New Age Islam
Wed Oct 21 2020, 12:46 PM

Islamic World News ( 11 Feb 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Lebanese Judge Orders 3 Muslims who insulted Christianity to Memorize Quran Verses Hailing Mary, Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Grand Mosque in Paris. Photo: AFP

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Lebanese Judge Orders 3 Muslims who insulted Christianity to Memorize Quran Verses Hailing Mary, Jesus

Nadwi, an Influential Muslim Cleric Once Wrote a Letter Supporting Islamic State

Social Media Blasts JI, JUI-F for Glorifying Mashal Murder Accused

More and More French Believe Islam Is Compatible With Society

'I Feel Trapped': Violence Fuels Fear Among Myanmar Muslims

 

Arab World

Lebanese Judge Orders 3 Muslims who insulted Christianity to Memorize Quran Verses Hailing Mary, Jesus

Egypt Hits Sinai Targets, Killing 16 Jihadists and Arresting Dozens

Former Qaeda Leader in Syria ‘Welcomes’ Israeli Airstrikes

More Terrorists Killed in Clashes between Two Rival Groups in Northwestern Syria

Syrian Army Forwards More Soldiers, Equipment to Eastern Deir Ezzur

Syrian Army Repels Terrorists' Attack in Lattakia Province, Kills Entire Gunmen

Nine more Yemeni civilians fall victim to Saudi airstrikes

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India

Nadwi, an Influential Muslim Cleric Once Wrote a Letter Supporting Islamic State

AIMPLB Vice President Kalbe Sadiq Bats for ‘Vidya Mandir’ Instead Of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya

Couple In Viral ‘Love Jihad’ List Gets Death Threats in Kolkata, Files Complaint

Terror attack on Jammu Army camp toll reaches 9

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Pakistan

Social Media Blasts JI, JUI-F for Glorifying Mashal Murder Accused

Musharraf Invites All Muslim League Factions to Unity

President signs ordinance aimed at going tough on UN-banned outfits: report

No progress on Af-Pak counter-terrorism: Kabul

FC Balochistan arrests 20 suspected terrorists

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Europe

More and More French Believe Islam Is Compatible With Society

Giving Up Control of Brussels Mosque, Saudi Arabia Sends a Signal

English Muslim Schoolboy Triggered Terror Alert with Water Pistol, Family Allege Islamophobia

US blocking UNSC resolution for independent Syria chemical attacks probe: Russia

Pro-Saudi British MP accepted $20,000 for anti-Qatari event: Report

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South Asia

'I Feel Trapped': Violence Fuels Fear Among Myanmar Muslims

IS, Lashkar-e-Islam Clash in Eastern Afghanistan

Suspected Ansar al-Islam member held

UK’s top diplomat meets Myanmar’s Suu Kyi on Rohingya crisis

Car bomb explosion leaves 4 Taliban militants dead in Farah province

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Mideast

'Israel Helpless Before Hezbollah Power'

Trump Says Unsure Israel Seeks Peace with Palestinians

Trump warns Israel that settlements 'complicate' peace process

Drone strike kills 6 Qaeda suspects in Yemen

Iran marks anniversary of Islamic Revolution after protests

Palestinian leader seeks Russia's backing over Jerusalem

Zarif urges immediate halt to Saudi war on Yemen, delivery of aid to nation

'Israel deploys anti-missile system on Syria border'

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North America

No Mothers, No Muslims: The New US Immigration System

Taliban Invites GOP Senator for ‘Mutual Talks’ In Doha

US General McMaster in Istanbul amid US-Turkey tensions over Syria

Turks in Canada pray for military success in Syria

US envoy Tillerson in Egypt at start of Mideast tour

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Southeast Asia

How Marawi Pushed Asean Nations to Join Forces against Terrorism

'No Room for Intolerance in Indonesia': Jokowi

Man with Sword Attacks Church in Indonesia

KPAI Apologizes For Article Blaming Secularism for Rampant Sexual Abuse

Daesh-linked militant in Indonesia gets 7 years in prison

Blockchain venture aims to modernize Islamic endowments

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Africa

Ekiti 2018: Church Founder Joins Guber Race, To Field Muslim as Deputy

At least 3 soldiers wounded in bomb attack in Libya’s Sirte

Bodies of Al-Shabaab fighters found after attempted attack on AP camp

Soldiers kill ‘several’ Boko Haram members in Yobe – Official

Boko Haram: Families of freed lecturers, policewomen laud Nigerian govt

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/lebanese-judge-orders-3-muslims-who-insulted-christianity-to-memorize-quran-verses-hailing-mary,-jesus/d/114252

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Lebanese Judge Orders 3 Muslims who insulted Christianity to Memorize Quran Verses Hailing Mary, Jesus

11 February 2018

A Lebanese judge ordered three Muslim young men who insulted Christianity to memorize verses from the Quran’s Al-Omran surah which glorifies Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ.

Instead of handing down a prison sentence over their contempt of religion, Joceline Matta ordered the men to memorize the verses to be released.

While reading out the verdict in court in Tripoli, North of Lebanon, last week, Matta noted that her decision aims to teach the young men about Islam’s tolerance and love for Virgin Mary.

“The law is a school and not just a prison,” she said.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri commended the move on Twitter and saluted Matta for her decision which reflects justice and teaches mutual concepts between Muslims and Christians.

State Minister for Combating Corruption Nicolas Tueni also praised Matta and said her decision paves way towards innovative judicial approaches that help resolve social problems and religious intolerance.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/variety/2018/02/11/Lebanese-judge-orders-3-Muslims-to-memorize-Quran-verses-hailing-Mary-Jesus.html

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Nadwi, an Influential Muslim Cleric Once Wrote a Letter Supporting Islamic State

Feb 12, 2018

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) parted ways with one of its more influential members as it sacked cleric Salman Husaini Nadwi, who had said that shifting of the mosque in Ayodhya is permissible. Nadwi had recently courted controversy after he met Sri Sri Ravi Shankar over the Ayodhya dispute and said at the board's meeting that shifting of the mosque is possible according to the Sharia.

Nadvi was expelled on the recommendation of a disciplinary committee, News18 reported. On Saturday, at the general body meeting of AIMPLB, many of the 500 participants said Nadvi should be removed from the board. AIMPLB referred to Nadvi's statement on the shifting of the mosque and said it is not acceptable and the remarks were made in his personal capacity.

Referring to Nadvi's remarks that a mosque can be shifted as per the Sharia (Islamic law), the board said it had made its stand clear that masjid is the "home for Allah". "Masjid always remains like that. It cannot be shifted or gifted or sold. This is Sharia. Salman Nadvi's stand is opposite to this. He made it clear that he did not want to change his stand," it said.

Nadwi is a Lucknow-based leading Islamic cleric and is a senior lecturer and mentor at Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama. His Facebook page describes him as having served the Muslim community in India through various methods over the years. He established the Madrasat al-Imam Ahmad ibn ‘Irfan al-Shahid al-Islamiyyah in 1975, which is a noted institution of Islamic learning. He has a masters degree in Hadith — a record of the traditions or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, revered as a major source of religious law and moral guidance, second only to the authority of the Quran.

He is highly revered among the young generation of Muslims in Lucknow. For he is not only a senior faculty member (mudarris) in Lucknow’s most reputed Islamic seminary, but also a founder-ideologue of a Lucknow-based global Islamic organisation of Muslim youths widely known in the Arab world as 'Harkatul Shabab al-Islami' (movement of Islamic youths).

He is also a man of letters.

Wrote to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to express support for Islamic State

Nadwi had earlier made headlines when he had written a letter to pay allegiance and extend congratulations to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in mid-2014. Given that the congratulatory letter was issued by a senior teacher in India’s leading madrasa, it was interpreted as an indication of the attitude and approach of the Lucknow-based clergy towards the emergence of a global Islamic caliphate. However, in his letter, Nadwi was only a spokesperson of the petrodollar-funded Wahabi seminaries in India. India’s mainstream Muslims and spiritually-inclined Sufi leaders issued an open letter to Nadwi with unequivocal statements castigating his inclination towards al-Baghdadi’s conception of the Islamic state.

Nadwi, later, backed out after facing widespread criticism. Writing in The Milli Gazette, Nadwi blamed the media for their journalistic dishonesty as he alleged that they had distorted his statements. He then criticised the activities of the Islamic State and said they are "wrong from the Islamic point of view and only help to defame Islam".

He, then, warned all Muslims to not be cheated by the group and until they prove their sense of justice and broad-mindedness required by Islam, people should not be influenced by this group.

In an interview with Firstpost, Nadwi admitted that he had written a congratulatory letter to Baghdadi. However, he also justified his support for what he initially thought of as an 'Islamic state of the true Quranic principles of caliphate'.

Nadwi said, "I congratulated Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi on the point that he had registered victories against the cruel atrocities of Shias in Iraq (shion ke zalimana mazalim)”. He further said that in the letter he had advised Al-Baghdadi to establish good relations with other countries as well as with India and not to kill ordinary people just because they belong to different sects, i.e. mainly the Shia sect. "However, Al-Baghdadi continued to promote sectarianism (anti-Shia killings) and the violence spread to other countries"…. "Now, Daesh is on the path of Kharijites. They talk about Islam but Islam se bari hain (are out of Islam)."

Proposed to raise a militia for a "powerful global Islamic army"

Nadvi also wrote a long and passionate letter to the Saudi government offering to raise a militia of 5,00,000 Sunni Muslim Indian youth as his contribution to a "powerful global Islamic army". He proposed the army would fight Shia militants in Iraq and "help Muslims in need" elsewhere. The army would become part of a Caliphate that he wants Saudis to set up for the Muslim ummah, the international Muslim community.

He also suggested that terrorists should not be referred to as terrorists as they were engaged in a “noble cause’’ and called for a “confederation’’ of all jihadi organisations so that they could transform themselves into a single “powerful global force”. His offer of raising an Indian Muslim militia to fight on foreign lands which has caused a stir even in the normally complacent Muslim quarters as it comes amid mounting concern over the increasing radicalisation of young Indian Muslims who had far defied the global Islamisation trend.

Letter to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan

After a failed military coup in Turkey in April 2016, Nadvi wrote a letter on praising Erdogan and denouncing Fethullah Gulen as the mastermind of the Turkey coup. He also expressed regret at the successful coup led by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Egypt, reported DailyO. The report attributed this support to the fact that both Erdogan and Morsi are prominent figures representing political Islam.

http://www.firstpost.com/india/aimplb-sacks-salman-husaini-nadwi-for-compromising-on-babri-influential-muslim-cleric-once-wrote-a-letter-supporting-islamic-state-4346675.html

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Social media blasts JI, JUI-F for glorifying Mashal murder accused

February 12, 2018

Islamabad - Soon after the news of Jamaat-e-Islami Mardan leader Attaul Haq and Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Islam-Fazl leader of the district, Shujaul Mulk having welcomed the freed accused in Mashal murder case at Rashakai interchange of Peshawar-Islamabad Motorway went out, men and women from all walks of life took to social media to express their anger over glorification of the suspects of the AW Khan University, Mardan lynching incident.

Those who reacted fiercely to terming the murder accused as ‘ghazis’ included both the liberals as well as religious figures. Defenders of Jamaat could offer no explanation other than posting a message by the JI Spokesperson Ameerul Azeem saying it was not the party policy, rather an act of the local organisation. Azeem also reminded that the JI head Sirajul Haq had condemned Mashal’s murder in the Senate.

Ironically, the JUI-F Mardan organisation also welcomed the freed murder accused, but it was the JI that was targeted in majority of the social media posts, probably because of the party’s extremist image in people’s minds due to its history. The JUI-F local organisation remained siding with the alleged killerxs through the whole saga, but as the party chief Fazlur Rehman has a relatively soft image nationwide, this act of the party’s local organisation was ignored. Rashid Ali Durrani, a JUI-F activist, however, wrote that he was ashamed of being a supporter of a party that welcomed murder suspects with pride.

The Jamaat, was, however, condemned widely by social media users; some saying that the party had left no space for doubt into its extremist character.

Qari Hanif Dar, a popular social media writer, wrote that the Mashal murder actually led Jamaat to death, to which Mohsin Kamal commented that the state must bring to book all those who defied its writ in open at Rashakai interchange.

In another post, Qari Hanif expressed that it meant that arrest of “rather bigger ghazis” from the houses of JI leaders in the past was not a mere coincidence.

It is newsworthy that the accused who was granted capital punishment in the case belonged to the JI, the major coalition partner in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government.

Mubarak Ali, controller news at a regional language news channel, while reacting to a post from the JI Mardan official page wherein the party’s district leader invited the supporters to welcome the freed Mashal murder suspects, expressed in a tweet that the ‘real’ culprits were known and evidences were also there but the law could not take its course against them.

The JI Mardan official page reportedly deleted several posts on the subject after criticism.

Renowned social media writer Farnood Alam pointed out that by welcoming the murder accused and calling them ‘ghazis’, the Jamaat looked as if accepting that the suspects were involved in the killing of Mashal. He also reminded that the JI Ameer Sirajul Haq had also ‘endorsed’ Mumtaz Qadri by participating in his funeral prayers.

Rehanul Haq Chaudhary, another social media user, posted that the nation needed to hang the mindset behind Mashal murder prior to hanging the actual culprits. He also posted snap of a news channel screen telling that the JI activists also raised slogans in favour of the accused, Imran, who was granted capital punishment in the case.

Some channels also reported that the JI activists also vowed aloud to do the same to other Mashals as well. A poster widely being shared on social media carrying photo of JI Mardan leader Attaul Haq invited the party supporters to gather at the Rashakai interchange to welcome the ‘ghazis’.

Hasan Khan, a senior journalist, expressed his confusion as to who should he believe in the JI, as, he wrote, some of its leaders were defending Mashal’s murderers, while others were condemning the act of their fellow party men.

https://nation.com.pk/12-Feb-2018/social-media-blasts-ji-jui-f-for-glorifying-mashal-murder-accused

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More and more French believe Islam is compatible with society

12 February 2018

While the role of Islam in French society has long been a divisive and inflammatory topic a new study suggests people in France are now more accepting of the religion.

The new survey showed that 56 percent of French people believe Islam to be compatible with the values of French society compared to two years ago when the same percentage believed the opposite to be true.

Carried out by pollsters Ifop on behalf of Le Journal de Dimanche, the survey however also showed that 43 percent of the country does not think the religion is compatible with life in France (see graph below).

