New Age Islam
Mon Nov 30 2020, 03:39 PM

Islamic World News ( 13 Sept 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

It’s Flat-Out Stereotyping of Muslims and Arabs, Custom Asks Muslim NJ Mayor Detained at JFK Airport, 'Did You Meet with Terrorists?'







It’s Flat-Out Stereotyping of Muslims and Arabs, Custom Asks Muslim NJ Mayor Detained at JFK Airport, 'Did You Meet with Terrorists?'

It's For India, Pakistan to Find Lasting Solution to Kashmir: Boris Johnson

European Report: ISIS Wives Should be seen as Threats, Not As "Brides

Pakistani PM: India's Kashmir Crackdown Will Spur Global Muslim Extremism

After Decades of Afghan Conflict, Imran Khan Regrets Pakistan's Participating In America's 'War on Terror'

Photo of Ganesh and Muharram Processionists Shaking Hands In Silvassa Goes Viral

Ayodhya Hearing: ‘Babri Masjid Used For Prayers By Muslims Even After 1934 Riots’

Erdogan Adviser Criticizes Saudi Arabia for ‘Favoring Non-Muslims over Turkey’

Saudi Crown Prince Meets With Zionist Christian Delegation In Jeddah

Ethiopia Army Arrests Islamic State Members Recruiting, Arming Locals

Minister: Some Strings Attached To Constitutional Articles Of Religious Freedom

 

North America

It’s Flat-Out Stereotyping of Muslims and Arabs, Custom Asks Muslim NJ Mayor Detained at JFK Airport, 'Did You Meet with Terrorists?'

US Lawmakers Urge Trump to Mediate Between Pakistan And India

US Treasury: Hezbollah receives funding from money laundering, drug trade

Saudi official in 9/11 case to be named: report

US Offers Bounty for Information on Al-Qaida-Affiliated Militants In Syria

Satellite image shows 'ISIS-infested' island bombed by US reduced to smoking craters

Trump says Iranian leadership ‘wants to meet’

Canada: Trudeau may intervene in religious symbol ban

US House committee subpoenas Trump's Afghanistan envoy

Congress summons Zalmay Khalilzad to testify on Taliban negotiations

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Europe

It's For India, Pakistan to Find Lasting Solution to Kashmir: Boris Johnson

European Report: ISIS Wives Should be seen as Threats, Not As "Brides

This Smuggler Claims He'll Move ISIS Members throughout Europe. The Price: $8,000

Muslim Charity Mounts First Legal Challenge Against Schedule 7 Stops

European powers call on Iran to cooperate with UN nuclear watchdog

Taliban visits Moscow days after Trump says talks ‘dead’

Russia, Turkey eyeing fighter jet deal: Kremlin

For 35 years, Swedish musician strums Turkish strings

Turkey's President Erdogan faces challenge from another former ally as Ahmet Davutoglu breaks away

Gibraltar leader undercuts London’s assertion that Iran broke Syrian tanker promise

UN chief selects Nigerian general to lead Syria inquiry

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Pakistan

Pakistani PM: India's Kashmir Crackdown Will Spur Global Muslim Extremism

After Decades of Afghan Conflict, Imran Khan Regrets Pakistan's Participating In America's 'War On Terror'

Pemra Chief Asks Operators In Balochistan To Ensure No Indian Content Is Aired

Article 370: Failing to get support, Pakistan goes from forum to forum

China boosts soft power in Pakistan via social media

Pakistan on way to achieving enduring stability: Bajwa

European Parliament to debate urgent resolution for occupied Kashmir

Do not mistake our ‘ailing’ economy with defense capability, Rasheed tells India

PM Imran to inaugurate Torkham border on Saturday

Won’t let you down, Imran assures Kashmiris

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India

Photo of Ganesh and Muharram Processionists Shaking Hands In Silvassa Goes Viral

Ayodhya Hearing: ‘Babri Masjid Used For Prayers By Muslims Even After 1934 Riots’

Muslim parties in SC: Is Ram Janmasthan God incarnate?

Ayodhya: Supreme Court queries Muslim parties on status of 'birth place' as party to dispute

Last batch that left Kashmir in July for Haj returns to a different state of reality

Ayodhya: SC queries Muslim parties on status of birth place as party to dispute

Curbs eased but Kashmir markets remain shuttered

LoC infiltration may up number of terrorists in hinterland: Lt Gen Dhillon

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Mideast

Erdogan Adviser Criticizes Saudi Arabia for ‘Favoring Non-Muslims over Turkey’

Israel Arabs, Jews weigh voting across community lines

Dozens of Jordanians arrested in Saudi Arabia over sending donations to Gaza Strip: Report

Arab ministers condemn Iran for supporting Houthi terrorism in region

Netanyahu exposes more of Iran’s lies

Couple’s Trek Across Continents Ended in an Iranian Prison

Iran’s properties in Canada sold, proceeds handed to terror victims

Cleric Blames US for Tragic Situation in Yemen

Khalid bin Salman meets Yemeni president, reaffirms Saudi support for legitimacy

Iran condemns Canada’s sale of its assets, warns of consequences

More than 50 Palestinian protesters injured by Israeli forces in Gaza

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Arab World

Saudi Crown Prince Meets With Zionist Christian Delegation In Jeddah

Palestinians praise King Salman’s ‘patriotic position’

Iraqi forces discover IS ammunition cache in western Iraq

Bahrain Convicts 2 Citizens over Transfer of Funds for Terrorist Purposes

Thousands of Terrorists Flee Idlib for Turkey

US says it has evidence Adrian Darya 1 oil transferred to Syria

Drone attacks cause fire at two Saudi Aramco facilities, blaze now under control

Fires engulf Saudi Arabia's oil facilities after drone attacks

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Africa

Ethiopia Army Arrests Islamic State Members Recruiting, Arming Locals

West African leaders hold summit on Sahel anti-terror battle

Libyan Air Force shoots down three Turkish drones in Misrata

Scarred by Libya abuse, migrants hope for new life in Europe

Nigerian military says kills 3 Boko Haran militants in clearance operation

Senior al-Shabab leader surrenders to Somali forces

Tunisia sees 26 candidates for presidential poll on Sunday

Sudan, South Sudan reach agreement for cooperation

Libyan government forces target Haftar-held airbase

Al-Shabaab militants run over another army base

Air Force Attacks Boko Haram Training Facilities In Borno

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Southeast Asia

Minister: Some Strings Attached To Constitutional Articles Of Religious Freedom

Johor religious dept denies alleged abuse in anti-Shiah raid on Monday

Blast at Indonesian police warehouse holding World War Two munitions

‘Shoot, but don’t kill’ corrupt officials, President Duterte tells Filipinos

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South Asia

Special Forces Kill 15 Taliban, ISIS Militants; Destroy Multiple Caches Of Weapons

Afghan forces fully clear 2 districts of Taliban militants in Farah and Takhar

Taliban suicide attack in Kabul kills Afghan troops

Two Rohingya shot dead in Bangladesh

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/it’s-flat-out-stereotyping-of-muslims-and-arabs,-custom-asks-muslim-nj-mayor-detained-at-jfk-airport,--did-you-meet-with-terrorists?-/d/119744

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It’s Flat-Out Stereotyping of Muslims and Arabs, Custom Asks Muslim NJ Mayor Detained at JFK Airport, 'Did You Meet with Terrorists?'

BY JOHN BOWDEN

09/13/19

The mayor of Prospect Park, N.J., said that he was profiled at an airport and questioned due to being Muslim by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents.

Mohamed Khairullah told NorthJersey.com that he was held for hours at JFK International Airport in New York and questioned about his travels overseas and specifically whether he visited any "terrorist cells" or met with any "terrorists."

“It’s flat-out insulting,” Khairullah said. “It’s flat-out stereotyping of Muslims and Arabs.”

“It was definitely a hurtful moment where I’m thinking in my mind that this is not the America that I know,” he continued. “I am very familiar with our laws and Constitution, and everything that was going on there was a violation.”

A CBP spokesperson would not comment on Khairullah's situation to The Hill, but confirmed that some travelers could have their electronic devices temporarily confiscated.

"While we are not at liberty to discuss an individual’s processing due to the Privacy Act, our CBP officers are charged with enforcing not only immigration and customs laws, but they also enforce over 400 laws for 40 other agencies and have stopped thousands of violators of U.S. law," a spokesperson said.

"For a minuscule number of travelers, this inspection may include electronic devices such as computers, disks, drives, tapes, mobile phones and other communication devices, cameras, music and other media players and any other electronic or digital devices. CBP is keeping Americans safe by enforcing our nation’s laws in an increasingly digital world depends on our ability to lawfully inspect all materials—electronic or otherwise—entering the United States," the spokesperson added.

Khairullah told NorthJersey.com that agents told him that his questioning was part of a random stop and also included questions about his past history such as his college studies and his mother's name.

His phone was also taken by agents who later returned it after intervention from an attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a major advocacy group.

CAIR's litigation director Ahmed Mohamed slammed CBP in a statement to NorthJersey.com, accusing the agency of ignoring the need for "reasonable suspicion" to conduct searches.

“CBP believes they can do what they want at the border, but even their own policies say there needs to be reasonable suspicion to do an intrusive search of the phone,” he said.

https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/461319-muslim-nj-mayor-detained-at-jfk-airport-did-you-meet-with-terrorists

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It's For India, Pakistan to Find Lasting Solution to Kashmir: Boris Johnson

Sep 13, 2019

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said stressing that it is for India and Pakistan to find a lasting solution to the Kashmir issue in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people.

Reiterating the UK government's stand on Kashmir, Johnson described both India and Pakistan as "important partners to the UK" in a letter dated September 6 in response to a letter written last month by Conservative Party MP Bob Blackman, who supported India's decision to revoke Article 370 and withdraw the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

"The government's long-standing position remains that it is for India and Pakistan to find a lasting political solution to the situation in Kashmir, in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people," Johnson noted.

He also repeated the UK government stance for "calm and restraint" as he stressed that he remains in regular contact with both Indian and Pakistani governments as Britain continues to monitor the situation in Kashmir closely.

"Both India and Pakistan are important partners to the UK. Our respective bilateral relationships continue to flourish. This is demonstrated by cooperation with both countries on a range of issues, as well as the vibrancy of our people-to-people links bolstered by large and active Indian and Pakistani diaspora here in the UK," Johnson added.

Blackman, the north London MP who has been a long-time supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had issued his letter as part of a tit-for-tat letter spat triggered in the UK in the days after the revocation of Article 370.

"Constitutional changes are an internal matter for India. There is a widely respected convention that we do not interfere in the domestic affairs of a third country, especially a long-standing friend and ally like India," he wrote, calling on the British PM to condemn the Opposition Labour Party for breaking from Britain's long-held position that any matter concerning Kashmir was a "strictly bilateral issue".

The Tory MP accused the opposition MPs of making provocative claims against India which has a long-established tradition of respecting all faiths in his letter, which attracted support on social media from a wide range of BJP supporters.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/its-for-india-pakistan-to-find-lasting-solution-to-kashmir-boris-johnson/articleshow/71117829.cms

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European Report: ISIS Wives Should be Seen as Threats, Not As "Brides

13 September, 2019

A European report issued in Brussels has revealed information on the wives of ISIS militants who have returned from areas that the terrorist group had control over before its collapse.

The study, issued by the Slovakia-based non-governmental group GLOBSEC, said those returning from areas such as ISIS' former "caliphate" should be regarded not as "brides" but as militants capable of active roles in future attacks.

The report warned that there are continuous attempts to convince girls and women in Europe to join ISIS.

It referred to a recent case when a man in France radicalized two Belgian teens and tried to enlist them and convince them to go to Syria.

The study, which looked at data from 326 European militants captured, deported or killed since 2015, found that though women and girls were a tiny minority of so-called "foreign terrorist fighters", many still represented a significant threat.

Out of the 43 female suspects in the study, there were cases of attack planners, active female recruiters, propagandists and what effectively could be called a logistical officer who had sheltered fighters, it said.

It noted an attempt by a female cell to bomb Paris' Notre Dame cathedral three years ago and recent efforts by imprisoned European female ISIS members to launch crowd-funding campaigns.

"It becomes clear that the 40+ women included in the dataset are not mere 'brides', as the role they play in terrorist networks is more sophisticated and demanding," the report said.

https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1900351/european-report-isis-wives-should-be-seen-threats

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Pakistani PM: India's Kashmir Crackdown Will Spur Global Muslim Extremism

September 13, 2019

India's crackdown on protests and dissent in Kashmir will drive more of the world's Muslims into extremism, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said during a fiery speech on Friday, in the part of the disputed territory administered by Pakistan.

India revoked the special status of its portion of Kashmir, known as Jammu and Kashmir, on Aug. 5 and moved to quell unrest by clamping down on communications and freedom of movement. Authorities in Indian Kashmir have arrested nearly 4,000 people since then, government data seen by Reuters showed.

"When atrocities get to their peak, people would prefer that death is better than this insulting life," Khan said at a rally of several thousand people in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Azad Kashmir.

"I want to tell India that, by detaining thousands of people, you are pushing people into extremism," he said.

"People will rise against India, and it is not just about Indian Muslims, there are 1.25 billion Muslims around the world. They all are watching this."

Khan said he would attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week to defend Kashmiris' cause.

He urged people in Azad Kashmir not to approach the Line of Control that separates it from Indian-controlled Kashmir, but to wait for him to press their case in New York.

On Tuesday, Pakistan's foreign minister told the United Nations human rights forum that India's military presence in Kashmir raised the specter of genocide.

The Delhi government has said its abolition of Kashmir's special status, which had allowed it to write many of its own laws, is meant to help to combat terrorism and to boost the region's economic development.

About two-thirds of the population of Jammu and Kashmir is Muslim, while India has an overall Hindu majority.

India rules the heavily populated Kashmir Valley and the Hindu-dominated region around Jammu city, while Pakistan controls a wedge of territory in the west. China holds a thinly populated high-altitude area in the north.

https://www.jpost.com/Breaking-News/Pakistani-PM-Indias-Kashmir-crackdown-will-spur-global-Muslim-extremism-601600

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After decades of Afghan conflict, Imran Khan regrets Pakistan's participating in America's 'War on Terror'

Sep 13, 2019

ISLAMABAD (PAKISTAN): Pakistan should have taken a neutral stance instead of backing America's 'War on Terror' bid against the Soviet rule in Afghanistan, said Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday.

American Marines have been fighting the war against Taliban in Afghanistan since the last two decades.

In an exclusive interview to Russia Today on Thursday, Khan said, "I strongly felt Pakistan should have been neutral because joining these groups turned against us."

"We lost 70,000 people. We lost over a hundred billion dollars to the economy. And in the end we were blamed for the Americans not succeeding in Afghanistan. "I felt it was very unfair on Pakistan," Khan stressed.

His comments seem to be a face-saving measure ahead of the upcoming meeting of the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in October.

The watchdog is expected to submit its final evaluation report on Islamabad's action plan to curb terror financing next month. Last month, the FATF's regional affiliate Asia-Pacific Group (APG) had put Pakistan in the enhanced expedited follow-up list, a category reserved for countries having major deficiencies in their anti-money-laundering and counter-financing of terrorism framework and implementation.

In his interview, Khan further admitted that the terror groups, which were born on the Pakistani soil and funded by America to carry out 'jihad' in Afghanistan, have now turned against Pakistan.

The prime minister stated that taking part in America's war against terrorism has lead to a loss of its own people as well as created a crisis in the economy, the repercussions of which can be felt now as the cash-strapped nation has requested numerous countries and global money lenders for bailout packages to support its plunging credit line.

In a similar admission on Thursday, Pakistan's interior minister Brig (R) Ijaz Ahmed Shah, during a talk show aired on national television, said that his country had spent billions of rupees on proscribed terror outfits operating on Pakistani soil.

Meanwhile, continuing the accusations over Pakistan joining the US-led global campaign against terrorism, the cricketer-turned-politician also said that Islamabad had been training the Mujahedeen fighters, who were "funded by the American CIA" to wage war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s. But as it was the US' turn to invade Afghanistan, "these groups turned against us," he stated.

"Participating in the war... (and I repeat)... I was against it because in 80s we were trading these Mujahedeen people to do jihad against the Soviets when they occupied Afghanistan. So these people were trained by Pakistan funded by the CIA. And now, decades later, the same groups who were all in Pakistan are supposed to say that now it's no longer jihad. It's terrorism. But it is not the case," he stated.

"It was a big contradiction."

"Well you see, had we not participated in the American war after 9/11, we would not have been the world's dangerous country," Khan said while putting a smile on his face," Khan added.

Earlier, during his maiden visit to the United States in July, Khan had made a similar revelation that his country still has about 30,000 to 40,000 militants "who have been trained and fought in some part of Afghanistan or Kashmir."

Khan had also said that before his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government came into power, the governments did not have the "political will" to disarm militant groups operating on their soil.

During a separate event, the Pakistani Prime Minister also said that they had 40 different militant groups operating within its borders.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/after-decades-of-afghan-conflict-imran-khan-regrets-pakistans-participating-in-americas-war-on-terror/articleshow/71107386.cms

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Photo of Ganesh and Muharram processionists shaking hands in Silvassa goes viral

September 14, 2019

The picture of the Tazia and the Gauri immersion processionists shaking hands across opposite sides of a street, that went viral earlier this week, was a scene from Silvassa, a town in the Union Territory of Dadra Nagar Haveli in south Gujarat.

The scene was captured by an onlooker from Shahid Chowk on September 10 when Tazia and Gauri-Ganesh visarjan processions were crossing each other on opposite sides of the road. Youths from both the communities known to each other were seen shaking hands. Gauri Ganesh idols were later immersed in Daman Ganga river, while the Tazia procession ended at Jumma Masjid.

Some local youths had captured this gesture on their phones and posted it on social media.

Muslim community leader Arif Memon, who is also a property dealer said, “It was a picturesque photo which was captured by somebody and shared on social media. I have also shared this photo to my friends on social media. In just a short time period, the photo had gone viral across the country. I was also present on the spot when the incident of shaking hands had taken place.”

Dharmesh Pandya, who runs an NGO Indian Social Progressive Trust in Silvassa, said, “Here in Silvassa, there is a good bonding between Hindus and Muslims and we participate in each other religious festivals. Till now, not a single incident of riots between both the communities have taken place in our area. We have an age-old relationship with people of the Muslim community residing in the town and wish each other on our festivals. If any conflict arises or quarrel takes place between both the communities, we sit together and sort it out and ensure that it does not assume communal colour.”

Vishal Pandey (25), who works as a police constable with Silvassa police station, was posted at Shahid Chowk on duty, for security purpose.

Vishal, who hails from Gazipur district in Uttar Pradesh, had settled down in Silvassa with his parents for the last 19 years. His father works in private firm, while he had been in Silvassa police for the last three years.

Talking to The Indian Express Vishal Pandey said, “l was on my duty at Shahid Chowk, during Tazia and Gauri Ganesh processions on September 10. I spotted Muslims youths carrying Tazia doing handshaking with the Hindus carrying Gauri Ganesh, I found it amazing and it was like a sign of true brotherhood, so I took out my mobile phone and clicked the images of handshaking done by people from both the communities. I shared it on my Facebook, Instagram and also on WhatsApp. The photo had gone viral as many people in Silvassa had kept this photo on their WhatsApp. I also send it to my superior officials in Silvassa and they too liked it and appreciated my act. The purpose of clicking and sharing such a photo is to spread communal harmony and brotherhood in the society. Silvassa has a peaceful atmosphere but nationally, this photo can send a good and effective message.”

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/photo-of-ganesh-and-muharram-processionists-shaking-hands-in-silvassa-goes-viral-5992475/

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Ayodhya hearing: ‘Babri Masjid used for prayers by Muslims even after 1934 riots’

September 14, 2019

The Sunni Central Waqf Board on Friday cited documents to contend that the Babri Masjid existed and was used for prayers by Muslims even after the 1934 communal riots, which damaged a part of it.

Interestingly, the Board, which has questioned the rationale of the belief in the disputed site in Ayodhya as being the birthplace of Ram, stated that the Kaaba in Saudi Arabia’s Mecca was a place of “intrinsic divinity”.

