militants from Aleppo city.

The Syrian Army troops and popular forces restarted their attacks on Jeish al-Fatah's positions in the Eastern districts of Aleppo city after the militants breached the truce.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950924001369

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South Asia

 

Bangladesh: Tension over Facebook Post on Islam

December 15, 2016

A written complaint was filed with police against a shop owner in Chittagong's Hathazari upazila yesterday after he allegedly made a post on Facebook “hurting religious sentiments of the Muslims”.

Several hundred locals went to Habibullah Khan's computer training centre at Chowdhury Hat Market in the morning and locked the shop from outside, traders in the market said.

The accused was not there at that time.

The Facebook post was uploaded from the account “EliteHabibCtg” on Tuesday.

Ali Faruk Chowdhury, general secretary of Chowdhury Hat Market Traders' Association, lodged the complaint with Hathazari Police Station.

Shariful Islam, inspector (investigation) of the station, said, “We have got a written complaint against a youth. We are investigating the matter.”

Several hundred locals, including Hindus and Muslims, gathered at the market after the news about the post had spread in the locality yesterday morning.

Habib was on the run and his mobile phone was found switched off.

However, he offered apology through another Facebook post from the account around 1:00pm. The account was deactivated around 4:30pm.

Locals in a rally held in the afternoon demanded Habib's arrest and punishment.

http://www.thedailystar.net/backpage/tension-over-facebook-post-islam-1330210

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NATO supports preservation of Afghanistan’s historic and cultural sites

Dec 15 2016

The NATO-led Resolute Support (RS) mission in Afghanistan is supporting the preservation of the historic and cultural sites of the country, the alliance said in a statement.

“Preserving Afghanistan’s historical and cultural sites is a priority for Resolute Support,” the alliance said in a statement.

The statement further added,  “To emphasize just how IMPORTANT it is, Gen. John W. Nicholson, commander, launched a new effort to ensure these sites are preserved and respected.”

“We’re working in the midst of one of the most culturally rich countries in the world … the way we work here has to reflect the values of the nations we represent,” Nicholson said, addressing an international coalition of military leaders and diplomats.

Full report at:

http://www.khaama.com/nato-supports-preservation-of-afghanistans-historic-and-cultural-sites-02477

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Close relationships lead to accurate artillery in eastern Afghanistan

Dec 14 2016

Artillery is consistently an Afghan Army success story. That’s because it’s devastatingly accurate, regularly destroying Taliban and Daesh targets as they unsuccessfully try to mass on district centers and other strategic locations. (File Photo by Spc. Andrew Baker combat CAMERA)

Nowhere is this more true than in Afghanistan’s eastern provinces, where Train, Advise, Assist Command – East works with the Afghan 201st Corps to put rounds downrange. From artillery to mortars to air support, the Afghan colonel in charge of fire support here is passionate about pounding his enemies into submission; his TAAC-E advisors are equally passionate about ensuring he has what he needs to succeed.

Col. Ahmed Jan, fire support officer, 201st Corps, is a rare breed. A former Northern Alliance fighter, his life’s work is destroying the Taliban. Yet in spite of seeing so much war – and being so proficient at it – he has remained compassionate and human.

“The colonel has seen the brunt of it,” explained U.S. Army Capt. Dennis M. Kelly, Ahmed’s biggest supporter, friend and advisor. “Yet, amazingly he’s managed to keep his humanity. He doesn’t accept collateral damage. He’s a family man and wants a better life for Afghans. It’s more than just war for him.”

Ahmed politely cuts off the younger captain, partially out of being humble but also wanting to explain.

“We have a culture of protection here. This war goes way beyond killing; the mission is IMPORTANT, but I say to you: we are building relationships. We are building trust,” Ahmed explained expressively, looking everyone in the eyes, addressing everyone individually yet as a group. The colonel talked about his large family, and the Afghanistan he’s working to build for them.

Then, Ahmed Jan switched from diplomat back to warrior. Rolled up map in his hand, he once again begins to expressively explain his outlook.

“But yes, we aren’t just up here sipping tea. We are at the front line handling business,” Ahmed continued, switching from Dari to English and back again.

When there’s a battle or a problem, Ahmed is on his way. He said that as a tactician, his job is to analyze the situation and fix it when necessary. But as a leader, he has to mirror his soldiers. They won’t be motivated if I – we – don’t share their struggles, he said. Unsurprisingly, his approach is popular and effective.

Earlier, Kelly and a couple soldiers gathered around a map covering several eastern provinces. Red RINGSinter-lapped everywhere, representing potential artillery kill zones. He pointed out exact spots the enemy had made deadly mistakes – places the Afghan Army in turn saw great success. When district centers have come under fire, the Afghan “lanyard pullers” (as artillerymen are known) have really let them have it.

“The 201st has assets laid out well, but their real success is in maneuvering support through difficult terrain,” Kelly said, pointing out places like Laghman and Kunar provinces. “They’re calling audibles all over the place and it’s working. Down here in Nangarhar, there are a handful of young Afghan lieutenants calling in artillery, controlling airstrikes – it’s amazing stuff.”

Kelly explained that the Afghan soldiers are well beyond the basics. They’ve mastered the details, and now working on big-picture projects. Better coordination with intelligence, working with adjacent and supporting units. The proof, he said, is in the results.

“He’s all about new ideas. As I said, he’s been fighting the Taliban his whole life. He despises the enemies of Afghanistan – not only the Taliban, but things like corruption. He told you he wants an Afghanistan better than the one he grew up in; he’s not kidding,” Kelly said.

The colonel said the 201st’s success is based on training, but it’s apparent that the relationships he referred to are at work every day – pushing them to succeed. When Ahmed Jan saw Kelly for the first time today, his eyes lit up. The two are friends and it shows. They embrace, they ask after each other’s families, and only then they get on to the soldier stuff. In spite of just coming out of a particularly long meeting, Ahmad Jan has plenty time for Kelly.

The relationship is so close, they’re to the point where they can tell if something is slightly off. Kelly talked about the recent loss of a couple of Ahmed Jan’s men, how he instinctively stepped back for a bit. They shared their pain from a distance. As much as advising is about teaching, it’s also about sharing, learning and growing together. A great DEAL of introspection, according to Kelly.

Full report at:

http://www.khaama.com/close-relationships-lead-to-accurate-artillery-in-eastern-afghanistan-02474

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Mideast

 

Islamophobia and terror at the heart of 'Islambol'

Dec 15, 2016

The terror attack that struck Istanbul a few days ago is a tragedy that could have taken place in any part of the world. According to the experts, Turkish police worked diligently on averting such attacks and many times, as reflected in the media, they did, but this time it came knocking on our door at the heart of a robust international city. The agony over the deaths of our innocent police officers and civilians - for now, 44 - continues to loom over Turkey.

Given the state of Muslim communities around the world, there are many reasons inadvertently pushing us to become more aware of the dangers we are facing under prejudice, discrimination and hate crimes. Even though it has always existed throughout world history, Islamophobia has become more ingrained in our current global reality.

Taking a closer look out our region today, the recent terror attack on Istanbul, in addition to the countless attacks over the past year, begs the question of how terrorism has become the instrument for Islamophobic attacks targeting Turkey and its surrounding region.

In Turkey's case the terror attacks are not coincidental but are planned according to developments aimed at strengthening the core mechanism of a nation-state: the presidential system. Within the span of a few days Turkey made a huge milestone by taking concrete steps to finally realize the presidential system. Two important parties, namely the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), took strides to solidify this historic change. This marks a critical period in Turkey's history because the presidential system is a precursor for advancing the nation-state project in the 21st century. This is not the first time Turkey witnesses this attempt. Former presidents Turgut Özal and Süleyman Demirel talked about the exigency to undertake a transition to a presidential system, but never really caught the momentum to make it possible. Today, this dream is no longer impossible, but is actually feasible. And we can only imagine it was coincidental that merely a few hours into the Parliament taking this critical issue on its agenda, bombs went off.

Turkey, which has been a competitive market over the past decade, is rapidly emerging as an effective and prominent country that aims to exert its leadership based on "its own terms." Here, Turkey is playing a "challenger" role to change the rules of the game. Instead of watching the world succumb to ample injustice occurring around the region, Turkish leadership is putting out an "advocacy voice," one that stands against all kinds of terror.

So what exactly is the connection between Islamophobia and terror?

