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Islamic World News ( 14 Jan 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Kerala Takes Citizenship Act to Supreme Court, First State To Do So

New Age Islam News Bureau

14 Jan 2020

FILE - Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's former military leader, is seen in a hospital bed in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 18, 2019, in a still image taken from video. (All Pakistan Muslim League handout via Reuters)


• Pakistan Court Cancels Death Penalty for Musharraf

• New Mufti of Singapore Wants Practice of Islam to Stay Progressive

• Students, Community Members of Frist South Lawn, Princeton, Protest India's Citizenship Amendment Act

• Trump: ‘Doesn't Really Matter’ If There Was Imminent Threat From Soleimani

• France, West Africa to Unite Forces in Fight against Extremists

• Iran Blasts Trump for "Shedding Crocodile Tears"

• Bangladeshi Groups Call on Police to Release Sufi Singer

• King Of Jordan Warns ISIS On The Rise In Mid East Again

• Iraqi Officials Warn Of Economic 'Collapse' If US Cuts Off Access To Oil Revenues



• Kerala Takes Citizenship Act to Supreme Court, First State To Do So

• Muslim Lawyer Arrested by UP Police over 'Militant Links' Narrates Ordeal

• Uttar Pradesh: India State Begins Enacting Controversial Citizenship Law

• CAA-NRC: Gaya’s Shanti Bagh Turns into Mini Shaheen Bagh

• UP: 40K non-Muslim immigrants, maximum in Pilibhit

• Interrogation On: Dysp Davinder Singh Sheltered Militants At J&K Home, Say Cops

• Got Rs 12 lakh to help J&K terrorists reach Delhi, admits arrested DSP

• DSP Singh suspended, was ferrying Hizb men to New Delhi for money

• Trucker gunned down by terrorists in Valley, flicker of hope now for his 3 minor children

• Tamil Nadu cop’s murder: 2 key names in terror network emerge

• Two terrorists killed in separate J&K encounters, LeT associate arrested in Ganderbal

• Following Kashmir issue closely, says France after Macron-Modi phone call

• ‘CAA, move on Article 370 will not hurt tourist footfalls in J&K’

• Opposition resolution on CAA must have made Pak happy: Ravi Shankar Prasad

• Jamia violence: Students surround VC demands FIR against police

• China fears fallout from Indian citizenship law



• Pakistan Court Cancels Death Penalty for Musharraf

• Pakistani Cabby in Dubai Saves The Day For Indian Girl Who Lost Her Wallet

• PTI, PML-Q to hold meeting this week over coalition govt matters

• Govt decides to put Maryam Nawaz on ECL in CSM case

• Cafe photo adds to PTI suspicion over Nawaz’s health

• Supreme Court suspends LHC orders for release of missing persons' advocate

• PPP, PML-N lawmakers reject LHC verdict in Musharraf case

• Senate body tells govt to bring tribal districts at par with developed areas

• Govt grilled in KP Assembly over ‘discrimination’ against ex-Fata people

• Saudi Arabian company likely to invest $4bn in renewable energy sector

• German minister lauds Pakistan’s role for regional peace

• US-Iran tensions can hit Afghan peace process, Qureshi tells Saudis


Southeast Asia

• New Mufti of Singapore Wants Practice of Islam to Stay Progressive

• Malaysia to Use Special ID to Control Movement of Foreigners in Sabah

• Chinese Government Threatens, Intimidates and Slanders Uyghur Congress

• Seminar on Extremism Planned in Malaysia

• Mujahid questions why G25 still raising issues over establishment of Jakim

• Video cameras to debut in Kimanis poll

• Sabah DAP slams local opposition parties for supporting Umno, PAS

• Former JKKK chairman charged with CBT involving RM350, 000 meant for mosque

• Malaysia police nab PH state lawmaker and two aides to top officials in anti-drug raid

• Abu Dhabi Crown Prince To Oversee Building Of New Indonesian Capital


North America

• Students, Community Members of Frist South Lawn, Princeton, Protest India's Citizenship Amendment Act

• Trump: ‘Doesn't Really Matter’ If There Was Imminent Threat From Soleimani

• After Florida killings, Saudis withdraw 21 cadets from United States

• Soleimani killing part of new strategy of ‘real deterrence,’ says Pompeo

• US attorney general: Killing Soleimani ‘legitimate,’ Trump had authority

• US expels 21 Saudi military cadets after ‘act of terrorism’ by Saudi officer

• Report: Damage from Iran strikes 'much greater' than US admits

• Trump authorized Soleimani's assassination 7 months ago: Report

• UN says Lebanon made payment to restore UN voting rights



• France, West Africa to Unite Forces in Fight against Extremists

• France and Russia want to safeguard Iran nuclear deal: Macron

• Germany: If int'l troops leave Iraq, Daesh could return

• France: Muslim convicted of hate crime for assaulting Jewish optician

• Senior Iranian investigator to visit Kiev in coming days: Ukraine official

• Five ‘grieving nations’ to discuss Iran airliner attack: Ukrainian FM

• Britain summons Iranian ambassador over Tehran envoy arrest: Govt

• Austria: New government, same old Islamophobia

• UK summons Iran's envoy over ambassador's Tehran arrest

• Libya: Haftar, Sarraj may visit Moscow for crisis talks



• Iran Blasts Trump for "Shedding Crocodile Tears"

• Official: Canada, US, France Refuse to Help Decoding Black Box

• Israeli police raid religious group complex in Jerusalem

• Muqtada Al-Sadr Joins Meeting of Iraqi Popular Forces' Leaders on Expulsion of US Forces

• Judiciary Chief: US President Should Stand Trial for Assassination of General Soleimani

• Senior MP Asks US to Pay $20bln in Compensation to Iraq

• Turkey orders 176 soldiers detained over ties to cleric

• Gov't Spokesman Warns Britain Not to Interfere in Iran's Internal Affairs

• US Force Inside Missile-Showered Base: Iran's Attack 'Extremely Scary'

• UN says reports of violence against Iran protesters ‘worrying’

• Iran arrests son of a Green movement opposition leader: Report

• Iranians must be allowed ‘to protest freely’: Berlin

• Iranian police did not shoot at protesters in Tehran: Police chief

• China slams Washington's 'arbitrary' sanctions on Iran

• Iran’s Rouhani hopes for boosting ties with Oman under new sultan

• Report: Damage from Iran strikes 'much greater' than US admits

• Iran missile strikes shattered Washington’s invincibility myth: Senior Hezbollah official


South Asia

• Bangladeshi Groups Call on Police to Release Sufi Singer

• Hasina Keen to Strengthen Ties with Muslim Countries

• Enraged Iran Up for asymmetric Warfare in Afghanistan

• Afghan government insists on Taliban’s commitment for a ‘complete ceasefire’

• Bombs kill 2 children in Northern Province: Afghan official



• King Of Jordan Warns ISIS On The Rise In Mid East Again

• LNA General Haftar leaves Moscow without signing ceasefire deal: Russia

• Libya’s Haftar, al-Sarraj did not meet officially during Moscow talks

• Macron urges ‘credible, lasting’ Libya ceasefire

• Somalia’s al-Shabaab kill 3 teachers, abduct one in Kenya

• Niger army chief fired after 89 killed in extremist attack


Arab World

• Iraqi Officials Warn Of Economic 'Collapse' If US Cuts Off Access To Oil Revenues

• Syria Opens 3 Humanitarian Corridors for Civilians From Militant-Held Areas In Aleppo, Idlib

• US military deployment in Bahrain illegitimate, not welcome: Opposition

• NGOs boycott pre-G20 meetings in Saudi Arabia over rights violations

• 1,248 students of 49 nationalities join Dubai centre to learn about Islam

• Egypt Mufti Advisor Heads to US for Week-Long Activities About Islam

• Pompeo: US to work with Iraqi leaders on US troop deployment

• Lebanese protesters block road outside central bank

• US troops describe ‘miraculous’ escape at Iraqi base attacked by Iran

• Russia says civilians can flee Syria’s Idlib via three new checkpoints

• Japan making diplomatic efforts to defuse tensions in Gulf: Abe

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau




Kerala takes Citizenship Act to Supreme Court, first state to do so

January 14, 2020

Kerala on Tuesday challenged the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in the Supreme Court, becoming the first state to do so as nationwide protest against the controversial law continue.

Kerala’s petition’s requests the court to declare CAA as illegal for violating of the Constitution’s Article 131, which empowers the Supreme Court to hear disputes between government of India and one or more states, Hindustan Times reported.

It says that the CAA violates right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution of India, right to life under Article 21 and freedom to practise religion under Article 25.

Kerala’s Left Democratic Front government has strongly opposed CAA, passing a resolution against it in the Assembly and criticizing the law in front-page advertisements of at least three national dailies.

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, an ally of the BJP, has spoken against CAA, joining Madhya Pradesh’s Kamal Nath, West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee and Jharkhand’s Hemant Soren in opposing the law.

CAA aims to fast-track citizenship for persecuted Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians who arrived in India before Dec. 31, 2014, from Muslim-majority Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The passing of the bill on December 11 triggered widespread demonstrations in the Assam, as protesters feared it would convert thousands of illegal migrants from neighbouring Muslim-majority Bangladesh into legal residents.

Elsewhere in India, protesters say the citizenship law will be followed by the national register, which they fear is designed by the BJP-led government to expel Muslims who do not have sufficient citizenship documentation.

The government has refuted those allegations and vowed to protect all citizens equally.



Pakistan Court Cancels Death Penalty for Musharraf

By Ayaz Gul

January 13, 2020

ISLAMABAD - A Pakistani court Monday quashed the death sentence handed down to former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, declaring as unlawful the legal process that led to his conviction.

Former President Musharraf, 76, had challenged the formation a special three-judge tribunal which tried and found him guilty of treason in December for subverting the country’s constitution. The offense carries the death penalty under Pakistani laws. 

The ailing former military dictator, who lives in self-imposed exile in Dubai, had denounced the judgment, saying it was the result of a "personal vendetta" and delivered without giving him or his lawyer permission to say “something in his defense.”

On Monday, the high court in the eastern city of Lahore responded to Musharraf’s appeal and overturned the verdict.

Government prosecutor Ishtiaq Khan said the judicial order declared as “unconstitutional” the process of initiating the complaint against Musharraf and the constitution of the special tribunal.

Musharraf's lawyer later also told reporters the court had “nullified” the ruling against his client.

The unprecedented original verdict that handed death sentence to Musharraf also shocked the powerful military, which has ruled Pakistan through direct coups for nearly half of the country's history and indirectly dominates political affairs even during civilian rule.

Musharraf seized power in a bloodless military coup in 1999, an action that had been validated by the Supreme Court at the time, paving the way for him to also become president of Pakistan, while serving as army chief. 

The high treason trial of Musharraf, which began six years ago, stemmed from his suspension of the constitution in 2007 after imposing emergency rule in the country in a bid to cling to power. He also placed top judges, including the then-chief justice, under house arrest for opposing his rule.    

Musharraf later resigned as army chief and stepped down in early 2008 from the presidency, fearing impeachment by the newly-elected Pakistani parliament that was mostly comprised of political parties averse to his rule.



New Mufti Of Singapore Wants Practice Of Islam To Stay Progressive

JAN 11, 2020

The new religious leader for Muslims in Singapore wants to continue ensuring that the practice of Islam remains progressive.

Dr Nazirudin Mohd Nasir, 43, who is currently deputy Mufti, will take over on March 1, when Mufti Mohamed Fatris Bakaram, 49, retires after nine years in office.

The Mufti is Singapore's highest Islamic authority and oversees key religious rulings for Muslims here.

Dr Nazirudin told reporters yesterday: "We hope for the support and prayers of the community... to continue to provide guidance, to engage different stakeholders... to ensure the practice of Islam is progressive and brings about goodness to ourselves and to the rest of society."

Dr Nazirudin, who was speaking on the sidelines of the 10th anniversary celebration of Rahmatan Lil Alamin Foundation, a charity under the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), will be the fourth Mufti in Muis' history.

Dr Fatris said: "I am grateful that... we have managed to deliberate on difficult issues in a progressive manner that we think is needed by the community to move forward."

Some of these issues included joint tenancy, Central Provident Fund nominations and approval of the milk bank to save premature babies.

Dr Fatris added that Dr Nazirudin has the capability, experience and maturity to take on the role.

"That is the main reason I am confident that it is time to pass on the baton," Dr Fatris said.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources and Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli said in a Facebook post: "We respect Dr Fatris' decision; he decided it was time he made way for younger leaders to step up."

Mr Masagos added that leadership renewal was important for the community.

"It ensures that our Malay/Muslim organisations remain strong and responsive to the needs of our community. Talent development and grooming future leaders are key to achieving our vision of a community of success," he said.

Dr Nazirudin will be supported by two deputy muftis: Ustaz Mohd Murat Md Aris and Ustaz Mohammad Hannan Hassan.



Students, Community Members Of Frist South Lawn, Princeton, Protest India's Citizenship Amendment Act

Jan 12, 2020

Around 100 students, professors, and community members gathered on Saturday outside of Frist Campus Center to learn about and protest against the Indian government’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), enacted on Dec. 11.

The CAA offers citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Christians, and Parsis from India’s neighboring countries (specifically Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh) who are facing and have faced religious persecution. Notably, the CAA excludes Muslims, who comprise the majority of India’s non-Hindu population, according to India’s most recent census.

The undergraduates who organized the teach-in and silent protest stood in solidarity with student protestors in India, who first demonstrated at Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), two predominantly Muslim universities, and now include thousands of people across the country. In recent weeks, the Indian government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has cracked down on protestors, with 25 deaths reported as of Jan. 10.

“I can stand here and feel assured — as I should be — that I’m not going to be tear-gassed and dragged away, and that is not a reality for students [in India],” said Aparna Shankar ’21, one of the student organizers. While home for winter break, Shankar participated in protests — including a march led by a coalition of women, trans, and queer people — in New Delhi.

The organizers previously circulated a statement of solidarity, published with 215 student signatures in The Daily Princetonian on Dec. 21. According to Shankar, they are currently working with the cross-institutional organization Holi Against Hindutva, and members of the University’s Hindu Society have signed on to their open letter. The letter was written by Yale South Asian Society Political Chair Shreeya Singh and edited by Kamya Yadav ’21.

The protest comes on the heels of a Jan. 5 incident, when masked assailants attacked anti-CAA and Muslim students at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), sending 30 people to the hospital, while police stationed at the university reportedly stood by. The event also falls within a wave of anti-CAA campus protests around the world, including at peer institutions such as Harvard and Oxford, that took place in late December in light of events in Jamia where law enforcement fired bullets on unarmed citizens on Dec. 15.

For many of the protestors, the matter is not only political, but also personal.

“I’m from India, so I feel really personally invested,” said Kanishkh Kanodia ’23. “Just because we’re not in India doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do.”

Kanodia is a contributor for The Daily Princetonian.

Others attended to fill gaps in their knowledge.

“I heard it’s a teach-in, and I wanted to learn more,” said Akshay Yelleshpur Skrikant, an attendee and a graduate student in the physics department.

Herself an alumnus of JNU and an assistant professor of history at the University, Divya Cherian opened the event with an explanation of the CAA, the National Register of Citizens (NRC), and the ways in which she believes the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), headed by Modi, aims to use both to discriminate against Muslims.

Cherian explained that a national register published in December found 1.9 million people living illegally in Assam, a northeastern region of India. Surprisingly for the BJP, many of the people listed were not Muslims, but rather Hindus — a finding that was “politically expensive” for the party, according to Cherian.

“But as we say in India, not to worry, they had a back-up plan,” she said. “That back-up plan was the CAA.”

Cherian said skeptics may ask protestors “what is wrong with knowing who is your citizen and who is not, with counting every person in your domain and verifying who is legally here and who is not?” To these objections, she would respond by saying that India never had the kinds of documentation one would need to prove citizenship, with many people lacking birth certificates or having birth certificates from sources other than the official health department.

“This is where the CAA and this list of citizens combine beautifully,” she added. “The people who are found to be non-citizens, who are Hindu, who are Jain, who are Sikh — basically everyone who is not Muslim — will be caught by the CAA and be put on the path to citizenship.”

“And what will happen to every single Muslim who is not able to prove by this impossible standard that they are citizens of India is that they will be put in detention camps,” thus rendering swaths of the population permanently stateless, she continued. “There is one already in Assam, in Punjab, and many more I’m sure will be built.”

Gyan Prakash, another JNU alum and the Dayton-Stockton Professor of History at the University, spoke next, commending the student organizers. He found it fitting that young people had organized the event, as he had observed in New Delhi two weeks prior, “not only the entire city, but the entire nation, was consumed by protests that were all organized and led by students.”

Prakash emphasized that the protesters’ message is “We are Muslims and Indians, not Muslims but Indians.” He criticized those who have advised Muslim women not to display or embrace their religious identity during the protests.

“Why wouldn’t they?” he asked. “Their religious identity is under attack.  It’s been attacked since 2014 at least … So, women come in their hijabs, come with their Muslim symbols, and assert they are Muslim citizens.”

To finish his speech, Prakash led a call-and-response chant of “What do we want?” with the audience demanding “Azaadi,” which translates to “freedom” from Hindi. 

Sadaf Jaffer, a postdoctoral research associate at the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS) and New Jersey’s first female South Asian mayor, addressed protestors next, remarking that the past few weeks “have been some very dark times” and reflecting on her personal love for India.

She called on attendees to sign the open letter drafted by the Global Indian Progressive Alliance, call or email their congressional representatives, and speak out against hate where they see it.

The guest speakers were followed by several undergraduate students, beginning with Moin Mir ’22, a native of Kashmir, a Muslim-majority territory in northern India of about seven million people. Kashmir has been subject to five months of a digital communications blackout, part of what Mir described as the “longest blockade in any democracy ever.”

“News that does manage to come out of the region is mostly through local journalists, who are working without the Internet and with the administration constantly on their backs,” he explained.

“Indiscriminate detention of kids as young as 13, nighttime raids, propagation of fear among the masses by showing military might, use of pellet guns on unarmed teenagers, mental torture, sexual violence … this is the normal of Kashmir,” Mir said. “This is the normal I had to grow up watching.”

Mir went on to say that the world is now seeing the brutality of India’s government unfold on a massive scale, reflecting the militarized occupation under which Kashmiris have suffered for decades.

“The silence of the Indian left on the crimes of the Indian state in Kashmir is nothing but sheer hypocrisy,” he said, adding that he applauds the organizers of the event for not “forcing their own narrative of Kashmir” when they had the chance to let a Kashmiri speak for himself.

Kanodia, who spoke of India’s secularism as one of its fundamental tenets, followed Mir. Kanodia condemned the BJP’s singular agenda to undermine that secularism in favor of a Hindu nationalist, or “Hindutva,” state. 

“Hinduism is unique because it promotes inclusiveness,” he said. “Hindutva promotes exclusivity, promotes fear and hatred against Islam, against Christianity, against all the religions of the world.”

Students went on to address the stifling of free speech in India, the suppression of student activism, and the potentially harmful rhetoric in the Indian diaspora.

“The beginning of any revolution, any force of resistance, is education,” said Yadav, the final speaker, and thanked everyone who attended the teach-in.

At the conclusion of the event, organizer Arya Goel ’20 led the crowd in a recitation of the preamble to the Constitution of India.

The event was co-sponsored by the Carl A. Fields Center and the University’s South Asian Students Association and took place at 3 p.m. on Jan. 12. Organizers are currently in talks with other undergraduate and graduate students on creating a more long-term coalition for discussing and holding events on these issues, according to Shankar.



Trump: ‘Doesn't really matter’ if there was imminent threat from Soleimani

13 January 2020

US President Donald Trump has doubled down on the insanity of the assassination of the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), saying Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani should have been killed 20 years ago.

On Monday Trump contended Soleimani posed an impending threat to the United States but also said that was not important given his past, after NBC News revealed that had authorized the US military to assassinate General Soleimani seven months ago.

The officials told NBC News that former US National Security Adviser John Bolton had urged Trump to sign off on an operation to kill Soleimani after Iran shot down a US drone that had violated Iranian airspace in June.

The new report further contradicts the Trump administration's publicly stated justification for ordering the US drone strike that killed Soleimani. US officials have claimed that Soleimani was killed because he was planning “imminent attacks” on Americans.

"The Fake News Media and their Democrat Partners are working hard to determine whether or not the future attack by… Soleimani was 'eminent' or not, & was my team in agreement," Trump tweeted Monday morning, incorrectly spelling imminent.

"The answer to both is a strong YES., but it doesn’t really matter because of his horrible past!" he added.

Trump later said the media and Democrats are trying to make “Soleimani into a wonderful guy, only because I did what should have been done for 20 years.”

Trump pushed the US and Iran to the brink of war last week when he ordered a drone strike that assassinated General Soleimani in Baghdad. Iran responded early on Wednesday with a barrage of missile strikes hitting a key airbase hosting American forces in western Iraq.