Senior advocate Zafaryab Jilani told a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi that the site plan filed by the Nirmohi Akhara in a case in 1942 was proof that the mosque existed. “This is important to establish that in 1942, they admitted existence of mosque,” he told the bench, also comprising Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer, which is hearing appeals against the September 20, 2010, verdict of the Allahabad High Court.

He drew the court’s attention to records of the Public Works Department about inspection of works at the “Babri Mosque” following the 1934 clashes. Jilani also said the mosque had an Imam who led prayers and a Muezzin who recited Azaan. “From 1934 to 1949, Muslims used the place as a mosque. Otherwise there was no need for Imam,” he said, adding “no document has come on record showing that it was used as a temple during this period”.

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, also appearing for the Board and one of the appellants M Siddiq, opposed Ram’s birthplace ‘Asthan Sri Rama Janma Bhumi’ being a plaintiff in a 1989 suit in the case, saying it could not be considered a juristic person. He said that every sacral area cannot acquire the character of a juristic person, and the concept of a birthplace being treated as a juristic person was “invented in 1989” for the purpose of the suit.

Pointing out that texts like Skanda Purana were being relied on to prove the existence of ‘janmasthan’, he sought to know “what evidentiary value can be given to the proof of belief of Hindus that ‘janmasthan’ existed from time immemorial” for the purpose of treating it as a juristic person.

Intervening, Justice Chandrachud said “the sanctity of the belief has to be from the perspective of that religion” and that “unless its wholly extraneous…. when a belief is held, it has be accepted”.

Justice Bobde asked if there was any occasion before 1989 for anyone to assert that janmasthan was a juristic person.

“You are asking me to respond to an impossibility… If they did not assert from time immemorial to 1989, can they do it in 1989?” Dhavan replied.

“This is an evolving law,” said Justice Bhushan.

Dhavan countered saying: “Everything you worship and say is deserving worship does not have a juristic personality.”

Justice Bobde told him that according to an article he had given to the bench, “an object can be juristic person if it has certain rights or suffers certain liabilities”.

“So the only thing we need to see is can the piece of land have certain rights or suffer certain liabilities”, the judge added.

Dhavan said “that’s not the test. If you have juristic personality, you have these rights and duties” and not vice versa.

Dhavan also touched upon the concept of “swayam bhu”. According to the case of the Hindu side, the idols of Hindu deities had appeared on their own (swayam bhu) inside the dome of the Babri Masjid while the Muslim side claims they were placed there surreptitiously.

Justice Bobde then asked him if the “Kabaa is sculpted or swayam bhu”.

One of the lawyers on Dhavan’s team replied that it was built by the prophet. Dhavan added, “The scientific explanation is it was a meteor.”

The senior counsel said, “Kaaba is recognised because it’s intrinsically divine,” adding that “what people don’t know is that Muslims recognise all the kitabia as going back to Abraham”, who is regarded as the first prophet.

Dhavan also referred to Mount Kailash in China and said “they are there because they are divine”.

UP extends tenure of CBI judge

The UP government informed the Supreme Court that it had extended the tenure of CBI judge S K Yadav, who is hearing the Babri Masjid demolition case.

On July 19, a two-judge bench of Justices R F Nariman and Surya Kant while fixing a nine-month deadline for completion of trial and pronouncement of judgment in the case, in which prominent BJP leaders L K Advani and M M Joshi are among the accused, had asked the state government to extend the tenure of the judge who was due for retirement this month. The court ordered that his tenure be extended till the judgment is delivered.

The direction came after the judge wrote to the court saying that he would need six more months to conclude the matter.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/ayodhya-hearing-babri-masjid-used-for-prayers-by-muslims-even-after-1934-riots-5993830/

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Erdogan adviser criticizes Saudi Arabia for ‘favoring non-Muslims over Turkey’

12 September 2019

A senior adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized Saudi Arabia on Thursday for “favoring the Europeans and non-Muslims” over Turkey and other Muslim countries after the recent visit of the Saudi Arabian foreign minister to Cyprus.

“What does the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia benefit from this visit and establishing this relationship with Southern Cyprus, the Roum (Rum), which Turkey does not recognize?” Yasin Aktay, a senior adviser to Erdogan and the Turkish AK Party, asked during an interview on state-broadcaster TRT Arabi channel.

“Roum” is a term used by Turks to refer to the people and countries of Greek Orthodox Christian origins.

“Saudi Arabia should not have recognized this country but as a Muslim country and as part of the Organization of Islamic Countries, we were waiting and wishing for them to recognize the state of Turkish Cyprus (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus) which is a Muslim country. They take the Europeans, the Roum and the non-Muslims as friends of theirs but are moving away from Muslims. This is surprising,” he added.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf began an official visit to Cyprus on Wednesday where he met with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades. They reviewed bilateral relations, as well as the latest developments at the international level.

Al-Assaf said there’s “high interest” in developing relations “on all fronts” with Cyrpus, given the European Union member country’s geographic location and longstanding ties with the Arab world.

Cypriot Foreign Minister Christodoulides described the visit - the first by a top Saudi official - as historic, noting that the two countries shared a common vision.

According to AFP, Cyprus has been divided on ethnic lines since Turkish troops occupied its northern third in 1974, following a Greek Cypriot coup sponsored by the military junta - then in power in Athens - seeking union with Greece. Turkey continues to maintain a sizeable military presence in the north of the island. Turkey, which has no diplomatic relations with Cyprus, is the only country which recognizes the breakaway state in the north of the island.

Turkey's Aktay also accused Saudi Arabia of “moving away from Muslims.”

“Truthfully, this country is responsible and takes responsibility of being the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, so they should be more keen to protect the interests of the Ummah (Islamic community) and Muslims,” Aktay said. The Kingdom's role as custodian of the Two Holy Mosques includes facilitating the Islamic pilgrimage of Hajj for approximately 2.3 million Muslims from around the world.

Aktay also said that Saudi Arabia should approach solving the problems of the Islamic world with “more rationality” and that Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister al-Assaf’s visit to Cyprus was in conflict with its regional role.

“This visit to the Roum and this challenge to Turkey from this policy is not worthy of the Kingdom to do so. They should take a more rational stance and should realize that Turkey is not an enemy to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Turkey wants to advise her as a true brother and friend to establish justice,” he added.

Aktay previously accused Saudi Arabia and the UAE of “treason” over what he called “normalization” with Israel, despite the Gulf countries having no diplomatic ties with Israel - while Turkey has had diplomatic ties with the state since 1949, with relations booming in the 1990s.

In recent months, Turkey has been criticized for sending several drill ships to waters off Cyprus to explore for oil and gas.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/09/12/Erdogan-adviser-criticizes-Saudi-Arabia-for-favoring-non-Muslims-over-Turkey-.html

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Saudi crown prince meets with Zionist Christian delegation in Jeddah

Sep 13, 2019

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, otherwise known as MbS, has met with an influential pro-Israel delegation of American evangelical Christians in Jeddah.

Photos of the meeting, which was attended by leading American Christian Zionist leaders, including dual US-Israeli national Joel Rosenberg, were published by the Saudi government.

The nine-person delegation of the evangelical Christians also included the Rev. Johnnie Moore, a co-chairman of President Donald Trump's Evangelical Advisory Council; Larry Ross, a former longtime spokesman for one of America's most well-known evangelicals Billy Graham; and Pastor Skip Heitzig, whose Calvary Albuquerque church in New Mexico has more than 15,000 congregants.

A statement later released by the delegation said its members were grateful to have deepening relationships in Saudi Arabia "to talk openly, if sometimes privately, about what we believe must change in the kingdom even as we celebrate the kingdom's progress in so many other areas."

The talks are particularly significant since Riyadh is trying to forge closer ties with an influential electoral base in the US that could be crucial to the 2020 US presidential elections.

The meeting marked the second such visit by American evangelicals, known for their deep-rooted Islamophobia, to the kingdom. The same delegation had met with bin Salman in Riyadh back in November 2018 in line with Saudi Arabia’s growing ties with Tel Aviv.

Many evangelicals in the US support Israel as a core part of their faith.

Bin Salman’s Tuesday meeting with the Zionist delegation was held on the eve of the anniversary of the 2011 attacks which killed nearly 3,000 people and caused about $10 billion worth of property and infrastructure damage.

US officials assert that the attacks were carried out by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Lebanon, but many experts have raised questions about the official account.

They believe that rogue elements within the US government, such as former Vice President Dick Cheney, orchestrated or at least encouraged the 9/11 attacks in order to accelerate the US war machine and advance the Zionist agenda.

On Thursday, US prosecutors announced that the US Justice Department will reveal the name of an individual believed to be connected to the Saudi government and accused of aiding two of the 9/11 hijackers, in response to a long-running lawsuit which seeks to link the Saudi Arabian government with the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The person's identity will remain a closely guarded secret for now, though it will be shared with attorneys representing the families of victims of the attacks who have alleged the government of Saudi Arabia helped to coordinate the terrorists in a lawsuit, CNN reported.

The long-standing lawsuit also revealed sensational details, accusing special Counsel Robert Mueller of helping the Saudis cover up their role in the 9/11 attacks.

Mueller, who was appointed FBI director by former President George W. Bush two months prior to the attack, is accused of obstructing and putting road-blocks in front of his own officers investigating the Saudi connection during the critical few months following the attack.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/09/13/606070/Saudi-bin-salman-zionist-evangelical-delegation-911-attacks

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Ethiopia army arrests Islamic State members recruiting, arming locals

Sep 14, 2019

An Ethiopian army official says members of the Islamic State extremist group have been detained in the East African country.

Berhanu Jula, deputy chief of Ethiopia’s military, told the state-owned Ethiopian News Agency on Wednesday that there is evidence the extremist group “has recruited, trained and armed some Ethiopians.”

He did not say how many were arrested and how.

He said other members of the group still at large are being hunted down and warned that the Islamic State group had tried many times in the past to set up base in Ethiopia.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has recently warned about attempts by the Somalia-based al-Shabab extremists to make inroads into Ethiopia.

Ethiopia’s army has a heavy presence in border areas with Somalia, where al-Shabab mounts regular bomb attacks.

https://www.africanews.com/2019/09/13/ethiopia-army-arrests-islamic-state-members-recruiting-arming-locals/

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Minister: Some strings attached to constitutional articles of religious freedom

13 September 2019

BY JERRY CHOONG

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 13 — The right to religious freedom for some is conditional due to the wording of the Federal Constitution, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mujahid Yusof Rawa said today.

“I want to give my assurance that Articles 3 and 11 are still our parameter in ensuring we do not infringe upon those freedoms and rights,” Mujahid said after officiating the Federal Territory Maal Hijrah celebrations at the Federal Territory Mosque.

Article 3 of the Federal Constitution states that Islam as the religion of Malaysian federation but this does not infringe on other faiths while Article 11 provides that every Malaysian has the right to profess and practise his religion.

However, the latter article has a clause that prohibits the propagation of faiths other than Islam to Muslims.

In Malaysia, only the Sunni denomination and its Shafie school of jurisprudence are considered Islam while others are deemed deviant. This distinction is not codified, however, in the Constitution.

On Monday, raids were conducted on Shiahs at several places in the country as they observed a major festival of their faith.

Mujahid explained that this particular area was subject to the interpretation of Muslim authorities, citing the recent raid by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department on a Shiah event in Gombak last week as an example.

“That falls under the jurisdiction of the state government, and they have their own standard operating procedures (SOP) in certain situations which may be justification when certain actions have to be taken. On our part, we will respect their decision.

“So in upholding constitutional principles, my department has also consulted the Selangor mentri besar during a meeting with the National Council of Islamic Affairs, as we are looking to balance religious freedom and state Islamic departments’ SOPs,” said Mujahid.

When asked about Penang Mufti Datuk Wan Salim Wan Mohd Noor’s recommendation for facts on the Shiah denomination be included in the Islamic Studies subject, Mujahid said the former was commenting on a different aspect of the matter.

“The mufti is looking at things in a more structured and positive manner, so as to prevent misunderstanding from arising between the followers of religion.

“However as with the recent case in Selangor, it will have to depend on the state SOPs, especially when it comes to the question of implementing enforcement. In the long-term, I feel such matters as this ought to be balanced out carefully,” he said.

Yesterday, Education Minister Maszlee Malik said he would meet Wan Salim to discuss his view in the nearest future. The mufti took a more conciliatory approach to the Shiah denomination, saying that education is the key to resolving tensions surrounding the followers of that sect.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/09/13/minister-some-strings-attached-to-constitutional-articles-of-religious-free/1790206

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North America

 

US lawmakers urge Trump to mediate between Pakistan and India

September 14, 2019

WASHINGTON: Key US Senators and Congressmen are now urging President Donald Trump to play a constructive role in helping resolve Kashmir and other underlying disputes between Pakistan and India.

In a letter they sent to President Trump on Thursday afternoon, Senators Chris Van Hollen, Todd Young, Ben Cardin and Lindsay Graham also expressed concern over the human rights situation in Kashmir and urged him to use his influence to get released the people detained after Aug 5, when India annexed the occupied valley.

“We ask that you call upon Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) Modi to fully restore telecommunications and internet services, lift the lockdown and curfew, and release Kashmiris detained pursuant to India’s revocation of Article 370,” they wrote.

In another letter, Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal another American lawmaker asked US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to press India to immediately end the communications blockade in Kashmir and release those who have been detained.

“We write to express our concern regarding the situation in Kashmir, which has grave implications for democracy, human rights and regional stability,” said the four senators in a letter they sent to President Trump.

“While we support your goal of working with the parties to help find a long-term resolution to the status of Kashmir, we write now to urge you to immediately facilitate an end to the current humanitarian crisis there.”

The signatories, who include one of Mr Trump’s close adviser on South Asian affairs, Senator Graham and the Karachi-born Senator Van Hollen, reminded Mr Trump of his July 22 offer to play a mediatory role in easing India-Pakistan tensions over Kashmir and other issues.

“In keeping with your offer of assistance in July, we believe that US engagement with India will be critical in providing relief for the all of the people of Kashmir,” they wrote. “The United States has a vital role to play in facilitating a resolution to this humanitarian crisis, and we urge you to act swiftly.”

Prime Minister Imran Khan also attended the July 22 White House briefing where Mr Trump announced his intention to mediate and had immediately accepted the offer. India, however, rejected the suggestion, announcing that it would never accept external help for resolving its disputes with Pakistan.

The senators noted that on Aug 5, the Indian government “unilaterally revoked Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which afforded autonomy to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.”

They also noted that shortly before revoking Article 370, India deployed tens of thousands of additional troops to the Kashmir Valley, imposed curfews on its residents, and severed communications to the region, including access to the internet and telephones.

“This information blackout has severely limited access to medical services, prevented families from contacting each other, and disrupted the local economy,” the senators wrote.

Referring to press reports that at least 4,000 people have subsequently been detained in Kashmir and held under the Public Safety Act, the US lawmakers noted that this was “a controversial law that allows authorities to imprison someone for up to two years without charge or trial.” Those detained included local politicians, activists, academics and students, they added.

“With each passing day, the situation for the people of Kashmir becomes increasingly difficult,” the senators reminded Mr. Trump while urging him to use influence to bring relief to these people.

“Pakistan must also end its support and safe haven for militant groups operating on its soil – including those targeting India – and refrain from taking any steps that could further destabilise Kashmir,” the senators added.

“Once the urgent humanitarian situation has been addressed, we hope the United States can play a constructive role in helping resolve the underlying disputes between the two nuclear powers, India and Pakistan,” said the four senators while reminding Mr. Trump why he needed to play a more active role in resolving the Kashmir crisis.

Another US Senator Bob Casey said India’s changes to the status of Jammu and Kashmir were a “drastic shift” from decades of precedent and policy which increases the potential for escalated conflict between India and Pakistan, and raises serious concerns about the safety and security of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

“I am committed to promoting democracy, human rights and self-determination for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Accordingly, both India and Pakistan should refrain from incendiary actions that undermine security and human rights in the region,” Mr. Casey said.

“The Trump administration’s failure to appoint a US Ambassador to Pakistan or an Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs has left the United States unprepared and ill-equipped to engage meaningfully to ensure the rights and safety of the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” Mr Casey said.

In another statement, Congressman Eric Swalwell said the strife in Kashmir was not just about India and Pakistan, but about an issue that has worldwide military, economic and moral consequences.

“The United States must show patient diplomacy to de-escalate the rhetoric and ensure these two nuclear powers do not reach a point of no return,” he said.

“This can be progressively achieved beginning with measures such as the immediate restoration of the ability for Kashmiris to communicate with their families and by working toward re-establishment of democratic governance,” Mr. Swalwell said.

In their letter to Secretary Pompeo, Congresswoman Jayapal and Congressman James P McGovern said the international media and independent human rights observers must immediately be allowed into Jammu and Kashmir to investigate reports of abuse.

“We urge you to work across the Administration to press the Indian government to immediately end its communications blackout of Kashmir, expedite the process of reviewing and releasing individuals ‘preventatively’ detained, ensure hospitals have access to life-saving medicines and protect the rights of the Kashmiri people to freedom of assembly and worship,” they wrote.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1505130/us-lawmakers-urge-trump-to-mediate-between-pakistan-and-india

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US Treasury: Hezbollah receives funding from money laundering, drug trade

13 September 2019

The US Treasury on Friday said that Hezbollah receives funding from money laundering and drug trade, adding that the US considers buying Iranian oil as financing terrorism.

The Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing in the United States Department of the Treasury Marshall Billingslea said that the US would continue to put economic pressure on Iran and Hezbollah.

Through political alliances, Hezbollah has been able to impose itself on the Lebanese government, Billingslea said.

The US will impose sanctions on any Iraqi entity that deals with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, he added.

He said that the NATO countries support the US and consider Iran to be a terrorist state.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/09/13/US-Treasury-Hezbollah-receives-funding-from-money-laundering-drug-trade.html

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Saudi official in 9/11 case to be named: report

James Reinl  

13.09.2019

New York

The Trump administration has reportedly agreed to reveal the identity of a Saudi Arabian official who played an organizational role ahead of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strikes on the U.S.

The Wall Street Journal newspaper reported Thursday that the Department of Justice agreed to disclose the name of the individual, threatening a diplomatic rift with a key Middle Eastern ally.

Citing the “exceptional nature of the case,” the FBI said it would identify the Saudi official but rejected calls to release any additional information, answering a request related to a law case, the newspaper reported.

Lawyers for relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks previously asked the government to disclose the name of the individual, which appeared in a document from a 2012 FBI probe into the tragedy.

The individual is believed to be a Saudi official who allegedly assisted two of the hijackers in southern California in the run-up to the hijacking of passenger jets, which shocked the world 18 years ago this week.

The Saudi government has repeatedly denied any connection to the strikes. Some 15 of the 19 attackers were Saudis and al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was from a prominent Saudi family.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/saudi-official-in-9-11-case-to-be-named-report/1582526

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US Offers Bounty for Information on al-Qaida-Affiliated Militants in Syria

By Sirwan Kajjo

September 12, 2019

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice Program is offering a reward of up to $5 million each for information leading to the identification of three leaders of an al-Qaida-affiliated jihadist group in Syria.

The cash bounty lists three prominent leaders of Hurras al-Din militant group, including Faruq al-Suri, Abu ‘Abd al-Karim al-Masri and Sami al-Uraydi.

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Loyal to al-Qaida

All three leaders have been active in al-Qaida for years and remain loyal to its leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, the State Department said in a statement.

Faruq al-Suri, also known as Samir Hijazi and Abu Hammam al-Shami, a Syrian national, is the leader of the jihadist group. According to U.S. officials, he fought in Afghanistan in the 1990s and trained al-Qaida militants in Iraq between 2003 and 2005. This week al-Suri was designated by the U.S. as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.

Abu ‘Abd al-Karim al-Masri, an Egyptian national, is another senior leader of Hurras al-Din. In 2018, al-Masri was a member of the group’s shura council, the group’s highest decision-making body.

The third listed leader is Sami al-Uraydi, also known as Abu Mahmud al-Shami. Al-Uraydi, a Jordanian national, has been a senior sharia official for Hurras al-Din. He previously was involved in terrorist plots against the United States and Israel, according to U.S. officials.

Hurras al-Din

Hurras al-Din emerged in Syria in early 2018 after several factions broke away from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly known as al-Nusra Front) following al-Nusra’s decision to sever ties with al-Qaida.

