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Islamic World News ( 12 Oct 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Muslim Personal Law Board Rejects Appeal by Intellectuals to Surrender Ayodhya Land as ‘Goodwill Gesture’

New Age Islam News Bureau

12 Oct 2019

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National Council of Churches in India Condemns Bhagwat’s Bible Reference To Mob Lynching

India’s Migration Politics Will Topple Sheikh Hasina’s Government

Moderate Islamists Win the Most Seats in Fractured Tunisian Vote

Thousands of Nigerian Hunters Prepare To Chase Boko Haram

Syria Pullout May Trigger 'Complete Reversal' Of U.S. Gains: Former Intel Officer Who Interrogated ISIS Leader

Imam Building A ‘Muslim Village’ To Transform Sin City into The City Of Light

In Wake of Turkish Offensive, France Calls For Urgent Meeting Of Anti-Islamic State Coalition

ISIS Rears Its Head, Adding to Chaos as Turkey Battles Kurds

Pakistan Arrests Four Aides Of Alleged Mastermind Of Mumbai Terror Attacks

India May Restrict Palm Oil Import from Malaysia over Kashmir Stand

Taliban Welcome Trump’s Call to Bring US Troops Home



Muslim Personal Law Board Rejects Appeal by Intellectuals to Surrender Ayodhya Land as ‘Goodwill Gesture’

National Council of Churches in India Condemns Bhagwat’s Bible Reference To Mob Lynching

Yogi Govt. Denies Meeting Permission to Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind For Holding A Meeting On October 19 And 20

Pakistan's nefarious designs exposed, elements from across the border make #GoBackModi trend on Twitter

Jamia Hamdard to confer honorary doctorate to Frank F Islam

Govt ads in J&K papers counter ‘terror tactic’

500 terrorists waiting in PoK to sneak into Kashmir: Northern Command chief

600 ceasefire violations along LoC recorded in last two months; India warns Pakistan

Mahabalipuram Summit: Modi and Xi talk trade, terror and threat they face from radicalisation

Uttar Pradesh: Four held for ‘links’ with terror funding racket

Pakistan trying to push in infiltrators to keep J&K in turmoil: Army


South Asia

India’s Migration Politics Will Topple Sheikh Hasina’s Government

Airstrikes kill 8 militants in Afghanistan's eastern Ghazni province

4 Ansar al Islam men arrested

Rohingya Refugees Who Returned to Myanmar on Their Own Say They Still Face Hardship



Moderate Islamists Win the Most Seats in Fractured Tunisian Vote

Thousands of Nigerian Hunters Prepare To Chase Boko Haram

Ethiopia PM Abiy wins Nobel Peace Prize for mending ties with Eritrea

Airstrikes devastated ISIS camps in Libya, defense official says

At least 20 Boko Haram militants surrender to Nigerian troops

Destroying a fragile peace, terrorists wreak havoc in West Africa

Conflicts and terrorism disturbing Africa's progress: legislator

Burkina violence forces 267,000 to flee in last 3 months: UNHCR

Borno Governor Launches State-Level Initiatives to Fight Boko Haram


Arab World

Syria Pullout May Trigger 'Complete Reversal' Of U.S. Gains: Former Intel Officer Who Interrogated ISIS Leader

U.S. and Kurdish soldiers: Side by side just days ago, battling ISIS, now the Kurds are under attack

As Turkey attacks Kurds in Syria, Trump says any ISIS escapees are Europe's problem

Our sons were killed by the Islamic State. Don’t let ISIS prisoners in Syria go free.

10 IS militants killed in security operation in Iraq

+70,000 People Displaced in Northeast Syria, Only Hospital of Region Closed After Bombings

Ankara Forces Kill +340 Kurdish Fighters, +260 Turkey-Backed Militants, Army Soldiers Killed by Kurds

Kurdish Militias Retreat 20 Kilometers from Military Positions in Northern Syria

Heavy fighting as Kurdish-led SDF holds off Turkish assault

US talking with Saudi Arabia regarding Turkish offensive against Kurdish forces

Saudi Arabia pledges to fight child abuse during UN meeting



Imam Building A ‘Muslim Village’ To Transform Sin City into The City Of Light

In Wake of Turkish Offensive, France Calls For Urgent Meeting Of Anti-Islamic State Coalition

'Muslim Tatar' Twins Await Russian Ruling To Avoid Forcible Return To China

Muslim academics criticise Extremism Commission after their studies are “censored”

Anti-Muslim Hate Crimes Increase across Avon and Somerset, Police Say

On Edge from Attacks, Germany Finds Far-Right Radicals within Security Services

Shooter in German Synagogue Attack Confesses

German synagogue shooting was far-right terror, justice minister says

Belgium: Terrorist PKK mob attacks Turkish citizens

Arson attack on Turkish diplomatic vehicle in Berlin

Turkey is a vital partner of Serbia: President

Hungary conditionally supports Turkey’s Syria operation



ISIS Rears Its Head, Adding to Chaos as Turkey Battles Kurds

Senior Cleric, Ayatollah Khatami Warns Turkey against Grave Consequences of Attacking Syria

Daughter of jailed UK-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe returns to UK

Iran hails efforts to mediate talks with Saudis ahead of Imran Khan visit

Erdogan says Turkey won't stop military operation against Syria Kurds

Yemeni attack on Aramco facilities costs Saudi $2bn worth of oil output

Trump: We don’t want Turkey killing a lot of people in Syria

SDF commander confirms five ISIS prisoners escape after Turkey shelling

Wikipedia probes its Persian website’s omission of Iranian officials’ crimes

Pakistan's Imran Khan to visit Iran, Saudi Arabia: Report

Iran, Caspian Sea littoral states ink military cooperation agreement

US threatens Turkey with 'immediate defensive action' after Syria artillery fire

EU slams Turkey for ‘weaponizing’ refugees

Deaths rise, 100,000 displaced as Turkish forces push deeper into Syria



Pakistan Arrests Four Aides Of Alleged Mastermind Of Mumbai Terror Attacks

Imran Assures Erdogan Of Pakistan’s Support Over Turkey’s Syria Operation

Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, UNHCR seek repatriation of Afghan refugees

Afghan ambassador warns Kabul will shut its Peshawar consulate

PM asks aides to keep channel of dialogue with Fazl open

Qureshi says ‘motives behind politics of sit-ins are clear to everyone’

Pakistan PM Plans Peacemaking Visits to Iran, Saudi Arabia

UAE hands over data of Pakistanis given residence permits

ANP announces support for JUI-F; Imran says option for talks open

Terrorism is an irreconcilable offence, rules SC

‘Azadi March’ is a national movement: Fazl


Southeast Asia

India May Restrict Palm Oil Import from Malaysia over Kashmir Stand

Malaysia PM Mahathir turns down invitation to form unity government with Umno and PAS

Indonesia beefs-up security after IS-linked attack

Indonesian police ramp up suspect search after ISIS-linked attack


North America

Taliban Welcome Trump’s Call to Bring US Troops Home

NATO chief says allies must stay united in ISIS fight

Esper condemns Turkish offensive, says US military not abandoning Kurds in Syria

US to move about 50 ISIS fighters from Syria to Iraq amid Turkish assault, officials say

US moves two British Isis fighters from Syria to Iraq

US to deploy 3,000 more troops, boost missile defence systems in Saudi Arabia

Syrian Christian group urges NBC not to mislead public

Russia blocks US statement at UN on Turkish operation

Turkey denies targeting US post in northern Syria

Trump to sign off on new Turkey sanctions authorities

US House Republicans to seek sanctions on Turkey over Kurd offensive

Hook: Sending US troops to Saudi Arabia sends a powerful message to Iran

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Muslim Personal Law Board Rejects Appeal by Intellectuals to Surrender Ayodhya Land as ‘Goodwill Gesture’

Pranshu Mishra

October 11, 2019

Lucknow: As the 70-year-old legal battle over the most contentious case of Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute looks near its end, differences seem to be emerging within the Muslim community over how to approach the case.

A day after some prominent Muslim intellectuals, including former vice chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University Lt. General (rtd) Zamiruddin Shah and dormer chief secretary of UP Anees Ansari suggested the Muslim side offer to surrender their claim on the disputed land, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board has categorically turned down the suggestion.

AIMPLB’s national executive meet that will be held in Lucknow on October 12 is expected to officially confirm the stand that there is no possibility of surrender of claim on the 2.77 acres disputed land in Ayodhya.

However, even before the crucial and the last meeting before hearing in the case gets over in Supreme court, the board’s member and its spokesperson Zafaryab Jilani has left no scope of doubt.

Talking to CNN-News18, he said “Board remains unfazed by any such demands. Those giving suggestions of surrender of claim have no locus standi in the case”.

“Mediation talks have failed to break a deadlock. We are confident about are arguments before the honorable Supreme court and look forward to the much awaited verdict from the court,” he added.

For the Muslim board, the stance that it will go by the legal solution is not new. The board in its previous meetings had already passed a resolution in this regard.

Highly-placed sources within the Board claim that Saturday’s meeting is focused on briefing the board members about the legal proceedings so far and giving it a sense of legal deliberations made in the court.

However, the fact remains that some eminent Muslim citizens raised their voices is clearly reflective of a divided opinion within the community.

Talking to journalists on October 10, under banner of “Indian Muslim of peace”, former AMU vice-chancellor, Zamiruddin Shah asked, “Even if Muslim side wins the case and Sunni Waqf Board gets the tittle of the land, will it be possible to build a mosque at the place where a make shift temple is already in existence”.

He further said: “Even if Hindu side wins the case, there are certain elements in Indian society who will use it to serve their political interests, thereby leading to escalation of communal tensions”.

Retired IAS and former UP chief secretary Anees Ansari also said out of court settlement should be preferred so that both Hindus and Muslims remain happy and no party feels aggrieved.



National Council Of Churches In India Condemns Bhagwat’s Bible Reference To Mob Lynching

October 11, 2019

New Delhi, Oct. 10, 2019: The National Council of Churches in India has issued a statement condemning the reference to the Bible by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat, in order to justify the term “mob lynching”.

In a statement on October 10, 2019, the NCCI said Bhagwat had misquoted the Bible. The NCCI stated: “We are shocked that such statements which have the potential to divide communities on religious lines are made in public fora.”

The NCCI statement said this misrepresentation had “created suspicion among the people” and “humiliated the Christian minority”. It added, “We appeal all people not to be carried away by such misrepresentation or misinterpretation which are often done with political intentions.”

At the annual Dussehra celebration at the RSS headquarters in Nagpur on Tuesday, October 8, 2019, Bhagwat had said that the concept of lynching was “alien to Bharat” and was being used to defame the “country and the entire Hindu society”.

The NCCI pointed out that the Biblical incident that Bhagwat referred to in fact shows how Jesus stood by a woman who was a victim of the patriarchal structures of that time. It said the “incident from the Bible was as an expression of Jesus’s mercy and compassion towards the victims of the elitist narratives of the society of his day. Quite contrary to what Bhagwat suggests, Jesus was in fact saving an accused woman from the wrath of the mob in the said passage.”

The NCCI statement noted: “almost all mob lynching incidents target the vulnerable communities in India including the religious minorities, Dalits, adivasis, the economically poor and women. Therefore, NCCI request the highest Government officials and political leaders of National and State Governments as well as leaders of all political parties to condemn such heinous acts and irresponsible public statements so that peace and communal harmony can be maintained in this country.”



India’s migration politics will topple Sheikh Hasina’s government

October 12, 2019

India’s migration politics—asserting that 40 million Bangladeshi migrants are illegally living in India and must be pushed back— can destabilise South Asia.

India’s campaign to round up suspected illegal migrants and put them in under-construction concentration camps may give Hindu nationalists license to terrorise Muslims, forcing them to flee into neighbouring countries. To avoid detention, many non-citizens, especially those in Assam and West Bengal, will rush toward Bangladesh because of its proximity. India’s most friendly but highly sensitive neighbour, Bangladesh, will refuse them entry, creating a humanitarian disaster.

Enraged by the plight of the Muslims at their border, Bangladeshi Muslims will turn against their Hindu countrymen. Any atrocity on Hindus in Bangladesh, in turn, will infuriate India’s Hindus, who will vent their anger on Muslims in India. This sectarian tension could spiral out of control and spread through the region and beyond, perhaps to the Middle East and Europe. India will face an international public-relations nightmare, forcing it to divert attention from its most pressing task, fixing the economy.

India will get more than it is bargaining for if it pushes the alleged illegal migrants into Bangladesh: Violent anti-India street demonstrations will rock Bangladesh; the pro-Indian Hasina government will fall; and Hindus in Bangladesh will face the fury of Muslim mobs, forcing them to flee to India.

India’s current migration politics has its roots in Assam, where local politicians have periodically incited violence over the past 70 years to drive out non-Assamese, both Hindus and Muslims, stoking regionalism for political gains.

The non-Assamese, mostly Bengali-speakers people from today’s Bangladesh or West Bengal, routinely voted for Congress. Assam and Bengal were one administrative unit under the British, and people moved freely throughout the region.

After Britain divided India— as well as Assam and Bengal— in 1947, many East Pakistan-based Hindus migrated to Assam. This influx of migrants made indigenous Assamese angry and local politicians exploited this. A student group that waged a six-year-long anti-Bengali violent campaign captured state power in 1985 and 1996.

Then came Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, and Hindutva— the anti-minority politics of his BJP— followed. Modi swept to power with a promise of jobs and growth, downplaying his roots in the powerful Hindu-nationalist group RSS. After a heavy defeat later in Bihar, the BJP started spreading the sectarian venom that India is a Hindu nation, and blacklisted minority Muslims.

Modi’s party does not target migrant Bangladeshi Hindus, rather promises them citizenship. But it seeks to deport Muslims. During his election campaign, Modi told migrants in states bordering Bangladesh to keep their “bags packed”. But he waited until re-elected in 2019 to bring it up with Bangladesh.

Since Hasina returned to power in 2009, Dhaka-Delhi relations have improved remarkably to the extent that many Bengalis think India is the strongest leg of her throne. Indeed, Hasina has always been India’s favourite. When Bangladesh became independent of Pakistan in 1971, Delhi played the midwife, and later stood by Hasina’s father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. After his assassination in 1975, India sheltered a young, orphaned Hasina.

In 1981, India nudged the military-strongman-turned-president, Gen Ziaur Rahman, to ensure her safe return home, paving the way for her to capture power in 1996. Later, Delhi helped Hasina defeat the slain president’s widow, former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, in the 2008 poll.

A grateful Hasina repaid by handing over an Indian separatist leader, signing a land boundary agreement, and allowing India to ferry food and grains to its landlocked Northeast through Bangladesh. On top of all this, she turned down a Chinese offer to help build a military base in Bangladesh.

To reciprocate, Modi in 2015 signed 22 agreements while visiting Dhaka, extended a $2 billion credit line and pledged $5 billion in investments. And, when Hasina visited Delhi in 2017, she signed two defence pacts, the first ones between India and any neighbour, enabling joint military exercises and training.

But all these goodwill gestures may soon start unravelling, thanks to an explosive claim by Modi’s government that the 40 million Bangladeshi illegal migrants must be sent back home.

Modi’s party campaigned on this issue during the 2019 general election and won a landslide victory. Bangladesh initially dismissed the campaign rhetoric as domestic politics. But in August India Home Minister Amit Shah, likely to succeed Modi, raised the matter with his Bangladeshi counterpart during talks in Delhi.

Bangladesh’s Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan flatly dismissed India’s claim. He told Shah that Bangladeshis do not stay illegally in India, because Bangladesh’s economy is at par with India’s, if not better. (Bangladesh will post eight per cent growth in 2019, against India’s five per cent.) The matter became so acrimonious that the two sides failed to issue to a joint statement after the talks.

India, however, seems determined to push its agenda. It has launched a campaign to round up Muslims unless they can prove they have lived in India since before 1971 when Bangladesh was created. They will be put in concentration camps, which ironically the migrants themselves are building now. India has classified nearly two million long-term residents as non-citizens, making them stateless.

Dhaka is nervous because India may seek to push at least the alleged Muslim migrants into Bangladesh, the world’s most densely populated country.

Hasina and Modi discussed the issue twice, first at the United Nations in September and then in Delhi early October, with no apparent resolution. Bangladesh’s Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque after the Delhi talks noted India’s position was “self-contradictory”. Modi says one thing, but his party and state leaders say another. Modi says it is India’s internal matter and will no way affect Bangladesh, but his cohorts are bent upon deporting the migrants.

Besides the setback on the migrant issue, several other Hasina-Modi deals will infuriate her countrymen. First, an accord to give Feni River water and natural gas to India when the dispute over sharing the Teesta River water remains unresolved. Second, the pact on coastal surveillance radar stations to help India monitor China’s naval movements is sure to irk Beijing, a major investor in Bangladesh. Finally, the agreement to let India to use its neighbour’s ports to transport goods without reciprocal benefits to Dhaka.

On top of all this, what makes Bangladeshis even more jittery is the fear that India might export convicts, calling them illegal migrants, just as Cuba sent mental patients and miscreants to the USA in 1980 as refugees.

Any such move would have far-reaching consequences for Indian relations with Bangladesh. It will not only undermine Hasina’s government, but also give fodder to Islamic extremists whom she has largely kept under control. Another worrisome prospect is there may be a repeat of the bloodbath of Partition.

Any forced dumping of Muslims from India will be catastrophic for Bangladesh’s 20 million Hindus. Infuriated by India’s action, Bangladeshi Muslims will vent their anger on their Hindu countrymen, forcing them to flee to India, as they did in 1971. Such an exodus, in turn, will enrage the BJP’s already psyched-up saffron soldiers, who will be more than pleased to turn India into an anti-Muslim battleground, to avenge Muslim rule, if nothing else.

If terrorised badly enough, India’s nearly 200 million Muslim citizens may start flocking to Pakistan, which orthodox Hindus wish for; alternatively, they may fight back the hyper-nationalist Hindus. This vicious cycle of communal hostility will push the region into chaos and misery.



Moderate Islamists Win the Most Seats in Fractured Tunisian Vote

By Jihen Laghmari

October 10, 2019

Tunisia’s moderate Islamist party won the most seats in parliamentary elections but will still face an uphill task of cobbling together a governing coalition in a deeply polarized nation that’s fed up with politicians.

Ennahda secured 52 seats in the 217-member parliament, the election commission announced late Wednesday. In second place with 38 lawmakers was Heart of Tunisia, the party of controversial media mogul Nabil Karoui. Other parties and coalitions were significantly behind.

With no group anywhere near a majority, the rankings were fairly close to those in an exit poll published after voting finished Sunday and illustrated, once again, Tunisians’ deep frustration with mainstream parties.

Although the North African country has made solid democratic gains since President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s 2011 ouster, many of its 11.5 million people say the government has failed to improve their lives. Sporadic militant attacks have battered the vital tourism sector, while disputes with unions are stalling the enactment of International Monetary Fund-backed economic reforms.

Tunisians already gave the political class a bloody nose. Spurning the prime minister, defense minister and Ennahda’s deputy leader, voters in the Sept. 15 presidential election instead chose outsiders: law professor Kais Saied and Karoui, a self-proclaimed champion of the poor.

Winning Allies

Karoui was jailed for about six weeks on graft allegations he denies before being released on Wednesday. A runoff ballot between the two is due Oct. 13.

For Ennahda, which says it has abandoned political Islam to become a mainstream conservative party, the challenge now is to win enough allies for a working majority in parliament. Karoui’s recently formed party has refused to join forces, while smaller blocs may demand serious concessions.

Third place in the vote went to the Democratic Current, which took 22 seats, while the Dignity Coalition won 21. Tahya Tounes, the party led by current Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, secured 14. After appeals are heard and the results finalized, the largest party has two months to form a government.

Ennahda, which has long been dogged by claims it plans to subvert Tunisia’s modern history of secularism, won’t be able to repeat its previous alliance with Nidaa Tounes, formerly one of the country’s leading parties. It won just three seats, down from 86 in the 2014 legislative vote.



Thousands of Nigerian hunters prepare to chase Boko Haram

By Haruna Umar

Oct. 11, 2019

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — Thousands of Nigerian hunters, armed with charmed amulets and intimate knowledge of harsh terrain, are preparing an offensive against the Boko Haram extremists who have ravaged the northeast for a decade, calling it “high time” they help soldiers end the deadly insurgency.

Nigeria’s government discouraged a similar offensive five years ago, calling it a suicide mission. This time it has the backing of the governor of Borno state, which has suffered the worst of the Boko Haram attacks.

It is a sign that Nigerian authorities, who have repeatedly claimed the defeat of Boko Haram, might be running out of options against the Islamic extremists and a recent offshoot that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.

Borno state’s new Gov. Babagana Zulum, who inherited the conflict after winning election earlier this year, said he is tired of applying conventional strategies against an extremist group that has killed and abducted tens of thousands of people and displaced millions. The unrest has created a vast humanitarian crisis.

The governor recently approved the sourcing of at least 10,000 hunters to help end the fighting.

While Nigeria’s military would not comment, government spokesman Isa Gusau confirmed that the governor has decided to “aggressively explore every lawful means necessary in trying to put an end to the insurgency” after consultations with key stakeholders including elders and traditional rulers.

“We need all the prayers we can get, given the task ahead,” Gusau said.

The hunters are separate from the civilian self-defense forces that have sprung up in northeastern Nigeria to combat the Boko Haram insurgency. Usually inheriting their vocation, the hunters are seen as the only group with intimate knowledge of the forests and other terrain in the vast region near Lake Chad. They see their charms and amulets as protection from attack.

An Associated Press reporter this week visited the camp where about 2,000 hunters have been waiting ahead of their march into the Sambisa forest and other Boko Haram hideouts.

More than 5,000 are being mobilized from Nigeria and regional countries including Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad, said one leader of the hunters, Baba Maigiwa.

“The majority of our men have returned to their various states and communities to go and bid their families farewell” but are on their way back to the Borno capital, Maiduguri, said another leader, Abdulkareem Umar.

“We are here because the governor is passionate about ending this madness called Boko Haram,” he said.

“I remember about five years ago when we, on our own, converged here in Maiduguri with the intention of storming Sambisa forest to confront Boko Haram, but we did not get the backing of the government and the military. As law-abiding citizens, we had to withdraw. But as this is happening now, it means it is time.”

He said the hunters had received 10 vehicles from the state government to help in transport but said they need 30 more, along with weapons.

“We have also made it clear to the authorities that the difference between the soldiers and the hunters is the military training and our knowledge of the jungle,” he said. “But what unites us both is armament. So we need arms and ammunition, just like the soldiers. When that is done, the rest would be history, by the grace of God.”

He said the hunters are being fed by the Borno state government as they wait for the offensive, and food and water have been deployed to various locations that can be used as forward operating bases.

“We are so happy with the move the state governor is making by recognizing the contributions that the hunters can bring into the counterinsurgency war,” said another hunters’ chief, Maigana Maidurma. “We are ready to lay down our lives if that is what it would take to bring peace to our dear land.”

A younger hunter, 32-year-old Auwal Unar, called the upcoming offensive “a war to safeguard our future and the safety of our women and children.”

He said the hunters believe in the potency of the charms they will carry into battle.

“We don’t fear guns but fear only God,” he said. “When we roar in the jungle even the lions fear because our fathers have tapped the secret of the forests, so Boko Haram will have no hiding place. They will have no choice than to surrender, or they die if they dare stand in our way.”



Syria pullout may trigger 'complete reversal' of U.S. gains: Former intel officer who interrogated ISIS leader

October 12, 2019

The former U.S. Navy intelligence officer who interrogated the leader of ISIS during the Iraq war warned that President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria may result in a similar set of circumstances that unfolded after President Barack Obama’s pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011.

The extraction of U.S. troops from northern Syria has raised concerns that ISIS members, who are detained in Syria under the control of Kurdish forces, may be freed.  There about 2,500 Islamic State foreign fighters and another 10,000 fighters from Syria and Iraq, currently being held in Syria.

Just one day before President Trump announced a withdrawal of U.S. forces, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced he would launch a military operation against the Kurds.  Bramer said the Kurds maintaining these prisons may be forced to fight or flee as Turkey moves into the region.

"All of those ISIS fighters that are in prison right now… when these Kurdish guards leave those prisons to go fight for themselves or stand by their troops… they’re leaving those prisons unattended. Now we have an opportunity where we could have the largest… prison break of ISIS fighters,” Bramer told a panel of experts on Fox Nation's "Deep Dive."

“Where will they go?” asked Wall Street Journal Editorial Board member Bill McGurn.

“They’re going to go back to Europe or they are going to stand their ground and they are going to reestablish their territory," said Bramer. “This could turn into a bad scenario where all the president’s good intentions could turn into a complete reversal of all the gains we made in the eradication of ISIS.”

Bramer also remembered a conversation that he apparently had with the current leader of ISIS in the months after the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

"Early in the Iraq war… either in my first or second deployment, I interviewed and interrogated a young Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who actually said ‘When you leave – this will happen. This void will happen,’ which it did,”  said Bramer.

Al-Baghdadi's prediction came to pass after the last U.S. troops left Iraq in December 2011 and the ISIS terror group grew and eventually eclipsed the size and influence of Al Qaeda in Iraq. Al-Baghdadi is apparently still alive and sending messages to members of the extremist group. In a new audio recording, released last month, he called on ISIS members to free detainees held in jails.

