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Islamic World News ( 18 Feb 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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No Toilets in Your House? Then No Nikah, Say Muslim Clerics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: Mahim Dargah's managing trustee and Madrassa Darul Uloom Faizane-Raza's founder filter the online posts of ISIS.

 

Mullah Fazlullah’s Son Carried out Bannu Attack, Claims TTP Spokesperson

Al-Azhar Supports Grand Imam's Call to Pay Attention to Democracy

Ghani Suggests Isolation Of Countries Using Terrorism As Instrument Of State Policy

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India

No Toilets in Your House? Then No Nikah, Say Muslim Clerics

India Waiting For ‘Credible Action’ Against Hafiz

Pakistan Skips South Asian Speakers’ Summit

Mumbai: Two unidentified men look for 'Muslims' in Lokhandwala building where Shreyas Talpade and Nagesh Kukunoor reside

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Pakistan

Mullah Fazlullah’s Son Carried out Bannu Attack, Claims TTP Spokesperson

Pakistan Province Takes Further Action Against Hafiz Saeed, Puts Anti-Terrorism Act Restraints On Him

11 'militants' killed in clash with security forces in Kurram Agency: officials

205 suspects, mostly Afghan nationals, held in Punjab

In a first, Pakistan strikes terrorist camps on Afghanistan soil

Pakistan shuts key border crossing in wake of shrine attack

Punjab govt seeks Rangers help to combat terrorism

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Arab World

Al-Azhar Supports Grand Imam's Call to Pay Attention to Democracy

The Islamic State Holds About 3,500 Slaves in Iraq, U.N. Says

Blowing Up Houses, Digging Up Graves: Iraqis Purge Islamic State

Saudi Arabia’s ‘Islamic Military Alliance’ Against Terrorism Makes No Sense

Iraq launches assault on Islamic State-held west Mosul

28 IS terrorists killed in northern Syria

15 Shia militiamen killed in IS attack west of Mosul

8 Islamic State militants dead as coalition airstrikes target western Mosul districts

Iraq: Trump's Muslim ban 'a matter of life and death'

Islamic State bleeding money, its 'business model' in free fall

Aleppo: Syrian Soldiers Score More Victories against ISIL near Deir Hafer

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South Asia

Ghani Suggests Isolation Of Countries Using Terrorism As Instrument Of State Policy

Afghan Forces Kill Top Al-Qaeda Figure, Ex-Leader of Pakistani Militants

Taliban office in Qatar should be closed if the group pursues violence: Ghani

Pakistan rulers support terrorism: Afghanistan Assembly Speaker

ISIS leader among 6 killed by own explosives in Nangarhar

Military ready to respond to artillery shelling from Pakistan: Officials

Vice President Pence reaffirm continued US support to Afghanistan

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Mideast

In Lebanon, an Avant-Garde Mosque to Preach Coexistence

Turkey to Clear ISIL from Raqqa Pending Agreement with US, Coalition: Erdoğan

Iran main sponsor of global terror: Saudi foreign minister

Turkish foreign minister calls for more US Special Forces in anti-Islamic State fight

PKK militant killed after ordering deadly attack on lodgings in Turkey’s southeast

Turkey made its views heard with Euphrates Shield op: Defense minister

Israeli Army Detains Ten Palestinians in West Bank, Arrest Warants for 40 More Issued

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North America

There Were A Lot Of American Terrorists In The News This Week. None Were Muslim.

Muslim majority needs to become more vocal

Pentagon admits using depleted uranium rounds in Syria

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Southeast Asia

Fear among Malaysian Christians amid Bid to Increase Islamic Law

China stages another mass anti-terror rally in Xinjiang

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Africa

Libyan General Slams Europe, US For Supporting Terrorist Groups

Libya, not Syria, will be the foundation of Trump and Putin's new world order

Muslim Groups Criticize Wilders' 'Moroccan Scum' Comments

Islamic Extremists Denounce Somalia's New President

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Europe

Prevent 'Not Trusted' By Many British Muslims And 'Must Reform'

Emmanuel Macron struggles to impress French Muslims

Muslim parents 'send Primary school head teacher death threats and complain about her "offensive" clothes' as fears grow over a second Trojan Horse plot

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/no-toilets-in-your-house?-then-no-nikah,-say-muslim-clerics/d/110127

 

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No toilets in your house? Then no nikah, say Muslim clerics

Sunday 19 February 2017

Guwahati: No toilet, no nikah. Maulvis and muftis in Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab have decided not to solemnize marriage in a house where there is no toilet.

