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Islamic World News ( 21 Jan 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Mohammed bin Salman Prioritising More Secular National Interests at the Cost of It’s Leadership as Defender of Muslim World


New Age Islam News Bureau

22 January 2021

 

Portraits of Mohammed bin Salman and King Salman at a construction site in the King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh. | Photographer: Tasneem Alsultan | Bloomberg

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• Imran Received Funds From India, Israel For 2018 Polls: Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl Chief

• Bangladesh Clamps Down On Provocative Islamic Sermons To Stop Radical Clerics From Delivering Inflammatory And Indecent Speeches

• Cleric Of Furfura Sharif, West Bengal Floats Political Outfit Indian Secular Front, Says 'Want To Be Kingmaker'

• Souhaib Embarek, Bristol Islamic Extremist Shared 'Terror Tutorials'

• Muslim Groups Wary Of Indonesia's New Terror Prevention Plan Which Includes Community Policing

• Israeli Regime Signals Snubbing US If It Rejoins Iran Deal: TV Report

• Al-Shabab Claims Responsibility for Deadly Somalia Explosion

• UN Adopts Resolution To Combat Sectarian Hate And Protect Holy Sites

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Arab World

• Mohammed bin Salman Prioritising More Secular National Interests at the Cost of It’s Leadership as Defender of Muslim World

• At least 32 killed, 110 injured in two suicide bombings in Iraq's Baghdad

• Explosions heard in Syria, air defences confront ‘Israeli aggression’ in Hama: Report

• Saudi Arabia optimistic about ties with US under President Joe Biden: Saudi FM

• ISIS claims attack inside Iraq’s capital of Baghdad, US says terrorist threat remains

• Coronavirus: World Banks approves $34 mln to support Lebanon’s COVID-19 vaccinations

• Bin Salman to pay price for Baghdad explosions: Iraqi resistance group

• Iraq pledges ‘earth-shattering response’ after Baghdad blasts

• Two roadside bomb attacks target US convoys in southern Iraq

• Damascus: Terror organizations get US cover for attacks in Syria

• Egypt resumes trade at Sinai port as Islamic State threat regresses

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Pakistan

• Imran Received Funds From India, Israel For 2018 Polls: Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl Chief

• Religious Scholars To Transform Pakistan Into A Genuine Islamic Welfare State: PM

• JUI-F’s anti-Israel rally warns govt against recognising Zionist state

• Academics Demand Removal Of 'Racist' Image In Pakistan Textbook

• Pakistan Risks FATF Blacklisting As It Continues To Abate Terrorism: Report

• Four soldiers martyred, five injured in Sibi landmine blast

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South Asia

• Bangladesh Clamps Down On Provocative Islamic Sermons To Stop Radical Clerics From Delivering Inflammatory And Indecent Speeches

• Bangladesh's first trans school ignites hope for acceptance

• Curbs vex relocated Rohingya on Bangladeshi island

• Ghani Renames Herat Aiport After ‘Afghan Sufi Saint’

• Taliban Suffer Casualties in Faryab, Uruzgan Provinces

• Peace talks at 'snail's pace' due to Taliban, says Afghan govt

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India

• Cleric Of Furfura Sharif, West Bengal Floats Political Outfit Indian Secular Front, Says 'Want To Be Kingmaker'

• Election Of Kamala Harris Historic, Will Cement Ties Between India-US: White House

• India calls out Pakistan over Hindu temple vandalism, says Islamabad can't hide behind UN resolution

• Soldier killed as Pak violates ceasefire in Poonch

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Europe

• Souhaib Embarek, Bristol Islamic Extremist Shared 'Terror Tutorials'

• UK Mosque Becomes COVID-19 Vaccination Centre

• French troops kill over 20 extremists in Burkina Faso

• France pressed to investigate its massacre in Mali

• UK pledges $55 million in aid to Sudan

• French foreign minister calls for Iran to return to nuclear deal

• Al-Qaida terrorist captured in Turkey, jailed in Italy

• Chechnya Kills Militant Tied to ISIS

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Southeast Asia

• Muslim Groups Wary Of Indonesia's New Terror Prevention Plan Which Includes Community Policing

• Suhakam Wants Govt To Address Religious Status Problem In Sarawak

• Cancelling Thaipusam holiday puts Muslims in bad light, says PKR Youth

• Be Optimistic, Get Closer To Allah, Minister Zulkifli Reminds Covid-19 Patients

• Indonesia appoints Christian as new national police chief

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Mideast

• Israeli Regime Signals Snubbing US If It Rejoins Iran Deal: TV Report

• Speaker's Aide: Practical Measures by New Residents of White House Only Criterion for Iran

• Iranian President: Trump Departed White House in Disgrace

• Iranian FM: Multilateralism Endangered by US Illegal Sanctions

• Iran Condemns Suicide Attacks in Baghdad

• Iran Asks US to Remove "Inhumane" Sanctions against Syria

• General Soleimani’s Daughter: Trump Leaves Office Isolated, Defeated

• Hamas hails Trump departure, calls on Biden to reverse unjust US policies towards Palestinians

• How Yemen’s Houthis’ well-deserved terrorist label gives Biden important leverage

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Africa

• Al-Shabab Claims Responsibility for Deadly Somalia Explosion

• Malian police disperse protest against French military presence

• Libya: UN chief urges foreign fighters to leave by Saturday

• UN sets dates for Libyan transitional government selection

• Human rights NGO urges Nigeria to release Sheikh Zakzaky, wife after COVID-19 diagnosis

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North America

• UN Adopts Resolution To Combat Sectarian Hate And Protect Holy Sites

• Still Separated: Covid-19 Order Keeps Families Apart After Joe Biden Lifts 'Muslim Ban'

• US military transfers hundreds of troops from Iraq to Syria’s Hasakah: Report

• Connecticut man charged in attack on police officer who was trapped in doors at Capitol riot

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL:  https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/mohammed-bin-salman-prioritising-more/d/124125

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Mohammed bin Salman Prioritising More Secular National Interests at the Cost of It’s Leadership as Defender of Muslim World

Jan 22, 2021

 

Portraits of Mohammed bin Salman and King Salman at a construction site in the King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh. | Photographer: Tasneem Alsultan | Bloomberg

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RIYADH: When Chinese diplomat Tan Banglin defended his country’s treatment of Muslims amid an international outcry, his comments were less remarkable than where he made them.

In a column last July for one of the most widely read newspapers in Saudi Arabia—the traditional protector of Muslims worldwide—Tan talked about how the Communist Party had united with people in Xinjiang province, leading to “great” changes. That’s as nations including the US were accusing China of putting Uighurs into detention camps.

The voice given to China’s consul general in Jeddah, less than 70 kilometres from Islam’s holiest city of Mecca, reflects the new political reckoning under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as he prioritizes more secular national interests at a critical juncture for the kingdom. And it’s one that may serve him well as the administration changes in Washington, despite US opposition to Beijing’s actions in Xinjiang.

The Saudi world view is being shaped more by hard-nosed business calculations, shifting geopolitical realities and the emergence of clean energy as a competitor to oil while facing a challenge from Turkey for leadership of the Sunni Muslim sphere.

The kingdom has been less vocal on the Palestinian issue, which for decades was its cause célèbre. Saudi support for the Muslim population has been conspicuous by its absence in Kashmir, with the Pakistan government turning to Turkey while Prince Mohammed increases trade with India.

“Saudi Arabia suffered from transnational political Islamism where some of its citizens were among the first to travel to help fellow Muslims, but not much identify with their own national causes,” said Prince Abdullah bin Khaled, a Saudi academic. “A change of course was required and very much welcomed.”

US President Joe Biden has vowed to treat Saudi Arabia as a pariah after four years of cozy relations with his predecessor, Donald Trump. Conversations on issues on human rights, its devastating war on Yemen and rivalry with Iran are likely to be uncomfortable when they eventually happen.

There could also be more tension over the 2018 killing of critic and columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul after Biden’s nominee for national intelligence director this week pledged to release a report on who was responsible for the murder.

But retrenching from intervening abroad under the guise of supporting fellow Muslims—like Turkey is doing—may score some points with the Biden administration, according to Emily Hawthorne, a Texas-based analyst with Stratfor, which advises clients on geopolitical risks.

“Saudis might see that becoming more of an economically focused modernized nation as more important than continuing to always nurture that leadership role in the broader Muslim world,” said Hawthorne. “It’s a gamble, but it might turn out well for them in terms of earning Saudi Arabia some clout.”

Until a few years ago, it would have been rare to see warm praise for a communist party in print in Saudi Arabia, not to mention one from the representative of a country that’s been censured for its alleged persecution of Muslims. In the 1980s Saudis sent money, and later their sons, to Afghanistan to join the fight against Soviet occupation of that country.

Saudi relations with China have strengthened beyond supplying oil. King Salman, who took the throne in 2015, and the crown prince have paid separate visits to Beijing. On his trip in 2019, the prince appeared to defend China’s alleged repression of Muslims and signed a deal to build a $10 billion refining and petrochemicals complex.

This month, China’s Huawei launched its largest flagship store outside China in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Investment Minister Khalid AlFalih tweeted the news, saying he was “delighted” with the announcement.

It’s been a journey that started slowly after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks by 19 hijackers, 15 of them Saudi, and accelerated under Prince Mohammed.

Under pressure to curb extremists, Saudi Arabia waged a successful campaign against radicals in the 2000s. Significantly, the late King Abdullah made Saudi National Day on September 23 a holiday, angering radicals who believe Muslims should not be divided by borders.

As he rose to power four years ago, Prince Mohammed curbed the influence of the powerful religious establishment, gave women more freedoms and allowed concerts and movie theaters. He also tightened control of how financial aid is distributed abroad, making it largely to governments rather than directly to Muslim groups. Alcohol, which the Koran forbids, remains banned.

The change was not an abandonment of Muslim issues but rather “balancing support for them with the imperatives, sensitivities and priorities of the state, knowing that different contexts dictate different realities,” said Prince Abdullah, the academic.

Indeed, Saudi Arabia used to be the first country to be blamed for fueling Islamist terrorism. Yet following a series of gruesome attacks by jihadists in France last year, it was Turkey that French President Emmanuel Macron singled out as an instigator.

Saudi Arabia will always have the physical claim to Islam. Prince Mohammed, through his actions and decisions, has made it clear that the kingdom’s duty is to care for the two holy mosques in Mecca and Madinah and make them accessible to Muslims worldwide. One of the goals of his plan to restructure the economy is expanding the two sites and increasing the number of pilgrims.

At the same time, the leadership has signaled it’s not the kingdom’s duty to fix the problems of Muslims worldwide.

When India revoked Article 370 granting special status to Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan, which also claims the region, had hoped that Saudi Arabia would galvanize Muslims around this issue. The kingdom, the biggest source of remittances into Pakistan and among its largest creditors, didn’t.

Instead, trade with India, which the kingdom sees as an important economic powerhouse, has thrived since then as Saudi Arabia seeks to deepen its foothold in that country. In the third quarter of 2020, India, along with Egypt, drove an increase in foreign investment in the kingdom, a key pillar of the crown prince’s economic diversification plan.

In the meantime, Turkey has been boosting ties with Islamabad. Its foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, opened a new consulate in Pakistan this month, promised to send investors to explore opportunities and presided over the signing of agreements in the movie industry.

Turkish-Pakistani relations are “unique and enviable” Mujahid Anwar Khan, Pakistan’s chief of air staff, told Turkey’s state-run Andalou Agency this month. He thanked the Turkish leadership for its “supportive statements” on Kashmir.

The Saudis may be losing the soft-power game to Turkey at the moment, said Hawthorne. “But they’re probably valuing other games.” “Turkey has economic limits as to how much it is willing to sacrifice its own economic interests in pursuit of gaining the soft power. This is never a zero sum game.”

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/saudi-arabia-redefines-role-as-worlds-defender-of-muslims/articleshow/80398523.cms

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Imran Received Funds From India, Israel For 2018 Polls: Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl Chief

January 22, 2021


Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman hollered at the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led federal government on Thursday, addressing a massive crowd at the Quaid's Mazar. "We do not believe in either Imran Khan or Israel," he bellowed, accusing the premier of having received funding from Israel and India for the 2018 general elections.

Major thoroughfares of the metropolis were choked on the day as JUI-F workers, led by their respective district chiefs, marched to the Quaid's Mazar and awaited Fazl's arrival. Citizens were inconvenienced throughout the day as traffic was diverted to alternative routes and long queues formed on the roads taken over by JUI-F workers.

Addressing the rally, Fazl said that it was out of question to recognise a country, which stands starkly against Pakistan. "The Pakistan Democratic Movement stands with the people of Palestine and will never recognise Israel," declared Fazl, who is also heading the opposition's alliance currently. He also announced that the PDM would be organising a march on February 5 in solidarity with the people of Kashmir.

The JUI-F chief stated that the resolution of 1940 and the statement of the Quaid, which form the basis for rejecting Israel, are not to be forgotten.

Fazl was seconded by former prime minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz stalwart Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who stated that the PDM would not allow the incumbent federal government fool citizens to meet their nefarious goals. The opposition will stand against the capture of Palestinian territory by Israel, he said, adding that the PDM will continue to protest until the people of Kashmir, Jerusalem and the Palestine are liberated. "The PDM will not recognise Israel for any vested interest of the incumbent government."

Addressing the rally, Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party chief Mahmood Khan Achakzai also called for the liberation of Jerusalem and Palestine and reiterated that they would not recognise Israel at any cost.

Other JUI-F leaders including Senator Abdul Ghafoor Haideri and Anas Noorani also addressed the rally as did Pakistan Peoples Party leader and provincial minister Saeed Ghani.

The protest march also witnessed addresses from the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the leader of Hamas Ismail Haniyeh.

Traffic blocked

Meanwhile, citizens were inconvenienced as the traffic flow, already disrupted due to the arrival of the South African cricket team, was upended entirely on the day. Main thoroughfares of the city were choked with vehicles lining up bumper-to-bumper as several routes were closed off for commuters for either security reasons or due to the protest march.

Although the traffic police had prepared an alternative traffic plan given the closures announced for the cricket team's arrival, several roads and intersections in Saddar were also blocked due to the JUI-F rally passing through New Preedy Street.

Verbal sparring and altercations broke out amongst commuters who channeled their frustration at other citizens as they waited in long queues. The city's main arteries like Sharae Faisal, University Road, Hassan Square, Jail Chowrangi, Bahadurabad, Dhoraji, Shaheede Millat Road, Rashid Minhas Road, Saddar, Guru Mandir, Regal Chowk, Burns Road and MA Jinnah Road fared the worst.

https://tribune.com.pk/story/2280912/imran-received-funds-from-india-israel-for-2018-polls-fazl

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Bangladesh Clamps Down On Provocative Islamic Sermons To Stop Radical Clerics From Delivering Inflammatory And Indecent Speeches

January 21, 2021

 

Crowds attend an Islamic gathering near Dhaka in this 2015 photo. A senior police official said on Jan. 19 that popular Islamic gatherings will be censored to curb provocative sermons. (Photo: UCA News)

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Minority leaders including a Catholic Church official have welcomed a decision by Bangladeshi police to censor popular Islamic gatherings in order to stop radical clerics from delivering inflammatory and indecent speeches.

A senior police official said on Jan. 19 that they will keep an eye on Waz Mahfils (Islamic gatherings) to identify clerics and take action over radical, provocative and hate speech in sermons.

"We have noticed that recently some speakers in waz mahfils are giving political and indecent speeches about mothers and sisters rather than discussing the five pillars of Islam," Monirul Islam, chief of the police's Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit, told a conference of Islamic leaders in capital Dhaka, the English-language Daily Star reported.

Islamic scholars can make people aware of militancy and drugs by making statements at different times. The role of scholars is to give the correct interpretation of Islam to the people and to make people aware as they listen to scholars attentively, the official said.

On the same day, Muslim Supreme Court lawyer Mahmudul Hasan issued a legal notice to secretaries of the ministries of religious affairs, home and education, and the director-general of the Islamic Foundation, seeking directives to bar Islamic clerics and speakers from delivering speeches containing anti-state or fictional rhetoric at waz mahfils and ensuring that the speeches are not made without textual references to the Quran and Hadith.

The lawyer said he will file a writ petition with the apex court if no measure is taken within 30 days.

For years, Islamic clerics have been accused of making defamatory remarks about various people and groups including women, secularists, liberals and minority communities during sermons.

In 2019, the Home Ministry issued a letter to state bodies with six recommendations aimed at monitoring and controlling clerics accused of delivering hateful sermons to Muslim devotees. It is unknown whether the letter had any visible impact on radical preaching.

Minority leaders welcomed the police statement and said that provocative speeches by Islamic clerics have offended groups such as women and minorities for too long.

“Many times I have heard Islamic preachers saying that women are only for enjoyment and work, and equal rights for them is impossible. During waz mahfils, many Islamic leaders declare that Islam is the only true religion and the rest are infidels,” Father Anthony Sen, convener of the Justice and Peace Commission in Dinajpur Catholic Diocese, told UCA News.

“Those who make such statements know little about Islam. And because of this kind of rhetoric, religiously motivated violence against women and minorities is on the rise. This must be stopped.”

Hindu leaders say that due to various forms violence against the community, including those fueled by hate speeches by radical preachers, the proportion of Hindus in Bangladesh has decreased from about 15 percent in 1971 to around 9 percent today.

Gobinda Chandra Pramanik, president of the Bangladesh National Hindu Grand Alliance, said many Islamic preachers continue to refer to the teachings of Islamic heretics that are against the true spirit of Islam.

“Islamic holy books have been exploited by radical preachers to defame other faiths and even women. While modern Muslims defy radical preaching, others hate liberalism. There is a conflict within Islam. As long as radical interpretations of holy books continue, change is not possible,” Pramanik told UCA News.

About 90 percent of Bangladesh’s more than 160 million population are Sunni Muslims. Hindus, the largest minority group, account for 9 percent and the rest belong to other faiths including Buddhism and Christianity.

Widely known as a moderate Muslim country, Bangladesh has seen a sharp rise in Islamic militancy since 2013, leading to the brutal murders of 50 people including atheist bloggers, liberals, religious minorities and foreigners.

https://www.ucanews.com/news/bangladesh-clamps-down-on-provocative-islamic-sermons/91083

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Cleric Of Furfura Sharif, West Bengal Floats Political Outfit Indian Secular Front, Says 'Want To Be Kingmaker'

January 22, 2021

Ahead of the West Bengal Assembly elections, Abbas Siddiqui, the cleric of Furfura Sharif in Hooghly district, announced his political outfit — Indian Secular Front (ISF) — on Thursday.

Furfura Sharif is the state's most prominent medieval shrine and holds influence over Muslims in south Bengal.

His brother Nausad Siddiqui will be the chairman of the party while Simul Soren was named its president, Indian Express reported.

"We have announced our party today. We will now sit for talks with other parties like AIMIM and then decide in how many seats we will field candidates. At present, we are considering all 294 seats," said the 34-year-old cleric.

Siddiqui's ISF includes at least 10 more tribal and Dalit groups from several districts of Bengal, and has tied up with Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi's AIMIM to contest at least 70 of the total 294 seats this year, according to The Print.

He also said that the number could go up if the alliances agree.

Some of the goals of the new party are: upliftment of backward masses — Muslims, tribals and Dalits. But its emergence is driven by disaffection with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

"We, the Muslims of West Bengal, misjudged Mamata Banerjee. We trusted her and supported her, but now we feel deceived. Our party will fight for the deceived, deprived and downtrodden people of Bengal," said Siddiqui.

The development comes after Owaisi visited Furfura, located in Jangipara subdivision of Hooghly district, earlier this month and declared his intention to back Siddiqui in the 2021 Assembly polls.

One of the descendants of the late Pir Abu Baqar Siddiqui of Furfura Sharif, Siddiqui said that he wants to be a king maker and will not contest polls. "I want to be the king maker. I will not contest polls. But will do everything possible for the party. We will work for the betterment of Muslims, Dalits and poor people. Our party is for all," he said.

