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Fri Aug 07 2020, 02:17 PM

Islamic World News ( 3 Feb 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Mob Outside Jamia Raises ‘Goli Maro’ Slogans Again, Police Present In the Area Are Trying To Pacify the Angry Mob and Asking Them to Go Back







• No Decision Yet To Implement Nationwide NRC, Home Ministry Clarifies In Lok Sabha

• Liberal Muslims of Pakistan Support Minor Hindu Girl Mehak, Spread Message of Communal Harmony

• Some Rohingya Return to Myanmar but Find Little There Left For Them

• Pope Plans Indonesia Trip to Promote Inter-Religious Dialogue

• Abu Dhabi Marks Interfaith Effort A Year after Pope''s Visit

• Saudi Media Try To Rationalize Betrayal of Palestinians Under Trump Plan

• Jihadists in Central Mali Pledge Allegiance to New Islamic State Leader

• Pompeo to Taliban: Demonstrate Capacity to Reduce Violence

• France Arrests Syrian Extremist on War Crime Charges

 

India

• Mob Outside Jamia Raises ‘Goli Maro’ Slogans Again, Police Present In the Area Are Trying To Pacify the Angry Mob and Asking Them to Go Back

• No Decision Yet To Implement Nationwide NRC, Home Ministry Clarifies In Lok Sabha

• Mansa Farmers Join Shaheen Bagh Stir, More from Sangrur to Go Today

• Violence only in Jamia, AMU; nothing in Allahabad varsity: HRD Minister

• Anti-CAA stir about constitutional values, BJP arrogant in power: Congress

• Delhi: Crime branch to probe Sunday night’s Jamia firing

• NIA teams arrest 3 Hizb terrorists from Shopian

• Civilian killed, four injured in Pak firing along LoC in J&K's Tangdhar sector

• BJP leader's controversial remarks, Shaheen Bagh, CAA dominate debate on President's address

• Pakistani organiser of Bollywood galas in US on govt radar

• Shaheen Bagh, Jamia are a plot to destroy harmony: PM Modi

• 60 Pakistan Hindus cross into India at Attari-Wagah border, some say may seek asylum

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Pakistan

• Liberal Muslims of Pakistan Support Minor Hindu Girl Mehak, Spread Message of Communal Harmony

• PM Regrets Missing KL Summit over Others' Misconception 'It Would Divide Ummah'

• Afghan militant shell kills 7 from same family in Pakistan

• PML-N being reorganized in Hazara division to face off PTI

• SC asked to set aside LHC verdict of suspending Musharraf’s death sentence

• SC takes exception to announcement of reference against judges by PM’s aide

• STB pledges to fix textbook ‘mistake’ after MQM-P protest

• CTD arrests three militants, seizes arms, explosives

• LHC decision on special court against Musharraf challenged in SC

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South Asia

• Some Rohingya Return to Myanmar but Find Little There Left For Them

• Myanmar reimposes Internet shutdown in conflict-torn Rakhine, Chin states

• US envoy briefs Afghan president on peace talks with Taliban

• Countries ban Bangladeshi flight crew amid virus fear

• IECC to announce Afghanistan’s presidential election final results on Wednesday

• Angry Taliban fighters killed donkeys carrying food to government-held territory

• What has Khalilzad discussed with the Afghan politicians?

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Southeast Asia

• Pope Plans Indonesia Trip to Promote Inter-Religious Dialogue

• Nur Sajat Sparks Ire, Donning Telekung in Mecca

• Slovenia's first mosque opens despite fierce opposition

• Malaysian Bar urges IGP to locate and return Indira Gandhi’s daughter instead of striving for ‘win-win’ outcome

• Transgender rights group hits out at Mujahid, says govt must ensure Sajat’s safety

• Zahid under fire for willingness to work with Dr M

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Arab World

• Abu Dhabi Marks Interfaith Effort A Year after Pope''s Visit

• Iraq protest camps split over cleric’s backing of new PM

• Report: Saudi Arabia Used French Mercenaries To Kill Pilgrims In 1979 Uprising

• Lebanese government warns of painful steps to avert economic collapse

• Muslim nations reject Trump’s Mideast plan in Saudi meeting

• Egyptian Officials Say Militants Blow Up Sinai Gas Pipeline

• OIC turns down Trump’s Middle East peace plan

• Iraqi protester stabbed to death in clash between rival camps

• Over 500 people killed since protests erupted in Iraq: Human Rights Commission

• Six Turkish, six Syrian regime soldiers killed in Syria’s Idlib clashes

• UAE suspends flights to China except for Beijing, from February 5

• Denmark, Netherlands summon Saudi ambassadors over espionage activities

• Saudi Arabia interested in purchasing Israeli-made Spike missiles: Report

• Syrian army liberates two more towns in southeastern Idlib

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Mideast

• Saudi Media Try To Rationalize Betrayal of Palestinians Under Trump Plan

• Report compares Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to Daesh, Al-Qaeda

• UN Security Council to meet with Kushner on Mideast plan: Diplomats

• Rouhani says Iran may block UN inspectors if it faces a ‘new situation’

• Rouhani says Iran ready to work with EU to resolve nuclear deal issues

• Israeli PM Netanyahu says starting process of normalization with Sudan

• Israeli PM hopes Uganda will soon open embassy in Jerusalem

• One million people in Syria’s Idlib marching toward Turkish border: Erdogan

• Iranian commander killed in clashes with Syrian opposition forces: State media

• UN medical air bridge starts with 8 Yemeni patients

• Israel’s Netanyahu claims ‘normalization’ with Sudan’s leader

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Africa

• Jihadists in Central Mali Pledge Allegiance to New Islamic State Leader

• Somalia: Soldiers Killed in Al-Shabaab Attack in Somalia

• Militants kill dozens in east Congo as attacks on civilians intensify

• Burkina Faso: Gunmen kill 20 civilians in attack

• ‘Children of ISIS’ head back to Tunisia, reviving controversy

• Libya's UN-backed govt. mobilizes troops toward Haftar-controlled Sirte

• UN-brokered Libya military talks begin in Geneva

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North America

• Pompeo to Taliban: Demonstrate Capacity to Reduce Violence

• US: Khashoggi Fiancee To Attend State Of The Union

• Kushner to brief UNSC on Trump plan before Abbas visit

• U.S. Targets Leader of Al-Qaeda In Yemen

• Al-Qaida in Yemen claims deadly Florida naval base shooting

• Two Lansing men have now pleaded guilty to conspiring to supporting Islamic State

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Europe

• France Arrests Syrian Extremist on War Crime Charges

• France Takes Back 17 ISIS Children

• ISIS claims London stabbing attack, but gives no evidence

• Questions must be raised about the latest terror attack

• Denmark arrests 3 anti-Iran terrorists on charges of spying for Saudi Arabia

• France charges Sarkozy aide in Libya funding probe

• Police arrest 26 for smuggling Algerians into Spain

• Germany urges international efforts to solve Idlib crisis

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/mob-outside-jamia-raises-‘goli-maro’-slogans-again,-police-present-in-the-area-are-trying-to-pacify-the-angry-mob-and-asking-them-to-go-back/d/120976

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Mob Outside Jamia Raises ‘Goli Maro’ Slogans Again, Police Present In The Area Are Trying To Pacify The Angry Mob And Asking Them To Go Back.

India Today Web Desk

New Delhi

February 4, 2020

Atense situation prevailed outside Jamia Millia University on Tuesday as another group of people were spotted proceeding towards the university and chanting slogans of desh ke gaddaron ko, goli maro s****n ko (shoot traitors of the country).

Police present in the area are trying to pacify the angry mob and asking them to go back. The development comes just a day after another firing incident was reported from outside the university campus, making it the third incident of firing in the last five days.

Before this, another man opened fire at Shaheen Bagh in the national capital on Saturday. The shooter was quickly taken into custody. Eyewitnesses said that the man shouted "Hindu Rashtra Zindabad" and fired two rounds. The man had resorted to aerial firing. Police immediately overpowered and caught him," Delhi DCP Chinmay Biswal told ANI.

Kapil Gujjar, a Class 12 dropout, has denied being associated with any group. The shooter is 25-years-old. He came to Shaheen Bagh on an auto. Just a day before this incident on January 30, another gunman opened fire at a mob near Jamia area in New Delhi, injuring one university student.

He had shouted 'ye lo azaadi' as he shot at protesters marching towards Rajghat on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi's death anniversary. The shooter also posed live footage from the scene and wrote several pro-Hindutva slogans on his Facebook profile. One of his FB posts read: "Shaheen Bagh, khel khatam (game over)."

A huge political war of words has broken out between BJP and its opponents after the multiple shooting incidents at the Shaheen Bagh protest site and Jamia area. BJP's main opponents have been linking the incidents of shooting to chants of 'goli maro' at a rally headed by BJP minister Anurag Thakur in Delhi last week.

Thakur has now been ordered off the BJP's list of star campaigners by election commission authrities and slapped with a temporary campaign ban. Similar action was taken against BJP MP Parvesh Verma, who said last week that protesters at Shaheen Bagh were capable of rape and murder.

Other BJP leaders have targeted the demonstrators -- mainly Muslim women -- including by promising a "surgical strike" on the day election results are announced.

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/mob-outside-jamia-millia-university-raises-goli-maro-slogans-again-1643192-2020-02-04

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No Decision Yet To Implement Nationwide NRC, Home Ministry Clarifies In Lok Sabha

February 4, 2020

Home Ministry has said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday that the government has taken no decision yet on bringing a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC) yet.

The Home Ministry has said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday that the government has taken no decision yet on bringing a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC) yet.

On the questions of whether the government has any plans to introduce the NRC all over the country, Ministry of Home Affairs MoS Nityanand Rai said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha that "till now, the government has not taken any decision to prepare National Register of Citizens (NRC) at the national level".

The Home Ministry has also said "question does not arise" on the questions of the modalities of a nationwide NRC and how it would put additional burden on citizens.

On Monday, as the Parliament opened for the Budget Session, most of the opposition parties have notices in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha seeking debate and answers on Citizenship Act (CAA), NRC and National Population Register (NPR).

Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said almost all the opposition parties, including the DMK, CPI, CPI(M), NCP, RJD, TMC, SP and BSP, gave notices under Rule 267 to adjourn all business and discuss the CAA, NPR and National Register of Citizens.

The Congress leader said, "For the last two months, the whole country is on the road since the citizenship bill became an act. The NPR was done earlier, but the questions were simple. But in this NPR under this government, other details such as the date of birth of the father have been asked for."

"The government represents it as a Hindu-Muslim issue. All of us feel that there is no Hindu-Muslim issue," the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister added.

The government was doing all this to deliberately divert the attention from its failure to deliver on its promises, he said, adding, "They keep us giving toys to keep us busy."

While introducing the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the Parliament, Home Minister Amit Shah had repeatedly said the government will bring the CAA first and then a nationwide NRC.

The statements sparked massive outrage across the country and many universities in different states. Anti-CAA and NRC protests have continued for months in Delhi and other parts of the country.

Women at Delhi's Shaheen Bagh and students of Jamia University have continued with their protests for months, forcing the government to backtrack on the proposals of bringing a nationwide NRC that demands that citizens of India prove their nationality.

While Amit Shah had repeatedly said the Modi government will bring nationwide NRC by 2024, PM Narendra Modi said such claims are lies being spread by the Opposition to create unrest in the country.

Soon, Amit Shah, too, went back on his statements and said the government has no such plan as of now.

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/no-decision-yet-to-prepare-nationwide-nrc-mha-reply-in-lok-sabha-1643093-2020-02-04

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Liberal Muslims of Pakistan Support Minor Hindu Girl Mehak, Spread Message of Communal Harmony

Feb 3, 2020

AMRITSAR: Various liberal Muslim organizations led by Jeay Sindh Mahjaz (JSM) took out a march in Jacobabad city of Sindh province of Pakistan on Monday seeking justice for a minor Hindu girl, Mehak who was reportedly converted to Islam and married to a Muslim man.

According to a video uploaded on social media from Jacobabad, the Muslim liberals were being led by Sindhi folk singers who were singing songs of communal harmony and were seen encouraged by the leaders of the march.

Holding various string instruments, the folk singers were heard singing ‘tumhara mazahad tumharay saath ray, hamara mazahab hamaray saath rahhay’ with people following them holding placards with pictures of Mehak in their hands.

General secretary of All Pakistan Hindu Panchayat Ravi Dawani informed TOI over phone from Pakistan that the march was led by JSM chairman Riaz Khan Chandio.

He informed that, Mehak was to be produced in court on Monday but the judge was on sick leave so the next date of hearing had been fixed for February 6.

Fiftyeen-year-old Mehak Kumari was reportedly converted into Islam and married off to twenty-eight-year old Muslim daily wage labourer Ali Raza Machhi who along with his father worked on the construction site of Mehak’s father Vijay Kumar earning around Rs 300 per day.

Mehak’s forced conversion had sparked the outburst of Hindu community which on Monday was joined by Muslims liberal groups.

Dawani said Mehak was currently living in Dar-ul –Aman in Larkana adding that the medical team had submitted Mehak’s ossification test report with the court. "According to the report she is 15 years and 8 months old and is a minor girl who can’t take the decision to marry on her own" he said.

The Sindh assembly in 2014 had adopted the Sindh Child Marriage Restrain Act, according to which any boy or girl could marry only at the age of 18 and the boy who has a child marriage could be imprisoned for three years.

Chandio couldn’t be contacted for his comments.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/liberal-muslims-support-minor-hindu-girl-mehak-spread-message-of-communal-harmony/articleshow/73907978.cms

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Some Rohingya Return to Myanmar but Find Little There Left For Them

2020-02-03

The few hundred Rohingya refugees who returned to Myanmar from Bangladesh of their own volition say they have not yet been able to go back to their original villages and face hardship in violence-ridden northern Rakhine state nearly three years after their expulsion by army troops.

Thousands of members of the Muslim minority group were killed during a brutal military-led crackdown on their communities in 2017, while more than 740,000 others escaped across the border, where they now live in sprawling displacement camps in southeastern Bangladesh.

Despite an agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh to repatriate Rohingya refugees who receive approval to return, none has shown up at certain border crossings to go back to northern Rakhine state through the official program, citing a fear of ongoing official discriminatory policies and more violence.

A refugee named Chowbi told RFA that he returned on his own in September 2019 via the Taungbyo border crossing.

The 35-year-old fled Oodaung village during the August 2017 violence, which included indiscriminate killings, mass rapes, and community torchings, and lived for two years and half in the Thankhali refugee camp in Bangladesh.

Upon his return to Oodaung, Chowbi found the village deserted.

Because he cannot afford to rent a home in town, he is now organizing other Rohingya villagers to resettle in their original community.

“I really miss my former life whenever I visit Oodaung village,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service. “There is no home in the village now. I still want to return to the village.”

If he can convince five to 10 households to return to the village, they all will resettle in Oodaung, he said

“For now, we are renting a place, [and] the cost is high, so we are facing hardships since we came back here,” Chowbi said.

More than 500,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh from Muslim-majority Buthidaung and Maungdaw districts to escape the crackdown, and so far 624 refugees have been accepted back, according to the Maungdaw district administrative office.

Maungdaw district administrator Soe Aung said the returned refugees are not among those approved for repatriation under an agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh, but rather voluntary returnees who contacted the district’s administrative office to arrange to come back on their own.

Nearly 250 Rohingya rescued by the Myanmar Navy while traveling by boat from Bangladesh to Malaysia are included in the list of 600 returnees.

The government said it has provided food and other assistance to the returnees, many of whom now live with their relatives while others rent homes in town because they don’t believe it is safe enough yet for them to return to their villages of origin.

‘Almost out of money’

Mahmad Shawri, another returned Rohingya refugee, said he fled to Bangladesh during the campaign of violence and stayed in a camp for more than a year. He returned to Myanmar on his own a year ago after contacting Myanmar authorities.

He said he previously lived in Meetike village tract in Taungpyo township but now rents a house in Maungdaw town and struggles to afford the 100,000-kyat (U.S. $67) monthly rent.

“I cannot afford it,” he said. “I’ve been paying the rent by selling my wife’s jewelry. Now we are almost out of money.”

Because the Rohingya are considered illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, they face routine discrimination in Myanmar which limits their movement, denies them access to jobs, health care, and education, and forbids them to become citizens.

Mahmad Shawri said he wanted to return to his former village but that it is not safe for his family to live there as the only household in the deserted settlement.

Many Rohingya refugees who have returned from Bangladesh said there are many others like them who want to go home, but they face obstacles such as unhelpful Bangladeshi authorities and continuing threats from armed groups like the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a Muslim militant group whose deadly attacks on police outposts triggered the 2017 crackdown.

Nuru Mohamad, another Rohingya refugee, said he returned to Maungdaw district with his family, and his daughter and son-in-law who remained behind in a Bangladesh displacement camp want to return as well as soon as possible.

“My daughter is concerned about us a lot,” he said. “She is looking into all means to return to Myanmar and unite with her parents.”

“She said she might cross the border illegally to return to Myanmar, [but] I told them not to return illegally and instead to return through the official repatriation camps,” he added.

Nuru Mohamad lived in Zinpaingnya village tract in northern Maungdaw but now resides in the town because his village remains deserted.

Mahmad Hasaung, the administrator of Padin village tract in southern Maungdaw township, said he has requested that local officials build homes for seven families who have returned.

“We’ve got seven families who have returned from a repatriation camp,” he said. “We are not returning to our original village.”

“The government said that houses would be built for these families,” headed. “We have given them a list. We’ve got the plan to build homes, but so far, none has been built.”

Rakhine authorities have set up a reception center in Nga Khu Ya village and a transit camp in Hla Phoe Khaung village for Rohingya refugees who return from Bangladesh.

Maungdaw district administrator Soe Aung said authorities will let those who have come back continue to live in the transit camp if they have no other place to go.

“We are honoring the wishes of the returnees,” he told RFA. “If they have no place to stay and cannot afford to pay rent, then we will settle them in Hla Phoe Khaung.”

“But they also don’t want to stay in Hla Phoe Khaung,” he added. “They will be settled only after houses have been built for them.”

“They said they don’t want to stay, so we resettled them as they wished,” Soe Maung said.

Attack in Rohingya village

The struggle to resettle in parts of Rakhine comes amid ongoing military violence in the state.

Myanmar’s military on Monday accused the rebel Arakan Army (AA) of trying to frame servicemen for an attack on Rohingya civilians as Myanmar faces genocide charges at the U.N.’s top court for atrocities allegedly committed by army-led forces during a crackdown.

Spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told a press conference in Naypyidaw that the AA is responsible for the deaths of two civilians in a village in Buthidaung township on Jan. 31 and that soldiers beat and raped a Rohingya woman — an accusation that the Arakan force rejected.

“In Buithidaung’s Kintaung village, two villagers were killed and seven were injured by the blasts of shellings from AA insurgents,” he said. “We are going to elaborate about that incident with comprehensive evidence.”

Four AA rebels who arrived in Theintan village on evening of Jan. 31 beat, raped, and committed other sexual assaults on some Rohingya women in the village, he said.

Afterwards, the AA soldiers left the village, and a group of about 30 Arakan fighters returned later that evening.

“They besieged the village, saying that they would burn the houses to the ground,” Zaw Min Tun said in his account of the event, adding that the villagers sent a letter requesting help from the closest Myanmar military regiment.

AA spokesman Khine Thukha denied the accusation, calling it a lie.

“The news that AA soldiers had raped Bengali women in Buthidaung Township is a total fabrication,” he told RFA. “There was no such case.”

In his version of the event, a Rohingya motorbike driver transporting two young ethnic Rakhine men did not stop at their desired location, but instead took them to the village whose residents emerged from their homes and attacked them.

Only when a nearby Rakhine man shouted at them to stop, did the villagers stop their assault and leave.

“We have learned that they fabricated it as a rape story to cover up their attack on the Rakhine men,” Khine Thukha said.

“We have noticed these days that the military is deploying many tactics to provoke racial tension between [ethnic] Rakhine people and Muslims,” he added.

“We found that the military is using Muslims to instigate riots,” he said.