Maulana Mahmood A Madani, secretary general of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind said having a toilet has been made a mandatory condition for Muslim marriage in the three states and will be soon be applied in all other states in the country.

"Maulvis and muftis in Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana have decided that they will not solemnize the 'nikah' or Muslim marriage in a house where there are no toilets," he said.

Madani, who is also a former Rajya Sabha MP, stated this during the inauguration of Assam Conference on Sanitation (ASCOSAN) 2017 conducted here in Khanapara last week.

"I feel that all religious leaders from all the religion throughout the country should decide that they will not conduct any rituals in houses where there are no toilets," he said.

Emphasizing on cleanliness and sanitation, he asked people to use toilets and also to make not only Assam, but the country as a whole clean.

"There are two types of cleaning - one is external and the other internal. Both are interconnected, we will only be able to achieve the internal cleaning if our body is clean," he said.

Speaking at the conference, Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal also emphasized on the importance of sanitation and hygiene and asked the people of the state to make cleanliness as their life's goal.

With the objective to showcase the commitment of the state and the people towards achieving the goal of Swachh Assam, ASCOSAN-2017, the biggest conference in the history of Assam, was organized in the city.

The sanitation conference, which has vowed to make Assam clean and open defecation-free (ODF) by this year, was attended by more than 6,000 people including those from the district level functionaries, Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) members, urban local bodies as well as experts, corporate houses, and local people.

Sonowal is aiming to make the state the cleanest by October 2, 2017, two years prior to prime minister Narendra Modi's vision of a 'Clean India' by 2nd October 2019.

"Cleanliness should be our life's goal. Even the greatest men in history including the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi and various monks and sages teach us to follow sanitation and cleanliness," said Sonowal.

"Humans take birth and die, but once a good work is started, it never dies and stays forever. Change will come only through hard work and I request everyone to work hard to make the state an example for the whole country," he said.

Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA) also participated in the conference which brings together various faith leaders of major religions of India to put forward their faith-based message for WASH and take a pledge to work for it in their areas of influence.

He also made the public take a pledge at the conference to make the state clean. To encourage the spirit of sanitation he also awarded five cleanest villages.

Awards were also given to first ODF village, gram panchayat and block. Various 'Sanitation Heroes' who have done commendable work in the sector and contributed in furthering the cause of Swachh Assam were also awarded.

"The awards are being given to encourage people to work hard for making the state clean," said Sonowal.

Rangchapara, a Garo village in Goalpara district, was awarded as the cleanest village in the state.

"The concept of 'Sanitation first' is a step towards 'Make India', which is our new slogan along with Make in India which is started by the prime minister," said Swami Chidanand Saraswati, founder and chairman GIWA India.

"For achieving sanitation, we need political, personal and public will. Today we need to take everyone together without any boundaries and gaps. This, in true sense will be 'sabka sath

english.manoramaonline.com/news/nation/no-toilets-house-no-nikah-muslim-clerics-haryana-punjab.html

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Mullah Fazlullah’s son carried out Bannu attack, claims TTP spokesperson

By Riaz AhmadPublished: February 19, 2017

PESHAWAR: Nearly two weeks after a suicide bomber targeted a police station in Bannu district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed on Sunday the attack was carried out by the son of militant organisation’s chief Mullah Fazullah.

Son of Fazlullah, TTP’s current head, carried out a suicide attack at a police station in Bannu some 12 days ago, Muhammad Khorasani, spokesperson for the terror outfit, claimed in a statement.

Two cops injured in Bannu suicide attack

“The attack was carried out by TTP chief’s son Maulana Najeebullah Swati,” the message, which also carried a picture of the suicide bomber, read.

