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Islamic World News ( 17 March 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Islam World’s Fastest-Growing Religion, Says Pew Research Centre

New Age Islam News Bureau

17 March 2017

Protesters gather outside Terminal 4 at JFK airport in opposition to US president Donald Trump's proposed ban on immigration in Queens, New York City.


 Islam World’s Fastest-Growing Religion, Says Pew Research Centre

 Syria Mosque Airstrike Kills Dozens of Civilians near Aleppo

 India: Hindus Tell Muslims to Leave Village 'Immediately'

 Erdogan Accuses EU of Launching Anti-Islam 'Crusade'



North America

 Man Charged With Kicking, Yelling Racist Slurs At Muslim Employee at JFK Airport

 Muslim US Marine answers strangers’ questions in effort to fight Islamophobia

 US air strike killed militants in Idlib: US military

 US admits strike on ‘Al-Qaeda meeting’ in Syria amid reports of deadly mosque attack nearby

 US vows to continue sanctions on Moscow, demands ‘immediate end’ to Russian annexation of Crimea

 EU seeks UN probe into crimes against Myanmar Rohingya minorities


Arab World

 Popular Saudi Cleric Banned From Twitter by A Court

 Aleppo: Army Launches Massive Operations to Retake Deir Hafer

 Pro-Iraqi PMUs Kill, Wound 23 Islamic State Members in Samarra

 Syrian Army Using Russian Personnel Carriers in Anti-Terrorism Operations

 Damascus: Army Advances in Strategic Areas

 Yemen: 31 Somali refugees reportedly killed in helicopter raid

 China, Saudi Arabia sign $65 billion in cooperation deals

 US claims deadly north Syria strike, denies targeting mosque: Centcom

 Syrian Army Troops Win Back Control of 4 New Towns in Eastern Aleppo

 ISIL Oil Tankers in Deir Ezzur Blown Up by Army, Air Force

 Syrian Army Regains Control of New Region in Eastern Palmyra



 Triple Talaq: 1 Million Indian Muslims Sign Petition against Divorce Practice

 Security beefed up at Taj Mahal after reported threat from Islamic State

 Hizbul charade of ‘Kashmiri nationalism’ ends as it says pelt stones for Islam

 After Islamabad's reaction on Ajmer blast acquittal, India says Pak must not meddle in our

 internal affairs

 Mehbooba Mufti says PM Modi helping India evolve as ‘true federal structure’

 Nizamuddin Dargah head priest, nephew go missing: Sushma Swaraj takes up matter with




 Swiss Won’t Help Turkey Prosecute Erdoğan Critic

 Dutch mayor gives go ahead to pro-Turkish government rally amid row



 Salahuddin Asks Pakistan Not To Annex Gilgit-Baltistan

 Six Militants Killed In Cross-Border Assault in Khyber Agency

 Soldier slain in suicide attack on FC training centre near Charsadda

 China to 'authorise' Pakistan to build missiles, tanks, FC-1 Xiaolong combat aircraft

 Pak army chief on 1st visit to China meets top leaders

 World Bank approves $450 mn assistance to Pakistan

 Pakistan asks Facebook to block 'blasphemous content', seeks Interpol help to curb it online

 Pakistan successfully test-fires new surface-to-sea missile

 Pakistan wants criteria-based approach for NSG membership: Sartaj Aziz


South Asia

 Helmand Suicide Bomber Claims He Was Trained In Pakistan

 Bangladesh Militants in Suicide Blast As Police Move In

 Afghanistan: Taliban car bomb hits army base in Khost province

 Afghan army suffer casualties in Khost car bombing

 Developments reported as UK hosts meeting to defuse Pak-Afghan tensions


Southeast Asia

 Indonesia's Largest Islamic Organisation Former Chairman Safeguards Muslims From Influence Of Radicalism

 Most Populous Muslim Country Indonesia May Face Threat from Returning Islamic State




 Kenya Counter-Terror Work Creates Abuses, Rights Group Says

 South Sudan govt responsible for famine and food shortages, but still buying arms, says UN




 Will France, Germany And Italy Go The Dutch Way In Upcoming Elections?

 France school shooting: Four shot, 10 hurt, student arrested

 One hurt as letter bomb explodes at IMF’s Paris office

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Islam World’s Fastest-Growing Religion, Says Pew Research Centre

Friday 17 March 2017

DUBAI: Islam is the world’s fastest-growing religion, according to a recent Pew Research Centre study widely reported on this week.

The study estimates that from 2010 to 2050, Muslims will increase across the world by 73 percent while Christians are set to increase by 35 percent.

According to the projections, Islam is set to surpass Christianity as the world’s biggest religion by 2070.

This is because the Muslim population is growing faster than any other religious group, the report says.

Muslim women tend to have more children than members of other religious groups, the report said. Globally, each Muslim woman has an average of 3.1 children, compared with 2.3 for other religions combined, according to the research.

Islam also has the youngest set of adherents – in 2010, the median age was 23.

This means that a larger proportion of Muslims are nearing child-bearing age which is likely to fuel Muslim population growth.



Syria Mosque Airstrike Kills Dozens of Civilians near Aleppo

Mar 17, 2017

US military says it struck al-Qaida targets in Idlib but does not confirm reports of attack in Aleppo province

At least 42 people were killed and dozens more wounded on Thursday in airstrikes on a village mosque in northern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“The raids by unidentified warplanes targeted a mosque in Aleppo province during evening prayers, killing 42 people, most of them civilians,” said the head of the Britain-based Observatory, Rami Abdel Rahman.

Syria 'the most dangerous place on earth for healthcare providers' – study

“More than 100 people were wounded,” he said, adding that many were still trapped under the collapsed mosque in the village of Al-Jineh, just over 30km west of Aleppo.

The village is held by rebel and Islamist groups, but no jihadist factions are present.

There were reports the US had carried out the airstrike, which hit the mosque but there was no confirmation from either the Pentagon or Centcom.

Instead Centcom sent out a press release saying the US had carried out a strike on al-Qaida targets in Idlib province in which “several terrorists” were killed. Despite repeated requests for clarification by the Guardian, none was forthcoming.

At the site of the mosque attack, rescue workers struggled to pull survivors from rubble, and dozens of residents were still unaccounted for, the observatory said.

Abu Muhammed, a village resident, told Agence France-Presse he “heard powerful explosions when the mosque was hit. It was right after the prayer at a time where there is usually religious lessons for men in it”.

“I saw 15 bodies and lots of body parts in the debris when I arrived. We couldn’t even recognise some of the bodies,” he added.

An AFP reporter at the scene said rescuers earlier left the wreckage site but returned when they heard moaning coming from the debris.

Footage published by Halab Today, an online media group focused on news in Aleppo, showed piles of rubble where the mosque allegedly stood.

More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began six years ago with anti-government protests.

A cessation of hostilities was brokered by rebel backer Turkey and regime ally Russia in December, but violence has continued across much of the country.

The observatory, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria for its information, said it determined whose planes carry out raids according to type, location, flight patterns and munitions used. But the skies over Aleppo province are busy, with Syrian regime and Russian warplanes as well as US-led coalition aircraft carrying out strikes.

Russia began a military intervention in Syria in September 2015, and in the past has dismissed allegations of civilian deaths in its strikes.

The US-led coalition, meanwhile, has been bombing jihadist groups in Syria since 2014.

The US-led coalition fighting Islamic State said this month that its raids in Iraq and Syria had unintentionally killed at least 220 civilians since 2014. Critics say the real number is much higher.



India: Hindus Tell Muslims to Leave Village 'Immediately'

March 17, 2017

Shehab Khan

Written in Hindi, the posters were found in more than two dozen locations in the town of Jianagla

Posters calling on Muslim residents to “leave immediately” have resulted in a police investigation in a village in Uttar Pradesh, India.

Written in Hindi, the posters were found in more than two dozen locations in the town of Jianagla.

They warned of “dire consequences” if the estimated 200 Muslim residents in the village do not all leave by the end of the year.

Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have just secured a substantial victory in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections and the posters featured had the name of one of their MPs.

"With BJP in power in Uttar Pradesh, Hindus of the village would do what US president Trump was doing to Muslims in that country," the poster reportedly said, according to the Times of India.

The police have removed the majority of the posters and five men from the village have been hauled in for questioning.

There are approximately 2,000 Hindus and 200 Muslims living in Jianagla. Indian media reported that neither group was happy about the incident.



Erdogan Accuses EU of Launching Anti-Islam 'Crusade'

Mar 16, 2017

ISTANBUL: Turkey's president on Thursday accused the EU's top court of starting a "crusade" against Islam after a ruling allowing European companies to ban employees from wearing religious or political symbols including the Islamic headscarf.

"The European Union's court, The European Court of Justice, my esteemed brothers, have started a crusade struggle against the (Muslim) crescent," Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a televised speech,

"Where is freedom of religion?" he said, referring to the court ruling this week.

"Shame on your European Union acquis!" Erdogan said, referring to EU law. "Shame on your values. Shame on your law and justice!"

"Europe is swiftly rolling back to the days before World War II," he added.

The European Court of Justice said it does not constitute "direct discrimination" if a firm has an internal rule banning the wearing of "any political, philosophical or religious sign".

The response came as Turkey is locked in a mighty row with Germany, the Netherlands and other EU states over the blocking of Turkish officials from holding rallies abroad in the campaign for a referendum on expanding Erdogan's powers.

Turkey last month said it was lifting a historic ban on female officers wearing the Islamic headscarf in the country's officially secular armed forces, the last institution where the wearing of the garment was forbidden.



North America


Man charged with kicking, yelling racist slurs at Muslim employee at JFK airport

Mar 17, 2017

A traveller has been indicted on charges of unlawful imprisonment and aggravated harassment, after he went on a racist tirade, yelled racist slurs and even kicking a Muslim Delta employee in the leg at the at John F Kennedy Airport.

Robin Rhodes, 57, who was returning in January from a trip to Aruba, also faces hate crime charges, reports CNN. He was released on $50,000 bond and ordered to return to court in June. He faces up to four years in prison.

Rhodes was waiting for a connecting flight to Worcester, Massachusetts, when he entered the Delta Sky Lounge at JFK. He came up to the office of the employee, who has not been identified, and said, “Are you [expletive deleted] sleeping? Are you praying? What are you doing?”, said Queens district attorney Richard Brown.

The criminal complaint states that Rhodes punched the door, which hit the back of the employee’s chair. The employee then asked Rhodes as to what she had done to him and he replied, “You did nothing but I am going to kick your [expletive deleted] a**,” the complaint said.

Rhodes then kicked the employee in the leg, after which she tried to get away, but Rhodes persisted, kicking the door and stepping into her office and blocking her from escaping.

Another person, also not identified, tried to calm Rhodes and moved him away from the door, while the employee ran out of the office to the lounge’s front desk.

Rhodes allegedly followed the employee, at one point getting down on his knees, bowing down in imitation of a Muslim praying.

He shouted, “[Expletive] Islam, [expletive] ISIS, Trump is here now. He will get rid of all of you. You can ask Germany, Belgium and France about these kind of people. You will see what happens.”

According to the charges, the victim suffered substantial pain and redness in her right leg and was placed in fear of physical injury, annoyance and alarm.

In the wake of the attack, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed the Transportation Worker Protection Act, which would make any assault against an airport worker a felony, punishable by a maximum of seven years in prison.



Muslim US Marine answers strangers’ questions in effort to fight Islamophobia

March 17, 2017

A Muslim man is on a mission to counter misconceptions about his faith. His approach is simple – travelling the country, challenging strangers to ask him anything.

