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Islamic World News ( 17 Oct 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Muslim Parties Ready to Drop Claim to Ayodhya Land: Mediation Panel

New Age Islam News Bureau

17 Oct 2019

Pakistan Faces Blacklisting Over Terrorism Financing and Money Laundering

Talks on Blacklisting: China, Turkey for More Time To Pakistan

Terror Group Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, an Islamic State-affiliate, Plans Suicide Attacks with 'Poison Bombs'

US Ambassador Discusses Uighur and Papua Problems with Muhammadiyah Leaders

35 Killed, 4 Critically Injured As Bus Carrying Asian, Arab Nationals Crashes in Saudi Arabia

Trump Letter to Erdogan: ‘Don’t Be A Fool’

Turkey Says It Is Preparing Retaliatory Sanctions against US

‘We Looked to Escape Death’: Violence Uproots Nearly 500,000 in Burkina Faso

Inside The Whatsapp Group of Young Muslims Praying for Bernie’s Health

Threat From Extreme Rightwing Terrorism In Australia Has Increased, Asio Says



Muslim Parties Ready to Drop Claim to Ayodhya Land: Mediation Panel

Ayodhya dispute: The complex legal history of India's holy site

Frank Islam Inaugurates Mass Communication Auditorium Entrepreneurship Centre In Aligarh Muslim University

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, for whom educational reform was a way of life

Babri Masjid: Sunni Waqf board puts conditions to withdraw claim

Muslim side denies judge’s 1886 observation favours Hindus

Ayodhya: The tearing act of Muslims side lawyer that went viral

PM expresses grief over death of people in bus accident in Saudi Arabia

Boxful of apples with pro-Pakistan slogans

Place before court the orders imposing curbs, Supreme Court tells J&K

Ayodhya case: Court-appointed mediation panel submits report to SC in sealed cover

Chhattisgarh labourer shot dead by militants in Kashmir’s Pulwama

Kashmir conference focuses on unity in Muslim ranks

Details of investment in Jammu and Kashmir would be available very soon: Nirmala Sitharaman

J&K: Three LeT militants killed in Anantnag



Pakistan Faces Blacklisting Over Terrorism Financing and Money Laundering

Talks On Blacklisting: China, Turkey For More Time To Pakistan

As Militants Kill in Kashmir, People Are Afraid to Go to Work

Journalists hold protests against police brutality in Pakistan

Will Imran Khan's Saudi-Iran tour ease tension in the region?

Pakistan desires harmony among Muslim countries: Dr. Firdous

President, PM have no right to override constitution: Justice Isa

PML-N raps govt for banning Fazl’s live speech on TV channels

Areas around Gurdwara Punja Sahib to be renovated

Dark clouds of Iran-Saudi war dispersing, Qureshi says

Islamabad admin responsible for protecting rights of JUI-F protesters, residents: IHC


Southeast Asia

Terror Group Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, an Islamic State-affiliate, Plans Suicide Attacks with 'Poison Bombs'

US Ambassador Discusses Uighur and Papua Problems with Muhammadiyah Leaders

Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organization Slams India's NIA's Latest Accusation against Zakir Naik

Indonesia On Alert As Isis Fighters Escape Syria To Awaken Sleeper Terror Cells Back Home

Hadi claims Pakatan at sea because only Bersatu is Islamic, other parties have different agenda

Terror arrests in Malaysia over alleged links to LTTE deepen Malay suspicions of DAP


Arab World

35 Killed, 4 Critically Injured As Bus Carrying Asian, Arab Nationals Crashes in Saudi Arabia

Syrian Army Recaptures 1,000 sq/km after Deal with Kurds, Withdrawal of US Troops

Archaeologist Zahi Hawass: ‘There isn’t a country that doesn’t love Egyptian archaeology’

Turkey, Allied Militias Kill +630 Kurdish Militants in 1 Week, US Army Continues to Retreat from Syria

ISIS supporters in Syrian camps beg Australian government for repatriation

Syrian Army Enters City of Raqqa after Six Years

Egypt welcomes US sanctions on Turkey

Iran-backed militias deployed snipers in Iraq protests: Sources

Hundreds of Syrian Kurds seek refuge in Iraq

Syrian army takes control of military bases left behind by US forces: Report

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman meets Palestinian President Abbas

Iraq anti-corruption drive stops short of snaring worst culprits


North America

Trump Letter to Erdogan: ‘Don’t Be A Fool’

Turkey’s War on Syria ‘Not Our Problem,’ Trump Says, Claiming Kurds Were ‘Paid A Lot Of Money’

Trump says Kurdish PKK ‘probably more of terrorist threat’ than ISIS

Hearing examines video that wasn’t disclosed in terror case

U.S. Indicts Turkish Bank on Charges of Evading Iran Sanctions

US 'concerned' over untrackable China ships carrying Iran oil

Muslim families were denied NYC ferry ride for phony "security" concerns, complaint alleges

US Supreme Court rebuffs student’s Islamic ‘indoctrination’ appeal

Dems, Trump cut short meeting about Turkey’s war on Syria

Erdogan says won't hold talks with US delegation on Ankara visit

US: House votes to oppose Trump's Syria pullback

US to waive sanctions on military sales to Turkey



Turkey Says It Is Preparing Retaliatory Sanctions against US

Turkey Assault In Northeast Syria Displaced 300,000: Monitor

Israel arrests Jerusalem governor to stop trip to Al Aqsa Mosque with Saudi football team

Turkish presidency says Erdogan will meet Pence on Ankara visit

France says Iran must stop ‘particularly worrying’ nuclear reductions

Turkey’s Erdogan rules out talks with Syrian Kurdish forces

Yemeni government, Southern Transition Council expected to sign deal

US grants Iraq sanctions waiver for gas, electricity imports from Iran

Erdogan: No talks with Syria Kurds until safe zone established

Russia moves to prevent conflict between Turkish army and Assad regime in Syria



‘We Looked to Escape Death’: Violence Uproots Nearly 500,000 in Burkina Faso

Somali forces kill 11 al-Shabab militants in southern regions

Sudan declares ‘permanent ceasefire’ as peace talks hit snag

Hundreds more freed from torture in third Nigerian ‘school’ raid in a month

Sudan peace talks stall as rebel group halts talks over attack

Royal pardon for Moroccan journalist jailed for abortion

Rival Tripoli government restricts Libya’s oil revenues: Benghazi-based PM

Libyan navy rescues 90 Europe-bound migrants



Inside The Whatsapp Group of Young Muslims Praying for Bernie’s Health

Denmark Is Amongst Western Europe’s Most 'Muslim-Friendly' Countries, Report Finds

America’s Syria Exit Helps Cement Russia's Rise as the Middle East Power Broker

France, Britain try to revive fight against Islamic State; decry Turkey, U.S

Britain to consider bringing back children of Islamic State fighters, Dominic Raab says

Accused rightwing terrorist researched recipe for mace and bombs, court hears

Senior parliamentarians of Iran, Germany urge end to militarism in Syria, Yemen

Oxford University probes ‘sale’ of ancient Bible fragments originally from Egypt

YPG/PKK supporters continue to terrorize Europe



Threat From Extreme Rightwing Terrorism In Australia Has Increased, Asio Says


South Asia

Airstrikes Kill 14 Taliban, ISIS Militants; Destroy Multiple Caches Of Weapons And A Car Bomb

Car bomb explosion leaves 2 dead, many others wounded in Laghman province

Special Forces kill, detain 15 Taliban militants in Wardak and Paktika provinces

Taliban truck bomb kills police, wounds children in Afghanistan

Afghan forces kill over 50 militants in 24 hours

Special Forces kill 11 Taliban militants, destroy weapons caches in Logar

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Muslim parties ready to drop claim to Ayodhya land: Mediation panel

Oct 17, 2019

NEW DELHI: The court-appointed mediation panel on Wednesday informed the Supreme Court about achieving a groundbreaking settlement to the vexed dispute over the 2.77-acre Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land in Ayodhya under which the Muslim parties have agreed to give up their claim on the land for the construction of the Ram temple.

Parties who signed the settlement were the Sunni waqf board, the Nirvani Akhara, a representative of Nirmohi Ani (parent body of all eight Nirmohi Akharas), the Hindu Mahasabha and the Ram Janmasthan Punarudhar Samiti, sources told TOI.

The settlement, while seeking to facilitate a Ram temple, also seeks strict implementation of the 1991 law that lays down status quo for all places of worship that existed on August 15, 1947, repair of all other mosques in Ayodhya and, importantly, construction of a mosque at an alternative site by the waqf board.

However, two main stakeholders - VHP-backed Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas and Ram Lalla deity through next friend (suit filed by the deity includes Nyas as one of the plaintiffs), and a faction of Jamiat Ulema - did not participate in the negotiations.

The sources said since the Muslim parties have agreed to give up their claim on the disputed land and agreed to allow the construction of Ram temple, the Nyas would find it difficult not to accept this settlement as this is the best they could get from the Supreme Court if it decides to rule in their favour.

Just two days back, the SC had ordered the UP government to provide adequate security to Sunni waqf board chairman Zufar Ahmed Farooqi on being informed by one of the SC-appointed mediators, Sriram Panchu, that Farooqi has received a threat to his life. The points of settlement are:

Implementation in letter and spirit of Places of Worship (Special Provision) Act, 1991, which prohibits conversion of any place of worship and to provide for maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on August 15, 1947, and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. This act does not apply to the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute.

Muslims to give up claim on the disputed 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya. The government to take up repair and restoration work of all mosques situated in Ayodhya. UP Sunni waqf board to construct a mosque at an alternative site.

Select a few mosques under the Archaeological Survey of India management to be opened up for worship to Muslims after a court-appointed committee hears the parties and chooses the mosques to be opened for worship purposes.

Some of those who participated in the negotiation process, which was restarted on September 18 by the SC-appointed panel of Justice FMI Kalifulla, ace mediator and senior advocate Panchu and spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravishankar, told TOI that even the Jamiat faction would find it difficult to oppose the settlement.

Their argument was that even if the SC decides in favour of the Muslim parties, it will be the Sunni waqf board which would be entitled to the disputed land. Under Section 51 of the Waqf Act, the waqf board being the sole statutory body can consent to acquisition of the land under its control. "So, the waqf board, even if the Muslim parties emerge victorious, would be able to give up claim on the disputed land," they said.



Pakistan Faces Blacklisting Over Terrorism Financing and Money Laundering


OCTOBER 15, 2019

(ISLAMABAD) — Pakistan is trying to avoid getting blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force, a global watchdog, when it meets Wednesday in Paris.

A report earlier this month by the task force’s Asia Pacific Group, which monitors Pakistan’s progress, is not encouraging.

The report says Pakistan has fully implemented only one item from a list of 40 measures that the country should be taking to curb terrorist financing and money laundering. The other 39 measures were either partially implemented or in some cases overlooked entirely.

Iran and North Korea are currently the only two countries on the blacklist.

Being blacklisted would be a serious blow for Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan as he tries to boost its faltering economy and attract foreign investment and loans.

Pakistan got a mixed review for its efforts to curb terrorist financing and money laundering as it tries to avoid getting blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force, a global watchdog, when it meets Wednesday in Paris.

A report earlier this month by the task force’s Asia Pacific Group, which monitors Pakistan’s progress, was not encouraging. It found Pakistan had fully implemented only one item from a list of 40 measures that the country should be taking to curb terrorist financing and money laundering, if it wants to stay off the blacklist. The other 39 measures were either partially implemented or in some cases overlooked entirely.

Iran and North Korea are currently the only two countries on the blacklist.

Just as Pakistan has been trying to get on its feet financially, having secured a $6 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund and a $6 billion package from Saudi Arabia, it might get knocked back down by getting put on the list.

“It would no longer be business as usual in Pakistan,” said Amir Rana, director of the Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies.

Being blacklisted could even jeopardize Pakistan’s multi-billion dollar part in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a global endeavor aimed at reconstituting the Silk Road and linking China to all corners of Asia. In Pakistan, it has been billed as a massive development program that will bring new prosperity to the South Asian nation, where the average citizen lives on just $125 a month.

But if Pakistan is blacklisted, every financial transaction would be closely scrutinized, and doing business in Pakistan would become costly and cumbersome, said Rana. He said restrictions could be imposed on international lending agencies, including the International Monetary Fund, Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, which are all key money lenders to Pakistan.

Rana also said Pakistan hasn’t made the institutional changes it needs to seriously tackle terrorism financing and the terrorist-declared groups that still operate in Pakistan — some of whom have been resurrected under new names.

He blamed police and bureaucratic incompetence, mismanagement and a conflicted military and intelligence apparatus. These security agencies are still undecided about whether to break all ties with groups they have long considered “assets,” particularly against neighboring India, Pakistan’s longtime nemesis.

At one juncture, Rana said Pakistan had sought to differentiate between what it considered bad and worse groups. Authorities put anti-India groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba in the less dangerous category, and put groups like al-Qaida, Tehrik-e-Taliban and the Baluchistan Liberation Army on the more dangerous list.

If Pakistan’s security establishment was serious about breaking ties, Rana said, it needs to lay out a plan of action, one that details a reintegration plan for members of these groups as well as a strategy of how it would arrest and prosecute those who carry out acts of terror in other countries.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told reporters Friday that the economic affairs minister Hammad Azhar was already in Paris preparing for the meeting. Pakistan’s State-run television on Monday said Azhar presented Pakistan’s case to the task force ahead of its deliberations starting Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Qureshi accused neighboring India of lobbying to get his country blacklisted.

“India tried its best to get us blacklisted. God willing, you will see that all such efforts will fail,” he said.

Pakistan has reportedly lobbied both Turkey and Malaysia to seek an extension at the task force meeting, promising to be 100% compliant by June 2020.

Qureshi, meanwhile, said the government has spent the last 10 months taking steps to curb both money laundering and terror financing.

But the job is a big one.

Pakistan has banned 66 organizations declared terrorist or terrorist-supporting groups and listed another estimated 7,600 individuals under its anti-terrorism act. India’s most wanted man, Hafiz Saeed, lives in Pakistan and has a $10 million U.S.-imposed bounty on his head.

Also based in Pakistan is the terrorist-designated group Jaish-e-Mohammad, which claimed responsibility for a February suicide attack in the Indian-controlled portion of the disputed Kashmir region. That attack killed 40 Indian soldiers and caused tensions to spiral upward between India and Pakistan, bringing the two nuclear-armed nations unsettlingly close to war. They’ve already fought three wars since Britain ended its colonial rule over the Indian subcontinent in 1947.

Earlier this year, the United Nations added Masood Azhar, the head of Jaish-e-Mohammed, to its blacklist after several unsuccessful attempts. After the February attack, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government took control of the many schools run by Azhar’s group as well as clinics and even an ambulance service.

Dozens of his activists have been arrested, but Rana, the security analyst, said the legal system is hindered by its use of what he called “secret courts.” He advocated for a free and transparent court system, rather than the current judicial procedures held behind closed doors or in military courts, also closed to public scrutiny.

The Asia Pacific Group report — which is set to be reviewed during this week’s task force meeting — said that while Pakistan seized some assets, the amounts seized were very small considering the extent of the money laundering and terrorist financing believed to be going on in the country. The report also criticized Pakistan’s efforts at stemming the movement of illicit money across borders.

The report gave good marks to Pakistan’s banks and larger exchange companies at putting in controls to detect and protect against money laundering and terrorism financing. However, it said the State Bank of Pakistan “does not have a clear understanding of the ML (money laundering) and TF (terrorist financing) risks unique to the sectors it supervises.” But it is improving, the report added.

Overall, much of the report suggested Pakistan had mostly failed at making the institutional changes needed to ferret out those who finance terror and put an end to it. Whether Pakistan joins Iran and North Korea on the blacklist remains to be seen.



Talks on blacklisting: China, Turkey for more time to Pakistan

by Shubhajit Roy

October 17, 2019

Hectic negotiations are underway in Paris for the blacklisting of Pakistan at the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) plenary, where China, Turkey and Malaysia are learnt to be resisting India’s efforts and the discussions are headed towards keeping it in greylist.

The Indian Express has learnt that China and Turkey are pushing for giving Pakistan a “little more time” to fulfill the commitments made. Saudi Arabia has not yet committed to giving support or oppose the Indian efforts.

A final decision is expected to arrive by Friday afternoon — about 4 pm IST on October 18.

At the meeting, India is learnt to have asked FATF members to blacklist Pakistan, citing the recent example that Islamabad has allowed the Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed to withdraw funds from his frozen accounts.

According to the latest assessment by FATF’s Asia Pacific Group’s reports, Pakistan was found to be non-compliant in four areas, and partially compliant on 26 areas. It was found compliant in one area — and largely compliant in nine areas. The only area where it was found to be compliant was financial institution secrecy laws.

Sources said the FATF, which will see deliberations from October 13 till October 18, is “under intense discussions” on each of these commitments.

FATF procedure provides that after a year of grey-listing, if the action plan remains substantially unaddressed, the next step, which is black-listing, could be considered, sources said.

Officials from 37 countries and two regional organisations are discussing the issues pertaining to Pakistan.

FATF president Xiangmin Liu opened the FATF plenary meeting. The key outcomes of the next three days of meetings on global action against money-laundering and terrorist-financing, and decisions on Pakistan, Iran and other countries will be announced on Friday, the FATF stated.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had met their counterparts of many of these FATF member-countries in the last few weeks, especially at the UN.

While Modi had met leaders from Belgium, France, the US, the UK, Italy, New Zealand and South Africa, among others, at the UN, Jaishankar had met his counterparts from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Singapore, Turkey and Japan at the UN. He has also met his counterparts from the two regional organisations in FATF — the GCC and the EC.

Earlier, Jaishankar had met leaders from Finland and has met his counterparts from France, Germany and Canada. Doval and Jaishankar had also visited Russia separately.

According to sources, between Modi, Jaishankar and Doval, they have had meetings with leaders and ministers from at least 24 out of 37 countries in the last few weeks.

After the second informal summit at Mahabalipuram on October 11-12, the MEA said, Modi and China’s President Xi Jinping were “concerned that terrorism continues to pose a common threat”.



Terror Group Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, an Islamic State-affiliate, Plans Suicide Attacks with 'Poison Bombs'


OCTOBER 15, 2019

Jakarta. Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, or JAD, an Islamic State-affiliated terror group based in Indonesia, has been making bombs using not only high-explosive materials but also poisonous ingredients, police said on Tuesday following a series of arrests of the group's members.

The arrests were made in several places across the country after a member of the group managed to get past a security cordon to stab Chief Security Minister Wiranto during his visit to Menes in Pandeglang, Banten, last week.

Police arrested two JAD members, Syahril Alamsyah a.k.a. Abu Rara and his wife Fitri Andriana at the scene straight after the attack, which also wounded two others.

Police anti-terror unit Detachment 88 immediately cracked down on JAD cells across Indonesia.

"The bombs were prepared for 'brides,' or suicide bombers, and contained strong explosives. But they had different specifications to the usual bombs [made by the group]," National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Dedi Prasetyo said in Jakarta.

From previous arrests in Bekasi and Bogor in West Java and in Jakarta, police found high-explosive materials that the group has used to make bombs before, such as triaceton triperoxide (TATP), better known by its popular name, "the Mother of Satan."

But in the latest arrests in Cirebon, West Java, they also discovered bombs mixed with other ingredients such as cyclomethylenetrinitramine (RDX), NaO3, methanol, urea, hexamethylene triperoxide diamine (HMTD) and also a type of poison.

"Forensic tests revealed the poisonous ingredient was Abrin. It's very dangerous. Around 0.7 microgram of Abrin could kill 100 human beings," Dedi said.

Targets: Houses of Worship and Police Stations

Since the stabbing incident in Banten, Detachment 88 has already arrested 27 JAD members.

They were rounded up in Bekasi, Bandung and Cirebon in West Java, Central and North Sulawesi, Lampung, Bali, Yogyakarta and Central Java.

Dedi said the group has been preparing attacks on several targets.

In Bandung and Cirebon, JAD had planned to attack houses of worship and police stations.

"In Cirebon [JAD planned] to use suicide bombers. In Bandung, they planned to attack using air soft guns, knives and other sharp weapons," Dedi said.

One of the JAD members arrested in Cirebon was understood to have been trained to become a suicide bomber.

In Yogyakarta, the group also planned to launch suicide attacks.

There has been no evidence of a JAD plot to attack President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's second term inauguration on Oct. 20, according to Dedi.



US Ambassador Discusses Uighur and Papua Problems With Muhammadiyah Leaders


OCTOBER 15, 2019

Jakarta. The United States Ambassador to Indonesia Joseph Donovan met with leaders of Indonesia's second-largest Muslim organization Muhammadiyah in Jakarta on Tuesday to discuss various current issues, including the recent unrest in Papua and Indonesia's reaction to the repression of Uighur Muslims in China.

"We discussed many issues, including the cooperation between the US Embassy and Muhammadiyah in health and education. We also spoke about our successful partnerships in organizing media literacy workshops, anti-corruption campaigns and public health programs. We also discussed a number of international issues. I encouraged Muhammadiyah to continue to speak out against the repression of the Uighur minority in China," Donovan said after the meeting.

Abdul Mu'ti, the secretary general of Muhammadiyah, said they also discussed the unrest in Papua during the meeting.

"We told the ambassador our views on Papua. We said it is not a simple matter, very complex, and undoubtedly needs a comprehensive solution. Not just a political one, but also economic, social and cultural solutions," Abdul said.

"[Our chairman] Haedar Nashir told the ambassador of the measures Muhammadiyah has already taken in the economic, social and cultural sectors to improve the situation in Papua. The Muhammadiyah University in Papua and our Council of Community Empowerment have already launched initiatives to unite Papuan residents of all religions and races," he said.

"The political solution we believe in for Papua is to re-evaluate its special autonomy law. We have to work out how we can unite people of different races in Papua. The government must guarantee racial integration in Papua and West Papua, instead of allowing racist sentiments and racial divisions to develop," Abdul said.

The ambassador had also planned to meet the leaders of Indonesia's biggest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), on Wednesday, but that meeting has been postponed until next week.



35 Killed, 4 Critically Injured As Bus Carrying Asian, Arab Nationals Crashes in Saudi Arabia

October 17, 2019

Riyadh: Thirty-five foreigners were killed and four others injured when a bus collided with another heavy vehicle near the Muslim holy city of Medina, Saudi state media said on Thursday.

The accident on Wednesday involved a collision between "a private chartered bus... with a heavy vehicle (loader)" near the western Saudi Arabian city, a spokesman for Medina police said, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

Those involved were Arab and Asian pilgrims, according to local media, who carried pictures of the bus engulfed in flames and with its windows blown out.

The injured have been transferred to Al-Hamna Hospital, SPA added, and authorities have launched an investigation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered condolences to families of those who lost their lives in the accident.

Narendra Modi


Anguished by the news of a bus crash near Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Condolences to the families of those who lost their lives. Praying for a quick recovery of the injured.


8:58 AM - Oct 17, 2019

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The accident comes after four British pilgrims were killed and 12 others injured in Saudi Arabia when their bus collided with a fuel tanker in April 2018. They were on their way to the holy city of Mecca.

In January 2017, six Britons, including a two-month-old baby, were killed in a minibus on their way to Medina after making a pilgrimage to Mecca.

As part of efforts to diversify its oil-dependent economy, the ultra-conservative kingdom wants to foster a year-round religious tourism sector that includes millions of pilgrims.

Up until last month, the country only issued visas to Muslim pilgrims, foreign workers and recently to spectators at sporting or cultural events, but tourists are now allowed to visit as part of the drive to prepare the biggest Arab economy for a post-oil era.

In September 2015, a stampede killed up to 2,300 worshippers -- including hundreds of Iranians -- in the worst disaster ever to strike the Hajj annual pilgrimage.

Earlier that month, 100 people were killed when a construction crane toppled into a courtyard of Mecca's Grand Mosque.