Trump's national security officials have contradicted each other several times over the reasons for the assassination. The claim that Soleimani was planning “imminent attacks” against the US has been met with widespread suspicion and skepticism in the US. The idea of killing Soleimani also came up in discussions in 2017 that Trump's national security adviser at the time, H.R. McMaster, was having with other senior advisers, officials said.

The plan to assassinate Soleimani was part of Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran and "was not something that was thought of as a first move," said a former senior administration official involved in the discussions.



France, West Africa to unite forces in fight against extremists

14 January 2020

France and five West African states agreed on Monday to combine their military forces under one command structure to fight growing extremist militancy in the Sahel region, with Paris committing an extra 220 troops.

French President Emmanuel Macron had called the leaders of Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Mauritania, known as the G5, to the southwestern French town of Pau to discuss the battle against insurgents in the Sahel, an arid region just below the Sahara desert.

With growing anti-French sentiment in the five countries over Paris’ handling of an insurgency by extermists that has seen hundreds of their soldiers killed in recent weeks, Macron had warned that he could withdraw French troops without a clear political commitment from them.

France, the former colonial power, has 4,500 troops in Mali and the wider Sahel, but security has been progressively worsening. Macron said the situation had now been clarified.

Militants linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS have strengthened their foothold, making large swathes of territory ungovernable and stoking ethnic violence, especially in Mali and Burkina Faso.

“Today, more than ever, the fact is that the results, despite the effort, are below the expectations of the population,” Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Kabore told a joint news conference. “It’s for this reason that we have decided to review the deployment and redefine the pillars for our future action.”

The new structure, named Coalition for the Sahel, brings the G5 states, French forces and any future troops under a single command. It aims to enable joint operations, greater intelligence-sharing and quicker response time in particular for French forces in the border areas linking Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, where the insurgency is at its worst.

Concerns over US presence

Criticized in France for allowing French troops to get bogged down and facing growing hostility in West Africa for failing to restore stability, Macron has become increasingly frustrated, but the French leader appeared satisfied with Monday’s results.

Another 220 French troops will be sent to give fresh momentum to the fight with more European special forces expected to join in the coming months, he said.

“The priority is ISIS in the Grand Sahara. ... It is our priority because it is the most dangerous,” Macron said. “We have no choice, we need results.”

French troops were hailed as heroes in 2013 when their intervention helped prevent an Islamist militant push to the Malian capital, Bamako.

But their standing has slipped as the security situation deteriorated. At least 89 local soldiers were killed in a suspected terrorist attack on an army base in Niger this weekend, four security sources said.

Pau, the location of the summit, is home to a helicopter regiment which saw several of its French soldiers killed in a helicopter collision in Mali in November.

Macron said he was also worried of a possible withdrawal by the United States military in the area. It provides intelligence, logistical and drone support for France’s forces. There have been mixed signals from Washington that it could pull out.

“If the Americans were to decide to leave Africa it would be really bad news for us,” Macron said. “I hope to be able to convince President (Donald) Trump that the fight against terrorism also plays out in this region.”



Iran Blasts Trump for "Shedding Crocodile Tears"

Jan 13, 2020

"While the Iranian nation was mourning [for the loss of their dear ones in the Ukrainian plane incident], Trump shed crocodile tears for people in Persian language and claimed that he was standing beside the Iranian people," Iranian Government Spokesman Ali Rabiyee told reporters in a press conference in Tehran today.

He added that the Iranian people do not forget that Trump is the same person who threatened to bomb 52 cultural points in Iran after assassinating popular IRGC Qods Force Commander Lieutenant General Qassemi Soleimani, adding that the current problems related to the shortage of medicine for special patients in Iran have been created due to Washington's sanctions.

Rabiyee said the US president has been a source of discourage for the Iranian nation through his withdrawal from the nuclear deal "and now he takes the gesture of a supporter and sympathizer with our nation".

Trump's tweet in Persian language came after dozens of people protested outside a university in downtown Tehran to denounce officials' belated confirmation of a Ukrainian passenger plane unintentionally downed outside the Iranian capital.

"To the brave, long-suffering people of Iran: I’ve stood with you since the beginning of my Presidency, and my Administration will continue to stand with you. We are following your protests closely, and are inspired by your courage,” wrote Trump.

Shortly after the tweets in Farsi, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi asked the US president not to defile the Persian language.

"Hands and tongues smeared with threatening, sanctioning and terrorizing the Iranian nation, are not entitled to dishonor the ancient Persian language,” Mousavi tweeted late Sunday.



Bangladeshi Groups Call on Police to Release Sufi Singer


Political and cultural organizations in Bangladesh are demanding the unconditional release of a prominent Sufi singer who was arrested under the Digital Security Act after a Muslim cleric complained that the performer had defamed Islam and its prophet at a concert.

Shariat Sarker, 40, who has been remanded to police custody following his Jan. 10 arrest, during a concert in late December had allegedly criticized mullahs who oppose singing. The footage was posted to YouTube, and Sarker had since offered a 5 million taka (U.S. $50,000) challenge to anyone who could prove that Islam forbids singing.

“We arrested him on Friday after receiving a complaint filed over his remarks about cap wearing maulanas (Islamic clerics) as well as the Prophet Muhammad. We questioned him in custody and found the allegations to be true,” said Sayedur Rahman, the officer in charge at the Mirzapur police station in Tangail district, near Dhaka.

If convicted, Sarker could face 10 years in prison, according to media reports.

The former president of the Bangladesh Students Union said Sarker’s arrest muzzled free speech and differences of opinion.

“It is a violation of people’s rights to free expression,” Baki Billah told BenarNews. “The situation of Bangladesh has been worsening day by day as the government is sticking to power by compromising with the hardline Islamists.”

Sarker belongs to the Bauls of Bengal, an order of wandering folk singers who, for centuries, have conveyed a message of love, harmony and peace through their songs.

Cleric Maulana Faridul Islam filed the case alleging that the singer’s comments hurt the religious sentiment of Muslims. Hundreds of Muslims organized protests in Mirzapur and Tangail, branding the singer an apostate.

“Sarker has made many filthy remarks about our prophet and the clerics. I have filed the case on behalf of those who are seriously hurt,” the cleric told BenarNews. “We want tougher punishment for the apostate so that none can dare comment about anything defaming Islam in the future.”

Former Information Minister Hasanul Huq Inu, who serves as president of the Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal political party, and party general secretary Shirin Akhter condemned the singer’s arrest.

In a statement, they described it and previous arrests of other singers as unforgivable offenses. The two demanded the removal of officials and police who undertake such actions in alliance with extremists and fundamentalist forces.

Since 2014 when six bauls were attacked, the group’s members have faced attacks by extremists and militants, members said.

Sarker made his remarks while responding to another singer during the performance, according to Peer Pagol Majed Chan Al Chisti, a prominent baul. The nearly one-hour video has since been removed.

“Sarker has become a victim of the conflicts between Sufis and Wahhabi Islamists. The followers of Wahhabi Islam have filed a case against him, misinterpreting his statement,” Majed Chan told BenarNews.

“There is nothing mentioned specifically in the Quran to forbid music. There are some musical instruments which are still being used in Saudi Arabia,” he said, adding that he and other bauls would take to the streets in protest if the singer was not released.



King of Jordan warns ISIS on the rise in Mid East again

13 January 2020

King Abdullah of Jordan on Monday warned that ISIS was regrouping and was once again on the rise in the Middle East.

Months after the ousting of ISIS last year from their last Syrian holdout, Abdullah said his “major concern is that we have seen over the past year the re-establishment and rise of ISIS, not only in southern eastern Syria but also in western Iraq.

“We have to deal with the reemergence of ISIS,” the king added in an interview with TV channel France 24 ahead of talks this week in Brussels, Strasbourg and Paris. He also said many foreign fighters from Syria were now in Libya.

“From a European perspective, with Libya being much closer to Europe, this is going to be an important discussion in the next couple of days,” Abdullah said.

“Several thousand fighters have left Idlib (Syria) through the northern border and have ended up in Libya, that is something that we in the region but also our European friends will have to address in 2020.”

Regarding last week’s spiking of tensions between Iran and the United States, Abdullah said he hoped that “in the next several months we set the right tone for the region, which is really to bring the temperature down”.

“So far it looks like de-escalation, we hope that that continues to be the trend. We can’t afford instability in our part of the world.

“Whatever happens in Tehran will affect Baghdad, Amman, Beirut, the Israeli Palestinian process.”

Abdullah added that the recent deployment of Turkish troops in a training capacity to Libya “will only create more confusion” in the country.

Both sides in Libya’s conflict agreed to a ceasefire from Sunday to end nine months of fighting, following weeks of international diplomacy and calls for a truce by power-brokers Russia and Turkey.

A UN report in November said several countries were violating the arms embargo on Libya in place since the overthrow of former Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.

The Libyan National Army has reportedly received backing from the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Egypt and Russia, while Turkey backs the UN-recognized Government of National Accord and voted this month to allow a troop deployment to the North African country.

Jordan, whose stability is seen as vital for the volatile Middle East, hosts some 1.3 million refugees from neighboring war-torn Syria.



Iraqi officials warn of economic 'collapse' if US cuts off access to oil revenues

13 January 2020

Iraqi officials have warned of economic "collapse" if the United States makes good on its threat to cut off its access to a US-based key bank account where oil revenues are kept.

President Donald Trump is angered by the Iraqi parliament voting on January 5 to oust all US forces following Washington's assassination of Iran's General Qassem Soleimani and Iraq's Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Trump has said if US troops were asked to leave, he would charge the Iraqis "sanctions like they've never seen before." On Friday, he suggested blocking some $35 billion of Iraqi money "right now sitting in an account" in the United States.

Agence France-Presse quoted two unnamed Iraqi officials as saying that Washington had delivered an extraordinary verbal message directly to the office of Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi.

The office "got a call threatening that if US troops are kicked out, 'we' -- the US -- will block your account at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York," one official said.

Iraq is the second largest oil producer of OPEC and its oil revenues --which are paid in dollars into the Fed account daily-- fund 90 percent of the national budget.

"We're an oil-producing country. Those accounts are in dollars. Cutting off access means totally turning off the tap," the first Iraqi official said.

The second official said, "It would mean collapse for Iraq." He said the government would not be able to carry out daily functions or pay salaries, adding that such a move would prompt the Iraqi currency to fall in value.

The Central Bank of Iraq's account at the Fed was established in 2003 following the US invasion that toppled ex-dictator Saddam Hussein. According to Iraqi officials the balance now is sitting at about $35 billion.

Trump said Friday he had told Abdul-Mahdi that Iraq "should pay back the United States for its investments in the country over the past several years or the American military will stay there," Fox News reported.

"If we leave ... you have to pay us for the money we put in," the US president said.

Asked how he planned to collect money from Iraq, Trump said: "Well, we have a lot of their money right now. We have a lot of their money. We have $35 billion of their money right now sitting in an account.

A third top Iraqi official acknowledged that Washington was mulling "restricting" cash access to "about a third of what they would usually send."

"You can imagine why, if troops were expelled, banks might be nervous about sending lots of... cash to Baghdad," the official said.

The US threat comes even as the Federal Reserve Bank is supposed to be independent of foreign policy.

"The attempt to politicize dollar shipments has the Bank worried because it affects its prestige and integrity in dealing with clients," the State Department official said, adding "Trump is obviously willing to politicize everything."

According to AFP, the measure has been considered by Washington for months even before the vote.

A senior US diplomat at the Baghdad embassy told AFP in July that the US was looking at "limiting the cash that comes into Iraq."

"That would be the nuclear option," the diplomat added back then.

US to 'lose Iraq'

Iraqi officials said the US threat to deny access to oil revenues had been met with shock, outrage and near-disbelief.

"The PM was pissed and insulted," one official said, while another warned that the US would then irreversibly "lose Iraq."

"They'd push us towards Russia, China, Iran. We'd have to form a separate economy with those countries," the official added.

The US, backed by the UK, invaded Iraq in 2003 under the pretext that the former regime of Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. No such weapons were ever found in the country.

The invasion, however, plunged Iraq into chaos and led to the rise of terrorist groups across the region.

About 5,200 American forces are currently deployed across Iraq.





Muslim Lawyer Arrested by UP Police Over 'Militant Links' Narrates Ordeal

Shruti Jain

January 14, 2020

Jaipur: “You have come here to incite riots,” is what Uttar Pradesh repeatedly told Mohammad Faizal, a Rajasthan-based 24-year-old Muslim advocate after he was arrested during an anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protest in December.

Faizal had gone to Shamli to offer legal aid to protesters who had been arrested. “I was in court when the Special Operations Group (SOG) team came to arrest me in the evening. I told them that I’m an advocate and also showed them my bar council of Rajasthan’s registration but they didn’t accept it and called it bogus,” said Faizal in a press conference in Jaipur on Monday.

“The police repeatedly told me that I have come from West Bengal to incite riots and kept on torturing me,” he added.

On December 22, an FIR was registered against Faizal (named as lawyer in the FIR), Shadab, Ahmad and 700 unknown person under Sections 143 (punishment for unlawful assembly), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), 153A (promoting enmity between groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code.

The FIR stated that the accused were organising an anti-CAA protest in breach of Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) implemented in the area.

“Faizal along with three other men was involved in inciting violence and distributing objectionable pamphlets. We have also recovered data from his phone as proof that he is a Popular Front of India (PFI) member,” Dharmendra Yadav, a police officer at Shamli police station had told The Wire.

Social activists in Jaipur claimed that the UP police is after National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations (NCHRO) because it is linked to the PFI, a Muslim organisation that is seen as radical. Its cadres present mostly across Kerala and Karnataka.

Some NCHRO members are associated with PFI. Faizal, an NCHRO member in Rajasthan, had gone to UP on NCHRO’s request to offer legal aid to protestors arrested there.

Faizal’s family had earlier denied any links to PFI.

Faizal received bail on January 2 and was released on January 7. He said that the local newspapers in UP have declared him as the “mastermind” behind the anti-CAA protests in UP.

Condemning Faizal’s unlawful arrest, People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) president Kavita Srivastava said the UP police is trying to kill free speech and is threatening citizens’ right to organise.

“First, they isolated Muslims and now they don’t even want them to come out in protest. The protesters were already detained and then the UP police took away their right of defence too. They took away the right to defend as well as defence,” she said.

“We will take his petition to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and demand that CAA/NRC be taken back,” she added.

At the press conference, Chaitanya Khandelwal, a research scholar from Ambedkar University, said, “It is wrongly being portrayed by some media organisations that the anti-CAA protests are led by Muslims only. In reality, people from all the religions are participating in the protest. This law is not just against Muslims, its against the idea of India. It encourages that people can be divided over religion.”

A member of the Bar Council of Rajasthan said that the FIR against Faizal was sketchy and the police had recovered only a pamphlet from Faizal which criticised the Supreme Court decision in the Babri Masjid case.



Uttar Pradesh: India state begins enacting controversial citizenship law

13 January 2020

India's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, has begun identifying illegal migrants who might be eligible for citizenship under a controversial law.

State minister Shrikant Sharma told reporters that the government had identified around 32,000 people in 21 of the state's 80 districts.

The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) offers citizenship to non-Muslims from three nearby Muslim-majority countries.

Violent protests against it have killed 30 people in Uttar Pradesh alone.

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government says the CAA will protect people from persecution, but critics say it's part of a "Hindu nationalist" drive to marginalise India's more than 200 million Muslims.

Adding to the fears is a government pledge to carry out a widespread exercise to weed out "infiltrators" from neighbouring countries. Given that the exercise relies on extensive documentation to prove that their ancestors lived in India, many Muslim citizens fear that they could be made stateless.

Uttar Pradesh, whose state government is also ruled by the BJP, has a large Muslim population. Many of them took to the streets in protest, with some demonstrations turning violent.

The government has been accused of using disproportionate force against protesters. Many of those who died were allegedly killed as a result of police firing.

Despite the concerns, Mr Sharma said the state had begun identifying migrants under the act, given that it came into effect earlier this month. He added that the process had just started, and he expected the number to increase as more data came in from other districts.

What is the law about?

The act offers amnesty to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from three neighbouring Muslim-majority countries.

It amends India's 64-year-old citizenship law, which currently prohibits illegal migrants from becoming Indian citizens.

It also expedites the path to Indian citizenship for members of six religious minority communities - Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian - if they can prove that they are from Pakistan, Afghanistan or Bangladesh. They will now only have to live or work in India for six years - instead of 11 years - before becoming eligible to apply for citizenship.

It also says people holding Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards - an immigration status permitting a foreign citizen of Indian origin to live and work in India indefinitely - can lose their status if they violate local laws for both major and minor offences and violations.

How bad have the protests been?

Protests against the law have been spread across the country, and several have resulted in violence.

Police were criticised for using force against protesting university students in the capital Delhi and in Uttar Pradesh.

Subsequently, large marches have been held in solidarity with students and against the law.

Huge demonstrations have been held in the capital Delhi, as well as in the major cities of Mumbai, Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), Bangalore and Hyderabad.

Protests in the northern cities of Kanpur and Muzzafarnagar saw violence and several deaths.

Full report at:



CAA-NRC: Gaya’s Shanti Bagh turns into mini Shaheen Bagh

January 13, 2020

Shanti Bagh (Gaya/Bihar): On a cold January afternoon, Dulari Devi and Shaziya Perween, sit under the open sky, singing national songs and Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poems. In between, they also join slogans raised by others at the sit-in protest against CAA-NRC, turning the site into a mini Shaheen Bagh in Delhi, where a sit-in protest, mainly by women, has been going on for over 25 days.

The protest in Shanti Bagh in Gaya, where hundreds of people, mainly women and students, have gathered, has been going on 24×7 since December 29, but has hardly drawn any media attention so far. But, undeterred, the sit-in protest is continuing with overwhelming support from the common people in Gaya town, widely known as the holy land where Gautam Buddha attained enlightenment.

The protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) at Shanti Bagh is the only of its kind in Bihar, and entered the 14th day on Saturday.

As the name Shanti Bagh (Peace Garden) suggests, the protestors have been talking peace, following a peaceful path of protest and sending have been sending messages of social harmony to strengthen idea of Mahatma Gandhi’s India, that is inclusive.

“I have been coming here daily since the past 10 days to join the ongoing sit-in protest against CAA-NRC, which is not only unconstitutional, but is also against the basic fundamental rights of citizens. I will not go back till CAA is repealed by the Central government”, said Dulari Devi, a housewife, who lives not far away from Shanti Bagh.

Dulari is one among hundreds of women who are regular at this sit-in protest. There are others like Nusrat Hasan, Mamta Devi, Naghma Perween, Fatima Khan, Karuna Kumari, Mariyam Farhad, Suman Saurya, Rozy Khatoon, who have been spending hours at the sit-in protest to express their opposition to CAA-NRC.

Slogans of Inquilab Zindabad (Long Live Revolution), Ladenge Jeetenge (We Shall Fight, We Shall Win), Hindustan Zindabad (Long Live India) regularly rent the air, while a few youth on a small stage set up in Shanti Bagh grounds keep raising slogans and different speakers express their views. Colourful placards, posters and banners dot the protest site.

Another protester, Shaziya, said “singing national songs and reciting Faiz and other poems gives us confidence and keeps all of us warm in this cold weather under the open sky.”

Naghma, covering her head to save herself from the cold wind, said Shanti Bagh’s sit-in protest was an example of Hindu-Muslim unity to peacefully fight against CAA-NRC.

“Anyone can come and see that if Naghma, Farzana Perween, Kahkashan and Wasim Naiyar Ansari are here, then there are Mamta Devi, Suman Saurya, Mukesh Kumar, Muni Devi, Rajendar Yadav and Mukesh Choudhary also”, she adds.

Karuna Kumari said: “We are taking part in the sit-in protest here despite bone-chilling cold since last December and will continue till it the end. It is wrong to say that only Muslims are protesting against CAA-NRC. Hundreds of non-Muslims, particularly Hindus, Christian and Sikhs also taking part, and I am one of them”.

Satish Kumar Das, an active face behind the sit-in protest being held under the banner of Samvidhan Bachao Morcha, said oeople from all walks of life and communities have been making it a protest with a difference, something never seen in decades in Gaya. “People in large numbers gather here every day to save the Constitution from the biggest attack”, he said.

Das said the participation of women in the sit-in protest is more than expected, as more than 1,000 of them are turning up daily on an average.

“It is a big number for a small town,” he added.

Shanti Bagh’s sit-in protest has turned into a mini Shaheen Bagh in Delhi, where the protest, mainly led by women, has been going on since mid-December. The only difference is that Shaheen Bagh has hit international and national headlines, while the Shanti Bagh protest has hardly made new, except as a small news item in local Hindi dailies,” Das, who runs Ambedkar Sangharsh Morcha, told NewsClick.

Das is right, as very few people outside Gaya are aware of Shanti Bagh’s sit-in protest despite the fact that it has been drawing huge crowds and has become a platform to express anger, unhappiness and peaceful resistance.

The convenor of Samvidhan Bachao Morcha, Omair Khan alias Tikka Khan, said the protest was going on round the clock. ”There are no less than 4,000-5,000 people here on a daily basis. The number increases on Saturday and Sunday. More than 200 protesters, mainly youths, stay here at night after different programmes end. We sing songs, recite poems, organise talks. This is something new for Gaya. People are joining on their own for a cause to save the Constitution”, he added.

