New Age Islam
Wed Nov 25 2020, 02:18 PM

Islamic World News ( 26 Aug 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Islam Cannot Be Reduced To Political Goals, Says Muslim World League Chief

 

 

 

 

 

 

Islam Cannot Be Reduced To Political Goals, Says Muslim World League Chief

Helping Reduce Indo-Pak Tension In White House’s 5 Takeaways From G7 Summit

US Muslim Congresswoman, Ilhan Omar, Urges Respect for Human Rights In Occupied Kashmir

Don't Be Dissapointed by Islamic World's Silence On Kashmir: Imran Khan Tells Pakistan

Sri Lanka Urged To Tackle 'Hate Propaganda' Against Muslims

High Court Says Can’t Hear SIS Challenge against ‘Deviant’ Fatwa, Directs Group to Shariah Courts

Union Home Ministry to Hold High-Level Meeting On Jammu And Kashmir

Kashmir Schools Open But Students Stay Away

New PM Seeks to Remove Sudan from US List of Terror Sponsors

Palestinian Minors ‘Face Physical, Verbal Abuse’ In Israeli Jails

 

Arab World

Islam Cannot Be Reduced To Political Goals, Says Muslim World League Chief

Three Million Caught In Crossfire As Assad Vows To Capture Every Inch of Syria

Yemen Bombs Saudi Capital in Major Air Raid on 'Strategic Target'

Kuwait’s ruler holds first public meetings after health issues

UAE condemns ‘terrorist attacks’ by Houthis against Saudi Arabia

UN ‘takes note’ of Lebanese president’s ‘war’ warning

Iraqi Hashd al-Sha’abi forces shoot down reconnaissance drone over Nineveh

Iraq to take diplomatic, legal measures against sovereignty breach: Foreign ministry

Misk promotes Asiri art the modern way at Al-Soudah Season

Saudi Arabia, UAE urge new talks between Yemen’s government and southern separatists

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North America

Helping Reduce Indo-Pak Tension In White House’s 5 Takeaways From G7 Summit

US Muslim Congresswoman, Ilhan Omar, Urges Respect for Human Rights In Occupied Kashmir

Trump Says India’s Modi Feels He Has ‘It Under Control’ In Kashmir

U.S., Taliban Deal Will Not Stop Attacks On Afghan Forces, Taliban Say

Muslim prison guards claim they were suspended for refusing to shave beards

Vice President Pence says US supports Israel’s right to defend itself

Trump says ready to meet Iran’s president to solve nuclear impasse

Trump says he may present Middle East peace plan in next three weeks

Trump says was aware of Iran FM’s surprise G7 visit, but ‘too soon’ to meet

Trump says Egypt ‘very important’ to Middle East peace process during El-Sisi G7 meeting

US envoy rules out end to Afghan military support in Taliban deal

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Pakistan

Don't Be Dissapointed by Islamic World's Silence On Kashmir: Imran Khan Tells Pakistan

Pakistan's Khan warns Kashmir issue could lead to nuclear war

Gunmen on motorcycles attack police in NW Pakistan, 2 killed

Pak UN envoy meets UNGA president, discusses Kashmir issue

Imran Khan, Saudi Crown Prince discuss Kashmir issue third time

Pakistan president gets Twitter notice for his Kashmir tweet

Imran is now self-styled Kashmir ‘ambassador

Pakistan does not want escalation, says foreign minister

Information ministry to set up Kashmir media cell: PM aide

British lawmakers urge peaceful resolution of Kashmir dispute

Karachi’s Rohingyas strive for success instead of identity

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South Asia

Sri Lanka Urged To Tackle 'Hate Propaganda' Against Muslims

Multiple airstrikes kill at least 66 Taliban militants in Ghor

3rd Rohingya refugee killed by Bangladeshi police

As U.S.-Taliban deal nears, Afghanistan’s Ghani hardens resolve to hold elections on time

Haqqani terrorist network’s target killer arrested in Kabul

Will have good news for the Afghans in coming days: Abdullah

Taliban’s shadow district chief among 15 killed in Balkh province

U.S. to defend Afghan forces now and after any deal with Taliban: Khalilzad

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Southeast Asia

High Court Says Can’t Hear SIS Challenge against ‘Deviant’ Fatwa, Directs Group to Shariah Courts

Indonesia To Move Capital From Sinking Jakarta To Borneo

Churches want action after Malay-Muslim coalition accuses Christians of infiltrating Putrajaya

PAS leader demands updates on investigations of five DAP leaders

Zakir Naik not above the law, says Muhyiddin

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India

Union Home Ministry to Hold High-Level Meeting On Jammu And Kashmir

Kashmir Schools Open But Students Stay Away

Chenani-Nashri tunnel in J&K may be named after BJP ideologue

‘India head’ of B’desh terror outfit JMB nabbed in Gaya

Modi-Trump meet dealt final blow to Pak’s designs: BJP

J&K’s 1st stone-pelting death after Article 370 move

Mcdonald's Faces Boycott Threats In India For Serving Halal Meat

A crackdown in India on suspected illegal immigrants could leave millions stateless

Pakistan's ISI-Backed Jem Radicalising Rohingya Muslims To Carry Out Attacks In India, Warns BSF

G-7 summit: Trump listening, Modi says Kashmir is a bilateral issue

Pakistan may instigate violence in J&K, says Army chief

Militants kill man in J-K’s Pulwama in first attack after Article 370 repeal

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Africa

New PM Seeks to Remove Sudan from US List of Terror Sponsors

Sudan tribal clashes in east leave 37 dead: Medics

DR Congo unveils new government after months-long delay

Twelve dead in Boko Haram Niger attack: Official

Terrorism: Two arrested in bomb investigation released

US to keep up pressure on Sudan as it discusses lifting sanctions: Official

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Mideast

Palestinian Minors ‘Face Physical, Verbal Abuse’ In Israeli Jails

Hezbollah chief: 'We will down Israeli drones in Lebanon skies'

Hezbollah Says Drones That Crashed in Beirut Suburbs Came From Israel

Iran's Rouhani says no talks with US unless sanctions lifted

Israel bans cameras at Arab polling stations in next vote

Iran president makes case for talks as G7 gambit slammed

Al-Jubeir: Yemenis should work together, rid country of Iranian influence

Arab Coalition intercepts Houthi drone in Yemen heading to Saudi Arabia

Rouhani: No talks with US unless bans lifted, Iran rights respected

Iran has already told Macron missiles not up for negotiations: Informed source

Netanyahu tells Hezbollah’s Nasrallah to “calm down” after drone incident

Palestinian minister returns over $80,000 in secret bonuses

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Europe

Government Putting Britons at Risk By Stripping Isis Members’ Citizenship, Former Defence Minister Warns

British Gov’t Probes Qatari-Owned Bank Due To Hamas Terrorism Links

German state fights Islamist extremism with YouTube satire

Europe grapples with ISIS returnees and their families

Macron hopes for Trump-Rouhani meeting in coming weeks

Iran’s Zarif leaves G7 talks, unclear if progress made to ease tensions

Germany: Iran talks at G7 is a ‘big step forward’

Russian airstrikes kill 6 civilians in Idlib, Syria

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/islam-cannot-be-reduced-to-political-goals,-says-muslim-world-league-chief/d/119580

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Islam cannot be reduced to political goals, says Muslim World League chief

August 26, 2019

JEDDAH: The secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL), Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa inaugurated the MWL’s pavilion at an exhibition held on the sidelines of 40th edition of the Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples in Rimini, Italy. The MWL is the first Islamic organization to take part in the international fair, which registered more than 1 million visitors. The pavilion featured pictures and movies about the league’s projects and its relief and health care world association, in addition to a number of documentaries telling the stories of people who the league saved from poverty, illness and illiteracy.

The pavilion stressed the attention that the MWL accords to the humanitarian values of Islam in helping those in need regardless of their religion, ethnicity or culture.

On display was also a model for the MWL’s emergency room that monitors disasters worldwide and ensures a rapid response, while determining the degree of risks and the level of intervention required, through harnessing state-of-the-art technologies to save lives and property.

The pavilion received a large number of diplomatic and academic delegations and political leaders, most notably the head of the European Parliament, the head of the Italian Parliament, as well as a large number of young Europeans, especially Italians. The visitors were introduced to the MWL’s vision, mission, objectives, and to a number of its initiatives and programs around the world.

In a speech, Al-Issa underlined the dangers of political Islam, noting that some movements try to achieve their political objectives through exploiting the Muslim religion and playing on emotion, so as to deceive and encourage people, especially younger people, to commit harm.

The secretary-general highlighted ways of combating terrorism and violence, stressing the importance of eradicating extremism by confronting terrorism advocates through strong arguments that would undermine their discourse based on manipulating text interpretations and confusing some young people who lack adequate knowledge. “Political Islam concepts have harmed Islam. Besides being a religion, Islam is a way of life and cannot be reduced to political goals as some violent and terrorist groups do,” said Al-Issa.

He also pointed out that ethnic, religious, intellectual and political extremism, terrorism and violence are not peculiar to a certain category, evidenced by events in Christchurch, Colombo, Pennsylvania and California.

The secretary-general also underscored the need to pay attention to the discussions taking place in the virtual world, because extremists are resorting to online platforms to recruit young people.

Toward the end of his address, Al-Issa stressed that nations and peoples must understand the concept of difference and diversity required to build bridges of brotherhood, love, cooperation and coexistence.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1545696/saudi-arabia

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Helping reduce Indo-Pak tension in White House’s 5 takeaways from G7 Summit

Aug 27, 2019

The White House on Monday claimed helping reduce India-Pakistan tension is one of the five big takeaways from the just-concluded G7 Summit.

President Donald Trump returned home from the Group of Seven Summit held in the French city of Biarritz from August 24 and 26.

In its daily round-up for Monday, the White House said, “The five big takeaways are: A message of unity, security a billion-dollar trade deal, promoting the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), developing stronger trade with Europe and helping to reduce India-Pakistan tension.” “In his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US president Trump reaffirmed the need for dialogue between India and Pakistan and also worked to build on the great economic relations between our nations,” it said.

Prime Minister Modi, flanked by Trump, on Monday categorically rejected any scope for third party mediation on Kashmir, saying it was a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan, and “we don’t want to trouble any third country” -- a position that was immediately backed by the American leader who had recently offered to mediate.

In a tweet, the White House said during the meeting with Modi, Trump also acknowledged India’s role as a critical partner in Afghanistan. The accompanying two photos released by the White House reflected a jubilant mood in the meeting room in France and the handshake between the two leaders.

Trump and First Lady Melania Trump returned home late Monday night after attending the G7 Summit.

“Trump met with world leaders to strengthen our alliances, secure better trade deals, and -- as always -- keep the interests of the American people front and centre on the global stage,” the White House said. During the summit, Trump worked with American allies to chart a course toward even more prosperity both here at home and around the world, the White House said.

According to the White House, Trump and President Emmanuel Macron of the host nation, over the weekend, worked together to achieve progress on a number of fronts, including global security, fair trade practices, and better economic opportunity for all.

“I want to thank you very much, Mr President, for the incredible job you did. This is a truly successful G7,” Trump said.

“One of the biggest wins from the summit was President Trump’s announcement of locking in a trade agreement with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan. The deal secures market access for a number of American agricultural goods, and Japan has agreed to purchase large sums of our farmers’ corn,” it said.

With Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by his side, Trump talked about the importance of expanding America’s trading partnership with its neighbours by passing the USMCA.

With both Canada and Mexico having essentially finalized the new deal, which replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Trump noted that it’s time for US lawmakers to do the same.

“Our farmers love it, the unions love it, the workers love it, manufacturers love it... hopefully that’ll be put to a vote very soon,” he said.

While meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Trump discussed how best to meet global and regional security challenges and previewed even better trade relations to come with Germany and the European Union, the White House said.

Germany is “a great trading partner,” he said. “And we probably think we’re going to be upping the trade over a very short period of time,” the US President added.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/helping-reduce-indo-pak-tension-in-white-house-s-5-takeaways-from-g7-summit/story-8vasahAd147JW68gfFH8aL.html

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US Muslim Congresswoman, Ilhan Omar, Urges Respect For Human Rights In Occupied Kashmir

August 27, 2019

Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar has urged Indian authorities in occupied Kashmir to respect human rights and to de-escalate the rapidly deteriorating situation in the disputed valley after India’s illegal and unilateral move of August 5.

Ilhan, one of the first two Muslim women elected to the US Congress, is a member of her party’s progressive wing and a sharp critic of President Donald Trump and of Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians.

Her reaction over the deteriorating human rights situation came hours after Trump, who earlier offered to mediate between Pakistan and India over Kashmir, said on Monday that “Pakistan and India can handle the issue on their own, but I am here”.

Trump said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi feels he has ‘it under control’ in Kashmir and needs no third-party mediation.

Pakistan and India both claim Kashmir in full. On August 5, the Indian government triggered a fresh crisis over Kashmir when it revoked the region’s semi-autonomous status and imposed an unprecedented security lockdown in the territory.

It drew deep anger in Pakistan, which said last week it would take the case to the International Court of Justice.

PM Imran has now called for a UN action over India’s decision to revoke autonomy from IoK, saying the risk of war between the nuclear-armed neighbours made the issue a cause for global concern.

https://tribune.com.pk/story/2043223/3-us-muslim-congresswoman-urges-respect-human-rights-occupied-kashmir/

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Don't be dissapointed by Islamic world's silence on Kashmir: Imran Khan tells Pakistan

August 26, 2019

With Pakistan failing to get traction for its belligerent stand on Kashmir, Prime Minister Imran Khan asked Pakistanis to not get disheartened by the silence of Islamic nations on Kashmir.

He said that Islamic nations may be silent on Kashmir now but there will come a time when they will have to speak up.

"I read in the newspapers that people are disappointed that Muslim countries are not siding with Kashmir. I want to tell you not to be disappointed; if some countries are not raising this issue because of their economic interests, they will eventually take this issue up. They will have to, with time," he said.

Imran Khan stressed that Pakistan had succeeded as Kashmir was being discussed in the international world.

"We have succeeded in internationalizing the issue of Kashmir, we talked to world leaders and embassies. UN for the first time since 1965, convened a meeting on Kashmir issue. Even international media has picked it up," the Pakistani prime minister said on Monday.

PTI

@PTIofficial

(3/4) Prime Minister Of Pakistan Imran Khan's Address To The Nation On The Issue Of Kashmir (26.08.19)#KashmirAtDecisionPoint@ImranKhanPTI

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He also said that he will raise the issue at every international forum, including at the UN General Assembly.

Outlining his government's future strategy on Kashmir, Khan said: "First, I believe, the entire nation should stand with the Kashmiri nation. I have said this that I will act as Kashmir's ambassador".

"I will tell the world about this, I have shared this with heads of state that I have been in contact with. I will raise this issue at the UN as well," he said while referring to his scheduled address to the UN General Assembly next month.

Khan claimed that Prime Minister Modi had made a "historic blunder" by revoking Kashmir's special autonomy.

"This is the UN's responsibility, they promised the people of Kashmir that they would protect them. Historically, the world bodies have always sided with the powerful but the UN should know that 1.25 billion Muslims are looking towards it," he said.

Prime Minister Khan once again raised the nuclear capabilities of the neighbours, saying there are no winners in a nuclear war.

PTI

@PTIofficial

(4/4) Prime Minister Of Pakistan Imran Khan's Address To The Nation On The Issue Of Kashmir (26.08.19)#KashmirAtDecisionPoint@ImranKhanPTI

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Tensions between India and Pakistan spiked after India abrogated provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution, evoking strong reactions from Pakistan.

India has categorically told the international community that the scrapping of Article 370 was an internal matter and also advised Pakistan to accept the reality.

https://www.indiatoday.in/world/story/don-t-be-dissapointed-by-islamic-world-s-silence-on-kashmir-imran-khan-tells-pakistan-1591853-2019-08-26

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Sri Lanka urged to tackle 'hate propaganda' against Muslims

Aug 27, 2019

A United Nations human rights expert has called on Sri Lanka to take urgent action on "hate propaganda targeting Muslim communities" following a spate of deadly attacks on churches and hotels on Easter Sunday.

Ahmed Shaheed, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, issued the call on Monday at the end of a 12-day mission to the Buddhist-majority country in the Indian Ocean.

He said there was a "serious deficit of trust among ethnoreligious communities" in the wake of the ISIL-claimed attacks in April.

More than 250 people were killed in the bombings, the deadliest since the end of a 26-year-civil war against Tamil separatist fighters in 2009.

"While the government promptly brought the situation more or less under control after the bomb blasts, many religious communities remain very concerned about their security because of incitement to hatred and violence by some religious extremists," Shaheed said in a statement.

The suicide assaults led to anti-Muslim riots in May, which were partly blamed on Buddhist groups.

There was also a spike in reports of hate speech, with a senior Buddhist monk saying in June Muslims should be stoned in one case. Warakagoda Sri Gnanarathana made the comment after repeating unsubstantiated claims that a Muslim doctor had sterilised thousands of Buddhist women.

"The government must take action against the hate propaganda targeting Muslim communities that is being spread through unregulated media and is instigating ethnoreligious tension for political gain," said Shaheed.

Failure to do so "will allow extremism to escalate and pose serious challenges to peace-building," he added.

'Sporadic small incidents'

Sri Lanka's population of about 22 million is a patchwork of ethnicities and religions. Sinhalese speaking Buddhists make up more than 70 percent, while Tamils account for 15 percent.

Muslims are the second-largest minority, comprising about 10 percent of the population.

There has been an increase in attacks against the community since the civil war's end, including major bouts of violence in 2013 and 2018. Buddhist groups - some led by monks - were blamed for the unrest.

But many in the government saw the unrest as "sporadic small incidents", he said, warning they must not be treated as such.

"The underlying unease and hostility existed long before the Easter attacks and subsequent violence," he said.

He highlighted a range of factors for the "simmering" tensions. including the politicisation of religion, segregated education based on ethnoreligious identity, as well as impunity for previous religiously motivated attacks.

Failure to hold perpetrators to account for previous violence has "strengthened the anti-Muslim groups", he said, adding: "It is time for Sri Lanka to vigorously adopt measures to protect the rights of all people and to hold perpetrators accountable, regardless of their ethnoreligious background."

He urged the Sri Lankan authorities to "make efforts to dismantle the networks of hate" and "speak out against hateful narratives".

He also called for urgent reforms to the education system "to foster inclusive identities".

There was no immediate comment from the government on Shaheed's report.

The expert is expected to submit his detailed report to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2020.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/08/sri-lanka-urged-tackle-hate-propaganda-muslims-190826165119514.html

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High Court says can’t hear SIS challenge against ‘deviant’ fatwa, directs group to Shariah courts

27 August 2019

BY IDA LIM

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 27 — The High Court rejected today Sisters in Islam’s (SIS) legal challenge against a 2014 Selangor fatwa or religious edict that declared it as deviant.

Judge Datuk Nordin Hassan said the civil courts have no jurisdiction to hear the challenge against the fatwa, declaring that the matter should instead be pursued via the Shariah courts.

On October 31, 2014, SIS filed for a judicial review of a gazetted fatwa in Selangor that declared the group as “deviants” in Islam due to its alleged religious liberalism and pluralism.

The fatwa issued on July 31, 2014 also deemed any publications with elements of liberalism and religious pluralism as “haram”, or forbidden to Muslims, and can be seized by religious authorities.

It further sought for local Internet regulator the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to monitor and block social media websites with content that was against Islam.

SIS Forum (Malaysia), the group’s co-founder Zainah Mahfoozah Anwar, and Datuk Zaid Ibrahim had named the Selangor Fatwa Committee, the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS) and the Selangor state government as respondents in their application.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/08/27/high-court-says-cant-hear-sis-challenge-against-deviant-fatwa-directs-group/1784692

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Union home ministry to hold high-level meeting on Jammu and Kashmir

Aug 27, 2019

NEW DELHI: The Union home ministry is scheduled to hold a high-level meeting on Jammu and Kashmir here on Tuesday, sources in the government told ANI.

The meeting scheduled for later today will be chaired by newly-appointed Union home secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla.

The situation in Jammu and Kashmir is slowly returning to normalcy as students have started returning to schools, colleges and landline and mobile networks are being restored in most of the areas by the administration.

The relaxations started happening on the ground more than two weeks after the Center's decision to abrogate provisions of Article 370 which gave Jammu and Kashmir the special status.

The administration has decided to do away with the restrictions in a phased manner from the Valley region.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/union-home-ministry-to-hold-high-level-meeting-on-jammu-and-kashmir/articleshow/70853982.cms

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Kashmir schools open but students stay away

Aug 27, 2019

SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir administration's big push for restoring normalcy in Kashmir by opening schools has received a major jolt as students have stayed away.

Last week the government announced opening of primary and middle schools in the valley but here in the capital city hardly any students have turned up for their classes.

IANS visited some prominent Srinagar schools like Tyndale Biscoe, Mallinson, DPS and National School but couldn't find students in any of them.

"Admission for LKG scheduled for August 19 and 20, stand postponed. New dates will be announced later," read a notice on the gate of the DPS while at Mallision, school has put up a notice issuing interview dates for fresh admissions.

