New Age Islam
Sat Aug 15 2020, 06:45 AM

Islamic World News ( 28 Feb 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

ISIS Using Viral Image of Muslim Man Being Beaten By Hindus in Delhi Violence: NYT Journalist







• Muslims in Delhi Have Held Friday Prayers under the Watch of Riot Police after A Week in Which 42 People Were Killed

• Thousands of Muslim Protesters Call On Bangladesh to Cancel Modi Visit

• Bangladesh Islamic Parties Protest Violence against Muslims in Delhi

• Indonesia Has Condemned Attacks against Muslims in India, Calling Them “Inhuman” And “Contrary To Religious Values”

• 43rd UNHRC session: 'Pakistani Army Epicenter of International Terrorism' poster displayed at Broken Chair in Geneva

• Saudi Arabia Temporarily Bars GCC Citizens from Mecca, Medina Over Coronavirus

• Iran death toll from coronavirus reaches 210: BBC Persian

• US Offered To Help Iran with Responding To Coronavirus: Pompeo

• Macron’s Controversial Plan Sparks Criticism from Muslims

• Islamic Extremists Kill Nigerian Pastor, Attack His Hometown

 

India

• ISIS Using Viral Image of Muslim Man Being Beaten By Hindus in Delhi Violence: NYT Journalist

• Muslims in Delhi Have Held Friday Prayers under the Watch of Riot Police after A Week in Which 42 People Were Killed

• Delhi Riots: How a Sikh Hero Transported Dozens Of Muslim Neighbours To Safety

• Delhi riots: How Hindus saved lone Muslim family from rioters

• Muslim residents of the riot-ravaged parts of Delhi hide markers of their cultural identity in fear

• Rajinikanth to Meet Muslim Clerics to Discuss CAA Amid Backlash Over His Support for Law

• NCP Minister Announces 5% Quota for Muslims in Education, Sena Says No Final Decision Yet

• India foreign secretary visits Afghanistan ahead of US-Taliban deal

• India, France vow to deny safe havens, sources of financing to terrorists

• NIA arrests Pak-based terror group JeM's operative involved in Pulwama attack: Official

• BJP MP thinks India will become Islamic nation due to pseudo-secularism, shares video calling it 'realistic'

• At UN, India slams Pakistan’s bid to derail positive developments in J&K

• Youth who helped, sheltered Pulwama bomber arrested: NIA

• Lawyers for Kashmiri students held for sedition file bail plea under police cover

• Pulwama terror attack: NIA arrests Jaish operative who facilitated suicide blast

• Indian police arrest over 500 for Delhi sectarian violence

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South Asia

• Thousands of Muslim Protesters Call On Bangladesh to Cancel Modi Visit

• Bangladesh Islamic Parties Protest Violence against Muslims in Delhi

• US, Taliban Set to Sign Deal In Doha Today

• NATO: The road to Afghan peace will be long and hard

• 92 military K9 dogs leave Afghanistan, will get new homes in the U.S

• More Than 2,200 Rohingya Caught Trying to Leave Myanmar by Sea Since 2015: Detainee List

• Afghans dare to dream of peace

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Southeast Asia

• Indonesia Has Condemned Attacks against Muslims in India, Calling Them “Inhuman” And “Contrary To Religious Values”

• Muslim Youth Movement Of Malaysia Condemns Violence Against India Muslims

• Muslim World League chief lays foundation stone for Islamic museum in Jakarta

• Malaysian game of thrones continues as king struggles to pick prime minister

• Indonesia’s health minister asks Muslim clerics to pray against coronavirus

• Analyst tells why a PH government, minus PPBM, may not last

• Pope Francis may lead Mass in Jakarta during September visit to Indonesia

• Nearly 1,700 Indonesian pilgrims stranded in transit countries by 'umrah' ban

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Pakistan

• 43rd UNHRC session: 'Pakistani Army Epicenter of International Terrorism' poster displayed at Broken Chair in Geneva

• Christian youth tortured to death for ‘polluting’ tube-well water

• Pakistan says US invited to invest in CPEC

• Pakistan’s ‘absconder’ dilemma

• Ban on new constructions lifted in Gwadar after four years

• Pakistan expresses sorrow over Turkish troops’ killing in Syria

• 20 killed, several others injured as passenger train collides with bus in Sukkur

• LHC seeks list of prisoners released from Saudi jails

• Nawaz’s exemption from personal appearance in court extended

• US and Taliban set to sign deal to end Afghanistan war

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Arab World

• Saudi Arabia Temporarily Bars GCC Citizens from Mecca, Medina Over Coronavirus

• Organization of Islamic Cooperation to adopt Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam

• No military solution to the Syrian conflict: Guterres

• Death toll of Turkish soldiers killed in Syria in February alone reaches 53

• 16 Syrian troops, militiamen killed in Turkish retaliation: Monitor

• Syria: Turkey using observation posts to back terrorists

• In western Iraq, PMU launches new anti-terror operation

• Syrian state media: Turkish-backed militants hit hard in Idlib

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Mideast

• Iran death toll from coronavirus reaches 210: BBC Persian

• Coronavirus death toll in Iran rises to 34, 388 people infected: Health Ministry

• Clinic in Iran set on fire, believed to be coronavirus quarantine

• Iran may set up field hospitals in Qom as facilities hit max capacity

• Turkey’s Erdogan weaponizing refugees by opening borders with EU: Analysis

• Coronavirus death toll in Iran ‘much higher’ than what govt says: MP

• Four Iranian MPs test positive for coronavirus

• Iran urges speedy de-escalation of chaotic situation in Syria's Idlib

• EU denounces Israel’s plan of building thousands of settler units in E1 West Bank corridor

• Israeli forces injure dozens of Palestinians in West Bank

• Israeli helicopters fire missiles at Syrian army positions, three soldiers injured

• Yemenis should not be punished for Houthi wrongdoings, say officials

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North America

• US Offered To Help Iran with Responding To Coronavirus: Pompeo

• Trump: Afghanistan, Taliban To Take Big Steps To Peace

• Brazil Will Declare Hezbollah A Terrorist Group ‘Soon’: Federal Deputy

• Trump Urges Afghans to Embrace ‘Opportunity For Peace And A New Future’

• US watching ‘closely’ to see if Iran tries to undermine peace in Afghanistan

• US's Pompeo slams 'despicable' attack on Turkish forces

• US senator says Turkey 'doing the right thing' in Idlib

• Turkey stops major crisis spilling into EU: US expert

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Europe

• Macron’s Controversial Plan Sparks Criticism from Muslims

• EU fears all-out war over Syria conflict

• Greece blocks migrants at border after Turkey says it will let refugees into Europe

• New Zealand confirms first case of deadly coronavirus in traveler from Iran

• Prague ex-imam gets 10 years for supporting terrorism

• NATO convenes extraordinary meeting on Syria

• Turkey stops major crisis spilling into EU: US expert

• NATO chief condemns attacks by Syrian regime, Russia in Idlib

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Africa

• Islamic Extremists Kill Nigerian Pastor, Attack His Hometown

• UN agency says 35 migrants rescued off Libyan coast

• Somalia warns Kenya to stay out of its internal affairs

• Coordinated airstrikes killed two al-Shabaab terrorists in Somalia

• Kenya: Police Seek Civilian Help against Al-Shabaab

• Clashes break out in Somalia, slowing fight against al Qaeda-linked insurgents

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/isis-using-viral-image-of-muslim-man-being-beaten-by-hindus-in-delhi-violence--nyt-journalist/d/121190

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ISIS Using Viral Image of Muslim Man Being Beaten By Hindus in Delhi Violence: NYT Journalist

By FPJ Web Desk

February 28, 2020

An image of a Muslim man being beaten up by a mob during the violence in Northeast Delhi went viral all over social media. The picture was clicked by a photographer from Reuters. "People supporting the new citizenship law beat a Muslim man during a clash with those opposing the law in New Delhi," said the caption.

Now, the terrorist organisation ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) have turned this picture into a poster and are circulating it, asking the Muslim community to unite and join the terrorist organisation's cause.

Rukmini Callimachi, New York Times Correspondent covering ISIS and violent extremism tweeted the image. She wrote, "Unsurprisingly, the viral image of a Muslim man being beaten by a Hindu mob in Delhi has now been repurposed by ISIS, in a poster justifying retaliatory violence in “Wilayat al-Hind,” the Caliphate’s “Indian Province.”

Rukmini Callimachi

@rcallimachi

Unsurprisingly, the viral image of a Muslim man being beaten by a Hindu mob in Delhi has now been repurposed by ISIS, in a poster justifying retaliatory violence in “Wilayat al-Hind,” the Caliphate’s “Indian Province.”

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11:28 AM - Feb 28, 2020

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Twitter users weren't surprised as this wasn't the first time that the ISIS have tried to provoke the Muslim community. "Indian Muslims have always been a bulwark against ISIS/ Al Qaeda’s radicalisation efforts precisely because of the very syncretic culture that communal violence seeks to demolish through hate and polarization. Hasn’t worked before, must not work ever," wrote journalist Maya Mirchandani.

Writer Rahul Pandita said, "Not surprised. We have brought this on ourselves with total failure of law and order. Also important to remember: the mastermind of Amroha module of ISIS, Mufti Mohammed Suhail, came from Jaffrabad in Northeast Delhi."

Here are some of the Twitter reactions:

Rahul Pandita

@rahulpandita

Not surprised. We have brought this on ourselves with total failure of law and order. Also important to remember: the mastermind of Amroha module of ISIS, Mufti Mohammed Suhail, came from Jaffrabad in Northeast Delhi. https://twitter.com/rcallimachi/status/1233270325653200897 …

Rukmini Callimachi

@rcallimachi

Unsurprisingly, the viral image of a Muslim man being beaten by a Hindu mob in Delhi has now been repurposed by ISIS, in a poster justifying retaliatory violence in “Wilayat al-Hind,” the Caliphate’s “Indian Province.”

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Maya Mirchandani

@maya206

Indian Muslims have always been a bulwark against ISIS/ Al Qaeda’s radicalisation efforts  precisely because of the very syncretic culture that communal violence seeks to demolish through hate and polarization. Hasn’t worked before, must not work ever. https://twitter.com/rcallimachi/status/1233270325653200897 …

Rukmini Callimachi

@rcallimachi

Unsurprisingly, the viral image of a Muslim man being beaten by a Hindu mob in Delhi has now been repurposed by ISIS, in a poster justifying retaliatory violence in “Wilayat al-Hind,” the Caliphate’s “Indian Province.”

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Aditya Raj Kaul

@AdityaRajKaul

#ISIS using images of Delhi riots for its dark web propaganda to justify violence. Not surprised at all. Backbone of #ISIS has been attacked in India but the radicalization and provocation or even recruitment hasn't ended. Especially down South. https://twitter.com/rcallimachi/status/1233270325653200897 …

Rukmini Callimachi

@rcallimachi

Unsurprisingly, the viral image of a Muslim man being beaten by a Hindu mob in Delhi has now been repurposed by ISIS, in a poster justifying retaliatory violence in “Wilayat al-Hind,” the Caliphate’s “Indian Province.”

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

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Suhasini Haidar

@suhasinih

ISIS, Al Qaeda and Pakistan backed groups have failed to make a dent before. Tragic that they keep trying and that our partisan policing governance and justice even gives them the idea they might. https://twitter.com/rcallimachi/status/1233270325653200897 …

Rukmini Callimachi

@rcallimachi

Unsurprisingly, the viral image of a Muslim man being beaten by a Hindu mob in Delhi has now been repurposed by ISIS, in a poster justifying retaliatory violence in “Wilayat al-Hind,” the Caliphate’s “Indian Province.”

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

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11:57 AM - Feb 28, 2020

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Nistula Hebbar

@nistula

Despite attempts to radicalise Indian Muslims, terror was always from across the border. Sad that #DelhiRiots have led to this. Indians must resist attempts to tear the social fabric more than it has been already. That’s the only way forward. https://twitter.com/rcallimachi/status/1233270325653200897 …

Rukmini Callimachi

@rcallimachi

Unsurprisingly, the viral image of a Muslim man being beaten by a Hindu mob in Delhi has now been repurposed by ISIS, in a poster justifying retaliatory violence in “Wilayat al-Hind,” the Caliphate’s “Indian Province.”

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

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12:17 PM - Feb 28, 2020

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On Friday, the Delhi High Court sought a response of the Narendra Modi-led Central government and the Aam Aadmi Party government on a PIL seeking NIA probe under the unlawful activities law into the violence in northeast Delhi over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).

The death toll in the Delhi's violence has gone up to 42 now with four more fatalities being recorded at the city's GTB Hospital on Friday, officials said.

More than 250 people have been injured in the communal clashes. The areas mainly affected include Jafrabad, Maujpur, Chand Bagh, Khureji Khas and Bhajanpura.

https://www.freepressjournal.in/india/isis-using-viral-image-of-muslim-man-being-beaten-by-hindus-in-delhi-violence-nyt-journalist

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Muslims in Delhi Have Held Friday Prayers under the Watch of Riot Police after A Week in Which 42 People Were Killed

28 Feb 2020

Muslims in Delhi have held Friday prayers under the watch of riot police after a week in which 42 people were killed and hundreds injured during the city’s worst sectarian violence in decades.

Scores of mosques in the north-east of the Indian capital held their first sermons since mobs armed with swords, guns and acid razed parts of the district on Monday.

Paramilitary police patrolled the streets, still littered with broken shards of glass, stones and other debris.

“If they burn our mosques, we will rebuild them again and pray,” said Mohammad Sulaiman, who was among about 180 men who prayed on the rooftop of a mosque that was set on fire in the unrest. “It’s our religious right and nobody can stop us from practicing our religion.”

Five days after the riots started, hospitals were still trying to identify the dead as the toll continued to rise. Residents of the areas affected by the riots are still looking for missing relatives.

Tensions between Hindu hardliners and Muslims protesting against the Hindu-first policies of Narendra Modi’s government had been building for months when the violence exploded on Sunday night, on the eve of Donald Trump’s first state visit to India.

Police said they had detained more than 600 people over the unrest and were keeping a heavy presence in north-east Delhi.

Dozens of volunteers stood outside the main mosque in the neighbourhood of Mustafabad, where some of the week’s worst violence took place, urging devotees to disperse immediately after prayers. “These are testing times. We have to be patient,” said the presiding imam after calling on his congregation to stay calm.

Many in the neighbourhood were frightened after police barred Muslim worshippers from what was left of one of several mosques set ablaze by Hindu rioters on Monday.

Nearby, a group of residents in the Hindu-dominated Shiv Vihar area blocked the lane leading to one of the local mosques with the burnt-out frames of motorcycles, which they said were set alight by Muslims. “No one will be allowed to enter until the rioters are caught,” they shouted at a crowd of Muslims seeking entry.

“We don’t want violence,” said Saleem Mirza, as police told the Muslims to disperse to avoid any fresh trouble. “We want to live in peace, work for our children and live a normal life. We prayed for peace for everyone today.”

India’s new citizenship law has triggered months of demonstrations between anti-government demonstrators and police. At least 30 people died in protest violence last year, mainly in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

Many of the country’s 200 million-strong Muslim minority fear the law – and a mooted citizens’ register – will leave them stateless.

Modi has sought to allay the fears but in recent weeks politicians from the prime minister’s rightwing party have called the demonstrators “anti-nationals” and “traitors”.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/28/delhis-muslims-pray-under-armed-guard-after-week-of-riots

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Thousands of Muslim Protesters Call On Bangladesh to Cancel Modi Visit

Feb. 28, 2020

DHAKA, Bangladesh - Several thousand Muslims marched from the main mosque in Bangladesh’s capital on Friday to denounce India’s government for allegedly inflaming tensions between Hindus and Muslims, leading to clashes that left at least 40 dead and hundreds injured.

After Friday prayers, thousands of Muslims left the Baitul Mokarram Mosque in Dhaka and joined the rally, chanting slogans against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

They threw shows at posters of Modi and burned a portrait of him. Many of the protesters carried banners saying, “Stop killing Muslims” and “Save Indian Muslims.”

The protesters also demanded that Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina cancel a plan to invite Modi to a commemoration next month of the 100th anniversary of the birth of independence leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Rahman, Hasina’s father, led a political movement that created the separate nation of Bangladesh after a nine-month war with what is now Pakistan in 1971.

“I ask the prime minister to immediately cancel Narendra Modi’s invitation," Nur Hossain Kasemi of the influential Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam told the protesters. "If she fails to do so, the people of the country will be forced to take action and surround the airport. They will build resistance.”

But he asked Bangladeshi Muslims not to harm Hindus.

“I remind the Muslims of our country that we believe in harmony. We don’t believe in violence. We shall not harm any non-Muslims in this country,” he said.

https://www.thestar.com/news/world/asia/2020/02/28/thousands-of-bangladeshi-muslims-protest-india-violence.html

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Bangladesh Islamic Parties Protest Violence Against Muslims In Delhi

February 28th, 2020

The protesters said if government fails to cancel an invitation to Modi, they will demonstrate again by donning a shroud

Several Islamic parties held demonstrations throughout the country on Friday protesting the continued violence against Muslims in India's capital Delhi.

The death toll from Delhi’s worst riots in decades rose to 42 till on Friday, as a political row broke out over the transfer of a judge who had criticised the police and the government’s handling of the crisis.

In Dhaka, a number of Islamic-minded parties brought out a procession to protest the invitation to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s birth centenary celebrations, scheduled to begin mid-March.

The procession went from Baitul Mukarram National Mosque to the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Naya Paltan office after Jummah prayers.

The processionists warned that if the government failed to withdraw the invitation, they would stage protests by clothing themselves in shrouds at the airport when Modi arrived in Dhaka.

The next program schedule for the protest would be announced after a meeting, said Nur Hossain Kasemi, vice-president of Hefajat-e-Islam.

Maulana Mamunul Haque, another Islamic party leader, said if Modi attended the birth centenary of Bangabandhu in March, it would be a dishonour to the Father of the Nation.

Criticising the statement of Awami League General Secretary and Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader that the troubles in Delhi were an internal matter of India, Islami Oikya Jote leader Moulana Abdul Karim demanded his resignation.

“BJP goons burnt and killed Muslim children and women inside their houses and a mosque after closing the doors. It has become too difficult for Muslims to stay in Delhi,” he said.

Terming Dhaka a city of mosques, he said: “If Modi arrives in Dhaka, it will be turned into a dirty place.”

Khelafat Andolon's Dhaka city Ameer Mawlana Mujibur Rahman Hamidi said Muslims would sacrifice their lives if required, in addition to showing black flags to Modi.

The protesters demanded that the Indian government stop the killing of Muslims. Otherwise, they warned, Muslims in Bangladesh would rise in protest against India.

They also burnt an effigy of Modi protesting the violence against Muslims committed by his government.

In Khulna, a rally convened by the district Imam Parishad, was held at Dak Bangla Mor protesting the razing of a mosque and homes, and the brutal killing of Muslims.

The protesters also demanded the cancellation of the invitation to the Indian prime minister.

Khulna Imam Samiti General Secretary Maulana Golam Kibria said: "The imams are preparing a prayer ceremony to pray for Bangabandhu, and the prime minister has invited a non-Muslim to the program. The invitation must be rescinded."

In Sreemangal, Anjumane Al Islah and Talamije Islamiah members held a rally against the violence perpetrated against Muslims in Delhi.

The speakers at the gathering said Muslims of the country would begin a mass movement if Modi was allowed to visit Bangladesh during the Mujib Year.

In Sylhet, numerous organizations held demonstrations condemning the brutalities being inflicted on Indian Muslims and demanded the cancellation of Modi's upcoming visit.

The angry protesters set fire to an effigy of Modi as well.

In Narsingdi, Tanzimul Madarisili Qawmia, Palash upazila Al Khidma Olama Parishad and Jamiate Olama Islam held rallies denouncing the Muslim killings in Delhi.

Speakers at the rallies said India preached secularism but prevented Muslims from performing religious rituals.

Also Read -  In pictures: Islamic parties of Bangladesh protest against Delhi riot

In Barisal, activists of Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal brought out a procession with similar demands.

Speakers said Bangabandhu was praised throughout the world as a leader of peace and humanity. Modi is known as a communal leader and a riot maker, and his visit would damage the image of the program and might lead to communal instability in Bangladesh.

In Dinajpur, Imam-Olma Masaikh and Tauhidi Janata held a rally protesting the violence against Muslims.

Additional police were deployed during the protest.

In Netrokona, Khelafat Juba Andolon arranged a demonstration censuring the barbaric attack on Indian Muslims.

After the protest, which was joined by hundreds of Muslims, Modi's effigy was burned.

In Narayanganj, several Islamic-minded parties brought out separate protest processions in the town protesting the killing of Muslims in Delhi.

