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Islamic World News ( 22 Feb 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Myanmar Bulldozes What Is Left Of Rohingya Muslim Villages

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this file photo, musicians perform at the Royal Opera House in Muscat during a women's celebration in Oman. Saudi Arabia will soon have its own opera house, to be located in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah. (Photo courtesy of the Royal Opera House in Muscat)

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Myanmar Bulldozes What Is Left Of Rohingya Muslim Villages

Saudi Stars Say Cinema Move Will Help Bring Saudi Stories to World

Pair of Killings Tests Hindu-Muslim Unity in a Pakistani Desert Town

Kerala Love Jihad: Was HC Justified in Nullifying Hadiya’s Marriage, Asks SC

Imam Responds in Perfect Way to Being Racially Abused On Train

 

South Asia

Myanmar Bulldozes What Is Left Of Rohingya Muslim Villages

Taliban to Choose Between Peace and War: Ghani

12 Taliban insurgents killed in US airstrike in Tarinkot city

5 Afghan intelligence staff killed in Parwan attack

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Arab World

Saudi Stars Say Cinema Move Will Help Bring Saudi Stories to World

First Saudi Opera House to Open In Jeddah

Iraq Hands Over Four Daesh Wives, 27 Children to Russia

New wave of Assassinations among Terrorists in Dara'a

Egypt Court Sentences 21 to Death for Planning Attacks

Russia Deploys 5th Generation Fighter Jets in Syria

Turkish Army Occupies More Syrian Regions in Operation Olive Branch

Five-day death toll in Syria’s Ghouta tops 400

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to strengthen parliamentary relations

Seven soldiers, 71 militants killed in Egypt Sinai operations

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Pakistan

Pair of Killings Tests Hindu-Muslim Unity in a Pakistani Desert Town

Pakistan Expects Iran to Understand Troops Deployment in Saudi Arabia

Pakistan's Defence, Economic Ties with Saudia Arabia Deepened: Dastgir

PTI considering releasing Rs277m to Darul Uloom Haqqania: report

PTI government failed to address core problems of people in KP: JUI-F

Three Jama’atul Ahrar militants killed in Afghanistan: reports

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India

Kerala Love Jihad: Was HC Justified in Nullifying Hadiya’s Marriage, Asks SC

Why So Many in Bengal Are Talking About Hindu Samhati

India may deploy CRPF for security of embassy in Iraq

India’s Statements Ignore Facts, Ground Realities: Maldives Govt

NIA nabs terrorist involved in 2015 attack on Army in Manipur

Badruddin Ajmal: Army Chief Offended Us, Will Meet PM, President

Pakistan summons Indian envoy for fourth time this month

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Europe

Imam Responds in Perfect Way to Being Racially Abused On Train

South Sudan Kills, Beats, Nabs Journalists: UN

German-Russian, 70, stabs Afghan, Syrian, Iraqi refugees

Russia tested ‘over 200 new weapons’ in Syria

Russia to support UN-proposed truce in Syria but not for Daesh, Nusra: Lavrov

Russia calls for UN meeting on Syria's Eastern Ghouta

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North America

U.S. Says Troops Can Stay in Syria without New Authorization

Barrow Sheriff Defends ‘slam In America’ Training

There's A Reason Why Anti-Muslim Ideology Hasn't Found A Home In Portugal

16-year-old Iowa Muslim is planning an interfaith 'meal for harmony and humanity'

US-led anti-ISIS coalition acknowledges 10 more civilian deaths

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Southeast Asia

Malaysian Rapper’s Dog Video Sparks Claim of Insulting Islam

Daesh Militants Waging Fresh Bid To Set Up Southeast Asian Caliphate

Ezra Zaid’s firm raided over ‘confusing’ book content, Shariah court told

Why focus on ‘non-issues’ like FGM? Group asks UN committee

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Mideast

Carter Warns Of 'Catastrophic' Consequences Trump's Policy on Palestine

Palestinian Protesters Egg US Politicians

Tens of Turkish Special Forces Deployed in Afrin

Palestinian President Abbas in US hospital

Houthi militia kidnaps 200 officers, soldiers loyal to slain Yemeni ex-president Saleh

Israel approves construction of 3,000 new settler units in East Jerusalem al-Quds

Rights abuses to persist in Turkey as long as emergency rule continues: Amnesty

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Africa

Cameroon: Boko Haram Changes Tactics in Cameroon

7 killed in Boko Haram attacks in Cameroon, Chad

U.S. air strike in Somalia kills four al Shabaab militants – statement

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/myanmar-bulldozes-what-is-left-of-rohingya-muslim-villages/d/114389

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Myanmar Bulldozes What Is Left Of Rohingya Muslim Villages

23 February 2018

BANGKOK: First, their villages were burned to the ground. Now, Myanmar’s government is using bulldozers to literally erase them from the earth — in a vast operation rights groups say is destroying crucial evidence of mass atrocities against the nation’s ethnic Rohingya Muslim minority.

Satellite images of Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine state, released to The Associated Press by Colorado-based DigitalGlobe on Friday, show that dozens of empty villages and hamlets have been completely leveled by authorities in recent weeks — far more than previously reported. The villages were all set ablaze in the wake of violence last August, when a brutal clearance operation by security forces drove hundreds of thousands of Rohingya into exile in Bangladesh.

While Myanmar’s government claims it’s simply trying to rebuild a devastated region, the operation has raised deep concern among human rights advocates, who say the government is destroying what amounts to scores of crime scenes before any credible investigation takes place. The operation has also horrified the Rohingya, who believe the government is intentionally eviscerating the dwindling remnants of their culture to make it nearly impossible for them to return.

One displaced Rohingya woman, whose village was among those razed, said she recently visited her former home in Myin Hlut and was shocked by what she saw. Most houses had been torched last year, but now, “everything is gone, not even the trees are left,” the woman, named Zubairia, told AP by telephone. “They just bulldozed everything ... I could hardly recognize it.”

The 18-year-old said other homes in the same area that had been abandoned but not damaged were also flattened. “All the memories that I had there are gone,” she said. “They’ve been erased.”

Myanmar’s armed forces are accused not just of burning Muslim villages with the help of Buddhist mobs, but of carrying out massacres, rapes and widespread looting. The latest crisis in Rakhine state began in August after Rohingya insurgents launched a series of unprecedented attacks on security posts.

Aerial photographs of levelled villages in northern Rakhine State were first made public Feb. 9 when the European Union’s ambassador to Myanmar, Kristian Schmidt, posted images taken from an aircraft of what he described as a “vast bulldozed area” south of the town of Maungdaw.

Satellite imagery from DigitalGlobe indicates at least 28 villages or hamlets were leveled by bulldozers and other machinery in a 30-mile (50-kilometer) radius around Maungdaw between December and February; on some of the cleared areas, construction crews had erected new buildings or housing structures and helipads. A similar analysis by Human Rights Watch on Friday said at least 55 villages have been affected so far.

The images offer an important window into what is effectively a part of Myanmar that is largely sealed off to the outside world. Myanmar bars independent media access to the state.

The government has spoken of plans to rebuild the region for months, and it has been busily expanding roads, repairing bridges, and constructing shelters, including dozens at a large transit camp at Taungpyo, near the Bangladesh border. The camp opened in January to house returning refugees; but none have arrived and Rohingya have continued to flee.

Myint Khine, a government administrator in Maungdaw, said some of the new homes were intended for Muslims. But that does not appear to be the case for the majority of those built or planned so far, and many Rohingya fear authorities are seizing land they’ve lived on for generations.

One list, published by the government in December, indicated 787 houses would be constructed, most of them for Buddhists or Hindus. Only 22 of the houses were slated for “Bengalis” — the word Myanmar nationalists often use to describe the Rohingya, who they say are illegal migrants from Bangladesh.

Myint Khine said the government had no ulterior motive.

“Of course we have been using machines like earth removers and bulldozers because we have to clear the ground first before building new houses,” he said.

Chris Lewa, whose Arakan Project monitors the persecuted Muslim minority’s plight, said the degree to which the villages had been razed would make it even harder for the Rohingya, who have no citizenship and few rights, to ever reclaim their land.

“How will they identify where they lived, if nothing is left, if nothing can be recognized?” Lewa said. “Their culture, their history, their past, their present — it’s all being erased. When you see the pictures, it’s clear that whatever was left — the mosques, the cemeteries, the homes — they’re gone.”

Richard Weir, a Myanmar expert with Human Rights Watch, said on the images he had seen, “there’s no more landmarks, there’s no trees, there’s no vegetation.”

“Everything is wiped away, and this is very concerning, because these are crime scenes,” he said. “There’s been no credible investigation of these crimes. And so, what we’re talking about really is obstruction of justice.”

Both Weir and Lewa said no mass graves were known to have been destroyed. But, Weir added: “We don’t know where all the graves are ... because there is no access.”

Zubairia, who asked that only one of her names be used to protect her identify because she feared reprisals, said she did not believe any of the newly constructed homes were intended for Rohingya.

“Even if they give us small houses to live in, it will never be the same for us,” she said. “How can we be happy about our houses being ripped off from our land?“

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1252591/world

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Saudi Stars Say Cinema Move Will Help Bring Saudi Stories to World

23 February 2018

LONDON: Saudi film stars Hisham Fageeh and Fatima Al-Banawi said the arrival of cinema in the Kingdom will help open up society and “share our narrative’’ with the world.

The pair — who are well-known for their roles in successful Saudi comedy “Barakah Meets Barakah,” an Oscar submission for 2016’s Best Foreign Language Film — were speaking during a gathering at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, hosted by the Saudi British Society.

Set in Jeddah, the production was the first award-winning romantic comedy to come out of the Kingdom and became Saudi Arabia’s first film on Netflix.

Al-Banawi, who recently co-starred in the OSN series “Bashar,” emphasized the scope of cinema to “break stereotypes’’ by telling the stories of real people.

“We’re such a private society,” she said. “It’s important to share our narratives.’’

Fageeh, an actor and producer-director who made a name as a stand-up comedian on YouTube, said people in Saudi Arabia were hungry to tell their own stories.

He said many are interested in “taking back our narrative’’ and not having Western institutions dictate the direction of Saudi Arabia’s evolving film landscape, which he described as a “gorilla industry” at this stage.

“In Saudi Arabia, if you want somebody who’s a lighting guy, you get an electrician. You want an actor, you go ask somebody who’s got liberal parents,” he said.

“The more sophisticated our art will be, the more sophisticated the viewer can become.”

Opening the discussion, Alistair Burt, the UK minister for international development and the Middle East, described Saudi Arabia’s recent move to lift the ban on cinemas as “another exciting development in the Kingdom.’’

Praising the success of “Barakah Meets Barakah,” and confessing a preference for romantic comedies including “Sleepless in Seattle” and “You’ve Got Mail,” the minister said that such films “tell us something very special about a society.’’

“Changing perceptions of the Islamic world is important,” he added. “Anything that helps build our relationships is very welcome.”

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1252451/lifestyle

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Pair of Killings Tests Hindu-Muslim Unity in a Pakistani Desert Town

By MEHREEN ZAHRA-MALIK

FEB. 22, 2018

MITHI, Pakistan — It was just another Friday morning when the brothers Dilip and Chandra Kumar opened the shutter on their grain store to start work. Then the gunshots started, taking Dilip down first, then Chandra after he turned to see what had happened.

Chandra was lucid enough to tell his uncle, who came 10 minutes later that they had been shot by two men driving past on a motorcycle. Then he died while a doctor struggled over him at the hospital in their hometown, Mithi, in southern Pakistan.

“The doctor didn’t know how to remove a bullet,” said the dead men’s uncle, Madan Lal, at a memorial service last month on the 13th day after the killings, a special day in Hindu mourning rituals. “Can you imagine? He had just never had to perform such a procedure before. That is Mithi. No one gets shot here.”

Violence against religious minorities in Pakistan has been a painfully familiar story. But in Mithi, where Hindus make up about 85 percent of the population, Hindus and Muslims have long lived peacefully.

Suddenly, the killing of the Hindu Kumar brothers has raised worries that the tolerance the town is famous for is eroding. And it is turning attention toward what local officials call a steady influx of “outsiders” — Muslim extremist parties and sectarian groups that have been moving into this area and other parts of the Sindh Province, as they seek new havens.

Mithi is a desert community of about 80,000 people in the Tharparkar region of Sindh, and this kind of violence has been rare here. Saud Magsi, the police superintendent, could not remember a shooting during his 20 years on the force.

“This is a very peaceful town,” he said, adding that it was too early in the investigation to comment on the Kumar killings and who might be behind them.

Mosques and colorful temples are lined up next to each other here in sandy and curving alleyways. Cows, considered sacred by Hindus, roam freely on the streets, stopping at the doors of Hindu and Muslim families alike and expecting to be fed. During Ramadan, many Hindus held dinners at sunset for fasting Muslims, and Muslims frequently attended Holi and Diwali celebrations.

But as in other places in Sindh in recent years, locals have reported more activity by organizations that tend to promote a less tolerant brand of Islam and often operate as fronts for outlawed groups.

Police officers and local activists said organizations like Al Khidmat, a charity-focused branch of the Jamaat-e-Islami political party, had recently built hospitals and mosques in the area. They also said that affiliates of Jamaat-ud-Dawa — a branch of the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is accused of carrying out the deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks — as well as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni sectarian militant group, had made inroads into Sindh from neighboring Punjab Province.

