New Age Islam
Wed Nov 25 2020, 05:36 AM

Islamic World News ( 22 Oct 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Istanbul Meet: Islam Is a Religion of Peace Therefore Associating It with Terrorism And Violence Is Unacceptable







Islam Has the Answer to Problems Plaguing the Arab World: Head of Ennahda Movement

US Still Sees Held Kashmir As Disputed, Congress Panel Told

Prisoners in China’s Xinjiang Concentration Camps Subjected to Gang Rape and Medical Experiments, Former Detainee Says

Malaysian PM Stands By Kashmir Comments Despite India Palm Oil Boycott

Blacklist: Many Muslims Listed By World-Check on an Influential Database as Potential Risks without Evidence of Wrongdoing

Russia Hid Behind Iran to Spy on 35 Countries

Afghan Leaders Urged To Focus On Preparations for Formal Intra-Afghan Talks With Taliban

 

Mideast

Istanbul Meet: Islam Is a Religion Of Peace Therefore Associating It With Terrorism And Violence Is Unacceptable

Turkey Says ‘No Need’ To Restart Syria Offensive after Deadline Expires

Iran Confirms Report on Mediation between Tehran, Riyadh

Yemen’s Houthis Accused of Randomly Planting Landmines

Netanyahu Rival Gantz To Be Named Wednesday To Try To Form Israeli Government

Turkey replaces four more pro-Kurdish mayors as crackdown widens

United States putting multilateralism at serious risk, says Iranian FM Zarif

China keen to cooperate with Iran on Middle East peace, stability: Envoy

Palestinian prisoners tortured, brutally interrogated in Saudi jails: Hamas spokesman

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Africa

Islam Has the Answer to Problems Plaguing the Arab World: Head of Ennahda Movement

Jordan Nabs Isis Cell Plotting Terror Attacks - Report

Nigeria Now Fighting Global Terrorists, Boko Haram Technically Defeated -Lai Mohammed

Tunisia: Qaeda’s Slain Algerian Leader was Mastermind of Major Terror Attacks

Burundian army kills 14 gunmen from DR Congo

2.6M people in Somalia internally displaced: UN report

Libya: Shelling kills 3 children in Tripoli

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North America

US Still Sees Held Kashmir As Disputed, Congress Panel Told

US Diplomat: Kashmir Human Rights A Concern For Washington

US Military Industrial Complex Needs War To Stay In Existence: Analyst

US evangelicals endorse Trump but not withdrawal from Syria

US senators lambast Twitter’s Jack Dorsey on Hezbollah and Hamas

Saudi allies meet in Riyadh to discuss oil protection

U.S. donates equipment to Nigeria to fight terrorism

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Southeast Asia

Prisoners in China’s Xinjiang Concentration Camps Subjected to Gang Rape and Medical Experiments, Former Detainee Says

Malaysian PM Stands By Kashmir Comments Despite India Palm Oil Boycott

Indonesia’s Muslim Groups Not Ready to Speak Out on Uyghurs

China plans to host intra-Afghan talks as US-Taliban talks stall: Report

Islam, Malays Not Under Threat, Says Amanah of Ties with DAP

Malaysia poises for FDI gains from US-China trade war, says Dr M

Indonesia president names election rival as defense minister

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Arab World

Blacklist: Many Muslims Listed By World-Check on an Influential Database as Potential Risks without Evidence of Wrongdoing

Baghdad Warns US Troops Withdrawing from Syria Not Entitled to Stay in Iraq

Iraqi Kurds Turn To Zoroastrianism As Faith, Identity Entwine

Saudi Cabinet calls to make region free of nuclear arms

Lebanon protests: We should not let the ruling class reproduce itself again

Lebanese Protesters Burn Israeli Flag During Anti-Gov't Demonstrations

Protests erupt in Hezbollah's heartland of south Lebanon, despite intimidation

12,000 ISIS Militants in 7 Prisons in Northeastern Syria

Lebanese army stops Amal, Hezbollah convoy heading to Beirut protest site

Syrian Army Recaptures More Regions in Hasaka as Kurds-Turkey Ceasefire Nears End

Syrian Democratic Council Seeking Union with Damascus after US Betrayal

US troops exiting Syria to stay ‘temporarily’ in Iraq: Pentagon chief

Two Iraqi police commanders, four others killed in militant attack: Sources

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Europe

Russia Hid Behind Iran to Spy on 35 Countries

Britain Now Considers Prosecuting ISIS Militants Known As The Beatles

UN Mission Head Says Risk of Genocide Recurring in Myanmar

Judges close investigations into 2015 Paris and Bataclan terror attacks that killed 130

2 Belgians, 7 French Suspects Accused of Terror Funding

Penny Appeal launches helpline for Muslim youth in UK

Russia, Turkey reach 'historic' deal on Syria border

France gives tentative nod to Lebanese government over reforms

Man holed up at museum in southern France, threatening messages in Arabic

Kremlin says US betrayed Kurds in Syria, tells Kurds to withdraw or be mauled

Pentagon chief arrives in Baghdad amid US pullout from Syria

Russia’s Putin explains results of talks with Turkey to Syria’s Assad

UN: Over 176,000 displaced by Turkish offensive in northeast Syria

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South Asia

Afghan Leaders Urged To Focus On Preparations for Formal Intra-Afghan Talks With Taliban

Afghan official: Taliban storm checkpoint, kill 15 policemen

Afghan airstrikes kill 14 militants in northern Afghanistan

US pulling troops from Afghanistan despite lack of Taliban peace deal

Bhola clash: Hefazat holds protest rally in front of Baitul Mukarram mosque

Pragmatism, not politics, the best way forward for Rohingya repatriation

Senior ISIS leader surrenders to Afghan forces in Nangarhar province

NDS Special Forces foil suicide attack in Mazar-e Sharif city aimed at assassinating Gen. Malik

Special Forces kill 6 Taliban militants; destroy large caches of weapons and IEDs in 3 provinces

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India

How BJP Is Expanding In Shia Muslim-Dominated Kargil Post 370

Oil Prices, Kashmir to Top PM’s Agenda during Saudi Visit

Zakir Musa's successor among three terrorists killed in Awantipora encounter

Pak-sponsored terror in Kashmir 'ignored and overlooked' by human right activists: TOI journalist at US Congressional hearing

Three Jaish terrorists killed in Pulwama encounter

J&K governor flays Hurriyat for influencing Kashmiri children

US Lawmakers Express Concern Over Human Rights Situation In Kashmir

Satya Pal Malik may be Lt Guv of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh Union territories

Army officer, 3 militants killed in Jammu and Kashmir

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Pakistan

'Resignation from Assemblies by Opposition Lawmakers under Deliberation,' Says Fazlur Rehman

Sindh information minister slams Centre’s ‘unannounced restrictions’ on the media

Kartarpur corridor deal between Pakistan and India to be signed on Oct. 24

Blast injures at least 5 in Pakistan's Quetta

Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law arrested for ‘hate speech’

Pakistan minister warns of nuclear war in a bid to stifle local opposition

Nawaz Sharif's condition deteriorated because he might have been given 'poison': Son

JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman says Azadi March neither sit-in nor lockdown

PML-N senator criticises PM for ‘describing’ Fazl as ‘Diesel’

Accountability court rejects Maryam's request to meet Nawaz at hospital

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/istanbul-meet--islam-is-a-religion-of-peace-therefore-associating-it-with-terrorism-and-violence-is-unacceptable/d/120071

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Istanbul Meet: Islam Is A Religion Of Peace Therefore Associating It With Terrorism And Violence Is Unacceptable

Zehra Nur Duz  

22.10.2019

ANKARA

Islam is a religion of peace therefore associating it with terrorism and violence is unacceptable, Muslims leaders attending a conference in Istanbul said on Tuesday.

The third edition of the African Muslim Religious Leaders Summit saw the participation of academics, ministers and religious leaders from 51 countries

Ali Erbas, head of Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs, read out a joint declaration at the final day of the four-day event.

"Portraying Muslims, who follow the religion of mercy, as the perpetrators of violence and identifying Islam with terrorism is a perception operation which stems from evil intentions and dirty ambitions and is never acceptable," he said.

It is obvious that dirty interests and insidious global structures are backing Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, Daesh and similar terrorist organizations that emerged in Islamic geography and are engaged in violence and terrorism, the declaration added.

It went on to say that Africa has a rich and deep-rooted pluralistic Islamic culture which can build a better world where love, tolerance and togetherness is plentiful.

The declaration said Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind the 2016 defeated coup bid in Turkey, is targeting African Muslims and trying to maintain its presence on the continent.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/turkey/istanbul-meet-condemns-associating-islam-with-terrorism/1622692

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Islam Has The Answer To Problems Plaguing The Arab World: Head Of Ennahda Movement

Sorvar Alam  

22.10.2019

ISTANBUL

Islam has the answer to problems plaguing the Arab world, said the head of Tunisia's Muslim Democratic Party Ennahda Movement.

Speaking on Tuesday at the TRT World Forum in Istanbul, Rached Ghannouchi said: "The real reasons behind the uprising in the Arab world are the injustice in source in social life, the corruption for those ruling the countries."

"And that's why the youth are asking for a change,” he added. “And we know what we are calling for is democratic Islam and justice.”

Expressing his optimism about the "bright future" of the Arab world, Ghannouchi highlighted that the Arab youths were "empowered" by technology, modern communication and social media.

"They [these tools] enabled them [Arab youths] to actually communicate with each other. They were able to show the world that the Arab countries and the Arab world are not about terrorism."

Stating that the revolution in Tunisia brought “the freedom of election, of expression, of creating the political arena in general”, Ghannouchi acknowledged that his country had so far been unable to provide job opportunities to the youth, resolving the economic crisis, providing health and educational services.

He also vowed to bring about a social justice revolution in his country, underlining that Arab youths are requesting the same thing throughout the region.

“They want to have their dignity, their freedom. And they want to eliminate this corrupted political facade. And for this reason, we are sure that this movement, this current youth movement that we can see everywhere in the Arab world will be able to reach its goal not only in creating or establishing democracy but in establishing social justice.

“The revolution of the Arab Spring that started from Tunisia, and continuing up until now is actually carrying a value chain.

"The revolution brings values of being correct and clean and humbleness and being with your nation and respecting the willingness of the people of the nation what is being brought by Islam," Ghannouchi noted.

According to him, the revolution in Tunisia has established “the equality between women and men and gave the women the right to actually represent us in all the governmental entities.”

“And we're still struggling and the struggle is still continuing between the Islamic movement and the secular movement.”

To resolve this conflict, they “gathered under the umbrella” of the country's new constitution, he added.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/islam-answer-to-problems-of-arabs-tunisian-politician/1622528

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US still sees held Kashmir as disputed, Congress panel told

Anwar Iqbal

October 23, 2019

WASHINGTON: US Assistant Secretary of State Alice G. Wells informed a Congressional panel on Tuesday that India’s annexation of the occupied lands has not changed America’s position on held Kashmir, as it continues to consider it a disputed territory.

“We consider the Line of Control (LoC) a de facto line separating two parts of Kashmir,” said Ms Wells. “We recognise de facto administrations on both sides of LoC.”

She was responding to a question from the panel’s chairman, Congressman Brad Sherman who asked her if India’s Aug 5 decision to annex the occupied territories had also affected the US position on held Kashmir and if Washington now saw LoC as an international border. He also asked her if Washington still saw held Kashmir as a disputed territory.

“We do not take position on the type of administration either by India or Pakistan,” said Ms Wells when Mr Sherman asked her if the US agreed with India’s decision to merge held Kashmir.

In a written statement she shared with the panel, Ms Well said that the security situation in India-held Kashmir remained tense and clashes between youth and security forces were a regular occurrence.

The first official US assessment of the situation in the occupied valley also emphasised the need for resuming India-Pakistan dialogue but claimed that Islamabad’s alleged support to some terrorist groups had stalled the talks.

Both points were included in a written policy statement Ms Wells shared with the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific on Tuesday. The panel held the first Congressional hearing on the situation in Kashmir since Aug 5.

“The security situation in Kashmir remains tense. Clashes between youth and security forces are a regular occurrence,” the statement noted. “Several thousand people have been detained over the past two months” and “hundreds remain in detention — many without charges — under the Public Safety Act, which allows for administrative detention of up to two years.”

Stressing the need for resuming India-Pakistan dialogue, the policy paper noted: “Restarting a productive bilateral dialogue requires building trust, and the chief obstacle remains Pakistan’s continued support for extremist groups that engage in cross-border terrorism.”

While encouraging Pakistan to do more to curb terrorists, the department added: “We welcomed Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent unambiguous statement that terrorists from Pakistan who carry out violence in Kashmir are enemies of both Kashmiris and Pakistan.”

Ms Wells informed the panel that Washington has closely monitored the situation in Jammu and Kashmir following India’s Aug 5 decision to abrogate Article 370 of the Indian Constitution and create two new Union Territories: Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

The United States supports India’s desire to increase economic development in Kashmir, but “remains concerned about the situation in the Valley, where daily life for the nearly eight million residents has been severely impacted since August 5.”

The statement noted that conditions in Jammu and Ladakh had improved, but “the Valley has not returned to normal”.

The State Department has raised concerns with the Indian government regarding the detentions of local residents and political leaders, including three former Chief Ministers of Jammu and Kashmir, Ms Wells added.

“We have urged Indian authorities to respect human rights and restore full access to services, including internet and mobile networks,” she said, noting that while post-paid mobile service has been restored in the Valley, internet access remains intermittent.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1512354/us-still-sees-held-kashmir-as-disputed-congress-panel-told

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Prisoners in China’s Xinjiang concentration camps subjected to gang rape and medical experiments, former detainee says

Zamira Rahim

October 23, 2019

A Muslim woman who escaped from a state “re-education” camp in China has said inmates were gang raped, subjected to torture and medical experiments and forced to eat pork.

Sayragul Sauytbay, a Chinese Muslim of Kazakh descent, said she was detained by the state in November 2017.

The 43-year-old teacher was escorted by armed men to a camp, where she was held for several months, according to Haaretz.

She was ordered to teach inmates Chinese.

“It was forbidden to speak with the prisoners, forbidden to laugh, forbidden to cry and forbidden to answer questions from anyone,” she said.

“There were almost 20 people in a room of 16 square meters.

“There were cameras in their rooms, too, and also in the corridor. Each room had a plastic bucket for a toilet. Every prisoner was given two minutes a day to use the toilet, and the bucket was emptied only once a day.”

Ms Sautybay said women were systematically raped and that she was forced to watch a woman be repeatedly assaulted.

“The policemen ordered her to disrobe and simply raped her one after the other, in front of everyone,” she told Haaretz.

“While they were raping her they checked to see how we were reacting. People who turned their head or closed their eyes, and those who looked angry or shocked, were taken away and we never saw them again.

“It was awful. I will never forget the feeling of helplessness, of not being able to help her.”

She added: “On an everyday basis the policemen took the pretty girls with them, and they didn’t come back to the rooms all night.”

China is believed to have detained more than a million people from mostly Muslim ethnic minorities in the province of Xinjiang since 2017.

Global concern over the camps has increased in recent months, with Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, calling Beijing’s treatment of Muslim minorities ”the stain of the century.”

Ms Satuybay said that as well as torture, prisoners were also subjected to mysterious human experiments.

“The inmates would be given pills or injections,” she said. “[They] had different kinds of effects.

“Some prisoners were cognitively weakened. Women stopped getting their period and men became sterile.”

The 43-year-old was instructed to teach the prisoners Communist Party propaganda songs and slogans.

As a camp teacher she avoided the very worst of the alleged conditions.

The inmates were forced to recite slogans such as: “I love China,” “Thank you to the Communist Party,” “I am Chinese” and “I love Xi Jinping”.

Ms Sautybay also said that all inmates, including observant Muslim prisoners, were forced to eat pork.

“The food was bad, there weren’t enough hours for sleep and the hygiene was atrocious,” the teacher said.

In March 2018 the 43-year-old was released from the camp and ordered to return to her former role as the director of five nurseries.

She was fired three days after returning and once again interrogated by police officers, who accused her of treason.

Ms Sautybay was told she would return to a camp as a regular inmate instead of a teacher.

“Having already been in a camp, I knew what it meant. I knew I would die there, and I could not accept that,” she said.

“I said to myself that if I was already fated to die, at least I was going to try to escape.”

The 43-year-old escaped by climbing through a window to a neighbour’s house. She then took a taxi to China’s border with Kazakhstan, which she managed to cross.

“In Kazakhstan I found my family,” she said. “My dream,came true. I could not have received a greater gift.”

Ms Sauytbay was arrested by Kazakhstan’s secret service for crossing the border but was eventually granted asylum in Sweden.

“The world must find a solution so that my people can live in peace,” she said.

“The democratic governments must do all they can to make China stop doing what it is doing in Xinjiang.”

Beijing has denied the 43-year-old’s allegations.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/china-xinjiang-uighur-muslim-detention-camps-xi-jinping-persecution-a9165896.html

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Malaysian PM stands by Kashmir comments despite India palm oil boycott

October 22, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Tuesday he would not retract his criticism of New Delhi's actions in the disputed region of Kashmir even though Indian traders have urged a boycott of Malaysian palm oil.

The impasse could exacerbate what Mahathir described as a trade war between the world's second biggest producer and exporter of the commodity and its biggest buyer so far this year.

India's top vegetable oil trade body on Monday asked its members to stop buying Malaysian palm oil after Mahathir said at the UN General Assembly last month that India had "invaded and occupied" Kashmir, a disputed Muslim-majority region also claimed by Pakistan.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government removed the long-standing autonomy of India's portion of the Kashmir valley on Aug. 5, calling it an internal matter and criticizing countries that have spoken out against the move.

"We speak our minds, and we don't retract or change," Mahathir told reporters outside parliament. "What we are saying is we should all abide by resolutions of the (United Nations). Otherwise, what is the use of the UN?"

The UN Security Council adopted several resolutions in 1948 and in the 1950s on the dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, including one which says a plebiscite should be held to determine the future of the region.

Mahathir said Malaysia would study the impact of the boycott called by the Mumbai-based Solvent Extractors’ Association of India and look at ways to address the issue.

New Delhi has so far refused to comment on the trade spat.

"This is not the Indian government, so we have to find out how we can communicate with these people, because trade is a two-way thing and it is bad to have what amounts to a trade war," Mahathir said.

In a separate statement, Malaysia's Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok said the country viewed the call for a boycott with "great concern."

The underlying sentiment tied to the association's decision was understood, but it was seen as a major setback in cooperation and working relations between the two countries, she said.

"I urge (the Solvent Extractors’ Association of India) to not take such decisions unilaterally and allow both governments to resolve the current situation," Kok said.

Malaysia's exports to India were worth $10.8 billion in the fiscal year through March 31, while imports totaled $6.4 billion, according to Indian government data.

Malaysian palm oil futures slipped on Tuesday over concerns demand would fall from India.

India was Malaysia's third-largest export destination in 2018 for palm oil and palm-based products worth 6.84 billion ringgit ($1.63 billion).

Malaysia said last week it was considering raising imports of raw sugar and buffalo meat from India, in a bid to ease the trade tensions.

India, the world's biggest importer of edible oils, also buys palm oil from Indonesia, soyoil from Argentina and Brazil, and sunflower oil from Ukraine. — Reuters

http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/article/580445/World/Asia/Malaysian-PM-stands-by-Kashmir-comments-despite-India-palm-oil-boycott

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Blacklist: Many Muslims Listed By World-Check on An Influential Database As Potential Risks Without Evidence Of Wrongdoing

October 23, 2019

Numerous Muslim individuals and institutions have been placed on an influential database as potential risks without evidence of wrongdoing, Al Jazeera's analysis of the list has revealed.

World-Check is a database used by banks globally to help identify and manage financial, regulatory and reputational risk to large companies.

Investigators from Al Jazeera Arabic's Ma Khafia Aazam (Tip of the Iceberg) programme were able to obtain the database, which contains more than three million names, as well as the sources it uses for its designations, most importantly of financial crimes and "terrorism".

The investigative report revealed that the database, which contains hundreds of thousands of Muslim and Arab names, relied on "terrorism lists" issued by countries such as Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, without verification.

The database used to be part of Thomson Reuters Financial & Risk before a majority stake in the business was sold to the Blackstone Group in October 2018. The business was renamed Refinitiv.

The creation of the database was aimed at reducing financial risk to companies.

World-Check's promotional material states that 49 of the world's largest 50 banks use its database, which suggests that it dominates the international market.

Al Jazeera's Ma Khafia Aazam noted that the company adds about 25,000 names to its blacklist every month, most notably to the "terrorism" list, which contains hundreds of thousands of Muslim names.

In their analysis of the database, the programme's team revealed that World-Check relied on international banks and intelligence agencies from different countries, including lists issued by Arab governments, without taking into account the level of freedom or democracy in these countries.

The database also used information from the "yellow press" in some nations, most prominently Israel.

When the programme's team accessed the company's database, through one of its clients, they discovered that the sources the company relied on for its designations consisted primarily of publicly available websites.

The list of people includes former Egyptian football player Mohamed Aboutrika, whose designation as a "terrorist" was based on news published on websites run by the Egyptian government.

Lack of verification

Over the years, several lawsuits have been filed against World-Check.

In 2014, the managers of the Finsbury Park Mosque in London were surprised when its bank accounts were frozen on the grounds of "supporting terrorism".

They sued World-Check, which subsequently issued an apology and withdrew the mosque's name from the list.

The London-based Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) was also placed on the list but, following a lawsuit by the centre, a settlement was reached with Thomson Reuters, which had acquired World-Check in 2005.

Farooq Bajwa, whose law firm has represented people named in the World-Check database, said that the company sometimes only relies on internet search engines and lists issued by governments as a source for their lists.

Kenneth Rijock, a former World-Check adviser, explained that any commercial database of highly dangerous persons must rely on open sources such as newspaper articles and lawsuits.

The programme's reporters reached out to the company's management to inquire about their main objective and the sources they use.

The management responded that their main role is to combat financial crimes, denying that the lists were confidential and explaining that individuals have the right to request a copy of their file and inquire about their status on the list.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/10/blacklist-muslims-listed-world-check-evidence-191022115529354.html

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Russia hid behind Iran to spy on 35 countries

October 22 2019

Russian hackers masqueraded as an Iranian cybergang to mount a huge espionage campaign against 35 countries, GCHQ has revealed.

The UK intelligence agency worked on a two-year investigation with the National Security Agency, its American equivalent, to uncover the origins of the Russia-based hacking group, which stole documents from an array of institutions worldwide.