According to political observers, his faction may emerge as a key factor in division of Bengali speaking Muslim votes which, so far, was with TMC in south Bengal and with Congress in parts of north Bengal.

"Years of Congress rule, then that of CPM and then Trinamool Congress in Bengal did nothing for the Muslims or the poor people," added Siddiqui.

Responding to the allegations that his outfit is a ploy to split the Muslim vote and help the BJP, Siddiqui made an oblique reference to the Trinamool Congres and said: "There was no BJP before the 2011. Who is to be blamed for the rise of the BJP?"

He accused the ruling party of not fulfilling the promises made to the minorities in the state.

"It was Trinamool Congress which allowed BJP to get into Bengal and win 18 Lok Sabha seats. I have a constitutional right to announce a political party," said Siddiqui.

Muslims constitute 27.01 percent of the population in West Bengal and they have since 2011 been voting overwhelmingly in favour of TMC. A split in Muslim votes is likely to split Mamata's so-called vote bank in the state.

https://www.firstpost.com/politics/west-bengal-assembly-polls-muslim-cleric-floats-political-outfit-indian-secular-front-says-want-to-be-kingmaker-9229091.html

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Souhaib Embarek, Bristol Islamic Extremist Shared 'Terror Tutorials'

January 21, 2021

An Islamic extremist has admitted sharing "terrorist tutorials" and having a stash of bomb and poison-making instructions.

Souhaib Embarek, 34, was arrested after firearms officers forced entry into his Bristol home on 9 December 2019.

He denied two charges of disseminating a terror document but changed his plea for one count as his trial opened.

Embarek had already admitted five charges of possessing information useful to a terrorist.

Judge Philip Katz QC, sitting at the Old Bailey, ordered for the other charge to lie on file.

Embarek, a Spanish national, rolled his eyes as he entered a guilty plea by video link from Wandsworth Prison.

Prosecutor Joel Smith said Embarek threw a mobile phone from his bedroom window as his Clifton home was stormed by armed police in December 2019.

Jihadi 'lessons'

He said: "After being arrested, he denied to police that he even had a mobile telephone.

"Notwithstanding his attempts to frustrate the police, a number of mobile phones and a computer that he was using were recovered."

Material relating to weapons, poison, violence and terrorism, in particular radical Islamic ideology, was found on the devices at his home in Tyndale Court, Mr Smith said.

Mr Smith said Embarek had shared documents over the encrypted chat channel Telegram.

The dissemination charge, which Embarek admitted on Wednesday related to three audio files in Arabic which amounted to "terrorist tutorials", Mr Smith said.

The jihadi "lessons" instructed on communication and surveillance security and having a cover story, the Old Bailey was told.

The other dissemination charge, which Embarek denied, related to another audio file containing a speech by an official spokesman of Islamic State.

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-bristol-55737737?utm_source=iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=1922912_

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Muslim Groups Wary Of Indonesia's New Terror Prevention Plan Which Includes Community Policing

21 Jan 2021

JAKARTA (The Jakarta Post/ ANN): Indonesia’s two biggest Muslim mass organisations have urged the government to provide details of a new policy that aims to tackle violent extremism and terrorism, which includes community policing, warning that it could become a new source of societal conflict in the country.

President Joko 'JokowI' Widodo signed on Jan 6 a presidential regulation on a five-year national action plan for the mitigation and prevention of violence-based extremism that could lead to terrorism.

The document outlines strategies for detecting and preventing violent extremism and allows government institutions to run the action plan with the general public, including a plan to train people under a community policing programme.

Muhammadiyah secretary-general Abdul Mu’ti said the government needed to be clear with its definition of extremism.

"[The government] needs to make sure that [the definition of extremism] is not linked to a certain religion, but [it is defined] in broad terms that could also include [aspects of] politics, culture and so on, ” Abdul said told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

He added that the document and community policing program could potentially encourage the rise of paramilitarism and social division if implemented without clear details.

In the regulation, violence-based extremism that could lead to terrorism was defined as “belief or action that utilizes acts of violence or threats of extreme violence with the aim to support or conduct acts of terrorism”.

Nadhlatul Ulama (NU) deputy secretary-general Masduki Baidlowi said the government must draw a line so as to avoid acts that could be interpreted as repressive as a result of implementing the action plan.

“The government can do anything to avoid [acts of] intolerance as long as it does not violate the principles of freedom, ” said Masduki. “This is a democratic country and [we] cannot easily pass judgment [and violate freedom of thought].”

Despite concerns over the policy, community policing is not a new concept in Indonesia and was allowed after the issuance of National Police Chief Regulation No. 3/2015, which serves as a legal basis for community policing.

Activists have said that the community policing program, which will enable people to watch and report individuals they believe are committing acts of violent extremism and terrorism in their neighborhoods, could potentially lead to wrongful arrests and social division.

Terrorism analyst Stanislaus Riyanta said that involving the public for the early detection and prevention of acts of terror was “the right concept”, but added that the government needed to make sure that initiatives such as community policing would not become a trigger for social conflict.

“[The government] should clearly communicate to the public the details of the presidential regulation and its intention. It's important to have clear a input-process-output mechanism, including what kind of people are allowed to sign up for training and its expected outcomes, ” Stanislaus said.

The new regulation mandates the establishment of a joint secretariat led by the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) to oversee and evaluate the implementation of this action plan in each government institution. BNPT head Comr.

Gen Boy Rafli Amar told the Post that the community policing program was designed to counter radicalism among vulnerable groups, saying that any activities would be in line with principles of human rights, among others values.

“The community policing-related activities are those intended to improve the professionality of the National Police, particularly their Bhabinkamtibmas [police officers assigned to villages as advisors on security and public order], so that they can establish partnerships between the public and the police in line with principles in the action plan, such as human rights [and] rule of law, ” he said in a written statement.

He also referred to the regulation as a “living document”, meaning that its implementation could be tailored to suit future needs and dynamics, as well as the focus of each government institution.

Boy said the regulation, which had been drafted by the BNPT since 2017, would significantly help the agency play a coordinating role, considering that it provided an “important legal basis” that binds relevant stakeholders and the public in the fight against terrorism. - The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

https://www.thestar.com.my/aseanplus/aseanplus-news/2021/01/21/muslim-groups-wary-of-indonesia039s-new-terror-prevention-plan

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Israeli regime signals snubbing US if it rejoins Iran deal: TV report

21 January 2021

A new report cites a “very senior Israeli official” as saying that the occupying regime would start snubbing the US if it reentered a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers that was ditched by the previous American administration.

“If Biden adopts [former US president, Barack] Obama’s plan, we will have nothing to talk about with him,” the regime’s Channel 12 reported on Wednesday, citing the unnamed official.

Although the channel did not specify what plan the official meant, the online newspaper The Times of Israel said the official was referring to the nuclear agreement, officially called the Comprehensive Joint Action Plan (JCPOA), sealed in 2015 between Iran and the 5+1 group of countries (which was then made up of the US, the UK, France, Russia and China, plus Germany).

The remarks came on the same day as Joe Biden took over the White House following the end of predecessor Donald Trump’s tenure.

Trump took the US out of the deal -- that is officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) -- in 2018 following widely reported provocation on the part of Israel and some of its allied regional regimes.

The former president would continually vilify the JCPOA, calling it “the worst deal ever,” a term that has also been used for the agreement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Biden has suggested he could return the US to the agreement that was signed during Trump predecessor Barack Obama’s tenure.

Reporting the Israeli official’s remarks, the Israeli channel also warned that the new US administration’s potential return to the JCPOA could lead a crisis in Israeli-American relations.

Washington, though, is apparently trying to assure the Israeli regime and its other allies that it is in no hurry to rejoin the accord and thus risk ruffling their feathers.

On Tuesday, Biden’s pick for secretary of state, Antony Blinken said during a testimony to senators that he would surely “engage with Israel and its Arab allies before reentering the JCPOA,” The Times of Israel cited him as saying.

Washington has also signaled seeking to subject Iran’s missile program and regional influence to negotiation in “subsequent” stages. Tehran has unequivocally rejected discussing either issue.

Blinken, however, appeared to be defending the JCPOA at the same time by acknowledging that the deal “had been working.” Iran “only started violating it after former president Donald Trump left the agreement and imposed sanctions against Tehran,” the paper added.

He was referring to a set of nuclear countermeasures that the Islamic Republic began to undertake in response to the US and some other JCPOA partners’ non-commitment to the deal. Tehran says the retaliatory steps are not violations but its legal right that has been enshrined in the agreement itself too.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/01/21/643560/Iran-Israel-United-States-nuclear-deal

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Al-Shabab Claims Responsibility for Deadly Somalia Explosion

By VOA News

January 20, 2021

The militant group al-Shabab is claiming responsibility for a landmine explosion in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, that killed four people.

Dalsan FM radio reports the deputy commissioner for security and politics in Garasbaale, Abdi-Rashid Dubad, was among the victims killed in Tuesday's blast.

Six others were injured in the explosion just two days after the United States completed the withdrawal of 700 military personnel from Somalia who supported security forces with counter terrorism operations.  

The pull out of U.S. troops from Somalia was one of President Donald Trump’s last official actions.

It is unknown whether President-elect Joe Biden will reverse the withdrawal of U.S. military personnel from Somalia after he becomes the 46th U.S. president at noon on Wednesday.

The absence of U.S. troops in Somalia has taken on a greater significance because the country is weeks away from the February 8 presidential election, which militants have previously attempted to disrupt. 

https://www.voanews.com/africa/al-shabab-claims-responsibility-deadly-somalia-explosion?utm_source=iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=1922912_

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UN adopts resolution to combat sectarian hate and protect holy sites

January 22, 2021

NEW YORK: The UN General Assembly on Thursday unanimously adopted a new resolution that aims to combat sectarian hate and protect holy sites by encouraging greater tolerance for all religious beliefs.

The resolution, titled Promoting a Culture of Peace and Tolerance to Safeguard Religious Sites, was presented during the assembly’s 50th plenary meeting by Saudi Arabia, on behalf of a number of other cosponsors, including Morocco, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, the UAE, Yemen, Sudan and Pakistan.

Draft resolution L.54 draws on the founding principles enshrined in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human rights, in particular the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and the elimination of all forms of intolerance and discrimination toward ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities.

It urges member states to take steps to counter hate speech, incitement to violence, negative stereotyping based on religion or belief, intolerance and other acts of violence, including the desecration of religious sites.

The adoption of the resolution comes at a time when terrorist attacks on cultural locations, including religious sites and shrines, are increasing.

The sponsors said they deplore the deliberate destruction of relics and monuments, and denounce such acts as violations of human-rights laws and international humanitarian law. They urged members of the General Assembly to combat religious hatred through interfaith dialogue on local, regional and international levels.

They also condemned advocacy of hatred in any form, whether in print, audiovisual or on social media, and said that terrorism “cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group.”

Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN, told the assembly that the aim of the resolution is to encourage and develop a culture of peace that can be a shield against all forms of extremism, and to use this to protect religious sites and symbols from acts of violence, provocation or ridicule.

Freedom of religion and freedom of expression are interdependent and mutually reinforcing, he said, as he called for heightened awareness of the responsibilities that accompany freedom of speech, and the boundaries beyond which it can become incitement to violence.

Al-Mouallimi said the primary role of states is to promote and protect human rights, and chief among them is the right for minorities to practice their faiths freely. He described religious sites as “oases of peace, centers of enlightenment” that reflect the history, social fabric and traditions of peoples around the globe.

“It is painful to see places of worship face threats and destruction, whether it’s a mosque, a church, a synagogue, or a Sikh or Hindu temple,” he added.

The Saudi envoy said he deplores slanderous campaigns directed against religious figures and symbols. Freedoms should not be used to provoke and incite, he said, but to further understanding, dialogue and the acceptance of others. Al-Mouallimi also reiterated the Kingdom’s core values of respect for differences and condemnation of terrorism and all those who condone or support it.

The new resolution invites Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to convene an international conference involving UN representatives, political and religious leaders, and civil society groups to foster political support and advance efforts to safeguard religious sites and counter the escalation of racial and religious violence around the world.

Highlighting growing concern about “derogatory stereotyping, negative profiling and stigmatization of persons based on their religion or belief,” the resolution also calls on all UN member states to counter any incitement to violence by “fostering the messages of unity, solidarity and interreligious and intercultural dialogue, raising awareness and mutual respect toward promoting the culture of peace, non-violence and non-discrimination.”

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1796546/world

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Arab World

 

At least 32 killed, 110 injured in two suicide bombings in Iraq's Baghdad

21 January 2021

Two men blew themselves up in a crowded Baghdad market on Thursday, killing at least 32 people in Iraq’s first big suicide bombing for three years, authorities said, describing it as a possible sign of the reactivation of ISIS.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Reuters journalists arriving after the blasts saw pools of blood and discarded shoes at the site, a clothing market in Tayaran Square in the center of the city. Health authorities said at least 110 people had been wounded.

“One (bomber) came, fell to the ground and started complaining ‘my stomach is hurting’ and he pressed the detonator in his hand. It exploded immediately. People were torn to pieces,” said a street vendor who did not give his name.

Suicide attacks, once an almost daily occurrence in the Iraqi capital, have halted in recent years since ISIS fighters were defeated in 2017, part of an overall improvement in security that has brought normal life back to Baghdad.

“Daesh terrorist groups might be standing behind the attacks,” Civil defense chief Major General Kadhim Salman told reporters, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS State.

A video taken from a rooftop and circulated on social media purported to show the second blast scattering people gathered in the area. Images shared online, which Reuters could not independently verify, showed several dead and wounded.

Thursday’s attack took place in the same market that was struck in the last big attack, in January, 2018, when at least 27 people were killed.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi held an urgent meeting with top security commanders to discuss Thursday’s suicide attacks, the premier’s office said in a brief statement. Iraqi security forces were deployed and key roads blocked to prevent possible further attacks.

Suicide attacks against civilian targets were a near-daily tactic of mainly Sunni Muslim insurgents during the US occupation of Iraq after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, and were later employed by ISIS, whose fighters swept across a third of the country in 2014.

By 2017 the fighters had been driven from all territory they held, although they have continued to wage a low-level insurgency against Iraqi forces and attack officials mainly in northern areas.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2021/01/21/Three-killed-16-injured-in-Baghdad-market-suicide-bombing-Iraq-police

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Explosions heard in Syria, air defences confront ‘Israeli aggression’ in Hama: Report

22 January 2021

Syrian air defenses confronted early on Friday “an Israeli aggression” in the governorate of Hama, state media said, after reporting that explosions were heard there.

Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in Syria in recent years against suspected Iranian military deployments or arms transfers to Tehran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas.

“At about four o’clock in the morning today, the Israeli enemy launched an aerial aggression with a barrage of missiles coming from the direction of the Lebanese city of Tripoli, aiming at some targets in the vicinity of Hama governorate,” Syrian state media said, citing a military source.

“Our air defenses confronted the enemy’s missiles and downed most of them.”

The Israeli military declined to comment.

In previous statements, Israel has described its Syria strikes as necessary to protect its northern front from Iran.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2021/01/22/Explosions-heard-in-Syria-air-defenses-confront-Israeli-aggression-in-Hama-Report

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Saudi Arabia optimistic about ties with US under President Joe Biden: Saudi FM

Joseph Haboush

21 January 2021

Saudi Arabia is optimistic about its ties with the United States under the new administration headed by President Joe Biden, Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said Thursday.

“We are optimistic of having excellent ties with the US under a Biden administration,” the top Saudi diplomat told Al Arabiya in an interview.

Prince Faisal added that the appointments made by Biden - the former VP under President Barack Obama - “showed understanding of the common issues.”

Biden was inaugurated Wednesday as the 46th president at the US Capitol, where he vowed to work with allies worldwide and restore American diplomacy.

Yemen

“The Biden administration will see that we have common goals with regards to the situation in Yemen,” Prince Faisal said, in reference to the ongoing crisis in Yemen.

But, the Saudi diplomat warned, the Iran-backed Houthi militia must realize that is in the best interest of Yemen to put an end to the fighting.

“The Houthis will facilitate reaching a solution if they decide that the interest of Yemen is the most important,” Prince Faisal said. He added that the recent US designation of the Yemeni militia as a terrorist organization was justified.

Prince Faisal also said that the Riyadh Agreement was a “fundamental building block” for reaching a political solution in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia had introduced the Riyadh Agreement in November 2019 to try to end the dispute in the country’s south that emerged in 2017.

Iran

Biden also said Gulf allies and Israel would be included in any future talks that focused on Iran's nuclear capabilities as well as its ballistic missiles and malign regional activity.

The previous Iran deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was “weak” because there was a lack of coordination with the countries in the region, Prince Faisal.

European countries, who along with the US signed the deal in 2015, now realize that the agreement was “incomplete,” he said.

On Thursday, Prince Faisal called on the Iranian regime to change its mentality and focus on its citizens’ wellbeing.

And calls by Iran for dialogue were part of an effort to divert attention away from Tehran’s own crises,” the Saudi FM said. “They are not serious ... our hand is extended to Iran for peace, but it does not commit.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2021/01/21/Saudi-Arabia-optimistic-about-ties-with-US-under-President-Joe-Biden-Saudi-FM

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ISIS claims attack inside Iraq’s capital of Baghdad, US says terrorist threat remains

Joseph Haboush

21 January 2021

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the twin suicide bombings that rocked the Iraqi capital on Thursday and killed at least 32 people.

A message on the terrorist group’s Telegram channel said that two of its members blew themselves up in Tayaran Square in the center of Baghdad.

Reuters journalists arriving after the blasts saw pools of blood and discarded shoes at the site, a clothing market in Tayaran Square in the center of the city. Health authorities said at least 110 people had been wounded.

Thursday's attack took place in the same market that was struck in the last big attack, in January 2018, when at least 27 people were killed.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi held an urgent meeting with top security commanders to discuss the attacks, after which he fired senior officials, and security and police commanders.

Kadhimi’s government said a security breach allowed the bombing to take place.

The acting US Secretary of State quickly condemned the terrorist attack.

“They were vicious acts of mass murder and a sobering reminder of the terrorism that continues to threaten the lives of innocent Iraqis,” acting Secretary of State Daniel Smith said.

Smith is in office until Anthony Blinken, President Joe Biden’s nominee for the top US diplomat position, is confirmed by the Senate.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2021/01/22/ISIS-claims-attack-inside-Iraq-s-capital-of-Baghdad-US-says-terrorist-threat-remains

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Coronavirus: World Banks approves $34 mln to support Lebanon’s COVID-19 vaccinations

21 January 2021

The World Bank on Thursday said it had approved a re-allocation of $34 million in funds to support Lebanon’s vaccination efforts as it races to contain the coronavirus pandemic, marking the first such outlay of funds by the Bank.

Lebanon has seen daily infection rates soar to the highest levels in the region, with over 6,000 cases reported on Friday, adding to economic and political pressures caused by a financial collapse and a huge port blast in August.

Thursday’s re-allocation of funds from Lebanon’s existing Health Resilience Project, is the first World Bank-financed operation to fund the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.

It will provide vaccines for over 2 million individuals, with doses set to arrive in Lebanon by early February, and earmarked for priority groups such as high-risk health workers, those over 65, epidemiological and surveillance staff, and people aged 55 to 64 with co-morbidities.

“Fair, broad, and fast access to COVID-19 vaccines is critical to protecting lives and supporting economic recovery,” World Bank Group President David Malpass said in a statement.

The World Bank said the decision to free the funds followed efforts by Lebanese authorities to conduct a vaccine readiness assessment, establish a national vaccine committee, and prepare a draft National Vaccine Deployment Plan (NVDP) in line with World Health Organization recommendations.

The Bank is working closely with over 100 countries to pave the way for them to receive low-interest loans and funding to purchase and distribute COVID-19 vaccines as part of a new $12 billion initiative approved in October.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/coronavirus/2021/01/21/Coronavirus-Coronavirus-World-Banks-approves-34-mln-to-support-Lebanon-s-COVID-19-vaccinations

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Bin Salman to pay price for Baghdad explosions: Iraqi resistance group

22 January 2021

Iraq’s Kata’ib Hezbollah resistance group has blamed Saudi Arabia, the US, and Israel for the recent deadly suicide bombings in Baghdad, warning Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that he will pay the price for backing such plots.