“The spread of religious extremism is finally beginning to be felt here,” said Khatau Jani, the founder of the local press club. “Because of Thar’s centuries-old culture, it will take a long time to change our old way of living, our harmony. But yes, outsiders are coming in and people are beginning to feel afraid.”

A stone’s throw away from the press club, the shutters were down on the shop where the Kumars were killed. The flag of the Jamaat-e-Islami, one of Pakistan’s largest religious parties, flapped on the street corner.

Dozens of locals interviewed said that fear had settled in since the murders. People no longer opened their shops early in the morning, as was the norm in the town, and closed them before sunset. Women were afraid to walk alone to fetch water.

Gadhi Bhit, a popular tourist spot atop a 1,000-foot-tall sand dune frequented by sightseers looking for the best views of Mithi, stood deserted.

“They have ruined our peace of mind, the calm of our city,” said Urmila Devi, a sister of the Kumar brothers, as she received a steady procession of friends and neighbors coming to offer condolences at the Kumar home. “Now we have only our prayers. God please save us, please save Mithi.”

Dozens of women in colorful saris sat on the floor and chanted hymns. In a tiny side room, a Hindu priest recited from the ancient Bhagavad Gita as incense smoke swirled around him.

But around Mithi, members of some of the same Islamic groups that are viewed with suspicion insist that they are promoting peace.

Qurban Ali Samejo, a local leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, said he was “shattered” by the killing of the Kumar brothers. He was speaking in a 30-bed hospital that his organization is building in Mithi, next to a large religious school with classes underway.

Mr. Samejo said that the Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation, a charity branch of Jamaat ud-Dawa, had done much to help communities across Tharparkar, including digging 2,000 wells and installing hundreds of water pumps and solar power cells for agricultural use. And he said the group’s aid efforts, including distributing food, helped Hindus as well.

“We go to their weddings, their funerals. Many of our constructions projects employ Hindu workers,” Mr. Samejo said. And he noted that even as a Muslim imam, he attended Diwali celebrations every year.

“It is true that in Islam this might not be permissible, but under Thari culture, you participate in your Hindu neighbors’ joys and sorrows,” he said. “In Mithi, that’s just the way of life.”

But many people here still worry that way of life is changing.

On the walls of the Thar Café, built on a roadside sand dune outside Mithi, a local journalist and rights activist, Sajid Bajeer, pointed to photographs of famous musicians and poets of Mithi, many of them Hindus. One figure was Sadiq Faqir, a famous Muslim singer who died during pilgrimage to Mecca.

“Even Hindus and women attended his funeral prayers in Mithi, which is not customary at Muslim funerals,” Mr. Bajeer said. “That’s the kind of place Mithi was. Now it’s changing.”

Mr. Lal, the brothers’ uncle, said he hoped the authorities would act against the influx of “troublesome groups” before it was too late.

“Believe me, we don’t want to suspect our Muslim brothers,” he said. “But now, after what has happened, the mind lingers. Are we being sent a message? Should we leave?”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/22/world/asia/pakistan-hindus-murders.html?mtrref=www.google.co.in&gwh=1E49384D1E03474EC882275C94B65CEB&gwt=pay

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Kerala love jihad: Was HC justified in nullifying Hadiya’s marriage, asks SC

Feb 23, 2018

New Delhi:The Supreme Court on Thursday made it clear that it can’t go into the legality of the marriage between Akhila, alias Hadiya, an alleged victim of “love jihad”, and Shafin Jahan and it was open to the National Investigation Agency to continue its probe.

A three-judge bench of CJI Dipak Misra and Justices A.M. Kanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud questioned whether the Kerala high court could nullify a marriage between “vulnerable adults” after the father of the 25-year-old woman Hadiya justified the order.

“Can a court say a marriage between the consenting adults is not genuine? We cannot say that she married the right person or the marriage was in her best interest. She came to us and told that she married by her own choice”, the bench said.

Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for Hadiya’s father Asokan, contended that the Kerala high court was justified in nullifying the marriage under Article 226 of Constitution and exercised its power considering the facts and circumstances of the case. Mr Divan submitted that as she has been indoctrinated her consent should not be treated as absolute. He argued that Hadia was a pawn in a “huge organisational apparatus” to radicalise young persons in Kerala. He said two criminal cases had been registered against Shafin Jahan.

The CJI told the counsel, “The issue pertains to marital relationship. The issue is whether the Kerala high court exercising its jurisdiction in a habeas corpus petition could have annulled the marriage and order custody of the girl to the father. We will examine only the legal principles. Let the NIA continue its probe and we are not bothered about it.”

Mr Divan, citing documents, said that the girl was indoctrinated by radical elements. The boy is a member of the core committee of the SDPI called, Thanal. Mansy Bouraqui, an ISIS agent, was also a part of the said committee.

http://www.asianage.com/india/all-india/230218/kerala-love-jihad-was-hc-justified-in-nullifying-hadiyas-marriage-asks-sc.html

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Imam Responds In Perfect Way To Being Racially Abused On Train

22 Feb 2018

An imam who was racially abused on a train has released an inspiring letter to remind us that we must ‘stand up against the forces of hatred.’ Imam Hafidh Muhammad Ehsan Ullah is a leading Islamic scholar who founded, and currently serves, as Head of Education at the Muslim school of Ethics and Moral Reform.

Imam Ehsan has worked across educational centres in the South East, and has recently held anti-ISIS and counter extremism sessions for youths at the al-Hira Center in Luton. He was travelling home on his usual train from Farringdon to Luton on Saturday evening when he gave up his seat so that two ladies could sit together. He moved into another cabin where there was a seat available and continued reading his book, but soon noticed a stranger staring at him. Imam Ehsan on what the Quran says about killing innocent people Play Video Loaded: 0% 0:00Progress: 0% PlayMute Current Time 0:00 / Duration Time 0:00 Fullscreen

He wrote: ‘He was glaring at me with anger written all over his face. I thought he must have had a bad day at the office or had an argument with his wife (we have all been there) so I decided to ignore him and continued reading. ‘However, to my complete shock the individual slowly stood up, confronted me and began shouting and hurling abuse at me. It was completely unprovoked. ‘He was ranting and raving that “someone who looks like me – with a beard and covered head – should not be allowed to sit on a train while British soldiers are being attacked in Iraq and Afghanistan.”’ Imam Ehsan kept calm and tried to talk to him but the man apparently did not seem to be listening.

In addition to the racial abuse, no one else in the packed train remained silent, and did not speak up in his defence. When he first emigrated from Pakistan in 2010 he was advised to shave his beard and atop wearing his hat and robes for fear of being sent back from the airport. He said: ‘I‘ve always believed the British people are big-hearted, open-minded and tolerant. ‘When I arrived to British soil wearing an Imama (hat) that could not be missed, combined with a rather elaborate Jubba(robes), I did not face any problems at the airport, only a bright British smile. ‘I was welcomed.’

But despite not changing the way he dresses in the eight years he has lived in the UK, he says that he has ‘noticed a change’ in recent times and notices the way that people stare at him and feel the need to move away. He was part of the ‘Imams Against Daesh’ campaign where imams posted videos against ISIS on Facebook, despite the danger that can create for them on their loved ones. He said: ‘That’s why what happened Saturday hurts me even more. Was I wrong in thinking the forces of Love and Unity could overcome? ‘I believe we are all small cogs in a large machine. Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists, and others from all walks of life promoting peace and humanity. ‘Lately, the forces of hatred are trying hard to divide us. Together we must stand up against that. It is a struggle we all share – for unity in times of darkness, for resolution in days of uncertainty, and for love in moments when hatred comes easy. ‘Even now – especially now – we must resist fear and turn to love. We must keep Britain Great.’

http://metro.co.uk/2018/02/22/imam-responds-in-perfect-way-to-being-racially-abused-on-train-7333471/

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South Asia

 

Taliban to choose between peace and war: Ghani

February 22, 2018

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday again invited the Taliban to enter into purposeful peace negotiations with the Afghan government and to stop waging war in the country, reported Tolo News.

Ghani spoke at the closing session of a two-day consultative meeting on peace where he outlined his administration’s vision for durable peace in the country.

The meeting was held ahead of the Kabul Process peace meeting next week, a gathering of 23 nations, the EU, UN and NATO, which is intended to discuss security and political issues in the country

Ghani also stressed the need for more efforts to be made to further promote rule of law and the reform process in the country.

“We will give them (Taliban) options to decide, they must think whether they have the intention to surrender to the will of Allah. Do they realize the expectation of the people or not,” said Ghani .

“There should be a dignified peace which involves all. When we say dignified it involves even those who are fighting and then denounce the war and halts relations with terrorist groups and say that I am coming to join my people, his dignity must be persevered,” said CEO Abdullah Abdullah.

Wrapping up the meeting on Wednesday, delegates meanwhile issued a 14-item declaration in which they encouraged insurgents to join the peace process.

“Our demand from the Taliban is to stop paving the way for meddling of intelligence agencies of regional and ultra-regional countries in Afghanistan by continuing the war ,” said one participant Haleema Sadaf.

Ghani went on to say that his administration will announce its peace and war strategy at the upcoming Kabul Process conference in Kabul, adding government will call on the Taliban to choose between peace or war .

“People have consensus, those who think that they can pursue their objectives in the conflict, they must rethink their approach. The nation will not allow anyone to create conflict,” added Ghani .

The Afghan government says that at the meeting, it will try to create a regional and international consensus on the peace process in Afghanistan.

The Taliban has steadily expanded its reach since US and NATO coalition formally concluded their combat mission in 2014 and transitioned their military mission to a support and counterterrorism role.

https://nation.com.pk/22-Feb-2018/taliban-to-choose-between-peace-and-war-ghani

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12 Taliban insurgents killed in US airstrike in Tarinkot city

Feb 22 2018

At least twelve Taliban insurgents were killed in an airstrike conducted by the US forces in souther Uruzgan province of Afghanistan.

According to the local security officials, the airstrike was carried out late on Wednesday night in the outskirts of Tarinkot city, the provincial capital of Uruzgan.

A security source involved in the operations said a local Taliban commander identified as Mullah Basir was also among those killed.

The source further added that two Taliban insurgents were also wounded in the airstrike.

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

This comes as a local leader of the Taliban group was killed in a similar airstrike conducted by the US forces in Tarinkot city last Wednesday.

A local police official confirmed last week that that six Taliban insurgents including one of their local leaders Mullah Ghazi were killed and four others were wounded.

The source further added that a hideout of the Taliban group was eliminated in the airstrike in Garam Aab area.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/12-taliban-insurgents-killed-in-us-airstrike-in-tarinkot-city-04529

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5 Afghan intelligence staff killed in Parwan attack

Feb 22 2018

At least five workers of the Afghan Intelligence Agency, National Directorate of Security (NDS), were killed in militants attack in northern Parwan province of Afghanistan.

According to the local government officials, the incident took place on Wednesday in the vicinity of Bagram district.

The district administrative chief of Bagram Abdul Shukoor Qudoosi confirmed the incident and said the deceased individuals all belonged to the NDS directorate of Kapisa.

He said the intelligence director of Kapisa and four other staff of the provincial intelligence directorate of Kapisa were among those killed.

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

Parwan is among the relatively volatile provinces in northern Afghanistan where the Taliban insurgents are actively operating in some of its remote districts and often carry out insurgency activities.

Roadside bombings, suicide attacks, target killings, and other forms of terrorist attacks are often reported from the restive districts of Parwan.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/5-afghan-intelligence-staff-killed-in-parwan-attack-04365

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Arab World

 

First Saudi opera house to open in Jeddah

23 February 2018

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s first opera house is set to open in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah, Ahmed Al-Khatib, chairman of the General Entertainment Authority (GEA), announced on Thursday.

The announcement was part of the launch of the 2018 entertainment calendar at the Four Seasons Hotel in Riyadh, where Al-Khatib revealed a budget of $64 billion for the entertainment sector over the coming decade. More than 5,000 events in 56 cities in the Kingdom are planned for 2018.

Al-Khatib told Reuters last April of Saudi Arabia’s plan to open “a world-class opera house” as part of the Kingdom’s entertainment reforms.

The Saudi General Culture Authority will handle the establishment of the new opera house, Al-Khatib, who declined to give further information, told Arab News.

The General Culture Authority could not be immediately reached for comment.

According to Reuters, the opera house to be completed around 2022.

Speaking to Arab News, Sultan Al-Bazie, former president of the Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts, described the announcement as a significant step toward enriching the Kingdom’s cultural scene and said it deserved “a warm welcome.”

Al-Bazie wondered, however, about the fate of the Royal Arts Complex and whether the opera house would be a substitute for it.

In 1869 the Egyptian Khedivial Opera House in Cairo became the first opera house in Africa and the Middle East. Designed by architects Pietro Avoscani (from Livorno) and Rossi, the opera house was built on the orders of Khedive Ismail to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal.

In 2011, Oman opened the Royal Opera House in Muscat becoming the second Arab and first Gulf country to have an opera house. Other Gulf countries such as Dubai and Kuwait later opened opera houses.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1252501/saudi-arabia

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Iraq hands over four Daesh wives, 27 children to Russia

Feb 23, 2018

Iraqi authorities have extradited four women and more than two dozen children from the families of Daesh Takfiri terrorists to Russian authorities.