A security chief last night described how the Russian group had hijacked Iranian cybertools and infrastructure, which served to obscure its identity as well as facilitate its espionage, as a new and significant development in the hostile cyber-realm.

The hacking group Turla, which also goes by the aliases Waterbug and Venomous Bear, is thought to have seized control of infrastructure created by the group Oilrig. Turla has been linked to the…

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/russia-hid-behind-iran-to-spy-on-35-countries-smqtzzxvc

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Afghan leaders urged to focus on preparations for formal intra-Afghan talks with Taliban

23 Oct 2019

The representatives of the United States, European Union and the United Nations urged the Afghan government to focus on preparations for formal intra-Afghan dialogue with the Taliban group.

“Called on President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and other prominent Afghan leaders to focus immediately on preparing the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan for formal Intra-Afghan Negotiations with the Taliban, including the naming of an inclusive, national negotiating team,” according to a Europe-US Communique on the Afghan peace process.

The representatives and special envoys of the U.S., Europe and UN released the communique after meeting in EU Headquarters in Brussels on 22nd of October.

The communique further stated “Urged all sides to observe a ceasefire for the duration of Intra-Afghan Negotiations to enable participants to reach agreement on a political roadmap for Afghanistan’s future.”

“Reaffirmed that any peace agreement must protect the rights of all Afghans, including women, youth and minorities, and must respond to the strong desire of Afghans to sustain and build on the economic, social, political and development gains achieved since 2001, including adherence to the rule of law, respect for Afghanistan’s international obligations, and improving inclusive and accountable governance,” the communique stated, adding that “Highlighted that the Afghan parties inclusion in, and ownership of, intra-Afghan negotiations is important for a successful outcome.”

This comes as reports emerged earlier today suggesting that China will host the third round of intra-Afghan dialogue in Beijing.

A spokesman for the political office of Taliban said in a Twitter post that that group’s deputy political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar will lead a delegation of the Taliban leaders to participate in the intra-Afghan talks.

https://www.khaama.com/afghan-leaders-urged-to-focus-on-preparations-for-formal-intra-afghan-talks-with-taliban-04260/

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Mideast

 

Turkey says ‘no need’ to restart Syria offensive after deadline expires

23 October 2019

Turkey said on Wednesday there was “no need” to restart its offensive against Kurdish fighters in Syria, saying that it had been informed by the US that their withdrawal from the border areas had been “completed”.

“At this stage, there is no need to carry out a new operation,” the defence ministry said in a statement.

A US-brokered deal had set a 120-hour deadline for Kurdish fighters’ pullout from a proposed safe zone, which expired at 1900 GMT.

The commander of Kurdish led-SDF fighters has informed the United States that it has carried out all of its obligations under a US-brokered truce to withdraw forces from a border area with Turkey in northeastern Syria, a senior administration official said on Tuesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that talks with his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan had yielded what he called momentous results for Syria.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/10/23/Turkey-says-no-need-to-restart-Syria-offensive-after-deadline-expires.html

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Iran Confirms Report on Mediation between Tehran, Riyadh

Oct 22, 2019

Speaking in an interview with Anadolu news agency, Mousavi confirmed that some back-channel efforts are underway by certain states which "have voiced their interest in bringing the viewpoints of Tehran and Riyadh closer to each other, deescalate the situation and remove misunderstandings in a bid to prevent third-parties from misusing the Iran-KSA disagreements".

He voiced Tehran’s readiness for talks, adding that his country holds that resolution of disputes will have benefits for both countries, nations, and the region and even the whole world.

Mousavi underlined that Iran and Saudi Arabia are the two major countries in the Islamic world and disputes between them can have negative consequences for the whole region.

He once again repeated Tehran’s initiative that the Hormuz Peace Endeavor (HOPE) is open to all countries of the region including Saudi Arabia.

On Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif voiced his readiness for a visit to the Saudi capital city of Riyadh for settling bilateral disputes between the Islamic Republic and the kingdom, reiterating that Tehran has always been a supporter of regional peace and cooperation.

“If suitable conditions are provided, I would be ready to travel to Riyadh to settle differences” between the two countries, Zarif said, answering a question posed by Yemen’s Arabic-language al-Masirah news agency on the sidelines of a conference held in Tehran themed “Unilateralism and International Law”.

"Tehran welcomes any initiative that aims to ease tensions in the region and will cooperate [with other parties] to end Yemen’s war," he added.

Zarif once again reiterated the Islamic Republic's policy for supporting the Yemeni people, saying, "Iran will always stand by the Yemeni nation and we believe that the end of war will first of all help the Yemeni people."

Elsewhere in his remarks, the Iranian foreign minister said he is in constant contact with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in relation to developments in Yemen.

Later on Monday, Zarif visited an industrial complex in Tehran Province, on the sidelines of which he talked to reporters, further explaining about his readiness to visit Saudi Arabia.

"Nothing new has happened. We have always been ready to travel to neighboring countries and to go to neighboring countries," Iran's foreign minister said.

"The Islamic Republic's [friendship] hand has been always extended toward regional countries and if there are [necessary] grounds and neighboring countries are also ready for cooperation, we will definitely be prepared [to do this]," Zarif pointed out.

Earlier this month, Pakistani prime minister made an official visit to Tehran and held talks with President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei where the issue of Saudi Arabia’s aggression against Yemen was thoroughly discussed.

Ayatollah Khamenei, during the meeting with Khan, underlined that a legitimate end to the ongoing war waged by Saudi Arabia and its allies on Yemen can have positive impacts on the region, and said Tehran’s plan is a suitable solution to the ongoing crisis there.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran has for a long time presented a four-point plan to end the war in Yemen," the Leader added.

"The end of this war in the proper way can have positive effects on the region,” the Supreme Leader added.

The Supreme Leader, meantime, lauded Pakistan’s concern about the establishment of peace and security in the region, and said that West Asia is a "very sensitive and critical" region.

Ayatollah Khamenei also expressed regret over the destructive role played by “some regional countries” through their support for terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria and causing war and bloodshed in Yemen.

“We have no motivation for being hostile toward these countries, but they are under the influence of America and act against the Islamic Republic of Iran in line with what America desires,” he added.

The Supreme Leader emphasized that the Islamic Republic has never initiated any war, saying, "If someone starts a war against Iran, they will undoubtedly regret it."

In April 2015, Zarif submitted a four-point peace plan for Yemen to the United Nations in an attempt to end the bloodshed in the Arab country.

"It is imperative for the international community to get more effectively involved in ending the senseless aerial attacks and establishing a ceasefire," Zarif said in the letter.

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980730000913

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Yemen’s Houthis Accused of Randomly Planting Landmines

21 October, 2019

Yemeni military officials accused on Sunday Houthi militias of randomly planting landmines and explosive devices along streets, houses and farms from where the rebels have been expelled, adding to the misery of people, including children, women and the elderly.

Landmines and explosives threaten the lives of millions of Yemenis and have killed and injured hundreds of them.

Reports of humanitarian organizations suggest that Yemen has become one of the largest landmine battlefields in the world since World War II.

On Sunday, 13 rebels were killed and injured in battles with the National Army on the eastern front of the Houthi-besieged city of Taiz, where the legitimacy has made new advances by controlling several sites.

A military source told the Yemeni Saba official news agency that the National Army’s 2nd Division, 22th Mechanized Brigade, attacked militia positions and was able to liberate Tabat al-Khadr.

“Three militia members were killed in the attack and 10 others were injured,” the source said.

He said it was important to liberate the site because it overlooks the road linking the district of Salah to the district of Dimnat Khadeer.

Brigadier General Abdul Malek al-Ahdal from Brigade 35 called on all political parties, journalists and activists in Taiz to unite in ending the Houthi grip on the governorate.

During a ceremony held in the south of Taiz, Ahdal lashed out at the Iran-backed Houthis for threatening Arab identity and national security, while he praised Arab brothers led by Saudi Arabia in their support for the legitimate government.

Full report at:

https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1954701/yemen%E2%80%99s-houthis-accused-randomly-planting-landmines

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Netanyahu rival Gantz to be named Wednesday to try to form Israeli government

22 October 2019

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will on Wednesday task centrist politician Benny Gantz with trying to form the next coalition government after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed, Rivlin’s office said on Tuesday.

Netanyahu, a fourth-term conservative whose party tied with Gantz’s in September’s election, told Rivlin on Monday he was giving up on forming the government after failing to win support from a majority of parliament.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/10/22/France-gives-tentative-nod-to-Lebanese-government-over-reforms.html

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Turkey replaces four more pro-Kurdish mayors as crackdown widens

22 October 2019

Turkey has replaced four mayors from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) with state officials, the offices of two provincial governors said on Tuesday, part of a widening crackdown on local councils controlled by the party.

Ankara accuses the HDP of links to militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). It has now replaced a total of 12 mayors from the HDP on alleged links to terrorism since municipal elections in March.

The mayors in the towns of Kayapinar, Bismil and Kocakoy in the southeastern Diyarbakir province and the mayor of Ercis in the eastern province of Van were suspended and replaced by local administrators, the offices of the two regional governors said.

Three mayors are currently in custody on terrorism charges, the governors’ offices said, while the Diyarbakir prosecutor’s office said the former Bismil mayor had been released under judicial control.

The HDP said six other of its candidates who won a majority of votes in the March mayoral elections were not given their election certificates because they had previously been dismissed from public office by decree.

In August, Turkey first removed the mayors of Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van, three metropolitan cities won by the HDP.

Selcuk Mizrakli, who was removed from his office in Diyarbakir, was jailed pending trial on Tuesday, the provincial prosecutor’s office said.

Prior to the March municipal polls, around 100 mayors in towns held by the HDP had been replaced by state officials.

The former co-leaders of the pro-Kurdish HDP have both been jailed since 2016 on terrorism charges, with several other prominent members accused of supporting terrorism over what the government says are links to the PKK.

The HDP denies links to the PKK but does not consider it a terrorist organization.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/10/22/Turkey-replaces-four-more-pro-Kurdish-mayors-as-crackdown-widens.html

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United States putting multilateralism at serious risk, says Iranian FM Zarif

Oct 22, 2019

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has denounced the attempts by the United States to prevent formation of alliances of multiple countries pursuing common goals, stating that multilateralism is seriously under threat by Washington.

Speaking to reporters upon arrival at Heydar Aliyev International Airport in the Azerbaijani capital city of Baku late on Tuesday, Zarif said the main objective of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is to boost multilateralism, emphasizing that the ministerial meeting of the organization and following summit of the heads of state will mainly focus on such an ideal.

“It is necessary for world countries to base their relations upon diplomacy and multilateralism. The 18th NAM summit preceded by the foreign ministerial meeting will also provide an opportunity for the high-ranking officials to hold talks on the sidelines of the events,” the top Iranian diplomat noted.

The NAM ministerial meeting will be held on Wednesday and Thursday, before the 18th summit of NAM heads of states that will be held on October 25 and 26. Azerbaijan will take over the chairmanship of the Non-Aligned Movement for the upcoming 3 years.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will attend the 18th summit of NAM heads of states on Friday.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/10/22/609343/United-States-putting-multilateralism-at-serious-risk-says-Iranian-FM-Zarif

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China keen to cooperate with Iran on Middle East peace, stability: Envoy

Oct 22, 2019

A senior Chinese diplomat says Beijing attaches great importance to peace and stability in the Middle East and is keen to keep up consultations with Iran in this regard.

China’s special envoy for Middle East affairs Zhai June made the remarks in a Tuesday meeting with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tehran, where both sides exchanged views about issues of bilateral and regional significance.

During the talks, the two sides highlighted strategic ties between Tehran and Beijing.

Zarif pointed to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s new regional peace initiative, dubbed Hormuz Peace Endeavor (HOPE), and said Tehran welcomes Beijing’s positive role in ensuring regional peace and stability.

In an address to the 74th session of the General Assembly on September 25, Rouhani said that the “coalition of hope” aims to promote peace, stability, progress and prosperity of littoral states and help achieve mutual understanding and establish peaceful and friendly relations among them.

In a meeting with Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs in Beijing late in August, Zarif said disregard for international law has increased during recent years, describing this as a reason for boosting international cooperation between Iran and China.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/10/22/609297/Zarif-China-Zhai-Jun-Middle-East-peace-Iran

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Palestinian prisoners tortured, brutally interrogated in Saudi jails: Hamas spokesman

Oct 22, 2019

A spokesman for the Palestinian Islamic resistance movement, Hamas, says Palestinians currently being held at prisons and detention centers in Saudi Arabia are exposed to various forms of torture and cruel methods of interrogation.

“Unfortunately, there is a harsh investigation procedure against the detainees, some of whom are subjected to various forms of torture. Interrogators of different nationalities are questioning them,” Sami Abu Zuhri told Arabic-language Shehab news agency in an exclusive interview on Monday.

He added, “There are about Palestinian detainees (in Saudi jails), and some of them are the sons or supporters of Hamas. Some of them have even lived more than three decades in the kingdom and greatly contributed to the construction of the country.”

Abu Zihri further noted that Hamas has made great efforts, either through contacts with a number of countries or Saudi officials, to secure the release of the Palestinian inmates but all to no avail.

The senior Palestinian official stressed that his movement is closely monitoring the cases of Palestinian prisoners being held in Saudi Arabia.

The Prisoners of Conscience, an independent non-governmental organization advocating human rights in Saudi Arabia, announced in a post on its official Twitter page on October 3 that Saudi authorities had transferred senior Hamas official Muhammad al-Khudari, who has been in detention in the kingdom for more than five months, back to Dhahban Central Prison in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah after hospitalization in Mecca to receive treatment for an unspecified terminal disease.

On September 14, Hamas called on Saudi authorities to immediately release Khudari, who has been living in Saudi Arabia for over 30 years, and represented Hamas between mid-1990s and 2003 in Saudi Arabia.

He has held other important positions in the Palestinian resistance movement as well.

Back on June 3, Lebanese Arabic-language daily newspaper al-Akhbar, citing informed sources who requested anonymity, reported that Saudi officials had been holding dozens of Saudi nationals and Palestinian expatriates in detention for months over affiliation to Hamas.

The report added that the most prominent figure among those arrested was Dr. Khudari.

Al-Akhbar went on to say that the campaign of arrests coincided with the closure and tight control of bank accounts, and a ban on sending any money from Saudi Arabia to the Gaza Strip.

Over the past two years, Saudi authorities have deported more than 100 Palestinians from the kingdom, mostly on charges of supporting Hamas financially, politically or through social networking sites.

The Riyadh regime has imposed strict control over Palestinian funds in Saudi Arabia since the end of 2017.

All remittances of Palestinian expatriates are being tightly controlled, under the pretext that these funds could be diverted indirectly and through other countries to Hamas.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/10/22/609323/Palestinian-prisoners-tortured-brutally-interrogated-in-Saudi-jails-Hamas-spokesman

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Africa

 

Jordan Nabs Isis Cell Plotting Terror Attacks - Report

By Khaled Abu Toameh 

October 21, 2019

The Jordanian authorities have foiled a plot by ISIS to carry out terrorist attacks in the kingdom, the Jordanian newspaper Al-Ra’i reported on Monday.

Five members of the terrorist cell were arrested last July, according to a charge sheet presented to the State Security Court in Amman, the newspaper said.

According to the report, the suspects were planning to attack the guards stationed outside the home of a former Jordanian prime minister and seize their weapons.

At the beginning of their trial on Sunday, the suspects pleaded not guilty, the newspaper said.

The suspects are accused of conspiring to carry out terrorist attacks, including shooting at security patrols and kidnapping a Jordanian intelligence officer.

One of the suspects, according to the charge sheet, is a Syrian national living in Jordan known as an ISIS supporter.

At the beginning of this year, three of the other suspects, also known as ISIS supporters, attempted to infiltrate the border from Jordan into Syria to fight alongside the terrorist group. The attempt, however, failed due to the large presence of the Jordanian army along the border, the charge sheet said, according to the newspaper.

During meetings in Jordan, the suspects reportedly pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and formed a cell with the purpose of purchasing weapons to launch terrorist attacks in the kingdom. The cell planned, among other things, to kidnap a Jordanian intelligence officer, kill him and burn his body.

During raids on the homes of the suspects last July, the Jordanian security authorities seized weapons and drugs, the newspaper said.

https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Jordan-nabs-ISIS-cell-plotting-terror-attacks-report-605285

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Nigeria Now Fighting Global Terrorists, Boko Haram Technically Defeated -Lai Mohammed

OCT 22, 2019

Lai Mohammed, Nigeria's Minister of Information and Culture, believes Boko Haram have been technically defeated despite continued onslaughts by the terrorist group.

The minister stated this on Monday when he paid a working visit to the new corporate headquarters of The Sun in Lagos.

Fielding questions from the editorial board of the newspaper led by the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief, Onuoha Ukeh, the minister said Nigeria was currently facing global terrorism.

He stated, “I stand by what I said that Boko Haram is technically defeated.

“What we are having today is global terrorism where you have ISIS, ISWAP, Al-Qaeda all working together.

“Terrorism is a global issue. Between 2009 and 2015 we were fighting Boko Haram, but today we are fighting global terrorism where the remnants of the Army in Syria are now joining hands with the ISWAP and others."

Mohammed said his position in 2015 that Boko Haram was technically defeated was based on what he saw.

He explained, “I was on the ground in Bama, Konduga, and Maiduguri and I know what I saw before I made that claim.

“We are fighting global terrorism and that is why we are appealing to our foreign partners, especially the UN and our neighbours.

Full report at:

http://saharareporters.com/2019/10/22/nigeria-now-fighting-global-terrorists-boko-haram-technically-defeated-lai-mohammed

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Tunisia: Qaeda’s Slain Algerian Leader was Mastermind of Major Terror Attacks

22 October, 2019

A senior Algerian commander in al-Qaeda’s Uqba bin Nafi Battalion (KUBN) was killed in a joint military operation on Monday, Tunisia’s Ministry of Interior said.

Murad al-Shayeb, 36, was killed by Tunisian security and military forces in Kasserine governorate near the border with Algeria.

Murad is the brother of Algerian terrorist Khaled Shayeb, aka Luqman Abu Sakhr who was killed in Tunisia in 2015. They both belong to al-Qaeda in the Maghreb.

The Ministry said Shayeb was responsible for a series of attacks since 2013, including an assault on former Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou in 2014 and various ambushes in the Chaambi, Ouargha, Mghila, and Sammama mountains.

The joint operation was one of the most successful given the significance and danger of the killed terrorist.

The group targeted by the security and military forces in Jabal al-Seif consists of two terrorist elements, Shayeb and another element who was able to flee, despite news of him being injured during the attack.

Special antiterrorist unit spokesperson Sofien Selliti said Shayeb was involved in most of the terrorist operations carried out against the Tunisian military.

Selliti said Shayeb had been the mastermind of the largest terror attack in Tunisia since 2016 and is wanted by security forces and judicial forces in Tunisia and Algeria.

In this context, the spokesman stated that the slain extremist targeted in 2014 a military patrol in Ouargha mountains.

In 2015, he added, Shayeb targeted a National Guard patrol in the region of Boulaba and ambushed two military formations in Mghila Mountain in April and November 2015.

Full report at:

https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1956391/tunisia-qaeda%E2%80%99s-slain-algerian-leader-was-mastermind-major-terror-attacks

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Burundian army kills 14 gunmen from DR Congo

James Tasamba  

23.10.2019

KIGALI, Rwanda

The Burundian army killed 14 gunmen who had entered the country early Tuesday from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, said a deputy spokesperson for Burundi’s security ministry.

Security forces killed the gunmen and seized their weapons following clashes in Bubanza province, about 112 kilometers (69 miles) from the capital Gitega, Moise Nkurunziza told reporters.

He added that the security forces were alerted by residents who had seen a group of around 18 armed criminals from DR Congo in Kayange village in Musigati district.

Local media said the armed group came from Rukoko forest bordering DR Congo and heavy gunfire was heard in the morning hours between the attackers and police.

The attackers were reported in Mpanda, Gihanga and Mitakataka villages before returning to Kibira National Park via the Musigati area.

The group reportedly abducted some people, most of whom were released later.

A Burundian rebel group that calls itself the Resistance to the Rule of Law in Burundi (RED-Tabara) based in DR Congo claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter.

Burundian armed groups are said to maintain rear bases in DR Congo’s South Kivu area.

Burundi has witnessed deadly violence since 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza successfully sought a disputed third term in office.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/burundian-army-kills-14-gunmen-from-dr-congo/1623269

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2.6M people in Somalia internally displaced: UN report

22.10.2019

A total of 2.6 million people in Somalia have been internally displaced amid insecurity, drought and floods, the UN migration agency said in a report on Tuesday.

"Somalia has for almost three decades been in the throes of conflict; now add the most recent drought and the result is displacement and food shortages,” said the report released by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The forced displacement in Somalia in the first half of the year, was foremost due to “insecurity, drought and floods,” it said.

“Currently a total of 2.6 million people remain displaced within the country,” the report added.

It further said some 5.4 million people out of the 15 million living in the country were estimated as food insecure, while some 2.2 million of the population are living in “severe acute food insecurity conditions.

The report said more than half of the population in Somalia live under poverty, “with the highest poverty rates found in displacement settlements.”

Largely due to prolonged conflict, Somalia also has a considerable refugee population abroad,nearly 900,000, according toUNHCR’sGlobal Trends Report issued in June 2019.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/26m-people-in-somalia-internally-displaced-un-report/1623020

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Libya: Shelling kills 3 children in Tripoli

Waleed Abdullah  

22.10.2019

TRIPOLI

Three children were killed in mortar shelling by forces loyal to East Libya-based commander Khalifa Haftar, the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) said Tuesday.

The shelling targeted a house in Salahuddin neighborhood in southern Tripoli, the GNA media office said in a statement.

The attack came as fighting escalated between the GNA forces and Haftar's troops in southern Tripoli.

In April, Haftar’s forces launched a military campaign to capture Tripoli from the internationally-recognized GNA. But has so far failed to make advances, beyond borders of the Libyan capital.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/libya-shelling-kills-3-children-in-tripoli/1622214

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North America

 

US diplomat: Kashmir human rights a concern for Washington

22 October 2019

A US diplomat overseeing South Asia says the Trump administration is concerned about human rights in India-administered Kashmir but supports India’s development “objectives” for the restive Himalayan region stripped of its special status in August.

Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells released the statement Tuesday ahead of a congressional hearing in Washington on human rights in South Asia.

