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Islamic World News ( 2 Sept 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Islamic State Khorasan Province Case: National Investigation Agency Chargesheets Five for Provoking Muslim Youth to Join Anti-CAA Protests


New Age Islam News Bureau

03 September 2020

  

From left to right: Jahanzaib, Abdullah Basith, Nabeel Siddick, Hina Bashir Beigh and Sadia.

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• Facebook Removes Over 700 Pakistani Accounts Over ‘Inauthentic Behaviour’; Most Were Critical of Pak Or Backed India

• Twitter Under Fire for Allowing Iran Leader’s Extreme Rhetoric About US, UAE

• Saudi Arabia Officially Opens Airspace to All UAE-Israel Flights

• Afghan President Says All Commitments Met for Taliban Peace Talks

• Indonesia Regrets US Veto of UN Resolution on Islamic State Terrorists

• Palestine Factions Set for Talks On ‘Unified Strategy’ Against US, Israel After UAE Betrayal

 

India

• Islamic State Khorasan Province Case: National Investigation Agency Chargesheets Five for Provoking Muslim Youth to Join Anti-CAA Protests

• 400-Year-Old Qutb Shahi-Era Mosque at Raidurgam Was Restored by The Telangana State Waqf Board

• Hindu, Muslim KSRTC staff come together to build Ganesha temple in Karnataka's Chitradurga

• NCRB Data Shows Muslims, Dalits, Tribal Population in Prisons Disproportionate to Their Numbers Outside

• Delhi Metro appoints new ‘guardian’ Polo the Belgian Malinois, a dog breed that tracked Osama bin Laden

• Peoples Democratic Party’s 1st meeting after Article 370 revocation to discuss Mehbooba Mufti’s arrest

• Hindi, Kashmiri, & Dogri added to J&K’s official languages list

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Pakistan

• Facebook Removes Over 700 Pakistani Accounts Over ‘Inauthentic Behaviour’; Most Were Critical of Pak Or Backed India

• Pakistan Directs American Blogger Cynthia Ritchie To Leave Country Within 15 Days

• SPD chief discusses nuclear diplomacy with FM

• Imran Khan project to get 2 Indians sanctioned for terror fails, UNSC throws it out

• CPEC aimed at decreasing China’s reliance on strategic chokeholds: Pentagon

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North America

• Twitter Under Fire for Allowing Iran Leader’s Extreme Rhetoric About US, UAE

• Trump Calls for Cable Host to Be Fired Over Comments About Muslims

• American ISIS fighter repatriated, pleads guilty; US calls on Europe to follow suit

• US sanctions ICC prosecutor over Afghanistan war crimes probe

• US: Turkey-sent Syrian fighters generate backlash in Libya

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Arab world

• Saudi Arabia Officially Opens Airspace to All UAE-Israel Flights

• Al-Azhar Slams Charlie Hebdo Republication Of Prophet Cartoons

• Saudi Arabia’s stance on Palestine ‘remains unchanged’

• Iraqi Lawmakers Reiterate Expulsion of US Forces

• US still opposed to Hezbollah’s participation in Lebanon govt: Official

• France’s Macron Says Meeting with Iraqi President to Discuss Country’s Sovereignty

• Syria thwarts fresh Israeli missile attack on T4 airbase

• Afghanistan to move to Qatar seven prisoners sought by Taliban

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South Asia

• Afghan President Says All Commitments Met for Taliban Peace Talks

• Afghan negotiators head to Doha as Taliban prisoner swap nears completion

• Sar-e-Pul Blast Claims 6, Wounds 2

• Afghanistan releases nearly 200 Taliban in latest push for peace

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Southeast Asia

• Indonesia Regrets US Veto of UN Resolution on Islamic State Terrorists

• Dr M Confirms Asking for LTTE’s Removal from Terror Group List

• Perikatan Leaders’ Controversial Remarks Sting but Won’t Deter Non-Malay Allies, Say Analysts

• Zakat collection in state on right track despite Covid-19 challenges, says Pahang Regent Tengku Hassanal

• At pro-government convention, Hadi says uniting Muslims is Perikatan’s feat

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Mideast

• Palestine Factions Set for Talks On ‘Unified Strategy’ Against US, Israel After UAE Betrayal

• Senior Iranian MP Asks Europe for Action against US Illegal Measures

• Iranian Speaker’s Advisor Warns of Security Consequences of Deal with Israel for UAE, Region

• Israel to withhold bodies of all Palestinian militants in move slammed as ‘barbaric’

• Qatar intel officer bribed Erdogan aide $65 mln to push Turkey military deal: Report

• Syrians in Turkey continue to face rise in discrimination

• Israeli forces shoot, injure Palestinian man over alleged car-ramming attack in West Bank

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Africa

• Watchdog Warns of ‘Limited Progress’ in Africa Counterterror Fight

• Somalia: U.S. Carried Out 46 Air Strike Against Al Shabaab in 2020

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Europe

• US Staff at UK Base Immune to Prosecution During ‘War on Terror’

• Pope Francis prays for Lebanon during 1st public audience in months

• Trial to begin for suspects in Charlie Hebdo terror attack

• Time for EU to get real on Hezbollah

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL:  https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/islamic-state-khorasan-province-case/d/122785

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 Islamic State Khorasan Province Case: National Investigation Agency Chargesheets Five For Provoking Muslim Youth to Join Anti-CAA Protests

Kamaljit Kaur Sandhu

September 2, 2020

 

From left to right: Jahanzaib, Abdullah Basith, Nabeel Siddick, Hina Bashir Beigh and Sadia.

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 The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Wednesday filed a chargesheet against five accused persons in connection with the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) case. The accused have been charged for conspiring to create disaffection against the Government of India.

The five were conspiring to utilise the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests to instigate Muslims against the government by coining seditious slogans, drawing graffiti on public places and highlighting the same on social and international media.

They were also provoking some gullible youth to participate in anti-CAA protests actively. In case these protests failed to provoke the Muslims, they were planning for arson of government buildings and public property so that riots would erupt and they would have been able to exploit the sentiments of Muslims.

The NIA investigation found that the self-radicalised module even tried to make an improvised explosive device (IED) and were planning to carry out mass-killings in crowded places to further the activities of ISIS/ISKP in India.

Recce was conducted by them of certain sensitive locations in Maharashtra which are frequently visited by foreigners.

The accused have been identified as Jahanzaib Sami alias Dawood Ibrahim alias Xaib alias Abu Muhammed Al Hind (36) , a native of J&K's Srinagar, and Hina Bashir Beigh (39), who is also from Srinagar but was currently residing in Okhla Vihar, Jamia Nagar, Delhi. The other accused are Abdullah Basith alias Bin Fulan (26) from Hyderabad, Sadiya Anwar Shaikh (20) and Nabeel Siddick Khatri (27), both from Pune, Maharashtra.

The NIA chargesheet filed in a Delhi court also accused the five for promoting enmity among different religious communities and for committing subversive activities.

The case was initially registered by Delhi Police Special Cell in March this year after the arrest of Kashmiri couple Jahanzaib Sami Wani and his wife Hina Bashir Beigh from their rented accommodation in Okhla Vihar, Jamia Nagar in Delhi. The NIA re-registered the case almost a fortnight later and began investigation.

The investigation revealed that Jahanzaib, a B.Tech from Ferozpur in Punjab, got radicalised and inclined towards ISIS/ISKP by reading about it on the Internet. He established contact with ISIS handler Huzaifa-al-Bakistani and his father-in-law Abu Usman-Al-Kashmiri, who is the head of Indian affairs of ISKP, in 2017 on a secure messaging platform. Huzaifa-al-Bakistani further introduced him to Abdullah Basith, another ISIS operative, who is already in judicial custody at Tihar jail in connection with another NIA case in ISIS Abu-Dhabi module.

The investigation also revealed that Hina Bashir, who had her higher education from Pune, also got radicalised since 2014-15 by reading ISIS-related content on social media. Jahanzaib and Hina got married in 2017 as they both supported the ideology of ISIS, now known as the Islamic State or IS.

Jahanzaib, Hina Bashir, Abdullah Basith and Sadiya were continuously in contact with ISIS operatives based in Khorasan and Syria. On receiving instructions from ISKP head Abu Usman-Al-Kashmiri, the accused Jahanzaib and Abdullah Basith prepared a magazine titled 'Voice of Hind' for inciting Muslims against non-Muslims and exhorting them to rise against the Government of India and join ISIS.

The magazine eulogises ISIS/ISKP terrorists including Huzaifa-al-Bakistani, who was killed in July 2019 in a drone strike in Afghanistan, and denigrates the Indian Constitution and democratic system.

The NIA arrested another accused identified as Abdur Rehman alias Dr Brave from Bengaluru last month, who was in touch with the accused Jahanzaib as part of the conspiracy to promote activities of ISIS/ISKP and had also visited the ISIS medical camp in Syria in 2014.

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/iskp-case-nia-chargesheets-5-for-provoking-muslim-youth-to-join-anti-caa-protests-1718009-2020-09-02

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Facebook Removes Over 700 Pakistani Accounts Over ‘Inauthentic Behaviour’; Most Were Critical of Pak Or Backed India

Sep 2, 2020

 

In April 2019, the social media company removed 103 accounts in a similar purge that it says was linked to employees of the Pakistani military's public relations arm [File: Reuters]

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ISLAMABAD: Social networking global giant Facebook has removed 453 Facebook accounts, 103 pages, 78 groups and 107 Instagram accounts that were part of a Pakistani network of “coordinated inauthentic behaviour”, the company said in a monthly report.

“The vast majority of the accounts, pages and groups engaged in coordinated reporting of content and people that were critical of Pakistan’s government or supportive of India, and some engaged in spam,” Facebook said.

“Coordinated inauthentic behaviour” has been described by the company as “coordinated efforts to manipulate public debate for a strategic goal where fake accounts are central to the operation”. Last year, the social networking giant had removed 103 accounts on similar charges, claiming that it was linked to Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media arm of the Pakistan army.

Facebook had shared details of the network with the Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO) Cyber Policy Centre days before removing the pages. “The network encouraged users to mass-report accounts that were critical of Islam and the Pakistani government, and in some cases accounts that were part of the Ahmadi religious community,” said a report released by the SIO. “The network also had messaging praising the Pakistani military, along with some Indian military fan pages and groups of unclear purpose.”

The network encouraged members of its groups to use an extension to Google’s Chrome browser developed for the purpose of automating the reporting of content on Facebook and its associated platforms. The maker of the extension stated on Facebook that he made the tool to be used against accounts that were anti-Islamic, anti-Pakistani, or even groups and pages, which is a great threat on social media.

The aim of the network appeared primarily to be to silence critics of Pakistan’s government and armed forces, as well as certain forms of religious expression.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/facebook-removes-over-700-pakistani-accounts-over-inauthentic-behaviour-most-were-critical-of-pak-or-backed-india/articleshow/77897263.cms

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Twitter Under Fire For Allowing Iran Leader’s Extreme Rhetoric About US, UAE

Emily Judd

02 September 2020

 

Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei attends a meeting with students in Tehran, Iran, October 18, 2017. (Reuters)

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Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei took to Twitter on Tuesday to denounce the US and the UAE, using extreme rhetoric including “filthy Zionist agents” and the hashtag “#UAEStabsMuslims.”

“The nation of Palestine is under various, severe pressures. Then, the UAE acts in agreement with the Israelis & filthy Zionist agents of the U.S. —such as the Jewish member of Trump’s family— with utmost cruelty against the interests of the World of Islam. #UAEStabsMuslims,” tweeted Khamenei as Israeli, American, and Emirati officials met in Abu Dhabi.

The inflammatory tweet was allowed on the platform, and has not been censored in any way, sparking outrage from prominent users around the world who called for Twitter to take down the post in adherence with its guidelines.

“This anti-Semitism from a world leader would seem to violate the twitter guidelines,” wrote CNN anchor Jake Tapper in a tweet.

US Senator Ted Cruz posed a question to Twitter’s founder Jack Dorsey asking, “why is Twitter censoring American free speech while simultaneously serving as a mouthpiece for the anti-American and anti-Semitic lies of the Ayatollah?”

Son of US President Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr. posted that Twitter is giving “this disgusting and anti-Semitic rant a total pass. Just disgusting.”

Son of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Yair Netanyahu said “Unbelievable! Twitter doesn’t take down this vile antisemitic tweet by the dictator of Iran…”

Al Arabiya English reached out to Twitter for comment but the company had not responded by time of publication. This article will be updated should a response be given.

This is not the first time Twitter has gained attention for allowing Khamenei to post extreme language.

In July Twitter defended its decision to allow Khamenei to call for genocide while censoring tweets from President Donald Trump.

During an Israeli parliament hearing on July 29, international human rights lawyer Arsen Ostrovsky asked a Twitter representative why the company has recently started flagging tweets by Trump, but not Iran’s Khamenei “who has literally called for the genocide of Israel and the Jewish people” on the social media platform.

“Foreign policy saber-rattling on political economic issues are generally not in violation of our Twitter rules,” answered Ylwa Pettersson, Twitter’s head policy for the Nordic countries and Israel, via video conference.

“Calling for genocide on Twitter is okay - but commenting on political situations in certain countries is not okay?” replied Israeli parliament member Michal Cotler-Wunsh. In May, Twitter hid a tweet by Trump, where the American president wrote that looters at protests in Minneapolis would be shot.

Pettersson then said that Trump’s tweet “was violating our policies regarding the glorification of violence … and the risk that it could possibly inspire harm.”

“If a world leader violates our rules, but it is a clear interest in keeping it on the service, we may place it behind a notice that provides more context about the violation and allows people to click through if they wish to see that kind of content,” she added.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/media/digital/2020/09/02/Twitter-under-fire-for-allowing-Iran-leader-s-extreme-rhetoric-about-US-UAE

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Saudi Arabia officially opens airspace to all UAE-Israel flights

03 September 2020

Walking further away from the Palestinian cause, Saudi Arabia has opened its airspace to any flights going to and from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to cross over its territory, which means granting Israel access to the kingdom’s skies.

The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Wednesday that the kingdom’s aviation authority had taken the decision in response to a request by the UAE.

“An official source at the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has stated that the Authority approved the request received from the General Civil Aviation Authority in the United Arab Emirates, which includes the desire to allow flights coming to and departing from the United Arab Emirates to all countries to pass through the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s airspace,” the report said.

The development came two days after the first direct flight from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi passed through Saudi airspace.

El Al Flight 971 took a joint US-Israeli delegation to the UAE capital for talks with Emirati officials to finalize an agreement reached last month between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv to establish full diplomatic relations.

Tuesday’s return flight from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv was also allowed to overfly Saudi Arabia, although, unlike Monday’s flight, no American delegation was on board.

Saudi Arabia had previously banned flights to and from the occupied territories from using its airspace, though since 2018 it has permitted Air India to fly over the country to Tel Aviv.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the Saudi announcement as a “breakthrough” that will help the regime’s economy and reduce airfares.

Netanyahu also thanked Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan for what he called their “important contribution” in bringing about the new Saudi policy.

