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Islamic World News ( 4 March 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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JeM’s ‘Ghazwa-e-Hind’ Brought India-Pak on Brink of War Twice in 20 Years

A family walks to a mosque to attend the Maghrib sunset prayer during Ramadan in Queens, New York. Reuters



JeM’s ‘Ghazwa-e-Hind’ Brought India-Pak on Brink of War Twice in 20 Years

Day after India’s Speech at OIC, New Delhi Moderates Criticism of Kashmir Resolutions

Shivratri Revives Bond between Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims in Kashmir

Iran Threatens Action against Pakistan-Based Terrorist Groups

Pakistan May Withdraw Its Opposition to Proposal to Designate Azhar as Global Terrorist: Report

Indonesia’s Largest Islamic Group Says Non-Muslims Shouldn’t Be Called ‘Kafir’

Islam Is a Religion of Peace and Denounces Terror: UAE

New York Muslim Community Patrol to Promote Unity and Understanding

Taliban Says Peace Talks with US Continue With 'Care and Vigilance'



JeM’s ‘Ghazwa-e-Hind’ Brought India-Pak on Brink of War Twice in 20 Years

Day after India’s Speech at OIC, New Delhi Moderates Criticism of Kashmir Resolutions

Shivratri Revives Bond between Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims in Kashmir

Ban on Jamaat-e-Islami Won’t Affect Affiliated Schools, Mosques, Says Govt

Pakistan violates ceasefire, targets forward posts and villages along LoC in J-K’s Akhnoor sector

‘More Than 250 Terrorists Killed In IAF Strike on Jaish Camp,’ Says Amit Shah

Speculation over Jaish chief Masood Azhar’s death amid crackdown reports

Intelligence agencies trying to ascertain reports of Masood Azhar’s death: Officials

On tape: 3 Kashmiri youths escape Pakistan terror camp

Pakistan terrorist among 2 LeT men killed as 72-hour Kupwara gunbattle ends

J&K cracks down on Jamaat, arrests 200, seals properties

J&K Cong advocates dialogue between India, Pak to resolve issues



Iran Threatens Action against Pakistan-Based Terrorist Groups

Turkish interior minister says Turkey spans from Damascus to Medina

Normalization of ties with Israel contradicts Islamic teachings: Houthi

Israel bans senior Muslim clerics from entering al-Aqsa Mosque

US closes Jerusalem consulate, demoting Palestinian mission

Israel hits Hamas sites after ‘explosive balloons’ launched from Gaza

Military: Israeli officer critically injured in car-ramming, 2 Palestinians shot dead

Israeli warplanes launch new airstrike on northern Gaza



Pakistan May Withdraw Its Opposition to Proposal to Designate Azhar as Global Terrorist: Report

Person Who Solves Kashmir Dispute Worthy Of Nobel Peace Prize: PM Khan

Jamaat-i-Islami Chief: ‘Threat of War to Remain Until Resolution of Kashmir Issue’

Govt Plans Decisive Crackdown on Militant Outfits

JF-17, not F-16, used in air combat: report

Sarwar urges UK, EU MPs to play role for de-escalation

Thousands attend funeral of Pakistani inmate killed in Indian jail

International community lauds Pakistan’s efforts for peace


Southeast Asia

Indonesia’s Largest Islamic Group Says Non-Muslims Shouldn’t Be Called ‘Kafir’

Sultan of Selangor worried over threat to Islam

China using Muslim detainees for forced labour

Australia, Indonesia sign free-trade deal as elections near

'Open prison': The growing despair of refugees stuck in Indonesia

Jokowi Holds Comfortable Lead for Re-election: Roy Morgan


Arab World

Islam Is a Religion of Peace and Denounces Terror: UAE

Egypt's Top Cleric Calls Polygamy 'Injustice, ' Draws Debate

Security Expert: US Army Training 1000 ISIL Terrorists in Western Iraq

Over Dozen Ankara-Backed Militants Killed in Clashes with Kurds in Aleppo

US-Led Coalition Conducts Chemical Phosphorus Attack on Eastern Syria

Syria takes part in first Arab meeting since 2011

Syria’s Kurds set free nearly 300 ISIS-linked Syrians

Ten ISIS militants executed by rival extremists in northwest Syria

Egypt approves new anti-terror laws

Terrorism ‘direct threat to world’, says Saudi minister of interior


North America

New York Muslim Community Patrol to Promote Unity and Understanding

US investigating reports Pakistan used F-16s to down Indian jet in possible breach of deal

US special envoy for Syria to visit Turkey on Monday

Muslim author aims to lift veil on misjudged concept

Trump admits failure of US policies in Syria, Iraq

Pentagon warns Turkey; senator hints at NATO expulsion


South Asia

Taliban Says Peace Talks with US Continue With 'Care and Vigilance'

Bangladesh returns 'lost' Myanmar soldier

Bangladesh: Saudi Embassy official Khalaf murder convict Mamun hanged

NDS Special Forces storm key Taliban compound in Baghlan province

Taliban commanders Mawlavi Jalal and Mullah Jindullah among 6 killed in Faryab clash

Afghan police forces repulse Taliban attack against a check post in Farah province

Airstrikes leave at least 350 Taliban militants dead in past one week: MoD



Labour Leader Corbyn Attacked While Visiting London Mosque

UK’s Hunt says Yemen peace deal is now ‘in last chance saloon’

UK: Mosques open their doors to public

UK foreign secretary: Yemen peace needs promises kept

Canada's Rebel Media causing anti-Muslim hate, report says



Sudanese Protests Continue Despite President’s Ban

Somalia on alert for new Takfiri attacks after scores killed

Algeria's largest Islamic party withdraws from polls

Mali radical preacher denies reports of his death in video

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




JeM’s ‘Ghazwa-e-Hind’ Brought India-Pak on Brink of War Twice in 20 Years

Mar 03, 2019

Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed’s audacious terrorist strikes, part of its ‘Ghazwa-e-Hind’(Holy War Against India), have turned it into one of the most deadly terror groups and brought India and Pakistan on the brink of war twice in two decades, officials said.

The most deadly terror strikes of the JeM in the past 20 years include attacks on the Pathankot airbase, the Army brigade headquarters in Uri, the Badamibagh cantonment in Srinagar and the bombing of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly.

India and Pakistan were almost on the brink of war in 2001 when the JeM attacked the Indian Parliament, and again now after the February 14 suicide attack on a CRPF bus in Pulwama, which killed 40 jawans, a security official said Sunday.

The terrorist group, with close links with al-Qaida, had resolved at a conference held in Okara district in Pakistan on November 27, 2017, that it would continue its “Ghazwa-e-Hind” irrespective of the Indo-Pak ties, the official said citing an intelligence report.

The JeM, which had close links slain al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, was formed after the release of terror mastermind Masood Azhar from an Indian jail on December 31, 1999 after the Indian Airlines flight IC814 was hijacked on December 24, 1999.

Azhar was released along with rouge British secret service MI6 agent Omar Shaikh, who was responsible for the killing The Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Pearl in January 2002 and the funding of 9/11 terror attacks in the United States with USD 100,000, the official said.

The group carried out a series of terrorist attacks in Jammu and Kashmir.

It killed 30 soldiers in the Valley through a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) in April 2000, killed three policemen at a bus stand at Batmaloo in Srinagar in June 2000, bombed the J&K Assembly on October 1, 2001 in which 31 people died, and attacked Parliament on December 13, 2001 in which nine security personnel and officials were killed.

The attack on the assembly took place just three weeks after the 9/11 attacks and the Parliament attack happened a week after bin Laden was cornered in Tora Bora caves in Afghanistan.

When bin Laden was cornered in Tora Bora and the Pakistani army was forced to hold one side of the cordon of these vast caves, the JeM became the conduit to bring fighters and their families from Afghanistan into safe havens in Pakistan, run by JeM and another deadly terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, the official said.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of the key conspirators of 9/11, housed fleeing al-Qaida cadres in Karachi, he said.

It is widely believed that to help bin Laden flee Tora Bora, JeM carried out attack on Parliament in New Delhi, leading to a war-like situation between India and Pakistan after Indian armed forces were mobilised along the country’s western border, another official said.

This provided a pretext to the Pakistani army to withdraw much of its forces from its western border, which was in cordon of the Tora Bora caves, thus helping the escape of bin Laden to Pakistan.

“It took 10 more deadly years to get Osama bin Laden. This is the nature and capability of JeM. Its activities just do not impact India, but feed on terrorism and has been a major threat to global peace and security,” the official said.

On November 2, 2005, a few hours before the swearing in of Ghulam Nabi Azad as Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, a JeM suicide squad detonated a powerful car bomb in the Nowgam area of Srinagar, killing 10 people and injuring 18 others.

On January 2, 2016, a heavily armed group of JeM attacked the Pathankot airbase in which seven security personnel and a security personnel were killed.

The JeM attacked the Uri brigade headquarters on September 18, 2016, killing 17 soldiers and injuring 30 others.

After the Pulwama attack, the Indian Air Force carried out an aerial attack on the biggest camp of JeM in Balakot in Pakistan, leading to another war-like situation between the two countries.



Day After India’s Speech at OIC, New Delhi Moderates Criticism of Kashmir Resolutions

The Wire Staff


New Delhi: A day after Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj addressed the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) as ‘guest of honour’, India gave a relatively muted criticism of resolutions on Kashmir and the peace process by the Islamic bloc.

For the first time in 50 years, Swaraj addressed the inaugural plenary of the annual meeting of the Council of foreign ministers on March 1, on invitation of the host – United Arab Emirates. Pakistan boycotted the 46th ministerial meeting claiming that India had “no legal or moral grounds to be present at the meeting”.

The Abu dhabi declaration, released at the end of the conference, welcomed the “positive initiative undertaken by the Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan to hand over the Indian pilot as a gesture of goodwill to de-escalate tensions in the region”. There was, however, no mention of Kashmir in the main declaration compared to last year’s in Dhaka, since the entire paragraph which expressed solidarity with Muslim communities in the conflict zone was missing in 2019.

However, just like in 2018 and previous years, there were two separate political resolutions on “The Peace Process between India and Pakistan” and “The Jammu and Kashmir Dispute”.

The resolution on the India-Pakistan peace process was identical in language to the one issued last year.

However, the Kashmir resolution was slightly modified to reflect events from 2018. For example, the 2019 resolution welcomed the UN Human Rights Commissioner’s report on Kashmir and called for its implementation with the setting up of a Commission of Inquiry. It also sought to end the hundreds of arrests and “disappearances” in Kashmir. The recommendation to member states were picked up from previous resolutions.

In his official response to the OIC resolution, the external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar first stated that India “deeply appreciates the historic gesture” of inviting the Indian foreign minister to the ministerial summit.

He then went on to mention the OIC political resolutions.

“As regards the resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir, our stand is consistent and well known. We reaffirm that Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India and is a matter strictly internal to India.”

The language was a much more polite one than India’s response to similar resolutions in previous years, when India had said that OIC had “no locus standi” and advised it to “refrain from such references.” Indian response had followed a similar template whether in 2018, 2017, 2016 or 2015.

“We observe with utmost regret as well as categorically reject the resolutions adopted by Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) on Jammu and Kashmir at the 45th CFM session of OIC in Dhaka, Bangladesh held on 5-6 May 2018. We affirm once again that Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India and the OIC has no locus standi in matters strictly internal to India. We advise OIC to refrain from such references.”

At a press conference at the end of the OIC meeting, the UAE crown prince was asked a question on including the Kashmir resolutions in the bundle of documents.

“Let’s look at it from the positive angle. I think the OIC has sent a very clear and positive sign to India, to the people of India that the OIC appreciates the relationship with India and looks forward to strengthening such a relationship to a point where we can embrace India one day in the OIC,” said the crown prince Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

He added that it was a “historic moment” both for India and OIC to have Swaraj as a guest of honour.

“It was a historic moment for India definitely, and the language that you are referring to has been in our previous statements. The most important change in the OIC today is having India as a guest of honour and having such a positive, strong, dedicated speech that we heard yesterday from India,” he stated.

The Indian ambassador to UAE, Navdeep Suri claimed that the comments by the crown prince “really capture the spirit of UAE’s invitation to India to participate in OIC foreign ministers meeting as Guest of Honour”.

Official sources added that the political resolutions, like the ones on Kashmir, are based on country proposals and are not negotiated documents. These resolutions were added during the meeting of the OIC senior officials, where Pakistan did participate.

They pointed out that the main negotiated document was the Abu Dhabi declaration.

Meanwhile, Pakistan foreign office issued a statement which noted that OIC “reaffirms unwavering support for the Kashmiri people”.




Shivratri Revives Bond between Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims in Kashmir

Mar 03, 2019

JAMMU: Manzoor Ahmad Bhat, 62, returned after performing 'Umrah' (pilgrimage to Mecca) last month. He lives in south Kashmir's Pulwama district, but his current visit to Jammu has a special purpose and meaning.

He has brought walnuts to greet Girdharilal Daftari, his 68-year-old Kashmiri Pandit friend who lives in Jammu after shifting out of the Valley in early 1990 after outbreak of militancy.

Walnuts are traditionally offered by Muslims to their Kashmiri Pandit neighbours and friends ahead of Shivratri.

Bhat and Daftari have been friends for over 30 years. The turbulence of time has upset many equations in Kashmir, but the brotherhood between Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims has somehow survived.

"How can I forget to be with my friend on an occasion like Shivratri. In good old days, I would look forward to the special feast of fish and nadru (lotus stem) at Daftari's home.

The love and affection that went along the food, served on Shivratri, cannot be expressed in words," said Bhat.

Since the outbreak of insurgency in Kashmir over 30 years ago, there has hardly been a year when Bhat and Daftari haven't been together on the festival.

In a way, they are like hundreds of other Kashmiri Muslim and Pandit friends. They may not be able to visit each other on Shivratri due to geographical distance, yet continue to share the same feelings of nostalgia.

With their intertwined histories, culture and livelihood for centuries, most among the two communities believe they will withstand the present turmoil.

"Can you believe it? I was taught Arabic and Persian by a Pandit teacher. Isn't this a statement that dispels the fear about the shared future of these two communities?" said Nisar Ahmad, 69, a resident of Srinagar.

The close links between the two communities were more pronounced in villages than cities.

"I would ask my Muslim neighbour to bring mutton, fish, nadru and other things for the festival. But it would take me quite a bit of time convincing him that he must accept the money for these purchases," said Shamlal Koul, 63, who lived in a north Kashmir village before shifting out of the Valley.

The mutual trust has stood the test of time. Pandits would not eat pork and the local Muslims would not eat beef.

"That was the level of faith we had between us. It cannot be denied that under the influence of the changing times, our youth might not feel so passionately about their Muslim neighbours.

"That is something nobody can deny. Children of the two communities feel betrayed. They have not interacted with each other so often after 1990, and whenever there has been some social media interaction between them, it has been based on mistrust.

"It is the duty of the elders among the two communities to educate children about the love and respect Pandits and Muslims in Kashmir had for each other.

"The pain of migration, leaving everything behind, is something nobody among our community can forget. But Kashmiri Muslims have been more unfortunate because of the lives of youth snatched by violence during this period," said Daftari.

He said the Muslim festival of Eid and the Shivratri have to regain their historic meaning for the two communities.

"Unless that happens, both Muslims and Pandits would lose the most glorious chapter of their history," Daftari rued.



Iran threatens action against Pakistan-based terrorist groups

Mar 4, 2019

NEW DELHI: It is not just India that is taking action — and contemplating more — against Pakistan for its terror proxies. In the heat of the IndiaPakistan conflict of the past week, it skipped notice that leaders in the Iranian government and armed forces have threatened to act against Pakistani terror groups since the country cannot act against them.

General Qassem Soleimani, the all powerful commander of the IRGC Quds Force, issued stern warnings to the Pakistani government and its military establishment. “I have this question for the Pakistani government: where are you heading to? You have caused unrest along borders with all your neighbours and do you have any other neighbour left that you want to stir insecurity for," Gen Soleimani was quoted as saying.

“Are you, who have atomic bombs, unable to destroy a terrorist group with several hundred members in the region?” he asked, adding that Pakistan should not test Iran’s resolve.

India and Iran have enhanced their counter-terrorism cooperation in recent years. This will top discussions between the two countries when the next round of foreign office consultations are scheduled. Foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale was scheduled to travel to Iran over the weekend but the trip was postponed due to the India-Pakistan crisis.

Chairman of the Iranian parliament’s foreign policy commission Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh was also quoted as saying that Iran wanted to build a wall on its border with Pakistan, and promised Tehran would take action inside Pakistan if it was incapable of doing so to stop cross-border attacks into Iran.

Even the top aide of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei, Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, went on record to castigate Pakistan. This is significant because it is a sign that Iran’s supreme leader wants the message to go out to Pakistan. "These criminal outlaws were from one of the tribes of Balochistan who had been trained on suicide operations in the neighbouring country, and the neighbouring country and the ISI should account to the Iranian government and nation and the IRGC for how they have crossed the borders of that country and why this neighbouring country has turned into a safe haven and a place for training and dispatch of these infidel terrorist grouplets (to Iran)," he was reported as saying.

Ali Jafari, commander of the IRGC, also warned Pakistan against supporting terror. "Pakistan should know that it should pay the cost for the Pakistani intelligence organisation's support for Jeish al-Zolm (as Jaish al-Adl is called in Iran) from now on and this price will no doubt be very heavy for them," he said. "Undoubtedly, the Pakistani security organisation knows the hideout of the grouplets but it has kept mum," Jafari added.

