New Age Islam
Tue Dec 01 2020, 12:08 AM

Islamic World News ( 1 March 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Islam Does Not Teach Breaching Peace: Ajmer Dargah Deewan







• India Is a Secular Country, We Can’t Divide Hindus and Muslims: Amartya Sen

• Spiritual Leaders Hold Prayer Rally In Delhi

• I Forgive You, London Mosque Muezzin Tells Assailant

• Prevent: Muslim 'Support' For 'Toxic' Anti-Extremism Scheme

• Hundreds Rally In US Cities against Anti-Muslim Violence in Delhi

• US Deal In Afghan Hits 1st Roadblock, Ghani Says Not Committed To Release 5000 Taliban Prisoners

• Top Saudi Court Hands Down Life Term to Imprisoned Shia Dissident

• US Leaving Afghanistan after Two Decades of Humiliation: Zarif

• Afghanistan Should Resolves Bilateral Issues with Pakistan Instead Of Involving US: Islamabad

• Apple, BMW and Sony Accused of Using Forced Uighur Labour

 

India

• Islam Does Not Teach Breaching Peace: Ajmer Dargah Deewan

• India Is a Secular Country, We Can’t Divide Hindus and Muslims: Amartya Sen

• Spiritual Leaders Hold Prayer Rally In Delhi

• Delhi Riots: Why This Maulana Is Planning A Meeting Of Hindus And Muslims

• CAA, NRC and NPR: Rajinikanth listens to Muslim leaders, ‘offers his support to help peace return’

• No Muslim Born In Tamil Nadu Will Be Affected By NPR, Chief Minister Says

• Foreign secretary in Bangladesh with CAA balm

• Erdogan’s remarks on Kashmir sours India-Turkish relations

• Malaysia and India aim to repair soured ties that hit palm trade

• J&K police arrest 3 Lashkar terrorists, 4 ‘associates’

• Ready to play any role to maintain peace in country: Rajinikanth on Delhi violence

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Europe

• I Forgive You, London Mosque Muezzin Tells Assailant

• Prevent: Muslim 'Support' For 'Toxic' Anti-Extremism Scheme

• Britain’s foreign minister visits Oman, Saudi Arabia to boost post-Brexit ties

• Migrants clash with Greek police at border after Ankara opens floodgates

• Turkey grants visa exemptions to 11 countries

• Migrants flock to Turkey's border to cross to Europe

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North America

• Hundreds Rally In US Cities against Anti-Muslim Violence in Delhi

• US And Afghan Taliban Sign Historic Troop Withdrawal Deal In Doha

• US carrier strike group enters Mediterranean amid conflicts in Libya, Syria

• Trump hails pact with Taliban, vows to meet with leaders of militant group

• What the US has achieved in Afghanistan

• US: Hundreds gather in DC to back Turkey amid Idlib op

• US, Afghan presidents discuss ‘evolving peace process’

• US weighing info-sharing, military equipment for Turkey

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South Asia

• US Deal In Afghan Hits 1st Roadblock, Ghani Says Not Committed To Release 5000 Taliban Prisoners

• Intra-Afghan dialogue to start in Norway from March 10

• Afghanistan's partial truce will continue, 'with goal' for full ceasefire: Ashraf Ghani

• Myanmar army kills five Rohingya Muslims, including a child, in Rakhine

• Full script of the US-Taliban agreement for bringing peace to Afghanistan

• Top ISIS commanders among 6 killed in U.S. drone strikes in East of Afghanistan

• OIC contact group discusses Rohingya protection with UN chief

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Arab World

• Top Saudi Court Hands Down Life Term to Imprisoned Shia Dissident

• Iraq’s Allawi withdraws PM candidacy, President begins talks for replacement

• Rockets land near US embassy in Baghdad, no casualties reported

• Iraqi security forces kill one, wound 24 at Baghdad protest: Sources

• Iraq reports six new coronavirus cases raising total to 19

• Three new coronavirus cases confirmed in Lebanon, total now 10

• Kuwait to ‘double-check’ all travelers from Egypt, Syria for coronavirus

• Aircraft downed over Idlib, north Syria, as regime closes airspace: Reports

• Syria closes northwestern airspace, downs 3 Turkish drone

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Mideast

• US Leaving Afghanistan after Two Decades of Humiliation: Zarif

• Iran: US Has No Legal Authority to Decide about Future of Afghanistan

• Iran calls for inter-Afghan peace deal, rejects US agreement

• Israel goes to third elections in under a year

• PM Netanyahu pledges ‘immediate’ annexation steps if re-elected

• Yemenis seize capital of strategic al-Jawf as Saudi-led mercenaries retreat

• Israeli premier pledges to annex more lands of West Bank ‘within weeks’ if re-elected

• Hudaydah skies see another Saudi-led drone targeted by Yemeni fighters

• Israel admits assassinating Palestinian leader's son in Syria

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Pakistan

• Afghanistan Should Resolves Bilateral Issues with Pakistan Instead Of Involving US: Islamabad

• Study Calls For Inclusion Of Religious Minorities In National Mainstream

• A Pakistan-led, Pakistan-owned process in Afghanistan

• Pakistan PM seeks int'l intervention in India violence

• PML-N accuses govt of pursuing ‘anti-state’ policies

• Pakistan govt to lobby UK for Nawaz Sharif's deportation

• Govt to lobby UK for Nawaz’s deportation

• KP police ask Fazlur Rehman to curb activities over security fears

• Govt to approach UK for Nawaz’s extradition, says Firdous

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Southeast Asia

• Apple, BMW and Sony Accused of Using Forced Uighur Labour

• Islamist party PAS set for comeback in Malaysia's federal government

• Indonesia’s religious leaders urge promotion of religious harmony

• Muhyiddin clocks in on first day of work as Malaysia's PM

• Mahathir Mohamad Wants House Meet to Test New PM’s Majority Claim

• Malaysian PM sworn in amid questions over legitimacy

• Report tells how Saudis undermined KL Summit

• Rethink ban on Malaysian palm oil, Wee urges India

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Africa

• Libya: GNA Forces Kill 23 Members Of Haftar’s Militias

• Kenya: 20 Dead So Far As Al-Shabaab Attacks Escalate

• Boko Haram kill 10 in northeast Nigerian village

• Libya: One child killed in attack by Haftar militia

• Bomb blast kills 4 soldiers in Somalia

• Kenya denies meddling in Somalia's internal affairs

• Al-Shabaab changes tack, targets jobless youths in Nyeri slums

• Red Cross not involved in negotiations with Boko Haram, ISWAP – Official

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/islam-does-not-teach-breaching-peace--ajmer-dargah-deewan/d/121203

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Islam Does Not Teach Breaching Peace: Ajmer Dargah Deewan

March 1, 2020

Ajmer Dargah deewan Syed Zainul Abedin Ali Khan on Sunday said there is no place in Islam for anything which weakens the atmosphere of peace.

“It is impossible to solve a problem with violence. People need to recognise the conspiracy created by instilling fear in the society for deviating people from mainstream due to political selfishness,” he said in a statement.

“Anything that weakens the atmosphere of peace has no place in Islam. It is impossible to solve a problem with violence. Human history testifies that the atmosphere of peace and positivity is the basis of progress and development in the world.

“The essence of the teachings of Islam is that in a society where there is unrest, people will fall behind and out of the mainstream of the nation,” Abedin said while addressing a gathering on the eve of 808th Urs.

In this traditional event, religious heads of country’s various Chistiya Dargahs were also present.

Expressing concern over the current situation in the country, the dargah deewan said people are being forced to come on road by fears triggered in the society out of political selfishness.

He lamented that at a time when these fears should be mitigated, negative forces are working to deepen them.

He said negative politics paves way for only the destruction and unfortunately such politics is being seen in educational institutions also.

A society bogged down by negative politics cannot progress in any manner, he said, adding that educational institutions, which enrich the society, too are becoming the centre of political confrontation and unrest today.

“Every Indian, especially Muslims of the country need to be with positive forces and protect themselves from selfish political leaders who are concerned about their selfish interest than the society,” he cautioned.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/ajmer-dargah-deewan-on-delhi-violence-indian-express-6294260/

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India is a secular country, we can’t divide Hindus and Muslims: Amartya Sen

February 29, 2020

Expressing concern over the communal clashes in Delhi, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen said on Saturday that India is a secular country and people cannot be divided on religious lines

Addressing a press conference, he said it should be found out whether the police is inefficient or there was a lack of effort on the part of the government to tackle the violence.

“I am very much worried that where it happened is the capital of the country and is centrally governed. If minorities are tortured there and police failed or can’t discharge their duties, it is a matter of serious concern,” Sen said at an event organised here by the Pratichi Trust

“It is reported that those who died or were tortured are mostly Muslims. India is a secular country we can’t divide Hindus and Muslims. As an Indian citizen, I can’t help but worry,” he added

However, Sen said he doesn’t want to draw any conclusion without analysing the entire matter. He said the transfer of Justice S Muralidhar from the Delhi High Court to the Punjab and Haryana HC is natural to raise questions

“I personally know him. It is natural to raise questions but I can’t pass any judgment,” Sen told reporters

Justice Muralidhar, who was hearing the Delhi violence case, was transferred on a day when a high court bench headed by him expressed “anguish” over police’s failure to register first investigation reports against alleged hate speeches by three BJP leaders

Sen further said that he found it “unreasonable” to force a Bangladeshi student of the Visva-Bharati to leave the country

“I have no detailed information. As per newspaper reports, I have not yet found any strong reason why she should be deported from the country,” he said

Afsara Anika Meem, an undergraduate student at the central university, has been asked by the Home Ministry to leave the country for reportedly engaging in “anti-government activities”.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-is-a-secular-country-we-cant-divide-hindus-and-muslims-amartya-sen-6293068/

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Spiritual leaders hold prayer rally in Delhi

February 27, 2020

By Jibin Robin

New Delhi, Feb 27, 2020: Leaders of various religions came together on February 26 evening to pray for peace in the national capital where sectarian violence has claimed at least 34 lives in five days.

The leaders met at Sacred Heart Cathedral of the Catholic Archdiocese.

They appealed to the citizens for peace and non-violence and follow the path of loving each other.

One- minute silence was observed for those who lost their lives in clashes in Delhi’s northeastern areas, bordering Uttar Pradesh state.

Spiritual leader present included chief Imam Umer Ahmed Ilyasi of Islam, chairman of Gurudwara Bangla Sahib Parmajit Singh Chandok, Jain guru Acharya Lokesh Muni, Swami Parmanand and Delhi Archbishop Anil J. Couto.

The gathering was informed that Sikh gurudwaras and churches are open round the clock for all the riot victims. “Anybody can come and take shelter in the house of God,” the organizers said.

Gurudwara Bangla Sahib near the cathedral has been sending ‘Langars’ (community kitchen serving free meals), ambulance facilities and relief materials to the riot-affected areas.

“This is the spirit of India and no amount of hatred can alter the spirit,” a participant remarked.

http://mattersindia.com/2020/02/spiritual-leaders-hold-prayer-rally-in-delhi/

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I forgive you, London Mosque muezzin tells assailant

BY YOUNUS

FEBRUARY 22, 2020

LONDON: London Central Mosque muezzin Raafat Maglad in his statement said he forgives his attacker who stabbed him in the neck.

According to reports, muezzin Maglad in his 70s is undergoing treatment for his yesterday’s injuries on his neck where the attacker Daniel Horton stabbed him during the prayer.

He was apprehended by worshippers who broke from their prayer to save the Muezzin.

Returning to the mosque, Muezzin said he does not hate his attacker and rather felt sorry for him.

The 29-year-old suspect was arrested by the London Police on suspicions of attempted murder and remains in police custody.

Speaking about the incident, Muezzin Maglad said it had “felt like someone was hitting me with a brick” when he was stabbed from behind.

“I just felt blood flowing from my neck and that’s it, they rushed me to the hospital. Everything happened all of a sudden,” he said.

When asked why did he return to the Mosque so soon after the attack, Mr Maglad replied it was “very important” for him to attend Friday prayers.

“If I miss it, I just miss something very important. It is very important for us as Muslims.”

Meanwhile, London Mayor Sadiq Khan joined the worshippers at the mosque for Friday prayers.

LondonCentral Mosque

@iccukorg

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan joins the Director General Dr Ahmad Al Dubayan and thousands of worshippers at London Central Mosque supporting the community after yesterday’s attack

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https://www.siasat.com/i-forgive-you-london-mosque-muezzin-tells-assailant-1834371/

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Prevent: Muslim 'support' for 'toxic' anti-extremism scheme

March 2, 2020

The principles behind the anti-extremism scheme Prevent may not be as controversial among British Muslims as thought, a survey suggests.

Criminal justice think tank Crest Advisory says its research shows the "narrative" the scheme is a "toxic brand" is "fundamentally flawed".

UK Muslims would be more likely to tip off the scheme when someone was being radicalised than the wider public.

But the Muslim Council of Britain said Prevent still needed to be overhauled.

The research was funded by a charitable trust with an interest in policing and crime reduction which for security reasons does not wish to be identified.

The survey showed that many of those questioned had not heard of Prevent before - amounting to 55% of Muslims and 68% of the general population.

But when offered "a neutral explanation" of Prevent, 80% of British Muslims and 85% of the wider public offered broad support for it, Crest Advisory says.

Some 67% of British Muslims surveyed said they would tip off the authorities about someone being radicalised, compared with 63% of the wider public.

The survey also found:

63% of Muslims and 67% of the wider public worried about Islamist extremism

64% of Muslims and 71% of the wider public said they trusted the police

"Our findings appear to fly in the face of a number of narratives commonly applied to British Muslims by some politicians, campaign groups and commentators about extremism and efforts to counter it," said report author and Crest Advisory director Jon Clements.

"British Muslims are, broadly speaking, no more 'in denial' about Islamist extremism and the threat it presents than the population as a whole.

"Equally it is evident that British Muslims appear to be just as willing to step up and report concerns about an individual at risk of being radicalised as everybody else."

Mention "Prevent" and the phrase that often comes to mind is "toxic brand".

It's the label that is said to best fit what Muslims feel about the programme.

It's unclear when it first became attached but it has stuck, leaving the impression that Prevent is tainted, poisonous and worthless.

The results of this research suggest the term is unhelpful and does not accurately reflect what British Muslims think.

In fact, the finding that should cause most alarm among local authority safeguarding teams and counter-terrorism police is that most Muslims don't know what Prevent is - major work is clearly needed to raise its profile.

Officials will also have to address the concerns that a significant proportion of Muslims surveyed say they have about the overall purpose of the project.

That's a job that the independent review of the scheme, promised by the government last year, could help with - but the review has stalled after its chair, Lord Carlile, had to step down.

Representative samples of British Muslims and the wider public were interviewed by from Savanta Comres in October and November last year. Researchers also held focus group discussions in London, Slough, Watford, Bradford, Birmingham, Oldham, Cardiff and Glasgow.

Equalities campaigner Akeela Ahmed who advised the project said the research "underscores the urgent need to improve consultation with communities most affected by counter-terrorism and counter-extremism policies in general".

She said the findings were "significant and provide a sound evidence base by which to bring fact and balance to a debate that has been raging for years."

A Muslim Council of Britain spokesperson said the survey provided "valuable insight" and showed most people supported the "concept that prevention is better than cure".

But they added that less than a third of the British Muslims surveyed who were actually familiar with Prevent were supportive of the scheme. They cited reasons including lack of trust and oversight and the MCB said this "demonstrate precisely why there needs to be an overhaul of the strategy" as "serious concerns" remained.

Dal Babu - a former Metropolitan Police chief superintendent, who used to chair the National Association of Muslim Police - criticised Prevent and the research.

He said the report sought to "mislead and conflate safeguarding with the Prevent programme" which "does not have the trust of the community".

"Unfortunately this clumsy, misleading report will lead to further evidence of the authorities failing to engage with communities and develop a system for preventing terrorism from where if comes," he added.

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-51676923

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Hundreds rally in US cities against anti-Muslim violence in Delhi

by Samira Sadeque

1 Mar 2020

Hundreds of Indian Americans of different faiths rallied outside Indian consulates in major American cities on Friday evening to protest against the recent violence in Delhi that has killed at least 42 people, and injured hundreds.

Violence erupted in the Indian capital on Monday, leading to a three-day-long rampage, with Hindu mobs attacking Muslim homes, shops and mosques. The attacks were carried out on protesters, who have been rallying against a new citizenship law, after the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Kapil Mishra threatened peaceful sit-ins would be removed from the streets.

India's Hindu nationalist government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi says the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is meant to help persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries, but critics say the law, which makes faith a basis for granting citizenship, is against the country's secular ethos.

The CAA passed last December has been compared to US President Donald Trump's Muslim ban as it blocks naturalisation for Muslims, who form nearly 15 percent of India's 1.3 billion population.

More than 30 people have been killed in a harsh police crackdown on nationwide peaceful sit-ins against the "anti-Muslim" law.

Outside the Indian consulate in New York on Friday evening, protesters gathered chanting "Shame!" at officials as they tried to exit or enter the building.

"We are exhausted," Sana Qutubuddin, an activist with Alliance for Justice and Accountability - a coalition of South Asian groups that organised Friday's rally alongside the Indian American Muslim Council, South Asia Solidarity Initiative, and Equality Labs - said during her speech at the rally.

کاشف الہدیٰ

@kaaashif

We remembered the dead and the fallen in #DelhiGenocide2020 we told many passerbys why we were there in cold. #harvardsquare #boston #CambMA#CAA_NRC_Protests

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'Devastated'

Other civil society organisations such as the Alliance for South Asians Taking Action, Chicago Against Hindu Fascism and Bay Area Against Hindu Fascism also protested against the worst violence in Delhi since 1984, when more than 3,000 Sikh minority were killed following the assassination of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

"I was there to have an opportunity to grieve with a community that understands how egregious the genocidal violence that occurred in Delhi was," Qutubuddin told Al Jazeera, "and to be in a space that recognises what this moment means in modern Indian history."

Organisers estimated nearly 300 people turned up at the New York rally where they chanted slogans to repeal the CAA, and highlight the current BJP government's "fascist" ideologies that target lower-caste Hindus and other religious minorities.

The BJP's ideological parent is Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) - a Hindu paramilitary supremacist organisation inspired by European fascists and Nazis - which has called for India, an officially secular nation, to be declared a Hindu Rashtra or nation of Hindus.

At the New York rally, protesters played music, and rallied around the block "to let the neighbours of the consulate know that their silence makes them a party to genocide," said one of the organisers.

For many Indian Americans, showing up at the protest was all they felt they could do.

"I grew up in an idyllic idea of a secular India and I'm completely devastated to see everything that I thought would happen in India is happening under the Modi government," Ishita Srivastava, who has been living in New York for 12 years, told Al Jazeera.

"Being here is all that I can do," she added. "I think it's a very systematically fuelled bigotry and state-sponsored and supported violence and there's clearly an appetite for rabid divisiveness and bigotry and it's exacerbated by the fact that we have a deeply unequal society."

The protests - from San Francisco to Chicago and Atlanta - were brought together by organisers who identify as multi-faith and/or inter-faith and inter-caste collectives.

State-sanctioned violence

Earlier in the week, an estimated 50 people gathered at Harvard University in Boston, immediately after the Delhi violence began.

In Chicago, organisers said teachers, IT professionals, senior citizens were among the hundred protesters who came out on Friday.

"Attendees were reminded that this state-sanctioned violence is consistent with Indian history - citing the murders of Muslims in Gujarat [in 2002] and the Sikh genocide in 1984, as well the constant violence enacted on Dalits [the former untouchables] within caste oppression," Jihan, one of the organisers in San Francisco, told Al Jazeera. They estimated about 100 people showed up for the protest.

Police in Delhi have been accused of looking the other way as Hindu mobs attacked Muslim homes while in many cases they were found to be complicit in the assaults.

An estimated 80 people showed up at Friday's protest in Atlanta, organisers said. A protester with "Atlanta Rejects CAA", who did not wish to be named, told Al Jazeera that members from the consulate took photos of protesters and tried to intimidate them by taking their names.

One of the organisers criticised Trump, who has been accused of endorsing white supremacists in the US, for backing Modi's "fascist" agenda.

At a news conference in New Delhi on February 25, Trump defended Modi on religious freedom and refused to comment on the CAA while parts of the Indian capital burned.

"The meeting of Trump and Modi during a pogrom and for Trump to basically gaslight all of the concerns that millions of Indians are protesting, that's a sign of how they're cooperating and reinforcing their vision of a fascist world order," Thenmozhi Soundararajan, executive director of Equality Labs in New York, said.

Mohammed Jawad, national general secretary of Indian American Muslim Council, also criticised President Trump commending Modi on religious freedom in India.

Many expressed their concern that the violence has been normalised into the fabric of Indian society, especially under Modi.

Qutubuddin from Alliance for Justice and Accountability said that many of the attackers in the recent violence were "everyday Hindu extremists".