The group is largely based in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, the last major rebel stronghold in Syria, but has a significant presence in nearby provinces, experts said.

“This is a group that prefers to keep a low profile,” said Sadradeen Kinno, a Syrian researcher who closely follows militant groups in Syria.

“Under al-Qaida’s guidance, Hurras al-Din has been working quietly to build a strong foothold in Idlib and eventually in other Syrian provinces. They are certainly seeking a permanent presence in Syria,” he told VOA.

Kinno added that what distinguishes the Salafist group is “their strong loyalty to al-Qaida leader al-Zawahiri.”

It is unclear how many fighters, a large number of them being foreign and non-Syrian Arab fighter, Hurras al-Din has in Syria, but U.S. officials and experts estimate them be in the thousands.

Hurras al-Din was one of the jihadist groups that rejected a Russian-Turkish agreement that was reached in September 2018. The deal, which averted a major Syrian regime offensive on Idlib and other areas near the Turkish border, stipulates that all extremist groups must be removed from Idlib.

U.S. policy

In late June, U.S. forces carried out an airstrike against a facility that belonged to the group near the northern Syrian province of Aleppo. The airstrike killed at least eight commanders of the group, the U.S. military said.

Last week, the U.S. launched another airstrike against an al-Qaida-held facility in Idlib, without identifying the group’s name.

“U.S. forces conducted a strike against al-Qaida in Syria (AQ-S) leadership at a facility north of Idlib,” U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

“This operation targeted AQ-S leaders responsible for attacks threatening U.S. citizens, our partners, and innocent civilians,” it said.

U.S. officials said that targeting al-Qaida and its affiliates in Syria and elsewhere is a high priority.

“Destroying al-Qaida’s global networks is a top priority for the Trump administration and must be for our allies as well,” Sales of the State Department said.

Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, says Idlib is the manifestation of what the U.S. could ultimately do in other countries, such as Afghanistan.

“In some ways, Idlib province has become a proving ground for a future Afghanistan policy, one in which the U.S. polices against al-Qaida without boots on the ground or direct occupation,” he told VOA.

Full report at:

https://www.voanews.com/extremism-watch/us-offers-bounty-information-al-qaida-affiliated-militants-syria

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Satellite image shows 'ISIS-infested' island bombed by US reduced to smoking craters

Sep 14, 2019

A satellite image taken this week shows the aftermath of a massive U.S. bombing campaign against an “ISIS-infested” island in northern Iraq.

American jets dropped more than 80,000 pounds of laser-guided bombs on Qanus Island on Tuesday. The new image from Planet Labs, Inc., shows smoking craters in decimated areas that were previously covered in green foliage and forest.

The bombing was meant to destroy an area the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group was using for operations in the region, U.S. officials said. Iraqi forces searched and cleared the area following the bombing.

Wim Zwijnenburg, a senior researcher at PAX, a Dutch nongovernmental organization specializing in conflict and the environment, told Fox News that historical images show the island doesn’t have any structures, indicating it’s unlikely there are underground facilities.

Zwijnenburg said the island, on the Tigris River south of Mosul, has been targeted in the past. The nearest U.S. military presence is at Qayyarah Airfield West, about 10 miles away; it's occupied by the U.S.-led coalition battling the terrorist group.

Roughly a dozen terrorists were killed in a previous airstrike on the island, Col. Myles B. Caggins III, spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), told Fox News on Thursday.

A spokesperson for the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) told Business Insider that some 25 ISIS fighters were killed on the island, which they used “like a hotel” when traveling from Syria to Iraq. U.S. officials have also said the island is a “major transit hub” for ISIS fighters in and out of Syria.

U.S. officials said F-15 and F-35 jets dropped the bombs. Caggins said GBU-31 munitions were dropped.

“The coalition applies rigorous standards to our targeting process and takes extraordinary efforts to protect noncombatants,” Caggins said, adding that Iraqi Special Forces inspected and cleared the area following the bombing.

"Follow-on ground clearance operations were conducted by the 2nd Iraqi Special Operations Forces Battalion to dismantle a major transit hub for Daesh [ISIS] members moving from Syria and the Jazeera desert into Mosul, Makhmour and the Kirkuk region," he said.

“This airstrike denied ISIS terrain and hiding areas for smuggling lethal aid and fighters," he added. "The strikes enabled the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service’s ground clearance operation on Qanus Island."

U.S. jets have doubled the number of airstrikes targeting ISIS in the past month, according to new U.S. Air Force strike data. American jets have dropped 28 percent more bombs on the Taliban and an ISIS affiliate in August than they did in the previous month.

In August, 800 bombs were dropped against targets in Afghanistan – the most since November 2018.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., questioned Thursday why an F-35 fighter would be used in this week's attack. “I have real concerns about using a fifth-generation [F-35 stealth] aircraft to strike a bunch of terrorists hiding in the bushes,” he said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Full report at:

https://www.foxnews.com/world/before-after-satellite-image-isis-infested-island-destroyed

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Trump says Iranian leadership ‘wants to meet’

13 September 2019

President Donald Trump on Thursday said he believes that Iran’s leadership wants a meeting, adding to expectations that he is trying to arrange a summit with his Iranian counterpart at the upcoming UN assembly.

“I can tell you that Iran wants to meet,” he told reporters at the White House.

Trump has repeatedly indicated he is ready to meet with President Hassan Rouhani, who is expected to attend the UN General Assembly in New York this month. However, the Iranians have so far not given a positive response.

On Wednesday, Rouhani blasted the Trump administration, which has poured pressure on Iran, saying “the Americans must understand that bellicosity and warmongering don’t work in their favor. Both... must be abandoned.”

Arch-foes Tehran and Washington have been at loggerheads since May last year when Trump unilaterally withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal and began reimposing the punitive measures.

Iran responded by scaling back its commitments to the accord, which gave it the promise of sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/09/13/Trump-says-Iranian-leadership-wants-to-meet-.html

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Canada: Trudeau may intervene in religious symbol ban

Barry Ellsworth  

14.09.2019

Canada

TRENTON, Canada

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday he is ready to intervene in Quebec’s new ban on religious symbols if a current court challenge fails to strike down the law.

“We are not going to close the door on intervening at a later date because I think it would be irresponsible for a federal government to close the door to intervention ever, on a matter that does touch on fundamental freedoms,” Trudeau said during a campaign stop in Quebec.

It is the first time the prime minister has indicated he would consider interceding in the new law that forbids religious symbols such as hijabs, crosses and turbans to be worn by most civil servants while at work. It includes teachers, police and bus drivers.

But with the matter before the courts, Trudeau said it would be “counterproductive” to intervene now.

Trudeau and the governing Liberals must win the Oct. 21 federal election if he is to intervene at all.

The federal party leaders including Trudeau know the law is popular in Quebec where it is hailed as a law that separates religion and state. All parties are hoping to win votes in Quebec.

But polls show that Canadians residing outside the province are against the ban because it is discriminatory.

Critics say it unfairly targets Muslim women. Trudeau said before the law came into effect in June that the government had no business telling people how to dress.

Canadian media reported earlier that two women were denied jobs at daycare education centers when they refused to remove their hijabs on the job.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/canada-trudeau-may-intervene-in-religious-symbol-ban/1583332

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US House committee subpoenas Trump's Afghanistan envoy

Michael Hernandez  

13.09.2019

WASHINGTON

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs has subpoenaed President Donald Trump's top diplomat charged with negotiating with the Taliban the terms of an Afghan peace plan.

Chairman Eliot Engel subpoenaed Zalmay Khalilzad on Thursday after the committee said the State Department repeatedly failed -- in February, April and September -- to respond to requests for briefings from the envoy on the plan.

"For months, we haven’t been able to get answers on the Afghanistan peace plan, and now the President is saying the plan is dead," Engel said in a statement. "I’m fed up with this Administration keeping Congress and the American people in the dark on the peace process and how we’re going to bring this long war to a close.”

Trump declared an end to the talks on Monday following a planned sit-down with the Taliban at the presidential retreat at Camp David over the weekend that he called off after a Taliban attack in Kabul killed a dozen people, including a U.S. service member.

The talks were plotted in secret, and were only made public when Trump outed them on Saturday night by proclaiming that they were cancelled.

Khalilzad has briefed lawmakers only once, and then only before the Republican-controlled Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-house-committee-subpoenas-trumps-afghanistan-envoy/1583180

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Congress summons Zalmay Khalilzad to testify on Taliban negotiations

Sep 13, 2019

The US envoy charged with negotiating with the Taliban has been ordered to testify by the Democratic-led House of Representatives, which complained it had been kept in the dark on the now cancelled peace process.

Representative Eliot Engel, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a subpoena to force Zalmay Khalilzad to appear on September 19.

The legally binding order on Thursday came days after President Donald Trump said diplomacy with the Taliban was "dead" and revealed that he had arranged talks with the Afghan militants at the Camp David presidential retreat but had called them off.

In the committee's first subpoena since the Democrats won back Congress last year, Mr Engel said the Trump administration had stalled for months on legislators' requests to know more about the Taliban talks.

"More than 2,000 American troops have died in Afghanistan, and I'm fed up with this administration keeping Congress and the American people in the dark on the peace process and how we're going to bring this long war to a close," Mr Engel said in a statement.

"We need to hear directly from the administration's point person on Afghanistan to understand how this process went off the rails."

A subpoena from Congress compels an official to appear, although the Trump administration has taken the unusual stance of defying subpoenas, setting up legal battles.

The State Department did not immediately comment on whether Mr Khalilzad intended to comply as ordered.

Mr Khalilzad held nine rounds of talks with the Taliban in Doha, saying little as negotiations went on behind closed doors.

He later said he had reached an agreement in principle with the Taliban in which the United States would pull out troops and the militants would promise to break with Al Qaeda.

Mr Trump has been eager to end America's longest war, launched 18 years ago after the September 11 attacks.

But he accused the Taliban of bad faith for launching an attack in Kabul that killed a US soldier on September 5, just three days before the planned meeting at Camp David.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/the-americas/congress-summons-zalmay-khalilzad-to-testify-on-taliban-negotiations-1.909982

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Europe

 

This smuggler claims he'll move ISIS members throughout Europe. The price: $8,000

September 12, 2019

Athens, Greece — Human smuggling is a big business in Athens and CBS News has found evidence that ISIS members are being moved through Greece to the rest of Europe.

In central Athens, an area around Omonia Square is notorious as a center of criminal activity where human smuggling gangs operate. Filming with a hidden camera, CBS News set up a meeting with Alrayes. He comes from North Africa and runs a smuggling syndicate, moving people from Athens to western Europe for around $8,000 each.

"'From Athens, you go [to] Italy, you arrive there in Italy. I have people will help you with everything. It's very easy," he said.

His usual customers are migrants and refugees. Hundreds of thousands have come to Greece from the Middle East, many making the dangerous crossing by boat. They're dreaming of a better life in western Europe, and Alrayes and other smugglers can get them there.

I posed not as a refugee, but as an ISIS wife, who wanted safe passage to Germany. "No problem," Alrayes said. In fact, he said, he's moved other ISIS members before.

He even bragged that he'd smuggled three brothers of notorious al Qaeda terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a claim CBS News cannot confirm.

The smugglers use stolen identity documents. CBS News went undercover again, this time posing as smugglers, and found criminals with hundreds of them for sale in Athens, including U.S. passports. They try to match their customers with an ID photo they resemble.

Then the smugglers use the stolen documents to fly people from Athens to Spain or Italy, where they claim security is lax. From there, they can travel anywhere in western Europe with no border checks.

The Greek police are targeting human smugglers and have made arrests. But Several members of the ISIS terror cell that carried out attacks in France and Belgium came through Greece. There are fears that criminals like Alrayes have already helped ISIS sleeper cells make their into way to Europe.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/smuggler-claims-he-will-move-isis-members-throughout-europe-2019-09-12/

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Muslim charity mounts first legal challenge against Schedule 7 stops

By Areeb Ullah

11 September 2019

A UK-based Muslim charity has launched a legal challenge against the British government after its aid workers were stopped under controversial counterterrorism laws.

Human Aid UK, a charity that supplies aid to war-torn areas across the Middle East, said its aid workers had been stopped under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act.

The charity said its aid workers, who were en route to the Gaza Strip, had been stopped by the police in July 2019 and had donations for their projects seized by the UK Border Agency during the Schedule 7 stop. 

Schedule 7 allows UK Border Police to stop anyone to determine whether they are involved in planning terrorist acts. The powers do not require officers to have any reason for suspicion. Individuals have to answer questions posed by police during these stops and risk arrest if they refuse to respond.

Nur Choudhury, the chair of Human Aid UK, said his staff members had been repeatedly stopped by the police while going through UK ports. He claimed that aid workers from other Muslim charities had encountered similar treatments.

"Human Aid UK has had staff and volunteers stopped repeatedly under Schedule 7 powers. During these stops, our aid workers are searched, interrogated under terrorism laws and their fingerprints and DNA samples are taken," Choudhury told MEE.

"There seems to be no way to stop this harassment and criminalisation of aid work. One begins to wonder if it is a crime to care for others."

Human Aid has previously had its bank accounts frozen and was investigated by the UK Charity Commission over the course of five years. The report concluded in 2017 that there had been "no misapplication of charity funds" by Human Aid, but according to the charity, the investigation led to "significant financial loss" for the organisation.

Since then, Human Aid said it had worked closely with the Charity Commission as part of its obligations after the report was published, and it continues to be questioned by them over its activities.

"The Charity Commission does important work in ensuring public funds are used for charitable purposes and we continue to cooperate with them. They are there to enable and empower charities," Choudhury added.

"They should not, however, become a tool for intelligence agencies and counterterrorism police to conduct investigations under the radar exploiting the Charity Commission's extensive powers."

'Structural Islamophobia' on UK borders

Schedule 7 has faced intense criticism from rights groups with calls by human rights activists for the powers to be removed. A Cambridge University study from 2014 found that 88 percent of the people it interviewed, who had been stopped under Schedule 7 at a particular airport, were Muslim.

Since 2009, only 30 people have been convicted following Schedule 7 stops, despite authorities stopping 419,000 people on borders across Britain, making the conviction rate 0.007 per cent.

Last month, CAGE UK, a human rights organisation that focuses on helping victims of the so-called 'war on terror', said it had anecdotal evidence that Schedule 7 stops had disproportionately impacted members of the Muslim community.

CAGE's International Director Muhammad Rabbani, who himself has been stopped over 20 times under Schedule 7, said the powers were "not fit for purpose."

“Through our work, we've seen that Schedule 7 discriminates against Muslims, but even more so against Muslim aid workers. It impedes the delivery of life-saving aid and worst still, it can discourage charitable action altogether," Rabbani told MEE.

Full report at:

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/muslim-charity-mounts-first-challenge-against-schedule-7-stop

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European powers call on Iran to cooperate with UN nuclear watchdog

13 September 2019

European powers on Friday called on Iran to cooperate with the UN’s nuclear watchdog the IAEA, after Tehran warned that undue pressure from the US and Israel could jeopardize the agency’s activities in Iran.

In a joint statement, Britain, France, Germany and the EU’s foreign policy chief said they “strongly urge Iran to reverse all activities that are inconsistent with its commitments” under the 2015 deal on its nuclear program and “to cooperate with the IAEA on all relevant matters, including safeguards issues.”

The four European signatories of the 2015 accord on Iran’s nuclear program said they were “deeply concerned” by an IAEA report that showed Iran was installing advanced centrifuges.

Expressing fears that the nuclear deal “further unravels,” they urged Iran “to reverse all activities that are inconsistent with its commitments.”

US President Donald Trump last year pulled out of the deal on curbing Iran’s nuclear program and reimposed crippling economic sanctions, throwing the accord into jeopardy.

European powers led by French President Emmanuel Macron have been scrambling to try to save the accord and to convince Iran, which has begun reneging on some of its nuclear commitments, to abide by the agreement.

Tehran on Wednesday accused the US and Israel of applying “undue pressure” on the IAEA to vet its nuclear program and warned it could be “counterproductive” to its cooperation with the agency.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/09/13/European-powers-call-on-Iran-to-cooperate-with-UN-nuclear-watchdog.html

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Taliban visits Moscow days after Trump says talks ‘dead’

14 September 2019

A negotiating team from the Taliban arrived Friday in Russia, a representative told The Associated Press, just days after US President Donald Trump declared dead a deal with the insurgent group in Afghanistan.

Russian state news agency Tass cited the Taliban’s Qatar-based spokesman Suhail Shaheen as saying the delegation had held consultations with Zamir Kabulov, President Vladimir Putin’s envoy for Afghanistan. The visit was confirmed to the AP by a Taliban official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

The Interfax news agency cited an unidentified Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying the meeting in Russia underlined the necessity of renewing talks between the US and the Taliban, and that the Taliban confirmed their readiness to continuing dialogue with Washington.

It was the Taliban’s first international visit following the collapse of talks with Washington. The team was being led by Mullah Sher Mohammad Stanikzai.

“This is a notable development, as it suggests the Taliban wants to underscore its continued interest in dialogue, even after President Trump pulled the plug on the US-Taliban talks,” said Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the Washington-based Wilson Center. “And how striking that the insurgents have chosen to telegraph a message of conciliation by engaging with Moscow, a key US rival that has made great efforts to deepen ties with the Taliban in recent months.”

In a weekend tweet, Trump had called off negotiations and canceled a meeting he said he wanted to have with Afghan government leaders and the Taliban at the Camp David presidential retreat.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

A lot of Fake News is being reported that I overruled the VP and various advisers on a potential Camp David meeting with the Taliban. This Story is False! I always think it is good to meet and talk, but in this case I decided not to. The Dishonest Media likes to create...

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Shaheen told the Taliban’s official website on Tuesday that the group was still communicating with US negotiators, at least to find out what to do next.

The Taliban shura, or leadership council, opposed its negotiators going to Camp David and admonished those who had accepted US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad’s invitation that was extended at the end of August.

Shaheen was quoted on the website as saying the Camp David visit was delayed, saying the Taliban wanted the agreement signed and witnessed by foreign ministers of several countries, including Russia.

Moscow has been accused of aiding the Taliban as a safeguard against a burgeoning ISIS affiliate that has close ties to the Islamic Movement of Afghanistan, a militant group in Central Asia. Russia has stepped up its defenses in Central Asia and has claimed thousands of ISIS fighters were in northern Afghanistan.

Moscow has twice this year hosted meetings between the Taliban and prominent Afghan personalities.

While Washington has been seeking an exit to its longest war, the Taliban are at their strongest since their ouster in 2001 and hold sway over more than half the country, staging near-daily, deadly attacks across Afghanistan.

Khalilzad’s year-long peace mission has been Washington’s most dedicated push for peace, focusing not just on the Taliban, Afghanistan’s government and prominent Afghan powerbrokers but also on Pakistan and Russia, as well as Iran, which has trained Afghan fighters known as the Fatimayoun Brigade that fought alongside Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in Syria.

Khalilzad has focused his efforts on regional players almost as much as on the Taliban and Afghan government interlocutors.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/09/14/Taliban-visits-Moscow-days-after-Trump-says-talks-dead-.html

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Russia, Turkey eyeing fighter jet deal: Kremlin

Elena Teslova  

13.09.2019

MOSCOW

Russia and Turkey are interested to land a possible deal on fighter jets, Russian Presidential Aide Yury Ushakov said on Friday.

He recalled that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan personally examined latest Russian technologies at the International Aviation and Space Salon MAKS-2019 on Aug. 27, including fifth generation fighter jets Su-57 and 4++ generation fighter jets Su-35.

"These talks relate to an extremely sensitive topic, so it is premature to talk about it now. Many people observed Erdogan's stay in Zhukovsky, what he looked at, what we showed. Both the Turkish side and our side have interest in this," Ushakov told reporters in Moscow, adding that another Russian-Turkish contract on the delivery of the S-400 air defense systems is close to completion.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is heading to Ankara on Monday to attend a trilateral summit on Syria.

Bilateral meetings are also expected on the occasion, Ushakov said, where military cooperation is an agenda for the meeting between Erdogan and Putin.

"At the bilateral meeting, the leaders, in addition to Syria, will discuss some important questions of the implementation of the agreements that were reached in Moscow and cooperation in the military-technical domain," he said.

With Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, Putin will discuss the establishment of an alternative payment to SWIFT. The issue is gaining momentum as Russian oil companies show interest in Iranian oilfield development.

He added that the trilateral summit could pave way for a quadrilateral summit with participation of Turkey, Russia, Germany and France.

Turkey, Russia, and Iran are the guarantor countries that brokered a cease-fire in Syria in December 2016, leading to the Astana, Kazakhstan talks, which are running parallel to the Geneva peace talks.

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on protesters with unexpected ferocity.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/russia-turkey-eyeing-fighter-jet-deal-kremlin/1583162

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For 35 years, Swedish musician strums Turkish strings

Atila Altuntas  

13.09.2019

STOCKHOLM

Proving that music is a universal language, the baglama, a stringed instrument closely linked to Anatolian Turkey, has found one of its fiercest fans in the far-flung Nordic north, in Sweden.

Bengtis Hansson, a huge follower of legendary Turkish minstrel Asik Veysel, has been playing the baglama -- also known as saz -- for some 35 years, inspired by a chance incident when he first heard its distinctive sound coming from a radio.

"I told myself that it was a special sound for me," Hansson, 69, told Anadolu Agency.

Up till that point, he had been a blues aficionado, channeling African-American's music of sadness and hard times through his guitar.

But hearing the baglama steered him in a different direction, and his need to learn the exotic instrument, a conviction cemented when he saw someone playing it in a festival in Stockholm, Sweden’s coastal capital.

Later, Hansson had a chance to come up to the musician and ask him if it was easy to learn to play it.

"He looked me in the face, moved his head, and said, 'Maybe," Hansson recalled.

 ‘A deep peace’

The most common Turkish folk instrument, the baglama has seven strings, a wide, round back, and a long neck. Probably introduced locally with the Turkish settlement of Anatolia in the 11th century, it can be played by hand or with a kind of pick.

Hansson was lucky enough to find a course in playing the baglama in Stockholm, where he learned at the feet of a man named Cengiz Tumer, probably an expatriate Turk.

Hansson said Tumer was quite surprised that a Swedish person was trying to learn the baglama.

Playing the instrument acts like a kind of spiritual balm, said Hansson.

"While playing the baglama, I listen to my soul and find a deep peace," he said.

Hansson said he performs and sings at many festivals and has even composed 10 of his own songs, in a Turkish folk music style called bozlak, typically exploring themes of love and loss.

He praised Asik Veysel, an iconic Turkish poet and musician who was blind most of his life, and died in 1973 after a long and distinguished career.

Calling Veysel a very special minstrel, Hansson said he has translated some of his works into Swedish.

Hansson said Veysel lived and played in a different time, one in which the high-tech recording studios of today were unknown, and musical artistry was more down to earth.

"He was playing the baglama naturally, and as long as I listen to him, I recognize his amazing quality," Hansson added.

Hansson also sang the praises of Neset Ertas, a folk singer from a later generation who died in 2012, calling him a gifted bard with a style somewhat different from Veysel’s.

He said Ertas played joyful pieces as well as sober, more downbeat ones.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/culture/for-35-years-swedish-musician-strums-turkish-strings/1582937

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Turkey's President Erdogan faces challenge from another former ally as Ahmet Davutoglu breaks away

Sep 13, 2019

Former Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Friday he would launch a "new political movement" in the latest challenge to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from his former allies.

Mr Erdogan has seen an increasing number of defections by former allies in recent months, amid disquiet over the party's policies on freedoms, justice and the economy.

Dissent within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has accelerated since a controversial decision to annul an opposition victory in the Istanbul mayoral election in March, only for the opposition to win by an even wider margin in the re-run.

Mr Davutoglu had already signalled his intention to split several months ago when he criticised the handling of the Istanbul poll.

"It is our historical responsibility and duty to the nation ... to set up a new political movement," he told reporters in Ankara on Friday.

Mr Davutoglu was foreign minister before serving as premier and chairman of the AKP, until relations soured with Mr Erdogan in 2016 and he was forced out of office.

"I resign from the party where I have served with great honour, worked for years and given much effort," he said.

His resignation comes before he was pushed out of the AKP.

Earlier this month, the AKP's executive committee unanimously agreed to send Mr Davutoglu to a disciplinary board for dismissal – a move he described as the moment the AKP "renounced its founding values and principles".

Splits within the ruling party are now out in the open and "will continue to weaken the AKP", said Berk Esen of Ankara's Bilkent University.

Another key defector is former economy minister Ali Babacan, who this week told Turkish daily Karar that he would launch his own party by the end of the year.

Mr Babacan was credited with overseeing Turkey's economic boom in the 2000s, having served as both economy minister and deputy prime minister between 2002, when the AKP first came to power, and 2015 when he left the government.

A founding AKP member, Mr Babacan resigned from the party in July, citing the need for a "new vision" for Turkey and "deep differences" over policy.

He said he would not join forces with Mr Davutoglu, however, because their "political priorities, method and tone are different".

Mr Babacan and Mr Davutoglu are now in a race to establish their parties and peel away discontented AKP voters, said Mr Esen.

"Babacan has a higher chance of success than Davutoglu, whose foreign policy agenda after the Arab Spring was discredited," he said .

Mr Davutoglu spearheaded an aggressive strategy as foreign minister, which left Turkey with few friends in the Middle East and a strained relationship with Russia. He was also the face of Turkey's failed attempt to oust Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.

There have been unconfirmed reports that Mr Babacan may ally with former president Abdullah Gul and other senior figures including former justice minister Sadullah Ergin, who resigned from the AKP last month.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/turkey-s-president-erdogan-faces-challenge-from-another-former-ally-as-ahmet-davutoglu-breaks-away-1.909995

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Gibraltar leader undercuts London’s assertion that Iran broke Syrian tanker promise

Shafi Musaddique

Sep 13, 2019

Gibraltar leader Fabian Picardo believes it is difficult to say whether Iran breached international rules by selling the Grace 1 tanker oil to Syria.

“It is difficult to see whose word you’d take for it,” he said on Friday.

“You can see from the images that the oil has ended up in Syria but that’s not to say that there’s a breach of the undertaking (by Iran).”

Mr Picardo, caught in the middle of a spat between British authorities and Iran, said detaining the vessel in August was “the right thing to do” because there was evidence it was going to Syria.

“If we had the assurance (that it was not), we would then have an obligation under the law to also let it go,” he told the BBC.

“We did not have an undertaking that the oil would not end up in Syria. We had an undertaking from the Iranian government that they would not sell the oil to any EU sanctioned entity… not just Syria, even entities, some of them in Iran and subject to EU sanctions,” he said.

Dominic Raab, the British foreign secretary, rebuked the Iranian ambassador in London earlier this week for a breach of Tehran’s undertakings not to proceed with a sale to Syrians under sanctions.

British officials claim Iran gave as many as five separate undertaking that it would not proceed with its original sales plan.

“Iran has shown complete disregard for its own assurances over Adrian Darya 1. This sale of oil to Assad’s brutal regime is part of a pattern of behaviour by the government of Iran designed to disrupt regional security,” he said.

“Iran repeatedly gave assurances to the government of Gibraltar that the Grace 1/Adrian Darya 1 would not deliver oil to any EU-sanctioned entity in Syria or elsewhere.

"It is now clear that Iran has breached these assurances and that the oil has been transferred to Syria and Assad’s murderous regime,” a Foreign Office statement added.

“Iran’s actions represent an unacceptable violation of international norms and the UK will raise the issue at the United Nations later this month.”

When British commandos seized the Iranian tanker, formerly the Grace 1 but subsequently named the Adrian Draya 1, off the coast of Gibraltar, officials were acting on suspicions it was breaking EU sanctions to ship oil to Syria.

The ship was released by the British territory on August 18 after authorities in Gibraltar received written assurances from Iran it would not sell the oil in Syria. The vessel went on to sell the oil there regardless.

“What we’ve heard from the Iranian ambassador is that the national Iranian oil company… did not sell the oil or the vessel to any sanctioned entity,” Mr Picardo said.

While Iran claims to have sold the oil, experts have also cast doubt on Western claims that the cargo has been transferred off the tanker.

In Britain, former Navy chief Adm Lord West and former defence secretary Penny Mordaunt have criticised the handling of the incident involving the British-flagged vessel in June.

Lord West told a commons select committee on defence on Monday that UK actions ahead of the seizure of the Stena Impero had been poor.

“We are responsible. Our Royal Navy, the ships they protect are those that are flagged to the UK,” he said.

Ms Mordaunt indicated her attempts to have the Iranian threat to shipping in the Arabian Gulf addressed by her own government had been ignored. While in office until July, she said she had specifically asked about British nationals aboard ship.

She also expressed specific fears about any mariners who were also military reservists on board vessels passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/gibraltar-leader-undercuts-london-s-assertion-that-iran-broke-syrian-tanker-promise-1.909922

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UN chief selects Nigerian general to lead Syria inquiry

13 September 2019

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has selected a Nigerian general to lead a UN Board of Inquiry to investigate a series of attacks on hospitals in Syria’s last opposition stronghold in the northwest.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric announced Friday that the three-member board, which will start work on Sept. 30, will be led by Lt. Gen. Chikadibia Obiakor and include Janet Lim of Singapore and Maria Santos Pais of Portugal.

Dujarric said the board will ascertain the facts of the attacks and not assess blame. Its findings will not be made public, he said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/09/13/UN-chief-selects-Nigerian-general-to-lead-Syria-inquiry.html

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Pakistan

 

Pemra chief asks operators in Balochistan to ensure no Indian content is aired

Saleem Shahid

September 14, 2019

QUETTA: The Pemra chief has asked a Balochi-language television channel and all cable operators in Balochistan to ensure that no Indian content goes on air.

Saleem Baig, who heads the Pakistan Electronic and Media Regulatory Authority, issued the instructions during a visit to Pemra’s Quetta office on Friday.

He met officials of Wash TV network and a delegation of cable operators.

The cable operators said they had committed themselves to boycotting Indian content and taken steps to ensure that no anti-Pakistan content made its way to television channels.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1505080/pemra-chief-asks-operators-in-balochistan-to-ensure-no-indian-content-is-aired

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Article 370: Failing to get support, Pakistan goes from forum to forum

Sep 14, 2019

UNITED NATIONS: India came down hard on Pakistan on Friday over the country's attempts to raise the Kashmir issue at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) after it had failed to get a hearing at the Security Council+ (UNSC).

Describing Pakistan as the "hub of terrorism", India lambasted its neighbour for raking up the issue at the UNSC, saying that Islamabad has misused the UN forum to spread "baseless and deceitful" narratives about it.

Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan's envoy to the UN, raised the Kashmir issue during a session at the UNGA on Report of the Security Council for 2018 on Friday, and referred to India's August 5 decision to abrogate Article 370 which ended J&K's special status. Lodhi said that India's action was "in flagrant violation of multiple UNSC resolutions". She said that the UNSC must press India to lift the curfew, end the communication blackout and release the detainees.

In his response, Sandeep Kumar Bayyapu, first secretary in the Permanent Mission of India to the UN, lambasted Pakistan's bid "to spread baseless and deceitful narratives about my country".

"The truth is that the delegation represents a geographical space that is now widely known as the hub of terrorism that has jeopardised innocent lives in our region and beyond. We do not wish to dignify such baseless diatribes with a response," he said.

None of this, however, seemed to deter Pakistani PM Imran Khan who on Friday vowed to fight the case of the "oppressed" people of J&K at the upcoming UNGA session in New York and every international forum. "I will take a stand for the rights of Kashmiris in a way nobody has done in the past," he said addressing a gathering in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir's capital Muzaffarabad to show solidarity with the people of Kashmir. He urged people of PoK against advancing towards the Line of Control. "Don't go until I tell you. First, let me go to UN and fight Kashmir's case. I will not disappoint you."

The 74th session of the General Assembly will begin next week and the annual high-level session will begin soon thereafter.

Pakistan fails to get support any support from UNSC

Pakistan's "all-weather friend" China, while holding that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan, placated Islamabad by getting the UN Security Council last month to hold "informal" discussions on the developments in the state.

But Pakistan's effort, through China, to make UNSC issue some statement against India, failed miserably. Among the five Permanent members of the UNSC, the US, Russia, France and UK maintained, individually, that the matter should be discussed bilaterally between India and Pakistan.

Pakistan has even tried to blackmail the world community with threats of war with India and by saying that it would not be able to help in international war against terrorism in Afghanistan.

However, all nations maintained that they would not like to get involved, with most saying that it is India's internal matter and some others saying that any issue over Jammu and Kashmir should be resolved bilaterally by India and Pakistan.

The biggest shocker for Pakistan was the attitude of the Gulf countries and the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), which have not fallen for Pakistan's bait.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/article-370-failing-to-get-support-pakistan-goes-from-forum-to-forum/articleshow/71121417.cms

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China boosts soft power in Pakistan via social media

Sep 13, 2019

ISLAMABAD: In a small office at the Pakistani Television Corporation (PTV) headquarters in Islamabad, producers are preparing to air a video interview of a Pakistani man and his Chinese bride.

The woman in the footage is dressed in traditional Pakistani clothes, sitting next to her husband who addresses her in fluent Mandarin, amplifying a message of trans-national love prevailing over differences in language, religion and culture.

The videos are the latest sign of China's growing push to build up cultural "soft power" to complement the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the $60 billion infrastructure programme it has launched as part of the Asian giant's flagship "Belt and Road" project.

Over the past year, China has sent state-owned PTV and other commercial television channels a series of documentaries, dramas and other television programming for free, officials from PTV told Reuters.

Experts say China has been ramping up attempts to win the hearts and minds of citizens in Belt and Road nations through language, traditional media and social media campaigns, echoing the cultural firepower previously wielded by Western nations, which have leveraged everything from language centres to Hollywood and blue jeans to burnish global influence.

"We have learnt from the experience of the United States, the UK, and other Western countries - but now, it's time for the world to understand China," said Chen Xiang, a correspondent coordinating state-run China Radio International's wide-ranging presence in Pakistan.

"We want to tell the people the truth about China, what real China is … through radio programmes, through TV and through other cultural activities we can do this."

China is boosting its Mandarin teaching through state-backed language and culture organisations called Confucius Institutes – Pakistan is home to four with two more Confucius resource centres set to open – and spreading exposure to its arts and narrative media in a bid to engage everyday Pakistanis.

Earlier this year, PTV World aired its first Chinese cartoon series, titled Three Drops of Blood, following its premier at the government-funded Pakistan National Council of Arts, where the Chinese Embassy rented a large portion of the building to host a China Cultural Centre.

Recent investments in TV and film follow Chinese interest in print media. Launched in 2017, Huashang, the first-ever Chinese language newspaper in Pakistan, now boasts a readership of over 60,000 a week.

With around 25,000 Pakistanis learning Chinese at home and another 22,000 Pakistani students in China, there is some way to go before Mandarin challenges English in Pakistan, where the legacy of British colonial rule is everywhere.

But signs of China's presence are increasingly visible, from expatriate engineers and their families shopping in city centres to a growing number of Chinese tourists visiting the spectacular scenery of Pakistan's rugged mountainous north. Locals report an increasing appetite to engage using shared cultural touchpoints and language – sometimes with business in mind.

Pakistanis embracing China

"China is interested in improving its soft power all across the world, " said Dr Kiran Hassan, Research Associate Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, adding Pakistanis were responding with enthusiasm.

"It's an audience that is ready to receive the Chinese perspective as they feel that China is offering them an economic opportunity."

Awais Chaudhry moved from his home in the eastern city of Faisalabad to study at a Chinese language institute in Lahore for more than six months, hoping it would help his marketing job.

"China is our neighbour and a large number of imports is from there, and so with that business point of view, I tried to learn the basics of this language," he told Reuters.

Everyday cultural contacts, while still limited, are expanding, although there is inevitably sometimes a darker side, notably in the periodic scandals over people-trafficking involving Pakistani girls sent to China to be married to men unable to find a wife at home.

Harder edge

There is a harder edge to some of China's soft power, notably in its response to criticisms of the Belt and Road initiative as a neo-colonial project, promoting environmentally damaging projects such as coal-fired power plants that benefit Chinese companies more than Pakistan.

Media and think tank officials from both nations plan to set up a "Rapid Response Initiative System" to counter negative perceptions and stop "fake news" about China-Pakistan projects, some of which have garnered increasing scepticism of their economic benefits and criticism of the environmental cost.

Run collaboratively by China Economic Net, a Beijing-based online news organisation, and the Pakistan China Institute, a pro-Beijing Islamabad-based think tank, the system disseminates information to counter negative or "fake" views about CPEC and replace it with a message of a profitable alliance.

"We can't take down information, so what we do is give correct information. All media tools are used," says Mustafa Sayed, Executive Director of the Pakistan China Institute, adding that they spread messages via news anchors, newspapers and Twitter.

In August Zhao Lijian, China's then-deputy ambassador to Pakistan, retweeted an article titled 'CPEC is dead. Somebody tell Beijing.'

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/china-boosts-soft-power-in-pakistan-via-social-media/articleshow/71110284.cms

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Pakistan on way to achieving enduring stability: Bajwa

September 14, 2019

QUETTA: Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa has said that Pakistan is going through an evolution process of its journey towards enduring peace and stability with a positive trajectory.

He was speaking to students of Balochistan from various educational institutions after inaugurating the newly established NUST Campus along with Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan here on Friday. In 2017, the army chief had announced the plan to set up the campus, according to a press release issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations.

In the first badge, a total of 550 students will study BE in Civil Engineering and Computer Sciences and MS in Water Resource Engineering Management, Tunneling/Mining Engineering and Computer & Allied Sciences programmes.

The army chief appreciated the talented youth of Balochistan and urged the students to enable themselves for the forthcoming opportunities in different fields.

He said Pakistan was going through an evolution process of its journey towards enduring peace and stability with a positive trajectory. He added that the youth of the country would have to keep on working in the right direction with national cohesion to achieve individual and collective excellence. He emphasised the need for a synergised approach from all segments of society to confront future challenges.

Gen Bajwa also visited the headquarters of Southern Command, where he was informed about progress on projects being undertaken as part of the Khushal Balochistan Programme.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1505086/pakistan-on-way-to-achieving-enduring-stability-bajwa

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European Parliament to debate urgent resolution for occupied Kashmir

Sep 14, 2019

STRASBOURG: The European Parliament will debate the ongoing crisis in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IoK) including the horrible conditions in which residents of the valley have been forced to live after the abrogation of article 370 by Modi-led government. The human rights violation by Indian forces have directed the attention of many foreign countries and they have expressed concerns over the deteriorating conditions in the valley.

A detailed statement on this issue will be delivered by the European Union’s (EU) high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, Federica Mogherini.

Mogherini, who is also the EU Commission’s vice president, would initiate the debate by delivering a statement on Kashmir issue and later the general assembly would debate this issue in length.

Ther Kashmir issue was first debated by the EU’s foreign ministry, the European External Action Service, on September 2 and after that, it was requested that Mogherini should take it to the EP for further debate.

Mogherini, in the debate in EP, would also urge India Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to lift the curfew and lockdown, and form a protocol which would exterminate chances of human rights violations.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/09/13/european-parliament-to-debate-urgent-resolution-for-occupied-kashmir/

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Do not mistake our ‘ailing’ economy with defense capability, Rasheed tells India

Sep 14, 2019

MUZAFFARABAD: Minister for Railways Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed on Friday warned India not to mistake what he dubbed as the ailing economy of Pakistan with the defense capabilities of the country.

Rasheed made the remarks while addressing a press conference in Muzaffarabad where he is expected to join Prime Minister Imran Khan at his rally later today.

Talking to the media, he said Modi was arresting Kashmiri leaders with impunity and had revoked the constitutional autonomy of the occupied valley on Aug 5 with a proper plan.

Rasheed also said that Modi had lost his sanity and time had come for Pakistan to give the aggressor a befitting reply.

The minister reaffirmed the commitment of the government to stand with the people of occupied Kashmir in their time of need, saying the premier would also do the same when he addresses the UN later this month.