Our Staff Reporter Mamun Abdullah and correspondents Saiful Islam, Moulvibazar, Md Hedait Hossain Molla, Khulna, Md Serajul Islam, Sylhet, Hanif Ullah Akash, Netrokona, Asaduzzaman Ripon, Narsingdi, Md Faruk Hossain, Dinajpur, and Anisur Rahman Swapan contributed to this report.

https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/dhaka/2020/02/28/anti-modi-protest-held-in-dhaka

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Indonesia Has Condemned Attacks against Muslims in India, Calling Them “Inhuman” And “Contrary To Religious Values”

Nicky Aulia Widadio  

28.02.2020

JAKARTA

Indonesia has condemned attacks against Muslims in India, calling them “inhuman” and “contrary to religious values”.

Indonesian Minister of Religion Affairs Fachrul Razi urged India to protect its minority population and not harm humanitarian values over differences in faith.

“The riots were inhuman and contrary to religious values,” said Razi in a press statement issued on Friday.

He also asked religious leaders both in India and Indonesia to exercise restraint and avoid provocation over this issue.

“Hopefully the situation in India will return to normal as soon as possible,” Razi added.

Fearing reprisal of Indian violence in his country, Razi warned miscreants taking advantage of attacks "against Muslims" in India.

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation, also hosts a 1.69% Hindu population, which constitutes approximately four million individuals out of a total of 250 million Indonesians.

The westernmost province of Bali with a population of 3.8 million has 83.46% Hindu population.

Razi noted that violence in the name of religion will not be allowed in Indonesia.

The death toll in the communal violence in the Indian capital New Delhi rose to 42 as of Friday.

Clashes between pro- and anti-citizenship law protesters started last Sunday and turned into communal clashes between Hindus and Muslims.

For over a month, thousands of Indians have been protesting against the new citizenship law, which makes it easier for non-Muslims from neighboring countries to get Indian citizenship but excludes Muslims.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/indonesia-condemns-anti-muslim-violence-in-india/1748804

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43rd UNHRC session: 'Pakistani Army Epicenter of International Terrorism' poster displayed at Broken Chair in Geneva

Feb 29, 2020

GENEVA: A banner with the slogan - 'Pakistani Army Epicenter of International Terrorism' - has been put up at the iconic Broken Chair during the 43rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. It aims to draw attention to global terrorism emanating from Pakistan and to urge the United Nations to take immediate steps to deal with the threats to global security.

A protest is scheduled to be held by Baloch and Pashtun activists in front of the United Nations Office of Geneva at Broken Chair against the involvement of the Pakistani military establishment in breeding terror outfits.

Since 9/11 Mumbai terror attack, Pakistan has been the epicentre of international terrorism, and the region of North Waziristan, which borders Afghanistan, used to be a hub of local and international terrorists linked to groups such as Al-Qaeda and Taliban.

The Pakistani government has been actively involved in terrorist activities within the region and beyond by actively sponsoring terrorist groups.

The unregulated financial structure of Pakistan paves the way for the irregular transfer of money while feeding terrorism in the country. According to reports, terrorists in Pakistan are able to organise, plan, raise funds, and operate easily in the country because of lack of governance and political will to address the problem.

The government is not willing to tackle this issue due to its engagement with illegal activities. Therefore, the activists are demanding that the UN should reprimand Pakistan, take immediate action to stop this and establish the rule of law in the region.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/43rd-unhrc-session-pakistani-army-epicenter-of-international-terrorism-poster-displayed-at-broken-chair-in-geneva/articleshow/74411650.cms

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At least 20 killed as train collides with bus at unmanned crossing in Pak's Sindh

Feb 29, 2020

KARACHI: A horrific collision between a speeding train and a passenger bus at an unmanned crossing killed at least 20 people, including children, and left scores injured in Pakistan's southern Sindh province, officials said.

The accident took place on Friday at the Kandhra railway crossing, near the Rohri railway station in the province, when the '45 Up Pakistan Express' train coming from Rawalpindi towards Karachi collided with the passenger bus.

Sukkur Commissioner Shafiq Ahmed Mahesar confirmed that at least 20 people, including children, died in the incident, adding that the casualties could rise as the condition of several of the injured was critical.

"We have shifted at least 60 injured people to hospitals in Rohri and Sukkur," he said.

"The bus, carrying more than 50 passengers, was going from Sukkur to Punjab," senior Sukkur police official Jamil Ahmed said.

"It was a horrible accident. So strong was the impact of the train hitting the bus that it was split into three parts," he said.

The bus was dragged around 150-200 feet by the train, Ahmed said.

Rescue officials said among the victims, some died on the spot while others breathed their last while being shifted to hospitals.

Commissioner Shafique Ahmed said the injured, including women and children, were taken to different hospitals in Rohri and Sukkur.

"It is a huge tragedy and all administration and police officials are rushing to the site. It was an unmanned railway crossing and unfortunately, the driver of the bus took a risk by trying to cross it when the train was coming in full speed," he said.

Sukkur District Health Officer Dr Munir Mangrio confirmed that 13 bodies were sent to the Rohri hospital, while the remaining bodies were sent to the Sukkur hospital. The deceased included five women and nine men.

According to a Pakistan Railways spokesperson, the bus driver was apparently at fault in the incident.

He said the train's engine was damaged in the collision, while the assistant driver sustained injuries.

Pakistan Railways has 2,470 unmanned crossings, for which the railway ministry has written to provincial governments several times to depute personnel. The federal government inspector of railways (FGIR) will investigate the incident, the spokesperson added.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/at-least-20-killed-as-train-collides-with-bus-at-unmanned-crossing-in-paks-sindh/articleshow/74410920.cms

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Saudi Arabia temporarily bars GCC citizens from Mecca, Medina over coronavirus

28 February 2020

Saudi Arabia will be temporarily suspending the entry of citizens from the Gulf Cooperation Council to the Kingdom’s cities of Mecca and Medina, according to a statement from the foreign ministry.

The Kingdom said an exception would be made for GCC citizens who have been in the Kingdom for 14 consecutive days and have not shown signs of being infected with the coronavirus.

“[Those] who wish to perform Umrah or visit the Prophet’s Mosque can apply through the website of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah (Umrah online course) to obtain a permit during the period of temporary suspension,” the ministry statement read.

Foreign Ministry 🇸🇦

@KSAmofaEN

#Statement | Saudi Arabia Temporarily Suspends Entry of #GCC Member States' Citizens to #Makkah and #Madinah

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Last Thursday, Saudi Arabia temporarily suspended entry for individuals seeking to perform Umrah pilgrimage in Mecca or visiting the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, as well as tourists traveling from countries where the coronavirus poses a risk as determined by the Kingdom’s health authorities.

The Saudi Arabian foreign ministry said the decision to suspend the entry of GCC citizens was based on the recommendations of health authorities to apply the “highest precautionary standards to surround the virus and prevent its spread locally and globally.”

“The government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia confirms that it is closely following developments in the spread of the virus and its repercussions on an ongoing basis, and that the precautionary measures are being reviewed according to any new developments, and additional measures shall be taken if the need arises,” the foreign ministry said in its statement.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/02/28/Saudi-Arabia-to-temporarily-suspend-entry-of-GCC-citizens-to-Mecca-Medina.html

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Iran death toll from coronavirus reaches 210: BBC Persian

28 February 2020

The number of deaths across Iran from the outbreak of the novel coronavirus is at least 210, BBC Persian reported citing its sources from hospitals in Iran.

The capital Tehran has had the most deaths so far from the outbreak followed by the city of Qom, BBC Persian said in its report.

The death toll from coronavirus in Iran is “much higher” than the official death toll, Iranian MP Gholamali Jafarzadeh Imenabadi said on Friday, adding that he has documented “horrific numbers” from cemeteries in his city Rasht in northern Iran.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/28/Iran-death-toll-from-coronavirus-reaches-210-BBC-Persian.html

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US offered to help Iran with responding to coronavirus: Pompeo

28 February 2020

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday the United States has offered to help with the coronavirus response in Iran, where the outbreak has killed 34 people, and raised doubts about Tehran’s willingness to share information.

In a hearing at House Foreign Affairs Committee, Pompeo said the Islamic Republic did not have a solid healthcare infrastructure.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/28/US-offered-to-help-Iran-with-responding-to-coronavirus-Pompeo.html

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Macron’s controversial plan sparks criticism from Muslims

Cindi Cook

28.02.2020

PARIS

French President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial plan “to combat foreign influences” on Muslims sparked criticism with some community figures describing his policies Islamophobic.

In a speech last week in Bourtzwiller, a district in the eastern French city of Mulhouse, Macron outlined his ideas for an approach which he said would battle "separatism" and "communitarianism", or the proliferation of communities governing themselves apart from the French Republic.

The plan, according to the government, aims to bring those faithful more in line with a French cultural mindset.

Chief among the measures are increased training of imams in France, and the cessation of "detached imams" being let into France to teach Islam in mosques, as well as the allowance of some 300 "chanters" during Ramadan, the Islamic period of spiritual reflection.

An estimated 6 million Muslims are living in France, or 8% of the population. It is the largest Muslim assemblage in any European country.

Macron has consulted the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), an elected body representing Muslims in France to train imams within the country and in French territories. The need to speak French is inherent in the new measures.

Criticism from Muslim leaders surfaced in light of Macron's remarks, especially from Mohammed Moussaoui, the new president of the council.

"Muslims in France do not want a community ghetto. They want their religious practice to be seen as an element of their individual freedom, rather than a permanent source of public debate."

Pointed comments also came from the head of the Grande Mosque of Paris.

"We don't bring wolves into the sheepfold," said Chems-Eddine Hafiz, the rector. "These imams are controlled. But I understand that solutions have to be found and the Grand Mosque of Paris is working on it."

Ironically, the Mosque had just inaugurated the Al-Ghazali Institute for training in the Yvelines outside of Paris, on Feb. 15, just before Macron's speech, recognizing the need for proper training.

Hafiz understands there has only been "an acceptable solution" until recently to control the detached imams "within the framework of governmental agreements".

Critiques poured in from Muslim voices in other countries as well.

In The New Arab, writer Malia Bouattia wrote: "President Macron has demonstrated once again that in France, inciting hatred or attacking a person's dignity is OK, if the target is Muslim."

U.K. Labor councilor Ali Milani, a parliamentary candidate in last year’s race against Prime Minister Boris Johnson and a practicing Muslim, offered a harsh assessment, especially after the recent shootings in Hanau, Germany.

On Feb. 19, a German far-right extremist attacked two cafes and killed nine people with migrant backgrounds in the western town of Hanau. Four people with Turkish roots died in the racist terror attack, as did one Bosnian, one Bulgarian, one Romanian, and a dual German-Afghan national.

Germany has witnessed growing racism and Islamophobia in recent years, fueled by the propaganda of neo-Nazi groups and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. A country of over 80 million people, Germany has the second-largest Muslim population in Western Europe after France. Among the country’s nearly 4.7 million Muslims, 3 million are of Turkish origin.

“I’m done with mincing words. This vicious rise in Islamophobia is aided and abetted by mainstream political leaders. From Macron’s rhetoric to Boris Johnson’s outright racism, they are all guilty,” Milani said.

Macron has acknowledged the need for religious freedom, such as that exercised by the large Muslim population in Mulhouse, but argued for curbing "separatism" as a preventative against the terror attacks that have rocked France over the past six years.

"Islamist separatism is incompatible with freedom and equality, incompatible with the indivisibility of the Republic, and the necessary unity of the nation," he added.

But Mustafa Sentop, Turkey's parliament speaker, saw things quite differently via a tweet.

"The explanations of Mr. Macron, announcing that he will fight against Islamist separatism, is a sign of 'a primitive Islamophobia'," he said, adding: "France should face its racist past, instead of inventing an imaginary enemy like 'Islamist separatism'."

For Macron, assimilation of the Muslim population into the dominant French culture is the point.

"I am not comfortable with the idea of having women and men in the school of the Republic who can teach without the national education system being able to exercise any control," Macron said in his speech Tuesday. "And neither do we have control over the programs they teach. We cannot teach things that are manifestly incompatible either with the laws of the Republic."

The CFCM's Moussaoui understands the need for integration, albeit within a spiritual perspective.

"Muslim religious leaders must play their full part in the framework of their prerogatives. Religious institutions must promote common values, capable of preventing any separation or division in our society."

There are no specifics as to when Macron's measures will be put in place. They are not, he insists, anti-Islam, but those created to afford integration.

Macron's measures -- enacted to restore order in impoverished Paris suburbs like Mulhouse -- are also a gesture to gain support from voters in light of the municipal elections in March.

Those opposed to Macron in the political sphere spared no words in criticizing his new directives.

"The president is trying to divert attention away from his policies," said Communist MP Pierre Dharreville in an interview last week on BFM TV.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/macron-s-controversial-plan-sparks-criticism-from-muslims/1748466

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Islamic extremists kill Nigerian pastor, attack his hometown

29 February 2020

Lagos, Feb 28 (AP) Islamic militants in Nigeria have killed a Christian pastor who had appealed for help life in a video just days earlier, and a human rights activist said Tuesday that other extremists attacked his hometown on the same day.

The Rev. Lawan Andimi was abducted earlier this month when Boko Haram militants attacked the Michika local government area, where he was the chairman of a local chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria.

He was killed on Monday.

Nigeria''s President Muhammadu Buhari condemned Andimi''s slaying, calling it “cruel, inhuman and deliberately provocative.”

“I am greatly saddened by the fact that the terrorists went on to kill him even while giving signals of a willingness to set him free by releasing him to third parties,” Buhari tweeted.

Osai Ojigho, director of Amnesty International in Nigeria, called it “appalling” that Boko Haram followed up Andimi''s killing on Monday with an attack on his hometown in the Chibok local government area of northeastern Borno state.

In April 2014, 276 girls were abducted from the Government Secondary School in Chibok. More than 100 are still missing nearly six years later.

Andimi is the latest Christian to be killed by Boko Haram or a breakaway faction that has ties to the Islamic State group.

On Friday, the Islamic State''s West Africa Province, known as ISWAP, released a video which showed a hooded child with pistol in hand execute a Christian man.

On Christmas Day, ISWAP killed nine Christians along with two other captives.

Boko Haram and ISWAP want to enforce strict Islamic law in Nigeria and have reportedly forced some captives to convert to Islam under threat of death.

Nigeria''s Christian community is calling on the government to do more to protect them. (AP) RUP RUP

https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/islamic-extremists-kill-nigerian-pastor-attack-his-hometown/1747633

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India

 

Delhi Riots: How A Sikh Hero Transported Dozens Of Muslim Neighbours To Safety

By Betwa Sharma

28/02/2020

NEW DELHI —   On 24 February, as the worst communal violence since the 1984 Sikh riots swept Delhi, Mohinder Singh and Inderjit Singh used a Bullet motorcycle and scooty to transport somewhere between 60 to 80 of their Muslim neighbours to a safe location.

The father and son duo say they had sensed the situation was spiralling out of control in the Hindu-dominated neighbourhood of Gokalpuri in northeast Delhi, and started moving their terrified neighbors in batches to the nearest Muslim locality of Kardampur, one kilometer away.

Mohinder Singh, 53, said that his son was on the Bullet motorcycle and he was on the scooty, and they made around 20 trips each from Gokalpuri to Kardampur in one hour. When it was women and children, they took three to four of them at a time. When it was men and boys, they took two or three at a time. For some of the boys, they tied Sikh turbans to conceal they were Muslim.

“I did not see Hindu or Muslim,” said Singh, who runs an electronics store and is a father to two children.

“I just saw people. I saw little children. I felt like they were my children and that nothing should happen to them. We did this because we all should act humanely and help those in need. What more can I say?” he said.

Gokalpuri saw some of the worst violence in the three days of rioting, which has left almost 40 people dead. Head constable Ratan Lal died of a bullet injury that he sustained here. Muslim shops, houses and a mosque were torched and looted here. The Muslims who fled are yet to return.

The “sardars” are now famous among the Muslims of Kardampur, where HuffPost India heard about them.

Their story offers a rare heartwarming tale in a grieving city torn apart by the riots. For Singh, who was 13 years old when the horrific anti-Sikh riots swept through the city, the violence last weekend was a grisly reminder of the past. His incredible bravery offers hope that not all is lost at a time when India seems more divided than ever before.

“I have lived through the hell that was 1984,” Singh said. “Those memories have been revived.”

There were very few shops open in Gokalpuri market on 27 February, five days after Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Kapil Mishra made a hate speech against people protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which is now regarded as the trigger for the violence.

Singh had opened his electronic store for the first time since the riots on 27 February.

Smiling at this reporter’s repeated queries about what motivated him and his son to make so many trips to save his neighbors, Singh said, “You have to understand that this is the belief and culture of our community. You may have heard the expression: nanak naam chardi kala, tere bahne sarbat da bhala. Sarbat da bhala means that we want everyone to prosper. We did this to honour humanity and our 10 gurus whose central message is that we should act for everyone to prosper.”

What happened

It was around five in the evening on 24 February when tensions spiked in Gokalpuri, Singh said, giving a blow-by-blow account of what happened in his neighborhood that evening.

It started with people chanting Jai Shri Ram, and raising slogans in praise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and calling for “traitors” to be shot, said Singh. Their numbers swelled quickly. The Muslims of Gokalpuri panicked and gathered at their local mosque — the Jamia Arabia Madinatul Uloom mosque — that would be set on fire and looted later that night.

After the meeting, the Muslims decided they would leave immediately. Singh said he offered them protection and asked them to consider staying back, but they told him the people who wanted to harm them were likely to be more than those willing risk their own lives to save them.

The Muslims of Gokalpuri were terrified they would not be able to make it past Hindu mob that had commandeered the main road outside the locality.

That is when Singh and his son stepped in, offering to ferry 60 to 80 of them to the closest Muslim locality.

Given how quickly the situation was worsening, father and son decided there was no time to get their car from the parking lot. They would have to make do with their motorcycle and scooty. 

“We don’t think we did anyone a favour,” said Singh. “We didn’t do it for praise or for thanks. We did it because it was the right thing to do.”

https://www.huffingtonpost.in/entry/delhi-riots-sikh-hero_in_5e58d37cc5b6beedb4e96580

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Delhi riots: How Hindus saved lone Muslim family from rioters

February 28, 2020

New Delhi: On Sunday night, Safina shuddered with fear as heard violent banging on her door. The atmosphere was charged with communal tension after stone-pelting between two groups in the locality.

The family consists of Safina (name changed), her partially paralysed husband and two daughters. They are the only Muslim family in Madhuban mohalla of North Ghonda locality in north-east Delhi.

Hearts pounded louder than pounding of the door. Then the banging stopped and noises of men talking loudly came.

"I peeped out from a small window near the kitchen and saw our neighbours standing outside our entrance and arguing with 10-15 unknown people," Safina told ANI.

It was the first day of the communal violence, worst in the decades, that fanned out to the entire north-east Delhi over the the next three days and claimed at least 42 lives, left over 200 injured and properties worth crores destroyed. The death toll is feared to go up.

Later in the night Safina's family moved to one of their Hindu neighbour's house. There are about 30 Hindu households in the mohalla who kept vigil as the atmosphere detriorated.

The next day, the violence escalated. The neighbours decided to shift Safina's family to Gautampuri for their safety.

Safina recounted, "Our neighbours assured us that they are with us but as things were deteriorating, they said they wouldn't be able to protect us if a big mob of hundreds came. Thye advised us to move to the nearby Gautampuri locality and come back only after things become normal."

Rajkumar Bharadwaj brought the family to Gautampuri in the early hours on February 25.

Anil Gupta, 49, said, "It was tough to rescue them. We were asked by the rioters as to why we were saving the Muslims. But we had to, it is the people of my country who are suffering. It cannot be Hindus or Muslims."

Rajkumar Bharadwaj said, "Their youngest clung to me throughout. After I brought them here at Gautampuri, I felt good. Situation till then was not okay."

On Friday, some semblance of normalcy returned to parts of north-east Delhi with some people opening their shops amid heavy police presence.

No fresh incidents of violence have been reported since Thursday as the shattered humans, both Muslim and Hindu, tried to gather the pieces of life strewn in the gory mayhem Delhi has rarely witnessed after the Partition.

Full report at:

https://gulfnews.com/world/asia/india/delhi-riots-how-hindus-saved-lone-muslim-family-from-rioters-1.1582892630251

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Muslim residents of the riot-ravaged parts of Delhi hide markers of their cultural identity in fear

By Imran Ahmed Siddiqui

Feb 29, 2020

Fear has forced many Muslim residents of the riot-ravaged parts of the capital to hide the markers of their cultural identity.

“We are now faced with a choice between life and our cultural identity and belief. Several men are shaving off their beards and have been forbidden by their elders to wear skullcaps while going out of their homes,” said Afzal Karim, a resident of Jaffrabad, the epicentre of Delhi’s worst communal riots in over three decades.

Skullcaps, he added, “have become too risky to wear”.

The identification by beards and skullcaps is a grisly reminder of 1984 when rioters had massacred Sikhs after then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination.

Many Sikhs had then removed their turbans and shaved off their beards to escape being targeted.

Little seems to have changed 36 years on. “We saw how mobs assaulted community members after identifying them by their distinctive skullcaps and beards,” said Karim, a tailor. “We don’t have any option now but to forgo the skullcaps to remain alive.”