Historically speaking, this hatred trend took off with the repercussions of 9/11 terror attack that left many Muslims around the globe under threat and trepidation. If we look at Islamophobia's symptoms we can conclude that it is something that predates the modern terrorism period. It is a far deeper issue than we can imagine and once considered in its historical context, Islamophobia's manifestation is rooted in something much greater, the enlightenment era.

While the positive aspects of enlightenment are taught throughout the West, our education systems tend to overlook the schism this new era brought to an exemplar country like post-Ottoman Turkey. The French concept of "laicity" the early Republic adopted as part of its strict separation of the church and state resulted in major backlash throughout decades.

The AK Party coming into power eased this tension by offering a new relationship between the church and state concept. In this endeavor, the Turkish society came to identify and logically accept cooperation between state and religion by arguing there is no contradiction similar to the Anglo-Saxon understanding of secularism. This allows religion and state to be congruent.

The limit to how much state and religion can or should interact with one another is debatable. However, at this current stage in Turkish politics, a disparaging factor has led to religion and state to act in closer proximity with one another and yet for the better.

As we continue to see the rise of Islamophobia, Muslim-majority societies will find their defense mechanism within their belief system as seen in Turkey's case. Meanwhile, Western governments will continue to resort to wishy-washy statements to condemn terrorism but not fully take the decisive position to denounce the PKK as a terrorist organization or in an identical case show resistance to identifying the FETÖ, as a terrorist group. After all, we are certain that the West was never keenly behind Turkey's war against terror. The West chose to differentiate among terror organizations and this will certainly come to haunt many of us in the future as past lessons have taught us.

This Islamophobic tendency prevalent in Western democracies is not just limited to the process of distinguishing between terror organizations. Counterterrorism is also ascribed for a double standard. The Turkish State of Emergency, unlike that of France, has been under tough scrutiny. Needless to say the duplicity continues to be a deep-seated issue stoking the spread of Islamophobia.

The terror attacks from the PKK, Daesh, FETÖ, the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) and many more create a unique case study to understand Turkey's struggle against terrorism. No matter how Westernized Turkey may be, its democratic ethos is deeply embroiled in the historical struggle of becoming its true self. In this aim, terrorism has always been the major impediment to this Turkish dream. In this respect, the July 15 terror attack against the nation came to be known as the second independence struggle because it was the nation's call to rejuvenate itself for the second step in the nation-state project, the fight for democracy and freedoms and the presidential system that will sustain stability and safeguard individual rights. In this context, the more disparate factions, namely the PKK, FETÖ, Daesh or others attempt to weaken Turkey, in the long run, it will only mobilize the nation into an arduous counterattack to defeat terror by not only the means of religious unification and performance, but also a strong and stable state system.

The July 15 and Dec. 10 martyrs are important reminders for all of us. Religion is ubiquitous and it is here to stay. Islamophobia and the terror attacks from unfair political criticism to pressures from Western governments will only strengthen and create a more outward, unified Islamic character of Turkey.

If Turkey's endeavor to become the beacon of the Muslim world does succeed albeit with difficulty in assured steps, no doubt, we will see a more proactive Turkey in the Middle East region. This will only be the beginning of a new change, a new kind of enlightenment in the chapter of global politics.

http://www.dailysabah.com/feature/2016/12/15/islamophobia-and-terror-at-the-heart-of-islambol

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Yemeni forces pound Saudi positions with artillery shells

Dec 15, 2016

The Yemeni army and allied fighters from the Popular Committees have attacked two military bases inside Saudi Arabia, killing at least one Saudi soldier and injuring scores of others.

One of the artillery attacks was launched against Saudi positions in Makhrooq in Najran in which one soldier was killed and three military VEHICLES were destroyed, Yemen’s al-Masirah TV network reported Thursday.

According to the report, scores of Saudi troops were seen fleeing their positions when they came under the Yemeni attack.

Yemeni fighters further targeted yet another Saudi military base in Najran with artillery shells, blowing up a huge depot of armaments.

The attacks were conducted in retaliation for persisting Saudi airstrikes against the war-ravaged Yemen.

The development came two days after Saudi warplanes pounded the Yemeni province of Sana’a for several hours in an unprecedented wave of airstrikes against the country over the past months.

The fighter bombers carried out as many as 25 back-to-back airstrikes against various districts of the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, according to local media reports.

More than 11,400 Yemenis, including WOMEN and children, have been killed in the course of the Saudi military aggression against neighboring Yemen since March 2015.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2016/12/15/497957/Yemen-Saudi-Arabia-artillery-shells-Najran-Province-Makhrooq

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Houthi militias carry out heavy shelling on Taez

15 December 2016

Houthi militias and forces loyal to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh heavily shelled residential neighborhoods in Taez on Wednesday night, Al-Arabiya’s correspondent has reported. There have also been violent clashes between the national army and rebels in the areas surrounding air defense military camp in north of Taez.

Meanwhile, 11 headless bodies were found in the southern city of Aden where extremist groups are still active, a security source said on Wednesday, adding that residents found the bodies on Tuesday evening.

Read also: Saudi Arabia urges UN Security Council to condemn Houthi terror

The police did not specify who the suspects are but it said the bodies were dumped in al-Hiswa natural reserve, west of Aden, more than a month ago. A security official told AFP that the bodies were decomposed and slaughtered.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2016/12/15/Houthi-militias-carry-out-heavy-shelling-on-Taez.html

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Iran hosts Taliban leaders at a conference in Tehran

14 December 2016

In an unprecedented move, Tehran is publicly hosting leaders of hardline Taliban movement in the ‘Islamic Unity’ conference.

Tehran had previously denied any direct contact with the movement.

According to the Iranian Mehr news agency, Iranian cleric Mohsen Araki, who is the Secretary-General of the World Forum for Proximity of Islamic Schools of Thought, said at a press conference on Tuesday that Tehran has invited moderate figures such as Taliban to attend the two-day International Islamic Unity Conference in Tehran.

Araki said that “the invitation was sent to some Islamic and political figures in the Taliban movement who believe in the unity of Muslims,” stressing that “Iran has always held contacts with some parties in the Taliban movement, who believe in the Islamic unity.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2016/12/14/Iran-hosts-Taliban-leaders-at-a-conference-in-Tehran.html

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Police discover 11 bodies in Yemen’s Aden

14 December 2016

Police in Yemen's second city Aden said on Wednesday that the bodies of 11 people with their throats cut had been found dumped in a nature reserve.

Aden is the headquarters of Yemen's Saudi-backed government but its forces have struggled to secure the city against repeated attacks by militants of both al-Qaeda and the ISIS group.

The bodies were found on Tuesday in the al-Hiswa nature reserve on the city's western outskirts and are believed to have been killed more than a month ago, a security official said.

"The bodies were already decomposing and their throats had been cut," the official said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2016/12/14/Police-discover-11-bodies-in-Yemen-s-Aden.html

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Palestinian hunger strikers nearing death: Rights groups

Dec 15, 2016

A Palestinian rights group has warned against the imminent death of two hunger-striking prisoners, who have been refusing food for nearly three months in protest at their detention by Israel.

Anas Ibrahim Shadid, 20, and Ahmad Abu Farah, 29, face imminent death in the wake of severe deterioration of their health condition, the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs warned on Wednesday.

According to Rafiq Masalha, a doctor with the rights group, Shadid has dangerously lost more than 15 kilograms of his weight, suffers from weakness throughout his muscles and extremities, and cannot sit or stand.

The inmate could also have sustained damage to his brain cells, vision nerves, kidney, liver, and heart, Masalha added.

Abu Farah is suffering from difficulty in speaking, severe eye weakness. He also feels pain in his arm and leg muscles, has lost a large amount of fat, and has been suffering from an allergy that has affected his stomach and chest.

On Monday, the hunger strikers started refusing water in reaction to the Israeli Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss their release appeal.

The prisoners’ lawyer Ahlam Hadad said the court “did not take seriously” the medical reports that showed Abu Farah’s and Shadid’s critical health condition.

She said Shadid has almost entirely lost his sight and ability to speak, while Abu Farah has completely lost sight in his right eye and suffers from severe headache and chest pains.