Kushner had been aboard Monday’s flight from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi, from where he went on to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to push for normalization with the occupying Israeli regime.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud took to twitter to claim that the opening of Saudi airspace to flights between Israel and the UAE does not change “the kingdom’s firm and established positions toward the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people.”

He added that Riyadh “appreciates all efforts aimed at achieving a just and lasting peace in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative,” a plan that envisions full normalization of ties between Tel Aviv and the Arab world in return for Israel’s withdrawal to the 1967 lines and the creation of a Palestinian state.

However, experts said Palestinian officials will see the Saudi move as yet another sign of waning Arab support for Palestine’s struggles against Israeli occupation.

 “I believe Palestinian officials see this move as another indication of the increasingly weak Arab position vis-a-vis the Palestinian cause,” said Jehad Harb, an analyst of Palestinian politics.

Arab League rejects Palestine’s request for meeting: Report

In another development on Wednesday, Lebanon’s Al Mayadeen TV channel reported that the Arab League had rejected a request by Palestine to hold an urgent meeting on the UAE-Israel normalization accord due to Bahrain’s objection.

Citing diplomatic sources, the report also revealed efforts within the Arab League to persuade the Palestinians to accept Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” and destroy the Palestinian cause.

The sources, whose names were not mentioned in the report, said the Palestinians are being threatened by some influential countries with the support of wealthy states.

In an article published on Wednesday, The Middle East Monitor said the Arab League’s refusal to hold a meeting “was disrespectful towards the Palestinians, and suggests that the Arab world is more or less satisfied with the deal. The PA (Palestinian Authority) can rightly claim that it has lost Arab support and is now standing alone.”

The truth behind the normalization agreement is that “the UAE, along with the countries supporting it, have cast the Palestinian cause aside, and Israel can now benefit from its relations with “moderate” Arab counties, or even without them. Palestine is no longer a priority for the UAE and other Arab states,” the report added.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/09/03/633205/Saudi-Arabia-airspace-UAE-Israel-flight

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Afghan President says all commitments met for Taliban peace talks

Sep 2, 2020

KABUL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Wednesday that the government had met all of its commitments for peace talks with the Taliban, as a team left for Qatar to prepare for negotiations.

Ghani's remarks came after Kabul broke an impasse with the insurgent group on Monday by resuming a protracted prisoner exchange, a key hurdle to long-delayed negotiations between the two sides opening in Doha.

"The government has fulfilled all its commitments in the peace process that the international community had hoped for," Ghani told a team of government-backed negotiators at a meeting at the presidential palace, his office said.

"The release of Taliban prisoners is a clear demonstration of the government's commitment to peace."

Kabul had baulked at the release of the final 400 Taliban inmates who Ghani described as "a danger to the world", before a group of prominent Afghans approved their release for the sake of peace talks.

A senior government official told AFP on Wednesday on condition of anonymity that at least 200 prisoners have been released since Monday and the process "will continue today too".

The government has not confirmed if the release has been completed.

Paris and Canberra had opposed the release of militants on the list tied to the killing of French and Australian civilians and troops in Afghanistan.

It is not known if those militants have been released.

In return, the militant group has freed four Afghan commandos and are expected to release two more on Wednesday, a Taliban official said.

"We expect the Taliban to live up to their commitments on the release of the remaining captives," Ghani's spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said on Twitter.

The prisoner exchange was agreed in a deal between the Taliban and the United States in February, which said Kabul should release 5,000 militants in return for the Taliban freeing 1,000 Afghan troops.

Ghani said that a "critical stage of peace" had been reached and that the talks would help reduce violence and finalise a permanent ceasefire.

The Taliban have said they were willing to begin negotiations "within a week" of the prisoner swap being completed and blamed Kabul for delaying the negotiations.

Kabul has sent a "small technical team" to Doha to make logistical preparations, Najia Anwari, spokeswoman for the State Ministry for Peace Affairs told AFP.

Anwari said that Kabul's negotiators will also leave for Doha "very soon".

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/afghan-president-says-all-commitments-met-for-taliban-peace-talks/articleshow/77891942.cms

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Indonesia Regrets US Veto of UN Resolution on Islamic State Terrorists

2020-09-02

Indonesia regrets the U.S. veto of a U.N. resolution that Jakarta sponsored calling for the prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration of people engaged in terrorism-related activities, officials said Wednesday.

Washington said it rejected the U.N. Security Council resolution on Monday because the document did not call for the repatriation from Syria and Iraq of foreign fighters for the extremist group known as Islamic State (IS).

Febrian Ruddyard, director general of multilateral cooperation at the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the reason for the omission was that not all countries were capable of bringing back militants.

“We really regret that this veto was only based on the [issue of] repatriation of ex-militants and ignored things that are bigger and important than that,” Febrian told BenarNews on Wednesday.

Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, categorically said in February that it would not take back citizens who had traveled to the Middle East to join the ranks of IS, but would consider allowing in some of their children.

“There is no consensus on the matter of repatriation. Why? All countries are not necessarily ready in terms of infrastructure, and in the absence of legislation in some countries, this will take time,” Febrian said.

The U.S., one of the council’s five permanent members with veto power, was the sole dissenter on the resolution that was approved by 14 of its members.

Like Indonesia, some Western European allies of the United States, including Belgium, Britain and France, are not in favor of bringing back IS fighters and their families. Some have said they may allow orphans and some children back.

These countries believe repatriation is a risk to their national security. “We are working closely with international partners to reduce the risk posed to us collectively by foreign fighters,” a UK Foreign Office spokesperson told the Associated Press after the vote on the resolution.

An English copy of the draft resolution, obtained by BenarNews, lists detailed steps that all member countries should uniformly take to deal with terrorists and the terror threat.

However, not once does it mention the word “repatriation.” It does mention foreign terrorist fighters, or FTFs, and “welcomes the ongoing efforts of Member States aimed at bringing FTFs to justice in a manner consistent with international law, including through international cooperation and regional partnerships.”

The resolution introduced by Indonesia also supports the return of children, by encouraging member countries to facilitate “the return of the children to their countries of origin, as appropriate and on a case-by-case basis.”

Febrian said the resolution was about agreement on a blueprint on how to deal with the terrorism threat in general.

For Kelly Craft, the U.S. envoy to the U.N., the absence of any reference to “repatriation” was a non-starter for Washington. Repatriation from Syria and Iraq of foreign fighters for IS and their families to their countries of origin is “the crucial first step” in their prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration, she said.

“It is incomprehensible that other members of this Council were satisfied with a resolution that ignores the security implications of leaving foreign terrorist fighters to plot their escape from limited detention facilities and abandoning their family members to suffer in camps without recourse, opportunities, or hope,” Craft said in a statement issued by the United States Mission to the United Nations on Monday.

“If, as this resolution suggests, the goal of the Council is to address the drivers of terrorism, how can we ignore these obvious breeding grounds for the next generation of ISIS fighters?” she added, using a different acronym for Islamic State.

‘Incomprehensible view of one’

Febrian and Dian Triansyah Djani, the Indonesian ambassador to the United Nations, said the resolution could serve as a guide for U.N. member-states to handle terrorism effectively.

“A PRR [prosecution, rehabilitation, and reintegration] resolution, if adopted, would have become a key tool for the Council, and all Member States of the U.N., as well as the U.N. system, to have a comprehensive and long term strategy in countering terrorist acts and violent extremism conducive to terrorism, and preventing recurrence of terrorist acts,” Dian said.

He said he didn’t understand the U.S. objection.

“As a country that has been a victim as well as in the frontline on the fight against terrorism, Indonesia fails to understand that when the world continues to be besieged by the grave threat of terrorism to international peace and security, an important initiative that has added value in addressing this serious threat has not enjoyed acceptance in the Council, due to the incomprehensible view of one,” the Indonesian ambassador said in a statement.

Craft however said that “failing to address head on the importance of repatriation will inevitably perpetuate the problem of terrorism.”

The U.S. leads by example because it brings back its citizens and prosecutes them where appropriate, the American representative to the U.N. said.

“All nations need to take responsibility for their citizens who engage in terror,” she said.

Craft also quoted U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who had said in August 2019 that the U.S. wanted every country to bring back its citizens. “That’s step one. It’s imperative that they do so,” Pompeo said.

Hundreds remain in Mid-East camps

Between 400 and 600 Indonesian terrorist fighters and their dependents are still overseas, according to the government, which gets its data from foreign intelligence agencies. Most of them are believed to be in three Syrian camps where more than 70,000 mainly women and children connected to IS fighters are detained.

In June, Boy Rafli Amar, the head of Indonesia’s National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT), said the government had identified 80 children of Indonesian IS fighters in countries Turkey, Iraq and Syria. But he didn’t say if the children would be repatriated. The issue is being discussed, he said.

In April, the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based conflict resolution think-tank, reported that 66,000 women and children were in Syria’s Al-Hol camp and 4,000 were in a camp in Roj.

Most of them were relatives of IS extremists, and a majority were either Syrians or Iraqis with around 13,500 from other countries, the group said. And the detention sites were “ridden with tuberculosis and perilously overcrowded, with one speaking of `dramatic mortality rates,” it said.

https://www.benarnews.org/english/news/indonesian/ID-US-Veto-09022020185215.html

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Palestine factions set for talks on ‘unified strategy’ against US, Israel after UAE betrayal

03 September 2020

In a show of unity, Leaders of all Palestinian factions are set to hold a meeting to discuss “unified strategy” for countering Israeli-US conspiracies, including their land grab agenda, following a controversial Washington-brokered normalization accord between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Representatives of various Palestinian factions will attend the meeting via video conference on Thursday. The gathering, the first of its kind since 2013, is headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Representatives of the Palestinian factions in the occupied West Bank have been invited to Abbas’s office in Ramallah to join the gathering. The leaders of Palestinian factions abroad will join the meeting from the Palestinian embassy in the Lebanese capital, Beirut.

Abbas is scheduled to deliver a speech to the gathering via videoconference.

The rare meeting comes after an August 13 announcement that Israel and the UAE have agreed to normalize ties.

The highly controversial deal, which has since been widely condemned across the occupied Palestinian territories and the Muslim world, was brokered by US President Donald Trump, who has attempted to paint it as a big breakthrough.

“The main purpose of the meeting is to launch important steps towards achieving [Palestinian] national unity and foiling the annexation conspiracy, apartheid, settlement and the Judaization of Jerusalem [al-Quds],” said Nabil Abu Rudaineh, spokesman for the Palestinian presidency.

“The meeting itself constitutes a clear message to all that the Palestinian people and their holy sites are bigger than all the conspiracies,” he said.

Abu Rudaineh added that the meeting would also send a “powerful and clear message” to all about the need to “protect the foundations that will lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital,” and that the Palestinians continue to adhere to the Arab Peace Initiative in order to thwart free normalization between the Arab countries and Israel.

The so-called Arab Peace Initiative, which was proposed by Saudi Arabia, calls on Israel to agree to a “two-state solution” along the 1967 lines and a “just” solution to the Palestinian refugee issue.

Abu Rudaineh said that Palestinian unity and harmony will thwart conspiracies “targeting our lands and holy sites.”

Referring to the recent Israel-UAE normalization accord, he said, “No agreement will pass without the consent of the Palestinian people and their leadership. The only way to achieve security and stability is through the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization), the sole representative of the Palestinians under the leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas.”

PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat said that Thursday’s meeting of the leaders of Palestinian leaders “shows that we are facing a new phase in confronting the UAE-US-Israeli agreement that seeks to impose the ‘Deal of the Century”, laid out by US President Donald Trump on the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Defying international outcry, Trump in late January announced the general provisions of the plan that he has dubbed ‘deal of century’ at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side.

The ‘Vision for Peace’, which all Palestinian groups have unanimously rejected, would, among other contentious terms, enshrine occupied Jerusalem al-Quds as “Israel’s undivided capital” and allow the regime to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank and the Jordan Valley.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Erekat said that the Thursday meeting shows that the Palestinians and all their factions and representatives “are prepared to face all challenges.”

He once again accused Abu Dhabi of stabbing the Palestinians in the back with a “poisonous dagger.”

Ahmed Majdalani, a senior PLO official, said the meeting aims to reach agreement among the Palestinian factions on a national program to confront the Trump peace plan, Israel’s “annexation” scheme and normalization between Israel and some Arab countries, as well as consolidating unity between Palestinian factions.

Qais Abdel Karim, a representative of the PLO’s Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said that Thursday’s meeting was extremely important because it would pave the way for achieving Palestinian unity “at a time when the Palestinians are facing conspiracies and dangers.”

Hamas leader in Beirut to meet Palestinian factions

Ismail Haniyeh, leader of Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, arrived in Beirut earlier this week to participate in the meeting.

According to Ali Baraka, Hams representative in Lebanon, Haniyeh will meet representatives of other Palestinian factions in rare talks on how to respond to such accords and to a Middle East peace plan announced by Washington this year.

Baraka said that Thursday’s joint discussions in Ramallah and Beirut aim to develop “a unified Palestinian strategy to confront normalization schemes ... and to reject plans to annex the West Bank as well as [Trump’s] ‘deal of the century’.”

The last time most heads of Palestinian factions held joint talks was in 2013 in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.

Resistance groups urge stronger unity

In a joint statement carried by the Lebanese al-Mayadeen television channel, Palestinian resistance groups described the joint meeting as a key step toward consolidating unity among Palestinian factions and countering schemes to undermine the Palestinian issue.

The statement said that the Oslo Accord, which had guaranteed a “two-state solution” to the Arab-Israel conflict, must be annulled.

It stressed the right of the Palestinian people to confront the Israeli regime with all possible means.

The resistance groups also called for an agreement on a Palestinian national strategy based on fixed principles for a comprehensive confrontation with the occupying regime.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/09/03/633209/Palestine-factions-meeting-Lebanon-Ramallah-US-Israel-UAE

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India

 

400-Year-Old Qutb Shahi-Era Mosque At Raidurgam Was Restored By The Telangana State Waqf Board

Sep 3, 2020

Hyderabad: A 400-year-old Qutb Shahi-era mosque at Raidurgam was restored by the Telangana State Waqf Board (TSWB) on Tuesday. The mosque is located at Survey No. 82 at Malkamcheru near Raidurgam and is spread over 34 guntas land.

Mohammed Saleem, chairman, TSWB, said that the mosque was in a state of neglect since many years. “The mosque remained shut for several years due to which no one was offering prayers inside the mosque. The entire area was covered with bushes and turned into a haven for anti-social elements and strays. Also, a 100-feet road was being laid at the mosque site without the Waqf Board’s permission,” said Mohammed Saleem.

The board held several discussions with revenue officials and the police over protection of the mosque and starting prayers there. “The board has so far managed to restore five mosques which were abandoned. Once a property is notified as Waqf, it can’t be changed at all. CM K Chandrasekhar Rao is a secular leader and he is concerned about Waqf properties,” said the TSWB chairman.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/qutb-shahi-era-mosque-restored-by-ts-waqf-board/articleshow/77899034.cms

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Hindu, Muslim KSRTC staff come together to build Ganesha temple in Karnataka's Chitradurga

Sep 3, 2020

In a show of unity, Hindu and Muslim KSRTC employees have come together to construct a Ganesha temple on the Chitradurga depot premises.