In a statement, the Iraqi group described the US, the Zionist regime of Israel, and Saudi Arabia as the “axis of evil”, blaming them for the deadly Baghdad blasts.

“The Zionist, American, and Saudi evil bands have restarted their filthy criminal acts against the children of the Iraqi nation by committing an ugly crime, which targeted a marketplace full of poor Iraqis,” the statement said.

Twin suicide bomb blasts rocked a busy market in central Baghdad on Thursday morning, killing at least 32 people and injuring 110 others, according to officials and state media.

The group referred to the coincidence of the explosions and the inauguration of US President Joe Biden as a sign of the plot by the "axis of evil" to bring to their knees the Iraqi people who insist on the expulsion of US-led foreign forces.

Kata’ib warned bin Salman about such plots and said, “We once again highlight what we earlier said about bin Salman’s decision and his intention to support brutal operations [in Iraq]. We had earlier warned him not to play with the lion’s tail, as this fire will engulf his kingdom of evil and bring him down.”

However, bin Salman has not only refused to stop these crimes despite the warnings, but he has committed more crimes against innocent people, it said.

“Therefore, he will pay the price for his decision.”

Security forces say they pursued the two attackers in the Thursday bombings before they blew themselves up. It was the first suicide attack to strike Baghdad in nearly two years.

The first bomber entered the marketplace and pretending to be sick, asked for help, causing people to gather around him before he blew himself up, according to officials and state media. The second bomber then drove to the scene on a motorbike before detonating his explosive vest.

The Daesh terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the twin attacks.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/01/22/643596/Iraq-kataib-hezbollah-baghdad-blasts-bin-salman

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Iraq pledges ‘earth-shattering response’ after Baghdad blasts

22 January 2021

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi promises a crushing response after a twin blast, that has reportedly been claimed by the Takfiri terror group of Daesh, targeted a busy square in Baghdad claiming at least 32 people.

“Our response to those who shed innocent Iraqi blood will be bold and earth-shattering, and the evil leaders of Daesh will face a force to be reckoned with,” Kadhimi tweeted on Thursday.

Our response to those who shed innocent Iraqi blood will be bold and earth-shattering, and the evil leaders of Daesh will face a force to be reckoned with.

(2/2)

— Mustafa Al-Kadhimi مصطفى الكاظمي (@MAKadhimi) January 21, 2021

According to Iraq’s Health Ministry, as many as 110 others have also been wounded from the bombings that struck the capital’s Tayaran Square earlier in the day.

The first attacker drew a crowd at the bustling market in the square by claiming to feel sick, then detonating his explosives belt, the Iraqi Interior Ministry was cited by AFP as saying. As more people flocked to the scene to help the victims, a second bomber set off another blast.

Daesh claimed responsibility for both the bombings, according to, what Newsweek has referred to as, a tweet by the terrorist outfit.

The terror group started its campaign of bloodshed and destruction in Iraq and neighboring Syria in 2014.

It claimed huge swathes of territory in a rather short period, prompting Baghdad to seek out the assistance of its allies, including Iran, which began to lend it military advisory support. The Iraqi military also started enlisting counter-terrorism support from volunteer Shia fighters, known as Hashd al-Sha’abi or the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).

The combined assistance gradually reversed the terrorists’ fortunes, leading to their ultimate defeat in late 2017. The group, though, has been maintaining scattered sleeper cells across Iraq, staging sporadic attacks from time to time.

Kadhimi, however, said, “Our people have proven their resolve in the face of Daesh’s terrorism.”

The will to live among our people as they face terrorism in the scene of the heinous crime at Bab al-Sharqi was a message of defiance and unparalleled courage,” he added.

The premier was apparently referring to a string of terrorist explosions that left dozens of casualties in and around the capital in 2015, the first of which hit the Bab al-Sharqi area in central Baghdad.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/01/22/643578/Iraq-explosions-Baghdad-Prime-Minister-al-Kadhimi

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Two roadside bomb attacks target US convoys in southern Iraq

21 January 2021

Two roadside bomb attacks have hit convoys of logistic vehicles belonging to the so-called US military coalition in Iraq, which is purportedly fighting the Daesh terrorist group in the Arab country.

An unnamed security source told Arabic-language Shafaq news agency on Thursday that the first attack occurred in Iraq's southern province of Muthanna on a highway near the provincial capital city of Samawah.

The source said the explosion caused no casualties, leaving only some material damage.

The second attack took place on a highway in the Abu Ghraib area, west of capital Baghdad several hours after the first attack occurred, according to a separate report by Shafaq.

The report, citing an unnamed security source, said the explosion injured one American soldier who was taken to a nearby hospital.

The source said the blast site was cordoned off and an investigation was launched into the incident.

No group or individual has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks.

They are the latest in a string of such incidents in the Arab country in recent weeks. On December 31, a roadside bomb exploded in the southern province of Basra, targeting a US military coalition's logistics support convoy.

On December 10, two separate attacks struck convoys of trucks carrying logistical equipment belonging to the US military coalition in Iraq. The first occurred on a highway near Samawah. The second attack took place in the Latifiya region on the outskirts of Baghdad. 

The attacks come amid rising anti-US sentiment, which has intensified since last year's assassination of a top Iranian anti-terror commander in Baghdad.

General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and his Iraqi trenchmate Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Units, were targeted along with their companions on January 3 last year in a terror drone strike authorized by former US president Donald Trump near Baghdad International Airport.

Two days after the attack, Iraqi lawmakers approved a bill that requires the government to end the presence of all foreign military forces led by the US in the country.

Currently, there are approximately 3,000 American troops in Iraq.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/01/21/643562/Iraq-US-convoys--bomb-attack-Samawah-Baghdad

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Damascus: Terror organizations get US cover for attacks in Syria

21 January 2021

Syria’s deputy foreign minister says terrorist groups are covered by US troops illegally based in his country to launch attacks on Syrian soldiers and civilians, calling for international cooperation led by the United Nations to curb them.

Bashar al-Ja'afari, who is also Syria’s permanent representative to the UN, made the remarks Thursday in a statement to a UN Security Council session on the situation in Syria via a video link.

He stressed that on top of the terror organizations being helped by US troops are the two most notorious Takfiri terrorist groups, namely Daesh and Jabhat al-Nusra.

“The hypocrisy of some states went far beyond to a hateful degree… from one side, the US administration alleges its elimination of Daesh, and from another side, it reshapes and re-operates it to target my country, and this was witnessed many days before through the terrorist attacks against a civil bus and tankers which claimed the lives of tens of innocent Syrians,” he said.

Ja'afari was referring to two deadly attacks on January 3, when terrorists launched an attack against a bus in the Kabajib area in Dayr al-Zawr province and another attack against fuel tankers as well as civilian vehicles in al-Salamiyah district in Hama province.

The attacks, which were later claimed by Daesh, killed an unspecified number of civilians and soldiers and wounded dozens of others.

Syria’s deputy foreign minister noted that the two attacks had been carried out by the Daesh terrorists who came from an area controlled by US troops in al-Tanf, which includes the al-Rukban camp.

Ja'afari said the terrorists were the same ones who had previously launched bloody attacks on civilians in Syria's southern province of Sweida, targeting government troops and their allies, as well as gas pipelines and energy lines.

He went on to say that the US forces in northeastern Syria had also instructed their allied militants from the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to release Daesh terrorists held in SDF prisons.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Ja'afari said the US and the European Union continue with their crippling sanctions and coercive measures against the Arab nation despite the fact that Syrians are suffering more from the COVID-19 pandemic, ignoring calls by the UN Security Council, the UN special envoy to Syria and scores of other senior representatives at the international organization to put an end to these “illegal measures.”

The senior Syrian diplomat said politicization, selectivity, double-standard policies, and investment in terrorism have prevented the US and EU from removing their sanctions, stressing that the largest beneficiary of the sanctions are the terrorist organizations and their sponsors.

Ja'afari also touched on the issue of preparing Syria’s new constitution, saying that after weeks, the fifth round of meetings of the Committee of Discussing the Constitution would be held. He stressed that the constitution, which represents the most supreme law in the country, is a mere national affair of Syria.

“Outlining the future of Syria is just a Syrian national affair as well; thus, Syria reaffirms its possession and leadership of the political process facilitated by the United Nations and stresses that the success of the work of this committee requires respecting its rules of procedures that have been agreed upon and rejecting any external interference in its work.”

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/01/21/643544/Syria-West-terrorists-crimes-Daesh-Jabhat-al-Nusra-US-EU-sanctions

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Egypt resumes trade at Sinai port as Islamic State threat regresses

Muhammed Magdy

Jan 20, 2021

CAIRO — For the first time in several years, a commercial ship docked Jan. 4 at al-Arish port in North Sinai, where all activities had been suspended due to military operations against IS militants.

The reopening is part of the Egyptian government’s efforts to link this strategic port to the Suez Canal, seeking to boost development in Sinai.

The New Moon cargo ship is transporting 3,000 tons of cement from the military-owned al-Arish cement factory to Libya for reconstruction projects, according to the port’s director Maj. Gen. Mohamed Sharif. In a Jan. 4 statement, Sharif said that five more vessels will dock at the port soon. He said that reopening the port to export traffic will offer a lifeline for the people of North Sinai.

Sharif added that the Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZone) Authority made great efforts during the downtime to develop and modernize al-Arish port and turn it an international harbor on the Mediterranean coast.

On July 15, 2019, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ordered that the port be affiliated with the Egyptian Armed Forces, with the SCZone Authority financing, developing, operating and managing it while the army provided security.

Yaman al-Hamaki, an economics professor at Ain Shams University, told Al-Monitor, “The opening of al-Arish seaport is part of a government plan develop it and link it to the SCZone, which Sisi inaugurated back in August 2015, as well as the Golden Triangle in the Red Sea, to the coasts of Europe. The port will make it easier for the factories in Sinai to export their products and become more competitive. Sinai is teeming with raw material.”

The governor of North Sinai, Maj. Gen. Mohamed Abdel-Fadil Shousha, said in his speech at the reception ceremony Jan. 4, “Several of the area’s riches and resources, including glass sand and salt, which will be exported in the future.”

Shousha added that al-Arish port “is now eligible for exports to various countries in the world, notably Europe, thanks to the directives of President Sisi, who agreed to speed up the development projects at the port and put it on par with other seaports on the Mediterranean coast.”

He pointed out that the port will open new horizons for development in North Sinai, providing direct and indirect job opportunities.

“2021 will be a good year for Egypt and North Sinai,” Shousha said.

A source close to security and government officials in Sinai who asked not to be named told Al-Monitor that the army had set up several checkpoints on the roads between factories and the port to reduce risks and threats posed to trucks, which had been the targets of attacks.

On Nov. 10, 2017, the Islamic State attacked seven trucks belonging to a cement factory in central Sinai, killing the drivers and an army officer.

“The reopening of the port, however, reflects a new strategy that the Egyptian government started in 2020 to develop Sinai, which calls for beginning development projects without waiting for the end of the war on terror,” the source said. He added that according to the strategy, the fight against IS in Sinai will continue to prevent disruptions to development.

In 2018, the Egyptian government announced a plan to develop the vast Sinai with the support of the army. The peninsula had suffered decades of marginalization since its liberation from Israel in 1973 and its re-annexation to Egypt following the Camp David Accords that Cairo signed with Tel Aviv in 1979.

The source said that the government appears intent on implementing its development plans despite the risks the workers in the area. He added that the government recently started establishing logistical routes that avoid dangerous points controlled the terrorist organization south of the Bedouin town of Sheikh Zuweid and al-Arish airport, where there was an attempted attack on an airplane carrying the defense and interior ministers in December 2017.

“At the same time, the intense strikes since the launch of the comprehensive military operation in 2018 have destroyed IS pockets in Sheikh Zuweid, Rafah and southern al-Arish, forcing most of the IS militants to other areas in western North Sinai. This allowed the government to further implement development plans,” the source said.

The Sinai Reconstruction Authority's projects for the 2020-2021 fiscal year include 77 development projects for hospitals and water desalination plants as well as housing projects, with a total cost of 5.2 billion Egyptian pounds ($332 million).

Egyptian researcher on Islamic and extremist movements Maher Farghali told Al-Monitor, “In the past few years, the government has become aware that the activities of the armed terrorist groups in Sinai are partly due to the lack of development and economy in this part of Egypt, which has been marginalized for decades.”

He added, “The government began focusing on the development side without slowing down on security operations. There has been a noticeable decline in IS activities in the peninsula, mainly due to the extensive security campaigns, in addition to the collapse of the group’s main branch in Iraq and Syria as well as the escalation of internal disputes within the organization.”

Farghali added, “Organizations [like IS] do not die. They continue to exist, albeit not the same as they started out. However, Sinai needs major development efforts to repair trust after the decades of marginalization there.”

The anonymous source explained, “Sinai’s people only want to go back to their villages and farms, which they had to leave during the years of the war on terror, and the disbursement of the delayed compensation for damages to their homes and farms.”

https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2021/01/egypt-sinai-arish-port-trade-islamic-state-military.html?utm_source=iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=1922912_

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Pakistan

 

Religious scholars to transform Pakistan into a genuine Islamic welfare state: PM

January 21, 2021

On Thursday, Prime Minister Imran Khan has called for continued cooperation of religious scholars to thwart the nefarious conspiracies of creating division and discord in the Muslim Ummah.

He was talking to a delegation of religious scholars in Islamabad. The Prime Minister said the religious scholars have a pivotal role to transform Pakistan into a genuine Islamic welfare state. Commending the role played by the Ulema to cope with the issues of sectarianism and extremism, the Prime Minister said the process of consultations with the religious scholars will continue in order to take their guidance to address the challenges faced by the country.

The religious scholars were appreciative of the Prime Minister for truly representing the feelings of Pakistani nation and the entire Muslim Ummah at the forum of the UN by taking a firm stance on the sanctity of Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) and the issue of Islamophobia. They prasied the Prime Minister’s categorical and unequivocal stance regarding Israel.

Alluding to the vision of Prime Minister for transforming Pakistan as per the principles of State of Madina, the religious scholars said they stand shoulder to shoulder with him on the matter and assured full cooperation to turn Pakistan into an Islamic welfare state. They also appreciated the government’s efforts to bring improvements in the seminaries including through lacing their curriculum as per the modern day requirements.

For the protection of minorities, the religious scholars said at present the minorities in Pakistan consider themselves safe but the minorities in India are not secure.

https://nation.com.pk/21-Jan-2021/religious-scholars-to-transform-pakistan-into-a-genuine-islamic-welfare-state-pm

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JUI-F’s anti-Israel rally warns govt against recognising Zionist state

Imran Ayub

January 22, 2021

KARACHI: The massive power show of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Fazl) to condemn the atrocities of Israel against Palestinians and stop any move to recognise the Zionist state by the Pakistan government turned into an anti-government rally where leaders of the opposition alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) claimed that Prime Minister Imran Khan was selling out Kashmir.

The opposition leaders vowed that their rally that would be held on February 5 in Rawalpindi would lead to the fall of “pro-India government” of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

Thursday’s rally near Mazar-i-Quaid on New M.A. Jinnah Road was mainly organised by the JUI-F, and attended and addressed by leaders of the PDM including former prime minister and senior PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Saeed Ghani of the PPP.

They warned the PTI government that any move in favour of Israel could lead to serious repercussions in the country.

PDM leaders claim Imran Khan betraying Kashmir cause

The JUI-F and PDM chief, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, took a step forward in his address to the charged crowd and asked the thousands of participants to be ready for Feb 5 rally in Rawalpindi where the opposition parties would be showing solidarity with the people of Kashmir, which was “sold out” by PM Imran Khan.

He added that that the PDM activities were not going to end anytime soon.

“Keep your passion and motivation charged as this will ultimately lead to the fall of this unjust government,” he said to receive a roar from the crowd. “After Feb 5 rally in Rawalpindi, we would be back here [in Karachi] and then from here we would move to Hyderabad with the same spirit. The free Palestine state and end of unjust Israel is a part of JUI-F manifesto. We will not stop this momentum.”

He accused PM Khan of hatching conspiracies to bury the Kashmir issue since his days in the opposition and for that he had proposed a formula which had allowed the Indian government to justify its claims on the disputed territory.

He asked the people of Pakistan to not trust clarifications of the government about Israel and referred to statements of the PM about India before and after winning the general elections.

“He [PM Khan] was the one who came up with the formula to divide Kashmir between India and Pakistan,” the maulana claimed.

“He was the one who prayed for the victory of extremists and Narendra Modi. And now finally he has sold out Kashmir. The nation can’t trust him about his claims and so-called love for Palestine. The people of Pakistan will sacrifice everything but would not allow any pro-Israel move.”

At the jam-packed venue in the shadow of the Quaid’s mausoleum, the leaders of the opposition parties also came up with their anti-government rhetoric using the opportunity to send message to power corridors and disclose their future line of action.

The power show of the JUI-F, however, caused serious problems for the citizens who suffered hours-long traffic jams on different roads due to security arrangements coupled with horrible gridlock on University Road and Stadium Road due to a cricketing activity in the National Stadium.

PML-N’s Mr Abbasi in his address expressed concerns over the “enforced narrative” being imposed on the country and the fact that people were being “deprived” of their freedom of expression.

Under the same move, he expressed the fear that one could never rule out the possibility which could allow some concessions to Israel from the government of Pakistan.

“The people of Pakistan have different relation with the people of Palestine. They live in each other’s hearts. The people of Pakistan would not accept any logic or reason for any such move. In these circumstances if any step is taken, it would weaken Pakistan and destabilise the nation,” he said.

Sindh Minister and PPP leader Saeed Ghani said his party’s policy under the leadership of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto on Palestine and unjust occupation by Israel was followed by the Muslim world.

“It’s not just people of Pakistan but Muslims across the world know the role of the PPP and its leaders when it comes to freedom of Palestine and occupation of Israel. It’s a historical viewpoint of the party which it has made crucial part of its foreign policy whenever it came to power,” he said.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1602906/jui-fs-anti-israel-rally-warns-govt-against-recognising-zionist-state

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Academics Demand Removal Of 'Racist' Image In Pakistan Textbook

Kamran Chaudhry

January 22, 2021

Pakistan Minorities Teachers' Association has taken a stand against a portrayal of Christians as black people in a textbook.

The association shared its reservations with Prime Minister Imran Khan in a letter sent Jan. 20.

It refers to page 55 of a grade 2 Urdu textbook published by Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board. The pictorial story narrates children referring to a “black boy” as a Christian who brings halwa (pudding) for others. When a girl says that she doesn’t eat anything from black people, her friend advocates inner goodness, referring to the teachings of Prophet Muhammad.

“Sir, racism is a crime against humanity. Pakistan’s foreign policy has always condemned racial discrimination but unfortunately it still exists in our country. The religious identity of minorities matters as it matters in the case of the majority. Sir, it is requested to end racism found in any shape and anywhere from Pakistan,” stated Anjum James Paul, chairperson of the association.

Pakistani Christians are often referred as chura (low caste), an abusive term reserved for sanitation workers. Historically, they have been assigned jobs seen as degrading and defiling. Road sweepers are mostly Christian and are called untouchable or low-born.

Racism and threats from extremists are major challenges in highlighting the problems of religious minorities in Pakistan, say Muslim journalists.

According to a study by the Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development released in 2019, media coverage of Pakistan’s non-Muslim population is stereotypically linked to sensitive themes like blasphemy.

Christian researcher Asif Aqeel approved of the controversial story in the textbook.

“There is nothing wrong with this book. They have tried to show that children avoid any discrimination with Christians based on religion, caste and creed. At first the objection was about the absence of minorities [in textbooks] but now we complain of racial prejudice,” he said.

