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Islamic World News ( 26 Jan 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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National Flag Flutters atop Mosques, Preamble Dominates Display Pictures on Social Media


New Age Islam News Bureau

27 Jan 2020


In the backdrop of furor over CAA, Muslims in Tiruchy celebrated Republic Day in a grand manner and they sported tricolor flags on their shirts.

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• Goa Church Holds Public Protest against CAA

• Birmingham Islamic School Sues Ofsted after Being Failed For Leaflet

• Americans Send Apology Letter to Iranian Nation for Trump’s Aggression

• Afghan Politicians Exclude President In Taliban Peace Talks

• Malaysian Terror Group Working With Abu Sayyaf, Says Deputy Home Minister

• Palestinians Threaten To Quit Oslo Accords over Trump Peace Plan

• Libya’s Haftar Marches on Misrata; Truce at Risk

• Iraqi Cleric Sadr Scraps Anti-US Demonstrations ‘To Avoid Internal Strife’

 

India

• National Flag Flutters atop Mosques, Preamble Dominates Display Pictures on Social Media

• Goa Church Holds Public Protest against CAA

• Hindu, Muslim Students Tie Rakhis at Anti-CAA March At Kolkata

• Padma Shri for man who cremated over 25,000 unclaimed bodies

• 'If Govt Can Grant Citizenship to Pakistani Muslim, What is Need for CAA?': Congress Questions Adnan Sami's Padma Shri

• Padma Shri awardee ‘Chacha Sharif’ grateful to PM Modi

• RSS’ Bhaiyyaji Joshi on CAA: Muslims in India have never been discriminated against

• Protest held against CAA, NRC, NPR in Mumbai

• Protest against CAA, NRC, NPR in West Bengal’s Howrah

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Europe

• Birmingham Islamic School Sues Ofsted after Being Failed For Leaflet

• Muslim leaders stand with Jewish community on 75th anniversary of Auschwitz liberation

• Emmanuel Macron blames failed social policies for spread of Islamist extremism

• Italy’s Salvini To Apologize If Tunisian Teenager Drug Accusation Proves False

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North America

• Americans Send Apology Letter to Iranian Nation for Trump’s Aggression

• Trump Plan for Palestine ‘Booster Shot' For Netanyahu ‘Desperate’ Campaign

• Trump to host Netanyahu, Gantz in White House

• US candidate Bloomberg vows to back Israel, takes dig at Sanders

• Trump plan for Palestine ‘booster shot' for Netanyahu ‘desperate’ campaign

• Protesters warn against war with Iran in San Francisco

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South Asia

• Afghan Politicians Exclude President In Taliban Peace Talks

• 51 Taliban Fighters Killed In Attacks Launched By Afghan Forces

• Afghanistan opens its first and only DNA diagnostics center

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Southeast Asia

• Malaysian Terror Group Working With Abu Sayyaf, Says Deputy Home Minister

• Coronavirus: Putra Mosque closed to visitors

• Chinese Uighurs in Saudi face impossible choice

• Dr Mahathir’s Malaysia tops democracy index in the Asean region

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Mideast

• Palestinians Threaten To Quit Oslo Accords over Trump Peace Plan

• Israel Officially Grants Permission to Muslim Citizens to Visit KSA for Pilgrimage

• Iranians should not let Trump harm national unity: Rouhani

• Yemen’s information minister calls for firm stance against Houthis

• Iran's Zarif Rebuffs Trump's Call For Direct Talks As 'Wishful Thinking'

• Formation of new government in Lebanon positive step to tackle problems: Iran

• Protests held across world to condemn Trump's anti-Iran policies

• Yemeni scholars condemn Saudi Arabia’s normalization efforts with Israel

• Several killed as car bomb hits Turkish-occupied city in northern Syria

• Houthi fighters gain ground in Sana'a, pro-Saudi militants claim tactical withdrawal

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Africa

• Libya’s Haftar Marches on Misrata; Truce at Risk

• Gunmen Attack Army Camp Killing 20 Mali Soldiers

• Nearly 20 soldiers killed in terrorist attack on Mali army camp

• Fight Shabaab in the north to safeguard devolution, says MP

• 12-year-old killed as Boko Haram hits Borno mosque

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Arab World

• Iraqi Cleric Sadr Scraps Anti-US Demonstrations ‘To Avoid Internal Strife’

• Iraqi Protesters Defy Top Cleric and Return To The Streets

• Iraq Populist Cleric Calls For Anti-US Demonstrations

• US State Dept. confirms rocket hitting dining facility of its Baghdad embassy

• Rockets land near US embassy in Baghdad

• US calls on Iraq to protect Baghdad embassy after rocket attack

• At least one wounded in US embassy rocket attack in Baghdad

• Two killed as Iraqi security forces clash with protesters

• Car bombing kills seven in Syria’s opposition-held Azaz: Monitor

• Baghdad march, Lebanon's govt. formation dealt heavy blows to US: Top Hezbollah official

• Syrian Kurds ready for dialogue with Turkey, says SDF chief

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Pakistan

• PML-N to Organise Conventions in Hazara

• Higher Education Commission opposes restoration of student unions

• Economic freedom in Pakistan has increased: report

• ‘We have been bad at bargaining with America’

• All allies united under Imran Khan: Firdous Ashiq Awan

• Nawaz wants ex-PM Abbasi to secure release on bail

• Senate to take up bill on new high court benches today

• Pakistan will continue to fight for Kashmiris: FM

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/national-flag-flutters-atop-mosques/d/120905

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National Flag Flutters atop Mosques, Preamble Dominates Display Pictures on Social Media

27th January 2020

TIRUCHY: In the backdrop of furor over CAA, Muslims in Tiruchy celebrated Republic Day in a grand manner and they sported tricolor flags on their shirts. In fact, almost all mosques in Tiruchy were seen adorned with the Tricolour on Sunday. Many denizens were taken by surprise by the Republic Day celebrations this year.

Many office bearers in the mosques told TNIE that it was important to sensitise people on the importance of the Constitution on this day. Some youths even put up the image of the preamble of the constitution as their status on social network and instant messaging platforms. National flags and banners with slogans like, ‘India is our country and Islam our breath’ adorned the Muslim settlements in the city..

Speaking about it, Sahul Hameed, joint secretary of Noor-ul-hudha mosque in Alwarthopu said, “Every year we celebrate Republic Day in mosques but this year we are organising it in a grand manner. Given the current tension caused over CAA and NPR, it had become more important to realise that our preamble spells out equality and secularism. What better day to protect the Constitution than the day it came into force?”

He jointly organised the Republic Day meeting at the Ilahi mosque in Beema Nagar where members of both Noor-ul-hudha and Ilahi mosques attended.

The Students Islamic Organisation and Welfare Party of India (WPI) also held events.

Jamal Mohamed, the district secretary of WPI said, “There were many Muslim leaders who took part in the freedom struggle and sacrificed their lives. There is an attempt to portray Muslims as outsiders. By organizing the celebrations, we are fighting that attempt.”

https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2020/jan/27/national-flag-flutters-atop-mosques-preamble-dominates-dps-2095085.html

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Goa Church Holds Public Protest against CAA

January 25, 2020

Margao, Jan 25, 2020: Hundreds of people from various religions attended a protest meet organized by the Church against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population register (NPR) in Margao, Goa’s commercial capital.

“It is our common conviction that these measures are unconstitutional and therefore, unacceptable. The government must listen to the voice of the people and withdraw the act,” Father Savio Fernandes, executive secretary of the Council of Social Justice and Peace, one of the organizers explained the purpose of the January 24 protest.

The Goa unit of the National Confederation for Human Rights and the Concerned Citizens for Democracy collaborated with the Church group.

Speakers were unanimous that the main purpose of the federal government in enacting the citizenship law was to divide the people of India. “We thank our government for helping us to come together as one family irrespective of our religion,” they said.

Father Fernandes aid the CAA and NRC are “literally shaking the foundations of India’s existence as a pluralistic, multi-faith society where all citizens are supposed to be equal before the law.”

The amended citizenship law, the priest added, would undermine the commitment to equality before the law enshrined in India’s constitution.

People braved scorching sun to throng Margao’s Lohia Maidan with placards and chanting of pro-democracy slogans. They sat on verandas and terrace tops of nearby buildings. Women with little children spoke volumes about their response to this draconian bill.

Asked why she was participating in the meet, one Catholic nun said, “We are of the place. We will live here. If any of us have to go we will decide that and not the government.”

Oscar Rebello, a prominent citizen of Goa, said the government is out to protect God. “I may not believe in God but I believe in humanity. I only see a citizen here, no caste, no creed,” he added to the applause of the crowd.

Prabhakar Timble, an educationist, noted that the protests were done voluntarily by the youth and people. “The political leaders are not seen on stage.”

According Devasurabhi Yaduvanshi, a woman leader, the amendment is a game to prevent Dalits and Tribals from voting. “Vote share of the BJP will increase to 47 percent and will keep winning for next 50 years by means of these acts,” she added.

Muzaffar Shaikh, a Muslim social worker, said, “A small protest started from Margao has become big today and we will be on the streets until the law is repealed.”

http://mattersindia.com/2020/01/goa-church-holds-public-protest-against-caa/

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Birmingham Islamic School Sues Ofsted after Being Failed For Leaflet

Nazia Parveen

26 Jan 2020

An Islamic school in Birmingham has mounted a legal challenge against Ofsted after it was failed by the watchdog over a 25-year-old leaflet.

Ofsted rated Birchfield independent girls’ school in Aston as “inadequate” after inspectors found an “inflammatory” leaflet about a 1994 Islamic conference in the library.

The school had been predicted to get a rating of “good” until the discovery during the second day of the inspection, the Birmingham Mail.

Inspectors said: “The leaflet states: ‘Today we find that the sons and daughters of Islam are under continuous attack by the forces of non-Islam.’”

It promoted the Khaleefah, which is defined as “the total rulership of Muslims over the world”.

The watchdog found the school was providing a “good” education for pupils but said safeguarding was ineffective owing to the contents of the leaflet. This resulted in Birchfield being given an “inadequate” rating.

The leaflet advertised a Muslim conference at Wembley stadium in 1994 and inspectors said it “could lead pupils to views promoting the proposed supremacy of Muslims in the world”.

Birchfield has launched a legal challenge, saying it has been a victim of Ofsted’s “draconian and inconsistent inspection practices” against faith-based independent schools.

In a statement, the school said: “The leaflet identified has no place in our teachings, curriculum or ethos. We work hard to promote fundamental British values and the rule of law at our school.

“It is simply unacceptable for Ofsted to undermine all of the hard work put in by staff and pupils when coming to wholly inaccurate judgments of schools. We continue to challenge the decision making which led to our inspection judgments and await Ofsted’s legal response.”

In the report, Ofsted inspectors said they were “confident the sentiments [in the leaflet] did not reflect the views of pupils”, but its presence in the library showed the school was not adequately protecting pupils.

The report said: “The arrangements for safeguarding are not effective. This is because of the serious nature of the inflammatory leaflet found in the school library, dating from 1994. Leaders have not made sure that pupils are protected from inflammatory and unsuitable literature. Therefore, pupils are not safe from potential radicalisation.

“School leaders could not say how the leaflet that was found got into the library, nor why it was openly displayed on a library shelf. Leaders could not say why staff had not spotted and removed the leaflet.”

Birchfield’s headteacher, Rehana Mogra, said she was deeply disappointed, adding that it was indicative of a negative attitude towards faith-based school.

“[The judgment] in no way reflect the paramount importance that we place on safeguarding, nor the evidence base collected by inspectors. Our pupils are safe, well cared for and our school has robust systems in place to safeguard our pupils,” she said.

A spokesperson for Ofsted said: “Our inspection handbook makes it clear that a setting will be rated inadequate if it is considered that safeguarding is ineffective.”

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/jan/26/birmingham-islamic-school-sues-ofsted-after-being-failed-for-leaflet-birchfield-girls-inadequate

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Americans send apology letter to Iranian nation for Trump’s aggression

26 January 2020

An American peace advocacy group has collected more than 10,000 signatures for an open letter apologizing to the Iranian nation for the US aggression, particularly President Donald Trump’s “reckless” decision to order the assassination of senior Iranian commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani.

"As Americans committed to peace and the safety of all people, we, the undersigned, apologize for the actions of our reckless, hate-filled president," the letter by CODEPINK reads. The activists further to “do everything we can to stop Trump's aggression, remove the crippling sanctions you are suffering under, and resume a process of diplomacy with your country."

 “The American people do not want a war with Iran. We want to live in peace and harmony. Please accept our hand in friendship. May the peacemakers prevail over those who sow hatred and discord.”

The peace advocacy group is sending the letter, both in English and Farsi, and a video version to the Iranian press.

The Farsi version of the apology letter has been read out by Jewish American graduate student Lindsay Saligman, who traveled to Iran in March 2019. She has since worked to promote greater understandings between Iranians and Americans.

President Trump brought the US and Iran to the brink of a military conflict early this month by ordering a drone strike that assassinated General Soleimani in Baghdad.

Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, has been hailed in the region for leading the fight against terrorist groups like Daesh.

Iran responded to Trump’s aggression by launching a ballistic-missile attack on American military posts in Iraq.

On Saturday, a coalition of anti-war activists organized protest rallies across the US and the world to slam the Trump administration for “a dangerous escalation of the conflict.”

In a tweet about the demonstrations, CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin warned that war was still a very real possibility. "Think we avoided war with Iran a few weeks ago?" said Benjamin. "Think again. We are still on the brink."

Medea Benjamin

@medeabenjamin

People everywhere are signing CODEPINK’s open letter of apology to the people of Iran. https://www.codepink.org/lettertoiran_b?recruiter_id=634313 …

Peace with IRAN! | Say no to Trump's war

People everywhere are signing CODEPINK’s open letter apologizing to the people of Iran…

codepink.org

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“The rallies, apology letter, congressional bills, city council resolutions--these are all ways that we, as Americans, are trying to stop Trump from taking us into a war with Iran,” said CODEPINK activist Ariel Gold, who visited Iran on a peace delegation in October.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/26/617160/Americans-letter-apology-letter-Iran

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Afghan politicians exclude president in Taliban peace talks

January 27, 2020

KABUL: Afghan politicians are excluding President Ashraf Ghani from peace talks with the Taliban as they work on their own plan to try and end almost two decades of fighting.

The armed group has refused to deal with Ghani and his administration, dubbing it a puppet of the West, in months of negotiations and discussions coordinated by the international community.

A high-profile meeting on Saturday was attended by Afghanistan’s Chief Executive and Ghani’s rival Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Deputy Chief Executive Hajji Mohammad Mohaqiq and former President Hamid Karzai among others. They were seeking to draw up a mechanism for peace talks with the Taliban, despite Ghani’s condition that the insurgents declare a truce before starting an intra-Afghan dialogue, officials said.

“These prominent figures are working on a plan with a wider base by including the government to be part of it,” Omaid Maisan, a spokesman for Abdullah, told Arab News on Sunday when asked if their plan meant sidelining Ghani’s bid for talks with the Taliban.

Maisan added that Ghani’s move to exclude Afghan leaders in talks with the Taliban, as well as new government appointments without factoring in the consideration of the people he shared power with, was “worrying.”

Saturday’s meeting was a result of complaints from Abdullah and other politicians who accuse Ghani of monopolizing the peace process by not consulting them before setting up a team which could represent the government in the first direct talks with the Taliban in Germany.

Ghani’s spokesmen were not available for comment when contacted by Arab News.

Almost everyone at Saturday’s meeting was in favor of a reduction in violence followed by a nationwide cease-fire, once the timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan had been set, as proposed by the Taliban.

Abdullah, speaking at an event on Sunday, said neither he nor other leaders had insisted on a cease-fire as a precondition for the talks.

“We are assuring the Afghan people that no factional or personal interest will hamper our move for peace,” he said.

Local media reported Karzai saying that the leaders had sat together to “exchange views on the settlement of the conflict” in Afghanistan. His former vice president, Younus Qanooni, said the plan was intended to be an outline by politicians for the Afghan people for peace.