ICJ order

The village attack comes on the heels of a decision by International Court of Justice in The Hague to impose provisional measures on Myanmar to ensure the safety of Rohingya still living inside the country and to preserve evidence of rights abuses during the 2017 crackdown that left several thousands dead and forced more than 740,000 other to flee to Bangladesh.

The court is handling a larger case against Myanmar filed by Gambia in November on behalf of the Organization of Islamic States for violating the Genocide Convention during the alleged expulsion of Rohingya to Bangladesh amid the violence.

“On the 23rd of January, the ICJ’s provincial measures order came out,” Zaw Min Tun said. “This incident happened two days later.”

“This was a planned attack to distort the reputation of the government, the military, and other security forces in the eyes of the international community and ICJ observers,” he said.

Days before the ICJ’s order, a Myanmar-appointed Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE) that probed military operations during the crackdown said in its final report that it had found that war crimes and serious human rights violations had occurred in Rakhine, but did not have “genocidal intent.”

The week that the ICJ’s order and the ICOE’s report were issued saw a flare-up in armed conflict between Myanmar soldiers and the AA, which is fighting for greater autonomy in Rakhine state, in Rohingya-majority Buithidaung and Maungdaw townships.

“When the ICOE issued a report last November, we made an announcement that we would pursue legal procedures in investigating and finding evidence,” Zaw Min Tun said. “We will stay put on that announcement.”

“We regard to ICJ orders, we will act according to the existing laws,” he added.

In November, the ICOE sent a letter to military commander-in-chief senior general Min Aung Hlaing briefing him on relevant findings by the commission for further investigation through a court of inquiry or a court martial.

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/some-rohingya-return-to-myanmar-02032020171410.html

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Pope Plans Indonesia Trip to Promote Inter-Religious Dialogue

February 03, 2020

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis will promote inter-religious dialogue this year during a trip to the world's biggest Muslim country Indonesia and make the first papal visit to mainly Catholic East Timor since it won independence from Jakarta, diplomatic sources said.

The trip, which will also include a visit to Papua New Guinea, is likely to take place in September, the sources said. The Vatican has not yet announced the trip.

East Timor is more than 95% Roman Catholic, a legacy of colonization by Portugal. It won independence in 2002 from Indonesia, with which it shares a land border. The late Pope John Paul visited East Timor and Indonesia in 1989.

Papua New Guinea, which also shares a land border with Indonesia on another island, is predominantly Christian. Pope John Paul visited in 1984.

https://kfgo.com/news/articles/2020/feb/03/pope-plans-indonesia-trip-to-promote-inter-religious-dialogue/980997/

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Abu Dhabi marks interfaith effort a year after Pope''s visit

03 FEBRUARY 2020

Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates), Feb 3 (AP) Interfaith leaders gathered on Monday in Abu Dhabi to mark one year since Pope Francis'' historic trip to the Arabian Peninsula, a visit that saw leading Muslim clerics gather alongside the pope to promote co-existence.

The United Arab Emirates has worked to promote itself over the past year as a beacon of religious tolerance, despite it''s hard limits on political speech.

The majority of the country''s population are not Emirati Muslim citizens, but foreigners, millions of whom are Christian and Hindu.

Abu Dhabi hosted Monday''s meeting to showcase its continued efforts in promoting interfaith dialogue as it prepares to break ground this year on a compound that will house a mosque, church and synagogue side by side.

The Abrahamic House of Fraternity project is due to be completed in 2022.

In the neighbouring emirate of Dubai, an unmarked villa has already been turned into a synagogue.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia, along with other Gulf states, have been expanding their outreach to Christian groups, like evangelicals, and Jewish organisations.

The effort coincides with a broader alignment of political interests and ties emerging between Gulf Arab states and Israel, which share a common foe in Iran.

A US rabbi, a representative of the Catholic church and a trained sheikh from Egypt''s Al-Azhar, the revered 1,000-year-old seat of Sunni Islamic learning, attended Monday''s briefing where they discussed ongoing interfaith efforts.

Senior Rabbi at the Washington Hebrew Congregation, Bruce Lustig, insisted his participation on this visit was "apolitical".

“We are here as a forum for peace for the whole human family, so I am delighted when there are greater ties with the state of Israel," he told The Associated Press.

"I am delighted when there''s opportunities to bring justice and peace to so many people who have so many injustices in the world.”

Israel''s treatment of Palestinians and the sanctity of one of Islam''s holiest sites in Jerusalem remain obstacles to full normalization.

Like most of the Arab world, the UAE does not have formal diplomatic relations with Israel.

Pope Francis'' trip last year marked the first ever papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula. He ended his trip with a mass for 180,000 Christians, capping a visit that emphasised the presence of minority Christians in the region and a greater understanding with Islam.

During his trip, Francis also participated in a conference on interreligious dialogue and signed a "human fraternity" document to promote coexistence and confront extremism with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb.

Just before he departed for Abu Dhabi last year, the pope appealed for an end to Yemen''s humanitarian crisis, saying the "cries of these children and their parents rise up" to God.

The UAE is a key member of the Saudi-led coalition at war with Yemen''s Iran-aligned rebels. The conflict has driven Yemen to the brink of famine and caused the world''s worst humanitarian crisis. (AP) IND

https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/abu-dhabi-marks-interfaith-effort-a-year-after-popes-visit/1725332

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Saudi media try to rationalize betrayal of Palestinians under Trump plan

03 February 2020

Saudi media outlets have rallied behind their rulers in supporting US President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan, warning Palestinians that they would regret if they rejected the extremely biased initiative.

Riyadh has welcomed Trump’s plan, saying "the Kingdom appreciates the efforts made by President Trump’s administration to develop a comprehensive Palestinian-Israeli peace plan".

It has urged "direct peace negotiations between the sides under US sponsorship, in which any dispute regarding details of the plan will be settled".

At the same time, King Salman has phoned Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas to “stress to him the kingdom’s steadfast position vis-à-vis the Palestinian cause and the rights of the Palestinian people”.

Abbas has joined other Palestinian leaders in vehemently rejecting the plan which they view as a total sellout of Palestine.

Saudi government media, however, urged the Palestinians not to miss "this opportunity" and to approach the deal with a positive mindset.

State-run newspaper Okaz went on as far as to say that “the Palestinian cause is no longer the Arabs’ main cause”.

Trump unveiled the plan alongside Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Tuesday. The announcement has aroused a storm of indignation and protest across different countries in the Middle East.

Saudi Shura Council member Ibrahim al-Nahas, who lectures on political science at King Saud University, told Okaz that Trump’s plan "is an important stage in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process in particular, and in the peace process in the Middle East in general”.

“All the Palestinian elements must examine the plan carefully, and especially while keeping in mind past experience,” he said, apparently addressing Palestinian resistance groups.

“Arab elements, too, must closely examine Trump’s peace plan before releasing their decisions, which largely match the emotional aspect,” because “history has proven them wrong,” he added.

Several articles in the Saudi media and tweets by their writers unanimously tried to suggest that every plan offered to the Palestinians had been worse than the one before it, and that if they rejected Trump’s plan now, they would long for it in the future.

‘Sign the deal, then curse it’

One purported Saudi journalist writing for Okaz urged the Palestinian Authority to "sign the deal and then curse it as much as you want, day and night”.

“The Palestinians have in decades past specialized in missing golden opportunities because of mistaken assessment of their capabilities and of the crisis," Ahmad Adnan wrote.

The so-called “deal of the century” would, among other contentious things, enshrine Jerusalem al-Quds as “Israel’s undivided capital” and allow the regime to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank and the Jordan Valley.

All Palestinian groups have angrily rejected the plan, while Israeli groups of different political persuasions have enthusiastically embraced it, hailing it for offering them more than they expected. 

Abbas on Saturday cut relations with the US and Israel after saying he did not want his name to go down in history for betraying the Palestinians.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/03/617757/Saudi-media-deal-century

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Jihadists in central Mali pledge allegiance to new Islamic State leader

BY CALEB WEISS

January 31, 2020

A short video uploaded online appears to show a cadre of jihadists in Mali’s central Segou Region pledging allegiance to Abu Ibrahim al Hashimi al Qurayshi, the newly appointed leader of the Islamic State.

The video features dozens of jihadists in the area of Nampala close to Mali’s borders with Mauritania. It is important to note that the video was not released through official Islamic State channels. Though this is not unusual for Islamic State-loyal jihadists in the Sahel.

Prior to and even after being officially recognized by the Islamic State’s leadership in Iraq and Syria, the so-called “Islamic State in the Greater Sahara” released most of its propaganda and attack claims unofficially.

In today’s short clip, an Arabic-speaking figure introduces the group as “Soldiers of the Caliphate in Mali,” before leading his men in the pledge of bayah [allegiance] to Qurayshi.

It is unknown if the unit previously existed in the area and is reaffirming its loyalty or if this faction represents a splinter within the ranks of al Qaeda’s Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM).

Given the lack of Islamic State activity in that area, it is possible that these men were once part of JNIM until recently.

JNIM and its constituent units have long operated near Nampala and the wider Segou Region of Mali.

Just this week, JNIM took responsibility for a major assault on a Malian base near Sokolo in the Segou Region. That area, which includes Nampala and contains the longstanding jihadist refuge Wagadou Forest, has been a hotbed of militant activity for the last several years.

If this Islamic State-loyal group does indeed represent new defections from JNIM, this would help to confirm possible reports of increased tensions between the two camps in the region.

Additionally, JNIM recently released a pamphlet addressed to its fighters and detractors who accused it of not properly enforcing Sharia and implementing hudud [punishments under Sharia]. That release was likely in response to complaints made by Islamic State-sympathetic jihadists.

As the Islamic State continues to grow in the Sahel, it is possible that it will be able to attract more fighters from al Qaeda’s camp. This will not come without consequences, however, as future brawls between the jihadist heavyweights are likely to occur.

https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2020/01/jihadists-in-central-mali-pledge-allegiance-to-new-islamic-state-leader.php

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Pompeo to Taliban: Demonstrate capacity to reduce violence

03 February 2020

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has demanded “demonstrable evidence” from the Taliban that they have the capacity to reduce violence before signing a deal to end America's longest war, even though official military figures show that in the last quarter of 2019 the US dropped a record number of bombs in the country since 2013.

Pompeo said on Monday that a deal is close but that the US and Taliban have been close before and failed because the militant group was unable to demonstrate that they were committed to reducing violence, The Associated Press reported.

“We’re working on a peace and reconciliation plan, putting the commas in the right place, getting the sentences right,” he said while speaking at a news conference in Afghanistan’s neighbor, Uzbekistan. “We got close once before to having an agreement: a piece of paper that we mutually executed and the Taliban were unable to demonstrate either their will or capacity or both to deliver on a reduction in violence.”

“So, what we are demanding now is demonstrable evidence of their will and capacity to reduce violence, to take down the threat, so the inter-Afghan talks ... will have a less violent context,” he said. “We’re hopeful we can achieve that but we’re not there yet, and work certainly remains.”

US special representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul last week there has been “no notable progress” in talks with the Taliban in ending the nearly 19-year war.

Last week, a US military plane crashed in eastern Afghanistan, in Ghazni province, an area with a strong Taliban presence. The Taliban claimed responsibility for downing the aircraft.

“A special aircraft of the American occupant was flying in the area, for the purpose of an intelligence mission in the Sado Khail region of Deh Yak district of Ghazni province,” said Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid. “Our mujahideen have taken down (the aircraft) tactically.”

He added that all crew members and passengers, including several senior CIA officers, were killed, Mujahid added, and the wreckage and bodies remain at the crash site. The US later on recovered the remains of individuals died in the crash.

Meanwhile, a US government watchdog has announced a surge in violent attacks in its war in Afghanistan, saying they climbed to record levels in the last quarter of 2019.

"Enemy-initiated attacks" rose sharply last year, with the fourth quarter seeing a total of 8,204 attacks -- up from 6,974 in the same period in 2018, said the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) in a Friday statement.

Attacks dropped earlier in the year but picked up again after US President Donald Trump called off talks with the Taliban near Washington after an American officer was killed in Afghanistan.

The Taliban and the US had been negotiating the deal for a year, and were on the brink of an announcement in September 2019 when President Trump abruptly declared the process "dead".

Talks were later restarted between the two sides in December in Qatar, but were suspended again following an attack near the Bagram military base in Afghanistan, which is run by the US.

Washington has for weeks been calling on the militants to reduce attacks on US forces, posing it as a condition for resuming formal negotiations on an agreement that would see US troops begin to leave the country after a near two-decade war.

The United States -- under Republican George W. Bush’s presidency -- and its allies invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban regime from power, but after all these years the foreign troops are still deployed to the country.

After becoming the president in 2008, President Barack Obama, a Democrat, vowed to end the Afghan war -- one of the longest conflicts in US history – but he failed to keep his promise.

Trump, who has spoken against the Afghan war, has dubbed the 2001 invasion and following occupation of Afghanistan as "Obama's war".

But Trump has also announced to deploy thousands of more troops to the war-torn country, signaling a policy shift.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/03/617793/Pompeo-to-Taliban-Demonstrate-capacity-to-reduce-violence

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France Arrests Syrian Extremist on War Crime Charges

1 February, 2020

A senior member of Syrian armed group Jaysh al-Islam implicated in the disappearance of a prominent activist in 2013 has been arrested in France and charged with war crimes and torture, a judicial source told AFP.

The suspect, a former spokesman of the group who is in his early thirties, was in France on an Erasmus student visa and detained in the southern city of Marseille.

He appeared before an investigating magistrate in Paris who charged him with torture, war crimes and complicity in forced disappearances, the source said on Friday.

Jaysh al-Islam is notably suspected of involvement in the December 2013 kidnapping of Syrian activist Razan Zaitouneh, her husband Wael Hamada and two colleagues, Samira Khalil and Nazem Hammadi. They have never been found.

Zaitouneh was one of the most prominent civil society figures in the uprising against Bashar al-Assad's regime that erupted in March 2011 and then descended into civil war.

That year, she was awarded the prestigious Sakharov prize for human rights along with other activists. She was a vociferous critic of abuses by all parties in the conflict.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and two other groups behind the complaint said in a statement that the man arrested is called Majdi Mustafa Nameh, although he operates under the nom-de-guerre of Islam Alloush.

They said Islam Alloush is a former captain in the Syrian armed forces, who then defected and became a senior official and spokesman for Jaysh al-Islam, close to its leader Zahran Alloush.

"Islam Alloush was also allegedly involved in the forced enlistment of children in the armed group. Several victims also directly incriminate him for kidnapping and torture," their statement said.

https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/2110036/france-arrests-syrian-extremist-war-crime-charges

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India

 

Mansa farmers join Shaheen Bagh stir, more from Sangrur to go today

Feb 4, 2020

BATHINDA: Activists of Punjab Kisan Union left for Delhi from Mansa on Monday to support the ongoing protest against CAA at Delhi's Shaheen Bagh.

Another group of farm activisits is expected to leave for the national capital on Tuesday and stay there till February 8. Also, in continuation of protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR), farm organisations are continuing to mobilise support for a protest planned in Malerkotla town of Sangrur on February 16. An indefinite protest is also expected to start in Mansa from February 12. "We left for Shaheen Bagh to support the protest against CAA, NRC and NPR today," Punjab Kisan Union president Ruldu Singh Mansa said.

On Tuesday, hundreds of farmers are expected to eave for Shaheen Bagh in buses from Sangrur. "We will take along ration to organise langar for protesters till February 8. We feel it is our ethical duty to stand by our Muslim brothers and sisters," farmer organisation BKU (Ekta Ugrahan) general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokri.

Punjab Lok Sabhyachark Manch convener Amolak Singh said meetings were being organised across districts in Malwa region to mobilise support for the February 16 protest in Malerkotla. "We want the protest on that day to be the biggest in the history of Punjab. For this, farmer and labourer organisations are working overtime. Slogans are being printed in Punjabi and Urdu against CAA, NRC and NPR," he said.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/amritsar/mansa-farmers-join-shaheen-bagh-stir-more-from-sangrur-to-go-today/articleshow/73922471.cms

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Violence only in Jamia, AMU; nothing in Allahabad varsity: HRD Minister

February 3, 2020

The government on Monday said there were reports of violence in campuses of Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) and Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) but no such incident was reported in the University of Allahabad (AU).

HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank said in Lok Sabha that central universities are statutory autonomous organisations and all administrative and academic decisions are taken by the university with the approval of its statutory bodies such as Executive Council, Academic Council and Court etc. and universities are also competent to deal with such incidents. Follow Parliament LIVE Updates

“There are reports of violence in the JMI and AMU. However, no such incident in the campus was reported by the AU. The JMI has made a request for constitution of a high powered committee to inquire into the incident of violence in the campus,” he said during Question Hour.

The minister said as the subject matter pertained to law and order, this request has been referred to the department concerned for appropriate action.

“The AMU and AU have not made such a request to the Ministry of Human Resource Development. As per provisions of the act of the university, the executive council of the university shall have the power for management and administration of the revenue and property of the university,” he said.

While trying to raise a supplementary, Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi said he was with students of Jamia and the whole country was with students of Jamia.

“The government is harassing students and it is shameful,” he charged.

However, even before the minister could say anything, Speaker Om Birla ended the Question Hour and moved to the next item of the agenda.

Earlier, replying to another question, Pokhriyal said some of the reasons for dropout of school children include poverty, economic issues, poor health, child too young to be attending school and child needed to help in domestic work etc.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/jamia-violence-amu-allahabad-varsity-ramesh-pokhriyal-nishank-6248697/

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Anti-CAA stir about constitutional values, BJP arrogant in power: Congress

Feb 4, 2020

NEW DELHI: Congress on Monday accused the BJP leadership of provoking firing incidents in the capital to polarise the electorate to win the assembly elections, asserting that anti-CAA-NRC protests were about constitutional values while BJP’s actions were about arrogance of power.

Gaurav Gogoi, Congress’s lead speaker in the debate on the motion of thanks to the President’s address, demanded that Union minister Anurag Thakur, who was briefly barred by the EC from campaigning in the Delhi polls for his rally cry “desh ke gaddaron ko...”, be booked under relevant laws and banned from contesting elections.

He said young boys had suddenly surfaced in Delhi, firing at protesters and students. “Who is pulling the trigger? Is it the boy who held the gun? I don’t think so. The persons who pulled the trigger are the ministers provoking that boy,” he added.

Gogoi alleged that provocative ministers and Delhi Police, which had failed to curb violence in the election campaign, were under directions from the BJP leadership. He said police could not prevent the firing incidents but had earlier entered university campuses and beat up students and professors. He said the culprits behind the violence in JNU had not yet been arrested.

“You may threaten us or shoot us, but people will not be afraid,” he said, referring to BJP.

DMK’s T R Baalu alleged that CAA was brought because the government wanted to discriminate among people. BSP’s Ritesh Pandey called CAA-NRC “divisive” and accused BJP of realising the dream of Jinnah.

While BJD steered clear of the CAA-NRC debate, its MP Pinaki Misra demanded that OBCs should also be enumerated in the upcoming Census.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/anti-caa-stir-about-constitutional-values-bjp-arrogant-in-power-congress/articleshow/73918906.cms

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Delhi: Crime branch to probe Sunday night’s Jamia firing

Feb 4, 2020

NEW DELHI: The FIR into the firing incident at Jamia Nagar that occurred late on Sunday and CCTV footage from the area have thrown some light on how the incident transpired.

The claim by police that no empty cartridges were found from the spot is being contested on the ground that when shot are fired from a country-made pistol, the shell remains in the muzzle. The case has been transferred to Crime Branch for investigation.

The statements of eyewitnesses were recorded on Monday. Most of them were unsure about whether they had actually heard the sound of a gun firing as it resembled the knocking sound made by a motorbike.

The FIR, registered on the complaint of Yusuf Khan, mentioned that the firing occurred around 11.30pm. Khan said that while he was walking towards Jamia Millia Islamia from Holy Family Hospital, two men on a bike approached gate number 7 and stopped. The pillion rider stood up on the scooter and fired one round after which they sped off. Before leaving, he flashed the weapon at passersby.