In Afghanistan, Rahmatullah Nabil, former chief of its intelligence agency and a contender in the upcoming presidential elections, said Pakistan’s ISI sheltered and supported between 45-48 terror groups for its neighbouring countries. “Pakistan has been using terrorism as a tool and tactic,” Nabil was quoted as saying to an interviewer. “India should have done this (Balakot strikes) much earlier,” he added.

“I hope Iran will also take action against Jaish al-Adl. Because if the US leaves the region — and we hope they leave behind a good legacy — but if they simply withdraw, that will give a sense of victory to all terrorist networks not just in the region but on the other side as well,” Nabil said.



Pakistan may withdraw its opposition to proposal to designate Azhar as global terrorist: Report

Mar 3, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan may take "decisive action" against all proscribed organisations, including Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM), and even withdraw its opposition to the move to list terror outfit's chief Masood Azhar+ in the UN Security Council terror list, according to a media report on Sunday.

The US, the UK and France+ on Wednesday moved a fresh proposal in the UN Security Council to designate Pakistan-based chief Azhar as a global terrorist, a listing that will subject him to global travel ban, asset freeze and arms embargo.

In a major policy decision, Pakistan is set to take decisive action against all proscribed organisations as well as against the head of banned JeM, a senior security official familiar with the development was quoted as saying by the Express Tribune.

It is not clear what specific action would be taken against Azhar but the official hinted that Pakistan may withdraw its opposition to the listing of JeM chief as global terrorist by the UN Security Council.

"The state has to decide whether individual is important or the larger national interest of the country," the official said when asked if Pakistan would no more oppose the UNSC action against Azhar.

The Security Council Sanctions Committee will consider within 10 days on the fresh proposal moved by the three permanent veto-wielding members of the 15-nation Security Council.

The proposal is the fourth such bid at the UN in the last 10 years to list Azhar as a global terrorist.

In 2009, India moved a proposal to designate Azhar, whose UN-proscribed JeM claimed responsibility for the suicide attack against Indian security forces in Pulwama on February 14 in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed.

In 2016 again, India moved the proposal with the P3 - the United States, the United Kingdom and France in the UN's 1267 Sanctions Committee to ban Azhar, also the mastermind of the attack on the air base in Pathankot in January, 2016.

In 2017, the P3 nations moved a similar proposal again. However, on all occasions, China, a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council, blocked India's proposal from being adopted by the Sanctions Committee.

The official, however, insisted that the move to take action against such individuals was taken before the Pulwama attack, the report said.

He also clarified Pakistan's decision to act decisively was taken not to give any "face saving" to India.

"We need to correct ourselves in our own national interests and not someone else's," the official was quoted as saying in the report.

The official further said that the Pakistani authorities had conducted investigations into the Pulwama terror attack on CRPF personnel and found "no evidence whatsoever of any involvement of Pakistan or any organisation in it."

Stressing that the country's leadership was determined to take action against anyone found involved in the Pulwama attack, he said the dossier shared by India with Pakistan had nothing in it that suggested involvement of any Pakistani organisation.



Indonesia’s largest Islamic group says non-Muslims shouldn’t be called ‘kafir’

March 3, 2019

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s largest Islamic organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama, has issued a call to end the usage of the term “kafir”, or infidel, to refer to non-Muslims in state or citizenship matters, a move that may be aimed at calming religious tensions ahead of the presidential election.

Nahdlatul Ulama, with around 140 million members, said at its recent National Conference that non-Muslims shouldn’t be referred to as “kafir” as they have equal standing in state affairs.

The conference concluded non-Muslims should be referred to as “muwathin,” or citizens with the same rights and obligations as Muslim Indonesians, according to Ahmad Muntaha, secretary of Nahdlatul Ulama’s East Java Ulama Assembly.

Muntaha said in a statement published on the group’s website on Friday that a Muslim shouldn’t address non-Muslims as “kafir” in any social context.

The conference also emphasised that as a state, Indonesia wasn’t established by Muslims only, the statement said.

Nahdlatul Ulama’s recommendation comes as citizens of the world’s largest Muslim-majority country prepare for a presidential poll on Apr 17.

Religious issues have fueled divisions between supporters of incumbent President Joko Widodo and rival Prabowo Subianto.

Widodo, known as Jokowi, has faced protests from some Muslim groups that allege he has treated some Islamic clerics unfairly.

The president’s running partner for the poll, Ma’ruf Amin, is an Islamic scholar and head of a nationwide council of Muslim religious leaders, as well as chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama’s advisory council.

Jokowi has dismissed the claims against him as baseless.



Islam is a religion of peace and denounces terror: UAE

March 1, 2019

Sheikh Abdullah said terrorism and extremism are severely damaging Muslim countries and their civilisational legacy.

Muslim countries need an effective mechanism to fight terrorism and extremism. They should also combat hate speech, said Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, in Abu Dhabi on Friday.

Sheikh Abdullah called on member states to stop "direct or indirect support to entities or individuals involved in terrorism and extremism, or providing safe shelter, and harbouring, financing or assisting them" in his speech at the 46th Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit.

While reiterating the OIC's support for Palestinian's aspirations for an independent state, Sheikh Abdullah said terrorism and extremism are severely damaging Muslim countries and their civilisational legacy.

Development is also being pegged back by violent ideologies.

"Islam is a religion of tolerance, peace and safety which denounces extremism and terrorism and calls for sincere work in the service of our countries."

The spread of radical ideology and terrorism should be dealt with effectively through awareness and government action, the UAE foreign minister said in his speech.

He said people who promote terror have lost human values and act under the cloak of religion while interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.

The foreign minister also called on Iran to "reconsider its polices with regard to building friendly relations with its neighbours based on non-interference in internal affairs. "Iran should stop its efforts to destabilise the region by spreading chaos and fuelling sectarian disputes," said the minister.



New York Muslim community patrol to promote unity and understanding

Rob Crilly

March 4, 2019

With its red and white emergency lights, blue stripes and shield, the Ford Taurus resembles a police squad car.

It is not until passers-by stop for a better look that they see the bold lettering spells out “Muslim Community Patrol”, a new effort to bring security to the streets of Brooklyn that has attracted the anger of Islamophobic political groups and fears of a drive to impose Sharia law.

“What is it?” asked a passing resident of Sunset Park, one of the neighbourhoods that civilian volunteers plan to begin patrolling within weeks.

The patrols are just the most visible part of the programme that will include translation and counselling, mentorship and a host of other services for people affected by crime, poverty or other types of need, according to Noor Rabah, the 31-year-old vice president of Muslim Community Patrol and Services who lives nearby.

The group has already trained 60 volunteers with the help of the local police precinct. Two cars equipped and ready for deployment. Another eight vehicles are expected within a year.

It all comes at a time of heightened anxiety for American Muslims and fears of a growing tide of hate crimes.

“It is a not just a response to that,” said Mr Rabah after a banquet held to raise funding. “Rather it is a dream of many Muslims for decades. We have always tried to have our own community patrol because it gives a sense of unity, a sense of better understanding, a better liaison between us and NYPD.

“But there are certain cases where we feel if we had been around we could have served as a preventative service.”

He is talking about the 2016 murder of an Imam and his assistant following afternoon prayers in the Queens borough of New York. Oscar Morel was sentenced to life in prison for the killing, but no motive was ever identified.

Along with President Donald Trump’s travel ban and a surge in anti-Muslim groups reported by the Southern Poverty Law Centre, which monitors hate crimes, it means a time of fear for some minorities.

Volunteers plan to station themselves close to Islamic schools in Brooklyn, keeping an eye on pupils as they come and go, as well patrolling around mosques and bus stops in neighbourhoods such as Bay Ridge – known for its large Syrian population.

They hope to act as a deterrent. Rather than intervening directly, they can alert police to suspicious activity.

In so doing, they can work for everyone in the community regardless of ethnic or religious background, said Mr Rabah.

Yet that has not stopped an angry backlash among people claiming to have identified ulterior motives.

Laura Loomer, a hardline conservative provocateur who is banned from using Twitter, accused the volunteers of imposing Islamic law.

“The job of the people driving the cars is to enforce Sharia law,” she wrote in an Instagram post. “In case you never thought Sharia would be in America, well, it’s here.”

A rash of videos have sprung up on YouTube with commentators condemning the plans.

The reality is the new service is simply the latest example of a community-based patrol.

It joins the Brooklyn Asian Safety Patrol, founded in 2014, and the Shomrim, a long-standing Jewish organisation that has a presence in mainly Hasidic areas of Brooklyn.

It also has the backing of senior police and political leaders in the borough, who attended the fundraising dinner.

Eric Adams, a former police officer turned borough president, promised to dust off his old uniform to patrol with them.

“Yes, your women should be able to wear the hijab without any type of harassment. Yes, your moms should not be assaulted as they walk the street. Yes, you should be able to go inside your mosque and pray without having to worry about someone desecrating your institutions,” he said.

“All those things are true, but there is something bigger than vehicles with flashing lights on top.”

The patrols served as a symbol that the Muslim community – like other American groups — had the right to provide safety and security to its members, he added.

Mr Rabah said the service would never have won the endorsement of Mr Adams or the local police commander – who also attended – if it was a Sharia patrol.

“The reality is that we are not doing such a thing,” he said.

“We know that exists in other places in the world, we have heard bad stories, but we are only trying to do the services that you have heard about… which are helpful, we are not trying to force anything on anyone.”

Many among his 300-strong audience at the banquet dug deep to offer support.

Amirudin Rahim, who arrived in New York from Guyana in 1979, said it was an important step forward.

“It’s a chance to show that we are part of the community and are just like everyone else when there is a crime in the community,” he said.



Taliban says peace talks with US continue with 'care and vigilance'

Mar 3, 2019

KABUL: Peace talks between the Taliban and the US are progressing on a "step-by-step" basis, a spokesman from the militant group said Sunday, following a bloody attack on a joint US-Afghan base claimed by the insurgents.

Meetings between the two sides restarted over the weekend in Doha after a temporary halt late last week to allow for "internal deliberations".

"The current round of talks in Doha are advancing on a step-by-step basis. As the issue at hand is immensely crucial and delicate, it's progression is taking place with that much care and vigilance," said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in a statement sent to media.

The spokesman added the negotiations continue to focus primarily on a potential US troop withdrawal and a pact to prevent Afghanistan from being used as a safe haven for terrorists.

The latest meetings follow marathon talks in January that saw the US and the Taliban walk away with a "draft framework" on the two issues.

"It should be mentioned that no understanding has so far been reached about any agreement or document," Mujahid added.

The US has not released a statement regarding the status of the talks.

A New York Times report published Thursday hinted that US forces could leave Afghanistan within five years under a Pentagon plan offered as part of a potential deal with the Taliban to end the nearly 18-year war.

The Taliban were quick to reject the claims, saying they were unaware of any such proposals made during the months-long diplomatic push.

The US has also pushed for a ceasefire and the opening of a dialogue between the Taliban and the Kabul government --demands that have been repeatedly rejected by the insurgents.

The continuation of the talks follows a major attack on a joint US-Afghan base in southwestern Afghanistan's Helmand province Friday, with at least 23 security forces killed in the hours-long assault on one of the largest military installations in the country.

Heavy snowfall across large swathes of Afghanistan has led to a sharp reduction in violence this winter, but warmer weather in the country's south will likely spark an increase in bloodshed with the arrival of the spring fighting season.

Analysts have warned that the Taliban are likely to ramp up attacks in the coming months as they seek to maintain momentum on the battlefield and leverage at the negotiating table.





Ban on Jamaat-e-Islami won’t affect affiliated schools, mosques, says govt

Mar 03, 2019

Ashiq Hussain

The Jammu and Kashmir government late on Sunday clarified that Jamaat-e-Islami’ affiliated schools, mosques and orphanages have been kept outside the purview of the ban on the organisation.

“#JeI Ban# J&K Government Spokesman, Rohit Kansal @kansalrohit69 clarifies: Schools, mosques & orphanages so far kept outside the scope of seizure,” said a tweet by department of information and public relations, Govt of Jammu & Kashmir.

Almost all regional mainstream parties had expressed outrage after Centre on Thursday banned the Jamaat-e-Islami in Jammu and Kashmir for five years on grounds that it was “in close touch” with militant outfits and was expected to “escalate secessionist movement” in the state.

National Conference (NC), Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and Peoples Conference (PC) have demanded revocation of the ban and also expressed concern over the fate of schools run by the JeI.

“While the government may take some time to review the need to ban JeI, there is a need to urgently review the ban on schools and the sealing of mosques,” tweeted former chief minister Omar Abdullah on Sunday.

“There is nothing to suggest sealing mosques will improve the security environment. Sealing schools risks forcing so many young kids out on the streets rather than studying to make a future for themselves,” he said.

“People are being turned away from mosques where they usually congregate for prayers. Schools with 10’s of 1000’s of students, employing 1000s of teachers are being sealed,” he said.

There is anxiety among thousands of parents and students of hundreds of JeI-run schools as they fear the administration may seal educational institutes as well. According to an unofficial estimate, around 100,000 students are studying in 300 schools run by the JeI.

On Saturday, PDP leaders and activists took out a protest march against the ban in Srinagar. The protest came as authorities in Kashmir started sealing properties of JeI and residences of some of its activists. Bank accounts of JeI leaders have also been frozen.

“These schools have been providing education to the poorest of the poor and they have been getting positions. They are meritorious students. Where will these kids go? The government is playing with their future. This is very bad,” said PDP leader and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti.



Pakistan violates ceasefire, targets forward posts and villages along LoC in J-K’s Akhnoor sector

Mar 04, 2019

Pakistani troops Monday violated ceasefire by targeting forward posts and villages along the Line of Control in Akhnoor sector in Jammu, breaking a two-day lull in cross-border skirmishes, officials said. “The firing from across the border started around 0300 hours and stopped at 0630 hours,” a defence spokesman said. He said Pakistan initiated the unprovoked ceasefire violation by firing mortar shells and small arms on forward posts and villages.

“Indian Army retaliated strongly and effectively,” the spokesman said adding there was no report of any casualty on Indian side.

Barring a two-hour cross-border firing in Nowshera sector of Rajouri district Saturday afternoon, the guns had fallen silent all along the LoC since Friday night.

The lull in the cross-border firing had come as a major relief to the border residents, especially in the twin districts of Poonch and Rajouri, where Pakistan had violated ceasefire for over 50 times, killing four persons including three members of a family and injuring several others.

The ceasefire violations by Pakistan witnessed a spurt after India’s air strike at Jaish-e-Mohammad terror camp in Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Feb 26 in a “preemptive” action following the terrorist group’s Feb 14 suicide bombing in Pulwama in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed.

Amid heightened tensions, Army chief Gen Bipin Rawat visited Jammu-based White Knight Corps on Saturday and reviewed the operational preparedness of the forces in the Corps Zone in view of the current situation along the LoC and the International Border.

Full report at:



‘More Than 250 Terrorists Killed In IAF Strike on Jaish Camp,’ Says Amit Shah

Mar 04, 2019

BJP president Amit Shah on Sunday said over 250 terrorists were killed in the airstrike carried out by the Indian Air Force (IAF) on the “13th day of dastardly Pulwama terror attack.”

Addressing the ‘Lakshya JITO’ program in Ahmedabad, Shah spoke about the two major terror strikes of the last five years and outlined the central government’s response against them.

“In 5 years two major incidents happened...In URI and Pulwama.....after Uri attack our army entered Pakistan and did a surgical strike and took revenge of our soldiers’ death.”

“After Pulwama attack, everyone thought surgical strike can’t be done this what will happen?... At that time Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led central government did an airstrike on the 13th day and killed more than 250 terrorists without any harm on our side,” Shah said.

On February 28, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had asked the government to spell out “details” of the exact place where the air raid was carried out and the casualties inflicted, stating that international media claimed that there was no damage in the strike.

In the wee hours of February 26, the anti-terror operations carried out by the IAF targeted camps of dreaded terror outfit—Jaish-e-Mohammad—inBalakotinPakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Full report at:



Speculation over Jaish chief Masood Azhar’s death amid crackdown reports

Mar 03, 2019

Speculation mounted about the status of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar on Sunday against the backdrop of reports that the Pakistan government could be planning a crackdown on the banned group.

Unconfirmed reports swirled through the day about the death of Azhar, whose group claimed responsibility for the February 14 suicide bombing at Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir that killed 40 troops.

There has been sustained focus on Azhar since foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi confirmed his presence in Pakistan last week and said he was “unwell”. Qureshi also said the government was in touch with the JeM, which he said has purportedly denied involvement in the Pulwama attack.

People familiar with developments in Islamabad said Azhar was alive and had recently undergone surgery for a gall bladder ailment and kidney stones. PTI quoted an unnamed security official as saying that Azhar had been treated at a military facility.

Security officials in New Delhi too said there was no confirmation of reports of Azhar’s death.

Earlier reports had said Azhar was ailing from spinal cancer and was being treated at the JeM headquarters at Bhawalpu. He was still active as he was ailing, but not incapacitated.

Indian officials said the government’s focus will continue to be on counter-terrorism efforts as they didn’t want Pakistan to resort to any ploy to reduce pressure from the world community, especially after Pakistan after Qureshi admitted on TV that Azhar is in Pakistan and that the authorities are in touch with JeM.