The Taliban and US diplomats have held at least 10 rounds of talks in Doha, where the group has its political office, but without including Ghani’s officials.

Their latest discussions followed months of stalled talks and sparked hope of a peace deal being finally signed between the Taliban and US delegates after 18 years of conflict in the country.

The Taliban on Saturday accused Ghani of trying to block the peace process by insisting on a truce.

“At a time when the negotiation process in Qatar has reached a decisive stage and the hopes of peace have rekindled in the hearts of our compatriots, the ruler of Arg Palace (Ashraf Ghani) not only voiced his opposition to the negotiation process during an interview in Switzerland but also made other irresponsible remarks,” said a statement on the group’s website.

Analyst Wahidullah Ghazikhail said the Saturday meeting could further isolate Ghani’s government. Another analyst, Zabihullah Pakteen, said the fact that the politicians were being led by Karzai posed a greater challenge for the president.

“The peace talks are something the opposition think they have on their hands to finish Ghani off for good,” Pakteen told Arab News.

Last month Abdullah rejected the preliminary results of September’s presidential election and his team filed thousands of complaints about the initial outcome. The country’s Independent Election Commission said Ghani had secured 50.64 percent of the vote, while Abdullah had won nearly 40 percent.

The complaints will take several weeks to verify.

In 2014, there was a second round of voting amid complaints of massive rigging. After a US-brokered deal, Ghani became president, sharing power with Abdullah in the National Unity Government.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1618656/world

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Malaysian terror group working with Abu Sayyaf, says deputy home minister

Jason Santos

January 26, 2020

KOTA KINABALU: Deputy Home Minister Azis Jamman today confirmed that members of a Malaysian terror group are in cahoots with the Abu Sayyaf from the southern Philippines.

He said police had first established this in 2018 following the arrests of seven Abu Sayaff men and a Malaysian in separate locations in Putrajaya and places like Tenom, Ranau and Kinarut in Sabah.

“The authorities are aware of this link after these suspects were detained. The police had then issued a statement that the terrorists were in contact with their partners active in Sabah,” he told FMT today.

Bukit Aman Special Branch’s counter-terrorism division had arrested eight men between Oct 30 and Nov 12 in 2018.

The first was a 38-year-old man in Putrajaya, suspected of channelling funds to Malaysian Islamic State militant Akel Zainal in Syria. The second round of arrests involved three Filipinos, allegedly linked to the Abu Sayyaf group.

The last arrest was on Nov 12, 2018, involving a 60-year-old trader who had harboured a wanted militant four days earlier.

All the suspects are now being held under the Security Offences (Special Measures Act 2012 (Sosma).

“We are now monitoring them and our intelligence units have also redoubled their efforts to identify others still operating in Sabah,” Azis said when met at the Sabah government Chinese New Year open house in Likas here.

Azis said the threat posed by this group had been brought under control and resulted in no more Malaysians being kidnapped.

However, he said there are still kidnap attempts by the Abu Sayyaf bandits and this had resulted in Indonesian nationals, mostly fishermen, becoming the victims.

Philippine armed forces and its counterparts in Indonesia and Malaysia are expected to meet soon to look into the participation of the Malaysian terror group in the latest kidnappings in Sabah’s east coast areas.

Western Mindanao armed forces command chief Lt Gen Cirilito Sobejana believed the ease of movement of the kidnappers in the waters off Sabah indicated that they had obtained the assistance of a Malaysian terror group.

“We are investigating this with our Malaysian and Indonesian counterparts, who are signatories of our trilateral security agreement.

“You cannot go to an area if you do not have local contacts.

“We presume there are locals on Tambisan and parts of Sabah who are working with this group behind these abductions,’ said Sobejana.

Last week, five Indonesian nationals working as fishermen for a local company were abducted by the Abu Sayyaf group near Tambisan, near Lahad Datu, in Sabah’s east coast.

Following this, the Indonesian government had accused Malaysian authorities of “ineffective coordination” that led to these abductions.

“We truly regret that this sort of incident keeps repeating. It seems to have been caused by ineffective coordination among Malaysian authorities, among other things,” Deputy Foreign Minister Mahendra Siregar was reported as saying by The Jakarta Post.

Azis said he expected Wisma Putra to soon call for a dialogue with Indonesia and the Philippines on how to best deal with the latest abductions in the Sabah east coast.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/01/26/malaysian-terror-group-working-with-abu-sayyaf-says-deputy-home-minister/?utm_source=FMT+Media+Sdn.+Bhd.&utm_campaign=0b59291321-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_dfafd0994c-0b59291321-228005497

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Palestinians threaten to quit Oslo accords over Trump peace plan

26 January 2020

Palestinian officials threatened Sunday to withdraw from key provisions of the Oslo Accords, which define relations with Israel, if US President Donald Trump announces his Middle East peace plan next week.

Chief Palestinian negotiation Saeb Erekat told AFP that the Palestinian Liberation Organization reserved the right “to withdraw from the interim agreement,” the concrete part of the Oslo deal, if Trump unveils his plan.

The Trump initiative will turn Israel's “temporary occupation (of Palestinian territory) into a permanent occupation,” Erekat said.

Trump is set to decide the fate of his administration’s Middle East peace proposal, named the “Deal of the Century”, within the coming days, according to a White House official.

The official said that Trump was the one who will be making the decision and is considering the timing of the announcement as a delay will not be in the interest of the plan given the upcoming US presidential election later this year.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/26/Palestinians-threaten-to-quit-Oslo-accords-over-Trump-peace-plan-.html

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Libya’s Haftar marches on Misrata; truce at risk

27 January 2020

Forces loyal to Libya’s renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar advance towards the key northern city of Misrata as threats mount against a truce that was brokered between the country’s warring sides earlier this month.

Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) on Sunday began moving from the central city of Sirte towards Misrata, which is loyal to Libya’s United Nations-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).

Fighting between the LNA and forces from Misrata was centered on the town of Abugrain, 120 kilometers (74 miles) east of Misrata, the agency cited both sides as saying.

Two LNA fighters were killed and eight were wounded, an LNA source said, adding that the forces later retreated taking some prisoners.

"Battles are raging on all front lines," LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari told reporters in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Haftar’s LNA is being backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, while the GNA receives the support of Turkey.

Also on Sunday, Tripoli's Mitiga airport, the capital’s only functioning air terminal, was hit by two rockets, said the UN mission to Libya UNSMIL.

The attack wounded two civilians and damaged the tarmac and buildings at the facility -- which is used for the launch of Ankara-supplied combat drones, it added.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, meanwhile, said during a visit to neighboring Algeria that Haftar could not be expected to respect the ceasefire that was brokered by Turkey and Russia in Berlin on January 12.

He also claimed during a press conference with his Algerian counterpart Abdelmadjid Tebboune that Ankara was resolutely standing by the Libyan people in their hour of need, Turkey’s state news agency Anadolu reported. ”We are determined to stand by our Libyan brothers,” Erdogan said.

The LNA spokesman, however, blamed Erdogan, who has been dispatching troops to shore up the UN-backed government, for the flare-up.

The UN mission also sounded a note of caution that "over the last 10 days, numerous cargo and other flights have been observed landing at Libyan airports in the western and eastern parts of the country, providing the parties with advanced weapons, armored vehicles, advisers, and fighters."

Libya has been mired in chaos since a 2011 uprising that was being backed by the Western military alliance of NATO killed longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/27/617189/Libya-Haftar-advance-Misrata-truce-Turkey-Erdogan

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Iraqi cleric Sadr scraps anti-US demonstrations ‘to avoid internal strife’

26 January 2020

Populist Iraqi cleric Moqtaqa al-Sadr on Sunday called off demonstrations against the US embassy “to avoid internal strife,” his office said.

Sadr had earlier called for the demonstrations to take place in Baghdad and other cities.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/26/Iraqi-cleric-Sadr-scraps-anti-US-demonstrations-to-avoid-internal-strife-.html

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India

 

Hindu, Muslim Students Tie Rakhis at Anti-CAA March At Kolkata

JANUARY 27, 2020

KOLKATA: A large number of students belonging to both Hindu and Muslim communities took out a protest march against the new citizenship law on Republic Day on Sunday and tied the rakhi on one another in an attempt to strengthen bonding between the two communities.

The march started from Nakhoda Mosque in central Kolkata and concluded in north Kolkata”s Tagore house at Jorasanko where first non-European Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore was born.

“We, the people of India, have nothing to lose, but chains,” said a prominent banner at the forefront of the march, where a large number of common people of all ages also joined in.

“Stand with JNU and AMU. Stand with nation,” said another banner carried by the students.

They repeatedly raised slogans pledging “We won”t allow the country to be divided,” and assailed the Central government for trying to divide Hindus and Muslims.

Many of the students, who came from several colleges and universities, carried rakhis, and tied them on members of the other community, in a show of Hindu-Muslim bonding.

A participant recalled that in 1905, when then Viceroy Lord Curzon tried to partition Bengal, Tagore had led a procession from Joransanko to Nakhoda mosque where he tried rakhis on members of the Muslim community.

https://www.siasat.com/hindu-muslim-students-tie-rakhis-anti-caa-march-1805987/

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Padma Shri for man who cremated over 25,000 unclaimed bodies

January 26, 2020

A man who cremated over 25,000 unclaimed bodies is among those set to receive Padma Shri from President Ram Nath Kovind, according to news agency PTI. Mohammed Sharif from Faizabad lost his son 27 years ago. But he got to know about it only a month later. Ever since then Sharif has taken it on himself to cremate unclaimed bodies.

On Saturday, President Ram Nath Kovind approved the conferment of 141 Padma awards. The list comprises seven Padma Vibhushan, 16 Padma Bhushan and 118 Padma Shri awards. These awards are conferred by the President at ceremonial functions which are held at Rashtrapati Bhawan usually around March/April every year.

Earlier today, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu had said that honouring unsung heroes with Padma awards is in a way “discovery of India”.

“I appreciate the Government for recognizing the unrecognized irrespective of their visibility. One way, this is a discovery of India,” Naidu wrote on Twitter while congratulating the awardees.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/got-to-know-about-my-sons-murder-month-later-cremating-unclaimed-bodies-since-padma-shri-awardee-6236450/

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'If Govt Can Grant Citizenship to Pakistani Muslim, What is Need for CAA?': Congress Questions Adnan Sami's Padma Shri

January 26, 2020

New Delhi: Attacking the government over the Amended Citizenship Act, Congress leader Digvijaya Singh on Sunday asked if Adnan Sami can get Indian citizenship and the Padma Shri award, what is the need of bringing CAA? He said that the new law has been brought to create a rift between Hindus and Muslims.

“I was criticised for recommending citizenship to Adnan Sami. I'm happy that he got citizenship & Padma Shri. If government can grant citizenship to a Pakistani Muslim, what is need to bring CAA? It has been implemented to create a rift between Hindus & Muslims,” Singh said.

Hitting out at the Modi government for bestowing Sami with the Padma Shri, Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill asked why Kargil War veteran Mohmmad Sannaullah was declared a foreigner through the NRC for Assam, while the son of a Pakistan Air Force pilot has been conferred with one of India's highest civilian honour.

Sami was one of the 118 people whose names were announced on Saturday for the Padma Shri awards, with the Ministry of Home Affairs list showing his home state as Maharashtra.

Sami, born in London to a Pakistani Air force veteran, applied for Indian citizenship in 2015 and became a citizen of the country in January 2016.

"Kargil War veteran and retired army officer Mohammad Sanaullah who fought for India declared 'foreigner' after NRC and Adnan Sami whose family fought against India honoured with Padma Shri -- This is the magic of NRC and government chamchagiri," Shergill said.

Full report at:

https://www.news18.com/news/politics/if-govt-can-give-citizenship-to-pak-muslim-what-is-need-for-caa-cong-questions-adnans-padma-shri-2474161.html

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Padma Shri awardee ‘Chacha Sharif’ grateful to PM Modi

JANUARY 26, 2020

Faizabad: After receiving the Padma Shri Award on Sunday, Mohammad Sharif, who has performed last rites of 25,000 unclaimed bodies, said he was grateful to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the honour.

Sharif, who is endearingly called “Chacha Sharif”, said that he started the practice after his son was murdered 27 years ago and the family came to know of his death after over a month. The body had been disposed of as “unidentified”.

“Twenty-seven years ago my son was murdered in Sultanpur. I got to know about it a month later. After that, I took up this practice (of performing the last rites of unidentified persons). So far, I have cremated 3,000 bodies of Hindus and buried 2,500 bodies of Muslims,” Sharif told reporters after a Republic Day event in Ayodhya where he was felicitated.

“I would like to thank the Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) for the honour. I will wish for his good health and prosperous life,” he added.

Full report at:

https://www.siasat.com/padma-shri-awardee-chacha-sharif-grateful-pm-modi-1805483/

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RSS’ Bhaiyyaji Joshi on CAA: Muslims in India have never been discriminated against

January 26, 2020

In the backdrop of nationwide protests against the amended Citizenship law and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC), RSS General Secretary Bhaiyyaji Joshi Sunday said misinformation was being spread over CAA as Muslims in India have never been subjected to any kind of discrimination.

Talking to reporters after hoisting the national flag at the Sangh headquarters in Nagpur on the occasion of the 71st Republic Day, Joshi said, “It is imperative for the country that no foreign national stays here. This Act allows not only Hindus, but Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists and Christians from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan (to become a citizen). Hence, stoking unrest on this is not good.”

Asked why people from Sri Lanka were not been included in the list, the RSS leader said they were allowed earlier but there was no religious persecution in the country now.

The RSS, parent organisation of the BJP, has defended the Act and the organisation has planned a big outreach programme in colleges and universities across the country, with more than 2,000 seminars, talks and informal gatherings to quell opposition against the CAA.

“Till date, the followers of Islam have never been subjected to any kind of discrimination in this country. If any citizen from there, be it a Muslim, come to India, then they can also get citizenship as per the law which is already in place. What is the problem in that?” PTI quoted Joshi as saying.

Joshi said the Act was passed by both Houses of the Parliament and hence, should be accepted by all. “Without giving it a serious thought, misinformation is being spread on it. If the feeling behind the CAA is understood properly, then it won’t face any opposition,” he said.

“The government has repeatedly clarified on this issue, but different groups are still creating an atmosphere against it. The Act has been passed by the Parliament and everyone should accept it,” Joshi further said.

Protesters have argued that the Act was unconstitutional since it made religion a criterion for citizenship. According to the Act, non-Muslim minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh who entered the country before December 31, 2014, will be granted Indian citizenship to India.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/muslims-in-india-never-been-discriminated-against-rss-general-secy-bhaiyyaji-joshi-on-caa-6236465/

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Protest held against CAA, NRC, NPR in Mumbai

JANUARY 27, 2020

Mumbai: Locals, including scores of burqa-clad women, protested against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR) at Morland Road area here on Monday.

Inspired by Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh protesters, women in large numbers took to the streets in Madanpura here.

The protests continued through wee hours on Monday with women raising slogans like “We all are one” and “Azadi” despite the best efforts of the police to convince people to cooperate.

Full report at:

https://www.siasat.com/protest-held-against-caa-nrc-npr-mumbai-1806031/

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Protest against CAA, NRC, NPR in West Bengal’s Howrah

JANUARY 27, 2020

Howrah: A sit-in protest was held in the South Howrah area against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR).

For the past ten days, a protest like Delhi’s Shaheen bagh has been going on in the North Howrah area. Now a similar protest has started in the South Howrah area.

Speaking to ANI, a protester Khurshid said, “We are protesting against CAA and NRC.”

Hitting out at the government he said, “They want us to show papers. I ask them they are now sitting in the Parliament because of our votes, and that was possible with our voter ID card. And now they want us to show papers. Are they not satisfied with our voter ID card?

Full report at:

https://www.siasat.com/protest-against-caa-nrc-npr-west-bengals-howrah-1806215/

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Europe

 

Muslim leaders stand with Jewish community on 75th anniversary of Auschwitz liberation

Callum Paton

Jan 26, 2020

Behind the international monument to the Holocaust at Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp birch trees and blue and white flags stretch towards the sky. The flags are flown in memory of the camp’s prisoners whose uniforms bore the same vertical striped pattern.