Khan said he could identify the miscreants as they weren’t wearing helmets. CCTV footage shows a blurry image of two men sitting on a two-wheeler parked on the opposite side of the road. The footage will be enhanced by forensics to check for the vehicle registration number. The men waited for the protesters to come near them, after which they rode away. Locals said they chased the bikers, one of whom was wearing a red jacket, till Holy Family Hospital, but they escaped.

A case of attempt to murder and under sections of Arms Act has been registered. Police are looking for the impact the bullet on a wall or metro pillar to identify the bore of the weapon. Footage of other CCTVs are also being scanned for clues.

Meanwhile, the police commissioner is learnt to have sent three names of officers to be posted as a regular DCP in Southeast district. While the names of DCPs currently serving in adjoining districts are doing the rounds, sources said the list was prepared based on the experience of the officers who had handled crisis situations earlier. With elections round the corner, some quick transfers are likely soon.

Delhi Police has restructured security around the protest sites at Jamia Nagar and Shaheen Bagh and sought additional central forces to cordon off the area. Apart from increasing frisking of entrants to the protest site, police won’t allow people from entering the site with bags or long jackets. The protesters have been asked to form a team of volunteers to ensure order.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/crime-branch-to-probe-sunday-nights-jamia-firing/articleshow/73915750.cms

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NIA teams arrest 3 Hizb terrorists from Shopian

Feb 3, 2020

SRINAGAR: Teams from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Monday raided several locations in Kupwara and Shopian districts of Kashmir and arrested three over-ground workers (OGWs) of the Hizbul Mujahideen.

The raids were made after the arrest and interrogation of DSP Davinder Singh and three other Hizb terrorists on January 11, when Singh was helping the Hizb terrorists out of the Valley into Jammu.

The three arrested OGWs, are Riyaz Ahmad Thakur of Drabgah in Shopian, Fazanan Dobi, brother of active Hizb terrorist Omar Dobi of Pinzura in Shopian, and Asif Magray, brother of another Hizb terrorist at Ganowpora in Shopian, official sources said.

Two teams of NIA on Monday continued raids across Kashmir valley including several houses at Jagerpora village. Sources said the NIA recovered laptops, two mobile phones, two pen drives, and five passports from the house of one Javaid Ahmad Dar, a resident of Jagerpora in Kupwara.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/nia-teams-arrest-3-hizb-terrorists-from-shopian/articleshow/73913394.cms

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Civilian killed, four injured in Pak firing along LoC in J&K's Tangdhar sector

Feb 3, 2020

SRINAGAR: A civilian was killed and four others were injured in a ceasefire violation by Pakistani troops along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir's Tangdhar sector on Monday, officials said.

The deceased was identified as Mohammed Saleem Awan, 60, they said.

Pakistani troops resorted to unprovoked firing this morning. The Indian Army retaliated in adequate measure, the officials said.

Four civilians sustained injuries in the firing by Pakistani troops, they said.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/civilian-killed-four-injured-in-pak-firing-along-loc-in-jks-tangdhar-sector/articleshow/73913176.cms

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BJP leader's controversial remarks, Shaheen Bagh, CAA dominate debate on President's address

Feb 3, 2020

NEW DELHI: With Delhi assembly elections just days away, the controversial remarks by BJP leaders Anurag Thakur and Parvesh Verma during the poll campaign and the ongoing anti-CAA protest at Shaheen Bagh figured prominently in Lok Sabha on Monday.

The lower house witnessed protests by opposition members, mostly from the Congress and the DMK, against the amended Citizenship Act, with Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury saying the government cannot silence people's "boli" (voice) with "goli" (bullet).

Speaker Om Birla and parliamentary affairs minister, Pralhad Joshi asked protesting members, who had trooped into the Well as soon as the Question Hour began at 11am, to raise their issues during the discussion on the Motion of Thanks to the President's address.

With opposition members carrying placards and raising slogans against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Population Register (NPR) and National Register of Citizens (NRC), the Speaker adjourned the House after a little over 10 minutes following the Question Hour. He emphasised that it was for lunch.

People are protesting to protect the Constitution and are carrying national flags, Chowdhury said, alleging that some protesters were killed "mercilessly".

"You are fake Hindus," he said, attacking the BJP, and added that if its members were "asli (genuine) Hindus", then they would have behaved differently.

Thakur, who is the minister of state for finance and corporate affairs, had made some controversial remarks during a recent poll rally in the national capital.

He was banned from campaigning by the Election Commission for three days for egging on people to raise the slogan "shoot the traitors", after he lashed out at anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) protesters.

Belligerent Congress members, who were in the Well, shouted slogans against the minister and asked "Aapka goli kaha hai? (where is your bullet?)".

Some members also shouted "Goli maarna band karo (Stop shooting)".

Whenever Thakur was responding to supplementaries during the Question Hour, the members began sloganeering against him.

Opposition members, including those from the Congress and the DMK, also walked out of Lok Sabha to protest the controversial remarks by BJP member Parvesh Verma during a poll rally, when he rose to initiate a debate on the Motion of Thanks on the President's address .

As soon as Verma rose to initiate the debate, opposition members raised slogans against him like "sharm karo (have shame)".

Speaker Om Birla said what a member says outside cannot be raised inside the House and that members should not set a "wrong precedent".

Verma was barred by the Election Commission last week for four days for his controversial remarks made during an interview and at an election meeting.

Verma took on the Congress for its opposition to the Citizenship Amendment Act, saying, "They should know that it is not Rajiv Feroze Khan government, it is Narendra Modi's government.

"We will not take back CAA. It is a question of the country's integrity."

He referred to the Shaheen Bagh sit-in, saying it is not a protest against Citizenship Amendment Act, rather people there are saying "Pakistan zindabad, and Assam and Kashmir should be separated from India."

Verma said India is proud to have such a President who has rejected the mercy plea of Nirbhaya convicts.

Congress' Gaurav Gogoi demanded that Thakur be booked under relevant laws.

He alleged that political masters at the top are giving directions to ministers to make inflammatory speeches.

"Book the minister" under relevant laws, he said without taking any name.

"In front of Delhi police, a boy fired on the people," the Congress leader said adding "he must have been motivated by someone".

"I want to know who is pulling the trigger. It's not the minister or that boy," he added.

PK Kunhalikuty (IUML) said that in the Delhi election rallies while the AAP and the Congress are talking about development, the BJP is trying to make it as "communal as possible".

"They are even giving a call to shoot people. People sitting in high offices are making these calls," he alleged, adding they are targeting a minority community in the country.

He said that no senior BJP leader is condemning such remarks.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/bjp-leaders-controversial-remarks-shaheen-bagh-caa-dominate-debate-on-presidents-address/articleshow/73907242.cms

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Pakistani organiser of Bollywood galas in US on govt radar

Feb 4, 2020

NEW DELHI: Indian authorities are tracking the activities of Houston-based Pakistani event manager and radio station owner Rehan Siddiqui who is said to be organising another Bollywood gala in the city later this year. It is alleged that he's using funds raised from events to finance Kashmir-related anti-India activities in the US, official sources here said.

What is of particular concern to India is the interest which some Bollywood stars have shown in participating in events which Siddiqui has helped organise. The Indian community in Houston has repeatedly in the past raised the issue with both foreign ministry and union home ministry.

The immediate provocation for bringing up the issue again seems to be a proposed Bollywood gala later this year in which Siddiqui is said to be involved. The organisers are said to have claimed that a leading Bollywood actor had agreed to participate in the event.

Last year though, actor and Punjabi singer Diljit Dosanjh cancelled his concert in Houston after the Indian community and also the Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) wrote to Indian authorities, including MEA, about the involvement of 'ISI agent' Siddiqui.

Members of the Indian diaspora in Houston have urged the government to persuade Bollywood actors to not participate in events organised by Siddiqui. They have alleged that Siddiqui and other Pakistan nationals are working to organise anti-CAA protests in Houston and also pro-Khalistan protests by the local Sikh community.

"He owns a radio channel and brings Indian artistes to Houston for Bollywood concerts. He uses his radio channels as a platform to run anti-India propaganda," said a prominent member of the Indian community in Houston who didn’t want to be named.

"We have written to the Indian government that it is important to deprive people like Siddiqui of access to Indian artistes. If Bollywood actors continue to become a part of these events, it will do nothing to help efforts by the Indian community to fight anti-CAA and anti-Modi propaganda," he added. Siddiqui’s channel is also accused of carrying out anti-India propaganda after the Pulwama attack and the subsequent Balakot airstrikes by India.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pakistani-organiser-of-bollywood-galas-on-govt-radar/articleshow/73923200.cms

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Shaheen Bagh, Jamia are a plot to destroy harmony: PM Modi

Feb 4, 2020

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday launched an attack on continuing anti-CAA agitation at Jamia Millia, Shaheen Bagh and other places, saying they marked an effort to disrupt harmony by protesters who were using the tricolour and Constitution to mask their real intent.

He said the protesters’ professed allegiance to the Constitution was a deception aimed at distracting attention from the real intent of the conspirators and called upon voters in Delhi to support BJP to stop the anarchy from spreading further.

“Jamia ho ya Shaheen Bagh, pichhle kai dino se, citizenship amendment act ko leke pradarshan hui. Kya ye pradarshan sanyog hai? Ji nahin, ye sanyog nahin, ye prayog hai. Iske pichhe rajniti ka ek aisa design hai, jo rashtra ke sauhadra ko khandit karne ka irada rakhta hai. (Whether it is Jamia or Shaheen Bagh, anti-CAA demonstrations have been going on for the last few days. Are these demonstrations random events? No, they represent a politics that is designed to destroy national harmony),” said the PM as he asked voters in Delhi to thwart the “mentality” which , if not checked, can cause similar blockades elsewhere too.

The PM’s aggressive remark came as he addressed his first campaign rally in Delhi and were in sync with BJP’s attempt to rally the public opinion against the sit-in at Shaheen Bagh which has gone on for over 50 days now and sparked resentment in adjoining residential areas.

“Look at the huge inconvenience it has been causing to people who commute from Delhi to Noida. People of Delhi are watching. They may be silent. But they are seething with resentment over this display of politics of vote-bank. This mindset has to be checked here itself. For, if the conspirators get powerful, more roads and lanes will be blocked similarly. We cannot allow Delhi to be pushed in the throes of anarchy. We have to stop this and every vote for BJP will help its spread. Only BJP can do that,” he said in the backdrop of an attempt by the party to blame its rivals AAP and Congress for the Shaheen Bagh blockade.

The focus of PM’s attack on Shaheen Bagh, which drew loud cheers from the large crowd, was aimed at undercutting the legitimacy that the protesters have sought to garner by displaying the tricolour and carrying copies of the Constitution. The PM suggested that the display of faith in constitutionality at anti-CAA protest sites was just a stealth tactic. “Else, they would have heeded the spirit of a series of pronouncements from courts where they have stressed that protests should not result in violence, loss of public property and difficulties to people. After all, courts derive their authority from the very same Constitution,” he said.

Modi also alleged that AAP and Congress were the reason why the protests have persisted. “These should have been called off after the government’s assurance (that the CAA will not deprive anybody of citizenship and implementation of NRC is not on the table yet) . But AAP and Congress are playing politics and all these things have now been exposed.”

As BJP’s aggressive election campaign enters the last leg, Modi sought votes by referring to the central government’s initiatives for the country and the city and put spotlight on protests over CAA. Modi will address the second rally in Dwarka on Tuesday. The PM said Delhi’s development will get a major boost after BJP comes to power in Delhi. Delhi will become free of water tankers and get better sanitation. Modi urged people to come out in large numbers and vote for BJP and NDA in Delhi elections. “Each vote polled for BJP candidates will boost my strength also. Time has come to change Delhi,” he said adding that in the 21st century only the politics of development will work not politics of hate.

Taking a swipe at Congress and AAP, Modi said those who questioned the Batla House encounter are now saving people who raised 'tukde tukde' slogans. The PM also slammed Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal who had raised questions on the surgical strikes carried out by the Army.

Aware that the tans Yamuna area where the rally was held is home to a large number of 1731 unauthorised colonies, Modi listed out the Centre giving ownership rights to over 40 lakh people living in such colonies in different parts of the city. Without naming the AAP government, the PM said it was done despite obstacles being created. The development of these colonies will get a boost after BJP comes to power in Delhi, he said.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/shaheen-bagh-jamia-are-a-plot-to-destroy-harmony-pm-modi/articleshow/73917319.cms

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60 Pakistan Hindus cross into India at Attari-Wagah border, some say may seek asylum

by Kamaldeep Singh Brar

February 4, 2020

About 60 Pakistani Hindus Monday crossed over to India through the Attari-Wagah border carrying tourist visa with some of them indicating that they felt unsafe in the neighbouring country and hoped that India will grant them citizenship.

Shiromani Akali Dal leader and Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee president Manjinder Singh Sirsa received four “Dalit Hindu Sikh families” who he claimed had were facing religious persecution in Pakistan. He said he will urge Centre to grant them Indian citizenship under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).

“These families have come to India to take refuge as they are religiously persecuted in Pakistan. I was in touch with them for a long time and all of them want to become Indian citizens. They were facing many hardships in Pakistan…the daughters of a family were kidnapped and forced to convert,” Sirsa said without divulging the details of the family.

“Right now I have four families which want to live in India and do not want to go back to Pakistan. One of them is family of doctors. The have high hopes from CAA. There are many such families coming from Pakistan. I will meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah along with the victim families and request him to grant them citizenship as soon as possible,” Sirsa later said in a Facebook post.

The CAA envisages giving Indian nationality to members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities, who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014 due to religious persecution there.

According to BSF officials, not wanting to be named, the number of Hindus from Pakistan using this border to come to India has increased significantly after the new citizenship law was notified. The Hindu and Sikh families mostly arrive on tourist visa to visit gurdwaras and temples or to meet their relatives in India.

Most of those who crossed over to India on Monday belonged to Sindh and Karachi areas. Some of them carried luggage and at least one of them that he will try to seek asylum in India.

Parkash Dev, in his mid 40s, who hails from Sindh said, “I have come along with wife and our two children. We are facing trouble in Pakistan. We have very limited economic opportunities there. Our daughters are threatened there. I know a family whose only son was shot due to his religion. I have read about the CAA and I am hopeful that India will welcome us. It is our country. It was mistake of my ancestors that they didn’t come to India after Partition. I don’t want my children to suffer like me,” Parkash Dev said.

However, the other families were non-committal.

Ram Bhel, also from Sindh, said his family hasn’t faced any problems in Pakistan. “We have come here on 25-day tourist visa. I have not thought about staying over in India. We will see what happens next,” Bhel, who is in his 30s, said.

Another tourist Naresh Dahir (25), said, “I don’t know much about CAA, but we have come to know that now Pakistani Hindus will be welcomed in India. It would be great if we are allowed to live in India. However, it does not mean that I am facing any hardship in Pakistan. I have many relatives in India. It would be great if we are given an opportunity to stay here”.

Nishant, who too has his ancestral village in Sindh, said this was his third trip to India. “I know there are many in Pakistan Hindu community who are excited about CAA and living in India, but I am not one of them. I will go back. I think there will be very few who would not like to go back to Pakistan,” he said.

Meanwhile, security and intelligence agencies are keeping a close watch on the Hindu and Hindu Sikh families that have arrived in India in the recent past.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/60-pakistan-hindus-cross-into-india-at-attari-wagah-border-some-say-may-seek-asylum-6249697/

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Pakistan

 

PM Regrets Missing KL Summit over Others' Misconception 'It Would Divide Ummah'

February 04, 2020

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday expressed his regret on being unable to attend the Kuala Lumpur Summit, held in Malaysia in December of last year, adding that there was a misconception among some countries that the conference would divide the ummah.

Addressing a joint press conference following talks with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in Putrajaya, Prime Minister Imran said: "I want to say how sad I was that I couldn't attend the conference in Kuala Lumpur in the middle of December.

"Unfortunately, our friends, who are very close to Pakistan as well, felt that somehow the conference was going to divide the ummah. It was clearly a misconception because that was not the purpose of the conference as evident from when the conference took place."

In December of last year, Prime Minister Imran had pulled out of the Kuala Lumpur Summit of some 20 Muslim countries reportedly due to pressure exerted by Saudi Arabia. At the time, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had confirmed that Riyadh and the UAE had concerns about the summit

The premier today said that he was "looking forward" to attending the conference because he felt that it is important that Muslim countries educate the West and other non-Muslim countries about Islam.

"All these misunderstandings, whether they are deliberate or whether they are by ignorance, [...] it is important that we the Muslim countries, educate them about the real message of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

"I also felt that we need a media, which we are working on, some sort of a joint effort that not only projects this [...] but also develop content for our young people about what really Islam is."

He reiterated his regret at being unable to attend the conference.

Responding to a question about whether he would attend the KL Summit next year, Prime Minister Imran said: "Of course I would because now it is evident that the KL Summit was not to divide the ummah [...] If anything it was to unite the ummah, so of course I would love to come."

In response to another question, the premier said the decision not to attend the summit had not affected Pakistan's relations with other Muslim nations.

Imran and Mahathir hold talks

Talks between Prime Minister Imran and Prime Minister Mahathir were held earlier today.

Speaking at the press conference following the talks, Mahathir said: "We agree on the need for regular discussions to strengthen trade relations by removing barriers in key areas and addressing the bilateral goods imbalance."

In response to a question about getting Pakistan to buy more palm oil from Malaysia, the Malaysian prime minister said that the two had discussed the sale of palm oil.

"I think Pakistan is quite ready to import more palm oil from Malaysia," he said.

Read: Malaysia's PM defends criticism of India despite palm oil backlash

"That's right, especially since we noticed that India threatened to cut Malaysia's palm oil imports for supporting the Kashmir cause, Pakistan will do its best to compensate for that," Prime Minister Imran added.

Imran thanked his Malaysian counterpart for the invitation to his country and said the trip was to further strengthen the ties between Pakistan and Malaysia, which he said, have traditionally been close.

"The object of the trip is to get even closer," he said.

"We feel that there the future of trading ties, investment, of cooperation between Malaysia and Pakistan is tremendous," the premier said, adding that there is a close affinity between the people of the two countries.

The premier specifically thanked Malaysia for the way the country had spoken about the situation in Kashmir.

Upon his arrival, Prime Minister Imran was received by his Malaysian counterpart.

PM arrives in Malaysia

On Monday, the premier arrived in Kuala Lumpur on a two-day official visit to the country on the invitation of the Malaysian prime minister.

The premier was received by Malaysia's Minister for Defence Mohamad Sabu and senior officials of the Malaysian government upon his arrival at Bunga Raya Complex, Kuala Lumpur International Airport. High Commissioner of Pakistan in Malaysia Amna Baloch and officers of the high commission were also present.

According to the Prime Minister's Office, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar, Commerce Adviser Abdul Razak Dawood and Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood accompanied the prime minister.

In his first engagement of the visit, Prime Minister Imran exchanged views with the Malaysian defence minister at the Kuala Lumpur airport.

According to Radio Pakistan, the two sides are expected to sign numerous important agreements and memoranda of understanding (MoUs).

During his visit, Prime Minister Imran will also address an event organised by the Institute of Strategic and International Studies of Malaysia, the report said.

Imran skips KL Summit

Imran's visit to Malaysia comes after he decided to skip the Kuala Lumpur summit of some 20 Muslim countries last year, reportedly due to pressure exerted by Saudi Arabia, which had extended a helping hand to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government during its early days to stave off an economic crisis.

At the time, the foreign minister had confirmed that Riyadh and the UAE had concerns about the summit, saying the two countries were worried that the event could cause “division in Ummah” and lead to setting up of an organisation parallel to the existing Saudi-dominated Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

Turkish media later quoted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as saying that Prime Minister Imran had decided against attending the Malaysia summit because of Saudi Arabia's threats of economic sanctions, which allegedly included withdrawing money the kingdom has deposited in the State Bank of Pakistan and replacing Pakistani labour in Saudi Arabia with Bangladeshis.

However, the Saudi embassy in Islamabad had denied "information and fake news" that Riyadh had "pressurised and threatened" Pakistan to refrain from participating in the Kuala Lumpur summit, saying "the relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Islamic Republic of Pakistan are superior to the language of threat."