Meanwhile, a statement issued by JeM referred to India’s air strike at a facility of the terrorist group at Balakot and said Pakistan’s government is following in the footsteps of former president Pervez Musharraf, who had ordered a crackdown on JeM.

“The Indian pilot was released and now they are planning to arrest and detain the faithful. The government is planning to shut their religious institutions. It is going soft on the enemies while acting tough against its own,” said the statement in Urdu.

Full report at:



Intelligence agencies trying to ascertain reports of Masood Azhar’s death: Officials

Mar 03, 2019

Intelligence agencies were trying to ascertain reports on social media about the death of Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group chief Masood Azhar in Pakistan, officials said on Sunday. The officials said they had no information other than that Azhar was undergoing treatment at an army hospital after suffering renal failure.

A resident of Bahawalpur in Pakistan’s Punjab province, Azhar formed the Jaish-e-Mohammed in 2000.

The 50-year-old Azhar, who was released by the NDA government in 1999 in exchange of hostages of the hijacked Indian Airlines plane IC-814, has been accused of being the mastermind of the 2001 Parliament attack, suicide attack on Jammu and Kashmir state assembly, attack on Pathankot IAF base and the latest Pulwama terror strike.

Social media was filled with reports that Azhar had died, but there was no confirmation as of now, the officials said. Jaish’s Balakot camp, where training was imparted to recruits to carry out suicide attacks, was targeted by the IAF in an air strike last week, following the Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed.

The government has claimed that it achieved a spectacular success by destroying the facility.

In an interview to CNN, Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi earlier admitted that the JeM chief is in Pakistan and is “very unwell”, but said the government can act against him only if India presents “solid” and “inalienable” evidence that can stand in a court of law.

Full report at:



On tape: 3 Kashmiri youths escape Pakistan terror camp

Mar 3, 2019

SRINAGAR: Three youths from Kashmir, who had crossed over to Pakistan but made a dramatic escape last September to return home, have made startling disclosures on how Pakistan’s ISI is luring Kashmiri youngsters into joining a lesser-active terror outfit called Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen (TuM).

A videotaped interrogation of the trio by the Indian Army, accessed by TOI, reveals that 22-year-old Mohammad Shafi Bhatt, 20-year-old Sajjad Ahmad Wani and 21-year-old Abid Ahmad Dar, all from J&K’s Bandipora, had crossed over to Pakistan in 2017 to join a terror outfit and get arms training during the post-Burhan Wani recruitment drive to stir violence  in Kashmir.

Shafi, who worked as a porter near the Jawahar post, knew the area and took his other two friends along to cross over. They exfiltrated into Pakistan from Lossar post, opposite Gurez sector in north Kashmir, on April 7, 2017.

They were received at a terror launch pad by a commander, then blindfolded and taken to a destination under the pretext that the place was a terror camp.

“We were first taken to a matchbox factory in PoK’s Muzaffarabad for five days. There were other Kashmiris in that compound too. All of them want to return but are trapped and forced to become jihadis and sent to different terror outfits,” says one of them in the videotaped interrogation. “One man came and identified himself as Ustaad. He motivated all of us to become mujahideen,” says another.

The youths were then asked their preferences about which terror group they were keen on joining. But later they were told they could join only TuM when its chief Sheikh Jameel-ur-Rehman and recruiter Hamza Bhai visited them personally.

The three youths told their interrogators that they were sent to Manshera in Muzaffarabad for a four-month training with Hizbul Mujahideen and then to Rawalpindi. They were given a monthly allowance of Rs2,000 and asked to do menial jobs. Both TuM and Hizbul,however, suspected the youths to be Indian spies for some reason. “We were tortured and that’s when we decided to run away and return to Kashmir,” one of the youths said. They also said that they met one Tauseef, another Kashmiri, who was given a weapon and some cash to infiltrate into India from Pakistan but escaped like them.

TuM was banned by the Centre on February 6 this year under Section 35 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. TuM has been involved in grenade lobbing, weapons snatching and supporting other terror outfits, such as Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), in terms of financial and logistic support.

An anti-terror specialist in Srinagar said TuM was clearly reviving itself. “They use the expertise of LeT and JeM, and the overground workers’ network of Hizbul, for big terror attacks,” he added.

Full report at:



Pakistan terrorist among 2 LeT men killed as 72-hour Kupwara gunbattle ends

Mar 3, 2019

SRINAGAR: The Handwara encounter ended on Sunday with the killing of both terrorists who had engaged the security forces in a three-day gun battle.

The security forces lost five men in the firefight at Babagund village in Handwara, district Kupwara — three CRPF men and two J&K policemen. A civilian, too, was killed, taking the total number of lives lost to eight.

The police said on Sunday the two militants were affiliated to the Lashkar-e-Taiba. “Both the #terrorists killed were affiliated with proscribed terror outfit #LeT. One has been identified as #foreigner from #Pakistan. Identity of the other is being ascertained,” the police wrote on Twitter.

According to reports, eight buildings, including two cowsheds, were damaged in the nearly 72-hour gun battle. Internet services in the area remained suspended when reports last came in.

“This operation posed considerable difficulties for the security forces due to the topography of the area. The area where the militants were hiding was very congested and civilians in adjoining houses had to be evacuated to safer places away from the site of the encounter,” a police spokesman said.

He added that the bodies of both terrorists were recovered from the site of the gunfight. “Their identities and affiliations are being ascertained,” he said. “Incriminating material, including arms and ammunition, were recovered from the site of the gunfight,” the police spokesman said.

Police have registered a case and the incriminating material retrieved from the encounter site has been put in the case records for further investigation.

The police spokesman said CRPF jawan Sham Narayan Singh Yadav, who was injured earlier, succumbed to his injuries, raising the toll of CRPF dead to three.

The encounter began in the intervening night of February 28 and March 1 after a joint team launched a cordon-and-search operation. A fierce encounter started and two terrorists were believed to have been killed. However, when the joint search team went to retrieve the militants’ bodies amid a lull, one of the two militants, earlier believed to be dead, stood up and opened fire. CRPF inspector Pintu Kumar, paramilitary trooper Vinod and two policemen — Naseer Ahmad Kholi and Ghulam Mustafa Barah —were killed and 11 uniformed men, seven of them Army personnel, were injured in the subsequent gunfight.

Full report at:



J&K cracks down on Jamaat, arrests 200, seals properties

Mar 3, 2019

SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir authorities arrested more than 200 Jamaat-e-Islami activists and sealed properties worth crores of rupees across the state after the Union home ministry banned the Jamaat on Thursday.

Among those arrested in Kishtwar, Doda, Ramban, Poonch, Rajouri and Jammu districts in Jammu division of the state were three prominent local Jamaat leaders as well.

A late-night J&K government release “made it clear that schools, mosques and orphanages have been kept outside the scope of seizure and sealing”. The statement from J&K government spokesman Rahul Kansal said, “Action is being taken against offices, assets, properties and other equipment of the banned organisation.” He added that the ban was for five years.

A senior police officer confirmed the raids on the houses of Jamaat leaders, the seizing of documents, the freezing of their bank accounts and the sealing of their properties.

Nearly all mainstream leaders, including former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, Sajjad Lone and state Congress leaders expressed dismay over the Union government’s decision to ban the Jamaat-e-Islami in J&K.

The late Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, former CM and grandfather of Omar Abdullah, had banned the Jamaat in the early 1980s and had dismantled their schools, or madrassas, across the valley. The Abdullahs were staunch opponents of the Jamaat and always accused the “PDP of having the support of Jamaat activists”.

However, the Jamaat in 1988 created the Falah-e-Aam Trust and ran JeI schools. The Farooq Abdullah government in 1988 again imposed the ban on the Jamaat, including the Falah-e-Aam Trust.

JeI J&K was established in 1942 by Pir Said-ud-din. Initially it concentrated on spreading the Wahhabi sect of Islam and refrained from participating in elections. It later participated in polls wherein Hurriyat leader Syed Geelani was its MLA for two terms in the early 1970s.

The products of Jamaat schools were targeted by Pakistan’s ISI and exfiltrated the Taliban (madrassa students) to Pakistan for arms training. They were then infiltrated back into India to carry out subversive activities with arms and ammunition, according to a GOI official.

During 1988-89, the Jamaat supported militancy indirectly, but got directly involved under the influence of Pakistan’s secret service, the ISI, when it formed the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) in 1989 as its militant wing.

According to reports, Mohammad Majeed Sheikh, Mohammad Iqbal Naik and Ghulam Qadir Bhat were arrested from Kishtwar district. Another Jamaat leader, Ghulam Nabi Gundana, was put under house arrest as he had undergone surgery recently, a police officer said. He said two Jamaat activists detained in Doda were released after questioning.

All schools run by JeI in the districts were searched during the raids on Saturday, the officer said, adding the schools are being kept under surveillance.

Congress state unit leader and former state minister G M Saroori said the Jamaat was not a terrorist outfit but ran schools and provided help to hundreds of needy people. He said the action against the religious organisation seemed “politically motivated” in view of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

J&K National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah expressed dismay over the banning of the JeI in J&K, saying the move would prove detrimental to the education sector as the organisation runs a number of schools in J&K. “Our party and JeI are poles apart ideologically. There is a stark difference in the disposition of both parties. Having said that, JEI is one of the sociopolitical organisations that has been contributing much towards the education sector in Kashmir. There are a number of schools that are being run by JeI in Kashmir. As per my knowledge, over one lakh students are currently studying in these schools. I am of the resolve that the move will prove detrimental to the careers of such students,” Omar Abdullah said, adding, “The move will inadvertently affect peace-building efforts. We may disagree with the ideology of JeI but the move will unquestionably breed more radicalisation.”

Former CM Mehbooba Mufti led processions in Srinagar against the ban on the Jamaat-e-Islami.

Meanwhile, students of Falah-e-Aam Trust schools have written an open letter to the Union government saying, “We feel compelled to write to the government of India and the government of Jammu and Kashmir via print media that Falah-e-Aam Trust (FAT) is a registered trust (Govt. Regd. vide no. 159/s; dated 31 July 1972) that runs as per the constitution duly submitted to the State.”

The letter added: “The objectives of the FAT as stated in article 3 of its constitution include providing assistance to the poor and needy without discrimination of religion, color and creed; help in the education of poor and needy students; open education institutions to educate all without any discrimination, and to assist other organisations in their humanitarian efforts.

Falah-e-Aam Trust is non-political in nature and is dedicated to education and service in Jammu and Kashmir, as reflects article 4 of the FAT constitution.”

Full report at:



J&K Cong advocates dialogue between India, Pak to resolve issues

Mar 3, 2019

JAMMU: The Jammu and Kashmir unit president of the Congress, G A Mir, on Sunday advocated dialogue between India and Pakistan for resolution of political issues through peaceful means.

He also asked Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to convert his words into action and ensure an end to terrorism in the region.

"Both the countries (India and Pakistan) need to sit on the table and work out a solution to the political issues politically," Mir told reporters during his visit to forward villages along the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch district.

Mir led a party delegation to areas hit by shelling by Pakistani forces to take stock of the situation. The delegation met the border villagers and expressed their solidarity with them.

Mir said the tension along the borders are resulting in avoidable fatalities.

"Innocent civilians on this side and the other side of the border are getting killed, injured and dislocated and their properties are being damaged. What is their fault? The people on the other side are part of the state and are our own people," Mir said.

Referring to the recent statements by Imran Khan that his country does not support terrorism, he said the ground realities are different.

"If he is sincere in his words, he should act and work with India to end terrorism in the region. Otherwise, his good words will be considered as just a public relations exercise," he said.

Full report at:





Turkish interior minister says Turkey spans from Damascus to Medina

3 March 2019

Turkey’s interior minister told a rally of supporters that the Turks were the grandchildren of a great civilization, adding “we are not just Turkey,” and referring to other cities and countries in the Arab world, as he made a campaign stop in the southeastern Kurdish city of Diyarbakir to shore up support for the Justice and Development Party (AK) ahead of local elections later this month.

“We are not only just Turkey, but also Damascus, Aleppo, Kirkuk, Jerusalem, Palestine, Mecca, and Medina,” said Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu during a rally in Diyarbakir city, according to a video and translation posted on Twitter by the Nordic Monitor.

“We are the grandchildren of a great civilization,” the interior minister added in his rally speech.

Diyarbakir is the largest city in Turkey’s southeast, where Kurdish PKK militants have fought an insurgency for more than three decades to press demands for Kurdish autonomy. Violence has flared since a ceasefire collapsed in July 2015.

According to Turkish Anadolu Agency, Soylu was speaking to supporters during a visit to the city’s police headquarters.

During the rally, Soylu also spoke on the cyber capabilities of Turkey’s police force.

“The cyber capabilities of the Turkish police force are second to none in the world,” he was quoted as saying by Anadolu Agency.

Upcoming local elections

AK Party officials have been increasing their campaign visits to Kurdish cities ahead of local elections on March 31.

Last October, 90 people were arrested over suspected links to PKK, with the main pro-Kurdish party decrying the arrests as a politically motivated crackdown.

The autonomy-seeking PKK, deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and Europe, has waged an insurgency against the state since 1984. Violence across the southeast escalated after the collapse of a ceasefire in 2015.

Ninety-four of 102 municipalities in Kurdish-majority cities and towns are now administered by trustees, rather than their elected mayors. Authorities removed those mayors, elected in the last municipal elections in 2014, in the security crackdown that followed an attempted military coup in 2016.

Full report at:



Normalization of ties with Israel contradicts Islamic teachings: Houthi

Mar 3, 2019

The leader of Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement has vehemently condemned attempts by a number of Arab states and Persian Gulf kingdoms to normalize diplomatic relations with the Israeli regime, stressing that such efforts are in blatant contradiction to teachings of Islam.

Delivering a televised speech broadcast live from the Yemeni capital Sana’a on Sunday afternoon, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi said, “The Israeli regime is a partner to the ongoing military aggression against Yemen. Their hostility toward Yemen is intensely reflected in their media reports. The administration of (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu is complicit in this onslaught.”

He added, “The scandalous Warsaw Conference -- an international gathering organized by Washington in the Polish capital on February 13-14 -- was, in fact, a declaration of normalization and partnership with Israel.

“There can be no normalization and relations with the Israeli enemy unless at the expense of the Palestinian cause and recognition of (Tel Aviv regime’s) occupation.”

The Ansarullah leader further pointed out that normalization of relations with the Tel Aviv regime will pave the way for Americans and Israelis to advance their projects in the Middle East region.

“Occupation of any part of the Muslim world is a bid to target Muslims. Normalization of ties with the Israeli enemy amounts to opposition to all those who are at odds with the Tel Aviv regime. Such normalization runs contrary to the teachings of Islam,” Houthi highlighted.

Houthi's remarks came amid reports denoting that Israel and several Arab states have had secret contacts for years, and the two sides have stepped up their attempts to bring their clandestine relations out in the open.

The Israeli regime recently re-launched a “virtual embassy” in a bid to “promote dialogue” with the Persian Gulf Arab states.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in late November last year visited Oman, where he met Sultan Sayyid Qaboos bin Said Al Said at the Bait al-Barakah Royal Palace in the coastal city of Seeb near the capital Muscat.

The Jerusalem Post daily newspaper reported that the two men had discussed ways to advance the so-called Middle East peace process as well as other matters of mutual interest.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Houthi described the US and Israel as the main enemies of Muslims, stating that Washington and Israel are aggressively seeking to serve their own interests.

Houthi highlighted that the ongoing Saudi-led war on Yemen is due to Yemenis’ rejection of becoming pawns in US and Israeli schemes.

“God does not allow our people to be servants to (the United States of) America and Israel. All the hatred and hostility toward Yemeni people is because of their loyalty vis-à-vis national issues. Their problem with us is due to our free and independent approaches and our responsible positions,” he concluded.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of former Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crushing Ansarullah.

According to a new report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, the Saudi-led war has so far claimed the lives of around 56,000 Yemenis.

The Saudi-led war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN has already said that a record 22.2 million Yemenis are in dire need of food, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger. According to the world body, Yemen is suffering from the most severe famine in more than 100 years.

Full report at:



Israel bans senior Muslim clerics from entering al-Aqsa Mosque

Mar 3, 2019

Israeli officials have banned two high-ranking Palestinian Muslim clerics from entering al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds amid an escalation of acts of violence by Israeli forces and settlers against Palestinian people.

Firas al-Dibs, spokesperson for the Islamic Waqf (Endowment) organization, which manages the compound’s affairs, said Israeli authorities delivered an order to Waqf Council chairman Sheikh Abdul-Athim Salhab on Sunday, banning him from entry to the sacred site for 40 consecutive days.

Salhab had previously been banned for an entire week, following his release from Israeli custody last week.

Dibs noted that Sheikh Najeh Bkerat, the deputy director of Muslim Endowments and Al-Aqsa Affairs, was also banned from al-Aqsa Mosque for four months.

Along with other top Waqf officials, Salhab was detained by Israeli forces as a result of playing an important role in the reopening of the al-Rahma Gate (Gate of Mercy) prayer area.

Prayer area of the al-Rahma Gate was closed on February 25 upon an order by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel had closed the gate that leads to the prayer space in al-Aqsa Mosque since 2003 in the face of the Second Intifada (uprising) against the regime’s occupation.