Trump letter to Erdogan: ‘Don’t be a fool’

17 October 2019

“Don’t be a fool,” Donald Trump warned his counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in an extraordinary letter sent the day Turkey launched its incursion into northeastern Syria - warning history risked branding him a “devil.”

Three days after appearing to greenlight an invasion by pulling US troops from the Kurdish-dominated region, Trump told the Turkish president he would wreck Ankara’s economy if the invasion went too far.

In language shorn of diplomatic niceties, Trump began with an outright threat.

“Let’s work out a good deal,” Trump wrote in the letter dated October 9, whose authenticity was confirmed to AFP by the White House.

“You don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don’t want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy - and I will.”

“History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way,” Trump said. “It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don’t happen.”

The US leader told Erdogan a “great deal” was possible if he negotiated with the head of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, Mazloum Abdi, whom Turkey has labeled a “terrorist” for his ties to the Kurdish PKK militants in Turkey.

“Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool,” he finished, adding: “I will call you later.”



Turkey says it is preparing retaliatory sanctions against US

17 October 2019

Turkey’s foreign ministry is preparing retaliatory sanctions against the United States after US President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on Ankara over its offensive in northeastern Syria, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Wednesday.

On Monday, Washington announced sanctions to punish Turkey for its offensive against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, but Trump’s critics said the steps, mainly a steel tariff hike and a pause in trade talks, were too feeble to have an impact.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting in Ankara, Kalin also said that US officials were clearly told Turkey would not declare a ceasefire in northern Syria and that it will not negotiate with Kurdish fighters.



‘We Looked to Escape Death’: Violence Uproots Nearly 500,000 in Burkina Faso

By Simon Marks

Oct. 15, 2019

KOMSILGA COMMUNE, Burkina Faso — A wave of violent attacks and suspected terrorist activity in Burkina Faso has triggered a sudden humanitarian crisis, uprooting hundreds of thousands of people from their homes in what was once one of West Africa’s most tranquil nations.

In the space of just three weeks, the number of internally displaced people in Burkina Faso has increased by almost 70 percent to nearly half a million people, in a nation of 20 million, according to the United Nations refugee agency. About one-third of the country’s territory has become engulfed in fighting between armed groups, making the area inaccessible to aid workers, UNICEF officials said.

“The attackers came into our village, they killed my husband and they left. They claimed nothing and left us with orphans,” said Mariam Birba, 32, who arrived earlier this month at a roadside camp for internally displaced people, about 12 miles south of the capital, Ouagadougou.

Ms. Birba and four other residents from the village of Pissélé, less than 100 miles north of the capital, said that on the evening of Sept. 21, about 40 men wielding Kalashnikov rifles and riding motorbikes came screeching to a halt and opened fire, killing eight people. Survivors said that they didn’t know who the attackers were or where they came from, but the attackers warned the villagers that they had 48 hours to leave their homes or face more violence.

Such attacks have turned life upside down in Burkina Faso, which until recently had a reputation for its calm, its bustling art scene and its music culture, a contrast to neighboring countries like Mali and Niger, which have been rocked by terrorism and violence in recent years.

The crisis has overwhelmed the local authorities and international aid workers in the small, landlocked nation, where even in more peaceful times, 45 percent of the population lived on less than $1.25 per day. In response to the emergency, only one-third of the requested $187 million in international aid has been fulfilled, according to the United Nations.

“We looked to escape death. There was no time to take anything. We just left like that,” said Kirakoya Adjaratou, 28, another resident of Pissélé, who broke into tears as she recounted the death of the eight men in her village.

While terrorist groups like the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara and Ansaroul Islam are active in the north of Burkina Faso, much of the violence carried out in the country has gone unclaimed. Experts say that personal disputes, ethnic tensions or intercommunal conflicts are often behind the attacks — and not terrorist activity.

“Many of the attacks in Burkina Faso are rarely claimed by terrorist groups. We are, therefore, entitled to ask ourselves who officially is behind terrorist acts,” said Jacob Yarabatioula, a researcher specializing in terrorism at the University of Ouagadougou. “Attacks tend to be linked to community conflicts or settling scores.”

Several military outposts in the northern Sahel region have been abandoned after being attacked by armed men, according to two government officials and an international security adviser, who were unwilling to be identified because of sensitivities related to the deteriorating security situation. Capt. Aziz Ouedraogo, a spokesman for the armed forces in Burkina Faso, declined to comment on reports of military outposts being abandoned.

The violence has been moving south, from the border with Mali, toward the city of Kaya, which is about 60 miles northeast of the capital.

Most embassies in the country now advise their citizens not to leave the capital. Meanwhile, life in Ouagadougou goes on seamlessly — Muslims attend evening prayers, Christians go to church on Sundays and the city’s young people sip on cold Brakina beers at popular restaurants late into the night. But that sense of normality is slowing being eroded by a foreboding feeling of crisis edging toward the capital.

People here vividly remember the attack in August 2017 on the Aziz Istanbul restaurant in Ouagadougou, which killed 19 people, including nine foreigners. In 2016, a terrorist attack targeted a hotel and restaurant in the capital, killing 30 people.

Between Aug. 6 and Sept. 30 of this year, at least 26 military personnel from Burkina Faso’s armed forces were killed and 25 were injured in attacks, according to figures compiled by international organizations working in the country.

On Friday, at least 15 people were killed when gunmen attacked a mosque in Oudalan Province, close to the border with Mali, a local security official confirmed, speaking on the condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak publicly.

The attack took place in the north of the country, where an Islamist insurgency led by armed groups with links to Islamic State and Al Qaeda are present.

Ioli Kimyaci, the head of the United Nation’s refugee agency in Burkina Faso, said in an interview that in addition to the nearly half a million internally displaced people, another 16,000 have asked for asylum in neighboring countries since 2018. Some 12,000 of them went to Mali.

“Everything is saturated. The absorption capacity of the host communities has reached its limit,” she said.

The United Nations is now looking to open new camps in Burkina Faso because of overcrowding at sites in the north, around the city of Dori. Tents designed for a family of seven are sometimes being used by up to 50 people, Ms. Kimyaci said.

“It’s true that the situation has overwhelmed us,” said Emilie Fernandes, the director for Save the Children in Burkina Faso.



Inside the WhatsApp group of young Muslims praying for Bernie’s health

October 15, 2019

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (RNS) — It’s no secret that many Muslims are fans of Sen. Bernie Sanders, so much so that some affectionately call the 78-year-old Democratic presidential candidate “Uncle Bernie.”

So when the news broke that Sanders had suffered a heart attack earlier this month, Hamzah Raza kidded on his Instagram account about setting up a group to read the Quran for the senator.

“You know, like if your real uncle ended up in the hospital, you would recite the Quran on his behalf and pray for his health and recovery,” said Raza, a 23-year-old Islamic studies student at Harvard Divinity School.

Immediately, he said, he began receiving messages from his Instagram followers: Was the group real? Could they be added to it? Oh, and could their friends join, too? Could they also read this prayer for Sanders, or that prayer?

The day after Sanders’ heart procedure, Raza set up the Quran Khatm For Bernie, a WhatsApp group where 40 young Muslims tracked the group’s team effort to complete the recitation of the entire Quran and pray for Sanders’ health and guidance.

The group’s profile picture? A screenshot of a viral video of Sanders donning a traditional cap and ajrak, a blockprinted Pakistani shawl, during a September campaign event in Houston.

“I wanted to be part of the khatm because as a Muslim who lives in America, I believe that out of all of the candidates, Bernie Sanders is the best candidate for not just Muslims but all oppressed peoples,” said 25-year-old Joe Milburn, a law student in Chicago. “I wanted to be part of a movement to pray for his health and guidance.”

Last week, the participants finished a full recitation of the holy book of Islam, which contains around 77,500 words in Arabic and which Muslims believe was revealed as the direct word of God.

“The idea is that when we’re saying these prayers, it makes us more receptive to God’s blessings,” Raza said. “So inshallah (God willing), with this completion of the Quran, we will receive some more blessings that will make our prayers for Bernie more powerful.”

Most participants read a few juz, the 30 equal-sized sections that the Quran has been divided into, on the Vermont senator’s behalf. Others read the Hizb al-Bahr prayer for protection and the Dalail al-Khayrat collection of prayers for the Prophet Muhammad.

Some group members also volunteered to recite 100 salawat, short prayers invoking blessings on the Prophet Muhammad – in total, the group performed over 4,000 salawat, Raza said.

The group mainly comprises U.S. Muslims in their teens and twenties, but there’s also an international presence: A friend of Raza’s from Gaza Strip offered to read 100 salawat for Sanders.

When asked by some group members whether it was permissible to read Quran and perform these prayers on behalf of a non-Muslim, Raza also ran the idea past a sheikh, who gave them a green light.

“He told me it’s fine, because (the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him) also prayed for non-Muslims’ health,” Raza said. “But he also explained that usually when we pray for non-Muslims, we should also pray for their hidayah” – the Arabic word used to refer to divine guidance.

Though this year’s American Muslim Poll found that young Muslims’ rate of voting is significantly lower than that of their non-Muslim peers — only 63% of Muslim young adults reported being registered to vote, compared with 85% of all young adults — U.S. Muslims have shown a willingness to show up for Sanders.

Reports this week indicate that both of the country’s Muslim congresswomen, Rep. Ilhan Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, are set to endorse the candidate.

With hashtags like #Muslims4Bernie and #InshallahBernie and events like the Bay Area’s Iftars With Bernie — as well as Sanders’ 2016 sweep of Michigan, where the campaign courted Muslim voters through Arabic-language ads in the city that has America’s largest Muslim population — U.S. Muslims have rallied together for the candidate.

“Muslims are not a monolith with who they’re voting for, but I would say Bernie Sanders is the single most popular candidate in the primaries among American Muslims,” Raza said. “His vision for America is just very different from what we’ve seen in the White House before. It’s one where Muslims are very much included and very much a part of society. He shows not only in his rhetoric, like some other Democrats do, but in real ways.”

For Muslim voters — 76% of whom vote for Democrats, per the American Muslim Poll — Sanders has managed to set himself apart from the beginning.

“If someone ranked all of the presidential candidates by their friendliness to the Muslim American community, Bernie would be miles ahead of everyone else,” 21-year-old Zainab Kahloon, who participated in the WhatsApp group, said. “One thing I appreciate about the Sanders campaign is that they’re one of the only ones that have actively reached out to the Muslim American community. In both of his campaigns, Sanders visited mosques and prominent Muslim gatherings and hired Muslim Americans for important positions in his campaign.”

Back in August, Sanders was one of two candidates who spoke at the Islamic Society of North America’s first-ever presidential forum, where he received a hero’s welcome. Weeks before that, he sent a video recording to attendees of the Muslim Collective for Equitable Democracy conference, billed as the first national gathering of Muslim Americans in politics.

Sanders hired the first-ever Muslim campaign manager for a major presidential campaign and has continued to work with staunchly pro-Palestine activist Linda Sarsour — whom he brought on as a campaign surrogate during his 2016 bid for the presidency, and who speaks at major Muslim gatherings around the U.S. on the candidate’s behalf — despite the controversies swirling around her.

But more importantly, members of the group said, Sanders has been a consistent advocate for issues that are close to many Muslims’ hearts.

Besides his support for universal health care and a living wage, Raza said, Sanders has emerged as the strongest candidate when it comes to speaking about human rights in Kashmir, Palestine, Yemen and other central humanitarian concerns for Muslims around the world. He criticized the Iraq War from the outset and has lambasted the Trump administration’s controversial ban on travel from several Muslim-majority countries.

Still, Raza said he felt that Sanders “could be stronger when it comes to foreign policy.”

A poll last year by the Brookings Institution found that 56% of Democrats are in favor of imposing sanctions if Israeli settlements in the West Bank continue. But Sanders has not gone so far.



Threat from extreme rightwing terrorism in Australia has increased, Asio says

16 Oct 2019

The threat from extreme rightwing terrorism in Australia has increased in recent years and will remain an “enduring threat”, according to Australia’s spy agency.

The Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation issued the warning in its latest annual report, adding that “extreme rightwing groups in Australia are more cohesive and organised than they have been in previous years”.

The comments amp up the agency’s concern about rightwing extremist terrorism, after Asio boss Duncan Lewis told Senate estimates in April it was an important issue but the Christchurch massacre had not changed the agency’s calculus.

The massacre of 49 people at two mosques in Christchurch, for which 28-year-old Australian Brenton Tarrant has been charged, prompted renewed scrutiny of the far right including by Australia’s home affairs department.

The Asio report said the national terrorism threat level remained at “probable” because “credible intelligence … indicates an intention and capability to conduct a terrorist attack in Australia”.

“The principal source of the terrorist threat remains Sunni Islamist extremism and emanates primarily from small groups and individuals inspired, directed or encouraged by extremist groups overseas,” it said.

The report argued that Isis had reduced ability to direct external attack planning due to “sustained losses” but warned the group “continues to inspire attacks globally – including against the west”.

The Asio report linked the threat in Australia to the global context, where terrorist attacks are “now an indelible feature of the security environment”.

“Terrorists inspired by violent Islamist extremist and rightwing extremist ideologies reinforce their respective narratives by fomenting hatred and inciting violence to realise their ideological objectives,” it said.

“The rightwing extremist attacks in Christchurch on 15 March 2019 demonstrate that it takes only a single individual to embrace and act on a violent extremist ideology to have a global impact.”

Asio concluded “the threat from the extreme rightwing in Australia has increased in recent years”.

“Extreme rightwing groups in Australia are more cohesive and organised than they have been over previous years, and will remain an enduring threat.

“Any future extreme rightwing-inspired attack in Australia would most likely be low capability and conducted by a lone actor or small group, although a sophisticated weapons attack is possible.”

The Asio report noted that violent protests in Australia were rare and community cohesion was high but “over the next 12 months, acts of opportunistic violence or civil disobedience at protests are possible, particularly those attended by counter-protesters”.

The report said since September 2014 there had been seven terrorist attacks in Australia and 16 “major counter-terrorism disruptions”.

Concern about the far-right in Australia has increased due to attempts to infiltrate mainstream political parties and mobilisation of white supremacists before the federal election.

Australia’s tough gun laws are widely credited with helping to avoid devastating consequences of politically-motivated violence such as the Christchurch massacre, the murder of UK MP Jo Cox or the massacre of 77 people by rightwing extremist Anders Breivik in Norway.





Ayodhya dispute: The complex legal history of India's holy site

16 October 2019

The Ayodhya dispute, which stretches back more than a century, is one of India's thorniest court cases and goes to the heart of its identity politics.

Hindus believe that Ayodhya, a city in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, is the birthplace of one of their most revered deities, Lord Ram.

But Muslims say they have worshipped there for generations.

A court case pertaining to the ownership of the land has been dragging on in the Supreme Court for years, but a verdict is expected next month.

The court concluded its final hearing into the case on Wednesday.

What is the row actually about?

At the centre of the row is a 16th Century mosque that was demolished by Hindu mobs in 1992, sparking riots that killed nearly 2,000 people.

Many Hindus believe that the Babri Masjid was actually constructed on the ruins of a Hindu temple that was demolished by Muslim invaders.

Muslims say they offered prayers at the mosque until December 1949 when some Hindus placed an idol of Ram in the mosque and began to worship the idols.

Over the decades since, the two religious groups have gone to court many times over who should control the site.

Since then, there have been calls to build a temple on the spot where the mosque once stood.

The case currently being heard by five judges in the top court is to determine who the land in question belongs to.

A verdict is expected between 4 and 15 November.

Hinduism is India's majority religion and is thought to be more than 4,000 years old. India's first Islamic dynasty was established in the early 13th Century.

Who is fighting the case?

The long and complicated property dispute has been dragging in various courts for more than a century.

This particular case is being fought between three main parties - two Hindu groups and the Muslim Waqf Board, which is responsible for the maintenance of Islamic properties in India.

The Hindu litigants are the Hindu Mahasabha, a right-wing political party, and the Nirmohi Akhara, which is a sect of Hindu monks.

They filed a title dispute in the Allahabad High Court in 2002, a decade after the mosque was demolished.

A verdict in that case was pronounced in September 2010 - it determined that the 2.77 acres of the disputed land would be divided equally into three parts.

The court ruled that the site should be split, with the Muslim community getting control of a third, Hindus another third and the Nirmohi Akhara sect the remainder. Control of the main disputed section, where the mosque once stood, was given to Hindus.

The judgement also made three key observations.

It affirmed the disputed spot was the birthplace of Lord Ram, that the Babri Masjid was built after the demolition of a Hindu temple and that it was not built in accordance with the tenets of Islam.

The Supreme Court suspended this ruling in 2011 after both Hindu and Muslim groups appealed against it.

What are the other important legal developments?

In 1994 the Supreme Court, which was ruling on a related case, remarked that the concept of a mosque was "not integral to Islam". This has bolstered the case made by Hindus who want control of the entire site.

In April 2018, senior lawyer Rajeev Dhavan filed a plea before the top court, asking judges to reconsider this observation.

But a few months later the Supreme Court declined to do so.

Have religious tensions eased in India in recent years?

Ever since the Narendra Modi-led Hindu nationalist BJP first came to power in 2014, India has seen deepening social and religious divisions.

The call for the construction of a Hindu temple in Ayodhya has grown particularly loud, and has mostly come from MPs, ministers and leaders from the BJP since it took office.

Restrictions on the sale and slaughter of cows - considered a holy animal by the majority Hindus - have led to vigilante killings of a number of people, most of them Muslims who were transporting cattle.

An uninhibited display of muscular Hindu nationalism in other areas has also contributed to religious tension.

Most recently, the country's home minister Amit Shah said he would remove "illegal migrants" - understood to be Muslim - from the country through a government scheme that was used recently in the north-eastern state of Assam.



Frank Islam Inaugurates Mass Communication Auditorium Entrepreneurship Centre In Aligarh Muslim University

Oct 17, 2019

Agra: Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) alumnus and head of the FI Investment Group, USA, Dr Frank Islam inaugurated the mass communication auditorium and entrepreneurship centre in the varsity on Wednesday.

After inauguration, Dr Islam, who donated Rs one crore for the Frank and Debbie Mass Communication Auditorium, said, “The auditorium in the department will be a special place where students, faculty and guests will convene in a setting to look, listen and learn.”

He said that it will be a place to exchange information and ideas on democracy and free press. “I want to assure you that these are not just idle words. I put my money where my mouth is. That is why my wife and I have provided financial support for naming of this auditorium,” emphasised Dr Islam. He also assured of financial assistance for installing ACs in the auditorium.

Full report at:



Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, for whom educational reform was a way of life


17 October, 2019

His legacy is a complicated one — he was a “loyal servant” of the British administration before the revolt of 1857. He even penned a pamphlet titled The Causes of the Indian Revolt to explain the reasons of the revolt from a “native perspective”. However, witnessing the near annihilation of the Muslim elites prompted Sir Syed Ahmad Khan to take up the case of Muslims and his life-long journey as an Islamic reformer and educationist is a testament to his dedication.

“Post-ghadar (revolt), I was not disappointed by looting of my house and loss of belongings. I was disturbed due to the ruination of my qaum,” Khan said. He initially thought to leave the country but decided against it later. “I gave up the idea of migration and decided to struggle for the rebuilding of the qaum.”

Born on 17 October 1817 to a wealthy family that was close to the Mughal court, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan wore many hats: Civil servant, journalist, historian. However, he is, first and foremost, known for his pioneering role in transforming the educational opportunities for Muslims. He recognised that education is the most important tool through which Muslims could emerge from a position of disadvantage and compete with Hindus, especially Bengali Hindus who were at the pinnacle of the political scene at the time.

He pushed for educational and social reforms and was a champion of democratic ideals and freedom of speech. In one of his essays he wrote, “Freedom of expression is the right of everyone… Suppression of opinions, be it for any religious fear, or the fear of community and tribe or the fear of being defamed, or the fear of the government – is very bad”

The Aligarh Movement

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan is best known for the Aligarh Movement — a systemic movement aimed at reforming the social, political and educational aspects of the Muslim community. He founded the Scientific Society in 1863 to translate major works in the sciences and modern arts into Urdu. He released two journals to this end — The Aligarh Institute Gazette, which was an organ of the Scientific Society, and the Tehzibul Akhlaq, known as the Mohammedan Social Reformer in English.

Khan’s most notable contribution to the field of education is establishing the Madarsatul Uloom in Aligarh in 1875, now known as the Aligarh Muslim University, a premier educational institution of the country. He attempted to model the college on universities such as Oxford and Cambridge. His work on Muslim education was not limited to this alone — he wanted to create a network of educational institutions managed by Muslims and founded the All India Muslim Educational Conference.

In 1886, he set up the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental Education Congress, later renamed the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental Educational Conference, to bring together education and culture. He emphasised the need for an autonomous Muslim institution free of any government funding.

On this issue he said, “As long as we depend on Government for wants which are essentially of a domestic nature as education necessarily is, we really expect to get what is simply impossible to obtain. The best educational institutions in Europe are either entirely or next to entirely free from any control of the government.”

An avid historian, he was the first person to publish an archaeological study in an Indian language. As a result, he was also named as an honorary member of the Royal Asiatic Society. He also collected sculptures and rare artefacts, including those of Hindu deities.

Critical of the Indian National Congress

In 1888, three years after the Indian National Congress was founded, Khan delivered a lecture in Meerut on the invitation of the Muslims residing in the area. He was critical of the Congress and talked about how it was essentially a party of Bengali Hindus who could not best represent the viewpoint of a Muslim population. He called for greater representation of Muslims.

“The unfair interference of these people is this — that they have tried to produce a false impression that the Mahomedans of these Provinces agree with their opinions. But we also are inhabitants of this country, and we cannot be ignorant of the real nature of the events that are taking place in our own North-West Provinces and Oudh,” he said.

He further iterated that some Hindus were misled by the party and given false assurances that joining Congress would result in them becoming the dominant group in the nation; he expressed regret at the discord this was sowing between the two communities.

Full report at:



Babri Masjid: Sunni Waqf board puts conditions to withdraw claim

by Sameer

October 17, 2019

New Delhi: In a surprise development, Sunni Waqf Board- the primary Muslim litigant in the title dispute case has offered to drop its claim on Babri Masjid land with few conditions, a source told  Muslim Mirror.


Outlining its three conditions, the Waqf Board wants the UP government to rebuild 22 mosques lying in a dilapidated condition, strict implementation of the Places of Religious Worship Act 1991, and allowing Muslims to pray in all mosques under the central government’s Archaeological Survey of India.

However, this offer would not impact the proceedings before the court.

Sunni Waqf Board, which had filed a suit for ownership of the structure in 1961.

It is in not immediately clear what riders the Sunni Waqf Board has attached to its settlement proposal, which has apparently been submitted via the three-member mediation panel that the court had set up earlier this year.

The Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board had earlier denied reports that it was diluting its stand in the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi case. It had said it “unequivocally affirms its full faith in the ability and competence” of senior counsel Rajeev Dhawan, who is arguing for the Muslim side.

6th December 1992

On 6 December 1992, a large group of Hindu activists of the Vishva Hindu Parishad and allied organizations demolished the 16th-century Babri Mosque in the city of Ayodhya, in Uttar Pradesh. The demolition occurred after a political rally organized by Hindu nationalist organizations at the site turned violent.

In Hindu tradition, the city of Ayodhya is the birthplace of Rama. In the 16th century a Mughal general, Mir Baqi, had built a mosque, known as the Babri Masjid at a site identified by some Hindus as Ram Janmabhoomi, or the birthplace of Rama.

Full report at:



Muslim side denies judge’s 1886 observation favours Hindus

by Mohd Aslam Hussain

October 16, 2019

New Delhi: The Muslim side, on the last day of hearings in the Ayodhya title dispute on Wednesday, refuted the Hindu side’s claim that the observation of a District Judge in 1886 was in their favour.

Senior counsel Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for Muslim side, contended before the five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, that counsel of the Hindu side wrongly relied on the decision of the District Judge on March 18, 1886, to indicate the title was not denied by the judge by “making an observation it was too late to go into the issue”.