Afzal is lucky to be alive. His house was torched by a mob on Monday night.

“Things had become volatile since morning and fearing a mob attack, my family decided to move to a relative’s place in adjoining Seelampur which has a sizeable Muslim population. We managed to escape only because of the timely decision,” he said on Thursday.

Abdul Karim, a resident of Mustafabad, one of the worst riot-hit areas, said community elders had asked boys and girls not to wear any of the traditional markers.

He showed some videos on his phone where mobs are seen heckling and thrashing Muslims, tossing their skullcaps away and pulling their beards, besides mouthing communal slurs.

“We don’t have any faith in the police and have to take care of our own safety and well-being. The community is feeling threatened as the goons don’t fear the cops,” Karim mumbled.

Residents of other Muslim neighbourhoods voiced similar fears.

“The entire community here is in the grip of fear although the large-scale riots have subsided. But we are still hearing stories of assault by mobs,” Rehan, a college student, said.

On Thursday, several Hindu and Muslim families were seen shifting to “safer places”, carrying their belongings.

Many of them said outsiders were behind the attacks as both communities had lived together in harmony for years.

Rehan said a rickshaw-van driver who was wearing a skullcap was attacked in Maujpur.

“Noting the skullcap, a group of men pounced on him and beat him up badly.”

He said segregation had already started in some pockets — with Hindus and Muslims putting up barricades in their respective neighbourhoods to keep each other out.

Full report at:

https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/muslim-residents-of-the-riot-ravaged-parts-of-delhi-hide-markers-of-their-cultural-identity-in-fear/cid/1749608

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Rajinikanth to Meet Muslim Clerics to Discuss CAA Amid Backlash Over His Support for Law

February 28, 2020

Chennai: After facing backlash from the Muslim community for his comments on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC), Rajinikanth will be meeting Muslim clerics in the next few days. Sources from Jamaat al Ulama said Rajinikanth reached out to them on the phone and expressed his willingness to meet them and discuss the issues of CAA and NRC in depth.

In a press statement, the jamaat alleged that the actor-politician made defamatory statement on protesters by calling the agitation an instigated one. The statement added that Rajinikanth needs to gain more clarity on what Muslims feel about CAA before making comments.

Rajinikanth, had earlier, thrown his weight behind the contentious citizenship law and said it did not pose any threat to the Muslims. He, however, added that he will be the first to voice his support to them if needed.

"The Citizenship Amendment Act will not affect any citizen of our country. If it affects Muslims, then I will be the first person to stand up for them. NPR is a necessity to find out about the outsiders. It has been clarified that NRC has not been formulated yet," Rajini said on February 5.

Two days ago, Rajinikanth was asked about his message to the protesting Muslims and he said, “If anybody is affected by the law, definitely I will stand for them.”

Full report at:

https://www.news18.com/news/india/rajinikanth-to-meet-muslim-clerics-to-discuss-caa-amid-backlash-over-his-support-for-law-2519669.html

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NCP Minister Announces 5% Quota for Muslims in Education, Sena Says No Final Decision Yet

February 28, 2020

Mumbai: Coalition partners in the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, the NCP and the Shiv Sena, once again took opposing stands on a key issue, this time over a proposal to extend 5% reservation to Muslims in educational institutes in Maharashtra.

Minority affairs minister Nawab Malik of the NCP announced on Friday that the state government will ensure that a legislation is passed soon for the reservation and told the State Legislative Council it will take "appropriate action" in this regard before beginning of admissions in schools.

Malik was responding to a question raised by Congress legislator Sharad Ranpise.

However, shortly after Malik's remarks, senior minister Eknath Shinde said no such decision has been taken. The senior Sena politician said leaders of the ruling MVA, which comprises Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress, will take a call on the issue after discussions.

Speaking to reporters outside the legislature complex, Shinde said he was not aware of the announcement.

Full report at:

https://www.news18.com/news/india/uddhav-thackeray-govt-to-provide-5-quota-to-muslims-in-education-before-admission-season-begins-2518985.html

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India foreign secretary visits Afghanistan ahead of US-Taliban deal

Feb 29, 2020

Ahead of the US-Taliban peace deal, foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla paid a day-long visit to Kabul on Friday to convey support to the Afghan people in their pursuit of sustainable peace, security and development, the MEA said.

Shringla held talks with acting foreign minister Haroon Chakhansuri and also NSA Hamdullah Mohib. He also called on Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and handed over a congratulatory letter from PM Narendra Modi. Ghani appreciated India’s consistent support for democracy and constitutional order in Afghanistan.

Shringla also called on Afghan chief executive Abdullah Abdullah. Shringla and Abdullah agreed that independent, sovereign, democratic, pluralistic and inclusive Afghanistan would promote peace and prosperity in the region, the MEA said.

The foreign secretary assessed developments in the country ahead of the peace deal which will be signed in Doha on Saturday and reiterated India’s commitment to stand with Afghanistan as the latter pursues reconciliation. Shringla also underscored the point that India was not in favour of any hurried troop withdrawal by the US and any peace process must also insist on eliminating terror sanctuaries. Mohib expressed appreciation for India’s training and medical facilities for Afghan national defence and security forces.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/india-foreign-secy-visits-afghanistan-ahead-of-us-taliban-deal/articleshow/74410076.cms

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India, France vow to deny safe havens, sources of financing to terrorists

Feb 28, 2020

NEW DELHI: India and France on Friday agreed to deepen their counterterrorism cooperation, stressing the need to deny safe havens and sources of funding to terrorists.

The two countries held the 14th Meeting of Joint Working Group on counterterrorism here at which an interagency Indian delegation was led by Ministry of External Affairs Joint Secretary Mahaveer Singhvi, while the French delegation was led by David Bertolotti, Assistant Secretary of State for Strategic, Security and Disarmament Affairs of the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs.

Both sides condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and stressed the need for strengthening international cooperation to combat terrorism in a comprehensive and sustained manner, a Ministry of External Affairs statement said.

"They exchanged views on current counter-terrorism challenges including countering radicalisation, combating financing of terrorism, preventing use of internet for terrorist purposes, threats posed by internationally designated terrorist entities as well as cross-border terrorism in South Asian region," it said.

Both sides stressed the need to deny safe havens and sources of financing to terrorists, the MEA said.

The two countries agreed to further strengthen counter-terrorism cooperation, as a cornerstone of their bilateral strategic partnership through regular exchange of information, joint capacity building efforts, mutual legal assistance, sharing best practices for countering terrorism and radicalisation, and cooperating in multilateral fora such as the Untied Nations and the Financial Action Task Force.

They intend to work closely together in view of the third edition of the 'No Money for Terror' international conference on fighting terrorist financing being organised by the government later this year in New Delhi, the MEA said.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/india-france-vow-to-deny-safe-havens-sources-of-financing-to-terrorists/articleshow/74405311.cms

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NIA arrests Pak-based terror group JeM's operative involved in Pulwama attack: Official

Feb 28, 2020

NEW DELHI: In a major breakthrough, the NIA arrested on Friday an operative of Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) for his alleged involvement in the Pulwama terror attack last year, officials said.

Officials said that 22-year-old Shakir Bashir Magrey, a furniture shop owner and resident of Hajibal, Kakapora in Pulwama, had provided shelter and other logistical assistance to suicide-bomber Adil Ahmad Dar.

Magrey was introduced to Dar in mid 2018 by Pakistani terrorist Mohammad Umar Farooq and he became a full-time overground worker (OGW) of the JeM.

During his initial interrogation, Magrey disclosed that on several occasions he collected and delivered arms, ammunition, cash and explosive materials to JeM terrorists, including those involved in the Pulwama attack, the NIA said.

Magrey further revealed that he had harboured Dar and Pakistani terrorist Mohammad Umar Farooq in his house from late 2018 till the attack in February 2019, and assisted them in the preparation of the improvised explosive device (IED).

His shop is located near Lethpora bridge, and as advised by Mohammad Umar Farooq, he started conducting reconnaissance of the movement of CRPF convoy on Jammu-Srinagar Highway in January 2019, and informed Mohammad Umar and Dar about it, officials said.

Magrey was also involved in modifying the Maruti Eeco car and fitting IED to it in early February, 2019, they said.

During investigation, the make, model and number of the car used in the attack was quickly ascertained to be a Maruti Eeco car through forensic tests of the tiny remnants of the vehicle, which were seized from the spot during extensive searches, the NIA said, adding this has been corroborated by Magrey.

The explosives used in the attack were determined through forensic probe to be ammonium nitrate, nitro-glycerin and RDX. Investigation has also confirmed the identity of the suicide bomber to be Adil Ahmad Dar through DNA matching with that of his father.

The other key terrorists involved in the attack have been found to be Muddasir Ahmad Khan, JeM's Divisional Commander of South Kashmir killed in an operation by security forces on March 11, last year; Pakistani terrorists — Muhammad Umar Farooq and IED expert Kamran, both killed on March 29 last year; the owner of the car — Sajjad Ahmad Bhat, a resident of Anantnag who was killed on June 16 last year and Qari Yassir, JeM's Commander for Kashmir who was killed on January 25 this year.

The attack on the CRPF convoy, moving from Jammu towards Srinagar on February 14 last year in Pulwama, with an IED-laden vehicle by Jaish terrorist Dar had claimed lives of 40 CRPF personnel and grievously injured many others.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/nia-arrests-pak-based-terror-group-jems-operative-involved-in-pulwama-attack-official/articleshow/74403996.cms

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BJP MP thinks India will become Islamic nation due to pseudo-secularism, shares video calling it 'realistic'

Feb 28, 2020

Bengaluru: BJP MP Ananth Kumar Hegde, who is known for his controversial statements, has shared a video on Twitter terming it “very realistic.”

The video talks about the expansion of Islam in the subcontinent and the Middle East. It further says that Syria, where Christianity was once the dominant religion, was replaced by Islam followed by Iran where Zoroastrianism was the main religion. It further says that Hinduism was a dominant religion in Pakistan and Bangladesh while Buddhism and Hinduism were followed in Afghanistan but due to pseudo-secularism the natives lost not only their lives but land too.

Now all these nations are Islamic, it says asking whether India will be the next one and urge Hindus to think before it is too late.

Syria & Islam

Syria was conquered by the Muslim Arabs in 634–640 and the whole region became part of the Islamic empire. Until then, it was the main centre of Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

Iran and Zoroastrianism

In 637–651, Iran was conquered by Islamic forces which led to the end of the Sasanian Empire and the subsequent decline of the Zoroastrian religion. Before the Islamic conquest, Zoroastrianism was the primary religion of the Persian Empire and there were large and thriving Christian and Jewish communities in the country.

The Sassanid dynasty was the first Persian empire which declared Zoroastrianism as the state religion.

Afghanistan was multi-religious before Islamic conquest

Before the Islamic conquest of Afghanistan, the Afghans were multi-religious and people followed Hinduism, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism.

When Taliban called the shots in the country from 1996 to late 2001, Hindus were forced to wear yellow badges publicly so as to identify themselves as non-Muslims so that they are not punished for not going to mosques during prayer times. Hindu women were forced to wear burqas and theses moves were seen as part of the Taliban's plan to single out followers of Hinduism from the Muslims.

Delhi riots: 43 & counting

India is home to Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma and some 80 per cent of Indians identify themselves as Hindus. Muslims, on the other hand, are the largest minority group, making up 14 per cent of India’s population.

The communal violence which engulfed North-East Delhi has claimed the lives of 43 people destroying families of both the communities including businesses.

Full report at:

https://www.timesnownews.com/india/article/bjp-mp-thinks-india-will-become-islamic-nation-due-to-pseudo-secularism-shares-video-calling-it-realistic/558895

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At UN, India slams Pakistan’s bid to derail positive developments in J&K

February 29, 2020

India on Friday asked Pakistan’s top leadership to stop terror funding and dismantle terrorist camps operating from its soil and territories under its control while criticising Islamabad’s bid to derail the positive developments in Jammu and Kashmir by supporting militant groups.

India’s statement came a week after the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) decided to retain Pakistan on its ‘Grey List’ and warned the country of stern action if it fails to prosecute and penalise those involved in terror funding emanating from its jurisdiction.

Exercising the right of reply after Pakistan raised concerns over human rights in Jammu and Kashmir at the 43rd Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, India’s representative said the international community cannot be misled by Pakistani hysterical reactions at all global forums to malign India.

“The situation in Jammu and Kashmir is fast returning to normalcy despite serious attempts by Pakistan to derail the positive developments through its active support to terrorist groups and related entities,” he said.

Giving Pakistan a 10-point recommendation list, the Indian diplomat asked it to stop terror funding and dismantle terrorist camps operating in the country and territories under its control.

“Stop public advocacy and support for terrorists by Pakistani leadership at the highest level, end illegal and forcible occupation and reverse the demographic changes in Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir and take structural reforms to develop a semblance of democracy in Pakistan,” he said.

Highlighting the plight of minorities in Muslim-majority Pakistan, the Indian diplomat asked the Pakistani leadership to end harassment and execution of minorities through misuse of blasphemy law, end forced conversions and marriages of women and girls from Hindu, Sikh and Christian religions and stop religious persecution against Shias, Ahmadiyas, Ismailia and Hazaras.

“Blasphemy law against Aasia Bibi, persecution of Abdul Shakoor, an Ahmadiya, Jagjit Kaur, a minor Sikh girl subjected to abduction and forced marriage are the norms of the day for minorities in Pakistan,” he said.

He also accused Pakistan of recruiting children for terror activities, including suicide bombing in other countries.

“Stop killing and targeting political dissidents and legitimate criticism in Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and prevent enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings of journalists and human rights activists by its security agencies,” the Indian diplomat said.

Speaking about the state of democracy in India and Pakistan, he said that the world knows about the dismal human rights records of Pakistan and a tight control cannot hide it all while India’s time tested democratic institutions are robust and adequate enough to address any challenge including those instigated from outside, in order to safeguard interests of all our citizens including minorities.

Reacting to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s statement on the Kashmir issue, he said that the grouping has no locus standi to comment on the internal affairs of India. “Jammu and Kashmir was, is and shall forever remain an integral part of India,” he asserted.

Referring to Belgium’s comment on the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the Indian official said: “as a close partner of India, we wish, Belgium could have checked the factual position with us before coming to any conclusion on the issue”.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-pakistan-human-rights-council-geneva-6291976/

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Youth who helped, sheltered Pulwama bomber arrested: NIA

by Deeptiman Tiwary

February 29, 2020

Signalling a major breakthrough in the Pulwama terror case, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) said Friday that it has arrested a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) operative who allegedly tracked movement of security convoys and helped assemble the bomb used in the attack that killed 40 CRPF personnel in February last year.

NIA identified the alleged operative as Shakir Bashir Magrey, a 22-year-old furniture shop owner from Pulwama. NIA sources said Magrey allegedly drove the bomb-laden car till 500 m from the attack site before handing it over to Adil Ahmed Dar, who was identified by the agency as the suicide bomber.

Magrey was produced before the NIA Special Court in Jammu Friday and remanded in the agency’s custody for 15 days. The arrest is the first by the agency after registering the case more than a year ago. All the other alleged accused were either killed in the attack or in encounters with security forces.

NIA sources claimed that initial interrogation of Magrey revealed that the material used to assemble the bomb was bought online. They said Magrey allegedly used to track the movement of CRPF convoys from his shop near the Lethpora bridge in the area.

NIA said that Magrey is from Kakapora, the village that Dar belonged to. “Shakir Bashir Magrey provided shelter and other logistical assistance to the suicide-bomber Adil Ahmad Dar. He was introduced to Adil Ahmad Dar in mid-2018 by a Pakistani terrorist viz. Mohammad Umar Farooq and he became a full-time over-ground worker (OGW) of JeM,” the NIA said in a statement.

“During his initial interrogation, he has disclosed that on several occasions, he collected and delivered arms, ammunition, cash and explosive material to the JeM terrorists including those involved in Pulwama attack,” it said. Farooq was killed in an encounter following the attack.

According to NIA, Magrey allegedly revealed during interrogation that he had harboured Dar and Farooq in his house from late 2018 till the attack on February 14, 2019, and assisted them in the preparation of the IED.

“His shop is located near Lethpora bridge, and as advised by Mohammad Umar, he started conducting reconnaissance of the movement of CRPF convoy on Jammu-Srinagar Highway in January 2019, and informed Mohammad Umar and Adil Ahmad Dar about it. Further, he was also involved in modifying the Maruti Eeco car and fitting the IED in it in early February 2019,” the statement said.

NIA sources described the arrest of Magrey as “a big catch as he knows the entire conspiracy from start to finish and was with Dar till minutes before the attack”.

“Dar was not a good driver and also nervous. So Magrey was given the task of driving the car till 500 m from the attack site and hand over the vehicle to Dar. Barring the explosives, it was Magrey who arranged for other stuff needed for assembling the IED. He ordered stuff such as gloves and batteries from an e-commerce site,” an NIA officer said.

According to NIA, it had ascertained the make, model and number of the Maruti Eeco car used in the attack through forensic examination of its remnants recovered from the spot. It said that the explosives used were Ammonium Nitrate, Nitro-Glycerin and RDX. The investigation confirmed that Dar was the bomber through a DNA match with his father, it said.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/pulwama-attack-bomber-arrest-nia-6291852/

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Lawyers for Kashmiri students held for sedition file bail plea under police cover

by Johnson TA

February 29, 2020

The lawyers for the three Kashmiri students arrested for sedition in Karnataka filed a petition for their bail on Friday under police protection.

Earlier, on February 24, they had failed to file the plea due to protests by local lawyers in Dharwad. The Karnataka High Court had subsequently warned that attempts to stop the filing of their bail plea would be treated as contempt of court.

“The petition has been filed and it has been taken on record and the matter has been posted for hearing on March 2,’’ said former state public prosecutor and senior advocate B T Venkatesh who moved the high court along with 23 other advocates after the Hubballi Bar Association passed a resolution on February 15 opposing legal representation for the Kashmiri students and calling upon lawyers to “boycott anti-nationals”.

Basit Aashiq Sofi, Talib Majeed and Amir Mohiuddin Wani, who are pursuing an engineering course at a college in Hubballi, were arrested on February 15 and charged with sedition over a video in which they were purportedly heard singing along a song that had the words “Pakistan Zindabad”.

A group of advocates linked to civil liberties and human rights groups then approached high court. On February 20, a division bench of the high court headed by Chief Justice Abhay Sreenivas Oka issued orders for the police to provide protection to lawyers from Bengaluru to approach courts in Dharwad on behalf of the arrested students.

The court also said “such resolutions passed by the Bar Associations are wholly illegal and against all traditions of the Bar and against professional ethics’’.

However, on February 24, when advocates from Bengaluru tried to file a bail petition for the arrested Kashmiri students at the Dharwad district court, they were prevented by other lawyers from doing so. The lawyers approached the high court again and the court thereafter summoned the Hubballi Bar Association officials.

On Thursday, the high court warned that preventing the filing of a bail plea for the students would amount to contempt of court. The Hubballi Bar Association volunteered to issue a new resolution to cancel its February 15 resolution.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/kashmiri-students-sedition-bail-plea-karnataka-high-court-6291797/

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Pulwama terror attack: NIA arrests Jaish operative who facilitated suicide blast

February 28, 2020

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Friday arrested an operative of Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed for his alleged involvement in the Pulwama terror attack, which had claimed lives of 40 CRPF personnel.

The arrest comes a day after the agency claimed that it was very close to a breakthrough in the case.

The accused has been identified as Shakir Bashir Magrey, an overground worker of the terror group. The 22-year-old furniture shop owner had provided shelter and other logistical assistance to the suicide-bomber Adil Ahmad Dar, the NIA said in a statement.

According to the probe agency, the accused revealed that he had harboured Dar and Pakistani terrorist Mohammad Umar Farooq in his house from late 2018 till the attack in February 2019, and assisted them in the preparation of the Improvised Explosive Device (IED).

During his initial interrogation, the NIA said, the accused revealed that on several occasions, he collected and delivered arms, ammunition, cash and other explosive material to various JeM terrorists including those involved in last year’s Pulwama attack.

Magrey was produced before the special court in Jammu today and was remanded in 15-day of NIA custody till the interrogation was completed.

JeM had claimed responsibility for the February 2019 Pulwama attack which claimed the lives of 40 CRPF jawans.

“Magrey’s shop was located near Lethpora Bridge, and as advised by Mohammad Umar, he started a reconnaissance of the movement of CRPF convoys on the Jammu-Srinagar Highway in January 2019,” the NIA statement added.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/pulwama-terror-attack-jaish-e-mohammed-shakir-bashir-magrey-arrest-nia-6291618/

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Indian police arrest over 500 for Delhi sectarian violence

February 28, 2020

NEW DELHI: Indian police have arrested 514 people for deadly Hindu-Muslim violence that broke out in the capital, the government said, as it faced mounting international criticism for failing to protect minority Muslims.

Police said the toll from days of blood-letting stood at 35, but local media, citing unnamed sources, said it was likely to be more than 40 as the full extent of the violence that began on Sunday in a densely-packed locality in northeastern Delhi becomes clear.