‘Raksha Ganesha’ temple, painted in saffron and green, was inaugurated on August 20 on the eve of Gowri-Ganesha festival. Devotees from both communities in Chitradurga are visiting the temple to offer pujas.

Over 400 depot employees, including retired employees, and over 30 Muslims contributed funds to build the Rs 8-lakh temple. The temple design reflects influence of both Hindu and Muslim architecture. The entire structure is built in Hindu style and the tower resembles a gumbaz.

“I am a staunch devotee of Ganesha and Anjaneya and I treat them on par with Allah. We have been wanting a separate temple for long as it’s a tradition to offer puja to Ganesha before drivers hit the road,” Rahim Saab, a retired KSRTC driver, told TOI.

“We are all brothers and live like a family once we enter the depot. There is no religious or caste-based discrimination here,” said driver Mallikarjunappa.

“Construction started in December 2019. Former depot controller Prasannakumar K Balanayak granted approvals in 2018 and had contributed financially too,” said another retired driver Rudrappa HG.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bengaluru/hindu-muslim-ksrtc-staff-come-together-to-build-ganesha-temple-in-karnatakas-chitradurga/articleshow/77902670.cms

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NCRB data shows Muslims, Dalits, Tribal population in prisons disproportionate to their numbers outside

September 02, 2020

The state of Indian prisons has only marginally improved over the last five years, and if demographic break up of inmates is any indicator, Muslims, Dalits and the tribal population is disproportionately subjected to the criminal justice system when compared to upper class Hindu population.

Latest prison statistics released by the National Crime Information Bureau shows that the number of Muslims, Dalits, and tribal population incarcerated in jail is disproportionately higher than their numbers outside.

Muslims make up only 14.2 percent of India's population but 16.6 percent convicts, 18.7 percent undertrials and 35.8 percent detenues in Indian prisons are Muslims as of 31 December, 2019.

In the end of 2019, tribals made up 13.6 percent of convicts in Indian jails, while 10.5 percent of undertrials and 5.68 percent of detenues were from the Scheduled Tribes. Their share in the Indian population is 8.6 percent as per the 2011 census.

State-wise, the maximum number of Dalit undertrials were in Uttar Pradesh (17,995), followed by Bihar (6,843) and Punjab (6,831). Madhya Pradesh has the maximum number of tribal undertrials incarcerated (5,894) followed by Chhattisgarh (3,471) and Jharkhand (3336).

Uttar Pradesh stood out for the number of Muslim undertrial inmates too, with a whopping 21,139 people in jails. West Bengal was a distant second with 6,032 Muslim undertrial prisoners, and Bihar stood third with 4,758 undertrial Muslims in jail.

Five years ago, in 2014, the percentage of Muslim convicts, undertrials and detenues was 15.8 percent, 21.1 percent and 20.3 percent respectively, showing a slight decline in percentage undertrials but a massive jump in the number of detenues. The percentage of convicts has only marginally declined in five years.

The situations, however, has hardly changed for Dalits and the tribal population over the last five years. Dalits comprised 21.3 percent of convicts and 20.2 percent undertrials. However, there was a marked decline in number of Dalit detenues as in 2014, prison statistics reported 38.1 percent of detenues were from the scheduled castes.

For tribals, the percentage share has gone up among convicts (11.9 percent in 2014, 13.6 percent last year), while falling marginally among undertrials (11.2 percent in 2014 to 10.5 percent in 2019). The percentage of people detained from the Scheduled Tribe went slightly up in five years (5.1 percent in 2015 to 5.68 percent last years).

The data also shows that Indian jails are largely overcrowded and understaffed. The sanctioned strength of jail-staff was 87,599 while the actual strength was 60,787 as on 31st December, 2019.

Among the jail-staffs, the sanctioned strength of Officers (DG/Addl. DG/IG, DIG, AIG, Supdt. etc.), Jail-cadre Staff (Head Warder, Head Matron, Warder, etc.) and Correctional Staff (Probation Officer / Welfare Officer, Phychologist / Psychiatrist, etc.) were 7,239, 72,273 and 1,307 respectively while the actual strengths were 4,840, 51,126 and 761 respectively. The sanctioned strength of Medical Staff was 3,320 while the actual strength was 1,962.

Almost all prisons across states were filled beyond their capacity. According to the NCRB report, Indian prisons had the capacity to hold 4,03,739 prisoners while the population in jail was estimated to be 4,78,600 as on 31 December 2019, which means that the occupancy rate is as high as 118 percent. In 2018, the occupancy rate was 117.6 percent while in 2017 it was 115.1 percent.

Uttar Pradesh has reported the most number of convicts (19.2 percent, 27,612) in the country followed by Madhya Pradesh (14.1 percent, 20,253) and Maharashtra (6.3 percent, 9,096) at the end of 2019.

These statistics stood even as the NCRB report said that the actual capacity of prisons has increased to 4.03 lakh in 2019 from 3.91 lakh in 2017 and 3.96 lakh in 2018 (as on December 31 of these respective years).

https://www.firstpost.com/india/ncrb-data-shows-muslims-dalits-tribal-population-in-prisons-disproportionate-to-their-numbers-outside-8775161.html

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Delhi Metro appoints new ‘guardian’ Polo the Belgian Malinois, a dog breed that tracked Osama bin Laden

Posted by: Srimoyee Chowdhury

Sep 02, 2020

Travelling by Delhi Metro, which is reopening after almost six months on September 7, may give you a chance to meet a new guardian “Polo”- an agile Belgian Malinois dog with special skills who has been given his first posting by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF).

The well-trained dog will be performing his first duty at Delhi metro stations.

Polo is no ordinary dog as he belongs to the same breed which played a very important role in an operation launched by US security forces in Pakistan to eliminate Osama Bin Laden.

The same breed dog “Cairo” had identified Osama Bin Laden during the operation. After his identity was established, Osama was eliminated by US SEALs.

This would be the first time when Belgian Malinois breed dog will be deployed at any establishment in the national capital.

“He is the only dog who is master of all three trades -- sniff, attack and guard while other breads like German shepherd and Labrador can perform only one task” his handler M Mariselvam said.

CISF normally has one handler per dog but as Polo is a special dog, there are two handlers for him.

“He is totally different from others because of his agility, attacking skill and sniffing sense. He belongs to the same breed which was used in an operation to eliminate Osama Bin Laden. He can walk almost 40 kilometres while other dogs can walk up to 4-7 kilometres. He can attack also in case of any terror attack and has outstanding sniffing sense,” K9 team head Inspector Rajender Pilania told ANI.

“He will be most likely to be deployed at major metro stations like Rajiv Chowk, Kashmiri gate etc while we can use him in theft cases too. Polo is completely different from others,” he added.

CISF K9 team is all set to be back on security duties in the metro as the government has allowed graded metro operations in the fourth phase of Unlock as part of relaxations after the lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

CISF has 61 dogs who will be deployed in different locations of Delhi metro.

Pilania said the trainers have been maintaining social distancing norms and training dogs in small groups. “All dogs stayed in kennels all the day,” he said.

“They will be working in different shifts of four hours. They are well-trained dogs who are masters in different trade, except Polo. He knows everything,” he added.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/it-s-viral/delhi-metro-appoints-new-guardian-polo-the-belgian-malinois-a-dog-breed-that-tracked-osama-bin-laden/story-8GGbwo2WlmRDX6E0WIrKZN.html

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Peoples Democratic Party’s 1st meeting after Article 370 revocation to discuss Mehbooba Mufti’s arrest

Mir Ehsan |Edited by Abhinav Sahay

Sep 03, 2020

Jammu and Kashmir based Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is holding its first meeting on Thursday post revocation of Article 370 on August 5 last year to discuss several important issues including party president Mehbooba Mufti’s continued detention under the PSA (Public Security Act).

Almost all senior PDP leaders including Mehbooba Mufti were detained by the government coinciding with the Parliament revoking Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and bifurcating the erstwhile state into two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, with legislature, and Ladakh, without legislature, last August.

Party officials said many important issues, including Mufti and other leaders’ house arrests, will come up for discussion at Thursday’s meeting. Mehbooba Mufti is the only prominent mainstream leader, who is still booked under the PSA.

Party spokesman Suhail Bukhari said the meeting will begin at 11 am at party headquarters.

The other mainstream J&K political outfit, the National Conference, has held a series of meetings over several political developments in J&K. It has also announced the launch of a joint political struggle with other mainstream parties including the one-time arch rival PDP for the restoration of Jammu & Kashmir’s special status and its statehood.

The leaders of the political parties had first signed a declaration a day before Article 370 was nullified, saying they will be united in defending the identity, autonomy and special status of Jammu & Kashmir.

Last week, PDP leaders also held a protest demonstration seeking Mufti’s release and for raising other issues of alleged human rights violations. After the revocation of Article 370, many leaders, especially former ministers and legislators of the PDP left the party and joined the newly-launched Apni Party by Altaf Bukhari.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/peoples-democratic-party-s-1st-meeting-after-article-370-revocation-to-discuss-mehbooba-mufti-s-arrest/story-VtvMXXNKmyVQjUVifjtn3K.html

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Hindi, Kashmiri, & Dogri added to J&K’s official languages list

Sep 3, 2020

NEW DELHI: The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a bill that seeks to make Kashmiri, Dogri and Hindi, apart from the existing Urdu and English, the official languages of Jammu & Kashmir. This is in line with the long-pending demand of the people of J&K, the government said.

Announcing the decision at a press briefing, Union minister Prakash Javadekar said the Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill, 2020, shall be introduced in Parliament in the upcoming monsoon session. He did not divulge in further details saying the bill will be debated in Parliament soon.

Union minister of state for PMO and personnel Jitendra Singh said the government has accepted the long-pending demand of the region for the inclusion of Dogri, Hindi and Kashmiri as official languages in J&K. “It is not only a fulfilment of a long-pending public demand of the region but also in keeping with the spirit of equality which was ushered in after August 5 last year,” he told reporters.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/hindi-kashmiri-dogri-added-to-jks-official-languages-list/articleshow/77901448.cms

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Pakistan

 

Pakistan directs American blogger Cynthia Ritchie to leave country within 15 days

Sep 2, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Wednesday rejected controversial American blogger Cynthia Ritchie's application for visa extension and directed her to leave the country within 15 days.

The ministry of interior took the decision after the Islamabad high court (IHC) asked authorities to make a final decision about the status of her stay in the country.

Radio Pakistan reported that the ministry asked Ritchie to leave the country in 15 days as her visa was not extended.

The IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah in June had sought an explanation from the ministry about the status and terms and conditions of the visa issued to Ritchie on a petition filed by an activist of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), asking it to explain if she was entitled to making political statements, the Dawn newspaper reported.

The petitioner, Chaudhry Iftikhar Ahmed, in the petition said that Ritchie is a foreign national and she has stayed in Pakistan without a valid visa. He also sought her deportation.

Ritchie had in June through a video clip posted on her Facebook page alleged that she was raped by Pakistan's former interior minister Rehman Malik and accused ex-prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani and another former minister of physically manhandling her in 2011.

She also alleged that late former prime minister Benazir Bhutto condoned rape culture in Pakistan.

The Islamabad's District and Session Court had directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in June to register a case against Ritchie for maligning Bhutto on social media.

On Tuesday, the deputy attorney general submitted a copy of a recent order passed by the interior ministry's secretary to the IHC in Ritchie's case. The court noted that the secretary had not made reference to any law or policy and appeared to have solely relied on Ritchie's statement.

The order is self-contradictory and in conflict with the previous order, the IHC observed.

The secretary conceded in his order that Ritchie was granted a work visa in violation of policy and laws.

The court observed that the interior secretary had been evasive in recording his findings regarding the crucial question: whether a foreign national visiting Pakistan on the basis of a business visa was entitled to give statements of a political nature.

The IHC, on Tuesday, also referred back for review the matter related to registration of a first information report against former interior minister Rehman Malik over allegations of rape by Ritchie.

Meanwhile, Ritchie, in a tweet, claimed that the interior ministry had rejected her application "under pressure".

"The MoI — under pressure best known to them — has for the first time, in my over 10+ years in Pakistan, rejected my visa application. No reason has been given. We have a right to file an appeal & will do so. A higher forum must entertain my application & upon merits grant visa," she said.

Ritchie has been living in Pakistan for more than a decade. She introduced herself as an adventure tourist who fell in love with Pakistan.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-directs-american-blogger-cynthia-ritchie-to-leave-country-within-15-days/articleshow/77895142.cms

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SPD chief discusses nuclear diplomacy with FM

Baqir Sajjad Syed

03 Sep 2020

ISLAMABAD: Director General of the Strategic Plans Division Lt Gen Nadeem Zaki Manj called on Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Wednesday for a discussion on nuclear diplomacy.

The foreign minister is the deputy chairman of the Employment Control Committee of the National Command Authority which provides civilian oversight over research, development, production and use of space and nuclear technologies and related applications.

This is Gen Manj’s second publicly disclosed meeting with the top civilian leadership in the last 10 days. He had earlier on Aug 22 met Prime Minister Imran Khan for what was said to be a briefing on the Strategic Plans Division (SPD), which administers the country’s nuclear and missile programs.

The Aug 22 meeting was the first officially announced briefing for the prime minister on the SPD since he assumed office two years ago.

The Foreign Office closely liaises with the SPD on matters related to arms control and disarmament, export control regimes, nuclear confidence building measures, regional strategic stability, bilateral nuclear dialogues with key states, peaceful uses of nuclear energy and on engagement with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Mr Qureshi, according to Radio Pakistan, lauded the role of the SPD.

Established in 2001, the SPD serves as the secretariat of the National Command Authority (NCA) and executes its policies. The SPD director general also serves as NCA secretary. Gen Manj took over as its director general last November.

A meeting of the NCA was reportedly convened during the post-Pulwama stand-off with India, but no statement on the session was subsequently issued. That was the only NCA meeting to have so far taken place during the PTI government’s two years.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1577664/spd-chief-discusses-nuclear-diplomacy-with-fm

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Imran Khan project to get 2 Indians sanctioned for terror fails, UNSC throws it out

Sep 03, 2020

by Sohini Sarkar

The UN Security Council on Wednesday rejected Pakistan’s efforts to get two Indian nationals designated as terrorists under the 1267 sanctions committee process after Islamabad failed to produce evidence to back up its allegations.

The move by Pakistan was widely perceived as retaliation for India’s success last year in getting Jaish-e-Mohammed founder Masood Azhar listed as a global terrorist by the 1267 committee, which focuses on the designation of terrorists linked to al-Qaeda, Taliban and their affiliates.

Pakistan had launched an initiative to designate a total of four Indians as terrorists in 2019, telling the UN Security Council that they were allegedly involved in state-sponsored terrorism. Pakistan further alleged the men were part of an Afghanistan-based group that helped organise terror attacks by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar.

The efforts to designate two of the Indians – identified by Pakistan as Venumadhav Dongara and Ajoy Mistry – were rejected by the Security Council in June and July, largely because of efforts by the United States, Britain, France and Germany, people familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity.