But, unlike Shaheen Bagh in Delhi, several Opposition political party leaders have addressed the protesters here, including senior Congress leader Nikhil Kumar, who is the former Governor of Kerala, former Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who is president of Hindustani Awami Morcha, former Speaker of Bihar Assembly, Uday Narayan Choudhary, former minister and Congress MLA Awadesh Singh, RJD MLAs Surendar Yadav and Samta Devi, former JNUSU president Shakil Ahmad Khan, who is a Congress MLA, and former MP Pappu Yadav. Left party leaders and members have also been taking part in the sit-in protest.

Shamshir Khan, an activist and coordinator at the sit in protest, said they had requested former JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar and former IAS officer Kannan Gopinathan to also join and address the protestors in the coming days.

Prof Mashroor Ahmad, who teaches Physics at Gaya-based Mirza Ghalib College, said Shanti Bagh’s protest was a joint Hindu-Muslim action, who have come together to fight for a larger national cause. ”The message is clear from here — that youths, students, women and the elderly from all communities come together to save the Constitution,” he added.

Danish Ahmad Khan and Shoib Akhtar, who have been regularly coming to the protest site, said they join the crowd in singing national and revolutionary songs and poems to express solidarity with all those standing against CAA and NRC.

Das said the sit-in would continue here till the Central government scraps CAA-NRC. ”We know that the district administration has not given us permission for a sit-in protest in Shanti Bagh, but we are protesting thanks to the support of the people”.

In Gaya, the police have lodged cases against 67 people and arrested four people on charges of violence during the anti-CAA protest march on December 16.

“Innocent people were named in the FIRs and those arrested were poor people, earning their livelihood by selling vegetables and doing odd jobs” said Das.

Meanwhile, peaceful protests against CAA-NRC continue across Bihar, including by students in Patna University.

Full report at:



UP: 40K non-Muslim immigrants, maximum in Pilibhit

January 13, 2020

Lucknow: Of the 40,000 odd non-Muslim illegal immigrants living in Uttar Pradesh, 30,000 to 35,000 are living in Pilibhit district alone.

According to a report prepared by the Yogi Adityanath government that has been sent to the Centre, these are mainly Hindu refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

These refugees are living here for over 19 districts in the state.

The report prepared by the state government is titled, “Uttar Pradesh Mein Aaye Pakistan, Afghanistan Evam Bangladesh ke Sharnarthiyon ki Aap-beeti Kahani” and details the personal stories of the refugees.

Uttar Pradesh has become the first state in the country to begin the process for implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

Last week, the home department had asked all district magistrates to identify refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who had been living in their respective areas and submit a list to the government.

The report has found that there are around 40,000 non-Muslim illegal immigrants in UP, mostly in the 19 districts of Agra, Rae Bareli, Saharanpur, Gorakhpur, Aligarh, Rampur, Muzaffarnagar, Hapur, Mathura, Kanpur, Pratapgarh, Varanasi, Amethi, Jhansi, Bahraich, Lakhimpur Kheri, Lucknow, Meerut and Pilibhit.

Full report at:



Interrogation on: DySP Davinder Singh sheltered militants at J&K home, say cops

by Bashaarat Masood

January 14, 2020

The suspended Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Superintendent of Police (DySP) who was arrested along with two Hizbul Mujahideen militants on Saturday evening had given shelter to the terrorists at his home in a high-security Srinagar locality, it has emerged from their interrogation, the police said on Monday.

DySP Davinder Singh, who was posted with Srinagar airport’s anti-hijacking unit, was suspended on Monday.

“It is a rule (service rule) that whenever a government official is arrested (and) taken into custody, he is automatically suspended. The same is applied to him (Singh),” Additional Director General of Police, Security, Muneer Khan told The Indian Express.

Singh was arrested in a police operation on Saturday evening on Srinagar-Jammu national highway. Two militants — Syed Naveed Mushtaq, a top Hizbul Mujahideen militant, and Rafi Rather — and Irfan Shafi, an advocate who is said to be their associate, were also in the Jammu-bound car, the police had said.

Police sources said Singh, who was awarded the President’s medal for gallantry last year, and the arrested militants have revealed during interrogation that the militants were hiding at Singh’s residence in Srinagar’s Indira Nagar.

A highly fortified locality, Indira Nagar is in Badamibagh Cantonment area and several top Army, police and civil administration officers, as well as politicians, live there.

The car allegedly left Singh’s Srinagar residence on Saturday and was headed towards Jammu, and then possibly would have moved further on to Delhi, sources said. The police on Saturday night had raided Singh Indira Nagar residence and recovered two rifles.

“That the militants were putting up at such a fortified high-security area seems to have been a serious security breach,” a senior police officer said. “It was a serious security risk and…the area could have been the target of militants.”

Another officer said Singh has always brought bad name to the police. “He has demoralised the entire police force,” the officer said.

Full report at:



Got Rs 12 lakh to help J&K terrorists reach Delhi, admits arrested DSP

Jan 14, 2020

SRINAGAR: Deputy superintendent of police Davinder Singh, who was arrested on Saturday along with two Hizb terrorists and a Hizb overground worker in Kulgam, has told his interrogators that he had received Rs 12 lakh from the terrorists to ferry them to Jammu and then Chandigarh for their onward journey to New Delhi, IG (Kashmir) Vijay Kumar told the media here on Monday. Intelligence sources said the terrorists planned to carry out attacks on Republic Day.

The DSP was suspended on Monday and is likely to be stripped of all his awards, including the President’s Police Medal for anti-militancy operations.

Davinder, who was interrogated by various intelligence agencies, including IB, military intelligence and RAW, besides the police, has disclosed that he had put up the terrorists at his Indira Nagar house in Srinagar, right next to the Army’s 15 Corps HQ, and thereafter accompanied them to Jammu in a Maruti car driven by the Hizb overground worker, intelligence sources claimed.

Meanwhile, sources said the Union home ministry may hand over the case to the NIA to find the real motive of the terrorists, Davinder’s links to terrorism and whether he had helped terrorists in the past as well.

The two Hizb terrorists arrested with Davinder are Naveed Babu alias Babar Azam, a resident of Nazneenpora in south Kashmir’s Shopian district, and his associate Rafi Ahmad Rather. The Hizb overground worker, identified as Irfan Shafi Mir, was driving the vehicle when it was intercepted by the police on Saturday. Irfan Shafi Mir has travelled to Pakistan five times on his passport.

Full report at:



DSP Singh suspended, was ferrying Hizb men to New Delhi for money

Jan 13, 2020

SRINAGAR: Deputy superintendent of police Davinder Singh, who was arrested on Saturday along with two Hizb terrorists and a Hizb overground worker (OGW) at Mir Bazar in Kulgam, near Qazigund, has allegedly told his interrogators he had received Rs 12 lakh from the terrorists to ferry them to Jammu and then Chandigarh for their onward journey to New Delhi to carry out terror attacks on Republic Day, according to sources in the intelligence agencies. The DSP was suspended on Monday.

Davinder Singh, who was interrogated by various intelligence agencies, including IB, Military Intelligence and RAW, besides the police, has disclosed that he had put up the terrorists at his Indira Nagar house in Srinagar, right next to the Army’s 15 Corps HQ, and thereafter accompanied them to Jammu in a white Maruti car driven by the Hizb OGW Irfan Mir, intelligence sources claimed.

Meanwhile, sources said the Union home ministry may hand over the case to the National Investigation Agency for an investigation to find the real motive of the terrorists, DSP Davinder Singh’s links to terrorism and whether he had helped terrorists in the past as well.

Singh is likely to be stripped of all his awards.IG (Kashmir) Vijay Kumar, too, had said during a press conference in Srinagar that the arrested DSP had admitted having taken Rs 12 lakh from the terrorists to take them to Jammu for their onward journey to New Delhi.

The two Hizb terrorists arrested with Davinder Singh are Naveed Babu, alias Babar Azam, a resident of Nazneenpora in south Kashmir’s Shopian district, and his associate Rafi Ahmad Rather. The Hizb OGW, identified as Irfan Shafi Mir, had been driving the vehicle when they were intercepted by the police on Saturday. Irfan Shafi Mir has travelled to Pakistan five times on his passport.

Full report at:



Trucker gunned down by terrorists in Valley, flicker of hope now for his 3 minor children

by Divya Goyal

January 14, 2020

Months after a truck driver was shot dead by terrorists in Anantnag in South Kashmir, a flicker of hope has emerged for his three minor children, who were left orphaned.

On October 28 last year, terrorists killed truck driver Narayan Dutt, in his forties, who was from the village Kotla Sera near Kakriyal town in Katra (district Reasi) of Jammu & Kashmir. He left behind four minor children – Atul Sharma (17), Tania (15), Sania (12) and Vansh (7). Atul was a school dropout while the other three were in school. Their mother had died before terrorists gunned down their father.

Left orphans, the children now live with their uncle and aunt (father’s brother and his wife) at the same village, in a kutcha house and walk 1.5 km to reach the nearest government school. Their uncle already bedridden, the children had no source of any financial assistance for daily needs such as buying notebooks, stationery items, uniform etc.

A flicker of hope has now emerged with The SARA (Suicides Are Avoidable), an organization working to prevent suicides in Jammu & Kashmir, adopting the three school going children and bearing their educational expense till class 12th. The organization has also got bank accounts of three children opened and an amount of Rs 1,000 a month is being transferred, which they can use for their day to day needs.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Tania (15), a class-9 student said, “What wrong had my father done? What wrong have we, the locals of J&K, done to terrorists? My father had said he will come home for Diwali before leaving to deliver a consignment. Humein nahi pata tha ki wo iss awastha mein waapis aayenge (We never knew he will come back in this condition). My youngest brother still asks if father will come back…”

The family had none from whom they could seek monetary help. “Our family’s financial condition was never strong even when father was there. After he died, we had none who we could approach for our needs. Now we are getting Rs 1,000 a month and at least daily life has become a little easier,” says Tania.

Raminder Jit Singh, one of the founders of SARA, says, “Though the children were given ex-gratia assistance of Rs 1 lakh by administration, they cannot withdraw and use it for their daily expenses till not 18. Also, their annual school admission fee was also an issue. Now, we will also pay their school fee and cover other education related expense. We will be assisting them till class 12. Also, we have already handed them over cheques of Rs 1,000 a month in advance till March. We shall also be giving them mental health counselling.”

Tania, meanwhile, aims to be(typo) join Army. “I want to take revenge for my father’s death. Secondly, I want to serve and protect my country. Those who live in India and say this is not their country are living in some misconception. Why no action is taken against people who shelter terrorists? They shattered our world…”

Meanwhile, Katra SSP railways Ranjit Singh Sambyal, who had helped SARA connect with children, said, “We will be keeping a check so that money being given to children is used for their welfare only.”

Incidentally, the mother of the children was allegedly murdered by her husband. Dutt was an undertrial in his wife’s murder case of 2013 and was out on bail.

Full report at:



Tamil Nadu cop’s murder: 2 key names in terror network emerge

by Arun Janardhanan

January 14, 2020

At a time when multiple teams of Tamil Nadu and Kerala police are looking for two alleged Islamic extremists who shot a policeman near a Kanyakumari checkpost last week, two key names have emerged before the investigators.

These comprise a 30-year-old computer expert from Kaliyikkavila near Kanyakumari and a 40-year-old Bengaluru-based man allegedly tasked with radicalising Muslim youth.

According to a senior officer, three Bengaluru youths currently being interrogated in Chennai — Mohamed Haneef Khan (29), Imran Khan (32) and Mohamed Zaid (24) — were associates of C Khaja Moideen (52), who was arrested from Delhi last week. Moideen, S Syed Ali Nawas (25), a terror suspect arrested with Moideen, and Abdul Shamim (25), one of the two accused of killing the police officer, were allegedly handling the youths in Bengaluru, it is learnt.

A senior officer said there were two more major players in the network — Sayyid Ali, in his 30s, and Mehaboob, in his 40s. “The Bengaluru youths were radicalised recently by Mehaboob. He did that job for Moideen. Mehaboob disappeared from Bengaluru immediately after the three youths were arrested. We are probing more such radicalised youths in his network,” the officer said.

Police have learnt that Sayyid Ali is an expert in computer and mobile technology and can use circuit boards from cellphones to operate devices that control explosives. On Sunday evening, police rushed to his home at Kaliyikkavila. “He had fled before we reached. Multiple teams are searching for Ali and Mehaboob,” the officer said.

Wilson (57), a special sub-inspector of Tamil Nadu police, was shot dead last week at a checkpost near Kaliyakkavilai. His body also bore stab injuries. Using CCTV footage, police identified the accused as Shamim and Thowfic (27), both from Kanyakumari.

According to investigators, two packages were sent from Mumbai to Bengaluru in Moideen’s name and received at the address of the youths being interrogated. “Both packages had pistols. We have evidence of the second package with three pistols and bullets,” said an officer.

Over a dozen people who were in touch with the two accused of killing the police officer are being interrogated. Praveen Kumar Abinapu, DIG (Tirunelveli range), told The Indian Express on Monday that they have some clues about the whereabouts of Shamim and Thowfic. “We will arrest them soon,” he said.

Full report at:



Following Kashmir issue closely, says France after Macron-Modi phone call

January 13, 2020

France on Monday said the government was closely following the situation in Kashmir after the issue was discussed during a telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron three days ago.

A statement issued by the Elysée Palace said the two leaders discussed the situation in the region of Kashmir in the “spirit of trust and frankness” that characterises bilateral ties.

“In the spirit of trust and frankness that characterises their relations, the French President and the Indian Prime Minister discussed the situation in the region of Kashmir, which France continues to follow closely,” the statement released by the French embassy said.

A statement issued by the Indian government on Friday after talks between Modi and Macron, however, did not mention Kashmir. “The two leaders exchanged views on a range of issues of mutual interest in bilateral relations as well as regional and global situations,” a statement issued by the Prime Minister Office had said.

The statement by the French government comes after envoys of 15 countries, including the US, visited Jammu and Kashmir and interacted with select political representatives, civil society members and top military brass. Envoys from European countries were not part of the group.

Besides the US, the group comprised envoys from South Korea, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Fiji, Maldives, Norway, Philippines, Morocco, Argentina, Peru, Niger, Nigeria, Guyana and Togo. Envoys from European countries were not part of the group.

Full report at:



‘CAA, move on Article 370 will not hurt tourist footfalls in J&K’

Jan 14, 2020

A new tourism policy has been in the works for a long time, what progress has been made on it?Once our advisory board is set up, we want to hold a brainstorming session to discuss everything threadbare before finalising anything. Agendas change from time to time. For instance, adventure tourism has changed. This was an area neither formally part of tourism, nor of sports. Over 120 peaks were thrown open for adventure tourism and we need security norms in place as well as infrastructural support. I feel the entire process is likely to take up to a year to complete.

Do you think it is time now for India to set up a tourism marketing board, which takes a 360 degree view of promoting India in the domestic market and abroad?

I believe India has everything that the world does not have — biodiversity, heritage and culture. Despite this, if people don’t come, we need to have a transparent mechanism to understand why they don’t come to India. I started to engage with people on Twitter to understand this and people told me to expect criticism. But in eight months, I have not faced criticism. We resolved hoteliers’ concerns over high GST rates, duration for e-visa increased and new peaks were opened. As far as marketing is concerned, I don’t think we need a separate board.

The US is among countries to have issued a travel advisory as India witnesses protests over CAA and NRC. How is the government planning to manage the negative perception?

I believe this is the result of a planned conspiracy against us. We can improve perception when we are at fault. But if outside forces are conspiring against us to malign our image, we need to consider this carefully. I believe they (those issuing advisories) have not seen India. Leh-Ladakh bore the brunt of this advisory even though it is a separate Union Territory and there was no violence there. The advisory belatedly mentioned Leh was a separate region. I also want to point out that there is a lot of misinformation about the internet clampdown in Kashmir. The only thing stopped is mobile internet, which terrorists can use. Outside, though, the perception is that everything is in abeyance.

What about the northeast? Travel operators said tourist footfalls have dipped in the northeast due to protests over CAA-NRC and in Kashmir after the Article 370 decision.

Northeast is fine. We even held the ITM in Imphal (November 2019). It is wrong to say that abrogation of J&K’s special status under Article 370 had anything to do with this. I do not agree with this.

You said in Parliament that tourists footfalls in J&K have declined.

See, there are two parts to this. When this subject comes up, figures are bandied about like they are massive. In reality, please see the actual figures of international tourist arrivals in Jammu & Kashmir.

Not just international tourists, but tourists in general.

The maximum number of people who visit J&K are those who go to Vaishno Devi and Amarnath. The Amarnath Yatra was suspended days before the decision (on Article 370) was taken. If you look at the total figures of tourists going to J&K in percentage terms, I don’t think there is a remarkable change. At least in terms of actual footfalls, I don’t see a remarkable decline.

Full report at:



Opposition resolution on CAA must have made Pak happy: Ravi Shankar Prasad

Jan 14, 2020

NEW DELHI: Slamming resolution of opposition parties against the Citizenship Amendment Act, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday said Pakistan must be happy over the move and asserted that the new law exposes Islamabad's “barbaric treatment” of minorities.

“Opposition unity stands exposed as major parties like SP, BSP, TMC and AAP kept away (from a meeting convened by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi). The resolution is neither in national interest nor in the interest of security. It is also not in the interest of those minorities who fled neighbouring countries to escape persecution,” Prasad told reporters.

Congress and 19 other opposition parties passed a resolution on Monday, demanding that the amended citizenship law be withdrawn and process of National Population Register (NPR) immediately stopped, asserting that it was all part of an “unconstitutional package” that targeted poor people, SC/STs and minorities.

Prasad said Congress is ready to stoop to any level against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Today Congress stands with the gang of tukde-tukde and urban Maoists. I am making an unambiguous allegation that Congress is inciting violence in the country,” he said.

The minister said Congress should explain what is the reality about the state of the minorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh. “Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi should explain whether most of the people facing persecution on religious lines in Pakistan and Bangladesh were poor and Dalit or not?” he asked.

Prasad said opposition is making baseless allegations that the bill was passed in a hurry as he added, “The bill was debated in both Houses for two days after which it was passed through voting. Now it is being alleged that the bill was passed in a huff.” Taking a dig at the absence of several key opposition parties from Monday’s meeting, he said, “The so-called resolution was passed after meeting of 19 parties. However, BSP, SP, AAP and TMC were not present in the meeting and their absence exposes the opposition unity.”

BJP leader GVL Narasimha Rao took a dig at P Chidambaram for opposing CAA, saying that the former finance minister had brought his level of intellect at par with that of Rahul Gandhi.

Chidambaram asked the Prime Minister to have a televised Q and A session over the CAA. The former Union minister alleged that Modi is reluctant to take questions over the Act, which has triggered widespread protests across the country.

Full report at:



Jamia violence: Students surround VC demands FIR against police

January 13, 2020

NEW DELHI: Students of Jamia Millia Islamia, on Monday, surrounded the vice chancellor’s office to press for their charter of demands. Organised under the banner of the Jamia Coordination Committee, students gathered at noon near the vice chancellor”s office to set up a blockade.

The students are demanding that an FIR be registered against the Delhi Police over the incidents of assault on students. Seeking an end to harassment, the protesters have also sought assurances of security for students.

Surrounded by protesting students on campus, the vice chancellor Najma Akhtar responded by saying that filing an FIR will not ensure security. “We are doing everything possible from our end. We have made security arrangements at all places,” she said.

The vice chancellor appealed to the students to end their protests.

Full report at:



China fears fallout from Indian citizenship law

January 14, 2020

NEW DELHI: India’s recently enacted citizenship law, which excludes Muslim and cherry-picks migrant communities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh for naturalisation, is fuelling anxiety in China, The Hindu said on Monday in a report from Beijing.

It said a Chinese official who did not wish to be named told The Hindu that Beijing apprehends that the law, if it alienates Muslims in India, could have repercussions in Xinjiang — a vast strategically important border region, which has faced separatist violence.

“We fear that if possible Muslim alienation triggered by India’s new Act spreads, it could channel into international terrorism and eventually bolster separatism in Xinjiang,” the official said.

Xinjiang is China’s strategic lifeline. The West-East gas pipeline network drawing gas from Central Asia along a land corridor helps fuel Beijing’s east coast industrial heartland— the workshop of the world, represented by Shanghai and Guangdong province, the report said.

China has also unveiled the Greater Bay Area plan, covering the economic integration of Guangdong with Hong Kong and Macao, requiring huge energy sources.

Apart from energy security, Xinjiang is also the “choke point” through which China is connected with Central Asia and Europe along a vast inter-continental transportation network under Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Besides, China views Xinjiang as central to the “one-China” policy, while it also rejects efforts that encourage “separatism” in Taiwan, Tibet, Hong Kong and islands in the South China Sea. “Given Xinjiang’s extraordinary importance, China firmly rejects any moves to weaken the one-China principle on the grounds of human rights,” the official said.

