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Islam and Living in Australia: Australian Imams Launch Manual to Debunk Misconceptions about Islam

New Age Islam News Bureau

31 Oct 2019

TEHRAN (IQNA) – Australian Imams and scholars have launched a new manual to debunk misconceptions associated with Islam.


Pentagon Releases Video, Photos of ISIS Leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Raid

Having Criticised India on Kashmir, Muslim Congresswoman Ilhan Omar Refuses to Back Vote To Recognise Armenian Genocide

UK Joins 22 Other UN Nations in Condemning China’s Detention Of Uighur Muslims

Anwar Calls for Zakat Reforms, Says Include Non-Muslim Recipients Too

Karnataka Government Mulling Removal of Lesson on Tipu from School Textbooks

Pakistan's Apex Court Recommends Parliament to Redefine 'Terrorism'

Afghan Government Demands Cease-Fire before Any Taliban Talks

Inside The ISIS Prison Camp 'Little Caliphate' Breeding The Next Generation Of Jihadis

Iran furious with Trump as US blamed for ISIS rise: 'Get out of Middle East!'



Islam and Living in Australia: Australian Imams Launch Manual to Debunk Misconceptions about Islam


North America

Pentagon Releases Video, Photos of ISIS Leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Raid

Having Criticised India on Kashmir, Muslim Congresswoman Ilhan Omar Refuses to Back Vote To Recognise Armenian Genocide

MALA Gala promotes progress for Muslim American heritage

US, Arab allies impose illegal sanctions on IRGC, Hezbollah entities

Trump shares fake photo of Baghdadi dog getting medal

Iran and Hezbollah funders listed by Gulf-based anti-terror coalition

US House recognises Armenian genocide and passes Turkey sanctions



UK Joins 22 Other UN Nations in Condemning China’s Detention Of Uighur Muslims

'Don't let Kashmir become the next Palestine', leading Burton Muslim pleads

Swiss Police Target Islamist Extremists In Raids Across The Country

“Gay Muslim” festival to be held in London next spring

Feds: Brothers with Ties To Hezbollah Tried To Export Drone Tech

Europe Still Doing Nothing to Deal with Its Isis Members In Syria

Serb ex-soldier jailed 20 years for burning 57 Muslim civilians

NZ bans video game glorifying Christchurch mosque shooting

UK: ‘Vital reforms’ needed in Lebanon to create a better country for all

Facebook says it suspends accounts tied to Putin ally for meddling in Africa


Southeast Asia

Anwar Calls for Zakat Reforms, Says Include Non-Muslim Recipients Too

In Indonesia, 'Bride Kidnapping' Tradition Fuels Child Marriage Despite New Ban

Hadi blames Islamophobia, says Malays labelled racists because they’re Muslims

Will PAS campaign for non-Muslim in Tanjung Piai, asks Saifuddin

From food to household appliances, Indonesia’s new law on halal certification a boost for Islamic economy



Karnataka Government Mulling Removal of Lesson on Tipu from School Textbooks

Delegation to Nankana Sahib: MEA ‘Denies’ Nod to Punjab MLAs and MPs; Only Journalists, PROs to Visit Pak

Jamia Millia Islamia University a part of common heritage of India: President of India Ram Nath Kovind

Delhi and Riyadh underline: Reject all interference in internal affairs

Gunmen kill five migrant workers in Kashmir as EU lawmakers visit

Muslim Community Raises Money to Rebuild Demolished Kali Temple in Bengal Village on Diwali

‘We are not Muslim-hating Nazis’: Far-right EU MEPs visit Kashmir and endorse Modi

Kulgam terror attack: ‘Kashmir has changed, will never go there again for better pay’

In political oblivion in India, Sidhu gets invite from Pakistan PM Imran Khan for Kartarpur corridor opening

Kashmir not discussed during PM Modi-Saudi prince meet

PM Modi dedicates decision to scrap Article 370 to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel

‘Ex-cops who joined Hizbul behind recent orchard killings’

EU MPs blame Pak for terrorism in Kashmir, stand by India

Civilian killed, 7 including 5 kids injured as Pakistan breaches truce

NIA raids in Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore in crackdown on ISIS module

NIA raids 6 TN places to nab IS-like group planning Hindu leader

AIMPLB asks Muslims to honour SC verdict in Ayodhya case

Imran invites Sidhu to Kartarpur corridor inaugural event



Pakistan's Apex Court Recommends Parliament to Redefine 'Terrorism'

Coin Issued to Commemorate Guru Nanak’s 550th Birth Anniversary

Fire on train in Pakistan kills 46 after gas canister blast

Nawaz Sharif’s kin gets bail in ‘provocative’ speech case in Pakistan

Pakistan among 54 Nations Praising China’s Human Rights Record

Pakistan wants IMF to separate FATF from programme

Firdous Ashiq gets contempt notice for criticising judiciary


South Asia

Afghan Government Demands Cease-Fire before Any Taliban Talks

Top Bangladesh Court Confirms Islamist Leader Azharul's Death Penalty for Genocide, Rape

Drone strikes kill 5, injures 4 IS insurgents in Afghanistan eastern Nangarhar province

Airstrikes kill 11 Taliban and ISIS militants in 3 provinces

Special Forces kill, detain 38 Taliban militants in Daykundi and Wardak provinces

HRW says CIA-backed Afghan forces carry out ‘grave’ rights abuses


Arab World

Inside The ISIS Prison Camp 'Little Caliphate' Breeding The Next Generation Of Jihadis

No Audio in Situation Room: Trump’s Own Officials Question Claim Al-Baghdadi ‘Screaming', Crying’ Before Death

Yazidi laureate Nadia Murad says Baghdadi’s death falls short of justice

Foreign universities can now set up branches in Saudi Arabia

Moment of truth rapidly approaching for Iraq PM Abdul Mahdi

Syria government, opposition launch ‘historic’ constitutional review

Saudi Arabia Renews Praise for US Counter-Terrorism Efforts

US releases Baghdadi raid video, warns of likely retribution attack

Saudi Minister of Finance says reforms are reshaping Gulf economies

100 dead, 5,500 wounded in week of Iraq violence: Rights commission

Leisure group ‘walks the walk’ with biggest cinema in Saudi Arabia: Chief executive



Iran furious with Trump as US blamed for ISIS rise: 'Get out of Middle East!'

Yemen’s Defense Minister Survives Houthi Attack in Marib, 2 Soldiers Killed

Iranian general flies into Baghdad to chair top security meeting amid protests

US, Gulf countries sanction entities linked to IRGC and Hezbollah

Damascus calls on Kurdish forces to join army, police

UAE troops return after ‘successful liberation, stabilization of Aden’

Israeli embassies around world shut as staff go on strike

Israel soldier gets one-month jail over killing of Gaza teen



South Africa: ANC condemns desecration of Muslim graves

Three aid workers killed in S.Sudan, suspending Ebola screening: UN

Sudan's PM discusses peace process with EU delegation

Boko Haram gunmen kill 12 Niger soldiers

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Islam and Living in Australia: Australian Imams Launch Manual to Debunk Misconceptions about Islam

October 30, 2019

 “It is not only important to break down barriers and misconceptions, but also for young Australian Muslims to gain a better understanding of the teachings of Islam from a scholarly source, rather than an unknown and unreliable internet source,” Hass Dellal, Executive Director of the Australian Multicultural Foundation (AMF), said, SBS reported.

The 12-page manual is titled “An Introductory Resource Manual: Islam and Living in Australia.”

The manual was launched by the Board of Imams Victoria to help young Australian Muslims who turn to the internet to learn about their faith.

“A lot of youth, when they want to understand something about Islam, the easiest way to get that information is to jump online,” Imam Bekim Hasani told SBS News.

“But sometimes the information that they get, they get from people who we know nothing about and we do not know if they are qualified to give that information.”


Imam Hasani said the resource aims at reaching both Muslims and non-Muslims.

“A lot of people, without knowing the true meaning of Islam, they put us all in the same basket,” he said.

“So when they have something online where they can actually learn, the true meaning of these topics and the true meaning of Islam, it will be easier for them to understand where we are coming from.

“Islam has nothing to do with violence. We religious leaders and Islam, in general, are against any form of violence.”

According to the 2016 Australian Census, the number of Muslims in Australia constituted 604,200 people, or 2.6% of the total Australian population, an increase of over 15% of its previous population share of 2.2% reported in the previous census 5 years.



Pentagon releases video, photos of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi raid

ct 31, 2019

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon released video and photos on Wednesday of the US special forces raid that resulted in the death of Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Among the images released by the defence department was grainy black-and-white footage of US troops approaching on foot the high-walled compound in northwestern Syria where Baghdadi was holed up.

The Pentagon also released video of airstrikes on a group of unknown fighters on the ground who opened fire on the helicopters that ferried US forces in for the assault on Baghdadi's compound in Syria's Idlib province.

" the compound, fighters from two locations in the vicinity of the compound began firing on U.S. aircraft part…

— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) 1572469378000

Before and after pictures of the isolated compound were also released.

The compound was razed by US munitions after the raid, leaving it looking like "a parking lot with large potholes," said Marine Corps General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of US Central Command.


This image released by the Department of Defense shows a side-by-side comparison of the compound of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi before and after the raid on October 26.

McKenzie, speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, also provided several new details about Sunday's raid.

He said that two children were killed - and not three as President Donald Trump previously said - when Baghdadi blew himself up with a suicide vest in a tunnel as he tried to escape US troops.

He said the children appeared to be under 12 years old.

McKenzie was asked about Trump's claim that Baghdadi had fled into the tunnel "crying and whimpering."

"About Baghdadi's last moments, I could tell you this," he said. "He crawled into a hole with two small children and blew himself up while his people stayed on the ground."

Baghdadi "may have fired from his hole in his last moments," he added. McKenzie said that in addition to Baghdadi and the two children, four women and one man were killed at the compound.

He said the women had acted in a "threatening manner" and were wearing suicide vests.

An unknown number of nearby fighters were also killed when they opened fire on US helicopters, McKenzie said.

Video released by the Pentagon showed airstrikes on a group that appeared to consist of up to a dozen or so people on the ground.

McKenzie declined to provide any further details about the two men captured in the raid, but said that a "substantial" amount of electronics and documents had been recovered from the compound.

He said Baghdadi had been identified through comparison with his DNA, which had been on file since his 2004 detention in an Iraqi prison.

He said Baghdadi's remains had been flown back to the staging base for the raid for identification.

Baghdadi was then buried at sea within 24 hours of his death "in accordance with the laws of armed conflict," McKenzie said.

He also provided details about the dog that pursued Baghdadi into the tunnel. He said it was a four-year veteran of 50 combat missions and had been injured by exposed live cables in the tunnel, but has returned to duty.

McKenzie said that despite Baghdadi's death, ISIS remains "dangerous."

"We're under no illusions that it will go away just because we killed Baghdadi," he said. "It will remain."



Having Criticised India On Kashmir, Muslim Congresswoman Ilhan Omar Refuses To Back Vote To Recognise Armenian Genocide

by Balaji Subramanian

Oct 30 2019

In an overwhelming show of support and solidarity with the Armenian people, the United States House of Representatives, voted by a margin of 405-11 vote on Tuesday (29 October) to recognize the systemic extermination and expulsion of ethnic Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during World War I as genocide.

However, Ilhan Omar, the Democratic Congresswoman from Minnesota, found herself in the minority when she voted “present”, which essentially means, she abstained from voting which can be construed as a ‘no vote’ against the resolution titled ‘H.Res 296, the resolution Affirming the United States record on the Armenian Genocide, reports News18.

The resolution passed on the floor of the house with near unanimity but Omar’s office issued a statement later, giving her justification, “I believe accountability for human rights violations – especially ethnic cleansing and genocide – is paramount. But accountability and recognition of genocide should not be used as a cudgel in a political fight. It should be done based on academic consensus outside the push and pull of geopolitics. A true acknowledgement of historical crimes against humanity must include both the heinous genocides of the 20th century, along with earlier mass slaughters like the transatlantic slave trade and Native American genocide, which took the lives of hundreds of millions of people in this country. For this reason, I voted ‘present’ on the final passage of H.Res 296, the resolution affirming the United States record on the Armenian Genocide.”

Omar along with a group of four Congresswomen known as ‘The Squad’ (The other members are Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley) represent the far left of the Democratic Party.

Omar is not new to court controversy because of her incessant attack directed at the State of Israel and her “anti-Semitic” views which have been pointed out by several people from her own party.

In April this year, she was accused of downplaying the 2001 11 September attacks by saying 9/11 was an incident when “some people did something”.

In the recently concluded US Congressional hearing on human rights in South Asia on human rights, Omar was very critical of India’s decision to abrogate Article 370 and harangued Senior Indian journalist Aarti Tikoo Singh.

Omar was also very critical of the rollout of the NRC in Assam which can be seen as a direct interference into the affairs of a sovereign nation and had questioned whether PM Modi shares American values.



UK joins 22 other UN nations in condemning China’s detention of Uighur Muslims

Zamira Rahim

October 31, 2019

The UK has led 22 other countries at the United Nations (UN) in condemning China over the country’s detention of Muslims.

The group strongly criticised Beijing in a joint statement.

Karen Pierce, the UK’s UN ambassador, delivered the statement to the 193-member organisation’s human rights committee.

Other supporters included Australia, Canada, France, Germany and Japan.

“We call on the Chinese government to uphold its national laws and international obligations and commitments to respect human rights, including freedom of religion or belief, in Xinjiang and across China,” Ms Pierce said.

The UN says at least one million ethnic Uighurs, and other Muslims, have been detained in camps in China’s remote Xinjiang province.

Beijing claims the camps are “vocational training centres” designed to stamp out extremism and give people new skills.

But former detainees have alleged that inmates are subjected to torture, medical experiments and gang rape.

Others have said that Muslim detainees are forced to drink alcohol and eat pork.

The government has also reportedly destroyed domes and minarets at mosques across the country.

China denies the allegations.

The group of 23 nations pushed Beijing to urgently implement UN recommendations in Xinjiang, “including by refraining from the arbitrary detention of Uighurs and members of other Muslim communities.”

Ms Pierce said the group was also calling on all countries not to deport refugees to countries where they could face persecution.

Beijing reacted angrily to the statement and said it was not “helpful” for US-China trade talks.

Zhang Jun, China’s ambassador to the UN, claimed the accusations were “baseless” and a “gross interference in China’s internal affairs and deliberate provocation”.

He also said the US’ criticism of China could affect trade talks between Washington and Beijing.

“It’s hard to imagine that on the one hand you are trying to seek to have a trade deal, on the other hand you are making use of any issues, especially human rights issues, to blame the others,” Mr Jun said.

“I do not think its helpful for having a good solution to the issue of trade talks.”

US and Chinese negotiators are working on the text of an interim trade agreement.

The teams hope the text will be ready for Donald Trump and Xi Jinping, China’s president, to sign at a summit in November.

“I would be standing here regardless if it was China or wherever it is, wherever there are human rights abuses we would be here in defence of those that are suffering,” said Kelly Craft, the US ambassador to the UN, when asked about the impact on trade talks.

A rival group of 54 countries, including Pakistan, Russia, Belarus, Egypt, Serbia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, chose to praise China’s record on human rights.

Valentin Rybakov, Belarus’ UN ambassador, praised Beijing’s protection of rights while dealing with counterrrorism in Xinjiang.

“Now safety and security have returned to Xinjiang and fundamental human rights of people of all ethnic groups there are safeguarded,” Mr Rybakov said.

“We commend China’s remarkable achievements in the field of human rights.”

The situation follows a similar one at the UN Human Rights Council on July, when more than 22 states – including the UK – called on China to halt mass detentions.

More than 30 other countries, including Saudi Arabia and Russia, supported China.

Last month the US also led more than 30 countries in condemning what it called China’s “horrific campaign of repression” against Muslims.



Anwar calls for zakat reforms, says include non-Muslim recipients too

Ainaa Aiman

October 30, 2019

SHAH ALAM: Anwar Ibrahim has called for the reform of Malaysia’s institutions of zakat, the Islamic wealth tax to help the poor, while calling for it to be extended to the non-Muslims.

Speaking at an international conference on zakat organised by the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Council (MAIWP) and UiTM, the PKR leader cited an opinion by prominent Muslim jurist Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

He said in the context of a multi-racial society, Islam encouraged the distribution of zakat funds to non-Muslims, adding that this should not sideline the needy among the Muslims.

Anwar however said the proposal could be considered, and would require fatwa and policy changes before it can be implemented.

He said zakat institutions in the country should be an example to other public institutions.

“The zakat institution has a big responsibility. They need to prove that they are excellent in management, accountability and responsibility compared to other institutions in the country,” he said.

Meanwhile, a speaker at the conference, Muhamad Rahimi Osman from UiTM said separation of powers between state and federal authorities was the biggest challenge in the administration of zakat and waqf, or endowment.

“Due to certain restrictions, the federal government cannot enforce certain laws such as tax laws and etc, because of the states’ limited powers,” he said.

The conference, on the topics of zakat, waqf and Islamic philanthropy, is organised by MAIWP’s Zakat Collection Centre (PPZ-MAIWP) and UiTM’s Academy of Contemporary Islamic Studies.

Rahimi said the issue of double taxation is another problem, as Muslim-owned businesses would also pay zakat in addition to the income tax.

Zakat is a religious obligation for Muslims who meet several criteria of wealth, where 2.5% of one’s total savings and wealth above a minimum amount is collected annually.



Karnataka government mulling removal of lesson on Tipu from school textbooks


Karnataka chief minister B. S. Yediyurappa on Wednesday indicated his government's plans to remove the lesson on Tipu Sultan from middle school history textbooks and said he does not believe that the controversial 18th century ruler of erstwhile Mysore kingdom was a freedom fighter.

"Tipu — we are going to drop everything and even in text book also (lesson regarding him) appeared that also we are thinking to cancel," he told reporters Bengaluru in response to a question, days after BJP MLA Appachu Rajan demanded removal of the lesson saying it carried "wrong information".

Yediyurappa said he does not believe Tipu Sultan was a freedom fighter. "....we will look into it, we will examine it (demand for removing the lesson from text book)," he added.

The move was slammed by opposition Congress, which said removing the lesson was like "distorting history".

State primary and secondary education minister Suresh Kumar had on Monday asked officials to look into the demand by Ranjan and sought a report in three days.

The minister in a note has asked the managing director of Karnataka Textbook Society to call a meeting of history textbook drafting committee and to invite the MLA to discuss about the need for the lesson.

Ranjan had last week written to the minister demanding that the lesson on Tipu Sultan be removed.

Speaking to reporters later, he alleged Tipu had converted thousands of Christians and Kodavas forcibly to Islam, run his administration in Persian language and was not a freedom fighter.

Meanwhile, opposing the move to remove the lesson, Leader of Opposition in the state assembly Siddaramaiah on Wednesday called the BJP "bigot".

"Removing lesson on Tipu from text book is like distorting history. Tipu fighting British is true or false? History should not be distorted, we have to teach children history and learn from it... BJP is a bigot," he told reporters in Bagalkote.

State Congress president Dinesh Gundu Rao asked: "Is Yediyurappa an expert to remove lesson on Tipu?".

Soon after coming to power, the BJP government in Karnataka in July had scrapped the birth anniversary celebrations of Tipu Sultan, an annual government event the party had been opposing since 2015 when it was launched during the Congress' rule, led by Siddaramaiah.

The BJP and right wing organisations have been strongly opposing Tipu, calling the erstwhile Mysore king a "religious bigot".

Tipu was considered an implacable enemy of the British East India Company.

He was killed in May, 1799, while defending his fort at Srirangapatna against the British forces.

Tipu Sultan, however, is a controversial figure in Kodagu district as Kodavas (Coorgis), a martial race, believe thousands of their men and women were held captive during his occupation and subjected to torture, death and forcible conversion to Islam.