The effort to designate two other Indians – identified by Islamabad as Gobinda Patnaik and Angara Appaji – were initially blocked through a “technical hold” by the US, the UK, Germany, France and Belgium as they wanted Pakistan to provide evidence to back its allegations, the people said.

During consultations behind closed doors on Wednesday, when the term of the hold ended, Pakistan’s effort to designate the remaining two Indians was rejected by the Security Council as it failed to furnish any proof, the people added.

India’s permanent representative to the UN, TS Tirumurti, tweeted: “Pakistan’s blatant attempt to politicise 1267 special procedure on terrorism by giving it a religious colour, has been thwarted by UN Security Council. We thank all those Council members who have blocked Pakistan’s designs.”

Pakistan has repeatedly sought to rake up what it claims is India’s alleged role in fomenting terrorism on its soil at various UN bodies in recent months, but without any takers for its allegations. It even made a false claim that its envoy to the UN had delivered a statement at a UN Security Council meet on terrorism but this was later proved to be false.

Some of the Indians that Pakistan had sought to designate as terrorists had been working in Afghanistan in the past.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/pakistan-fails-in-efforts-to-designate-two-indians-as-terrorists-at-unsc/story-QdAkirh2QTFgB6DjtygMSJ.html

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CPEC aimed at decreasing China’s reliance on strategic chokeholds: Pentagon

Anwar Iqbal

03 Sep 2020

WASHINGTON: Under its One Belt, One Road (OBOR) policy, China is pursuing projects in Pakistan that would decrease Beijing’s reliance on strategic choke points, says a Pentagon report released on Wednesday.

The 2020 Pentagon report on China’s military power also shows that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has surpassed the US military in terms of navy size, land-based missiles and advanced air defence systems.

A chapter on Beijing’s economic policies notes that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects focus on pipelines and port construction that would “decrease China’s reliance on transporting energy resources through strategic choke points, such as the Strait of Malacca”.

Launched in 2013, OBOR seeks to foster closer economic integration with countries along China’s periphery and beyond, thereby shaping these countries’ interests to align with Beijing’s, the report adds.

The report notes that OBOR also seeks to promote regional stability to repel criticism over China’s approach to issues it views as sensitive.

The Pentagon argues that the growth of China’s global economic footprint also makes its interests increasingly vulnerable to domestic political transitions in participating countries.

In 2019, Beijing hosted the Second Belt and Road Forum to address growing international scepticism over corruption, indebtedness, environmental sustainability, and lack of transparency over OBOR projects.

Another chapter on China’s foreign policy notes that tensions between China and India persist along the northeastern border in Arunachal Pradesh and near the Aksai Chin region at the western end of the Tibetan Plateau.

Chinese and Indian patrols regularly encounter one another along the disputed border, and both sides often accuse one another of border incursions.

Yet, “Chinese and Indian forces have regularly interacted since the 2017 Doklam standoff and generally kept disputes from escalating in 2019”, the report adds.

The report also notes that despite low-level face-offs among troops, both sides have prevented these incidents from escalating to the level of the 73-day border standoff at the Doklam Plateau in 2017.

Chinese and Indian officials also have continued diplomatic discussion on border issues, the Pentagon adds.

The report acknowledges that in its millennial report two decades ago, the Pentagon largely dismissed the PLA’s rise, yet it is now on track to become a “world-class military” before the middle of this century.

The report claims that China is also attempting to at least double the number of nuclear warheads in its arsenal in the next decade.

The Pentagon calculates that “Beijing will seek to develop a military by mid-century that is equal — or in some cases superior — to the US military, or that of any other great power that China views as a threat”.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1577634/cpec-aimed-at-decreasing-chinas-reliance-on-strategic-chokeholds-pentagon

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North America

 

Trump calls for cable host to be fired over comments about Muslims

RAY HANANIA

September 03, 2020

CHICAGO: In a rare moment of agreement, US President Donald Trump on Wednesday echoed the concerns of American Muslims who criticized cable news host Joy Reid for her on-air comments about Muslims.

During her MSNBC show “The ReidOut” on Monday, Reid said that Muslim leaders employ extremist rhetoric to radicalize followers and promote violence, and then suggested that Trump is employing similar tactics.

A number of America Muslim leaders and organization denounced the comments and called for an apology, including Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Emgage Action, and Muslim Advocates.

However, when Trump chipped in on Twitter to criticize Reid, he was accused of pretending to support Muslims to further his ongoing war with the media.

During her show on Monday, Reid said: “Leaders, let’s say in the Muslim world, talk a lot of violent talk and encourage their supporters to be willing to commit violence, including on their own bodies, in order to win against whoever they decide is the enemy.

“We in the US media describe that as they are radicalizing those people, particularly when they’re radicalizing young people. That’s how we talk about the way Muslims act. When you see what Donald Trump is doing, is that any different from what we describe as radicalizing people?”

On Wednesday, Trump posted a message on Twitter that read: “Like Fredo at Fake News @CNN, the very untalented Joy Reid should be fired for this horrible use of the words ‘Muslim Terrorists’. Such xenophobia and racism on MSDNC. Anyone else would be gone, and fast.”

“Fredo” is a name Trump often uses when referring to CNN journalist Chris Cuomo. He began to use it in 2019 after Cuomo became enraged when a member of the public called him “Fredo,” a reference to the ineffectual and traitorous son of mobster Vito Corleone in Hollywood movie “The Godfather.” The journalist is the younger brother of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a frequent critic of Trump.

On Tuesday, Omar tweeted in response to Reid’s comments: “Honestly, this kinda of casual Islamophobia is hurtful and dangerous. We deserve better and an apology for the painful moment for so many Muslims around our country should be forthcoming.”

Emgage Action condemned Reid and called for her to fired, accusing her of spreading “an anti-Muslim smear” by comparing how “Muslims act” with how Trump is encouraging white-nationalist violence during nationwide protests against discrimination and police brutality against Black people.

After Trump joined the attacks on Reid, however, Emgage Action described his defense of Muslims as a phony political move.

“This morning, President Trump feigned advocacy for Muslims in his ongoing attack on the press,” said Emgage CEO Wa’el Alzayat. “His remarks did not come from an authentic concern for the Muslim community.

“While we are disappointed in Reid’s comments and her lack of initiative in apologizing, Trump’s hypocrisy is appalling. Trump is supposedly angered by Reid’s use of ‘Muslim terrorists,’ yet he is a strong proponent of using the phrase ‘Radical Islamic terrorism.’

“Furthermore, our community leaders have continuously called out Islamophobic and bigoted appointments by the administration. As the implementer of the Muslim Ban and the orchestrator of countless family separations at our borders, President Trump may want to check his own racism before being self-righteous.”

Trump has previously called for several left-wing media figures to be fired for what he alleges is liberal bias.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1728786/world

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American ISIS fighter repatriated, pleads guilty; US calls on Europe to follow suit

02 September 2020

A 23-year-old US citizen captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and handed over for fighting with ISIS pleaded guilty to terrorism charges, the Justice Department said Wednesday.

Omer Kuzu is accused of handling communications for the terrorist group, ISIS. He pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide material support to terrorism, the Justice Department said in a statement.

For all the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Kuzu admitted that he and his brother left Texas for Turkey in 2014. After arriving in Istanbul, they used an “ISIS taxi” to smuggle them into Syria. After waiting in Syria, they headed to Iraq’s Mosul.

“In Mosul, alongside 40 other foreign fighters, the brothers underwent five days of physical and weapons training led by ISIS instructors. They were then sent to Raqqah, Syria, where Kuzu started work at the ISIS telecommunications directorate,” the Justice Department said.

Kuzu pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the Islamic Caliphate and was rewarded with a monthly stipend, a Chinese-made AK-47 and an ISIS bride.

Read more: US Donald Trump confirms killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

“Subsequently, Kuzu was sent to the second lines in Kobani, Syria and Hama, Syria, to provide communications support for ISIS fighters on the front lines. He also worked in the Caliphate’s technology center,” the statement said.

He was captured in 2019 by the US-backed SDF and handed over to the FBI before being repatriated to the US to stand trial.

Kuzu faces 20 years in federal prison and his sentencing is set to begin next January.

US calls on Europe to take responsibility for citizens supporting ISIS

John Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, thanked “our foreign partners and the FBI in returning Kuzu to this country to face justice in an American courtroom.” Demers called on Europe to take responsibility for “their own citizens who traveled to support ISIS.”

The US vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution earlier in the week on foreign militants fighting with groups like ISIS because it did not address repatriation, an issue that has long pitted Washington against its European allies.

The US wants foreign militants sent home and either prosecuted or rehabilitated there. European states, however, have been reluctant to try their nationals at home, citing difficulty in collecting evidence, concerns about a public backlash and the risk of fresh attacks on European soil.

Thousands of foreign militants from dozens of countries are being held by the SDF in northeast Syria. The Kurdish-led forces also hold tens of thousands of Syrian and foreign women and children - family members of suspected militants - in squalid camps.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/09/02/American-ISIS-fighter-repatriated-pleads-guilty-US-calls-on-Europe-to-follow-suit

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US sanctions ICC prosecutor over Afghanistan war crimes probe

September 02, 2020

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration on Wednesday imposed sanctions on the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and one of her top aides for continuing to investigate war crimes allegations against Americans. The sanctions were immediately denounced by the court, the United Nations and human rights advocates.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the moves as part of the administration’s pushback against the tribunal, based in The Hague, for investigations into the United States and its allies. The sanctions include a freeze on assets held in the US or subject to US law and target prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and the court’s head of jurisdiction, Phakiso Mochochoko.

He said the court, to which the United States has never been a party, was “a thoroughly broken and corrupt institution.”

“We will not tolerate its illegitimate attempts to subject Americans to its jurisdiction,” Pompeo told reporters at a State Department news conference. In addition to the sanctions imposed on Bensouda and Mochochoko, Pompeo said people who provide them with “material support” in investigating Americans could also face US penalties.

Pompeo had previously imposed a travel ban on Bensouda and other tribunal employees over investigations into allegations of torture and other crimes by Americans in Afghanistan.

The head of the court’s governing board, the Assembly of States Parties, decried the step as “unprecedented and unacceptable” and an affront to efforts to combat impunity for war crimes. O-Gon Kwon said the assembly planned to convene shortly to reaffirm the members’ “unstinting support for the court” and its employees.

“I strongly reject such unprecedented and unacceptable measures against a treaty-based international organization,” he said. “They only serve to weaken our common endeavor to fight impunity for mass atrocities.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres noted Pompeo’s statement “with concern,” according to spokesman Stephane Dujarric. He stressed that the UN expects the United States to abide by its agreement with the United Nations, which allows the prosecutor to come to UN headquarters on ICC business.

The Security Council referred the situations in Sudan’s Darfur region and in Libya to the court, and Bensouda has regularly updated members on its actions. “We have always stood for the need for international justice and for issue of accountability and the fight against impunity,” Dujarric said.

Human rights groups and others have condemned the administration’s moves against the court and Wednesday’s announcement was immediately met with withering criticism from them.

“Today’s announcement is designed to do what this administration does best — bully and intimidate,” said Daniel Balson of Amnesty International USA. “It penalizes not only the ICC, but civil society actors working for justice alongside the court worldwide.”

“Today’s reckless actions constitute a demand that the US government be granted a political carve-out of impunity for nationals accused of having committed crimes under international law in Afghanistan,” he said. “No one responsible for the most serious crimes under international law should be able to hide from accountability, under a cloak of impunity.”

Richard Dicker, the international justice director at Human Rights Watch, called it “a stunning perversion of US sanctions, devised to penalize rights abusers and kleptocrats, to persecute those tasked with prosecuting international crimes.”

“The Trump administration has twisted these sanctions to obstruct justice, not only for certain war crimes victims, but for atrocity victims anywhere looking to the International Criminal Court for justice,” he said.

In March 2019, Pompeo ordered the revocation or denial of visas to ICC staff seeking to investigate allegations of war crimes and other abuses by US forces in Afghanistan or elsewhere. He also said he might revoke the visas of those who seek action against Israel.

Prosecutors have been conducting a preliminary inquiry since 2015 in the Palestinian territories, including Israel’s settlement policy, crimes allegedly committed by both sides in the 2014 Gaza conflict and Hamas rocket attacks aimed at Israeli civilians.

The court was created to hold accountable perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity in cases where adequate judicial systems were not available. The US has not joined the ICC because of concerns the court might be used for politically motivated prosecutions of American troops and officials.

Subsequent US administrations have reiterated that stance, although some, including President Barack Obama’s, have agreed to limited cooperation with court. The Trump administration, however, has been openly hostile to the tribunal and lashed out against Bensouda along with others for pursuing prosecutions of Americans.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1728546/world

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US: Turkey-sent Syrian fighters generate backlash in Libya

September 02, 2020

CAIRO: A US report said the presence of thousands of Syrian mercenaries sent by Turkey to Libya to fight on the side of the UN-supported government was likely to degrade security and generate backlash from the Libyan public.

The US Defense Department’s inspector general also said in a new report that it was concerned about the growing presence of Russian mercenaries fighting for the rivals of the Tripoli-based government in the Libyan war.

The report, which was released Tuesday, said Turkey has sent to Libya at least 5,000 Syrian mercenaries who previously worked closely with Ankara in Syria’s civil war. They were sent to help Tripoli-allied militias fight the forces of east-based military commander Khalifa Haftar.

Turkey also deployed several hundred regular troops to Libya, including operators and technicians for Turkish air defense systems deployed in western Libya, the report said.

While the Syrian mercenaries have bolstered the UN-supported government’s position, “their continued presence will continue to negatively affect the overall security situation in Libya,” said the report, which covers the second quarter of 2020.

Libya was plunged into chaos when a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi, who was later killed. The country has since split between rival east- and west-based administrations, each backed by armed groups and foreign governments.

Haftar’s forces launched an offensive in April 2019 trying to capture Tripoli. But his campaign collapsed in June when the Tripoli-allied militias, with heavy Turkish support, gained the upper hand, driving his forces from the outskirts of the city and other western towns.

Fighting has died down in recent weeks, but both sides were preparing for a possible battle over the strategic city of Sirte, the gateway to Libya’s major oil fields and export terminals, controlled by Haftar.

The chaos has worsened in recent months as foreign backers increasingly intervene, despite pledges to the contrary at a high-profile peace summit in Berlin earlier this year. Thousands of mercenaries including Russians, Syrians and Sudanese are fighting on both sides of the conflict.

The US Africa Command, or AFRICOM, described the Syrian mercenaries fighting with the Tripoli-based government as “inexperienced, uneducated, and motivated by promises of considerable salary.” It said Turkish private military company Sadat has overseen supervision and payment to the mercenaries.

Increasing reports of theft, sexual assault and misconduct by Syrian mercenaries in western areas are likely to further degrade the security situation and generate backlash from the Libyan public, AFRICOM said.

The report says extremists with previous militant links have been involved in the Tripoli fighting, although “it is possible they were fighting for financial and personal reasons rather than ideological reasons.”

Protests took place over deteriorating economic conditions last month in the capital and elsewhere in western Libya, which is controlled by forces loyal to the UN-supported government. Tripoli militias opened fire on demonstrators with rifles and truck-mounted guns and abducted some of the protesters.