Police are still searching drains and homes that were burnt down for bodies, officers said.

More forces had been deployed at mosques in the area for the weekly Friday prayers, the government said. There had been no new violence since Wednesday morning, it said in a statement late on Thursday.

The violence began over a citizenship law that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government introduced in December providing a path to Indian citizenship for six religious groups from neighboring countries, but not Muslims.

Critics say the law is discriminatory and comes on top of other measures such as withdrawal of autonomy for Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir that has deepened disquiet about the future of India’s 200 million Muslims.

Critics of the government however blamed this week’s violence on members of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which was trounced in local Delhi elections at the beginning of the month. The BJP has denied the allegations.

Ultimately, the violence morphed into street battles between Hindu and Muslim groups with the police largely ineffective in controlling the situation.

The Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) has condemned the violence against Muslims in India and vandalism of mosques and Muslim-owned properties.

The OIC said authorities need to bring the instigators and perpetrators of anti-Muslim violence to justice and ensure the safety and security of all its Muslim citizens and the Islamic holy places across the country.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1634461/world

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South Asia

 

US, Taliban set to sign deal in Doha today

Anwar Iqbal

February 29, 2020

WASHINGTON: The United States and Taliban are set to sign an agreement in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday that both hope would bring peace to Afghanistan and end America’s longest war.

Last week, the two sides concluded a “reduction in violence” deal, agreeing that if violence remained contained for a week, they would sign the peace agreement in Doha on Saturday.

And on Friday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated that the US felt the condition had been met and was ready to sign the deal. “We have seen just these last six days a significant reduction in violence in Afgha­nistan,” he told House of Represe­ntatives Foreign Affairs Committee.

But the same day, 22 House Republicans sent a letter to Mr Pompeo, expressing “serious concerns” about the Trump administration’s plans to sign the deal.

“We are seeking assurances that you will not place the security of the American people into the hands of the Taliban, and undermine our ally, the current government of Afghanistan,” they wrote.

The week-long reduction in violence agreement followed nearly two years of protracted negotiations between the US and Taliban in Doha. Now, both sides appear keen to conclude the deal as planned. For doing so, they also have ignored the clashes that killed 19 security personnel and four civilians in Afghanistan this week.

“Everybody is happy, even people that are normally against me, like 99.9 percent of the time, because we’ve been there for 19 years,” said US President Donald Trump while explaining why he wanted to end the Afghan war now.

“We’re really serving not as a military force as we are a police force. And we’re not a police force,” he said. “We could act as a military force to win” but “I don’t want to kill millions of people — innocent people,” he said.

But the 22 lawmakers who wrote a letter to Mr Pompeo, urged him “not to commit America to a dangerous deal with the Taliban that would abandon (his) track record of strengthening America and putting our security and interests first.”

At a news briefing earlier this week, Mr Pompeo addressed some of these concerns, assuring sceptics that the deal would ensure Afghanistan was no more used for planning attacks against the United States and its allies.

There’s another concern that seems to have persuaded Washington to sign an agreement now, serious differences within the ruling coalition in Afghanistan. America set up this coalition by creating the post of a chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, within the government who worked with the president almost as an equal.

But since the September 2019 president elections, both Presi­dent Ashraf Ghani and Mr Abdullah have indicated that they want a new arrangement. The Americans, however, do not want to start a new process that could endanger their deal with the Taliban.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1537354/us-taliban-set-to-sign-deal-in-doha-today

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NATO: The road to Afghan peace will be long and hard

28 Feb 2020

NATO is optimistic about the Afghanistan peace process but believes the road to peace will be long and hard, NATO chief said on Friday.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary-General speaking at a press conference following a North Atlantic meeting which was held in Brussels at Turkey’s request for Article 4 constitutions on the situation in Syria, addressed Afghanistan peace process in response to an Afghan journalist question.

We have seen a significant reduction in violence in Afghanistan over the last days and therefore we are also very close to signing of an agreement between the United States and the Taliban. This will be only the first, but very important first step towards a lasting peace agreement in Afghanistan, Jens Stoltenberg said.

The only way to find a lasting sustainable peaceful solution to the conflict in Afghanistan is to have an inter-Afghan process, inter Afghan negotiations, and an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process and that’s the next step. And the road to peace will be long and hard, Stolteberg added.

The will be setbacks and there is a risk always for spoilers, but the thing is that we are committed, the Afghan people are committed to peace and we will continue to provide support, Jens added.

According to the NATO chief, NATO will continue to support Afghan forces with training and funding.

We will continue to support them because that’s the best way we can create the conditions for a peaceful negotiated solution in Afghanistan and I also would like to commend the Afghan security forces because they have made enormous progress, we have helped them, but they are now on the front line, and they are  providing security for the country and we will continue to provide support because that is the best way to support a peaceful solution, Stoltenberg added.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/nato-the-road-to-afghan-peace-will-be-long-and-hard-79870/

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92 military K9 dogs leave Afghanistan, will get new homes in the U.S

29 Feb 2020

At least 92 American veteran K9 dogs that worked alongside the U.S service members in Afghanistan are taken back to America to live the rest of their lives in peace.

The K9 dogs served the military mission in Afghanistan helping in both explosives and narcotics detection together with their human counterparts. These dogs have escaped possible death threats, however, some others have lost lives on the battle site.

The dogs that return back to the United States will stay at their handlers’ homes for the rest of their lives.

Due to being no K9 services company in Afghanistan, the military dogs were brought from the American K9 (AMK9), founded in 2003.

The first and only Afghan dog service provider company established in January 2018 to assist both the military dogs and pets owners with the supply of dog food, accessories, toys and clinical services.

AMK9 recently gave an update on the 92 K9s and their lives following their return to the U.S. They also talked about some of the people involved in facilitating the transfer from a theater of war to life in the States. Some of them even continued to serve in K9 roles once they returned to the U.S.

This comes as the U.S and the Taliban, a notorious terrorist group with whom the United States and other NATO members fought 19 years since 2001, will sign a peace deal today, Saturday on the 29th day of February 2020 in Doha, Qatar.

According to the agreement with the Taliban, the U.S forces will withdraw from Afghanistan as per an agreed schedule.

Currently, there are 15,000 American soldiers in Afghanistan to assist Afghanistan National Security Defence Forces (ANSDF) with the military operations.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/92-military-k9-dogs-leave-afghanistan-will-get-new-homes-in-the-u-s-87907/

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More Than 2,200 Rohingya Caught Trying to Leave Myanmar by Sea Since 2015: Detainee List

2020-02-28

More than 2,200 Rohingya Muslims were apprehended during the past five years as they attempted to illegally leave Myanmar by sea, according to a list of detainees obtained from a naval officer.

Almost 1,500 Rohingya were detained in 2015, more than 500 were picked up in 2018, and about 250 were stopped in 2019, according to the list provided by the officer, who declined to be named, saying he was not authorized to give information to the media.

The figures did not include Rohingya who fled by land from two military-led crackdowns in northern Rakhine state in 2016 and 2017. During the first round of violence, about 90,000 Muslims left their homes and headed across the border and into Bangladesh, while the second, more brutal clampdown forced more than 740,000 into the neighboring nation.

Thousands of other Rohingya have tried to leave Myanmar in the last several years to escape institutionalized persecution, grinding poverty and insecurity in Rakhine state. The persecuted minorities pay human traffickers hundreds of dollars each to transport them to other Muslim-friendly nations in Southeast Asia where they hope to have a better life.

But because of restrictions on their freedom of movement, the Rohingya cannot freely travel inside or outside the country without first obtaining official permission. Those who decide to travel illegally usually do not take identification cards with them, which all Myanmar residents must carry.

A group of almost 70 Rohingya who had fled Rakhine state with the help of traffickers and headed to Malaysia were arrested in Yangon region’s Hlegu township on Feb. 20-21. They are now on trial for violating Myanmar’s nationality statutes for traveling illegally and without documentation.

On Feb. 14, authorities picked up 19 Rohingya, including four children, were arrested in Magway region’s Minhla township of Magway region. The children were taken to a youth training center in Mandalay, while the adults are now on trial for violating nationality statutes, said township immigration officer Aung Pyi Soe.

In a larger incident, the Myanmar Navy on Dec. 15 detained a vessel carrying 174 Rohingya in waters off the country’s southern tip, west of Kawthaung town in the southern Tanintharyi region.

Instead of facing charges, the members of the group were transferred by boat to western Myanmar’s Rakhine state in early January, where immigration officials in the regional capital Sittwe determined their places of origin and sent them back to their villages and internal displacement camps.

On Nov. 28, authorities arrested 96 Rohingya at sea off Pathein township in Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady region after they boarded a boat from Rakhine.

All the arrested Rohingya have been charged under Myanmar’s Immigration Act and face prison sentences of six months to two years, if found guilty.

‘Not the answer’

Rohingya rights activists have decried the arrests and trials, blaming the Myanmar government for failing to address the root causes of the illegal flight.

Tun Khin, president of the Burmese Rohingya Organization UK, said the government must extend basic rights to the Rohingya, who are considered illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and denied citizenship.

“If the Myanmar government gives us citizen rights, lets us live in our places [of origin] by rebuilding our houses, lets us travel in our country, and abolishes unfair laws that affect us, these flight cases can be reduced,” he said.

Myanmar is the subject of a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice brought by the small African nation Gambia, accusing the Southeast Asian country of violating the 1948 Genocide Convention during the alleged expulsion of more than 740,000 Rohingya to Bangladesh amid the 2017 crackdown.

The campaign of violence left thousands of Rohingya dead, while some of those who tried to flee were subject to torture, mass rape and community burnings.

The government and security forces have defended the action as a counterinsurgency against a Muslim militant group in northern Rakhine. The military has pledged to prosecute soldiers who committed atrocities, and has so far held three courts-martial.

Rohingya activist Thar Aye said it is preferable that authorities send back captured Rohingya to their places of origin rather than prosecute them, and that they focus their efforts on charging traffickers.

“It is a good action,” he said. “Because they are not guilty, it is the right action to send them back to their places of origin.”

But Nickey Diamond, a Myanmar human rights specialist with the Southeast Asia-based NGO Fortify Rights, disagreed, saying that Rohingya who are caught and returned will likely leave again if their situation doesn’t change for the better.

“Even if they are sent back to their places of origin, they are going to flee again if they can’t survive,” Diamond said. “And then, some will be arrested in Myanmar’s territorial waters, though others will make it to other countries.”

Full report at:

https://www.benarnews.org/english/news/bengali/bangladesh-rohingya-02282020180716.html

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Afghans dare to dream of peace

February 29, 2020

KABUL: Having survived various rounds of fighting against militants, police officer Mohammad Mustafa proudly shows the scars he incurred during several encounters.

While he is ready to fight more if need be, Mustafa joins other Afghans in hopes for an imminent peace as a US-Taliban agreement is expected to be signed on Saturday.

“After so many years of war, billions of dollars ... we should come to the conclusion that this war has no winner but too many losers, all of them Afghans. We have to stop it and allow the next generation to live in peace,” said the 40-year-old officer who is in charge of protecting a government building near the presidential palace in Kabul.

While serving in Baghlan province last year, Mustafa and his men were targeted by Taliban fighters.

“We had run out of food, ammunition and water. We all kept one last bullet in our rifles, pledged that we would not surrender to the enemy and would kill ourselves if we had to. That did not happen, but I was hit by mortar fire.”

Another incident was a suicide attack on a police station in Kabul for which Daesh claimed responsibility.

“I still have two pieces of shrapnel under my skin. That incident was the most tragic because 18 civilians, all members of one family, were killed and I cannot forget it all my life,” he said.

While he says he would be ready to fight again, Mustafa, who has served more than 15 years with the police, believes it is time that all Afghans united to rebuild their country, which for decades has been torn apart by violent conflicts, the last one being between the US and the Taliban.

When peace comes, Mustafa dreams of sending his three children to university, as he himself had no chance to receive higher education. He would also like to travel across the country, visit its scenic Nuristan province, the archeological sites in Bamiyan and the historic region of Badakhshan, where the Taliban presence has been strong that he only knows them from books

Despite all his plans for a peaceful future after the US-Taliban agreement, Mustafa is skeptical of political promises, as he sees the main obstacle to peace in many of the country’s leaders, who want to “further enrich themselves and remain in power.”

Hope is running high among many Afghans that a week-long reduction in violence prior to the peace deal, which started on Feb. 15, could lead to a longer-lasting peace in the country and allow people to have normal lives.

The partial truce has allowed some to visit their villages in rural areas after years of displacement. Mobile phone networks have been restored in the areas under Taliban control and only minor security incidents have been reported.

Sherzai Mohammadi, a roadside vegetable seller, has lost several relatives in the nearly 19-year US-Taliban conflict. Poverty forced him to quit school in the sixth grade as he became his family’s sole breadwinner.

“I am 28 years old now and all I remember and know has been destruction and killing,” he said.

“War brings calamity, devastation. None of my childhood dreams could be fulfilled. I am hopeful. I dream of being able to give a good life for my kids, to live in peace and enjoy life like people do in normal countries.”

Ulfatullah, a money exchanger in Kabul, said he has earned enough money and dreams of bringing his family members back from Germany, to travel and hike with them when peace comes.

“All people want is peace, not pompous or extravagant life. As humans we have this right,” he said.

Rahmatullah, a 17-year-old school student from Kabul, hopes he will be able to visit the grave of his grandfather in a remote village in Ghazni, a restive province where the Taliban are in control of several districts.

He wants to settle in the village and become a teacher. “I want a simple life, to be able to help people learn and build the country,” he said.

Shafiqa, a 25-year-old nurse, said she yearns for “women and men to have equal rights to study, work and serve the country,” something she has only known from family stories.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1634766/world

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Southeast Asia

 

Muslim Youth Movement Of Malaysia Condemns Violence Against India Muslims

Pizaro Gozali Idrus  

29.02.2020

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia

A Malaysian Muslim youth group expressed concern Friday for the violence in the Indian capital of New Delhi.

The Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM) described the situation as a failure by the Indian government to protect citizens.

"The authorities have failed to control the riots of religious extremists targeting Muslim houses and places of worship," said the group’s Secretary General Mohammad Fazril Mohd Salleh

Fazril said he wondered how India, as a large country with large human resources and capacity, could fail to protect its own citizens.

"It is impossible for Indian security forces to be very weak to let this bloodshed occurred," he said.

Fazril said ABIM was concerned about the Citizenship Amendment Act passed by India last December, saying it was clearly unjust and oppressed certain parts of the population.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party politicians have spread hatred that made the situation worse, he said.

ABIM urged the international community to pressure India to stop oppressing minorities.

The group also urged Malaysian interim Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to voice concerns about the global issue.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/malaysian-group-condemns-violence-against-india-muslims/1749365

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Muslim World League chief lays foundation stone for Islamic museum in Jakarta

February 29, 2020

JAKARTA: A museum dedicated to Prophet Muhammad and the history of Islamic civilization will soon rise in the Indonesian capital.

Sheikh Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL), laid the foundation stone for the Jakarta branch of the Museum of the Life of the Prophet and Islamic Civilization on Feb. 28, 2020, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

An MWL post on Twitter said the museum will feature lush gardens in one of the most visited area in the city.

Al-Issa was quoted by SPA as saying that Jakarta would become the first branch of the Madinah international museum, hosting a variety of events, debates, training sessions, conferences, forums and seminars.

Following the groundbreaking ceremony, Al-Issa and his delegation met with the Saudi Ambassador to Indonesia, Essam bin Abed Al-Thaqafi.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1634761/saudi-arabia

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Malaysian game of thrones continues as king struggles to pick prime minister

February 29, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s king will meet all political party leaders before he selects the leader of the country.

Recent interviews between the palace and MPs have failed to break the deadlock, with no majority preference for any candidate.

In a statement, the monarch Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah said that he “does not have the full confidence regarding one MP that is able to get the command of confidence by the majority of the Malaysian MPs to form a new government.”

The interviews started on Tuesday, following the resignation of Prime Minister  Mohamad and his swift appointment as interim prime minister.

While the king’s role is largely ceremonial, he appoints the MP with majority support to become prime minister. The appointment is preceded by a consultation with other members of the Conference of Rulers, which comprises nine sultans who are appointed as Malaysia’s king on a rotational basis.

In a move seen as an encroachment of the king’s power, Mahathir on Thursday announced that the parliament will hold a meeting to debate who should become the next prime minister on Monday.

“If the lower house fails to find a person with the majority, then we will have to go for a snap election,” he told reporters.

In response to the announcement, the speaker of the lower house of parliament said there will be “no special parliament meeting” and any notification for such a sitting is to be issued by him.

The political upheaval, revolving mainly around Mahathir and his anointed successor Anwar Ibrahim, has witnessed a failed political coup by factions within the ruling Alliance of Hope and the opposition National Front (BN) last weekend.

Alliance parties have expressed their support for Anwar, while BN and Mahathir’s Berastu have pledged to support Muhyiddin Yassin, the former home minister and Berastu leader.

Political analyst James Chin from Tasmania University’s Asia Institute told Arab News that the current crisis reflects “the same old politics of BN versus the Alliance.”

He added: “Mahathir and Muhyiddin must come into an agreement because if they split the vote, they will lose against Anwar.

Pressure is also mounting on the ethnic minority Borneo-based Sabah Heritage Party and the Gabungan Parti Sarawak, whose votes could be decisive for the next premier.

Analysts view them as the “missing link” to the formation of Malaysia’s new government.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1634756/world

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Indonesia’s health minister asks Muslim clerics to pray against coronavirus

February 28, 2020 

As SARS-Cov-2 swiftly spreads across the globe, infecting thousands of people from Singapore to Northern Ireland, Indonesian Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto, a devout Christian, attended a national Islamic conference on Wednesday to ask Muslim clerics to pray against the lethal virus.

“I just landed here last night, [after] joining the Congress of the Indonesian Islamic Community. [The visit] was important, for I wanted to ask for a prayer,” the minister said as quoted by kompas.com in Jakarta on Thursday.

Read also: From military to virus outbreak: What sets Terawan apart from predecessors

The congress, organized by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), was held in Pangkalpinang, Bangka Belitung, from Wednesday to Saturday. Other senior government officials attending the event were Vice President Ma’ruf Amin, who heads the MUI, and Religious Affairs Minister Fachrul Razi.

The health minister – a seasoned military doctor – has repeatedly said he believes the power of prayer is one reason Indonesia has been spared from the virus outbreak so far. He noted that, from hundreds of samples tested by the government, none had come back positive, indicating that the nation was still free from the virus.

“We can only pray, while also working, testing and taking action to detect [any virus infection]. If there is [a case of the coronavirus disease 2019], we will respond to it. We are still checking and preventing [the disease]; we are [taking measures] according to WHO standards,” he said as quoted by tempo.co.

In his opening speech, Ma’ruf said many Muslim clerics had recited the qunut prayer while leading the dawn prayers, and that could have been the reason why Indonesia had remained coronavirus-free.

In Islamic tradition, a qunut nazilah prayer is recited when the Islamic community faces a calamity, including a deadly plague.

“Many Muslim clerics recited the qunut prayer. I also read the qunut prayer to stave off danger, epidemics and diseases. That’s why the coronavirus is staying away from Indonesia,” Ma’ruf, who is also a senior Muslim cleric, said.

Ma'ruf also expressed his appreciation for Terawan, who has worked hard to anticipate the outbreak. "He is the goalkeeper. Even though other countries have experienced the outbreak, China, Japan, the United States, Singapore and many other countries, [Indonesia hasn’t]. The Health Minister said it is because of the prayers of the Muslim clerics," he said.

Full report at:

https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/02/28/indonesias-health-minister-asks-muslim-clerics-to-pray-against-coronavirus.html

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Analyst tells why a PH government, minus PPBM, may not last

Robin Augustin

February 28, 2020

PETALING JAYA: A political analyst has voiced doubt that a Pakatan Harapan-led government can survive, owing to its current composition where it is dominated by non-Malay and non-Bumiputera MPs.

Speaking to FMT, Chandra Muzaffar said as it stands, PH’s 92 MPs were backing PKR president Anwar Ibrahim as prime minister, meaning the Port Dickson MP would need another 20 more MPs from outside the coalition to support him.

Currently, of PH’s remaining 92 MPs, following the exit of PPBM and 11 MPs alligned to former PKR deputy president Mohamed Azmin Ali, some 59 are non-Muslim and 33 are Muslims.

Chandra said Malaysia was rooted in Malay polity, centred around a Malay political system, including its institutions.

“So if the community’s representation in the government is weak, it will be unstable.”

Earlier today, the Malay Economic Action Council (MTEM), the country’s largest umbrella group of Malay economic bodies, had warned that any government formed without support from Malay-based parties will be short-lived.

Chandra said PH only won some 27% of the Malay vote at the 14th general election, and that was while PPBM and Azmin’s faction was still with them.

“Now, the Malay support for PH will be lower because PPBM and Azmin’s faction are not there, not to mention that Malay support for the coalition has also been eroding, as evidenced by the recent by-elections.”