Dhavan submitted the fact remains that the Commissioner on November 1, 1886, specifically decided the Hindus had no title and that they only had a prescriptive title.

The Hindu side had said the Muslim parties chose not to file an appeal against these findings, which has attained finality.

“Therefore, burden of proof does not lie on the Hindu parties to show that they held the disputed property to be sacred. It is the duty of the Muslim parties to displace the said findings while dealing with facts nearer to their ken,” they had argued.

To this, Dhavan said if a finding is in Muslims’ favour, then an appeal does not need to be filed.

“Appeals do not have to be filed on observations where a finding has been made. The Commissioner firmly repudiated the decision of the District Judge, clearing ambiguities. This decision is binding on the Hindus who cannot derive succour from an overruled decision,” he submitted.

He insisted that the illegal destruction of the building does not eliminate the right of the Waqf Board to demand the area.

Arguing on the aspect of Mughal conquest, Dhavan said there were massive conquests, thousands in recorded history, within India by various rulers against each other, even when they were of the same faith. “Were these conquerors different because they were Hindus?… The Muslims settled in India from 1206. Babur fought an India-settled ruler (Sultan Ibrahim Lodi) and Muslims from outside and those who accepted Islam live here. If the argument is made that India can only be perceived Hindu, this argument is communal,” he told the court.

Later, Dhavan argued on the historical wrong cited by Hindus. “Argument was made Indian people needed protection from conquerors who came from outside. Under the Constitution, the protection prioritized are for SC/ST/OBC, women and children, minorities, all religions and those under 5th and 6th schedule..,” he contended.

The Muslim side, in its final argument, urged the court to grant it possession of the entire disputed site.

Full report at:



Ayodhya: The tearing act of Muslims side lawyer that went viral

by Safoora

October 16, 2019

NEW DELHI: After 40 days of hearing, the Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved the judgement in the 70-year-old politically vexing Ayodhya title dispute.

The last day of hearing wrapped up with what appeared to be high drama  where senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, representing the Muslim parties, in fact, shocked the court by tearing a pictorial map identifying the birthplace of Lord Ram (Ram Janamsthan).

The reference to the pictorial map was submitted by a senior counsel Vikas Singh representing the All India Hindu Mahasabha.

The tearing act that went viral was indeed done with the permission of the Court.

“The incident is going viral. But fact is that I wanted to throw the pages away and the CJI said I may tear them. And I tore them so I’d say it was with the permission of Court”, said Dhawan, as per Hindustan Times report.

Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi confirmed and also clarified in the Court that he indeed said that Dhavan may tear the pages.

A five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi began the daily hearing into the matter on August 6 after the court-appointed mediation panel, headed by a former apex court judge, failed to amicably resolve the matter.

The packed courtroom saw extremely heated exchanges between the Hindu and Muslim side.

The bench also comprises Justice S.A. Bobde, Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, and Justice S.A. Nazeer.

In the first half of the day, Hindu parties argued and urged the court to correct the historical wrong where a mosque has been built on a site considered holy by Hindus.

In turn, Dhavan said that the Muslim parties seek restoration of Babri Masjid as it stood on December 5, 1992. “The demolished building belonged to us. The right to reconstruct it also belongs to us. Nobody else has the right,” he submitted.

He even used unfavorable language against a lawyer for the Hindu side, who had argued on the Islamic law, and referred that the Babri Masjid was not an Islamic structure.

“The Sultanate began only in 1206. Islam is an extremely attractive faith for people living in a caste-ridden society,” Dhavan submitted before the bench.

The court now has asked counsel from both sides to submit their written submissions on the moulding of relief in the matter.

Full report at:



PM expresses grief over death of people in bus accident in Saudi Arabia

Oct 17, 2019

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday expressed anguish over the death of 35 people in a bus accident in Saudi Arabia.

Thirty-five people, including Asians and Arabs, were killed and four others injured after a bus crashed with another heavy vehicle in western Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.

Anguished by the news of a bus crash near Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Condolences to the families of those who lost thei…

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 1571282887000

Full report at:



Boxful of apples with pro-Pakistan slogans

Oct 17, 2019

JAMMU: Apples with pro-Pakistan graffiti and the names of slain terrorists Burhan Wani and Zakir Musa scribbled on them in black ink have been found inside a box of fruit procured by a vendor in Kathua district, J&K police said on Wednesday.

The lot was seized after the unidentified vendor, who owns a stall near Mookherji Chowk in Kathua town, reported what he had found to the nearest police station. "What we know so far is that the apples came from Jammu. We are trying to confirm the point of origin and whose handiwork it was," an officer said.

Full report at:



Place before court the orders imposing curbs, Supreme Court tells J&K

Oct 17, 2019

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Jammu & Kashmir administration to place before it all orders imposing restrictions in the state after withdrawal of special status under Article 370. Appearing before a bench headed by Justice NV Ramana, solicitor general Tushar Mehta assured the bench that the administrative orders would be placed before the court for its perusal but said the documents couldn't be shown to the opposite parties as it involved national security.

The petitioners alleged that the government failed to comply with two SC orders to furnish the documents and asked the court to grant a last opportunity as proceedings in the case couldn't be delayed because of the government's failure to file those documents.

The bench asked the state why it hadn't filed a reply on a plea by the wife of a Malaysia-based NRI businessman challenging his detention, saying it was a serious matter relating to "personal liberty". Mehta said the affidavit would soon be filed.

Full report at:



Ayodhya case: Court-appointed mediation panel submits report to SC in sealed cover

Oct 16, 2019

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court-appointed mediation panel to resolve the Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute in Ayodhya is believed to have filed a report in the apex court on Wednesday in a sealed cover which sources said is a "sort of a settlement" between the Hindu and the Muslim parties.

Sources close to the mediation panel said the Sunni Waqf Board, Nirvani Akhada, Nirmohi Akhada, Ram Janmabhoomi Punruddhar Samiti and some other Hindu parties are in favour of settling the contentious land dispute.

The panel is headed by former apex court judge F M I Kalifulla and also comprises spiritual guru and founder of the Art of Living foundation Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate and renowned mediator Sriram Panchu,

Ravi Shankar tweeted, "I thank the Supreme Court for the confidence they have placed in the mediation. I thank all the parties for their sincere and tireless participation. The entire mediation process happened with a sense of brotherhood and understanding which is a testament to the values of this nation".

I thank the Supreme Court for the confidence they have placed in the mediation. I thank all the parties for their s…

— Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (@SriSri) 1571229159000

Sources said the parties have sought settlement under the provisions of The Places of Worship Act, 1991 which provides that no dispute with regard to any mosque or other religious places, which have been constructed after demolition of temples and are existing as in 1947, would be raised in a court of law.

The Act, however, excludes the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute from its purview.

Sources said Muslim parties have suggested that the land in question can be given to the government, and the Waqf Board can submit a select list of ASI mosques which can be made available to them for prayers.

A senior advocate appearing in the dispute in the apex court said since the hearing has concluded, the report which the media is speaking about, has no value.

Some of lawyers appearing for both the Hindu and Muslim sides, said they have not been informed by the apex court about the filing of the report by the panel.

The report, sources said, has taken into consideration the grievances of the Muslim parties that government should take steps to renovate the existing mosques in Ayodhya and a suitable space be provided to them in the religious town to build a mosque.

Further, the sources said that a Hindu religious institution has agreed to part with its land in Ayodhya for construction of mosque there.

On September 16, a fresh plea was made by a Hindu and a Muslim party seeking resumption of the mediation process for amicable settlement of the land dispute in Ayodhya by the mediation panel.

The top court on Wednesday reserved its verdict in the title dispute after a marathon hearing of 40 days.

Fourteen appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among the three parties - the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.

Full report at:



Chhattisgarh labourer shot dead by militants in Kashmir’s Pulwama

October 16, 2019

Two days after a man from Rajasthan was shot dead in Jammu and Kashmir’s Shopian district, militants on Wednesday killed a labourer in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir Police said. News agency PTI reported that the man was from Chhattisgarh.

In a separate incident, three militants were killed in an encounter with security forces in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district this morning. This is the fifth gunfight in the Valley and the second encounter in South Kashmir since August 5 when the government abrogated the special status accorded to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and bifurcated the state into two union territories.

In Monday’s killing in Shopian, militants fired shots in the air to disperse locals and labourers loading the truck and took the vehicle a short distance away before killing the driver and setting the truck on fire. The driver named Sharif Khan, hailed from Rajasthan and was transporting apples.

Full report at:



Kashmir conference focuses on unity in Muslim ranks

Riyaz ul Khaliq  


Unity among Muslims is a pre-requisite to take the community out of the many conflicts around the world, including Kashmir, said speakers at an international conference Tuesday in Ankara.

The Jammu and Kashmir conference was organized by Turkey’s Cansuyu Charity and Solidarity Organization.

Temel Karamollaoglu, president of the Saadet (Felicity) Party, said Palestine and Kashmir are "parallel" because there was discrimination against Muslims.

"Kashmir has very strong foundations," he said, referring to UN Security Council resolutions.

"India, which is an occupying force, has itself taken into consideration the UN resolutions that Kashmiris have to decide their future, but 70 years have passed and they have not decided it yet".

Referring to the Aug. 5 decision of the Indian government to scrap the special status of Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir, Karamollaoglu said: "[Narendra] Modi successfully won [2019] elections but has lost his reason by violating international laws and treaties".

From 1954 until Aug. 5, 2019, Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed a special status under the Indian Constitution which allowed it to enact its own laws.

The provisions also protected the region's citizenship law, which barred outsiders from settling in and owning land in the territory.

Jammu and Kashmir have been under a near-complete lockdown since the Indian government scrapped its special status.

India has also blocked communication access and imposed restrictions on movement to thwart any protests in the region.

Several rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have repeatedly called on India to lift restrictions and release political detainees.

India said that 93% of the restrictions have been eased in the conflict-ridden region, a claim that Anadolu Agency could not independently verify.

Karamollaoglu said that although the Indian government’s move invited sharp criticism and international condemnation, "it was not enough".

Revive D-8

"Unfortunately, all these things are [pitted] against Muslims, but we are divided," he said, calling for the revival of the D-8 grouping of Muslim states to strengthen the Muslim voice.

The D-8 Organization for Economic Cooperation, also known as the Developing-8, aims to develop cooperation among Bangladesh, Egypt, Nigeria, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Pakistan and Turkey.

"Unfortunately, Islamic world has become enemies with each other, but they are friends with the U.S. and Israel," he said.

"The world needs justice, and a feeling of togetherness is fundamental to our faith. We have to keep the feeling for Kashmir alive. This is the minimum we can do," he said, adding Pakistan is one of the strongest countries in the D-8.

"How can we [other members] be silent on Kashmir?"

"Turkey is together with Kashmir, but we have to get further than this -- not just share solidarity with them," he added.

Pakistan’s ambassador to Turkey Muhammad Syrus Sajjad Qazi put its weight behind the "unity motion", saying Muslims need to "rise above their internal differences, overcome our economic and political dependence on others and revive the great intellectual traditions of our civilization".

"While we must keep on pricking the conscience of the world on issues like Palestine and Jammu and Kashmir, the reality is that the Muslim Ummah is facing these challenges because of our own weaknesses and divisions," said Qazi, urging the realization of 11 UN resolutions to give the right to self-determination to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

"South Asia is on the brink of conflict because of India’s indifference," he warned.

Recai Kutan, president of Ankara-based Economic and Social Research Center, said it was the British empire which sowed the seeds of "fitnah" in the Indian subcontinent.

Explaining the historic roots of the Kashmir dispute, Kutan emphasized on strengthening the D-8.

Divided Kashmir

Azad Jammu and Kashmir Assembly lawmaker and chairperson of the Muzaffarabad-based All Parties Kashmir Council, Abdul Rashid Turabi, said the reason behind India’s occupation of Muslim-majority Kashmir is to “negate the ideology of Pakistan.”

"And since 1947, it has been the policy of India to push Muslims out of the disputed region," he said, referring to the Jammu massacre of 1947.

He said following India’s Aug. 5 move, "the situation in Azad Jammu and Kashmir [AJK] is very volatile, as thousands of people are holding a sit-in protest to cross the Line of Control to join their brothers and sisters in Indian-occupied Kashmir".

"The pain is deep; 16 out of 49 members of the AJK assembly have their families divided between two Kashmirs," he added.

India and Pakistan both hold Kashmir in parts and claim it in full. China also controls part of the contested region, but it is India and Pakistan who have fought two wars over Kashmir.

Cemal Demir, president of the Istanbul-based South Asia Strategic Research Center, said there was a communication gap among Muslims in the subcontinent.

"This fault line among Muslims has been exploited by Hindu nationalists, and that it is why this government in India arrived at the Aug. 5 decision," he said.

"A parallel Israeli plan is being implemented in Kashmir," he alleged, warning about the rise of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a rightwing Hindu nationalist paramilitary organization that is widely regarded as the parent organization of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Urging immediate attention toward necessary and emergency healthcare in Kashmir, Dr. Nedim Choudhary said hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris have been killed since 1947.

"And in the recent past, mass graves have been found in Kashmir with 7,000-8,000 people buried in these graves, and no one knows their identities," he said.

He said India was using pellet guns to blind Kashmiris and "many others have been paralyzed while over 13,000 were raped".

Photo exhibition showcases Kashmir situation

Earlier, before the start of the conference, an expanded photo exhibition showcasing the current situation in Kashmir was inaugurated.

On the sidelines of the conference, Kashmiri human rights activist Nasir Qadri said India has "robbed Kashmir of everything" after Aug. 5.

"Kashmiris need to think out of box, and what is going on in Kashmir right now is nothing less than civil disobedience," he said.

Full report at:



Details of investment in Jammu and Kashmir would be available very soon: Nirmala Sitharaman

Oct 17, 2019, 10.19

WASHINGTON: The details of the government's policy to attract more investments in Jammu and Kashmir would be available very soon, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, listing out the potential the area carries for investors in sectors like tourism, handicrafts, silk, production of saffron and apple.

Sitharaman made the comments while responding to a question during an interactive session with investors at the IMF headquarters here on Wednesday. The event was organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and US India Strategic and Partnership Forum.

“We have started working in terms of making sure that the full potential of Jammu and Kashmir from various different aspects (is achieved),” she said.

The minister listed out the investment possibilities Jammu and Kashmir carries in different sectors like tourism, fine arts, handicrafts, wood work, carpets, silk, production of saffron and apple.

“I think sooner the details of it (new policy) will be available,” she said.

India on August 5 scrapped Jammu and Kashmir's special status and bifurcated it into two Union Territories - Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

In his address to the nation after revoking the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said state companies as well as private companies will be encouraged to create jobs for the local youth in the region.

“So very many things are all being put together to see how best a plan can be done,” Sitharaman said.

Sooner, some kind of pattern would be worked out between the union home ministry and finance ministry and announced.

“Work is on,” she said, while responding to a question from a Dubai-based investor who is trying to mobilise funds to invest in Jammu and Kashmir.

Full report at:



J&K: Three LeT militants killed in Anantnag

by Adil Akhzer

October 17, 2019

Three militants affiliated to the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) were killed during an operation by joint forces in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district on Wednesday.

Police officers said a cordon- and-search operation was launched at Pazalpora, Bijbehara in Anantnag. Around 5 am, militants fired at the security forces, triggering an encounter.

Kashmir Police said on Twitter that three militants were killed in the encounter. The slain militants were identified as Nasir Chadru, Aqib Hajam and Zahid Hussain.

“Affiliated with proscribed terror outfit LeT. Involved in terror crimes as per police records. Arms and ammunition recovered. Case registered,” police tweeted on Wednesday evening.

J&K Police stated in a release on Wednesday that DGP Dilbag Singh visited Anantnag to commend the police personnel and security forces for the successful operation in Bijbehara.

The operation was the first in South Kashmir after mobile phone services returned to the Valley.

Full report at:





As Militants Kill in Kashmir, People Are Afraid to Go to Work

By Sameer Yasir and Jeffrey Gettleman

Oct. 15, 2019

SRINAGAR, Kashmir — Militants are terrorizing civilians in the fractious Kashmir Valley, hoping to bring life there to a halt in protest of India’s dramatic reorganizing of the region. And many civilians eager to return to work after weeks of a military clampdown say they are terrified of provoking the militants’ ire.

The fatal shooting of a truck driver transporting apples on Monday night is the most recent in a campaign of threats and violence that separatist militants have carried out since August, when the Indian government unilaterally revoked the autonomy that Kashmir had held for years.

“This is bad news for business,” said Mohammad Asharf Wani, the president of the Fruit Association of Shopian, in Kashmir’s apple-producing region. Apple growing is a source of income for thousands of Kashmiris, and October is the height of apple picking season.

In Monday night’s attack, a truck driver — from Rajasthan, a state hundreds of miles away — was set on by a mob as he was loading his truck with apples in the Shopian area.

Witnesses said that a crowd pelted the driver with stones, and that when he tried to crawl into a sleeping area at the front of the truck to escape, members of the crowd dragged him out.

A masked militant then pulled out an assault rifle, witnesses said, and shot the driver in the head at close range, killing him instantly.

Mr. Wani said the shooting had provoked panic among apple traders, but noted that some business owners continued to pluck and ship the fruit despite the risk.

It is not the first time the apple industry has been targeted. In September, militants attacked the family of a prominent apple trader in another area, and deliberately shot a 5-year-old girl in the leg, sending a chilling message.

For years, Kashmir has been racked by conflict and unrest. Both India and Pakistan claim the Muslim-majority territory, and the neighbors and rivals have gone to war several times over it. India controls most of the territory.

In August, the Indian government injected a new note of uncertainty by stripping away statehood from Jammu and Kashmir State, which includes the restive Kashmir Valley. It announced that the territory would be cut in half and turned into two federally controlled enclaves, a change that Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India said would bring peace and prosperity.

But it was clear that the shift would be highly unpopular, and in the hours before India announced the move, the Indian authorities shut off phone and internet service in Kashmir. The authorities also rounded up most of Kashmir’s political leadership, and many remain in jail without having been charged.

On Monday, the Indian government switched cellphone service back on for much of the Kashmir Valley, though the internet remains off. For the first time in more than two months, many Kashmiris were able to call loved ones — or an ambulance, if they needed it. Doctors have said that as a result of the weekslong communication blackout, at least a dozen people died needlessly.

Some Kashmiris are determined to return to their normal routines, and there was even a traffic jam in downtown Srinagar, the valley’s biggest city, on Tuesday morning.

But separatist militants are determined to disrupt any resumption of normalcy and maintain the resistance. There are only a few hundred militants in the Kashmir Valley, members of various outlawed groups who are poorly trained and lightly armed compared with the Indian forces they are fighting.

Still, they have managed to keep much of the population in check through fear. The militants have hung posters and passed threats person to person, ordering the population to stay off the streets, or else.

In August, militants fatally shot a shopkeeper in Srinagar who had opened his shop for a few hours. Other shopkeepers shut their gates after that.

The attacks on the apple business have left the valley rattled, with Kashmir framed by the Himalayas, winter on its way and harvest time running out.

“The apples are ripening on the trees,” said Mushtaq Ahmad Para, an apple farmer. “It is like you work for a year, and when the harvesting time comes you can only look at trees but can’t even think of plucking a single apple.”

Many people remain shuttered inside their homes. Some said they felt trapped between the security forces, who have arrested thousands of people in recent weeks, and the militants who have targeted fellow Kashmiris.

As the phone service has returned, so too have the antigovernment protests. Many Kashmiris resent the Indian government and have accused Indian forces of human rights abuse and torture.

On Tuesday, a group of women marched in Srinagar, expressing outrage that many of Kashmir’s political leaders, including a member of Parliament, Farooq Abdullah, remain in detention.

“What kind of democracy is this where you keep a sitting Parliament member in house arrest for so long?” said Suraiya Matoo, Mr. Abdullah’s sister.

The women were later arrested and moved to a jail in Srinagar for breaching the peace.

Sameer Yasir reported from Srinagar, and Jeffrey Gettleman from New Delhi. Iqbal Kirmani contributed reporting from Pulwama, Kashmir.

Jeffrey Gettleman is the South Asia bureau chief, based in New Delhi. He was the winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for international reporting. @gettleman • Facebook



Journalists hold protests against police brutality in Pakistan

Oct 16, 2019

Pakistani journalists on Wednesday held a country-wide protest against police brutality on a local reporter in Lahore.

The protest took place after police officials hit Pakistani journalist Usman Ahmed Bhatti for covering the appearance of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz PML(N) leader Hamza Shahba in court, Geo News reported.

The report said the policemen not only beat-up the reporter but also hit two camerapersons for covering the appearance of Hamza Shahbaz in court.

It also said that other journalists were also roughed-up to make way for the convoy of the PML(N) leader.

Punjab police did not make any comment over allegations of brutality levelled by protesting journalists.

Full report at:



Will Imran Khan's Saudi-Iran tour ease tension in the region?

by Asad Hashim

October 17, 2019

Islamabad, Pakistan - Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan's visits to Iran and Saudi Arabia to help facilitate talks between the regional rivals have ended with no set commitments for dialogue although Tehran reiterated its readiness to come to the negotiating table.

Khan met Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, late on Tuesday.

This followed a trip over the weekend to the Iranian capital Tehran to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei.

At a joint press conference on Sunday, Rouhani reiterated an Iranian desire to resolve issues in the region through dialogue, despite a flare-up of violence targeting oil facilities in both Iran and Saudi Arabia. Both governments blame each other for the attacks.

"Our two countries emphasised that regional issues could only be resolved through political means and dialogue," said Rouhani. "We openly welcome any goodwill gesture by Pakistan for providing more peace and stability for the whole region and we are ready to assist Pakistan for providing full peace and stability for the whole region."

Following Rouhani's comments, Khan reiterated his government's desire to resolve any possible conflict between Iran - with whom Pakistan shares a 900km (560-mile) border - and Saudi Arabia, a key strategic ally to Islamabad.

"Iran is our neighbour. Ties with Iran go a long way back," said the Pakistan PM.

"Saudi Arabia has been one of our closest friends. Saudi Arabia has helped us when we have been in need. The reason for this trip is that we do not want a conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran. We recognise that it is a complex issue."

Saudi Arabia is a major Pakistani strategic ally, helping to bolster the country's foreign exchange reserves earlier this year with interest free loans, and announcing more than $20bn in new investments in the South Asian country during a high-level visit.

Pakistan is also home to a Shia Muslim minority of roughly 20 percent of its 215 million population. Shia Muslims form the vast majority of the population in Iran.

Khan offered the use of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, as a neutral venue for Saudi and Iranian leaders to meet to "iron out [their] differences".

Saudi Arabian statements on Khan's visit were more brief, making no mention of Iran.

"During the meeting, [Khan and MBS] reviewed strong ties between the two brotherly countries and fields of joint cooperation as well as ways of enhancing them," read the government statement.

"They also discussed the latest developments in the region and a number of issues of common interest."

A Pakistani statement on the meeting with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz said PM Khan "stressed the need to resolve regional peace and stability differences and disputes through political means and diplomacy".

'All-out war'

On Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused "one or more governments" of being involved in last week's attack on an Iranian oil tanker.

Last month, drone attacks hit two Saudi oil facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais, knocking out nearly six percent of global oil supply.

While responsibility for the attacks was claimed by Houthi rebels who are battling Saudi forces in Yemen, the kingdom blamed Iran for the attacks, prompting the United States to tighten sanctions on the country.

Tensions in the region have been at fever-pitch since the attacks, with the US backing Saudi Arabia's accusations of Iran being responsible, and Iran warning of "all-out war" if its territory was attacked.

Following the United Nations General Assembly in New York last month, Khan offered to help mediate between the two regional powers, who have also been battling each other through proxies in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Deep divisions

Analysts warn that Pakistan's traditionally friendly ties with both countries may not be enough to bring them to the table.