“Iraq has handed over four women and 27 children from the families of those who have been brainwashed to join Daesh,” Arabic-language al-Sumaria television network quoted Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Mahjoub as saying on Thursday.

“There was no proof that those extradited had been involved in terrorist operations against Iraqi civilians or security forces,” he said, adding, “They will be prosecuted in Russia for illegally entering Iraq.”

Earlier, Iraq’s Arabic-language al-Mashriq newspaper reported that more than 1,500 women and children from the families of Daesh militants are currently being held in the conflict-stricken Arab country, and that the Baghdad government is coordinating with their respective countries to decide their fate.

Additionally, Iraqi government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi said, “All foreign nationals who have committed crimes and acts of terror against Iraqi people, either directly or through support for Daesh terrorists, will be subject to the Iraqi law.”

He added, “This also applies to foreign women of Daesh militants. The government is coordinating with the countries to which the detainees belong. They will be handed over to their respective countries once they are found not to have committed criminal acts or engaged in killings and bombings in Iraq.”

On December 9, 2017, Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared the end of military operations against the Daesh terrorist group in the Arab country.

On July 10, Abadi formally declared victory over Daesh extremists in Mosul, which served as the terrorists’ main urban stronghold in the conflict-ridden Arab country.

In the run-up to Mosul's liberation, Iraqi army soldiers and volunteer Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters had made sweeping gains against Daesh.

The Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January 2017 after 100 days of fighting, and launched the battle in the west on February 19 last year.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/23/553288/Iraq-Daesh-wives-Russia

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New Wave of Assassinations among Terrorists in Dara'a

Feb 22, 2018

Field sources reported on Thursday that unknown assailants killed Tahrir al-Sham's senior Mufti named Yahya al-Qaisi, nom de guerre Abu Obaida, in the town of Western al-Qariyeh in Dara'a.

Meantime, a bomb was detonated on the vehicle carrying terrorists in the village of Tayebah in Southeastern Dara'a and one of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) commanders named Mousa al-Za'abi was killed.

Also, three other FSA members were killed after a bomb planted by unknown assailants exploded in Kafr Shams-Aqraba road in Northern Dara'a.

Relevant reports said earlier this month that Mo'aviyah al-Homavi, a notorious field commander of Ahrar al-Sham, was gunned down by unknown assailants in Southern Idlib amid intensifying assassination of terrorist commanders in the region, local sources reported on Monday.

The sources said that Moaviyah al-Homavi, the senior commander of Ahrar al-Sham was killed by unknown raiders' gun fire near the town of Ma'arat al-Nu'aman in Southern Idlib. 

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961203000994

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Egypt court sentences 21 to death for planning attacks

February 23, 2018

CAIRO - An Egyptian court sentenced on Thursday 21 people to death for planning attacks and weapons possession.

Only five of the defendants sentenced to death were present at the trial, and they may appeal the ruling. The remaining 16 were tried in absentia and could get a retrial if arrested.

The court also sentenced four defendants to 25 years in prison each and three to 15 years. They been accused of planning attacks and embracing “extremist ideology.” Egyptian courts have sentenced hundreds to death for violence after the military toppled the divisive Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 and unleashed a crackdown on his supporters.

Seven soldiers, 71 militants killed in egypt Sinai op

Seven Egyptian soldiers and 71 militants have been killed since the launch of a wide-ranging operation to quell an Islamic State group affiliate in Sinai earlier this month, the military said. “As a result of the heroic combat operations by our armed forces...seven heroes of the armed forces were martyred,” military spokesman Colonel Tamer Rifai said at a press conference aired Thursday on state television.

“71 extremists have been killed and five arrested,” he said.

Rifai added that 1,852 other suspects have been rounded up in the operation that began on February 9, following an ultimatum by the President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to end the deadly insurgency.

IS attacks have killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula. The group has also killed over 100 Christians in the past year and targeted tourists.

Sisi ordered his security commanders to put an end to the attacks following a massacre at a northern Sinai mosque in November that killed more than 300 worshippers.

IS is believed to have carried out the attack on the mosque, frequented by Sufi Muslims, but it has not claimed responsibility. The group’s Egyptian branch has used the north of the Sinai Peninsula, which borders Israel, as a staging ground for its attacks.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/23-Feb-2018/egypt-court-sentences-21-to-death-for-planning-attacks

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Russia Deploys 5th Generation Fighter Jets in Syria

Feb 22, 2018

The Arabic website of Sputnik news agency quoted social media activists as saying that two Su-57, four Su-35 and four Su-25 fighter jets as well as one A-50U1 plane have arrived in Humeimim airbase.

Other media outlets had also earlier reported that 9 new fighter jets have deployed in Humeimim in the past two days.

A media outlet reported late in January that a huge Russian shipment of weapons bound for Syria in the form of one government-contracted sea-lifter and a naval landing ship has recently transited the Bosphorus Strait.

Observers from the Bosphorus Strait in Turkey said the transiting of two Russian vessels – one a sea-lifter and the other a navy landing ship – inbound for the Syrian port city of Tartus; both are carrying a wealth new military equipment, the AMN reported.

The logistical carrier, identified as the RoRo Altay, has been photographed with what sources count as 133 Ural military-grade transport trucks above its hull. No information exists on what army equipment is present within the ship’s actual cargo bay.

The RoRo Altay’s naval accomplice has been identified as the Ropucha-class landing ship ‘Alexander Otrakovsky’ whose military cargo is completely hidden inside internal bays and can only be guessed.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961203000687

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Turkish Army Occupies More Syrian Regions in Operation Olive Branch

Feb 22, 2018

Sources affiliated to Ankara-backed forces confirmed that they have taken control of the village of Virkan during clashes with the Kurds in Sharan region.

Meantime, the Turkish army and its affiliated militants won control of the villages of Kharbat Salouki and Qara Baba in Rajou region in Northern Afrin and the town of Tal Salour in Jandaris region.

The Turkish sources said that they could link Adamnali and Rajou in Western Afrin to each other by the recent advances.

In a relevant development on Wednesday, the Turkish Army and Ankara-backed militants intensified Operation Olive Branch in Afrin region and captured more Kurdish-held regions in Northwestern Aleppo, militant-affiliated sources reported.

The sources reported that the army soldiers and Ankara-backed militants pushed the Kurdish fighters back from the villages of al-Zeitouniyeh, al-Jamileh Arab Weiran in Sheran region and the village of Souran and its nearby hills in the latest stage of Operation Olive Branch in Afrin region.

The sources further said that the forces of Operation Olive Branch captured the village of Hayani and two of its hills and the villages of Sharqanli, al-Dafla and Hamlourek in a region between Bolbol and Rajou in Northwestern Aleppo.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961203000400

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Five-day death toll in Syria’s Ghouta tops 400

22 February 2018

The death toll for five days of bombardment by the Syrian regime and its allies on the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta passed the 400 mark Thursday, a monitor said.

"Five days of air strikes and intense artillery fire by the regime and its Russian ally have killed 403 civilians, including 95 children," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The head of the Britain-based Observatory, Rami Abdel Rahman, said 46 people were killed in strikes and rocket fire on Thursday.

Bodies of victims killed earlier in the week were also retrieved from the wreckage of destroyed buildings, bringing the overall death toll to 403.

The regime, which is supported by Russian forces, intensified its operations against the enclave near Damascus on Sunday.

The area is controlled by militant groups but many civilian areas and even hospitals were targeted this week, sparking an international outcry.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/02/22/Five-day-death-toll-in-Syria-s-Ghouta-tops-400.html

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Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to strengthen parliamentary relations

23 February 2018

Pakistan’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Khan Hasham bin Saddique met with members of Saudi-Pakistan Parliamentary Friendship Committee in the Shoura Council led by the committee’s chairman Dr. Abdullah H. al-Harby.

The members of the committee warmly welcomed and thanked the ambassador and his team for their first visit to the Shoura Council.

During the meeting the members of the council extolled the historical relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. They said there was room as well as need for taking the relations of friendship and brotherhood to further heights. They expressed their gratitude for the support of Pakistan to the Kingdom in fighting the menace of extremism and terrorism.

The chairman emphasized the need for further increasing contacts at different levels, especially among parliamentarians for further enhancing people to people contact and bilateral understanding on various issues.

They also expressed the need for augmenting cooperation in the fields of trade, investment, cultural and educational affairs. They appreciated the contribution of the Pakistani expatriates in the development of the Kingdom and for further bolstering the relations between the two countries.

The ambassador, while thanking the chairman and his fellow members of the Shoura for inviting him to the meeting, lauded the farsighted and pragmatic leadership of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for taking the bilateral relations to new heights.

He conveyed the gratitude of the government and the people of Pakistan for hosting a large Pakistani expatriate community in Saudi Arabia.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/02/23/Pakistan-Saudi-Arabia-to-strengthen-parliamentary-relations.html

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Seven soldiers, 71 militants killed in Egypt Sinai operations

 22 February 2018

CAIRO: Seven Egyptian soldiers and 71 militants have been killed since the launch of a wide-ranging operation to quell an Daesh group affiliate in Sinai earlier this month, the military said.

“As a result of the heroic combat operations by our armed forces...seven heroes of the armed forces were martyred,” military spokesman Col. Tamer Rifai said at a press conference aired Thursday on state television.

“71 extremists have been killed and five arrested,” he said.

Rifai added that 1,852 other suspects have been rounded up in the operation that began on February 9, following an ultimatum by the President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to end the deadly insurgency.

IS attacks have killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula. The group has also killed over 100 Christians in the past year and targeted tourists.

Sissi ordered his security commanders to put an end to the attacks following a massacre at a northern Sinai mosque in November that killed more than 300 worshippers.

IS is believed to have carried out the attack on the mosque, frequented by Sufi Muslims, but it has not claimed responsibility.

The group’s Egyptian branch has used the north of the Sinai Peninsula, which borders Israel, as a staging ground for its attacks.

Officials say IS has tried to move fighters to Sinai following defeats in Iraq and Syria, where it has lost most of its territory.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1252436/middle-east

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Pakistan

 

Pakistan expects Iran to understand troops deployment in Saudi Arabia

BY MIAN ABRAR

Feb 23, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Wednesday said that it expected Iran to understand its position on sending its troops to Saudi Arabia purely on a training task and it would continue maintaining a delicate balance in its ties with Saudi Arabia and Iran as it was cautious of being drawn into Middle East’s sectarian power struggles.

Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir expressed these views while addressing an international seminar on “Contemporary Relations between Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia: Present Challenges” organised by Strategic Vision Institute (SVI).

SVI had organised the seminar to study the options available with Pakistan to maintain the fragile equilibrium in its ties with Iran and Saudi Arabia in view of their growing rivalry and shifting geopolitical environment of the region.

The defence minister explained the principles driving Pakistan’s Middle East policy and said that it was “undergirded by its longstanding close relations with Saudi Arabia and by its focus on limiting the domestic fallout of sectarian tensions stemming from the Saudi Arabia – Iran rivalry”.

Explaining further, the minister said that Pakistan had an “ideological affinity and deep military, economic, and leadership” ties with Saudi Arabia, whereas it was building “economic cooperation and counter-terrorism links” with Iran. “An opening” had been achieved with Iran, he added.

Relations with Saudi Arabia, the defense minister said, were being updated and expanded into newer areas including economic and industrial cooperation. He said that Pakistan had for decades deputed its troops to Saudi Arabia under bilateral agreements on training and advisory missions.

“Pakistan Armed Forces personnel have been deputed to Saudi Arabia for many decades on training and advisory missions – under longstanding bilateral agreements and protocols. After the evolution of the Saudi-led Islamic Military effort from an alliance into a counterterrorism coalition, Pakistan has offered cooperation in counterterrorism training and communications,” he said.

Driven by the highest leadership of both countries, he said, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had recently started a process of updating and widening their historical partnership into new areas, particularly economic and industrial cooperation.

“Yet it is a matter of record that in 2015, Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) government chose, with the support of Parliament, to avoid being implicated directly in the Yemen conflict,” he said, adding that another more recent challenge was the relationship between Qatar and GCC, particularly Saudi Arabia.

“Compared to Iran, Pakistan’s diplomatic and trade relations with Qatar — a 15-year agreement to import gas and defence deals — are quite significant,” he said, “Pakistan at the same time, expects Iran to have more understanding of Pakistan’s position towards its historical partnership with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.”

Iranian Ambassador Mehdi Honardoost looked cautiously optimistic about the future of Pakistan-Iran ties and said that the horizon was bright despite impediments and obstacles.

The ambassador said that Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline was not progressing and moreover no progress had been made on the establishment of banking channels. He assured that Indian involvement in Chabahar Port would not be used against Pakistan. He said that Pakistan had the potential to heal the widening rift among the Muslim countries.

Former ambassador Syed Hassan Javed cautioned Iran against the threats that Indian presence in Chahbahar would pose to Iran’s security itself. Former ambassador Arif Kamal stressed on maintaining a balance in relations with Iran and Turkey and said that bending more towards one side could be problematic.

Former Defence Production secretary Lt Gen (r) Syed Muhammad Owais, who presided over the concluding session, said that Pakistan’s mediation efforts could contribute to promoting harmony between Muslim countries.