Wells said the US State Department has encouraged India to restore phone and internet access and release detainees. After India’s Parliament voted to remove a constitutional provision that gave Kashmiris semi-autonomy and land rights, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government imposed a security lockdown and communications blackout. Thousands of people have been detained.

Some phone connectivity has been restored, but internet services remain down.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/10/22/US-diplomat-Kashmir-human-rights-a-concern-for-Washington.html

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US military industrial complex needs war to stay in existence: Analyst

Oct 23, 2019

The military industrial complex in the United States cannot continue to exist without wars, says an American writer and former professor.

E. Michael Jones made the remarks in an interview with Press TV when asked about President Donald Trump who said Monday his plans to bring American troops home from Syria and other countries had been met with strong opposition from “military companies.”

During a cabinet meeting at the White House, Trump argued that it was easier for him to let the soldiers get killed and sent back in coffins instead.

“It turns out the main opposition is coming from defense contractors like Lockheed Martin,” said Jones, the current editor of Culture Wars magazine.

“This is one of these moments when the truth becomes absolutely crystal clear, the point of all of this opposition to Trump, from the beginning of his presidency is that it comes from the military industrial complex which can only exist if there is a threat to war or the military industrial complex needs war in order to stay in existence, this is the truth of the matter, it has been the truth in the United States ever since President (Dwight D.) Eisenhower announced it in 1959.”

Trump said Monday that ending American military presence overseas was one of his two key campaign pledges -- besides building a wall -- and that he was intent to fulfill that promise despite facing opposition in Washington.

“We're bringing our troops back home,” he told a cabinet meeting at the White House. “I got elected on bringing our soldiers back home. Now, it's not very popular within the beltway because, you know, Lockheed doesn't like it. And these great military companies don't like it. It's not very popular.”

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/10/23/609362/US-war-Syria-military-troops-Donald-Trump

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US evangelicals endorse Trump but not withdrawal from Syria

Oct 23, 2019

US evangelicals endorse President Donald Trump but not his decision to pull out American troops from northern Syria.

“We thought the troop withdrawal and failure to protect and ensure northeast Syria’s burgeoning self-governance was a religious freedom mistake,” said Travis Weber, the vice president for policy and government affairs at the Family Research Council, an evangelical advocacy group. “We thought it was a departure of President Trump's fantastic record on religious freedom.”

The Christian Zionists are instead supporting US sanctions imposed on Turkey as well as the temporary ceasefire.

“My support is behind the president,” the Rev. Franklin Graham, the president of the evangelical humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse, told The Hill.

McConnell vs. Schumer

Trump has been accused of allowing Turkey to attack Kurdish forces near the Syria-Turkey border.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would introduce his own resolution aimed at ending the withdrawal.

“I am introducing a stronger resolution that acknowledges hard truths and focuses on our strategic interests in the Middle East,” McConnell said. “It recognizes the grave consequences of US withdrawal. ... We specifically urge the president to end the drawdown.”

The Republican further warned against Turkey’s establishment of a safe zone there on the pretext of settling Syrian refugees.

“We cannot allow them to establish safe havens and solidify their networks,” McConnell said. “Just about every place that President Trump tried to lead from behind provides reminders that there are certain kinds of leadership only America can contribute.”  Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, meanwhile, repeated calls for McConnell to take up the House resolution, which passed with significant support from House Republicans.

“I wish our colleagues would show the same courage,” Schumer said. “If the House resolution is tough enough for House Republican leadership, surely it’s good enough for the majority of Senate Republicans.”

‘$4.5m for White Helmets’

Trump has allegedly authorized $4.5 million in aid for the so-called White Helmets group, according to White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/10/23/609349/Evangelicals-back-Trump-but-not-his-Syria-decision

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US senators lambast Twitter’s Jack Dorsey on Hezbollah and Hamas

Taylor Heyman

Oct 23, 2019

A bipartisan group of US senators have asked Twitter to remove Hamas and Hezbollah affiliated users and content from the platform.

In a letter to Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey, Josh Gottheimer, Tom Reed and Max Rose of New York and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania said they were dismayed to learn the platform’s definition of a terrorist organisation differed from the US government definition.

The US government designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation in 1997 and Hamas in 1993. However, the European Union has only branded Hezbollah’s armed wing as terrorist, distinguishing it from the group’s political arm, which holds parliamentary seats in Lebanon.

Rep Josh Gottheimer

@RepJoshG

Twitter said in a letter to me, in a blatant affront to U.S. law, that they're making exceptions for Hamas and Hezbollah, established Foreign Terror Organizations, to maintain accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers on this platform.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

24

11:28 PM - Oct 22, 2019

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“There is no place on Twitter for terrorist organisations, violent extremist groups or individuals who affiliate with and promote their illicit activities,” Mr Dorsey wrote in reply to an earlier letter from the senators asking for clarification on Twitter's policies.

However, the service “may make limited exceptions for groups that have reformed or are currently engaging in peaceful resolution processes, as well as groups with representatives who have been elected to public office through elections, as is the case with parts of Hamas and Hezbollah,” he said.

The group of four senators issued a furious response to Mr Dorsey’s letter on Tuesday, taking issue with Twitter’s decision to differentiate between political and military factions.

“There is simply no reason why terrorist organisations, including Hamas and Hezbollah, deserve access to Twitter’s platform to promote themselves as sponsors of violent, radical, hate-filled terrorism,” said New Jersey Democrat Josh Gottheimer.

The senators ended their letter with a request for Twitter to remove Hamas and Hezbollah-affiliated content and Twitter handles.

The spat between the lawmakers and Twitter comes as the platform announced world leaders aren't entirely above its ban on users threatening violence or promoting terrorism on the site.

The San Francisco company is clarifying its rules as some Democrats say they would like to see President Donald Trump booted off Twitter, his favoured platform for filterless communication with the world.

But while Twitter says it will enforce its policies against any user when it comes to material such as child sexual abuse, direct threats of violence against a private individual, or posting someone's private information, it doesn't appear Mr Trump's account is in imminent danger.

A blog post this week expanded on Twitter's policy governing tweets. In June, Twitter said world leaders' tweets that violate its rules but have a clear public-interest value might get a warning label. The label would provide context on the violation and let people click through to see the tweet if they want to.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/the-americas/us-senators-lambast-twitter-s-jack-dorsey-on-hezbollah-and-hamas-1.927339

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Saudi allies meet in Riyadh to discuss oil protection

Oct 21, 2019

GCC armed forces chiefs-of-staff met Arab and western military leaders on Monday to discuss ways to jointly protect the region’s infrastructure after September 14 attacks on Saudi Aramco oil installations.

Representatives of the US, Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Korea, Jordan and Egypt attended the meeting in Riyadh.

Gen Fayyadh Al Ruwaili, the Saudi chief-of-staff, said the meeting brought together “friendly countries” and sought to use “joint military capacity to secure sensitive facilities”.

Gen Al Ruwaili accused Iran of using sectarian sentiment for political ends, setting up militia proxies that owed “absolute loyalty” to Tehran and destabilised the Middle East.

“The region has been suffering consecutive crises since the regime of the Iranian revolution reached power,” he told the meeting.

Saudi Arabia said the military officials looked at ways that navies and air forces could be used to guard against “Iranian terrorist attacks and ensure the safety of marine navigation”.

Ten days earlier, the US announced it was sending extra forces to bolster Saudi Arabia’s defences. Riyadh and Washington have blamed the September 14 attacks on Iran.

The attack knocked out nearly half of Saudi Arabia’s oil processing capacity, before most of the damage was repaired.

Tension has been running high between Iran and the US and most of its Arab allies over US sanctions on Tehran's oil exports and attacks on ships in the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman.

The waterways are used by oil tankers supplying almost a third of the world's oil.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Britain and Australia have joined a US coalition to protect shipping in the region.

Its members have committed troops, planes and ships to accompany and track vessels passing through the Gulf.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/saudi-allies-meet-in-riyadh-to-discuss-oil-protection-1.926663

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U.S. donates equipment to Nigeria to fight terrorism

October 23, 2019

The US Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration, Office of Nuclear Smuggling Detection and Deterrence (US-DOE/NNSA/NSDD) has donated two Mobile Radiation Detection Systems to help combat terrorism in Nigeria.

CP Maikudi Shehu, Commissioner of Police in charge of Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), disclosed this on Monday during the one-week training and unveiling of the Mobile Radiation Detection Systems in Lagos.

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the training had 10 EOD and Chemical, Biological, Radiological Nuclear (CBRN) police officers in attendance.

Shehu said that the training came at the right time in efforts to curtail the menace of terrorism, security threat and other dastardly acts bedeviling the country.

“The menace of insecurity calls for a new approach that will be founded on credible intelligence gathering, acquisition of modern technology, capacity building and inter-agency collaboration.

“This will enable law enforcement agencies to be pro-active and able to predict potential crimes rather than being reactive.

“Therefore, I urge all participants to ensure effective use of these equipment and utilise the knowledge that will be acquired from this important training to enhance our national nuclear security,” Shehu said.

Also, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) EOD Command, DSP Gbolahan Moronfolu, said that the department was established out of the need to have dedicated section to handle CBRN related matters, with a view to monitor the movement and supervision of related substances.

“CBRN are weaponized and non-weaponized chemical, biological and nuclear materials that are capable of causing great harm and pose significant threats in the hands of terrorists.

“Terrorists can potentially incorporate CBRN materials into Improvised Explosive Device (IED) components through Radiological Exposure Devices (RED).

“Apart from malicious use, CBRN accidents can also occur in the course of usage and transportation. Mass casualties and long term effects are likely consequences from both instances,” he said.

The PPRO said that the possibility of terrorists gaining access to nuclear and radiological materials was a significant threat to humanity and international peace and security.

“To combat these threats, the country has been strengthened for better service delivery,” he said.

Moronfolu said that the Command had also established CBRN offices in three major centers; Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja saddled with the core professional responsibility of managing radiological emergencies.

The DSP said that the training programme and the unveiling of the mobile detection system and its apparatus is a step in the right direction at advancing EOD/CBRN to a greater height of service delivery.

Meanwhile, Mr Bryceon Shulman, Senior Advisor, US-DOE, NSDD said that the primary function of his organisation is to enable partners to better uncover illicit trafficking of goods.

Shulman said that his organisation was here to form a long lasting partnership with the Nigeria EOD and NPF in a bid to eradicate the menace of terrorism in both countries and the world in general.

“We hope to continue the partnership not with just these two vans but with additional equipment, additional training and further cooperation.

“We will begin with the operation training and in future move onto maintenance training that will allow the officers to be able to do the maintenance on the equipment themselves.

Full report at:

https://www.pulse.ng/news/local/us-donates-equipment-to-nigeria-to-fight-terrorism/dm9txhn

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Southeast Asia

 

Indonesia’s Muslim Groups Not Ready to Speak Out on Uyghurs

2019-10-22

Leaders of Indonesia’s two largest Muslim organizations say they are still analyzing China’s treatment of Uyghurs to verify whether the minority group is subject to human rights violations.

The U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, Joseph Donovan, held separate meetings with the leaders of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah in the past week, during which he called on them to speak out about allegations of abuses in China’s Xinjiang province, home to the Uyghur Muslim minority.

Up to 1.5 million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas have been held in Chinese detention camps since April 2017.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, has not been vocal amid concerns that it would be seen as interfering in another country’s internal affairs.

Following a meeting with Donovan, NU chairman Said Aqil Siradj said his organization would try to determine what is happening in Xinjiang.

“If there are human rights violations, we will make our voice heard, but if it’s a political issue and they want to be independent, it’s an internal affair [of China],” he said following Monday’s meeting at NU headquarters in Jakarta.

“We are still collecting information. Our team and the government will analyze the information,” he said.

Donovan said he had urged NU, which boasts more than 80 million members, to review its stance.

“I asked NU to take another look at the situation there. I pointed out that in a recent letter to the United Nations secretary general, five international human rights organizations described what is going on in Xinjiang as one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time,” Donovan told reporters.

Released on Sept. 16, the letter from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists, International Federation for Human Rights and World Uyghur Congress expressed “deep concern about the arbitrary detention of more than 1 million Muslims in the Xinjiang region of China.”

“We also request that you openly support the formation of a fact-finding U.N. team to assess the scale and type of violations that have taken place in Xinjiang,” it said.

Last week, Donovan conveyed a similar message in a meeting with Indonesia’s other large Muslim organization, Muhammadiyah, which has an estimated 30 million members.

Muhammadiyah said the allegations should be verified.

“This issue must be looked at carefully and there must be proof that violations of human rights took place,” the group’s secretary general, Abdul Mu’ti, told reporters after meeting Donovan at the group’s Jakarta headquarters.

“Don’t let human rights be used as a political commodity by certain countries toward others, because such problems happen everywhere,” he told reporters.

Skepticism

China has been criticized and faced calls for sanctions against officials responsible for the camps from the United States and other Western countries. The Muslim world, with a few exceptions, has remained silent.

While the Chinese government initially denied the existence of the camps, it changed tack this year and began describing the facilities as “boarding schools” providing vocational training for Uyghurs while discouraging radicalization and helping to protect the country from terrorism.

Reporting by RFA’s Uyghur Service, a sister publication of BenarNews, and other media organizations, however, has shown that those in the camps have been detained against their will and are subjected to political indoctrination. They routinely face rough treatment, endure poor diets and unhygienic conditions in the often overcrowded facilities.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Commerce blacklisted 28 governmental or commercial entities from China it said were implicated in rights abuses against Uyghurs and other ethnic Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

For its part, Indonesia has failed to stand up for the Uyghurs because it rejects interfering in China’s affairs and its Muslim groups have been cultivated by Beijing, the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) said in a report released in June. The report said Indonesians believed Chinese explanations that the mass detentions without due process were necessary for security and they doubt human rights reports and testimony by Uyghur representatives who have visited Jakarta to appeal for help.

“The Indonesian government by and large sees the Uyghur crackdown as a legitimate response to separatism, and it will no more interfere in China’s ‘domestic affairs’ than it would accept Chinese suggestions for how it should deal with Papua,” IPAC said, referring to a long-running Indonesian conflict.

The fact that China is Indonesia’s largest trading partner and second largest investor adds to Jakarta’s reluctance to speak out, it said.

IPAC said NU and Muhammadiyah treated reports of widespread human rights violations with skepticism, choosing to dismiss them as American propaganda in the Sino-U.S. power struggle. Their leaders have accepted invitations to visit Xinjiang and most seem to take China’s assurances of protecting religious freedom there at face value.

In February, China arranged guided tours for Indonesian Muslim leaders and reporters to see the “vocational training centers.”

“Once back in Jakarta, the head of NU delegation, Robikin Emha, announced during a news conference that there were no concentration or internment camps and endorsed the policy of countering radicalization through vocational training,” IPAC said.

The Indonesian Foreign Ministry has denied that Indonesia has been silent on the Uyghur issue, saying it had summoned the Chinese ambassador in December 2018 to seek an explanation about the allegations.

Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slammed China over its repressive policies against the Uyghurs while calling on the international community to join Washington in protecting religious freedom.

Speaking at a Vatican conference on religious freedom, Pompeo singled out China as one of the worst perpetrators of abuse against people of faith, particularly in Xinjiang.

He highlighted the case of Zumuret Dawut, a Uyghur mother of three who in 2018 was detained for months in a camp where she said she was forced to recite Chinese propaganda, beaten for providing food to an ailing fellow prisoner and injected with unknown drugs

https://www.benarnews.org/english/news/indonesian/uyghurs-10222019154359.html

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China plans to host intra-Afghan talks as US-Taliban talks stall: Report

Oct 23, 2019

China is reportedly planning to host negotiations among Afghanistan’s rival factions aimed at finding a way out of years of war in the country, weeks after a diplomatic process involving the US and the Taliban militant group broke down.

A Taliban spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, said in a post on Twitter late on Tuesday that “China has invited a delegation ... to participate in the intra-Afghan dialog.”

“All participants will be attending the meeting in their personal capacity and they will share their personal opinions for solving the Afghan issue,” Shaheen added.

The talks will be held in China on October 28 and 29, according to Shaheen. It will be the first meeting between the Taliban and prominent figures from Kabul since a July round of intra-Afghan talks in the Qatari capital, Doha.

The Taliban have refused to talk to the Afghan government, calling it a US puppet, but officials have taken part in the intra-Afghan dialog as private citizens.

In turn, Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Idrees Zaman said Kabul was aware of Beijing’s plan for talks but it could not comment at this stage.

The Taliban’s Qatar-based political bureau was engaged in a diplomatic process — excluding Kabul — with the US aimed at ending Washington’s 18-year invasion of Afghanistan earlier this year.

Nine rounds of such talks had taken place in Doha, with the two sides appearing to have come close to a deal, under which the US would withdraw over 5,000 troops from Afghanistan within 20 weeks in exchange for security guarantees from the Taliban.

However, US President Donald Trump abruptly canceled the peace process and declared the talks “dead” on September 9, after the Afghan militant group carried out a bomb attack in Kabul, which killed 12 people, including an American soldier.

Following the breakdown of those talks, the Taliban sent delegations to Afghanistan’s neighbors, China and Iran, as well as Russia for talks on the Afghan peace process.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/10/23/609356/China-Afghanistan-US-peace-talks-Taliban

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Islam, Malays not under threat, says Amanah of ties with DAP

Nicole Ng

October 22, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR: Islam and the Malay community in Malaysia are not under threat, Amanah deputy president Salahuddin Ayub said today, after the Perlis mufti said Amanah appeared “very loyal” to DAP.

Salahuddin, who is also the agriculture minister, said the status of the Malays and Islam under the Pakatan Harapan administration had not been challenged or eroded.

“The idea of Amanah being dwarfed by DAP is a repetitive issue. It’s been discussed again and again in the past, but Amanah does not care about that.

“What is important to us is to use the power we have to uphold the position of the Malays and Islam as stated in the constitution,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby.

Salahuddin was responding to Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin’s remarks earlier today about Amanah’s relationship with DAP.

Asri said the PAS splinter party “has a knack of following DAP’s stance on various issues while refraining from commenting on issues pertaining to the Muslim community”.

He cited Amanah’s silence on the controversy surrounding the “Belt & Road Initiative for Win and Winism” comic book and the arrest of individuals allegedly linked to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Describing Asri’s claims as baseless, Salahuddin said Amanah was “very strict” about LTTE and had never compromised with terrorism.

On the comic book, he said that the rule of law should apply if it was found to have crossed the line.

“I want to make it clear that this is recycled and cheap propaganda that is meant to attain support from the Muslim community,” he said of the party’s critics.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2019/10/22/islam-malays-not-under-threat-says-amanah-of-ties-with-dap/

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Malaysia poises for FDI gains from US-China trade war, says Dr M

22 Oct 2019

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 22 — Malaysia is well-placed to benefit from international companies seeking to relocate their operation from China to avoid United States trade tariffs, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said.

In an interview with Oxford Business Group (OBG) recently, the prime minister also acknowledged that ASEAN member countries were being negatively impacted by falling demand from a slowing Chinese economy as the ongoing trade dispute with the United States began to take a toll.

“However, there is a possibility that, because of trade sanctions imposed by the US, many companies operating within China will look to move overseas.

“If this is the case, they may consider southeast Asian countries. Some companies are already doing so, with Vietnam benefiting in particular, and Malaysia is seen as a promising choice,” he said during the interview on the sidelines of the United Nations general assembly in New York last month.

The interview, available on the OBG website,  was part of the global research and advisory company’s renewed efforts to provide business intelligence on Malaysia to international audience interested in trade, commerce and investment opportunities in emerging markets.

Staying on China-related issues, Dr Mahathir indicated that Malaysia would not disrupt the current status quo in the South China Sea provided that it remained open to shipping and commercial activities and that China did not attempt to impose any restrictions on free navigation in the region.

The prime minister also spoke on Malaysia’s soft power and leadership role within the Islamic world and expressed his keenness to strengthen economic ties with Muslim-majority countries.

“Although Malaysia has a large number of non-Muslims, it is still regarded as a Muslim country and people in the wider Muslim world look to Malaysia as an example of economic development and political stability... (but) in order to see further growth, we need Muslim countries to ease restrictions so that trade can be more open and transparent,” he said.

Turning to domestic issues, Dr Mahathir stressed it was essential that the government’s ‘Shared Prosperity Vision 2030’ (SPV 2030) was effective in promoting inclusive and sustainable growth or the country could face political and social upheaval.

The SPV 2030 aims to tackle structural problems in the Malaysian economy, improve productivity and reduce regional disparities and wealth inequality.

“We need an effective policy to promote inclusive and sustainable growth. As long as economic disparities exist in the country, some people will feel unhappy and may even reject the government.

“We are doing our best to reduce inequality, particularly between urban and rural populations, and between people of different races.

“It is important for us to address these issues in order to reduce the disparity between wealth and opportunity,” he said.

Dr Mahathir’s administration intends to promote prosperity through the cultivation of new growth engines that capitalise on opportunities presented by the digital economy and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0).

To this end, national policy on Industry 4.0, namely Industry4WRD was unveiled in October 2018 with the goal of advancing the digital transformation of the manufacturing and related services sectors.

While much onus is being placed on enhancing the productivity and capabilities of domestic companies and workers, Dr Mahathir said foreign direct investment (FDI) has a key role to play in accelerating Malaysia’s transition to an advanced economy.

“FDI has made a significant contribution to the country’s development over the years. Now, with the emergence of the digital economy, it is likely to contribute even more.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/10/22/malaysia-poises-for-fdi-gains-from-us-china-trade-war-says-dr-m/1802679

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Indonesia president names election rival as defense minister

By Niniek Karmini

October 23, 2019

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesian President Joko Widodo named his defeated election rival, a former general linked to human rights abuses, as his defense minister Wednesday and added entrepreneurs and technocrats to his Cabinet to address slowing growth in Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

The lineup also features politicians from Widodo’s governing coalition who supported his victory in the divisive April election. Widodo, 58, was sworn in Sunday for his second and final five-year term with pledges to champion democracy and take bolder actions against poverty and entrenched corruption in the world’s fourth-most populous country.

At the announcement in the presidential palace, Widodo asked his Cabinet and institutional heads to fight graft by creating a system to close off any chances of corruption.

“Don’t be corrupt!” Widodo told the ministers. “Be serious at work, and for those who are not serious, I would take them out of this (Cabinet),” Widodo warned.

Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, 68, has lost two presidential elections to Widodo, is a former special forces general, and the founder and leader of the Gerindra political party. The party’s deputy chairman, Edhy Prabowo, was named the minister of maritime and fishery.

Widodo, who is popularly known as Jokowi, had repeatedly said Indonesians should unite after the bitter election campaign. He and his defeated election rival met in July for the first time since the April poll and Subianto had been negotiating with Widodo’s governing coalition for Cabinet positions, signaling a calming of political tensions.

Subianto initially refused to accept the election results, and nine people died in post-election riots in Jakarta. The country’s top court found no substance to his allegations of massive and systematic fraud and rejected his challenge to the election results in June.

Rights activists see Subianto’s appointment as a conservative backlash against Widodo’s efforts to address Indonesia’s poor human rights record.

“It’s a dark day for human rights and justice in Indonesia,” said Andreas Harsono, Indonesia’s researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Subianto has been linked to human rights abuses during the authoritarian rule of longtime President Suharto, and he has allied himself politically with groups that want Islamic rather than secular law to prevail in Indonesia. He won big in conservative provinces, but mainstream Muslim organizations and minority voters backed Widodo, who secured 55.5% of the vote in official results.

In other Cabinet appointments, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, who was managing director at the World Bank, was reappointed finance minister. She was also finance minister from 2005-2010.

Popular reformist Indrawati, 57, was praised for overhauling a corrupt taxation department and guiding the economy through the 2008 global financial crisis and current global economic slowdown.

The 35-year-old Nadiem Makarim, CEO and co-founder of ride-hailing startup company Gojek, was named education and culture minister, and Erick Thohir, 49, a former owner of the Inter Milan soccer club was named minister of state-owned enterprises.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, is an outpost of democracy in a Southeast Asian neighborhood of authoritarian governments and is forecast to be among the world’s biggest economies by 2030.

Full report at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/indonesia-president-names-election-rival-as-defense-minister/2019/10/23/44ba4016-f54c-11e9-b2d2-1f37c9d82dbb_story.html

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Arab World

 

Baghdad Warns US Troops Withdrawing from Syria Not Entitled to Stay in Iraq

Oct 22, 2019

American forces that crossed into Iraq as part of a pull-out from Syria do not have permission to stay and can only be there in transit, according to the Iraqi military.

"All US forces that withdrew from Syria received approval to enter the Kurdistan Region so that they may be transported outside Iraq. There is no permission granted for these forces to stay inside Iraq," the statement added.

On Monday, an Iraqi security official told Baghdad al-Youm almost 1,000 American forces retreating from Northern Syria have walked into Nineveh province in Northern Iraq, where they will continue their seemingly endless military presence in the region.

The deployment comes just days after President Donald Trump argued that it was “time to bring our soldiers back home”, a rationale that doesn’t seem to hold up to scrutiny now that the US forces have relocated to war-torn Iraq.

"US forces had stationed at Simalka border crossing, a passage between Hasakah province in Syria and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq," the Iraqi official said, adding that "it is not clear where these forces are going to, but, according to information, most of them are reportedly heading for Iraqi Kurdistan".

Expressing concern over the arrival of the US military servicemen, an Iraqi lawmaker stated that the American forces are expected to be stationed in the Sanjar area and around Talafar. The legislator said the US troops have not arrived at the center of Nineveh yet.

Reuters news agency also reported that more than 100 armored vehicles were spotted entering Iraq from the Sahela border crossing in Dohuk province in the Kurdistan region.

In recent days several hundred US troops have fled Northeast Syria into Iraq, as Washington had declared that up to 1,000 American troops would be withdrawn from Northern part of the war-torn country because of the increasing danger posed by the fighting. Defense Secretary Mark Esper had stated that US forces withdrawing from Northern Syria will be relocated to Western Iraq, stating that he would not rule out the possibility that the American troops could conduct cross-border missions into Syria from their new home in Iraq.

The US troop withdrawal coincided with Turkey’s military incursion into the region, purportedly to create a “safe zone” inside Syrian territory. The military operation has been widely condemned by the international community.

The US and its allies invaded Syria in 2014 under the pretext of fighting terrorism, without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate. Damascus has repeatedly accused Washington of carrying out an illegal occupation of its sovereign territory.

Damascus government has reiterated that any foreign troops in Syria is regarded as an occupying force and the Syrian government has the right to take all the needed measures to confront it.

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980730000578

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Iraqi Kurds turn to Zoroastrianism as faith, identity entwine

Qassim Khidhir

23 October 2019

In a ceremony at an ancient, ruined temple in northern Iraq, Faiza Fuad joined a growing number of Kurds who are leaving Islam to embrace the faith of their ancestors -- Zoroastrianism.

Years of violence by the Islamic State jihadist group have left many disillusioned with Islam, while a much longer history of state oppression has pushed some in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region to see the millennia-old religion as a way of reasserting their identity.

"After Kurds witnessed the brutality of IS, many started to rethink their faith," said Asrawan Qadrok, the faith's top priest in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region.

During Fuad's conversion ritual in Darbandikhan, near the Iranian border, a high priest and his assistants wore white clothes representing purity and recited verses from the Zoroastrian holy book, the Avesta.

They knotted a cord three times around Fuad's waist to symbolise the faith's core values of good words, good thoughts and good deeds.

The newcomer raised her hand and swore to abide by those three values and to protect nature, respecting water, air, fire, earth, animals and humans.

"I feel very happy and refreshed," Fuad said, adorned with her Farawahar necklace, a powerful spiritual symbol given to her by the high priest.

She said she had been studying Zoroastrianism for a long time and was drawn to its philosophy, which "makes life easy".

"It is all about wisdom and philosophy. It serves mankind and nature," she said.

- Forced into secrecy -

Zoroastrianism was founded in ancient Iran some 3,500 years ago, gaining followers as far afield as India.

It was the official religion of the powerful Persian empire for a thousand years, but the assassination of the final Zoroastrian king in 650 and the rise of Islam sent it into a long demise.

However the faith did survive -- often in the face of severe persecution -- and famous followers include Freddie Mercury, whose Zoroastrian family were originally from Gujarat in western India.

"During (late dictator) Saddam Hussein's rule, my father practiced Zoroastrianism but kept it secret from the state, our neighbours and relatives," said Awat Tayib, who represents the faith at the regional government's ministry of religious affairs.

In 2014, IS jihadists captured swathes of northern Iraq, carrying out what may have constituted a genocide against another minority, the Yazidis.

The extremists imposed a violent version of Islamic law and sparking a three-year war that eventually left their self-proclaimed "caliphate" in tatters and the region in ruins.

"Many think IS values are very odd in contrast with Kurdish values and traditions, so some have decided to abandon their faith," high priest Qadrok said, adding that he performs ceremonies every week to welcome new converts.

The religion only gained official recognition by regional authorities in 2015, but since then, three new temples have opened -- although Tayib said the state has yet to build a cemetery for followers of the religion.

For some in the autonomous region, which overwhelmingly voted for independence in a 2017 referendum bid, turning to Zoroastrianism is a way for a stateless people to assert regional identity in defiance of Baghdad.

Tayib, the only female religious representative in the autonomous government, said Kurdish society is becoming more tolerant towards Zoroastrians.

AFP accompanied the high priest and his assistants to Islamic Friday prayers organised to condemn a Turkish military incursion into Kurdish parts of northern Syria.

As the Zoroastrian religious men arrived, they were surrounded by Muslims welcoming them and asking for selfies.

Islam is still by far the main religion in the Iraqi Kurdistan, while there are no official figures on Zoroastrians.

"The Zoroastrians are our brothers, not our enemies: our enemies are the ones who are killing us, such as (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan," said Islamic cleric Mullah Saman, who welcomed the Zoroastrians.

Full report at:

https://sg.news.yahoo.com/iraqi-kurds-turn-zoroastrianism-faith-identity-entwine-015211813.html

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Saudi Cabinet calls to make region free of nuclear arms

October 22, 2019

RIYADH: Saudi Cabinet on Tuesday reiterated its stance over the Iranian nuclear issue and also condemned the continued refusal of Israel to join the treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

The Cabinet meeting, chaired by King Salman in Riyadh, stressed the need to subject Israel’s nuclear facilities to the system of comprehensive safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Saudi Arabia also condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria and called for holding the perpetrators of such attacks accountable.

The king briefed the Cabinet about the recent visits of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

He affirmed the Kingdom’s continued support to the Palestinian people and their right to establish an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The Cabinet hailed the decision to establish a joint economic committee and the Saudi-Palestinian Business Council.

The ministers described the formation of these bodies an extension of the Saudi support to the Palestinian cause.

Following the Cabinet meeting, Media Minister Turki Al-Shabanah said, in a statement to the Saudi Press Agency, that the Cabinet also reviewed the statements condemning the attacks of Saudi Aramco oil facilities issued by the interior ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) at their 36th meeting in Muscat, Oman.

The GCC interior ministers expressed their support to all measures taken by Saudi Arabia for the protection of its sovereignty and security. They also called for a joint security plan to secure maritime navigation in the Arabian Gulf.

The Cabinet discussed the final statement of a security and defense conference held in Riyadh and attended by the chiefs of army staff of the GCC and other friendly countries including the US, the UK, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, France, Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, New Zealand and Greece.

Condemning attacks on Saudi Arabia, the military chiefs described those actions as a direct challenge to the world economy and the international community and expressed solidarity with the Kingdom.

They defended Saudi Arabia’s right to self-defense in accordance with international law. Al-Shabanah said the Cabinet reviewed a number of reports on the latest regional and global developments.

The Cabinet congratulated Japan’s Emperor Naruhito on his accession to the throne and wished his country continued progress and prosperity.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1572921/saudi-arabia

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Lebanon protests: We should not let the ruling class reproduce itself again

Rima Majed

21 October 2019

The "streets" of Lebanon have exploded in massive protests since 17 October.

Following months of austerity and dire economic conditions, a shortage of US dollars caused a serious threat of devaluation of the Lebanese currency resulting in a potential shortage of gasoline and bread, continuing power and water outages, and a catastrophic week with wildfires ravaging the country.

This cascade of crises exposed the ruling class; in response, the government met on Thursday and agreed to impose new taxes on the people, including a tax on Whatsapp calls.

While the current popular uprising is not merely caused by the Whatsapp tax, the new taxes - later reversed following street pressure - were perceived by most Lebanese as a "vulgar" reflection of the government’s total neglect of people’s hardship and its priority to protect the interests of the ruling class at the expense of the majority of the population.

The 'October revolution'

Not entirely unexpected, mass protests have ravaged the country. While Lebanon has witnessed in its recent history similar massive "street explosions" against the ruling class such as in 2015, the Lebanese "October Revolution" of 2019 marks an important turning point in the history of politics in the post-civil war era.

After almost three decades of neoliberal policies that resulted in the deepening of class divides, people have taken to the streets this time to clearly denounce the ruling class that stands as the guardian of neoliberalism - and its own class interests - beyond sectarian divides that are usually an effective tactic deployed by the leaders to divide the streets.

This time, the revolution started with the poorer classes of unemployed or underemployed - usually the backbone and constituencies of the hegemonic sectarian parties through complex networks of clientelism – turning against their "patrons".

While the protests of 2015 were led by a group of civil society organisations mainly representing the middle classes and rejecting riots or civil disobedience under the banner of protecting the protests from “infiltrators”, the recent protests have started specifically with those usually (and wrongly in most cases) considered to be the “infiltrators” themselves.

Not only is the tactic of protest different from previous movements in terms of road blockades and civil disobedience, but the scope of the protest is also much wider, with regions such as the Beqaa, Tripoli, Nabatiyeh, Tyre and Zouk mobilising in huge numbers. The lexicon of the chants is clearly different with curse words and swearing at politicians forming the bulk of the slogans.

A new alliance

The mobilisations of the past few days mark the emergence of a new class-based alliance between the unemployed, underemployed, working classes and middle classes against the ruling oligarchy.

This is a breakthrough.

Despite attempts by the regime to play the usual card of talking about "infiltrators" and the presence of a "fifth column", which in most cases is none other than the regime itself, it is impressive how little resonance this discourse has had on protesters so far.

This is not to say that such a discourse has been completely eliminated and such scenarios have been ruled out, but rather to highlight the importance of the newly emerging class-based awareness that is focused on targeting the ruling elites rather than dividing itself.

If this can be sustained and organised in the coming weeks, this will probably mark the most important turning point in Lebanon’s post-war history.

While the hopes are high and the scenes from the streets are heartwarming, three main points are important for the movement to take into account in order to push this breakthrough forward.

Organisation and leadership

It is crucial to organise. This has already started and it is taking various shapes and forms, however the movement still needs to develop its organisation without shying away from having a leadership. Leaderless movements are unsustainable and can rarely propose clear alternatives.

Organisation is also important beyond the immediacy of the protests now. It is time for the opposition in Lebanon to perceive itself as such and for different groups to organise based on their social and economic interests and coordinate together, which the ruling oligarchy excels at.

It is in times of such street explosions that we lament the lack of previous organisation and we feel the need for having our networks better activated and expanded.

Reactivating and building new unions, organising in our workplaces, organising as unemployed, organising as women, organising in our neighbourhoods, organising as students - are all important forms of organising that can form the scaffolding of the coming period.

Some forms of such organisation, such as feminist groups and student groups, already exist and are amongst the most beautiful aspects of this uprising. More of this is needed, and more coordination is crucial amongst the various groups and amongst the different regions of the country.

Clear demands

The movement must raise clear demands that are revolutionary enough but specific enough. There are many demands in the streets, primarily socio-economic of course, but the movement has not developed a clear set of demands that can shape a desirable and convincing alternative.

This is not a call for "pragmatism", but rather a call for progressive demands to take over some of the populist demands that have become widespread in the streets.

The calls by many protesters for an army takeover is amongst the most dangerous demands going around. It is unfortunate that we still need to write those lines in 2019 after all that we have seen in the Arab region in terms of the consequences of army intervention in uprisings.

It is also ridiculous to talk of an army takeover or military rule in a country where the current president, Michel Aoun, is an ex-army commander and the current army commander, Joseph Aoun, is a distant relative and supporter of the president.

What mobilised people in their millions is not the lack of unity or patriotism, it is rather the lack of justice and socio-economic rights. Let's stay focused on that since this is the only common denominator amongst the 1.2 million who mobilised so far.

Such socio-economic demands can include (1) immediately cutting the salaries of the current and past presidents, MPs, ministers, and first rank officers, (2) demanding the Lebanese banks to waive the national debt that has eaten up most of the country’s budget in the past three decades, (3) imposing progressive taxation, (4) immediately solving the cuts in electricity and water (at the expense of the cartels of private companies of generators and water suppliers), (4) demanding a sustainable and ecological solution for waste management.

At the political level, some protesters are demanding the resignation of the government and others are demanding the resignation of the president, while many are demanding both at once.

Personally I am not convinced that resignations will lead to actual change. It is a cosmetic act that can give the impression of a victory in the streets while the regime reproduces itself. It is important for demands of resignation to be accompanied with demands for trials and prosecutions.

We do not want the ruling class to resign and be able to get away with its crimes, we want justice.

Containment and coopetion

The risk of containment and cooption is not yet null. While it is true that this uprising is spectacular in how the constituencies of political parties have turned against their own leaders, the risks of containment and cooption are still there - even if less likely than previously.

The ruling class has in all its figures adopted the same discourse so far in addressing the protesters: "you are right", "we understand you", "we feel you", but “beware”! Even the performative move of the Lebanese Forces ministers of handing in their resignation to the prime minister does not really speak any different language.

They have all acknowledged being in the wrong, and each is trying to contain the street in its own way.

The hope of the ruling class to kill the movement with violence is an old tactic. This violence can take the shape of direct security forces or army violence and arrests, or it can be indirect state violence through its "thugs" and "militiamen" (as also seen with the "baltagia" in Egypt or Syria).

While this might not work this time, the regime usually uses violence hand-in-hand with its other tool of containment: clientelist networks.

Sectarian leaders don’t only threaten people in their jobs and social provisions, but they also threaten to remove their protection and go after the ones that oppose them (especially if they remain in power, as in 2015).

The dismantling of the clientelistic networks can only fully happen with the dismantling of the whole regime of sectarian consociationalism mixed with neoliberalism.

Full report at:

https://www.middleeasteye.net/opinion/lebanons-golden-opportunity

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Lebanese Protesters Burn Israeli Flag During Anti-Gov't Demonstrations

Oct 22, 2019

The rallies on Monday were marred by at least three incidents of flag-burning. During the protests in the Southern Lebanon, demonstrators were filmed burning Israeli flags in the densely populated cities of Sour (Tyre) and Nabatieh. At the heart of downtown Beirut, Israeli flags were also burnt by people in the Riad Al-Solh Square.

Since last Thursday, thousands of protesters have gathered in the streets, blaming the faltering economy on widespread corruption and abuse of privileges among politicians.

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun has expressed solidarity with the protesters who have flooded the streets of the country in recent days, saying their agitation shows "people's pain".

"What is happening in the streets expresses people's pain, but generalizing corruption (charges) against everyone carries big injustice," Aoun's office quoted him as saying during a cabinet session on Monday.

Aoun also noted that the government must at least begin by lifting banking secrecy from current and future ministers, the office of the Lebanese president added in a tweet.

On Monday, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri stated that the cabinet has approved a raft of economic reforms, including halving ministers' wages, and agreed on the 2020 budget in a bid to tackle fiscal crisis and put an end to the nationwide demonstrations that have entered the fifth day.

Speaking at a press conference at Baabda Palace near the capital Beirut, Hariri said among the most important reforms is the approval of the 2020 state budget envisaging a deficit of 0.6 percent.

The government also agreed not to impose new taxes on citizens, with the central bank and financial institution set to participate in the deficit-reduction through an amount of 5.1 trillion Lebanese pounds ($3.4 billion), the Lebanese prime minister noted.

Hariri further added that that there was an agreement that the salaries of former and current lawmakers and ministers should be cut by 50 percent, and that looted public funds should be returned.

The government will provide healthcare for the elderly, and pump an additional 20 billion Lebanese pounds ($13.2 million) for the support of the most vulnerable people, speed up licensing for power plants, reduce power cuts by 50 percent next year and allocate 165 million dollars for housing loans, Hariri announced.

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980730000287

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Protests erupt in Hezbollah's heartland of south Lebanon, despite intimidation

By Chloé Domat in Sour, Lebanon

21 October 2019

Under the bright sun and facing the sea, over 2,000 protesters gathered on Sunday in Sour, a coastal city in south Lebanon known in English as Tyre. The mood was cheerful, people came with friends and family, all carrying a Lebanese flag.

“The people want the fall of the regime,” they chanted to music.

Protesters are here for the fourth day in a row. Like in the rest of the country, the mobilisation started on Thursday night after the government announced it would impose a $0.20 daily tax on internet calls from apps such as WhatsApp.

Although the government rapidly cancelled the tax, the popular outburst has grown bigger and bigger every day. Other cities in the south have joined the movement, including Nabatieh and Sidon (Saida in Arabic).

“It warms my heart. There are Christians, Muslims… Behind me you can see Shia and Sunnis. We are all together, we are united,” said Rami, a 54-year-old restaurant owner.

This is a first in a city theoretically firmly controlled by two Shia parties that have dominated the south since Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war: Hezbollah and Amal. All over town, and facing the protesters, the green and yellow flags of both parties fly high. Pictures of religious leaders, martyrs and politicians are everywhere.

Supported by Iran and armed with a militia, Hezbollah is the most powerful political actor in Lebanon today. It also inspires admiration and fear for having fought Israel on multiple occasions.

“This is the first time there are so many people speaking out loud in the south. Before, everyone was scared but now it’s like we finally woke up, the wall of fear came down,” said Imad, a 27-year-old bank employee.

Attacks on protests

The day before, however, armed men tried to intimidate the protesters with violence. In a street a few metres from the seaside, dozens of men dressed in plain clothes attacked the demonstrators with sticks and firearms.

The scene took place in broad daylight, was filmed by the protesters and widely shared on social media. Several people were wounded.

“Yesterday my son came home bleeding. They hit him and broke his phone while he was taking pictures. Why? We are not allowed to protest peacefully?” said Shouhair Chemali, 35.

When we asked who hit her son, another woman cuts into the conversation.

“Don’t say who they were, just say they were thugs. They can cause you a lot of trouble. What if they come to your house?” she warned Chemali, who hesitated before continuing.

“They were from Amal, everyone knows it,” she said firmly. “We have reached a point of no return, I am not scared anymore.”

On Saturday, Amal denied all involvement in the attacks and claimed they were isolated acts committed by individuals independent from the party.

Less than an hour after the attacks, the protests resumed.

“They tried to create problems to scare us off but we are free! We are not leaving,” said Houria, 53.

Powerful parties

Founded in 1974 by a Lebanese-Iranian imam, Musa Sadr, Amal helped to bring the Shia community out of its marginalisation and turned it into a political force. Since the 1980s, however, it has been widely associated with its current leader Nabih Berri.

Berri has been speaker of the Lebanese parliament for the past 27 years.

In Lebanon’s sectarian power-sharing system, he holds one of the three highest offices of state and the most senior designated to a Shia. Lebanese prime ministers are always Sunni, while the president must be a Maronite Christian.

In Sour, Amal and Hezbollah are allies and claimed a majority of parliamentary seats in the south with a common list during the last legislative elections.

“I voted for them. In the 1970s, Amal defended the poor and gave us back our dignity. I also have a lot of respect for Hezbollah who protected us from Israel,” Ikram Yazbek, a 32-year-old coffee shop owner, told MEE.

“But now I understand that those fighting on the border are not those who sit at the government. They are thieves and I will never vote for them again.”

In a region where resistance against Israel, which occupied parts of the south from 1982-2000, is an issue that looms large, protesters on Sunday were keen instead to highlight the corruption rife among the ruling parties and the dysfunctionality of the state.

“We don’t have electricity, no water. We live, literally live, in rubbish. They aren’t even collecting the garbage. They don’t do anything for us but steal our money. We want them to leave and never come back,” said Iman, a mother of four.

'I want to have a future'

Sara Mroue, 50, came to the protest with her two 14-year-old twin daughters wearing keffiehs around their necks.

“We simply want our rights and the rights of our children. We pay taxes and I swear, if this money was well used Lebanon could be just like Switzerland,” she said.

One of her daughters, Aline, agreed: “I want to have a future, go to university and find a job in my hometown.”

In Lebanon, public schools lack investment and have a bad reputation. Parents, even from poor social backgrounds, go into debt to send their children to private schools.