"Teachers are coming to the school but not the students," said one official from the Delhi Public School (DPS).

Though the government has lifted restrictions on the movement of traffic in most parts of Srinagar and restored landlines in few pockets of the capital city, yet a looming fear of violence erupting any time has kept most parents jittery and they have not mustered the courage to send children back to schools.

"Sending my children to school is just not the priority right now, it is very risky, let the situation stabilize, then only I can think of sending them to school," said Abdul Rasheed in old city area of Khanyar.

However, the government says it is working out the step by step plan of opening of the schools notwithstanding thin attendance of students.

"A total of 1,500 primary schools and 1,000 middle schools were opened although attendance continues to be very thin in so far as students are concerned. The education department will try to operationalise primary and middle schools in areas where there are no restrictions," said Rohit Kansal, government spokesperson.

The real challenge though for the government will be opening the higher secondary schools and colleges which have witnessed student protests in the past.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/kashmir-schools-open-but-students-play-shy/articleshow/70852545.cms

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New PM Seeks to Remove Sudan from US List of Terror Sponsors

25 August, 2019

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said Sunday that ending his country's international pariah status and drastically cutting military spending are prerequisites for rescuing a faltering economy.

Hamdok, a well-known economist, told The Associated Press in an interview that he has already talked to US officials about removing Sudan from Washington's list of countries sponsoring terrorism and portrayed their reaction as positive.

He said that "a democratic Sudan is not a threat to anybody in the world."

Hamdok was sworn in last week as the leader of Sudan's transitional government. His appointment came four months after the overthrow of president Omar al-Bashir, who ruled the country for nearly three decades.

An 11-member Sovereign Council was also sworn in last week. The civilian-majority Council replaces the Transitional Military Council (TMC) that took charge after months of deadly street protests brought down Bashir in April.

Sudan was designated a state sponsor of terrorism in 1993 under former US President Bill Clinton, cutting it off from financial markets and strangling its economy.

Washington lifted a 20-year trade embargo against Sudan in 2017 and was in the process of discussions on removing it from the US terror list when the military stepped in on April 11 to depose Bashir.

In the interview, Hamdok also hoped to drastically cut Sudan's military spending which he said makes up a large chunk of the state budget.

https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1872011/new-pm-seeks-remove-sudan-us-list-terror-sponsors

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Palestinian minors ‘face physical, verbal abuse’ in Israeli jails

Aug 27, 2019

Palestinian children held in Israeli prisons are subjected to physical and verbal abuse by Israeli forces, a Palestinian commission says.

The Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs released a report on Sunday based on testimonies given by 45 children from Jerusalem al-Quds under 18 who are held in the Israeli prison of Damon, the Arabic-language Egyptian newspaper al-Youm al-Sabe’ reported.

The children said they were severely beaten by the so-called “Nahshon” forces who accompanied them during transfer to and from courts and during transfer from other prisons to Damon. They said the Israeli troops punched and kicked them in all parts of their bodies.

The children added that they were subjected to insults in the deportation vehicles or in the courts’ waiting rooms.

One of the elder prisoners who was responsible for the children detained in Damon said instances of verbal and physical abuse were growing and that signs of beating were visible on the minors’ bodies and faces when they came back to their prison cells.

The source added that immediate complaints were submitted to the prison authorities but no response was received.

The commission said the unit known as “Nahshon” was tasked with transferring detainees from one prison to another and from prison to the courts. The agents of the unit were also in charge of the prisons.

The unit regularly forces the detainees to strip naked on the pretext of inspection, breaks into their rooms, and disarranges their belongings.

More than 7,000 Palestinian prisoners are currently held in some 17 Israeli jails. Dozens of them are serving multiple life sentences.

It is estimated that between 500 and 700 Palestinian minors, some as young as 12 years old, have been arrested and brought to trial in Israeli courts. The most common charge against them is stone-throwing.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/08/27/604583/Palestinian-minors-Israeli-jails-assault-abuse

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Arab World

 

Three million caught in crossfire as Assad vows to capture every inch of Syria

Emma Graham-Harrison

24 Aug 2019

Syrian government forces have made fresh military advances towards President Bashar al-Assad’s goal of reclaiming “every inch” of the country in an offensive that has intensified fears of a humanitarian disaster in the northern Idlib province.

Opposition fighters withdrew last week from the key town of Khan Sheikhoun, another strategic concession to Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers, who have torn up a ceasefire deal protecting the rebels’ last major pocket of territory.

As the country’s bloody civil war grinds into its ninth year, Assad is widely acknowledged to have emerged triumphant.

But the fighting is far from over, with the terms of victory and the shape of Syria’s future still very much in play on the battlefield.

Armed groups are dug in across much of the north, including extremist opposition fighters in Idlib, and beyond them foreign-backed fighters including Turkish proxy militias and US-backed Kurds along sections of the border with Turkey and Iraq.

Caught in the middle of the fighting, as brutal as it ever has been during this conflict, are desperate civilians. Around three million are trapped in the opposition-held province of Idlib.

The area is largely controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a former al-Qaida affiliate that came to dominate the opposition after infighting and fragmentation destroyed more moderate groups.

But the civilians gathered there come from a much broader range of backgrounds, many of them opposition supporters displaced multiple times from areas that have since fallen to Assad, including Aleppo and the Damascus suburb of Ghouta. Many have fallen under HTS control without actively supporting them.

The latest crisis was set in motion in April, when the Syrian government offensive shredded a truce that was agreed last year between Turkey, Iran and Russia. It had created a buffer zone between the last remaining pockets of rebel-held territory and Assad’s forces.

The scale and intensity of the bombardment that followed, including attacks on health facilities and schools, led the United Nations to launch an inquiry. It will investigate government targeting of UN-backed facilities and protected civilian sites that were on a list provided to Syrian authorities.

Assad claimed that his troops attacked only because Turkey did not stick to its commitments to keep extremists out of the area, which Turkey rejects.

Aid agencies say civilians fleeing the military advance face desperate conditions in makeshift refugee camps without water or sanitation, and with shortages of food. With the Turkish border to the north sealed, however, they have nowhere else to go as the fighting intensifies.

The Syrian authorities have opened a “humanitarian corridor” for non-combatants to leave, but it leads to government-controlled areas, and few of those trapped see it as a safe escape route. Returnees with opposition links have faced detention, conscription or worse when arriving in parts of the country ruled by Assad’s forces.

Khan Sheikhoun was targeted by Assad because it gives his forces control over part of a key highway linking the central city of Homs to Syria’s battered commercial capital Aleppo, and severs an opposition supply route.

But the advance into the town deepened the standoff between Turkish and Syrian forces, by cutting off Turkish troops based at one of 12 “observation points” under the ceasefire deal. Ankara said it would not move the site.

“The ninth observation post remains in its place. All the other observation posts foreseen or put in place under the Idlib agreement will continue to operate where they are,” said a Turkish government spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin.

The effective siege of the Turkish outpost comes days after Syrian government air strikes targeted a Turkish military convoy that Damascus claimed was trying to reinforce rebel lines, killing three civilians and injuring several others.

Syria’s government has made no bones about its intentions to reunify the country, by force if necessary. The foreign minister Walid al-Moallem underlined its commitment in a meeting with the Chinese envoy to Syria, Xie Xiaoyan, in Damascus last week. The government would fight for “every inch” of Syrian territory, “in spite of the blatant Turkish intervention”, he told Xie, according to the state news agency Sana.

But Turkey too is under extreme political pressure to keep Idlib free of Assad’s control, both for strategic reasons, and because of fear about the three million people clustering ever closer to its border.

It already hosts more than 3.6 million refugees, who have become a political liability; authorities are trying to close refugee camps and send some of them home.

Turkey would struggle to deal with a fresh influx but it fears increasing pressure to open its borders if Syrian government forces close in further on civilians gathered on the other side.Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will host his Russian and Iranian counterparts for a summit on Syria next month, he announced on Thursday. They will discuss Idlib, but also political efforts to end the war.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/aug/24/civilians-idlib-syria-bashar-al-assad-total-victory

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Yemen Bombs Saudi Capital in Major Air Raid on 'Strategic Target'

Aug 26, 2019

Spokesman for Yemeni Armed Forces Brigadier General Yahya Saree stated on Monday the Yemeni Army has launched "a large-scale drone operation" against "a vital military target" in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

The general mentioned that the operation was conducted by Samad-3 drones, adding that the target came under precise attack.

Saree warned Saudi civilians and firms to stay away from "military positions" that he described as crucially important and "legitimate targets" for the Yemeni army forces in their war against the Saudi regime.

It came just days after Yemeni forces conducted attacks on an oil field affiliated to Saudi Aramco in the East of the kingdom in retaliation for Riyadh’s war on their country. Oil facilities at Shaybah, which has the largest strategic oil reserve in Saudi Arabia near the UAE border and operated by state-oil company Saudi Aramco, were targeted by 10 Yemeni drones.

It was not the first time that Yemeni troops surprised the Saudis in Riyadh. Nearly two years ago, in mid-December 2017, Al-Yamamah Palace was hit by the Yemenis' ballestic missiles.

Fars News Agency

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Yemeni Forces Launch 'Biggest' Retaliatory Attack on Saudi Arabiahttp://fna.ir/dbw8pf

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Saudi Arabia has been striking Yemen since March 2015 to restore power to fugitive president Mansour Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh. The Saudi-led aggression has so far killed at least 20,000 Yemenis, including hundreds of women and children. Despite Riyadh's claims that it is bombing the positions of the Ansarullah fighters, Saudi bombers are flattening residential areas and civilian infrastructures. Weddings, funerals, schools and hospitals, as well as water and electricity plants, have been targeted, killing and wounding hundreds of thousands.

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980604000834

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Kuwait’s ruler holds first public meetings after health issues

26 August 2019

Kuwait’s 90-year-old emir on Monday held his first public meetings since falling ill last week, sitting down with the crown prince, head of parliament and members of his cabinet, state news agency KUNA reported.

KUNA published pictures of Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah seated next to Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah and separately with various officials.

The emir’s office said on August 18 that Sheikh Sabah was in “good condition” after the news agency reported that he had suffered a health setback without providing details.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/08/26/Kuwait-s-ruler-holds-first-public-meetings-after-health-issues.html

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UAE condemns ‘terrorist attacks’ by Houthis against Saudi Arabia

26 August 2019

The UAE condemned the Iran-backed Houthi militia's attempts to target the city of Jizan in Saudi Arabia on Sunday with six ballistic missiles, expressing its full support for the Kingdom in all the measures it takes to protect its security and stability.

“The UAE reiterates its full solidarity with Saudi Arabia over the terrorist attacks against civilians and offers its full support to the Kingdom in all the measures it takes to protect its security and stability and to counter terrorism,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Monday, according to a statement in Emirates News Agency (WAM).

The statement also said that “the continuation of these attacks shows the danger the region faces from the Houthi coup against the state in Yemen and stresses the need to continue to address it to ensure the security and stability of the region.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/08/26/UAE-condemns-terrorist-attacks-by-Houthis-in-Saudi-Arabia.html

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UN ‘takes note’ of Lebanese president’s ‘war’ warning

Aug 26, 2019

The United Nations says it has “taken note” of a warning by Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun that recent Israeli aerial transgressions against the country amount to “declaration of war,” urging both sides to exercise restraint.

Aoun made the remarks on Monday, a day after the incidents, the first of which saw an Israeli drone crashing on the roof of a building housing the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah’s media center and causing severe damage to the facility. Israeli drones attacked Lebanon’s Bakka region near the border with Syria subsequently.

The Lebanese head of state said the incursion “allows us to resort to our right to defending our sovereignty.”

UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the world body calls for "maximum restraint" by all parties “both in action and rhetoric."

"It is imperative for all to avoid an escalation and abide by relevant Security Council resolutions," he added.

Aoun also said Tel Aviv’s assault violated a UN resolution that ended the Israeli regime’s 2006 war on his country.

The war killed around 1,200 Lebanese people, and afflicted considerable damage to the country’s infrastructure. The Israeli regime had staged another major military aggression against the country in 2000.

Hezbollah played a pivotal role in defending Lebanon during both the wars.

Hezbollah Secretary-General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah issued a stern caution to Tel Aviv after the recent airspace violations, saying the group would act, from then on, to down transgressing Israeli drones.

By increasing the drone attacks, Nasrallah said, the regime was trying to “turn Lebanon back to what it was before 2006,” referring to the run-up to the 33-Day War of that year.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/08/26/604565/Lebanon-Israel-United-Nations-airspace-violations

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Iraqi Hashd al-Sha’abi forces shoot down reconnaissance drone over Nineveh

Aug 26, 2019

Members of pro-government Popular Mobilization Units, better known by the Arabic name Hashd al-Sha’abi, have reportedly intercepted and targeted an unmanned aerial vehicle as it was flying in the skies over a region in the country’s northern province of Nineveh.

The media bureau of the volunteer forces said in a statement that Hashd al-Sha’abi forces shot down the unidentified drone as it was on a reconnaissance mission, and flying for more than 20 minutes over one of their command centers there.

The statement added that the volunteer forces brought down the unmanned aerial vehicle with anti-aircraft guns after ensuring that the aircraft was not of Iraqi origin.

The development came only a few hours after Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, President Barham Salih and Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi held a meeting in the capital Baghdad with senior commanders of the Hashd al-Sha’abi to discuss measures aimed at protection of Iraq’s security and sovereignty.

They stated that the latest assaults on Hashd al-Sha’abi positions were meant to marginalize the volunteer forces, and strip them of the role in the fight against the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.

On Sunday, the Iraqi Arabic-language al-Sumaria television network reported that the air defenses of the 50th Brigade of Hashd al-Sha’abi had shot down a spy drone while it was approaching PMU bases in Nineveh.

It was not immediately clear who was operating the drone.

The Iraqi pro-government forces had shot down another spy drone on August 22, as it was flying in the vicinity of the 12th Brigade of Hashd al-Sha’abi and over the outskirts of Baghdad.

Also on Monday, Iraq's military said it has launched an investigation into a purported Israeli strike that killed two Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters near the town of al-Qa’im close to the country's western border with Syria.

“An investigation is ongoing now to determine what happened with the strike,” the spokesman for Iraq's Joint Operations Command, Brigadier General Yahya Rasoul, told AFP.

Sayf al-Badr, spokesman of the Iraqi Health Ministry, said in a statement that at least one person was killed and 29 others were wounded in a powerful explosion, which rocked a military base in southern Baghdad on August 12.

An unnamed source from Iraq’s Interior Ministry said an ammunition warehouse exploded inside a federal police military base, named Falcon, in Owerij area near the southern district of Doura.

Arabic-language al-Ahad TV television network reported on July 19 that a drone had dropped explosives onto a base belonging to the Popular Mobilization Units near the town of Amerli, located about 170 kilometers north of the capital, in the early hours of the day, killing at least one PMU fighter and injuring four others.

Video footage broadcast by Iraqi channels showed a blaze burning at the site and plumes of thick smoke billowing. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

Additionally, the Iraqi al-Etejah television network reported that an American B350 reconnaissance plane had flown over the area a few days earlier.

The Israeli regime has a record of attacking the forces fighting Daesh in Syria.

In June 2018, Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters came under attack in Syria’s border town of al-Hari, in the eastern province of Dayr al-Zawr, as they were chasing Daesh terrorists out of the area.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/08/26/604555/Iraqi-Hashd-alShaabi-forces-shoot-down-reconnaissance-drone-over-Nineveh

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Iraq to take diplomatic, legal measures against sovereignty breach: Foreign ministry

Aug 26, 2019

A high-ranking Iraqi official says Baghdad will take all available diplomatic and legal actions to prevent the violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the wake of recent airstrikes in the country against the positions of pro-government Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will take all necessary diplomatic and legal measures through the United Nations and the UN Security Council besides communication with brotherly and friendly countries to address any action, which violates Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the ministry’s spokesman Ahmed al-Sahaf said in a post published on the official Twitter page of the ministry on Monday.

Separately, Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, President Barham Salih and Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi held a meeting in the capital Baghdad with senior commanders of the Popular Mobilization Units, better known by the Arabic word of Hashd al-Sha’abi, to discuss measures aimed at protection of Iraq’s security and sovereignty.

They stated that the latest assaults on Hashd al-Sha’abi positions were meant to marginalize the volunteer forces, and strip them of the role in the fight against Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.

Moreover, Iraqi lawmaker Sana al-Moussavi, in an interview with Iraq’s Arabic-language al-Etejah television network on Monday, called on the UN Security Council and the international community to adopt a clear position against “the terrorist Zionist regime (of Israel).

She added that the presiding board of the Iraqi parliament is expected to take effective measures aimed at protection of the Popular Mobilization Units and security forces.

Also on Monday, Iraq's military said it has launched an investigation into a purported Israeli strike that killed two Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters near the town of al-Qa’im close to the country's western border with Syria.

“An investigation is ongoing now to determine what happened with the strike,” the spokesman for Iraq's Joint Operations Command, Brigadier General Yahya Rasoul, told AFP.

Sayf al-Badr, spokesman of the Iraqi Health Ministry, said in a statement that at least one person was killed and 29 others were wounded in a powerful explosion, which rocked a military base in southern Baghdad on August 12.

An unnamed source from Iraq’s Interior Ministry said an ammunition warehouse exploded inside a federal police military base, named Falcon, in Owerij area near the southern district of Doura.

Arabic-language al-Ahad TV television network reported on July 19 that a drone had dropped explosives onto a base belonging to the Popular Mobilization Units near the town of Amerli, located about 170 kilometers north of the capital, in the early hours of the day, killing at least one PMU fighter and injuring four others.

Video footage broadcast by Iraqi channels showed a blaze burning at the site and plumes of thick smoke billowing. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

Additionally, the Iraqi al-Etejah television network reported that an American B350 reconnaissance plane had flown over the area a few days earlier.

In January, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hinted during a visit to Iraq that the Israeli regime could launch attacks against Hashd al-Sha’abi forces, who played a key role in the Iraqi army’s counter-terrorism battles against the Daesh terror group and helped the government to rid the country of the Takfiri outfit in late 2017.

Pompeo was reported to have made it clear to Iraqi officials at a meeting with the Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi that Washington would not react to possible Israeli attacks against Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters.

Abdul-Mahdi expressed concern about the statement and warned Pompeo that such actions by Israel would have grave consequences, Russia’s RT Arabic television news network reported back then.

Reacting to the reports, Moein al-Kazemi, a Hashd al-Sha’abi commander, said the force was ready to deliver a “strong” response to any aggression, advising the regime in Tel Aviv not to “play with fire.”

The Israeli regime has a record of attacking the forces fighting the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in Syria.

In June 2018, Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters came under attack in Syria’s border town of al-Hari, in the eastern province of Dayr al-Zawr, as they were chasing Daesh terrorists out of the area.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/08/26/604548/Iraq-to-take-diplomatic-legal-measures-against-sovereignty-breach-FM-spox

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Misk promotes Asiri art the modern way at Al-Soudah Season

August 27, 2019

RIYADH: The Misk Art Institute of the Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz Foundation is shedding light on Asiri arts in a contemporary way, explaining details of Al-Khatwa art for visitors, via interactive scenes documenting Al-Khatwa through drawing.

The institute’s Al-Khatwa exhibition coincides with Al-Soudah Season to promote national arts.

Al-Khatwa is a traditional way to express happiness using performance in the Asir region. The art is performed collectively through dances accompanied by drums, and raising daggers and sticks in the air. Each tribe in the Asir region has its own traditional versions.

While Misk organized a number of artistic programs and activities in Abha for August, visitors of Mount Al-Soudah went to see the Al-Khatwa exhibition and learned about what it involved.

It included interactive photos, visual segments reflecting the popular culture of Al-Khatwa dance, the expression of the authenticity of the southern people through movement and its relation to the area’s mountainous nature and costumes that reflect the individuality of Asir.

The music wall in the Al-Khatwa exhibition presented instruments such as al-zeer, al-barmeel, al-zalfa, al-mifraz and al-tanka, and their roles in composing harmonious and divergent tunes that distinguish Al-Khatwa from other forms of artistic expression. Asiri costumes — especially women’s attire — attracted a big audience, and the exhibition included jewelry worn by brides on wedding nights, as well as other traditional Asiri ornaments.

The exhibition also included a section named “Panoramic Khatwa,” giving visitors a live image of Al-Khatwa performances through meticulously introducing and presenting it via a live show, as well as giving the chance for visitors to participate in it.

Misk Art Institute’s other activities and programs for Al-Soudah Season consist of 40-minute daily workshops for a number of mediums, and short sessions for artists which require pre-registration, in addition to a bazaar for artists at the end of every week in Al-Muftaha.

Al-Muftaha village programs include the “Ard Al-Toud” exhibition dedicated to various artistic oeuvres reflecting Asir’s environment. The exhibition presents the culture of the region through art, focuses on the concept of time and space in shaping the area’s identity and history, and showcases its cultural and artistic repertoire.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1545721/saudi-arabia

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Saudi Arabia, UAE urge new talks between Yemen’s government and southern separatists

August 27, 2019

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and the UAE called on Monday for a cease-fire and peace talks between Yemen’s government and southern separatists.