The survey comes at a time when France is waiting for President Macron to deliver his vision for the role of Islam in French society.

In an interview with Le Journal de Dimanche in November the president said he wanted "to reorganize Islam in France to better integrate worship, fight fundamentalism and preserve 'national cohesion'.”

In September, a survey that looked at how Muslims themselves felt about their home country showed that Muslims living in France feel a stronger attachment to their country than they do in much of Europe, despite experiencing high levels of discrimination. That study also found that first generation Muslims feel more attached to France than their offspring.

This week's Journal de Dimanche survey also asked the French what they thought about the creation of a tax on halal products, the revenues of which would be used to finance Muslim worship in France.

On this point, there was no debate, with the large majority of respondents (70 percent) opposed to the idea and only 29 percent of French people saying they were in favor of a "halal tax".

In the graph below, the results on the left relate to the question of whether people believe Islam to be compatible with French society while those on the right relate to the question of the "halal tax".

The subject of Muslim integration in France is one of the country's most hotly debated issues and so it probably doesn't come as a surprise that people's views on this matter varied greatly according to which political party they supported.

The survey showed that the more left-wing the voter, the more likely they were to consider Islam compatible with French society.

In total, 73 percent of people who supported France's Socialist party believed Islam to be compatible as did 60 percent of those who supported left-wing party "La France Insoumise" (France Unbowed).

And 58 percent of people who supported French president Emmanuel Macron's Republique en Marche party thought the same.

https://www.thelocal.fr/20180212/more-and-more-french-believe-islam-compatible-with-life-in-france

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'I feel trapped': Violence fuels fear among Myanmar Muslims

February 12, 2018

YANGON, Myanmar — For four straight days last month, Rahim Muddinn watched, amazed, as Myanmar’s state-run newspapers published special supplements showing Rohingya Muslims accused of being terrorists — nearly 250 photos each day.

For the 41-year-old Rohingya man, it was a surreal moment. He was born and raised in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city and far from the western state of Rakhine, where bloody military operations that followed Rohingya militant attacks in August have driven nearly 700,000 Rohingya into refugee camps in Bangladesh.

“When we first saw those pictures, we started laughing. We wondered: When will it be our turn to have our pictures in the paper?” Muddinn, a teacher, said in an interview in his Yangon home.

Behind the laughter, though, there is genuine fear.

The pictures are the latest in a series of chilling realizations for the Rohingya minority here. Though Yangon’s tree-lined boulevards and weathered colonial architecture seem a world away from the rice paddies and isolated villages of Rakhine — let alone the tarp-walled huts of the teeming refugee camps — the government is increasingly linking Rohingya across the country with what it calls a terrorist threat, Muddinn and others say.

Rohingya in Yangon describe a sense of rising persecution and hatred, of vanishing freedoms and opportunities, of Buddhist neighbours and friends suddenly more willing to publicly express sympathies with the military’s destruction of Rohingya villages in Rakhine.

“One day it really could be my picture in the paper,” said Muddinn. Like most of the other Rohingya who spoke with The Associated Press, he used his Rohingya name because of safety worries. “I do have anxiety. The government can detain anyone it says is a supporter of terrorism or anyone viewed as a threat to the state.”

Though Rohingya have always been persecuted in the country, it got much worse after 2012, when violence in Rakhine killed hundreds and drove about 140,000 people, most of them Rohingya, from their homes to camps. Violence flared again in 2016 and, most dramatically, following the August attacks, when refugees report widespread killing and rape by Myanmar forces. The AP last month confirmed, through extensive interviews with survivors and time-stamped video, a massacre and at least five mass graves, all previously unreported, in the Rakhine village of Gu Dar Pyin.

Many Rohingya have been in Myanmar for generations, but, increasingly, the government and media have played up their claim that they’re not citizens but “illegal Bengali interlopers” who entered Myanmar from Bangladesh with the help of corrupt immigration officers.

There are non-Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, and they often report rising discrimination, especially those in Rakhine. But generally their situation is less precarious than the Rohingya.

Myanmar’s government denies discriminating against Rohingya and other Muslims.

“It’s totally not true that Muslims in the cities like Yangon have no freedom of movement or lack the same rights as other populations,” said Aung San Win, director general of Myanmar’s Ministry of Religion. “Everyone is granted rights to freedom by the constitution, including Muslims. There is no discrimination in the country.”

In Yangon, however, hate speech against Rohingya has risen, and Buddhists who were once friends and colleagues now shun Muddinn’s family. Muddinn believes the government is now trying to portray all Rohingya as terrorists.

When he hears a motorcycle rev its engines near his home after midnight, he wonders if a policeman is coming to detain him. His wife, Amina, hasn’t left their home by herself since 2012 because of shame and fear after a Buddhist spit on her.

Why did it happen? Because she was wearing a burqa.

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Not far away, Kyaw Min, a well-known Rohingya activist and president of the Democracy and Human Rights Party, brandishes the newspaper photos of alleged terrorists.

The government, he said in his party headquarters, is trying to make it so that nearly every Rohingya family in Rakhine state will be associated with an accused terrorist if the refugees in Bangladesh ever return to Myanmar.

Safety is a worry even in Yangon. He said he no longer leaves his home at night or travels alone around the city. Some party members have been attacked, and he has suffered intense abuse on social media, with people calling him “rubbish” and an “interloper from Bangladesh.”

Early last year, a gunman killed Ko Ni, a prominent member of Myanmar’s Muslim minority and a legal adviser for the ruling National League for Democracy party. He was shot in the head at the Yangon airport.

Ko Ni, who wasn’t Rohingya, had criticized the NLD in 2015 for not putting up Muslim candidates in the general election.

Since August, abuse has intensified, and Rohingya leaders risk their safety if they speak out publicly. “We feel this everywhere,” said Kyaw Min, who spent years in prison on what he calls politically motivated charges.

Though most Rohingya worry less about their political future and more about putting food on their plates, the sense of discrimination and persecution is a heavy burden. All of them, says Kyaw Min, “will have some sort of scar in their hearts.”

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“The word ‘Rohingya’ is a dangerous thing to be called in this country,” said Ajas, 26, a college student in Yangon, who, like some other Rohingya, uses only a single name. “The government has brainwashed the whole country into thinking that we are illegal immigrants.”

Few local NGOs or Buddhist activists will stand up for the Rohingya, but Ajas said he and others are trying to talk with liberal Buddhists and other “moderate minds.”

Still, he is the only Rohingya in his class and sometimes has problems with Buddhists when he describes himself as Rohingya. “They don’t accept that word because they say there is no such thing as that concept in this country.”

Like many Rohingya in Yangon, Mohammad Warris, another college student, usually keeps his national ID card in a safe at home. The cards, which are used to apply for school, to set up bank accounts and to get passports, are irreplaceable without a huge bribe, he said, because Myanmar has long tried to take them from Rohingya as a way to more easily strip them of citizenship.

“If I didn’t have this, I wouldn’t be able to survive. I could be caught by the police and jailed as a ‘Bengali terrorist,”‘ Warris, 24, said.

“They are hated by the mass of Burmese because they simply exist,” a 20-year-old student at the University of Yangon says of the Rohingya during an interview in an empty classroom, ceiling fans whirring overhead.

Though the student, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of safety worries, is a rare example of a Buddhist at the school willing to regularly defend the Rohingya, he won’t do it on the streets.

“It’s too precarious,” he said. “If I say ‘genocide’ in public, the government would put me in jail for years.”

Buddhists at the university have accused the student, whose parents are Buddhists from Rakhine, of having Rohingya blood and of taking money from foreign governments and NGOs. A nationalist friend told him he had informed on him to police for insulting Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi and said he would be sued. “He said, ‘You’re destroying your own country by sympathizing with terrorists.”‘

He still speaks up in class to defend the Rohingya, but he doesn’t describe himself as an activist anymore and has focused lately on his studies. “I can do better work (for the Rohingya) as a researcher than if I was in jail.”

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One day last year, Muddinn sat with some friends sipping tea at a cafe in his neighbourhood when the Buddhist driver of a bicycle rickshaw smashed purposely into the side of a car driven by a Muslim man. It was not the first time the neighbours had seen this Buddhist slam into Muslim cars.

The Buddhist got off his bicycle, screaming insults at the Muslim and trying to punch him.

“I was really furious,” Muddinn said. But he did nothing, even though he describes himself as short-tempered. “Even if we’re the victims,” he said, “the police will see us as the perpetrators because we’re Muslim.”

“I feel trapped,” Muddinn said. “There is no guarantee for our future. I want to stay in this country forever, but now my faith is shaken and I wonder if I will have to move away.”

http://nationalpost.com/pmn/news-pmn/i-feel-trapped-violence-fuels-fear-among-myanmar-muslims

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Arab World

 

Egypt hits Sinai targets, killing 16 jihadists and arresting dozens

11 February 2018

Egypt’s military has destroyed dozens of targets, killed 16 fighters and detained over 30 suspects as part of its latest operation against Islamic jihadists in the restive northern Sinai Peninsula, the army said on Sunday.

Army spokesman Col. Tamer el-Rifai said that airstrikes hit vehicles, weapons caches, communications centers and illegal opium fields in the sweep, which began on Friday and comes as a response to a pickup in extremist violence in Egypt.

“The air force targeted and destroyed 66 targets used by terrorist elements to hide from air and artillery attacks” during raids by security forces, he said in a statement.

The operation, which targets “terrorist and criminal elements and organizations,” involves land, naval and air forces from the army and police, and covers north and central Sinai, the Nile Delta and the Western Desert along the porous border with Libya.

The offensive comes ahead of a March vote that will undoubtedly see President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi win a second four-year term, after all serious opponents have been sidelined or driven out of the race.

Sissi, who has waged a sweeping crackdown on dissent in Egypt, claims he is the only one who can restore Egypt’s security, and ordered the Sinai operation after militants struck.

In November, jihadists killed 311 worshipers in a mosque attack in north Sinai, the deadliest such killing in Egypt’s modern history, prompting Sissi to give security forces a three-month deadline to restore order using “all brute force” required.

But the terrorists launched another brazen attack in December, firing a missile at a helicopter that was part of the entourage of Egypt’s defense and interior ministers, who were in the provincial capital el-Arish on an unannounced visit. Neither minister was in the aircraft when the attack took place but the missile killed an officer and wounded two others.

Jihadist insurgency has long been a problem in Sinai, but it spiked dramatically after Sissi led the military’s 2013 overthrow of elected but divisive Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. Violence has been concentrated in north Sinai, but has also spread to the mainland.

Meanwhile, two terror groups that have carried out previous attacks on security forces, denounced the new operation in statements posted online.

The group known as Hasm urged Egyptians to unite against the “traitorous regime” which was “digging its own grave” by “declaring open war on Sinai.”

Another group, called Liwaa el-Thawra, said the offensive, involving tens of thousands of troops, was a sign the government was losing control of Sinai, where it vowed to continue it struggle.

Authorities believe both groups, which have been designated as terrorist organizations by Egypt and the United States, to be splinter groups of Morsi’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/egypt-hits-sinai-targets-killing-16-jihadists-and-arresting-dozens/

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Former Qaeda leader in Syria ‘welcomes’ Israeli airstrikes

By DOV LIEBER        

11 February 2018

In a rare public expression of support for Israel by a radical Islamist figure in Syria, a former leader in al-Qaeda’s Syrian militia on Saturday welcomed Israeli airstrikes against Syrian and Iranian targets in the country after an Iranian drone infiltrated Israeli airspace, and called on the Jewish state to quickly “uproot” Iran from its northern neighbor.

“We welcome any Israeli aerial or naval bombardment against the [Syrian] regime and Iran in Syria. We urge them to do more. And we say to Israel: Your silence over Iran’s intervention in Syria will turn against you. It’s inevitable. Act with haste to uproot them,” Saleh Al-Hamwi wrote on Twitter.

Hamwi was a founder of the Nusra Front in 2012. In July 2015, the jihadist group said it dismissed him for not falling in line with the group’s internal politics.

He is now reportedly affiliated with the hardline Islamist group Ahrar il-Sham.

On Saturday, tensions flared on the Israeli-Syrian border, after the IDF intercepted an Iranian drone that entered Israeli airspace from Jordan and an Israeli F-16 was apparently hit while flying over Syria during a retaliatory raid. The Israeli plane managed to return to Israel, where its two pilots ejected. One of the airmen was severely injured, while the second was lightly wounded.

In response, the Israeli Air Force quickly conducted a series of reprisal strikes in Syria.

Hamwi contended that Iran had intentionally sent the drone into Israeli airspace in order to draw Israeli planes into the range of anti-aircraft weaponry stationed at the base where the UAV had taken off from.

“[Iran] sent a drone and penetrated Israeli airspace with the prior knowledge that Israel would respond and bomb the launch site of the UAV,” he tweeted.

“A decision was made in advance to bring down any Israeli fighter plane that would bomb the airport” using the Russian-made S-200 air defense system, Hamwi added.

The outspoken Syrian militant concluded that neither Iran nor Israel are interested in war right now. He argued, however, that Iran had succeeded in its goal of deterring Israeli airstrikes, which have reportedly become commonplace in Syria in recent years.

“It certainly opens a new stage,” he wrote.

The Iranian-backed Lebanese militia Hezbollah, which has been fighting for the Assad regime, hailed Syria’s air defenses, saying Saturday’s incident marked the start of a new era.

“This is the beginning of a new strategic era that puts an end to the violation of Syrian airspace and territory,” the terror group said in a statement published by Lebanon’s ANI news agency.

During Israel’s widespread retaliatory offensive on Saturday in Syria, the IDF said, it hit four Iranian positions and eight Syrian sites, causing significant damage.

Israel also said it destroyed the Syrian military’s main command and control bunker in its most devastating assault in the country in decades.

Full report at:

https://www.timesofisrael.com/former-qaeda-leader-in-syria-welcomes-israeli-airstrikes/

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More Terrorists Killed in Clashes between Two Rival Groups in Northwestern Syria

Feb 11, 2018

The sources said that the Al-Nusra and ISIL suffered heavy casualties after the two main terrorist groups engaged in fierce clashes near Um al-Khalalil region in Southeastern Idlib.

The sources said that 20 gunmen of ISIL and Al-Nusra were killed in the clashes as the former tried to expand its regions in Southeastern Idlib.  

The Arabic-language al-Manar TV network reported on Friday that a fresh wave of tensions and differences erupted among the main terrorist groups in Idlib province after they handed over the body of the Russian pilot whose jet was downed by the Al-Nusra Front.