He added that PKR, while being Malay-led, relied more on its non-Malay support base while Amanah was too small. As such, neither can fill the void left by PPBM.

Chandra said with Umno and PAS having a strong antipathy towards DAP, Anwar would have to secure the support of individual MPs.

“The problem is, rightly or wrongly, a PH-led government will be seen as being controlled by DAP. This is what may make it challenging to get individual MPs from Umno and PAS to join.”

James Chin, of the University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute, meanwhile said that if Anwar succeeds in becoming PM, he will bring in more Malays.

“He knows he cannot have the Malays sitting outside and will probably do a deal with PPBM or Umno.”

He added that a PH-led government could still secure Malay votes in the future but only if they dramatically increase the number of Malay MPs.

“This is possible as many MPs want to be in the ruling coalition.”

But Chin said PH must show that a multiracial government is better than one dominated by one race as history has shown that a multiracial government is far more stable than one that is not.

Universiti Malaya’s Awang Azman Pawi, meanwhile, said PH having more non-Malay MPs would only be temporary. If Anwar becomes PM, he said more Malays would want to join him, be it en bloc or being PH-friendly.

“If the Conference of Rulers gives Anwar a chance to become PM and form a minority government, it will still stand a chance, despite facing a possible vote of no confidence in Parliament.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/02/28/analyst-tells-why-a-ph-government-minus-ppbm-may-not-last/

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Pope Francis may lead Mass in Jakarta during September visit to Indonesia

Budi Sutrisno

February 28, 2020

Pope Francis may preside over a mass at the Gelora Bung Karno main stadium in Senayan, Central Jakarta, during his expected visit to Indonesia in September, the Indonesian Bishops Conference (KWI) announced.

KWI chairman and Indonesia’s third cardinal, Ignatius Suharyo, said there was a possibility the supreme leader of the world’s Catholic Church would lead a mass at the sport complex, although the schedule was still under discussion.

“There is a possibility. The Vatican team plans to come to Indonesia in late March and the official announcement of the Pope’s schedule and activities will be announced after that,” Suharyo told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

Besides leading a mass, Suharyo said the Pope would be expected to visit the Istiqlal Mosque and to meet with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, as well as with bishops, priests and nuns at the Jakarta Cathedral.

The secretary-general of the supreme council of Indonesia’s largest Islamic group Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Yahya Cholil Staquf, revealed last month that Pope Francis planned to visit Indonesia, as well as neighboring Timor Leste and Papua New Guinea, in September.

The Muslim scholar announced the plan following his meeting with Francis in Rome on Jan. 15.

Pope Francis has recently paid successful visits to Thailand and Japan and previously expressed interest in visiting Indonesia this year.

The State Palace and the Foreign Ministry both confirmed in late January that upon learning Pope Francis' wishes, Jokowi extended an official invitation to him to visit the archipelago.

Vatican-linked ucanews.com reported on Friday that Francis has fallen sick in Rome, a day after attending Ash Wednesday ceremonies without wearing a mask in an expression of solidarity with those suffering from the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Whether the Pope has been tested for the coronavirus remains unclear.

The pope’s expected visit to Indonesia this year would convey a message of hope and peace for some 7 million Catholics and other religious followers in the world’s largest Muslim-populated country.

Pope Francis had made clear his reformist position against sexual violence in the Catholic Church globally as stated in his apostolic letter Vos Estis Lux Mundi issued in May last year.

His visit, if it happens, would mark the third time a Catholic pope has come to Indonesia.

Full report at:

https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/02/28/pope-francis-may-lead-mass-in-jakarta-during-september-visit-to-indonesia.html

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Nearly 1,700 Indonesian pilgrims stranded in transit countries by 'umrah' ban

February 28, 2020

Almost 1,700 Indonesian nationals have been stranded in a number of transit countries by Saudi Arabia's decision to temporarily ban all foreign umrah (minor haj) pilgrims from entering the country because of concerns over the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Presidential spokesman Fadjroel Rachman said on Friday that the stranded pilgrims initially bound for the Islamic kingdom were expected to fly back to Indonesia as soon as they completed arrangements for their return.

"There were 1,685 [Indonesian] pilgrims stranded in third countries during transit and they are now in the process of being flown back home by their respective airlines," Fadjroel said without providing details of the transit countries.

At least 83 Indonesian pilgrims were stranded at Abu Dhabi International Airport after landing at the United Arab Emirates (UAE) capital from Jakarta at 12:24 a.m. on Thursday, the same day that Saudi Arabia announced the umrah ban.

Indonesian Ambassador to the UAE Nur Ibrahim said the 83 pilgrims were expected to leave for Jakarta on Friday at midnight as they were unable to continue flying to Madinah in Saudi Arabia.

"The Indonesian government conveys its appreciation to all travel agents, airlines and other relevant parties who have been willing to make speedy responses to address the situation without putting more burdens on the pilgrims," Fadjroel said.

Meanwhile, 2,393 Indonesian pilgrims using 75 travel agencies, who had been scheduled to fly with eight different airlines on Feb. 27, were unable to embark on their pilgrimages, Fadjroel said.

Religious Affairs Minister Fachrul Razi has called for airlines and travel agents to facilitate the rescheduling of flights for all pilgrims affected by the ban.

As a result of the fast-spreading coronavirus, which has affected Saudi nationals in Bahrain and Kuwait, Saudi Arabia suspended umrah and visits to the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah as among several precautionary restrictions.

The Saudi Haj and Umrah Ministry also temporarily stopped issuing umrah visas and suspended the entry of tourist-visa holders from “countries with confirmed coronavirus outbreaks, according to criteria established by the Saudi health authorities".

Full report at:

https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/02/28/nearly-1700-indonesian-pilgrims-stranded-in-transit-countries-by-umrah-ban.html

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Pakistan

 

Christian youth tortured to death for ‘polluting’ tube-well water

February 29, 2020

LAHORE: A Christian labourer, who was brutally tortured by local landowners in Kasur three days ago on accusations that he had ‘polluted’ their tube-well water by bathing in it, succumbed to his injuries on Friday, Pakistan Today has learnt.

Saleem Masih, 22, was brought to the General Hospital in a critical condition on Thursday from Chunian tehsil, his family said.

“On Feb 25, Saleem had finished unloading chaff in fields in Baguyana village and was rinsing himself off in the tube-well when a group of men, including Sher Dogar, Iqbal, Altaf, Jabbar and Haji Muhammad rushed over, yanked him out of the water and began beating him,” Saleem’s father Ghafoor Masih said.

“They cursed and abused Saleem for ‘polluting’ the water, calling him a ‘filthy Christian,’” Masih claimed, adding that the assailants then dragged the youth to their cattle farm, where they chained his hands and feet and continued to torture him with sticks and rods. “They also rolled a thick iron rod over Saleem’s entire body, causing multiple fractures and internal injuries.”

Ghafoor said that the family was informed about the incident by police officials four hours after his son was taken hostage and tortured.

“When we reached the cattle farm, we found Saleem lying unconscious on the ground, his face and body bloodied,” he said. He alleged that according to Dogar and the other men, Saleem had “committed a crime by dirtying” their well water and that his punishment was “justified”.

Masih said that after much pleading, the family was allowed to take Saleem to the hospital while the police acted like spectators.

Accusing the Ila Abad Police of favouring the accused, Pakistan Center for Law and Justice (PCLJ) Executive Director Napolean Qayyum said that police had helped the five men obtain bail after briefly holding them in custody.

He said successive governments have failed to reform a deeply corrupt police system that often shows religious prejudice toward minority and marginalized communities.

“The police’s attitude is often biased when they deal with matters relating to blasphemy, forced conversions and marriages of girls belonging to minority faiths, and even in minor disputes,” Qayyum said. “In this instance, for example, the police favored the accused and helped them in getting bail even though a young man’s life was at serious risk.”

‘MINDSET RESPONSIBLE FOR FAITH-BASED CRIMES’: 

Commenting on the incident, Punjab Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Affairs Ejaz Alam Augustine said that the incident was in his knowledge and stern action would be taken against the perpetrators and the police officials concerned.

“Our first priority was to save the young man’s life and I had directed the hospital authorities to ensure best medical treatment to him. Now the nature of the case has changed and murder charge will be added to the FIR,” he said.

Regarding the family’s claim that their son’s killing was religiously motivated, Augustine said the incident was a result of the mindset that prevails in society.

“No law can change such a mindset. The government is trying to promote tolerance for the other faiths but it is an uphill task that cannot be achieved overnight.”

Kasur is the same district where an illiterate young Christian couple was beaten and burned to death by a frenzied mob in 2014 over false allegations of blasphemy. Shahzad and Shama Masih, 26 and 24 respectively, had been accused of desecrating pages of the Holy Quran along with other household waste.

The mob beat the two with sticks and stones before burning them in a brick kiln in front of police officials who stood watching. Post-mortem reports revealed that the two were alive when they were thrown into the kiln.

After the attack, it emerged that the couple had been falsely accused. The pages that the family burned were their personal documents.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/02/28/christian-youth-tortured-to-death-for-polluting-tube-well-water/

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Pakistan says US invited to invest in CPEC

Feb 28, 2020

ISLAMABAD: In an interesting move, cash-strapped Pakistan has invited the US to join the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, an ambitious infrastructure project looked with suspicion by the Trump administration for being non-transparent.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's adviser on commerce Abdul Razak Dawood on Thursday said the government made the offer during a meeting with the US trade delegation led by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Wednesday, The Express Tribune reported.

Interestingly last month, senior US diplomat Alice Wells said that there is no transparency in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the firms blacklisted by the World Bank have got contracts under the project, which will increase Pakistan's debt burden.

Wells, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia made the remarks while speaking at a think tank event during her four-day visit to Pakistan.

Khan's commerce advisor Razak said: "The US has shown interest in (Pakistan's) energy, oil and gas, agriculture and food processing".

China has committed to invest over $60 billion in Pakistan as part of the CPEC under which it planned to build a number of special economic zones.

India has objected to the CPEC as it is being laid through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

The US Commerce Secretary's visit is the result of recently-held discussions between Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Donald Trump to promote bilateral trade and enhanced economic engagements, the report said.

"Pakistan-US market access is the main point. We want access to the US market," Dawood said, adding that the US official has assured of his cooperation.

Sharing details of the meeting, Dawood said the US officials have also expressed interest in promoting e-commerce.

"They have agreed that the US International Development Finance Corporation would help in developing new businesses in Pakistan. The US secretary is ready to send a commerce delegation for coordination," Dawood said.

He said they discussed bilateral relations and matters of mutual interest, and agreed to enhance mutual trade to a maximum level.

A Free Trade Agreement (FTA) could be a long-term goal because of complexity involved in the process, Dawood said.

CPEC connecting China's Xinjiang with Pakistan's Gwadar port is regarded as the flagship project of the multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which is aimed at furthering China's global influence with infrastructure projects funded by Chinese investments all over the world.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-says-us-invited-to-invest-in-cpec/articleshow/74393945.cms

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Pakistan’s ‘absconder’ dilemma

By FAWAD KAISER

FEBRUARY 28, 2020

The Punjab government decided this week not to accept former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s application regarding extension of his eight-week bail that expired on December 24, and declared him an “absconder” for violating the bail requirements by not presenting his medical report before a board formed on the order of the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

The supreme leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was convicted in corruption cases and disqualified from politics. The IHC granted him bail for eight weeks on medical grounds on October 29 last year. He left Pakistan for London on November 19 for medical treatment there. His younger brother and leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, Shahbaz Sharif, accompanied him.

When politicians run away, the law always and perhaps rightly places them in the wrong; but this raises some troubling questions. Who is to blame? There are almost as many answers to that question as there are cases in which politicians abscond; all shades of right and wrong can be found in such incidents. But Pakistani law, as it stands now, accepts only one answer: Absconding is an offense.

This conceals an awkward fact about the country’s law. The government of Punjab province cannot declare Sharif an absconder unless it presents its case to the IHC, which is authorized to render such a verdict. The government is naturally keen to force its way with intrusive regulation. But at the same time, it is reluctant to treat Sharif harshly when the medical problem claimed by the former prime minister is still in dispute.

The government has a standing law that aims to help confiscate the assets of high-value economic offenders absconding from Pakistan. It can exercise this law until the absconders submit to the jurisdiction of the appropriate legal forum.

That should be bad news for those who have fled the country leaving behind a stack of bad debts. However, it is widely felt that high-value political and economic offenders absconding from country defy the legal process and seriously undermine the rule of law in Pakistan. Hence the average voter feels it is necessary for the current government to deliver its pre-election promise and provide an effective, expeditious and constitutionally permissible deterrent to ensure that such actions are curbed. The law should provide for measures to deter economic and political offenders from evading the process of the law by remaining outside Pakistan courts’ jurisdiction.

Undoubtedly it is not easy to bring back these offenders. Recently former finance minister Ishaq Dar’s local property was seized by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and converted into a shelter home. Nevertheless, efforts are continuing to bring Dar back from England, but people are losing faith and confidence in both the government and the NAB.

Rome was not built in a day. It will take time to control the deep-rooted corruption in Pakistan. As of now, anti-corruption campaigns in Pakistan dwell heavily on moral outrage. The incumbent government’s knee-jerk legislations are in tandem with this approach. While this moralistic approach can heighten public awareness on corruption, it fails to attain the lofty objectives that the campaigners set themselves out for and, therefore, cannot sustain beyond the initial hysteria.

Social justice and social security are critical for political and social stability. This scenario must not be allowed to fester. It has been understood that this is on the agenda of Prime Minister Imran Khan, while his government denies that it is under any form of political control, manipulation and support from the military establishment. The public are already beginning becoming impatient as inflation, poverty and poor economic growth are hurting them, a situation that if allowed to continue, could result in egregious behavior. At the same time, the government cannot ignore the fact that justice delayed is justice denied. 

This is why the government must not stay fixated on a few politicians and instead should focus on the underlying issues. It must genuinely adhere to the rule of law and at the same time address the concerns of those who believe that another deal like ex-dictator Pervez Musharraf’s National Reconciliation Ordinance has been made.

Full report at:

https://asiatimes.com/2020/02/pakistans-absconder-dilemma/

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Ban on new constructions lifted in Gwadar after four years

Behram Baloch

February 29, 2020

GWADAR: An around four-year-old ban on issuance of no-objection certificates (NOCs) for any kind of construction and development activities in Gwadar was on Friday lifted with immediate effect.

The director general of the Gwadar Development Authority (GDA) lifted the ban that was imposed during the previous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government at the centre.

A notification issued in this regard reads: “In exercise of powers conferred under Section 9 of the GDA Act 2003, and with the prior approval of the competent authority, it is hereby notified that the ban on all kinds of NOCs for housing, commercial, industrial, recreational, warehouses and all types of construction and development activities within the jurisdiction of Gwadar Development Autho­rity is here lifted with immediate effect.”

In 2016, the GDA had imposed the ban initially for a period of six months on the grounds that it was in the process of revision of the Gwadar master plan as a “smart port city master plan” to meet the needs of a modern port city.

The authority had said that as a basic requirement of any revision in master plan “a standstill situation/status quo is required to facilitate the planning objectives of the master plan” and, therefore, it declared “a complete ban on issuing development and sale NOCs for housing, commercial and industrial projects, commercial and residential buildings as well as on land development permits in Gwadar”.

The GDA has also asked all government and semi government bodies to obtain an NOC from the authority to carry out any planning/development activity to ensure integrated development and conformity in accordance with the Gwadar master plan.

However, work on the master plan continued for years and in Sept 2019, Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan Aliyani said that his government had approved and released the new Gwadar Master Plan.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1537312/ban-on-new-constructions-lifted-in-gwadar-after-four-years

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Pakistan expresses sorrow over Turkish troops’ killing in Syria

February 29, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Friday condoled with Turkey over the killing of its 33 soldiers in Syria’s Idlib region and expressed support for Turkey’s “legitimate security and humanitarian concerns”.

“Pakistan expresses its deep concern at the recent developments in Syria’s Idlib region, and conveys heartfelt condolences and sympathies to the leadership and people of Turkey over the loss of lives of a number of Turkish soldiers in an attack yesterday,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.

Around 33 Turkish soldiers were killed in Syria’s Idlib province in an aerial attack by Syrian forces on Thursday renewing fears of a full-blown conflict. “The recent developments are not only a grave threat to regional peace and security but will also exacerbate the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the region,” the FO said.

Syrian government has over the past few weeks launched a massive aerial campaign to clear last rebel held area of Idlib. Turkish soldiers were present in the region as part of a 2018 de-escalation agreement between Russia and Turkey.

“Pakistan once again urges the international community to play its role towards finding a political solution to the Syrian conflict, as well as addressing the prevailing humanitarian crisis,” the FO said.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1537323/pakistan-expresses-sorrow-over-turkish-troops-killing-in-syria

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20 killed, several others injured as passenger train collides with bus in Sukkur

Ubaidullah Shaikh | Mohammad Hussain Khan

February 28, 2020

At least 20 people were killed and dozens others injured when a passenger train collided with a bus near Rohri railway station on Friday night, according to Sukkur Police AIG Dr Jamil Ahmed.

The police official told Dawn.com that the number of casualties was expected to rise as several of the injured were in critical condition.

The 45 Up Pakistan Express train was on its way to Rawalpindi from Karachi, when it collided with a passenger bus at an 'unmanned' railway crossing. The bus was en route to Punjab and was carrying 20 passengers.

"It was a very horrible accident [...] the bus was split into three parts," the AIG said, adding that the impact of the collision was such that the bus was dragged almost 150-200 feet by the train.

Meanwhile, Sukkur Commissioner Shafique Ahmed Mahesar said that the injured, who included women and children, had sustained severe injuries and had been taken to different hospitals in Rohri and Sukkur.

"It is a huge tragedy and all administration and police officials are rushing to the site," said the commissioner. "It was an unmanned railway crossing as nothing existed there to prevent any traffic," he added, while also expressing the fear that the death toll could rise.

Sukkur District Health Officer Dr Munir Mangrio confirmed that 13 bodies were sent to Rohri hospital, while the remaining were sent to Sukkur hospital. The deceased included five women and nine men.

Dr Mangrio added that 60 injured were also shifted to Sukkur hospital, while another 20 injured persons hadn't reported to any hospital so far.

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah took notice of the incident and directed the Sukkur commissioner to dispatch rescue teams to the area.

The CM also called for an emergency to be declared at all hospitals in Khairpur, and directed the authorities concerned to ensure ample medicines and blood for those injured in the incident.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari also took notice of the incident and directed the provincial government to ensure the best medical facilities for those injured in the collision.

Meanwhile, the Railways ministry spokesperson said that Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed had expressed sorrow over the loss of lives, while also contending that the bus driver was apparently at fault in the incident.

The spokesperson said that the train's engine was damaged in the collision, while the assistant driver sustained injuries. He added that the passengers on the train remained safe.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1537206/20-killed-several-others-injured-as-passenger-train-collides-with-bus-in-sukkur

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LHC seeks list of prisoners released from Saudi jails

Wajih Ahmad Sheikh

February 29, 2020

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday instructed the foreign ministry to submit an updated list of Pakistani prisoners repatriated from jails in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Justice Ayesha A. Malik sought a report on the efforts made to ensure repatriation of the prisoners since Feb 18, 2019, when the Saudi crown prince had announced immediate release of 2,107 Pakistanis.

The judge was hearing a petition by the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) on behalf of 10 Pakistanis on death row in the Gulf countries. The petition sought enforcement of the fundamental rights of Pakistani citizens facing execution in jails across the Middle East. Further hearing was adjourned for a month.

On Nov 12 last year, a list of 579 Pakistani prisoners released from the kingdom was submitted by the ministry to the court. An analysis of the list revealed that less than five per cent of the prisoners had returned after the crown prince’s announcement. The rest had been repatriated before that.

A research by the JPP shows that the number of overseas prisoners has increased by 26 per cent since 2014. An increase in number of Pakistanis imprisoned in Saudi Arabia was also recorded during the same period.

According to another report submitted earlier by the interior ministry to the court, nearly 11,000 Pakistanis are languishing in foreign jails.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1537315/lhc-seeks-list-of-prisoners-released-from-saudi-jails

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Nawaz’s exemption from personal appearance in court extended

February 29, 2020

LAHORE: An accountability court on Friday gave former prime minister Nawaz Sharif another exemption from personal appearance in the court in the light of medical reports submitted by his counsel during the hearing of the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case.

Advocate Amjad Pervez, the counsel, told the court that Mr Sharif was still under treatment in London and the doctors had not allowed him to travel.

He asked the court to extend exemption to Mr Sharif from personal appearance in the proceedings against him in the sugar mill case.

The court allowed the application and adjourned the hearing till March 30.

Earlier, a National Acc­oun­ta­bility Bureau prosecutor told the court that the reference was in a final stage and would be filed soon.