At least two policemen were seriously injured when a suicide bomber smashed his explosive-laden vehicle into the gate of Mundan police station in Bannu district on February 7. The building of the police station was also damaged in the attack.

tribune.com.pk/story/1332218/mullah-fazlullahs-son-carried-bannu-attack-claims-ttp-spokesperson/

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Al-Azhar supports Grand Imam's call to pay attention to democracy

Sun, 19/02/2017

Several al-Azhar scholars have their declared support of Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayyeb’s call on the necessity of paying attention to crucial issues that occupy the Islamic world and to avoid wasting time with trivial issues. He also urged scholars to renew their visions on political issues such as democracy, as several political forces claim that democracy is a form of disbelief.

Speaking to Al-Masry Al-Youm, Abdel Fattah al-Awary, dean of al-Azhar University’s faculty of fundamentals of religion, said Tayyeb’s calls for reconsidering issues that concern Muslims, like democracy, never stop. He described this as an important Islamic issue whatever people may call it -- some name it "shura" (consultation) while others refer to it as "freedom [of choice]". In general, he added, people have the right to utilise the best way of choosing their representatives or president.

Ahmed Kereima, professor of Islamic law and Sharia, said Tayyeb’s call reinforces Islam's teachings.

In related news, Omar Hamroush, secretary of the parliamentary religious committee, said those who criticize the statement from al-Azhar’s Senior Scholars Authority rejecting reforms to verbal divorce (triple talaq), as proposed by the president, had hoped for more contemporary thought. “We, as a committee, respect the authority’s viewpoint and will consider that in the draft law, so as to conform to Sharia and the thoughts of the authority.”

“Al-Azhar's [opinion], for me and the committee, is a red line that cannot be surpassed. However, we cannot deny the fact that some issues need review from Tayyeb as well as the authority and the Islamic Research Academy.”

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

egyptindependent.com//news/al-azhar-supports-grand-imam-s-call-pay-attention-democracy

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Ghani suggests isolation of countries using terrorism as instrument of state policy

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Feb 19 2017

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani suggested the isolation of the countries using terrorism as an instrument of state policy in a bid to eliminate the menace of terrorism.

Speaking during the Munich security conference, President Ghani said the support offered by countries to terrorism, weakening of the nations, and corruption are the main issues that further enable the terror groups to expand their activities.

He said it is important that the countries which are using terrorism as an instrument of state policy to achieve their targets should be isolated.

President Ghani further added that is facing terrorism in the frontline and is currently engaged in battling around 20 terrorist groups, emphasizing that the ongoing war against terrorism is not only aimed at the freedom of Afghanistan but is waged for the global security.

According to President Ghani, terrorism does not recognize boundaries and no region will remain safe from the menace of terrorism.

He also added that the recent attacks in Kabul, Kandahar, Helmand, and Pakistan’s Sindh province indicate that there are no good or bad terrorists.

President Ghani added that terrorism is one of the major challenges of the era which needs a full commitment to be eliminated.

khaama.com/ghani-suggests-isolation-of-countries-using-terrorism-as-instrument-of-state-policy-02919

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India

No toilets in your house? Then no nikah, say Muslim clerics

Sunday 19 February 2017

Guwahati: No toilet, no nikah. Maulvis and muftis in Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab have decided not to solemnize marriage in a house where there is no toilet.

Maulana Mahmood A Madani, secretary general of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind said having a toilet has been made a mandatory condition for Muslim marriage in the three states and will be soon be applied in all other states in the country.

"Maulvis and muftis in Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana have decided that they will not solemnize the 'nikah' or Muslim marriage in a house where there are no toilets," he said.

Madani, who is also a former Rajya Sabha MP, stated this during the inauguration of Assam Conference on Sanitation (ASCOSAN) 2017 conducted here in Khanapara last week.

"I feel that all religious leaders from all the religion throughout the country should decide that they will not conduct any rituals in houses where there are no toilets," he said.

Emphasizing on cleanliness and sanitation, he asked people to use toilets and also to make not only Assam, but the country as a whole clean.

"There are two types of cleaning - one is external and the other internal. Both are interconnected, we will only be able to achieve the internal cleaning if our body is clean," he said.