Former foreign secretary Shamshad Ahmed Khan said that there was a divergence between how the people and the government viewed the support for Saudi Arabia.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/02/22/pakistan-expects-iran-to-understand-troops-deployment-in-saudi-arabia/

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Pakistan's Defence, Economic Ties with Saudia Arabia Deepened: Dastgir

February 22, 2018

Defense Minister Khurram Dastgir says Pakistan attaches great importance to its historical relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran, reported Radio Pakistan .

Addressing a seminar in Islamabad on Thursday, he pointed out that Pakistan 's relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran are of different nature.

He said Pakistan 's defense and economic relations with Saudi Arabia have deepened while with Iran we are cooperating in anti-terrorism efforts.

He said Gwadar and Chabahar port of Iran could play an important role in regional development.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/22-Feb-2018/pakistan-s-defense-economic-ties-with-s-arabia-deepened-dastgir

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PTI considering releasing Rs277m to Darul Uloom Haqqania: report

Feb 23, 2018

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Auqaf department has said that a summary was forwarded to Chief Minister Pervez for the release of Rs277 million to Maulana Samiul Haq’s seminary, Darul Uloom Haqqania, reported Geo News on late Thursday night.

For the year 2016-17, the KP government had allocated Rs300mn for the seminary, which also brought the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) under fire from the civil society and opposition parties.

After the latest release of funds, the official aid to the seminary will increase from Rs300 million to Rs577 million. The present move to allocate funds to the JUI-S chief’s seminary is an attempt to woo the JUI-S in the Senate polls, reported the outlet.

It may be mentioned here that the JUI-S is an ally of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) KP government.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/02/23/pti-considering-releasing-rs277m-to-darul-uloom-haqqania-report/

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PTI government failed to address core problems of people in KP: JUI-F

Feb 23, 2018

MALAKAND: Provincial General Secretary of Jamiat Ulema-e Islam- Fazl-ur-Rehman (JUI-F) and former Member National Assembly (MNA) Maulana Shuja-ul-Mulk on Thursday said that the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) led government has failed to address core problems of the province’s people.

Addressing party workers convention, he alleged that PTI government policies have led the young generation on the path to ruin.

He said that JUI-F would fully participate in the 2018 elections from the platform of Muttahida Majlis–e–Amal (MMA) and would clean sweep the polls. The party would form the next government in the province with a clear majority because the public was frustrated with the PTI government, he claimed.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/02/22/pti-government-failed-to-address-core-problems-of-people-in-kp-jui-f/

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Three Jama’atul Ahrar militants killed in Afghanistan: reports

Feb 23, 2018

PESHAWAR: A local Afghan militia has killed three commanders of Hizbul Tehreer—a splinter group of Pakistan Taliban— in Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, an area near Pak-Afghan border.

The spokesperson of the outfit, Dr Aziz Yusafzai, confirmed that Hizbul Ahrar’s militant wing commander Jehad Yar Mehsud was killed along with his two comrades in an ambush with the militia on Wednesday evening.

Jehad Yar Mehsud hailed from South Waziristan and was a close aide of TTP leaders Baitullah Mehsud and Hakeemullah Mehsud, and was also in charge of leading the brutal militant operation Ghazi in 2017 against Pakistan.

Earlier, according to reports, Jihad Yar Mehsud— who had joined Hizb-ul-Ahrar a few days ago— and another militant Aleem Khan alias Umer Kamal were killed during a clash between Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and Hizb-ul-Ahrar.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/02/22/three-jamaatul-ahrar-militants-killed-in-afghanistan-reports/

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India

 

Why So Many in Bengal Are Talking About Hindu Samhati

by Ravik Bhattacharya

February 23, 2018

ON FEBRUARY 14, an organisation called Hindu Samhati held a rally in Kolkata and, in what is seen as a first for Bengal, presented 14 members of a Muslim family as an example of “ghar wapsi”, while calling for similar programmes across the state. When its members assaulted journalists who tried to speak to the family. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee promised action, four persons were arrested on charges including attempt to murder; they were granted bail Thursday.

While all this has brought attention, Hindu Samhati has been at the forefront of several right-wing activities, often aggressively, ever since it was founded in 2008 by Tapan Ghosh, 64, a former member of the RSS and the VHP, which he quit in 2007. Chief patron Ghosh was among those arrested and granted bail.

The outfit, which accuses the RSS and VHP of a soft approach, claims to have grown to about 50,000 members in the state — most of them former RSS Pracharaks — and spread to Assam and Jharkhand in the last two years. Along the way, it has been probed in several cases relating to communal violence; Ghosh himself has been arrested at least seven times in connection with a number of cases.

What it does

The narrow Bhuban Dhur Lane leads to house number 5, atop which stand two CCTV cameras stand out against the rest of the North Kolkata neighbourhood. Inside, the walls are lined with books including volumes of the Quran alongside Hindu religious books and files of court cases.

Debtanu Bhattacharya, who used to be as an RSS Pracharak from 1992 to 2007, working in Bengal and the Northeast, joined Hindu Samhati in 2013 and is now president.

In a conversation days after Ghosh’s arrest, Bhattacharya described how Hindu Samhati is different. “I have seen villages that have had RSS shakas for three decades, yet Hindus are displaced from there. When it comes to direct action, RSS seems to take a step backward,” Bhattacharya said. “Our leader Tapan Ghosh stands by our cadres… We say we did it, we are prepared to go to jail. We take care of families of cadres who are in jail; the Sangh disowns its followers when they land in trouble.”

He stressed that Hindu Samiti is not affiliated to any political party. It is known to have lobbied for support abroad; the Samhiti website mentions an address by Ghosh at the House of Commons after he had been invited the National Council of Hindu Temples, UK.

Bhattacharya described the outfit’s work. “We work at village level, where we prepare for Hindu resistance. Self-defence is a constitutional right. We ask villagers to keep weapons that are legally allowed. There are guns and bombs in every village, and if those are used during a clash, what else can we do?” he said. “So far, we have facilitated marriages of over 300 Muslim girls to Hindu youth in our anti-love jihad campaign and settled them in various parts of India. We have rescued over 200 Hindu girls who had either married Muslims or tried to. We gave them shelter.”

Sujit Maity, Samhati assistant secretary, added: “We provide financial and legal support to families of arrested or convicted youth.” The outfit claims to be providing regular assistance to the families of 11 youths convicted in a 2014 case in Birbhum, involving the alleged gang-rape of a tribal girl who was in a relationship with a Muslim .

It is also backing a schoolboy who had posted a Facebook comment in 2017, when he was 17, leading to communal clashes in North 24-Parganas, where one person died, followed by clashes in Bashirhat. The trial is in progress.

“The boy cannot return home. So, after talking to his family, we are now his guardian and have arranged for his shelter and education,” said Samir Guha Roy, Samhati vice-president, a former ABVP leader from Bengal.

The organisation says it doesn’t believe in training or owning assets. “We do not even bother about membership drives or setting up offices. We channelise men and funds for village defence and other work,” said Bhattacharya.

The outfit has 100 members who work daily and are provided travel allowance, while 15 are full-timers whose entire expenses are borne by the outfit, it said.

It claims to run on donations. It has a monthly bulletin paper, apart from websites in Bengali and English. It details what it calls “attacks on Hindus” and its programmes in its mouthpiece, and online, with the help of a seven-member amateur online team. Taking note

Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim called it an “unruly and barbaric organisation”. “It should be banned… The government has taken strong action,” he said. Praveen Tripathi, joint commissioner of Kolkata Police (headquarters), said: “We have started a case [assault] and arrested four persons. The case will continue. We are keeping a watch on them,”

The Opposition accused the ruling party of being soft on the organisation. “Such outfits have links to the RSS, however hidden that is,” said CPI(M) leader Shyamal Chakraborty. “It is the present government that allowed them to hold a rally in the heart of the city, whereas Opposition parties like us are denied permission.” Congress leader Om Prakash Mishra said , “It is an alarming development. Though such outfits have their own organisation, they share the worldview of RSS… They are also soft on Trinamool Congress.”

The VHP disassociated itself from Hindu Samhati’s activities. “We do not support such organisations,” said Sachindranath Sinha, VHP organisational secretary in Bengal. “They are in no way connected to us. Some of their leaders may have once been with VHP, but they left. They are a reactionary force and history has shown us that in India reactionary forces do not last long.”

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/why-so-many-in-bengal-are-talking-about-hindu-samhati-love-jihad-5074756/

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India may deploy CRPF for security of embassy in Iraq

Feb 23, 2018

NEW DELHI: In a first, the government is preparing to deploy commandos of central paramilitary force – CRPF – at the Indian embassy in war-ravaged Iraq, which is under threat from Islamic State, Al Qaeda and other terror groups.

A contingent of 45 highly trained men, led by a deputy commandant rank officer, will be initially posted to secure the embassy and diplomats in Baghdad and, if required, more personnel will be sent later.

The Indian embassy last faced a missile attack in 2004 but sources said lately RAW and other central intelligence agencies have warned of possible terror attacks. An in-principle approval for the deployment of an armed squad at the complex located in the Al Mansour area of the Iraqi capital has already been accorded by the home ministry, sources said.

The CRPF commandos will have a specific task of securing the embassy, its diplomatic staff and their families against terror threats.

“Given the constant threat of the IS terror group in Iraq, it was being discussed for a long time that the Indian embassy there should have a professional security cover,” an official said. “The effort to send the paramilitary commandos is a move in that direction. A final decision will be taken soon,” the official said.

While there has be no targeted hit at the Indian mission in Baghdad, the city has witnessed suicide attacks and bombings by IS terrorists. The proposed contingent would not only guard the embassy complex, but also provide proximate security cover to senior diplomats and staffers every time they move out of the facility.

CRPF’s elite CoBRA squad, known for their operations against Maoists, will be part of the proposed contingent, an official said.

The personnel will have to be adept in handling improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and in conducting special operations and hostage rescue tasks, he said.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/india-may-deploy-crpf-for-security-of-embassy-in-iraq/articleshow/63036121.cms

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India’s statements ignore facts, ground realities: Maldives govt

by Shubhajit Roy

February 23, 2018

MALDIVES ON Thursday brushed aside India’s expression of concern over the 30-day extension of emergency and said New Delhi’s public statement was a “clear distortion of facts.” India on Wednesday had expressed “deep dismay” at Maldives’ decision to extend the state of emergency, and said it did not see any valid reason for its extension.

“The Government of Maldives takes note of the public statements issued by the Government of India that ignore the facts and ground realities with regard to the ongoing political developments in the Maldives. The assertion by the Government of India that the extension of the State of Emergency by the People’s Majlis was unconstitutional is a clear distortion of facts, which ignore the Constitution and Laws of the Maldives,” the Maldives government said in a statement on Thursday.

On Thursday, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said: “It is our sincere desire to see that the democracy in Maldives is restored. This is also the desire of the people of Maldives. We do not see any valid reason for extension of the State of Emergency.”

He also urged Maldives government to release the Chief Justice and a Supreme Court judge, political prisoners, and restore democracy.

This came two days after the Maldives government led by President Abdulla Yameen extended the State of Emergency, and a day after Indian ambassador in Male, Akhilesh Mishra, on Wednesday met Maldives Foreign Secretary Ahmed Sareer and expressed New Delhi’s “deep disappointment” at the extension by 30 days.

Hours after Mishra had met Sareer, the Ministry of External Affairs said in New Delhi on Wednesday that the manner in which the extension was approved by the Majlis — the Maldives’ parliament — is a “matter of concern”.

This was their second meeting since the Maldives imposed emergency on February 5.

They had met on February 16, when Mishra had asked when the Maldives government intends to end the emergency. At that point, he was assured by Sareer that the Yameen government has the “intention” to end the emergency at the earliest.

However, on Tuesday, Majlis decided to extend the State of Emergency.

About the extension of the Emergency, the Maldives Opposition has pointed out that Yameen failed to gain the constitutionally mandated quorum in parliament to vote on the State of Emergency decree. The Opposition has declared the emergency “void” and the extension as “illegal”.

The Maldives government statement on Thursday said, “There is no doubt that the Maldives is experiencing one of the most difficult periods in the history of the nation. It is therefore important that friends and partners in the international community, including India, refrain from any actions that could hinder resolving the situation facing the country.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/indias-statements-ignore-facts-ground-realities-maldives-govt-5074660/

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NIA nabs terrorist involved in 2015 attack on Army in Manipur

February 23, 2018

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has arrested a member of a banned Manipuri terrorist organisation who was allegedly a part of the team that attacked an army convoy in June 2015, in which 18 soldiers were killed.

Moirangthem Nimaichand Meitei, an operative of the Kangleipak Communist Party (Noyon), was allegedly involved in the ambush on the 6th Dogra of the Indian Army near Paraolen village in Chandel district of Manipur on June 4, 2015. The attack had also left 15 jawans injured.

The 22-year-old accused was produced before a special judge on February 20 where he was remanded to seven days of NIA custody. However, sources said Meitei had been detained by a combined team of the NIA, Gorkha Rifles and Bishnupur police in Manipur on February 3 from Ningthoukhong area.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/nia-nabs-terrorist-involved-in-2015-attack-on-army-in-manipur-5074750/

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Badruddin Ajmal: Army Chief Offended Us, Will Meet PM, President

February 23, 2018

A day after Army chief General Bipin Rawat described the rise of All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) in Assam as “faster” than the BJP, the party’s president and Lok Sabha member Maulana Badruddin Ajmal on Thursday called it a political statement, and said he would take up the matter with the Prime Minister, Home Minister as well as the President.