Security Belt forces loyal to the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) took control of the southern city of Aden on Aug. 10 following deadly clashes with government troops that killed at least 40 people.

In a joint statement on Monday, the Saudi and Emirati foreign ministries called on both sides to cooperate with a coalition committee and to attend talks in Jeddah.

They urged “speedy engagement in the Jeddah dialogue called by Saudi Arabia to address the causes and consequences of developments in some southern provinces.”

Prince Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi deputy defense minister, said dialogue, not fighting, was the only way to resolve internal Yemeni differences.

“We are working with the UAE for security and stability in Aden, Shabwa and Abyan and ... to unify ranks and voices to combat terrorist threats, whether from the Iran-backed Houthis or from Al-Qaeda and Daesh,” he said.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1545771/middle-east

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North America

 

Trump says India’s Modi feels he has ‘it under control’ in Kashmir

26 August 2019

US President Donald Trump said Monday he had no need to help mediate between Pakistan and India over tensions in disputed Kashmir because Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi feels he has it “under control.”

Earlier this month, Trump said he was ready to step in, but at a meeting with Modi at the G7 in France, Trump said “the prime minister really feels he has it under control.”

Trump said he and Modi spoke about Kashmir “at great length” on Sunday.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/08/26/Trump-says-India-s-Modi-feels-he-has-it-under-control-in-Kashmir.html

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U.S., Taliban Deal Will Not Stop Attacks On Afghan Forces, Taliban Say

August 26, 2019

KABUL/PESHAWAR, Pakistan - As US and Taliban negotiators push to wrap up talks aimed at securing the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, Taliban sources say a pact will not mean an end to fighting with the US-backed Afghan government.

US and Taliban officials have been negotiating in Qatar since last year on an agreement centered on the withdrawal of US forces, and an end to their longest-ever war, in exchange for a Taliban guarantee that international militant groups will not plot from Afghan soil.

US negotiators have been pressing the Taliban to agree to so-called intra-Afghan talks, meaning with the Kabul government and a ceasefire, but a senior Taliban official said that would not happen.

"We will continue our fight against the Afghan government and seize power by force," said the Taliban commander on condition of anonymity.

US President Donald Trump is impatient to get US forces out of Afghanistan and end the 18-year war that was launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

But there are fears among Afghan officials and US national security aides that a US troop withdrawal could see Afghanistan plunged into a new round of civil war that could herald a return of Taliban rule and international militants, including Islamic State, finding a refuge.

Another Taliban commander, who also declined to be identified, said a deal was expected to be signed this week under which US forces will stop attacking the Taliban and the militants would end their fight against the US troops.

Under the pact, the United States would also cease supporting the Afghan government, the Taliban officials said.

"The Americans will not come to the assistance of the Afghan government and its forces in their fight against us," the first Taliban official said.

US officials involved in the negotiations were not available for comment.

The US special envoy for reconciliation in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, has been pressing the Taliban to make a commitment to power-sharing talks with the government and to announce a ceasefire.

The Taliban, fighting to expel foreign forces and re-establish a theocratic Islamic state since their ouster in October 2001, have refused to talk to the government, denouncing it as a US puppet although they have raised the possibility of negotiations after the deal on the US withdrawal is struck.

'SEPARATE AGREEMENT'

The militants now control more territory than they have since 2001 and the war has ground into a stalemate with casualties rising among civilians as well as combatants.

Some 14,000 US troops remain in Afghanistan, training and advising Afghan forces and conducting counterinsurgency operations. Some 6,000 troops from NATO allies and partner countries also help train Afghan forces.

There has been no let-up in the fighting over the past year despite the talks. The United States had not stopped conducting air strikes and helping Afghan forces to destroy camps run by the Taliban and Islamic State fighters, a US official said.

Two diplomatic sources with knowledge of the ninth round of talks in Qatar said they expected an agreement to be finalized this week, enabling the US to pull out about 50% of its forces.

An end to the fighting between the Taliban ad Afghan government forces would have to be negotiated separately, they said.

"A ceasefire between the Afghan forces and the Taliban requires a separate agreement and deliberations are yet to begin," said one diplomat who has been monitoring the negotiations in Qatar.

"The US-Taliban agreement will stop U.S. from conducting air strikes on the Taliban, and the Taliban will stop insider attacks on the US and other foreign soldiers," the diplomat said.

Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban political office in Doha, said negotiations have gone on late into Sunday.

The two sides would meet again later on Monday after internal talks in the morning, Shaheen said.

"Our meeting with the US team will resume in the early evening," he said.

Full report at:

https://www.jpost.com/Breaking-News/US-Taliban-deal-will-not-stop-attacks-on-Afghan-forces-Taliban-say-599734

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Muslim prison guards claim they were suspended for refusing to shave beards

August 26, 2019

Two Muslim men are suing the State of New York and the NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision for discrimination, claiming they were suspended by higher-ups at the Fishkill Correctional Facility for refusing to shave their beards on religious grounds.

Brian Sughrim and David Feliciano say they’ve worn beards without incident while working at the Hudson Valley lock-up for years, yet were suddenly told this month they must shave because their facial hair presents “an undue hardship and burden on facility operations,” according to their Manhattan federal court lawsuit filed Monday.

When they refused to shave, they were suspended on Aug. 10 and Aug. 15 — even though other non-religious officers at the facility have been allowed to keep their facial hair without incident.

Yet the men were suddenly reinstated Monday, according to a statement from the DOCCS.

“Given the recently signed legislation by Governor Cuomo, DOCCS has conducted a secondary review of the requested exemptions dealing with facial hair and has made the determination to grant the requests, reinstating both employees to their positions with full back pay,” spokesman Thomas Mailey said in a statement. “DOCCS will also be reviewing its rules regarding facial hair immediately in light of the new law.”

Mailey was referencing legislation Andrew Cuomo signed into law on Aug. 9, which prohibits employment discrimination based on religious attire, clothing or facial hair.

The spokesman denied the men were reinstated due to media inquiries Monday — even though the men were suspended after Aug. 9.

The change of heart was in part prompted by the lawsuit, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation.

Full report at:

https://nypost.com/2019/08/26/muslim-prison-guards-claim-they-were-suspended-for-refusing-to-shave-beards/

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Vice President Pence says US supports Israel’s right to defend itself

26 August 2019

US Vice President Mike Pence said he spoke on Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and reiterated US support for its Middle East ally.

“Had a great conversation with Prime Minister @netanyahu this morning. The United States fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself from imminent threats. Under President @realDonaldTrump, America will always stand with Israel!” Pence wrote on Twitter, without specifying the imminent threats.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/08/26/Vice-President-Pence-says-US-supports-Israel-s-right-to-defend-itself.html

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Trump says ready to meet Iran’s president to solve nuclear impasse

26 August 2019

US President Donald Trump said on Monday he would meet Iran’s president under the right circumstances to end a confrontation over a 2015 nuclear deal and that talks were underway to see how countries could open credit lines to keep Iran’s economy afloat.

But Trump, speaking at a G7 summit in the French resort of Biarritz, ruled out lifting economic sanctions to compensate for losses suffered by Iran.

Trump told reporters it was realistic to envisage a meeting between him and President Hassan Rouhani in coming weeks, describing Iran as a country of “tremendous potential.”

“I have a good feeling. I think he (Rouhani) is going to want to meet and get their situation straightened out. They are hurting badly,” Trump said.

French President Emmanuel Macron, host of the G7 summit, told the same news conference that Rouhani had told him he would be open to meeting Trump. Macron said he hoped a summit between the two men could happen in coming weeks. Trump and Rouhani head to the United Nations General Assembly in September.

Rouhani is not Iran’s top decision-maker. That role is held by the fiercely anti-American Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - and anything agreed at a Trump-Rouhani encounter would be subject to Khamenei’s approval.

European leaders have struggled to calm the deepening confrontation between Iran and the United States since Trump pulled Washington out of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and reimposed sanctions on the Iranian economy.

But Macron has spent the summer trying to create conditions for a period of pause to bring the two sides back to the negotiating table.

“What I hope is that in coming weeks, based on these talks, we can manage to see a summit between President Rouhani and President Trump,” Macron said, adding that he believed if they met a deal could be struck.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/08/26/Trump-says-ready-to-meet-Iran-s-president-to-solve-nuclear-impasse.html

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Trump says he may present Middle East peace plan in next three weeks

26 August 2019

President Donald Trump said Monday that his administration may release the much-anticipated full Middle East peace plan within the next three weeks. The first portion of the plan was publicized in June and unveiled the economic component.

Trump previously said last week that the plan would not be revealed before Israel’s election, scheduled for September 17th. The election is unprecedented as it is a repeat of April’s election when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an ally and personal friend of Trump, won but failed to form a coalition government.

The US proposal, which Trump has named the “Deal of the Century,” aims to resolve the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.

Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is said to be the main architect of the plan.

Kushner publicized the economic aspect of the proposal, a $50 billion economic plan for Palestine, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon, to the world at a two-day conference in Bahrain in June.

Speaking to Al Arabiya English at the time, Kushner called his economic plan for the Palestinian people “very ambitious.” He said the amount of money required to implement it would be less money on an annual basis than the annual donor aid Palestinians receive.

“We think we can double the GDP for the Palestinian people, improve their standard of life, create over a million new jobs, reduce the unemployment rate to below 10%, and reduce the poverty rate by about 50%,” Kushner told Al Arabiya’s Nadine Khammash in an exclusive interview at the workshop in Manama.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/08/26/Trump-says-he-may-present-Middle-East-peace-plan-in-next-three-weeks.html

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Trump says was aware of Iran FM’s surprise G7 visit, but ‘too soon’ to meet

26 August 2019

US President Donald Trump said from the G7 summit on Monday that he told French President Emmanuel Macron to "go ahead" and invite Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, but that it is “too soon” for him to meet Zarif.

Trump said he wanted to see a strong Iran and was not seeking regime change in Tehran, adding that the way Iranians were being forced to live was unacceptable. The president added that “Iran is under a lot of financial stress.”

He declined to comment on whether he would waive oil sanctions on Tehran in order to get the country to the negotiating table.

China trade war

President Donald Trump said on Monday China had contacted US trade officials overnight to say they wanted to return to the negotiating table, welcoming the news as a very positive development for the world.

Speaking on the sidelines of a summit of major industrialized nations, Trump hailed Chinese President Xi Jinping as a great leader and said he welcomed his desire for a deal and for calm.

An increasingly bitter trade war between the world’s two largest economies sharply escalated on Friday, with both sides leveling more tariffs on each other’s exports.

Talks with Merkel

Germany’s Angela Merkel said on Monday that she had productive talks with Trump on Iran, but that they still long way to go on the issue.

US President Donald Trump said on Monday there had been “great unity” among G7 leaders on the question of how to deal with Iran at a summit in France and they had “more or less” come to a conclusion.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/08/26/Trump-says-was-aware-of-Iran-FM-s-surprise-G7-visit-but-too-soon-to-meet.html

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Trump says Egypt ‘very important’ to Middle East peace process during El-Sisi G7 meeting

August 26, 2019

LONDON: US President Donald Trump praised his Egyptian counterpart on Monday and said he was a “very important” figure in the US Middle East peace plan.

The comments came a day after the Palestinian Authority condemned the US State Department for removing the “Palestinian Territories” from its website’s list of countries and areas in the Middle East, sparking outrage among Palestinian officials.

Trump met Abdel Fattah El-Sisi on the sidelines of the 45th G7 Summit in the French resort of Biarritz to discuss trade, regional issues and counter-terrorism.

“Great meeting this morning with President @AlsisiOfficial of Egypt at the Hôtel du Palais in Biarritz, France!” Trump tweeted following the talks.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Great meeting this morning with President @AlsisiOfficial of Egypt at the Hôtel du Palais in Biarritz, France! #G7Summit

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During the meeting, Trump lauded relations with Egypt, highlighting the country’s pivotal role in the Middle East and its efforts to counter terrorism and extremism and supporting peace and stability in the region, according to an official Egyptian statement.

Trump also congratulated El-Sisi for the progress Egypt has made under his leadership.

“Egypt has made great progress under President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, with an excellent team working with him,” Trump said. “I would like to congratulate you on that very much.”

El-Sisi said the two countries enjoy mutual understanding, appreciation, and respect.

“I was very pleased to meet with President @realDonaldTrump, where the meeting reassured the strength and depth of the strategic relations between both countries, and the ongoing positive development,” El-Sisi said on Twitter.

Trump said the US peace plan would not be announced before the Israeli elections, set to be held on Sept. 17.

The economic component of the plan was rolled out in Bahrain in June — a $50 billion development program for the Palestinians, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon. But Palestinian leaders boycotted the event, angered at the Trump administration’s approach and its decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem and slash finding for UN programs supporting Palestinians.

“I think the Palestinians would like to make a deal. As you know, I cut off most funding to the Palestinians — a lot of funding. And I think they’d like to get it back. I think they’d like to make a deal. We’ll see what happens. Nobody has ever done that before,” Trump said.

When asked by reporters whether removing Palestine from the State Department’s list of countries was conducive to peace, Trump said Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State, is “working very, very hard on that situation, and very competently.”

Arab News

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“We’d like to see if we can make a deal. It got complicated by the Israeli elections, but we’re going to know who the prime minister is going to be fairly soon,” Trump said.

Previous US administrations included the “Palestinian Territories” in its “Near Eastern Affairs: Countries and Other Areas” page and offered detailed information on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Cabinet, led by Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, condemned the deletion during its weekly meeting in Ramallah on Monday.

“The cabinet said that this US move confirms the American bias toward Israel, stressing that such move cannot override the Palestinian rights, which the world countries have unanimously recognized,” the cabinet statement said.

El-Sisi also met British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the two leaders agreed on the need to strengthen relations and committed to developing a “modern, strategic partnership.”

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1545651/middle-east

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US envoy rules out end to Afghan military support in Taliban deal

Aug 26, 2019

The US will defend Afghanistan’s security forces “now and after any agreement with the Taliban”, America’s lead negotiator hashing out a peace agreement with the insurgents said on Monday.

Zalmay Khalilzad, who began the ninth round of talks in Doha at the weekend, denied reports from Reuters news agency that quoted two senior Taliban negotiators as saying the US had agreed to end support for Afghan security forces as part of their deal to end America’s longest and most costly war.

No one should be intimidated or fooled by propaganda! Let me be clear: We will defend Afghan forces now and after any agreement with the Taliban,” Mr Khalilzad tweeted. “All sides agree Afghanistan’s future will be determined in intra-Afghan negotiations.”

US and Taliban officials have been negotiating in Qatar since last year on an agreement centred on the withdrawal of American forces, and an end to their longest war, in exchange for a Taliban guarantee that international militant groups will not plot from Afghan soil.

US negotiators have been pressing the Taliban to agree to peace talks with the Kabul government and to a ceasefire, but a senior Taliban official said that would not happen.

"We will continue our fight against the Afghan government and seize power by force," a Taliban commander told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

President Donald Trump is impatient to withdraw troops out of Afghanistan and end the 18-year war that was launched after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US.

But there are fears among Afghan officials and US national security aides that an American troop withdrawal could see Afghanistan plunged into a new round of civil war that could herald a return of Taliban rule and international militants, including ISIS, finding a refuge.

The Taliban commander said that he expected a deal to be signed this week.

More than 14,000 US troops remain in Afghanistan, training and advising Afghan forces and conducting counterinsurgency operations. The US also provides much-needed air support for troops on the ground and carries out regular strikes against Taliban fighters.

About 17,000 troops from Nato allies and partners make up a Nato-led train, advise, assist mission called Resolute Support in Afghanistan.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/asia/us-envoy-rules-out-end-to-afghan-military-support-in-taliban-deal-1.902765

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Pakistan

 

Pakistan's Khan warns Kashmir issue could lead to nuclear war

Aug 26, 2019

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has warned that the issue of Kashmir could lead to a nuclear war between Islamabad and New Delhi if the international community failed to intervene.

Khan made the warning on Monday as he was addressing Pakistan on the situation in Kashmir after India earlier this month revoked the special status of the disputed region.

"The oppression currently suffered by the Kashmiri people, and the further oppression that is set to take place, mean that the United Nations now has a huge responsibility, to show whether it stands with the weak or the powerful,” the Pakistani premier said.

"If the [Kashmir] conflict moves towards war then remember both nations have nuclear weapons and no one is a winner in a nuclear war,” Khan added. “It will not only wreak havoc in this region, but the entire world will face consequences. It is now up to the international community."

The Pakistani prime minister said Islamabad had made attempts to open dialogue with India but had not found the same support from the other side.

Khan also noted that his government would stand by the people of Kashmir until India lifted the restrictions on the region.

Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since their partition from Britain in 1947. Both countries claim all of Kashmir and have fought three wars over the territory.

On August 5, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a surprise move, revoked Article 370 in the Indian constitution that had granted Kashmir special autonomy, the most far-reaching political move on the disputed region in nearly 70 years.

The controversial move not only infuriated India’s nuclear-armed Pakistan, which controls parts of Kashmir, but also sparked strong anger among the local population, who want their region to be merged with Pakistan.

Pakistan has called the decision “illegal” and has expelled the Indian ambassador to Islamabad.

The Indian premier has claimed that the decision was necessary for Kashmir’s economic development and also to stop “terrorism.”

Other countries have called for restraint and de-escalation.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/08/26/604560/Pakistan-Imran-Khan-Kashmir-nuclear-war

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Gunmen on motorcycles attack police in NW Pakistan, 2 killed

August 24, 2019

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan — Pakistani police say gunmen on motorcycles attacked a security post overnight in the northwestern Daraban Kalan area, killing two employees at a nearby gas station.

Police officer Tariq Khan said Saturday that the eight militants also wounded two people in a bus getting gas when the shooting started at around midnight Friday.

A faction of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place close to the former Taliban stronghold in South Waziristan bordering Afghanistan.

Full report at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/gunmen-on-motorcycles-attack-police-in-nw-pakistan-2-killed/2019/08/24/ce9c4860-c649-11e9-8bf7-cde2d9e09055_story.html?noredirect=on

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Pak UN envoy meets UNGA president, discusses Kashmir issue

Aug 27, 2019

NEW YORK (US): Pakistan's permanent representative to the United Nations, Maleeha Lodhi, on Monday met president of United National General Assembly Maria Fernanda Espinosa and discussed the Kashmir issue, reported Express Tribune.

This comes days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi met UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres in France and conveyed to him that revoking Article 370 was India's internal matter and no step has been taken by New Delhi that in any manner threatens regional peace.

Lodhi's meeting is yet another attempt at flogging a dead horse by Islamabad as the country has found itself completely isolated despite desperate attempts aimed at internationalising the issue

India has categorically apprised Pakistan that revoking of the article, which left the neighbour rattled, is an "internal matter".

Following the Indian decision, Pakistan had sent its foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to China to seek its help at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), urging for an emergency meeting on the issue. However, four out of five permanent members in the United Nations did not support Pakistan contentions over India's decision.

Cash-strapped Pakistan has also alleged that India's decision of revoking the provisions under Article 370 will not only threaten the regional peace but also the world peace and further downgraded its diplomatic ties with its neighbour and suspended bilateral trade in the wake of it.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pak-un-envoy-meets-unga-president-discusses-kashmir-issue/articleshow/70854670.cms

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Imran Khan, Saudi Crown Prince discuss Kashmir issue third time

Aug 27, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday night briefed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman about Kashmir issue over a phone call, reported ARY News.

It was the third time the two leaders talked to discuss the regional developments since India abrogated special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

Previously, Khan had called MBS and discussed the issue last week.

Pakistan has been rattled by the Indian government's move to strip the special status to Jammu and Kashmir and has found itself completely isolated despite desperate attempts aimed at internationalising the issue.

Islamabad has been snubbed on all fronts as the international community has made it clear that the Kashmir issue is strictly New Delhi's internal matter.

The Pakistan government has downgraded bilateral ties with India in the wake of the decision and said it will consider all steps to counter what it described "illegal steps" taken by New Delhi.

Two days after New Delhi revoked the Article, Khan had "briefed" the Saudi prince.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/imran-khan-saudi-crown-prince-discuss-kashmir-issue-third-time/articleshow/70851992.cms

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Pakistan president gets Twitter notice for his Kashmir tweet

Aug 26, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Twitter has served a notice to Pakistan president Arif Alvi regarding a tweet he posted on Saturday on Kashmir. The notice by Twitter refers to a tweet of Alvi which he had posted along with a video and says that the microblogging site received a complaint against his account.

Alvi had tweeted: “This is Srinagar yesterday despite curfews, bans, blackouts, teargas & firing. No amount of oppression & brutality can suppress the resentment of the Kashmiris against India. They want freedom at all costs. Please retweet and let the world know.”

However, TOI could not verify the date and location of the video that Alvi had posted.

Pakistan’s human rights minister Shireen Mazari posted the notice received by Alvi on her Twitter handle and criticized the microblogging site saying its move was in “bad taste and simply ridiculous”.

On Sunday, Pakistan communication minister Murad Saeed said he has also received a notice from Twitter saying one of his tweets has violated Indian laws.

