New Age Islam
Fri Aug 14 2020, 10:27 PM

Islamic World News ( 7 Jan 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Islam Under Attack From ‘Turncoats’, Muslims Told In Malaysian Federal Territories Sermon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo:A protester (L) is detained by Indonesian police after a protest against the hardline Muslim group Front Pembela Indonesia (FPI) or the Islamic Defender Front in Jakarta on February 14, 2012. AFP

 

Southeast Asia

Islam under attack from ‘turncoats’, Muslims told in Malaysian Federal Territories sermon

Minority groups join Indonesia's largest Muslim organisation to combat extremism

China sends envoy to KSA, Iran amid feud

IIC lines up Islamic programmes in 2016 calendar

‘Unethical’ to criticise superior court rulings, Chief Justice tells judges

CJ says can’t judge Malaysian court decisions by ‘Western’ rights standards

Vying with Umno, Pakatan Harapan burnishes Malay, Muslim credentials in formal pact

KL Archbishop, FT Mufti hug at interfaith talk

DAP’s outreach to people of all races, religions evident

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India

Meet the RSS leader who changed fortunes of a Muslim village

Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, laid to rest in Mughal era park he developed

Al Qaeda-linked Bengaluru madrasa teacher sent to police custody

Mehbooba Mufti, the unseen face behind PDP’s rise in Valley

Probing Pathankot attack: All alert, all caught unawares — luck their strongest ally

Six terrorists shouldn’t stop you from talking: Former NSA Shivshankar Menon

Asaduddin Owaisi trashes ‘threat’ from IS

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Arab World

No war with Iran, says Saudi deputy crown prince

IS technicians work with driverless cars and missiles, footage reveals

Militants Smashed by Syrian Army's Massive Operations in Lattakia

Syrian Army Repels ISIL's Attack on Strategic Airbase in Aleppo

Syrian Army Dismisses Terrorists' Claim about Laying Siege to Brigade 82

Iranian Cabinet Bans Imports of Saudi-Originated Goods

Iraqi MP: ISIL Assisted by Recent US Heliborne Operations in Huweija

Syria: Army Commander Satisfied with Advances in Darayya

Terrorists Launch Heavy Missile Strikes against Residents of Al-Zahra, Nubl Towns in Aleppo

Syrian Forces Continue to Push Back Terrorists in Homs

ISIS spokesman Adnani ‘wounded’ in Iraqi airstrike

Iraqi Shiites accuse Tehran of fueling sectarian conflicts- Poll

ISIS-linked group attacks Sinai pipeline to Jordan

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Mideast

Turkey summons Iran envoy over press criticism of Erdogan

Saudi-led coalition, Yemen deny Iran embassy hit in Sanaa

Syrian Tribal Leader: S. Arabia Too Small to Isolate Iran

Spokesman Condemns Saudi Airstrike against Iran's Embassy in Sana'a

IRGC Commander: Wrong Policies to Bury Al-Saud Like Avalanche

Four Palestinians shot dead attempting to stab Israeli soldiers

With 1,000 put to death in 2015, Iran one of top executioners

Spy, 3 Iranian terrorists face trial

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Pakistan

Tanzeem-e-Islami told to change slogan about ‘Caliphate’

Pakistan ‘non-committal’ to Saudi-led military coalition

Turkish company to handle Ashiana project

Nabbed ISIS suspect reveals details of secret operations in Karachi

S. Arabia assured of support

Two suspects confess in Imran Farooq murder case

Non-bailable arrest warrants out for MQM chief, mayor-nominee

182 seminaries closed down, NA told

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South Asia

Pakistan-Bangladesh 'spy' row: Expelled diplomat leaves for Dhaka

Some Taliban factions consider joining peace process, others opposed

Mild earthquake shakes Kabul

Ghani requests US Congress help in equipping the Afghan Air Force

Kabul police chief: 35 including govt personnel arrested over celebratory firing

Afghan Ulemas urge Iran and Saudi to resolve tensions through negotiations

Saudi Cleric execution: Dhaka Shia Muslims protest

IOJ splits again, quits 20-party

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Africa

Kenya jails radical Muslim teacher Salim Mohamed Wabwire

Over 50 killed in bombing at Libyan police training centre

Kenyans recall slaughter as university massacre trial opens

140 killed in Ethiopia protests: HRW

Somalia joins Saudi amid Iran row

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North America

Reforms to Protect New York Muslims from Surveillance

Iran-Saudi row may widen sectarian divide: Pew survey

After hysteria, reforms to protect NY Muslims from 'discriminatory and unjustified'

surveillance

US proposes to sell 5,000 Hellfire missiles worth $800m to Iraq

American Qaeda suspect faces new terror charges

Muslim population in US to double by 2050

Two arrested in US over ISIL links

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Europe

Paris police shoot dead knife-wielding man

Germany divided over expulsion of convicted asylum seekers

Russia rejects US timeline for Assad

France sentences top ISIL recruiter to 15 years

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/islam-under-attack-from-‘turncoats’,-muslims-told-in-malaysian-federal-territories-sermon/d/105921

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Southeast Asia

 

Islam under attack from ‘turncoats’, Muslims told in Malaysian Federal Territories sermon

January 8, 2016

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 8 — Federal Territories (FT) Islamic authorities warned Muslims today that Islam was being maligned in the country, with its religious institutions allegedly targeted by traitorous Muslims.

Without naming the so-called “turncoats,” the sermon warned that if the situation continues unabated, a “cancer” will develop and invite divine wrath, with the community’s unity inevitably being broken.

“Even more saddening is when we discover that those who belittle are not the non-Muslims, but are actually those who profess to be Muslims, akin to turncoats or enemy collaborators.

“This is indeed shocking and is a great blow to all Muslims,” the FT Islamic Affairs Department (Jawi) said in its sermon today.

Jawi also claimed that Islam’s position as the religion of the federation is being disputed in public, and Allah’s rules questioned and toyed with by those with questionable religious knowledge.

Jawi then warned that this constant questioning will divide the Muslim community, which in the end will cause Muslims to be oppressed and their lives, properties and faith be put under threat.

Muslim unity is also the current theme of Umno’s courtship of rival PAS, amid claims that the community’s political power was under threat.

“This divide will cause Muslims to lose their greatness in the eyes of the enemies and will no longer strike fear in their hearts,” said Jawi.

It pointed to the strife in the Arab world, Africa and Asia where Muslims have been left weakened, due to internal bickering.

Last month, pro-moderation group G25 came under fire after it announced the establishment of a consultative committee to review unconstitutional state Shariah enactments and laws that violate personal privacy, such as khalwat laws, and to recommend their repeal or amendment.

The group, which comprises Malay senior retired civil servants, has since been criticised by conservative Malay-Muslim groups such as Perkasa and Isma as well as Perak Mufti Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria, who accused G25 of having “very weak” religious knowledge.

Several groups have also called for the moderate Malay group to be banned by Putrajaya, claiming that the group is spreading “deviant teachings”.

The groups has since told Malay Mail Online that it is not aiming to “reform Islam”, but only to review Shariah legislation that is unconstitutional and which violates Islamic legal principles.

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/islam-under-attack-from-turncoats-muslims-told-in-ft-sermon

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Minority groups join Indonesia's largest Muslim organisation to combat extremism

Jan 8, 2016

A number of minority groups have joined Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the country's largest Muslim organisation, to launch a nationwide, grassroots movement aimed at combating extremism.

The organisations, which include the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI), the Indonesian Bishops Conference (KWI), the High Council of Confucianism in Indonesia (Matakin) and the Indonesian Buddhist Association (Walubi), joined the movement in its effort to maintain the country's foundation of pluralism, which is under threat from extremism.

The organisations plan to hold a mass rally at Lapangan Banteng Square on Jan. 17 in which thousands of their members are expected to participate.

"With this mass rally we want to bring the message home that diversity should be this nation's strength. We must show that peaceful coexistence is possible," Father Guido Suprapto of the KWI told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

NU central board chairman Marsyudi Syuhud said that the rally would be the start of a nationwide movement campaigning for tolerance and pluralism under the banner of Islam Nusantara (Islam of the Archipelago).

The NU promoted the concept of Islam Nusantara during the organisation's 33rd congress last year, where it espoused that Islam was compatible with nationalism and indigenous values.

Marsyudi said the peaceful and tolerant brand of Islam was currently under threat from the rise of fundamentalism.

"This is the start of a movement to counter the perception that Islam is not a peaceful religion because we now see Muslims attacking one another, between Sunni and Shia. And this is before we talk about our relations with other faiths like Hinduism and Buddhism," Marsyudi said.

Marsyudi also said the interfaith movement would guard the country from the intrusion of extremism that came from abroad in the form of radical groups like the Islamic State (IS) movement and others that wanted to impose a single interpretation of Islam.

"The danger is clear and present. Now we see they have the courage to fly the IS flag at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle. We also had people rallying at Senayan Stadium and openly expressing their wishes for changing Pancasila as the state ideology," he said.

The interfaith group also expressed concern that the growing extremism sprung from what it deemed a government failure to address radicalism.

"We have people returning from fighting with IS in Syria and the government does nothing. This makes people believe that the Arab Spring will certainly come to Indonesia soon," Marsyudi said.

The National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) assured those concerned on Thursday that 149 Indonesians returning from war-torn Syria, home to the radical IS, would not cause security problems here.

BNPT said that IS returnees would undergo thorough screening before being allowed to rejoin society.

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan said recently that at least 800 Indonesians had joined IS and that 284 of these had been identified and 52 had died.

Father Edy Purwanto of the KWI said that Catholics in the country would join the NU-initiated movement.

"We are aware that the NU always gets divine help to deal with problems in the country. We will support the movement and six million Catholics in the country will join the effort," he said.

http://news.asiaone.com/news/asia/minority-groups-join-indonesias-largest-muslim-organisation-combat-extremism

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China sends envoy to KSA, Iran amid feud

January 08, 2016

BEIJING - China has sent an envoy to Saudi Arabia and Iran amid an escalating feud, the foreign ministry said on Thursday, calling on all sides to exercise restraint.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Ming was currently in Saudi Arabia and would travel on to Iran, ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing.

“We hope the situation in the Middle East can move in the direction of amelioration,” Hua told reporters.

Tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia has spiralled since the execution of a Shia cleric in Saudi Arabia.

Qatar recalled its ambassador to Iran on Wednesday, state news agency QNA said, after allies Saudi Arabia and Bahrain cut their ties with Tehran following attacks on Saudi missions by Iranian protesters.

“We hope that all parties can remain calm and exercise restraint and appropriately resolve relevant issues via dialogue and consultation,” Hua added.

While relying on the region for oil supplies, China has tended to leave Middle Eastern diplomacy to the other five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the United States, Britain, France and Russia. But China has been trying to get more diplomatically involved.

The ministry said that Foreign Minister Wang Yi had met the head of the Western-backed opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC).

Wang told SNC president Khaled Khoja he hoped the SNC would attend peace talks without preconditions, the ministry said in a statement.

China has repeatedly called for a political resolution and warned that military action cannot end the crisis. Khoja’s visit comes two weeks after Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem visited China.

http://nation.com.pk/international/08-Jan-2016/china-sends-envoy-to-ksa-iran-amid-feud

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IIC lines up Islamic programmes in 2016 calendar

January 8, 2016

KUCHING: A series of programme has been lined up by the Islamic Information Centre (IIC) throughout 2016 aimed at disseminating information on the teachings of Islam.

According to IIC chief executive officer Zabariah Matali, the monthly programmes were mostly aimed at correcting the perception of non-Muslims towards the religion and to tell the truth about what Islam is all about. The centre would also conduct programmes which involved the youths.

She said this during her speech at the ‘Stories of Prophet Yusuf’ lecture programme held at Radio Television Malaysia (RTM) auditorium at Jalan P Ramlee yesterday.

Among the programmes lined up for 2016 are the ‘My Islam Series’, talks entitled ‘Lessons from Maryam:The Mother of Isa Al Masih’, ‘Fiqh of Medicine’ and the roundtable on ‘Pluralism, Secularism, Liberalism: What are all these jargon’.

Another interesting highlight is the Exhibition on Islam Around the Globe which would be held in October and the Soul2Soul Youth Forum in November.

The lecture yesterday which was attended by more than 100 media practitioners from around Kuching heard stories and moral lessons from Prophet Yusuf A.S, one of the prophets mentioned in the Holy Quran.

The lecture was delivered by Ustaz Muhammad Syaari Abdul Rahman, a graduate from International Islamic University Malaysia with Bachelor in Arabic Language, Literature, Linguistics and who is currently doing a degree in Ottoman History.

Those interested to know more about IIC and its programme can contact IIC at 082 414809 or surf www.sarawakiic.org.my.

http://www.theborneopost.com/2016/01/08/iic-lines-up-islamic-programmes-in-2016-calendar/

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‘Unethical’ to criticise superior court rulings, Chief Justice tells judges

BY YISWAREE PALANSAMY

January 8, 2016

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 8 — Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria reminded judges today that they are bound by the rulings of superior courts and that any criticism of such judgments is unethical.

Appearing displeased, the Federal Court judge said he was informed that several judges from the lower courts had criticised decisions passed in the Court of Appeal and Federal Court, cautioning that judges are only allowed to disagree or to distinguish verdicts, but not to criticise the findings of superior courts.

“I have heard complaints from judges who are not pleased with higher courts’ rulings and passed remarks. You might disagree with the Federal Court or the Court of Appeal but you are bound by it.

“So please don’t pass any uncalled for remarks as it does not reflect well on the judiciary, it’s unethical…’stare decisis’ dictates that the lower courts are bound by the higher courts and this is to provide certainty to the law,” he said in his speech at the start of the 50th National Judges’ Conference here, using the Latin term that means the legal principle of following precedent.

Arifin also advised judges to improve their written judgements, adding that a good command of the language is an integral part of their job scope.

“Writing is an essential step in continuing the challenge as we seek to improve the judiciary in line with this year’s motto striving towards judicial excellence,” he said, adding that there has been many adverse comments on the quality of judgments.

“The best guide is to read the judgments of earlier judges...for those who can’t write English properly, you can write in Malay, but please write in proper Malay.

“In Indonesia, judgments are written in Malay...you can read some of the Indonesian judgements,” he added.

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/unethical-to-criticise-superior-court-rulings-chief-justice-tells-judges

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CJ says can’t judge Malaysian court decisions by ‘Western’ rights standards

BY IDA LIM

January 8, 2016

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 8 — Critics should not measure local court decisions using “Western” human rights standards that may not always match Malaysian values, Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria said today.

Arifin noted that civil society has criticised some court decisions as “violating individual freedoms and curtailing freedom of speech and association”, but insisted that Western values and human rights norms cannot be the “ultimate yardstick” in Malaysia.

“In making these criticism, the standards applied by way of comparison are those of mature, Western orientated democracies.

“With respect, the application of Western norms which are not always in accordance with the values and culture of Malaysian society do not allow for a direct comparison of standards emanating from the West,” he said in his speech at the ceremonial opening of Malaysia’s Legal Year 2016.

Full report at:

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/cj-says-cant-judge-malaysian-court-decisions-by-western-rights-standards

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Vying with Umno, Pakatan Harapan burnishes Malay, Muslim credentials in formal pact

BY BOO SU-LYN

January 8, 2016

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 8 — Pakatan Harapan will embrace the defence of Malay and Islamic interests in the federal opposition pact’s official agreement, signalling its intent to confront Umno directly.