It said that the Al-Nusra put a large number of its forces on alert in Idlib countryside, adding that the Al-Nusra was planning to attack Faylaq al-Sham that reportedly had handed over the body of the Russian pilot.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961122001222

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Syrian Army Forwards More Soldiers, Equipment to Eastern Deir Ezzur

Feb 11, 2018

The sources said that the army has dispatched a large number of forces and a large volume of military equipment to the Eastern bank of the Euphrates River in Eastern Deir Ezzur.

The sources further added that several artillery units and military vehicles were sent to al-Jazeera Khasham, al-Tabiyah and Marat.

The US-led coalition carried out several airstrikes on Syrian forces in Deir Ezzur province on Thursday.

The US military was claiming that so-called anti-ISIL coalition forces repelled a threatening Syrian Army-led attack consisting of five hundred troops – backed by artillery, tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems and mortars – late on Wednesday and early on Thursday against positions of Arab and Kurdish militias at energy fields near the town of Khasham on the Eastern bank of the Euphrates River in Deir Ezzur province.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961122000965

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Syrian Army Repels Terrorists' Attack in Lattakia Province, Kills Entire Gunmen

Feb 11, 2018

The army men exchanged heavy fire with a group of terrorists after militants violated the de-escalation zone's ceasefire agreement in Tal Hadadah East of the town of Kinsibba in Northern Lattakia.

The army men warded off the attack and killed all the gunmen of the terrorist group. 

In relevant developments in the province last month the army men engaged in fierce clashes with terrorists in Atriyeh and al-Saraf near the border with Turkey and repelled their attack after killing a number of them.

Also, the army's artillery units shelled heavily terrorists' positions and movements in Jabal (mount) al-Shir and in the village of Nawareh near the border with Turkey.

A field sources said that terrorists have launched the attacks, codenamed "God Will Defeat Them By Your Hands", in a bid to disturb the army's concentration on Idlib.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961122000654

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Nine more Yemeni civilians fall victim to Saudi airstrikes

Feb 11, 2018

Nearly a dozen people have lost their lives when Saudi military aircraft carried out two airstrikes against a residential area in Yemen’s western coastal province of Hudaydah as the Riyadh regime pushes ahead its devastating aerial bombardment campaign against its crisis-hit southern neighbor.

Local sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Yemen’s Arabic-language al-Masirah television network that the fighter jets struck a number of houses in Sharjah area of al-Garrahi district on Sunday afternoon, leaving nine civilians, including five women, dead.

Separately, Yemeni army forces and allied fighters from Popular Committees launched a salvo of artillery rounds at the position of Saudi troopers in Raqabah al-Salah area of the kingdom’s southwestern border region of Najran, located 844 kilometers (524 miles) south of the capital Riyadh, killing and injuring scores of them.

Yemeni artillery units and their allies also launched separate attacks against Jabal al-Dukhan, Hamezah village and al-Qern base in the same Saudi region, causing extensive damage in the targeted areas.

At least 13,600 people have been killed since the onset of Saudi Arabia’s military campaign against Yemen in 2015. Much of the country's infrastructure, including hospitals, schools and factories, has been reduced to rubble due to the war.

The Saudi-led war has also triggered a deadly cholera epidemic across Yemen.

According to the World Health Organization’s latest tally, the cholera outbreak has killed 2,167 people since the end of April 2017 and is suspected to have infected 841,906.

In November 2017, the United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF, said more than 11 million children in Yemen were in acute need of aid, stressing that it was estimated that every 10 minutes a child died of a preventable disease there.

Additionally, the UN has described the current level of hunger in Yemen as “unprecedented,” emphasizing that 17 million people were food insecure in the country.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/11/552019/Nine-more-Yemeni-civilians-fall-victim-to-Saudi-airstrikes

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India

 

AIMPLB Vice President Kalbe Sadiq Bats for ‘Vidya Mandir’ Instead Of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya

February 11, 2018

Qazi Faraz Ahmad

Lucknow: Senior Shia cleric and Vice President of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), Maulana Syed Kalbe Sadiq has said that in his opinion a Vidyamandir should be constructed in Ayodhya. Speaking on the issue of Ram Mandir, Kalbe Sadiq said, “Mandir zarur bane,” but was quick to change his statement into a diplomatic one and stated, “Mandir Na Bane, Vidyamandir Bane.” However, he denied commenting on the issue of AIMPLB member Salman Nadvi suggesting to shift Babri site after a meeting with Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

Speaking to News18 in Barabanki on Saturday, Sadiq said, “In my opinion, a Vidyamandir should be constructed in Ayodhya. The Ram Mandir issue should have resolved by now, it will only be resolved when people want to resolve it.” Sadiq was speaking at a function in Barabanki on Saturday at a function organised by a private institution.

However, Kalbe Sadiq, who is also a renowned Shia cleric, said that Muslims must learn from Christians. “Where ever there is a Church you will also find an educational institution. How many Mosques have you seen where there is school? By school, I mean modern education. Today both religious and modern education is the need of the hour. Muslims should ensure that they build a modern education institution along with mosques, I am sure then Hindus will also support Muslims.”

“All my Hindu brothers have always supported me and showered me with love, unlike Muslims because of whom I have often faced problems,” said Sadiq.

Salman Nadvi was expelled from the All India Muslim Personal Law Board on Sunday. The AIMPLB member had said that there should be an out of court settlement in the Ayodhya Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid case. A disciplinary committee was formed by the board to look into the matter. With the rift out in the open, the board had earlier hinted that Nadvi would be removed from the board.

http://www.news18.com/news/politics/aimplb-vice-president-kalbe-sadiq-bats-for-vidyamandir-instead-of-ram-mandir-in-ayodhya-1657327.html

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Couple in viral ‘love jihad’ list gets death threats in Kolkata, files complaint

by Ravik Bhattacharya

February 12, 2018

After more than 100 Facebook profiles of inter-faith couples across the country were listed on social media as examples of ‘love jihad’, a couple, named in the list, has lodged a complaint with the Kolkata police cyber cell after receiving death threats.

The list went viral on Facebook and Twitter in January. “Yeh ek suchi hai un hindu ladkiyonke Facebook profile ki jo love jihad ka shikar ho chuki hain yah ho rahi hain… har Hindu sher se aagrah hai, inme jo ladke hain, unki khoj ke shikaar karein. (This is a list of Facebook profiles of Hindu women who are victims of love jihad… We exhort all Hindu tigers, those men (listed in these profiles), find them and hunt them,” said a post on Hindu Varta, a group on Facebook. The post has since been deleted.

Another post on a group Milan Mela by Biplab Chattopadhyay, who claimed to be a member of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) had stated: “Hindu girls are converting to Islam by Love Jihad…Wake up HINDUS otherwise you will lose your homeland INDIA.”

The couple began receiving death threats and were harassed on social media after the list went viral. “A complaint has been received. We are looking into the matter,” said a senior police officer.  According to the couple’s complaint to Kolkata police, “We… Have been targeted by a group of people… We were further subjected to death threats, so far I am aware of, such situation of causing harm to us, and/or spreading hatred in the name of religion are offences under the India Penal Code, 1860. In such view of the matter , you are requested to take immediate steps against such activities.”

“It was on the January 4 that my girlfriend was shocked to find such a list being highlighted by individuals and various groups through social media. She was scared and informed me. Some of the groups called for saving the women, some individuals highlighted couples like us as love jihad in social media,” said the man, who registered the complaint on February 7.

According to him, they were being targeted in an organised way. “Thereafter unknown people, started dropping messages warning my girlfriend about love jihad and not to meet with the person she loves. She blocked some of them but the rest continued. She is now off social media. Someone meticulously searched and made the list of so many couples. There has to be a team behind this,” he said.

The father of another woman whose profile is mentioned in the list told The Indian Express that his cellphone number was listed as well. “I have no clue. My daughter works at a reputed IT company. Let her come home. I will talk about it. If needed we will go to the police,” said the father from North 24 Parganas.

A class XII student’s profile is also in the list. “I do not use social media that much. I am aware that someone put my name and profile with my former boyfriend and called it Love Jihad. I had a relationship for three years but I have broken up with him. I am with someone else now. Will I be harmed?” she said.

Mohammed Sahid and his girlfriend, both are from Burdwan, said the list has scared them. “So far there has not been any harassment. I have seen the list where we are mentioned. I am shocked. She is my friend. Can’t a Muslim boy and a Hindu girl be friends? No one has the right to write about me and my friend like this. This country has so many religions and culture. We may approach the police. We trust the law of the land,” he said.

Chattopadhyay claimed he was a member of the West Bengal VHP. “Many people, hundreds of them shared and forwarded the post and the list. I did it to draw attention to the fact that Hindu women are being lured and later their religion is being changed. When a Hindu man tries to marry a Muslim girl and is killed, no media speaks about it. However, I did not compile the list with profile links I just forwarded it. I am a member of the VHP,” said Chattopadhyay.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/kolkata/couple-in-viral-love-jihad-list-gets-death-threats-in-kolkata-files-complaint-5060194/

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Terror attack on Jammu Army camp toll reaches 9

M Saleem Pandit and Sanjay Khajuria

Feb 12, 2018

JAMMU: A day after the pre-dawn strike by Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorists at the camp of the 36 Brigade of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry at the Sunjuwan town of Jammu, the death toll reached nine on Sunday with the recovery of the bodies of three Army personnel, one civilian and a terrorist.

As the gun-battle entered the second day on Sunday, one terrorist was eliminated, while three jawans — Havildar Habibullah Qureshi, Naik Manzoor Ahmad and Lance Naik Mohd Iqbal — and a civilian, identified as the father of Lance Naik Iqbal, were killed on Sunday, an Army spokesman said.

"During the operation, the Army killed four terrorists, donning Army combat dress and carrying AK-56 assault rifles, a large quantity of ammunition and hand grenades. The terrorists were holed up inside the family quarters in the camp," defence spokesman Lt Col Devendra Anand said.

On Saturday, two Army personnel — JCO Madan Lal Chaudhary and Subadar Mohammad Ashraf Mir — and two JeM terrorists were killed and nine others, including a pregnant woman, were injured.

Special commandos were rushed in from Udhampur to Jammu for the final assault, while choppers and drones monitored the situation at the encounter site, the spokesperson said. Although the firing was stopped around 2am on Sunday, the operation to flush out the holed-up terrorists from the camp began later in the day. The holed-up terrorists, according to Army sources, were bundled in a residential building, which caught fire during the gun battle.

"A search of the belongings of terrorists suggested that they belonged to JeM. Operations carried out with caution to safeguard unarmed soldiers, women and children in the family quarters in the camp. Most of the over 150 houses in the camp were cleared and occupants moved to safety," the spokesperson added.

Just after Army Chief General Bipin Rawat arrived in Jammu on Sunday to take stock of the situation, a four-member National Investigation Agency team reached here to examine materials — weapons, combat dress and JeM flags — recovered from the slain terrorists.

Jammu and Kashmir Governor NN Vohra and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti expressed serious concerns over the fidayeen attack. The governor spoke to Lt General Devraj Anbu, Northern Army Commander, and conveyed grief over the death of army personnel.

Condemning the act, the CM described the attack as an "effort by elements inimical to peace to break the developmental pace in the state". She appealed to people to defeat the "nefarious designs" of the perpetrators.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/terror-attack-on-jammu-army-camp-toll-reaches-9/articleshow/62876842.cms

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Pakistan

 

Musharraf invites all Muslim League factions to unity

February 12, 2018

ISLAMABAD: All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) Chairman Gen (R) Pervez Musharraf on Sunday suggested that all factions of Muslim League should get united to form a third major political force that will build new Pakistan and relieve this country from political and economic chaos.

He was addressing a public meeting at Sector G-9 of Islamabad. He said he would lead this third political force from the front after coming to Pakistan. The public meeting was participated by party workers from twin cities as well as other parts of the country.

Prior to the public meeting, APML central executive committee (CEC) in its meeting nominated Dr Muhammad Amjad as new president of the party and Mrs Mehreen Malik Adam as secretary general. APML general body endorsed the nominated candidates.

Musharraf said APML is a party rooted in entire Pakistan. Every citizen of Pakistan without any discrimination of gender, ethnicity or language differences can become part of this party. “We have already done so. During my tenure in the government, I encouraged the participation of marginalised groups into the mainstream. We provided women with representation in the national and provincial assemblies as well as local government,” Musharraf said.

He lauded the efforts of those women who played their part in making this public meeting successful and led the workers to this gathering. He also lauded the role of youth in building Pakistan. He said that youth is their special focus. “During my tenure in the government, I introduced youth policy in Pakistan. We also need to focus on labour and peasant classes of the country that contribute to our prosperity. Labour and peasant class comprise 60% of our population and living in rural areas. As President of Pakistan, I worked for the prosperity of labour and peasant class. They were receiving full cost of their yield and they prospered,” Musharraf said. He added that APML neither has any looter and plunderer in the party and nor we need such ignominious politicians in our party cadres.

Musharraf said he is disturbed over deteriorating conditions of Pakistan. “During my tenure, Pakistan's economy was moving upward, foreign investment was coming to the country, factories were being installed and people were getting jobs.

Agriculture growth was on the move. New roads and dams were under construction and labour class was getting jobs. We maintained the US Dollar rate to a compatible price. Pakistan's defense was strong. Pakistan Army, Navy and Air Force were getting strong and no one dare to see this country with bad intentions,” he said.

APML President Dr Muhammad Amjad said this public meeting will convey a strong message to their political opponents who put all together cannot face Musharraf. “Some of our political opponents have already gone disqualified and some other will also get disqualified in future. PML-N, foreseeing its defeat, has put Maryam Nawaz at the forefront,” he said.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/280005-musharraf-invites-all-muslim-league-factions-to-unity

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President signs ordinance aimed at going tough on UN-banned outfits: report

Feb 12, 2018

ISLAMABAD: President Mamnoon Hussain has signed an ordinance which will enable the government to go tough on individuals and organisations, banned by United Nations Security Council (UNSC), as reported by a local English daily.

Through an amendment in the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), the concerned authorities will be able to take action against the UNSC-banned individuals and terror outfits— including sealing their offices and freezing their bank accounts.