China has blamed the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) — a group of mainly Muslim extremists of ethnic Uyghur descent, for seeking an independent “East Turkestan” in Xinjiang.

In response to the CAA, a section of the Chinese state media has asserted that the new law mirrors India’s evolving geostrategic posture, in its South Asian neighbourhood, the Indian Ocean and beyond, fuelled by what is called, the rise of “Hindu nationalism”.

An article in the state-run tabloid Global Times noted that “broadly speaking” the CAA “reflects the conflict between liberalism and nationalism. In India, the world’s largest democracy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has embarked on a path of nationalism. He tries to achieve a unified national recognition via the idea of having one country, one nation, one religion and one language and eradicating diversification and fragmentation in India’s society and culture”.

It added that the “rise of Hindu nationalism has broader implications for international politics…Hindu nationalism will not be satisfied to be only the dominant force within India. It will push the country to pursue higher international status — from permanent membership in the UN Security Council to dominance in the Indian Ocean and South Asia and eventually a major world power — to satisfy the need for victory and reputation”.

Full report at:





Pakistani cabby in Dubai saves the day for Indian girl who lost her wallet

January 14, 2020

Amid soaring tensions between India and Pakistan, the story of a Dubai-based Pakistani taxi driver – who went out of his way to return a lost wallet that had important documents including owner’s UK student visa to the owner, an expatriate Indian girl – has warmed many hearts across the globe.

Raechel Rose, a corporate law student at Lancaster University and on holiday in Dubai, was on her way to attend a friend’s birthday party when she lost the wallet in Modassar Khadim’s cab late evening on January 4.

The incident happened just three days before Rose was scheduled to return to England after a winter break with her parents in Dubai.

“She had got into his taxi with another friend near Burjuman around 7.30 pm on January 4,” her mother, Sindhu Biju, told Gulf News.

“Just then, they saw their other friends in another car and decided to join them,” Biju said, adding: “They immediately left the taxi and Rose didn’t realise that she left her wallet behind.”

Later, Rose realised that the wallet had gone missing. Apart from her UK residence permit card [T4 student visa], the wallet contained her Emirates ID, UAE driving license, health insurance card, credit card and more than Dh1,000 in different currencies.

She said Rose started panicking as her return flight was fast approaching and she could not afford to delay the journey as she had to appear for an exam on January 13.

“She did not have a copy of the visa. When she called the university, she was told she might have to apply for visa again. Though she was in tears, she rushed to the police station to report the matter.”

Her father, Biju Ittira, joined her at the station and subsequently took her to the mall.

With the help of the police, the CCTV footage from the mall’s premises were checked. But, the car’s number was not clear. “Since they had not started the journey, the driver had not started the meter. Hence, it was difficult to trace the driver through the RTA call center,” said Sindhu.

However, she said, the RTA’s customer care executives who attended the case were extremely cooperative and gave high priority to the case.

Meanwhile, Khadim had finished two other trips. It was when after the second trip that he noticed the wallet as the first passenger had sat in the front seat.

“Since the family, who came next, said it was not theirs, I opened it to check if there is any contact number. I could only see all the cards and the cash.”

He said he called up RTA’s call center and asked if they could help find the holder of the driving license that he found. “I thought it will be easier for them to find the license holder. But it was around 10:00 pm.”

When he was told he would be contacted by another department, he said, he decided to report it to the police. “When I reached the police station, I met another taxi driver who advised me to try to get the girl’s number and give it as the procedures might take a long time.”

He said he then tried to get her contact through Etisalat by giving her Emirates ID number and through the insurance company by providing the insurance card number.

But, all went in vain as it was against the privacy clauses for the entities to disclose the contact number.

“Finally, the RTA call center called me back when I was finishing my duty at 3:30 am and verified the details that matched with their complaint. I was given their number following which I went to their house to drop the wallet.”

He said the happy father handed him Dh600.

“I refused to take it saying she is like my younger sister. But he insisted that I take it,” said Khadim, the only brother of four sisters back home.

The Indian family from Kerala also wrote a letter to RTA appreciating Khadim.



PTI, PML-Q to hold meeting this week over coalition govt matters

January 14, 2020

LAHORE            -               Senior members of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government and the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-e-Azam’s (PML-Q) leadership has decided to hold a joint meeting this week to discuss the issues pertaining to the coalition government.

The decision came as the PTI’s senior politicians on Monday contacted the leadership of the PML-Q.

Importantly, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-e-Azam’s has scheduled another meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar this week to hold consultation on provincial affairs.

Sources familiar with the matter told the media that the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-e-Azam’s has also been looking forward to the government for its implementation on the demands made by the allied party.

The PML-Q has also demanded the government to grant it development package for the constituencies it holds in the province.

The demand came in a formal way during the recent meeting between the government committee under the leadership of Jahangir Tareen and the PML-Q representatives.

Full report at:



Govt decides to put Maryam Nawaz on ECL in CSM case

January 14, 2020

The federal government on Monday decided to put the name of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz on the Exit Control List (ECL) in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case, a private news channel reported.

According to the report, the federal cabinet’s sub-committee has decided to place Maryam’s name on ECL on the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) recommendation.

The former first daughter’s name is already on the ECL in the Al-Azizia reference, which she had challenged in the LHC. The high court is set to hear her plea on Jan 15.

On December 24, last year, the federal cabinet had decided not to remove Maryam’s name from ECL.

The Sharif family has been accused of using CSM for money-laundering and illegal transfer of its shares.

According to NAB, the family took a $15 million loan on the pretext to set up the mill despite the fact that it had already been established before the loan was acquired.

Full report at:



Cafe photo adds to PTI suspicion over Nawaz’s health

Zulqernain Tahir

January 14, 2020

LAHORE: A fresh picture of ‘ailing’ former prime minister Nawaz Sharif taking tea at a London restaurant along with some members of his family, which went viral on social media on Monday, may cause problems for him in securing extension in his stay abroad from the PTI-led Punjab government which has become sceptical about the ‘serious nature’ of his health.

Federal Science Minister Fawad Chaudhry uploaded the leaked photo on his Twitter account in which the PML-N supremo appeared to be looking quite stable. Making a satirical comment, the outspoken minister said: “In London’s intensive care unit, the treatment against plundering is underway and all patients present (there) are feeling better.”

The picture was also reportedly discussed at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan in Islamabad. At the time of Mr Sharif’s departure for London in November, PM Khan had made a dig at him, saying doctors were of the opinion that “this man could die any minute if he did not go abroad for treatment. But he suddenly recovered and looked perfectly fine as he got a glimpse of the London-bound air ambulance.”

As the picture went viral, the Buzdar administration swung into action and sought latest reports about Mr Sharif’s health from his personal physician Dr Adnan Khan so that it could decide on his application seeking extension to stay abroad for treatment.

The PML-N chided the PTI leaders for doing politics on Mr Sharif’s health, saying the government should come out from “Sharif phobia” and concentrate on addressing important issues facing the country.

“Doctors have advised Nawaz Sharif to go out for change of environment. They insist that staying indoors will not be good for his health. Therefore, Mr Sharif has started going out. On Sunday, Mr Sharif along with his family members had a walk to catch fresh air and had a tea in a restaurant,” a PML-N leader from London told Dawn. He made it clear that it had never been a case that Mr Sharif could not walk.

In the picture, Mr Sharif’s son Hasan, PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif, his son Salman and former finance minister Ishaq Dar are seen.

Nawaz Sharif had on Dec 23 sought extension in his stay abroad on the expiry of the four-week period allowed by the court to go to London for medical treatment. With his application, Mr Sharif attached his medical reports. However, the Punjab government, which could not decide on his application, sought fresh reports.

“We will submit fresh reports to the Punjab government in a few days,” the PML-N leader said and expressed the hope that the government would take a decision in the light of Mr Sharif’s medical reports and not on its bias against him. The Islamabad High Court had directed Mr Sharif to seek Punjab government’s permission for further relief, if needed.

It declared that until the provincial government decided the matter, the bail in the Al-Azizia case would remain in effect, adding that the court order would cease to exist if the government decided against extending the bail period.

Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif had submitted an undertaking in the Lahore High Court, ensuring return of elder brother Nawaz within four weeks or as and when certified by the doctors that he has regained his health and is fit to return to Pakistan.

He had also undertaken to provide periodical reports of the doctor duly notarised by the embassy to the registrar of the LHC. The undertaking includes a clause that states that the Pakistan High Commission would have the right to meet Nawaz’s doctors to verify or confirm about his health, if at any stage the federal government got credible information that the former premier was living abroad despite being fit to travel.

The former premier in his undertaking pledged to return to Pakistan citing his record to face the process of law and justice within four weeks or as soon as he is declared healthy and fit to travel. “I also do hereby bind myself to the undertaking given by my brother Shahbaz Sharif.”

Nawaz Sharif, who was diagnosed with an immune system disorder, has been advised by a government’s panel of doctors to go abroad for treatment. Mr Sharif had been diagnosed with a complicated coronary disease. In London, he underwent comprehensive cardiovascular evaluation and investigations at Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospital. According to Dr Adnan Khan, Mr Sharif has been diagnosed with “complicated coronary artery / ischemic heart disease with significant disease burden. Cardiac perfusion scans scheduled.”

Hospital visits

Speaking to reporters in London, Hussain Nawaz, while commenting on criticism being levelled against his father, said Nawaz had been confined to the house and to hospital visits, but that during the Christmas vacation his hospital visits were not possible.

“The report submitted in LHC says that doctors have advised him to walk twice a day. But despite this advice, Mian sb could not walk as he experienced shortness of breath and palpitations.

Full report at:



Supreme Court suspends LHC orders for release of missing persons' advocate

Haseeb Bhatti

January 14, 2020

The Supreme Court on Tuesday suspended the Lahore High Court's orders for the release of Advocate Inamur Rahim — a retired colonel who was picked up from his home in Rawalpindi on Dec 17, 2019.

On Thursday, the LHC's Rawalpindi bench had declared the detention of Rahim to be illegal and ordered military authorities to release him immediately.

Following this, the federal government on Saturday approached the Supreme Court to challenge the ruling.

Full report at:



PPP, PML-N lawmakers reject LHC verdict in Musharraf case

Amir Wasim

January 14, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) expressed surprise and reservations on Monday over the judgement of the Lahore High Court on the appeal of former military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf against his conviction by the special court in the high treason case.

In a statement, issued by PPP’s central media office, party MNA Dr Nafisa Shah said the verdict had baffled her. “Today is an unfortunate day for the rule of law,” the PPP lawmaker said.

The three-member LHC bench declared the formation of the special court — which heard the high treason case against former military dictator Gen Musharraf and handed him a death sentence after finding him guilty of treason — as “unconstitutional”. The LHC bench, which was hearing Gen Musharraf’s petitions against the verdict, also ruled that the treason case against the former army chief was not prepared in accordance with the law.

The former president was sentenced to death by a special court in Islamabad on Dec 17 last year, six years after the start of the trial.

The case was filed by the PML-N government against Gen Musharraf for suspending the Constitution on Nov3, 2007, and imposing emergency.

Dr Shah said that the special court which convicted Gen Musharraf in the high treason case last month had been constituted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan and it consisted of judges from three high courts of the country. She was of the view that the appeal against the verdict should have been filed in the Supreme Court and not in the high court.

She said that a case with regard to judicial murder of PPP founder and former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had been awaiting hearing for the last eight years whereas an appeal against the conviction of a military dictator had been decided within days.

Dr Shah also said that killers of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto had also not been arrested so far.

Talking to Dawn, PML-N Senator Mushahidullah Khan expressed reservations over the verdict.

He said that despite the LHC’s judgement, he would pay tribute to Justice Waqar Ahmed Seth, the head of the special court, which convicted Gen Musharraf in the case.

The PML-N leader said that the whole world saw “dictator Gen Musharraf” abrogating the Constitution and putting his boots on it and everyone saw the military ruler threatening and then killing Baloch Sardar Nawab Akbar Bugti.

He said that the media also showed pictures of manhandling of the then chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry on the roads of Islamabad and it was Gen Musharraf who had put judges under the house arrest.

The PML-N senator recalled how Gen Musharraf had boasted on May 12, 2007, after several people were killed in Karachi, adding that people still remembered the military ruler’s speech of the day when he had declared that “they have shown their might in Karachi”.

Full report at:



Senate body tells govt to bring tribal districts at par with developed areas

January 14, 2020

ISLAMABAD: A Senate committee has directed the government to prioritise the health and education needs in the tribal districts to bring the region at par with developed parts of the country.

The Senate Standing Committee on States and Frontier Regions (Safron) met at Parliament House on Monday.

Committee chair Senator Taj Mohammad Afridi said health and education have been neglected in erstwhile Fata, the federally administered tribal areas, and the government must focus on the social and economic development of this region, which has now merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The Safron Ministry told the committee that the tribal districts have been allotted 4,048 seats in universities and colleges, of which 2,000 have been filled. The committee said the seats in government colleges and universities should be doubled and sought a list of universities that have not complied with the quota.

Additional seats were allocated for students from the tribal districts in 2017. Most departments doubled the quota after Fata was merged with KP, but the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) refused to do so on the grounds that medical and dental colleges have a certain number of seats according to provincial quotas and it was not possible to increase seats just for students from the tribal areas.

The Pakistan Medical Commission, which has replaced the PMDC, said that a decision has been made in this regard and applications will be sought from students from the tribal districts.

The Pakistan Engineering Council said that a notification has been issued and all universities have increased their seats. Admissions will take place according to the new quota from the next session.

In a briefing on the salaries and regulations of religious seminaries’ Primary Teaching Certificate and Certificate of Teaching employees, the committee was told that there are currently 490 teachers working at different seminaries.

The teachers have not been paid since June 30, 2019, the committee was told, and the finance department has not released funds for the project. The senators urged for emoluments to be paid by Jan 31.

Safron Secretary Aslam Kamboh assured the committee that its direction would be fulfilled.

Full report at:



Govt grilled in KP Assembly over ‘discrimination’ against ex-Fata people

Zulfiqar Ali

January 14, 2020

PESHAWAR: Members of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly from tribal districts took the floor on Monday to express anger at the government’s ‘poor’ response to its commitments made with the people of erstwhile Fata before the region was merged with the province.

This was the first protest by the lawmakers from the tribal districts since they joined the house in July 2019.

Members of the Balochistan Awami Party, who back the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf in the assembly, along with other opposition parties joined the protest.

However, PTI MPAs from the merged districts stay away from it.

Several members from the merged districts tied black bands on arms to protest the government’s ‘discrimination’ against the people of former Fata.

The lawmakers began protest when member of the Panel of Chairmen Mohammad Abdul Salam refused to give the floor to the Awami National Party MPA from Mohmand district to speak on a point of order.

Angry MPAs stood from their seats and rushed towards the speaker’s dais.

They began shouting slogans ‘give us our financial rights’ and ‘fulfil commitments with the people of former Fata’.

They also criticised the chair for not letting them speak about their demands and issues.

The chair did not pay heed to the protesting MPAs’ demands and adjourned the sitting until 2pm today (Tuesday).

MPAs from tribal districts released 12 points charter of demands to the media.

According to the charter, the government should get 26th Constitutional Amendment passed by the Senate to increase the number of seats for merged areas in the KP Assembly and review the recent amendments to the law on mines and minerals.

They also demanded the transitional special concessions and indemnity package for 10 years, three per cent share in the National Finance Commission award, permission of cross-border movement for the people living on both sides of the Durand Line, and the establishment of an advisory committee comprising parliamentarians and technocrats.

Earlier, the government informed the assembly during question hour that 100 out of a total of 227 flour mills had been closed down in the province.

According to the official reply to a question, all nine flour mills in merged districts had been closed. Also, 14 of Peshawar’s 45 mills and 13 of Abbottabad’s 18 have been shut down.

Jamaat-i-Islami MPA Sirajuddin raised the issue.

Food minister Qalandar Khan Lodhi did not explain reasons for the closure of mills.

He rejected the claim of Pakistan Peoples Party MPA Nighat Yasmin Orakzai about the smuggling of wheat and flour to Afghanistan.

The elementary and secondary education also came under discussion during the question hour.

Responding to identical questions of MPAs Inayatullah Khan, Sobia Shahid and Sahibzada Sanaullah, minister Akbar Ayub claimed that a number of out-of-school children in the province had declined due to the Education Emergency imposed in 2014.

He said the government’s focus was on the improvement of quality of education in public sectors schools and that 90 to 95 per cent basic facilities in schools like washrooms and boundary walls had been provided.

The minister said community schools produced good results compared to other schools, so the government would allocate funds for the opening of community schools in far-flung areas.

The official reply claimed that the government was spending Rs23,290 on every student of primary and secondary schools annually.

MPA Inayatullah Khan castigated the concerned department for providing incorrect information to the house.

He said the privilege of the house had been breached by the relevant officials by furnishing wrong information and therefore, action should be taken against them.

The lawmaker said the spending on students in remote districts was less than other districts like Peshawar, Mardan and Abbottabad.

The minister did not contest the claim.

Three questions related to elementary and secondary education were referred to the house’s committee concerned.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Government Rest Houses and Tourism Properties (Development, Management and Regulation) Bill, 2020, and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Panahgah Bill, 2019, were passed.

Full report at:



Saudi Arabian company likely to invest $4bn in renewable energy sector

January 14, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Power Division Minister Omar Ayub Khan on Monday informed the National Assembly (NA) that Saudi Arabian power producing company ACWA Power will invest around $4 billion in Pakistan’s renewable energy sector.

“ACWA Power will invest about $4 billion on the renewable energy sector in Balochistan,” the minister said in response to a query during question hour and added that the generation of cheap electricity that utilises indigenous renewable energy resources including wind, solar, waste that can be converted biomass energy was amongst the government’s top priorities.

He explained that the Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB) had been pursuing the development of alternative and renewable energy based power generation projects through private investors under the Renewable Energy Policy, 2006 on the Independent Power Producers (IPP) model.

“Significant progress has been made in exploiting the wind, solar and biomass/bagasse potential available in the country and a number of power generation projects based on these resources are operational while many are in the pipeline,” he said.

The minister apprised the NA that the government also formulated a new Alternative Renewal Energy Policy, 2019 that had already been approved by the federal cabinet and submitted for approval to the Council of Common Interests (CCI). This policy targets increasing the share of alternative energy in the available sources of energy up to 20pc by 2025 and 30pc by 2030.

“The scope of the policy also includes the development of waste-to-energy projects by utilising municipal solid waste,” he added.

In this regard, he said that international and local companies could install waste to energy projects.

The minister further said that the tariff had been modified in phases as determined by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) but the present government had protected the interest of domestic consumers by up to 300 units.

He said that the previous government had not taken any steps for enhancement of rates from 2016 as per the tariff structure which is why the present government was forced to increase tariffs to reduce the buildup of circular debt increasing at the rate of Rs30 billion per month. “It was now reduced to Rs21 billion per month until June 30 of the CFY. The government is determined to bring this down to zero by the end of the current year,” he added.

Omar also said that 80 per cent feeders across the country were currently free of load shedding while clarifying that load management was only being carried out in areas where line losses remain high.

It may be noted here that the present government had initiated a drive to improve recoveries and check power theft.

Moreover, Parliamentary Secretary for Petroleum Khial Zaman Orakzai while responding to a question related to his ministry said that petrol was reportedly being sold openly through unregistered fuel stations, especially in rural areas, which was illegal. However, he pointed out that Action against illegal petrol stations falls in the domain of chief inspector of explosives (CIE) along with Local and District Administrations under Petroleum Rules, 1937 read with Petroleum Act, 1934.

Orakzai said that Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) had reported that the company was ensuring uninterrupted gas supply and adequate pressures to Quetta, Mastung, and Kalat even though it continues to deal with thieves.

“The company repeatedly removed illegal connections from supply and distribution pipelines but people reconnected their illegal connections,” he lamented.

Full report at:



German minister lauds Pakistan’s role for regional peace

January 14, 2020

RAWALPINDI: German Foreign Affairs Minister Niels Annen called on Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi and praised Pakistan’s constructive role for the region, the military’s media wing said on Monday.

“Niels Annen, minister of state of the Federal Foreign Office Germany, called on General Qamar Javed Bajw at [the] GHQ, today,” the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement.

During the meeting, issues of mutual interest, regional security and measures to enhance bilateral cooperation in various fields were discussed.

“[The] visiting dignitary appreciated Pakistan’s role for ensuring peace and stability in the region,” according to the communique.

Earlier in the day, the German lawmaker, who is on a two-day visit to the country also met Parliamentary Secretary Andleeb Abbas at the Foreign Office in Islamabad.

“The two sides expressed satisfaction at the current trajectory of bilateral relations and reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen cooperation in political, economic, trade, investment and educational sectors,” said the foreign statement.

On the deteriorating regional peace environment, the parliamentary secretary informed Niels Annen that Pakistan viewed with deep concern the recent developments in the Middle East region.