In the pact’s soon-to-be-signed agreement, prominent pledges were made to protect the special position of the Malays, the Malay Rulers, Islam as the religion of the federation, and Bahasa Malaysia — the same provisions of the Federal Constitution that Umno considers its main “thrusts”.

The agreement, which will be signed by PKR, the DAP and Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) tomorrow, also detailed a complaints mechanism to resolve disputes such as those that caused the breakup of its predecessor, Pakatan Rakyat.

“Pakatan Harapan’s Common Policies will be created by taking into account the cooperation of all three parties in the following matters,” read Clause 4.5 on “Common Policies” of the Pakatan Harapan Agreement that was sighted by Malay Mail Online.

“Defending the Federal Constitution, Islam is the religion of the federation and other religions can be practised in peace and harmony in this country in line with Article 3; as well as protecting the special position of the Malays and the Bumiputera in Sabah and Sarawak and the legitimate interests of other races in line with Article 153.”

Other parts of the agreement included professing to defend the institution of the monarchy as well as upholding the use of Bahasa Malaysia — while safeguarding the right to vernacular tongues — with an eye on improving competency in English to boost the country’s competitiveness against other countries.

Sabah and Sarawak also featured in the pact, with Pakatan Harapan pledging to acknowledge the position of both states within the federation in a manner consistent with the 1963 Malaysia Agreement.

The contents of the agreement appeared designed to counter allegations against the member parties — particularly the mainly Chinese DAP — of being anti-Malay and Islam, which continue to linger despite repeated denials.

Umno vice-president and Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said in 2014 that the Malay nationalist party defended the four so-called “key thrusts” of the “social contract” — Malay privileges, the Malay Rulers, Islam and the national language — claiming that these have been belittled.

As with the preceding Pakatan Rakyat, the Pakatan Harapan Agreement stated that decision-making would be via consensus, but member parties were free to set their own policies as long as these did not violate the agreement and the coalition’s common policies.

Clause 3.2 said only member parties, and not individuals, could bring complaints to Pakatan Harapan if they felt that party policies were not respected, or if any differences in opinion were expressed outside the pact’s internal channels until such actions maligned the complainant.

Full report at:

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/vying-with-umno-pakatan-harapan-burnishes-malay-muslim-credentials-in-forma

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KL Archbishop, FT Mufti hug at interfaith talk

January 8, 2016

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 8 — In a rare but timely display of goodwill between different faiths, a Christian archbishop and a Muslim mufti embraced during a dialogue on religious issues here.

Amid religious tensions in the country, KL Archbishop Reverend Julian Leow Beng Kim paid Federal Territories Mufti Datuk Dr Zulkifli Mohamad a visit at his office yesterday, where the latter said the both of them had spoken at length on issues affecting Muslims and Christians.

“Alhamdulillah. I received a historic visit from the entourage of the KL Archbishop, Most Reverend Julian Leow Beng Kim at the Federal Territories Mufti’s office.

“Many issues were discussed together, especially those pertaining to the concept of a diverse society, tolerance and the spirit of respecting each other’s faiths,” Zulkifli wrote on the Mufti Wilayah Persekutuan Facebook page, uploading several pictures of the visit, including one of their embrace.

The FT Mufti described the visit as “historic” and thanked the Global Unity Network for making the necessary arrangements for the visit.

Full report at:

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/kl-archbishop-ft-mufti-hug-at-interfaith-talk

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DAP’s outreach to people of all races, religions evident

James Sivalingam

January 8, 2016

KUALA LUMPUR: No political party seeking support from the people can afford to be anti-Malay or anti-Islam, or for that matter, anti-Chinese, anti-Indian, or anti-Orang Asal, warned suspended Gelang Patah MP Lim Kit Siang in a statement. “No political party can be anti-Buddhism, anti-Christian, anti-Hinduism or anti-Sikhism.”

That’s why, added Lim who is also DAP Parliamentary Leader, the party has initiatives like Impian Sabah, Impian Sarawak, Impian Kelantan, Impian Johor, Impian Kedah/Perlis and Impian Perak. “These public outreach initiatives were born out of the conviction that we are all Malaysians.”

“The country cannot be developed, progressive and prosperous if there is any person, [no matter from] whatever race or religion or any state, is poor and backward. All Malaysians regardless of race, religion or region, are entitled to the full development of their potential and rights.”

Hence, said Lim, the battle against lies and falsehoods had been a particularly uphill battle for the DAP. “We had to face the full onslaught of the Umno juggernaut with its control and ownership of the mass media, particularly in the era before the advent of the Internet, the Internet news portals and the social media.”

Lim was commenting on a Darul Ehsan Institute (IDE) study that found that Umno-PAS attacks had been successful in fuelling anti-DAP sentiments among Malays, especially in rural areas. He wrote that the Darul Ehsan Institute (IDE) study is “a salutary wake-up call to all DAP leaders and members, and even supporters, of the need to take these demonisation campaigns seriously.”

There was, however, a silver lining in the dark cloud of the IDE study, pointed out Lim. “Anti-DAP sentiments were lower in areas with DAP-elected representatives even if they were Chinese, such as in Serdang, which is served by Ong Kian Ming, and Subang, which is represented by Hannah Yeoh. It shows that negative perceptions towards the party can be changed through direct contact and information campaigns.”

If the DAP was founded as a racial party looking after the interests of the Chinese community only, it must be doing quite a poor job since after half a century, only 72 per cent of the Malay respondents surveyed felt this was the case when it should be 100 per cent, added Lim. “Only 64 per cent of Malays felt that the DAP was an anti-Malay and anti-Islam party when it should again be 100 per cent.”

“In fact,” continued Lim, “in the first general election contested by the DAP in 1969, and now after the 2013 General Elections, the DAP has more Indian Members of Parliament than MIC.

“Is the DAP a party for the Indians?

Full report at:

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2016/01/08/daps-outreach-to-people-of-all-races-religions-evident/

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India

 

Meet the RSS leader who changed fortunes of a Muslim village

B Vijay Murty

 Jan 08, 2016

Villagers in Jharkhand’s Hafua say he is a befitting example to contradict those who equate the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangha (RSS) with the terror group Islamic State and its leaders with terrorists.

His contributions towards the progress of the Muslim-dominated village and bringing its once crime-inclined youth into the mainstream dwarf those of several Muslim leaders, social workers and politicians. It is this selfless service over the past two decades that invariably makes the local youth respect him.

Meet Siddhi Nath Singh, RSS kshetriya sanchalak or the regional head for Bihar and Jharkhand and the chairperson of RSS’ social development wing, Rashtriya Seva Bharti. Singh, a resident of Jharkhand’s electricity hub Patratu in Ramgarh district, has been imparting free skill training and creating livelihoods for the youth of hundreds of villages across the country at his firm Kalpataru.

But what makes the engineer-turned-entrepreneur different from others is the devotion with which he remains involved in changing the lives of every youth in Hafua, with a population of approximately 1,000 people, around 70 km north of capital Ranchi.

Some two decades back, a mere mention of Hafua used to alert the police and intelligence agencies. Majority of those involved in bank robberies and snatching incidents in Ramgarh and Ranchi were traced to this village. Children did not go to school and elders never worked in the fields even though most of them had vast tracts of land in their names.

Men picked up fights with anyone over trifles and exerted their supremacy in the region.

It was during one of his sojourns to the village, while researching on storage of rain water, that 68-year-old Singh came across a few parents who were worried about the future of their teenage children.

“I met the youth and saw the spark in their eyes. They had everything barring education and proper guidance. I invited them to my engineering firm and trained them. Soon they were repairing heavy machines with ease,” Singh said while interacting with a fresh batch of boys from the village.

Over the last 15 years, Singh has provided skill training to no less than 150 Hafua men, who are now working across India and in the Gulf, earning handsome salaries. Their children now go to schools and the living standard of their families has also improved.

Afzal Ali, 38, trained as a welder with Singh’s firm and is now working with Adani Group in Gujarat earning a salary of Rs. 15,000 per month. Taslim Ansari, trained as a fitter, works with Hindalco in Renukoot.

Full report at:

http://www.hindustantimes.com/india/sidhi-nath-singh-rss-leader-who-changed-fortunes-of-a-muslim-village/story-TzNs5QU2WgGw4iQiLYUVAN.html

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Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, laid to rest in Mughal era park he developed

Jan 8, 2016

On the sprawling Dara Shikoh gardens, final resting place of Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, thousands waited for hours to pay their last respects. Around 6:20 pm, when the body arrived in a decorated vehicle escorted by a cavalcade, they jostled for a sight of the coffin.

It took 10 minutes for the coffin, draped in the tricolor and the state flag, to cover 50 m to a special podium.

When the body was lowered into the grave around 6.40 pm, many of them chanted, “Jab tak suraj chand rahega Mufti tera naam rahega.”

People had initially assembled at Baba Mollah, Mufti’s house, then the crowd moved to Dara Shikoh garden, built in the Mughal era and developed by Mufti in his first term as CM. “The family decided to bury him in the park. It was dear to our leader, and now it has become his final resting place,’’ his nephew Sajjad Mufti said. Read | J&K CM Mufti’s death: JKBOSE, CUK exams postponed The funeral was attended by most ministers and leaders of all mainstream parties. Officials and politicians laid wreaths, while around 4,000 PDP workers participated in the burial prayers led by Mufti’s relative Zai-ud-din Nazimi, a prominent cleric of South Kashmir. Abdul Rehman Veri, Horticulture Minister and Bijbehara MLA, oversaw the arrangements. The tributes had begun in Delhi with Home Minister Rajnath Singh among the first to reach AIIMS. Members of Mufti’s family arrived at 10 am, followed by Vice President Hamid Ansari. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and party leader Karan Singh, and Delhi lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/mufti-mohammad-sayeed-laid-to-rest-at-ancestral-graveyard-in-anantnag-district/

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Al Qaeda-linked Bengaluru madrasa teacher sent to police custody

Jan 08, 2016

The madrasa teacher, who was arrested by Delhi Police for suspected links with the al Qaeda from Bengaluru, was on Friday sent to police custody till January 20.

The alleged member of the terror group, identified as Maulana Anzar Shah, was arrested by the anti-terrorist special cell of Delhi Police in its ongoing operation against al Qaeda in the Indian sub-continent (AQIS) on Wednesday, PTI reported quoting unnamed police sources.

The sources told PTI that Shah was plotting to carry out a series of terror strikes in the country. He was brought to Delhi on a transit remand and was produced at the Patiala House court on Friday.

“The aim of the group was to attack some prominent leaders along with the crowded and tourist places,” the sources told PTI.

Full report at:

http://www.hindustantimes.com/india/al-qaeda-linked-bengaluru-madrasa-teacher-sent-to-police-custody/story-leqg8qBWP64ytflg8IFiHL.html

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Mehbooba Mufti, the unseen face behind PDP’s rise in Valley

Jan 08, 2016

Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was one of the most recognised Kashmiri politicians in India. But for the people in the Valley, his Peoples Democratic Party is more about his daughter, Mehbooba Mufti.

Mehbooba, who is likely to be J-K’s first woman chief minister following her father’s death, was a relatively unknown entity in the state when she started out.

The law graduate and single mother to two daughters first contested elections as a Congress candidate in 1996. Suddenly, all of Kashmir knew her.

Mehbooba, now 56, plunged into politics when the state started its electoral process after six years of governor’s rule in 1996. As Sayeed, then state Congress chief, could not find many candidates to represent the party, wife Gulshan Ara and Mehbooba contested the polls. While the couple lost, Mehbooba won the South Kashmir seat.

As none of his other children were interested in politics Mehbooba, eldest of the four siblings, inherited her father’s political legacy.

In fact, it was after Mehbooba’s efforts that Sayeed, who was considered Delhi’s man in Kashmir, became the state’s chief minister twice.

So when the senior Mufti decided to part ways with the Congress in 1999, it was the firebrand Mehbooba who took on the burden of building the new party from scratch.

Then in her 40s, Mehbooba read the popular pulse and played the soft-separatist card.

Donning her sports shoes and phiran — the traditional Kashmiri garb — Mehbooba would visit families of civilians and militants killed in action with security forces as well as victims of human rights violation.

Full report at:

http://www.hindustantimes.com/india/mehbooba-mufti-the-unseen-face-behind-pdp-s-rise-in-valley/story-L5kNNehdm1uZmvshck0saL.html

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Probing Pathankot attack: All alert, all caught unawares — luck their strongest ally

Jan 8, 2016

(Reported by: Kamaldeep Singh Brar and Navjeevan Gopal in Pathankot; Kanchan Vasdev and Nirupama Subramanian in Chandigarh; Deeptiman Tiwary, Sagnik Chowdhury, Pranav Kulkarni and Praveen Swami in New Delhi)

LONG after the fighting, a fire continued to rage across the Airmen’s Mess and the pile of discarded furniture in the yard outside. The last terrorists inside the Air Force base in Pathankot had held out since early on Sunday morning, January 3, firing from inside the building and a nearby patch of elephant grass. The Airmen’s Mess was where they were killed, set alight by explosives and gunfire from armoured personnel carriers. As the National Investigation Agency sifts through the detritus of the battle, there’s a strange fact facing them.

Read: Behind the Pathankot breach, 3 lights turned upward and airbase staffer detained

Four bodies of terrorists have been handed over, clad in military fatigues, and explosives strapped to their bodies. There are four recovered assault rifles and four pistols — the standard kit of the fidayeen, along with ready-to-eat chicken and rice, painkillers, and vials of perfume. Just four.

Read: Fence floodlights that didn’t work, gaps in border patrol, patchy police response

“It is possible that two more bodies were blown to pieces, as the Airmen’s Mess disintegrated,” an intelligence officer familiar with the case told The Indian Express, “and we have sent forensic samples for examination. The thing is, we would have expected to find their weapons in the debris, and nothing’s surfaced”.

The unresolved issue of just how many terrorists attacked the base is emblematic of the growing questions over just how well-organised operations to eliminate them were. Read: Pathankot attack: BSF zeroes in on two intrusion theories — a tunnel, Kashmir route Intelligence Bureau agents have even, government sources say, been able to identify, with a high degree of confidence, the men who sent them to their death. The Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Masood Azhar, his key aide Maulana Ashfaq Ahmad, Hafiz Abdul Shakoor and Kasim Jan: these men, they say, spoke to the terrorists in intercepted phone conversations.

Everything that transpired once the firing began, though, is lost in the haze of battle. That, in turn, The Indian Express investigation shows, points to worrying signs that the outcome of the operation was as much good luck as good management.

January 2, 3.30 am: First fire EVER since 10.10 pm, the airbase was preparing for battle: the first team of National Security Guards landed there then, to be followed, a few hours later, by a second one, standing by if the terrorists ended up taking hostages from the more than 10,000 members of military families living there. Two teams of the Indian army’s crack special forces were stationed at the Mamoon Army base next door, along with six mine-protected vehicles. Everyone braced for an attack on the Air Base, or another military facility. Also read: On Dec 31, 9 Pakistan calls on taxi driver’s phone; one incoming, eight outgoing Inside the Defence Security Corps’ mess, a few hundred meters from the building where the NSG was waiting, Jagdish Chand was brewing tea for the guards who would soon be ending their shift at the base’s perimeter wall. Fifty-eight-year-old Chand, a cook, had just been transferred to Pathankot from Leh, arriving a day earlier. Drawn from retired soldiers, typically in their late 40s or early 50s, the DSC is responsible for security duties at many defence installations across the country. The cook, officials involved the operation have told the NIA, likely looked up when he heard gunfire outside — and then, perhaps, saw a man with a gun running into the mess kitchen. The terrorist was shot dead, perhaps after Chand fought him to the ground, before being killed by a second attacker.