Zahid Hussain, an Islamabad-based security analyst, said to expect Khan's meetings to lead to talks "is too much".

"It is important [for Pakistan to do] but I doubt very much that anything substantive will come out from Pakistan's effort to facilitate talks between them," he told Al Jazeera.

"Conflicts between the two countries go much deeper. [The conflicts] are not on some minor issues, [that] have just arisen. It has been there for a very, very long time, and both countries are deeply involved in conflicts in the Middle East. So for Pakistan getting them together may not work."

Hussain feels the task may be beyond the expectations set by Khan.

"Khan has developed this kind of illusion about himself that he can now play a much greater role in uniting the Muslim ummah [community], but he doesn't realise that the Muslim ummah is so divided and fractured, with nothing to unite them."

Others, however, believe Pakistan stands to gain from stepping into the mediation talks by reinforcing its neutrality on disputes between the two countries.

"The role of mediation reinforces Pakistan's neutrality, which is positive for Pakistan," said Hassan Akbar, an Islamabad-based foreign policy analyst. "It allows Pakistan to sidestep the inevitable question of choosing sides."

Akbar believes it is unlikely that Pakistan would be able to allay Saudi Arabian strategic concerns about Iran – particularly regarding its nuclear capabilities – but that entering into a mediating role provides a path through which immediate tensions can be defused.

James Dorsey, a senior fellow at the Singapore-based S Rajaratnam School of International Studies and a journalist who has covered the region for decades, said Iran's position was to try and push the region to the brink of a conflict that neither side wants in order to secure talks.

"The only way to break the circle ... is to raise the stakes to the point where you either go to war or you talk," Dorsey said. "That is the Iranian strategy and that's also the risk factor."

Full report at:



Pakistan desires harmony among Muslim countries: Dr. Firdous

October 16, 2019

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan says Pakistan desires for promotion of fraternity and harmony among brotherly Islamic states.

In a series of tweets on Wednesday, she said unity in the Muslim Ummah guarantees peace and economic stability in the region.

The Special Assistant said that after Iran, Saudi Arabia's admiration of Prime Minister Imran Khan's sincere efforts for defusing tension and promotion of peace and stability in the region makes Imran Khan distinctive as leader of the Muslim world.

She said the Prime Minister's visit to Saudi Arabia will enhance mutual confidence between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia as well as bilateral relations based on close cooperation in various areas.

She said the Prime Minister reaffirmed resolve that Pakistan will always stand shoulder to shoulder with Saudi Arabia.

Dr. Fidous Ashiq Awan said the Prime Minister apprised the Saudi leadership about gross human rights violations, communications blackout and continuous lockdown in occupied Kashmir.

She said there has been curfew in the held territory for seventy-three days, and over eight million people have been incarcerated in their houses, and the valley has been turned into a prison.

Full report at:



President, PM have no right to override constitution: Justice Isa

Nasir Iqbal

October 17, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Justice Qazi Faez Isa has pleaded before the Supreme Court that the president, the prime minister or the law minister enjoys no liberty to undermine the constitution and destroy the judiciary’s independence.

“A self-serving charge has been enacted and the petitioner (Justice Isa) and his family have been persecuted and their lives have been made a living hell,” read Justice Isa’s rejoinder to a statement filed by Attorney General Anwar Mansoor on his own behalf.

A 10-judge SC full court, seized with a set of petitions challenging the filing of a reference against Justice Isa of the Supreme Court, could not commence hearing of the case on Wednesday because of the sudden death of former Karachi police chief Shahid Hayat, who was a first cousin of Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, a member of the bench.

Justice Isa alleged that the powers that be wanted to remove him from his constitutional office by hook or by crook. President Arif Alvi did not form his own independent opinion before the filing of the reference against the petitioner, Justice Isa added. The prime minister, the law minister and the attorney general misinterpreted Section 116 (b) of the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001, and mistakenly applied it to his wife and children as the law was applicable only to a dependent wife and those children who were minor and dependent, Justice Isa said.

He wondered why the government had not made public the wealth statement of the prime minister in accordance with its interpretation of the ITO provision.

“Why the government, in the interest of transparency, is not disclosing the tax returns and wealth statements of the prime minister, particularly when it has made public my tax statement and that of my wife,” the judge alleged. “Why the double standards and why the lack of transparency.”

The reference is stated to have been filed upon the prime minister’s advice, the rejoinder said, alleging that a wrong advice was given intentionally for mala fide reasons and for ulterior motives for a purpose, which was to remove the petitioner (Justice Isa) from office.

The prime minister misconstrued Section 116(b) of the ITO and thus rendered advice contrary to his own understanding as he had never disclosed the properties of his wives and children in his wealth statements, the rejoinder said.

“His advice was therefore knowingly false and given only to target the petitioner,” it added.

The reference itself discloses that the government’s agencies, FIA among them, had provided help to secretly obtain information about the petitioner and his family. Subsequently, the petitioner and his family’s data and documents maintained by Nadra, a statutory entity, were illegally accessed.

“The petitioner and his family have been treated as common criminals,” the rejoinder said.

Such covert action was in clear transgression of Articles 4 and 14 of the constitution since the petitioner and his family were neither taken into confidence over these investigations nor were they provided a single opportunity to respond to any purported discrepancy. This omission on the government’s part violated the due process stipulated by Article 10A of the constitution, according to the rejoinder.

The reference revealed, the rejoinder recalled, that an assistant commissioner at Islamabad was assigned to investigate the petitioner and his wife from the confines of his Islamabad office. The official unilaterally formed an opinion within one working day and did not bother to even issue a notice to the petitioner and his wife, the rejoinder regretted.

In a separate rejoinder to the statement of the Supreme Judicial Council’s secretary, Justice Isa said that by showing an unusual haste in admitting the reference, the SJC had deprived the petitioner of his right to a fair trial and due process.

Full report at:



PML-N raps govt for banning Fazl’s live speech on TV channels

October 17, 2019

LAHORE: The PML-N has chided the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government for “banning” the live speech of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam chief Maualan Fazlur Rehman on electronic media.

“The PTI government has ripped to shreds the law, Constitution, rules and decency, to impose its fascist agenda on the people of Pakistan. From disgracing honourable judges in the middle of hearings, to banning broadcast of elected public leaders speech, Imran Khan’s ability to stoop lower with his every failure is immeasurable,” PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Auranzeb said in a statement here on Wednesday.

She said that “desperate and frustrated” by his failures, premier Khan had not only destroyed the country’s economy, but also disfigured whatever semblance of democratic and constitutional freedom was left under his despotic rule.

“There is no rule in the Pemra (Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority) Ordinance that allows such a fascist act [of banning the speech]. Such actions by the shameless beneficiary of uncensored round-the-clock coverage of his [Imran Khan’s] dharna speeches only exposed his shallow character. His incoherent and indecent ramblings from the container were never interrupted because the prime minister at the time, Nawaz Sharif, was a truly elected leader and had unshakeable confidence in his voters and the power of their vote,” she said.

She further said the “selected premier” was scared of every truth regarding his inability to deliver. “This censorship and fear of Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s press talk proves that Imran is scared of his [Fazl’s] narrative which implies that the selected prime minister has endorsed that whatever the JUI-F chief is saying is truth.”

Ms Aurangzeb said if Imran’s ‘iron-fist’ was not stopped, such brutal dismissal of law and flagrant denial of constitutional rights would only incite the most severe of reactions which could be extremely unhealthy for the country.

Full report at:



Areas around Gurdwara Punja Sahib to be renovated

October 17, 2019

TAXILA: The Hassanabdal Municipal Administration has chalked out a renovation and beautification plan for areas around Gurdwara Punja Sahib.

This was stated by Assistant Commissioner Adnan Anjum Raja while talking to newsmen on Wednesday.

Mr Raja said the renovation project would complete before Nov 15 when Sikh pilgrims from across the globe would be visiting the city to celebrate 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak.

He said under this project the road in front of Sikh temple would be expanded further besides establishment of a park and redesigning of the swimming pool.

He said green belts would be added to the front side and rear of the Sikh temple under the beautification plan.

He said a master plan would also be executed to improve and revamp the drainage and sewerage system of the historical city so that sewage could not mix with water from various springs.

He said new water system would also be established for clean water entry and exit to the Sikh temple.

Full report at:



Dark clouds of Iran-Saudi war dispersing, Qureshi says

October 17, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Wednesday that Prime Minister’s Imran Khan’s visits to Saudi Arabia and Iran have proven fruitful as differences between the two countries have significantly been mitigated.

Addressing a press conference in the federal capital, Qureshi said that the prime minister was able to relay Iran’s sentiments to the Saudi leadership.

He said that the entire senior Saudi leadership, including the foreign minister, minister of state, national security adviser was present during the meetings.

“We presented Pakistan’s standpoint, discussed the region’s needs, and relayed Iran’s sentiments to them,” said the foreign minister.

Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani on the other hand, Qureshi said had expressed a desire to establish peaceful relations with Riyadh.

He said that he was hopeful that the regional situation will improve and both countries will agree to decreasing tensions. “I can now see the dark clouds of war and conflict that were looming above our heads slowly dispersing,” said the foreign minister.

“Pakistan’s number one objective was this: that we do not end up suffering another conflict.”

We realised there was no easy solution to the conflict, which had seen many interventions from Pakistan and the international community in the past, said the minister.

“Yesterday’s meeting was very encouraging and I believe the one thing we agreed upon was that a peaceful, diplomatic process will be given preference. And all misunderstandings must be resolved through dialogue,” said Qureshi.

He said that a mechanism for a way forward is currently under deliberation.

Tensions have been building up in the Middle East following missile strikes targeting Saudi oil facilities on September 14. Riyadh and the Washington blamed Tehran but the Rouhani government denied its role.

During his meetings with the Saudi leadership on Tuesday, Premier Imran had reiterated Pakistan’s willingness to facilitate efforts for de-escalation of tensions between Riyadh and Tehran.

The prime minister also stressed the importance of avoiding military conflict and the need for constructive engagement of all parties.

Full report at:



Islamabad admin responsible for protecting rights of JUI-F protesters, residents: IHC

October 17, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday disposed of petitions against the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl’s (JUI-F) ‘Azadi March’ and instructed the Islamabad Capital Territory Administration (ICT) to decide on the party’s application which sought permission to hold the march at D-Chowk square.

The JUI-F had earlier filed an application with the ICT seeking permission for the anti-government rally on Oct 27, and a protest demonstration in Islamabad. However, the date was later changed to Oct 31.

After hearing a petition against the march, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah instructed the district administration to look into the matter “as per the law”.

During the proceedings, Justice Minallah asked the petitioner what his demand was? To which, Rahi recalled that Fazal had announced a march against the government.

“Do you mean he does not have the right to protest?” inquired the chief justice. “You can protest against [a] policy, not against a democratic government,” Rahi responded.

The chief justice said that protesting was a fundamental right of every citizen and could not be ignored.

The proceedings were briefly adjourned as the court ordered that all petitions against the protest be combined and heard together.

Following the break, along with Rahi, another petitioner against the march, Hafiz Ihtisham Ahmed, also appeared in court.

Justice Minallah reminded them that protecting the fundamental rights of citizens was the job of the state.

He said that the state should protect the rights of protesters; additionally, he said, the state was also required to protect the rights of those who do not want to protest.

Justice Minallah recalled that in 2014, the same court had allowed the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) to conduct a dharna – which went on for 126 days.

He asked one of the petitioners, Rahi, if he was there on behalf of the government, to which the petitioner said he was only there as an ordinary citizen.

“From your statements, it seems like you are here on the government’s behalf,” remarked the chief justice, noting that Rahi submits “so many petitions, he should one day submit one against corrupt people in the local judiciary [as well]”.

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organization Slams India's NIA's Latest Accusation against Zakir Naik

October 17, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Consultative Council Of Islamic Organization (Mapim) described the latest accusation by India against preacher Dr Zakir Naik as another lie to justify it's efforts to have him extradited home.

Mapim demanded India's National Investigation Agency (NIA) to first show proof that 127 persons caught in terror activities were influenced by Zakir.

“If it is unable to do so, this is a lame allegation by the NIA, a reflection of it's ultimate agenda to take him into custody and halt his propagation of Islam in India,” said its president Azmi Abdul Hamid.

He also rejected NIA’s accusation that the majority of Islamic State (IS) supporters arrested in India had been radicalised through viewing of Zakir’s videos.

"This is an attrocious statement that does not reflect the intelligence of the agency and will not stand as an evidence of proof.

"If such claim holds any truth then Zakir‘s speeches would have created similar impact on the Malaysian public," he said in a press statement here.

Azmi also emphasised that the Malaysian authorities have been detaining IS-linked groups for years and never found any link to Zakir.

As such, he said he believed that the latest allegation by NIA was a lie and an attempt to pursue the BJP government efforts to extradite Zakir.

"We condemn this concocted and frivolous accusation against Zakir by the NIA, CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) and the Indian police," said the Mapim president.

Azmi added that the Malaysian public had been exposed to thousands of Zakir’s videos, speeches, and printed materials, but have never found them to be the source for violence.

“Malaysians in fact welcomed his argument for the correct understanding of Islam and the need for a harmonious co- existence of race and religion.” he said.



Indonesia on alert as Isis fighters escape Syria to awaken sleeper terror cells back home

16 Oct, 2019

Some 50 Indonesian Islamic State fighters and their family members imprisoned in northern Syria are believed to have escaped during Turkey’s invasion of the region to oust Kurdish forces, according to a counterterrorism source.

Turkey began a military assault on Syria after the United States abruptly withdrew its troops from the country last week.

Of the 12,000 Isis militants held in Syrian jails, about 2,000 come from foreign countries, including Indonesia and Malaysia. The rest are mostly from Syria and Iraq.

“According to our intelligence, around 50 Indonesian fighters and their families held in prison in Syria have escaped. That is our latest information,” an Indonesian counterterrorism source, who declined to be named, told the Post.

Indonesia has an estimated 34 jihadist fighters and about 700 Isis family members in Syria, he said.

“We have tightened up our surveillance at the airports, ports, land borders,” he said.

The 12,000 jailed Isis militants in Syria are guarded by only 400 Kurdish soldiers, who also oversee a sprawling camp holding over 70,000 Isis family members.

As Turkey escalates its assaults in Syria, the Kurdish guards are buckling under severe strain. On Sunday, Kurdish authorities said nearly 800 relatives of foreign Isis members escaped a displacement camp near where Kurdish forces were holding off a Turkish offensive.

Ahmet Yayla, assistant professor of criminal justice from DeSales University in the US, said if the 12,000 Isis prisoners staged an uprising, they would easily be able to overpower the Kurdish guards and escape.

There have already been several prison-break attempts, according to Yayla.

Noor Huda Ismail, a counterterrorism expert and visiting fellow at Nanyang Technological University, said Indonesian Isis fighters were battle-hardened and their loyalty to Isis remained strong.

Many of them had been filmed burning their Indonesian passports in Syria to proclaim their residence in the Caliphate.

“Without proper documents, it would be hard for them to go back to the region. Almost certainly, they will disperse, especially to neighbouring countries such as the borders of Turkey, Iraq and also Iran,” Huda said.

Huda said Isis returnees were likely to contact Indonesia’s largest pro-Isis network, the Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), if they made it home.

“If they return home now, they will energise the existing cells of Isis who are currently lying very low,” she said.

Yayla said Isis was looking for fake passports for its foreign fighters.

“If they can find fake passports, they will want to send their experienced fighters back … so they can lead the organisations over there,” Yayla said.

As the battle rages on, Turkey has vowed to maintain control of all detention centres in its operational area and work with other nations to rehabilitate Isis fighters.

“We are prepared to cooperate with source countries and international organisations on the rehabilitation of foreign terrorist fighters’ spouses and children,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrote recently in a Wall Street Journal editorial.

But according to Yayla, who was formerly a senior official of the counterterrorism and operations department in the Turkish National Police, Turkey has a “soft” stance on Isis.

“In Turkey, there are around 1,000 Isis prisoners and most of them have been released very quickly,” Yayla said.

“When I was the counterterrorism chief at Sanliurfa [a Turkish city that borders Syria], I received instructions from Ankara not to interrupt the flow of foreign fighters entering into Syria to join Al-Nusra Front,” he said.

Al-Nusra Front has been described as the al-Qaeda of Syria and is thought to be the second strongest militant group after Isis.

News of the jailbreak by Indonesian Isis militants comes as the Southeast Asian country grapples with a rising wave of extremist attacks.

Last week, chief security minister Wiranto was stabbed by suspects belonging to an Isis-linked radical group – an incident which prompted Indonesia to boost security for all government officials.

Police on Tuesday announced that more than 30,000 security personnel would be deployed for President Joko Widodo’s inauguration on Sunday.

Police spokesman Dedi Prasetryo told reporters that at least 26 terror suspects had been arrested since the attempt on Wiranto’s life.

Dedi said they had a terror plot involving four suicide bombers: “One suicide bomber in Cirebon, two in Yogya and one in Solo.”

It was unclear if the four suicide bombers were among the 26 arrested.

Meanwhile, the US on Monday slapped sanctions on Turkey as it demanded an end to the military operation, accusing its Nato partner of putting civilians at risk and allowing the release of extremists.

Full report at:



Hadi claims Pakatan at sea because only Bersatu is Islamic, other parties have different agenda


17 Oct 2019

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 17 — PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang today claimed Pakatan Harapan (PH) is unable to propel the country forward due to its open approach that allows for disagreements to be voiced within the government.

The Opposition lawmaker who has been increasingly vocal in championing Islamic leadership, likened the ruling coalition to a ship going nowhere amid a cacophony of calls for its captain to step down as each component party, or “passenger” as he put it, had its own agenda in governing a pluralistic society.

“Believe me, the ship is adrift and spinning around at sea. After all, anything is possible during the journey as long as long as the ship does not sink, or if no one mischievously punctures the ship,” the Marang MP wrote on his Facebook page this morning.

Hadi also claimed that there is only one Islamic party in the PH coalition of four parties, naming it as Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia or Bersatu for short, leaving out mention of Parti Amanah Negara — a PAS splinter party.

“For now we witness the Pakatan Harapan government, which only has one Muslim-majority party representing the biggest demographic group in a pluralistic society, Parti Bersatu, which is not big,” he said.

He further claimed this to be the reason the government under PH will not progress, because Bersatu is too small to effectively represent the country’s biggest demographic group of Malays and Muslims.

“Such is the fate of a government liberal in religion, politics and economy, be it capitalist, socialist, or pragmatic. Whose only goal is for material wealth and positions ultimately causing its affairs to fall by the wayside instead of moving forward, with a disregard for the supremacy of the law.

“So too is it with inconsistent political power in line with all races in a pluralistic society, wherein the government does not depend on the strongest and most influential party among said society,” Hadi said.

The Islamist politician did not mention any names in his lengthy post, but appears to be referencing the various remarks by PH leaders regarding the transition of prime ministership from Bersatu chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, which has been repeatedly raised since the coalition defeated the Barisan Nasional in the general election last year.

Hadi’s party has since formed a political pact with its former nemesis, Umno, to take on PH and both have pooled their resources to organise several mass rallies in the name of Malay Muslim unity.

Today, Hadi urged Muslim Malaysians to stand together to strengthen the tenets of their faith.

Full report at:



Terror arrests in Malaysia over alleged links to LTTE deepen Malay suspicions of DAP

OCT 16, 2019

Shannon Teoh

KUALA LUMPUR - The arrest last week of two Democratic Action Party (DAP) lawmakers among a dozen people over alleged links to the defunct Sri Lankan separatist group, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), has further fuelled the view among Malay hardliners that Malaysia's secularist ruling party harbours racial extremists.

The Chinese-dominated party has been accused of masterminding an agenda to undermine special privileges accorded to the Malay Muslim majority since coming to power in the May 2018 elections as part of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition.



Arab World


Syrian Army Recaptures 1,000 sq/km After Deal with Kurds, Withdrawal of US Troops

Oct 16, 2019

Syrian government forces took control of an area of more than 1,000 square kilometres around the Northeastern Syrian city of Manbij, the Russian Defense Ministry announced.

The Syrian Army also gained control of the Tabqa military airfield, two hydroelectric power plants and several bridges across the Euphrates river, Moscow informed.

The Russian centre for Syrian reconciliation reported Tuesday the Russian military and the Syrian authorities have taken the necessary measures to ensure the safe withdrawal of foreign troops from Northeastern Syria as the evacuation of US servicemen continues.

The center’s chief Alexey Bakin stated that the Syrian authorities and officers of the Russian Center for reconciliation of the conflicting sides in Syria are trying to prevent armed conflicts in the country’s regions going under the Syrian government's control.

He noted that the evacuation of US troops from Northeastern Syria continues, adding, "American servicemen left their bases in the settlement of Dadat and Umm Mial near Manbij in the Aleppo province and headed towards the Syrian-Iraqi border."

The US-led coalition in Syria confirmed on Tuesday that it had pulled all of its troops out of the city of Manbij, which is now controlled by government troops.

According to Bakin, rallies of protest against foreign occupation and in support of reunification with official Damascus were held in the city of Raqqa and in a number of other settlements on the Euphrates East bank in the Deir Ezzur province.

On Wednesday, Military Police Officer of the Russian Armed Forces Safar Safarov told reporters that Russian military police's armored vehicles has for the first time organized a patrol in the Syrian city of Mabij in Eastern Aleppo.

Syrian government forces have taken control over Manbij, al-Tabqa in the Raqqa province, Ain Issa, Qamishli, Hasaka and several towns and villages in Northern part of the country, after the Kurds reached an agreement with Damascus for Syrian government troops to be deployed along the border with Turkey.

The flashpoint area housed US outposts from which they patrolled the region since 2017 to deter a confrontation between Turkey and Kurdish militias.

Last Wednesday, Turkey launched a new military campaign in Northern Syria dubbed ‘Operation Peace Spring’ that has triggered widespread condemnation.



Archaeologist Zahi Hawass: ‘There isn’t a country that doesn’t love Egyptian archaeology’


October 17, 2019

 CAIRO: World-renowned Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass has affirmed the importance of Egyptian archaeology around the globe.

“There isn’t a country that does not love Egyptian archaeology,” Hawass, who was minister of state for antiquities affairs, told Arab News.

With only 30 percent of Egyptian monuments discovered, Hawass said there was no rush to pursue the remaining 70 percent which remain hidden underground.

“We don’t want to discover everything. We want to start by preserving and preparing the historical monuments which we have discovered, then start thinking about what is still undiscovered,” Hawass said.

So, restoration and preservation are the main goals for now.

With the new Grand Egyptian Museum still in the works, it seems likely that archaeology will be put in the spotlight once again, with more room for Egyptian artifacts to be showcased and appreciated rather than hidden, as in the old Tahrir museum.

“No one in the world doesn’t know Egypt. Egyptian archaeology is in the hearts of all people all across the world,” Hawass said.

This explains the immense popularity the new museum is expecting, located as it is, minutes away from the Pyramids of Giza.

Another reason behind its expected popularity is the attention ancient Egyptian figures have received across the years.

“Among the most famous ancient Egyptian figures, even for those who are not interested in monuments, we have King Kufu, who built the greatest pyramid, because that pyramid is something everyone talks about,” Hawass said.

He added that King Tutankhamun was popular because his coffin was restored whole, as was King Ramses II, the most famous of Egyptian kings, and Queen Cleopatra. Each of these figures gained fame due to popular tales and monuments attached to them.

Hawass plays a crucial role in drawing awareness about Egyptian archaeology around the world as well as focusing on the current situation in Egypt.

“I lecture everywhere (about archaeology)” he said. “Two to three thousand people attend each of my lectures. So I take advantage of to tell people everywhere that Egypt is safe and that Egypt is run by a president whom we have chosen. I am trying to change the perception about Egypt.”

As part of his efforts to promote Egypt and Egyptian culture, Hawass recently visited Japan.