Full report at:



US-Iran tensions can hit Afghan peace process, Qureshi tells Saudis

January 14, 2020

RIYADH: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi called on his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Monday and cautioned that the tensions between Iran and United States could hit the already fragile reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

In December 2018, Pakistan brokered rare direct talks between Washington and the Afghan Taliban, paving the way for a negotiated settlement of the decades-old conflict.

The process, however, is still awaiting a breakthrough, as the Taliban have turned down repeated calls for inclusion of the Kabul government in the talks.

Qureshi arrived in Riyadh earlier in the day after completing his visit to Iran, as part of Pakistan’s efforts to help defuse tensions following the assassination of top Iranian commander in US drone strike in Baghdad and, subsequent missiles attack on US bases in Iraq.

According to the official statement, the foreign minister met his Saudi counterpart at the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jeddah.

Discussing the prevailing situation, Qureshi urged that the diplomatic means should be used to deescalate the situation in the region and resolve matters peacefully.

The Saudi foreign minister appreciated the initiative taken by Prime Minster Imran Khan to defuse the tensions in the Middle East. He also welcomed the recent trip of FM Qureshi.


On Sunday, the foreign minister met President Hassan Rouhani and urged him to use diplomatic means to dial down tensions in the region and resolve matters amicably.

During his meeting with President Rouhani that encompassed the US-Iran tension, regional peace and the multifaceted Pak-Iran ties, the foreign minister said both the countries enjoyed deep historic, religious, and cultural brotherhood.

Qureshi thanked the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Iranian president on behalf of Prime Minister Imran Khan for raising their voice against Indian atrocities in Occupied Kashmir and supporting Pakistan’s stand.

The foreign minister had kicked off his diplomatic mission on the directives of Premier Imran to discuss peace and share Pakistan’s perspective on Middle East tensions.

The visit comes in the wake recent developments which have seriously risked peace and security in an already volatile region and requires immediate and collective efforts for a peaceful resolution.

US forces killed Iran’s most revered military commander Maj Gen Qassem Suleimani in a drone strike near Baghdad airport on Jan 3, while in revenge Tehran attacked two US military bases in Iraq with missiles five days later. Though the two countries have apparently stood down, tension is still running high in the region.

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


Malaysia to Use Special ID to Control Movement of Foreigners in Sabah


Malaysia will introduce an immigrant pass in June to help authorities track foreigners in Sabah, officials said, a move that could make it harder for militants to slip in and out from the nearby southern Philippines, according to an analyst.

The proposed Sabah Temporary Pass, to be known by its Malay acronym PSS, will help standardize the various documents held by foreigners in the eastern state and facilitate law-enforcement operations, Malaysian Home Affairs Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said.

“The PSS is a control mechanism which will provide whereabouts and movement information of foreigners in Sabah,” Muhyiddin told reporters over the weekend.

Sabah, in Malaysian Borneo, has a population of 3.9 million, including about 1.1 million who are not Malaysian citizens, according to official statistics.

In September, the state’s Foreigner Management Committee agreed to issue the new identification card to replace the three documents currently issued to foreigners living in Sabah.

Filipino refugees, who had escaped to Sabah after bloody clashes between government forces and Muslim secessionist rebels in the southern Philippines in the early 1970s, carry a visitors’ pass known as IMM13, which was issued by the Malaysian immigration department.

IMM13 holders are allowed to stay in the state and receive other benefits, including medical services and access to education. To ease bank transactions, foreigners living in Sabah also often identify themselves using a document issued by the state’s chief minister, or a census certificate.

Muhyiddin, who spoke during a public event in Papar town in Sabah, said the PSS card would contain security features, including the holder’s biometrics. It can be obtained after payment of 120 ringgit (U.S. $29) in fees and must be renewed every three years, officials said.

More than 136,000 people living in Sabah would be eligible for the PSS card, Muhyiddin said.

“With such information and orderly records, any long-term action can be implemented more strategically,” the state-run news agency Bernama quoted him as saying.

The PSS card does not confer permanent residency to the foreigners and would not provide a guaranteed path toward Malaysian citizenship, the Home Ministry said in a statement.

Analyst: PSS would help track down foreigners with terror links

Wan Shawaluddin Wan Hassan, a professor and migration expert at the University Malaysia-Sabah, said the card’s security features would enable authorities to determine if the holder had any terror links.

“The security feature can be used to detect Abu Sayyaf group members,” he told BenarNews, referring to the Islamic State-linked group based in and around the Jolo and Basilan islands in the southwestern part of the Philippines.

In May 2017, Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon led pro-IS fighters from the Philippines and other countries in a siege of the southern Philippine city of Marawi. The militant takeover precipitated a five-month battle with government forces that left the city in ruins and 1,200 people dead, most of them militants.

The proposal to issue a new ID card received mixed reactions from Sabah residents, with many calling for the immediate deportation of foreigners living in the state.

“The government should deport IMM13 holders to their country of origin,” resident Sylvia Rosli told BenarNews. “That document was issued during the war [in the southern Philippines].”

She said the same policy should be adopted for foreigners who hold other forms of identification.

“Once all is settled, then only think of issuing a pass for them,” she said.



Chinese Government Threatens, Intimidates and Slanders Uyghur Congress

13 January 2020

In an effort to undermine the work of the World Uyghur Congress and to slow the growing momentum to release the 1-3 million innocent Uyghurs held in internment camps by the Chinese government and ensure human rights for Uyghurs, the Chinese government has increasingly been attacking the WUC. These have escalated into veiled threats and potentially more serious efforts to intimidate and threaten WUC staff.

Since December 2019, the Chinese government has published at least four articles spreading disinformation and lies about the work of the World Uyghur Congress and directly attacking and defaming the WUC and WUC President Dolkun Isa. This marks a notable escalation in the Chinese government’s attempts to hinder the work of the WUC and has raised concerns about the safety of WUC staff and their families.

At the beginning of December 2019, following a number of successful initiatives by the WUC in mobilizing the international community to take action on the Uyghur human rights crisis, two articles were published in Chinese on Xinhua and the Chinese government official website which denounced the WUC and spread lies and disinformation about the organization in an effort to hurt the WUC’s reputation.

Since then, the Chinese government’s English-language propaganda mouthpiece, the Global Times, has also published two similar articles. The first reiterated the same lies and slander as the first two articles and cited an unidentified German scholar ‘Weinsheimer’ and a ‘writer and conspiracy theorist’ as its two main sources.

On 10 January 2019, the Global Times published a second article, stating that a press conference was held by the CCP regional government of East Turkistan to denounce and slander Mr. Isa and former WUC President Rebiya Kadeer. The article also included a propaganda film, which included two relatives of Ms. Kadeer who had been missing since 2017. In the clearly scripted video, where they are posed in front of luxury clothing stores, they seem to have been forced to claim that there were no problems for Uyghurs in East Turkistan and that Ms. Kadeer was lying about their disappearance.

The article also claims that Mr. Isa’s sister, Ms. Azgul Isa, who is still in East Turkistan, denounced Mr. Isa for his activism. While she was not shown in the video, which the article falsely states, it attributes a quote to Ms. Isa saying she was disappointed that Dolkun Isa used their deceased parents to ‘smear Xinjiang from overseas’. Dolkun Isa received verified information in May 2018 that his mother had died in an internment camp. He had received no further information about the fate of his father or other family members. This article from the Global Times seems to also suggest that his father has also passed away, which he had not been aware of. Mr. Isa has been unable to see his family members for over 20 years and has not been able to speak to them for 3 years. To see his family used against him in this way and to learn about the possible death of his father in a Chinese propaganda article is incredibly painful.

“This is the first time I have any news about my family members in East Turkistan since the death of my mother in an internment camp,” WUC President Dolkun Isa said. “It is cruel and inhuman for the Chinese government to use the death of my mother and my family members in East Turkistan to try to silence and defame me. Instead of listening to our calls for our basic rights and freedoms, the Chinese government kills and punishes our family members in shocking acts of reprisals that contravene international law and basic human decency.”

In another concerning development, the Chinese government’s efforts to stop the work of the World Uyghur Congress may now be going beyond words to more direct intimidation and threats. In the first article published by the Global Times, the author specifically mentioned the location and appearance of the WUC headquarters in Munich, in an apparent attempt to intimidate the staff of the WUC.

These concerns were further reinforced by a serious incident that occurred on 12 January 2020 in Munich, Germany where WUC President Dolkun Isa was threatened by family members of Shohret Zakir, the chairman of Xinjiang Regional Autonomous Region, at a memorial service in Munich, Germany. Mr. Isa was approached by the two individuals who demanded that Mr. Isa stop criticizing Mr. Zakir for helping to cover up and facilitate the crimes against humanity being perpetrated against Uyghurs in East Turkistan by the CCP. The individuals told Mr. Isa that if he did not stop speaking about Mr. Zakir, Mr. Isa’s family members in East Turkistan would be at risk. As these individuals became increasing hostile, they attempted to physically assault Mr. Isa, which was only prevented due to the intervention of other attendees at the memorial service.

“China has deployed different tactics in the past to try to intimidate and threaten me and the WUC, by issuing an INTERPOL red notice (which has since been revoked), obstructing WUC’s work at the UN, and with the recent attacks by propaganda papers,” WUC President Dolkun Isa stated. “I was shocked by this incident, as I don’t expect to be threatened in a democratic country. Although we are uncertain of the motivations of the individuals, we can’t totally exclude that it may be part of China’s strategy to silence human rights activists abroad.”

Full report at:



Seminar on Extremism Planned in Malaysia

January 13, 2020

A number of scholars and intellectuals from Malaysia, Iran, Palestine, Indonesia and some other countries will participate in the academic program.

“Investigating the Ways of Overcoming Takfir Crisis and modelling the Ideal Islamic Society” is the theme of a speech to be presented at the event by Dr. Mohammad Hassan Zamani, Lecturer and Researcher of Al-Mustafa University.

“Combating Extremism and Terrorism: The Islamic Approach” by Datuk Wira Abdul Ghani Samsudin, Director of SHURA Malaysia, and “Threat of Violent Extremism in the Digital Age” by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Danial bin Mohd. Yusof, Principal Researcher of Extremism Analytical Research Unit (EARU), ISTAC-IIUM will be the themes of some other speeches at the seminar in the morning.

The second part of the program will start with a speech titled “Terrorizing Islam – The Islamophobic Agenda of the West” by Haj Mohd. Azim bin Abdul Hamid, president of Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organization (MAPIM), according to The seminar will continue with speeches on “The Palestinian Struggle and the Challenge of Israeli-Sponsored Extremist Groups” by Dr. Muslim Imran, Director of Palestinian Cultural organization Malaysia (PCOM), “The Reality of Takfirism in Contemporary Malaysia” by Prof. Dr. Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, Professor of Political Science, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), and “Imperialism and Extremism in the Division of the Muslim Ummah” by Dr. Chandra Muzaffar, President of JUST World.



Mujahid questions why G25 still raising issues over establishment of Jakim

13 Jan 2020

PUTRAJAYA, Jan 13 — Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mujahid Yusof today questioned the motives of the former civil servants group (G25) which continued to raise issues regarding the establishment of the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) although they had been given a detailed explanation.

He said among those which had been explained in two meetings with G25 in November last year and 2018 were the establishment and enforcement of Jakim and the allocations that it received.

“I do not understand why this issue is still circulating. This is not because they (G25) do not respect Islam, but the perception built up can raise the anxiety of certain quarters concerning the group,” he told reporters after a gathering of agencies under the Prime Minister’s Department here today.

The media on Saturday reported G25’s allegations that Jakim and the National Council for Islamic Religious Affairs (MKI) were not constitutional because there were no provision for the agencies to be established nationally.

Mujahid explained that Jakim’s existence was linked to religious administration at the Federal level, starting as the Religious Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department and changing to the Islamic Affairs Division (BAHEIS) before being upgraded to a department known as Jakim in 1997.

Full report at:



Video cameras to debut in Kimanis poll

14 Jan 2020

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 14 — The Election Commission (EC) will be introducing video cameras to monitor all voting streams for the Kimanis parliamentary by-election.

Its chairman Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun gave his reassurance that the video cameras will only be used to record the voting process and that voter privacy will not be violated.

“The EC would like to inform that using the cameras at all streams will not violate voter confidentiality as the cameras are installed far from the ballot boxes and the presence of the candidates’ agents at voting centres will be maintained,” he said in a statement today.

The cameras will be managed by EC officers, and will be installed at all 68 voting streams as an effort to improve transparency.

He explained that its use will allow the EC to review the voting process and as reference to conduct training and improve its services in future elections.

Voters in the Sabah west coast parliamentary seat will cast their ballots this Saturday.

The election is a straight fight between Barisan Nasional’s Datuk Mohamad Alamin, who is Kimanis Umno division chief, against Warisan’s Datuk Karim Bujang.

There are 29,644 voters in Kimanis, comprising 42 per cent Muslim Bumiputras, 41 per cent non-Muslim Bumiputera and 6 per cent Chinese and the parliamentary constituency is made up of two state seats, Membakut and Bongawan.

The Kimanis seat was declared vacant after the Federal Court on December 2 upheld the Election Court’s ruling, nullifying former foreign minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman’s victory in the 14th general election in May 2018.

Full report at:



Sabah DAP slams local opposition parties for supporting Umno, PAS

Durie Rainer Fong

January 13, 2020

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah DAP has accused state-based opposition parties of giving in to Umno and PAS’ brand of extreme right-wing politics by pledging support for Barisan Nasional in the Kimanis by-election.

Its secretary Chan Foong Hin said BN had radicalised itself after losing power in the last general election and forming the Muafakat Nasional political pact with Islamist party PAS.

Chan said instead of engaging in better policy debates to win back votes, Umno and PAS aimed to gain Malay and Muslim support through “walking a more radical and extremist racial and religious pathway”.

The Kota Kinabalu MP said this had caused further polarisation and it was a retrogressive move for Malaysia, an ethnically-diverse nation.

“Ironically, Umno had also maintained a traditional alliance with the MCA and the MIC.

“And then when it came to the Kimanis by-election, they had managed to ask other Sabah-based opposition parties, such as the Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) and Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR), to make way for it.

“Even the one and only MP from Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS), Arthur Kurup, had been seen campaigning happily with Umno’s Hishammuddin Hussein.

“Are these Sabahan opposition parties aware of what they are ‘pawning’ away to Umno?” Chan said to reporters after distributing mandarin oranges and calendars with other DAP leaders at Foh Sang and Bornion Centre here yesterday.

Kota Kinabalu Mayor Nordin Siman was also present.

Chan urged Kimanis voters to assess for themselves the kind of politics played up by Umno and PAS.

“PAS has publicly stated more than once that non-Muslims should not be allowed to hold any high positions such as the post of finance minister.

“And every time Umno MPs debate in Parliament, apart from creating a sense of crisis that ‘the Malay society is losing its rights’, they never really engage much in discussions with substance.

“Even the recent Chinese New Year decoration incident in SMK Pusat Bandar Puchong was the result of instigation by an organisation that shared similar extreme views as Umno,” Chan said.

In a letter to the school’s principal, Rohani Mohd Nor, Parti Bumiputera Perkasa Malaysia (Putra) claimed that it had received complaints from parents about “excessive” Chinese New Year decorations at the school.

However, several Cabinet ministers, led by Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, visited the secondary school to lend their support.

Chan said organisations closely related to Umno had ceaselessly continued to stir up racial sentiments and create a sense of insecurity among the Malays which led to the call for Chinese lanterns to be removed from the school.

On the other hand, he said, MCA had aggressively attacked the government’s inability to control racial tension.

“To the voters of Kimanis, please clearly see that the people who created the crisis were none other than the same kind of people in MCA and Umno,” he said.

Chan said the ruling government needed more East Malaysian political forces that believed in promoting multicultural values to play an important role to counter the “hate politics” by Umno and PAS.

“Ethnic relations are absolutely harmonious under the Sabah government led by Warisan. Here, you have Chief Minister Shafie Apdal, a Muslim leader, who can proudly proclaim a two-day Christmas holiday for Sabahans.

“When compared with Umno or PAS leaders, the difference is like night and day.”

Full report at:



Former JKKK chairman charged with CBT involving RM350, 000 meant for mosque

14 Jan 2020


IPOH, Jan 14 — A former Village Development and Security Committee (JKKK) chairman from Tanjung Malim claimed trial today at the Sessions Court here to three charges of criminal breach of trust (CBT) involving RM350,000.

Zulkifle Othman, 58, who is also the village chief for Kampung Lambak, Cabang Lima and Lubuk Salak, pleaded not guilty when the three charges were read out to him before judge S. Indra Nehru.

On the first count, Zulkifle was alleged to have fraudulently withdrawn RM50,000 for his own usage from the sum that was entrusted to him to build a mosque in Kampung Kubu, Tanjung Malim.

The offence was allegedly committed at Bank Islam Malaysia Berhad in Tanjung Malim on March 21, 2017.

On the second and third counts, he was alleged to have fraudulently transferred RM200,000 and RM106,000 respectively, from the sum to a bank account belonging to Jati Gemilang Resources for his own use.

He was accused of committing the second and third offences at Bank Islam Malaysia Berhad in Tanjung Malim on March 21, 2017 and May 14, 2018 respectively.

All three charges were framed under Section 409 of the Penal Code for CBT, which provides for imprisonment of up to 20 years, whipping and a fine upon conviction.

Earlier, deputy public prosecutor from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Nurul Wahida Jalaluddin requested bail to be set at RM50,000 for all three charges and requested Zulkifle to report to the MACC office in Teluk Intan on the first week of every month until the case is over.

Lawyer Hisham Nazir, who represented Zulkifle, asked for bail to be lowered as his client is unemployed and caring for his wife.

Full report at:



Malaysia police nab PH state lawmaker and two aides to top officials in anti-drug raid

JAN 13, 2020

Nadirah H. Rodzi

KUALA LUMPUR - A Pakatan Harapan (PH) state lawmaker and two special officers to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's political secretary and Youth Minister Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman were among 17 individuals arrested for illegal drug use and gambling in the wee hours of Sunday (Jan 12).

Another person arrested is an officer at Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) which is led by Tun Mahathir.

Five of those nabbed were women, Malaysia's police chief Abdul Hamid Bador told a news conference on Monday (Jan 13) afternoon. But he refused to identify any of those arrested at what he said was a "private drug party"

The Inspector-General of Police said they were all released on bail later except for an unidentified foreigner.

The embarrassing arrests come at a time when PH's popularity has nosedived as it struggles to fulfill its election promises.

Earlier this month, a Magistrate's Court in Kuala Lumpur ordered 32-year-old Ahmad Saiful Islam Mohamad - the son of Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu - to enter his defence on a charge of drug use, allegedly committed at an upscale hotel in KL last year.

The four men who were nabbed on Sunday - Dengkil (Selangor) state assemblyman Adhif Syan Abdullah, and political aides Muhammad Fadzil Mohd Ahmad, Ahmad Redzuan Mohamed Shafi and Piji Jihat - were detained during a police bust at 4.45am at an office space in Puchong, Selangor state, following complaints of loud noise.

The private party is believed to be hosted by the owner of the premises, who is also a friend to Mr Adhif, 38.

PPBM president and Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin in a statement said he will leave the matter to the authorities and won't interfere in the investigation.

"I also would like to clarify that Pizi bin Jihat is an officer at the party (PPBM) headquarters and is not my special officer as what has been reported" by local media.

Mr Adhif is also the Selangor Youth chief for PPBM, one of the four component parties of PH.

The four men tested positive for drugs, as did 12 others who were arrested, police sources said. One of those arrested tested negative.

At the time of the arrests, it was learnt that the group was allegedly high on drugs.

News of Mr Adhif and the other officers' arrests was confirmed by PPBM vice-president and Selangor PPBM chairman Abdul Rashid Asari, despite the denial by the man himself.

Mr Adhif initially denied through Malaysiakini news site that he was arrested, claiming he was at home at the time. He later changed his story, telling reporters from Harian Metro newspaper that he was at the condominium in the early hours of Sunday to attend a discussion.

Datuk Abdul Rashid, as quoted by New Straits Times newspaper on Monday (Jan 13) said: "Yes, he (Adhif) was arrested. That is confirmed. I have checked with the Home Ministry and that was the information I received. The matter is now under investigation, so I do not want to make further comment on that."

Following the arrests, Mr Saddiq moved to suspend his officer, Ahmad Redzuan, 29, after he was informed by the police, adding that he would leave the matter up to the authorities.

Full report at:



Abu Dhabi Crown Prince to oversee building of new Indonesian capital

14 January 2020

Indonesia nominated Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to chair a panel to oversee the construction of a new capital to ease the burden on sinking and congested Jakarta.

SoftBank Chief Executive and founder Masayoshi Son and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair will also join the steering committee, according to Indonesia’s Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Investment. The panel will advise the government on building the new capital at a cost of $34 billion and provide a confidence boost for prospective investors, the ministry said.

Indonesia is set to begin construction of the new capital on Borneo island later this year as President Joko Widodo seeks to decongest a fast sinking Jakarta. SoftBank Group’s Son last week expressed interest in building a smart and green city, joining a long list of global investors wanting to participate in the capital relocation project.