The Foreign Office, meanwhile, had stated that Pakistan did not participate in the Kuala Lumpur summit because "time and efforts were needed to address the concerns of major Muslim countries regarding possible division in the Ummah".

https://www.dawn.com/news/1532420/pm-regrets-missing-kl-summit-over-others-misconception-it-would-divide-ummah

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Afghan militant shell kills 7 from same family in Pakistan

By Riz Khan

Feb. 2, 2020

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — At least seven members of the same Pakistani family were killed Sunday when their home was hit by a mortar round fired from across the border in Afghanistan by suspected militants, Pakistani police said.

Four children, two women and a man were killed in Bajur district, once a Taliban stronghold inside Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, according to local police official, Shahab-ud- Din. He said other civilians were also wounded.

Police and local officials provided no further details on the shelling. Police gave the name of the owner of the home that was struck, but did not say if he was among the casualties or if he was present at the time of the attack. Authorities said an investigation was underway.

Pakistan’s militant groups are often interlinked with those across the border in Afghanistan, and Bajur district was once a haven for Taliban insurgents. Pakistan says the army has cleared the area in recent years, although violence persists. Militants who were not killed have mostly fled across the rugged mountains into neighboring Afghanistan.

Terror attacks in Pakistan plummeted by more than 85% over the last decade, from nearly 2,000 in 2009 to fewer than 250 in 2019, according to a tally put together by Pakistani think tanks. The steady decline underscores the long-haul nature of fighting terror.

Full report at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/afghan-militant-shell-kills-7-from-same-family-in-pakistan/2020/02/02/76558896-45de-11ea-91ab-ce439aa5c7c1_story.html

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PML-N being reorganized in Hazara division to face off PTI

February 4, 2020

MANSEHRA: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz is going to reorganize the party to face off the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in the Hazara division.

The decision to this effect was taken in a meeting held with former federal religious minister and PML-N central senior vice president Sardar Mohammad Yousuf in the chair on Monday. Member National Assembly Mohammad Sajjad Awan, a former district nazim Sardar Said Ghulam and district president Zafar Mehmood attended the meeting.

“We would announce organising committees at the union, tehsil and district levels within a couple of days as the first phase of reorganizing the party in Hazara division,” Awan told reporters after the meeting. He said that it was happening for the first time that party was being reorganised at the grassroots level and organising committees at the union level. “The Hazara division is the stronghold of the PML-N but even then we are professionally reorganising our party here to counter the PTI,” said Sajjad, the elder brother of former MNA Mohammad Safdar Awan, who is the son-in-law of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

Full report at:

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/608791-pml-n-being-reorganized-in-hazara-division-to-face-off-pti

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SC asked to set aside LHC verdict of suspending Musharraf’s death sentence

February 04, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has been requested to determine whether the Lahore High Court (LHC) could assume the role of an appellate court and set aside the Dec 17, 2019 verdict of the special court which awarded death penalty to former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf in the high treason case.

In an appeal, senior counsel Hamid Khan, representing petitioner Advocate Taufiq Asif, requested the apex court on Monday to set aside the Jan 13 LHC verdict by declaring it illegal, unlawful and without lawful authority.

In its order, the high court had declared constitution of the special court a violation of the Criminal Law Amendment (Special Court) Act, 1976 and said the amendment to Article 6 of the Constitution, which deals with high treason under the 18th Amendment, could not be given retrospective effect to constitute an offence committed much earlier.

Moreover, the trial in absentia by the special court was also held to be illegal by the high court.

In the appeal before the apex court, the petitioner argued that the high court through its order had virtually invalidated and rendered ineffective Article 6 of the Constitution, which has a special significance and importance in the constitutional history of Pakistan. The petition questioned the acceptance of Mr Musharraf’s petition by the high court when a similar matter was pending before the apex court, particularly when an effective order was already issued by the apex court on April 1, 2019.

Thus the entertainment of such a petition on the part of the high court violated the constitutional hierarchy of the courts under the Constitution.

It is established on the record, the petition argued, that Mr Musharraf had already been declared an absconder and, therefore, he had no right whatsoever under the law to seek stay of the trial against him before the special court. He even has no right to seek a stay against announcement of the verdict by the special court.

Therefore, the entire proceedings before the high court were contrary to the law and the Constitution, the petition said, adding that the high court could not sit over the April 1, 2019 verdict in which the SC, while deciding the case of the Lahore High Court Bar Association, had issued directives to the special court to proceed with the trial of Mr Musharraf. But the high court through its order had virtually set aside the apex court’s directives, the petition said.

Such intervention by the high court to interfere in the judgements of the SC will only lead to judicial chaos and anarchy in the country and such a situation is extremely undesirable for the constitutional dispensation in Pakistan.

Thus, the petition said, the high court had grossly violated and undermined the judicial structure and the judicial hierarchy provided in the Constitution.

The appeal also argued that the high court judgement allegedly seemed collusive since the counsel for the petitioner and the government were all arguing the case of Mr Musharraf. Moreover, the amicus curiae who assisted the court also entirely hand in glove with them. Therefore, no different point of view was presented before the high court since it was inherently unfair and unjust.

The appeal argued that the judgement by the high court was based on gross misreading of the provisions of the Constitution and the relevant laws on the subject, adding that the verdict smack of mala fide, conspiracy and planned attempt to sabotage, undermine and subvert the jurisprudence in Pakistan.

From the contents of the judgement, the appeal argued, it appeared that the consultation of the chief justice of Pakistan had been ridiculed.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1532378/sc-asked-to-set-aside-lhc-verdict-of-suspending-musharrafs-death-sentence

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SC takes exception to announcement of reference against judges by PM’s aide

Nasir Iqbal

February 04, 2020

ISLAMABAD: As the Supreme Court closed the arguments of the petitioners’ side on Monday, it asked Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan to explain whether a government functionary was competent to announce the filing of a reference against superior court judges at a time when it was already pending before the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC).

“Under what authority the government discussed in public the filing of the reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa,” Justice Umar Ata Bandial wondered, saying these were core points the AG would have to explain in his reply to the petitioners’ arguments.

Justice Bandial, who heads a 10-judge full court hearing the challenges to filing of the presidential references, asked the AG to answer who had authorised the opening of an investigation against Justice Isa before the reference was filed.

Apparently Justice Bandial was referring to a press conference given by Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, the Special Assistant to Prime Minister on information, in June in which she had told the media that the SJC would take up a reference filed by the government against two judges of superior courts.

“Accountability is for all,” she had stated then.

The Attorney General, however, sought two weeks to consolidate all the arguments raised by a number of counsel representing different petitioners as the Supreme Court asked them to furnish a written synopsis of their arguments.

In response to earlier directives by the Supreme Court to find out whether Justice Isa’s wife had visited the Federal Board of Revenue’s (FBR) office last week, the AG replied that the Regional Tax Office (RTO) had transferred her file back to Karachi from Islamabad as per her request.

But the AG made no mention of an observation made by Justice Yahya Afridi at the last hearing, on Jan 29, through which he was asked to ascertain whether the president was willing to reconsider and withdraw the reference or intended to pursue with the case.

A senior counsel told Dawn that commencement of the AG’s reply to the petitioners’ arguments suggested the government was in no mood to withdraw the reference against Justice Isa.

In a two-page letter written to the Attorney General by the Director General (International Taxes), Dr Muhammad Ashfaq Ahmed, the FBR conceded that Mrs Isa had visited its offices on Jan 27 and requested that her case be transferred from Islamabad to Karachi.

Mrs Isa was informed that she could file her tax declaration online under section 114 of the Income Tax Ordinance (ITO) 2001 from anywhere, even from abroad.

“It may not be out of place to mention that she had already filed her income tax declarations for tax years 2012, 13 and 14 online,” the statement said.

The Attorney General informed the court that Mrs Isa’s statement filed with the FBR said she had stopped filing returns as she no longer had any taxable income after quitting her job on June 30, 2008, and selling her property. But the statement was not corroborated by facts as she had, in fact, filed returns for tax years 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 manually and for 2012, 2013 and 2014 online, the AG added.

Since she did not file her tax declarations for 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, she was issued a system-generated notice under Section 114 of the ITO. She has yet to file returns for the period named above, the AG said.

However, the court observed it cannot be ruled out that the FBR could have sent these notices to the wrong address.

In her application, Mrs Isa said Advocate Rehan Hassan Naqvi, an income tax consultant, used to file her returns, but after his death his partner Ms Lubna Pervez had been doing so.

“I have been advised that the law stands amended and now requires me to file my return again,” the application said, adding when she accessed her IRIS account, it showed that her RTO had been shifted to Islamabad.

“I have never filed a return in Islamabad and my address throughout has been Karachi,” the application said. “My RTO was changed from Karachi to Islamabad without authorisation.”

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1532366/sc-takes-exception-to-announcement-of-reference-against-judges-by-pms-aide

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STB pledges to fix textbook ‘mistake’ after MQM-P protest

Imran Ayub

February 04, 2020

KARACHI: Just days after the protest by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and warning from the opposition party in Sindh of protest, the Sindh Textbook Board (STB) on Monday admitted “the mistake on its part” while designing Grade VII book of social studies which called the migrants from East Pakistan after it became Bangladesh “escapees”, not Pakistanis, and pledged that it would be fixed in the next edition.

The STB’s assurance attracted appreciation from the MQM-P but the party was not ready to accept it as “a mistake” but a deliberate attempt by the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) to divide the province on ethnic and urban-rural lines. The STB, on the other hand, said that it had not only decided to remove the controversial content but also recommended action against the author of the particular chapter.

“We have written to the education secretary, briefing him on the background of the episode and recent action by the board,” said chairman of the Sindh Textbook Board Agha Sohail Ahmed. “We would be removing the content in question in our next edition. Similarly, in our correspondence with the secretary, we have also recommended action against the author of that chapter. It’s up to the authorities what action they order for the author.”

He said the authors of textbooks were mostly hired for particular jobs and they were not regular employees of the STB. After the chapters were written, he said, the text was sent to experts for approval before finalising the draft and then it was sent for printing. He said the Grade VII book of social studies was sent for review more than twice but no objection was raised from any side.

The MQM-P had last week accused the PPP of sowing the seeds of hatred in the name of ethnicity in the province. It mentioned several recent steps of the provincial government that ‘proved’ its fears, including the publication of the textbook of social studies that carried “controversial details” about those people who migrated to Pakistan after Dhaka fell in 1971.

In his press conference, MQM-P leader Kunwar Naveed had showed the sample of the book and read out a chapter from it which called the migrants from East Pakistan after it became Bangladesh to Karachi as “escapees”, not Pakistanis.

The MQM-P said it was actually the problem with the “PPP mindset” which was resulting in such controversial issues and not even education was spared by the ruling party to spread the narrative of its “ethnic hatred”.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1532296/stb-pledges-to-fix-textbook-mistake-after-mqm-p-protest

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CTD arrests three militants, seizes arms, explosives

February 04, 2020

FAISALABAD: The Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) claims to have arrested three alleged militants and seized arms and explosives from their possession near Gatwala Bridge on Monday.

The CTD spokesman said the Faisalabad office team received an information that three militants belonging to proscribed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were present near Gatwala Bridge along with explosive material and arms.

Following the information, a CTD team conducted a raid and arrested Abdul Salam, Maodood Christi and Ali Muhammad Khan. The team also seized explosive material – safety fuse, three detonators, two pistols and 10 bullets – from their possession.

He said the arrested persons had planned to attack Law-Enforcement Agencies personnel.

Full report at:

Investigation has been launched after lodging a case in CTD police station, Faisalabad.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1532325/ctd-arrests-three-militants-seizes-arms-explosives

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LHC decision on special court against Musharraf challenged in SC

February 4, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Lahore High Court (LHC) verdict against the special court in the Musharraf case was challenged in the Supreme Court on Monday.

A bench of the high court had granted a petition of former president Pervez Musharraf on January 13 and declared the formation of a special court to hear high treason case against him as unlawful.

Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi had announced the court verdict.

Petitioner Taufiq Asif, a former president of the high court’s Rawalpindi Bar, has challenged the LHC decision. The petitioner has pleaded the Supreme Court to declare the verdict of the high court as ‘unconstitutional’ and thus null and void.

The petition argues that the petition against the special court was out of the jurisdiction of the Lahore High Court. Article VI of the constitution was also not interpreted properly in the verdict, according to the petition.

“The high court could not question the supreme court’s decision about conducting the trial in absence of the accused,” the petition said.

The court in its verdict had said that Article VI could not be enforced from the back date. The bench also expunged clause (ix) of the Criminal Law Special Court (Amendment) Act 1976.

The petition filed in the high court said that the constitution of a special court for hearing the case against Pervez Musharraf was unconstitutional.

The petition pleaded the high court to declare the constitution of the special court and its proceedings as unlawful.

The Lahore High Court on January 13 granted the petition and declared the special court as unlawful.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/02/03/lhc-decision-on-special-court-against-musharraf-challenged-in-sc/

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South Asia

 

Myanmar reimposes Internet shutdown in conflict-torn Rakhine, Chin states

February 04, 2020

YANGON: Myanmar has reimposed an Internet shutdown in two conflict-torn western states, after partially lifting the blackout five months ago, a leading telecoms operator said late on Monday.

Norwegian mobile operator Telenor Group said in a statement the transport and communications ministry had ordered for mobile Internet traffic to be stopped again in five townships in Rakhine and Chin states for three months.

A months-long Internet blackout in four Rakhine townships — Maungdaw, Buthidaung, Rathedaung, and Myebon — and one in Chin state had been lifted in September amid peace talks seeking to end clashes between government troops and ethnic insurgents.

Officials cited “security requirements and public interest” for the reinstatement, Telenor said, adding that four other townships remain under a blackout first imposed in June last year.

Tun Tun Nyi, a Myanmar military spokesman, said the army was unaware of the shutdown.

“We don’t know and we haven’t heard about it,” he told Reuters by phone on Tuesday.

Ministry officials did not respond to calls from Reuters seeking comment.

The order comes amid escalating violence. Two women were killed and seven others wounded last month when a Rohingya village in Rakhine state came under artillery fire.

The Myanmar military has rejected accusations that it was responsible for the shelling, which came two days after the United Nations’ highest court ordered Myanmar to protect the Rohingya.

More than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims were forced to flee northern Rakhine state in 2017 after a military crackdown that the UN has said was executed with genocidal intent. The army has denied any wrongdoing, describing the crackdown as a legitimate counter-insurgency operation in response to attacks on security forces by Rohingya militants.

More recently, the region was plunged into further chaos by fighting between the military and the Arakan Army, a Rakhine ethnic rebel group which has been fighting for greater autonomy in the state for more than a year. That conflict has displaced tens of thousands and killed dozens.

Lawmakers in the affected areas said the Internet blackout had negatively impacted businesses and could prevent aid from reaching villages caught up in the fighting.

“Some villagers have to flee from their villages when the fighting happens,” Khin Saw Wai, a member of the national parliament for Rathedaung, told Reuters.

“We can help them if we see from Facebook posts that they are in need of food or are in trouble.”

Another lawmaker, Maung Kyaw Zan of Buthidaung township, said the shutdown was “not good for Rakhine” given ongoing clashes.

Aung Marm Oo, the editor-in-chief of a Rakhine-based online media group, said the blackout had disrupted the publication of news on the conflict.

“Internet shutdowns negatively impact on journalism ... The Internet is essential for us to be able to send video files and pictures for our news stories,” he said.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1622626/world

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US envoy briefs Afghan president on peace talks with Taliban

2 Feb 2020

The United States' special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that there has not been any significant progress in his peace talks with the Taliban.

However, Khalilzad said he was hopeful of reaching an understanding with the group on reduction of hostilities, but did not offer any timeframe, according to a statement issued by the presidential palace on Saturday.

After concluding talks in Doha, Brussels and Islamabad, Khalilzad arrived in Kabul on Saturday where he separately held discussions with Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah on US-Taliban talks

According to Ghani's office, Khalilzad hoped the peace talks to end the 18-year war will reach a conclusion.

"We are waiting for a clear response from the Taliban about a ceasefire or a significant and lasting reduction in violence based on a practical mechanism which is acceptable to the people of Afghanistan and the US government," the palace quoted Khalilzad as saying.

Afghan government leaders remain split on the issue of a brief "reduction in violence" or a comprehensive ceasefire before a final agreement is reached between the US and Taliban.

Last week, Abdullah said no preconditions should be set for peace talks, while Ghani continued calling for a ceasefire.

Earlier on Saturday, the US embassy in Islamabad said Khalilzad was in Pakistan on Friday to rally support for getting an agreement with the Taliban to reduce their attacks as the first step towards peace.

Pakistan's foreign ministry said it supported a quick peace deal with the Taliban and repeated Washington's call for a reduction in violence.

But attacks by the Afghan government forces and its US allies have also raised concerns.

Spike in violence and deaths

Meanwhile, violent attacks in Afghanistan jumped to record levels in the last quarter of 2019 compared with previous years, according to a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released on Friday.

There were 8,204 attacks between October and December last year, up from 6,974 in the same period in 2018 and the highest in the same quarter of any year since SIGAR recording began in 2010.

Stepped up bombings by the US and operations by CIA-trained Afghan special forces - several of which resulted in civilian casualties - have also been criticised by rights groups and some Afghan officials.

Last year, the US air force dropped 7,423 bombs on Afghanistan, up from 7,362 in 2018, according to the data provided by the US Central Command Combined Air Operations Center.

In comparison, 4,361 bombs were dropped in 2017, while 2016 saw 1,337 such attacks, according to the data.

The United Nations blames the increased US bombings as one of the reasons for the rise in civilian casualties in Afghanistan.

For the first time since the US-led invasion in 2001, the UN said Afghan government forces and its US allies killed more civilians in the first three months of last year than the armed groups.

Full report at:

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/02/envoy-briefs-afghan-president-peace-talks-taliban-200202095450927.html

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Countries ban Bangladeshi flight crew amid virus fear

Md. Kamruzzaman 

03.02.2020

DHAKA, Bangladesh

A total of 11 countries have denied entry to the pilots and crew of a special flight which rescued stranded Bangladeshi citizens from the virus-hit Chinese city of Wuhan, an official said Monday.

The charter flight on Saturday brought back 316 passengers to the capital Dhaka where they are being kept in quarantine to avoid the spread of the fatal coronavirus which has claimed hundreds of lives since its outbreak last month.

"The countries have denied access to those Bangladeshi pilots and crew until the outbreak of coronavirus is contained,” Bangladesh’s Cabinet Secretary Khandaker Anwarul Islam told Anadolu Agency.

Until then, the staff of 19 from Biman Bangladesh Airlines will only work domestically.

India, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Oman, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and the U.K. have currently imposed the restrictions.

Earlier on Sunday, Bangladesh suspended the visa on arrival for Chinese citizens for an indefinite period amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/countries-ban-bangladeshi-flight-crew-amid-virus-fear/1723170

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IECC to announce Afghanistan’s presidential election final results on Wednesday

04 Feb 2020

The Independent Election Complaints Commission (IECC) announced on Monday that they are getting ready to announce the final election results by Wednesday.

Qasim Elyasi, a spokesperson for the IECC said in a press conference on Monday that 50% of decisions have been taken and it will take another two days to complete.

“The decisions have been proven in accordance with the law, principles, procedures and in the context of technical issues and are acceptable by the people and electoral teams,” he said.

Informed sources and experts believe the election will have no winner in the first round as the final results are announced.

A source who did not want to be named in the report told Khaama Press that the election will have no winner and the continuation of the National Unity Government (NUG) is a priority now.

The international community and Afghan politicians will pressurize the palace to respect the political agreement signed between the President and CEO based on 50-50 political shares in the government, the source said.

This comes as Abdullah Abdullah is said to introduce high-level government officials including cabinet members and governors in the next few days.

Abdullah has recently criticized Ghani for his new appointments which are said to be in contract to the political agreement they signed back in 2014.

Chief Executive Officer, Abdullah Abdullah signed a decree on Sunday to stop Ghani’s reform agenda for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

According to the NUG political agreement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs belongs to the Chief Executive office.

https://www.khaama.com/iecc-to-announce-the-final-election-results-on-wednesday-87908709/

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Angry Taliban fighters killed donkeys carrying food to government-held territory

04 Feb 2020

According to the reports, angry Taliban militants have killed four donkeys who were carrying food from the Taliban area to the government-held territory in Ghor province of Afghanistan.