“Racism is a social issue. Punjabi dramas are filled with hatred and ridiculing every dark character as a Christian and a sweeper. There is no issue if school textbooks are questioning stereotyping as a problem and then challenging it on religious grounds. The methodology should be improved.”

https://www.ucanews.com/news/academics-demand-removal-of-racist-image-in-pakistan-textbook/91108#

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Pakistan risks FATF blacklisting as it continues to abate terrorism: Report

Jan 22, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan might be pushed into the Financial Action Task Force's (FATF) 'black list' next month as it continues to finance and tolerate terrorist organisations, Greek City Times reported.

Terrorist organisations, such as Jamaar-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM), continue to operate with impunity in Pakistan.

The FATF blacklist is a list of countries that the intra-governmental organisation considers non-cooperative in the global effort to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

The global watchdog will consider Pakistan 'greylist' status, meant for countries "under increased monitoring" during a meeting next month. The country was placed on the grey-list in 2018.

FATF President Marcus Pleyer said during October's review meeting in 2020 that there were "very serious deficiencies" in Pakistan's efforts to counter terrorist financing and gave the country until the February 19-21 Plenary to resolve these issues as they cannot wait "forever", Greek City Times reported.

"As long as we see that the country is progressing with the action items, and we have seen progress with Pakistan, we give them a chance to repair the outstanding issues, but we do not do this forever," Pleyer said.

Although Pakistan is only on a grey list, it risks being pushed into the blacklist if it does not fulfill its commitments to curb terrorism financing, and even if it does fulfill its obligations, FATF will remain suspicious and an on-sight inspection will take place, the Greek city Times reported.

"After that on-site visit, the next plenary will then decide whether Pakistan has indeed fully and effectively completed the action plan and then there is a decision on whether Pakistan would leave the grey list or not," the FATF chief said.

The Greek City Times further highlighted several instances proving Pakistan's support to terrorism.

A video of Jamaat-ud-Dawa's (JuD) Central Leader, Convener Tehreek Hurmat-e-Rasool, and Chief Editor of 'Weekly Jarrar', Amir Hamza, emerged of them addressing the "Tahaffuz Hurmat-e-Rasool Conference" (Conference of Protection of the Sanctity of Prophet Muhammad) at Muridke in Punjab on October 29, 2020.

In his address, Hamza praised the Chechen teenager that beheaded school teacher Samuel Paty in France in October last year.

This was because Paty showed a cartoon depiction of Muhammad, the founder of Islam.

In October, the FATF decided that Pakistan will continue to be on its greylist and asked it to continue to work on implementing an action plan to address its strategic deficiencies including demonstrating that its law enforcement agencies are identifying and investigating the widest range of terrorist financing activity and demonstrating that prosecutions result in effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions.

Pakistan is on the FATF's grey list since June 2018 and the government was given a final warning in February 2020 to complete the 27 action points by June in the same year.

The FATF extended the June deadline to September due to the spread of coronavirus that disrupted the FATF plenary meetings.

Pakistan is facing the difficult task of clearing its name from the FATF grey list. As things stand, Islamabad is finding it difficult to shield terror perpetrators and implement the FATF action plan at the same time.

In recent weeks, Pakistan has tried to paint a picture that it started the reforms, including the passing of some Bills to prevent blacklisting by the FATF.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-risks-fatf-blacklisting-as-it-continues-to-abate-terrorism-report/articleshow/80402391.cms

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Four soldiers martyred, five injured in Sibi landmine blast

Saleem Shahid

January 22, 2021

QUETTA: Four members of Sibi Scouts, a wing of the Frontier Corps’ North Wing, were martyred and five others injured when their vehicle hit a landmine in Sangaan area of Sibi district, officials said on Thursday.

They said the incident took place on Wednesday in Sangaan area of Sibi district where Sibi Scouts personnel were busy in clearing the area for establishing a new check-post.

“Unknown miscreants planted a landmine in the area, which went off when a vehicle carrying security personnel ran over it,” the sources said, adding that four soldiers were martyred on the spot while five others suffered injuries.

Members of security forces rushed to the area after getting information about the incident, and shifted the injured to the Combined Military Hospital, Quetta, through a helicopter.

Meanwhile, Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan Alyani, Home Minister Ziaullah Langove, Provincial Minister for PHE Noor Muhammad Dummar and Adviser to Chief Minister on Information Bushara Rind condemned the attack on members of security forces.

In a statement issued here, they said that such attacks could not bring down the morale of members of security forces who were sacrificing their lives to ensure peace and protect lives of the masses in the province.

They said that the government and members of security forces would not bow down to terrorists and would continue their efforts to eliminate the latter.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1602816/four-soldiers-martyred-five-injured-in-sibi-landmine-blast

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South Asia

 

Bangladesh's first trans school ignites hope for acceptance

FAISAL MAHMUD

January 22, 2021

DHAKA -- Riya was given away by her parents when she was five after a short spell at school where she was bullied for being different.

Unable to accept that Riya is a hijra, a transgender or an intersex person, her parents abandoned her to a group whose primary means of survival was begging and sex work. In conservative, Muslim Bangladesh, hijras exist on the fringe of society.

But thanks to the vision of a cleric and funding from an army officer, the Dawatul Quran Third Sex Madrassa opened in November, for once offering Bangladesh's hijra community an education that they had never had access to and the first step toward respectability.

Some 26 years after she was forced out of school, Riya recently found herself in a room with 20 others like herself, reciting Quranic verses. The room, at the top of a three-story building in the impoverished neighborhood of Kamrangir Char, was abuzz with the sounds of students learning.

In the first school established for hijras in the country, the first batch of students were taking lessons not only in the Quran, but also in Bengali, English, math and social sciences. The madrassa, a school dedicated to the study of Islam, follows its own Qwami curriculum that is not regulated by the education board of Bangladesh.

The students are, nonetheless, grateful. "We didn't get the chance to get an education in regular school or madrassa. Society ostracized us," Riya told Nikkei Asia. "Now, I am ecstatic to get that chance."

On Dhaka's traffic-clogged roads, hijras are hard to miss. Dressed in glittering saris, their faces often made up, hijras approach cars and knock on windows with coins and offer blessings in exchange for money. They also crash weddings and birth ceremonies, singing bawdy songs and leaving with fistfuls of takas.

But often behind the theatrics are sad stories of prostitution and exploitation, and cruel and dangerous castrations. Hijras are also persecuted by law -- a colonial-era framework is still in place in Bangladesh that punishes gay sex with jail terms. As outcasts, hijras have few choices in life.

"Who wants to beg? I don't want to, but I have no option," said Riya. "And the situation has gotten worse now for begging. The police harass us. But we aren't given any other opportunities."

It is this injustice that drove Imam Abdur Rahman Azad, now also the principal of the Dawatul Quran Third Sex Madrassa, to help hijras and other members of the LGBT community. The 40-year-old cleric began by giving lessons to some hijras in a mosque in Kamrangir Char. Soon, his teaching program was spread to six mosques in the capital after like-minded clerics agreed to do the same for hijras.

"They are born this way. We, society and state, keep them away, out of our own social stigma. We have to remember that Allah doesn't discriminate among his creatures," Azad told Nikkei Asia.

Azad was able to realize his vision of setting up a permanent base and a formal institution after he secured funding from Rihanul Bari Chowdhury, a top-ranking army officer and the son of a wealthy business owner. The Dawatul Quran Third Sex Madrassa opened on Nov. 6.

Chowdhury did not want to be interviewed but Azad said: "Neither he (Chowdhury) nor I are doing this to get name and fame. Our goal is to give a marginalized community like hijra a chance to get the light of education."

Government data show that there are around 11,000 hijras in the country although some private organizations estimate that the number could be as high as 50,000.

Hijras tend to live in small communities under the guidance of a guru they pay to provide them some form of security, shelter and basic necessities. Gurus, who are also hijras, tend to take on the roles of mother, spiritual leader, and sometimes pimp to their wards.

Hashu, a 52-year-old guru in the Kamrangir Char area who has sent hijras to the madrassa, said, "I wanted to set an example in front of other gurus and want them to send their chelas -- disciples -- to the madrassa as well."

Even with some education, hijras still have a long way to go before acceptance by society. Abida Sultana Mitu, founder and president of the Bangladesh Hijra Kalyan Foundation -- an organization that works for the welfare of hijras -- told Nikkei Asia that opportunities for education and employment are limited for them.

In 2013, Bangladesh officially recognized hijras as the third gender and some five years later, allowed them to vote and even run for office. "Yes, there is recognition for them. But here, society still holds a lot of prejudice against hijras. People think they (hijras) can't do anything other than begging and prostitution," said Mitu.

As such, Mitu said the establishment of a madrassa is a step toward the social integration of an otherwise neglected and persecuted community. She added that for hijras to be educated at a madrassa is "especially significant" as they are often seen as deviants and sinners by hard-line Muslims in the country.

"This madrassa has thus shown that the Islamic clerics can be a powerful driver of positive social changes," she said.

https://asia.nikkei.com/Life-Arts/Life/Bangladesh-s-first-trans-school-ignites-hope-for-acceptance

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Curbs vex relocated Rohingya on Bangladeshi island

Md. Kamruzzaman  

22.01.2021

DHAKA, Bangladesh

A growing discontent was visible on the face of Mohammad, who has been relocated among many of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim refugees to a remote island in southern Bangladesh's Bay of Bengal.

Despite better living conditions on the remote island in the southern sea of Bangladesh, Mohammad says the tight restrictions were frustrating the Rohingya refugees in Bhasan Char, a Bangla-language term synonymous with floating island.

The silt island located 50 kilometers (31 miles) off Bangladesh's southwestern coast and nearly 193 km (120 mi) south of the capital Dhaka, is home to 3,760 Rohingya refugees, including 306 who were rescued by the Bangladeshi Navy in May last year after being stranded on cramped boats at sea.

The Navy planned to send them back, but the risky sea route in the midst of the pandemic forced them to relocate to this island.

An estimated 860,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled mass atrocities in Myanmar almost three and a half years ago are living in the world's largest refugee camp in the Cox's Bazar district of Bangladesh. Authorities in Dhaka began relocating 100,000 of them to Bhasan Char in December last year, but succeeded in shifting only 3,760 refugees in two phases.

"More than three years have already passed, we see no meaningful sign of a sustainable repatriation of us to our homeland [Rakhine State, Myanmar] and now we live as stateless people on a distant island," Mohammad told Anadolu Agency.

Underlining Bangladesh's commitments before the relocation, camp-based Rohingya leader Mohammad added: "We were told that we would be allowed to fish, farm, and small-scale trade, but we are now under tight restrictions."

Bhasan Char island emerged from the sea surface 25 years ago and is reportedly vulnerable to natural disasters, but Bangladeshi authorities say it is safe and well protected.

The UN and several international rights organizations, as well as Rohingya diaspora groups, have urged Bangladesh to postpone the relocation until a full-fledged feasibility study on the island's habitability has been completed with foreign experts.

Another Rohingya refugee, Afsar, applauded the better living conditions on the island over the packed bamboo and tarpaulin-made tents in Cox's Bazar.

"But, here we are more restricted than Cox's Bazar and barred from working, even though Bangladesh's government has assured us of earning livelihoods," said Afsar, sitting in his family room where two bunk beds were placed.

The government has constructed 120 multi-storied cyclone shelters and 1,400 big cluster houses four feet above the ground with concrete blocks on the island. Each cluster house is made up of 16 rooms.

Spending over $350 million from its internal resources, the Bangladeshi government has developed a resettlement project on 13,000 acres, according to official information.

Afsar said: "We are provided with adequate rice and other food items. Yet we pay more money than the market price when we buy vegetables, fish and some other daily-use items. Some Bangladeshi traders are doing unethical profits on the island."

The government's monthly sum turned out to be quite inadequate due to the overpricing by local grocery traders, he added.

Other of the island's inmates also complained about the rough attitude of workers there.

Human rights bodies concerned at Rohingya relocation

Rohingya human rights defenders are also worried about the overall safety on the island, as no foreign community has yet been involved in the relocation process.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Ambia Parveen, chairwoman of the European Rohingya Council, described the process as ambiguous and said: "I don't understand why Bangladesh is trying to push Rohingya to go there [island] with a false livelihood promise."

"We will feel better if Bangladesh immediately starts its process of rehabilitation with the support of the UN and the international community," said Parveen.

Referring to this week's tripartite dialogue among Bangladesh, Myanmar, and China with the assurance that the repatriation process would start in the second half of the year, she asked: "Why is Bangladesh still trying to relocate more [Rohingya] refugees to the island?"

Emphasizing sustainable repatriation, Executive Director of the Burma Human Rights Network Kyaw Win said: "These Rohingya refugees should repatriate to Burma [Myanmar] but not to a remote island. It's not a solution, but it will increase the pain of the traumatized genocide survivors."

Government assurance of safety

Bangladesh Navy Commodore Abdullah Al Mamun Chowdhury, who is the director of the Rohingya relocation project on the island and provides security assurance to Rohingya refugees, said their top priority is to ensure the protection of women.

"The government has directed us to ensure their safety until their peaceful repatriation," Chowdhury said.

To a question about refugees' complaints against the rough attitude of some naval staff, the commodore promised that he would investigate the matter.

"We are going to deploy the female police there. There are also many female workers and employees of local NGOs [non-governmental organizations]," Refugee Commissioner Md. Mahbub Alam Talukder said.

He also promised to make it easier for the Rohingya to earn a living on the island with the involvement of various government departments.

The country's Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal recently inaugurated a newly built police station on the island, aiming to ensure safety and security there.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/curbs-vex-relocated-rohingya-on-bangladeshi-island/2119106

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Ghani Renames Herat Aiport After ‘Afghan Sufi Saint’

By Mohammad Haroon Alim

21 Jan 2021

President Ashraf Ghani at his visit on Thursday renamed Herat Airport after Khwaja Abdullah Ansari.

Ansari was a poet and Muslim Sufi saint who lived in the 11th century in Herat province.

He was also known as “Sage of Herat” and was well known for his poems and poetry.

Ansari was born in Kohandez citadel of Herat provine in the year 1006 and is famous for his book Munajat Namah, the prayers letter.

President Ghani accompanied by his First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, and Hamdullah Mohib National security adviser paid a visit to Herat province for assessing the security situation in the region.

The delegation will meet provincial officials and security members in the province.

The Afghan president will also have talks and dialogues with different sectors of society like Ulema, women, provincial council members, youth, civil society activists, and tribal elders.

This is president’s first visit during his second tenure of leadership.

https://www.khaama.com/ghani-renames-herat-aiport-after-afghan-sufi-saint-665566/

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Taliban Suffer Casualties in Faryab, Uruzgan Provinces

By Mohammad Haroon Alim

21 Jan 2021

Security officials said in a statement on Thursday,  that the Taliban had suffered heavy casualties in Faryab province.

Dozens of Taliban insurgents gathered on Wednesday in a location, the group planned and intended to attack Afghan security and defense forces in the center of Belchiragh district of the province, the statement added.

According to the statement, four Taliban insurgents were killed and two others were wounded in a joint operation conducted by ANDSF forces.

The ANDSF operation was also facilitated with Air support.

It is stated that during the ambush, with 20 motorbikes, one vehicle was completely wrecked, Afghan republic’s security members seized 15 other motorbikes, weapons, and ammunition after the clashes.

No injuries were inflicted to the Afghan National Army.

This comes as seven Taliban members were killed and 7 others were wounded in the Gizab district of Uruzgan province on Wednesday.

Ministry of Defense tweeted, that additional 12 IEDs which were planted by the Taliban on Public roads were also discovered.

The IEDs were later defused and many innocent lives were saved.

https://www.khaama.com/taliban-suffer-casualties-in-faryab-uruzgan-provinces-4553377/

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Peace talks at 'snail's pace' due to Taliban, says Afghan govt

20/01/2021

Afghan authorities lambasted the Taliban Wednesday for failing to actively participate in peace talks seeking to end the country's long-running war.

Following months of deliberations and a first round that failed to achieve any major breakthrough, the Afghan government and Taliban are meeting again in Qatar -- but so far only discussing the agenda for round two.

"Unfortunately, the talks are going at a snail's pace," Waheed Omar, media adviser to President Ashraf Ghani told reporters.

"The Taliban have no clear vision. We see no changes in them."

Kabul is pushing for a permanent ceasefire and to protect governance arrangements in place since the ouster of the Taliban by a US-led invasion following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

But since the second round of talks began on January 6 in Doha there has been no significant announcement about how negotiations were proceeding.

The talks have been marred by a surge in violence, with a recent spate of high-profile killings of officials, judges, journalists and activists leaving the war-weary country reeling.

Omar said there was no plan to release more Taliban prisoners to help spur the talks along, saying the government's previous experience of releasing insurgents failed to reduce fighting.

"The Taliban not only did not reduce the violence, but they increased the violence," Omar said.

Before the start of the peace talks on September 12, authorities released more than 5,000 Taliban inmates as demanded by the group in a deal with Washington last year.

In return, the Taliban agreed to give some security guarantees and participate in peace talks aimed at ending the country's war.

Under the landmark deal signed last year, the US pledged to pull out all foreign forces from Afghanistan by May 2021.

Both the Taliban and the Afghan government are anxiously awaiting President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration and any new policy directions from the incoming administration.

https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20210120-peace-talks-at-snail-s-pace-due-to-taliban-says-afghan-govt?utm_source=iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=1922912_

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India

 

Election Of Kamala Harris Historic, Will Cement Ties Between India-US: White House

Jan 22, 2021

NEW DELHI: The US on Friday hailed the long bipartisan and successful relationship with India and said that Indian-American Kamala Harris as vice president further cements the ties between the two nations.

"President Biden, who of course has visited India many times, respects and values the long bipartisan, successful relationship between leaders in India and the United States. It looks forward to a continuation of that," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at her daily news conference.

The press secretary further added that Kamala Harris ,who was elected as the first Indian-American vice president of the US, is a historic moment.

"The first Indian-American to serve as president or Vice President is certainly a historic moment for all of us in this country and a further cementing of the importance of our relationship," he added.

The statement came two days after Joe Biden and Kamla Harris took oath as the president and vice president of the US, respectively.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/election-of-kamala-harris-historic-will-cement-ties-between-india-us-white-house/articleshow/80397715.cms

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India calls out Pakistan over Hindu temple vandalism, says Islamabad can't hide behind UN resolution

Jan 22, 2021

NEW YORK: India on Thursday slammed Pakistan for being one of the co-sponsors of a United Nations resolution on promoting a culture of peace even as Pakistan authorities remained "mute spectators" as a mob vandalised a historic temple in its Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

"The resolution can not be a smokescreen for countries like Pakistan to hide behind," TS Tirumurti, the Indian ambassador to the United Nations said.

The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday adopted a resolution on 'Promoting a culture of peace and tolerance to safeguard religious sites.

The resolution calls for strengthened international efforts to foster a global dialogue on the promotion of a culture of tolerance and peace at all levels, based on respect for human rights and for the diversity of religions and beliefs.

"It is a matter of great irony that the country where the most recent attack and demolition of a Hindu temple took place in a series of such attacks and where the rights of minorities are being emasculated is one of the co-sponsors of the resolution under the agenda item "Culture of Peace", Tirumurti said.

Citing the destruction of a Hindu temple in Karak town in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in December 2020, Tirumurti said, "a historic Hindu temple was attacked and set on fire by a mob in the town of Karak in Pakistan with explicit support and connivance with the law enforcement agencies which, stood as mute spectators while the historic temple was being razed."

India said that in this world of growing terrorism, violent extremism, radicalization and intolerance, religious sites and cultural heritage sites remain vulnerable to terrorist acts, violence and destruction.

Further, Tirumurti pointed to instances in different parts of the world that remained vulnerable to terrorist acts.

"The images of the shattering of the iconic Bamyan Buddha by fundamentalists are still vivid in our memories. The terrorist bombing of the Sikh gurudwara in Afghanistan where 25 Sikh worshipers were killed is yet another example of this vulnerability," he said.

Trirumurti said India attaches great importance to safeguarding cultural heritage and religious sites. He further said that India also has a strong legal framework for acts of violence or discrimination based on religion including violence targeted towards the places of worship.