Jokowi, as Widodo is commonly known, is counting on private and state-owned entities to bear about 80 percent of the cost of building the capital. The UAE ruler accepted Jokowi’s offer to helm the panel at a meeting in Abu Dhabi this week where investment deals worth $22.8 billion were signed between companies from the two countries, the ministry said.

Indonesia has identified about 256,000 hectares of land on the island of Borneo for the yet-to-be-named capital – about four times the size of Jakarta. Regular flooding in the Jakarta metropolitan area, home to almost 30 million people, and the need to spread economic growth beyond the main Java island have prompted Jokowi to fast-track the capital relocation.

Authorities will move the capital in phases from 2024, with the new city eventually becoming home to as many as six to seven million people.

Full report at:



North America


After Florida killings, Saudis withdraw 21 cadets from United States

January 14, 2020

Saudi Arabia will withdraw 21 cadets receiving military training in the United States following a US investigation into a Saudi officer's fatal shooting of three Americans at a Florida naval base that US Attorney General William Barr on Monday branded an act of terrorism.

The Dec 6 attack further complicated US-Saudi relations at a time of heightened tensions between the United States and Iran, Saudi Arabia's regional rival.

A deputy sheriff shot dead the gunman, Saudi Air Force Second Lieutenant Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, in the Pensacola, Florida, incident.

Barr provided previously undisclosed details about Alshamrani's actions before the shooting.

Barr said 21 Saudi cadets were “disenrolled from their training curriculum” in the US military and would leave the United States later on Monday after an investigation showed they either had child pornography or social media accounts containing extremist or anti-American content.

He indicated that it was Saudi Arabia that withdrew the cadets, rather than the United States formally expelling them, and said the Saudi authorities told him they would consider filing criminal charges against them.

A Justice Department official, briefing reporters on the condition of anonymity, said US officials agreed with the decision to withdraw them.

During a news conference, Barr — the top US law enforcement official — said there was no evidence that Alshamrani had received assistance from other Saudi trainees or that any of them had knowledge in advance of the attack.

Three American sailors were killed and eight other people were wounded in the attack at the Pensacola Naval Air Station.

“This was an act of terrorism,” Barr said. “The evidence showed that the shooter was motivated by extremist ideology.

"During the course of the investigation, we learned that the shooter posted a message on Sept 11 of this year stating, 'The countdown has begun.'”

Barr added that Alshamrani also visited the New York City memorial to the victims of the Sept 11, 2001, attacks on the United States — carried out by Saudi hijackers for the militant group al Qaeda — and posted anti-American, anti-Israeli messages on social media, including two hours before the attack.

"Apple Inc has not been helpful to date in working with the FBI to get Alshamrani's two cellphones unlocked," Barr said. He added the FBI largely had exhausted its own efforts to unlock the phone.

In a statement, Apple rejected the assertion that it had not provided substantial assistance in the investigation.

The company said it had responded promptly to multiple FBI requests for information starting on the day of the attack, turning over “many gigabytes of information” to the investigators.

Barr said one Saudi individual had “a significant number” of child pornography images, while 14 others “had one or two images, in most cases posted in a chat room by someone else or received over social media”.

A total of 17 — including some of those with child pornography images — had social media accounts containing some extremist or anti-American content, Barr said.

The “derogatory information” fell short of the standard for triggering US criminal charges, Barr said.

'Conduct unbecoming an officer'

“However, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia determined that this material demonstrated conduct unbecoming an officer in the Royal Saudi Air Force and in the Royal Navy,” Barr said.

Saudi Arabia gave “complete and total support” in the US counterterrorism investigation and ordered all Saudi trainees to cooperate, Barr said, adding that the kingdom had given assurances that it would return for trial any of the 21 if US prosecutors decide to charge them in connection with this counterterrorism investigation.

The US military relationship with Saudi Arabia has come under heightened scrutiny in the US Congress over the war in Yemen and Saudi Arabia's killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

President Donald Trump has expressed doubts about a CIA assessment that Prince Mohammed ordered the killing of Khashoggi, a US resident and a critic of the crown prince, and argued that Washington must not risk its alliance with Riyadh, the cornerstone of US security policy in the Gulf and regarded as a regional counterweight to Iran.

The Pensacola attack prompted the Pentagon to halt operational training for some 850 visiting Saudi military personnel as part of a “safety stand-down” in the aftermath of the shooting.

The Pentagon said on Dec 19 that it had found “no information indicating an immediate threat” after reviewing the visiting Saudis following the shooting.



Soleimani killing part of new strategy of ‘real deterrence,’ says Pompeo

14 January 2020

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday said Qassem Soleimani was killed as part of a broader strategy of deterring challenges by US foes that also applies to China and Russia, further diluting the assertion that the top Iranian general was struck because he was plotting imminent attacks on US targets.

In his speech at Stanford University’s Hoover Institute, Pompeo made no mention of the threat of imminent attacks planned by Soleimani. It only was in response to a question that he repeated his earlier assertion that pre-empting such plots was the reason for the January 3 American drone strike on Iran’s second most powerful official.

His speech, “The Restoration of Deterrence: The Iranian Example,” focused on what he called an administration strategy to establish “real deterrence” against Iran following earlier Republican and Democratic policies that encouraged Tehran’s “malign activity.”

Democratic and some Republican lawmakers have challenged the administration over the self-defense rationale supported by undisclosed intelligence over imminent attacks. US President Donald Trump has said the potential targets included four US embassies.

On Sunday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he had seen no intelligence forewarning of imminent attacks on embassies.

Trump on Monday added new fuel to the controversy by saying “it really doesn’t matter” whether Soleimani posed an imminent threat.

Pompeo said there was “a bigger strategy” behind the killing of Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, Iran’s elite foreign espionage and paramilitary force.

“President Trump and those of us in his national security team are re-establishing deterrence - real deterrence against the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said.

“Your adversary must understand not only that you have the capacity to impose cost but that you’re in fact willing to do so,” Pompeo said, adding that the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal from which Trump withdrew in 2018 had emboldened Tehran.

“America now enjoys the greatest position of strength regarding Iran we’ve ever been in,” he said, pointing to the damage done to the Iranian economy by US sanctions that Trump re-imposed following his withdrawal from the nuclear deal.

“The importance of deterrence isn’t confined to Iran,” Pompeo said. “In all cases, we must deter foes to defend freedom. That’s the whole point of President Trump’s work to make our military the strongest it’s ever been.”

He cited the resumption of lethal military aid to Ukraine for defense against Russia-backed separatists, Trump’s withdrawal from an arms control accord with Moscow and tests of a new US intermediate-range cruise missile.

Full report at:



US attorney general: Killing Soleimani ‘legitimate,’ Trump had authority

14 January 2020

President Donald Trump clearly had authority to kill Qassem Soleimani, US Attorney General William Barr said on Monday, adding that the White House consulted with his department before the strike on the Iranian commander.

Barr told reporters that Soleimani was a “legitimate military target” and the strike was a “legitimate act of self-defense.”



US expels 21 Saudi military cadets after ‘act of terrorism’ by Saudi officer

13 January 2020

The United States says it is sending 21 Saudi military cadets back to the kingdom after its probe finds last month’s fatal shooting by a Saudi officer as an “act of terrorism.”

Attorney General William Barr said on Monday the evidence shows the shooter was motivated by extremist ideology.

Barr also said that 21 Saudi cadets have been expelled following an investigation into the fatal shooting and will be sent home.

He added that the military trainees possessed child pornography and other extremist materials.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia determined that this material demonstrated conduct unbecoming an officer in the Saudi Royal Air Force and Royal Navy and the 21 cadets have been dis-enrolled from their training curriculum in the US military and will be returning to Saudi Arabia later today," Barr said.

He said that the “evidence shows that the shooter was motivated” by extremist ideology.

Last December, second Lieutenant Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani killed three American sailors and wounded eight other people at the Pensacola Naval Air Station before being shot dead by police.

Following the deadly shooting, US President Donald Trump’s Republican allies condemned the attack as an act of terrorism, and called for a halt to the training program that admitted the shooter and called on the Saudi government to cooperate in the investigation, according to The Washington Post.

But Trump used his appearances before television cameras and on social media to repeatedly offer cover for the Saudis.

Hours after the incident, Trump announced that Saudi King Salman had personally called him and then began reading a statement conveying the “sincere condolences” of the Saudi king.

Full report at:



Report: Damage from Iran strikes 'much greater' than US admits

13 January 2020

A report by a correspondent for Danish TV 2 who has interviewed Danish soldiers positioned at Iraq’s Ain al-Assad airbase, which was the target of a retaliatory attack from Iran against US forces, shows that the damage done to the base has been “much greater” than the US officials acknowledge.

The report cites Danish sergeant John and other Danish soldiers as making the comment in an interview after the US military base in the western Iraqi province of Anbar was targeted by Iran’s retaliatory strikes.

“Suddenly, the first wave came, that’s what I call it. Nine rockets at barely a ton each. It cannot be described. I’ve never experienced anything like it, and I hope to never come to it again,” said the Danish sergeant, who was in a bunker along with his other comrades at the time of the strikes.

“The first strikes were so severe that we were sure we were going to a golden desert and nothing would be left. We were really surprised that everything hadn’t fallen on top of our heads. I would estimate that the nearest rocket hit 300 yards from us, and as we walked around afterwards, there were halves of helicopters, and there were holes so big that you could park a van in them,” the sergeant added.

Sergeant John went on to say that the damage was “actually much greater than the US admitted, with even helicopters being destroyed and not just several buildings damaged and hitting open territory in the camp.”

The Ain al-Assad airbase is a large complex located about 180 kilometers west of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, housing about 1,500 US forces and members of the US-led coalition that purport to fight the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.

On January 8, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) fired volleys of ballistic missiles at Ain al-Assad, and another outpost in Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan.

The missile operation was in response to the January 3 assassination by US terrorists of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), and a group of their companions in Baghdad. The cowardly operation was conducted under US President Donald Trump’s direction. The US Department of Defense took responsibility for the assassination.

Both commanders enjoyed deep reverence among Muslim nations over their endeavors in eliminating the US-sponsored Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in the region, particularly in Iraq and Syria.

Soon after the assassination, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said Washington was to face a “harsh revenge.”

At the White House, Trump has denied the Iranian missiles left any casualties. Tehran said the US military conducted at least nine sorties after the operation, taking the wounded to Jordan and the Occupied Territories, while Chinook helicopters transferred the injured to a US hospital in Baghdad.

Full report at:



Trump authorized Soleimani's assassination 7 months ago: Report

13 January 2020

US President Donald Trump had reportedly authorized the American military to assassinate Iran’s top general Qasem Soleimani seven months ago, contradicting Trump’s previous statements that he ordered the killing because the general posed an imminent threat.

Trump’s authorization in June came with the condition that he would have final approval on any specific operation to kill Soleimani, NBC News reported Monday, citing five current and former senior administration officials.

The officials told NBC News that former US National Security Adviser John Bolton had urged Trump to sign off on an operation to kill Soleimani after Iran shot down a US drone that had violated Iranian airspace in June.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also wanted Trump to authorize the assassination over the incident, officials said.

But Trump declined that option, according to a person briefed on the discussion, who said the president's message was "that's only on the table if they hit Americans.”

The new report further contradicts the Trump administration's publicly stated justification for ordering the US drone strike that killed Soleimani. US officials have claimed that Soleimani was killed because he was planning “imminent attacks” on Americans.

Trump's national security officials have already contradicted each other several times over the reasons for the assassination. The claim that Soleimani was planning “imminent attacks” against the US has been met with widespread suspicion and skepticism in the US.

The idea of killing Soleimani also came up in discussions in 2017 that Trump's national security adviser at the time, H.R. McMaster, was having with other senior advisers, officials said.

The plan to assassinate Soleimani was part of Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran and "was not something that was thought of as a first move," said a former senior administration official involved in the discussions.

The US military carried out an airstrike on the direction of Trump at Baghdad’s international airport last Friday, assassinating Gen. Soleimani and the second-in-command of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, as well as eight other companions.

Full report at:



UN says Lebanon made payment to restore UN voting rights

14 January 2020

The United Nations said Monday that Lebanon has paid its UN dues, restoring its voting rights in the General Assembly.

The UN had announced on Friday that seven countries - including Venezuela and Lebanon - were so far behind in paying their dues that they were losing their voting privileges in the 193-member world body.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the UN controller reported on Monday that Lebanon has just made a payment and “Lebanon’s voting rights have been fully restored.”

Lebanon is grappling with its worst economic and financial crisis in decades and has seen increased electricity cuts. Protesters took to the streets in October over proposed new taxes but are now calling for an end to the rule of the political elite that has run the country since the 1975-90 civil war ended.

Dujarric said: “We fully recognize that the recent events in Lebanon have challenged the banking system, delaying part of this money.”

Lebanon’s payment leaves Venezuela, Central African Republic, Gambia, Lesotho, Tonga and Yemen without voting rights.

Full report at:





Official: Canada, US, France Refuse to Help Decoding Black Box

Jan 13, 2020

Rezayeefar said Iran has asked Canada, France and the US to bring their software and hardware equipment to Tehran to extract data of the black box of the Ukrainian plane that was downed in an air defense incident on the Southwestern outskirt of Tehran on Wednesday, but they have denied Iran's request.

Then, Iran offered Ukraine, Sweden, Britain, Canada, and the US to send the black box to an impartial laboratory and France was the country all five countries agreed on, the official added.

Black box recordings of the Ukrainian airliner will be downloaded in France, head of the accident investigation board of Civil Aviation Organization of Iran announced on Saturday.

He added that although Iran made use of all its facilities to examine the content of the black box inside the country, the efforts yielded no good result. It will be sent to France so that its black box is downloaded there to avoid any damage to it.

As Rezayeefar said, Iran and France have an agreement to download planes' black boxes. 

However, all those decisions have been taken before the Saturday statement of the General Staff of the Islamic Republic of Iran's Armed Forces about the plane crash, the official noted.

A Boeing 737 plane carrying 180 passengers and crew, mostly Iranians, crashed shortly after takeoff from Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran early Wednesday, leaving no survivors. Tehran has announced that the jet was downed due to "human error", extending condolences to the families of those killed in the incident.



Israeli police raid religious group complex in Jerusalem

13 January 2020

Israeli police said Monday they had raided a residential complex in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem in which dozens of women and children were being held and abused under extreme conditions.

The police’s undercover investigation learned details from women who had escaped the captive-like group. The police raid was carried out in coordination with the Israeli Center for Victims of Cults.

Police say a 60-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of heading the group and “committing severe offenses” against those under his influence. He and eight female accomplices are suspected of isolating some 50 women in the complex, along with children between the ages of 1-5, and keeping them out of contact with their families and the outside world.

The prime suspect, who was not named, is also suspected of stealing money and delving out various forms of punishment.

Full report at:



Muqtada Al-Sadr Joins Meeting of Iraqi Popular Forces' Leaders on Expulsion of US Forces

Jan 13, 2020

The Arabic-language al-Mayadeen news website reported on Monday that the meeting was hosted by Secretary General of al-Nujaba Movement Sheikh Akram al-Kaabi and attended by Head of the Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS) Abu Alaa al-Wala'i and a representative of Asa'eb al-Haq resistance group.

The information center of al-Nujaba Movement released images of the meeting which was aimed at coordination to expel the American forces from Iraq.

Al-Kaabi had on Sunday reassured the family of IRGC Qods Force Commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, who was savagely assassinated by the terrorist army of the US at Baghdad International Airport, that resistance groups of the region will exact revenge on American perpetrators of the criminal act.

In his visit to the house of martyred General Soleimani in Tehran, al-Kaabi said that the resistance movement will take revenge on perpetrators of US terrorist act in assassinating General Soleimani very soon.

“Islamic Resistance Movement of Iraq (Al-Nujaba) promised daughter of Gen. Soleimani to take revenge on martyrdom of General Soleimani” reiterated the Iraqi figure.

Iraq will not be a safe place for American mercenaries and terrorists anymore, he emphasized.

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

The resolution, which was passed anonymously, instructed the government to cancel a request for military assistance to the US-led coalition, which was issued in response to the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (known as ISIL, ISIS or Daesh) terror group.

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

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

Full report at:



Judiciary Chief: US President Should Stand Trial for Assassination of General Soleimani

Jan 13, 2020

"This issue will certainly be pursued at the Human Rights Headquarters in cooperation with the foreign ministry and other bodies and we should make the US president account for his deeds as the prime suspect and he should face complaint," Rayeesi said, addressing the judiciary officials in Tehran on Monday.

"The complaint will be filed as he stands in power as the US president and after that, and this issue will be pursued and we will not leave him alone and he should be stand at an international tribunal," he added.

General Soleimani was martyred in a targeted assassination attack by the US drones at Baghdad International Airport early on January 3.

The airstrike also martyred Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), or Hashad al-Shaabi. The two were martyred in an American airstrike that targeted their vehicle on the road to the airport.

Five Iranian and five Iraqi militaries were martyred by missiles fired by the US drone at Baghdad International Airport.

Trump has said that he ordered a precision strike to "terminate" the Iranian commander.

The attack came amid tensions that started by the US attack on PMF units that killed 28 Iraqi popular forces. A day later, Iraqi people attacked the US embassy in Baghdad.

The targeted assassination attack represents a dramatic escalation by the US toward Iran after months of tensions. The tensions take root in Trump’s decision in May 2018 to withdraw the US from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, struck under his predecessor.

Full report at:



Senior MP Asks US to Pay $20bln in Compensation to Iraq

Jan 13, 2020

"Based on the international assessments, the US should pay $20bln for the damages it has inflicted on Iraq (after starting the war in 2003)," Salam al-Shamri was quoted by the Arabic-language Mawazin News as saying on Monday.

He added that US President Donald Trump pretends to forget the heavy destruction of Iraq by the US military attacks against the country.

The Trump administration last week warned Iraq that it could lose access to its central bank account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York if Baghdad expels American troops from the region, Iraqi officials told The Wall Street Journal.

The State Department’s warning followed Iraq’s parliament voting to force out American troops.

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

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

The resolution, which was passed anonymously, instructed the government to cancel a request for military assistance to the US-led coalition, which was issued in response to the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (known as ISIL, ISIS or Daesh) terror group.

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

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

Full report at:



Turkey orders 176 soldiers detained over ties to cleric

January 14, 2020

ISTANBUL: Turkish prosecutors on Tuesday ordered 176 soldiers detained over suspected links to the network that Ankara says was behind a coup attempt three-and-a-half years ago, state-owned Anadolu news agency reported.

Suspected followers of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen have been targeted in a sustained crackdown since a failed putsch in July 2016 in which some 250 people were killed. Operations against the network are still routine.

The latest police operation was coordinated from the western city of Izmir and targeted people in 49 provinces, Anadolu said. It said those facing arrest included 143 lieutenants, 97 of them serving, and 33 junior lieutenants, 11 of them serving.

Six F-16 warplane pilots were among those set to be detained, it added.

Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, has denied any involvement in the attempted coup.

In the subsequent purge, around 80,000 people have been jailed pending trial and some 150,000 civil servants, military personnel and others sacked or suspended from their jobs.

Full report at:



Gov't Spokesman Warns Britain Not to Interfere in Iran's Internal Affairs

Jan 13, 2020

"The unusual presence of the British envoy has been a violation of an ambassador's duties and he was released once the Law Enforcement Police identified him," Rabiyee told reporters in Tehran on Monday.

"We ask Britain to avoid interference in our country's affairs," he added.

Macaire had been briefly detained during a Saturday night protest in front of Amir Kabir University in downtown Tehran where he was organizing and provoking tens of protesters upset with the government’s way of handling the aftermaths of the Ukrainian plane incident earlier this week.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned Macaire after police identified and detained the envoy briefly as he was trying to turn a mourning vigil in front of the Amir Kabir University of Tehran into an anti-government protest.

Macaire was summoned by the Iranian Foreign Ministry on Sunday to receive an official protest note due to his unusual behavior and participation in an unlawful gathering held in front of the Amir Kabir University in downtown Tehran on Saturday night.

A large number of Iranian students and seminaries gathered in front of the British embassy in Tehran on Sunday to protest at the envoy's participation and role in last night protest rallies, calling for his expulsion.

The Iranian students and seminaries who had gathered in front of the British embassy on Sunday chanted 'death to Britain', 'we do not want British spy', 'the British nuclear deal should be annihilated' and 'the British embassy should be closed'.

They also carried images of IRGC Qods Force Commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani who was assassinated by the US in Iraq, and voiced strong support for the IRGC.

Several Iranian legislators blasted Macaire for participation in protest rallies, calling for his expulsion.

"We expected the foreign ministry to expel the British ambassador within 24 hours when he prepared and released a video clip [of protest rallies] and took footages from the protestors," Seyed Nasser Mousavi Laregani said on Monday, addressing an open session of parliament in Tehran.

Also, another senior lawmaker, Seyed Taqi Kabiri, called on the foreign ministry to firmly react to the British envoy's direct interference in Iran's internal affairs.

Meantime, Seyed Ali Adiani, another Iranian MP, said that the foreign ministry should not suffice to summoning Macaire because he has acted against the diplomatic regulations.