Shadid and Abu Farah were arrested on August 1, and are being held in solitary confinement at Israel’s high-security Megiddo prison ever since.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2016/12/15/497960/Palestine-hunger-strikers-death-Palestinian-Committee-of-Prisoners-Affairs-Anas-Ibrahim-Shadid-Ahmad-Abu-Farah

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Southeast Asia

 

In Indonesia West Lombok Tradition Celebrates Tolerance among Muslims, Hindus

December 15, 2016

Hundreds of people from different religions flocked to Lingsar village in Lingsar district, West Lombok regency, on Tuesday afternoon to participate in perang topat, also known as perang (war) ketupat (rice cakes boiled in plaited coconut leaves).

The participants, consisting of people of all ages, scrambled to snatch ketupat as it was being distributed, and later threw the items to one another.

This ancient tradition involving the Muslim and Hindu people has been a symbol of religious harmony and tolerance in West Lombok.

"War used to be about hatred and anger and it involved casualties. But perang topat in Lingsar is our ancestors' tradition that highlights peace, tolerance and harmony between Muslims and the Hindu people. This is what we should learn; that our ancestors have taught us the values of unity in diversity, how we can be different but still live in peace with one another," said West Lombok Regent Fauzan Khalid during the opening of Perang Topat Festival 2016 in Lingsar Temple complex in West Lombok, around 9 kilometers east of Mataram, the capital of West Nusa Tenggara.

Residents of Lingsar village take part in perang topat on Dec. 13 in Lingsar Temple complex, West Lombok. (JP/Panca Nugraha)

The temple itself was built in 1759 during the era of King Anak Agung Gede Ngurah, a descendant of King Karangasem Bali who once conquered parts of Lombok Island in the 17th century. The complex is quite unique as it holds two very different huge buildings, namely Gaduh Temple, which is used as a place of worship for Hindus, and Kemaliq building, which is considered sacred by some Muslim Sasak people as it is still used until today for traditional ritual ceremonies.

Sasak humanist Suparman Taufik said the procession of perang topat was a form of gratitude to God for the blessings they received throughout the year. This is said to be related to the existence of the Langser water springs situated right beside Lingsar Temple complex.

For centuries, the Lingsar people believed that the water springs came into existence after Raden Mas Sumilir, a Muslim missionary in Lombok during the 15th century, thrust his cane to the ground. Until today, the Langser (now known as Lingsar) water springs are able to water the farming grounds for not only the Lingsar community but also for some parts of Central Lombok. It allows Lingsar farmers to plant and harvest paddies thrice a year.

Perang topat has always been conducted on the 15th day of the 7th month in the Sasak Lombok calendar, also known as puranam sasih kepitu (the seventh full moon), or the 15th day of the 6th month in the Hindu Bali calendar, also known as puranam sasi kenem (the sixth full moon). This year, it falls on a full moon night on Dec. 13.

"Perang topat started during Rarak Kembang Waru, or the falling of waru flower, which was around 5 p.m. Later during the night, Hindu people will celebrate odalan, or the birthday of Lingsar Temple, by conducting Pujawali ceremony. While Muslims conducted napak tilas (commemoration) of Raden Mas Sumilir, a Muslim missionary from Demak, Central Java who spread Islam in Lombok," said Suparman.

West Lombok Regent Fauzan Khalid during the opening of perang topat festival in Lingsar Temple complex in West Lombok on Dec. 13. (JP/Panca Nugraha)

People began arriving at Lingsar Temple complex since Tuesday afternoon. Both the Gaduh Temple and Kemaliq prepared offerings in the form of fruits and crops and, of course, ketupat. The latter was prepared by locals who hailed from various hamlets in Lingsar village, which include Hindus and Muslims.

These offerings were later paraded circling the Kemaliq building accompanied with traditional music. While the parade was ongoing, hundreds of local residents and visitors waited in the Kemaliq yard for the topat to be distributed and thrown. They believe that the ketupat left after the "war" will bring good luck for their upcoming harvest.

"This has happened since a long time ago; if you get topat, you will have good luck. Farmers can expect to have a good harvest; merchants can expect to have a good sale," said Suharyani, 45, a Lingsar resident who joined the event.

This year, in addition to local people, many domestic and foreign tourists also participated to see first-hand the popular tradition.

"This is the only war in the world that is done without hatred or casualties as it is a symbol of brotherhood and tolerance," said Fauzan.

He added that West Lombok, home to multi-ethnic residents, is a convenient destination for tourists. "This is the culture richness of West Lombok; the colors of culture." (kes)

http://www.thejakartapost.com/life/2016/12/15/west-lombok-tradition-celebrates-tolerance-among-muslims-hindus.html

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Chinese Muslim website blocked after Xi Jinping letter

Dec 15, 2016

One of China's most popular online communities for Muslims has been shut down after posting a petition asking Chinese President Xi Jinping to stop his "brutal suppression" of activists.

The students who wrote the petition told AFP news agency on Wednesday they demanded in the open letter the immediate release of the activists still held by the state.

Will China lift its ban on Facebook?

"You are not responsible for all of the crimes of the totalitarian system, but as the totalitarian system's head and its commander-in-chief of repression, you must take responsibility for the blood and tears which now flow," the letter said to the president, who came to power in 2012.

China imposes restrictions on Muslim Uighurs

"In the next spring of China's new Jasmine Revolution, who will drive your tanks to crush us, the new generation of students after 1989?"

Yi Sulaiman Gu, a Muslim student studying in the United States at the University of Georgia, said the Zhongmu Wang website - or 2muslim.com - shut the day after he posted the letter to a forum that had previously hosted sensitive discussions on issues such as China's persecution of Muslim dissidents.

"We believed it would be safe for Zhongmu to post it there," Gu said.

Phone calls to the website's owner went unanswered.

But the letter gained attention when screenshots of it were reposted to China's Twitter-like Weibo website by Xi Wuyi, a professor of Marxism at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, who said it proved the site supported separatists in China's restive Xinjiang province.

Violence in Xinjiang - the homeland of China's 10-million strong ethnic Uighur minority - has killed hundreds, with Beijing attributing it to "Islamic extremism" and foreign influence.

"The Chinese government is very unfriendly to the Muslims inside China, especially the Muslims in Xinjiang," said Anthony Chang, a co-author of the letter completing who his bachelor's degree at the University of Queensland in Australia.

Since 2003, 2muslim.com functioned as an "online network of Muslims sharing Islam", according to archived descriptions.

Full report at:

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/12/chinese-muslim-website-blocked-xi-jinping-letter-161214134354018.html

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Prospective female suicide bombers took orders from Indonesian Islamic State militant

14 Dec 2016

A female would-be suicide bomber arrested last week one day before her planned attack in Indonesia's capital said she took ORDERS from Bahrun Naim, an Indonesian with the Islamic State group in Syria accused of orchestrating several attacks in the past year. Dian Yulia Novi and her husband Nur Solihin were among four suspected militants arrested Saturday after police detected their plot to bomb a guard-changing ceremony at the presidential palace.

A neighbourhood on the outskirts of Jakarta was evacuated after a bomb was found. Police suspect the four were part of a militant network responsible for a bomb-making lab in West Java province that was operating under the direction of Naim. Novi, a former migrant worker in Singapore and Taiwan, said in a TVOne interview broadcast Wednesday that she learned about jihad on social media such as FACEBOOK.

She said she was influenced by articles from an Islamic website on upholding monotheism and defending the caliphate and Aman Abdurrahman, a radical cleric serving a nine-year prison sentence in Indonesia. The active involvement of a woman in the plot is a new development for violent radicalism in socially conservative Indonesia, where WOMEN married to or associated with militants have typically stayed in the background.

The 3-kilogram bomb that Novi was to detonate would have exploded as crowds of people gathered to WATCH the presidential guard changing ceremony, a popular family attraction in Jakarta. In the interview, she revealed a chilling disregard for her fellow Indonesians. "The target is not ordinary people, not hawkers, not babies. The target is the enforcers of man-made laws," Novi said.

Full report at:

http://www.dnaindia.com/world/report-indonesia-female-would-be-suicide-bomber-took-orders-from-says-indonesian-is-militant-2282840

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Malaysia says it is not being 'un-Asean-like' by protesting human rights violations in Rakhine

Dec 15, 2016

KUALA LUMPER - Malaysia on Thursday (Dec 15) dismissed claims that it is being "un-Asean-like" by speaking out on human rights violations in Myanmar's Rakhine state, saying the issue is no longer a domestic affair but one of regional concern.