“President Obama called [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] the J.V. team," Bramer reminded the panel. “Moving forward -- our defeat of ISIS... is very, very fragile.  They didn’t collapse, they just dispersed."

“Why would he risk those gains?” McGurn asked Brad Blakeman, who is a principal at The 1600 Group consultants, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, and a former member of President George W. Bush’s senior staff.

Blakeman said that he believes that the president is confident that Turkey will not take this opportunity to massacre the Kurds.

“I think because of the assurances [Trump's] gotten from Erdogan… The jury is going to be out for a very short period of time.  We’re going to know where this thing is going… it’s going to be a black and white situation.”



Imam Building A ‘Muslim Village’ To Transform Sin City Into The City Of Light

October 11, 2019

Aysha Khan

LAS VEGAS (RNS) — Imam Fateen Seifullah wants to transform Sin City into the City of Light.

The imam, who leads Masjid As-Sabur, the oldest mosque in the Las Vegas area, is quick to clarify: “Not casino lights — I’m talking about noor,” he said, using the Arabic word for light that Muslims often use to refer to God’s divine presence.

Since 2010, Seifullah has led an initiative to develop what he calls a “Muslim Village,” just miles north of the glitz and hedonism of the Strip. His congregation has slowly but surely driven local drug houses and gangs out of the historic neighborhood known as West Las Vegas. Now, the mosque is on a mission to purchase the surrounding properties and transform them into affordable housing.

“The Muslim Village was started as a safe space for the local Muslims and non-Muslims,” Seifullah said, showing off a colorful mural painted on one of the mosque’s walls by one of the Muslim Village’s elderly residents. “Our goal has been to leave a positive physical imprint on the environment, so when people look at it they see what the Muslims have done here.”

While properties were often becoming available, few Muslims in the area saw any value in them — until the imam, who says new construction has an uplifting psychological impact, reframed the development effort as a 10-year project to create a transformative Muslim community.

Inside the growing “village” are a free medical clinic, a food pantry, a library, a community garden and a Monday-through-Friday school for youth. The mosque also provides meals, temporary housing for women facing abuse or other issues, short-term rent and utilities assistance, and a faith-based 12-step program to recover from addiction. By next year, Masjid As-Sabur hopes to expand beyond one- and two-bedroom apartments to begin constructing townhomes on the vacant lot beside the mosque.

“Initially the goal was to invigorate the community when it came to purchasing and developing property in this community that had been neglected and is so depressed,” Seifullah explained.

All the facilities and services are available to anyone of any faith who is in need. A third of the approximately 20 Muslim Village renters, most of whom are college students, women and seniors, are not Muslim.

For over a decade, the mosque has also brought together hundreds of local volunteers to arrange an annual Day of Dignity event. Led by the national Islamic Relief USA organization, which has donated to Masjid As-Sabur as part of its domestic charity program, mosques around the country spend one day a year providing hot meals, school supplies, hygiene kits, clothes, medical care and other resources to those in need, according to the organization’s website. This year’s event is scheduled for Oct. 26 in Vegas.

For Masjid As-Sabur, though, the work of service never ends.

Situated in the neighborhood around Washington Avenue and H Street, Masjid As-Sabur sits just across the street from the city’s public housing projects, where the mosque hosts a regular chess club.

“The need is surrounding us,” the imam said. He paused to greet a Muslim Village resident making his way to the mosque to perform his ablutions.

“It’s easy to do what we do to follow the path of our faith. The real tragedy is that we’re just a quarter mile from all this wealth and extravagance. The homeless and hungry are just around the corner from buffets where they throw away food.”

After Seifullah launched the Muslim Village project, the city of Las Vegas designated the area, which has one of the city’s highest homeless populations, a crime- and drug-free zone.

To Afsha Bawany, a native Las Vegan Muslim who has researched faith groups’ impact on community resilience, Masjid As-Sabur exemplifies community support.

“Masjid As-Sabur is an integral part of helping our community stay resilient and helping address economic distress, homelessness and violence prevention,” Bawany, who volunteers with the mosque, said. “It’s part of a network of volunteers that makes sure those who are most vulnerable in Southern Nevada are taken care of. They’re a prime example of what it means to live your faith.”

Over the past decade, Seifullah said, the neighborhood has become much quieter and sees less crime. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, whose officers visit the congregation weekly and have participated in the mosque’s Day of Dignity events, said it could not provide data on crime rates but noted that neighborhoods with more active communities are linked to less crime.

“There’s a bond that’s developed between our officers and the mosque,” Aden Ocampo-Gomez, public information officer for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, told Religion News Service. “Some of the officers in that area command sometimes stop by just to stop by. Not because something bad is going on, but just to hang out, talk, play with the kids and be part of the community.”

The mosque’s services are especially critical at a time when the City Council has proposed criminalizing camping, sleeping, sitting and lying down in the city’s public spaces downtown and in residential neighborhoods.

“The city officials and police have taken more of an interest in seeing this area transformed rather than just policing it aggressively,” Seifullah said. “We’ve made inroads into the community, into the heart of the projects, where gang members consider us extensions of their family. The people know us and trust us.”

While other Muslim neighborhoods in the U.S. and Canada, from upstate New York’s Islamberg community to suburban Maryland’s Ansar Peace Village, have faced backlash from some residents, Seifullah said the Muslim Village project has been welcomed with open arms by the local community.

The blocks surrounding the mosque are scattered with churches of various stripes. The mosque is neighbored by an Episcopal church and frequently partners with it for service projects.

On the other side of the mosque is a fourplex owned by a Jewish landlord, who painted his building white with emerald green trim to mirror the mosque’s adobe-style aesthetic.

“We’re an extension of this neighborhood,” Seifullah said. “Not just after 9/11 but every time there’s some incident and Muslims feel threatened, neighbors assure us they’re keeping an eye on this place for us.”

In turn, he said, locals know they can rely on Masjid As-Sabur as a safe space for shelter and support. Many of the local gang members are respectful of the mosque’s space, knowing their parents often turn to the mosque for food baskets and other social services.

“People who are neglected, people who come here for gaming and then lose everything and just need a bus ride home, they walk here because they believe they can get help here,” he said, recalling an incident when a man was shot in the projects and came to the mosque seeking assistance. “They say, ‘If anybody can help you, it’s the Muslims, go see them.’”

Faith is in Seifullah’s blood: Two of his brothers are Church of God pastors. The Louisiana native was raised in a Southern Baptist church but was drawn to the Nation of Islam’s black nationalist teachings while growing up in Los Angeles’ Compton neighborhood. In 1988, Seifullah joined Imam Warith Deen Mohammed’s movement, attracted by the faith’s promotion of discipline and brotherhood.

Seifullah began instituting social service projects at the mosque in 1999, when he joined as its imam. He was inspired by influential imam and civil rights activist Jamil Al-Amin’s work reducing crime and gang activity and revitalizing Atlanta’s impoverished West End neighborhood. (Al-Amin, who led one of the country’s largest black Muslim groups, is currently serving a life sentence for the shooting of two police officers. Many civil rights activists and American Muslims see his conviction as an anti-black and anti-Muslim conspiracy.)

Masjid As-Sabur has ministered to a handful of Muslim figures with household names, including Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali and the boxer’s daughter Laila Ali. Tyson, who was known for regularly helping vacuum the mosque’s rugs, donated $250,000 to the construction of the current mosque — more than half the cost of the work — in 1997. Muhammad Ali helped with fundraising for the same project.

Like Seifullah, the mosque emerged out of the Nation of Islam. In 1975, after NOI founder Elijah Muhammad’s death, the local African American Muslim community in Vegas split apart, mirroring a national fissure. A faction followed his son, Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, into the broader Sunni tradition of Islam. In 1982, the new community built its own mosque, originally called Masjid Muhammad. The original Nation of Islam temple, Muhammad Mosque #75, founded in the 1960s and now under the national leadership of Louis Farrakhan, is a short walk away on D Street.

“You can hear the sound of adhan here for 25 years or so in this neighborhood,” Seifullah said, the sound of the Arabic call to prayer echoing from the mosque’s speakers. Residents of the Muslim Village begin emerging from their front doors, heading toward mosque to perform their ablutions for the zuhr prayers.

Today, Masjid As-Sabur’s congregation is a mix of African Americans, immigrants and converts of various backgrounds. They’re part of Vegas’ thriving, close-knit Muslim community, which falls somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 in size, per various estimates.

“People don’t believe that there are Muslims who reside in Vegas,” Seifullah said. “But we’re here. We’re giving hope to people who have lost hope for all sorts of reasons.”



In wake of Turkish offensive, France calls for urgent meeting of anti-Islamic State coalition

John Irish

OCTOBER 10, 2019

PARIS (Reuters) - French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called for an emergency meeting of the coalition created to fight Islamic State to discuss Turkey’s offensive against Kurdish militias in northern Syria.

Le Drian said on France 2 television that the coalition, which includes more than 30 countries, needs to discuss a range of issues because Islamic State could take advantage of the changes on the ground to re-emerge.

“It (the coalition) needs to say today what are we going do, how do you, Turkey, want to proceed and how do we ensure the security of places where fighters are held? Everything needs to be on the table so that we are clear,” Le Drian said.

Turkey pounded U.S.-allied Kurdish militia in Syria for a second day on Thursday, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee and killing dozens. Turkey says the Kurdish YPG, the main component of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, is a terrorist group linked to Kurdish insurgents that have fought in Turkey for years.

France is one of the United States’ main allies in the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, with its warplanes used to strike militant targets and its special forces on the ground coordinating with Kurdish and Arab fighters.

Dozens of French Islamic State fighters are also being held by Kurdish groups in areas close to the Turkish offensive.

The United States said on Thursday that it had taken two dangerous fighters out of the area, but Le Drian said that for now France had not changed its position.

Foreign fighters should be judged and imprisoned where they had committed their crimes, he said, dismissing any possibility of them being brought home.

“We have not modified our position and that is the position shared by all the Europeans, but it means that the security of these prisons and camps have to be guaranteed,” Le Drian said.

“That’s why the Turkish offensive is extremely serious. The enemy is Islamic State and it is not dead. Either their fighters are in prisons, camps or in secret and are waiting for us to turn our attention elsewhere.”

He added that for now there was no indication that the prisons where the fighters were held were under threat.



ISIS Rears Its Head, Adding to Chaos as Turkey Battles Kurds

By Carlotta Gall and Patrick Kingsley

Oct. 11, 2019

CEYLANPINAR, Turkey — The Turkish invasion of Kurdish-held territory in northern Syria raised new fears of a resurgence of the Islamic State on Friday, as five militants escaped from a Kurdish-run prison and the extremist group claimed responsibility for a bomb that exploded in the regional capital.

As Turkish troops launched a third night of airstrikes and ground incursions, Kurdish fighters said they had thwarted a second attempt to break out of a detention camp for families of Islamic State members.

The moves compounded a mounting sense of turmoil in northeast Syria, where tens of thousands of residents were reported fleeing south. The Turkish government said its troops had advanced five miles inside part of the country. Several major roads had been blocked and a major hospital abandoned.

Since Wednesday, Turkish forces have pummeled Kurdish-held territory with airstrikes and sent in ground troops, trying to seize land controlled by a Kurdish-led militia, the Syrian Democratic Forces. That militia fought alongside United States troops in the recent war against the Islamic State.

The campaign began after President Trump suddenly ordered American troops to withdraw from the area, giving implicit approval to Turkey’s long-anticipated attack on the Kurdish-led militia.

Mr. Trump’s decision was widely criticized, including by his Republican allies in the United States, who said it was a betrayal of an ally — the Kurds — that could cause a re-emergence of the Islamic State.

The White House — concerned that Congress would pursue bipartisan sanctions legislation against Turkey — said Mr. Trump would sign an executive order giving the Treasury Department new powers to punish officials in Turkey if its military targeted ethnic and religious minorities. 

“We hope we don’t have to use them,” said Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary. “But we can shut down the Turkish economy if we need to.”

Since pulling out, American officials have expressed growing concern at the direction the Turkish incursion has taken, with officials warning on Friday that the United States would respond forcefully if Islamic State fighters were allowed to escape from prisons in the area.

On Friday afternoon, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey vowed to continue the campaign.

“The West and the U.S., together they say, ‘You are killing the Kurds’,” said Mr. Erdogan in a speech. “Kurds are our brothers. This struggle of ours is not against Kurds. It is against terror groups.”

The Turkish government has framed the campaign as a counterterrorist operation because the Kurdish-led militia has close ties with a banned Turkey-based guerrilla movement that has waged a decades-long struggle against the Turkish state.

Mr. Erdogan has promised that the fight against the Islamic State will continue, and that his forces and their allies will continue to guard any captured militants in Kurdish-held prisons.

But the operation has already proved highly disruptive to efforts to keep the Islamic State at bay. Although American and Kurdish forces have defeated Islamic State militants in northeastern Syria, the group has sleeper cells in the region that could use the turmoil to retake the land they controlled in the early years of the Syrian civil war.

And the Kurdish militia has diverted soldiers to fight the invasion and abandoned joint operations with American troops as it prioritizes the defense of its land.

On Friday, a car bomb exploded on a residential street in Qamishli, the de facto capital of the Kurdish-held region — a rare act of Islamic State terrorism in a city that was relatively free of trouble before the Turkish assault began.

The Turkish bombardment has also endangered the security of several Kurdish-run prisons for Islamic State militants, with at least three in the vicinity of continuing Turkish airstrikes. It is widely feared that in the chaos, Islamic State fighters will escape captivity, as the five did on Friday.

Kurdish authorities said shells had reached two Kurdish-controlled displacement camps, prompting officials to move some of their 20,000 inhabitants farther south.

One of the camps, in Ain Issa, has hundreds of relatives of Islamic State fighters, heightening fears over the effect that the Turkish invasion will have on the fight against the militant group.

Kurdish forces also released video of a third camp, which they said showed an effort to escape by members of Islamic State families.

A second video, seen by The New York Times, appeared to show prisoners trying to escape a Kurdish-controlled jail after it was hit by an airstrike.

While the Turkish airstrikes have hit targets along most of the 480-kilometer-long Kurdish-held territory, the ground battle has focused on two small but strategically located Syrian border towns, Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ain.

Turkish troops and their Syrian Arab allies have captured a cluster of villages around the two towns, which lie in the center of the Kurdish region. The troops have in one place established a front line five miles from the Turkish border, the Turkish vice president, Fuat Oktay, said on Friday evening, according to Turkish media.

Their presence has prompted 100,000 residents to flee south, according to United Nations estimates, and forced the evacuation of a major hospital in Tel Abyad that was run by Doctors Without Borders, an international medical charity.

A second hospital, in Ras al-Ain, was also evacuated, according to a separate report by the Rojava Information Center, an information service run by activists in the region.

Turkish mortar shells also landed close to United States troops near the city of Kobani on Friday, prompting a complaint from the American military, the Turkish Defense Ministry confirmed. No one was killed. Turkish officials said the Americans had not been targeted, though the Pentagon said Turkey had known that United States forces were in the area.

At least 54 Kurdish fighters have been killed since Wednesday, along with 42 from the Turkish-backed force, according to tolls compiled by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a conflict monitor based in Britain.

Turkish towns north of the border have also been affected, as Kurdish fighters have returned fire.

Since fighting began on Wednesday, at least 17 civilians, including four children, have been killed in Turkish border towns. At least four Turkish soldiers have died in the fighting, according to Turkish officials.

An entire Turkish border town — Ceylanpinar — was evacuated, after two girls were killed in a rocket strike Thursday and two people were seriously wounded Friday.

Ceylanpinar was largely deserted Friday afternoon, with shops shuttered and only stray dogs and a few men slipping out to chat or buy cigarettes.

“Our city is a ghost town,” complained Musa Sahman, 70, who sells a local raw meat delicacy but had no customers. “Our government is fighting for Syria, but we don’t have any business.”

But the damage has been far worse on the Kurdish side, where 60 civilians have died since Wednesday, according to the Kurdish Red Crescent.

The American decision to ally with Kurdish militias set the stage for Turkey’s invasion this week.

By capturing land previously held by the Islamic State, Kurdish fighters were then able to create an autonomous statelet that now spans roughly a quarter of all Syrian territory and is effectively independent of the central Syrian government in Damascus.

But this dynamic has been chastening for Syria’s northern neighbor, Turkey, which views the central figures in the autonomous Kurdish region as hostile actors with strong connections to a violent Kurdish nationalist group inside Turkey itself.

Turkey’s military campaign has come hand in hand with a crackdown on criticism inside Turkey.

The state-run media authority warned that it would “silence” any outlet deemed to have published material damaging to the offensive. Two editors at separate independent news websites were briefly detained, their outlets reported.

“We will never tolerate broadcasts that will negatively affect our beloved nation and glorious soldiers’ morale and motivation, that serves the aim of terror, and might mislead our citizens with faulty, wrong and biased information,” the media authority said in a statement.

The Turkish incursion has prompted a mixed reaction from the 3.6 million Syrian refugees sheltering in Turkey.

Some fear they will end up being deported to the areas recaptured by Turkish forces in northern Syria, despite having no ancestral links there. Others from the areas of northern Syria currently under attack said they welcomed the campaign.

In Turkey, on a hilltop overlooking the Syrian border and the town of Tel Abyad, a lone Syrian man, Mehmet Huseyn, 45, crouched in the shade of a rusting water tank, scanning the horizon for signs of movement.

His brother and family were in his home village, six miles beyond the ridgeline, while he had been working as a farm laborer in Turkey for four years to support his family of seven, he said.

“Our village is there,” he said. “I am looking in case they leave and we can return home.”

But it pained him to see more war visited on his home. “Our insides are burning,” he said. “We love land and our country.”

Carlotta Gall reported from Ceylanpinar and Akcakale, and Patrick Kingsley from Istanbul.  Reporting was contributed by Anton Troianovski from Moscow, Ben Hubbard from Erbil, Iraq, Hwaida Saad from Beirut, Lebanon, and Alan Rappeport from Washington.

Carlotta Gall is the Istanbul bureau chief, covering Turkey. She previously covered the aftershocks of the Arab Spring from Tunisia, reported from the Balkans during the war in Kosovo and Serbia, and covered Afghanistan and Pakistan. @carlottagall • Facebook

Patrick Kingsley is an international correspondent, based in Berlin. He previously covered migration and the Middle East for The Guardian. @PatrickKingsley



Pakistan arrests four aides of alleged mastermind of Mumbai terror attacks

Mubasher Bukhari

OCTOBER 10, 2019

LAHORE (Reuters) - Pakistani authorities on Thursday arrested four aides of Islamist leader Hafiz Saeed, the suspected mastermind of a four-day militant attack on the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008, on terrorism financing charges, counter-terrorism police said.

Saeed, arrested on the same charges, has been on judicial remand since July, a move welcomed by U.S. President Donald Trump who wants Pakistan to do more to crack down on militancy.

But Saeed’s arrest came just ahead of a visit to Washington by Prime Minister Imran Khan and was seen by rival India as a ploy to smooth the way before a meeting with Trump.

Thursday’s arrests come ahead of a meeting next week of the Financial Action Task Force, a global watchdog, which will review progress made by Pakistan on controlling terror financing and money laundering.

Pakistan, included on a so-called gray list compiled by the FATF, has been under increasing pressure to stop the financing of militant groups.

The four aides will appear before a trial court on Friday, police said in a statement.

Saeed, designated a terrorist by the United States and the United Nations, is the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, or Army of the Pure, the militant group blamed by the United States and India for the Mumbai attacks, which killed more than 160 people.

The United States has offered a $10 million reward for information leading to Saeed’s conviction.

He has denied any involvement and said his network, which includes 300 seminaries and schools, hospitals, a publishing house and ambulance services, has no ties to militant groups.



India May Restrict Palm Oil Import From Malaysia Over Kashmir Stand

October 11, 2019

India is considering restricting imports of some products from Malaysia including palm oil, according to government and industry sources, in reaction to the Southeast Asian country's leader criticising New Delhi for its actions in Kashmir.

India is looking for ways to limit palm oil imports and may place restrictions on other goods from the country, said a government source and an industry source who participated in discussions led by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry on the planned restrictions.

The sources asked not to be named as the proposal was still under discussion.

India's government was angered after Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said last month at the United Nations that India had "invaded and occupied" Jammu and Kashmir and asked New Delhi to work with Pakistan to resolve the issue.

Muslim-majority Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, which both claim it in full and have twice gone to war over the territory. India revoked the special constitutional status of its portion of Kashmir in August, angering Pakistan.

The government wants to send a strong signal of its displeasure to Malaysian authorities, the sources said.

India, the world's biggest importer of edible oils, is planning to substitute Malaysian palm oil with supplies of edible oils from countries such as Indonesia, Argentina and Ukraine, said the sources.

Palm oil accounts for nearly two-thirds of India's total edible oil imports. India buys more than 9 million tonnes of palm oil annually, mainly from Indonesia and Malaysia.

In the first nine months of 2019 India was the biggest buyer of Malaysian palm oil, taking 3.9 million tonnes, according to data compiled by the Malaysian Palm Oil Board.

A spokeswoman for India's commerce ministry said the ministry could not comment on things that were under consideration.

Malaysia's prime minister on Friday said he had not received "anything official" from India, after Reuters first reported that India was mulling restricting imports of Malaysian palm oil and other products.

The news prompted Malaysian palm oil futures to snap five days of gains to end lower on Friday evening.

The benchmark palm oil contract for December delivery on the Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Exchange that had earlier been trading up on the day, fell 0.9% to close at 2,185 ringgit ($522.23) per tonne.

A Mumbai-based refiner said it would not create a shortage of edible oils in India if buyers there stopped importing palm oil from Malaysia.

"Indonesia is eager to sell more and more palm oil to India," the refiner said, adding that India could also increase imports of soyoil from Argentina and sunflower oil from Ukraine to offset any drop in Malaysian palm oil shipments.

Indonesia wants New Delhi to increase palm oil purchases and wants to buy sugar from India in exchange.

Higher Indian imports had helped Malaysia reduce stockpiles in 2019, but stocks could rise again and prices could come under pressure if India curtails or stops imports, said a Mumbai-based dealer with a global trading firm.

India's government is also planning some restrictions on imports from Turkey, one of the government sources said, as Ankara has issued repeated statements on Kashmir, an issue that India considers an internal matter.

In addition to tensions around Kashmir, there has also been friction between India and Malaysia over Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, whom Indian authorities want extradited from Malaysia.

In 2016, an Indian counterterrorism agency accused Naik of promoting hate speech.



Taliban welcome Trump’s call to bring US troops home

11 October 2019

A Taliban spokesman is apparently carefully following President Donald Trump’s comments even though the US leader declared last month that the talks between an American peace envoy and the insurgents were “dead.”

Suhail Shaheen, the spokesman of the Taliban political office in Qatar, tweeted about Trump’s speech at a rally in Minneapolis, just a few hours after the event, welcoming the US president’s call to bring American troops home from Afghanistan.

Shaheen said early on Friday that “Trump once again promised to withdraw forces from Afghanistan” and added that this “means that ending the occupation of Afghanistan is the American people’s choice. “

Trump told Thursday’s rally that American soldiers have been in Afghanistan almost 19 years and that “it’s time to bring them home.” He got a standing ovation.





Yogi Govt. Denies Meeting Permission To Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind For Holding A Meeting On October 19 And 20

October 11, 2019

New Delhi: Uttar Pradesh denied permission to Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind for holding a meeting on October 19 and 20. The burning issues like Babri Masjid, NRC, Triple Talaq and Mob Lynching have been cited as reasons behind denying the permission. It also asserted that since by-election is to be held in an assembly constituency in the district hence permission could not be granted for the meeting.

According to the Inquilab NOC was not issued for the meeting when it was tried to be held even at Ram Leela Maidan.

President Jamiat Ulama-i-hind Maulana Arshad Madani is quite angry over this. Because the stage was all set for the meeting and tickets were also booked for the guests coming from across the country. They are disappointed because of denial of permission.

Maulana Madani said it is very unfortunate that we were stopped from organising the meeting which was already scheduled and had been earlier granted permission.



Pakistan's nefarious designs exposed, elements from across the border make #GoBackModi trend on Twitter

Oct 11, 2019

NEW DELHI: Pakistan, which has failed to counter India on all platforms across the world, has resorted to dubious means to defame the country and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. As PM Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet in Mamallapuram, near Chennai, for a historic second informal meeting, Pakistan-based elements are back to their nefarious designs of anti-India propaganda.

Twitter was flooded with #GoBack Modi tweets as PM Modi reached Chennai for the informal summit on Friday.

However, an analysis of these tweets reveal that Pakistan-based handles are behind these messages to spread anti-India propaganda.

A number of Pakistan-based Twitter accounts are vociferously promoting the trend in an apparent effort to defame India and PM Modi.

A case in example is the Twitter handle of Muzzammil Aslam, who likes to call himself "a passionate Pakistani". He tweeted -- "#GoBackModi is trending in Facebook. Let’s put our share and congratulate @ImranKhanPTI @OfficialDGISPR @peaceforchange for taking Modi to this level."