On a cold, clear January day the flags were the same colour as the sky. They were pulled by the breeze on a horizon otherwise marked by guard towers with pitched roofs and barbed wire fences. In the opposite direction stretched the train tracks which brought most of those prisoners to their deaths.

Of the more than 6 million Jews and millions of other victims killed during the Holocaust, in total 1.1 million lost their lives at Auschwitz during the Second World War. The death camp was built and operated by the Nazis during the German occupation of Poland.

Since it was liberated by the allies in 1945 the death camp, where the vast majority of those killed were European Jews, has been hallowed ground. This week, during commemorations across the globe for the 75th anniversary of that liberation, it was also a place of prayer for Muslims mourning the carnage of the Nazi genocide.

The symbolism of Muslim leaders – the most senior Islamic delegation to visit any Nazi death camp – praying at the Auschwitz monument can hardly be overstated. The visit by the interfaith Jewish and Muslim delegation from the Muslim World League (MWL) and the American Jewish Committee (AJC) was agreed to in April 2019. In total, a year and a half of negotiations were needed behind the scenes before the visit was secured.

Before he led the salah prayers, the secretary general of the MWL Sheikh Mohammad Al Issa told The National his group, which included both Sunni and Shiite clerics, stood vehemently against the crimes perpetrated at Auschwitz.

“We came to say that the Islamic religion deplores these crimes,” he said. “This visit is important, it expresses the Islamic feeling towards these crimes, these racial, genocidal crimes.

“Islam doesn’t have double standard, as it stands with justice against any crime that violates the sanctity of human kind,” the Saudi religious leader said.

Jewish members of the interfaith delegation, which included rabbis and children of Holocaust survivors, also gave blessings at site of the international memorial. AJC chief executive David Harris spoke with emotion of the importance of the visit.

“I am sure all of us were moved profoundly by the prayer we just witnessed,” Mr Harris said, as he called for peace.

“God gave us mercy, God gave us compassion. Auschwitz is a betrayal of God,” he said. “I cry out for peace.”

The members of the delegation were confronted during their visit by the full horror of Auschwitz, the expansive scale of the industrialised killing and personal tales of tragedy and heroism.

Sheikh Al Issa was visibly moved when he was shown the mounds of human hair and the shoes of the victims collected at Auschwitz. The delegation was shown more and more incontrovertible evidence of the mass murder that took place there. Piles of discarded Zyklon B canisters, which contained the chemical used in the gas chambers, were on display. Their commercial orange packaging still bears the skull and crossed-bones even a child knows warns of poison.

The delegation was shown the spot where SS guards at the camp selected those who would be sent to work and those who would be sent to the gas chambers to die. Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Shudrich, told Sheikh Al Issa they were standing at the place his uncle had seen his mother for the last time. The rabbi’s great aunt told her son to keep his hair out of his eyes. She is likely to have been killed later that same day.

“Six million Jews is an abstract number but one mother telling her son to push his hair out of his eyes – that’s something that means something to everyone,” Mr Shudrich told The National.

The stories of non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust were also shared, including the history of those Muslims at Auschwitz. Many Muslims killed in the death camps came from the eastern parts of the Soviet Union but the delegation was also told of Ali Ben Ali Mohammed, a North African Muslim transported to work in the slave labour camps by a French company. His name was preserved in the meticulous records kept by the Nazis.

The day following the visit to Auschwitz, a Friday, which is holy to both Muslims and Jews, the interfaith delegation celebrated the life of their respective religious cultures in Poland.

Jews and Muslims prayed together at Jummah prayers at the Tatarska Street Mosque by the Tartar cemetery in the north west of Warsaw. The sermon there called for understanding between neighbours. The Muslim community in Poland is centuries old. The grave stones to Tartar officers in the cemetery, written in Cyrillic and Arabic, date back to the 19th century.

After Muslim prayers the delegation went to Warsaw’s only remaining pre-war synagogue, the Nozyk Synagogue in the centre of the polish capital, before a Friday Shabbat service. The Jewish temple stood in what was the Warsaw Ghetto, where nearly half a million Jews were imprisoned during World War Two. Most held there were sent to the gas chambers, killed during the ghetto uprising or died of starvation.

The day concluded with a Shabbat dinner, held at Warsaw’s Royal Palace. The Speaker of the Polish Senate, Poland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Jacek Czaputowicz, and members of the Polish Catholic clergy were in attendance.

“Our 21st century challenge at AJC is to write a new chapter between the Muslim and Jewish peoples,” Mr Harris said on Friday, remarking that great strides had been made to resolve the differences between the Christian and Jewish communities which had been so devastating in the 20th Century.

Sheikh Al Issa’s rhetoric had become more forthright following his visit to the extermination camps. “We condemn the horrific acts that took place at Auschwitz against the Jews. It is a stain on humanity,” he said. “The evidence we saw yesterday shook us all. It was so painful for me looking at human hair, at children’s shoes, at so much more evidence of the atrocity.”

Skeikh Al Issa called those who engage in Holocaust denial partners in the crime. "They are like Nazis themselves,” he said.

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/muslim-leaders-stand-with-jewish-community-on-75th-anniversary-of-auschwitz-liberation-1.969893

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Emmanuel Macron blames failed social policies for spread of Islamist extremism

Jamie Prentis

Jan 24, 2020

President Emmanuel Macron said the “global phenomenon” of radical Islam can in part be blamed on failed economic and social policies in countries including France.

The particular pressures from radicalisation within the community that were apparent in France stemmed from the creation of dividing lines between different parts of society. This cut against the republican ideal that all French citizens should share one society equally. While part of an emerging crisis had its roots in the history of the country's Muslim population, other parts could be traced to worldwide pressures.

"We cannot speak separately of the crisis that Islam is experiencing worldwide, the subject of communitarianism in our countries, the crisis of republican civility, the subject of failure of the Republic in certain districts, and of the legacy problems faced by France ".

“It becomes at the same time the import of an Islam which is experiencing a crisis worldwide – and which revisits signs of religiosity that he did not necessarily have 20 or 30 years ago,” Mr Macron added.

He argued that the “counter-culture” and transformation of Islam must be “looked at in the face” as his government was preparing policies to heal divisions and the threats from extremism. France looked not only with its own people but to countries with close ties to France for the origins of the issues his government was trying to address.

He noted that the French inspired republican ideals espoused by Habib Bourguiba, the leader of Tunisia from 1956 to 1987, had receded in recent decades, even as the country had recently experimented with democracy.

“Countries which are of Muslim traditions, I would say today, Tunisia is not that of Bourguiba, we have to admit it… and so we have it here too,” he told a number of French media outlets.

He was speaking as he returned home from Israel after commemorations to mark 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz.

At the ceremony he said that history showed that anti-Semitism always preceded the weakening of democracy and translated to an inability to accept people who are different.

“We need this unity, of Europe, of the international community, because today, in our democracy, anti-Semitism is resurging — violent, brutal, it is here. And with it, its parade of hate and intolerance. With it, racism.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/emmanuel-macron-blames-failed-social-policies-for-spread-of-islamist-extremism-1.969040

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Italy’s Salvini to apologize if Tunisian teenager drug accusation proves false

26 January 2020

Italian far-right politician Matteo Salvini said on Friday he will apologize if the Tunisian teenager he questioned about selling drugs in Bologna is not, in fact, a drug dealer.

Salvini triggered a backlash for remarks he made during a visit to the city of Bologna on Tuesday, where he was campaigning ahead of a key regional election.

“If he is not a drug dealer then he will have all my apologies…I will leave it to the police to find the truth,” said Salvini, leader of Italy’s League party, during an interview with Italian television channel Rai 3.

After ringing the doorbell of an apartment of a Tunisian immigrant family, Salvini said he heard drugs are sold there and asked whether it was true.

In wake of being hung up on, Salvini asked the crowd around him, “That was him? He’s Tunisian?” He then buzzed the residence a second time, saying he wanted to “restore the family’s good name because someone says that you and your son deal drugs.”

The incident, captured on-camera by journalists, went viral.

The 17-year-old son who answered the door denied the allegation and said his father was deeply saddened by the episode.

“I’m not a drug dealer. I play football,” the son said in a video posted by Italian news outlet La Repubblica.

The teenager added that his older brother had problems with drugs in the past but is now clean and no longer lives with the family.

A woman in the neighborhood, whose son died of a drug overdose, allegedly told the former Italian minister a drug dealer lived in the apartment.

A day after the incident, Salvini said he did not regret his actions.

“I did well to buzz, I don't regret it at all, I don't care if drug dealers are Italian or Tunisian. Drugs kill. Whoever picks the League, picks the fight against drugs,” Salvini wrote on Twitter.

The episode sparked a diplomatic reaction by Tunisia’s Ambassador to Italy Moez Sinaoui who told Al Arabiya English the conduct displayed by Salvini was unacceptable, particularly from a senator of the Italian Republic.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/01/26/Italy-s-Salvini-to-apologize-if-Tunisian-teenager-drug-accusation-proves-false.html

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North America

 

Trump Plan for Palestine ‘Booster Shot' For Netanyahu ‘Desperate’ Campaign

26 January 2020

US President Donald Trump’s so-called peace plan is aimed at boosting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “desperate” election campaign rather than its stated goal, a report says.

According to a New York Times report on Sunday, the plan, for which the Israeli premier is set to meet with Trump in the White House on Monday and Tuesday, is “mainly a booster shot for Mr. Netanyahu’s desperate campaign to stay in power.”

Netanyahu’s rival Benny Gantz is also set to meet with the US president separately.

Amir Tibon

@amirtibon

The Deal of the Century: Trump helps Netanyahu in each of Israel's 3 elections over the past year; Does everything he can to help Netanyahu survive. In return Bibi helps Trump get re-elected in November (Evangelical voters). Peace has nothing to do with it https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/white-house-intends-to-release-a-statement-about-mideast-peace-plan-soon-1.8439360 …

Pence: Netanyahu, Gantz accepted invitation to White House to discuss Mideast peace plan

haaretz.com

128

12:19 AM - Jan 24, 2020

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The Israeli prime minister has vowed to “make history” by the plan, about which Trump has been haranguing since his own campaign days for the US 2016 presidential election.

This is while no Palestinians are supposed to take part in the in the plan, clearly because the US now recognizes Jerusalem al-Quds  as the Israeli capital.

On the other hand Trump is meddling with the  Israeli election, apparently in favor of Netanyahu.

Heba Khaled

@heba_khaled1998

Netanyahu and Gantz are invited by Trump to the US on Tuesday to discuss the annexation of all illegal colonies and the Palestinian Jordan Valley and put it under the sovereignty of the so called Israel, as if we don't exist at all, discussing our future, View image on Twitter

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2:40 AM - Jan 26, 2020

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“For him to do this in the middle of an Israeli election, without any Palestinian participation and with no intention to follow up with any of the participants, shows this is not a peace plan at all,” said Martin S. Indyk, who served as special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations under President Barack Obama. “It is a farce from start to finish.”

Trump has been bragging about clinching a deal between Tel Aviv and Palestinians, who are under daily aggression by the Israeli regime. In the meanwhile, he has proven to be one of the most pro-Israeli presidents in US history.

Amir Tibon

@amirtibon

• Jan 24, 2020

The Deal of the Century: Trump helps Netanyahu in each of Israel's 3 elections over the past year; Does everything he can to help Netanyahu survive. In return Bibi helps Trump get re-elected in November (Evangelical voters). Peace has nothing to do with it https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/white-house-intends-to-release-a-statement-about-mideast-peace-plan-soon-1.8439360 …

Pence: Netanyahu, Gantz accepted invitation to White House to discuss Mideast peace plan

haaretz.com

andrew

@amcguitar

Netanyahu is complicit in trying to pull the USA into a Middle East war.               The 2 state solution was wrecked by this  Israeli leader. Please keep in mind that Netanyahu is in similar legal situation as Trump. If either of them are voted out, they’ll be prosecuted.

9

12:37 AM - Jan 24, 2020

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Trump put his Jewish son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in charge of the bringing about peace. His ambassador to Israel is also a bankruptcy lawyer with ties to the Jewish settlers, who illegally live on Palestinian lands.

A high-ranking Palestinian official has threatened that the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority would withdraw from key provisions of the Oslo Accords if Trump unveils his so-called deal.

Trump said on January 23 he will release the long-delayed plan for peace before a meeting in Washington next week with Netanyahu and his rival.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/26/617173/Trump-Palestine-peace-plan-Netanyahu-desperate-campaign-Benny-Gantz

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Trump to host Netanyahu, Gantz in White House

26 January 2020

US President Donald Trump will hold back-to-back meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli centrist party leader Benny Gantz on Monday where he will likely share some details of his Middle East peace plan, a US source familiar with the plan said on Sunday.

Trump will meet first with Netanyahu and then with Gantz, who is Netanyahu’s chief domestic political rival, the source said, with talks continuing on Tuesday.

Netanyahu has said he would meet with Trump on both days.

Gantz has said he would meet with the US president on Monday.

Meanwhile, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said on Sunday that the Middle East peace plan US President Donald Trump is expected to unveil next week “will not pass” and could lead to renewed Palestinian violence.

“We firmly declare that the ‘deal of the century’ will not pass. The new plot aimed against Palestine is bound to fail,” and could lead the Palestinians to a “new phase in their struggle” against Israel, Haniyeh said in a statement.

Shortly after Haniyeh’s statement, a rocket was fired from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip toward Israel, the Israeli army said.

The army said it had carried out airstrikes on Hamas targets in Gaza late Saturday, in response to the launching of incendiary devices attached to balloons sent over from the Palestinian enclave.

Hamas did not claim responsibility for Sunday’s rocket attack but warned it was “time... to restore the rights of Palestinians with a new phase of fighting against Israeli occupation.”

Hamas also called for talks in Cairo with other Palestinian factions, including the Fatah movement led by president Mahmud Abbas, in order to form a common response to Trump’s plan.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/26/Trump-to-host-Netanyahu-Gantz-in-White-House.html

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US candidate Bloomberg vows to back Israel, takes dig at Sanders

27 January 2020

US Democratic presidential contender Michael Bloomberg has vowed to “always” support Israel, while separately taking a dig at fellow rival Bernie Sanders.

During a speech on anti-Semitism and foreign policy in Miami on Sunday, he joked he was the only Jewish candidate who has no plan to turn the United States into a “kibbutz,” or a communal farm.

The joke referred to collectivist farms in Israel was an apparent dig at Sanders, who is also Jewish and spent several months in Israel in the 1960s working as a volunteer on a kibbutz.

Bloomberg and Sanders, who is a front-runner in the race, are both vying for the Democratic nomination to face off Republican President Donald Trump in the November election.

Sanders, who calls himself a democratic socialist, proposes left-wing policies like scrapping private health insurance in favor of a government-run Medicare for All program, based on the government program for elderly Americans.

On the other hand, Bloomberg, a late entrant to the Democratic nominating race, has more centrist positions and favors the creation of a government-run health insurance plan that would exist besides private plans.

The former mayor of New York previously criticized leading Democratic candidates for being too liberal to defeat Trump.

His remarks on Sunday appeared to target Sanders, despite not mentioning the Vermont senator by name.

“I’m not the only Jewish candidate running for president. But I am the only one who doesn’t want to turn America into a kibbutz,” he told a campaign event at a synagogue.

He also pledged never to impose any conditions on US military aid to Israel.

“As president, I will always have Israel’s back,” he added.

Sanders and some other US Democratic presidential candidates previously said Washington should withhold military aid to Israel if it continues to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank in Palestine.

Early in November, Sanders said, “I would use the leverage, $3.8 billion is a lot of money, and we cannot give it carte blanche to Israel.”

“I would say that some of the $3.8 billion should go right now to humanitarian aid in Gaza,” he said at the annual convention of J Street, a liberal pro-Israel advocacy group.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/27/617184/US-Michael-Bloomberg-Bernie-Sanders-Israel

--------

 

Trump plan for Palestine ‘booster shot' for Netanyahu ‘desperate’ campaign

26 January 2020

US President Donald Trump’s so-called peace plan is aimed at boosting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “desperate” election campaign rather than its stated goal, a report says.

