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Islamic World News ( 6 Jan 2023, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind Challenges Religious Conversion Laws Of Five States in Supreme Court

New Age Islam News Bureau

06 January 2023


Jamiat Ulema e Hind Monogram


• A Group Of Republican Rebels Dubbed The "Taliban 20" Brought Washington To A Standstill

• US State Department Begins Using 'Türkiye' In Formal, Bilateral Contacts

• Afghanistan’s Ruling Taliban Says 8 Islamic State’s Khurasan Members Involved In Attacks On Kabul Hotel & Pak Embassy Killed During Raids

• Deterioration In Religious Values A Main Driver Of War, Violence: Egyptian Grand Imam



• Majlis E Mushawarat Condemns Israeli Minister’s Visit To Al- Aqsa Mosque

• LeT Proxy The Resistance Front Banned, Chief Sheikh Sajjad Gul Tagged ‘Terrorist’

• Kashmir: Muslim Families Too Allege Ex Gratia Bias On The Basis Of Religion In Compensation Payments And Job Offers

• Imams Felicitate CM Khattar For Hiking Honorarium By 50%, Annual 5% Raise

• NIA arrests 2 Islamic State operatives during raids in Karnataka

• Kerala Journalist Siddique Kappan’s Cabbie Mohammed Alam Walks Out Of Jail After Two Years


North America

• US, Turkey sanction four people who allegedly provided funds to Islamic State

• Türkiye, US jointly freeze assets of Daesh/ISIS affiliates

• US, Turkey target financial network linked to ISIS: US Treasury Dept

• US says doesn’t support normalization with Syria’s Assad after UAE FM visit



• Prince Harry, As An Apache Helicopter Pilot In Afghanistan, Says He Killed 25 In Afghanistan: Media

• No lessons to take from Iran over press, judicial freedoms: France

• Türkiye rescues 63 irregular migrants after illegal Greek pushback in Aegean

• London barber shop owner jailed for sending COVID-19 grant funding to Daesh


South Asia                           

• Afghan hospital wards fill with children suffering from pneumonia

• Taliban (IEA) Minister Signs Extraction Contract of Amu Oil Feild With Chines Company


Arab World

• ‘Sick Building Syndrome’: UAE doctors see spike in illness from office environments

• UAE Helps Arrest World’s ‘Most Wanted Human Trafficker’ Kidane Zekarias Habtemariam: Interpol

• Turkish Court Suspends Funding For Pro-Kurdish Party Over Alleged Ties To Terrorism

• Lebanese court charges seven over fatal UNIFIL peacekeeper attack: Report

• Somalia, UAE strike security deal in push to mend fences

• Saudi music scene booming, says Arab singer

• Soccer Fans Hopeful Ahead Of Gulf Cup In Iraqi City Of Basra



• Iran to Close French Cultural Institute in Response to Charlie Hebdo's Insulting Cartoons

• If UNSC won’t stop you, our people will, Palestinian envoy tells Israeli counterpart

• Netanyahu shocked over cancelled UAE visit in wake of Al-Aqsa controversy

• Iran Disbands Foreign-Backed Terror Team in Zahedan

• As young Gazans die at sea, anger rises over Hamas leaders’ travel

• Iran judiciary official orders probe into rape in jails

• Iran sentences another protester to death



• There Would Be No Talks With Terrorists, Militant Groups: Pakistan Interior Minister

• 11 ‘militants’ killed, five cops injured in KP terror spate

• Pakistan to seek over USD 16 billion for flood rehabilitation at UN conference

• Pakistani officers shot dead in Punjab province revealed to be ISI officials

• 'Drain the swamp': Pakistan planning to eliminate TTP terrorists in Afghanistan with US help?

• Thousands rally in KP’s Bajaur for restoration of lasting peace

• Bilawal warns against talks with militants

• Security forces neutralise 11 terrorists in Wana operation


Southeast Asia

• Sabah Schools, Non-Muslim Religious Bodies Get RM54m Allocation For 2023

• Izzue Islam, Elizabeth Tan and other Malaysian celebs reveal their 2023 goals



• Muslim Council of Elders condemns terrorist attack in central Somalia

• Libya: Ben-Gvir storming of Al-Aqsa is a provocation to all Muslims

• Ugandan government denies links to Facebook account under its name amid outcry

• Sudan shuts border with Central African Republic amid heightened security presence

• Libyan leaders hold talks in Egypt, affirm to announce peace roadmap soon

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind Challenges Religious Conversion Laws Of Five States in Supreme Court


Jamiat Ulema e Hind Monogram


January 06, 2023

Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to declare the religious conversion laws of five States as unconstitutional, saying they bring the personal decision of an individual to adopt another faith under state scrutiny.

“The scrutiny by the state of a personal decision to convert is a grave assault on personal liberty of an individual and violates Articles 21 (right to dignity, privacy) and 25 (freedom of religion) of the Constitution,” the Jamiat, represented by advocate Ejaz Maqbool, submitted.

The writ petition challenged the legality of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition Of Unlawful Conversion Of Religion Act, 2021; the Uttarakhand Freedom Of Religion Act, 2018; the Himachal Pradesh Freedom Of Religion Act, 2019; the Madhya Pradesh Freedom Of Religion Act, 2021; and the Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act, 2021.

These Acts mandate a person proposing to convert or a priest who would preside over the ceremony to take prior permission from the local District Magistrate. Besides, the burden of proof is on the convert to prove that he or she was not forced or “allured” to change faith.

“These provisions force a person to disclose his faith and thereby invade into the privacy of a person… The compulsory disclosure of one’s religion in any form amounts to violation of their right to manifest his/her beliefs. Therefore, such disclosure is unconstitutional,” the petition said.

The petition further said the definition of ‘allurement’ or what constitutes allurement is vague. The Acts have said that any form of allurement given to convert would amount to exercising “undue influence” over a person to change faith and render the conversion illegal. The definition of ‘undue influence’ was also broad.

“The phrase ‘undue influence’ is too wide and vague and can be used to prosecute any person in a stronger position vis-a-vis the converted person. The extremely broad nature of the doctrine of ‘undue influence’ may be used to prosecute elders, parents and other such persons who wield a degree of influence over a person,” the petition said.

On the other hand, the broad construction of the phrase would give enough room for disgruntled family members to harass the convert.

The Jamiat said the five statutes had a “chilling effect” on the right to profess and propagate one’s religion, enshrined in Article 25 of the Constitution.

Source: The Hindu

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A Group Of Republican Rebels Dubbed The "Taliban 20" Brought Washington To A Standstill


A number of ‘Never Kevins’ -- notably Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert - have been clear that no amount of compromise will change their minds on opposing Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Reuters


Jan 6, 2023

WASHINGTON: A group of Republican rebels dubbed the "Taliban 20" have brought Washington to a standstill by torpedoing party favourite Kevin McCarthy's bid to become speaker of the US House of Representatives.

The House cannot perform any of its vital functions -- including overseeing national security, investigating government misconduct and passing legislation -- until its presiding officer is in place, spelling paralysis in Congress.

The renegade Republicans were given their unflattering nickname by frustrated lawmakers from their own side. But who are they and what do they want?

Many in the group -- which has boasted between 19 and 21 adherents depending on the ballot -- are members of the House Freedom Caucus, a collection of some of the most staunchly right-wing Republicans in the lower chamber of Congress.

They share geography too as they are dominated by southerners, mainly from Texas, Florida or Arizona.

Pennsylvania's Scott Perry is the only member living above the Mason-Dixon line that traditionally separates the southern United States from the north.

Most represent districts that voted solidly for defeated Republican Donald Trump in the 2020 election and most were endorsed by the former president for last November's midterms.

Trump backed 144 primary candidates in the midterms, all but a handful of whom won the Republican nomination.

But the rebels do not appear beholden to the former president: McCarthy's vote share actually dropped after he received Trump's endorsement on the second day of the standoff in the House of Representatives.

Some Republicans oppose McCarthy because they say he has proved an obstacle to their right-wing agenda and will make for a weak foe to Democratic President Joe Biden.

Others just seem to dislike him personally, whatever policies he espouses.

Many Republicans complain privately that McCarthy is politically rudderless, opportunistic and untrustworthy -- "empty suit" is a favorite rebuke -- and willing to make any promise or alliance for as long as it appears expedient.

A number of "Never Kevins" -- notably Matt Gaetz of Florida, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Lauren Boebert of Colorado -- have been clear that no amount of compromise will change their minds on opposing the California congressman.

Biggs bemoaned the lack of selflessness and principle in modern politics in a tweet posted before the first round of voting, when he stood as a symbolic opponent to his fellow Republican.

"This is what a McCarthy speakership would look like and would put our country last."

Well over half of the rebel group have explicitly denied the results of the last presidential election, amplifying Donald Trump's false claims that it was rigged -- reflecting a now-dominant creed among House Republicans, two thirds of whom voted against certifying the 2020 vote.

A handful are newly elected but the majority earned their stripes in the ultra-conservative Tea Party movement that grew out of opposition to president Barack Obama from 2010.

As well as being known for fiscal austerity, the movement has its origins in a form of libertarianism that rejects "business as usual" and prides itself on producing agents of chaos who revel in their outsider status and ability to disrupt the consensus politics of the political elite.

Televised stunts, rather than carefully-worded bills, are their weapon of choice.

Several among this group, such as Boebert, Andy Harris and Bob Good -- beat more established Republican incumbents in primary nominating contests to earn their place at the table.

Source: Times Of India

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US State Department Begins Using 'Türkiye' In Formal, Bilateral Contacts




Servet Günerigök  



The US State Department has officially begun using "Türkiye" instead of "Turkey" in formal, diplomatic and bilateral contacts, according to its spokesman.

Ned Price said at a briefing that the move was finalized and put into practice Thursday morning.

His remarks came in response to a question about a State Department statement Thursday on disrupting Daesh/ISIS financing that used "Türkiye."

"I can confirm that the Turkish Embassy did request that we use this spelling in our communications. This is a change that was -- as is always the case -- approved by the US Board on Geographic Names," said Price.

"What I can tell you though is that the Board on Geographic Names retained both ‘Turkey’ and ‘Republic of Turkey,’ the previous spelling, as conventional names, as these are more widely understood by the American public.

"The department will use the spelling (Türkiye) that you saw today in most of our formal diplomatic and bilateral contexts, including public communications, but the conventional name can also be used if it is in furtherance of broader public understanding," he added.

"Türkiye" was first approved and put in practice by the UN on June 1 last year.

In addition, "Made in Turkey" has been changed to "Made in Türkiye," while the Turkish Directorate of Communications launched a campaign dubbed "Hello Türkiye" to promote the name globally.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Afghanistan’s Ruling Taliban Says 8 Islamic State’s Khurasan Members Involved In Attacks On Kabul Hotel & Pak Embassy Killed During Raids


An ISIS fighter walks along with a Islamic State flag File Photo


Jan 6, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban has killed eight fighters of Daesh, or the Islamic State’s Khurasan chapter (IS-K), who were involved in recent attacks on Pakistan’s embassy, the military airfield and a hotel hosting Chinese nationals in Kabul.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, said on Thursday that eight IS-K fighters, including foreign nationals, were killed and seven others arrested during raids in Kabul, while a separate operation in western Nimroz province resulted in the arrest of two IS-K fighters.

Three hideouts of the group were “eliminated” during the operations carried out in Kabul and Zaranj, the capital of Nimroz, on Wednesday.

Mujahid said light weapons, hand grenades, mines, vests and explosives were confiscated by the Taliban’s security forces during the raids on the IS-K hideout in the Shahdai Salehin neighbourhood of Kabul. Residents reported sounds of several explosions and an hours-long gun battle.

The terrorists killed had planned more attacks on key targets, the Taliban spokesperson said. “They planned to bring Daesh members from other countries and launch coordinated attacks,” he added.

On December 2, Pakistan’s embassy in Kabul had come under attack and the IS-K had claimed responsibility, saying its target was the country’s envoy.

This was followed by a bombing and shooting incident on December 12 in the Kabul hotel where more than 30 Chinese nationals were staying. Beijing had said five of its nationals were injured in the attack and later asked its citizens to leave Afghanistan.

The IS-K, which owned up the attack, published a photo of the attacker, identifying him as Abdul Jabbar, saying he detonated his explosives-laden vest targeting the soldiers gathered at the checkpoint, and later withdrew safely from the hotel after he ran out of ammunition

IS-K, a regional affiliate of ISIL, is a key rival of the Taliban and has increased its attacks in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover in 2021. Their targets have included Taliban patrols and members of Afghanistan’s Shia minority.

Source: Times Of India

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Deterioration In Religious Values A Main Driver Of War, Violence: Al-Tayyeb, Egyptian Grand Imam


Al-Tayyeb said: “The wars we are witnessing today are mainly caused by the deviation from the morals of religion, the spread of atheism, and disbelief in God.”


January 05, 2023

CAIRO: A deterioration in religious values was one of the main drivers of war and violence around the world, a prominent Egyptian faith leader has claimed.

Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayyeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar Al-Sharif, made his comments during a recent meeting with Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Al-Tayyeb said: “The wars we are witnessing today are mainly caused by the deviation from the morals of religion, the spread of atheism, and disbelief in God.”

Accompanied by a delegation of senior scholars from the Islamic scientific body and the largest religious institution in Egypt, he was visiting Tawadros to pass on Christmas and new year greetings.

He pointed out the need for Muslims and Christians in Egypt and around the globe to draw closer to God in times of crisis in order to bring about international security and stability.

Many of the world’s problems, he noted, stemmed from the “spread of selfishness, arrogance, and tyranny of power and money, as well as the distance from values and morals, and alienation from identity.”