The Indian consulate in New York did not respond to repeated requests from Al Jazeera for comments.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/02/hundreds-rally-cities-anti-muslim-violence-delhi-200229223719285.html

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US deal in Afghan hits 1st roadblock, Ghani says not committed to release 5000 Taliban prisoners

Mar 1, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The US-Taliban peace agreement hit its first hurdle with Afghan president Dr Ashraf Ghani on Sunday saying that his government was not committed on the release of 5,000 insurgent prisoners, one of the key components of the peace deal that was signed in Doha in Qatar on Saturday amid the presence of representatives of several countries.

According to the US-Taliban agreement, up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners should be released by March 10 in order to facilitate the intra-Afghan negotiations. March 10 has been slated as a date for commencement of the intra-Afghan dialogue, involving Taliban, a delegation of Afghan government and representatives of the Afghan society, reportedly in Oslo. The Taliban would release up to 1,000 prisoners. Until recently, the Taliban had refused to speak to the Western-backed Afghan government, saying it was a “puppet regime”.

America has said a planned US troop withdrawal over the next 14 months is linked to the Taliban's counter-terrorism performance, not to progress in intra-Afghan talks.

Addressing a press conference in Kabul, the Afghan president criticised the US-Taliban deal, saying an agreement that was signed behind closed doors will have basic problems in its implementation “tomorrow”.

Ghani said that Washington was not authorised to speak, discuss or agree with Taliban on release of prisoners. “Any prisoner release is not in the authority of the US. It is the authority of the government of Afghanistan to make any such decision,” Ghani said, adding that there was no commitment to the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners.

Ghani said the release of prisoners cannot be considered a precondition for intra-Afghan talks. It can be part of the negotiations, he remarked.

Speaking about the negotiating team, which will attend the intra-Afghan negotiations, Ghani said the government’s delegation will represent Afghanistan’s basic values. “The effectiveness of the team should be considered when it comes to the number of its members,” he said. Ghani also clarified that the authority of government’s negotiating team would be limited.

“The authority of the delegation is limited because the ultimate decision-maker, according to the constitution, is either the parliament or the Loya Jirga (Grand Council) of Afghanistan or a referendum,” the Afghan president said.

When asked whether he will be able to announce a negotiating team before March 10, Ghani said the discussions about a negotiating team have already begun and it will be formed within the next nine days.

Ghani also stressed on the importance of sustaining the republic system in Afghanistan. “There is a clear necessity for all to focus on the republic – not the presidency – when it comes to talks with the Taliban,” he said.

The president hoped that the “reduction in violence” will become a ceasefire.

A week-long reduction in violence between the Taliban, the US and Afghan security forces saw a sudden drop in violence and casualties across the country after taking effect on February 22.

The US-Taliban deal is being seen as a historic opportunity to extricate the US from Afghanistan, a nation convulsed by conflict since the Soviet invasion in December 1979. Yet it could also unravel quickly, particularly if the Taliban fail to deliver on a promise that no terror attacks would be launched from Afghan soil.

The intra-Afghan talks between squabbling political factions and rival Taliban in Afghanistan are even more intricate - even if a potential failure might not slow the withdrawal of American forces.

In an interview with Associated Press, Qatari foreign minister Mohammad bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said he considered a prisoner exchange an important confidence-building measure. “Everything is interconnected,” he said on Sunday about the agreement’s 14-month time-frame.

“The prisoner exchange will be one of the first confidence-building measures, so it will remain a very critical step that we need to push forward,” he added.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/us-deal-in-afghan-hits-1st-roadblock-ghani-says-not-committed-to-release-5000-taliban-prisoners/articleshow/74430614.cms

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Top Saudi court hands down life term to imprisoned Shia dissident

01 March 2020

The Supreme Court of Saudi Arabia has sentenced an imprisoned political dissident from the oil-rich Eastern Province to life in prison.

Human rights sources, requesting anonymity, said the court passed the ruling against Mustafa al-Khayyat over his active participation in protests in the Shia-majority Qatif region since 2011, the Arabic-language Mirat al-Jazeera news website reported.

The sources added that the court has initially handed down the death sentence to Khayyat, a local resident of Tarout Island, following a number of hearings that started in July 2017.

The report further noted that the sentence was issued on the basis of confessions extracted under duress.

This comes after on February 24, a court in Saudi Arabia sentenced one Saudi citizen to death and seven others to jail on trumped-up charges of treason and spying for Iran.

Saudi-owned al-Arabiya television news network alleged that the death sentence was handed down to a person who was "proven to have leaked confidential information to Iranian intelligence."

“The confidential information which was leaked affects Saudi national security and includes intelligence on two foreign embassies, such as their entrances, exits, and security presence,” the Dubai-based broadcaster claimed.

Eastern Province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the region.

The protests have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown by the regime, with government forces increasing security measures across the province.

Over the past years, Riyadh has also redefined its anti-terrorism laws to target activism.

In January 2016, Saudi authorities executed Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who was an outspoken critic of Riyadh. Nimr had been arrested in Qatif in 2012.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/01/619897/Top-Saudi-court-hands-down-life-term-to-imprisoned-Shia-dissident

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US leaving Afghanistan after two decades of humiliation: Zarif

01 March 2020

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said the US is leaving Afghanistan after two decades of "humiliation" following a so-called peace deal between the Taliban and the United States.

"US occupiers should've never invaded Afghanistan. But they did, and blamed everyone else for consequences," Zairf said in a tweet on Sunday.

"Now after 19 years of humiliation, US has tendered its surrender," he added.

The foreign minister noted that US military presence has been a source of suffering for Afghanistan and other countries such Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

"It will leave—while leaving huge mess behind," he added.

Javad Zarif

@JZarif

US occupiers should've never invaded Afghanistan. But they did, and blamed everyone else for consequences

Now after 19 yrs of humiliation, US has tendered its surrender

Whether in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq or Yemen, US is THE problem

It will leave—while leaving huge mess behind

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On Saturday, the United States and the Taliban signed an agreement aimed at paving the way for a complete withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan, effectively ending what many have described as America's "longest war".

Under the deal, the Taliban will sever ties with al-Qaeda and other terror groups and sit down for peace talks with the Afghan government. In return, Washington will start a phased withdrawal of troops.

The Afghan government did not take part in talks which led to the deal.

Earlier on Sunday, Iran's Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that the pact was an attempt by Washington to justify its illegal presence in Afghanistan.

"The United States has no legal standing to sign a peace deal or determine the future of Afghanistan," the statement said, stressing that only domestic talks can stabilize the war-torn country.

Washington invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban-run government in 2001 on the pretext of fighting terrorism following the September 11 attacks.

The Taliban, however, never stopped its attacks, citing foreign military presence as one of the main reasons behind its continued militancy.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/01/619933/US-leaving-Afghanistan-after-two-decades-of-humiliation

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Afghanistan should resolves bilateral issues with Pakistan instead of involving US: Islamabad

01 March 2020

Pakistan says neighboring Afghanistan should resolve its reservations with Islamabad bilaterally rather than involving the United States, referring to a section of a joint US-Afghan declaration on peace efforts.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi made the comment in an interview with Reuters on Sunday, a day after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg signed a declaration of peace efforts.

The declaration, whose signing coincided with the signing in Doha of an agreement between the Taliban militant group and Washington, stated in one of its clauses that the US “commits to facilitate discussions between Afghanistan and Pakistan to work out arrangements to ensure neither country’s security is threatened by actions from the territory of the other side.”

However, this section infuriated Islamabad, prompting Pakistan’s top diplomat to say that Kabul should talk “directly” to Islamabad on bilateral issues.

“The US is planning to withdraw and we will always remain neighbors,” Qureshi said, referring to Washington’s intent to withdraw troops from Afghanistan as part of the US-Taliban agreement. “If I have an issue with Afghanistan, I will not ask Washington to play a role,” he added.

For years, the two neighboring countries have been at odds. Kabul publicly accuses Islamabad of harboring Taliban leaders after they were ousted from power in Afghanistan back in 2001 after US-led invasion, and purportedly allowing safe havens for attacks against international and Afghan forces.

Pakistan strongly rejects the allegations and, in return, blames Kabul for allegedly giving anti-Pakistan militants refuge to plot attack in Pakistan, charges that Afghanistan flatly denies. 

“You know a trust deficit has existed and Pakistan has done its best to bridge that trust deficit,” Qureshi further said, stressing that there are institutionalized mechanisms through which Afghanistan can raise “any issue under the sun” instead of turning to Washington.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the Pakistani foreign minister noted that the US-Taliban peace agreement in the Qatari capital would have never reached if Islamabad had not convinced everyone that there was no military solution to the 18-year conflict in Afghanistan.

“We convinced the Taliban to put forward an authoritative delegation that has the capacity to implement what they agree upon, and that wouldn’t have happened without Pakistan’s facilitation,” Qureshi stressed.

According to the US-Taliban deal, the American and NATO troops will withdraw from the war-ravaged country within 14 months.

The deal also proposes an intra-Afghan dialogue with the government in Kabul and the release of 5,000 Taliban members from prison.

The intra-Afghan talks are to begin on March 10 but no specific details have been given.

The US invaded Afghanistan under the pretext of the so-called war on terror, overthrowing the Taliban regime that had ruled over the country till then.

Since the US invasion of Afghanistan, Washington has spent more than $2 trillion waging war on the impoverished country, leaving more than 2,400 American soldiers and tens of thousands of Afghan civilians dead.

Now, with the 2020 presidential election around the corner, US President Donald Trump says it is time to end the unpopular war in Afghanistan and bring the US occupying troops home.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/01/619928/Pakistan-Qureshi-Afghanistan-declaration-US-Ghani-Esper-NATO-Taliban-Trump

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Apple, BMW and Sony accused of using forced Uighur labour

March 2, 2020

SYDNEY: China is transferring tens of thousands of Uighur detainees out of internment camps and into factories that supply some of the world’s leading brands, an Australian think tank said Monday.

Top global brands such as Apple, BMW and Sony have been accused of getting supplies from factories using the forced labour, an explosive allegation that could reverberate in boardrooms across the world.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute said the Chinese government has transferred 80,000 or more Uighurs out of camps in Xinjiang and into factories across the country.

“Uighurs are working in factories that are in the supply chains of at least 83 well-known global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors,” the think tank said.

“Some factories across China are using forced Uighur labour under a state-sponsored labour transfer scheme that is tainting the global supply chain.”

The brands, it added, included “Apple, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Nike, Samsung, Sony and Volkswagen”.

“Companies using forced Uighur labour in their supply chains could find themselves in breach of laws which prohibit the importation of goods made with forced labour or mandate disclosure of forced labour supply chain risks,” the report said.

“The companies listed in this report should conduct immediate and thorough human rights due diligence on their factory labour in China, including robust and independent social audits and inspections.”

AFP has contacted the firms for a response to the claims.

An estimated one million mostly Muslim ethnic minorities have been held in internment camps in Xinjiang.

After initially denying their existence, Beijing cast the facilities as “vocational education centres” where “students” learn Mandarin and job skills in an effort to steer them away from religious extremism, terrorism and separatism.

Rights groups and witnesses accuse China of forcibly trying to draw Uighurs away from their Islamic customs and integrate them into the majority Han culture.

Officially, the Chinese government says it is transferring “surplus” Xinjiang labour to other regions in the name of poverty alleviation.

According to official news agency Xinhua, more than 25,000 workers from Xinjiang were slated to be transferred “inland” in 2019

China’s foreign ministry and the Xinjiang government did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the report.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/business/2020/03/02/apple-bmw-and-sony-accused-of-using-forced-uighur-labour/

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India

 

Delhi Riots: Why This Maulana Is Planning A Meeting Of Hindus And Muslims

01/03/2020

By Akshay Deshmane

NEW DELHI—The Delhi state president of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, which is considered to be one of India’s largest Muslim organisations, is planning to organise a peace meeting involving community elders and opinion makers of Muslims and Hindus to begin a dialogue about restoration of social harmony between the two communities in the national capital.

Maulana Mohammad Dawood, who also looks after the prominent Babul Uloom mosque and madrasa in Jaffrabad, a riot-torn neighbourhood in northeast Delhi, had been actively helping people from both communities during the riots. With violent incidents coming to a halt, he now wishes to work on the process of restoring a lasting peace between people from the two communities.

In multiple interviews with HuffPost India, the maulana confirmed that he will likely organise the meeting early next week and explained his reasons for organising it. “The incident was brief. How long did it last: 2 or 4 days? But the cracks in the heart stay longer,” he observed.

The maulana is clear about how these cracks can be filled. “They can be filled when we meet at a place, sit and have a conversation about why this happened, where did we both go wrong? So when there is a conversation, and mutual assurance about not repeating the mistakes again, then the emotional distance can vanish. It is not such a big thing. We only need to sit together and talk. I will organise this in 2-4 days once both Hindus and Muslims cease to feel fear,” he told this reporter on Friday. 

He believes this is also necessary so as to be able to prevent the ongoing protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens from spoiling relations between Hindus and Muslims. “CAA-NRC have nothing to do with Hindu-Muslim relations. Why should we fight with each other? Why should we end love for each other? We have lived in the same area for years; done business in and eaten together in the same place. So we have to stay united in future as well,” he said.

NO STRANGER TO DIALOGUE

HuffPost India recently reported about the maulana’s attempts to persuade Muslim women at a sit-in protest in Jaffrabad to change their venue to a place which does not cause road jams. He was strongly criticised by most of the protesting women but appeared to have found a sympathetic audience among large sections of the men from the neighbourhood. Whether they agreed with him or not, it was clear that most people at the protest heard him out respectfully when he addressed them.

During the interview with this reporter, he recalled several instances of using the obvious respect that he enjoys in the community to positively intervene in tricky situations. One such situation arose on the afternoon of the second day of the riots, not very far from his madrasa in Jaffrabad, which is a Muslim majority neighbourhood.

“It was the second day of the riots, around 2:30 in the afternoon. A Hindu man, with a tika on his forehead, was travelling on a bullet from Maujpur to Seelampur. Some Muslim boys started beating and slapping him. Since he was wearing a tika on his forehead, identifying him as Hindu became easy,” he recalled.

In no time, he sent youth from the madrasa to stop the violence. “He was not attacking someone or was not there to create trouble. Only passing by. He was like our brother. If he had been severely beaten up or murdered, imagine how outrageous what would have been!” So not only was the attack on the man stopped, a local person was sent accompanying the biker to help him find his way till Seelampur without being attacked.

BY WAY OF ABUNDANT CAUTION

Apart from reflecting an intention to help a person in need, this incident perhaps also shows the maulana’s ability to pre-empt a much larger problem that could arise from an incident. That’s likely because on Friday he made an unusual decision to discontinue prayers by devotees on the road outside his mosque. 

Speaking with HuffPost India about it on Friday, the first jumma since riots broke in the capital, he said, “Today I declared that namaaz won’t be read by devotees on the road. Even if it has to be recited twice or thrice to ensure every devotee gets to pray, namaaz will be held inside the mosque only. Because out on the street, someone might throw stones and provoke a fight. So today, no namaazi was outside the mosque to pray. There was no road jam. Why should we do something to inconvenience others?”

This was significant, he explained, because every Friday, when most practising Muslims pray at the same time, one entire section of the street gets blocked for traffic during prayers, which causes jams. Devotees pray on the street because space inside the mosque is not sufficient. The maulana found a way around this problem by having prayers in batches. While one batch of devotees prayed when maulana recited, a second batch prayed when another imam recited. This was so because one preacher can only recite once, he explained.

What makes the maulana’s decision to prevent namaaz on the street further significant is that this is part of the same street on which Muslim women had organised a sit-in protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens, and were forced to discontinue it due to concerns about road blocks affecting traffic movement. These concerns were raised by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kapil Mishra in a counter-protest in neighbouring Maujpur.

“In all local mosques it has been announced that devotees will not be allowed to pray on the roads. We will make arrangements to hold prayers inside accordingly. It’s because other people get inconvenienced that they end up clashing with us,” he said.

In an earlier interview at the mosque on Wednesday, with his followers and people from the local community present, he also conveyed the “people’s request” that whoever had incited the riots must face punishment so that they can’t do it again.

“Whether one is inciting in the name of Muslims or another is inciting in the name of Hindus. Our brotherhood has been destroyed. We are against them because they are the culprit and should be punished,” he said.

Notably, he also said that the police should punish the guilty. “Whether he is Mohammad, Abdullah, Abdur Rahman or Ram Prasad or Kapil Mishra or some Sharma. Whoever he is, we consider him wrong. Neither is he a lover of his country nor the establishment or society. He just does wrong. Whoever he is,” he said.

While that request remains, his present concern now is starting a dialogue between the two communities at the heart of last week’s riot—Hindus and Muslims. “Going forward, I will make full efforts to have a meeting with our Hindu brothers. Let people cool down a bit. I would like to tell them, “Brother, outsiders will come here opportunistically but we both have to live here. Do business here. So we will have to work together and stay united. If some outsider comes and tries to incite by talking about fighting then reject his effort, ask him to not talk about such things with you,” he said. 

https://www.huffingtonpost.in/entry/delhi-riots-mustafabad-hindus-muslims-bjp-kapil-mishra_in_5e5b1a3cc5b6beedb4ec628e

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CAA, NRC and NPR: Rajinikanth listens to Muslim leaders, ‘offers his support to help peace return’

Mar 1, 2020

CHENNAI: Representatives of the Tamil Nadu Jamatul Ulama Sabai called on actor Rajinikanth at his Poes Garden residence in Chennai on Sunday and explained to him the impact that the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Register of Citizens (NPR) will have on Muslims.

The meeting took place in the backdrop of Rajinikanth offering to lead a protest if a single Muslim is affected by the CAA. The actor has maintained that the Centre is unlikely to withdraw it.

“Soon after he spoke to the media last time, we felt that he is not fully aware of the impact the CAA, the NRC and the NPR will have on Muslims and why so many people, including women, graduates and elders are holding protests against CAA across the country. We thought he should understand the issues behind the move from all angles and sent a word to him that we were willing to come in person and explain it, if needed. Rajinikanth, who was in Hyderabad then, sent a word inviting us to meet him on Sunday, after he returned to the city,” Tamil Nadu Jama’athul Ulama Sabai president P A Khaja Mohinudeen Baqavi told TOI.

“He received us in a dignified manner and we had a free-wheeling discussion. The meeting lasted one hour and 15 minutes. We explained to him the whole issue, and he listened to us eagerly. At the end of the meeting, he not only fully understood the problem, but also offered all his support in his might to help peace return,” Baqavi said.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/caa-nrc-and-npa-rajnikanth-listens-to-muslim-leaders-offers-his-support-to-help-peace-return/articleshow/74426157.cms

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No Muslim born in Tamil Nadu will be affected by NPR, chief minister says

Mar 1, 2020

MADURAI: No Muslim born in Tamil Nadu would be affected by the National Population Register (NPR), said chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Sunday. Like a fortress, the AIADMK government would continue to protect the rights and interests of Muslims, he said.

Residents were free to omit three questions in the NPR, including one regarding the birthplaces of their parents, and no records need to be submitted, he said.

The chief minister stated this at two events – in Ramanathapuram and Virudhungar. He laid foundation stones for government medical colleges in both places.

Palaniswami asked Muslim women to give up their protests and extend their support to the state government.

He said, “Tamil Nadu is a garden of peace, where people of all creeds and castes live in harmony. The government functions on the basis of secularism and continues to protect the minority sections,” he said.

“I stated the same in the assembly. But in recent times, some people, who could not tolerate this, were spreading rumours with a malicious intent for political gains,’’ he said.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/no-muslim-born-in-tamil-nadu-will-be-affected-by-npr-chief-minister-says/articleshow/74428657.cms

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Foreign secretary in Bangladesh with CAA balm

Mar 2, 2020

NEW DELHI: When foreign secretary Harsh Shringla arrives in Dhaka on Monday, his primary task will be to assuage some serious hurt feelings among Bangladeshis over both the CAA-NRC controversy as well as some ill-judged comments by Indian politicians. Shringla will be the first high-level contact with the Sheikh Hasina government since protests against CAA-NRC erupted all across India.

PM Narendra Modi will be travelling to Dhaka on March 17 for a day to participate in the centenary celebration of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rehman. But he is likely to face some degree of wariness in a country which was touted as India’s closest neighbour not too long ago. In the past few days, Bangladesh even saw protest marches against communal riots that tore through Delhi last week.

Therefore, Modi is likely to face a different reception, even if the brass papers over the disquiet. The PM will deliver the keynote address at the Mujib centenary event, which will be attended by former President Pranab Mukherjee and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.

In the past few months, India has not really stretched itself diplomatically to reassure the people and the Bangladesh brass — particularly on the fear that migrants may be pushed into that country — already straining under the weight of the Rohingya refugees. Sources in Dhaka have been critical of the lack of initiative by the Indian government, particularly the foreign office here and the Indian mission in Dhaka.

Shringla is expected to call on PM Sheikh Hasina, foreign minister A K Abdul Momen and foreign secretary Masud bin Momen. He will also address a seminar organised by the Bangladesh Institute of Strategic Studies.