He was also accused of execution of Mandyam Iyengars at the temple town of Melkote in Mandya district on the day of Diwali as they supported the then Maharaja of Mysuru.

However, the scale of such suppression is disputed by several historians and they see Tipu as a secular and modern ruler who took on the might of the British.

While BJP and some Hindu organisations see Tipu as a "religious bigot" and a "brutal killer", a few Kannada outfits call him "anti-Kannada", saying he had promoted Persian at the cost of the local language




Pakistan's apex court recommends Parliament to redefine 'terrorism'

Oct 30, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's Supreme Court on Wednesday recommended Parliament to redefine the word "terrorism" in line with international perspectives, saying its definition is too wide and includes so many actions which have no nexus with the generally recognised concept of the menace.

Pakistan in the past has been accused by the US of harbouring terror groups like the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network within its borders. Last year, the Trump administration suspended more than $1.15 billion security aid to Islamabad over its failure to take "decisive actions" against terror groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

In the 59-page judgment authored by Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa, the Supreme Court said: "We may observe that the definition of 'terrorism' contained in section 6 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 as it stands at present is too wide and the same includes so many actions, designs and purposes which have no nexus with the generally recognized concept of what terrorism is".

"Apart from that including some other heinous offences in the Preamble and the Third Schedule to that Act for trial of such offences by an Anti-Terrorism Court when such other offences do not qualify to be included in the definition of terrorism puts an extra and unnecessary burden on such courts and causes delay in trial of actual cases of terrorism," The Express Tribune quoted the apex court as saying.

It is, therefore, recommended that Parliament may consider substituting the present definition of "terrorism" by a more succinct definition bringing it in line with the international perspectives of that offence and focusing on violent activities aimed at achieving political, ideological or religious objectives, the judgment said.

"We further recommend that Parliament may also consider suitably amending the Preamble to the Act and removing all those offences from the Third Schedule to the Act which offences have no nexus with the offence of terrorism," it said.

The seven-judge bench, presided by the CJP on April 2, reserved a verdict on the issue, the report said.

The meaning, scope and import of the term 'terrorism' is defined in Section-6 of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997. It has been amended repeatedly and has been the subject of controversy in the apex court for some time. Different benches of varying strength deciding different cases have differed with each other in the past and have understood and interpreted the said term differently, it said.

It is in this backdrop that the present bench has been constituted so as to put an end to that controversy, the report said.

The judgment says that terrorism as in 'ism' is a totally different concept which denotes commission of a crime with the design or purpose of destabilising the government, disturbing the society or hurting a section of the society with a view to achieving objectives which are essentially political, ideological or religious, according to the report.

"This approach also appears to be in harmony with the emerging international perspective and perception about terrorism," the judgment said.

The international perception is also becoming clearer on the point that a violent activity against civilians that has no political, ideological or religious aims is just an act of criminal delinquency, a felony, or simply an act of insanity unrelated to terrorism, the report said.

"This metamorphosis in the anti-terrorism law in our country has brought about a sea change in the whole concept as we have understood it in the past and it is, therefore, of paramount importance for all concerned to understand this conceptual modification and transformation in its true perspective," the apex court said.



Afghan Government Demands Cease-Fire Before Any Taliban Talks

By Mujib Mashal

Oct. 29, 2019

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Afghan government said on Tuesday that it would not take part in negotiations with Taliban unless a cease-fire had first held for at least a month, a demand that is likely to face resistance from the insurgents and complicate the revival of peace efforts that were upended by President Trump.

Hamdullah Mohib, the Afghan president’s national security adviser, told a news conference in the capital, Kabul, that the government saw a cease-fire as a test of whether the leaders negotiating on behalf of the Taliban still had the power to order an end to fighting, something that rising levels of violence during the group’s talks with the United States had led it to doubt.

“In our previous peace plan, we had no preconditions,” Mr. Mohib said. “But in the past year a lot has happened, and we have come to the conclusion that the Taliban are not united and they don’t have control of the fighting. If we are going to give the Taliban the privilege of peace negotiations, they need to prove how much control they have over their commanders and fighters.”

The Taliban have long refused to meet the Afghan government for direct negotiations even without preconditions, saying they would agree only to government representation in broader Afghan negotiations after the United States has announced the withdrawal of its troops from the country.

The government was not a party to the talks that led Taliban and United States negotiators to the brink of a deal last month, after nearly a year of meetings in the Gulf state of Qatar, a process brought to an abrupt end by a tweet from Mr. Trump.

Any revival of negotiations would be complicated not only by questions about the position in Washington, but also by uncertainty over the leadership in Kabul: The results of a presidential election last month have been delayed, with the two leading candidates both essentially claiming victory.

To reach the point where the Taliban and the Afghan government are prepared to start negotiating a political settlement, Western officials have suggested, might require trust-building measures such as a prisoner swap and a reduction in violence.

But the fighting continues unabated. Early on Tuesday, the Taliban attacked a military base in Aqcha district, in northern Jawzjan province, killing at least 20 government forces, said Ghulam Sakhi Subhani, the district governor. The Afghan government, on the other hand, said it had carried out operations in 17 of the country’s 34 provinces in the past 24 hours, killing dozens of Taliban fighters.

In response to the government’s new demand, representatives of the insurgents said they stood by the framework hammered out in Qatar: a phased American troop withdrawal in return for a Taliban promise of breaking with international terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda, followed by Afghan negotiations in which a cease-fire would be not a precondition but would be one of the topics for discussion.

“The peace agreement is already concluded. Answers to all questions, including cease-fire, are there,” said Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban negotiating team. “Why are they just beating around the bush?”

Although an uptick in Taliban violence was publicly blamed for the breakdown in talks, it came after pushback against a grand final gesture requested by Mr. Trump — a meeting with Taliban leaders at Camp David in which the deal could have been finalized.

The results of last month’s election to choose a new Afghan government, originally promised in mid-October, are now expected around Nov. 14. Both the camps of President Ashraf Ghani and his main rival, the government’s chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, have said they are winning in the first round, suggesting that either a runoff vote or a dispute over the declared winner is likely. Any second-round vote would probably have to be delayed until the spring because of harsh weather.

After the United States’ talks with the Taliban broke down, many Western officials suggested that the insurgents had pushed their hand too far by escalating the violence, assaulting Afghan cities and carrying out back-to-back suicide bombings in the country’s capital as the deal was being finalized.

Some officials said they saw that as a sign that the Taliban might be divided over the deal, with the political leaders leading the negotiations unable to control the military commanders and foot soldiers. Analysts say the Taliban divisions are often overplayed.

The threat of President Trump pulling American troops out of Afghanistan without a deal with the Taliban has remained, underscored by his recent decision to abruptly withdraw troops from Syria. Some analysts said the Afghan government’s new precondition for negotiations was not considering that possibility.

“The die has already been cast on the U.S. negotiating its withdrawal with the Taliban,” said Ershad Ahmadi, a former deputy foreign minister. “We run the risk of a withdrawal without a peace deal.”

There has been particular uncertainty over whether the Haqqani Network, a ruthless arm of the Taliban long behind much urban violence, was onboard with the deal.

In recent weeks, Zalmay Khalilzad, the chief American negotiator, has begun traveling again in the region in the hopes of reviving the peace process.

Mr. Mohib, the Afghan national security adviser, said Mr. Khalilzad had met this week with the Afghan president over the fate of Western hostages, potentially including two professors, Kevin King and Timothy Weeks, held by the Haqqani Network since 2016. He said the Afghan government was ready to assist, but he would not elaborate.

He was pressed on suggestions that those hostages could be freed as part of a bigger package to bring the Haqqanis into a peace deal, involving violence-reduction measures and the release of Anas Haqqani, the brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, who leads the Haqqani Network and is also deputy leader of the Taliban’s leadership council.

Mr. Mohib would not be drawn on that idea, but said that broader discussions involving a cease-fire and prisoner swaps had taken place before.

“For us, the important point was that the Haqqanis no longer continue the kind of barbaric attacks they have carried out in Kabul,” he said.

Najim Rahim contributed reporting from Mazar-e-Sharif.



Inside the ISIS prison camp 'little caliphate' breeding the next generation of jihadis

October 31, 2019

NORTHERN SYRIA -- It is a country unto itself, and nobody knows what to do with it.

In a barren prison camp in northern Syria – tens of thousands of ISIS members are running what feels like a mini caliphate – abiding by the rules of the extremist terror group, and abiding by a brutal system of Islamic justice, which goes largely unchecked, and keeps the ISIS ideology alive.

Held captive by the Kurdish SDF, they are angry, desperate to escape and, the guards say, a ticking time bomb.

These people, mainly women and children, were mostly caught after the fall of the caliphate – fleeing from the final bastion in the town of Baghouz. The camp commander tells us they are the most fervent, the ones who were there till the end, and who still believe that the terror empire will rise again.

There are 71,000 people inside the Al Hawl camp including around 10,000 foreigners. English, French, Belgium, Russian, Chinese and more – their countries have refused to take them back, saying they are dangerous and would carry out attacks – the camp commander agrees, saying they’re beyond reform.

One of the controversial issues is what to do with the children of ISIS. They attend religious schools inside the camp so are being brainwashed, but others argue they are innocent. Some are orphans who have returned home, including one American, but others have nowhere to go. They will stay here and likely become radicalized, turning into the next generation of jihadis.

Inside the camp, the guards have no control – they are vastly outnumbered, so can secure the perimeter only. ISIS’s female morality police, the al-hisba, operate across the tented city. They have set up secret religious courts, and murder those who have broken their laws, mutilating some of their bodies and cutting them up. They’ve even found a 1-year-old baby beaten to death, but can’t explain why.

We tell the throng of gathered women across a flimsy fence about the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – one voice shouts at us in English, accusing us of being liars. They throw stones and we have to be wary of them swamping us.

One lady who seems to be a leader then silences them all and tells them not to speak. They turn their backs, gathering together, and go silent.

It is staggering what’s going on inside the camp. The reason it’s so lawless is they don’t have enough guards who number in the hundreds. It used to be around 1,000 but many had to go to repel the Turkish invasion, a story we hear repeated across Northern Syria. The U.S. withdrawal and the Turkish invasion is putting an immeasurable toll on camps and prisons like this.

When guards do need to enter the camp, to look for someone, or perhaps retrieve a dead body, they go in driving Humvees heavily armed with submachine guards. The women throng round them by the hundreds and prevent them from moving.

Authorities rely on informants inside the camps, the only way they can find out about attacks. When we were there, they had received reports of a bike bomb being prepared. At night, ISIS sleeper cells in the surrounding areas can slip into the vast camp, and smuggle things to them – guns, grenades, ISIS flags, money, one $65,000 cash shipment was intercepted. Many of the women need money to buy food. They won’t eat what the camp or aid agencies give them because they consider it infidel food.

The camp commander, a jovial and smiling lady, talks easily about the attempts on her life. There have been many. Just a few weeks ago, a mother and two daughters jumped on her, biting her, throwing gas on her and trying to set her on fire. Her drive home at night has been boobytrapped with IEDs by ISIS sleeper cells in the area. She says every day she looks terror in the eye

The one thing that could make this worse is increased fighting and instablility. And while the latest cease-fire on the ground between Turkey and Syria came to an end at 11 a.m. Tuesday without any huge fanfare,  there have been repeated violations over the last week. The situation is hanging by a thread.

Already there have been numerous breakouts – 180 recently. Fortunately, the landscape is bare and it’s hard to get far. But reach the Sunni heartlands a few hours to the east, and they can join up with other ISIS remnants.

Baghdadi is dead, but these people are keeping his hatred alive.



Iran furious with Trump as US blamed for ISIS rise: 'Get out of Middle East!'


Oct 29, 2019

Iranian politician and former intelligence officer Ali Rabiei wrote an article on Sunday that claimed al-Baghdadi's death at the hands of US troops does not mean the fight against ISIS is over, just as killing former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden didn't bring terrorism to an end. He said: "Baghdadi's death is the end of a symbol of injective-destructive terrorism: injecting a lethal ideology into the hearts of human societies and destroying the image of Islam in the eyes of the public. "However, just as bin Laden's death didn't root out terror, Baghdadi's death won't be the end of Daeshism (ISIS) either."

His reasoning for this argument however, will have sparked outrage from Trump who has boasted this week of Washington's successful raid in Syria.

Rabiei said that the Islamist extremism bred by ISIS is thriving "through American policies and regional is the terror nurturing swamps that need to be drained".

The Iranian official argued that the US has depicted "invasion and cruel sanctions" as part of its struggle against terrorism, while in fact terrorism in the Middle East and Northern Africa is caused by "military-intelligence policies, plundering oil and supporting tyranny".

He added that ISIS and similar groups in the Middle East will continue to wreak havoc in Syria, despite their waning numbers, unless US forces completely remove themselves from the "illegally" occupied region.

Trump was in jubilant mood on Sunday when he announced the death of al-Baghdadi after a successful raid, but Rabiei emphasised that the US should not take full credit for the scalp.

He said it was important to remember the "courageous efforts of the Syrian nation and its Iranian and Russian allies in liberating territories that ISIS had seized with direct and indirect support from the US".

Iran, along with Russia, have backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with monstrous arms deals accompanied by crucial political support in the midst of US pressure.

Tehran also came to blows with the US over the Saudi oil attack, in which Iranian drone strikes destroyed two oil plants in Saudi Arabia.

While Iran President Hassan Rouhani denied responsibility, Western allies including the US roundly agreed Tehran was behind the attack.

Saudi Arabia, a US ally, has recently reignited tensions with Iran after Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir said Riyadh is convinced that Iran were the perpetrators of the Saudi oil attack, and accused Tehran of having "no respect for international law".

He said the EU was right to blame Iran for the attacks and added “Iran does not respect the sovereignty of states and does not respect international law".

Just as Trump looked to have moved on from his Iran dispute, Rouhani and his allies appear hellbent on aggravating the US President despite crippling sanctions.



North America


MALA Gala promotes progress for Muslim American heritage

October 31, 2019

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Storytelling, community building and inclusion are among the goals of the Muslim American Leadership Alliance.

The organization is getting ready for a big event next week.

Co-founded the group, Ahmed "Flex" Omar, joined ABC7 Chicago in the studio to tell us more about MALA.

Omar said another goal is to talk more about Muslim American identity in the 21st century.

MALA's annual gala brings together philanthropists, thought leaders, and community leaders to celebrate another year of progress for the Muslim American heritage.

The gala is a celebration of steps made toward uniting Americans of all backgrounds for social cohesion, recognizing diversity and inclusion.

The event will be held at the iconic Chicago History Museum starting at 5:30 p.m. November 7. Tickets are now available online at



US, Arab allies impose illegal sanctions on IRGC, Hezbollah entities

Oct 30, 2019

A Riyadh-based group, including Saudi Arabia and the US, has imposed illegal sanctions on Islamic Revolution Guard Corps and Lebanon's resistance movement Hezbollah.

The so-called Terrorist Financing Targeting Center, which is only two years old, imposed the sanctions on Wednesday.

The group also includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

Twenty-five entities, including Iran’s Bank Mellat, have been targeted allegedly for their support for the country’s volunteer Basij forces.

"The TFTC's coordinated disruption of the financial networks used by the Iranian regime to fund terrorism is a powerful demonstration of [Persian] Gulf unity," claimed US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement, while addressing a business forum in the Saudi capital. "This action demonstrates the unified position of the [Persian] Gulf nations and the United States that Iran will not be allowed to escalate its malign activity in the region."

The US Treasury claimed that the targeted Iranian and Lebanese entities "oppress domestic opposition with brutal displays of violence." This is while Saudi Arabia and some of its allies are notorious for gross human rights violations and support for terrorism.

Iran has largely managed to offset the impacts of the US brutal sanctions through a series of measures that have seen the country diversifying its economy from oil.

Full report at:



Trump shares fake photo of Baghdadi dog getting medal

Michael Hernandez  



U.S. President Donald Trump shared Wednesday an apparent fake photograph of himself awarding a medal to the dog who chased Daesh/ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in his final moments.

The image, which appears to be a modified version of an Associated Press photo from a 2017 Medal of Honor ceremony, bears a watermark from the conservative Daily Wire news website.

Trump accompanied the photo in a Twitter post with the brief caption: "AMERICAN HERO!"

U.S. officials have declined to identify the dog by name, but Newsweek reported the German Shepherd's name is Conan.

In announcing Baghdadi's killing, Trump said Sunday that the Daesh leader attempted to escape via a tunnel that ultimately was a dead-end, taking three young children with him "to certain death."

But as U.S. forces led by a canine closed in, Baghdadi killed himself and took the lives of the children as the tunnel caved in around him following the explosion.

Trump hailed the dog as "beautiful" and "talented," adding "the dog was so great."

Trump said earlier Monday before departing Washington for Chicago that he is considering releasing video of the special forces mission, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley added that while the U.S. does possess photos and videos of the raid they are currently undergoing a declassification process.

"I think what you'll see here in the coming days is we'll set up some operation and tactical-level briefings by Central Command and you'll be provided some video and photos, etc. of that," he said.

Milley confirmed the dog was "slightly wounded" during the operation, but is expected to fully recover from the injuries that were sustained.

"The dog is still in theater. The dog, the K-9, the military working dog, performed a tremendous service, as they all do in a variety of situations," said Milley.

Under Baghdadi, Daesh spread over wide segments of Iraq and Syria beginning in 2013, eventually claiming the formation of a "caliphate" in the region as it plotted and carried out gruesome attacks that reached far beyond its main territorial bastion. It further set up local affiliates in other regions as it released heinous execution videos on to the internet.

Baghdadi had been a top target for the Trump and Obama administrations, and had a $25 million bounty placed on his head.

Full report at:



Iran and Hezbollah funders listed by Gulf-based anti-terror coalition

Oct 31, 2019

The seven-member Terrorist Financing Targeting Centre in Riyadh on Wednesday designated 25 targets affiliated with Iran and Hezbollah in the largest single designation to date.

The body, that brings together the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United States, listed targets affiliated with “the Iranian regime’s terror-support networks in the region.”

The entities sanctions on Wednesday support Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iran’s regional proxy, Hezbollah.

The announcement added that several of the businesses targeted provide financial support to the Basij Resistance Force, “a paramilitary force subordinate to the IRGC that have long been used as shock troops by the regime to oppress domestic opposition with brutal displays of violence, while also recruiting, training and deploying fighters to fight in IRGC-fuelled conflicts across the region.”

“The TFTC’s coordinated disruption of the financial networks used by the Iranian regime to fund terrorism is a powerful demonstration of Gulf unity. This action demonstrates the unified position of the Gulf nations and the United States that Iran will not be allowed to escalate its malign activity in the region,” said US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin.

“We are proud to join forces with our TFTC partners to expose and condemn the Iranian regime’s gross and repeated violations of international norms, from attacking critical oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia to fomenting strife in neighbouring countries through regional proxies such as Hezbollah,” he added. “This coordinated action is a concrete step towards denying the Iranian regime the ability to undermine the stability of the region.”

United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed the taskforce’s move to re-impose additional counter measures on Iran for its “failure to uphold international anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism standards.”

“Iran deliberately ensures there is no transparency in its economy so it can continue to export terrorism,” Mr Pompeo said. “The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) continues to engage in large-scale, illicit, financing schemes to fund its malign activities.”

He added that the international community has made clear that Iran must live up to its commitments to behave “like a normal nation.”

“We support FATF’s decision to protect the international financial system and call on FATF members to hold Iran fully accountable for its serious and continuing acts of terrorism and terror finance.”

Twenty-one of the 25 entities targeted fund the Basij, using a network of shell companies and other measures to mask their control of “multibillion-dollar business interests in Iran’s automotive, mining, metals, and banking industries, many of which have significant international dealings across the Middle East and Europe.”