Twitter recently suspended over 200 Pakistani accounts commenting on the Kashmir situation.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-president-gets-twitter-notice-for-his-kashmir-tweet/articleshow/70848501.cms

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Imran is now self-styled Kashmir ‘ambassador

Aug 26, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Monday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “historic blunder” of revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir has paved the way for the “freedom” of the Himalayan region and that the time has come for Pakistan’s Kashmir policy to take a “decisive” turn.

The Pakistan PM also warned the international community that both his country and India are nuclear weapons states and a nuclear war has no winners.

The onus, Khan said, was on the UN to help the “oppressed” people of Kashmir. “Historically, the world bodies have always sided with the powerful, but I want to tell the UN that 1.25 billion Muslims are looking towards it to see if it will act,” he said. “Will these big countries keep looking at their economic interests only? They should remember that both India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons. In a nuclear war, no one will win. It will not only wreak havoc in this region, but the entire world will face consequences,” he said.

“Time will prove that the Indian government has given an opportunity to the Kashmiri people to get their freedom. They (India) have played their last card,” Khan said in a televised address to the nation on his government’s future strategy on the situation.

Khan said he would “act as Kashmir’s ambassador” and tell the international community that this Indian government “is not an ordinary government but one which follows a dangerous ideology”. He added that he had shared this with heads of state and that he would raise this issue at the UN and discuss it during meetings with world leaders at the UN General Assembly in New York, Khan said.

“We won on the diplomatic front; we internationalised the Kashmir issue, talked to heads of state, their embassies (and) the UN Security Council called a session on Kashmir for the first time since 1965. We also kept raising this for the international media to report and they picked this up,” he said, adding that the Western media has never criticised India as much as it is doing right now.

“I read in the newspapers that people are disappointed that Muslim countries are not siding with Kashmir. I want to tell you not to be disappointed; if some countries are not raising this issue because of their economic interests, they will eventually take this issue up. They will have to, with time,” the PM said. “I want to assure the Kashmiri people that whether the world stands with them or not, Pakistan will,” Khan said.

He announced that till the UNGA’s upcoming session, every week a 30-minute event would be held to express solidarity with the people of Kashmir. The first event, he said, would be on Friday from 12-12.30 pm.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/imran-says-time-for-paks-kashmir-policy-to-take-decisive-turn-warns-world-of-nuclear-danger/articleshow/70848377.cms

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Pakistan does not want escalation, says foreign minister

August 27, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Monday dismissed India’s ‘all is well’ in occupied Kashmir mantra as “deceptive”.

He was speaking at a seminar on ‘Annexation of Occupied Kashmir by Modi’s India: Challenges and Responses’ organised by the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs.

US President Donald Trump, who has recently on a couple of occasions offered mediation on Kashmir dispute, after his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of G-7 Summit in France said: “We spoke last night about Kashmir, prime minister really feels he has it under control.”

Indian government’s move to annex the occupied territory has been widely resented by the Kashmiris. In a bid to pre-empt protests against the revocation of Article 370 that ended special status for occupied Kashmir, New Delhi imposed a day and night curfew in the valley, which is now in its 22nd day, enforced a communication blackout, and troops presence was unprecedentedly increased. Nearly 50,00 Kashmiris have, moreover, been detained.

The underlying thinking was to convey an image of normalcy to the world, but reporting from the region, despite heavy curbs, has suggested that the situation was otherwise.

The Modi regime, the foreign minister said, was recycling ‘half-baked truths’ to delegitimise the indigenous Kashmiri struggle for the right to self-determination by equating it with terrorism and detracting the world’s attention from its inhuman repression of the uprising.

Mr Qureshi called for amplifying the voices of Kashmiris and ending their sufferings.

“Pakistan will go to every forum to ensure that Indian atrocities in IOK are halted and the dispute is resolved in line with the aspiration of the Kashmiris and the UNSC resolutions,” he resolved.

Asking the world to play its role for preventing tensions over Kashmir, which he described as a nuclear flashpoint, from aggravating, he emphasised that silence on the issue was not an option.

“Indian aggression and hegemonic designs are a threat to regional peace and security and need to be taken seriously,” he said while underscoring that Pakistan did not want to escalate the situation and remains ready for ending confrontation.

Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari remarked that India was gradually climbing the escalation ladder and there had been a qualitative shift in the type of LoC violations. She said that India was developing Bramos missile, which was a major concern for Pakistan because it was a supersonic technology with very little response time.

Senate Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed said Kashmiris had been resiliently resisting Indian actions in the valley despite the brutalities being committed by the Indian government.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1501923/pakistan-does-not-want-escalation-says-foreign-minister

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Information ministry to set up Kashmir media cell: PM aide

Kalbe Ali

August 27, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan has announced that the information and broadcasting ministry will establish a Kashmir media cell in coordination with the central media department of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

Talking to the media at the PTI office here on Monday, Dr Awan said the information ministry had taken technical support from the PTI media cell earlier too.

“The social media cell of the PTI has cooperated with the government in establishing the official social media cell under the information ministry,” she said.

The special assistant was accompanied by PTI information secretary Ahmed Jawad and former information secretary Umar Cheema, who is currently heading a think tank of the party.

She said that since the government was led by the PTI, it was the responsibility of the party to extend required support to government institutions. Dr Awan said that the aim of setting up of the Kashmir media cell was to collect and disseminate authentic information about ground realities in occupied Kashmir.

“We do not have free flow of information from occupied Kashmir due to clampdown and curfew by the Modi government. Therefore, it is essential for the government to collect all available information at the Kashmir media cell in the information ministry and provide it to the Foreign Office, local media as well the members of civil society,” she said.

She said Prime Minister Imran Khan had successfully made Kashmir an international issue, but it was the responsibility of relevant government departments to carry it forward.

“If we stay quiet now, the world will never know about the gross human rights violations being committed by the extremist Modi government,” she added.

In reply to a question about the special honour given to Indian PM Narendra Modi by the UAE, Dr Awan said that there had been gaps in Pakistan’s foreign relations during the previous governments.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1501922/information-ministry-to-set-up-kashmir-media-cell-pm-aide

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British lawmakers urge peaceful resolution of Kashmir dispute

Aug 27, 2019

ISLAMABAD: A five-member British parliamentary delegation on Monday assured National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser that Britain will continue to raise its voice at every forum for peaceful resolution of Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions, adding that peaceful resolution of Kashmir dispute will guarantee regional security.

Speaker Qaiser in his remarks said the British parliament should use its influence for a resolution of Kashmir dispute as per aspirations of Kashmiri people. The speaker pointed out that Kashmir dispute is an unfinished agenda of the partition of the sub-continent.

He further said the continuation of curfew in occupied Kashmir and denying the Kashmiri people their religious freedom is a serious violation of human rights. “The world should take notice of the human rights violations in the occupied territory,” Qaiser said.

Referring to bilateral relations between Pakistan and Britain, the speaker said Pakistan desires to strengthen its relations with Britain in diverse fields including economy, trade and education.

He also stressed for greater parliamentary exchanges between the two countries in order to learn from each other’s experiences.

The British delegation also expressed the desire to further expand and strengthen relations with Pakistan in different fields.

Later while addressing a news conference, the British parliamentary delegation said the world should take notice of grave human rights violations in the occupied Kashmir.

Voicing concerns over the prevailing situation in occupied Kashmir, the parliamentary delegation said the world must act now before it is too late.

The British delegation said the Indian unilateral action of revoking the special status of the territory is questionable. “The very action is in contravention of India’s own constitution as well as the UNSC resolutions and international laws,” the delegation said.

The British Parliament members added any change in the status of Kashmir can be made with the consent of Kashmiri people.

The delegation was appreciative of the UNSC meeting on Kashmir dispute but stressed the world body must call spade a spade on the situation in the valley. “We stand for justice and will also visit the Line of Control to observe the situation,” they said.

In his remarks, Chairman of Special Committee on Kashmir Fakhar Imam said partition of the sub-continent is incomplete without resolution of festering Kashmir dispute. “The UNSC meeting on Kashmir is a recognition of the fact that Kashmir is a disputed territory,” he said.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/08/26/british-lawmakers-urge-peaceful-resolution-of-kashmir-dispute/

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Karachi’s Rohingyas strive for success instead of identity

August 25, 2019

KARACHI: Unlike nearly a million Rohingya Muslims living in shelter camps in Bangladesh, Noor Ahmed, 55, lodges in a huge house in a middle-income neighborhood of the eastern district of Karachi.

He is one of the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims — often referred to as Burmese — who have made Karachi their home over the past several years. However, contrary to a majority of his countrymen who have been living in impoverished conditions even by Karachi’s standard, Ahmed manages a roaring business.

Sitting in his jewellery store in the middle-income ‘Burma Colony’ locality, which is one of the two main Rohingya settlements in Karachi, Ahmed narrates his success story.

“I migrated to Pakistan via Bangladesh and India after a gruelling journey in 1982 with a group of Rohingya. I was the only one who migrated and settled in Karachi at that time,” he recalls while talking to Anadolu Agency.

His parents and two younger brothers and a sister reunited with him a couple of years later.

Like most of the Rohingya immigrants, Ahmed initially worked as a labourer in a fishery company but soon found a job at a small jewellery shop, where he worked for next seven years, working his way up to sales assistantship.

“I started my own [jewellery] business in partnership with a friend in a portion of a shop in 1992. I still remember that in the first month, we earned a mere Rs2,000 profit,” Ahmed says, recalling the initial hard times, which also led to his business partner’s withdrawal.

“There had been several ups and downs, including a time when I almost defaulted. But I did not lose hope and continued to struggle,” he explains, adding his business started to flourish after five tough years.

Today, Ahmed owns a business not only in Pakistan but also in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Born and raised in Karachi, Mohammad Ibrahim, 39, who has recently been promoted as an assistant professor at a local college, is another success story. His parents had migrated to Karachi in the 1970s.

“My parents worked hard and made me go to school, and then college and university, unlike many other children who simply worked to add to their parents’ income,” he says.

Ibrahim completed a Masters degree in Islamic Studies from the University of Karachi, and was appointed a lecturer at a college after he cleared the government service examination in 2005.

The Rohingya, described by the UN as among the world’s most persecuted people, have faced heightened fear of attacks since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

They are now facing a threat of forced repatriation by the Bangladeshi government despite no citizenship rights and safety guarantees from a defiant Myanmar government.

No official status

Ahmed and Ibrahim refused to get their pictures taken.

“Officially, I am not a Rohingya, but a Bengali,” Ahmed says with a smile.

“In fact, you will not officially find any Rohingya here [Pakistan]. They all dub themselves as Bengalis [who migrated or opted to stay in Pakistan after creation of Bangladesh in 1971] to get citizenship, jobs and other benefits,” he claims.

Rohingya, who came to Pakistan between 1971 and 1980, were granted citizenship along with other communities that migrated from Bangladesh. After 1980, the government blocked citizenship for them though some managed to gain identity cards and passports by bribing officials.

“Being Rohingya means nothing to immigration authorities. There is no word Rohingya in their dictionary,” says Qari Mohammad Saleh, general secretary of the Karachi-based Rohingya Solidarity Organisation (RSO), echoing Ahmed’s words.

“We are advised by the officials — in good faith — to introduce ourselves as Bengali rather than Rohingya if we want to get passports and identification cards,” says Qari Saleh, who migrated to Pakistan in 1985.

Frequent media visits since 2017 have led the community to be even more conscious against pushback towards their nationality.

“Portrayal of Rohingya as illegal immigrants by several media outlets has alarmed them. They no longer introduce themselves as Rohingya,” he adds.

Ethnic tensions in Sindh have also led to tight immigration scrutiny as many local Sindhis accuse Afghan, Bengali, and Rohingya immigrants of disturbing the province’s ethnic equilibrium.

Karachi is home to more than 400,000 Rohingya Muslims, the highest number after Myanmar and now Bangladesh, unofficial estimates suggest.

“We do not have exact figures because in the census we are counted as Bengalis. Therefore, we do not know the exact figures of Rohingya in Pakistan,” Saleh maintains.

Young Rohingya, especially girls, have inclined to pursue their education in recent years, even from poor families.

Educational trusts comprising local traders and rich community members are running several schools and vocational centres in both settlements.

Al-Khidmat Foundation — the relief wing of Jamaat-i-Islami — is also running a school, and other relief projects in impoverished Arkanabad.

“Not only has the younger generation but their uneducated parents also have recognised the importance of education during the last one decade,” says Noorul Bashar, the principal of Arakan Muslim Secondary School in Burma Colony.

Some 800 students, 60 per cent of them girls, have been enrolled in the school. Several former students of the school are currently serving in banks, educational institutes and armed forces.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1501515

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South Asia

 

Multiple airstrikes kill at least 66 Taliban militants in Ghor

27 Aug 2019

The security forces conducted multiple airstrikes in Ghor province which killed at least 66 Taliban militants.

The informed military sources said Tuesday that the security forces conducted the airstrikes in the vicinity of Shahrak district.

“Multiple airstrikes in Shahrak district killed 66 Taliban Fighters and destroyed a large weapons cache,” the sources said.

The anti-government armed militants including Taliban have not commented regarding the airstrikes so far.

This comes as the security situation in certain parts of Ghor province has deteriorated during the recent months.

Taliban militants are active in some districts of the province and often conduct terrorist related activities.

Meanwhile, the Afghan forces routinely conduct counter-terrorism operations against the anti-government armed groups in this province.

The U.S. forces also conduct regular airstrikes in restive parts of the country to suppress Taliban and other anti-government militants.

https://www.khaama.com/multiple-airstrikes-kill-at-least-66-taliban-militants-in-ghor-03776/

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3rd Rohingya refugee killed by Bangladeshi police

Aug 26, 2019

A third Rohingya refugee has been shot dead by the Bangladeshi police during a gunfight at a camp.

Local police chief Prodeep Kumar Das said on Monday that Mohammad Hasan, a suspected Rohingya “dacoit” or gang member, was killed after he allegedly opened fire at officers during a raid to detain him at Jadimura refugee camp.

“He is an accused in the murder of Omar Faruk,” the police official said, referring to a ruling Awami League party youth wing official who was shot in the head by suspected criminals last week.

Police on Saturday shot dead two Rohingya refugees at the same camp in the Cox’s Bazar district over their alleged role in the murder.

Rights activists said they believed the two Rohingya men were killed by police in what appeared to be a staged encounter.

Faruk’s murder had sparked anger among the local population, with hundreds of furious people blocking a key highway leading to the camp for hours on Thursday.

Rohingya refugees have said the recent bloodshed has created an atmosphere of fear in the camp.

Figures show at least 33 Rohingya people have been killed by the Bangladeshi police and security forces since August 2017.

Ruhul Amin, a police inspector, said most were suspected drug traffickers, accused of smuggling yaba, a popular methamphetamine pill, from across Myanmar’s border.

Nearly one million Rohingya Muslims live in squalid camps in south-east Bangladesh, 740,000 of whom fled the 2017 military crackdown against the Muslim minority in Myanmar.

Thousands of Rohingya Muslims were killed, injured, arbitrarily arrested, or raped by Myanmar’s soldiers and Buddhist mobs mainly between November 2016 and August 2017.

The UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar said in a recent report that the scale of sexual violence against the Rohingya was an indication of the Myanmar military’s “genocidal intent.”

The latest incident comes days after a second failed attempt to repatriate the refugees, which saw not a single Rohingya turn up to return across the border to conflict-scarred Rakhine state.

On Sunday, the Rohingya marked two years since the military offensive in Myanmar. Thousands rallied at a camp where refugee leaders vowed they would not return home unless their security and rights were ensured.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/08/26/604539/Bangladesh-rohingya

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As U.S.-Taliban deal nears, Afghanistan’s Ghani hardens resolve to hold elections on time

By Pamela Constable

August 25, 2019

KABUL — As 10 months of U.S.-Taliban peace talks enter their final stage, President Ashraf Ghani is doubling down on his determination to hold a presidential election in five weeks, as scheduled, while aides are hurriedly prepping negotiators to meet with Taliban leaders even sooner if a deal is reached with U.S. officials.

Ghani, who is seeking a second five-year term, has rejected concerns raised by critics, who say peace is a higher priority than elections, and politics cannot be allowed to interfere in the country’s first real chance to end an 18-year war that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives.

Ghani’s government is not a party to the U.S.-Taliban talks.

The negotiations entered their ninth round Friday in Qatar, and both sides said they hope to work out the final issues soon. Under a draft agreement, the United States would withdraw 5,000 troops in coming months and could pull out 9,000 more by next year. The Taliban, in return, would cut ties with al-Qaeda.

Still unclear is whether the insurgents would agree to a permanent cease-fire and to talks with the government. A Taliban spokesman said Saturday the agreement would be completed after discussions on implementation and “some technical points.” Both sides rejected reports Saturday that they had agreed to form an interim government in Kabul.

Ghani said last week he would not accept a delay in the Sept. 28 polls even if the insurgents were to announce a cease-fire. The Taliban, he told ToloNews TV, “are a part of this country, but they are not the determinant of the fate of this country.” He said his job as president is “to save the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan ... to save the system at any cost.”

The president’s comments came as national election officials announced that at least 2,000 of about 7,400 polling stations will not open on election day because they cannot be protected. The Taliban has threatened to attack election sites across the country, and most of the stations that will not open are in insurgent-plagued provinces. The Taliban controls nearly half of the nation’s 400 districts.

Critics have accused Ghani, a 70-year-old former World Bank official, of putting his political ambitions ahead of the public’s overwhelming desire for peace.

Some say he wants to dominate the intra-Afghan peace talks, which are planned to start after the United States and the Taliban reach a deal, because he has been sidelined from the U.S.-Taliban talks at the insistence of the insurgents. The Afghan-to-Afghan talks will be aimed at framing a future power-sharing arrangement.

“The president who represents his nation needs to be flexible and listen to their demands ... not to act as dictators do,” the Afghanistan Times wrote Saturday.

“What is most important for people is a lasting peace,” the newspaper opined. “We can hold elections later,” when stability returns and more voters can turn out to choose their next leader.

Aides to Ghani said he believes the government must enter talks with the Taliban with a strong mandate, which only elections can provide. Ghani’s term ended in May but was extended by the Supreme Court.

Aides said he is determined to protect the democratic rights and institutions built since a U.S.-led force overthrew the Taliban in 2001.

The insurgents want to create an Islamist emirate.

“For a lot of us, what’s at stake is the survival of the Republic,” said Nader Nadery, a senior aide to the president. With most candidates running on a peace platform, even an election with low turnout is “better than an extended term with no mandate,” he said.

“We don’t have the luxury of saying ‘Let’s postpone the elections to get more credibility.’ ”

Nadery said the government has been working quickly to prepare for talks with the Taliban, which could come within weeks if a deal is struck with the United States. A small group of delegates is being trained in the art of negotiation, and an array of political leaders have been named to a consultative council.

Still, many Afghans fear a hasty U.S. withdrawal will leave their leaders with little leverage to pressure the insurgents. On Saturday, a Taliban spokesman tweeted a video showing the chief Taliban negotiator telling a gathering that U.S. forces are “on the run” and will leave very soon.

“Americans are facing defeat,” the negotiator said. “Afghanistan will be free again.”

Ghani is facing 16 contenders, led by his government’s former chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah.

His strongest rival, former national security adviser Hanif Atmar, has quit the race.

Ghani is expected to win, but Abdullah showed some strength on Sunday with a boisterous rally in the capital that drew several thousand women and key ethnic Hazara leaders who had previously supported Atmar.

“We are seeing a revolution here today,” Babur Farahmand, one of Abdullah’s two running mates, told the cheering crowd. Today’s Afghan women, he said, “don’t want to be window dressing. They want to be active in politics and all fields. ... We will be with you!”

Some critics have accused the president of unfairly using the power of his office and the purse, such as offering people senior posts and advisory roles and spending lavishly on his campaign, to enhance his prospects of reelection.

Some say his administration has too much power to sway election officials, who are technically independent.

Full report at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/as-us-taliban-deal-nears-afghanistans-ghani-hardens-resolve-to-hold-elections-on-time/2019/08/24/b71f9204-c66d-11e9-8bf7-cde2d9e09055_story.html?noredirect=on

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Haqqani terrorist network’s target killer arrested in Kabul

26 Aug 2019

The Afghan forces arrested a member of the Haqqani terrorist network in Kabul.

The detained suspect was conducting target killings of the government employees in Kabul.

The Kabul Police Headquarters said in a statement that the detained Haqqani terrorist network member was operating from Dehsabz district of Kabul.

The statement further added that the security forces arrested the suspect during an operation on Saturday night.

He had earlier murdered an individual in Tarakhel Village on charges of working for the government.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/haqqani-terrorist-networks-target-killer-arrested-in-kabul-03769/

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Will have good news for the Afghans in coming days: Abdullah

25 Aug 2019

Presidential Contender and the Chief Executive of the National Unity Government Abdullah Abdullah has promised to deliver good news to the Afghan people, particularly to his supporters in coming days.