Tawadros said Al-Tayyeb’s visit carried with it “cordiality, love, and good feelings,” and that such meetings delivered “a message of reassurance to all, as they reflect the strength of the relationship that binds Christians and Muslims in our country, praying to God to preserve Egypt and perpetuate the blessings of security and safety for us.”

Al-Azhar Al-Sharif has been encouraging the sending of Christmas messages of good will to Christian communities worldwide, evidenced by Al-Tayyeb’s greetings to Pope Francis, Tawadros, the British Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Archbishop Bartholomew I of Constantinople, and other international church leaders.

In a statement, Al-Azhar Observatory for Combating Extremism said: “These greetings carried an explicit call to raise the voice of brotherhood and peace in order for security and stability to prevail everywhere.”

Tawadros also received Mahmoud Tawfik, Egypt’s minister of the interior, Mohamed Maait, the country’s minister of finance, and their accompanying delegations, at the papal headquarters in Cairo.

He presides over the Christmas mass prayer on Friday evening at the Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ in the New Administrative Capital in Cairo, in the presence of dignitaries.

Source: Arab News

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Majlis e Mushawarat condemns Israeli minister’s visit to Al- Aqsa mosque

5th January 2023

New Delhi: The All India Muslim Majlis e Mushawarat (AIMMM), the umbrella body of the Muslim organisations in India, on Thursday condemned the visit of Israel’s National Security Minister Ben Gvir to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound which is a holy place for both Jews and Muslims.

Mushawarat said it considers it as a grave violation of the sanctity of the third holiest place of Islam and a flagrant violation of international law.

Navaid Hamid, acting president of the organisation, said, “The Israeli Minister’s forced illegal action endangers security and peace in the illegally occupied territories of Palestine and a serious threat to the stability of the entire region”.

The AIMMM appealed to the international community and the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonia Guterres, to take swift, firm and decisive action to put an end to such provocative practices.

Source: Siasat Daily

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LeT Proxy The Resistance Front Banned, Chief Sheikh Sajjad Gul Tagged ‘Terrorist’

Jan 6, 2023

NEW DELHI: The Resistance Front, a proxy of the Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba, was on Thursday declared a banned organisation.

According to a Union home ministry notification, The Resistance Front (TRF) is recruiting youth through the online medium for the furtherance of terrorist activities, recruitment of terrorists, infiltration of terrorists and smuggling of weapons and narcotics from Pakistan into J&K.

The group came into existence in 2019 as a proxy of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba, which was involved in numerous terror acts, including the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.

Source: Times Of India

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Kashmir: Muslim Families Too Allege Ex Gratia Bias On The Basis Of Religion In Compensation Payments And Job Offers

Muzaffar Raina   |   Srinagar  


Several Muslim families in Kashmir have alleged that they faced discrimination on the basis of religion in compensation payments and job offers after their relatives were killed by militants.

An association representing Dalits and other persecuted sections had on Wednesday alleged caste bias in such cases.

The families of many Kashmiri Muslims who died at the hands of militants defending the country or democratic institutions said the discrimination started after the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was scrapped. In several cases, even association with the BJP has not helped.

The militants have killed more Muslim non-combatants, mostly members of the BJP or panchayat functionaries, than people of other faiths since August 5, 2019, when Article 370 was diluted, as had been the case earlier too.

“The families of panchayat members who died before 2019 were given a pittance but faced no discrimination on the basis of religion. However, there has been a brazen display of discrimination after 2019,” Shafiq Mir, chairman of the All J&K Panchayat Conference, told The Telegraph.

Mir referred to te ex gratia and job that the family of slain sarpanch Ajay Pandita, a Kashmiri Pandit, received, adding that families of Muslim victims were struggling. Ajay’s brother put the ex gratia at Rs 20 lakh.

“These (Muslims) are men who stood for democratic institutions in the most difficult times. In several cases, they were the sole breadwinners,” Mir said.

Mir added: “Some got Rs 1 lakh ex gratia, others nothing. There are no welfare schemes for them. Perhaps, they were discriminated against because of their religion.”

Ajay’s brother Vijay Pandita said the family faced no hurdles to receiving the ex gratia and a job for the slain sarpanch’s daughter.

Mir said 26 panchayat members — mostly Muslim — were killed after 2012, several after 2019. The last local body elections in Jammu and Kashmir were held in 2019 and 2020 amid a boycott by major political parties like the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party.

The family of Puran Kishan Bhat, a Pandit killed in October, received an ex gratia of Rs 6 lakh. Puran’s brother-inlaw Ashok Kumar Raina said they were expecting a job for a family member in a few days.

This newspaper spoke to a number of Muslim victims of militant violence, who said they were given nothing.

Arshad Ahmad Dar, whose father Ghulam Rasool Dar was killed by militants in August 2021, said the government did not pay any ex gratia, nor offered any job. “We got Rs 1 lakh from the Red Cross but nothing from the government — no money, no job,” he said.

“They (the family of Ajay Pandita) got it because they are Pandits and we are not. My father was with the BJP for years but that did not help. We have got only assurances,” Arshad added.

Ghulam Rasool was the Kulgam president of the BJP’s Kisan Morcha.

“The government had (in 2020) announced a life insurance cover of Rs 25 lakh for all elected panchayat members, but we are not getting even that,” Arshad said.

Srinagar resident Altaf Ahmad Bhat, who lost his brother Nissar Ahmad, a panch, to militant violence in August 2020 said they too had received only promises.

“Forget ex gratia or a job, no government official has visited our home in the last two years. My brother’s widow is struggling to make ends meet. They are lucky they did not have children. They too would have suffered,” Altaf said.

“I have gone from pillar to post seeking redress but got nothing. The same is the story with the family of Sameer Ahmad Bhat. They also got nothing,” he said.

Sameer, a sarpanch, was killed by militants in Srinagar’s Khonmoh locality in March last year. His wife said her insurance payment of Rs 25 lakh was being processed and would be the first such instance. Rural development department director Imam Din did not respond to calls from this newspaper, made to seek his comments on the allegations of discrimination.

Source: Telegraph India

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Imams felicitate CM Khattar for hiking honorarium by 50%, annual 5% raise

Jan 06, 2023

Imams associated Haryana Waqf Board on Thursday felicitated chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar after the state government increased their monthly honorarium by 50% and promised them a 5% increment every year.

Tanzeem Aima-e-Auqaf, an organisation of the imams, said the salary hike was unprecedented and at least 800 imams working with various mosques in Haryana will benefit by this decision. Imams are paid salaries by Haryana Waqf Board, which gets grants from the state government and also generates income from its own properties.

Zakir Hussain, administrator, Haryana Waqf Board, said that imams will be paid between ₹14,000 and ₹16,000 as honorarium per month. “The provision of 5% yearly hike in imams’ salary has never happened anywhere in India,” he said.

Addressing the media after meeting with 30 imams and office bearers of Haryana Waqf Board at Gurugram University, chief minister Khattar said, “Imams can play a crucial road in improving education and health facilities in areas such as Mewat. We are also working on creating more infrastructure and development in this region. The imams have also played an important role in the success of Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign in Mewat as well as the Swachh Bharat campaign,” he said.

Khattar added the government is working to ensure that temple priests are also paid minimum wage by the organisations that employ them. “A board has been formed by the government to oversee this aspect and also for the welfare of this section,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Khattar inaugurated the animation and multimedia lab at Gurugram University and digitally laid the foundation stone of the teaching block of the University being constructed at a cost of ₹44 crore in Sector-87.

Source: Hindustan Times

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NIA arrests 2 Islamic State operatives during raids in Karnataka

Jan 6, 2023

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday conducted raids at several locations across South India in Karnataka and arrested two operatives in connection with the Shivamogga ISIS conspiracy case.

The NIA conducted searches at six locations across Karnataka in the districts of Dakshina Kannada, Shivamogga, Davanagere and Bengaluru, arresting two ISIS operatives.

The case was initially registered on September 19, 2022 at Shivamogga Rural Police Station and re-registered by NIA on November 15, 2022.

The case is related to a conspiracy hatched by the accused to further the terror activities of the Islamic State (IS), a banned terrorist organization, and to endanger the unity, security and sovereignty of the country.

The arrested accused has been identified as Reshaan Thajuddin Sheikh, resident of Udupi district in Karnataka, and Huzair Farhan Baig of Shivamogga.

Investigation has revealed that the accused, Maaz Muneer radicalized his close associate and college mate Reshaan Thajuddin, and the two accused, Reshaan Thajuddin Sheikh and Huzair Farhan Baig received funds from their ISIS handler through Crypto-wallets for carrying out terrorist activities of the Islamic State.

The accused also indulged in arson and targeted vehicles and other establishments, such as liquor shops, godowns, transformers etc.

Source: India Today

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Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan’s cabbie Mohammed Alam walks out of jail after two years

Jan 6, 2023

LUCKNOW: Mohammed Alam, the taxi driver arrested along with Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan, walked out of jail on Thursday after 27 months in prison.

Alam was driving the taxi in October 2020 in which Kappan and two others were going to Hathras, where a Dalit woman had died after allegedly being gang-raped. They were arrested before they could reach the woman’s village.

On Kappan’s release, his lawyer Mohamed Dhanish KS told TOI that his sureties were yet to be furnished. He was granted bail by the Supreme Court in cases registered by the UP police. Later, the high court granted him bail in the PMLA case as well. “We will furnish the sureties by Friday. During Kappan’s bail plea hearing we had raised the issue of delay in verification of the securities, to which the court has given us an oral assurance of getting it done within 10 days,” said Dhanish KS.

Source: Times Of India

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North America


US, Turkey sanction four people who allegedly provided funds to Islamic State


5 January 2023

WASHINGTON (AP) — The US said Thursday it has worked with Turkey to impose sanctions on four people and two firms that it says provided financial support to the Islamic State group.

The announcement signaled counterterrorism cooperation between the two countries at a time of tensions over efforts to fight Islamic State.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has threatened an offensive into Syria against Kurdish militants he has blamed for a deadly November 13 bombing in Istanbul, which has alarmed US officials. Kurdish groups have been allied with the US in the fight against Islamic State group and have warned that a Turkish escalation would threaten anti-IS efforts.

In its announcement Thursday, Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said it was imposing sanctions on an Iraqi national living in Turkey, Abd Al Hamid Salim Ibrahim Ismail Brukan al-Khatuni, his sons and the Turkish money service firm where they all worked. They are accused of facilitating financial transfers to and from Iraq and Syria for the benefit of the Islamic State.

Another individual, Lu’ay Jasim Hammadi al-Juburi, an Islamic State financial administration official also living in Turkey, was accused of using the firm Sham Express, a company founded in 2020 by Brukan al-Khatuni, to transfer funds to the Islamic State.

Thursday’s sanctions freeze and block any potential transactions with US entities and prevent Americans from doing business with them.

The State Department noted that Turkey is concurrently freezing the assets of those targeted by the US sanctions.

Brian Nelson, the Treasury’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence said Thursday’s actions reaffirm “Treasury’s commitment to degrade ISIS’s ability to operate globally.”

The actions come after two November rounds of sanctions were imposed on people and firms in Africa who it says have provided financial or material support to Islamic State.

The Islamic State group is also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

Source: Times Of Israel

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Türkiye, US jointly freeze assets of Daesh/ISIS affiliates

Merve Aydogan  


Türkiye and the US jointly froze the assets of Daesh/ISIS terrorist organization affiliates, the Turkish Foreign Ministry announced on Thursday.

"Today, Türkiye and the United States decided to take a joint action on freezing the assets of 5 individuals and 2 legal persons who have been identified to finance the DAESH terrorist organization," said a statement by the ministry.

Noting that further information on the matter could be obtained from a published decision by the Turkish Ministry of Treasury and Finance, the statement said Ankara would "continue to take effective steps on countering terrorism financing and cooperate with its international partners on the issue."

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a separate statement that the two countries "have disrupted ISIS's ability to finance its operations by designating four individuals and two entities of an ISIS financial facilitation network."

"The United States designated members of the network pursuant to counterterrorism authorities that target terrorist groups and their supporters. Concurrently, Turkish authorities have implemented an asset freeze against members of this network," said Price.

Last month, Türkiye froze the assets of 17 people and four legal entities linked to Daesh/ISIS.

In 2013, Türkiye became one of the first countries to declare Daesh/ISIS a terrorist organization.

The country has since been attacked by the terror group multiple times, with over 300 people killed and hundreds more injured in at least 10 suicide bombings, seven bomb attacks, and four armed assaults.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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US, Turkey target financial network linked to ISIS: US Treasury Dept

05 January ,2023

The US Treasury Department said on Thursday it was taking joint action with Turkey against a network it said played a key role in money management, transfer and distribution for the ISIS militant group operating in Iraq and Syria.

Turkey's foreign affairs ministry said on Twitter the assets of seven individuals or legal persons involved in financing for the group were frozen.

The US Treasury Department said four individuals and two entities in Turkey were designated under US sanctions.

They included an Iraqi national living illegally in Turkey, Brukan al-Khatuni, his two sons and an associate, and two businesses they used to transfer money on behalf of the ISIS, also known as ISIS, between Turkey, Iraq and Syria, the Treasury Department said in a statement.

The sanctions freeze any US assets they hold and generally bar Americans from dealing with them.

ISIS killed and executed thousands of people in the name of its extremism before it was territorially defeated in Iraq in 2017 and Syria in 2019.

The group last month named a new leader, Abu al-Hussein al-Husseini al-Quraishi, after its previous head blew himself up in October while being besieged by former anti-government rebels in southern Syria.