According to a New York Times report on Sunday, the plan, for which the Israeli premier is set to meet with Trump in the White House on Monday and Tuesday, is “mainly a booster shot for Mr. Netanyahu’s desperate campaign to stay in power.”

Netanyahu’s rival Benny Gantz is also set to meet with the US president separately.

Amir Tibon

@amirtibon

The Deal of the Century: Trump helps Netanyahu in each of Israel's 3 elections over the past year; Does everything he can to help Netanyahu survive. In return Bibi helps Trump get re-elected in November (Evangelical voters). Peace has nothing to do with it https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/white-house-intends-to-release-a-statement-about-mideast-peace-plan-soon-1.8439360 …

Pence: Netanyahu, Gantz accepted invitation to White House to discuss Mideast peace plan

haaretz.com

128

12:19 AM - Jan 24, 2020

Twitter Ads info and privacy

111 people are talking about this

The Israeli prime minister has vowed to “make history” by the plan, about which Trump has been haranguing since his own campaign days for the US 2016 presidential election.

This is while no Palestinians are supposed to take part in the in the plan, clearly because the US now recognizes Jerusalem al-Quds  as the Israeli capital.

On the other hand Trump is meddling with the  Israeli election, apparently in favor of Netanyahu.

Heba Khaled

@heba_khaled1998

Netanyahu and Gantz are invited by Trump to the US on Tuesday to discuss the annexation of all illegal colonies and the Palestinian Jordan Valley and put it under the sovereignty of the so called Israel, as if we don't exist at all, discussing our future, View image on Twitter

11

2:40 AM - Jan 26, 2020

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“For him to do this in the middle of an Israeli election, without any Palestinian participation and with no intention to follow up with any of the participants, shows this is not a peace plan at all,” said Martin S. Indyk, who served as special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations under President Barack Obama. “It is a farce from start to finish.”

Trump has been bragging about clinching a deal between Tel Aviv and Palestinians, who are under daily aggression by the Israeli regime. In the meanwhile, he has proven to be one of the most pro-Israeli presidents in US history.

Amir Tibon

@amirtibon

• Jan 24, 2020

The Deal of the Century: Trump helps Netanyahu in each of Israel's 3 elections over the past year; Does everything he can to help Netanyahu survive. In return Bibi helps Trump get re-elected in November (Evangelical voters). Peace has nothing to do with it https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/white-house-intends-to-release-a-statement-about-mideast-peace-plan-soon-1.8439360 …

Pence: Netanyahu, Gantz accepted invitation to White House to discuss Mideast peace plan

haaretz.com

andrew

@amcguitar

Netanyahu is complicit in trying to pull the USA into a Middle East war.               The 2 state solution was wrecked by this  Israeli leader. Please keep in mind that Netanyahu is in similar legal situation as Trump. If either of them are voted out, they’ll be prosecuted.

9

12:37 AM - Jan 24, 2020

Twitter Ads info and privacy

See andrew's other Tweets

Trump put his Jewish son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in charge of the bringing about peace. His ambassador to Israel is also a bankruptcy lawyer with ties to the Jewish settlers, who illegally live on Palestinian lands.

A high-ranking Palestinian official has threatened that the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority would withdraw from key provisions of the Oslo Accords if Trump unveils his so-called deal.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/26/617173/Trump-Palestine-peace-plan-Netanyahu-desperate-campaign-Benny-Gantz

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Protesters warn against war with Iran in San Francisco

26 January 2020

Hundreds of people have taken to the streets in San Francisco, California, to protest Washington’s aggression against Iran, slamming President Donald Trump for his January 3 order to assassinate senior Iranian commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani by a drone strike in Baghdad.

"We are here to show that the people of Bay Area oppose further war in the Middle East,” Wassem Hage, an anti-war activist. “We oppose the recent military aggression the Trump administration has chosen to take against Iran. We opposed troops involved in Iraq. We want all troops out of Iraq.”

The protest on Saturday afternoon was organized by local activist groups including Arab Resource and Organization Center (AROC) and Bay Resistance.

It followed heightened tensions with Iran after the assassination of General Soleimani, the commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force.

The protesters, a mix of college students and activists, held up anti-war signs and chanted slogans against the Trump administration.

“We want the repeal the AUMF which allows president of the United States to act in the Middle East with impunity, to commit acts of violence and war without any accountability to the people," Hage said, referring to the authorization for use of military force which paved the way for the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The Trump administration has argued that the Iraq AUMF empowered President Trump to order the drone strike against Gen. Soleimani.

Similar protest rallies were held in Washington DC and Wisconsin.

People gathered outside Wisconsin’s Capitol Building to oppose the Trump administration’s aggressive policy towards Tehran.

Speakers at the event said, while tensions between Iran and the US have somewhat settled, the US is still engaging in economic warfare with Iran.

“It’s easy to see violence as being bombs and bullets but it’s harder to see it as people being unable to get certain kinds of food or medicine they need and that’s what the US sanctions do,” said PSL representative Sawyer Johnson.

Meanwhile, the peace advocacy group CODEPINK is collecting American signatures for an open letter apologizing to the Iranian nation of the US aggression, especially Trump’s “reckless” order to assassinate General Soleimani.

"As Americans committed to peace and the safety of all people, we, the undersigned, apologize for the actions of our reckless, hate-filled president," the letter reads, "and pledge to do everything we can to stop Trump's aggression, remove the crippling sanctions you are suffering under, and resume a process of diplomacy with your country."

In a tweet about Saturday's demonstrations, CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin warned that war was still a very real possibility.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/26/617139/protest-war-Iran-San-Francisco

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South Asia

 

51 Taliban fighters killed in attacks launched by Afghan forces

26 January 2020

Afghan forces used ground attacks and airstrikes in multiple operations against the Taliban during the last 24 hours, killing 51 fighters in an escalation that signaled renewed deadlock in peace talks.

Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday that government forces had conducted 13 ground offensives and 12 airstrikes in nine provinces, adding that 51 “terrorists” had been killed, 13 wounded and six arrested.

Local officials in the northern province of Balkh said at least three women and four children were killed in the airstrikes, prompting protests in front of the provincial governor’s office.

The government pledged to send a fact-finding mission to investigate the reports of civilian deaths.

Meanwhile, the Taliban said it had staged two more attacks targeting security forces over the weekend, following sporadic assaults last week.

Afghan security forces’ checkpoints in Kunduz were attacked on Saturday night, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement, adding that 10 members of the security forces were killed and three wounded. Taliban fighters also captured a large weapons cache, he said.

In a separate statement, the Taliban said its fighters had ambushed an Afghan forces patrol in Balkh, killing eight security personnel.

The spike in hostilities comes as US and Taliban negotiators in Doha take a two-day break for consultations about how to overcome recent hurdles in the talks, a source close to the process told Reuters.

Negotiations between the two sides began last year in Doha but have been interrupted at least twice after Taliban attacks on US military personnel in September and December.

Last week, another round of talks kicked off with US Special Representative on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad meeting repeatedly with the Taliban’s chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

Multiple sources close to the talks said the Taliban had agreed internally to halt attacks against US forces and “reduce” assaults against Afghan government interests.

Over the last week, however, reports of attacks by Taliban fighters on government installations, including police stations continued to filter in from different parts of Afghanistan.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/01/26/51-Taliban-fighters-killed-in-attacks-launched-by-Afghan-forces.html

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Afghanistan opens its first and only DNA diagnostics center

26 Jan 2020

Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Abdullah Abdullah opened the country’s first and only DNA diagnostics center on Sunday.

Abdullah emphasized that the independence of this diagnostics center is significant and the technology use must be free of any type of interference.

Ferozuddin Feroz the Minister of Public Health (MOPH) said that the launch of the DNA diagnostics center will greatly help to resolve the issues our health, juridical and security sectors had in the absence of such a facility.

Riaz Darmal, a deputy for the home ministry said the new technology will assist in identifying the criminals.

Afghanistan was one of the few countries that did not have a DNA diagnostic center and many residents had to travel to other countries to perform these tests.

The new center will now help in around 400.00 dollars cost reduction and speedy delivery of the test results.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/afghanistan-opens-its-first-and-only-dna-diagnostics-center-798790698/

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Southeast Asia

 

Coronavirus: Putra Mosque closed to visitors

January 26, 2020

PUTRAJAYA: The Putra Mosque here has been closed to non-Muslim visitors since 2pm today until further notice following the outbreak of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

A spokesman for the mosque management, when contacted by Bernama, said the mosque premises will only be opened for prayers.

Non-Muslim visitors will only be allowed outside the building (before the guard post) to take photographs, he said.

Meanwhile, check by Bernama saw the area within the vicinity of the Putra Mosque and Dataran Putra crowded with visitors, with many taking advantage of the long weekend in conjunction with the Chinese New Year celebration to visit the place.

So far, four Chinese nationals visiting Malaysia have been confirmed to be infected by the virus. – BERNAMA

https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2020/01/559954/coronavirus-putra-mosque-closed-visitors

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Chinese Uighurs in Saudi face impossible choice

January 26, 2020

MEDINA: His eyes brimming with tears, a Uighur student in Saudi Arabia holds out his Chinese passport – long past its expiry date and condemning him to an uncertain fate as the kingdom grows closer to Beijing.

The Chinese mission in Saudi Arabia stopped renewing passports for the ethnic Muslim minority more than two years ago, in what campaigners call a pressure tactic exercised in many countries to force the Uighur diaspora to return home.

Half a dozen Uighur families in Saudi Arabia who showed AFP their passports – a few already expired and some approaching the date –said they dread going back to China, where over a million Uighurs are believed to be held in internment camps.

“Even animals in other countries are allowed to have passports,” said the 30-year-old religious student in the Muslim holy city of Medina, whose passport expired in 2018.

“Either they should renew my passport or let me drop my nationality. They make us feel like worthless humans.”

The community, now offered a one-way travel document suitable only for a trip to China, faces an impossible choice: return home at the risk of detention or remain illegally in the kingdom under constant fear of deportation.

“Refusing passport renewals is part of China’s strategy to smoke out the Uighur diaspora, forcing them to return to China,” Norway-based Uighur linguist Abduweli Ayup told AFP.

“What awaits them on the other side is detention.”

Amplifying the community’s fears is the conspicuous silence of Muslim-majority states – from Pakistan to Egypt – over China’s treatment of Uighurs as they avoid crossing Beijing, an economic powerhouse.

Particularly concerning is Beijing’s deepening ties with Saudi Arabia –the epicentre of the Muslim world and home to Islam’s two holiest sites – which has reportedly condoned the Uighur policy of China, the top importer of Saudi oil.

Saudi Arabia supports “China’s rights to take counter-terrorism and de-extremism” measures, Chinese state media quoted Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as saying last year.

This year, China threw its support behind the kingdom over its handling of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder trial, which triggered global criticism after Prince Mohammed’s closest aides were absolved of blame.

Untraceable

Only a few hundred Uighurs are estimated to be in Saudi Arabia, a disenfranchised community of mainly seminary students, traders and asylum seekers, many cut off from their detained families in China.

Many are wary of what they suspect are Chinese spies and some are forced to live in hiding, a Uighur businessman in the kingdom said, showing AFP copies of eight expired passports of fellow Uighurs that have rendered them illegal.

“Within the next two years, expect many more Uighurs to become stateless,” he said.

Many have fled while they can, often heading to Turkey or Sweden.

A Uighur student in the kingdom told AFP that three of his friends deported since late 2016 have become “untraceable” after arriving in China, likely now in the so-called re-education camps that Beijing says are meant to counter extremism.

Ayup told AFP he had confirmed five deportation cases from Saudi Arabia since 2017. Other Uighur campaigners say the number is higher. Similar extraditions have been reported from Egypt and Thailand.

It is unclear whether Riyadh carried out deportations under pressure from China or if they were swept up in the kingdom’s broad crackdown on illegal expatriates. Saudi officials did not respond to requests for comment.

The Chinese embassy in Riyadh told AFP it does not “cooperate with Saudi authorities to deport Uighurs”.

When asked about their refusal to renew passports, it only said it had not stopped consular services for their Uighur “brothers and sisters”.

Multiple members of the ethnic minority said they feared visiting the Chinese mission in the kingdom as some had had their passports invalidated even before the expiry date.

We feel helpless

In a letter sent last year to the Chinese consulate in the western city of Jeddah, a group of Uighur students asked why it was renewing passports for the ethnic Han community in the kingdom while ignoring their requests.

“We are from the same country,” said the letter seen by AFP.

“For two years we haven’t been able to contact our fathers, mothers and brothers in China… We have heard they are imprisoned because of our study in Saudi Arabia.”

Chinese authorities target Uighurs with links to 26 “sensitive” countries, including Saudi Arabia, on the grounds they were prone to “extremist thought”, several campaigners said citing government documents.

Uighurs with connections to the Islamic kingdom are particularly vulnerable amid what observers call Beijing’s “anti-Saudisation” campaign to tackle influences that are blamed for introducing extremism in Chinese Islam.

“Greeting someone in Arabic, independent study of the Koran and even naming one’s son Mohammed or Saddam are all primary markers of extremism, which can result in detention or prison sentences for Uighurs,” Darren Byler, a University of Colorado researcher, told AFP.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/world/2020/01/26/chinese-uighurs-in-saudi-face-impossible-choice/

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Dr Mahathir’s Malaysia tops democracy index in the Asean region

January 27, 2020

Malaysia has taken top spot in the Asean region on the 2019 Global Democracy Index of the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Malaysia shares 43rd spot with Trinidad and Tobago with a score of 7.16 against the best score of 9.87 achieved by Norway in the global ranking of 167 political entities. Timor Leste is ranked the highest in South-east Asia, scoring 7.19 while achieving the 41st global position for democracy.

This is not an evaluation or ranking that most countries give much credence to especially if they are not ranked highly. The socialist and authoritarian countries would be particularly disdainful and dismissive of the ranking attempted.

Korea and Japan ahead

It is significant that in Asia the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Japan are ranked the highest at 23rd and 24th position respectively at the top of the “Flawed Democracy” category. These two East Asian countries are ranked above the United States, which is slotted at 25th position.

This is somewhat of an irony when it is recalled how the famous US General Douglas MacArthur virtually dictated Japan’s postwar Constitution and saved the ROK from a deep crucible and firmly set both countries on a path of stabilisation, free enterprise and peaceful progress from the late 1940s.

India Downgraded

The most unsurprising element in the latest ranking exercise was India, which fell 10  places to position 51 from 41. India has slid back in many ways under its current government which came into power with much promise. It shows how the world’s largest democracy has receded into a narrow, negative path marshalling majoritarian religious sentiment to bear on its immigration and citizenship regulations. It is, however, heartening that the people of India, belonging to every religious faith, and most intellectuals including prominent writers, have protested and are continuing to protest over this discriminatory piece of legislation.

Malaysia Upgraded

Malaysia has steadily moved up the scale from position 59 in 2017 and 52 in 2018. It is an impressive climb but it does not do justice to Malaysia as it does not capture the difficult situation that the current government has had to navigate in upholding democratic values. In May 2018 the current government inherited a deeply flawed and faulty system from the previous government.

For a whole decade before May 10, 2018, the country had been slowly sinking under the weight of corruption, inefficiency, repressive laws, a huge debt servicing bill, a massive overdose of religion in schools with its concomitant impact of dividing the people and a steadily growing wage and pension bill that exceeded a third of the country’s Budget.

In Malaysia’s multicultural society the highest priority is the laying of a solid foundation for national unity but that again is conditioned by the reality of a plural system of education where different schools can provide instruction in Bahasa Malaysia, English, Mandarin and Tamil.

The effect of these varying systems of teaching is that the cultures of minority groups are well safeguarded and enhanced and ultimately the country has the innate and impressive capacity to communicate and interact with different parts of the world. In recent years Malaysia has also promoted itself as a centre of education and has been able to attract more than 170,000 students from other Asian countries, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. There is a truly cosmopolitan environment in the country on account of these factors.

Malaysia’s well-known tourism advertisement that “Malaysia Is Truly Asia” is not an empty slogan.