"Malaysia is concerned that if the crisis in northern Rakhine State is not addressed urgently by the Myanmar Government, it will impact the security and stability of the region, including Malaysia. The exodus of more refugees to neighbouring countries, including Malaysia, would witness a repeat of the 2015 boat people crisis,'' Malaysia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

"In fact, during the 2015 boat people crisis, Malaysia played an INSTRUMENTAL role by swiftly convening a tripartite meeting with Indonesia and Thailand which was held at Wisma Putra and led by Malaysia's Minister of Foreign Affairs, YB Dato' Sri Anifah Haji Aman, in May 2015 to discuss and resolve the issue.

"The outcome of the meeting saw Malaysia and Indonesia agree to provide humanitarian assistance and temporary shelter to the 7000 boat people stranded along the three countries' maritime borders while awaiting resettlement or repatriation. Malaysia's leading role in this instance led to a resolution of the crisis and SAVED innocent lives,'' said the ministry.

This is why "Malaysia VIEWS the current situation in Rakhine State as no longer an internal affair but one of regional consequence," it added.

The ministry issued the statement in response to an article in Free Malaysia Today on Monday titled "Myanmar's Snub to Malaysia's Megaphone Diplomacy", which said Malaysia lost much diplomatic clout and regional respect after its leaders, including Prime Minister Najib Razak, participated in a rally on Dec 4 protesting the persecution of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

At the closing session of the recent Umno assembly, Mr Najib had slammed Myanmar's treatment of its Muslim Rohingya minority, saying there was no way Malaysia could keep quiet when there were people being burnt alive and WOMEN being raped. He insisted that Malaysia was not meddling in Myanmar's internal affairs but "defending humanitarian and universal values".

Full report at:

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/malaysia-says-it-is-not-being-un-asean-like-by-protesting-human-rights-violations-in

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From radical to terrorist: The man behind five terror plots in Indonesia

DECEMBER 15, 2016

Bahrun Naim is a rising Indonesian militant who has plotted several terrorist attacks against the police and other targets in Indonesia since 2015.

He has been responsible for orchestrating at least four terrorist plots in Indonesia: The August 2015 failed bombings in Central Java, the December 2015 failed bombing plot in Jakarta, the July 2016 suicide bombing in Solo, and the failed plot to attack Singapore’s Marina Bay in mid-2016.

This past week, Indonesian police said he was behind a plot in which suicide bombers had planned to attack the Presidential Palace over the weekend. Naim, who is in Syria, hopes his various terrorist plots will earn him respect from the Indonesian jihadi community and recognition from the leadership of the so-called Islamic State (IS).

Muhammad Bahrun Naim Anggih Tamtomo, alias Bahrun Naim, was born in Pekalongan in Central Java in 1983. He spent most of his life in Solo, where he studied informatics engineering at the Surakarta State University.

Following his graduation, he worked as a COMPUTERtechnician at an Internet cafe and sold flags decorated with Islamic symbols for a living. Naim has two wives, Rafiqa Hanum from West Sumatra and Sri Lestari, a former member of Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) and an ex-student of the Surakarta Muhammadiyah University. Both are now in Syria with him, along with their two children.

FROM RADICALISM TO TERRORISM

Naim was introduced to radical teachings when he attended religious gatherings at mosques in Solo when he was in high school. At university, he joined HTI, a radical group that seeks to establish an Islamic caliphate in Indonesia.

The similarity in the pan-Islamist ideology of HTI and the IS contributed to Naim’s attraction to IS. This is also the case with other IS-linked Indonesian supporters with a HTI background. Naim has discussed his perspectives on the shortcomings of HTI and reasons for joining IS with HTI critics over Telegram chat application groups such as the Kopi Hitam (black COFFEE) and New Kopi Hitam.

One of Naim’s close friends from the radical community was Purnama Putra, alias Usman, a former classmate who was an important figure in Komite Penanggulangan Krisis (Kompak/Committee for Crisis Management), a group that was involved in actively despatching jihadists to fight against Christians in Ambon and Poso between the years of 1999 and 2007. He helped Noordin Top — the mastermind of major bombings in Indonesia from 2000 to 2009 and one of the leaders of the regional terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) — procure a detonating cord and two personal weapons before the Australian Embassy bombing in 2004.

In 2005, Usman asked Naim to store ammunitions for him. Naim also joined the radical group Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT) when it was established by former JI spiritual leader Abu Bakar Bashir in 2008. In 2010, the police hunted down the group members involved in JAT’s illegal military training in Aceh, and arrested Naim after he was found storing caches of ammunitions.

Consequently, in June 2011, he was sentenced to two-and-a-half years of imprisonment. After his release in 2013, Naim worked as a freelance journalist while continuing his membership with JAT.

When the Syrian civil war broke out, he considered going there to wage armed jihad. He did so in 2014, shortly after Abu Bakar, the JAT leader, pledged his allegiance to IS in July that year.

PLANNING ATTACKS IN INDONESIA

In Syria, Naim tried to gain the attention of IS’ top leadership by planning terrorist attacks in Indonesia. In June 2015, he planned bombing attacks against a police precinct, a Christian church and a Confucian temple located in Solo in Central Java. To implement his plans, he set up his first IS cell with the help of his childhood friend Ibadurrahman alias Ibad.

Through Ibad, he recruited several members of a radical group, Tim Hisbah, to carry out his bombing plots (Tim Hisbah had actively targeted places considered to be un-Islamic, including local night clubs, massage parlours and brothels).

The cell made preparations for coordinated multi-target bomb attacks on Aug 17, 2015, to coincide with Indonesia’s Independence Day. The attacks were intended to warn the “enemies of Islam”, particularly the police (for arresting Tim Hisbah members and IS supporters), and the Christians (for allegedly oppressing Muslims in Ambon and Poso).

However, before the plotters could execute the attacks, they were arrested in mid-August 2015.

Those who escaped the police dragnet fled to Bekasi in West Java, where they joined another cell created by Naim in September 2015.

The prominent members of the Bekasi cell included Naim’s high school friend Arif Hidayatullah, and Faris Abdullah Cuma alias Ali, an Uighur.

The cell, which included two bomb-makers and a suicide bomber, planned to attack senior officers of the Indonesian National Police, Jakarta police and the Depok mobile brigade headquarters, the Indonesian National Police chief’s residence, the governor of Jakarta (Basuki Tjahaja Purnama alias Ahok), a Shia shrine and the Jewish community in Bogor, West Java.

Full report at:

http://www.todayonline.com/commentary/radical-terrorist-man-behind-five-terror-plots-indonesia

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Europe

 

France 'worst in the world' at guessing Muslim population

14 December 2016

The French are one of the worst nations in the world for overestimating the Muslim population, according to new research.

French people are the most likely to hold misconceptions about the current and predicted Muslim population in their country, according to a study by Ipsos Mori published on Wednesday.

French people reckoned that 31 percent of the population was Muslim, when the real figure according to Pew research in 2010 was 7.5 percent.

Among the 40 countries polled, respondents in South Africa, the Philippines, and Italy also wildly overestimated the Muslim population.

Graph 1: What percentage of this country do you think is Muslim?

French respondents also predicted that 40 percent of the population will be Muslim by 2020, but the same researchers predict the current number will rise to 8.3 percent (see graph below).

French sociologist and expert on Islam, Professor Raphaël Liogier, said the study made for concerning reading.

"I think it’s really worrying because we are in an intellectually and economically rich country but we are so scared," he told The Local.

We try to find scapegoats to our problems instead of trying to solve them. In fact, we are playing Isis's game by thinking we are in a war."

Author of the book 'War of Civilisations Will Not Take Place', Liogier said that the solution was "to tell people the truth".

"We need to have responsible politicians who tell people what the real situation is and not feed their fear. For the last four years, we have fed the fear and prejudices of the people," he said.

"When the media talk about Muslims – the veil, burkini, halal food, things which have nothing to do with terrorism – that’s treated as a threat to our identity. People used to say that Muslims are not adapting to our culture and values, but now they’re saying Muslims intend to take over – to steal our jobs, our lives, our identity."

Wednesday's study wasn't pretty reading for Britain either, where respondents put the Muslim population at 15 percent - three times higher than reality.

Bobby Duffy, Managing Director of Ipsos Public Affairs, said it was a widespread trend that people "over-estimated what they worried about".