Even though the base was prepared for a classic fidayeen attack on its gates — men, armed with grenades and assault rifles, trying to shoot their way on the technical area tarmac — no one had expected they were already inside. Located by thermal-imaging equipment on board Air Force helicopters, the terrorists had moved rapidly after jumping the 11-foot wall around the base. They first faced a patrol of Garud commandos from a contingent of 24 men who had come in the night before with the Commander-in-chief of the Western Air Command, Air Marshal S B Deo. The Garuds, the Air Force’s in-house commando force, opened fire near the military engineering service’s mechanical transport facility, and claim to have injured one terrorist standing near the perimeter wall. In the exchange of fire, Garud Corporal Gursewak Singh was shot dead. Following this exchange of fire, the terrorists ran into the DSC mess. It was then that they killed the cook, Chand. Subsequently, Kulwant Singh, an unarmed guard, tried to grapple with one of the terrorists, but was shot and killed in the unequal struggle. Three other DSC guards were killed, claimed by a grenade the terrorists threw as they ran into the building.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/probing-pathankot-attack-all-alert-all-caught-unawares-luck-their-strongest-ally/

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Six terrorists shouldn’t stop you from talking: Former NSA Shivshankar Menon

Jan 8, 2016

Former National Security Advisor (NSA) Shivshankar Menon Thursday said terror attacks should not come in the way of India’s dialogue with its neighbours.

Responding to a question on the uncertainty over the Foreign Secretary-level talks and the government putting the ball in Pakistan’s court, Menon, who was speaking at the Idea Exchange programme of The Indian Express, said he was “surprised” by the decision to postpone talks with China in the wake of the Pathankot attack — NSA Ajit Doval decided to defer scheduled talks with his Chinese counterpart.

“It is up to them. I mean I don’t speak for the government. I am just telling you what I think. I was surprised by two or three things. One, you postpone the talks with China. If six terrorists can stop you from discussing serious business with your biggest neighbour, for me, that’s not a good signal to send. I mean, not for India… this is something you can handle… But you know, they must have come to a calculation. They must have seen what the Pakistanis are doing, they know much more about what is happening on the ground. So you know I am not going to try and second guess that. I am arguing from first principles here. They are presumably acting on much more,” he said.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/6-terrorists-shouldnt-stop-you-from-talking-shivshankar-menon/

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Asaduddin Owaisi trashes ‘threat’ from IS

Jan 7, 2016

MIM president Asaduddin Owaisi reportedly received a threat from the Islamic State (IS) on a social networking site for speaking against the terror outfit, but the Hyderabad MP trashed it saying he would not be cowed down by it.

It was reportedly written on Owaisi’s Twitter Wall that “it’s better for you to shut your mouth on Islamic State if you don’t know the truth, Islamic State will invade India soon.”

However, the tweet has since been deleted.

“If someone tells us on Twitter that we will invade India…We will give an answer to it. India is our motherland and we will give a reply to such nonsense,” Owaisi told reporters on Wednesday.

He said the IS had nothing to do with Islam as it indulges in violence, including against Muslims.

“The thinking of ISIS is in itself an evil mindset and it has nothing to do with Islam,” he said.

Rubbishing the reported threats, he said, “We don’t know in what corner of the world this person is sitting like a rat and speaking from there.”

Asserting that MIM is against those against India, he said his party has been speaking against the IS for the last three years.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/owaisi-trashes-threat-from-is/

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Arab World

 

No war with Iran, says Saudi deputy crown prince

8 January 2016

Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said a war between his country and Iran would be the beginning of a catastrophe, and Riyadh will not allow it, British magazine The Economist reported on Thursday.

"It is something that we do not foresee at all, and whoever is pushing towards that is somebody who is not in their right mind," it quoted him as saying in an interview. “It will reflect very strongly on the rest of the world. For sure we will not allow any such thing.”

Full report at:

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2016/01/08/Iraqi-Shiites-accuse-Tehran-of-fueling-sectarian-conflicts-Poll.html

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IS technicians work with driverless cars and missiles, footage reveals

MARTIN CHULOV

Jan 8, 2016

THE centre is in the group’s Syrian stronghold, Raqqa, where technicians from around the world have been plotting to wreak chaos outside the borders of the caliphate declared by the militant Islamic State (IS) group, according to the group’s own fighters and members of the Syrian opposition who seized the film from an IS member in Turkey.

The footage, obtained by Sky News, sheds light on a research and development arm of the organisation that has long been the subject of speculation, but has not previously been confirmed.

It also confirms accounts from IS members, as well as the fears of European intelligence agencies, that the group is working to step up attacks in Europe following the coordinated bombing and shooting rampage that killed more than 130 people in Paris in November.

Among the new revelations, which IS did not intend, are efforts to make defunct surface to air missiles operational again by replacing thermal batteries - a feat that has so far been beyond the capabilities of other militant groups.

The footage does not establish that such a goal has been achieved, but it does show the technological ambitions of a group that has carved out its influence in Syria and Iraq through car bombs and suicide belts.

The thought of surface-to-air missiles falling into the hands of IS, or any other group, is considered near the top of worst-case scenarios for western and regional officials. Such weapons have been repeatedly demanded by the western-backed Syrian opposition over the past three years of the Syrian war. However the US has insisted that none be allowed into Syria, fearing that no group could safeguard them.

Among the eight hours of video, which was seized by the Free Syrian Army and passed on to Sky News, is a segment showing IS members trying to manoeuvre a driverless car. They are also shown busily strapping tape and padding to a mannequin, in the hope it will give off the same heat signature as a human when it passes by imaging scanners, which are often used near sensitive buildings.

Te militant group’s aim to carry out attacks in Europe has steadily been revealed over the past three months, via a rash of propaganda videos that clearly state intended targets. Since early last autumn, intelligence agencies have found evidence of numerous new plots in the making.

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/news/1231497/is-technicians-work-with-driverless-cars-and-missiles-footage-reveals

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Militants Smashed by Syrian Army's Massive Operations in Lattakia

Jan 07, 2016

The Syrian soldiers and the NDF took full control over Rweiset Abu Ghannam, Rweiset al-Sheikh Salman, al-Hara Mount, Bait Fares Mount and a number of strategic hills in the Northern countryside of Lattakia on Thursday.

According to military source, tens of militants were killed and tens of others were wounded in the large-scale operations of Syrian army and its allies in the Coastal Province.

Following the huge victories of the Syrian forces on Thursday, scores of Takfiri terrorists fled their positions in areas near the recently-captured regions in Lattakia province for fear of the government troops' continued offensives on their positions.

Hours ago, the Syrian armed forces claimed back al-Saraf village in the Northern countryside of Lattakia after a series of fierce clashes with Takfiri terrorists.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941017000864

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Syrian Army Repels ISIL's Attack on Strategic Airbase in Aleppo

Jan 07, 2016

The ISIL's invasion started last night by using suicide car bombs to retake al-Nejjarah village in the Northern parts of Kuweires airbase from the Syrian army.

But their attempts were defused by army forces' swift reaction and destroying the suicide car bombs before reaching the village.

The terrorists were then forced to withdraw from the region after sustaining damage and some sporadic conflicts.

Nejjarah village was purged of terrorists early this week by the Syrian army and popular forces.

On Sunday, the Syrian airstrikes hit ISIL positions and movements in the village of Nejjarah.

The air raids destroyed ISIL positions with all weapons and ammunition inside them as well as terrorists' machine gun-equipped vehicles which were loaded with weapons and ammunition.

Reports also said unspecified number of militants were killed in the air raids.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941017000541

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Syrian Army Dismisses Terrorists' Claim about Laying Siege to Brigade 82

Jan 07, 2016

Tens of terrorists launched several attacks last night in the Eastern outskirts of the town of Nawa to open their path to the army's Brigade 82 Base, but the Syrian armed forces sent a group of their units stationed in the Northern parts of Sheikh Meskeen city to the region and could force the terrorists withdraw from their base.

The clashes between the Syrian forces and the terrorists, left tens of militants dead and injured.

The Syrian army also repelled an attempt by al-Nusra Front terrorists to penetrate into Sheikh Meskeen on Wednesday.

A group of al-Nusra Front terrorists tried to open their way into the city center after the recent capturing of Sheikh Meskeen by the army in a major offensive, but they were pushed back by the Syrian troops.

The terrorists intended to use heavy machineguns and DshK-equipped vehicles in their attack. The terrorists were using the Eastern outskirts of the town of Nawa to open their path to the army's Brigade 82.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941017000748

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Iranian Cabinet Bans Imports of Saudi-Originated Goods

Jan 07, 2016

The bill which was approved after Riyadh cut bilateral relations with Tehran also underlines that Iran's suspension of Umrah (minor) Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia will continue until further notice in reaction to the Saudi officials' growing insults to the Iranian nationals.

The Saudi interior ministry announced on Saturday that it has executed Sheikh Nimr and 46 others. After the news was released, angry Iranian protestors stormed the Saudi embassy following which Riyadh and a number of its allies announced severing diplomatic ties with Iran.

After the announcement, Iran's government spokesman downplayed Saudi Arabia and its little allies' cutting or downgrading relations with Tehran following a spat between Riyadh and Tehran over the criminal beheading of a Shiite leader.

Mohammad Baqer Nobakht described Saudi Arabia as a small-size state that needs to rally support to be seen on regional or global stage, "but we don’t need to form any such coalition" because Iran is already a major state and key player in the region.

"A large number of important world states have queued for expanding relations with us," he told reporters on Tuesday.

"What could be Saudi Arabia's share when we are developing relations with many countries," he asked.

Nobakht underlined that cutting bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia and some other small countries which are dependent on Riyadh for their survival doesn’t affect Iran since Tehran enjoys extensive ties with different world states, reminding that a senior 60-member European delegation is already in Tehran to expand ties and cooperation with Iran.

Also, on Tuesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani underlined that Saudi Arabia seeks to divert the public opinion from its cruel beheading of Sheikh Nimr through diplomatic tumult with Tehran, and called on advocates of human rights to break silence on Riyadh's crimes.

Speaking in a meeting with the Danish foreign minister in Tehran, President Rouhani referred to the execution of Sheikh Nimr and 46 others for criticizing the Saudi government, and said, "Criticism shouldn’t be punished by beheading and we hope that the European countries which always show reaction to the human rights issues comply with their human rights responsibilities in this regard too."

"Of course, the Saudi government has embarked on a surprising action and cut off its political relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran to cap its crime of beheading a religious leader in the country while there is no doubt that such measures cannot cover up that big crime," he added.

President Rouhani described talks and diplomacy as the best way to settle the countries' differences, and said the current conditions in the region need cooperation among all countries to save the country from the threat of terrorism.

"Tehran is ready to cooperate with other countries, including the EU states, to fight against terrorism," he stressed.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir announced on Sunday that the country had severed diplomatic ties with Tehran and gave the Iranian diplomats 48 hours to leave the country.

On Monday, Deputy Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) for Political Affairs Brigadier General Rasoul Sanayee Raad said Saudi Arabia is no big deal and Iran cared to maintain its relations with Riyadh only for ideological reasons.

"Instead of acting upon his responsibility and responding to the public opinion on issues like unfair attack against the Muslim country of Yemen, interference in Bahrain, scandalous support for the Takfiri streams, including the ISIL, Boko Haram and regional terrorists, which have all been very clearly revealed to everyone and even its meddling in our country's internal affairs by contacts with the weak, but pretentious and terrorist, grouplets in Southeastern Iran, the young and nervous Saudi foreign minister has actually tried to project the blame on others after the martyrdom of Ayatollah Nimr," Sanayee Raad told FNA.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941017000651

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Iraqi MP: ISIL Assisted by Recent US Heliborne Operations in Huweija

Jan 07, 2015

"The American forces have recently expanded their heliborne operations in Huweija, Beiji and Sharqat in the Northern parts of Salahuddin province with the goal of assisting the ISIL terrorist group," Naima said in a press conference.

He said that the Iraqi army, security and volunteer (Hashd al-Shaabi) forces have witnessed repeated dropping of foodstuff and arms packages by the US aircraft to the ISIL terrorists.

The US and some other coalition members have been supplying arms to different actors in Iraq.

During the past few years, Iraqi officials have on different occasions blasted the US and its allies for supplying the ISIL in Syria with arms and ammunition under the pretext of fighting the Takfiri terrorist group.

In late October, Iraqi volunteer forces discovered and seized US-made military hardware and ammunition in captured terrorists' positions.

In early October, the Iraqi forces discovered US-made military hardware and ammunition, including missiles, in terrorists' command center in Salahuddin province, informed sources said.

The Iraqi army and volunteer forces discovered US-made military hardware and ammunition, including anti-armor missiles, in terrorists' positions and trenches captured during the operations in the Fallujah region in Al-Anbar province.

The Iraqi forces found a huge volume of advanced TOW-II missiles from the Takfiri terrorists in al-Karama city of Fallujah.

The missiles were brand new and the ISIL had transferred them to Fallujah to use them against the Iraqi army's armored units.

Also in October, the Iraqi forces discovered US-made military hardware and ammunition from terrorists in the town of Beiji.

"The military hardware and weapons had been airdropped by the US-led warplanes and choppers for the ISIL in the nearby areas of Beiji," military sources told FNA.

In February, an Iraqi provincial official lashed out at the western countries and their regional allies for supporting Takfiri terrorists in Iraq, revealing that the US airplanes still continue to airdrop weapons and foodstuff for the ISIL terrorists.

"The US planes have dropped weapons for the ISIL terrorists in the areas under ISIL control and even in those areas that have been recently liberated from the ISIL control to encourage the terrorists to return to those places," Coordinator of Iraqi popular forces Jafar al-Jaberi told FNA.

He noted that eyewitnesses in Kirkuk province had witnessed the US airplanes dropping several suspicious parcels for ISIL terrorists in the province.

"Two coalition planes were also seen above the town of Al-Khas in Diyala and they carried the Takfiri terrorists to the region that has recently been liberated from the ISIL control," Al-Jaberi said.

Also in February, a senior lawmaker disclosed that Iraq's army has shot down two British planes as they were carrying weapons for the ISIL terrorists in Al-Anbar province.

"The Iraqi Parliament's National Security and Defense Committee has access to the photos of both planes that are British and have crashed while they were carrying weapons for the ISIL," al-Zameli said.

He said the Iraqi parliament has asked London for explanations in this regard.

The senior Iraqi legislator further unveiled that the government in Baghdad is receiving daily reports from people and security forces in al-Anbar province on numerous flights by the US-led coalition planes that airdrop weapons and supplies for ISIL in terrorist-held areas.

The Iraqi lawmaker further noted the cause of such western aids to the terrorist group, and explained that the US prefers a chaotic situation in Anbar Province which is near the cities of Karbala and Baghdad as it does not want the ISIL crisis to come to an end.

Also in February, a senior Iraqi provincial official lashed out at the western countries and their regional allies for supporting Takfiri terrorists in Iraq, revealing that US and Israeli-made weapons have been discovered from the areas purged of ISIL terrorists.