Mansoor Shams, who is also a former US Marine, currently resides in Maryland. He is travelling across the country, standing on street corners in cities and towns, carrying a sign reading: “I’m Muslim and a US Marine, ask anything.”

10 ways to enter the United States if you’re a Muslim

He hopes to educate Americans about Islam and counter bigotry.

“The message is so important for people to see considering what’s going on in our political environment,” Shams said, speaking to The Huffington Post. “There’s a consistent lack of knowledge and understanding of people who follow my faith.”

Shams started off with his project in the days after Donald Trump’s inauguration. There was a spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes the days following the inauguration.

“There’s no denial it’s about Trump ― his candidacy relied on Islamophobic concepts,” Shams said.

“I guess what I want people to know, a guy who looks like me ― brown skin, black beard, the typical stereotype ― is not a terrorist. He could even be a US Marine!”

Shams has currently travelled to Texas, Colorado, New York and Washington – his goal is to cover all 50 US states.

So far, Shams says he has been asked a variety of questions ranging from “How are you?” to “Are you American or Sharia law?”

“It’s a lack of awareness, lack of knowledge,” Shams said. “I respond, ‘Sharia law, do you know what Sharia law means? It’s a moral code, it tells me to be nice to you, to be a good person, that’s what Sharia law is.’”

Shams believes his position as a Muslim who served in the Marines puts him in a position of privilege that he can use to counter anti-Muslim bigots.

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“People are listening to me because I’m a Marine who served. I get that I earn a level of respect and trust where they can hear what I have to say,” Mansoor said. “I would love if the world we lived in was one where it wouldn’t matter whether I served.”

To help fund his travels, Shams has set up a GoFundMe page.

However, he says “No matter what I get from the funding, I’m going to do this. The need is greater than any dollar amount. I feel like I’m literally serving my country again ― a country that’s clearly quite divided these days ― by uniting us through conversation and getting out of my comfort zone.”



US air strike killed militants in Idlib: US military

Mar 17, 2017

WASHINGTON: An air strike carried out by US forces on Thursday in Idlib, Syria, killed several al Qaeda militants, US Central Command said in a statement.

"Idlib has been a significant safe haven for al Qaeda in recent years," the statement said, making no mention of civilian casualties.

On Thursday, a Britain-based war monitor said warplanes struck a mosque in the rebel-held village of al-Jina, southwest of Atarib near Aleppo, killing at least 42 people and wounding dozens.



US admits strike on ‘Al-Qaeda meeting’ in Syria amid reports of deadly mosque attack nearby

17 Mar, 2017

Dozens of worshipers have reportedly been killed in an airstrike on a mosque in Syria’s Aleppo province. While the Pentagon only admitted to striking terrorists several miles away in Idlib, some reports suggest US missile debris were recovered from the mosque’s rubble.

Details of the strike on the Al-Jinah mosque are scarce, but over 50 people might have been killed in the incident, according to various reports. Images from the scene shared on social media show the wide-scale destruction.

SW #Aleppo: multpile airstrikes killed over 57 civilians in Al-Jinah's Mosque. Rescue teams working to extract people from rubble.

Video showing scale of devastation and huge crater just outside the Mosque of Al-Jinah in SW #Aleppo countryside.

None of the forces present in the area have taken responsibility for the strike yet. Both Russian and Syrian planes in addition to American-led air power are conducting operations against terrorist units in the area.

At least 58 killed more than 100 wounded after an air raid on mosque during evening prayers in #Atarib near #Aleppo #Syria #WarCrimes

Some rushed to blame Moscow or Damascus for the carnage, after activists of the so-called White Helmets rescue organization and no less the notorious UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights shared first images from the scene.

Syrian civil defence volunteers dig through the rubble of a mosque in the village of Al-Jineh in Aleppo province March 16, 2017. © Omar haj kadour / AFP

"We did not target a mosque, but the building that we did target -- which was where the meeting took place -- is about 50 feet (15 meters) from a mosque that is still standing," said Colonel John J. Thomas, spokesman for US Central Command according to AFP.

Journalist Samuel Oakford, who was previously UN correspondent at Vice News, said that the US central Command confirmed it had carried out a strike in relative close proximity to the mosque.

“US official says that they were targeting an 'Al Qaeda meeting place" that was across from the mosque in Aleppo. 'We took the strike'”, he tweeted. Earlier, the reporter claimed the US Central Command told him the Americans conducted a strike on a target just several miles away, in the bordering Idlib province, and was looking into the Aleppo suburb mosque strike.

US official says that they were targeting an "Al Qaeda meeting place" that was across from the mosque in Aleppo. "We took the strike."

CENTCOM spokesperson, Maj. Josh Jacques, told the London-based Airwars monitoring group that the target was “assessed to be a meeting place for al Qaeda, and we took the strike.”

“It happened to be across the street from where there is a mosque,” said Jacques, specifying that the mosque was not the target and that it wasn’t hit directly.

Eyewitness: 7 missiles were heard. Explanation for discrepancy between 52kg missile (small) / destruction (large)? …

But geolocation shows building was in Aleppo gov (though 4km from Idlib gov). Why?

“To be clear: this was a unilateral US strike, not part of anti-ISIS Coalition activities,” Oakford emphasized in another tweet.

Meanwhile Sakir Khader, who identifies himself as a journalist with a focus on Syria, Turkey, and the wider Middle East, posted a picture of the missile debris, which he claims to have come from the rubble of the destroyed mosque.

#Syria: At least 75 civilians killed, tens wounded in a heavy Russian airstrike on a mosque in the rebel-held village of al-Jinā, w-Aleppo.

Photo shows the remnants of a bomb used in the airstrike on the ‘Umar ibn Al-Khaṭṭāb mosque in the rebel-held village of al-Jinā, w-Aleppo.

While the location and authenticity of the photo are yet to be independently investigated, the picture shows latin inscription on a metal plate alleged to be a piece of the missile.

Neither the Russian nor the US militaries, as well as Damascus, have yet to officially comment on the incident.



US vows to continue sanctions on Moscow, demands ‘immediate end’ to Russian annexation of Crimea

"Crimea is a part of Ukraine. The United States again condemns the Russian occupation of Crimea and calls for its immediate end," said acting US State Department spokesman Mark Toner.

March 17, 2017

The United States has reiterated its condemnation of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, vowing to maintain related sanctions until Moscow returns the strategic Black Sea peninsula to Ukraine.

“Crimea is a part of Ukraine. The United States again condemns the Russian occupation of Crimea and calls for its immediate end,” said acting US State Department spokesman Mark Toner in a statement on Thursday marking the three-year anniversary of Moscow’s takeover of Crimea.

“Our Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine.”

Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula following a military intervention and a hastily organised referendum, which was rejected by the international community.

“The United States does not recognise Russia’s ‘referendum’ of March 16, 2014, nor its attempted annexation of Crimea and continued violation of international law,” said Toner.

“We once again reaffirm our commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

In the statement the US also called on Russia to “cease its attempts to suppress freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, association, and religion” among Crimean Tatars, ethnic Ukrainians, pro-Ukrainian activists and journalists.

Russia’s move to annex Crimea shattered ties between the two ex-Soviet neighbours and sent relations between Moscow and the West plummeting to their lowest point since the Cold War.

The US and the European Union reacted to the annexation of Crimea by imposing economic sanctions on Russia and Putin’s inner circle.



EU seeks UN probe into crimes against Myanmar Rohingya minorities

March 17th, 2017

A UN report last month, based on interviews with survivors in Bangladesh, said the Myanmar army and police had committed mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingya.

The European Union called on Thursday for the United Nations to send an international fact-finding mission urgently to Myanmar to investigate allegations of torture, rapes and executions by the military against the Rohingya Muslim minority. A UN report last month, based on interviews with survivors in Bangladesh, said the Myanmar army and police had committed mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingya in a campaign that may amount to crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. The EU draft resolution, submitted to the UN Human Rights Council, strengthens language in an earlier draft circulating that stopped short of demanding an international probe into alleged atrocities.

The 47-member forum, currently holding a four-week session, is to vote on resolutions from March 23-24. If adopted, the Council would “dispatch urgently an independent international fact-finding mission” to Myanmar to investigate violations “with a view to ensure full accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims”. Some 75,000 people have fled Rakhine state to Bangladesh since Myanmar’s military began a security operation last October in response to what it says was an attack by Rohingya insurgents on border posts in which nine police officers were killed.

The UN Security Council will be briefed behind closed doors on Friday on the situation in Rakhine state, at the request of Britain, diplomats said in New York. The EU resolution calls on the government of Aung San Suu Kyi to “fully cooperate with the fact-finding mission, including by making available the findings of the domestic investigations”. Activists say that national efforts have not been credible and have called for an international inquiry. Myanmar has denied almost all allegations of human rights abuses in northern Rakhine and says a lawful counterinsurgency campaign is under way.

Yanghee Lee, UN special rapporteur on Myanmar, told the rights council on Monday that the government may be using bureaucratic means to get rid of the Rohingya. She cited dismantling of homes and use of a household survey whereby those absent may be struck off the list that could be the only legal proof of their status. A panel led by former UN chief Kofi Annan said earlier on Thursday that Myanmar should immediately start allowing Rohingya to return home and ultimately close rundown camps for the displaced.



Popular Saudi Cleric Banned From Twitter by A Court

Mar 17, 2017

RIYADH: A Saudi Islamic leader with more than two million Twitter followers has been banned from writing by a court that convicted him of jeopardizing public order.

Awad al-Qarni, previously accused of links to the banned Muslim Brotherhood, was also fined 100,000 riyals ($27,000), Okaz newspaper reported on its website late Thursday.

It did not name the “famous preacher” but Qarni himself confirmed the verdict on his @awadalqarni Twitter account late Thursday.

“I am prevented from writing” on the account, he wrote, before issuing a Twitter message early Friday thanking his followers.

Qarni was “one of the key clerics of the Sahwa movement,” British scholar Toby Matthieson has written.

The Sahwa emerged in Saudi Arabia in the 1960s and 70s as “a modern form of Islamic activism” which had wide impact and whose founders were exiled Muslim Brothers, according to another expert, Stephane Lacroix.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have all declared the Muslim Brotherhood to be a “terrorist group”.

Okaz said Riyadh’s Specialized Criminal Court, which handles “terrorism” cases, convicted the preacher Thursday of spreading content on Twitter which “could jeopardize public order and provoke public opinion.”

It said the content “could affect the relationship of the people with the leadership, and the relationship of Saudi Arabia with other countries.”

There were no further details but Okaz said Qarni was tried without having been arrested.

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“We have appealed the case,” Qarni said on Twitter.

Lacroix, of Sciences Po university in Paris, told AFP in December that changes late last year to the kingdom’s highest religious authority confirmed an “anti-Sahwa, anti-Muslim Brotherhood” trend.

In 2010, Qarni was charged in absentia by an Egyptian court with funding the Muslim Brotherhood.



Aleppo: Army Launches Massive Operations to Retake Deir Hafer

Thu Mar 16, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- A military source dismissed reports by dissidents-affiliated websites on ISIL's surprise attack against the Syrian government troops near Deir Hafer and the army's withdrawal from Hamima al-Kabira and Hamima al-Saqira regions, stressing that the strategic town will be liberated soon.

The source said on Thursday that the Syrian army has launched massive operations against the ISIL positions near Deir Hafer in the Eastern parts of Aleppo province, adding that at present, heavy clashes are underway between the Syrian soldiers and the ISIL terrorists in the region.

He added that the Syrian fighter jets are also repeatedly pounding ISIL convoys in the region to drive them out towards al-Tabaqa city in Raqqa province.

The Syrian army forces warded off ISIL's offensive South of the Air Force Academy in Aleppo on Wednesday, and inflicted large casualties on the terrorists.