The US military has grown increasingly concerned about Russia’s growing influence in Libya, where at least 3,000 Russian mercenaries and 2,000 Russia-sponsored Syrian mercenaries backing Haftar’s army, the report said.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1728676/middle-east

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Arab world

 

Al-Azhar slams Charlie Hebdo republication of prophet cartoons

MOHAMMED ABU ZAID

September 02, 2020

CAIRO: Al-Azhar has strongly condemned Charlie Hebdo for republishing offensive cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in the French magazine’s Wednesday issue.

Al-Azhar Observatory for Combating Extremism urged the international community to “take a firm stance on the encroachment on Muslims’ sanctities and symbols.”

It said the insistence on republishing the cartoons reinforces hate speech, is a provocation against the world’s nearly 2 billion Muslims, and undermines interfaith dialogue and coexistence between people of different religions and beliefs.

Al-Azhar reiterated its strong condemnation of the criminal attack on the Charlie Hebdo headquarters in early 2015, stressing Islam’s rejection of violence and urging those in charge of the magazine to respect the beliefs of others.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1728616/middle-east

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Saudi Arabia’s stance on Palestine ‘remains unchanged’

AISHA FAREED

September 03, 2020

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s position on the Palestinian cause will not change after the Kingdom gave permission for all flights between the UAE and other countries to travel through Saudi airspace, the foreign minister said on Wednesday.

The altered flight policy followed a request from the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority to the Saudi General Authority for Civil Aviation.

“The Kingdom’s firm position toward the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people will not change by allowing flights to and from the UAE to pass through Saudi airspace,” Prince Faisal bin Farhan said. “The Kingdom appreciates all efforts to achieve a just and lasting peace in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative.”

Saudi political analyst Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News the Kingdom knew how to separate the two issues. “Yes, we allowed the flights, but that doesn’t mean we let go of our original causes,” he said.

“The language of those with established positions is flexibility, which does not mean waiving rights or just and fair initiatives. Our stance in these cases is crystal clear and will not change.”

The UAE and Israel normalized ties in an agreement last month.

A joint Israeli-US delegation traveled from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi on Monday and returned on Tuesday.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1728761/saudi-arabia

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Iraqi Lawmakers Reiterate Expulsion of US Forces

Sep 02, 2020

“The US should withdraw its forces from Iraq and avoid turning the country into a battlefield,” Mohammed Karim, the representative of Sadiqoun fraction, told the Arabic-language al-Ma’aloumeh news website.

He added that the parliament’s decision not to accept any American forces on Iraqi soil is clear.

Also, Mohammed al-Assadi, the representative of al-Fatah coalition, said that members of the coalition have informed Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi of their opposition to the presence of the US forces.

Meantime, Hassan al-Jinabi, the representative of Araqioun coalition, said that the Iraqi parliament has approved the bill to expel the foreign forces, warning that presence of American soldiers in Iraq stirs tension.

Iraq's Parliament voted in January to have the US troops removed from the country, heeding a call from former Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi to take urgent measures and end the foreign forces presence as soon as possible.

The Iraqi Parliament passed a resolution anonymously to work to end the foreign troop presence in the Arab country in the wake of a US targeted assassination of a top Iranian general and a commander of Iraqi popular forces.

"The government commits to revoke its request for assistance from the international coalition fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) due to the end of military operations in Iraq and the achievement of victory," the resolution read, adding, "The Iraqi government must work to end the presence of any foreign troops on Iraqi soil and prohibit them from using its land, airspace or water for any reason."

The resolution stated that Iraqi military leadership has to report the number of foreign instructors that are necessary for Iraqi national security.

https://en.farsnews.ir/newstext.aspx?nn=13990612000901

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US still opposed to Hezbollah’s participation in Lebanon govt: Official

Joseph Haboush

02 September 2020

Washington is still opposed to Hezbollah's participation in Lebanon’s governments, a senior US official said Wednesday.

“We, at the State Department and in our Congress, we’ve all been clear about our opinion for decades now, of Hezbollah being in the Lebanese government. It is not a party that we are willing to do business with,” State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus told Al Arabiya in an exclusive interview.

For all the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent visit to Beirut worked on laying out a roadmap for Lebanese officials, who committed to forming a new government within two weeks. The French president threatened sanctions if reforms were not implemented after a certain period of time, but stopped short of calling for the exclusion of Hezbollah from any future government.

Earlier Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the new government in Lebanon must carry out “real change,” adding that Iran-backed Hezbollah needed to disarm.

“Business as usual in Lebanon just is unacceptable,” Pompeo said during a news conference in Washington.

Lebanese officials designated a new prime minister on Monday, to form and head a government capable of implementing reforms in order to unlock international aid.

The country is facing an unparalleled economic and financial crisis, coupled with the coronavirus pandemic and the aftermath of the deadly Aug. 4 explosions.

Pompeo said any new government must conduct “significant reforms” and “real change,” being demanded by the Lebanese people. “And the United States is going to use its diplomatic presence and its diplomatic capabilities to make sure that we get that outcome,” he added.

Hezbollah should disarm

Turning to Hezbollah, Pompeo said the “risk stares you in the face.”

“And so those people who are either part of that or are playing footsie with Hezbollah should know that that’s not productive,” Pompeo said.

Hezbollah was the only non-state group that kept its arms following the end of the 1975-90 Civil War. “Everybody disarms but Hezbollah. This is the challenge that is presented,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo said Hezbollah’s arms were not what the regional security needed and that Washington was coordinating with France to help resolve Lebanon’s issues. “So I’m confident that the United States, the French, and all of us who are working there on the ground, both to meet the immediate needs in the result that flowed from the explosion that took place now several weeks back as well as the longer-term challenges that are presenting in Lebanon. We’ll all work on it together.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/09/02/Lebanon-needs-real-change-with-new-govt-Hezbollah-must-disarm-Pompeo

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France’s Macron says meeting with Iraqi president to discuss country’s sovereignty

Tamara Abueish

03 September 2020

France’s President Emmanuel Macron met with his Iraqi counterpart Barham Salih on Wednesday in the Salam Palace in Baghdad to discuss the country’s sovereignty, state news media reported.

The French President had arrived in the capital earlier on Wednesday for his first official visit since Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi ascended to power.

For all the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Iraq should not be a battleground for conflict between other countries, Iraqi President Salih said during a joint press conference with Macron.

“We are here for and we will continue to support Iraq,” Macron said at the news conference.

Macron on Twitter said that his visit to Iraq is aimed at helping guarantee Iraq’s security and economic sovereignty inside and outside of country.

There are many challenges that exist when it comes to ensuring the sovereignty of Iraq within its border and in the region, he added.

“Our collective security and regional stability are at stake. Our soldiers are fighting side by side to ensure the final defeat of the [extremists],” the French president said.

Macron is the most senior foreign official to travel to Iraq since the head of the country’s intelligence al-Kadhimi became prime minister in May.

Earlier this week, the French president had traveled to Beirut for his second visit since the deadly August 4 that killed about 190 people and spurred international outcry for political reform.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/09/02/France-s-Macron-says-meeting-with-Iraqi-president-to-discuss-country-s-sovereignty

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Syria thwarts fresh Israeli missile attack on T4 airbase

02 September 2020

The Syrian air defenses have foiled a fresh Israeli missile attack against the T4 airbase in central Syria.

At 22:23 (local time) on Wednesday, Israeli warplanes fired missiles from the direction of al-Tanf in southeastern Syria, targeting the T4 (officially known as Althias) airbase in Homs province, a report by the state news agency SANA said.

The report quoted a military source as saying that most of the missiles were shot down and the rest caused only material damage.

The latest aggression came only two days after an Israeli missile attack against military sites in southern Damascus killed two Syrian soldiers and injured seven others in addition to causing material damage.

The Monday attack had been launched from the occupied Golan Heights.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The Syrian government says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri terrorist groups that are wreaking havoc in the country.

Israel frequently targets military positions inside Syria, especially those of Hezbollah which has played a key role in helping the Syrian army in its fight against terrorists.

The Tel Aviv regime mostly keeps quiet about the attacks on Syrian territories which many view as knee-jerk reaction to Syrian government’s increasing success in confronting terrorism in country.

Israel has been a main supporter of terrorist groups that have opposed the government of President Bashar al-Assad since militancy erupted in Syria nine years ago.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/09/02/633194/Syria-air-defense-Israel-missile-t4-airbase

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Afghanistan to move to Qatar seven prisoners sought by Taliban

September 03, 2020

KABUL: Afghanistan will transfer to Qatar seven prisoners whose release has been demanded by the Taliban ahead of peace talks set to start this week, officials of both warring sides, as well as Western diplomats, said on Thursday.

An Afghan official said the captives would be freed soon, although the government had not wanted to release them on the grounds that they were guilty of killing foreign soldiers.

“They will be shifted to Doha,” he said, adding that top Afghan officials were set to travel to the capital of the Gulf state this week for the talks.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1728826/middle-east

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South Asia

 

Afghan negotiators head to Doha as Taliban prisoner swap nears completion

03 Sep 2020

KABUL: Afghan government-backed negotiators are set to head to Doha for peace talks with the Taliban, a top official said on Wednesday, as President Ashraf Ghani insisted Kabul had met all its commitments for negotiations.

Talks were supposed to begin in March but were repeatedly pushed back as the Taliban and the Afghan government squabbled over a prisoner exchange, which included hundreds of battle-hardened insurgents.

Kabul broke an impasse with the insurgent group on Monday by resuming the protracted prisoner exchange, offering a fresh impetus for peace talks to begin.

“The government has fulfilled all its commitments in the peace process that the international community had hoped for,” Ghani told the negotiating team at a meeting at the presidential palace on Wednesday, his office said.

“The release of Taliban prisoners is a clear demonstration of the government’s commitment to peace.”

Kabul had baulked at the release of the final 400 Taliban inmates who Ghani described as “a danger to the world”, before a group of prominent Afghans approved their release for the sake of peace talks.

A senior government official said that at least 200 prisoners have been released since Monday and the process “will continue today too”.

A Taliban official said “the last batch” of their prisoners were still to be released and were expected to be freed later on Wednesday.

With the prisoner release almost complete, peace talks are expected to finally begin in Qatar.

The Afghan government-backed negotiating team “will leave for Doha tomorrow (Thursday)”, said Fraidoon Khwazoon, spokesman to Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, which is leading the overall peace process. The date for talks to start is still to be fixed.

Paris and Canberra had opposed the release of militants on the list tied to the killing of French and Australian civilians and troops in Afghanistan. It is not known if those militants have been released.

In return for the 400 prisoners, the militant group has freed four Afghan commandos and are expected to release two more on Wednesday, a Taliban official said.

“We expect the Taliban to live up to their commitments on the release of the remaining captives,” Ghani’s spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said on Twitter.

The prisoner exchange was agreed in a deal between the Taliban and the United States in February, which said Kabul should release a total of 5,000 militants in return for the Taliban freeing 1,000 Afghan troops.

Ghani said a “critical stage of peace” had been reached and that the talks would help reduce violence and finalise a permanent ceasefire.

The Taliban have said they were willing to begin negotiations “within a week” of the prisoner swap being completed and blamed Kabul for delaying the negotiations.

Kabul has already sent a “small technical team” to Doha to make logistical preparations ahead of the peace talks, Najia Anwari, spokeswoman for the State Ministry for Peace Affairs said.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1577637/afghan-negotiators-head-to-doha-as-taliban-prisoner-swap-nears-completion

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Sar-e-Pul Blast Claims 6, Wounds 2

By Mohammad Arif Sheva

03 Sep 2020

SAR-E-PUL, Afghanistan – At least six children were killed and further two women wounded after a planted mine went off in a residential area in Sancharak district of the Northern province, the 209th Shaheen Corps said in a statement Thursday.

The incident happened at around 5:45pm Wednesday evening.

According to the statement, the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) was planted by the Taliban insurgents at Mohammad Isa residence in Sancharak district of Sar-e-Pul province, which claimed six children aging between five to 10 years old.

Meanwhile, two women aging between 30 to 50 years old were wounded.

The Taliban did not immediately comment on the claim.

https://www.khaama.com/sar-e-pul-blast-claims-6-wounds-2-345634/

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Afghanistan releases nearly 200 Taliban in latest push for peace

02 September 2020

The Afghan government released nearly 200 Taliban prisoners to spur the start of long-delayed peace negotiations, senior Afghan officials said on Wednesday.

The fresh releases are from a group of 400 “hardcore” Taliban prisoners, the fate of which has stalled peace negotiations between the government and insurgent group to end nearly two decades of war in Afghanistan.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

This group of prisoners were released from the main jail in the capital Kabul on Monday evening and Tuesday at the same time six Afghan special forces members held by the Taliban were freed, the officials said.

“We want to finish the prisoner swap so we could start the peace process as soon as possible,” said a senior government official, who declined to be name because of the sensitivity of the issue.

A source close to the process said the prisoner swap could be finished by today.

The 400 are the remainder of 5,000 Taliban prisoners set for release from Afghan jails as part of a pact in February between the United States and the Taliban allowing for the withdrawal of US troops. Their release was a condition for talks between the government and the insurgent group to start.

The Afghan government was reluctant to release any of the 400, which it says have been involved in some of the worst crimes including major attacks such as the 2017 truck bombing near the Germany Embassy in Kabul, until the Taliban released 24 Afghan special forces members and pilots first.

Keeping the prisoners went against the wishes of a loya jirga that gathered in Kabul last month. The loya jirga is a traditional assembly of thousands of Afghan elders and community leaders that meets to decide political issues.

The government responded by releasing about 80 of the 400 prisoners last month. A government official said the others were kept because the Taliban dismissed calls from the loya jirga for a ceasefire.

The exchange this week occurred as Taliban violence and clashes with Afghan troops have increased in recent days.

A Taliban car bomb killed three Afghan security forces in eastern Paktia province on Tuesday, a local official said, while a defense ministry statement said 13 Taliban insurgents were killed in southern Kandahar and 11 more were killed in northern Faryab in the last 24 hours.

Thousands of Afghan security forces and civilians have been killed since the February peace deal between the US and the Taliban, according to data released by United Nations and the government.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/09/02/Afghanistan-releases-nearly-200-Taliban-in-latest-push-for-peace

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Southeast Asia

 

Dr M confirms asking for LTTE’s removal from terror group list

Nicholas Chung

September 3, 2020

PUTRAJAYA: Dr Mahathir Mohamad has confirmed writing a letter earlier this year to then home minister Muhyiddin Yassin, asking for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to be removed from Putrajaya’s list of terrorist organisations.

He denied that the letter signified that he was a supporter of LTTE, but spoke against the actions that were taken against several individuals when Pakatan Harapan (PH) was in government.

“We don’t have to look for problems. If there aren’t any problems, why look for one? And the problem happened because of Sri Lanka, not us. We didn’t have to take such actions, unless they really did bad things in Malaysia.

“I don’t say that Hamas is a terrorist group. But Hamas is classified as a terrorist organisation by the US. And the world says it’s a terror organisation.