Abdul Hai Khatibi, a provincial spokesperson for Ghor has confirmed the incident has taken place in the Chaharsada district of Ghor on Monday.

According to another report, a woman coming from her parent’s home in Korgin to the Chaarsada district had her four donkeys loaded with rice, ghee and flour were stopped by the Taliban militants, the food was seized and the donkeys were shot dead.

The Taliban have not commented yet on this.

This comes as the US peace envoy and the Taliban leaders have been discussing a peace deal for the last 12 months as a result of which violence reduction and a ceasefire is expected.

The Taliban had earlier announced that their leaders have agreed to a 7-10 days brief ‘ceasefire’ after they sign a deal with the United States.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/angry-taliban-militants-killed-donkeys-carrying-food-to-government-held-territory-980980/

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What has Khalilzad discussed with the Afghan politicians?

03 Feb 2020

US peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Kabul on Saturday to meet the Afghan leaders and politicians.

Khalilzad met President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, the former President Hamid Karzai, the Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah, and some other prominent politicians.

Antithesis statements were published about these meetings by the Palace and Karzai’s office.

‘No agreement has been made in discussions with the Taliban yet, the Presidential palace quoted Khalilzad.

However, another statement published by Karzai’s office said that Khalilzad was happy with the progress of the peace talks with the Taliban and he hopes the results are fruitful.

On the other hand, an informed and reliable source close to Abdullah Abdullah told Khaama Press new stories about the meeting between the US peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad and prominent Afghan politicians including Abdullah.

Khalilzad has briefed Abdullah and his electoral team on five key issues including US-Taliban deal conditions, reduction in violence and ceasefire, the continuation of NUG until the final election results are announced, creating a national consensus for the success of the peace process and support of the United States from a transparent election result, the source who did not want to be named in the report said.

According to the source, US peace delegation and the Taliban have discussed over four key conditions which are the elimination of terrorism in Afghanistan and the commitment that the soil is not used against the United States of America, Intra-Afghan talks on the future government’s structure, violence reduction and ceasefire and US forces withdrawal commitments.

“Violence reduction and the ceasefire are key issues but are not possible before the US-Taliban deal is signed”, the source said quoting Khalilzad.

Afghanistan is in a critical situation, the US supports transparent election results and the National Unity Government between Ghani and Abdullah shall remain at its place until the final election results are announced, Khalilzad has said according to the source.

The US Embassy in Kabul announced the conclusion of Khalilzad’s meeting on Sunday evening with the release of a statement but did not provide further details about the discussions.

Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and an interagency team concluded a productive visit to Afghanistan on February 2, the statement said.

Ambassador Khalilzad continued his ongoing consultations with Government of National Unity leaders President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah on U.S. efforts to facilitate a political settlement to end the war. They also discussed recent efforts by the United States to negotiate a reduction of violence with the Taliban to pave the way for a U.S.-Taliban agreement, intra-Afghan negotiations, and a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire in support of a sustainable peace. From the press release by the US Embassy, Kabul

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/what-has-khalilzad-discussed-with-the-afghan-politicians-8790709/

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Southeast Asia

 

Nur Sajat Sparks Ire, Donning Telekung in Mecca

February 3, 2020

PETALING JAYA: Prominent entrepreneur Muhammad Sajad Kamaruzaman, who identifies as a woman, is at the centre of controversy after posting videos that showed the entreprenuer wearing a telekung (the female prayer attire) while in Mecca.

Muhammad Sajad, better known as Nur Sajat, runs a succesful business selling ladies products.

The videos prompted an angry reaction from social media users which led to the mufti of Perlis, Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, to chide critics of Nur Sajat who had condemned the entrepreneur.

He said Nur Sajat’s action in wearing female-like clothing was wrong in Islam, but Muslims should counsel Nur Sajat. The mufti said he was disappointed by certain people who said Nur Sajat was cursed by God. It was not an apt action in Islam, the mufti said.

The mufti of Kelantan, Mohamad Shukri Mohamad, said the worship of a ‘transgender’ Muslim remained valid, even though the individual had changed his or her physical form.

However, he said Islam prohibited ‘tasyabbuh’ (vagueness) as it involved many factors, especially in relation to worship.

“What is important is that the ‘transgender’ individual must be careful and interact only with those of his or her original gender (while in the mosque).

Nur Sajat’s action also attracted the attention of the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Mujahid Yusof Rawa, who said Sajat had marred the image of Islam and potentially affected relations between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

“We feel regret because (Sajat) has marred the image of Islam as a person who is a man, which is stated so in the identification card,” Mujahid was reported as saying.

Mujahid said he was made to understand that Sajat boarded the plane for the umrah dressed as a man but donned the telekung after arriving in Mecca. There are also pictures of Sajat wearing a purdah, which covers every part of the face except the eyes.

The minister said he would wait for more information before deciding on any action against Sajat.

The travel company which Sajat engaged for the trip said they had already instructed that Sajat’s group be taken out of Mecca and Sajat was no longer in the holy city.

A spokesperson for the company was reported as saying that Sajat would be asked to apologise for the controversy.

The Federal Territory Mufti’s Office is expected to release a statement on Sajad’s alleged use of prayer garb while performing umrah, said the deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Fuziah Salleh.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/02/03/nur-sajat-sparks-ire-donning-telekung-in-mecca/

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Slovenia's first mosque opens despite fierce opposition

February 4, 2020

LJUBLJANA: Slovenia’s first mosque opened in the capital Ljubljana on Monday after surmounting financial hurdles and right-wing opposition, 50 years after the initial request to build was made.

Opponents of the project – including those who criticised its Qatari financing – have repeatedly tried to halt it, and pig heads and blood have also been left on the site.

Islamic community head Mufti Nedzad Grabus said the mosque’s opening was “a turning point in our lives.”

“Slovenia is the last former Yugoslav state to get a mosque, making Ljubljana a capital rather than a provincial town on the edge of the world,” he told a press conference.

Muslims in the predominantly Catholic Alpine country first filed a request to build a mosque in the late 1960s while Slovenia was still part of the former Communist Yugoslavia.

The community finally received permission 15 years ago, but ran into opposition from right-wing politicians and groups, as well as financial troubles.

Construction, which began in 2013, cost some €34 million, out of which €28 million were Qatari donations, according to Grabus.

Situated in a semi-industrial area of Ljubljana, the mosque, which can hold up to 1,400 people, constitutes the core of the six-building Islamic Cultural Centre.

The centre also comprises the community’s offices; an education centre, which includes a library; a restaurant; a basketball court; housing for the Muslim clerisy; and a 40-metre (131 feet) high minaret.

All the buildings are made from white concrete combined with steel, glass and wood. A large blue textile-made dome dominates the mosque’s interior, referring to heaven and reminiscent of famous mosques like Istanbul’s Blue Mosque.

“We wanted to link traditional Islamic architecture values with contemporary architecture,” architect Matej Bevk told AFP adding the centre’s glass facades were meant to show its transparence and openness.

Until now, Muslims have been worshipping and holding ceremonies in rented sports halls or buildings.

They make up 2.5 per cent of the country’s two million people, constituting the second biggest religious group, according to the last 2002 census. Grabus estimated there were around 80,000 Muslims currently.

Opponents of the project have twice tried to halt it, once in 2004 and again in 2009, by asking for a referendum. The constitutional court denied the requests both times.

Critics claim Qatar is one of the main financiers of terrorism.

Pig heads and blood were also tossed on the site in two incidents in 2016. Pigs are considered to be unclean and pork and its by-products forbidden under Islam.

Ljubljana’s long-time mayor Zoran Jankovic has supported the project.

Azra Lekovic, a Slovenian Muslim in her late 40s, described the mosque as “crucial“, saying her children, 22 and 24, had distanced themselves from the religion over the years.

Full report at:

https://www.nst.com.my/world/world/2020/02/562434/slovenias-first-mosque-opens-despite-fierce-opposition

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Malaysian Bar urges IGP to locate and return Indira Gandhi’s daughter instead of striving for ‘win-win’ outcome

03 Feb 2020

BY R. LOHESWAR

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 3 — The Malaysian Bar today urged Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador to locate and return M. Indira Gandhi’s daughter Prasana Diksa who is kidnapped by her ex-husband.

Malaysian Bar president Datuk Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor said Abdul Hamid has hinted many times that the police force knows the whereabouts of Prasana and her fugitive Muslim-convert father Muhammad Ridhuan Abdullah, but questioned why the mother and daughter has yet to be reunited.

Abdul Fareed was commenting on the latest revelation by Abdul Hamid that he knows where Muhammad Riduan (formerly K. Pathmanathan) was.

Last Friday Abdul Hamid urged Muhammad Ridhuan to stop hiding and come forward, he was reported saying he has been making progress on the case quickly.

“It is in view of these facts, that the revelations by the IGP are startling and warrant immediate action.

“It is not for the police in such cases to mediate between the enforcement of the decision of the Federal Court and the parties of the case or to strive for a ‘win-win’ outcome to the case. It is imperative, within our constitutional scheme, that the various branches of government, and the agencies that constitute these branches, comply and act in accordance with the pronouncements of such court orders.

“The separation of powers is designed to be a system of checks and balances. Any act, on the part of any officer, contrary to the pronouncements of the decision of the court, would create chaos and discord in society.

“The Malaysian Bar therefore, calls on the IGP to carry out and enforce the pronouncement of the Federal Court in 2018, and to pursue the immediate return of Prasana Diksa to her mother,” Abdul Fareed said in a statement today.

Muhammad Ridhuan who was estranged from his wife decided to convert his three children without Indira’s consent. After a lengthy court battle in 2018 the Federal Court unanimously ruled that the unilateral conversion of the three children was null and void, holding that the consent of both parents was needed to convert a minor.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/02/03/malaysian-bar-urges-igp-to-locate-and-return-indira-gandhis-daughter-instea/1834079

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Transgender rights group hits out at Mujahid, says govt must ensure Sajat’s safety

February 4, 2020

PETALING JAYA: A group advocating transgender rights has hit out at comments by the minister in charge of religious affairs against Muhammad Sajad Kamaruzaman, after the entrepreneur who identifies as a woman wore the female prayer garb while on an umrah trip to Mecca.

Justice for Sisters said remarks by Mujahid Yusof Rawa, as well as calls for investigation against Sajad, better known as Nur Sajat, has only placed her under adverse risk in a country that outlaws transgender expression.

“Saudi Arabia criminalises trans people based on their gender expression or based on their attire,” the group said, adding that transgender people face challenges in travelling to the kingdom.

“The real concern is not the telekung (prayer garment), but her safety and security, the breach of privacy and the lack of rights and evidence-based response by the government on this matter,” it added.

Sajat, who runs a successful business selling ladies products, sparked controversy after she posted videos of her wearing a telekung (the female prayer attire) while in Mecca.

It prompted an angry reaction from Malaysia social media users, prompting comments from Mujahid who accused her of undermining the image of Islam as well as Malaysia’s ties with Riyadh.

“We feel regret because (Sajat) has marred the image of Islam as a person who is a man, which is stated so in the identification card,” the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department reportedly said.

But Justice for Sisters warned that Mujahid’s “knee jerk reaction” has raised concerns over Sajat’s safety including for her family members and friends in Malaysia.

“In this situation, where there are allegations of arrest and public pressure towards the travel agency, the government should take measures to ensure her safety while she is abroad, and that she safely returns to Malaysia,” it said.

It was reported that Sajat was dressed as a man when boarding the plane but donned the telekung after arriving in Mecca.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/02/04/transgender-rights-group-hits-out-at-mujahid-says-govt-must-ensure-sajats-safety/

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Zahid under fire for willingness to work with Dr M

February 3, 2020

PETALING JAYA: Umno Supreme Council member Lokman Noor Adam has hit out at party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi for allegedly saying the party must work with Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad because PAS is doing so.

Lokman expressed disappointment with Zahid and said Umno needed leaders who were prepared to fight to defend the people, and did not need people “willing to compromise with those in power.”

He said that Zahid, at an Umno meeting, had given four reasons why the party has to work with Mahathir. The meeting was about Muafakat Nasional, the party’s partnership with PAS. The Islamic party has openly supported Mahathir to remain as prime minister until the end of his term.

Lokman, known to be a loyal Najib supporter, said Zahid had stated that Umno should not be left behind by the PAS move, so that Umno could resolve the problems faced by former party president Najib Razak, and also to ensure the party would not be deregistered.

He disclosed that he had an audio recording lasting over 3 minutes, purportedly of Zahid speaking at the meeting.

He said Umno could learn and work with PAS in upholding Islam “but it doesn’t make sense for Umno to follow PAS in supporting a dictator and ditch a former Umno president who is being victimised by Mahathir”.

He accused Zahid (who faces trial on 87 criminal charges) of seeking negotiations with Mahathir “only to save himself and return to the Cabinet”.

Lokman claimed that Zahid has been offered lower sentences on 33 of the charges he faces, including reduced jail terms.

“Bossku (Najib) has never appointed Zahid to negotiate his court cases, in fact Bossku asked Umno not to get involved because he is confident on being on the right side of the law and can prove so in court,” Lokman said, using the term Bossku popularised by Najib during his meet-the-people tours.

Lokman said that Zahid should step down if all that he could do was to bow down and work with Mahathir in order to prevent the party from being deregistered and having its accounts frozen.

Lokman said deregistration of Umno would enable Zahid’s supporters and those supporting former vice-president Hishammuddin Hussein to join Mahathir.

If so, then it was likely that 90% of Umno supporters would follow Najib in taking over other parties, Lokman said. “Don’t hope that grassroots members will follow Mahathir or anyone who can be used by him.”

He added any effort to form a “backdoor” government through the merger of any parties before the 15th general election must get the approval of the grassroots through an extraordinary general meeting.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/02/03/zahid-under-fire-for-willingness-to-work-with-dr-m/

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Arab World

 

Iraq protest camps split over cleric’s backing of new PM

3 February 2020

Protests camps in Iraq’s capital and the south began to fracture on Monday, activists and AFP reporters said, split over whether to back prime minister-designate Mohammad Allawi.

Allawi’s nomination on February 1 has so far failed to quell the months-long rallies sweeping Baghdad and the mainly-Shia south, where young demonstrators have demanded nothing short of a total government overhaul.

“They’re split into two parts now, and there are plenty of people on both sides. I’m worried about a clash,” one long-time protester in Tahrir told AFP.

Most young protesters have rejected Allawi as too close to the ruling elite but powerful cleric Moqtada Sadr, who has backed the rallies, welcomed his appointment on Saturday.

Sadr, however, urged his followers to stay in the streets, creating a rift within protest squares.

Late Sunday, anti-government demonstrators opposed to Allawi’s nomination started to cluster their tents closer together in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, activists at the heart of the protest movement said.

Earlier, dozens of Sadrists had stormed a key building in Tahrir that had been occupied for months by protesters, driving out activists and removing banners listing their demands.

In the oil-rich southern port city of Basra, university students relocated their tents overnight to move away from those occupied by Sadr supporters, an AFP reporter said.

“If Sadrists come to the protest square, don’t come into contact with them, don’t make problems,” one organizer there called out over a loudspeaker.

Sadr, a 45-year-old enigmatic figure with a cult-like following across Baghdad, backed the protests when they first broke out in October but has rethought his support multiple times since.

After urging his supporters back to the streets on Friday, he endorsed Allawi and condemned student sit-ins and road closures -- the two main tactics used by most protesters.

On Monday, Sadrists -- identifiable by their blue caps -- deployed around schools and government offices in Kut and Hillah, south of the capital, to ensure they would fully reopen after weeks of intermittent closures due to the rallies, AFP correspondents said.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/03/Iraq-protest-camps-split-over-cleric-s-backing-of-new-PM.html

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Report: Saudi Arabia used French mercenaries to kill pilgrims in 1979 uprising

03 February 2020

A recent report by the Doha-based Aljazeera news network has revealed that Saudi individuals used French mercenaries during an uprising against the rule of Al Saud in Mecca’s Al-Haram Mosque in 1979.

Saudi serviceman Juhayman al-Otaibi and his group occupied the Ka’aba on November 20, 1979 — the first day of the Islamic year 1400 — with an argument that Al Saud had lost its legitimacy through corruption and imitation of the West.

The siege lasted more than two weeks before Saudi special forces broke into the mosque.

The report, published by Aljazeera on Monday, showed that “foreign countries” contributed to the liberation of the Holy Mosque of Mecca, which occurred in December 1979, despite the official Saudi narration that only the Saudi army had taken over the operation.

The report said that “Saudi Arabia hired American pilots to fly over the sanctuary,” and the pilots after each sortie confirmed that there were major damages to the Great Mosque of Mecca.

The Doha-based news network said “Saudi Arabia also asked for help from France.” The Saudi minister of interior, the report said, had once met the commander of French Special Units Paul Barrell at that time.

“Barrell asked his country’s authorities to send two thousand gas bombs, weighing seven tons, and this gas is characterized by its ability to hit the target blind,” the report said.

“The French president… ordered to provide him with what he requested, and Barrell says that the Saudis wanted to obtain ten times this amount, because they wanted to end the siege and save the kingdom’s regime at any cost,” the report added.

Contrary to Saudi accounts that said the operation had resulted in the death of only 300, including 26 pilgrims, Barrell described the operation as a massacre in which 5,000 people had been killed, including at least 3,000 pilgrims.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/03/617816/Aljazeera-French-mercenaries-Mecca-seizure

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Lebanese government warns of painful steps to avert economic collapse

NAJIA HOUSSARI

February 03, 2020

BEIRUT: The policy statement of the new Lebanese government led by Hassan Diab has called for painful steps and interest rate cuts as part of a rescue plan to avert a collapse of the country’s ailing economy.

The 17-page draft statement, which will form the basis of a confidence vote in parliament and was prepared by a government formed with the backing of the powerful Hezbollah group and its allies, promises a basket of reforms based on an economic study prepared by US-based consultancy firm McKinsey & Company, and on ideas and studies prepared by other specialists.

“It is not possible for any rescue plan to succeed if we do not reduce interest rates on loans and deposits in order to revitalize the economy and lower the cost of debt,” the draft statement said.

The draft policy statement sets out “projects, laws and steps with a timeline from 100 days to three years, in addition to auspicious steps and recovery tools that will be painful. We might reach a total collapse and it will be difficult, if not impossible, to avoid it.”

The policy plan said that “the banking system could be stabilized by recapitalizing banks and dealing with a growing number of nonperforming loans,” though it did not specify how.

The government pledged to “reach out to all institutions, donors or supporters to provide urgent needs, concessional loans and cover the financing needs of the Treasury and the economic cycle.”

In a study of Lebanon’s economic situation, the International Finance Institute (IFC) noted that Lebanon “needs external financing of about $24 billion, or 42 percent of the country’s GDP, from 2020 to 2024, to avoid further declines in the country’s official cash reserves.”

“In the coming days, Lebanon needs between $5 billion and $6 billion to restore life to its former state, otherwise the hardship will be very large, and will threaten the health of citizens and the salaries of employees and military personnel. The country will also be unable to pay its internal and external obligations. This could lead to a disaster that will not be tolerated,” the IFC said.

Regarding the political aspect of the draft policy statement, the government stressed that it is “an independent technocrats’ government” that “represents the aspirations of the demonstrators.”

The draft statement also stipulated that “Lebanon must stay away from external conflicts, and abide by the Charter of the Arab League, particularly Article 8, with the adoption of an independent foreign policy based on Lebanon’s supreme interest and the respect of international law, to preserve the country as a place of peace, stability and convergence.

The Government will, of course, continue to strengthen relations with sister countries and to establish a partnership with the European Union within the framework of mutual respect for national sovereignty. It also affirms its respect for all international conventions and resolutions, its commitment to Security Council Resolution No 1701 and its unwavering support for UNIFIL’s forces.”

The draft policy statement attracted both cautious and critical reactions.