"We have discovered weapons made in the US, European countries and Israel from the areas liberated from ISIL's control in Al-Baqdadi region," the Al-Ahad news website quoted Head of Al-Anbar Provincial Council Khalaf Tarmouz as saying.

He noted that the weapons made by the European countries and Israel were discovered from the terrorists in the Eastern parts of the city of Ramadi.

Meantime, Head of Iraqi Parliament's National Security and Defense Committee Hakem al-Zameli also disclosed that the anti-ISIL coalition's planes have dropped weapons and foodstuff for the ISIL in Salahuddin, Al-Anbar and Diyala provinces.

In January 2015, al-Zameli underlined that the coalition is the main cause of ISIL's survival in Iraq.

"There are proofs and evidence for the US-led coalition's military aid to ISIL terrorists through air(dropped cargoes)," he told FNA at the time.

He noted that the members of his committee have already proved that the US planes have dropped advanced weaponry, including anti-aircraft weapons, for the ISIL, and that it has set up an investigation committee to probe into the matter.

"The US drops weapons for the ISIL on the excuse of not knowing about the whereabouts of the ISIL positions and it is trying to distort the reality with its allegations.

He noted that the committee had collected the data and the evidence provided by eyewitnesses, including Iraqi army officers and the popular forces, and said, "These documents are given to the investigation committee ... and the necessary measures will be taken to protect the Iraqi airspace."

Also in January, another senior Iraqi legislator reiterated that the US-led coalition is the main cause of ISIL's survival in Iraq.

"The international coalition is only an excuse for protecting the ISIL and helping the terrorist group with equipment and weapons," Jome Divan, who is member of the al-Sadr bloc in the Iraqi parliament, said.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941017000616

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Syria: Army Commander Satisfied with Advances in Darayya

Jan 07, 2016

"The Syrian army has advanced in Darayya city in the Damascus countryside of Western Ghouta," the commander said on Thursday.

He added that his forces have reclaimed several blocks in al-Fosoul al-Arba'a street from the terrorists in the Southern parts of Darayya.

Several terrorists were killed and injured during the purging operations, the commander confirmed.

Also on Tuesday, the Syrian army pounded the militant groups' defense lines in the Damascus countryside of Eastern Ghouta.

The militant group's gathering centers in Ein Tarma in Eastern Ghouta were massively shelled by the Syrian army's artillery.

Initial battlefield reports said, at least, a dozen terrorists were killed and dozens more were injured in the Syrian army raid on their military positions in Ein Tarma.

On Monday, the Syrian army managed to liberate a key village near Marj al-Sultan region in Damascus province from the control of the Takfiri terrorists amid reports of artillery and air attacks in the province.

The army seized control over Harasta al-Qantara village to the Northwest of Marj al-Sultan in Eastern Ghouta in Damascus province after clashes with terrorists of Jeish al-Islam, Faylaq al-Rahman, Ajnad al-Sham and Faylaq Omar. The army also fired artillery shells at the terrorists' first lines of defense.

Reports also said a group of militants from Fajr al-Ummah terrorist group were killed in army's attacks in Harasta city.

Meanwhile, a number of militants were also killed as the army fired artillery shells at their positions in Douma city in Eastern Ghouta.

The army also conducted artillery attacks on militants' positions in the town of al-Nashabiyah and the farms of Beit Nayem town.

The news comes as the Syrian warplanes bombed terrorists' positions in Darayya city.

There were no immediate reports of the exact number of the dead terrorists.

On Sunday, two senior commanders of the terrorist groups were killed in the Syrian government forces' offensives in Eastern Ghouta.

Joint offensives of the Syrian army troops and the National Defense Forces in Douma Farms claimed the lives of many terrorists, including Bilal al-Khanshour, the leader of al-Maghaweer brigade affiliated to Jeish al-Islam and Abu Hassan Hamou, a senior commander of the Takfiri terrorist groups.

In the meantime, the Syrian forces' strikes on the positions of Jeish al-Islam in the Eastern part of CARS company and near Rahmeh gas station in Harasta left scores of the militants dead and destroyed their military hardware.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941017000822

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Terrorists Launch Heavy Missile Strikes against Residents of Al-Zahra, Nubl Towns in Aleppo

Jan 07, 2016

The Nusra terrorists have fired over 30 Grad missiles at residential areas in the two towns since this morning.

The popular forces of al-Zahra and Nubl have been in a state of alert after the intensified missile attacks by terrorists which were launched from the Northern parts of the two regions.

The schools in the two besieged towns have also been closed to protect children from missile attacks after mortar rounds were fired at a school following which the students were transferred to a safe shelter.

Sources said in December that over 15,000 mortar rounds and missiles have been fired at the two regions in the past four years that they have been besieged by the terrorist groups.

"Firing of over 15,000 mortar shells and missiles at these towns since the start of their siege is an instance of the terrorists' savage acts," a field source told FNA last month.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941017000769

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Syrian Forces Continue to Push Back Terrorists in Homs

Jan 07, 2016

The Syrian warplanes bombed militants' positions in the ancient city of Palmyra in Homs province on Thursday.

The army also fired artillery shells at terrorists' positions in the cities of Quaryatayn and al-Houla in the province.

Reports said a large group of militants were killed in the attacks.

However, there are no immediate reports of the exact number of the casualties on the part of the terrorists.

Reports said on Wednesday that the Syrian army destroyed mortars and two machine gun-equipped vehicles of ISIL, killing scores of Takfiri terrorists in Tal al-Kharoub al-Kabeer near al-Quaryatayn in Homs.

Military sources also said that scores of ISIL Takfiri terrorists were killed and injured by the army in the countryside of Palmyra city.

The sources added that a unit of army clashed with a terrorist group affiliated to ISIL in al-Dawa area, 17km West of Palmyra city.

Some 11 Takfiri terrorists were confirmed dead during the clashes and three machine gun- equipped vehicles.

Earlier reports said, the Syrian Army and the National Defense Forces (NDF) launched a counter-assault at the ancient city of Palmyra (Tadmur) in the province of Homs after they successfully repelled ISIL's attempted advance.

"The Syrian Armed Forces began their counter-assault at the small village of al-Dawa in Palmyra’s Western countryside, where they successfully cleared the area of all the ISIL fighters that were entrenched around the road leading to the ancient city," the army said.

"Following their success at al-Dawa, the Syrian army troops and their allies shifted their attention to the Ancient Palmyra Quarries from the Northwestern side, backed up by the Russian Air Force’s fighter jets," the army went on to say.

"The Syrian Armed Forces recaptured territory that was lost to the ISIL along the main stretch of quarries in Palmyra’s Northern countryside," the army said, adding, "Clashes are still ongoing between the Syrian soldiers and the ISIL in the foothills of Palmyra."

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941017000610

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ISIS spokesman Adnani ‘wounded’ in Iraqi airstrike

8 January 2016

Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani has reportedly been wounded in an air strike in Iraq’s western province of Anbar, a military statement said on Thursday.

Reuters could not immediately confirm the report.

“There are confirmed reports that the so-called terrorist Abu Muhammad al-Adnani the spokesman of the Daesh (ISIS) terrorists was wounded in an air strike ... in the region of Barwana,” the military statement said.

Adnani lost “a large amount of blood” in the attack a few days ago, before being moved to the northern city of Mosul, ISIS’ capital in Iraq, the statement added.

More than 100 ISIS fighters were killed in and around Barwana this week by air strikes aimed at helping the Iraqi army repel militant offensives near the city of Haditha, according to the U.S.-led coalition.

Adnani is a Syrian from Idlib who pledged allegiance to ISIS’ predecessor al Qaeda more than a decade ago and was once imprisoned by U.S. forces in Iraq, according to the Brookings Institution.

Adanani has been the chief propagandist for the hardline group since he declared in a June 2014 statement that it was establishing a modern-day caliphate spanning large swaths of territory it had seized in Iraq and neighboring Syria.

Full report at:

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2016/01/08/ISIS-spokesman-Adnani-wounded-in-Iraqi-airstrike.html

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Iraqi Shiites accuse Tehran of fueling sectarian conflicts- Poll

8 January 2016

According to an opinion poll conducted by US Think Tank House Institution, the majority of the Shiite sect in Iraq is worried about the Iranian influence in their country, and reject Iraqi politicians linking the interests of their state with Iran, and accused the Iranian regime of fueling the sectarian conflict, according to the poll.

Full report at:

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2016/01/08/Kerry-Implementation-of-Iran-nuclear-deal-days-away-.html

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ISIS-linked group attacks Sinai pipeline to Jordan

8 January 2016

The Egyptian branch of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group on Thursday said it had bombed a pipeline that carries gas to Jordan and to a major industrial zone in north Sinai.

Security sources confirmed that attackers set off explosive devices under the pipeline close to Al-Midan village in the north of the peninsula. They said the blasts did not cause any casualties.

North Sinai is a bastion of the "Sinai Province" group, the Egyptian affiliate of ISIS.

In a message posted on Twitter and signed by "Sinai Province", the group claimed responsibility for the attack.

"By the name of God, not a drop of gas will reach Jordan until the caliphate gives its permission," the statement said.

Jordan is among a number of Arab states that have joined the U.S.-led campaign of air strikes against ISIS, which captured swathes of Syria and Iraq, where it has declared a caliphate.

Full report at:

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2016/01/08/ISIS-linked-group-claims-attack-on-Sinai-pipeline-to-Jordan.html

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Mideast

 

Turkey summons Iran envoy over press criticism of Erdogan

Jan 8, 2016

ANKARA: Turkey said on Thursday it had summoned Iran's ambassador to protest attacks on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Iranian press in the wake of a diplomatic crisis between Tehran and Riyadh.

Erdogan has refused to condemn Saudi Arabia's execution of prominent Shia cleric and activist Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr this month. The execution sparked outrage in Shia-majority areas of the Middle East, and protesters in Iran attacked two Saudi diplomatic missions, prompting Riyadh to sever diplomatic ties.

“We strongly condemn our president being directly targeted in certain articles in Iranian outlets controlled by the Iranian authorities... and demand that these articles cease immediately,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.

It added that attacks on the Saudi embassy in Tehran and the kingdom's consulate in Iran's second city Mashhad were “unacceptable and deplorable”.

Turkey formally abolished the death penalty in 2004 as part of its bid to join the EU.

Erdogan on Wednesday said that Nimr's execution was an “internal legal matter” for Saudi Arabia, and ties between Ankara and Riyadh have improved in recent months. The Turkish leader visited Riyadh last month in a new sign of warming bilateral ties.

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/news/1231603/turkey-summons-iran-envoy-over-press-criticism-of-erdogan

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Saudi-led coalition, Yemen deny Iran embassy hit in Sanaa

Jan 8, 2016

DUBAI: The Saudi-led coalition and Yemen's foreign ministry denied Iran's accusation that Saudi warplanes had hit its embassy in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa.

Iran on Thursday said the warplanes had attacked its embassy in Yemen's capital on Wednesday night, an accusation that exacerbated tension between the major Shia and Sunni powers in the region.

“The coalition command confirmed that these (Iranian) allegations are false and void, stressing that it does not carry out any operations in the vicinity of the embassy or near it,” a statement on the state Saudi news agency SPA said late on Thursday.

“The coalition command urged that all diplomatic missions in Sanaa should not provide an opportunity for militias to use diplomatic missions' buildings in any military action.”

Residents and witnesses in Sanaa had also told Reuters there was no damage to the embassy building.

Editorial: Dangerous polarisation

Yemen's foreign ministry also denied the embassy building had been targeted, according to the Saudi-allied, government-run state news agency, sabanew.net.

The official foreign ministry source cited on sabanew.net said responsibility for the protection of diplomatic missions in Sanaa lay with the Houthi militia, who are in control of Sanaa, and their allies, forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

A growing diplomatic dispute between Riyadh and Tehran, triggered by Saudi's execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, has damaged the outlook for any resolution to the conflict in Yemen, where a coalition led by Saudi Arabia has been fighting the allegedly Shia, Iran-allied Houthi movement.

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/news/1231601/saudi-led-coalition-yemen-deny-iran-embassy-hit-in-sanaa

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Syrian Tribal Leader: S. Arabia Too Small to Isolate Iran

Jan 07, 2016

"Saudi Arabia, which has lost the opportunity to approach Iran despite Tehran's repeated demands, cannot isolate Iran regionally and internationally since Iran enjoys strong relations with Russia and China and the European countries are also resuming their political and economic relations with Iran and of course, these have frightened the Saudi regime as well as Israel," Sheikh Fayez al-Namis told FNA on Thursday.

"Therefore, we can say that the crime of the assassination of Sheikh Nimr (Baqir al-Nimr, the prominent Shiite cleric, by the Saudi regime) was a justification to foment sectarian strife in the region and no doubt the US and the Israeli regime had earlier shown a green light to Riyadh," he added.

His remarks came after Iran's government spokesman downplayed Saudi Arabia and its little allies' cutting or downgrading relations with Tehran following a spat between Riyadh and Tehran over the criminal beheading of a Shiite leader.

Mohammad Baqer Nobakht described Saudi Arabia as a small-size state that needs to rally support to be seen on regional or global stage, "but we don’t need to form any such coalition" because Iran is already a major state and key player in the region.

"A large number of important world states have queued for expanding relations with us," he told reporters on Tuesday.

"What could be Saudi Arabia's share when we are developing relations with many countries," he asked.

Nobakht underlined that cutting bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia and some other small countries which are dependent on Riyadh for their survival doesn’t affect Iran since Tehran enjoys extensive ties with different world states, reminding that a senior 60-member European delegation is already in Tehran to expand ties and cooperation with Iran.

Also, on Tuesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani underlined that Saudi Arabia seeks to divert the public opinion from its cruel beheading of Sheikh Nimr through diplomatic tumult with Tehran, and called on advocates of human rights to break silence on Riyadh's crimes.

Speaking in a meeting with the Danish foreign minister in Tehran, President Rouhani referred to the execution of Sheikh Nimr and 46 others for criticizing the Saudi government, and said, "Criticism shouldn’t be punished by beheading and we hope that the European countries which always show reaction to the human rights issues comply with their human rights responsibilities in this regard too."

"Of course, the Saudi government has embarked on a surprising action and cut off its political relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran to cap its crime of beheading a religious leader in the country while there is no doubt that such measures cannot cover up that big crime," he added.

The Saudi interior ministry announced on Saturday that it has executed Sheikh Nimr and 46 others. After the news was released, angry Iranian protestors stormed the Saudi embassy following which Riyadh announced severing diplomatic ties with Iran.

President Rouhani described talks and diplomacy as the best way to settle the countries' differences, and said the current conditions in the region need cooperation among all countries to save the country from the threat of terrorism.

"Tehran is ready to cooperate with other countries, including the EU states, to fight against terrorism," he stressed.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941017000479

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Spokesman Condemns Saudi Airstrike against Iran's Embassy in Sana'a

Jan 07, 2016

"The Saudi government's conscious and deliberate measure violates all the international conventions and legal regulations for protecting the security and safety of diplomatic places in all situations and the Saudi government should account for this measure and compensate for the damages to the (embassy) building and injuries inflicted on a number of embassy staff," Jaber Ansari said on Thursday.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941017000701

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IRGC Commander: Wrong Policies to Bury Al-Saud Like Avalanche

Jan 07, 2016

"The al-Saud regime acts like political refugees and is actually a political refugee for the Americans but the policies that they have adopted today are like a pressure domino and political avalanche which will bury the Saudi regime," Salami said, addressing a ceremony in Tehran on Thursday to commemorate the martyrdom of Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr by Saudi Arabia.