The army units engaged in heavy fighting with ISIL terrorists in several fronts along the road connecting the village of a-Qatibeh Um Arkileh village.

The ISIL suffered tens of casualties and its military hardware sustained major damage in the failed attack.

In relevant developments in the province on Tuesday, the army units engaged in another round of intense battle with ISIL West of Deir Hafer and managed to recapture Hamimeh al-Saqireh settlement, killing and wounding a number of terrorists.

In the meantime, the Syrian Air Force carried out several combat flights over the positions and movements of ISIL in the Western direction of Deir Hafer, killing tens of terrorists and destroying several positions and military vehicles.

A local source said that the army's control over Hamimeh al-Kabireh and Hamimeh al-Saqireh reinvigorated security to Kuweires airbase.



Pro-Iraqi PMUs Kill, Wound 23 Islamic State Members in Samarra

Mar 17, 2017

By Mohamed Mostafa

Salahuddin ( Pro-Iraqi government paramilitary forces killed 23 Islamic State members on Friday during an offensive in Samarra, Salahuddin, as the troops continue securing areas recaptured from the extremist group in the province.

Al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces) said they killed seven IS fighters and wounded 16 others on the dawn of Friday in an offensive at Jalam Samarra region.

Samarra, Salahuddin, Iraq (Google Maps)

Areas between Salahuddin and neighboring provinces have seen an increase in attacks by IS on security and PMU deployments since the government launched a major campaign in October to retake Mosul, Islamic State’s biggest fastness in Iraq. Al-Hashd has actively engaged with government forces in securing recaptured areas and searching for dormant IS cells in Salahuddin and other provinces.

Observers believe attacks by Islamic State fighters on provinces outside Mosul aim at distracting security focus on the city and to offset losses the group has been sustaining there.

Generals from the Iraqi forces and from the allied U.S.-led international alliance have stressed that Islamic State began to weaken, with many several senior leaders killed or escaped, the group isolated inside Mosul and deprived of its supply routes from Syria.

It is expected that the Iraqi government, once done with the campaign in Mosul, will move on towards smaller IS pockets in Kirkuk, Anbar and Salahuddin.



Syrian Army Using Russian Personnel Carriers in Anti-Terrorism Operations

Thu Mar 16, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Russian media reported that the Syrian army forces are using the Soviet-era BTR-152 armored personnel carriers in their operations against the terrorist groups.

The Arabic website of Sputnik news agency reported that there are an unspecified number of 500 BTR-152 vehicles in Syria now and the army is using them in anti-terrorism operations in different parts of the country.

According to Sputnik, the Syrian army had never made use of this type of armored vehicles before the start of its campaign against terrorism.

Meantime, reports said earlier this month that the Syrian army has optimized its T-72 battlefield tanks to resist against an anti-tank missiles.

According to the Arabic-language al-Hadath news website, an optimized T-72 tank was hit by an anti-tank missile in a test field in Damascus province, but the tank remained unharmed and continued operations.

Diyana Mikhailov, a military expert, said that the T-72 tank merely sustained some small damage during the test, adding that the optimization process was successful.

The Syrian army had deployed the Russian T-90 tanks against the terrorists in Aleppo Front in Northern Syria in February 2016 after the T-72 tanks failed to resist against the terrorists' anti-tank missiles.

The T-90 and its outstanding capability to destroy incoming TOW and M79 missiles appears to be perfect for a theater of war like the one in Syria.

In 4 and a half years of conflict, more than 9,000 BGM-71E3B TOW and M79 anti-tank systems have been introduced in the country. Their capability to easily penetrate T-55 and T-72 tanks was the main reason why the Syrian Arab Army has had so many problems gaining ground in Aleppo province prior to using T-90 tanks.

Now, after optimization process, the Syrian army troops will be able to use the T-72 tanks again.



Damascus: Army Advances in Strategic Areas

Thu Mar 16, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army troops continued military operations against al-Nusra (Fatah al-Sham) Front in the Northeastern parts of Damascus, and advanced in strategic areas.

The army forces, supported by artillery and missile units, clashed with the terrorists in Barzeh and Tishrin farms, and regained control of large areas from the Western parts of Damascus-Homs highway to the Eastern parts of al-Qaboun and Damascus city.

Meantime, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that by advancing in more areas, the Syrian army gained its primary military objective in the region which is laying full siege on the Eastern parts of Damascus province, including al-Qaboun, Tishrin and Barzeh.

Relevant reports said on Wednesday that the Syrian army troops fended off a heavy attack of al-Nusra Front on their positions in the Northeastern outskirts of Damascus city, killing or wounding a large number of terrorists.

The al-Nusra terrorists launched their attack on Tishrin district's police building, media center building and the district's hospital.

The terrorists started their offensive with RPG rockets, while the group's snipers were also targeting army soldiers, followed by a raid. But they sustained heavy casualties and pulled back after facing tough resistance and the powerful defense of the Syrian army.

Army reports indicated death of, at least, three al-Nusra snipers in the clashes.

In the meantime, an informed source denied terrorists' claims about their advances in Barzeh farms, and underlined that the army men foiled terrorists' plan to penetrate into Barzeh farms via their tunnels, killing four terrorists.



Yemen: 31 Somali refugees reportedly killed in helicopter raid

It was not immediately clear who carried out the attack

March 17, 2017

Thirty-one Somali refugees were killed off the coast of Yemen late on Thursday when a helicopter attacked the boat they were travelling in, a local coast guard in the Houthi-controlled Hodeidah area said.

Coast guard Mohamed al-Alay told Reuters the refugees, carrying official UNHCR documents, were on their way from Yemen to Sudan when they were attacked by an Apache helicopter near the Bab al-Mandeb strait.

A sailor who had been operating the boat, Ibrahim Ali Zeyad, said 80 refugees had been rescued after the incident.

It was not immediately clear who carried out the attack.

Hodeidah on the Red Sea is controlled by Iran-allied Houthi fighters who in 2014 overran Yemen’s capital Sanaa and forced the Saudi-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to flee into exile.

A Saudi-led coalition was formed in 2015 to fight the Houthis and troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh who have fired missiles into neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

The Bab al-Mandeb is a strategic waterway at the foot of the Red Sea through which nearly 4 million barrels of oil are shipped daily to Europe, the United States and Asia.



China, Saudi Arabia sign $65 billion in cooperation deals

In total, 35 separate projects were signed in the agreement between the two countries whose actual value would be much less once projects begin

March 17, 2017

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman met with China’s premier on Friday, a day after the two nations signed a memorandum of understanding on investment cooperation valued at $65 billion.

The landmark agreement aims to boost joint efforts in fields including energy, investment, finance, culture and aerospace, part of Saudi Arabia’s drive to develop a growth strategy less dependent on oil.

Beijing meanwhile is rolling out a massive trade and investment initiative across Central Asia and the Middle East called “One Belt, One Road” that sees the desert kingdom as a regional linchpin.

Despite the eye-catching sum noted in the memo, the actual value of such commitments is usually much smaller once projects begin.

Saudi Arabia is China’s biggest supplier of crude oil and the kingdom’s state-owned oil producer, Aramco, is a partner with state-owned China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. The two operate a refinery in Fujian province along with other Chinese projects.

The signing of the agreement, which involves 35 separate projects, followed talks Thursday between Salman and President Xi Jinping, during which the Chinese leader said results of their burgeoning cooperation had already “surpassed our expectations.”

Security ties between the two have also grown significantly, with the Saudi air force deploying Chinese unmanned attack drones and the two militaries holding joint counter-terrorism exercises in western China. Chinese navy vessels have also visited the Saudi port of Jeddah as part of increasingly active maneuvers in the Gulf of Aden.

The 81-year-old Salman’s visit is part of a monthlong swing through Asia. Accompanied by a 1,500-strong retinue of businessmen, princes and support staff in close to a dozen aircraft, he has already visited Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, and travels next to the Indian Ocean island nation of the Maldives.



US claims deadly north Syria strike, denies targeting mosque: Centcom

Mar 17, 2017

The US military said Thursday it carried out a deadly air strike on an Al Qaeda meeting in northern Syria and would investigate reports that more than 40 civilians were killed when a mosque was struck in the raid.

“We did not target a mosque, but the building that we did target which was where the meeting took place is about 50 feet (15 metres) from a mosque that is still standing,” said Colonel John J. Thomas, spokesman for US Central Command (Centcom).

According to a Centcom statement, “US forces conducted an airstrike on an Al Qaeda in Syria meeting location March 16 in Idlib, Syria, killing several terrorists.”

The Centcom spokesman later clarified that the precise location of the strike was unclear but that it was the same one widely reported to have targeted the village mosque in Al-Jineh, in Aleppo province.

“We are going to look into any allegations of civilian casualties in relation to this strike,” he added, when asked about reports from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that 42 people had died, most of them civilians.

“We take that very seriously,” he said, adding that Centcom had not received any direct reports of civilian casualties.

Thomas said the unilateral US strike “destroyed one half of a building in which the meeting was occurring”. Al-Jineh is held by rebel and Islamist groups, but no jihadist factions are thought to be present.

The Britain-based Observatory said that raids by unidentified warplanes had targeted the village mosque during evening prayers.

It said more than 100 people were wounded, with many still trapped under the collapsed mosque.



Syrian Army Troops Win Back Control of 4 New Towns in Eastern Aleppo

Thu Mar 16, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army, supported by fighter jets, continued advances in Eastern Aleppo, and regained control of four new towns in the Southern parts of Kuweires airbase.

The Syrian army units continued to advance from the Southern parts of Hamimah al-Saqirah town and retook control of Tal Ayoub and Um Zalilah towns.

They also heavily clashed with the ISIL terrorists from al-Qatibah town and seized back control of al-Karin and Hazazah towns in the Northern parts of Sabkha al-Jaboul.

Meantime, the Syrian air force launched airstrikes against the ISIL bases and moves in Sharimeh, Khasaf, Um Zalilah and Tal Ayoub, killing dozens of terrorists and blowing up their military equipment.

A military source said that the Syrian troops have inflicted tens of losses on ISIL during the operations, and added that the terrorists have lost control of the towns of al-Asemiyeh, Tal Ahmar and Rasm al-Abad in military terms.

In a relevant development on Wednesday, the Syrian army forces warded off the ISIL's offensive South of the Air Force Academy, killing tens of terrorists and wounding many more.

The army units engaged in heavy fighting with ISIL terrorists in several fronts along the road connecting the village of a-Qatibeh Um Arkileh village.

The ISIL suffered tens of casualties and its military hardware sustained major damage in the failed attack.



ISIL Oil Tankers in Deir Ezzur Blown Up by Army, Air Force

Thu Mar 16, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian air force and army launched heavy strikes on ISIL positions and moves near Deir Ezzur city, destroying several oil tankers and bases of the terrorists and killing tens of them.

The Syrian fighter jets targeted the ISIL moves near al-Maqaber (cemetery), Talat al-Rawad and al-Mayadeen road in Deir Ezzur, inflicting casualties on the militants and smashing several oil tankers.

The Syrian army's artillery units also pounded the ISIL moves and positions near Deir Ezzur city, al-Tharda, al-Makbat and al-Maqaber regions, killing and wounding dozens of the terrorists.

Meantime, the army soldiers launched anti-ISIL operations in the Southern areas of Brigade 137 region in Southwestern Deir Ezzur, destroying three of their machinegun and killing and wounding several militants.

On Wednesday, the Syrian air force carried out repeated strikes against ISIL's gathering centers and movements in different parts of Deir Ezzur city, destroying several command posts and killing a large number of terrorists.