#GoBackModi is trending in Facebook. Let’s put our share and congratulate @ImranKhanPTI @OfficialDGISPR…

— Muzzammil Aslam (@MuzzammilAslam3) 1570780002000

There were several others like him from across the border who used the hashtag to spread anti-India propaganda. Some used the hashtag to promote their hate-filled agenda towards the Indian government.

#GoBackModi Hitler Modi Stop Killing in Kashmir.

— Asad Munir (@AsadAsadmunir3w) 1570784274000

🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣 #GoBackModi #RafalePuja

— Nooria Hooria (@HooriaNooria) 1570784079000

Lots of love for Tamil nation from Pakistan 😍😍�� #GoBackModi

— Ammar Khalid (@AMMARkhalidKHAN) 1570784044000

#TurkeyisnotAlone Turkey is Not Alone Love for Pakistan🇹🇷🇵🇰 #WakeUpForKashmir #GoBackModi #ModiHitler

— Jamshaid (@jamshaidasi) 1570784061000

#GoBackModi 希特勒上台後並沒有解決問題,但他對毀了德國! 希特勒的口號是“好時光會來” 意思是“好日子會來”! 當希特勒的政黨獲勝並第一次去德國議會時,希特勒哭了很多!就像莫迪

ASAD AHMAD KHAN (@realKhanArsh) 1570785439000

#TurkeyisnotAlone why the world is now complaining. When they stood silently while #India occupied Kashmir. .…

Habib Shabbir (@HabibShabbir) 1570781595000

Imran khan about Kashmir #BREAKING #KashmirBleeds #Kashmir #GoBackModi

Muhammad Azeem (@mazeem44) 1570781920000

#PAKISTAN #ZindaBad 🇵🇰 #Muslims Not A Terrorist #Islam Is The Religion Of Peace Say Not Terrorist #Muslims No Anyo…

Muhammad Rehan (@Rehan_Aujla) 1570785824000

67 days of indian brutality in valley.Kasmir bany ga Pakistan. #IndianWarCrime #GoBackModi

ykrana (@ykrana10) 1570783527000



Jamia Hamdard to confer honorary doctorate to Frank F Islam

11 OCTOBER 2019

New Delhi, Oct 11 (IANS) Jamia Hamdard, an institute of higher education announced that it will confer Honorary Doctorate to Dr. Frank F. Islam.

Islam will be formally conferred Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) by the Jamia Hamdard University in a Special Convocation on 15th October, 2019, the registrar of the institute, S. S. Akhtar said in a statement.

Islam is an information technology entrepreneur, investor, philanthropist, civic leader, and writer who heads the FI Investment Group. He was the founder and CEO of the QSS Group and has served on numerous boards and advisory councils including the Board of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Board of Directors, Strathmore Center for the Arts, Ford''s Theater Society Board of Trustees and Kennedy Center International Committee on the Arts.

Islam joins the list of other distinguished recipients who have been honoured by Jamia Hamdard which includes N. R. Narayana Murthy (Co-Founder of Infosys), Bharat Ratna C.N. R. Rao, Sheila Dikshit (Former Delhi CM).

Full report at:




Govt ads in J&K papers counter ‘terror tactic’

Oct 11, 2019

SRINAGAR: Front-page advertisements published by the J&K administration in some Srinagar newspapers on Friday spoke of the "same tactic of threats and coercion" being repeatedly employed by terrorists and appealed to Kashmiris to break free of the "endless cycle of terrorism, violence, destruction and poverty".

"Closed shops, no public transport? Who benefits? Are we going to succumb to militants? Think!!!" says the opening text of an ad that appeared in a prominent local English daily. It goes on to describe how "for over 70 years now, the people of J&K have been misled", leaving them "victims of a vicious campaign and motivated propaganda".

Contrasting their plight with that of separatists who "sent their children to exotic lands to study, work and earn", the ad leads to a section headlined "We are at the crossroads today".

A series of questions follows. "Will we let a few posters and threats push us into not resuming our businesses, into not earning our legitimate livelihood, into not securing a rightful education and secure future for our children, into not letting development bloom for our Kashmir?"

The administration's appeal through paid ads coincided with suspected terrorists setting fire to two shops in the S R Gunj area of the old city for apparently defying their diktat to open only during the designated hours. Posters asking traders to stick to three hours of business in the morning and evening had appeared in Srinagar within days of the lockdown being eased.

Full report at:



500 terrorists waiting in PoK to sneak into Kashmir: Northern Command chief

Oct 11, 2019

JAMMU: Nearly 500 terrorists in various training camps along the Line of Control in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) are waiting to sneak into India, the Northern Army commander, Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, said on Friday.

Even today the terror infrastructure is being run within Pakistan covertly or overtly, including arms training and launching pads for terrorists to infiltrate into the country, he said. “Around 500 terrorists are waiting in various training camps along the LoC in PoK looking for opportunities to sneak into Jammu and Kashmir,” said Lt Gen Singh, who was the chief guest at the launch of the five-day “Sangam Youth Festival” organised by the Army in Bhaderwah.

Replying to a query about the headcount of terrorists operating in J&K and in PoK, Lt Gen Singh said 200 to 300 terrorists, supported by Pakistan, are operating in the hinterland of J&K to keep the region in turmoil.

He added that the headcount keeps changing as per the training schedule at terror camps across the LoC. “Whatever the number, we (security forces) are capable of stopping and eliminating them to ensure peace and normalcy in this region,” he said.

Full report at:



600 ceasefire violations along LoC recorded in last two months; India warns Pakistan

Oct 11, 2019

NEW DELHI: The Line of Control with Pakistan remains extremely volatile, with over 600 ceasefire violations being recorded over the last two months and New Delhi warning Islamabad to desist from targeting civilian areas in the ongoing cross-border mortar and artillery duels.

Army sources on Friday said the hotline between the two directorate generals of military operations was used last week to warn the Pakistan Army to stop shelling civilian areas or be prepared to face the consequences.

The Army commanders’ conference, which will be held from October 14 to 19 under the chairmanship of General Bipin Rawat, is also slated to review the operational situation along the LoC with Pakistan as well as the “northern borders” with China. “The apex level leadership of Indian Army will brainstorm on all the current emerging security and administrative challenges to chart the future course for the force,” said a senior officer.

Overall, the number of ceasefire violations (CFVs) recorded by the Indian Army along the 778-km long LoC has already crossed 2,320 this year, breaking all annual records since 2003. The security forces have gunned down 147 terrorists in different operations along the LoC as well in the hinterland in J&K, while 31 soldiers have laid down their lives till now this year.

“There has also been frequent caliber-escalation during the CFVs, which in effect means that heavy mortars and artillery guns are coming into play instead of just small arms and light mortars. The Indian Army is responding pro-actively,” said a source.

The already violent LoC turned especially red-hot after the Modi government on August 5 revoked the special status of J&K and moved to split the state into two union territories. “Though there was an upward trend in the CFVs since July, the number drastically shot up after August 5. There were 307 CFVs in August. In September, the number stood at 292, which is triple the number of CFVs recorded in September in 2017 and 2018,” said the source.

Just in September, there were as many as 61 incidents of caliber-escalation, with the two armies targeting each other with light artillery guns, anti-tank guided missiles and heavy mortars with civilians being often caught in the middle. The fiercest cross-border duels have taken place in areas like Nowshera, Poonch, Bhimber Gali and Krishna Ghati, among others.

Full report at:



Mahabalipuram Summit: Modi and Xi talk trade, terror and threat they face from radicalisation

by Shubhajit Roy

October 12, 2019

Picking up from Wuhan where they met in April last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, on Day 1 of their second informal summit, Friday said that “radicalisation was a matter of concern” to both countries and they would work together to see that radicalisation and terror do not affect the fabric of the multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious societies in their countries.

Disclosing what transpired at the 150-minute one-on-one discussion between the two leaders in the seaside town of Mahabalipuram near Chennai, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said both leaders felt that radicalisation and terror was a “common challenge” for both countries which are “diverse” and “complex”.

While sources did not rule out the possibility of J&K having been discussed, the indications are that the Chinese were referring to the radicalisation among Uighurs in Xinjiang province.

“Both leaders said they were large countries, and that radicalisation was a matter of concern to both. And that both would work together . The two leaders also discussed issues pertaining to the trade deficit and how to enhance the trade volume, and tried to identify areas of investments,” Gokhale said.

He said the two leaders talked about their respective “national vision” and “governance priorities”. Modi told Xi that having been recently elected for a second term, he had received a renewed mandate for economic development. To this, Xi said that he was looking forward to working very closely with the Prime Minister on all issues during the next four-and-half-years.

The two leaders sat on a separate round table at the dinner tent near the Shore temple. Modi, who was dressed in traditional Tamil attire, and Xi in an informal white shirt and black trousers, spent “quality time”, sipping coconut water.

The Prime Minister gave a guided tour of the seventh century majestic monuments built by the Pallava Dynasty in the seventh century – which are a UNESCO heritage site.

Xi, according to Gokhale, said that he was “overwhelmed” by the hospitality while the PM spoke of the trade links between southern India and China’s Fujian Province. Incidentally, Xi was Governor of Fujian province.

At Arjuna’s Penance, one of the monuments where they spent time, Modi was said to have explained the underlying philosophical meaning that “man and nature live in harmony with each other”, and that this particular monument was a reflection of that.

Referring to the monuments, he also said that India, like China, is also a civilization with a long history.

At the Shore temple, the two leaders were joined in by the Indian delegation comprising NSA Ajit Doval, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar among others, while the Chinese delegation included Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, State Councillor Yang Jiechi, Politburo member Ding Xuexiang and senior leader He Lifeng.

The two leaders will meet again Saturday at the Tango Hall in Taj Fisherman’s Cove, which will be followed by delegation-level talks.

After the discussions, Modi tweeted, “Mamallapuram is one of the most beautiful places in India, full of vibrancy. It is linked to commerce, spirituality and is now a popular tourism centre. I am delighted that President Xi Jinping and I are spending time in this scenic place, which is also a @UNESCO heritage site.”

“Arjuna’s Penance is one of the grandest places to see in Mamallapuram. It brings to life aspects of the Mahabharata. Arjuna’s Penance also showcases the best of Pallava Art, especially the depiction of nature and animals.”

Full report at:



Uttar Pradesh: Four held for ‘links’ with terror funding racket

October 12, 2019

Uttar Pradesh’s Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS), in a joint operation with Lakhimpur Kheri police, on Thursday arrested four people for their alleged involvement in a terror funding network across India.

Police have recovered Rs 4.75 lakh in Indian currency and Nepalese Rs 1.35 lakh.

The four suspects — Ummed Ali, Sanjay Agarwal, Sameer Salmani alias Sonu and Airaj Ali — were arrested from Nighasan area of Kheri district in the night.

While Salmani is a native of Bareilly, others belong to Lakhimpur Kheri. Police seized their cellphones and were trying to retrieve call data.

The suspects were produced before a local court, which sent them to jail, said Additional Superintendent of Police, Lakhimpur Kheri, Shailendra Lal.

UP DGP Om Prakash Singh said the case would be transferred to the ATS for investigation. “If need be, the ATS will seek police remand of the accused,” said Singh.

According to the police, two residents of Nepal — Vijay Singh and Chandra Bhuda — used to transfer money to the accused.

The Nepal Police had arrested the duo in connection with another case. The DGP said the money sent from the neighbouring country was allegedly then handed over to those involved in terror activities.

Police claimed that during interrogation, the four men told them that they used to transfer money on directions of four other men — Mumtaz, Faheem and Sadakat Ali of Bareilly and Sirajudeen, whose hometown or current address has not been ascertained. The UP Police is conducting raids to trace them.

The arrested men also told the police that they would get money transferred from other countries to some bank accounts in Nepal, said an officer.

The money would later be withdrawn, brought to India and converted to Indian currency.

Full report at:



Pakistan trying to push in infiltrators to keep J&K in turmoil: Army

by Arun Sharma

October 12, 2019

Northern Army Commander Lt General Ranbir Singh said on Friday that although the situation in Kashmir has considerably improved after the scrapping of special status, it remains fragile due to continued attempts by Pakistan to push in militants.

“Ever since the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A, there has been a significant improvement in all the violence parameters in Jammu and Kashmir… there has been reduction in terrorist-initiated incidents, stone-pelting incidents and there has also been a reduction in protests that were carried out by large number of crowds coming out,’’ he told mediapersons at the opening of a youth festival in Doda district’s Bhaderwah town.

“… but the situation remains fragile because Pakistan continues attempts to push in infiltrators so they can keep Jammu and Kashmir in a state of turmoil,’’ he said, adding, “we are duty-bound, prepared and fully equipped to ensure their designs are not allowed to succeed’’.

Terrorist training camps are still active across the border and Pakistan is trying to provide them all kinds of support, including weapons, he said, adding that the recent air-dropping of weapons in Punjab with the help of drones was a step in that direction. He assured that the Army was competent and fully prepared to foil all such designs.

To a question about infiltration by Afghan militants, he said that though some reports have appeared in the media, there has been no corroboration on the ground. The Army’s multi-tier counter-infiltration mechanism along the Line of Control (LoC) is strong and fully competent to check any sort of infiltration, he said, adding that if any infiltrator succeeds in sneaking in, he would get killed as the Army also has a counter-terrorism grid in the hinterland.

Referring to reports regarding infiltration by terrorists into J&K, the Northern Army Commander said that “as far as our counter-infiltration grid is concerned, we are able to thwart infiltration bids at the LoC itself’’. Pointing out that if infiltrators do not get caught at the first tier, they possibly get trapped in the next tiers.

In response to a question, he said that there were 200-300 militants active in the state. About their number across the LoC, he said that nearly 500 are at training camps and launch pads at any given time, waiting to infiltrate. However, these are approximate figures and keep on changing, depending upon the number of new militants trained and the de-radicalisation of some of them, he said.

Full report at:



South Asia


Airstrikes kill 8 militants in Afghanistan's eastern Ghazni province


GHAZNI, Afghanistan, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- Afghan air force launched airstrikes against a position of militants loyal to the Taliban outfit in Giro district of the eastern Ghazni province late Thursday night killing eight, Aref Nuri, the provincial governor's spokesman said Friday.

In the sorties, several militants were injured, the official said, adding the security forces also captured a number of arms and ammunition.

No security personnel and civilians had been harmed during the air raids, Nuri asserted.

Taliban outfit has yet to make comment.



4 Ansar al Islam men arrested

October 12, 2019

Police have arrested four suspected members of banned militant outfit Ansar al Islam in the capital’s Jatrabari area.

Shahin alias Omar, Saiful Islam, Hanifuzzaman alis Biplob and Al Mamun were arrested on Thursday night with three machetes, said counterterrorism officials.

According to law enforcers, the four recently left their homes and received training in Bandarban hills in using machetes.

Monirul Islam, chief of the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said the arrestees are “active members of Ansar al Islam”.

“The four along with some other operatives from different districts received one month’s training in Bandarban followed by a week-long training in the Sundarbans area.

“They recently gathered in the capital to carry out an act of sabotage as part of their organisational plan,” Monirul told a press briefing at the DMP’s Media Centre yesterday.

He said the militants used to carry out their activities in the hilly area in the guise of running a coffee shop. They communicated with each other by using different social media platforms, including the Facebook Messenger.

The CTTC chief said Ansar al Islam operatives usually stab their targeted victims to death and carry arms only to ensure that they can escape easily after carrying out attacks.

Officials said Shahin, student of a South Korean university, opened a Facebook group with like-minded youths and later joined the militant outfit.

Full report at:



Rohingya Refugees Who Returned to Myanmar on Their Own Say They Still Face Hardship


Some of the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who fled a brutal military-led crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in 2017 and sought refuge in neighboring Bangladesh say they have not been able to go back to their original villages after returning to Rakhine of their own volition.

Thousands of members of the Muslim minority group were killed during the violence, and more than 740,000 others escaped across the border, where they now live in sprawling displacement camps in southeastern Bangladesh.

About 6,000 of the refugees took up shelter in a so-called “no-man’s land” near a border crossing point along Bangladesh’s frontier with Myanmar.

They, along with others in camps in Bangladesh proper, have demanded that the Myanmar government grant them citizenship, ensure their safety, and rebuild their destroyed houses before they agree to return home.

But about 300 refugees who returned to Rakhine state of their own volition say they still face unfavorable conditions that persecute them and prevent them from being able to live in their original villages, which were burned down during the crackdown.

One returnee who gave his name as Einu and left Balukhali refugee camp No. 2 in Bangladesh on Oct. 10, 2018, said he finds it difficult to support his five family members by taking on various odd jobs to earn a living.

The Myanmar government denies the Rohingya citizenship, viewing them as migrants from Bangladesh, and restricts them from free movement, jobs, and education.

Though Myanmar and Bangladesh have attempted to repatriate the Rohingya refugees three times under a bilateral agreement, none of them have returned, out of fear for their safety and a lack of rights and full citizenship status.

Officials on both sides have said that they made the refugees aware of the option, but Einu said Bangladesh authorities never informed him about the bilateral agreement and that he and his family could return to Rakhine.

“Nobody asked if we want to return to Myanmar or not,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service. “Nobody talked about the repatriation.”

The former refugee said he later returned on his own after contacting the administrator of Kyeinchaung village in northern Rakhine’s Maungdaw township, where he previously lived.

“After I discussed it with him, we returned through the repatriation camp,” Einu said. “At that time, the bilateral agreement for refugee repatriation between Myanmar and Bangladesh had been signed, but no one informed us about it. Nobody asked for the list of people who wanted to return. I returned on my own arrangement.”

Einu and his family did not have to stay in temporary camps after they arrived at the Taungbyo repatriation center in the morning, and Myanmar authorities transported them directly to Maungdaw the same day, he said.

He wants to live in Kyeinchaung village again, but it’s not likely because no Rohingya Muslims now live there. In the meantime, he must pay 80,000 kyats (U.S. $50) a month to rent a house in Maungdaw town.

Though the authorities provide food rations, Einu said he has had to take odd jobs to support his family’s basic needs.

Kept in the dark

Mahmud Shari, another Rohingya who returned to Myanmar with his family last year, said he knows of many refugees in Bangladesh who want to go back to Rakhine state but were kept in the dark about the repatriation option.

“In Bangladesh, only refugees from camp Nos. 26, 27, and 28 know about the bilateral agreement for repatriation,” he said. “The list of people who wanted to return was prepared only for those camps. Some people in those camps wanted to return, but others did not.”

Those who refused to go back cited concerns that they would not be able to return to their villages and be forced to resettle somewhere else.

“I think that’s the main thing that prevented them from returning,” he said.

Mahmud Shari returned with his family on his own after contacting Myanmar authorities.

He used to live in a village in Maungdaw township, but now he must rent a home in another area because his community was wiped out during the 2017 crackdown.

Anwar, the administrator of Maungdaw’s Pantawpyin village, said about 10 Rohingya refugees from his village returned to Rakhine state and now must rent homes.

“In the last two months, some people who have returned via reception centers live in Pantawpyin,” he said, adding that the government provides food assistance to the 11 returnees.

“Some are from Alae Thankyaw village, and others are from other villages,” he said. “They came here because they don’t have any relatives who live in Alae Thankyaw, but they have some relatives in Pantawpyin, so they decided to settle here. The government has said they will built separate housing for these people.”

Some Rohingya refugees who have returned to Rakhine say the government’s denial of full citizenship rights is their main challenge.

Myanmar authorities in reception camps have issued returning Rohingya National Verification Cards (NVCs) as a precursor to applying for citizenship if they qualify.

But those who have applied for citizenship with a newly issued NVC report that no progress has been made on their applications, even after a year.

The Myanmar government has not explained such delays in the citizenship applications process for NVC holders.

‘Government is not doing it right’

Khin Maung, a Muslim community leader from Maungdaw, said many more refugees would return from Bangladesh if the Myanmar government guaranteed them citizenship and other basic rights.

“If these people were allowed to return to their homeland and given citizenship and free movement, even within Rakhine state, it would draw in many more to return,” he said. “People who live across the border asked me, ‘Why should we return? Even those who remained there have no rights,’” he said.

A man named Khin Maung who lived in Thinkhali refugee camp No. 13 in Bangladesh said the Myanmar government should first create an environment that guarantees the safety of the returnees.

“We Rohingya refugees made it clear about the conditions that we need for repatriation,” he said. “We need to be recognized as citizens unconditionally. We want them to cancel the plan for issuing the NVC cards. We want to be able to return to our homes. We also want international protection.”

“We will not return until these demands are fulfilled,” he said. “The Myanmar government needs to create conditions that guarantee our safe return.”

Nickey Diamond, a Myanmar human rights specialist with Fortify Rights, said Myanmar and Bangladesh need to do more than just agree to a plan to repatriate the Rohingya refugees.

“The authorities should consider whether it is their fault that the refugees have not returned because they are not doing it the right way,” he said.

“This issue cannot be resolved through a bilateral agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh alone,” he said, adding that the governments of the two countries did not include any refugees in their discussions about the repatriation pact.

“They never invited the Rohingya refugees and tried to learn what they really want,” he said. “It’s not surprising that it has been three years but no one has returned. I think it is because the government is not doing it right.”

Ethnic cleansing fears

The Rohingya who have been living in Rakhine following displacement from their homes by communal violence with ethnic Rakhines in five townships in 2012 have also raised concerns about their safety.

Displaced Rohingya who were forced into camps following attacks and riots in Kyaukphyu, Sittwe, Kyauktaw, Pauktaw, and Myebon townships seven years ago say they face an uncertain future.

They expressed alarm following a report issued in mid-September by the Independent International Fact-finding Mission (FFM) set up by the U.N. Human Rights, warning that the roughly 600,000 Rohingya who remain in Myanmar face a “serious risk of genocide.” The FFM also called for Myanmar to be held responsible for the violence against the Rohingya.

Some members of Rohingya communities in Sittwe, Buthidaung, and Maungdaw townships told RFA that they are worried about possible ethnic cleansing, while others believe it is impossible for Myanmar to try to eliminate their ethnic group completely.

“It is not necessary to kill us to commit ethnic cleansing,” said Kyaw Hla, a former resident of Thae Chaung refugee camp in Sittwe. “They pushed us onto the path that we will become lifeless without killing us. We are now adrift on this path.”

Local Muslim leaders who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of arrest and prosecution said government policies that restrict their movements and marginalize the minority group by denying them access to health care, education, jobs, and citizenship, have been put in place to eliminate the ethnic group.

Others bemoan day-to-day hardships and a lack of rights under the systematic discrimination they face.

“We continue to face all sorts of troubles,” said Kyaw Hla, who lives in the Thae Chaung camp in Sittwe. “We don’t have any rights.”

“We were citizens for many generations,” Kyaw Hla said. “We hold three-folded national ID cards. Now they require us to get National Verification Cards and to apply for citizenship again. It is apparent persecution.”

National Registration Cards (NRCs), also called three-folded cards, are a form of citizenship documentation that are green in color for men and pink for women. The cards were collected by the government in the late 1980s and in most cases replaced by cards indicating full citizenship, though the holders had to periodically renew them. The government continues to issue NRCs in certain circumstances, according to a March report on the Rohingya by the U.K.’s Home Office.

The Myanmar government says it is in the process of issuing NVCs to Rohingya who qualify for them as the first step to attaining Myanmar citizenship, though many Rohingya oppose the documents, saying that they stigmatize them.

Thae Chaung camp resident Ba Sein likened his living place to a concentration camp, given the restrictions on movement and little or no access to basic rights and services to which the Rohingya are subjected.

Full report at:





Ethiopia PM Abiy wins Nobel Peace Prize for mending ties with Eritrea

11 October 2019

Hailed as a visionary and reformer, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for his efforts to resolve the long-running conflict with neighboring foe Eritrea.

Abiy was honored “for his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea,” the Nobel Committee said.

Since coming to power in April 2018, after years of civil unrest in the nation, 43-year-old Abiy Ahmed has started mending relations with Eritrea following decades of conflict between the countries.

On July 9, 2018, following a historic meeting in Eritrea’s capital Asmara, Abiy and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki formally ended a 20-year-old stalemate between the countries in the wake of the 1998-2000 border conflict.

A peace deal was signed later that year, and embassies have been reopened and flight routes between the countries resumed.

The continent’s youngest leader has instilled a certain optimism in a region of Africa marred by violence.

“There is a wind of hope blowing in the Horn of Africa,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in September 2018.

The Nobel jury stressed that the Peace Prize was “also meant to recognise all the stakeholders working for peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia and in the East and Northeast African regions.”

The Committee singled out Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki for praise, noting that “peace does not arise from the actions of one party alone.”

“When Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed reached out his hand, President Afwerki grabbed it, and helped to formalize the peace process between the two countries.”

The committee had to choose from more than 300 nominations this year.

Online betting sites had put Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg - who has already received Amnesty International’s top honor and the Right Livelihood Award, sometimes dubbed the “alternative Nobel” - as the name to beat.

Last year, the honor went to Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege and Yazidi campaigner Nadia Murad, for their work in fighting sexual violence in conflicts around the world.

This year’s prize will be presented at a ceremony in Oslo on December 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of prize creator Alfred Nobel, a Swedish philanthropist and scientist.