India wants a trade and services pact with Bangladesh, for which negotiations are expected to begin soon. India will also try to persuade Bangladesh to utilise the $500 million defence cooperation assistance that has been advanced to Dhaka but not made use of yet. More connectivity projects are likely to be announced and some, like rail services connecting Dhaka, Kolkata and Khulna, may increase their frequency.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/foreign-secretary-in-bangladesh-with-caa-balm/articleshow/74431992.cms

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Erdogan’s remarks on Kashmir sours India-Turkish relations

March 2, 2020

During his Pakistan visit in mid-February, Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan said that the situation in Kashmir was worsening and expressed Turkey’s solidarity with Kashmir. Erdogan was not the only leader to comment on Kashmir without understanding the basic facts-the place where syncretic Hindus lived for centuries as majority community before the caustic brush of Islamism reduced them to minority and eventually drove out through planned evacuation and targeted murder. Islamists compulsively believe in supremacy of Islam and profess a virulent form of political Islam that intends conversion of the entire world to Islam though violence and all other heinous means. Their comments on Kashmir without knowing even half the truth is laughable.

India lodged diplomatic protest with Turkish Ambassador Sakir Ozkan Torunlar and warned of implications on bilateral relations. Erdogan lacked understanding of the history of Kashmir dispute. This episode is but one more example of a pattern of Turkey’s interference in the internal affairs of other countries. India served a strong demarche to Turkey that such comments were unacceptable.

India withdrew Kashmir’s special status in August and Pakistan raised a chorus to draw two Muslim countries like Turkey and Malaysia into the vortex of Pakistan’s hatred for non-Muslim countries. World has understood Pakistan’s subversive tactics against neighbour India like bullying, false propaganda, interference, and terrorism. It drafted Malaysia, Turkey and the UN Secretary General into its heinous designs. India didn’t blabber, took a strong decision and acted sharply and confidently.

By changing the constitutional status of Kashmir, did India interfere with the constitutional provisions of Turkey? Should India have consulted Erdogan first? It’s funny how Turkey thinks it’s an Eagle. India curbed the palm oil imports from Malaysia on the same issue. Mahathir has belated realisation that fighting India was counter-productive and unnecessary and has since resigned.

Unfortunately, Turkey with whom India has a favourable bilateral trade of $10 billion, is going the Malaysian way. Like Mahathir, Erdogan messed up without knowing the repercussions. Self-realisation will dawn on Erdogan very soon. The more Turkey and Malaysia press the string, the stronger will be the Indian recoil.

People living in glass houses should not throw stones at others. Erdogan should worry about Turkish Kurds, not Kashmir. The US and the West support Kurds. India supporting Syria could compound Turkey’s suffering in the long run. Dictator Erdogan has put his opponents in jail but stands nowhere against India. Modi has done the impossible by claiming Kashmir which no government had done before. Indian diplomacy is underway to mend Turkey.

Erdogan and Mahathir are two most hard-core fundamentalist, autocratic, and authoritarian Islamic leaders who are egotistic, unrealistic, not accountable, ignore national interests, and live only for themselves.

Erdogan’s mistake could cost Turkey dearly. It is just another small country holding on to the past glory. Pakistan-a small messed-up nation-looks up to Turkey which sacrifices India-Turkey relations for nuke deal with Pakistan.

World knows the real story of Kashmir; Pakistan can’t mislead. Malaysia and Turkey are the only two countries Islamabad has succeeded in befooling. Damaging own economic interests for economically-failed Pakistan is foolhardy. Even Pakistanis admit in private that their understanding of the Kashmir issue is undercooked.

Blind support to China over CPEC has exposed Pakistan’s Achilles heel. Conservative Islamic Pakistan tolerates even mistreatment of Pakistani women by feigning marriage and subsequently forcing them into prostitution. That adversely impacts Pakistan’s credibility on Islamic issues.

If Pakistan can travel this far to protect its financial interests why won’t other Islamic countries repeat the feat to protect their own trading/investment interests with India.

Pakistan orchestrated Islamic tunes for all the OIC countries to dance, it was Malaysia and Turkey only which fell easy prey in the name of Muslim Ummah.

Modi and Erdogan are two totally opposite personalities. Modi is man of dignity and humility while Erdogan is an alfa-male trying to assert self everywhere.

Full report at:

https://www.newdelhitimes.com/erdogans-remarks-on-kashmir-sours-india-turkish-relations/

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Malaysia and India aim to repair soured ties that hit palm trade

Mar 1, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia and India will work on improving ties that soured under former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and badly affected palm oil trade between the countries, officials from both nations said on Sunday.

India is the world's biggest palm oil importer but its purchases from Malaysia, the second-biggest palm exporter behind Indonesia, dropped drastically in recent months after attacks on India's policies by Mahathir.

Malaysia swore in a new prime minister on Sunday after last week's resignation by the outspoken Mahathir, 94, after a power battle in his coalition government.

Wee Ka Siong, a lawmaker expected to gain a ministerial post, said that mending ties is a priority because Malaysian palm oil producers have been suffering because of India's effective ban on purchases.

"Can we just renegotiate? It’s for my country as well as for my people," Wee told Reuters. "Since we are a new government, let the PM, the new government deal with it. We treasure the friendship with India."

An Indian official with knowledge of the matter said that New Delhi is also keen to improve bilateral ties, including palm oil trading, provided that Malaysia keeps out of India's domestic affairs.

India could also invite the new Malaysian prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, for a visit this year, the official said on the condition of anonymity.

India put refined palm oil and palmolein on its list of restricted items on Jan. 8, a move sources said was in response to Mahathir's criticism of its actions in Kashmir and a new citizenship law.

Malaysia's January palm shipments to India tanked 85% from a year earlier to 46,876 tonnes, the lowest since 2011.

India accounted for nearly a quarter of Malaysia's total palm oil exports last year and has been the biggest buyer of Malaysian palm oil for five years.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/malaysia-and-india-aim-to-repair-soured-ties-that-hit-palm-trade/articleshow/74429896.cms

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J&K police arrest 3 Lashkar terrorists, 4 ‘associates’

Mar 1, 2020

SRINAGAR: J&K police on Sunday arrested three Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists and four “associates” of terrorists from different parts of Kashmir Valley.

While one Lashkar terrorist was arrested from Kangan in Ganderbal district and the two others were held in Srinagar city, the four “associates” were picked up from Budgam in central Kashmir, police said. Cases under relevant sections of law have been filed against all seven.

Fayaz Ahmed Bhat, who was arrested from Kangan, was involved in the terror plot that was foiled by operation Kullan in Ganderbal district on November 12 last year. Investigations had found that it was Bhat who had brought two Lashkar terrorists to Kullan to execute some terror plot. While one terrorist got killed in the operation, the other one, Nisar Ahmad Dar, had managed to escape. Dar was later arrested from a Srinagar hospital on January 4 this year, police said.

After Bhat’s arrest, one China-made hand grenade was recovered from his possession.

“Bhat had arranged shelter for terrorists in the locality on different occasions and he had also ferried terrorists from Bandipora to Ganderbal at the behest of his Pakistani handlers,” a police official said.

“Previous record also shows that Bhat was involved in grenade lobbing at Kangan police station in 2008 and an FIR under the Explosive Substances Act was registered against him. He had remained in jail for a considerable period and was also booked under the Public Safety Act,” the official added.

In the Srinagar incident, police and paramilitary forces intercepted a Santro car on Barzulla-Chanapora road on Sunday. “While checking the vehicle with two persons on board, police found arms and ammunition. The occupants of the car, identified as Lashkar terrorists Vakeel Ahmed Bhat and Omar Ismail Das, both residents of Bijbehara in Anantnag district, were arrested,” the official said.

The four “associates”, from whose possession arms and ammunition were recovered, have been identified as Muzamil Nabi, Umer Ajaz (both residents of Kanihama), Rouf Bhat and Ishfaq (both residents of Kantebagh), police said.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/jk-police-arrest-3-lashkar-terrorists-4-associates/articleshow/74430602.cms

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Ready to play any role to maintain peace in country: Rajinikanth on Delhi violence

March 2, 2020

A week after he said the communal violence in Delhi was a failure of the Central government, Tamil actor Rajinikanth on Sunday said that he was willing to play any role in order to maintain peace in the country. The actor made the comments in a tweet after a few leaders from a Muslim outfit met him at his residence.

“I am willing to play any role in order to maintain peace in the country. I too agree with their (Muslim outfit leaders) comment that a country’s prime objective should be love, unity and peace,” he said in the tweet.

Earlier in the day, members of the Muslim outfit ‘Tamil Nadu Jama’athul Uama Sabai’ met the 69-year-old actor at his Poes Garden residence.

Communal violence in northeast Delhi last week over the CAA has left 46 dead and over 200 injured.

Last week, Rajinikanth had lashed out at the Centre over the violence in Delhi, saying the riots should have been dealt with an “iron fist”. In a sharp attack on the BJP-led Centre, he asked those in power to “resign and go” if the violence could not be crushed.

Speaking to reporters outside his Poes Garden residence, Rajinikanth “strongly condemned” the Centre for the law and order situation in the capital. “It was the intelligence failure of the Centre. Especially when there was a visit of US President, they should have been vigilant. They should have stopped this violence with an iron hand. I hope the Centre will be vigilant at least now,” he said.

Referring to BJP’s Kapil Mishra, whose alleged hate speech is being considered as one of the reasons behind the violence, Rajnikanth said the entire party cannot be blamed because of one person. “Just because one person spoke about it, don’t blame the entire party,” he said.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/ready-to-play-any-role-to-maintain-peace-in-country-rajinikanth-6294907/

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Europe

 

Britain’s foreign minister visits Oman, Saudi Arabia to boost post-Brexit ties

2 March 2020

British foreign minister Dominic Raab will on Monday begin his first official visit to the Gulf for talks with leaders in Saudi Arabia and Oman, expected to cover trade, human rights issues and climate change.

Raab, appointed foreign minister in July last year by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, will also meet with Yemeni leaders in an attempt to re-energize efforts to find a political solution to the five-year long civil war there.

The visit is aimed at re-affirming Britain's ties in the region as it seeks to define its new role on the global stage after leaving the European Union in January.

"The Gulf is important to UK security, but it's also a region of enormous opportunity. Both Oman and Saudi Arabia want to grow in sectors such as health, education and culture where the UK leads the world," Raab said in a statement.

"I look forward to discussing trade, regional security, climate change and human rights in this pivotal region."

Raab will travel to Oman first for talks with Sultan Haitham bin Tarik and foreign minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah

He will then meet the Saudi leadership for discussions which will include trade, Saudi Arabia's presidency of the G20 and Britain's hosting of the COP26 climate summit

Whilst in Riyadh, he will meet Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Raab will "seek the opportunity to push for a political solution to the crisis in Yemen, following the recent surge in Houthi violence," the foreign office statement said.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/03/02/Britain-s-foreign-minister-visits-Oman-Saudi-Arabia-to-boost-post-Brexit-ties.html

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Migrants clash with Greek police at border after Ankara opens floodgates

2 March 2020

Greek police fired tear gas to repel hundreds of stone-throwing migrants who tried to force their way across the border from Turkey on Sunday, with thousands more behind them after Ankara relaxed curbs on their movement.

The Greek government called the confrontations a threat to national security. “Do not attempt to enter Greece illegally - you will be turned back,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Twitter after a security meeting on the situation.

It was the second straight day of clashes at the border crossing near the northeastern Greek town of Kastanies.

Video footage provided by a Greek government source and seen by Reuters also appeared to show tear gas being fired from the Turkish side of the border at the Greek riot police.

“The present situation is an active, serious, severe and asymmetrical threat to the national security of the country,” Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas told reporters.

“These ... people are being used by Turkey as pawns to exert diplomatic pressure,” he added.

Turkey said on Thursday it would let migrants cross its borders into Europe, despite a commitment to hold them in its territory under a 2016 deal with the European Union.

Turkey’s turnabout came after an airstrike killed 33 Turkish soldiers in its neighbour Syria, and appeared to be an effort to press for more EU support in tackling the refugee crisis from Syria’s civil war.

Ankara has dismissed Greek criticism of its decision to open the border and has condemned Greece’s response to the migrants.

Rush to Greek border

At least 600 people had arrived by sea on the Greek islands of Lesbos, Chios and Samos close to the Turkish coast within a few hours on Sunday morning, police said.

Along the northeastern mainland border, some migrants waded across a shallow section of the Evro River to the Greek side.

Witnesses said there were groups of up to 30, including an Afghan mother with a five-day-old infant, by the side of a road after having forded the river.

The clashes occurred later in the day at the Kastanies crossing after riot police reinforced security there. No further details were immediately available as police were escorting reporters away from the scene, citing safety considerations.

A Greek government source said some migrants had thrown metal bars.

The EU, its relations with Turkey tense over President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown on dissent and hydrocarbon drilling off Cyprus, scrambled to respond to the new migrant crisis.

Officials at EU headquarters in Brussels called for emergency meetings of migration and foreign ministers to decide next steps, while EU border agency Frontex said it was in talks with Greece to help it guard the bloc’s external frontier.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had a phone call with Boyko Borissov, the prime minister of Bulgaria, which also shares a border with Turkey, and agreed for the need for talks with Ankara, a German government spokesman said.

The Greek Prime Minister said he and European Council head Charles Michel would visit the Evros land border with Turkey on Tuesday.

The borders are shut

The crisis poses the toughest test for Greece since 2015 when it came precariously close to bailing out of the euro zone, and also brings into focus longstanding tensions with Turkey.

An automated text message sent to mobile phones in the northern border areas of Greece said the country had increased its security to a maximum, urging people not to attempt to enter.

Greece’s Skai TV said Greeks were using loudspeakers in the Kastanies border area to tell migrants, in English and Arabic, that they were not welcome: “The Borders are Shut!”

Greece was the main gateway for hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers into Europe in 2015-16. More than 40,000 migrants are stuck on the Aegean islands, living in severely overcrowded camps and filthy conditions.

A Greek government source put the number of people gathered on the Turkish side of the border on Sunday at 3,000, while the International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimated the number at 13,000.

On the island of Lesbos, a small group of Greeks attempted to prevent a dinghy full of migrants from coming in to berth at a harbour. “Go back to Turkey” a group of hooded individuals shouted.

Last week, there were clashes on Lesbos between riot police and locals protesting over a plan to create closed detention centres to house the migrant population. Local residents say the islands are carrying a disproportionate burden.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/03/02/Migrants-clash-with-Greek-police-at-border-after-Ankara-opens-floodgates.html

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Turkey grants visa exemptions to 11 countries

Hamdi Celikbas  

02.03.2020

Turkey will provide citizens of 11 countries 90-day visa exemption for tourist travel, the country's official gazette announced early Monday.

Turkey has decided to exempt visa requirements for citizens of Austria, Belgium, the U.K. and Northern Ireland, Croatia, the Netherlands, Ireland, Spain, Malta, Norway, Poland and Portugal.

The exemption will be provided to countries for tourist travel and transit passage for 90-day visits once every 180 days.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/turkey-grants-visa-exemptions-to-11-countries/1751227

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Migrants flock to Turkey's border to cross to Europe

Hakan Mehmet Sahin

29.02.2020

Thousands of irregular migrants have flocked to Edirne, a border province in northwestern Turkey, to make their way to Europe.

The mobility of the irregular migrants that started in late hours of Friday is ongoing in the region.

The migrants gathering in Edirne, which borders both Bulgaria and Greece, from many other provinces, especially the Turkish metropolis Istanbul, have crowded in front of the Pazarkule border crossing with Greece.

Spending the night there, the large group, including women and children, tried to warm themselves by fire they set.

There is an escalating tension between the irregular migrants waiting in the buffer zone and the Greek security forces. Greek soldiers occasionally use tear gas and sound bomb to disperse the crowd.

Meanwhile, some of the migrants have crossed the Meric River -- which flows from Bulgaria to Turkey through Greece -- and set foot in Greece.

Late Thursday, at least 33 Turkish soldiers were martyred and dozens of others injured in an airstrike by Bashar al-Assad regime forces in Idlib, a de-escalation zone in northwestern Syria, just across Turkey’s southern border.

Turkish officials announced Friday that they would no longer try to stop irregular migrants from reaching Europe.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/migrants-flock-to-turkeys-border-to-cross-to-europe/1749409

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North America

 

US and Afghan Taliban sign historic troop withdrawal deal in Doha

Naveed Siddiqui

February 29, 2020

The United States signed a deal with Taliban insurgents on Saturday that could pave the way toward a full withdrawal of foreign soldiers from Afghanistan over the next 14 months and represent a step toward ending the 18-year-old war in the nation.

While the agreement creates a path for the US to gradually pull out of its longest war, many expect talks to come between the Afghan sides may be much more complicated.

Months of speculation about when the deal would be signed, and what its contents would be, culminated in a plush conference room in the Qatari capital Doha, when Taliban political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar signed the accord along with US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

The pair then shook hands, as people in the room shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest). US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on hand to witness the ceremony.

US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said that while the signing of the accord would be a good step, the road ahead would not be easy.

“This is a hopeful moment, but it is only the beginning. The road ahead will not be easy. Achieving lasting peace in Afghanistan will require patience and compromise among all parties,” said Esper, who met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul where they announced a joint declaration in parallel to the US-Taliban accord.

The US said it is committed to reducing the number of its troops in Afghanistan to 8,600 — from the current 13,000 — within 135 days of signing the deal, and working with its allies to proportionally reduce the number of coalition forces in Afghanistan over that period, if the Taliban adhere to their commitments.

A full withdrawal of all US and coalition forces would occur within 14 months of this deal getting signed, if the Taliban hold up their end of the deal, the joint statement said.

For US President Donald Trump, the Doha deal represents a chance to make good on his promise to bring US troops home.

But security experts have also called it a foreign policy gamble that would give the Taliban international legitimacy.

“Today is a monumental day for Afghanistan,” the US Embassy in Kabul said on Twitter. “It is about making peace and crafting a common brighter future. We stand with Afghanistan.”

Addressing the historic event, US Secretary of State Pompeo said Washington will closely watch the Taliban compliance to the agreement signed today. He said the Taliban had shown that they have the will to be peaceful during the recent ‘reduction in violence’ period.

He cautioned, however, that the agreement will mean nothing “if concrete actions are not taken on commitments and promises”.

Pompeo called on the Taliban to keep their promise to cut ties with Al Qaeda and keep fighting the militant Islamic State group.

Ghani said he hoped the Doha deal paves the way towards lasting peace. “We hope the US-Taliban peace [deal] will lead to a permanent ceasefire ... The nation is looking forward to a full ceasefire,” he told a news conference in Kabul.

The Afghan government said it stood ready to negotiate and conclude a ceasefire with the Taliban, and it affirmed its support for the phased withdrawal of US and coalition forces subject to the Taliban's fulfilment of their commitments.

It also said that it remained committed to preventing militant groups from using its soil to threaten the security of the US, its allies and other countries.

Separately, Nato pledged to adjust the coalition troop levels in the first phase too, bringing down Nato's numbers to about 12,000 from roughly 16,000 troops at present.

“We went in together in 2001, we are going to adjust [troop levels] together and when the time is right, we are going to leave together, but we are only going to leave when conditions are right,” Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who was in Kabul on Saturday, told reporters.

Hope for an end to bloodshed

Hours before the deal, the Taliban ordered all their fighters in Afghanistan “to refrain from any kind of attack ... for the happiness of the nation”.

“The biggest thing is that we hope the US remain committed to their promises during the negotiation and peace deal,” said Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the hardline militant group.

For millions of Afghans, the deal represents some hope for an end to years of bloodshed.

“Peace is extremely simple and my country deserves it. Today is the day when maybe we will see a positive change,” said Javed Hassan, 38, a school teacher living on the outskirts of Afghan capital Kabul.

Hassan's children were killed in a bomb blast carried out by the Taliban in 2018. Since then, he has been writing letters to world leaders urging them to end the Afghan war.

Pakistan welcomes accord

Pakistan welcomed the signing of the US-Taliban agreement.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who was present at the signing ceremony, in his remarks to the media after the event said that the accord carried "immense importance — both in symbolism and substance — for Afghanistan, the region and beyond", a Foreign Office statement said.

He said the deal reflected a "significant step forward by the US and the Taliban in advancing the ultimate aim of peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan".

He expressed the hope that Afghan parties will now "seize this historic opportunity" and work out a comprehensive and inclusive political settlement for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

According to the statement, Qureshi underscored the need for international support to the Afghan government in creating an enabling environment for the return of Afghan refugees in Pakistan to their homeland.

"Today’s ceremony has, once again, vindicated Pakistan’s long-held stance that there is no military solution of the Afghan conflict," the FO said.

The foreign minister said Pakistan had fulfilled its part of the responsibility by facilitating the peace agreement. "Pakistan will continue to support a peaceful, stable, united, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan, at peace with itself and with its neighbours," he added.

Costs of the Afghan war

Representatives from 50 countries and foreign ministers of different countries attended the signing ceremony of the agreement.