Speaking at the conference, Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal also emphasized on the importance of sanitation and hygiene and asked the people of the state to make cleanliness as their life's goal.

With the objective to showcase the commitment of the state and the people towards achieving the goal of Swachh Assam, ASCOSAN-2017, the biggest conference in the history of Assam, was organized in the city.

The sanitation conference, which has vowed to make Assam clean and open defecation-free (ODF) by this year, was attended by more than 6,000 people including those from the district level functionaries, Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) members, urban local bodies as well as experts, corporate houses, and local people.

Sonowal is aiming to make the state the cleanest by October 2, 2017, two years prior to prime minister Narendra Modi's vision of a 'Clean India' by 2nd October 2019.

"Cleanliness should be our life's goal. Even the greatest men in history including the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi and various monks and sages teach us to follow sanitation and cleanliness," said Sonowal.

"Humans take birth and die, but once a good work is started, it never dies and stays forever. Change will come only through hard work and I request everyone to work hard to make the state an example for the whole country," he said.

Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA) also participated in the conference which brings together various faith leaders of major religions of India to put forward their faith-based message for WASH and take a pledge to work for it in their areas of influence.

He also made the public take a pledge at the conference to make the state clean. To encourage the spirit of sanitation he also awarded five cleanest villages.

Awards were also given to first ODF village, gram panchayat and block. Various 'Sanitation Heroes' who have done commendable work in the sector and contributed in furthering the cause of Swachh Assam were also awarded.

"The awards are being given to encourage people to work hard for making the state clean," said Sonowal.

Rangchapara, a Garo village in Goalpara district, was awarded as the cleanest village in the state.

"The concept of 'Sanitation first' is a step towards 'Make India', which is our new slogan along with Make in India which is started by the prime minister," said Swami Chidanand Saraswati, founder and chairman GIWA India.

"For achieving sanitation, we need political, personal and public will. Today we need to take everyone together without any boundaries and gaps. This, in true sense will be 'sabka sath

english.manoramaonline.com/news/nation/no-toilets-house-no-nikah-muslim-clerics-haryana-punjab.html

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Clerics in Mumbai Use Social Media To Battle IS

Mohammed Wajihuddin | TNN | Updated: Feb 12, 2017MUMBAI: You can fight a visible enemy with guns and bombs. But how do you face the fury of online radicalisation and recruitment of youngsters who are misled with misquoted verses and other sacred statements. By quoting the right verses with their proper contexts and interpretations, of course. This is exactly what the famous Mahim Dargah, in collaboration with Goregaon-based Madrassa Darul Uloom Faizan-e-Raza, is doing.

They are fighting the terrorist outfit Daesh or Islamic State (IS) through social networks and helping stop youths from getting swayed by extremist propaganda.

Around eight months ago, Mahim Dargah's managing trustee Sohail Khandwani, the Goregaon madrassa's founder Mufti Mohammed Manzoor Ziyaee and others brainstormed on how to fight fake jihadis, who hunt for recruits in cyberspace by misquoting and twisting scriptures.

"The Dargah created an App, a Facebook page, a blog, Twitter and WhatsApp accounts. Since ISIS also approaches youths with Quranic verses and Hadiths (sayings of Prophet Muhammad), we decided that Mufti Ziyaee would respond to such propaganda by quoting verses and Hadiths with their correct contexts and interpretations," says Khandwani.

Mufti Ziyaee quotes several Quranic verses which terrorist groups use to provoke their followers. A frequently-quoted Quranic verse (9:5) goes: "When the forbidden months have passed, kill the polytheists (who are at war with you) wherever you find them."

"This verse is presented as if it is a command to kill the kafirs wherever they are. The right context of the verse needs to be understood," says Mufti Ziyaee.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/clerics-in-mumbai-use-social-media-to-battle-is/articleshow/57104899.cms

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India waiting for ‘credible action’ against Hafiz

Updated: Feb 19, 2017

NEW DELHI: Pakistan's decision to further curb Jamaatud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed's activities by naming him under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) did not evoke an immediate response from India but put put the focus on whether PM Nawaz Sharif is being provided some leeway by the new army chief Qamar Bajwa.