“The entire international community has its eye on what reforms this government will carry out and on its modus operandi, and the clearer the government’s action plan is, the more the international community is ready to provide support,” EU Ambassador to Lebanon Ralph Tarraf said.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1622516/middle-east

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Muslim nations reject Trump’s Mideast plan in Saudi meeting

February 03, 2020

JEDDAH: The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Monday rejected the US administration’s peace plan for the Middle East and called on its member states not to help implement it.

The OIC “rejects this US-Israeli plan as it does not meet the minimum aspirations and legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and contradicts the terms of reference of the peace process,” it said in a statement.

 A meeting of foreign ministers at OIC headquarters in Jeddah called on “all member states not (to) deal with this plan or cooperate with the US administration efforts to enforce it in any way or form.”

 Under the US plan unveiled last week, Israel would retain control of the disputed city of Jerusalem as its “undivided capital” and annex settlements on Palestinian lands.

The OIC reiterated its support for East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, stressing its “Arab and Islamic character.”

 It said peace would “only be achieved with the end of the Israeli occupation, the full withdrawal from the territory of the State of Palestine, in particular, the holy city of Al-Quds Al-Sharif (Jerusalem) and the other Arab territories occupied since (the) June 1967 (Middle East war).”

The organization urged the US administration to abide by legal terms of reference for a just resolution of the issue and for lasting peace in the region.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1622336/middle-east

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Egyptian Officials Say Militants Blow Up Sinai Gas Pipeline

Feb. 2, 2020

EL-ARISH, Egypt — Security officials in Egypt said suspected Islamic militants on Sunday blew up a natural gas pipeline in the restive norther part of Sinai Peninsula.

At least six masked militants planted explosives under the pipeline in the town of Bir al-Abd. It transfers gas to el-Arish, the provincial capital of North Sinai, and a cement factory in central Sinai, the officials said.

The explosion sent thick flames of fire shooting into the sky, and authorities stopped the flow of gas to extinguish the fire, officials said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak to journalists.

No group immediately claimed the attack.

Egypt is battling an Islamic State-led insurgency in the Sinai that intensified after the military overthrew an elected but divisive Islamist president in 2013. The militants have carried out scores of attacks, mainly targeting security forces and Christians.

They also have targeted gas pipelines between Egypt and both Jordan and Israel regularly since the 2011 uprising that toppled then president Hosni Mubarak.

Israel and Jordan relied on the pipeline to meet its energy needs.

The attacks led to the collapse of a 2005 deal to export Egypt’s natural gas to Israel in 2012. The state-owned Israel Electric Corp had sued the state-owned Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation and Egyptian Natural Gas, resulting in a $1.7 billion fine in 2015.

In July last year, Egypt said it reached a deal with the Israel Electric Corp that reduced the fine to $500 million.

Full report at:

https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2020/02/02/world/middleeast/ap-ml-egypt-pipeline.html

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OIC turns down Trump’s Middle East peace plan

February 3, 2020 

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has agreed on a resolution to reject United States President Donald Trump's peace plan for the Middle East, saying it "does not meet the minimum aspirations and legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and contradicts the terms of reference of the peace process”.

They also called on all 57 member states not to deal with the plan or help implement it.

The resolution was made after the Open-Ended Extraordinary Meeting of the OIC Executive Committee in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Monday.

"Indonesia urges all OIC members to remain united and committed in full solidarity for Palestine," Deputy Foreign Minister Mahendra Siregar said in a statement received by The Jakarta Post on Monday.

He led the Indonesian delegation at the meeting, which was held at the request of the Palestinians in response to Trump’s "deal of the century" announced last week. The peace proposal required a future Palestinian state to be "demilitarized", while formalizing Israeli sovereignty over settlements built in occupied territories.

In order for the OIC to achieve a joint position, Mahendra argued that the Muslim world should consistently be united in resolving the issue of Palestine and Jerusalem while retaining the principles of a “two-state solution” that respected international law and "internationally agreed parameters".

Mahendra added that the Muslim world should reaffirm the importance of dialogue between parties concerned to achieve lasting peace and stability for Palestine and the region.

Indonesia’s suggestion was offered after Saudi Arabia, as host of the meeting, had barred its regional rival from participating by not issuing visas for Iranian participants, Reuters reported.

"The government of Saudi Arabia has prevented the participation of the Iranian delegation in the meeting to examine the 'deal of the century' plan at the headquarters of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said as reported by Fars news agency.

Mousavi said Iran had filed a complaint with the OIC and accused Saudi Arabia of misusing its position as host for the organization's headquarters. There was no immediate comment from Saudi officials.

Iranian officials have condemned Trump's plan for resolving the conflict between Israel and Palestine as a non-starter after it was officially announced last week. The Palestinian leadership has rejected the plan, saying it heavily favored Israel and would deny them a viable independent state.

Full report at:

https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/02/03/oic-turns-down-trumps-middle-east-peace-plan.html

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Iraqi protester stabbed to death in clash between rival camps

3 February 2020

A protester was stabbed to death Monday in southern Iraq after men in blue caps, the signature headgear of followers of cleric Moqtada Sadr, attacked an anti-government rally, medics and police said.

The men were trying to reopen the provincial government’s headquarters in the city of Hilla, closed for months by widespread demonstrations, an AFP correspondent there said.

The protester was stabbed in the neck and died of his wounds in hospital, while three others were hurt after being hit with batons, the medical and security sources told AFP.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/03/Iraqi-protester-stabbed-to-death-in-clash-between-rival-camps-.html

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Over 500 people killed since protests erupted in Iraq: Human Rights Commission

3 February 2020

At least 536 people have been killed since the protests erupted in Iraq on October 30, according to the Iraqi Commission for Human Rights on Monday. At least 17 of those who died were members of security forces, according to Ali al-Bayati, a member of the commission on Twitter.

At least 23,545 people have also been injured, of which 3,519 were security forces, according to the Commission for Human Rights.

There were also 49 assassination attempts in which 22 people were killed, 13 injured and 14 failed attempts, said al-Bayati.

A number of high-profile Iraqi activists have been assassinated, including activist Hassan Hadi Mahal and journalist Ahmed Abdul Samad.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/03/Over-500-people-killed-since-protests-erupted-in-Iraq-Iraqi-Human-Rights-Commission-.html

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Six Turkish, six Syrian regime soldiers killed in Syria’s Idlib clashes

3 February 2020

Six Turkish soldiers were killed and nine were wounded, one of them seriously, in shelling by Syrian regime forces in northwest Syria’s Idlib region on Monday, the Turkish defense ministry said, with a war monitor reporting six Syrian soldiers dead in a Turkish counterattack.

The clash is a rare confrontation between Syrian forces and Turkish soldiers who are based in parts of Syria's north and northwest where Ankara backs a host of rebel groups.

The ministry said Turkish forces retaliated against the attack and destroyed targets in the Idlib region. It added that the Syrian forces carried out the shelling despite being notified of the positions of the Turkish forces beforehand.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that Turkey will continue to retaliate for the attack.

Explaining the retaliation the ministry had announced, Erdogan said 40 places were targeted and initial information shows that 30 to 35 Syrian regime soldiers were neutralized in the operation.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights only reported six deaths among Syrian troops and state media said that the Turkish retaliation did not cause any casualties. The Russian Defense Ministry said no attacks on Syrian troops were recorded.

“We have responded in kind to these attacks and will continue to do so, whether it is with our artillery or mortars. We are determined to continue our operations for the security of our country, people and our brothers in Idlib,” he told reporters in Istanbul.

“Those who question our determination will soon understand they made a mistake,” Erdogan added.

he also warned Russia not to get involved as it retaliated against Syrian regime forces for killing four of its soldiers in northwest Syria’s Idlib.

Three Turkish military convoys entered Syrian territory from the Kafrlosin border crossing on Sunday, according to a Syrian war monitor, two days after President Erdogan said Turkey may launch a military operation in Idlib.

Sunday’s bombardment also killed 14 civilians.

The shelling by Syrian government forces was carried out “against our elements sent as reinforcements to prevent clashes in Idlib, despite their positions being coordinated beforehand,” the Turkish defense ministry statement said.

Turkey has 12 military observation posts around Idlib, set up under a 2017 agreement with Russia and Iran. Several of them have since been surrounded by advancing Syrian regime forces.

On Friday, regime forces battled extremists and moderate opposition forces on the outskirts of Idlib’s Saraqib, which has been nearly deserted following two weeks of heightened bombardment, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Idlib significance

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, backed by Russian airpower, have made rapid advances in the Idlib region, the last major opposition-held stronghold in Syria’s nearly nine-year war – which began after the Syrian regime’s brutal oppression of peaceful protests demanding reform and regime change.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/03/Four-Turkish-soldiers-killed-in-airstrikes-on-Idlib-Turkish-Defense-Ministry.html

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UAE suspends flights to China except for Beijing, from February 5

3 February 2020

The UAE suspended all flights to China except for Beijing, beginning on Wednesday, February 5, said a statement from the official WAM news agency.

The announcement comes amid fears of the coronavirus epidemic that originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan and has killed 362 people and infected 17,300 so far since the outbreak in early January.

Other airliners had already banned flights to China, although Pakistan bucked the trend on Monday by announcing it would resume flights.

As of Monday the UAE said there had been five cases of coronavirus in the country, all of which were Chinese tourists from Wuhan.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/02/03/UAE-suspends-flights-to-China-except-for-Beijing-from-February-5.html

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Denmark, Netherlands summon Saudi ambassadors over espionage activities

04 February 2020

The Danish and Dutch governments have summoned the Saudi ambassadors to Copenhagen and Stockholm, respectively, in order to express their official protest after arresting and charging four terrorists for spying on behalf of the kingdom in the two European states.

The Danish Security and Intelligence Service announced on Monday the arrest of three members of the Saudi-backed anti-Iran al-Ahvaziya terrorist group, and charged them with suspicion of spying for Saudi Arabia in Denmark. Another terrorist was also arrested in the Netherlands.

Speaking at a press conference in Copenhagen, Danish Security Service (PET) Director Finn Borch Andersen said the three members of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz are facing charges of involvement in intelligence activities for the Saudi intelligence service from 2012 to 2018.

The Danish Security Service stated that the three elements were collecting information about individuals in Denmark and abroad, and were sending it to a Saudi intelligence service.

The three, whose identities have not been revealed, live in Denmark and have been under surveillance for several months.

The Danish police has accused the three of supporting a terrorist attack in Iran in September 2018, which killed 25 people including a four-year-old child.

The Danish foreign minister, on his Twitter account, confirmed that the Saudi ambassador to Copenhagen had been summoned.

Jeppe Kofod called the case "deeply serious and completely unacceptable." Kofod said he had summoned the Saudi ambassador for talks earlier Monday, and instructed the Danish ambassador in Riyadh to deliver his objections to Saudi authorities.

Dutch Foreign Minister Steve Block also summoned the Saudi ambassador to his country on suspicion of an al-Ahvaziya terrorist element's link to Saudi Arabia.

That came after the Dutch authorities in the city of Delft arrested another al-Ahvaziya element accused of planning to launch an attack in Iran and of belonging to a terrorist organization.

Dutch Foreign Ministry spokesman said that the Foreign Minister wanted to inform the Saudi ambassador that such unwanted activities as those accused by the movement in Denmark were unacceptable.

Al-Ahvaziya group is comprised of communists, nationalists, socialists and Salafi members who, despite ideological and nominal differences, are united around one goal and one strategy, which is toppling the Iranian government and separating Khuzestan from the rest of Iran through armed conflict.

The group was born in 1980; soon after the Islamic Revolution in Iran. It was inspired by the ruling Ba’ath regime in neighboring Iraq at the time. It had already carried out a series of attacks in the southwestern province even before Saddam unleashed war against Iran.

The group has committed numerous crimes against Iranian targets over the past decades. Among them bomb attacks in public places, abductions, assassinations, kidnapping for ransom, shooting at tourists and blowing up oil pipelines.

Thousands of people have been killed or injured as a result of their actions. The group calls itself a movement but it lacks any popular backing inside Iran.

In September 2018, four members of the Saudi-backed terrorist group opened fire on soldiers and civilians during a military parade in Iran’s southern city of Ahvaz, claiming the lives of 25 people, including a four-year-old child.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/04/617828/Denmark-netherlands-summon-saudi-ambasssadors-ahvaziya

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Saudi Arabia interested in purchasing Israeli-made Spike missiles: Report

03 February 2020

Saudi Arabia has reportedly shown interest in purchasing Israeli-made long-range Spike precision missiles as the Riyadh regime continues covert efforts to normalize relations with the Tel Aviv regime after years of clandestine contacts.

The London-based al-Araby al-Jadeed newspaper, citing a report published by Hebrew-language Israel Defense magazine, reported on Monday that the Israeli company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, which produces military hardware, is trying to obtain necessary permits from official authorities through its subsidiary in Europe, known as the Euro Spike, in order to export Spike missiles to Saudi Arabia.

The report went on to say that the supply of Spike missiles to Saudi Arabia would face objections inside the Israeli-occupied territories as Israel's so-called security ministry may not endorse the export for the fear that the munitions could be used against Israeli forces once Riyadh reverses its policies towards the Tel Aviv regime.

Al-Araby al-Jadeed noted that the Israeli ministry may allow Rafael to export the arms to Saudi Arabia, given the Spike missile’s life cycle that is estimated at approximately ten years – a period during which an armed confrontation between Riyadh and Tel Aviv is believed to be unlikely.

Saudi Arabia is seemingly trying to diversify the sources of its imported weapons and military equipment, and does not want to rely solely on the American BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missile, which is currently produced by Raytheon, a major US military contractor and industrial corporation. The oil-rich kingdom has been importing the weapon since 2017.

Spike missiles, first released by Rafael in 2012, come in four variants: Spike NLOS, Spike ER, Spike MR/LR and Spike SR.

Spike SR is the smallest and lightest member of Rafael’s Spike missile family, and is being used by some member states of the US-led NATO.

According to Rafael, the entire Spike family is now operational in 34 countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany, South Korea and India.

Back in September last year, Arabic-language al-Khaleej Online news website reported that Saudi Arabia had purchased the Iron Dome missile system from the Israeli regime.

Last month, senior Saudi cleric and former justice minister, Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul Karim bin Abdulaziz al-Issa, paid an official visit to the former Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz, in Poland. A delegation of American Jewish Committee (AJC) officials was in the company as well.

The CEO of the AJC, David Harris, described Issa’s visit to the site as highly significant, claiming that the trip represented “the most senior delegation" of Muslim scholars to visit Auschwitz ever.

Back on July 22, 2019, angry Palestinians jeered and cursed a Saudi blogger known to be a huge fan of establishing formal ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

One video clip posted on Twitter at the time showed Mohammed Saud being cursed and jeered as he was visiting the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem al-Quds.

He was part of a six-person media delegation from the Arab world, including representatives from Jordan, who were in the occupied Palestinian territories at the invitation of the Israeli foreign ministry.

Palestinians protesting his visit called him a “traitor,” “animal” and “Zionist trash,” and also told him to “go to a synagogue” instead of praying at a mosque.

Another video clip showed plastic chairs and sticks being thrown at him as he walked in the market in the Old City.

Last May, Lebanese daily Arabic-language newspaper al-Akhbar said the Saudi crown prince had offered Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas 10 billion dollars in return for accepting US President Donald Trump’s controversial proposal for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, dubbed “the deal of the century.”

Akhbar noted that Abbas had turned down the offer, saying supporting the deal would be “the end of his political life.”

Earlier last year, delegates from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt at a meeting of Arab states reportedly opposed bids condemning the normalization of relations with the Israeli regime.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/03/617792/Saudi-Arabia-interested-in-purchasing-Israeli-made-Spike-missiles:-Report

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Syrian army liberates two more towns in southeastern Idlib

03 February 2020

The Syrian army has retaken control of two more towns in the northwestern Idlib province during the ongoing campaign against foreign-sponsored Takfiri militants in their last major stronghold.

Syria's official news agency SANA reported on Monday that army units had liberated the towns of Joubas and San as they continued their military operations against the foreign-backed Takfiri terrorists near the city of Saraqib in Idlib.

SANA also reported that the Syrian army units continued to advance in Idlib countryside, liberating Taranaba village west of Saraqib and cutting off terrorists’ supply lines between Saraqib and Ariha.

The new achievements came a day after Syrian government forces liberated the villages of Inqrati, Kafr Battikh and Kafr Dadikh, inflicting heavy losses on Jabhat Fateh al-Sham militant group, formerly known as al-Nusra Front, southwest of Saraqib.

The report added that four Turkish soldiers were killed and 9 others wounded during the operations targeting terrorists' positions in the southeastern countryside of Idlib.

SANA noted that Turkish military forces retaliated and targeted the Syrian army units, but there were no reports of damage or injuries.

On Sunday, Turkey reportedly brought in a new column of military forces and hardware to be deployed in Idlib.

The deployment came only two days after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey may launch a military operation there if the ongoing offensive by Syrian government forces against foreign-sponsored Takfiri militants continues.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based war monitor, citing sources requesting anonymity, reported that a Turkish military convoy had already been positioned in the entrance of Kafr Amim village, which lies in the Saraqib Nahiyah district of Idlib province.

Syrian government forces are advancing against foreign-backed Takfiri militants in Idlib, tightening the noose around the extremists in their last major stronghold.

Syria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates wrote to the United Nations on January 25, stressing that the operation in Idlib and Aleppo against Takfiri elements "will not stop until the elimination of those terrorists, who threaten safety and security of Syrian civilians."

Idlib and the area north of Aleppo province form part of the only large territory in the hands of terrorists after the Syrian military managed to vanquish the foreign-backed terrorists across the country and bring back almost all of the Syrian soil under government control.

The Syrian army declared the start of an offensive against foreign-sponsored militants in Idlib on August 5 last year.

It came after those positioned in the de-escalation zone failed to honor a ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey and continued to target civilian neighborhoods.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/03/617779/Syria-army-Idlib-terrorists-Turkish-military-villages

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Mideast

 

Report compares Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to Daesh, Al-Qaeda

February 04, 2020

LONDON: Western governments and international bodies, including the EU, should designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization, the London-based Tony Blair Institute for Global Change said in a report published on Tuesday.

The IRGC acts as an “institutionalized militia,” and uses its vast resources to spread a “mission of jihad” through an “ideological army” of recruits and proxies, said the report, titled “Beyond Borders: The Expansionist Ideology of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”

The IRGC’s interpretation of Islam bears a “striking” resemblance to the extremist teachings of Sunni groups such as Al-Qaeda and Daesh, the report added.

The institute published its findings on the back of work to translate training manuals, used and freely distributed by the IRGC online, into English from Farsi for the first time.

Its analysis of the material uncovered what it called a “formalized system of indoctrination that seeks to radicalize its recruits with an extremist Islamist ideology.”

 Tony Blair, former UK prime minister and executive chairman of the institute, said the international community needs to recognize the role that the IRGC plays in spreading terrorism and extremism.

“The IRGC is not simply an arm of the state, it is a body dedicated to advancing an ideology based on an extreme and intolerant distortion of Islam. It is time we recognized this formally,” he said.

“Extremist ideology gives rise to violent extremism. Defeating it, and calling out those groups and organizations which promote it, is a vital part of a peaceful and prosperous future for the region.”

The report found that the IRGC’s indoctrination process includes promoting a universal Shiite Islamist worldview that it said is “violent and absolutist,” and that “casts both non-Muslims and regime opponents (including Muslims) as enemies of Islam and calls for armed jihad against them.”

The report said the IRGC exists as a way of life in the way it spreads edicts on the ideal structure of society, including promoting the subjugation of women.

The report’s author, Kasra Aarabi, said the IRCG’s use of the internet to radicalize people is something that tech companies in the West have yet to come to terms with.

The IRGC is able to operate “unhindered” by safeguards normally employed to monitor and restrict propaganda by Salafist-jihadist groups, he added.

Recognizing this, and moving to prevent the IRGC’s dissemination of material, would be a key component of any strategy by the international community to combat its extremism, he said.

“These internal manuals reveal how the IRGC operates as an institutionalized militia, with a formal program of indoctrination that seeks to radicalize its members and proxies in the region with a violent distortion of Islam,” Aarabi added in the report.