Rasheed highlighted the Hindu nationalism of Modi, saying the Indian premier had not nominated a single Muslim to a seat in the Indian parliament during elections.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/09/13/do-not-mistake-our-ailing-economy-with-defense-capability-rashid-tells-india/

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PM Imran to inaugurate Torkham border on Saturday

Sep 14, 2019

PESHAWAR: Prime Minister Imran Khan will inaugurate the border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan at Torkham on Saturday.

The spokesperson of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, Ajmal Wazir Khan, said the opening of the border will promote bilateral trade and economic activities between the countries.

The border has been opened on trial basis for 24 hours since Sept 2.

The countries have increased the number of counters to more than 20 and also deployed additional officials to smoothly continue the trade activities for 24 hours.

A day earlier, hailing the border opening, Chinese ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing said Beijing was ready to build a cold storage and provide other facilities in Torkham area to encourage trade and commerce in the region.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/09/13/pm-imran-to-inaugurate-torkham-border-on-saturday/

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Won’t let you down, Imran assures Kashmiris

Sep 14, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said due to the efforts of his government the Kashmir issue has been internationalised for the first time in 50 years and that he would leave no stone unturned at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session to highlight the Indian atrocities in the region.

The prime minister was addressing a rally in Azad Kashmir to express solidarity with Kashmiri people, who have been under lockdown for over 40 days after India scrapped the state’s special status by abrogating Article 370.

“The European Union, for the first time, said that the Kashmir issue should be resolved as per UN resolutions,” the PM said, adding the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) also urged India should lift curfew in Kashmir.

“More than 40 MPs in Britain raised the Kashmir issue. I am happy that US senators wrote a letter to President Donald Trump and urged him to intervene in the matter.”

PTI

@PTIofficial

A charged crowd & this scenery of AJK. Kashmir is rightly called جنت نظیر#KashmirSolidarityJalsa to formally begin shortly!

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He also urged the international community to play its due role in stopping Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi from using force against Kashmiris, getting the curfew lift, and letting the people of Kashmir decide their fate through a referendum.

Kashmir issue today is a humanitarian problem,” he said, calling out Modi for unleashing a reign of terror in the held Kashmir.

At least 900,000 Indian soldiers are committing atrocities against the people of occupied Kashmir, he said, adding only a coward can commit such violence against fellow human beings.

A brave man can never do this. No matter how much injustice you commit, you will never succeed,” he warned.

What message are you giving to the Muslims of India? That you will live here like second-class citizens, like animals?” he questioned.

You are telling them that you can oppress people in a Muslim-majority region by deploying 900,000 soldiers who blind kids, mistreat women and the elderly?”

1.2 billion Muslims are looking at Kashmir. They will be pushed towards extremism as well. Islam means peace, we are peaceful people. But when you see that your people are being mistreated and the world is quiet, you react,” Imran said, warning a potential rise in extremism across the Islamic world.

Speaking about India’s blame-game in Kashmir, the prime minister said Pakistan was accused of orchestrating Pulwama suicide bombing because India didn’t want to tell the world about its barbaric practices in Kashmir, which are making Kashmiris turn towards extremism.

They blamed us and sent in their jet. Our air force then brought down their plane and captured their pilot. We returned him because we wanted to solve issues through dialogue.”

After we returned the pilot, Indian claimed it was out of fear; however, “believers do not fear death, we did not return the pilot because we are scared of you”.

They have started to [paint this narrative] again that Pakistan is sending militants. I have said this before; we will answer every brick with a stone.”

I urge the international community to stop this Indian Hitler.”

We want this issue to be solved in accordance with UN resolutions. Through a referendum, Kashmiris should have the right to choose whatever they want. We will support the Kashmiris’ choice.”

Addressing the youth of Azad Kashmir while concluding his speech, Prime Minister Imran said: “I know you want to advance towards the Line of Control, but don’t go until I tell you. First, let me go to the United Nations and fight Kashmir’s case.”

The gathering was announced by Imran in a tweet that a “big jalsa” was in order to “send a message to the world about the continuing siege of [Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir] IoJK by Indian Occupation forces; [and] to show the Kashmiris that Pakistan stands resolutely with them”.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at his address said that while residents of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) have access to news and internet, occupied Kashmir was under lockdown and a communications blackout.

He demanded that Indian premier Modi lift the curfew and challenged him to hold a rally like the one being held in Muzaffarabad and address the residents of occupied Kashmir.

The prime minister of Pakistan is addressing AJK people in public in Muzaffarabad. Modi, I challenge you, can you go to Srinagar and address people like this?”AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider thanked the people and government of Pakistan for their support.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/09/13/pm-imran-to-address-rally-in-muzaffarabad-today/

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India

 

Muslim parties in SC: Is Ram Janmasthan God incarnate?

Sep 14, 2019

NEW DELHI: In a strategic move to dilute the joint suit filed by deity Ram Lalla and ‘Ram Janmasthan’ claiming ownership over the disputed 2.77 acre Ayodhya land, Muslim parties on Friday raised doubts over the legitimacy of ‘Ram Janmasthan’ as a juristic person by asking whether Hindus believed it to be an incarnation of God.

The suit filed by ‘next friend’ Devki Nandan Agrawal in 1989 seeking ownership over the disputed land was the only one held to be maintainable by the Allahabad High Court, which had on September 30, 2010, dismissed the other two suits filed by Nirmohi Akhara in 1959 and Sunni Waqf Board in 1961. The HC had divided the disputed land into three equal parts and entrusted one part each to the deity, Akhara and Waqf Board.

Questioning ‘Ram Janmasthan’ figuring as plaintiff number 2 in the 1989 suit before a bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer, senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan said, “When did Ram Janmasthan assume juristic status to file a suit? Prior to 1989, there was not even a whisper about its sacral status, or it being worshipped by Hindus. The idol is separate. What evidence have the Hindu parties furnished to prove that Ram Janmasthan is ‘swayambhoo’ (self-existing)? Except belief there is no evidence.

“If the Supreme Court decides its juristic persona on the basis of belief, then I can file case after case for many other deities seeking a declaration of their juristic status on the basis of belief.” Dhavan said ‘swayambhoo’ status could be given to Amarnath where the ice-lingam appears to be an incarnation of God.

At this juncture, the bench asked whether Kaaba, the most important religious place for Muslims, would be considered a concept of ‘swayambhoo’ and hence a juristic person? Dhavan said Islam recognised many phenomena of Christianity in which Abraham became Ibrahim and Mary became Mariam. “Kaaba is not ‘swayambhoo’. It is believed to be the metaphoric house of God, though Salman Rushdie twisted it in his ‘Satanic Verses’,” he said.

However, he realised the futility of getting drawn into a discussion that was full of pitfalls involving religious sentiments and quickly disengaged himself from it by saying, “Let us not go in that direction to answer the question - whether Ram Janmasthan was ‘swayambhoo’ and had juristic persona.”

He said holy places did not need worshippers to maintain their sacral character. “If tomorrow the Chinese government bars pilgrimage of Hindus to Kailash Mansarovar, it will not diminish its holy character. Likewise, Kaaba is not holy because pilgrims go there. It got its place in Islam because it is intrinsically divine,” he added.

When Dhavan said Ram Janmasthan was not recognised as a sacral place or a juristic person prior to 1989, the bench asked, “Did any occasion arise before 1989 for the plaintiffs to assert its juridical stature?” Dhavan said suits were filed in 1885 and 1941 by Hindu parties but there was never a whisper about juristic persona of Ram Janmasthan.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/muslim-parties-in-sc-is-ram-janmasthan-god-incarnate/articleshow/71120814.cms

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Ayodhya: Supreme Court queries Muslim parties on status of 'birth place' as party to dispute

Sep 13, 2019

NEW DELHI: Muslim parties opposing claims of Hindus over the disputed Ram Janambhoomi-Babri masjid site Friday faced some searching questions from the Supreme Court which asked why the 'janmsthan' or birth place of Lord Ram cannot have legal rights like a "juristic person" to seek title of the property.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was told by senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for Sunni Waqf Board and others including original litigant M Siddiq, that for the first time in 1989, deity 'Ram Lalla Virajman' and the birthplace moved the court as parties to seek claim over the disputed site.

He vehemently opposed the making of 'janmsthan' a party in the lawsuit filed by the deity through next friend Deoki Nandan Agrawal and said "this we did not encounter till 1989".

Dhavan told the bench, also comprising justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer, which was hearing the case on the 23rd day, as to how the piece of land can file the case and can have the status of "juristic person" to sue in a litigation.

He opposed the submissions of Hindu parties that it was their age-old belief, based on 'Skand Puran' and other religious texts, that Lord Ram took birth there.

The bench questioned Dhavan as to how the belief of Hindu worshippers can be challenged with regard to existence of 'janmasthan' and said the "sanctity of belief" that Lord Ram took birth there and whether it was genuine or "frivolous" can only be tested under Hinduism.

"What was discovered in 1989 either the belief that it was the birth place or (the fact that) it (janmsthan) acquired legal sanctity," the bench asked.

"Your argument is that the 'janmsthan' was an area on the earth and it has the juristic personality which was something invented by them (Hindus) first time in 1989. The question is when was the occasion for anybody to assert that 'janmsthan' has the juristic personality," the bench said, adding that earlier there was no occasion for Hindus to say that the birth place has legal rights as a "juristic person".

Dhavan said, "you are asking me to answer the impossible."

Taking note of the fact that idols are "juristic person" having legal rights, the bench asked as to what were those features which rendered this status to idols and deities and they can be used to test the claim that the 'birth place' also can have the same rights as "juristic person".

"What are those essential features in coming to the conclusion that idols are juristic person and only then it can be dealt whether a property also can or cannot have the status of juristic person," it asked.

The bench also asked Dhavan as to whether the land can acquire certain rights and suffer liability.

"If we go by their argument that entire area assumed the character of the deity then no other person will have any right over the property," Dhavan said.

The counsel for deity have argued that rivers, mountains and wells have been prayed by them and "my argument is this is a Vedic practice... you pray to the Sun, but not call it your territory", he said.

On the plea of Hindus that Lord Ram was 'swaymbhu', Dhavan said it meant that the God has manifested himself at a place.

The bench then asked as to whether Kaaba at Mecca was 'swaymbhu'. The lawyer said that it was "intrinsically divine".

Dhavan summed up his response to the lawsuit filed by Nirmohi Akhara, which was granted one-third of the disputed 2.77-acre Ram Jamanbhoomi-Babri land by the Allahabad High Court.

He said Akhara indulged in "trade off" with the next friend of the deity and said it would not challenge the maintainability of the lawsuit of the deity provided its (Akhara's) right as 'shebait' is not opposed.

On the issue of deity's lawsuit being filed by the next friend, Dhavan said it would create "havoc" if the court, instead of 'shebait', allows any person to file the case as a next friend.

"Ours is a country of religious endowments, everywhere. If your Lordships decide on next friend basis without proof, what will the consequence be. The consequence will be that next friends will be suing everywhere. This is a dangerous proposition," he said.

At the outset, senior advocate Zafaryab Jilani, appearing for Muslim parties, referred to documents, testimonies and other records in support of the claim that Muslims were never ousted during 1934 to 1949 and asserted that they have been offering namaz there on other days besides Fridays.

He said post 1934 riots, when some part of the disputed structure was damaged, Muslims were granted permission to access and repairs.

"It cannot be said that that building was being used as anything except mosque," he said.

"This shows that the building was being used as a mosque by Muslims and that is why only Muslims approached authorities regarding damage," he said.

The lawyer also referred to other orders with regard to compensation and repair of the building in 1934 and pointed out that it was on the basis of their application, the compensation was granted and the structure was repaired.

The bench will resume hearing on September 16.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/ayodhya-supreme-court-queries-muslim-parties-on-status-of-birth-place-as-party-to-dispute/articleshow/71116511.cms

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Last batch that left Kashmir in July for Haj returns to a different state of reality

Sep 13, 2019

SRINAGAR: Around 90 men and women draped from head to toe in white clothes — skullcaps, scarves, long shirts, trousers and robes — chatted loudly amongst each other as they walked towards the arrival at Srinagar airport. Family members and relatives waiting for them at the gate rushed to embrace them with tears in their eyes.

The last batch of Haj pilgrims who had left Kashmir late July returned to their homes in the Valley, which remains partially shut even on the 38th day since August 5, when the state’s special status was revoked. Even as private vehicles plied on the roads and Friday prayers echoed from mosque loudspeakers, the main markets and educational institutions in Kashmir remain closed.

“We left from Kashmir on July 29. We got to know about the revocation of Article 370 while we were on the Haj. It was shocking and disturbing. We were very anxious about our families and relatives. We prayed for Kashmir’s peace,” a woman who did not want to be named told TOI.

Another pilgrim, Dr Nisar Hussain Qadri, said the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia was hassle-free and highly satisfactory. “Didn’t face any inconvenience to and fro,” he said. Other pilgrims standing next to him said they were able to communicate with their families on the landline after 27 days.

However, most said that despite the mobile and internet shutdown, the annual Haj pilgrimage, which began on July 4 and ended on Friday, had been smooth. Over 10,800 people from Kashmir went to Mecca this year, Srinagar DC Shahid Iqbal Choudhary said, adding that the state provided the pilgrims transport from the airport.

Interestingly, Saudi Arabia has issued no statement on New Delhi’s revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status in the Indian Constitution. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, (OIC), which in the past used to show sympathy towards Pakistan’s position on Kashmir, has also stayed quiet on the issue this time. In fact, amid the shutdown in Kashmir, the UAE gave Modi its highest civilian award, recognising his efforts to strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries. Saudi Arabia had already honoured Modi by giving him its highest civilian award in 2016.

A deputy superintendent who was not authorised to speak to media told TOI, “People in Kashmir don’t believe anything that Indian nationalistic news channels report. If Indian media shows that Pakistan is weak and the Muslim countries don’t support Pakistan on Kashmir, people here believe just the opposite. And even if they know there is no international support for Kashmir’s freedom from India or Kashmir’s accession with Pakistan, they will protest without any backing. The fact is the lockdown in Kashmir has prevailed due to anger against the revocation of the special status of J&K in the Indian Constitution.”

However, a cab driver in Srinagar, Omer, said the lockdown in Kashmir was only an “optical illusion”. “Except for educational institutions and a handful of main markets, everything is running quietly even if sluggishly. There are night markets selling everything. Some markets open at 6 am.”

Bashir, a hotel staffer, said, “The only people affected by this daytime lockdown voluntarily imposed by people due to the threat of terrorists and separatists, are the poor people. That’s why you will see hawkers even during the day. We don’t know how long this stalemate will continue but it has gotten on our nerves. I haven’t been to my home for a month and there is no way to communicate with the family either.”

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/kashmirs-hajis-return-to-partial-shutdown-in-valley/articleshow/71118894.cms

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Ayodhya: SC queries Muslim parties on status of birth place as party to dispute

September 13, 2019

Muslim parties opposing claims of Hindus over the disputed Ram Janambhoomi-Babri masjid site Friday faced some searching questions from the Supreme Court which asked why the 'janmsthan' or birth place of Lord Ram cannot have legal rights like a "juristic person" to seek title of the property.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was told by senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for Sunni Waqf Board and others including original litigant M Siddiq, that for the first time in 1989, deity 'Ram Lalla Virajman' and the birthplace moved the court as parties to seek claim over the disputed site.

He vehemently opposed the making of 'janmsthan' a party in the lawsuit filed by the deity through next friend Deoki Nandan Agrawal and said "this we did not encounter till 1989".

Dhavan told the bench, also comprising justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer, which was hearing the case on the 23rd day, as to how the piece of land can file the case and can have the status of "juristic person" to sue in a litigation.

He opposed the submissions of Hindu parties that it was their age-old belief, based on 'Skand Puran' and other religious texts, that Lord Ram took birth there.

The bench questioned Dhavan as to how the belief of Hindu worshippers can be challenged with regard to existence of 'janmasthan' and said the "sanctity of belief" that Lord Ram took birth there and whether it was genuine or "frivolous" can only be tested under Hinduism.

"What was discovered in 1989 either the belief that it was the birth place or (the fact that) it (janmsthan) acquired legal sanctity," the bench asked.

"Your argument is that the 'janmsthan' was an area on the earth and it has the juristic personality which was something invented by them (Hindus) first time in 1989. The question is when was the occasion for anybody to assert that 'janmsthan' has the juristic personality," the bench said, adding that earlier there was no occasion for Hindus to say that the birth place has legal rights as a "juristic person".

Dhavan said, "you are asking me to answer the impossible."

Taking note of the fact that idols are "juristic person" having legal rights, the bench asked as to what were those features which rendered this status to idols and deities and they can be used to test the claim that the 'birth place' also can have the same rights as "juristic person".

"What are those essential features in coming to the conclusion that idols are juristic person and only then it can be dealt whether a property also can or cannot have the status of juristic person," it asked.

The bench also asked Dhavan as to whether the land can acquire certain rights and suffer liability.

"If we go by their argument that entire area assumed the character of the deity then no other person will have any right over the property," Dhavan said.

The counsel for deity have argued that rivers, mountains and wells have been prayed by them and "my argument is this is a Vedic practice... you pray to the Sun, but not call it your territory", he said.

On the plea of Hindus that Lord Ram was 'swaymbhu', Dhavan said it meant that the God has manifested himself at a place.

The bench then asked as to whether Kaaba at Mecca was 'swaymbhu'. The lawyer said that it was "intrinsically divine".

Dhavan summed up his response to the lawsuit filed by Nirmohi Akhara, which was granted one-third of the disputed 2.77-acre Ram Jamanbhoomi-Babri land by the Allahabad High Court.

He said Akhara indulged in "trade off" with the next friend of the deity and said it would not challenge the maintainability of the lawsuit of the deity provided its (Akhara's) right as 'shebait' is not opposed.

On the issue of deity's lawsuit being filed by the next friend, Dhavan said it would create "havoc" if the court, instead of 'shebait', allows any person to file the case as a next friend.

"Ours is a country of religious endowments, everywhere. If your Lordships decide on next friend basis without proof, what will the consequence be. The consequence will be that next friends will be suing everywhere. This is a dangerous proposition," he said.

At the outset, senior advocate Zafaryab Jilani, appearing for Muslim parties, referred to documents, testimonies and other records in support of the claim that Muslims were never ousted during 1934 to 1949 and asserted that they have been offering namaz there on other days besides Fridays.

He said post 1934 riots, when some part of the disputed structure was damaged, Muslims were granted permission to access and repairs.

"It cannot be said that that building was being used as anything except mosque," he said.

"This shows that the building was being used as a mosque by Muslims and that is why only Muslims approached authorities regarding damage," he said.

The lawyer also referred to other orders with regard to compensation and repair of the building in 1934 and pointed out that it was on the basis of their application, the compensation was granted and the structure was repaired.

The bench will resume hearing on September 16.

Full report at:

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/ayodhya-sc-muslim-parties-birth-place-dispute-1598960-2019-09-13

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Curbs eased but Kashmir markets remain shuttered

Ashiq Hussain

Sep 14, 2019

Barring a few parts of Old City of Srinagar, restrictions were eased in the rest of the Kashmir Valley though prayers were not allowed in Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid on the sixth consecutive Friday since the Centre revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5.

The city, however, continued to wear a deserted look as people preferred to remain indoors, and the traffic was very thin on the roads. On Thursday, government spokesman Rohit Kansal had said that there were no restrictions in any part of the Kashmir Valley.

However a day later, security forces put barricades and concertina wires on the roads leading to Jamia Masjid in Nawhatta, which was closed owing to the restrictions. This is for the sixth consecutive Friday that prayers were not held in the grand mosque where separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is the chief priest.

“Since we were on a scooter, we managed to avoid the road blocks and reached Jamia Masjid through interior link roads where there was a large number of police and CRPF. The gate of the mosque was also locked,” said Shafiq Ahmad, a resident.

From the Nallah Mar side, the security forces laid concertina wires near Mirwaiz Manzil, the heart of Old City, where the forces were asking residents to show identity cards.

However, some residents said they did not face any such issue. “There were a large number of security forces deployed on the roads but they did not stop me while I travelled through Hawal and then main Downtown before reaching Dalgate,” Amin said.

Superintendent of police, North Srinagar (Old City), Sajad Shah said there were “no restrictions in any part of the Old City except Jamia Masjid area”. “The situation remained normal. Except Jamia Masjid, Friday prayers were offered in all other mosques,” Shah said.