The United States in November blacklisted four individuals and eight companies in South Africa aiding the group and in May imposed sanctions on a network of five ISIS financial facilitators working across Indonesia, Syria and Turkey.

Source: Al Arabiya

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US says doesn’t support normalization with Syria’s Assad after UAE FM visit

05 January ,2023

Washington on Thursday reiterated its rejection of normalizing relations with Syria under the Assad regime after the top UAE diplomat visited Damascus this week.

Bashar al-Assad and UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed met in Syria for the second time in two years on Wednesday to discuss boosting ties between the two countries and restoring relations.

But the US, which has enforced crushing economic sanctions on the Assad regime and those dealing with it, continues to oppose outreach and efforts to rehabilitate the current Syrian government.

“Our position on normalization with the Assad regime remains unchanged. We do not support it,” a National Security Council official told Al Arabiya English.

The State Department had the same response when asked about the UAE foreign minister’s latest trip to Syria.

Assad made a surprise visit to the UAE last year, which was widely criticized by Washington, in March.

Following the Syrian civil war outbreak in 2011, the Arab League kicked out Damascus and most of the countries in the region severed diplomatic ties.

In recent years, several Gulf and Arab countries have moved to restore these ties, including the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Jordan. Turkey is reportedly looking to arrange a sit-down between Recep Tayyip Erdogan and al-Assad in the near future.

“Washington and the West will not normalize with Assad, but doesn’t care if its allies try their hand engagement,” said Andrew Tabler, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “To achieve what is the real question,” added Tabler, who was also the NSC Syria Director under former US President Donald Trump.

The top Republican senator on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee slammed the UAE foreign minister’s trip and said it risked sanctions and harming the UAE’s reputation.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Prince Harry, As An Apache Helicopter Pilot In Afghanistan, Says He Killed 25 In Afghanistan: Media

January 05, 2023

LONDON: Prince Harry has acknowledged killing 25 people during his time as an Apache helicopter pilot in Afghanistan, British media reported Thursday, quoting a soon-to-be-published autobiography.

The 38-year-old Duke of Sussex served two tours of duty against the Taliban, first as a forward air controller calling in airstrikes in 2007-2008, then flying the attack helicopter in 2012-2013.

In the book “Spare,” due out next week, he said he undertook six missions as a pilot that led to him “taking human lives,” the Daily Telegraph reported.

He said he was neither proud nor ashamed of doing so and described eliminating the targets as like removing “chess pieces” from a board.

Harry served for 10 years in the British Army, rising to the rank of captain, and has described his time in the military as his formative years.

His first tour was conducted under a strict news blackout for security reasons, which was agreed by British media outlets. He was forced to return home when a foreign publication broke the embargo.

He has never publicly discussed how many Taliban he killed.

Video cameras mounted on the nose of his Apache helicopter enabled him to assess his missions — and determine with certainty how many he had killed.

“My number is 25. It’s not a number that fills me with satisfaction, but nor does it embarrass me,” he wrote.

He justified his actions because of his memory of the 9/11 attacks in the United States, and after meeting families of the victims.

Those responsible and their sympathizers were “enemies of humanity” and fighting them was an act of vengeance for a crime against humanity, he added.

Harry has since voiced concern about his security, not just because of his royal status but also because of his time fighting extremists.

Source: Arab News

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No lessons to take from Iran over press, judicial freedoms: France

05 January ,2023

Iran should look at what is going on at home before criticizing France, Foreign Minster Catherine Colonna said on Thursday, a day after Paris’ envoy in Tehran was summoned over cartoons published by the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Ties between France and Iran have deteriorated in recent months as efforts to revive nuclear talks, to which France is one of the parties, have stalled and Tehran has detained seven of its nationals.

Charlie Hebdo this week published dozens of cartoons depicting the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, which it said aimed to support anti-government protests sparked by the death of a young woman in September while in the custody of the morality police.

Speaking to LCI TV, Colonna said it was Iran that was pursuing bad policies through its violence against its population and detention of French nationals.

“Let’s remember that in France press freedom exists contrary to what’s happening in Iran and that this (freedom) is overseen by a judge within the framework of an independent judiciary, which is something that Iran without doubt doesn’t know well,” she said, adding that there were no blasphemy laws in France.

Iran’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Thursday it had ended the activities of the French Institute of Research in Iran and was re-evaluating France’s cultural activities in the country.

The French foreign ministry said in an online news briefing that it had not been made aware of the move at this stage, but that if it were true it would be “regrettable.”

The institute, first opened in 1983 after a merger of two other French cultural entities, had been closed for years only to re-open in 2013 under former President Hassan Rouhani.

Facing their worst legitimacy crisis since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran’s religious leaders have accused its foreign foes of orchestrating the anti-government mass protests to destabilize the country.

The Charlie Hebdo cartoons triggered an angry response from Iran with Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian warning that the “offensive and indecent” move would receive a firm response from Tehran. He accused the French government of going too far.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Türkiye rescues 63 irregular migrants after illegal Greek pushback in Aegean

Burak Akay  


The Turkish Coast Guard said on Thursday that it rescued 63 irregular migrants illegally pushed back into Turkish territorial waters by Greek authorities.

In an initial incident, Turkish teams were dispatched off the coast off Ayvacik in the northwestern Canakkale province after the coast guard learned that there were irregular migrants on a rubber boat and a total of 44 foreign nationals were rescued, the Turkish Coast Guard said.

Nineteen irregular migrants were later rescued off the coast of the Ayvalik District of Balikesir province.

Türkiye has been a key transit point for irregular migrants wanting to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.

Human rights groups and media outlets have frequently reported on illegal pushbacks and other human rights breaches by Greek authorities.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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London barber shop owner jailed for sending COVID-19 grant funding to Daesh

January 05, 2023

LONDON: The owner of a London barber shop who claimed thousands of pounds in COVID-19 grant payments and sent the money to Daesh militants in Syria was on Thursday jailed for 12 years.

Tarek Namouz, 43, from west London, had received the bounce-back loans from the British government during the coronavirus pandemic to support his hair-cutting business.

The scheme was introduced to help companies during the global virus outbreak, with small and medium-sized enterprises able to borrow between £2,000 and up to 25 percent of their turnover.

Namouz had previously been found guilty of eight counts of funding terrorism and two of possessing information likely to be useful for terrorism, Sky News reported.

The sentence was handed down at Kingston Crown Court and included a further year on extended licence.

Namouz sent around £11,280 to Syria on dates between November 2020 and April 2021, the court heard. The money was intended to fund a militia in the country.

He was also recorded telling someone visiting him in prison while on remand that he had sent around £25,000, the court was told.

Prosecutors said cash and a hidden mobile phone containing messages to a contact in Syria, a Daesh bomb-making video, and a video showing how to kill with a knife, were found at the barber shop after a police raid.

Commander Richard Smith, head of the Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism command, said that terrorist groups relied on funding to carry out their activities and to continue to operate.

“People like Namouz who provide money to terrorist groups — both in the UK and overseas — are enabling others to go and commit serious and deadly attacks, and we will always pursue and investigate those people and seek to bring them to justice,” Smith added.

Judge Peter Lodder said Namouz had shown a “commitment to terrorism” and had planned to “re-establish a state run in accordance with extreme Islamic principles.”

He added: “In 2020 and 2021 you ran a barber’s shop in Hammersmith. You were entitled to COVID-19 bounce-back loans which were paid to you by the local council.

Source: Arab News

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South Asia


Afghan hospital wards fill with children suffering from pneumonia

Jan 5, 2023

KABUL : In a bitterly cold bedroom at the start of winter in Kabul, 22-year Maryam sat with her baby son bundled up in a red jumper as he coughed days after being discharged for the third time from a hospital ward for suspected pneumonia.

Every time 10-month old Rahmat's parents bring him home from the crowded, but warmer hospital, they say he gets sick again. The parents said they spend whatever they can from their shrinking income to trying to heat the room, which drops below freezing at night.

"I am scared, it is only the beginning of winter, what is going to happen?" said Maryam, saying the family could only buy coal in small quantities and had to cut back on food to afford even that after her husband lost his construction job.

The family is among many in Afghanistan unable to afford adequate heating, often having to choose between food and fuel as an economic crisis grips the country.

Doctors and aid workers say thousands of children are being admitted to hospital with pneumonia and other respiratory diseases caused by the cold and malnutrition.

The crisis, aid agencies say, is likely to get worse. A ban on female NGO workers has led to over 180 international organisations suspending operations in the crucial winter months, saying they are unable to operate in the conservative country without female staff to reach out to women and children.

Even before that, more than half the population was reliant on humanitarian aid after the economic shock precipitated by the 2021 Taliban takeover caused Afghanistan's GDP to shrink by 20% last year.

Afghanistan has been hit by a cut in development spending by foreign governments, an enforcement of Western sanctions and the freezing of the country's central bank assets that has severely hampered the banking system.

"Our patients have increased compared to the past, the main reason is the economy," said Mohammad Arif Hassanzai, head of internal medicine at Indira Gandhi Children's Hospital in Kabul.

Hospital figures showed more than 6,700 children were admitted in November for pneumonia, coughs, asthma and other respiratory conditions, compared to around 3,700 the same month the previous year.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which supports several hospitals in Afghanistan, said even before the winter months, it had seen a 50% increase of children under five admitted for pneumonia in 2022 compared to the previous year.

"People have been dying of pneumonia this year, including children," said Lucien Christen, ICRC's spokesperson in Kabul, adding that malnutrition was contributing to children's weakened immune systems.

Aid workers said pollution had also worsened this year as more people burned garbage and plastic for heat.

In a ward dedicated to pneumonia patients at the hospital, babies lay two or three to a bed, with worried parents and a handful of stretched medical staff overseeing them. Some mothers held tiny oxygen masks to infants' faces, while fathers crammed the corridors outside.

Suddenly a clamour broke out. A one-month old baby, Mohammad, stopped breathing and his lips were turning blue. His panic-stricken uncle, holding the child in a green blanket, was directed to a specialized emergency unit two floors below. He dashed downstairs, as the baby's mother ran behind in tears.

In the high dependency unit, Mohammad was connected to an oxygen tube via his nose. The doctor said he was in critical condition and would take five days to stabilise.

Source: Times Of India

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Taliban (IEA) Minister Signs Extraction Contract of Amu Oil Feild With Chines Company

By Nizamuddin Rezahi

January 5, 2023

Shahabuddin Delawar, the Acting Minster of Mines and Petroleum of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan signed the extraction contract of the Amu oil field with the Chinese company (CPEIC) earlier today.

The signing ceremony took place in presence of the Chines Ambassador to Afghanistan Wang Yu, and the Acting Minister of Mines and Petroleum of Afghanistan, Shahabuddin Delawar, and other high ranking Afghan officials. 

During the official signing ceremony of the extraction contract of Amu oil field with the Chines company, China Petroleum Economics and Information Research Center (CPEIC), the Afghan Minister said that some 3000 jobs will be created for Afghans inside the country. And the capacity of extracting oil from the Qashqari mine will increase from 200 tons to 1000 tons and more. 

The area of this contract is estimated 4500 square kilometers, scattered in the country’s three northern provinces including Saripul, Jawzjan and Faryab.

In the contract, it is stated that Afghanistan’s share is 20 percent at present, and it will reach up to 75 percent in the future.

Source: Khaama Press

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Arab World


‘Sick Building Syndrome’: UAE doctors see spike in illness from office environments

06 January ,2023

Doctors in the United Arab Emirates are warning that the environment of workplaces could be damaging workers’ health after seeing a rise in the number of cases related to Sick Building Syndrome (SBS).

Office workers visit clinics every month, complaining of headaches, sore throats, itchy eyes, breathing difficulties and skin complaints; symptoms related to SBS.

SBS is attributed to unhealthy or stressful factors – such as poor ventilation and dust, fungal spores, and other airborne particles – at workplaces.

Dr Trilok Chand, a specialist in respiratory medicine at Abu Dhabi’s Burjeel Hospital, told Al Arabiya English that Sick Building Syndrome is when a person experiences adverse health effects due to the indoor air quality in offices, homes, and school buildings.

“Sick Building Syndrome is caused by poor air quality due to poor ventilation, dust, carpet fibers, and fungal spores,” he explained. “Indoor air quality is also affected by outdoor air quality due to factors like pollution or sandstorms that happen in the summer. Ultimately, air flow in the buildings comes from the outside. In the winter season, poor ventilation and crowding can also cause infections.”

Due to poor air quality, patients across the UAE can complain of respiratory symptoms as well as skin and eye allergies. Respiratory symptoms include dyspnea, cough, throat pain, sneezing, insomnia, and headache.

“We see patients with Sick Building Syndrome,” he said. “Recently we encountered some teachers who experienced these symptoms due to poor ventilation when the schools reopened.

“Patients with Sick Building Syndrome sometimes have existing symptoms like asthma and COPD.”

“Due to poor air quality, respiratory symptoms can worsen. In these patients, problems like bronchitis, respiratory infections, pneumonia, and allergic symptoms, including skin and eye allergies, can also occur.”

While these problems are not often seen in many of the UAE’s new buildings, they can be seen in people living or working in older premises.

“The health authorities are so vigilant here that they regularly keep eyes on spurts of unusual symptoms due to poor air quality and condition of offices and residences,” said Dr Chand.

“However, employers have a shared responsibility to provide clean air in the workspace. The offices should be clean, and the carpet area should be minimized. The ventilation system should be checked from time to time and thoroughly cleaned by an expert AC maintenance team.”