The ministries of Interior, Finance and Foreign Affairs, as well as NACTA’s Counter Financing of Terrorism (CFT) wing, are working on the matter, according to the newspaper.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/02/12/president-signs-ordinance-aimed-at-going-tough-on-un-banned-outfits-report/

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No progress on Af-Pak counter-terrorism: Kabul

Tahir Khan

FEBRUARY 11, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Kabul has claimed that no progress was made on counter-terrorism and the reconciliation process at the two-day high-level bilateral talks in Islamabad that concluded on Saturday.

“While some progress was made on the mechanism of cooperation, no progress was achieved on specific result-oriented, time-bound measures in the APAPPS, particularly in the areas of counter-terrorism, reduction of violence and peace and reconciliation to meet the priorities of Afghanistan,” a statement issued by Afghan Foreign Ministry at the conclusion of the talks said.

Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman, however, maintained both sides had ‘good discussions’ at talks that took place under the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS), a joint action plan for cooperation in the key areas of counter-terrorism and reduction of violence, peace and reconciliation, repatriation of refugees and joint economic development.

This was the second round of APAPPS in a week that reflects determination of both sides to pursue policy of engagement despite differences over certain issues.

The first round was held in Kabul on Feb 3, following the deadliest Taliban-claimed attacks in Kabul on Jan 20 and Jan 27 which killed nearly 125 people and injured over 250.

While Afghan Foreign Ministry issued a formal statement in Kabul about the Islamabad meeting, Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesman Dr Faisal used his Twitter account to explain Pakistan’s position. “Pak-Afghanistan talks. Two days of good discussions. Some agreements. Further work required,” Faisal wrote on Twitter. He declined to offer more comments when a query was posted via WhatsApp.

Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai had led a high-level Afghan delegation comprising senior civilian and military officials.

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/199503/no-progress-af-pak-counter-terrorism-kabul/

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FC Balochistan arrests 20 suspected terrorists

February 12, 2018

RAWALPINDI:- FC Balochistan on Sunday conducted Intelligence-Based Operations in various areas and apprehended 20 suspected terrorists. The IBOs were conducted in Buleda, Gish Kaur, Tratha and Pishin areas of Balochistan , said a statement issued here by ISPR. Cache of arms and ammunition including RPG rockets, submachine guns and sniper rifle ammunition, laptops, Global Positioning System (GPS) and communication equipment were also recovered. The IBOs were carried out as part of the ongoing Operation Radd ul Fasaad.–APP

https://nation.com.pk/12-Feb-2018/fc-balochistan-arrests-20-suspected-terrorists

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Europe

 

Giving up control of Brussels mosque, Saudi Arabia sends a signal

FEBRUARY 12, 2018

BRUSSELS/RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia has agreed to give up control of Belgium’s largest mosque in a sign that it is trying to shed its reputation as a global exporter of an ultra-conservative brand of Islam.

Belgium leased the Grand Mosque to Riyadh in 1969, giving Saudi-backed imams access to a growing Muslim immigrant community in return for cheaper oil for its industry.

But it now wants to cut Riyadh’s links with the mosque, near the European Union’s headquarters in Brussels, over concerns that what it preaches breeds radicalism.

The mosque’s leaders deny it espouses violence, but European governments have grown more wary since Islamist attacks that were planned in Brussels killed 130 people in Paris in 2015 and 32 in the Belgian capital in 2016.

Belgium’s willingness to put its demands to oil-producing Saudi Arabia, a major investor and arms client, breaks with what EU diplomats describe as the reluctance of governments across Europe to risk disrupting commercial and security ties.

Riyadh’s quick acceptance indicates a new readiness by the kingdom to promote a more moderate form of Islam - one of the more ambitious promises made by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman under plans to transform Saudi Arabia and reduce its reliance on oil. The agreement last month coincides with a new Saudi initiative, not publicly announced but described to Reuters by Western officials, to end support for mosques and religious schools abroad blamed for spreading radical ideas.

The move towards religious moderation - and away from the extreme interpretation of Islam’s Salafi branch that is espoused by modern jihadist groups - risks provoking a backlash at home and could leave a void that fundamentalists try to fill.

But Saudi Arabia’s recent moves on religion are seen by Belgian diplomat Dirk Achten, who headed a government delegation to Riyadh in November, as a “window of opportunity”.

“The Saudis are disposed to dialogue without taboos,” he told Belgium’s parliament last month after the mission was hastily put together after the assembly urged the government to break Saudi Arabia’s 99-year, rent-free lease of the mosque.

But he also cautioned: “Some do not, or barely, admit that this form of Salafism leads to jihadism.”

Details of the mosque’s handover are still being negotiated but will be announced this month, Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon told Reuters.

The diplomatic contacts, led by the countries’ foreign ministers, were intended by Belgium to prevent what Jambon called an “exaggerated response” from Saudi Arabia -- indicating the Belgian government had sought to ensure there was no diplomatic backlash.

This, he said, was “under control” following a visit to Belgium last month by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.

Before Saudi Arabia took control in the late 1960s, the Grand Mosque was a disused relic of the Great Exhibition of 1880 - an Oriental Pavilion.

Saudi money converted it to cater to migrants from Morocco invited to work in the country’s coal mines and factories. It is run by the Mecca-based Muslim World League (MWL), a missionary society mainly funded by Saudi Arabia.

Concerns about the mosque grew as militant groups such as Islamic State started recruiting among the grandchildren of those migrants, many of whom say they still feel they do not belong in Belgian society, opinion polls show.

Belgium has sent more foreign fighters to Syria per capita than any other European country. Belgian officials now suggest the Muslim Executive of Belgium, a group seen as close to Moroccan officialdom, should run the Grand Mosque.

Although the Saudi government has denied any role in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks against the United States which killed more than 3,000 people, 15 of the 19 airplane hijackers who carried them out were from Saudi Arabia and linked to late Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the plot’s Saudi-born mastermind.

Bin Laden was a follower of Wahhabism, the original strain of Salafism which has often been criticized as the ideology of radical Islamists worldwide. Yet many of Islamic State’s positions are far more radical than Wahhabism, the ultra-conservative branch of Islam dominant in Saudi Arabia and founded by 18th century cleric Mohammed ibn Abd al-Wahhab.

A classified report by Belgian security agency OCAD/OCAM in 2016 said the Wahhabi branch of Islam promoted at the mosque led Muslim youth to more radical ideas, sources with access to the report said.

“The mosque has influence to spread this hateful ‘software’,” a senior Belgian security source said. “Nobody paid attention for decades.”

Belgium’s parliament said what it preached was “a gateway or even a predisposition to a more combative Islam that is violent”, calling in October for an end to the Saudi lease.

The same month, immigration minister Theo Francken tried to expel the Grand Mosque’s Egyptian imam of 13 years, calling him “dangerous”, but a judge reversed that decision.

But Belgian security sources say there is no proof imams at the Grand Mosque preached violence or have had links to attacks.

Some who went to fight in Syria had studied there but men are more prey to recruiters for militant groups online and on the streets of underprivileged boroughs such as Molenbeek, in Brussels, where some of the Paris attackers lived, they say.

Tamer Abou El Saod, who was appointed director of the Grand Mosque in May, says there are problems over the way it is perceived but denies it espouses a fundamentalist version of Islam. He says he is ready to work with Belgian officials.

“There are changes happening already and there are even more changes coming in the very near future,” he told Reuters.

“EUROPEAN ISLAM”

Belgian leaders say they want the mosque to preach a “European Islam” better aligned with their values - a familiar refrain across Europe following the Islamic State attacks of the last few years.

But it is unclear who will operate the sprawling mosque complex, which receives about 5 million euros ($6 million) a year through the MWL which has for decades promoted a hardline interpretation of Islam at dozens of institutions worldwide

The MWL has recently adopted a more conciliatory tone. In just over a year since being appointed, its secretary-general, Mohammad bin Abdul Karim al-Issa, has met with Pope Francis and taken a public stance against Holocaust denial. Issa told Reuters in November the organization’s new mission was to annihilate extremism.

For Saudi Arabia, the mosque is a chance to prove it is turning over a new leaf after years of accusations it turned a blind eye to - if not actively endorsed - extremist ideology.

Crown Prince Mohammed has already taken some steps to loosen ultra-strict social restrictions, scaling back the role of religious morality police, permitting public concerts and announcing plans to allow women to drive this summer.

The changes, however, may be too late since most militant groups that emerged at some point from Saudi networks have grown independent, says Stephane Lacroix, a scholar of Islam in Saudi Arabia.

“That this is going to solve the problem of radical Islam because if the Saudis change, everything’s going to change: It’s not the case,” he told Reuters.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-europe-attacks-belgium-saudi-insight/giving-up-control-of-brussels-mosque-saudi-arabia-sends-a-signal-idUSKBN1FW0R3

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English Muslim Schoolboy Triggered Terror Alert with Water Pistol, Family Allege Islamophobia

Feb 11, 2018

A seven-year-old Muslim schoolboy of Pakistani-origin triggered a terror alert after he spoke about a new water pistol at his school in northern England.

His father, Mohammed Gulfraz, has accused Wycliffe CE Primary School in Shipley of targeting his son because he is “not white” and from a “Muslim family” when they sent West Yorkshire Police officers to their home last year.

“When the police showed up, my son was scared they would take him away,” he told The Sunday Times.

Police landed at their home in June 2017 after the unnamed child expressed his excitement at being bought a small water pistol to play with during school holidays.

The school told the newspaper that its deputy lead for safeguarding was concerned when the boy “mentioned he had water pistols and then went on to say that his dad has guns”.

Gulfraz said he is a licensed firearms holder who enjoys clay-shooting as a hobby and complained to the Tell MAMA group that monitors anti-Muslim crimes in the UK.

“All the school had to do was contact me and I could have talked it through with them,” he said, demanding an apology from the school.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/muslim-schoolboy-triggered-terror-alert-with-water-pistol-family-allege-islamophobia/story-6T7IVYzypVcfBym4UbouHP.html

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US blocking UNSC resolution for independent Syria chemical attacks probe: Russia

Feb 10, 2018

Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzia says he does not see chances the UN Security Council could adopt any time soon a Russian-drafted resolution on a probe into the use of chemical weapons in Syria, blaming the US for hindering the progress over the issue.

Nebenzia said recently that the main obstacle to the adoption of the resolution had been the nonconstructive position of Americans at the Council.

"We have never doubted we need an independent mechanism of probing into the chemical incidents in Syria, and this is why we have suggested the new resolution, which the experts study now, but, honestly speaking, due to the US position I cannot hope it may be adopted any time soon," Russia's TASS news agency quoted the senior diplomat as saying.

By now, Nebenzia continued, the Security Council members have had two rounds of expert consultations, "and everything has stopped" at that stage. During the talks, the American side called the resolution "defective" and insisted that the UN Joint Investigative Mechanism and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) resume work on the investigation into the chemical attacks. The US blamed Moscow for having "killed" the probe.

"Correct, formally they have not used the right to veto, but they simply dumped the resolution," the ambassador said. Thus it is "their, not our responsibility for the Joint Mechanism’s death."

Last month, the United States rejected the Russian-drafted Security Council resolution aimed at establishing an investigative mechanism into all allegations of chemical attacks in Syria, with both sides discrediting each other’s data on the issue. The Council meeting was called by Moscow to discuss the crisis in Syria, especially recent accusations against Damascus over an alleged chemical attack.

The mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) of the UN and the OPCW expired in November after several failed attempts by the Security Council to extend its authority.

Nebenzia earlier said the probes collapsed because they were full of “systemic deficiencies” and had become a mechanism for political manipulation.

Nebenzia said he could not understand "why the Americans want an independent mechanism for investigation into the chemical incidents in Syria, since they not only prior to the investigation, but prior to a confirmation the chemical weapons have been used" start blaming immediately the Syrian authorities.

"To my simple question what political and military dividends the Syrian government receives from use of chemical weapons, they would not give response and shamefully look away," the diplomat said.

The United States and its allies have repeatedly accused Syrian government forces of carrying out chemical attacks in civilian areas without providing any substantial evidence.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/10/551947/US-Syria-Russia-OPCW

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Pro-Saudi British MP accepted $20,000 for anti-Qatari event: Report

Feb 11, 2018

A British lawmaker, known for entertaining pro-Saudi bias, is revealed to have been paid handsomely to advise and address an anti-Qatar conference in London, also joined by other bribed British figures.

Daniel Kawczynski was paid through an obscure company named Akta Group to the tune of £15,000 ($20,700) towards assisting the conduct of the so-called “Qatar, Global Security & Stability Conference,” American media firm BuzzFeed revealed on Sunday.

Last March, Riyadh paid him $9,200 to spend, while trying to strengthen Saudi-British ties.

The event was held last September. It was organized by an anti-Doha Qatari exile and also joined by Iain Duncan Smith, former Tory leader and minister, former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown, and BBC World Affairs Editor John Simpson.

The three were also paid thousands to address the event, Simpson receiving a note from the BBC for taking the fee.

The event was supposed to draw in hundreds, but was generally shunned by the Qatari diaspora.

Last June, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the UAE imposed a trade and diplomatic embargo on Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism, an allegation strongly denied by Doha.

The Saudi-led quartet presented Qatar with a list of demands and gave it an ultimatum to comply with them or face consequences. The demands included closing the Al Jazeera broadcaster, removing Turkish troops from Qatar’s soil, scaling back ties with Iran, and ending relations with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood movement.

Doha, however, refused to meet the demands and denounced them as unreasonable.

Last December, the Middle East Eye news portal reported that British Prime Minister Theresa May, whom Saudi Arabia has conferred with the Order of King Abdulaziz Al Saud, has received several gifts from the kingdom, including an ornament, a clock, and a medal.

Saudi Arabia “has splashed out on 20 luxury Christmas hampers for Conservative Party ministers since 2010,” the report said.

Britain has been lending lavish military and logistical support to the Saudi Arabia-led 2015-present war on Yemen.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/11/552008/UK-Qatar-Saudi-Arabia-Kawczynski

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South Asia

 

IS, Lashkar-e-Islam Clash in Eastern Afghanistan

February 11, 2018

Afghan security officials say that Pakistan-based militant group Lashakar-e-Islam (Army of Islam) has been engaged in a firefight with Islamic State militants in Achin district.

A spokesperson for Nangarhar Police Department, Hazrat Hussain Mashriqiwal said both groups sustained causalities during the firefight that has dragged on for almost a week. The groups are believed to be fighting for territorial control.

"Six IS militants were killed and another four were wounded. Also, three Lashkar-e-Islam militants were killed and three others were wounded during the firefight," said Mashriqiwal. "No civilians were harmed."