The army aircraft pounded the defense lines of ISIL in Tal (hill) al-Mat'taweleh, Tal Milad and its Northern part, Southeastern and Eastern Tal Khanzir, hills of Jalili and Aloush, Tisir hill in al-Thardah mountain, al-Ma'amel, al-Makbat and al-Karfanat regions, killing and wounding a large number of terrorists and destroying their command posts.

ISIL's vehicles and military equipment were destroyed in the air raids in large scale. 

Reports said earlier today that the army men engaged in fierce clashes with ISIL in areas surrounding Deir Ezzur's airbase, al-Jafrah village and al-Fouj region and fended off their attacks, killing and wounding a large number of them.

The army tanks meantime targeted ISIL's positions in al-Maqaber (cemetery) region, killing at least six terrorists.

Also, the army aircraft pounded ISIL's movements in several round of attacks in al-Omal and al-Sina'ah neighborhoods, Tal (hill) 17, al-Maqaber region and Jonayd division region, killing and wounding a number of militants.



Syrian Army Regains Control of New Region in Eastern Palmyra

Thu Mar 16, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army, supported by the air force, continued military operations to liberate the strategic oil fields in Eastern Homs and won back control of a new region in Eastern Palmyra (Tadmur).

The Syrian army units retook control of al-Hari Castle after heavy clashes with the ISIL terrorists in Northeastern Palmyra and killing tens of militants.

Also, the Syrian fighter jets launched repeated attacks against ISIL's moves and gathering centers near al-Sukhnah, Arak, Jabajab Hamad and adjacent areas as well as the Southern parts of al-Sawanah in Eastern Homs.

The airstrikes destroyed three ISIL bases in the region, smashed tens of their vehicles and killed a large number of terrorists.

Well-placed military sources said on Wednesday that the Syrian army troops continued their anti-terrorism operation in the Eastern suburbs of Palmyra, stretching their chain of security around the ancient city.

The sources said that the army men stormed ISIL's defense lines in the Eastern countryside of Palmyra and managed to take back Wadi (desert) al-Ahmar 18km far away from the ancient city.

They added that the army's engineering units started defusing landmines planted by the ISIL in Wadi al-Ahmar (3km to al-Sawameh region).

The army also started to fortify its positions in Wadi al-Ahmar to make it ready for the next round of operation against the terrorists.

The sources underlined that with army's control over Wadi al-Ahmar, security has been restored to areas 18km away from Palmyra.

Other sources said that the army men also drove ISIL out of several positions in Sabkhat (lagoon) al-Mouh and al-Sukra region South of Palmyra.

Tens of ISIL members have been killed and the remaining pockets of them have fled into the depth of Badiyeh in the army's attack, they added.






Triple talaq: 1 million Indian Muslims sign petition against divorce practice

March 17, 2017

By Manveena Suri, CNN

New Delhi (CNN)Over a million Muslims from across India, the majority of them women, have signed a petition to end the controversial divorce practice of triple talaq.

Triple talaq is an Islamic practice where a man can divorce his wife by saying "talaq," the Arabic word for divorce, three times.

The petition was started by the Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM), an Islamic organization affiliated with the right wing Hindu group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

The RSS is linked to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

"For a long time when we were not in the government, the BJP had, and still has, the ideology that gender equality is a must, irrespective of religion or caste," BJP official Sidharth Amarnath Singh told CNN.

The positive response to the petition has been linked with BJP's recent success in state elections in northern Uttar Pradesh.

"The fact that the BJP was able to get Muslim votes in Uttar Pradesh ... suggest that the party and the central government need to heed the voice of the Muslim women," MRM national coordinator Mohammad Afzal told magazine India Today.

Last week, Modi's party won in a landslide, taking 312 seats out of a total of 403, the biggest majority for any party in Uttar Pradesh since 1980.

According to the most recent census, Muslims make up 18.5% of Uttar Pradesh's 200 million-strong population, the largest state in India.

Elected as a lawmaker for Allahabad West, a constituency where 90,000 of the total 400,000 voters are Muslim, Singh noted that although Muslim women may have supported the BJP, it didn't necessarily bring the party more votes.

"The women didn't come out, and I was told subsequently, that the reason they didn't was because they believed in stopping triple talaq," he said. "Generally it's been that they vote against the BJP so if you don't vote for anybody, it's a plus for us."

India is home to one of the largest Muslim populations in the world, but unlike most Muslim-majority countries, it has not banned the practice of triple talaq. In Pakistan and Indonesia, the practice has been outlawed for years.

According to the Quran, a man must consider his decision for a period of three months after he initially declared talaq. A divorce is only granted after the remaining two "talaqs" are stated.

The three-month period should allow for introspection and counseling between the couple and their families. The reality, however, is that a woman can be forced out of her home with little notice. Increasingly, it's even being delivered by phone, email or text.

In recent years, the movement against triple talaq has picked up and India's Supreme Court is due to begin ruling on its constitutionality later this month.

Modi has also spoken out against the practice, saying India cannot allow the lives of Muslim women to be ruined by three words said on the phone.



Security beefed up at Taj Mahal after reported threat from Islamic State

The annual Taj Mahotsava is set to begin on Saturday.

March 17, 2017

Police on Friday patrolled the Yamuna river bank here and mounted extra vigil after a website threatened to target the Taj Mahal, the 17th century monument of love. An official said the information was passed on to the police and intelligence agencies on Thursday after which several teams combed the area and stepped up vigil. Archaeological Survey of India and senior police officials, however, tried to play down the threat, saying the security arrangements were routine.

Local newspapers have published a photo from the website showing a graphics of the Taj Mahal with a terrorist standing alongside holding what looks like a weapon.

The world heritage monument is visited by over six million tourists annually.

Senior Superintendent of Police Preetinder Singh said police teams were on alert and a close watch was being kept on crowds.

The internal security in the Taj Mahal is provided by the Central Industrial Security Force. The Uttar Pradesh Police and Provincial Armed Constabulary man the outer posts. SWOT commandos have been put in charge at vantage points. Mock drills are being conducted every few hours to test the state of preparedness.

Outside the 500 metre security ring, police teams are keeping a strict watch on the movement of vehicles both on the western gate parking and the Shilpgram parking towards the eastern gate, the sources said.

Superintendent of Police Sushil Dhule and a team of the bomb disposal and dog squads on Thursday evening visited the entire area around the Taj Mahal.

The number of visitors to the Taj Mahal is on the rise. The annual Taj Mahotsava is set to begin on Saturday.



Hizbul charade of ‘Kashmiri nationalism’ ends as it says pelt stones for Islam

Mar 17, 2017

M Saleem Pandit

SRINAGAR: Hizbul Mujahideen militant Zakir Rashid Bhat, who took over from Burhan Wani who was killed in an encounter last July+ , has urged Kashmiri Muslim youths to pelt stones at security forces in the name of Islam, rubbishing Hurriyat's claim that the militant movement was "secular" or for "freedom" and Kashmiri "nationalism".

In a 12-minute video, circulated widely on social media, Zakir Rashid Bhat, alias Zakir Musa, is seen preaching violence in the name of Islam.

The terror outfit also separately directed voters to boycott the upcoming bypolls for two parliamentary seats and panchayat polls in the Valley.

"When you pelt stones+ , don't think you're helping just one Musa or one mujahideen. You must do it to help and protect Islam," Musa said. "We'll hoist Islam's flag in our Kashmir one day," he proclaimed.

Pelt stones for Islam! Will our mullahs issue a fatwa on this militant for saying so? No they won't, because any crime in the name of Islam is good and justifiable for them.

Wearing an Afghan cap, a beige coat over a brown sweater, Musa appeared to be imitating Wani's strategy of using IS-style videos and social media propaganda to lure youth into militancy.

Calling Kashmiri informers and J&K police "kafir" (infidel), Musa said both deserve to be killed. "We're fighting for Islam. We want to be martyrs for our Islam."



After Islamabad's reaction on Ajmer blast acquittal, India says Pak must not meddle in our internal affairs

Mar 17, 2017

NEW DELHI: Taking exception to Pakistan's statements on the acquittal of Swami Aseemanand in the Ajmer blasts case, India has said it rejected Islamabad's effort to meddle in India's internal affairs and did not need any self-serving sermons from the neighbour.

Pakistan's attempts to link the verdict in the Ajmer case to the Samjhauta train blasts case was completely untenable. "We also totally reject the completely untenable link sought to be established by Pakistan with any other matter currently under purview of the Indian courts," the ministry of external affairs said on Thursday.

MEA spokesperson Gopal Baglay said, "Pakistan is well advised to refrain from interfering in internal affairs of India in any form; not to resort to denial from the reality of terrorism emanating from its soil; and take action to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism in the territory under its control and bring to justice the masterminds in its territory who commit, promote and support terrorism against its neighbours."

Baglay's remarks are in keeping with India's sharply worded responses to Pakistan over issues such as breach of ceasefire along the LoC and International Border and on events in Jammu and Kashmir.

Responding to reports that Pakistan would make Gilgit-Baltistan its fifth province, he said, "Any unilateral step by Pakistan to alter the status of that part will have no basis in law and will be completely unacceptable."

Meanwhile, The special NIA court judging the Ajmer Dargah blast case of 2007 adjourned the pronouncement of the quantum of punishment for March 18.

'States sponsoring terror should be punished'

Home Minister Rajnath Singh said on Thursday that countries which sponsor terror and violate the definition of terrorism as prescribed by the UN should be punished by the international community.

The minister said coastal borders of 36 countries touch the Indian Ocean and nations, including India, need to work together to ensure safety and protection of maritime domains.

Appropriate reply has been conveyed to Pakistan as Pakistan feels their laws are laws and the laws of India are nothing.

Amid media reports of a possible attack on the Taj Mahal by a pro-IS group, security agencies said they had not received any specific input on the matter but were maintaining a high alert.

DIG (Agra range) Mahesh Kumar Mishra said, that they have not received any such information but are fully equipped to deal with any emergency situation.



Mehbooba Mufti says PM Modi helping India evolve as ‘true federal structure’

March 17, 2017

Talking about cooperative federalism, Mehbooba Mufti said competition between states is a good thing, adding that it should be about development and not parties.

Dismissing the reports that Narendra Modi is running a “centralised” government, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Friday heaped praise on the Prime Minister’s governance skills saying he is trying to evolve India as a “true federal structure”. Addressing the gathering on day one of the 2017 India Today Conclave, Mufti said,”Modi comes from a grassroot level, he is trying to reform the country in a federal structure.”

On the possibility of revoking the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from the state, Mufti exuded confidence in repealing the controversial Act saying: “Last year I felt we needed more security forces… at some point of time – six months or a year from now – if the situation improves, we need to think about revocation of AFSPA from parts and see if it works.”

Her remarks assume significance as the ruling alliance partners in Jammu and Kashmir – PDP and BJP –are not on the same page on AFSPA revocation in the state as the saffron party stressed that the controversial law should not be revoked unless peace and normalcy is restored in the state.

Further talking about cooperative federalism, Mufti said competition between states is a good thing, adding that it should be about development and not parties.

Commenting on the governance in the militancy-hit state, Mufti reiterated the proposition that J&K needs to be treated differently due to prevailing circumstances. “We are a border state, our sensitivities are different. We need to be treated differently because we are victims of skirmishes between the two countries. We get everything that we need from other states,” she said.

Insisting that Jammu and Kashmir is a safe state, Mufti also urged people to visit the picturesque state. “I would like to invite people to come and spend time with family, not just come and invest. Despite encounters, it is one of the safest states”.



Nizamuddin Dargah head priest, nephew go missing: Sushma Swaraj takes up matter with Pakistan

"We have taken up this matter with Government of Pakistan and requested them for an update on both the Indian nationals in Pakistan," tweeted Sushma Swaraj.