“If you want to improve indoor air quality and avoid Sick Building Syndrome, you can install good quality and efficient air purifiers that can trap dust particles, viruses and fumes and improve the air quality. Another action that could be taken is prohibiting smoking in office areas. Smoking is a man-made pollution in the workspace that can affect employees working in the same place.”

Better ventilation systems needed

Dr Gopal Chawla, Pulmonologist & Sleep Medicine Physician at NMC Specialty Hospital, Dubai Investment Park, told Al Arabiya English that employers should invest in better ventilation systems and air-quality measures to safeguard the well-being of their staff.

“There is a lot of concern about outdoor air pollution, yet we hardly think about indoor pollution,” the doctor said. ”Sick Building Syndrome is not a new concept and has been existing for a long time in fast growing economies. It has been seen in people in some specific buildings where they are working or living where they develop symptoms including watery itchy eyes, sore throat, dry cough, runny nose, feeling of malaise or breathlessness.”

“These symptoms can develop very slowly so many never realize when it starts – until one day when they become all too aware of them.”

It can apparently be so variable that people in the same building may have varying symptoms, not realizing that the root cause is the same.

Dr Chawla said workers who experience more than one symptom should seek medical advice.

“The best way to know is if these symptoms occur more than twice, when you are in a particular place. Also – if the symptoms disappear when you are away on vacation or some other place.”

“In our clinics we receive many patients like these; most of them come with complaints of coughing and nasal problems while some come with breathing issues.”

“Prevalence is more in females and ones doing menial jobs.”

Dr Chawla said, in the UAE, people are more susceptible in buildings where there is high indoor temperature (over 23°C in air-conditioned buildings), low fresh air ventilation in air-conditioned office and maintenance issues, such as water leakage and poor sanitation which can cause infections like bacteria and fungus.

“We breathe almost 8000 liters of air (every day) and 90 percent of this is indoors. So, work buildings as well as homes should have properly fitted cleaned duct systems with regular influx of fresh air. Apart from ducts, cleaning chemicals, pesticides, carpets, even aromatic air fresheners are responsible for SBS symptoms.”

“It’s important to keep workplaces clean because dust as well as microorganisms can cause these symptoms. Many fungal and bacterial infections spread through the duct system.”

Source: Al Arabiya

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UAE Helps Arrest World’s ‘Most Wanted Human Trafficker’ Kidane Zekarias Habtemariam: Interpol

06 January ,2023

Actions taken by the UAE have led to the arrest of long-sought human smuggler Kidane Zekarias Habtemariam, Interpol said in a statement on Thursday.

Known for his violent treatment of migrants and as the head of a major criminal organization behind the kidnapping, extortion and murder of East African migrants, the Eritrean national has been wanted by the international policing body since 2019.

He is the subject of two Interpol red notices by Ethiopia and the Netherlands, and the capture was nine months in the making, according to a social media post from Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, the UAE’s Minister of Interior.

Habtemariam was initially arrested in Ethiopia in 2020 but escaped custody after one year, and was later sentenced in absentia to life in prison.

Following a task force meeting between Ethiopia, Sudan, The Netherlands, UAE, Europol and Regional Operational Centre, Emirati authorities conducted a thorough investigation of his network and family members, identifying money laundering activities that led to Sudan.

He was arrested in Sudan on January 1. He will reportedly end up spending life in prison after the due legal processes are completed and extradition papers are processed.

Alongside Habtemariam’s arrest in Sudan, which were reportedly led by UAE authorities, Emirati officials also simultaneously conducted an operation in country to arrest Henok Zakarias, the brother of the internationally wanted smuggler.

Both individuals are now in the UAE. “His arrest will neutralise a major people smuggling route towards Europe and protect thousands who would have been at risk of exploitation,” a statement from the UAE Ministry of Interior said.

“We have now shut down one of the most important trafficking routes into Europe, which illegally moved thousands of migrants from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan, through Libya and into Europe,” added Saeed Abdullah al-Suwaidi, Director General, Federal Anti-Narcotics General Directorate of the UAE’s Ministry of Interior.

“…the world’s most wanted human trafficker will no longer be able to commit his despicable actions. The UAE will continue to deploy our full operational capabilities to protect vulnerable communities from this horrific exploitation,” he continued.

The Eritrean will now face trial in the UAE for money laundering, and authorities will review the possibility of his extradition after the case is closed in the UAE, Suwaidi was quoted as saying by AFP.

The UAE is reportedly discussing with Interpol the possibility of launching another investigation into a major human trafficker.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Turkish court suspends funding for pro-Kurdish party over alleged ties to terrorism

05 January ,2023

A top Turkish court on Thursday suspended funding for the main pro-Kurdish party over its alleged ties to terrorism.

The court decision deprives the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) – parliament’s second-largest opposition group - of a key source of revenue heading into a general election due by June.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses the party of being the political wing of banned militants who have been waging a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

The HDP denies formal links to the fighters and accuses the government of targeting the party because of its strong opposition to Erdogan.

The HDP’s future could play a major role in deciding Erdogan’s success in parliamentary and presidential elections now posing one of the stiffest challenges of his two-decade rule.

Turkey’s constitutional court is hearing a prosecutor’s request to ban the party before the vote.

Chief prosecutor Bekir Sahin is due to argue his case in court on Tuesday.

The court will then have the option of either dissolving the party or banning some of its members if it rules against the HDP.

Turkish media reports say the party was due to receive 539 million liras ($29 million) in treasury funding this year.

An HDP party spokesman told AFP that the party’s only other source of revenue is donations from supporters.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Lebanese court charges seven over fatal UNIFIL peacekeeper attack: Report

05 January ,2023

Lebanon’s military tribunal on Thursday charged seven suspects in last month’s attack that killed an Irish peacekeeper when a group of armed local residents ambushed his convoy and opened fire, officials said.

The shooting took place near the town of al-Aqbiya in southern Lebanon, a center of support for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which has denied any role in the killing.

The attack killed Pvt. Seán Rooney, 24, of Newtowncunningham, Ireland, and seriously wounded Pvt. Shane Kearney, 22.

The wounded peacekeeper was medically evacuated from Lebanon to Ireland. Two other Irish troops in the vehicle sustained light injuries.

In late December, the Lebanese military arrested a suspect, allegedly “in cooperation with Hezbollah,” according to the group, which said the man was not a Hezbollah member.

The arrested man and six others were charged in the attack, according to a judicial official familiar with the investigation, a legal official following the case, and a military official. All spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

The officials said that a search is underway for the other six suspects and that officials are trying to determine whether they had left the country.

The Lebanese military in a brief statement said the case was transferred to the “appropriate judiciary” on Tuesday, but did mention the charges or other developments.

The UN peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon, also known as UNIFIL, told The Associated Press that it has not received any information about the arrest or the charges in the case. Hezbollah did not immediately respond to inquiries about the latest developments.

UNIFIL was created to oversee the withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon after a 1978 invasion.

The UN expanded its mission following the 2006 war between Israel and the Iran-backed Hezbollah, allowing peacekeepers to deploy along the Israeli border to help the Lebanese military extend its authority into the country’s south for the first time in decades.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Somalia, UAE strike security deal in push to mend fences

Mohammed Dhaysane 


Somalia and the UAE have signed an agreement to bolster military and security ties, along with cooperation in anti-terrorism efforts, as the two countries work to improve strained relations.

The deal was inked on Wednesday evening in Abu Dhabi by Somali Defense Minister Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur and his counterpart Mohammed bin Ahmed al-Bowardi.

The agreement will enhance “institutional capacity-building of Somalia’s security forces and support ongoing efforts to eradicate al-Shabaab from Somalia,” Nur said in a statement.

The al-Shabaab terror group is an al-Qaeda affiliate that has claimed thousands of lives in a deadly campaign against Somali government and international forces since at least 2007.

Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has declared “all-out war” against the group as it continues to mount violent attacks in the country.

On Wednesday, al-Shabaab carried out twin suicide bombings in the central Somali town of Mahas, killing at least 35 people and wounding more than 70.

The UAE remains a “strategic partner in Somalia’s peace-building and state-building efforts,” Nur added.

A UAE Defense Ministry statement said talks in Abu Dhabi also focused on efforts to protect common interests.

Bilateral ties between the countries have been lukewarm for several years, particularly over Somali allegations of UAE’s interference in its internal politics.

Relations plummeted during ex-President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s tenure, with the Somali Parliament going as far as banning Emirati state-owned ports operator, DP World, declaring it a threat to Somalia’s sovereignty.

UAE, in response, closed a military facility and a hospital in Mogadishu, while also disbanding its military training mission.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Saudi music scene booming, says Arab singer


January 05, 2023

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s music scene is booming and showcasing the depth of talent in the country, according to Arab singer Hager Elkhashab.

Speaking on “The Mayman Show” this week, Elkhashab — an Egyptian national born in Abha — said her passion for music saw her perform at the Asir Festival, in the region she grew up.

Elkhashab praised the Ministry of Culture for helping to create the conditions for the flourishing arts scene in the country. She lauded several initiatives including Riyadh Season, Taif’s music concerts, and ITHRA’s shows in Alkhobar in the Eastern Province.

Elkhashab said she also performed at the ITHRA festival, “an amazing experience” which allowed her to present a fusion of classical Arab and traditional Khaleeji music. “A lot of people came to ITHRA to listen to Arabic classical music. I sang for six successive days, four hours per day. So it was a really different experience for me.”

She said ITHRA events are largely multinational affairs but lacking an understanding of Arabic was not a barrier for the audience. “It was really interesting to see different cultures listening to and enjoying classic Arabic music.”

Elkhashab said the crowd consisted of Indian, Chinese and Japanese people, who spoke to her after her performances, and said they really enjoyed the experience even though they did not understand what she was saying.

She said that her performances at ITHRA’s events boosted her profile as a singer. “You know, I’m so proud of myself that I started here in Saudi Arabia and from that, Cairo or let’s say Opera Egypt, contacted me to have a performance in Cairo. So that was very special for me to have that kind of opportunity starting from here, from Saudi Arabia,” she said.

She is scheduled to perform at the Cairo Opera House in February. “My name was not known in Egypt. But when they saw the video, they saw the quality of the music that we are providing here in Saudi Arabia. They (became) interested (in having) one performance there,” she said.

Elkhashab, whose last performance was at the Asir Festival, said her dream is to perform at the Mariyah Concert Hall in AlUla and other parts of Saudi Arabia, including NEOM and the Abu Bakr Salim and Mohammed Abdou stages.

“You know, I was born and raised here in Saudi Arabia and I can see the revolution happening in every aspect … We can sing freely, we can show our talent.”

Source: Arab News

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Soccer fans hopeful ahead of Gulf Cup in Iraqi city of Basra

05 January ,2023

For many Iraqis, the first international soccer tournament their country is hosting in more than four decades is about to kick off in the southern city of Basra, offering a rare moment of joy and optimism.

The eight-nation Arabian Gulf Cup starts Friday, with teams from the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — as well as Yemen and Iraq. It’s the first time since 1979 that turmoil-wracked Iraq is home to the tournament.

For two weeks, the matches will be a respite from all the violence, political and economic crises, fans and officials said. Decades of unrest and conflict have prompted a series of FIFA bans on Iraq hosting international matches.

That has forced the Iraqi team to play home games abroad. Since the US-led invasion in 2003 that ousted dictator Saddam Hussein, Iraq has only played three competitive matches on home turf.

If the 25th edition of the Gulf Cup goes smoothly, it could encourage FIFA to allow World Cup qualifiers to return to Baghdad.

“As Iraqis we have suffered for decades, and so we’re very happy that this Gulf tournament can take place on Iraqi soil in Basra,” said Akram al-Iraqi, a Basra resident taking a stroll on the bustling corniche promenade by the Shatt al-Arab, the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

Also, Iraq’s ties with GCC have been strained for decades as Iran-backed militias and political factions rose in prominence in the country. Basra, the center of Iraq’s petroleum industry, has not been spared from the country’s political turmoil, violent clashes, and crumbling infrastructure.

These days, the city is reinvigorated and busier than ever. Security forces have been deployed in large numbers as tourists from neighboring Gulf countries pour in for the tournament.

“Most people visiting from the Gulf countries see Basra and Iraq as unsafe,” said Fouad Al-Helfi, another Basra resident, standing outside a hotel. “But it seems they’re changing their views ... we’re seeing it in posts they’re putting up on social media.”

There are also hopes for an economic windfall. Oil-rich Basra has fallen on hard times, with rising temperatures and drought induced by climate change and poor management of water resources.

Its farming sector has been devastated while its once famous tourism industry has floundered. Some 40 percent of Basra’s estimated population of 1.4 million lives in poverty, while unemployment is soaring.

“It’s going to help revive the economy and tourism,” said Laith Jasb, middle-aged resident who remembers better times.

Iraqi families with children mingle with Saudi and Kuwaiti tourists strolling along the Shatt al-Arab corniche.

Merchants crowded the promenade, selling coffee, gifts, and Iraqi flag. Waiters at a hotel lobby nearby scurried to bring patrons coffee and shishas, traditional water pipes for smoking tobacco.

Adel Kabbasi, a Yemeni journalist who flew to Basra for the tournament, said he has felt safe and comfortable since his arrival.

Noor Majid, a soccer fan who came to Basra from the capital, Baghdad, said she hopes the Gulf Cup will help ease “some political tensions” with booming GCC countries and encourage their investments.

“I think it’s a chance for Iraq and the Gulf countries to recalibrate their relationship,” she said.

The Iraqi Football Federation sees the tournament as an opportunity in restoring confidence in having Iraq host more sporting competitions.

“Everything that we had planned on paper is being implemented,” said Yousif Faeal, the federation’s media director.

As for trophy hopes, Iraq won the tournament as host in 1979 for the first time, and twice more in the 1980s.