A resident, however, said the restrictions were also enforced in areas surrounding Nawhatta. “I was stopped at Eidgah,” said Irfan Ahmad, a resident of Old City.

Kashmir was put under a lockdown and landline as well as mobile internet services were snapped on August 5 when the Centre revoked the special status to Jammu and Kashmir and the split it into two union territories.

Although restrictions have been mostly relaxed and some 44,000 landlines restored since, mobiles [with around 60 lakh subscribers] and internet services continue to be blocked.

Government spokesperson Rohit Kansal announced Thursday there were no restrictions anywhere across Kashmir and all landlines were functioning. “Restrictions lifted from all areas, traffic movement has increased manifold. Landlines fully functional, mobile phones considerably working in Kupwara and Handwara,” he said.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/curbs-eased-but-kashmir-markets-remain-shuttered/story-pGiZhZA6Jq43CdJHRZxdXJ.html

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LoC infiltration may up number of terrorists in hinterland: Lt Gen Dhillon

by P Vaidyanathan Iyer

September 14, 2019

For Lieutenant General K J S Dhillon, General Officer Commanding, 15 Corps, the current tenure in Jammu and Kashmir is his seventh stint since 1988. A Kashmir veteran, he took charge in the Valley on February 10 this year, just four days before the attack on a CRPF convoy that killed 40 in Pulwama. In an interview to The Indian Express, he says that there has been no cross-Line of Control infiltration as is being rumoured in Gulmarg. “I sleep well in the night,” Lt Gen Dhillon says, when asked what worries him when he goes to bed.

It has been a month since the Centre decided to abrogate Article 370 and bifurcate the state into two Union Territories. What is your assessment as we speak today?

Post-August 5, what is news for us? It is peace and no loss of life, which is what Kashmir needs. There has been wonderful synergy between all segments of administration – security and civilian. The atrocities have been only from terrorists and stone-pelters. Maintenance of normalcy has been the objective all along.

How has this coordination worked? What was the mechanism to tackle day-to-day issues in the Valley?

We hold meetings once in two days, and these last for about two to two-and-a-half hours. Initially, these meetings were chaired by the NSA. Nowadays, these meetings are chaired by Advisor to the Governor. Top officials from the police, paramilitary forces, the Army, and the civilian establishment take part in the meetings and discuss situations in complete detail. Everyone is free to give their views. The meeting would discuss the decisions to be taken over the next 48 hours. Decisions are taken unanimously with very stakeholder included. This way, synergy is maintained.

What about responses to situations which demand sudden and immediate attention?

We do contact each other whenever there is a need.

Many talk about unease below the surface. The calm in the Valley masks the tension and unease. There are instances where you have concerns. For instance, cross-LoC infiltration may lead to increase in the number of terrorists in the hinterland. This can lead to disruption of life of common citizens, and also cause loss to public and private property.

We have looked at the LoC very closely. It is well-covered and taken care of. In the hinterland, there were concerns that the situation can get volatile. These were well visualized and well-coordinated too amongst all stakeholders including civil administration.

Give us an example of some decisions taken by the collective leadership that would have helped local Kashmiris.

There has been considerable focus that we should take decisions that touch people’s lives. The collective leadership gets complete feedback by consolidating aspirations of people. It was brought to our notice that the apple crop is ready, and there was fear if the farmers would lose income because of the situation. Accordingly, the government decided that NAFED and the horticulture department would pick up the apple crop of farmers here itself. The details of this initiative are in public domain.

In spite of rumours that terrorists would obstruct movement of apples, scores of trucks loaded with apples are moved every day. This is done under umbrella security provided by the forces – our dominating presence, regular patrolling and search operations jointly with other forces. And our very presence has ensured that the route, including National Highways, are well covered. An overall feeling of security exists now.

What are the directions that you have received from Army headquarters on handling the situation post August 5?

There are two aspects to this. One relates to conventional operations and LoC-counter infiltration. How to deal with this situation. The other relates to a charter on how to work with security forces and civilian administration to maintain peace and order. Here, the main pillars for the Army are good faith and minimum force. We stick to these two pillars.

Of late, there has been increased rumours of infiltration from Gulmarg.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/loc-infiltration-may-up-number-of-terrorists-in-hinterland-lt-gen-dhillon-5993955/

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Mideast

 

Israel Arabs, Jews weigh voting across community lines

September 14, 2019

SHEFA AMR, ISRAEL: On the outskirts of the Israeli Arab town of Shefa Amr there are no posters advertising the meeting being held at an open-air restaurant deep in an orchard.

Only inside the town do Hebrew- and Arabic-language campaign billboards provide any visible evidence of the looming showdown between supporters and opponents of veteran Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tuesday’s general election.

On this summer evening in the northern Israeli town, candidates of the centrist Blue and White alliance led by former Israeli army chief Benny Gantz are seeking the votes of the Arab minority who make up nearly a fifth of Israel’s population.

In Israel, voting largely follows ethnic lines, with Arabs voting for Arab candidates and Jews supporting the Zionist parties but in this election some are considering casting their ballot across the traditional community lines. In the restaurant, around 300 people are taking their seats as the sun goes down. Sitting near the stage, Jouma Masri is filming the proceedings for a live videocast on social media. He says he intends to vote for Blue and White — the main challenger to Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party — for a second time, following inconclusive April elections which failed to produce a viable government.

He believes that a vote for the predominantly Arab Joint List, which polls see winning around 12 of the 120 seats in Parliament, is a vote wasted in the bid to unseat Netanyahu after more than 10 years in office. “Only Gantz can do it,” he said.

His online video is attracting some negative comments from friends, including “What’s happening with you?” and “The head of Blue and White shed Palestinian blood,” a reference to the 2014 Gaza war when Gantz was Israel’s armed forces chief.

The Blue and White candidates on the stage attack Netanyahu or promise more development funding for Arab communities in Israel, while staying off the subject of the Israel-Palestinian conflict and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.

There is little applause. The audience listens but does not really participate. “I didn’t vote in the previous election,” says Rabab Hajjaj, 26, in a pale pink hijab, matching her floral shirt.

“But I needed to come and hear what they had to say.” “We’ll try, and if it doesn’t work, we’ll send them home!,” says Naame Waleed, 51.

His vote will go “for more equality” between Arabs and Jews. Despite having citizenship, Israel’s 1.8 million or so Arabs report discrimination in areas such as housing, public services and employment. They are descendants of Palestinians who remained on their land after the Israel’s creation in 1948 and they largely support the Palestinian cause.

Many do not vote, but some believe that Netanyahu poses such a threat to the community’s interests that they are ready to set aside their misgivings to vote for his Zionist challenger.

In Tel Aviv, Jewish resident Meron Rapoport thinks that, on the contrary, it is necessary to increase Arab representation in the Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, in order to go “against the antidemocratic current and against apartheid.”

In his city-center apartment he is hosting a small number of voters to meet Ofer Cassif, the sole Jewish candidate standing with the Joint List. Cassif is an MP for the mainly-Arab Hadash party which emerged from the former Communist party and is part of the Joint List. Rapoport says that about 5,000 Jewish voters cast their ballots for Arab parties in the April poll, a tiny number. “The least I can do is vote with the minority to end the occupation and create a Palestinian state,” he says. Speaking to the handful of the curious who have come to hear him out, Cassif defends the Arab-led alliance’s record. “Thirty-eight percent of bills drafted on social issues were submitted by the Joint List,” he said.

Yael Agmon voted for him in April but is uncomfortable with Hadash’s alliance this time with some Arab parties whose beliefs she rejects.

“I am for the left, not nationalists and Islamists,” the pink-haired 21-year old says. “Nevertheless, I shall vote for them again this time, but with less enthusiasm.”

Guli Dolev says voting according to cultural identity is harmful to society. “I am not voting for them because they are Arabs,” he said referring to the Joint List. “I am giving them my vote to shake up the country because in recent years things in Israel have taken a really bad turn.”

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1554226/middle-east

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Dozens of Jordanians arrested in Saudi Arabia over sending donations to Gaza Strip: Report

Sep 13, 2019

Saudi Arabian authorities have reportedly arrested dozens of Jordanian nationals on charges of collecting and sending donations to impoverished Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Mustafa al-Assaf, a spokesman for the Reform parliamentary bloc – which represents the opposition in the parliament, told Arabic-language al-Khaleej Online news website on Thursday that officials in the conservative kingdom have conducted the arrest campaign against 60 Jordanians, despite the fact that they have lived in the country for many years without a criminal record or causing any security concerns.

Earlier, former Jordanian parliamentarian Hind al-Fayez and journalist Helmi al-Asmar had broken the news of Saudi authorities arresting 60 Jordanian citizens, including pilgrims, without charge or trial being leaked.

Fayez said the families of the detainees have been staging protests in front of the Saudi embassy in the Jordanian capital city of Amman to demand the immediate release of their loved ones.

“The Reform parliamentary bloc has followed up the issue of Jordanian detainees in Saudi prisons, and addressed the issue to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates several times, and the response was that it communicates with Saudi authorities,” Assaf said.

He added that arrested Jordanian citizens were collecting donations for people in the Gaza Strip with the knowledge and approval of Saudi officials, and were not doing anything other than that.

On Saturday, the Euro-Mediterranean for Human Rights Monitor, an independent, nonprofit rights organization, announced in a statement that dozens of Palestinians have forcibly disappeared in Saudi Arabia and their fates remain unknown.

The Swiss-based rights group noted that it was unable to give the exact number of the Palestinians who have forcibly disappeared in Saudi Arabia, but said it had the names of some 60 Palestinians who had met that fate.

The Palestinian community in Saudi Arabia believes that the real number of the abductees is far higher.

The Euro-Med said the Palestinians in question — among whom are students, residents, businessmen, and academics — have been completely isolated from the outside world without any indictments against them.

They have not been brought before public prosecution, nor allowed to communicate with their relatives or lawyers, it added.

Over the past two years, Saudi authorities have deported more than 100 Palestinians from the kingdom, mostly on charges of supporting Hamas resistance movement 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, fearing that these funds could be diverted indirectly and through other countries to Hamas.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/09/13/606106/Dozens-of-Jordanians-arrested-in-Saudi-Arabia-over-sending-donations-to-Gaza-Strip-Report

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Arab ministers condemn Iran for supporting Houthi terrorism in region

Sep. 12, 2019

CAIRO – 12 September 2019: The Arab ministerial committee, made up of ministers from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt, has condemned Iran’s support for the Houthi militia in targeting Saudi Arabia with ballistic missiles.

A statement by the committee condemned the ongoing support by Tehran for terrorism in the Arab region and its violation of the Security Council resolution no. 2216 (2015), which requires militia to be disarmed.

The committee also reiterated the importance of opposing Iranian attempts to threaten the security of the region’s energy supplies, as well as maritime installations in the Arabian Gulf and other shipping lanes.

The comments come as the Arab coalition intercept yet another Houthi drone fired towards Saudi airspace.

Coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said the drone was targeting civilian areas in Saudi Arabia’s Najran.

Al-Maliki announced earlier this week that Iranian-backed Houthi militias fired a ballistic missile from Amran province on Friday afternoon but the missile fell in the Yemeni territory of Saada.

Full report at:

https://www.egypttoday.com/Article/2/74710/Arab-ministers-condemn-Iran-for-supporting-Houthi-terrorism-in-region

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Netanyahu exposes more of Iran’s lies

September 12, 2019

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week offered fresh reason why the Iran nuclear deal was never good enough — namely, new proof that Tehran has been cheating on its nuclear promises for years.

Specifically, Bibi revealed the existence of a secret nuke-research site that Iran never revealed, even after it promised to suspend its nuclear program in the 2015 accord.

The photos show major activity at the site in the early 2000s — and then, more recently, the same cluster of buildings reduced to rubble. “This is the site after they understood that we were on to them,” Netanyahu explained.

Info on the facility was contained in an archive of Iranian nuclear activities that Israeli agents captured in January 2018, an intelligence coup that Israel made public that May. At which point, Bibi noted, “They tried to destroy the evidence.”

His message to the “tyrants of Tehran”: “Israel knows what you’re doing … and will continue to expose your lies.”

His message to the rest of the world: Iran’s “consistent pattern of lies, deception and violations” about its nuclear weapons program is ample reason “to join President Trump’s sanctions to exert more pressure on Iran. The only way to stop Iran’s march to the bomb ... is pressure, pressure and more pressure.”

Critics painted Netanyahu’s announcement as a ploy heading into next week’s Israeli elections. In fact, it was an answer to Iran’s ongoing efforts to restore its privileges under the nuke deal: Just days earlier, for example, its foreign minister threatened to resume research that Tehran (supposedly) had suspended under the agreement.

Full report at:

https://nypost.com/2019/09/12/netanyahu-exposes-more-of-irans-lies/

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Couple’s Trek Across Continents Ended in an Iranian Prison

By Megan Specia

Sept. 12, 2019

LONDON — In 2017, Jolie King and Mark Firkin hit the road in a white Toyota Land Cruiser, beginning a journey that over the next two years would take them from their home in Perth, Australia, across large stretches of Asia as they meandered toward Europe. Photos and videos posted on social media accounts documenting their adventure show the pair swimming in the turquoise waters of Bali, trekking to Everest base camp and driving through the valleys of Pakistan surrounded by snow-capped peaks.

Then, at the end of June, their posts suddenly stopped.

On Thursday, officials confirmed that the couple were among three Australian citizens detained in Iran for the past 10 weeks. Rights groups have expressed concerns that they may have been tortured, and a fellow prisoner’s husband reported that Ms. King had been held for weeks in solitary confinement.

It is unclear why the pair were detained, and the Iranian authorities have not responded to requests for comment about Ms. King and Mr. Firkin. Pouria Zeraati, a prominent Iranian journalist, said the pair had been detained after flying a drone near Tehran without a permit.

Their arrest came at a time of rising animosity between Tehran and the West. Since the United States withdrew from a landmark 2015 deal offering Iran incentives to restrict its nuclear development, and reimposed damaging sanctions, the two sides have exchanged a series of provocations and Iran has repeatedly detained tankers in the Persian Gulf, a crucial region for the transport of global oil supplies.

In an effort to protect shipping in the region, the United States has formed a military coalition, which Australia joined last month.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that it was providing consular assistance to the families of all three Australians detained in Iran, and released a statement from the families of Ms. King and Mr. Firkin.

“Our families hope to see Mark and Jolie safely home as soon as possible,” they said, offering no further comment and asking for privacy.

Ms. King is a dual citizen of Australia and Britain. The Times of London, which first reported the detentions on Wednesday, said that a British-Australian academic had also been detained in Iran, though it did not disclose her name.

The British Foreign Office declined to speak about individual cases, but noted in a statement that Dominic Raab, Britain’s foreign secretary, had met with the Iranian ambassador on Wednesday and “raised serious concerns about the number of dual national citizens detained by Iran and their conditions of detention.”

The British Foreign Office advises people with both British and Iranian citizenship not to travel to Iran, citing a risk of arrest, but it considered the risks to non-Iranians as limited.

Australia warns its citizens against unnecessary travel to Iran, citing a risk of arbitrary detention or arrest, particularly for those whom the Iranian authorities deem to be attracting attention.

Some have raised concerns that the Australian detainees might be used by the Iranian government as leverage for a prisoner swap.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, publicly proposed a prisoner exchange with the United States in April, and raised the cases of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual citizen, and an Iranian woman being held in Australia. Iran has detained several non-Iranians and people with Iranian citizenship in recent years, including at least four Americans.

“We have an Iranian lady in Australia who gave birth to a child in prison,” Mr. Zarif said in a discussion at a research institute in New York, adding that the case involved the purchase of transmission equipment for an Iranian broadcasting company.

Ms. King and the other Australian-British woman are being held at Evin Prison in Tehran, a notorious facility where Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been detained for years.

Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said Ms. King was being held in the same facility as his wife — whom he is in regular contact with — and that Ms. King had recently been released from solitary confinement.

Mr. Ratcliffe described how prisoners can often spend weeks in solitary confinement, as his wife did, before being transferred to the political ward. He said that although prisoners are sometimes allowed to make domestic calls and have visits from immediate family members behind a glass screen, he was unsure whether Ms. King had been able to speak to her family.

He described the conditions in solitary confinement as harrowing, with the prisoner confined to a room the size of a double bed, with no bed, no window or natural light, and just a few blankets.

Ms. King and Mr. Firkin had been documenting their journey, which they named The Way Overland, on social media and a website, living out of their car as they trekked from country to country.

Many of the videos posted on their social media accounts feature drone photography and videography of the landscapes they passed through, and they had used crowd funding to support their adventure in recent months.

“We both share a great love for being outdoors and an appreciation for the happiness that putting yourself outside of your comfort zones brings you,” they wrote on the “About Us” section of the website dedicated to their journey.

Their time frame was open-ended, but they had planned to arrive in Britain by Christmas. Their Toyota was topped with a pop-up tent, where they often slept while on the road.

“Hopefully we can stretch this trip out as long as possible, as it’s only so often between life’s commitments that we get the chance to spend this much time exploring,” they wrote on their website.

But some of their thousands of followers became concerned as the silence grew longer and days turned into weeks.

“You guys ok? It’s been awhile!” one Instagram user wrote.

“I hope everything is okay since there hasn’t been an update for a while,” wrote another.

By Thursday morning, as news of their arrest spread, those messages had turned to calls for their release.

Full report at:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/12/world/middleeast/iran-arrests-uk-australia.html

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Iran’s properties in Canada sold, proceeds handed to terror victims

By Stewart Bell

September 12, 2019

Tens of millions worth of seized Iranian government properties have been sold off in Canada and the proceeds handed to victims of terrorist groups sponsored by the regime, Global News has learned.

According to a document filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice last month, the victims got a share of the money earned through the sale of Iran’s buildings in Ottawa and Toronto.

The properties went for more than $28-million, documents show. The recipients were victims of Hamas and Hezbollah — terrorist groups bankrolled, armed and trained by Iran.

“The distribution to creditors as authorized by the court has been made,” the Toronto law firm appointed as the court-appointed receiver, Albert Gelman Inc., informed the judge on Aug. 7.

Normally that would be an unremarkable statement but the creditors in the case were terrorism victims and the assets were Canadian properties seized from the Iranian regime.

The Ottawa property, which had been the Iranian Cultural Centre, was particularly valuable. Marketed as a “transit-oriented development opportunity on the apron of the University of Ottawa,” it sold to a Montreal developer for $26.5-million.

The Toronto property, which was owned by a company headed by an embassy official and served as the Centre for Iranian Studies, went for $1.85-million.

A lawyer representing one of the victims also confirmed the sales had occurred.

The Canadian Coalition Against Terror, which lobbied to changed the law so victims could seek redress from states that sponsor terrorism, said it was pleased Tehran had been held to account.

“The Iranian regime unwaveringly and unabashedly provides tens of billions of dollars for terrorist organizations that have destroyed innocent lives across the globe, including those of Canadians,” said Danny Eisen, the C-CAT spokesperson.

The redistribution of Iran’s assets marks the likely end of a process that started seven years ago when the former Conservative government designated the Islamic Republic a state sponsor of terrorism.

Under the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, enacted in 2012, victims can use the courts to claim the Canadian assets of designated state sponsors of terrorism. Iran and Syria are currently designated.

Foreign governments typically can’t be sued, but the legislation lifted state immunity for those countries. Only non-diplomatic assets can be claimed by victims, meaning embassies and consulates are off-limits.

Several American families that had won large court judgments against Iran over terrorist attacks subsequently filed claims in the Ontario and Nova Scotia courts, seeking a share of Iran’s assets.

They included the family of Marla Bennett, a U.S. citizen killed in a 2002 Hamas bombing, and Edward Tracy and Joseph Cicippio, who were held hostage by Hezbollah from 1986 to 1991.

The court sided with the victims and awarded them Iran’s assets. The judge said the properties were “beneficially owned by Iran” and added there was evidence the Ottawa property was linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Iran initially ignored the case but then hired a law firm to appeal the Ontario court ruling, which the regime called “politically motivated.”

The sale and distribution of Iran’s assets began after the Supreme Court rejected Iran’s appeal last year. Now that the sale of the properties is complete, the assets have been distributed to the victims.