Pakistan, which neighbours Afghanistan, and has been a long-time ally in America's war on terror, played a critical role in bringing the two sides to the negotiation table.

Khalilzad has on multiple occasions appreciated and thanked Pakistan for its constructive role in the peace process.

Read more: US thanks Pakistan for facilitating Afghan peace process

More than 18 years since President George W. Bush ordered bombing in response to the September 11, 2001, attacks, the agreement will set the stage for the withdrawal of US troops, some of whom were not yet born when the World Trade Centre collapsed on that crisp, sunny morning that changed how Americans see the world.

Saturday’s ceremony also signals the potential end of a tremendous investment of blood and treasure. The US spent more than $750 billion, and on all sides the war cost tens of thousands of lives lost, permanently scarred and indelibly interrupted. Yet it’s also a conflict that is frequently ignored by US politicians and the American public.

Trump says agreement will illuminate 'a powerful path forward'

Trump, as he seeks re-election this year, is looking to make good on his campaign promise to bring troops home from the Middle East. Still, he has approached the Taliban agreement cautiously, steering clear of the crowing surrounding other major foreign policy actions, such as his talks with North Korea.

Last September, on short notice, he called off what was to be a signing ceremony with the Taliban at Camp David after a series of new Taliban attacks. But he has since been supportive of the talks led by his special envoy, Khalilzad.

In a statement released by the White House, Trump said on Friday that if the Taliban and Afghan government live up to the commitments in the agreement, “we will have a powerful path forward to end the war in Afghanistan and bring our troops home.”

“These commitments represent an important step to a lasting peace in a new Afghanistan, free from al-Qaida, ISIS and any other terrorist group that would seek to bring us harm,” Trump said.

Afghan future uncertain

If the agreement is successful, Afghanistan, the “graveyard of empires” that has repeatedly repelled foreign invaders from imperial Britain and Russia to the Soviet Union, will have once again successfully turned away a world power from its landlocked borders.

But prospects for Afghanistan’s future are uncertain. The agreement sets the stage for peace talks involving Afghani factions, which are likely to be complicated. Under the agreement, 5,000 Taliban are to be released from Afghan-run jails, but it’s not known if the Afghan government will do that. There are also questions about whether Taliban fighters loyal to various warlords will be willing to disarm.

It’s not clear what will become of gains made in women’s rights since the toppling of the Taliban, who had repressed women and girls under a strict brand of Sharia law. Women’s rights in Afghanistan had been a top concern of both the Bush and Obama administration.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1537384/us-and-afghan-taliban-sign-historic-troop-withdrawal-deal-in-doha

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US carrier strike group enters Mediterranean amid conflicts in Libya, Syria

01 March 2020

A US aircraft carrier strike group has reportedly entered the Mediterranean Sea as the area is beset by two major conflicts — a full-blown civil war in Libya and tensions between Damascus and Turkish-backed militants in Syria.

The Marine Traffic website, a vessel-tracking and maritime information portal, said in a report that the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower crossed through the Strait of Gibraltar and entered the Mediterranean Sea on Saturday night.

The portal said the 40-year-old aircraft carrier, going by the call sign IKE, was escorted by several other US Navy warships, including the USS San Jacinto and USS Vella Gulf Tomahawk-armed guided-missile cruisers, as well as a destroyer squadron consisting of the USS Stout, USS James E. Williams and USS Truxton destroyers.

The strike group, manned by some 6,000 sailors, also includes eight squadrons of F/A-18E fighter jets as well as maritime attack choppers.

In a press statement about the Eisenhower’s operations, the US Navy said last week that the strike group was “conducting operations in the US 6th Fleet to support maritime security operations in international waters, alongside our allies and partners.”

“IKE offers tremendous capability to the region,” Vice Admiral Lisa Franchetti, commander of the Sixth Fleet, said in the statement. “During her operations in the Atlantic, IKE strike group will exercise the fundamental warfare practice of ensuring the security of vital sea lanes of communication. The deployment will also serve to demonstrate commitment to our allies and partners in Europe and Africa."

The Sixth Fleet, which is headquartered in Naples, Italy, operates in the European and North African region, including the Mediterranean Sea.

Why the Mediterranean Sea?

The Mediterranean is home to two major hotspots – Libya and Syria.

Libya plunged into chaos in 2011, when a popular uprising and a NATO intervention led to the ouster of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Since 2014, Libya has been divided between the internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) based in the capital Tripoli and a camp in the eastern city of Tobruk, supported militarily by militias and rebel forces allied with renegade general Khalifa Haftar.

Haftar launched his offensive to seize Tripoli last April but after rapid advances his forces stalled on the edges of the capital. The fighting has so far left more than 1,000 people dead and displaced some 140,000 others, according to the United Nations.

Syria, gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011, launched a counter-terrorism offensive in the northwestern province of Idlib and neighboring areas last December after its troops came under increasing militant attacks.

Turkey has deployed massive troops and military equipment in recent weeks to stop Syrian troops from ousting terrorists.

Under a deal reached between Turkey and Russia in the Black Sea resort of Sochi in September 2018, Ankara is required to remove Takfiri terrorists from the embattled province. But, more than a year into the Sochi deal, foreign-backed terrorists rule supreme in Idlib in close proximity to the Turkish troops.     

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/01/619910/US-aircraft-carrier-Eisenhower-Marine-Traffic-Mediterranean-Sea

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Trump hails pact with Taliban, vows to meet with leaders of militant group

01 March 2020

US President Donald Trump has vowed to personally meet with leaders of the Afghan militant group that the American military sought to root out when it led a massive invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, dismissing criticism of the deal Washington signed with Taliban.

Speaking hours after US and Taliban representatives signed a pact on Saturday aimed at gradually withdrawing American-led foreign troops from the war-ravaged nation and eventually ending the longest war in the US history, Trump further said the deal would allow Washington to its forces in Afghanistan from 13,000 to 8,600 within months if the Taliban adheres to its conditions.

The US president, however, insisted that the American military could quickly return forces back into Afghanistan if needed, amid expectations that the forthcoming negotiations between the Afghan sides will be more complicated than the initial pact.

Trump, who has frequently boasted his desire to halt “endless wars,” did not indicate where he would be meeting the leaders of the insurgent group that has fiercely resisted the US military presence in Afghanistan since its occupation of the country following the September 11, 2001 terrorist incidents in New York and near Washington.

Trump further proclaimed during a White House press briefing that Afghanistan’s neighbors should help maintain stability in the war-torn nation following the agreement.

This is while the hawkish US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also hailed what he referred to as “historic talks” that led to the signing of the pact with the Taliban after more than 18 years of a failed US-led military campaign in Afghanistan, with persisting deadly terror attacks across the country, which mostly remains under the control of the insurgent group.

Bolton slams Trump administration’s deal with Taliban

However, the agreement has also been widely criticized in Washington, even by Trump’s Republican allies and former aides, including his previous national security adviser John Bolton, who blasted the pact as “and Obama-style deal.”

“Signing this agreement with Taliban is an unacceptable risk to America’s civilian population,” Bolton wrote in a Twitter post. “This is an Obama-style deal. Legitimizing Taliban sends the wrong signal to [ISIS] and al-Qaida terrorists, and to America’s enemies generally.”

Bolton, who was also a key figure in Trump’s recent impeachment proceedings in the US Congress over his attempted interventions in Ukraine, has written a book about his time in the White House as the top national security adviser, but Trump is trying to block its publication.

The US president was asked at the White House press briefing on Saturday about Bolton's statement regarding the Taliban deal, blaming the former adviser for backing the military invasion of Afghanistan.

“Nobody should be criticizing this deal after 19 years. He had his chance, he didn’t do it,” Trump said of Bolton.

“He was very much in favor of going in, we should never have gone in in the first place,” Trump added. “When they went into Iraq, when they went into the Middle East in such a fashion I was very much against it.”

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2012/03/01/619843/US-President-Donald-Trump-Afghanistan-Taliban-leaders-peace-deal

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What the US has achieved in Afghanistan

29 February 2020

By Kevin Barrett

Many Americans are wondering just what we have accomplished in this war on Afghanistan, which lasted 18 years, and now the so-called peace deal in Doha claims to be putting an end to it. So what was the purpose? And what are the accomplishments?

Well, from the American point of view, this has been a complete disaster. The United States has spent trillions of dollars, lost many service members and tarnished its reputation around the world by leading this futile war on the country that has a well-earned reputation as the graveyard of empires, killing hundreds of thousands if not millions of people and rendering millions more homeless refugees.

So what was the point of it? We were told in 2001 that the purpose of the US invasion of Afghanistan was to get revenge for the Taliban supposedly having been sponsors of the al-Qaeda-supposed terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. And of course, that was a lie. The war in Afghanistan was planned and set in stone in July of 2001. So, the September 11 false flag operation was simply an excuse for launching a pre-planned war.

Its purpose was twofold. First, and probably most importantly, Afghanistan is critically important geopolitical fulcrum for the Eurasian supercontinent. And it's full of very valuable resources. And it's also a pipeline route or potential pipeline route for natural gas.

So, from a geostrategic perspective, and resource perspective, Afghanistan appeared to be a very valuable prize, and additionally Afghanistan was just like Iraq, right there on the border of Iran. And the United States has long been hostile to the Islamic Republic and dedicated to regime change there.

And the neoconservatives, who were responsible for the 9/11 false flag operation, wanted to put US bases in Afghanistan and Iraq, in large part to surround Iran as part of a regime change strategy that was revealed by General Wesley Clark, who said that the purpose of September 11 was to take out seven countries in five years, the seventh and most important country being Iran. And he heard this from a neoconservative Israel loyalist, and this was largely done in support of Zionist expansionism.

So has this been successful? Not at all. The Islamic Republic still stands. The vast wealth of Afghanistan is not being exploited. The minerals are not being mined. There's no pipeline. The only resource being exploited is heroin, opium production, which had been shut down by the Taliban was restored immediately by the US invaders who set free all the drug lords and told them to plant and sell to their heart's content.

So today Afghanistan has resumed its position as the world's leading heroin producer. And that heroine being flown to the United States, Europe, Central and South America and elsewhere on Global Hawk military vehicles.

It's grown in Afghanistan, refined in Pakistan and flown to the world and US military Global Hawks. And that's why the US has wanted to stay for all of these 18 years because people in charge are corrupt, drug-running mafia thugs, so those people may lose a little bit of their business. But if this proposed withdrawal does end up having an effect and I do think that the pressure for American withdrawal has reached the point that they will have to leave, apparently, the American people will look back on this and say, what did we accomplish in 18 years, the longest work country ever. Well, we protected the drug lords for two decades.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/29/619812/What-the-US-has-achieved-in-Afghanistan

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US: Hundreds gather in DC to back Turkey amid Idlib op

Servet Günerigök 

02.03.2020

WASHINGTON

Hundreds of people from the Turkish-American community gathered outside the White House this weekend to voice their support for Turkey's efforts to end the Assad regime's violence in northwestern Syria.

The rally Saturday afternoon in Lafayette Square came after the Syrian regime launched a deadly attack late Thursday in Idlib province that martyred at least 34 Turkish troops.

Since then, Turkey has been hitting the regime's positions in Idlib through Operation Spring Shield, which began Sunday.

Children read out the names of the fallen soldiers at the beginning of the rally followed by a reading of the national anthem and recitation of versus from the Quran.

Speaking at the event, Gunay Evinch, co-chair of the Turkish American National Steering Committee (TASC), offered condolences to the families of the fallen soldiers, who he said were protecting Syrians from the Bashar al-Assad regime's displacement policy.

"That for years the world has stood by and watched the atrocities of Assad is a shame. That Russia and Iran support the Assad regime is deplorable," said Evinch.

The gathering was also attended by Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Osama Abuirshaid, the national policy director for American Muslims for Palestine, and Rahim Shahbazi, vice president of the Azerbaijani Societies of North America.

In his speech, Awad criticized the Trump administration's "confusing" policy on Syria and said American troops were in Syria to protect oil but not civilians.

"It is very shameful that this administration [is] sending our sons and daughters to protect the oil fields but not to protect the civilian population that is mercilessly being killed, bombed and shelled by the Syrian regime," he said.

The CAIR executive also praised Turkey for hosting millions of Syrians despite the economic challenges it is going through.

"Thank you to the Turkish people and thank you to the Turkish government. You opened your borders and hearts," he said. "You sent your daughters and sons not to protect oil fields but to stand by Syrian people."

Holding up signs in support of Turkey's efforts in Idlib, the demonstrators chanted slogans like "Stop Assad's atrocities" during the gathering, which was attended by Syrian, Palestinian and Azerbaijani Americans.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-hundreds-gather-in-dc-to-back-turkey-amid-idlib-op/1751200

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US, Afghan presidents discuss ‘evolving peace process’

Shadi Khan Saif  

02.03.2020

U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday spoke over the phone with his Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani to congratulate him on “important developments” in the peace process, the Afghan president said.

“I received a phone call from Pres @realDonaldTrump today, congratulating me on yesterday’s important developments with regards to the evolving peace process,” Ghani said on Twitter.

"POTUS [president of the United States] expressed his confidence in the Afghan government’s leadership and state capacity to lead the next steps in process," he added.

Last week, endorsing re-election of Ghani, the U.S. hailed postponement of planned presidential inauguration ceremony in Kabul.

In a series of tweets, Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, said Washington welcomes President Ghani’s decision to postpone the event (oath taking) until March 9.

“This will allow time for necessary consultations so that the best interests of Afghanistan and its people are reflected and preserved by the new government”, he said.

This endorsement from Kabul’s main backer came almost a week after the final results were announced for the Sep. 28 polls.

On Saturday, two landmark conferences in Doha and Kabul saw historic decisions made regarding the fate of war-ravaged Afghanistan.

The U.S. signed a deal with the Taliban in Doha, laying out a timetable for a full troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-afghan-presidents-discuss-evolving-peace-process-/1751167

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US weighing info-sharing, military equipment for Turkey

Michael Gabriel Hernandez 

29.02.2020

WASHINGTON

The U.S. is urgently weighing information-sharing and the provision of military equipment to Turkey amid increasing hostilities in northwestern Syria's Idlib province, a senior State Department official said Friday.

The Trump administration is "working on ways to support the Turks," but stressed that would "not involve military moves by American units," the official told reporters.

"As a NATO ally, we have – and as a major foreign military sales partner, we have various information sharing and equipment relationships with the Turks. We’re looking at what we can do on an urgent basis right now to help them,” the official said.

At least 33 Turkish soldiers were martyred and dozens injured in an airstrike by Assad regime forces late Thursday in the Idlib de-escalation zone, just across Turkey’s southern border.

Another Turkish soldier was martyred and two were wounded Friday in Idlib, Turkey's Defense Ministry said.

In retaliation, Turkey destroyed eight regime tanks, four armored vehicles, five howitzers and two rocket launchers, the ministry said on Twitter.

Roughly 900,000 civilians have been displaced since the Syrian regime began its offensive in December on Idlib province with the assistance of Russian air power and Iranian-backed forces.

Thursday’s attack was one of a series since January on Turkish troops, with Turkish officials keeping a pledge that such assaults would not go unanswered.

More than 1.7 million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border due to intense attacks.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-weighing-info-sharing-military-equipment-for-turkey/1749384

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South Asia

 

Intra-Afghan dialogue to start in Norway from March 10

Muhammad Saleh Zaafir

March 2, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The outline for another deal between Islamic Emirates (Taliban) and Kabul administration has been choreographed by the interlocutors of Taliban-US parleys meticulously and top aides of two sides will have talks about the agreement separately on March 10 in the Norwegian capital Oslo.

With this, the intra-Afghan dialogue would commence. Well-placed diplomatic sources told The News here Sunday that Pakistan would facilitate various groups in different forms who will enter the negotiations, viewed as most crucial phase of the peace process. Pakistan’s interest in enduring peace in Afghanistan is obvious and it has been appreciated by all those who are keen to see stability in the region.

Pakistan’s successive governments have been striving for a negotiated settlement of Afghan imbroglio as the Taliban-US talks were initiated during the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government way back in 2018.

The sources reminded that Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi who stayed in Doha for three nights for meetings with the visiting diplomats and host leader had an important meeting with his Norwegian counterpart who will host the first round of the intra-Afghan dialogue.

The diplomatic sources have expressed fear that India that had been using Afghan soil to undertake subversive activities against Pakistan for more than a decade and the deal struck by Taliban and the US would come in the way of Indian future designs. India that has been claiming to invest more than two billion US dollars in various sectors of Afghanistan for establishing a foothold in that country, is utterly in wilderness due to the deal of Saturday in Doha.

India dispatched its Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla to Kabul on Friday ahead of developments in Doha and Kabul where the US defence secretary was present for talks with Ashraf Ghani administration. The sources hinted that the Indian foreign secretary had meetings some important stalwarts including those who had been allies of New Delhi. India that has almost lost its proxy war in Afghanistan, could play a spoiler’s role in upcoming intra-Afghan dialogue, the sources hinted. He returned late Saturday and kept busy in maligning Pakistan. He had meetings with Ashraf Ghani, Abdullah Abdullah, former intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh and NSA Hamdullah Mohib. He also met former president Hamid Karzai, acting Foreign Minister Mohammad Haroon Chakhansur and acting Finance Minister Abdul Zadran. Separately, he interacted with a cross-section of Afghan leaders including politician, civil rights activists and academicians, most of them belong to anti-Pakistan lobby. India on Saturday said that it has noted that entire political spectrum in Afghanistan welcomed the peace deal.

"We note that the entire political spectrum in Afghanistan, including the government, the democratic polity and civil society, has welcomed the opportunity and hope for peace and stability generated by these agreements," Indian spokesman said in New Delhi.

Interestingly India's Ambassador to Qatar P Kumaran was among a host of diplomats present at the ceremony where the deal was inked. He was the junior most diplomat among thirty countries who were present in the historic ceremony.

Most of the countries consigned their senior diplomats for the occasion, the sources added. In a guarded reaction to the peace deal between the Taliban and the United States, India on Saturday said its consistent policy has been to support all opportunities that can bring peace, security and stability in Afghanistan and ensure end of terrorism.

The sources said that the splinter political groups have assured the Taliban for their efforts for establishing a strong Islamic system in Afghanistan. The Taliban have already chalked out a strategy to broad-based understanding with all political groups who are willing to work for endured peace in the war-torn country. “Once the system is installed in Afghanistan, it would be hard for India to find a place in that country for using it for its ulterior motives against Pakistan,” the sources maintained.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/622383-intra-afghan-dialogue-to-start-in-norway-from-march-10

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Afghanistan's partial truce will continue, 'with goal' for full ceasefire: Ashraf Ghani

Mar 1, 2020

KABUL: Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani said Sunday that a seven-day partial truce would continue, but he rejected a key component of a new US-Taliban deal that calls for the release of thousands of insurgent prisoners.

The so-called "reduction in violence" period ran for the week preceding the signing of a historic accord between the US and the Taliban in Doha on Saturday.

The agreement spells out a withdrawal timeline of 14 months for all foreign forces, provided the Taliban honour several pledges and enter talks with Kabul for a more comprehensive peace deal.

"The reduction in violence will continue with a goal to reach a full ceasefire," Ghani told a press conference.

"General (Scott) Miller has told Taliban to do so. It is expected (to continue)," he added, referring to the US commander in charge of foreign forces in Afghanistan.

But, in a sign of a bumpy road ahead, Ghani pushed back against a clause in the deal that calls for the Taliban to release up to 1,000 prisoners and for the Afghan government to release up to 5,000 prisoners.

"There is no commitment to releasing 5,000 prisoners," Ghani said.

"This is the right and the self-will of the people of Afghanistan. It could be included in the agenda of the intra-Afghan talks, but cannot be a prerequisite for talks." He added that any prisoner release was "not in the authority of the US, it is in the authority of the Afghan government."

The president, who is mired in a political crisis following fraud allegations in his re-election, was referring to upcoming talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government that were agreed to as part of the deal.

The Taliban had until now refused to negotiate with Ghani's administration, which they considered a US puppet regime, but the withdrawal agreement hinges on Kabul and the insurgents reaching a separate peace deal through "intra-Afghan" negotiations.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/afghanistans-partial-truce-will-continue-with-goal-for-full-ceasefire-ashraf-ghani/articleshow/74424574.cms

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Myanmar army kills five Rohingya Muslims, including a child, in Rakhine

01 March 2020

At least five Rohingya Muslims, including a child, have been killed and several others injured during clashes in Myanmar's western state of Rakhine, where state-sponsored violence has prevailed in recent years.

A regional lawmaker and residents said on Sunday that the five members of the persecuted Muslim minority were killed in Mrauk U town a day earlier. A 12-year-old boy was among them.

There were conflicting accounts of the number of Rohingya injured, which ranged from six to 11.

Media reports citing an unnamed Rohingya villager said that the deceased bodies had bullet wounds.

"Five Muslims died as their bodies were found," Reuters quoted the villager as saying, adding, "Their funeral was held today."

"We can't go out and we can't go anywhere," he added. "We are just staying safe in our village. If this keeps happening, I feel like there is no hope."