March 17, 2017

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said Friday that she has taken up the matter of Nizamuddin Dargah head priest and his nephew going missing in Pakistan with the government of that country.

“We have taken up this matter with Government of Pakistan and requested them for an update on both the Indian nationals in Pakistan,” tweeted Swaraj.

“Indian nationals Syed Asif li Nizami aged 80 years and his nephew Nazim Ali Nizami had gone to Pakistan on 8 March 2017,” she added. Syed Asif was visiting his ailing sister in Karachi after many years while Nazim keeps visiting their relatives in Pakistan and Sufi shrines in the country annually.

“They had gone to Lahore on March 14 to visit Daata Darbar (shrine) and were scheduled to return to Karachi in the evening of March 15 by Shaheen Air (flight no. NL149),” their Karachi-based relative, Syed Wazir Nizami, had told The Indian Express from the Pakistani port city. “While they were at the Lahore airport, I received a call from the airport. The caller did not tell his name, and mentioned that certain papers of my cousin Nazim were incorrect and so he was being detained and will not be able to travel to Karachi.’’

Syed Wazir said he was able to talk to Syed Asif when the Shaheen Air flight landed at Karachi airport at 6 pm. “Asif uncle did not come out of the airport even after hours had passed. When Shaheen Air officials at Lahore airport were approached, they said that some people had come and taken Asif with them…it was quite mysterious,” he added.

Syed Asif’s phone number as well as that of the anonymous caller have been given to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad.



Swiss won’t help Turkey prosecute Erdoğan critic


Switzerland has rejected a Turkish request for legal assistance in prosecuting a suspect accused of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, ruling that the comments in question were protected by Swiss free speech provisions.

Switzerland helps foreign prosecutors only if the crime they are investigating is a criminal offence in Switzerland as well, and that was not the case here, a spokesman for the Federal Office of Justice said on March 17.

“If similar criticism of a member of the government were expressed in Switzerland within the framework of a political discussion, this would be tolerated as a free expression of opinion,” he said.

He did not identify the suspect in the case, which arose in part from postings on social media.

Three similar requests from Turkey are still pending and would be judged individually on their merits, he added.

Ties have become increasingly tense between Turkey and many European countries over Turkish campaigning for a constitution referendum next month.

The Swiss government said last week, however, there was no reason to ban the Turkish foreign minister from addressing a rally in Zurich despite local authorities’ opposition.

The speech was eventually canceled for lack of a venue.

Swiss government statistics show around 68,000 Turkish citizens live in Switzerland, a nation of 8.3 million whose population is a quarter foreign.



Dutch mayor gives go ahead to pro-Turkish government rally amid row


Rotterdam's mayor gave his authorization on March 16 for a pro-Turkish protest against the Dutch police's handling of a violent demonstration in the port city on March 11.

The move came in the midst of an increasingly vitriolic dispute between Ankara and the EU after several countries including The Netherlands blocked Turkish ministers from attending campaign rallies to support the April 16 referendum on constitutional amendments.

Dutch police on March 11 used dogs, horses and a water cannon against Turkish protesters in Rotterdam.

Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb has given his approval for a new demonstration at 1600 GMT on March 17 starting outside Rotterdam's central station.

"The demonstration has been asked for to defend the rights of Turks," said his spokesman Lennart de Jong.    

Both Germany and The Netherlands blocked Turkish ministers from staging rallies to court the vote of expatriate Turks in the referendum.

Ankara was especially angered by The Netherlands which prevented Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s plane from landing and expelled Family Minister Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya.





Salahuddin asks Pakistan not to annex Gilgit-Baltistan

M Saleem Pandit

Mar 17, 2017

Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir-based United Jihad Council chief Syed Salahuddin has asked Pakistan not to declare Gilgit-Baltistan as its "fifth province" following recent reports that Islamabad was considering such a step, saying that this would weaken the "disputed status" of Jammu & Kashmir at the United Nations.

The UJC chief said that in the event of any such move by Pakistan, the UN will give India a legal and moral pretext to claim the whole of Kashmir.



Six militants killed in cross-border assault in Khyber Agency

Mar 17, 2017


Two personnel of the Frontier Constabulary (FC) laid down their lives as suspected militants from across the Pakistan-Afghan border reportedly attempted to attack a checkpost in Khyber Agency early Friday, DawnNews reported, quoting the military's media wing.

Pakistani troops "effectively responded", as a result of which six militants were killed during the exchange of fire, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) was quoted as saying.

Earlier this month, five soldiers of the Pakistan Army had lost their lives in a cross-border "terrorist attack" on three Pakistani border posts along the Pak-Afghan border area. The Pakistan Army reportedly killed over 15 suspected terrorists in their retaliatory action following the incident.

The latest incident comes at a time when Pakistan and Afghanistan have reported progress during talks in London on the re-opening of the Pak-Afghan border.

The two sides had reportedly agreed to take “tangible” confidence-building measures to ease each other’s concerns.

The dialogue in London was focused on mutual concerns about the existence of terrorist sanctuaries on each other’s soil.

Soon after the bombing of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar’s shrine, Pakistan Army had handed over a list of 76 'most wanted' TTP and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) terror suspects living in hideouts along the Pakistan-Afghan border to Kabul.

The army had also closed the border crossings at Torkham in Khyber Agency, Kharlachi in Kurram Agency, Angoor Adda and Ghulam Khan in South and North Waziristan and Chaman in Balochistan.

Afghanistan responded by sending a list of 85 Taliban and Haqqani network ‘commanders’, allegedly residing in Pakistan and linked any action against TTP and JuA terrorists to “verifiable action” by Pakistan.



Soldier slain in suicide attack on FC training centre near Charsadda

Mar 17, 2017

At least one Frontier Constabulary (FC) soldier was slain and another injured in a suicide attack on an FC training centre in Charsadda's Shabqadar area, the military's media wing said.

The Inter-Services Public Relations said the attack was "foiled" and two suicide bombers were killed in retaliatory fire.

During the exchange of fire with the suicide attackers, one FC personnel lost his life and another was injured, it added.

Later in the day, FC Commandant Liaqat Ali Khan addressed a press conference after attending the funeral of the FC personnel killed in the early morning attack.

The attackers tried to sneak into the training facility in the wee hours of Friday to “cause maximum casualties,” said the FC commandant, “but the guards quickly responded and neutralised the attackers”.

Khan said one attacker was killed by FC personnel while the other died after his jacket exploded when it was hit by gunfire.

The FC commandant said they had received threat alerts, owing to which they were vigilant throughout the night and had ordered search parties to investigate the alerts.

The remains of one suicide bomber are beyond recognition, whereas the other attacker's limb has been recovered from the site, he added.

He went on to appreciate the FC and military’s response to the situation, who reached the area "within no time" of the incident.

“Two officers were also wounded in the shootout, but are now in a stable condition,” he added.

Last month, security forces had killed three suicide attackers who attempted to wreak havoc at a local court in Charsadda.

DSP Charsadda Fayaz Khan said five civilians were killed in the attack, claimed by the proscribed Jamaat-ul-Ahraar (JuA).

The attack came amid heightened security across KP and the country after a recent wave of terror.

Charsadda is at a nearly 40-minute drive from KP’s provincial capital Peshawar, and has been a target of terror attacks for nearly a decade.

A suicide bomber had struck a local court in Charsadda's Shabqadar area last year in March, killing 17 people. That attack too was claimed by Jamaat-ul-Ahraar.

In January 2016, militants had attacked the Bacha Khan University in Charsadda and shot dead 21 people.

Also read: Fear and panic in Peshawar amid high alert

Resurgence in terror attacks

Pakistan is experiencing a fresh resurgence in terror attacks.

Over 100 people have been killed in recent terror attacks in Sindh, Balochistan, KP, Fata and Punjab.

On Feb 13, a suicide blast on Lahore's Mall road saw 13 people dead and 85 injured. The banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility.

In another incident on Feb 13, two Bomb Disposal Squad personnel were killed in Quetta while trying to defuse a roadside bomb at Sariab road.

On Feb 15, five people lost their lives in a suicide blast outside a government office in Mohmand Agency. JuA had claimed the responsibility for the attack.

In a separate suicide attack on Feb 15, one person died as a suicide attacker targeted a judges' vehicle in Peshawar. TTP claimed the attack.

Know more: Suicide bomber targets Peshawar judges' vehicle; driver killed

On Feb 16, in what is said to be the worst attack in the recent surge of terrorism, a suicide attack on the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar Shrine in Sehwan saw over 85 people dead while more than 200 were injured. The responsibility for the attack was claimed by the militant Islamic State (IS) group.

The same day, on Feb 16, an IED blast in Awaran, Balochistan left three security officials dead.



China to 'authorise' Pakistan to build missiles, tanks, FC-1 Xiaolong combat aircraft

Mar 17, 2017

Shailaja Neelakantan

NEW DELHI: Beijing was furious with India last year for launching Agni V, but now it plans to build ballistic, cruise, anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles with "all-weather friend" Pakistan, China's state-run media reported.

The two countries will also jointly mass produce FC-1 Xiaolong, a lightweight and multi-role combat aircraft, reported Global Times, the Chinese Communist Party's news outlet. In addition, the two agreed to strengthen anti-terrorism cooperation and strike terrorist forces including China's insurgent East Turkestan Islamic Movement.

These were the outcomes of yesterday's meeting in Beijing between Pakistan's army chief+ Qamar Bajwa and a top Chinese military official, Fang Fenghui. In exchange for Beijing's largesse, Islamabad agreed to ensure the safety of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)+ .

"Pakistan and China enjoy a special friendly relationship with each other and have a common destiny," Bajwa reportedly said at the meeting, according to a statement on the website of China's defence ministry.

Pakistan has deployed more than 15,000 troops to protect CPEC+ and the country's navy has raised a security contingent to protect the Gwadar Port, said Masood Khalid, Pakistan's Ambassador to China, at a news conference on Tuesday, according to Global Times. The Port is a key CPEC project.

"As Pakistan faces frequent threats from terrorist forces such as the Taliban and al-Qaeda, military support is necessary to ensure a safe environment for the regions where there is huge investment from China", said Song Zhongping, a military expert who has served in the Chinese army, to Global Times.

Pakistan's Bajwa is reported to have said the country's army is willing to "deepen the cooperation with the Chinese army and fully support the Quadrilateral Cooperation and Coordination Mechanism in Counter Terrorism by Afghanistan-China-Pakistan-Tajikistan Armed Forces."



Pak army chief on 1st visit to China, meets top leaders

Mar 17, 2017

BEIJING: China's top leadership has assured Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa that they completely understood the geopolitical, economic and security situation in the region and its implications for the two "all- weather" friends, the Pakistan Army said on Thursday.

The assurance was given to Gen. Bajwa as he met senior Chinese leaders and the military leadership on his maiden visit to Beijing where he discussed a range of issues, including defence cooperation, regional security situation and the ambitious China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Pakistan military spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said.

"COAS arrived in China on a 3-day official visit. Meets Chinese senior political & military leadership. Pak-China friendship is unique with no parallel," Ghafoor tweeted.

Bajwa called on Chinese Executive Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission, Gen Fan Changlong, Chief of Joint Services Department, Gen Fang Fenghui and Commander of the People's Liberation Army Gen Li Zhuocheng and discussed topics like regional security, economy defence cooperation and other issues of mutual interest.

"The Chinese leadership expressed complete understanding of the geo-political and economic-cum-security environment of the region and its implications for both the countries," a statement issued by the Pakistani military said.

"They acknowledged the positive role being played by Pakistan towards peace and stability in the region with special mention of Pakistan's role in eliminating terrorist groups including Al Qaeda, Tehreek-e-Taliban and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) from Pakistan," it said.