India, he said reiterates its call for the application of the principles of objectivity, non-selectivity and impartiality to form the basis of discussions in the United Nations especially on the issue of religion.

"The United Nations including UN Alliance of Civilizations should not take sides and as long as such selectivity exists, the world can never truly foster a culture of peace. We must stand united against the forces that supplant dialogue and peace with hatred and violence, Tirumurti said.

Tirumurti also acknowledged the efforts of Saudi Arabia and Morocco to pilot the delicate negotiations for achieving a consensus text of the draft resolution.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/india-calls-out-pakistan-over-hindu-temple-vandalism-says-islamabad-cant-hide-behind-un-resolution/articleshow/80398990.cms

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Soldier killed as Pak violates ceasefire in Poonch

Jan 22, 2021

JAMMU: A soldier was killed on Thursday as Pakistan resorted to heavy cross-border shelling during the ongoing ceasefire violation at the LoC in Jammu & Kashmir’s Poonch district.

Havildar Nirmal Singh, of infantry regiment Jammu & Kashmir Rifles, was critically injured in the firing and later succumbed to his injuries, becoming the second Indian casualty of cross-border firing along the LoC since January 1.

“The nation will always remain indebted to him for his supreme sacrifice and devotion to duty,” Udhampur-based defence spokesperson Lt Col Abhinav Navneet said.

On January 1, a Naib Subedar was killed when Pakistani troops violated the ceasefire twice along the LoC in Nowshera sector of Rajouri district.

Highest number of ceasefire violations by Pakistan — over 5,000 incidents — were recorded in 2020. In comparison, there were only 3,289 ceasefire violations by Pakistan in 2019.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/soldier-killed-as-pak-violates-ceasefire-in-poonch/articleshow/80396870.cms

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Europe

 

UK Mosque Becomes COVID-19 Vaccination Centre

January 21, 2021

LONDON: A mosque is among dozens of new vaccination hubs that have opened in the UK to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to the nation’s most vulnerable people.

By partnering with the National Health Service (NHS) and local pharmacies, the Al-Abbas Islamic Centre in Birmingham has become the first mosque in the UK to provide its premises as part of the country’s vaccination drive.

Sheikh Nuru Mohammed, the mosque’s imam, told Arab News that he and his congregation are delighted to be taking part in the UK’s vaccination drive.

“It means a lot to us. It has presented us the opportunity to contribute to the fight against coronavirus,” he said.

“Members of my community were elated, excited to take a practical step against the pandemic. People are moved about it, without a doubt.”

Mohammed said the move is important in countering some of the fake news surrounding vaccines that has been circulating in some minority communities in the UK.

“It’s crucial that we send a strong, positive signal toward the vaccine among our community,” he added. “Some Muslims are of the view that the vaccine’s ingredients aren’t halal — we’re doing this to show that this is fake news, and the most practical way of doing this is to take it into the mosque.”

NHS engagement lead Claire Deeley told Arab News that the mosque has the advantage of already being a trusted community hub.

“It’s very busy. It’s fully booked for the next few days,” she said. “It’s an ideal space right within the community — we’re really pleased.”

The mosque’s dimensions have made it a perfect place to safely deliver vaccines. With two large halls, each with a capacity of over 500 people, visitors are received and check in for their vaccines in one, before moving into the other to receive their jabs.

Social distancing is possible because of the large spaces, and the parking capacity for worshippers means the mosque can facilitate the high numbers of people arriving to receive their vaccines.

Carpets have been covered with vinyl flooring to protect them and provide a safe environment.

“It’s fantastic to see the vaccine program expand so fast,” said Nadim Zahawi, the UK’s minister for vaccine deployment. “Each week the NHS is making it easier for people to get a jab closer to home, in places at the heart of their community, from the local pharmacy to the local mosque.”

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1796306/world

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French troops kill over 20 extremists in Burkina Faso

January 21, 2021

PARIS: More than 20 militants have been killed by French troops this month in Burkina Faso near the border with troubled Mali, the French military said Thursday.

One of the poorest countries in the world, Burkina Faso is struggling with a ruthless insurgency by armed Islamists who swept in from neighbouring Mali in 2015.

Almost 1,100 people have died and more than a million people have fled their homes.

French Tigre helicopters on Saturday "neutralised" a "suspicious convoy of 30 motorcycles" on Burkinabe territory near the Mali town of Boulikessi in which some 10 extremists were killed, said Colonel Frederic Barbry, spokesman for the French defence staff.

The same day, a French drone struck a four-wheel drive vehicle heading for Mali, he said.

On Sunday, French helicopters fired on a convoy of 40 motorbikes "allowing us to stop the convoy and neutralise more than 10 armed terrorists and destroy about 10 motorbikes," Barbry added.

France has deployed troops in the region to fight extremists.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1796376/world

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France pressed to investigate its massacre in Mali

21 January 2021

Human Rights Watch urges France to fully and impartially investigate reported loss of 19 civilian lives after its airstrikes targeted, what locals have identified as, a wedding ceremony in east-central Mali in early January.

The attacks were carried out by two French Mirage 2000 warplanes, part of France’s expansive military presence in the impoverished West African country, near the village of Bounti.

“Serious allegations that any civilians were killed in airstrikes need to be promptly investigated to determine the legality of the strikes under the laws of war,” Jonathan Pedneault, crisis and conflict researcher at the New York-based NGO, said on Thursday.

The French military mission, known as the Barkhane force, alleged that the strikes had followed many days of intelligence investigation. It, however, said the targets had been chosen no more than an hour before the strikes by a French Reaper drone.

The unmanned aerial vehicle identified the target after “detecting a motorcycle with two individuals” joining the larger group. The HRW, however, cited three Bounti residents as saying that they were men joining other males for the wedding, which was observing a gender segregation rule.

“Suddenly, we heard the jet’s noise, and everything happened quickly,” a 68-year-old man told the HRW.

“I heard a powerful detonation, boom, and then another detonation. I lost consciousness for a few minutes and when I woke up, my foot was bleeding because of shrapnel, and all around me were wounded and dead bodies,” he added.

The French mission that features some 5,000 forces began operating in Mali in 2013 to allegedly counter militants that Paris claims are linked to the al-Qaeda and Daesh terrorist groups.

Some observers have, however, cited suspicions about the actual goal sought by Paris inside the former colony, which boasts rich mineral reserves.

The military presence has, meanwhile, given rise to some anti-French sentiment. Last January, hundreds of people took to the streets in the capital Bamako to protest the foreign presence.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/01/21/643573/Mali-France-Human-Rights-Watch-wedding-massacre-civilians

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UK pledges $55 million in aid to Sudan

21 January 2021

Britain announced almost $55 million in aid to Sudan during a visit by its foreign secretary to Khartoum, the embassy said Thursday.

Dominic Raab announced “the disbursement of 40 million pounds ($54.9 million) to the Sudan Family Support Programme - to provide 1.6 million people with direct financial support,” the embassy said in a statement.

Raab arrived in Sudan late Wednesday on the first visit by a British foreign secretary to the East African country in over a decade.

The visit, the embassy said, shows the UK’s “support” for Sudan’s transition following the April 2019 ouster of president Omar al-Bashir following months of mass protests against his rule.

Britain’s top diplomat met with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, the head of Sudan’s ruling council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and other officials.

During his meeting with Hamdok, Raab said the UK was ready to “support Sudan’s debt relief once economic reforms are implemented.”

Sudan has been undergoing a rocky transition since the ouster of Bashir whose three-decade rule was marked by economic hardship, internal conflicts and international sanctions.

The post-Bashir government has sought to improve its standing among the international community.

In October, it signed a peace agreement with the country’s main rebel groups in the hopes of ending long-running conflicts.

It has also been forging closer ties with the US, and last month, Washington removed Khartoum from its blacklist of “state sponsors of terrorism.”

Raab’s visit to Sudan comes after days of deadly clashes in the country’s troubled Darfur region that left more than 200 people dead and scores wounded.

Earlier this month, Sudan signed a memorandum of understanding with the US to clear Sudan’s arrears to the World Bank.

“This move will enable Sudan to regain access to over $1 billion in annual financing from the World Bank for the first time in 27 years,” the government said.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2021/01/21/UK-pledges-55-million-in-aid-to-Sudan

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French foreign minister calls for Iran to return to nuclear deal

January 22, 2021

RIYADH: The French foreign minister on Thursday called for Iran to immediately return to its commitments under an international deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear program.

Jean-Yves Le Drian’s comments came as European powers are waiting to see what steps Joe Biden, the new US president, would take to revive the 2015 Joint Comprehension Plan of Action (JCPOA) after Donald Trump withdrew the US from the accord.

Europe wants to save the deal but many in the Arabian Gulf and the West say it empowered Iran to pursue its aggressive foreign policy in the region unchecked.

During a meeting with UAE foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Le Drian called for Iran to reverse its breaches of the deal, including ramping up uranium enrichment way beyond the set limits.

“He (Le Drian) noted that Iran should immediately resume full respect of its nuclear commitments under the JCPOA in order to preserve regional stability and avoid a serious proliferation crisis,” the French foreign ministry said.

Biden’s choice for Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said on Tuesday that the US had to work urgently to stop Iran gaining the capability to build a nuclear weapon.

He said a future renegotiated deal could cover Tehran’s missile program and destabilizing activities in the Middle East - two things of particular concern to Gulf countries.

During the meeting, Le Drian and Sheikh Abdullah reviewed talks underway in Egypt to end the conflict in Libya.

On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they discussed the “means to push the peace process forward, in a way that will contribute to enhancing regional security and stability,” the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said.

They also discussed the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of global vaccine availability.

UAE and French relations date back to the 1970’s and have become increasingly strong in the last 15 years.

They have collaborated on many cultural projects such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the first museum to carry the Louvre name outside of France, which opened in 2017.

France also has a military base in Abu Dhabi, its first to be built outside of France or Africa.

The ministers said they would seek to expand the French-Emirati partnership with projects like Louvre Abu Dhabi and Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, the UAE branch of the famed French institution.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1796451/middle-east

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Al-Qaida terrorist captured in Turkey, jailed in Italy

JAN 20, 2021

A24-year-old Italian suspected of fighting in the Middle East since 2014 with al-Qaida-affiliated groups was arrested in Turkey and jailed in Italy, Italian police said on Wednesday.

The unnamed man, who had lived with his wife and their four children near the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, agreed to hand himself over after being tracked down on accusations of terrorist activity in Syria and Iraq, police told a news conference according to a Reuters report.

"We managed to find him and bring him back to Italy ... we were also able to get his wife and children out of a crisis area," said Italy's anti-terrorism agency Chief Diego Parente.

The man was transferred to Turkey's southeastern province of Hatay and then on to jail in Italy, while his family remains in Turkey. The hunt began on information from his parents in Switzerland, where he had lived and was radicalized, police said.

Turkey has been carrying out extensive anti-terror operations at home and abroad to capture terrorists.

Al-Qaida-linked groups are active in Syria where the ongoing civil war led to the rise of Daesh, another terrorist group with a similar ideology.

Back in April 2020, the country froze the assets of three organizations linked to Daesh and al-Qaida terror groups in line with a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution.

https://www.dailysabah.com/politics/war-on-terror/al-qaida-terrorist-captured-in-turkey-jailed-in-italy?utm_source=iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=1922912_

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Chechnya Kills Militant Tied to ISIS

20 January, 2021

Chechnya's strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov said Wednesday that police had killed Aslan Byutukayev, alleged leader of ISIS in the volatile republic and mastermind of deadly attacks in Moscow.

Byutukayev, also known as Amir Khamzat, was designated in 2016 as a "global terrorist" by the US State Department, which said he had become an ISIS leader in June 2015.

The department also said Byutukayev was responsible for suicide bombings in Russia including the January 2011 attack on Moscow's Domodedovo airport that killed 35.

Kadyrov said Chechen police officers had killed Byutukayev and five militants associated with him who were on Russia's wanted list "on the spot".

"The bandit underground in the Chechen Republic is completely eradicated!" the leader of the North Caucasus region wrote on his Telegram channel alongside graphic images of bloodied corpses.

The militants had evaded pursuit twice before they were killed and he had personally taken part in the planning of the operation "long ago", Kadyrov added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated the Chechen leader on the operation in a phone call, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists Wednesday.

RIA Novosti news agency quoted Peskov as saying that all of the participants in the operation will receive state awards.

https://english.aawsat.com/home/article/2753861/chechnya-kills-militant-tied-isis?utm_source=iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=1922912_

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Southeast Asia

 

Suhakam wants govt to address religious status problem in Sarawak

Hakimie Amrie Hisamudin

January 21, 2021

PETALING JAYA: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has called on government agencies to address cases relating to the religious status of Sarawakians, including the Orang Asal communities.

Sarawak Suhakam commissioner Madeline Berma said the state’s Islamic Religious Department should also expedite such cases.

“There is no need to rope in a syarie lawyer to oversee a change in religious status if it is proven that the individual does not practice the Islamic faith,” she said in a Suhakam virtual press conference today.

This was in response to complaints by non-Muslim Orang Asal who were categorised as Muslims when applying for a new MyKad because their names contained the word “bin” or “binti”.

“Bin” or “binti” which mean “son of” or “daughter of” are prefixes to patronyms employed by Malay-Muslims.

Berma said many indigenous people had been wrongly listed as Muslims on their Mykad, which is particularly common among Christian Bumiputeras.

“When a few individuals of indigenous ethnicities or communities want to change to a new MyKad, applicants who are not Muslims or have never practiced the Islamic faith have their status changed to Islam (Muslim).”

She said it was usually a mistake made by the National Registration Department.

“It’s a straightforward administrative issue. We’ve spoken with the religious affairs minister Zulkifli Mohamad (Al-Bakri) and he told us it’s an administrative issue.”

Berma said this also applied to cases where individuals embraced Islam only because they were marrying Muslims.

She said those who wanted to have “Islam” removed from their MyKad after a divorce found the process to be “tedious, complicated and lengthy”.

Berma urged the education ministry and state education department to come up with guidelines to ensure no child was forced to attend religious classes.

This follows complaints that some students were forced to attend such classes even though they were not practising Muslims.

Such a problem occurred, she said, when one spouse converted to Islam just to marry a Muslim and then got divorced. “And the children end up the victims.”

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2021/01/21/suhakam-wants-govt-to-address-religious-status-problem-in-sarawak/

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Cancelling Thaipusam holiday puts Muslims in bad light, says PKR Youth

January 22, 2021

PETALING JAYA: The Kedah government’s move to cancel the Thaipusam holiday in the state will put Muslims and Malays in bad light, PKR Youth said.

The wing’s chief, Akmal Nasir, became the latest to criticise the decision, saying it was embarrassing that menteri besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor was from PAS, a party which claims to champion a Malay-Muslim approach in governance.

“Yet, the move has given a negative impression of Malays and Islam among the non-Malays and non-Muslims. Islam does not discriminate against other religions,” he said in a statement.

Two days ago, Sanusi said there would be no public holiday for Thaipusam in Kedah this year, since all activities in the annual festival had been cancelled because of the movement control order.

The decision has since led to brickbats, including from MIC, DAP and even former prime minister Najib Razak.

Sanusi later defended his decision saying he was not out to deny the rights of devotees, adding that Hindus were free to carry out prayers on their own so long as they meet the standard operating procedures set by the government.

Akmal also said Sanusi’s statement showed he did not appreciate the country’s multi-ethnic and multireligious makeup.

“This decision needs to be revoked as it can only fan the flames of racial discord and threaten the harmony among races,” he said.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2021/01/22/cancelling-thaipusam-holiday-puts-muslims-in-bad-light-says-pkr-youth/

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Be optimistic, get closer to Allah, minister Zulkifli reminds Covid-19 patients

22 Jan 2021

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 22 ― Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Religious Affairs) Datuk Seri Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri reminded Covid-19 patients to remain optimistic and not to feel isolated or depressed while receiving treatment.

Zulkifli, who underwent treatment for the virus at Tuanku Jaafar Hospital, Seremban after testing positive for Covid-19 on October 4 last year, said patients must remain optimistic and fulfil their free time as best as possible by getting closer to Allah and plenty of reading.

“Our biggest test is when we are hit by a disaster like this. The first thing, as a Muslim, is for us to always feel humble and increase our patience,” he said in a posting on his Facebook page.

In the post, Zulkifli also shared a video clip that showed him meeting and giving words of encouragement to patients and frontliners at the Covid-19 Quarantine and Low-risk Treatment Centre (PKRC) at the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang (MAEPS), with glass walls separating them.

During the visit, he also presented copies of his book titled Hari-Hari Tarbiah Dalam Hidupku on his experiences while being treated as a Covid-19 patient, and food donations from the Malaysian Islamic Economic Development Foundation, to patients.

Zulkifli also expressed sadness seeing the faces of patients and frontliners who were clearly exhausted in the fight against the pandemic.

“I understand their feelings because I have been in their situation. Pray for Allah to continue to protect Malaysia,” he said. ― Bernama

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2021/01/22/be-optimistic-get-closer-to-allah-minister-zulkifli-reminds-covid-19-patien/1943013

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Indonesia appoints Christian as new national police chief

Ryan Dagur

January 22, 2021

Indonesia has named a Christian as the new national police chief, the third person from the religious minority to hold the post in the Muslim-majority nation.

Commissioner General Listyo Sigit Prabowo, a Protestant, was the only nominee and was approved by parliament on Jan. 20,

The new chief, who heads the National Police's Criminal Investigation Agency and is a close ally of Indonesian President Joko Widodo, will replace General Idham Azis, who recently retired.

Listyo said he would try to ensure the police force was more transparent and would step up efforts to deal with serious problems, including intolerance and radicalism.

His appointment comes after a leading figure in the Indonesian Ulema Council, the country’s top Islamic clerical body, sparked controversy by saying the new police chief must be Muslim.

Father Paulus Christian Siswantoko, executive secretary of the Indonesian bishops' Commission for the Laity, said that by appointing a new chief from a minority religion Widodo wanted to show that any Indonesian citizen has an equal right to become a leader.

"This is an affirmation that this nation chooses leaders not based on religion, not based on a minority or majority, but based on achievement, track record and vision," he told UCA News.

He also hoped Listyo would enforce the law fairly for all people without discrimination.

"The impression that the law is blunt upward and sharp downward must change," he said, referring to a public perception that the law is implemented more harshly against the poor.

He also hoped Listyo can help strengthen ties among many elements of society, including religious leaders.

Activist Rivanlee Anandar, from the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence, called for the new chief to protect human rights and for police not to violate them.

"The new chief will have to start by making improvements in understanding and protecting human rights within the police," he said.

"Excessive violence in handling mass actions must stop immediately. He must also be able to deal with officers who commit violations under the guise of use of force."

Police brutality is a criticism often cited by human rights organizations.

According to the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, the police were involved in 75 percent of land conflicts and the confiscation of people's land in 2019-20.

It also said that in 2019 there were 1,847 victims from 160 cases of arbitrary arrest, an increase from 88 cases with 1,144 victims in 2018.

https://www.ucanews.com/news/indonesia-appoints-christian-as-new-national-police-chief/91105

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Mideast

 

Speaker's Aide: Practical Measures by New Residents of White House Only Criterion for Iran

2021-January-21

"Trump who was the White House's overt state terrorism figure has gone and Biden-Harris have come," Amir Abdollahian wrote on his twitter page.

He voiced regret that due to the western sides' disloyalties, nothing but a name has remained from the nuclear deal, and said, "Changing America's historically hostile behavior and lifting cruel sanctions (against Iran) is the most important issue."

"The criterion for the great people of Iran is the practical behavior of the new White House tenants," Amir Abdollahian said.

In relevant remarks on Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani voiced pleasure with the end of Trump’s tenure, saying that the new administration in the White House should take the opportunity to implement all Washington’s nuclear deal undertakings.

“Today, thanks God, Trump's black page will be closed forever, and we say thanks God when any oppressor is overthrown,” Rouhani said, addressing a cabinet meeting in Tehran.