Mr Sharif’s nephew Yousaf Abbas, a co-suspect, who was released on bail by the Lahore High Court, also appeared before the court.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz vice president Maryam Nawaz, who is also on bail, has already been exempted from personal appearance in the court till the filing of the reference by NAB.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1537326/nawazs-exemption-from-personal-appearance-in-court-extended

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US and Taliban set to sign deal to end Afghanistan war

February 29, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The seven-day “Reduction in Violence” (RIV) pact that took effect in neighbouring Afghanistan on Feb 22, is set to culminate in the signing of an agreement between top US and Taliban negotiators on Saturday in Doha, the location of the political headquarters of the hardline insurgent group.

The RIV period has passed off largely successfully, and the United States and Taliban look set to sign the agreement to establish a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops in exchange for guarantees from the Taliban not to allow militant groups such as al-Qaeda to operate in Afghanistan.

The US-Taliban agreement, if inked on Saturday, would begin a phased withdrawal of American and coalition forces and would also require the Taliban to initiate a formal dialogue with the Afghan government and other political and civil society groups on a permanent nationwide ceasefire and power-sharing in post-war Afghanistan.

The Taliban now hold sway over half the country, and are at their most powerful since the US invasion in 2001.

Senior Taliban commanders in Doha and Afghanistan said once the deal is signed the group will release 1,000 Afghan prisoners, mostly security personnel and government employees who are in their custody in different parts of the country.

In exchange, the Taliban expects the Afghan government to release their 5,000 fighters.

“We will not join the intra-Afghan dialogue if the US and Afghan government did not honour their commitment to release our prisoners,” said a senior Taliban commander in Doha.

Afghan broadcaster Tolo News said US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg were expected in Kabul ahead of the announcement of the declaration in Doha.

‘PEACE DEAL TO BENEFIT REGION’:

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Friday that the signing of the US-Taliban agreement will mutually benefit the entire region, particularly Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Qureshi has reached Doha to attend the signing of the US-Taliban peace deal on Saturday.

The foreign minister said that it is hoped that after a prolonged war, a peace agreement will be signed. He said that the agreement will benefit the entire region, with chances of a gas pipeline project being built in Afghanistan and Turkmenistan.

The foreign minister said that when peace will prevail then Pakistan and Afghanistan both will reap benefits and it will also mitigate the energy crisis.

He said that the Pakistani nation gave sacrifices for the sake of peace. “Those who called Pakistan the centre of terrorism are now calling it a partner for peace.”

Last week, Qatar had invited Pakistan to attend the deal signing ceremony between the United States and the Afghan Taliban. On behalf of the Qatari Foreign Minister, the invitation was extended by the Qatari Ambassador to Pakistan Saqr Bin Mubarak during a meeting with FM Qureshi in Islamabad on Tuesday.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/02/28/qureshi-to-attend-us-taliban-peace-deal-in-doha/

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Arab World

 

Organization of Islamic Cooperation to adopt Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam

February 28, 2020

JEDDAH: Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Dr. Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen announced on Wednesday that the OIC will adopt the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (CDHRI) after it is revised in accordance with international human-rights standards. The foreign ministers of the OIC member states are expected to approve the CDHRI at their meeting in Niamey, Niger in April.

Al-Othaimeen was speaking at the 43rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), held in Geneva on Wednesday, where he highlighted some of the efforts the OIC has made to fight racism and xenophobia — including Islamophobia — claiming that they are the result of “intellectual and political resistance to cultural pluralism.”

He said the OIC, in cooperation with its partners, has prepared “a comprehensive and consensual approach to address incitement to hatred, discrimination and violence on the basis of religion.”

Al-Othaimeen’s speech, which was delivered on his behalf by OIC Geneva Permanent Representative Nassima Baghli, stressed that terrorism, including religious extremism, is a major source of concern for the international community. He pointed out that the OIC continues to condemn the ideological rhetoric adopted by terrorist groups and has established the Sawt Al-Hikma (Voice of Wisdom) Center, which focuses on addressing the ideological rhetoric of extremists.

His speech also reviewed the most common human-rights violations suffered by Muslims, referring to the detailed documentation from the UN’s own human rights bodies and the OIC of discrimination and violence against the Rohingya Muslims.

Al-Othaimeen explained that America’s actions in Palestine in recent months required the OIC to stress that any peace initiative between Israel and Palestine must be consistent with legitimate rights, foremost among which is the right to self-determination.

He also stressed the OIC’s support for Kashmiris in their pursuit of their legitimate right to self-determination in accordance with international resolutions and highlighted the OIC’s condemnation of Armenia’s continued occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven regions bordering Azerbaijan.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1634386/saudi-arabia

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No military solution to the Syrian conflict: Guterres

28 February 2020

The United Nations on Thursday called for urgent action in northwest Syria, warning that “the risk of greater escalation grows by the hour.”

“The Secretary-General reiterates his call for an immediate ceasefire and expresses particular concern about the risk to civilians from escalating military actions,” spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

“Without urgent action, the risk of even greater escalation grows by the hour.”

The statement came after 29 Turkish soldiers were killed in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib after an air strike on Thursday blamed on Damascus, as violence escalates in the already chaotic region.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was following the situation with “grave concern,” Dujarric said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/28/Risk-of-escalation-in-Syria-grows-hourly-without-urgent-action-UN-.html

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Death toll of Turkish soldiers killed in Syria in February alone reaches 53

28 February 2020

The latest casualties bring to 53 the number of Turkish troops killed in Syria this month alone after 33 soldiers were killed on Thursday in the battleground northwestern province of Idlib.

Turkey reprised and killed 20 Syrian soldiers later on Friday with drone and artillery strikes hitting Syrian army positions in southern and eastern parts of the province which were recaptured by the government in a nearly three-month-old offensive against the enclave, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

At least 16 regime fighters died in those strikes, while another four were killed by artillery fire on positions in neighboring Aleppo province, the Observatory added.

Also on Friday in Idlib, four members of a single family, two of them children, were killed in airstrikes, according to the Britain-based monitor, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria.

There was no immediate confirmation from Damascus of the reported troop deaths or any comment on the flare-up with Ankara that prompted NATO to call an urgent meeting of its ruling council.

The alliance later Friday offered solidarity and support to Turkey but no pledges of concrete new measures to defend Ankara’s forces.

Turkey had said it retaliated “from the air and ground” for the deaths of the 33 soldiers, Ankara’s biggest single loss of personnel by far since it launched its intervention in Syria in 2016.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/28/Death-toll-of-Turkish-soldiers-killed-in-Syria-in-February-alone-reaches-53.html

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16 Syrian troops, militiamen killed in Turkish retaliation: Monitor

28 February 2020

The retaliatory drone and artillery strikes hit Syria army positions in southern and eastern parts of the province which were recaptured by the government in a nearly three-month-old offensive against the rebel enclave, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

There was no immediate confirmation from Damascus of the reported deaths or any comment on the flare-up with Ankara that prompted NATO to call an urgent meeting of its ruling council for later Friday.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/28/16-Syrian-troops-militiamen-killed-in-Turkish-retaliation-Monitor.html

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Syria: Turkey using observation posts to back terrorists

29 February 2020

Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations tells an emergency UN Security Council meeting that Turkey uses the observation posts it has set up in the Arab country’s northwest to level support for terrorists.

Speaking during the Friday session, Bashar al-Ja’afari strongly condemned the Turkish aggression against Syria, and urged the world body to put an end to Ankara’s adventurism.

Turkey has 12 observation posts in Syria’s Idlib Province, built as part of an agreement with Russia to de-escalate the situation near the Turkish border. Some of the posts, however, now lie in the territory that has been recaptured in joint Russo-Syrian efforts.

Ankara, which itself supports a number of anti-Damascus militant outfits in Idlib, claims that Syrian offensives there have killed dozens of its troops. It has threatened to attack the Syrian military unless government forces abandoned the liberated areas, and asked Moscow to “stop” Damascus.

Turkey has, meanwhile, sent thousands of troops and heavy military hardware into Idlib in an unprecedented incursion to back the militants.

Damascus, though, has vowed to liberate the entire Syria, including Idlib, which contains the largest remaining concentrations of Takfiri terrorists in the Arab country.

The meeting came after reports claimed that a Russia-backed Syrian operation had been followed by the death of 33 Turkish forces.

Russia’s ambassador Vasily Nebenzya, however, noted that the troops had been killed outside their designated observation posts.

He said Turkish troops shared coordinates with Russia, which were then given to Syrian government forces, to avoid conflict on the ground. However, "the coordinates conveyed yesterday did not mention the areas where ultimately the Turkish soldiers died," the envoy said.

Russia: Fighting terrorism Syria’s right

Nebenzya also emphasized that the Syrian army had a right to fight terrorists anywhere in the country, and regretted that terrorists in Syria were armed with the latest Western-made military equipment.

"In response to the ongoing violations of the ceasefire regime within the zone of Idlib, the Syrian army certainly has the right to respond and suppress terrorists," he stated. "We cannot forbid the Syrian army to fulfill requirements, stipulated by the UN Security Council resolutions on the unconditional fight against terrorism in all of its forms, particularly on its territory - the territory of sovereign Syria," Nebenzya added.

US Ambassador Kelly Craft, however, called on Russia “to immediately ground its warplanes” and demanded that “all Syrian forces and their Russian backers to withdraw.”

Moscow began lending aerial support to Syria’s counter-terrorism efforts in September 2016, five years after the Arab nation fell victim to widespread foreign-backed violence. The airpower, alongside military advisory support offered by Iran, helped Syria turn the tables on terrorists.

On February 20, Bloomberg cited a senior Turkish official as saying that Ankara had asked Washington to deploy two Patriot missile batteries on its southern border to be used against Russian-backed Syrian soldiers.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/29/619742/Syria-Turkey-Russia-United-Nations

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In western Iraq, PMU launches new anti-terror operation

Friday, 28 February 2020

Iraqi fighters from the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), better known by the Arabic word Hashd al-Sha’abi, have launched a major operation in the western countryside of Anbar province to hunt down the remnants of the Daesh Takfiri terrorists.

Commander of Anbar Operations for the PMU Qassim Musleh said in a press statement that his fellow fighters had mounted a multi-pronged offensive, codenamed 'Leaders of Victory,' on Friday to clear the districts of Medisisa and Salloum Forest, which lie south of the town of Qa'im and nearly 400 kilometers northwest of the capital Baghdad, besides the areas of Akra and Hamid Turky, Shaleej village and Beit Ajaj region.

واع

@INA__NEWS

الحشد الشعبي يعلن ايجاز عمليات قادة النصر غرب الانبار-http://www.ina.iq/103017/ الحشد_الشعبي_يعلن_ايجاز_عمليات_قادة_النصر_غرب_الانبار

الحشد الشعبي يعلن ايجاز عمليات قادة النصر غرب الانبار

الحشد الشعبي يعلن ايجاز عمليات قادة النصر غرب الانبار, الحشد الشعبي يعلن ايجاز عمليات قادة النصر غرب الانبار

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Muslem said Hashd al-Sha’abi forces were pressing ahead with the operation irrespective of far-flung geographic areas and rugged terrains that terrorists use to either hide or camouflage.

He emphasized that the campaign will continue until its goals are fully achieved.

On September 21, 2019, the PMU announced the conclusion of a campaign against the sleeper cells of Daesh in the central parts of the country as well as a sector of the vast western desert leading to the border with Saudi Arabia.

The PMU media bureau announced in a statement at the time that the fifth phase of the 'Will of Victory' operation, which had started on September 16, was wrapped up as different units and forces of Iraqi military forces cleared the remote territory between the provinces of Karbala, Najaf and Anbar.

Iraqi forces cleared plains in a 4,800-kilometer square area in Anbar during the operation’s fifth phase. The forces detained 21 Daesh suspects.

Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters have played a major role in the liberation of Daesh-held areas to the south, northeast and north of the Iraqi capital, ever since the terrorists launched an offensive in the country, overrunning vast swathes in lightning attacks.

In November 2016, the Iraqi parliament voted to integrate Hashd al-Sha’abi, which was formed shortly after the emergence of Daesh in Iraq in 2014, into the military.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/28/619722/Hashd-Sha%E2%80%99abi-forces-launch-new-anti-terror-campaign-in-western-Iraq

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Syrian state media: Turkish-backed militants hit hard in Idlib

Friday, 28 February 2020

Syrian forces have dealt stinging blows to Turkish-backed Takfiri militants in the southern environs of the northwestern province of Idlib as tensions in the conflict between Ankara and Damascus have soared to a dramatic level after dozens of Turkish troops were killed in air raids in the region.

Syria’s official news agency SANA reported that Syrian soldiers continued operations on Friday, severely hitting the enemy positions, supply routes and fortification lines on the outskirts of the key town of Saraqeb.

SANAEnglishOfficial

@SANAEnOfficial

Army carries out intensive strikes against Turkish regime-backed terroristshttps://www.sana.sy/en/?p=186885

Army carries out intensive strikes against Turkish regime-backed terrorists

Idleb, SANA- Syrian army units continued on Friday military operations against Erdogan's regime-backed terrorist organizations in Idleb countryside, and conducted intensive strikes against their...

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SANA said terrorists currently wreaking havoc in northwestern Syria receive direct military support from Turkish forces, and are provided with various kinds of artillery rounds, rockets and unmanned aerial vehicles.

It underscored that Turkish soldiers were actively involved in leading terrorist attacks against the bases of Syrian forces, and even join the ranks of Takfiri terrorists in their attacks against Syria.

Earlier in the day, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that Turkish troops who came under fire in Idlib province the previous day and at least 33 of them lost their lives were among “terrorists.”

Turkish soldiers who were in the battle formations of terrorist groups (on Thursday) came under the fire of Syrian troops,” the statement said.

Turkish forces had not communicated their presence in the area, “where they should not have been,” it said.

The Russian air force is not used in this zone.”

Later on Friday, Syrian army soldiers and allied fighters from popular defense groups recaptured a number of villages in the southernmost countryside of Idlib and the northwestern part of the west-central province of Hama.

سانا عاجل

@SanaAjel

#عاجل

مراسل سانا: وحدات من #الجيش_العربي_السوري تحرر قرى #المنصورة و #الزيارة و #خربة_الناقوس و #تل_واصل و #زيزون_جديدة في أقصى ريف #إدلب الجنوبي وريف #حماة الشمالي الغربي وتلاحق فلول الإرهابيين باتجاه #كنصفرة

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SANA reported that Syrian forces had retaken full control of Mansoura, al-Ziyarah, Khirbet al-Naqous, Tal Wasil and Zayzun villages, and were now pursuing the remnants of terrorist groups toward Kansafra village.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/28/619711/Syrian-govt.-forces-severely-strike-Turkish-backed-militants-in-southern-Idlib

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Mideast

 

Coronavirus death toll in Iran rises to 34, 388 people infected: Health Ministry

28 February 2020

Thirty-four people have died so far in Iran because of coronavirus infections, a health ministry spokesman said on Friday.

The total number of people diagnosed with the disease is 388, he said in an announcement on state TV.

Several countries, including Kuwait and Bahrain, reported cases of the virus after their citizens traveled to Iranian cities.

Lebanon, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and other countries have all shut their borders with Iran as a precuationary measure to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/28/Coronavirus-death-toll-rises-to-34-388-people-infected-Health-Ministry.html

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Clinic in Iran set on fire, believed to be coronavirus quarantine

29 February 2020

A clinic in the Iranian city of Bandar Abbas was set on fire because some people believed that coronavirus patients from another city were quarantined in it, according to Iranian media reports.

Rumors spread that 10 infected people were transported from the city of Qom, the epicenter of the virus in Iran, to Towhid Clinic, according to social media posts.

Tore Rasmussen #boycottSAS

@ToreRasmussen

Protesters in Iran have set fire to Tohid Bandar Abbas Clinic where Coronavirus patients are being quarantined. #COVID19 #CoronaVirus #Pandemic

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However, the semi-official Fars News Agency referred to the claims of people being transferred to the southern Bandar Abbas city as “unfounded rumors” and that this information “angered” some residents who then set fire to the clinic.

The hospital has a special ward for coronavirus patients, the news agency cited the director of public relations at the University of Hormozgan Medical Sciences Fatima Norouzian as saying. She added that any rumor about patients being in the clinic is “just a lie.”

Number of coronavirus deaths in Iran jumps to 210

The number of deaths across Iran from the outbreak is at least 210, according to BBC Persian reports on Saturday citing sources from hospitals in Iran. Health officials said only 34 people have died of the virus so far and 388 people have been diagnosed.

On Thursday, the deputy head of Qom’s medical university said Iran may resort to setting up field hospitals in Qom as hospitals have hit maximum capacity due to the coronavirus outbreak in the city.

Pompeo reacts to Iran’s coronavirus outbreak

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed his concern on Friday due to the spread of coronavirus in Iran.

“I’m deeply concerned by the spread of #coronavirus in #Iran and the public health risk to the Iranian people and their neighbors,” Pompeo said in a tweet. “The US offers our humanitarian assistance to the people of Iran to help unmet needs in their response efforts.

Secretary Pompeo

@SecPompeo

I’m deeply concerned by the spread of #coronavirus in #Iran and the public health risk to the Iranian people and their neighbors. The U.S. offers our humanitarian assistance to the people of Iran to help unmet needs in their response efforts.

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https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/29/Watch-Clinic-in-Iran-set-on-fire-believed-to-be-coronavirus-quarantine-.html

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Iran may set up field hospitals in Qom as facilities hit max capacity

28 February 2020

Iran may resort to setting up field hospitals in Qom as hospitals have hit maximum capacity due to the coronavirus outbreak in the city, the deputy head of Qom’s medical university said on Thursday.

The coronavirus death toll in Iran has risen to 34 and the total number of confirmed cases to 388, according to the latest official statistics.

Two hospitals in Qom – Kamkar, and Farghani – have reached their maximum capacity, said Ali Abrazeh, adding: “If this disease reaches its peak in Qom, we will prepare a field hospital.”

The army, as well as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), will also set up field hospitals in Qom if necessary, said Abrazeh.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/28/Iran-may-set-up-field-hospitals-in-Qom-as-facilities-hit-max-capacity.html

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Turkey’s Erdogan weaponizing refugees by opening borders with EU: Analysis

28 February 2020

Turkish authorities are being accused of helping hundreds of migrants and refugees cross the border into Greece in a seemingly coordinated effort to pressure the EU to help Ankara in Syria, videos posted by Turkish news agencies show.

A video that has gone viral overnight by private Turkish news agency DHA showed hundreds of Syrian and Afghan refugees making their way toward the Turkish-Greek land border.

Another video by a Turkish channel showed a refugee being interviewed, saying that she had arrived at the border after being driven for free by bus, according to a New York Times report.

Former Turkish parliament member Aykan Erdemir said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to open the border to allow refugees into Europe “is once again weaponizing Syrian refugees by threatening the European Union with new refugee waves.”

“The Turkish president hopes that this tactic will offer him leverage to induce the European Union to weigh in on the side of Turkey in the Idlib crisis,” said Erdemir, who now works as a fellow at the Washington-based think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies, in an interview with Al Arabiya English.

Expert Dan Arbell said Erdogan’s decision is more a “flexing of the muscle,” after “suffering a major loss of personnel.”

“It’s an attempt by Erdogan to show he can flood Europe with refugees, using it as leverage with the European Union and others in an attempt to come to his support and be more forthcoming in supporting Turkey’s position in the Syrian conflict,” said Arbell, an associate fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, in an interview with Al Arabiya English.

33 Turkish soldiers were killed in an airstrike in northern Syria on Thursday, the largest death toll for Turkey in a single day since it first intervened in Syria in 2016.

Arbell said the decision to open the borders also attempts to deflect attention from Turkish policy in Syria, “as Erdogan is facing criticism at home for his policy there.”

The announcement of opening borders is a way of showing that Erdogan calls the shots and that he is in control, according to Arbell.

Erdogan has previously threatened to open the borders for millions of refugees to flee to Europe, unless international support to Ankara increased.

“It is disturbing that, once again, Turkish authorities are using refugees as political pawns in order to inflame regional tensions and have a pretext to use military force to distract from their abysmal domestic conditions under Erdogan,” Greek editor and publisher Eraklis A. Diamataris wrote on Twitter.

According to roving journalist Jenan Moussa, an eyewitness said at least nine of those buses departed from Istanbul.

“At one point, it got super crowded and men quarrelled to get a place on the bus,” Moussa wrote on her tweet showing a video of one of the overcrowded buses.

Jenan Moussa

@jenanmoussa

Another video shows refugees bussed from Istanbul to the border area with Greece.

An eyewitness told me he saw 9 buses leaving.

At one point, it got super crowded and men quarrelled to get a place on the bus. @akhbar

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Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that “no illegal entries into Greece will be tolerated.”

“Greece does not bear any responsibility for the tragic events in Syria and will not suffer the consequences of decisions taken by others. I have informed the European Union of the situation,” Mitsotakis wrote in response to Turkey’s recent actions near the border.

Prime Minister GR

@PrimeministerGR

• 16h

Significant numbers of migrants and refugees have gathered in large groups at the Greek-Turkish land border and have attempted to enter the country illegally. I want to be clear: no illegal entries into Greece will be tolerated. We are increasing our border security.

Prime Minister GR

@PrimeministerGR

Greece does not bear any responsibility for the tragic events in Syria and will not suffer the consequences of decisions taken by others. I have informed the European Union of the situation.