"We are often more incorrect on factors that are widely discussed in the media, such as the proportion of our population that are Muslims and wealth inequality,"  he said in a statement.

The survey also asked people about their country’s views on issues like homosexuality and abortion, and how much they thought the government spends on healthcare every year.

Ipsos said that nearly all countries overestimate their Muslim population, and many are "extraordinarily wrong".

http://www.thelocal.fr/20161214/france-worst-in-the-world-at-guessing-muslim-population

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ISIS jihadis were 'moving in migrant flows, hiding in plain sight': British Air Chief

December 15, 2016

The head of the Armed Forces yesterday warned Islamic State jihadis were 'moving in migrant flows, hiding in plain sight'.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, chief of the defence staff, said foreign militants were being moved from their shrinking stronghold in Iraq and Syria.

And he warned copycat terrorists are now 'popping up all over the world' as propaganda spreads through social media.

In his first major speech since taking up the role in July, Sir Stuart said Britain also faced an 'era of competition' with other states – and that Russia was not playing by the rules.

He continued: 'I would argue that all this combines to [be] a threat and a risk to our way of life and an element of a sense of uncertainty and, indeed, I would use the word danger.'

Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute, he said: 'We face a potential network of combat experienced terrorists.'

He added that the UK was playing a 'full part' in the campaign against IS, which is also known as Daesh. But he said: 'I worry about the global reach of Daesh as an idea, using the internet ... using social media.

'They are losing territory rapidly, foreign fighters are being killed and displaced but they are moving in migrant flows, hiding in plain sight.'

Terrorists are able to destroy their passports and change their identities using forged documents to travel to other countries, he warned, adding: 'How we manage identity in a world where people are deliberately trying to destroy their identity documents and move in migrant flows – it is a very important subject.'

Sir Stuart also warned Britain should be 'really worried' that the international consensus-based approach to peace and security, which emerged after the Second World War, was now challenged by states such as Russia.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/15-Dec-2016/isis-jihadis-were-moving-in-migrant-flows-hiding-in-plain-sight-british-air-chief

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ISIS recruiter's wife lost lawsuit against police over alleged brutality

December 15, 2016

The wife of an Islamic State recruiter who refused to remove her burqa in court has lost a brutality complaint against counter terrorism police and is facing a legal bill of up to $100,000.

Moutia Elzahed had accused police of assaulting her during early morning counter-terrorism raids at her southwest Sydney home in September 2014.

Ms Elzahed, whose husband Hamdi Alqudsi is a convicted Islamic State recruiter, had refused to take off her burqa to give evidence over the six-day hearing.

District Judge Audrey Balla threw out all six brutality claims on Thursday morning.

Ms Elzahed, who was the lead plaintiff, said police tried to pull the blankets off her when they raided the Revesby home she shared with Alqudsi and two teenage sons at 4.30 in the morning.

She alleged she was punched in the ear, eye and head, called a 'b****', handcuffed in an aggressive manner, screamed at and humiliated.

Judge Balla ruled in favour of police in part because Ms Elzahed would not directly give evidence because she refused to take off her veil.

There were no other witnesses, except for police.

'Ms Elzahed is a religious Muslim and she refused to give evidence in open court with her face uncovered. She also refused to give evidence from a remote room with her face uncovered (so that she could choose not to see who was watching her give evidence) with the court room closed so that only lawyers involved in the proceedings would be in the court room,' Judge Balla said in her judgement.

'I refused to permit her to give evidence with her face covered. Accordingly there is no direct evidence from Ms Elzahed.'

Alqudsi and her son son Hamza George, 17, gave evidence as to what Ms Elzahed had told them, but Judge Balla ruled their accounts were 'hearsay'.

Alqudsi gave evidence his wife's face was red the morning of the raid. But on cross-examination, he agreed she had been wearing a niqab and only her eyes were visible at the time.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/15-Dec-2016/isis-recruiter-s-wife-lost-lawsuit-against-police-over-alleged-brutality

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As Aleppo falls, Russia and Iran see Mideast influence surge at US expense

DECEMBER 14, 2016

ISTANBUL — The bombardment of rebel-held east Aleppo by Russian forces, the Syrian army, and Iran-led militias has been unprecedented in its intensity, even by the standards of Syria’s brutal six-year civil war.

The blitz has also been effective at removing rebels – some of them backed by the US, others Islamic jihadists ­– from their most significant urban stronghold in Syria.

President Bashar al-Assad is celebrating his most significant battlefield victory so far, even though Iran-Russia squabbling interrupted what was supposed to be a final cease-fire, and images showed block after block of pulverized neighborhoods – punctuated by terrified citizens' please on social media SAVE Aleppo."

Recommended: How well do you understand the conflict in Syria? Take our quiz.

“Liberating Aleppo doesn’t end with liberating the city itself, it needs to be secured on the outside,” Mr. Assad told Russian television Wednesday. The next target, he said, “depends on which city contains the largest number of terrorists."

But the strategic reverberations of Aleppo’s fall reach far beyond Syria’s second city, analysts say, and signify a retooling of power dynamics in the Middle East.

It is here that Russia and Iran invested military power and orchestrated an outcome they desired, preserving the Assad regime and preventing a takeover by Islamists and, they say, even greater chaos. At the same time, they defeated the half-hearted effort pursued by Washington and its allies Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar to remove Assad by backing rebel groups.

For Iran, that means expanding the influence of its “axis of resistance” against the US, Israel, and their allies. For Russia, it marks a critical step toward restoring past influence, even as American power projection and willingness to engage in the Middle East declines.

“This is what really matters to Iran and Russia, that the political, geo-strategic project of the anti-Assad and anti-Iranian position has failed, and it has been buried in the Aleppo rubble,” says Fawaz Gerges, a Middle East expert at the London School of Economics and author of “ISIS: A History.”

“Syria really could be a signpost for the emergence of a new international system,” says Mr. Gerges. President Obama made a decision “not to involve, not to entangle, not to invest major political and military capital” in the Middle East.

“It’s not the lack of capability, it’s the lack of will,” says Gerges, noting frequent administration statements about ending US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and no desire to start new ones. “In contrast, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin has made a strategic investment, and so far the returns are excellent.”

Gerges and other analysts caution, however, that even after seizing all of Aleppo, Assad still controls only one-third of the country. Russia and Iran therefore see the war in Syria as continuing, and are likely to press for a political solution to the conflict.

The human cost continues to grow, with the fight for Aleppo and its years of regime barrel bombing in the city contributing heavily to the war’s death toll of some 470,000. Among reports of atrocities on both sides, the United Nations said Tuesday that 82 civilians had been killed by pro-Assad troops. Heavy shelling of the city resumed Wednesday with the collapse of a Russia-announced DEAL for the departure of rebel fighters.

'Unipolar world failed'

As Aleppo rebels are defeated in an asymmetric fight, and UN and Western leaders prove unable to protect civilians from what they expect to be retribution by the regime, comparisons abound to the Russian pounding of the Chechen capital, Grozny, in the 1990s, and the Serbs’ slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men in Srebrenica, Bosnia, in 1995.

Iran has supported Assad from the start with advisers – losing numerous high-ranking officers along the way – and mobilized the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah. It has also marshalled thousands of Shiite militiamen from Iraq, Afghanistan, and even Pakistan to fight in Syria.

Russia dramatically stepped up its intervention in September last year, its first projection of hard power beyond former Soviet borders in decades, reportedly at Iran’s request. Soon after, Mr. Obama said “it just won’t work,” and predicted that Moscow would get stuck in a “quagmire.”

President Putin, however, has pointed to Western failures in Syria, and last week told the NTV channel that “the world balance is gradually being restored. The attempts to create a unipolar world failed."

There was a triumphant tone in Tehran, as well. “Resistance paid off; the horns of America and House of Saud broken,” ran one headline in the hard-line Kayhan newspaper.

“The liberation of Aleppo is the defeat of all political, military and arrogant powers in one spot of the Muslim world, where the flag of resistance has been hoisted,” declared Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, the deputy commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Guerrilla fight to continue

Few predict that the departure of rebel forces from Aleppo means the end of the Syrian war, which will continue as a guerrilla fight on many other fronts. And analysts say there are limiting factors to the current ascending influence of Iran and Russia.