Given Malaysia’s central location in South-east Asia, its porous borders and its relative prosperity in relation to some of its neighbours, the country has attracted several million foreigners who have mainly sought employment and easier living conditions.

There are perhaps six million foreigners, more than half of them illegal or undocumented. The undocumented ones could not be expelled as that would have caused a major humanitarian crisis and affect relations with the country’s closest neighbours. Given this situation, Malaysia is in a somewhat awkward position although this government has attempted to fully subscribe to the ideals of democracy, good governance, transparency and accountability.

Sensitive Issues

The current Malaysian government abandoned efforts to ratify the International Convention Against All Forms of Racial Discrimination(ICERD) and the Rome Statute following strong opposition and protests by certain conservative groups. Such agitation, largely race-based was mainly orchestrated by the country’s opposition parties which, while preaching rather liberal policies, were actually practising oppression and restricting freedom of expression. The Malaysian government is unable to proceed with other democratic reforms as it does not enjoy the two-thirds majority required to approve amendments to its Constitution.

In examining the EIU methodology for rating Malaysia it is found that Malaysia achieved a score of 9.17 in the category for electoral process and pluralism and a relatively low score of 5.88 for civil liberties. The other scores were 7.86 for the functioning of government, 6.67 for political participation and 6.25 for political culture. The current government has to endeavour to improve the situation with civil liberties in the country. One strong feature in the current situation is a strong, impartial and fair National Election Commission.

Interestingly the Opposition, given the level playing field, has fared generally well in some of the by-elections held since May 2018. There is scope to further improve on civil liberties, wider political participation and the country’s political culture given a rather proactive Human Rights Commission, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, strong NGOs with good, committed leadership, the role of the press and media especially social media and the space provided by the current government for all these agencies and media to operate in.

The police authorities are largely perceived to be impartial although somewhat underfunded and undermanned. The country’s judiciary remains a strong and stable independent pillar but the ease with which its most senior retiring judges move into the private sector and para-statals is a matter of concern. There should be a reasonable cooling-off period of at least six months between these positions.

There is, however, still widespread concern over at least four missing (allegedly forced disappearances) persons, some unresolved cases of excesses by the security authorities and the politicisation of education.

In Malaysia’s current situation greater attention has to be paid to education provision which is STEM-based (i.e. science, technology, engineering and mathematics), neutral in respect of religion and focused on creating a united, vibrant, harmonious and forward-looking society which transcends race, religion and region.

More significantly the results of the last general election on May 9, 2018, seem to have crystallised a situation where the majority Malay-Muslim community feels that they have lost political power. Najib Razak, the former Prime Minister has thrown in his lot rather irresponsibly with this seemingly disenfranchised lot and is proving to be menacingly threatening to a sane and sober government. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad seems to be acutely aware of this fault line and has attempted to fashion policies to address the matter.

Full report at:

http://theindependent.sg/dr-mahathirs-malaysia-tops-democracy-index-in-the-asean-region/

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Mideast

 

Israel officially grants permission to Muslim citizens to visit KSA for pilgrimage

January 26, 2020

Israelis will now be allowed to travel to Saudi Arabia for up to 90-days for the country’s Muslim minority to partake in Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages.

Israel’s Interior Minister Arye Deri has signed a directive earlier this week allowing Israeli citizens to travel to Saudi Arabia for the first time in its history, media reported Sunday.

Leading Israeli publication Haaretz cited unnamed sources familiar with the decision as saying the directive was signed last Wednesday, culminating a process that has “been brewing for weeks.”

The travel permission, Haaretz reported, is conditioned on receiving an official invitation from the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia, like most other Arab nations, does not have diplomatic relations with Israel. However, reports have frequently indicated some behind-the-scenes diplomatic cooperation.

https://nation.com.pk/26-Jan-2020/israeli-officially-grants-permission-to-muslim-citizens-to-visit-ksa-for-pilgrimage

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Iranians should not let Trump harm national unity: Rouhani

27 January 2020

Iranians should not allow US President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” approach to harm national unity ahead of parliamentary elections, President Hassan Rouhani said in speech broadcast live on his official website.

“We should not let Trump succeed in creating gaps between the establishment and people ... We should remain united ... Don’t turn your back on (Feb. 21) elections. Let’s have a high turn out,” he said.

Iran’s hardline Guardians Council, which vets all election candidates, has so far disqualified some 9,000 of the 14,000 who registered to run in the elections. Moderates say in most cities they have no candidates to enter the race.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/27/Iranians-should-not-let-Trump-harm-national-unity-Rouhani.html

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Yemen’s information minister calls for firm stance against Houthis

27 January 2020

Yemen’s Information Minister Muammar al-Iryani called upon the international community on Sunday to take a firm stance against the Houthi militia, amid recent military escalation which undermines previous agreements aimed at halting the conflict.

In a series of tweets on Sunday, the Yemeni minister said that “The military escalation of the Iranian-backed Houthi militia that accompanied regional developments, most notably the killing of Soleimani [Iranian commander Qassim Soleimani] and the escalation of terrorist activities of the Iranian regime in the region, undermines all agreements and understandings, foremost of which is the Sweden Agreement.”

He criticized the Houthis for not abiding by its obligations under the agreement, saying that “the ceasefire in Hodeidah is fragile,” while the humanitarian situation and the file of the prisoners and the siege of Taiz witnessed no progress.

Al-Iryani said that the Houthi militia took advantage of this situation to rearrange its ranks and prepare for a new round of escalation.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/01/27/Yemen-s-information-minister-calls-for-firm-stance-against-Houthis.html

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Iran's Zarif rebuffs Trump's call for direct talks as 'wishful thinking'

27 January 2020

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif has slammed US President Donald Trump’s call for direct talks with Iran as “wishful thinking,” insisting that the only venue for talks with Tehran would be “at the P5+1 table."

"@realdonaldtrump is still dreaming about a bilateral meeting—to satisfy HIS lust for a "Trump deal". It’s wishful thinking. The only possible venue for talks is at the P5+1 table—which HE left—reverting to pre-2017, AND compensating Iran for damages,” Zarif wrote in Twitter post late Sunday night, referring to the international nuclear negotiations between Iran and six world states, including the US.

The tweet followed an earlier post by Iran’s top diplomat, mocking Trump for purportedly rejecting what he falsely interpreted as Zarif’s call for bilateral talks with Washington on the condition of lifting brutal US sanctions against Iran.

Urging Trump to base his foreign policy decisions on “facts” rather than biased news headlines of his favorite right-wing Fox News TV outlet, or his Farsi translators.

He then advised the hawkish US president to read his entire interview with the German-based Der Spiegel magazine “to be better informed.”

The Twitter post came in response to Trump’s tweet – written in both Farsi and English -- earlier in the day in which he claimed the Iranian foreign minister wanted to “negotiate” with Washington and “sanctions removed.” He then rejected the purported request by writing: “No Thanks!”

In his first Sunday tweet, the top Iranian diplomat also posted an excerpt from his Friday interview with Der Spiegel, in which he was asked about the possibility of negotiations after the US assassination of Iran’s prominent anti-terror commander General Qassem Soleimani.

Zarif responded by reiterating that the Trump administration could lift the sanctions that it had reimposed on Iran after scrapping the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and then come back to the negotiating table.

"No, I never rule out the possibility that people will change their approach and recognize the realities. For us, it doesn’t matter who is sitting in the White House. What matters is how they behave," he said.

"The Trump administration can correct its past, lift the sanctions and come back to the negotiating table. We’re still at the negotiating table. They’re the ones who left. The U.S. has inflicted great harm on the Iranian people. The day will come when they will have to compensate for that. We have a lot of patience."

The JCPOA was signed between Iran and six world states — namely the US, Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China — in 2015. It was also ratified in the form of a UN Security Council resolution.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/27/617177/Iran-Foreign-Minister-Mohammed-Javad-Zarif-US-president-Donald-Trump-direct-talks-wishful-thinking-negotiating-table

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Formation of new government in Lebanon positive step to tackle problems: Iran

26 January 2020

Iran has hailed consultation among different Lebanese parties and the formation of a new government, saying it is a step forward and a positive move to solve the country's problems.

"The formation of the government under the current regional and international circumstances and with regard to the Lebanese nation's aspirations is a step forward in a positive way to tackle the country's problems," Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Sunday.

He offered his congratulations to the Lebanese government and nation and expressed hope that the new government would meet the demands of the Lebanese people who enjoy a proud history in terms of resisting the Israeli occupation and bullying of the hegemonic system.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran hopes that the new Lebanese government, which has been formed based on people's demands, will be able to overcome all challenges through consolidation of national unity, and implement its plans to [improve] Lebanon's all-out progress and development while establishing security and welfare," the Iranian spokesperson added.

Mousavi said the Islamic Republic fully supports the new Lebanese government and is ready to further improve mutual relations.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab on Tuesday announced the formation of the country’s new government, saying his cabinet will try to meet the demands of protesters.

Speaking at the Lebanese presidential palace in Beirut, Diab described his government — made up of 20 specialist ministers backed by the country's political parties — as a technocratic "rescue team" that would work to achieve the goals of protesters who first took to the streets in October last year.

The formation of the new government under Diab came after the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement and its allies agreed on a cabinet that must urgently address the economic crisis and ensuing protests that toppled its predecessor.

The country had been without an effective government since Saad al-Hariri submitted his resignation as premier to Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun in October.

Since October 17, Lebanon has been rocked by nationwide protests against rising inflation and living costs as the government struggles to attract investment amid increasing economic hardships and a decreasing capital flow to the country.

Almost 400 people were wounded on Saturday evening during skirmishes between Lebanese anti-government protesters and security forces in Beirut.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/26/617163/Mousavi-Lebanon-government-Hassan-Diab-Iran

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Protests held across world to condemn Trump's anti-Iran policies

26 January 2020

People across the globe have taken to the streets for an International Day of Action against war with Iran in condemnation of Washington’s warmongering with Tehran.

Protesters in various countries, including the US, Canada, Armenia,  Kampala, and Uganda sent a clear message to US President Donald Trump against going to war with Iran on Saturday.

They denounced the Trump’s administration for dragging the US into a war with Iran that could engulf the whole region.

Max Blumenthal

@MaxBlumenthal

Marching now through Washington DC against the US war on Iran and the illegal occupation of Iraq. #NoWarWithIran

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Protests were held across the US including in Washington DC, San Francisco, California, and Madison, Wisconsin, among others.

People gathered outside Wisconsin’s Capitol Building to oppose Washington’s maximum pressure policy towards Tehran.

Speakers at the event said, while relations between Iran and the US have seemed to settle, the US is still engaging in economic warfare with Iran.

“It’s easy to see violence as being bombs and bullets but its harder to see it as people being unable to get certain kinds of food or medicine they need and that’s what the US sanctions do,” said PSL representative Sawyer Johnson.

Protesters said these types of actions make the Iranian people collateral damage.

No War With Iran Toronto

@nowarwith_iran

Thank you to everyone who showed up to the Global Day of Action to say #NoWarWithIran! We're thankful to have a strong showing here in Toronto for peace 💪🏽

Grateful for our powerful speakers & the solidarity! Send a message of peace to @JustinTrudeau at http://www.nowarwithiran.ca

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“It’s always the poor in our country and in any country that suffer and have no justice,” Johnson added. “War doesn’t produce justice it produces sorrow, and so that’s why we are here for this.”

In Canada, a coalition of protesters and activists gathered in front of the US consulate in Toronto, demanding an end to US aggression and sanctions against Iran.

"No war with Iran. End sanctions now," anti-war activists chanted.

Saman Tabasinejad of Progress Toronto, a non-profit organization advocating for progressive values in Toronto and one of the event organizers, said while she is disappointed by US President Donald Trump's foreign policy agenda, she is not surprised.

She said that once the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran was torn up, the writing was on the wall, adding that she was not fooled by the isolationist rhetoric Trump had used during the election campaign – vowing to end "senseless wars."

Peter Jones

@redesign

Respect for speakers and protesters  at Toronto's public square across from @usembassycanada making a loud public case that Canadians want peace with Iran and to withdraw support for ubiquitous NATO violence against ME/West Asian people.

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The participants were united in that Iranian sovereignty should be respected and that Iranians can inspire the type of change they desire in their own country without external interference.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/26/617135/global-protest-US-President-Trumpwar-Iran

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Yemeni scholars condemn Saudi Arabia’s normalization efforts with Israel

26 January 2020

A group of Yemen's religious scholars have strongly condemned a recent visit by senior Saudi cleric and former justice minister, Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul Karim bin Abdulaziz al-Issa, to the former Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz, in Poland along with a Jewish group, and all the Riyadh regime’s efforts to normalize relations with the Israeli regime after years of clandestine contacts.

“The suspicious visit took place under the permission and encouragement of the Saudi regime, and was aimed at normalization with the occupying Zionist regime. It was led by former Saudi justice minister and secretary general of the so-called Muslim World League (MWL), Muhammed al-Issa, and included some crooked scholars,” Yemen Scholars Association said in a statement released on Sunday.

قناة المسيرة

@almasirah

علماء اليمن يدينون خطوات التطبيع الوهابي مع اليهود ويتضامنون مع خطيب الأقصى#المسيرة #المسيرة_نتhttps://www.almasirah.net/post/148455/

موقع المسيرة نت:علماء اليمن يدينون خطوات التطبيع الوهابي مع اليهود ويتضامنون مع خطيب الأقصى

صنعاء | 26 يناير | المسيرة نت: أدانت رابطة علماء اليمن، اليوم الأحد، خطوات التطبيع الوهابي مع اليهود، معلنة التضامن مع خطيب المسجد الأقصى عكرمة صبري ومفتي القدس، مدينة أي إبعاد أو تهديد أو إساءة له...

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The statement added, “Issa and his companions took an brazen step by praying at the site of alleged Holocaust in utter disregard to Islamic teachings," describing it as an unprecedented step on the path of normalization.

The association then categorically rejected any effort aimed at rapprochement, reconciliation and normalization of ties with the Tel Aviv regime, which occupies Palestinian territories and defiles Muslim sanctities.

It also called for a religious decree, which would end Saudi Arabia's jurisdiction over the mosques of Masjid al-Haram in Mecca and Al-Masjid al-Nabawi in Medina.

The association finally demanded an emergency conference at the level of Arab and Muslim scholars, where thinkers would discuss matters of paramount importance, especially the issues of occupied Jerusalem al-Quds and Palestine.

The statement came a day after Mohamed Abdel-Salam, a spokesman for Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement, denounced Saudi Arabia’s efforts to normalize ties with the Israeli regime in the name of Islam.

قناة المسيرة

@almasirah

ناطق أنصار الله يدين النشاط  السعودي للتطبيع مع العدو الصهيوني باسم الإسلام#المسيرة #المسيرة_نتhttps://www.almasirah.net/post/148423/

موقع المسيرة نت:ناطق أنصار الله يدين النشاط  السعودي للتطبيع مع العدو الصهيوني باسم الإسلام

خاص | 25 يناير | المسيرة نت: قال الناطق الرسمي باسم أنصار الله محمد عبدالسلام اليوم السبت إن نشاط المدعو أمين عام رابطة العالم الإسلامي ووزير العدل السعودي السابق باتجاه تطبيع العلاقات مع الصهاينة...

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The miserable Kingdom of Saudi Arabia must stop using Islam in favor of colonialists. The kingdom’s offense to exploit Islam is condemned both religiously and by all Muslims,” Abdel-Salam said in a post published on his Twitter page on Saturday.

On Thursday, Issa led a delegation of 62 Muslims, including 25 prominent religious scholars, from some 28 countries during a visit to Auschwitz camp. A delegation of American Jewish Committee (AJC) officials was in the company as well.

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

The visit came less than two years after Issa, who is considered to be a close associate of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, visited the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, in May 2018.

In May 2019, AJC and MWL signed a memorandum of understanding, agreeing to take part in a trip to Auschwitz together this year.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/26/617168/Yemeni-scholars-condemns-Saudi-Arabia%E2%80%99s-normalization-bids-with-Israel

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Several killed as car bomb hits Turkish-occupied city in northern Syria

26 January 2020

At least eight people have been killed after a car bomb went off in a Turkish-occupied city in Syria’s northern province of Aleppo.