IS and Lashkar-e-Islam operate in Shirzad, Shinwar, Nazian and Achin districts of eastern Nangarhar province and have footprints in the Tora Bora area. Tora Bora was once a stronghold of slain Al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden.

Lashkar-e-Islam has been operating in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area. The group was reportedly founded by a local cleric, Mufti Munir Shakir, in 2004 in the Bara tribal area of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.

According to multiple reports, Mangal Bagh, also known as Haji Mangal Bagh Afridi, took charge of the group in 2015 after Munir went into hiding during a tribal dispute over his activities.

Reports of Mangal Bagh's death have emerged a couple of times in Pakistani media. But Pakistani officials and political experts dispute the reports and charge that he is still alive.

Ahmad Sayedi, a regional expert told VOA, "Mangal Bagh is alive. His group, Lashkar-e-Islam is a Pakistan Inter Intelligence Service (ISI) proxy and is assigned to engage in terror related activities in eastern Afghanistan."

Some Pakistani political analysts however, deny that claim and say that Bagh has fought against Pakistani security forces on multiple fronts.

"Lashkar-e-Islam is a militant group that has martyred dozens of Pakistan Army men in different fronts. It is a false claim and propaganda to say that the group is an ISI proxy." Shaukatulla Khan, former governor for northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan told VOA.

Lashkar-e-Islam first engaged the IS militants last Sunday in eastern Afghanistan. Locals who witnessed the firefight claim the groups are targeting each other with heavy and small weapons in the Bandar valley of Achin district.

Initially based in southern parts of eastern Nangarhar province, the Islamic State Khorasan branch, also known as ISIS-K, emerged in early 2015 in the mountainous areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan to cover the two states and "other nearby territories."

As the Islamic State terror group is trying to expand from its traditional enclave of eastern Afghanistan to other parts of the country, Taliban insurgents and now Lashkar-e-Islam militants are blocking them, sparking periodic and deadly clashes among different groups.

https://www.voanews.com/a/is-lashkar-e-islam-clash-in-eastern-afghanistan/4249009.html

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Suspected Ansar al-Islam member held

February 11, 2018

Towfiq Hossain was detained with leaflets and books on Saturday night

Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) has arrested a suspected member banned militant outfit Ansar al-Islam from Kamlapur area in Dhaka.

Towfiq Hossain, 34, was detained with leaflets and books, RAB 11 Commanding Officer (CO) Kamrul Hassan confirmed on Sunday.

He said: “Acting on a tip-off, we conducted a drive in the area and arrested him around 11pm on Saturday.”

“Towfiq is an accused in a case filed with Rupganj police station under Anti-Terrorism act.”

Full report at:

http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/crime/2018/02/11/suspected-ansar-al-islam-held/

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UK’s top diplomat meets Myanmar’s Suu Kyi on Rohingya crisis

February 11, 2018

BANGKOK — British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson met Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Sunday to discuss the Southeast Asian nation’s Muslim ethnic Rohingya minority and how almost 700,000 of them can be repatriated safely after fleeing to Bangladesh to escape violence perpetrated largely by Myanmar’s military.

A statement from Myanmar’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said Johnson and Suu Kyi discussed repatriation and developments in Rakhine, the western Myanmar state from where the Rohingya have fled over the past few months. Johnson arrived in Myanmar from Bangladesh, where he visited with Rohingya refugees.

“Discussed importance of Burmese authorities in carrying out full & independent investigation into the violence in #Rakhine & urgent need to create the right conditions for #Rohingya refugees to return to their homes in Rakhine,” Johnson wrote on his Twitter account of his meeting with Suu Kyi, who also serves as foreign minister.

The meeting took place in Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s capital.

The Rohingya have long faced severe discrimination and were the targets of violence in 2012 that killed hundreds and drove about 140,000 people — predominantly Rohingya — from their homes to camps for the internally displaced, where most remained until last year’s fresh violence, the scale of which has led to accusations that Myanmar’s army carried out ethnic cleansing or even genocide. Myanmar’s government has denied carrying out any large-scale or organized abuses against the Rohingya.

The government refuses to recognize the Rohingya as a legitimate native ethnic minority. Most Rohingya are denied citizenship and its rights.

“I pay tribute to the hospitality and compassion shown by the government of Bangladesh, who are facing an enormous challenge in providing humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya community,” Johnson said on Saturday after visiting Rohingya refugees at Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, on the border with Myanmar.

“While I welcome steps by both the Burmese and Bangladeshi governments towards ensuring that these people can return home, it is vital that the Rohingya refugees must be allowed to their homes in Rakhine voluntarily, in safety and with dignity, under international oversight, and when the conditions in Burma are right,” he said. Myanmar was previously known as Burma.

On Friday, Myanmar’s Catholic cardinal said it’s likely that Rohingya Muslim refugees in Bangladesh won’t ever go home, and that “the elements of ethnic cleansing” that drove them out are now apparent.

Two months after Pope Francis visited Myanmar and Bangladesh, Cardinal Charles Bo said that even though the Myanmar government was making plans to receive Rohingya back, many would opt to go elsewhere. He cited security fears, continued discrimination and economic necessity.

Full report at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/uks-top-diplomat-meets-myanmars-suu-kyi-on-rohingya-crisis/2018/02/11/204ec4f0-0f29-11e8-a68c-e9374188170e_story.html?utm_term=.64d6395eb2c6

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Car bomb explosion leaves 4 Taliban militants dead in Farah province

Feb 12 2018

At least four Taliban insurgents were killed in an explosion triggered by a premature blast in a Vehicle-borne Improvised Explosive Device.

The Ministry of Interior (MoI) in a statement said Monday that the explosion took place in western Farah province of Afghanistan.

The statement further added that four Taliban insurgents riding a motor bomb were on their way to reach their target when the explosives went off.

The blast took place on Sunday evening in the vicinity of Dand Jal village in Anar Dara district, according to MoI.

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

In the meantime, the ministry of interior says the blast not inflicted casualties to anyone else including the local residents or security personnel.

Farah is among the relatively volatile provinces in West of Afghanistan where the Taliban insurgents are active in some of its remote districts and often carry out insurgency activities.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/car-bomb-explosion-leaves-4-taliban-militants-dead-in-farah-province-04474

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Mideast

 

'Israel helpless before Hezbollah power'

Feb 12, 2018

The Lebanese resistance movement of Hezbollah says the Israeli regime knows not how to deal with the rising power of resistance forces in Lebanon.

Speaking at an event on Sunday evening, Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem said Tel Aviv faced two equally unfavorable realities.

"Israel cannot make a decision to wage war [on Lebanon] as it can have grave consequences for it (Tel Aviv)...; on the other hand, it can't watch the other side growing [in power], and it does not know how to deal with this power," Sheikh Qassem said.

The Israeli regime has waged three wars on Lebanon — in 1982, 2000, and 2006. It has also carried out assassinations in Lebanese territory.

Since its establishment in 1985, the Hezbollah resistance group has helped the army defend Lebanon both in the face of foreign aggression, including in the 2000 and 2006 wars, and against terrorism.

The Israeli regime considers the presence of Hezbollah a major threat, and has repeatedly threatened the Lebanese state with new aggression. In November 2017, the Israeli military said Hezbollah's Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah would be a target in a future Israeli war on Lebanon.

Most recently, Israeli minister of military affairs, Avigdor Liberman, said, "Lebanon’s army and Hezbollah are the same — they will all pay the full price in the event of an escalation."

In January, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Israel was "the real threat" to Lebanon.

"The only threat I see is Israel taking some kind of action against Lebanon, out of a miscalculation," Hariri said. "And this is the real threat, I believe."

The Israeli regime has also been violating Lebanese airspace on an almost daily basis, carrying out what it calls "routine reconnaissance missions."

In his Sunday remarks, Sheikh Qassem said the recent downing of an advanced Israeli F-16 that had violated Syrian airspace meant that Israeli violations would no more go without a response.

Syria on Saturday fired anti-aircraft missiles at Israeli warplanes that had violated its airspace to conduct airstrikes. At least one Israeli warplane was hit and went down in northern Israel.

"The shooting down of the Israeli fighter jet means that the principle of not responding to attacks is obsolete, and that Israel can no more rely on that principle in confrontations," Hezbollah's number two said.

On Thursday, President Michel Aoun, who is allied to Hezbollah, said the Lebanese "military has been given the orders to confront any [Israeli] threat to our sovereignty."

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/12/552089/Hezbollah-Israel-Lebanon-war-Sheikh-Qassem

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Trump says unsure Israel seeks peace with Palestinians

11 February 2018

US President Donald Trump said in an interview published on Sunday that he was “not necessarily sure” Israel was seeking to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Trump has previously denounced the Palestinians for what he sees as their unwillingness to negotiate, but he has largely refrained from criticizing Israel.

Speaking to freesheet daily Israel Hayom, Trump noted that while US-Israel relations were “great”, peace with the Palestinians would make them “a lot better”.

“Right now, I would say the Palestinians are not looking to make peace. They are not looking to make peace,” Trump said in the interview with the right-wing paper.

“And I am not necessarily sure that Israel is looking to make peace. So we are just going to have to see what happens.”

Settlement building

Trump also expressed concerns about Israeli settlement building, although his administration has been far less critical of settlements than his predecessor Barack Obama.

Trump’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, has in the past been a supporter of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

“The settlements are something that very much complicates and always have complicated making peace, so I think Israel has to be very careful with the settlements,” he said.

Trump has said he intends to bring the Israelis and Palestinians to the “ultimate deal” that would resolve the decades-long conflict, but in the interview he questioned whether negotiations were even possible for now.

“I don’t know frankly if we are going to even have talks. We will see what happens, but I think it is very foolish for the Palestinians and I also think it would be very foolish for the Israelis if they don’t make a deal,” Trump said.

“It’s our only opportunity and it will never happen after this.”

Relations between Washington and the Palestinians have been severely strained since Trump’s December decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the American embassy there.

Palestinian leaders say there can be no talks with the US administration until the decision on the city that they also see as their capital is reversed.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/02/11/Trump-says-unsure-Israel-seeks-peace-with-Palestinians-.html

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Trump warns Israel that settlements 'complicate' peace process

Feb 11, 2018

US President Donald Trump has said Israel’s illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territories have "complicated" the so-called peace process and urged "care" over the issue.

In the interview with Israel Hayom newspaper, Trump also said he did not believe the Israelis, as well as the Palestinians, were ready to make peace.

Israel Hayom is owned by American Zionist billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a Trump supporter and a backer of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Asked by daily when the US would present its peace plan, Trump said: "We will see what happens. Right now the Palestinians are not into making peace, they are just not into it. Regarding Israel, I am not certain it, too, is interested in making peace so we will just need to wait and see what happens."

Asked whether Israeli settlements would form part of the peace plan, he said: "We will be talking about settlements. The settlements are something that very much complicates and always have complicated making peace, so I think Israel has to be very careful with the settlements."

Trump’s comments about Israel mark rare criticism from a president who has adopted a hostile policy toward the Palestinians while forging close relations with Israel.

About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

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

In December, Trump infuriated Palestinians with his decision to recognize Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel's capital and relocate the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the holy city.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/11/552063/US-Trump-Israel-settlements-Palestinian-territories

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Drone strike kills 6 Qaeda suspects in Yemen

February 12, 2018

ADEN - A drone strike killed six suspected Al-Qaeda militants on Sunday in central Yemen, a security official said. The US military is the only force known to operate armed drones over Yemen. The official said the strike happened after sundown and targeted a vehicle in Bayda province. "An unmanned drone - likely American - bombed the group's vehicle in the area of Qayfa, where Al-Qaeda is active," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity. Al-Qaeda's global network remains "remarkably resilient," posing more of a threat in some regions than the Islamic State group, UN sanctions monitors said in a report seen by AFP on Wednesday.

https://nation.com.pk/12-Feb-2018/drone-strike-kills-6-qaeda-suspects-in-yemen

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Iran marks anniversary of Islamic Revolution after protests

Feb 11, 2018

Hundreds of thousands of Iranians rallied on the streets Sunday to mark the 39th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, just weeks after anti-government protests rocked cities across the country.

Demonstrators burned American and Israeli flags, as well as images of President Donald Trump, whose refusal to re-certify the nuclear deal with world powers has riled Iranians. A few burned a white sheet reading “BARJAM,” the Farsi acronym for the 2015 nuclear accord that Tehran signed with world powers.

Such activities commonly mark the anniversary, which commemorates the overthrow of U.S.-backed Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. That began a period of hostilities between Iran and the West, including an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and the subsequent hostage crisis.

However, President Hassan Rouhani made a point to call for unity among Iran’s people across its political spectrum, from hard-liners backing the theocratic government to reformists demanding change.

“When the Revolution took place, we pushed some off the revolutionary train that we should have not,” Rouhani told a massive crowd at Tehran’s central Azadi Square. “Today, we have to let them board the train again.”

Rouhani didn’t specifically name those pushed aside, though the Islamic Revolution and its aftermath saw the Islamists surrounding Ruhollah Khomeini purge liberals, communists and others. More recently, Iran has put leaders of its 2009 Green Movement under house arrest, where they remain even today despite Rouhani’s pledges to free them.

The comments appeared aimed as being a salve following a New Year marred by anti-government protests. The demonstrations initially focused on Iran’s poor economy despite the nuclear deal, but quickly spiraled into chants directly challenging Iran’s theocratic government.

In his speech, Rouhani promised more job opportunities and better economic condition in the near future. Meanwhile, dozens of hard-liners chanted: “Death to liars, death to the seditious!”

Authorities arrested nearly 5,000 people in the crackdown that followed, according to Alireza Rahimi, an Iranian lawmaker. At least 25 people were killed in clashes surrounding the demonstrations, which largely were snuffed out with authorities blocking some social media apps and sending more security forces into the street.

Decades after the Islamic Revolution, Tehran has had successes abroad after years of turmoil. Iran helped push back the Islamic State group in Iraq and assisted embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad in regaining strategic ground in his country’s long civil war.

At home, however, the country’s economy still struggles despite the 2015 nuclear deal. The accord allowed Iran to begin selling its crude oil again on the international market, but rising food prices have squeezed the average Iranian while salaries remain stagnant and unemployment high.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/iran-marks-anniversary-of-islamic-revolution-after-protests/story-Wl3fol7omJLnKlLf6PL8DP.html

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Palestinian leader seeks Russia's backing over Jerusalem

February 12, 2018

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas visits Russia on Monday in a bid to secure Russian President Vladimir Putin's support following Washington's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The Palestinian leader was set to visit Moscow two weeks after a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Abbas has refused any contact with US President Donald Trump's administration since Washington's recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital at the end of last year. Abbas is due to speak at the United Nations Security Council on February 20.