“They (the Japanese) love archaeology. I would never have expected to be famous in Japan, but as a result of their love of Egyptian archaeology, they know me,” Hawass explained.

This is but a speck in the eventful career Hawass has led — which all started by accident.

“As a child I wanted to become a lawyer, so I enrolled in law school at 16 but realized that it wasn’t something I could do. So I left law and decided to study literature. There they told me about a new section called archaeology,” Hawass said.

After graduating Hawass went to work for the government, which he dreaded, until his first project came along. Workers came across a statue hidden inside a coffin which he had to clean. During the process he found his passion for archaeology. He went on to pursue his graduate studies on the subject.

“I went from failure to success thanks to one thing: Passion. When a person is passionate about something, he excels in it.”

Full report at:



Turkey, Allied Militias Kill +630 Kurdish Militants in 1 Week, US Army Continues to Retreat from Syria

Oct 16, 2019

As Turkey's anti-terror operation in Northern Syria continues with great success, the number of "neutralized" Kurdish fighters has climbed to 637, according to the country's National Defense Ministry.

The Turkish Army and Ankara-backed militants continued their offensive on the Syrian territories through targeting a number of villages and towns in the Northern countryside of Hasaka and Raqqa with artillery and warplanes, occupying several regions and killing a number of civilians, despite US sanctions and growing calls for it to stop, as US sanctions and international calls have failed to slow Ankara assault on Syria.

Al-Arabiyah reported on Wednesday more than 70 civil residents have been killed since the start of the military operation in Northern Syria by Turkey and Ankara-backed militants. According to the TV channel, about 300,000 people had to leave their houses due to combat operations.

As the Pentagon announced the official withdrawal of American forces from the Northern part of the war-torn country, a US official stated that the approximately 1,000 troops being withdrawn from Northern Syria will reposition in Iraq, Kuwait and possibly Jordan.

Official news agency SANA reported Tuesday night 40 American and foreign forces left Syrian territory from the Rhaiba airport in Hasaka countryside to Iraq. In recent days, several hundred US troops have fled Northeast Syria into Iraq.

On Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he told US President Donald Trump Ankara would never declare a ceasefire in Northeastern Syria, adding that Turkey would "not negotiate with a terrorist organisation" in response to Trump's mediation offer.

Later, the White House announced in a statement US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Ankara on Wednesday to press Turkey to halt its offensive.

"Pence will reiterate Trump's commitment to maintain punishing economic sanctions on Turkey until a resolution is reached," the statement read.

A senior Trump administration official stated that Washington would threaten more sanctions to persuade Turkey to reach a ceasefire and halt its offensive.

Meanwhile, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a loyal Trump supporter who has nevertheless been highly critical of the president’s troop withdrawal, has also noted he would introduce a bill on Thursday to impose tougher sanctions on Ankara.

The Turkish president noted Turkey is not worried about US sanctions imposed in connection with the operation in Northern Syria and Ankara intends to continue the offensive until its goals are achieved, as Trump announced a set of sanctions on Monday to punish Ankara.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also said Turkey will retaliate against US sanctions over Ankara's military operation into Northeast Syria, adding that all threats and sanctions against Turkey were unacceptable.

Speaking in parliament, Cavusoglu also noted that Turkey expected the US Congress to turn back from its "damaging approach", and added that ties between Ankara and Washington were at a critical juncture.

He said he would convey this to a US delegation coming to Ankara.

On Wednesday, Erdogan said Turkey's operation will end when Ankara completes the formation of a "safe zone" from Syria's Manbij to the border with Iraq. 

"We informed the US, EU and Russia before the operation began that ... we want this terrorist organisation to be removed from our borders," he stated at a weekly meeting of his ruling AK Party, referring to the Kurdish militias.

"When the zone from Manbij to Iraq that is 350km [is cleared] when we could establish a safe zone, this operation will be over. But until that point, no power can stop us," he added.

Erdogan stressed that Turkey will never sit at the negotiating table with Kurdish militants in Syria.

As tensions between Washington and Ankara over Syria have risen, Spiegel reported that the United States has in effect excluded Turkey from the international military coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (known as ISIL, ISIS or Daesh), with Ankara no longer receiving intelligence or operational data on the terrorist group from the coalition’s Combined Air & Space Operations Centre at the Al-Udeid airbase in Qatar.

On Wednesday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem received UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen and the accompanying delegation.

He stated that the hostile behavior of Ankara clearly exposes the Turkish expansionist ambitions in the Syrian territories.

He added that this behavior can’t be justified under any pretext and it seriously threatens the work of the constitutional committee and the political track and it prolongs the crisis in Syria.

Pedersen expressed deep concern of the Secretary-General and the UN over the last dangerous developments in Northeastern Syria and their serious humanitarian consequences, calling for immediately stopping hostilities and getting away from the acts which threaten civilians and undermine Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and undermine stability and endanger the exerted efforts on the political track.

Russia's Presidential Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev said Turkey has no right to deploy its forces in Syria permanently.

Speaking to journalists in Abu Dhabi about the Turkish military operation, Lavrentiev stated that, according to earlier agreements, the Turkish military can only cross into Syria and go 5-10 kms (3-6 miles) into its territory.

"We didn't agree with the Turks any questions about their presence in Syria and we don't approve of their actions," he added.

Lavrentyev told reporters on Tuesday Erdogan has stated his intent to withdraw Turkish troops from Northern Syria after defeating the terrorists active in the region.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also stated that the countries, which give shelter to those militants who flee Syria, should be responsible for them.

Speaking at the 18th meeting of heads of special services, security and law enforcement agencies of FSB partner states, held in Sochi on Wednesday, Lavrov recalled that European nations have been recently actively refusing to take back their citizens who used to fight along terrorists in Syria.

"We believe that nations that grant citizenship to future terrorists should take responsibility for them," he pointed out.

Lavrov also pledged that Russia would add to the implementation of possible agreements between the Syrian government and Kurds.

According to him, Moscow will also support cooperation between Syria and Turkey aimed at maintaining border security.

The United States and the Western coalition it leads in Northern Syria have pushed the Kurds towards creating quasi-state entities and confrontation with Arab tribes, Lavrov declared.

"For several years we repeatedly drew attention to the explosive policies of the United States and members of the coalition it leads, which set course towards dismembering Syria and creating quasi-state entities on the Eastern bank of the Euphrates and kept pushing Kurdish organizations towards separatism and confrontation with Arab tribes," Lavrov said.

The world is now faced with the effects of this "shortsighted policy", he added.

As Turkish military operation on the Syrian territories continued for the 7th day on Tuesday, Medical charity Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) announced it had suspended most of its activities in Northeastern Syria and was evacuating all international staff from the region.

"The people in Northeast Syria have already endured years of conflict and uncertainty. The latest developments have only increased the need for humanitarian assistance, yet it is impossible to deliver it with the current insecurity," Robert Onus, MSF's emergency manager for Syria, said in a statement.

"We are extremely worried about the safety of our Syrian colleagues and their families who remain in Northeast Syria in these troubled times," he added.

Diplomats told Reuters that the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) will likely meet on Wednesday to discuss the latest developments in Syria.

The body's five European members - Britain, France, Germany, Belgium and Poland - had requested the closed-door discussion. If it goes ahead, it will be the second UNSC meeting over Syria since Turkey began its offensive.

Full report at:



ISIS supporters in Syrian camps beg Australian government for repatriation

Giovanni Torre Perth

Oct 15, 2019

Two former partners of ISIS fighters have sent audio messages to the Australian government asking for help as the Syrian army advances on the Al Hol camp in northern Syria.

In one message, the Australian mother of two young children sobs: “Until now Australia hasn't done anything for us."

“We understand the world has hate but we're asking just as regretful humans, don't let us fall into the hands of the regime, please."

The woman is among 66 Australians, including 46 children, living in the camp for the children and former partners of ISIS fighters.

Syrian government soldiers and a pro-Damascus militia arrived in the region yesterday as part of a deal with Kurdish leaders to deter the Turkish invasion.

The soldiers arrived on trucks with some residents cheering them on, but for the occupants of Al Hol camp it is a frightening development, as the Syrian army has executed ISIS prisoners.

The Australian government has indicated that it will not take home the women and children.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told radio station 2GB that some of the women in the camp are as “hard-core” as the fighters and “have the potential and capacity to come back and cause a mass-casualty event”.

Australian Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said the government would not risk Australian personnel to rescue the women and children.

Ms Reynolds refused to comment on the US decision to abandon their agreement with their Kurdish allies and leave the areas where the Australian women and children are being kept.

International relations expert Prof Mark Beeson, from the University of Western Australia, told The National that Australian authorities should do “what they can” to move the Australian civilians out of the area.

Prof Beeson said the Government should “show a bit of gumption and leadership”.

“The kids aren’t to blame for having dopey parents," he said.

Prof Beeson said diplomatic pressure and “a progressive coalition of the willing to put pressure on all parties” were the options for taking the 66 Australians to safety.

Opposition spokeswoman Kristina Keneally told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the Government should act to rescue the 46 children, acknowledging that some of the women would face criminal charges in Australia.

“I have met with family members of people who have children or grandchildren in Al Hol refugee camp," Ms Keneally said.

"Some of these people are genuine victims. Others are people who took a decision to go over and fight with ISIS. Nonetheless, the innocent children are victims of their parents’ decisions.

"What I would encourage is that the government continues to work with the families and with our national security agencies to consider what, if anything, can be done to extract these children to safety.

Full report at:



Syrian Army Enters City of Raqqa After Six Years

Oct 16, 2019

The report came days after Kurdish militias, who seized the city from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, ISIS or Daesh), cut a deal with the Syrian government for army troops to deploy at the border in the face of the Turkish onslaught after the US left them alone to be crushed by President Erdogan's army.

The Russian Defense Ministry announced Tuesday Syrian government forces took control of an area of more than 1,000 square kilometres around the Northeastern Syrian city of Manbij.

After reaching a deal with the Kurds, the Syrian Army said it was moving in to secure the strategic border area. The Syrian government troops have reportedly entered several towns and villages in the middle of the Kurdish-controlled part of the country.

The Syrian Army deployment would support the Kurdish fighters in countering the Ankara aggression and "liberating the areas that the Turkish Army and mercenaries had entered”, the Kurds said in a statement, adding it would also allow for the liberation of other Syrian cities occupied by the Turkish Army such as Afrin.

The deployment of the Syrian army forces comes as Kurdish militias in Northern Syria face an incursion from neighboring Turkey. Ankara and its allied militants launched a cross-border military operation to destroy the kurdish militias.

It also came after US Defense Secretary Mark Esper declared that up to 1,000 American troops would be withdrawn from Northern Syria because of the increasing danger posed by the fighting.

The Kurds in Syria previously enjoyed the protection of the US allegedly in a campaign against the terrorist group. The protection, however, was de facto withdrawn days ago by President Donald Trump, who pulled out American troops that had previously been embedded with the militias.

Full report at:



Egypt welcomes US sanctions on Turkey

17 October 2019

Egypt welcomed on Thursday US President Donald Trump’s “preliminary sanctions” on Turkey, following Ankara’s ongoing military operation in northeastearn Syria, in a press release by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Egypt expresses its satisfaction with and welcomes US President Donald Trump’s position on those developments, represented in the clear American rejection of the ongoing Turkish attacks on Syrian lands and the imposition of preliminary sanctions on the Turkish regime,” the statement said.

US President Donald Trump on Monday demanded Turkey stop its military incursion in Syria and imposed new sanctions on the NATO ally as Trump scrambled to limit the damage from his much-criticized decision to clear US troops from Turkey’s path.

The Turkish operation comes after Trump announced the withdrawal of US forces from northeastern Syria, which is currently administered by the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (NES), often referred to as Rojava.

Full report at:



Iran-backed militias deployed snipers in Iraq protests: Sources

17 October 2019

Iran-backed militias deployed snipers on Baghdad rooftops during the Iraq’s deadliest anti-government protests in years, two Iraqi security officials told Reuters.

The deployment of militia fighters underscores the chaotic nature of Iraqi politics amid mass protests that led to more than 100 deaths and 6,000 injuries during the week starting October 1. Such militias have become a fixture in Iraq with Iran’s rising influence. They sometimes operate in conjunction with Iraqi security forces but they retain their own command structures.

The Iraqi security sources told Reuters that the leaders of Iran-backed militias decided on their own to help put down the mass protests against the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, whose one-year-old administration is backed by powerful Iran-backed armed groups and political factions.

“We have confirmed evidence that the snipers were elements of militias reporting directly to their commander instead of the chief commander of the armed forces,” said one of the Iraqi security sources. “They belong to a group that is very close to the Iranians.”

A second Iraqi security source, who attended daily government security briefings, said militia men clad in black shot protesters on the third day of unrest, when the death toll soared to more than 50 from about half a dozen. The fighters were directed by Abu Zainab al-Lami, head of security for the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) militias, a grouping of mostly Shia Muslim paramilitaries backed by Iran, the second source said. The PMU leader was tasked with quashing the protests by a group of other senior militia commanders, the source said. The sources did not say how many snipers were deployed by militia groups.

A spokesman for the PMU (known as the Hashid in Arabic), Ahmed al-Assadi, denied the groups took part in the crackdown. “No members were present in the protest areas. None of the elements of the Hashid took part in confronting protesters,” al-Assadi said in a statement to Reuters.

Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman Saad Maal said state security forces did not fire directly at protesters and blamed unnamed “vicious” shooters for the mass deaths and injuries. The government has opened an investigation to determine who shot the protesters and who ordered it, Maal said in a news conference on October 6.

The assertion that security forces did not participate in the violence seemed to contradict an earlier statement on October 14 from the Iraqi government, which admitted state security forces had used excessive force and promised to hold individuals accountable for violence against civilians.

An official with the prime minister’s office said in a statement to Reuters Wednesday that it would be “premature to lay the blame on any parties, whether from Hashid or other security forces, before we end the investigation. Let’s wait and see who gave the order ‘shoot to kill.’”

Iran’s role in responding to the demonstrations was another reminder of Tehran’s reach in Iraq, where a sizable number of former militia commanders are now members of parliament and support the Iranian agenda. Stability of the Iraqi government is in the best interests of Iran, which has been steadily amassing influence in Iraq since 2003, when the US-led invasion toppled the Islamic Republic’s arch-enemy Saddam Hussein. Iran is Iraq’s biggest trading partner.

Iran’s delegation to the United Nations did not immediately respond Wednesday afternoon to questions from Reuters about its support of militias and their involvement in the violence against protesters. Leaders of militias in Iraq have denied getting training and weapons from Iran.

Snipers on rooftops

As protests entered their third day, on October 3, snipers appeared on Baghdad rooftops. A Reuters cameraman who was covering the unrest near Baghdad’s Tahrir Square that afternoon said he saw a sniper, wearing a balaclava and dressed in black as he stood on top of an under-construction building that overlooked the demonstrations.

Protesters fled as the sniper opened fire. One protester who was shot in the head was carried away in a large crowd. Another who was shot in the head appeared to have died and was rushed off in a truck. When his phone rang, a friend recognized that the man’s brother was calling.

“Don’t tell him he died,” the friend said.

The protests started October 1 amid public rage over chronic shortages of jobs, electricity and clean water. Iraqis blame politicians and officials for systemic corruption that has prevented Iraq from recovering after years of sectarian violence and a devastating war to defeat ISIS.

Any vacuum of power could prove challenging for the region, given that Baghdad is an ally of both the United States and Iran, who are locked in their own political standoff. Thousands of US troops are stationed in the country in positions not far from those of Iran-backed Shia militias.

The second security source told Reuters that the snipers were using radio communications equipment that was provided by Iran and is difficult to intercept, giving the groups an essentially private network.

A group of senior commanders from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) traveled to Iraq on the second day of the protests and met with Iraqi intelligence and security officials, according to a diplomat in the region familiar with Iran’s decision-making process. After the meeting, senior Revolutionary Guard officers with experience in curbing civil unrest continued to advise the Iraqi government, the diplomat said, although no Iranian soldiers were deployed.

A senior commander of one of the Iran-backed militias - who said his group was not involved in efforts to stop the protests or the resulting violence - said Tehran consulted closely with forces trying to quell the demonstrations.

Full report at:



Hundreds of Syrian Kurds seek refuge in Iraq

16 October 2019

Hundreds of Syrian Kurds entered neighboring Iraqi’s Kurdish autonomous region on Wednesday, fleeing a Turkish offensive in northeast Syria, an official said.

“On Wednesday, about 800 Syrian refugees entered Iraqi Kurdistan,” said Rashid Hussein of the refugee authority for the autonomous Kurdish region.

The new arrivals, mostly women and children, were being taken to Berdarch camp in Dohuk province, he told AFP, as the fighting in nearby northeastern Syria entered its second week.

Iraqi Kurdistan previously hosted millions of Iraqis who fled fighting with ISIS who occupied much of the country’s north between 2014 and 2017.

Many of them are still housed in camps for the displaced.

NGOs operating in the region said they had been on alert since Ankara launched its operation on October 9 against Kurdish militants, following an abrupt US withdrawal.

On Saturday evening, 182 Syrian Kurds started crossing the border into Iraqi Kurdistan “to escape bombardments in northeastern Syria,” the International Organization for Migration said.

Dohuk province’s humanitarian affairs chief Ismail Ahmed said the first group included “Syrian Kurds already living in Iraqi Kurdistan, who went to visit relatives in Syria before returning because of the bombardments.”

On Wednesday, fresh fighting was reported in northern Syria pitting Turkey’s Syrian proxies against Kurdish forces backed by the Syrian army.

Full report at:



Syrian army takes control of military bases left behind by US forces: Report

16 October 2019

The Syrian army has taken control of military bases in northeast Syria that were abandoned by US forces, Russian state TV reported on Wednesday.

President Tayyip Erdogan has dismissed US calls for a ceasefire in northeast Syria despite Russia ratcheting up international pressure on Ankara over its “unacceptable” week-long military operation against Kurdish-led forces.



Saudi Arabia’s King Salman meets Palestinian President Abbas

October 16, 2019

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday in the capital Riyadh.

The king welcomed Abbas and his accompanying delegation to the Kingdom, while the Palestinian president expressed his pleasure in visiting the Kingdom and meeting with the king.

During the reception, the Palestinian president was greeted by a number of princes, ministers and military sector leaders.

King Salman also hosted a luncheon in honor of the president and his accompanying delegation.



Iraq anti-corruption drive stops short of snaring worst culprits

October 17, 2019

BAGHDAD: Following a wave of deadly anti-government protests, Baghdad has announced a slew of measures to stem corruption — but stopped short of targeting the worst offenders.

Analysts say Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, an independent with no real popular support, is hostage to the parties that appointed him a year ago to lead one of the world’s most corrupt countries.

That makes it exceptionally hard for him to point fingers at the main culprits, they say.

Since dictator Saddam Hussein’s ouster in a US-led invasion in 2003, $450 billion have evaporated into thin air, either in fake contracts or deep into the pockets of corrupt politicians, according to official data.

“The question of corruption can only be dealt with seriously and decisively,” a government anti-corruption official said, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the subject.

“But the prime minister can’t do that because he knows that all (politicians) are involved and that they were chin deep in corrupt dealings well before he took up his post,” the official said.

Anti-graft campaign group Transparency International last year ranked Iraq the world’s 12th-most corrupt country, based on expert analysis and opinion surveys.

The problem is so endemic that Iraqis have a nickname for the biggest culprits: “Hitan,” Arabic for “whales.”

The official cited three common practices: Border guards taking bribes to waive customs duties, illegal petrol trading, and unlawful buying and selling of state-owned land and luxury homes.

The final practice, sometimes involving properties confiscated from ex-regime officials, implicates some parties and politicians currently in power, the official said.

An official from the office of the Petroleum Ministry’s inspector general said “many incidents of corruption” had been uncovered.

The department “managed to stop the construction of an oil pipeline to Jordan, because each kilometer was being priced at $1.5 million,” a price it deemed excessive, he said on condition of anonymity.

The operation snared oil traffickers and transport company owners “linked to corrupt parties,” he added.

But in a blow to officials working to tackle corruption, Parliament has “frozen” the work of anti-corruption offices that had been set up in each of Iraq’s ministries.

“This decision does nothing to improve the day-to-day lives of demonstrators who are strangled by poverty,” said the official, currently on enforced leave.

“It’s only going to encourage corrupt officials to keep doing what they want.” According to the official from the government’s anti-corruption commission, the decision to freeze the inspectors’ activities “targets low-ranking civil servants, while it is the mafias from the big parties” who are most at fault.

Abdul Mahdi has announced that “a list of names of 1,000 civil servants” accused of corruption had been referred to the courts.

Soon afterward, he promised, “a first list of high-ranking officials will be brought before justice.”

Among those named were ex-ministers and officials still in office, according to Abdul Mahdi’s office, although no names have yet been announced officially.

In recent years, at least two trade ministers have been convicted for corruption. But by the time their judgment was read, the ministers had already fled abroad. The problem is so widespread in Iraq that anti-corruption protests have become something of a tradition.

In the latest round, which erupted on Oct. 1, 110 people were killed — the vast majority of them protesters who were shot dead.

The spontaneity of the demonstrations, as well as their intensity, have put an unprecedented amount of pressure on the authorities, said MP Huda Sajjad.

Sajjad, an MP on the list of ex-PM Haider Abadi who is now in opposition, believes measures currently in place simply aren’t up to the task of stamping out corruption.

“The anti-corruption measures don’t meet expectations,” Sajjad said. “Corruption is what keeps all the parties working together in the system.” But the pressure on the government is relentless.

Full report at:



North America


Turkey’s war on Syria ‘not our problem,’ Trump says, claiming Kurds were ‘paid a lot of money’

Oct 16, 2019

Turkey’s offensive against Kurds in northern Syria is “not our problem,” says US President Donald Trump as pressure mounts on his administration over abandoning of the formerly US-backed forces in the region.

"If Turkey goes into Syria, it is between Turkey and Syria. It’s not our problem,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office of the White House during a meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella on Wednesday. “The Kurds are much safer right now, but the Kurds know how to fight, and as I said, they’re not angels.”

The president further said that the Kurds had been paid to fight alongside the US allegedly against Daesh militants in Syria.

“They’re not angels. You take a look… but they fought with us. We paid a lot of money for them to fight with us, and that’s OK,” Trump said.

The US commander in chief further suggested that Russia and Turkey should deal with the situation in Syria themselves as the US seeks to stay out of conflict.

 "If Russia wants to get involved with Syria, that’s really up to them. They have a problem with Turkey. They have a problem at a border. It’s not our border, we shouldn’t be losing lives over it,” Trump said.

This is while his administration is coming under unprecedented pressure over betraying allies particularly held close by Republicans.

“I hope President Trump is right in his belief that Turkeys invasion of Syria is of no concern to us, abandoning the Kurds won’t come back to haunt us, ISIS won’t reemerge, and Iran will not fill the vacuum created by this decision,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of his closest Capitol Hill allies. “However, I firmly believe that if President Trump continues to make such statements this will be a disaster worse than President Obama’s decision to leave Iraq.”

‘Locking barn door after horse leaves’

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) also lashed out at Trump as well as Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for handling the situation, which involved giving Turkey the green light to slaughter the Kurds.

"This was a decision by the administration which had the clearly observable result that we're seeing. To have the vice president and the secretary of State going to meet with Erdogan and suggesting that somehow we're surprised by what's happening is disingenuous," Romney told reporters.

He further suggested that the Trump administration is responsible for the offensive.

"Very clearly it was a decision by the administration that which has led to what you're seeing. This is a bit like the farmer locking the barn door after the horse has left," Romney said.

 Turkey launched a military operation on the pretext of fighting terrorism after the White House announced that it was pulling back US troops in northern Syria.



Trump says Kurdish PKK ‘probably more of terrorist threat’ than ISIS

16 October 2019

US President Donald Trump said Wednesday the Kurdish PKK militia, who have waged a decades-long insurgency against Ankara, was “probably” a bigger terror threat than ISIS.