The entities were previously listed as specially designated global terrorists by OFAC – the Office of Financial Asset Control – on October 16, 2018.

The Terrorist Financing Targeting Centre in Riyadh was established in 2017 to bring together regional countries in an effort to stop the funding of militants and proxies. The body was formed after a visit to Saudi Arabia shortly after US President Donald Trump took office.

Four of the designates were Hezbollah-affiliated individuals who lead and coordinate the group’s operational, intelligence, and financial activities in Iraq, the US treasury said.

The move “highlight the degree to which Hezbollah operates as a clandestine, terrorist arm of the Iranian regime by smuggling oil for Iran, raising funds for Hezbollah, and sending fighters to Syria for the IRGC-Quds Force on behalf of Qasem Soleimani [the IRGC-Quds force head].”

Full report at:



US House recognises Armenian genocide and passes Turkey sanctions

Joyce Karam

Oct 30, 2019

The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly recognised the Armenian genocide and passed sanctions on Turkey on Tuesday.

The vote on the two bills, condemning the actions of the Ottoman Empire – prior to the founding of Turkey – between 1915 and 1923 and Turkey's current incursion into Syria, showed staggering bipartisan support behind a harder line on the country.

The first bill, calling the historical mass killings of Armenians a genocide, had the approval of 405 politicians and the opposition of 11.

The second related to the attack on Kurds in Syria was backed by 403 representatives.

Congressman Adam Schiff, who sponsored the Armenian genocide bill, connected the events from a century ago to the actions of Turkey in Syria today.

“Given that the Turks are once again involved in ethnic cleansing the population, this time the Kurds, it seemed all the more appropriate to bring up a resolution about the Ottoman efforts to annihilate an entire people in the Armenian genocide,” Mr Schiff said.

The sanctions bill states that if Ankara does not halt its Syrian incursion, Turkish military officials will be penalised and US sales to Turkey of weapons that could be used in Syria will be blocked.

The Senate will take up the bill next.

Chris Van Hollen


The House passed a sanctions bill 403 to 16, sending a signal that Congress will not stand by while Turkey and its proxies slaughter our Syrian Kurdish allies and fuel the revival of ISIS. Senate must stop dithering and act—the lives of our allies and our security are at risk.


3:17 AM - Oct 30, 2019

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Democrats Senator Chris Van Hollen tweeted that it sent "a signal that Congress will not stand by while Turkey and its proxies slaughter our Syrian Kurdish allies and fuel the revival of ISIS".

"The Senate must stop dithering and act. The lives of our allies and our security are at risk," he said.

Muslim-American Congresswoman Ilhan Omar voted against the sanctions on Turkey, and did not take a position on the Armenian genocide bill, for which she voted “present.”

“Accountability and recognition of genocide should not be used as cudgel in a political fight,” Ms Omar said, according to CNN.

Ben Jacobs


The House passed a bill to condemn Turkey's invasion on Syria and impose sanctions on Turkish officials. It passed 403-16. The only Democrat to vote against it was Ilhan Omar. …


3:24 AM - Oct 30, 2019

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Her vote was heavily criticised on social media even from her progressive base.

Some tweeted a photo of her meeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2017. Mr Erdogan is due to visit Washington on November 13.

Full report at:





'Don't let Kashmir become the next Palestine', leading Burton Muslim pleads

ByAdnan Rashid

30 OCT 2019

A leading Burton Muslim fears Kashmir could become "the next Palestine" amid violence in the region.

The prominent representative of The Central Jamia Rizvia Masjid, in Uxbridge Street, claimed Muslims in the region were being "persecuted".

Tariq Hussain has claimed there is a comparison between what is happening in the region of Kashmir, which is disputed by India and Pakistan, to the conflict in Palestine.

He said: "People in Burton - regardless of their colour, religion or beliefs - are extremely concerned and we feel it is up to us to lobby MPs, councillors and government ministers to do something about the human catastrophe that is taking place.

"We have to raise our voices and raise awareness globally to ensure Kashmir does not suffer silently."

He went on to claim: "Just like in Palestine, the victims are Muslims, who are being persecuted and prevented from exercising their basic human rights.

"Its a sad day for humanity when we are reluctant to speak out against governments that are subjecting ordinary citizens to inhumane and degrading treatment."

In August, India deployed thousands more troops to the region.

Schools and colleges were shut, tourists were ordered to leave, telephone and internet services were suspended and regional political leaders were placed under house arrest

It is understood phone services were restored earlier this month, but the crackdown is said to have damaged the region's economy.

The Indian Government maintains the move has been made to tackle terrorism in Kashmir and speed up its development.

But it has led to major civil unrest.

Speaking at a mosque event to raise awareness of the Kashmiris' plight, Mr Hussain said: "The reason behind the event was to further highlight the terrible situation and the inhumane curfew that has been put in place by the Indian government.

A spokesperson for the High Commission of India said: "The primary purpose of Government of India's action on the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution is to improve the good governance and to deliver socio-economic justice to the people of Kashmir.

"The Government of India's action is purely a matter of administrative reorganisation. It does not in any manner change the boundaries of Kashmir or the Line of control with Pakistan"

Paul Walker, Labour councillor and chairman for the East Staffordshire Trades Union Council, who attended the meeting at the mosque, said: "There has been a lot of talking and not a lot of action from the English Government, and we need to act fast and do something.

"The situation in Kashmir is very similar to Palestine and it's heartbreaking to see not a lot is being done as this is a huge issue for the international community.

"Hopefully people will have come away from the event with more information and do their best to enlighten others on what is happening."

A spokesperson for the UK Foreign and Commonwealth office said: "We are closely following the situation in Kashmir and have concerns about the potential impact on regional security.

"Events in Kashmir have regional and international relevance - we urge calm and caution from all."



Swiss police target Islamist extremists in raids across the country

30 October 2019

Swiss police carried out raids in several regions of the country Tuesday targeting people suspected of ties to Islamist extremists, prosecutors said.

Around 100 police officers took part in the raids in the cantons of Zurich, Bern and Schaffhausen, conducting a total of 11 house searches, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) said in a statement.

The operation targeted 11 individuals, including five juveniles who will face proceedings headed by a special office for juvenile prosecutions, the statement said.

OAG meanwhile said it had launched criminal proceedings against the six adults over suspicions that they violated Swiss law banning support of and membership in Islamic terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State group.

One of the six was a returned foreign fighter who had been convicted previously of violating Switzerland's anti-terror legislation.

The OAG said it had requested that he and one other individual be held in pre-trial detention and remain in custody until a final verdict is issued.

It was not clear how many of the 11 targetted suspects had been detained.

Tuesday's operation comes less than a week after the OAG filed criminal indictments against two other men accused of supporting and participating in the Islamic State group, including recruiting fighters to the terror  organisation.

And last month, the country for the first time revoked the citizenship of a dual national after he was convicted of recruiting jihadist fighters for "an Islamist terrorist organisation".

Full report at:



“Gay Muslim” festival to be held in London next spring

October 31, 2019

The first Muslim Pride festival for “gay Muslims” will be held in London after a fundraising campaign raised more than £10,000 to support the event.

The celebration, organised by the charity Imaan, will take place in the capital next spring.

Imaan was set up in 1999 with the aim of helping “LGBT Muslims” who feel isolated due to prejudice towards them.

Organisers say their aim is to let people know that it’s okay for them to be LGBT and Muslim and to celebrate the “gay Muslim” community.

On its fundraising page Imaan says: “Through the tireless and passionate efforts of many volunteers we have empowered thousands of others like ourselves to reconcile sexuality, gender identity with the Islamic faith through social support meetings, conferences, retreats, Pride and religious celebrations and spiritual practice.

“We as LGBTQI Muslims often find ourselves isolated, without community and frequently facing homophobic, biphobic, transphobic AND Islamaphobic abuse.

“We are proud that over the last twenty years, we have managed to build a huge community and network across the UK and the world that supports and celebrates Muslim LGBTQI diversity on almost no budget.

“Now we want to turn to our wider friends and communities to raise funds to cover some of the costs of a unique festival that will celebrate LGBTQI Muslims on the occasion of Imaan’s 20th anniversary. The event will build on the incredible events we organised in the past and feature panels, discussions, speakers, arts, culture and history – a first for LGBTQI Muslims.”

Full report at:

Homosexual acts are strictly forbidden in Islam and are considered a major sin.



Feds: Brothers With Ties To Hezbollah Tried To Export Drone Tech

October 29, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Federal prosecutors say two brothers charged with conspiring to export drone parts and technology from the U.S. to Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia in Lebanon are “dangerous” and should remain in custody while they await trial, according to a court document filed Monday.

Usama and Issam Hamade are charged with conspiracy to violate U.S. export laws. Usama Hamade is also charged with smuggling. Prosecutors say that from 2009 to 2013, the Lebanese brothers repeatedly acquired sophisticated technology for drones then illegally exported them to Hezbollah, which the U.S. considers a terrorist organization.

The Hamades were arrested in February 2018 in South Africa and were recently extradited to the U.S. They will appear in a federal court in Minnesota on Tuesday for a hearing to determine whether they will be released pending trial. A third defendant, Samir Ahmed Berro, remains at large.

An attorney for Issam Hamade said in a court filing that his client was a member of the Lebanese Armed Forces, not Hezbollah. An attorney for Usama Hamade made no comment ahead of Tuesday’s hearing.

According to an indictment, the parts included inertial measurement units, which can be used to track an aircraft’s position, and digital compasses, which can be paired with the inertial measurement units for drone guidance systems. The parts also included a jet engine and 20 piston engines.

Prosecutors wrote that Hezbollah has used drones for many years and that the brothers “present a danger to the United States, and to other communities around the world.”

Prosecutors painted Usama Hamade as a “violent, drunken, gun-toting thug” who threatened to kill a government witness and his family by cutting him “to pieces” and once bragged that he cut off his gardener’s arms and bashed his gardener’s skull after an apparent theft.

The witness told authorities that he had regular contact with Usama Hamade from 2009 to 2011, and that he and his wife went to Lebanon with Usama Hamade in 2010. When they arrived in Beirut, the witness said, a group of armed men in darkened limos separated him from his wife and drove them with lights and sirens to a flat that Usama called his Beirut home.

The witness said Usama told him the Hamade brothers were both members of Hezbollah, and both brothers had pictures of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in their homes. Usama Hamade also had firearms around the flat and fired shots into the sky. Usama Hamade also filmed the inside of his apartment and posted the video to Facebook. A Hezbollah flag is visible, as well as an assault rifle propped against the nightstand, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said that as he was fighting extradition to the U.S., Usama Hamade said Nasrallah is a spiritual leader and there is nothing nefarious about the photograph. Hamade also said Hezbollah is a political party, not a terrorist organization.

Prosecutors called that “preposterous,” saying one of the drone parts acquired is only useful in military applications. They say Skype calls between Usama Hamade and an undercover agent show Hamade said he would be proud to be placed on the U.S. terror list.

Issam Hamade’s attorney, Bruce Nestor, wrote in his court filings that a Shiite Muslim would have to show public allegiance to Hezbollah or another group to avoid physical harm or retribution.

But prosecutors said Issam Hamade posted pictures of the 9/11 attacks on Facebook and suggested the attacks wouldn’t have happened if the World Trade Center had been built in reverence to Allah.

Full report at:



Europe Still Doing Nothing To Deal With Its Isis Members In Syria

By Seth J. Frantzman 

October 29, 2019

The Syrian Democratic Forces hold up to 10,000 ISIS fighters. More than 1,000 of these  are foreign fighters and hundreds of them are from Europe. However European countries don’t want their ISIS citizens back. They hope Syria will continue to be a dumping ground for extremists, and that the SDF will continue to serve as Europe’s Middle Eastern jailor.

The SDF was never trained or expected to be a long-term jailor, or manager of detention facilities. But since the US-led Coalition of 70 countries never coordinated what to do with the ISIS  prisoners that fell into its hands, the prisoners were sent to be held by the SDF.

As US President Donald Trump has indicated, the US doesn’t want to waste more money on more Guantanamo-style facilities. Europe doesn’t want its citizens either. With a few exceptions, such as Kosovo, most wealthy European countries don’t want responsibility.

Trump was livid in his press conference on Sunday, taking to task European countries for the “tremendous disappointment” they have been. Unlike Russia, Syria’s regime, Iraq, the SDF and other countries who actually did things to help fight ISIS, the countries in Europe where 5,000 ISIS fighters came from, have done little to address the problem their citizens present in Syria.

“They came from France, they came from Germany, they came from the UK,” Trump said. “And I actually said to them, if you don’t take them, I’m going to drop them right on your border and you can have fun capturing them.” Trump pointed out that the US is thousands of miles away and there is a large ocean between the US and ISIS, whereas Europe has contiguity with Turkey and Syria, where the ISIS detainees are.

Since Trump decided to withdraw in December 2018 the US has sought to pressure Europe to do something with its ISIS fighters. But the UK and other countries have found legal loopholes to avoid the issue. The UK even stripped some of citizenship. Some European countries have transitioned from giving rehabilitation packages and gym memberships to returning extremists, a practice that took place up until 2014, to simply not wanting them.

Even though these men and women grew up in Europe, speak the languages, have citizenship and family back home, and in many cases were educated and radicalized in Europe, London, Berlin and Paris don’t want them coming home. But they don’t want to pay anyone else to keep them either, nor do they want them handed over to the Syrian regime where their citizens might suffer human rights abuses.

Some European countries have joined the US-led Coalition and France and the UK sent special forces to Syria. Other countries helped train the Iraqi army. But they never had a plan for what to do with their own citizens. It appears many European countries prefered to ignore the radicalization that led their citizens to join ISIS and that they waited until 2015, when ISIS attacked places in France and other countries, to actually seek to do something about the problem.

Then, with intelligence services warning that the returning ISIS members were a threat, these countries did try to infiltrate ISIS networks and it appears they hoped their citizens would die on the battlefield or something disappear. But this isn’t the 1950s when governments disappear citizens, so the plethora of European ISIS members who turned up alive in 2019 when the last pockets of ISIS surrendered, have become a unwanted burden. No Nuremberg-style trials for them. No repatriation. No sending them to Iraq or the Syrian regime, even though they committed their genocidal crimes in Iraq and Syria.

Full report at:



Serb ex-soldier jailed 20 years for burning 57 Muslim civilians

October 30, 2019

SARAJEVO: A Bosnian court jailed a former Bosnian Serb soldier for 20 years on Wednesday for setting ablaze 57 Muslim Bosniaks, of whom 26 including a two-day-old baby died, near the eastern town of Visegrad early in Bosnia’s 1992-95 war.

Radomir Susnjar, 64, known as Lalco, was also found guilty of robbery and illegal detention of civilians, the court said.

The group of Muslim Bosniaks had been seized after an attack on the village of Koritnik and locked in a house that was set ablaze with an accelerant and explosives while Susnjar and other Bosnian Serb Army members shot at it to prevent anyone fleeing.

“The attack resulted in the killing of 25 civilians and a two-day-old baby whose remains were never found,” the court said in a statement.

One civilian sustained serious injuries while others managed to escape.

Susnjar had lived in France for many years before being tracked down and arrested on a Bosnian warrant.

He was held in custody there for four years before being extradited to Bosnia last year.

Bosnian Serbs Milan and Sredoje Lukic were sentenced by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in 2012 to life and 27 years in prison respectively for the same crimes.

Bosnian Serb forces, helped by the now-defunct Serb-dominated Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) and Serbian paramilitaries, committed atrocities against Muslims in eastern Bosnia early in the conflict as part of their bid to create exclusively Serb territories.

Around 100,000 people died in the war, a large majority of them Bosniaks.

Full report at:



NZ bans video game glorifying Christchurch mosque shooting

October 31, 2019

WELLINGTON: New Zealand’s chief censor said today he had banned a video game that appeared to glorify the mass shooting in Christchurch earlier this year that killed 51 Muslim worshippers.

In an attack broadcast live on Facebook, a lone gunman armed with semi-automatic weapons targeted Muslims attending prayers in two Christchurch mosques on March 15, killing 51 people and wounding dozens.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, a suspected white supremacist, has been charged with the attack and faces trial next year.

Chief Censor David Shanks said a video game that celebrated the livestream of the mass shooting has been classified as objectionable.

“The creators of this game set out to produce and sell a game designed to place the player in the role of a white supremacist terrorist killer,” Shanks said in a statement.

“In this game, anyone who isn’t a white heterosexual male is a target for simply existing.”

Shanks previously outlawed the livestreamed video of Christchurch attack, and a manifesto linked to the alleged shooter.

Earlier this month, the censor board also outlawed a 35 minute long video of another attack by an anti-Semitic gunman who killed two people in Halle, Germany.

A document said to have been shared by the gunman in Germany has now also been banned, Shanks said.

Some game producers appear intent on producing a ‘family’ of white extremist games, and have established a revenue stream from it, with customers in New Zealand and around the world able to purchase the games from the producer’s website, Shanks said.

Full report at:



UK: ‘Vital reforms’ needed in Lebanon to create a better country for all

30 October 2019

Lebanon needs a government that can “urgently deliver vital reforms necessary to create a better country for all,” the British Embassy in Lebanon said on Wednesday, following Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri's announcement of his resignation from government on Tuesday.

“Violence or intimidation of peaceful protests from any group only undermines Lebanon’s unity and stability,” the embassy said on its official Twitter page.

UKinLebanon 🇬🇧🇱🇧


Lebanon is at a crossroads. Whatever the political solution, Lebanon needs a government that can urgently deliver vital reforms necessary to create a better country for all. Violence or intimidation of peaceful protests from any group only undermines Lebanon's unity and stability


2:13 PM - Oct 30, 2019

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Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced on Tuesday his resignation from government, weeks after an unprecedented wave of protests began in Lebanon.

“My resignation comes in response to the demands of [the people in the] streets of Lebanon,” Hariri said in a televised speech, adding he will be going to Baabda presidential palace, the official residence of the President of Lebanon, to submit his resignation to Lebanese President Michel Aoun.

His resignation comes as protests have swept Lebanon for nearly two weeks, demanding the government resigns amid growing anger at political leaders accused of corruption.

Full report at:



Facebook says it suspends accounts tied to Putin ally for meddling in Africa

30 October 2019

Facebook said on Wednesday it had suspended three networks of Russian accounts that attempted to interfere in the domestic politics of eight African countries, and were tied to a Russian businessman accused of meddling in past US elections.

The campaigns targeted people in Madagascar, Central African Republic, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Sudan and Libya, Facebook said.

They used almost 200 fake and compromised accounts to reach more than one million followers in the eight African countries.

All the networks were connected to “entities associated with Russian financier Yevgeniy Prigozhin,” Facebook said.

Prigozhin has previously denied wrongdoing. His lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the latest Facebook accusations involving African countries.

Prigozhin has been indicted by US special prosecutor Robert Mueller as a principal figure behind an alleged Russian “troll farm” accused of trying to sway elections in the United States with covert social media campaigns.

In some of the African countries, the Russian-run networks worked with local citizens to better disguise their origins and target Internet users, said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cyber security policy.

“There’s sort of a joining of forces, if you will, between local actors and actors from Russia,” he told Reuters. “It appears that the local actors who are involved know who is behind the operation.”

Facebook declined to identify which local people or organizations had worked with the accounts or which companies it had connected to the activity and Prigozhin, a catering tycoon nicknamed “Putin’s cook” by Russian media because of banquets he has organized for the Russian leader.

But researchers at Stanford University, who worked with Facebook on its investigation, said the companies included the Wagner Group - a firm of military contractors that sources have previously told Reuters has carried out clandestine combat missions on the Kremlin’s behalf in Ukraine and Syria.