The Waqf council, however, decided on February 22 to re-open the prayer space at the Bab al-Rahma Gate in defiance of Israel’s 16-year-old ban. Hundreds of worshipers, led by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem al-Quds Sheikh Mohammad Hussein, entered the area for the first time since 2003 for Friday prayers.

Angered by the move, the Tel Aviv regime launched an arrest campaign against Palestinians.

The arrests drew criticisms from Palestinians and Jordan, which is the custodian of the holy sites in occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.

The Islamic Waqf organizations and Palestinian institutions have insisted on keeping the Bab al-Rahma prayer area open for Muslim worship.

Palestinians have repeatedly warned of Israeli attempts to change the status quo of the al-Aqsa compound, the third holiest site in Islam.

The occupied Palestinian territories have witnessed new tensions ever since US President Donald Trump announced his decision on December 6, 2017 to recognize Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s capital and relocate the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the occupied city.

On December 21, 2017, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly voted in favor of a resolution that calls on the US to withdraw its controversial recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israeli “capital.”

In an attempt to prevent the passing of the resolution, Trump threatened reprisals against countries that backed the measure, which had earlier faced a US veto at the UN Security Council.

Full report at:



US closes Jerusalem consulate, demoting Palestinian mission

March 04, 2019

JERUSALEM: The United States has officially shuttered its consulate in Jerusalem, downgrading the status of its main diplomatic mission to the Palestinians by folding it into the US Embassy to Israel.

For decades, the consulate functioned as a de facto embassy to the Palestinians. Now, that outreach will be handled by a Palestinian affairs unit, under the command of the embassy.

The symbolic shift hands authority over US diplomatic channels with the West Bank and Gaza to ambassador David Friedman, a longtime supporter and fundraiser for the West Bank settler movement and fierce critic of the Palestinian leadership.

The announcement from the State Department came early Monday in Jerusalem, the merger effective that day.

“This decision was driven by our global efforts to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our diplomatic engagements and operations,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement. “It does not signal a change of US policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip.”

When first announced by US Secretary Mike Pompeo in October, the move infuriated Palestinians, fueling their suspicions that the US was recognizing Israeli control over east Jerusalem and the West Bank, territories that Palestinians seek for a future state.

Palestinian official Saeb Erekat called the move “the final nail in the coffin” for the US role in peacemaking.

The downgrade is just the latest in a string of divisive decisions by the Trump administration that have backed Israel and alienated the Palestinians, who say they have lost faith in the US administration’s role as a neutral arbiter in peace process.

Last year the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocated its embassy there, upending US policy toward one of the most explosive issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians in turn cut off most ties with the administration.

The administration also has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, including assistance to hospitals and peace-building programs. It has cut funding to the UN agency that provides aid to Palestinians classified as refugees. Last fall, it shut down the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington.

The Trump administration has cited the reluctance of Palestinian leaders to enter peace negotiations with Israel as the reason for such punitive measures, although the US has yet to present its much-anticipated but still mysterious “Deal of the Century” to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Full report at:



Israel hits Hamas sites after ‘explosive balloons’ launched from Gaza

3 March 2019

The Israeli military struck two Hamas observation points in the Gaza Strip, a security source said Sunday, after the army reported balloons carrying an “explosive device” were sent toward Israel.

No injuries occurred from the strikes late Saturday east of Al-Bureij in the central Gaza Strip and east of Rafah in the south of the blockaded enclave run by Islamist movement Hamas, according to a Hamas security source.

The strikes occurred after a “cluster of balloons carrying an explosive device was launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israeli territory,” the Israeli army said in a statement.

“No injuries or damage were reported,” it said.

Late Wednesday, Israeli aircraft targeted several militant sites in Gaza after an “explosive balloon” launched from the Palestinian enclave damaged a house in Israel.

Palestinians in Gaza have for months been sporadically launching balloons with incendiary and explosive devices at southern Israel in parallel with weekly protests and clashes taking place at the fence.

At least 251 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since March 2018, the majority shot during weekly border protests and others hit by tank fire or air strikes in response to violence from Gaza.

Two Israeli soldiers have been killed over the same period.

Full report at:



Military: Israeli officer critically injured in car-ramming, 2 Palestinians shot dead

Mar 4, 2019

The Israeli military says three Palestinians drove a car into soldiers in the occupied West Bank on Monday and critically injured an officer.

The military described the incident at the entrance of Kafr N'ima village near Ramallah as a Palestinian car-ramming attack in which two assailants were shot dead and a third was slightly wounded.

An officer was also critically injured and a soldier slightly hurt when they were run over some 10 km northwest of the Palestinian city of Ramallah, it added.

Palestinians carried out a wave of car-rammings in the West Bank in late 2015 and 2016, but the frequency of such incidents has since decreased.

Israeli troops, however, have opened fire on Palestinians frequently, with the excuse that they sought to carry out car-ramming attacks.

Tensions continue in the occupied territories following US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s capital and the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the occupied city.

Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.

The Gaza Strip has also been witnessing tensions since March 30, which marked the start of the “Great March of Return” protests demanding the right to return for the Palestinians driven out of their homeland.

Those tensions saw a sharp rise on May 14, marking the 70th anniversary of the Nakba Day (the Day of Catastrophe), which this year coincided with the US embassy relocation.

More than 260 Palestinians have been killed and at least 26,000 others wounded by Israeli troops since then.

Full report at:



Israeli warplanes launch new airstrike on northern Gaza

Mar 4, 2019

Israeli jet fighters have launched a fresh airstrike against one of the positions of the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas in the east of Beit Hanoun, a city on the northeast of the besieged Gaza Strip.

Palestinian media have not yet reported any casualties caused by the Sunday night attack.

The attack came shortly after the Israeli regime’s warplanes raided another Hamas position in Maghazi, a city in central Gaza.

Also on Wednesday, Israeli fighter jets and attack helicopters struck multiple targets in the southern Gaza Strip in their latest air raids against the besieged enclave.

According to Palestinian media reports, several posts belonging to Hamas resistance forces in the south of the coastal enclave were hit, including one in the Khan Yunis seafront and another outside the city.

Some of the sites hit are believed to belong to Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas.

The Israeli military claimed the airstrikes were conducted in response to an explosive device allegedly flown into the occupied territories from the Gaza Strip which had reportedly detonated outside a home in the Eshkol region, causing damage but no injuries.

Tel Aviv’s airstrikes come as Palestinians have held weekly protests on the Gaza border since last year over the siege on the enclave and the right for refugees to return to their homes they were forcibly expelled from during the 1948 creation of Israel.

The Israeli regime’s forces shot dead a Palestinian and injured dozens more last Friday in mass protests along the fence separating the besieged Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied territories.

More than 260 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces ever since anti-occupation protest rallies began in the Gaza Strip on March 30, 2018. Over 26,000 Palestinians have also sustained injuries.

The Gaza clashes reached their peak on May 14 last year, on the eve of the 70th anniversary of Nakba Day (Day of Catastrophe), which coincided with the US embassy relocation from Tel Aviv to occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds.

On June 13, 2018, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution, sponsored by Turkey and Algeria, condemning the Israeli regime for the death of Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

Full report at:





Person who solves Kashmir dispute worthy of Nobel Peace Prize: PM Khan

March 04, 2019

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday, addressing calls by people on social media and in his government to award him a Nobel Peace Prize, said he "was not worthy" of the award.

"The person worthy of this would be the one who solves the Kashmir dispute according to the wishes of the Kashmiri people, and paves the way for peace and human development in the subcontinent," he said.

Supporters and fans of Imran Khan started lobbying for a Nobel Peace Prize for the premier following his announcement to release Indian Air Force (IAF) officer Wing Commander Abhinandan, who had been captured after his MiG 21 aircraft was shot down by a Pakistan Air Force jet Indian pilot. Addressing the joint sitting of the parliament on Thursday, the prime minister had termed the pilot release "a peace gesture".

Soon after the captive pilot was handed over to the Indian authorities on Friday, the hashtag “#NobelPeacePrizeForImranKhan” started trending in the country on social media website Twitter. Until Sunday, more than 300,000 people had signed online petitions calling for the award of Nobel Peace Prize to Khan.

On Saturday, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry submitted a resolution to the National Assembly Secretariat calling for Imran Khan to be given the prestigious prize for “his contribution towards peace in the region”.

The resolution said the prime minister had played a sagacious role in reducing recent tension between Pakistan and India which was created due to warmongering attitude of the Indian leadership.

It said that the aggression manifested by the Indian leadership had brought the two nuclear states to the brink of war, endangering lives of tens of millions of people on both sides of the border. However, the situation was averted due to its proactive and deft handling by the prime minister.

“Keeping in view his contribution towards peace in the region, PM Imran Khan may be given Nobel Peace Prize,” concluded the resolution.

Meanwhile, the PPP, which had also questioned the timing of the release of the Indian pilot, expressed its sorrow over the ongoing campaign. PPP stalwart Syed Khursheed Shah said in a statement that the country was still in the state of war and the information minister had started a campaign for giving Nobel Peace Prize to the prime minister.

Shah said that during the joint sitting of the parliament, the opposition parties remained in the forefront with a view to give a message of unity to the world, but the prime minister did not even meet the opposition lawmakers.

“The prime minister for whom you are running a campaign for Nobel Peace Prize did not even say hello to the opposition in the parliament,” he said.



Jamaat-i-Islami Chief: ‘Threat of War to Remain Until Resolution of Kashmir Issue’

March 04, 2019

TIMERGARA/KHAR: Jamaat-i-Islami chief Senator Sirajul Haq has said that the threat of war would remain until the Kashmir issue is resolved according to the wishes of Kashmiri people under the UN resolutions.

He was addressing a meeting of party workers at Ahyaul Uloom here on Saturday night. The JI chief also put turbans on the heads of 20 graduates of ‘Khatme Bukhari Sharif’ on the occasion.

Party’s district chief Izazul Mulk and Maulana Hidayatullah also addressed the gathering.

“The Kashmiri people have been fighting for their right to self-determination,” Mr Haq said, adding that Kashmiris could no more be enslaved at gunpoint. He said that there would be no attacks if India stopped oppression on the innocent people and withdrew its troops from the held Kashmir.

He asked the religious leaders and students to work dedicatedly for ending ignorance and illiteracy.

Siraj criticises govt for ‘hasty’ release of Indian pilot

In Khar, Senator Sirajul Haq said on Sunday that the government freed the Indian pilot in haste, which was beyond understanding.

“We condemn Prime Minister Imran Khan and his government for sending Indian pilot Abhinandan back home as the decision was taken in haste,” said the JI chief while addressing a public meeting here. It was attended by the party workers and tribal elders.

Mr Haq said that the handover of captured Indian pilot was a sensitive issue and the government should have taken all political parties on board before making the decision. However, he regretted that the government didn’t take any party into confidence on the issue. He said that the decision had upset the entire nation.

He said that it would have been better if the government had kept the captured pilot for some days to force India to resolve all the issues through dialogue.

He said that it was a golden chance for Pakistan to bring India to the dialogue table, but unfortunately the government missed the chance.

Full report at:



Govt plans decisive crackdown on militant outfits

Baqir Sajjad Syed

March 04, 2019

ISLAMABAD: A decisive crackdown on extremist and militant organisations in the country looks imminent.

“The action would soon be visible as things progress,” a source told a group of journalists at a background briefing on Sunday.

The imminence of an action against extremist groups was confirmed by Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry while talking in DawnNews programme Do Raaye. He said the government had taken a firm decision that there would be a stern action against all militant groups. This, he said, was in accordance with the political consensus contained in the National Action Plan (NAP).

Take a look: FATF pressure mounts as monitoring unit reports 8,707 suspicious transactions in 2018

The information minister refused to give any timeline for the operation against militant groups like Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), accused of masterminding the Pulwama attack that triggered the latest crisis with India and took both nuclear-armed rivals close to war, and Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) and its charity wing Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FIF). Mr Chaudhry said the timeline was something for the security forces to decide.

The National Security Committee had in its Feb 21 meeting “decided to accelerate action against proscribed organisations” and ordered re-imposition of ban on JuD and FIF. Prime Minister Imran Khan had on that occasion, while emphasising eradication of “militancy and extremism” from society, said the state could not be allowed to “become hostage to extremists”.

The source categorically denied that the action was in response to Indian pressure after the Pulwama incident and said the decision had been taken much before the Feb 14 attack on Indian security forces in Pulwama, although it became public later. The dossier given by India on the Pulwama attack, he maintained, contained nothing except an iteration of its narrative on alleged Pakistan-based groups.

“We are taking action in our national interest. We have to correct the course. We cannot leave this mess for our next generation,” the source said, adding that the “existing political consensus within the country was an opportunity to take Pakistan on the positive track”.

He said the action would help deal with the issues arising out of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) listing. Pakistan, despite making significant progress on the initial concerns of FATF, came under renewed pressure at the Paris plenary last month.

The source said at the briefing that there could be law enforcement actions against JeM, JuD and FIF. However, it was clear from the conversation that Pakistan would also review its stance on the issue of listing of JeM leader Masood Azhar by the United Nations Security Council. “No individual is more important than Pakistan,” he said while responding to a question. “Pakistan won’t make it a matter of ego,” he said in response to another. “We won’t test our friends either,” he said in reference to China that has been maintaining a technical hold on Azhar’s listing by the UNSC.

The United States, Britain and France — three permanent members of the UNSC with veto power — have again, after Pulwama, moved the Security Council for designation of Azhar as a global terrorist.

When asked why Pakistan had in the past failed in acting against the proscribed groups, the source said the elements of NAP relating to military had been implemented, but those pertaining of civilians lagged behind because of lack of “capacity, capability and will”. He pointed to compulsions of certain political leaders as one reason, but said no one could be absolved of responsibility.

“It was decided in NAP in 2014 that there would action against proscribed groups. That required strategic shift and such changes take time,” he emphasised, observing that time had now come to decisively against these groups.

Talking about the latest confrontation with India in which ‘a strategic pause’ in hostilities was obvious on Sunday, he said it was in the interest of Pakistan to ‘exit’ from the face-off at this stage when it had attained “moral, diplomatic and military ascendancy” over India. However, India’s case was different, he argued, saying that it might be a tough decision for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to de-escalate at this stage because of the political cost. “That’s why they are taking time. Now that the strategic pause is there, they would have gone back to re-evaluate their options.”

Inter-Services Public Relations in its update on the LoC situation on Sunday reported calm after heavy exchanges over the past few days following use of air power by the two countries. “After heavy exchange of fire on night 1st/2nd March there is relative calm along LoC with intermittent fire during last night in Neza Pir, Jandrot and Baghsar sectors,” it said.

Full report at:



JF-17, not F-16, used in air combat: report

March 04, 2019

WASHINGTON: Apparently, it was a JF-17 fighter jet that brought down an Indian warplane in Azad Jammu and Kashmir last week, says a CNN report as an American diplomat said Washington wanted to know if Pakistan used a US-built F-16 jet to shoot the plane.

The JF-17 is a Chinese-designed fighter jet produced jointly by Pakistan and China.

“It may have been one of those jets that on Wednesday downed an Indian Air Force fighter plane, leading to the capture by Pakistan of an Indian pilot” Abhinandan Varthaman, said the CNN report released this weekend. The report also noted that the Indian jet was a MiG-21, a Soviet-designed aircraft, which has been in service since the 1960s. The MiG-21 “forms the backbone” of the Indian Air Force, which has about 200 of those in its inventory.

Nishank Motwani, a visiting fellow at the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy, Acton, Australia, told CNN that Indian pilots called the plane “a flying coffin” because it had been involved in multiple accidents.

“And that illustrates a problem for India. While it has a massive military budget, a significant chunk of that goes toward maintenance of existing equipment, and salaries,” the report added.

The report included a quote from a recent inquiry by an Indian parliament committee, saying: “Modernisation gets a mere 14 per cent (of allocated funds), which is grossly inadequate.”

A spokesperson for the US Embassy in Islamabad told the Reuters news agency on Sunday that the United States was “seeking information” on whether Pakistan used US-built F-16 jets to down the Indian warplane, which may violate the F-16 sale agreements between Washington and Islamabad.

Pakistan said it did not use F-16s in shooting down the Indian fighter jet when it crossed the Line of Control. Islamabad also said that this was an act of self-defence.

“We are aware of these reports and are seeking more information,” the US Embassy spokesperson said. “We take all allegations of misuse of defence articles very seriously.”

The US often inserts restrictions on how its exported military hardware can be used through so-called end-user agreements.

India claimed that AIM-120C-5 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile had been fired recently, showing that F-16 Viper fighter jets were “at least involved” in recent strikes in the region. Pakistan rejected the Indian claim as completely baseless. India also claimed that it shot down one of the Vipers.

Full report at:



Sarwar urges UK, EU MPs to play role for de-escalation

March 04, 2019

LAHORE: Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar has called upon the international community to play its role in defusing tensions and mediating peace between Pakistan and India.

“Sense should prevail and differences be resolved through dialogue and negotiations,” he suggested.

The governor, on Sunday, has written a letter to the British and European parliamentarians explaining Indian premier Narendra Modi’s war hysteria that pitched the both nations’armed forces against each other.

While Pakistan is already in contact with the international community to mediate peace, foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at a news conference on Saturday lauded Governor Sarwar for his suggestion in the letters to the House of Commons and European Union parliamentarians.

In his letter titled “Pakistan India Tension”, the governor stated that Pakistan and India’s relations had reached a critical stage after Pulwama incident that demanded international community’s role in de-escalating the rising tension and saving the world from a war.