“The PKK, which is a part of the Kurds, as you know, is probably worse at terror and more of a terrorist threat in many ways than ISIS,” Trump told a news conference at the White House.

Tens of thousands have died since the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984. The PKK is considered a terror group by Ankara, the United States, and the European Union.

Full report at:



Hearing examines video that wasn’t disclosed in terror case


October 17, 2019

PHOENIX (AP) — Surveillance video taken on the day that two Phoenix men left for suburban Dallas to attack a 2015 Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest shows them in religious clothing, one of the men with a handgun on his hip and both carrying unspecified objects out of their apartment, an FBI agent has testified.

The footage showing Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi outside their Phoenix apartment before the attack in Garland was the focus of a court hearing Tuesday. The FBI didn’t turn over the footage until three years after a friend of Simpson and Soofi was convicted for providing the guns used in the attack.

Attorneys for Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem, who is serving a 30-year prison sentence for providing the guns and other convictions, argue the footage would have been beneficial to their client’s defense. They are asking a judge to either grant him a new trial or throw out his convictions and bar prosecutors from refiling the charges.

The video wasn’t played in court, but FBI agent Amy Fryberger described its contents.

As part of an earlier investigation of Simpson, Fryberger requested that a camera be installed three weeks before the Texas attack because Simpson had been in contact with a person who was overseas fighting for a terrorist organization.

The camera was installed the day that Simpson and Soofi left for the anti-Islam event. The lead FBI agent in the Kareem investigation didn’t learn of the video until early 2019, prosecutors said.

Simpson and Soofi were armed with semi-automatic weapons, body armor and had a copy of the Islamic State flag when they arrived at the event. They were killed in a shootout with local police officers assigned to guard the event. A security guard was shot in the leg.

Kareem, who also was convicted of conspiring with Simpson and Soofi to provide support to the Islamic State terror group, wasn’t in Texas during the attack.

Authorities said Kareem had trained Simpson and Soofi on how to use the guns and watched jihadist videos with them. Kareem testified he didn’t know his friends were going to attack the contest.

His attorneys said the camera didn’t capture any footage of Kareem, who was accused of being the trainer and providing financing for the attack. They said the video would have raised doubts at trial because it would be expected that a person serving as a trainer and motivator for such an attack would have been at the apartment to work out last-minute details.

Prosecutors say the evidence will show FBI agents inadvertently overlooked the surveillance footage as they moved forward with a broad and fast-moving investigation. They said agents and prosecutors didn’t have a motive to conceal the recording.

On the night of the Texas attack, Fryberger said she spent hours reviewing the footage but didn’t find anything of evidentiary significance.

She looked at the footage in hopes of finding that Simpson was still in Arizona, not Texas. “We didn’t have information from the scene (in Texas), so we were trying to determine if our guys were in town or not,” Fryberger said.

Kareem’s attorneys faulted the FBI for the lack of disclosure.

The existence of a pole camera was discovered in November 2018 as prosecutors reviewed records in the Kareem case during post-trial litigation. Prosecutors then asked an agent to track down information about the camera.

Even though the footage was disclosed years after Kareem’s trial, prosecutors said the camera didn’t offer a view of both entrances leading to the apartment, meaning Simpson and Soofi could have come and go without being seen by the camera.

Fryberger said the video wasn’t mentioned in any of the meetings with squads investigating Simpson and Soofi. “They didn’t reveal anything of major significance,” Fryberger said.

When questioning another FBI agent, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton said she found it odd that the surveillance footage wasn’t mentioned during the meetings.

The camera outside the apartment wasn’t the first surprising disclosure made by federal authorities since Kareem was convicted in March 2016.

In the months after his trial, authorities revealed for the first time that an undercover FBI agent had exchanged social media messages with Simpson days before the attack and was sitting in a vehicle outside the Garland convention center when the attack began.

Full report at:



U.S. Indicts Turkish Bank on Charges of Evading Iran Sanctions

By Eric Lipton

Oct. 15, 2019

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Tuesday sharply escalated economic pressure on Turkey by filing fraud and money-laundering charges against the country’s second-largest state-owned bank, accusing it of helping Iran evade United States sanctions.

The charges against the institution, Halkbank, came as the administration sought ways to project that it was taking a tough line with Turkey after President Trump effectively signaled this month that the United States would not stand in the way of Turkey’s desire to send forces into northern Syria.

Mr. Trump’s willingness to allow the military action has thrown the region into chaos and ignited an intense bipartisan backlash against him at home. As the criticism has mounted, the White House has emphasized the steps it is taking to restrain Turkey’s offensive, including a round of sanctions announced on Monday.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey had repeatedly raised the Halkbank case with Mr. Trump over the past year, urging the United States not to take further action, saying that to do so would unfairly expose Turkey to severe financial risks. One of the bank’s top executives was convicted on related charges last year, and the Justice Department has been reviewing since then whether to pursue the case further as Turkish officials and lawyers pressed the government not to indict the bank.

The charges appeared to catch at least some advisers to Turkey’s government off guard. They were filed by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, which has been investigating the bank’s role in what has been called the largest Iran sanctions violation in United States history, as billions of dollars’ worth of gold and cash were illegally transferred to Iran in exchange for oil and gas.

Justice Department officials said high-ranking government officials in Turkey “participated in and protected this scheme,” with some receiving bribes worth tens of millions of dollars and helping to hide the conspiracy from the scrutiny of regulators in the United States.

“This is one of the most serious Iran sanctions violations we have seen, and no business should profit from evading our laws or risking our national security,” said John C. Demers, the assistant attorney general for national security.

Lawyers and lobbyists representing the bank, including Brian D. Ballard, a friend of Mr. Trump’s and the vice chairman of his inauguration, have been trying for more than a year to persuade the Trump administration not to file charges against the bank, or at least to understand that doing so could threaten the economy of a NATO ally.

Turkish officials had directly made other appeals to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. The lobbying campaign led some sanctions experts in Washington to question if the case might have been delayed or dropped.

After Mr. Trump came under intense criticism for choosing to stand aside as Turkey pursued its plan to assert control over a section of northern Syria, he began striking a tougher tone toward Mr. Erdogan, focusing in particular on the threat of harming Turkey’s economy if it put United States military personnel at risk or engaged in atrocities against Kurds in the region.

“I am fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path,” Mr. Trump said in a statement Monday, shortly before signing an executive order to impose the first set of sanctions.

Representatives for the Turkish government — who in interviews early Tuesday did not give any hint that they knew the criminal charges were imminent — said late in the day that they suspected a link between the new prosecution of the bank and the invasion of Syria.

“The timing is beyond any reasonable coincidence,” said one individual who has been working with the bank, but spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter.

The Justice Department and the White House did not respond to questions about whether the decision was influenced by Turkey’s decision to send troops in Syria.

Mr. Ballard, along with Robert Wexler, a former House Democrat from Florida, and James P. Rubin, a State Department official during the Clinton administration, had each been working at times over the last two years to lobby on the matter, Justice Department filings show. They had reached out in 2018 to the office of Vice President Mike Pence and the State Department, among others.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor and adviser to Mr. Trump, also was involved in the matter in 2016 and 2017, trying to secure the release of one suspect in the case, in a possible prisoner swap with a pastor whom Turkey was holding on espionage charges that the United States claimed were fabricated.

Andrew Hruska, a former federal prosecutor in New York now with the law firm King and Spalding, had also been working on the matter, communicating directly with the Justice and Treasury Departments, on behalf of the bank.

Mr. Erdogan brought the case up with President Trump in November 2018, and his son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, the country’s finance minister, following up a few days later with Mr. Mnuchin, pushing him to closely follow the case.

Lawyers for the bank did not dispute that money was illegally moved through Halkbank to Iran starting around 2012 and continuing through 2016.

But they argued that the moves were largely orchestrated by an Iranian-Turkish gold trader, named Reza Zarrab, who had hired Mr. Giuliani to try to secure his release. 

Turkish officials argued that Mr. Zarrab, who then decided to plead guilty to charges and become a witness for the prosecution, had lied to American prosecutors. The Turkish officials said Mr. Zarrab accused the bank and government officials in Turkey of conspiring in the effort as part of an attempt to reduce any time he would spend in prison, after he was arrested by American authorities in 2016.

In January 2018, in part because of Mr. Zarrab’s testimony, a Halkbank executive named Mehmet Hakan Atilla was convicted of violating sanctions as part of the case. At his sentencing in May 2018, a federal judge said that while Mr. Atilla had “unquestionably furthered” the scheme, he was “somewhat of a cog in the wheel” and not “a mastermind.”

These assertions reflected claims made by federal prosecutors that the wrongdoing had reached high into the Turkish government.

But until Tuesday, there had been no public follow-up by the Justice Department, nor any action by the Treasury Department, which separately has the power to impose sanctions on the bank or impose a fine.

The bank was formally charged on Tuesday with conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to violate sanctions, bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Representatives for the bank said that they feared the charges alone might lead other global banks to limit doing business with Halkbank, and if a multibillion-dollar penalty results, it could threaten the overall viability of the institution.

Full report at:



US 'concerned' over untrackable China ships carrying Iran oil

October 17, 2019

The White House has warned Chinese shipping companies against turning off their ships' transponders to hide Iranian oil shipments in violation of United States sanctions, two senior administration officials said.

"We've been messaging very heavily to the shipping companies, you don't want to do this, it's not worth it," said one official, who spoke to Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity.

"It's incredibly dangerous and irresponsible behaviour."

China is the largest remaining buyer of Iranian oil after US President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions on Tehran's main export.

Trump tightened US sanctions in May in an effort to drive Iran's oil sales to zero.

The sanctions are aimed at quashing Iran's nuclear ambitions, ballistic missile programme and influence in Syria, Iraq and other countries. Its oil exports have fallen to less than 400,000 barrels per day from about 2.5 million.

On September 25, the US imposed sanctions on five Chinese individuals and two Chinese COSCO Shipping Corp subsidiaries, saying they shipped Iranian crude oil in violation of the sanctions.

Days later, 14 COSCO Shipping Tanker (Dalian) vessels, about one-third of its fleet, stopped sending location data from their automatic identification system (AIS) between September 30 and October 7, ship tracking data on Refinitiv Eikon showed.

The Trump administration said on Tuesday it had independently confirmed that COSCO had been shutting off AIS on its ships.

All but three of the ships have become traceable since the Reuters report ran on October 9.

In an email statement, COSCO Shipping Tanker (Dalian) said none of its vessels turned off their AIS controllers or stopped transmitting AIS signals.

"Dalian Tanker will continue to adhere to applicable laws and regulations in the conduct of its business operations," the company said.

The International Maritime Organization requires vessels to use transponders for safety and transparency. Crews can turn off the devices if there is a danger of piracy or similar hazards. But transponders are often shut off to conceal a ship's location during illicit activities.

'Ship by ship'

The administration believes that sanctions are on the verge of causing an economic depression in Iran, one of the officials said.

Iran has years of experience dealing with sanctions. Some analysts believe Tehran may be attempting to ride out the economic pain until the November 2020 US presidential election, hoping Trump will lose and the next president will take a softer line on Tehran.

"If they calculate that there is going to be [a new president] and they are incorrect, that's bad," the second official said. "Because I don't think anybody thinks that they could make it another four years after next November under this kind of sanctions regime."

The Trump administration is watching illegal shipments even if it is not able to stop them, the second official said.

"We are literally going ship-by-ship at this point because each ship is incredibly important [to Iran's economy]," the second official said.

Trump wants initial talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, without preconditions, to see whether there is a chance for a deal to ease tensions between the two countries, one official said. The two leaders did not meet at last month's United Nations General Assembly gathering.

Full report at:



Muslim families were denied NYC ferry ride for phony "security" concerns, complaint alleges


OCTOBER 16, 2019

New York City ferry workers refused to let three Muslim families board a ferry because of phony "security" issues, according to a discrimination complaint filed Wednesday. The complaint said the ordeal turned what was supposed to be a fun summer outing into "one of the worst days" of the family members' lives.

The complaint, filed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the families took a ferry from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn to Wall Street on September 21 without a problem. The family then decided to take another ferry to the pier at Brooklyn Bridge Park. The families allegedly asked to board after the other passengers because they had a double stroller and several children with them. Two women in the group were wearing hijabs and other traditional religious clothing, and spoke in "pronounced accents," according to the complaint.

A ferry worker initially agreed to their request. But as the families prepared to board, two ferry employees "had a small conversation," and then one worker prevented the families from getting on, the complaint said. A ferry employee allegedly said they could not board because of a "security issue."

Ferry workers tried to shut the gate as family members asked for an explanation, and said "security" had told them not to let the families board, the complaint said. Another ferry worker was allegedly "rude, unprofessional and raised her voice" when the families tried to learn why they were refused service.

The incident happened in plain view of other passengers, and caused many of the children in the group to start crying, according to the complaint.

The employees eventually said the families weren't allowed to board because children were allegedly standing on the seats. The families saw this as an "after-the-fact false excuse" for "discriminatory conduct." NYC Ferry later admitted that this explanation was false, according to the complaint.

After about two hours of waiting, the families were allowed to board the same ferry they took from Bay Ridge, the complaint said. They never took the trip to Brooklyn Bridge Park.

NYC Ferry called the incident a "misunderstanding" and offered to reimburse the fares, the complaint said. CAIR is asking for compensatory damages for "humiliation, embarrassment, and severe emotional distress," and punitive damages "to deter future reprehensible conduct," as well as a formal apology and discipline for the ferry workers involved.

Full report at:



US Supreme Court rebuffs student’s Islamic ‘indoctrination’ appeal

OCTOBER 16, 2019


A  FEW years back Caleigh Wood, above, a student at La Plata High School in Charles County, Maryland, enrolled in a state-mandated World History course, but as a devout Christian took issue with two parts of the course that dealt with Islam.

According to this report, in a “Muslim World” Powerpoint presentation she was told that a Muslim’s faith “is stronger than the average Christian” and that she was required to write the shahada, “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah” in a fill-in-the-blank worksheet.

Wood claimed that this violated her First Amendment Rights, and, in 2016, sued Principal Evelyn Arnold and Vice Principal Shannon Morris – and lost.

Both the Federal District Court and the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Arnold and Morris, ruling the teachings at issue:

Did not impermissibly endorse any religion nor did they compel Wood to profess any belief.

The Thomas More Law Center – mission: “to restore and defend America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and moral values)” – launched the lawsuit on Wood’s behalf,  and after losing the case announced in May of this year that it would lodge an appeal with the Supreme Court.

It filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari asking the Supreme Court:

To decide whether any legal basis exists to allow public schools to discriminate against Christianity while at the same time promote Islam.

Yesterday (Tuesday) Wood and TMLC suffered another blow when the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal.

In a May statement Richard Thompson, TMLC’s President and Chief Counsel, observed:

Under the guise of teaching history or social studies, public schools across America are promoting the religion of Islam in ways that would never be tolerated for Christianity or any other religion.

I’m not aware of any school which has forced a Muslim student to write the Lord’s Prayer or John 3:16: ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’

TMLC added:

On the other hand, schools have become willing instruments of Islamic indoctrination, and in Caleigh Wood’s case, the weapon of choice was the PowerPoint presentation. Caleigh and her 11th grade classmates were taught:

• “Most Muslim’s faith is stronger than the average Christian.”

• “Islam at heart is a peaceful religion.”

• Jihad is a “personal struggle in devotion to Islam, especially involving spiritual discipline.”

• “To Muslims, Allah is the same God that is worshiped in Christianity and Judaism.”

• “Men are the managers of the affairs of women” and “Righteous women are therefore obedient.”

Those statements came directly from the PowerPoint presentation to Caleigh’s class.

Thompson continued:

Many public schools have become a hot bed of Islamic propaganda. Teaching Islam in schools has gone far beyond a basic history lesson. Prompted by zealous Islamic activism and emboldened by confusing court decisions, schools are now bending over backwards to promote Islam while at the same time denigrate Christianity.

We are asking the Supreme Court to provide the necessary legal guidance to resolve the insidious discrimination against Christians in our public schools.

Representing the Charles County school officials at the US court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit earlier this year, attorney Andrew Scott, said the ruling sends an important message to school officials throughout the state affirming their discretion to teach about religion.

Religion is an integral part of history. You can’t ignore it. The key is to teach it from a secular perspective – and not to proselytise.

But Thompson insisted that the school’s lesson clearly endorsed Islam, denigrated Christianity and amounted to:

Forced speech of a young Christian girl. This is unequal treatment of Christianity by the school system.

The lesson about Islam lasted five days in a year-long course when Wood was in 11th grade at La Plata High School in 2014-2015.

Wood’s parents argued that the lesson lacked any secular purpose and had:

The effect of promoting and endorsing Islam.

In its ruling, the court found that assignment involving the shahada was meant to assess whether students understood the “beliefs and practices” of Muslims. The task was factual, and students

Were not required to memorise the shahada, to recite it, or even to write the complete statement of faith.

The court’s opinion noted that the school’s content specialist had testified that the language included in the slide about the strength of the Muslim faith relative to Christianity was “inappropriate” and that he would have advised the teacher not to include it in the lesson.

Full report at:



Dems, Trump cut short meeting about Turkey’s war on Syria

Oct 17, 2019

US President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders cut short a meeting over Turkey’s war after the commander in chief experiences a “meltdown.”

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters Wednesday that Trump called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a "third-rate politician" and as the result, the meeting in the White House deteriorated into a “diatribe.”

"What we witnessed on the part of the president was a meltdown. Sad to say," said Pelosi, who has launched an impeachment inquiry over the Ukraine scandal.

Drew Hammill


Thanks for the new cover photo @realDonaldTrump!

View image on Twitter


4:40 AM - Oct 17, 2019

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Hoyer blasted the president’s treatment of Pelosi, suggesting that his behavior was unprecedented.

"I've been in many, many, many meetings like this," he said. "Never have I seen a president treat so disrespectfully a co-equal branch of the government of the United States."

Trump's spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham rejected the Democrats’ allegations.

"Dem 'leadership' chose to storm out & whine to camera," Grisham tweeted. "Everyone else stayed to work on behalf of our country."

A letter was, meanwhile, released from Trump to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. warning him about Ankara’s offensive into Syria.

"Don't be a fool," Trump wrote in the letter dated October 9. "You don't want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don't want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy -- and I will… History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way… It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don't happen."

The House has approved a resolution to formally rebuke Trump over his decision to withdraw US troops from northern Syria and give the green light for Turkey’s invasion.

The measure passed in a 354-60 vote, with all those opposing being Republicans.

“The measure we’re considering today will send an unambiguous bipartisan, hopefully bicameral rejection of Trump’s policy in Syria,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) ahead of the vote.

Trump has even slapped Ankara with sanctions to make it look like the US opposes the war.

Full report at:



Erdogan says won't hold talks with US delegation on Ankara visit

Oct 16, 2019

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he would not meet with US Vice President Mike Pence and State Secretary Mike Pompeo during their visit to Ankara to discuss a ground offensive by his country’s military forces and allied militants against Kurdish forces in the northern part of Syria.

“I am standing tall. I will not meet with them,” he told Sky News television news network on Wednesday.

“They will meet with their counterparts. I will speak when (US President Donald) Trump comes,” he added.

Later in the day, Turkish Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun wrote on his official Twitter page that Erdogan would receive US officials led by Pence, who are travelling to Ankara in the hope of convincing him to halt the military offensive in northeast Syria.

“Earlier today, the President told @SkyNews that he won't receive a US delegation that is visiting Ankara today. He does plan to meet the US delegation led by @VP (Pence),” Altun wrote.

Fahrettin Altun


Earlier today, the President told @SkyNews that he won’t receive a U.S. delegation that is visiting Ankara today.

He does plan to meet the U.S. delegation led by @VP tomorrow — as confirmed in the below statement to the Turkish press.

Embedded video


5:59 PM - Oct 16, 2019

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‘Turkey to retaliate against US bans over Syria assault’

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey will retaliate against US sanctions over his country’s military incursion into northeast Syria.

Speaking in parliament on Wednesday, Cavusoglu described all threats and sanctions against Turkey as unacceptable, adding that Ankara expected the US Congress to turn back from its “damaging approach.”

The top Turkish diplomat noted that ties between Ankara and Washington were at a critical juncture, emphasizing that he would convey this to the coming US officials.

On Trump, Trump imposed sanctions on Turkey over Ankara's military operation in northeast Syria, and called for an immediate ceasefire.

The sanctions apply to individuals, entities or associates of the Turkish government involved in “actions that endanger civilians or lead to the further deterioration of peace, security and stability in northeast Syria,” Pompeo said in a statement.

637 terrorists 'neutralized' by Turkish operation

The Turkish Defense Ministry also said on Wednesday that a total of 637 Kurdish militants from the People's Protection Units (YPG) had been neutralized ever since Turkey's operation in northern Syria started.

T.C. Millî Savunma Bakanlığı


Fırat’ın doğusunda devam eden Barış Pınarı Harekatı’nda etkisiz hale getirilen PKK/YPG’li terörist sayısı toplam 637 oldu. 🇹🇷#MSB #TSK #BarışPınarıHarekatı


9:51 AM - Oct 16, 2019

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Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralized” to imply the terrorists in question surrendered or were killed or captured.

Turkey criticizes France over request for UEFA sanction

In another development, Turkey's Youth and Sports Minister Mehmet Muharrem Kasapoğlu criticized a request by his French counterpart Roxana Maracineanu for the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) sanctions on the Turkish national football team for performing a military salute.

“l call on UEFA to act sensibly on this investigation request," Kasapoğlu told a press conference, stressing that French star Antoine Griezmann gave a similar salute in June.

“Whoever said nothing about Griezmann's military salute is trying to distort our footballers' grateful salute,” the Turkish minister pointed out.

Turkish footballers celebrated their goal in a 1-1 draw against world champions France during a UEFA EURO 2020 qualifier at Stade de France in Saint-Denis with a military salute to soldiers fighting in northeast Syria on Monday night.

Olivier Giroud scored for France in the 75th minute of the showdown before Kaan Ayhan equalized for Turkey six minutes later. His teammates then lined up in front of the away supporters and saluted.

Maracineanu later tweeted that the salute was “contrary to the spirit of sports,” and demanded UEFA take action against Turkey.

On October 9, Turkish military forces and Ankara-backed militants launched a long-threatened cross-border invasion of northeast Syria in a declared attempt to push YPG militants away from border areas.

Full report at:



US: House votes to oppose Trump's Syria pullback

Servet Gunerigok  



The U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday on a bipartisan resolution opposing President Donald Trump's decision to pull back troops in northern Syria.

The measure passed 354-60 with every Democrats and more than two-thirds of Republicans in favor.

Sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel and Republican Michael McCaul, the resolution "opposes the decision to end certain United States efforts to prevent Turkish military operations" in northeastern Syria.

The resolution urges Trump to restrain Turkey and offer a "clear and specific plan" for the defeat of the Daesh terror group.

Turkey began its long-planned military operation Oct. 9 to secure its borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity, two days after a telephone call between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Trump.

Then, the White House said the U.S. would not stand in front of Turkey and would withdraw its troops from the "immediate area" in northeastern Syria.

Trump's decision to pull back troops drew widespread backlash from Democrats and Republicans at home and abroad as well.

Ankara wants to eliminate terrorist elements of the PKK and its Syrian offshoot, the YPG, from the region.

Full report at:



US to waive sanctions on military sales to Turkey

Kasim Ileri  



The Treasury Department will issue a waiver to allow arms sales between the U.S. and Turkey to continue following the imposition of sanctions against the country over its military operation in northeast Syria, an official said Tuesday

"The understanding is that the Treasury Department will, if it has not already, issue a general waiver that will allow ongoing official activities to continue,” said a senior Pentagon official who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity.

"The intention is for that to cover military sales and other items as well."

The U.S. announced sanctions Monday on two Turkish ministries and three senior government officials for Turkey’s anti-terror operation in northeastern Syria.