The award consists of a gold medal, a diploma, and nine million Swedish kronor (around $912,000).



Airstrikes devastated ISIS camps in Libya, defense official says


October 10, 2019

STUTTGART, Germany — A series of recent airstrikes in Libya against Islamic State targets were delivered to “devastating effect,” eliminating roughly one-third of the group’s already weakened fighting force in the country, a defense official said Thursday.

U.S. Africa Command launched four airstrikes in Libya in September, resuming attacks after a one-year pause. The strikes killed 43 ISIS fighters who were operating out of desert camps.

“We assess that was a pretty significant degradation of their capability,” said the defense official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

There are now only about 100 ISIS fighters believed to be operating in Libya, the official said. Leading up to the airstrikes, AFRICOM had seen an uptick in attacks in Libya by the militant group, which had taken advantage of an ongoing civil war in the country that has pitted a U.S.-backed government against the so-called Libyan National Army, commanded by rebel leader Khalifa Hifter. While the two forces fought against each other, ISIS launched attacks of its own against the warring sides.

Still, ISIS in Libya has struggled to regenerate in the years since it had some 5,000 fighters in the country and dominated a 200-mile coastal section in the north where it had a burgeoning government of its own. However, all but about 200 ISIS members were killed in 2015 when AFRICOM launched a massive airstrike campaign in coordination with government-aligned forces. The remaining fighters dispersed throughout the country.

Though degraded, military officials warn the chaos in Libya still provides a potential haven for militants. Moreover, there are fears that fighters in Libya could coordinate with other more powerful ISIS affiliates in other parts of Africa, such as groups in the western Sahel region, which have been expanding in power.

With ISIS’ main force in Iraq and Syria under pressure, the group is placing greater emphasis on global affiliates, particularly in Africa, the defense official said.

Since NATO’s 2011 bombing campaign that helped overthrow longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Libya has been embroiled in a civil war that has pitted a U.S.-backed central government against various militia groups.

The United States is now pushing for a political deal between Hifter and Libya’s Government of National Accord.

Full report at:



At least 20 Boko Haram militants surrender to Nigerian troops


ABUJA, Oct. 10 (Xinhua) -- At least 20 Boko Haram militants surrendered to Nigerian troops following various clearance operations in the country's northeast region, according to local security officials on Thursday.

Among them, 15 high-profile militants laid down their arms during an operation by the army and the government-backed militia, the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), at Pulka village in the Gwoza area of the northeastern state of Borno, said Bashir Kaka, a CJTF leader.

Kaka said some of the Boko Haram leaders who surrendered during the operation on Wednesday were among those earlier declared wanted by the army.

A chief driver of the Boko Haram terror group was also arrested during the operation, he said.

Aminu Iliyasu, a spokesman of the army in Borno, told Xinhua that five additional militants had surrendered to troops in Gamboru Ngala and Dikwa local government areas of the state in similar operations.

The militants, Iliyasu said, had stated that they had to surrender to troops due to the severe hunger resulting from the blockade of their supply routes and arrest of their logistics suppliers and collaborators, as well as constant bombardments of their artilleries and criminal hideouts, in previous operations.

"In the northeast theatre, as troops intensify the bombardment of identified locations of Boko Haram and blockade of the militants' crossing points and escape routes, more militants are giving up the fight and surrendering to troops," he added.

Full report at:



Destroying a fragile peace, terrorists wreak havoc in West Africa

By Danielle Paquette

OCTOBER 10, 2019

  MOPTI, Mali — The girls don’t know each other, but they live in identical plastic tents about a mile apart. They’re both 12, struggling to adjust here, pining for what they can see only in their dreams.

“The cows, goats and sheep,” said Hamsa, a daughter of Fulani herders.

“Our house made of stone,” said Mariam, a daughter of Dogon farmers.

Their families escaped to neighboring camps this spring after gunmen stormed their rural villages in central Mali, spraying bullets into bedrooms and torching grain huts. Their people had shared that land in a fragile peace for decades before the terrorists invaded, setting off a surge of violence between the two communities.

Islamist militants who once tried to conquer Mali by force are striking again with an insidious new strategy, security analysts say: Fighters linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State are provoking feuds between old neighbors — the Fulani and the Dogon — and gaining ground by offering to protect victims of the conflict they’re stoking. Now a record number of people are fleeing their homes in this West African nation twice the size of Texas.

The Mopti region of Mali. (Jane Hahn for The Washington Post)

The extremist groups “broke down systems that usually deal with intercommunity violence,” said Dennis Hankins, U.S. ambassador to Mali.

Chaos has spilled south into countries previously unshaken by terrorism, including Burkina Faso and Benin, and threatens to turn a growing swath of West Africa into a refuge for Islamist groups who have lost territory in Syria and Iraq and aim to rouse followers elsewhere.

Mali has sent a third of its armed forces into the restive Mopti region, where they’re backed by soldiers from France and the United Nations, as well as American intelligence and logistics. The battle fought on some of the world’s harshest terrain shows no sign of abating, experts say, as extremists appeal to communities in need by claiming they can offer services the government has failed to supply.

Malians who flee to Sevare, a dusty garrison town in Mopti, divide into camps by ethnic group. But inside those concrete walls, common sentiments emerge: People say they don’t actually hate their neighbors. They’re not sure how this happened — how dormant tensions could explode into massacres.

Like many from both communities, two girls in plastic tents are gripped by the same desire.

“I really miss my village,” said soft-spoken Hamsa, who lives in the Fulani camp, where she busies herself with the French alphabet.

“I hope we can return soon,” said chatty Mariam, who lives on the Dogon side and prefers numbers.

LEFT: Hamsa lives in the Fulani camp, where she focuses on school and busies herself with the French alphabet. RIGHT: Mariam lives in the Dogon camp and said she misses her house made of stone. (Photos by Jane Hahn for The Washington Post)

The fighting that upended their lives has killed 817 civilians since January, up from about 574 in the previous year, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project. Between January and June, 150 children were killed, per U.N. figures.

And at least 140,000 people have been forced from their homes this year, according to a September report from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center — a nearly sevenfold upswing over the past 12 months.

Among them are the Dogon, who hunt, farm and practice a mix of religions in central Mali, and the Fulani, who are primarily Muslim and herd cattle across West Africa. The groups have tangled over the years, especially as climate change has shrunk fertile land.

Tensions boiled over in March when gunmen surrounded a Fulani village, setting dwellings ablaze and killing nearly 160 people. Then an ambush on a Dogon community in June claimed dozens more lives.

Leaders from both ethnic groups have denied involvement in the attacks, which followed smaller bursts of tit-for-tat violence, but villagers from both sides said in interviews they were certain the other was responsible. They criticized the military for failing to shield them. (The government has said it lacks the resources to patrol the vast countryside.)

Fueling the fight was an enemy in the shadows, according to Western officials and security analysts. Unknown gunmen have targeted Dogon chiefs and Fulani imams in recent years, eliminating leaders who had negotiated harmony between the ethnic groups for generations.

The al-Qaeda branch JNIM and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara publicly urged the Fulani to join their ranks for protection, sparking accusations the herders were harboring terrorists.

The Fulani denied the claim and accused the Malian military of arming Dogon hunters to destroy them.

Amid the confusion, no one was there to help Hamsa and Mariam when the conflict reached their doorsteps. Both families fled in March, unsure of where they were going. Both girls have nightmares. Both lost relatives.

“My grandparents,” the Fulani daughter said.

“My uncle,” the Dogon daughter said.

A young boy sits in the doorway of a tent during a storm. (Jane Hahn for The Washington Post)

A devastating chain reaction

The story of how Hamsa and Mariam found themselves in neighboring settlements starts eight years ago and 1,400 miles northeast with the fall of the Libyan government.

Mercenaries once employed by Moammar Gaddafi flooded back to their native Mali in 2011 with machine guns and grenades, unleashing a devastating chain reaction.

Some of these ethnic Tuareg rebels forged a shaky partnership with Islamist militants in a quest to claim Mali’s north, which failed after France stepped in. (The rebels signed a peace agreement with the government in 2015.)

But terrorism is a stubborn menace. It crept to Mali’s more populated center. Extremist leaders weakened in the Middle East called on Africans to take up the fight.

“From [Afghanistan] to Iraq to Yemen, to Somalia to western and central Africa,” Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi said in a recording released in September. “Sacrifice your lives if you have to.”

This cause is tempting to some young men, who analysts say have grown desperate for food in recent years as opportunity dried up in Mali’s center and the government focused on securing the capital city, Bamako, about 400 miles southwest.

EFT: At least 140,000 people have been forced from their homes this year because of the fighting, according to a September report. RIGHT: Mariam, 12, and her mother, Aissata Toulema, 44, stand outside their family's tent. (Photos by Jane Hahn for The Washington Post)

Criminal gangs in their neighborhoods were clogging main roads, killing at random as they trafficked drugs. Herders couldn’t move livestock, and farmers couldn’t sell crops.

Mali became “a haven for many terror groups to stage and launch attacks across the region,” Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, former head of the United States Africa Command, said in a February speech.

Tourism dried up in the region known for historical mosques, camping under the stars, dwellings carved into sandstone cliffs and a celebrated music scene. (Bono performed at a Timbuktu festival with Malian group Tinariwen in 2012.)

Now foreign governments warn tourists to avoid Mali. “Do not travel,” reads the U.S. State Department’s advisory, and if you do: “Draft a will.”

Under mounting pressure, former prime minister Soumeylou Boubèye Maïga and his entire government resigned in April.

A woman speaks to a man on a boat at a harbor on the Niger River, a major lifeline for the country. (Jane Hahn for The Washington Post)

His replacement, Boubou Cisse, ordered roughly 15,000 troops to the country’s center this spring in response to the escalating bloodshed. (His predecessor said Mali lacked the manpower to stop the conflict, but critics accuse the country’s leaders of taking too long to integrate former Tuareg rebels into their forces after repelling the takeover.)

Violence spiked again Oct. 1 when extremists ambushed two army outposts, killing 25 soldiers and stealing their equipment.

And people in makeshift camps wonder when they can go home.

Two girls. Same confusion.

Hamsa, the daughter of Fulani herders, misses the clay.

She used to dig for beige earth after a downpour and sculpt little families of cows.

It’s harder to find at her camp, which UNICEF runs with the Malian government. About 150 people from her ethnic group share a space the size of a football field. Sheep graze around their tents — reminders of home.

A bus took her 74 miles to Sevare, which has a military base, a bar named after Facebook, a photo studio and some 40,000 people trying to carry on as normal.

Extremists bombed a regional counterterrorism headquarters here last summer, and last month a bus hit a land mine outside town, killing 14. (The al-Qaeda branch JNIM released a rare apology on social media — it was intended, they said, for French soldiers.)

LEFT: “I had a lot of freedom,” Hamsa says. RIGHT: On slow afternoons, Mariam thinks of her mare — a gray beauty with white spots. (Photos by Jane Hahn for The Washington Post)

“It’s difficult to say what brought us here,” said Hamsa’s father, Drissa Bolly. “I’d never in my life experienced ethnic violence. I don’t know who did this.”

Across town, Mariam, the daughter of Dogon farmers, hears similar confusion from her mother.

Full report at:



Conflicts and terrorism disturbing Africa's progress: legislator


JOHANNESBURG, Oct. 10 (Xinhua) -- Africa's quest to achieve economic development is being stifled by terrorism and conflicts, said a Pan-African Parliament member on Thursday.

Kone Aboubacar Sidiki, Chairperson of the Committee on Cooperation, International Relations and Conflict Resolutions, said some terrorist groups like Boko Haram, al-Shabaab use cyber for their recruitment and capitalize on religion, poverty, ethnic diversity and political ideology to develop.

"With technological advancements, social media platforms are used to to spread negative propaganda, hate speech and false messages undermining the national security and leading to social unrest," he said while briefing the Pan African Parliament (PAP).

"The Sahel, Lake Chad Basin and the Horn of Africa are the most impacted with severe humanitarian and economic consequences," said Sidiki.

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Burkina violence forces 267,000 to flee in last 3 months: UNHCR

Oct 11, 2019

Violence in Burkina Faso has caused more than a quarter of a million people to flee their homes over the last three months, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says.

"Some 486,000 have been forced to flee within the country, 267,000 of whom in the past three months alone. A further 16,000 are refugees in neighboring countries," the agency said in a statement received by AFP on Friday.

All of Burkina Faso's 13 regions now host people fleeing violence, and around 1.5 million people are "in urgent need" of humanitarian aid, it said.

A previous estimate of the number of displaced, given by the Burkinabe government, put the tally at around 300,000.

The impoverished country has been grappling with an extremist revolt since 2015 that began in neighboring Mali.

Combining guerrilla hit-and-run tactics with road mines and bombings, the extremists have killed nearly 600 people, according to a toll compiled by AFP. Civil society groups put the tally at more than 1,000.

UNHCR spokesman Andrew Mbogori, the agency's principal emergency coordinator, issued the statement in Geneva following a visit to Kaya, northeast of the capital Ouagadougou, and to Barsalogho, in central Sanmatenga province.

"Thousands of people are on the move, exhausted and trying to find safety among host families or at transit and official travel sites," the UNHCR said.

"Many have been repeatedly displaced. The prospects for their immediate return to where they come from are poor.

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Borno Governor Launches State-Level Initiatives to Fight Boko Haram

by John Campbell

October 11, 2019

Now a decade old, Boko Haram continues to wreak havoc in northern Nigeria, especially in Borno state. The Nigerian federal government’s strategy has so far largely been based on the use of conventional military force. Recently the army announced it was moving to a strategy of “super camps,” which are heavily fortified military bases near population centers, partly recalling an unsuccessful strategy used by U.S. forces in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Such a policy, in effect, cedes control of the countryside to the insurgents. Far from defeated, Boko Haram has intensified its activity over recent months, and the level of military casualties has surpassed that of the height of the conflict in 2014 and 2015.

Faced with a resurgent Boko Haram and an ineffectual federal government, Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno state appears to be readying a multi-pronged strategy of his own. According to press reports, he is recruiting ten thousand hunters that have “voodoo powers and hunting skills” to fight Boko Haram. With distinctive dress and amulets that purportedly protect them against bullets, they are now a visible presence in Maiduguri, the state’s capital with a population of between one and two million.

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The hunters reportedly come from all over northern Nigeria and the Sahel, hence, they should be familiar with the terrain and local culture. That hunters and vigilantes are aiding in the fight against Boko Haram is not new—some state government turned to them at the height of the insurgency in 2014—but this appears to be one of the largest, most well-organized, and most well-resourced efforts. The leader of one hunting contingent said that the state government is feeding and supplying the hunters, while the governor’s spokesperson said that the Borno state government had also increased the resources available to other non-state fighting groups.

The project is ambitious and apparently involves a whole-of-government approach. To complement the security initiatives, the governor also promised to enhance “access to education, job opportunities” and to provide “other means of livelihoods through social protection initiatives.” At another level, the governor has recruited thirty ulamas in Mecca to offer daily prayers for peace in Borno and Nigeria and the defeat of Boko Haram.

It looks like Governor Zulum is assembling a fighting force separate and apart from the federal army and the police, though the hunters and the state government emphasize that they plan to cooperate closely with the Nigerian military. Chief of Army Staff Tukur Buratai, who led the government’s efforts against Boko Haram in 2014 and 2015, reportedly gave his blessing to the initiative in a phone call.

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Arab World


U.S. and Kurdish soldiers: Side by side just days ago, battling ISIS, now the Kurds are under attack

October 12, 2019

WASHINGTON – Two days before President Trump announced that he would pull U.S. military back from the border zone in Syria, Americans and their Kurdish allies had removed senior ISIS fighters from the battlefield, according to a U.S. official who was not authorized to speak publicly.

The capture of the two fighters occurred as part of daily regular commando raids U.S. forces had been running with Kurdish soldiers, the official said.

Trump's abandonment of Kurdish allies fighting ISIS has shocked members of the U.S. military and left it scrambling to protect American forces in Syria – and to look on as those they worked with side by side only a few days ago are now under attack as Turkey's military continues to step up assaults on the region.

Thursday marked the second day of Turkey's assault on Kurdish forces in the region. Turkey launched the assault because it views a Kurdish militia that dominates the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, as a terrorist group.

Earlier this week, Trump said he was delivering on a campaign promise to remove U.S. troops from "ridiculous endless wars." Trump also defended his decision on Wednesday to end U.S. support for the Kurds, saying they had failed to fight with Americans in World War II.

Trump's decision has led to ad hoc measures to protect U.S. troops and attempts to mitigate losses to ISIS, the official said. Among them:

A hotline established with Turkey to notify U.S. commanders of areas where bombs will be dropped to ensure American troops are out of harm's way.

The movement of 50 U.S. troops from the area contested by Turkey and the Kurds to two American outposts in Syria. Drones are being flown over the area to protect U.S. forces.

Kurds continue to guard about 30 prison camps holding about 10,000 ISIS detainees. About 2,000 of those prisoners are foreign fighters from 50 countries, from China to Canada.



As Turkey attacks Kurds in Syria, Trump says any ISIS escapees are Europe's problem


OCTOBER 10, 2019

President Trump has dismissed concerns that Turkey's incursion into northern Syria could enable hundreds of hardened ISIS fighters to go free as a problem for other countries. There are more than 10,000 ISIS detainees held in jails across northern Syria run by America's long-time Kurdish allies, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The Kurds had warned that a Turkish offensive against them, which began on Wednesday, would force them to turn their attention from ISIS, to self defense.

About 2,500 of the ISIS detainees held in Syria are believed to be highly dangerous foreign fighters from Europe and elsewhere. On Wednesday, the U.S. military confirmed to CBS News that it had taken custody of two of those prisoners, a pair of British nationals suspected of involvement in the brutal murder of American hostages.

"Face the Nation" host Margaret Brennan said Thursday that the two Brits who had been held jointly by the U.S. and the Kurds were being moved to Iraq, where the U.S. has bases and can be more confident in their security.

Speaking on Wednesday, Mr. Trump seemed unconcerned by warnings that thousands of other ISIS fighters — and thousands of their family members who are held in separate facilities in the region, including many who still sympathize with the extremist group — could escape amid mounting chaos.

"Well they're going to be escaping to Europe, that's where they want to go, they want to go back to their homes," Mr. Trump said at the White House.

The SDF, former U.S. military officials and serving American lawmakers — including one of Mr. Trump's staunchest supporters in Congress — have warned the president's decision to move American forces out of northern Syria to make way for the Turkish incursion targeting the Kurds could give ISIS room to regroup.

They have also chastised Mr. Trump for what they say amounts to an abandonment of a U.S. ally that lost 11,000 lives helping American forces push ISIS out of northern Syria.

"Pray for our Kurdish allies who have been shamelessly abandoned by the Trump administration. This move ensures the reemergence of ISIS," Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the president's most ardent defenders, tweeted Wednesday.

President Trump appeared on Wednesday to downplay the U.S. alliance with the Kurds, telling reporters that the ethnic group which has lived across a region spanning at least three countries for hundreds of years, "didn't help us in the Second World War, they didn't help us with (the D-Day landings in) Normandy."

Mr. Trump said he also wasn't worried about the perceived abandonment of an ally making it more difficult for the U.S. to form military partnerships in the future. "Alliances are easy," he said, adding: "With all of that being said, we like the Kurds."

"Stabbed in the back"

CBS News correspondent Charlie D'Agata reported Wednesday that SDF commanders feel "stabbed in the back" by Mr. Trump's decision to move the U.S. forces, who for years have protected the Kurds from any Turkish aggression just by being there.

Mr. Trump had repeatedly demanded that European countries, particularly France and Germany, take back their citizens who joined ISIS in Syria, but CBS News' Holly Williams recently visited one of the prisons — the first U.S. network correspondent to do so — and she found at least two detainees who said they were American citizens.

On Wednesday, Mr. Trump cited European nations' reluctance to take back their nationals from Syria, but he appeared to suggest the prisoners were in U.S. custody rather than held by America's now-distracted Kurdish allies.

"Europe didn't want them from us," the president said. "We could have given it to them, they could have trials, they could have done whatever they wanted. But as usual, it's not reciprocal." 

Risky battle ramps up

D'Agata reported the first day of the Turkish offensive was more intense than expected. They unleashed an onslaught of artillery and airstrikes targeting the Syrian towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain, and the Turkish government confirmed Thursday that a ground offensive was also underway.

The attacks have left residents in Kurdish-controlled villages that were only recently liberated from ISIS with nowhere to hide, and once again running for their lives.

Turkey says the offensive is aimed at establishing a buffer zone along its southern border free of Kurdish militia members. They may be U.S. allies, but Ankara considers the SDF militia members terrorists linked to a separatist movement in the south of Turkey.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday that the offensive had already killed 109 "terrorists," but an independent war monitoring group based in Britain said at least six civilians were killed in the first day of Turkey's cross-border operation, along with two two SDF civilian workers and 19 SDF fighters. They said 13 more civilians and 39 SDF fighters were wounded.

Commanders of the Kurdish-led SDF told CBS News they've had to put their operations against ISIS on hold to confront the Turkish invasion, and on Wednesday a senior U.S. military official confirmed to CBS News that operations against ISIS were "effectively paused."

The SDF said the Turkish offensive was jeopardizing security at the overcrowded prisons housing the thousands of ISIS inmates, risking breakouts and a possible ISIS resurgence.

Kurdish officials said Turkish shells hit one of the prisons on Wednesday night, but there was no immediate word on casualties, or any escapes, after that attack.

In a recently released audio recording, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi called on members of the extremist group to do all they could to free detainees in jails and camps across northern Syria.

SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said earlier this week that the U.S. troop redeployment in northern Syria would directly help ISIS, which still has many fighters in the region despite losing control of the territory it held.

Bali warned that "especially in the recently-liberated areas," ISIS would "seize the opportunity of such an (Turkish) invasion, and it may return to impose their control." 

On Wednesday, CBS News analyst Admiral Sandy Winnefeld, a former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Turkish offensive could have serious national security repercussions.

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Our sons were killed by the Islamic State. Don’t let ISIS prisoners in Syria go free.

By Diane Foley, Art Sotloff and Shirley Sotloff

Oct. 11, 2019

Diane Foley, the mother of journalist James Wright Foley, is the president and founder of the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation. Art Sotloff and Shirley Sotloff, parents of journalist Steven Joel Sotloff, are the founders of the 2Lives Foundation.

Between 2012 and 2014, our children — James Foley and Steven Sotloff — were taken hostage, tortured and killed in Syria by members of the Islamic State. We were promised by two administrations that their murderers would be brought to justice. We watched as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-led coalition of local troops in northeastern Syria backed by U.S. forces, captured more than 10,000 ISIS prisoners.

Northeastern Syria, which borders Turkey, is a critical zone in which our U.S. troops, with our international coalition, have supported the Kurds in the fight against ISIS. The SDF have been guarding the 10,000 ISIS fighters and their 70,000 family members in camps. They have been awaiting extradition and trial.

Among them are Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, two suspected members of the “Beatles,” the British ISIS fighters responsible for killing the hostages. We have waited, month after month, for the U.S. government to find ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and other culpable ISIS fighters, and to finally prosecute Kotey and Elsheikh for the horrors inflicted on our children.

Earlier this week, we learned, with the rest of the world, that President Trump was abruptly pulling back U.S. forces in northeastern Syria and abandoning our local allies. Now we have heard the administration’s avowals that it has sent U.S. troops to take Kotey and Elsheikh into custody and to secure their captivity in Iraq.

This is, to be sure, welcome news. But it is not enough. While we are grateful to hear that these two particular ISIS fighters are now in custody, what of the other ISIS fighters and their families? What about the local civilian population and vulnerable Kurds who have helped contain ISIS as Turkey assaults this Syrian border territory? What will happen to the evidence of ISIS crimes in the region around Raqqa?

And now, on top of everything else, we learn of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s latest threat to send 3.6 million Syrian refugees into Europe. While he has vowed to place ISIS fighters under Turkish custody, his remarks have — probably intentionally — awakened uncertainty about the prisoners’ fates, given that he also promised to send them to their home countries — even though most of those countries have refused to accept them.

ISIS thrives in this chaos. Last month, al-Baghdadi issued a call to his followers to free the prisoners held in Syria. The Pentagon has stated openly that it does not have the troops to take charge of ISIS prisoners if the Kurds are unable to do so. With U.S. forces abandoning their posts and the SDF facing a Turkish invasion, who will ensure that the ISIS fighters and their families do not escape?

What message are we sending the world? Our U.S. troop withdrawal suggests that it is okay to abandon our allies, to no longer care about the suffering of innocents, and to kidnap and kill Americans abroad without any accountability. Do we fellow Americans not care about four young Americans — two journalists and two aid workers — who were taken hostage, tortured and brutally killed while working in Syria?

We implore President Trump to reconsider this decision and to deny the Islamic State the opportunity to regroup and continue its reign of terror. Yes, we must try Kotey and Elsheikh in our federal criminal courts; and if convicted of these brutal crimes against our citizens, they must be sentenced to lifetime imprisonment. Yet we must also capture al-Baghdadi, the ISIS leader, and provide leadership in seeking international justice for the radical Islamists’ horrific crimes against humanity, inflicted both on the innocent people of Syria and our children, American citizens left behind.