“General Bipin Rawat has made a political statement, shocking. Why is it a concern for the Army Chief that a political party, based on democratic and secular values, is rising faster than BJP? He has offended us, offended our party. I have sought an audience with the Prime Minister and Union Home Minister. We will also go and meet the President,” Ajmal said.

Addressing a press meet, Ajmal said if the AIUDF had grown faster than the BJP, as stated by the Army chief, then it was not his or the party’s fault. “It is not our fault, not our party’s fault that it has been growing faster than the BJP as said by the Army chief. It is the people who have voted for us,” he said.

Reacting to a statement reportedly issued by the Army headquarters, stating that Rawat had not made a political statement, Ajmal said the Army chief was indulging in politics. “By making such statement, isn’t the Chief of Army Staff indulging into politics which is against the constitutional mandate given to him?” he asked.

He added: “Alternative parties like AIUDF, AAP have grown because of the misgovernance of big parties.”

OPINION | Is Rawat shooting from the hip on Assam issue?

Senior AIUDF leader Aminul Islam said, “Our party has been working for the downtrodden. This is why our popularity is growing faster than BJP. We are hopeful that people of Assam, irrespective of caste & creed, will accept AIUDF and our party will come to power soon.”

Addressing a seminar in New Delhi on Wednesday on ‘North East Region of India — Bridging Gaps and Securing Borders’, organised by the Centre for Joint Warfare Studies and Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff of the Ministry of Defence, General Rawat had said, “There is a party in Assam called AIUDF. If you look at, they have grown in a faster time-frame than the BJP grew over the years. When we talk of, you know the Jan Sangh with two members of Parliament and where they have reached, the AIUDF is moving at a faster pace in the state of Assam.”

He also said, “Planned infiltration is taking place at the instance of our western neighbour, and supported by our northern neighbour, to keep this area disturbed. You will continue to see some kind of infiltration happening to keep this area disturbed.”

Reacting to the remarks, AIMIM chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi, said, “The fundamental point is that the Army and the Army chief are apolitical. This is a violation of that. If the government does not act against an Army chief whose statements amount to interference in domestic politics, then you have to believe that this was done at the behest of the government.”

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/badruddin-ajmal-army-chief-bipin-rawat-offended-us-will-meet-pm-modi-president-kovind-5074672/

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Pakistan summons Indian envoy for fourth time this month

February 22, 2018

Pakistan today summoned India’s Deputy High Commissioner J P Singh here for the fourth time in a month to condemn the “unprovoked firing” by Indian troops across the Line of Control (LoC).

Director General (South Asia and SAARC) Mohammad Faisal summoned Singh and “condemned the unprovoked ceasefire violations” by Indian forces on February 22 in Rawalakot/Satwal Sector, the Foreign Office said in a statement.

The firing killed a labourer, working at a civilian crush plant, at Poonch river bank, it said. Faisal said despite calls for restraint, India “continues to indulge in LoC firing”.

The Foreign Office had summoned India’s deputy high commissioner on February 5, 15 and 20. Last month, the Indian envoy was summoned five times on on January 15, 18, 19, 20 and 21.

Faisal said, “the deliberate targeting of civilian populated areas is indeed deplorable and contrary to human dignity, international human rights and humanitarian laws.”

Faisal urged the Indian side to respect the 2003 ceasefire arrangement and investigate the repeated incidents of ceasefire violations, the statement said.

He also urged the Indian side to allow the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to play its mandated role as per the UN Security Council resolutions.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/pakistan-summons-indian-envoy-for-fourth-time-this-month-5074181/

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Europe

 

South Sudan kills, beats, nabs journalists: UN

Feb 22, 2018

In at least 60 incidents over the last year and a half journalists in South Sudan were killed, beaten, detained, denied entry or fired for doing their jobs, a UN report said Thursday.

State security officers were responsible for the majority of the incidents verified by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and UN Human Rights Office between July 2016 and December 2017.

It has had a "chilling effect" on freedom of expression, "further shrinking the space for debate and dissent," said UNMISS head David Shearer at a press conference in the capital Juba.

The UN said it verified 60 out of 99 allegations of incidents affecting at least 102 people.

The incidents included two killings, 58 arbitrary arrests and 16 sackings as well as "intimidation, harassment, and other forms of violence".

It said nine media outlets faced restrictions, three were shut down or suspended, four websites were blocked and eight articles in two newspapers censored.

The vast majority of attacks targeted South Sudanese journalists, but some foreign correspondents were also affected.

Twenty foreign reporters were also denied entry to the country after publishing reports the government disliked.

"Those targeted were deemed to be critical of the government and accused of tarnishing the country's reputation," Shearer said.

South Sudan's four-year-old civil war has killed tens of thousands of people and forced millions from their homes.

Criticized for continuing their battle for power while disregarding the suffering of the people, both government and rebel sides have grown increasingly hostile towards the independent media.

UN researchers were unable to travel to rebel-held areas to verify allegations there. In government territory they found that security forces -- including the army, police and intelligence agency -- were "responsible for two-thirds of the verified cases." The National Security Service (NSS) was singled out for using its broad powers of surveillance, arrest and detention against journalists and for placing officers at newspaper printing presses in order to censor stories, said Eugene Nindorera, who heads the UNMISS human rights office.

The result, he said, was a mounting trend towards self-censorship and lack of open debate.

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/22/553244/South-Sudan-UN-Journalists

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German-Russian, 70, stabs Afghan, Syrian, Iraqi refugees

February 23, 2018

BERLIN - A 70-year-old man has been arrested accused of "politically motivated" attempted murder days after attacking three asylum seekers with a knife, german police said on Thursday.

The bloody attack took place outside a church in the western city of Heilbronn last Saturday, leaving a 17-year-old afghan badly wounded and an iraqi and syrian man, 25 and 19, injured.

The suspect, a German-Russian dual national who was drunk at the time of the attack, was overpowered with the help of passersby until police arrived and detained him.

He was initially charged with assault and released but on Wednesday prosecutors raised the charge to "politically motivated" attempted murder and issued a formal arrest warrant.

The man was rearrested on Wednesday after police had further questioned the victims, witnesses and the suspect, police said in a statement.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/23-Feb-2018/german-russian-70-stabs-afghan-syrian-iraqi-refugees

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Russia tested ‘over 200 new weapons’ in Syria

February 23, 2018

MOSCOW - russia has tested over 200 new types of arms in syria during its campaign in support of President Bashar al-Assad, a senior lawmaker said Thursday, as Moscow was accused of taking part in air strikes against rebel-held Eastern Ghouta.

“As we helped the brotherly Syrian people, we tested over 200 new types of weapons ,” said Vladimir Shamanov, a former commander of Russia’s airborne troops who now serves as head of the Russian Duma’s defence committee.

“It’s not an accident that today they are coming to us from many directions to purchase our weapons , including countries that are not our allies,” he said. “Today our military-industrial complex made our army look in a way we can be proud of,” he said.

russia , a close ally of the Syrian government in the protracted multi-front war, has been accused of indiscriminate bombing throughout the conflict causing massive casualties.

The latest criticism focuses on the air strikes against the enclave of Eastern Ghouta, where more than 350 civilians have been killed in five days, but the Kremlin denied involvement in the regime-led assault. Shamanov’s remarks also come amid reports that russia has deployed its Su-57 stealth fighter prototype in syria , where two such planes were reportedly spotted Wednesday.

Photos of the fifth generation jet, allegedly over syria , were re-posted by various state media Thursday. A source in the defence ministry confirmed to RBK news agency that the two planes were sent to the Hmeimim base “for a test in real conditions.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the reported deployment of Su-57.

Five-day assault on syria enclave kills more than 400

Fresh bombardment on Eastern Ghouta killed dozens Thursday, bringing the number of dead civilians in a five-day assault by the Syrian government to more than 400.

Mounting calls for a humanitarian truce in one of the bloodiest episodes of Syria’s seven-year conflict went unheeded as 46 more people were killed by air strikes and rocket fire. Diplomats were working on securing Russian support for a UN Security Council resolution demanding a month-long ceasefire in the enclave which the world body’s chief Antonio Guterres described as “hell on earth” but no date was scheduled yet. People huddled in basements as government forces pounded the besieged enclave with rockets and bombs, turning towns into fields of ruins and even hitting hospitals.

Aid group Doctors Without Borders said 13 of the facilities it supports in Eastern Ghouta were damaged or destroyed in three days, leaving remaining staff with very little to save the hundreds of wounded brought to them every day.

In the hospital mortuary in Douma, the main town in the enclave just east of Damascus, bodies wrapped in white shrouds were already lining up on the floor, two of them children.

“Five days of air strikes and intense artillery fire by the regime and its Russian ally have killed 403 civilians, including 95 children,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Morning rain appeared to initially keep warplanes away on Thursday but the sky cleared by midday and jets, some of them Russian according to the Observatory, soon returned.

russia has so far denied direct involvement in the assault on Ghouta but the pro-government Syrian newspaper Al-Watan reported on Thursday that Russian warplanes and advisers had joined the battle.

Regime and allied forces have been massing around the enclave, in which an estimated 400,000 people live, ahead of a likely ground offensive to flush out holdout Islamist and militant groups.

“We are 14 women and children living in a room that is 10 feet wide, with no toilet and nowhere to wash,” said 53-year-old Umm Abdo, who joined a large group in the basement of a school in Arbin.

The brief respite provided by the rain on Thursday encouraged some residents to venture out of their basements and shelters, to buy food, check on their property or enquire about their relatives and neighbours.

In the town of Hammuriyeh, a queue had formed outside a shop as starving residents tried to stock up but another rocket sowed panic and sent everybody back to their shelters.

In Douma, a young boy tried to peddle lighters on the street but rocket fire quickly forced him to scamper back to cover.

An AFP correspondent saw rescuers known as the “White Helmets” forced to stop their efforts to retrieve a wounded woman from the rubble of a collapsed home when air strikes resumed.

When they ventured back to the site, the woman was dead.

The indiscriminate bombardment and the strikes on medical facilities sparked global outrage but few concrete options emerged to stop the bloodletting.

“The killing of children, the destruction of hospitals - all that amounts to a massacre that must be condemned and which must be countered with a clear no,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The aid community voiced its frustration as the world appeared once again powerless to stop a conflict that has left almost 350,000 dead in seven years and caused destruction rarely seen since World War II.

Humanitarian agencies are “sickened that no matter how many times they’ve raised the alarm, taken the step of speaking out, called on the Security Council to do something, the violence and brutality will sink to new lows,” said the syria INGO Regional Forum.

Talks for a deal between the regime and the armed groups controlling Ghouta appear to have stalled.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during a press conference in Belgrade that militant fighters in Ghouta had rejected an evacuation deal.

“A few days ago, our military in syria suggested to the fighters that they withdraw peacefully from Eastern Ghouta, like the evacuation of fighters and their families that was organised in East Aleppo,” he said.

The head of the defence committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament said Thursday that more than 200 news types of weapons were tested as part of his country’s military support to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/23-Feb-2018/russia-tested-over-200-new-weapons-in-syria

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Russia to support UN-proposed truce in Syria but not for Daesh, Nusra: Lavrov

Feb 22, 2018

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Moscow will consider supporting a UN-proposed ceasefire, providing it does not cover the Takfiri terrorist groups of Daesh and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as al-Nusra Front, as well as other militant outfits that are shelling civilians in Syria's militant-held Eastern Ghouta.

The top Russian diplomat made the remarks during a press conference in the Serbian capital of Belgrade on Thursday, saying Russia was ready to consider a UN Security Council draft resolution demanding a 30-day truce in the Arab country as long as it did not include the two Takfiri groups and other militants “who are shelling residential quarters of Damascus.”

Lavrov’s comments came two weeks after Sweden and Kuwait, two non-permanent members of the UNSC, proposed the month-long ceasefire measure in Syria to allow deliveries of humanitarian aid and medical evacuations. The world body is expected to vote on the proposal later on Thursday.

The ceasefire resolution calls for the truce to go into effect 72 hours after the adoption of the measure and for aid deliveries and medical evacuations to commence 48 hours after that.

Eastern Ghouta is included in a deal between Turkey, Russia and Iran to establish de-escalation zones in Syria with the aim of reducing violence in the war-torn Arab country.

Earlier in the day, Moscow denied a US claim that Russian fighter jets had carried out airstrikes in Eastern Ghouta and reportedly killed scores of civilians since the start of the week, saying members of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and other militants holed up in Ghouta were shelling different parts of the flashpoint enclave.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Lavrov said the Ghouta-based militants had rejected Russia's offer to “evacuate peacefully” and that they were using civilians there as human shields.

“The al-Nusra Front and its allies categorically rejected this proposal and continue to shell the city from their positions, using the civilian population of Eastern Ghouta as a human shield,” he said.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-opposition monitoring group, claimed that at least 250 civilians had been killed in the attacks in the enclave, in which an estimated 400,000 people live.