“If he’s a terrorist, why did I meet Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh? He is a friend, how can I call him a terrorist?” Mahathir said at a press conference today.

The letter, dated Feb 12, had gone viral recently. In it, Mahathir told Muhyiddin he did not think LTTE should continue to be labelled as a terrorist organisation as Sri Lanka itself did not consider them as such.

“We consider Hamas as terrorists but we allow them to enter Malaysia,” he wrote.

“I think it’s better to remove LTTE from the terrorist list. With that, the court trials can be held without denying bail during the trial.”

The Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, or Sosma, bars an accused person from seeking bail after they are charged with security offences.

Twelve men had been detained under Sosma in October 2019 for their alleged links to the LTTE, a defunct militant organisation that tried to create an independent Tamil state in Sri Lanka.

The 12, including two DAP assemblymen, denied their involvement in LTTE, stating that the flags, posters and pictures found in their possession meant they only sympathised with the plight of the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka.

In February, then attorney-general Tommy Thomas decided to drop the charges against the 12, saying there was “no realistic prospect” for their conviction under any of the 34 charges brought against them.

Between 60,000 and 100,000 Tamil civilians died during a 27-year civil war in Sri Lanka, according to figures from the United Nations.

Police had previously said LTTE had been classified as a terrorist organisation by Malaysia under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/09/03/dr-m-confirms-asking-for-lttes-removal-from-terror-group-list/

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Perikatan leaders’ controversial remarks sting but won’t deter non-Malay allies, say analysts

03 Sep 2020

BY DANIAL DZULKIFLY

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 3 — Two Perikatan Nasional leaders’ remarks that upset the country’s minorities were unlikely to dissuade the coalition’s non-Malay allies from supporting it as they have too much to gain from doing so, according to political analysts.

They acknowledged that PAS MP Nik Muhammad Zawawi Salleh’s claim that the Bible has been distorted and Deputy Youth and Sports Minister Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Ahmad Kamal’s support for the abolition of vernacular schools would alienate non-Malay support.

However, they believe PN allies such as Gabungan Parti Sarawak would be able to tolerate this due to the benefits they derive from backing the informal coalition and the aligned Muafakat Nasional.

Universiti Malaysia Sarawak’s (Unimas) Jeniri Amir told Malay Mail that GPS, in particular, could also claim to have no part of such comments as they were not in PN and only supported it.

“Definitely the people here (Sarawak) are not happy with such remarks but would this affect parties like GPS? Not so much.

“They can absolutely distance themselves from the supposed Malay centric politics of West Malaysia while still cooperating with PN or MN,” he said, adding that it was different from when Sarawak parties had been beholden to Barisan Nasional and its lynchpin, Umno.

In Parliament, Nik Zawawi triggered a controversy with his claim that the Bible has been distorted from its original meaning, which he made to support another assertion that all religions forbid the consumption of alcohol.

Before that, Bersatu Youth chief Wan Ahmad Fayshal also insisted that vernacular schools — which are guaranteed under the Federal Constitution — should be closed for being obstacles to “strong national identity”.

While both incidents could hurt GPS ahead of the Sarawak election that must be held next year, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) Geostrategist Prof Dr Azmi Hassan explained that the payoff for GPS meant it was unlikely to criticise the coalition over these.

Among others, he said backing PN meant GPS need not worry about any of the coalition’s parties encroaching during the Sarawak election and were more likely to receive any federal assistance it needed.

This would put it in a better position to face Pakatan Harapan parties, which he said were far more likely to squabble over seats.

“By PPBM, PAS and Umno opting out of the state election, it will no doubt give a lot of breathing room to GPS to form the state government. So, if the state election to be held before GE15, then GPS aligning with PN is all for the advantage for GPS,” he said.

For parties like MIC and MCA, Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Oh Ei Sun also said they were unlikely to buck despite the clear damage both incidents would cause to their base.

While vernacular schools are a core issue for the Chinese-based MCA, Oh said it and MIC were comfortable with the tokenism of their presence in an overtly Malay PN.

He also said both parties would already have been familiar with such a position from their years in BN when Umno dominated them.

“The argument for them to support PN is to tell their constituencies or potential constituency that, ‘Yes this is a Malay-centric government but imagine if I’m not in there, then it will be even more Malay centric’.

“I think that is the main argument which has been the same argument for both parties for the longest period of time but especially now as it is really a Malay-centric [coalition],’’ he said.

In remarks similar to that of Jeniri, Oh said circumstances have changed significantly since BN lost the 2018 general election, especially for non-Malay parties such as MCA and MIC.

“This is because both MIC and MCA are also gunning for Malay votes. They are gunning for constituencies that are 50:50 non-Malays and Malays. But, of course, Umno also would like to grab those seats, so they would have to sort of ingratiate themselves to Umno,” he said.

The Christian Federation of Malaysia, the Sabah Council of Churches, and Association of Churches in Sarawak have all criticised Nik Zawawi over his claim but he has refused to apologise.

Despite the apparent anger, PN and its leaders have remained largely silent about both controversies.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/09/03/perikatan-leaders-controversial-remarks-sting-but-wont-deter-non-malay-alli/1899630

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Zakat collection in state on right track despite Covid-19 challenges, says Pahang Regent Tengku Hassanal

02 Sep 2020

KUANTAN, Sept 2 ― Zakat (tithe) collection performance in Pahang has seen an increase this year despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic situation, the Regent of Pahang Tengku Hassanal Ibrahim Alam Shah Al-Sultan Abdullah said.

Tengku Hassanal, who is also Pahang Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council (MUIP) president said as of August 31, a total of 81,104 zakat harta (property tithe) contributors have paid RM81.4 million, an increase of 1.5 per cent compared to the same period in 2019.

“The largest contributor to the zakat collection is from the salary deduction sector with RM41.1 million as well as payments from corporate bodies and business sectors.

“God-willing, the state Zakat Collection Centre (PKZ), with help from public and corporate bodies, is expected to achieve the collection target of RM150 million and 95,000 contributors this year,” he said in a statement here, today.

Tengku Hassanal said the increase in zakat collection would allow more asnaf (the needy) to benefit from it, through distribution by MUIP.

Tengku Hassanal added that the PKZ would continue implementing the Compulsory Assessment of Zakat programme by distributing forms to 30,361 permanent staff in Pahang.

Today, Tengku Hassanal received business zakat payments totalling RM12.83 million from eight institutions and corporate companies in a ceremony held at the Istana AbdulAziz here.

Lembaga Tabung Haji is the highest contributor with RM4.71 million, followed by the National Farmers Organisation (RM3.1 million), Tenaga Nasional Berhad (RM2.36 million), Bank Rakyat Group (RM1.03 million) and Bank Pembangunan Malaysia Berhad (RM834,000).

Other corporate bodies include Bank Islam Malaysia Berhad (RM365,000), QSR Brands Malaysia Holdings Berhad (RM259,027) and Bank Muamalat Malaysia Berhad (RM160,577). ― Bernama

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/09/02/zakat-collection-in-state-on-right-track-despite-covid-19-challenges-says-p/1899628

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At pro-government convention, Hadi says uniting Muslims is Perikatan’s feat

01 Sep 2020

BY SYED JAYMAL ZAHIID

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 1 ― PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang said today Perikatan Nasional’s (PN) greatest achievement was uniting the country’s major Malay political parties, declaring it a triumph for those intent on bringing good to multiracial Malaysia.

Hadi argued that Muslim unity was the first step towards a better federal administration, one that would surpass its predecessor that was plagued by infighting.

The Marang MP said the collaboration of the three major Malay-Muslim political parties ― Umno, PAS and Bersatu ― mirrored Islam’s history, when the Prophet Muhammad united the warring Arab tribes and turned them into a major political force that became one of the world’s most powerful empires at the time.

“We took the action first by uniting PAS and Umno with the intention of effecting change, and later forged together (with Bersatu) as a government,” Hadi said before an audience of academics gathered to “rate” PN’s half-year performance.

“Yes, as a government, we cannot deny the rights of minorities since we are a multiracial society,” he added.

“(But) uniting the Muslims, I would say that is our achievement.”

Also present at the event was Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

Muhyiddin’s party, Bersatu, now leads a predominantly Malay-Muslim coalition alongside PAS and Umno as a result of shifting political alliances that triggered the fall of the democratically-elected Pakatan Harapan government.

The political realignment not only drew allegations that Muhyiddin is now head of an illegitimate government, but has also raised concerns that minority rights could be undermined, especially as Umno and PAS seek to regain power.

But at this evening’s event, Hadi insisted that the PN government was installed constitutionally.

The PAS president said Muhyiddin commanded majority support in Parliament, which by law was enough to make him the prime minister even if the government of the day was not elected.

“The change (of government) was made through parliamentary democracy, and it was done according to the principles laid out in the Federal Constitution,” he said.

“It’s indirect democracy.”

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/09/01/at-pro-government-convention-hadi-says-uniting-muslims-is-perikatans-feat/1899172

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Mideast

 

Senior Iranian MP Asks Europe for Action against US Illegal Measures

Sep 02, 2020

Naderi made the remarks in a meeting with Austrian Ambassador to Tehran Stefan Scholz on Wednesday.

He condemned the US unilateral and illegal acts, including imposing sanctions against Iran, and said, “The European countries should not keep mum on the US illegal measures which weaken the international laws and regulations.”

Naderi called on all European parties to the nuclear deal to comply with their undertakings.

Scholz, for his part, underlined the importance of cooperation between the two countries, and said, “Austria has always been interested in the development of friendly ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran and has made lots of efforts in this regard to develop constructive relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran in economic and trade areas as well as cooperation to help establish stability, security and reduction of crisis in the region.”

In relevant remarks late on Tuesday, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araqchi said that EU commercial dealings through the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchange (INSTEX) is not satisfactory for his country, adding that Tehran does not count on the system.

“It is now two years that the idea (of INSTEX) has started and it now exists and the first financial exchange has been made and a number of other financial exchanges are on agenda but the reality is that its effectiveness has proved to be much lower than our expectations,” Araqchi told reporters after participation in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) Joint Commission meeting in Vienna.

He, meantime, underlined that Iran does not count on the INSTEX and does not trust and rely on the Europeans and INSTEX, adding that the country’s trade and commercial sector is making its activities via its own methods.

“If we can help the country’s trade through INSTEX, we will do it but we do not trust and rely on this system,” Araqchi said.

He also elaborated on the issues discussed in the Commission’s meeting, and said that members of Iran’s nuclear deal do not recognize the US as JCPOA participant and the United States is not authorized to snap back the sanctions or implement UNSC Resolution 2231.

The remaining parties to the JCPOA call the US efforts in New York to use snapback trigger mechanism ‘illegal and ineffective’ and believe that this measure cannot be effective, Araqchi emphasized.

Possible US moves were also discussed in today’s JCPOA Joint Commission meeting, he said, adding, “All these members unanimously emphasized that JCPOA is a major diplomatic achievement and should be preserved.”

Parties to JCPOA called for the full implementation of the deal and there are differences of opinion with regards to reducing Iran’s JCPOA commitments, Araqchi underlined.

“Naturally, we also want them (parties involved in nuclear talks) to fully comply with their obligations to lift sanctions but in today's meeting, it was decided not to get into these issues and to address the main issue which is the preservation of JCPOA,” he added.

US President Donald Trump, a stern critic of the historic deal, unilaterally pulled Washington out of the JCPOA in May 2018, and unleashed the “toughest ever” sanctions against the Islamic Republic in defiance of global criticism in an attempt to strangle the Iranian oil trade, but to no avail since its "so-called maximum pressure policy" has failed to push Tehran to the negotiating table.

In response to the US’ unilateral move, Tehran has so far rowed back on its nuclear commitments four times in compliance with Articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA, but stressed that its retaliatory measures will be reversible as soon as Europe finds practical ways to shield the mutual trade from the US sanctions.

Tehran has particularly been disappointed with failure of the three European signatories to the JCPOA -- Britain, France and Germany -- to protect its business interests under the deal after the United States' withdrawal.

On January 5, Iran took a final step in reducing its commitments, and said it would no longer observe any operational limitations on its nuclear industry, whether concerning the capacity and level of uranium enrichment, the volume of stockpiled uranium or research and development.

Now the US has stepped up attempts aimed at extending the UN arms ban on Iran that is set to expire as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which has been endorsed by Security Council Resolution 2231.

The US first sought to extend the Iran's arms embargo in a fresh UNSC resolution in contradiction to the contents of the Resolution 2231 in two attempts within a month, but failed.

The United Nations Security Council resoundingly rejected last month the second US bid to extend an arms embargo on Iran, which is due to expire in October.

The resolution needed support from nine of 15 votes to pass. Eleven members abstained, including France, Germany and Britain, while the US and the Dominican Republic were the only “yes” votes.

The United States has become isolated over Iran at the Security Council following President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the multilateral Iran nuclear deal 2018.

Iran had said that the US resolution would fail to gain the required support at the Security Council, pointing out that Washington has no legal right to invoke a snapback mechanism to reinstate sanctions against Tehran under the 2015 nuclear deal that the US unilaterally left in May 2018.

In relevant remarks last month, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said it is by no means justifiable for the US to use Dispute Resolution Mechanism with regard to UNSC Resolution 2231.

"US recourse to Dispute Resolution Mechanism in 2231 has NO LEG TO STAND ON," Zarif wrote on his Twitter page.

"AmbJohnBolton has repeated today what he said on May 8, 2018, while National Security Advisor in the Trump administration," he noted, adding, "At least he is consistent—a trait notably absent in this US administration."

Zarif' tweet came in reaction to former US National Security Advisor John Bolton's article in Wall Street Journal where he criticized US' decision to trigger ‘snapback mechanism’ against Iran, saying, "The agreement [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action]’s backers argue that Washington, having withdrawn from the deal, has no standing to invoke its provisions. They’re right. It’s too cute by half to say we’re in the nuclear deal for purposes we want but not for those we don’t."

https://en.farsnews.ir/newstext.aspx?nn=13990612001006

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Iranian Speaker’s Advisor Warns of Security Consequences of Deal with Israel for UAE, Region

Sep 02, 2020

“I am not optimistic about the future of this treacherous pact. We will see in the near future that the Zionists will bring insecurity to our neighboring state, the UAE, and this insecurity will spread in the region,” Amir Abdollahian told the state TV on Wednesday.

He expressed the hope that the UAE officials would backtrack from their decision, saying that otherwise the agreement will have harsh consequences for the security of the UAE and other regional states.

Amir Abdollahian said that if the UAE returns from its decision, it can still be hopeful of investment and prosperity, implying that deterioriating security would hamper investment in the small Arab state.

In relevant remarks on Tuesday, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei lashed out at the UAE for normalizing ties with Israel, describing it as a betrayal of Islam, the Arab and Palestinian people and the regional states.

"The UAE betrayed the world of Islam, the Arab nations, the region’s countries and Palestine. Of course, this betrayal won’t last long," Ayatollah Khamenei said, addressing the directors and heads of the Education Ministry via a videoconference.

"The UAE rulers opened the door of the region to the Zionists, and they have ignored and normalized the question of Palestine, which is a question about the usurpation of a country. This stigma will remain on them," he added.