The Indian government is understood to be ambivalent about the move and could continue to hedge its response by seeking sustained and credible action against the 26/11 mastermind given that Saeed has been a close ally of the army and ISI.

Responding to Saeed's house arrest earlier, the government had said Pakistan needed to come up with a "credible'' crackdown on Saeed and others involved in cross-border terrorism.

However, if as reports from Pakistan suggest, his naming in the ATA curbs his ability to hold public rallies or address gatherings, it will be welcomed by New Delhi given his use of such rallies to spew venom at India.

So far, there have been indications that General Bajwa is strongly focused on internal security missions promising swift action against terrorist attacks like the bombing of a sufi shrine, claimed by the IS group.

It needs to be seen if this stance persists or, as has happened before, reverts to a hardline posture.

However, the government also believes that while this is an acknowledgement of Saeed's involvement in terrorism, naming him in the Act needs to be followed by implementation. Many within the government have expressed concern that even Saeed's house arrest had more to do with the change in US administration than any genuine inclination to address New Delhi's concerns over India-specific terror groups active in Pakistan.

Former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal said the action against Saeed has to be treated with skepticism as any serious and sustained move against Saeed would mean a fundamental change in Pakistan's India policy.

"With the backing of China and with its relevance in Afghanistan being recognised even by Russia, it is doubtful that Pakistan is recalculating its strategy towards India,'' said Sibal.

"Pakistan has also not paid any price for its sustained tryst with terrorism. This is likely to ward off any likely action by the Trump administration and the widening feeling that Pakistan needs to be held accountable,'' he added.

The timing of the action against Saeed though is significant as it comes close on the heels of a series of steps taken by Sharif which seem to suggest that he is providing a window to India to re-engage with Islamabad.

After the release of Indian fishermen and also Indian soldier Babulal Chavan, some see in Sharif's decision to ignore Basit's claim to the post of foreign secretary a positive development for ties with India.

Seen as too hawkish on India, Basit in fact has been recalled by Islamabad, as reported by TOI on Friday. India has also made some positive moves, notably its decision to invite Pakistan for the South Asia Speakers' Summit which it is hosting this month and also its decision to promote people to people contact with Pakistan by sponsoring the partnership of Indian authors at the Karachi Literature Festival. This would have been unimaginable only three months ago as India seemed bent on isolating Pakistan completely after the Uri attack.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/india-waiting-for-credible-action-against-hafiz/articleshow/57228375.cms

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Pakistan skips South Asian speakers’ summit

TNN | Feb 19, 2017

INDORE: Expressing disappointment over Pakistan's absence from South Asian Speakers' Summit, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) president and Bangladesh MP Saber Hossain Chowdhury said "differences" between the governments should not stop dialogue among parliamentarians.

"Of course it is not unusual for governments to have differences, but the IPU believes that political dialogue is absolutely critical. It's a matter of disappointment that we don't have anyone from parliament of Pakistan," Chowdhury said while addressing the inaugural session of the summit on 'achieving sustainable development goals'. "When governments stop talking, parliamentarians should continue (doing so). This is what IPU stands for."

Pakistan had declined India's invitation to the summit in a move that seemed to be a retaliatory act after India boycotted a Commonwealth Parliamentary Union (CPU) meet in Islamabad to protest against Pakistan's decision to not invite the speaker of the Jammu & Kashmir assembly, in 2015.

"Pakistan is not here; the reasons are best known to them. As a neighbouring nation, we would havefelt better if they were here," Afghanistan national assembly speaker Abdul Raouf Ibrahimi said.

He also wondered why Islamabad would decide to abstain from a meeting that aimed to address poverty, development, environment and gender concerns in South Asia.

On Thursday, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had said: "If Pakistan attends the summit, it would definitely be a good thing, but the decision to desist from attending the summit is their decision."