Reuters reported last year that the group had expanded into economic and diplomatic work in countries including the Central African Republic as part of a push by Russia to increase its influence in Africa.

Russian authorities deny that Wagner contractors carry out their orders and Moscow has repeatedly rejected Western allegations of election meddling.

The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Wagner has no public profile and has never commented about its activities. Prigozhin has denied links to Wagner.


Facebook, Twitter and Google have vowed to step up the fight against political manipulation of their platforms after facing fierce criticism for failing to counter alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election.

Despite the increased scrutiny, US officials have repeatedly warned of the threat posed by Russia and other countries, who they say may still attempt to sway the result of next year’s presidential contest.

The campaigns shut down for meddling in Africa had posted about local news and geopolitical issues, as well as sharing content from Russian and local state-controlled media, Facebook said. Some of the accounts were active as far back as 2014.

They also spent money on advertising, although Facebook estimated the total at less than $90,000. The paid social media advertising markets in many African countries are still small.

Researchers at the Stanford Internet Observatory, the research lab at Stanford University, said the networks used a variety of techniques across the different African countries.

Some accounts supported a specific party or candidate, they said, while others backed multiple figures. In other cases, the pages appeared geared towards building support for Wagner activities or Russian deals for natural resources.

In Sudan, said Observatory Research Scholar Shelby Grossman, “the tone has been generally supportive of the government, but not transparently so. It does suggest the strategy is very different across countries.”

The activity marks a shift from the previous alleged efforts by the Internet Research Agency to target US voters, said Alex Stamos, Facebook’s former security chief and now head of the Stanford Internet Observatory.

The “franchise” model of working with local people in target countries makes the activity more difficult to detect, he said, and may have been developed to circumvent a move by Facebook to publish the locations of administrators of some political accounts.

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


In Indonesia, 'bride kidnapping' tradition fuels child marriage despite new ban

OCTOBER 31, 2019

Beh Lih Yi


LEMBAR, Indonesia (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Fifteen minutes into their first date, Indonesian teenager Helma Yani received a marriage proposal from a boy she had just met. He spirited her away to a relative’s house and a month later, at age 17, they were married.

Yani is one of nearly 1.5 million child brides in Muslim-majority Indonesia, which has the world’s eighth-highest number of underage unions according to the United Nations.

The government raised the marriage age for girls from 16 to 19 in September, but rights groups fear deep-rooted traditions and the practice of not registering unions could hamper efforts to end the scourge.

On Yani’s island of Lombok, the Sasak people continue a centuries-old tradition of “bride kidnapping”, in which a woman is taken away by her future husband before a wedding.

Known locally as “merariq”, Sasak elders say the kidnapping is part of an elaborate courtship ritual requiring consent from both parents, but is now widely abused to justify early marriages.

“I didn’t know what to do when he proposed so I said yes,” said Yani, looking away shyly as she spoke in her village where children and chickens roam the streets. “We rode off on a motorbike from the beach to his relative’s house.”

Her parents did not know where she was for days until the village heads came to say that Yani had been taken by the boy and was preparing for marriage.

“I was angry and upset, I cried non-stop as I tried to search for her,” said her mother Nur Halima as she cradled Yani’s two-month-old baby girl.

“She had not finished school, but what can I do except let her get married? If she returns unmarried she could bring shame on our family,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Stories like Yani’s are common across Lombok, but activists are fighting back with an unusual approach of joining forces with village elders to restore the traditional ways of “merariq”.


Globally 12 million girls become child brides each year, according to campaign group Girls Not Brides. They face greater risks of exploitation, sexual violence, domestic abuse and death in childbirth.

In Indonesia, a Southeast Asian archipelago of 260 million, poverty and tradition lead to one in nine girls being married before age 18, according to official statistics.

And the West Nusa Tenggara province, which includes Lombok, ranks among Indonesia’s top 10 for child marriage.

Lombok’s bride kidnapping ritual dates back generations among the Sasak, an ethnic Muslim group of about 3 million who mostly live on the island east of the resort destination Bali.

At one time, negotiations were held between families after a Sasak man set his sights on a woman, in contrast to bride kidnappings plaguing countries like Kyrgyzstan, Mali and Ethiopia.

The man would then take the woman to an agreed location to see if they were compatible, as relatives supervised.

Now the ritual often results in sad tales like Yani’s – an easy excuse for men to force marriage on young vulnerable women. Once a girl is with a suitor for days, parents are typically so desperate to avoid social stigma they agree to the union.

In Lombok, which sends one of the highest numbers of Indonesians overseas as migrant workers, some parents feel their daughters can be better looked after in their absence if they marry. It also alleviates a financial burden.

“It is done in the name of tradition, so people just accept it blindly regardless if it is right or wrong,” said Faozan, of the local non-profit Village Children Protection Group.

Faozan, who like many Indonesians uses one name, said rampant underage marriage on Lombok has been linked to social ills ranging from divorce to unplanned pregnancies, maternal deaths and stunting among children.

In addition, Islamic ceremonies are common. Islamic law permits such unions but because they are not formally registered women are often denied their rights and maintenance payments in the case of divorce.

Yani, who was married under Islamic law and divorced by her husband a month before she gave birth, is struggling to get her baby a birth certificate as her marriage was never formally registered.

Indonesia’s Women Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry said in a recent statement that it planned to raise awareness through education among children, parents and religious leaders to end child marriage.

It did not reply to a request for comment.

The government has stated that raising the age of marriage would save children from underage unions.

The change came after Indonesia’s top court last year ruled in favor of a petition by women’s rights groups who argued the rule discriminated against girls, who could marry at 16 while the legal age for men is 19.

But the new law permits exceptions if parents ask the court for permission, raising concerns that young women could still be forced to marry in large numbers.


Wearing a traditional Muslim “songkok” prayer cap and a batik shirt, Sasak elder Muhamad Rais is among senior figures who advise local people on traditional customs in matters like birth, marriage and death.

Since 2016 he has worked with local charities under a pilot project to revive the original “merariq” traditions, which he said are governed by a set of complicated steps that must be carefully followed before the “kidnapping ritual” takes place.

“I am sad, embarrassed and angry,” Rais told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a bamboo hut where he regularly dispenses advice to villagers.

“Our tradition has been abused by our own people. The victims are our girls and women,” said Rais, 54.

Key to his work is re-introducing an element known as “belas” to the rituals, which allows the girl and boy to be separated if they are deemed not yet fit for marriage.

And while traditional “merariq” customs do not stipulate a minimum age, Rais said the woman must have weaved 144 pieces of cloth and the man must have reared buffalo which have produced 25 offspring before they can wed.

In other words, they must be adults.

The pilot project, in place in four villages since 2016, has stopped some 20 underage unions according to Lombok-based charity Child and Youth Protection Institution, which is spearheading the initiative.

“We can’t blame the tradition, because it’s the deviation from its original practice that led to all these issues,” said spokeswoman Baiq Zulhiatina.

“What we are trying to do is to change the mindset of our people and tell them stopping child marriage is not shameful.”



Hadi blames Islamophobia, says Malays labelled racists because they’re Muslims

Oct 25th, 2019

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang today claimed the Malays in the country were victimised due to their own faith which has caused them to be labelled racists even as they try to champion their rights.

In a long post on Facebook this morning, Hadi lamented the same treatment is not accorded to other races in Malaysia.

This, he claimed, was a sign the Malays in the country were losing their rights “in their own land”.

“Other races which challenge the Malays and which speak on the rights of their races are not referred to as racists on the basis of human rights.

“Are Malays to be eliminated from the world and drowned in the slogan of the 'Malaysia Baru' race?” he posted.

He added: “[...] Malays accept this fate because of their Islamic faith. If Malays did not embrace Islam, just like the other races, they would not be labelled racists.

“Could this situation be caused by the Islamophobia disease that is currently spreading?”

Citing the history of Malaysia's colonisation to elaborate his point, the Marang MP said Muslims were the “biggest enemies” of the colonisers to this day.

As such Malays, too, have become their main enemy due to their faith and this led to their marginalisation prior to Merdeka.

“The humanitarian nature and preaching of all humanity brought by Islam allowed the Malays to easily accept the arrival of the Chinese, Indians and others by the colonisers who brought their agenda to create problems in the multireligious and multiracial community, to strengthen their grip on economic interests.”

This, he claimed, included placing Malays and other bumiputera communities in rural areas to rely on agriculture and away from the economic centres of the towns.

'Bangsa pendatang'

Hadi said the Malays were unable to catch up with the other races post-independence despite stipulations in the Federal Constitution to preserve Malay and bumiputera rights.

“Even though the Malays hold political power, they cannot easily influence economic changes in an atmosphere of political freedom and competitive economics that is unethical and undignified.

“The main problem is not racism, but their (Malay) rights seen to be dismissed by others in their own land,” his post read.

“What's more, the present situation which is being influenced by the party of an extreme race to gain political power which, to the eye, appears through democracy that is influenced by extreme racist behaviour and (which is) ungrateful to the deeds of the Malay-Muslims toward them.”

He said if Malays were truly racists, they would not have allowed the “bangsa pendatang” citizenships, economic control, political rights to become parliamentarians, menteri besar or chief ministers or the freedom to practice their religions.

However, he warned there were limits to the patience of the Malay-Muslims.

“Remember! Islam teaches Malays that patience has its limits. Only Malays that are too stupid and weak spiritually or who have lost the soul of their race lose their identity in their own land.”

Full report at:



Will PAS campaign for non-Muslim in Tanjung Piai, asks Saifuddin

Minderjeet Kaur

October 31, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR: Pakatan Harapan (PH) secretariat chief Saifuddin Abdullah today asked if PAS would support a Chinese candidate in the Tanjung Piai by-election given its record of campaigning for Muslim candidates.

“There have been occasions where they campaigned for Muslims to vote for Muslims when there were Muslim versus non-Muslim candidates,” he told reporters in the Parliament lobby when asked about Barisan Nasional’s (BN) move to field a candidate from MCA in the upcoming polls.

He said it was normal for BN to field Chinese or Indian candidates, adding that “the question is PAS”.

“How are they going to campaign in Tanjung Piai?” he said, quipping that PAS should support PH instead.

Yesterday, BN named Wee Jeck Seng as its contender against PH’s Karmaine Sardini and Gerakan’s Wendy Subramaniam.

Wee, a two-time MP for Tanjung Piai, lost his seat in the general election last year. He was narrowly defeated by PPBM’s Mohd Farid Mohd Rafik who died of a heart attack on Sept 21, triggering the by-election on Nov 16.

Saifuddin said political parties should understand that Malaysia is a multiracial country, adding that PH bases its candidates on the composition of the given area.

“That is why we cannot say choose Malay Muslim or Chinese, because we are a multiracial country,” he added.

Full report at:



From food to household appliances, Indonesia’s new law on halal certification a boost for Islamic economy

Oct 2019

JAKARTA: A microwave oven stood out among an array of appliances in an electrical household goods shop, with a colourful display cabinet touting it as “the first certified halal microwave in Indonesia”.

Produced by Japanese electronics manufacturer Sharp, the item was rolled out in Muslim-majority Indonesia last year to offer peace of mind to consumers who want products that are deemed permissible according to Islamic law.

In addition to several microwave oven models, four of Sharp’s refrigerators and a freezer are also halal-certified, bearing the green certificate issued by the country’s Muslim clerical body.

“As an electronics manufacturer, Sharp Indonesia has the responsibility to inform consumers about the condition of its refrigerators because they are used to store food,” Sharp Electronics Indonesia’s product strategy manager for refrigerator Mr Afka Adhitya told CNA.

"We don't use animal parts that are haram (forbidden by Islamic law)," he added.

“Our consumers have responded quite positively to our halal fridge. Since we first launched it last year, the sales have gone up.”

Mr Adhitya added that the halal certification is the company’s attempt to comply with the government’s law, which mandates that every product claimed to be halal must have a certificate issued by the government.

The law was passed in Oct 17 for food and beverages, after five years of discussion. 

The halal certificates also aimed at creating added value for business, but not every product needs to be halal certified, said Mr Mastuki, head of halal registration and certification centre of Indonesia’s Halal Product Guarantee Agency.

“If the product does not contain elements of animal, then there’s no need for a halal certificate.

“But those which do, say, medical devices such as pacemakers that may have components that originate from animal bones, then they need to be certified to ensure that the animal bones are halal and not haram,” Mr Mastuki explained. 

Other examples of products that may need halal certifications are shoes, bags and clothes, he added.

For now, the halal certificate is only compulsory for food and beverages, including those produced by small- and medium-sized enterprises as well as street vendors.

Other non-food products will be required to have the halal certificate from 2021 onwards, but those who do not adhere to the law will only be punished beginning 2024. The exact penalty is still being discussed.


Products that are certified halal are widely available in Indonesia, where about 90 per cent of the 260 million people are Muslims.

Despite it being a country with the largest Muslim population, it is still lagging behind neighbouring Malaysia on Islamic economy, according to Thomson Reuters State of the Global Islamic Economy (GIE) 2018/2019 report.

Malaysia ranked top with a GIE indicator score of 127, while Indonesia came in 10th with 45, based on factors such as halal food, Islamic finance, halal travel, modest fashion, halal media and recreation, and halal pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.

Although this is not the primary reason, the new law does aim to improve Indonesia’s competitiveness in terms of being an Islamic economy, said Mr Mastuki.

“From a macro perspective, we do hope the halal certificates will have an impact.

“With better halal production processes, enhanced public awareness of halal products and increased competitiveness, clearly there will be an effect economically,” he said.

Until recently, the certificates were issued by the Indonesian Ulema Council, and business owners have to fork out several million rupiah to get their products certified. 

With the new law, business and product owners also have to pay to register their ventures but the exact amount has yet to be decided. The fees will likely be determined based on the business size and product types.

Mr Mastuki assured street food vendors that they would be given special treatment, and might be exempted from paying the fee to obtain the certificate.

This came as good news for Mr Sarman, who has been selling homemade steamed buns at the streets of Jakarta for the last 23 years.

The 47-year-old does not have a halal certificate, but has painted “halal” on the window of his wagon.

“Bakpau is usually associated with pork, but I make my bun with chicken. I make them myself so I know the process,” Mr Sarman told CNA.

“I write this (the halal sign) myself, and many have asked me about it.”

Mr Sarman said he has heard of the new regulation and would be glad if the government can help him obtain the halal certificate for free.

Mdm Hermawati Setyorinny, chairwoman of the Indonesian Micro, Small, Medium Enterprise Association, welcomed the government’s new regulation on halal certificates as long as the application process is easy, affordable and free of bureaucracy.

“So far that’s our challenge. The government has to work together with organisations which can help them on the ground,” she said.


The rise of the Islamic lifestyle in Indonesia has prompted the Ministry of State Owned Entreprises to open Jakarta’s first halal park at the capital’s international sporting venue Gelora Bung Karno.

With shops offering Muslim fashion and halal food, the park caters to the halal lifestyle of Indonesians and foreign visitors.

When launching the 250 billion rupiah (US$ 17.8 million) project in April, President Joko Widodo said the halal industry should drive Indonesia's economy. 

The 21,000 sq m park is expected to be fully operational by 2020. Only 17 out of the 40 shops are occupied so far. 

“We want to improve micro, small and medium enterprises in Indonesia. We have to evaluate the tenants’ food hygiene and their products before they can join our park,” said Mr Christian, head of the halal park who goes by one name.

“There are strict regulations on who can be our tenants, and we will support them to get the halal certificates.”

The park will appeal to consumers – both Muslims and non-Muslims – who are seeking out halal-certified products for quality and safety.

Mdm Amalia Pissano said she is comforted by the fact that she can get halal-certified makeup in the market.

The 36-year-old public servant, who decided to don a hijab (headscarf) a few years ago, said she started using halal-certified makeup when she got pregnant.

“There are some cosmetic ingredients which are believed to be unsafe for pregnant women, so I started researching on Wardah (an Indonesian halal-certified makeup brand).

“After that, I continued exploring other halal-certified brands for variety,” Mdm Pissano said.

Jakarta-based lecturer Yuliana Pakpahan, who is not a Muslim, told CNA she also uses halal-certified makeup.

“I like the colours and the affordable price. The quality is good and the makeup is long-lasting,” she said.


While the majority of Muslims in Indonesia practise a moderate form of the religion, Islamic lifestyle has become increasingly popular, noted Islamic scholar Rumadi Ahmad.

The Chairperson of Nahdlatul Ulama’s Human Resources and Research Institute - Indonesia’s biggest Muslim organisation - cautioned that problems might arise if people are too obsessed with becoming more Islamic.

Full report at:





Delegation to Nankana Sahib: MEA ‘denies’ nod to Punjab MLAs and MPs; only journalists, PROs to visit Pak

October 31, 2019

A fresh row over the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev erupted Wednesday with Punjab minister Charanjit Singh Channi alleging that a majority of names in a state government delegation, which was proposed to visit Nankana Sahib in Pakistan, were not approved by the Centre.

A 31-member delegation from Punjab had sought permission to go to Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak, where an “akhand path” was to be initiated to mark the 550th Parkash Purab. However, the Ministry of External Affairs has given political clearance to only 11 members while denying the same to five Punjab Cabinet ministers, two MPs and seven MLAs including the Leader of Opposition in state Assembly, and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader in the House.

“Only 11 members, including eight journalists, two PROs and a government official, were accorded nod and that too on the afternoon of October 29, whereas permission was denied to the Lok Sabha MPs, ministers and the MLAs belonging to Punjab. All this was done at the behest of the SAD,” Channi alleged.

“Denying the nod is not only unconstitutional but a grave danger to the federal structure of the country,” he said, adding that the Centre and the SAD were out to “create roadblocks” in the 550th Parkash Purb celebrations.

“The BJP Government and the SAD were engaged in dirty politics concerning the Parkash Purb celebrations and their actions have proved that they are totally anti to the philosophy of Guru Nanak Dev, which is based on universal brotherhood,” he said.

Earlier in the day speaking at an event at Sultanpur Lodhi in Kapurthala, Punjab’s Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu alleged that the SAD was creating hurdles in the joint celebrations by the Punjab government and the SGPC. “Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has made concerted efforts in this regard and had even constituted a special group of ministers for better coordination with the SGPC but the SAD, which controls the strings of the SGPC, created hurdles,” he alleged, adding that the SAD was trying to gain political mileage.

The five Punjab ministers who were part of the 31-member delegation included OP Soni (medical education), Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa (rural development), Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa (jails and cooperation), Channi (technical education), and Balbir Sidhu (health).

Congress MPs Gurjit Singh Aujla and Santokh Chaudhary were also part of the list as were LoP and AAP leader Harpal Singh Cheema, Congress MLAs Raj Kumar Verka, Rajinder Beri, Parminder Singh Pinky, Inderbir Singh Bolaria, Amarinder Singh Raja Warring, and SAD’s leader of House in Vidhan Sabha Parminder Singh Dhindsa.



Delhi and Riyadh underline: Reject all interference in internal affairs

by Shubhajit Roy

October 31, 2019

In a marked departure from the one they issued in February this year, the joint statement by New Delhi and Riyadh Tuesday made no mention on the resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan.

In the joint statement issued Tuesday after the bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the two sides reiterated their “categorical rejection of all forms of interference in the internal affairs of countries”, and the need for the international community to fulfil its responsibilities towards “preventing any attacks on the sovereignty of States”.

While New Delhi views this as an oblique reference to Pakistan meddling in Kashmir, Saudis interpret this as Iran’s interference in their affairs.

The February joint statement, issued after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to India, had a full paragraph on India-Pakistan relations: “The two sides stressed the importance of regional stability and good neighbouring relations. His Royal Highness appreciated consistent efforts made by Prime Minister Modi since May 2014 including Prime Minister’s personal initiatives to have friendly relations with Pakistan. In this context, both sides agreed on the need for creation of conditions necessary for resumption of the comprehensive dialogue between India and Pakistan.”