When they complete their education, young graduates step into an already saturated job market. The official unemployment rate is 25 percent, but in the south the reality is much worse. As a result, many end up seeking a better chance abroad.

“I’m leaving for Africa tomorrow to find work. I’ve been looking here for three years. Our leaders are corrupt, I saw them with my own eyes. They operate like militias,” Mohammed, 24, told MEE.

“To have water, electricity, to go to a hospital you need to know someone. Where are my rights? It’s time to tell the truth.”

In Sour, like everywhere else in the country, most protesters are asking for the government to resign.

“They have to step down, but not only that. After that, there will have to be an investigation on corruption charges,” said Nour Safieddine, a 25-year-old citizen journalist and activist.

On Saturday, Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah spoke in support of the government and promised to make reforms.

“Let this government continue but with a new spirit and a new way of doing things. Let it learn the lessons from this popular outburst,” he said during a televised speech.

Full report at:

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/protests-rage-hezbollahs-heartland-south-lebanon-despite-intimidation

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12,000 ISIS Militants in 7 Prisons in Northeastern Syria

22 October, 2019

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced that about 12,000 suspected ISIS militants are being held in seven prisons in northeastern Syria.

Apart from Syrians, the number of imprisoned Iraqis is estimated at 4,000, and there are about 2,000 fighters from 50 different countries, including about 800 from Western and European origins, with about 1,200 from Arab, Middle Eastern, and North African countries.

The SDF fears that if the rest of the areas under its control are attacked by Turkey, extremists in detention centers might flee.

The United States and Turkey agreed to reduce security concerns about the fate of thousands of ISIS prisoners held in SDF prisons. Extremists' families are in displacement and asylum camps in northeastern Syria, most notably al-Hol camp which houses thousands of ISIS families.

Over the past two days, several riots and incidents erupted after Turkey launched a large-scale attack on areas east of the Euphrates and declared a fragile truce.

In an interview with the Kurdish channel Ronahi earlier this week, commander of SDF, Mazloum Abdi, announced that so far, the US has not ended their alliance against ISIS, adding that the issue of extremists concerns the entire world.

Abdi explained that SDF decides the fate of ISIS prisoners and not Turkey nor the Syrian regime, especially after Syrian forces had entered a number of cities and towns east of the Euphrates.

He asserted that no country will be in charge of the prisoners’ file after the US withdrew part of its troops.

“We are the ones who arrested them, and they are with us. We will decide [their fate].”

The United States and the Kurdish autonomous-administration have repeatedly called on the concerned countries to take back their citizens and prosecute them on their territories, as the issue poses a security, administrative, and financial burden on the region.

Abdi indicated that if the countries are interested in the fate of ISIS members originating from their country and consider them a threat, they should communicate with the SDF to reach an agreement.

“We are ready to assist anyone who wants to cooperate with us, but we refuse to discuss the fate of those [ISIS fighters] of the countries that refuse to cooperate with us.”

Full report at:

https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1956276/12000-isis-militants-7-prisons-northeastern-syria

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Lebanese army stops Amal, Hezbollah convoy heading to Beirut protest site

Oct 22, 2019

The Lebanese army on Monday night moved in to break up a group of hundreds of men on mopeds driving through central Beirut with flags of Hezbollah and the Amal Movement chanting slogans against the mass demonstrations now in their sixth day.

Videos shared online show about 30 officers moving in with sticks and batons to turn back the moped riders, several of whom were detained. At least one officer with his weapon raised running towards the convoy as it quickly scattered up side streets.

The video shows the convoy heading down Beshara Khoury Street in central Beirut and heading towards Martyrs’ Square, the epicentre of the week-long protests.

Both Hezbollah and the Amal Movement quickly released statements denying that they had sent the convoy to the streets.

Convoys of political supporters, particularly the Shiite majority Hezbollah and Amal Movement, are not uncommon. In previous protests or during political tension, they have been known to instigate violence, often with impunity.

The army and the police often do not intervene.

In south Lebanon at the weekend, protesters faced off against armed men they said were Amal supporters who attacked the demonstration.

Numerous politicians have said there should be no repeat of the instance and UN special coordinator for Lebanon, Jan Kubis, met Amal head and parliament speaker Nabih Berri on Monday to discuss the incident.

The action by the authorities on Monday night, therefore, marks a rare move and came after a speech by Prime Minister Saad Hariri after a Cabinet session that he would not allow anyone to intimidate or attack the protesters.

Many Lebanese activists and protesters online have shared the video of the army’s intervention and others of the men driving through Beirut warning that the convoy was the start of an attempted counter movement by political parties.

But it so far remains unclear exactly where Hezbollah, in particular, stands on the movement.

At the weekend, the Iran-backed group’s leader made a speech in which he said he supported the aims of the protesters and also tried to echo the demands of the movement in saying that he would order his party to the streets if new taxes were included in the 2020 budget.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/lebanese-army-stops-amal-hezbollah-convoy-heading-to-beirut-protest-site-1.926907

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Syrian Army Recaptures More Regions in Hasaka as Kurds-Turkey Ceasefire Nears End

Oct 22, 2019

The units of the Syrian Army continued their deployment North-West of Hasaka province on Hasaka-Aleppo international highway.

The Damascus forces on Tuesday entered the village of al-Kozaleya West of Tel Tamar North-West of Hasaka province. The army troops also entered the villages of Shwaish, al-Nufaliyeh, al-Mahal, al-Badran, al-Hizam and Kahfet al-Marati in the Southwestern countryside of Tel Tamar, Northwest of Hasaka.

Also on Tuesday, President Bashar al-Assad met Syrian army personnel on frontlines of al-Habit town in Idlib province.

On Monday, the Damascus government sent a large number of army troops to Northeastern Syria amid reports about a new Ankara assault despite the deal.

According to a military source in Hasaka province, the Syrian Army has sent several reinforcements to the Tel Tamar, Ein Al-Arab (Kobani), Ain Issa and Al-Tabaqa fronts in order to fortify its positions and prevent any future advances by the Turkish Armed Forces and their militant allies in the region.

On Sunday, Syrian government troops deployed in Yalda castle Northwest of Tel Tamar town, which had been used as a base by US forces in the region, in addition to fortifying their positions in Tel Tamar-Al-Ahras area.

A five-day ceasefire was reached in negotiations between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday, a week after Ankara and its allied militants launched a new military campaign in Northern Syria dubbed ‘Operation Peace Spring’ that has triggered widespread global condemnation.

Meantime, the Kurds have also struck an agreement with the Syrian government in a move to be shielded against the Turkish onslaught. The agreement envisages the dispatch of Syrian government troops to the Kurdish-held territories to receive control and block the incursion of the Turkish Army and its allied militants.

Though the Kurdish militias delivered control over a number of towns and villages to the Damascus army, including Manbij, Raqqa, and Kobani, they started giving up territories to the Turkish army instead of the Damascus troops last night.

Once US President Donald Trump declared a pullout of troops from the Kurdish regions in Northern Syria to leave the so-called allied militias alone in the face of the Turkish onslaught, the enraged Kurds cried out against Washington's disloyalty and its instrumental use of the Kurdish population; yet now once again they have started compliance with the US-brokered agreement.

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980730000477

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Syrian Democratic Council Seeking Union with Damascus after US Betrayal

Oct 22, 2019

Darar, who co-chairs the Syrian Democratic Council (the political wing of the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is largely comprised of Kurdish militias), in an interview with the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar, said that the rapid developments in Northern and Eastern Syria will cost more territorial disintegration of Syria in favor of Turkey’s interests, adding that the US offered new land to Turkey to rectify its strained relationship with Ankara and return it to NATO.

He added that the agreement between the US and Russia is based on the fact that the resolution of the Syrian crisis will be achieved in a step-by-step process which would require all sides give up their extreme positions.

"Syrian democratic forces have always been discussing future relations with Damascus in order to reach a real and meaningful cooperation that would provide stability and give all Syrian groups and tribes the right they deserve," he said.

Darar emphasized that the experience of autonomy and self-management which was used to fill the administrative void in Northeast Syria is subject to debate and reform to achieve a mutually beneficial structure fit for all parties.

The head of the Syrian Democratic Council voiced hope that Russia’s mediation would lead to agreements that would reward them political contribution and participation through fair and respectful elections.

“The [new] accord that allows the Syrian army to enter into Kurdish-controlled areas is to promote the constructive role of the Syrian Armed Forces in protecting its sovereignty and borders, and Syrian democratic forces will ultimately be part of the Syria's National Army,” he highlighted.

On the other hand, Commander the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Mazloum Kobani met with a Russian delegation on Monday at the Qamishli airport in al-Hasakah province. The delegation’s visit to Qamishli was for conveying the Kurdish demands to Damascus and strengthening military cooperation between the Syrian government and the Kurds, having an eye on the possibility of converting it into a comprehensive agreement.

A Kurdish official, in an interview with al-Akhbar, said that the US decision to keep part of its troops on Syrian soil was meant to encourage Kurds not to give Damascus more concessions.

Al-Akhbar wrote that considering fast developments undergoing in Northeast Syria and with the truce between Turkey and the Syrian Democratic Forces looming to its final hours, all eyes are now set on a meeting between the Turkish and Russian presidents who are expected to lay out plans for the future of North and East Syria.

While the Kurds are optimistic about the new US position on keeping some of its troops in Northern Syria, they also feel concerned about an imminent military operation by Ankara to threaten areas along Ras al-Ain to al-Maliki, and even reach the borderline between Syria and Iraq through Al-Maliki and even extend its reach to Deir Ezzur and al-Raqqa.

According to the report by the Lebanese paper, if Turkey continues to press on, Washington will give up its decision to stay close to oil wells, which will put the Kurds back on track with the Syrian government. However, Kurdish sources familiar with the course of meetings between the Russians and the Kurds believe that the situation is not going to escalate significantly and Russia is trying to broker an agreement in a near future to secure the border with Turkey at al-Hasakah.

US President Donald Trump said on Monday that Washington will deploy a small number of its troops in Syria, near the border with Jordan.

"US forces leaving Syria will initially be moved to other areas but will eventually return to the United States," he added.

"The US has never promised to stay in Syria for 400 years to support the Kurds," Trump said.

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980730000623

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US troops exiting Syria to stay ‘temporarily’ in Iraq: Pentagon chief

23 October 2019

The American troops withdrawing from Syria will stay in Iraq “temporarily” before returning to the United States, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Tuesday.

In an interview with CNN, Esper said the US forces were pulling out in phases, and had now moved from the “immediate zone of attack” to a northeastern corridor out of the country.

“Then we’ll have another phase that will draw all the forces out. We will temporarily position in Iraq before bringing the troops home. They will be coming home,” he said.

Dozens of US armored vehicles arrived on Monday at a base in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Asked about US President Donald Trump’s comment on Monday that a small number of soldiers were being deployed to secure oilfields in Syria, Esper said that was still under discussion.

“But that needs to be worked out in time. The president hasn’t approved that yet,” he said.

“With regard to deployment, my aim is to keep my options open - really, the president’s options open - so if events change on the ground in Syria or other parts that we have the flexibility to respond to the president’s position,” he added.

Esper echoed Trump in defending the abandonment of the Kurdish fighters who bore the brunt of the US-led campaign against ISIS in Syria.

They were forced to flee from cities they controlled in Syria in the face of a Turkish offensive against them.

He said Washington opposed the Turkish invasion, but: “We are not going to war against a NATO ally and certainly not... with regard to a border that we didn’t sign up to defend in the first place.”

The United States currently has 5,200 troops in Iraq, part of a US-led international coalition against ISIS.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/10/23/US-troops-exiting-Syria-to-stay-temporarily-in-Iraq-Pentagon-chief-.html

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Two Iraqi police commanders, four others killed in militant attack: Sources

23 October 2019

Six police officers including two senior commanders were killed in northern Iraq on Tuesday when ISIS militants opened fire on them during a reconnaissance mission, security sources said.

Militant attacks on security forces are common in Iraq but the killing of senior commanders is rare.

Major General Ali al-Lami, who commands the Iraqi Federal Police’s Fourth Division, and Brigadier General Mohammed Allawi from the same division were killed alongside four members of their security detail, Samara Operations Command sources said.

The generals were leading a reconnaissance mission in the Zor area north of Samara in Salahuddin. Militants opened fire on them as soon as they got there.

Helicopter gunships were firing at the bushes in that area where the militants are hiding, Iraqi army officials said. The defense ministry issued a statement of condolences calling the fallen generals martyrs and heroes.

Four Iraqi police officers were killed and five wounded when ISIS militants attacked checkpoints in the Allas oilfields area of the northern Salahuddin province late on Monday, police said earlier.

Iraq declared victory over the hardline Sunni militants in late 2017 after pushing them out of all territory it held in the country.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/10/23/Two-Iraqi-police-commanders-four-others-killed-in-militant-attack-Sources.html

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Europe

 

Britain now considers prosecuting ISIS militants known as the Beatles

By Ellen Nakashima and Souad Mekhennet

October 22, 2019

British prosecutors are reconsidering their opposition to trying a pair of Islamic State members linked to a cell suspected of involvement in the killing of American and British hostages in Syria.

The Crown Prosecution Service, an independent public authority in England and Wales, has agreed to review its previous decision not to prosecute the men.

The move came after the United States military took custody of the two British men, Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, almost two weeks ago.

“Due to the change in circumstances the CPS are reviewing the evidence in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors,” a CPS spokesperson told The Washington Post on Monday. The decision has not been previously reported.

U.S. military is taking custody of two British men accused of involvement in Islamic State killings of American hostages

Kotey and Elsheikh, part of a cell of four British militants dubbed the “Beatles” by their hostages because of their accents, were handed over to the Americans by Kurdish allies in Syria and taken to a detention facility in Iraq — removing an obstacle to a British prosecution, said several people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive case.

Kotey and Elsheikh were captured in early 2018. Earlier, British prosecutors had argued that they were prevented from extraditing the men because they were being detained by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, a nonstate entity, making their transfer difficult.

The men, whose British citizenship was revoked over their alleged affiliation with ISIS, are believed to be part of the cell suspected of crimes, including the beheading of Americans James Foley, Steven Sotloff and Peter Kassig, as well as two British aid workers.

The possible shift comes as the High Court in London said it had postponed a hearing scheduled for Tuesday in a related case brought by Elsheikh’s mother, Maha Elgizouli, who wants the court to rule that her son should be tried in Britain and not in the United States, where he could face the death penalty.

In the turmoil following Turkey’s invasion of Syria earlier this month, the pair were transferred to U.S. custody with the goal of putting them on trial in the United States, The Post reported previously. President Trump personally approved the move and discussed it with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said a senior U.S. official familiar with the matter.

Prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia had been optimistic about bringing a case against the two men, assuming they could obtain evidence gathered by British prosecutors.

But Elgizouli has sued the government to force a trial in Britain, and also to prevent the sharing of British evidence with the Americans absent a guarantee that the death penalty is off the table.

The Justice Department declined to comment, as did lawyers for Elgizouli.

The families of American hostages killed by ISIS said their main concern is that the Beatles be brought to justice. They also have opposed any prosecution that involves the death penalty.

“I am certainly okay with them going to the United Kingdom — they are citizens of the U.K.,” said Diane Foley, the mother of one of the slain Americans. “My only concern is that all the evidence can be used to find out if they were the British jihadists who kidnapped, tortured and killed our U.S. citizens and the British citizens.”

Said Foley: “I want to make sure that all their crimes can be assessed and can be prosecuted fully. They shouldn’t just get a slap on the wrist.”

British government officials have long asserted that prosecutors lack sufficient evidence to try the two men in British courts. However, it was revealed in June through Elgizouli’s court case that prosecutors had secretly issued an arrest warrant for Kotey in February 2016 on five charges of murder and eight charges of hostage-taking. The punishment for both murder and hostage-taking is life in prison.

Prosecutors also acknowledged to Elgizouli’s lawyers that they had sufficient evidence to charge Elsheikh with membership of a proscribed organization: ISIS. The maximum penalty is 10 years in prison.

Prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia have expressed confidence that they can prosecute the two men for a conspiracy to take hostages that resulted in death, but they planned to rely on evidence from the British. That evidence includes voice analysis believed to tie the two to the Beatles and details about how they got to Syria. The contemplated charge carries a potential death sentence.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in the coming weeks on the issue of sharing evidence gathered by British investigators with American prosecutors.

Rachel Weiner contributed to this report.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/britain-reconsiders-prosecuting-isis-fighters-known-as-the-beatles/2019/10/21/08a317da-f40f-11e9-8cf0-4cc99f74d127_story.html

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UN Mission Head Says Risk of Genocide Recurring in Myanmar

23 October, 2019

The head of a UN fact-finding mission on Myanmar warned Tuesday that "there is a serious risk of genocide recurring" against the estimated 600,000 members of the Rohingya Muslim minority still living in the country.

Marzuki Darusman told the General Assembly's human rights committee that "if anything, the situation of the Rohingya in Rakhine state has worsened," citing continued discrimination, segregation, restricted movement, insecurity and a lack of access to land, jobs, education and health care.

The government of Myanmar, a Buddhist-majority nation, has refused to recognize Rohingya as citizens or even as one of its ethnic groups, rendering the vast majority stateless.

Myanmar's military began a harsh counterinsurgency campaign against the Rohingya in August 2017 in response to an insurgent attack. More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh to escape what has been called an ethnic cleansing campaign involving mass rapes, killings and burning of their homes.

The Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, which Darusman heads, said in its final report last month that Myanmar should be held responsible in international legal forums for alleged genocide against the Rohingya.

"There is a strong inference of continued genocidal intent on the part of the state in relation to the Rohingya and there is a serious risk of genocide recurring," Darusman said Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.

"Myanmar is failing in its obligations under the Genocide Convention to prevent genocide, to investigate genocide and to enact effective legislation and to enact effective legislation criminalizing and punishing genocide," he said.

Darusman said the fact-finding mission has transferred 1,227 interviews with victims and witnesses of crimes against the Rohingya to another specially established UN body, the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar. It said the material included "a list of over 150 people suspected of involvement in numerous international crimes."

He called on countries to support the investigation by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court of alleged crimes on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border and plans for Gambia, on behalf of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, to pursue a case against Myanmar before the International Court of Justice for breaching the 1948 Genocide Convention.

In the absence of a referral by the UN Security Council of the situation in Myanmar to the ICC, he said, "these initiatives are all the more important."

Darusman urged the assembly to also consider additional measures, including the establishment of an ad hoc tribunal like the UN did for crimes in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

Myanmar's UN ambassador, Hau Do Suan, noted his government doesn't recognize the fact-finding mission, calling its views "one-sided" and based on "misleading information and secondary sources." He accused the mission of ignoring the situation of the Hindu minority and other ethnic minorities in Rakhine state.

Yanghee Lee, the UN's independent investigator on Myanmar, told the assembly that the Independent Commission of Inquiry formed by Myanmar's government "does not represent a possible end to this impunity."

"It has not produced a single report after nearly 15 months," she said.

Lee also urged the international community to impose sanctions on companies owned by Myanmar's military and on "its commanders most responsible for serious violations."

Lee said that "there is no discernible improvement" in the human rights situation in Myanmar.

"Discrimination against religious minorities continues unabated," she said. "I am informed of 27 villages which describe themselves as 'Muslim free,' banning Muslims from entry."

Myanmar's government has barred both Darusman and Lee from entering the country - and both stressed that it is unsafe for the Rohingya refugees to return from Bangladesh.

Full report at:

https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1957711/un-mission-head-says-risk-genocide-recurring-myanmar

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Judges close investigations into 2015 Paris and Bataclan terror attacks that killed 130

Oct 21, 2019

France's anti-terrorism prosecutor's office announced Monday morning that investigations into the terror attacks on Nov. 13, 2015 that killed 130 people in Paris have ended.

The attacks at cafes, a Bataclan concert hall, and outside a stadium in Saint-Denis -- which also wounded more than 350 -- were the deadliest committed on French soil since the Second World War.

Four years after ISIS claimed responsibility, the investigations revealed a much larger jihadist cell behind these attacks with ramifications throughout Europe but mainly in Belgium, according to AFP.

On March 22, 2016, the cell also hit the Brussels airport and metro, killing 32 people.

The five magistrates who investigated the attacks indicted 14 people, 11 of whom were placed in pre-trial detention. The other three were placed under court supervision, according to the prosecutor's office's press release.

Among them is Salah Abdeslam, the only member still alive of the three jihadist commandos who perpetrated the attacks, who is currently being held in France after his arrest in Belgium in 2016.

A total of 1,740 people, including victims and the families of the victims, will be civil parties in the trial against him and other suspects, which is not expected to happen for another year.

Full report at:

https://abcnews.go.com/International/judges-close-investigations-2015-paris-bataclan-terror-attacks/story?id=66416818

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2 Belgians, 7 French Suspects Accused of Terror Funding

21 October, 2019

Judicial authorities in Belgium and France have charged nine people with funding terrorism and partaking in terror activities.

Security investigations followed by raids and arrests took place in Belgian and French cities within the framework of security and judicial coordination between Brussels and Paris.

Belgian investigators seized large amounts of money ranging from 8,000 to 10,000 euros during searches. According to the Belgian federal prosecutor's office, the money raised in France and Belgium was intended for ISIS wives, whose number was not specified, to pay smugglers to flee their detention in Syria.

Mid last week, Belgian police raided sites and arrested a number of suspects for sending money to northeastern Syria to facilitate the smuggling of women from ISIS families from Kurdish camps there, media reports said.

Paul Van Tigchelt, head of OCAD, told a parliamentary committee that two men and three women, either Belgian or with links to Belgium, were no longer in prison in a camp where they had been held under Kurdish control since the defeat of ISIS by US-backed coalition forces in 2017.

In Paris, on Friday evening, the French judiciary tried seven detainees on charges of financing terrorism and raising money to send to ISIS detainees in Syria to help them escape.

The seven were arrested in a raid in which investigators seized their phones and USB drivers.

Since Turkey launched its offensive in Syria, Western countries fear that 12,000 extremists held by Kurds, including 2,500-3,000 foreigners, may flee.

Full report at:

https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1954976/2-belgians-7-french-suspects-accused-terror-funding

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Penny Appeal launches helpline for Muslim youth in UK

October 22, 2019

Penny Appeal’s Mini CEO, 11-year-old Shakira Rahman launched the MY (Muslim Youth) Helpline, providing listening and mental health support for young people between the ages of 11 to 24. The MY Helpline is a confidential and nonjudgmental service for young Muslims across the UK. It will provide faith and culturally sensitive support for any young Muslim facing challenges such as sexuality, family abuse, bullying and cultural or religious pressures, which affect many in modern British society.