He stated that as a goodwill gesture and to de-escalate the situation between the two nuclear powers, Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered release of the captured Indian pilot Abhinandan. However, he said, India was continuing escalating tension at the Line of Control.

Despite Indian aggression against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan, the governor stated that Prime Minister Imran Khan had been calling for peace and making it clear that Indian premier Modi’s attempts to spread regional unrest were aimed at gaining political mileage and win the upcoming general elections.

Mr Sarwar said that Pakistan’s offer of investigations into the Pulwama incident, if India provided any actionable evidence, was still on the table. “Pakistan’s desire for de-escalation and peace should not be misconstrued as its weakness,” he said and added Pakistan had developed a comprehensive National Action Plan to deal with the terrorism threat.

A former member of the British parliament, Mr Sarwar stated that the British government as well as Pakistan’s European Union partners had always played a key role in addressing international issues. “Britain and EU can play a pivotal role between Pakistan, India and Kashmir,” he said. Stating that the situation in Kashmir did not seem to be abating, he asserted that Kashmir’s struggle for self-determination needed to be acknowledged as per the United Nations resolution.

He said both countries possessed nuclear capabilities and any further escalation could destabilise the whole region with catastrophic loss of life. “We know from the past that it is easy to start a war, however once triggered there could be no control over it as seen in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine etc.,” he said.

“We urge the international community to play its role in diffusing tensions and mediating peace between Pakistan and India,” he said.

He stressed that the British and European partners should rise to the occasion and coerce India into holding talks and easing the current situation.

Full report at:



Thousands attend funeral of Pakistani inmate killed in Indian jail

Abid Hussain Mehdi

March 04, 2019

SIALKOT: Shakirullah alias Mohammad Ilyas, the Pakistani prisoner who was lynched in an Indian jail, was laid to rest in the ­graveyard of his native ­village Jessarwala, Daska tehsil, on Sunday with ­official protocol.

MNA Sahibzada Syed Ifti­kharul Hassan Shah, Punjab Minister for Envi­ron­­ment Bao Mohammad Rizwan, MPAs Mian Zeeshan Rafiq and Chaudhry Naveed Ashraf, Sialkot Deputy Commissioner Dr Syed Bilal Haider, Gujranwala Re­­gional Police Officer Tariq Abbas Qureshi, PTI’s central Punjab president Umer Dar and a large number of people, including traders, journalists, lawyers and students, attended his funeral prayers.

Editorial: What remains to be seen is how Indian govt responds to return of captured Indian pilot

The people threw rose petals on the ambulance that was carrying Shakir­ullah’s coffin wrapped in Pakistani flag as it arrived at the graveyard for burial. The body was brought to the village from Wagah border.

Talking to journalists at the graveyard after the burial, the family members of Shakirullah demanded that Prime Minister Imran Khan take the case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Shakirullah’s neighbour, Ali, said: “I have known Shakirullah since his childhood and he was not mentally stable. He was a harmless man.”

Before Shakirullah’s body was shifted to his village for burial, a panel of senior doctors at the Government Allama Iqbal Memorial Hospital, Sialkot, conducted autopsy.

Requesting anonymity, a senior doctor said that “almost the whole of Shakirullah’s body was badly crushed, especially his head, ribs, arms, backbone and legs with stones, sticks and bricks”. The doctors hardly found any part of the body that was not tortured.

MNA Iftikharul Shah, after attending the funeral prayers, condemned the murder of Shakirullah.

“The world must take serious notice of this inhuman brutality and play an effective role in halting India from such inhuman practices and extrajudicial killings,” he said.

Punjab Minister for Environment Bao Rizwan said Shakirullah’s murder had raised the curtain from the human rights situation in Indian jails. He said the whole of the Pakistani nation strongly condemned this murder.

PTI central leader Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan de­­manded that the United Nations take notice of the ­brutal murder of the Pakistani prisoner.

India had handed over Shakirullah’s body to Pakistan Rangers officials and his family at the Wagah border on Saturday — 11 days after his killing in the Jaipur jail by the infuriated Indian prisoners.

They had stoned Shakir­ullah to death after the Pulwama attack in India-held Kashmir.

Shakirullah belonged to a Christian family. He had embraced Islam in 1997.

The Indian Border Security Force had arrested him in 2003 after he had mistakenly crossed the Working Boundary through Bajwat sector of the Sialkot.

According to Indian daily The Hindu, Shakirullah was undergoing life imprisonment after his conviction in a terror-related case in Jaipur in 2017.

Foreign Office spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal, while announcing the repatriation of Shaikrullah’s body on Sunday, had said that the Indian government had not conducted post-mortem of the deceased to determined the cause of death and a judicial inquiry into the incident.

“Failure to protect basic human right to life of a Pakistani in prison raises questions India must answer,” he said.

Full report at:



International community lauds Pakistan’s efforts for peace

Mar 04, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The international community is appreciating Pakistan’s efforts for peace in the region as United Kingdom (UK), Qatar, Turkey and international media hailed Prime Minister Imran Khan’s decision of releasing captured Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman.

In a telephonic conversation with PM Khan on Sunday, British premier Theresa May lauded his decision of releasing the Indian pilot, whose MiG 21 Bison aircraft was shot down by a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) jet after it violated Pakistani airspace, and stressed the need for de-escalation between both Pakistan and India. She also told him that she was in touch with both sides in this regard.

PM Khan apprised his British counterpart of Pakistan’s perspective on the developments since the Pulwama attack on February 14. He also invited the British premier for a visit to Pakistan, who reciprocated the invitation. Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani in a telephone call with PM Khan on Sunday appreciated Pakistan’s release of IAF pilot as a gesture of peace.

Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal, in a tweet on Sunday, said that the emir had underscored the importance of “immediate de-escalation” in the situation between India and Pakistan and “offered his facilitation in this regard”. According to Qatar News Agency, both sides exchanged views on regional and international developments, especially differences between Pakistan and India. The emir also called for calm between the two countries, QNA said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said that Turkey is ready to do its part to de-escalate tensions between Pakistan and India. Addressing a campaign rally in Trabzon, he hailed Pakistan’s move in handing over an Indian pilot downed in the recent tension, adding that he looks forward to seeing similar steps from India. Meanwhile, Indian Ambassador to Russia Venkatesh Varma said that India will not accept any offer of mediation.


The US print and electronic media has given wide coverage to the handover of the captive Indian fighter pilot, praising Pakistan’s peace gesture and efforts to de-escalate tension between the two South Asian neighbours.

According to a report, CNN, in a dispatch, said that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comments on the escalating crisis along the border in disputed Kashmir were in stark contrast to PM Khan, who called for dialogue between the two sides.

The Wall Street Journal noted that India has rebuffed the offer of talks by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The New York Times dispatch said that the release of Indian captured pilot “capped a humiliating episode for India.

A retired Indian Army Colonel, Ajai Shukla, in his comments in Financial Times, appreciated PM Khan for showing statesmanship in the ongoing crisis. American papers also deplored the war hysteria created by Indian media.

The captured Indian pilot was released on March 1, a day after PM Khan announced that his government had decided to return Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman to India as a goodwill gesture and to show Pakistan’s commitment to peace.

“In our desire for peace, I announce that tomorrow, and as a first step to open negotiations, Pakistan will be releasing the IAF officer in our custody,” the prime minister said while addressing a joint session of parliament. The gesture was greeted with near unanimous support in the parliament.

“Pakistan’s desire for de-escalation should not be confused as weakness,” PM Khan stressed, as he thanked the parliamentary opposition for the continued support amid rising tensions with India.

“The only purpose of our strike was to demonstrate our capability and will,” he said while addressing the House. “We did not want to inflict any casualty on India as we wanted to act in a responsible manner,” he added.

PM Khan said he tried to call Indian PM Modi on the phone because “escalation is neither in our interests nor in India’s”.

“I reached out to New Delhi after assuming charge as prime minister. I wrote to Narendra Modi and suggested a meeting between the foreign ministers on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). But we did not get a positive response.”

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


Sultan of Selangor worried over threat to Islam

March 3, 2019

KLANG: The Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, today expressed worry over numerous threats that could defile the sanctity and noblity of Islam and weaken Muslims in Selangor and the country.

Sultan Sharafuddin said he was informed that the Selangor Mufti Department had identified 45 deviant teachings, up to December.

He said the liberalism ideology which championed equality and bringing with it the LGBT culture must be tackled quickly and effectively so that it would not be a trend that would surely destroy the Muslim community in the country.

“The proliferation and spread of the teachings is not a small matter and cannot be treated lightly.

“What is more worrying to me, some of them take an extreme approach, which can threaten national security.

“Such threats are unseen and are destroying Islam and its followers from within,” Sultan Sharafuddin said at Istana Alam Shah, here today where he handed letters of appointment to the nazir and imam of mosques in Selangor .

Also present were the Raja Muda of Selangor, Tengku Amir Shah Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, other members of the royal family, Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari and state dignitaries.

To overcome such threats, he said the study of the faith based on the sunni teachings must be boosted at mosques so that it would continue to be the basis of the faith of Muslims in the country.

Sultan Sharafuddin also reminded nazir, imam and mosque committees to only invite preachers who were accredited by the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS) for ceramah at mosques and surau.

“Foreign preachers, as I have said on Aug 21, 2015, are only allowed to deliver their ceramah at the Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Mosque (state mosque), Tengku Ampuan Jemaah Mosque, Bukit Jelutong and Sultan Suleiman Mosque, Klang, that too after a special accreditation is obtained form MAIS,” he said.

He also expressed deep concern over the disunity that had occurred among Muslims in Selangor because of political differences.

He pointed out that all politicians, especially elected representatives, whether state or Parliament, from government or opposition parties, were not allowed to hold ceramah and deliver speeches in mosques or surau.

This is because he wants all mosques and surau to be free of party politics to prevent them from being changed from a platform for uniting Muslims to that of dividing them.

“I also do not allow any form of defamation and dissemination of false news as it may disgrace certain individuals. The news or information received must be reviewed first to confirm its validity,” he said.

“Do not be an agent that destroys the lives of the people by engaging in spreading false news and defamation.

“Islam clearly forbids its people from spreading false news and defaming one another,” he said.

Sultan Sharafuddin also advised all parties to make the mosque the most respected place and the foundation to build social harmony.

He also reminded mosque administrators to work hard to ensure that the institution fulfilled its function as a comfortable Muslim place of worship and a platform for the unity of Muslims.

The sultan said he was hopeful that the mosque institution would be administered and managed with professionalism and sincerity, without self interest.

He said nazir, imam and members of mosque committees should always comply with the Mosques and Surau Regulations (Selangor) 2017, Guidelines, Circular and Directives issued by MAIS and the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS).

“I stress that all mosques and surau conducting Friday prayers should read the sermon issued by MAIS through the Selangor State Sermon Committee.

“I will not consent to it if any imam of a mosque or surau does not read or adds to the sermon

text prepared by the committee,” he said.

The sultan also advised all nazir, imam and members of mosque committees to understand MAIS’s aspiration and inspiration in matters related to the management of the institution.

In dealing with the disunity crisis among Muslims, he said, mosque administrators must be creative and dynamic in mobilising community-centered activities to build ties more effectively.

“The opportunity to serve in the mosque institution endowed by God to the nazir and imam should be used as best as possible to help MAIS and JAIS guide the members of the community.

“The duties and responsibilities and the trust given by MAIS and members of the community are great trusts from God,” he said.

At the ceremony, Sultan Sharafuddin consented to the appointment of 827 nazir and imam from all mosques throughout Selangor and 1,215 mosque nazir and imam were qualified to be commissioned for the 2019 to 2021 session. -- Bernama



China using Muslim detainees for forced labour

AFP - March 4, 2019

ALMATY: As Gulzira Auelkhan toiled stitching gloves in a factory in China’s troubled Xinjiang region, her managers made no secret of where her production would be sold.

“They told us openly that the gloves will be sold abroad, so we should do a good job,” Auelkhan recalled of a labour stint she says was enforced by Chinese “re-education” officials.

Auelkhan, a 39-year-old Chinese citizen of Kazakh descent, says she was part of a network of mostly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang who pass from what China calls “vocational training centres” to factories where they are forced to work for far less than the local minimum wage.

China says the education centres are part of its efforts to fight terrorism and separatism in Xinjiang – a region populated by mostly Muslim minority groups – and denies any use of forced labour.

But rights groups, and former workers like Auelkhan, say the practice used against Chinese minorities is widespread and at least one foreign company has dropped its Chinese supplier over the concerns.

Auelkhan says she was transferred to the glove factory at the Jiafang industrial estate in Xinjiang’s Yining county after spending 15 months in two different “re-education” facilities.

More than a million people from Muslim minorities – mostly ethnic Uighurs, but also Kazakhs like Auelkhan, Kyrgyz and Hui – are being held in internment centres across Xinjiang, according to a United Nations panel of experts.

Auelkhan has residency rights in Kazakhstan but had travelled to China to see family when she was detained and put into a re-education centre.

She said life in the camps was brutal, with residents struck over the head with electrified batons for spending more than two minutes in the bathroom.

US firm halts imports

So even though they were not free to leave, it was an improvement when she and hundreds of other camp inmates were transferred to work at the factory, Auelkhan told AFP in Kazakhstan’s biggest city Almaty.

“Every day we were taken to and from a dormitory three kilometres from the factory,” she said, hugging the five-year-old daughter she didn’t see for nearly two years.

“When we were studying at the camp they told us we would be taught a trade and work for three months,” Auelkhan said.

Auelkhan said she was paid only 320 yuan (US$48/42 euros) for close to two months’ work before her time at the factory was curtailed in December and she was allowed to return to her family in Kazakhstan.

Xinjiang’s average minimum wage ranges between 820 and 1,460 yuan per month, according to official statistics.

Beijing and officials in the region have fiercely denied any connection between the camps and underpaid labour.

A representative of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region Government Press Office told AFP by email that there was “no labour contract between Education and Training Centers and enterprises” and “no enterprise obtains labour from training centres”.

But rights groups insist the connection exists and some companies have started taking notice.

In January, Badger Sportswear, a firm based in the US state of North Carolina, announced it would stop sourcing clothing from its Xinjiang supplier Hetian Taida over concerns it was using forced labour linked to the “re-education” campaign.

Auelkhan believes she was only released from forced labour because of a public campaign launched by her husband and supported by a Xinjiang-focused rights group in Almaty.

‘Assigned a job’

Originally, re-education officials had told her and other centre residents that they would be “at (their) disposal” for at least six months, she said.

Oil-rich Kazakhstan’s government is a Beijing ally that positions itself as “the buckle” in China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road trade and investment agenda, a strategy for infrastructure and development projects throughout Asia, Europe and Africa.

Kazakh diplomats have entered into a dialogue with Beijing over Xinjiang, without publicly mentioning the re-education centres or criticising China’s policies.

In December a representative of Kazakhstan’s foreign ministry said during a briefing that China had allowed more than 2,000 ethnic Kazakhs to travel to Kazakhstan as “a kind gesture”.

The ministry refused repeated requests from AFP to clarify the remarks, which lent hope to many in Kazakhstan that they would be able to bring Xinjiang-based relatives over the border to safety.

For most, however, this has been a crushing false dawn.

During a recent visit to the Almaty office of the Ata Jurt rights group dedicated to supporting relatives of the Xinjiang missing, AFP spoke to several Kazakhs who claim their relatives have merely swapped “re-education” for other forms of confinement.

One of them, Aibota Janibek, 34, said her sister Kunikei Janibek telephoned her from Xinjiang in January after months without contact to confirm she had been “assigned a job” by the state at a carpet factory in Shawan county.

Aibota Janibek has since lost touch with her sister, but heard from other relatives that she was transferred from the carpet factory to another position.

Full report at:



Australia, Indonesia sign free-trade deal as elections near

March 4, 2019

CANBERRA: Indonesia and Australia signed a free-trade agreement on Monday, overcoming eight years of negotiations and 11th-hour delays in a move designed to bolster their under-developed economic relationship.

Indonesia’s Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita and Australia’s Trade Minister Simon Birmingham inked the deal in Jakarta on Monday.

It will need to be ratified by parliaments in both nations before it comes into force.

The nations see the pact as an opportunity to enhance trade ties, with Indonesia only Australia’s 14th-largest trade partner despite their close proximity.

Diplomatic tensions and scandals have hindered ties between Australia and Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, which is also the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.

The latest delay came last year when Indonesia protested over Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s decision to consider moving Australia’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a decision that angered many Muslims.

The Australian leader, who faces an election in the next few months, later put the proposal on ice.

The signing of the deal is timely for Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who is bidding for a second term in an election that will be held April 17.

Widodo has been under attack over his economic performance after Indonesia last year posted a record trade deficit of US$8.6 billion – the widest shortfall since 1975 when the nation’s statistics agency began the regular release of data.

Indonesia’s Lukita has previously said the deal would see both countries enjoy zero import tariffs for many goods, and that it could significantly increase Indonesian exports.

He said it would pave the way for Indonesian car makers to export to Australia.

The deal will see 99% of Australian goods exports by value be able to enter Indonesia either duty-free or with significantly improved preferential arrangements by 2020.

Australian exporters will also gain automatic import permits for live cattle, frozen beef, sheep meat, feed grains, rolled steel coil and other agricultural products.

Australian industrial producers of steel, copper and plastics stand to benefit from the pact, along with service industries including health, mining, telecommunications, tourism and education.