Talking to TOI on Saturday at the summit venue, Chowdhury said countries impose sanctions against each other, but the "sanction regime should not apply to parliamentarians". The two-day summit is being attended by Afghanistan national assembly speaker Raouf Ibrahimi, Bangladesh parliament speaker Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, Bhutan national assembly speaker Jigme Zangpo, Maldives parliament speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed, Nepal parliament speaker Onasari Gharti and Sri Lanka parliament speaker Karu Jayasuriya.

The delegates took part in three sessions discussing ways to identify resources for sustainable development goals, gender equality and dealing effectively with climate change and natural disasters.

Kabul says Pak's policy on terrorism a big threat

Afghanistan came down heavily on "Pakistan-sponsored terrorism", saying that if Islamabad does not change its policy then terrorism could become a big threat for Pakistan itself. "It has been established that rulers of Pakistan support terrorism openly and the country's policy on terrorism is also not in the interest of other countries of the region," said Raouf Ibrahimi.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/pakistan-skips-south-asian-speakers-summit/articleshow/57228740.cms

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Mumbai: Two unidentified men look for 'Muslims' in Lokhandwala building where Shreyas Talpade and Nagesh Kukunoor reside

By Vinod Kumar Menon | Posted 19-Feb-2017Now Available on the mid-day iOS App, Download Now

They intimidated security; entered building to ask residents if any Muslim family resided there

On Friday afternoon, panic struck the residents of Godrej Waldorf building in Lokhandwala when two unidentified men barged in and started enquiring about Muslim families residing there. The ground-plus-16 storey tower has 18 families residing for nine years now. Celebrities like Shreyas Talpade and Nagesh Kukunoor are also among the building’s residents.

According to Dr Ajay Chaughule, a cardiothoracic surgeon and member of the building’s managing committee, a young man with a backpack entered Waldorf at around 12 pm. Without disclosing his identity nor making an entry in the register, he went to the second floor and rang the doorbell. “It was answered by the chairman of the building. He asked her if the family staying there was Muslim. She replied in the negative.” The man repeated the act on the 15th floor as well. They also got to know that around the same time, another unidentified man was making similar inquiries in the adjacent wing of the building. The chairman alerted the building residents and also Dr Chaughule, who was at work at the time. He immediately called the Mumbai police control room. But, by the time the police reached the building, the men had left.

“Both the men had managed to intimidate the security guards with their arrogance. We don’t know the reason behind their questioning,” Dr Chaughule added. Subash Khanvikar, senior police inspector, Oshiwara police station, said, “We have received the complaint letter from a member of the society and we are looking at the CCTV footage too. We will probe the case from all possible angles.” He added, “We are also not ruling out the possibility of a community-based approach of candidates on the eve of the BMC elections, which is the why the men may have specifically asked about the Muslim residents in the building.” Dr Chaughule doesn’t agree with that line of reasoning. “In that case, the men would have acted differently,” he said.

Meanwhile, the police has intensified patrolling in the area and are looking for clues from the CCTV footage. The Anti-terrorism Squad is also probing into the matter.

mid-day.com/articles/mumbai-two-unidentified-men-look-for-muslims-lokhandwala-building-shreyas-talpade-nagesh-kukunoor-reside-news/18006192

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Pakistan

Mullah Fazlullah’s son carried out Bannu attack, claims TTP spokesperson

By Riaz AhmadPublished: February 19, 2017

PESHAWAR: Nearly two weeks after a suicide bomber targeted a police station in Bannu district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed on Sunday the attack was carried out by the son of militant organisation’s chief Mullah Fazullah.

Son of Fazlullah, TTP’s current head, carried out a suicide attack at a police station in Bannu some 12 days ago, Muhammad Khorasani, spokesperson for the terror outfit, claimed in a statement.

Two cops injured in Bannu suicide attack

“The attack was carried out by TTP chief’s son Maulana Najeebullah Swati,” the message, which also carried a picture of the suicide bomber, read.

At least two policemen were seriously injured when a suicide bomber smashed his explosive-laden vehicle into the gate of Mundan police station in Bannu district on February 7. The building of the police station was also damaged in the attack.

tribune.com.pk/story/1332218/mullah-fazlullahs-son-carried-bannu-attack-claims-ttp-spokesperson/

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Pakistan province takes further action against Hafiz Saeed, puts Anti-Terrorism Act restraints on him

Shailaja Neelakantan | Updated: Feb 18, 2017

NEW DELHI: Pakistani terrorist Hafiz Saeed has finally been named under the country's Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) which puts major restrictions on all his movements+ , Dawn reported.