He added that during his 4-year tenure, Trump left no legacy but making the US society bipolar, adding that Washington DC has become a military garrison for the swearing-in ceremony of the new president and all these Armed Forces have come to establish security in this city, and this is one of the fruits of Trump's naive or authoritarian actions.

“We have never seen a president in the US who explicitly admits assassination of a major military commander (General Soleimani) in another guest country (Iraq) to make the official announcement that he had ordered the assassination. I mean, we really saw a stupid terrorist in history, and state terrorism was recorded in the forehead of the White House, and he did it,” Rouhani said.

He called on the new US administration to return to the international laws, undertakings and the UNSC resolutions, specially Resolution 2231, and said, “Of course, if they return to the law, our answer will be positive, and if they show their sincerity in action based on the law, the resolution that they voted for and the undertakings that they have signed, we will naturally fulfill all our undertakings too.”

Rouhani referred to Trump’s economic terrorism against Iran which even blocked the country’s purchase of medicine and vaccine, and said, “Thanks God, they have failed. Today, we see that despite all these pressures, our non-oil exports path is normalizing, and our oil exports are much better than the previous months, and our oil products export are moving in the right direction and this means complete failure of this policy.”

He said that Trump was not a politician but was a businessman and a tower builder, adding that the new US administration includes people who are familiar with political affairs.

“If they give a signature on their undertakings under the Resolution 2231, they will see a signature in Iran, and if they issue a decree, they will see a decree for it in Iran too, nothing more; if they fulfill their undertakings effectively, they will witness effective implementation of all undertakings by this side too. Today the ball is in the US and Washington’s court,” President Rouhani stressed.

He noted that Trump’s political life has ended and the nuclear deal is still alive, adding, “He made every attempt to destroy the nuclear deal but he failed, and the extremists in Israel and Saudi Arabia all sought this but failed, and the nuclear deal is alive and well today better than yesterday.”

Rouhani stressed that the maximum pressure policy has failed completely.

Also, on Monday, Iranian Envoy and Permanent Representative to the UN Majid Takht Ravanchi underlined that if Biden decides to return to the nuclear deal, Washington should comply with all its undertakings in exact accordance with the internationally-endorsed agreement.

“We make decision and take reciprocal action considering Biden's moves vis a vis the nuclear deal. We have repeatedly demanded the US to return to the nuclear deal and this return should be complete and without preconditions, that is to say, no issue related or unrelated to the nuclear deal should be put forward for discussion,” Takht Ravanchi said.

“It should only be clear that the US international undertakings cannot be half-fulfilled. If they claim to return to the nuclear deal, this return should be accompanied by the full implementation of their undertakings with no hesitation or controversy,” he added.

Takht Ravanchi stressed Iran’s clear position towards the nuclear deal, and said, “We live up to our undertakings.”

He referred to the parliament’s bill to take strategic measures to counter the US sanctions against Iran, and said, “There is a timetable in the parliament’s bill and we are moving in the same direction, so we (at the foreign ministry) are not entitled to specify the period for how long we will wait. In the first place, we make decisions based on national interests, and secondly, we should act on the basis of and within the framework of the parliamentary bill.”

His remarks came after Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi announced that the country is at present producing nearly half a kilo of uranium enriched to the 20% purity level, meantime, saying that Tehran’s steps to reduce nuclear deal undertakings after the West’s disloyalties can all be backtracked.

“Based on the latest news I have, they (the Iranian scientists at nuclear installations) are producing 20 grams (of 20% enriched uranium) every hour; meaning that practically, we are producing half a kilo every day,” Salehi said in an interview with the Persian-language Khamenei.ir website released on Monday.

“We produce and store this 20% (enriched uranium) and if they return to the nuclear deal, we will return to our undertakings too,” he added.

Asked about the recent bill approved by the parliament to adopt strategic measures to remove sanctions against Iran, Salehi said that the AEOI is required to implement it.

“It is a reality and both the government and the AEOI have declared that they do not have any technical problems with implementation of the parliament’s bill and we launched 20% enrichment within 24 hours,” he said.

Salehi also underlined the need for Washington to remove all sanctions against Iran, specially those which prevent the country’s oil sales and banking transactions.

Iranian legislators last Tuesday praised the AEOI for restarting enrichment of uranium at 20-percent purity level, and called for the full implementation of the recent parliamentarian law to counter the illegal US sanctions against the country.

In a statement on Tuesday, 190 legislators expressed their support for the AEOI’s resumption of 20% uranium enrichment and urged the body to fully and precisely implement the law ratified as a counteractive move to the sanctions illegally imposed on the country, especially those by the United States.

The lawmakers said the parliament approved the ‘Strategic Counteractive Plan for Lifting Sanctions and Safeguarding Rights of Iranian People’ to highlight Iran’s legitimate right to use peaceful nuclear technology and the importance of lifting all cruel sanctions against the country.

The Iranian parliamentarians in a meeting on December 1, 2020 ratified the generalities of a bill to adopt strategic measures to remove sanctions against the country and defend the nation’s interests.

The lawmakers, in November, had given the green light to the single-urgency of the strategic motion, but the plan turned into a double-urgency on Sunday after the assassination of the Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh's car was targeted by an explosion and machinegun fire in Damavand's Absard 40 kilometers to the East of Tehran on Friday November 27, 2020.

Under the bill, the AEOI is required to start in two months after the approval of the present bill to produce at least 120 kg of 20%-enriched uranium annually at Fordow nuclear site and store it inside the country, increase the enrichment capacity and production of enriched uranium to at least 500 kg per month, start the installation of centrifuges, gas injection, enrichment, and storage of materials up to proper purity levels within 3 months, via at least 1000 IR-2m centrifuges in the underground part of Shahid Ahmadi Roshan facility in Natanz, transfer any enrichment, research, and development operations of IR-6 centrifuges to the nuclear site of Shahid Ali Mohammadi in Fordow, and start enrichment operation via at least 164 centrifuges and expand it to 1000 by the end of 20 March 2021 (end of the Iranian calendar year) and return the 40 megawatts Arak heavy water reactor to its pre-JCPOA condition by reviving the heart (calandria) of the reactor within 4 months from the date of the adoption of this law.

Also, the government is required to suspend the nuclear deal-based regulatory access beyond the Additional Protocol within 2 months after the adoption of the law based on the articles 36 and 37 of the nuclear deal.

Also, after 3 months from the adoption of this law, if Iran's banking relations in Europe and the amount of oil purchases by them from Iran is not back to normal and to satisfactory conditions, the government is required to stop the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol.

Meantime, if after 3 months from the adoption of the law, the nuclear deal parties return to fulfill their undertakings, the government is required to submit a proposal to the parliament for Iran's reciprocal action to return to the nuclear deal undertakings, the bill said.

Iran signed the JCPOA with six world states — namely the US, Germany, France, Britain, Russia, and China — in 2015.

Trump, a stern critic of the historic deal, unilaterally pulled Washington out of the JCPOA in May 2018, and unleashed the “toughest ever” sanctions against the Islamic Republic in defiance of global criticism in an attempt to strangle the Iranian oil trade, but to no avail since its "so-called maximum pressure policy" has failed to push Tehran to the negotiating table.

In response to the US’ unilateral move, Tehran has so far rowed back on its nuclear commitments four times in compliance with Articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA, but stressed that its retaliatory measures will be reversible as soon as Europe finds practical ways to shield the mutual trade from the US sanctions.

Tehran has particularly been disappointed with failure of the three European signatories to the JCPOA -- Britain, France and Germany -- to protect its business interests under the deal after the US' withdrawal.

On January 5, Iran took a final step in reducing its commitments, and said it would no longer observe any operational limitations on its nuclear industry, whether concerning the capacity and level of uranium enrichment, the volume of stockpiled uranium or research and development.

Meantime, Biden has recently said in a CNN article that he wants a renegotiation of the contents of the deal before he agrees to rejoin the agreement.

“I will offer Tehran a credible path back to diplomacy. If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations. With our allies, we will work to strengthen and extend the nuclear deal's provisions, while also addressing other issues of concern,” he wrote, mentioning that he wants changes to the contents of the nuclear deal and guarantees from Tehran that it would be open for compromise to strike multiple deals over its missile and regional powers as well as a number of other issues that have been the bones of contention between the two sides in the last four decades.

In response, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had stressed that the US has violated the nuclear deal and is in no position to ask for any conditions for its return to the JCPOA, adding that it's Tehran that has its own terms to allow the US back into the internationally endorsed agreement.

The foreign minister has reiterated time and again that Tehran would not change even a single word of the agreement, and cautioned the US that it needs to pay reparations for the damage it has inflicted on Iran through its retreat from the nuclear agreement and give enough insurances that it would not go for initiating the trigger mechanism again before it could get back to the deal.

In relevant remarks earlier this month, Spokesman for the AEOI Behrouz Kamalvandi said his country enjoys the capability to produce 120 kg of uranium with 20% purity in 8 months, that's 4 months faster than the one-year period required by a recent parliament approval.

https://www.farsnews.ir/en/news/13991102000552/Speaker's-Aide-Pracical-Measres-by-New-Residens-f-Whie-Hse-Only

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Iranian President: Trump Departed White House in Disgrace

2021-January-21

Those seeking to defeat Iran are now overthrown in disgrace, President Rouhani said on Wednesday, a reference to former US president Donald Trump.

He made the remarks at a virtual inauguration ceremony of infrastructural projects, including the Persian Gulf Bid Boland Gas Refinery, which is among the giant in the Middle East region, and other important oil projects in Iran on Thursday morning.

The inauguration takes place on a day that they claimed with bullying that they would have defeated Iran, the President said.

At the final days of their infelicitous life, everyone could see how much they were against democracy, Rouhani added.

"But at the end, it was revealed that these terrorists committed what kind of crimes against the American people and the world people as well," he said.

In relevant remarks on Wednesday, Iranian Envoy and Permanent Representative to the UN Majid Takht Ravanchi voiced pleasure with the end of Trump's era, saying that he left the office without any success in maximum pressure policy against Tehran.

"Those who boasted about a maximum pressure policy hoping to bring Iran to its knees are now gone," Takht Ravanchi wrote on his twitter page on Wednesday.

"Iran’s reality can't be ignored, and all attempts to undermine it have failed," he added.

Takht Ravanchi said that "time will tell" if "the new US administration (will) learn from past US hostility, ignorance and failure?"

Also on Wednesday, President Rouhani voiced pleasure with the end of Trump’s tenure, saying that the new administration in the White House should take the opportunity to implement all Washington’s nuclear deal undertakings.

“Today, thanks God, Trump's black page will be closed forever, and we say thanks God when any oppressor is overthrown,” Rouhani said, addressing a cabinet meeting in Tehran.

He added that during his 4-year tenure, Trump left no legacy but making the US society bipolar, adding that Washington DC has become a military garrison for the swearing-in ceremony of the new president and all these Armed Forces have come to establish security in this city, and this is one of the fruits of Trump's naive or authoritarian actions.

“We have never seen a president in the US who explicitly admits assassination of a major military commander (General Soleimani) in another guest country (Iraq) to make the official announcement that he had ordered the assassination. I mean, we really saw a stupid terrorist in history, and state terrorism was recorded in the forehead of the White House, and he did it,” Rouhani said.

He called on the new US administration to return to the international laws, undertakings and the UNSC resolutions, specially Resolution 2231, and said, “Of course, if they return to the law, our answer will be positive, and if they show their sincerity in action based on the law, the resolution that they voted for and the undertakings that they have signed, we will naturally fulfill all our undertakings too.”

Rouhani referred to Trump’s economic terrorism against Iran which even blocked the country’s purchase of medicine and vaccine, and said, “Thanks God, they have failed. Today, we see that despite all these pressures, our non-oil exports path is normalizing, and our oil exports are much better than the previous months, and our oil products export are moving in the right direction and this means complete failure of this policy.”

He said that Trump was not a politician but was a businessman and a tower builder, adding that the new US administration includes people who are familiar with political affairs.

“If they give a signature on their undertakings under the Resolution 2231, they will see a signature in Iran, and if they issue a decree, they will see a decree for it in Iran too, nothing more; if they fulfill their undertakings effectively, they will witness effective implementation of all undertakings by this side too. Today the ball is in the US and Washington’s court,” President Rouhani stressed.

He noted that Trump’s political life has ended and the nuclear deal is still alive, adding, “He made every attempt to destroy the nuclear deal but he failed, and the extremists in Israel and Saudi Arabia all sought this but failed, and the nuclear deal is alive and well today better than yesterday.”

Rouhani stressed that the maximum pressure policy has failed completely.

Also, on Monday, Takht Ravanchi underlined that if Biden decides to return to the nuclear deal, Washington should comply with all its undertakings in exact accordance with the internationally-endorsed agreement.

“We make decision and take reciprocal action considering Biden's moves vis a vis the nuclear deal. We have repeatedly demanded the US to return to the nuclear deal and this return should be complete and without preconditions, that is to say, no issue related or unrelated to the nuclear deal should be put forward for discussion,” Takht Ravanchi said.

“It should only be clear that the US international undertakings cannot be half-fulfilled. If they claim to return to the nuclear deal, this return should be accompanied by the full implementation of their undertakings with no hesitation or controversy,” he added.

Takht Ravanchi stressed Iran’s clear position towards the nuclear deal, and said, “We live up to our undertakings.”

He referred to the parliament’s bill to take strategic measures to counter the US sanctions against Iran, and said, “There is a timetable in the parliament’s bill and we are moving in the same direction, so we (at the foreign ministry) are not entitled to specify the period for how long we will wait. In the first place, we make decisions based on national interests, and secondly, we should act on the basis of and within the framework of the parliamentary bill.”

His remarks came after Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi announced that the country is at present producing nearly half a kilo of uranium enriched to the 20% purity level, meantime, saying that Tehran’s steps to reduce nuclear deal undertakings after the West’s disloyalties can all be backtracked.

“Based on the latest news I have, they (the Iranian scientists at nuclear installations) are producing 20 grams (of 20% enriched uranium) every hour; meaning that practically, we are producing half a kilo every day,” Salehi said in an interview with the Persian-language Khamenei.ir website released on Monday.

“We produce and store this 20% (enriched uranium) and if they return to the nuclear deal, we will return to our undertakings too,” he added.

Asked about the recent bill approved by the parliament to adopt strategic measures to remove sanctions against Iran, Salehi said that the AEOI is required to implement it.

“It is a reality and both the government and the AEOI have declared that they do not have any technical problems with implementation of the parliament’s bill and we launched 20% enrichment within 24 hours,” he said.

Salehi also underlined the need for Washington to remove all sanctions against Iran, specially those which prevent the country’s oil sales and banking transactions.

Iranian legislators last Tuesday praised the AEOI for restarting enrichment of uranium at 20-percent purity level, and called for the full implementation of the recent parliamentarian law to counter the illegal US sanctions against the country.

In a statement on Tuesday, 190 legislators expressed their support for the AEOI’s resumption of 20% uranium enrichment and urged the body to fully and precisely implement the law ratified as a counteractive move to the sanctions illegally imposed on the country, especially those by the United States.

The lawmakers said the parliament approved the ‘Strategic Counteractive Plan for Lifting Sanctions and Safeguarding Rights of Iranian People’ to highlight Iran’s legitimate right to use peaceful nuclear technology and the importance of lifting all cruel sanctions against the country.

The Iranian parliamentarians in a meeting on December 1, 2020 ratified the generalities of a bill to adopt strategic measures to remove sanctions against the country and defend the nation’s interests.

The lawmakers, in November, had given the green light to the single-urgency of the strategic motion, but the plan turned into a double-urgency on Sunday after the assassination of the Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh's car was targeted by an explosion and machinegun fire in Damavand's Absard 40 kilometers to the East of Tehran on Friday November 27, 2020.

Under the bill, the AEOI is required to start in two months after the approval of the present bill to produce at least 120 kg of 20%-enriched uranium annually at Fordow nuclear site and store it inside the country, increase the enrichment capacity and production of enriched uranium to at least 500 kg per month, start the installation of centrifuges, gas injection, enrichment, and storage of materials up to proper purity levels within 3 months, via at least 1000 IR-2m centrifuges in the underground part of Shahid Ahmadi Roshan facility in Natanz, transfer any enrichment, research, and development operations of IR-6 centrifuges to the nuclear site of Shahid Ali Mohammadi in Fordow, and start enrichment operation via at least 164 centrifuges and expand it to 1000 by the end of 20 March 2021 (end of the Iranian calendar year) and return the 40 megawatts Arak heavy water reactor to its pre-JCPOA condition by reviving the heart (calandria) of the reactor within 4 months from the date of the adoption of this law.

Also, the government is required to suspend the nuclear deal-based regulatory access beyond the Additional Protocol within 2 months after the adoption of the law based on the articles 36 and 37 of the nuclear deal.

Also, after 3 months from the adoption of this law, if Iran's banking relations in Europe and the amount of oil purchases by them from Iran is not back to normal and to satisfactory conditions, the government is required to stop the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol.

Meantime, if after 3 months from the adoption of the law, the nuclear deal parties return to fulfill their undertakings, the government is required to submit a proposal to the parliament for Iran's reciprocal action to return to the nuclear deal undertakings, the bill said.

Iran signed the JCPOA with six world states — namely the US, Germany, France, Britain, Russia, and China — in 2015.

Trump, a stern critic of the historic deal, unilaterally pulled Washington out of the JCPOA in May 2018, and unleashed the “toughest ever” sanctions against the Islamic Republic in defiance of global criticism in an attempt to strangle the Iranian oil trade, but to no avail since its "so-called maximum pressure policy" has failed to push Tehran to the negotiating table.

In response to the US’ unilateral move, Tehran has so far rowed back on its nuclear commitments four times in compliance with Articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA, but stressed that its retaliatory measures will be reversible as soon as Europe finds practical ways to shield the mutual trade from the US sanctions.

Tehran has particularly been disappointed with failure of the three European signatories to the JCPOA -- Britain, France and Germany -- to protect its business interests under the deal after the US' withdrawal.

On January 5, Iran took a final step in reducing its commitments, and said it would no longer observe any operational limitations on its nuclear industry, whether concerning the capacity and level of uranium enrichment, the volume of stockpiled uranium or research and development.

Meantime, Biden has recently said in a CNN article that he wants a renegotiation of the contents of the deal before he agrees to rejoin the agreement.

“I will offer Tehran a credible path back to diplomacy. If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations. With our allies, we will work to strengthen and extend the nuclear deal's provisions, while also addressing other issues of concern,” he wrote, mentioning that he wants changes to the contents of the nuclear deal and guarantees from Tehran that it would be open for compromise to strike multiple deals over its missile and regional powers as well as a number of other issues that have been the bones of contention between the two sides in the last four decades.

In response, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had stressed that the US has violated the nuclear deal and is in no position to ask for any conditions for its return to the JCPOA, adding that it's Tehran that has its own terms to allow the US back into the internationally endorsed agreement.

The foreign minister has reiterated time and again that Tehran would not change even a single word of the agreement, and cautioned the US that it needs to pay reparations for the damage it has inflicted on Iran through its retreat from the nuclear agreement and give enough insurances that it would not go for initiating the trigger mechanism again before it could get back to the deal.

In relevant remarks earlier this month, Spokesman for the AEOI Behrouz Kamalvandi said his country enjoys the capability to produce 120 kg of uranium with 20% purity in 8 months, that's 4 months faster than the one-year period required by a recent parliament approval.

https://www.farsnews.ir/en/news/13991102000475/Iranian-Presiden-Trmp-Depared-Whie-Hse-in-Disgrace

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Iranian FM: Multilateralism Endangered by US Illegal Sanctions

2021-January-21

Zarif made the remarks in a videoconference call with his Irish counterpart Simon Coveney on Wednesday.

He said Washington’s unilateral sanctions, specially those imposed on other countries over the past few years, run counter to the UN Charter and international accords, and have dealt a blow to multilateralism.