Palestinians see the US decision, which broke with years of international diplomacy, as a denial of their claim to East Jerusalem as the capital of an eventual Palestinian state.

Israel took control of East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War, annexed it and later declared it the indivisible capital of Israel.

The US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, has accused Abbas of lacking the courage needed to forge a peace deal with Israel.

Abbas in turn has rejected any mediation by Washington in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has promised his people to work towards full recognition of a Palestinian state by the United Nations.

Alexander Shumilin, a Middle East scholar at the Institute for US and Canadian Studies, called Abbas's visit "an attempt to cosy up to Russia, a consistent ally, and to stop Netanyahu leading Moscow astray during an improvement in Russia-Israeli ties".

Netanyahu visited Russia on January 29 and along with Putin attended a memorial ceremony at the Jewish museum in Moscow for the victims of Nazi camps. He took the opportunity to accuse Iran of wanting to "destroy" the Jewish state.

In turn, the Russian president likened antisemitism to "Russophobia" and said Russia and Israel were "cooperating closely", particularly against "attempts to falsify history".

Chances 'close to zero'

For Shumilin, Monday's visit "is a necessary political gesture for Abbas but can do little in the practical sense".

"It is also definitely not worth expecting a breakthrough from this visit," he added.

In 2016 Russia offered to host one-on-one talks without preconditions between Abbas and Netanyahu but these never materialised.

In January, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov estimated that chances of resuming direct talks between the two sides in the current situation were "close to zero".

Lavrov also said "we understand the emotions" Palestinians feel towards Trump.

"We keep hearing in recent months that the US is about to publish some 'major deal' that... will satisfy everyone," he said. But he added that Russia "has not seen or heard of such a document or even any statement".

With relations between Washington and Moscow at a record low for the post-Cold War era, Abbas may be expecting that "Russia-US relations will get even worse and then Russia could do something to spite the US", Shumilin said.

On November 29, 2012, the United Nations designated Palestine as a non-member observer state after a vote by the General Assembly.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1388951/palestinian-leader-seeks-russias-backing-over-jerusalem

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Zarif urges immediate halt to Saudi war on Yemen, delivery of aid to nation

Feb 10, 2018

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has called for an immediate halt to the Saudi-led military campaign against Yemen, urging the delivery of humanitarian aid to the war-torn country. 

During a Saturday meeting with Yemeni Houthi Ansarullah movement's spokesman, Mohammad Abdulsalam, Zarif pointed to Iran’s four-step solution to solve the crisis in Yemen and underlined the need for an urgent end to the bombardment and siege of the country.

The top Iranian diplomat, earlier this week, outlined Iran’s four-step solution for the Yemeni conflict, namely an immediate ceasefire, humanitarian aid, intra-Yemeni talks and an inclusive government, warning that such foreign-backed fighting was tearing the country apart.

During the Saturday meeting, Zarif further urged the international community to dispatch humanitarian aid to the impoverished nation as soon as possible.

For his part, Abdulsalam briefed Zarif on the latest developments and the humanitarian situation in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia has been leading a deadly campaign against Yemen from the air, land, and sea since March 2015 in an attempt to reinstate former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh, and to undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement. Since nearly three years ago, the Houthis have been running state affairs and defending Yemeni people against the Saudi aggression.

The UN has described the situation in Yemen as the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”

The offensive has, however, achieved neither of its goals despite the spending of billions of petrodollars and the joining of Saudi Arabia’s regional and Western allies in the war.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/10/551918/Iran-Zarif-Yemen-Ansarullah-Abdulsalam-humanitarian-aid-Saudi-airstrikes

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'Israel deploys anti-missile system on Syria border'

Feb 12, 2018

An agitated Israeli military has reportedly deployed anti-missile systems to the Syrian border, a day after it lost an advanced F-16 warplane in Syria's first serious air defense operation to confront Israeli violations of its airspace.

The Jerusalem Post on Sunday cited witnesses as saying that they had seen convoys of "missile defense batteries" north-bound near the city of Baka al-Gharbiya. It said others had posted photos of "trucks carrying the batteries on central highways in northern Israel."

The report said the Israeli army had "refused to comment."

Early on Saturday morning, reportedly eight Israeli warplanes were deployed to target positions inside Syria. The Syrian military, which has previously absorbed occasional Israeli strikes, activated its air defense systems and shot down at least one Israeli F-16.

PTSD in Israel

Israel claimed that it had earlier intercepted an "Iranian" drone, and that the warplanes had been dispatched to hit the site where the drone had been launched from, only to face Syrian anti-aircraft fire.

Iran rejected the claim about an Iranian drone as "too ludicrous to warrant a response." And the Syrian military said it had responded to Israeli "aggression" and had hit more than one aircraft.

More than 24 hours after the incident, however, Israeli accounts of the developments were varied and confused. One Israeli report quoted the pilots of the downed F-16 — who parachuted out of the warplane — as saying that they realized they had been "hit" only after hearing an explosion. "[We heard] an explosion and realized we were hit," Israeli Channel 2 cited them as saying.

Another said the pilots ejected "when they recognized that one of the missiles had locked onto their jet."

Some Israeli reports claimed that a direct hit had not occurred and that shrapnel from an exploding missile had pierced through the warplane.

Trash talk, lots of it

The Israeli military has long boasted of superior aerial power. Before Saturday's crash, the Tel Aviv regime had not lost a warplane in 35 years — since the first Israeli war on Lebanon, in 1982.

The downing by Syria of the Israeli jet worked to deflate that narrative, particularly since it was only the first time Syria was actively confronting intruding Israeli aircraft.

Various Israeli news articles and analyses reflected the sentiment that the self-proclaimed Israeli "invincibility" had been shattered. Reports spoke of "cracks" in Israeli "arrogance," and "a blow to the pride" of the Israeli regime.

A flood of Israeli trash talk against Iran also followed. One Israeli minister, Yisrael Katz, took to a telling podium to speak, namely Saudi Arabia-linked outlet Elaph.

“The Syrian army will find itself under fire if it continues to cooperate and allow Iran to position itself on Syrian soil,” Katz said, repeating a paranoiac Israeli mantra about Iranian activity in Syria.

Iran has said it has no military presence in Syria and is only offering Damascus advisory military help.

Observers say that the downing of the Israeli jet sent Tel Aviv the message that Syria and other countries whose airspace is violated by Israel are now ready to stop those violations.

Israel puts on defiant face

On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested that the Israeli attacks against positions in Syria would continue.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/12/552083/Israel-F16-jet-Syria-shoot-down-Israeli-military-distress

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North America

 

No mothers, no Muslims: The new US immigration system

February 12, 2018

Rafia Zakaria

Late last month, the Trump White House released its legislative framework for immigration reform. Its sticking points are familiar ones: the $25bn that President Trump wants to use to build the border wall he has promised his supporters; and a path to citizenship for beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act (DACA), whose fates hang in the balance as the US wrangles over who to let through its borders. The White House framework also seeks to eviscerate visa quotas for "family reunification," via which parents and siblings of US citizens can migrate to the US (disparagingly termed "chain migration") and completely eliminate the Diversity Visa Lottery.

The White House framework will not be passed unchanged; other bills also aiming at immigration reform have already been or will soon be introduced in the legislature. Internal administrative memos are further suggesting their own changes to immigration regulations. While none of these have yet made it to a vote, a look at their cumulative contents provides a view of the drastically altered immigration regime that would-be US immigrants could face in just a few months. Pre-empting some of these changes can enable those affected to take action now and avoid disappointment and discrimination later.

The most significant changes will likely occur in the family immigration category. Even while Democrats have expressed opposition to limiting the "family re-unification" visa quotas to only spouses and children, it is quite likely that they will acquiesce to at least some cuts to the category. The reason is simple: to make significant gains in 2018, Democrats must make gains among white working-class voters. These voters have routinely expressed an animosity towards immigration in general and towards "chain migration" in particular. Signing off on cuts in this category, Democrats may decide, will endear them to this key demographic.

The consequence for current US citizens who have family members (parents and siblings) whom they would like to sponsor for an immigrant visa are grave. If the White House proposal is followed, they will no longer be able to do so for anyone except spouses and children under 18. It is imperative, therefore, that those US citizens and legal permanent residents (green card holders) who are intending to file immigrant petitions for parents and siblings do so immediately. Forms filed prior to the passage of any reform bill (even a day before) will be evaluated and processed under the old rules. The required forms are all available on the website for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and can be filed without the assistance of a lawyer. An incompletely filed petition is better than none at all.

The second major area of proposed reforms is in the H-1B visa category. The time-limited H-1B visas for skilled workers, which are sought by technology giants, are meant for scientists, engineers and computer programmers. Both the White House proposal and the Immigration and Innovation Act 2018 (referred to as I-squared) introduced by Senators Jeff Flake and Orrin Hatch make some mention of the category. The White House proposal wants to divert some of the visas freed up by the elimination of the Diversity Visa Lottery to the applicants who are awaiting green cards filed via the H-1B programme. The Flake-Hatch proposal addresses the H-1Bs more comprehensively, its provisions centring on preventing US employers from replacing US workers with foreign workers. Consequently, it includes clauses that increase H-1B wages so that employers don't import workers from abroad to undercut labour costs and prevent employers from requiring a US worker to train an H-1B worker who would replace him or her. Penalties are proposed for large cash-rich employers that file a lot of H-1B petitions, so that they don't freeze out small businesses.

On the positive side, the I-squared bill would increase the current 65,000 H-1B visa quota by 20,000, with an unlimited number of exemptions for those with US master's degrees or above. Two other bits of good news include the elimination of the country-specific quotas so that applicants from, say, India or China will not be barred simply because too many from their country have filed. Finally, the employment restriction on the H-4 visas, issued to immediate family members (spouse and children under 21 years of age) of the H-1B visa holders, would be removed under I-squared, permitting spouses them to work while they are in the US .

The I-squared Bill is currently under review in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Like the White House proposal, it is unlikely to pass in its entirety; however, many of its provisions overlap with the stated White House intent to create a "merit-based" immigration system rather than one based on family ties. Given this, and the fact that the Bill reveals the intent to keep talented foreign students, particularly those in science and technology fields in the US , a good portion of it could become law. Heading to the US for a Master's degree or higher is likely to pay greater dividends than before and may be worth the exorbitant expenditure that it usually involves.

A revised H-1B visa system would likely to be good news for talented immigrants from most of the world, except if they are Sunni Muslims . On February 5, 2018, Foreign Policy magazine released the contents of a leaked Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memo that declares that it would be "great value for the United States Government" if it were to "continuously evaluate persons of interest". These "persons of interest" include Sunni Muslims (both US residents and visa applicants) who are believed to be "vulnerable to terrorist narratives" based on a number of risk indicators. These indicators are "being young, male and having national origins in the Middle East, South Asia or Africa." The memo was produced at the request of US Customs and Border Protection to "inform United States foreign visitor screening, immigrant vetting and on-going evaluations of United States-based individuals who might have a higher risk of becoming radicalised and conducting a violent attack".

The most alarming of the DHS memo's contents include the fact that a single religious and regional category is targeted for these "extreme vetting" measures. If the provisions are adopted, which can be done far more easily because it is an interagency directive (and not legislation), then it would mean that even those Sunni Muslims who have already immigrated would be subject to prolonged surveillance and questioning. Those applying for immigrant or other visas from these categories can expect to have every aspect of their life, from posts on social media to every organisational membership, thoroughly scrutinised, with rejections issued based on the barest of pretexts. In reality, such scrutiny would be a far more effective "Muslim Ban" than the executive order issued by President Trump earlier this year.

With this sort of discriminatory "extreme vetting" in place, even the most brilliant doctor, engineer or scientist who applies for a US visa could be rejected because he is Sunni and Muslim, young and male, from South Asia, the Middle East or Africa. Furthermore, family members of Sunni Muslims in the US applying for tourist visas or other non-immigrant visas will likely find it more difficult to obtain them and hence to visit the US under any visa category. The new immigration regime likely to be brought into effect under the Trump administration, then, is anti-family, anti-Muslim but pro-genius. The suggested immigration reforms will likely affect millions of people around the world who have family or business interests in the US . US citizens who have family abroad and hope to sponsor them must do so immediately, and Sunni Muslim males planning to visit the US but not in possession of a tourist visa should apply without delay. Islamophobia and immigration are inextricably tied together in the Age of Trump, and anyone hoping to evade its xenophobic restrictions must act now. –AL JAZEERA

https://nation.com.pk/12-Feb-2018/no-mothers-no-muslims-the-new-us-immigration-system

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Taliban invites GOP senator for ‘mutual talks’ in Doha

Feb 11, 2018

Taliban has invited a US senator for “mutual talks” in the Qatari capital Doha, where the so-called Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has an office.

The terror group’s social media accounts extended the invitation to Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul over his latest comments about the United States’ long war in Afghanistan, The Washington Times reported Sunday.

“We invite the respectable US Senator Rand Paul, in his official capacity to visit our political office in Doha for mutual talks,” read a Twitter post by the self-declared Information Committee of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

It further suggested that the US should withdraw its forces from the war-ravaged country for peace to emerge.

“We’ll prove to Mr. Rand Paul, the immediate US withdrawal from [Afghanistan] will bring peace to our country & will enhance international security,” the group added in the social media post.

‘No US victory in Afghanistan’

The Kentucky lawmaker had criticized investment in the war on Afghanistan during an interview with Fox News on Thursday.

“The war in Afghanistan is costing us $50 billion a year… It’s time to come home. There is no military victory there,” Paul said.

On August 21, Trump announced he would prolong the military intervention in Afghanistan.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/11/552071/Taliban-invites-GOP-senator-for-mutual-talks-in-Doha

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US General McMaster in Istanbul amid US-Turkey tensions over Syria

Feb 11, 2018

US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster has met with Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalın in Istanbul amid tensions between the two countries in the wake of Ankara’s offensive in Syria.

Unnamed Turkish presidency sources initially broke out the news to the pro-government Daily Sabah on Sunday, which was followed by a statement from the White House.

“The priorities and sensitivities of both the US and Turkey were discussed, in addition to overall relations, common strategic challenges and regional developments,” wrote the daily in its report.