Speaking during a gathering in Kabul earlier today, Abdullah vowed to deliver good news in coming days but did not elaborate further.

However, he said the members of the Solidarity Council of Jamiat-e-Islami have formally declared their support to his team for the upcoming presidential elections.

Abdullah further added that two or three members of the council have endorsed the rival teams, emphasizing that he will not harm his friendship with them.

Abdullah made the remarks during a gathering, the national convention of women in Kabul earlier today.

He was apparently pointing to Chief Executive of Jamiat Islami Ata Mohammad Noor who had earlier endorsed Mohammad Haneef Atmar for next month’s presidential elections.

Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq who had also endorsed Mr. Atmar’s team, on Friday announced his formal endorsement from Abdullah’s team, days after Mr. Atmar announced the postponement of election campaigns.

Postponement of election campaigns by Mohammad Haneef Atmar

Earlier, reports emerged suggesting that Atmar’s team did not launch election campaigns due to differences among the members of the team.

According to reports, the two key members of the team, Ata Mohammad Noor and Mohammad Younus Qanooni had agreed with Mr. Atmar to modify the constitution of Afghanistan and change the structure of the government from a centralized to a semi-centralized system.

However, the Peace and Moderation collapsed after the other members of the team, specifically the Pashtun leaders did not reach to an agreement in this regard.

Meanwhile, Abdullah said the overwhelming presence of women in political and social arena gives a heart-warming message to his team besides demonstrating a major evolution on national level.

He also added that economic, social and political development would be impossible without the participation of women.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/will-have-good-news-for-the-afghans-in-coming-days-abdullah-03763/

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Taliban’s shadow district chief among 15 killed in Balkh province

27 Aug 2019

The security forces killed at least 15 Taliban militants during the latest operations in Balkh province.

The 209th Shaheen Corps said in a statement the security forces conducted the operations in Sholgara district of Balkh.

The statement further added that the security forces killed 15 Taliban militants during the operations including Malwavi Abdul Ahad, the shadow district chief of Taliban for Kant.

The Taliban group has not commented regarding the operations so far.

https://www.khaama.com/talibans-shadow-district-chief-among-15-killed-in-balkh-province-03775/

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U.S. to defend Afghan forces now and after any deal with Taliban: Khalilzad

26 Aug 2019

The U.S. envoy for Afghan peace Zalmay Khalilzad has said the United States remains committed to defend the Afghan forces even after it signed a peace deal with Taliban.

He made the remarks in reaction to a news report in which two Taliban commanders had claimed that the U.S. may cut support to the Afghan government after signing a deal with the group.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Khalilzad said in a Twitter post “No one should be intimidated or fooled by propoganda! Let me be clear: We will defend Afghan forces now and after any agreement w/ the Talibs. All sides agree Afghanistan’s future will be determined in intra-Afghan negotiations.”

Ambassador Khalilzad further added “A Reuters report quoting two unnamed Talib commanders alleges we will cease support of the Afghan forces as part of any agreement. Not true!”

This comes as the U.S. and Taliban representatives are engaged in talks to finalize the draft peace deal.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/u-s-to-defend-afghan-forces-now-and-after-any-deal-with-taliban-khalilzad-03774/

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Southeast Asia

 

Indonesia to move capital from sinking Jakarta to Borneo

26 August 2019

Indonesia’s president announced Monday that the country’s capital will move from overcrowded, sinking and polluted Jakarta to a site in sparsely populated East Kalimantan province on Borneo island, known for rainforests and orangutans.

President Joko Widodo said intense studies over the past three years had resulted in the choice of the location on the eastern side of Borneo island.

The new capital city, which has not yet been named, will be in the middle of the vast archipelago nation and already has relatively complete infrastructure because it is near the cities of Balikpapan and Samarinda, Widodo said.

He said the burden has been become too heavy on Jakarta on Java island as the center of government, finance, business, trade and services as well as the location of the country’s largest airport and seaport.

Widodo said the decision was made not to move the capital elsewhere on Java because the country’s wealth and people are highly concentrated there and should be spread out.

Currently 54 percent of the country’s nearly 270 million people live on Java, the country’s most densely populated area.

“We couldn’t continue to allow the burden on Jakarta and Java island to increase in terms of population density,” Widodo said at a news conference in Jakarta’s presidential palace. “Economic disparities between Java and elsewhere would also increase.”

In an interview with The Associated Press last month, Widodo said he wants to separate the center of government from the country’s business and economic center in Jakarta.

Jakarta is an archetypical Asian mega-city with 10 million people, or 30 million including those in its greater metropolitan area. It is prone to earthquakes and flooding and is rapidly sinking due to uncontrolled extraction of ground water. The ground water is highly contaminated as are its rivers. Congestion is estimated to cost the economy $6.5 billion a year.

Mineral-rich East Kalimantan was once almost completely covered by rainforests, but illegal logging has removed many of its original growth. It is home to only 3.5 million people and is surrounded by Kutai National Park, known for orangutans and other primates and mammals.

Widodo said the relocation of the capital to a 180,000-hectare (444,780-acre) site will take up a decade and cost as much as 466 trillion rupiah ($32.5 billion), of which 19 percent will come from the state budget and the rest will be funded by cooperation between the government and business entities and by direct investment by state-run companies and the private sector.

He said the studies determined that the best site is between two districts, North Penajam Paser and Kutai Kertanegara, an area that has minimal risk of disasters such as floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, forest fires, volcanic eruptions or landslides in the seismically active nation.

Indonesia’s founding father and first president, Sukarno, once planned to relocate the country’s capital to Palangkaraya in Central Kalimantan province.

Infrastructure improvement has been Widodo’s signature policy and helped him win a second term in April elections.

Decades of discussions about building a new capital on Borneo island moved forward in April when Widodo approved a general relocation plan. He appealed for support for the move in an annual national address on the eve of Indonesia’s independence day on August 16.

He said Monday that his government is still drafting a law on the new capital which will need to be approved by Parliament.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/08/26/Indonesia-to-move-capital-from-sinking-Jakarta-to-Borneo.html

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Churches want action after Malay-Muslim coalition accuses Christians of infiltrating Putrajaya

27 August 2019

BY JERRY CHOONG

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 27 — The Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM) has lambasted a Malay-Muslim coalition for accusing local Christian leaders of a conspiracy to dominate leadership positions in the country, urging authorities to act on the inflammatory remark.

Its general secretary Reverend Hermen Shastri said the umbrella body “detests in the strongest terms” the remarks made by Gerakan Pembela Ummah chairman and Ikatan Muslim Malaysia (Isma) president Aminuddin Yahaya, who singled out the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM).

“It is unfounded and meant to fear-monger by rallying the Muslims to name Christians as enemies,” he told Malay Mail.

“It only goes to show that Ummah is bankrupt of ideas and therefore have to resort to such tactics to divide our nation and stoke fears of inter-religious tensions.

He added, “This is tantamount to inciting hatred towards a minority religious community and the authorities should act decisively to stop such actions that seek to derail good interfaith relations in the country.”

In his opening speech during the National Ummah Unity Convention on Sunday, Aminuddin alleged that one of CFM’s resolutions is to place as many Christians as possible in national leadership positions, as part of an evangelical drive.

He had also named Christian evangelism as one of the major threats to the majority Malay-Muslim community along with liberalism and human rights, and accused Christian evangelists of becoming more brazen in spreading their beliefs to Muslims.

The CFM did not respond to Malay Mail’s request for comments.

This comes as Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin expressed concern over rising tensions due to issues related to race, religion and royalty.

The home minister said he had directed the police to take note of sensitive issues raised by anyone including religious figures.

Malay-Muslim conservative groups, such as Isma, have also consistently spoken out against “Christianisation” as an alleged threat to the Malay-Muslim community in recent years.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/08/27/churches-want-action-after-malay-muslim-coalition-accuses-christians-of-inf/1784479

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PAS leader demands updates on investigations of five DAP leaders

27 August 2019

BY JERRY CHOONG

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 27 — PAS deputy president Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man pressed authorities today on the progress of the investigations into the five DAP leaders who were the subject of police reports.

He said the public has a right to know about these and updates would also show that the probes were fair and transparent.

“The five cases involving DAP leaders are very critical, as these touched upon the sensitivities of the rakyat which can trigger racial tensions. The government and police must provide a clear explanation regarding these cases,” Tuan Ibrahim said in a statement.

He listed the five cases, beginning with Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P. Ramasamy, whom he said was linked to the leadership of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam terror group and shown engaging in rituals worshipping an AK-47 rifle.

“Secondly, Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran, who accused the Malays of being pendatang, and for trying to strike the heads of history teachers during a programme organised at Nilai, in Negri Sembilan.

“Thirdly, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office P. Waytha Moorthy, who has slandered the (previous) government by claiming it mistreated, discriminated and oppressed the Indian community in Malaysia,” Tuan Ibrahim said.

However, Waytha is not a member of DAP as Tuan Ibrahim claimed, but instead belongs to the Malaysian Advancement Party, of which he is the president and sole seat holder in the Dewan Rakyat.

“Fourthly, the Selangor exco V. Ganabatirau, who accused Muslim groups of attacking the Sri Mariamman Temple in USJ 25, Subang Jaya.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/08/27/pas-leader-demands-updates-on-investigations-of-five-dap-leaders/1784624

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Zakir Naik not above the law, says Muhyiddin

Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh

August 26, 2019

GOMBAK: Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin today said that no one is above the law if they are shown to have committed wrongdoing, including controversial Indian Muslim preacher Dr Zakir Naik.

He said although Naik had received support and even invitations to meet with party leaders including ministers from PPBM, this would not affect the investigation against him.

“It does not mean that we are tied to their views. We will act based on the rule of law,” he said in a press conference here, adding however that a detailed probe must be conducted.

Naik is currently the subject of a police investigation based on over 100 reports filed against him.

He has been questioned several times at the Bukit Aman federal police headquarters under Section 504 of the Penal Code for intentional insult with intent to provoke a breach of peace, as a result of remarks made in public speeches in Kota Bharu, Kelantan. Authorities last week announced a nationwide gag order on the preacher, who is now prohibited from speaking in public whether through talks or social media platforms.

Muhyiddin said Naik’s status as a permanent resident (PR) meant that the preacher should adhere to the laws of the country.

He added that Naik should appreciate his PR status and consider it a privilege.

“He cannot go against our ethics and laws,” he said. “It’s not that we don’t respect him, don’t misunderstand. He is a religious figure. But if he sometimes touches on issues, like now, we cannot let it be.”

Muhyiddin said Naik’s statements had caused instability and widespread dissatisfaction.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2019/08/26/zakir-naik-not-above-the-law-says-muhyiddin/

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India

 

Chenani-Nashri tunnel in J&K may be named after BJP ideologue

Aug 27, 2019

NEW DELHI: Chenani-Nashri tunnel in Jammu and Kashmir, which is the longest in India, may be named after BJP ideologue Syama Prasad Mookerjee.

Union minister Jitendra Singh has made this suggestion to highways minister Nitin Gadkari. Sources said Gadkari is in favour of the proposal and a decision would be taken soon. The 9.2 km all-weather tunnel on Jammu-Srinagar highway was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 2, 2017.

TOI has learnt that Singh had first sent the proposal to name the tunnel after the founder of Bharatiya Jana Sangh, which later became BJP, in 2017, but it could not happen as then coalition government led by Mehbooba Mufti had some issues.

Now with President’s Rule in J&K, there is little chance of any impediment to the proposal. “It’s a state- of -the-art tunnel and the pride of not only J&K but the entire country. It will be a befitting tribute to Syama Prasad Mookerjee since he was arrested in Udhampur-Kathua region and taken to Srinagar through the stretch where the tunnel has now been built. And that also turned out to be his last journey before he breathed his last on June 23, 1953 while still in detention,” Singh told TOI.

The tunnel, bypassing snow-bound upper reaches, has reduced the journey time by two hours and the distance between Chenani and Nashri is now only 9.2 km. Earlier, vehicles needed to travel around 41 km to cover this stretch.

This will be the second tunnel in J&K to be named after a political leader. On December 22, 1956, then Congress government had named the 2.85 km tunnel on the same highway after then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The Jawahar Tunnel is also called Banihal Tunnel or Banihal Pass.

Officials said though there is no provision to name any National Highway stretch, there have been some exceptions. One such was the naming of India’s longest bridge on Brahmaputra after Bhupen Hazarika. The 9.3 km bridge connecting Dhola village and Sadiya town in Tinsukia district of Assam was named as Bhupen Hazarika Setu. PM Modi had inaugurated this on May 26, 2017.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/chenani-nashri-tunnel-in-jk-may-be-named-after-bjp-ideologue/articleshow/70850910.cms

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‘India head’ of B’desh terror outfit JMB nabbed in Gaya

Aug 27, 2019

KOLKATA/GAYA: Kolkata police on Monday claimed to have arrested Taufeeq Raza alias Ejaz Ahmed (31), the India head of terror group Jammat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) that was involved in the 2014 Khagragarh blast.

The accused, a resident of Bengal’s Birbhum district, was nabbed from Gaya in Bihar on Monday morning. Police claimed that incriminating documents and a laptop were found from his possession. Ahmed is accused in multiple cases of terror attacks, including the one at Gaya last year during the visit of the Dalai Lama. Gaya SSP Rajiv Mishra said: “He was produced before a Gaya court before being forwarded to West Bengal.”

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/india-head-of-bdesh-terror-outfit-jmb-nabbed-in-gaya/articleshow/70850566.cms

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Modi-Trump meet dealt final blow to Pak’s designs: BJP

Aug 27, 2019

NEW DELHI: BJP on Monday said the meeting between PM Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump had dealt a “final blow” to Pakistan over its attempt to corner India on the Kashmir issue even as it took a swipe at Rahul Gandhi by saying “some leaders” had become “isolated” even within their own party.

“Pakistan’s propaganda was dealt the final blow in the meeting between the PM and President Trump. Pakistan was hoping to get some statement which would give it a last ray of hope. The meeting has categorically confirmed that any issue concerning India and Pakistan has to be discussed bilaterally,” BJP spokesperson G VL Narasimha Rao said.

He added that the US had endorsed India’s position on the revocation of J&K’s special status. Referring to Rahul’s criticism of the government on the situation in Kashmir, Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan said there were some perennial “trouble creators” and if the Congress leader wanted to become their leader, then BJP could only have sympathy for him.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/modi-trump-meet-dealt-final-blow-to-paks-designs-bjp/articleshow/70850515.cms

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J&K’s 1st stone-pelting death after Article 370 move

Aug 26, 2019

SRINAGAR: In a first casualty in the Valley after the Centre revoked J&K’s special status under Article 370, a 42-year-old truck driver was killed in a stone-pelting attack in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district on Sunday late evening.

Police have registered a murder case and arrested the attackers, officials said.

The victim, identified as Noor Mohammad Dar, was driving home when he came across a mob of stone-pelters in Anantnag’s Zradipora Uranhall locality. The miscreants rained stones on Dar’s truck, one of which smashed the windscreen and hit his head.

Dar was rushed to the nearby Bijbehara hospital, from where he was referred to Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences in Soura. He succumbed on the way and SKIMS doctors declared him brought dead.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/jks-1st-stone-pelting-death-after-article-370-move/articleshow/70848376.cms

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McDonald's faces boycott threats in India for serving halal meat

by Bilal Kuchay

Aug 27, 2019

New Delhi, India - McDonald's has faced boycott calls in India from right-wing Hindus after the global fast-food chain said its outlets served halal meat.

The controversy erupted after McDonald's India said on Twitter that all its restaurants are halal certified.

"All our restaurants have HALAL certificates. You can ask the respective restaurant Managers to show you the certificate for your satisfaction and confirmation," the fast-food company said in a reply to a user's inquiry.

However, the reply angered many people on Twitter, who called for a boycott of the US chain, with the hashtag #BoycottMcDonalds trending in India.

Many questioned why McDonald's was serving halal meat in India where 80 percent of the 1.3 billion people are Hindus. The McDonald's menu in India has no beef or pork products, serving instead a range of vegetarian options as well as chicken and fish.

The Arabic word "halal" means permissible and, in relation to food, refers to meat and meat-containing products that are prepared on the basis of Islamic law. Halal certification indicates that animals were slaughtered according to the Muslim tradition.

McDonald's India

@mcdonaldsindia

• Aug 22, 2019

Replying to @hibailyas89

Thank you for taking the time to contact McDonald's India. We truly appreciate this opportunity to respond to your comments.

The meat that we use, across our restaurants, is of the highest quality and is sourced from government-approved suppliers who are HACCP certified. (1/2)

McDonald's India

@mcdonaldsindia

All our restaurants have HALAL certificates. You can ask the respective restaurant Managers to show you the certificate for your satisfaction and confirmation. (2/2)

3,202

10:34 PM - Aug 22, 2019

Twitter Ads info and privacy

6,713 people are talking about this

A user wrote: "This is a blatant and intentional assault on Hindu beliefs. India is 80% Hindu, and there 4% Jain, Sikhs & Buddhists in addition to it. But, McDonald's had betrayed all these 84% people just to appease the 14% Muslims.

"It's time people of all Indian Religions #BoycottMcDonalds," he added.

Many Twitter users branded McDonald's insensitive for not using the "jhatka" method, another form of slaughter in which the animal's head is severed in a single blow.

Others alluded to the hypocrisy of some people who earlier this month had called on Muslims not to slaughter sacrificial animals on Eid al-Adha and to celebrate an "eco-friendly" Eid.

Some activists said this was yet another instance of right-wing Hindu groups finding an opportunity to attack Muslims.

"It is an absolutely Islamophobic atmosphere which is existing in India now and each and every occasion is used by right-wing Hindus to attack Muslims," Shabnam Hashmi, an activist based in New Delhi, told Al Jazeera.

"It's the extreme right asserting themselves to convert India into a Hindu nation."

Vishnu Gupta, national president of Hindu Sena - a right-wing group - said that McDonald's was ignoring the sensitivities of Hindus.

"McDonald's can't force halal meat upon a vast section of Hindus who eat jhatka," he said.

"Their sensitivities can't be ignored. If McDonald's can keep in consideration the sensitivities of a particular group, why is it ignoring the others?" he told Al Jazeera.

Gupta warned: "If Mcdonald's doesn't change its policy, and start serving both halal and jhatka in its outlets across India, soon our men will protest against the food chain on streets."

But not everyone was bothered by the halal menu.

"As a non-Muslim, I do not care where my chicken is coming from. I am more concerned about the processing it goes through, the packaging, the amount of nutrition and carcinogens it contains," said Sushmita, a researcher based in New Delhi, who only gave one name.

"This everyday pitting of one community against another, in matters that were private earlier, or didn't concern a larger public, is a slow and steady way to try to instil hatred in the very fabric of the society and keep a community always on the edge, so that they feel less and less safe," she told Al Jazeera.

Nishita Sood from Delhi told Al Jazeera that this campaign is nothing but a form of prejudice and bigotry against Muslims.

"The entire nation is suffering from it. They are just making an issue out of a non-issue because of their hatred," she said.

Online boycott campaigns

McDonald's is not the first company that has faced the ire of right-wing Hindu groups in India for serving halal meat.

Last month, IndiGo, a low-cost airline, faced an online campaign calling for its boycott for serving halal meat on its flights.

A 40-year-old man's refusal to receive food delivered by a Muslim driver from Zomato earlier this month stirred public debate on rising Islamophobia in India - home to nearly 170 million Muslims.

Full report at:

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/08/mcdonald-faces-boycott-threats-india-serving-halal-meat-190826083241873.html

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A crackdown in India on suspected illegal immigrants could leave millions stateless

By Niha Masih

August 26, 2019

GUWAHATI, India —  In less than a week, millions of people in India will find out whether they remain citizens of the country, with the culmination of a byzantine process that critics say could be the world’s largest exercise in forced statelessness.

Over the past four years, a state in northeastern India has subjected its 31 million residents to an exacting citizenship test aimed at identifying immigrants in the country illegally, primarily from neighboring Bangladesh. People had to produce ancestral documents dating back decades and prove links to their parents.

No one knows what will happen to the millions who are left off the final list, known as the National Register of Citizens, which is expected to be published on Saturday. It is known that authorities are setting up detention centers and tribunals, sparking fears of arrest, incarceration or deportation. Families worry about being separated or becoming disenfranchised, unable to vote or access public services.

An earlier, provisional version of the citizenship list for the state of Assam excluded 4.1 million people — a population equivalent to the entire state of Oregon. Human rights groups say the exercise has proved impossible for many people to navigate, particularly the poor and uneducated.

Omela Khatun, a 45-year-old resident of Darrang district, said she was born in India but has battled to prove it to quasi-legal tribunals for the past seven years. Now concern about her future keeps her awake at night.

“I’m very scared,” she said. “I have heard they will send people to Bangladesh. I can’t read or write. How will I manage without my family?”

Many of those who have had difficulty proving their citizenship in Assam are Muslims who emigrated from Bangladesh. Others have been living in India for multiple generations.

They are an attractive political target for India’s Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi and his party won a stunning reelection victory in May that critics and supporters say has paved the way for the BJP to implement an agenda that emphasizes Hindu primacy in India.