Anyone who calls the MY Helpline will be put through to a fully trained and experienced practitioner, who will talk with each caller for as long as they wish. Practitioners will listen and support callers through the emotions they are experiencing, providing the necessary support. The MY service can also provide access to counsellors with Islamic knowledge (via email) within 48 hours. If needed, callers can be transferred to specialist organizations that can assist them with issues that require extra care.

The helpline’s team is headed by Hinna Zafar, a qualified counsellor in psychology.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1572941/corporate-news

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Russia, Turkey reach 'historic' deal on Syria border

Oct 23, 2019

SOCHI (RUSSIA): Russia and Turkey have agreed to ensure Kurdish forces withdraw from areas close to Syria's border with Turkey and to launch joint patrols, in a deal hailed as "historic" by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

After marathon talks in Russia's southern city of Sochi, Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin announced the deal late Tuesday just hours ahead of a deadline for Turkey to restart its assault on Syrian Kurdish forces.

As the evening deadline passed, Turkey said there was "no need" to relaunch the offensive.

The agreement cements Russia and Turkey's roles as the main foreign players in Syria, after US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of American forces from the country's north earlier this month.

That announcement cleared the way for Turkey to launch a cross-border military push on October 9 against the Kurdish YPG militia, viewed by Ankara as "terrorists" linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Turkey has seized control of a "safe zone" inside Syria about 120 kilometres long (75 miles) and 32 kilometres deep.

Tuesday's agreement with Moscow will see it preserve that zone between the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain, giving Ankara a crucial presence inside the country.

From noon (0900 GMT) on Wednesday, Russian military police and Syrian border guards will "facilitate the removal" of Kurdish fighters and their weapons from within 30 kilometres (18 miles) of the border.

This withdrawal must be finalised within 150 hours, according to a text of the agreement released after the talks.

Russian and Turkish forces will then begin joint patrols along the Turkish-controlled zone.

In the early hours of Wednesday, Turkey said it had been informed by the US that their withdrawal from the border areas had been "completed".

"At this stage, there is no further need to carry out a new operation," the defence ministry said in a statement.

Putin said the decisions were "very important, if not crucial, to allowing us to resolve the acute situation on the Syrian-Turkish border."

In a phone call to the Russian leader, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in reference to the Kurds that "those with separatist designs were responsible for what events have come to".

However, he also stressed "his complete refusal of any invasion of Syrian land under any name or pretext", Syrian state news agency SANA said.

Assad has repeatedly said he will eventually restore government control over all parts of Syria.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/rest-of-world/russia-turkey-reach-historic-deal-on-syria-border/articleshow/71715147.cms

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France gives tentative nod to Lebanese government over reforms

22 October 2019

France said on Tuesday that it was encouraging the Lebanese government to push ahead with the necessary reforms to restore the economy and that it remained committed to putting into action decisions made at a donor’s conference last year.

Lebanon’s Cabinet on Monday approved an emergency reform package in a bid to defuse the biggest protests the country has seen in decades and help unlock billions pledged in Paris last year.

“France is attentive to the latest developments in Lebanon. It calls for the preservation of the peaceful nature of the protests and the strict respect of the rights of all Lebanese to protest,” Foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes von Der Muhll said in a statement.

“It renews its encouragement to the Lebanese government to carry out the necessary reforms to enable the restoration of the Lebanese economy and the provision of public services by the State, for the direct benefit of all Lebanese citizens,” she said.

Lebanon, which has been battered by eight years of war in neighboring Syria and is hosting more than a million Syrian refugees, wants the funds for investment to overhaul its infrastructure and lift dwindling economic growth.

Donors in turn want to see Lebanon commit to long-stalled reforms and work to curb corruption.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/10/22/France-gives-tentative-nod-to-Lebanese-government-over-reforms.html

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Man holed up at museum in southern France, threatening messages in Arabic

October 23, 2019

NICE, France: At least one man was holed up at a museum in southern France on Wednesday, where threatening messages in Arabic have been written on the building’s walls, a police source told AFP.

Officers surrounded the archaeology museum in the Mediterranean town of Saint-Raphael, where the man, possibly with an accomplice, broke in overnight and refused to communicate with police.

One of the messages reads “the museum is going to become a hell,” the source said, without specifying if the man was armed or if other people were in the building.

In a Twitter message police warned people to avoid the area in the historic center of the resort town tucked between Cannes and Saint-Tropez.

“The entire neighborhood is locked down... We’ve been ordered to stay in the restaurant,” Sebastian, an employee at the Duplex restaurant opposite the museum, told the local Nice-Matin newspaper.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1573156/world

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Kremlin says US betrayed Kurds in Syria, tells Kurds to withdraw or be mauled

23 October 2019

The Kremlin said on Wednesday that the United States had betrayed and abandoned the Syrian Kurds and advised the Kurds to withdraw from the Syrian border as per a deal between Moscow and Ankara or be mauled by the Turkish army.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov made the comments to Russian news agencies. He complained that it appeared that the United States was encouraging the Kurds to stay close to the Syrian border and fight the Turkish army.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/10/23/Kremlin-says-US-betrayed-Syrian-Kurds.html

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Pentagon chief arrives in Baghdad amid US pullout from Syria

23 October 2019

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper arrived in Baghdad on Wednesday, amid questions about how long US troops withdrawing from northeast Syria will stay in Iraq.

The Iraq military said on Tuesday that US forces crossing into Iraq as part of a pull-out from Syria do not have permission to stay and can only be there in transit.

While Esper initially told reporters the troops withdrawing from Syria would go to western Iraq to fight Islamic State and “help defend Iraq,” he said on Tuesday that Washington aimed to eventually bring the troops back to the US.

Esper is expected to meet his Iraqi counterpart as well as Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and discuss the US troop drawdown from Syria and the role Iraq will play in it.

“Our key priority with Iraq is encouraging the continued secure, stable, independent Iraq,” a senior US defense official said.

Esper’s trip also follows an agreement on Tuesday between Ankara and Moscow that Syrian and Russian forces will deploy in northeast Syria to remove Kurdish fighters and their weapons from the border with Turkey.

Hours after that deal was announced, the Turkish defense ministry said the US had told Turkey the withdrawal of Kurdish militants was complete from the “safe zone” Ankara demands in northern Syria.

The Russia-Turkey agreement struck in the Black Sea resort of Sochi endorses the return of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces to the border alongside Russian troops, replacing the Americans who had patrolled the region for years with their Kurdish allies.

President Donald Trump decided earlier this month to withdraw all 1,000 US troops from the region, a move widely criticized as a betrayal of Kurdish allies who had fought for years alongside US forces against Islamic State.

Since then, the Pentagon has said the Trump administration is considering keeping some troops in northeastern Syria to help ensure Islamic State and others do not profit from oil fields in the region.

Any decision to keep additional US troops in Iraq is likely to be heavily scrutinized in a country where Iran has been steadily amassing influence.

Iraq is in the midst of a political crisis.

Protests over high unemployment, poor public services and corruption erupted on Oct. 1, prompting a violent security crackdown.

Protesters blame graft and infighting among political leaders for failing to improve their lives even in peacetime, two years after Islamic State was declared defeated in Iraq.

“Iraqi politics are in a delicate state. There’s no Iraqi support for the country becoming a principal US garrison in the Middle East,” said Jon Alterman, Middle East expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

However, Baghdad did not want to alienate Washington, which has been a key ally in fighting back Islamic State militants over the past five years, Alterman added.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/10/23/Pentagon-chief-arrives-in-Baghdad-amid-US-pullout-from-Syria.html

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Russia’s Putin explains results of talks with Turkey to Syria’s Assad

23 October 2019

Russian President Vladimir Putin has explained to Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad by phone the results of his talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Kremlin said on Tuesday.

Putin, after lengthy talks with Erdogan, highlighted in the phone call with Assad that restoring Syria’s territorial integrity was the main task.

Assad thanked Putin and expressed his full support for the results of the work, as well as the readiness of the Syrian border guards, together with the Russian military police.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/10/23/Russia-s-Putin-explains-results-of-talks-with-Turkey-to-Syria-s-Assad.html

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UN: Over 176,000 displaced by Turkish offensive in northeast Syria

22 October 2019

The UN says that nearly two weeks after Turkey launched its offensive in northeast Syria more than 176,000 people have been displaced, including nearly 80,000 children, and “critical infrastructure has been damaged.”

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Tuesday that power lines have been damaged, reportedly affecting at least four medical facilities.

He said the Alouk water station, which serves over 400,000 people in al-Hassakah city and surrounding displacement camps, has received temporary repairs and generators are now being used to supply safe water for the population in the area.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/10/22/UN-Over-176-000-displaced-by-Turkish-offensive-in-northeast-Syria.html

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South Asia

 

Afghan official: Taliban storm checkpoint, kill 15 policemen

22 October 2019

The Taliban stormed a checkpoint in northern Afghanistan, killing at least 15 policemen in the latest attack by insurgents, an Afghan provincial official said Tuesday.

The multi-pronged attack on the checkpoint in the Ali Abad district of northern Kunduz province began late on Monday night and set off an hours-long gun battle, according to Ghulam Rabani Rabani, a provincial council member. Along with the 15 policemen killed, two other officers were wounded in the assault, he said.

The attack came as Afghan troops have been battling the Taliban for the past few weeks in Kunduz’s Dashti Archi and Imam Sahib districts, Rabani added. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the checkpoint attack.

The Taliban have a strong presence in Kunduz and are in control in several of the province’s districts.

The provincial capital, the city of Kunduz, briefly fell to the Taliban in 2015, before the insurgents withdrew in the face of a NATO-backed Afghan offensive. The city is a strategic crossroads with easy access to much of northern Afghanistan as well as the country’s capital, Kabul, about 200 miles (335 kilometers) away.

The Taliban pushed back into the city center again a year later, briefly raising their flag before gradually being driven out again. The last time, the insurgents launched another attempt to overrun the city in August but were repelled.

The Taliban now control nearly half of Afghanistan and have been relentless in their near-daily attacks targeting Afghan security forces, attacks that inflict heavy casualties. The fighting has also killed scores of civilians.

President Donald Trump, since his 2016 presidential campaign, has spoken of a need to withdraw US troops from the “endless war” in Afghanistan. He has complained that the US has been serving as policemen in Afghanistan and says that’s not the American military’s job.

The US has about 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan as part of the American-led coalition. US forces are training and advising Afghan forces and conducting counterterrorism operations against extremists.

Trump had ordered a troop withdrawal in conjunction with the peace talks that would have left about 8,600 American forces in the country.

Last month, US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad had a preliminary peace deal with the Taliban, but a surge in Taliban violence and the death of an American soldier prompted Trump to cancel a secret Camp David meeting where the peace deal would have been finalized and declare the tentative agreement dead.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/10/22/Afghan-official-Taliban-storm-checkpoint-kill-15-policemen.html

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Afghan airstrikes kill 14 militants in northern Afghanistan

2019-10-22

TALUQAN, Afghanistan, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- A total of 14 militants were confirmed dead as fighting planes struck a Taliban hideout in the beleaguered Darqad district of Afghanistan's northern Takahr province, according to an army statement released here Tuesday.

Three more militants sustained injuries due to the air raids conducted on Monday afternoon, the statement said.

Taliban militants who are active in parts of the restive Darqad district have not made comments on the report yet.

Takhar province with Taluqan as its capital, 245 km north of Kabul, has been the scene of Taliban-led increasing insurgency over the past couple of years.

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-10/22/c_138493186.htm

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US pulling troops from Afghanistan despite lack of Taliban peace deal

BY ZACK BUDRYK

10/21/19

The U.S. has begun winding down its troop presence in Afghanistan despite the lack of a working peace deal with Taliban forces, the top American commander in the country said Monday.

Gen. Scott Miller told reporters that U.S. troop levels in the country were reduced by 2,000 to about 12,000 over the past year.

Unidentified American and Afghan officials told The New York Times that troop levels could eventually be further reduced to 8,600, which is near the level agreed upon in the initial draft agreement developed with the Taliban. President Trump abruptly ended peace talks with the militant group last month, citing their killing of a U.S. soldier in a Kabul attack.

A senior Afghan official told the newspaper that government officials in Kabul have agreed to the U.S. troop level reduction but officials would not discuss any other details.

Trump has repeatedly emphasized his desire to pull the U.S. out of the country after nearly two decades of conflict there, the Times noted, adding that U.S. negotiators initially attempted to convince the Taliban the U.S. was committed to remaining in the nation and the extremist group would not be able to wait U.S. forces out.

Since the collapse of peace talks, American diplomats have attempted to keep talks with the Taliban alive in some form, including an informal meeting between Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. chief negotiator, and Taliban officials in Pakistan earlier in October.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has also called a formal peace deal the “best way forward,” the Times noted. Miller has named 8,600 as the minimum number of troops necessary to support the Afghan military, it added.

The Taliban, meanwhile, have closely monitored northeastern Syria since the U.S. withdrew its forces from the region, clearing the way for a Turkish offensive against Kurdish forces in the area.

Full report at:

https://thehill.com/policy/defense/466675-us-pulling-troops-from-afghanistan-despite-lack-of-deal-with-taliban-report

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Bhola clash: Hefazat holds protest rally in front of Baitul Mukarram mosque

Arifur Rahman Rabbi

October 22nd, 2019

They gathered as a part of their countrywide protest program

Members of influential Islamist platform Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh held a rally in front of Dhaka’s Baitul Mukarram Mosque to protest against the recent violence in Bhola, which left four people dead and hundreds injured.

Hefazat members, primarily madrasa teachers and students, gathered near the national mosque on Topkhana Road on Tuesday afternoon, as part of their nationwide campaign.

Activists representing Hefazat-e-Islam said they had had plans to roll out a large procession from Baitul Mukarram, but decided to instead hold a protest rally there.

Addressing the rally, Nur Hossain Kashemi, chief of the Dhaka Metropolitan chapter of Hefazat-e-Islam, said people will never put up with those who do not respect Islam's holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

He added that those who could not uphold the dignity of the holy Prophet (pbuh) have no right to remain in power.

A stricter law with provisions for capital punishment must be introduced for those who make disparaging comments about Allah and the prophets (pbuh) or messengers, he said, adding that the protests will continue unless such laws are put in place.

Kashemi, also the vice president of the Islamist group, said that Bangladesh is a country of peace,and Hefazat-e-Islam believes in peace and harmony, so his group will continue to peacefully protest events.

Kashemi made a series of additional demands of the government. They were: withdraw police cases in Bhola, immediately release the arrestees, withdraw the relevant police station's OC and Bhola’s SP, and ban the operation of ISKCON in Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, Paltan police station Officer-in-Charge (OC) Abu Bakar Siddique said,“a large number of policemen were deployed; however, the planned protest event ended rather peacefully.”

During the rally, vehicular movement from Dainik Bangla to Paltan intersections was halted for two hours.

Hefazat organized a similar rally in Chittagong

Meanwhile, members of Hefazat-e-Islam held a similar rally in the port city, also in protest at the Bhola clash.

As part of a nationwide protest program, Hefazat supporters assembled near Jamiatul Falah mosque after Zohr prayer on Tuesday.

While addressing the rally, Hefazat Secretary General Juanyed Babunagari demanded the punishment of Biplob Chandra Shuvo,from whose Facebook ID messages containing derogatory remarks about Allah and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) were allegedly sent.

The Hefazat leader also demanded exemplary punishment of the people involved in the shooting that left four people dead and injured scores.

“We will not tolerate offensive remarks about Allah and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in a Muslim-majority country. Bangladesh is a democratic country and it is our civic right to voice concerns over any incongruity. The countrymen will not tolerate any bloodshed. The devout Muslims have been deeply dismayed as the police fired on a peaceful procession in Bhola. Thousands of people are ready to sacrifice their lives to protect the honor of the Prophet (pbuh),” Babunagari said.

Expressing his condolences to the bereaved families, Babunagari said that people who follow in the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) would launch a tougher movement if the perpetrators went unpunished.

“Necessary action should be taken against the SP, the OC and the police personnel responsible for the deaths. Compensation should be given to the families of the deceased while injured should be given proper treatment,” said the Hefazat leader.

Passing through strategic points in the city, the protest march ended at Wasa intersection.

What happened in Bhola ?

On Sunday, four people were killed and more than 200 injured in a clash in Borhanuddin upazila – many of them suffered gunshot wounds.

Full report at:

https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/dhaka/2019/10/22/bhola-clash-hefazat-men-gather-in-front-of-baitul-mukarram

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Pragmatism, not politics, the best way forward for Rohingya repatriation

October 23, 2019

IT IS MORE than three years since the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army launched coordinated attacks on security posts in northern Rakhine State, triggering a clearance operation by the Tatmadaw that resulted in more than 700,000 Muslims fleeing to safety in neighbouring Bangladesh. Since then, none of the refugees have agreed to be repatriated to northern Rakhine. Organisations and activists working on behalf of the Rohingya and the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh each have differing opinions and attitudes about the situation.

The Myanmar government and the Tatmadaw refer to the Rohingya as “Bengalis”, to imply that they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The Rohingya do not accept the label and insist that theirs is a distinct ethnic group. Rohingya leaders in the Bangladesh camps have insisted on a number of conditions being met before they will agree to repatriation.

They include being recognised as citizens and having the right to travel outside Rakhine State, to which their community is confined. They also reject the National Verification Cards that the government wants them to accept and which it says are a step towards citizenship. Instead, the Rohingya want to be issued with citizenship cards. They also want their return to be voluntary, safe and dignified and for it to be monitored by an independent third party, such as the United Nations.

Addressing the UN General Assembly on September 27, Bangladesh Prime Minister Begum Sheikh Hasina suggested a four-point plan to resolve the situation, the first three of which were addressed to Myanmar. She said it must manifest clear political will supported by concrete action for the sustainable return and reintegration of the Rohingya; must build trust among the Rohingya by discarding discriminatory laws and practices and by allowing inspection visits to northern Rakhine by Rohingya representatives; and must guarantee the security and safety of the Rohingya by deploying civilian monitors from the international community in Rakhine. Hasina also said the international community must ensure that the root causes of the Rohingya problem are addressed and that violations of human rights and atrocities committed against the Rohingya are accounted for.

Addressing the General Assembly the following day, Minister for the State Counsellor’s Office U Kyaw Tint Swe called on Bangladesh to faithfully implement a bilateral agreement signed with Myanmar in 2017, saying it was “the only feasible way to resolve the issue of the displaced persons”. Kyaw Tint Swe said displaced people who had been living in Rakhine “have a different legal status”. Those who qualify for citizenship would be issued with citizenship cards and the rest would receive NVCs, which he likened to the “green card” issued to immigrants in the United States.

In an address to an ASEAN-UN meeting at the UN on September 28, Minister for International Cooperation U Kyaw Tin said Myanmar could not accept the term “Rohingya” to describe the Muslims who live in northern Rakhine. “If the Bengalis are named as an ethnic group, they will demand fundamental rights mentioning they are ethnics and hold referendums in the long run … and they would be able to demand the right of secession. For that reason, the government can’t accept the usage of Rohingya,” he said.

Kyaw Tin also said it would be “impossible” to allow representatives of the refugees in Bangladesh to make inspection visits in northern Rakhine because if they were to say anything negative about the situation there it would adversely affect the repatriation process.

If we are going to end this crisis and bring the refugees home, officials from both sides must understand the root causes of the conflict, the historical background and present political situation in Myanmar, and then try to solve it by adopting new approach. Only then can good results be achieved.

For example, Rohingya activists and officials from the Bangladeshi government should try to understand the situation Myanmar is in and adopt an appropriate approach. The problem of Muslims in Rakhine State facing human rights violations did not just arise during the time of the NLD government led by Aung San Suu Kyi. It began when the British annexed and colonised Burma hundreds of years ago. After the independence, successive military governments did not resolve the problem completely and so it remains. While the NLD government was trying to address this historical legacy peacefully, ARSA forces launched their attacks, which meant the NLD then had to take a back seat to the Tatmadaw. The created further problems.

The 1982 Citizenship Law is the key to trying to resolve the problems of the Rohingya Muslim community in Rakhine. The final report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State headed by the late former UN secretary-general Mr Kofi Annan and handed down in August 2017, recommended that the NLD government begin a process to review the law.

However, the government believes it cannot review the law because it rules under the terms of the military-drafted 2008 Constitution and the Tatmadaw stands firmly in support of the law. The NLD government is worried that if it moved to review the 1982 Citizenship Law, the democratisation process might be adversely affected. Rohingya activists and the Bangladesh government need to understand the predicament in which the NLD government finds itself in trying to resolve the problem of the Muslim refugees. During a delicate transition to democracy, they should not make demands that are beyond the capability of NLD government and that might put it in difficult situation.

The NLD government should make an effort to enable the refugees to return home and for the Muslims who remained in Rakhine to have the rights to which they are entitled so that they may pursue livelihoods and not be a burden. A community that is reliant on the authorities for its needs is not good for either Rakhine State or Myanmar.

The recent reports of Rohingya being intercepted outside Rakhine after fleeing camps in Sittwe is evidence that human rights violations continue to be a problem in the state. At the same time that the refugees in the camps in Bangladesh are enduring difficult conditions, Tatmadaw leaders are also experiencing undesirable consequences because of international pressure and sanctions. The NLD government is also in a difficult situation, with State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi being blamed for the refugee problem by sections of the international community, and having some of her awards and honours being withdrawn.

Full report at:

https://www.frontiermyanmar.net/en/pragmatism-not-politics-the-best-way-forward-for-rohingya-repatriation

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Senior ISIS leader surrenders to Afghan forces in Nangarhar province

22 Oct 2019

A senior leader of the Islamic State terror group surrendered to the Afghan forces in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

According to a statement released by provincial government, Fraidoon alias Neman Al-Bajuri surrendered to the Afghan forces in Kot district of Nangarhar.

The statement further added that Fraidoon was in charge of the educational programs of the terror group in Nangarhar.

Originally a resident of Qarabagh district of Kabul, Fraidoon surrendered to the Afghan forces after realizing the truth, the provincial government added in its statement.

Furthermore, Fraidoon handed over a pistol and two hand grenades to the Afghan forces.