The ETIM is an Islamic extremist separatist organisation founded by Uyghur jihadists in western China. It has training camps in Pakistan and Beijing has been pressing Islamabad to destroy the units operating in the country, posing a threat to the stability of China's restive region of Xinjiang.

During the meetings, the Chinese leadership also expressed their concern on the security situation in Afghanistan and the growing potential threat of Islamic State and ETIM in that country, the statement said.

"The Chinese leadership expressed their confidence in security arrangements for the $46 billion CPEC and satisfaction on progress made on the project, it said.

During the meeting between Vice-Premier Zhang and Gen Bajwa, the two sides agreed to advance the CPEC project, China's state run Xinhua news agency reported.

Zhang lauded the rapid development of China-Pakistan ties, saying bilateral cooperation not only benefits the two peoples, but also contributes to regional peace and stability.

He called on the two sides to maintain close high-level contact and strengthen coordination on international and regional affairs, to lift bilateral ties to new heights.

Zhang also suggested that the two countries should enhance defence and security cooperation and push forward the building of the CPEC in an orderly manner, the report said.

Gen. Bajwa said Pakistan views the relations with China as the cornerstone of its foreign policy and its army will always be a staunch supporter of bilateral friendship.

To ensure the smooth construction of the CPEC, the Pakistan armed forces will resolutely safeguard its security, he said.

Masood Khalid, Pakistani Ambassador to China has been quoted by the official media here as saying recently that the Pakistan "has done everything" to ensure the safety about 19,000 Chinese working on different projects in the country.

Pakistan has deployed more than 15,000 troops to protect the CPEC, and the country's navy has raised a special contingent for the protection of the strategic Gwadar Port.

The Chinese military has also announced plans to increase marine corps from 20,000 to one lakh, some whom will be deployed in Gwadar which connects CPEC with China's Xinjiang province being laid through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

During the meetings, Gen Bajwa thanked the Chinese leadership for the support Pakistan has received in the defence sector which is a "source of strength" for the unique "all weather" friendship between the two countries, the ISPR statement said.

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Gen Bajwa "reiterated that Pakistan Army shall continue to positively contribute towards regional stability and security" and also thanked the Chinese military for sending a PLA contingent for participation in Pakistan Day Parade on March 23 in Rawalpindi.

"Both sides agreed to continue and further increase their military-to-military cooperation," the statement said.



World Bank approves $450 mn assistance to Pakistan

Mar 16, 2017

ISLAMABAD: The World Bank today approved a financial assistance worth $450 million to Pakistan to support its efforts to help the poor and most vulnerable people in the country.

The Finance for Growth Development Policy (FGDP) is a policy credit of $300 million that would assist Pakistan's efforts in promoting an inclusive and transparent financial sector, a statement by the World Bank (WB) said.

The bank said the programme aims to raise financial access throughout Pakistan to 50 per cent of adults, including 25 per cent women, by 2020, the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) reported.

According to the statement, in the next three years, FGDP aims to boost private sector credit access to small and medium enterprises to 15 per cent from 7 per cent in 2015.

"Pakistan has made significant progress in the implementation of economic reforms," WB Country Director for Pakistan Illango Patchamuthu said.

However, despite the substantial development in the initial reform programmes and recent progress in the financial sector; there remains a significant unfinished reforms agenda as financial access and inclusion remain low, Patchamuthu added.

An amount of $100 million, under the National Social Protection Programme, will help Pakistan strengthen the national social safety net systems for the poor in a bid to improve their human capital and to promote beneficiary families' access to complementary social and productive services.

It will also support the Benazir Income Support Programme for accurately identifying right candidates for cash transfers, other social programmes and incentivise improvements in service delivery systems.

The WB will also provide an additional sum of $50 million under the Punjab Tourism for Growth Project to strengthen institutions, increase private sector participation and improve infrastructure to support the tourism sector in Punjab.

The project will allow the private sector to lead the development of the tourism market while ensuring that public institutions help facilitate these processes while fulfilling their respective mandates, said the statement.

According to the WB, some 100 million adults in Pakistan do not have access to formal and regulated financial services and this number represents about 5 per cent of the world's unbanked population.

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"This needs to change for Pakistani women and men to realise their aspirations," Patchamuthu said.

The credit is financed from the International Development Association (IDA), the WB Group's grant and low-interest arm.



Pakistan asks Facebook to block 'blasphemous content', seeks Interpol help to curb it online

Shailaja Neelakantan

Mar 16, 2017

NEW DELHI: After a Pakistani court last week threatened to ban social media networks if they failed to censor content considered insulting to Islam, the country's main investigation agency said it's asked Facebook to block "blasphemous" content. It added that the agency is also in talks with Interpol to identify "blasphemous" content, reported Pakistani newspaper Dawn today.

Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) told a high-level meeting yesterday that the agency has sent a formal request to Facebook but the company's management has yet to respond. A senior diplomat at Pakistan's embassy in Washington was tasked with contacting Facebook to seek the requisite information under US Right to Information laws, Dawn wrote.

Pakistan's interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan urged Facebook to comply.

"I hope that the management of Facebook will respect the religious sentiments of 200 million Pakistanis and tens of millions of users of Facebook in Pakistan and will cooperate in that regard," he was quoted as saying in a ministry statement, according to Dawn.

Khan also said that the government would use all available options to ensure the removal of "blasphemous" material from social media sites.

Both these requests come after the Islamabad high court last Thursday ordered the government to start an investigation into online "blasphemy" and threatened to ban social media networks if they failed to censor content deemed insulting to Islam, lawyers told AFP.

Pakistan previously banned Facebook for hosting allegedly blasphemous content for two weeks in 2010. As well, YouTube was unavailable from 2012 to 2016, over an amateur film about the Prophet Muhammad that led to global riots, AFP added.

Islamabad later came to agreements with major Internet firms to block - within Pakistan - material that violated its laws, once the companies had performed their own cross-checks, AFP said.

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Meanwhile, Dawn also reported that an interior ministry statement said at least 11 people allegedly involved in uploading and sharing "objectionable material", had been identified and were being questioned. The FIA planned to seek help from Interpol in questioning some of these suspects as well, indicating that some of them may not be in the country.



Pakistan successfully test-fires new surface-to-sea missile

The missile is equipped with advanced technology and avionics, which enable engagement of targets at sea with a high degree of accuracy.

March 16, 2017

Pakistan Navy Thursday said it conducted a successful test of a new land-based anti-ship missile, bolstering its operational reach to launch long-range, anti-ship missiles from land. The trial of the missile was conducted from the coastal region and the missile secured a hit on a target placed at sea, a press release from the Navy said. The missile is equipped with advanced technology and avionics, which enable engagement of targets at sea with a high degree of accuracy.

However, the navy did not give more details, including the name of the new missile. The test-launch was witnessed by Vice Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Khan Hasham Bin Saddique and senior officers of Pakistan Navy. Admiral Saddique commended the accomplishment of the objectives of the trial, the release said.

Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah in his message said that the weapon system has added a new dimension to the operational reach of Pakistan Navy, allowing it to bolster seaward defences by giving the Navy the capability to launch long-range, anti-ship missiles from land.

On January 24, Pakistan had test-fired 2,200-km range indigenously-developed surface to surface nuclear-capable missile Ababeel. The missile is capable of delivering multiple warheads, using Multiple Independent Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV) technology.

The Ababeel test flight was aimed at validating various design and technical parameters of the weapon system.

During the same month, submarine-launched cruise missile Babur-III was successfully test-fired. Babur weapons system incorporates advanced aerodynamics and avionics that can strike targets both at land and sea with high accuracy at a range of 700kms.

Babur-III is a low flying, terrain hugging missile, which carries certain stealth features and is capable of carrying various types of warheads.



Pakistan wants criteria-based approach for NSG membership: Sartaj Aziz

March 17, 2017

Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz emphasised the need to take a criteria based approach if any new member wants to join the Nuclear Supplies Group, reported Radio Pakistan.

This was said in conversation with British National Security Adviser Sir Mark Lyall Grant in London.

Aziz is currently visiting the UK to attend the 50th meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group. He also discussed issues related to development, trade and investment, security and counter terrorism.

The issue of human rights violations in Occupied Kashmir was also brought up and Aziz urged the international community to play a more active role.

Pakistan seeks NSG membership to curb nuclear proliferation

The British National Security Adviser appreciated the efforts Pakistan has been taking for regional peace and security.

The NSG is dedicated to curbing nuclear arms proliferation by controlling the export and re-transfer of materials that could foster nuclear weapons development.

Pakistan launched a concerted diplomatic push for a membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) after the United States backed India’s bid to join the 48-nation informal but exclusive club of nuclear trading countries.



South Asia


Helmand suicide bomber claims he was trained in Pakistan

Thu Mar 16 2017

A suicide bomber detained in southern Helmand province claims he was trained on the otherside of the Durand Line, a term used to refer to the tribal regions of Pakistan, including North Waziristan where the notorious Haqqani terrorist network is believed to be baseed.

The Afghan Intelligence, National Directorate of Security (NDS), said a suspected suicide bomber was arrested before he manage to carry out an attack in a busy part of Helmand province.

NDS further added that the detained bomber has been identified as Qari Syed Nabi son of Jilani who was arrested from the vicinity of Lashkargah city, the provincial capital of Helmand.

According to NDS, Nabi was encouraged to carry out the attack by a terrorist Taliban leader identified as Mullah Abbas.

Nabi confessed that he was trained in Pakistan to carry out suicide attack in a busy part of Lashkargah city, NDS said, adding that the would-be suicide bomber was transferred to Helmand by Mullah Abbas to carry out the attack.

Helmand is among the relatively volatile provinces in southern Afghanistan where the Taliban insurgents are actively operating in its various districts and often carry out insurgency activities.

This comes as the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces are busy conducting counter-terrorism and clearance operations against the Taliban insurgents in some of the volatile districts of Helmand.

The Taliban insurgents have sustained heavy casualties during the operations which are being conducted with the support of the foreign forces based in Afghanistan who are mainly providing close-air support.



Bangladesh militants in suicide blast as police move in

Mar 16, 2017

CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh: At least two Bangladeshi militants blew themselves up Thursday after throwing grenades at police who surrounded a suspected extremist hideout outside the port city of Chittagong, police said.

"They came out in the stairs and carried out a big explosion. Parts of their bodies were spread to 25-30 yards (metres)," said Sanwar Hossain, additional deputy commissioner of the police counter-terrorism unit.

"Two people including a woman are confirmed dead," he said, adding parts of the staircase were blown off in the explosion.

National police chief AKM Shahidul Hoque told AFP that the dead were members of a new faction of the homegrown Islamist extremist group Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), blamed for a series of deadly attacks including a cafe siege in Dhaka where 22 people including 18 foreign hostages were killed.

"Probably three militants including one female died. Two policemen (were) injured," he said in a text message.

Police had cordoned off the hideout during a major counter-terrorism drive in Sitakundu town, outside Chittagong, since Wednesday evening after suspected militants threw grenades and opened fire at officers.

The gunfight began after police, backed up by an elite security unit, besieged a two-storied building. Police said an officer was wounded by a grenade during the raid.

"The extremists threw at least 10 grenades at our officers. We suspect two to eight extremists are staying in one of the ground floor flats in the building," additional superintendent of police Mosiuddowla Reza told AFP.

"They also opened fire at us with pistols," he added.

Elite counter-terrorism police reinforcements were sent to Sitakundu after midnight to storm the compound, he said, adding around 10-20 civilians were also trapped in the building, "but none of them were taken hostage".

"We'll storm the compound after making sure all the civilians are safe," Reza said.