The ruling party has engaged in increasingly strident anti-immigrant rhetoric. Amit Shah, the country’s powerful interior minister, called such migrants “termites” who would be thrown out one by one. Shah has announced that he intends to take the citizenship exercise nationwide, portraying it as a matter of national security.

Harsh Mander, a human rights activist and author, said the process of identifying migrants who may have entered the country illegally has become “a tool for targeting Muslims.” He said his greatest concern is a lack of clarity from the government. “Are you going to put millions of people in detention? Will there be concentration camps? Or are you going to throw them in the sea?”

International rights groups and the United Nations have raised concerns about the consequences of the exercise on vulnerable minorities, including “statelessness, prolonged detention and forced return to countries they have never lived in the past.”

India’s interior ministry did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Assam shares a porous border with Bangladesh and has recorded several waves of migration, first under colonial rule, then during the partition of British India in 1947, and next in 1971, after Bangladesh won independence from Pakistan.

The state has long witnessed tensions between Assamese speakers and Bengali-speaking migrants, who locals fear will alter the language and culture of the state. In 1985, the government defined citizens as those who could show proof of being in India before March 24, 1971, or their descendants.

The drive to weed out undocumented immigrants has swept up even military veterans. For 30 years, Mohammad Sanaullah served in the Indian army, with stints in grueling border areas. But today, three years after his retirement, he stands accused of being a foreigner.

On May 29, Sanaullah, 52, was arrested and held in a squalid detention center. That night, he said, he cried for the first time in his adult life.

“I risked my life for the country,” he said, standing outside his home in Guwahati, Assam’s largest city. “What more do I have to do to prove my loyalty?”

The uncertainty of what comes next terrifies him. It is not only Sanaullah who faces an unknown future, but his three adult children, too. If he is left off the citizenship registry, his children will be excluded automatically.

“I’m worried that when my children apply for government jobs or exams, they will be denied opportunities,” he said. “Nobody knows what will happen next. That is the biggest source of tension.”

Those who fail to make it onto the list can appeal to quasi-judicial bodies known as foreigners’ tribunals, like the one that declared Sanaullah a foreigner. The government is setting up 1,000 more such tribunals ahead of the publication of the list.

At the Saha household in Kharupetia, about 55 miles outside the state capital of Guwahati, there are similar worries. Pradeep Saha, 53, a shopkeeper, and his two sons were left off the draft citizenship list even though his brother’s family was included. The brothers said they submitted identical documents to verify their citizenship.

For more than six months, Saha visited multiple administrative offices, the local foreigners’ tribunal and the police, clutching the same set of yellowed documents carefully laminated, photocopied more times than he can remember. In the last round of filing the family’s claim, Saha’s son Chiranjit recalled one officer telling them the outcome was now up to chance. “This is nothing but unnecessary harassment of genuine citizens,” the son said.

After going through several iterations, the process of making a citizenship list has become “extremely complex,” said Sanjoy Hazarika, the international director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and a noted Assamese writer. “While there is agreement that we should have the list, there shouldn’t be collateral damage. The process shouldn’t inflict more harm than good.”

Unlike Sanaullah and Khatun, the Sahas are Hindu. They are hopeful that the Modi government will come to their rescue. A proposed federal law would provide citizenship to immigrants in the country illegally who are Hindus or other religious minorities from India’s Muslim-majority neighbors Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, deeming them refugees. But conspicuously absent are two neighboring countries in which Muslims are the minority facing persecution — Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Experts say providing citizenship on the basis of religion violates the Indian Constitution.

Khatun, the woman from Darrang, is inconsolable. She won an initial victory in a foreigners’ tribunal in 2015 that established she was an Indian citizen. But her name was not on the provisional registry of citizens. In 2018, for a second time, she was asked to prove her citizenship before the same tribunal. After presenting the same documents, she was declared a foreigner.

“How is this fair?” Khatun asked as she wiped her tears in a recent interview. Her relatives were trying to mortgage their farmland to pay for an appeal.

Bangladesh, for its part, has made clear that it will not accept those left off Assam’s list as returning citizens. One of the most densely populated countries in the world, Bangladesh is already struggling to manage refugees from Myanmar.

“The people that have been there for 75 years, they are [India’s] citizens, not ours,” A.K. Abdul Momen, the foreign minister of Bangladesh, said in a television interview in July.

For people like Sanaullah, the outsider label is an affront. “I’m an Indian and will remain one,” he said on the day he was released from the detention center.

Full report at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/a-crackdown-in-india-on-suspected-illegal-immigration-could-leave-millions-stateless/2019/08/26/4f46b3a0-b471-11e9-8e94-71a35969e4d8_story.html

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Pakistan's ISI-backed JeM radicalising Rohingya Muslims to carry out attacks in India, warns BSF

Aug 27, 2019

A report by the Border Security Force (BSF) has revealed a nexus between Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and members of Rohingya Muslim community. According to the report, JeM handlers based in Pakistan have been radicalising Rohingya Muslims.

The BSF report ,which has been accessed by Zee News, mentions that JeM commander Saber Ahmed, who is in Pakistan, is targeting Rohingya Muslim community members in Cox’s Bazar of Bangladesh and radicalising them to carry out anti-India activities.

Sources told Zee News that a terrorist named Maulana Yunus, who is a member of the Bangladesh unit of the JeM, recently made four members of the Rohingya community undergo training to carry out terror attacks.

A terror camp for providing training to Rohingya Muslims has been set up in Harinmara hills in Bangladesh. The Cox’s Bazar area, where the radicalising operation is being carried out by the JeM, currently has thousands of Rohingya Muslims.

For this purpose, the JeM has activated its sleeper cells in Bangladesh with the help of Pakistan’s ISI.

In another development, intelligence reports have suggested that the ISI is plotting to carry out major attack on security personnel in India with the help of Pakistan-based terror outfits. JeM operation commander Abdul Rauf Asgar has been given the responsibility to carry out attacks on Indian defence and security personnel.

According to reports, Asgar and 30-40 other terrorists have been deployed at terror launch pads along the Line of Control (LoC) in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK).

Full report at:

https://zeenews.india.com/india/pakistans-isi-backed-jem-radicalising-rohingya-muslims-to-carry-out-attacks-in-india-warns-bsf-2230187.html

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G-7 summit: Trump listening, Modi says Kashmir is a bilateral issue

by Shubhajit Roy

August 27, 2019

A MONTH after Donald Trump stunned Delhi by claiming that Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate on Kashmir, the US President looked on as the Prime Minister made it clear that all issues with Pakistan are bilateral, and India doesn’t bother any other country about them.

On Monday, before his 40-minute meeting with Trump on the sidelines of the G-7 summit, Modi said: “All issues between India and Pakistan are bilateral in nature, that is why we don’t bother any other country regarding them. India and Pakistan were together before 1947 and I’m confident that we can discuss our problems and solve them, together.”

Trump said: “We spoke last night about Kashmir, the Prime Minister really feels he has it under control. They speak with Pakistan and I’m sure that they will be able to do something that will be very good… I have a very good relationship with both the gentlemen (Modi and Khan) and I’m here. I think they can do it (resolve the issue) themselves.”

Asked if his offer to mediate was still on the table, Trump said: “I’m here”. But he was quick to add that he thinks India and Pakistan can do it on their own.

Modi struck a measured and conciliatory tone about dialogue with Pakistan. He said that after Imran Khan became Pakistan’s Prime Minister, he had called him up and said that both countries have to fight “poverty, illiteracy and disease” and they should work together.

Trump later reaffirmed the “need for dialogue between India and Pakistan to reduce tensions” and acknowledged India’s role as a critical partner in Afghanistan, according to an official statement by the US about the bilateral meeting.

The meeting, which started shortly after 12:30 pm, saw Trump saying, “It’s great to be here with Prime Minister Modi”, and that they would discuss trade and the military. He said he “learned a lot about India” from Modi at dinner last night. “Fascinating place. It’s a beautiful place,” he said.

Modi called Trump a “friend” and said it was a “very important meeting for me”. He thanked the US President for congratulating him after his recent election win and said the two countries “shared democratic values”.

Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said there was no discussion on J&K at the meeting between Modi and Trump — their second in 2019, two months after they last met in Osaka on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Japan.

The discussions on Kashmir appear to have taken place at a dinner Sunday attended by the two leaders and hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron at the Hotel du Palais.

Gokhale, meanwhile, said the issue of J&K was also discussed with the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who met Modi Monday regarding a climate change summit in September. Modi is due to travel to New York to attend the UN General Assembly and participate in the climate summit.

In the meeting with Guterres, Gokhale said, the Prime Minister laid out India’s basic position on J&K, that it is an “internal matter” and that Article 370 is under the Indian Constitution. On the international front, Modi told Guterres that “no step has been taken by India in any way or form to threaten the regional peace and stability”.

Modi also told Guterres that “normalcy is returning” in Kashmir, and that in many areas, “restrictions have been substantially eased or entirely removed”, according to Gokhale.

The Prime Minister also underlined that the people of Kashmir have faced terrorism for over 30 years, and described it as “the primary threat”. “This is our concern. And in keeping with that, certain restrictions will remain in place to ensure that law and order is maintained, and will be progressively lifted,” Gokhale said, in his briefing about Modi’s discussions with Guterres.

The White House, in its statement Monday, said: “Today, President Trump met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India at the G-7 Summit… President Trump reaffirmed the need for dialogue between India and Pakistan to reduce tensions and acknowledged India’s role as a critical partner in Afghanistan.” “Just wrapped up a great meeting with my friend Prime Minister @NarendraModi of India at the #G7Summit in Biarritz, France!” Trump tweeted.

Modi tweeted: “Excellent meeting with @POTUS @realDonaldTrump! We had useful discussions on bilateral matters. We agreed to address trade issues for mutual benefit soon. Looking forward to expand cooperation as large democracies for the benefit of our citizens and global peace and prosperity.”

The meeting, which was much anticipated after Trump’s misleading claim on US mediation in Kashmir, began on a relaxed note as the US President referred to Modi and said that he speaks “very good English. He just doesn’t want to talk.” He made that comment as Modi was speaking in Hindi, ahead of the meeting, and both laughed before PM patted Trump’s arm as they shook hands.

The meeting was attended by NSA Ajit Doval and Gokhale on the Indian side, and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and NSA John Bolton on the US side, among others.

Trump and Modi had spoken to each other last on August 19, three days after the UNSC informal consultations, when the US President had conveyed the importance of reducing tensions between India and Pakistan. Over the last one month, Trump has thrice said that he would like to mediate, if the two countries want. Modi arrived in this town on France’s southwestern tip Sunday evening from Bahrain on a personal invitation from Macron.

Ahead of the meeting, US officials had said that Trump would want to know from Modi how India planned to reduce regional tensions and uphold human rights in Kashmir as part of its role as the world’s largest democracy.

On July 22, Trump had dropped a bombshell when he had said, with Pakistan PM Khan by his side in Washington DC, that he would “love to be a mediator”. The US has nuanced its position on J&K in recent days. After initially saying that President Trump was “ready to mediate”, they have now said that the President is “ready to assist”.

In the last 10 days, the US has come out more unequivocally in India’s support, calling the issue of J&K an “internal matter” of India — something that New Delhi has always insisted on.

This was spelt out most effectively and clearly by US Defence Secretary Mark T Esper to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on August 20, when he “appreciated India’s position that the recent developments in Jammu and Kashmir are an internal matter of India”.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/g-7-summit-trump-listening-modi-says-kashmir-is-a-bilateral-issue-5939681/

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Pakistan may instigate violence in J&K, says Army chief

Sudhi Ranjan Sen     

Aug 27, 2019

The Indian Army expects Pakistan to instigate violence in the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) to internationalize the Jammu and Kashmir issue, Chief of Army Staff Bipin Rawat said.

“From the rhetoric and false information campaign launched by Pakistan, it is evident they are likely to create a situation to instigate violence.”

He explained that the violence will then be used to project internationally, the narrative that the of J&K are protesting against the removal of special status to the region.

On August 5, the Modi government stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and divided the state into two separate Union Territories. The Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and the Union Territory of Ladakh will come into being from October 31. Curbs were imposed on the movement of people and telecommunications networks blanked. Some of these restrictions are now gradually being eased.

Since August 5, Pakistan has launched a vicious “information warfare” campaign in the cyber domain. For instance, days after the Parliament stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its special status, a twitter handle claiming to be that of India’s Vice-Chief of Army Staff underlined human rights violation in Jammu and Kashmir. Similarly, in the last fortnight alone, several fake social media posts have tried to create unrest in the valley. The cyber wing of the government has identified as many as 10 handles on the social media impersonating as Northern Army Commander and even the Chief of Army Staff.

“We must gradually allow the people to appreciate the benefits that will accrue to them with the actions were taken by the government. Curbs on social media will prevent the spread of disinformation and therefore our actions should be calibrated,” General Rawat said.

The Indian Army believes that preventing loss of life in J&K should be a priority. “The situation in J&K and the Valley, in particular, must be managed to avoid loss of innocent lives,” General Rawat added.

According to the Indian Army, Islamabad has put the Pakistan army on a “precautionary deployment,” along the Line of Control (LoC) – the disputed boundary between the two countries. Terror outfits are headless because of a sustained counter insurgency operations by the Indian Army, J&K Police and the para-military and Pakistan is desperately trying to push in trained and hardened terrorists to provide leadership to these groups, goes the army’s reasoning.

So far in 2019, as many over 165 terrorists including Zakir Musa, Mudasir Ahmed Khan who was behind the February 14 Pulwama suicide attack that killed 40 Policemen and Fayaz Panzoo of the Jaish-e-Mohammed.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/army-chief-warns-of-pakistan-plan-to-instigate-violence-in-valley/story-4VIdGkLppR1pNowdnasSYM.html

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Militants kill man in J-K’s Pulwama in first attack after Article 370 repeal

Aug 27, 2019

In a first such incident after the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was revoked, suspected militants on Monday abducted two members of the nomadic Gujjar community from a forested area in Pulwama district and later shot one of them dead, police said.

Abdul Qadeer Kohli of Rajauri district and Manzoor Ahmed of Khonmoh area of Srinagar were abducted by unidentified gunmen from ‘Dhok’, a temporary shelter, from the forested area of Tral in Pulwama district around 7:30 pm, a police spokesperson said.

He said the bullet-riddled body of Kohli was later recovered by a search and rescue party, while an operation to trace the other person is underway.

This is the first militant attack after the BJP-led NDA government abrogated provisions of Article 370 and announced bifurcation of the state into union territories on August 5.

Following the Centre’s move, restrictions were put in place in Kashmir Valley. Though restrictions have been eased in most of Kashmir, normal life continued to remain paralysed with shops and business establishments closed and transport off the roads.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/militants-kill-man-in-j-k-s-pulwama-in-first-attack-after-article-370-repeal/story-EFzEmb5ZFqg3VGp8uhMv9L.html

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Africa

 

Sudan tribal clashes in east leave 37 dead: Medics

Aug 26, 2019

Clashes between two Sudanese tribes in the country's east have killed at least 37 people and wounded some 200 others, medics linked to Sudan's protest movement say.

The violence broke out last week between the tribes of Bani Amer and Nuba in Port Sudan, the capital of the Red Sea state and Sudan's main port city. It was not clear what triggered the clashes.

The doctors committee provided the figures in a statement listing the casualties at three hospitals in Port Sudan.

One hospital reported "a total of 126 wounded... and 34 deaths", while two other hospitals registered some 75 wounded and three dead, it said.

Sudanese police on Sunday put the death toll at 16 and said forces had been dispatched to contain the fighting.

Sudan's transitional ruling body said Sunday it had dismissed the governor of the Red Sea and the head of its security apparatus.

Tribal clashes are often reported in several regions of Sudan, especially in far-flung areas, including the western region of Darfur.

Ethnically diverse Sudan was rocked by months of nationwide protests that ousted longtime leader Omar al-Bashir in April.

The months-long demonstrations ushered in the beginnings of a transition to civilian rule this month following a deal signed between protest leaders and military generals who took power after Bashir's ouster.

Last week, Sudan swore in a joint civilian-military ruling body and a prime minister as part of a roadmap to guide the country through a three-year transitional period.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/08/26/604544/Sudan-clash-protest-medics-hospitals-death-toll

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DR Congo unveils new government after months-long delay

Aug 26, 2019

Nearly eight months after former opposition chief Felix Tshisekedi was elected president, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has unveiled a coalition government dominated by supporters of his predecessor, Joseph Kabila.

"The government is finally here. The president has signed the decree and we will begin work soon," Prime Minister Sylvestre Ilunga told reporters.

In gestation for seven months, the new government will see most of the 66 portfolios handed to Kabila's Common Front for Congo (FCC), with Tshisekedi's Direction For Change alliance accounting for most of the rest.

Tshisekedi, 56, has vowed to enact sweeping reform and root out corruption but has been hampered by the need to share power with the legislature, which is dominated by FCC MPs.

Forging the coalition government took time as both sides had to "remove everything that could be an obstacle to the functioning of the government," Ilunga said.

The new team will get down to work as soon as its members are approved by the National Assembly, he added. The parliament has been convened in special session until September 7 to approve the government.

"I believe this has been worth waiting for," Ilunga said.

"Here we have a government that manifests the vision of the head of state, in the direction of change. So change starts now. Let's get to work!"

Female foreign minister

Ilunga said 17 percent of government positions were now occupied by women.

"This percentage is still low but it is balanced by the importance of the portfolios attributed to women," he argued.

The foreign ministry was handed to Marie Tumba Nzeza, a member of Tshisekedi's Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS).

She becomes only the second female foreign minister in the country's history. The first was Ekila Liyonda, who briefly served in the 1980s under former dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, who had renamed the country Zaire.

Women have also been named in charge of the employment ministry and ministry for gender affairs.

The new government also includes a female vice prime minister from Kabila's party, Elysee Munembe, who takes the planning portfolio, Ilunga said. There are five vice prime ministers in all.

The defense ministry went to Aime Ngoy Mukena, a close Kabila supporter and the finance portfolio to another Kabila-era veteran, Jose Sele Yalaghuli.

The interior ministry was attributed to Gilbert Kankonde, a pro-Tshisekedi figure from UDPS ranks, who will face the thorny task of dealing with future protests.

Ilunga declared that three-quarters of members were serving in government for the first time, which he regarded as the "most important innovation."

Tshisekedi emerged victorious in elections on December 30 that marked the DRC's first peaceful transition of power since the mineral-rich nation gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

Poverty, instability

But the unstable country's politics remain overshadowed by Kabila, who despite stepping down voluntarily wields extensive clout after 18 years in power.

He came to office in January 2001, less than two weeks after the assassination of his father, Laurent Kabila, while the armies of at least six regional nations waged war on Congolese soil.

Swathes of the eastern provinces are still unstable, a haven for rebel militias regularly accused of atrocities against civilians.

Moreover, an Ebola epidemic has claimed almost 2,000 lives in one year in the troubled provinces of North and South Kivu, presenting a grueling challenge for the incoming health minister, Eteni Longondo.

Despite cobalt, copper, diamonds and other natural treasure, the DRC ranks just 176th out of 189 countries on the UN's Human Development Index. Poverty is widespread, and inequality is glaring.

Another hot potato has landed in the lap of the minister in charge of primary education, Willy Bakonga.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/08/26/604526/Congo-president-opposition-coalition-government-Joseph-Kabila

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Twelve dead in Boko Haram Niger attack: Official

24 Aug 2019

A night raid blamed on Boko Haram has left a dozen villagers dead in southeast Niger on the frontier with Nigeria, according to a local official.

The attack on Friday night in the border district of Gueskerou is the latest to hit the Diffa region near Lake Chad, which is crisscrossed by fighter groups and traffickers.

"Twelve villagers were killed on Friday at around 8:00pm (19:00 GMT) by Boko Haram elements," a local elected official told AFP on Saturday.

He said 11 of those killed had been shot but did not give further details.

The Gueskerou area, abutting the Komadougou Yobe river that provides a natural frontier between Niger and Nigeria, has been exposed to years of killings and kidnappings at the hands of the Boko Haram.

In March, two attacks in the area left eight civilians and seven police dead.

Boko Haram, whose name roughly translates to "Western education is forbidden", has waged an armed campaign in northeast Nigeria since 2009.

The group wants to establish an Islamic state which will follow a strict interpretation of Islamic law.

Some 30,000 people have been killed and more than two million displaced since Boko Haram launched its armed campaign. The fighting has since spilled over to neighbouring Niger, Cameroon and Chad.

The group has repeatedly attacked schools, churches, mosques and markets, but state institutions such as police stations and military facilities have remained its primary targets.

Boko Haram allegedly operates its largest camp in the vast Sambisa forest in Nigeria's northeast.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari promised to crush Boko Haram during his first term election campaign in 2015.

Full report at:

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/08/twelve-dead-boko-haram-niger-attack-official-190824140427226.html

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Terrorism: Two arrested in bomb investigation released

25 August 2019

Two men arrested by detectives investigating the attempted murder of police officers have been released unconditionally.

A 39-year-old and 35-year-old had been arrested under the Terrorism Act following searches in the Lurgan and Craigavon areas.