The sympathizers of the Islamic State terror group has not commented regarding the surrender of the group’s senior leader so far.

https://www.khaama.com/senior-isis-leader-surrenders-to-afghan-forces-in-nangarhar-province-04255/

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NDS Special Forces foil suicide attack in Mazar-e Sharif city aimed at assassinating Gen. Malik

22 Oct 2019

The Afghan Special Forces foiled a suicide attack in Mazar-e Sharif city, the provincial capital of northern Balkh province of Afghanistan.

According to a statement released by National Directorate of Security (NDS), the Special Forces of the directorate busted a group of Taliban militants during an operation in Ferdawsi Square of the city.

The statement further added that the NDS Special Forces arrested four people including Habibur Rahman alias Hanzala, the would-be suicide bomber, Syed Mia Rahnama who facilitated the transfer of the suicide bomber, Syed Nasir who had provided shelter to the suicide bomber and Abdul Munir who had facilitated the supply of equipment to the group.

The Taliban group recruited Hanzala to its ranks in Baghlan province, NDS said, adding that Qari Esaq who is responsible for training the suicide bombers for the Taliban group trained Hanzala in Kunduz province.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/nds-special-forces-foil-suicide-attack-in-mazar-e-sharif-city-aimed-at-assassinating-gen-malik-04256/

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Special Forces kill 6 Taliban militants; destroy large caches of weapons and IEDs in 3 provinces

23 Oct 2019

The Afghan Special Forces killed 6 Taliban militants and destroyed large caches of weapons and Improvised Explosive Devices during the operations in 3 provinces.

The military officials said Wednesday the Special Forces conducted the operations in the past 24 hours in Logar, Farah and Herat provinces.

The officials further added that the Special Forces killed 4 Taliban militants and destroyed a weapons cache in Baraki Barak district of Logar.

The Special Forces killed 2 other militants and destroyed a cache of weapons during a patrol in Farah district of Farah province.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/special-forces-kill-6-taliban-militants-destroy-large-caches-of-weapons-and-ieds-in-3-provinces-04257/

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India

 

How BJP Is Expanding In Shia Muslim-Dominated Kargil Post 370

By Betwa Sharma

22/10/2019

KARGIL, Ladakh — “PDP will always be in my heart but PDP is finished,” said Haji Anayat Ali, a Kargil-based politician who left the Mehbooba Mufti-led Peoples Democratic Party after the Narendra Modi government revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional status on 5 August. He joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on 26 August.

“BJP is the future in Kargil,” Ali said in a recent interview with HuffPost India.

Earlier this week, Ali’s office in the main market in Kargil town was packed with people who listened to him explain why he had jumped ship after the Modi government severed Ladakh from Jammu and Kashmir and deemed them two separate Union Territories (UTs).

“There is no place for regional parties like the PDP and NC (National Conference) in Ladakh. Both parties are finished in Ladakh and very likely in Jammu and Kashmir as well,” he said. “The main connection that Ladakh will have is the centre and the centre is BJP.”

These are the calculations that Ali made before heading to New Delhi where he, along with six other leaders from Kargil—most from PDP—were inducted into the BJP in the presence of Union Ministers Dharmendra Pradhan and Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.

In the two months since the Modi government abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution, the BJP has sharpened its play for power in Kargil, the most populous district of Ladakh, where Shia Muslims are in majority. The party is hoping that the upcoming Block Development Council (BDC) election on 24 October, which the NC, PDP and the Congress claim to have boycotted, will be an opportunity to boost its political credentials among people who view the party as being anti-Muslim.

BJP’s opponents have accused the Hindu nationalist party of pitting Ladakh’s Buddhists against its Shia Muslims in order to gain a foothold in India’s largest yet sparsely populated Lok Sabha constituency.

“There is a communal wind in Leh but not in Kargil, so far,” said Qamar Ali Akhoon, a senior NC leader in Kargil, referring to the Buddhist-majority capital of Ladakh, located around 234 kilometres from Kargil.

The former state minister added, “When it comes to the BJP, one is always worried. You can see what is happening in the rest of India.”

The BJP has had two Members of Parliament (MP) elected from Ladakh in 2014 and 2019, widely attributed to Modi’s popularity, but the “big push” now is for “grassroots” expansion.

Of the 15 blocks in which village chiefs will vote to elect a Block Development Chairman, Ali expects the BJP to win at least five seats, including the independent candidates that the party is backing.

“The BJP has got a hold in Kargil and now it’s going to grow,” he said.

Window of opportunity

Ali, who was nominated as an MLC (Member of Legislative Council) by the PDP government in 2014, and made the chairman of the J&K Legislative Council in 2015, is Shia Muslim—who form the majority of the approximately 1,40,000 people who live in Kargil.

When he contested the J&K state Assembly election from the Kargil constituency in 2014 as a PDP candidate, Ali lost to the Congress candidate, placing second with 13,000 votes.

Following the abrogation of Article 370, and his joining the BJP, Ali claimed that the 13,000 voters who had voted for him when he was a PDP candidate have shifted their loyalties to the BJP.

He added that the PDP presidents of the 15 blocks in Kargil—along with all its office-bearers—have also joined the BJP. And that’s not all—according to Ali, the village chiefs who were backed by the PDP in the panchayat election in J&K in 2018 have also shifted their loyalties to the BJP.

It is the village chiefs—not the general voter—who will elect the BDCs of the 15 blocks in Kargil.

Following the abrogation of Article 370, two PDP leaders, Mohammed Ali Chandan and Mohsin Ali, who were in the 30-member Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Kargil, an elected body that is in charge of development, have also joined the BJP.

This takes BJP’s strength from one member in the Kargil Hill Development Council — Stanzin Lakpa from the Buddhist-majority town of Zanskar — to three.

The present Hill Development Council, which was elected in 2018, comprises 10 NC members, followed by eight from the Congress. Four members who were nominated by the Governor of J&K last year are also linked to the BJP.

“I am confident that in the next Hill Council of Kargil, the BJP will have a full majority,” said Ali.

Not so fast

When it comes to grassroots expansion, BJP’s opponents say the party has rarely found support in the state and village-level elections in Kargil.

Take for instance, Zanskar, the Buddhist town of around 14,000 people which voted overwhelmingly for the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

Opponents say that BJP made “false” promises of making Zanskar a district, and its workers threatened other party candidates who wanted to campaign in the Buddhist town.

In Zanskar, Akhoon, the NC leader, says that two of three BDCs are likely to be won by candidates backed by the NC and Congress respectively, while a “tough fight” is expected for the third.

Ali, on the other hand, was sure that BJP-backed candidates would lead all three BDCs, repeating that that PDP and NC will soon cease to matter in Ladakh.

“It’s only a matter of time,” he said.

Playing second fiddle to Leh

The Modi government’s decision to shift the Ladakh Affairs Department along with its secretary to Leh — essentially making it the administrative headquarters of Ladakh, the UT — has rankled the people of Kargil. 

Bilal Ahmed, the BJP president of Drass, a town in Kargil known as the second coldest inhabited place in the world, is upset at Leh being chosen over Kargil yet again.

“At the very least, the headquarter should be six months in Kargil and six months in Leh,” he said.

Kargil has always felt that even though it has a slightly higher population than Leh, successive Indian governments have always favoured Ladakh’s Buddhist-majority capital.

The past two MPs from BJP—Thupstan Tsewang and Jamyang Tsering Namgyal—are Buddhists from Leh.

The approximately 1,33,000 residents of Leh have a functioning airport which connects them to Delhi, Chandigarh, Mumbai and Srinagar and Jammu, and a road that connects them to Manali in Himachal Pradesh.

All Kargil has is the treacherous Zo Jila pass, located at a staggering 11,673 feet above sea level, which connects its residents to the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley, located around 123 kilometres away from the main town.

That Ladakh should be a UT with no ties to J&K has been a long-standing demand of the Buddhists of the region.

The Shia Muslims of Kargil, who live much closer to Kashmir than Leh, have opposed breaking with J&K.

Not only do they have familial ties and properties in Kashmir, the valley is Kargil’s primary source of basic essentials — from vegetables and meat to medical supplies — until heavy snowfall makes it impossible for vehicles to cross Zo Jila and the pass is closed for almost six months starting in December.

But the Shia Muslims of Kargil, who are an ethnically and linguistically diverse group of Dards, Baltis and Purkhis, have no connection with Kashmir’s separatist movement.

Ali, who feels an deep affinity with Kashmir, said, “How can I say that I don’t have a relation with Kashmir when I have family members who live there, when I have children who study there. But politics and governance from business and family relations.”

Those who oppose the UT status for Ladakh say its political representation—four MLAs (Members of Legislative Assembly), who become ministers in the state cabinet, two MLCs in the upper house, and an MP (Member of Parliament)—will now be reduced to one MP.

They also fear that travel and trade will become harder with two different administrations running in Ladakh and J&K.

Akhoon, the NC leader, says with the centre in charge, the Hill Development Council of Kargil will be rendered a hollow body with no powers.

The former state minister pointed out that a Hill Council with elected representatives existing within a UT was unprecedented.

“I don’t understand what kind of bizarre experiment this is,” he said.

On the other hand, those who support the UT status say having representation in the state Assembly of J&K has made no difference to Ladakh.

Ali, who was nominated by the PDP to become an MLC in 2014, now repeats the BJP’s charge that state leaders lined their own pockets while accomplishing  little for J&K.

“The biggest problem have been the state leaders,” he said. “We would make a plan and send it to the state government, but it would just get stuck because no minister would act on it. Now, at least our project proposals will reach the table of the central government.”

What Kargil wants 

The closest super speciality hospital to Kargil is the SKIMS (full form) medical facility near the volatile town of Soura on the outskirts of Srinagar, around 200km away.

Local says there are only a handful of ambulances which ferry the sick from Kargil to Srinagar, and many people die en route, as it can take hours to cross the Zo Jila pass, especially on days when there is a hold-up caused by accidents and falling rocks.

When the Zo Jila pass is blocked by snow and eventually closed for six months starting in December, locals have no choice but to drive almost 8-10 hours to Leh for treatment.

Lakpa, the BJP councillor from the Buddhist town of Zanskar, say that dirt roads make travel slow and painful.

“If people get really sick, then they are in a lot of trouble,” he said.

Better connectivity to Kashmir and to mainland India is the main demand of the people of Kargil.

The Modi government, Ali said, has allocated almost Rs 7,000 crore to build a 14-km long tunnel from Sonamarg in Kashmir to Drass in Kargil.

The project, however, stalled after the company which was to build the tunnel — ILNFS (Infrastructure Lending And Financial Services Limited) — went bankrupt last year.

“Things are slow but the  process of asking for tenders has started again,” said Ali. “There is also some movement on expanding the (presently defunct) airport in Kargil.”

In addition to the lack of education and health infrastructure, building more schools and hospitals, successive governments have also ignored the apricot farmers of Kargil who, for decades, have been demanding a market for their produce, which is currently restricted to Kashmir.

Ghulam Mohammed, the chief of Hardass village, where almost every family grows apricots, said, “We are far away and isolated, but we are Indian citizens as much as anyone else. It is the duty of the Indian government to care for us.”

The fear of communalising Ladakh

Akhoon, the senior NC leader, said he was concerned about Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) growing presence in Leh, which is the ideological parent of the BJP.

Reports said that following the abrogation of Article 370, the RSS organised a seminar called the “Idea of Bharat” in Leh on 25 August. 

“I think even the Buddhists would be afraid that the RSS would go too far,” he said. “We are very grateful to the Dalai Lama who visits us, treats the Muslim community with respect and makes it a point to call for communal harmony.”

Ali, however, disagrees that BJP is looking to polarise Kargil on religious lines.

“In politics, different communities align with the different parties,” he said. “Earlier, the Muslims in Kargil would vote for NC, while Buddhists were with Congress. Would you say that Congress was doing communal politics in Kargil?”

https://www.huffingtonpost.in/entry/bjp-shia-muslim-kargil-article-370-jammu-and-kashmir_in_5daefc71e4b08cfcc32258b8

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Oil prices, Kashmir to top PM’s agenda during Saudi visit

23 Oct 2019

NEW DELHI : Stability in energy supplies and pricing will be on top of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agenda on his day-long visit to Saudi Arabia on 29 October during which he will participate in an annual investment forum and hold talks with the Saudi leadership, said two people familiar with the development.

This comes in the wake of a drone attack on the Saudi Aramco plant last month and eight months after Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman paid a visit to India in February. National security adviser Ajit Doval visited Riyadh earlier this month to prepare the ground for the prime minister’s visit.

Modi will meet King Salman and the crown prince, who is expected to host a lunch for the prime minister. Before concluding his visit, Modi will address the Future Investment Initiative, regarded as the ‘Davos of the Desert’, an Indian official said. The event, organized by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, is seen as a high-level forum to engage with decision makers in Saudi Arabia and the region. The theme of the event is “What is Next for Global Business."

The visit comes as India seeks to put across its narrative on the scrapping of Article 370 of the Constitution withdrawing the special status to Jammu and Kashmir. Saudi Arabia is seen as wielding considerable influence in the Muslim world. The Saudi monarch is the custodian of two of the Islam’s holiest sites. Riyadh is also seen to have considerable sway over opinion in Pakistan.

Saudi Arabia is seen to have exerted a moderating influence on Pakistan at fora such as the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva when Islamabad had tried to highlight alleged Indian human rights abuses in Kashmir, said one of the two people mentioned above.

Saudi Arabia has for some years now consciously adopted a strategy to engage with India and has been quietly advising Pakistan to refrain from seeking a special session Kashmir, said the person mentioned above.

Full report at:

https://www.livemint.com/politics/news/pm-modi-to-visit-saudi-arabia-during-29-31-october-11571718485427.html

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Zakir Musa's successor among three terrorists killed in Awantipora encounter

Oct 23, 2019

SRINAGAR: The commander of al Qaida-linked Ansar Ghazwat-ul Hind and Zakir Musa's successor, Abdul Hameed Lelhari was one of the three terrorists neutralised by security forces in Awantipora encounter on Tuesday.

Lelhari was named as the new commander of Ghazwat-ul-Hind in June this year after Zakir Musa was gunned down by security forces.

In a briefing, J&K DGP Dilbag Singh confirmed the killing of Musa's successor, adding that, "Lelhari had been active in Awantipora and Pulwama since 2016 and was instrumental in adding others to the group."

The J&K police had earlier said that three Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists were neutralised in the operation carried on Tuesday afternoon in Awantipora.

"Three killed terrorists identified as Naveed Tak, Hamid Lone alias Hamid Lelhari and Junaid Bhat involved in several terror crimes. Arms & ammunition have been recovered. A case has been registered," Jammu and Kashmir police said.

Two of them are suspected to be Pakistani terrorists involved in the killing of two Gujjar brothers on August 29 in the mountainous region of Tral Pulwama.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/zakir-musas-successor-among-three-terrorists-killed-in-awantipora-encounter/articleshow/71716318.cms

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Pak-sponsored terror in Kashmir 'ignored and overlooked' by human right activists: TOI journalist at US Congressional hearing

Oct 23, 2019

WASHINGTON: Senior TOI Journalist from Kashmir Aarti Tikoo on Tuesday outlined the concerns of Pakistani terror victims in Kashmir and asserted that the human rights activist and press across the world have completely overlooked the 30 years of terror in the Valley.

Speaking during the US House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on 'Human Rights in South Asia', she said, "The fundamental point that I am trying to make is the victims in Kashmir are the ones who have been killed and massacred by Pakistani-sponsored terrorists. The number of Kashmiri Muslims who have been killed in Kashmir is immense and they have been victimised by the Pakistani terror state".

"The 30 years of Islamic jihad and terror in Kashmir perpetrated by Pakistan has been completely ignored and overlooked by the world press," she added.

Aarti Tikoo Singh, senior Indian journalist from Kashmir at US House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on 'Human Ri… https://t.co/zfdLbw7Rje

— ANI (@ANI) 1571769361000

Tikoo, during the hearing, stressed that most of what is being written in the western press is "a distorted reality of Kashmir" and the story is often presented without proper context and a historical understanding.

"There are no human rights activist and press in the world which feels it is their moral obligation to talk about victims of Pakistani terror in Kashmir," she continued further.

The journalist also said that the current situation carried "a lot of certitude and righteousness of a narrative that helps the perpetrator and not the victim of human rights abuse in Kashmir."

"The victims of such perpetration are my Kashmiri Muslim friends, including Shujaat Bukhari, a senior journalist and a peace activist who believed in resolving Kashmir through dialogue between India and Pakistan. He went from city to city across the world trying to convince the powerful players that Kashmir needs peace. But on June 14, 2018, he was shot dead right outside his office in Srinagar by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the same terror outfit banned by the United States that also perpetrated the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks," Tikoo added.

"Why did they kill him? Because Shujaat wanted Pakistan to end violence and human rights abuse in Kashmir. They killed him because he wanted peace."

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pak-sponsored-terror-in-kashmir-ignored-and-overlooked-by-human-right-activists-toi-journalist-at-us-congressional-hearing/articleshow/71714515.cms

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Three Jaish terrorists killed in Pulwama encounter

Oct 22, 2019

SRINAGAR: Three Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists — two of them allegedly from Pakistan — were killed in an anti-insurgency operation in Awantipora area of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Tuesday. The slain trio is yet to be identified, police said.

This is the second encounter in the area after the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A on August 5, which paved the way for the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into the Union territories of J&K and Ladakh.

Based on intelligence inputs about the presence of terrorists in Awantipora’s Rajpora area, a joint team of J&K Police, CRPF and Army’s 42 RR launched a cordon-and-search operation and zeroed in on a house where the terrorists were believed to have taken shelter.

“Massive searches were carried out in the area. During the operation, when the forces tried to enter the house, the holed-up terrorists opened fire at the search party, triggering a firefight in which three terrorists were killed,” said a police spokesman.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/three-jaish-terrorists-killed-in-pulwama-encounter/articleshow/71711399.cms

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J&K governor flays Hurriyat for influencing Kashmiri children

Oct 22, 2019

SRINAGAR: J&K governor S P Malik on Tuesday accused Hurriyat and mainstream political parties, besides religious preachers, of using their influence to bring the children of ordinary Kashmiris to the path of terrorism and subsequently get killed.

“The children of Hurriyat and other mainstream leaders are well settled, but the wards of common people are ‘enticed to the way to paradise’ (read terrorism) only to get killed,” Malik said while addressing the seventh convocation of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University at Katra in Jammu.

The governor further said, “Affluent and powerful sections crushed the dreams of the youths in Kashmir and destroyed their lives. People should understand the truth and join the Centre's efforts to usher in peace and progress to the state.”

Meanwhile, reports said Malik’s name would be considered for the post of first lieutenant governor (LG) of the two soon-to-be-created Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh. The new LG is scheduled to be sworn in in the last week of October.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/jk-governor-flays-hurriyat-for-influencing-kashmiri-children/articleshow/71711397.cms

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US lawmakers express concern over human rights situation in Kashmir

October 22, 2019

Influential American lawmakers on Tuesday expressed concern over the situation in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of the special status of the state and said that as the world’s largest democracy India needs to uphold its commitment to human rights.

The lawmakers, including Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, aired their concerns during a Congressional hearing on ‘Human Rights in South Asia: Views from the State Department and the Region’.

India on August 5 abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir state into two Union Territories, triggering a strong reaction from Pakistan, which downgraded its diplomatic ties and expelled the Indian envoy.

“I recognise that the situation is complex. I recognise that Pakistan is not without its share of responsibility,” Jayapal said in her remarks.

kashmir human rights, jammu kashmir special status, article 370 abrogation, US congress kashmir,

However, India as the world’s largest democracy and a critical ally for the US, needs to uphold its commitment to human rights, she said. The first Indian-American lawmaker in the US House of Representatives, Jayapal said she has expressed her concerns over the human rights situation in Kashmir with the Indian government but also publicly and to the media.

Jayapal referred to a report about detention of dozens of children in Kashmir and said detention without charges is unacceptable. She expressed her concerns about religious freedom in India and said that she proposes to bring a bipartisan resolution in the Congress.

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who has been highly critical of India on Kashmir, said partnership with India is strategic but is also based on common values of human rights and democracy. The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP has threatened all these values, she alleged.

Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells disagreed with the characterisation of the Somali-origin lawmaker. The US has a strong and deep relationship with the Modi government, Wells said as she referred to the democratic process adopted by the Indian Government in abrogating Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

Congressman Brad Sherman, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in his opening remarks said that the entire world is focused today on what is happening in Kashmir.

Expressing concerns over the human rights situation in Kashmir, Sharman said that there are severe restrictions on freedom of movement and communications.

Lawmakers Ted Yoho, Abigail Spanberger and Mike Fitzpatrick also expressed concern over the human rights situation in Kashmir and urged India to take steps to lift restrictions on movement of people, communication restrictions and detention of political leaders.

Responding to a question from Sherman about Senator Chris Van Hollen who was barred from travelling to Kashmir, Wells said that so far US government officials have not been able to visit Kashmir to get a first-hand information of the situation on the ground. But it has maintained contact with the government, civil societies and the members of the press, she added.

In response to another question from Sherman, Wells said that the US regards the Line of Control (LoC) as the de-facto line of separation. As such, the US recognises the de-facto administration on both sides of the LoC.

Fitzpatrick said the goal of the US should be to uncover the truth. She also called for a classified hearing on threats from terrorists from Pakistan in Kashmir. Wells said that the situation in Jammu and Laddakh has largely returned to normal, but the situation in Kashmir has been an issue of concern. But over the last seven-eight days situation in Kashmir has improved, she added.

There have been reported case of difficulties on health care issues because of the restrictions on movement and communications. The US is reaching out to engaging a wide section and make a case for a political roadmap in Jammu and Kashmir.

Spanberger, who represents Central Virginia, wanted to know how the US is getting information from Kashmir as she is receiving two conflicting accounts from the state.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/us-lawmakers-express-concern-over-human-rights-situation-in-kashmir-6082737/

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Satya Pal Malik may be Lt Guv of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh Union territories

Oct 23, 2019

The union government is looking for candidates to take over as lieutenant governors (L-Gs) of the Union Territories (UTs) of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and Ladakh, carved out following J&K’s reorganisation that will come into effect on October 31, according to people aware of the developments.

There has been speculation that J&Kgovernor Satya Pal Malik, 73, could preside over both UTs--J&Kand Ladakh--even as the J&K Reorganisation Act provides for separate L-Gs for both UTs.

One of the persons cited above said that Malik is likely to take over as an interim L-G until the Centre names L-Gs for the two UTs. “There has been some discussion on who will be best suited for the position; whether it will be a politician or a former bureaucrat. The final decision will, however, be taken by the Prime Minister’s office in consultation with the [Union] home and defence ministries,” said a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)functionary.