"If the Saudis don’t correct the path, they will soon face collapse and full downfall in the next few years," he added.

In relevant remarks on Wednesday, Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani expressed regret that Saudi Arabia, as a large Muslim country, is embarking on decisions and acts which further spread sectarian tensions in the region and endanger Islamic countries' interests.

"Execution of a religious figure (prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr) who sought proximity among Islamic faiths and demanded the Saudi rulers to show care for popular demands is regretting and unacceptable and a result of sectarian policies," Shamkhani said in a meeting with Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari in Tehran.

"Inexperienced Saudi officials' ignorance and heedlessness towards Muslims and Islamic countries' interests, and utilizing the capacities of a Muslim world nation for destroying and killing Muslims is a surprising and an unacceptable approach," he added.

Jaafari, for his part, condemned execution of Sheikh Nimr, and said all Islamic countries should prioritize fight against Takfiri terrorism and mobilize their capacities to establish security and stability in those countries and regions threatened by terrorism.

Also yesterday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif rapped Saudi Arabia for killing religious figures and severing ties with Tehran, and said Riyadh should stop those of its measures that exacerbate tensions in the region.

"Unfortunately, Saudi Arabia hasn’t reciprocated the measures adopted by the Islamic Republic to create understanding and brotherhood in the region and to fight terrorism in the past two years, and has supported this danger (terrorism) instead," Zarif said in a joint press conference with Jaafari in Tehran.

He referred to Saudi Arabia's mischiefs in recent years, including attempts to disturb the nuclear talks between Tehran and the world powers, decrease oil prices and execution of Sheikh Nimr, which he described as "unjustifiable", and said Iran has shown tolerance vis-a-vis all these moves.

"The Islamic Republic believes that creating tension in the region isn’t an indicator of power but shows weakness and should be responded by magnanimity, but unfortunately, our attitude wasn’t reciprocated properly by Saudi Arabia; this trend of stirring tensions should stop."

Zarif expressed the hope that all the regional countries would understand the common danger posed to them and avoid increasing tensions.

Also, on Tuesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani underlined that Saudi Arabia seeks to divert the public opinion from its cruel beheading of Sheikh Nimr through diplomatic tumult with Tehran, and called on advocates of human rights to break silence on Riyadh's crimes.

Speaking in a meeting with the Danish foreign minister in Tehran, President Rouhani referred to the execution of Sheikh Nimr and 46 others for criticizing the Saudi government, and said, "Criticism shouldn’t be punished by beheading and we hope that the European countries which always show reaction to the human rights issues comply with their human rights responsibilities in this regard too."

"Of course, the Saudi government has embarked on a surprising action and cut off its political relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran to cap its crime of beheading a religious leader in the country while there is no doubt that such measures cannot cover up that big crime," he added.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941017000427

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Four Palestinians shot dead attempting to stab Israeli soldiers

8 January 2016

Four Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli forces Thursday after trying to stab them in two incidents in the southern West Bank, the army said.

“Three attackers, armed with knives, attempted to stab soldiers guarding the Gush Etzion junction,” a statement said, adding that troops responded by firing at the assailants.

A military spokeswoman told AFP all three were killed.

Gush Etzion is a settlement bloc south of Jerusalem, and its junction has been a focal point in three months of Palestinian attacks targeting Israeli security forces and civilians.

A short while later, a Palestinian armed with a knife tried to stab soldiers northeast of Hebron, a statement said. “The force thwarted the attack and shot the assailant, resulting in his death.”

He was later identified as Khalil Shalalda, 16, from Sair village, northeast of Hebron. His cousin was killed at the same place under similar circumstances just weeks ago.

The three would-be assailants from the Gush Etzion incident were identified in Palestinian media as Muhanad Kawazbeh, 20; Ahmed Kawazbeh, 21, and Alaa Kawazbeh, 20, all from Sair.

Full report at:

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2016/01/08/Four-Palestinians-shot-dead-attempting-to-stab-Israeli-soldiers.html

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With 1,000 put to death in 2015, Iran one of top executioners

RASHID HASSAN

8 January 2016

RIYADH: Iran may have executed over 1,000 people in 2015, according to the London-based human rights watchdog Amnesty International.

“Iran executed about 700 people in the first six months of 2015, an average of three people every day and the final execution count might top 1,000 by the end of the just concluded year,” according to the report.

People were executed for drug trafficking but there were also some from ethnic and religious minorities killed for “fighting against religion” and “corruption on the earth.” There were 743 people executed in 2014, amnesty said.

Said Boumedouha, deputy director of Amnesty International for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), said: “Iran’s staggering execution toll for the first half of 2015 paints a sinister picture of the machinery of the state carrying out premeditated, judicially sanctioned killings on a mass scale.”

“If the Iranian authorities maintain the horrifying execution rate we are likely to see the figure crossing the 1,000 mark by the year’s end,” Boumedouha had added late last year. “It raises additional concerns in a country like Iran where trials are blatantly unfair.”

Among those sent to the gallows include clerics and activists from the Sunni minority including Shahram Ahadi. His younger brother, Bahram Ahmadi, was executed in 2012 along with five other Sunni clerics.

Moreover, Tehran executed Rehana Jabbari in October 2014 despite an international campaign urging for a reprieve, which was described as a “travesty” by Amnesty International.

Jabbari, 26, was hanged for killing a former intelligence ministry officer who, she said, tried to sexually abuse her.

Tehran has rejected the figures, saying it executed 247 people in 2015 and 289 in 2014. The differences, according to Amnesty is that the Iranian authorities refuse to acknowledge all the executions they carried out.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/featured/news/862031

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Spy, 3 Iranian terrorists face trial

8 January 2016

JEDDAH: The Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution is in the process of referring the case of four Iranian nationals implicated in national security issues to the Special Criminal Court pending their trial, a local newspaper reported. One of them is a spy working for Iranian intelligence.

This comes at a time when a fifth accused person is currently serving a prison sentence after the court convicted him of involvement in recruiting and making travel arrangements for a number of Saudi young men to go to Tehran, and coordinating with other parties to send them to conflict zones.

The accused took advantage of coming during the Haj season to implement terrorist attacks in the Kingdom. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison. He will be deported after serving his term.

The five Iranian accused were arrested at different times between 1429 and 1435 AH. The fifth convict is considered the first Iranian terrorist arrested since the beginning of the terrorist attacks in 2003. Since then, the authorities have been working to remove such threats to the country.

According to official information, one Iranian was arrested on 27/12/1429 and the judiciary proved his involvement in terrorist crimes such as receiving large numbers of Saudis in his house in Iran and giving them shelter, then sending them to the conflict zone in Afghanistan to participate in the fight there, and communicating with a number of coordinators inside and outside the Kingdom for the same reasons.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/saudi-arabia/news/861996

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Pakistan

 

Tanzeem-e-Islami told to change slogan about ‘Caliphate’

January 08, 2016

Israr Ahmad

RAWALPINDI – The security agencies have asked the leaders of an Islamist organization “Tanzeem-e-Islami” to change its slogan regarding the establishment of “Caliphate” in Pakistan.

The slogan is "The message of Tanzeem-e-Islami is establishment of Caliphate in Pakistan". The Tanzeem-e-Islami came under the scanner of the country’s top security agencies after it has launched a massive campaign in the cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad against “usury,” loans that impose interest burdens on the debtors.

In this connection, the Islamist organization displayed huge banners outside banks, along roads, on bridges and placed the posters on public transport. The banners bore Quranic verses and Hadiths that prohibit an interest-based loans system.

Talking to The Nation on yesterday, an official of the country’s premier security agency said they had launched a thorough investigation into the matter after taking note of public complaints. The fear is that a banned outfit was backing the campaign by the Islamist organization “Tanzeem-e-Islami”, to establish a Caliphate in Pakistan. He added that no trace has yet been found of any underground influence on the organization, except for its controversial slogan. “We have ordered the leadership of Tanzeem-e-Islami to change their slogan as it is creating doubts among people as well as in the security agencies,” he added.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/national/08-Jan-2016/tanzeem-e-islami-told-to-change-slogan-about-caliphate

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Pakistan ‘non-committal’ to Saudi-led military coalition

January 08, 2016

Maqbool Malik

Islamabad - Pakistan yesterday remained non-committal to Riyadh on joining the 34-nation Saudi-led military coalition against terrorism and called for political solution to Saudi-Iran conflict, sources said.

This transpired after series of meetings of Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir with Pakistani leaders.

The Foreign Office however in a statement on the day-long working visit of the Saudi minister reiterated that Pakistan will always stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Saudi Arabia against any threat to territorial integrity and sovereignty of Saudi Arabia.

The statement said that during his visit, Jubeir called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and held delegation level talks with the Adviser to the PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, besides meeting with Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif at military General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.

Saudi foreign minister told PTV that he discussed with Pakistani leaders host of issues of strategic and bilateral interest.

His views were endorsed by Sartaj Aziz that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia has reiterated the resolve to increase their cooperation in various sectors.

Talking to media Thursday night, he said Saudi foreign minister’s visit to Pakistan was very fruitful as both the countries discussed regional situation and matters of mutual interest.

He said Pakistan has expressed concerns on the attack on Saudi Embassy in Tehran and growing tension between Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and Islamic Republic of Iran. He said efforts would be made to reduce this tension and draw a political solution to the situation.

On a question about 34-nations alliance led by KSA, Mr Aziz said role of every country in the alliance is voluntary and all the member states are free to define their role in the coalition like extending training in counter-insurgency. He added that Pakistan has always supported all alliances meant for fighting terrorism.

The visit of Saudi foreign minister comes after Pakistan last month distanced itself from the anti-Islamic State coalition but later announced its conditional joining of KSA-led group saying the country would first like to know what kind of role it was expected to play.

Pakistan had also declined a Saudi call to join a Riyadh-led intervention, backed by most Sunni Gulf Arab states, in Yemen last year to fight Iranian-allied Houthi rebels.

According to Foreign Office statement, the visiting minister briefed PM Nawaz on details of the “Islamic” coalition to fight terrorism. The prime minister stated that Pakistan welcomes Saudi Arabia’s initiative and stressed that Pakistan supports all such regional and international efforts to counter terrorism and extremism.

Al-Jubeir also briefed the PM on the recent escalation of tension between the kingdom and Pakistan’s immediate neighbour, Iran. Pakistan expressed deep concern at the tense situation and condemned the burning down of Saudi Embassy in Tehran.

The PM said the people of Pakistan will always stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Saudi Arabia against any threat to territorial integrity and sovereignty of Saudi Arabia.

The statement, at the same time, added that Pakistan believes in respect for international norms and adherence to principle of non-interference. And, the prime minister called for resolution of differences through peaceful means in the larger interest of the Muslim unity in this challenging time.

Analysts have called for restrain and de-escalation of crisis between Saudi Arabia and Iran. “Pakistan should stay neutral and strive to de-escalate tension between the two Muslim countries”, former UN special envoy to Iraq Ambassador Jhangir Ashraf Qazi said. He was of the view of that Pakistan should clearly tell the Saudi friends that Pakistan cannot afford to indulge in their crises with its neighbour Iran.

Najam Rafique, Director Research, Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad also hoped that Pakistan would not take sides in Saudi-Iran crises. “In the given situation, Pakistan at the best can play the role bridge between Sauidi Arabia and Iran in de-escalating their tensions”, said Mr Rafique.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/national/08-Jan-2016/pakistan-non-committal-to-saudi-led-military-coalition

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Turkish company to handle Ashiana project

January 08, 2016

LAHORE - The ambitious Punjab government project ‘Ashiana’ for providing low cost houses to the poor is set to be handled by the Turkish construction company, Toki.

Ashiana Housing project started in the last tenure of the PML-N Punjab government has been on the hold over the last more than one year despite huge spending on its consultancy, feasibility, technical aspects, acquirement of land and infrastructure. Sources say no actual headway has been made in the developing houses under this project since Chairman of the Project MPA Sheikh Allauddin had resigned in March 2014 apparently on personal grounds.

The government gives reasons of its focus on the energy production projects for halt in the completion of this billion rupees Ashiana project, which is aimed at providing shelter to thousands of poor people at affordable price within four years from 2012. But that justification seems flimsy in the face of Rs 165billion Metro Train project which is underway in presence of energy crisis.

Ashiana had hit snags in mid-2014 when huge discrepancies in the construction work of the houses, technical aspect and provision of facilities were reported to the chief minister who in turn had set up a two-member probe team to fathom the truth. Whether the probe has been completed or still going on is anybody’s guess only, the sources say.

The chief minister has been apprised of the initial findings which show little scope for continuing the Ashiana project with same set of technical staff. In order to carry on the project on even a larger scale, the chief minister, during his recent visit to Turkey on his way back home from UK visit, met the Turkish president and shared views on seeking help of the renowned Turkish company, Housing Development Authority (Toki) for providing technical, financial, managerial and business model. Turkey gave a quick response and sent a high level delegation of the company.

An agreement was signed between the Punjab government and the Turkish company last days to help the government construct 50,000 houses in two years in the province. The Turkish company, the sources say, will provide assistance in completion of the houses under Ashiana in addition to developing the new houses that will also be made a part of the ongoing project. By that, the Ashiana project would come under the umbrella of Toki.

Toki has an established reputation of providing consultancy for highly affordable houses for the poor segment. The houses’ model has been copied in a number of countries.

Over the last 13 years, this company has built 1.7 million houses in Turkey while in the next five years it is going to construct another 0.5 million, mainly in the urban localities of its motherland.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/national/08-Jan-2016/turkish-company-to-handle-ashiana-project

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Nabbed ISIS suspect reveals details of secret operations in Karachi

January 07, 2016

KARACHI: Though the authorities concerned in the provinces and in center have been brushing aside the fears about the presence of world’s deadliest terrorist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – or ISIS or as locally known as ‘Da’esh, which is the Arabic of ISIS and it stands for ‘Daulat-e Islamia Iraq Wa Shaam is in limelight in national media of Pakistan and the law enforcers have been chasing them vigorously and subsequent to their untiring efforts, a mentionable strength of local Da’esh militants have been booked.

On the other hand, the suspects so far nabbed have made horrific revelations to their arresting law agencies respectively.

The LEAs have obtained crucial information from the arrested Da’esh suspects about male and female wings of Da’esh that are enthusiastically brainwashing the educated youth, collection of money to fund the Da’esh on behalf of certain religious seminaries and transporting the new Da’esh inductees through land routes from neighboring countries, Iran and Afghanistan.

It is pertinent to mention that all the reports that pertained to activities and operations of the Da’esh and all the suspects, so far nabbed are at least graduate from prestigious universities and they do not consider a recruit with lesser academic qualification.

The Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) of the Sindh police have during an interview of an arrested Da’esh suspect Abdul Aziz recorded horrific revelations.

According to Aziz, the Da’esh affiliates in Karachi are grossly active in gathering funds for the Da’esh by using titles of famous religious seminaries. This tactic of using the title of seminaries is for dodging the LEAs.