It is part of the investigation into the attempted murder of officers in County Armagh and County Fermanagh.

The men had been taken to Musgrave Serious Crime Suite for questioning.

The first incident happened in the Tullygally Road are of Craigavon on Friday 26 July.

Officers attending the scene found a "booby-trap device" which was designed to go off when moved.

Police said an eyewitness had seen a man running away form the scene of the attack.

The attack in County Fermanagh near Wattlebridge, close to the border, saw officers and soldiers lured to the scene with a hoax device.

No one was injured in the attack.

The PSNI said it believed the Continuity IRA was behind the "deliberate attempt" to kill police officers.

Full report at:

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-49467959

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US to keep up pressure on Sudan as it discusses lifting sanctions: Official

27 August 2019

The United States will test the commitment of Sudan’s new transitional government to human rights, freedom of speech and humanitarian access before it agrees to remove the country from a state sponsor of terrorism list, a senior US official said on Monday.

The State Department official, speaking to reporters on background, said while Sudan’s new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok would be the main point of contact, US diplomats would also have to interact with General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, commonly known as Hemedti, the outgoing deputy chief of the military council who heads a widely feared paramilitary group.

“Prime Minister Hamdok has said all the right things so we look forward to engaging with him,” the State Department official said.

“This new government has shown a commitment so far. We are going to keep testing that commitment,” the official added.

Hamdok, an economist, was sworn in last week as leader of a transition government, vowing to stabilize the country and solve its economic crisis.

The official said the new government had emphasized in recent talks with US officials that it wanted the country removed from the terrorism sponsor list, which limits Sudan’s access to international financing, including from lenders such as International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

Hamdok, who has worked for the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, told Reuters on Sunday he was seeking up to $10 billion in foreign funding over the next two years to cover Sudan’s import bill and help it rebuild.

“It is an obstacle right now,” the official acknowledged referring to US sanctions, adding: “It will take a little bit of time to work through but we are committed to doing that. We want to have a positive dialogue with this new civilian government.”

Sudan was designated a state sponsor of terrorism in 1993 under former US President Bill Clinton, cutting it off from financial markets and strangling its economy.

Washington lifted a 20-year trade embargo against Sudan in 2017 and was in the process of discussions on removing it from the US list when the military stepped in on April 11 to depose veteran autocrat Omar al-Bashir, who ruled Sudan for 30 years.

Mounting public anger over shortages of food, fuel and hard currency triggered mass demonstrations that eventually forced al-Bashir from power in April.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/08/27/US-to-keep-up-pressure-on-Sudan-as-it-discusses-lifting-sanctions-Official.html

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Mideast

 

Hezbollah chief: 'We will down Israeli drones in Lebanon skies'

26 Aug 2019

The leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah movement, Hassan Nasrallah, has said two Israeli drones that fell over the southern suburbs of Beirut were on a "suicide mission" and said Hezbollah will do what it takes to prevent Israel from sending more drones to Beirut.

"Hezbollah will not allow such an aggression," he said in a televised address on Sunday. "The time when Israeli aircraft come and bombard parts of Lebanon is over."

Nasrallah's speech came hours after a drone crashed in the Lebanese capital.

A second drone exploded in the air, Lebanese authorities said.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said the drones amounted to an open attack on the country's sovereignty.

"The new aggression ... constitutes a threat to regional stability and an attempt to push the situation towards further tension," Hariri said on Sunday in a statement from his office.

Israel's security cabinet met on Sunday morning to discuss recent security developments, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened further attacks.

''If someone rises up to kill you, kill him first," he said.

"I would like to emphasise: This was an initiative of Iran and we prevented serious attacks. Henceforth we will expose any attempt by Iran to attack us and any Iranian effort to hide behind excuses."

Nasrallah warning

Nasrallah said that his movement would do anything to prevent such incidents from occurring again.

"From now on, we will down any Israeli drones in Lebanon's skies," he said.

The Hezbollah leader said the "latest Israeli development is very, very, very dangerous" and that the overnight drone attacks were intended for a specific target in the Hezbollah-dominated Dahyeh suburb in Beirut.

He said it was the first clear dangerous breach of rules of engagement since the two sides fought a month-long war in 2006.

Earlier, an Hezbollah spokesperson said that a small, unmanned reconnaissance drone fell on the roof of a building that was housing Hezbollah's media office in the Moawwad neighbourhood in Dahyeh.

A second drone, Mohammed Afif said, which appeared to have been sent by Israel to search for the first drone 45 minutes later, exploded in the air and crashed nearby.

"We did not shoot down or explode any of the drones," Afif told The Associated Press news agency.

Israeli warplanes regularly violate Lebanese airspace and have struck inside neighbouring Syria from Lebanon on numerous occasions.

'Israel did not attack Quds Force'

Late on Saturday, the Israeli military attacked targets near Syria's capital Damascus in what it said was a successful effort to thwart an imminent Iranian drone attack on Israel.

A senior Revolutionary Guards commander denied that Iranian targets had been hit and said its military "advisory centres have not been harmed", the semi-official ILNA news agency reported

The Israeli military said its aircraft struck "Iranian Quds Force operatives and Shia militias which were preparing to advance attack plans targeting sites in Israel from within Syria over the last number of days". The elite Quds Force is the overseas arm of Iran's Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

In a rare acknowledgement of member deaths in Syria in Israeli air raids, Nasrallah confirmed that two members of Hezbollah were killed in the attack in the Aqrabah area, but denied that the raid targeted Iran's Quds force.

"Israel did not attack [Iranian] Quds force position in Syria but rather a house containing Hezbollah fighters", he said.

"If Israel kills any of our brothers in Syria, we will respond to this killing in Lebanon," he added.

Addressing the Israeli army, Nasrallah said that Hezbollah will respond imminently, and are determined to defend not only their southern border with Israel but their skies and sea as well.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/08/hezbollah-chief-israeli-drones-lebanon-skies-190825165611883.html

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Hezbollah Says Drones That Crashed in Beirut Suburbs Came From Israel

By Ben Hubbard

Aug. 25, 2019

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Two drones crashed in the southern suburbs of Beirut early Sunday, an area that is home to many supporters of the Iran-backed militia Hezbollah, which said the aircraft came from neighboring Israel.

The crashes came a day after Israeli warplanes struck targets in Syria where, according to the Israeli military, Iran had been preparing to attack Israel using explosive-laden “killer drones.” Hezbollah, which has sent thousands of forces to Syria to fight in support of President Bashar al-Assad, said two of its fighters were killed in that strike.

The weekend events further heightened tensions between the United States and its regional allies on one side and Iran and the local forces it backs on the other. So far, the struggle has played out mostly through the diversion of oil tankers, drone attacks, covert support to militant groups and strikes on military bases said to be used by the Iranians.

But the frequency of such incidents and the heated rhetoric on both sides has raised fears that a wider conflict could be on the way.

With Iran’s economy reeling from sanctions imposed by the United States, Tehran is less able to fund its allies than it was in the past. And with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fighting for his political future as an election looms in Israel, there is speculation that he is turning up the heat on Iran as a ploy for votes.

Over the years, Iran has built a network of allies and militant groups to help advance its interests in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. The United States considers some of those allies, including Hezbollah, terrorist organizations.

The Trump administration has made pushing back against Iran a major part of its Middle East policy, a goal it shares with Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other regional powers.

In a speech on Sunday, Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, addressed the weekend’s events and promised that his group would respond to any further Israeli attacks.

Mr. Nasrallah said that early Sunday morning, residents of a neighborhood south of Beirut where Hezbollah holds significant sway noticed a surveillance drone flying between the apartment buildings and threw rocks at it. It came down, and some time later, Mr. Nasrallah said, a second drone exploded near where the first had fallen.

“What happened last night was an attack by a suicide plane on a specific target in the southern suburbs of Beirut,” he said.

The drone that exploded blew out the windows of a media office belonging to Hezbollah. A Hezbollah spokesman said that no one was seriously injured.

In his speech, Mr. Nasrallah said that Hezbollah, which is both a political party represented in Lebanon’s government and the country’s most powerful military force, would no longer tolerate Israeli drones in Lebanese airspace.

“From now on, we will confront the Israeli drones in the skies of Lebanon,” he said. “The Israeli drones, when they enter Lebanese skies, we will work to bring them down.”

The Lebanese Army confirmed that one drone fell and another exploded in the capital’s southern suburbs around 2:30 a.m. local time. “The army arrived immediately cordoned off the area where the two drones fell,” it said in a statement.

During a brief interview in the damaged media office, where the group often meets foreign journalists and other visitors, the Hezbollah spokesman, Mohammed Afif, said that Hezbollah had not shot down either of the drones.

But Mr. Afif said that his group had retrieved the first drone and the remains of the second, and that it would analyze them to establish their mission.

One theory was that the first drone had crashed and the second had been dispatched to destroy it, he said. Another theory was that the first drone had been sent to scope out a target for the second drone to attack.

“Maybe it was looking for a target,” Mr. Afif said. “Was its target the media office? A target nearby? Someone in the same building? A convoy? We don’t know what the target was.”

Yaakov Amidror, a former adviser to Mr. Netanyahu and a former military intelligence chief, said that he did not know whether the exploding drone in Beirut was Israeli, but that it could have been sent as a message to Hezbollah.

“If it is, it means that Israel decided to show Hezbollah that there is a price” for its actions in Syria, he said.

But Mr. Amidror said, “I’m not sure that this is an Israeli operation.”

Mr. Nasrallah challenged the Israeli narrative of its strikes in Syria the day before. While Israel’s military said it had targeted Iranian operatives planning to launch military drones toward Israel, Mr. Nasrallah said the strike had hit a Hezbollah position, killing two of its fighters.

He vowed that Hezbollah would respond to further killing of Hezbollah fighters “in Lebanon.”

It was unclear what exactly he meant, but Hezbollah is believed to have an arsenal of more than 100,000 rockets and missiles in Lebanon that it could fire at Israel. And in the past it has captured Israeli soldiers near the Lebanese-Israeli border.

A senior commander for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps also denied on Sunday that Israel had hit Iranian targets in Syria, according to Iran’s semiofficial ILNA news agency.

Full report at:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/25/world/middleeast/israel-drones-beirut-hezbollah.html

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Iran's Rouhani says no talks with US unless sanctions lifted

August 27, 2019

Iran has no intention to talk to the United States unless all sanctions imposed on Tehran are lifted, President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday, a day after President Donald Trump said he would meet his Iranian counterpart to end a nuclear standoff.

“Tehran has never wanted nuclear weapons,” Rouhani said in a speech broadcast live on state television, adding that the country was always ready to hold talks.

“But first the US should act by lifting all illegal, unjust and unfair sanctions imposed on Iran,” he added.

“We will continue to scale back our commitments under the 2015 deal if our interests are not guaranteed.”

A day earlier, Trump had said he was prepared to meet Rouhani in the next few weeks after talks over Tehran's nuclear programme at a G7 summit in France.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made a surprise appearance on the sidelines of the summit in Biarritz on Sunday at the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron.

Macron said that the “conditions for a meeting” between Trump and Rouhani to take place “in the next few weeks” had been created through intensive diplomacy and consultations.

“If the circumstances were correct, I would certainly agree to that,” Trump had said at a joint press conference with Macron.

Asked by reporters if he thought the timeline proposed by his French counterpart sounded realistic, Trump replied: “It does”, adding that he thought Rouhani would also be in favour.

“I think he's going to want to meet. I think Iran wants to get this situation straightened out,” Trump added.

Trump has put in place a policy of “maximum pressure” on Tehran over its disputed nuclear programme via crippling sanctions that are seen as raising the risk of conflict in the Middle East.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1501981/irans-rouhani-says-no-talks-with-us-unless-sanctions-lifted

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Israel bans cameras at Arab polling stations in next vote

27 August 2019

Israel’s elections committee has ruled against a plan by the prime minister’s party to have cameras at polling stations in Arab communities during parliamentary elections next month.

During April’s vote, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party deployed activists with cameras at polls in Arab communities.

The party said it was combatting voter fraud, but critics said the point was to intimidate and deter minority voters.

Election committee chairman Hanan Melcer said in a statement on Monday that inspectors at polling stations would ensure adherence to the filming ban, saying the committee would do everything it could to stop “those who seek to sway the results in their favor outside the democratic rules.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/08/27/Israel-bans-cameras-at-Arab-polling-stations-in-next-vote.html

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Iran president makes case for talks as G7 gambit slammed

26 August 2019

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani came out strongly in favor of talks between Iran and the US on Monday as his top diplomat came under fire from hardline media for a surprise visit to a G7 summit.

This comes after Rouhani made several comments that talks are “not suitable” and that resistance is the country's “only choice.”

“And if I knew that I was going to have a meeting with someone that would [lead to] prosperity for my country and people’s problems would be resolved, I would not hesitate.”

Zarif had said earlier this week that it was not possible to renegotiate the nuclear deal, according to ILNA.

“The main thing is our country’s national interests,” he said to a round of applause from those gathered at an event marking government achievements in rural areas.

Iran’s economy has suffered as a result of the country's continued violation of US sanctions under Rouhani. US President Donald Trump reimposed the sanctions after withdrawing in May 2018 from the nuclear deal. In response, Tehran has increased its nuclear activities in breach of the agreement, exceeding the limit of its enriched uranium stockpile as well as enriching uranium beyond the 3.67 percent purity limit.

Rouhani’s remarks came as his government faced criticism over the visit of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to the French seaside resort of Biarritz on Sunday for meetings on the sidelines of the G7 summit.

Zarif was invited to Biarritz by French President Emmanuel Macron, who has been leading efforts to de-escalate tensions between Iran and its arch-enemy the United States.

Iran’s economy has been battered by US sanctions imposed since last year when President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between the Islamic republic and world powers.

The ultra-conservative Kayhan newspaper strongly criticized Zarif’s visit on Monday in an article that called the trip “improper.”

Kayhan said the fact that the minister’s visit was the second to France in a matter of days sent “a message of weakness and desperation.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/08/26/Iran-president-makes-case-for-talks-as-G7-gambit-slammed.html

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Al-Jubeir: Yemenis should work together, rid country of Iranian influence

26 August 2019

Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir said on Monday that the only solution for Yemenis is to “overcome internal differences through dialogue called for by the Kingdom, and work together to rid Yemen of the clutches of Iranian influence which does not want prosperity for Yemen and its people.”

“Saudi Arabia is leading the efforts to achieve security and stability in the region and to counter the efforts of the Iranian regime and extremist forces that spread chaos and destabilization,” al-Jubeir said in a series of tweets.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/08/26/Al-Jubeir-Yemenis-should-work-together-rid-country-of-Iranian-influence.html

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Arab Coalition intercepts Houthi drone in Yemen heading to Saudi Arabia

26 August 2019

The Arab Coalition intercepted and downed a Houthi drone in Yemen, which was launched from the al-Jawf governate and was heading toward Saudi Arabia on Monday.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/08/26/Arab-Coalition-intercepts-Houthi-drone-in-Yemen-heading-to-Saudi-Arabia.html

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Rouhani: No talks with US unless bans lifted, Iran rights respected

Aug 27, 2019

President Hassan Rouhani says the United States should lift all its “cruel” and “unlawful” sanctions against Iran and begin respecting the nation’s rights as a “first step” towards dialog, emphasizing that the Islamic Republic will not engage in any negotiations for the mere sake of photo opportunities.

The Iranian president made the remarks on Tuesday, one day after French President Emmanuel Macron expressed hopes for a meeting between Rouhani and his American counterpart, Donald Trump, “in the next few weeks.”

“We seek to resolve issues and problems in a rational way but we are not after photos. For anyone wanting to take a picture with Hassan Rouhani, this is not possible” unless that party chooses to set aside all the oppressive sanctions and respect the Iranian nation’s rights, the Iranian president said in a speech aired live on state television.

Iran, he added, sits at the negotiating table with others only in order to secure its people’s rights and interest.

Tehran will make a change in its approach towards “those waging economic terrorism” against the county only if they “repent” of their past mistakes and turn back from the wrong path they have taken.

“We will witness no positive development” unless the Americans lift the bans and undo their hostile economic policies against Iran, said Rouhani.

He further touched on the 2015 nuclear deal — officially named the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — whose fate remains in doubt in the aftermath of the US’s exit and Europe’s failure to fulfill their legal obligation to stand up to the American sanctions.

Rouhani noted that if the remaining parties honor their commitments under the JCPOA, Tehran would also live up to its end of the bargain.

He also emphasized that Iran’s military doctrine is “based on conventional arms,” adding that it has never sought weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, chemical and microbial ones.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/08/27/604587/Iran-Hassan-Rouhani-US-talks

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Iran has already told Macron missiles not up for negotiations: Informed source

Aug 26, 2019

Iran has rejected French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal to include the Islamic Republic’s missile program into new negotiations, an informed source tells Press TV.

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity on Monday, added that Iran has already responded to Macron’s proposal, stressing that the country’s missile program is not up for discussions.

According to the source, Iran has also rejected France’s proposals for talks on regional issues and Iran’s regional presence.

Reacting to the French president’s idea of establishing a $15 billion credit line for Iran in a trade mechanism to help Tehran conduct business, the source told Press TV that Iran had responded by saying that it would consider reversing its decision to scale back some of its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal if the line is established.

Regarding an offer of talks between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his US counterpart Donald Trump, the source said that Iran has already announced that any negotiation with the US hinges on Washington’s return to the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and lifting of sanctions against Tehran.

Iran will not take part in any negotiations as long as the sanctions are in place, as the Islamic Republic’s national interests will not be guaranteed unless the bans are removed, the source said, reaffirming President Rouhani’s earlier remarks on national interests.

Under the JCPOA, Iran undertook to put limits on its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of nuclear-related sanctions.

However, President Trump pulled his country out of the international nuclear deal in May last year and stepped up sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

President Rouhani said in an address to a ceremony earlier on Monday that he would be ready to talk to anybody, it if helped solve the country’s economic problems.

“If I know that by taking part in a meeting with a specific person my country’s problem would be solved, I would not shy away from it, because the main issue [for me] is the country’s national interests,” Rouhani said.

Responding to certain Western media reports about possible Rouhani-Trump talks, the source said that Iran has never opposed talks and has held the longest-ever negotiations with the P5+1 group of countries, including the US, on its nuclear program.

It was the US that quit the JCPOA so any resumption of talks depends on the US’s return to the negotiating table and the 2015 nuclear accord, the source said. 

Iran has never shied away from talks as proved before, but if the other party leaves the negotiating table and nixes the agreement as it has already done, negotiations would be meaningless, the source concluded.

Macron has recently stepped up diplomatic contacts with Tehran in a bid to allegedly cease the US economic war against Iran and deescalate tensions in the region.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/08/26/604554/Iran-Macron-missile-program-negotiation-talks-US-Trump-

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Netanyahu tells Hezbollah’s Nasrallah to “calm down” after drone incident

August 27, 2019

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah to “calm down” after he said his movement was preparing a response to the crash of two Israeli drones in a Beirut suburb.

“I heard what Nasrallah said. I suggest to Nasrallah to calm down. He knows well that Israel knows how to defend itself and to pay back its enemies,” Netanyahu said in a speech.

In a speech on Sunday, Nasrallah, whose Iran-backed movement fought a month-long war with Israel in 2006, accused Israel of carrying out a suicide drone attack earlier that day.

“I say to the Israeli army on the border from tonight, stand guard (on high alert). Wait for us one, two, three, four days,” Nasrallah said.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1545881/middle-east

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Palestinian minister returns over $80,000 in secret bonuses

August 26, 2019

RAMALLAH: The Palestinian Authority says Finance Minister Shukri Bishara has returned $81,600 in secretly approved bonuses that sparked public outrage when they came to light in June.

The PA’s statement Monday said other ministers promised to return lavish payouts granted in 2017 and revealed in recently leaked documents.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas approved a measure to raise salaries for Cabinet members by 67%, which was retroactively applied to 2014 when the Cabinet took office, and inflated the exchange rate to give them a further premium.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1545661/middle-east

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Europe

 

Government putting Britons at risk by stripping Isis members’ citizenship, former defence minister warns

Aug 27, 2019

The government is putting Britons at risk by depriving Isis members of their British citizenship, a former defence minister has said.

Tobias Ellwood told The Independent the detention of thousands of jihadis and their families in Syria was creating conditions for an Isis resurgence.

“We’ll see Daesh 2.0,” he warned. “We’ll see a repeat of al-Qaeda regrouping and becoming a very real threat, and that threat won’t just pose itself in the Middle East, but also to Britain.”

The former soldier, whose brother was killed in the 2002 Bali bombings, said more British victims had been killed in terror attacks abroad than in the UK.

“We’ve still got attacks taking place, we’ve still got the ideology alive,” said Mr Ellwood, who was sacked as defence minister by Boris Johnson.

“We’ve done well to stand up as a lead nation on the battlefield in defeating Daesh and the caliphate, but the last piece of the jigsaw is 20,000 or so fighters that nobody really wants.

“They will regroup to fight another day – we’re already seeing it.”

Mr Ellwood said the UK had not “concluded our mission” to defeat Isis, adding: “We need to complete it rather than allowing it to haunt us in the future.