The regional MP, Tun Thar Sein, said that Saturday's fighting broke out after Arakan Army -- a predominantly Buddhist ethnic group -- attacked a military convoy passing the area. Troops responded with gunfire and shelling two villages of the troubled region, the lawmaker added.

In this file photo taken on September 7, 2017, a smoldering house that was consumed by fire is seen in Gawdu Tharya village near Maungdaw in Rakhine state (Photo by AFP)

Myanmar military claimed that the forces from the ethnic militant group that recruits mostly from Rakhine’s Buddhist majority were responsible for the death.

Contradicting the military’s claim, Khine Thu Kha, a spokesman for the militants, who want more autonomy for Rakhine State blamed Myanmar's government troops for the civilian casualties.

Saturday's attack was one of several to kill Rohingya this year. In early January, four Rohingya children died in a blast the military and rebels blamed on each other.

On January 25, Myanmar troops shelled a Rohingya village, killing two women, one pregnant, and injuring seven people.

The Hague-based International Court of Justice earlier this year ordered Myanmar to protect Rohingya Muslims against further atrocities and preserve evidence of alleged crimes.

The region came to global attention in 2017 when more than 750,000 Rohingya, mostly women and children, fled to neighboring Bangladesh to escape a military crackdown that UN investigators have said was carried out with “genocidal intent.” Bangladesh was already hosting some 200,000 Rohingya when the exodus began.

Hundreds remain in Myanmar and now live under apartheid-like conditions, confined to camps and villages and denied access to healthcare and education.

The Rohingya have inhabited Rakhine State for centuries, but the state denies them citizenship. Bangladesh refuses to grant them citizenship too.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/01/619908/Myanmar'-Rakhine--Rohingya-Arakan-Army-UN-ICC

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Full script of the US-Taliban agreement for bringing peace to Afghanistan

29 Feb 2020

The US-Taliban deal signed on Saturday, February 29, 2020, in Doha, Qatar by the U.S representative Zalmay Khalilzad and the Taliban’s key member Mullah brother.

The aim of the agreement said to be for bringing peace to Afghanistan and ending the 18-year-old U.S war in Afghanistan.

Get the full script of the agreement by clicking the download link below:

US-Taliban deal: Agreement For Bringing Peace to Afghanistan

https://www.khaama.com/full-script-of-the-us-taliban-agreement-for-bringing-peace-to-afghanistan-768689/

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Top ISIS commanders among 6 killed in U.S. drone strikes in East of Afghanistan

02 Mar 2020

A series of U.S. aristrikes killed six militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group in eastern Kunar province of Afghanistan.

The 201st Silab Corps of the Afghan Military in a statement said the U.S. military’s unmanned aerial vehicles targeted the ISIS militants in Suki district of Kunar on Sunday.

The statement further added that the airstrikes targeted the ISIS militants in Dewa Gul Vally of the district, killing at least 6 ISIS militants.

The 201st Silab Corps also added that the airstrikes also killed Ghani, the commander in charge of ISIS prisons and Qari Zahir, another local senior commander of the group.

The ISIS sympathizers have not commented have not commented regarding the airstrikes so far.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/top-isis-commanders-among-6-killed-in-u-s-drone-strikes-in-east-of-afghanistan-04466/

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OIC contact group discusses Rohingya protection with UN chief

March 01, 2020

NEW YORK: The contact group of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), led by Saudi Arabia, met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at his office at the UN’s New York headquarters to discuss the latest developments related to the Muslim Rohingya ethnic minority community in Myanmar.

The group included representatives from Turkey, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia and the OIC Observer Mission to the UN.

The Kingdom’s permanent representative to the UN, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, lauded the efforts of Guterres to support the legitimate rights of the Rohingya, highlighting the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) decision demanding the government of Myanmar honor its obligations to provide protection to the group.

“The ICJ decision was the result of the efforts exerted by the OIC members states in New York and the Contact Group on Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar headed by the Kingdom,” he said.

“Their efforts culminated in the adoption of the General Assembly resolution titled ‘Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar,’ which was proposed by the Kingdom to protect the Rohingya people and grant them full citizenship rights. This decision was used by Gambia to bring the case to the ICJ.”

Al-Mouallimi stressed the importance of exerting additional international efforts in light of the ICJ’s decision to pressure the government of Myanmar and prevent it from continuing violations, hoping that Guterres would continue to urge the Security Council to take practical steps to alleviate the Rohingya people’s suffering.

Guterres welcomed the ICJ decision and described it as a historical moment that the government of Myanmar should respect.

“There is a consensus regarding the Rohingya issue and the violations and displacement they are facing. I will continue to bring this issue up before the Security Council,” he said.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1635141/world

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Arab World

 

Iraq’s Allawi withdraws PM candidacy, President begins talks for replacement

2 March 2020

Iraq’s Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Allawi withdrew early Monday his candidacy for the prime minister post, and President Barham Salih announced that he will begin consultations to choose a replacement within two weeks.

Allawi said on Twitter he submitted a letter to the President in which he apologized for not forming a government and added that he found that “certain political parties were not serious about reform and fulfilling their promises to the nation and had put obstacles in front of the birth of an independent government.”

The announcement came hours after the parliament had again failed to approve his cabinet.

Saleh said that he will begin consultations to choose a new candidate for prime minister within a period of 15 days, the state news agency reported.

Iraq’s current parliament is the most divided in its recent history and Allawi is struggling to secure support from the country’s Sunni Arab and Kurdish minorities.

Kurds and Sunnis are also opposed to a non-binding vote passed by parties representing the Shia majority for the immediate departure of the 5,200 US troops stationed in Iraq.

Iraq has been without a government since Allawi’s predecessor Adil Abdel Mahdi quit under pressure from the protesters two months ago.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/03/02/Iraq-s-PM-Mohammed-Allawi-withdraws-his-candidacy-for-prime-minister-post-.html

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Rockets land near US embassy in Baghdad, no casualties reported

2 March 2020

Two Katyusha rockets have landed on Monday near the US embassy in Baghdad located in the heavily fortified Green Zone of the Iraqi capital, according to Al Arabiya correspondent.

No casualties have been reported.

The US diplomatic mission has been regularly hit by rockets in recent months.

The Green Zone houses government buildings and foreign missions.

Last Wednesday, the United States blacklisted a senior member of Iranian-backed Kata’ib Hezbollah militia, punishing it for its attacks targeting US forces, most recently for killing an American contractor in an Iraqi military base near the northern city of Kirkuk.

The US State Department said it has designated Ahmad al-Hamidawi as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT), Secretary General of Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH), an Iran-backed terrorist group active in Iraq and Syria, which Washington designated as terrorist organization in 2009.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/03/02/Rockets-land-near-US-embassy-in-Baghdad-no-casualties-reported.html

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Iraqi security forces kill one, wound 24 at Baghdad protest: Sources

1 March 2020

Iraqi security forces killed one person and wounded 24 at an anti-government protest in Baghdad on Sunday, a police source said.

The person was killed by birdshot fired from a hunting rifle and some of the injuries were caused by birdshot and tear gas, the source added.

Earlier on Sunday, Iraq’s parliament adjourned again a session to approve the cabinet proposed by Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Allawi because of a lack of quorum, state TV said.

In another development, Iraq’s Ministry of Health reported six new cases of coronavirus on Sunday, bringing the total in the country to 19.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/03/01/Iraqi-security-forces-kill-one-wound-24-at-Baghdad-protest-Sources.html

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Iraq reports six new coronavirus cases raising total to 19

1 March 2020

Iraq's Ministry of Health reported six new cases of coronavirus on Sunday, bringing the total in the country to 19.

Two of the six are in Baghdad, and the other four in Sulaimaniya, and all had recently returned from Iran, according to the ministry’s statement.

Iraq has shut its borders and banned travelers from neighboring countries which have experienced an outbreak of coronavirus, including Iran - the epicenter of the coronavirus in the Middle East -, Kuwait, and Bahrain.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/03/01/Iraq-reports-six-new-coronavirus-cases-raising-total-to-19.html

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Three new coronavirus cases confirmed in Lebanon, total now 10

1 March 2020

Lebanon’s health ministry said on Sunday three more people had tested positive for coronavirus after arriving from Iran, bringing the total in the country to 10.

The three patients, who had been in isolation at home, were quarantined at a Beirut hospital after showing symptoms, the ministry said in a statement.

Lebanon closed schools this week and halted flights for non-residents from countries with outbreaks, namely China, Iran, Italy and South Korea.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/03/01/Three-new-coronavirus-cases-confirmed-in-Lebanon-total-now-10.html

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Kuwait to ‘double-check’ all travelers from Egypt, Syria for coronavirus

2 March 2020

Kuwait’s ministry of health announced on Sunday that it will test all travelers coming from Egypt and Syria via all airlines for the coronavirus both upon departure from the two countries and arrival in Kuwait, state news agency KUNA reported.

The Undersecretary of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Mustafa Redha, said the precautionary measures include not allowing passengers with high temperatures to board flights headed to Kuwait without a negative PCR test on the day of the flight and their body temperature returning to normal range.

Kuwait confirmed on Sunday a new case of coronavirus, bringing the total to 46 people.

وزارة الصحة - الكويت

@KUWAIT_MOH

تعلن #وزارة_الصحة عن تأكيد إصابة حالة جديدة ب #فيروس_كورونا_المستجدّ COVID19 مرتبطة بالسفر إلى الجمهورية الإسلامية الإيرانية ليصبح الإجمالي 46 حالة

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Travelers who don’t have high temperatures are required to fill a medical form and upon arrival at Kuwait International Airport their temperatures will be tested again at the airplane’s gate, Redha added.

If the passenger’s temperature is high, they will be taken to quarantine facilities for testing. If the result is positive, they will be quarantined in the specialized hospital, and if negative, they will be quarantined at home for 14 days with the medical authorities following up their case.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/03/02/Kuwait-to-double-check-all-travelers-from-Egypt-Syria-for-coronavirus.html

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Aircraft downed over Idlib, north Syria, as regime closes airspace: Reports

1 March 2020

A fighter jet has been downed over northwest Syria, near Idlib, according to Al Arabiya sources.

As of 13:40 p.m. there were conflicting reports on whether the jet was Turkish or Syrian. Turkey's Anadolu news agency claimed the jet was a Syrian government jet.

Shortly after the incident, the Syrian army closed airspace to aircraft and drones over northwest Syria, according to Syrian state media quoted by Reuters.

The army issued a statement saying it would shoot down any aircraft that entered the airspace, according to state media.

Amid the conflicting reports, video circulated online reportedly showing a drone being downed.

Syrian state media denied a government plane was brought down on Sunday and said the army had downed a Turkish drone over the town of Saraqib in the Idlib region of northwest Syria, Reuters reported.

Tensions rising between Turkey and Syria in Idlib

Idlib is home to some of the last territory controlled by anti-government opposition forces in Syria.

Turkey supports the opposition in the area and has deployed troops to help opposition faces resist the Syrian regime's ongoing assault on their positions.

Tensions spiked recently as Turkish soldiers stationed in Idlib were killed by government airstrikes.

On Thursday, Turkey reported that 22 soldiers had been killed a Syrian regime airstrike in northwest Syria. On Friday, the Turkish government upped the figure to 33.

Humanitarian crisis looms

The Syrian regime's assault has worsened an already difficult humanitarian situation in northwest Syria.

Since December 1, 2019, more than 875,000 people have been displaced by the combined air and ground offensive in Idlib.

Many civilians are being displaced for a second time, having already been moved to Idlib from elsewhere in the country as the regime retook territory through bombardment and siege.

“People are facing a desperate situation,” said Julien Delozanne, head of the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) mission for Syria. “Attacks are now taking place in areas that were previously considered to be safe. The people fleeing north are being squeezed into a territory that is getting smaller and smaller, between the frontline to the east and the closed Turkish border to the west.”

On Thursday, MSF announced it was upping its response in the area as displaced people find themselves in a "critical situation" pushed into a small area along the Turkish border.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/03/01/Syrian-regime-closes-airspace-over-northwest-Syria-Idlib-State-media.html

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Syria closes northwestern airspace, downs 3 Turkish drone

Sunday, 01 March 2020

Syria has shut its airspace over the country's northwest, particularly the embattled Idlib province, warning to bring down any aircraft that violates it.

Syria's official SANA news agency quoted a military source as saying on Sunday that the army had taken the measure based on its adherence to "constitutional and national duties in defending the sovereignty of the state and protecting its security and territorial integrity."

"Any aircraft that breaches the Syrian airspace will be dealt with as hostile aircraft that must be downed and prevented from achieving their hostile goals," he added.

The military source also lashed out at Turkish forces for carrying out "hostile acts" against the Syrian armed forces by directly targeting their positions in Idlib and its adjacent areas and providing support to armed terrorist organizations.

"These repeated hostile Turkish acts will not succeed in saving terrorists from the strikes of the Syrian Arab Army and they prove the Turkish regime’s disavowal of all the previous agreements including the Sochi memo," it added.

Syria downs three Turkish drones

On early Sunday, Turkey's state-owned Anadolu news agency claimed Sunday that a Syrian government plane had been downed in Idlib.

SANA denied the report and said that the Syrian army had downed a Turkish drone over the strategic city of Saraqib, which lies on the intersection of the M5 and M4 highways.

Later on Sunday, Syria’s official SANA news agency reported that the country’s military had downed two more Turkish drones, increasing the total number of Turkey’s drones shot down by the Syrian army to three.

سانا عاجل

@SanaAjel

#عاجل

مراسل سانا:  بلغ عدد الطائرات المسيرة التابعة للنظام التركي التي اسقطها #الجيش_العربي_السوري في منطقة #إدلب اليوم  ثلاث طائرات حتى الآن

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Over the past few weeks, tensions have escalated between Ankara and Damascus in Idlib, the only large territory in the hands of terrorists.

The Syrian military has managed to undo militant gains across the Arab country and bring back almost all of Syrian soil under government control.

Syria launched a counter-terrorism offensive in Idlib and neighboring areas last December after its troops and those of Russia came under increasing militant attacks.

Turkey is evidently upset by changing conditions on the ground. It has deployed massive troops and military equipment in recent weeks to stop Syrian troops from ousting terrorists.

On Thursday, Turkey said at least 36 of its soldiers were killed in an aerial attack by Syrian forces in Idlib.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the Turkish troops who came under fire "were in the battle formations of terrorist groups."

Under a deal reached between Turkey and Russia in the Black Sea resort of Sochi in September 2018, Turkish troops were deployed in Idlib and set up observations posts there.

The agreement required Ankara to oust Takfiri terrorists from the northwestern Syrian province. But, more than a year into the Sochi deal, foreign-backed terrorists rule supreme in Idlib in close proximity to the Turkish troops.

Footage shows Turkish forces beating Syrian soldiers

A new video has emerged showing Turkish forces violently beating Syrian soldiers who have been taken captive.

Kevork Almassian

@KevorkAlmassian

Feb 28, 2020

I feel sorry for the mother's of the killed Turkish occupation soldiers in Syria. Their sons died to fulfill Erdogan's ego & arrogance. They should have stayed in Turkey to defend their country, instead of trying to occupy ours. #Turkey #Idlib

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Kevork Almassian

@KevorkAlmassian

Dear mothers of Turkish soldiers,

this is what your sons do in #Syria. Please remember this next time you cry over the dead body of your son, who was on a mission to fulfill #Erdogan's personal dreams and occupy parts of our land. #Idlib

Embedded video

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Social media users have criticized the behavior which violates the terms of the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/01/619891/Syria-airspace-Turkey-Idlib

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Mideast

 

Iran: US Has No Legal Authority to Decide about Future of Afghanistan

Mar 01, 2020

“The Islamic Republic of Iran welcomes any development which helps peace and stability in Afghanistan and supports efforts to this end but under Afghan leadership and by Afghans,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi said.

Mousavi said Iran believes that sustainable peace in Afghanistan is achieved only through Afghan-Afghan talks and partnership of the political groups in the country, including the Talliban, and considering the reservations of the neighboring states.

Mousavi noted that the US is attempting to legalize its military presence in Afghanistan, and added, “The US is legally unjustified to sign a peace agreement or decide about the fate of Afghanistan.”

He stressed that the UN enjoys proper capacities to facilitate Afghan-Afghan talks and monitor and guarantee implementation of the agreements.

Mousavi said that Iran respects Afghanistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and is ready to help the country establish peace, stability and security, and expressed the hope that the next Afghan government would have friendly ties with its neighbors and would be able to uproot terrorism in the country.

The US and the Taliban movement signed the long-awaited peace agreement in the Qatari capital of Doha on Saturday, which includes US withdrawal from the country after 19 years.

The US and the Afghan government previously released a joint statement ahead of the US accord with the Taliban, in which Washington committed to pull out US and NATO military personnel from the Central Asian country within fourteen months.

Washington also pledged to refrain from the use of force to preserve the territorial integrity of Afghanistan and committed itself to not intervening in the country's domestic affairs.

Kabul, in turn, pledged to engage the UN Security Council to have the Taliban removed from its sanctions list by 29 May.

The agreement was signed by US Peace Envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and one of the Taliban's senior leaders, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

https://en.farsnews.ir/newstext.aspx?nn=13981211000474

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Iran calls for inter-Afghan peace deal, rejects US agreement

01 March 2020

Iran says a so-called peace deal between the Taliban and the United States is an attempt by Washington to justify its illegal presence in Afghanistan, stressing that only domestic talks can stabilize the war-torn country.

The reaction by Iran's Foreign Ministry Sunday came a day after US and Taliban representatives signed a pact aimed at gradually withdrawing foreign troops from Afghanistan.

Iran said it "believes a lasting peace agreement in Afghanistan will only be achieved through inter-Afghan dialogue with the participation of the country's political groups, including the Taliban, and by taking into account the concerns of Afghanistan's neighbors." 

"The Islamic Republic of Iran welcomes any development that contributes to peace and stability in Afghanistan and supports efforts being made in this regard under the Afghan leadership and sovereignty," it said in a statement.

The agreement was struck in the Qatari capital, but while it creates a path for the US to gradually pull out of its longest war, many say it will pose serious challenges as the Afghan government has so far been sidelined.

The United States said it will reduce the number of its troops in Afghanistan to 8,600 from the current 13,000 within 135 days of signing the deal, and work with its allies to reduce the number of their forces over that period.

Iran said it "believes that the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan is illegal and is one of the main reasons for the war and insecurity in that country."

"The withdrawal of these forces is essential to achieving peace and security in Afghanistan, and any action that provides the ground for the withdrawal of these forces will contribute to peace in that country," the statement said.

The US launched its war on Afghanistan just weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Washington accused the Taliban of harboring al-Qaeda and ousted the group from power. But the Taliban have remained a potent force and currently control about 40% of Afghan territory.

"We are working to finally end America’s longest war and bring our troops back home,” said US President Donald Trump in a White House statement on Saturday.

Iran, however, said it regards the so-called peace agreement "as an effort by America to legitimize the presence of its forces in Afghanistan and is opposed to it." 

"The United States has no legal standing to sign a peace deal or determine the future of Afghanistan," the Iranian Foreign Ministry statement said.

"We believe that the United Nations has the appropriate capacity to facilitate inter-Afghan negotiations as well as to monitor and ensure the implementation of the agreements reached" among  Afghanistan's warring sides, it added.

The Afghan government said Saturday it stood ready to negotiate and conclude a ceasefire with the Taliban. It also affirmed support for the withdrawal of US and other foreign forces.

Tehran said while respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan, it is ready to provide any assistance in establishing peace, stability and security in Afghanistan in line with Iran's national security strategy.

"We hope that there will be a government established in Afghanistan that will have friendly and fraternal relations with its neighbors and be able to eradicate terrorism," the statement said.

A joint statement by the US and the Taliban said a full withdrawal of all US and other foreign forces would occur within 14 months of the deal getting signed.

US forces have remained bogged down in Afghanistan through the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Trump.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/01/619885/Iran-Afghanistan-Taliban

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Israel goes to third elections in under a year

2 March 2020

Voting has begun in Israel for the third election in under a year, pitting incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu against challenger Benny Gantz.

The election comes in the wake of US President Donald Trump's so-called peace plan, embraced by most Israeli leaders but rejected by Palestinians and most of the Arab world. This week has also witnessed fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza strip.

The vote is expected to be another tight race between Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party and Gantz’s centrist alliance Blue and White, but both sides are expected to fall well short of a majority.

If re-elected as prime minister, Netanyahu has promised ‘immediate’ steps towards annexing areas of Palestine including the Jordan Valley.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/03/02/Israel-goes-to-third-elections-in-under-a-year.html

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PM Netanyahu pledges ‘immediate’ annexation steps if re-elected

1 March 2020

A day ahead of Israel’s third election in a year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged Sunday that if re-elected he would annex swathes of the occupied West Bank within weeks.

In an interview with Israeli public radio, Netanyahu said annexation of the Jordan Valley and other parts of the West Bank was his top priority among “four major immediate missions.”