In addition to the proceeds of the sale of the properties, the victims were awarded a share of some $2.6-million seized from Iran’s bank accounts. Documents also list a Toyota Camry and Mazda MPV.

Canada severed diplomatic relations with Iran in 2012, citing the regime’s support for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, as well as its nuclear program, threats against Israel and backing of terrorist groups.

Full report at:

https://globalnews.ca/news/5893768/irans-properties-in-canada-sold/

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Cleric Blames US for Tragic Situation in Yemen

Sep 13, 2019

Hojjatoleslam Aboutorabi Fard referred to the US as the Great Satan responsible for the catastrophic situation in Yemen.

Elsewhere in his remarks, he called the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman as a puppet in the hands of the Americans.

The senior cleric further noted that the Resistance Front led by Iran is standing against plots designed by the hegemonic powers for the region in line with the teachings of Ashura.

Had it not been for Ashura school of thought, the victories in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain and Yemen would not have been achieved, said Aboutorabi Fard.

He then said that the Ashura school of thought has helped the Islamic Republic to flourish over the past forty years since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

His remarks came a few days after the anniversary of the Martyrdom of Imam Hossain (PBUH) in the battle of Karbala on Ashura Day.

“Had it not been for Ashura school of thought, the Islamic Revolution would not have taken place, and we would not have successfully passed the difficult time of Sacred Defense (during Iran-Iraq war). Had it not been for the Ashura school of thought, today's victorious Syria, strong Iraq, resistant Lebanon, standing and patient Bahrain and glorious and proud Yemen would not have been so,” he stressed.

Saudi Arabia has been striking Yemen since March 2015 to restore power to fugitive president Mansour Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh. The Saudi-led aggression has so far killed more than 20,000 Yemenis, including hundreds of women and children. Despite Riyadh's claims that it is bombing the positions of the Ansarullah fighters, Saudi bombers are flattening residential areas and civilian infrastructures.

Yemen is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis with more than 22 million people in need and is seeing a spike in needs, fueled by ongoing conflict, a collapsing economy and diminished social services and livelihoods. The blockade on Yemen has smothered humanitarian deliveries of food and medicine to the import-dependent state.

The UN has repeatedly criticized the Saudi-UAE-led military coalition's bombing campaign and placed it on a blacklist of child rights violators last year.

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980622000434

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Khalid bin Salman meets Yemeni president, reaffirms Saudi support for legitimacy

14 September 2019

Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Defense Prince Khalid bin Salman met with Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi in Riyadh on Friday, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported, where he reaffirmed the Kingdom’s stance in supporting legitimacy in Yemen to counter the Iranian-backed Houthi militia and to preserve the country’s unity, security and stability.

Prince Khalid praised the Yemeni President’s keenness to address any issues and maintain peace in the country, in accordance with the recognized peace references of the Gulf Initiative and the outcomes of the national dialogue and the relevant UN resolutions.

In a tweet, Prince Khalid said the two discussed the importance of maintaining dialogue and coordination between the two countries to counter the Iran-backed Houthi militia and fight against terrorism to ensure peace and stability in the country.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/09/14/Khalid-bin-Salman-meets-with-Yemeni-President-Abdrabbuh-Mansur-Hadi.html

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Iran condemns Canada’s sale of its assets, warns of consequences

Sep 13, 2019

Iran says the sale of its properties in Canada as per a court ruling to compensate a group of so-called ‘terror victims’ is an unlawful move that will have consequences for the Ottawa government if not revoked.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi on Friday strongly condemned the move as “a clear breach of the international law,” and urged the Canadian government to immediately return the properties and revoke the decision.

The spokesman warned that if Ottawa fails to immediately revoke the unlawful decision and compensate the damages, Tehran will take action by itself to restore its rights based on international regulations.

“In this case, the government of Canada will be held responsible for all the consequences,” he said, stressing that Iran will not compromise with any other government when it comes to protecting its citizens’ rights.

The comments came after a report by Global News said Canada has gifted some $30 million worth of Iranian assets to the victims of terrorist attacks in which Iran says has not been involved.

According to the report, the victims have received their share of the money earned through the sale of two Iranian-owned buildings in Ottawa and Toronto, a document filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in August reveals.

The valuable Ottawa property, sold for $26.5 million, was used as the Iranian Cultural Center, and the Toronto building, sold for $1.85 million, served as the Center for Iranian Studies, the Global News reported.

In addition to the $28 million earned from the sale of the two properties, the victims were also awarded a share of some $2.6 million seized from Iran’s bank accounts. Documents also list a Toyota Camry and Mazda MPV.

In particular, they include the family of Marla Bennett, a US citizen killed in a 2002 bombing that rocked the Hebrew University in Jerusalem al-Quds.

The attacks are mostly blamed on Palestinian and Lebanese resistance movements Hamas and Hezbollah. The families claimed that the Iranian government supported the two organizations and was therefore responsible for their actions.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/09/13/606109/Iran-mousavi-canada-asset-seizure-sale-victims-terrorism

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More than 50 Palestinian protesters injured by Israeli forces in Gaza

Sep 13, 2019

Israeli forces have attacked anti-occupation protests taking place near the fence between the besieged Gaza Strip and the occupied territories, leaving more than 50 Palestinians injured.

The Gazan Health Ministry said 55 people were injured by Israeli forces during the 74th Friday protest.

Twenty-nine of the wounded people were injured by live fire, Ashraf al-Qedra, the spokesman for the ministry, said on his official Twitter account.

The rallies have been held every week since March 30 last year. The Palestinians want the return of those driven out of their homeland by Israeli aggression.

Israeli troops have killed at least 307 Palestinians since the beginning of the rallies and wounded more than 18,000 others, according to the Gazan Health Ministry.

In March, a United Nations (UN) fact-finding mission found that Israeli forces committed rights violations during their crackdown against the Palestinian protesters in Gaza that may amount to war crimes.

Gaza has been under Israeli siege since June 2007, which has caused a decline in living standards.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/09/13/606110/Over-50-Gazans-injured-by-Israeli-forces

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Arab World

 

Palestinians praise King Salman’s ‘patriotic position’

September 14, 2019

AMMAN: Ibrahim Milhem, a spokesman for the Palestinian government, praised Saudi Arabia’s King Salman’s “strong Saudi patriotic” position at this difficult time for the Palestinian cause and said his stance is “a reflection of the dangers that this national cause is facing.”

Milhem told Arab News on Friday that Saudi Arabia’s leading role in “Arab, Islamic and international efforts gives Palestinians hope,” and added that the Kingdom’s quick response to Israel’s plan to expand settlements in East Jerusalem shows “that the Saudis are making a strong statement of concern about the need to (respect) international law.”

Milhem said that King Salman’s phone call with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas demonstrated to the world the “Arab support to Palestinians and provides a political cover to all that is needed to stand up to the ‘deal of the century’ and the attempts of Netanyahu to end the two-state solution by his annexation efforts.”

The expansion of the settlements in East Jerusalem, which Israel seized along with the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 Mideast war, threatens to further complicate one of the thorniest issues in the conflict.

There is a strong evidence of decades of systematic discrimination, illustrated by a huge gap in the number of construction permits granted to Jewish and Palestinian residents, according to official data obtained by The Associated Press.

The refusal to grant permits to Palestinian residents has confined them to crowded, poorly served neighborhoods, with around half the population believed to be at risk of having their homes demolished.

The data was acquired and analyzed by the Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now, which says it only obtained the figures after a two-year battle with the municipality.

Milhem added in his interview with Arab News that the government of Palestine will “always remember the Saudi position, which has always given financial and political (support) to the people of Palestine.”

It says the numbers show that while Palestinians make up more than 60 percent of the population in East Jerusalem, they have received only 30 percent of the building permits issued since 1991.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1554221

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Iraqi forces discover IS ammunition cache in western Iraq

2019-09-12

BAGHDAD, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) -- The Iraqi military said Thursday that an ammunition cache belonging to Islamic State (IS) militants was discovered in Iraq's western province of Anbar.

A force from Anbar's Operations Command uncovered the ammunition cache during an operation in the area of Wadi al-Qadhif in Anbar desert, the Iraqi Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Nasir al-Ghannam, commander of Anbar's Operations Command, said that the ammunition cache contains 570 newly-made explosive belts, bombs, hand grenades and anti-tank mines.

The place was used by IS militants to store their ammunition before distributing them to carry out attacks in the cities of Anbar province and in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, the statement said.

In a separate operation, another force from Anbar Operations Command, in cooperation with civilians in the province, captured two wanted IS militants, the statement added, without giving further details.

The security situation in Iraq has dramatically improved after Iraqi security forces fully defeated the extremist IS militants across the country in later 2017.

Full report at:

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-09/12/c_138387636.htm

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Bahrain Convicts 2 Citizens over Transfer of Funds for Terrorist Purposes

13 September, 2019

The Bahraini judiciary convicted Thursday two Bahraini citizens, one of them a member of Al Ashtar Brigades, which is designated as a terrorist organization by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE and Bahrain and blacklisted by the US administration for terror crimes against Bahrain’s stability and security.

Bahrain’s Grand Criminal Court sentenced the men to three years in prison with a fine of up to BHD100,000. A third man who was accused in the same case was later acquitted.

Chief of Terror Crime Prosecution Advocate General Ahmed al-Hammadi stated Thursday that the Fourth Grand Criminal Court has issued its sentence in the incident of transferring cash allocated for promoting terrorist groups.

Both men provided financial support to terrorist members and outlaws for the sake of conducting terrorist plots and spurring chaos.

Their quest was to destabilize the kingdom and target security guards.

The first convict assigned the second to hand out money to terrorist members. Moreover, some of the received amounts were distributed to the households of those arrested on security grounds.

The Public Prosecution relied on the witnesses, the first convict's confession, as well as the technical evidence to issue charges. The case was referred to the Fourth High Criminal Court.

Full report at:

https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1900461/bahrain-convicts-2-citizens-over-transfer-funds-terrorist-purposes

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Thousands of Terrorists Flee Idlib for Turkey

Sep 13, 2019

The Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper quoted local sources in Kharbeh al-Joz Northwest of Jisr al-Shoghour in Western Idlib as saying that over 2,000 militants have fled to Turkey after being helped by Turkish border guards since the Syrian Army kicked off its military operation on May 6.

The local sources also pointed to Turkey’s threats on increasing corridors from Turkey to Europe, and said that most of the Ankara-backed terrorists who have defected their terrorist groups have fled to the European countries via Greece.

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980622000351

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US says it has evidence Adrian Darya 1 oil transferred to Syria

13 September 2019

The United States has evidence that the Iranian tanker Adrian Darya 1 has transferred its crude oil to the Syrian government, breaking assurances it gave not to sell crude to the country, the US State Department said on Thursday.

British commandos on July 4 seized the vessel, formerly named the Grace 1, on suspicion that it was en route to Syria in breach of European Union sanctions. Gibraltar released it on Aug. 15 after getting written Iranian assurances that it would not discharge its 2.1 million barrels of oil in Syria.

Britain’s foreign ministry on Tuesday said the tanker had sold its crude oil to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, breaking those assurances, and that the oil had been transferred to Syria.

Iran’s envoy to Britain, who was summoned by the British foreign ministry over the matter, on Wednesday said Adrian Darya 1’s oil cargo was sold at sea to a private company, denying Tehran had broken assurances it gave. He also said the private buyer of the oil “sets the sale destination.”

Asked if the United States had evidence that the ship had offloaded its crude oil to Syria, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters: “Yeah ... The Iranian regime delivered oil to Syria, and that fuel goes straight into the tanks of troops that are slaughtering innocent Syrians.”

Pressed on whether Washington had evidence of such a transfer from the Adrian Darya 1, Ortagus added: “I wouldn’t say that if we didn’t.”

On Tuesday, the State Department had stopped short of confirming whether Iran had sold the oil to Assad’s government, but strongly suggested it had.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/09/13/US-says-it-has-evidence-Adrian-Darya-1-oil-transferred-to-Syria.html

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Drone attacks cause fire at two Saudi Aramco facilities, blaze now under control

14 September 2019

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior said on Saturday that drone attacks caused fires at two Saudi Aramco facilities, adding that the blazes are under control.

One of the facilities is located in Abqaiq, near Dammam in the Kingdom's Eastern Province. The other facility is located in the Hijrat Khurais oilfield.

“At 4 am on Saturday morning, Aramco’s industrial security teams fought two fires in two of the company’s facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais after they were targeted by drones… the two fires were controlled and contained, and the related authorities have begun investigating,” the ministry said in a statement.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/09/14/Fire-at-Saudi-Aramco-s-facility-in-Abqaiq-under-control-cause-yet-unknown.html

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Fires engulf Saudi Arabia's oil facilities after drone attacks

Sep 14, 2019

Drones have hit two oil facilities of Saudi Arabia's state oil giant Aramco in the country's east, causing huge fires before dawn on Saturday.

A spokesman for Saudi Arabia's interior ministry said in a statement that the attacks targeted two Aramco factories in Abqaiq and Khurais.

The statement did not identify the source of the attack, but Houthi fighters and their allies in Yemen's army have carried out similar attacks in recent months in retaliation for the kingdom's airstrikes in the impoverished nation.

Abqaiq, about 60 km (37 miles) southwest of Dhahran in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, contains the world's largest oil processing plant. Most Saudi oil exported from the Persian Gulf is processed there.

The incident comes nearly a month after Saudi Aramco’s oil facilities in Shaybah, the kingdom’s largest strategic oil reserve near the UAE border, were targeted by Yemeni forces in a major drone attack.

Yemeni forces also launched a successful raid on a major pipeline spanning the kingdom in May.

Yemeni forces regularly target positions inside Saudi Arabia in retaliation for the Saudi war, which began in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall the country's Riyadh-allied former regime and crush the popular Houthi Ansarullah movement.

The Western-backed military aggression, coupled with a naval blockade, has killed tens of thousands of Yemenis, destroyed the country’s infrastructure and led to a massive humanitarian crisis.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/09/14/606133/Saudi-Aramco-oil-facility-fire

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Africa

 

West African leaders hold summit on Sahel anti-terror battle

Sep 13, 2019

West African leaders will meet in the capital of Burkina Faso on Saturday for a summit expected to lead to an overhaul in the unsuccessful attempt to defeat terrorism in the Sahel region.

Most of the heads of Ecowas, the group of 15 countries on West Africa's coast and hinterland, are expected to attend the one-day meeting, which Chad, Cameroon and Mauritania will also attend.

Leading the agenda will be a review of the G5 Sahel, a five-nation alliance to combat terrorism in the fragile region, which lies between the Sahara and Atlantic.

Backed by former colonial power France, the G5 Sahel was formed to great fanfare in 2014.

The centrepiece of its strategy has been an initiative, launched in July 2017, to pool 5,000 troops from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger and wrench back control from insurgent groups in the region.

But hamstrung by insufficient funds, training and equipment, the force has only now reached 4,000 troops, and for many analysts it seems to be losing the battle.

The extremists have spread from Mali to Burkina Faso and Niger, as well as Chad.

Their hit-and-run raids are inflicting growing human, economic and political tolls, sparking fears that the coastal countries to the south are next in line.

Another example of the difficulties the region faces came on Thursday, when two soldiers were killed in two attacks in northern Burkina Faso, AFP reported.

It was the latest in a series of deadly attacks on security forces in the landlocked West African nation.

Lassina Diarra, a regional political analyst, said scathingly that the Ouagadougou summit should "mark the burial" of the G5 Sahel.

"The Ecowas countries have realised that they have to act, that they are threatened," Mr Diarra said.

Ecowas is an abbreviation for the Economic Community of West African States.

Mahamadou Savadogo, a democracy and development researcher at Senegal's Gaston Berger University, said the G5 Sahel was "almost on its knees. It started off the wrong way".

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also has a grim view of the situation.

"I totally believe we are not winning the war against terrorism in the Sahel and that the operation should be strengthened," Mr Guterres said last week.

The scale of the challenge facing the G5 Sahel force is huge.

The Centre for Strategic and International Studies think tank in the US says the number of radical attacks in the Sahel has doubled each year since 2016. Last year, the tally was 465.

"Despite significant international engagement and investment, violent extremism is increasing," the centre said.

The British humanitarian charity Oxfam says that 13 million people in the region need help. Water, food, health, shelter, sanitation and education are needed.

Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou, at a summit of the African Union in July, called for an "international coalition" modelled on the loose alliance that fought ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

A wider international pitch also appeals to the Ivory Coast, which in 2016 suffered a terror attack that killed 19 people.

Its northern border has been declared by France's Foreign Ministry to be an "orange" security risk and French nationals are advised not to go there unless necessary.

Ivorian president Alassane Ouattara said that the UN mission to Mali and the G5 Sahel were not enough.

"We have to find wider and more effective means of coordination," Mr Ouattara said .

French president Emmanuel Macron, who has lobbied relentlessly for donations for the G5 Sahel force, has also signalled a subtle shift in tone.

Standing alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the G7 summit in Biarritz last month, Mr Macron said it was time "for change, in methods and scale".

A French security official was guarded about what could come from the Ouagadougou summit.

"Another summit, another meeting that ends in a call for more cooperation," he said. "Perhaps. But at least you can see a movement for change.

https://www.thenational.ae/world/africa/west-african-leaders-hold-summit-on-sahel-anti-terror-battle-1.909773

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Libyan Air Force shoots down three Turkish drones in Misrata

13 September 2019

The Libyan Air Force announced on Friday that three Turkish drones have been destroyed in Libya’s Misrata, adding that all aircraft positions in the city have also been destroyed.

In a statement, the air force said that two drones were downed in the area around the al-Jufra airbase in Hun, and a third drone was downed in the Kufra district.

The Libyan National Army announced early on Friday that a Turkish drone which attempted to target al-Jufra air base was shot down, an Al Arabiya correspondent reported.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2019/09/13/Libyan-army-destroys-Turkish-aircraft-positions-in-Misrata.html

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Scarred by Libya abuse, migrants hope for new life in Europe

September 14, 2019

ABOARD THE OCEAN VIKING: It was Mouctar Diallo’s fifth attempt to reach Europe by sea. His previous four tries had been foiled by gangs on speedboats who returned him to Libya where he was detained and beaten.

This time, the 28-year-old from Guinea and 49 other sub-Saharan Africans were determined not to let anything stop them.

“Even if the water is not good, we said ‘today we will go to Europe, or we die,’” Diallo recalled.

And so they departed from Zuwara, Libya, on a blue inflatable plastic boat in a bid to make it across the Mediterranean Sea.

About 26 km into their journey a fishing boat approached and offered to help. But Diallo was suspicious. He had been warned that fishermen, just like the criminal gangs, were known to return rescued migrants to Libyan traffickers in exchange for money.

Then, a large red boat approached. The migrants recognized it from social media: It was the Ocean Viking, a Norwegian-flagged ship jointly operated by humanitarian groups SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders. Everyone was brought on board.

“First I started crying. I was so happy. I said ‘yes! This time my life has changed’,” Diallo told an Associated Press journalist aboard the ship. “It was my fifth try, my last chance. I preferred to die than go back to Libya. I was so happy I can’t even talk about it. I will never forget that day.”

The rescue happened on Sept. 8 — Diallo’s birthday. He is now among dozens of migrants on the ship, waiting for a European country to give them permission to disembark. They pass their time doing laundry or playing chess with plastic bottle caps. Sometimes they sing and dance.

The ship rejected an offer to disembark in Libya. After having a shower and putting on clean clothes donated by the charities, Diallo showed why. He has knife and bullet wounds on his legs and marks on the top of his skull that his hair has yet to cover. He said they are traces of the violence that migrants are subjected to while held by smugglers in Libya, a country wracked by internal conflict.

“Every day they beat you,” said Diallo, whose nickname is “the general” because of all his warlike scars.

Other migrants had similar stories. Of a dozen people who agreed to speak to the AP, every single one said they were beaten, abused or raped in Libya.

In recent years, EU countries have scaled back their own rescue operations in the central Mediterranean and handed over responsibility to the EU-funded Libyan coast guard. That has helped sharply reduce migrant arrivals in Italy in the past two years. The UN refugee agency says this year more than 6,000 migrants were intercepted at sea by the EU-funded Libyan coast guard and brought back to the North African country.