On Islamabad's orders, Mumbai attacks mastermind Hafiz Saeed, has been put on the ATA's fourth schedule by Pakistan's Punjab province, Dawn said, quoting a senior police official.

The fourth schedule, according to Dawn, is a section of the ATA under which a person suspected of terrorism is kept under observation. As per the schedule's norms, it also becomes mandatory for that person to register his attendance with the local police regularly.

The federal interior ministry, which ordered the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) to add Saeed's name to the ATA's fourth schedule, has directed it to "move and take necessary action" against him and four others, the senior police official told Dawn.

"The Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 empowers the government to mark a person as "proscribed", and to place that person on the fourth schedule on an ex-parte basis," Dawn wrote. The five men were identified by the interior ministry as "active members of the Jamaat-ud- Dawa (JuD) and Falah-i-Insaniyat".

Saeed was placed under house arrest on January 30+ , and surprisingly, the move was supported by Pakistan's all-powerful army. He has also been put on Pakistan's Exit Control List, which means he can't leave the country.

The US has clearly told Islamabad that if it doesn't take action against the JuD and Saeed, it may face sanctions.

In 2012, the US announced a bounty of $10 million on Saeed for his alleged role in the Mumbai attack in which six American citizens were also killed.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-province-takes-further-action-against-hafiz-saeed-puts-anti-terrorism-act-restraints-on-him/articleshow/57217742.cms

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11 'militants' killed in clash with security forces in Kurram Agency: officials

ALI AKBAR — UPDATED about 3 hours ago

Eleven suspected militants allegedly attempting to enter Pakistan from Afghanistan were killed in a clash with security officials in Kurram Agency on Sunday.

The militants who tried to enter Pakistan via Khyber Agency were surrounded by security forces and an exchange of fire ensued, security officials said.

Two security personnel were also killed in the exchange of fire.

Five more militants were killed in an operation by Counter Terrorism Department in Layyah, Punjab, Radio Pakistan reported.

In another instance, according to the state news agency, a "most wanted terrorist" was killed on New Saryab Road in Quetta.

The 'encounter' comes as Pakistani authorities issued shoot-on-sight orders for those attempting to cross the Pak-Afghan border illegally.

Security forces have launched nationwide intelligence operations as Pakistan seems to be experiencing a fresh resurgence in terror attacks.

Eighty eight people were killed and hundreds were injured when a bomb ripped through the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan on Thursday the deadliest amongst a series of attacks carried out by militants in recent weeks.

Military leadership claimed the attacks were carried out by militants operating from safe-havens in Afghanistan and the Pak-Afghan border was sealed at the crossings at Torkham and Chaman as part of tightening security in the wake of the attack on the shrine, indefinitely.

dawn.com/news/1315715/11-militants-killed-in-clash-with-security-forces-in-kurram-agency-officials

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205 suspects, mostly Afghan nationals, held in Punjab

February 19th, 2017

LAHORE: At least 205 suspects, mostly Afghan nationals, were arrested in a province-wide search and sweep operation by law enforcement agencies (LEAs) in the last 24 hours.

A spokesman for the Punjab police said the CTD, police and intelligence agencies continued search operation in the entire province on the fifth day to arrest the suspects involved in terror activities.

He said the police were focusing on intelligence-based search operations to get maximum results from it while all the arrested suspects were shifted to some undisclosed location for further interrogation.

He said the deployment at all sensitive government installations had been increased and the operation in and around localities of shrines in the province was also being conducted.

The search operation was conducted in Badami Bagh, Raiwind, Civil Lines, Old Anarkali, Gulshan-i-Ravi, Gulberg, Ghalib Market, Nishter Colony, Sanda, Naseerabad, Township and other areas.

A total 144 suspects were arrested in these areas of the city by LEAs. Police also recovered two pistols, 78 bullets, one Kalashnikov and one rifle from them.