“That will happen within weeks, two months at the most, I hope,” he said in the interview aired 24 hours before polls were scheduled to open.

“The joint US-Israeli mapping committee started work a week ago,” he added.

US President Donald Trump’s widely-criticized Middle East peace plan, unveiled in late January, gave the Jewish state a green light to annex the area and proposed a committee to set out the exact borders of the territory to be annexed.

Netanyahu listed his other priorities as signing an “historic” defense treaty with the United States, Israel’s key ally, and “eradicating the Iranian threat”, without elaborating on his plan for Tehran.

He has repeatedly pledged to stop the Islamic republic from developing a nuclear weapon and has not ruled out the use of force.

He has also acted to roll back Iranian and allied forces active in neighboring Syria.

Israel routinely fires missiles at what it says are Iranian targets in Syria, where elite Iranian forces and allied militia play a key role in the country’s conflict.

Netanyahu on Sunday said that his fourth “immediate” goal if he wins another term -- despite facing trial on multiple corruption charges -- would be major economic reform to bring down Israel’s high cost of living.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/03/01/PM-Netanyahu-pledges-immediate-annexation-steps-if-re-elected.html

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Yemenis seize capital of strategic al-Jawf as Saudi-led mercenaries retreat

01 March 2020

Yemen's armed forces, along with Houthi fighters from Ansarullah movement, have taken control of the strategic city of al-Hazm, the capital of the northern al-Jawf province, as Saudi-led mercenaries retreated after losing ground in the region.

Sources close to Saudi-allied former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, confirmed Sunday that forces led by Yemen’s popular Houthi Ansarullah movement took control of al-Hazm, which is located only 150 kilometers (90 miles) south of the border with Saudi Arabia.

This came after fierce fighting with Saudi-led mercenaries who were forced to withdraw to neighboring Ma’rib province.

At least 30 Saudi-led forces, including high-ranking pro-Hadi officers, were killed in the fighting over the past two days.

Maged al-Madhaji, executive director of the Sana’a Center, a Yemeni think-tank, told AFP that the Houthis' capture of al-Hazm could be a game-changer.

 "Control of the capital of al-Jawf could totally change the course of the war. Houthis have made an exceptional advance and are changing the balance" in their favor, he noted.

Madhaji also said the advance would enable the popular Ansarullah-backed forces to surround neighboring oil-rich Ma’rib province, the most significant territory in the hands of the pro-Saudi mercenaries.

The new achievement by Yemeni forces and the Houthi fighters also secures supply lines between Sana’a and the Houthi northern stronghold of Saada, Madhaji said.

The Beirut-based al-Akhbar newspaper had reported Saturday that the advances by Yemeni forces continued towards the strategic city and that major Saudi positions surrounding al-Hazm had fallen.

According to the report, Saudi Arabia had sent dozens of military vehicles along with hundreds of mercenaries from the central Ma'rib and southern Shabwah province in a bid to push back the Yemenis advances.

Saudi Arabia had also sought to win the loyalty of Yemeni tribes against the Yemeni forces in the region by offering money, the report added.

Due to Saudi intervention and influence, al-Jawf province was effectively deprived of using its oil reserves, which are largest in Yemen, and attracting needed investment, it added.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its Persian Gulf regional allies launched the devastating war on Yemen in March 2015 to reinstate the administration of former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and crush the popular Ansarullah movement.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the war has claimed more than 100,000 lives over the past four and a half years.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/01/619923/Yemen-al-Hazm--Houthi-Ansarullah-al-Jawf--Saudis-Abd-Rabbuh-Mansur-Hadi

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Israeli premier pledges to annex more lands of West Bank ‘within weeks’ if re-elected

01 March 2020

In an apparent attempt by Israel's scandal-hit premier to secure votes on the eve of a decisive general election, Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to annex further parts of the occupied West Bank “within weeks” provided that he is re-elected.

Netanyahu, Israel's longest serving premier, made the campaign pledge in an interview with the regime’s public radio on Sunday, stressing that annexation of the strategically important Jordan Valley and other parts of the West Bank have been his top priority among “four major immediate missions.”

“That will happen within weeks, two months at the most, I hope,” he said, 24 hours before polls were scheduled to open for vote-weary Israelis to cast their ballots for the third time in 12 months. Final polls showed yet another tight competition between Netanyahu-led right-wing Likud party and the centrist Blue and White party, led by ex-military chief Benny Gantz.

The incumbent prime minister has already been accused of making last-minute plays to invigorate his right-wing base. However, he has failed to secure enough votes, in the two previous parliamentary elections, to win sufficient seats in the 120-member Knesset and form a majority government. He has also failed so far to form a coalition government.

Netanyahu was particularly emboldened in annexing more Palestinian lands by US President Donald Trump in January, when the latter unveiled his much-delayed and self-proclaimed “deal of the century” during an event at the White House alongside the Israeli premier.

Palestinian groups have unanimously rejected Trump’s one-sided plan, which largely meets Israel’s demands in the decades-old conflict with the Palestinians while envisioning a Palestinian state with limited control over its own security and borders.

The so-called “peace plan” enshrines Jerusalem al-Quds as “Israel’s undivided capital” and allows the regime to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank and the Jordan Valley. The plan also denies the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland, among other controversial terms.

Trump’s plan has triggered waves of protest rallies both across the Palestinian occupied territories and around the globe.

“The joint US-Israeli mapping committee started work a week ago,” Netanyahu further said on Sunday, hoping to emerge victorious in Monday’s election.

However, many fear that the upcoming election fails to break the current political deadlock in the occupying regime and likely turns out to be inconclusive just like the two elections held in April and September, extending a painful political stalemate deep into 2020.

Shortly after Netanyahu’s pledge on Sunday, former Israeli minister of military affairs Avigdor Lieberman, Netanyahu’s ex-ally, publicly lambasted the premier for engaging in empty political rhetoric.

Lieberman said that he had “ironclad information” that the Israeli prime minister comments on the Jordan Valley had been at least partly insincere.

“A few days ago, it became clear to me that he (Netanyahu) sent a message to (Jordan's) King Abdullah, (saying) 'Don't worry, it’s just elections, there will be no annexation of the Jordan Valley',” Lieberman said in a TV interview.

Many experts believe that a unilateral move by Netanyahu to annex the valley would definitely trigger further regional tensions and damage ties with neighboring Jordan, one of only two Arab countries that agreed a peace deal with the Israeli regime.

On Friday, the European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell condemned Tel Aviv for its plan to build thousands of settler units in occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds, warning that such construction would sever territorial contiguity between the area and the rest of the occupied West Bank.

“The EU reiterates its call on Israel to halt settlement construction, to suspend the publication of tenders and to refrain from any measures aimed at the advancement of such construction plans. Settlements are illegal under international law,” Borrell added.

His call came three days after Netanyahu announced that he had ordered the promotion of a plan for construction of some 3,500 illegal settler units in the so-called E1 area, which is located between the occupied al-Quds and the Ma’ale Adumim settlement.

The move is widely believed to be an obvious attempt aimed at securing votes in the Monday’s election.

Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinians state, with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital. However, the continued expansion of Israeli settlements is one of the major obstacles to the establishment of peace in the Middle East.

The occupying regime seized East Jerusalem al-Quds in the 1967 Six-Day War. It later annexed the territory in a move never recognized by the international community. Around 600,000 Israeli settlers now live in over 230 settlements built in the occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has already severed ties between the Palestinian Authority, which he leads, and the Israeli regime as well as the US in reaction to Trump’s highly-provocative scheme.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/01/619901/Palestine-Israel-Netanyahu-West-Bank-Gantz-elections-Lieberman-US-Trump

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Hudaydah skies see another Saudi-led drone targeted by Yemeni fighters

01 March 2020

A drone belonging to the Saudi-led military coalition has been intercepted and targeted by Yemeni forces as it was flying in the skies over the western coastal province of Hudaydah.

A local source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the drone was shot down while it was on a reconnaissance mission over the besieged city of Durayhimion Sunday afternoon.

قناة المسيرة

@almasirah

إسقاط طائرة تجسسية لقوى العدوان في الحديدة#المسيرة #المسيرة_نتhttps://www.almasirah.net/post/151193/

موقع المسيرة نت:إسقاط طائرة تجسسية لقوى العدوان في الحديدة

الحديدة | 5 فبراير | المسيرة نت: أسقطت الدفاعات الجوية للجيش واللجان الشعبية، اليوم الأحد، طائرة تجسسية معادية تابعة لقوى العدوان في محافظة الحديدة.

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Yemeni army forces are supported by allied fighters from the Popular Committees. On February 8, they shot down a similar aircraft with a surface-to-air missile in Hudaydah skies.

An unnamed Yemeni military official censured the coalition at the time for breaching an agreement reached between the warring sides during a round of UN-sponsored peace negotiations in Sweden in December 2018.

Delegates from the Ansarullah movement and representatives loyal to former Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi attended the peace negotiations in Rimbo on the outskirts of Stockholm. The talks resulted in the announcement of a breakthrough agreement.

The document included three provisions: a ceasefire along the Hudaydah front and the redeployment of armed forces out of the city and its port; an agreement on prisoner exchange; and a statement of understanding on the southern Yemeni city of Ta’izz.

Yemeni child killed in Saudi shelling in Sa'ada

Also on Sunday, a child lost his life when artillery rounds and mortar shells fired by Saudi forces rained down on residential neighborhoods in the Razih district of the northwestern province of Sa’ada.

Separately, Saudi-led warplanes carried out three airstrikes against areas in the northern province of al-Jawf.

The warplanes also struck Khaniq area in the province of Nihm.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched the devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing back to power the government of Hadi and crushing Ansarullah.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the war has claimed more than 100,000 lives over the past nearly five years.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/01/619902/Yemeni-forces,-allies-shoot-down-Saudi-led-surveillance-drone-in-Hudaydah

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Israel admits assassinating Palestinian leader's son in Syria

01 March 2020

Israeli military affairs minister Naftali Bennett has admitted that Tel Aviv killed the son of a senior member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement in the Syrian capital last November.

On November 11, 2019, the Israeli military launched a strike on the home of Islamic Jihad politburo member Akram Ajouri in Damascus, killing his son Muadh and another person.

The attack coincided with a similar Israeli strike that killed senior Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata in the besieged Gaza Strip, sparking a barrage of retaliatory rocket fire from the besieged enclave into the occupied territories.

In a statement, the Palestinian resistance movement blamed the attacks on “the Zionist criminal enemy”.

In an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 News on Saturday, Bennett said that "upon taking office, we eliminated Baha and indeed attacked Damascus."

Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria, including in the Golan Heights, most of them against what Tel Aviv claims to be the positions of pro-Syrian forces.

Syria has called on the United Nations to adopt necessary measures to stop Israel’s repeated acts of military aggression on the Arab country.

Israel has also been threatening Palestinians in besieged Gaza with a large-scale war, boasting that it would be worse than the previous wars. Palestinian resistance groups have said they are ready to confront any aggression.

Tensions have risen in the occupied Palestine after US unveiled its so-called "deal of the century" which has been unanimously rejected by all Palestinian groups.

Gaza which has witnessed three devastating wars by Israel is under a suffocating blockade that has continued for 13 years. According to a Press TV correspondent, Gazans unanimously stress that resistance is the only mean to end this Israeli blockade.

Israeli settlers uproot Palestinian trees

Attacks by Israeli troops and settlers have risen since Trump unveiled his extremely biased plan for the Palestinian territories.

On Saturday, Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian farms in the occupied West Bank and destroyed hundreds of trees, in the latest litany of such aggressive acts.

They uprooted around 200 grapevines in Faghour area in the town of al-Khader south of Bethlehem, bringing the number of uprooted grapevines and olive trees in the West Bank to 780 in three days, Palestinian reports said.

They also destroyed 300 grapevines in the area of Zakandah, which lies between the settlements of Daniel and Eliazar on Friday.

On Thursday, they chopped 200 olive trees and 80 grapevines in lands near the settlement of Eliazar.

The agriculture industry, olive cultivation in particular, provides livelihood for about 80,000 Palestinian families in the West Bank.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/01/619877/Israel-Syria-Damascus-attack-Islamic-Jihad-Israel-military-affairs-minister-Naftali-Bennett-Gaza-West-Bank

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Pakistan

 

Study calls for inclusion of religious minorities in national mainstream

BY ZAKI ABBAS

March 2, 2020

LAHORE: Access to quality education and effective political participation can help the minority communities of Pakistan in overcoming the challenges of poverty and illiteracy, according to a study.

The study titled “Index of Religious Diversity and Inclusion” authored by journalist and researcher Asif Aqeel with assistance from former lawmaker Advocate Mary Gill, Basil Dogra and Sunil Gulzar notes that a number of reports on non-Muslim communities often treat them as one homogenous group.

“Religious minorities are actually diverse not just in terms of their religion but in their culture, history, role in the creation of Pakistan, economic status, educational level, racial profiling, level of social acceptance, legal restrictions in profession of their faith, language, ethnicity, occupation and geographic dispersion etc,” Aqeel said while giving a presentation on the report at the Center for Public Policy & Governance (CPPG) of Forman Christian College University (FCCU) on Friday.

“Hence, most of one-size-fits-all statements and recommendations on these non-Muslims are often not free of error,” he added.

The report provides a brief history of Pakistan in the context of minorities and then expands on various dimensions of their lives: neighbourhoods, worship places, graveyards and cremation grounds, institutions, experiences of violence and terrorism, harassment, forced conversion and marriages, freedom of belief, anti-blasphemy laws, socioeconomic conditions, stigmas, political participation and migration.

Elaborating on some keys findings of the study, Aqeel said that since 9/11, terrorism indiscriminately hit every section of society in Pakistan, including religious minorities, but Christians suffered the highest number of suicidal attacks. The Christian and Scheduled Caste Hindus suffered challenges like bonded labor, illegal settlement, lack of graveyards, high level of illiteracy, poverty, ghettoized living and stigmas like “dark” colored and “untouchable”, it added.

CPPG founder and head of the department Professor Dr Saeed Shafqat, who moderated the session, said that political participation and provision of education to minorities were key to pluralism and promoting diversity in Pakistani society. He said that the CPPG would further work on the study and produce policy level recommendations.

FCCU Rector Dr James Tebbe, Bishop of Lahore Irfan Jameel, Professor Dr Farzand Masih, Professor Dr Christy Munir, Barrister Ambreen Qureshi, Pakistan Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee Vice-President Ravindar Singh, former Punjab Assembly Member Kanji Ram, Valmiki community representative Amarnath Randhawa, Punjab Assembly member Sadia Sohail, human rights lawyer Saiful Malook and several others participated in the event.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/02/29/study-calls-for-inclusion-of-religious-minorities-in-national-mainstream/

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A Pakistan-led, Pakistan-owned process in Afghanistan

March 1, 2020

Sunil Sharan

Viva, Pakistan. The country cannot win a war against eternal enemy India, but it has staked its survival to best two superpowers in Afghanistan, first the Soviets and now the Americans.

It’s all part of an ambition to first wrest control of Kashmir from “Hindu”  India, and then to wrest India from the Hindus themselves.

 Jinnah formed Pakistan ostensibly as a sanctuary for the subcontinent’s Muslims. What he left unsaid was that Pakistan was being created with one sole obsession, and that was to place the crescent on Delhi’s Red Fort. From where our beloved prime ministers have addressed the nation for nearly three-quarters of a century.

The Americans are leaving Afghanistan finally but not in the precipitous manner in which they fled Vietnam, where their embassy personnel in Saigon had to be evacuated by helicopter. That exit symbolized utter and humiliating defeat, but the withdrawal from Afghanistan might be no less.

The Americans are leaving behind a few thousand troops in highly-fortified super bases inside Afghanistan, wherein they will no doubt lead the high life and enjoy pork chops, as they do in the Green Zone in Baghdad, so that they can feel at home even in a Muslim country.

From the super bases, the Americans are supposed to keep a watchful eye over the Taliban. But what over two hundred thousand Nato troops (which included American troops) could not do for over a decade, can one expect a few thousand to do, especially now when the Taliban will control Kabul as well as the rest of the country. If I were an American soldier, I would stay put in my super base.

Cast aside will be the “democratically” elected Ghani government. India has given the Ghani government over $3 billion in aid and infrastructure, including building a fine parliament building for it. India is only now thinking of creating a new parliament building for itself, such is the love it has for the Ghani government. Now the Taliban will get to use the parliament building built by the Indians, as also countless roads and other infrastructure.

Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan is already warning of “spoilers” of the American-Taliban peace deal. By spoilers, he obviously means India. Pakistan is the architect of this deal and loves it. India hates it.

For two decades Pakistan has played a double game in Afghanistan. It stayed in bed with the Taliban, occasionally getting up to flirt with the Americans. Most of the Taliban leadership is in Pakistan and has been so for twenty years. The Taliban used Pakistan as a staging ground to launch attacks against the Americans in Afghanistan and then retreat into the safe haven of Pakistan where the Americans could not get to them.

The Pakistanis had become masters at this strategy, having employed the exact same approach against the Soviets. Eventually the Soviets capitulated. The Pakistanis knew that eventually the Americans too would capitulate. And they did.

Now the Pakistanis are getting into pole position to launch the second jihad in Kashmir. By consolidating Kashmir into itself, India is trying to buttress itself against this jihad. Let’s see if it succeeds.

Khan loses no opportunity to castigate India and PM Modi every day. He seems completely obsessed with India. In his cricketing days, he was known as an attacking player. His boss, Pakistani army chief Bajwa, has just given himself another three years as king of Pakistan to accomplish the second jihad in Kashmir.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/strategic-insights/a-pakistan-led-pakistan-owned-process-in-afghanistan/

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Pakistan PM seeks int'l intervention in India violence

Islamuddin Sajid 

29.02.2020

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan

Pakistan's prime minister on Saturday urged the international community to intervene and stop the ongoing "carnage of Muslims" in India.

In a statement posted on Twitter, Imran Khan said India's "state-sponsored terror" could lead to radicalization of 200 million Indian Muslims.

At least 42 people, mostly Muslims, were killed and over 200 others injured in days-long violence in New Delhi, following protests against a controversial citizenship law. The riots coincided with U.S. President Donald Trump visiting the South Asian country for the first time.

Demanding an international response to stop the violence, Khan said: “I have been predicting that unless the international community intervenes these developments will have disastrous consequences not only for the region but eventually for the world also.”

On Friday, Khan recalled the 2002 Gujarat riots in India, saying the situation was similar in Delhi.

"As I have [been] stating repeatedly, Modi's Hindu Supremacist agenda is akin to the Nazi pogrom of Jews in the 1930s while the major powers appeased Hitler. Modi conducted pogrom against Muslims in Gujarat as CM & now we are seeing the same in New Delhi," he tweeted.

The recent communal violence in the Indian capital has triggered worldwide condemnation with Muslim bloc, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), terming it “anti-Muslim violence."

Groups in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia have also sought immediate relief for Muslims living in Delhi.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/pakistan-pm-seeks-intl-intervention-in-india-violence/1750035

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PML-N accuses govt of pursuing ‘anti-state’ policies

March 02, 2020

NAROWAL: Former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal has said the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) will fight the policies of Imran government tooth and nail.

“Imran Khan government can’t stop us from opposing its anti-state policies by arresting us on false charges,” said Mr Iqbal while addressing a public gathering in his hometown on Sunday after being released from jail in a case.

He said the National Accountability Bureau could not prove charges of corruption of even a single rupee during his detention. “NAB asks me why I constructed Sports City in Narowal. I told them it has been built for the youth of the country to make them better sportsmen and civilised citizens of Pakistan. If this is a crime, I shall commit it again,” he announced.

He said Prime Minister Khan had destroyed the economy. “Today prices of all edibles, medicines, fertilizers and other essential items are sky high,” he said.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1537757/pml-n-accuses-govt-of-pursuing-anti-state-policies

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Pakistan govt to lobby UK for Nawaz Sharif's deportation

March 2, 2020

The govt departments will start the process of writing a letter to the UK from the coming week, said an official.

The incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government has decided to seek the deportation of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from London, where he is undergoing treatment, a media report said on Monday.

"Government departments concerned will start the process of writing a letter to the UK from the coming week," Dawn news quoted Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Firdous Ashiq Awan as saying on Sunday.

Casting doubts on the former premier's illness, Awan said neither did he undergo any heart surgery nor was he admitted to hospital for any emergency during the last three months.

"It is time to bring back the VIP prisoner who is having a lavish stay abroad," she added.

Meanwhile, the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has said that Sharif will move the Lahore High Court against the Punjab province government's refusal to grant him extension in his stay abroad for treatment.

PML-N's Punjab information secretary Azma Bokhari told Dawn news on Sunday: "We have received the written order of the PTI's Punjab government regarding its refusal to grant extension in the stay of Nawaz Sharif abroad on flimsy grounds.

"The PML-N supremo will challenge the decision in the LHC this week."

Last week, the Punjab government had refused to extend Sharif's bail declaring that it had found no "legal, moral or medical ground" necessitating an extension.

Last year, the LHC had granted Sharif bail in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills corruption case in which he was a suspect.