Full report at:



10 IS militants killed in security operation in Iraq

2019-10-10 19

BAGHDAD, Oct. 10 (Xinhua) -- A total of 10 Islamic State (IS) militants were killed on Thursday in an operation by the Iraqi security forces in the central province of Salahudin.

Acting upon intelligence reports, a joint force from the Iraqi army, police and paramilitary Hashd Shaabi units conducted an anti-IS operation in the village of Smeilat near the town of al-Shirqat, some 280 km north of Iraq's capital Baghdad, said a statement by the media office of the Joint Operations Command.

During the operation, the Iraqi troops killed 10 IS militants, four wearing explosive belts, and confiscated their weapons, the statement said.

The security situation in Iraq was dramatically improved after the Iraqi security forces fully defeated the extremist IS militants across the country late in 2017.

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+70,000 People Displaced in Northeast Syria, Only Hospital of Region Closed After Bombings

Oct 11, 2019

The mass displacement occurred in the Al-Hasake and Al-Raqqa provinces, a spokesman for the United Nations' agency said in Geneva, reminding the warring parties that the UN requires access to 650,000 people in Northeast Syria who rely on food aid.

Turkey stepped up its air and artillery strikes on Kurdish militia in Northeast Syria on Friday on the third day of a military operationa gainst Kurds, escalating an offensive that has drawn warnings of humanitarian catastrophe.

Meantime, a camp sheltering more than 7,000 displaced people in Northern Syria is to be evacuated and talks are underway about moving a second camp for 13,000 people including families of ISIL (known as ISIS or Daesh) fighters after both were hit by shelling, the Kurdish-led authorities in Northern Syria said on Friday.

In a statement, the Kurdish-led administration announced the camps at Mabrouka and Ain Issa had “not been immune from the dangers” of the Turkish offensive.

The camp at Mabrouka, 12 km from the Turkish border, would be evacuated and the people sheltering there moved to al-Arisha camp South of Hasaka city, it said, adding that the second camp at Ain Issa is holding 785 relatives of ISIL militants.

“Discussion is underway with the relevant bodies and organisation to find a solution or alternative location to move the camp to,” it stated.

Meanwhile, the medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said the Turkish military campaign in Northeast Syria has displaced civilians and led to the closure of some main hospitals there.

"With healthcare services already struggling to meet the needs of the population, displacement and injuries caused by fighting are likely to put additional pressure on the existing limited resources in hospitals," Robert Onus, the MSF emergency manager for Syria, stated.

Shelling has forced a main MSF-supported hospital in the Syrian border town of Tel Abyad to close as most of the medical staff left the area with their families, the charity announced in a statement.

"As the only public hospital in the area, Tel Abyad hospital was critical to meeting the health needs of the town and surrounding areas," it added.

The UN's Refugee Agency had warned that Turkish military operations against Kurdish fighters are creating a new wave of displacement and could substantially intensify “what is already the largest displacement crisis in the world”.

In a statement on Thursday, The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) called on all sides to abide by international humanitarian law, and facilitate access for relief agencies helping those in need.

“Hundreds of thousands of civilians in Northern Syria are now in harm’s way, civilians and civilian infrastructure must not be a target,” UNHCR head Filippo Grandi warned.

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Ankara Forces Kill +340 Kurdish Fighters, +260 Turkey-Backed Militants, Army Soldiers Killed by Kurds

Oct 11, 2019

Akar's comments came after his meeting with top military officials in Turkey's capital Ankara, where he said "every kind of measures have been taken" in operation areas.

Akar stated that the military operation continues "successfully as planned".

The SDF in a statement released on Friday claimed that Kurdish fighters have killed 262 Turkish-backed militants and Turkish soldiers in the past two days, while they lost 22 fighters in addition to dozens of civilians.

For the 3rd day in a row, the forces of the Turkish Army continued their aggression on the Syrian territories on Friday, targeting with artillery and warplanes a number of areas in Hasaka countryside.

Turkish forces targeted the residential neighborhoods in the city of Ras al-Ayn with air and artillery intensive shelling, launching concentrated shelling against the citizens’ houses and service facilities and establishments, and causing huge material damage, SANA reported.

The SDF has brought reinforcement to Ras al-Ayn city which were able to stop the Turkish forces incursion and regain control over parts of the industrial region inside the city, according to the news agency.

Danger of ISIL

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Turkey's military operation in Syria could lead to the revival of the ISIL (also known as ISIS or Daesh) group in the region.

Putin stated that Kurds who were guarding thousands of imprisoned ISIL fighters are now fleeing.

"I'm not sure whether the Turkish army will be able to take this under control - and how soon," Putin said in televised remarks on a visit to Turkmenistan, adding that "this is a real threat to us".

"How will they be moving and to where?" he asked of the ISIL fighters, noting, "Through Turkish territory? Through other territories?"

"We should simply understand this, know and mobilise the resources of our security services to neutralise this emerging new threat," he stressed, without giving more detail.

Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday called on Turkey and others to show restraint in Northeast Syria.

The foreign ministry announced in a statement it was important not to allow the situation there to be further destabilized, calling what was happening a matter “of the most serious concern”.

It called for talks to be held between the Syrian government and Kurdish forces and said it was ready to help facilitate such dialogue.

Tusk Slams Erdogan Threat of New Refugee Surge

European Council President Donald Tusk condemned as attempted "blackmail" Friday a threat by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to allow millions of refugees to head to Europe if the bloc criticises Ankara's offensive in Syria.

"Turkey must understand that our main concern is that their actions may lead to another humanitarian catastrophe, which would be unacceptable," Tusk said on a visit to European Union member Cyprus.

"Nor will we ever accept that refugees are weaponised and used to blackmail us. That is why I consider yesterday's threats made by President Erdogan totally out of place," he added.

Under a 2016 agreement with the EU, Turkey agreed to prevent refugees from leaving towards Europe in exchange for six billion euros ($6.63bln) and visa-free travel for its citizens, but has frequently criticised the lack of assistance from Brussels.

Italy's PM: Europe Can't Give in to Turkish "Blackmail" over Syria

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte stated that the European Union should not yield to Turkey's threats that it would let millions of Syrian refugees enter Europe.

Full report at:



Kurdish Militias Retreat 20 Kilometers from Military Positions in Northern Syria

Oct 11, 2019

The Kurdish militias’ withdrawal has taken place in the border region stretched from Ra’as al-Ain to North of Hasaka till the city of Tal Abyaz in the Northernmost part of Raqqa countryside.

The sources close to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) attributed the withdrawal to the differences arising among the Kurdish militias.

Meantime, the Kurdish-language Hawar News reported that while the Turkish troops are trying hard to enter Tal Abyaz, at least 100 Turkish Army soldiers and their allied militants have been killed by the Kurdish militias.

It noted that nine Turkish Army soldiers have also been arrested by the Kurdish militias.

On Friday, Turkish warplanes and artillery hit Kurdish militia targets in Northeast Syria on the third day of a military operation that has killed hundreds and forced tens of thousands to flee.

Turkish fighter jets and artillery struck targets around Syria’s Ras al Ain, one of two border towns that have been the focus of the offensive, in the morning.

Turkish howitzers also resumed shelling near the Syrian town of Tel Abyad, according to witnesses.

A convoy of 20 armoured vehicles carrying Ankata-backed rebels entered Syria from Ceylanpinar on Friday, Reuters reported.

With a Turkish military operation in Syria in full swing, tires are being burned across the Northeastern city of Qamishli in order to reduce visibility for Turkish jets.

The Turkish Defence Ministry said 49 more "terrorists" were "neutralized" in the military operation, in reference to Syrian Kurdish fighters, putting the total number of Kurdish forces killed since the offensive began at 277.

According to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), at least 16 of its members - along with six additional fighters of unknown identity - were confirmed killed, and another 33 wounded.

Full report at:



Heavy fighting as Kurdish-led SDF holds off Turkish assault

11 October 2019

Fighting raged in northeastern Syria on Friday as Turkish forces and their proxies tried to seize key towns held by Kurdish-led forces on the third day of a long-threatened offensive.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – the Kurdish-led forces in control of northeastern Syria – scrambled to repulse multiple ground attacks along a roughly 120 kilometer (75 mile) long segment of the border.

“There is heavy fighting between the SDF and the Turks on different fronts, mostly from Tal Abyad to Ras al-Ain,” the Syria Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Britain-based war monitor said the Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies - mostly Sunni Arab former rebels - were using air strikes, heavy artillery and rocket fire.

“The SDF are using tunnels, trenches and berms” in their defense operations, the Observatory said.

SDF counter-attacks overnight led to the retaking of two of the 11 villages they had lost since the start of the Turkish-led assault on Wednesday.

A media center affiliated to the SDF’s civilian administration also said that Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad, which have been almost emptied of their population, were the worst hit.

It quoted a Kurdish military official as saying that some tribes in the mainly Arab area had sided with the Turks and raised sleeper cells to attack from behind SDF lines.

The Observatory also reported that dozens of Arab residents from the border area had joined the Turkish side.

According to the Observatory, a total of at least 10 civilians and 29 SDF fighters have been killed since the start of the offensive.

Full report at:



US talking with Saudi Arabia regarding Turkish offensive against Kurdish forces

11 October 2019

The United States is talking with its allies in Saudi Arabia regarding Turkey’s military offensive against Kurdish forces in northern Syria, a senior US State Department official said.

Turkey’s assault on Syrian Kurdish forces has not breached a red line declared by President Donald Trump who demanded a “humane” offensive, the US official added on Thursday.

Asked to define what action would go beyond Trump’s vague warning, the US official said it would include “ethnic cleansing... indiscriminate artillery, air and other fires directed at civilian populations.”

Full report at:



Saudi Arabia pledges to fight child abuse during UN meeting

October 11, 2019

NEW YORK: Saudi Arabia has pledged to the UN its ongoing international commitment to combating all forms of child abuse, the Saudi Press Agency reported. During a meeting of the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee, dedicated to social, humanitarian and cultural issues, the Kingdom reaffirmed that its laws and regulations relating to child protection covered matters including neglect, discrimination, and exploitation.

Addressing the committee, Reem bint Fahd Al-Omair, third secretary and member of the Kingdom’s permanent mission to the UN, also confirmed her country’s commitment to providing a safe and sound environment for children to develop their skills and abilities and protect them psychologically and physically.

Her comments came in a general debate on children’s rights, during the 74th session of the General Assembly in New York.

Al-Omair said the Kingdom’s rules were aimed at fighting any kind of abuse toward children as part of its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Saudi Arabia signed up to in 1996.

She highlighted a law which protected children from all sorts of violations, harm, and exploitation, stressing the importance the Kingdom attached to human rights. She pointed to cases of exploitation and discrimination against children and called for measures to combat them.

Saudi Arabia has launched a number of initiatives to tackle the issue, most notably an awareness campaign about the negative effects of child neglect, a hotline to provide children with support, and a rehabilitation program.

Full report at:





'Muslim Tatar' Twins Await Russian Ruling To Avoid Forcible Return To China

October 11, 2019

Twin Chinese men facing expulsion from Russia since losing contact with their Uyghur father and Tatar mother in China say they fear being sent to a "concentration camp" if their appeal for refugee status is rejected by Russian authorities.

Twenty-three-year-old Shahrizat and Shahdiyar Shavkat came to Russia's Tatarstan region to study under a World Tatar Congress program four years ago, two years before reports began emerging of roundups in western China and widespread use of "reeducation camps" against Uyghurs and other minorities.

Now, the young men are awaiting a ruling from Tatarstan's Supreme Court following a lower court's rejection several months ago of their refugee applications.

Shahrizat told RFE/RL that he was certain that, upon arrival in China, he and his brother "would be taken to a concentration camp because we are Muslim Tatars."

The U.S. State Department estimates that more than 1 million Uyghurs and other minorities have been interned in a network of Chinese reeducation camps in recent years.

Russia has avoided criticism of China's treatment of its Uyghur minority despite reports of sweeps and massive numbers of detentions of members of that mostly Muslim, ethnic Turkic minority.

Tatarstan, home to a large Tatar population, is one of several mostly Muslim federal subjects in Russia.

The twins moved to Russia to study at Kazan Federal University in Tatarstan's capital in 2015 but lost contact two years later with their Chinese Uyghur father and their Soviet-born, naturalized Chinese mother.

Both young men were expelled from school for failing to make payments for their studies, according to their lawyer, Zuhra Hamroyeva.

Hamroyeva told RFE/RL that she was meeting with university officials on October 11 in an effort to somehow get them reenrolled.

Relatives have told the Shavkats that they believe Chinese authorities forcibly interned their parents.

On October 8, Washington announced visa restrictions on Chinese government and Communist Party officials thought to be involved in the internment measures.

That followed U.S. export restrictions the day before targeting facial-recognition technology and other products that could help Chinese authorities spy on their citizens.

Beijing has pursued Chinese Uyghurs abroad, too, successfully arguing in recent years for their repatriation from a handful of countries, from Malaysia to Egypt.

In September, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on all countries to reject Beijing's demands to repatriate ethnic Uyghurs to China.



Muslim academics criticise Extremism Commission after their studies are “censored”

October 12, 2019

A Muslim academic has accused the Commission for Countering Extremism of censorship after his academic paper wasn’t published as part of a high-profile extremism report released earlier this week.

Sadek Hamid told 5Pillars that he feels as though the Commission, headed by the controversial Sara Khan, has censored him and that his study’s omission is “convenient” because it challenged arguments made in other papers on “Islamism” in the UK.

Another academic whose paper was also not published, Tahir Abbas of Leiden University in Holland, told us that he and Hamid were “burned” after the journalist Andrew Gilligan wrote an article accusing them of antisemitism which the Commission agreed with. The government body commissioned the pair to write the studies and paid them up to £10,000. However, it said that Hamid’s report was not published after he failed to engage with antisemitism training and Abbas’s report was ditched after his paper failed a peer review.

In May, The Sunday Times published an article saying the pair had retweeted articles that were antisemitic, accusations they vehemently deny.

The Commission for Countering Extremism released a report earlier this week urging the government to do more to tackle “hateful extremism.” The report criticised several so-called “Islamist” organisations including CAGE, 5Pillars, Hizb ut-Tahrir and MEND. 5Pillars editor Roshan Muhammed Salih had an e-mail exchange with both academics this morning:


5PILLARS: What was in your paper?

SADEK HAMID: My paper offers an overview of how Islamist organisations in the UK were established and how they evolved over the last thirty years and contrasts that with contemporary Muslim civil society and human rights advocacy groups. It also questions the popular media and government uses of the term “Islamist” and how it is generally misused to label Muslim activists who are critical of state counter-terrorism policies.

5P: Do you feel you have been censored?

SH: In effect, yes. The real reason that my colleague Tahir Abbas and I have had our papers excluded by CCE  is as a result of The Sunday Times article co-authored by the controversial journalist Andrew Gilligan who attempted to smear us as anti-Semitic on the basis of our social media output. This of course is a ridiculous charge to anyone who knows our work and everyone knows that retweets don’t necessarily imply agreement.

As to the official reason why my paper was not published – the CCE doesn’t disclose how it reneged on its agreement with me or how its Lead Commissioner attempted to coerce us into receiving anti-Semitism training or leave the process. The fact is that CCE succumbed to external pressure from and I was not compliant enough.

This is convenient as my study challenges some of the arguments made in some of the other papers on Islamism in the UK – which lack nuance and are reinforce government narratives around dissenting British Muslim political activism.

5P: Do you regret working with the Commission?

SH: I participated knowing full well the risks – however, my intent was to make a evidenced based intervention on the subject of religiously inspired public activism and counter simplistic narratives which allege that anyone critical of Prevent is an Islamist and argued for principled engagement and dialogue. The outcome, in one sense vindicates the reservations that some had about our involvement.

5P: What are your thoughts on the CCE’s report?

SH: Nothing much new that isn’t already out there in the public domain. There is a troubling lack of engagement with Muslims groups in the papers on Islamism, which only reinforce existing tropes about well known organisations penetrating public institutions and influencing government policies. Also, there is a curious shift in terminology to “hateful extremism” – which raises obvious questions about whether this will be applied to the speech of politicians and the government itself. Also, very little on tackling Islamophobia.


PILLARS: What was in your paper?

TAHIR ABBAS: I explored the reciprocal nature of radicalisation between far right and Islamist groups in the urban centres of Britain, exploring issues in relation to socioeconomic status, political identity, intergenerational change, masculinity and social conflict.

I carried out an extensive literature review, as well as providing an argument to sustain the view that there are these issues going on in local areas which feed off each other. Problems of downward social mobility, as well as wider issues of populism, authoritarianism and xenophobia that have engulfed Britain in recent years, create these problems. The paper essentially proposes an argument that I have communicated widely in my work in recent years, including in my new book, which was published last week. 5P: Do you feel you have been censored?

TA: The primary issue is that Sadek and I turned up to a book launch event organised by the Islamic Human Rights Commission in London. We were promoting a new book, Political Muslims, which was published earlier this year. An edited collection that we spent approximately 5 years on, we were talking about the contributions that the book is hopefully making to ideas of progressive Islamic thinking and its implications for citizenship.

Less than a week later, The Sunday Times accused Sadek and me of anti-Semitism based on four tweets that were scraped out of 25,000 that we have both tweeted over the years. These tweets were all references to articles in the public domain and largely widely held public sentiments. The Sunday Times article was a deliberate attempt to defame us, but it also had the effect of drawing in the Commission for Countering Extremism. Rather than support us, it felt compelled to disassociate from us and to agree with the accusations of antisemitism. As a result of this article and the comments made by the Commission in it, we were effectively burned.

5P: Do you regret working with the Commission for Countering Extremism?

TA: In the Islamic Human Rights Commission video recording of our book launch event, which is in YouTube, we were asked the question of whether we felt it was appropriate to be working with the government and contributing to their extremism thinking.

We are both scholars, with no affiliations with any political parties, organisations, past or present, and our aim was simply to contribute to a meaningful debate, which we thought was open and fair. We went out of our way to express the fact that we think it is right to work closely with the government when invited to do so, but of course, it is up to them to choose to listen to us or not.

Ultimately, this issue is not about our research papers. Not to sound arrogant, but between us, we have published 25 books between us and we are experts in the field, having written about Islamism, Muslim youth, extremism and radicalisation for the best part of 30 years between us.

The question was never about our work or academic integrity. As I said, we were burned as soon as The Sunday Times article came out and the Commission had no choice but to add all the distance they could between us.

5P: Your thoughts on their report?

TA: I have not had a close look at the report. I have only briefly glanced at it and looked at general perspectives on it. I think the idea of hateful extremism is interesting because there is still a conflation between extremism and radicalisation that the Commission is wrestling with and unable to grasp.

The essential problem is that too much of government thinking is devoted to the idea that ideology is the problem and if ideology can be reverse-engineered, the problems go away altogether. But this is to be in denial of the wider social issues that underpin radicalisation processes, including what goes on in local urban area contexts, which, funnily enough, was the subject of my paper.

Full report at:



Anti-Muslim hate crimes increase across Avon and Somerset, police say

By Richard Mills

11 OCT 2019

Anti-Muslim hate crimes have increased across Avon and Somerset and the number of reported hate crimes has also increased, according to police.

Police figures state that the number of hate crimes reported increased by 9% from 2016 to 2018.

In 2018, police registered 3,324 hate crimes up from 3,025 in 2016.

More than 58% of the crimes were racially motivated, 6% motivated by religion, 10% motivated by sexual orientation, 9.2% were disablist hate crimes, 2% were transgender hate crimes, and 5.7% were gender motivated crimes.

From September 2017 to August 2019, police logged 159 anti-Muslim hate crime victims representing 47% of all religious hate crimes in the area.

Police say the increase is also down to improved recording of crime, a greater awareness of hate crime and an improved willingness of victims to come forward.

While statistics suggest that more victims are reporting hate crimes, data also highlights that there are vulnerable communities in Avon and Somerset particularly susceptible of being the target of hate crime that remain at high risk of under-reporting.

A police spokesman said: "In recent years, we have seen a rise in the number of religious hate crimes, particularly anti-Muslim hate crimes.

"From September 2017 to August 2019, we logged 159 anti-Muslim hate crime victims representing 47% of all religious hate crimes in the area. In the same period, 72% of religious hate crimes targeting women in Bristol were anti-Muslim hate crimes.

"We have identified that Muslim women over the age of 45 are at high risk of under-reporting hate crimes due to language and cultural barriers, and a lack of knowledge of what happens when a hate crime is reported.

"Transgender and disablist hate crimes also continue to be severely under-reported.

"This has been widely attributed to the complex nature of these crimes that makes them difficult to identify, as well as little awareness about the services available to victims."

Police say they are working closely with their partner organisations in Avon and Somerset to tackle the issue of under-reporting hate crimes by strengthening relationships with hard-to-reach communities, raising awareness of what a hate crime looks like, and educating bystanders about what to do when they witness one of these crimes.

What police and partner agencies said:

Superintendent Andy Bennett, force lead for hate crime, said: “Over the past few years, we have seen an increase in the number of hate crimes being reported to us. We have come a long way in strengthening our relationships with victims of hate crimes.

"I am confident that these crimes are becoming increasingly rejected in our society and that we are seeing more people come forwards to report hate crimes.

"Having said this, there are still too many communities are still at risk of under reporting hate crimes due to a wide variety of factors including language barriers, a fear of payback and a lack of understanding of about what happens when a crime is reported as well as accepting hate crimes as normal behaviour.

"We need your help to identify those who are committing these crimes and ultimately stop it happening. If you have been a victim of a hate crime, we encourage you to come forwards, either to us or to one of our partner organisations, and report the incident as soon as you can.

"This National Hate Crime Awareness Week, we want to send the message that hate crimes will not be accepted in Avon and Somerset. Hate crimes are not normal behaviour and will not be tolerated under any circumstances.

"We will be working hard to raise awareness of all different types of hate crime to ensure the public are able to identify them, and to highlight the services and support available to victims with the aim of boosting the number of crimes reported to Avon and Somerset Police.

"We are a vibrant, multi-cultural and diverse community. There is no space for hate in Avon and Somerset."

Sue Mountstevens, police and crime commissioner, said: “It is only by standing together that can we truly tackle hate crime and our message is clear – perpetrators who affect communities with their hatred will not be tolerated.

"As individuals, I believe our differences should be celebrated; it’s our uniqueness that makes each and every one of us who are.

"Being targeted because of your age, race, sexual orientation, religion or any other reason is unacceptable and as communities if we see this behaviour we must challenge it and report it.

"We must help give victims of hate crime the confidence to speak to the police and partner agencies about their experience. There are some fantastic organisations offering support to victims of hate crime and we need to ensure victims can speak out and know where to go for support."

Alex Raikes, director at Stand Against Racism and Inequality (SARI) added: “At a time when we need to work harder than ever to ensure that we pull communities together and don’t allow division and hostility to increase, National Hate Crime Awareness Week is a great opportunity for us all to come together, promote awareness and strengthen our communities so they can report and respond to hate crime at all levels.

Full report at:



On Edge from Attacks, Germany Finds Far-Right Radicals Within Security Services

By Bojan Pancevski

Oct. 11, 2019

BERLIN—Germany’s security agencies are investigating their own ranks for suspected plots to attack immigrants and politicians, as authorities have become increasingly concerned about allegations of extreme-right radicalism among some soldiers and police officers.

The probes examine a range of activities, from racist discussions in online chat forums and illegal weapons possession, to suspected hit lists of left-wing politicians and liberal activists, according to confidential documents and people familiar with the investigations....

Full report at:



Shooter in German Synagogue Attack Confesses

By Sara Germano

Oct. 11, 2019

BERLIN—The German man charged with murder in Wednesday’s botched attack on a synagogue has confessed to the crime and admitted to anti-Semitic and far-right-wing extremist motives, the federal prosecutor’s office said.

Under the German justice system, Stephan Balliet, 27, will still stand trial for the Yom Kippur attack in the eastern city of Halle that left two dead and two injured. It is unclear how confession could affect possible sentencing in what authorities are treating as a terrorist attack.



German synagogue shooting was far-right terror, justice minister says

10 October 2019

A shooting at a synagogue in the German city of Halle on Wednesday was a far-right terror attack, said Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht.

Alleged perpetrator Stephan Balliet had four kilos (9lb) of explosives in his car, Ms Lambrecht said in a statement with attorney-general Peter Frank.

Mr Frank said the gunman had been planning a massacre.

The suspect, 27, faces two counts of murder and nine counts of attempted murder, German media report.

The German national is due to appear in court on Thursday afternoon.

Prosecutors allege he intended to create a "worldwide effect" by deliberately mimicking tactics used during a mass shooting at two New Zealand mosques earlier this year.

About 2,200 people watched a live stream he allegedly posted on the online streaming platform Twitch.

Could the attack have been prevented?

About 60 worshippers were at a Yom Kippur service at the time of the attack.

German police have faced criticism from the nation's most prominent Jewish community group, which accused the force of "negligence" in its handling of the attack.

The head of the Central Council of Jews said it was "scandalous" that police were not protecting the synagogue on the Jewish Yom Kippur holiday.