The BRIEF cease-fire that fell apart Wednesday did so amid wrangling between Russia and Iran about how and whether rebel fighters – all of them considered “terrorists” by pro-Assad forces – and tens of thousands of trapped civilians could be evacuated from the remaining sliver of ground they control.

An Assad “victory” in Aleppo has also been dented by Islamic State (IS) fighters’ recent recapture of Palmyra, the ancient city held and damaged by IS earlier in the war, that was reclaimed by Assad forces with great fanfare last spring.

“There was big hope that this victory in Aleppo would shatter the morale of the Syrian opposition, and it would begin to crack, and there would be serious defections,” says Pavel Felgenhauer, a defense columnist for Novaya Gazeta in Moscow.

“For Aleppo they gathered everything they could. Hezbollah brought in two fresh brigades.… The Russians organized a Grozny-type very heavy barrage,” says Mr. Felgenhauer. “So that worked. But at the same time, the Syrian second-rate infantry was overrun in Palmyra, caches of weapons were seized, [which] intervened in the morale-crushing effect of Aleppo.”

Russia’s expanded role in Syria is yielding some benefits. Moscow is being courted by Persian Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia, and is rebuilding ties with Turkey and Egypt – all of them traditional US allies. Palestinian leaders have also requested Putin’s help in convincing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resume peace talks – a role long played by Washington.

Rising costs, and risks

Yet as Russia steps up its intervention in Syria, the quagmire scenario grows, along with the risks.

“A guy from the Kremlin asked me in May, ‘Why are we not taking Aleppo?’ I said, ‘We can, but it will be a bloodbath. You have to make a serious political decision,’” recalls Felgenhauer. “And as the extent of that bloodbath sinks into the Sunni Muslim world, there can also be repercussions.”

Another limit may be the cost for Russia, which one general recently said has shipped 700,000 tons of military EQUIPMENT and weaponry to Syria via the Bosporus waterway in Turkey.

“The problem is how long Russia can maintain such a policy, when it runs out of resources,” adds Felgenhauer. “That’s a lot [of materiel]. And that is a serious burden on the Russian navy and the Russian budget.… There is also the problem of Russian morale here.”

The LSE’s Gerges says Russia’s experience in other conflicts is behind its push for a political settlement.

“The Syrian army is thinly spread and dispersed in many areas. Assad can never impose his centralized control on all of Syria anymore,” he argues. “In fact, what we see today as a significant military gain for Assad, could easily mutate in two to three years into Afghanistan of the 1990s.

Full report at:

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2016/1214/As-Aleppo-falls-Russia-and-Iran-see-Mideast-influence-surge-at-US-expense

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Italians overestimate country's Muslim population by 500 percent

14 December 2016

Italians overestimate both the size of the country's Muslim population and the rate at which it is growing, according to new research.

When asked what proportion of the country's population was Muslim, the average guess was 20 percent or one in five - a figure wide of the mark.

In reality, Muslims actually make up just 3.7 percent of the population in Italy. That's a 16.3 percentage point difference, the fourth highest of the 40 countries included in the research.

France, South Africa and the Philippines were the only countries with a higher 'perception gap', but almost all countries overestimated their Muslim population, the survey found.

The figures come from IPSOS MORI Perils of Perception 2016, which also asked respondents what they thought the Muslim proportion of the population would be in 2020.

Again, Italians drastically overestimated the numbers, predicting that almost a third of the country (31 percent) would be Muslim within four years, whereas the 'actual' figure - based on data from the Pew Research Centre - is projected at 4.9 percent.

In this instance, Italy had the third highest gap between the responses and reality, behind only France and South Africa.

Bobby Duffy, Managing Director of Ipsos Public Affairs, said it was a widespread trend that people "overestimated what they worried about".

"We are often more incorrect on factors that are widely discussed in the media, such as the proportion of our population that are Muslims and wealth inequality," he said in a statement.

Islam is the only major religion that does not have official status in Italy, despite the country being home to an estimated one million Muslims.

In January of this year, the government announced that a SPECIAL council, made up of academics and experts in Islamic culture and religion, would be set up to ensure better integration of the Muslim community.

The closure of several unofficial mosques has been met with peaceful protest, with a large group of Muslims attending Friday prayers near Rome's Colosseum to protest about the lack of places of worship.

Overall, Italians performed better than most other countries in Ipsos' Index of Ignorance, which ranked countries in terms of how far from reality their responses were. In compiling this index, only the questions based on reality (and not projections) were taken into account.

Italians placed 33rd out of 40 in the Index of Ignorance, meaning only seven countries provided more accurate responses. The Netherlands were the most accurate in their estimates.

Full report at:

http://www.thelocal.it/20161214/italians-overestimate-countrys-muslim-population

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Muslim population of Britain greatly over-estimated as fewer than one in 20 actually practice religion

14 DEC 2016

Britons greatly over-estimate the proportion of Muslims living in the country and think the number is growing at a rate far greater than it really is, a new study claims.

The Perils of Perception survey, released by Ipsos MORI today, aims to highlight how wrong people are about key global and national issues and is carried out in 40 different countries.

For Great Britain, the results found respondents believed one in six civilians is Muslim when the real proportion is less than one in 20.

The poll also showed that members of the public think 22% of the UK population will be Muslim by 2020, when researchers have put the figure at closer to 6%.

However, survey subjects fared better when estimating the current total population and how much it is likely to grow by 2050.

In international observations, 61% of respondents polled before the US presidential election result thought Hillary Clinton would win and only 16% believed Donald Trump would claim victory.

Full report at:

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/muslim-population-britain-greatly-over-9459576

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Russia blocks United Nations tribute to Ban Ki-moon for promoting LGBT rights

14 December 2016

Russia has prevented the United Nations security council from THANKINGoutgoing secretary general Ban Ki-moon specifically for promoting gay rights during his decade in office, diplomats said.

The 15-member council met to pay tribute to Ban, who will step down later this month. Being gay is a crime in at least 73 countries, the UN has said, and the issue of gay rights consistently sparks heated debate at the United Nations.

The United States and other members had wanted a council statement to read: “It is thanks to you, Mr Secretary-General, that WOMEN, young people, and the LGBT community have been heard and assisted, and today their voices sound louder and stronger in this headquarters and around the world.”

However, Russia objected, diplomats said. The 15-member council instead agreed to a statement that said because of Ban’s human rights promotion “the most vulnerable or marginalised have been increasingly heard and assisted by the United Nations”.

Ban has long advocated for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality but faced opposition from African, Arab and Muslim states as well as Russia and China.

In 2014, Ban said the UN would recognize all same-sex marriages of its staff, allowing them to receive its benefits. Russia, with the support of 43 states including Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, India, Egypt, Pakistan, and Syria, unsuccessfully tried to overturn the move last year.

Full report at:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/14/russia-blocks-tribute-ban-ki-moon-lgbt-rights

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Africa

 

South Sudan 'on brink of an all-out ethnic civil war,' UN warns

Dec 14, 2016

The United Nations says South Sudan may plunge into a widespread ethnic conflict that could affect the stability of the whole region.

Yasmin Sooka, the head of a team of UN human rights investigators, made the remarks during a BRIEFING to the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday.

South Sudan is "on the brink of an all-out ethnic civil war, which could destabilize the entire region," Sooka said.

She said a recent visit by the UN team of investigators found indications that "a steady process of ethnic cleansing is already underway in some parts of the country."

The UN official added that thousands of WOMEN had been raped during the conflict across the country. She described South Sudan as a country where children as young as two years of age had been raped.

Elsewhere in the briefing, Sooka said the conflict had also badly damaged the country's economy. South Sudan had the world's highest inflation rate, at more than 800 percent in October.

Yasmin Sooka, the head of a team of UN human rights investigators

The UN official warned that fighting was expected to "begin in earnest" now that the dry season has arrived in South Sudan.

Zeid Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights, has urged the human rights council to call on South Sudan's leaders to refrain from incitement to ethnic hatred and violence.

He said "there may still be some space for consequential action to pull the country back from a worst-case scenario."

Zeid also stated that when local leaders intervened recently to halt hate speeches, threats of violence decreased.

In an address to parliament on Wednesday, South Sudan's President Salva Kiir urged an end to expressions of ethnic hatred. "I am calling upon all of you to forgive one another." He also called for national dialogue.

The South Sudanese president again called for a ceasefire. He, however, did not OFFER much detail on how a truce would work with multiple opposition groups across the country.