Separately, Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia described the situation in Eastern Ghouta as “complex,” saying, “There are terrorists there who the Syrian army is fighting and the terrorists are shelling Damascus.”

Russia has been lending aerial support to Syria’s counter-terrorism operations since September 2015.

Meanwhile, the US and its allies have been bombarding what they call Daesh positions inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/22/553255/Russia-Syria-Eastern-Ghouta-Daesh-Nusra-UNSC-ceasefire

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Russia calls for UN meeting on Syria's Eastern Ghouta

22 February 2018

Moscow's Permanent Representative to the UN Vassily Nebenzia on Wednesday called for a UN Security Council meeting on Syria's besieged Eastern Ghouta. 

Nebenzia asked the UN body to hold the meeting on Thursday.

Home to some 400,000 civilian residents, Eastern Ghouta has remained under a crippling regime siege for the last five years.

Syria has been locked in a devastating civil war since March 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/europe/199087/russia-calls-for-un-meeting-on-syrias-eastern-ghouta

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North America

 

U.S. Says Troops Can Stay in Syria Without New Authorization

By CHARLIE SAVAGE

FEB. 22, 2018

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has decided that it needs no new legal authority from Congress to indefinitely keep American military forces deployed in Syria and Iraq, even in territory that has been cleared of Islamic State fighters, according to Pentagon and State Department officials.

In a pair of letters, the officials illuminated the Trump administration’s planning for an open-ended mission of forces in Syria beyond the Islamic State fight. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson foreshadowed the plan in a speech last month, saying that troops will stay in Syria to curb Iran and prevent the Syrian government from reconquering rebel-held areas.

Though Mr. Tillerson also cited a need to mop up the remnants of the Islamic State and keep from leaving a vacuum in which the group could regenerate, other administration officials put far greater emphasis on the extremists. In the letters, they said that the continued potential threat from the Islamic State provided a legal rationale for the Trump administration to keep American troops deployed there indefinitely.

“Just as when we previously removed U.S. forces prematurely, the group will look to exploit any abatement in pressure to regenerate capabilities and reestablish local control of territory,” wrote David Trachtenberg, the deputy undersecretary of defense for policy.

About 2,000 American troops are in Syria, where nearly all the territory once held by the Islamic State has now been liberated. Mr. Tillerson deemed the group “substantially, but not completely defeated,” warning that the insurgents remained a threat.

Mr. Trachtenberg wrote the letter to Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia, who had asked the Trump administration to explain its understanding of its authority to stay on in Syria. The State Department sent him a similar letter, which also argued that international law provided a basis for American forces to remain in Syria — despite the lack of consent from the Syrian government — to protect Iraq and the United States from terrorists.

And both letters said American troops may strike at Syrian government or Iranian forces deemed to threaten Americans or Syrian rebel groups that are assisting the United States in fighting the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

“The United States does not seek to fight the government of Syria or Iran or Iranian-supported groups in Iraq or Syria,” wrote Mary K. Waters, the assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs. “However, the United States will not hesitate to use necessary and proportionate force to defend U.S., coalition, or partner forces engaged in operations to defeat ISIS and degrade Al Qaeda.”

American troops carried out strikes against forces loyal to President Bashar Assad of Syria several times in 2017 in the name of defending American-supported rebel groups.

Especially as a matter of international law, the administration’s theory for why the United States will have authority to keep carrying out such operations indefinitely amounts to “a tenuous legal justification atop of another tenuous legal justification,” said Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard Law School professor and former Justice Department lawyer in the Bush administration.

And in a statement addressing domestic law, Mr. Kaine said the executive branch was stretching its interpretation of its war authority too far. He called on the administration to seek new authorization for any continued, long-term mission in Syria and Iraq — especially “to strike pro-Assad forces in areas devoid of ISIS to protect our Syrian partners who seek Assad’s overthrow.”

He also criticized the basis on which the administration ordered strikes on a Syrian government air base last April as punishment for using chemical weapons. At the time, President Trump claimed powers as commander-in-chief to issue the strikes rather than on any theory of congressional authorization.

The senator accused Mr. Trump of “acting like a king by unilaterally starting a war.”

The executive branch’s core legal theory that it is authorized by Congress to fight the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria was first put forward by the Obama administration in 2014, when ISIS swept out of Syria and began rapidly conquering portions of Iraq. The United States started bombing Islamic State forces to curb their advances.

Under both Mr. Obama and Mr. Trump, the executive branch has argued that the war against the Islamic State is covered by a 2001 law authorizing the use of military force against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks and a 2002 law authorizing the invasion of Iraq.

That theory is disputed. While ISIS grew out of an offshoot of Al Qaeda, the two groups by 2014 had split and became warring rivals. Before the rise of ISIS, the Obama administration had deemed the Iraq war over and largely withdrawn American troops.

Still, Congress has continued to appropriate funds for the operations, even as it has failed to enact any new or updated war authorization that specifically addresses ISIS. No court has addressed the question of whether the executive branch has legitimate authority from Congress to battle the Islamic State.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/22/us/politics/isis-syria-american-troops.html?mtrref=www.google.co.in&gwh=F7AC95F373DC282020AEF6769FEC72B3&gwt=pay

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Barrow Sheriff Defends ‘slam In America’ Training

February 22, 2018

The Barrow County Sheriff’s Office is hosting a course on “Islam in America,” but its description has raised concern from a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group.

The March 8 training course will taught by former Woodstock Police Department Chief David Bores and is open to law enforcement and the faith community.

The curriculum includes “Muslim Brotherhood, Ideology, Challenges to LE and our Constitution.”

“This course is to learn the jihadist enemy,” according to a description of the course. “How they define themselves by documents and social media, the historical basis to justify their actions, and their inspirations. This course also covers the Grand Jihad to eliminate America by terrorist acts and subversive acts under the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Bores could not be reached for comment.

Edward Ahmed Mitchell, executive director of the Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the course description is disturbing.

Bores has been in public service for more than 45 years, according to information on the sheriff’s office website.

Mitchell said people have a right to express their views, even if its unfavorable to Muslims “but they do not have the right to do so while teaching official classes to law enforcement agencies on behalf of the State of Georgia.”

There has been an increase in hate crimes and rhetoric since the presidential campaign.

The number of hate crimes in the U.S. went up in 2016, according to the FBI. Data revealed an uptick in crimes against Jews, Muslims and LGBT people

Mitchell said  police officers “ must learn to serve and protect all Georgia residents, including over 100,000 Georgia Muslims. Racism and anti-Semitism have no place in a law enforcement training course. Neither does anti-Muslim bigotry."

Barrow County Sheriff Jud Smith, said he has taken courses by Bores before and denies Bores unfairly singles out Muslims.

“If he was saying every Muslim in the world is a bad person and they want to kill us, I would stand up and say, ‘Brother, you are wrong’,” said Smith.

What Bores does talk about, said Smith, are different incidents and how to prevent terrorism.

“He dissects those attacks and says here are the signs to look for so you’re not profiling,” Smith said.

Full report at:

https://www.myajc.com/lifestyles/barrow-sheriff-defends-islam-america-training/itpSVmE9Xv76KCzLfe474O/

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There's a reason why anti-Muslim ideology hasn't found a home in Portugal

February 23, 2018

The ramparts of the Portuguese Castle of the Moors – “Castelo dos Mouros” – fell to the Christians of the Second Crusade in 1147, a bunch of thieves and drunkards, according to local reports, which included a fair number of Brits. There’s a story that a huge fortune in gold and coins still lies beneath the castle’s broken and much-restored walls, hidden there by the Moors when Afonso Henriques’ thugs were climbing the hills above Sintra. My guess is there’s none. Our relations with the Muslims have always revolved, it seems to me, around money and jealousy. Besides, the Crusaders looted their way across Lisbon – after a solemn agreement with the King that they could do so – and then massacred and raped their way through the panic-stricken Muslim population. It was the only victory the Second Crusade achieved – things went badly wrong for it in the real Middle East. After that – and the 15th-century expulsion of the Muslims – Portugal’s conflict with the region was economic rather than military, trying to grab the Indian trade routes from Yemeni Arabs. When Vasco da Gama “discovered” India and reached Calicut (Calcutta) on 20 May 1498 – this story comes from Warwick Ball’s Out of Arabia – he was greeted by an Arab from Tunisia with the words “May the devil take you! What brought you here?”

But that was about it. Only well over four hundred years later do we find the Christian nationalist dictator Antonio de Oliveira Salazar – who kept Portugal neutral in the Second World War and thus preserved its “oldest ally” relationship with Britain – declaring that in the 15th and 16th centuries, his country had defended “Christian civilisation against Islam”, a remark that might have come from Viktor Orban of Hungary today. It was historical rubbish, and may be the reason why there is no anti-Muslim ideology in Portugal. If you visit the enormous tomb of Da Gama in the Jeronimos Monastery church at Belem, the catafalque carries two magnificent sculptures of medieval merchant ships but no reference to Muslims. Da Gama’s sword is sheathed under stone drapery. The Manueline monastery cloisters which I walked through next door, however, are dripping with Arab-style archways and Arabesque tiles (which you might find today in Algeria and Tunisia).

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The Department of Home Truths, a Fiskian institution I have found it necessary to deploy around the Middle East, would point out, of course, that Portugal visited its violence and ethnic cleansing and racism and slavery not upon the Middle East but upon the peoples of Africa, where later wars in its very own colonial possessions – especially Angola and Mozambique – helped to bring down the pseudo-fascist regime of Marcelo Caetano, Salazar’s successor, in 1975.

The Arabs, however, were regarded as exotic and educated peoples whose own culture was never erased from the streets of Portugal’s cities. The museum commemorating prisoners of 20th-century dictatorship is located in an original Moorish building in Lisbon called Aljube, which in Arabic means, “Street of the Watercourse”. It can also mean “prison” – which is what it was under Salazar. Iberian languages, I should add, are equally strewn with Arabic. The warrior El Campeador, Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar (of Charlton Heston fame), is best known to us by his Arabic nom-de-guerre, “as Sayyid” – El Cid (“the Lord”).

Nowhere can present day connections between the Muslim and European past be more perfectly illustrated than in Lisbon’s Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in the northern suburbs of Lisbon. Old Gulbenkian, the richest Armenian of his time, the original “Mr Five Per Cent” of oil earnings, was an extraordinary philanthropist of his time, his foundation even trying to bridge the insurmountable gap between the Armenian peoples and their genocider Turkish fellow citizens after 1915. This may be why the short biography of the man available at the Lisbon institution refers to the Armenian genocide – disgracefully – as merely “the tragic events”.

But the museum displays Muslim/Arab art scarcely a couple of rooms from Dutch old masters, Thomas Gainsborough’s Mrs Lowndes-Stone and a couple of Turners. A Syrian Mamluk mosque lamp and an Armenian illuminated bible stand only a few metres from Renoir’s Portrait of Madame Monet. A new exhibition looks at botanical knowledge shared by Europe with the Mughal empire of Shah Jahan.

But there is one majestic volume among the Muslim books, a 16th-century Iranian copy of the 14th-century poetry of Hafiz, the 400-year-old Safavid scholar’s handwriting swooping delicately across an open page of the volume – but a text, alas, untranslated, and thus rendered as art rather than literature. But here, abbreviated and forced into English, is what some of the words say: “If, by good fortune, I can obtain the dust from my beloved’s foot, above my eyes I will inscribe a line. If her moth searched for my soul like a candle, I would give up my soul at that very moment … After death, even the wind will not be able to take my dust away from your door.”

The lines are not unlike the more ascetic, broken, almost negative verse of that undeniably finest of modern Portuguese poets, Fernando Pessoa, who reminds his devotees of both Joyce and Samuel Beckett:

“In the dead afternoon’s gold more –

The no-place gold dust of late day

Which is sauntering past my door

And will not stay –

In the silence, still touched with gold,

Of the woods’ green ending, I see

The memory. You were fair of old

And are in me…

Though you’re not there, your memory is

And, you not anyone, your look.

I shake as you come like a breeze

And I mourn some good…”

This is Jonathan Griffin’s translation from the Portuguese, but Pessoa’s work immediately prompted a Muslim visitor to Lisbon to remark to me how similar it was to the 11th-century Persian poetry of Omar Khayyam, whose Rubaiyat was itself translated (though not very well) by the English poet Edward FitzGerald. Pessoa spoke fluent English.

It comes as no surprise, therefore, to discover that Pessoa not only read and took copious notes on the Rubaiyat all over the title page of his copy of FitzGerald’s work, but became almost obsessed by Arab philosophers, including the 11th-century Arab-Andalusian poet al-Mu’tamid. And he condemned the Middle Ages Arab expulsion from the Iberian peninsula. Thanks to the work of Italian scholar Fabrizio Boscaglia and Brazilian researcher Marcia Feitosa, we find Pessoa espousing “our [Portuguese] great Arab tradition – of tolerance and free civilisation. It is in the manner in which we are the keepers of the Arab spirit in Europe that we will have a distinct individuality… Let us revenge the defeat inflicted by those from the North to our Arab ancestors. Let us redeem the crime we committed when we expelled from the peninsula the Arabs that civilised it.”