Hassiba Hadj-Sahraoui, advocacy adviser at Doctors Without Borders, said that while the EU is celebrating a drop in irregular migration, as well as deaths at sea, “what they don’t tell you is what is happening to the people who are stuck in Libya.”

Migrants are held longer by traffickers “who are realizing that the way to make money is not necessarily by crossing the Mediterranean but by extorting people and their families,” she said.

Diallo decided to leave his village in Guinea after seeing how some families were lifted out of poverty by relatives who had gone to Europe. Families who used to have nothing were now building houses thanks to money sent from Europe. So, he wanted to give his family the same, and pay for the school of his younger brother and sister.

Diallo used to work in construction, making bricks, but he doesn’t know where he will end up or what he will be doing.

He just wants to make it to Europe, find work and earn money. Going back to Guinea, where 55 percent of people live in poverty according to the UN, is not an option, Diallo said. Not after he’s come this far.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1554201/middle-east

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Nigerian military says kills 3 Boko Haran militants in clearance operation

2019-09-13

ABUJA, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) -- Three Boko Haram militants were confirmed killed during a clearance operation by troops in Nigeria's northeastern town of Gwoza, said the army on Thursday.

The operation, aimed at clearing the remnants of Boko Haram militants in the town located in the northern state of Borno, was carried out in collaboration with a government-backed militia group, the Civilian Joint Task Force, on Wednesday.

Army spokesman Sagir Musa said a gunfight ensued between the troops and the Boko Haram group in Kirawa community of the town, leading to the death of the militants.

Some of the militants fled, he said.

An unconfirmed number of militants were also wounded during the gunfight, Musa said.

"No soldier was killed, wounded or missing in action during the encounter," he said.

Full report at:

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-09/13/c_138387734.htm

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Senior al-Shabab leader surrenders to Somali forces

2019-09-13

MOGADISHU, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) -- A senior member of the militant group al-Shabab on Thursday surrendered to government forces in the Bakool region, southwestern Somalia, the military said.

The militant, identified as Yarow Hassan Aden, handed himself over to the 51st division of the Somali National Army (SNA), SNA commander in the region, Derow Abdi Ali, told journalists.

"The militant gave himself up and laid down his weapon and he informed us he was ready to assist government forces in their fight against al-Shabab extremists," the commander said, adding that the defected militant is in the hands of National Security and Intelligence Agency.

The former senior al-Shabab leader said he was misguided in joining the terrorists.

Full report at:

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-09/13/c_138387722.htm

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Tunisia sees 26 candidates for presidential poll on Sunday

September 14, 2019

TUNIS: Tunisia is holding a cacophonous presidential election this weekend, with voters choosing among 26 candidates for a new leader who can secure the North African nation’s young democracy and tackle unemployment, corruption and the economic despair in its provinces.

Sunday’s first-round vote is only the second democratic presidential election that Tunisia has seen since its “jasmine revolution” brought down Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 and triggered the Arab Spring uprisings across the region. While the Arab Spring led to deadly civil wars that still haunt countries such as Syria and Libya, it brought democracy to Tunisia.

The vote is taking place because the country’s first democratically elected leader died in office in July.

Accusations of smear campaigns and corruption are flying as Tunisia’s 7 million registered voters get ready to declare their choices. With so many candidates vying for the five-year term there’s no clear front-runner, although Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, jailed media magnate Nabil Karoui and Abdelfattah Mourou of the moderate Ennahda are getting particular attention.

“The young Tunisian democracy has, like a reed, folded without ever breaking,” said analyst Ahmed Chérif.

Still, the system remains fragile. In addition to Tunisia’s deep economic woes, security is a major concern amid extremist tensions along Tunisia’s borders with Algeria and Libya. A string of deadly attacks in 2015 notably hurt the country’s tourism sector, crucial to this small Mediterranean nation that lacks its neighbors’ oil wealth.

Given the plethora of presidential hopefuls, uncertainty dominates the election — which was thrown further into disarray by last month’s arrest of Karoui, considered a top contender.

He is charged with money laundering and tax evasion, but allowed to stay in the race as long as he hasn’t been convicted. He denies wrongdoing and accuses the prime minister of a smear campaign. On Thursday, he announced a hunger strike, demanding to be released for the election.

Karoui promises to fight poverty and launched a charity in 2016 in honor of his son, who was killed in a car accident, which collects donations for the poor through his Nessma TV channel. Critics accuse Karoui of exploiting the poor to earn their votes.

The campaign has included Tunisia’s first televised presidential debates, which have brought attention to lesser-known candidates. Still, only a minority have “profiles and skills that meet the criteria required,” said political scientist Salah Horchani.

Among them is Chahed, the 44-year-old outgoing prime minister who boasts of “saving the country from bankruptcy” during his three years as head of government, with economic indicators showing signs of improvement thanks to what he calls his “courageous reforms.”

His main competitor is none other than his own defense minister, Abdelkrim Zbidi, who calls himself independent but is supported by several centrist parties, including that of late President Beji Caid Essebsi.

The defense minister promises to “improve the morals of public life,” and accuses the prime minister of exploiting his office for electoral gains.

These two could be surprised, however, by Islamist candidate Mourou, vice president of the Ennahdha party, currently the largest single force in Tunisia’s Parliament.

Mourou, 71, said recently that he thought his age and health meant he could “no longer bring anything to Tunisia.” But he was convinced to run for president by Ennahdha leader Rached Ghannouchi, who’s hoping Mourou can unify the party’s broad base. The party ran the government from 2011-2014 but its leadership led to an acute political crisis and rising fundamentalism.

Two women candidates say it’s time for a female president in a country that’s long had greater women’s rights than neighboring countries. Candidate Abir Moussi has seen a rise in support after her tough criticism of Tunisia’s Islamists.

Among the underdogs is former Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa, appointed to the post thanks to a special agreement among four groups that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013 for saving Tunisia’s democracy amid its political crisis.

Results of the first round are expected Monday or Tuesday. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote on Sunday, the election goes to a second round that must be held no later than Nov. 3. The date of the runoff will be announced once the final first-round results are declared.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1554196/middle-east

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Sudan, South Sudan reach agreement for cooperation

Benjamin Takpiny  

13.09.2019

Juba, South Sudan

Sudan and South Sudan agreed to fully cooperate to ensure peace between the two countries, officials of both countries said on Friday.

Ending a meeting with Sudanese premier Abdallah Hamdok prior to his departure to Khartoum, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit underlined that his government would work closely with Khartoum.

He said both governments agreed to fully cooperate to ensure peace and prosperity between the two sisterly countries.

"We will work together, we will work on the border issues soon between the two countries, and hopefully peace will come to Sudan and South Sudan," Kiir said.

For his part, Hamdok said they discussed wider areas of bilateral cooperation between South Sudan and Sudan.

"Our visit gave us a chance to discuss bilateral relations like trade and border issues, and we reached an understanding. This understanding will lead to the benefit of the two nation," he said.

Hamdok added that he met different rebel groups during his visit, including Aballah Aziz Hilu, the leader of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/sudan-south-sudan-reach-agreement-for-cooperation/1583165

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Libyan government forces target Haftar-held airbase

Walid Abdullah  

13.09.2019

TRIPOLI, Libya 

Libya's UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) targeted Al-Jufra airbase, controlled by forces based in the east of the troubled country.

GNA's forces announced in a Friday statement that "warplanes carried out combat sorties on anti-aircraft and pro-Haftar ground forces at Al-Jufra base yesterday night [Thursday] and Urban town on Friday morning."

Meanwhile, fresh clashes took place on Friday between Haftar forces and the GNA in southern Tripoli, according to an Anadolu Agency correspondent.

In June 2017, pro-Haftar forces took control of Al-Jufra airbase in central Libya.

Forces loyal to commander Khalifa Haftar launched a campaign in April to capture Tripoli from Libya’s internationally recognized GNA.

Clashes between the two sides since then have left more than 1,000 people dead and about 5,500 wounded, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The oil-rich country has remained beset by turmoil since 2011, when longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed in a NATO-backed uprising after four decades in power.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/libyan-government-forces-target-haftar-held-airbase/1582974

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Al-Shabaab militants run over another army base

Sep 14, 2019

Al-Shabaab militants on Thursday ran over a military camp manned by newly trained Somali National Army, reports have indicated.

The latest attack by a largely weakened terrorists group comes barely a month after another raid at a military base in Lower Shebelle region.

According to reports by Voice of America, the militants attacked an army base at Marka town, a move that led to hours of heavy guns exchanges between the two sides.

Militants reportedly came from Jilib-Marka area. There are reports the town is preparing for a high profile visit in coming days. They were later repulsed.

"At least five were killed in this confrontation late Thursday near Marka, according to sources who spoke to @voasomali," reports indicated.

Earlier on Thursday, Somalia government paraded Al-Shabaab defector Hassan Aden, who has reportedly been coordinating activities in Southwest region.

The events comes even as the militants managed to wage a rocket propelled grenade against Kenyan forces at Elwak town in Mandera on Thursday.

The teams were travelling between Farhama and Elram when their two armoured vehicles and a lorry were hit by the rocket fired by suspected Al Shabaab militants.

The attack badly damaged the vehicles, killing three KDF soldiers and two ASTU personnel. Those injured were evacuated to Nairobi for treatment.

Full report at:

https://hivisasa.com/posts/64929899-al-shabaab-militants-run-over-another-army-base?source=feed

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Air Force Attacks Boko Haram Training Facilities In Borno

SEP 13, 2019

The training facilities of Boko Haram terrorists in the Northern part of Borno State have been destroyed by air raids, the Nigerian Air Force said on Friday.

A report by The Nation quoted the spokesperson for the Air Force, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, as saying that the facilities were located in Mallam Fatori in the fringes of Lake Chad.

Daramola explained in a statement that terrorists, who were occupying the facilities were also neutralised.

He said, “The Air Task Force of Operation LAFIYA DOLE has recorded another major feat with the destruction of an Islamic State of West Africa Province training camp near Mallam Fatori on the fringes of Lake Chad in the Northern part of Borno State.

“The operation was executed on September 10, 2019, based on credible intelligence reports and confirmatory Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance missions that identified a building on one of the Lake Chad islands that was being used by the terrorists as a facility to indoctrinate and train new fighters.

“The ATF therefore dispatched its aircraft to attack the location, which upon arrival over the target area observed significant activity of the terrorists.

“The attack aircraft scored devastating hits on the building completely destroying it and neutralising the ISWAP occupants.

Full report at:

http://saharareporters.com/2019/09/13/air-force-attacks-boko-haram-training-facilities-borno

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Southeast Asia

 

Johor religious dept denies alleged abuse in anti-Shiah raid on Monday

13 September 2019

BY BEN TAN

JOHOR BARU, Sept 13 — The Johor Islamic Religious Department (JAINJ) denied today that its enforcement officers had acted aggressively during an anti-Shiah raid on a private function at a house in Taman Bukit Kempas here on Monday.

Johor Islamic Affairs, Agriculture and Rural Development Committee chairman Tosrin Jarvanthi said the 30 JAINJ enforcement officers who were assisted by 15 policemen had carried out the raid without incident.

“The operation at 11pm on Monday was conducted according to the standard operating procedures (SOP) and there was no brutality involved by raiding team towards the individuals in the premises,” he said at a media conference at the Johor State Islamic Centre here today.

Tosrin explained that 54 people, including four children between the age of two and 12, were in the premises when it was raided during the JAINJ operation called “Ops Hauzah”.

He said the raiding team only arrested eight men — four Malaysians, two Singaporeans, an Indonesian and a Yemeni — while the rest were given notices to assist investigations.

Tosrin was responding to allegations that the raiding party had acted in an abusive manner against those detained during the raid, including a claim that a gun was trained on one of them.

On Wednesday, three police reports alleging brutality by the raiding team were lodged at the Larkin police station under the Johor Baru South district police by three men who were in the house during the raid on Monday night in Taman Bukit Kempas here.

On the same day, Johor police chief Datuk Mohd Kamarudin Md Din told Malay Mail that the police would investigate the claims and take appropriate action if the policemen were found to be heavy-handed when assisting the religious enforcement officers.

However, he also said the police will also not hesitate to take action if investigators find the three reports alleging police abuse to be false.

The raid on Monday night was a JAINJ operation led by the religious agency’s enforcement unit assistant director Noorfendi Abdul Jabar and assisted by the police.

A three-storey house that was a rented homestay was searched during the two-hour operation where the raiding team also seized a Shiah devotional text called Kitab Luhuf, a notebook containing lecture material and a black flag containing the name of Fatima al-Zahra.

The eight arrested will be investigated under Section 9 of the Johor Shariah Criminal Offences Enactment 1997 for violating the order of the Sultan, mufti as well as fatwa, which carries a RM3,000 fine and one-year jail sentence.

On Monday, Shiah adherents observed the beginning of the Day of Ashura, which commemorates the death of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Hussain Ali, during the Battle of Karbala in present Iraq more than 3,000 years ago.

In Malaysia, only the Sunni denomination of Islam and its Shafie school of jurisprudence are considered official.

Shiah is Islam’s second-largest denomination and practised by an estimated 15 per cent of the 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide, but is regarded as deviant here.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/09/13/johor-religious-dept-denies-alleged-abuse-in-anti-shiah-raid-on-monday/1790182

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Blast at Indonesian police warehouse holding World War Two munitions

14 September 2019

An explosion went off on Saturday in an Indonesian police evidence warehouse containing munitions dating from World War Two, injuring one officer and prompting the evacuation of nearby residents, police said.

The warehouse is in the Mobile Police Brigade headquarters in Srondol, close to the city of Semarang in Central Java province.

The explosion happened at 7 a.m. (0000 GMT), provincial police chief A. Dahniel told Kompas TV, adding that the explosives stored in the warehouse had been found by residents.

The cause of the blast was being investigated and firefighters had been deployed to tackle a blaze that it triggered.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/09/14/Blast-at-Indonesian-police-warehouse-holding-World-War-Two-munitions.html

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‘Shoot, but don’t kill’ corrupt officials, President Duterte tells Filipinos

September 14, 2019

MANILA: President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday told Filipinos that they can “shoot but not kill” public officials who demand money in exchange for their services.

Duterte urged the public to be assertive when doing business with government agencies.

“The only thing that I am asking the Filipino people is really to be assertive, period ... If you pay taxes, fees, clearances or whatever, and these fools ask for a bribe, slap them. If you have a gun, you can shoot them, but don’t kill because you might not be included among those given pardon or computation,” Duterte, a former prosecutor, said in his speech during the inauguration of the Bataan government center and business hub dubbed “The Bunker.”

“Just the foot, then it will only be serious physical injuries ... You admit it, then you go to probation. You do not go inside the prison ... You’ll just report to a probation officer,” Duterte said. “At least you got to shoot a foolish thief.”

The president vowed to defend any person who shoots a corrupt official.

“I will defend you. If the incident reaches my office, I will call for the complainant and tell him to slap (the official) three times ... I’ll ask how much did he demand from you, sir? Five thousand? Then slap that son of a b**** two more times,” Duterte said.

The former mayor of Davao City lamented that if corruption was not stopped it would become “a worm inside, in almost everybody in government — national and local.”

The president said that he would issue an executive order to ease the process of doing business with government offices.

“I will issue the executive order so that customers or clients of government ... you ask them what they want, they should be provided with a shopping list that they should submit. And then they are given a day to submit the papers and it should include everything.”

“There will be no changes, no modification and no reason or excuse to call back the transacting public to produce another document. It is in the art of making them go back and forth to the office that perpetuates corruption in government,” said Duterte, as he emphasized that “the delays” in the processing of documents are “the things that make up the ugly face of government.”

Meanwhile, with the inauguration of “The Bunker,” Bataan province becomes the first local government unit in the country to house provincial and national offices in a single location.

“I hope that this Bunker that we are inaugurating today will serve its purpose in helping the people of Bataan face the rapidly evolving modern complexities and challenges of everyday life,” Duterte said.

As the province had huge potential for further development, the president said that he had signed a measure expanding the territory of the Freeport Area of Bataan to create more investment and tourism opportunities.

Duterte expressed optimism that Bataan would continue to partner with other stakeholders to maximize the opportunities afforded by the new government and business center, including the delivery of quality and responsive government services in line with the Ease of Doing Business Act of 2018.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1554176/world

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South Asia

 

Special Forces kill 15 Taliban, ISIS militants; destroy multiple caches of weapons

13 Sep 2019

The Afghan Special Forces killed at least 15 Taliban and ISIS militants during separate raids in three provinces including Kabul.

The military officials said Friday that the Afghan Special Forces killed 5 Taliban militants during a raid in Pul-e Khumri city of Baghlan province.

The officials further added that the Special Forces also destroyed a weapons cache during the same raid.

Furthermore, the Special Forces killed 2 ISIS militants during a raid and destroyed a small cache of weapons, the officials added.

The Special Forces also killed 7 Taliban militants, detained 1 militant and destroyed a weapons cache in Baraki Barak district of Logar province.

https://www.khaama.com/special-forces-kill-15-taliban-isis-militants-destroy-multiple-caches-of-weapons-04031/

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Afghan forces fully clear 2 districts of Taliban militants in Farah and Takhar

13 Sep 2019

The Afghan forces fully cleared two districts of Taliban militants in Farah and Takhar provinces, the Ministry of Defense said.

According to a statement released by defense ministry, the Afghan forces launched a clearance in Anar Dara district of Farah on Thursday night which continued until Friday.

The statement further added that the security forces fully cleared the district of Taliban militants inflicting heavy casualties on the militants.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Defense said the soldiers of the Special Operations Corps conducted clearance operations in Yangi Qala district of Takhar and fully cleared the district of Taliban militants.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/afghan-forces-fully-clear-2-districts-of-taliban-militants-in-farah-and-takhar-04032/

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Taliban suicide attack in Kabul kills Afghan troops

12 Sept 2019

A Taliban suicide car bomber has targeted an Afghan special forces' base on the outskirts of the capital, Kabul, killing at least four troops, an official said on Thursday.

Three other soldiers were also wounded in Thursday's attack in the Chahar Asyab district in Kabul, Fawad Aman, deputy spokesman for the Afghan Defence Ministry, said.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the bombing in an email statement.

The attack came as US President Donald Trump pledged to hit the Taliban "harder than they have ever been hit before".

Last week, he abruptly called off US-Taliban peace talks as the two sides were on the verge of signing a draft deal to end the US's longest war.

Full report at:

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/09/taliban-suicide-attack-kabul-kills-afghan-troops-190912100202340.html

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Two Rohingya shot dead in Bangladesh

SEPTEMBER 13, 2019

The incident took place amid a clampdown on the refugees after the killing of a ruling party official

Two more Rohingya men were shot dead by officers on Friday in a southern Bangladesh border town, police said, amid a clampdown on the refugees after the killing of a ruling party official.

Police said the pair were accused of the murder of Omar Faruk, a youth wing official of the Awami League party, who was shot in the head by suspected Rohingya criminals late last month.

Nearly a million Rohingya live in squalid camps in southeast Bangladesh, 7,40,000 of whom fled a 2017 military offensive against the Muslim minority in Myanmar.

Masud Hossain, head of police in the border district of Cox's Bazar, told AFP the two men were grievously injured during a gunfight with police near Teknaf town early Friday morning and were later declared dead in hospital.

“They are Rohingya miscreants. They were involved in robbery, abduction and drug smuggling,” he said, adding they were “accused in the case” of Faruk's murder on August 22.

With the latest deaths, six Rohingya men allegedly involved in Faruk’s killing have been shot dead in alleged gunfights with police, according to a count by AFP and police sources based on the statements of Cox's Bazar police.

Hossain, however, put the toll at five.

At least 36 refugees have now been killed by Bangladeshi security forces since August 2017, when Myanmar's military launched a crackdown in western Rakhine state, sparking the mass exodus.

Rights groups have previously accused Bangladesh police of extrajudicial killings of Rohingya, mainly suspects in drug smuggling, saying some of the gunfights appeared to be staged.

The latest deaths follows a second failed attempt to begin the repatriation of the Rohingya to Myanmar.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has blamed Myanmar for the failure, saying Naypyidaw did not do enough to win the community's trust.

Full report at:

https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/two-rohingya-shot-dead-in-bangladesh/article29411707.ece

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