"If police had been stationed outside the synagogue, then this man could have been disarmed before he could attack the others," said the council's president, Josef Schuster, on Deutschlandfunk public radio.

In a tweet, Mr Schuster added that it was "a miracle that there were no further casualties" during the incident at the city's synagogue.

"We must make sure that we must protect our Jewish citizens much better," said Ms Lambrecht.

How did the attack unfold?

The video - which was removed from Twitch - shows a man making anti-Semitic and misogynistic comments before driving to the synagogue and shooting at its door.

After failing to get into the synagogue, the gunman shot dead two people: a woman in a nearby street and a man inside a kebab shop about 500 metres (yards) away. Two people were also wounded by bullets and underwent surgery.

Reports say the gunman also tried to set off explosives at the synagogue.

Witnesses say he was heavily armed, and an online anti-Semitic "manifesto" attributed to him shows guns, apparently home-made.

Survivors say they hid behind the synagogue's heavy locked doors until police arrived, which took more than 10 minutes.

How big a threat is anti-Semitism in modern Germany?

Authorities have noted a recent rise of anti-Semitic incidents in Germany, a country that is still haunted by the murder of six million Jews under Nazi rule.

We unfortunately have to face the truth, which - for some time already - is that the threat of anti-Semitism, right-wing extremism, and right-wing terrorism is very high," Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told reporters on Thursday.

German police provide varying degrees of protection to synagogues. But when this is not possible, local Jewish communities sometimes work with law enforcement to provide for their own security.

Since the shooting, police presence has been increased outside synagogues in several east German cities, including Leipzig and Dresden, according to local media.

Oliver Malchow, chairman of the German police union (GdP), said police were too thinly spread for 24-hour protection of places of worship.

"While we're tackling terrorism we cannot at the same time involve many staff in monitoring far-right extremists," he told German broadcaster ZDF. "We didn't underestimate it, but we can't foresee everything and prevent it."

The attack was condemned by European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. At an event in Nuremberg, Ms Merkel said the government would use "all means available" to tackle hatred and bigotry.

Full report at:



Belgium: Terrorist PKK mob attacks Turkish citizens

Serife Cetin  



Amid Turkey's push against YPG/PKK terrorists in northern Syria, a mob of supporters of the terrorist PKK in eastern Belgium reportedly attacked Turkish citizens on Friday.

Nearly 300 supporters of the PKK gathered in the evening at Saint Lambert square in the city of Liege to protest Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring, launched this Wednesday in northern Syria to fight the terrorist YPG/PKK, the Syrian offshoot of the PKK.

The terrorist supporters injured two Turkish citizens with knives and sharp objects, said sources on the ground.

The injured sought treatment at nearby hospitals, they added.

Turkey on Wednesday launched Operation Peace Spring east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria to secure its borders by eliminating terrorists there and to ensure the safe return of Syrian refugees and Syria’s territorial integrity.

Ankara wants to eliminate from the region terrorist elements of the PKK and its Syrian offshoot, the PYD/YPG.

Full report at:



Arson attack on Turkish diplomatic vehicle in Berlin



Unidentified arsonists targeted a vehicle belonging to Turkey's Berlin embassy in the early hours of Friday, officials said.

Earlier this week, supporters of the terrorist PKK/YPG group had threatened to carry out radical protests and violent attacks against Turkey’s ongoing Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria.

A vehicle with diplomatic plates, which was parked on a street in central Berlin, was completely destroyed in the fire, Turkish diplomatic sources told Anadolu Agency.

Turkey’s Berlin embassy has called on German authorities to increase security measures, conduct a full investigation into the latest incident and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring on Wednesday to secure its borders by eliminating terrorist elements and to ensure the safe return of Syrian refugees and Syria’s territorial integrity.

Ankara wants to eliminate terrorist elements from the PKK and its Syrian offshoot, the PYD-YPG.

Full report at:



Turkey is a vital partner of Serbia: President

Talha Ozturk  



Praising Turkey’s efforts for bilateral stability and regional relations, Serbia’s president said Turkey is a vital partner of his state.

"Turkey is one of the most important countries and partners for Serbia," President Aleksandar Vucic told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.

Evaluating Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s two-day visit to Serbia on Oct. 7-8, Vucic said the two leaders reiterated that both countries were enjoying advanced bilateral political relations.

Vucic emphasized that bilateral relations are based on mutual trust.

“Although we have diverging opinions at some points, we consult and negotiate with each other. Thanks to President Erdogan, bilateral stability and relations with other actors in the region have improved significantly," said Vucic.

Trade volume is increasing

Serbia’s president said economic relations covered another significant part of Erdogan’s visit.

The trade volume between Turkey and Serbia was €800 million ($881.4 million) two years ago, Vucic said, while it is expected to reach €1.2 billion ($1.3 billion) by the end of 2019.

"I always underline an issue: Only Turks have agreed to invest in rural areas of Serbia. Others have invested in cities or highways. Therefore, I would like to thank Turkish investors very much."

He said tripartite relations between Turkey, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina were among the key part of Erdogan’s visit.

Vucic stated that Turkish president “has also helped stabilize relations between countries in the region” and has made everyone assume more responsibility.

Serbia will take more steps to attract more Turkish people for touristic and cultural purposes, he said.

"Therefore, it was important that we lay the foundations of the Belgrade-Sarajevo highway together. This project is very important for all of us. Without President Erdogan, I'm not sure how all this would have been solved. So, it was important that he visited Serbia," said Vucic.

Groundbreaking of Belgrade-Sarajevo highway

Vucic also emphasized the importance of the highway project connecting the Serbian capital Belgrade with Sarajevo, which is supported by Turkey.

As part of his visit, Erdogan attended the groundbreaking of the highway.

"If we had built highways about 25-30 years ago, there would be peace, not disasters or wars. I say this especially for Bosnians and Serbs. You will see the benefits of this for both Bosnians, Serbs and Croats.

“We will see that we can build better highways and provide people with better living standards. When building a highway, it's not just about throwing asphalt on the ground. You also connect people who work and travel together. So people get closer. Then no one will be interested in creating any chaos, " said Vucic.

Serbia's relations with Turkey, Russia, and China

The president said that he will do his best to protect his state, national interests and people.

"What does that mean? It means an economic and political benefit," said Vucic.

Also addressing Serbia’s path to European Union membership process, he said no one can guarantee that Serbia will become an EU member.

“We are on our way to the EU, but we make our own decisions over with whom we will cooperate. We want to cooperate with Turkey, China, Russia, and other countries,” Vucic said.

On Turkey-Serbia relations, the president said the two countries are “very good friends.”

“So I want to see more Turkish tourists, investors and assets in Serbia,” Vucic said.

Inviting Turkish people to Serbia, he told them: “Here you will feel at home.”

Full report at:



Hungary conditionally supports Turkey’s Syria operation

Mehmet Yilmaz  



Turkey’s newly launched cross-border operation in northern Syria should be supported, provided that the country aims to facilitate the safe return of the nearly 4 million Syrian refugees it is hosting, Gergely Gulyas, the Hungarian prime minister’s chief of staff, said Friday.

Gulyas said Hungary re-evaluated its veto of a European Union declaration accepted by all other member countries that condemned Turkey’s military intervention in northern Syria and decided to support it.

He said his country refused to accept war as a way to resolve problems between countries.

However, if Turkey wants to return the Syrian refugees it is hosting to their countries, its initiative to launch an operation should be supported, he added.

The EU should have a dialogue with Turkey in order to avoid a fresh wave of migrants coming to Europe, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said Thursday.

Turkey currently hosts some 3.6 million Syrian refugees, more than any other country in the world. Ankara has so far spent $40 billion for the refugees, according to official figures.

Turkey on Wednesday launched Operation Peace Spring east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria to secure its borders and Syria’s territorial integrity by eliminating terrorist elements and to ensure the safe return of Syrian refugees.

Turkey has said the PKK terrorist group and its extension the YPG/PYD constitute the biggest threat to Syria’s future, jeopardizing the country’s territorial integrity and unitary structure.

Ankara has also stressed that supporting terrorists under the pretext of fighting Daesh is unacceptable.

Turkey has a 911-kilometer (566-mile) border with Syria and has long decried the threat from terrorists east of the Euphrates River and the formation of a “terrorist corridor” there.

Turkey plans to resettle 2 million Syrians in a 30-km (19-mile) wide proposed safe zone in Syria stretching from the Euphrates River to the Iraqi border, including Manbij. However, the presence of terror groups such as the PKK, PYD and YPG risk its formation.

Turkey has freed an area of 4,000 square km (1,544 square miles) in Syria from terrorist groups in two separate cross-border operations.

Since 2016, Turkey has conducted two major military operations in northwestern Syria -- Operation Euphrates Shield and Operation Olive Branch -- to eradicate threats from Daesh and the YPG, which is the Syrian branch of the PKK terrorist group.

The two operations were in line with the country’s right to self-defense borne out of international law, UN Security Council resolutions, especially no. 1624 (2005), 2170 (2014) and 2178 (2014), and under the right to self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter while being respectful of Syria’s territorial integrity.

During Operation Euphrates Shield, Turkish forces neutralized 3,060 Daesh terrorists.

Turkey has suffered greatly from Daesh attacks inside the country.

More than 300 people have been killed in attacks claimed by Daesh in Turkey, where the terrorist group has targeted civilians in suicide bombings and armed attacks in recent years.

Full report at:





Senior Cleric, Ayatollah Khatami Warns Turkey against Grave Consequences of Attacking Syria

Oct 11, 2019

Addressing a large and fervent congregation of the people in Tehran on Friday, Ayatollah Khatami said, “Turkey’s measure is an aggression against an independent country.”

“The Islamic Republic’s stance [on Turkey’s operation] is an advising one; Iran asks for stopping this operation and withdrawing military forces from the Syrian soil,” he added.

The senior cleric advised Turkey to not be deceived by Americans like the case of Saudis, and said, “Saudi Arabia, as the servant of US, took America’s advice and got stuck in a quagmire; they sought to achieve their aim in Yemen in a week but now, after seven years, Yemeni warriors have the upper-hand.”

Ayatollah Khatami said that Turkey should be careful not to stumble into America’s trap; as soon as America withdraws its forces from Northern Syria, Turkey replaces its forces in their place; be careful not to build a new quagmire for yourself.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that his country’s military forces and the Turkish-backed militants of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) had launched a long-threatened offensive in northeastern Syria against Kurdish militants from the People's Protection Units (YPG) to push them away from border areas.

“Operation Peace Spring will neutralize terror threats against Turkey and lead to the establishment of a safe zone, facilitating the return of Syrian refugees to their homes," Erdogan wrote in a post published on his official Twitter page.

Syria's state-run television reported that the Turkish army launched the operation in the country's North by carrying out an airstrike on the city of Ras al-Ayn in the northeastern province of al-Hasakah.

European countries expressed outrage at Ankara's military operation against the Kurdish militias in Northern Syria as Washington continued silence over the massive air and ground assault the United States' long-time ally in the so-called anti-terror campaign against the Islamic States of Iraq and Levant (ISIL or ISIS) in the Arab country.

The United Nations, the European Union and other world powers had expressed alarm over the Turkish plan, warning that any military action could exacerbate the suffering of Syrians already beleaguered by eight years of conflict.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker urged Turkey to halt its military operation and warned the European Union would not help finance the creation of any "safe zone" in Northeastern Syria.

"I call on Turkey as well as on the other actors to act with restraint and to stop operations already, as we are speaking, underway," Juncker told EU legislators.

The EU is paying Turkey more than $6bln to help the country cope with millions of Syrian refugees hosted on its territory in exchange for stopping migrants leaving for Europe. However, Ankara is seeking more money amid concerns that thousands of Syrians could soon cross its border.

Berlin strongly criticized the Turkish offensive in Syria, saying that by launching a military operation, Ankara is risking to destabilize the situation in the region.

Turkey "is willingly risking further destabilizing the region and a resurgence of IS [known as ISIL or ISIS]" by attacking Northeastern Syria, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas stated.

"Syria needs stability and a political process... however, the Turkish offensive now threatens to cause a new humanitarian disaster," Maas announced in a statement, adding that Berlin would "urge Turkey to end its offensive and to pursue its security interests peacefully".

Paris, for its part, strongly condemned the Turkey's move, calling a UN Security Council meeting with Britain and Germany.

France’s European Affairs Minister said on Wednesday that France, Britain and Germany had called for the United Nations Security Council to meet to discuss the Turkish offensive in Northern Syria.

Speaking to the parliamentary foreign affairs committee Amelie de Montchalin stated that the three countries were also finalizing a joint statement to “strongly condemn” the Turkish offensive, but added that a separate EU statement had yet to be agreed because some countries had not signed up to it.

Belgian Ambassador to the United Nations Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve told reporters that the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Poland and Belgium will request the UN Security Council to convene a meeting on Thursday morning to discuss the Turkish military operation in the North of Syria.

“The EU5 [France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Poland and Belgium] will ask the meeting probably tomorrow morning,” Buytswerve noted on Wednesday.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also noted that the bloc has been notified of the Turkish operation, stating that Ankara does have "legitimate security concerns".

"I am ensured that any action it may take in Northern Syria is proportionate and measured," he said after meeting Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, adding, "It is important to avoid actions that may further destabilize region, escalate tensions and cause more human suffering."

The official called on the Turkish authorities to ensure that their actions in the Middle Eastern country are proportionate.

Conte also noted that Turkish operations in Syria risk destabilizing the region and harming civilians.



Daughter of jailed UK-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe returns to UK

11 October 2019

The five-year-old daughter of a British-Iranian woman jailed in Tehran since 2016 has arrived back in Britain, her father said Friday, after making the “bittersweet” decision to bring her home.

Gabriella Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been staying with relatives in Iran since her mother Nazanin’s detention on sedition charges, visiting her in jail each week.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 40, stated in an open letter released earlier this week that Gabriella, who only speaks a few words of English, would return to Britain “in the near future.”

Richard Ratcliffe confirmed on Friday that his daughter had arrived home, saying “Gabriella came back to us late at night, a bit uncertain seeing those she only remembered from the phone.

“It has been a long journey to have her home, with bumps right until the end,” he added in the statement.

“Of course the job is not yet done until Nazanin is home. It was a hard goodbye for Nazanin and all her family. But let us hope this homecoming unlocks another.”

Ratcliffe told AFP last week that his daughter’s return would be “bittersweet.”

“It will be lovely to have her back ... and then also we will be weary of the fallout for Nazanin,” he said, noting that Gabriella had been his wife’s “lifeline and that lifeline will have been taken away.”

The young girl spent three and a half years living in Iran, visiting her mother in the Evin prison. Her parents decided it would be best for her to be schooled in Britain.

“My baby will leave me to go to her father and start school in the UK,” her mother wrote in an open letter released earlier this month. “It will be a daunting trip for her travelling, and for me left behind.”

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in April 2016 as she was leaving Iran after taking their then 22-month-old daughter to visit her family.

She was sentenced to five years in jail for allegedly trying to topple the Iranian government.

A project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the media group’s philanthropic arm, she denies all charges.

Full report at:



Iran hails efforts to mediate talks with Saudis ahead of Imran Khan visit

Oct 12, 2019

Iran's foreign minister says the country welcomes efforts by intermediaries to arrange talks with Saudi Arabia, including those by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan who is due to arrive in Tehran on Saturday.

"We've always been open to discussing anything with Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is our neighbor. We're going to be here together permanently," Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an interview with Turkey's TRT World.

"We don't have any choice but to talk to each other, and we have been open to talking to Saudi Arabia either directly or through intermediaries," Zarif noted.

"We've never rejected any intermediary... We've always been open to mediation, and we've always been open to direct talks with our Saudi neighbors," the top diplomat noted when asked about the upcoming visit of Pakistan's Imran Khan to Tehran.

Khan will embark on an official visit to Iran and Saudi Arabia as part of Islamabad’s efforts to defuse increasing tensions in the Middle East, diplomatic sources said Friday.

He will on Saturday leave Islamabad for Tehran, where he is scheduled to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday. The prime minister will later in the day travel to Riyadh for meetings with the Saudi leadership.

During Khan’s last visit to Riyadh, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman had asked him to help defuse tensions with Iran, Pakistan's leading English-language newspaper Dawn reported.

The announcement of the Pakistani prime minister's visit comes after The New York Times quoted officials of Iraq and Pakistan as saying that the Saudi crown prince had asked the leaders of those two countries in recent weeks to speak with their Iranian counterparts about de-escalation.

In his interview with TRT, Zarif emphasized that Saudi Arabia needs to start good relations with its neighbors if it wants to be secure.

"Buying weapons will not buy you security. If Saudi Arabia wants to be secure, the best way is to end the war in Yemen, to start good relations with its neighbors and the neighborhood, and not to trust the US," he said.

The top diplomat also referred to a peace plan, officially called Hormuz Peace Endeavor (HOPE), proposed by President Hassan Rouhani during his recent speech at the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly, saying the initiative calls on "all eight countries in the Persian Gulf region to join in an attempt to bring peace through dialogue."

"We hope it can be discussed and further enriched by our neighbors," he added.

On Tuesday, Zarif stressed that Iran will be a companion of Saudi Arabia if the kingdom changes course and pursues regional issues at the negotiating table instead of “killing people.”

Full report at:



Erdogan says Turkey won't stop military operation against Syria Kurds

Oct 11, 2019

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Ankara will not stop its military operation against Kurdish militants in northeastern Syria “no matter what anyone says”, a day after he vowed to flood Europe with millions of refugees if the European Union brands the offensive an invasion.

Turkish military forces and Turkish-backed militants of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) on Wednesday launched a long-threatened cross-border invasion of northeast Syria in a declared attempt to eliminate Kurdish militants from the so-called People's Protection Units (YPG) to push them away from border areas.

Ankara views the US-backed YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militant group, which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984.

The YPG, which itself is the military wing of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), constitutes the backbone of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an anti-Damascus alliance of predominantly Kurdish militants. 

“We will never stop this step we have taken against the PYD/YPG... We will not stop it no matter what anyone says,” Erdogan said on Friday, adding, “We’re receiving threats from right and left, saying stop this progress.”   

The Turkish leader once again vowed that the cross-border military operation – called Operation Peace Spring - will continue until all YPG militants withdraw from northern Syria.

“Our fight will continue until all terrorists move further to the south of the 32-kilometer long border that Mr. [Donald] Trump has mentioned. They will abandon this area,” Erdogan said, referring to the US president and the area where the Kurdish militants are operating now.

On Thursday, Erdogan threatened the EU that if it kept condemning Turkey’s operation and calling it an invasion he would allow 3.6 millions of Syrian refugees – housed in Turkey for several years - to make their way toward Europe.

However, EU states threatened to impose sanctions on Turkey over its offensive in the Arab country, angrily rejecting Erdogan’s warning that he would “open the gates” and send refugees to Europe if they did not support his operation.

Later on Friday, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Trump had ordered US officials to draft “"very significant” new sanctions to target Turkey over the offensive, adding that banks were being notified.

He added that Washington was not activating the sanctions now but would do so if necessary.

Late on Friday, however, the Turkish Foreign Ministry, in response to possible US sanctions, said in a statement that Ankara would retaliate to any steps against its efforts to fight terrorism.

“Turkey is fighting with terrorist organizations that create a threat to its national security,” it said, adding, “No one should doubt that we will retaliate ... to any step that will be taken against this.”

Turkey’s National Defense Ministry said on Friday that 399 “PKK/PYD-YPG terrorists” had been "neutralized" since the beginning of the operation.

The Turkish military generally uses the term neutralize to signify that the militants surrendered or were killed or captured.

Turkey shells land near US forces in N Syria

Separately on Friday, Turkish artillery hit close to a US Special Forces unit in the vicinity of the Syrian city of Kobani, CNN, citing an unnamed US official familiar with the initial assessment, reported.

It added that no one had been wounded and the artillery shells fell on Mashtenour hill, several hundred meters from where the US troops were stationed.

Turkey's military also issued a statement, saying the shelling was an "accident" and that it was returning fire on the Kurdish militants.

It added that as soon as the Turkish troops realized American Special Forces had potentially been caught in the middle, they ceased.

A Pentagon spokesman later confirmed Turkey's artillery shelling of US troops.

Full report at:



Yemeni attack on Aramco facilities costs Saudi $2bn worth of oil output

Oct 11, 2019

Saudi Arabia has lost $2 billion worth of its oil production after Yemen's retaliatory attacks on the kingdom's vital energy infrastructure last month, a report by the Financial Times says.

The country's output fell by nearly 1.3mn barrels a day in September, from the previous month, according to data submitted to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) by analysts and consultants, which is used by the cartel to set official production targets.

Saudi Arabia told OPEC’s research arm that production was only hit by 660,000 bpd, according to a monthly oil market report published on Thursday.

Riyadh has sought to emphasize its ability to bring production back to normal levels and the resiliency of the state energy group Saudi Aramco, FT reported Thursday.

The country has tried to maintain its exports using oil in storage. However, energy consultants, analysts and industry executives have questioned the ability of the country’s production and exports to recover to above 9mn bpd within weeks.

It is also unclear how Saudi officials are going to stop such attacks from happening again.

The attack by Yemeni forces last month shut down 5.7 million bpd of Saudi Arabia’s oil production, which represents more than half of the kingdom’s or five percent of global output.

Energy analysts have said the raid was akin to a massive heart attack for the oil market and global economy. It has already plunged OPEC's oil production to the lowest level since 2011.

The attacks would also cause a decline in Saudi Arabia’s economic growth this year, the World Bank has said in a report.

The report published on Thursday revised forecast about Saudi Arabia’s yearly growth of gross domestic product (GDP) from an earlier 1.7% announced in April to 0.8%, saying the decline was mainly due to oil production cuts caused by September 14 attacks as well as a worsening global outlook.

“The attacks on Saudi oil facilities in September led to a significant supply disruption which is also expected to impact 2019 growth,” said the report about the attacks by Yemen’s Houthis targeting oil facilities run by state-run Aramco company in eastern Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has constantly denied the attacks would have any impact on the kingdom’s finances, with the government estimating that GDP growth would stand at around 1.9% at the end of 2019.

The attacks caused a serious decline in valuation of Aramco, a company that was planned for a listing in the domestic stock market as part of a bid to finance government programs for economic modernization.

Full report at:



Trump: We don’t want Turkey killing a lot of people in Syria

12 October 2019

US President Donald Trump says that Washington does not want Turkey killing a lot of people in Syria and his administration will use sanctions if it has to.

The US ramped up efforts on Friday to persuade Turkey to halt an escalating offensive in northern Syria against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces, saying Ankara was causing “great harm” to ties and could face potentially devastating sanctions.

Trump’s decision to pull back troops from Syria’s border with Turkey has been widely criticized in Washington as a tacit “green light” for a Turkish incursion that experts say could cause a humanitarian catastrophe.

Full report at:



SDF commander confirms five ISIS prisoners escape after Turkey shelling

11 October 2019

The commander-in-chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces has confirmed that Turkish shelling has hit a prison holding ISIS extremists in northeastern Syria, resulting in the escape of five detained members.

The statement came from SDF chief General Mazlum Kobani Abdi during an interview with journalists and researchers with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“Guarding ISIS detainees is no longer a priority,” Abdi was quoted as saying.

A prison guard at Navkur, which is located in the town of Qamishli, had told AFP before the reported breakout that the facility housed mostly foreign extremists.

Full report at:



Pakistan's Imran Khan to visit Iran, Saudi Arabia: Report

Oct 11, 2019

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan will embark on an official visit to Iran and Saudi Arabia as part of Islamabad’s efforts to defuse increasing tensions in the Middle East, diplomatic sources say.

Khan will on Saturday leave Islamabad for Tehran, where he is scheduled to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday. The prime minister will later in the day travel to Riyadh for meetings with the Saudi leadership.

Pakistan's leading English-language newspaper Dawn on Friday said Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal, speaking at a weekly media briefing on Thursday, confirmed Khan’s upcoming trip.

“The visits of the prime minister to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran are on the cards,” he said.

The newspaper also said during Khan’s last visit to Riyadh, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman had asked him to help defuse tensions with Iran.

The announcement of the Pakistani prime minister's visit comes after The New York Times quoted officials of Iraq and Pakistan as saying that the Saudi crown prince had asked the leaders of those two countries in recent weeks to speak with their Iranian counterparts about de-escalation.

In reaction to the report, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Tuesday that Iran will be a companion of Saudi Arabia if the kingdom changes course and pursues regional issues at the negotiating table instead of “killing people.”

“Under the circumstances that the Saudis have developed an interest in talking with Iran, if they pursue regional issues at the negotiating table, not by killing people, they will certainly have the Islamic Republic along with them,” Zarif said.

On the sidelines of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York last month, Khan held talks with President Rouhani, telling him Islamabad was ready to have full cooperation with Tehran to ease tensions in the region.

The Pakistani prime minister made his first-ever official visit to Iran in April and held talks with Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and senior Iranian officials, including President Rouhani.

Full report at:



Iran, Caspian Sea littoral states ink military cooperation agreement

Oct 11, 2019

Iran and other Caspian Sea littoral states have inked a joint military agreement covering cooperation in such areas as security, training, technical work and search and rescue operations.

Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi signed the agreement in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg along with his Russian, Azerbaijani, Kazakh and Turkmen counterparts on Friday.

Khanzadi also held separate meetings with the navy commanders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.

The Iranian navy chief said that a joint military exercise planned between Russia and Iran will be held in the near future.

"We hope that the exercise can take place in the Indian Ocean until the end of this year," he said, referring to the end of the Persian calendar, which corresponds with mid-March next year.

Khanzadi said that the exercise seeks to increase "combat readiness" and achieve "collective security in specific areas".

"When two or more countries hold a military exercise, it signifies that an extensive level of agreement and cooperation exists between them," he added.

Last month, Iran announced plans to conduct joint naval drills with Russian and Chinese military forces in international waters of the Indian Ocean and the Sea of Oman.

Speaking on Friday, however, Khanzadi did not mention whether the joint drills planned with Russia are part of the previously announced tripartite drills or not.

Suspicious tanker attack

On Friday, an Iranian oil tanker was hit by two suspicions explosions near the Saudi port city of Jeddah, causing an oil spill that was stopped shortly after.

Tensions have been high in the region after a series of suspicious attacks took place targeting oil tankers crossing the Strait of Hormuz earlier this year.

The US, along with Saudi Arabia, quickly blamed Iran for the attacks, a claim firmly rejected by Tehran.

The attacks also came shortly after the US deployed a new naval group and a squadron of B-52 bombers to the region.

Washington has sought to use the tension to pressure Iran, calling for the formation of an international naval mission in the region.

Only Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom, have expressed willingness to join such a coalition.

Full report at:



US threatens Turkey with 'immediate defensive action' after Syria artillery fire

Oct 12, 2019

The United States has threatened to take an "immediate defensive action" after a contingent of its forces was caught up in Turkish shelling in northern Syria.

In a statement released on Friday, the Pentagon said American troops near Syria's Kurdish-populated city of Kobani, known as Ayn al-Arab, came under artillery fire from Turkish positions.

Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Brook DeWalt said the explosion took place within a few hundred meters of an area "known by the Turks to have US forces present."

"The United States remains opposed to the Turkish military move into Syria and especially objects to Turkish operations outside the Security Mechanism zone and in areas where the Turks know US forces are present," he said.

"The US demands that Turkey avoid actions that could result in immediate defensive action."

The Turkish Defense Ministry, however, said the artillery fire was not aimed at US soldiers but at "terrorist positions" in an act of “self-defense."

"Turkey did not open fire at the US observation post in any way. All precautions were taken prior to opening fire in order to prevent any harm to the US base," it said in a statement.

Turkey launched its military campaign, dubbed Operation Peace Spring, in northeast Syria on Wednesday; just days after the US pulled forces out and abandoned its Kurdish allies there.

Ankara says the operation is meant to purge the Syrian region of US-backed Kurdish militants, which Turkey views as terrorists linked to local autonomy-seeking militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The offensive is Turkey's third such military operation inside Syria against the Kurds since 2016. It has sparked widespread condemnations as well as concerns about the humanitarian situation of the civilian population and a possible resurgence of the Daesh terrorist group.

On Friday, the Syrian parliament vehemently condemned the Turkish incursion as a flagrant violation of international law and a blatant breach of the UN Security Council resolutions.

”The aggression is doomed to fail as all Turkish, US and Zionist schemes have failed during the past years as no force in the world will be able to undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria,” it said, emphasizing the Syrians' resolve to confront the aggression by all means and expose its objectives.

US threatens sanctions; Turkey vows retaliation

In another development on Friday, US President Donald Trump threatened Turkey with sanctions over its attacks on Syrian territory.

"If Turkey does something they shouldn't be doing we will put on sanctions the likes of which very few countries have ever seen before," he said. "We don't want them killing a lot of people."

Earlier in the day, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that Trump had authorized his administration to draft “very significant” new sanctions to target Turkey.

“We are putting financial institutions on notice that they should be careful and that there could be sanctions,” he said.

“These are very powerful sanctions. We hope we don’t have to use them. But we can shut down the Turkish economy if we need to,” he added.

In response, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said the country would retaliate any steps against what it calls efforts to fight terrorism.

Full report at:



EU slams Turkey for ‘weaponizing’ refugees

October 11, 2019

ANKARA: As the Turkish ground and air offensive in northeastern Syria continues, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to send millions of Syrian refugees to Europe if the EU calls Turkey’s military offensive “an invasion.” “We will open the gates and send 3.6 million refugees your way,” he said on Thursday.

The statement is considered by some a move to “weaponize” the refugees who have been in Turkey since the beginning of Syrian civil war, and to use them as a leverage.

European institutions harshly criticized Turkey’s military operation into northeastern Syria against Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which Turkey considers a terror group.

“Turkey must understand that our main concern is that their actions may lead to another humanitarian catastrophe, which would be unacceptable. Nor will we ever accept that refugees are weaponized and used to blackmail us. That is why I consider yesterday’s threats made by President Erdogan totally out of place,” Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, said on Oct. 11 after his meeting with President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades.

Under heavy artillery and airstrikes, more than 60,000 residents in Syrian towns have reportedly fled their homes since the beginning of the operation.

Ankara says it wants to create a “safe zone” along its border and to help the return of about 1 million Syrian refugees back to their country. However, the project is criticized by some as a move of “demographic re-engineering” that would forcibly settle families and change the social realities of the region.

In the framework of 2016 Turkey-EU refugee deal, the EU allocated about 97 percent of the €6 billion ($6.6 billion) of funding.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Friday that Daesh captives could potentially escape from prisons in Syria over Turkey’s incursion amid the chaos.

“Not sure if Ankara can take control of the situation,” he said to the Sputnik news agency.

Western countries have expressed their disapproval of Turkey’s operation. France announced sanctions against Turkey will be “on the table” at next week’s European summit, while Norway and Finland decided on Thursday to suspend their arms exports to Turkey.

US President Donald Trump tweeted on late Thursday: “We have one of three choices: Send in thousands of troops and win militarily, hit Turkey very hard Financially and with Sanctions, or mediate a deal between Turkey and the Kurds!”

According to Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, Erdogan’s statement equals treating Syrian refugees as pawns to be manipulated for political purposes.

Roth thinks that a stated reason for the operation is to force 1 million or more refugees to a zone along the border that Erdogan pretends will be “safe” but has no capacity to secure.

“Then, when others criticize this illegal scheme, he threatens to uproot refugees from the lives they have been building in Turkey and send them off to Europe,” he told Arab News.

Full report at:



Deaths rise, 100,000 displaced as Turkish forces push deeper into Syria

October 11, 2019

ANKARA:  Turkish forces pushed deeper into northeastern Syria on Friday, the third day of Ankara’s offensive against US-allied Syrian Kurdish fighters, as casualties mounted, international criticism of the campaign intensified and thousands of civilians fled the violence.

The UN said the attack had forced around 100,000 people to flee their homes and that there were many other humanitarian consequences to the assault. It said a water station servicing 400,000 people in the city of Hasakeh and surrounding areas was out of service.

Turkey said it captured more Kurdish-held villages in the border region, while a camp for displaced residents about 12 kilometers (7 miles) from the frontier was evacuated after artillery shells landed nearby amid intense clashes. Aid agencies have warned of a humanitarian crisis, with nearly a half-million people at risk near the border.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said the military intends to move 30 kilometers (19 miles) into northern Syria and that its operation will last until all “terrorists are neutralized.” NATO member Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish fighters to be terrorists linked to a Kurdish insurgency inside Turkey and says the offensive is a counterterrorism operation necessary for its own national security.

US President Donald Trump has warned Turkey to act with moderation and safeguard civilians, and the Pentagon said the operation is a threat to progress in combatting Daesh militants and a potential threat to US troops in Syria.

Plumes of black smoke billowed Friday from the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad as Turkey continued bombarding the area in an offensive that was progressing “successfully as planned,” the Turkish Defense Ministry said.

The Defense Ministry statement reported the death of two Turkish soldiers, with three wounded, but did not give details. Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said 342 “terrorists” — Ankara’s term for Syrian Kurdish militiamen — have been killed so far. The figure could not be independently verified. Syrian activists say only eight fighters were killed.

The Pentagon said the incursion was damaging US-Turkey relations, adding that the US was not abandoning its Kurdish partners.

“We have not abandoned the Kurds, let me be clear about that,” US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said at the Pentagon.

“Nobody green-lighted this operation by Turkey, just the opposite. We pushed back very hard at all levels for the Turks not to commence this operation,” Esper said.

The Kurdish YPG is the main fighting element of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) which have acted as the principal allies of the US in a campaign that recaptured territory held by Daesh.

The SDF now holds most of the territory that once made up Daesh’s “caliphate” in Syria, and has been keeping thousands of Daesh fighters in jail and tens of thousands of their family members in camps.

Eight people were killed and 35 wounded when the YPG militia launched a mortar and rocket attack on Turkey’s Syrian border town of Nusaybin, the governor’s office in the southeastern province of Mardin said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to send millions of Syrian refugees to Europe if the EU calls Turkey’s military offensive “an invasion.”

The statement is considered by some a move to “weaponize” the refugees who have been in Turkey since the beginning of Syrian civil war, and to use them as a leverage.

Full report at:





Imran assures Erdogan of Pakistan’s support over Turkey’s Syria operation

October 12, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday assured Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Pakistan’s support for Ankara as it faces international pressure over Turkey’s ongoing operation against Kurdish forces in Syria.

The premier, during a telephonic conversation, told the Turkish president that “Pakistan fully understands Turkey’s concerns relating to terrorism”, a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office said.

“As a country which has lost more than 70,000 lives due to terrorism and borne the burden of more than 3 million refugees for decades, Pakistan is fully cognisant of the threats and challenges being faced by Turkey having lost 40,000 of its people to terrorism,” the prime minister was quoted as saying.

“We pray that Turkey’s efforts for enhanced security, regional stability and peaceful resolution of the Syrian situation are fully successful,” he added.

Turkey considers Kurdish militants in northern Syria a “terrorist” offshoot of Kurdish insurgents in its own territory.

It wants a 30 kilometre wide buffer zone along the border, which can also serve as an area to repatriate millions of Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey. In this regard, Turkey earlier this week launched a military offensive against Kurdish militants in northern Syria, causing concerns among several countries who have called on Ankara to show restraint.

During the phone call, Prime Minister Imran said that the government and people of Pakistan are looking forward to accord a warm welcome to President Erdogan on his forthcoming visit to Pakistan later this month.



Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, UNHCR seek repatriation of Afghan refugees

October 12, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have agreed to implement the three pillars strategy of voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees, sustainable reintegration in home country and support for host countries.

The agreement was reached at an informal session of informal Quadripartite (Q4) meeting held in Geneva on the sidelines of the 70th session of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme, said a message received here on Friday.

The Q4 group formally and in principle agreed that Global Refugees Forum being held in December should showcase the good work done for Afghan refugees. It was observed that the shortcomings that still exist in the management of refugees and their gradual and voluntary repatriation should be plugged.

The meeting also agreed in principle for a “Support Platform” that would include additional players, expected to contribute to this cause for both the host and home countries.

The Q4 was attended by Minister for SAFRON and Narcotics Control Shehryar Khan Afridi, Iran’s Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, Afghan Minister for Refugees and Repatriation Syed Hussain Alemi Balkhi and the UNHCR Regional Director.

During the meeting, Shehryar Afridi elaborated on Pakistan’s contributions in hosting Afghan refugees. He said that Pakistan had incurred billions of dollars to facilitate Afghan refugees in health, education, protection, documentation, trainings, livelihood and other welfare initiatives.

He said that the latest initiative taken to facilitate Afghan refugees is allowing them to open and operate bank accounts. “Pakistan doesn’t seek praise for its commitment towards welfare and well-being of Afghan refugees. Pakistan needs acknowledgment and commitment from other partners in burden and responsibility sharing,” he added.

Afghan Minister for Refugees and Repatriation Alemi Balkhi said that his government supported the return of all Afghan refugees and their reintegration. He said that the Afghan government has been working on 15-20 areas for the rehabilitation of refugees. “Those areas are being developed to settle the returnees. We are also working for an incentive for them. We are hopeful that the Global Refugee Forum meetings due in December in Geneva this year would go a long way in this regard,” Balkhi said.

Full report at:



Afghan ambassador warns Kabul will shut its Peshawar consulate

Oct 11, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Days after Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan, Shukrullah Atif Mashal, warned that his country would close its consulate in Peshawar over a property dispute, he issued a statement on Friday threatening to shut down the facility over the Pakistan police’s removal of the Afghan flag from a market that the Afghan authorities claim is owned by their government.

According to the statement, Pakistani police had entered Firdous market in Peshawar city on Thursday night and closed the market, which, Mashal claimed, was the sole property of the Afghan government.

“Over the past few days the Pakistani police have entered the area several times without informing the Afghan embassy, and they have removed Afghanistan’s flag, (which are) against diplomatic conventions and neighbourly manners,” the statement read.

Full report at:



PM asks aides to keep channel of dialogue with Fazl open

Syed Irfan Raza

October 12, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday asked his political aides to keep open a ‘channel of dialogue’ with Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman who has given a call for a sit-in against the government on Oct 31 in the federal capital.

PM Khan gave these instructions during a meeting with government’s spokespersons at the Prime Minister Office (PMO).

When contacted, a spokesman for the prime minister, who was also attended the meeting, said a proposal was floated that the government must reach out to the JUI-F chief to ascertain demands of his party and it should not go for a deadlock on the issue.

It was also decided in the meeting that Maulana Fazl, who will kick off his agitation programme known as Azadi March from Sindh on Oct 27 and will reach Islamabad on Oct 31, would not be stopped from staging the sit-in in the federal capital, but in case protesters turned unruly they would be dealt with sternly.

“The prime minister’s response was clear that there is no harm in reaching out to the Maulana to avoid any deadlock,” the spokesman said.

The spokesman said the prime minister was of the view that the JUI-F chief was toeing the line of the two main opposition parties — Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

The spokesman quoted the prime minister as saying: “The Maulana is toeing the line of the PML-N and PPP because he is struggling for his own livelihood.”

The meeting noted that both the PPP and PML-N, which remained in power two and three times, respectively, had now reached a stage that they were compelled to seek help of smaller parties in the country.

The meeting observed that the JUI-F chief had used different cards on different occasions and this time the Maulana was using the religion card by bringing innocent students of seminaries to the sit-in, but expressed the hope that “this time the Maulana’s agitation plan will prove to be his waterloo”.

Meanwhile, federal Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri on Friday clarified that he had not been tasked by the prime minister with holding talks with Maulana Fazlur Rehman.

In a statement, the minister said there was no truth in the news being run on the media that the prime minister had tasked him with forming a committee to look into the matter.

Media reports also hinted that Maulana Fazl would not be allowed to enter the federal capital and could be arrested in Punjab or Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

It is believed that the Sindh government, where the PPP is in power, will facilitate the JUI-F chief to start the Azadi March.

Maulana Fazal is expected to unveil the next plan of action after reaching Islamabad. Thousands of students of seminaries are expected to take part in the protest.

Pakistan Citizen Portal

Separately, the PM Office announced that the Pakistan Citizen Portal (PCP) had emerged as an effective platform for redressal of public grievances, especially complaints relating to government offices where inordinate delay and apathy of officials hampered efforts for good governance.

Launched by the prime minister on Oct 28 last year, the portal received 1.23 million complaints from 1.173 million registered users so far within just 11 months of its existence.

According to data released by the PMO, most of the complaints received by the portal were related to municipal services (256,867 complaints), followed by the energy and power sector (210,259), education (124,362), health (71,562), law & order (70,066) and land and revenue departments (47,435).

From Punjab, the portal received a total of 447,921 complaints. Of these, 38 per cent complaints were related to municipal services, 11 per cent were about education and 10 per cent were about law and order.

From KP, a total of 109,806 complaints were received. Of these, 25 per cent complaints were made against municipal services, 19 per cent were about education and 12 per cent related to the health sector.

From Sindh, the portal received a total of 92,648 complaints. Of these, 47 per cent complaints were about bad municipal services, 10 per cent complaints were about citizen’s rights and only eight per cent complaints related to the education sector.

From Balochistan, 7,378 complaints were received and most of them were related to municipal services, education and health sectors.

The portal, connected with over 7,000 government offices, had helped address 1.057 million complaints so far and the rest were being addressed, the PMO said.

Full report at:



Qureshi says ‘motives behind politics of sit-ins are clear to everyone’

October 12, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Friday said that motives behind the politics of sit-ins were clear to everyone.

While talking to reporters, Qureshi said that the stated position of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has been against such political antics yet it had extended support to the so-called ‘Azadi March’.

“Someone should ask Bilawal Bhutto Zardari why he is supporting this sit-in against a democratically elected government”

“Shehbaz Sharif is the legal president of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) yet no one within his party is supporting his call to not participate in the sit-in. Only a faction within the main opposition party is supporting the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) supremo Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s planned sit-in in Islamabad,” he said.

The foreign minister said that Indian attempts of trying to blacklist Pakistan in the international community will meet with failure.

In reply to a question about escalating hostilities between Saudi Arabi and Iran, Qureshi said, “Pakistan has close relations with both countries and we will try to remove misunderstanding between the two Islamic countries as the region cannot bear the consequences of any untoward situation.”

The foreign minister announced that Pakistan will observe October 27 as ‘Black Day’ along with the people of Indian occupied Kashmir (IOK) in protest of the ongoing brutalities there.

He praised clerics for supporting the government by organising a rally to show solidarity with Kashmiris. “PM Imran Khan has pointed towards the dual standards of the world over neglecting the Kashmir crisis.”

Commenting over the upcoming visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Qureshi said that Turkey is a close ally of Pakistan as it has always support Islamabad’s stance in regard to IOK.

Full report at:



Pakistan PM Plans Peacemaking Visits to Iran, Saudi Arabia

By Ayaz Gul

October 11, 2019

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, will visit Iran Sunday to meet President Hassan Rouhani before heading to Saudi Arabia as part of his mediation efforts to help defuse tensions between the two countries.

Khan’s peacemaking mission comes days after he announced in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly that U.S. President Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had both asked him to mediate with Tehran.

“Pakistan maintains close relations with Saudi Arabia and it is our strategic partner. Iran is our neighbor and friend. Pakistan wishes to prevent further deterioration in differences between the two brotherly Islamic countries,” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Friday.

“Very soon I will be accompanying the prime minister and we will travel to Iran, we will also visit Saudi Arabia. Our effort will be to help remove the misunderstandings and reduce the tensions to preserve regional peace,” Qureshi told reporters while speaking in his native eastern city of Multan.

The foreign minister noted Pakistan can ill-afford another conflict in the region because it is already dealing with security and economic challenges stemming from the war in neighboring Afghanistan, which entered its 19th year this month.

Washington had blamed Tehran for last month's attack on the world’s biggest crude oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia, fueling tensions in the Middle East.

Historically strained U.S.-Iran relations have deteriorated over the past year since Trump withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers. Trump reimposed sanctions on Iran, prompting the Shi'ite Muslim nation to gradually reduce its commitments under the deal to limit controversial uranium enrichment operations.

Tehran denies involvement in the September 14 strikes that were claimed by the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen, which are fighting a Saudi-led military coalition.

Pakistan has traditionally relied on financial assistance and import of oil on deferred payments from Saudi Arabia. Pakistani military troops are also stationed on Saudi soil to train local forces.

But with its large Shi’ite minority and a nearly 900-kilometer border with Iran, Pakistan has stayed neutral in Middle East tensions. Islamabad declined a Saudi call a few years back to join the Riyadh-led military alliance fighting the Houthi insurgents. Asif Durrani, a former Pakistani ambassador to Iran, says Pakistan’s natural stance has in fact provided the opportunity for the country to play the role of a mediator.

“Had Pakistan been siding with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or Iran, such a role would have been out of the question. Therefore it is important for Pakistan to maintain a neutral stance, primarily aimed at bringing the two antagonists on the negotiating table,” Durrani said.

Adam Weinstein, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, says Pakistan could offer Riyadh and Tehran a face-saving channel of communication and path towards de-escalation.

Full report at:



UAE hands over data of Pakistanis given residence permits

Mubarak Zeb Khan

October 12, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The country’s top tax machinery claims to have received data of the Pakistani nationals who have obtained residence by investments in the United Arab Emirates in a bid to hide their illegal wealth.

The data was collected from the Dubai Land Department (DLD) at the conclusion of a three-day (Oct 8-10) meeting in Dubai. Pakistan was represented in the meeting by Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Secretary for International Taxes Sajida Kausar.

Well-placed sources told Dawn that the FBR’s international taxes wing was scrutinising the data and those identified with correct addresses and accurate identification would be served notices for tax collection.

However, the DLD has yet to provide data about the Pakistani nationals who have obtained iqama (work permit) in order to hide their illegal wealth.

The FBR had on Aug 22 sent a letter to the UAE, seeking information about all Pakistani nati­onals who have obtained iqama and residence through investment.

The sources said the Dubai meeting was a follow-up to the letter sent to the UAE authorities.

Taking to Twitter, FBR chairman Shabbar Zaidi said he was pleased to say that a very productive meeting had been held in Dubai on Oct 9-10 on the matter of exchange of information under the avoidance of double taxation treaty. “Dubai Land Department will instantly provide details of Pakistani owners of Dubai properties. Iqama abuse is also being handled,” he tweeted.

The UAE law allows foreign nationals to obtain iqama on the basis of investment beyond a certain threshold. The issue gained importance in Pakistan in the wake of information received from the UAE in which 3,620 accounts have been reported to Islamabad. However, the number of accounts with substantial balance is negligible.

“We have sent back all the data for exchange with the UAE authorities to get actual actionable data,” a source in the FBR told Dawn.

Earlier, the FBR had also received data from the Federal Investigation Agency about Pakistani nationals’ investments in the UAE, but issued notices in 20-30 cases only and made a recovery of Rs400 million. The cases were pursued after former chief justice of Pakistan Siqib Nisar had taken suo motu notice on Dubai properties.

One of the cases was of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s sister Aleema Khanum who paid Rs29.4m in taxes and fine for concealing her UAE property.

According to the source, the FBR’s international taxes wing was scrutinising the data provided by the DLD and it would take a few days to identify the potential tax evaders, adding that the total number of Pakis­tani nationals would be known after full analysis of the data.

He said the FBR was interested in actionable data with true potential of tax evasion. “We will only target medium to big investors.”

The source, however, said that there was a chance of overlapping in the data of residence by investments and those who have iqama. He said the FBR had no problem with the Pakistani nationals investing and doing business in the UAE legally with lawfully remitted funds. “We are gravely concerned with the persons who have siphoned off funds illegally from Pakistan, parked them in the UAE and are now hiding behind iqama-based residential status,” the source said.

According to him, Pakistan has also agreed to give information about UAE investors to the Dubai authorities. However, there is no tax on income in the UAE. Therefore, according to the source, Dubai may not be interested in getting information from Pakistan.

Pakistan and the UAE had on Feb 13, 1993 signed the agreement for avoidance of double taxation and prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes. Both countries have historically continued to maintain a vibrant exchange of information bet­ween them. The sighing of the OECD-Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters (OECD-MC) has reinforced its importance.

Full report at:



ANP announces support for JUI-F; Imran says option for talks open

October 12, 2019

As Awami National Party (ANP) chief Asfandyar Wali announced “full support” for Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl’s (JUI-F) upcoming ‘Azadi March”, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said that option for talks would remain open.

Wali, while addressing reporters, said that he himself would participate in the protest rally once it reaches the federal capital. He also warned that if political workers are stopped or tortured then Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) chief minister would be responsible.

Meanwhile, while chairing a high-level meeting, the premier was asked if a committee was formed to talk to JUI-F, to which he said that there was no need for it. He added that “if someone wants to talk, the option should remain open”.

Full report at:



Terrorism is an irreconcilable offence, rules SC

October 12, 2019

The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday ruled that terrorism is an irreconcilable offence and a settlement between two parties does not automatically entail the perpetrator’s release or reduction in sentence.

The apex court was hearing a case pertaining to the release of a terrorist on the basis of reconciliation. The bench ruled that “terrorism is an unacceptable act and it is not possible to release the culprit charged with terror charges”.

“In a favourable case, a compromise or settlement between the parties under certain circumstances may lead reduction in sentence but the situation is different in a terrorism case, where the sentence will not be automatically reduced after reconciliation between the parties,” the court’s verdict added.

The apex court also said that it would be the court’s discretion to consider any reduction in the perpetrator’s sentence. “The trial court will consider reduction of sentence after reconciliation in the terror case,” the verdict added.

Full report at:



‘Azadi March’ is a national movement: Fazl

October 12, 2019

CHINIOT: Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Friday said that the Azadi March is a national level movement, something with which even the government’s allies agreed.

Addressing a presser in Chiniot on Friday, the JUI-F chief said that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government was more corrupt than any other government in the world, adding that the debt taken by the government in its first year of office alone equalled the debt taken in the last 70 years.

“The country’s economic situation is unlikely to change if PTI continues its hold on power,” he said.

Fazl added that the government was targeting political rivals in corruption cases primarily to draw attention away from its failure to govern.

“Whole country is suffering as a result of PTI’s misguided policies,” he said, adding that the government’s Ehsaas Saylani Langar Scheme was also another ploy to divert the public’s attention.