Washington imposed sanctions on Turkey’s Ministry of National Defense and Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources as well as Minister of National Defense Hulusi Akar, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Fatih Donmez and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu.

"We have to look at the details how the waivers are actually written to know for sure any potential impact. The idea is to be able to continue official business, whether it be diplomatic by the State Department and by our activities," the official said.

The official also said the U.S. is seeking to continue to engage in dialogue with Turkey to get them to halt the operation.

Full report at:





Turkey assault in northeast Syria displaced 300,000: Monitor

17 October 2019

Turkey’s week-old offensive against Kurdish-controlled areas of northeastern Syria has displaced more than 300,000 people, a war monitor said Thursday.

“More than 300,000 civilians have been displaced since the start of the offensive,” Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said.

The Turkish operation comes after US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of US forces from northeastern Syria, which is currently administered by the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (NES), often referred to as Rojava.

Trump’s move was seen by critics as an abandonment of Kurdish forces which had been the key ally in the fight against ISIS.



Israel arrests Jerusalem governor to stop trip to Al Aqsa Mosque with Saudi football team

Oct 16, 2019

Israeli authorities arrested the governor of Jerusalem to prevent him from attending the Al Aqsa Mosque with the Saudi national football team ahead of its World Cup 2022 qualifying match with Palestine.

Israeli police questioned Gov Adnan Ghaith and the Fatah general-secretary for occupied Jerusalem, Shadi Mutour, for hours after detaining them late on Monday. The pair were then released on Tuesday.

Mr Ghaith's lawyer, Mohammad Mahmoud, said that the arrests were orchestrated to prevent the two officials from going with the Saudi delegation to the revered holy site in occupied East Jerusalem. Palestinian Authority activities are banned in the city by Israel.

The Saudi national team went to the site, which hosts the Haram Al Sharif, to pray ahead of the 0-0 draw, which was held in the occupied West Bank town of Al Ram.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

The Palestinians seek that part of the city as the capital of any future sovereign Palestinian state.

The site is the third-holiest in Islam after Mecca and Medina. Jews also revere the site as the location of the Second Temple, but they are prevented from praying at the site. They refer to it as the Temple Mount. Far-right nationalist Jews regularly try to enter the compound to pray there.

Last year, Israeli police held Mr Ghaith as part of an investigation related to a land sale.

Police have been investigating Mr Ghaith over suspicions he was involved in the Palestinian Authority's arrest in October of America-Palestinian Issam Akel, who is accused of involvement in selling an east Jerusalem building to Jewish buyers.

Such sales are considered treasonous among Palestinians concerned with Israeli settlers buying property in annexed east Jerusalem.

Full report at:



Turkish presidency says Erdogan will meet Pence on Ankara visit

16 October 2019

Despite an earlier statement by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday that he would not meet visiting US Vice President Mike Pence, his office said the meeting would go ahead after all.

“Earlier today, the President told @SkyNews that he won’t receive a US delegation that is visiting Ankara today. He does plan to meet the US delegation led by @VP (Pence),” wrote Erdogan’s communications director Fahrettin Altun on Twitter.

“I am standing tall. I will not meet with them,” he told Sky News, referring to Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“They will meet with their counterparts. I will speak when Trump comes,” he said.

Pence said he will travel to Turkey Wednesday as scheduled even though Erdogan has said he will not meet with him, a spokeswoman for Pence said.

“The vice president is traveling to Turkey today,” spokeswoman Katie Waldman said.

The White House had hoped Pence and Mike Pompeo would meet with Erdogan Thursday to demand a ceasefire in Turkey's assault on Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria.

Erdogan said on Wednesday that he would decide whether to go ahead with a planned visit next month to the US after meetings with an American delegation in Turkey this week.

Full report at:



France says Iran must stop ‘particularly worrying’ nuclear reductions

16 October 2019

France said on Wednesday that Iran must refrain from a new phase of “particularly worrying” reductions to its nuclear commitments.

“Iran must abstain from crossing an especially worrying new phase of new measures that could contribute to an escalation in tensions,” French foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll told reporters in a daily briefing.

She was responding after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday that Tehran was working on advanced IR-9 centrifuges for uranium enrichment. Those centrifuges do not appear in the 2015 accord.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday that Tehran would continue to scale back its commitments to the 2015 nuclear agreement until the European Union fulfils promises it made under the deal.

Full report at:



Turkey’s Erdogan rules out talks with Syrian Kurdish forces

16 October 2019

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday firmly ruled out any negotiations with Kurdish-led forces in Syria as the US pushed for a ceasefire.

“There are some leaders who are trying to mediate ... There has never been any such thing in the history of the Turkish republic as the state sitting at the same table with a terror organization,” Erdogan said in a speech to parliament.

Erdogan said the quickest solution was for fighters to drop their weapons and pull back from the area by Wednesday evening. The operation will end when the “safe zone” is established, he said, and Turkey was not open to negotiating this.



Yemeni government, Southern Transition Council expected to sign deal

16 October 2019

Yemen’s government and the Southern Transition Council are expected to sign an agreement ending a standoff in the southern port city of Aden on Thursday in Saudi Arabia, according to documents seen by Al Arabiya’s sister channel Al Hadath.

According to sources, the two sides will sign the final draft of the deal, named the “Jeddah Agreement,” on Thursday brokered by Saudi Arabian efforts.

The expected agreement, according to a draft document obtained by Al Hadath, includes restructuring solutions related to security, military and political aspects of a government under the support and direct supervision of the Arab Coalition.

On the political side, the draft deal refers to the restructuring of the government equally between the north and the south according to the outcomes of the national dialogue and the involvement of all groups under the southern movement.

The STC had taken over the Yemeni government’s military camps in Aden in August. After a warning from Arab Coalition, the council agreed to a ceasefire.

The deal will also see power remaining with currently President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, who will nominate a prime minister and the ministers under several portfolios.

According to a report from pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, the signing of the agreement will see the attendance of UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths.

Saudi Arabia has hosted indirect talks between the Yemeni government and the STC to rebuild the coalition fighting against the Houthi movement that expelled Hadi’s government from the capital Sanaa five years ago.

Full report at:



US grants Iraq sanctions waiver for gas, electricity imports from Iran

Oct 17, 2019

The US has once again exempted Iraq from its sanctions against the Islamic Republic, allowing the Arab country to continue gas and electricity imports from Iran for another four-month period.

"The waiver ensures that Iraq is able to meet its short-term energy needs while it takes steps to reduce its dependence on Iranian energy imports," a State Department spokesman said Wednesday.

"We engage regularly with the Iraqi government to support measures that improve Iraq's energy independence," he added.

This will be the fifth such waiver the US has issued for Iraq since US sanctions on Iran’s energy exports snapped back nearly a year ago. After an initial 45-day waiver, the State Department issued two 90-day waivers in a row followed by a 120-day waiver in June.

Gas imports from Iran generate as much as 45 percent of Iraq's 14,000 megawatts of electricity consumed daily. Iran transmits another 1,000 megawatts directly, making itself an indispensable energy source for its Arab neighbor.

Iraq and Iran share a 1,400-kilometer-long border. For their run-of-the-mill maintenance, Iraqis depend on Iranian companies for many things from food to machinery, electricity, natural gas, fruits and vegetables.

The administration of Donald Trump is pressing Iraq to stop buying natural gas and electricity from Iran or at least show signs that it is reducing the imports. The US has also urged Iraq to establish contracts with US companies.

However, there are reports that Baghdad is pushing back against the pressure, The New York Times reported in February.

Full report at:



Erdogan: No talks with Syria Kurds until safe zone established

Oct 16, 2019

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey will never sit at the negotiating table with Kurdish militants in Syria, emphasizing that Ankara’s military operation in the Arab country’s north will come to an end only when the Kurds leave the region and a “safe zone” is established there.

Speaking at a meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in Ankara on Wednesday, Erdogan said, “There are some leaders who are trying to mediate...There has never been any such thing in the history of the Turkish republic as the state sitting at the same table with a terror organization,” referring to the Kurdish militants.

Turkey launched the offensive, called Operation Peace Spring, last week with the aim of purging the northern Syrian regions near its border of Kurdish militants, whom it views as terrorists linked to local autonomy-seeking militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The incursion came after the US abruptly pulled its forces out of the region, clearing the path for Turkey to go ahead with a planned military action against Washington’s longtime Kurdish allies.

Erdogan said Turkey will end its offensive if the Kurds on the Syrian side of the border lay down their arms and withdraw from the planned "safe zone" that would span from the city of Manbij to the Iraqi border.

“Our proposal is that right now, tonight, all the terrorists lay down their arms, their equipment and everything, destroy all their traps and get out of the safe zone that we have designated,” Erdogan said, adding that this would be “the quickest way of solving the problem in Syria.”

He emphasized that “no power” can stop the Turkish military operation in Syria until Ankara reaches its goals.

“We informed the US, EU and Russia before the operation began that ... we want this terrorist organization to be removed from our borders," he said at a weekly meeting of his ruling AK Party, referring to the YPG.

“When the zone from Manbij to Iraq that is 350km [is cleared] when we could establish a safe zone, this operation will be over. But until that point, no power can stop us,” he said.

The Turkish leader claimed that “Turkey is not fighting against Syrians; it is fighting with Syrians against oppressors.”

Full report at:



Russia moves to prevent conflict between Turkish army and Assad regime in Syria

Taylor Heyman and Jack Dutton

Oct 15, 2019

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday discussed the need to prevent conflict between the Turkish and Syrian military, hours after the Assad regime took control of the border town of Manbij.

Mr Erdogan will visit Mr Putin "in the coming days", a Russian broadcaster said.

During Mr Putin's visit to Abu Dhabi earlier on Tuesday, his envoy for Syria indicated Moscow wanted Ankara to finish its offensive soon.

"We didn't agree with the Turks' questions about their presence in Syria and we don't approve of their actions," envoy Alexander Lavrentiev said.

Mr Lavrentiev called Turkey's military incursion into north-east Syria "unacceptable" and said the operation had to be limited in time and scale. It was a rare attack that suggests Moscow's patience with Ankara was wearing thin.

Earlier on Tuesday, Syrian regime forces took the city of Manbij, hours after US troops pulled back from the symbolically important border area.

"The Syrian government army has full control over the city of Manbij and nearby settlements," the Russian Defence Ministry said on Tuesday.

The news of the Assad regime's recapture in north-east Syria came after US President Donald Trump demanded that Mr Erdogan call a truce in Syria.

But the Turkish president dismissed this request in comments published in Turkish media early on Wednesday, where he said Ankara "can never declare a ceasefire" in northern Syria.

"They tell us 'to declare a ceasefire'. We can never declare a ceasefire," Mr Erdogan said on a flight back from Azerbaijan, the Hurriyet daily reported.

US Vice President Mike Pence said on Monday that Mr Erdogan promised Mr Trump his troops would not attack the border town of Kobane, the site of ISIS's first defeat in a 2015 battle with US-backed Kurdish fighters.

“President Trump communicated to him very clearly that the US wants Turkey to stop the invasion, implement an immediate ceasefire and to begin to negotiate with Kurdish forces in Syria to bring an end to the violence,” Mr Pence said.

Mr Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Ankara on Wednesday to press Turkey for a ceasefire.

Mr Trump’s demand was bolstered by US sanctions against Turkish ministries and government officials, and came a week after he announced US troops would be withdrawn from north-east Syria.

That prompted a Turkish invasion of north-east Syria and a confrontation with Kurdish troops, forcing more than 160,000 people to flee their homes.

By Tuesday afternoon, US troops had fully withdrawn from Manbij, said a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, an 81-member coalition created to defeat ISIS across Syria and Iraq.

They were replaced by Syrian regime and Russian forces under a deal in which government troops moved to Kurdish-controlled areas in Syria's north to fend off Turkey's invasion.

Mr Erdogan insists Manbij, to the west of the Euphrates River, “belongs to the Arabs”.

The town has been under the control of Kurdish forces since they drove ISIS from it in 2016. ISIS captured Manbij in 2014.

Turkey-backed Syrian fighters said they would continue their advance towards Manbij, and said the troops that had entered were mostly Kurdish fighters now allied with the government.

A US official said the 1,000 troops being withdrawn from the area would be posted to Iraq, Kuwait and possibly Jordan. Some US troops are west of the town of Ain Issa, in the north of Syria.

Earlier on Tuesday, the US military sent F-15 fighter jets and Apache gunships in "a show of force" to disperse Turkish-backed forces who came "very close" to American troops in west Ain Issa, a US official told Fox News.

The Pentagon logged a formal complaint with the Turkish military after the incident.

The American Special Operations forces were joined by Syrian Kurdish allies during the encounter, which took place on Tuesday night, the official added.

Russia is a key ally of President Bashar Al Assad and launched a military intervention in 2015 in support of his forces.

The Defence Ministry said Russian forces were continuing to patrol border areas along the line of contact between Syrian and Turkish units.

Video on social media showed US military vehicles passing Russian lorries moving in the opposite direction.

“Co-operation has been organised with the Turkish side,” the ministry said.

Mr Lavrentiev said earlier on Tuesday that Russia would not allow clashes between Turkish and Syrian forces.

“This would simply be unacceptable and therefore we will not allow it, of course,” he said.

He said Turkish and Syrian officials were in contact to avoid any conflict.

“Negotiations are taking place in real time,” Mr Lavrentiev said.

Many of Turkey’s Nato allies condemned the incursion and are scheduled to meet today to discuss the issue.

Nato has a system for allies to officially request consultations when they feel their territories may be endangered by the actions of another member.

The alliance's Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, said yesterday that “many Nato allies have expressed strong criticism” of Turkey, which has the second biggest army in the 29-country alliance after the US.

Apart from today’s discussion among Nato ambassadors in Brussels, Mr Stoltenberg said the issue would be tackled at a meeting of defence ministers at the alliance’s headquarters next week.

He and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed the Turkish incursion must end.

“The Prime Minister and Secretary General both expressed their deep concern at the situation in northern Syria,” a Downing Street spokeswoman said after the pair met in London yesterday.

“Both leaders stressed the value of Turkey as a Nato ally and recognised the role it has played in supporting refugees from the Syrian conflict.

“But they were clear that the current Turkish operation needed to end.”

After days without substantive comment, the UK suspended arms exports to Turkey in response to the incursion, joining Finland, Germany, France, Norway and the Netherlands.

“Military arms to Turkey that might be used in this operation have been suspended subject to the review that will take place,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.

Mr Raab said the UK would consider the return of minors and orphans from camps holding ISIS fighters and their families.

The UN said yesterday that the reported summary executions of civilians, including Kurdish politician Hevrin Khalaf, in north-east Syria carried out by pro-Turkish fighters could amount to a “war crime” and that Ankara could be “deemed responsible”.

The UN rights office said its staff had seen two videos “showing what appear to be summary executions carried out by fighters belonging to the Ahrar Al Sharqiya armed group, which is affiliated with Turkey, on October 12".

Spokesman Rupert Colville said the footage, widely shared on social media, appeared “to show the fighters filming themselves capturing and executing three Kurdish captives” on a main road.

Full report at:





Somali forces kill 11 al-Shabab militants in southern regions


MOGADISHU, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) -- Somali national forces on Tuesday killed 11 al-Shabab extremists in an operation in the southern region of Gedo, a military official said.

Ali Mohamed Hassan, commander of the Unit 49 division 10 of Somali National Army told journalists that the forces launched an attack on the militants in the outskirts of Bardhere town following a tip-off from the residents that the militants were forcefully collecting taxes from the locals.

"There was a fierce gunfight between our army and the militants, but our forces finally drove the militants out of the town. We killed 11 of them during the gun fight," the commander said.

He noted that the security forces recovered 300 animals which the militants forcefully took from the residents. The commander also said their forces captured al-Shabab fighters during the battle.

Locals reported heavy fighting in the town between the army and the militant group which has been fighting to overthrow the Western-backed government.

"Al-Shabab ordered the residents to collect a large number of animals and suddenly they were attacked by the government army. Both sides exchanged heavy artillery for a while, but the situation returned to normal after the militants were chased from the town," Asmo Bashir, a resident told Xinhua through phone.

On Oct. 7, Somali army backed by Juba land state forces killed 24 al-Shabab militants and injured more than 19 others in an operation in the country's southern region of Lower Jubba.

Southern regions of Somalia have become the battleground of clashes between Somalia army and al-Shabab extremists after the militants were chased out from the capital in August 2011 by Amisom forces and Somali army.



Sudan declares ‘permanent ceasefire’ as peace talks hit snag

17 October 2019

Sudan announced Wednesday a “permanent ceasefire” in the country’s war zones even as a key rebel group threatened to pull out of peace talks, accusing government forces of bombing its territory.

Juba has been hosting talks between new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s government and delegates from two umbrella groups of rebels who fought now-ousted president Omar al-Bashir’s forces in Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan states.

The talks were launched on Monday, but the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) told journalists it would pull out unless the government withdrew from an area in the Nuba mountains.

The group said that for the past 10 days government forces had kept up attacks on its territory despite an unofficial ceasefire.

Late on Wednesday, the chief of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, announced a permanent ceasefire in the three conflict zones.

“General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has announced a permanent ceasefire to show that the government is committed to peace,” the sovereign council said in a statement.

“The ceasefire is valid from the signing of this declaration.”

An unofficial ceasefire had been in place since Bashir was ousted by the army in April in a palace coup following nationwide protests against his decades-old rule.

A joint civilian-military sovereign council is now ruling Sudan and is tasked with overseeing the country’s transition to civilian rule as demanded by protesters.

Full report at:



Hundreds more freed from torture in third Nigerian ‘school’ raid in a month

17 October 2019

Police freed about 500 men and boys from an Islamic school in northern Nigeria on Wednesday where some had been chained to walls, molested and beaten, police sources said.

The raid in Katsina was the third such operation in less than a month, bringing the total of captives freed from abuse this month alone to about 1,000.

Two sources at the scene told Reuters that the owner of the school and five of his staff had been arrested.

Police declined to comment on the raid.

Full report at:



Sudan peace process stalls as rebel group halts talks over attack

Oct 16, 2019

Sudan peace talks have stalled before they began in Juba on Wednesday as a key rebel grouping said it refused to negotiate with Khartoum, claiming government forces were still bombarding its territory.

Juba is hosting talks between the government of new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and representatives from two umbrella groups of rebels that fought forces of now ousted President Omar al-Bashir in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.

The talks were launched on Monday in the presence of heads of state from Ethiopia, Egypt, Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan.

The first face-to-face meeting between the adversaries was to take place in the South Sudan capital on Wednesday.

But Amar Amoua, secretary general of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N), told journalists his group would not continue unless the government withdrew from the area of the fighting, in the Nuba Mountains.

"Our coming back to negotiate... is bound by government decisions to clear all these things," Amoua, who is representing three different rebel movements, told journalists.

He said that for the past 10 days government forces had continued to attack their territory despite an unofficial ceasefire.

A chief was killed in the Nuba Mountains and several businessmen had gone missing, he charged.

"The government should withdraw its forces and stop... occupying new areas, we will not allow that," he said.

Dhieu Mathok, a member of the South Sudan mediation team, told AFP they were investigating the SPLM-N's complaints.

"We are still investigating it whether there are really attacks in those areas or not, but this will not stop the peace process. Usually in a negotiation these things happen but we are here to resolve the problems."

Mohammed Hassan, a spokesman for the Sudan delegation, attributed the fighting to an attack by herders on local merchants.

"The government regrets and condemns in the strongest terms these unfortunate events that keep happening in the area and in other parts of the country," he said.

"We also regret that these events took place at a time when people are entering peace negotiations, and the country and the whole of the region is united for the cause of peace in Sudan."

Full report at:



Royal pardon for Moroccan journalist jailed for abortion

October 16, 2019

RABAT: Morocco’s king has pardoned Hajar Raissouni, a journalist sentenced to a year in prison last month for extramarital sex and an abortion, along with her fiance, a doctor and two of his colleagues, the Justice Ministry said on Wednesday.

The case of Raissouni, who had denied the charges against her, outraged human rights activists who said she had been targeted for her work for a newspaper that has criticised the state, and because she is the niece of a prominent Islamist.

The Justice Ministry described King Mohammed VI’s intervention in the case as “an act of compassion and mercy”, adding that Raissouni and her fiance had wanted to establish a family legally.

The case drew widespread criticism from both Moroccan and foreign rights activists, who painted it as an attack on the free press and on civil rights.

Abortion is illegal in Morocco. However, the Moroccan Association for Abortion Rights, an activist group, said 600 to 800 abortions take place illegally each day. In 2018, 41 cases were brought over illegal abortions, according to a report released by the prosecutor’s office.

Raissouni, 28, works for Akhbar Al-Youm, an independent newspaper that has been critical of the Moroccan state, and is the niece of a Muslim theologian who is a former leader of a politically influential Islamist group.

Raissouni said police had taken her for forcible medical checks against her will and had asked her about her work at the newspaper and about her uncles. Her lawyers and rights activists said the checks without her consent amounted to torture.

In court, the prosecutor dismissed any suggestion of procedural irregularities, and said that the circumstances of Raissouni’s arrest had been legal and the case had nothing to do with her work as a journalist.

Full report at:



Rival Tripoli government restricts Libya’s oil revenues: Benghazi-based PM

October 16, 2019

BENGHAZI, Libya: The head of Libya’s parallel government in the east says rival, UN-backed authorities in Tripoli have restricted oil revenues to areas under its control.

Benghazi-based Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thani told The Associated Press Tuesday that the country’s eastern regions were receiving only about $126 million monthly for public salaries, despite holding most of Libya’s oil facilities.

However, he says the rival Tripoli-based government, which controls Libya’s Central Bank, has continued to give oil revenues to “outlawed groups and militias.”

Full report at:



Libyan navy rescues 90 Europe-bound migrants

Jehad Naser  



The Libyan Navy said on Wednesday it had rescued 90 irregular migrants including seven women off the Khoms town, some 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of the capital Tripoli.

"Following an extensive search operation in the sea, the navy boats managed to trace the location of the migrants and rescue them," according to a statement by the navy of the UN-recognized National Accord Government.

The statement added the migrants are from African countries mainly from Somalia.

Libya is considered as a major transit point for migrants fleeing their war-torn countries and poverty to Europe.

Full report at:





Denmark is amongst Western Europe’s most 'Muslim-friendly' countries, report finds

16 October 2019

Danes are more open than people in most other countries in Western Europe with regard to Muslim neighbours or family members, according to a US study.

A survey conducted by the  Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan US thinktank based in Washington, D.C., found that 91 percent of people in Denmark would be willing to accept Muslim neighbours, while 81 percent would be willing to accept a Muslim family member.

That made Denmark the joint-third most accepting country with regard to neighbours and third-most accepting with regard to family members.

Researchers asked 24,499 randomly-selected adults in 15 countries in Western Europe the two questions for the study.

The European element of the survey was actually conducted in 2017, but has resurfaced because Pew Research Center has now also surveyed the US public.

Denmark is behind only the Netherlands (96 percent would accept Muslim neighbours, 88 percent for family members) and Norway (92 percent and 82 percent respectively), the survey found.

In the United States, 89 percent said they would be willing to accept Muslim neighbours, with 79 percent willing to accept a Muslim family member.

For the United Kingdom, those figures (from 2017) come out at 78 percent and 53 percent respectively.

Pew Research Center notes that surveys in both the U.S. and Western Europe were conducted on the telephone. As such, due to the tendency of some respondents to give socially acceptable responses, the results may overstate the share of people willing to accept others.

But although Western Europeans have accepting views toward Muslims, they are more divided on whether to accept Islam in their societies, according to the thinktank.

The survey found that Europeans in several countries were about as likely to say that Islam is “fundamentally incompatible with (their country’s) culture and values” as they are to take the view that “there is no fundamental contradiction between Islam and (their country’s) culture and values”, the Center writes on its website.

“We can’t give an exact answer as to why people can accept individual Muslims but are more critical of Islam. But we see a general trend of people being able to distinguish individuals, whom they can easily accept, while remaining critical of religious beliefs,” Pew Research Center deputy director of research Neha Sahgal said to Danish newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad.