The Iranian foreign minister further expressed Iran’s readiness to fully implement the nuclear deal — officially named the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — if the United States lifts its sanctions against the Islamic Republic and returns to compliance with the multilateral agreement.

Iran had met all its obligations since the JCPOA took effect, Zarif said, adding that the country only started reducing its commitments under Article 36 of the accord since it was deprived of the pact’s benefits following the unilateral US withdrawal and Europe’s inability to live up to its obligations.

In relevant remarks on Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani voiced pleasure with the end of outgoing US President Donald Trump’s tenure, saying that the new administration in the White House should take the opportunity to implement all Washington’s nuclear deal undertakings.

“Today, thanks God, Trump's black page will be closed forever, and we say thanks God when any oppressor is overthrown,” Rouhani said, addressing a cabinet meeting in Tehran on Wednesday.

He added that during his 4-year tenure, Trump left no legacy but making the US society bipolar, adding that Washington DC has become a military garrison for the swearing-in ceremony of the new president and all these Armed Forces have come to establish security in this city, and this is one of the fruits of Trump's naive or authoritarian actions.

“We have never seen a president in the US who explicitly admits assassination of a major military commander (General Soleimani) in another guest country (Iraq) to make the official announcement that he had ordered the assassination. I mean, we really saw a stupid terrorist in history, and state terrorism was recorded in the forehead of the White House, and he did it,” Rouhani said.

He called on the new US administration to return to the international laws, undertakings and the UNSC resolutions, specially Resolution 2231, and said, “Of course, if they return to the law, our answer will be positive, and if they show their sincerity in action based on the law, the resolution that they voted for and the undertakings that they have signed, we will naturally fulfill all our undertakings too.”

Rouhani referred to Trump’s economic terrorism against Iran which even blocked the country’s purchase of medicine and vaccine, and said, “Thanks God, they have failed. Today, we see that despite all these pressures, our non-oil exports path is normalizing, and our oil exports are much better than the previous months, and our oil products export are moving in the right direction and this means complete failure of this policy.”

He said that Trump was not a politician but was a businessman and a tower builder, adding that the new US administration includes people who are familiar with political affairs.

“If they give a signature on their undertakings under the Resolution 2231, they will see a signature in Iran, and if they issue a decree, they will see a decree for it in Iran too, nothing more; if they fulfill their undertakings effectively, they will witness effective implementation of all undertakings by this side too. Today the ball is in the US and Washington’s court,” President Rouhani stressed.

He noted that Trump’s political life has ended and the nuclear deal is still alive, adding, “He made every attempt to destroy the nuclear deal but he failed, and the extremists in Israel and Saudi Arabia all sought this but failed, and the nuclear deal is alive and well today better than yesterday.”

Rouhani stressed that the maximum pressure policy has failed completely.

In relevant remarks on Monday, Iranian Envoy and Permanent Representative to the UN Majid Takht Ravanchi underlined that if Biden decides to return to the nuclear deal, Washington should comply with all its undertakings in exact accordance with the internationally-endorsed agreement.

“We make decision and take reciprocal action considering Biden's moves vis a vis the nuclear deal. We have repeatedly demanded the US to return to the nuclear deal and this return should be complete and without preconditions, that is to say, no issue related or unrelated to the nuclear deal should be put forward for discussion,” Takht Ravanchi said.

“It should only be clear that the US international undertakings cannot be half-fulfilled. If they claim to return to the nuclear deal, this return should be accompanied by the full implementation of their undertakings with no hesitation or controversy,” he added.

Takht Ravanchi stressed Iran’s clear position towards the nuclear deal, and said, “We live up to our undertakings.”

He referred to the parliament’s bill to take strategic measures to counter the US sanctions against Iran, and said, “There is a timetable in the parliament’s bill and we are moving in the same direction, so we (at the foreign ministry) are not entitled to specify the period for how long we will wait. In the first place, we make decisions based on national interests, and secondly, we should act on the basis of and within the framework of the parliamentary bill.”

His remarks came after Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi announced that the country is at present producing nearly half a kilo of uranium enriched to the 20% purity level, meantime, saying that Tehran’s steps to reduce nuclear deal undertakings after the West’s disloyalties can all be backtracked.

“Based on the latest news I have, they (the Iranian scientists at nuclear installations) are producing 20 grams (of 20% enriched uranium) every hour; meaning that practically, we are producing half a kilo every day,” Salehi said in an interview with the Persian-language Khamenei.ir website released on Monday.

“We produce and store this 20% (enriched uranium) and if they return to the nuclear deal, we will return to our undertakings too,” he added.

Asked about the recent bill approved by the parliament to adopt strategic measures to remove sanctions against Iran, Salehi said that the AEOI is required to implement it.

“It is a reality and both the government and the AEOI have declared that they do not have any technical problems with implementation of the parliament’s bill and we launched 20% enrichment within 24 hours,” he said.

Salehi also underlined the need for Washington to remove all sanctions against Iran, specially those which prevent the country’s oil sales and banking transactions.

Iranian legislators last Tuesday praised the AEOI for restarting enrichment of uranium at 20-percent purity level, and called for the full implementation of the recent parliamentarian law to counter the illegal US sanctions against the country.

In a statement on Tuesday, 190 legislators expressed their support for the AEOI’s resumption of 20% uranium enrichment and urged the body to fully and precisely implement the law ratified as a counteractive move to the sanctions illegally imposed on the country, especially those by the United States.

The lawmakers said the parliament approved the ‘Strategic Counteractive Plan for Lifting Sanctions and Safeguarding Rights of Iranian People’ to highlight Iran’s legitimate right to use peaceful nuclear technology and the importance of lifting all cruel sanctions against the country.

The Iranian parliamentarians in a meeting on December 1, 2020 ratified the generalities of a bill to adopt strategic measures to remove sanctions against the country and defend the nation’s interests.

The lawmakers, in November, had given the green light to the single-urgency of the strategic motion, but the plan turned into a double-urgency on Sunday after the assassination of the Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh's car was targeted by an explosion and machinegun fire in Damavand's Absard 40 kilometers to the East of Tehran on Friday November 27, 2020.

Under the bill, the AEOI is required to start in two months after the approval of the present bill to produce at least 120 kg of 20%-enriched uranium annually at Fordow nuclear site and store it inside the country, increase the enrichment capacity and production of enriched uranium to at least 500 kg per month, start the installation of centrifuges, gas injection, enrichment, and storage of materials up to proper purity levels within 3 months, via at least 1000 IR-2m centrifuges in the underground part of Shahid Ahmadi Roshan facility in Natanz, transfer any enrichment, research, and development operations of IR-6 centrifuges to the nuclear site of Shahid Ali Mohammadi in Fordow, and start enrichment operation via at least 164 centrifuges and expand it to 1000 by the end of 20 March 2021 (end of the Iranian calendar year) and return the 40 megawatts Arak heavy water reactor to its pre-JCPOA condition by reviving the heart (calandria) of the reactor within 4 months from the date of the adoption of this law.

Also, the government is required to suspend the nuclear deal-based regulatory access beyond the Additional Protocol within 2 months after the adoption of the law based on the articles 36 and 37 of the nuclear deal.

Also, after 3 months from the adoption of this law, if Iran's banking relations in Europe and the amount of oil purchases by them from Iran is not back to normal and to satisfactory conditions, the government is required to stop the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol.

Meantime, if after 3 months from the adoption of the law, the nuclear deal parties return to fulfill their undertakings, the government is required to submit a proposal to the parliament for Iran's reciprocal action to return to the nuclear deal undertakings, the bill said.

Iran signed the JCPOA with six world states — namely the US, Germany, France, Britain, Russia, and China — in 2015.

Former US President Donald Trump, a stern critic of the historic deal, unilaterally pulled Washington out of the JCPOA in May 2018, and unleashed the “toughest ever” sanctions against the Islamic Republic in defiance of global criticism in an attempt to strangle the Iranian oil trade, but to no avail since its "so-called maximum pressure policy" has failed to push Tehran to the negotiating table.

In response to the US’ unilateral move, Tehran has so far rowed back on its nuclear commitments four times in compliance with Articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA, but stressed that its retaliatory measures will be reversible as soon as Europe finds practical ways to shield the mutual trade from the US sanctions.

Tehran has particularly been disappointed with failure of the three European signatories to the JCPOA -- Britain, France and Germany -- to protect its business interests under the deal after the US' withdrawal.

On January 5, Iran took a final step in reducing its commitments, and said it would no longer observe any operational limitations on its nuclear industry, whether concerning the capacity and level of uranium enrichment, the volume of stockpiled uranium or research and development.

Meantime, Biden has recently said in a CNN article that he wants a renegotiation of the contents of the deal before he agrees to rejoin the agreement.

“I will offer Tehran a credible path back to diplomacy. If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations. With our allies, we will work to strengthen and extend the nuclear deal's provisions, while also addressing other issues of concern,” he wrote, mentioning that he wants changes to the contents of the nuclear deal and guarantees from Tehran that it would be open for compromise to strike multiple deals over its missile and regional powers as well as a number of other issues that have been the bones of contention between the two sides in the last four decades.

In response, Zarif had stressed that the US has violated the nuclear deal and is in no position to ask for any conditions for its return to the JCPOA, adding that it's Tehran that has its own terms to allow the US back into the internationally endorsed agreement.

The foreign minister has reiterated time and again that Tehran would not change even a single word of the agreement, and cautioned the US that it needs to pay reparations for the damage it has inflicted on Iran through its retreat from the nuclear agreement and give enough insurances that it would not go for initiating the trigger mechanism again before it could get back to the deal.

In relevant remarks earlier this month, Spokesman for the AEOI Behrouz Kamalvandi said his country enjoys the capability to produce 120 kg of uranium with 20% purity in 8 months, that's 4 months faster than the one-year period required by a recent parliament approval.

https://www.farsnews.ir/en/news/13991102000455/Iranian-FM-Mlilaeralism-Endangered-by-US-Illegal-Sancins

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Iran Condemns Suicide Attacks in Baghdad

2021-January-21

The Iranian embassy voiced sympathy with the families of the victims and wished tranquility for the souls of deceased people.

It also acknowledged Iran's preparedness for any possible aid, and said it supports the Iraqi security measures to stop terrorist operations.

A rare twin suicide bombing killed at least 28 people and wounded 73 others on a bustling commercial street in the heart of Baghdad on Thursday, the military said, rupturing months of relative calm.

Brigadier General Hazem al-Azzawi, the director of Baghdad Operations Command, said that a “double explosion” hit a crowded market in the Bab al-Sharji area near Tayaran Square.

Medical sources said they feared the death toll could rise. The health ministry said it had mobilised medics across the capital to respond to the deadly attack.

Military spokesman Yahya Rasool said two suicide bombers detonated their explosives as they were being pursued by security forces.

https://www.farsnews.ir/en/news/13991102000493/Iran-Cndemns-Sicide-Aacks-in-Baghdad

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Iran Asks US to Remove "Inhumane" Sanctions against Syria

2021-January-21

Takht Ravanchi said on Wednesday the “political, unlawful and inhumane” US sanctions against Syria and some other countries are imposed at a time when Syrians are suffering badly from the terrorist acts and the Coronavirus pandemic.

“By occupying parts of Syria, the US continues to violate the territorial integrity of the Arab country. In fact, the US is pursuing its illegitimate geopolitical interests including by shielding and supporting certain terrorist groups. All such acts are in material breach of international law and must come to an end immediately,” he said, addressing a meeting of the UN Security Council on political developments in Syria and the humanitarian contributions.

The Iranian diplomat said “the imposition of unilateral sanctions on the Syrian people is another unlawful act by the United States and some other countries.”

“While the Syrians are seriously suffering from terrorist acts and also the COVID-19 pandemic, such inhumane sanctions are simply adding insult to injury, targeting the most vulnerable people the most,” Takht Ravanchi added.

Elsewhere in his Wednesday remarks, the Iranian diplomat strongly condemned Israel’s continued aggression against Syria, urging that the Tel Aviv regime must immediately stop its “provocative military adventurism”.

He also reiterated Tehran’s support for the Syrian people and government until they overcome the black boxes

Takht Ravanchi said that Iran will continue to support the people and Government of Syria to overcome the threats of terrorism and foreign occupation, rebuild their country and ensure its unity and territorial integrity.

In late December 2020, the former administration of US President Donald Trump imposed a new round of sanctions to ramp up pressure on the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad before Joe Biden takes office.

Syria's Central Bank, high-ranking figures and economic entities supportive of Damascus were targeted in the fresh US Treasury's sanctions.

"In total, OFAC added two individuals, nine business entities, and the Central Bank of Syria to the SDN List, pursuant to Syria sanctions authorities," US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said in a statement.

Syria, gripped by a militant war since 2011 that has left hundreds of thousands killed, has managed to take back control of many territories from the ISIL and other terrorist groups. The devastating war has also displaced millions of people inside the Arab country and into other places.

https://www.farsnews.ir/en/news/13991102000315/Iran-Asks-US-Remve-Inhmane-Sancins-agains-Syria

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General Soleimani’s Daughter: Trump Leaves Office Isolated, Defeated

2021-January-21

“Mr. Trump, you murdered my father, the General who led the victorious war against ISIS/Al-Qaeda, with the perverse hope that you will be seen as some sort of hero,” Zeinab Soleimani wrote on her twitter page on Wednesday.

“But instead you are defeated, isolated and broken - viewed not as a hero, but one who lives in fear of foes,” she added.

Zeinab Soleimnai made the remarks in a post on her Twitter account on Wednesday after Trump departed the White House at the end of his tumultuous four-year term and Joe Biden took office as the 46th president of the United States.

General Soleimani played an influential role in the battle of Iraqi and Syrian nations against the world’s most notorious Takfiri terror groups, the ISIL and al-Qaeda.

Lieutenant General Soleimani was assassinated in a US drone strike on Baghdad International Airport in Iraq on January 3, 2020, upon an order by Trump.

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

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

On January 8 and after the funeral ceremony of General Soleimani, the IRGC Aerospace Force started heavy ballistic missile attacks on US Ein Al-Assad airbase in Southwestern Iraq near the border with Syria and a US operated airbase in Erbil in retaliation for the US assassination of General Soleimani.

Ein Al-Assad is an airbase with a 4km runway at 188m altitude from sea levels, which is the main and the largest US airbase in Iraq. Early reports said the radar systems and missile defense shields in Ein Al-Assad failed to operate and intercept the Iranian missiles. Unofficial reports said the US army's central radar systems at Ein Al-Assad had been jammed by electronic warfare.

The second IRGC reprisal attack targeted a US military base near Erbil airport in Iraqi Kurdistan Region in the second leg of "Martyr Soleimani" reprisal operation.

Iraq said the attacks had not taken any toll from its army men stationed at these two bases. The US army had blocked entrance into Ein Al-Assad to everyone, including the Iraqi army.

The IRGC officials said none of the missiles had been intercepted.

Meantime, Iran announced in late June that it had issued arrest warrants for 36 officials of the US and other countries who have been involved in the assassination of the martyred General Soleimani.

"36 individuals who have been involved or ordered the assassination of Hajj Qassem, including the political and military officials of the US and other governments, have been identified and arrest warrants have been issued for them by the judiciary officials and red alerts have also been issued for them via the Interpol," Alqasi Mehr said at the time.

He said that the prosecuted individuals are accused of murder and terrorist action, adding that Trump stands at the top of the list and will be prosecuted as soon as he stands down presidency after his term ends.

Earlier this month, Iran’s Judiciary Spokesman Gholam Hossein Esmayeeli said that Tehran has asked Interpol to issue a red notice for all perpetrators and masterminds of the assassination of General Soleimani.

“Iran has asked the Interpol for the apprehension of the US president and 47 others in connection with the assassination of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani near the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, last year,” Esmayeeli announced.

He added that Iran has identified 48 people in connection with the targeted terror attack and that includes US President Donald Trump, Pentagon officials and terrorist American forces in the region.

https://www.farsnews.ir/en/news/13991102000335/General-Sleimani%E2%80%99s-Dagher-Trmp-Leaves-Office-Islaed-Defeaed

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Hamas hails Trump departure, calls on Biden to reverse unjust US policies towards Palestinians

21 January 2021

The Palestinian resistance movement Hamas has hailed Donald Trump’s departure and called on new US President Joe Biden to reverse unjust policies pursued by his predecessor towards the Palestinian people.

“US President Joe Biden must reverse the course of misguided and unjust policies against our people and lay the foundations for security and stability in the region.” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said on Wednesday.

He went on to stress that there were no regrets at the departure of Donald Trump.

Trump "has been the biggest source and sponsor of injustice, violence and extremism in the world and the direct partner of the Israeli occupying regime in the aggression against our people,” the spokesman said.

Barhoum called on the new president “to revoke all the decisions that attempted to liquidate the Palestinian cause, especially those related to Jerusalem al-Quds and refugees, and to necessarily respect the Palestinian people’s will and democratic choices.”

Biden had promised that his administration would restore Washington’s official policy of opposition to the settlement expansion.

But on Tuesday Biden’s nominee for secretary of state Antony Blinken said the incoming administration will not reverse Trump’s controversial recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s "capital."

Resistance groups denounce Blinken’s remarks

Also on Thursday, Palestinian movements reacted with outrage to Blinken's remarks, with Hamas saying they run counter to the international laws and resolutions that recognize Jerusalem al-Quds as an occupied city.

Hazem Qasem, another Hamas spokesman, called the comments “an affront to all Arab nations and states.”

“Such remarks deny our people’s inalienable rights to their land and holy sites and are a blatant disregard for the entire Arab world at the official and popular levels,” he said.

“The remarks reassert the futility of wagering on the successive US administrations to stand by our Palestinian people’s rights and highlight the need to wager on our people’s ability to extract their rights through a unified struggle strategy,” he added.

Islamic Jihad, Hamas’ fellow resistance group based in Gaza, called the remarks “a slap on the face of all who have pinned their hopes on the US administration.”

Its spokesman Dawood Shihab said Blinken’s position indicates the US’s insistence on supporting the occupying regime and manipulating the truth.

“All should know that the US will never change. It is Palestinians who should get rid of the occupation through long-term struggle and endeavor.”

Abdullah Abdullah, a senior official within the Palestinian Fatah movement based in the occupied West Bank where Jerusalem al-Quds is located, reminded that US Congress had decided to call al-Quds the Israeli regime’s so-called capital back in 1995.

The administration of former President Trump broke with decades of the United States’ bipartisan show by not opposing Israeli settlements.

The “deal of the century” that Trump brokered envisions Jerusalem al-Quds as “Israel’s undivided capital” and allows the Tel Aviv regime to annex settlements in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley.

Trump also ordered relocation of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem al-Quds.

Ever since the US’s moves, Palestinians have stopped recognizing any intermediary role by Washington in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The UN Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in several resolutions.

After Trump took office in December 2016, Israel stepped up settlement expansion in defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which has pronounced settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds “a flagrant violation under international law.”

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/01/21/643543/Palestine-Trump-Hamas-Gaza-Biden-Jerusalem-al-Quds-

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How Yemen’s Houthis’ well-deserved terrorist label gives Biden important leverage

ROBERT EDWARDS

January 21, 2021

LONDON: Joe Biden, the newly inaugurated US president, is using his first days in office to review many of his predecessor’s policies and executive orders. How his administration handles its strategic inheritance, particularly with regard to Iran and its proxies, notably the Yemeni Houthi militia, could well shape the Arab region’s opinion of his nascent presidency.

On Jan. 10, Mike Pompeo, the outgoing secretary of state, announced the State Department would designate the Houthis (also known as Ansar Allah) as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization.” Three Houthi leaders — Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, Abdul Khaliq Badr Al-Din Al-Houthi and Abdullah Yahya Al-Hakim — were declared Specially Designated Global Terrorists with effect from Jan. 19.

“The designations are intended to hold Ansar Allah accountable for its terrorist acts, including cross-border attacks threatening civilian populations, infrastructure, and commercial shipping,” Pompeo said.

“The designations are also intended to advance efforts to achieve a peaceful, sovereign and united Yemen that is both free from Iranian interference and at peace with its neighbors.”