“We stepped forward because we had a sense of duty, of values and standards, and if we just give up on that we’ve forgotten what we were fighting for.”

He spoke out after it emerged that Sajid Javid stripped Jack Letts of his British citizenship, as well as Shamima Begum and two members of the “Beatles” terror cell.

The move means the government will not repatriate them from Syria for trial, has cancelled their passports and would bar any attempted entry to the UK.

Bangladesh and Canada hit out at the government for “offloading Britain’s responsibilities” over Begum and Letts, who had publicly pleaded to return home.

They are among thousands of alleged Isis members detained by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), whose pleas for the UK to take back its jihadis have so far been refused.

The Independent understands that dozens of British Isis members and at least 30 of their children are in custody.

As a foreign minister, Mr Ellwood attended meetings in 2015 and 2016 where international members of the US-led coalition drew up plans against Isis.

“We talked about cutting off the financing, cutting off the online presence and recruitment, cutting off the connectivity and stopping the movement of people into Isis territory,” he recalled.

“The one thing we never did was then say, ‘OK, fine, when the caliphate finally falls and you get a mass exodus or surrender of people as you do in any fall of a regime, what is the process?’

“At the moment they’re just behind barbed wire with no process whatsoever and the SDF unable to manage it.”

Hundreds of Isis prisoners have already been released from jail in Syria after the Kurdish authorities holding them said they had “no blood on their hands”, and there are fears that more will be freed without any formal assessment of the danger they pose. Abdel Karim Omar, a Kurdish foreign affairs official, told The Independent that thousands of detained Isis fighters, women and children are a “big burden”.

“They belong to 49 countries, and they don’t have documents and passports,” he said, speaking earlier this year.

“We cannot bear this responsibility alone. We ask the international community and the countries to which Isis members belong to take up its moral and legal duty and repatriate their citizens back to their countries.”

The British government has refused the call and has not yet proposed an alternative judicial process or long-term solution for the detainees.

Mr Ellwood said that in the early days of the battle against Isis, where the UK supported Kurdish forces on the ground with airstrikes, few prisoners of war emerged because fighters were either killed in battle or committed suicide attacks.

As Isis territory shrank, the US-led coalition vastly underestimated the number of people inside its remaining pockets of territory and did not prepare for the surrender of thousands of men, women and children in March.

Tens of thousands were crammed into the al-Hol refugee camp, where the black flag of Isis was raised in July.

Mr Ellwood warned that the detention centre was “haemorrhaging” jihadis, amid bribery allegations, while those still inside were free to radicalise each other.

The Conservative MP, who was hailed a hero for his efforts to save the police officer murdered in the Westminster attack, said a new strategy was needed to deal with committed extremists who are willing to die for their cause.

He called on international leaders attending the UN General Assembly next month to find a solution, which could include a designated legal process for Isis members.

Isis claimed responsibility for a suicide attack that killed 80 people at a wedding in Afghanistan last week, and its propaganda channels churn out daily reports of executions, shootings, battles and bombings across the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

In the past two months, Isis has released more than a dozen videos showing factions in different countries renewing their pledges of allegiance to leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

“The afflictions and tribulations experienced by your brothers in [Syria] only made them more steadfast and patient,” said one fighter, following footage from Yemen, Bangladesh, Somalia, Tunisia, Libya, the Philippines, Turkey, Egypt the Caucasus and elsewhere.

A 2016 report commissioned by the government warned that removing extremists’ citizenship left them free to continue terrorist activities abroad, prevented monitoring and encouraged the “dangerous delusion that terrorism can be made into a foreign problem”.

But the use of the controversial power soared by more than 600 per cent in a year, and has been applied to more than 150 people since 2010.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The home secretary has the power to deprive someone on conducive to the public good grounds of their British citizenship, where it would not render them stateless.

“Depriving someone of their British citizenship is never a decision that is taken lightly. Decisions are based on advice from officials, lawyers and the intelligence agencies and all available information to keep our country safe.

“Those who have fought for or supported Daesh should wherever possible face justice for their crimes in the most appropriate jurisdiction, which will often be in the region where their offences have been committed.”

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/isis-fighters-uk-begum-letts-terror-risk-tobias-ellwood-a9077001.html

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British Gov’t Probes Qatari-Owned Bank Due To Hamas Terrorism Links

By Benjamin Weinthal  

August 25, 2019

A Qatari regime-owned bank, Al Rayan, operating in the United Kingdom with ties to the US- and EU-classified terrorist entity Hamas, has been placed under investigation for financial crimes, including money laundering.

The British newspaper The Times, which first reported on the probe into Al Rayan on Thursday, wrote Al Rayan notified its shareholders this year that its “anti-money laundering [AML] processes and controls have been placed under formal review by the Financial Conduct Authority [FCA], which has led to ongoing investment in enhanced AML processes.”

The Jerusalem Post reported in early August that Al Rayan’s account with the Hamas-connected NGO Interpal revealed pro-BDS notices targeting Israel on its website. The Times wrote in its early August report that Interpal is “A Palestinian aid charity identified in a 2015 government review as part of the British infrastructure of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. It was designated as a terrorist entity by the US Treasury over alleged Hamas funding links, a charge it strongly denies.”

The Times’ second report on Thursday said “Restrictions have been placed on the operation of Al Rayan, the UK’s oldest and largest Islamic bank, pending the outcome of the [FCA] investigation.”

According to The Times, “The bank’s largest shareholders are Qatari state institutions. The wealthy emirate has been criticized for the support it provides to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and for its alleged funding of Islamist terrorism in North Africa and the Middle East.” The regulators at the FCA oversee “the conduct of 59,000 British firms including banks,” wrote The Times. The FCA seeks to “apply risk-based customer due diligence” and other steps to prevent their services “from being used for money laundering or terrorist financing, “noted the paper, adding banks are required to adhere to “policies and procedures to minimize their money laundering risk.”

Al Rayan’s is based in Birmingham and has a customer base of 85,000 customers. The Times wrote: “The FCA inquiry into Al Rayan is thought to have been launched last year. Pending its outcome, the bank was required ‘with immediate effect’ not to open new deposit accounts for anyone ‘categorized as high risk for the purposes of financial crime risk.’ It must also reject any account applications from ‘politically exposed persons’ [PEPs], members of their family or their ‘known close associates.’ The FCA defines PEPs as ‘individuals whose prominent position in public life may make them vulnerable to corruption.”’

According to The Times, an Al Rayan spokesperson said the bank agreed to impose a “temporary restriction” on new deposit accounts for certain persons.

Allegations of Qatar financing terrorism have long followed the largely opaque financial practices of the super wealthy monarchy.

In 2015, Germany’s development minister Gerd Mueller accused Qatar of financing the terrorist movement ISIS.

Full report at:

https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/British-govt-probes-Qatari-owned-bank-due-to-Hamas-terrorism-links-599690

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German state fights Islamist extremism with YouTube satire

25.08.2019

The German state of North Rhine-Westphalia has launched a satirical YouTube channel in the hope of stopping young people from becoming radicalized via the video sharing platform.

The project launched by the NRW Office for the Protection of the Constitution has two parts: a satirical YouTube channel and an accompanying factual channel.

The comical "Jihadi Fool" channel, launched on Thursday (22.08.2019) at the Gamescom computer games trade fair in Cologne, is a sketch comedy format that in NRW Interior Ministry words "satirically addresses the absurdity of radicalization, terrorism and Islamism," while the educational channel refers to the satirical videos and counters Salafist propaganda with facts. It will be launched on Tuesday.

The name is a reference to the subculture "Jihad Cool," used by extremists to rebrand jihadism as a fashionable lifestyle. 

Over the course of a year, 32 satirical videos and 16 factual videos will be released through the €500,000 ($557,000) project.

One satire shows a right-wing populist and an Islamic extremist bonding over sexism and homophobia while trying to convert passersby; another shows a fictional TV show titled "Goodbye Syria," in which a former extremist adapts to the mundane struggles of life back in Germany.

The channel's videos have been watched more than 11,000 times in total and have received mixed reviews: Some viewers find them amusing, while others criticize the use of taxpayer money. At the time of publishing, the Jihadi Fool channel had 424 subscribers.

Extremists in NRW 'still active'

NRW's Interior Minister Herbert Reul said in a press statement that the military defeat of the so-called caliphate of the Islamic State (IS) did not mean the 3,100 Salafist extremists living in Germany's most populous state had "vanished into thin air."

"They are still active and use all channels on which they can find young people," Reul said.

He highlighted the importance of using the same online platforms to combat the radicalization of young people, adding that "wit, humor and facts are democracy's strongest weapons."

"A constitutional protection agency that takes its task of prevention seriously simply cannot opt out of being active on such platforms," Reul said. "We must go where our target group is."

Branding essential

Jawaneh Golesorkh, a researcher at Ufuq — an organization active in the field of prevention of Islamist radicalization whose Arab name translates as "Horizon" —, said satirical videos were a great idea, but their success will depend on how they are branded.

"We know that counter-speech, especially if it is branded as coming from government institutions, is not as effective as if it were from influencers," she said.

Golesorkh added that Ufuq has had success working with famous German comedians in the past and underlined initiatives such as "Say My Name," a project of the Federal Agency for Civic Education that aims to prevent extremism among young women between the ages of 14 and 25 by using videos from influencers who discuss a range of topics including identity and radicalization.

Historian and Islamism expert Christian Osthold told DW that while satirical videos can contribute to the fight against extremism, for this to succeed it is important to involve people who have authority in the Islamic community.

The drawback to countering Islamists' messages on YouTube, Osthold told DW, is that the platform has mainly been used by Salafist preachers who now know very well how to effectively manipulate young Muslims.

Another barrier to preventing radicalization is that "Imams who could counteract Salafist ideas in their mosques often do not speak German very well, which is why media appearances are virtually impossible," he added.

Extremists change tactics

Ufuq's Jawaneh Golesorkh notes that the tactics of extremists have shifted in recent years. Apart from now also using Instagram to spread their message, they focus less on religion and more on general topics such as politics, capitalism and feminism. 

"For example, you have a YouTube account by Generation Islam and you would not be able to know that this is an Islamist site because they address everyday topics like racism."

Golesorkh explained that these channels do publish the occasional religious post that is explicitly not Islamist — and that when the viewer reaches out and contacts the channel, perhaps in a direct message, the potential for radicalization is enabled.

The owner of the site or others might then reach out to some users in the comments section and try to radicalize them.

However, the number of likes and views that a video gets is no indication that the people watching are becoming radicalized, she said.

Identity at the forefront

Golesorkh said that Ufuq had also found that deradicalization projects can be successful if the project does not focus specifically on Islamic radicalization but also topics like democracy and immigration.

Among the topics that needed to be handled with sensitivity were identity and religion.

"If do you raise it (religion), you need to be careful because you can get into a ping pong — there's always someone who knows it better or differently," Golesorkh said.

"Rather than saying 'I will show you how to live,' it is better to do it on an eye-to-eye level," she added.

Radicalization often comes from a feeling that one is not a valuable part of society and does not belong.

"Human beings are, above all, social beings who strive for affirmation and recognition of their environment," Christian Osthold told DW.

He said that when people feel they do not belong, they tend to turn away from society rather than towards others. This is when they can become "susceptible to the influence of Salafist preachers, who say: 'It is not you who is the problem because you are a Muslim, but non-Islamic, godless society.'"

'They still can't vote'

Golesorkh said that the best possible way to combat radicalization is to create room for young people in Germany to feel like they belong to this society.

"Some young people see that their parents and grandparents have lived here for 20 years but still can't vote, for example," Golesorkh said. "They aren't only confronted with exclusion and racism in their own daily lives.”

She added that this was particularly important in NRW, a state with a large number of foreign and migrant workers.

Full report at:

https://www.dw.com/en/german-state-fights-islamist-extremism-with-youtube-satire/a-50145456

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Europe grapples with ISIS returnees and their families

24/08/2019

TUNIS - With the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate off the map, European countries are struggling to deal with hundreds of foreign fighter recruits and their families who are seeking to return to their home countries.

Since 2011, some 13,000 European nationals have joined the Islamic State (ISIS), posing unique legal and security challenges for their home countries. Today, with many held in overcrowded Kurdish-controlled prisons, European governments must decide how to proceed: Should they strip the terror suspects of their nationality, repatriate and prosecute them at home or leave them at the mercy of their captors?

Even more thorny is the status of their children and other family members who were taken to ISIS territory against their will. While governments bear some responsibility for ensuring their safe return, this often requires the expenditure of significant resources and comes at a high political cost.

So far, various governments have taken different approaches. In Central Asia, countries such as Kosovo, Turkey, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have been the most proactive in returning fighters and their families home. More often viewing extremism as a socio-psychological phenomenon that can be remedied with proper government oversight, these countries returned hundreds of ISIS fighters and their families and sought to reintegrate them into society.

Russia has led the way on the issue, said Tanya Lokshina, Human Rights Watch associate director for Europe and Central Asia.

“Russia’s human rights record is deeply problematic but it has done a lot — more than Western democracies — on the issue of returns,” Lokshina told the Moscow Times in February. “Globally, Russia had the most active programme to return detainees from Iraq and Syria, notably children.”

In Western Europe, the story has been different. Fearful of exposing populations to potential terror risks, countries such as France, Germany and the United Kingdom have been reluctant — and sometimes downright unwilling — to take back ISIS suspects and their families.

Increasingly, they are coming under pressure to change course, including by US President Donald Trump, who said the United States is unwilling to pay for the indefinite detention of ISIS fighters.

“If Europe doesn’t take them, then I have no choice but to release them into the countries from which they came, which [are] Germany and France and other places,” Trump threatened on Twitter.

Belgium says it plans to repatriate all children under the age of 10 and adjudicate those over 10 on a case-by-case basis but has resisted calls to return adult ISIS members.

Germany, which saw some 1,000 of its citizens join ISIS, says it is committed to returning them but cites logistical roadblocks to doing so.

“Germany has a responsibility for its citizens, even if they have committed serious crimes,” Armin Schuster, a domestic policy expert with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, told German publication Der Spiegel.

Initially, the German Foreign Ministry sought to repatriate only children of ISIS fighters but a court ruled in June that a female ISIS member must be returned with her children, setting a controversial precedent in a country where religious and ethnic tensions are already high.

On August 17, the Rojava Information Centre, of the Autonomous Administration of North and East of Syria, wrote on Twitter that “a number of German orphans born to ISIS members” would soon “be handed over to the German Foreign Ministry at the Semalka Border Crossing.”

“It’s the first repatriation of over 100 ISIS-linked German children, plus scores of men & women, held in North-East Syria.”

The United Kingdom, meanwhile, opted for a different approach, revoking the citizenships of high-profile ISIS members it does not want to return home.

Jack Letts, a 24-year-old British-born Muslim convert detained in a Kurdish prison, was the latest to be targeted with this policy. Dubbed “Jihadi Jack” in the media, he was stripped of his British citizenship after it was ruled that he would be eligible for citizenship in Canada, where his father is from.

A similar case made headlines in February when 19-year-old ISIS member Shamima Begum, who is of Bangladeshi heritage, was stripped of her British nationality, effectively leaving her stateless.

The UK government maintains that it has the power to revoke an individual’s citizenship if it is “conducive to the public good” and does not leave them stateless, or if they are eligible for citizenship of another country.

Human rights activists, however, generally argue that European states should repatriate their citizens and, when possible, put them through the legal system at home.

Full report at:

https://thearabweekly.com/europe-grapples-isis-returnees-and-their-families

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Macron hopes for Trump-Rouhani meeting in coming weeks

26 August 2019

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that he hopes for a meeting in coming weeks between US President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Speaking alongside Trump on Monday, Macron said G-7 leaders had agreed that Iran needs to meet its nuclear obligations and that there was a hope for a diplomatic breakthrough in the tensions that have grown since the US left the 2015 nuclear accord.

Macron spoke at the end of the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/08/26/Macron-hopes-for-Trump-Rouhani-summit-in-coming-weeks.html

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Iran’s Zarif leaves G7 talks, unclear if progress made to ease tensions

26 August 2019

Iran’s foreign minister made a flying visit for talks with host France at the G7 summit on Sunday, as Paris ramped up efforts to ease tensions between Tehran and Washington, a dramatic diplomatic move that the White House said had surprised them.

European leaders have struggled to tamp down the brewing confrontation between Iran and the United States since Trump pulled Washington out of Iran’s internationally-brokered 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on the Iranian economy.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is under US sanctions, flew to the southwest French town of Biarritz where the Group of Seven leaders are meeting. He held more than three hours of talks, including with Macron, before heading back to Tehran.

“Road ahead is difficult. But worth trying,” Zarif tweeted, adding that in addition to meeting French leaders he had given a joint briefing to officials from Germany and Britain.

French officials sought to bill the meeting as important to “refine Iranian propositions” to help defuse the crisis after G7 leaders had discussed Iran over dinner on Saturday.

“The discussions that were held between the president and Zarif were positive and will continue,” a French official said after the meeting, declining to take detailed questions.

The 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers aimed to curb Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of many international sanctions on Tehran.

Since pulling Washington out of the deal last year, Trump has pushed a maximum pressure policy to try to force Iran into a new negotiation that would include its ballistic missile program and regional activities.

While Trump’s European allies also want new talks with Iran, they believe the nuclear deal must be upheld. Macron, who has taken the lead in Europe in trying to salvage the agreement and avert a deeper crisis in the Middle East, had already met Zarif in Paris on Friday.

They discussed proposals to de-escalate tensions between Washington and Tehran, including easing some US sanctions or providing Iran with an economic compensation mechanism to make up for oil revenues lost under US sanctions.

No progress on oil sanctions

But despite Macron spending two hours with Trump over lunch on Saturday and all seven leaders discussing Iran at length in the evening, it did not appear that the US leader had budged on easing oil sanctions as Macron had sought from Trump.

A European diplomat familiar with the discussions said the leaders had failed at the dinner to persuade Trump.

Earlier on Sunday, Trump appeared to brush aside French efforts to mediate with Iran, saying that while he was happy for Macron to reach out to Tehran to defuse tensions, the United States would carry on with its own initiatives.

Macron’s invitation to Zarif had caught Trump by surprise, a White House official said, and no US officials met with Zarif during the visit.

Other delegations also said they had been informed at the last minute. The Elysee said delegations had been informed, but everything had happened very quickly.

US authorities earlier this month placed Zarif under US sanctions.

“Zarif will convey the Iranian leadership’s response to French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal aimed at saving Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal,” a senior Iranian official had told Reuters.

In response to the tougher US sanctions and what it says is the failure of European powers party to the deal - France, Britain and Germany - to compensate it for lost revenues, Tehran has responded with a series of moves, including retreating from some of its commitments to limit its nuclear activity.

Highlighting just how difficult it will be ease tensions, two Iranian officials and one diplomat told Reuters on Sunday that Iran wants to export a minimum of 700,000 barrels per day of its oil and ideally up to 1.5 million bpd if the West wants to negotiate with Tehran to save the nuclear deal.

One of the Iranian officials also said Iran’s ballistic missile program was not open for negotiation.

“We’ll do our own outreach, but, you know, I can’t stop people from talking. If they want to talk, they can talk,” Trump said earlier when asked about Macron’s mediation efforts.

The United States has made no indication it will ease any curbs and it is unclear what kind of compensation mechanism Macron wants to offer Iran, given at this stage a proposed trade channel for humanitarian and food exchanges with Iran is still not operational.

Macron has also said that in return for any concessions he would expect Iran to comply fully with the nuclear deal and for Iran to engage in new negotiations.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/08/26/Iran-s-Zarif-leaves-G7-talks-unclear-if-progress-made-to-ease-tensions.html

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Germany: Iran talks at G7 is a ‘big step forward’

Ayhan Şimşek  

26.08.2019

BERLIN

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday praised Iran talks at the G7 summit of world’s leading powers and expressed her hope for a diplomatic solution to recent tensions between Washington and Tehran.

“A firm willingness to talk is already a big step forward,” Merkel told a news conference on the final day of the summit held in the French seaside town of Biarritz.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Sunday made an unexpected visit to the G7 summit, where he had talks with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Merkel underlined that the talks were made in coordination with the U.S. and were welcomed by all the participants of the summit.

The German chancellor also said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s remarks on Monday, where he expressed his willingness to talk, was another important signal.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/germany-iran-talks-at-g7-is-a-big-step-forward-/1565454

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Russian airstrikes kill 6 civilians in Idlib, Syria

26.08.2019

Six civilians were killed and 12 others injured on Monday when fresh Russian airstrikes hit Idlib de-escalation zone in Syria's northwest, according to the White Helmets civil defense agency.

Source with the White Helmets told Anadolu Agency that three were killed in the Bsakla village, two in Kafr Sajna and one in Maaret Hurmah.

Twelve were injured, the source said expressing concern that casualties might rise.

Turkey and Russia agreed last September to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

The Syrian regime and its allies, however, have consistently broken the terms of the cease-fire, launching frequent attacks inside the zone.

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

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/russian-airstrikes-kill-6-civilians-in-idlib-syria/1565432

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