Tuesday’s joint statement was silent on India-Pakistan ties or a dialogue. And unlike February, when the joint statement said that the Prime Minister and His Royal Highness “condemned in the strongest terms, the recent terrorist attack on Indian security forces on 14 February, 2019 in Pulwama in Jammu & Kashmir”, there was no reference to the Pulwama attack.

The joint statement said the “Indian side condemned the terrorist acts against civilian installations in the Kingdom”. This was a reference to the drone attacks on Saudi oil fields. The joint statement said both sides expressed their rejection of all terrorist acts and stressed the need to “prevent access to weapons including missiles and drones to commit terrorist acts against other countries”.

The February statement too called upon “all States to deny access to weapons including missiles and drones to commit terrorist acts against other countries”.

This time, on terrorism, it said the two sides stressed that “the extremism and terrorism threaten all nations and societies. They rejected any attempt to link this universal phenomenon to any particular race, religion or culture.”

In a new formulation, both sides called for “closer cooperation in the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Center”, and also agreed on strengthening cooperation in combating terrorist operations, exchange of information, capacity building and strengthening of cooperation in combating transnational crimes, within the framework of the existing bilateral security cooperation.

Full report at:



Jamia Millia Islamia University a part of common heritage of India: President of India Ram Nath Kovind

October 31, 2019

President of India on Wednesday addressed the convocation ceremony and celebrations marking the completion of 99 years of establishment Jamia Millia Islamia. Speaking on the occasion, Shri Ram Nath Kovind said that Jamia Millia wasa part of the common heritage of India. The establishment of the university was linked to the Independence movement of India. He further said that when the call for the freedom movement was given, the founders of the Jamia, including Mohammad Ali Jauhar and Hakeem Ajmal Khan had joined the movement and the university was established with the co-operation of Mahatma Gandhi. The purpose of the university was to take all the communities together and promote unity in diversity, and the unity has maintained this tradition even in this 100th year of it's establishment. The President further said that he was proud of being a part of the convocation ceremony of a university in which the former President of India, Dr Zakir Hussain had served as the Vice-Chancellor. Acknowledging the contribution of this university to the promotion of learning, the President said that the Jamia had made a mark in the field of education on national and international level. He said that the Mass Media students of this university had earned name and Fame in the field of film and media. Appreciating the social initiatives of the university, the President said that the Jamia had adopted 5 villages under the government scheme 'unnat Bharat'and stressed the need to adopt more villages.



Gunmen kill five migrant workers in Kashmir as EU lawmakers visit


Unidentified gunmen shot dead five migrant labourers in Indian-administered Kashmir on Tuesday, police said, in the bloodiest incident since New Delhi moved to strip the region of its autonomy.

The killings in southern Kulgam district, some 70 kilometres (43 miles) south of the main city Srinagar, came as India allowed a group of mostly far-right European Union parliamentarians to visit the region where tensions have soared since New Delhi began a clampdown on August 5.

A police official told AFP an unknown number of gunmen, believed to be rebels, barged into an accommodation rented by the six labourers late Tuesday and shot one of them dead on the spot.

They later took five others out of the residence and shot them with automatic rifles some distance from the building, killing four and wounding one.

"He is critical and undergoing treatment at a hospital," a local police official said of the wounded labourer, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Another top police official said the victims were from the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, and that additional government forces were rushed to the area to track the attackers.

No group has taken responsibility for the attack, but police in the past have accused militants of targeting non-locals in a campaign allegedly aimed at driving them from the region.

A non-local truck driver was shot dead on Monday by gunmen while he was ferrying apples in the Himalayan valley's southern region.

Five truck drivers and businessmen from other Indian states, who were associated with valley's vital apple trade, have been killed in recent weeks.

New Delhi in August controversially stripped the disputed region of its decades-old semi-autonomous status, which barred non-residents from buying land and taking government jobs.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, with most residents demanding either independence or a merger with Pakistan.

The region has been in armed rebellion for the past 30 years, with New Delhi accusing Pakistan of training and arming scores of militant groups active in the area.

Before stripping its autonomy, India sent tens of thousands of additional troops to join a 500,000-strong force in the region and imposed a weeks-long security and communication lockdown.

Authorities also ordered thousands of tourists and Hindu pilgrims to leave and arranged flights to take them elsewhere.

But tens of thousands of labourers who migrate to Kashmir every summer were left on their own.

Many departed due to the curfew, but others stayed, planning to leave as usual at the start of winter.

In the weeks since, landline telephone service and half of the region's eight million cellphone lines have been restored, but internet remains cut off.

New Delhi, which has barred opposition politicians and a United States senator from visiting the valley since the clampdown, agreed to let nearly 30 EU lawmakers visit Kashmir.

Full report at:



Muslim Community Raises Money to Rebuild Demolished Kali Temple in Bengal Village on Diwali

October 30, 2019

As the country celebrated the festival of Diwali and Kali Puja, a mosque in West Bengal’s Birbhum district was busy celebrating communal harmony as they inaugurated a Hindu temple in the vicinity.

The temple, dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali, was inaugurated on Sunday evening amid Kali Puja revelry in Basapara, located in the Nanoor area, 160 km from the capital city of Kolkata. The temple was inaugurated by Nasiruddin Mandal, the maulvi of the local mosque, Hindustan Times reported.

This was the first time that the Muslim maulvi had inaugurated a Hindu temple. In fact, not just him but members of the Muslim community in Basapura raised money to buy the land and repair the Kali temple, which had been demolished two years ago for a road widening project.

This is not the only instance of communal harmony seen during Kali Puja this year. Muslims living in Durgapur village in Sonamura along the Indo-Bangladesh border in Tripura also celebrated Kali Puja. Durgapur village has a 90 percent Muslim population, many of whom were actively involved in arranging funds for the celebrations, creating Puja idols and building pandals, The Telegraph reported.

According to the report, a Hindu priest allegedly lived in Durgapur some 15 years ago and owned a Kali temple. However, after he sold his property to a local Muslim man and left, the Muslims in the area continued to celebrate Kali Puja with fervour every year.

Full report at:



‘We are not Muslim-hating Nazis’: Far-right EU MEPs visit Kashmir and endorse Modi

Adam Withnall

October 31, 2019

Right-wing European parliamentarians on a visit to the restive Kashmir region said they supported India’s “fight against global terrorism”, while rejecting criticism of their political stances.

The MEPs told reporters they were not the “Muslim-hating Nazis” they had been projected as in media coverage of the trip, which critics have dismissed as a PR stunt ahead of the controversial formal retraction of the region’s statehood on Thursday.

After meeting Narendra Modi on Monday and touring parts of Srinagar under a heavy-armed escort on Tuesday, the MEPs said they would take back their findings with a view to issuing a resolution in the European parliament. The EU has distanced itself from the visit, saying each politician was acting in a private capacity.

And opposition parties have accused the Indian government of hand-picking MEPs from parties sympathetic to Mr Modi’s cause, including several from the UK’s Brexit Party, six from France’s National Rally (formerly National Front) and two from Germany’s far-right Alternative für Deutschland.

The MEPs addressed a news conference in Srinagar on Wednesday, during which they condemned Kashmiri militant attacks overnight that killed five workers from eastern India, and praised Mr Modi’s administration for its efforts against the “global menace” of terrorism.

Thierry Mariani, an MEP for Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, told reporters: “Terrorists can destroy a country. I have been to Afghanistan and Syria and I have seen what terrorism has done. We stand with India in its fight against terrorists.”

Bill Newton Dunn, the only Lib Dem MEP on the trip and one of a handful of political centrists, said the group “want to see India becoming the most peaceful country in the world”.

“For that we need to stand by India in its fight against global terrorism. This visit has been an eye-opener and we would definitely advocate what we have seen on ground zero,” he said.

Speaking to the Hindustan Times, Lars Patrick Berg – an Alternative für Deutschland MEP who was among four of the 27 to skip the Srinagar leg of the visit – said he had been “extremely happy” to meet Mr Modi. “After all, it’s not every day that the PM of a country interacts with ordinary parliamentarians like us,” he said.

He said Indian media hadn’t made a “fair assessment” of the European visitors. “Contrary to popular perception… conservative groups in the European parliament are not Muslim-hating Nazis,” he said.

“During our stay in India, I didn’t hear a single person – neither on our side nor on the Indian side – talk in terms of ‘hating Muslims’. There are those who live by the law and those who don’t, in every society.”

Critics of the trip have pointed to a statement by another Lib Dem MEP, Chris Davies, who said he was barred from taking part after insisting the parliamentarians be guaranteed unfettered access to properly assess the situation in Kashmir.

“I am not prepared to take part in a PR stunt for the Modi government and pretend that all is well,” he said. “It is very clear that democratic principles are being subverted in Kashmir, and the world needs to start taking notice.”

And attention has also turned to the mysterious background of the think tank responsible for funding and organising the visit, the International Institute for Non-aligned Studies (IINS).

A spokesperson for the main opposition Congress party asked how IINS founder Madi Sharma, who he dubbed an “international business broker”, was able to guarantee a group of mostly far-right MEPs “an appointment with the prime minister”.

“Will the prime minister tell as to who is Madi Sharma? What is BJP’s connection to… International Institute for Non-aligned Studies? Why has MEA (foreign ministry) been completely sidelined?” he asked. 

Randeep Surjewala also accused the BJP of breaching the decades-old policy of treating Kashmir as an internal matter, “committ[ing] the gravest sin of reversing this policy… deliberately internationalis[ing] the Kashmir issue”.

The MEA did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the MEPs’ visit.

But it concluded one day before India was due to formally split up the Jammu and Kashmir state into two federal territories on Thursday, a divisive measure that has led to increased violence and protests in recent days.

The two new union territories, one consisting of Jammu and Kashmir and the other of the Buddhist enclave of Ladakh, will come under direct control from Delhi and the region will lose the right to make its own laws.

On Thursday, G C Murmu, a former bureaucrat from Mr Modi’s home state of Gujarat, will be sworn in as the first lieutenant governor of the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, the government said. Another former civil servant, Radha Krishna Mathur, will take office as the lieutenant governor of Ladakh.

Wajahat Habibullah, a former bureaucrat who served in Kashmir and travelled to the region’s main city last month, told the Reuters news agency the loss of statehood was yet another humiliating setback for a region that has faced strict restrictions on movement and communications since 5 August.

Full report at:



Kulgam terror attack: ‘Kashmir has changed, will never go there again for better pay’

by Atri Mitra

October 31, 2019

Less than a month ago, 32-year-old Kamaruddin Sheikh decided to go to Kashmir and work as a labourer there. The better pay in the Valley, he told his family, would enable him to ensure better treatment for his elder daughter Rahima (16) who is suffering from a kidney ailment.

On Tuesday night, police reached Bahalnagar village in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district with news that brought the world crashing down on the families of Kamaruddin and four other migrant labourers from the village — the five were killed in a militant attack in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district.

Kamaruddin’s wife Roshenara Bibi (28) said, “He went to Kashmir on October 3. He thought that in the apple and paddy harvesting season there, he will earn double compared to what he makes here and that would help our Rahima’s treatment. But now it’s all over. What I will do now?”

Since Tuesday night, when police came with the news, nobody in Bahalnagar has slept, say villagers. A pall of gloom envelopes the village as it waits for the bodies of the five labourers.

Bahalnagar, located about 200 km from Kolkata, has about 250 families. Most families are under the poverty line and a majority of the villagers work as labourers. During the harvest season in Bengal, they work in the paddy field or in other odd jobs. At other times, they go Kashmir or Kerala for better pay.

Besides Kamaruddin, those killed in the attack are Rafique Sheikh, Naimuddin Sheikh, Murshalim Sheikh and Rafikul Sheikh.

Rafique (52) was the sole earning member of his family and had been going to Kashmir for about two decades. He last spoke to his wife Samirun Bibi (40) on Monday and told her that work is over and he is preparing to return. Samirun said, “He will never return now. We have three daughters. Two of them are married. The third had some problems with her husband and now stays with me. His mother too stays with us. What will I do now?”

Abida Bibi, the neighbour of Naimuddin (38), said, “For about 18 years now, people from this village and neighbouring villages have been going to Kashmir for better pay. During the apple and paddy harvest season from October to December, a labourer makes Rs 500-700 a day there. Here, the daily income is Rs 200-250. But, never did our villagers face this type of an incident.”

Safiqul (30), the elder brother of Rafikul (22), said, “I have been to Kashmir several times, but never faced such a situation. Militants sometimes came and threatened us, but they never attacked us. But this year, after the special status was scrapped, the situation changed. Every year, 250-300 labourers used to go to Kashmir from here. This year, the number dropped to 50-60. But we never thought this can happen.”

“At 7.30 pm on Tuesday, my mother spoke to the apple garden owner who we call ‘malik’. He said all is well. Around 11 pm, police came. We had gone to sleep. They then called us and told us that Rafikul had died in a militant attack. We didn’t believe them at first. Then, the officer in charge said this has actually happened,” he added.

Sahir (34), the elder brother of Kamaruddin, has also been to Kashmir several times. “We have seen many terror attacks. But they never harmed labourers. What happened this time? The government should answer. We have lost everything. Who will compensate?” he said, adding, “Kashmir has changed. We will never go there for better pay again.”

Full report at:



In political oblivion in India, Sidhu gets invite from Pakistan PM Imran Khan for Kartarpur corridor opening

by Kanchan Vasdev

October 31, 2019

The Pakistan government, on orders of Prime Minister Imran Khan, has invited former Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu for the opening ceremony of the Kartapur Corridor on November 9, according to news agency ANI.

“Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf: Pakistan has decided to send invitation to Navjot Singh Sidhu for #KartarpurCorridor opening ceremony. Senator Faisal Javed Khan had a telephonic conversation with Navjot Singh Sidhu on the direction of Prime Minister Imran Khan and invited him to Pakistan on 9 November,” the news agency said Wednesday.

Sidhu could not be reached for comments. Incidentally, Sidhu will also be part of the inaugural jatha (pilgrims) of 575 people to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan through the Kartarpur Corridor, central government sources had said.

India on Tuesday shared with Pakistan the list of 575-strong jatha that will be led by Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh to pay obeisance at the historic shrine, where Guru Nanak Dev is believed to have spent his last days.

All 117 MLAs and 13 MPs from Punjab will be part of the delegation that also include leaders of the Sant Samaj, eminent people, NRIs and journalists. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Union minister Hardeep Puri and senior Congress leaders including Anand Sharma, Mukul Wasnik, RPN Singh, Jitendra Singh, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Kumari Selja, Asha Kumari, Randeep Surjewala, Deepinder Hooda, PL Punia, Jitin Prasada, and RC Khuntia, are also part of the delegation.

While Sidhu features in the long list, he was not part of the 31-member delegation that was to visit Nankana Sahib in Pakistan for an “akhand path”.

Sidhu, who brought the news of opening of Kartarpur Corridor after attending Khan’s swearing in ceremony in Pakistan, has been pushed to the fringes even as the road connecting Dera Baba Nanak to the shrine in neighbouring country remains the high point of 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev.

Sidhu had courted controversy after hugging Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa at the Khan’s swearing-in ceremony in August last year. After returning to India, he had announced that he was a harbinger of good news for Nanak Naam Laiva. Then a minister in the Punjab government, Sidhu had said: “I was not expecting it, but Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa told me they had been considering to open Kartarpur corridor on the occasion of 550th birthday anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev. Gen Bajwa Sahab hugged me and said ‘We want peace’. So, let’s swim in a blue ocean and shun red ocean. It’s my dream”.

Full report at:



Kashmir not discussed during PM Modi-Saudi prince meet

Geeta Mohan

October 31, 2019

Saudi Arabia stands firm with India despite several attempts by Pakistan to call on the Muslim world to stand against India after the Centre abrogated certain provisions of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.

Speaking to India Today, Indian envoy to Saudi Arabia Dr Ausaf Sayeed said the relationship between the two countries cannot be hyphenated with any other country.

When asked whether the Kashmir issue was discussed during the bilateral meetings with the Saudi King and the Crown Prince, Sayeed said, "Our relationship with Saudi Arabia is so vast that it doesn't focus on one specific issue. They understand our position and as a country, they also have a policy of non-interference in any country's internal matters. This is an indication of our relationship with Saudi Arabia that it is not hyphenated with any other country. It is an independent relationship that is on an upward trajectory."

In a joint statement released on Tuesday, Sayeed said, "The two sides discussed regional and international issues of mutual interest, and reiterated their categorical rejection of all forms of interference in internal affairs."

India and Saudi Arabia have moved beyond religion. The shift has been visible in the recent past when despite all manoeuvrings and pleas of Pakistan, they could not get their application moved against India at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva which had a huge chunk of the OIC bloc. Riyadh certainly holds a key position in that bloc.

To the question on Pakistan invoking religion to get Riyadh's attention, the Indian envoy said, "We have moved beyond that. The Saudi side is very categorical. They see India as one entity and not as sub-groups or sub colours. I'm sure the Saudi leadership has given enough indication that they will not allow any such influence to be made. The relationship is between countries. India is an example of a country with so much diversity and unity in that diversity."

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has been urging the international community to unite against India for the alleged atrocities and marginalisation of the Muslim community in Kashmir.

Full report at:



PM Modi dedicates decision to scrap Article 370 to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel

Oct 31, 2019

KEVADIYA (GUJARAT): Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday paid glowing tributes to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, saying he dedicates the decision to abrogate Article 370+ "at the feet" of the country's first home minister.

Centuries ago India was united by Chanakya, and after that Sardar Patel achieved the same feat by merging princely states with the Union of India, the PM said at a function at the Statue of Unity here.

Unity in diversity is our pride and identity, Modi said on the occasion of Patel's 144th birth anniversary which is celebrated as National Unity Day.

Those who "cannot win wars against us" are trying to destroy our unity, he said, in apparent jibe at Pakistan.

The country decided to abrogate Article 370, which had only given "separatism and terrorism" to Jammu and Kashmir, he said.

Full report at:



‘Ex-cops who joined Hizbul behind recent orchard killings’

Oct 31, 2019

Former J&K special police officers (SPOs) Syed Naveed Mushtaq and Rahil Magray, who had abruptly quit the force in 2017 and joined terrorist outfit Hizbul Mujahideen, have been identified as suspects behind the recent killings in Shopian and Pulwama apple orchards.

Top cops with J&K Police told TOI that it was Mushtaq, who had, for the past couple of months, been directing overground (OGW) Hijbul workers to put up posters and distribute pamphlets in Shopian asking apple growers to boycott NAFED’s fruit procurement process.

Mushtaq has been using a moniker, Babar Azam, to sign these posters, they added. The slain in Shopian include a Punjab-based apple trader, a truck driver and a labourer. The terrorists set ablaze at least four farms.

The police sources also said that the two men operated a ‘broadcast service’ in 2018 and 2019 on several social media groups to “instigate” SPOs to join terrorist outfits and began eliminating them if they did not respond. The two have been operating across a 60-kilometre stretch between Pulwama and Anantnag and had recently met 11 saffron traders, asking them to not supply their produce to any government agency.

Mushtaq, a resident of Nazneenpora in Shopian, is suspected to possess four AK 47s belonging to the state police, which he had run away with in 2017. Magray, on the other hand, has been sending “initimidating messages” to growers in Shopian and Pulwama through local boys.

“Mushtaq had whisked away four AK 47s in 2017 during his posting in Budgam. He became Shopian’s Hizbul Mujahideen district commander and has been supplying the weapons to other terrorists. We are in the process of identifying the other group members,” the official said.

J&K Police sources said Hizbul Muhahideen had recently held a meeting with representatives of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), in which it was decided that HM would target civilians while the other two outfits would keep safety installations and security officials on their radar. J&K police sources said at least six messages were intercepted between October 14-18 regarding this meeting held in Shopian.