Full report at:

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/portugal-war-arabs-european-country-peace-iran-iraq-syria-middle-east-eu-nato-a8222941.html

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16-year-old Iowa Muslim is planning an interfaith 'meal for harmony and humanity'

Feb. 22, 2018

Tolerance and acceptance are the foundations upon which our great nation was built, and a mindset exercised by our earliest American presidents.

In 1805, President Thomas Jefferson hosted Muslim diplomat Sidi Soliman Mellimelli at the White House for negotiations regarding the First Barbary War with four North African states. President Jefferson strived to ensure that the meeting would be a positive one. Knowing that Sidi would arrive during the month of Ramadan, a period of fasting for Muslims from sunrise to sunset each day, the president ordered that the State Dinner be rescheduled to take place precisely at sunset. Thus, the State Dinner became known as an Iftar Dinner, or one of breaking the fast.

President Jefferson’s gesture of respect toward the Islamic faith sparked a tradition that would be re-adopted by President Clinton in 1996, when he established the first official “White House Iftar Dinner,” a meal celebrating the United States’ relationship with Muslims around the world and in the United States. The tradition was continued by President Bush and President Obama during their respective terms, before coming to an end in 2017. 

As a 16-year-old American Muslim, I would like to continue this long-standing tradition and re-create this special event in Iowa as an interfaith gathering that promotes unity and tolerance, and celebrates our country’s rich diversity through the “American Iftar Dinner.”

Imagine a dinner table, with each seat hosting a representative of a different religion or ethnic group – a meal for harmony and humanity with peaceful discussion and discourse among diverse people.

At a time of global turmoil and intolerance, holding an event like this is more important than ever. Iowa, the heartland of America, is the most appropriate setting to revive the Jefferson tradition. After all, under the leadership of Gov. Robert Ray, it was Iowa that stepped up and opened its doors to the Tai Dam refugees in 1975, as a symbol of humanitarianism and acceptance.  Gov. Ray once said, “I think ... everyone can do something and make a difference in this world.”

So, as a millennial hoping for a peaceful tomorrow, I am going to do something.  With the same commitment to tolerance and acceptance that Iowans and Americans across this country have always embraced, I plan to hold the American Iftar Dinner in Des Moines on June 7, 2018, during the month of Ramadan. I welcome and invite civic leaders, religious scholars and humanitarians from across Iowa and our nation.

As I plan this special milestone event, I have appreciated the collaboration of our community’s religious leaders, including Bishop Richard Pates of the Diocese of Des Moines, Rabbi David Kaufman of Temple B’nai Jeshurun, and Pastor Mike Housholder of Lutheran Church of Hope, among others.

The dinner will be one that celebrates not only Islam, but all the world’s religions through a non-partisan meal shared by people of different faiths and ethnic backgrounds, as a symbol of our commitment to unity, diversity and tolerance, and as a celebration of the humanitarianism that Iowans and people across America have exhibited.

Despite our differences, I believe we all share the same hopes and aspirations for our future generations to live in an accepting and peaceful world. As a call to action, I urge my fellow Iowans and people across the United States to host their own dinner, invite ethnically and culturally diverse guests and, in their own way, promote a unified existence.

If not a dinner, then make an effort to reach out and meet someone from a different ethnicity, religion or culture. Then, share your moment of unity through stories and photos using the hashtag #mealforhumanity.

Full report at:

https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/iowa-view/2018/02/22/des-moines-teen-fez-zafar-meal-harmony-and-humanity-interfaith/360677002/

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US-led anti-ISIS coalition acknowledges 10 more civilian deaths

23 February 2018

The US-led coalition fighting the IS group in Syria and Iraq acknowledged Thursday the deaths of another 10 civilians, increasing the overall toll of non-fighters killed to at least 841.

The coalition said in a statement that it had completed a review in January of 116 reports of potential civilian casualties from air and artillery strikes, of which all but four were deemed to be duplicates or not credible.

These four incidents occurred in Syria between October 2016 and November 2017.

In one instance, five civilians were killed during a coalition attack on IS trucks and fuel tankers.

“The investigation assessed that although all feasible precautions were taken and the decision to strike complied with the law of armed conflict, unintended civilian casualties unfortunately occurred,” officials said in a statement.

Investigators were still looking at another 485 reports from the campaign.

The coalition conducted a total of 29,070 strikes between August 2014 and January 2018 in Iraq and Syria.

Monitoring group Airwars says the number of civilian deaths acknowledged by the US-led coalition is well below the true toll of the bombing campaign, estimating that at least 6,136 civilians have been killed.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2018/02/23/US-led-anti-ISIS-coalition-acknowledges-10-more-civilian-deaths.html

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Southeast Asia

 

Malaysian rapper’s dog video sparks claim of insulting Islam

February 22, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysian police said a popular ethnic Chinese rapper has been detained over complaints that his latest music video featuring dancers wearing dog masks and performing “obscene” moves insulted Islam and could hurt racial harmony.

It was the second time in two years that Wee Meng Chee, popularly known as Namewee, has been investigated over his music videos.

Police said in a statement that Wee was detained Thursday after they received four public complaints that his video marking the Chinese year of the dog had “insulted Islam and could negatively impact racial unity and harmony.”

In the video entitled “Like a Dog,” Wee sits on a chair in a public square in the government administrative capital of Putrajaya with dancers wearing dog masks around him. Several of them mimic the “doggy-style” sex move. A green domed building in the background led some people to speculate it was filmed in front of a mosque, leading to criticism, but Wee later said it was the prime minister’s office.

The song includes the sounds of dog barks from various countries. In an apparent reference to government corruption, Wee sings that dogs in Malaysia go “mari mari, wang wang,” which in the Malay language means “come come, money money.”

Dogs are considered unclean by Muslims, who account for 60 percent of Malaysia’s 32 million people.

Several ministers have called for Wee to be arrested. He has defended the video as a form of entertainment and said he has no intention of disrespecting any race or religion.

Earlier Thursday, Wee posted a picture on Facebook of himself at the federal police headquarters as he was wanted by police for questioning.

“I am not afraid because I believe Malaysia has justice,” he said.

In 2016, he was detained after enraged Malay Islamic activists lodged complaints that a video titled “Oh My God,” which was filmed in front of various places of worship and used the word “Allah,” which means God in the Malay language, was rude and disrespectful to Islam. He was not charged.

In one of his earliest videos, he mocked the national anthem and was criticized for racial slurs. He also produced a movie that was banned by the government in 2014 for portraying national agencies in a negative way.

Race and religion are sensitive issues in Malaysia, where the ethnic Malay majority has generally lived peacefully with large Chinese and Indian minorities since racial riots in 1969 left at least 200 people dead.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/music/malaysian-rappers-dog-video-sparks-claim-of-insulting-islam/2018/02/22/bb2cdfba-1830-11e8-930c-45838ad0d77a_story.html?utm_term=.b1487719e36e

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Daesh militants waging fresh bid to set up Southeast Asian caliphate

23 February 2018

MANILA: Months after being routed from the southern Philippine city of Marawi, militants are waging a fresh and deadly bid to set up a Southeast Asian caliphate in the same region, the military warned Friday.

The gunmen have mustered a force of about 200 fighters and fought a series of skirmishes with the security forces this year after government forces retook Marawi last October, Col. Romeo Brawner said.

“They have not abandoned their objective to create a caliphate in Southeast Asia,” said Brawner, the commander of a Marawi-based military task force.

“Mindanao is the most fertile ground,” he said, referring to the country’s southern region.

Struggling with widespread poverty and armed Muslim insurgencies seeking independence or self-rule, Mindanao must improve poor supervision of Islamic schools or madrasas where most young gunmen are recruited, he added.

He said the armed forces are retooling to meet the challenge of the Maute group, which occupied Marawi over five months and has pledged allegiance to the Middle East-based Daesh group.

Gunmen who escaped during the early days of the US-backed operation to recapture Marawi are leading the recruitment effort, flush with cash, guns and jewelry looted from the city’s banks and private homes, Brawner said.

The recruits are mostly locals, but an unspecified number of Indonesians, some with bomb-making skills, have recently arrived there, he said.

Mindanao military officials said the Maute gunmen murdered three traders in the town of Piagapo, near Marawi, in November last year.

Three militants were killed in Pantar, another neighboring town, on February 8, while three of the Piagapo merchants’ suspected killers were arrested in that town last month.

The military also reported skirmishes with the Maute gunmen in the towns of Masiu and Pagayawan near Marawi last month.

The renewed fighting came after President Rodrigo Duterte and other political leaders in the Mindanao region warned of a potential repeat of the siege of Marawi which claimed more than 1,100 lives.

Duterte has imposed martial law over Mindanao until the end of the year to curb the militants’ challenge.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1252596/world

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Ezra Zaid’s firm raided over ‘confusing’ book content, Shariah court told

BY IDA LIM

February 22, 2018

PETALING JAYA, Feb 22 — Selangor religious enforcers had raided Mohd Ezra Mohd Zaid’s publishing company ZI Publications Sdn Bhd for publishing a book with “confusing” content that allegedly went against Islamic teachings, the Shariah court was told today.

Sulastri Ishak, who worked as a Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) officer from 2009 to late 2012, said she had received in May 2012 a book censorship report from an Islamic Development Department Malaysia (Jakim) officer who commented on the book’s background and its “confusing” content.

“The report is related to the content of the book written by Irshad Manji that has elements contrary to Islamic faith and laws,” she told the Shariah court here, having also described the book as having dubious elements.

Sulastri, who was then assistant director of the implementation and policy unit in Jais’ research and development division, said she had then lodged a complaint with the Jais enforcement division after reading the censorship report and determining ZI Publications to be the publisher.

When asked by Selangor Sharie prosecutor Sofian Ahmad if she had referred to any other materials before making the complaint, Sulastri replied: “I did not base it on anything, I just read from the book censorship report.

Today was the first day of trial and Sulastri was the first prosecution witness.

Ezra is facing a charge under Section 16(1)(a) of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Selangor) Enactment 1995 as the director and main shareholder of ZI Publications for allegedly publishing a book written by Irshad Manji and titled Allah, Kebebasan dan Cinta with contents purportedly contrary to Islamic law in terms of faith.

The offence which Ezra is charged with is punishable by a maximum RM3,000 fine or two-year jail or both.

Sulastri said she was an observer in Jais’ May 29, 2012 raid of ZI Publications and seizure of 180 copies of the book, where she testified to have read a copy of the book’s content that was “suspected of being dubious”.

“Among the content suspected of being dubious is regarding the word ‘Allah’ that the writer claims refers to an Arabic word for God where the writer meant that God is love and liberty to be shared by everyone,” she said, adding that the book’s contents matched the Jakim report.

Under cross-examination by Ezra’s lawyer Zulkifli Che Yong, Sulastri confirmed that she had not read or researched the book and that it was not within her knowledge that the book was against Islamic teachings.

Zulkifli then questioned if she viewed the opinion of Jakim as a federal body to be binding on Muslims in Selangor.

Sulastri initially said Jakim’s opinion was binding although it was a federal body as it covered the entire country, but later said it was not binding on Muslims in Selangor “because it is not fatwa”.

Full report at:

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/ezra-zaids-firm-raided-over-confusing-book-content-shariah-court-told#QmhKKblD6L4MXHAg.97

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Why focus on ‘non-issues’ like FGM? Group asks UN committee

February 23, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 ― Local NGOs have criticised a United Nations (UN) committee for focusing on “non-issues” like female genital mutilation (FGM) and brushing off other matters like a ban on tudungs by hotels.

In a statement, the Malaysian Alliance of Civil Society Organisations in the UPR Process (Macsa) said that the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw) committee had been misled into believing that FGM was prevalent in the country.

It said that FGM was a “non-issue” and said the dialogue with Malaysian delegation had taken a “simplistic approach” on the unilateral child conversion, while brushing aside the “tudung ban” by hotels which was described as “an appalling form of discrimination”.

“What is currently being practised is a form of female circumcision which has been proven by health data monitoring and clinical studies to have no negative medical complications,” the statement said.

Cedaw had earlier this week urged Putrajaya to eliminate the practice of FGM, and criticised the government for allowing the practice, even when it is no longer considered to be in line with Islamic teachings.

“Macsa condemns all portrayals given at the review session of any impropriety of the practice in Malaysia especially the remarks that call to undermine the fatwa passed by the Fatwa Committee of the Malaysian National Council of Islamic Religious Affairs in 2009,” the statement added.

Female circumcision is considered as one form of FGM by the UN World Health Organisation.

In Malaysia, the most prevalent form of FGM among Muslims is Type I, where midwives or doctors remove the clitoral hood of women, usually when they are still infants or children.

Some practise Type IV, a ritual form which included pricking or nicking of the genitals.

Macsa insisted the two were “hugely different” and that “raising concerns over FGM to undermine the fatwa is disingenuous and unfair”.

“So much attention has been given to the issue of female circumcision in terms of its medical harms and benefits, that we strongly feel more pressing issues are being marginalized.

“The increasing prevalence of homosexuality and bisexuality in our country, which has contributed significantly to the spread of HIV infections,” it said.

On the issue of unilateral conversion, Macsa said the proposed amendment to section 88A to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976, to ban unilateral conversion of children by one parent represented discrimination against converts.

“This is because, to require a father or mother to obtain the consent of the other in cases where the parents are already in the midst of a divorce proceeding — and therefore are no longer on good terms — would almost certainly be impossible.