America’s Syria exit helps cement Russia's rise as the Middle East power broker

Jonathan Brown

Oct 17, 2019

The grainy footage, shot from the side of a dusty road in northern Syria, has been held up as a blunt metaphor for a historic shift in geopolitical power in the Middle East.

As a convoy of US troops speed along a highway leading from Kobane, they pass just metres from the Syrian army advancing to fill the void. The flags of the two armies flash by each other, neither side slowing even to acknowledge the other.

US President Donald Trump’s decision last Sunday to withdraw remaining American troops from northern Syria is being seen in Moscow as the final step in a long retreat from the Middle East. In America’s wake, they have exposed their Kurdish allies to an onslaught from advancing Turkish forces.

The move has left an unmistakable void, which Russia, Syria’s most important international ally, has steadily leveraged since the Kremlin rushed in to bolster the forces of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad in September 2015.

“The Kremlin must feel that it has finally returned to the world stage as a recognised force in international politics,” says Maxim Trudolyubov, Senior Fellow at the Kennan Institute.

Russia entered the Syrian conflict in 2015 with an unrelenting campaign of airstrikes that decimated armed opposition to the Syrian army and all but turned the tide of the war in Mr Al Assad’s favour.

In the years since, the Kremlin emerged as the primary political broker in the conflict, leading negotiations between some of President Al Assad’s main backers and opponents, Iran and Turkey.

The deal this week, in which Syrian Kurds who controlled the north allowed the regime to retake key towns in the north to stem a Turkish offensive, was brokered on Russia’s airbase in western Syrian.

But Moscow’s ability to win the trust of the big players in the Syrian conflict, Mr Trudolyubov wrote in a recent analysis, has played out across the region.

Russia, he says, has been successful in getting recognition for its efforts in the region from players as diverse as Iran, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Turkey.

“Most leaders of those countries may not want to sit down for a conversation between themselves, but each of them, separately from the others, is talking to Putin,” he said.

At the same time, since the war in Syria broke out in 2011, Washington has seen as having been an inconsistent and unpredictable backseat player.

In 2013, former US President Barack Obama’s failure to enforce Washington’s own “red lines” in Syria after Mr Al Assad’s chemical attack in Ghouta claimed hundreds of lives.

Confusion followed US President Donald Trump’s stalled decision to withdraw US forces from northern Syria in December last year.

Russian state-run media this week lashed out at the Kurds in northern Syria for having placed their trust in an unpredictable United States and not the Syrian President or Russia. Anchors and editors said both have been consistent in their objectives since the beginning of the conflict.

Dmitry Kiselev, the host of the major weekly talk show Vesti Nedeli, said on Sunday that, “the fate of the Kurds, of course, arouses sympathy. But, at the same time, you must understand that, for some reason, the Kurds in Syria chose America as their ally, and not the president of their country –Assad – and not Russia, which unfailingly helped to rid Syria of ISIS.”

Mr Kiselev said that the United States has used the Kurds as “cannon fodder” and described Washington as having “betrayed and dumped” the Kurds.

“Yet again,” he added, “the Kurds made a mistake with their choice of protector. The US is not a reliable partner.”

The fact that the Kurds turned to the Assad regime in Damascus is being heralded a major win in Moscow for what analysts say has been the Kremlin’s consistent set of goals and policies set out since the intervention in Syria in September 2015.

“Russia’s influence in Syria has been again tested and proven strong as a result of the Kurdish decision to seek an alliance with Damascus,” Dmitry Trenin, the director in Moscow of the Carnegie think tank, said.

“Keeping contacts with all [players], including Turkey, and having a clear view of one’s own interests and thus a coherent policy is paying off.”

The question that remains to be seen is how long Russia can maintain friendly ties with leaders in a bitterly divided region.

Already, analysts in Moscow say there may be signs of wear.

“Here's a dilemma for Putin,” says Yury Barmin, a Middle East analyst at the Russia International Affairs Council think-tank, which was established to advise the Kremlin. “How to permanently cement the gap between the US and Turkey that emerged in the northeast [of Syria] while trying to get Erdogan to relinquish his ambitions in that region.”

Full report at:



France, Britain try to revive fight against Islamic State; decry Turkey, U.S

John Irish

OCTOBER 15, 2019

PARIS (Reuters) - France and Britain on Tuesday accused Turkey and the United States of undoing five years worth of work in fighting Islamic State and scrambled to define how to react should militants escape prisons and camps in Syria.

Turkey has pressed on with its assault against Kurdish militias in northern Syria, while the Russia-backed Syrian army roared into one of the most hotly contested cities abandoned by U.S. forces in President Donald Trump’s retreat.

“These decisions put into question five years of effort by the coalition,” French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told lawmakers.

“This intervention is devastating for our collective security with the inevitable resurgence of Islamic State in northern Syria and also probably northwest Iraq.”

Britain’s Foreign Minister Dominic Raab echoed those comments and called Turkey’s offensive “reckless” and “counterproductive.”

Ankara’s unilateral offensive has angered Washington and Turkey’s main European NATO allies who fear a return of Islamic State in the region. European countries are especially concerned about what foreign Islamic State fighters and adults returning to Europe.

If the militias redeploy prison guards to the front line, there is a risk of jail-breaks. Europeans comprise a fifth of around 10,000 Islamic State fighters held captive in Syria by Kurdish militias with thousands of women and children in camps.

Before Turkey began its offensive last week, European nations had been assessing how to create a mechanism that could ultimately see foreign fighters moved from Syria to face trial in Iraq for war crimes. They are trying to speed up those plans. [L5N26X0JC]

But with both British and French special forces being forced to leave northern Syria because of the U.S. withdrawal, their options are increasingly limited.

“We don’t want to see foreign fighters return to the U.K,” Raab told parliament. “We think the right course is for them to face justice, if that’s possible and practical, in the region, but of course he is right to say given the fluid situation that we’re going to have to keep all of this under review,” he said answering a question on whether a new policy was needed.

France has been adamant that it will not take back adults that had joined Islamic State and it wants to seal an agreement with Iraq on taking foreign nationals.

France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said it was urgent to ensure security around the camps and that would he travel to Iraq soon to hold talks with national and Kurdish leaders on the issue.

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Britain to consider bringing back children of Islamic State fighters, Dominic Raab says

Josie Ensor

15 OCTOBER 2019

Orphans thought to be British caught up in fighting in Syria should be brought back to the UK, Dominic Raab said yesterday, adding that the "fluid situation" may mean Islamic State fighters could be repatriated too.

Amira, 10, her sister, Hiba, eight, and their brother Hamza, who were brought to Syria to live in Isil’s “caliphate” five years ago by their late parents, were discovered this week in a detention camp.

They had to be rescued by the UN’s refugee agency on Sunday after Ain Issa camp came under Turkish attack and detainees escaped.

"It is clear that the humanitarian situation will be compounded, not made any better, by the intervention made by Turkey, it also has much broader implications for stability." Mr Raab, Foreign Secretary, told the Commons.

"In relation to minors, unaccompanied minors or orphans, I can tell you that, assuming that they would represent no security threat... we would be willing to see them return home if that can be done in a safe way given the situation on the ground."

The security situation has dramatically worsened since Turkish and allied Syrian forces began their offensive on Kurdish-held north-east Syria last Wednesday.

Any possible extraction of the children would also be complicated by the deal made between Kurdish forces and the Bashar al-Assad regime, with whom the UK has no diplomatic relations.

The Telegraph understands that some 10 British men, at least 20 women and 30 of their children remain in camps and prisons across northern Syria.

Two of the most notorious jihadists, members of the so-called Beatles cell, have been transferred out of Kurdish custody since the US withdrew last week to allow the Turkish invasion. However, they had failed to transfer about 60 other “high value” detainees out of the country due to shelling and the presence of regime troops.

The orphaned children’s mother and father, an older brother and two other sisters were killed in air strikes on the last of Isil territory, which finally fell to Kurdish led-forces in March.

The children, who now speak Arabic, remember little of their lives before they were taken to live in the caliphate and could not tell journalists their surname.

“They are young and traumatised,” said Sonia Kush, Syria Response Director at Save the Children, who told The Telegraph they were now safe and being looked after at a refugee centre in the city of Raqqa.

She said efforts were being made to try to establish their surname and whether they had any extended family in the UK.

“We have been warning about this scenario for some time,” she said. “And we say again: the foreign governments need to take responsibility for their citizens.”

The British government has so far refused the return of Isil fighters and their families, despite pressure from the US-led coalition and their Kurdish allies.

Responding to an urgent question, Mr Raab told MPs that the Government does not want to see the return of British foreign fighters to the UK, but, given the "fluid situation", this may change.

"We don't want to see foreign fighters return to the UK. We think the right course is for them to face justice, if that's possible and practical, in the region,” he said.

"But of course he is right to say that, given the fluid situation, we're going to have to keep all of this under review."

The Government has been considering supporting setting up an international tribunal to hear Isil suspects in Iraq. However, a source at the UN, which would have to approve such a tribunal, said this was unlikely to happen and said the UK was using it as a “smokescreen”.

“There is no chance for a regional court, it was minimal before this, and is impossible now,” he told the Telegraph.

The Government also announced yesterday it will not grant new export licences for weapons that may be used in military operations against Kurds in Syria, as international pressure on Ankara grew.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, was defiant on Tuesday, saying he would not stop his offensive until “all our objectives had been achieved", in the face of US sanctions, a European arms embargo and increasing political isolation.

Turkey is in the seventh day of its assault against the Syrian Kurdish forces, which has so far forced more than 150,000 people to flee and left some 65 Syrian civilians dead.

"God willing, we will quickly secure the region stretching from Manbij to our border with Iraq and ensure that, in the first stage, one million, and then two million Syrian refugees return to their homes of their own free will," Mr Erdogan said in a televised speech.

Turkey plans to establish a buffer zone stretching hundreds of miles across the Turkey-Syria border to free the area of Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) it considers terrorists.

Mr Erdogan has said he wants to repatriate many of the 3.6 million refugees that it is hosting from the Syrian conflict, however critics have said it could amount to ethnic repopulation.

Fighting continued on the ground on Tuesday, with Russia moving swiftly to fill the vacuum left by the US withdrawal from northeast Syria, beginning patrols in areas once controlled by the American military. 

Asserting itself as the new power broker in the region, the Kremlin said it would not tolerate clashes between the Turkish military and Assad regime forces. “We will not allow it,” said Alexander Lavrentyev, Moscow’s special envoy on Syria.

Russian forces, which are in Syria in support of Assad, began patrolling between the two militaries to prevent a confrontation. They also took control of a US base in the border city of Manbij, reportedly with the consent of US officers who handed it over to them.

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Accused rightwing terrorist researched recipe for mace and bombs, court hears

16 Oct 2019

The Victorian supreme court has heard that an accused rightwing terrorist allegedly labelled members of a socialist organisation “traitors” and looked up a recipe for mace and how to make bombs when writing a how-to guide.

Phillip Galea, 34, is standing trial over alleged terrorist plots against Melbourne anarchist and socialist groups between August 2015 and 2016.

He called a member of the Socialist Alliance a “traitor”, a Victorian supreme court jury was told on Wednesday.

The guide Galea is accused of writing was titled the Patriot’s Cookbook.

“The only way you can strike fear into them was to put something like that out there so that way they realise they’re in danger,” he allegedly told police after he was arrested.

“I told people to defend themselves, to arm themselves ... but I’d never encourage anybody to commit a terrorist attack.”

However, prosecutors argued he intended for the document to incite others to act with violence.

“He was writing this as a counter to the effect of the Anarchist Cookbook ... and was doing so in the knowledge it was likely to cause others to commit terrorist offences,” the prosecutor, Richard Maidment QC, said.

Documents found on his laptop were said to have included guides and images of home-made shotguns and body armour.

The mace recipe was marked “not actual mace but does a damn good job on the eyes”, Maidment said.

The alleged terrorist planned to include directions on how to destroy Melbourne’s union headquarters, Trades Hall, but was told that content could not be published, the prosecutor said.

“Now doesn’t that give you an insight into what his thinking was?” he said.

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Senior parliamentarians of Iran, Germany urge end to militarism in Syria, Yemen

Oct 16, 2019

Senior Iranian and German parliamentarians have called for an end to militarism in Syria and Yemen, stressing the need for a political settlement of the conflicts wreaking havoc in the two war-torn Arab states.

Iran’s Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani held talks with Vice President of the German Parliament (Bundestag) Claudia Roth on the sidelines of the 141st assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in Belgrade on Tuesday.

During the meeting, Larijani reaffirmed Tehran’s opposition to a Turkish military offensive underway against Kurdish militants in northern Syria, saying the incursion would lead to “massacre and displacement and only further complicate Syria’s problems,” he said.

Larijani further censured the European Union’s failure to take meaningful action against the Turkish offensive.

“The EU’s role cannot be limited to simply giving advice,” said the Iranian speaker, calling on European Union member states, especially Germany, to play a more active role in efforts to resolve the crisis.

In turn, Roth voiced Germany’s “deep concerns” over Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria, warning that the incursion has already given rise to an influx of refugees into neighboring Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.

Reacting to Larijani’s remarks on the EU’s role, Roth said that the 28-nation bloc has urged Russia to put pressure on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the incursion and sought an end to arms sales to Ankara.

She criticized Erdogan for threatening to “flood” Europe with refugees if the continent insists on constraining Ankara’s military action, adding that Iran could help resolve the refugee issue.

Claudia further highlighted the importance of political efforts to settle the crisis in Syria, saying the country’s newly formed constitutional committee needs to be empowered in order to help find a peaceful solution out of the conflict.

‘Iran ready for mediation in Yemen’

Elsewhere, the two sides exchanged views on an ongoing Saudi-led military campaign against Yemen as well as heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf region.

Larijani renewed the call for an end to the military campaign against Yemen and said that if Saudi Arabia embraces a political solution, “Iran will mediate in the Yemen issue.”

The parliament speaker also said that Iran was committed to ensuring Persian Gulf security.

Regarding the tensions in the Persian Gulf, he said “the problem lies with other regional states,” Larijani said.

He said Iran has proposed the Hormuz Peace Endeavor (HOPE) to facilitate regional dialog and cooperation free from any foreign military presence in the Persian Gulf region.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, Roth expressed concern regarding the tragic humanitarian situation in Yemen.

Full report at:



Oxford University probes ‘sale’ of ancient Bible fragments originally from Egypt

October 16, 2019

LONDON: Oxford University said Wednesday it has launched an investigation into claims that one of its professors sold ancient Bible fragments to the controversial US company of a billionaire evangelical Christian.

The renowned British university confirmed it was seeking to establish if Dirk Obbink, an associate professor in papyrology and Greek literature, unilaterally sold about a dozen fragments to the US retailer Hobby Lobby.

The arts and crafts chain was founded by Steve Green, who is also chairman of the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC, and has courted controversy for supporting conservative causes.

The artifacts were part of the Oxyrhynchus collection owned by the London-based Egypt Exploration Society, which initiated its own probe earlier this year after it emerged its items may be held by the museum.

The Oxyrhynchus Papyri Project is a collection of centuries-old manuscripts recovered from an ancient Egyptian rubbish dump during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

“We can confirm we are engaging with the Egypt Exploration Society with regard to the allegations concerning papyri from the Oxyrhynchus Collection,” an Oxford University spokesperson said.

“The University is conducting its own internal investigation to seek to establish the facts.”

Obbink did not respond to a request for comment from AFP.

In a statement, the EES said it had been working with the museum to clarify whether any texts from its collection had been sold or offered for sale to Hobby Lobby or its agents.

That followed the emergence of a copy of a redacted 2017 contract purportedly between Obbink and the retailer for the sale of six items, “including four New Testament fragments probably of EES provenance.”

The EES statement added the museum had subsequently provided photos identifying 13 texts from its collection which had been “taken without authorization” and were now being returned.

“The (museum) has informed the EES that 11 of these pieces came into its care after being sold to Hobby Lobby Stores by Professor Obbink, most of them in two batches in 2010,” EES said.

The society noted it had not re-appointed Obbink in August 2016 as a general editor of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri project partly due to concerns “about his alleged involvement in the marketing of ancient texts.”

It added he was then banned from any access to its collection “pending his satisfactory clarification of the 2013 contract” which he had yet to provide.

“We cannot comment here on any broader legal issues arising from these findings, except to note that they are under consideration by all the institutions concerned,” EES said.

It is not the first time both Hobby Lobby and the Museum of the Bible have been caught up in an artifacts controversy.

The company was forced to pay a $3 million settlement in 2017 and give up 5,500 artifacts — including ancient clay cuneiform tablets from Iraq — that the US Justice Department said were illegally imported.

Full report at:



YPG/PKK supporters continue to terrorize Europe

Serife Cetin  



Supporters of the YPG/PKK terror group have increased their violent acts in Europe since Turkey started its anti-terror operation in northeastern Syria last week.

According to data compiled by Anadolu Agency, YPG/PKK sympathizers carried out around 20 attacks across Europe in a week.

The YPG/PKK sympathizers targeted Turkish citizens living in Europe, their workplaces, associations, mosques and Turkish diplomatic missions.

On Thursday, YPG/PKK sympathizers attacked Mevlana mosque in Germany's Bad Salzuflen.

On Friday, the terror group’s supporters burned a car belonging to Turkey's Embassy in Berlin.

On Saturday, YPG/PKK sympathizers attacked Turkish Workers Association in Germany's southern Villingen Schwenningen town, injuring two people.

The same day, a supermarket belonging to a Turk in Germany's Nurnberg was attacked by the terror group’s sympathizers, injuring one person and damaging the market.

In Belgium on Friday, around 300 YPG/PKK supporters stabbed and injured two Turkish youth in Liege city.

Again on Friday, 2,000 YPG/PKK terror group sympathizers tried to march to Turkey's Bern Embassy. While the police blocked them, they attacked the police with iron bars, stones and other objects.

In Finland's capital Helsinki on Monday, a group of around 250 people attacked Turkey's embassy and threw stones. Four windows of the building were broken.

Turkey on Oct. 9 launched Operation Peace Spring east of the Euphrates river to secure its borders by eliminating terrorist groups there, to ensure the safe return of Syrian refugees and Syria’s territorial integrity.

Ankara wants to clear northern Syria east of the Euphrates of the terrorist YPG/PKK terrorists.

Full report at:



South Asia


Airstrikes kill 14 Taliban, ISIS militants; destroy multiple caches of weapons and a car bomb

16 Oct 2019

A series of airstrikes killed 14 militants including 13 Taliban and a fighter of the ISIS Khurasan terrorist group in six provinces of Afghanistan.

The military officials said Wednesday an airstrike killed 3 Taliban militants in Nerkh district of Wardak and a similar raid killed 3 Taliban militants and destroyed a cache of weapons in Muqer district of Ghazni.

The officials further added that airstrikes in Charkh district of Logar killed 3 militants of the Taliban group.

Another airstrike in Deh Yak district of Ghazni killed 2 Taliban militants, the officials said, adding that a similar airstrike Shah Joy district killed 2 Taliban militants.

The officials also added that an airstrike in Pachir Wa Agam district killed an ISIS Khurasan fighter while another airstrike destroyed a car bomb in Sayyid Karam district of Paktika.



Car bomb explosion leaves 2 dead, many others wounded in Laghman province

16 Oct 2019

A car bomb explosion left at least 2 dead and many others wounded in eastern Laghman province of Afghanistan.

The Ministry of Interior confirmed that the militants detonated a car bomb close to police headquarters of Alisheng district earlier today, killing 2 policemen and wounding 6 others.

However, the local officials said the explosion killed 2 policemen and wounded at least 26 others including 20 civilians.

The Taliban group claimed responsibility for the attack claiming that the explosion killed or wounded dozens of security personnel.

Full report at:



Special Forces kill, detain 15 Taliban militants in Wardak and Paktika provinces

16 Oct 2019

The Special Forces killed 7 Taliban militants and arrested 8 others during the operations in Wardak and Paktika provinces.

The military officials said Wednesday that the Special Forces also destroyed caches of weapons during the same operations.

The officials further added that the Special Forces killed 7 militants in Nerkh district of Wardak, arrested 6 others and destroyed a cache of weapons.

The Special Forces arrested 2 other militants in Omnah district of Paktika and destroyed a small cache of weapons, the officials added.

Full report at:



Taliban truck bomb kills police, wounds children in Afghanistan

October 17, 2019

At least three security officers have been killed and dozens wounded, mostly children, after the Taliban set off explosives in a truck near a police headquarters building in eastern Afghanistan, officials have said.

The spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Interior Affairs, Nasrat Rahimi, said Wednesday's attack in Alishang district, in Laghman province, wounded 36 people, mainly civilians.

Asadullah Daulatzai, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said 20 children, studying inside a nearby religious school, were among those wounded. The building was also damaged.

"The students were wounded by flying glass," he said. "The explosion was huge."

A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, confirmed in a statement that fighters used a large truck packed with explosives in the attack, leaving dozens of Afghan security forces dead and wounded. 

Rescuers searched through the ruins of buildings destroyed by the blast.

"We, with the rescue teams, are still looking for bodies under the rubble," Obaidullah, a resident, told Reuters news agency.

In a statement on Wednesday, UK-based charity Save the Children urged all armed groups in Afghanistan "to protect the next generation by agreeing to binding commitments to protect children at all costs".

"It is extremely worrying to see so many children being killed and wounded in Afghanistan on a near-daily basis as the security situation doesn't show signs of improvement," Onno van Manen, Save the Children's director for Afghanistan said.

"It is becoming more and more dangerous for children to go about their daily lives. They risk death or injury on their way to school, while playing outside or visiting the local markets. This is unacceptable."

The statement noted that children are much more vulnerable to the effects of explosive weapons, with evidence suggesting they are far more likely than adults to suffer serious blast injuries, with potentially life-long consequences.

"The physical injuries children suffer can pale in comparison to the emotional scars many may carry with them for years after experiencing a traumatic event like this," Onno van Manen said.

The United Nations said 85 civilians were killed in election-related Taliban violence.

Full report at:



Afghan forces kill over 50 militants in 24 hours


KABUL, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) -- More than 50 militants have been killed elsewhere in Afghanistan over the past 24 hours as the government forces have intensified crackdowns on the armed insurgents, officials said Tuesday.

The security forces in the latest operations struck a Taliban hideout in Aband district of the eastern Ghazni province early Tuesday killing three militants, provincial government spokesman Aref Nuri said.

According to Nuri, four more insurgents were killed in the neighboring Deyak district on Monday.

Similarly, the government forces' operations have killed 13 militants and wounded four others in Ghazni's neighboring Zabul province over the past 24 hours, said a press release of national army released Tuesday.

At least 16 insurgents have been killed and two others injured as the security forces backed by fighting planes targeting Taliban hideouts in Kohna Shakh area of Khawja Bahaudin district in the northern Takhar province since Monday, an army statement said.

Government forces have also stormed Taliban hideout in Wardoj district of the northern Badakhshan district on Monday killing 15 militants and injuring five others, a district official Zalmay Khan said.

However, some villagers on the condition of anonymity disputing the claim, insisting all the victims are civilians.

Backing Zalmay khan's claim spokesman for Badakhshan provincial administration, Nik Mohammad Nazari asserted that 15 militants had been killed in security forces attack.

Nazari also claimed that mortars fire by Taliban fighters in Wardoj district on Monday claimed four lives of civilians and injured 11 others.

Full report at:



Special Forces kill 11 Taliban militants, destroy weapons caches in Logar

17 Oct 2019

The Afghan Special Forces killed 11 Taliban militants during an operation in central Logar province of Afghanistan.

The military officials said Thursday the Special Forces conducted the operation in Charkh district of Logar province.

The officials further added that the Special Forces also destroyed a cache of weapons belonging to Taliban militants.

The Taliban group has not commented regarding the operation so far.

Full report at:




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