Full report at:



EU MPs blame Pak for terrorism in Kashmir, stand by India

Oct 30, 2019

SRINAGAR: The 23-member delegation of EU lawmakers blamed Pakistan on Wednesday for terrorism in India. Wrapping up their two-day Kashmir visit, they said the nullification of Article 370 was India’s “internal matter” and that they stood by India in its fight against terrorism.

Predominantly from far-right parties, they said on the last day of Jammu and Kashmir’s existence as a state that terrorism was a “severe problem” in Kashmir. The state of Jammu & Kashmir ceases to be a state, making way for two new Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

The organisers of the EU MPs’ Kashmir visit had invited a select group of journalists to a press briefing, including the editors of three lesser-known local newspapers. Only a few of these journalists were allowed to put questions to four EU MPs — Bill Newton Dunn from the UK, Henri Malosse from France, Ryszard Czarnecki from Poland, and Thierry Mariani from France.

Only three of the 23 EU MPs belonged to Left or liberal parties.

“If we talk about Article 370, it is India’s internal matter. What concerns us is terrorism, which is a global menace and we should stand with India in fighting it,” Henri Malosse of France told the select group of journalists at Srinagar’s Old Airfield at Rangreth at the conclusion of their visit.

The EU lawmakers said they interacted with the youth, politicians, women and traders during their two-day stay in Kashmir, adding that it was the “beginning of their engagement” with civil society there.

“We are here to get information. The situation is not as bad as we thought. People here want peace, a better life and better vocations, and they want jobs. Terrorism has destroyed such dreams,” they said.

The EU MPs, while regretting the killing of six labourers from West Bengal by militants in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district on Tuesday evening, said “terrorism is a severe problem in Kashmir” and named Pakistan as its source.

Newton Dunn of the UK said they belong to Europe which is now peaceful after years of fighting. “And we want to see India becoming the most peaceful country in the world. And for that, we need to stand by India in its fight against global terrorism. This visit has been an eye-opener and we would definitely advocate what we have seen at ground zero,” he said.

Referring to the details provided to them by the Indian Army and the police, Dunn said, “Most terrorists killed in J&K have come from abroad. In fact, they came from Pakistan. It is an international problem. All protests should be directed against terrorism.”

Ryszard Czarnecki, an EU MP from Poland, said, “The international media coverage (on Kashmir) seems to be biased. Once we go back to our countries we will inform them of what we saw.”

The EU MPs also criticised Pakistan for violence against the Christian community there. “We trust in freedom of religion. We are worried about the situation of Christians in Pakistan,” they said while mentioning the case of Aasiya Bibi.

An EU MP from Britain said the UK faced the big problem of Northern Ireland where Christians were fighting Christians. “Fighting is not a solution. India has a long procedure of talks, agreeing to talk and listening to each other. It is for talks that Northern Ireland is a peaceful place now. My advice is talk and don’t fight,” the EU MP from Britain said.

Full report at:



Civilian killed, 7 including 5 kids injured as Pakistan breaches truce

Oct 30, 2019

SRINAGAR/JAMMU: A 50-year-old man was killed while seven other civilians — including five children aged between eight and 10 — were injured after Pakistan on Tuesday night violated ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) in the Machil sector of north Kashmir’s Kupwara district.

Pakistan initiated unprovoked firing of heavy arms, automatics and shelled mortars targeting civilian areas along the LoC in Machil. Indian Army effectively retaliated to the attack, said an official.

“A civilian was killed in the firing and seven others including five children were injured,” said a senior police officer. The deceased was identified as Muhammad Yousuf Khan (50), a resident of Machil’s Thali-Dudi area, he added.

The injured children were identified as Uzair Ahmed Khan (8), Muneer Ahmed Khan (8), Aqib Khan (9), Tariq Ahmed Khan (9) and Nayeema Bano (10). All are hospitalised and under treatment, the officer said.

The killing triggered panic among Machil residents with many now planning to shift to safer areas in view of the present security situation.

On Wednesday afternoon, Pakistan made another breach of truce along the LoC in the Sunderbani sector of Rajouri district in Jammu. This is the second such violation in the district in the past three days.

Full report at:



NIA raids in Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore in crackdown on ISIS module

Neeraj Chauhan

Oct 31, 2019

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is carrying out raids at multiple locations in Coimbatore in a crackdown on an Islamic State module in Tamil Nadu.

An official familiar with the raids said they have found certain new clues in the ISIS Coimbatore case which are being verified.

New agency PTI reported that Thursday’s searches were on premises of two people associated with the Coimbatore ISIS module. A five-member team carried out searches in the house of Nissar in GM Nagar and Sauridin in Lorrypet in the city, police said.

The NIA has been conducting raids in Coimbatore over the past few months. Last week too, the central probe agency said it had recovered incriminating documents during a raid in the city.

The terror module planned to target leaders of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and BJP in south India. Six IS members were arrested and they have been charged by NIA.

The Coimbatore module was busted in September 2018 and it was during interrogation of the terror suspects that intelligence agencies got clues that Maulvi Zahran bin Hashim, a Sri Lanka-based radical Islamic preacher, was preparing for major attacks. Indian agencies did alert Sri Lankan authorities several times.

On April 21, over 250 people were killed when suicide bombers, including Hashim, blew themselves up in several Sri Lankan cities on Easter Sunday.

Full report at:



NIA raids 6 TN places to nab IS-like group planning Hindu leader

by Qayam

October 31, 2019

Chennai: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday carried out searches at six locations in Tamil Nadu in connection with the alleged plot by an IS-inspired group to murder leaders of Hindu organizations.

An NIA source said that the anti-terror probe agency was carrying searches at six locations including two locations at Kovai beside one each in Elayangudi, Trichy, Kayalpattinam and Nagapattinam.

The source said that the NIA was probing into the alleged conspiracy to kill Hindu Makkal Katchi leader Arjun Sampath and his son Omkar by the Islamic State-inspired groups.

The central probe agency was alerted by the local police in July about the plot.

In September last year, a Special Investigation Unit of the Coimbatore police had foiled a plot by seven-members of an IS-inspired Islamic group in Tamil Nadu to murder Sampath, Hindu Munnani leader Mookambikai Mani and Sakthi Sena leader Anbu Mari.

Since then NIA has been working and gathering information in South India and looking into activities of suspected radical youths.

According to NIA officials, Tamil Nadu tops the list of Indian states where anti-terror agencies have unearthed modules of Salafi jihadi terrorist organization IS over a period of five years since 2014.

Full report at:



AIMPLB asks Muslims to honour SC verdict in Ayodhya case

by Neha

October 31, 2019

Lucknow: The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has appealed to the people to calmly accept whatever decision is given by the Supreme Court in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute case.

The Supreme Court is expected to deliver its verdict before November 17, the day Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi retires.

AIMPLB member Maulana Khalid Rashid Firangi Mahali has said that the Supreme Court decision should be honoured and accepted by all.

He has asked Muslims not to indulge in any protest or slogan shouting if the verdict does not meet their expectations.

“There should be no attempt to vitiate the atmosphere in the country and caution must be exercised on the social media too. There is no need for any Muslims to be afraid or apprehensive of the consequences,” he said.

Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawwad also said that the court decision would be acceptable to all and there should be no attempts by any party to disturb peace in the country.

“We respect the constitution and the law and will abide by the court verdict. Those who try to disturb peace cannot be termed as true followers of Islam,” he added.

Full report at:



Imran invites Sidhu to Kartarpur corridor inaugural event

by Sameer

October 31, 2019

Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has invited Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu to the Kartapur corridor’s inaugural event, slated for November 9, according to Pakistani media on Wednesday.

The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in a statement said the government had invited Sidhu to the inaugural ceremony. Sidhu accepted the invitation and thanked Khan for the gesture, it added.

Full report at:





Coin issued to commemorate Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary

October 31, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday announced that the government has issued a commemorative coin to mark 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of Sikh religion, and invited Indian cricket star and former minister Navjot Singh Sidhu to the inauguration of the Kartarpur corridor project on Nov 9.

Mr Sidhu accepted the invitation and assured the government that he would definitely attend the function, said spokesman of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf. “Mr Sidhu expressed gratitude to Prime Minister Imran Khan for inviting him to the event.”

According to the PTI central secretariat, the government sent an invitation to Mr Sidhu, who had attended the oath-taking ceremony of Prime Minister Imran Khan last year and had come under immense criticism in India, especially by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), for hugging Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa who had told him about the peace initiative.

India has reportedly shared with Pakistan a list of 575 people who will be part of the first batch using the newly constructed Kartarpur corridor to cross border and visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib. The group is expected to be led by former prime minister of India Manmohan Singh, while Amarinder Singh, Hardeep Puri, Harsimrat Kaur Badal and MPs and MLAs from Punjab will also be part of the group.

Mr Sidhu, too, would attend the function, according to the PTI spokesman.

Mr Sidhu said millions of Sikhs were eager to visit Kartarpur and were thankful to the government of Pakistan for completing the corridor project that provided easy access to them to pay homage to their religious leader.

In a statement, PTI Senator Faisal Javed said the Kartarpur project was a gift of Prime Minister Khan for the Sikh community. He said the PM along with the people of Pakistan would welcome their Sikh guests on Nov 9.

Full report at:



Fire on train in Pakistan kills 46 after gas canister blast

Oct 31, 2019

ISLAMABAD: A fire swept through a Pakistani train on Thursday killing at least 46 people, police said, after a gas canister passengers were using to cook breakfast exploded.

The fire destroyed three of the train's carriages near the town of Rahim Yar Khan in the south of Punjab province.

District police chief Amir Taimur Khan told Geo television that the death toll had gone up to 46.

"Two cooking stoves blew up. They were cooking, they had (cooking) oil which added fuel to fire," Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told Geo earlier.

"Most deaths occurred from people jumping off the train," he added.

— Syed Talat Hussain (@TalatHussain12) 1572498749000

Baqir Husain, the head of the district rescue service, said the death toll could rise, and 15 people had been injured.

People sneaking stoves onto trains in order to prepare meals on long journeys is a common problem, the minister said.

Pakistan’s colonial-era railway network has fallen into disrepair in recent decades due to chronic under-investment and poor maintenance.

Eleven people were killed in an accident in July and four in another accident in September.

Full report at:



Nawaz Sharif’s kin gets bail in ‘provocative’ speech case in Pakistan

October 30, 2019

Zubair Qureshi

ISLAMABAD: A district and sessions court of Lahore court on Wednesday granted bail to former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law Capt (R) Mohammad Safdar in a case pertaining to inflammatory speeches against the government and the country’s institutions.

Additional Sessions Judge Tajamal Shehzad announced the verdict after hearing arguments of Catp Safdar’s counsel Farhad Ali Shah. He has been granted bail against surety bonds worth Rs200,000 (Dh4,733).

Capt Safdar’s lawyer had taken the plea that his client was being politically victimised.

In his speech, he was in fact, talking about an anti-government drive that was his democratic right, said the counsel for Capt Safdar.

“If cases are filed on the basis of statements, all our rulers are to be penalised,” he said.

Punjab police had arrested Capt Safdar last week from the Motorway while he was on way to Lahore

He is facing charges of speaking against the government and the state institutions. According to the prosecution, the suspect was arrested on a directive issued by the Deputy Commissioner of Lahore.

According to the FIR, Safdar during a court appearance for bail in another case “sat in the bar room and made remarks against the government”.

Meanwhile, Lahore High Court (LHC) adjourned the bail plea hearing of Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) Vice-President and daughter of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, in Chaudhry Sugar Mills case till Thursday (today).

A division bench headed by Justice Ali Baqar Najafi heard the arguments on a bail plea of Maryam Nawaz. During the hearing, Maryam’s advocate Amjad Pervez completed his arguments.

The court has now summoned the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor on Thursday for final arguments.

In Tuesday’s proceeding, hearing was adjourned following the unavailability of NAB’s additional prosecutor general.

The NAB’s special prosecutor told the court that NAB Director General Shehzad Saleem along with Additional Prosecutor General Jahanzeb Bharwana had to appear before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) where the matter of Nawaz Sharif was being taken up. He requested the court to adjourn the proceedings until Wednesday.

On Wednesday, however, the case was once again adjourned till Thursday for the NAB prosecutor to conclude his arguments.

Maryam Nawaz is seeking release on bail as her father is unwell and undergoing medical treatment at Lahore’s Services Hospital.

Full report at:



Pakistan among 54 nations praising China’s human rights record

October 31, 2019

UNITED NATIONS: China’s treatment of ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang province came under debate at the United Nations on Tuesday, with 54 nations praising Beijing’s “remarkable achievements in the field of human rights” but 23 states assailing its record.

It all began when the 23 nations — mostly western — backed a British statement condemning Beijing’s track record.

However, China’s allies countered the move with a statement of their own that won even broader support, with 54 states supporting a Belarus text that heaped effusive praise on Beijing. They included Pakistan, Russia, Egypt, Bolivia, the Democra­tic Republic of Congo and Serbia.

The duelling statements at the UN General Assembly are non-binding, but highlight the divide on China’s human rights record — particularly as Beijing moves to flex its diplomatic and economic clout abroad.

Rights groups claim more than one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic minorities have been rounded up in internment camps in Xinjiang. After initially denying their existence, Beijing now defends the camps as “vocational education centres” that are necessary to counter religious extremism and terrorism.

Britain’s UN statement expressed concerns “regarding credible reports of mass detention; efforts to restrict cultural and religious practices; mass surveillance disproportionately targeting ethnic Uighurs; and other human rights violations and abuses”.

“The Chinese government should urgently... (refrain) from the arbitrary detention of Uighurs and members of other Muslim communities,” it said. Countries backing it included the United States, Germany, France, Canada, Japan and New Zealand.

In contrast, the statement from Belarus praised Beijing’s human rights record that won support from over 50 nations. “We commend China’s remarkable achievements in the field of human rights by adhering to the people-centred development philosophy and protecting and promoting human rights through development,” the statement said.

Full report at:



Pakistan wants IMF to separate FATF from programme

October 31, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to relax conditionalities under the $6 billion Extended Fund Facility (EFF) relating to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and issuance of sovereign guarantees to help raise over $4bn from domestic and international markets.

Pakistan has budgeted about $3bn bonds (about Rs450bn) — Islamic Sukuk and Eurobond — to be launched in the international capital markets during the current fiscal year to meet targets under the EFF for foreign inflows. Separately, the government has planned to raise about Rs200bn from domestic Islamic banks for the power sector to scale down circular debt.

“We are dying to complete these transactions at the earliest,” a senior official told Dawn, adding that the capital market conditions were never as conducive as at present. He said the return on bonds had plummeted to almost zero in the international capital markets and investors were finding it hard to secure profits on secured papers. “This provides an ideal opportunity for Pakistan to tap international capital markets to secure sovereign bonds at a minimal interest rate,” the official said.

Pakistan had last tapped the international capital markets in 2016 at about 8.25 per cent mark-up when average yield hovered between 3pc and 5pc for other countries.

Likewise, the government had negotiated Islamic financing worth around Rs200bn for the power sector from domestic banks in recent months on top of another Rs200bn secured earlier this year.

But all these transactions are handicapped by the IMF conditionalities as part of the 39-month EFF. One of the structural benchmarks under the IMF programme is for Pakistan to “adopt measures to strengthen the effectiveness of AML/CFT (anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism) framework to support the country’s efforts to exit the FATF list of jurisdictions with serious deficiencies” by the end of October 2019.

Likewise, one of the six performance criteria under the IMF programme for Pakistan is to have a “ceiling on the amount of government guarantees” to the extent of Rs1.6 trillion throughout the current year i.e. until end-June 2020.

The official said the finance ministry had already taken up the matter of separating the FATF from the IMF-supported economic programme on the sidelines of recent IMF/World Bank meetings in Washington. The Pakistani delegation, led by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Dr Hafeez Shaikh and comprising State Bank Governor Dr Reza Baqir and Finance Secretary Naveed Kamran Baloch, had also met the management and governors of the IMF.

Officials said the authorities had argued that the FATF had a very wide scope, at times of geo-political nature, having no direct link to the economic support package which should be dealt purely on the basis of financial and monetary policies.

Another official said Pakistan was considering launching at least one of the two bonds — Islamic Sukuk or Eurobond — before the end of December this year and complete the budgeted $3bn target before June next year.

A senior official said Pakistan had achieved almost all the targets for the first quarterly review and achieved about Rs9bn saving in current expenditures of the government. The size of sovereign guarantees stood at Rs1.6tr as of end-June 2019 against Rs1.3tr at the end of December 2018.

Under the IMF programme, the guarantees should remain frozen at Rs1.6tr as performance criteria until December and remain so as indicative target until end-June 2020.

Pakistan now wants this limit to be removed so as to go for the launch of domestic and international bonds which are not possible without sovereign guarantees.

Sources said the IMF was also insisting on further electricity tariff adjustments to the extent of 10pc in two phases — in January and March next year — and the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority was being asked to do the needful at the earliest.

An IMF team led by Mission Chief to Pakistan Ernesto Ramirez-Rigo is currently in Pakistan for first review under the $6bn bailout package and will wind up the visit by Nov 7. The successful completion of the review would enable Pakistan to draw another $453 million from the Fund in the first part of December this year, taking the total amount to almost $1.44bn.

Full report at:



Firdous Ashiq gets contempt notice for criticising judiciary

October 31, 2019

ISLAMABAD: An Islamabad High Court (IHC) bench on Wednesday issued contempt of court notice to Special Assistant to PM on Information and Broadcasting Firdous Ashiq Awan for “criticising the institution of judiciary”.

The show-cause notice, issued under Section 3 of Contempt of Court Ordinance 2003, said that Awan maligned the IHC while saying that hearing of a petition on the release of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was “a special dispensation”.

The court directed Awan to appear in person on Nov 1 at 9:00 am to explain as to why she should not be proceeded under the contempt law.

The notice calls to attention that Awan while holding a press conference, “criticised the judiciary” and stated that bail granting the order to Nawaz Sharif will “open a floodgate of similar requests by prisoners suffering from various diseases”.

“That you while maligning the honourable courts went on to say that the case of the accused was heard during the evening ‘as a special dispensation’ […] that you as a Special Assistant to the Prime Minister and Spokesperson of the Federal Government made an attempt to scandalise the court in the eyes of the public, thereby, tried to lower the esteem of the judiciary,” adds the notice, which does not mention the date of the press conference in question.

“The contents of your press conference about the courts were unwarranted being a Special Assistant to the Prime Minister, more particularly the Spokesperson of the Federal Government,” the notice continues, adding: “The act of yours prima-facie attracts a penal action against you under the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003.”

On Oct 26, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif had filed a petition in IHC, requesting the court to hear the bail plea sooner than Oct 29 owing to Nawaz’s “extremely critical condition”. After the hearing, which went into the evening, the court had granted Nawaz bail on medical grounds until Oct 29.

Awan, while holding a presser following the bail, had said the government would want to see such speedy trials for all the under-trial prisoners and in all cases. “We hope this new trend will be applicable to all cases,” she had said.

The special assistant had also remarked that there was no precedent in the past that the executive was asked to take responsibility for the health of a prisoner, referring to the judges’ questions during Saturday’s hearing. “We are not responsible for his old ailments, including blood pressure and cardiac issues.”

Full report at:



South Asia


Top Bangladesh court confirms Islamist leader Azharul's death penalty for genocide, rape

31 Oct 2019

A former Jamaat assistant secretary general, Azharul led the then student affiliate Islami Chhatra Sangha and the notorious Al-Badr militia for his killing mission in Rangpur during Bangladesh’s struggle for freedom from Pakistan.