Last month, Turkey launched an offensive called “Olive Branch” against Kurdish forces in Afrin, a region in northern Syria, which was faced with Washington’s criticism.

“Turkey is an ally and we’re going to work with them, but this current issue offensive is a distraction and we have to focus as allies on the mission at hand and that’s defeating ISIS (Daesh),” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said at the time.

The latest meeting by Lieutenant General McMaster is tapped as an effort to calm tensions between Washington and Ankara, which have a "long-term strategic partnership," according to the White House statement.

"They also exchanged views on American-Turkish relations as longstanding allies, their common strategic challenges, and regional developments. While discussing these issues, they addressed issues affecting bilateral relations in detail and explored ways to expand the joint fight against all forms of terrorism," the statement read.

This is while US Defense Secretary James Mattis has said that Turkey had warned the US before launching airstrikes in northern Syria.

"They warned us before they launched the aircraft they were going to do it, in consultation with us," he said in late January. “And we are working now on the way ahead. We’ll work this out.”

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/11/552069/US-General-McMaster-in-Istanbul-amid-USTurkey-tensions-over-Syria

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Turks in Canada pray for military success in Syria

12 February 2018

Turkish citizens living in Canada held a prayer ceremony on Sunday for the victory of the Turkish military’s counter terrorism operation in northwestern Syria.

The prayer program was organized by the Turkish Cultural Association in Montreal, a city in southeastern Canada, to show support for the Operation Olive Branch against the PYD/PKK and ISIL terrorists in the Syrian city of Afrin.

They also prayed for the Turkish troops carrying out their duties in other places in the world. 

Mehmet Ors, head of the association, said at the event that they had gathered to express their support to the Turkish state as well as the Turkish military.

"May Allah help our state and our military,” he added.

Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch on Jan. 20 to clear PYD/PKK and ISIL terrorists from Afrin, northwestern Syria.

According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as to protect Syrians from terrorist oppression and cruelty.

The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/america-canada/198739/white-house-sends-condolences-over-russian-plane-crash

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US envoy Tillerson in Egypt at start of Mideast tour

12 February 2018

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was expected to meet President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt on Monday, diplomatic sources said, as he started a tour of the Middle East.

The envoy was set to talk with Sisi in the early afternoon, after seeing staff of the US embassy in Cairo and a second meeting with Shoukry.

A US State Department official said Tillerson's talks in Egypt would focus on "regional issues of mutual concern such as Libya and Syria, our shared commitment to fighting terrorism", and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"Concerns about human rights and civil society are a topic of continuing conversation with the Egyptians," the official added, expecting the topic to be addressed during talks.

Tillerson's visit comes as Sisi, who has been president since 2014, looks set to be re-elected next month in polls in which he will face a single opponent.

"On the elections, we support a genuine and a credible electoral process, and we believe should guarantee the right for all citizens to participate freely and fairly," the US State Department official said.

"We have noted our concerns about the reports that Egypt's prosecutor general has launched an investigation into opposition figures ahead of the" March 26 elections, he added.

Tillerson's trip to Cairo comes after Vice President Mike Pence visited last month to discuss security in the region and the future of US aid to Egypt.

After Cairo, Tillerson is to head to Kuwait to take part in a ministerial meeting of the US-led military coalition that has been battling the Islamic State jihadist group in Iraq and neighbouring Syria.

He is also set to visit Jordan to meet King Abdullah II and Lebanon to meet President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/america-canada/198748/us-envoy-tillerson-in-egypt-at-start-of-mideast-tour

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Southeast Asia

 

How Marawi pushed Asean nations to join forces against terrorism

By Michael Hart

12th February 2018

DESPITE parts of Southeast Asia experiencing the scourge of Islamist terrorism for decades, the ten Asean member states have in the past struggled to co-operate to tackle the jihadist threat.

After a spate of attacks in the 2000s carried out by Jemaah Islamiyah in Indonesia and Abu Sayyaf bandits in the southern Philippines, the regional bloc made determined efforts to forge a region-wide response. These well-intentioned moves to implement a multilateral counter-terrorism framework ended up amounting to little more than a set of non-binding protocols and agreements outlining desired outcomes and suggesting best practices for member-states to follow, rather than ushering in a new era of enhanced security cooperation between countries in the region.

Last year’s five-month siege of Marawi by Islamic State-aligned militants, however, proved to be a game-changer. The militants’ brazen attempt to take over a mid-sized city of more than 200,000 people and forge a Southeast Asian IS province centred on the Philippines’ war-ravaged southern island of Mindanao reignited the lingering threat, finally sparking the region’s authorities into action.

Southeast Asia has long been afflicted by the presence of local, regional and transnational terrorist groups. Mindanao has been the site of an intractable armed Islamist insurgency since the early-1970s, which started off as a separatist movement but later spawned radical groups such as Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). Meanwhile Indonesia suffered a string of attacks at the hands of homegrown militant group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) in the 1990s and 2000s, supported by Al-Qaeda cells operational within the country. The presence of these groups also caused significant alarm in neighbouring Malaysia and Singapore, whilst sparking fears in the wider region.

Terror groups were able to establish a home in the Southeast Asia’s maritime states, taking advantage of porous sea borders and areas of weak state presence to set up training camps and bases from which to plan and launch attacks. This was especially true for remote parts of the Indonesian archipelago and in the lawless chain of Philippine islands which divides the Sulu and Celebes seas. In 2002, more than 200 people were killed in suicide attacks by JI targeting nightclubs on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, before Abu Sayyaf bombed a packed passenger ferry in Manila Bay in 2004, killing 116 civilians.

These high-profile attacks in the post-9/11 era prompted Asean to introduce a raft of measures intended to combat terrorism. The most important of these was the 2007 Asean Convention on Counter-Terrorism (ACCT), designed to ‘‘provide for the framework for regional cooperation to counter, prevent and suppress terrorism in all its forms’’ and ‘‘deepen cooperation among law enforcement agencies’’. However, the convention was not ratified by all ten member-states until 2013, and remained merely a set of guidelines with no enforcement or compliance mechanism. Several other region-wide agreements including the 2009 Asean Comprehensive Plan of Action on Counter-Terrorism (CPACT) have only had a marginal influence.

The impact of these counter-terrorism measures has been limited for several reasons. Asean’s strict adherence to consensus-based decision-making and the principle of non-interference has faced criticism, whilst the bloc’s use of vague language and its lack of enforcement capabilities have prevented the introduction of concrete region-wide measures to tackle terrorism. The grouping has often been described as a forum for discussion rather than a powerful body willing to push its members into taking firm action.

The varied threat level across Asean and the differing military and financial capabilities of its ten member-states have also hindered cooperation. For example, the threat from Islamist terrorism may be high in countries such as the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, whilst their armed forces are also relatively well-resourced. In comparison, countries such as Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam face a far lower threat, and may not be prepared or equipped to contribute resources to the fight. The past reluctance of Asean nations to share intelligence or permit foreign troops to operate across national boundaries has also blocked greater co-operation in the field of counter-terrorism.

Historically, Asean’s ten member-states have displayed a preference for strengthening domestic legislation and signing bilateral level agreements to tackle terrorism, seeing the threats as national rather than regional or global in nature, and therefore not requiring a multilateral response.

That was until jihadists stormed the southern Philippine city of Marawi last May. The threat which had lain dormant beneath the surface since the decline of JI in the late 2000s had suddenly re-emerged in a form that was clearly regional in nature as Islamic State announced their intention to carve out a Southeast Asian caliphate. Leaders quickly realised the need for closer co-operation to prevent the violence spreading, amid fears of further IS-inspired attacks and terrorist infiltration across borders.

Even before the Marawi siege ended in October, regional leaders gathered on several occasions to discuss responses to the evolving threat. Indonesian President Joko Widodo described Marawi as a ‘‘wake-up call’’ regarding the threat posed to Southeast Asia, whilst Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak reaffirmed his country’s commitment to tackle Islamist terror groups in the region. In September, security officials from all ten Asean states took part in a specially-convened meeting on the “Rise of Radicalisation and Violent Extremism” in the region, whilst terrorism also topped the agenda at November’s 31st Asean Summit hosted by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in Manila.

The discussions sparked by the takeover of Marawi first resulted in strengthened bilateral and trilateral measures agreed between the states most affected. In June, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines began conducting naval patrols in the Sulu Sea to restrict the movement of jihadist fighters to-and-from Mindanao. These measures were later bolstered by the addition of coordinated air patrols to spot suspicious activity from the skies. Indonesia and the Philippines have also agreed to establish a hotline to alert one another about security threats along their shared maritime frontier.

More recently two multilateral regional counter-terror initiatives have been established, indicating that Asean nations now appear more willing to cooperate on a collective basis than in the past.

In mid-November, the Southeast Asian Counter-Terrorism Financing Working Group (SACTFWG) was established to crack down on the funding of terrorist groups linked to Islamic State. The new regional grouping will include law enforcement agencies from across Southeast Asia, and will be led by the Philippines’ Anti-Money Laundering Council and Australia’s Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (Austrac).

Then in a landmark agreement on Jan 25, six Asean members – Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand – signed-up to a new intelligence-sharing pact labelled the “Our Eyes” initiative. The agreement is expected to facilitate the most extensive counter-terrorism cooperation within Asean to date. It will see senior defence officials from the participating nations meet twice a month, and will allow for the development of a new database of suspected militants which can be accessed by law enforcement agencies across the region.

At its launch, Malaysia’s Deputy Defence Minister Mohd Johari Baharum said the initiative would be crucial in enabling a collective response to emerging security threats which are ‘‘complex and trans-boundary in nature’’. It is hoped that the four remaining Asean states will later join the group, as well as external actors with a stake in the region’s stability such as Australia, India, Japan and the US.

The crisis in Marawi certainly got the region’s leaders thinking about how to better pool resources to tackle the growing threat from Islamist terrorism, but it has not yet resulted in an all-encompassing strategy involving all ten of Asean’s member-nations. Such an aim will always be difficult to achieve, due to the huge variation in threat along with the differing capabilities and priorities of Asean states.

However, ad-hoc collaborative responses have emerged involving the countries most concerned, on a scale not witnessed previously in the region. Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have looked to work with other interested parties to find workable and pragmatic multilateral solutions to the most pressing and immediate problems facing the region’s vulnerable maritime states.

With a series of overlapping bilateral, trilateral and multilateral mechanisms now in place, Asean integration in the sphere of counter-terrorism has been significantly upgraded. In the post-Marawi era of elevated risk, a set of guidelines which meant little in practice is rapidly being superseded by a more coordinated regional strategy, aimed at tackling the most critical threat facing Southeast Asia today.

https://asiancorrespondent.com/2018/02/marawi-pushed-asean-nations-join-forces-tackle-terrorism/#zpZhGldMbdDPQyO9.97

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'No Room for Intolerance in Indonesia': Jokowi

February 12, 2018

Jakarta. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has condemned the recent string of religiously motivated attacks in Indonesia by saying that there is no room for intolerance in the archipelago.

"I must emphasize that there is no place for those who are incapable of tolerance in our country, Indonesia, and even more so when they use violence," Jokowi told reporters in Jakarta on Monday (12/02).

The president's comment follows an attack by a sword-wielding assailant on the Saint Lidwina Catholic Church in Sleman, Yogyakarta, on Sunday. Four people, including a priest and a policeman, were injured before the assailant was shot by police and taken to hospital.

The attack is the latest in a series of incidents involving religiously motivated violence, which many fear may incite religious tensions ahead of regional and general elections scheduled to take place over the next 18 months.

The attack came just a day after President Jokowi held a gathering with religious leaders aimed at maintaining religious harmony and peace, while also encouraging greater tolerance among Indonesians.

Jokowi stressed that the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and that Indonesians of different faiths have lived in harmony for decades.

"I have instructed the law enforcement authorities to act firmly and the state will continue to uphold the Constitution," Jokowi said.

He added that National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian is still investigating the attack and has yet to confirm whether the incident was politically motivated.

The Setara Institute, an Indonesia-based rights group, said religious leaders and organizations must assist law enforcement agencies to stop and prevent provocative actions that may trigger feelings of insecurity, hatred or anger, which could result in vigilantism and violence.

Full report at:

http://jakartaglobe.id/news/no-room-intolerance-indonesia-jokowi/

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Man with sword attacks church in Indonesia

February 12, 2018

JAKARTA - Indonesian police shot and wounded a man who attacked a church congregation with a sword during Sunday Mass, seriously injuring four people including a priest and destroying Christian imagery.

Around 100 people were attending the service in the town of Sleman in Yogyakarta province on Java island when a man barged in wielding a one-metre-long sword and began attacking terror-stricken people, seemingly indiscriminately. "Four people have been injured in the incident - quite seriously - but we still cannot determine the perpetrator's motive," Yogyakarta police spokesman Yulianto told AFP.

Extremists in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country have mounted a series of attacks against Christians and other minorities.

A few minutes after the service started, a congregation member ran into the church with a bleeding head chased by a young man holding a sharp weapon, said worshipper Andhi Cahyo.

"Everybody started panicking and screaming. I was scrambling to save my wife and children," Cahyo told AFP.

People fled through another door as the attacker ran amok inside the church .

He destroyed some books and a Virgin Mary statue with his sword , said Cahyo, and attacked 81-year-German priest Edmund Prier who was standing at the altar.

Prier, who has been living in Indonesia for decades, is now an Indonesian citizen.

Police arrived soon after the attack and fired a warning shot but the attacker refused to surrender.

"After the warning shot was fired, the attacker charged towards the officer with his sword . The officer then shot him below his stomach, but he managed to injure the cop before being subdued," Cahyo said.

All victims have been taken to hospital for treatment. Police said the man was a university student in his early 20s but could not confirm if the incident was related to terrorism.

"For now we cannot conclude this is related to terrorism. We need to dig out more details and question the perpetrator," said spokesman Yulianto.

The man was currently being treated at Bhayangkara hospital and could not questioned, Yulianto said.

Indonesia is home to significant numbers of Christians, Hindus and Buddhists.

In 2016 several children were injured after a man threw Molotov cocktails at a church during a Sunday service.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/12-Feb-2018/man-with-sword-attacks-church-in-indonesia

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KPAI Apologizes For Article Blaming Secularism for Rampant Sexual Abuse

February 12, 2018

The Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI) has apologized for posting on its official website an article saying the rising number of sexual abuse cases in the country was the result of a secular political system embraced by Indonesia.