"The nation of Palestine is under various, severe pressures. Then, the UAE cooperates with the Israelis and the filthy US agents - such as the Zionists in Trump’s family - against the interests of the world of Islam and commits the greatest atrocity against it," Ayatollah Khamenei said.

He expressed the hope that the UAE would wake up soon and compensate for what they’ve done.

Also, last week, the Iranian foreign ministry blasted again the recent compromise deal between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv, warning that the UAE should account for any threat posed by Israel to the region.

“The agreement between the UAE and the Zionist regime is a scar on the Muslim world’s body and the UAE has made a big mistake and we hope that it makes up for this mistake as soon as possible. The Muslim world will never forget betrayal of the holy Quds,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters in Tehran.

He further downsized Israel as a serious threat to Iran, and said it is seen as too small and too weak as a threat, but warned that although Israel is not among the threats perceived by Iran’s defense and security doctrine in the Persian Gulf region, the UAE will be held to account if the regime poses any threat to the region.

Khatibzadeh stressed Iran’s seriousness about defending its security and national interests.

US President Donald Trump on August 13 announced a deal brokered by his government between Israel and the UAE which he said would lead to full normalization of ties between the two.

Critics see the deal as the latest attempt by Trump to save his presidential campaign against the Democrat Joe Biden.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani decried the recent normalization deal between the UAE and Israel, describing it as a gift to Trump before elections.

“These days we have faced a neighboring country which has approached the enemy of the Islamic world and the region and the murderer of the Palestinian nation in a decision to get close to the Zionist regime,” Rouhani said, addressing a meeting of the national coronavirus campaign headquarters in Tehran last month.

He added that the UAE rulers are wrongly thinking that their security and economy will improve through relations with Israel, noting that the measure is aimed at helping Trump win the November elections.

“(The UAE’s) measure is one hundred percent wrong and condemned,” Rouhani said.

He warned the regional states not to pave the way for Israel to have a foothold in the region.

In a relevant statement on August 14, the Iranian foreign ministry strongly condemned the UAE's decision to set up diplomatic relations with "the Zionist regime of Israel" and termed it as a strategic act of idiocy by Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv which will undoubtedly result in the further reinvigoration of the axis of resistance in the region.

The statement further stressed that "the oppressed nation of Palestine as well as other freedom-seeking peoples worldwide will never forgive the sin of normalization of the ties with the occupier and bloodthirsty regime of Israel and also the act of those who approve and cooperate with its crimes".

Undoubtedly the innocent bloods shed during the past seven decades of resistance to free the sacred land of Palestine which is Muslims' first Qibla will sooner or later take those that betrayed the Palestinian cause by the throat, it added.

The statement also stressed that the Islamic Republic of Iran considers as dangerous Abu Dhabi's act of normalizing ties with the fabricated, illegitimate and anti-human regime of Israel, and warns the Zionist regime against any kind of meddling in the Persian Gulf region's equations.

The UAE administration and all other governments which approve of this move should be ready to take the responsibility of all the consequences of such a measure, it further said.

The Iranian foreign ministry's statement also noted that the history will definitely demonstrate how this strategic mistake by the Zionist regime and the dagger which stabbed both the Palestinian nation and the Muslim peoples in the back will backfire and further strengthen the resistance axis by enhancing unity and solidarity against the Zionist regime and the backward governments in the region.

The foreign ministry advised those rulers who, from inside their "glass castles", hatch plots against the Palestinians and other regional oppressed nations, including Yemen, to regain consciousness and stop erring in distinguishing between friends and foes.

https://en.farsnews.ir/newstext.aspx?nn=13990612000813

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Israel to withhold bodies of all Palestinian militants in move slammed as ‘barbaric’

03 September 2020

Israel decided Wednesday to withhold the bodies of all slain Palestinian militants in a bid to deter attacks, a move slammed by rights groups as “barbaric.”

Prior to the decision, approved by the government’s security cabinet, Israel retained the bodies of militants only from Hamas, the Islamist rulers of Gaza.

The new policy would see Israel not return the bodies of any Palestinian killed during or as a result of an anti-Israeli attack.

For all the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz welcomed the cabinet’s decision, which he said was part of a broader campaign of “deterrence.”

“Not returning terrorist bodies is part of our commitment to the safety of Israeli citizens, and of course to returning the boys home,” he said, referring to the remains of two Israeli soldiers held by Hamas in Gaza since a 2014 war.

Hamas is also believed to be holding two Israeli citizens who entered Gaza alone and whose families say have mental health issues.

The decision came two days after the latest Qatari-mediated deal between Israel and Hamas to end more than three weeks of cross-border attacks.

The deal was condemned by Leah and Simcha Goldin, the parents of one of the soldiers missing in Gaza.

“The money will be transferred to Gaza, the crossings and fishing zone will open. And the boys? The boys will remain there some more,” they wrote on Twitter.

Rights group Adalah called Israel’s decision “extreme, barbaric” and “illegal.”

“The policy of using human bodies as bargaining chips violates the most basic universal values and international law which prohibit cruel and inhuman treatment,” they said in a statement.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/09/03/Israel-to-withhold-bodies-of-all-Palestinian-militants-in-move-slammed-as-barbaric-

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Qatar intel officer bribed Erdogan aide $65 mln to push Turkey military deal: Report

Ismaeel Naar

03 September 2020

A senior member of Turkey’s ruling AK Party government received a $65 mln bribe from Qatari intelligence to push ahead with a 2015 deal that allowed the deployment of Turkish troops to Qatar, according to Sweden-based monitoring site Nordic Monitor.

Nordic Monitor’s report cited an intercepted 19-page intelligence document that proved Ahmet Berat Conkar, the head of the Turkish parliament's foreign affairs commission at the time, secretly communicated with a Qatari intelligence officer regarding the deal.

For all the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Turkey approved in 2015 the establishment of a military base in Qatar as part of a defense agreement signed in 2014 aimed at helping them confront “common enemies.” At the time, Turkey said it would station 3,000 of its ground troops at the base.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut of diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar over Doha’s support of terrorism and issued a list of 13 demands, including the closing down of the Turkish military installation.

The latest revelation by the Nordic Monitor’s reporting that a senior AK Party official received the $65 mln bribe from a Qatari intelligence officer came during a testimony of Rear Adm. Sinan Sürer, who was responsible for the external intelligence branch of the Turkish military at the time.

“According to the information obtained from a source, Berat Conkar communicated with a Qatari intelligence officer before the session [in the Foreign Affairs Committee] to push the law [that allowed the deployment of Turkish military units in Qatar] and received a $65 million bribe,” the Nordic Monitor quoted Sürer as saying citing the intercepted intelligence document directly.

Conkar served as chairman of Foreign Affairs Committee within the Turkish parliament between 2014 and 2016 and would go on to serve as Turkey’s representative to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. He has also served directly as a foreign policy adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“In his testimony Adm. Sürer said the claim that Çonkar accepted a $65 million bribe was a very serious allegation. “It [the intelligence] did not use ambiguous terms such ‘heard’ or ‘reported’. It said, ‘According the information obtained from a source’.” The revelation of the intelligence document was made in a hearing held on March 21, 2019 at the Ankara 17th High Criminal Court,” the Nordic Monitor report read.

The Sweden-based monitoring site said the intelligence document obtained by was translated from a report prepared by what Turkish intelligence believe to be a foreign agent who compiled it to investigate “vulnerabilities in Turkey ahead of the 2015 elections.”

The report also included other findings about Erdogan’s links to extremist groups like ISIS and his involvement in oil trade with the terrorist group.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/09/03/Qatar-intelligence-bribed-Erdogan-deputy-65-mln-to-push-military-deal-with-Turkey

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Syrians in Turkey continue to face rise in discrimination

Nicholas Frakes

02 September 2020

The smell of Arabic sweets and coffee filled the air as groups of people passed by the various shops. The calls in Arabic by the men behind their small fruit stalls echoed throughout the streets of Istanbul’s “Little Damascus” neighborhood.

Many of those living in the area are refugees from Syria who fled their homes after the start of the civil war and are now trying to start new lives in Turkey. However, while they may have escaped the war in Syria, they are now facing a new threat – discrimination.

Discrimination of Syrians by Turks has been steadily increasing over the last four to five years, according to Kurdish journalist Rabia Chetin.

“In recent times hatred and discrimination against Syrians, especially young people and children, has increased,” she told Al Arabiya English. “In January, a Syrian student rescued a woman who was buried in the Elazig earthquake. When this was posted on social media, they [Turks] reacted to that too.”

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

In the comments to the social media posts, some praised the student, Mahmoud, for what he did while others posted comments questioning why he was in Turkey and not another Arab country, or asked why he wasn’t saving people in Idlib if he can do it in Turkey.

At the start of the Syrian Civil War, Turkey allowed Syrians to come into the country and live in camps along the border. But that welcome quickly turned to disdain, and Syrians now have to take care to avoid running into problems.

Ahmad, who spoke with Al Arabiya English on the condition of anonymity, came from Damascus to study at a Turkish university. While he says that he lives a good life in Turkey, he admitted that he is worried about the possibility of getting deported.

“You can’t really live comfortably,” he explained. “If you don’t act like this [staying out of any trouble] because any problem has a threat of deportation, and it’s really hard to deal with that because even back in Syria, you’ll face issues with the government.”

Mohammad, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, came from Homs three years ago and is constantly working in order to pay for his family’s visas to come to Turkey. He currently sells fruits and makes around 2,000 to 3,000 Turkish lira ($273 to $409), but he needs around $3,000 to pay for the visas.

“While I’m working, I am doing it illegally because you need an actual shop to sell your produce,” he told Al-Arabiya English. “So if I get caught, I can either get detained or they let me go, it really depends on the mood and personality of the officer.”

“It’s all a matter of luck,” he added. “If you get caught by an officer that hates Syrians and he might send you away from Istanbul and back to the state you’re registered in Turkey or deported back to Syria.”

However, Mohammad explained that it was unlikely that anyone would be deported right now with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mohammad also recalled an incident where some Turkish men were standing outside of a wedding hall with Syrian women inside. Some of the local Syrian men asked them to leave and they did after a small fight broke out, but only to return with around 30 others.

“They went and got 30 other men, destroyed many Syrian shops because of this which doesn’t make sense because if you’re angry with one person why take it out on us,” he asked. “People who are just trying to make a living. Just because this isn’t our country, we should have our shops destroyed?”

“We are here in Turkey minding our business and just working to pay the bills,” he said. “And we stand our ground no matter what.”

Ahmad has also had incidents where one of his friends stole something from him and he could not go to the police for fear of the friend making a false claim that he was harassing her and getting him in trouble.

“I had to drop the whole thing in fear of her going to the police and telling them ‘he’s threatening me’ or causing her issues if I kept persisting,” he recalled. “Considering she’s Turkish and I’m Syrian, so, of course, they will prioritize her word against mine, and I wanted to avoid that.”

Rumors fly, lead to assault

The discrimination does not always take the form of direct threats and fights, however, and can sometimes start as false rumors that ultimately lead to attacks on the Syrian community.

“When a sexual assault took place against a local child in Adana last year the lie that the perpetrator was Syrian was circulated,” Chetin said. “Due to this lie, Syrians’ homes and workplaces were looted in Adana. It was later revealed that the perpetrator was not Syrian.”

Rumors and hate speech often spread through social media, specifically Facebook and Twitter. Some of these rumors include the belief that Syrian refugees who acquire Turkish citizenship paid for it and the Turkish government gives money to refugees, despite the government and refugees denying this.

Chetin explained that “false information about Syrians receiving money from the Turkish state, false information about Syrians being given citizenship and lies that Syrian youth can pass to universities without an examination is frequently circulated, especially on social media. This situation increases discrimination against Syrian refugees.”

In addition to spreading false information and attacking Syrian businesses, children are also bullied and this can have serious consequences.

“A 9-year-old Syrian boy committed suicide after being discriminated against by his friends at school last year,” Chetin recalled. “Lack of communication between children can also cause refugee children to experience difficult situations.”

Refugees used as political tool

Discrimination toward Syrians tends to rise during elections as politicians will often use the refugees as a tool to gain more support, with politicians calling for their deportation, saying they do not fit in Turkish society.

“After the Istanbul elections last year many Turks gave right-wing support to the transfer and deportation of Syrians in metropolitan cities to other cities and increased the language of hatred towards Syrians on social media,” Chetin said.

Mohammad expressed concern about upcoming elections, fearing it will bring some problems to the refugee community.

“The only worry with the upcoming elections is that the opposition might use Syrians,” he said. “And they’d open up our files and start playing the ‘we have a lot of refugees excuse’ as a way to pressure [voters]. We’re always a pressure tactic by governments, no matter where we go.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2020/09/02/Syrians-in-Turkey-continue-to-face-rise-in-discrimination-

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Israeli forces shoot, injure Palestinian man over alleged car-ramming attack in West Bank

02 September 2020

Israeli military forces have shot and injured a young Palestinian man in the northern part of the West Bank over an alleged car-ramming attack.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said in a statement that the young man, whose identity was not quickly available, was struck by bullets from Israeli forces at Za’tara checkpoint, known as Tapuah Junction by Israeli settlers and located 9 kilometers (5.59 miles) to the south of the city of Nablus, on Wednesday morning, Palestine’s official WAFA news agency reported.

The statement added that Israeli soldiers prevented PRCS medical teams from reaching the man, who was left bleeding on the ground.

Local sources also told WAFA that Israeli troops closed the checkpoint in both directions, and did not allow people to pass by.

The Israeli military, meanwhile, said in a statement that a soldier and police officer had been lightly injured in an alleged car-ramming attack at the junction.

The statement claimed a Palestinian man hit the pair with his car. He then exited the vehicle and ran at them with a knife drawn before he was shot by the injured police officer at the scene.

The driver was shot and moderately injured by the officer, the Israeli military said.

The Israeli military regularly opens fire on Palestinians whom it accuses of seeking to carry out stabbing or car-ramming attacks against in personnel. In many of such cases, however, human rights groups and witnesses have disputed Israel’s account of the incident.

Israeli troops have on numerous occasions been caught on camera brutally shooting Palestinians who pose no threat at all, with the videos going viral online and sparking international condemnation.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/09/02/633139/Israeli-forces-shoot,-injure-Palestinian-man-over-alleged-car-ramming-attack-in-West-Bank

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Africa

 

Watchdog Warns of ‘Limited Progress’ in Africa Counterterror Fight

By Jeff Seldin

September 01, 2020

WASHINGTON - Terrorist organizations appear to be tightening their grip on multiple regions of Africa, despite ongoing efforts by the United States and its allies to degrade their capabilities and limit their reach.

The findings, part of a new report released Tuesday from the Defense Department inspector general, come as U.S.-led efforts have been forced to adjust, and in some cases, scale back activities because of the coronavirus making its way across the continent.

“The United States and its international partners made limited progress,” Acting Inspector General Sean O’Donnell wrote in the quarterly report, citing setbacks against affiliates of both al-Qaida and Islamic State, also known as IS or ISIS.

Rather than slow terrorist groups down, the report warned the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, appears to have given many of them new opportunities to expand.