Full report at:



'Open prison': The growing despair of refugees stuck in Indonesia

Mar 04, 2019

Makassar, Indonesia - Earlier this month Sajad Jacob, an asylum seeker from Afghanistan who had been living in an Indonesian detention centre for nearly two decades, died in the hospital. The 24-year-old had doused himself in petrol and set himself on fire.

Jacob was a Hazara, a Shia Muslim minority that has suffered violent persecution in Afghanistan.

"I tried to help as much as I can because I also care and have humanity," Arthur Mawikere, head of the detention centre in Manado where Jacob and his family were living, told Al Jazeera. Mawikere said he didn't know whether Jacob's self-immolation was deliberate.

Jacob's family had fled Afghanistan when he was a child and had been in Indonesia since 2000. They had tried at least twice to be recognised as refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), but had been rejected on both occasions. The refugee agency offered to hear their case again last year but the family refused, instead taking to social media and hunger striking to demand immediate refugee status. Without the protection of being an asylum seeker, they became "illegal immigrants" at risk of deportation.

"I wanted to help but it's the law," Mawikere said. "Illegal immigrants cannot find work or housing."

Jacob's family members remain in detention. They could not be contacted because their phones had been confiscated.

There are increasing reports of mental health problems among the 14,000 people - asylum seekers and even those recognised as UN refugees - who now live in limbo in Indonesia. Most exist in immigration-controlled housing in a twilight world where they cannot work or get an education, and have little hope of resettlement elsewhere. Just 556 refugees got to leave Indonesia to start a new life in a third country last year.

Many find themselves in the archipelago as a result of Australian policies designed to deter people from arriving in the country by boat.

Since 2000, Australia's government has funded the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Indonesia, which handles relief for the UNHCR in Indonesia, part of a campaign to discourage people from trying to get to Australia by sea and claim asylum. Those who arrive by boat are sent to remote offshore camps on Nauru and Manus Island for "processing" with no chance of ever being resettled in Australia - even if they are found to be refugees.

'Stranded and destitute'

According to the UNHCR data, in 2017, Australia's financial support for the IOM in the archipelago was more than three times its contribution to the refugee agency globally.

But now that funding is being reduced too.

"The reduction in IOM funding, which was used in part to provide emergency relief and shelter for refugees, has left people stranded and destitute," said Asher Hirsch, senior policy officer with the Refugee Council of Australia. "This, combined with the lack of rights in Indonesia, has caused significant mental stress for refugees stranded in Indonesia."

After the UNHCR decides a person is a refugee, the IOM manages their life in Indonesia until they can be resettled, providing them with a monthly allowance - $90 for an adult and $36 for a child.

This month, the Australian government said it would reopen its detention centre on Christmas Island, an Australian territory just south of Indonesia, after parliament passed a law allowing those confined to Manus and Nauru to be brought to Australia for medical treatment if doctors said it was necessary.

The move ratcheted up an already restrictive immigration environment ahead of Australian elections due by May.

Mark Getchell, the IOM's chief in Indonesia, said Australia's decision to cut its assistance to the Indonesia programme could have been recognition that served as a "pull factor" for refugees.

The Australian government declined to respond to Al Jazeera's specific questions on its policies in relation to asylum seekers and refugees in Indonesia.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Home Affairs said its funding to IOM had "successfully supported irregular migrants in Indonesia while they pursue third country resettlement, where eligible to do so, rather than attempt the dangerous journey to Australia by boat".

IOM stopped accepting new refugee applicants to the programme in March last year "to reduce the risk of irregular migrants drawn to Indonesia", the spokesperson added. 

Since 2010, Australia has been accepting an average of about 400 refugees from Indonesia each year, but that figure dropped to 85 in 2017-18, according to data provided to the refugee council following a Freedom of Information request.

Other countries are also accepting fewer refugees for resettlement too, and fearful of returning home - even with assistance from the IOM - the asylum seekers and refugees are instead living in IOM shelters run by immigration.

'Open prison'

Almost 2,000 people are crammed into the hostels in Makassar, the biggest number after Medan, where rules include a 10pm curfew, no overnight stays outside the shelter, and a ban on protests.

Muhammad Joniad, a 25-year-old refugee and aspiring lawyer from Rakhine state in Myanmar, has gathered the stories of at least 17 people he says have died as a result of depression or a lack of medication. Jacob was the most recent entry on his list.

Like many, Joniad likens life in Indonesia to an "open prison" and is losing hope.

"I cannot tell my family the truth about here, because they are already suffering enough," said Assadullah Amiri, 29, another Hazara refugee. "And now after six years, we're told we're still not vulnerable enough to be resettled?"

Those living in Makassar say they can be returned to immigration detention for unknown lengths of time, their stipend suspended for breaking any of the rules. Getchell said the IOM does not support such arbitrary, indefinite detention.

"Domestic law governs the legal status of immigrants in Indonesia, but makes no reference to asylum seekers or refugees," Hirsch said. "Instead, the law focuses on criminalisation, describing any person without a visa as an 'illegal immigrant'."

Refugees in Makassar have resorted to social media and twice-monthly demonstrations in front of the UNHCR and IOM offices to press their case.

John Arash Sedigh, a Christian convert from Iran, has been there almost every morning since September.

He arrived in Indonesia with his wife in 2012 and after trying twice to get to Australia has been living for the past five years in the IOM shelter.

Sedigh has given up on getting a boat out of Indonesia, and says his family's situation has become a kind of mental torture. His wife and young son rarely venture out of the tiny room they share and he says his wife is having suicidal thoughts.

Full report at:



Jokowi Holds Comfortable Lead for Re-election: Roy Morgan

MARCH 03, 2019

Jakarta. Barring anything unforeseen over the next 45 days, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo will likely sail to a comfortable re-election next month.

In a survey by Australian pollster Roy Morgan, about 58 percent of respondents said they would "most likely vote" for the incumbent.

The poll was conducted in January, among 1,039 Indonesians who would be eligible to vote in the April 17 election. Roy Morgan said the approximate margin of error for the result was around 3 percent.

The pollster said support for Jokowi had risen by about five percentage points compared with the 2014 presidential election, while support for his rival, former Army general Prabowo Subianto, was down by about the same amount, to 42 percent.

"The strong performance of the Indonesian economy over the past five years and the exceptional confidence expressed by everyday Indonesians over the past year are certainly strong pointers to the success of President Jokowi's political leadership heading towards the April presidential election," Roy Morgan chief executive Michele Levine said in a statement on Friday.

Jokowi enjoys strong support in rural areas, where he leads by 17 percentage points. His advantage in urban areas is slimmer, with lead of six percentage points.

"Jokowi's support is widespread, however, it is strongest in rural areas outside the capital, Jakarta, including his home area of Central Java, and in East Java, Bali, the northern provinces of Sumatra and the island of Sulawesi," Levine said.

The president is trailing in Jakarta, West Java and South Sumatra, according to the poll.

Despite efforts by Prabowo and his running mate, Sandiaga Uno, to appeal to "emak-emak," or housewives, Jokowi still enjoys a significant lead among the female demographic.

"Jokowi also has the magic touch with Indonesian women – over 60 percent of women support Jokowi, compared with only 39 percent that support Prabowo," Levine said.

The bulk of Jokowi's supporters are aged between 25 and 49.

The strong support for Jokowi buoys his party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), with more than 40 percent of respondents indicating that they would vote for it in the legislative election, which will be concurrent with the presidential election.

Prabowo's Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) would likely attract about 25 percent of the vote. The Democratic Party, Golkar, Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and National Mandate Party (PAN) would likely gather just enough to clear the 4 percent electoral threshold, the poll showed. These parties, except Golkar, are in the Prabowo-led coalition.

The remaining parties, including the National Awakening Party (PKB), Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) and Berkarya Party, would need to double down on their efforts to ensure any seats in the House of Representatives.

Still, the prospect of a landslide win has not lulled Jokowi's campaign team into complacency. The team says it deals on a daily basis with political slander and negative campaigns that undermine the incumbent's lead. Last week, police charged three women for spreading false information. They allegedly claimed that Jokowi would prohibit the azan, or Islamic call to prayer, if he is re-elected. 

Full report at:



Arab World


Egypt's top cleric calls polygamy 'injustice, ' draws debate

Mar 3, 2019

CAIRO: Egypt's top Muslim cleric has stirred up controversy after saying that polygamy is an "injustice" for women, but stopped short of calling for a ban on the practice.

"Those who say that marriage must be polygamous are all wrong. We have to read the (Quranic) verse in full, said Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, AlAzhar's Grand Imam.

He said that monogamy was the rule and polygamy a restricted exception.

It is restricted in Islam and requires fairness and "if there is not fairness it is forbidden to have more than one wife," he said.

Al-Tayeb said the practice came from "a lack of understanding of the Quran and the tradition of the Prophet" and it is "often an injustice to women and children." The Grand Imam also called for a broader revamp of how women's issues are addressed.

"Women represent half of society. If we don't care for them it's like walking on one foot only," he said.

His comments, aired Friday on state TV, sparked a heated debate on social media, with some siding with scholars calling for a ban on the practice.

Egypt's National Council for Women welcomed al-Tayeb's comments.

"Islam honors women, treats them fairly and gives them numerous rights which didn't exist before," said Maya Morsi, the council's chairwoman.

Al-Azhar sought on Saturday to clarify the comments, saying that al-Tayeb wasn't calling for a ban on polygamy.

Islam allows men to take up to four wives on the condition that they're treated equally. Though polygamy is legal in most Arab and Islamic countries, the practice is uncommon. Regionally, polygamy is banned in Tunisia and Turkey, and for Arab Muslims in Israel.

In Egypt, the husband must gain the consent of his current wife or wives if he hopes to marry more.



Security Expert: US Army Training 1000 ISIL Terrorists in Western Iraq

Mar 03, 2019

"Between 700 to 1,000 ISIL militants are being trained by the US troops in al-Anbar province," the Arabic-language al-Maloumeh news website quoted Manager of Badr Organization in Al-Anbar Province Qasi al-Anbari as saying on Sunday.

He pointed to the special conditions considered for the ISIL militants, and said that the US troops have specified redlines for third parties to avoid approaching the region.

This is while the Arabic-language Arabi Post has recently disclosed that the US troops have been intensively training the ISIL terrorists in two military bases of Ain al-Assad and al-Habanieh in al-Anbar province under name of desert ghosts.

The sources said the US Army troops have equipped the ISIL terrorists with 200 military and non-military vehicles.

In relevant remarks in early February, Iraqi security expert Kazim al-Haaj disclosed that the US Army was training the ISIL terrorists in Al-Anbar province.

"The US Army troops are preparing and training the ISIL militants in al-Qadaf and Wadi al-Houran regions of Al-Anbar province with the aim of carrying out terrorist attacks and restarting insecurity in Iraq," al-Ma'aloumeh quoted al-Haaj as saying.

He noted that according to the intel obtained from Iraqi security forces in Al-Anbar province, the US had transferred the ISIL terrorists on Apache and Chinook helicopters to Iraq.

Full report at:



Over Dozen Ankara-Backed Militants Killed in Clashes with Kurds in Aleppo

Mar 03, 2019

A sum of 18 militants backed by Ankara were killed in two separate clashes in the Northern parts of Aleppo province on Saturday night, field sources said.

Six militants of the National Liberation Army were killed in clashes with Kurdish fighters near the town of Kaljabrin in Northern Aleppo, they added.

Meantime, the Kurdish-language Hawar News reported that the Kurdish fighters stationed in Izzaz region pounded two areas under the control of Ankara-backed Firqa al-Motasem terrorists and their allied militants in the surrounding areas of Kaljabrin village in Northern Hama.

It noted that during the Kurdish forces' military operations against Turkey-backed militants, the latter's military vehicle was destroyed and 12 of them were killed, while three others were wounded.

In a relevant development on Saturday, the Turkish Army resumed its offensive on the Kurdish fighters' military positions in Northern Syria after reinforcing and dispatching 70 armored vehicles to Aleppo province.

The Turkish Army and Ankara-backed militants heavily pounded the military positions of Kurdish Al-Bab Military Council in the village of al-Baqouz East of the city of Al-Bab. The Turkish Army and Ankara-backed militants were stationed in the village of Olashli West of the city of Manbij in Northeastern Aleppo.

Meantime, battlefield sources said that the Turkish Army has dispatched around 70 military vehicles comprising military and logistic supplies as well as a number of soldiers to the war fronts in Northern Syria.

Full report at:



US-Led Coalition Conducts Chemical Phosphorus Attack on Eastern Syria

Mar 03, 2019

"The US-led fighter jets hit Baghouz farms in Eastern Deir Ezzur with missiles containing white phosphorus substance," the Arabic-language SANA news website quoted local sources in Deir Ezzur as saying.

There are yet no news on the possible casualties in the attack.

Meantime, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) claimed that they have advanced from several directions to Baghouz town and taken control of seven positions.

Battlefield sources also reported the Syrian Army troops engaged in heavy clashes with the ISIL terrorists who were trying to penetrate into Syria by crossing from Euphrates bank near Bu Kamal near the borders with Iraq, inflicting heavy losses on the terrorists.

In a relevant development last week, pro-militant media reports said the US has moved hundreds of more terrorists from Eastern Euphrates to declare the end of ISIL's presence in the region.

The London-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR) reported that around 110 ISIL terrorists (both Syrian and non-Syrian) had surrendered themselves to the US-led troops and the SDF.

Full report at:



Syria takes part in first Arab meeting since 2011

3 March 2019

Syria attended a meeting of Arab states on Sunday for the first time since its conflict broke out in 2011, marking another step towards the country’s political reintegration into the region.

Syria’s parliament speaker, Hammouda Sabbagh, travelled to Amman to attend the 29th Conference of the Arab Parliamentary Union.

His Jordanian counterpart, Atef al-Tarawneh, called in a speech for regional countries “to work toward a political settlement to the Syrian crisis... and for Syria to regain its place” in the Arab world.

A growing number of Arab states have voiced support for Syria’s return to the Arab League, which suspended the country’s membership in November 2011 as the death toll mounted in its war.

Divisions within the pan-Arab organization, however, have stalled the readmission of Syria, which with the support of Russia and Iran has largely regained control of its territory from rebel groups and extremists.

Full report at:



Syria’s Kurds set free nearly 300 ISIS-linked Syrians

3 March 2019

Nearly 300 Syrians suspected of belonging to ISIS have been freed because they have “no blood on their hands”, Kurdish authorities who were holding them said.

Their release was announced late Saturday by the semi-autonomous Kurdish administration of northern Syria, which said in a statement that 283 Syrians had been set free.

Tribal chiefs and other local officials had lobbied for their release.

The statement said they were men who “have no Syrian blood on their hands”, suggesting that they did not take part in any fighting.

“They had lost their way ... violated the traditions of the Syrian society and the law, and some of them had been deceived ... but they remain our Syrian children,” it said.

Releasing them is a gesture of “cooperation, fraternity and clemency,” said the statement posted on the website of the US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The prisoners were released in several areas of northern Syria held by Kurds, including the city of Raqa, which was the de facto Syrian capital of the ISIS “caliphate”, the statement added.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said it was not the first release of ISIS-linked prisoners by Kurdish authorities, but the number was particularly large this time.

The SDF are holding hundreds of alleged foreign extremists, as well as women and children related to suspected ISIS members.

Syria’s Kurds have long urged their home countries to take the detainees back, but nations have been reluctant.

Kurds have played a key role in battling ISIS in Syria. The SDF have now cornered the extremists in their last stretch of territory near the border with Iraq in a final bid to flush them out.

Full report at:



Ten ISIS militants executed by rival extremists in northwest Syria

3 March 2019

Ten ISIS militants were summarily executed in Syria’s Idlib province on Saturday by Tahrir al-Sham, according to Ebaa News Agency, a news outlet that supports the rival extremist alliance.

Ebaa said the executions were in response to an ISIS suicide bomb attack that killed eight people at a restaurant in Idlib a day earlier.

Although ISIS and the groups that make up Tahrir al-Sham, including al Qaeda’s former affiliate the Nusra Front, subscribe to hardline extremist ideology, they have opposed each other for years.

ISIS has virtually lost all its territory to the Syrian army, backed by Russia, Iran, and a rival campaign by Kurdish and Arab groups in the north supported by the United States.

Ebaa quoted Anis al-Shami, a security official from Tahrir al-Sham, saying that the executions “today at the scene of the crime are fair punishment which might deter them and wake them from their stupor”.

It published images showing masked gunmen in fatigues firing handguns at the heads of 10 bearded men who sat in front of them on the pavement. Reuters could not independently verify the agency’s report.

Tahrir al-Sham is the main extremist group in northwest Syria, with a large armed presence throughout Idlib, including along the Turkish border.

Full report at:



Egypt approves new anti-terror laws

March 03, 2019

CAIRO: The Egyptian government has approved tough new laws to fight terrorism in the wake of recent deadly attacks in the country.

One of the latest key changes to the legislation will see a tightening up of regulations surrounding the rental of property.

Under current rules, anyone leasing furnished real estate in Egypt does not have to be officially registered as living there. However, in the future property owners will be required to inform police of the identities of tenants, even for short-term rental periods, and will face criminal penalties for failure to do so.

Dr. Mohammed Khalifa, a member of the legislative committee of the Egyptian Council of Representatives, told Arab News that terrorists often took advantage of the old regulations to rent furnished apartments and stay under the radar of the authorities.