The alarming situation that arises from the activities of the Da’esh in Karachi contains information that Aziz disclosed to the LEAs that primarily the new recruits are immediately transported to Syria through land routes of Iran and Afghanistan. This piece of information clearly indicates that so far the Da’esh has no plans for Pakistan and is only focusing on Syria.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/national/07-Jan-2016/nabbed-isis-suspect-reveals-details-of-secret-operations-in-karachi

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S. Arabia assured of support

BAQIR SAJJAD SYED

Jan 8, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan reaffirmed on Thursday its support to Saudi Arabia, which is embroiled in a tense standoff with Iran, and the counter-terrorism coalition that it (Riyadh) was setting up.

The reiteration of support for the Saudi government was made during a shortened visit by Saudi Foreign Minister Dr Adel Al-Jubeir to Islamabad for discussions on his country’s diplomatic row with Iran and the multinational coalition against terrorism it (Saudi Arabia) had announced.

“People of Pakistan held the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in high esteem and also had deep respect for the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. … (they) will always stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Saudi Arabia against any threat to its territorial integrity and sovereignty,” PM Sharif told FM Jubeir, while assuring him of Pakistan’s unconditional support.

Additionally, a media statement said the two sides discussed regional and global issues of common concern and agreed on promoting multi-faceted cooperation.

Foreign Minister Jubeir holds talks with Sharif, army chief

The Saudi foreign minister started his whirlwind tour of Islamabad with a meeting with Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif at GHQ and then visited Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at his residence before concluding the trip with a meeting with Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz.

Mr Jubeir, who led a 17-member delegation, stayed in Islamabad for a little over six hours. His trip was officially described as a ‘working visit’.

He was to originally visit Islamabad on Sunday, but postponed it at the eleventh hour due to the storming of Saudi embassy in Tehran by protesters agitating against the execution of Saudi dissident Sheikh Nimr Baqir Al-Nimr.

As the Saudi foreign minister landed in Islamabad, protesters from various religious parties held a protest demonstration in the federal capital’s D-Chowk against Pakistan’s decision to join the Saudi-led coalition and execution of Sheikh Nimr.

The Foreign Office cancelled a planned joint press conference by Mr Aziz and Mr Jubeir to avoid possible media questions over the recent regional developments involving Saudi Arabia.

A statement issued by the Foreign Office said that Mr Jubeir talked about tensions with Iran during his meetings.

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/news/1231519/s-arabia-assured-of-support

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Two suspects confess in Imran Farooq murder case

Jan 8, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Two men suspected of being involved in the murder of Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s self-exiled leader Dr Imran Farooq recorded their confessional statements before the Islamabad deputy commissioner on Thursday, sources said.

The FIA had arrested three suspects — Khalid Shamim, Mohsin Ali Syed and Moazzam Ali — for their alleged role in Dr Farooq’s murder.

While Shamim and Mohsin Ali confessed to their involvement, Moazzam Ali, said to be the prime suspect, was unwilling to come up with a confession, sources in the prosecution told Dawn.

In his statement recorded under Section 164 of the criminal procedure code, Mohsin said that Moazzam had handled the travel documents to live in the United Kingdom.

According to private news channel Geo News, Mohsin in his statement gave graphic details of the murder.

He said that at a university hostel in London he and his accomplice Kashif Khan Kamran, whose whereabouts are not known and may have died, prepared a plot to kill Dr Farooq.

He said they monitored the movement of Dr Farooq in London to know about his routine.

On the day of the murder, he said, he grabbed Dr Farooq while Kashif stabbed him and then bludgeoned him with a brick to ensure his death.

Shamim said that he had consented to join the murder plot because he was a diehard MQM activist, sources said.

Shamim claimed that senior MQM leader Muhammad Anwar gave the order to assassinate Dr Farooq.

The JIT constituted to investigate the murder had suggested that MQM chief Altaf Hussain regarded Dr Farooq as a threat and wanted him eliminated.

The JIT report also noted that all three suspects were members of the All Pakistan Muttahida Students Organisation, the MQM’s student wing.

The suspects were sent to Adiyala jail on 14-day judicial remand by an Islamabad anti-terrorism court.

The gruesome murder took place on Sept 16, 2010, near Dr Farooq’s London home.

The London police had named Mohsin Ali Syed and Mohammad Kashif Khan Kamran as wanted men in connection with the murder as they were in the UK when Dr Farooq was murdered. They arrested the three men during the last five years but released them later without filing any charges.

However, it was widely reported that both Mohsin and Kamran had been taken into custody by Pakistani intelligence agents the moment they landed at Karachi airport in 2010.

The third suspect, Khalid Shamim, was allegedly taken into custody in January 2011 and a petition regarding his ‘illegal detention and going missing’ was filed by his wife in the Sindh High Court.

In March last year, Moazzam was arrested at his Azizabad house for facilitating the suspects in getting a British visa.

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/news/1231518/two-suspects-confess-in-imran-farooq-murder-case

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Non-bailable arrest warrants out for MQM chief, mayor-nominee

Jan 8, 2016

KARACHI: An antiterrorism court on Wednesday issued non-bailable warrants for the arrest of self-exiled chief of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement Altaf Hussain and 22 other party leaders, including mayor-nominee Waseem Akhtar, in a case registered against them for delivering and listening to a speech against the military establishment.

The Gadap police filed a charge-sheet against the accused persons including Dr Farooq Sattar, Abdul Rashid Godil and Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui in the case stating that the MQM chief delivered the speech against the country’s solidarity and the accused persons acted as facilitators for the speech.

MQM leader Rauf Siddiqui, who was also nominated in the FIR, has already obtained pre-arrest bail in the case.

The court issued NBWs for the arrest of the remaining accused persons as the police declared them absconders in the charge-sheet.

Granted bail

The MQM mayor-nominee and senior leader Haider Abbas Rizvi were granted interim bail in a case pertaining to the use of loudspeaker and breach of peace.

The case was registered by the Soldier police for violating the Loudspeaker Act and violent activities on Nov 26, 2015.

An additional district and sessions court gave the MQM leaders interim pre-arrest bail in the sum of Rs10,000 each till Jan 20.

The same court had on Wednesday issued non-bailable warrants for the arrest of the MQM leaders who included Dr Farooq Sattar, Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Kunwar Naveed, Mohammed Hussain, Kamal Pasha and Faisal Sabzwari on a police report.

Hearing adjourned

The hearing of bail applications of the MQM mayor-nominee in 25 cases and Mr Rizvi in three other cases was put off till Friday by the Sindh High Court. The bail applications were not heard as one of the judges of a division bench was not available.

‘MQM workers’ jailed

An antiterrorism court sentenced two alleged MQM workers to suffer rigorous imprisonment for 15 years in a case pertaining to an attack on police within the jurisdiction of the Pakistan Bazar.

The accused persons were found guilty of attacking the police on Sept 12, 2013. They were arrested on Sept 24, 2013.

Remanded

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/news/1231437/non-bailable-arrest-warrants-out-for-mqm-chief-mayor-nominee

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182 seminaries closed down, NA told

January 08, 2016

ISLAMABAD - The government has closed down 182 seminaries in three provinces excluding Balochistan, the National Assembly was informed yesterday.

The House was also told that Punjab is home to as many as 147 religious seminaries funded from abroad out of the total 190 foreign funded religious schools across the country.

A written reply by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan submitted to the Lower House states that out of the total 190 foreign funded seminaries in country, Punjab housed 147 while Balochistan was home to 30 such religious institutions.

The House was informed that the number of religious seminaries that are funded from abroad in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are six and seven respectively. The House was told that under the anti-terror National Action Plan (NAP), the government has closed 182 suspected seminaries in three provinces excluding Balochistan.

To a question asked by MNA, Dr Mahreen Razaque Bhutto about the action taken against banned outfits in the country, he said that the process of rationalisation of the list of outlawed groups was still in the process.

The Interior Minister quoted by his Ministry said that members and activities of banned organisations have been placed on Schedule IV of the Anti-Terrorism Act, adding the process of rationalisation of these lists was in progress.

“Once these lists are updated by the provinces, persons on these lists would be linked to NADRA, FIA, Election Commission of Pakistan, Passport and Immigration, Arms/Driving licensing authorities, Banks, Airlines offices, Military Police, Private Security Agencies recruitments centers,” he said.

He said that the move will enable relevant authorities to better monitor their movements, financial transactions and their entry into sensitive organisations difficult.

About the action taken against hate speeches in country which is one point of the 20-point NAP, he said that so far 2337 cases have been registered against 9340 persons besides sealing 73 shops for spreading hate materials.

It was informed that the 9164 cases were registered with making arrest of 9340 persons for misusing loudspeakers.

The House was informed that 2596 equipments (loudspeakers) were confiscated. To another question asked by MNA Shagufta Jumani about the number of terrorists arrested and acquitted in the last two years, the House was informed that majority of the terrorists that were acquitted had been arrested from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

As many as 2,533 terrorists were arrested during the last two years while 726 got acquittal, the House was told.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/national/08-Jan-2016/182-seminaries-closed-down-na-told

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South Asia

 

Pakistan-Bangladesh 'spy' row: Expelled diplomat leaves for Dhaka

Jan 8, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Senior Bangladeshi diplomat Moushumi Rahman who was posted at the Bangladesh High Commission in Islamabad left the country Thursday morning after being declared persona non grata by the Pakistani government.

Rahman, who was a political counsellor and head of chancery in Islamabad left for Dhaka on Turkish Airlines flight TG711 via Istanbul, airport sources confirmed.

The Bangladesh foreign secretary did not offer any reason for Pakistan's decision to expel Moushumi Rahman.

Diplomatic sources in Islamabad told Dawn.com that Rahman indulged in 'anti-state activities in Pakistan' and that concerned security agencies continued to monitor her.

In Dhaka, Foreign Ministry official Shahriar Alam said Rahman was expected to join the Bangladeshi embassy in Lisbon, Portugal.

Alam said Pakistan's "request" to withdraw Bangladesh's diplomat without providing a reason was not "supportive" for relations between the two countries.

"There's been no explanation. They couldn't give us any valid reason. Such acts never help the relationship," he said.

Alam said his government had expected the move.

"We knew that something was being cooked up," he said. "We were prepared and that helped us take a quick decision giving (Rahman) a fresh diplomatic assignment to another country upholding the country's image."

This is the first time that Pakistan has expelled a Bangladeshi diplomat.

'Apparent retaliation'

Dhaka on Wednesday said Pakistan had asked Bangladesh to withdraw Rahman from its high commission in Islamabad within 48 hours in apparent retaliation for the expulsion of a Pakistani envoy who allegedly funded a suspected extremist on trial for espionage.

“The political counsellor and head of chancery in Islamabad has been given till Thursday to leave the country,” Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque told AFP.

On December 23, Islamabad had recalled one of its diplomats – Farina Arshad – from Bangladesh at Dhaka's request, after she was alleged to have financed a suspected extremist accused of spying for Pakistan.

A formal statement from Islamabad dismissed the charges as “baseless”, adding: “an incessant and orchestrated media campaign was launched against her on spurious charges”.

Rocky bilateral relations

Pakistan and Bangladesh have had a rocky bilateral relationship in recent months.

Bilateral relations soured when Bangladesh executed senior Bangladesh Nationalist Party leader Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury and Jamaat-i-Islami’s secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid in November.

The two had been convicted of genocide and rape by a domestic ‘war crimes tribunal’ called International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), which had been set up under a 1973 legislation that was amended in 2009 to resume the trials.

The original 1973 legislation for the establishment of war crimes had been set aside by Hasina Wajid’s father and Bangladesh’s founding father Mujibur Rehman after a tripartite agreement signed in April 1974 for the repatriation of war prisoners. Rehman had then agreed that in the interest of regional peace, no one would be put on trial for alleged crimes committed during the 1971 war.

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/news/1231165/pakistan-bangladesh-spy-row-expelled-diplomat-leaves-for-dhaka

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Some Taliban factions consider joining peace process, others opposed

January 08, 2016

Hamid Shalizi and Jibran Ahmed - Some factions within the Afghan Taliban are considering taking part in a peace process that officials from Afghanistan and Pakistan aim to revive next week, several senior members said, in a softening of the militants' recent stance against talks.

Next week's meeting in Islamabad between officials from Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and China is intended as the first step towards resuming stalled negotiations aimed at ending the 14-year-old war that kills hundreds each month and has intensified in the past year.

Whether the Taliban, increasingly dominant on the battlefield since the withdrawal of most international troops by the end of 2014 yet riven by factional infighting, eventually joins the talks is far from clear.

Even if it did, those present would only represent part of the militant movement fighting to topple the government in Kabul and restore ‘strict Islamic rule‘ in place before it was ousted in 2001. But important elements of the Taliban have signalled they may be willing to send negotiators at some point. One Taliban commander said preparations had gone as far as choosing a team, including two members of the Taliban's office in Qatar, but others were more cautious.

"We may do it after the venue, time and terms and conditions for the proposed talks are decided by these four countries first," said one senior member of a group of Taliban leaders ‘based in the Quetta’.

Afghan officials say the meeting schedule does not include any Taliban representation, but they do not rule out the possibility of the group joining at some stage.

With security worsening, Kabul is trying to limit expectations of a breakthrough, and says the aim of next week's talks is to work out a road map for peace negotiations and a way of assessing whether they remain on track.

"This will help Afghanistan and our partners to measure the tangibility and sincerity of efforts taken by the parties," President Ashraf Ghani's spokesman said in an emailed response to questions on the objectives of the meeting.

It is uncertain whether the latest violence in Afghanistan is intended to disrupt talks or strengthen the Taliban's negotiating hand, but government Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah said Kabul would not bow to pressure. "I hope that various groups of the Taliban do not think that," he told reporters.

IS THERE A TALIBAN AT ALL?

After six months of worsening fighting, with the province of Helmand slipping out of control and frequent suicide bombings in the capital, Afghanistan and its neighbours are trying to return to peace talks, albeit without the Taliban for now.

Leadership divisions may impede progress, with some militant factions saying they will not take part. "There is no such thing as the Taliban, there are groups of Taliban," Ghani said last month.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/08-Jan-2016/some-taliban-factions-consider-joining-peace-process-others-opposed

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Mild earthquake shakes Kabul

Jan 08 2016

A mild earthquake jolted Kabul city this afternoon with epicenter and magnitude of the quake yet to be confirmed.

This comes as a magnitude 5.3 earthquake jolted Afghanistan as well as parts of Pakistan and India on Saturday but no casualties or damages were reported.

Meanwhile, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) reported a magnitude 4.2 earthquake in Afghanistan with epicenter recorded in Jurm district of northeastern Badakhshan province.

Full report at:

http://www.khaama.com/mild-earthquake-shakes-kabul-1946

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Ghani requests US Congress help in equipping the Afghan Air Force

Jan 08 2016

The Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has called on US Congress to help Afghanistan in building an efficient air force as the Afghan national security forces are critical need of air support.

During a meeting with the US Congress delegation led by Senator Bob Corker, President Ghani said Afghanistan needs to complete the inventory of its Air Force by acquiring aircraft and helicopters, urging the US Congress delegation to assist Afghanistan in this process.

Calling terrorism a regional and global threat, President Ghani further added that Afghanistan is in the front line of facing threats from terrorism, insisting that fight against terrorism requires strategic regional and international cooperation.

President Ghani also added that the bilateral relations between Kabul and Washington is based on mutual interests and threats the two nations are facing.

Meanwhile, Senator Corker hailed the Afghan government in maintaining peace and stability, economic development and reforms in the government sector.