The article, “Maraknya kekerasan seksual adalah buah penerapan sistem sekular” (Rampant sexual abuse cases result of implementation of secular system), was written by Ummu Athaya, a housewife in Bandung, and was initially published on the website www.suara-islam.com.

“We convey our deepest apology to the public for the trouble caused by the article,” KPAI chairman Susanto said in a statement on Sunday.

He said the news article was neither the view of the KPAI commissioner nor that of the institution. “The article was written by Ummu Athaya [in] Bandung and had not yet been reviewed by the commissioners,” he added.

The government-sanctioned commission, he said, worked according to the mandate given to it under the 2014 law on child protection, which stipulates that the efforts to protect children should be in line with the state ideology of Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution.

The author of the article, which has been retracted by the KPAI, argued that many social problems occurred because Muslims separated Islam from their lives.

Indonesia is home to the largest Muslim population long associated with moderate Islam, though some analysts say Islamic conservatism is gaining ground in the country due to the rise of a Muslim middle class empowered by social media.

Full report at:

http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/02/12/kpai-apologizes-for-article-blaming-secularism-for-rampant-sexual-abuse.html

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Daesh-linked militant in Indonesia gets 7 years in prison

12 February 2018

JAKARTA: A court sentenced the leader of an Daesh group-affiliated militant network in Indonesia to seven years in prison on Monday for involvement in smuggling guns from the southern Philippines.

Presiding Judge Siti Jamzanah said it was proven that Zainal Anshori “committed a criminal act of terrorism.” She said the 43-year-old, his brother Zainal Hasan, who on Monday was sentenced to five years prison, and another militant traveled to a town in northern Sulawesi closest to the Indonesian border with the southern Philippines to collect a cache of weapons including automatic rifles.

Court documents said Anshori also attempted to set up a jihadist training camp in eastern Indonesia.

Anshori was arrested in April, sparking a failed reprisal attack against police in East Java province which ended with six militants killed in a gunbattle.

The network Anshori led, Jamaah Anshorut Daulah, is believed responsible for a 2016 attack in Jakarta that killed eight people including the four attackers. The US last year designated it as a global terrorist organization.

Indonesia still faces a significant risk of terror attacks despite a sustained crackdown on militants following the 2002 Bali bombings that killed more than 200 people. The crackdown reduced the Jemaah Islamiyah network behind the Bali bombings to remnants but a new generation of would-be jihadists has coalesced behind the Daesh banner. Though their capacity to launch large-scale attacks is limited, experts say it could be enhanced if Indonesians who fought with Daesh in Syria and Iraq return home.

Anshori, after a brief discussion with his lawyers, accepted the verdict and will not appeal, the lawyers said. He refused to comment to reporters.

Jamaah Anshorut Daulah is made up of about two dozen extremist groups and was conceived in prison by radical cleric Aman Abdurrahman, his cell mate Iwan Darmawan, also known as Rois, who is on death row for his role in a 2004 Australian Embassy car bombing in Jakarta, and four regular visitors including Anshori.

Anshori became leader in 2015 after two other founders joined Daesh in Syria.

Court documents said Anshori received $20,000 in cash to collect the rifles and pistols purchased by Mas’ud, a militant who was sentenced to 10 years in prison last week.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1244586/world

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Blockchain venture aims to modernize Islamic endowments

FEBRUARY 12, 2018

SYDNEY (Reuters) - A new venture aims to use blockchain technology to modernize the management and investments of Islamic charitable endowments, called waqf, that would tap into a vast but underutilized pool of assets across the Muslim world.

Singapore-based financial technology company Finterra has developed a crowdfunding platform that uses digital ledger technology, or blockchain, to create “smart contracts” that would be tied to specific waqf projects, said Finterra founder and Chief Executive Officer Hamid Rashid.

The firm hopes this can provide a more efficient way to raise money, manage and transfer ownership of waqf, which receive donations from Muslims to operate social projects, such as mosques, schools and welfare schemes.

“We are trying to change the financial terrain in its approach to crowdfunding and development of waqf,” said Rashid in a telephone interview.

Finterra’s plans reflects the interest that a number of fintech companies have in broadening their footprint to include core Islamic finance markets in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

The company started developing its blockchain platform in October, with pilot projects currently being studied from endowments in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, said Rashid.

“By June we hope to have the product fully up and running and we can then start onboarding clients. We can then promote to global waqf boards and to regulators.”

The firm will host a forum in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of predominately Muslim Malaysia, next month to discuss the applications of blockchain for waqf, having attracted interest from waqf bodies in Brunei and India.

Islamic endowments are believed to hold large portfolios of real estate, commercial businesses and other assets, with an estimate of as much as $1 trillion of assets held in waqf globally.

The waqf concept dates back more than a thousand years, reaching its heyday during the Ottoman empire.

But, the assets in many waqf are underutilized and earn low returns because of ineffective management, with some waqf requiring further donations to keep running.

Donations must be pledged to specific goals making it difficult to repurpose a waqf, limiting fundraising from banks which can find it difficult to liquidate such assets.

The use of blockchain could address this by tracking each contract electronically across the lifespan of the investment, said Rashid.

Full report at:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-islamic-finance-fintech/blockchain-venture-aims-to-modernize-islamic-endowments-idUSKBN1FW0C8

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Africa

 

Ekiti 2018: Church founder joins guber race, to field muslim as deputy

February 11, 2018

By Emmanuel Ani

The ranks of the governorship aspirants in Ekiti State swelled on Sunday as a Church General Overseer, Pastor Tunde Afe, joined the race.

Afe, the founder of House of Faith Christian Centre in Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, said he was desirous of fielding a Muslim as a deputy governorship candidate to send a signal that Nigerians were one in spirit.

Unveiling his ambition at the church’s premises, Pastor Afe stated that he would neither use the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) nor the All Progressives Congress(APC) as a platform, saying the two parties had greatly disappointed Nigerians.

The cleric said time had come for all Nigerians, particularly those that mean well for the country to rise up and take leadership positions, to prevent total collapse of the system due to activities of corrupt politicians.

The prophet stated that he had begun a process of consultations with critical stakeholders on the choice of political party with the right ideology to contest, assuring that the party with a well fitted ideology will be adopted and such will be made public soon.

He said: “I didn’t receive any special direction before taking this step, because every Nigerian knew that the country is in dire need of good leadership and as a man of God who believes that things must be done properly, I have no reason to sit back while things degenerate.

“Look at what is happening in Nigeria today, I mean killings everywhere and the best way to address this is by using Ekiti as a launch pad for good governance in Nigeria.

“My church has been into role modeling for the youths and also organizing leadership trainings for them to be good leaders in future. We are tapping into all these to make Ekiti great.

“All those that had ruled Ekiti did their best, but I think I can do better because I won’t take whatever that doesn’t belong to me as a benefit in government because I fear God.

“Let me say this, if all the governors and those occupying leadership positions take what are legitimate due to them alone as benefits, Nigeria will be far better than this and that is xactly what I am going to use my aspiration to teach”.

On his decision to choose a muslim as Deputy, Pastor Afe stated that “since both Muslims and Christians are Nigerians with legitimate rights, nothing stops me from picking my deputy among the Muslims.

“The issues affecting Nigerians today knew no religion. It knows no ethnic group, so what we need that we should those who have the fear of God to take charge and Nigeria will be better for it”.

http://dailypost.ng/2018/02/11/ekiti-2018-church-founder-joins-guber-race-field-muslim-deputy/

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At least 3 soldiers wounded in bomb attack in Libya’s Sirte

Feb 10, 2018

A car bomb has hit a military checkpoint east of the Libyan city of Sirte, wounding at least three soldiers and destroying military vehicles.

The attack occurred at around 9:25 a.m. local time, 90 kilometers east of Sirte on Saturday.

No individual or group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Daesh Takfiri terrorists have recently shown increased activity in the south and east of Sirte.

Sirte, located on Libya’s Mediterranean coast and on the line which divides rival militaries in the east and west of Libya, fell to Daesh in 2015 and it was liberated by Libyan forces, dominated by brigades based in the port city of Misrata, in December 2016.

The attack came a day after twin bomb blasts hit a mosque in Libya's second city of Benghazi, killing at least two people and injuring 75 others.

In January, a double car bombing in Benghazi also killed at least 35 outside a mosque in the center of the city as worshipers were leaving evening prayers.

Benghazi is controlled by forces of military strongman Khalifa Haftar, who opposes a UN-backed government based in Tripoli.

Benghazi has been relatively calm since Haftar announced the eastern city's "liberation" from militants in July last year after a three-year campaign. However, sporadic violence has continued.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/10/551927/Libya-Sirte-bombing-military-checkpoint

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Bodies of Al-Shabaab fighters found after attempted attack on AP camp

February 12th 2018

Security agents have found three bodies believed to be those of Al Shabab fighters killed in last week’s foiled attack on a police camp in Kutulo. Some Al Shabaab fighters tried to attack the camp on Thursday night, but they were repulsed and they fled into a nearby thicket. ALSO READ: I was lured into sex slavery by militants through Facebook Local police commander Stephen Ngetich said a patrol team later found three bodies of the attackers in a thicket near the Kenya-Somalia border. “We are still patrolling the area to see if there are more bodies,” said Ngetich. Mr Ng’etich said the attackers invaded the special forces camp at around 8pm, leading to a gun battle that ended with the assailants retreating. The force is a combination of elite officers drawn from the Administration Police, mainly the Rapid Deployment Unit and the Rural border Patrol unit. The militants seem to have moved from Mandera to Wajir where there have been persistent attacks in the recent months. In Wajir, the attackers have been targeting communication masts. At least five masts have been attacked in less than a month. Officials attribute the decrease in terror attacks in Mandera to the construction of a border wall. The wall has already covered 10km and plans are underway to increase the area covered to 28km. ALSO READ: 60 returnees recount pain at the hands of Al Shabaab The Government has not disclosed the exact cost of constructing the 700km wall, but officials say it will comprise a concrete barrier with observation posts, surveillance stations and CCTV cameras. North Eastern regional commissioner Mohamud Saleh said with only 10km of the wall in place, incidents of attacks in Mandera town had gone down by more than 90 per cent. “They used to attack and run to Somalia but since the wall was erected, the incidents are now almost zero,” he said. Mr Saleh, however, described the stretch from Arabia to Kotulo  as “volatile”, saying Al Shabaab operatives were using the area to attack vehicles, plant landmines, target security installations and communication masts before retreating back to Somalia. Saleh said the Government would fast-track the construction of the security wall to completely block the militants from entering Kenya. The wall will stretch from the Indian Ocean to the Kenya-Somali-Ethiopia border convergence point.

https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2001269375/bodies-of-al-shabaab-fighters-found-after-attempted-attack-on-ap-camp

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Soldiers kill ‘several’ Boko Haram members in Yobe – Official

February 11, 2018

The Nigerian Army on Sunday said its troops on Friday killed several Boko Haram terrorists at Goniri community in Gubio Local Government Area of Yobe.

Nureni Alimi, the Assistant Director, Army Public Relations, 27 Task Force Brigade, made the disclosure in a statement to journalists in Maiduguri.

He stated that the insurgents escaped their enclaves in Sambisa Forest and tried to infiltrate the community.

Mr. Alimi, an army major, disclosed that the troops engaged and killed many insurgents and wounded several others in the attack, while high calibre ammunition was recovered from the fleeing terrorists.

He noted that the insurgents fled their enclaves in view of the ongoing clearance operation under Operation DEEDP PUNCH II, and attempted to infiltrate the community.

“Some desperate Boko Haram terrorists attempting to escape the theatre through one of the formidable blocking positions in Goniri, Gujba Local Government Area of Yobe State, had been severely dealt with on Friday, 9th February, 2018.

“The troops destroyed their Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) borne-vehicle, neutralised quite a number of them and wounded several others.

‘‘The troops recovered one Anti-aircraft Gun with long belt of ammunitions, one AK-47 Rifle and other items”.

Alimi expressed regret that preliminary investigations indicated that some unscrupulous elements in the society provided information to the insurgents on troops’ movement in the area.

He revealed that the insurgents utilised the information and made concerted attempt to infiltrate the community, adding that the gallant troops repelled the attack and crushed them.

Full report at:

https://www.premiumtimesng.com/regional/nnorth-east/258261-soldiers-kill-several-boko-haram-members-yobe-official.html

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Boko Haram: Families of freed lecturers, policewomen laud Nigerian govt

February 11, 2018

Hassana Ibrahim, a relative to one of the freed University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) lecturers, Yusuf Ibrahim, has expressed joy over their release from Boko Haram captivity.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the federal government, on Saturday, announced the release of Mr. Ibrahim and 12 other persons abducted by the insurgents in Borno, sequel to negotiations anchored by the International Committee of Red Cross, ICRC.

The freed persons included one lecturer, two geologists and 10 police women.

Ms. Ibrahim, who appeared highly elated, told NAN that the family received the news of the release of her younger brother with “great joy”.

She said that friends and well-wishers had been calling to register their happiness and rejoice with the family over the development.

Ms. Ibrahim recounted that she experienced trauma and lost hope of seeing her brother in view of their long stay under the insurgent’s captivity.

“My family lost hope of seeing him again because of the circumstances leading to his abduction. We were confused.

“We thank God and President Muhammadu Buhari over his commitment to secure their release, we are really grateful to all the parties involved,” she said.

Lucy Yunana, a relative of one the abducted policewomen, who corroborated Mr. Ibrahim, expressed the hope that the remaining Chibok girls and others persons in Boko Haram captivity would soon be released.

Also, Ali Ndume (APC-Borno South), lauded the federal government and ICRC over the release of the 13 abducted persons.

Mr. Ndume said, in a statement issued in Maiduguri, that the development had rekindled people’s hope to rescue the remaining Chibok school girls and other persons in Boko Haram captivity.

“The development not only gladdens our hearts but also renewed our hope that the remaining Chibok school girls and other persons still in captivity will regain their freedom in due course.

“On behalf of the good people of Borno State, I commend all actors that partook in the latest negotiated release of police women and lecturers.

“I specifically commend the leadership of the President Muhammadu Buhari for keeping faith with his promise of ensuring that all abducted persons, especially the Chibok schoolgirls, are released”, Ndume said.

NAN recalls that the university workers were abducted in July 2017 when the insurgents attacked an oil exploration team in Gubio and Magumeri local government areas of Borno.

Full report at:

https://www.premiumtimesng.com/regional/nnorth-east/258262-boko-haram-families-freed-lecturers-policewomen-laud-nigerian-govt.html

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