"The British ambassador should have been expelled in the minimum possible time," he added.

Reports said that Macaire had been holding secret meetings inside a shop opposite the main gate of the Amir Kabir University to monitor the developments that led to the protest on Saturday.

The General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces said in a statement on Saturday that the Ukrainian Boeing 737 plane was shot down as a hostile object due to human error at a time of heightened US threats of war.

The statement said an expert investigation by the General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces after the Ukrainian airline company's Boeing 737 incident has found that flight 752 of the Ukrainian airlines has been shot down as a hostile flying object that was approaching a sensitive IRGC center and was shot down due to human error few hours after Iran's missile attack on the US and as Iran's military was expecting attacks by the US army.

A Boeing 737 plane carrying 180 passengers and crew, mostly Iranians, crashed shortly after takeoff from Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran early Wednesday, leaving no survivors.

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei in a message on Saturday extended his condolences again on the death of the Ukrainian plane's passengers, and ordered the Armed Forces to take the needed measures to find faults and flaws that have led to the bitter incident and prevent repetition of similar incidents in future.

In his message, the Leader renewed his most heartfelt sympathy and condolences to the bereaved families of the victims, and reiterated his "order to the General Staff of the Armed Forces to probe into possible faults and flaws in this painful accident," Ayatollah Khamenei said.

He also underscored the need for the relevant Iranian directors and officials to launch the necessary follow-ups to prevent repetition of such incidents in future.

Also, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani extended condolences to the families of those killed in the Ukrainian plane incident, and promised that all those who have been guilty in the unforgivable mistake of shooting down the jet will be prosecuted.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake... My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families. I offer my sincerest condolences," Rouhani said in a statement on Saturday.

Full report at:



US Force Inside Missile-Showered Base: Iran's Attack 'Extremely Scary'

Jan 13, 2020

"It's very hard to describe it. I will tell you, it was extremely scary. Some of my team and myself were hunkered down and one of those bunkers. And when the first wave started hitting you could feel the shockwave," Lieutenant Colonel Staci Coleman told Arwa Damon, CNN senior international correspondent, during an exclusive tour of the devastated site.

"And even inside the bunker, the pressure was so strong that we watched our bunker doors sinking towards the inside of the bunker and then escape back out," she added.

"About seven of the impacts were in very close proximity to where we will hunker down and like I said, you could feel every last one of the shockwaves it was extremely scary," the colonel stated.

Briefing media on operational objective of missile attacks on US bases, Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Aerospace Force Commander Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh stated that Iran was not after killing anyone although "tens of US troops have likely been killed and wounded and were transfered to Israel and Jordan on 9 sorties of C-130 flights".

He noted that had Iran intended to kill the American forces, it could have planned high casualty operations to kill 500 US military men in the first step and 4,000 to 5,000 others in the second and third phases within 48 hours.



Lt. Col. Staci Coleman describes the attack on an Iraqi air base to @arwaCNN: “Some of my team and myself were hunkered down in one of those bunkers, and when the first wave started hitting, you could feel the shock wave.”

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Asked by Damon to describe the attack, Coleman announced that the American troops knew "something was happening", but they didn't know "exactly what".

"As the time grew closer, we kind of thought we had an indication of what it might be, but we still weren't certain," she noted.

It was the first time forces at the base have spoken in detail of the moments before the attack. The attack lasted around two hours, only targeting the US areas of the air base, which comprise around a quarter of the Iraqi base.

The Al-Asad air base, which houses US troops, is one of the largest and oldest military bases in Iraq.

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Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Qods Force Commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani was martyred in a targeted assassination attack by US aircraft at Baghdad International Airport last Friday. Pentagon also martyred Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), or Hashad al-Shabi, five Iranian, and five Iraqi militaries.

On Wednesday, Iran fired more than a dozen missiles at two American military bases in Iraq in retaliation for Washington's assassination of Tehran's elite commander, warning of further strikes against the Unted States.

Later the same day, Iran said at least 80 US servicemen have been killed and over 200 wounded in the attack.

Full report at:



UN says reports of violence against Iran protesters ‘worrying’

14 January 2020

Accusations of lethal force against protesters in Iran should be fully investigated, a spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday, saying reports of violence against those protesting the downing of a civilian airliner were “worrying.”

“We’re obviously following very closely the demonstrations that have been taking place today and over the weekend in Iran and the Secretary-General recalls the rights to freedom of expression and association in peaceful assembly of people,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.

Protesters denouncing Iran’s clerical rulers took to the streets and riot police deployed to face them on Monday, in a third day of demonstrations after authorities acknowledged accidentally shooting down a Ukrainian passenger plane.

Images from the previous two days of protests showed wounded people being carried and pools of blood on the ground. Gunshots could be heard, although the police denied opening fire.

Dujarric said Guterres had taken note of the announcement by Iran that it had unintentionally shot down the passenger plane.

Full report at:



Iran arrests son of a Green movement opposition leader: Report

14 January 2020

The son of a leader of Iran’s opposition Green movement was arrested on Monday, according to website Sahamnews.

Hossein Karoubi was arrested two days after his father, under house arrest since 2011, called on Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to step down over the handling of the shooting down of the Ukrainian airliner.

In a statement posted online, Mehdi Karroubi asked when Khamenei was told about the shooting down of the plane after it took off from Tehran on Wednesday, and why there had been a delay in informing the public about the real reasons for the crash.



Iranians must be allowed ‘to protest freely’: Berlin

13 January 2020

The Iranian people must be allowed to “protest peacefully and freely” after authorities there admitted to accidentally shooting down a passenger plane, Berlin said Monday.

Iranians have the right to take to the streets to express their “grief and also their anger” after the plane disaster, German foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr said. “We are convinced this has to happen in a peaceful, free and unhindered way.”



Iranian police did not shoot at protesters in Tehran: Police chief

13 January 2020

Police in the Iranian capital did not fire on protesters and officers have been under orders to show restraint, Tehran’s police chief said in a statement carried by the state broadcaster’s website on Monday.

Videos shared on social media, posted late on Sunday, had recorded gunshots fired in the vicinity of protests and showed pools of blood. They also showed images of wounded people being carried by others. Reuters could not authenticate the footage.

“At protests, police absolutely did not shoot because the capital’s police officers have been given orders to show restraint,” said Hossein Rahimi, head of the Tehran police.



China slams Washington's 'arbitrary' sanctions on Iran

13 January 2020

China has criticized what it calls "arbitrary sanctions" Washington imposed on Iran after the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) launched retaliatory missile strikes on the US' Ain al-Assad base in Iraq.

Speaking in a press briefing on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang expressed Beijing's "clear-cut" opposition to Washington's unilateral sanctions.

"We believe wanton use or threat of sanctions won't solve any problem. We hold that purposes and principles of the UN Charter and basic norms governing international relations should be complied with in state-to-state relations," he noted.

His comments came after the Trump administration hit senior officials and the manufacturing and metals sectors in Iran with new sanctions in reaction to Iran's retaliatory missile strikes against the Ain al-Assad base in Iraq.

The sanctions were announced by Steven Mnuchin, the US Treasury secretary, and Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, in a press conference at the White House on Friday.

The new bans also hit a Chinese trading company, a Chinese shipping vessel and an Oman-based supplier for facilitating and engaging in business with the Iranian metals sector.

The Treasury secretary said the sanctions would not only ban US businesses from transactions with those Iranian targets, but would also be “secondary” in nature, meaning entities from third countries would also be prevented from doing business with those targets.

In his Monday press briefing, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman urged "the US to cease immediately the wrongful sanctions on Chinese businesses."

"We will continue to staunchly defend Chinese enterprises' legitimate rights and interests," he noted.

He also called on the US to respect the lawful and justified cooperation between Tehran and Beijing.

"China and Iran have been conducting mutually-beneficial cooperation in various sectors within the framework of international law. Such cooperation, which is justified and lawful and doesn't harm any third party's interests, should be respected and protected," he said.

The Chinese spokesman further pointed to the recent escalation of tensions between Iran and the US, and said that "differences should be properly handled in peaceful ways through dialogue and negotiation."

"China calls on all parties concerned to view what has happened based on their own merits and stick to the general direction of political settlement. Concrete steps should be taken to defuse the [Persian] Gulf situation and jointly uphold regional peace and stability," he added.

His comments come as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he has urged China to cut off the minimal flow of Iranian oil exports to the country.

The US Secretary of Treasury threatened that China and even European countries could face US sanctions over Iranian oil.

Full report at:



Iran’s Rouhani hopes for boosting ties with Oman under new sultan

13 January 2020

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has congratulated Haitham bin Tariq al-Said over his appointment as the new ruler of Oman, expressing hope for the expansion of bilateral ties between Tehran and Muscat.

In a congratulatory note on Monday, Rouhani expressed felicitations to Haitham as the Sultan of Oman following the death of his cousin Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said.

“Ties between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the sultanate of Oman were founded on mutual trust at the time of the late Sultan Qaboos, and I hope that bilateral relations will expand during your tenure with tact and discretion and more than ever before in all areas,” the Iranian president said.

In his message, Rouhani also wished health and prosperity for Haitham and asked God glory and dignity for the people in the sultanate of Oman.

Haitham, who has served as Oman's minister of heritage and culture, was sworn in as the new ruler of the Arab country after Sultan Qaboos, the Arab world's longest-serving ruler, died at the age of 79 on Friday.

In his first address to the nation, Haitham vowed to uphold the Persian Gulf country's foreign policy, which he said was built on "peaceful coexistence" and friendly ties with all nations.

Full report at:



Report: Damage from Iran strikes 'much greater' than US admits

13 January 2020

A report by a correspondent for Danish TV 2 who has interviewed Danish soldiers positioned at Iraq’s Ain al-Assad airbase, which was the target of a retaliatory attack from Iran against US forces, shows that the damage done to the base has been “much greater” than the US officials acknowledge.

The report cites Danish sergeant John and other Danish soldiers as making the comment in an interview after the US military base in the western Iraqi province of Anbar was targeted by Iran’s retaliatory strikes.

“Suddenly, the first wave came, that’s what I call it. Nine rockets at barely a ton each. It cannot be described. I’ve never experienced anything like it, and I hope to never come to it again,” said the Danish sergeant, who was in a bunker along with his other comrades at the time of the strikes.

“The first strikes were so severe that we were sure we were going to a golden desert and nothing would be left. We were really surprised that everything hadn’t fallen on top of our heads. I would estimate that the nearest rocket hit 300 yards from us, and as we walked around afterwards, there were halves of helicopters, and there were holes so big that you could park a van in them,” the sergeant added.

Sergeant John went on to say that the damage was “actually much greater than the US admitted, with even helicopters being destroyed and not just several buildings damaged and hitting open territory in the camp.”

The Ain al-Assad airbase is a large complex located about 180 kilometers west of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, housing about 1,500 US forces and members of the US-led coalition that purport to fight the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.

On January 8, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) fired volleys of ballistic missiles at Ain al-Assad, and another outpost in Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan.

The missile operation was in response to the January 3 assassination by US terrorists of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), and a group of their companions in Baghdad. The cowardly operation was conducted under US President Donald Trump’s direction. The US Department of Defense took responsibility for the assassination.

Both commanders enjoyed deep reverence among Muslim nations over their endeavors in eliminating the US-sponsored Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in the region, particularly in Iraq and Syria.

Soon after the assassination, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said Washington was to face a “harsh revenge.”

At the White House, Trump has denied the Iranian missiles left any casualties. Tehran said the US military conducted at least nine sorties after the operation, taking the wounded to Jordan and the Occupied Territories, while Chinook helicopters transferred the injured to a US hospital in Baghdad.

Full report at:



Iran missile strikes shattered Washington’s invincibility myth: Senior Hezbollah official

13 January 2020

A top official from the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement says Iran's precision missile strikes at US military bases in Iraq in retaliation for the assassination of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), shattered Washington’s invincibility myth.

“Iran, by bombing the bases, exposed the American arrogance and put an end to the US invincibility myth. It demonstrated that it stands … prepared for any confrontation. The blood of Lt. Gen. Soleimani marks the end of American presence in Iraq and the region, so the United States no longer has a future in the region,” Nabil Qaouk, the deputy head of Hezbollah's executive council, said at a memorial ceremony held in Lebanon’s southern town of Khiam on Monday.

He further noted that the Iranian attack on Ain al-Assad air base marks the start of a response, which will not conclude until the full withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and West Asia.

On Sunday, Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said the Iranian missile strikes sent the message that all American targets in West Asia are within the range of Iranian missiles.

“This attack was also a message to the Zionist entity… Let stupid [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu know the wrong spot he has put his entity in,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech broadcast live from the southern Lebanese city of Baalbek as he addressed his supporters.

He added, “Look at the faces of the US leaders… Do they look like victorious faces?”

The Hezbollah chief then slammed mainstream Arab news networks for being far too pro-US over their attempts to underreport the Iranian strikes and the extent of damage caused.

The US military carried out a terrorist operation at Baghdad’s international airport last Friday, assassinating Lt. Gen. Soleimani, along with his companions, including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq’s PMU.

Both commanders were admired by Muslim nations for eliminating the US-sponsored Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in the region, particularly in Iraq and Syria.

The US assassination has drawn a wave of condemnation from officials and movements throughout the world, and triggered huge public protests across the region.

Early on January 8, the IRGC targeted the US-run Ain al-Assad air base in Iraq’s western province of Anbar after launching a wave of attacks to retaliate the assassination of Lt. Gen. Soleimani.

The IRGC has called for a complete withdrawal of US troops from the Arab country, asserting that it would not differentiate between the US and Israel in retaliating against the assassination of the Iranian national hero.

“We warn US allies providing bases for the [American] terrorist army… that any country serving as the origin of bellicose and aggressive attacks in any form against the Islamic Republic of Iran will be targeted,” an IRGC statement read.

The strike came as no surprise since Iran had vowed to take a “harsh revenge” in the wake of the US act of terror.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei later said Iran’s missile strike on US bases in Iraq was just “a slap.”

Full report at:



South Asia


Hasina keen to strengthen ties with Muslim countries

14 Jan 2020

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called on Bangladesh envoys in the Middle East to work towards strengthen ties with Muslim countries.

She made the call at a conference attended by Bangladesh's ambassadors to nine Middle-Eastern countries at Hotel Shangri-La in UAE's Abu Dhabi on Monday.

The prime minister pointed out that misunderstandings can at times derail friendly ties between nations and stressed the need for discussions to resolve it, her Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim told reporters.

“She told the ambassadors that we want to live in peace. Those who produce military weapons also create a market for it. It is mostly the people in the Muslim countries who become victims to it. We need to strengthen our ties with the Muslim countries, she said.”

Hasina urged the ambassadors to focus on attracting investments to Bangladesh and enhancing the country's export opportunities in the Middle East. She noted that a market for new products can be created by identifying the demand for it in these countries. “Bangladesh has a strong economy now. Earlier we had to work hard to get loans from donors. We’ve moved on from that phase and now we have development partners instead of donors.”

Hasina highlighted the steps taken by her government to curb violence and terrorism while pledging to continue the crackdown on drugs and corruption.

Hailing the contribution of Bangladeshi migrant workers to the national economy, the Awami League chief said: “We’ve added new planes to our fleet to which migrant workers make a large contribution, especially those living in the Middle East. We receive the highest amount of remittances from the Middle East.”

The Bangladesh leader also warned expatriates about fraudulent middlemen who cheat people of their money through the promise of providing them with a better livelihood abroad.

Hasina called for awareness campaigns among the people against middlemen and urged migrants not to pay more than the amount fixed by the government while going overseas for work.

The Expatriate Welfare Bank has been established with the aim of providing loans to expatriates to run their businesses, said the prime minister.

Foreign Minister A K Abdul Momen, Expatriate Welfare Minister Imran Ahmed, Foreign State Minister Shahriar Alam, State Minister for Power and Energy Nasrul Hamid also attended the event.



Enraged Iran Up for asymmetric Warfare in Afghanistan

14 Jan 2020

Tensions sparked the world as the US military assassinated the second most powerful Iranian, General Qasem Soleimani, head of the Quds Forces.

Soleimani was the architect of the pro-Iranian militiamen and a feared enemy of the ISIS group, the United States’ and Saudi Arabia’s interest in the Middle East thus considered with high regard by a number of Iranians.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif took Twitter on the day of Soleimani’s funeral: “Have you [President Trump] seen such a sea of humanity in your life? … Do you still think you can break the will of a great nation and its people?” Undoubtedly, Iran is going to retaliate, the means of which will be far dangerous to the region than to the United States itself.

The Revolutionary Guards Major General Hossein Salami vowed to revenge the death of Soleimani by putting “an end to the US presence in the Region.”

With Iran’s military and economic capabilities into account, Iran’s direct war with the US is far-fetched; however, as far as their “strategic revenge” is concerned, it will destabilize Afghanistan because its primary target will be the US presence in the region, namely in the Middle East and Afghanistan which threatens the US-Taliban peace deal at its crucial stage.

Iran’s “dirty work will only harm the Afghanistan peace process”, Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State, stated at a press conference.

“Soleimani was an asset for Iran as well as a threat to the region. He was a master of proxy wars, credited with the creation of a number of regional militant groups. His death will increase tension in the region. If the Afghan government fails to maintain a neutral position, the current circumstances will destabilize Afghanistan even further,” Rahmatullah Nabil, former head of Afghanistan’s NDS, warned.

In a statement from President Ghani’s office, Afghanistan promised to remain neutral and urged the de-escalation among the Islamic Republic of Iran, our “big neighbor, with whom we share a common language,” and the United States, “Afghanistan’s strategic and fundamental partner”.

So far, Iran is reluctant to respond regarding this matter while the US accuses Iran of “undermining” the Afghan Peace Process.

Iran is going for asymmetric warfare as its retaliatory response to revenge for the assassination of Soleimani. In doing so, Iran’s elemental proxy is the Taliban despite the fact that Suhail Shaheen, Spokesperson of the Taliban, has dismissed “negative impacts” of US-Iran tensions on the peace process because “the (US-Taliban) peace agreement is finalized and only remains to be signed.”

Historically, Iran has kept close and behind the curtain ties with the Taliban through logistic and financial support to this group. Iran can attempt to sabotage the US-Taliban peace deal.

Yousafzai, a journalist familiar with the US-Taliban peace negotiations, reports of a type of relationship that is “improved well beyond diplomatic niceties” among the Taliban and Iran. Iran is a host to millions of Afghan youths who are recruited to the Fatemiyoun group, an Iranian-sponsored Shia militia group. The affiliation of Fatemiyoun with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards of Soleimani is a matter of attention, this group can anytime become a big threat to the US and its interests in Afghanistan.

The US wants to end the Afghan conflict with dignity and legitimacy; however, as it is, their legitimacy will be the main target for Iran as they have vowed to revenge strategically. Iran might attempt to thwart peace deal through affiliating other groups in Afghanistan into her proxies, including the Tora Bora and the Mullah Dadullah Group.

Asymmetric warfare would mean that Iran will not only increase financing the Taliban, Fatemiyoun and other extremist groups but will also provide them highly enhanced and sophisticated means of weaponry to fight with unconventional war tactics, particularly guerrilla attacks, suicide bombs to which the most vulnerable will be Afghan people. “Iran can increase financial support to the Taliban and even give them advanced weapons, which will dramatically alter the face of the Afghan battlefield,” Yousufzai noted.

One of the prominent uniting motives between Iran and the Taliban can be the common goal and common enemy; the US and ending its presence in the region.

What can be done?

The Afghan government officially announced its neutrality in the US-Iran tensions. However, there were two types of responses to Sloeimani’s assassination by the Afghan politicians. While one group appreciated the neutrality of the state in this matter, the other condemned the action at the strongest terms possible.

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, “strongly condemned the US airstrike on the Baghdad airfield which killed Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Quds Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran, it is contrary to international principles and norms.” The position of the State of Afghanistan is official at the end of the day whereas this position cannot be a guarantee an Afghan Peace Process free of Iran’s negative influence.

Afghanistan is at a crucial phase of transition; the Afghan Peace Process is the only hope of ending the “endless” Afghan conflict. The US and NATO must take all measures needed to ensure the success of this process. Otherwise, it is likely that Afghanistan will go to another deadly conflict for years to come.

Full report at:



Afghan government insists on Taliban’s commitment for a ‘complete ceasefire’

13 Jan 2020

Following the prolonged Afghan peace process and recent discussions, the Afghan government demand for a ceasefire and reiterated that a reduction of violence accepted by the Taliban is neither practical nor a promising solution to the ongoing crisis.

Mr. Sediq Sediqqi, the presidential spokesperson, said in his remarks that “a ceasefire is a preliminary step for peace negotiations planned by the Afghan government. However, the reduction of violence is not acceptable for the people and state at any cost. The generic demand jointly proposed by the people, and the Afghan government is to stop killing and terrorizing civilians.”

Sediqqi further added, “a ceasefire is temporary and has an international precedent which tries to pave the way for greater dialogs and discussions to end the violence once and for all between the different parties.” 