South Sudan gained independence in July 2011, but descended into war in December 2013, after President Kiir accused the former vice president, Riek Machar, of plotting a coup.

Numerous international attempts to reach a truce between the warring sides have failed.

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2016/12/14/497865/UN-South-Sudan-Yasmin-Sooka-Zeid-Raad-alHussein-President-Kiir

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How America's First Somali Muslim Lawmaker Responded To An Islamophobic Attack

Dec 15, 2016

Hillary Clinton's loss was devastating for those who were excited to finally elect a female president, but not all was bleak in this election. A record number of women of color were elected to Congress, inching Capitol Hill that much closer towards proper representation of a diverse, multicultural American constituency.

But even elected officials aren't exempt from widespread anti-Muslim sentiment pervading the country. Ilhan Omar, America's first Somali Muslim lawmaker, became the unwitting target of a hateful verbal attack while riding in a cab in Washington, D.C. last week.

Omar, who became America's first-ever Somali politician when she won the election for a seat in Minnesota's House in November, was visiting the White House to learn about policy ideas. On her way back to the hotel, she was subjected "to the most hateful, derogatory, Islamophobic, sexist taunts and threats I have ever experienced," Omar wrote in a Facebook post detailing the incident.

"The cab driver called me ISIS and threatened to remove my hijab, I wasn't really sure how this encounter would end as I attempted to rush out of his cab and retrieve my belongs," she wrote. "I am still shaken by this incident and can't wrap my head around how bold [people] are becoming in displaying their hate towards Muslims."

Her post sparked an avalanche of comments, some supportive, some hateful. Many urged her to file a complaint or a police report; some suggested finding the cab driver and publicly shaming him.

Days later, Omar issued a statement on her website addressing the incident, as well as the public response to it. Omar said that she did not file a police report because she didn't believe that "criminalizing hate" is a solution. Instead, she urged the public to recognize that what happened to her was not an isolated incident.

"Women and Muslims share these experiences every day. ... As a society, it is easy to condemn small acts of hate, but we have trouble accepting that discrimination is thriving and a regular part of the American experience," she wrote. "Unless, what happened to me — and its subsequent publicity — can spur conversation to action, my experience will be just another on a long list 'incidental' prejudice in America. Ensuring others do not experience, or continue to experience, incidents like these, will not be easy."

Full report at:

http://aplus.com/a/ilhan-omar-islamophobic-attack-dc-response?no_monetization=true

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Nigeria: tensions persist after Zaria mass killings

14.12.2016

Muhammad Abdulhamid is standing in front of the ruins of what was once his primary school in a residential district in the northern Nigerian university city of Zaria. Only the remains of a child's swing and a few colored stones testify that a school once stood here. The building was demolished by bulldozers sent in by the Kaduna state authorities in late November. Four weeks later, 23-year-old Muhammad still can't believe what has happened. "We are angry at the way the state is behaving," he said. "A school is a place of learning. How could one destroy a place where knowledge is being handed down to our GENERATION?" He finds it particular frustrating that the state authorities themselves devote so few resources to education.

Muhammad Abdulhamid believes the destruction of the school is yet another attempt by the state to destroy the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN). This minority Shiite Muslim group made headlines when 347 of its members were killed from December 12 to 14, 2015. The death toll of 347 was established by a subsequent judicial inquiry. The fighting began when supporters of IMN leader Ibrahim Zakzaky refused to allow the army chief of staff's convoy to pass through the city.

 Map of Nigeria showing the location of Zaria

Amnesty International accuses the Nigeria military of shooting dead some 350 Muslims in Zaria in December 2015

In a report on the incident released in April this year, rights group Amnesty International accused Nigeria's military of shooting dead some 350 Shiite Muslims, burying them in mass graves and destroying evidence of the crime. 

The military has claimed that IMN wanted to kill Nigerian army chief, Lieutenant-General  Tukur Yusuf Burati. Abdulhamid Bello, a senior IMN member, says this  accusation is outrageous. "Everybody knows that there is no proof that we have resorted to the use of armed force since our group was founded 40 years ago," he said.

Banning IMN

The Kaduna State government disagrees and banned the IMN as an illegal group in October 2016. Kaduna State governor Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai gives his full backing to the move. "The fact that the IMN has a military wing which conducts military training, and the fact that they possess weapons, was a warning sign. We had to nip the group in the bud before it turned into a monster," he said.

But critics of the state authorities say it is incomprehensible why the house belonging to the mother of IMN leader Ibraheem Zakzaky and the cemetery had to be destroyed. No streets in the vicinity were blocked. Zakzaky himself has been in prison for a year.  

 Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai voting in Nigeria's April 2015 elections while photographers look on

Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai (right), governor of Kaduna State, casting his ballot during Nigeria's elections in April 2015

  Such questions have been preoccupying Pastor Yohanna Buru who is endeavoring to PROMOTEharmonious relations between Muslims and Christians in Kaduna. He believe the state authorities are guilty of overreacting in their handling of the Shiite Muslim  minority. "Just because somebody blocks a street, you can't denounce them immediately as insurgents," he said. Buru believes that allegations the group pursues a particular ideology need to be backed up evidence.

Full report at:

http://www.dw.com/en/nigeria-tensions-persist-after-zaria-mass-killings/a-36762231

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Suicide car bomb explodes at checkpoint in Mogadishu

Dec 15, 2016

A suicide car bomb exploded on Thursday at a checkpoint near Somalia's national theater in the capital Mogadishu, killing the bomber, police said.

There was no immediate word on whether anybody else was killed or injured in the blast, which witnesses said had been followed by gunfire. The national theater stands about 500 meters (yards) away from the presidential palace.

"The bomber blew up the car after police ordered him to stop at gun point. We are investigating," Abdikadir Hussein, a police officer, told Reuters.

The explosion also destroyed the front wall of a nearby restaurant, he added.

Full report at:

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-somalia-blast-idUSKBN1440ML?il=0

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Four Al Shabaab militants killed in Garissa

Dec 15, 2016

Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers killed four Al Shabaab militants in Hulugho, Garissa County following a gun battle.

Spokesman Col Paul Njuguna said the soldiers engaged the militants in a gunfight at Mchanga Nyekundu area at around 10 am.

According to Njuguna, the KDF soldiers who were on their normal patrol confronted the militants and challenged the suspects but they fired back to the soldiers leading to exchange of fire.

Four of the militants were killed during the confrontation and several others managed to escape with serious INJURIES as the soldiers seized several weapons from the militants.

Njuguna confirmed that the soldiers seized nine AK-47 rifles, 15 magazines and three grenades from the engagement.

Full report at:

http://www.hivisasa.com/garissa/crime/185301

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Suicide attack in Mogadishu injures at least 5

15 December 2016

At least five people have been wounded Thursday in a suicide CAR bomb attack targeting a Mogadishu restaurant regularly frequented by journalists, according to authorities and eyewitnesses.

The attack, targeting an area located near the Somali presidential palace, occurred on the same day that newly elected Somali MPs were expected to be sworn in.

The attacker was first ORDERED to stop by police but he refused and sped towards the nearby restaurant, according to the regional spokesman Abdifatah Halane.

Abdikamil Mo'alim Shukri, the spokesman for Somalia's internal security minister, confirmed to reporters that the explosion was the result of a suicide car bomb, according to the Somali national news agency.

Mohammed Hussein Dacad, an eyewitness and local radio journalist, confirmed that he saw five wounded, including a soldier and two journalists.

"I was near the restaurant. I heard a huge explosion. I went there and I saw five people, including two of my friends wounded. The wounded were rushed to hospital," Dacad said.

Burhan Dini Farah, deputy directer of Radio Kulmiye, confirmed that two of their journalists were injured in the attack.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/africa/181772/suicide-attack-in-mogadishu-injures-at-least-5

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North America

 

Anti-Muslim Hate Group Brags About Influence In Trump's White House'

15/12/2016

An anti-Muslim hate group boasted Tuesday that it has a “direct line” to Donald Trump and “has played a fundamental role” in shaping the president-elect’s “views and suggested policies with respect to radical Islam.”

In a fundraising email, ACT for America founder Brigitte Gabriel said her organization is “immeasurably optimistic about the future” of a Trump presidency, and crowed about the ACT for America supporters and advisers getting top positions in Trump’s White House.