Hours earlier police arrested a couple from another house after officers stormed their hideout in the same town, Reza said.

"We arrested them as the wife was holding her three-month old child in one hand and tried to explode the suicide vest with the other. Our bomb disposal unit later defused the vest," he added.

Reza said the couple and the extremists who were holed up in the two storey building were JMB members.

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The Islamic State organisation has claimed responsibilities for many of these assaults but the government and police have rejected the claims.



Afghanistan: Taliban car bomb hits army base in Khost province

The attack follows an assault on a military air base in Khost province last week

March 17, 2017

A suicide car bomb detonated near an army base in the eastern Afghan province of Khost on Friday, killing one soldier and wounding several before the army repelled at attack on the base by four gunmen, the district chief said.

The blast, 50 metres (yards) from the base, was heard several miles away and damaged several shops, homes and a school, Akbar Zadran, the chief of Sabari district, told Reuters.

Four gunmen attacked the base but were killed after an hour-long gun battle, Zadran said.

In a statement, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack and said it had caused heavy casualties. The Islamist movement often exaggerates casualties caused by its operations.

The attack follows an assault on a military air base in Khost province last week, and comes just ahead of the normal start of the spring fighting season, when Taliban insurgents and the Afghan army step up operations.

The Afghan government controls less than 60 percent of the country after territorial gains by the insurgents since NATO-led forces ended their combat operations at the end of 2014.

U.S. and Afghan officials have warned about increased fighting this year as the Taliban look to widen their influence.

The Taliban are seeking to expel foreign troops, defeat the U.S.-backed government and reimpose Islamic law after their 2001 ouster.

The head of U.S. Central Command, General Joseph Votel, this month asked for more American troops to join the roughly 8,400 already stationed in Afghanistan to break the stalemate.



Afghan army suffer casualties in Khost car bombing

Fri Mar 17 2017

The Afghan national army soldiers suffered casualties in an explosion triggered by a car bomb in southeastern Khost province of Afghanistan.

According to the local security officials, the incident took place earlier today in the vicinity of Yaqoobi and Sabari district.

A spokesman for the 203rd Thunder Corps of the Afghan National Army (ANA) Fazal Khuda confirmed the incident.

He said a suicide bomber was looking to target a military base in the area but was identified and shot by the security forces of a check post located in the area.

Fazal Khuda further added that one Afghan soldier lost his life and seven others were wounded in the attack.

According to Fazal Khuda, at least three militants were also killed in the attack.

Khost has been among the relatively calm provinces during the recent years but the anti-government armed militant groups have been attempting to expand their insurgency in this province.

This comes as a group of insurgents attempted to carry out an attack on a military air base in Khost province but the attack was repulsed by the security forces.

Local officials said a number of insurgents armed with light weapons and grenades attempted to break into the base but were identified and at least one of them was shot dead.



Developments reported as UK hosts meeting to defuse Pak-Afghan tensions

Thu Mar 16 2017

Developments have been reported following the meeting hosted by the United Kingdom to defuse the unprecedented tensions sparked between Kabul and Islamabad.

The Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSC) of Afghanistan said the meeting took place on Wednesday hosted by United Kingdom in London.

ONSC in statement said some developments have been made as there have been agreements that the meetings will continue in the future.

No further details were given regarding the breakthrough but the Office of the National Security Adviser said some developments were achieved following the meeting attended by Mohammad Hanif Atmar, Pakistan’s foreign affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz, the Afghan Ambassador Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal, and UK’s national security adviser.

Tensions between Kabul and Islamabad sparked following the closure of the transit and travel routes along the Durand Line after a series of the attacks in Pakistan last month.

The Pakistani officials claimed that the attacks were plotted and carried out by the militants stationed inside the Afghan soil.

The decision was particularly taken after a deadly suicide attack rocked the Sehwan city of Pakistan, leaving over 70 people dead and scores of others wounded.

Kabul and Islamabad also exchanged detailed lists of the alleged terrorists and their sanctuaries located on the two sides of the line but no breakthrough was reported despite the two neighbors agreed to jointly work to address the issues.



Southeast Asia


Indonesia's Largest Islamic Organisation Former Chairman Safeguards Muslims From Influence Of Radicalism

Mar 17, 2017

JAKARTA, March 17 (Bernama) -- Presidential Advisory Council member, Hasyim Muzadi, who passed away Thursday morning, in Malang, East Java, was able to safeguard Indonesian Muslims from being influenced by radicalism, United Development Party (PPP) Secretary General, Arsul Sani said, Indonesia's Antara news agency reported.

Born on Aug 8, 1944, Muzadi, the former chairman of Indonesia's largest Nahdlatul Ulema Islamic Organisation, passed away after having undergone intensive treatment at the Lavalette Hospital and at his home in Malang for the past several days.

"Muzadi was at the forefront in the efforts to distance Muslims from radical ideologies, imported from elsewhere, that tend to negate the Unitary State of Indonesian Republic," Sani remarked here on Thursday.

The PPP secretary general opined that Muzadi was a prominent figure among Muslim scholars and leaders who managed to offer a true and strong Islamic understanding of Indonesia to Muslims.

However, Sani noted that on the other hand, Muzadi also defended an Islamist group that was unfairly and disproportionately viewed as radical and anti-national.

Not surprisingly though, he added that Muzadi, who was a moderate Muslim leader, continued to maintain strong relations with figures considered radicals, such as Habib Rizieq.

Muzadi was buried in Depok, West Java.



Most Populous Muslim Country Indonesia May Face Threat from Returning Islamic State Fighters


16 Mar 2017

Battle-hardened Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) jihadists from Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, are expected to soon return to their homeland as the terrorist group loses territory in Iraq and Syria, prompting concerns among Southeast Asian authorities.

“As ISIS loses ground in consolidated territory there are growing fears that the group will lash out overseas, encouraging ISIS-inspired ‘lone wolf’ attacks. There is also mounting concern that Indonesian fighters will return home equipped with the training and combat experience, harnessed further by staunch ideological beliefs,” Arsla Jawaid, a former journalist and expert on foreign jihadi fighters, writes in an op-ed published by the Diplomat.

Since its formation in 2014, ISIS has disseminated propaganda and recruitment videos on social media aimed at persuading Indonesians, Filipinos, and Malaysians to travel to the Middle East to engage in jihad.

Currently, there exists no formal ISIS presence in Southeast Asia and there is little to suggest a significant ISIS threat to the region. However, given the history and presence of militancy in the region, existing jihadi groups such as the Mujahideen Indonesia Timur (MIT) in Indonesia and the Abu Sayyaf Group in the Philippines have pledged allegiance to ISIS, raising concerns regarding the formation of a formal ISIS affiliate.

Indonesian authorities have cracked down on ISIS-linked jihadists in recent years.

The National Police Counterterrorism Squad and the National Counterterrorism Agency have detained ISIS sympathizers across Indonesia.

National Police Chief Tito Karnavian announced late last year that 170 alleged jihadists had been detained in 2016.

According to a December 2015 assessment by The Soufan Group, a New York-based international consultancy firm, some 900 Southeast Asian fighters, the majority from Indonesia, had traveled to Iraq and Syria to join jihadist groups, such as ISIS and the al-Qaeda affiliate there.

“Official estimates from Southeast Asian intelligence agencies placed the number between 1,200-1,800,” reports Jawaid. “While it is difficult to estimate precisely how many fighters from the region are currently participating, the Straits Times reported most recently that some 392 Indonesians are believed to be fighting for ISIS in Syria.”

Not all of the Southeast Asians who have traveled to ISIS-held territory are jihadists — nearly half (45 percent) are believed to be women and children who accompanied the fighters when they traveled to the Middle East.

The estimates include individuals who fought on behalf of the al-Qaeda affiliate in the region.

Indonesia is no stranger to terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists, including jihadists linked to Jemaah Islamiya (JI), an al-Qaeda affiliated group, and its offshoot organizations.

In January 2016, ISIS claimed responsibility for a deadly attack in Indonesia for the first time.





Kenya counter-terror work creates abuses, rights group says

Mar 16, 2017

NAIROBI (Kenya): Kenya's security agencies are violating privacy rights in counter-terrorism operations and the information acquired is used to commit human rights abuses, including targeted killings, an international human rights group says.

Information gathered from phone intercepts and other means is carried out essentially without oversight, contravening procedures required by law, the London-based Privacy International said in a report released Wednesday.

The National Intelligence Service makes phone intercepts and provides the information to police, who obtain clearance to monitor targets. Information obtained through surveillance is central to the identification, pursuit and "neutralization," or killing, of suspects, the report says.

"Telecommunications operators end up handing over their customers' data because they largely feel that they cannot decline agencies' requests, in part due to the vagueness in the law," the report says.

"Several telecommunications operators spoke of the threat, either direct or implicit, that their licenses would be revoked if they failed to comply," it says.

Kenyan authorities declined to comment.

Kenya has experienced frequent extremist attacks since it sent troops to neighboring Somalia in 2011 to help fight al-Shabab.

Privacy International said it interviewed three intelligence officers, seven military officers and 22 police officers. Of those interviewed, 17 are in active duty and 15 recently left service.

This is the latest report on alleged abuses in Kenya's counter-terrorism efforts.

Recent reports by rights groups Haki Africa, Human Rights Watch and the government's human rights commission have found that dozens of Kenyans suspected of links to extremist groups have been victims of enforced disappearances, and some have been found executed.

Kenya holds presidential elections in August, and a proposed $19 million project by the government regulator Communications Authority of Kenya to monitor radio frequencies and social media platforms and "manage devices" is viewed by some as a way to spy on Kenyans or control communications during the vote.

The government has said the project would help prevent a repeat of the violence after the 2007 election that killed more than 1,000 people.



South Sudan govt responsible for famine and food shotages, but still buying arms, says UN report

UN sanctions monitors said 97 percent of South Sudan's known revenue comes from oil sales and that at least half of the budget - "likely substantially more" - is devoted to security.

March 17, 2017

South Sudan’s government is mainly to blame for famine in parts of the war-torn country, yet President Salva Kiir is still boosting his forces using millions of dollars from oil sales, according to a confidential United Nations report. UN sanctions monitors said 97 percent of South Sudan’s known revenue comes from oil sales, a significant portion of which is now forward oil sales, and that at least half of the budget – “likely substantially more” – is devoted to security.

“Revenue from forward oil sales totaled approximately $243 million between late March and late October 2016,” the panel of UN monitors said in the report to the UN Security Council, seen by Reuters on Thursday.

“Despite the scale and scope of the political, humanitarian, and economic crises, the panel continues to uncover evidence of the ongoing procurement of weapons by the … Government for the SPLA (South Sudanese army), the National Security Service, and other associated forces and militias,” the report said.

The United Nations has declared a famine in some parts of the world’s youngest country, where nearly half its population – some 5.5 million people – face food shortages. A civil war erupted in 2013 when Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, fired his deputy Riek Machar, a Nuer, who has fled and is now in South Africa.

“The bulk of evidence suggests that the famine … has resulted from protracted conflict and, in particular, the cumulative toll of military operations undertaken by the SPLM/A in Government in southern Unity state; denial of humanitarian access, primarily by the SPLM/A in Government; and population displacement resulting from the war,” the report said.

The United Nations says at least one quarter of South Sudanese have been displaced since 2013.

The annual report of the sanctions monitors to the 15-member Security Council comes ahead of a ministerial meeting of the body on South Sudan next Thursday, which is due to be chaired by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

While the previous US administration of President Barack Obama was heavily involved in the birth of South Sudan, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011, and led Security Council efforts to try to end the civil war, the policy of new US President Donald Trump toward the African state is unclear.