Grouped with Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Oman for the first round in Basra, Iraq is now hoping for a fourth tournament win.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Iran to Close French Cultural Institute in Response to Charlie Hebdo's Insulting Cartoons


In a statement on Thursday, the foreign ministry noted it would reexamine France's cultural activities in Iran, and that it was “ending the activities of the French Institute for Research in Iran as a first step".

It added that the French government bears “undeniable responsibility” to deal with violations of the sanctity of freedom, breach of human rights, insults against religious values and beliefs and threats to the national sovereignty of other countries by legal and natural persons subject to the rule of the European country’s government.

The ministry condemned “in the strongest terms” the infamous French magazine’s move “to trample on recognized moral norms, savagely violate religious sanctities, disrespect the sanctum of the politico-religious authority, and insult the Iranians’ state symbols and national values".

The French publication’s move was another sign of the Zionism’s role in a media campaign to promote Islamophobia, incite hatred and sow discord among peoples and countries, the statement read.

It added that the French publication has for many years misused the noble concept of “freedom of speech” as a cover for its anti-cultural acts and desecration of humans as well as sublime moral and religious values.

The statement noted that in the past years, the French magazine has repeatedly provoked Muslim anger by publishing insulting cartoons of Prophet Mohammad.

Iran slams the inaction of the relevant authorities in France in dealing with the French publications' measures against Islam and the spread of racist hatred and reiterates the direct responsibility of the government in Paris to hold accountable the perpetrators of such moves, the ministry said.

The ministry stated that Iran also called for a serious fight against Islamophobia as a “manifestation of institutionalized racism in this country".

It vowed to seriously pursue the Iranian nation’s demand for the French government to hold accountable the perpetrators and prevent their repetition, saying Tehran would take appropriate measures in this regard.

The statement comes as Charlie Hebdo magazine is set to publish several insulting cartoons of Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei in a special issue later this week.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday summoned the French Ambassador in Tehran Nicolas Roche to protest the insulting act by the French magazine.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran brooks by no means any insults to its sanctities, and Islamic, religious, and national values,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Nasser Kana’ani told the French envoy in the meeting.

Source: Fars News Agency

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If UNSC won’t stop you, our people will, Palestinian envoy tells Israeli counterpart


January 06, 2023

NEW YORK: “Listen carefully to me,” Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN ambassador said to his Israeli counterpart sitting across from him in the UN Security Council chamber.

“This council should stop you,” Mansour continued. “It is their responsibility. It is the responsibility of all states to uphold international law and the historic status quo (of Haram Al-Sharif.) They should stop you. But make no mistake: If they don’t, our Palestinian people will.”

Mansour’s remarks came at an emergency Security Council meeting convened by the UAE and China to discuss the surprise visit of newly appointed Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir to Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem on Tuesday.

The Palestinian envoy asked the security council to take concrete action against what he called Israel’s “absolute contempt for us, for you, and the entire international community.” Mansour described Ben-Gvir’s visit as displaying “utter disregard for the sanctity of Palestinian life, the sanctity of international law and the sanctity of Al-Haram Al-Sharif.

“And yet, the council remains on the sidelines. You say nice things, but you are still on the sidelines.”

Ben-Gvir’s visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound has enraged Palestinians and caused worldwide condemnation amid warnings about Israeli plans to change the status quo of the holy sites.

“Our people are running out of patience,” Mansour said, adding that “the moderation and sense of responsibility we display should never be construed as weakness. The record show shows that Israel’s persistence on this path does not lead to surrender, but to uprising.”

He called on nations who were committed to international law and peace to act now and “not lament once the fire spreads beyond control.”

Ben-Gvir, a far-right politician convicted of anti-Arab incitement in 2007, was appointed national security minister in Benyamin Netanyahu’s new coalition government, with expanded powers over Israel’s police. He has long called for Jewish prayer at Al-Aqsa, which has been the site of several conflagrations in the past between Israelis and Palestinians.

Mansour said that Ben-Gvir was known “for his racist views” and that he did not come to Al-Haram Sharif to visit but was “pursuing the same extremist agenda he has pursued all his life: Ending the historic and legal status quo. That is his objective regardless of the consequences,” Mansour said.

“Al-Haram Al-Sharif will not fall. (It) will never fall. It will stand for generations to come. It has outlasted Begin, Shamir and Sharon and will outlast Netanyahu, G’vir and Erdan. Those who pursue the temporal and spatial division of Al-Haram or plan to overtake it do not comprehend what it represents for all Palestinians, for Arabs and Muslims around the world.

“They do not comprehend the sensitivity of this holy site for billions of people in all corners of the globe.”

Gilad Erdan, Israel’s permanent representative to the UN, called the emergency meeting a “non-event” at a time when the Security Council should be convening over other “countless security situations,” including “the murderous Ayatollah regime in Tehran.”

He called Ben-Gvir’s visit brief, peaceful and legitimate and “not an incursion into Al-Aqsa or any other fabrication that the Palestinians branded his visit.”

Erdan said that the visit was in line with the status quo and “whoever claims otherwise is only inflaming the situation.”

“Israel has not harmed the status quo and has no plans to do so,” Erdan said, accusing the Palestinian Authority of changing the status quo “by turning the site into a battleground, storing weapons, spreading incitement and promoting violence through false claims that the Al-Aqsa was in danger.

“The Palestinian Authority is making it clear that not only is Jewish prayer intolerable on the Temple Mount, but so is any Jewish presence. This is what changing the status quo looks like. And this is pure anti-Semitism.

“This institution, and the Security Council in particular, must stop legitimizing Palestinian lies and promoting their false and dangerous narrative.”

UAE deputy permanent representative, Mohamed Abushahab, strongly condemned “the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque courtyard” by Ben-Gvir under the protection of Israeli forces.

“Such provocative actions reflect a lack of commitment to the existing historical and legal status of the holy sites in Jerusalem, and they further destabilize the fragile situation in the occupied Palestinian territories,” Abushahab said, adding that these actions threatened to further stoke extremism and hatred in the region.

The Emirati official also condemned the recent vandalization of a Christian cemetery on Mount Zion and called for those responsible for trampling and desecrating the graves of the historic and religious landmark to be held accountable.

Abushahab reiterated the importance of protecting the Al-Aqsa mosque and halting all violations taking place there.

“We emphasize the need to respect the custodial role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan over the holy sites and endowments in accordance with international law and the historical status quo, and not to compromise the authority of the Administration of Jerusalem’s Awqaf and Al-Aqsa Mosque Affairs and its mandate to manage all the affairs of Haram Al-Sharif, including its entry procedures.”

Abushahab called on the Security Council to adopt a unified position against “any actions that could inflame tensions or escalate the situation in the region.” He also reiterated the importance of reviving the Middle East peace process with a view to achieving a two-state solution, and establishing an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, “living side by side with Israel in peace and security.”

China, who with the UAE had requested the emergency meeting, said that Ben-G’vir’s visit had resulted in “a grave situation on the ground” and called for the preservation of peace and tranquillity at the holy sites.

Zhang Jun, China’s permanent representative to the UN, called on Israel to “stop all incitements and provocations and refrain from any unilateral action that may lead to the deterioration of the situation.”

Robert Wood, the Alternate Representative of the US for Special Political Affairs in the UN, said that his country opposed “any and all unilateral actions that depart from the historic status quo, which are unacceptable.”

He underscored Washington’s support for the preservation of the status quo and expressed appreciation for “the special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan as custodian of Jerusalem’s holy sites.”

Source: Arab News

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Netanyahu shocked over cancelled UAE visit in wake of Al-Aqsa controversy


January 05, 2023

RAMALLAH: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly been shocked by the strong Arab reaction to the visit of the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex by his National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Saudi Arabia has led a chorus of condemnation following the Jan. 3 visit, stressing the need to preserve the status quo of Islam’s third holiest site.

Netanyahu’s visit to the UAE, scheduled for Jan. 8, has been canceled as the country has joined China in calling for the convening of a UN Security Council meeting to discuss Israel’s moves over Al-Aqsa.

Netanyahu is waiting on the Emiratis to announce a new date for the visit.

The prime minister has issued a statement in which he tried to apologize, adding that he respects the status quo at the mosque and has no intention of altering it.

However, Ben-Gvir remains hostile toward Arabs and has been convicted in the past of terrorism against Palestinians by an Israeli court.

Israel has continued its efforts to prevent a Security Council meeting — which was initially scheduled for Thursday — and the publication of a strong statement condemning Israeli policy toward Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem.

Ronni Shaked, a researcher at the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, told Arab News that Netanyahu failed to realize the sensitivity of Al-Aqsa among Arabs and Muslims.

He added the prime minister was shocked at the reaction from the Arab and Muslim world, the EU and the US, saying that any violation of the site could lead to massive anger and instability.

“The problem is not with Ben-Gvir, who is known for his extremist ideological ideas, but rather with one who granted him the permission to visit Al-Aqsa, which is Netanyahu,” Shaked told Arab News.

“Ben-Gvir will work to shorten the life of Netanyahu’s government.

“After two weeks he will demand the legalization of 49 illegal settlement outposts established on Palestinian land in the West Bank. So what will Netanyahu do then?”

Israeli experts say that Netanyahu is currently focused on dealing with corruption cases against him which weaken his position.

However, Dana Ben-Shimon, a correspondent for Israel Today, told Arab News that Netanyahu and his ministers were surprised by condemnation of Ben-Gvir’s visit, adding that the government is set to hold a meeting to discuss whether to allow the minister to enter Al-Aqsa again.

“Netanyahu was prime minister for 10 years, and did not visit Al-Aqsa because he realized that his visit would generate massive anger,” Ben-Shimon said.

The prime minister will also be mindful of Jordan’s reaction to the mosque visit as Netanyahu bids to improve rocky relations with Amman.

Separately, authorities have released Palestinian prisoner Karim Younis, 66, from prison in Israel after 40 years in detention.

At Ben-Gvir’s request, authorities left Younis on the street to prevent any official reception for him at the entrance to his prison just north of Tel Aviv.

Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said he intended to withdraw Younis’ Israeli citizenship. In such an event, he would be sent to live in the West Bank.

Younis visited the grave of his parents, who died while he was in jail, and said that he was ready to sacrifice another 40 years for the freedom of the Palestinian people.

Meanwhile, the Israeli army has informed Palestinian officials of their imminent plans to forcibly displace more than 1,000 residents, including 500 children, in the Masafer Yatta area of southern Hebron in the south of the West Bank, according to human rights organizations.

Source: Arab News

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Iran Disbands Foreign-Backed Terror Team in Zahedan


Brig. Gen. Ghanbari stated that members of the terrorist team have had a number of armed attacks in recent weeks aimed at assassinating police personnel on police patrols, and afterward they tried to publish their illegal attempts on foreign media outlets.

All members of this six-member gang, plus three people who cooperated with them, were arrested last night after conducting intelligence work with a complicated operation, he underlined.

According to the confessions, the terrorists still had plans to attack police patrols, Brig. Gen. Ghanbari underscored.

He went on to say that police confiscated some weapons and ammunition, including pistols and Kalashnikov rifles, as well as six vehicles that were conducting their operations, with these vehicles discovered and following the investigation, it was determined that the vehicles were stolen.

He declared that the terrorist team was directly linked to the enemies residing abroad.

Late in September, Zahedan, the capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province which is home to Iran’s Baluch minority, saw an attack on a police station and a mosque. Terrorists launched attacks on several police stations and public places in Zahedan after congregational prayers in the city, killing more than 24 people, including security forces and people, and injuring over 20 others.

Source: Fars News Agency

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As young Gazans die at sea, anger rises over Hamas leaders’ travel

06 January ,2023

Khaled Shurrab had been waiting more than half his life to get out of Gaza.

The 27-year-old had never left the coastal enclave, which has been blockaded by Israel and Egypt since 2007. He couldn’t find a job — the territory’s youth unemployment rate is over 60 percent.

Like a growing number of Gazans, he packed his life into a suitcase and eventually made it to Turkey, where he set out on a treacherous sea voyage to Greece last October. When his rickety boat went down, his body disappeared into the sea.

A rising number of Gazans, seeking better lives abroad, are drowning at sea. The devastating procession has prompted a rare outpouring of anger against the territory’s militant Hamas rulers, a number of whom are making their own — very different — exodus.

In recent months, high-profile Hamas officials have quietly decamped to upscale hotels in Beirut, Doha and Istanbul, stirring resentment among residents who see them as leading luxurious lives abroad while the economy collapses at home and 2.3 million Gazans remain effectively trapped in the tiny, conflict-scarred territory. Four wars against Israel and dozens of smaller skirmishes over the years have taken their toll in casualties, damage and isolation.

Israel and Egypt say the tight movement restrictions are needed to keep Hamas from stockpiling more weapons. Critics say the blockade amounts to collective punishment, as residents grapple with daily blackouts and routine shortages of basic goods.

“I blame the rulers here, the government of Gaza,” said Shurrab’s mother, Um Mohammed, from her home in the southern town of Khan Younis. Her son’s body was never recovered from the Aegean Sea. “They live in luxury while our children eat dirt, migrate and die abroad.”

Hamas says the leaders who have left plan on returning. Yet the string of exits keeps growing.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh relocated to Qatar, an energy-rich Gulf state, with his wife and several children in 2019. Political leader Fathi Hamad moved to Istanbul a year ago and frequently flies to Beirut, Lebanon’s capital, where media reports have shown him in meetings at a five-star hotel.

Deputy leader Khalil al-Hayya also relocated to Turkey last year, according to news reports, including Hamas outlets that highlighted some of his travels. Since then, he has paid only two short visits to Gaza.