Syria's official news agency SANA, citing local sources, reported that an explosive-laden truck detonated in the northern Syrian city of Azaz on Sunday, adding that the explosion led to a massive fire in nearby shops and cars in the area.

At least 20 others were also wounded in the huge blast, which occurred in front of a restaurant and a gas station, the report further said, adding that the explosion also inflicted damage to houses and properties in its vicinity.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the deadly bomb attack.

The city has been under the occupation of Turkish troops and Turkish-backed militants since October last year, when they launched a long-threatened cross-border invasion of northeastern Syria in a declared attempt to push Kurdish YPG militants from border areas.

Ankara views the US-backed YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984. The YPG constitutes the backbone of the Kurdish-dominated so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Damascus has strongly condemned the cross-border invasion as a “blatant attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Syria.

Turkish forces attack villages in NE Syria

Additionally on Sunday, Turkish forces and Ankara-backed militants shelled residential houses in villages around the occupied border city of Ras al-Ayn in the northeastern province of Hasakah, SANA said in a separate report.

It added that “the occupation forces” targeted residential buildings in the villages Um Harmalah, Tal Harmal, and al-Asadiya with mortar and artillery shells, inflicting material damage to a number of buildings.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/26/617158/Syria-Azaz-car-bomb-Aleppo-Turkey-YPG-Ras-al-Ayn

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Houthi fighters gain ground in Sana'a, pro-Saudi militants claim tactical withdrawal

26 January 2020

Fighters from Yemen's Houthi Ansarullah movement, which have been defending Yemen against a Saudi aggression, have managed to gain ground against Riyadh-sponsored militants in Sana'a Province.

Commanders loyal to former Saudi-backed President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi acknowledged on Saturday that the Houthis had retaken loyalist positions during renewed fighting east of Sana'a.

"Some of these positions had been under government control for three years," said one of the commanders who was speaking on condition of anonymity, referring to the self-proclaimed Hadi administration.

Another pro-Hadi commander said that the Saudi planes had "attacked Houthi positions more than 30 times in the last three days to reduce the pressure on the loyalists."

On Friday, the International Crisis Group, a Belgium-based think tank, said the Houthi fighters were making "the biggest gains" on the ground against militants.

"At the time of writing, the Houthis appeared to be making the biggest gains on the battlefield, reportedly controlling the important Nihm front north east of Sana'a after several days in which both sides claimed a series of largely symbolic victories while suffering numerous casualties," it said in a report.

Self-proclaimed defense minister for Hadi fighters, general Mohammed Ali al-Maqdishi, implicitly admitted Houthi advances in Nihm district.

At a meeting with loyalist commanders, he referred to what he called a "tactical withdrawal from some positions," Saba news agency reported.

Maqdishi also claimed that the pro-Hadi militants would be redeployed to open a new front against the Houthis.

Recently, a missile attack on a military training camp run by the Riyadh-backed elements in Ma'rib Province killed 116 of them.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE blamed the attack on the Houthis, a claim rejected by the Yemeni fighters.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/26/617126/Yemen-Houthi-Sana'a-Mansur-Hadi

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Africa

 

Gunmen attack army camp killing 20 Mali soldiers

27 January 2020

Gunmen attacked an army camp in Mali near the border with Mauritania, killing 20 soldiers on Sunday, the government and armed forces said.

The camp in Sokolo in the Segou region remains under the control of Mali’s military, the armed forces said in a statement on Twitter.

Mali’s government said there was significant material damage in the attack, and that reinforcements have been dispatched. Aerial reconnaissance is underway to track down the gunmen, it said in a statement condemning the attack.

Souleymane Maiga, a resident of Sokolo, said the attackers temporarily had taken control of the camp.

“The army camp was attacked this morning by gunmen,” he said. “The attackers temporarily took control of the camp and destroyed everything before leaving. Many of the soldiers who were in the camp took refuge in the village.”

The attack wasn’t claimed but bears the hallmarks of extremist groups linked to al-Qaeda that are based in the Wagadu forest, located about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the attacked village.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/01/27/Gunmen-attack-army-camp-killing-20-Mali-soldiers-.html

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Nearly 20 soldiers killed in terrorist attack on Mali army camp

26 January 2020

Nearly twenty soldiers have been killed and several others wounded in an attack on an army camp in central Mali before dawn on Sunday, an army spokesman and a local official told Reuters.

The assailants entered the camp near the village of Sokolo at about 0500 GMT, opened fire, destroyed some structures and left soon after, said Balco Ba, a deputy administrator in the nearby town of Niono.

The identity of the attackers is not yet known.

Army spokesman Dirran Kone said the camp later became under control, reinforcements were in place and search got underway for the assailants.

The Malian army's official Twitter account said a Malian plane had been deployed to monitor the scene.

Terrorists groups, with links to al-Qaeda and Daesh, operate in arid central and northern Mali and have used the area to launch attacks on soldiers and civilians across neighboring Burkina Faso, Niger and beyond.

Large areas of the Sahel, the band of scrubland south of the Sahara, have fallen out of the control of armies and police forces, vexing local governments and their international partners who have struggled to contain the spread of militant groups across West Africa.

Twenty-four Malian soldiers were killed and some 30 others wounded when militants attacked a patrol in northern Mali in November.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/26/617140/Mali-militants-soldier-village-Daesh-al-Qaeda-military-base

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Fight Shabaab in the north to safeguard devolution, says MP

JANUARY 26 2020

A legislator from northern Kenya has said that frequent terror attacks the Somalia-based Al-Shabaab militants are threatening devolution and has called for more concerted efforts to end the menace.

Wajir East MP Rashid Kassim said that terrorism has affected the development agenda in the area and is curtailing the gains that had been achieved since the onset of devolution in the once marginalised region.

Mr Kassim pointed out at education, health and transport sectors in the county as the worst hit as civil servants have fled their workstations fearing for their lives.

TEACHERS TRANSFERRED

Over 100 teachers have been transferred from schools in terror-prone areas of Wajir to safer ones, leaving students with no tutors, while some schools remain at risk of closure, according to education officials.

In Garissa and Mandera counties, a similar situation has been witnessed as hundreds of teachers have fled their workstations.

According to authorities, medical personnel who were previously working in some of the affected areas have also abandoned their workstations.

In the transport sector, road building is also staring at a similar fate as contractors have been forced to stop or slow down their activities for fear of their lives.

WORKERS ABDUCTED

About a month ago, four construction workers were abducted by suspected Al-Shabaab militants in Wajir East. Some of their properties were burnt by the militants who later took them to Somalia.

On December 22, 2019, the militants destroyed construction machinery worth Sh39.8 million in Mandera County after storming a building site.

The militants also attacked a bus in Wajir County, leaving 11 people dead.

The incident has affected the transport sector as travellers have now shunned using buses.

The most recent attack was on Friday when an unknown number of gunmen shot at a bus in Khorof Kharar, injuring two passengers.

The Wajir East MP now says that these incidents are worrying and he has called for collaboration between the residents, security agencies and religious leaders to ensure that the situation does not get out of hand.

PEACE MEETINGS

"As leaders from the region, we want everyone to be involved in this fight. That is why we are holding peace meetings to sensitise the residents on their crucial role in countering violent extremism," said Mr Kassim.

He said that as leaders, they have decided to put their differences aside and concentrate on ways to kick out the Shabaab militants.

Recently, Eldas MP Adan Keynan decried the frequent attacks in the county, saying that they are now forcing leaders to use the resources that they would have used for development in fighting the vice.

Meanwhile, religious leaders have been asked to be at the forefront in the fight against terrorism in northern Kenya by talking about the vice in places of worship.

On Saturday, 150 clerics from Wajir County held a meeting with leaders and members of the security team where they were reminded on their role in combating violent extremism in the region.

SENSITISATION

The meeting organised by north eastern region Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (Supkem) Co-ordinator Adan Yunis was a continuation of the ongoing sensitisation programme in the region in the fight against terrorism.

Addressing journalists, Mr Yunis said that as religious leaders, they have resolved to preach in mosques and religious gatherings against the vices perpetrated by the terrorist groups to ensure that lasting peace is achieved.

The Supkem leader further said that they are supporting the government's efforts in fighting terrorism in the country.

Full report at:

https://www.nation.co.ke/counties/wajir/Al-Shabaab-a-threat-to-devolution/3444790-5432610-3dc7mq/index.html

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12-year-old killed as Boko Haram hits Borno mosque

January 27, 2020

Twin suicide bombers linked to the Boko Haram sect attacked a mosque in Gwoza, Borno state, on Sunday, killing a 12-year-old child and leaving many people injured.

A security source, who disclosed this to TheCable, said the suicide bombers forced their way into the mosque while prayer was ongoing.

The source said before some persons in the neighbourhood raised the alarm, the attackers had already gained entry into the mosque.

The incident happened at Guduf Nagadiyo in Bulabaulin, Gwoza. Soldiers from 192 battalion of the Nigerian Army later cordoned off the mosque.

A resident said the suicide bombers might have infiltrated the town during a wedding which held at the palace of the emir of Gwoza on Saturday.

Borno has been the worst hit in the resurgence of Boko Haram attacks in the north-east. Many villages along Damaturu-Maiduguri road in Borno have been attacked by Boko Haram insurgents.

In a statement on Sunday,  Aminu Iliyasu, media coordinator of army operations, said many attacks on civilian targets in Borno have been foiled.

“Troops have resolved to sustain efforts until all the remnants of the Boko Haram/Islamic State’s West Africa Province insurgents are completely wiped out,” he said.

Iliyasu said last week, troops of 3 battalion deployed in Gamborou-Ngala local government area of Borno, had on repelled a Boko Haram attack on Ngala community.

According to him, the insurgents sneaked into the peaceful community in five gun trucks, motorcycles and a number of “foot soldiers”.

“They used a farm as cover with the heinous intent to unleash one of the most devastating terror attacks in recent times. “Fortunately for the residents, the vigilant troops responded swiftly, engaging the criminals with overwhelming superior firepower, thereby forcing them to beat a hasty retreat in complete disarray,” he said.

“During the ensuing pursuit and exploitation embarked upon by the troops, one Boko Haram criminal suicide truck driver strapped with a suicide vest was neutralised. Items captured during the encounter include one AK 47 Rifle, one FN Rifle, one motorcycle and one heavily laden Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device with deadly explosive materials.”

Iliyasu added that on Friday, troops of the same battalion deployed in Ngala bridge repelled another Boko Haram attack on their location.

He disclosed that the insurgents were engaged by the troops and inflicted heavy casualty on both their men and equipment.

Full report at:

https://www.thecable.ng/breaking-boko-haram-bombs-borno-mosque

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Arab World

 

Iraqi protesters defy top cleric and return to the streets

26 January 2020

Hundreds of anti-government protesters flooded the streets of Iraq’s capital and southern provinces on Sunday, defying a powerful Iraqi religious leader who recently withdrew his support from the popular movement.

Security forces fired tear gas and live rounds to disperse the crowds from the capital’s Khilani Square, medical and security officials said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

At least 22 demonstrators were reported wounded by Iraqi security forces, as the street rallies continued to grow in size.

The mass protests started in October over widespread government corruption and a lack of public services and jobs. They quickly grew into calls for sweeping changes to Iraq’s political system that was imposed after the 2003 US invasion. Iraqi security forces have responded harshly. At least 500 protesters have been killed since the unrest began.

Iraq also has been roiled by US-Iran tensions that threatened a regional war after an American drone strike this month killed top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani near Baghdad.

The US attack pushed the Shia cleric and political leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, to turn his influence toward demanding an American troop withdrawal. He also dropped his support for the anti-government movement on Friday.

Hundreds of protesters, mostly students, marched Sunday through key squares in the capital and southern Iraq to show their continued support for the anti-government movement, despite al-Sadr’s reversal of position.

“The demonstrations have become stronger now because of what happened,” said Zaidoun, 26, a protest organizer in Baghdad.

Many demonstrators chanted slogans against the populist preacher. The movement opposes Iraq’s sectarian system and both US and Iranian influence in Iraqi affairs.

Some protesters were worried, however, that the departure of al-Sadr’s supporters and his militia members from Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, the hub of the protest movement, could spark a renewed security crackdown.

On Saturday, hours after al-Sadr’s supporters left protest sites in Baghdad and some southern cities, including Basra, security forces swooped in to clear areas of demonstrators and torch their sit-in tents. At least four protesters were killed in the crackdown.

With al-Sadr out of the picture, protesters said the only top leader on their side was Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most revered Shia cleric. Many said they were hoping his weekly Friday sermon would boost morale ahead of a major planned protest for Jan. 31.

In a statement posted online, al-Sadr called on the protesters to return their movement to its “initial course,” in what many anti-government activists interpreted as a veiled threat.

The statement added that al-Sadr could boost his support for the “heroic” security forces if protesters didn’t heed his calls.

Al-Sadr had called on his followers to stage a rival protest targeting the US embassy on Sunday, before rescinding the order shortly after.

In a statement from his office, al-Sadr asked Iraqis “who reject the American occupation” to gather at key assembly points later that evening. A spokesperson from his office later said the decision had been reversed.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/26/Iraqi-protesters-defy-top-cleric-and-return-to-the-streets.html

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Iraq populist cleric calls for anti-US demonstrations

26 January 2020

Iraqi populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called for demonstrations against the US embassy on Sunday in Baghdad and other cities, a statement from his office said.

The demonstrations are to also decry “those who have offended the symbol of the nation, Sayed Moqtada al-Sadr,” the statement said.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/26/Iraq-populist-cleric-calls-for-anti-US-demonstrations-.html

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US State Dept. confirms rocket hitting dining facility of its Baghdad embassy

27 January 2020

At least one rocket has struck a dining facility at the US embassy compound in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, a US official has reportedly confirmed without pointing to possible casualties.

"We are aware of reports of rockets landing in the International Zone," said a State Department spokesperson Sunday evening as cited by US-based news outlets, noting that the official did not specifically mention the American embassy but pointed to “reports of minor damage.”

A US official told CNN that one person was injured in the attack, but that the injury was minor and the individual had since returned to duty.

The security situation remains tense,” added the unidentified spokesperson, pointing to persisting “threat” by local armed groups.

The US is calling on the government of Iraq "to fulfill its obligations to protect our diplomatic facilities," the official further underlined while noting that the department will not make further comment on the security situation in Baghdad.

It was the third such attack on the US embassy this month but was the first time the complex had been directly hit.

The US State Department says there have been more than 14 attacks on American personnel based in Iraq, accusing “Iranian government or militias backed by Tehran.” The fervently anti-Iran Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has become notorious for making false allegations to demonize Tehran and justify harsh US actions against it.

Meanwhile, earlier reports pointed to as many as five rockets targeting the US embassy in Baghdad’s heavily-fortified Green Zone, with other reports saying that three rockets had hit the compound directly.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

This is while Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi has condemned the attack and ordered a probe into the incident amid growing demands across the nation for immediate withdrawal of thousands of US forces in the Arab country and the closure of their military bases throughout Iraq.

Abdul-Mahdi further announced that Baghdad was "committed to protecting all diplomatic missions and taking all necessary measures to achieve this."

The American embassy in Baghdad -- the world's largest -- lies within the fortified neighborhood, also known as the International Zone, which is surrounded by concrete walls.

The development came two days after nearly a million Iraqis took part in a huge march in the streets of Baghdad to demand immediate withdrawal of all US forces from the country. The massive rally came after influential cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called on Iraqis to stage "a million-strong, peaceful, unified demonstration to condemn the American presence and its violations."

Also on Friday, a senior official of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) issued a statement warning the US president to voluntarily order the withdrawal of US troops from the country before being forced out.

“Today all Iraqis, men and women, have poured out onto the streets to send out one clear message to the whole world: There is no place for foreign forces to be present on the Iraqi soil. Thanks to all Iraqis who heeded the call to attend the demonstration and participated in it. Thanks to the support offered by politicians, tribal figures, academics as well as journalists,”  Qais al-Khazali, leader of Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, which is part of the PMU, said in the statement.