The functionary added there has been no formal communication with Malik in this regard but he has had meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah in New Delhi.

A second person familiar with developments said that Malik has gained some experience in governing J&K since August 2018 when the coalition government of the People’s Democratic Party and the BJP collapsed in the state.

“There is a possibility that for the sake of continuity, he [Malik] could be appointed the L-G. Since the powers of the L-G and the governor are the same, it is a matter of semantics... being appointed as L-G will not be a demotion for him [Malik],” said the second functionary on condition of anonymity.

When asked whether Ladakh will get a separate L-G, the second functionary quoted above said that there is no clarity on the issue. “The Act provides for two L-Gs, but it is possible that one person will be given charge for both,” the second functionary said.

As per the J&K Reorganisation Act, which paved the way for the state’s bifurcation in August, J&K will be a UT like Puducherry, which has a legislative assembly and a council of ministers. All the bills that the J&K assembly will pass will have to be sent to the L-G for consent, according to the Act. The L-G can give his assent to a bill, withhold it or send it for the president’s consideration.

The Centre also effectively revoked the Constitution’s Article 370, which gave J&K a special status, in August besides reorganising the state. Hundreds of people, including former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, were arrested ahead of the change in J&K constitutional status. A lockdown and communications blackout was also imposed to prevent protests against the move. Most of the restrictions have since been eased.

The seat of J&K government will move from Srinagar, the summer capital, to Jammu for the next six months a day after the reorganisation will come into effect. The allocation of police and administrative officials will follow.

“After the reorganisation, the police will be under control of the [Union] home ministry. What also remains to be seen is whether the present set of advisors [to Malik] will be retained or not,” the first functionary quoted above said.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/search-on-for-candidates-for-j-k-ladakh-l-g-posts/story-89QBraODPINUg3AoVB48wL.html

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Army officer, 3 militants killed in Jammu and Kashmir

Oct 23, 2019

An army officer was killed in a gunfight with terrorists who had sneaked into Indian territory after taking cover of firing from the Pakistani side in Rajouri, and two civilians were injured in cross-border shelling on villages along the Line of Control in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday, officials said.

Giving details of the Rajouri incident, a senior Army officer told PTI that a patrol team saw “suspicious movement” near the forward area along LoC in the Kalal belt of Nowshera sector and engaged with the terrorists.

In the ensuing gunfight, a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) of the army was critically injured and later succumbed to his injuries, he said, adding that Pakistani troops also fired at the Indian side in the sector.

The gunfight continued till reports last came in from the area, the officer said.

“Today, a JCO was killed in Nowshera sector,” a defence spokesman said in a brief statement following the fresh ceasefire violation by Pakistan along the LoC in Rajouri district.

Earlier in the day, two civilians, including a woman, were injured in heavy Pakistan shelling along the LoC in Poonch district, officials said. Mortar shelling from across the border started around 1.20 pm, prompting strong retaliation from Indian Army, the officials said.

People in the shelling-hit villages rushed to the safety of their homes and underground bunkers, while the children in some schools falling within the range were escorted to safety by Army and police personnel, the officials said.

The latest cross-border firing came two days after the Indian Army, in a major counter-offensive in retaliation to Pakistan’s unprovoked action, carried out heavy artillery strikes targeting four terror launch pads and several Pakistani military positions in Neelam Valley in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Separately, at least three militants were killed on Tuesday in Pulwama district during a gunfight with the security forces, police said. Incriminating material including arms and ammunition was also recovered.

Officials said that the army, police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) launched a joint operation in the area after receiving specific information about the presence of militants in Rajpora area of the district.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/army-officer-3-militants-killed-in-jammu-and-kashmir/story-IhPVBE49sOCcZq80hJZ9wL.html

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Pakistan

 

'Resignation from assemblies by opposition lawmakers under deliberation,' says Fazlur Rehman

Javed Hussain

October 22, 2019

JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Tuesday said that among the various options being entertained by the opposition in their anti-government 'Azadi March' campaign is the "resignation from assemblies" by opposition lawmakers.

In a press briefing to foreign media outlets, Rehman said that the JUI-F will not follow the "126-day model" of the incumbent government and "will not tire its workers by having them sit indefinitely on some open ground".

"If we are able to reach Islamabad, our action plan will be different and if we are prevented from doing so, it will take a different direction," he said, adding, "It will then take the form of a 'fill the jails' movement."

The JUI-F chief, however, clarified that his party will not clash with any state institution. "Our fight will be carried out within the scope of the limits outlined within the Constitution."

The JUI-F chief remarked that the country's institutions "should remain non-partisan". "No state institution should ever blindly lend their support to the government."

"We do not wish to clash with institutions which is why we call upon them to reject the notion that the government has their backing," he said.

Rehman said that the government had "failed at every level" and saw no option but for fresh elections to put the country back on a democratic path.

Speaking of his anti-government march, the JUI-F chief said: "The 'Azadi March' is neither a sit-in nor a lockdown but a movement which will continue till the incumbent government is brought down."

A majority of opposition parties, including the PML-N and PPP have decided to answer JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman's call to band together and march against the government on October 31.

The opposition had previously refused to come to the table for talks with the government and had voiced a singular demand: the resignation of the prime minister. It had said that no talks can take place before the premier steps down.

In what is being viewed as a softening of JUI-F's stance on the matter, following a meeting of the opposition's Rabar Committee on Monday, it was announced that talks can be considered if the government allows the opposition to hold a "peaceful march" in the capital on October 27.

Today, after an All Parties Conference was held in Islamabad between local leaders of opposition parties, it was clarified that no sit-in will take place that day.

"As in other parts of the country, October 27 will be observed as Kashmir Solidarity and Black Day," JUI-F's Maulana Abdul Majeed Hazarvi said.

The opposition will hold a large demonstration outside the National Press Club, Hazarvi added.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1512307/resignation-from-assemblies-by-opposition-lawmakers-under-deliberation-says-fazlur-rehman

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Sindh information minister slams Centre’s ‘unannounced restrictions’ on the media

Habib Khan Ghori

October 23, 2019

KARACHI: Sindh Information Minister Saeed Ghani on Tuesday condemned what he described as “unannounced restrictions on the media” and attributed the financial crisis being faced by the media to the “failed” policies of the federal government.

Mr Ghani was speaking to journalists at Karachi Press Club in its ‘Meet The Press’ programme.

“Bans are slapped on the media by the federal government so that journalists are not able to expose failures of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government,” he said.

The information minister repeated Sindh government’s stance that Prime Minister Imran Khan was not willing to meet Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah during the former’s visit to Karachi on Monday and that’s why the latter did not turn up to receive him at the airport.

“Whenever the PM is on a visit to Karachi, it is expected that he will discuss issues of Karachi with the CM and his cabinet ministers but this time it seemed that he [PM] does not want to meet the CM,” he said, and argued that unlike in the past, the provincial government was not informed of the PM’s visit.

He contested the claim that CM Shah did not receive the PM at the airport despite having being informed of the visit.

“No doubt there are ideological differences between PPP and PTI but the Constitution has provisions that bind a prime minister and a chief minister to meet and interact,” he said, and regretted that unfortunately they did not meet at any forum during the PM’s visit this time.

“This is just possible they don’t have liking for each other, but they hold Constitutional positions and as such they are under obligation to fulfil their Constitutional responsibilities,” he said.

PTI govt ‘incompetent’

Saeed Ghani also reiterated PPP’s stance that it was the PTI government’s “incompetence” that was pushing the country into crises; people, particularly the lower and middle-class segments, were bearing the brunt of skyrocketing prices, which had made life of common man miserable.

In reply to a question about unavailability of anti-rabies vaccines at government hospitals and resultant loss of life of dog-bite victims, the information minister maintained that the National Institute of Health, Islamabad, which produced the vaccine, did not produce it in adequate number and that’s why the supply fell short of actual requirement. He, however, regretted the loss of lives due to unavailability of the vaccine at certain health facilities in Sindh.

Larkana poll

When asked about PPP’s defeat in the PS-11 Larkana-II re-election, the minister said his party always faced a tough fight in that constituency. He pointed out that PPP this time did well as it bagged a considerably higher number of votes as against the previous elections. However, he remarked, “the GDA [Grand Democratic Alliance] was given a power vaccine to ensure its victory”.

To a question, the minister said that the Local Government Act, 2013 was in force but could be amended. However, he added, the LG election would be conducted on time, ie in August 2020.

In reply to another question, Mr Ghani said the Sindh government would remain in place but [PM] Imran Khan ought to worry about his government’s survival beyond January next.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1512311/sindh-information-minister-slams-centres-unannounced-restrictions-on-the-media

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Kartarpur corridor deal between Pakistan and India to be signed on Oct. 24

SANJAY KUMAR

RAJA RIAZ

October 23, 2019

NEW DELHI, LAHORE: India has postponed signing a deal that will allow Sikhs to visit a holy shrine in neighboring Pakistan without a visa, a Foreign Ministry official in New Delhi was reported as saying.

The Kartarpur Corridor connects the Sikh shrines of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib, in India’s Punjab region, to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Pakistan.

The visa-free border crossing will be inaugurated next month, days ahead of one of Sikhism’s most sacred festivals and the 550th birthday of the religion’s founder.

Media reports said that the signing of the deal had been pushed back by a day to Oct. 24 and that C. L. Das, an official handling internal security at India’s Ministry of Home Affairs, would meet Pakistan officials along the border to sign the agreement.

The corridor is a rare example of cooperation and diplomacy between the two South Asian rivals, who came to the brink of war in February following a suicide attack in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Ties nose-dived further in August when India flooded its portion of the disputed valley with troops, imposed a communications lockdown and revoked the special legal status of the territory.

But finalizing the corridor project has proved tricky.

Earlier this week, India’s External Affairs Ministry said it was disappointed by Pakistan’s decision to levy a $20 service fee per pilgrim.

“It is a matter of disappointment that while understanding has been reached on most of the elements for facilitating the visit of pilgrims from India, Pakistan continue to insist on levying a service fee,” said the ministry. “Government has consistently urged Pakistan that in deference to the wishes of the pilgrims, it should not levy such a fee. While agreeing to sign the agreement, the government of Pakistan has been once again urged to reconsider its insistence to levy service fee on pilgrims. India would be ready to amend the agreement accordingly at any time.”

The connecting bridge at the border was also a significant issue. India favored an elevated bridge but Pakistan was only willing to build an embankment, fearing a possible breach in security.

New Delhi said all the infrastructure was in place in time for the project’s inauguration, which is expected to be attended by former Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh.

Islamabad has also invited Singh to be part of the inaugural ceremony but he has yet to accept. Despite the bumps in the road Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was upbeat about the unveiling.

“Pakistan is all set to open its doors for Sikhs from all across the globe, as the construction work on the Kartarpur project enters final stages and will be open to the public on 9th November 2019,” he posted on Facebook. “World’s largest gurdwara will be visited by Sikhs from across India and other parts of the world.”

Although the opening of the corridor is unlikely to lead to any kind of bilateral engagement or rapprochement between the two nations, Sikhs will be relieved that it is easier to access the shrine in Kartarpur.

The community has long sought easier access to Kartarpur, a village just four kilometers over the border in Pakistan, as it used to demand a lengthy visa and travel process.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1572991/world

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Blast injures at least 5 in Pakistan's Quetta

2019-10-21

ISLAMABAD, Oct. 21 (Xinhua) -- A blast hit a police vehicle in Pakistan's southwestern Quetta city on Monday evening, leaving at least five people injured, including four policemen, said local police.

According to the police in the area, unknown militants detonated explosive material near the police vehicle when it was on its routine patrolling in the Aspani Road area of Quetta, the provincial capital of the country's southwestern Balochistan province. The explosive material was hidden inside a motorbike parked at the roadside, which was triggered by a remote control device, said the police.

Rescue teams, police and security forces had reached the site and shifted the injured to hospital. No group has claimed the attack yet.

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-10/21/c_138491088.htm

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Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law arrested for ‘hate speech’

Oct 22, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law, Captain (retired) Mohammad Safdar, was arrested late on Monday on charges of ‘hate speech’, government officials and opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party confirmed on Tuesday.

The move came after Safdar, a senior PML-N leader, recently alleged that Sharif was being given poison in jail. Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz are already behind bars over alleged corruption and money laundering charges.

Meanwhile, the former PM was shifted to a government hospital in Lahore on Monday after his health started deteriorating in Kot Lakhpat jail. A National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog, team took him to the hospital. Talking to journalists, Dr Mahmood Ayaz, head of a medical board examining Sharif, said that his blood platelet count was lower than normal.

On October 11, police had registered a case against Safdar for speaking against the state institutions, a reference to the military and judiciary, PML-N spokesperson Maryam Aurangzeb said. Earlier in August, police had registered a case against him and 15 others for assaulting police officers in the accountability court. Safdar was accused of allegedly misbehaving and trying to manhandle the police constables.

“First of all, (prime minister) Imran Khan should be arrested for making a series of hate speeches,” the PML-N spokesperson said after Safdar’s arrest. The arrest, according to observers, was the government’s attempt to discourage PML-N’s participation in a planned march of opposition parties on Islamabad, demanding Khan’s resignation.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/nawaz-sharifs-son-in-law-arrested-for-hate-speech/articleshow/71711408.cms

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Pakistan minister warns of nuclear war in a bid to stifle local opposition

Oct 22, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, Pakistan's railways minister, warned political rivals not to oppose the government as, in his opinion, there is a real threat of war with India at this juncture, which he said would inevitable culminate into a nuclear war. The trigger for Ahmed's latest N-salvo was a call by Maulana Fazlur Rehman for a march on Islamabad in a bid to pile pressure on Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign. Ahmed called upon the Maulana, a staunch political rival of Imran Khan and his government, to call off his plans and realize the gravity of the situation along the LoC.

"We should not take the situation lightly by comparing it with the PTI's 2014 sit-in, as no one can predict the next move by India's war-mongering leader (referring to PM Narendra Modi)," the minister reportedly said, adding, "God forbid, a nuclear war could break out if India continues its aggressive designs."

"The armies of both countries are standing eyeball to eyeball along the LoC. A neo-Nazi leader in India is threatening to block the flow of water to Pakistan and make this country into a barren land," Ahmed said. "I have some expectations from the opposition parties in these hard times. The Maulana should call off his march on Islamabad," the minister said.

Ahmed has spoken far more than the country's defence, home, and foreign ministers put together on issues of national security, defence, and foreign policy since India nullified the special status of Jammu & Kashmir on August 5.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-minister-warns-of-nuclear-war-in-a-bid-to-stifle-local-opposition/articleshow/71711396.cms

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Nawaz Sharif's condition deteriorated because he might have been given 'poison': Son

Oct 22, 2019

LAHORE: Pakistan's former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's condition deteriorated because he might have been given 'poison' in the custody of the anti-graft body, his son Hussain Nawaz alleged on Tuesday.

The three-time former prime minister and supreme leader of the PML-N was shifted to the Services Hospital Lahore late on Monday night after his condition deteriorated.

Sharif, 69, is serving a 7-year prison term since December 24, 2018 when the accountability court convicted him in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills case - one of the three corruption cases filed in following the Supreme Court's 2017 order in the Panama Papers scandal.

"My father might have been given poison as his platelets were critically low when he was shifted to hospital," Hussain tweeted from London.

He said the Imran Khan government will have to give answer for not shifting Sharif to hospital on time despite his critically low platelets count - 16,000, as per his fresh medical reports.

"While a substantially reduced platelets count is in itself very serious and potentially life threatening why his father was not shifted to hospital. Will the government explain this?" he asked.

A medical board headed by Dr Ayaz Mahmood on Tuesday examined Sharif at the hospital and transfused platelets to him.

"Sharif's platelets count has increased to 20,000 from 2,000," PML-N leader Attaullah Tarar told PTI. He said doctors said that condition of Sharif is still "serious" and he will remain in hospital till it improves.

According to doctors, normal platelets count ranges between 150,000 and 400,000.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/nawaz-sharifs-condition-deteriorated-because-he-might-have-been-given-poison-son/articleshow/71711375.cms

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JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman says Azadi March neither sit-in nor lockdown

Oct 23 2019

ISLAMABAD: The JUI-F chief, Fazlur Rehman, has demanded that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ‘selected’ government must step down, paving the way for fresh elections.

“This is an illegal government and it should step down immediately. Fresh polls should be announced by dissolving the assembly,” said Fazl while talking to foreign journalists here on Tuesday.

“We are launching a peaceful movement that will continue till the ouster of this government,” he said. The JUI-F-sponsored Azadi March is scheduled to begin on October 27 from different cities across Pakistan.

It will enter Islamabad on October 31. “We are sure of entering Islamabad with at least one million protesters,” said Fazl. Fazl said if they managed to reach Islamabad, their action plan would be follow a certain path.

He added that if they were prevented from doing so, they would take a different direction, and in that case, the march will take the form of 'fill the jails' movement.

The JUI-F chief said his party’s move against the government will be within the constitutional limits. “We are neither staging any sit-in to oust the government nor going to lock down the cities,” he said,

He added: “We will keep changing our strategy to achieve our goal.” Fazl asked the country's institutions to remain non-partisan, adding that no state institution should ever blindly lend its support to the government.

"We do not wish to clash with institutions, which is why we call upon them to reject the notion that the government has their backing," he added.

Fazl claimed to have won the support of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) to oust the PTI government. “All opposition parties are on the same page since we all agree that the last year’s elections were heavily rigged [in favor of the ruling party],” he said.

“We are in touch with all relevant institutions and people from all walks of life to make our protest a success.” Lambasting the government for its performance, he said the economy had nosedived and inflation has broken all previous records in just one year.

“Modern states keep their sovereignty intact through peace and strong economy, but the PTI government has put all of this at stake,” he said.

“Unemployment has increased manifold in the last one year due to poor economic policies, causing significant disappointment among people,” he said while referring to the IMF’s recent reports on Pakistan.

The JUI-F has a large network of religious seminaries across the country which is considered the party’s major support base.

Full report at:

https://www.geo.tv/latest/252311-its-neither-sit-in-nor-lockdown-says-fazl

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PML-N senator criticises PM for ‘describing’ Fazl as ‘Diesel’

By SARDAR SIKANDER SHAHEEN

October 23, 2019

In an unusual development, members of opposition parties in the Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting warned the committee Chairman Faisal Javed on Tuesday of bringing a no-confidence motion against him “for supporting Prime Minster Imran Khan" and staged a walkout from the committee proceedings after accusing the government of ‘banning' media coverage of opposition leaders.

The committee's scheduled meeting chaired by Faisal Javed from the ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) turned tumultuous after the opposition leaders including Pervaiz Rashid from Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Moula Bux Chandio from Pakistan People's Party (PPP) suggested that the PM be summoned to the committee meeting to explain why the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) has ‘banned' the televised coverage of opposition leaders and has not allowed broadcast of the pressers of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman.

Pervaiz Rashid also criticised the PM for calling Fazl ‘Diesel' during his recent speech. “This federal government does not have any information minister. The PM is the minister in-charge of the Information Ministry. In his capacity as the information minister, the PM should be summoned right here and asked why the PEMRA has put an undeclared ban on the coverage of opposition leaders. The PM should also be asked to explain why he made such contemptuous remarks as calling a senior political leader, who heads a political party, ‘Diesel.' We won't accept this kind of insulting attitude towards opposition and that too from none other than the PM himself."

However, Faisal Javed, the committee's chairman, dismissed Rashid's criticism and did not agree to the suggestion to summon the PM to the committee. In a lighter vein, he responded, “I know you are very anxious to see the PM. No wonder he has so many fans everywhere, even in the opposition."

Regarding the PM's ‘Diesel' remarks, the committee chairman said, “The PM said ‘This is the first (National) Assembly functioning without diesel. He did not mention Maulana anywhere in his remarks. If you want to drag the Maulana into this, it's up to you."

The chairman's remarks added fuel to fire as he continued, “By the way, ‘diesel' is Maulana's nickname. If he likes it and has never complained about it then why do you guys have problem with that? What's wrong with that? What's offensive about it? Diesel is just a perfectly normal word. It's not an abusive terminology, phrase or word. Why are you creating fuss about it?"

This infuriated the opposition members who warned Javed that they would move a no-confidence motion against him if he did not mend his ways. “You are behaving like a PTI representative instead of acting like this committee's chairman. You are supporting the PM. You are being his spokesman. We won't tolerate you. If you continue with this kind of biased and partisan attitude, we'll have you removed through a no-confidence motion," Rashid said.

The committee's chairman refused to budge back. “This is the Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting. We are here to discuss relevant matters regarding information and broadcasting. You guys have initiated an unnecessary discussion that ‘PM said this and PM said that."

Moula Bux Chandio asked Chairman PEMRA Saleem Baig why the PEMRA did not initiate action against PM's ‘diesel' remarks. He replied, “We have not received any complaint in this regard. The PEMRA only acts on complaints."

The chairman PEMRA denied that the state-run electronic media regulator has banned media coverage of any opposition leader including Fazl. “There is no ban on media coverage of opposition leaders. They regularly appear on television channels and share their views. Only live coverage is banned due to certain complexities involving the matter," he said.

Full report at:

https://www.brecorder.com/2019/10/23/536854/pml-n-senator-criticises-pm-for-describing-fazl-as-diesel/

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Accountability court rejects Maryam's request to meet Nawaz at hospital

Rana Bilal

October 23, 2019

An accountability court in Lahore on Wednesday rejected PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz's request to be granted an hour to meet her father, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, in the hospital.

The PML-N vice president made the request during court proceedings in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case.

During the proceedings, the court asked the NAB investigation officer, when a reference would be filed in the case, to which he responded that the reference had entered the final stages of preparation and would be filed approval from the NAB chairman.

Accountability court judge Chaudhry Ameer Mohammad Khan extended the judicial remand of Maryam and her cousin, Yousaf Abbas, till October 25.

Read PML-N raises alarm as platelets transfused into ex-PM

On Tuesday, doctors at the Lahore Services Hospital had termed Nawaz's condition as 'serious' despite the transfusion of three mega units of platelets within hours after his admission.

According to the medical tests carried out yesterday, the platelet count of the former premier "dropped from 16,000 to a critical level of 2,000" when he was brought to hospital late on Monday night, prompting the medical board members to go for "immediate transfusion of the platelets to save his life", said one of the board members.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1512467/accountability-court-rejects-maryams-request-to-meet-nawaz-at-hospital

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