He reaffirmed the commitment by United States and in particular the US Congress to support Afghanistan in maintaining peace and stability in the country.

This comes as the Afghan national security forces expects to start 2016 with more capabilities as compared to the previous years in suppressing the anti-government armed militants with recent major steps taken by the international allies of Afghanistan, particularly United States and India, in boosting the capabilities of the Afghan Air Force.

Full report at:

http://www.khaama.com/ghani-requests-us-congress-help-in-equipping-the-afghan-air-force-1945

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Kabul police chief: 35 including govt personnel arrested over celebratory firing

Jan 08 2016

At least 35 people including government personnel have been arrested over celebratory gunfire in capital Kabul following the victory of the Afghanistan cricket team against Zimbabwe.

Kabul police chief Gen. Abdul Rahman Rahimi said the individuals were arrested from different parts of Kabul city for aerial firing and disrupting the comfort of Kabul residents.

He said police forces have also seized the weapons both from the government personnel and irresponsible individuals who are currently in custody of police.

Gen. Rahimi did not say anything about the casualties as a result of the aerial celebratory firing, however Sediq Sediqi, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior (MoI), said Thursday three civilians were wounded.

However, there are reports that a teenager was killed after receiving a stray bullet in Kabul city.

Full report at:

http://www.khaama.com/kabul-police-chief-35-including-govt-personnel-arrested-over-celebratory-firing-1944

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Afghan Ulemas urge Iran and Saudi to resolve tensions through negotiations

Jan 07 2016

The Afghanistan Ulema Council on Thursday issued a statement inviting Iran and Saudi Arabia to resolve tensions through negotiations, expressing concerns that the flaring tensions between the two major Islamic nations could have a negative impact on the Islamic world.

A statement was released by the Ulema Council of Afghanistan following a meeting on Thursday where both the Sunni and Shi’ite religious scholars gathered to discuss the issue.

The statement further added that the “Ulema Council of Afghanistan requests the two nations to remain alert regarding the intrigues and conspiracies of the enemies of Islam in a ‘Sensitive Period of the History’ and prevent further tensions to flare up among the Muslims by resolving their internal issues through negotiations.”

The council also called on Organization of Islamic Cooperation, United Nations and other Islamic and International organizations to interfere and prevent further escalation of tensions.

Tensions between Saudi and Iran escalated following an attack on Saudi embassy and consulate in Iran by angry protesters who demonstrated regarding the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a cleric and activist whose death sparked widespread Shiite protests. The tensions erupted into a full-blown diplomatic crisis this week which sparked widespread worries of regional instability.

The Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday accused Riyadh of seeking to “cover its crime” by severing ties. “One does not respond to criticism by cutting off heads,” Rouhani said.

Full report at:

http://www.khaama.com/afghan-ulemas-urge-iran-and-saudi-to-resolve-tensions-through-negotiations-1942

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Saudi Cleric execution: Dhaka Shia Muslims protest

January 08, 2016

Shia Muslims in Dhaka today protested the execution of a prominent Shia cleric carried out by the Sunni Muslim majority Saudi Arabia on January 2.

People of the Shia community formed a human chain in front of Jatiya Press Club in the capital, Dhaka this morning, reports our correspondent from the spot.

On January 2, Sunni Muslim majority Saudi Arabia executed Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, who was behind anti-government protests. The execution drew angry condemnation from Shia-majority Iran and Iraq.

Full report at:

http://www.thedailystar.net/country/saudi-cleric-execution-dhaka-shia-muslims-protest-198949

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IOJ splits again, quits 20-party

January 08, 2016

Ending its 17-year ties with the BNP-led alliance, a faction of the Islami Oikya Jote led by Abdul Latif Nejami yesterday quit the combine.

Nejami, chairman of the Qawmi madrasa-based IOJ's faction, made the announcement at its triennial council at the capital's Institute of Engineers, Bangladesh.

Talking to The Daily Star, several leaders of the Islamist party faction said they had no alternative but to quit the BNP-led alliance, as the government put “huge pressure” on them to quit the opposition combine.

“Otherwise, the government would have forced us to change the two principals of the capital's Lalbagh and Boro Katra madrasas -- the faction's stronghold and the main source of its income,” said one of its leaders, wishing anonymity.

Two leaders of the faction -- Abul Hasnet, son of late IOJ chief Fazlul Huq Amini, and Saiful Islam, brother-in-law of Hasnet -- are principal and vice principal of Boro Katra madrasa with 600 students.

The two are also members of the managing committee of the 60-year-old Lalbagh madrasa that now has 1,500 students.

“Amini's family and relatives as well as the faction will suffer a big blow if they lose control over the two madrasas,” said a leader of the faction on condition of anonymity.

Talking to reporters after the council, Nejami refuted the claims that the faction was under “government pressure” to quit the opposition platform.

Within two hours of Nejami's announcement, the faction's Senior Vice Chairman MA Raquib made a counter move.

He proclaimed himself as the new chairman of the faction, and said it will not leave the BNP-led coalition.

“Those who have decided to quit the combine violated the party's constitution. They have lost their positions in the party. We have replaced them,” he said at an emergency press briefing at the BNP chairperson's Gulshan office.

“Islami Oikya Jote is with the 20-party alliance, and we will remain with it in the future.

Terming the Nejami-led new committee illegal, he said, “We will announce a full committee after holding a meeting of majlish-e-sura within 15 days."

He claimed that the faction's top leaders, including Nejami, held a meeting at the party's Paltan office on Wednesday evening and decided to stay in the BNP-led alliance.

But Nejami and Secretary General of the faction Mufti Foyzullah went back on the decision and announced severing relations with the opposition combine, he told journalists.

Later at night, the Raquib-led faction of the IOJ met BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia and presented her a bouquet at her Gulshan office.

With the latest rift in the Islamist party, it now has three factions -- one led by Nejami, one by Raquib, and the other by Misbaur Rahman loyal to the ruling Awami League.

Misbaur broke away from the IOJ in 2005 following an intra-party dispute over the trial of top Jamaat-e-Islami leaders on war crimes charges and Jamaat's alleged involvement in militancy.

Towards the end of 2014, four components of the BNP-led alliance -- National Democratic Party, Islamic Party, National People's Party and NAP (Bhashani) -- split over the issue of staying in the BNP-led combine.

At yesterday's council, the Nejami-led faction said for the first time that the January-5 national election of 2014 was “legal” since it was held in line with the constitution.

The faction, however, said there were moral questions about the polls.

Nejami said the faction will now give attention to organisational activities and contest the next national election from all constituencies.

Full report at:

http://www.thedailystar.net/frontpage/ioj-splits-again-quits-20-party-198808

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Africa

 

Kenya jails radical Muslim teacher Salim Mohamed Wabwire

7 January 2016

A Muslim school teacher and preacher has been sentenced to 20 years in prison by a court in Kenya for radicalising children.

Children testified that Salim Mohamed Wabwire taught them that Christians should be killed.

Contrary to earlier reports, the court in Mombasa city acquitted him of being a member of militant Islamist group al-Shabab, and recruiting for it.

The group, which is linked to al-Qaeda, has increasingly targeted Kenya.

It killed 148 people in an assault on Garissa University College in north-eastern Kenya in April.

Africa Live: BBC news updates

Wabwire was a primary school teacher, and an Imam at the Jihad Mosque in a rural area north of Mombasa.

Full report at:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-35252033

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Over 50 killed in bombing at Libyan police training centre

Jan 8, 2016

ZLITEN (Libya): A suicide truck bombing on a police school in Libya’s city of Zliten killed more than 50 people on Thursday, in the deadliest attack to hit the strife-torn country since its 2011 revolution.

A bomber detonated an explosives-laden truck used for carrying water at a police training centre in central Zliten at around 8:30am, a local security source said.

A witness in Zliten, a coastal city about 170km east of Tripoli, said some 300 men, mainly coast guard personnel, were inside the compound at the time.

Health ministry spokesman Ammar Mohammed Ammar said 50 to 55 people had been killed and at least 100 wounded and that victims were being treated in several hospitals. Urgent calls were issued for blood donations.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack but the militant Islamic State (IS) group, which has been growing in power in Libya, has carried out many suicide bombings in the country.

Libya’s widely recognised govt calls for lifting of an arms embargo which has “prevented authorities from tackling IS”

Libya descended into chaos after the 2011 overthrow of long-time dictator Muammar Qadhafi and has had rival administrations since August 2014, when an Islamist-backed militia alliance overran Tripoli, forcing the government to take refuge in the east.

The internationally recognised government condemned the attack as a “cowardly terrorist act” and called for the lifting of an arms embargo it said had prevented authorities from tackling IS.

Meanwhile, a deputy defence minister for the Tripoli-based government, Mohammad Bashir al-Naas, vowed to avenge the attack.

“The perpetrator is not known but he is a coward. He kills our sons from the shadows. We must avenge them and do everything possible to protect them,” Mr Naas told a press conference.

The United Nations is pressing Libya’s rival sides to implement a power-sharing deal agreed last month on forming a unity government.

The UN envoy to Libya and Western governments called for unity in the wake of the attack, saying implementing the political agreement was crucial.

“I condemn in the strongest terms today’s deadly suicide attack in Zliten, call on all Libyans to urgently unite in fight against terrorism,” UN envoy Martin Kobler wrote on Twitter.

EU policy chief Federica Mogherini also urged Libyans to back the unity deal.

“The people of Libya deserve peace and security and... they have a great opportunity to set aside their divisions and work together, united, against the terrorist threat facing their country,” she said.

Italy, the former colonial power in Libya, offered its support in helping to bring stability.

“In the face of this terrorist threat, the first answer must be unity among Libyans,” Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said. “It is urgent that the recently signed political agreement be implemented.”

France also condemned the attack and called on “all Libyan parties to quickly form a national unity government... that would be a partner for the international community in the face of terrorism”.

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/news/1231468/over-50-killed-in-bombing-at-libyan-police-training-centre

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Kenyans recall slaughter as university massacre trial opens

7 January 2016

Survivors of a university massacre in Kenya where Islamist gunmen killed 148 people have recounted scenes of terror at the opening of a trial of five men linked to the slaughter.

The deadly attack at Garissa University in northeastern Kenya on April 2, 2015, was claimed by Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents. It was the East African nation's deadliest attack since the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi.

Four gunmen involved in the massacre were killed, but five others have been charged with 162 counts of terrorism and conspiracy to commit an attack, with the trial opening in the Kenyan capital on Wednesday.

The five accused are Mohamed Ali Abdikar, Hassan Aden Hassan, Sahal Diriye and Osman Abdi who are thought to be Kenyan or Somali nationals, and Rashid Charles, a Tanzanian national.

They have denied the charges.

Speaking to the court in Nairobi, witnesses lined up to testify about the horror they had experienced as masked gunmen staged terrifying pre-dawn assault on the campus, with their accounts detailed in Kenya's main newspapers.

Addressing the court, Rispa Nyang'au said she was at a dawn prayer meeting with around 30 Christian students when she saw a "tall man armed with a rifle", his face covered, hurl an explosive device into the room.

"I heard an explosion and saw sparks, before the man walked into the hall and started shooting," she said, in testimony reported by the Daily Nation newspaper.

During the attack, the gunmen lined up non-Muslim students for execution in what President Uhuru Kenyatta described at the time as a "barbaric medieval slaughter".

"I heard the door opening, they were spraying us with bullets and shortly after there was silence in the hall as most of my colleagues had fallen down," said another student, Evelyn Chepkemoi, according to The Standard newspaper.

Chepkemoi, who was shot in the legs and hand, said she lay among the bodies of her slaughtered classmates, pretending to be dead for over five hours until the security forces entered the hall.

"I played dead for several hours before I was rescued," The Star newspaper quoted her as saying.

Full report at:

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/2016/01/04/Sudan-decides-to-expel-Iranian-ambassador.html

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140 killed in Ethiopia protests: HRW

08 January 2016

At least 140 people have been killed in Ethiopia over the past two months in a crackdown on anti-government protests sparked by plans to expand the capital into farmland, Human Rights Watch said Friday.

"Security forces have killed at least 140 protesters and injured many more, according to activists, in what may be the biggest crisis to hit Ethiopia since the 2005 election violence," HRW's Felix Horne said.

The number reported by HRW is almost double the previous toll of 75 the group gave last month.

There was no immediate response from the Ethiopian government, which has previously put the death toll at five.

The protests began in November when students opposed government proposals to take over territory in several towns in the Oromia region, sparking fears that Addis Ababa was looking to grab land traditionally occupied by the Oromo people, the country's largest ethnic group.

"Over the past eight weeks, Ethiopia's largest region, Oromia, has been hit by a wave of mass protests over the expansion of the municipal boundary of the capital, Addis Ababa," Horne said.

"The generally peaceful protests were sparked by fears the expansion will displace ethnic Oromo farmers from their land, the latest in a long list of Oromo grievances against the government."

On December 23, police arrested Bekele Gerba, 54, deputy chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), Oromia's largest legally registered political party. Bekele was previously convicted in 2011 of being a member of the banned Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), spending four years in jail.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/africa/168202/140-killed-in-ethiopia-protests-hrw

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Somalia joins Saudi amid Iran row

07 January 2016

Somalia said Thursday it had cut diplomatic ties with Iran amid an ongoing crisis with Saudi Arabia.

A statement from Somalia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the "decision to sever diplomatic ties" and gave Iranian diplomats 72 hours to leave the Horn of Africa nation.

"This step has been taken after careful consideration and in response to the Republic of Iran's continuous interference in Somalia's internal affairs," the statement read, without giving further details.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/africa/168189/somalia-joins-saudi-amid-iran-row

------------

 

North America

 

Reforms to Protect New York Muslims from Surveillance

08th January 2016

NEW YORK: New York will appoint an independent monitor to review counter-terror police investigations as part of reforms designed to protect Muslims from discriminatory and blanket surveillance, officials said Thursday.

Civil liberty campaigners welcomed the changes, which settle two lawsuits, saying the move by the country's largest police force sent a powerful message at a time of rising anti-Islamic sentiment.

The lawsuits alleged that New York police stigmatized communities based solely on religion, and that lawful political and religious activities were subject to unwarranted police surveillance following the 9/11 attacks.

The terms of the settlement, which were reached after more than a year of negotiations, must be approved by a federal judge.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which helped bring one of the suits, welcomed what it called a "watershed."

Discriminatory surveillance sowed fear and mistrust, drove down mosque attendance and forced religious leaders to censor conversations out of concern that they might be misunderstood, the group said.

Hina Shamsi, ACLU National Security Project director, said it introduced "much-needed constraints on law enforcement's discriminatory and unjustified surveillance of Muslims."

"At a time of rampant anti-Muslim hysteria and prejudice nationwide, this agreement with the country’s largest police force sends a forceful message that bias-based policing is unlawful, harmful and unnecessary," she added.

Muslim community leaders have complained of an unprecedented backlash across the United States after extremist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, fueled by rhetoric on the presidential campaign trail.

The new representative, an independent lawyer, would have the power to ensure all safeguards are followed and serve as a check on investigations directed at political and religious activities, ACLU said.

They must report any violations to the police commissioner, who must investigate and report back, it added.

The reforms will also limit police use of undercover and confidential informants, and end open-ended investigations by imposing time limits and require status reviews every six months, ACLU said.

Rebuild relations

Police will now need facts alleging possible criminal activity before opening an investigation, the ACLU said.