“As the new evidence in our report shows, the IRGC’s Shia extremist ideology has much in common with Salafi-jihadism and policymakers should therefore treat it with the same seriousness as Daesh (Daesh) and Al-Qaeda.”

Prof. Saeid Golkar, an expert on the IRGC at the University of Tennessee in the US, said: “Until now, there has been a void in any tangible evidence put to policymakers about the material and content distributed by the IRGC to its growing number of recruits.”

He added: “It is clear from the documents analyzed in this report that the IRGC has a comprehensive and harmful indoctrination system that seeks to radicalize its members with a violent Islamist ideology that will be hard to reverse without a concerted effort.”

The IRGC was formed in 1979 in the aftermath of the Iranian revolution, and has around 125,000 personnel, encompassing all areas of conventional military strength.

Its proxies are known to be militarily engaged in a number of conflicts across the Middle East and further afield.

The IRGC is known to be providing assistance to groups in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere.

 It is thought to have been behind attacks on oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, and missiles launched against Saudi Aramco processing facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais in 2019.

 The IRGC was catapulted into global news cycles at the start of 2020 when Gen. Qassem Suleimani, a senior figure and the commander of its elite Quds Force, was assassinated in a US drone strike in Baghdad.

The IRGC has since admitted responsibility for the downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet above Tehran in the immediate aftermath of the drone strike.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1622571/middle-east

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UN Security Council to meet with Kushner on Mideast plan: Diplomats

3 February 2020

The United States has requested a closed-door UN Security Council meeting Thursday for President Donald Trump's son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, to present the administration's new Mideast peace plan, diplomatic sources told AFP Monday.

He intends to set forth the plan that Washington unveiled last week and to listen to the position of the council's other 14 members, the sources said.

The meeting would take place several days before Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas comes to the United Nations – he is expected February 11 – to express opposition to the US plan and to demand adherence to international law.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/03/UN-Security-Council-to-meet-with-Kushner-on-Mideast-plan-Diplomats.html

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Rouhani says Iran may block UN inspectors if it faces a ‘new situation’

4 February 2020

Iran’s president said Monday that Tehran might reconsider providing U.N. inspectors with access to Iran’s nuclear facilities if the country were confronted with “a new situation,” the official IRNA news agency reported.

Hassan Rouhani’s remarks came during a meeting with Josep Borrell, the European Union’s new foreign affairs chief, who was on his first visit to Iran since taking office.

The visit is seen as the latest move by the EU to save Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers. The agreement hangs on a single thread, one that permits international inspection of its atomic sites, and is already threatened.

“The trend of inspections that has been carried out until today will continue, unless we face a new situation,” Rouhani was quoted by IRNA as saying. He did not elaborate.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/04/Rouhani-says-Iran-may-block-UN-inspectors-if-it-faces-a-new-situation-.html

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Rouhani says Iran ready to work with EU to resolve nuclear deal issues

4 February 2020

Iran is ready to cooperate with the European Union on issues related to the nuclear deal it agreed with world powers in 2015, President Hassan Rouhani was quoted as saying on Monday by the ISNA news service.

He made his comments at a meeting with Josep Borrell, the head of the EU’s foreign service, who traveled to Iran to try to reduce tensions in the Middle East after the US killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani last month.

Under the deal, Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of most international sanctions, but the United States withdrew from the deal in 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Iran.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran is still ready for interaction and cooperation with the European Union for resolving issues and, whenever the opposite side completely upholds their commitments, Iran will return to its commitments,” Rouhani said.

Iran began reducing its commitments under the nuclear deal last year to put pressure on the parties remaining in the accord to protect its economy from US sanctions and allow the Islamic Republic to gain the full benefits outlined in the deal.

Iranian officials have said all of their actions have been within the parameters of the nuclear deal, are reversible and that they are still committed to having their program monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

But Britain, France, and Germany, which with the United States, Russia and China agreed on the deal with Iran, declared Iran in violation of the 2015 pact last month and launched a dispute mechanism under which the matter could be referred back to the Security Council and UN sanctions reimposed.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/04/Iran-s-president-says-Tehran-ready-to-work-with-EU-to-resolve-nuclear-deal-issues.html

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Israeli PM Netanyahu says starting process of normalization with Sudan

3 February 2020

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he has met with Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of Sudan's sovereign council, and that they have begun the process of normalization.

Netanyahu announced Monday's meeting on Twitter during a trip to Uganda aimed at boosting ties with African countries.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Uganda on Monday, saying his country is “returning to Africa in a big way” and urging the East African country to open an embassy in Jerusalem.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/03/Israeli-PM-Netanyahu-says-starting-process-of-normalization-with-Sudan.html

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Israeli PM hopes Uganda will soon open embassy in Jerusalem

3 February 2020

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that he hopes long-standing African ally Uganda will open an embassy in Jerusalem soon, becoming the third nation to do so after the United States and Guatemala.

“We hope to do this in the near future,” he said in a televised speech during a visit to the Ugandan capital.

“We are studying that,” Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni replied.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/03/Israeli-PM-hopes-Uganda-will-soon-open-embassy-in-Jerusalem.html

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One million people in Syria’s Idlib marching toward Turkish border: Erdogan

3 February 2020

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that close to one million people in Syria’s Idlib are marching toward Turkish borders.

Speaking in Kiev, Erdogan said developments in Syria’s northwestern region of Idlib had become “unmanageable,” after Ankara said Syrian shelling killed six of its troops there.

Turkish forces hit 54 targets in Idlib and “neutralised” 76 Syrian government soldiers, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar was cited as saying by the state-owned Anadolu news agency on Monday.

Earlier on Monday, Erdogan said Turkey was retaliating for the attacks, adding that had told Russia, which backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, to “stand aside”.

The foreign ministers of Russia and Turkey on Monday agreed that a deal over Syria’s Idlib region must be observed, amid rising tensions between opposing forces, the Interfax news agency cited the Russian foreign ministry as saying.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/03/One-million-people-in-Syria-s-Idlib-marching-toward-Turkish-border-Erdogan.html

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Iranian commander killed in clashes with Syrian opposition forces: State media

3 February 2020

A senior commander of Iran’s Quds Force was killed on Sunday during clashes with Syrian opposition forces in Aleppo, Iranian state media reported on Monday.

Asghar Pashapour was “one of the first to go to Syria with Qassem Soleimani,” according to the state-run IRIB news agency.

Soleimani, who headed the Quds Force, the overseas arms of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was killed in a US airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport last month.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/03/Iranian-commander-killed-in-clashes-with-Syrian-opposition-forces-State-media.html

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UN medical air bridge starts with 8 Yemeni patients

04 February 2020

Mohammed al-Attab

This is the first flight for the UN medical air bridge in Yemen since Sep.2016. 16 passengers will be on board but only 7 patients are now allowed in. For Ali's father and other patients like him who could not receive any healthcare in the war torn country, it is a joyful day.

With 7 patients on board the plane every week, officials at the airport say for 32,000 registered patients will require years to be completely voyaged.

This has sparked outrage among patients and officials, who say this is contrary to what has been agreed with the world body previously.

World Health Organization explained that there are many factors behind the voyage of only a few number of patients. One reason is that only few hospitals' beds are reserved in hosting countries.

According to health officials thousands of Yemeni patients have died from preventable diseases since the Saudi ban on Sana'a international airport in Sep, 2016.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/04/617826/UN-medical-air-bridge-starts-with-8-Yemeni-patients

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Israel’s Netanyahu claims ‘normalization’ with Sudan’s leader

February 03, 2020

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Sudan’s leader Monday to discuss “normalization” between the two states, his office said.

Netanyahu held two hours of talks with Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, chairman of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, in the Ugandan city of Entebbe, a statement from his office said.

However, Sudan’s information minister and government spokesman, Faisal Salih, told Reuters he had no information about the visit and that the cabinet had not discussed it. Officials would wait for “clarifications” on Burhan’s return, Salih said in a later statement.

The countries are technically at war and Sudan could become only the third Arab state to recognize Israel.

Sudan’s sovereign council is a transitional body of military officials and civilians that is currently headed by Burhan, an army general.

It was created as part of a power-sharing agreement between the military and civilians following the overthrow of longtime dictator Omar Al-Bashir last year.

Sudan under Bashir was part of the decades-long Arab boycott of Israel over the Jewish state’s treatment of the Palestinians.

In 1967 Arab leaders met in the Sudanese capital Khartoum to announce what was called the ‘three noes’ — rejecting peace or negotiations with and recognition of Israel.

Since then both Egypt and Jordan have recognized the country, though other Arab and many Muslim countries still do not.

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat called Burhan’s meeting with Netanyahu “a stab in the back of the Palestinian people and a flagrant walkout on the Arab peace initiative,” according to a statement published by the official WAFA news agency.

On Sunday, the United States invited Burhan to visit Washington, Sudan’s sovereign council said.

Sudan is pushing to be removed from a US list of countries considered state sponsors of terrorism. The listing has impeded badly needed international financial assistance and commercial activity in Sudan.

Earlier on Monday, Netanyahu held talks with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who said Uganda was studying the possibility of opening an embassy in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu last visited Uganda in July 2016 to mark the 40th anniversary of a hostage rescue at Entebbe airport, in which his brother Yonatan died.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1622416/middle-east

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Africa

 

Somalia: Soldiers Killed in Al-Shabaab Attack in Somalia

2 FEBRUARY 2020

At least 18 people including eight Somali government soldiers and 10 al-Shabaab militants were killed, and more than 13 others wounded when fighters from al-Shabaab attacked Somali National Army and African Union peacekeeping mission troops bases in the Middle Shabelle region on Sunday.

Hassan Ibrahim, a military official in the region, said that the main attack took place at AMISOM and SNA base in the vicinity of Qalimow in the region.

"The terrorist group al-Shabaab attacked our base in Qalimow on Sunday morning. Eight soldiers were killed, more than 13 others wounded but we have killed more than 10 al-Shabaab militants," Ibrahim said.

The group also attacked several other observation points with mortar shells, he said, adding that they did not know how many people were killed or wounded.

Somali-based al-Qaeda affiliated group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the Qalimow attack that it has killed over 13 soldiers.

The attacks came a day after double blasts in Somali capital Mogadishu, killing over 4 soldiers and wounding Kahda district deputy commissioner, claimed by al-Shabaab.

https://allafrica.com/stories/202002030188.html

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Militants kill dozens in east Congo as attacks on civilians intensify

FEBRUARY 1, 2020

Stanis Bujakera

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Suspected Islamist militants killed at least 62 civilians in a series of attacks this week in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where the army is waging a counter-insurgency campaign against the rebels, the government said on Saturday.

The upsurge in violence after a period of relative calm in early January undercuts government claims of security progress against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan Islamist group active in Beni territory.

Rights group CEPADHO said ADF fighters had killed at least 74 civilians, many of them women and children, with knives and guns. It said the attacks spanned about 10 villages over the course of less than 48 hours.

The army has repeatedly claimed to have made sweeping progress against the group by killing several top commanders and capturing many of the its camps in the dense forests near the Ugandan border.

But the ADF, which arrived in Congo from Uganda in the 1990s, has survived frequent onslaughts from Congolese force and U.N. peacekeepers, and taken revenge on civilian populations.

It is one of dozens of armed groups active in Congo’s mineral-rich eastern borderlands, where regional wars around the turn of the century resulted in millions of deaths.

Officials said on Wednesday that at least 30 people had been killed overnight near the city of Oicha. Civil society activists reported that dozens more civilians were killed in attacks on nearby villages on Thursday.

The government provided the death toll of 62 in the minutes of a cabinet meeting, without offering any additional details. It said the army was “dismantling the networks of collaborators and other agents thanks to information provided by captured ADF fighters”.

The Kivu Security Tracker, a research initiative that maps unrest in the region, said the latest attacks bring to at least 312 the number of civilian killed by the ADF in Beni since Congo’s army launched its offensive on Oct. 30.

Full report at:

https://af.reuters.com/article/idafkbn1zv3r1-ozatp

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Burkina Faso: Gunmen kill 20 civilians in attack

3 February 2020

As many as 20 civilians have been killed in an overnight attack in north-western Burkina Faso.

Unidentified heavily armed men on motorbikes carried out the attack in Lamdamol village in Seno province, north of the capital Ouagadougou, on Saturday night, AFP news agency says.

The attack comes a week after 39 people were killed when militants attacked a market in the province of Soum.

The Sahel region has seen an increase in jihadist violence in recent months.

News of Saturday's attack came as France announced it would send a further 600 soldiers to the Sahel region, bringing the total number of French troops to more than 5,000.

Last year saw the highest death toll due to armed conflict in the region since 2012, with more than 4,000 people killed.

The security crisis in the Sahel began when an alliance of separatist and Islamist militants took over northern Mali in 2012. France then launched a military intervention against them.

Although a peace deal was signed in 2015, it was never fully implemented.

Full report at:

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-51348523

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‘Children of ISIS’ head back to Tunisia, reviving controversy

Nesrine Romdhani

02/02/2020

TUNIS - Six children fathered by Tunisian Islamic State fighters killed in 2016 in the Libyan city of Sirte recently arrived in Tunisia. Dozens more fatherless Tunisian children and their mothers were expected to arrive soon in their deceased parent’s home country.

The complicated repatriation requires that Tunisia provide an appropriate system for the care and rehabilitation of children of killed Tunisian Islamic State (ISIS) fighters, as well as establish close coordination between the judicial, security and intelligence agencies involved.

Tunisian authorities also need to collaborate closely with Libyan officials and other concerned countries.

There are more than 50 children of Tunisian ISIS fighters who died in campaigns against the extremist organisation in Libya; 36 of those children are accompanied by their mothers. The children are 3-12 years of age.

“Fifty-four children with their mothers are still stranded in Libya and arrangements are being made for their deportation soon,” said Taoufik Kacem, the Tunisian consul in the Libyan city of Misrata. The other Tunisian children and their mothers are expected to be extradited soon after Tunisian forensic and legal specialists submit reports.

“These children had lost both of their parents and will be cared for by their grandparents or someone close of kin (in Tunisia),” said Mohamed Ikbal Ben Rejeb, president of the Rescue Association of Tunisians Trapped Abroad. He added that they “need to be monitored for a long period of time and should be helped and reintegrated into schools.”

Tunisian authorities do not have official figures indicating the number of ISIS orphans of Tunisian origin but NGO Human Rights Watch has estimated the number of Tunisian children born to ISIS members who are in custody in camps abroad at about 200.

The biggest challenge faced by Tunisian officials is that Libya is divided between two major warring camps. Political and human rights sources stressed the “weakness” of the judicial system in Libya as well as the turbulent security situation there.

In some cases, the Tunisian authorities had been hesitant to take a decision regarding repatriation of minors because of the difficulty in establishing the identities of the children and their parents.

Ben Rejeb said: “The Tunisian state does not have a strategy in place for how to provide and care for these troubled children aged between 4 and 6.”

This situation has led to another controversy with the publication by the website of the Presidency of the Republic of photos of Tunisian President Kais Saied receiving the six orphans deported from Libya January 23.

A statement issued by the Tunisian Presidency stated that Saied stressed the need for expediting measures necessary “to provide psychological counselling and health care for these children before handing them over to their families.”

Saied also pointed to the need to give the issue the right attention “to facilitate the return of the remaining children stranded in Libya.”

The statement said the return of the children was discussed by Saied and the head of the Libyan Government of National Accord Fayez al-Sarraj during a meeting December 10 in Tunisia. It was agreed then to secure the return of the children to their families in Tunisia.

Social activists in Tunisia criticised Saied, arguing that he should have devoted attention instead to orphans of Tunisian security and military forces killed during terrorist attacks.

Experts said Tunisia lacks specialised official bodies and agencies to oversee integration of the children of killed ISIS fighters into society. Ben Rejeb said: “There is no government programme pertaining to the care for these children.”

Others had more praise for Tunisian authorities’ efforts to help children who have lost parents to conflict.

“Legitimate security concerns do not justify the abandonment by governments of children and other citizens held in miserable camps and prisons abroad,” said Lita Tyler, a crisis and conflict researcher at Human Rights Watch.

She stressed the need to provide rehabilitation and reintegration services for these citizens. “These children must be treated primarily as victims,” she said.

Human Rights Watch had considered the Tunisian government’s efforts to repatriate children of ISIS fighters as “slow” and accused authorities of “inaction” in helping Tunisian children and their mothers held in Arab prisons, including in Syria and Iraq.

Full report at:

https://thearabweekly.com/children-isis-head-back-tunisia-reviving-controversy

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Libya's UN-backed govt. mobilizes troops toward Haftar-controlled Sirte

03 February 2020

Libya’s UN-backed government has mobilized its troops toward the strategic city of Sirte, which is controlled by warlord Khalifa Haftar’s forces.

UN officials say Haftar’s Libyan National Army has blockaded major oil fields and ports, shutting off most of the country’s oil production.

The deployment by the Government of National Accord came as representatives from Libya’s rival factions gathered in Geneva for talks.

The talks were aimed at securing a ceasefire following 10 months of fighting on the outskirts of the capital Tripoli.

The conflict started in April after Haftar’s forces launched an offensive to take control of Tripoli.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced by the violence.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/03/617819/Libya-government-national-accord-sirte-

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UN-brokered Libya military talks begin in Geneva

February 03, 2020

GENEVA: Representatives of the warring parties in Libya were meeting in Geneva on Monday in a UN-sponsored joint military commission, the United Nations said.

Five senior officers appointed by the weak UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and five appointed by the Libyan National Army (LNA) of eastern commander Khalifa Haftar are taking part in the talks, it said in a statement.

The talks are being moderated by the UN’s Libya envoy Ghassan Salame, who last week lashed out at what he branded “unscrupulous” foreign players for meddling in the conflict in the North African country.

At a summit in the German capital last month, world leaders committed to ending all foreign interference and to upholding a weapons embargo to help end the long-running civil war.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1622376/middle-east

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North America

 

US: Khashoggi fiancee to attend State of the Union

Beyza Binnur Dönmez  

04.02.2020

Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly said Monday that murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, will be his guest for State of the Union address.

"Hatice's courage to sit in the House Chamber Tuesday night should serve as a clarion call to the President that no matter how high it goes, Saudi Arabia must be held accountable for the murder of this loving father and fiancee, respected journalist, U.S. resident, my constituent, and reformer," Connolly said in a statement.

Connolly, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called on the Donald Trump administration to take necessary action against the murder.

"Congress has acted. Now too must the President," he added.

Khashoggi was killed on Oct. 2, 2018, inside the Saudi embassy in Turkey.

Connolly introduced the Protection of Saudi Dissidents Act, legislation to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the murder of Khashoggi, which prohibits arms sales to the subjected country -- regardless of the amount -- for 120 days, and every 120 days thereafter until Saudi Arabia meets certain human rights conditions.

It would also require a report on whether Saudi authorities engaged in intimidation or harassment of Khashoggi or any individual in the U.S. and intelligence community to report on whether it fulfilled its duty to warn Khashoggi of an impending threat against him.

Trump will address the State of the Union on Tuesday, as the Senate is set to vote to acquit or remove Trump in his impeachment trial on Wednesday.

Trump is facing two separate articles of impeachment passed by the House of Representatives in December tied to his repeated attempts to get Ukraine to declare criminal investigations into Biden and his subsequent decision to refuse to cooperate in the congressional probe into the matter.

The first article, abuse of power, is centered on Trump's decision to hold up millions of dollars in security assistance to Ukraine as well as a coveted Oval Office meeting sought by President Volodymyr Zelensky while he was pushing to have the probes declared.

The second article, obstruction of Congress, is tied to his refusal to cooperate with the congressional investigation and his directive that top officials and government agencies do the same.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-khashoggi-fiancee-to-attend-state-of-the-union/1723376

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Kushner to brief UNSC on Trump plan before Abbas visit

James Reinl  

03.02.2020

UNITED NATIONS

U.S. President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, will brief the UN Security Council on his plan for Middle East peace this week, only days before the Palestinian president arrives in New York to address the same chamber. 