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


Malaysia PM Mahathir turns down invitation to form unity government with Umno and PAS

OCT 8, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has turned down an invitation from opposition party Umno for his Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition to form a so-called unity government with the Barisan Nasional (BN) alliance, Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) and other parties in Sarawak and Sabah.

The offer was made by Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, deputy president of Umno, the Malay-dominant party which leads BN.

BN governed the country for more than six decades before being defeated by PH in the general election in May last year.

The Prime Minister said PH has no interest in forming a unity government with the opposition, as the existing Cabinet is made up of ministers of various racial backgrounds, in line with Malaysia's diverse cultures.

"Every government formed since Merdeka until today has Cabinet members made up of all races," said Tun Dr Mahathir, referring to the country's independence from colonial rule in 1957.

"This is a fact we cannot dismiss - that the country is made up of various races, and every race has their right in the country," he told reporters at the Parliament lobby on Tuesday (Oct 8).

Mr Mohamad's offer came after Dr Mahathir attended the Malay Dignity Congress on Sunday, which discussed concerns that Malay Muslim interests were being sidelined.

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang and leaders from Umno also attended the event, at which the community's demands regarding religion, politics, the economy, education, and culture were aired.

In a statement on Monday, Mr Mohamad said that if Dr Mahathir was sincere about strengthening the position of Malays and Islam, then he should form a new government with BN, PAS and parties in east Malaysia.

Dr Mahathir is chairman of the Malay-based Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, one of the four parties in PH. Its partners in the coalition are Parti Keadilan Rakyat, Democratic Action Party and Parti Amanah Negara.

"I'm confident that Umno and PAS have no problems in accepting Dr Mahathir and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia in this grand agenda of Malays and Islam," added Mr Mohamad.

Dr Mahathir on Tuesday also dismissed criticism of his scathing remarks about the Malay community during the congress. He had said there would not be much improvement in the livelihood of Malays if the Malays themselves did not want to change for the better.

"I wanted to speak the truth... If we cannot criticise someone, how can we improve them? If they are wrong and we praise them, that is wrong," he said on Tuesday.

"I'm just saying that Malay dignity can only be restored by the Malays themselves, and they cannot depend on anyone else, not even the government."



Indonesia beefs-up security after IS-linked attack

12 October 2019

Indonesian leader Joko Widodo ordered beefed-up security measures Friday after two militants from an Islamic State (IS)-linked terror group stabbed his chief security minister, with the politician in hospital recovering from emergency surgery.

Police were searching for more suspects in the wake of the assassination attempt on Wiranto, a 72-year-old former army chief who goes by one name.

The minister was knifed twice in the stomach as he left his vehicle in Pandeglang on Java island during an official visit on Thursday.

"Although there are already security precautions, they should be improved so what happened to (Wiranto) never happens again," Widodo told reporters in Jakarta on Friday.

A 31-year-old man and a 21-year-old woman, reportedly a married couple, were arrested at the scene.

They were later identified as members of Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), an extremist network loyal to the IS group.

Widodo said he had ordered the national police and intelligence agency chiefs to pursue other suspects within JAD, which was responsible for several previous attacks – including deadly suicide bombings at churches in Indonesia's second-biggest city Surabaya last year.

The attack came shortly before Widodo begins his second term as president of the Southeast Asian archipelago of 260 million people.

"An attack like this should set off alarm bells for security personnel to increase their caution," said Ridwan Habib, a terrorism researcher at the University of Indonesia.

Police, however, sought to play down fears of a long-planned assault Friday, saying the male suspect led a "spontaneous" attack in response to the recent arrest of a local JAD leader.

"He saw helicopters and large groups gathering" for Wiranto's arrival, said national police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo.

"Spontaneously, he went to the square and told his wife that he would attack the official and his wife must attack the nearest police officer," he added.

Three others – a local police chief and two aides – also suffered knife wounds in Thursday's attack. Their injuries were non-life-threatening.

'Looked weak'

Indonesia, the world's biggest Muslim-majority nation, has long struggled with attacks by Islamist militants, including the 2002 Bali bombings.

Saturday marks the 17th anniversary of the attack in Bali that killed over 200 people – Indonesia's deadliest terror incident.

Wiranto was recovering on Friday.

"I visited him earlier today. He could talk but still looked weak," presidential chief of staff Moeldoko, who also goes by one name, told the media.

The male suspect had reportedly been under surveillance by Indonesia's intelligence agency for hoarding sharp weapons.

Some past militant attacks have been against police and other state symbols, but Thursday's incident is thought to be the first known assassination attempt by JAD on an Indonesian politician.

Indonesian authorities routinely arrest suspected IS-loyal militants they claim are planning bomb and other attacks.

Wiranto, the retired chief of the armed forces and a failed presidential candidate, was appointed to his post in 2016 and oversees several departments, including the foreign affairs and defence ministries.

A major figure in Indonesian politics, he has faced controversy over alleged human rights violations and allegations of crimes against humanity linked to Indonesia's brutal occupation of East Timor.

In May, police said Wiranto and three other top officials were targeted in a failed assassination plot linked to deadly riots in Jakarta after Widodo's re-election victory.

Full report at:



Indonesian police ramp up suspect search after ISIS-linked attack

11 October 2019

Indonesian police were searching for more suspects Friday after two militants from an ISIS-linked terror group stabbed the chief security minister, as the politician recovered in hospital following emergency surgery.

Wiranto, a 72-year-old former army chief, was stabbed twice in the stomach as he left his vehicle in Pandeglang on Java island on Thursday.

The assassination attempt comes shortly before President Joko Widodo begins his second term as leader of the Southeast Asian archipelago of 260 million people, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation.

On Thursday, Widodo ordered the national police and intelligence agency chiefs to pursue other suspects in the attack and the extremist network allegedly behind it.

“An attack like this should set off alarm bells for security personnel to increase their caution,” said Ridwan Habib, a terrorism researcher at the University of Indonesia.

On Friday, Wiranto, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, was in hospital following surgery and reportedly recovering.

“I visited him earlier today. He could talk but still looked weak,” presidential chief of staff Moeldoko, who goes by one name, told AFP on Friday.

“He remains in intensive care.”

A 31-year-old man and a 21-year-old woman, reportedly a married couple, were arrested at the scene in Pandeglang.

They were later identified as members of Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), an extremist organisation loyal to ISIS that was responsible for several previous attacks, including deadly suicide bombings at churches in Indonesia’s second-biggest city Surabaya last year.

The male suspect had reportedly been under surveillance by the intelligence agency in Indonesia, which has long struggled with extremist groups.

Some past attacks have been against police and other state symbols, but Thursday’s incident is thought to be the first known assassination attempt by JAD on an Indonesian politician.

Authorities routinely arrest suspected ISIS-loyal militants they claim were planning bomb and other attacks.

Three others - a local police chief and two aides - also suffered knife wounds in Thursday’s attack but authorities said they had non-life-threatening injuries.

Wiranto, the retired chief of the armed forces and a failed presidential candidate, was appointed to his post in 2016 and oversees several departments, including the foreign affairs and defence ministries.

A major figure in Indonesian politics, he has faced controversy over alleged human rights violations and allegations of crimes against humanity linked to Indonesia’s brutal occupation of East Timor.

In May, police said Wiranto and three other top officials were targeted in a failed assassination plot linked to deadly riots in Jakarta after Widodo’s re-election victory.

Full report at:



North America


NATO chief says allies must stay united in ISIS fight

11 October 2019

NATO must stay united in the fight against ISIS, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned on Thursday amid Turkey’s offensive against Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria.

“We have to remember that we need to continue to stand together in our common fight against a common enemy, which is ISIS,” he said during a visit to Athens.

“ISIS are still present on the ground, in Iraq, Syria ... in Afghanistan,” he added.

“We have made enormous progress in the fight against ISIS ... we must make sure that we preserve those gains.”

The Turkish military, supported by Syrian proxies, launched the offensive against areas controlled by Kurdish-led authorities in northeastern Syria on Wednesday, despite widespread international warnings.

NATO member Turkey says its operation is aimed at pushing back Syrian Kurdish-led forces, which it considers “terrorists”, and establishing a “safe zone” to help repatriate Syrian refugees.

Stoltenberg earlier this week urged Turkey to show “restraint” in its operation against Kurdish-led forces in Syria, warning that the fight against ISIS should not be put at risk.

On Thursday he added that the operation should also avoid causing “more human suffering.”

After Turkey launched the assault, Stoltenberg acknowledged that Ankara had “legitimate security concerns” but called for a measured response.

The offensive has sparked international anger, raising fears of a new refugee crisis in northern Syria and concern that thousands of fighters being held in Syrian Kurdish prisons could use the opportunity to escape.



Esper condemns Turkish offensive, says US military not abandoning Kurds in Syria

Oct 11, 2019

The US Defense Department has condemned Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria, saying Washington is "greatly disappointed" by the Turkish incursion.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that the US had not abandoned its Syrian Kurdish allies to a Turkish military onslaught despite Washington giving Ankara the green light to launch the incursion earlier this week.

Following a phone conversation between President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the White House said Sunday, “Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into northern Syria.”

The White House also said US troops would withdraw from the border between Turkey and Syria and wouldn’t be involved in the offensive.

However, Esper said, “Nobody green-lighted this operation by Turkey, just the opposite. We pushed back very hard at all levels for the Turks not to commence this operation.”

"To be clear," Esper noted "We are not abandoning our Kurdish partner forces, and US troops remain with them in other parts of Syria. The impulsive action of President Erdogan to invade northern Syria has put the United States in a tough situation."

The decision to withdraw the US troops, he added, “was made to ensure American troops were not caught up in the fighting between Turkish and Kurdish forces.”

Esper and Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said they had talked with their Turkish counterparts repeatedly in recent days, urging them to halt their ongoing offensive. However, there has not been an indication Turkey would do so, they added.

“I’m not seeing any indication or warnings of any planned stoppage of their military activity,” said Milley, the top US military officer.

Since the beginning of the Turkish invasion on Wednesday, at least 10 civilians along with least 29 Kurdish militants have been killed, according to the Observatory. Another six fighters belonging to armed groups led by Turkey have also been reported killed.

The Turkish Defense Ministry confirmed on Friday that it had lost one soldier and that another three had been injured, marking Turkey's first confirmed casualties since it began the incursion.

Full report at:



US to move about 50 ISIS fighters from Syria to Iraq amid Turkish assault, officials say

By Greg Norman

October 12, 2019

Around 50 Islamic State fighters that the U.S. removed from Syria in recent days amidst a Turkish military assault are headed to Iraq, officials there say.

Two Iraqi intelligence officials who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday say the transfer of the prisoners is expected to be completed by Friday.

The move comes after Turkey began a military offensive into northern Syria against U.S.-backed Kurdish-led fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who are holding more than 10,000 ISIS members as prisoners.

There are concerns that with the assault unfolding, the Kurdish-led forces in charge of guarding the detainees won't be able to secure them or would divert forces to fend off against advancing Turkish troops.

U.S. officials said Wednesday that two British militants believed to be part of an ISIS group that beheaded hostages and were known as "The Beatles" already have been moved out of a detention center in Syria and are in American custody.

Their exact location Thursday was not immediately clear.

The two British men, El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Amon Kotey, along with other British jihadis, allegedly made up the ISIS cell that was nicknamed "The Beatles" because of their English accents.

In 2014 and 2015, the militants held more than 20 Western hostages in Syria and tortured many of them. The group beheaded seven American, British and Japanese journalists, and aid workers and a group of Syrian soldiers, boasting of the butchery in videos released to the world.

The two British men were captured in January last year in eastern Syria by the Kurdish forces amid the collapse of ISIS. Their detention set off a debate in the U.S. and Europe over how to prosecute their citizens who joined ISIS.

ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a so-called caliphate in 2014 in large parts of Syria and Iraq that the extremists controlled. But ISIS was defeated in Iraq in 2017 and in March the SDF captured the last sliver of land that was held by the fighters in Syria.

The SDF has handed over hundreds of ISIS fighters to Iraqi authorities over the past two years, including Europeans, while some were repatriated to their home countries.

Earlier this year, Iraq tried 12 French ISIS fighters whom the SDF handed over to Baghdad in January, sentencing most of them to death.

France at the time said the Iraqi court has jurisdiction to rule in the cases, though a spokeswoman reiterated the French government's opposition to the death penalty.

Full report at:



US moves two British Isis fighters from Syria to Iraq

Dan Sabbagh

Thu 10 Oct 2019

The two British Isis members accused of involvement in the beheading of western hostages are being taken to Iraq by the US military as the Turkish offensive in north-east Syria enters its second day.

Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh were members of a British group of Isis militants known as “the Beatles”. They were seized overnight, with lawyers predicting that their transfer to Iraq would be a precursor to them being taken to the United States.

Details remain sketchy, but western officials confirmed that the two Britons have been taken across the border, after previously being held in detention by Syrian Kurdish forces, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Overnight, Donald Trump announced that the two had been moved, tweeting:

Donald J. Trump


In case the Kurds or Turkey lose control, the United States has already taken the 2 ISIS militants tied to beheadings in Syria, known as the Beetles, out of that country and into a secure location controlled by the U.S. They are the worst of the worst!

October 10, 2019

The two are understood to be part of a larger group moved by the US, with some reports saying it numbered around 40 Isis fighters. Earlier, Trump had said the US had “taken a certain number of Isis fighters that are particularly bad, and we’ve wanted to make sure that nothing happened with them with respect to getting out”.

The duo were part of a group of four who are accused of being involved in the apparently filmed beheadings of British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning and US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

James Foley’s mother, Diane, said on Thursday she hoped that they would face prosecution in the US. “We need some semblance of justice for the horrific execution and torture of the Americans,” Foley told the Associated Press.

Clive Stafford Smith, a human rights lawyer, said: “I think Iraq is a stopping point, and they are heading for Virginia in the United States, where they will very likely face a death penalty trial.”

The UK does not normally allows its citizens to be extradited if they will face a death penalty charge, but when he was home secretary, Sajid Javid said he would not longer seek such assurances from the US in the cases of Kotey and Elsheikh.

Elsheikh’s mother challenged that decision, taking her case to the supreme court in London, to try to prevent the two men being extradited to the US and instead put on trial in their home country. Judgment in that case is awaited.

Stafford Smith said that taking prisoners across a border without due process amounted to an illegal rendition, but the lawyer, who has acted in a string of Guantánamo Bay cases, said he believed the US would allow a trial to go ahead.

“Kidnapping people is illegal, but the question is whether that will be enforceable in the US courts,” he said.

Overnight Trump said that he had spoken to the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, on the subject of Isis prisoners, but did not say whether he was referring to Kotey and Elsheikh.

There were also indications that the UK had been briefed in advance of the US operation, although a Home Office spokesperson said on Thursday: “It would be inappropriate to comment whilst legal proceedings are ongoing.”

The other members of the “Beatles” group included its leader, Mohammed Emwazi, who was killed in a US drone strike in 2015, and Aine Davis, who was caught in Turkey and jailed for seven and half years in 2017 for being a member of a terrorist organisation.

Estimates vary about the number of foreign Isis fighters held by the SDF, but there are at least 1,000 and potentially double that. There are also an estimated 10,000 or so Isis fighters from Syria and Iraq being held.

Many of the jails are near the border, although SDF sources denied reports that the prisons had been hit by Turkish shells. Attacks had taken place in the immediate vicinity, they said.

Security sources estimate there are around 30 Britons held in Isis jails, and the UK has largely pursued a policy of ignoring them. It argues that they travelled at their own risk to Syria, a country where there has been no consular support since the start of the civil war in 2011.

One of those held is Jack Letts, who was raised in Oxfordshire and fled to join Isis before he was picked up in 2017. His British citizenship was stripped by the UK government over the summer, leaving him with his Canadian nationality inherited from his father. His situation is unclear.

Turkey’s ambassador to the UK, Ümit Yalçın, said that Turkey was committed to the fight against what he described as the terrorists of Isis and the Syrian Kurds, and said that if Turkish forces were to take control of Isis prisoners, Ankara would seek to return them to their country of origin.

“We need a sustainable solution for all foreign fighters. Nobody can wash their hands of them,” he added. Some of the prisons, such as in the administrative centre of Qamishli are close to the Turkish border and well within any 50 mile exclusion zone.

Former MI6 chief Sir John Sawers said the British government had allowed the situation to fester, and the two ‘Beatles’ should be put on trial in the UK, rather than be taken to the US.

“Frankly, it was only ever a temporary solution to leave them in a camp in the desert in Syria. I think, ultimately, they ought really to be brought back to their home countries to face justice here,” the ex spy chief said.

There had been repeated warnings that the Turkish invasion meant Isis fighters could end up being released by one of the parties to the looming conflict, but Trump’s words suggest that the US intends to mitigate some of that risk.

Full report at:



US to deploy 3,000 more troops, boost missile defence systems in Saudi Arabia

October 12, 2019

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon said on Friday it has approved the deployment of 3,000 additional troops and military hardware to Saudi Arabia, boosting the country’s defences after attacks on its oil installations blamed on Iran.

US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper authorised the deployment of two more Patriot missile batteries, one THAAD ballistic missile interception system, two fighter squadrons and one air expeditionary wing, the Pentagon said in a statement.

“Secretary Esper informed Saudi Crown Prince and Minister of Defence Mohammed bin Salman this morning of the additional troop deployment to assure and enhance the defense of Saudi Arabia,” it said.

“Taken together with other deployments this constitutes an additional 3,000 forces that have been extended or authorised within the last month,” it said.

Esper later told reporters that the deployments were in response “to continued threats in the region” and came after a conversation with bin Salman about “efforts to protect from further Iranian aggression.” The Saudi prince had requested additional support, Esper said.

Since May, the US has increased the number of its forces by about 14,000 in the Central Command area covering the Middle East, the defence department said.

In September, the US announced deployment of 200 troops as well as Patriot missiles to the kingdom in the wake of the attacks on Saudi oil installations blamed on Iran.

Friday’s announcement came after the owner of an Iranian oil tanker said suspected missile strikes hit the vessel off the Saudi west coast port of Jeddah, raising fresh concerns about Middle East oil supply.

The planned deployment will include fighter squadrons, one air expeditionary wing and air defense personnel, the Pentagon said.

It was unclear whether some of the newly announced troops might replace other American forces expected to depart the region in the coming weeks or months.

The Pentagon has yet to announce, for example, whether it will replace the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and its strike group when it eventually wraps up its deployment to the Middle East.

The deployment is part of a series of what the United States has described as defensive moves following the attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities last month, which rattled global energy markets and exposed major gaps in Saudi Arabia’s air defenses.

Full report at:



Syrian Christian group urges NBC not to mislead public

Faruk Zorlu


One of the world’s oldest Christian minorities, Syria’s Arameans, urged NBC News early Saturday not to mislead the public by covering a false report about Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring.

NBC News claimed Thursday that two Syrian Christians were killed overnight in Turkish strikes, citing the Syriac Military Council militia.

It also said that Baderkhan Ahmad, a Syrian-Kurdish journalist reporting from Qamishli city in northeastern Syria, said a Christian mother and her child were killed in his neighborhood.

In a Twitter post, the World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) said "zero Christians” have been killed in northeastern Syria during Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring.

"To media: please verify your sources. At least cite non-YPG ones as well. Rectify your current articles. Don't mislead your readers and the public. Stop frightening our people at home!" it added.

Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring on Wednesday to eliminate terrorists from northern Syria in order to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.

Ankara wants to clear northern Syria east of the Euphrates River of the terrorist PKK and its Syrian offshoot, the PYD/YPG.

Full report at:



Russia blocks US statement at UN on Turkish operation

Servet Günerigök



Russia on Friday blocked a statement at the UN Security Council that called for a halt to Turkey's military operation in northeastern Syria.

The U.S.-drafted statement urged Turkey to end the operation and address its security concerns through diplomatic channels, according to diplomats from the UN.

The diplomats said China joined Moscow in raising an objection.

A statement obtained by Anadolu Agency said the Security Council members expressed "deep concern" over the Turkish operation and "its implications, including humanitarian and security dimensions."

Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring on Wednesday to eliminate terrorists from northern Syria in order to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.

Ankara wants to clear northern Syria east of the Euphrates River of the terrorist PKK and its Syrian offshoot, the PYD/YPG.

Full report at:



Turkey denies targeting US post in northern Syria

Duygu Yener  


Turkey’s National Defense Ministry on Friday rejected claims that the Turkish army targeted a U.S. observation post east of the Euphrates in northern Syria amid its counter-terror operation. 

“It is out of the question that any fire targeted the U.S.’s observation post,” the ministry said in a written statement.

Stating that every kind of measure was being taken in order not to harm the U.S. base, it said “fire was halted as a precautionary measure when the U.S. conveyed its concerns.”

"It is out of the question to target any U.S. and coalition forces,” it stressed.

Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria on Wednesday to secure its borders by eliminating terrorists there and to ensure the safe return of Syrian refugees and Syria’s territorial integrity.

Ankara wants to clear the region east of the Euphrates River of the terrorist PKK and its Syrian offshoot, the PYD/YPG.

Full report at:



Trump to sign off on new Turkey sanctions authorities

Michael Hernandez  



U.S. President Donald Trump will sign off on authorities to allow his administration to impose sanctions on Turkey and its leaders for Ankara's ongoing Operation Peace Spring, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Friday.

He announced the forthcoming authorities, saying Trump has authorized the executive order that will allow the Treasury in consultation with the president and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo "very significant new sanctions authorities that can be targeted at any person associated with the government of Turkey, any portion of the government."

"The president is concerned about the ongoing military offensive and potential targeting of civilians, civilian infrastructure, ethnic or religious minorities, and also the president wants to make very clear it is imperative that Turkey not allow even a single ISIS fighter to escape,” Mnuchin said, using another name for Daesh.

Mnuchin noted that no sanctions have yet been imposed "but as the president has said he will provide very significant authorities based upon the continuing efforts.”

In the face of bipartisan pressure from lawmakers, Trump warned Turkey would face economic consequences should it act in a way he deems to be unnecessary.

Turkey on Wednesday launched Operation Peace Spring east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria to secure its borders by eliminating terrorist elements and to ensure the safe return of Syrian refugees and Syria’s territorial integrity.

Ankara wants to eliminate terrorist elements from the PKK and its Syrian offshoot, the PYD-YPG.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union -- has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.

Turkey has a 911-kilometer (566-mile) border with Syria and has long decried the threat from terrorists east of the Euphrates River and the formation of a "terrorist corridor" there.

It plans to resettle two million Syrians in a 30-km (19-mile) wide proposed safe zone in Syria stretching from the Euphrates River to the Iraqi border, including Manbij. However, the presence of terror groups such as the PKK, PYD and YPG risk its formation.

Turkey has freed an area of 4,000 square km (1,544 square miles) in Syria from terrorist groups in two separate cross-border operations.

Full report at:



US House Republicans to seek sanctions on Turkey over Kurd offensive

11 October 2019

Twenty-nine of President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans in the US House of Representatives announced on Thursday they would introduce legislation to impose sanctions against Turkey, underscoring lawmakers’ unhappiness about its assault on Kurdish forces in Syria.

A day after Republicans and Democrats announced similar legislation in the Senate, the lawmakers - including Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, Republican Whip Steve Scalise and other party leaders - said they wanted a strong response to Ankara’s aggression.

“President (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan and his regime must face serious consequences for mercilessly attacking our Kurdish allies in northern Syria,” Republican Representative Liz Cheney, chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, said in a statement.

It was not immediately clear how the legislation would fare in the House of Representatives, which is controlled by Democrats.

On Sunday, Trump abruptly shifted policy and said he was withdrawing US forces from northeastern Syria, clearing the way for Turkey to launch an assault across the border.

Turkey began the offensive quickly, pounding Kurdish militias, who recently were fighting alongside US forces against ISIS, on Wednesday and Thursday, killing dozens and forcing many thousands of people to flee.

In a rare break from Trump, some of his fellow Republicans have sharply criticized the president’s decision.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a co-sponsor of the Senate sanctions package announced on Wednesday, said it was made “completely against everybody else’s advice.”

Full report at:



Hook: Sending US troops to Saudi Arabia sends a powerful message to Iran

12 October 2019

The sending of additional US troops and military equipment to Saudi Arabia is going to send a powerful signal to the Iranian regime, say US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook.

“Right now, [Iran is] in a state of what we just what we call panicked aggression. And I think the attacks on Saudi Arabia on September 14th is a sign of weakness. And it’s a sign that our pressure is having a big impact on this regime,” Hook told Al Arabiya.

The Pentagon confirmed on Friday it has approved the deployment of 3,000 additional troops and military hardware to Saudi Arabia, boosting the country’s defenses after attacks on its oil installations blamed on Iran.

Al Arabiya English


“The attacks on Saudi Arabia on September 14th is a sign of weakness and it’s a sign that our pressure is having a big impact on [the Iranian] regime,” says US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook. …

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4:30 AM - Oct 12, 2019

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US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper authorized the deployment of two more Patriot missile batteries, one THAAD ballistic missile interception system, two fighter squadrons, and one air expeditionary wing, the Pentagon said in a statement.

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