“The pandemic exacerbated many of the underlying conditions that foster VEO (violent extremist organization) growth, including economic and food insecurity,” O’Donnell wrote, pointing to assessments by the United Nations that in some areas, terror groups “capitalized on the virus to undermine state government authority and continue their attacks.”

Warnings about the resilience of al-Qaida and IS affiliates in Africa are not new. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of U.S. Africa Command, warned U.S. lawmakers months ago that such groups were “on the march” and getting increasingly ambitious.

"If ISIS can carve out a new caliphate, or al-Qaida can, they will do it," he said in March.

In a report released in July, the Defense Department Inspector General reported that terrorist activity in Africa, “appears to be outpacing U.S., European and African efforts to counter it.”

Despite some successes, including a French-led operation in June in northern Mali that killed the emir of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), with help from the U.S., several officials worry that terror hot spots in Africa are only getting hotter.

One area of concern is eastern Africa, where U.S. military officials say as many as 10,000 fighters with al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab continue to enjoy freedom of movement, enabling them to carry out attacks at what the inspector general report describes as “historically high levels.”

Data compiled by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (ACLED) project found that al-Shabab carried out 608 attacks during the three months from April through June, up from 568 such incidents during the first quarter.

At the same time, poor weather conditions and a lack of resources limited the U.S. to just seven airstrikes against the terror group, compared to 33 during the first three months of the year.

U.S. military officials also expressed concerns about western Africa, where al-Qaida and IS affiliates managed to expand their operations into the western Sahel and to northern regions of several coastal countries.

In particular, U.S. Africa Command said both IS-West Africa and Boko Haram benefited from the spread of the coronavirus, wreaking “havoc” on communities forced to self-quarantine.

The report also warned of growing dangers in northern Africa, specifically from IS in Libya, which had been relatively quiet until May.

“ISIS-Libya resumed small-scale attacks in the southern desert region,” O’Donnell said.

A recent United Nations report, based on member state intelligence, said IS-Libya likely has just a few hundred fighters.

But at least one intelligence service warns the group may be growing, gathering as many as 1,400 fighters under its banner.

And while U.S. officials believe the smaller estimate is more accurate, there are growing concerns that the ongoing civil war in Libya, and the influx of thousands of mercenaries and foreign fighters, could create conditions that might allow IS to thrive.

U.S. Africa Command estimates that as of the end of June, more than 7,000 Syrian fighters had flocked to Libya, most with the help of Russia or Turkey.

U.S. officials believe a growing number of Syrian fighters may have previous links to terror organizations, though many of them are likely fighting in Libya for financial or personal reasons.

Most of the Syrian fighters, about 5,000, appear to be fighting with Turkish mercenaries and troops to back Libya’s Government of National Accord.

But Africa Command officials warn that many of them are “inexperienced, uneducated and motivated by promises of considerable salary,” saying reports of theft, sexual assault and other misconduct have increased in areas where Turkish-backed Syrian fighters have been deployed.

https://www.voanews.com/covid-19-pandemic/watchdog-warns-limited-progress-africa-counterterror-fight?utm_source=iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=1490600_

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Somalia: U.S. Carried Out 46 Air Strike Against Al Shabaab in 2020

1 SEPTEMBER 2020

The United States has carried out a total of 46 air strikes to degrade al Shabaab in Somalia this year, Africa Command has revealed.

In a statement attributed to Colonel Chris Karns, Director of Public Affairs, US Africa Command, the US military said it continues to train Somali forces and support operations with precision airstrikes.

"Al Shabaab is a dangerous enemy that presents a threat to Somalia, its neighbours, and the United States. This Al Qaeda aligned terrorist organization increasingly employs lies, engages in criminal acts, and blends into communities to create fear and intimidate local populations. They have engaged in a series of violent acts with no regard for the Laws of Armed Conflict, to include previously attacking a hospital and deliberately seeking to place civilians in harm's way using protected structures, such as mosques, for military and offensive fighting purposes," Africom said.

"Al Shabaab routinely attacks Somali citizens, military forces, and partners. Somali forces, the US, and international partners work toward preserving life while increasing security, stability, and ultimately, the long-term possibility of increased prosperity," Africom said. It accused al Shabaab of putting out false information to include last week's erroneous claim about the death of US forces in an attack.

The US last month said one civilian was killed and three were injured in a US air strike in Somalia in February, the second such admission since it launched quarterly reports on civilian casualties in its Africa operations. The first admission was an air strike in April 2018 in El Buur in the Galgadud region of central Somalia in which Africom reported it had unintentionally killed two civilians.

In a report last month, Africa Command said a verification of the facts and circumstances about a 2 February 2020 air strike triggered by allegations of civilian deaths established one civilian had been killed while three were injured.

"Unfortunately, we believe our operations caused the inadvertent death of one person and injury to three others who we did not intend to target," AFRICOM's commander, Gen. Stephen Townsend was quoted as saying.

"We work hard to prevent civilians from getting hurt or killed during these operations designed to bring increased security and stability to Somalia."

AFRICOM's civilian casualty assessment reports cover its operations in Somalia, Libya and other African countries. The initial report published in April said two civilians were killed and three injured in an air strike in Somalia in early 2019.

The United States has been conducting air strikes in Somalia for years to help defeat al Shabaab. Rights activists have long accused the United States of shrouding its Somalia operations in secrecy, potentially undermining accountability for incidents involving civilian deaths.

Al Shabaab seeks to topple Somalia's Western-backed central government and set up its own rule based on its strict interpretation of Islamic sharia.

For nearly two decades al Shabaab has been waging a campaign of bombings and shooting attacks on military and civilian targets including hotels and traffic junctions both in Somalia and neighbouring countries like Kenya.

A regional peacekeeping force, AMISOM, mandated by the African Union, also helps defend the Somali government.

https://allafrica.com/stories/202009020236.html

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Europe

 

US staff at UK base immune to prosecution during ‘war on terror’

September 02, 2020

LONDON: Some 200 American civilian and technical staff at a UK military base were given diplomatic immunity for activities linked to the “war on terror,” raising questions about British involvement in torture and rendition.

Newly released documents show that the British government repeatedly extended diplomatic immunity for staff at a US communications station in the UK because of the “demand brought on by the global war on terrorism and the war in Iraq.”

Diplomatic immunity protects foreign individuals from prosecution for crimes committed in another country, and is a privilege most often held by ambassadors.

But human rights group Reprieve said it appears to have been used to protect American civilians in the UK for their involvement in “extraordinary rendition” — a process in which the US and its allies forcefully abducted foreign citizens to interrogate them, while circumventing national laws on torture and detention.

Many of those abducted were taken from Arab countries and were never prosecuted with a crime.

Reprieve said it suspects that staff at the base may have been gathering intelligence for rendition flights, and the documents show a steady increase in the number of Americans granted immunity from prosecution as the UK became more involved in renditions.

According to Reprieve, at least 779 people — including at least 15 children — were subject to extraordinary rendition to Guantanamo alone. The figure for total renditions is likely far higher.

The UK and US have often faced criticism for their complicity in human rights abuses committed as part of the rendition and torture program.

Maya Foa, director of Reprieve, said: “Only by fully investigating this dark part of British history can we hope not to make the same mistakes. We need an independent, judge-led inquiry.”

David Davis, a former British Cabinet minister, questioned why so many US citizens needed diplomatic immunity during the Iraq war.

“The only thing I can think of that makes sense is that they were involved in things which might have been in breach of British law,” he told The Times newspaper.

“Was it in support of rendition flights, or ambushes and arrests and so on? That would mean our allies were carrying out activities in contravention of our policies, and we were giving them immunity.”

A previous enquiry by the British intelligence and security committee concluded that the UK had tolerated “inexcusable” treatment of detainees by the US after 9/11.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1728491/world

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Pope Francis prays for Lebanon during 1st public audience in months

02 September 2020

Pope Francis described solidarity as the way out of the coronavirus pandemic crisis as he held his first public audience in nearly six months Wednesday after a pause brought on by Italy’s outbreak.

“The current pandemic has highlighted our interdependence. We are all linked to each other, for better or for worse,” Francis said, after greeting about 500 Roman Catholic faithful who attended the audience in the Vatican’s San Damaso courtyard.

“To come out of this crisis better than before, we have to do so together, all of us, in solidarity,” he added.

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Under strict safety rules, participants maintained social distance as they sat in the courtyard and were all required to wear masks. The Pope didn’t wear one as he met the crowd, but kept a safety distance from the faithful, who were cheering and waving at him.

“If the pope were a thaumaturge, I would ask him to end the pandemic, but unfortunately he doesn’t have this power,” Inigo Sanchez, one of the attendees, said. “So I just ask for closeness.”

Before the event, Francis greeted a priest from Lebanon, kissing a Lebanese flag the priest had brought with him to Vatican City. The pope also prayed for a few moments for the country, which is struggling to cope with political and economic instability.

During the audience, Francis also called for a day of prayer and fasting for Lebanon on Sept. 4, a month after the devastating explosion in Beirut that killed at least 190 people, injured more than 6,000 and caused major damage.

“One month after the tragedy that struck the city of Beirut, my thoughts are still with dear Lebanon and its particularly troubled population,” the pope said.

The general audience was the fist public one for Francis since the coronavirus hit Italy hard in early March. Amid a nationwide lockdown, the Vatican suspended all public events and audiences to comply with health and safety requirements.

Since then, Pope Francis had live-streamed his weekly events from the Vatican’s apostolic palace, making only brief appearances at the window overlooking St. Peter’s Square on Sundays.

The San Damaso courtyard, where the Vatican typically hosts heads of state during official visits, was chosen for Wednesday’s audience to keep the crowds smaller.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/09/02/Pope-Francis-prays-for-Lebanon-during-1st-public-audience-in-months

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Trial to begin for suspects in Charlie Hebdo terror attack

ByIbtissem Guenfoud

1 September 2020

Paris -- A trial related to the January 2015 deadly attacks on Charlie Hebdo employees and other targets is set to begin Wednesday in Paris.

The gunmen fatally shot illustrators and journalists at Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine, as well as a police officer and shoppers at a Jewish supermarket during a three-day killing spree beginning Jan. 7, 2015.

Investigating magistrates have charged 14 people in connection to the attacks, which killed 17 people. Brothers Cherif and Said Kouachand and Amédy Coulibaly, the alleged perpetrators of the attacks, have been charged with financing terrorism, membership of a terrorist organization and supplying weapons to terrorists. The landmark trial is expected to last for two-and-a-half months.

Charlie Hebdo posted on Twitter the cover of its next edition to be released on Wednesday, in which the editorial staff decided to reprint the controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that some found offensive five years ago.

Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the attack on Charlie Hebdo. A video released after the killings shows Coulibaly pledging allegiance to then ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The extent of any direct involvement by either terrorist group remains unclear.

More than 3 million people had taken part in unity marches across France, chanting "Je suis Charlie" in the days that followed the attacks, and more solidarity marches were organized in cities across Europe.

Five years later, the terrorist threat in France is still "at an extremely high level," Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Monday, with over 8,000 people listed and watched by French intelligence for terrorist radicalization.

"At least half a dozen" terror attacks have been thwarted since the start of the year, the anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-François Ricard told local news outlet Franceinfo.

The entire trial will be filmed in the interest of "the constitution of the historical archives of justice," according to the court.

https://abcnews.go.com/International/trial-begin-suspects-charlie-hebdo-terror-attack/story?id=72751192&utm_source=iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=1490600_

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Time for EU to get real on Hezbollah

02 September 2020

The UN Security Council's renewal of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil) mandate on August 28 has presented an urgent opportunity to re-examine Europe's legacy in the region and, more importantly, the steps that are needed today to bring real stability to Lebanon.

Founded in 1978 to oversee Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon, over 40 years later Unifil remains on the ground, fulfilling the same role, as a peacekeeper and monitoring hostilities.

However, neither the EU's foreign policy, nor the Unifil mandate, are in line with the current state of affairs, as Hezbollah, the Iran-backed terrorist group which presents itself as a political party, continues to exploit Lebanon for its own nefarious purposes and insert itself into the political sphere.

According to Western intelligence agencies, Iran funds Hezbollah to the tune of $200m to $300m [€168-€252] per year in cash outlays alone, and provides an arsenal of weapons and logistical services valued at more than $700m.

The terrorist organisation has ravaged the region politically, economically, and violently for decades.

The political impact of the Shiite militia is devastating to Lebanon.

Since 1992, Hezbollah has woven itself into the political fabric of the country and held an inflated influence in the elected government.

Government mismanagement and years of slow growth have saddled Lebanon with one of the world's highest public debt burdens, an economic situation that is exacerbated by the recent explosion in Beirut.

The importance of strengthening Unifil must not be underestimated to truly tackle the destruction and instability caused by the militia.

Hezbollah has flagrantly violated the UN mandate, as it continues arms smuggling via Syria with Iran and digging tunnels along the Israeli border.

A recent report from the UN Security Council itself has found that Unifil was consistently not granted access to investigate sites of interest to its operations, has been unable to crack down on arms smuggling and has faced backlash from local Hezbollah sympathisers.

EU member states like Ireland, Germany, and Poland which contribute soldiers to Unifil, along with UN Security Council members, need to reevaluate the current role the force plays in the region.

By strengthening the Unifil mandate, in particular by ensuring that the mission can physically or electronically inspect and effectively monitor sites where potential violations of the Security Council resolution 1706 (2006) are suspected, Unifil can be an effective instrument helping to push back the influence of Hezbollah in Lebanon.

It is also vital for individual EU states to take their own concrete action against the Hezbollah terrorists.

While some European nations, most recently Germany, have recognised the full extent of its reign of terror and banned Hezbollah in its entirety, the official EU position still clings to the erroneous assumption that a true distinction between the political and military wings of the group can be made.

Artificial distinction

Such a distinction is rejected even by Hezbollah's own leadership.

Hezbollah does not distinguish between wings and each part of the organisation, the social, political and military structures are integral parts of the terror group and all enable its functioning.

Introducing artificial distinctions is not an effective approach.

Should Hezbollah be allowed to continue to grow, it is feared Lebanon could eventually become something long coveted by Iran - a threat to Western values and a forward base for Iran on the Mediterranean.

It is pivotal that the EU uses its voice to support Lebanon and work against the devastation brought by Hezbollah by declaring the organisation in all its entities a terrorist group, banning its presence on European soil outright.

Europe must coordinate its security approach, to follow the progressive lead of Germany, and to finally designate Hezbollah a terrorist organisation.

Evidentially, neither the EU's' approach to Hezbollah nor the current Unifil mandate are fit for purpose.

This combination of imperfect foreign policy has allowed the terrorist militia to become an almost untouchable force in Lebanon

It is time for European countries to recognise Hezbollah for the terror group it truly is and for the UN Security Council to strengthen the mandate of Unifil to allow the soldiers to effectively monitor suspect sites.

Only then can Europe continue its legacy of bringing hope and stability to the next generation of Lebanese people.

https://euobserver.com/opinion/149276?utm_source=iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=1490600_

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URL:  https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/islamic-state-khorasan-province-case/d/122785

 

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