Former government spokesman Taher Nounou and leader Ibrahim Salah moved to Doha, the Qatari capital. Senior member Salah al-Bardawil, spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri and dozens of aides also have resettled in Doha, Istanbul, or Beirut, according to Hamas media reports and official statements.

Turkey in particular has long been a favorite destination for Hamas leaders and supporters because of the country’s lenient visa policies toward members of what the United States and Europe consider a terrorist organization.

Several children of Hamas leaders are running lucrative real estate businesses for their parents in Istanbul, according to a Palestinian businessman familiar with their enterprises. He spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Azmi Keshawi, Gaza analyst at the International Crisis Group, said that the movement of officials abroad has in some cases helped the group coordinate its operations with key patrons outside the territory. But he said Hamas nonetheless has a growing image problem at home.

“Ordinary Palestinians see that Hamas has gone from this humble Palestinian leadership who lived and struggled among the people to living in these comfortable zones where they are no longer suffering and seem far from the Palestinian cause and issues,” he said. “Definitely people talk about this and draw comparisons in anger.”

Wary of public backlash, Hamas does not comment on reports about its leaders leaving Gaza. As social media fills with revelations, it casts leaders’ stays abroad as temporary foreign tours aimed at drumming up support. Some of these tours last for years.

Public outrage erupted last month at a mass funeral for young Gazans who drowned en route to Europe. Distraught families blamed Hamas for contributing to the collapse and chaos of Gazan life and accused the Islamic militant group of nepotism and corruption.

Mourners shouted the names of leaders including Haniyeh and Yehiyeh Sinwar, Hamas’ current leader in Gaza, and chanted, “People are the victims!”

Such defiance is rare as Hamas moves to quash nearly all hints of dissent — though it remains the most popular group in its Gaza stronghold.

A recent poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that 43 percent of residents of Gaza would support the group if parliamentary elections were held, compared to 30 percent for the rival Fatah movement. The figures were nearly identical to support levels three months earlier.

The poll, conducted in December, questioned a total of 1,200 people in both Gaza and the occupied West Bank on a range of issues, and had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Still, more Gazans appear to be risking everything to get out.

A report issued in November by the Council on International Relations-Palestine, a Hamas-affiliated think tank, said 60,000 young people have left Gaza in recent years.

It blamed Israel, saying “the policies of occupation and siege” have “turned the life of Gazans into unbearable hell.” The report was the first semi-official data on emigration. It did not say how the data was compiled.

Some who leave seek job opportunities in wealthy Gulf Arab states. Many, like Shurrab, fly to Turkey and attempt the perilous sea voyage to Europe in hopes of getting asylum.

Two shipwrecks in October alone made 2022 the deadliest at sea for Gazan migrants in eight years, according to rights groups. Shurrab is among 360 Gazans who have drowned or disappeared at sea since 2014, according to the Geneva-based Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor.

Despite the risks, Khaled Moharreb is still contemplating the dangerous sea route. After earning a nursing diploma two years ago, the 22-year-old said he has been unable to find a job.

“I want to travel and build my life,” he said. “Anything outside is better than this place where you cannot do anything and where the government is indifferent.”

Without directly mentioning Hamas, he said he blames “those who control and run the country” for the lack of job opportunities.

Hamas has offered no apologies. Atef Adwan, a Hamas lawmaker, recently denounced those who attempt to flee to Europe as making a perverse pilgrimage to a land of “deterioration and regression.”

Migration has long carried stigma among Palestinians, who have fought for decades to stay on their land. Haniyeh’s roots in a crowded Gaza City refugee camp are a core part of his political identity.

Amid growing scrutiny, Hamas issued an unusual statement last year announcing the return of three top officials — al-Hayyah, al-Zahar and Salah — to Gaza, reassuring the public that they “did not flee.”

Source: Al Arabiya

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Iran judiciary official orders probe into rape in jails

05 January ,2023

Iran's judiciary said Thursday a senior official has ordered an inquiry into allegations denied by the authorities of rape and sexual assault of inmates in the Islamic republic's jails.

International media reports last month alleged widespread sexual assaults of Iranians arrested during nationwide protests sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini.

“Vice president of the judicial authority for international affairs and secretary of the High Council for Human Rights, Kazem Gharibabdi, has asked the country's prosecutor general to carry out a thorough investigation into the allegations of sexual assault and rape of some inmates”, the judiciary's Mizan Online news website reported.

On Wednesday, judiciary spokesman Massoud Setayeshi denounced the “false libellous assertion” of “sexual harassment against female detainees”, which he said has been amplified by “some media outlets hostile” to the Islamic republic.

On December 8, Iran's prison service denied women were sexually assaulted inside its jails and threatened to file charges against those making such allegations.

“Given the very negative effect of these claims, please carefully study and address these accusations, whether raised inside the country or outside of it,” Gharibabdi wrote in a letter to prosecutor general Mohammad Jafar Montazeri quoted by Mizan.

“Before anything else, proof must be sought from the people expressing these claims,” he said, calling on Montazeri to bring to justice “the perpetrators or those making such allegations, depending on the result of the investigation”.

Iran has been gripped by unrest since the September 16 death of Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman, following her arrest for allegedly violating the country's strict dress code for women.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Iran sentences another protester to death

05 January ,2023

Iran has sentenced another man to death over involvement in anti-regime protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, state media reported on Thursday.

A man identified as Arshia Takdastan was sentenced to death after being convicted of the capital charges of “corruption on earth” and “waging war against God,” the semi-official ISNA news agency reported.

ISNA described Takdastan as a “leader” of protests in the northern city of Nowshahr, adding that his charges included “destruction of public property, inciting citizens to create insecurity and collusion to commit crimes against” the country’s national security.

Protests – described by the regime as “riots” – have swept across Iran since September 16 when 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman Amini died after her arrest by the morality police in Tehran.

Iran has already executed two protesters. Mohsen Shekari and Majidreza Rahnavard, both 23, were hanged last month.

The Oslo-based rights group Iran Human Rights (IHR) last month published the names of 100 Iranians it said were at risk of being executed for participating in anti-regime protests.

The group said the 100 figure was “a minimum” and called on the international community to “increase the political cost” of executions for the Iranian regime.

Since Amini’s death, demonstrators have been calling for the downfall of the regime in a movement that has become one of the boldest challenges to the Islamic Republic since its establishment in 1979.

Source: Al Arabiya

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There Would Be No Talks With Terrorists, Militant Groups: Pakistan Interior Minister

January 5, 2023

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said on Thursday that the recently held meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) — the highest forum for coordination on security issues — had decided that there will be “no talks with any terrorist or militant group”.

Pakistan has seen a rise in terrorist attacks across the country, believed to have been planned and directed by the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leaders based in Afghanistan.

The TTP, which has ideological linkages with the Afghan Taliban, executed around more than 100 attacks last year, most of which happened after August when the group’s peace talks with the Pakistan government began to falter. The ceasefire was formally ended on Nov 28 by the TTP.

During a press conference in Islamabad on Thursday, the interior minister was asked about the explicit threat issued by the TTP to the PPP and the PML-N for “openly declaring war against the TTP to appease America”.

The TTP statement pointedly mentioned PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif by name, as well as their respective parties, and warned religious parties against “activities against us”.

Yesterday, the interior minister had stated that efforts were underway to bring the outlawed TTP to the negotiation table but the group would first have to set aside arms and surrender before the law and the Constitution.

During today’s press conference, Sanaullah said that the NSC had clearly resolved that there would be “no talks with any terrorist or militant group”

He further said that the NSC had concluded that talks, if needed, should be carried out with the Afghan government so that the importance of the Doha agreement, wherein the country had vowed to not allow its soil to be used against others, could be stressed.

“If that is implemented, then the issue of terrorism in Pakistan and other countries will be solved, and Pakistan will be safe if Afghanistan honours its promise.”

The minister was also asked about the Afghan government’s announcement that a network of Daesh militants involved in the attack on Pakistan’s embassy in Kabul had been killed in an operation.

He said that Pakistan had received information in this regard but until it was verified by the interior ministry, it would be treated as mere information.

Source: Pakistan Today

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11 ‘militants’ killed, five cops injured in KP terror spate

Muhammad Irfan Mughal | Umer Farooq | Dilawar Wazir

January 6, 2023

PESHAWAR / D.I. KHAN: A day after Pakistan vowed to take pre-emptive measures to avert terrorist attacks, security forces killed 11 militants, including a key commander of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, in a raid in South Waziristan, while two separate attacks targeting police in Lakki Marwat and Dera Ismail Khan left five officials injured.

In an intelligence-based operation in Wana, the security forces raided a hideout of TTP militants and killed at least 11 terrorists, including TTP commander Hafizullah alongside two would-be suicide bombers, said the military’s media wing.

The operation “foiled a major terrorist activity”, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement issued on Thursday evening.

“During intense exchange of fire, 11 terrorists, including terrorist commander Hafizullah alias Tor Hafiz, and two suicide bombers were killed.

“A huge quantity of weapons and ammunition was also recovered from the killed terrorists,” the military’s media wing said.

It added that the militants had remained “actively involv­­ed in terrorist activities against security forces and target killing of police in the district”.

Slain TTP commander

Local officials said that TTP commander Hafizullah had been involved in attacks on police stations in Azam Warsak, Raghzai, and Wana as well as extortion and kidnapping of locals.

The 40-year-old militant, who belonged to Tojay Khel, a Wazir sub-tribe, had joined Uzbeks in Wana before 2007, when Mullah Nazir, a local militant, and local people joined hands against Uzbek militants to force them out of the area.

“Hafizullah stayed quiet for a while but later joined the banned TTP and went to Afghanistan. He returned to Pakistan after Mullah Nazir was killed in a drone attack, local officials said, claiming that the TTP affiliates had gone to Afghanistan but those who belonged to Wana were allowed to return.

Sources said that those who had returned to Pakistan grouped together after some time under Hafizullah’s leadership.

“Hafizullah is believed to have been involved in attacks on security forces after the peace talks bet­ween the government and the banned outfit failed,” the sources said.

They added Hafizullah escaped an attack following his return from Afghanistan when some unknown persons opened fire at him, leaving him seriously wounded. After his recovery, he started terrorising the district, they added.

DI Khan and Lakki Marwat attacks

In Lakki Marwat and Dera Ismail Khan districts, militants attacked police in separate incidents, resulting in injuries to at least five policemen.

The attacks, however, were repulsed by police forcing the insurgents to flee the scene.

In DI Khan, a police team deployed for the protection of an anti-polio team came under a gun attack in a remote part of town, resulting in injuries to five officials.

“Unknown militants armed with sophisticated weapons opened indiscriminate firing on the police party assigned to protect a team of the polio workers,” a police official said, adding that condition of all the injured police personnel was satisfactory.

The official said that District Police Officer Muhammad Shoaib Khan along with a heavy contingent of the police immediately rushed to the spot; however, the militants had managed to escape the scene before the police arrived.

“A search operation was launched by the law enforcement agencies in the area [to arrest suspects],” he said. On Wednesday, a similar attack on polio workers left one police guard wounded in the district.

Meanwhile, an attack launched by militants on the Wargarey police station late Thursday night was repulsed by police officials and residents of the area.

Source: Dawn

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Pakistan to seek over USD 16 billion for flood rehabilitation at UN conference

Jan 5, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is likely to seek over USD 16 billion at a UN conference next week for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the areas devastated by last year's catastrophic floods which caused the country a loss of about USD 30 billion, officials said on Thursday.

The flood triggered by unprecedented monsoon rains killed at least 1,739 people while affecting over 33 million. At one time, one third of Pakistan territory was under water.

The "International Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan" is being held in Geneva on January 9 and co-hosted by the Government of Pakistan and the United Nations to seek funding for the flood victims, according to Foreign Office spokeswoman Mumtaz Zahra Baloch.

She said that the Conference will be co-chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

"The programme will feature a high-level opening segment, where leaders will make supportive statements," she said at her weekly media briefing here.

Officials of the finance ministry said that Pakistan would seek about USD 16.3 billion at the conference to meet the first phase of rehabilitation and reconstruction.

In his remarks at the Conference, Prime Minister Sharif will outline Pakistan's vision for rehabilitation and reconstruction in a climate resilient manner.

The Prime Minister and the UN Secretary General will also hold a joint press stakeout, she said.

According to the Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) done by Pakistan with the UN collaboration, the flood caused about USD 30 billions of losses.

Pakistan will also present the Resilient Recovery, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Framework (4RF) - a strategic policy and prioritisation document that will guide the recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction after the recent devastating floods in a climate-resilient manner.

Leaders and high-level representatives from several countries and International Financial Institutions, Foundations and Funds are expected to attend the Conference, both in person and virtual format.

The conference would be a demonstration of the international community's continued support for the flood-affected people of Pakistan, the spokeswoman said.

The conference is taking place as the UN bodies warned that initial support provided was just enough until the middle of January.

Earlier, about a third of funds were provided by the world out of USD 816 million sought by the UN in its flash appeal for flood victims.

It is believed that raising billions of dollars for Pakistan won't be easy but on the positive side there is support for Pakistan due to that fact the country is being seen as a victim of environmental change in which it had no role with just 1 percent emissions.

Source: Times Of India

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Pakistani officers shot dead in Punjab province revealed to be ISI officials

Jan 5, 2023

LAHORE: Two police officers who were shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Khanewal district of Punjab province on Tuesday turned out to be the officials of Pakistan's spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). On the day of the attack, the police claimed that the two deceased belonged to the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) of the provincial police.

The FIR filed for the case, however, revealed that both were ISI officials working to bust a terror network in south Punjab.

The banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Lashkar-e-Khorasan, an offshoot of Al-Qaeda, have claimed responsibility for the attack.

According to the FIR, ISI Multan Region Director Naveed Sadiq and Inspector Nasir Abbas met a "source" (suspected killer) on Tuesday at a roadside restaurant on the National Highway near Pirowal in Khanewal district, approximately 375 kilometres from Lahore.

"After having tea, they all walked to the parking lot when the source identified as Umar Khan suddenly pulled out a gun and shot the ISI officers dead," the FIR said, adding that the suspect killed the intelligence officers reportedly on the orders of his group leader, Asadullah.

It is standard practice for intelligence officials to cultivate sources among terrorist networks to thwart their terror plans.

The Counter Terrorism Department of Punjab police, Multan, has registered the case against the suspect and his accomplices under murder and terrorism charges. Raids are being conducted to arrest the prime suspect.

ISI chief Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum offered the funeral of Naveed Sadiq in Lahore.

In a statement, TTP spokesman Mohammad Khorasani claimed that "a secret squad of TTP killed ISI Deputy Director Multan Naveed Sadiq along with his colleague Inspector Nasir Butt at Bismillah Highway in Khanewal district of Punjab."

The TTP, which is believed to be close to al-Qaeda, has also explicitly warned Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari led Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) - the two major parties of the ruling coalition.

In November, the TTP called off an indefinite ceasefire agreed with the government in June and ordered its militants to carry out attacks on the security forces.

The TTP, also known as the Pakistan Taliban, was set up as an umbrella group of several militant outfits in 2007. Its main aim is to impose its strict brand of Islam across Pakistan.

The TTP has been blamed for several deadly attacks across Pakistan, including an attack on army headquarters in 2009, assaults on military bases and the 2008 bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad.

Last month, the Pakistan Army commandos killed 25 Taliban militants during an operation to free anti-terrorism police officers who were held hostage inside Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's CTD compound in Bannu for three days.

The National Security Committee (NSC) has categorically asked Afghanistan's Taliban rulers, without directly naming them, to deny safe haven to Pakistani terrorist groups on its soil and end their patronage, while reiterating its intent to crush terrorist groups operating inside the country with full force.

Source: Times Of India

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'Drain the swamp': Pakistan planning to eliminate TTP terrorists in Afghanistan with US help?

Jan 5, 2023

NEW DELHI: With Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) wreaking havoc across Pakistan over the last few weeks, Islamabad is now planning to launch a major counter-offensive against the Afghanistan-based militants.

According to a report in South China Morning Post (SCMP), Pakistan is likely to launch a major ground as well as air offensive to target the hideouts of Pakistan Taliban militants in Afghanistan, risking further deterioration of ties with the neighbouring country.

On Monday, Pakistan’s civil and military leadership issued a stern warning that “the full force of the state” would “take on all and any entities that resort to violence”.

Pakistan's Afghan policy failing in the face of an assertive Taliban

The country vowed to show "zero tolerance" for terrorism amid the spurt in terrorist strikes by the banned outfit and a rise in cross-border terrorism, which is threatening to plunge the country back into a cycle of violence.

Notably, last month, the US State Department said that Washington would help Islamabad address the increasingly dangerous threat posed by Afghanistan- based terrorist groups like the TTP.

“We have partnered with our Pakistani friends to help them take on this challenge. We stand ready to assist, whether with this unfolding situation or more broadly,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.

Growing TTP threat

Ever since the return of Taliban in Afghanistan in 2021, Pakistan has witnessed a tremendous spurt in terror attacks from TTP, such as suicide bombings, kidnapping and even mass killings.

According to statistics published by TTP itself, nearly 1,000 people were killed and injured in attacks by the outfit in 2022.

In a video, TTP said that most of their attacks took place in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. They also launched attacks outside the province, Khaama Press reported.

Pakistan's interior minister Rana Sanaullah has said TTP has between 7,000 to 10,000 fighters in the Afghan border area, and the group has been further bolstered by the success of the Afghan Taliban.

On Wednesday, TTP launched a fresh threat to target the top leaders of the two major political parties in the ruling coalition if they continued to support tough measures against the militant group.

The TTP, which is believed to be close to al-Qaida, explicitly warned Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari led Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) - the two major parties of the ruling coalition.

The warning comes just weeks after TTP called off an indefinite ceasefire agreed with the government in June and ordered its militants to carry out attacks on the security forces.

'Drain the swamp'

With the increasing risk of instability due to terror threat from TTP, the Pakistani civil-military leadership met under the banner of the National Security Committee last week and vowed to show "zero tolerance" for terrorism in the country.

Prime Minister Sharif chaired the NSC meeting while Bilawal, who had advocated a new policy against the rebels, also participated.

The Sharif government said that Pakistan reserves all rights to safeguard her people, indicating a tough response to the TTP-backed terror activities.

According to SCMP, the statement from Pakistan’s leadership is a clear indication that it is planning a major offensive, supported by an air campaign against TTP camps inside Afghanistan.

“There will be a large ground operation for sure. Intelligence-led strikes will be employed to drain the swamp,” Abdul Basit, a research fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, told SCMP.

Basid told This Week In Asia that air strikes and the use of drones in cross border missions is quite likely.

"Some sorties inside the Afghanistan border region to soften terror hideouts before ground incursions are equally expected,” he said.

According to Pakistan government, around 7,000 to 10,000 TTP militants – along with 25,000 of their family members – are based in Afghanistan.

Help from US?

Meanwhile, foreign minister Bhutto said that US is willing to provide funds to Islamabad to help it enhance its border security for preventing cross-border attacks from Afghanistan.

As part of the US budget for 2023, Congress has approved tens of millions of dollars of funding to help Pakistan “with border security”, he was quoted as saying by Dawn.

Bhutto's response to Dawn made it clear that while the US wanted good relations between the two South Asian neighbours, it appears keener to cooperate with Islamabad in combating terrorist attacks from Afghanistan.

This also reflects in the omnibus bill that Congress passed in December, setting aside $200 million for promoting gender equality in Pakistan and also emphasising the need to combat terrorism.

The bill doesn't mention a specific amount for combating terrorism, but it does say that funds appropriated under the heading "Foreign Military Financing Programme" can be "made available only to support counterterrorism and counter insurgency capabilities in Pakistan."

In 2021, US ended its over 20-year war in Afghanistan by withdrawing its troops from the crisis-hit nation. However, it is apparent that US continues to use allies like Pakistan to keep its ear to the ground despite the removal of its forces.

According to reports, US eliminated dreaded al-Qaida terrorists Ayman al-Zawahiri with covert help from Pakistan.

Commenting on the US offers, former ambassador Touqir Hussain, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, told Dawn that defeating terrorism was a shared goal of both countries. "So, the US cannot only ask for Pakistan's help without offering its own help. It is a shared challenge which neither can address alone," he said.

Fraught ties

The possible US-backed counter-offensive from Pakistan comes at a time when its ties with Taliban have plunged to an all-time low.

Recent incidents of “unprovoked” cross-border shelling by Afghan troops near the southwestern Chaman border crossing have escalated tensions between Islamabad and Afghanistan's Taliban rulers.

With TTP running amok, the relationship has only gotten worse.

In her recent article on Dawn, former Pakistani diplomat Maleeha Lodhi wrote that Islamabad’s expectations that the Taliban’s return to power would enable Pakistan to secure its western border have not been met.

That is quite apparent, going by the growing number of terror attacks in the recent months.

The Taliban regime has resisted pressure from the Pakistani establishment to force the TTP to surrender.

According to experts, Taliban's questionable position suggests its closeness to its Pakistan-based offshoot.

Who is TTP? A 5-point guide

The TTP, also known as the Pakistan Taliban, was set up as an umbrella group of several militant outfits in 2007. Its main aim is to impose its strict brand of Islam across Pakistan.

Pakistan had hoped that the Afghan Taliban after coming to power would stop the use of their soil against Pakistan by expelling the TTP operatives but they have apparently refused to do so at the cost of straining ties with Islamabad.

The TTP has been blamed for several deadly attacks across Pakistan, including an attack on army headquarters in 2009, assaults on military bases and the 2008 bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad.

In 2012, Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai was attacked by TTP. The TTP claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that Yousafzai was a "Western-minded girl".

Source: Times Of India

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Thousands rally in KP’s Bajaur for restoration of lasting peace

Anwarullah Khan

January 6, 2023

BAJAUR: Thousands of people took to streets here on Thursday and pledged to protect the hard-earned peace in the region at all costs.

People from all walks of life including political workers, social activists, traders and youth attended the peace march organised by Bajaur Peace Action Committee, a local alliance of political parties. Tribal elders, traders, social activists and youth participated in the march enthusiastically and demanded restoration of peace in the district.

Holding white flags and placards, the participants of the march chanted slogans in favour of peace and against the fresh wave of terrorism in the region, particularly in the tribal districts. They gathered at about 10am at Dubai Market near Jinnah Bus Terminal.

Awami National Party provincial general secretary Sardar Hussin Babak, chief of National Democratic Movement MNA Mohsin Dawar, Pashtun Tahafuz Movement head Manzoor Pashteen, MPA Nisar Momand and others addressed the rally.

They lauded Bajaur Peace Action Committee, the local leaders and workers of political and religious parties and the residents of the district for arranging the march. They said that the march was necessary to stop the ongoing wave of terrorism in the tribal districts.

Speakers say they will not allow anyone to turn their area into battlefield

They said that such events proved that the residents of entire Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were peace-loving people and wanted prevalence of the hard-earned peace and normalcy in their areas.

The speakers said that peace and normalcy were the foundation of socioeconomic development. They said that that insecurity and uncertainty were the major causes of the backwardness of the tribal districts.

They said that tribal districts had huge reserves of natural resources and hard working residents but the decades-long insurgency severely affected their socioeconomic condition. They said that thousands of residents of tribal districts were killed during the militancy and war against terrorism.

The speakers said that the fresh wave of terrorism heralded a new series of destruction in the entire Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, especially in the tribal districts. However, they said that the people of the province would not allow anyone to turn their areas into “battlefields” as they had very bitter experience of such violence in the past.

Bajaur Peace Action Committee chairmen Maulana Abdur Rasheed, JI district chief Sahibzada Haroon Rasheed, PML-N provincial leader and former MNA Shahabuddin Khan, PPP provincial leader and former MNA Sayed Akhunzada Chattan, ANP local chapter president Gul Afzal Khan, religious scholar Maulana Khanzeb, Sheikh Janzada, Maulana Waheed Gul, Malik Shaheen Khan, Malik Bahadur Shah, PPP district president Haji Sher Bahadar, Malik Sultanzeb, Malik Khalid Khan and Advocate Najibullah Khan also spoke on the occasion.

They said that the people of Bajaur were committed to protecting peace of their area. They said that peace was restored in the area with the sacrifices of local elders and security forces.

Source: Dawn

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Bilawal warns against talks with militants

Imran Ayub

January 6, 2023

KARACHI: Calling PTI chief Imran Khan “a frontman for terrorists”, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Thursday accused the former premier of following an appeasement policy during his tenure that the PPP chairman said resulted in militants’ resurgence.

The foreign minister even warned his own government in the Centre, saying his party would not allow any such strategy and talks with militants “behind parliament’s back”.

Speaking at a press conference after the party’s central executive committee (CEC) meeting at Bilawal House, the PPP chairman was clear about the future strategy of his party while being a key ally of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government and suggested that multiple challenges emerging one after another demanded a new code of conduct for all political parties.

He referred to “serious concerns” within his party over the tottering economy and announced a committee of PPP leaders that would take them up with the federal government.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari touched on a range of issues and spoke candidly about the challenge of terrorism, the ongoing economic crisis, and his current relations with another ally in the Centre, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P), which earlier this week announced a Jan 9 protest against PPP over disagreements on local government elections in Karachi and Hyderabad.

“Imran Khan, as a frontman for terrorists while being the prime minister, took decisions against the country’s security,” he said in response to a question about growing criticism of his government amid growing militant attacks in different parts of the country.

While in office, Mr Khan “released all the terrorists, including those who were involved in [the Dec 2014] attack on the Army Public School”, the foreign minister alleged.

Then Mr Khan “helped them leave the country. Only last year, he was inviting those [militants] living in Afghanistan to return and live like normal citizens of this country. That’s what we are reaping today”, he said.

Before his address, a resolution passed by the PPP’s central executive committee was read out before the media that manifested its policy as a political party and also as an ally in the government.

The PPP, the resolution said, wanted parliament to stay on top of all decisions being made by the government.

“The CEC resolves that there should be no talks with militants until they lay down arms and accept the Constitution of Pakistan. It also reaffirms its commitment that nothing should be done by the government behind the back of parliament,” Senator Farhatullah Babar read out the resolution.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari agreed with the concerns over the economy but gave “full credit” to his ally PML-N for “saving the country from the default” while taking care of the finance ministry in the coalition government.

To address concerns, which were also raised in the CEC meeting, he decided to set up a committee comprising senior leaders and led by Commerce Minister Syed Naveed Qamar.

“This committee would meet experts and government functionaries to address all those concerns and get a clear picture. It would also find answers to all those questions [about the economy] that I was asked in today’s meeting,” the foreign minister said.

When asked about the party’s current ties with the MQM-P, the PPP chairman showed a willingness to “move forward” with its ally in the Centre but reiterated that he couldn’t pay the price of an “illegal and undemocratic step” for this purpose.

“And to reflect our sincerity, we have accommodated MQM in Sindh where we don’t need it in terms of numbers in the provincial assembly,” he said. “We appointed an administrator on their recommendation. A governor was appointed with their consultation. Their MPAs were given budgetary space. But it should not be expected that I would go for any illegal or undemocratic move for anyone’s interests.”