Meanwhile, the Afghan government insists on the clarity of the proposed plan and the Taliban’s commitment to the peace negotiations, which is highly demanded by the ordinary Afghans for many years.

Full report at:



Bombs kill 2 children in northern province: Afghan official

14 January 2020

Two bombs went off near-simultaneously on a road in northern Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing two children and wounding nine people, a local official said.

The explosions took place in the city of Mazr-i Sharif, the provincial capital of Balkh province, said Adil Shah Adil, the provincial police chief’s spokesman. He said of the nine wounded, eight are civilians and one is a member of the Afghan security forces.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but the Taliban have stepped up attacks in Balkh in recent weeks and elsewhere in northern Afghanistan. Earlier this month, the insurgents claimed an attack on a police checkpoint in Balkh that killed nine officers.

Full report at:





LNA General Haftar leaves Moscow without signing ceasefire deal: Russia

14 January 2020

Libyan National Army General Khalifa Haftar has left Moscow without signing a ceasefire agreement to end nine months of fighting in the country, the Russian foreign ministry confirmed to AFP Tuesday.

The foreign ministry also said it continues to work with Libya’s warring sides to find a settlement, Reuters reported.

General Haftar on Monday evening asked until Tuesday morning to look over the agreement already signed by the head of UN-recognized government Fayez al-Sarraj, but left the Russian capital without signing, Russia's foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.



Libya’s Haftar, al-Sarraj did not meet officially during Moscow talks

13 January 2020

Libya’s warring leaders did not meet officially during indirect peace talks held in Moscow on Monday, the Interfax news agency cited a member of the Russian delegation, which mediated the talks together with Turkey, as saying.

Fayez al-Sarraj, who heads the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), signed a ceasefire agreement at the talks.

Khalifa Haftar, the eastern commander whose Libyan National Army (LNA) forces have been fighting troops of the GNA, asked for more time to consider the ceasefire.

Since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising that killed longstanding dictator Muammar Qaddafi, Libya has been plunged into chaos.

It is now divided between the GNA and rival authorities based in the country’s east.

Al-Sarraj is fighting a civil war against an alternative government based in the eastern city of Benghazi whose forces are led by Haftar.

Full report at:



Macron urges ‘credible, lasting’ Libya ceasefire

13 January 2020

French President Emmanuel Macron has called for a credible and lasting ceasefire in Libya as both sides in the conflict were expected in Moscow to sign an agreement to end the fighting, the presidency said Monday.

“The president emphasized the necessity that the ceasefire that is to be announced is credible, lasting and verifiable,” the Elysee said following telephone talks between Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday.



Somalia’s al-Shabaab kill 3 teachers, abduct one in Kenya

13 January 2020

Somalia’s Takfiri al-Shabab militants have killed three teachers and wounded a child in an attack on a primary school in eastern Kenya, police say.

The terrorists attacked the settlement of Kamuthe in Garissa County near Kenya’s border with Somalia on Monday, according to a police report.

They killed three teachers, abducted another and wounded a child by a stray bullet during a raid on the Kamuthe primary school.

Police said the militants also burned down a police station and destroyed a telecommunications mast.

The al-Qaeda-linked group has not yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but it has been involved in militancy in Somalia and neighboring countries, Kenya and Uganda, for more than a decade.

Last week, they killed four schoolchildren in a gunfight with Garissa local police. The attackers targeted a telecommunications mast in that assault as well.

The militants was forced out of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu in 2011, but it continues to wage deadly attacks against government, military, and civilian targets around the city and in other parts of the country.

Al-Shabaab militants have fought successive Somali governments as well as neighboring governments Kenya, which sent troops to Somalia in 2011 to fight the Takfiri group as part of the African Union forces.

Back in December, they killed 11 people, including eight police officers, in an attack on Kenya’s Mandera County.

In separate attacks in December, they also killed two construction workers in Garissa County.

Full report at:



Niger army chief fired after 89 killed in extremist attack

January 13, 2020

NIAMEY: Niger’s president has fired the army’s chief of staff after attacks against security forces have killed at least 174 security force members since December.

President Issoufou Mahamadou’s action on Monday came after the death toll from an attack by Islamic extremists on Niger’s military last week rose to at least 89, making it the most deadly attack of its kind in years in the West African nation.

The fatalities from the attack Thursday rose dramatically from the 25 soldiers that the government initially said were killed last week.

In addition to the soldiers killed in that attack on the Chinagrodrar Advanced Military post near the border with Mali, at least 77 extremists were killed by Niger’s army and its foreign allies, most notably France and the United States, according to a statement issued Sunday by the government. The military’s response, which included air support, pushed the extremists from Niger, the government said.

There will be three days of national mourning beginning Monday, the government announced.

Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Ahmed Mohamed will be replaced by Brig-Gen. Salifou Modi, who was the military attache for Niger in Germany, the presidential statement said Monday. He also dismissed the Secretary General of the Ministry of National Defense and the Chief of Land Staff.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for Thursday’s attack, but the attack bore the hallmarks of a Daesh-linked group that said it was behind the December ambush near the town of Inates that killed 71 soldiers and was previously the most deadly attack of its kind in Niger in years.

“The government calls on the population to be more vigilant, more serene and united, and reaffirms its determination to continue the fight against terrorism until the final victory,” the government statement said.

The increase in the death toll as a summit opens in Pau, France, that is to be attended by French President Emmanuel Macron and the leaders of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger Mauritania. Those countries make up the G5 Sahel group that are working with France against the threat of extremists in the region.

The crisis of extremist violence across the Sahel is deepening, particularly in Burkina Faso and Mali.

Islamic extremists also targeted and killed 14 Niger security force members who were escorting election officials on Dec. 25 near Sanam, about 200 kilometers (124.27 miles) from the capital of Niamey. Officials from the national electoral commission were in the area to conduct a census before next year’s vote.

Full report at:



Arab World


Syria Opens 3 Humanitarian Corridors for Civilians From Militant-Held Areas In Aleppo, Idlib

13 January 2020

Syrian authorities have opened three humanitarian corridors for civilians from areas controlled by foreign-sponsored militants in the northwestern provinces of Aleppo and Idlib to leave and move to government-controlled parts of the country.

Syria’s official news agency SANA reported on Monday that the corridors were set up in the town of Abu al-Duhur, located about 45 kilometers (27 miles) south of Aleppo, al-Hadher village in the Mount Simeon district of Aleppo province as well as Hobait town in the Ma'arrat al-Nu'man district of Idlib province.

The report added that local officials and army units have made preparations “to evacuate civilians who want to leave areas controlled by terrorists,” namely buses, ambulances and food supplies.

Later in the day, SANA reported that dozens of civilians from the last remaining militant-held regions in the countryside of Aleppo province crossed the al-Hadher humanitarian corridor into government-controlled territory.

They underwent medical checks, and are expected to be transferred to their hometowns across the country within the next few days.

Turkey's Defense Ministry said on Friday that Ankara had agreed with Moscow that a ceasefire will be implemented in Syria's Idlib.

The announcement came a day after a Russian defense ministry official said a ceasefire had already been implemented there in line with agreements with Turkey.

“According to the agreements with the Turkish side, the ceasefire regime was introduced in the Idlib de-escalation zone starting from 14:00 Moscow time (11:00 GMT) on January 9, 2020,” Russian Major General Yury Borenkov was quoted as saying then.

The ceasefire eventually came into effect on Sunday.

The Turkish Defense Ministry said attacks by air and land would halt at one minute past midnight on January 12 under the agreement.

Turkey had earlier requested Russia to declare a ceasefire in Idlib, and sent a delegation to Moscow in December last year to discuss the issue.,-Idlib



US military deployment in Bahrain illegitimate, not welcome: Opposition

13 January 2020

A Bahraini opposition political organization has censured the presence of the US Navy's Fifth Fleet in the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom, emphasizing that the deployment is illegitimate and not welcome by ordinary Bahrainis.

“The American military presence in Bahrain lacks any legitimacy and is not welcome. US forces stationed in Bahrain do not have any legal legitimacy, because their presence is based on treaties concluded without any legislation. Such agreements have been reached secretly and caused sufferings for the people of Bahrain for decades,” the Haq Movement for Liberty and Democracy said in a statement released on Monday.

It added, “The authority in Bahrain lacks popular legitimacy and the system is a dictatorial one, in which people have no role or participation in decision-making and legislation, especially sensitive ones. People do not have a real representation in the sham parliament, and therefore foreign military bases like that of the US Fifth Fleet and HMS Jufair (a British Royal Navy base) are illegitimate and against the will of the free Bahraini nation.”

The opposition organization highlighted that hostility towards the United States has reached an unprecedented level due to President Donald Trump’s flawed policies, and that US troops have become persona non grata in the eyes of the peoples of the region. “Trump brags and is trying to deceive the world. He claims support for popular protests. Where is Trump then as the regimes in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia practice repression and their prisons are filled with thousands of activists and political detainees,” the statement pointed out.

Thousands of anti-regime protesters have held demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the country in mid-February 2011.

They are demanding that the Al Khalifah regime relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established. Manama has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to assist Bahrain in its crackdown.

Full report at:,-not-welcome:-Opposition



NGOs boycott pre-G20 meetings in Saudi Arabia over rights violations

14 January 2020

Three prominent international NGOs have boycotted meetings that Saudi Arabia is holding with civil society groups ahead of the annual Group of Twenty (G20) Summit, saying the Riyadh regime is trying to “whitewash its dire human rights record” by hosting such events.

In a joint statement issued on Monday, human rights group Amnesty International, anti-corruption body Transparency International, and the global alliance of civil society organizations and activists known as CIVICUS said they would not take part in the dedicated meetings for civil society within the G20, known as the Civil 20 or C20.

“As leading civil society organizations present in most countries around the world (but notably not Saudi Arabia), we cannot participate in a process that seeks to give international legitimacy to a state that provides virtually no space for civil society, and where independent civil society voices are not tolerated,” read the statement.

In December 2019, Saudi Arabia took over the presidency of the G20 — the group of 19 of the world’s largest economies along with the European Union.

This year’s G20 Summit is planned to be held in Riyadh in November. This week, the kingdom is holding C20 meetings with civil society groups.

The NGOs boycotting the C20 said Saudi Arabia has “recruited expensive Western PR advisers and spent millions of dollars” in an attempt to polish its image and suppress criticism from international media.

The kingdom arrests and prosecutes rights defenders, censors free speech, discriminates against women, and tortures detained journalists and activists, the groups noted.

“Instead of real reform, the Saudi government has been trying to whitewash its dire human rights record by holding major international events in the country. This includes the G20,” they said.

The trio also called on other groups to join them in the boycott, stressing that even if they participate in the C20, Saudi Arabia will censor the discussions to its own people, and that protests by activist groups would be limited.

“Freedom of peaceful assembly is a right, but in a country where all gatherings, including peaceful demonstrations, are prohibited, there is no possibility that this fundamental right will be respected,” they said.

Separately, Netsanet Belay, Research and Advocacy Director at Amnesty International, said, “The C20 is supposed to provide a platform for civil society voices from around the world to influence the G20 agenda. Since Saudi Arabia has locked up most of its own independent activists, the only domestic organizations present will be aligned with the government — which makes a mockery of the whole process.”

“The C20 in Riyadh is a sham. We cannot participate in a process which is being abused by a state which censors all free speech, criminalizes activism for women’s and minority rights..., and tortures and executes critics,” he added.

Agnes Callamard, the UN rapporteur investigating the state-sponsored murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, has already called for the G20 meetings to be moved elsewhere this year.

In her 101-page report published in June 2019, she said there is “sufficient credible evidence” indicating that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bears responsibility for the murder in 2018 of Khashoggi in Riyadh’s Istanbul consulate and should therefore be investigated.

Reprieve raises alarm at Saudi executions

In another development on Monday, human rights organization Reprieve said Saudi Arabia executed 184 people in 2019, the most in a calendar year in six years.

“This is another grim milestone for Mohammed bin Salman’s Saudi Arabia. The kingdom’s rulers clearly believe they have total impunity to flout international law when it suits them,” Reprieve director Maya Foa told Al Jazeera.

She also noted that the number of executions continues to rise under bin Salman.

Foa added that the countries gathering to promote cooperation at the upcoming G20 summit in Riyadh would be seen as a “tacitly endorsing these egregious human rights abuses.”

Full report at:



1,248 students of 49 nationalities join Dubai centre to learn about Islam

January 14, 2020

A total of 1,248 students, of 49 nationalities, from six continents, benefited from the courses organised by the Department of Students’ Affairs at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre for Islamic Culture.

Run by the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department in Dubai (IACAD), the centre’s data indicated that age of students ranged from 9 years to 72 years, which underscores the inclusive nature of the center’s courses.

Courses organised by the Department of Students’ Affairs last year included special courses for residents of the UAE, including Filipinos, Pakistanis, Indians, Singaporean, French, Turkish and Ethiopian nationals.

Furthermore, New Muslims courses, Ramadan Forum, Children Summer courses, and Student’s Needs courses also took place. All the courses witnessed interest from students of various cultural and religious backgrounds, seeking to learn more about tolerance of Islam and Islamic culture.

Hind Mohammed Lootah, Director of Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre for Islamic Culture, stressed that the message of the centre is civilisational and humanitarian at its core. It seeks to promote tolerance and moderate Islam, as well as to introduce the residents to the richness of Arabic and Islamic civilisation.

Lootah reiterated IACAD’s contribution, as well as that of its affiliated departments and centres, in organising the courses. IACAD provided lecturers and professors, who provided their expertise to enhance the courses.

Shamsa Mohammed Bin Shafie, Head of the Department of Students' Affairs, said, “In the past year, the Department of Students’ Affairs was keen that all residents in the country, both Muslims and non-Muslims, benefit from the specialised courses on offer.

The courses were multi-lingual, and aimed at increasing the base of beneficiaries and introducing them to Islam and its values. This year, we will further build upon what we have achieved thus far, by employing the best educational methodology. This is in order to attract more residents in the UAE to learn about Islamic culture.”

Full report at:



Egypt mufti advisor heads to US for week-long activities about Islam

Jan. 13, 2020

CAIRO, Jan 13 (MENA) - Advisor to the Egyptian mufti Dr Ibrhaim Negm headed for the US Monday to participate in week-long activities meant to shed light on Islam.

Negm will make a point of correcting the false image adopted by the West about Islam and Muslims, not to mention the phenomenon of Islamaphobia.

Lectures will be delivered in a number of American universities as part of the activities, Negm said.

He added that he will hold a number of important meetings during his visit.



Pompeo: US to work with Iraqi leaders on US troop deployment

14 January 2020

The United States will work with Iraqi leaders to ‘get to the right place’ on US troop deployment in the country, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday, following a request from Baghdad last week to prepare to pull them out.

“How ultimately our force posture will be resolved inside of Iraq, we will work along (with) the ... elected leaders in Iraq to get to the right place,” Pompeo said at an event at the Hoover Institution in California.



Lebanese protesters block road outside central bank

14 January 2020

Lebanese protesters used sandbags and bricks Monday to block a main street outside the country’s central bank, protesting financial policies they say deepened a liquidity crunch.

Lebanon is facing its worst economic crisis in decades, with the local currency losing over 60 percent of its value to the dollar over the last weeks while sources of foreign currency have dried up. Meanwhile, banks imposed informal capital controls limiting withdrawal of dollars and foreign transfers in the country that relies heavily on imports of basic goods.

Panic has set in among residents who fear their deposits are in danger. Nationwide protests for three months have failed to pressure politicians to form a new government to institute drastic reforms.

The incumbent prime minister Saad Hariri resigned in late October. The president after consulting parliamentary blocs designated a new prime minister in December, who has yet to form a new Cabinet amid deep political divisions.

After weeks of calm, protesters threatened to launch a week of protests, culminating in civil disobedience, demanding the immediate formation of a government to deal with the severe financial crisis.

Late Monday, dozens of protesters blocked a main thoroughfare in central Beirut. The brief closure ended with limited scuffles with the police. Protesters then moved to outside Banque Du Liban, installing sandbags and bricks to block the street. “Down with the bank rule,” chanted the protesters. In a video posted by the protesters, they said the roadblock is to respond to the banks blocking depositors accessing their accounts.

The National News Agency reported protesters also blocked a main road in the southern city of Sidon.

Full report at:



US troops describe ‘miraculous’ escape at Iraqi base attacked by Iran

14 January 2020

Troops at the Iraqi air base that bore the brunt of Iran’s first direct missile attack against US forces said they were shocked by its intensity and grateful to emerge unscathed.

The scale of the damage at the Ain al-Assad base showed Iran’s destructive capability at a time when US officials say they are still concerned that Iran-backed groups across the region could wage attacks on the United States.

“It’s miraculous no one was hurt,” Lt Col Staci Coleman, the US air force officer who runs the airfield, told reporters on Monday at the vast base deep in the western Anbar desert in Iraq, where 1,500 Americans were deployed.

“Who thinks they’re going to have ballistic missiles launched at them ... and suffer no casualties?”

The January 8 attack came hours after US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the United States should expect retaliation over the US killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike in Iraq the previous week.

The killing raised fears of a new Middle East war, but the United States, Iraq, and other countries with troops at the base said no one was hurt. US military leaders have said that was thanks to commanders on the ground, not Tehran’s goodwill.

At one site, a cruise missile had left a large crater and incinerated living quarters made from shipping containers.

Heavy concrete blast walls were knocked over and the shipping containers were smashed and charred along with contents including bicycles, chairs and other furniture. Several soldiers said one of their number had come very close to being blown up inside a shelter behind the blast walls.

Almost a dozen missiles hit the air base, where US forces carried out “scatter plans” to move soldiers and equipment to a range of fortified areas apart from one another.

The United States did not have Patriot air defenses at the base, putting the onus on local commanders to protect their troops.

“We’d got notification there could be an attack a few hours prior so had moved equipment,” said US Staff Sergeant Tommie Caldwell. 

‘It’s like terror’ 

Lt. Col. Coleman said that by 10pm all the staff she manages were ready to take cover. “People took this very seriously,” she said.

Three-and-a-half hours later the missiles started arriving. Several soldiers said they continued for two hours.

Staff Sgt Armando Martinez, who had been out in the open to watch for casualties, said he could not believe how easily one missile levelled the concrete blast walls.

“When a rocket strikes that’s one thing; but a ballistic missile, it’s like terror,” he said.

“You see a white light like a shooting star and then a few seconds later it lands and explodes. The other day, after the attack, one colleague saw an actual shooting star and panicked.”

One missile landed on the tarmac of a parking and servicing area for Blackhawk helicopters helping to ferry equipment in the fight against ISIS insurgents.

The helicopters had been moved but it destroyed two light hangars and badly damaged portacabins nearby.

“We must have been in the bunkers for more than five hours, maybe seven or eight,” said Kenneth Goodwin, Master Sgt in the US Air Force. “They knew what they were aiming at by targeting the airfield and parking area.”

It was the latest strike against an air base that has figured prominently in high-ranking US officials’ visits to Iraq.

“After these missile attacks, when we hear of possible militia rocket attacks, we tend to think, ‘Oh only rockets ... that’s a change’,” Coleman said, describing the common feeling when the missile attacks were over as “sheer relief.”

Full report at:



Russia says civilians can flee Syria’s Idlib via three new checkpoints

13 January 2020

Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement late on Sunday that civilians could leave what it calls a de-escalation zone in Syria’s Idlib Province via three new checkpoints.

The ministry said it had received many requests from Syrian civilians in Idlib in areas controlled by armed groups to return to their homes in territory controlled by Syrian government forces.

The Russian military warned armed groups to allow people to leave Idlib if they wanted to.

Russia and its allies halted air strikes in Idlib on Sunday as a ceasefire agreed with Turkey came into force, residents, rebels and respondents said, although few were optimistic the truce would hold.



Japan making diplomatic efforts to defuse tensions in Gulf: Abe

13 January 2020

Japan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates should work together to de-escalate the tense situation in the Gulf, a Japanese foreign ministry official said on Monday, relaying comments by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

As part of a Middle Eastern tour, Abe met UAE leaders in Abu Dhabi on Monday after having been to Saudi Arabia on Sunday. He will head to Oman on Tuesday, whose ruler, Sultan Qaboos, died on Friday.

The official said Japan has a strong relationship with both the United States and Iran and was in a position to play a diplomatic role in defusing regional tensions.

In Abu Dhabi, Prime Minister Abe was received by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, at the Qasr Al Watan Palace and accorded an official ceremonial reception.

Abe will “compare notes with the leaders of the three countries who we believe are like-minded in the sense that they are all worried about the extremely high tension in the region and the need,” the official said.

He added that Abe has met Iranian President Hassan Rouhani three times last year and maintains “very good contact” with US President Donald Trump.

 Sheikh Mohammed  thanked Abe for Japan’s “balanced policy” towards the Middle East, in a statement on UAE state media after their meeting.

Sheikh Mohammed said the UAE was willing to work with Japan and Saudi for regional stability.

Japan’s Cabinet last month approved the deployment of a warship and patrol planes to the region and on Friday ordered them to head to the Middle East to protect ships bringing goods to Japan.

Full report at:




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