Full report at:

https://www.khaleejtimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-govt-to-lobby-uk-for-nawaz-sharifs-deportation

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Govt to lobby UK for Nawaz’s deportation

Zulqernain Tahir | Abid Mehdi

March 02, 2020

LAHORE / SIALKOT: While the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government has decided to seek deportation of former prime minister from London, the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N says Nawaz Sharif will move the Lahore High Court against the Punjab government’s refusal to grant him extension in his stay abroad for treatment.

“Government departments concerned will start the process of writing a letter to the United Kingdom from the coming week,” Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan told journalists in Sialkot on Sunday.

When contacted, Punjab PML-N’s information secretary and MPA Azma Bokhari told Dawn, “we have received the written order of the PTI’s Punjab government regarding its refusal to grant extension in the stay of Nawaz Sharif abroad on flimsy grounds. The PML-N supremo will challenge the Buzdar administration’s decision in the LHC this week.”

Casting doubts on the illness of the former prime minister, Ms Awan said neither he underwent any heart surgery nor was admitted to hospital for any emergency during the last three months. “It is time to bring back the VIP prisoner who is having a lavish stay abroad.”

While PTI ministers and leaders have been expressing their lack of trust over the official process to allow Mr Sharif to go to the UK — some doubting the authenticity of medical reports of the Punjab government’s doctors, others blaming courts for a ‘lenient view’ and a few others holding their government responsible — Ms Awan identified a new ‘culprit’.

“A section of media ran a campaign to influence opinion (of decision-makers) and build an impression that Nawaz was critically ill. It was rather a fixed match,” she said.

Rejecting the ‘fixed-match’ claim, Punjab Health Minister Yasmeen Rashid, who herself is a senior doctor, told newsmen in Lahore on Sunday that Nawaz Sharif’s medical reports were authentic and not issued under any influence.

Azma Bokhari said that PTI was the party that had introduced a culture of doing politics on the politicians’ health.

“All medical reports of Nawaz Sharif have been submitted to the Punjab government but it refused to give extension in his stay abroad only to please Imran Khan,” she said, adding that earlier the court had given relief to Nawaz Sharif and not the government.

Last week, the Punjab government had refused to extend bail to Mr Sharif declaring that it had found no “legal, moral or medical ground” necessitating an extension.

The LHC had granted Nawaz Sharif bail in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case in which he was a suspect.

Later, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) accepted his bail plea in the Al Azizia Mills reference in which he was serving a seven-year jail term, clearing his way to travel abroad for medical treatment. The IHC had, however, asked him to first approach the Punjab government if he needed more time (after eight weeks) to complete his treatment. Mr Sharif had left for London on Nov 19.

The IHC granted eight-week bail to the former premier on Oct 29, 2019 — a period of time that expired on Dec 25. The former premier applied for the extension in his bail on Dec 23 along with some medical reports.

The Punjab government formed a four-member committee to look into the merits of the application. It rejected the medical reports submitted with the application and asked for more specific and latest evidence.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1537724/govt-to-lobby-uk-for-nawazs-deportation

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KP police ask Fazlur Rehman to curb activities over security fears

March 02, 2020

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakh­tunkhwa (KP) Police have issued a security alert to Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and asked him to restrict his movement and avoid unnecessary engagements.

A letter issued by the District Police Officer (DPO) a couple of days ago said “hostile intelligence agencies” had planned to target the Maulana. The police advised the JUI-F chief to keep all his functions, plans, programmes and movements secret.

“I feel my great responsibility to intimate you (Maulana Fazl) for adoption of precautionary measures due to recent threat from terrorists,” the DPO told the JUI-F leader in the letter.

Maulana Fazl had survived three attempts on his life, including a suicide attack, in KP and Balochistan. He narrowly escaped in a suicide attack in Quetta in 2014. The suicide bomber had targeted his bullet-proof vehicle but Maulana Fazl remained unhurt.

The police also asked the JUI-F leader to make sure presence of security personnel in the limits of his residence in the Abdul Khel area round the clock. The Maulana should also make maximum use of all resources, the letter said.

Talking to Dawn here on Sunday, JUI-F’s provincial spokesman Maulana Abdul Jalil Jan said the government would be responsible if Maulana Sahab was harmed. He said the Pakistan Tehreek Insaf government was issuing threat alerts to Maulana Fazl to create fear and stop him from campaigning against the ruling party.

He said the Maulana would continue his engagements and it was responsibility of the government to provide full security to him. He said the JUI-F chief would come to Peshawar on Monday to address a conference on the current situation in the merged tribal districts.

Jalil Jan criticised the KP government for reducing security of Maulana Fazl and other senior JUI-F leaders. “The government on one hand issues threat alert but on the other hand reduces Maulana’s security,” he said.

He said despite security threats to Maulana Fazl the provincial government had provided only three police constables to him. Initially, three special police squads were detailed for the JUI-F chief’s security, he added.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1537756/kp-police-ask-fazlur-rehman-to-curb-activities-over-security-fears

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Govt to approach UK for Nawaz’s extradition, says Firdous

March 2, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan on Sunday said that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has decided to approach the authorities in the United Kingdom (UK) for the extradition of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supreme leader Nawaz Sharif.

Addressing a press conference in Sialkot, the PM’s aide said that Nawaz, who was allowed to go to the UK for medical treatment, failed to provide his medical reports to the Punjab government despite the fact that his exit was conditional to his compliance with the local authorities. “Now, the time has come that he should be brought back the country,” she added.

She said that the government will write to the British authorities for the extradition of the Sharif brothers and steps will be taken by the concerned authorities in this regard in the coming week. The PM’s aide claimed that a “section of media had created the perception” that if the PML-N leader was not allowed to leave for treatment abroad then his life might be in danger.

It is worth mentioning here that the British government and Pakistan had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in May 2019 for initiating the process of extraditing former finance minister Ishaq Dar. The MoU was signed after Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar held talks with British Home Secretary Sajid Javid.

Earlier, the Punjab government had asked the federal government to approach the court concerned against the extension in the former premier’s bail. “We have sent a letter to the federal government now they will take action,” Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat had said on Wednesday.

The provincial government’s stance was supported by Federal Minister of Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry, who termed the decision as a “good step”. The minister had also called for the formation of an independent commission to confirm the authenticity of the PML-N supremo’s previous reports.

On Tuesday, the provincial government had rejected Nawaz’s application for an extension in bail, stating that the former premier had failed to provide the required medical reports.

Basharat, while addressing a press conference alongside Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid and Punjab Information Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan, had said that the government had repeatedly asked the PML-N leader to furnish his reports.

“He has not been admitted to any hospital since he went to London for treatment. We have repeatedly asked his physician Dr Adnan about the cardiac procedure. Dr Adnan failed to give any particular date,” Basharat said.

“The Islamabad High Court (IHC) had given eight weeks to Nawaz. In the last 16 weeks we have not received any new reports from London,” he had added.

The provincial law minister had said that a special board was constituted by the chief minister which kept requesting for fresh reports.

“After seven to eight observations, the board asked for new reports, however, the response we received from them was that the reports that had already been sent were conclusive and a decision should be taken on them,” he noted.

“Since no new reports were sent, the Punjab cabinet reached a decision on them and decided not to extend the bail,” Basharat said.

‘GOVT TO OVERCOME INFLATION’:

Speaking about other issues, Dr Firdous said that the incumbent government is committed to its mission of overcoming inflation and providing immediate relief to the masses.

She said that the prices of different edibles were decreasing because of the efforts of Prime Minister Imran Khan. “In order to reduce the burden on the masses, the government will ensure that these prices are further decreased,” she added.

She also said that the country has been largely successful in addressing the challenges it faced at the economic front due to the prudent economic policies of the incumbent government.

Talking about the Afghan peace agreement signed in Doha a day earlier, she said that the deal vindicated PM Imran’s long-held narrative that dialogue was the only viable solution for peace and stability in the region. She added that Pakistan will continue its policy of supporting the Afghan people in their efforts to achieve lasting peace, stability and development in Afghanistan.

On the issue of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, she said that Pakistan has hosted millions of Afghan refugees, and this fact alone shows the country’s hospitality and generosity.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/03/01/government-will-bring-nawaz-back-says-firdous/

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Southeast Asia

 

Islamist party PAS set for comeback in Malaysia's federal government

MAR 1, 2020

Hazlin Hassan

KUALA LUMPUR - Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) is set to make a comeback to federal government after a 42-year absence, as one of the parties backing new Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

The Islamist party that boasts a one million-strong membership has enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent months thanks to its unlikely alliance with former foe Umno and deep voter disillusionment with the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, leading to a string of recent by-election wins for the PAS-Umno pact.

All eyes will be on how the party, which governs Kelantan and Terengganu state, influences national policy.

In its press conference on Sunday (March 1), PAS brushed aside the question of whether Umno leaders currently facing graft charges will be given Cabinet posts in Tan Sri Muhyiddin's new government.

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang said it was unfair to accuse members of the new government of corruption as politicians from PH had also faced similar accusations before.

"What is important is saving the country from the political crisis that took place," he said, referring to the week-long turmoil which saw the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan government.

"If you want to accuse leaders of being linked to corruption, PH also has leaders whose cases have been stopped from going to court, they were released just like that," he said.

PAS was part of the Barisan Nasional federal government from 1974 to 1977, and had then worked with Umno to capture all 36 state seats in Kelantan. Its then president Asri Musa also became a Cabinet minister.

However, following a rift with Umno, PAS left the BN government and contested on its own in the 1978 general election but failed to capture the state, winning only two seats.

Datuk Seri Hadi declined to say if his party will now be represented in Cabinet.

"Let's form a government first, we can talk about the Cabinet later," he said.

A PAS insider told The Straits Times that the party hopes to gain four Cabinet posts.

Observers say that PAS will be given two to three posts at most, mainly due to the various competing groups in the new government.

Mr Muhyiddin's Perikatan Nasional or National Alliance group includes lawmakers from his own Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, Umno, PAS and Gabungan Parti Sarawak.

There is talk that PAS is pushing for one of two deputy prime minister posts, although it is unclear if this will materialise.

Universiti Malaya's Professor Awang Azman Awang Pawi said that as PAS and Umno are the biggest blocs in the new government, with 18 and 39 lawmakers respectively, there is a possibility for representatives from each of the two parties to be appointed deputy prime minister.

"PAS needs to show that it is a party that supports the national agenda, a progressive Islam, and is capable of playing an important role in government after having been left out of the federal government for decades," he said.

He said that the party needs to change people's opinions of it as a conservative, rural party. "They need to have progressive ideas and a high level of integrity."

James Chin, Director of Asia Institute at University of Tasmania said the party would likely push for an Islamic state and conservative policies such as those implemented in Kelantan and Terengganu.

"PAS will try to insert Islam into every government policy," he said.

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/islamist-party-pas-set-for-comeback-in-malaysias-federal-government

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Indonesia’s religious leaders urge promotion of religious harmony

By Robin Gomes

March 2, 2020

Not only civil and religious leaders but also all citizens have the responsibility in promoting values such as tolerance, respect, religious harmony, which strengthen Indonesians in their daily lives.  Leaders of several religions of Indonesia made the call on February 27 in the capital Jakarta, during a seminar on “Harmonious and constructive religion that strengthens national life”.

The event was organized by the People's Consultative Assembly of the Republic of Indonesia (MPR), the legislative branch of the Indonesian political system.   Over 100 delegates, representing various faiths, government officials and civil society groups, attended the seminar.

The Vatican’s Fides news agency reported Prof. Syafiq Mughni, president of "Muhammadiyah", the oldest Islamic organization in Indonesia, as saying that every citizen of the country must contribute to religious harmony in a given situation and find ways to contribute to national life.  Only in this way, he said, can the whole country progress.  No religion can be used for "destructive purposes in any context and time", he added.

In his speech, Fides said, Bishop Paskalis Bruno Syukur of Bogor, the vice president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Indonesia (KWI), said that "religious leaders and government officials must work together to promote peace, love and solidarity between the different communities".

Gomar Gultom of the Central Church Fellowship in Indonesia said that it is the task of every community and every believer “to find ways for religion and the practice of worship to contribute to the country's ideals of peace and prosperity, opening the way to people's progress and the common good".

Similar sentiments were expressed by the Hindu, Buddhist and Confucian representatives.

The South-east Asian nation has long been an example of peaceful harmony, tolerance and unity among its people, thanks to the Pancasila, the 5 principles that form the philosophical and political ideology of the Indonesian state, ensure unity amidst religious pluralism in an officially secular system.

With over 85% of its some 267 million people professing Islam, Indonesia is home to the world's largest Muslim population.  Christians of all denominations make up some 12% of the population.

Full report at:

https://www.vaticannews.va/en/world/news/2020-02/indonesia-government-seminar-religious-representatives-harmony.html

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Muhyiddin clocks in on first day of work as Malaysia's PM

March 2, 2020

PUTRAJAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has clocked in at the office of the Prime Minister, a day after being sworn in as Malaysia's eighth premier.

He arrived at Perdana Putra at 7.55am on Monday (March 2).

On hand to welcome the new Prime Minister was Chief Secretary to the Government Mohd Zuki Ali.

Mr Muhyiddin, 72, was sworn in as Prime Minister before Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah on Sunday.

The King appointed Mr Muhyiddin, who is Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) president as the new Prime Minister in accordance with Articles 40(2)(a) and 43(2)(a) of the Federal Constitution.

His appointment ends the week-long political impasse that saw the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan government after barely two years in power.

Malaysia was hit by a political storm which saw Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad resigning as prime minister and Bersatu pulling out of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition on Feb 24.

Dr Mahathir, 94, on Sunday insisted that he still had the backing of the majority of lawmakers in the 222-strong Parliament.

"The King has made the decision not to see me any more, but to appoint Tan Sri Muhyiddin. So I did not have the chance to tell the King that he does not have the majority. I cannot communicate with the palace," he told reporters.

He lamented that "this is a very strange thing... The losers (of the last election) will form the government, the winners will be in the opposition".

He was referring to Mr Muhyiddin's supporters from former opposition parties Umno and Parti Islam SeMalaysia, which were defeated by PH in the last general election in May 2018.

Mr Muhyiddin is also backed by most of the MPs from Bersatu - Dr Mahathir's party - as well as those from Gabungan Parti Sarawak, which controls the eastern state.

Dr Mahathir said he would request an urgent session of Parliament - which is supposed to reconvene on March 9 - to test if Mr Muhyiddin commands the majority.

"Let MPs decide whether they support or not. That will be the official decision," he added.

PH claims it has the support of 112 MPs, which is the minimum required to form a government.

Meanwhile Parliament Speaker Mohamad Ariff Mohamad Yusof said on Sunday that the parliamentary assembly sitting slated for March 9 may be postponed.

Full report at:

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/muhyiddin-clocks-in-on-first-day-of-work-as-malaysia-pm

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Mahathir Mohamad wants House meet to test new PM’s majority claim

Mar 2, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Mahathir Mohamad called on Sunday for an urgent sitting of Malaysia’s parliament to contest the appointment of a former ally as PM under a Malay-majority coalition that could further split the nation following the collapse of Mahathir’s multiracial reformist alliance.

Muhyiddin Yassin, who once famously quipped that he is Malay first and Malaysian second, was sworn in as the new PM at the palace on Sunday after getting the support of several opposition parties. Among the supporters was the corruption-tainted United Malays National Organization, which was ousted by Mahathir’s Alliance of Hope in a historic vote in 2018.

The king said on Saturday that he believed Muhyiddin had the majority support of MPs and named him the new PM. But Mahathir’s camp has contested that assertion, saying the 94-year-old two-time PM has the backing of 114 lawmakers to return as premier for a third time, surpassing the 112 votes needed for a simple majority. Mahathir said on Sunday that the palace had refused to hear him out. He called for an urgent sitting of the lower house of parliament to test Muhyiddin’s claim of majority support. The house is due to resume March 9, but Mahathir said it could be delayed.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/rest-of-world/mahathir-mohamad-wants-house-meet-to-test-new-pms-majority-claim/articleshow/74432395.cms

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Malaysian PM sworn in amid questions over legitimacy

Rebecca Ratcliffe

1 Mar 2020

A former interior minister was sworn in as Malaysia’s prime minister on Sunday amid questions over his legitimacy and protests from the country’s former leader Mahathir Mohamad, 94, who lost a battle for power.

The appointment of Muhyiddin Yassin, who once described himself as “a Malay first” and who is backed by parties dominated by the country’s ethnic Malay Muslim majority, is likely to cause anxiety among minority communities.

Muhyiddin was named as prime minister after a week of political chaos in which the ruling coalition collapsed, alliances were reversed and rival camps rushed to forge backroom deals. Muhyiddin was named prime minister by the king, who the palace had earlier said would meet individually with all 222 MPs to find a way out of the crisis.

Mahathir, once the world’s oldest leader, described Muhyiddin’s appointment as illegal and said the palace has refused to hear him out. “We are going to see a man who does not have majority support become prime minister,” he said, calling for an urgent sitting of parliament.

Muhyiddin relies on support from Umno, a party mired in corruption scandals, as well as a fundamentalist Islamic party that backs strict Islamic laws. His appointment follows growing dissatisfaction among many in the Malay majority, who accused the previous ruling alliance of caving in to Chinese interests.

About 60% of Malaysia’s population are ethnic Malay Muslims, while the country also has large ethnic Chinese and Indian communities. In his previous decades in power Mahathir had prioritised Malay interests, but the coalition he formed with his more liberal rival Anwar Ibrahim in 2018 was unprecedented in its diversity. Muhyiddin’s government is expected to feature more Malays back in key positions and to be more religiously conservative.

Power struggles are likely to continue, however. Mahathir is seeking to move a motion of no confidence against Muhyiddin in parliament.

“For Mahathir, it’s not over. Mahathir as a politician has never left politics, even when he retired. The opposition is mobilising,” said Bridget Welsh, an honorary research fellow at the University of Nottingham Malaysia’s Asia research institute.

As prime minister, Muhyiddin has the power to dish out cabinet positions and so has an advantage in winning support from MPs. But his government remains fragile and he will face an uphill battle to prove his legitimacy as a leader, added Welsh. “He comes in with clouds over the process, and questions over whether he really had the numbers,” she said.

The political turmoil began on Monday when Mahathir unexpectedly resigned as prime minister, causing the government to implode.

His resignation followed moves by some in his party to break from the ruling alliance and form a new government. The coalition had long been fraught with tensions and involved an unlikely partnership between Mahathir and Anwar. Anwar was once jailed for sodomy charges under Mahathir but the two united before the 2018 election to oust the government of Najib Razak, which was entangled in the 1MDB graft saga – often referred to as the world’s biggest case of financial fraud.

Anwar was due to succeed Mahathir as prime minister, but Mahathir had refused to set a date for doing so and his supporters had sought to block a handover.

Just hours after stepping down on Monday, Mahathir was appointed by the king as interim prime minister, and appeared well placed to launch his own bid for power. But rival factions raced to prove to the king that they commanded enough support from MPs, and on Saturday Muhyiddin was named prime minister.

In a statement, the palace said the process of appointing a leader “cannot be delayed because the country needs a government for the wellbeing of the people and the nation”.

Some would welcome the appointment and hope simply for an end to the political upheaval, said Welsh, but she added that it would cause deep concern in other quarters.

“They have returned power to people who were kicked out. Ironically this has been done by someone who was sacked [from Umno] and now has come back to the fold,” she added.

Full report at:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/01/malaysian-pm-sworn-in-amid-questions-over-legitimacy

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Report tells how Saudis undermined KL Summit

March 1, 2020

PETALING JAYA: The Saudi Arabian government launched a media campaign to belittle the KL Summit in December attended by the heads of their staunchest enemies, a London-based news outlet alleged.

Citing documents it obtained, the Middle East Eye said the Saudi media ministry compiled a series of messages which local media organisations and commentators were instructed to issue.

It also targeted newspapers, websites and television channels in countries including Pakistan, Indonesia and several Arab states.

According to the documents, the objective of the campaign, apart from deriding the December summit, was also to highlight the role of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the aid that Saudi Arabia had given to the Islamic world, especially Palestine.

The KL Summit – described as a game changer in the Muslim world’s relations with Saudi Arabia – was attended by Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Qatar head of state Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and Iranian president Hassan Rouhani.

The summit also made headlines after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan cancelled his trip at the eleventh hour.

MEE said documents confirmed that Khan’s absence was the result of diplomatic arm-twisting of cash-strapped Pakistan, after “strenuous Saudi efforts were made to stop him from attending”.

The Kingdom also instructed its journalists to highlight Khan’s withdrawal from the summit.

The Saudi ministry also told journalists to write that the convening of the KL Summit could “encourage the creation of similar blocs among other Islamic states”.

It also instructed columnist to criticise “any grouping formed for the purpose of achieving narrow political objectives outside the OIC.”