The man presided over the genocide of over 1,400 people, rape of many women, abduction and torture, the International Crimes Tribunal found in the trial.

The Appellate Division bench of four judges headed by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain read out the summary of the judgment, sealing Azharul’s fate on Thursday.

The three other participating judges were Justice Hasan Foez Siddique, Justice Zinat Ara and Justice Md Nuruzzaman.

It is the eighth case to reach the final verdict after the much-awaited war crimes trial started in 2010.

Azharul can seek a review after the full appeals verdict is published. But the scope of a review petition is not equal to that of an appeal, the Supreme Court had pointed out in another war crimes verdict earlier.

If the appeals verdict remains unchanged after the review, he will have the option to seek the presidential mercy. The government will execute the death sentence if he fails to win the clemency.

Arrested at his Moghbazar home in Dhaka in 2012 on the war crimes charges, Azharul was at the Kashimpur jail in Gazipur when the latest judgment was delivered.



Drone strikes kill 5, injures 4 IS insurgents in Afghanistan eastern Nangarhar province


JALALABAD, Afghanistan, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) -- Five militants affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) group have been confirmed dead as unmanned planes target the hardliner outfit's hideouts in Haska Mina and Mohmandara districts of the eastern Nangarhar province on Tuesday, said a provincial government statement released here Wednesday.

Four more militants, according to the statement sustained injuries.

Without providing more details, the statement added that the security forces would continue to target the insurgents elsewhere in the country.

Full report at:



Airstrikes kill 11 Taliban and ISIS militants in 3 provinces

30 Oct 2019

The security forces conducted airstrikes in three provinces in the past 24 hours which killed 11 Taliban and ISIS militants, the military officials said.

The officials further added an airstrike in Deh Bala district of Nangarhar province killed 5 militants of ISIS Khurasan terrorist group.

Another airstrike in Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand killed 2 Taliban militants and destroyed a small cache of weapons, the officials added.

An airstrike in Arghandab district of Zabul killed 2 Taliban militants, the officials said, adding that a similar air raid killed 2 Taliban militants in Mohmand Darah district of Nangarhar.

Full report at:



Special Forces kill, detain 38 Taliban militants in Daykundi and Wardak provinces

31 Oct 2019

The Afghan Special Forces killed 33 Taliban militants and arrested 5 others during the operations in Daykundi and Wardak provinces.

The military officials said Thursday the Special Forces also destroyed two caches of weapons during the same operations.

The officials further added that the Special Forces killed 30 of the militants during a raid in Gizab district of Daykundi province.

The Special Forces also arrested one militant an destroyed a cache of weapons during the same raid, the officials added.

Full report at:



HRW says CIA-backed Afghan forces carry out ‘grave’ rights abuses

Oct 31, 2019

CIA-backed security units in Afghanistan are committing “war crimes” and other “grave” rights abuses with impunity, according to a damning report by Human Rights Watch.

The New York-based rights group suggested that the units -- recruited, trained and funded by the US intelligence agency -- should be disbanded for unlawful tactics such as summary executions, enforced disappearances, night raids into homes and indiscriminate airstrikes.

“They are illustrative of a larger pattern of serious laws-of-war violations — some amounting to war crimes — that extends to all provinces in Afghanistan where these paramilitary forces operate with impunity,” the watchdog said in a 53-page report on Thursday.

The report, titled “They’ve Shot Many Like This’: Abusive Night Raids by CIA-Backed Afghan Strike Forces”, documented 14 cases in which CIA-backed counter-terrorism units committed serious abuses in the Asian country between late 2017 and mid-2019.

During the last two years, these airstrikes have unlawfully claimed the lives of many civilians in night raids, it further said, adding that the forces have also attacked healthcare facilities for allegedly treating militants and killed staff.

Moreover, they also “forcibly” have taken detainees to undisclosed locations.

“Air operations may precede or follow a night raid. In a number of incidents Human Rights Watch investigated, airstrikes or helicopter-fired munitions killed and injured civilians before or after night raids,” the report said, warning that the US air raids in Afghanistan dramatically increased civilian casualties.

The report said that while CIA-backed paramilitary forces, which are denounced by villagers and district authorities, are nominally part of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) intelligence service, they do not fall under the NDS’s normal chain of command.

"They largely have been recruited, trained, equipped, and overseen by the CIA. They often have US Special Forces personnel deployed alongside them during kill-or-capture operations; these US forces, primarily Army Rangers, have been seconded to the CIA. Afghan paramilitary strike forces generally carry out operations with US logistical support and are dependent on US intelligence and surveillance for targeting,” it added.

The rights group further said that the units have been allowed to call in US airstrikes, without any concern for civilian life. The raids, it added, have unlawfully struck civilians due to mistakes in identification of the designated targets, weak intelligence or political rivalries.

The HRW also urged the Afghan government in Kabul to “immediately disband and disarm all pro-government armed groups, paramilitary strike forces, and militias, including National Directorate of Security strike force units, the Khost Protection Force, and other counterinsurgency forces that are not under the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces chain of command.”

The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 and overthrew a Taliban regime in power at the time. But US forces have remained bogged down there through the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Donald Trump.

Some 18 years on, Washington is seeking a truce with the militants, who still control large swathes of territory.

The Taliban, which now controls or has influence in about half of Afghanistan’s territory, has so far rejected the proposal to lay down arms and instead called on the US to end the use of force in Afghanistan. It also insists that talks cannot move ahead until foreign forces leave the country.

Earlier this week, NATO released figures showing that the US had conducted 1,113 air and artillery strikes in Afghanistan last month, a huge increase on previous months that came as negotiations between Washington and the Taliban collapsed.

Full report at:



Arab World


No Audio in Situation Room: Trump’s Own Officials Question Claim Al-Baghdadi ‘Screaming', Crying’ Before Death

Oct 30, 2019

Not only the Pentagon has been unable to confirm that al-Baghdadi was “whimpering, screaming and crying”, but also senior administration officials have “no clue” where Trump got his information.

Announcing al-Baghdadi’s death, Trump claimed that the terror group leader was “whimpering” and likened him to a “dog” in his attempt to escape US forces.

“He died like a dog, he died like a coward, he was whimpering, screaming and crying,” Trump said on Sunday, adding, “And frankly, I think it’s something that should be brought out.”

Five senior Trump administration officials told The Daily Beast that they had no idea where the president got the “whimpering and crying and screaming” detail. Two officials recounted how after they heard that on Sunday, they immediately began messaging each other questions and comments like “Uh where is he getting that?”

The comments confused officials in the Pentagon as well, some of who told The Daily Beast that there was no way Trump could have heard al-Baghdadi’s voice on the Situation Room livestream Saturday night because it did not have audio.

On Monday, questions about where Trump got his information continued to make their way to administration officials.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley told reporters at a press conference that he assumed Trump had heard details of al-Baghdadi's demeanor during the raid, which Trump described over the weekend as "whimpering and crying" in "panic" as a result of US forces closing in from American commanders on the ground.

“I know the president had planned to talk down to the unit and unit members,” Milley said, adding, “But I don’t know what the source of that was. I assume it was talking directly to unit and unit members.”

Milley stated that he had not heard the same reports himself, becoming the second Pentagon official to cast doubt on the veracity of Trump's claims about the terrorist leader after Defense Secretary Mark Esper noted that he did not have the same "details" of the raid shared by Trump.

On Tuesday, a top Pentagon official indicated that he did not know where Trump had heard details of the raid against al-Baghdadi.

It comes after a high-ranking UN official stated that Trump’s statement on the death of al-Baghdadi sounded confident, but the United Nations is still unable to confirm his death for lack of proof.

The UN Monitoring Team on terrorist groups is going to put questions to the US and other involved parties to clarify the fate of al-Baghdadi, Edmund Fitton-Brown, a British diplomat who coordinates the team, told RIA Novosti news agency.

“All we have so far is the public announcement from the Americans, but it does seem like a very confident announcement. They seem very sure of themselves. They claim that they have verified it… So, I think that should be taken very seriously,” Fitton-Brown noted.

Trump had initially promised to release a video of the raid, but the Pentagon later announced that it had disposed of al-Baghdadi’s remains at sea and have no plans to share any videos or photos.

Shortly after the address, Russia’s Defense Ministry doubted Trump’s words, saying that it didn’t record any US coalition airstrikes in the area when the raid was said to have been carried out. It also poured cold water on Trump’s claims that Russian forces had opened up the airspace under its control in Syria to American military aircrafts, so that they could reach al-Baghdadi’s compound.

Days after announcing that the military raid brought an end to the infamous leader of terror group, Trump claimed that al-Baghdadi’s right-hand man has been killed by US troops.

The American leader did not specify whether the terrorist chief’s mysterious lieutenant was killed alongside his boss in the US military operation in Idlib or if he was killed in a separate incident, increasing suspicion over his recent claims about killing of al-Baghdadi and his likely replacement.



Yazidi laureate Nadia Murad says Baghdadi’s death falls short of justice

30 October 2019

Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad said Wednesday the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a US raid over the weekend was not enough to compensate for the atrocities committed by ISIS.

“We don’t want to just see ISIS, like Baghdadi, just get killed. We want to see justice,” said Murad, a Yazidi who survived three months of captivity in Iraq in 2014 at the hands of ISIS.

Murad became a voice for the minority Yazidis, founding an organization to help women and children victimized by genocide, mass atrocities, and human trafficking.

She was awarded her Nobel in 2018 along with Denis Mukwege for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.

ISIS seized large swaths of Iraq and Syria in 2014 and established a caliphate under al-Baghdadi, which has since crumbled under a US-led offensive.

Murad told reporters at the United Nations that she had spoken to several Yazidi survivors about Baghdadi’s death.

Their response, she said, was “Okay, but this is just Baghdadi. What about all ISIS (fighters)? They still have our girls, children. What about the thousands Yazidis still missing?”

Full report at:



Foreign universities can now set up branches in Saudi Arabia

30 October 2019

Foreign universities can now set up branches in Saudi Arabia under a new law approved by the Kingdom’s cabinet, Education Minister Hamad al-Shaikh said on Tuesday, according to the state news agency SPA.

“The new system will allow foreign universities to open branches in accordance to specific regulations to boost competitiveness to raise efficiency of the university education,” SPA cited al-Shaikh as saying.

The move, which the minister called a “qualitative leap,” will ensure that the universities set to open branches in the Kingdom will remain in line with the general policies of the state, but still maintain their independence.

Each university will have a board of trustees, as well as international consultative councils to help them make decisions in regards to policies and curriculums, al-Shaikh said.

The decision was well received by students in the Kingdom.

“I think it’s a good idea for those who can’t study abroad because of different reasons, such as financial or personal matters,” Leen Qurashi, a university student in Saudi Arabia, told Al Arabiya.

Qurashi added that the new system could push some students who want to study abroad to reconsider their decision.

Fahad Faisal al-Saud, a university student, told Al Arabiya that the move could also bring students from abroad to the Kingdom, a decision made easier by recent reforms allowing tourists to travel to the country.

“It’s a good shift to try, and instead of sending students abroad, Saudi Arabia will start receiving students. It’s something we tried to do and found success with in KUAST. The only difference now is we’re using international universities to try and reach those goals,” he said.

Full report at:



Moment of truth rapidly approaching for Iraq PM Abdul Mahdi


October 31, 2019

BAGHDAD: Whether or not the government of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi can survive the unrest in Iraq is likely to depend on how his allies and opponents respond to the protests and to the resultant demands of influential Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr, politicians and analysts told Arab News on Wednesday.

There have been mass demonstrations in Baghdad and seven southern, Shiite-dominated provinces since the beginning of October in protest against corruption, high unemployment and a lack of basic day-to-day services. Abdul Mahdi and his allies ordered a brutal crackdown on the protesters, killing at least 147 and injuring more than 7,000. This succeeded in halting the demonstrations for two weeks.

However, the protesters returned to the streets last Friday in even greater numbers after domestic and international pressure led to a pledge from security forces that they would not use live ammunition against demonstrators. Even so, at least a further 100 people were killed and more than 5,500 injured according to the Iraqi Higher Commission of Human Rights, in clashes with guards at the offices of political parties and armed factions, during which the buildings were attacked and set on fire.

The resumption of the protests was accompanied by additional demands, including the resignation of Abdul Mahdi’s government, changes to election law and early parliamentary elections.

Al-Sadr, who controls the largest parliamentary bloc and the biggest armed faction in Iraq, has announced his support for the demands of the demonstrators. He has millions of followers and the ability to mobilize large numbers to join the protests. In a message published by his office on Sunday, he called on Abdul Mahdi to resign and call early, UN-supervised parliamentary elections, appoint new members of the Independent High Electoral Commission, and change the country’s electoral laws.

On Tuesday, Abdul Mahdi responded by saying that his position as prime minister was decided by political and parliamentary consensus, in which Al-Sadr and his allies were key partners.

This response, seen by some as a “blatant” and “unprecedented” challenge to Al-Sadr, hastened the return of the cleric from Iran. He flew to Najaf hours later and went straight from the airport to join the protests in the heart of the city.

In addition to adding momentum to the demonstrations with his presence, he also called on Hadi Al-Amiri, leader of the Iran-backed Al-Binna’a coalition, the second largest parliamentary bloc, and the biggest ally of Abdul Mahdi, to work with him to force Abdul Mahdi from office and address the demands of the demonstrators.

Al-Amiri responded to this request late on Tuesday evening after a three-hour meeting with his Shiite allies. In a letter sent to the media, he said: “We will work together to achieve the interests of the Iraqi people and save the country.”

A prominent Shiite commander who participated in the meeting told Arab News: “The meeting was limited to the leaders of Al-Fattah (the political wing of the pro-Iranian armed factions) to discuss how to response to Al-Sadr’s request.

“Adel (Abdul Mahdi) is finished; we were not discussing this. This (his dismissal) is something that was agreed upon some time ago. The problem now is how to announce this. All the leaders of the armed factions have problems with Al-Sadr and their disputes with him have existed for years. None of them wants to give him a popular or political victory.”

Al-Sadr on Wednesday said that the response from Al-Amiri and his allies suggested that “the resignation of Abdul Mahdi now will deepen the crisis.”

However, in a direct message to Al-Amiri and his allies, Al-Sadr added: “The survival of Abdul Mahdi (as PM) means more bloodshed and the transformation of Iraq to another Yemen or Syria, therefore I will not participate in any more alliances with you.”

A prominent Shiite leader familiar with the negotiations said: “Al-Fattah leaders have abandoned Abdul Mahdi ... but they want to teach Al-Sadr a lesson and do not want to surrender to him too easily. They are now seeking to procrastinate and buy time, and will continue to publicly state their support for Abdul Mahdi until the last possible moment.

Full report at:



Syria government, opposition launch ‘historic’ constitutional review

October 31, 2019

GENEVA: Syrian government and opposition negotiators sat face-to-face on Wednesday to launch a committee tasked with amending the country’s constitution, a meeting hailed by the UN as marking “a new chapter” for the war-torn nation.

The UN-brokered constitutional review committee includes 150 delegates — divided equally among President Bashar Assad’s government, the opposition and civil society.

Hopes remain dim that the group will reach a breakthrough toward a political resolution to Syria’s eight-year conflict, which has killed more than 370,000 people.

But UN Syria envoy Geir Pedersen said the meeting amounted to “a historic moment” and “a new chapter for Syria.”

“I know that it is not easy for all of you to be here together,” Pedersen said, conceding that “the road ahead will not be easy.”

Experts have argued that Assad — whose forces have made major gains against the opposition — has little to lose at the talks and will walk away before making any significant compromises.

His lead negotiator Ahmad Kuzbari praised the country’s existing charter as “a modern constitution.”

“But this does not prevent us from meeting to consider possible amendments, or changes to the current constitution, and putting a new constitution in place, one that ... effects positive change,” he added.

In opening remarks that also included tough rhetoric against those battling Assad, Kuzbari insisted that Syrian forces would continue fighting regardless of ongoing diplomacy.

“We have been fighting terrorism before the meeting, and we will wage this battle during the meeting and afterward, until we liberate every inch of our nation’s precious land,” he said.

The head of the opposition delegation, Hadi Albahra, described the meeting as “a first step on a long path to recovery.”

“We all know that 150 people meeting today in this room have diverging opinions,” he said.

“But after eight painful years of suffering in Syria we came here to look for similarities.”

Following Wednesday’s ceremony, meetings between the 150 will take place before a smaller group of 45 delegates will begin work drafting the constitution.

There is no deadline for the process and Pedersen said the aim would be to reach consensus on all issues.

Where that is not possible, changes would only be made with a 75-percent majority vote in the committee to avoid having any one side dictate the results.

Full report at:



Saudi Arabia Renews Praise for US Counter-Terrorism Efforts

29 October, 2019

The Saudi cabinet reiterated on Tuesday the Kingdom’s praise for the United States’ counter-terrorism efforts in wake of its raid that led to the killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz chaired the cabinet meeting that was held in Riyadh.

The ministers underlined the ongoing efforts by the government and its allies, starting with the US, in combating terrorism and extremist ideology.

King Salman briefed the gatherers on the discussions he held with visiting Swiss President Ueli Maurer. He also briefed them on the talks he held in Riyadh on Tuesday with King Abdullah II of Jordan. King Salman also briefed them on the message he received from Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah.

The ministers hailed King Salman for sponsoring the third edition of the Future Investment Initiative, which kicked off in Riyadh on Tuesday. The three-day event, organized by the Public Investment Fund, is attracting the world’s leading businessmen, investors and policy-makers who will explore future economic opportunities.

The ministers then reviewed the latest regional and international developments. They highlighted the Saudi-led Arab coalition’s announcement on Sunday that alliance forces in the Yemeni interim capital Aden would come under Saudi command. The move is part of the Kingdom’s ongoing efforts to coordinate military and security operations in Yemen and bolster sectarian and relief efforts.

Full report at:



US releases Baghdadi raid video, warns of likely retribution attack

31 October 2019

The Pentagon on Wednesday released its first images from last weekend’s commando raid in Syria that led to the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and warned the extremist terror group may attempt to stage a “retribution attack.”

The declassified, grainy, black-and-white aerial videos from Saturday’s raid showed US special operations forces closing in on the compound and US aircraft firing on militants nearby.

The most dramatic video showed a massive, black plume of smoke rising from the ground after US military bombs leveled Baghdadi’s compound.

“It looks pretty much like a parking lot, with large potholes,” said Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of US Central Command, which oversees American forces in the Middle East.

McKenzie, briefing Pentagon reporters, said the idea of destroying the compound was at least in part “to ensure that it would not be a shrine or otherwise memorable in any way.

“It’s just another piece of ground,” he said.

Baghdadi, an Iraqi extremist who rose from obscurity to declare himself “caliph” of all Muslims as the leader of ISIS, died by detonating a suicide vest as he fled into a dead-end tunnel as elite US special forces closed in.

McKenzie said he brought two young children into the tunnel with him – not three, as had been the US government estimate. Both children were believed to be under the age of 12 and both were killed, he said.

He portrayed Baghdadi as isolated at his Syrian compound, just four miles from the Turkish border, saying fighters from other militant groups nearby probably did not even know he was there. McKenzie suggested it was unlikely that Baghdadi used the Internet or had digital connections to the outside world.

“I think you’d find (he was using) probably a messenger system that allows you to put something on a floppy or on a bit of electronics and have someone physically move it somewhere,” he said.

McKenzie said ISIS would likely try to stage some kind of retaliatory attack.

Full report at:



Saudi Minister of Finance says reforms are reshaping Gulf economies

31 October 2019

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Finance Mohammed al-Jadaan said that reform plans have made Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Gulf region into an international investment powerhouse, speaking on Thursday at the Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Riyadh.

“That reform is designed to respond to challenges we face in our economy, not only the challenges we face locally but internationally,” said al-Jadaan.