Source: Dawn

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Security forces neutralise 11 terrorists in Wana operation

January 5, 2023

RAWALPINDI: Security Forces conducted an Intelligence Based Operation (IBO) in general area Wana, South Waziristan District and successfully foiled a high profile terrorist activity.

During intense exchange of fire, eleven terrorists including Terrorist Commander Hafiz Ullah alias Tor Hafiz and two suicide bombers, were killed.

A handout issued by the ISPR said that a huge quantity of weapons and ammunition was also recovered from the killed terrorists.

Source: Pakistan Today

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Southeast Asia


Sabah schools, non-Muslim religious bodies get RM54m allocation for 2023

05 Jan 2023

KOTA KINABALU, Jan 5 — The Sabah government has allocated grants totalling RM54.05 million to schools and non-Muslim religious bodies in this year's state budget, an increase of RM7.05 million compared with last year's allocation.

Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor, said this demonstrated that the Sabah government was very sensitive to the needs of the people and serious in assisting them irrespective of race or religion.

He said this in his speech text, delivered by Deputy Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Dr Joachim Gunsalam, who is also Sabah Industrial Development Minister, at the presentation ceremony of lion heads (for lion dance) to various associations and temples in the state, here today.

This year, the Sabah government is presenting lion heads worth RM1.5 million, which will be distributed through the respective state and parliamentary constituencies.

Hajiji said the presentation of the lion heads to the Chinese community in the state, in conjunction with the Chinese New Year celebration, showed the commitment of the Sabah government to continue supporting and assisting the multi-racial community.

“The state government will always assist the people, of all races and religions, in ensuring that they will be able to celebrate their respective celebrations,” he said, adding that the Sabah government is committed to the policy of equality and fairness in all aspects.

Hajiji also hoped that the assistance would further boost the spirit of the Chinese New Year celebrations and, at the same time, continue to nurture the spirit of camaraderie and unity among the multi-racial and religious people in the state.

Source: Malay Mail

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Izzue Islam, Elizabeth Tan and other Malaysian celebs reveal their 2023 goals


06 Jan 2023

It's that time of the year where all of us are hitting the reset button hoping to make a positive change in our lives.

The past three years have indeed been challenging no thanks to the pandemic, and many were unable to fulfil their resolutions.

Now that Covid-19 restrictions have eased, we are welcoming 2023 with an optimistic mindset and a new set of goals.

We speak to some celebrities and ask them about their aspirations for the new year.

From breaking into Hollywood and devoting more “me” time to learning how to handle a gun and empowering youths, here are some of the stuff these stars hope to check off their wishlist by the end of the year.

Izzue Islam, actor, 32

My New Year’s resolution is to learn how to shoot a gun. I find it very cool whenever I see someone shooting a gun in action films.

Although I have held a gun in past movies, I lack the skills to handle one.

To ensure that my acting looks realistic in future action films, I am planning on enrolling for a shooting class this year.

I also want to enrol for a martial arts class to perfect my combat skills in films.

At the moment, I am relying on stunt people to do the job for me but if there is time, I want to learn how to do my own stunts.

Po Yiu Wong, Hong Kong singer-actress, 29

My New Year’s resolution is to succeed in the film industry and star in more movies.

As someone who is new in the film scene, I want to take on diverse roles and dabble with different genres to showcase my versatility.

I also want to shoot more movies in Malaysia. After filming my first movie (Call Me Agent) here, the place really grew on me.

There are lots of beautiful places and delicious food so it would be great if there are more opportunities to film here this year.

Sangeeta Krishnasamy, actress, 37

I hope to raise awareness on the importance of speaking multiple languages among children.

I noticed that language is a subject that is often overlooked, especially in vernacular schools.

Malaysia is a diverse country. There are so many languages here ... and the more languages you speak, the more opportunities there are for you.

Look at me, I can speak three languages fluently (English, Tamil and Malay), and this opened up so many doors for me in the movie industry.

Unfortunately, most of the children I have met are satisfied with speaking just one language. I feel that this is going to shut doors for them once they graduate.

That is why I plan to work with more schools this year and teach kids more languages.

Elizabeth Tan, singer-actress, 29

I want to be more confident in driving.

I have a license, but I barely drive due to anxiety. Just the thought of getting behind the wheel gives me sweaty palms.

I am unsure where this phobia comes from as I have never been in any accidents, but I am guessing it is because I keep seeing cars speeding on highways and also stories of accidents.

So far, I have taken baby steps by asking my manager to accompany me whenever I drive to the grocery store which is really close to my house.

The next step for me now is to take the car on a highway.

I believe with enough time and practice, I will be able to overcome my fear and drive confidently.

Michael Chuah, director, 43

My resolution for 2023 is to break into the Hollywood scene.

I want to continue making great films and venture into foreign markets.

We live in a globalised world today. As a director, I believe it is important to explore other countries so we can experience different cultures and discover new talents.

I have worked with China and Hong Kong in the past.

My ultimate goal right now is to work with someone from the Western scene.

Language isn’t a barrier for me when it comes to working in the US because I have spoken to a few American companies previously.

The only challenge now is to obtain a bigger budget because most Hollywood productions are costly.

Tabitha Ariel Lam, music artiste, member of girl group Dolla, 22

My new year’s resolution is to spend more time with my parents and appreciate them more.

I would like to learn to treat those around me better and I would like to improve myself in terms of my career.

Hopefully I can try something different and new in 2023.

Starting a business is one of those goals and getting a car of my own is also one of my goals this year.

Alicia Amin, model-actress, 27

My New Year’s resolution is to improve my craft (acting) in whatever ways that I can.

I always resolve to take on projects that I know will be challenging, because I am a firm believer that we can grow the more we step out of our comfort zone.

At the moment, my goal is to play a character that is difficult to pull off. For example, what Angeline Jolie did in Girl, Interrupted.

The way she plays this psycho character is so perfect. She was a supporting character, yet she stole the show.

Sure, these kinds of crazy-psycho roles have been done before.

It is not an original concept, but I do think that if I had the opportunity to play a character like that, I want to make it my own and pull off that role in a unique way.

I really hope I land an opportunity to play that insane kind of role this year. It would be a dream come true.

Aisha Retno, singer, 22

This year, I hope to be a stronger version of myself.

I want to be brave when facing challenges and not turn into an emotional mess when life gets hard. I don’t want to be the kind of person who gives up so easily.

Working in the music industry, negative comments are inevitable. When I first started out, it was really difficult for me to cope with the haters.

Although I am less affected by those comments and taking them more positively now, I believe there is still room for me to develop my emotional resilience.

Pablo Amirul, actor, 37

My New Year’s resolution is to achieve double the success I did in 2022.

Last year, I starred in Air Force The Movie: Selagi Bernyawa which bagged over RM30mil at the box office.

I am looking forward to acting in more fantastic films that double or triple that number.

So far, I have two projects that are slated for theatrical release this year – Ikhwansha Hazer’s Escape and Syamsul Yusof’s The Original Gangster.

ChronicalZ, rapper, 22

I hope to lead a healthier lifestyle by working out more in 2023. I also hope to open doors for the next generation of young rap/trap music artistes, to help pave the way for Malaysian youths.

Hazell Siow, actress, 22

In 2023, I hope to pursue a Master’s in Child Psychology.

I took a break from acting seven years ago to focus on my studies and am currently working as an Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) therapist.

I am planning to enrol for my Master’s this September and pursue my studies overseas. However, these plans are not confirmed as my love for acting has been reignited after starring in (the upcoming Chinese New Year film) Ma, I Love You.

For now, my plan is to get the best of both worlds by becoming a full-time child psychologist and doing some part-time acting on the side.

Ong Ai Leng, actress, 44

Before I got back into acting last year for Ma, I Love You, my resolution has always been to be at peace and lead a happy and healthy life with my family.

Now that I have been bitten by the acting bug, my New Year’s resolution is to star in more films and play roles that are more interesting.

At the moment, I am exploring for opportunities by attending casting calls.

I am looking forward to working with more directors, actors and a wonderful team of people this year.

Angelina Chai, music artiste, member of girl group Dolla, 21

This year, I intend to spend more time on myself and focus on building myself.

I realised the past year, I have spent a lot of time on people around me but not myself. So, moving forward, I would like to see bigger self growth.

Vincent Luk, Hong Kong singer-actor, 32

My New Year’s resolution is to entertain more people.

I find satisfaction whenever I am able to make someone happy through my performance in movies or my songs.

I recently collaborated with my co-star, Po Yiu Wong, on a track for Call Me Agent. It has been played several times on the Malaysian radio, so I hope people will enjoy and support the song.

I also want to star in more films, write more songs and continue to do well as both an actor and a singer.

Chiu Keng Guan, director, 50

My New Year’s resolution is to learn more about the advanced technology used in filmmaking.

Nowadays, I feel that the world is moving really fast, and moving with it is the filmmaking technology.

We used to have 3D. Now, there is virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), 8D and so much more.

Aside from that, I also want to improve my storytelling skills in movies and continue making more local films.

Forceparkbois, hip-hop band

To become one of the prime rap groups in the Malaysian music industry by playing more shows and events in 2023.

Source: The Star

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Muslim Council of Elders condemns terrorist attack in central Somalia


ABU DHABI, 6th January, 2023 (WAM) – The Muslim Council of Elders - under the Chairmanship of Dr. Ahmed Al-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar - strongly condemned the attack in Somalia's central Hiran region, which resulted in the death and injury of numerous people.

The Council reiterates its firm rejection of such terrorist attacks and violence, which contradict the teachings of all religions, international laws and norms. It called for a unified stand in order to eradicate such vicious acts of terrorism.

Source: WAM

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Libya: Ben-Gvir storming of Al-Aqsa is a provocation to all Muslims

January 05, 2023

Libya has condemned the move of Israeli far-right national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who stormed the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque on Tuesday under the protection of the occupying forces.

In a statement on Wednesday, Libya's Foreign Ministry deemed the step as an attempt to change the historical and legal status quo in Al-Aqsa Mosque.

It considered the move "a provocation to the feelings of all Muslims and a flagrant violation of the relevant international resolutions."

The ministry denounced the "disgraceful act," holding the Israeli occupation responsible for the storming of Al-Aqsa and the consequences of the daily attacks on Jerusalem, its people, and its sanctities.

Source: Libya Observer

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Ugandan government denies links to Facebook account under its name amid outcry

Hamza Kyeyune 



Uganda's government on Thursday distanced itself from a Facebook page operating under its name after a wave of criticism over the account on the social media platform restricted within the East African nation.

On New Year's day, a Facebook page operating under the Ugandan government's name put up a post to celebrate a milestone. The page in question has a "blue badge," indicating that it was verified by the platform.

However, a later official statement tweeted by the government said the Facebook account was not run by authorities. "The only authentic account of Government of Uganda is on Twitter," it said.

Uganda's president banned Facebook in January 2021, after the social media giant deleted a slew of accounts belonging to government officials accused of seeking to manipulate public debate ahead of general elections.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Sudan shuts border with Central African Republic amid heightened security presence

Mohammed Amin  



Sudan closed its border with the Central African Republic (CAR) and sent military reinforcements to frontier areas, local media reported on Thursday.

This comes amid a heightened security presence on the frontier after a senior Sudanese official announced that his country had stopped a military coup attempt in the CAR moving from Sudan.

Citing Brig. Abashar Adam Balail, the head of the joint forces to secure the borders between Sudan and the CAR, the Sudan News Agency (SUNA) reported that forces from the Sudanese army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (ESF) had been redeployed to the frontier between the two African nations.

Balail said Sudan had sent a large force and widely redeployed troops in the area, adding that the border needed to be secured to combat factors of insecurity including the "spread of weapons, drugs, smuggling."

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Libyan leaders hold talks in Egypt, affirm to announce peace roadmap soon

Ibrahim al-Khazen 


Libyan leaders on Thursday held a meeting with the Egyptian parliament speaker in Cairo and confirmed that a new road map for Libya will be announced soon.

The meeting was held between Speaker of the House of Representatives Aguila Saleh and head of the Tripoli-based High Council of State (HCS) Khaled al-Mishri, as well as Egyptian Parliament Speaker Hanafi Jabali at the parliament's headquarters in Cairo.

"There is consensus and we need a unified authority in Libya to hold elections under the supervision of the government," Salih said.

He noted that a new authority will be formed from the House of Representatives and State Council.

The roadmap, which will be announced with al-Mishri, "will be a constitutional document and not a single article in the constitution, and the necessary measures will be taken in accordance with the law and the opinion of the two councils," Saleh said, noting that it includes how to hold the elections and unify institutions and others.

"There has been a great rapprochement between the House of Representatives and the State Council, to reach parliamentary and presidential elections as soon as possible," Saleh added.

For his part, al-Mishri said "a roadmap will be worked on in consultation with Saleh and the United Nations Mission, and it will be announced very soon in a meeting that will take place in Libya."

"The document relates to several files and paths and setting clear terms and tasks. Therefore, the consensus between the two councils must be in accordance with the political agreement and under the umbrella and care of the United Nations in order to avoid any doubts," al-Mishri added.

The speaker of the Egyptian parliament described the tripartite meeting as "fruitful," stressing that "its results will become clear in the coming days."

Earlier this week, the HCS, which acts as a senate, decided to resume dialogue with the Libyan parliament after the assembly retracted a law establishing a constitutional court in the eastern city of Benghazi.

The oil-rich Libya has remained in turmoil since 2011 when longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi was ousted after four decades in power.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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