“The owner of a property will now have to notify the police department in the form of a copy of the contract between the two sides, so that Egyptian security will have sufficient information about the citizens who rent the furnished apartments, even if only for short periods,” said Khalifa.

He said the amendment to the law was designed not to inconvenience the owners of rented apartments but to encourage them to interact with the police.

Other alterations to the government’s anti-terror legislation include giving the Egyptian Public Prosecution Office powers to temporarily close any premises where weapons have been manufactured or designed for use in terrorist crimes.

In addition, the Egyptian Parliament’s proposals and complaints committee has approved a law blocking organizations listed as terrorist groups from exercising their political rights.

MP Kamal Amer, head of the country’s National Defense and Security Committee in the House of Representatives, said that the government was constantly reviewing and amending laws to combat terrorism and confiscate the funds of armed organizations.

He stressed that Egypt had made significant strides in its war on terror through its legislative and security efforts. At the same time, it was working hard to tackle the root causes of extremism.

In a recent speech at the first Middle East and North Africa Regional Conference titled “Strengthening International Cooperation in the Face of the Growing Threat of Terrorist Financing and Money Laundering Operations,” Egyptian Attorney General Nabil Sadiq said that his country had been focused on fighting terrorism since the beginning of the last century.

Full report at:



Terrorism ‘direct threat to world’, says Saudi minister of interior

March 03, 2019

TUNIS: Foreign interference especially from Iran posed one of the biggest threats to the future stability of Arab states, a top Saudi government minister has warned.

Speaking in Tunis at the 36th meeting of the Council of Arab Ministers of the Interior, its honorary president and Saudi minister of interior, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Saud bin Naif, said the region was facing a raft of challenges, not least of which was the scourge of terrorism.

He said the council must continue through joint action to strive toward protecting the security of Arab countries in the face of major change.

He said he was “very confident” that the council realized “the seriousness of the situation and is working hard to prevent these dangers and threats.”

Prince Abdul Aziz said: “Terrorism and extremism are a direct threat to the entire world, and we must strive tirelessly to intensify efforts and coordination in the strong and effective response to these threats, while continuing to drain the sources of financing terrorism and extremism, including combating money laundering.”

Heading the Saudi delegation at the interior ministers’ meeting being held under the patronage of Tunisian President Beji Kayed Sebsi, Prince Abdul Aziz noted that illegal immigration, organized crime, border security, drug control, human rights issues and cybersecurity, and how to deal with these issues, were the top priorities of the council.

He also pointed out that keeping up with modern technology was vital in maintaining pace with the transformations taking place in Arab countries and communities.

The secretary-general of the Council of Arab Ministers of the Interior, Dr. Mohammed bin Ali Koman, pointed out that the current session of the council was being held at a time when the Arab world faced challenges that cast a dark shadow over its security and stability.

He said organized crime and the resulting drug trafficking, illegal immigration and smuggling operations were at the forefront of these challenges, and some regional powers were deliberately fueling the problem in order to destroy national unity.

Prince Abdul Aziz assumed chairmanship of the 36th session of the council from the Algerian minister of interior, Noureddine Badawi, chairman of the previous gathering. Other Arab ministers addressed the meeting before holding a closed session.

Full report at:



North America


US investigating reports Pakistan used F-16s to down Indian jet in possible breach of deal

Mar 3, 2019

The United States says it is investigating reports that Pakistan has breached mutual security agreements by using an American-made fighter jet to down an Indian aircraft during the recent flare-up between the two nuclear neighbors.

The US Embassy in Islamabad announced Sunday that it was in the process of finding out whether Pakistan had used US-built F-16 jets to shoot down an Indian MiG-21.

“We are aware of these reports and are seeking more information,” a spokesperson for the embassy said, according to Reuters. “We take all allegations of misuse of defense articles very seriously.”

Pakistan and India exchanged multiple airstrikes last week following tensions over a deadly bombing attack in the Indian-controlled Kashmir that New Delhi said was conducted by Pakistani militants.

On Tuesday, India carried out air raids over the disputed Kashmir region, targeting the Jaish-e-Mohammed group, which it accused of orchestrating the bombing in February that killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police.

On Wednesday, Pakistan said it had shot down two Indian fighter jets and captured one of their pilots.  Islamabad later returned the pilot to India.

On Thursday, Indian officials put on display parts of what they said was an air-to-air missile that could only be fired from F-16 jets, alleging they were used to bomb the Indian side of the disputed Kashmir border a day earlier.

India also said that it had downed a Pakistani F-16, a claim Islamabad denied.

Pakistan's military has denied reports that it used F-16 jets during the dogfight with the Indian warplanes. Islamabad had yet to disclose what aircraft it used for the mission.

The move by Pakistani air force could amount to a violation of US agreements, according to Reuters.

Pakistan bought several batches of the Lockheed Martin F-16s from Washington before relations between the two sides soured over the fight against the Taliban and then US President Barack Obama cut off subsidized sales to Islamabad in 2016.

It was not clear what restrictions were imposed on Pakistan's use of the aircraft in its so-called “end-user agreements” with the US.

“The US government does not comment on or confirm pending investigations of this nature,” the US embassy said.



US special envoy for Syria to visit Turkey on Monday

Nazli Yuzbasioglu


The U.S. special envoy for Syria will arrive in capital Ankara on Monday. 

James Jeffrey will hold meetings with a delegation of Turkish Foreign Ministry and military officials in his two-day visit.

The U.S. pullout from Syria, and Manbij roadmap will top the agenda during the meetings.

In line with the Manbij roadmap, joint investigations by Turkey and the U.S. are ongoing for the restructuring of civil and military councils in northern Syrian town of Manbij. The Manbij deal between Turkey and the U.S. focuses on the withdrawal of YPG/PKK terrorists from the city to stabilize the region, which is located in the northern part of Syria’s Aleppo province.

The last meeting of a bilateral Turkish-U.S. group to coordinate the American troop withdrawal from Syria took place in Ankara on Feb. 28-March 1.

The U.S. currently has more than 2,000 troops deployed in Syria, but announced last December that they were leaving, then revised to say some 200-400 would stay.

Full report at:



Muslim author aims to lift veil on misjudged concept


By Umar Farooq


The small room was packed with children and adults listening attentively.

They had come to the children’s section of the Takoma Park Maryland Library to attend a book reading.

“Mama makes jokes with her patient as she peers in his ears and his throat. Her bright pink hijab looks so cheerful tucked into her tidy white coat.

“Jenna’s our fearless troop leader. She makes us the gooiest s’mores! Her hijab is topped with a sun hat whenever we hike the outdoors.”

Hena Khan, an award-winning Muslim American writer born and raised in Maryland, uses her book Under My Hijab to tell the story of a young Muslim girl who observes the women in her life and the unique ways they wear the head covering as a reflection of their personality, character and fashion sense.

“One of the things I was very conscious of was the fact that Muslim women are in no way limited by wearing the hijab. They are capable of doing everything and anything they want to. They are modern and independent and educated and strong. They are American,” Khan told Anadolu Agency.

She is one of the first American authors to bring Muslim characters to the fore in children's books.

While the hijab is commonly known as the head veil worn by Muslim women around the world, the definition of the word has much broader implications.

In Arabic, "hijab" means barrier or partition. In Islam, however, it is a principle of modesty and defines how both women and men should behave, speak and dress.

The Pakistani-American author wrote the book with two audiences in mind: people of the Islamic faith, who are underrepresented in literature, and the wider American community, so they can see a positive representation of Muslim women.

Part of the inspiration behind the book came from all the questions people would ask Khan’s friends and family who wear the hijab, such as ‘Do you sleep with that?” or ‘How do you shower with that?’

“My sister-in-law often worked with young children, and she was telling me how very young kids would ask her if she had hair, or if she had ears, because they never saw them,” Khan said. “And that sort of sparked the initial idea for a book.”

While Islam continues to spread in the U.S., the number of Muslims currently totals 3.45 million, or 1.1 percent of the country’s population, according to the Pew Research Center.

Many Americans have not seen or interacted with a Muslim in their lives, and sometimes their perception of the faith comes from second-hand sources. Some Americans see Islam and Muslims as a foreign threat.

Another Pew study found that in 2017, 50 percent of Americans polled said Islam is not a part of “mainstream American society”.

“There's a tendency to confuse women who wear the hijab with being foreign or an immigrant only, or maybe not speaking English,” Khan said.

“I feel like there's a tendency for people who aren't familiar with women wearing the hijab to speak to them very slowly, or be surprised that they speak English fluently.”

Khan does not wear the hijab herself, and she was able to write the story through the lens of an outsider, which was necessary to enable people outside the faith to read it.

“As someone who doesn't wear it, this was the type of book that I felt like I could write where it is from the perspective of an observer admiring the women and girls in her life who wear it, which is much like my perspective,” she said.

Khan has published over a dozen books and has a few in the works as well. Her previous books include the widely acclaimed “It’s Ramadan, Curious George,” where she took the famed fictional children’s character George, a curious little monkey, on a journey celebrating the Islamic holy month through fasting and helping the needy, culminating in the celebration of the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

Full report at:



Trump admits failure of US policies in Syria, Iraq

Kasim Ileri



U.S. president on Saturday criticized his country's foreign policies in Iraq and Syria, saying that his administration will focus on fixing up America's infrastructure rather than fighting "endless wars".

During his two-hour speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Donald Trump said that Daesh will be defeated "hundred percent" in a day or two and reiterated his administration's firmness to pull American troops.

"We will leave a small group of guys and gals [soldiers] but we want to bring our people back home. It is time," Trump said in the annual event in National Harbor, Maryland.

"We would be in Syria for 4 months but we ended up 5 years. Just funny."

He slammed the Middle East policies of former U.S. governments, recalling his first-time visit to Iraq in 2017 when they had to turn off all the lights at the military plane before landing for security purposes.

"Think of this. We spent seven trillion dollars in the Middle East and we can't land a plane with lights on, 20 years later. How bad is that!" Trump said.

He also criticized his former defense secretary James Mattis and other generals in Syria and Iraq for being too slow in finishing Daesh and said that he learns more about what is going on from the soldiers than generals.

Full report at:



Pentagon warns Turkey; senator hints at NATO expulsion

Mar 3, 2019

Acting Pentagon chief Pat Shanahan has warned Turkey over plans to buy a Russian missile defense system, while a US senator has asked whether Ankara is seeking to leave NATO.

Turkey has rejected a US proposal to deliver one Patriot missile defense system by the end of 2019 provided that Ankara abandons a deal to buy the S-400 missile defense system from Russia.

Shanahan warned that the purchase would imperil prospects to sell the NATO ally the next-generation F-35 jet Turkey is helping to build.

"My position is that the S-400 and F-35 are incompatible – meaning that they don't go together," Bloomberg quoted him as saying in an interview in his Pentagon office.

Turkey signed a contract worth $2.5 billion in December 2017 for the purchase of the S-400 missile defense system, ignoring objections from its NATO allies.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Saturday said that Turkey bought the Russian-made system, as it could not buy a similar one from its Western allies.

The purchase reflects a broader political shift as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan finds himself increasingly at odds with the US.

President Donald Trump has raised tariffs on Turkey, declined to extradite a Turkish cleric whom Erdogan blames for a failed coup in 2016 and infuriated Ankara over US support for Kurdish militants in Syria.

Shanahan did not say what action the US would take if Turkey went ahead with the purchase of the sophisticated defense system.

"We'll cross that bridge when we get there, but we are talking about making sure they have" US-made Patriot air defenses, he said.

The Pentagon chief said he has spoken with his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar five times since becoming the acting defense secretary on January 1.

"They're a strategic partner and I think at the end of the day, they'll remain a strategic partner," Shanahan said.

The F-35 is the US's costliest weapons system and Turkey is a crucial participant in the program.

Turkish companies are reportedly set to produce about $12 billion in parts for the fighter jet, including key components such as the center fuselage and some landing gear.

According to an unclassified summary of a Pentagon report sent to Congress in November, Turkey risks expulsion from the F-35 program if its government takes delivery of the Russian system.

On Saturday, a US Senator called on Trump to cancel the sale of F-35 fighter planes to Turkey if the latter retains the S-400 purchase deal with Russia.

Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen said the US should not allow Turkey to jeopardize the safety of US pilots and the security of NATO by using F-35 jets and S-400 missile systems at the same time.

American officials are concerned that sensitive F-35 technology designed to evade such a system could be compromised and used to improve Russia's air defense system if Turkey ends up with both systems.

The senator also questioned Ankara’s commitment to NATO.

Trump needs to make it crystal clear: If Turkey purchases the Russian S-400 system from Putin, it will not receive the F-35. Period. Turkey must not be allowed to compromise the safety of our pilots and the security of NATO. Do they want to quit NATO?

— Chris Van Hollen (@ChrisVanHollen) March 2, 2019

Full report at:



South Asia


Bangladesh returns 'lost' Myanmar soldier

Mar 3, 2019

COX'S BAZAR: Bangladesh forces handed back on Sunday a Myanmar soldier more than two months after he strayed across the border into a jungle in the Muslim-majority nation, a senior official said.

Aung Bo Bo Thein, 30, was detained by Bangladeshi security forces on January 24 near the southern town of Naikhongchhari, Brigadier General Sajedur Rahman told AFP.

"He crossed the border and was found in a jungle. Today we have handed him over to Myanmar border police through a flag meeting," said Rahman, border guard regional commander.

Ties between Bangladesh and Myanmar have soured since about 740,000 Rohingya Muslims fled the Buddhist-majority country in 2017 following a military clampdown in restive Rakhine state.

Dhaka had already been hosting another 300,000 Rohingya who took refuge in squalid camps in Bangladesh's southeastern Cox's Bazar district after previous bouts of violence.

Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an agreement in November 2017 for the repatriation of the Rohingya, but the persecuted Muslim minority has refused to go back unless they are granted citizenship and other rights.

This week Bangladesh told the UN Security Council that it will no longer be able to take in refugees from Myanmar.

Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque told a Council meeting that the crisis over the repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya sheltering in his country had gone from "bad to worse" and urged the council to take "decisive" action.

Rahman said Rohingya arrivals from Myanmar have almost stopped, with none arriving in the past few weeks.

Bangladesh in recent months has stepped up security near the border to curb smuggling of Yaba -- a popular methamphetamine pill -- across the border from Myanmar, he said.

Myanmar's Ambassador Hau Do Suan insisted his government was taking steps and appealed for patience.



Bangladesh: Saudi Embassy official Khalaf murder convict Mamun hanged

Sahidul Hasan Khokon


March 4, 2019

Saiful Islam Mamun, convict in the murder of Saudi Embassy official Khalaf Al Ali in 2012, was on Sunday executed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The convict was hanged at the Kashimpur high-security Central Prison in Gazipur at 10:01 pm, jail superintendent Md Shahjahan told to media.

Saiful Islam Mamun, son of late Abdul Motaleb Hawlader of Khontakta area in Bagerhat's Sharonkhola Upazila, was in the Kashimpur Central Prison since January 4, 2013.

Gazipur Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner (Crime) Md Sharifur Rahman said that the Additional District Magistrate Md Moshiur Rahman and District Civil Surgeon Syed Md Manjurul Haque were also present during the execution of Saiful.

Saudi embassy official Khalaf Al Ali (45) was shot outside his residence in Dhaka's Gulshan at midnight on March 5, 2012.

Two days after the murder, police filed a case in Gulshan police station. After four and a half months, four people including Saiful Islam were arrested, who were given identity as 'hijackers'.

At the end of the investigation, the Detective Branch of police (DB) filed the chargesheet on September 20, 2012 and named five people as accused including Selim Chowdhury.

Full report at:



NDS Special Forces storm key Taliban compound in Baghlan province

03 Mar 2019

The Special Forces of the Afghan Intelligence stormed a key compound of the Taliban group in northern Baghlan province leaving at two members of the group dead.

The National Directorate of Security in a statement said the operation was conducted against the compound of Taliban group leader Qari Janat Gul alias Shaheen in the vicinity of Mulayan Village which is located along Pul-e-Khumri and Samangan highway.

The statement further added that two members of the group were killed during the operation and a large quantity of weapons and munitions were confiscated.

According to National Directorate of Security, Qari Janat Gul is leading a group of 15 militants in Dand-e-Shahabuddin area of the Baghlan who are mainly involved in destructive activities besides harassing and terrorizing people on Pul-e-Khumri and Mazar highway.

The two members of the group who were killed during the operation have been identified as Adam Khan son of Shah Gul and Mohammad son of Afzal, the National Directorate of Security said, adding that a 82mm rocket launcher, a PKM machine gun, a Ak-47 rifle, a grenade launcher, a Taliban flag, and some other military kits were confiscated by the security forces.

Full report at:



Taliban commanders Mawlavi Jalal and Mullah Jindullah among 6 killed in Faryab clash

04 Mar 2019

At least six Taliban group members including two of their commanders were killed during a clash with the security forces in northern Faryab province of Afghanistan.

The 209th Shaheen Corps of the Afghan Military in the North in a statement said the clash between the security forces and Taliban militants took place on Saturday night in the vicinity of Dawlatabad district.

The statement further added that six Taliban group members including their two commanders Mawlavi Jalal and Mullah Jindullah were killed during the clash and four others were wounded.

According to 209th Shaheen Corps, the local residents and security forces have not suffered casualties during the clash.