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Turkey confirmed earlier on Friday that it would no longer close its border gates to refugees who want to go to Europe.

“We will no longer keep the doors closed for refugees who want to go to Europe,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Nearly 300 migrants including Syrians have already arrived in Edirne province on the border with Greece in a bid to go to Europe, the private DHA news agency reported.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/28/Turkey-will-not-stop-refugees-going-to-Europe-Official-.html

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Coronavirus death toll in Iran ‘much higher’ than what govt says: MP

28 February 2020

The death toll from coronavirus in Iran is “much higher” than the official death toll, Iranian MP Gholamali Jafarzadeh Imenabadi said on Friday, adding that he has documented “horrific numbers” from cemeteries in his city Rasht in northern Iran.

The official death toll in Iran has risen to 34 and the total number of confirmed cases to 388 as of Friday.

Imenabadi urged authorities to provide the real statistics, saying that officials “repeatedly hide statistics from the public.”

“I say this explicitly, the statistics presented so far are not true,” he said.

Imenabadi said he has received reports from cemeteries about the death toll from coronavirus that reveal “horrific numbers” that cannot be concealed.

“I have statistics about the number of deaths due to coronavirus from three different cemeteries in Rasht and I have to say that the numbers are much higher than what is being said,” Imenabadi added.

Another MP from Qom had previously said that 50 people had died from coronavirus in his city alone.

It is “mandatory” to quarantine cities where coronavirus has spread, Imenabadi said, adding that the Supreme National Security Council has opposed the idea.

Government officials, including President Hassan Rouhani, have rejected calls and requests to quarantine Qom, the holy Shia city believed to be the main source of the coronavirus outbreak across Iran and neighboring countries.

At the same time, a member of the city council of Tehran has estimated the number of people infected with coronavirus in Iran to be as high as 15,000.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/28/Coronavirus-death-toll-in-Iran-much-higher-than-what-govt-says-MP.html

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Four Iranian MPs test positive for coronavirus

28 February 2020

The number of Iranian parliamentarians infected with coronavirus has risen to four, MP Mohammad Ali Vakili told the official IRNA news agency on Friday.

Thirty-four people have died so far in Iran due to coronavirus, according to the health ministry’s spokesman Kianush Jahanpour.

The total number of people diagnosed with the disease is 388, he said in an announcement on state TV.

At the same time, MP Mohammad Ali Vakili said that four out of 30 MPs whose results have come back have tested positive for coronavirus.

MPs Mahmoud Sadeghi and Mojtaba Zolnour had previously announced that they have been infected with coronavirus.

Vakili did not name the other two MPs who have also been infected.

“It is possible that the number of infected MPs will increase because so far we only know about the test results for 30,” Vakili told the official IRNA news agency.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/28/Four-Iranian-MPs-test-positive-for-coronavirus-.html

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Iran urges speedy de-escalation of chaotic situation in Syria's Idlib

28 February 2020

Iran has called for an urgent containment of the chaotic situation in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib amid territorial gains made by Syrian government forces, backed by allied fighters from popular defense groups, against foreign-sponsored Takfiri militants in their last major bastion in the country.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran is closely monitoring and pursuing the field developments and the regional consequences in Idlib," the Iranian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday.

"Given the previous decision made by senior officials attending the Astana [peace] process on holding this meeting in our country, the Islamic Republic of Iran continues its efforts to hold the summit under the current critical circumstances," it added.

Iran believes participants at the Astana summit can take effective measures to battle terrorism, avoid harm to civilians and resolve the conflict through diplomacy, the statement said.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said on February 20 that Turkish, Russian and Iranian representatives are working on coordinating a date for a trilateral summit on the Syrian peace process.

"The parties are working to agree on a date for the summit. As soon as an agreement between the three countries is reached, the date of the summit will be announced to the public," Russia’s TASS news agency cited a source in Turkey’s Foreign Ministry as saying.

The previous trilateral meeting, the fifth in a row, between the presidents of the countries acting as guarantors of the Astana process to promote a peaceful settlement in Syria took place in Ankara in September 2019.

The trio also maintains contacts as part of the high-level meetings on Syria in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. The last such meeting was held on December 10-11, 2019.

Elsewhere in the statement, the Iranian Foreign Ministry condemned efforts by third parties, particularly the United States, to tarnish the outcome of the Astana summit through an irresponsible approach and said Tehran is in close contact with its allies and would make further efforts to end the conflict in Syria.

Idlib remains a flash point amid Turkey’s increased military presence in the region.

The ongoing Syrian government offensive in Idlib was launched in August last year after terrorists failed to honor the Sochi de-escalation zone agreement brokered between Russian and Turkey in September 2018.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 34 Turkish soldiers had been killed in airstrikes in the area on Thursday.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/28/619710/Idlib-Iran-Syria

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EU denounces Israel’s plan of building thousands of settler units in E1 West Bank corridor

28 February 2020

The European Union has lambasted the Israeli regime for its plan to build thousands of settler units in occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds, warning that such construction will sever territorial contiguity between the area and the rest of the occupied West Bank.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell made the remarks in a statement on Friday, three days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he had ordered the promotion of a plan for constructing some 3,500 settler units in the so-called E1 area, which is located between the al-Quds and the Ma’ale Adumim settlement.

“Settlement construction in these areas will cut the geographic and territorial contiguity between East-Jerusalem and the West Bank. Construction in E1 will sever the connection between Northern and Southern West Bank,” Borrell said.   

The contentious project, according to the Israeli premier, had since 2012 been frozen due to objections from governments around the world supportive of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The EU reiterates its call on Israel to halt settlement construction, to suspend the publication of tenders and to refrain from any measures aimed at the advancement of such construction plans. Settlements are illegal under international law,” Borrell added.

Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinians state, with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital. However, the continued expansion of Israeli settlements is one of the major obstacles to the establishment of peace in the Middle East.

The project that Netanyahu promotes will substantially curb the possibility for development in the center of such future Palestinian state.

The move is widely believed to be an apparent attempt aimed at securing votes for the scandal-hit premier ahead of upcoming elections.

 “We call on both parties to engage in a dialogue and to refrain from any unilateral action that undermines the viability of the two-state solution,” Borrell further said.

The occupying regime seized East Jerusalem al-Quds in the 1967 Six-Day War. It later annexed the territory in a move never recognized by the international community. Around 600,000 Israeli settlers now live in over 230 settlements built in the occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

US President Donald Trump infuriated Palestinians last month, when he unveiled his much-delayed and self-proclaimed “deal of the century” during an event at the White House alongside Netanyahu.

Palestinian groups have unanimously rejected Trump’s one-sided plan, which largely meets Israel’s demands in the decades-old conflict with the Palestinians while envisioning a Palestinian state with limited control over its own security and borders.

The so-called “peace” plan enshrines Jerusalem al-Quds as “Israel’s undivided capital” and allows the regime to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank and the Jordan Valley. The plan also denies the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland, among other controversial terms.

Trump’s plan has triggered waves of protest rallies both across the Palestinian occupied territories and around the globe.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has already severed ties between the Palestinian Authority, which he leads, and the Israeli regime as well as the US in reaction to Trump’s highly-provocative scheme.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/28/619741/Palestine-Israel-EU-settler-units-al-Quds-West-Bank-Netanyahu-Trump

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Israeli forces injure dozens of Palestinians in West Bank

28 February 2020

Israeli forces have injured dozens of Palestinians during clashes with protesters across the occupied West Bank.

Israeli forces on Friday stormed al-Arma Mountain in a village in Nablus, where dozens of Palestinians had been staging a sit-in since last night in protest against settlers’ plans to seize the area.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society reported that 134 people were injured during the clashes in the village of Baita near Nablus. Most of the wounded either suffered suffocation due to inhaling tear gas fired by the Israeli forces or were hit with rubber bullets.

According to the report, one of the wounded was a teenage boy who was hit in his back with a live bullet.

Palestinian media reports said the clashes were ongoing and the Israeli regime declared the area a “closed military zone” until Friday night.

Israeli forces also attacked an anti-settlement rally in the village of Kafr Qaddum in Qalqilya, leaving tens of Palestinians injured.

Murad Eshtewi, the head of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee in Kafr Qaddum, said clashes erupted after the Israeli soldiers dispersed a weekly rally by using live and rubber bullets as well as tear gas.

One of the injured was hit with a live bullet, while six others were wounded by rubber bullets. Moreover, 33 Palestinians suffered suffocation due to inhaling tear gas.

The West Bank sees weekly rallies in the lands that the Israeli regime has decided to seize to build settlements on.

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

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

Israeli troops also dispersed another rally in the center of the city of al-Khalil (Hebron), which had been staged to commemorate the 26th anniversary of the Ibrahimi Mosque Massacre and to condemn the Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people.

On February 25, 1994, an Israeli settler randomly opened fire at Muslims observing the dawn prayers at the Ibrahimi Mosque in the holy fasting month of Ramadan, killing 29 worshipers and injuring 150 others. Later in the day, Israeli forces killed an additional 21 Palestinians who took to the streets across the occupied lands to protest the al-Khalil bloodshed.

Thousands took part in the Friday’s rally, which also called for an end to the Israeli occupation and condemned Trumps’ Middle East plan.

The Israeli forces used sound bombs and rubber bullets against the protesters. They also physically assaulted them.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/28/619735/Israeli-forces-injure-Palestinians

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Israeli helicopters fire missiles at Syrian army positions, three soldiers injured

28 February 2020

Israeli military helicopters have attacked Syrian army positions in the Arab country’s southwestern province of Quneitra near the occupied Golan Heights as tensions soar between the Tel Aviv regime and the Damascus government over an earlier airstrike.

Syria’s official news agency SANA reported the aircraft fired missiles at the positions of Syrian government troops in the city of Quneitra, located some 65 kilometers south of the capital Damascus, and the nearby towns of al-Qataniyah and al-Hurriyet.

Three soldiers were injured in the aerial attacks that were carried out late on Thursday night.

سانا عاجل

@SanaAjel

#عاجل || #سانا

مراسل سانا في القنيطرة: مروحيات الاحتلال الاسرائيلي تعتدي بصواريخ من فوق الجولان المحتل على نقاط للجيش في القحطانية والحرية ومدينة القنيطرة المحررة ماتسبب بإصابة ٣ جنود بجروح طفيفة.

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There was no immediate response from the Israeli army, which rarely acknowledges strikes conducted in Syria.

Syria’s state-run al-Ikhbariyah Syria television news network said the helicopters came from above the Golan Heights.

الاخبارية السورية

@alikhbariasy

  مراسل #الإخبارية :  مروحيات للاحتلال #الاسرائيلي تعتدي بصواريخ من فوق #الجولان_المحتل على نقاط للجيش في #القحطانية #والحرية #ومدينة_القنيطرة المحررة ماتسبب بإصابة ٣ جنود  بجروح طفيفة.

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The bombings came hours after one person was killed in an Israeli drone attack in the same Syrian province.

A civilian was martyred when his car was targeted by a drone belonging to the Israeli enemy south of the town of Hader,” SANA reported.

SANA noted that the victim was traveling in his car along a road in Hader village on Thursday, when the Israeli drone fired a missile, killing him on the spot.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the victim was a member of the "Syrian resistance to liberate Golan," without elaborating.

Quneitra Governor Humam Dibyat identified the person killed as Adel Tawil and said he worked at a police station and was targeted while returning home from work.

He was innocent. He was an honorable nationalist,” Dibyat was quoted as saying by The Associated Press news agency.

Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria after the 1967 Six-Day War and later occupied it in a move that has never been recognized by the international community.

The regime has built dozens of settlements in the area ever since and has used the region to carry out a number of military operations against the Syrian government.

On March 25 last year, US President Donald Trump signed a proclamation, formally recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights. The announcement came as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the White House.

The Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, in a statement at the time, called the US decision a “blatant attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Syria.

The liberation of the Golan by all available means and its return to the Syrian motherland is an inalienable right,” according to the statement carried by SANA, which added, “The decision ... makes the United States the main enemy of the Arabs.”

The Arab League also condemned the move, saying "Trump's recognition does not change the area's status."

Iran, Iraq, Russia and Turkey condemned the US move as well.

In a tweet, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif expressed “shock” at Trump’s move and Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said “this illegal and unacceptable recognition does not change the fact that it (the Golan Heights) belongs to Syria.

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry also said on Twitter that the US plan "contravenes international law."

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/28/619679/Israeli-helicopters-fire-missiles-at-Syrian-army-positions,-three-soldiers-injured

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Yemenis should not be punished for Houthi wrongdoings, say officials

February 29, 2020

AL-MUKALLA: Needy Yemenis should not be punished for Houthi actions targeting humanitarian operations in the war-torn country and the UN should divert its activities to government-controlled areas, officials said.

Yemen’s Minister of Human Rights Mohammed Asker said international aid organizations had a duty to make sure that help reached those who needed it.

“The (international) organizations have a legal and moral responsibility when they request support for the needy in Yemen, to make sure that the donors’ money does not go to buying bullets that kill Yemeni children,” the minister told Arab News, adding that humanitarian operations inside Houthi-controlled areas had become a breeding ground for corruption due to a lack of transparency and accountability. “This is the net result of dealing with parties outside the framework of the state.”

His warning came as the UN threatened to reduce its operations in northern Yemen due to Houthi obstruction. USAID said it would suspend aid to Houthi-controlled areas if the militants did not leave aid workers alone.

Yemeni officials said a suspension or reduction of aid in northern Yemen would aggravate the humanitarian crisis, and that civilians would pay the price.

Jamal Balfakeh, the general coordinator of Yemen’s Higher Relief, an Aden-based government body responsible for handling humanitarian activities, said the international community should punish Houthis by relocating offices to Aden and dispatching aid through government-controlled areas.

“The UN should punish the real perpetrators not civilians,” he told Arab News, “and the greatest punishment is moving their operations to government-controlled areas. The UN can bring in aid through 22 sea and land corridors.”

He said that reports about the Houthi mishandling of aid and the militant group’s obstruction vindicated the government’s demand for the UN to investigate corruption.

“We have been warning the international community about the Houthi looting of aid since the first six months of the war,” Balfakeh added. “We have provided them with detailed reports about the scale of the Houthi plundering of aid and told them that Houthis divert aid to their fighters.” Yemen’s ambassador to the US, Ahmed bin Mubarak, said that UN officials used to complain in private about Houthi pressure.

“UN officials used to complain that Houthis attacked and blackmailed their workers,” he said. “But they could not confront the Houthis in public as they might disrupt aid.”

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1634726/middle-east

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North America

 

Trump: Afghanistan, Taliban to take big steps to peace

Michael Hernandez 

28.02.2020

WASHINGTON

The Afghan government and the Taliban insurgent group will soon agree to take steps to wind down the war in the country, President Donald Trump said Friday.

"Soon, at my direction, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will witness the signing of an agreement with representatives of the Taliban, while Secretary of Defense Mark Esper will issue a joint declaration with the government of Afghanistan," Trump said in a statement. He did not mention when the agreement would occur, nor when the declaration would be made.

"If the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan live up to these commitments, we will have a powerful path forward to end the war in Afghanistan and bring our troops home," added Trump.

The U.S. president has long sought to end the conflict and bring U.S. forces home from the nation's longest war.

The U.S. has upwards of 12,000 troops in Afghanistan conducting operations in support of Afghan forces, as well as a broader anti-terror mission.

The landmark peace deal comes on the heels of an unprecedented week-long reduction in violence ending on Friday, Feb. 28, a condition stipulated ahead of the expected signing of a peace deal between the U.S. and Taliban in Qatar on Saturday.

The deal between the U.S. and the Taliban includes pledges from Washington on a phased withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, and a vow from the Taliban not to harbor international terrorists. They are also set to commit to sharing the table with Afghan officials, politicians, and civil society.

The Afghan government has formed an initial direct contact group to hold talks with the Taliban, a top official in Kabul told Anadolu Agency on Friday.

The Taliban had previously rejected the notion of holding direct peace talks with the Afghan government headed by President Ashraf Ghani, and has steadfastly rebuffed the idea of a broader nationwide ceasefire.

A previous peace deal was derailed by a deadly Taliban suicide attack in Kabul that killed an American soldier.

Trump declared the peace talks “dead” in September in the wake of the soldier’s killing, and cancelled a Camp David summit one day before he said it was scheduled to begin.

The agreement that was nearly signed in September sets the timetable for the U.S. exit from Afghanistan in exchange for the Taliban vows to ensure Afghanistan does not become a hotbed for terrorist groups and begin talks with Ghani’s government.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/trump-afghanistan-taliban-to-take-big-steps-to-peace/1749232

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Brazil will declare Hezbollah a terrorist group ‘soon’: Federal deputy

29 February 2020

Brazil will declare Iranian proxy group Hezbollah a terrorist organization “soon,” Brazilian federal deputy Eduardo Bolsonaro told Al Arabiya.

The move by Brazil follows Argentina’s decision to designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization in July 2019, following in the footsteps of the United States, the Arab League, the European Union, Canada, the United Kingdom, and several other countries.

“Inside the government, we are debating about the ways to stop terrorist groups from coming to Brazil. Argentina recognized [Hezbollah] because they had two terrorist attacks in ‘92 and ‘94,” the son of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said.

“I can tell you that soon we are going to do the same, we are going to follow Argentina, declaring that Hezbollah is a terrorist group.”

Brazil is also considering a harsher stance on militant group Hamas, al-Qaeda, and Boko Haram, Bolsonaro said.

Hezbollah has a number of active cells in South America, including several in Venezuela.

The group also has close ties to President Nicolas Maduro, the Venezuelan opposition ambassador to the UK revealed in an exclusive interview with Al Arabiya English in 2019.

Venezuela’s relationship with Hezbollah and its backer Iran “comes straight from the top,” according to Vanessa Neumann.

“Nicolas Maduro has direct relations with Hezbollah. Maduro’s foreign minister Jorge Arreaza visits Hassan Nasrallah directly,” said Neumann.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/02/29/Brazil-will-declare-Hezbollah-a-terrorist-group-soon-Federal-deputy.html

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Trump urges Afghans to embrace ‘opportunity for peace and a new future’

29 February 2020

President Donald Trump urged the Afghan people to embrace a chance for a new future Friday as he sent top US diplomat Mike Pompeo to attend the signing of a peace deal with the Taliban in Doha.

“Soon, at my direction, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will witness the signing of an agreement with representatives of the Taliban, while Secretary of Defense Mark Esper will issue a joint declaration with the government of Afghanistan,” Trump said in a statement.

“If the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan live up to these commitments, we will have a powerful path forward to end the war in Afghanistan and bring our troops home,” Trump said.

He said that the commitments to be made in Doha, and in the joint statement from Esper and the Afghan government are an “important step to a lasting peace” that could free Afghans from the threat of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State group.

Nevertheless, Trump added, “Ultimately it will be up to the people of Afghanistan to work out their future.”

“We, therefore, urge the Afghan people to seize this opportunity for peace and a new future for their country.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/02/29/Trump-urges-Afghans-to-embrace-opportunity-for-peace-and-a-new-future-.html

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US watching ‘closely’ to see if Iran tries to undermine peace in Afghanistan

28 February 2020

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday warned Iran not to scuttle an upcoming agreement with the Taliban, accusing the US adversary of seeking to be a “spoiler.”

Pompeo confirmed that a one-week partial truce was holding with the Taliban, who are scheduled to sign the landmark accord with the United States in Qatar on Saturday.

“There is a history of Iran engaging in activity inside of Afghanistan to act as a spoiler,” Pompeo told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“We’ve seen just these last six days a significant reduction in violence in Afghanistan and we are watching closely to see if the Islamic Republic of Iran begins to take even more active measure that undermine our efforts at peace and reconciliation,” he said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/02/28/US-watching-closely-to-see-if-Iran-tries-to-undermine-peace-in-Afghanistan.html

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US's Pompeo slams 'despicable' attack on Turkish forces

Michael Gabriel Hernandez 

29.02.2020

WASHINGTON

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned Friday "in the strongest possible terms" the deadly Syrian regime attack on Turkish forces that has so far claimed 33 lives.

"We stand by our NATO Ally Turkey in the aftermath of the despicable and brazen February 27 attack on Turkish forces in Idlib, which resulted in the death of dozens of Turkish soldiers," Pompeo said in a statement. "The United States condemns this attack in the strongest possible terms. The Assad Regime, Russia, Iran and Hizballah must cease their ongoing attacks in Idlib."

Another Turkish soldier was martyred and two were wounded Friday in Idlib, Turkey's Defense Ministry said.

In retaliation, Turkey destroyed eight regime tanks, four armored vehicles, five howitzers and two rocket launchers, the ministry said on Twitter.

Pompeo further blamed the regime, and its principal backers -- Russia, Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah -- for "preventing the establishment of a ceasefire in northern Syria."

"The United States is engaging with our Turkish Allies and reviewing options to assist Turkey against this aggression as we seek to prevent further Assad regime and Russian brutality and alleviate the humanitarian suffering in Idlib," he said.