Kushner will address diplomats behind-closed-doors for one hour on Thursday on the plan, which was unveiled by Trump at the White House last week, said Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve, the UN ambassador for Belgium, which holds the council’s rotating presidency this month.

“I understand that indeed he would be ready to answer questions on the plan. I think that indeed an opportunity maybe to clarify some aspects” of the proposal, the Belgian ambassador told reporters at UN headquarters on Monday.

“My hope will be that the council can be united as much as possible on this issue. But I think we all know, you know what different positions there are.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is set to address the council on Feb. 11 -- a meeting that was announced after Trump released a peace plan that Palestinians say is biased in Israel’s favor and all-but dashes their hopes of ever running a country.

According to de Buytswerve, Palestinian officials are “working on” a draft resolution to put before the council in what is expected to be a rebuff to the Trump administration’s peace-making initiative.

The envoy said he had “no information” on what the text looks like.

Last week, Trump released his long-awaited plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian dispute during a White House press conference alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but with no Palestinian envoy in the room.

The plan refers to Jerusalem as “Israel’s undivided capital” and recognizes Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank. Palestinians were offered a route to running a series of territories connected by roads and a tunnel.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/kushner-to-brief-unsc-on-trump-plan-before-abbas-visit/1723305

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U.S. targets leader of al-Qaeda in Yemen

By Shane Harris, Anne Gearan and Ellen Nakashima

Feb. 2, 2020

The United States conducted an airstrike against the leader of al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, which is likely to have resulted in his death, according to people familiar with the matter.

The leader, Qassim al-Rimi, has been described as a possible heir to al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, according to terrorism experts. His death would deal a significant blow to the terrorist organization, eliminating one of its most prominent members.

Over the years, U.S. officials have said the Yemen branch was especially dangerous because of its ability to produce sophisticated bombs and its ambition to launch attacks against targets in the United States and Europe.

In the past, U.S. officials have announced successful strikes on top al-Qaeda members only to learn later that they survived. While officials expressed confidence privately that Rimi was dead, they were reluctant to say so publicly.

But President Trump on Saturday appeared to confirm the United States had killed Rimi, retweeting an intelligence expert and a reporter who pointed to a targeted U.S. strike.

Officials familiar with the strike indicated it was carried out by the CIA and not the military. A spokesperson for the CIA declined to comment.

The White House declined to confirm the operation or comment further.

The strike took place last weekend, according to a U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak for the record.

The U.S. government had been tracking Rimi for years and was particularly intent on targeting him since he took over leadership of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP as the Yemen branch is known, the official said. “He was extraordinarily adept at protecting himself, but ... clearly opened himself up for a strike,” the official said.

This was the biggest counterterrorism accomplishment” in terms of weakening al-Qaeda “in quite a few years,” the official said.

Though Rimi had been focused more internally on Yemen lately, AQAP’s franchise was external operations and targeting the United States, the official noted. AQAP had developed an expertise in aviation plots, creating explosives that could be smuggled onto cargo planes in printer cartridges, for instance.

The operation against Rimi follows several strikes on high-profile terrorists and militants, as well as the targeted killing of a senior Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani.

There, too, Trump confirmed the operation obliquely, tweeting an image of the American flag after the United States conducted a drone strike against Soleimani in Iraq.

Trump’s Saturday morning retweets about Rimi, which he sent before playing a round of golf at his resort in Florida, included an analysis from Rita Katz, head of the independent SITE Intelligence Group. She wrote that the terrorist leader had almost certainly been “killed in a U.S. drone strike” on Jan. 24.

The Yemen branch, “although reduced in vitality in recent years, remains dangerous” and is becoming a rival to Houthi and Islamic State militants in the country, Katz had tweeted Friday.

Among Katz’s tweets that Trump retweeted was a link to a New York Times article, which was the first to point to a U.S. hand in the killing. Trump also retweeted an article from Yahoo News on the subject.

AQAP has suffered significant losses as American airstrikes have targeted bombmakers and other key members, officials and experts have said.

Local news reports in Yemen said that a senior al-Qaeda leader had been killed in a U.S. drone strike in January in the Wadi Ubaidah district, in central Yemen, but they didn’t identify him.

As of Saturday, al-Qaeda had not publicly confirmed Rimi’s death.

The Trump administration has stepped up efforts to kill prominent terrorists and militants, and Trump has often been the one to confirm successful strikes.

In September, Trump publicly confirmed that a U.S. operation had killed Hamza bin Laden, the son of al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden. Experts have debated Hamza’s importance in the terrorist organization, but his death was a sign that Trump intended to aggressively pursue prominent figures.

The following month, Trump confirmed that the United States had killed a notorious AQAP bombmaker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, two years earlier. Al-Asiri’s death had been reported on in 2018. The president didn’t explain the delay in his remarks.

“The United States will continue to hunt down terrorists like al-Asiri until they no longer pose a threat to our great nation,” Trump said in a statement at the time.

Later that month, Trump revealed the most high-profile terrorist strike of his tenure, announcing in an address from the White House that the United States had killed Islamic State commander Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in what Trump called a “dangerous and daring” nighttime operation in Syria, involving U.S. helicopters and Special Operations troops.

Trump boasted of the U.S. operation and said Baghdadi had “died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering, screaming and crying all the way.”

Trump demurred when reporters asked how he knew what Baghdadi was doing and saying inside a tunnel moments before he blew himself up.

Trump had teased the Baghdadi operation in a tweet the night before his announcement: “Something very big has just happened!” At the time, the president had complained that he wasn’t getting sufficient credit for his domestic and foreign policy achievements, according to current and former administration officials.

The strike targeting the Yemen al-Qaeda chief is the second high-profile operation there in recent weeks.

Full report at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/us-targets-leader-of-al-qaeda-in-yemen/2020/02/01/b4284f6a-450b-11ea-abff-5ab1ba98b405_story.html

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Al-Qaida in Yemen claims deadly Florida naval base shooting

By Samy Magdy

Feb. 3, 2020

CAIRO — Al-Qaida’s branch in Yemen claimed responsibility Sunday for last year’s deadly shooting at the Naval Air Station Pensacola by an aviation student from Saudi Arabia.

The shooter, 2nd Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, was a member of the Saudi Air Force in training at the base. He opened fire inside a classroom at the base on Dec. 6, killing three people and wounding two sheriff’s deputies before one of the deputies killed him. Eight others were also hurt.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, released a video claiming the attack. SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks messaging by militant groups, reported the claim.

AQAP has long been considered the global network’s most dangerous branch and has attempted to carry out attacks on the U.S. mainland.

The 18-minute video did not provide evidence of training the shooter, but did indicate that Alshamrani and AQAP were in communication, said Rita Katz, director of SITE. It was not clear when the video was recorded.

The video claimed that Alshamrani had been planning for years to attack a U.S. base, and had been training and “selecting” targets.

The video, which was viewed by The Associated Press, provided a will written by Alshamrani to his family in September 2019, three months prior to attack. He said he wanted to attack the U.S., citing religious reasons. However, he made no mention of al-Qaida.

Foreign nationals participating in U.S. training go through a vetting process. The Pentagon says it includes screening for any illicit drug activities, support for terrorist organizations, corruption and criminal conduct.

The video included audio from top AQAP leader Qassim al-Rimi claiming “full responsibility” for the attack by Alshamrani, calling him “the hero, the courageous knight.”

A suspected U.S. drone strike destroyed a building housing al-Qaida militants last week in eastern Yemen. President Donald Trump retweeted several tweets and media reports that seemed to offer confirmation the strike killed al-Rimi.

Katz also said that AQAP did not state “May Allah Protect Him” in regard to al-Rimi, as its releases usually do. “(This) adds yet more suggestion to him indeed being killed,” she tweeted.

Full report at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/al-qaida-in-yemen-claims-deadly-florida-naval-base-shooting/2020/02/02/5e0516e0-45fb-11ea-91ab-ce439aa5c7c1_story.html

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Two Lansing men have now pleaded guilty to conspiring to supporting Islamic State

Feb. 2, 2020

GRAND RAPIDS – A second Lansing man accused of planning to join the Islamic State group has pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge.

Mohamud Abdikadir Muse pleaded guilty on Thursday to conspiring to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization, specifically to the Islamic State. He originally pleaded not guilty last year.

As part of a plea agreement, Muse acknowledged he had recorded a video pledging loyalty to the Islamic State and that he had planned to travel to Somalia at some point last year to join the terrorist organization.

Muse, 25, faces up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and a lifetime of supervision once released. He also may lose his citizenship.

As part of the plea agreement, the government will dismiss one charge of attempting to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization. Prosecutors also have agreed not to charge Muse's wife.

Muse's younger brother, Muse Abdikadir Muse, also has pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge and faces the same potential sentence and fine.

The two men have agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and other investigators as they continue to proceed with charges against a third Lansing man.

Brothers arrested a year ago

Members of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested Mohamud Muse a little more than a year ago at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids.

Mohamud Muse had driven Muse Muse and another relative — Mohamed Salat Haji, a cousin and also a brother-in-law — to the airport.

Muse Muse was arrested after he checked in for a flight that officials called "a series of destinations" on his way to Mogadishu, Somalia, where he intended to join and fight with an Islamic State group.

Law enforcement officers arrested Mohamud Muse and Haji near the airport's Transportation Security Administration checkpoint.

All three men were born in Kenya — Muse Muse in a Somali refugee camp, an FBI agent testified last year — and have lived in Lansing since at least late 2016. 

The arrests came after a lengthy FBI investigation using Facebook and undercover agents during which all three defendants pledged allegiance to ISIS in self-recorded videos, FBI Special Agent Paul Dunham said while questioned by Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris O'Connor during a January 2019 hearing.

Muse Muse is set to be sentenced at 2 p.m. May 20. Mohamud Muse's sentencing hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. June 30. Both will take place at the federal courthouse in Grand Rapids.

Full report at:

https://www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/news/local/2020/02/03/support-islamic-state-terrorism-muse-mohamud-haji-lansing-fbi-investigation/4596804002/

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Europe

 

France Takes Back 17 ISIS Children

3 February, 2020

The French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, announced on Sunday that a total of 17 children of French militants have been repatriated to France, adding that he would continue this movement of return of "innocent" children, whose parents are members of ISIS, from Iraq or Syria.

"We have repatriated 17 children", he said, after saying that France could repatriate others if it has "the opportunity to do it".

"The will of France is to ensure that these children, who are innocent, can be repatriated, subject to the agreement of their mother", he explained. Regarding their age, "for now, we are limited to less than 6 years".

The French government defends a logic of repatriation of children who are in prison camps in Syria or Iraq to "case by case", in a context of hostility or fear of public opinion facing the idea of a return of militants or their relatives.

France also hasn't set up a clear strategy for the return of adults, faced with the difficulties raised by their management in the areas where they are detained, in Iraq or in the Syrian areas under Kurdish control.

https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/2112686/france-takes-back-17-isis-children

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ISIS claims London stabbing attack, but gives no evidence

3 February 2020

ISIS has claimed responsibility for a stabbing attack in south London, without giving evidence, the group’s Amaq news agency said on Monday.

“The perpetrator of the attack in Streatham district in south London yesterday is a fighter of [ISIS], and carried out the attack in response to calls to attack the citizens of coalition countries,” a statement carried by Amaq said.

The assailant in Sunday’s attack, who was shot dead by police, had previously praised ISIS, shared an online al-Qaeda magazine and encouraged his girlfriend to behead her parents.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/02/03/ISIS-claims-London-stabbing-attack-but-gives-no-evidence.html

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Questions must be raised about the latest terror attack

February 4, 2020

Monday, 03 February 2020As the dust settles on yesterday’s terror attack, difficult questions need to be asked about the terrorist and the specific circumstances which led to the incident on Streatham High Road, south London.

The terrorist, Sudesh Amman, was released from prison perhaps as early as a week ago, just before the UK’s exit from the European Union.

The Ministry of Justice refuses to reveal the exact date of his release, only confirming he was released “in the past six weeks”. But multiple media reports have placed the terrorist’s release date either in the past week, or maximum two weeks ago.

Who is Sudesh Amman?

Amman, who is believed to be at least partly of Sri Lankan origin, was convicted of terrorism-related offences in December 2018 and given a three years and four months custodial sentence.

Amman had pleaded guilty to possession of terrorist documents and disseminating terrorist publications.

Similar to the London Bridge terrorist who killed two people last November, Amman was released from prison after serving only half his sentence.

This is despite the fact that following the London Bridge terrorist incident, the government pledged to reform the system so as to prevent the early release of convicted terrorists.

Therefore, it is critical to examine the precise factors and circumstances that informed the decision to release Amman from prison, especially at such a critical period in British politics.

Operational setting

Furthermore, a set of operational factors must be subjected to forensic scrutiny, notably the fact that Amman is reported to have been under round-the-clock surveillance by counter-terrorism police, but was still able to execute his attack.  

Amman was being followed by armed undercover officers when he began his attack at around 14:00 on Streatham High Road.

And yet the undercover armed officers only shot him after he stabbed two people, one of whom suffered life-threatening injuries.

When the armed undercover officers did finally open fire on the terrorist, they also managed to injure an innocent passer-by who sustained minor wounds from flying glass caused by gun shots.

MI5 connection

At a deeper operational level, probing questions need to be asked of the British Security Service (MI5) management of the threat. To what extent was MI5 aware of Amman’s post-release intentions and under what conditions (if any) were they prepared to allow a limited terror attack on the streets of south London?

Questions must also be asked of Amman’s deeper intentions and his true affiliations. True to form, the terrorist group Daesh has claimed Amman as one of its “fighters”, but emerging reports do not point to Amman having had foreign terrorist connections.

Indeed, multiple reports – some citing his mother, Sri Lankan-born Haleema Faraz Khan – have claimed Amman was “radicalized” in prison.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/03/617799/UK-London-Terror-Attack-Sudesh-Amman

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Denmark arrests 3 anti-Iran terrorists on charges of spying for Saudi Arabia

03 February 2020

Denmark's intelligence service says it has arrested and charged three members of the Saudi-backed anti-Iran al-Ahvaziya terrorist group for spying on behalf of the kingdom in the Scandinavian country.

Finn Borch Andersen, head of the Danish Security and Intelligence Service, also known as PET, told a press conference in Copenhagen on Monday that the three individuals "carried out espionage activities on behalf of a Saudi intelligence service from 2012 to 2018."

Borch Andersen said PET launched an investigation in November 2018 into the trio who live in Denmark to determine whether they "had publicly condoned acts of terrorism or committed other criminal offenses."

During the investigation "it was uncovered that they have been involved in espionage activities in Denmark on behalf of Saudi Arabia," he said.

"Among other things, they have collected information about individuals in Denmark and abroad and passed on this information to a Saudi intelligence service," Borch Andersen added.

Al-Ahvaziya group is comprised of communists, nationalists, socialists and Salafi members who, despite ideological and nominal differences, are united around one goal and one strategy, which is toppling the Iranian government and separating Khuzestan from the rest of Iran through armed conflict.

The group was born in 1980; soon after the Islamic Revolution in Iran. It was inspired by the ruling Ba’ath regime in neighboring Iraq at the time. It had already carried out a series of attacks in the southwestern province even before Saddam unleashed war against Iran.

The group has committed numerous crimes against Iranian targets over the past decades. Among them bomb attacks in public places, abductions, assassinations, kidnapping for ransom, shooting at tourists and blowing up oil pipelines.

Thousands of people have been killed or injured as a result of their actions. The group calls itself a movement but it lacks any popular backing inside Iran.

In September 2018, four members of the Saudi-backed terrorist group opened fire on soldiers and civilians during a military parade in Iran’s southern city of Ahvaz, claiming the lives of 25 people, including a four-year-old child.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/03/617794/Denmark-Intelligence-Service-PET-al-Ahvaziya-terrorist-group

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France charges Sarkozy aide in Libya funding probe

February 03, 2020

PARIS A former aide to Nicolas Sarkozy has been charged as part of an inquiry into allegations that Libyan funds helped finance the French ex-president’s 2007 election campaign, a judicial source said on Monday.

Thierry Gaubert, 68, was charged on Friday with taking hundreds of thousands of euros from the government of Moamer Khadafi that may have been funnelled to Sarkozy’s campaign, the source said.

Allegations that the campaign received up to €50 million ($53.3 million at current rates) from Libya first emerged during Sarkozy’s failed 2012 re-election bid.

Sarkozy helped to remove Qaddafi from power when France and Britain led a NATO-backed military offensive in 2011.

Gaubert worked for Sarkozy when the future president was budget minister in the mid-1990s.

He is suspected of accepting a transfer of €440,000 in February 2006 from Rossfield, a company of Franco-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine — another figure who has been charged in the affair.

The investigative news site Mediapart reported in December that Rossfield took €6 million from Libya in 2006.

Gaubert, as well as his ex-wife, are also on trial for tax fraud and money laundering over Rossfield funds allegedly routed through the Bahamas in 2006.

Gaubert has said the money had no links to Libya.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1622541/world

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Police arrest 26 for smuggling Algerians into Spain

February 03, 2020

MADRID: Spanish police on Monday said they had arrested 26 suspected smugglers who brought more than 900 migrants to Spain last year, mostly from Algeria, charging 2,500 euros ($2,800) per person.

The network, which was based in Algeria and the southeastern Spanish provinces of Alicante and Almeria, used powerful speedboats which set out from the northern port of Oran and crossed the western Mediterranean in three hours, a police statement said.

It also ran a route between Tangiers in northern Morocca and the southern Spanish port of Algeciras.

“Each immigrant had to pay the organization between 2,000 and 2,500 euros for the crossing” and another 500 euros to be transported by car to cities in southern and eastern Spain “where they stayed with family and friends,” it said.

If they failed to stump up the full payment, they were dumped along the way or held hostage until their families covered the amount owed in a business which earned the network “more than 1.5 million euros” last year, the police said.

The detainees, whose nationality was not given, were mainly rounded up during six raids in Almeria and Alicante during which police also confiscated 17 vehicles.

Spain is one of the main gateways to Europe for migrants coming from Africa, with some 26,168 people arriving by sea in 2019, interior ministry figures show.

But overall, the numbers coming by sea have fallen significantly, down 54.5 percent on 57,498 who made the journey a year earlier.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1622461/middle-east

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Germany urges international efforts to solve Idlib crisis

Ayhan Şimşek  

03.02.2020

BERLIN

Germany on Monday warned against a grave humanitarian catastrophe in northwestern Syria amid recent attacks by the regime and its allies.

Addressing a conference in Berlin organized by the German armed forces, Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer expressed deep concern over recent clashes and regime attacks targeting civilians in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib.

“How we can prevent a humanitarian catastrophe there, how can we avoid the expulsion of people trapped in this region…these questions have not been satisfactorily answered yet,” she said.

“I believe that this requires an international approach. Therefore it’s good that we, as the E3 countries [Germany, France and the U.K.], will continue our discussions with [Turkish] President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said.

Erdogan met with leaders of Europe’s three major powers, Germany, France and the U.K. in December, ahead of a NATO summit in London, and “E3 + Turkey” format summits are expected to continue in the coming months.

Kramp-Karrenbauer’s remarks came after a military escalation in northwestern Syria after Assad regime troops attacked on Monday Turkish soldiers deployed in Idlib to monitor a cease-fire.

At least six military personnel were martyred and seven others injured in intense shelling by Bashar al-Assad regime forces in the region.

Kramp-Karrenbauer, also the leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, had proposed last year an "internationally controlled security zone" in northern Syria, but could not win the support of her coalition partner Social Democrats.

The recent military offensive of the Syrian regime has led to fears of a humanitarian crisis and another refugee influx towards Europe.

Located in northwestern Syria, Idlib province is the stronghold of the opposition and anti-regime armed groups since the outbreak of the civil war in 2011.

It is currently home to some 4 million civilians, including hundreds of thousands displaced in recent years by regime forces across the war-weary country.

Turkey and Russia agreed in September 2018 to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

The Assad regime and its allies, however, have consistently broken the terms of the cease-fire, launching frequent attacks inside the zone, killing at least 1,300 civilians since the agreement.

Almost 1.5 million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border due to intense attacks in recent months.

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/germany-urges-international-efforts-to-solve-idlib-crisis/1723062

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