The OIC has its headquarters in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

MEE said the document also lists a number of foreign media organisations at which the propaganda campaign was to be carried and this included ones from Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Indonesia and India.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/03/01/report-tells-how-saudis-undermined-kl-summit/

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Rethink ban on Malaysian palm oil, Wee urges India

02 Mar 2020

PETALING JAYA: India should reconsider its decision to advise its palm oil importers to shun Malaysian palm oil as the country’s political situation has changed.

“I would like to take this opportunity to send a message to the Indian government, ” said MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong (pic).

“The situation has changed within our country. India should reconsider its decision to ban palm oil imports from Malaysia, ” he said in a Facebook post yesterday.

He said free and fair trade should once again prevail for the mutual benefit of both countries.

“If there is any issue or misunderstanding remaining between our countries, let’s discuss openly, ” he added.

The ban came following a political row between the two countries last December when then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad spoke out against India’s citizenship legislation, which appeared discriminatory towards Muslims.

India’s new citizenship law made it easier for persecuted minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to get citizenship – but not if they are Muslims.

Dr Mahathir had also spoken out against India’s actions in the Kashmir region.

Kashmir is a Muslim-majority region that is also claimed by Pakistan.

A report by Reuters on Jan 7, citing government and industry sources, said that India had “informally” asked palm oil refiners and traders to avoid buying Malaysian palm oil.

Full report at:

https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2020/03/02/rethink-ban-on-malaysian-palm-oil-wee-urges-india

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Africa

 

Libya: GNA forces kill 23 members of Haftar’s militias

Gulsen Topcu 

02.03.2020

TRIPOLI

Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) announced Sunday that it killed 23 militia members loyal to renegade Gen. Khalifa Haftar in southern Tripoli.

The GNA captured four of Haftar’s forces alive while repulsing the attack, Mustafa al-Mujie, the spokesman for the GNA-led Burkan Al-Ghadab (Volcano of Rage) Operation, told Anadolu Agency.

He added that nine GNA soldiers were killed.

The internationally recognized GNA has been under attack by Haftar’s forces since last April, with more than 1,000 lives lost in the violence.

In a statement Thursday, the UN mission in Libya strongly condemned the continued violations of the armistice by Haftar forces, including the repeated bombing of Mitiga International Airport.

Since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: Haftar in eastern Libya, supported mainly by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and the GNA in Tripoli, which enjoys UN and international recognition.

On Jan. 12, the parties to the conflict announced a ceasefire in response to a joint call by Turkey and Russia.

But talks for a permanent ceasefire hosted by Russia on Jan. 14 proved inconclusive after Haftar left Moscow without signing a deal.

The first round of political talks on the Libya peace process started last Wednesday in Geneva.

The talks followed the completion of a second round of UN-sponsored military talks on Libya in Geneva between the warring sides that ended on Feb. 23.

The Libyan Joint Military Commission (JMC) talks were in a 5+5 format with five representatives of the GNA and five from Haftar’s forces.

The JMC is one of three tracks the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) is working on in addition to economic and political tracks in compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 2510 (2020) and calls upon the two parties to reach a lasting ceasefire agreement.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/libya-gna-forces-kill-23-members-of-haftar-s-militias/1751217

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Kenya: 20 Dead So Far as Al-Shabaab Attacks Escalate

1 MARCH 2020

At least 20 innocent lives have been lost as a result of terror attacks that have been carried out in the last two months by suspected Al Shabaab militants.

An analysis by Sunday Nation shows that the terror group has this year alone launched 16 attacks which all targeted North Eastern and Coast regions.

The attacks happened in Garissa, Mandera, Wajir and Lamu counties between January and February even as the Al-Qaeda-affiliated group ramped up their campaigns in the country.

EIGHT ATTACKS

In the attacks, Garissa county suffered the most as it recorded eight attacks that resulted in the deaths of 10 people including teachers, pupils and security officers.

Of the eight attacks in Garissa, six happened in Ijara sub-county, which has this year appeared to be the hotbed of the attacks in the northern region.

Two others happened in Daadab sub-county, where two schools were hit and teachers and pupils died.

In Lamu county, four attacks were reported that resulted in the deaths of seven people, among them three US servicemen who died during the January 5 attack at their Manda Bay military base. A resident was also killed.

Others killed in Lamu were three passengers who were in a bus that was travelling from Mombasa on January 2.

In Mandera, where three attacks happened, three passengers were killed after their bus was sprayed with bullets on February 19 as it headed to Nairobi. In Wajir, only one attack happened with no casualty reported.

15 INJURED

Meanwhile, in the period under review, 15 people were injured and properties including three communication masts, two schools and at least eight houses destroyed.

All the houses that were destroyed by the militants, the Sunday Nation learnt, belonged to the National Police Reservists (NPR) based in Garissa.

The increase in attacks early this year has set a worrying trend compared to last year, where between January and February only three attacks were reported.

In 2019, the three attacks were all reported to have happened in January with the major one being the Dusit D2 attack which claimed the same number of deaths as reported this year.

In February last year, no attack was reported compared to this year where nine attacks have been reported.

By the end of last year, however, 83 lives had been lost, according to a report by the Centre for Human Rights and Policy Studies (Chrips).

56 FATALITIES

The data by Chrips Terror Attacks and Arrests Observatory report, reveals that the deaths reported last year increased by 20 per cent from the 56 fatalities which occurred in 2018.

The report further shows that the highest number of attacks in 2019 took place in Mandera and Wajir where nine attacks were reported in each county.

In last year's report, Garissa came third with eight attacks being recorded.

The education sector has suffered the most in the region following the attacks that have resulted in a decision by Teachers Service Commission (TSC) to transfer all 2,340 non-local teachers over what it has termed as safety concerns.

The move has since resulted to an uproar from north eastern region leaders who have faulted the TSC over its decision.

The matter is still yet to be settled even as Education CS George Magoha proposes that students from the region should be enrolled in teaching colleges so that they can teach in the region.

TARGETING LOCALS

As the government deliberates on the education matter, it says it has upped its game to deal with the terror activities especially in the North Eastern region.

In its plan, the government is targeting locals who are harbouring the militants.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i says the government has also reviewed its security strategy across the region as it focuses on reactivating the nyumba kumi initiative.

Also, on the government plans is to tackle the war against contraband and smuggling of goods which has been identified as the major direct source of revenue to the terrorists.

He said that the illicit trade has been generating direct and indirect revenue for terrorists to advance their activities in the country, and will therefore be dealt with so as to counter the financing of terrorist activities.

With the government grappling to deal with the menace, US Africa command (Africom) which is a major partner of Kenya in the war on terror, says it has taken measures to increase its force protection postures and hardened its operating location.

AFRICOM

"Al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate, is an evil and remorseless enemy of peace, stability, and freedom in East Africa and threatens the very way of life of people there, as well as Americans and US interest in the region and abroad.

Alongside its partners Africom continues to take action to prevent Al Shabab from planning and conducting external attacks," the head of Africom General Stephen Townsend said in a recent statement.

He said the command has observed tangible progress in Somalia over the past decade.

Latest report by Armed Conflict, Location and Event Data indicates that Al-Shabaab has killed over 4,000 civilians in the last decade, with a majority being in Somalia.

"US Africa Command will continue to support our African and European partners in the fight against Al-Shabaab. It is important to impact their ability to threaten peace and security in East Africa and prevent their threats against the US from being a reality," he added.

EXPULSION

The combined efforts by US and Kenya soldiers in dealing with Al Shabaab comes even as it emerged that the terror group is currently faced with wrangles between its senior leaders.

The differences between the Al Shabaab leadership has since seen the expulsion of its two senior commanders Bashir Qorqab and Mahad Karate by their ailing senior, Ahmed Diriye.

Full report at:

https://allafrica.com/stories/202003020061.html

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Boko Haram kill 10 in northeast Nigerian village

01 March 2020

Boko Haram have killed 10 people in a raid on a village in northeast Nigeria’s restive Borno State, burning homes and looting food supplies, civilian militia sources said Sunday.

Suspected Boko Haram insurgents in trucks fitted with machine guns stormed into Rumirgo village in the Askira Uba district at 1740 GMT on Saturday, shooting indiscriminately and sending residents fleeing into the surrounding countryside.

“They killed 10 people in the indiscriminate shooting which made residents run into the bush” civilian militia member Adamu Galadima said.

The militants burnt a dozen homes, carted away food supplies and two “trailers loaded with foodstuffs,” another militiaman, Peter Malgwui said.

Askira Uba lies close to the Sambisa Forest where Boko Haram enclaves dwell and has suffered repeated attacks.

Yet in recent months an Islamic State group-aligned faction of Boko Haram has been waging attacks.

Last month three Nigerian soldiers were killed in clashes with fighters from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) faction in Askira Uba town.

A decade of Boko Haram violence has killed 36,000 people in the northeast and displaced around two million from their homes, creating a severe humanitarian crisis.

Full report at:

https://guardian.ng/news/boko-haram-kill-10-in-northeast-nigerian-village/

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Libya: One child killed in attack by Haftar militia

Aydogan Kalabalik 

02.03.2020

TRIPOLI

One child was killed when militia forces loyal to warlord Khalifa Haftar launched a rocket attack in the Libyan capital Tripoli, a local source said early Monday.

A 10-year-old child was killed and four of his family members were wounded when a rocket struck their home, according to Libya’s Panorama TV channel.

On Thursday, Haftar forces targeted Mitiga International Airport in Tripoli.

The Government on National Accord (GNA) said Haftar’s forces launched more than 60 rockets at the capital, 25 of which targeted the airport.

In a statement earlier this week, the GNA Health Ministry said 21 civilians were killed, including women and children, and 31 injured in attacks by Haftar’s militias from Jan 9. to Feb. 20.

Since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: Haftar in eastern Libya, supported mainly by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and the GNA in Tripoli, which enjoys UN and international recognition.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/libya-one-child-killed-in-attack-by-haftar-militia/1751179

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Bomb blast kills 4 soldiers in Somalia

Mohammed Dhaysane

01.03.2020

By MOGADISHU, Somalia (AA) - At least four Somali government soldiers were killed and several others wounded when a bomb blast targeted a military convoy near the town of Warmahan, lower Shabelle region, an official said on Sunday.

Warmahan is a small agricultural town located near Afgoye, 30 kilometers (18 miles) southwest of the capital Mogadishu.

Salad Hussein, a military official in lower Shabelle region, spoke to Anadolu Agency over the phone and confirmed the current death toll.

"Al-Shabaab terrorist group attacked military personnel traveling between Wanlawayn and Afgoye with a roadside blast.''

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/bomb-blast-kills-4-soldiers-in-somalia/1750791

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Kenya denies meddling in Somalia's internal affairs

Andrew Wasike Shimanyula  

02.03.2020

Kenya on Sunday denied claims by Somalia that it has been interfering in the country's internal affairs, terming the allegations “fabricated for political expediency.”

“Kenya rejects the unwarranted and invalid allegations made by the Federal Government of Somalia and takes great exception to the fabricated indictments of interfering in Somalia’s internal affairs,” the Foreign Affairs Ministry said Sunday in a protest note to Mogadishu, according to Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper.

In the statement, Nairobi denied all the allegations accusing Kenya of meddling in Somalia’s affairs as said in a Friday statement by Somali Ambassador to the UN Abukar Dahir Osman.

“These baseless accusations are part of a growing and persistent pattern of ill intent to use Kenya as a scapegoat and tool to justify unfulfilled legitimate and social demands in Somalia and for political mileage,” the Daily Nation quoted the Foreign Affairs Ministry as saying.

“Kenya will not accept to be used in that manner and encourages the Federal Government of Somalia to stop the campaign and use the energy to deliver leadership to their people.”

On Friday, Somalia issued a warning accusing Kenya of interfering in its internal affairs, including encroachment in the border areas between the two countries.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/kenya-denies-meddling-in-somalias-internal-affairs/1751230

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Al-Shabaab changes tack, targets jobless youths in Nyeri slums

MARCH 1 2020

On May 16, 2017, a routine Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) recruitment at Mweiga Stadium in Nyeri took a dramatic turn after one of the potential recruits threatened to join Al-Shabaab if he was left out.

Although Hosea Ng’ang’a had met all preliminary qualifications, he failed the medical test.

Disgruntled, the 22-year-old told the recruiters that he was going to join the Somalia-based terror group.

Lt-Col Paul Aruasa, the officer in charge of the recruitment, said Ng’ang’a had to be taken into custody after he was heard asking around for Al-Shabaab recruitment points.

DESPERATION

Such threats are not rare, especially among Nyeri youths who are desperate to make a decent living. Intelligence reports suggest that many youths are making good such threats and joining the terror group.

Security agencies have identified the county as one of the strategic recruitment grounds for Al-Shabaab, targeting jobless youths and, recently, criminals on police radar.

Investigations by the Nation have revealed shocking details of teenagers, some still in secondary school, willing to die as Al-Shabaab militants in a bid to escape poverty.

Some have already chosen a life of crime, which has put their lives on the line, so they are on the lookout for a fresh start, even if it means becoming terrorists.

Tony (not his real name) is barely 19, but he is already expected to meet responsibilities of a father and husband.

Without formal employment, life inside Majengo slums in Nyeri is hard, and Tony is quite familiar with the struggle. Like many other youths here, poverty has forced him to drop out of school and take on the world.

SURVIVAL

In this sprawling slum, survival is the main priority, which means doing whatever it takes to put a meal on the table, including getting involved in crime.

So desperate are some of these young people that the option of joining terror groups like Al-Shabaab does not sound so far-fetched. As risky as it is, they say they have few options.

“Life is hard here, man. I do not have a job yet my wife and child have needs. I have to be smart so if you are not careful with your phone I will have to do my thing and steal it from you. That is the way of life here,” Tony says.

For them, the occasional brush with law enforcers is usually a minor setback, easily sorted out with bribes. But, in recent months, things have grown tougher for criminals as police tighten operations.

Tony is one of those who have been profiled as a hardcore criminal in Nyeri.

“Since the Kamakwa chief was killed, things have been rough. Police are hunting us down like dogs and killing our friends. You do not have to commit an offence. If a crime is committed somewhere, you automatically become a target,” Tony says.

POLICE RADAR

Being on the police radar means having to deal with random arrests, and the only way out is through hefty bribes or battling robbery charges in court. Some who are not so lucky end up dead or disappear.

Tony says that on multiple occasions, he and other teenagers have been asked by police officers to leave Nyeri and start life elsewhere or die.

Fearing for their lives, they are open to any ideas, including becoming terrorists.

“What are you supposed to do when you are told to leave your home? Police have said they will kill me if I am spotted in Nyeri,” he says.

What kind of life is that? I am hunted every day just because I am jobless and trying to make ends meet. I would rather join Al-Shabaab – even if I die, I know it will be for a cause. I won’t lie, if I knew where to sign up, I would join without hesitation,” he says.

Whether his sentiments are only out of frustration remains unclear, but what is clear is that the voice of reason does not matter at this point. While some like Tony are looking for their way in, others have already joined.

OTHER TACTICS

Al-Shabaab has used employment and fake sports sponsorships, primarily football, to lure desperate youths to enlist. Investigations show some of those recently recruited were approached either at football fields or schools.

A Form Two student at a rural school in the county was the recent target for the terror group. Nyeri County Commissioner Loyford Kibaara confirmed the arrest of the secondary school student who has since been handed over to the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit.

“Radicalisation is a real problem we are facing and it is happening even in our schools. We are not taking this lightly,” Mr Kibaara told the Nation.

A few years ago, an eight-man football team mysteriously vanished from their playing field in Majengo; locals believe the team joined Al-Shabaab.

“They just stopped showing up for practice and disappeared from their homes. For some, their families claim they died but there are those who have been spotted in parts of Isiolo. We believe they were recruited by Al-Shabaab,” a local football player who declined to be named says.

Some local football players claim strange Arab men often visit the Ministry of Works grounds in Majengo and Mweiga Stadium in Kieni during practice sessions promising to draft players into top-tier academies overseas.

KEY AREA

According to security officials, Majengo is central to the terror group’s radicalisation efforts.

The slum is predominantly inhabited by Muslims, with most residents being converts from non-ethnic Somali tribes — mainly the Kikuyu.

They are the minority religion in the town and live in dire poverty. Security operatives believe that this is what has fuelled the radicalisation.

Recent security reports have shown that Al-Shabaab has shifted focus and is now targeting recruits from non-ethnic Somali communities.

Last year’s Dusit attack was the terror group’s first under the operational command of a non-ethnic Somali.

Ali Salim Gichunge, who led the attack, was raised partly in Isiolo and Majengo slums in Nyeri.

When some of the youths disappear, their families never report their disappearances.

Full report at:

https://www.nation.co.ke/news/Al-Shabaab-targets-youth-in-Nyeri-slums/1056-5474832-xagos9z/index.html

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Red Cross not involved in negotiations with Boko Haram, ISWAP – Official

March 1, 2020

Amidst the levels of insecurity facing the country for over a decade, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), has clarified that its role in Nigeria does not involve taking part in the negotiation process between the federal government, its military and the insurgents neither does it take any side of the party, maintaining that its mandate is to bring succour to civilians in conflict.

The Communications Coordinator, ICRC Nigeria, Vincent Pouget, who spoke with PRNigeria, made these clarifications while clarifying on the processes that led to the release of some kidnapped Chibok and Dapchi girls in Borno and Yobe states respectively by the Boko Haram terrorists as well as the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP).

Mr Pouget said there was a lot of misunderstanding over the role ICRC played as the organisation was perceived to have taken part in the negotiation for the release of over a hundred students of Government Girls Technical College Dapchi and Government Girls Secondary School (GSS) Chibok.

He stated that the ICRC only provided logistics in terms of transportation after negotiations had been concluded. He also said the ICRC is independent and neutral.

He said: “Let me explain to you our role, both parties agreed on the release of the girls on their own without us being involved. The ICRC was not at all part of the negotiation process. It was when they agreed for the release that they asked ICRC to provide logistics like the transport to go from one place to another that’s only what we provided.

“We have a bit problem with perception in the North-East because people thought that we have a specific connection (with insurgents), they thought we were involved in the negotiation, that’s not the case.

“We do not support any fighting parties at all, the misconception that we got is that people thought we were involved in the negotiation, but that’s not our mandate, we only support civilians affected by the situation,” he stressed.

Mr Pouget explained that the aim of the ICRC is to alleviate and prevent the suffering of civilians in armed violence, be it a situation of armed conflicts like the one in the North East or other situations of violence such as in the North Central, or South-South such as communal clashes.

“So, in the North East, in particular, our aim is to provide succour for a civilian population that is being affected by the violence. One of our core mandates is to provide medical care,” he noted.

On the achievements of the ICRC, Mr Pouget said in 2019 alone, it provided more than 745,000 people with either food items or food assistance in other ways and improved access to water for over 500,000 people including household and those living in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps.

He also noted that one of ICRC’s core mandate is to provide medical care and it has provided more than 506,000 consultations in Primary Health Care centres where more than 22,000 children have been born.

“Also, to highlight that in Maiduguri we have a surgical team at the state specialist hospital and in 2019, they treated over 7,700 patients. Providing surgical and medical care for civilians affected is only one area of focus for the ICRC. But, we are trying to address other needs in terms of water, shelter, food as much as we can.

“When it comes to access to water, shelter, in Maiduguri we have supported the rehabilitation of the Almajiri Water Treatment Plant that is providing water for the time being to over 90,000 people, household residents and IDPs in camps. This is being done with the Ministry of Water Resources in charge of the sustainability of the project.

“For people who have been displaced, in Monguno, Damboa, and Maiduguri, we built temporary shelters for over 34,000 people,” Mr Pouget explained.

The coordinator pointed out that the ICRC’s initiatives are not necessarily aimed at making people dependent on humanitarian assistance, but its target is also to build the resilience of people so that they can live independent of humanitarian aid.

“We want people to build again their resilience, that is why during the same period in 2019, we have supported over 548,000 people with productive imports, seeds, tools to support their agricultural activities and at the same time others were supported with the treatment of their animals; cattle, goats, and sheep, so that their livestock could be maintaining good health,” he added.

Mr Pouget, however, regrets that access to civilians is one of the biggest challenge the ICRC is facing, because of the dynamic nature of insecurity. He also said they are sometimes constrained to render help if there is no adequate security presence in order not to endanger the already suffering civilians.

On the treatment of insurgents, Mr Pouget restated the provisions of the international humanitarian law, stressing “A wounded is wounded and it should be taken care by any party. That’s part of the law of war that is respected and applied to all situations of conflict including the one faced in the North East.”

Speaking further, the Red Cross Communications Coordinator commended PRNigeria as a reliable and credible source for news and information especially on defence, security and conflict issues in Nigeria.

To this end, he assured of closer collaboration and cooperation between the ICRC and PRNigeria in the area of media and public relations as it relates to the thematic areas of focus in conflict and humanitarian crises.

He said: “PRNigeria focuses on key security, defence and intelligence agencies working to manage information from these agencies for positive reportage. The medium publishes reliable and credible stories and statements.

Full report at:

https://www.premiumtimesng.com/regional/nnorth-east/379715-red-cross-not-involved-in-negotiations-with-boko-haram-iswap-official.html

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