Roughly 900,000 civilians have been displaced since the Syrian regime began its offensive in December on Idlib province with the assistance of Russian air power and Iranian-backed forces.

Thursday’s attack was one of a series since January on Turkish troops, with Turkish officials keeping a pledge that such assaults would not go unanswered.

More than 1.7 million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border due to intense attacks.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/uss-pompeo-slams-despicable-attack-on-turkish-forces/1749315

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US senator says Turkey 'doing the right thing' in Idlib

Michael Hernandez 

28.02.2020

WASHINGTON

Turkey is "doing the right thing" as it seeks to thwart a Syrian regime offensive on northwestern Syria, U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton said Friday.

"Russia and the Assad regime are to blame for the humanitarian disaster unfolding in northwest Syria," the lawmaker from Arkansas said on Twitter. "Our NATO ally Turkey is doing the right thing. Putin and Assad must honor their commitments and stop the massacre."

Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump "expressed his condolences and condemned yesterday’s attack that killed Turkish personnel in Syria" during a telephone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.

"President Trump reaffirmed his support for Turkey’s efforts to de-escalate the situation in northwest Syria and avoid a humanitarian catastrophe," added Deere. "The two leaders agreed that the Syrian regime, Russia, and the Iranian regime must halt their offensive before more innocent civilians are killed and displaced."

Roughly 900,000 civilians have been displaced since the Syrian regime began its offensive in December on Idlib province with the assistance of Russian air power and Iranian-backed forces.

Late Thursday, at least 33 Turkish soldiers were martyred and tens of others injured in an airstrike by Assad regime forces in Idlib, just across Turkey’s southern border.

The Turkish soldiers are working to protect local civilians under a September 2018 deal with Russia under which acts of aggression are prohibited in the region.

But more than 1,300 civilians have been killed in attacks by Assad and Russian forces in the zone since then, as the cease-fire continues to be violated.

Thursday’s attack was one of a series since January on Turkish troops, with Turkish officials keeping their pledge that such assaults would not go unanswered.

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

More than 1.7 million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border due to intense attacks.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-senator-says-turkey-doing-the-right-thing-in-idlib/1749087

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Turkey stops major crisis spilling into EU: US expert

Vakkas Dogantekin

28.02.2020

Turkey’s actions in Syria are stopping a major humanitarian crisis from spilling into Europe, an American foreign policy expert said on Friday.

Luke Coffey, director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at the Washington, D.C.-based Heritage Foundation, voiced support for Turkey in its fight against the Syrian regime and its allies, which have killed, injured, deported, and displaced millions of Syrian civilians over the course of the Syrian war.

"Right now Turkish troops (our NATO brothers & sisters!) are fighting against Assad and Russian forces in Syria. They are the only thing stopping a MAJOR humanitarian crisis spilling into Europe," Coffey tweeted after an airstrike by the Syrian regime martyred 33 Turkish troops and injured many others late Thursday.

"Many Turkish soldiers have been martyred. May God bless & protect them!" Coffey added, with American and Turkish flags attached to the tweet.

The soldiers in question are across Turkey’s border in Idlib, northwestern Syria, working to protect civilians under a 2018 deal with Russia under which acts of aggression are prohibited in the region.

Against Turkey’s protests, the de-escalation deal has been violated multiple times by the Assad regime and its allies, sending about a million Syrian migrants fleeing the attacks towards Turkey’s border.

Earlier, Mike Doran, a senior fellow at the U.S.-based Hudson Institute, rebuffed the U.S. foreign policy experts who claimed Turkey was playing into the hands of Russia.

"Cast your memory back to when Trump pulled back in NE Syria to accommodate Turkish concerns. Remember the phalanx of experts & talking heads who screamed that Erdogan was Putin's puppet?" Doran wrote on Twitter.

"How many of them will now admit that their assessments were emotional & overwrought?" he tweeted amid rising criticism in Turkey of Moscow's support for the Assad regime.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/turkey-stops-major-crisis-spilling-into-eu-us-expert/1748078

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Europe

 

EU fears all-out war over Syria conflict

28 February 2020

The EU is worried that the situation in Syria, where dozens of Turkish troops were killed by regime air strikes, could descend into all-out war, foreign policy chief Josep Borrell tweeted on Friday.

“There is a risk of sliding into a major open international military confrontation. It is also causing unbearable humanitarian suffering and putting civilians in danger,” he said.

Josep Borrell Fontelles

@JosepBorrellF

• 22h

(1/2) #Idlib - Ongoing escalation around needs to stop urgently. There is a risk of sliding into a major open international military confrontation. It is also causing unbearable humanitarian suffering and putting civilians in danger.

Josep Borrell Fontelles

@JosepBorrellF

(2/) EU calls on all sides for rapid de-escalation and regret all loss of life. The EU will consider all necessary measures to protect its security interests. We are in touch with all relevant actors.

106

1:58 PM - Feb 28, 2020

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The EU urged a rapid de-escalation and “will consider all necessary measures to protect its security interests,” he said, adding that the bloc was in contact with “all relevant actors.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/28/EU-fears-all-out-war-over-Syria-conflict.html

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Greece blocks migrants at border after Turkey says it will let refugees into Europe

28 February 2020

Greece will not tolerate any illegal entries of migrants through its borders and will increase its border security, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Friday.

Migrants and refugees started gathering at the Greek-Turkish land border after Turkey warned that it would let out thousands of refugees stuck in the country since a 2016 accord between Ankara and the European Union.

In a tweet Mitsotakis said Greece "does not bear any responsibility for the tragic events in Syria and will not suffer the consequences of decisions taken by others."

Greek border guards on Friday blocked hundreds of migrants from entering the country, police said, hours after Turkey announced it would no longer hold them back from Europe.

The head of Greece’s general staff and the minister for police were dispatched to the area as the government said it had “tightened” border vigilance “to the maximum level possible.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/02/28/Greece-blocks-migrants-at-border-after-Turkey-says-it-will-let-refugees-into-Europe.html

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New Zealand confirms first case of deadly coronavirus in traveler from Iran

28 February 2020

New Zealand confirmed its first coronavirus case Friday, saying a recent arrival from Iran who travelled to Auckland via Bali had tested positive.

Health officials said the person, aged in their 60s, was being treated in Auckland City Hospital.

“They are in an improving condition in isolation, in a negative pressure room to prevent any spread of the disease,” the health department said in a statement.

Officials said the person, reportedly a female New Zealand citizen, arrived in Auckland on Wednesday and family members went to the hospital after becoming concerned about the individual’s condition.

The officials urged any passengers on Wednesday’s final leg of the Emirates airline journey, which goes from Bali to Auckland, to contact authorities if they were concerned.

However, authorities downplayed the risk to the public saying the situation was being well managed.

“Although we have our first case of COVID-19, the chances of community outbreak remain low,” the statement said.

Earlier, Health Minister David Clark said New Zealand was introducing strict travel bans on arrivals from Iran similar to those already imposed on arrivals from China.

He said the action was taken after a spike in infections in Iran, where the virus has killed 26 people, the highest death toll outside China – and because of the unreliable information coming out of the Islamic republic.

“Obviously this situation in Iran is concerning, there is ongoing spread of the disease there and a large degree of uncertainty about the scale of the outbreak and the ability to contain it,” he told reporters.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/02/28/New-Zealand-confirms-first-case-of-deadly-coronavirus-in-traveler-from-Iran-.html

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Prague ex-imam gets 10 years for supporting terrorism

February 28, 2020

PRAGUE: The former imam of Prague was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Friday for helping his brother and sister-in-law join a terror group and for financing terrorism, a court spokeswoman said.

The court in the Czech capital found Samer Shehadeh, a 36-year-old of Palestinian origin, guilty of helping them join the Al-Nusra front, Al-Qaeda’s sister organization in Syria.

“Samer Shehadeh was sentenced to ten years,” Prague Municipal Court spokeswoman Marketa Puci told AFP, adding he appealed the verdict.

His brother Omar was sentenced to 11 years and his Czech sister-in-law to six years, Puci added. Both are at large.

Czech police began investigating Shehadeh in 2016 over alleged attempts to radicalize people as he had asked Czech Muslims not to join a Christian mass against terror in Prague in August of that year.

Samer was also found to have repeatedly sent money to Al-Nusra through intermediaries.

Czech prosecutors filed terrorism-related charges against him and his brother and sister-in-law in early 2018.

According to Czech media reports, Shehadeh was arrested in Jordan before being flown back to the Czech Republic and taken into custody in November 2018.

Shehadeh was also quoted as saying he was “proud” of having helped his relatives.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1634531/world

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NATO convenes extraordinary meeting on Syria

Serife Cetin  

28.02.2020

BRUSSELS

NATO convened an extraordinary meeting Friday on Turkey's request after a late night attack in Idlib, Syria martyred 33 Turkish soldiers.

Thursday's attack by the Bashar al-Assad regime also injured tens of Turkish troops in the Idlib de-escalation zone, just across Turkey’s southern border.

“Today, the #NATO council meets at Turkey’s request to consult under Article 4 of NATO’s founding Washington Treaty on the situation in Syria,” NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said in a tweet.

Stoltenberg will hold a news conference after the meeting.

The Turkish soldiers are working to protect local civilians in Idlib under a 2018 deal with Russia under which acts of aggression are prohibited in the region.

But more than 1,300 civilians have been killed in attacks by the regime and Russian forces in the zone since then as the cease-fire continues to be violated.

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

More than 1.7 million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border due to intense attacks.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/nato-convenes-extraordinary-meeting-on-syria-/1748356

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Turkey stops major crisis spilling into EU: US expert

Vakkas Dogantekin

28.02.2020

Turkey’s actions in Syria are stopping a major humanitarian crisis from spilling into Europe, an American foreign policy expert said on Friday.

Luke Coffey, director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at the Washington, D.C.-based Heritage Foundation, voiced support for Turkey in its fight against the Syrian regime and its allies, which have killed, injured, deported, and displaced millions of Syrian civilians over the course of the Syrian war.

"Right now Turkish troops (our NATO brothers & sisters!) are fighting against Assad and Russian forces in Syria. They are the only thing stopping a MAJOR humanitarian crisis spilling into Europe," Coffey tweeted after an airstrike by the Syrian regime martyred 33 Turkish troops and injured many others late Thursday.

"Many Turkish soldiers have been martyred. May God bless & protect them!" Coffey added, with American and Turkish flags attached to the tweet.

The soldiers in question are across Turkey’s border in Idlib, northwestern Syria, working to protect civilians under a 2018 deal with Russia under which acts of aggression are prohibited in the region.

Against Turkey’s protests, the de-escalation deal has been violated multiple times by the Assad regime and its allies, sending about a million Syrian migrants fleeing the attacks towards Turkey’s border.

Earlier, Mike Doran, a senior fellow at the U.S.-based Hudson Institute, rebuffed the U.S. foreign policy experts who claimed Turkey was playing into the hands of Russia.

"Cast your memory back to when Trump pulled back in NE Syria to accommodate Turkish concerns. Remember the phalanx of experts & talking heads who screamed that Erdogan was Putin's puppet?" Doran wrote on Twitter.

"How many of them will now admit that their assessments were emotional & overwrought?" he tweeted amid rising criticism in Turkey of Moscow's support for the Assad regime.

In the wake of Thursday’s deadly airstrike, Ankara has vowed to retaliate against all known targets of the “illegitimate” Syrian regime.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/turkey-stops-major-crisis-spilling-into-eu-us-expert/1748078

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NATO chief condemns attacks by Syrian regime, Russia in Idlib

Serife Cetin

28.02.2020

BRUSSELS

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Friday condemned the attacks carried out by the Bash al-Assad regime and its supporter Russia in Idlib, northwestern Syria. 

Stoltenberg has also called for an end to the attacks, NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu told Anadolu Agency.

He also called on the Syrian regime and its supporter Russia to comply with international law and support the peace efforts of the United Nations.

“By defusing the tension, all sides should prevent this terrible situation and humanitarian conditions in the region from getting worse,” he said.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/nato-chief-condemns-attacks-by-syrian-regime-russia-in-idlib/1747796

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Africa

 

UN agency says 35 migrants rescued off Libyan coast

February 29, 2020

CAIRO: A commercial ship has rescued 35 Europe-bound migrants off Libya’s Mediterranean coast and returned them to the capital, Tripoli, the UN migration agency said.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) tweeted that migrants, who were intercepted on Thursday, were given medical assistance and relief items upon disembarkation.

“Saving lives at sea is a moral and legal obligation. It is however unacceptable that migrants continue to be returned to an unsafe port,” said the IOM.

Libya, which descended into chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi, has emerged as a major transit point for African and Arab migrants fleeing war and poverty to Europe.

Most migrants make the perilous journey in ill-equipped and unsafe rubber boats. As of last October, roughly 19,000 migrants have drowned or disappeared on the sea route since 2014, according to IOM.

Last week, a rubber dinghy packed with 91 migrants that set out from Libyan shores for Europe, apparently went missing in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea after leaving Libya on Feb. 8.

In recent years, the EU has partnered with the coast guard and other Libyan forces to stop the flow of migrants. Rights groups say those efforts have left migrants at the mercy of brutal armed groups or confined in squalid detention centers that lack adequate food and water.

The latest developments come amid criticism of the EU’s lack of rescue missions in the Mediterranean Sea. Member countries agreed earlier this month to end an anti-migrant smuggler operation involving only surveillance aircraft and instead deploy military ships to concentrate on upholding a widely flouted UN arms embargo that’s considered key to winding down Libya’s relentless war.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1634746/middle-east

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Somalia warns Kenya to stay out of its internal affairs

Magdalene Mukami  

28.02.2020

MOGADISHU, Somalia

The Somali government called on its neighbor Kenya on Thursday to “halt its ongoing violations” of Somalia's sovereignty and encroachment in the border areas between the two countries.

Somalia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it has decided to pursue necessary avenues including diplomatic efforts as part of its constitutional mandate of protecting the country’s unity and sovereignty.

Somalia thanked Kenya for its soldiers who are under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and are battling al-Qaeda affiliated al-Shabaab militants with the aim of bringing peace and stability to the country and liberating Somalia from terrorist organizations.

But “we maintain that at no given time will we tolerate any country that is part of troop-contributing countries to AMISOM to overstep its mandate and abuse its membership and interfere in the internal affairs of the host country with total disregard of the stipulated regulations of the Federal Government of Somalia.”

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/somalia-warns-kenya-to-stay-out-of-its-internal-affairs/1748002

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Coordinated airstrikes killed two al-Shabaab terrorists in Somalia

29 February 2020

US Africa Command (AFRICOM) announced via news release on Friday that the armed forces, in coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, had carried out a total of two airstrikes against al-Shabaab terrorist targets in the country, Trend reports citing Sputnik.

AFRICOM revealed that the strikes, which took place around Somalia's Qunyo Barrow on February 28, eliminated two terrorists and, according to current assessments, did not injure or kill any civilians.

The armed forces did not reveal what type of aircraft was used to carry out the airstrikes.

“The support the US provides to our partners in our cooperative efforts to enhance security throughout Africa is unmatched by our competitors and is vital to not only East African security but to protecting the America forces on the continent and abroad,” said US Army Brigade General and AFRICOM Deputy Director of Intelligence Gregory Hadfield in the Friday release.

Earlier this week, Sputnik reported that US conducted a precision airstrike that eliminated a terrorist with the al-Qaeda aligned Islamist group who was behind a previous attack that killed one American soldier and two Pentagon contractors on January 5.

“Al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate, is an evil and remorseless enemy of peace, stability, and freedom in East Africa and threatens the very way of life of people there, as well as Americans and US interest in the region and abroad,” US Army Gen. and AFRICOM Commander Stephen Townsend said in the February 25 release.

Full report at:

https://en.trend.az/world/3199600.html

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Kenya: Police Seek Civilian Help Against Al-Shabaab

28 FEBRUARY 2020

By Mohammed Yusuf

Kenyan police are calling on residents of the country's northeast, along the border with Somalia, to do more to help them combat al-Shabab militants.  The danger of attacks in the region has grown to the point that the agency which recruits Kenyan teachers is vowing not to put them in counties along the border.

The debate on the future of education in northeastern Kenya has entered the corridors of parliament, as teachers seek transfers to areas outside the region.

The Teachers Service Commission, an agency tasked with training, hiring and placing instructors across the country, said 42 teachers have been killed since 2014 at the hands of Somali militant group al-Shabab.

The head of the commission, Nancy Macharia, defended the withdrawal of teachers from the terror-hit areas in the northeast.

“It's true the children need education. But also the teachers are entitled to life. Life is sacrosanct,” she said.

In 2018 five teachers were killed in Wajir and Mandera counties.

In January, three teachers were killed when al-Shabab attacked Kamuthe primary school in Garissa county.

Responding to questions from parliament members, the inspector general of police, Hillary Mutyambai, said residents of Kamuthe village were aware of the attack in advance.

“Even the attack of those teachers, it is only the non-local teachers who were not aware about that attack. The students themselves and the other teachers during the material time of the attack they were absent. We have argued the local component is very important to compliment a security operation,” she said.

Mutyambai called on the local leaders to talk to their people and to encourage them to work with security forces to fight al-Shabab.

George Musamali, director of the Center for Risk Management in Africa, blames security agencies for some of the problems in the area.

“The locals are looking at who is the lesser evil, because if you see the way we operate when we are in that area, especially the government security agencies, they go in that area and use brutal force against the locals. As much as we are saying they are cooperating with al-Shabab, there is a high possibility they are not cooperating, what they are doing is turning a blind eye to the al-Shabab activities, not reporting them, not sharing intelligence with the national government,” he said.

Mohamed Dahiye is a lawmaker from northeastern Kenya.  He said authorities must find a way to keep the schools open.

“When you give up to them, to their demands and you close schools basically or when you end deploying teachers out from that area you have left those children and those people to whims al-Shabab and we feel this is extremely unfortunate and totally unacceptable,” he said.

Full report at:

https://allafrica.com/stories/202002280226.html

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Clashes break out in Somalia, slowing fight against al Qaeda-linked insurgents

Abdi Sheikh

FEBRUARY 28, 2020

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somali troops clashed with a regional militia on Friday in one of the most serious outbreaks of fighting yet over political rivalries that Washington says are slowing the war against al Qaeda-linked insurgents.

Eleven people were killed in the violence, witnesses said.

Tension spilled over on Thursday evening between the Somali National Army and the Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama’a (ASWJ) militia, a group of moderate Sufi Muslims which has played a key role in the fight against the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab insurgency.

Clashes began in Dhusamareb, administrative capital of central Somalia’s Galmudug state, and spread to Guriel town, 60 km (40 miles) away, on Friday, residents said.

One resident said government forces had attacked a house where prominent ASWJ leaders live, and the two sides were fighting with mortars and anti-aircraft guns in the city center.

“After 11 years of peace, Dhusamareb city today is hell,” Halima Farah told Reuters by phone, adding that she and her four children were cowering inside their flimsy house. “We are holding our children’s hands but we have no way out.”

Al Shabaab has been fighting the internationally-recognized Somali government since 2008. The militants have also attacked American military bases as well as bars, hotels, a shopping mall and a university in Kenya and Uganda. Two years ago, an al Shabaab truck bomb in Mogadishu killed around 500 civilians.

Somali government troops, supported by a 21,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force, launched a limited offensive against al Shabaab last year. But a top American diplomat said progress had petered out with the internal rivalries.

“The operation has stalled,” Rodney Hunter, the U.S. political coordinator to the United Nations, told the Security Council this week. “It is imperative that federal government and federal member states’ security services focus on combating al-Shabaab, rather than engaging in armed conflict with each other to resolve political disputes.”

Competition for political control and international security funds lie at the heart of the conflict.

Some regional states accuse the government of meddling in local elections to entrench allies ahead of national elections scheduled for this year. They also want a larger slice of the hundreds of millions of dollars that foreign donors spend annually on Somali security forces.

The federal government wants to keep control of those funds, saying it fears the balkanization of the country, and accuses some state authorities of behaving like warlords.

Tensions were high between Mogadishu and regional authorities in Kismayo during elections in Jubbaland, along the Kenyan border, in August. There was a small clash in neighboring Gedo earlier this year, and what Hunter described as a “politically motivated offensive ... that diverts resources” from fighting al Shabaab.

Galmudug, scene of the latest fighting, has three rival politicians all claiming to be its leader. Ahmed Abdi Kariye, who is backed by the federal government, said ASWJ forces had started the fighting by firing on a checkpoint.

ASWJ leaders said the first provocation came from the government.

“We sacrificed our wealth and lives to liberate these areas from the terrorist al Shabaab... (but) the Somali government forces openly attacked Inji house, which is a home for ASWJ leaders,” ASWJ leader Sheikh Mohamed Shakir Ali Hassan, who also says he is leader of the state, said late Thursday.

“We have one enemy and that is al Shabaab. Let’s jointly fight the terrorists.”

Full report at:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-somalia-security/clashes-break-out-in-somalia-slowing-fight-against-al-qaeda-linked-insurgents-idUSKCN20M1QU

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