Al-Jadaan made the comments on a panel alongside his Kuwaiti and Bahraini counterparts, Naif Falah al-Hajraf and Sheikh Salman bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, respectively. The ministers discussed which factors have  made the region attractive for investment, and what was required to move forward.

Most recently, Saudi Arabia jumped 30 places in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business 2020 Index and took the 62nd position, making the Kingdom the world’s top improver. The results indicate that widespread social and economic reforms carried out by the country are bearing fruit.

However, this improvement comes amid a global economic slowdown. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its October 2019 World Economic Outlook cut its global growth forecast to 3 percent for 2019, its lowest level since 2008-2009.

During the panel on Thursday, Kuwaiti Minister of Finance al-Hajraf pointed out that oil is a “distorting factor”, and that there are other economic indicators to monitor.

“Oil is always a distorting factor in our economy you can’t look at total revenues, you can’t look at total GDP, you have to look at the policy driven part of your economy which is the non-oil portion and that is what you should continue to grow and we have focused all of our policy on it,” he added.

Al-Jadaan has recently been working on discussions to provide aid to Lebanon, as the country undergoes political and economic turmoil. He has also been a spokesman for the Saudi Arabian economy after the attacks on Saudi Aramco oil facilities, widely believed to be executed by Iran, back in September.

“The Kingdom’s Vision 2030 economic reform plan is still ongoing, and our revenues will not be impacted by this attack,” al-Jadaan told Al Arabiya in September.

Al-Jaadan was speaking on the third and final day of FII 2019. Previous speakers included US Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, and Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister Yassir al-Rumayyan.

Full report at:



100 dead, 5,500 wounded in week of Iraq violence: Rights commission

31 October 2019

At least 100 people have died and more than 5,000 injured since anti-government demonstrations resumed in Iraq on October 24, a national rights commission said on Wednesday.

The Iraqi Human Rights Commission said a majority of the dead were civilians suffocated by tear gas, or who sustained trauma wounds from tear gas canisters or were shot dead.

It could not immediately provide a breakdown of where and when the victims had died.

Full report at:



Leisure group ‘walks the walk’ with biggest cinema in Saudi Arabia: Chief executive

October 30, 2019

RIYADH: Opening the biggest cinema in Saudi Arabia’s history “is a sign that Vision 2030 is real and unstoppable,” according to the man in charge of Vox Cinemas.

Alain Bejjani, the chief executive of the Majid Al Futtaim (MAF) leisure and retail group that owns Vox, told Arab News on the sidelines of the Future Investment Initiative (FII) forum in Riyadh that the new 18-screen cinema in Riyadh Front mall was part of his commitment to eventually launch 600 more screens throughout the Kingdom.

There are 71 screens now open with plans for 250 more by the end of 2021. “It shows that we walk the walk at MAF; we do what we say we will do,” Bejjani said.

MAF has been one of the most enthusiastic business partners of the Saudi Vision 2030 strategy to diversify the economy away from oil dependency.

“Saudi Arabia has been through a tough period of reform, but few countries would have stuck to it and been so true to the reform agenda in social, cultural and economic terms. Nobody can now ask whether the vision is going to happen or not, it is happening,” the CEO added.

MAF is planning more malls in the Kingdom with family entertainment and retail facilities, along the lines of its highly successful shopping centers in Dubai, such as the Mall of the Emirates with its world-famous indoor ski slope.

Bejjani spoke after appearing in a panel session at the FII with American rapper to discuss artificial intelligence (AI) and a new AI-powered service and voice assistant. He said that MAF and the US singer were long-term partners in the project. MAF’s business in the Gulf is highly dependent on consumer spending patterns, which have come under pressure in both its home market, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia as economic growth slows mainly because of the fall in the oil price.

Bejjani predicted that the Saudi economy would soon bottom out and start to improve next year.

In the UAE, he said that some sectors were “challenging” but there were still positive signs there. UAE consumers were becoming more price sensitive and were looking for value, but he noted that growth in tourism was still good, and that there could be a boost from visitors in the run-up to the Expo 2020 business exhibition next year.

“Saudi Arabia could also benefit from the Expo effect if visitors to the UAE make use of easier tourism visas to visit the Kingdom while they are in the region, and of course it is the year of the G20 for Saudi Arabia,” he added.

The leisure industry chief pointed to Egypt as a very positive market. MAF recently opened its fourth mall in the country and has spent $2.7 billion of the near $3 billion it pledged in investment four years ago. “Now we are looking for more investment opportunities,” he said.

MAF is also aiming to extend its snow-themed leisure activities to China with the first ski slope outside the Middle East, in a mall near Shanghai.

Bejjani will be a co-chairman of the World Economic Forum at its Davos meeting next year, with responsibility for the Middle East and North Africa, and he is preparing a major policy initiative in a bid to boost the region’s growth via greater integration of its economies.

“The region has 8.5 percent of the world’s population, but only 3.4 percent of global GDP, and only 4 percent of the total foreign direct investment. Trade between regional economies is very low as a percentage of GDP compared to other big economic blocs like the European Union and South East Asia. This is something that really needs to change,” Bejjani said.

Full report at:





Yemen’s Defense Minister Survives Houthi Attack in Marib, 2 Soldiers Killed

30 October, 2019

Yemeni Defense Minister Mohammed al-Maqdashi survived on Tuesday an attack by Houthi militias on his convoy in Marib province that left two soldiers, including his personal driver, dead.

Yemeni official military sources said that Maqdashi’s convoy was attacked following a meeting he held with military commanders at a complex of buildings used as the ministry's interim headquarters in Marib.

The sources said the minister’s adviser, General Mansour Thawabah, was injured and transferred to a local hospital for treatment.

On Tuesday, there were conflicting reports on the source of the explosion that targeted Maqdashi’s convoy.

Local sources said the attack was caused by a Houthi rocket or an explosive device.

However, Col. Yehya Abu Hatim, an adviser to Maqdashi, said the minister survived a Houthi drone attack.

He confirmed that the minister and officers who were taking part in the meeting were not harmed in the attack carried out by the Iran-backed rebels.

“We reassure everyone that the desperate Houthi attempt to target the defense ministry’s commanders has failed,” Abu Hatim wrote on his Twitter account.

Military sources told Asharq Al-Awsat on Tuesday that the minister’s driver, Capt. Bashir Al Marhabi and another soldier identified as Abdul-latif Jaafar were killed when the minister’s convoy was hit.

Houthi rebels did not immediately comment on the attack. However, the militias have in the past years carried out hundreds of similar attacks on the city of Marib, using ballistic missiles, Katyusha rockets or drones.



Iranian general flies into Baghdad to chair top security meeting amid protests

30 October 2019

Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps - Quds Force, had visited Baghdad and took a helicopter to the heavily fortified Green Zone where he secretly met with a group of top security officials, the Associated Press reported citing two senior officials familiar with the meeting.

According to the two sources, the visit came on the day after anti-government protests first erupted in Iraq more than a month ago. Soleimani is said to have surprised a group of top security officials by chairing a meeting in place of the prime minister. The arrival of Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force and the architect of its regional security apparatus, signaled Tehran’s concern over the protests, which had erupted across the capital and in Iraq’s Shiite heartland, and included calls for Iran to stop meddling in the country.

The protests in Iraq and Lebanon are fueled by local grievances and mainly directed at political elites, but they also pose a challenge to Iran, which closely backs both governments as well as powerful armed groups in each country. An increasingly violent crackdown in Iraq and an attack by Hezbollah supporters on the main protest camp in Beirut have raised fears of a backlash by Iran and its allies.

“We in Iran know how to deal with protests,” Soleimani told the Iraqi officials, according to two senior officials familiar with the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the secret gathering.

“This happened in Iran and we got it under control,” he added.

But nearly a month later, the protests in Iraq have resumed and demonstrations continue in Lebanon, both directed at governments and factions allied with Tehran. The protests threaten Iran’s regional influence at a time when it is struggling under crippling U.S. sanctions.

The day after Soleimani’s visit, the clashes between the protesters and security forces in Iraq became far more violent, with the death toll soaring past 100 as unidentified snipers shot demonstrators in the head and chest. Nearly 150 protesters were killed in less than a week.

During renewed protests this week, men in black plainclothes and masks stood in front of Iraqi soldiers, facing off with protesters and firing tear gas. Residents said they did not know who they were, with some speculating they were Iranians.

“Iran is afraid of these demonstrations because it has made the most gains in the government and parliament through parties close to it” since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, said Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi security analyst. “Iran does not want to lose these gains. So it has tried to work through its parties to contain the protests in a very Iranian way.”

The protests in Iraq resumed Friday after a brief hiatus, with protesters massing in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square and clashing with security forces as they tried to breach barricades on a bridge leading to the Green Zone, the seat of the government and home to several embassies. In southern Iraq, protesters have attacked and torched the offices of political parties and government-backed militias allied with Iran.

In a country that is OPEC’s second-largest oil producer, impoverished residents complain that powerful Shiite militias tied to Iran have built economic empires, taking control of state reconstruction projects and branching into illicit business activities.

Full report at:



US, Gulf countries sanction entities linked to IRGC and Hezbollah

30 October 2019

The United States and six Gulf countries have announced sanctions on Wednesday on 25 entities linked with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, in a move to tighten controls on both group’s finances.

The sanctions were set by Riyadh-based Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC), a two-year-old group that includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates in addition to the United States.

They targeted companies supporting the Basij Resistance Force, a subordinate group of the Revolutionary Guard, that the Treasury said are used “to oppress domestic opposition with brutal displays of violence” and supply fighters to regional conflicts. “

Today’s action is multilateral action by TFTC partners to expose and condemn the Iranian regime’s gross and repeated violations of international norms, including the attack that threatens the global economy by targeting the oil facility in Saudi Arabia,” a statement from the TFTC read.

Among the 25 was Iranian Bank Mellat and mining, manufacturing and investment firms that support the Basij.

Four of those listed were individuals running Hezbollah’s operations in Iraq.

All 25 have previously been named in US Treasury sanctions announced in 2018.

“The TFTC’s coordinated disruption of the financial networks used by the Iranian regime to fund terrorism is a powerful demonstration of Gulf unity,” said US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement.

Full report at:



Damascus calls on Kurdish forces to join army, police

30 October 2019

Syria’s army and police Wednesday called on Kurdish fighters and security forces in northeast Syria to join their ranks following a Turkish cross-border incursion, state media said.

The appeal comes after regime troops deployed along parts of Syria’s northeastern border in a deal with Kurdish authorities to help stave off the Turkish offensive, launched October 9.

It is the largest Syrian army deployment in the area since 2012.

A separate ceasefire agreement reached between Ankara and Damascus-backer Moscow last week provided for members of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces to withdraw from the border and solidified the presence of pro-government forces there.

“The general command of the armed forces is ready to welcome members of SDF units who are willing to join its ranks,” said a Syrian defense ministry statement carried by state news agency SANA.

It said all Syrians, including the Kurdish minority, are confronting “one enemy.”

Syria’s interior ministry said it was willing to provide police services to residents of the northeast, calling on members of the Kurdish internal security services, known as Asayish, to join its ranks, SANA reported.

The Turkish military and its Syrian proxies attacked Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria in early October with the aim of creating a roughly 30-kilometer (20-mile) deep buffer zone along the frontier.

Left in the lurch by a US troop withdrawal from the border area, Kurdish forces turned to the Syrian government for protection.

Full report at:



UAE troops return after ‘successful liberation, stabilization of Aden’

30 October 2019

The United Arab Emirates said its troops have returned from the Yemeni port city of Aden after the completion of its role in “liberating and stabilizing” the city.

The General Command of the UAE Armed Forces said that it is now transferring its charge to Saudi and Yemeni forces, who will now maintain the security and stability of the governorate.

Full report at:



Israeli embassies around world shut as staff go on strike

Oct 30, 2019

All Israeli embassies and consulates around the world have stopped operating amid a coordinated strike by diplomats and military attaches over low pay and upcoming tax plans that would severely affect their livelihoods.

Israel's diplomatic missions stopped operating early Wednesday over a long-simmering dispute with the regime's finance ministry over expense stipends paid to envoys.

The strike, coordinated by the Israeli foreign ministry, ministry of military affairs and the Histadrut Labor Federation, came as a response to the finance ministry's decision to walk back previous understandings and force the envoys to pay back thousands of dollars they had been reimbursed for expenses.

“Due to the decision of the Israeli ministry of finance to breach understandings that were agreed upon and signed by the director general of the ministry of finance on July 21, 2019, and to apply a one-sided procedure that alters a protocol that has been in place for several decades, we are forced to close the embassy,” a statement posted on most embassy websites said.

“No consular services will be provided and no one will be allowed to enter the embassy/consulate,” the statement added.

The strike is expected to cause chaos for Israelis traveling abroad or in immediate need of consular assistance. More importantly, the disruptions will reportedly affect Israel’s arms exports and its military cooperation with other countries.

The expense stipends are meant to cover the costs inflicted on the envoys and military attaches stationed to carry out a range of works, including hosting events at an ambassador’s residence to transport costs.

The Israeli treasury is trying to review the reimbursement system while slapping taxes on the stipends. The planned changes are expected to affect the diplomats and attaches, who are already angry about low salaries.

Worse still, the Israeli foreign ministry is pushing to apply the new scheme retroactively, which means the envoys will be forced to return thousands of dollars.

“Unfortunately, the decision of the ministry of finance does not leave us any choice but to take the above-mentioned action, since the vital interests of the State of Israel have been harmed,” the statement said. “We hope that this crisis will be resolved as soon as possible.”

Israeli diplomats have long made it clear that they are not happy with their salaries and working conditions.

They have held similar strikes every few years and at times cost the regime dearly.

In January 2011, for example, the move forced Tel Aviv to call off a planned visit then-Russian president Dmitry Medvedev.

Three years later,  the strikes and labor sanctions continued and at one point the envoys stopped all communications with foreign governments and halted providing consular services to Israelis abroad. They upped the ante by shutting down the ministry’s headquarters in Jerusalem al-Quds and 103 embassies and consulates worldwide.

However, the foreign ministry’s workers union has failed to gain much success.

In November 2014, Histadrut and the foreign ministry signed an agreement to increase pay. But five years later, diplomats say the agreement has yet to be fully implemented.

The foreign ministry's struggle with massive budget cuts has also added to the issue.

In September, a "grave deficit" in the budget forced the ministry to announce that it was cutting most of its diplomatic activities.

It said the instruction was given by the finance ministry’s accountant general due to the “grave deficit” in its budget.

The Tel Aviv regime has doubled the funding of all ministries over the past years while the foreign ministry's budget has been slashed dramatically, currently standing at around $367 million annually.

Israel has 69 embassies, 23 consulates and five special missions abroad, including its United Nations mission.

Full report at:



Israel soldier gets one-month jail over killing of Gaza teen

October 30, 2019

JERUSALEM: -An Israeli military court has sentenced a soldier to one month in jail over the killing of a Palestinian teenager after he opened fire without authorization, the army said Wednesday.

The unnamed soldier was convicted Monday for “acting without authorization in a manner endangering to life and well-being,” it said in a statement.

Othman Rami Halles, 15, was shot dead during protests on the Israel-Gaza border on July 13, 2018, the Palestinian health ministry said at the time.

The army said a probe had found that “the soldier fired at a Palestinian rioter who was climbing on the security fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip.”

The soldier, identified in Israeli media as a sniper, had opened fire “not in accordance with the rules of engagement and not in accordance with the instructions he had received,” it said.

After a plea bargain, the court sentenced the soldier to 30 days in prison with military labor and a suspended term of another 60 days, and he was demoted.

The investigation had found no evidence of a “causal link between the soldier’s fire” and the teenager’s death, the army said.

Full report at:





South Africa: ANC condemns desecration of Muslim graves

Hassan İsilow  



South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) on Wednesday strongly condemned the desecration of a Muslim cemetery in Mowbray, a suburb of Cape Town.

The act was not only barbaric but also a provocation against the Muslim community, the party said in a statement.

At least 80 Muslim gravestones were desecrated late Tuesday night and placed in a cross formation.

"We share the deep pain felt by families whose departed loved ones have been violated in such a raw and heartless manner," the ANC said.

The party also commended the affected families and Muslim community for exercising restraint in the face of the provocation.

Zwelivelile “Mandla” Mandela -- a grandson of the late South African President Nelson Mandela, member of Parliament and traditional leader -- also condemned the incident.

"We condemn in the strongest terms the desecration of the Mowbray Muslim cemetery. The violation of this sacred space is an evil act and an offence of not only religious sensibility but violations of the values of peace, respect and dignity accorded to all citizens by our constitution," he said in a statement released Wednesday by the Royal House of the Mandelas.

Mandla, who embraced Islam in 2016, said South Africans can never allow agent provocateurs to spread hatred, incite reciprocal violence and disturb the positive interfaith relations that prevail in South Africa's nascent democracy.

He appealed to the authorities to leave no stone unturned in dealing with this matter.



Three aid workers killed in S.Sudan, suspending Ebola screening: UN

30 October 2019

Three aid volunteers working at Ebola screening points along the DR Congo border were killed in clashes in South Sudan, the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) said Wednesday.

“The IOM volunteers, one female and two males, were caught in a crossfire during clashes that broke out” on Sunday, in Morobo County in the Central Equatoria region, the UN agency said in a statement.

Two other male volunteers were injured, while a female volunteer and the son of the woman who was killed were abducted.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our colleagues and we extend our heartfelt condolences to their families and friends,” said IOM chief of mission in South Sudan, Jean-Philippe Chauzy.

According to the statement, the IOM has suspended screening for Ebola at five sites along the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

An Ebola outbreak has killed more than 2,000 people in DR Congo since August 2018, placing the region on high alert, with cases already having spread to Uganda.

“The safety of our personnel is paramount and will not be further jeopardised until we secure guarantees for the security of all our personnel operating in Morobo County,” said Chauzy.

The UN’s humanitarian agency OCHA also condemned the killings in a statement, noting it was the first reported killing of aid workers in South Sudan since 2018.

At least 115 aid workers, mainly South Sudanese, have been killed since the country plunged into conflict in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup against him.

The conflict has left nearly 400,000 dead and displaced millions.

A peace deal was signed in September last year and a ceasefire has largely held, but fighting in the Central Equatoria region has continued between government forces and a holdout rebel group.

Full report at:



Sudan's PM discusses peace process with EU delegation

Omer Erdem  



Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok held a meeting Wednesday with a delegation from the European Union focusing on the cooperation between Sudan and the EU in various areas.

Hamdok and the Deputy Secretary-General of the European External Action Service, Jean-Christophe Belliard, discussed how to support the efforts of the transitional government to stop the war with armed groups and establish peace and stability.

Peace talks between the Sudanese government and the Revolutionary Front began on Oct. 14 in South Sudan’s capital, Juba.

On Oct. 22, the South Sudan Mediation Committee announced that the first round of talks between the two sides was suspended for a month to give the parties enough time for consultations.

South Sudan slid into crisis when President Salva Kiir sacked Vice President Riek Machar in December 2013 on suspicion of plotting a coup.

Full report at:



Boko Haram gunmen kill 12 Niger soldiers

Alaattin Dogru



Gunmen from the Boko Haram terrorist organization killed 12 soldiers Wednesday in a pre-dawn raid on a military base in southeastern Niger’s Diffa region, local media reported.

According to the UN, Diffa is home to 120,000 refugees from Nigeria who fled from Boko Haram violence and 110,000 internally displaced people from various parts of Niger.

The report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said more than 140 civilians have lost their lives in the same area during Boko Haram attacks.

Located on the border with Nigeria, Diffa has been frequently attacked by Boko Haram since 2015.

In mid-March, a state of emergency in Diffa was extended for three months following a series of attacks by the terrorist group.

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