One reason why the Trump administration was able to achieve a lot in the Middle East was probably its readiness to call a spade a spade. And Pompeo’s description, by all accounts, was spot on. The war in Yemen escalated in 2015 when the Iran-backed Houthis overthrew the UN-recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. A coalition of Arab states, backed by the US, Britain and France, launched a military campaign to restore the legitimate government to power.

Since then, repeated attempts to reach a peace settlement have foundered, with the militia’s representatives failing to attend UN-brokered talks in Geneva in Sept. 2018 and its combatants willfully ignoring the terms of the Stockholm and Riyadh agreements.

An April 2020 ceasefire announced by the coalition at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic quickly fell apart when the Houthis resumed cross-border drone and missile strikes targeting Saudi Arabia.

For the Yemeni government, any peace agreement with the Houthis would be contingent on the militia breaking its ties with Tehran — a development that is highly unlikely at present.

Iran’s support for the Houthis has been an open secret since long before the Houthi takeover of Sana’a in 2015. It has caused the brutal war to rage on unabated and one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises to fester.

The conflict, now in its sixth year, has left 112,000 dead and 24 million in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

The Houthis have repeatedly targeted civilian population centers in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Most recently, 27 people were killed when a Houthi missile targeting ministers of the newly established Yemeni government struck Aden’s international airport on Dec. 30.

In April last year, five women were killed in a suspected Houthi strike on a prison in the city of Taiz — an act forcefully condemned by aid groups. Houthi missiles have even hit civilian facilities in Riyadh, including its international airport in Nov. 2017.

The group has also routinely targeted Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure. A July 2018 attack hit two Saudi crude carriers on the Red Sea while a May 2019 strike on two oil-pumping stations near Riyadh damaged a key pipeline.

The most damaging of all Houthi-claimed attacks was a Sept. 2019 drone and missile strike on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq and Khurais oil facilities, which sent shockwaves through the global crude market.

Although the Houthis claimed responsibility, investigators suggested the strike involving Iranian-supplied hardware may have originated from the north.

Biden’s foreign-policy team may also recall three attacks on the US navy in 2016 when he was Barack Obama’s vice president — by a militia whose actions matched the notorious words of its slogan “Death to America. Death to Israel. Curse on the Jews.”

The USS Mason was targeted on Oct. 9, 2016, by two missiles fired from Houthi-controlled territory while deployed near the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait off the coast of Yemen. The projectiles failed to cause any damage.

Three days later, the Mason was targeted again, with one missile falling short while the other was intercepted. USS Nitze, which was also deployed to the region, retaliated the following day, destroying three radar sites in Houthi-held territory.

On Oct. 15, the Mason was targeted a third time, this time in the Red Sea. All five anti-ship cruise missiles were neutralized or intercepted.

Given this behavior, it is surprising that the Houthis did not land the terrorist designation then, although historians would probably chalk it up to the Obama administration’s wish to preserve the 2015 Iran nuclear accord at any cost.

Foreign military vessels have not been the only targets. The Houthis have launched repeated attacks on ports and ships in recent years, routinely planting marine mines in the southern Red Sea and in the Bab Al-Mandab Strait in the path of commercial shipping.

The militia has also repeatedly rebuffed UN pleas to allow an inspection team to enter the FSO Safer, a 45-year-old oil tanker abandoned off the port of Hodeidah with 1.1 million barrels of crude on board, to conduct urgent repairs. In an extraordinary session, the UN expressed fears on July 15, 2020, of “catastrophe” if the vessel ruptured into the Red Sea.

Against this backdrop of proxy wars in the Middle East, Pompeo’s boss, Donald Trump, pursued a policy of “maximum pressure” against Tehran, withdrawing the US from the Obama-era nuclear deal and reimposing sanctions on Iran.

The strategy was matched by a zero-tolerance approach to Iranian influence in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, as well as to its role in harboring leaders and operatives of Al-Qaeda.

Notably, although not surprisingly, the findings of an Arab News-YouGov pan-Arab survey conducted in late 2020 suggest that Biden would be wise to shed the Obama administration baggage. The most popular response (53 percent) was that Obama left the region worse off, with another 58 percent saying Biden should distance himself from Obama-era policies.

With Houthi attacks on civilian targets triggering condemnations from inside and outside Yemen and prompting calls for more pressure on the leadership, the State Department’s “terrorist” designation gives Biden valuage leverage for future negotiations both with the Houthis and their patrons in Tehran.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1796401/middle-east

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Africa

 

Malian police disperse protest against French military presence

JANUARY 21, 2021

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Malian security forces used tear gas on Wednesday to disperse an unsanctioned protest in the capital Bamako against France’s military presence in the country, one of the rally’s organisers said.

France has more than 5,100 military personnel based in Mali and the West African Sahel region to help counter militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State, an involvement that is facing increased opposition at home and in Mali.

Malian authorities, who have denounced those opposed to the French military presence, deployed police in riot gear to block around 1,000 protesters from gathering in Bamako’s Independence Square, said organiser Adama Diarra.

“We demand the departure of French forces. After eight years of intervention it’s been a total failure,” he said by phone.

France deployed troops to Mali in 2013 to help drive out Islamist militants who had occupied the north of the country after hijacking a Tuareg rebellion.

Though the fighters have been pushed from main towns, Mali has failed to stabilise while the militants have regrouped and have carried out attacks in a prolonged insurgency.

The violence has spread to neighbouring states, stoked ethnic and intercommunal tensions, and rendered large swathes of the country’s semi-arid north ungovernable.

On Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron said France could adjust its military operations in the Sahel region. Diplomatic and military sources expect a partial French withdrawal to be announced by mid-February.

Interim Malian President Bah N’daw on Tuesday thanked foreign militaries, including France’s, for continued support.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mali-security-france/malian-police-disperse-protest-against-french-military-presence-idUSKBN29P2DO?utm_source=iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=1922912_

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Libya: UN chief urges foreign fighters to leave by Saturday

20 Jan 2021

The UN chief urged the departure of all foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya by Saturday as called for in the October 23 ceasefire agreement signed by the warring sides after years of fighting split the oil-rich North African nation in two.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also urged the UN-recognised government that holds sway in the capital, Tripoli, in western Libya and the forces of renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar who runs most of the east and the south, “to maintain their resolve in reaching a lasting political solution to the conflict, resolving economic issues, and alleviating the humanitarian situation”.

In a report to the UN Security Council obtained on Tuesday, Guterres welcomed the road map adopted by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum – 75 representatives from the country’s political and social spectrum – leading to presidential and parliamentary elections on December 24, 2021.

After a NATO-led uprising in 2011 that overthrew and later killed hardline leader Muammar Gaddafi, Libya was divided between the rival administrations in the east and west, each backed by an array of militias and foreign powers.

Turkey is the main patron of the Tripoli government, while the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Egypt back Haftar.

Guterres encouraged countries backing both sides and the broader international community to support implementation of the ceasefire “without delay”, including “ensuring the departure of all foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya and the full and unconditional respect of the Security Council arms embargo” against Libya.

He also urged the Security Council to give the UN political mission, known as UNSMIL, “a clear but flexible mandate” to support a Libyan-led mechanism to monitor implementation of the ceasefire. Diplomats said a Council resolution outlining the UN role will likely be circulated in late January or early February.

In early January, Guterres recommended that international monitors be deployed to Libya under a UN umbrella to observe the October ceasefire agreement from a base in the strategic city of Sirte, the gateway to the country’s main oil fields and export terminals.

He said an advance team should be sent to Tripoli as a first step to “provide the foundations for a scalable United Nations ceasefire monitoring mechanism based in Sirte”.

‘Mitigating the risk’

The secretary-general expressed concern at the continuing threat of “terrorism and violent extremism” in the Libyan region, saying reunifying the country’s security institutions would contribute “to mitigating the risk” of ISIL (ISIS) and other armed groups reconstituting.

“Though operationally weakened as a result of a series of counterterrorism operations, the Islamic State … and a support network of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) remain a threat in Libya,” he said.

Guterres said the role of UN member nations and regional organisations, including the African Union, European Union and Arab League “is critical”.

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit told the Security Council on Monday that recent events “could bring us closer to ending the division in this important Arab country”.

He pressed for foreign fighters and mercenaries to be removed by Saturday’s deadline, and urged a solution to the threat posed by armed groups and militias.

Aboul-Gheit warned unless this happens “the country will not enjoy any stability nor will any agreement on the transitional phase and the preparation for the upcoming elections survive”.

He pledged Arab League support to the UN in monitoring the ceasefire and in preparing for and observing December’s elections.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/1/20/un-chief-urges-foreign-fighters-leave-libya-by-saturday?utm_source=iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=1922912_

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UN sets dates for Libyan transitional government selection

21 January 2021

The United Nations Libya mission said on Thursday that nominations for leadership of a new unified transitional government must be made within a week and voting on candidates would take place in early February.

Libya has been divided since 2014 between rival administrations in the capital Tripoli, in the west, and in the country's east.

Maneuvering over the new government has raised fears that powerful figures who stand to lose influence could attempt to sabotage the process.

The UN in November gathered 75 Libyan participants in a political dialogue in Tunis aimed at setting a roadmap to national elections that they set for late December.

After weeks of wrangling, the dialogue members this week agreed on rules for selecting a new three-member presidential council and a prime minister to oversee the run-up to the election.

The UN said on Thursday that dialogue members would vote on candidates for the new government's leadership positions in Switzerland from Feb. 1-5.

Jan Kubis, currently the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, was recently tapped to be new envoy on Libya.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2021/01/22/UN-sets-dates-for-Libyan-transitional-government-selection

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Human rights NGO urges Nigeria to release Sheikh Zakzaky, wife after COVID-19 diagnosis

21 January 2021

A prominent Islamic human rights NGO has urged Nigeria to release the country’s leading Muslim cleric and his wife, who have been unlawfully detained by Abuja since 2015 and afflicted with considerable suffering, now that they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 infection.

The London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) made the plea with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday, reminding the illegal grounds on which the duo were being kept.

“Mallimah Zeenah tested positive for COVID-19 this week in Kaduna state prison,” the body said, referring respectively to Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zakzaky’s spouse and the facility in the northwestern city of Kaduna, where they were incarcerated. The release, it added, was necessary “to protect them from the spread of COVID-19 in the country’s jails.”

Simultaneously IHRC has also written to the United Nations asking the international body to exert pressure on Nigeria to do the same.

Given Mallimah’s underlying medical conditions and her age, her infection places her at heightened risk of severe illness and/or death. Sheikh Zakzaky himself suffers from many underlying conditions, which put him at high risk of developing life-threatening symptoms should he contract the virus, the IHRC said.

In late 2015, Nigerian forces brutally attacked Zakzaky’s residence in the city of Zaria in Kaduna State and the followers of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) Muslim group that he leads. They laid the couple under arrest and went on to slay three of Zakzaky’s sons  and more than 1,000 of IMN’s supporters.

Abuja ordered the massacre after claiming that the IMN had “attacked” a convoy carrying Nigeria’s defense minister. Reports, however, have shown how the convoy intentionally crossed paths with a religious procession by the movement earlier, prompting a conflict with its supporters that the state used as a pretext to launch the bloodbath.

Nigeria killing Zakzaky’s quietly?

The IHRC reminded that the Nigerian officials were, meanwhile, prolonging Zakzaky and his wife’s detention on the alleged grounds that a single Nigerian troop reportedly died during the 2015 carnage.

The NGO also protested that neither Zakzaky nor his wife have so far been convicted of anything as their controversial trial process was still underway.

“The length of time they have spent in custody since being arrested in 2015 reinforces the view that the Nigerian authorities are conducting a witch-hunt against the couple and abusing the judicial system in the hope that they will die quietly in custody,” IHRC wrote.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/01/21/643568/Nigeria-Zakzaky-COVID-diagnosis

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North America

 

Still Separated: Covid-19 Order Keeps Families Apart After Joe Biden Lifts 'Muslim Ban'

JANUARY 21, 2021

On Tuesday night, on the eve of President Joe Biden’s inauguration, Mania Darbani’s mother called her from Iran.

She was ecstatic that Biden would soon repeal the Trump administration’s so-called "Muslim ban" that barred people from a number of mostly Muslim-majority nations, including Iran, from coming to the United States.

"It means I can get to you very soon," Maryam Taghdissi Jani, who is applying for an immigrant visa, told Darbani, a 36-year-old receptionist who lives with her husband in Los Angeles.

Darbani said she could not bring herself to explain that other roadblocks remained in place before her mother could join her. On top of the original travel ban that kept them apart for years, Trump issued another ban in 2020 that blocked certain immigrant visas because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Darbani, a US citizen, petitioned for an immigrant visa for her mother, a 71-year old nurse, in 2019, but the Trump administration stopped issuing almost all new family-based green cards in April 2020, saying the move would protect American jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden has not yet said whether he will rescind the proclamation, but until he does, Taghdissi Jani will remain in Iran.

"I am very sad right now, I am just waiting for her," Darbani said. "My father passed away and my mom is alone. I need her here."

Since December 2017, after a revised version of the original travel ban was upheld by the US Supreme Court, some 40,000 people have been barred from entering the United States under the ban, according to State Department data.

But for many families separated by the travel ban a reunion isn’t on the cards anytime soon due to layers of pandemic-related travel and visa restrictions.

On Jan. 18, Biden press secretary Jen Psaki said the incoming administration would reject a Trump attempt to lift a restriction on travelers from Europe and Brazil. She added that the Biden administration planned to "strengthen public health measures around international travel."

The Biden administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether he plans to lift the immigration bans.

Curtis Morrison, an immigration attorney representing more than 5,000 people in lawsuits challenging the coronavirus-related immigration bans, has been advising clients for weeks that Biden’s rescission of the travel ban will not change the broader freeze on travel.

"It’s a positive development, but we can’t really celebrate yet," he said.

Lameaa Albarmaki, 25, a Yemeni green card holder who immigrated to the United States in 2015 as the war in her country intensified, is waiting to be reunited with her husband.

She lives with her young daughter, parents and four younger siblings in Baltimore. Her daughter, as well as three of her siblings are developmentally disabled, she said, and she needs help. "I need him to just be with me," she said. "That’s all I need and I hope."

Some immigrants who have been waiting for years for the chance to reunite with their loved ones are now having to weigh the risks of traveling during a pandemic.

Aryan Jafari, whose parents missed milestones such as his engagement and the birth of his baby due to the travel ban, said he got emotional after the presidential election in November, when it became clear the travel ban would be repealed.

The 31-year-old mechanical design engineer called his parents in Iran and told them they would soon be able to visit and meet their first grandchild.

But on Wednesday, he said, the family was not "jumping up and down" even as the ban was officially revoked.

He does not think it is safe for his parents, aged 59 and 67, to get on a plane and travel to Los Angeles, a COVID-19 hotspot, without a vaccination.

"Right now we are just looking forward to the day when it is safe enough for people to travel," he said. "We don’t want it to be their last trip, we want it to be safe for everyone."

https://www.news18.com/news/world/us-covid-19-order-travel-ban-joe-biden-lifts-muslim-ban-3322163.html

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US military transfers hundreds of troops from Iraq to Syria’s Hasakah: Report

21 January 2021

As part of Washington’s attempts to wrest further control over oil reserves in Syria and plunder natural resources there, the US military has reportedly transferred hundreds of troops from Iraq to Syria’s energy-rich northeastern province of Hasakah.

Syria’s state-run television network reported that 200 troops were flown to US bases in the town of al-Shaddadi onboard helicopters on Thursday. The town is located about 60 kilometers south of the provincial capital city of Hasakah.

The report added that the forces are set to be deployed at Omar oil field and Koniko gas field in the neighboring Dayr al-Zawr province.

Moreover, Syria’s official news agency SANA reported that the US-led military coalition has dispatched 40 truckloads of weapons and logistical equipment to Hasakah.

The report said the convoy rumbled through the Waleed border crossing into Syrian territories, and headed towards US military bases in the area.

The US military has stationed forces and equipment in northeastern Syria, with the Pentagon claiming that the troops deployment is aimed at preventing the oilfields in the area from falling into the hands of Daesh terrorists. Damascus, however, says the deployment is meant to plunder the country's resources. 

The US first confirmed its looting of Syrian oil during a Senate hearing exchange between South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo in late July last year.

During his testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time, Pompeo confirmed for the first time that an American oil company would begin work in northeastern Syria, which is controlled by militants from the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The Syrian government strongly condemned the agreement, saying that the deal was struck to plunder the country's natural resources, including oil and gas, under the sponsorship and support of the administration of former US president Donald Trump.

US-backed SDF militants abduct dozen civilians in eastern Syria

Separately, US-sponsored and Kurdish-led militants affiliated with the SDF have abducted several civilians in Syria’s eastern province of Dayr al-Zawr.

SANA, citing local sources, reported that SDF militants stormed people’s houses in the villages of al-Ezba, Muayzila and Tayeb al-Fal, which lie in the northern countryside of the province, on Thursday and took eleven people away.

The militants also kidnapped a civilian on the outskirts of al-Sobh village.

Security conditions are reportedly deteriorating in the areas controlled by the SDF in Hasakah and Dayr al-Zawr provinces.

Locals argue that the SDF’s constant raids and arrest campaign have generated a state of frustration and instability, severely affecting their businesses and livelihood.

Residents accuse the US-backed militants of stealing crude oil and failing to spend money on service sectors.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/01/21/643561/US-military-transfers-hundreds-of-troops-from-Iraq-to-Syria-Hasakah-Report

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Connecticut man charged in attack on police officer who was trapped in doors at Capitol riot

By Tom Winter and David K. Li

Jan. 21, 2021

The FBI arrested a Connecticut man for allegedly assaulting a Washington, D.C., police officer who was seen in viral videos trapped between doors during the Capitol riot, authorities said Wednesday.

Patrick Edward McCaughey, 23, was taken into custody at around 7 p.m. Tuesday in White Plains, New York, and charged with assaulting a police officer, civil disorder and unlawful entry, officials said.

In McCaughey's initial court appearance on Wednesday, a judge ordered him held without bail, citing the suspect's danger to the community.

"What we see in that video from this defendant is extraordinarily disturbing," U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Krause said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Gianforti said footage clearly links McCaughey to the disturbing attack on Officer Daniel Hodges.

"This video is crystal clear, you can clearly see the defendant’s face and you can see officer Hodges' face as he’s screaming out of pain,” Gianforti said.

The suspect has been unemployed since late 2019 and lives with his parents, according to McCaughey's defense attorney, who had argued for a $150,000, which was denied.

The Justice Department criminal complaint says McCaughey repeatedly told the officer “just go home” and “come on man, you are going to get squished, just go home” while allegedly using a police shield against the officer during the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol Building.

Despite the excruciating pain Officer Daniel Hodges appeared to be in during the attack, he later told reporters he was happy to do his duty.

“If it wasn’t my job, I would have done that for free," he said. "It was absolutely my pleasure to crush a white nationalist insurrection, and we’ll do it as many times as it takes.”

The charging document says McCaughey pinned Hodges’ body between the riot shield and the lower West Terrace door as “a separate rioter begins violently ripping off Officer Hodges’ gas mask, exposing Officer Hodges’ bloodied mouth.”

McCaughey was allegedly seen leaving the Capitol on security cameras after he struck other officers with the shield, the document says.

Messages left by NBC News for McCaughey and his family, at publicly listed phone numbers based in Ridgefield, Connecticut, were not not immediately returned by early Wednesday evening.

Rioters, supporters of former President Donald Trump who had just attended a rally where Trump had spoken, mobbed the U.S. Capitol and delayed Congress' formal acceptance of Electoral College votes that secured Joe Biden's win.

“The vicious attack on Officer Hodges was abhorrent and quintessentially un-American,” Acting U.S. Attorney Michael R. Sherwin said in a statement.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/connecticut-man-charged-connection-attack-police-officer-during-capitol-riot-n1255026?utm_source=iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=1922912_

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URL:  https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/mohammed-bin-salman-prioritising-more/d/124125

 

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