Nearly 5,200 US troops still remain in Iraq while the Iraqi parliament voted earlier this month to expel all American forces from the terror-ravaged country.

This is while US President Donald Trump has refused to discuss the troop withdrawal with Iraq’s acting Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi, threatening instead to illegally seize some $35 billion of Iraqi oil revenues held in a bank account in New York.

The January 3 US assassination of the Middle East's most prominent anti-terror commander General Soleimani prompted tens of millions in Iraq, Iran, India, Pakistan and elsewhere to take to the streets and vent their anger at the hawkish US government.

Iranians also turned out in massive numbers, unmatched in its history, to honor the charismatic commander – revered for his reputation as the leading hunter of Daesh (ISIL) terrorists across the region -- and demand what they described as “hard revenge.”

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/26/617174/US-State-Department-embassy-Baghdad-Green-Zone-rocket-attack

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Rockets land near US embassy in Baghdad

January 27, 2020

BAGHDAD: A volley of rockets landed near the US embassy in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on Sunday, two security sources said, in the latest unclaimed attack on American installations in the country.

Reporters heard loud thuds emanating from the western bank of the Tigris, where the US embassy and most other foreign diplomatic missions are located.

One security source said three Katyusha rockets hit near the high-security compound while another said as many as five struck the area.

Later Iraq’s security forces said in a statement that five rockets hit the high-security Green Zone with no casualties. It did not mention the US embassy.

The rocket fire comes two day after thousands massed in Baghdad in response to a call by populist cleric Moqtada Sadr for a rally to demand the ouster of US troops from Iraq.

America’s military presence has been a hot-button issue in Iraq since a US strike killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and a top Iraqi commander outside Baghdad airport on January 3.

Around 5,200 US troops are in Iraq to lead a global coalition fighting the militant Islamic State group, but Iraq said the strike against Soleimani violated that mandate.

Sunday’s attack was the latest in a series of rocket fire this month targeting the Green Zone,where the Iraqi parliament is also located.

Parliament earlier this month urged the departure of US troops from Iraq, which has been gripped by anti-government protests since October.

Protesters keep up rallies

Iraqi security forces shot live rounds to clear protests in Baghdad and the south for a second day on Sunday, but thousands of determined students flooded the streets to keep up their movement.

Violence has resurged in the capital and Shia-majority south this week, with more than 15 people killed as anti-government activists ramped up their road closures and sit-ins while security forces sought to snuff out the campaign.

Thousands of students rallied on Sunday, waving Iraqi flags and holding up two fingers in a victory sign.

“Only for you, Iraq!” read a sign held by a young protester in Karbala, hinting at the movement’s insistence on not being affiliated with any political party or outside backer.

In Basra, hundreds of students gathered to condemn the riot police’s dismantling of their main protest camp the previous day, according to a correspondent.

They also led the way in Kut, erecting new tents to replace those taken down the previous day, and in Najaf, blocking off main roads with burning tyres.

In Baghdad, university students marched from a campus in the city centre to the main rally area of Tahrir Square.

Riot police fired live rounds and tear gas at clusters of young protesters in the nearby Khallani and Wathba squares, but protesters threw rocks and Molotov cocktails to keep them back. At least 17 protesters were wounded, a police source said.

Security forces have stopped short of entering Tahrir Square itself, where many tents have been dismantled but remaining protesters have pledged to stand their ground.

In the southern city of Nasiriyah, security forces on Sunday also fired live rounds to disperse protesters who were angered by authorities pushing them out of roads around their main protest camp in Habbubi Square.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1530721/rockets-land-near-us-embassy-in-baghdad

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US calls on Iraq to protect Baghdad embassy after rocket attack

27 January 2020

The United States called on Iraq on Sunday to protect American diplomatic facilities after the US embassy in Baghdad was hit by three rockets.

“We call on the Government of Iraq to fulfill its obligations to protect our diplomatic facilities,” a State Department spokesperson said in a statement.

The attack marked a dangerous escalation in a spree of rocket attacks in recent months that have targeted the embassy or Iraqi military bases where American troops are deployed.

None of the attacks has been claimed, but Washington has repeatedly blamed Iran-backed military factions in Iraq.

On Sunday, one rocket hit an embassy cafeteria at dinner time while two others landed nearby, a security source told AFP.

“Since September there have been over 14 attacks by Iran and Iranian-supported militias on US personnel in Iraq,” the State Department spokesperson said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/27/US-calls-on-Iraq-to-protect-Baghdad-embassy-after-rocket-attack-.html

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At least one wounded in US embassy rocket attack in Baghdad

26 January 2020

Three out of five rockets fired on Sunday directly hit the US embassy in Iraq’s capital, a security source told AFP, including one that slammed into a cafe at dinner time.

Sirens immediately rang out at the American compound.

The diplomatic mission, which lies in Baghdad’s high-security Green Zone, has been regularly hit by rockets in recent months.

Sunday’s attack took place earlier in the day than usual and it was the first time a direct hit was reported.

The Green Zone houses government buildings and foreign missions.

Meanwhile, US aircraft were seen landing inside the embassy compound in Baghdad, Al Arabiya correspondent reported.

The rocket attacks on the embassy have reportedly resulted in a number of casualties.

But AFP citing Iraqi officials said at least one was wounded in the US embassy rocket attack.

Iraq’s security forces had earlier reported no casualties.

Earlier, US sources revealed that rockets fell inside the embassy’s compound in Baghdad, Al Arabiya correspondent in Washington reported.

Baghdad is in the throes of mass anti-government protests.

AFP reporters heard loud thuds emanating from the western bank of the Tigris, where most foreign embassies are located.

One security source said three Katyusha rockets hit near the high-security compound while another said as many as five struck the area.

Later Iraq’s security forces said in a statement that five rockets hit the high-security Green Zone with no casualties. It did not mention the US embassy.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi deplored on Sunday the continued targeting of diplomatic missions

In a statement carried by the state-run television, Abdul Mahdi, in his first comments on the attack targeting the Green Zone which houses government buildings and foreign missions, said that “the continued irresponsible, unilateral behavior harms the higher interests of the country and its relations with its friends.”

“The government confirms its commitment to protect all diplomatic missions and take all necessary measures to achieve this,” he said.

Iraq’s Speaker of Parliament Mohammed al-Halbousi said on Sunday that the attack on the US embassy in Baghdad hurts the country’s reputation.

US Ambassador Matthew Tueller condemned the attack on his country’s embassy in Baghdad.

The rocket fire comes two day after thousands massed in Baghdad in response to a call by populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr for a rally to demand the ouster of US troops from Iraq.

America’s military presence has been a hot-button issue in Iraq since a US strike killed Iranian general Qassim Soleimani and a top Iraqi commander outside Baghdad airport on January 3.

Around 5,200 US troops are in Iraq to lead a global coalition fighting ISIS, but Iraq said the strike against Soleimani violated that mandate.

Sunday’s attack was the latest in a series of rocket fire this month targeting the Green Zone, where the Iraqi parliament is also located.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/26/Five-rockets-hit-near-US-embassy-in-Baghdad-s-Green-Zone.html

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Two killed as Iraqi security forces clash with protesters

27 January 2020

Two demonstrators were killed in Iraq on Sunday in Al-Wathba Square in Baghdad during renewed confrontations with the security forces, according to Al Arabiya, quoting medical sources.

Iraqi security forces fired teargas and live bullets in clashes with protesters angered by high-level corruption who resisted with stones and petrol bombs, Reuters witnesses and security sources said.

More than 100 demonstrators were hurt in the violence in the capital and several other cities after the security forces tried to clear sit-in protest camps, medical sources said.

At least 75 of those hurt were in the southern city of Nassariya. A Reuters witness said protesters set fire to two security vehicles and hundreds of other demonstrators controlled key bridges in the city. Later, unidentified men set fire to tents that are part of a months-long sit-in in the city center.

The protesters are demanding the removal of what they consider a corrupt ruling elite and an end to foreign interference in Iraqi politics, especially by Iran, which dominates state institutions.

Unrest resumed last week, after a lull of several weeks, following the US killing of Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani and an Iraqi paramilitary chief in Baghdad this month.

The killing, to which Iran responded with ballistic missile attacks on two Iraqi military bases, has revived tensions in Iraqi politics and delayed the formation of a new government.

In Baghdad, protesters were coughing and washing their faces and eyes to rid themselves of the effects of the gas while medical workers provided first aid, as the site was inaccessible to ambulances, a Reuters reporter said.

Tuk tuks evacuated wounded protesters in clouds of tear gas and black smoke from burning tyres.

Earlier on Sunday, hundreds of university students had gathered in Tahrir square, the main protest camp, chanting slogans against the United States and Iran.

In the southern city of Basra, more than 2,000 students arrived at a protest camp, another Reuters witness said.

Protests also continued in the cities of Karbala, Najaf and Diwaniya, defying attempts by security forces to end their months-long sit-in, police sources and Reuters witnesses said.

In other violence, five Katyusha rockets landed on Sunday night in Baghdad’s Green Zone, which houses government buildings and foreign embassies, a military statement said.

There were no immediate reports of casualties but sources said the rockets landed near the US embassy.

Cleric al-Sadr cancels march

Tens of thousands protested against the US military presence in Iraq in a march on Friday.

Populist Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr had also called for demonstrations against the US Embassy in Baghdad and other cities on Sunday but cancelled them, with his office giving “avoiding internal strife” as the reason.

Sadr, who has millions of supporters in Baghdad and the south, said on Saturday he would end his involvement in anti-government unrest.

“We protest because we have a cause. I don’t think Moqtada Sadr or any other politician will change our mind,” said a protester in Baghdad who declined to give his name.

Sadr’s supporters have bolstered the protesters and at times have helped shield them from attacks by security forces and unidentified gunmen, but began withdrawing from sit-in camps on Saturday following his announcement.

Security forces then removed concrete barriers near Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, where demonstrators have camped out for months, and across at least one main bridge over the Tigris River.

“I don’t go to protests often but I came out today because of what they did yesterday. I want to express my solidarity with my brothers in Tahrir,” said Hussain Ali, a student.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/27/Two-killed-as-Iraqi-security-forces-clash-with-protesters.html

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Car bombing kills seven in Syria’s opposition-held Azaz: Monitor

26 January 2020

At least seven people were killed on Sunday in a car bomb that hit Azaz, an opposition-held city in northwestern Syria, a war monitor said.

More than 20 others were wounded in the explosion in Azaz, located in the heart of a Turkish zone of influence in Aleppo province, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Britain-based monitor said the car bomb targeted a bustling area located near several restaurants, leading to severe material damage.

It was not clear who was behind the attack or if the casualties were all civilians.

Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016 and seized more than 2,000 square kilometers of northern Syria including Azaz.

Ankara keeps Turkish troops and intelligence forces in the area, and still backs Syrian opposition factions serving as local police officers.

Opposition-held parts of northern Syria are regularly hit by car bombs and explosions.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/26/One-killed-in-truck-blast-in-northern-Syria-s-Azaz-Reports.html

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Baghdad march, Lebanon's govt. formation dealt heavy blows to US: Top Hezbollah official

26 January 2020

The White House has been dealt stinging blows following the massive march in Iraq against the presence of US troops in the country as well as the formation of a new government in Lebanon, says a senior official from the Lebanese resistance movement, Hezbollah.

“The US administration was slapped in the face this week following the events in Beirut and Baghdad. The Iraqi people pressed their demand, and poured out onto the streets in a million-man demonstration to substantiate that the blood of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani (the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps) and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis (the deputy head of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units) sealed the departure of US soldiers from Iraq forever,” said Sheikh Nabil Qaouk, deputy chief of Hezbollah's executive council, at a ceremony in Wadi al-Hajir region of southern Lebanon on Sunday.

The Hezbollah official said the formation of a new Lebanese government led by Prime Minister Hassan Diab disappointed President Donald Trump of the United States, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker and other US statesmen who had pinned their hopes on chaos, siege of the resistance front and subjugation of the Lebanese nation.

Qaouk highlighted that the new administration in Lebanon was on a national rescue mission of preventing economic collapse and confronting corruption.

“Hezbollah will be at the forefront of its supporters.”

Lebanon announced the formation of the new government on January 21. The country had been without an effective government since caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned in October last year under pressure from protesters exhausted by state corruption and mismanagement.

Diab now heads a cabinet of 20 members, mostly specialists backed by political parties.

“I've been appointed in the face of many accusations. I wanted to work, not to argue. I have abided by the law informing me to form a government. I followed the rules and regulations to form a new team of ministers,” he said, moments after the lineup was read out at the presidential palace in the capital Beirut.

"This is a government that represents the aspirations of the demonstrators who have been mobilized nationwide for more than three months."

He pledged that his government “will strive to meet their demands for an independent judiciary, for the recovery of embezzled funds, for the fight against illegal gains.”

“In this decisive moment, I salute the revolution and the uprising that pushed us towards this and Lebanon has become victorious. We will achieve social cohesion. There will be accountability,” Diab said.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/26/617142/Iraq-million-strong-march,-Lebanon-govt.-formation-dealt-heavy-blows-to-US:-Top-Hezbollah-official

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Syrian Kurds ready for dialogue with Turkey, says SDF chief

January 27, 2020

JEDDAH: Mazloum Kobani, commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), expressed the group’s readiness for dialogue with Turkey.

“We have tried our best to fix our problems with Turkey. As the SDF, as the YPG, we have had direct talks with Turkey in the past and are ready to do so again. We want peace,” he told Al-Monitor on Thursday.

“Turkey should never mistake our goodwill for weakness and should be prepared to reciprocate our goodwill.”

Ankara conducted an operation in northern Syria in early October against the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the dominant group in the SDF.

The YPG and the SDF have been among Washington’s main allies in the fight against Daesh. As such, Ankara’s operation created another point of contention between Turkey and the US.

On Oct. 22, 2019, Ankara and Moscow reached a deal under which the YPG would pull back 30 km south of Turkey’s border with Syria, to open an area for Turkish-Russian security patrols.

Amberin Zaman, an expert on Kurdish affairs who conducted the interview with Kobani, said dialogue presents clear benefits for both sides.

“Dialogue could pre-empt further attacks by Turkey,” she told Arab News, adding that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “has threatened to expand operations, so that’s the first big advantage.”

Dialogue also gives the SDF some leverage vis-a-vis the Syrian regime and Russia, and makes it easier for the US to remain in northeast Syria as its protector, she said. “For Turkey, it would expand its influence in Syria immediately and directly,” she added.

Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist group and the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a separatist group that has been fighting the Turkish state for more than 35 years and is designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU.

Zaman said dialogue between the SDF and Turkey offers opportunities for trade, and for an easing of tensions between Ankara and Washington, at least over Syria.

“Most critically, it will set the stage for re-engagement between Ankara and its own Kurds if and when Erdogan feels ready and in need of doing this. It’s by now well-established that a military solution is no solution to the Kurdish problem,” she added.

The tomb of Suleiman Shah, the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire, was moved by Turkish troops from the Syrian city of Kobani to the village of Esme when Kobani was besieged by Daesh militants.

“We know that Turkey wants to return Suleiman Shah’s remains to Kobani and to rebuild his tomb there. Provided that Turkey does not mistake our goodwill for weakness we would be happy to help Turkey … conduct such an operation in a spirit of peace and based on the understanding that this spirit of peace will be reciprocal,” Kobani said, underlying the importance of “confidence-building and goodwill gestures.”

Residents of the rebel-held Syrian province of Idlib “are welcome to seek shelter in the areas under our control,” he added.

“We know that Turkey, which already has a huge burden with nearly 4 million Syrians living there, is deeply concerned by a fresh influx of up to a million Syrian refugees from Idlib because of escalating regime attacks on Idlib. Our call to the people of Idlib helps relieve Turkey’s burden,” he said.

“Again, in the spirit of goodwill and above all on humanitarian grounds we are ready to work with Turkey if and when the need arises to help move civilians out of harm’s way in Idlib and bring them here.”