Full report at:



Afghan police forces repulse Taliban attack against a check post in Farah province

03 Mar 2019

The Afghan National Police repulsed a Taliban attack against a security check post in western Farah province of Afghanistan.

According to the local security officials, the Afghan National Police repulsed a Taliban attack on a checkpoint in Pur Chaman district early this morning killing several Taliban fighters and their commander, Mullah Noor Ahmad.

“Armed insurgents attempted to attack check posts in Nawbara village and were repulsed by the brave ANP forces and the enemy fled from the area after  sustaining casulties,” spokesman for the Farah Police Headquarters.

“Afghan security forces around the country are working hard to ensure security of the bases so they can provide security for the people of Afghanistan,” the officials added.

The anti-government armed militants including Taliban have not commented regarding the report so far.

Full report at:



Airstrikes leave at least 350 Taliban militants dead in past one week: MoD

03 Mar 2019

The Ministry of Defense of Afghanistan has claimed that the airstrikes have left at least 450 Taliban militants dead in past one week.

According to a statement released by the Ministry of Defense “Despite unsuitable weather condition and heavy snowfall, over the past week, Afghan Air Forces carried out airstrikes on the enemies’ havens in order to ensure security.”

The statement further added “These air operations were launched in Sangen district of Helmand, Sancharak district of Sarepul, Dashte-Qala district of Takhar, Qarabagh, Dehyak and Andar districts of Ghazni, Hesarak district of Nangarhar, Zurmat district of Paktia, Shulgara district of Balkh, Shahwalikut district of Kandahar and vicinity of Trenkut city. As a result, 350 terrorists including Shafiqullah, Mullah Zanjer, Mullah Noor Ahmad known as Khalid, Abdullah, Zahidullah, Yousuf, Badruddin, Mullah Faizullah, Mawlai Nematullah, Mawlawi Muhammadi, Mullah Noorulhaq and Mullah Temoor Shah, Local commanders were killed. Tens of their fighting positions, hideouts and depots destroyed as well.”

“Mentioned enemy commanders had played active role in planning suicide attacks, placing IEDs and conducting offensives in their respective areas,” MoD said, adding that the Afghan Air Forces alongside other Afghan National Defense and Security Forces are ready to defend the country under any circumstance and will not spare any effort in fighting terrorism and destroying enemy havens.

Full report at:





Labour leader Corbyn attacked while visiting London mosque

Mar 3, 2019

UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been attacked by suspected Islamophobes outside a mosque in north London where he was attending an event meant to tackle negative stigma around Muslims in Britain.

The Metropolitan Police said on Sunday that Corbyn was unhurt after the attack, which took place after a man assaulted the opposition leader with an egg outside Muslim Welfare Centre in Finsbury Park.

The Met said the attacker, a 41-year-old man, was arrested quickly following the attack.

The British media outlets described the attacker as a pro-Brexit activist who was willing to show his opposition to Corbyn’s announcement that he and the Labour would back a second referendum on Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

The Sky News, citing its correspondent at the scene, said Corbyn was hit by the egg thrown by the suspected pro-Brexit campaigner.

“While he was here in an upstairs room, a protester - a pro-Brexit protester we understand, according to eyewitnesses - placed an egg on his head,” said Jon Craig, who works for the news channel.

Corbyn has long been a target of hate attacks by anti-Muslim figures and groups in Britain, specially due to his support for the Palestinian cause and his opposition to Israel and Zionism which many say is being wrongly depicted as an anti-Semite tendency.

Corbyn was in Finsbury Park Mosque to attend the fifth annual Visit My Mosque day. The event, organized by Muslim Council of Britain, is an opportunity for Muslim places of worship across the UK to open their doors to the public.

Reports said Corbyn had enjoyed a warm welcome by Muslims during the visit to the mosque. Labour’s Diane Abbott, the shadow secretary, accompanied Corbyn in the visit.



UK’s Hunt says Yemen peace deal is now ‘in last chance saloon’

March 03, 2019

LONDON: The Stockholm Agreement is now in “last chance saloon,” British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a statement during a visit to Yemen on Sunday.   

"The process could be dead within weeks if we do not see both sides sticking to their commitments in Stockholm."

The British foreign secretary held talks with his Yemeni counterpart in government-held Aden on Sunday, in the first visit by a western foreign minister to the war-torn country in years.

"I am here because this is really the last chance for peace," Hunt said from Aden, in a video uploaded to his Twitter account.

They discussed an agreement on a ceasefire and prisoner exchange between the warring sides, brokered by the United Nations at talks in Sweden in December, the state news agency Saba said.

Hunt's visit to Yemen is part of his trip to the Gulf region to urge the immediate implementation of the UN-brokered Stockholm Agreement.

The foreign secretary added that a peace process in Yemen’s main port city “could be dead within weeks” without more committed effort from both sides.

The agreement to implement a troop withdrawal in Hodeidah, a lifeline for millions facing famine, by Jan. 7 was intended to clear the way for wider negotiations to end the four-year war but progress has been slow.

On Saturday, the foreign secretary met with Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Ibrahim Al-Assaf and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir in Riyadh.

Hunt said that he and Al-Jubeir agreed that progress on the agreement was “overdue,” and that it is “vital for Hodeidah to be cleared of militia urgently” so that a humanitarian corridor can be opened.

Full report at:



UK: Mosques open their doors to public

Muhammad Mussa



Mosques across the U.K. have opened their doors to the public on Sunday as part of an annual national event that aims to build closer relations between the British Muslim and non-Muslim communities.

Over 250 mosques participated in ‘Visit My Mosque’ event which saw people being welcomed into their local mosques and partake in activities aiming to broaden their knowledge on Islam, Muslims and the purposes of mosques.

“Despite those who continue to fund hatred and sow division in our society, Muslims across the U.K. have shown today that regardless we will continue to do the opposite by building bridges and bring communities together” said Harun Khan, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain.

“Thank you to everyone who took part today” he added.

This year's ‘Visit My Mosque’ event was held amid a stark rise in Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crimes with the right-wing extremists attacking the mosques and Muslim communities across the U.K. Community and faith leaders have hailed this year's initiative as a success and an example of tolerance and acceptance between Britain’s Muslim and non-Muslim communities.

Kingston Muslim Association in south-west London is one of the mosques that opened its doors to its local community and held a variety of activities including a mosque tour and an exhibition of Islamic art and religious texts.

“I attend the open day every year and every year I learn something new” said Jeremy, a local resident and community worker who actively engages with the Muslim community. “And every year I see more and more people visit the mosque and engage with the [Muslim] community and as a proponent of multiculturalism this makes me incredibly happy” he added.

“This sends a message to the Islamophobes and those who are against unity that Britain will remain an open and an inclusive society that not only welcomes peoples of different faiths but actively engages with them so that they may know about one another” Jeremy said.

Celebrating the fifth anniversary of the initiative, British mosques also promoted the ‘Great British Spring Clean’, a campaign that aims to improve the environment and help communities across U.K. keep clean and environmentally friendly.

Besides the publis, MPs also took the opportunity to visit their Muslim constituents and voice their support for the Britain’s large and influential Muslim community.

“Every year Muslim communities across the country open their doors to people of all faiths and none on #VisitMyMosque Day,” said Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party. “It's a fantastic opportunity to build understanding across communities and educate ourselves about our diverse communities. Let's build bridges not walls” he added.

Earlier this week, Muslim faith leaders from across the U.K. visited churches, synagogues, Hindu and Sikh temples as a gesture of solidarity and to convey a message that regardless of their faith, communities should remain united.

The Muslim Council of Britain is the U.K.’s largest Muslim umbrella organisation, representing more than 500 institutions and mosques and holds annual events such as Visit My Mosque Day that aim to unite communities across the U.K.

In the last three years, there has been a sharp rise in Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crime in the U.K. with 2017 having a record number of attacks against Muslims. In 2018 there were over 1,200 reports of Islamophobic attacks, a 26 percent surge from the previous year.

Full report at:



UK foreign secretary: Yemen peace needs promises kept



If the commitments by both sides in the Yemen conflict are not fulfilled, the peace process “could be dead in weeks,” British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned on Sunday.

“We are now in last-chance saloon for the Stockholm peace process,” Hunt warned, speaking in war-torn Yemen.

“The port of Hodeidah [Al-Hudaydah] was supposed to cleared of militia and left under neutral control by the beginning of January,” he said, referring to a port providing entry for nearly 80 percent of Yemen’s food imports.

“The process could be dead within weeks if we do not see both sides sticking to their commitments in Stockholm.”

Hunt visited Aden today on the first visit to Yemen by a Western foreign minister since the start of the conflict in 2015, and the first by a British foreign secretary since 1996.

Meeting Yemeni Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Saeed al-Khanbashi and Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani "in a display of the U.K.’s support to the government of Yemen and for UN efforts to secure peace," Hunt discussed the humanitarian response in the port of Aden with aid workers and representatives of the Aden Office of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), according to a government statement.

“People in Yemen are on the brink of starvation and none of the parties really want a return to hostilities -- so now is the time to take a deep breath, put aside the anger and mistrust after four years of terrible fighting, and take the risks that are always necessary at the start of any peace process,” Hunt said.

Since Friday, Hunt has met with Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and Houthi spokesman Mohamed Abdel Salem in Riyadh and Muscat, respectively.

Hunt’s visit to Aden was part of a “Yemen-focused Gulf tour” during which he also engaged regional leaders including Sultan Qaboos in Oman, Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf in Saudi Arabia, and Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed in the UAE, “as part of a sustained U.K. diplomatic campaign to support the UN-led peace process.”

The foreign secretary previously attended the UN’s Stockholm talks in December, and the Quad (Saudi, UAE, U.S., U.K.) ministerial discussions in Warsaw in February.

The U.K. is one of the largest Western aid contributors to the Yemen crisis with a humanitarian contribution of £770 million ($1 billion) since 2015, according to the U.K. government statement.

In December, Yemeni government representatives and Houthi rebel leaders held a round of UN-brokered talks in Sweden, which yielded a cease-fire agreement in the Red Sea province.

Neither of the warring parties, however, have yet to fully withdraw from Al-Hudaydah amid tit-for-tat accusations of truce violations and sporadic clashes in other parts of the country.

Yemen has been beset by violence and chaos since 2014, when Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including Sanaa. The crisis escalated in 2015 when a Saudi-led military coalition launched a devastating air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi territorial gains.

Full report at:



Canada's Rebel Media causing anti-Muslim hate, report says

March 3, 2019

Canada's Rebel Media is an online platform that allows white nationalists to promote division and anti-Muslim sentiment, the UK charity group Faith Matters says.

A recent report by the charity says Rebel Media has “tapped into a wellspring of discontent and unease” by claiming white people are facing rapid decline because of migration, particularly by Muslims.

Through its 1.1 million YouTube subscribers and 169,000 Facebook followers, Rebel Media allowed far-right commentators to publicise their anti-Muslim, anti-refugee and anti-migrant views, the report said.

Far-right figures included Tommy Robinson, Lauren Southern, Katie Hopkins and Paul Joseph Watson.

“Central to Rebel Media's message is the platforming of far-right ideology with slants that seek to portray a world view of 'them and us', with Muslims in Europe being viewed as 'them',” Faith Matters said.

Rebel Media was founded in 2015 and is often referred to as US far-right website Breitbart’s "Canadian cousin".

"Much more work needs to be done to counter the fake news around Muslims and the insinuation that building mosques or having halal-certified food amounts to a Muslim takeover," said the report's author, Rabbil Sikdar.

“People who buy into this false narrative are then more likely to protest against Islamic institutions such as mosques and faith schools, or call for fewer Muslims or even support authoritarian measures against them.

“Rebel Media is essentially existing as a platform for the spread of fear and hate, and all of its contributors work on this line. They have essentially globalised hate and we should be really concerned by that."

The report focuses on three tenets: white nationalism, political correctness and Islam.

A focal message of Rebel Media is that the modern world is oppressing white people and what they stand for. It also supports a revolt against the establishment, which is seen to be a "hegemonic force, culturally and politically”.

“Rebel Media regards the elite as a bundle of institutions dedicated to subordinating the interests of ordinary people to their liberal agenda,” the report says.

Full report at:





Sudanese protests continue despite president’s ban

3 March 2019

Sudanese protesters are marching toward courthouses in different cities across the country, including in the capital Khartoum.

It’s the latest in two-and-a-half months of protests that call for the overthrow of autocratic President Omar al-Bashir.

Sunday’s marches were called for by the Sudanese Professionals Association, an umbrella group of independent professional unions that has been spearheading the protests.

Al-Bashir has banned unauthorized public gatherings and granted sweeping powers to the police after imposing a state of emergency last month.

But the measure failed to deter protesters who have kept demonstrating.

The current wave of unrest erupted in December, initially over rising prices and shortages but quickly turned to calls for the ouster of al-Bashir, who seized power in a 1989 coup.

A heavy security crackdown has killed scores.



Somalia on alert for new Takfiri attacks after scores killed

Mar 3, 2019

Somalia has strengthened security across the capital, Mogadishu amid new threats by the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab militant group which killed scores of people on Thursday.

At least 36 people, mostly civilians, were killed and over 60 wounded after a bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into the Hotel Maka al-Mukarama and nearby buildings in Mogadishu.

Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire said the assault had targeted civilians. "There is only one option for us all - defeating the enemy of peace,” he told reporters.

“We are now in the process of strengthening our armed forces - equipping them and providing logistical support. I assure you all that we will defeat al-Shabaab," he added.

It was the latest in a series of high-profile assaults in East Africa by al-Shabaab. It came after the US stepped up airstrikes in the Horn of Africa country.

Al-Shabaab acknowledged that it had targeted a "luxury hotel inhabited by government officials and security service officers" -- also a popular choice for businessmen.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, who had vowed to end al-Shabaab's insurgency within two years, is facing a huge insecurity challenge.

The al-Qaeda-linked militant outfit, which has long sought to topple Somalia’s Western-backed government, was forced out of Mogadishu with the help of African Union forces in 2011.

Al-Shabaab, however, still wields control in large parts of the countryside, and every now and then carries out deadly attacks against government, military, and civilian targets in the capital as well as regional towns.

Full report at:



Algeria's largest Islamic party withdraws from polls



The Movement of Society for Peace, Algeria’s largest Islamic party, threatened on Sunday to withdraw from next month's presidential election if President Abdelaziz Bouteflika seeks a fifth term in office.

Announcing its support for popular protests against Bouteflika standing again, a movement statement called on the nation's political authority to respond to the demands of the people and in particular to forestall Bouteflika’s fifth term.

Earlier Sunday, 145 members of the movement's Shura Council voted in favor of a decision to pull out from the race while 97 voted against, local media said.

Supporters of the withdrawal argue that the move was taken "in tandem with the desire of the people, who have gone out in the millions against the nomination of incumbent President Bouteflika."

The National Liberation Front leader Ali Benflis also announced his withdrawal from presidential elections in his party meeting, saying “the current political condition in the country does not allow” him to participate.

Also, Ghani Mahdi, an independent candidate, said on social media that he officially withdrew from elections due to “bureaucratic reasons” and “lack of necessary documents ”

Separately, according to Swiss daily La Tribune de Geneve, there is no indication that Bouteflika, who has been undergoing treatment in a Swiss hospital for a week, is close to leaving.

The Swiss daily said the plane the Algerian president took to Switzerland last Sunday returned the same day to Algeria, with no announcement of its expected return, informed sources told the Swiss paper Sunday.

The same paper reported that there is no private Algerian plane scheduled to land at the Geneva airport.

Last month, Algeria’s ruling National Liberation Front nominated the 81-year-old Bouteflika -- who has ruled Algeria since 1999 -- to run for a fifth term.

Full report at:



Mali radical preacher denies reports of his death in video

March 2, 2019

Three months after the announcement of the death one of Mali's top radical preachers, a video on Friday appeared to show him alive.

French and Malian authorities in November last year said Amadou Koufa had died of injuries in the Wagadou forest following a raid led by French forces.

We "confirm the death of the jihadist Amadou Koufa in the Wagadou forest," General Abdoulaye Cisse said last year. "He died of his injuries."

"After the military operation the terrorist Koufa was seriously injured and taken away by his supporters before he died," another military official said.

The preacher was accused of stoking sectarian conflict and several violent attacks in central Mali.

Malian and French authorities are verifying the authenticity of the video in which the preacher can be seen sitting behind a table without any obvious signs of injury, denying reports of his death and responding to questions in Arabic.

"Checks are in progress," a military source in Bamako told Agence France-Presse, which obtained a copy of the footage.

"We are verifying the authenticity of the video," added French army spokesman Patrik Steiger in Paris.

At the time of his reported death, Koufa was regarded as one the top deputies to Iyad Ag Ghali, the leader of the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM), which has repeatedly struck military and civilian targets in Mali and neighbouring Burkina Faso.

The Mauritanian news agency Al-Akhbar said it had received the video from GSIM's media arm.

France helped Malian forces stave off an insurgency that took control of large parts of the north in 2012, but large swathes of the country remain out of the government's control.

The former colonial ruler has deployed the 4,500-member Barkhane force in the region in a bid to repel attacks and stem the insurgency. But militant groups have continued operating in Mali and neighbouring countries.

This month French forces said they killed a top terrorist leader in Mali, following an air and ground ambush. Djamel Okacha was accused of masterminding the kidnapping of Westerners in the Sahel region.

Full report at:




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