The police denied the proposed settlement would weaken their ability to investigate and prevent terror activity. Mayor Bill de Blasio and police commissioner Bill Bratton welcomed the terms.

Full report at:

http://www.newindianexpress.com/world/Reforms-to-Protect-New-York-Muslims-from-Surveillance/2016/01/08/article3217745.ece

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Iran-Saudi row may widen sectarian divide: Pew survey

ANWAR IQBAL

Jan 8, 2016

WASHINGTON: The conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran is likely to further widen an existing sectarian divide in the Middle East, pitting Muslims against Muslims, warns a US survey released on Thursday.

The survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Centre shows that in Jordan, a predominantly Sunni country, 78 per cent of the public have a favourable view of Saudi Arabia, compared with only 8 per cent who have a positive opinion of Iran.

In the Palestinian territories, where again Sunnis predominate, about half — 51pc — have a favourable view of Saudi Arabia.

Here, there is a split by location. Among Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, 60pc have a positive opinion of Saudi Arabia, compared with 46pc among West Bank residents.

Meanwhile, only 34pc in the Palestinian territories express a positive opinion of Iran, with more support coming from the West Bank (40pc) than from Gaza (24pc).

Overall, 48pc in Lebanon have a favourable view of Saudi Arabia versus 41pc who like Iran. However, as is usually the case in Lebanon, opinion is divided among three main religious groups in the country: Christians, Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims.

An overwhelming number of Sunni Lebanese have a favourable view of Saudi Arabia (82pc), while Iran’s favourability among Sunnis sits at 5pc.

An even greater divide exists among the Lebanese Shia population, with 95pc saying they like Iran, while only 3pc say the same about Saudi Arabia.

Christians in Lebanon tend to have more favourable views of Saudi Arabia (54pc) than Iran (29pc).

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/news/1231502/iran-saudi-row-may-widen-sectarian-divide-pew-survey

------------

 

After hysteria, reforms to protect NY Muslims from 'discriminatory and unjustified' surveillance

Jan 8, 2016

NEW YORK: New York will appoint an independent monitor to review counter-terror police investigations as part of reforms designed to protect Muslims from discriminatory and blanket surveillance, officials said Thursday.

Civil liberty campaigners welcomed the changes, which settle two lawsuits, saying the move by the country's largest police force sent a powerful message at a time of rising anti-Islamic sentiment.

The lawsuits alleged that New York police stigmatised communities based solely on religion, and that lawful political and religious activities were subject to unwarranted police surveillance following the 9/11 attacks.

The terms of the settlement, which were reached after more than a year of negotiations, must be approved by a federal judge.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which helped bring one of the suits, welcomed what it called a "watershed".

Discriminatory surveillance sowed fear and mistrust, drove down mosque attendance and forced religious leaders to censor conversations out of concern that they might be misunderstood, the group said.

Hina Shamsi, ACLU National Security Project director, said it introduced "much-needed constraints on law enforcement's discriminatory and unjustified surveillance of Muslims".

"At a time of rampant anti-Muslim hysteria and prejudice nationwide, this agreement with the country's largest police force sends a forceful message that bias-based policing is unlawful, harmful and unnecessary," she added.

Muslim community leaders have complained of an unprecedented backlash across the United States after extremist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, fuelled by rhetoric on the presidential campaign trail.

The new representative, an independent lawyer, would have the power to ensure all safeguards are followed and serve as a check on investigations directed at political and religious activities, ACLU said.

They must report any violations to the police commissioner, who must investigate and report back, it added.

The reforms will also limit police use of undercover and confidential informants, and end open-ended investigations by imposing time limits and require status reviews every six months, ACLU said.

Rebuild relations

Police will now need facts alleging possible criminal activity before opening an investigation, the ACLU said.

The police denied the proposed settlement would weaken their ability to investigate and prevent terror activity. Mayor Bill de Blasio and police commissioner Bill Bratton welcomed the terms.

"This settlement represents another important step toward building our relationship with the Muslim community," said de Blasio.

"The modifications also bring the guidelines closer in line with FBI practices, which is helpful in working collaboratively with our federal partners," said Bratton.

Deputy police commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism, John Miller, will retain "sole authority" over all intelligence investigations and decisions, the police department said.

The mayor will appoint the independent monitor in consultation with the police commissioner.

"This additional voice will increase transparency while maintaining the confidentiality of investigations," the police department said.

In April 2014, police announced the disbanding of the Demographics Unit, a deeply controversial and heavily criticized group that sent undercover officers to spy on local Muslims.

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/news/1231606/after-hysteria-reforms-to-protect-ny-muslims-from-discriminatory-and-unjustified-surveillance

------------

 

US proposes to sell 5,000 Hellfire missiles worth $800m to Iraq

Jan 8, 2016

WASHINGTON: The US State Department has approved the sale of 5,000 Hellfire missiles to Iraq worth $800 million, the Pentagon said on Thursday.

Lawmakers have 30 days to block the sale, although such action is rare. The prime contractor on the deal would be Lockheed Martin Corp.

The Defence Security Cooperation Agency, which oversees foreign arms sales, told lawmakers the government of Iraq had asked to buy 5,000 of the air-to-ground missiles and 10 training missiles.

The missiles would contribute to the United States’ national security and “improve the Iraq Security Forces’ capability to support ongoing combat operations,” the agency said in a notice to lawmakers posted on its website.

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/news/1231496/us-proposes-to-sell-5000-hellfire-missiles-worth-800m-to-iraq

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American Qaeda suspect faces new terror charges

January 08, 2016

Jan 6 - Federal prosecutors in New York unveiled new criminal charges on Wednesday against a US citizen believed to have once been an al Qaeda operative, accusing him of involvement in a 2009 car bomb attack on a US military base in Afghanistan. According to a nine-count indictment, Muhanad Mahmoud Al Farekh, 30, helped prepare one of two explosive devices for use in the Jan. 19, 2009 attack.

Prosecutors said an accomplice detonated one device, while Al Farekh’s fingerprints were found on packing tape for the second device, which a second accomplice carried and did not detonate. The military base was not identified. Sean Maher, a court-appointed lawyer for Al Farekh, did not immediately respond to request for comment. Also known as Abdullah al-Shami, Al Farekh had been detained in Pakistan prior to being flown to Brooklyn, where he first appeared last April 2.

He pleaded not guilty on June 4 to three criminal counts in an indictment made public a week earlier.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/08-Jan-2016/american-qaeda-suspect-faces-new-terror-charges

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Muslim population in US to double by 2050

January 08, 2016

WASHINGTON - The Muslim population in the United States is projected to double by 2050 from the current estimated figure of 3.3 million of all ages living in the country, according to a report by Pew Research Centre.

The new estimate makes Muslims about 1 percent of the total 322 million US population. Pew said the estimate is based on a demographic projection that models growth in the American Muslim population since our 2011 estimate and includes both adults and children. The projection uses data on age, fertility, mortality, migration and religious switching drawn from multiple sources, including the 2011 survey of Muslim Americans.

According to the estimate, there are fewer Muslims of all ages in the US than there are Jews by religion (5.7 million) but more than there are Hindus (2.1 million) and many more than there are Sikhs. In some cities Muslims comprise significantly more than 1% of the community, according to the study. And even at the state level Muslims are not evenly distributed: Certain states, such as New Jersey, have two or three times as many Muslim adults per capita as the national average.

Recent political debates in the US over Muslim immigration and related issues have prompted many to ask how many Muslims actually live in the United States, it was pointed out. “But coming up with an answer is not easy, in part because the US Census Bureau does not ask questions about religion, meaning that there is no official government count of the US Muslim population,” Pew said. “Since our first estimate of the size of the Muslim American population in 2007, we have seen a steady growth in both the number of Muslims in the US and the percentage of the US population that is Muslim.”

In addition, our projections suggest the US Muslim population will grow faster than the Hindu population and much faster than the Jewish population in the coming decades. Indeed, even before 2040, Muslims are projected to become the second-largest religious group in the US, after Christians. By 2050, the American Muslim population is projected to reach 8.1 million people, or 2.1 per cent of the total population.”

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/08-Jan-2016/muslim-population-in-us-to-double-by-2050

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Two arrested in US over ISIL links

08 January 2016

U.S. authorities said two people with ties to the ISIL group are due in court Friday in California and Texas, including a refugee from Syria accused of returning there to fight alongside ISIL.

The arrests come amid heightened security in the United States following last month's assault by an extremist couple in California that left 14 people dead and the November terror attacks in Paris.

The attacks added to pressure for more scrutiny of refugees from war-ravaged Syria.

Aws Mohammed Younis al-Jayab, an Iraqi-born Palestinian arrested Thursday who came to the United States from Syria as a refugee in 2012, traveled to Syria the following year where he fought for various terror groups, according to a criminal complaint.

One of those groups was Al-Qaeda affiliate Ansar al-Islam (Partisans of Islam), which previously operated under its own banner in Iraq and Syria.

Listed as a terrorist organization by the United Nations and the U.S., its Iraqi faction has since merged with the ISIL group, though some of its Syrian fighters rejected ISIL.

U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner was careful to stress that "while (Jayab) represented a potential safety threat, there is no indication that he planned any acts of terrorism in this country."

Another Iraqi-born Palestinian, Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, was indicted Wednesday in Texas for providing material support to the ISIL group. He is due to make an initial court appearance on Friday.

Hardan, 24, was charged with one count each of attempting to provide material support to ISIL, procurement of citizenship or naturalization unlawfully and making false statements.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott and other local officials said Hardan's arrest backed their calls for a refugee ban.

"This is precisely why I called for a halt to refugees entering the U.S. from countries substantially controlled by terrorists," he said.

The state's Attorney General Ken Paxton called the arrest a "troubling revelation," using the occasion to take a swipe at President Barack Obama.

"The arrest in Houston of an Iraqi refugee for suspicion of terrorist activities is a troubling revelation -– especially in light of the president's insistence on placing further refugees in Texas," he said.

"My office will continue to press for the right of Texans to ensure that terrorists are not being placed in our communities."

- From refugee to radical -

Hardan, who lives in Houston, was granted legal permanent resident status in 2011, two years after entering the United States.

According to the indictment, he provided training, expert advice and assistance to ISIL.

He also lied on his formal application to become a naturalized U.S. citizen, saying he was not association with a terror group despite having been associated with ISIL members and sympathizers throughout 2014.

During an October 2015 interview, Hardan is also said to have falsely claimed he had never received weapons training of any kind when he had in fact learned to use machine guns.

He faces up to 53 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted on all charges.

The complaint against Jayab, the 23-year-old Californian man, states that he planned his trip to Syria through online contact with various individuals and arrived there via Turkey in November 2013.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/america-canada/168209/two-arrested-in-us-over-isil-links

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Europe

 

Paris police shoot dead knife-wielding man

7 January 2016

French police shot dead a man wielding a meat cleaver after he tried to enter a police station on Thursday, the anniversary of militant attacks in Paris, shouting "Allahu akbar" (God is Greatest) and wearing what turned out to be a fake suicide belt.

The Paris prosecutor said the man was also carrying a mobile phone and a sheet of paper bearing the Islamic State flag and a claim of responsibility by the militant group written in Arabic.

According to a judicial source, Ali Sallah, was a Moroccan born in 1995 in Casablanca. He was homeless and known to police for theft in 2012 in the Var region of southern France.

French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told French television i-Tele that from what was known so far, the man had no known links to violent Islamist radicalism.

She suggested he might have been mentally unstable.

Thursday is the first anniversary of deadly Islamist attacks on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in the French capital and Sallah's attack came just minutes after President Francois Hollande had given a commemoration speech elsewhere in Paris.

Security concerns intensified further in France in November when 130 people were killed in shootings and suicide bombings targeting a Paris music hall, bars, restaurants and a stadium.

Those attacks were claimed by Islamic State, the militant group that controls swathes of Iraq and Syria. Several of the militants involved were, like the Hebdo killers, French-born.

In his statement, Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said a terrorism inquiry had been opened into Thursday's attack.

"(The man) shouted 'Allahu akbar' and had wires protruding from his clothes. That's why the police officer opened fire," a police official said.

French Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet later said the suicide belt the man was wearing was fake.

Journalist Anna Polonyi, who could see the outside of the police station from the window of her flat, posted photos on social media that showed what appeared to be a bomb-disposal robot beside the body of the man, who was wearing jeans and a grey coat.

Polonyi told Reuters that her sister, in the flat with her, had seen the incident. She said the police shouted at the man and that they shot him as he was running towards them.

In his commemoration speech, Hollande promised to equip police better to prevent further militant attacks. He also defended draconian security measures implemented since November that his Socialist government had once shunned.

Last year's attacks have boosted the popularity of the far-right, anti-immigrant National Front party ahead of a presidential election due in 2017.

"Terrorism has not stopped posing a threat to our country," Hollande said.

Since the November attacks, Paris has increased its efforts to strike militants in Syria and Iraq, becoming the second largest contributor to the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Full report at:

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2016/01/07/Paris-police-shoot-dead-knife-wielding-man.html

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Germany divided over expulsion of convicted asylum seekers

7 January 2016

German politicians waged a heated debate Thursday over whether to make it easier to expel convicted asylum seekers, after a series of sexual assaults on New Year’s Eve blamed on men of foreign origin.

Authorities have said there is no concrete proof that the perpetrators of the attacks in Cologne were asylum seekers, but critics of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door approach to those fleeing war have seized on the opportunity to draw a link.

Victims described their attackers as being “Arab or North African” in appearance, and 16 suspects are being investigated, but no one has yet been charged.

As outrage grew in Germany over the assaults, which included two rapes and several accounts of gropings, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said foreigners who commit serious crimes “must assume they will be deported”.

German law requires a conviction of at least three years in prison before an asylum seeker can be forcibly returned while his or her application for refuge is being examined.

The individual must also not face threats in his or her country of origin.

But de Maiziere said: “We will have to discuss if we should change” these rules that are in line with the UN Geneva Convention and European Human Rights Convention.

Stephan Mayer, a senior politician in the Christian Social Union – the Bavarian sister party of Merkel’s CDU – demanded that foreigners who receive a prison term, regardless of its length, be expelled.

Full report at:

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2016/01/07/Germany-divided-over-expulsion-of-convicted-asylum-seekers.html

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Russia rejects US timeline for Assad

07 January 2016

Russia has rejected the U.S. government's prediction that Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is due to leave his position in March 2017, President Putin's special envoy for the Middle East and Africa said Thursday.

"Maybe they have made some plans, but nothing was agreed on in Vienna, in fact nothing could be agreed on," special envoy Mihail Bogdanov said.

Bogdanov also reiterated unyielding Russian position that the future of Syria, including its leadership, will only be decided by "Syrian people".

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/europe/168186/france-sentences-top-isil-recruiter-to-15-years

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France sentences top ISIL recruiter to 15 years

08 January 2016

A Paris court has sentenced a French national accused of recruiting fighters for ISIL to 15 years in prison in absentia, French daily Le Monde reported Thursday.

Salim Benghalem, 35, who is accused of being linked to Charlie Hebdo and Nov.13 attackers, was sentenced to 15 years in absentia for his alleged role in recruiting French nationals for ISIL.

Benghalem, for whom an international arrest warrant is out, is believed to be in Syria and reportedly survived French airstrikes that targeted a ISIL training camp in Raqqa last October.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/europe/168192/france-sentences-top-isil-recruiter-to-15-years

 

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