In December, the Security Council failed to adopt a US-drafted resolution to impose an arms embargo and further sanctions on South Sudan despite warnings by UN officials of a possible genocide. The UN monitors again recommended in their report that the council impose an arms embargo on South Sudan.

The Security Council set up a targeted sanctions regime for South Sudan in March 2015 and has blacklisted six generals – three from each side of the conflict – by subjecting them to an asset freeze and travel ban.

The UN monitors said all parties to the conflict continue to commit widespread human rights violations “with near complete impunity and a lack of any credible effort to prevent these violations or to punish the perpetrators.” UN peacekeepers have been in South Sudan since 2011.





Will France, Germany and Italy go the Dutch way in upcoming elections?

The other big victim of Nazism, Italy had joined France, Netherlands, Germany and Luxemberg in its bid to stay away from war in future.

March 17, 2017

Liberals in Europe were quite relieved on Wednesday with the results of the closely watched Dutch elections, which the right wing extremist leader, Geert Wilders of the Freedom Party lost. As Prime Minister Mark Rutte won the elections with a victory over 33 seats, the anti-immigrant, anti-Islamist Wilders came staggering behind with 20 seats. The elections in Netherlands were awaited with much apprehension as they came after the victory of the right wing in America and the conservative vote winning the Brexit.

For a Europe caught in the middle of economic and political challenges like the debt crisis, the issue with refugees, terrorism and the Turkey-European Union (EU) refugee deal, populist right wing ideologies have been on the rise. Over the years, conversation in Europe has shifted towards a debate over ‘open Europe’ versus ‘close Europe’. The Netherlands vote in that sense was decisive in marking a shift away from the seemingly popular feeling of fear of the outsider. Soon after the results were declared, the French foreign minister is reported to have congratulated the Netherlands “for halting the advance of the far right.”

The elections in Netherlands is first among a series of elections scheduled to be held in Europe in the near future. The French presidential elections is set to take place on May this year, followed by Germany in September and Italy in May 2018. The Dutch vote seems significant in determining the expectations from these three other countries, each of whom were the founding fathers of the European Union. In the aftermath of the Netherlands elections, here is how France, Germany and Italy are politically placed before it goes to polls in the near future.


The west European power has steadily remained one of the most influential member countries of the EU since its conception in the post World War II period. Having successfully managed to keep right wing ideology away, the French government has been governed by the Socialists or the Republicans since the formation of the 5th Republic in 1958. In the past five years however, the rise of Marine Le Pen of the National Front has been of much worry for the liberals in the state.

Taking a strong stance against globalisation, the EU, the Eurozone, immigration and Islam, Marine Le Pen had gathered support for herself in the presidential campaign of 2012. In the past five years, opinion polls in the country has shown a dip in support for Le Pen, but the shadow of right wing populism has definitely not disappeared. As per a recent poll conducted by Franceinfo, only 42 per cent of those surveyed believed that Marine La Pen was capable of securing votes beyond her party base. Majority of the respondents believed that her party is a danger to democracy. La Pen’s signature policy proposal of a return to the Franc has also shown a significant dip in support from 33 per cent last year to 22 per cent this year.

We also need to keep in mind that there is a marked difference in political atmosphere between urban and rural France. While the cosmopolitan cities in France are relatively at ease with globalisation and rather welcome to the outsider, in the rural areas, a sense of neglect is hard to ignore. Statistics shows that while jobs in the cities increased by 5 per cent between 2006 and 2011, in France as a whole jobs were in fact lost during the same period.

La Pen’s support is mainly restricted to Southern France, the rust belt of north and east and the peripheral areas which are about 40-50 kms away from the centre of Paris.


Rebuilding itself after the massacre it experienced in World War II, Germany like France was one of the biggest force that formed the European Union. The experience of Nazism on its soil had left a deep fear of the right and is quite strongly entrenched within the country. The fear of the outsider, however has increasingly sought the attention of the average German as is evident from the rise in popularity of the Alternative for Germany party (AfD) that is against the establishment, the eurozone, immigration and Islam.

The party that was founded in 2013 had a strong presence in recent state elections and is currently in power in 10 out of 16 state parliaments. As per a report by the New York Times, the party is expected to make its presence felt in the upcoming general elections. The rise of the party’s popularity is phenomenal considering that what right wing parties in France and Netherlands managed to achieve in three or four decades, Alternative for Germany did in three years.

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Anti-immigration is perhaps the strongest point around which the party has based its campaign. Support for the party received a strong boost in the wake of the Berlin truck attack last Christmas that claimed the lives of 12 people. The incident was seen as a result of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s lenient immigration policy. As per a local poll, the party received a 2.5 per cent boost soon after the attack. The party’s confidence soared further when Donald Trump won the elections in America. Among all other Germany’s political parties it was AfD alone that celebrated Trump’s victory, hailing his roots in German soil.

AfD’s popularity is still limited with majority of the population in cities like Berlin and Munich strongly urging the rest to stay away from the party. Majority of its supporters, however, are those who are tired of being apologetic of Germany’s national past and have been in strong need for a party to represent their economic and social interests. As per polls, the party is expected to receive 16 per cent of the national vote in 2017, making it the third largest party after Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and the Social Democratic Party.


The other big victim of Nazism, Italy had joined France, Netherlands, Germany and Luxemberg in its bid to stay away from war in future. Right wing populism had accordingly been kept away for precisely the same reason. However, being one of the foremost destinations for immigrants from the Middle East, Italy has moved towards an extremist anti-outsider stance over the years. The fall of liberalism in the country was most evident when Prime Minister Matteo Renzi resigned after losing referendum in constitutional reforms.

Populist anti-establishment parties like the Five Star Movement, founded by the comedian Beppe Grillo, and the anti-immigrant Northern League led the opposition to the government’s efforts in restructuring the Italian government. The Five Star Movement has in the past couple of years increasingly gained support. After losing the European elections of 2014, the party managed to win the mayoralties of Rome and Turin in the local elections held in the summer of 2016. Political analyst Eric Jones believes that the party will be able to exploit the “deep and painful fractures” in Italian society when the country goes to polls in May 2018.

The right wing party’s biggest support comes from those who are dissatisfied by the political elite’s incapability to undo the economic stagnation imposed by EU. Recent opinion polls show the Five Star Party to be almost at par in popularity with the ruling Democratic Party.



France school shooting: Four shot, 10 hurt, student arrested

Prosecutor Fabienne Atzori said there was no reason to suspect the shootings were terrorism-related, "whatever the origin of the terrorist enterprise."

March 17, 2017

A 16-year-old student who had troubled relations with his peers opened fire at a high school in southern France on Thursday, wounding three other students and the principal who tried to intervene, officials said. Police moved into the Alexis de Tocqueville school in the town of Grasse the country’s picturesque perfume capital and quickly arrested the still-armed suspect, identified by the Interior Ministry spokesman as Killian Barbey.

The government minister for victims’ affairs, Juliette Meadel, told BFM television there were 4 people shot three students and the high school principal and 10 other victims. The Grasse prosecutor said some of the victims were suffering from “emotional shock.” None of the injuries was considered life threatening.

Prosecutor Fabienne Atzori said the young man armed with a rifle, several pistols and a small grenade entered a classroom then left, “not finding the person or people he was searching for.”

“The motivation of the student appears linked to bad relations with other students in this high school in which it appears he had some difficulty integrating,” Atzori said.

She said there was no reason to suspect the shootings were terrorism-related, “whatever the origin of the terrorist enterprise.” A national police official said earlier there did not appear to be any other suspects.

Investigators were now trying to find out where did the suspect get the arms, she said. Officials variously gave 16 and 17 as the age of the suspect. His Facebook page indicates he is 16.

After the suspect started shooting, students alerted the principle, who was wounded while “courageously” intervening, the prosecutor said. Some students only discovered shrapnel in their bodies once home, she said.

Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, who visited the school Thursday, called it “the crazy act of a fragile young man fascinated by firearms … We just missed the worst.”

The suspect’s Facebook is filled with violent or gory images.

During the attack, some students hid at the school and others were evacuated. A police helicopter circled overhead in what is normally a relatively quiet corner of France.

Police cordoned off the area and worried residents gathered outside in the town, which is 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the southern city of Nice, site of last year’s Bastille Day terror attack that killed 86 people.

The president of the region, Christian Estrosi, said the principal suffered an arm wound and told him that after being alerted to the presence of the armed student, “he tried to interpose … to try to calm him, and unfortunately he didn’t succeed.”

Student Charlotte Camel, 18, told The Associated Press she was in the school library when a teacher ran into the room shouting, “There’s someone with a gun, go hide!” That’s what we did from the very beginning.”

“We all very much panicked. I thought a lot about the other students in my class who were in class and I wandered if they were ok. I thought about my friends and the teachers too,” Camel said.

The attack came amid France’s state of emergency, a response to a string of deadly Islamic extremist attacks over the past two years.

While no terrorism link has been identified, “all this justifies the state of emergency,” President Francois Hollande said, adding that it would remain in place until July 15, as planned.

The government sent out an alert warning of an attack after police reported that shots were fired, but later lifted it. The alert is part of a system implemented by the government after the deadly November 2015 attacks in Paris.



One hurt as letter bomb explodes at IMF’s Paris office

March 17th, 2017

PARIS: A letter bomb exploded at the Paris offices of the International Monetary Fund on Thursday, injuring a secretary who suffered burns to her hands and face.

Employees were evacuated from the building near the Arc de Triomphe in the heart of the capital after the late morning explosion which was caused by a firework.

IMF chief Christine Lagarde condemned the incident as a “cowardly act of violence” and insisted the fund would continue its work “in line with our mandate,” a statement from her office said.

“We are working closely with the French authorities to investigate this incident and ensure the safety of our staff.” French President Francois Hollande called it an “attack”, saying it showed the country was “still targeted”.

Since early 2015, France has been hit by a series of deadly attacks by Islamic extremists.

The secretary, who works for an unnamed senior manager, suffered facial injuries caused by “shards, as well as a blast to the eardrums” but is out of danger, Paris police chief Michel Cadot said.

“It appears to have been a firework or a big firecracker,” he said, describing the device as “relatively rudimentary and nothing like a bomb”.

Armed police and soldiers earlier secured the area around the IMF offices and anti-terrorism prosecutors opened an inquiry into the incident.

Although no link has been established at this stage, a Greek far-left group on Thursday claimed responsibility for sending a parcel bomb to the German finance ministry which was discovered in Berlin earlier on Wednesday.

The incident occurred more than six years after the group waged a similar campaign targeting European officials.

A Greek police source in Athens said “it is rather soon” to link the two incidents, adding: “We are cautious (and) remain vigilant.” He noted that the letter sent to the IMF was destroyed in the blast, while the Berlin parcel bomb was made safe, with the sender’s return address clearly marked on it.

He said France had not yet sought cooperation from Greece over the incident.

The Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei group claimed responsibility for the Berlin parcel bomb in a statement posted on an anti-establishment website, saying only that it had targeted Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble’s office.

German police said they had discovered the “explosive” package at Schaeuble’s office on Wednesday, a day before he was due to host his new US counterpart, Steven Mnuchin.

Eight hurt as pupil opens fire at school

French police arrested a heavily armed 17-year-old on Thursday after he opened fire at a school in southern France, rattling nerves in a country on edge after several jihadist attacks, authorities said.

The teen was carrying a rifle, two handguns and two grenades in the attack at the Alexis de Tocqueville high school in the sleepy hillside city of Grasse, police said.

An interior ministry spokesman said eight people, including the principal, were injured. Some were hurt in a stampede triggered by the attack.

The suspect, who has not been named publicly, had shared pictures and videos on social media of infamous US school shootings, including the 1999 Columbine massacre.





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