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1618686/middle-east

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Pakistan

 

PML-N to organise conventions in Hazara

January 27, 2020

MANSEHRA: Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) parliamentary leader in the Provincial Assembly Sardar Muhammad Yousuf on Sunday said that his party would organise conventions across Hazara in support of establishing more federating units in the country. “Successful convention in Karachi made it clear that people want creation of more federating units in the country,” Sardar Muhammad Yousuf told reporters upon his arrival from Karachi here. The former federal minister, who attended convention in Karachi, said that more such conventions were scheduled across Hazara. “We are going to hold conventions in Mansehra, Abbottabad, Torghar, Haripur, Upper Kohistan and Lower Kohistan where leaders of opposition parties will participate,” he said. He said that the county was passing through a critical juncture of its history as Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government had failed to deliver. The leaders of mainstream political and religious parties were in support of creation of more provinces in the country, he went on to add.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/604929-pml-n-to-organise-conventions-in-hazara

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Higher Education Commission opposes restoration of student unions

Kashif Abbasi

January 27, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has opposed the restoration of student unions in educational institutions despite demands from students themselves as well as a resolution passed by the Senate.

According to an HEC document, the commission does not support the restoration of student unions and instead proposes student associations on “healthy activities” such as poetry, debate, music and sports.

Tooba Syed, who was involved in the Student Solidarity March in Islamabad in November 2019, said the activities proposed by the HEC already exist.

“We want student unions to be restored to resolve issues being faced by students on campuses,” she said.

“What the students of this country need is student politics which guarantees the rights of students on campus and the right to political expression and dissent. The move to ban student unions was precisely to depoliticise the youth of this country so students have no say in the decision-making processes at university or at national level.

“We demand the right to student politics which truly represents the voices of the students and their issues on campus,” she said. Ms Syed added that students have a historical role in the development and evolution of any country and keeping them out is undemocratic and unconstitutional.

After students across the country protested calling for the revival of student unions last year, Prime Minister Imran Khan also expressed support for their restoration.

“We will establish a comprehensive & enforceable code of conduct, learning from the best practices in internationally renowned universities, so that we can restore & enable student unions to play their part in positively grooming our youth as future leaders of the country,” he said on Twitter.

In 2017, the Senate also adopted a resolution calling for the restoration of student unions, and former chairman Raza Rabbani gave a ruling after lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressed concern over the continuing ban on student unions and called for an immediate revival.

Student unions were banned during the Zia regime and while adopting the resolution, senators said that banning student unions was a step to quell student voices against the Zia dictatorship.

The Supreme Court prohibited the formation of student unions and called for a proper mechanism if the government wanted to revive them. However, successive governments did not pursue the revival of traditional student politics, taking shelter under the judicial verdict.

The HEC, a regulatory body of higher education institutions, has opposed student unions in response to a bill moved by MNA Kesso Mal Kheeal Das to amend section 10 of the HEC Ordinance.

In his bill, the MNA said: “Notwithstanding anything contained in any law for the time being in force, any judgment or order of any court or authority, tribunal or a quasi-judicial authority, the commission shall make rules for formation, elections, purposes and code of conduct of student unions in institutions.”

Mr Das said in his bill that the absence of student unions has promoted violence on campus and stifled intellectual growth and social development.

“This amendment bill intends to revive student unions, so that a democratic culture could flourish in Pakistan. This bill, therefore, seeks to achieve the aforesaid objectives,” he said.

The bill will likely be taken up in an upcoming sitting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Federal Education. In its response for the committee, the HEC stated: “The contents of the bill are not supported.”

The HEC said the restoration of student unions would deteriorate government efforts to reform universities because students would become involved in active politics, leading to partisan polarisation and even violence on campus.

“These unions through their affiliations with the political parties, make anti-government alliances, gain considerable influence & strength and pose a threat to academics, research and development work on the campuses,” the commission said.

It instead proposed student associations that “may focus on healthy activities including debates, declamation, contests, poetry, music, sports, interfaith harmony, photographic, law and politics, entrepreneurial, animal welfare, amnesty, environment, etc.”

“HEC has no objection to students having an interest in democratic process/system, indeed, as intelligent members of society, they should be well-informed. However, to drag them into active politics at the cost of their studies is not in the interest of the students themselves or the larger interest of the country,” the commission said.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1530805/higher-education-commission-opposes-restoration-of-student-unions

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Economic freedom in Pakistan has increased: report

Anwar Iqbal

January 27, 2020

WASHINGTON: Pakis­tan’s overall economic freedom score has increased by 0.6 point, with higher scores for judicial effectiveness and property rights outpacing declines in monetary freedom and fiscal health, says a US think-tank report released on Saturday.

The Economic Freedom Index 2019, compiled by the Washington-based Heritage Foundation, gave Pakistan 55.0 on a scale of 0 to 100, making it the 131st freest economy on a list of 186.

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank with close link to the Trump administration, has been compiling this report for the last 25 years.

Pakistan was the 131st freest economy in 2018 as well, with a score of 54.4. In 2018, Pakistan’s overall score increased by 1.6 points, “with a significant improvement in fiscal health outweighing declines in business freedom and government integrity,” the foundation reported. This was a major improvement from 2017, when Pakistan was the 141st freest economy with a score of 52.8.

The foundation defines economic freedom as “the fundamental right of every human to control his or her own labour and property.” The report argues that in an economically free society, “individuals are free to work, produce, consume, and invest in any way they please”.

The foundation measures economic freedom by assessing the rule of law, government size, regulatory efficiency and access to open market. The data is shared with investors, business and finance leaders, policymakers, academics, journalists, students, and teachers.

Quick facts provided with the report show Pakistan’s estimated population as 197.3 million, GDP (PPP): $1.1 trillion with 5.3 per cent growth and 4.3 per cent 5-year compound annual growth. Pakistan’s per capita income is shown as $5,358, inflation (CPI) as 4.1 per cent and foreign direct investment (FDI) Inflow as $2.8 billion.

Unemployment is at 4.0 percent, with a large portion of the workforce underemployed in the informal sector. The government’s 2018 2019 budget increased spending on subsidies for the construction sector and for such items as food (especially sugar), power, water, and textiles by 36 per cent.

The combined value of exports and imports is equal to 25.8 per cent of GDP. The average applied tariff rate is 10.1 per cent. As of June 30, 2018, Pakistan had 66 nontariff measures in force. About 25 per cent of adult Pakistanis have access to an account with a formal banking institution.

The report points out that Pakistan’s tax system rema­ins complex despite reforms to cut rates and broaden the tax base. The top personal income tax rate is 30 per cent, and the top corporate tax rate has been cut to 30 per cent.

The overall tax burden equals 12.4 per cent of total domestic income. Over the past three years, government spending has amounted to 20.3 per cent of the country’s output (GDP), and budget deficits have averaged 5.1 per cent of GDP. Public debt has risen to 67.2 per cent of GDP.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1530700/economic-freedom-in-pakistan-has-increased-report

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‘We have been bad at bargaining with America’

By Rizwan Shehzad

January 27, 2020

ISLAMABAD: In 1971, when Pakistan had done the United States (US) a huge favour, US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had called a meeting to discuss what Pakistan could ask for in return for it and had prepared a list of possible Pakistani demands – economic aid, weapons etc.

After two months had passed without the US receiving a request from Pakistan, Kissinger called Agha Hilaly, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US, and asked him “what happened? I haven’t received a request from you”.

Hilaly replied that he would get back to him after checking with President Yahya Khan. “Are we so mean that we would ask a friend for money in exchange for a favour”, veteran politician Mushahid Hussain Syed quoted President Yahya Khan as saying to Hilaly at that time.

Appearing on the Express News programme, ‘The Review’, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) senator replied when asked if Pakistan still had friendly relations with the US: “It’s in the DNA of our ruling elite that, regardless of their political affiliation, they expect something from Washington”.

When he was Pakistan’s information minister, he recalled, the then US president Bill Clinton had hosted a banquet for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif at the White House and offered him US$5 billion in return for Pakistan not going ahead with its 1998 nuclear tests.

He also said former US President George W. Bush had recently said of former military ruler General (retd) Pervez Musharraf that “he [Musharraf] likes protocol”.

Americans understand the Pakistani system, he said, adding that, in the 21st century, Pakistan needed to remember not to compromise on the core issues.

Mushahid Hussain Syed also went down memory lane to narrate several examples of the way the US exerted pressure on Pakistan and played with its psyche.

“We have been bad at bargaining with America”, Syed replied when asked what Pakistan would get for helping the US in Afghanistan.

Speaking on Pak-US relations, he said posturing, atmosphere and body language was great at the moment and it was a good sign that Trump was talking about friendship instead of asking Pakistan to “do more”.

However, he said, “Concretely, substantively, there is no breakthrough from the US side that would indicate a change in US behaviour”.

He agreed that the personal chemistry between Prime Minister Khan and President Trump was fine but said both were unpredictable.

“If I were the prime minister of Pakistan, I would do three or four things: I would tell them that we would deliver Afghanistan, and work for peace. In return, you [US] should not interfere in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and pressure India to lift the Kashmir curfew”, he remarked.

Then, he said, low-hanging fruits like the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) and anthe travel advisory should be obtained. In the 1990s, he said, the US had withheld funds for the F-16s and they had now withheld money under the CSF.

Besides expressing his views on Pak-China and Pak-US relations, he also spoke on the show on Kashmir, CPEC and the friendship between Prime Minister Imran Khan and US President Donald Trump.

“Pakistanis do not understand the American system. There is no free lunch in their system. It’s always give something and take something”.

Kashmir Issue

On Kashmir, Syed took a critical view of the government’s policies. “Unless there is a secret plan that we don’t know about”, he said, “there doesn’t seem to be an official plan on the Kashmir issue. The only thing we’ve done well is to open the Kartarpur Corridor”, Syed said.

He called Kashmir the single most important current issue but also said Pakistan was getting nothing from the US on Kashmir except goodwill gestures.

CPEC

Full report at:

https://tribune.com.pk/story/2144891/1-bad-bargaining-america/

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All allies united under Imran Khan: Firdous Ashiq Awan

January 27, 2020

SIALKOT: Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan Sunday said all members of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have expressed their satisfaction over Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar.

Addressing a media conference, she said, "Our coalition partners are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the government. “Whether it is PML-Q [Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid] or other political parties, they are determined to put the country on the road to progress.

The special assistant said the “ailing group” of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is busy in conspiring abroad against Punjab government. The leaders of coalition government are united under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan, she added. Dr Firdous said this is a year of governance, relief and delivery.

Dr Firdous said PM Imran Khan was committed to putting the country on the road to progress and prosperity, as per aspirations of the nation. She said the country was now moving ahead successfully towards economic stability due to positive and effective economic policies of the PTI government.

She added that the government was determined to implement its reforms agenda to root out corruption, adding that all stakeholders should join the government for strengthening democracy in the country.

Dr Firdous said all Punjab Assembly members had shown full confidence in the leadership of CM Sardar Usman Buzdar. About Usman Buzdar’s meeting with MPAs on Saturday, Dr Firdous said, "After voicing all their concerns and reservations, all MPAs in Punjab have once again expressed their confidence in chief minister leadership.”

She said people wanted Pakistan to progress, and political parties should play their constitutional role in legislation for well-being of the country. "Instead of speaking against the government and misleading people, the opposition should play its role in the parliament and help the government make laws," she added.

She asked the opposition to participate in the events the government had planned for Kashmir Solidarity Day on Feb 5. She said the Indian government had made the lives of the oppressed Kashmiri people a living hell through human rights violations, custodial killings and genocide of the innocent Kashmiris. Dr Firdous said Narendra Modi government wanted to eliminate all minorities, including Muslims, in India.

Full report at:

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/604911-all-allies-united-under-imran-khan-firdous-ashiq-awan

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Nawaz wants ex-PM Abbasi to secure release on bail

January 27, 2020

LONDON: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supreme leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who is said to be undergoing treatment in London, has asked incarcerated party leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to seek his release from prison on bail.

Sources relayed the former premier instructed Abbasi to contest corruption allegations levelled against him by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) after coming out of jail.

Wasting energies in facing accountability based on political vendetta will serve no purpose, Sharif was quoted as saying that.

Ex-PM Abbasi, who is in jail on judicial remand in the LNG case, had previously refused to file a bail plea.

Earlier, on Jan 21, an accountability court had extended the judicial remand of Shahid Khaqan Abbasi till Feb 4 in LNG reference.

Former PM Abbasi and other suspects appeared before the court as it resumed hearing the case.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/01/26/nawaz-wants-ex-pm-abbasi-to-secure-release-on-bail/

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Senate to take up bill on new high court benches today

Amir Wasim

January 27, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Senate is once again set to take up on Monday (today) an opposition-moved constitution amendment bill seeking establishment of 10 more high court benches in all the four provinces of the country aiming at resolving the issues of pendency and delay in litigation.

The bill seeking an amendment to Article 198 of the Constitution had been tabled by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz member Javed Abbasi as a private member’s bill in the Senate on April 29, last year, and Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani had referred it to the law and justice committee of the house despite its opposition by the government.

The bill, which requires the approval of a two-thirds majority in the 104-member Senate, has been on the agenda of the sittings on the previous two Mondays, the private member’s day, but the house could not take it up due to the lack of required numbers.

When contacted, Mr Abbasi said that he and his party were making efforts to ensure the presence of the maximum number of members on Monday to fulfill the requirement of the two-thirds majority for which they required 68 members to be present.

Responding to a question, he agreed that it would be a difficult task to ensure the presence of the two-thirds majority in the prevailing circumstances when the Senate had been in session for a long time only to fulfill another constitutional requirement of holding at least 110 sittings in a parliamentary year.

Interestingly, Mr Abbasi himself is the chairman of the Senate’s law and justice committee which had approved the bill in its meeting on May 16. However, he had recused himself from presiding over the meeting when the committee considered his bill and the meeting was then presided over by Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Farooq Naek.

The report of the committee was later laid before the house by Mr Abbasi himself on September 3.

Out of 14 members of the opposition-dominated committee, only seven were present in the meeting when the bill was approved. Senator Mohammad Ali Saif of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement was the only member from the treasury benches who had attended the meeting.

The bill seeks setting up of four new high court benches in Punjab, and two each in Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

Mr Abbasi claimed that he had already talked to the members of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and they had also assured him of their support for the bill.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1530741/senate-to-take-up-bill-on-new-high-court-benches-today

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Pakistan will continue to fight for Kashmiris: FM

January 27, 2020

MULTAN: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Sunday that Narendra Modi government’s cruel steps in the Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJ&K) had exposed its real face before the world.

The international community should come forward to save 80 lakh innocent Kashmiris from atrocities of India, he said while addressing workers of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in different areas of constituency NA-156 here. The human rights violation by the Indian government in the Valley must be stopped as early as possible.

Qureshi vowed that Pakistan would continue to raise voice for protecting rights of innocent Kashmiris at every international forum.

The foreign minister said the world should play its role in ending curfew in occupied Jammu and Kashmir and for peaceful resolution of the issue. “Jammu and Kashmir is no more a regional issue but it has become an international problem,” said Qureshi, adding “Pakistan successfully raised the Kashmir issue at the United Nations Security Council after 56 years.”

Qureshi said he visited Saudi Arabia, Iran and America, following instructions for Prime Minister Imran Khan.

He said his visit to these countries remained successful. Pakistan played a role to reduce tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran, he added.

Pakistan wished that there should be no confrontation in the region as the region could not afford another war, he said.

Saudi Arabia was one of reliable friends of Pakistan. Similarly, Iran was also our friend and a neighbour, said the foreign minister, adding that Pakistan wanted that the issues should be resolved through dialogue process.

“The whole world is appreciating Pakistan’s role in promotion of peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan believes that peace in Afghanistan would lead to peace across the region. A peaceful region is our top priority,” Qureshi said.

About corruption, Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government would never compromise on corruption and the corrupt elements. The incumbent government has zero-tolerance for corruption and the accountability process would continue without any discrimination, he reiterated.

He thanked Allah Almighty as there was not a single allegation of corruption against the incumbent government. In the past, the menace of corruption damaged the country’s economy.

The FM said the international institutions acknowledged improvement in Pakistan’s economy.

He said the PTI government’s policies had started yielding positive results.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/01/26/pakistan-will-continue-to-fight-for-kashmiris-fm/

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