“Two of our board of advisors Dr. Walid Phares and General Michael Flynn were, and will continue to be President-elect Donald Trump’s National Security Advisors,” Gabriel wrote in the email, a copy of which was provided to The Huffington Post by Right Wing Watch’s Miranda Blue.

Trump last month named Flynn ― who has likened Islam to a “cancer,” once tweeted that “fear of Muslims is RATIONAL,” and holds the unsubstantiated belief that Shariah law is taking over the country ―  as national security adviser, one of the most powerful positions in the White House.

Phares, who in the 1980s had ties to a largely Christian Lebanese militia group implicated in the massacre of Muslims, has said “jihadists within the West pose as civil rights advocates” and will recruit until “almost all mosques, educational centers, and socioeconomic institutions fall into their hands.” He has worked as the Trump campaign’s adviser on the Middle East, and is expected to land a foreign policy or national security post in the incoming administration.

“In addition to this, the next [Central Intelligence Agency] Director Rep. Mike Pompeo has been a steadfast ally of ours since the day he was elected to Congress,” Gabriel’s email said Tuesday.

Pompeo, tapped by Trump this month to head up the CIA, sponsored a legislative briefing on Capitol Hill for ACT for America in September. He has also spoken at multiple ACT for America conferences, and, according to Gabriel, accepted the group’s National Security Eagle Award for 2016.

“I think it’s really outrageous that the nation’s most virulent anti-Muslim hate group is bragging about its ties to the incoming Trump administration,” Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told HuffPost. “And they’re not lying. There are ties.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center lists ACT for America ― which has started touting itself as the “NRA of National Security” ― as a hate group. It is arguably the largest and indeed one of the most extreme anti-Muslim hate groups in America, claiming some 400,000 members in over 1,000 chapters across the country.

It often promotes the conspiracy theory of “creeping Sharia,” the idea that there’s a coordinated effort among Muslim Americans to subvert the U.S. Constitution and institute Islamic law. It played an integral role in introducing paranoid and superfluous anti-Shariah bills in 31 state legislatures. At least eight states signed those bills into law.

In 2013, the organization partnered with disgraced ex-FBI agent John Guandolo to develop the Thin Blue Line project, which provides a “Radicalization Map Locator” to law enforcement officials, listing the addresses of nearly every Muslim Student Association in the country as well as many mosques and Islamic institutions.

In ACT for America’s view, all such organizations represent a national security threat. Guandolo even once told a crowd that the only purpose of MSAs is to “recruit jihadis.”

Gabriel, ACT for America’s founder, has said that a “practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Quran, cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America.” She has also said, “Every practicing Muslim is a radical Muslim.”

In October, Gabriel said voting for Trump would help ensure the “survival of Western civilization.” Tuesday’s ACT for America email shows that Gabriel and her organization are emboldened by Trump’s election victory.

“But now is not the time for complacency, it is a time to capitalize, and go for the jugular!” Gabriel wrote.

“We have a four-year window of opportunity and an especially critical first 100 days from the start of the Trump Administration,” she added.

The email goes on to list ACT for America’s alarming policy agenda over the next four years.

The group, for example, wants to eliminate the country’s refugee resettlement program in its entirety. It wants to classify the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group, likely as a means for shutting down important American Muslim advocacy groups and prosecuting those groups’ members.

ACT for America, Gabriel wrote, should also “write and push a resolution that forbids Muslim Brotherhood front groups such as CAIR from addressing state elected bodies.” And she wants ACT for America to “re-write FBI training manuals on counter terrorism.”

Rabiah Ahmed, a spokeswoman for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, told HuffPost that she was “not surprised by what’s being claimed or touted in this email.”

“In fact, it only confirms the organization’s troubling connections to the incoming Trump administration and their disturbing agenda,” she said. “If there was anyone who had any doubt, this email should put that question to rest.”

The Trump administration did not reply to a request for comment Wednesday. 

The Huffington Post is documenting the rising wave of anti-Muslim bigotry and violence in America. Take a stand against hate.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Ibrahim Hooper’s position at the Council on American-Islamic Relations. He is the national communications director, not the executive director.

http://www.huffingtonpost.in/entry/act-for-america-trump-influence_us_58508f98e4b092f086861e1c

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Trump's fight against ISIS has to include Russia and China, says former Asian leader

Seema Mody  

When it comes to fighting ISIS, Donald Trump may need to keep his friends close and his frenemies even closer.

President-elect Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric and aggressive language around the Middle East resonated with Americans during the election and is seen by pollsters as one factor that contributed to his victory.

Trump also got cheers when he said he would "get tough" with Pakistan, a country that has given birth to many terrorists and has been criticized for being less than wholeheartedly supportive when it comes to finding extremists within its borders — Pakistan is, after all, the country U.S. special forces infiltrated in the dead of night to kill Osama bin Laden.

But former prime minister of Pakistan Shaukat Aziz, who led the Muslim-majority country from 2004 to 2007, told CNBC this week that "we all have to work together" if terror cult ISIS is going to be defeated.

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"It is not the problem for one country. Countries have to learn to work together," said Aziz. "ISIS has to be handled regionally and locally. ISIS is a threat to the world, and everyone has to contribute."

Militant Islamist fighters parade on military vehicles along the streets of northern Raqqa province, June 30, 2014.

Reuters

Militant Islamist fighters parade on military vehicles along the streets of northern Raqqa province, June 30, 2014.

For the United States, that includes working closely with Russia and China, said Aziz, whose country, analysts point out, is trying to cultivate closer ties with both.

"It does appear that Pakistan is heading toward an alignment with China and Russia both economically and militarily. This does pose challenges for the United States to the effect that it has lost considerable leverage with Pakistan," said Bharath Gopalaswamy, director of the South Asia Center at Washington-based think tank the Atlantic Council.

Aziz also said the United Nations should play a more active role in combating terrorism. "The U.N. has been missing in action. They need to be brought in to the forefront as the blue helmet and as an enabler of peace."

Since being elected president, Trump has shifted his tone on Pakistan — he took a call from current Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and called Sharif a "terrific guy." However, Pakistan watchers still see relations with the U.S. strained over the next four years.

"Despite effusive praise for Pakistan and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during their initial call, Trump's suspicion of immigration from terrorism-prone Muslim countries, public admiration for India, harsh rhetoric toward China (Pakistan's 'all-weather' friend) and hawkish political appointments suggest that U.S. relations with Pakistan will suffer over the next four years," said Sasha Riser-Kositsky, South Asia analyst at research and consulting firm Eurasia Group.

Shaukat Aziz, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, delivers a speech during the fifth World Peace Forum at Beijing's Tsinghua University on July 17, 2016 in Beijing, China.

Qi Tian | VCG | Getty Images

Shaukat Aziz, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, delivers a speech during the fifth World Peace Forum at Beijing's Tsinghua University on July 17, 2016 in Beijing, China.

The Pew Research Center estimates that there were about 3.3 million Muslims of all ages living in the United States in 2015. Muslim-Americans are not taking Trump's rhetoric lightly, and some point out that the president-elect could be hurting the U.S. image among the moderate Muslim majority globally.

Full report at:

http://www.cnbc.com/2016/12/14/fighting-isis-aziz-of-pakistan-to-trump-work-with-russia-and-china.html

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White House: claims of US inaction in Syria 'offensive'

14 December 2016

The White House on Wednesday criticized claims that the U.S. is standing idly by as the Syrian city of Aleppo falls to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces. 

"It's offensive to suggest that somehow the United States government and the world is not doing anything," spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters during a terse back and forth with a reporter at the daily BRIEFING.

"No one has put forward an alternative suggestion for what we should now be doing," he added. "Even our harshest critics cannot articulate some sort of alternative for what is happening right now."

Assad's forces have captured nearly all of eastern Aleppo during a lightning offensive that saw successive rebel defeats in parts of the city they controlled since the early days of the armed uprising in 2012. But a recently brokered DEAL to evacuate the remaining rebels from the area has faltered amid disagreements.

The UN has cautioned that Assad's and allied forces have likely carried out war crimes in the ongoing campaign, and Earnest strongly rebuked their "depraved tactics".

"They do cross just about every line that I can think of. And frankly, they cross lines I hadn't previously thought of," he said.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/america-canada/181746/white-house-claims-of-us-inaction-in-syria-offensive

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