“Such a requirement would therefore amount to stripping away the fundamental right of the father or the mother to determine the upbringing of the child.”

The NGOs also said they were “alarmed” that the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) had sided and supported the judiciary's recent ruling in the Indira Gandhi case.

Full report at:

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/why-focus-on-non-issues-like-fgm-group-asks-un-committee#haL60fQuWiM4RjhI.97

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Mideast

 

Carter warns of 'catastrophic' consequences Trump's policy on Palestine

Feb 22, 2018

Former US president Jimmy Carter has warned about the “catastrophic” consequences of abandoning the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The two-state solution "is being overtaken by a one-state reality which will have dire consequences for Israel in the long-term," Carter said in a statement to the United Nations Security Council read on Thursday by former US ambassador Richard Murphy.

Referring to President Donald Trump’s decision in December to recognize Jerusalem al-Quds  as the capital of Israel, Carter in the statement read by Murphy  insisted that the two-state solution "must be anchored on 1967 borders with agreed upon adjustments and with Jerusalem [al-Quds] as the capital for both Israelis and Palestinians."

Carter’s statement came after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accused the Trump administration of abdicating its commitment to a peace settlement and an independent Palestinian state.

In an angry address to the UN Security Counci on Tuesday, Abbas hinted that Washington under Trump was by no length of imagination an honest peace broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He appealed instead to the United Nations, and called for an international peace conference this year under U.N., not American, sponsorship.

“We met with the president of the United States, Mr. Donald Trump, four times in 2017, and we have expressed our absolute readiness to reach a historic agreement,” Abbas said.

“Yet this administration has not clarified its position,” Abbas said.

“Is it a two-state solution, or one state?" he asked. 

Carter’s advice to Trump

Carter warned in the statement of mounting tensions in Israeli occupied Palestinian territories since Trump took office.

The occupied territory "is teetering on the brink of a humanitarian disaster", Murphy read from Cater's statement to the UN Security Council.

The former president warned that another war in the Hamas-controlled territory of the Gaza Strip is "a real possibility — and the consequences would be catastrophic."

The Israeli regime's military frequently bombs Gaza, with civilians being the main target of such attacks.

Israel has launched several wars on the Palestinian coastal sliver, the last of which began in early July 2014. The military aggression, which ended on August 26, 2014, killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians. Over 11,100 others were also wounded in the war.

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli siege since June 2007. The blockade has caused a decline in the standards of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty.

The Israeli regime denies about 1.8 million people in Gaza their basic rights, such as freedom of movement, jobs with proper wages as well as adequate healthcare and education.

Carter then went on to conclude his statement by advising Tel Aviv's regime and its US supporters that the establishment of an independent Palestinian state "is in Israel's best interest."

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/22/553277/Carter-Trump-Israel-Palestine-Abbas

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Palestinian protesters egg US politicians

February 23, 2018

RAMALLAH - Palestinians threw eggs at a delegation including New York City Council members visiting the occupied West Bank Thursday, AFP reporters said, amid anger over us President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Several members of the council and New York civil society groups were meeting a palestinian polling company in the city of Ramallah, the polling company confirmed. As they left they were pelted with eggs by several dozen protesters , who also chased their bus. palestinian security forces protected the Americans. protesters held signs reading “The us is part of the problem, not the solution.”

The State Department condemned the event. “The United States absolutely opposes the use of violence or intimidation to express political views,” it said.

“This type of action is unmistakably counterproductive to palestinian interests; it serves only to ensure that Americans are unable to hear or consider palestinian perspectives.”

One of the demonstrators, Salah al-Khawaja, said he had come to show his opposition to Trump’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Palestinians see the eastern part of the city as the capital of their future state and the us move broke with decades of international consensus that Jerusalem’s status should be negotiated between the two parties.

“Today there was a reaction from the palestinian people and popular activists, a reaction to this dishonourable and awful reception” by the polling company, Khawaja said.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/23-Feb-2018/palestinian-protesters-egg-us-politicians

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Tens of Turkish Special Forces Deployed in Afrin

Feb 22, 2018

Turkey's Anadolu news agency reported that two groups of special police forces have been sent to Afrin from the two provinces of Izmir and Antalya on Wednesday.

According to the report, 40 police troops were dispatched to Afrin from Adnan Menderes airport in Izmir and 23 others were dispatched from the town of Aksu in Antalya to participate in Operation Olive Branch against the Kurds in Afrin.

The Turkish army had also sent a sum of 1,200 elite forces to Northwestern Aleppo on Wednesday to join Operation Olive Branch against the Kurdish fighters in Afrin region amid deployment of pro-Damascus popular forces in the Kurdish-held town of Afrin, well-informed sources said.

The sources said that 1,200 special forces of the Turkish army have been dispatched to Afrin region, adding that the elite forces of Pornowa Brigade left Kalig airport in Izmir on military planes for Northwestern Syria.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961203000761

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Palestinian President Abbas in US hospital

23 February 2018

The Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, has gone into hospital in the United States for a routine check, a senior Palestinian official told Reuters on Thursday.

“He is in the hospital now doing ordinary checks,” the official said by telephone, without giving further details.

Abbas, 82, addressed the UN Security Council in New York on Feb. 20 and called for an international conference to be held by mid-2018 to kick-start the stalled peace process with Israel.

He was expected to leave the US for Venezuela for an official visit, according to his office in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. That visit was scheduled to start on Feb. 21.

In October 2016, Abbas was taken to hospital in the West Bank without prior public announcement for heart function tests which, a doctor said, showed normal results.

Abbas became Palestinian president after the death in 2004 of Yasser Arafat. He pursued peace talks with Israel but the negotiations broke down in 2014.

There has been no new coverage of Abbas on the official Palestinian news agency Wafa since Feb. 20, when he met with delegations after his UN speech.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/02/23/Palestinian-President-Abbas-in-US-hospital.html

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Houthi militia kidnaps 200 officers, soldiers loyal to slain Yemeni ex-president Saleh

22 February 2018

Yemen’s Houthi militia kidnapped 200 police officers and soldiers in Sanaa who supported slain ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Security sources revealed that those kidnapped had been driven out of their jobs by the militia following the death of Saleh, and were replaced with hundreds of militiamen in Saada.

The Houthis also attacked the Dar al-Shifaa private hospital in Dhamar, which is owned by Popular Congress Party parliament member, Ali Shamar, after he did not pay five million Saudi Riyals to the militia and medically treat them for free.

Local sources said that the militia surrounded the hospital building with a number of armed vehicles, then stormed into it to force Shamar to pay.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/02/22/Houthi-militia-kidnaps-200-officers-soldiers-loyal-to-slain-Yemeni-ex-president-Saleh.html

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Israel approves construction of 3,000 new settler units in East Jerusalem al-Quds

Feb 22, 2018

Israeli officials have approved plans for the construction of thousands of new settler units in East Jerusalem al-Quds in grave contravention of international law and a United Nation Security Council resolution against the Tel Aviv regime’s land expropriation and settlement expansion policies in occupied Palestinian lands.

The so-called Local Committee for Planning and Construction in the Jerusalem Municipality has agreed to building 3,000 new housing units at the Gilo settlement, Israeli media reported on Thursday.

“The planned settlement units will be built on an area of approximately 280 dunams [around 252 square kilometers],” the outlets added.

Less than a month before US President Donald Trump took office, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2334, calling on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem” al-Quds.

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

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

The last round of Israeli-Palestinian talks collapsed in 2014. Among the major sticking points in those negotiations was Israel’s continued settlement expansion on Palestinian territories.

This as there have been regular anti-US protests by Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip since December 6, when Trump declared that Washington recognized Jerusalem al-Quds as the “capital” of Israel and was moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city. Many say Trump's move has effectively killed any chances of further negotiations.

The dramatic shift in Washington’s Jerusalem al-Quds policy drew fierce criticism from the international community, including Washington's Western allies, and triggered protests against the US and Israel worldwide.

The United Nations General Assembly later voted by a resounding majority to reject Trump's Jerusalem al-Quds move.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/22/553284/Israel-approves-construction-of-3000-new-settler-units-in-East-Jerusalem-alQuds

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Rights abuses to persist in Turkey as long as emergency rule continues: Amnesty

Feb 22, 2018

Amnesty International has warned that human rights violations and a clampdown on freedom of speech are likely to persist in Turkey as long as the Anatolian country remains under a state of emergency following a failed coup some two years ago.

“The dysfunction of civil society and the state of emergency formed a proper ground for human rights violations,” said Andrew Gardner, a senior Amnesty researcher on Turkey, during a press conference in Istanbul on Thursday.

“Unfortunately, it seems likely the human rights violations will continue as long as the state of emergency continues,” he said at the presser, claiming that the emergency rule was enforced to target journalists, as well as government critics.

Gardner’s comments echoed the scathing account of the human rights situation in Turkey, which was included in Amnesty’s annual report on global human rights.

“Dissent was ruthlessly suppressed, with journalists, political activists and human rights defenders among those targeted,” said the Amnesty report on Thursday.

Turkey has remained in a state of emergency since mid-July 2016, when a short-lived putsch was carried out by part of the military against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, prompting Ankara to engage in suppressing the media and opposition groups suspected to have played a role in the botched coup.

The Turkish government alleges that Turkish opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen masterminded and orchestrated the coup, labeling his movement as a terror organization.

However, the US-based cleric has strongly rejected any involvement in the coup attempt.

Ankara has so far submitted a total of seven requests to US officials, demanding the extradition of the Pennsylvania-based figure, but all to no avail.

Turkish authorities have so far detained more than 50,000 people, including security officials, military personnel and civil servants, over alleged links to Gulen’s organization and the failed coup. More than 150,000 others, including military staff, civil servants and journalists, have also been sacked or suspended from work over the same accusations.

The Turkish Journalists’ Association says about 160 journalists are in prison, most of them held since the failed coup.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/22/553272/Turkey-Amnesty-International-human-rights-violations-Gulen-failed-coup-emergency-rule

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Africa

 

Cameroon: Boko Haram Changes Tactics in Cameroon

22 FEBRUARY 2018

By Rosy Sadou

Yaounde — THE Boko Haram is kidnapping children, looting homes, burning property and stealing cattle in Cameroon as it changes its terror tactics from suicide bomb attacks.

Humanitarian agencies confirmed the Muslim terror group's new mode of insurgency in the wake of a rise of such incidents in the Far North region.

These security incidents have increased considerably compared to December 2017 in the areas of Logone et Chari, Mayo Sava and Mayo Tsanaga.

"The modus operandi of non-state armed groups has changed whereby fewer suicide attacks are carried out," said a humanitarian agency spokesperson.

"Instead an increase in kidnapping of children, pillaging of homes, setting fire to properties and cattle robbery have been reported. The attacks persist despite the presence of regional military forces."

The military operations have however forced the insurgents to disperse and to reconstitute themselves into smaller and more mobile groups along the border with Nigeria to the west.

A dire security environment has also forced the Cameroonian military to continue carrying out targeted attacks against terrorists' bases, which has nonetheless resulting in the additional displacement of Nigerians and Cameroonians along the border.

The patterns are affecting humanitarian agencies' response to the crisis.

Cameroon currently has more than 600 000 people of concern, including some 249 000 Central African refugees and 96 300 Nigerian asylum seekers.

They are fleeing civil war and the Boko Haram attacks respectively.

http://allafrica.com/stories/201802220632.html

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7 killed in Boko Haram attacks in Cameroon, Chad

Feb 22, 2018

At least seven people have been killed in Chad and Cameroon by militants of the Boko Haram Takfiri terrorist group, which is based in neighboring Nigeria.

A local source in the northern Cameroon border area said Thursday that five civilians had been killed in Boko Haram’s raid two nights earlier on a border town, which gives direct access to Nigeria.

“A group of Boko Haram fighters made an incursion during (Tuesday) night in Assigashia ...The attackers killed five people and wounded five more,” said the source, who was close to administrative authorities.

An official in the Cameroon security services also confirmed the raid and the casualty toll.

Due to its geographic location, Assigashia has seen recurrent Boko Haram attacks in the past. The militants were blamed for a raid in January that left a civilian killed.

Meanwhile, a captain and a soldier were killed in Chad in an ambush by Boko Haram.

A senior military official said Thursday that the attack which took place a day earlier targeted the troops who were returning from a border patrol in the Lake Chad region near the Nigerian frontier.

“The Boko Haram attackers disappeared into the island” on the lake, said the source about the attack, which was the first known assault on Chadian territory by Boko Haram since May 2017.

More than 20,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced in more than eight years of insurgency by Boko Haram in Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/22/553261/Boko-Haram-Chad-Cameroon

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U.S. air strike in Somalia kills four al Shabaab militants - statement

FEBRUARY 22, 2018

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. air strike against al Shabaab militants in Somalia killed four members of the al Qaeda-linked Islamist insurgency group, the U.S. military said in a statement on Thursday.

The strike, which took place on Wednesday near the town of Jamaame, was coordinated with the Somalia’s government and the U.S. Africa Command said it did not assess that any civilians had been killed in the strike.

https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-usa-somalia-military/u-s-air-strike-in-somalia-kills-four-al-shabaab-militants-statement-idUKKCN1G627R

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URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/myanmar-bulldozes-what-is-left-of-rohingya-muslim-villages/d/114389

 

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