The police also used bio-metric machines for identification of people and those who failed to produce documents to prove their identity were taken into custody.

The LEAs closed Bibian Pak Daman shrine after a suicide blast at the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine in Sindh.

The shrine administrators said they did not know when the shrine would be opened.

The LEAs arrested 58 suspects, including 19 Afghan nationals, from different areas of Kasur, Pattoki and Chunian under the National Action Plan (NAP).

The Afghan suspects were arrested from Pattoki and Kasur areas of Din Gar and Niaz Nagar. LEAs also claimed to have recovered illegal weapons from them.

Kasur DPO Ali Nasir Rizvi constituted several teams headed by circle DSPs in the district to monitor the combing operations.

LEAs also arrested 42 Afghan nationals during a midnight search operation in various parts of Sialkot.

Sialkot DPO Dr Abid Khan said the Rangpura police arrested 34 Afghan nationals residing illegally near Jinnah Stadium bridge.

The Cantonment police arrested three and Hajipura police five Afghan nationals.

The DPO said the Afghan nationals failed to prove their identity.

Our Kasur and Sialkot correspondents contributed to this report

dawn.com/news/1315696/205-suspects-mostly-afghan-nationals-held-in-punjab

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In a first, Pakistan strikes terrorist camps on Afghanistan soil

Feb 19, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has launched "strikes" against militant bases in Afghanistan, hours after the army said it had found links that terrorists from across the border were behind the suicide bombing at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar that killed 88 people.

Immediately after the bombing in Sindh province, Pakistan claimed the attack was planned in militant sanctuaries in Afghanistan, in remarks that can renew hostility between Kabul and Islamabad.

Military sources said that the strikes were launched on Friday night. But there have been no official word on the strikes, which, if confirmed, would be the first such operation on Afghan soil by the Pakistan army.

A media report said that four camps of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar terror group were targeted in the strikes across the border of Pakistan's Khyber and Mohmand tribal agencies.

An official said the security forces used heavy weapons and mortar shells to hit several training centres of Omar Khalid Khorasani, the head of the Jamaat-ul Ahrar group.

He said people living near Landikotal in Khyber Agency were asked to vacate their houses to avoid collateral damage. Some reports said that several militants, including the deputy commander of Jamat-ul Ahrar, Adil Bacha, were killed in the strikes.

Islamabad has often warned Kabul authorities to prevent the use of their soil for terror activities in Pakistan. On Friday, Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa told General John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan, that terrorist activities and inaction against militants in Afghanistan were "testing our current policy of cross-border restraint".

Pakistan army has launched "intelligence-based operations" combing operations across the country and claimed it has killed "100 terrorists" since the attack on the shrine.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/in-a-first-pakistan-strikes-terrorist-camps-on-afghanistan-soil/articleshow/57227554.cms

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Pakistan shuts key border crossing in wake of shrine attack

AP | Feb 18, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani authorities shut down a second key border crossing into Afghanistan, halting trade supplies to the neighboring landlocked country and increasing tensions between the two nations in the wake of a bloody suicide bombing at a beloved shrine in Pakistan, officials said Saturday.

The border closure at Chaman in southwest Baluchistan province came after an attack on a Sufi shrine in southern Pakistan on Thursday left 88 worshippers dead. The move was seen as an effort to pressure Kabul to take action against militants who Pakistan says have sanctuaries in Afghanistan.

Responsibility for the attack at Lal Shahbaz Qalander shrine in Sehwan was claimed by the Islamic State group.

Pakistan security forces have launched nationwide operations that they say have left more than 100 "terrorists" dead.

Pakistan closed the border at Torkham hours after the bombing and the Chaman border was shut late Friday, said a senior army official.

A second official confirmed the details, saying trucks and shipping containers carrying trade supplies were parked miles away from the border crossings. Torkham connects Pakistan to Afghanistan's Nangarhar province and Chaman is located near Spin Boldak in Kandahar.

The Pakistani officials asked to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to brief the media on the record.

The latest developments come amid media reports that Pakistani troops backed by artillery targeted camps belonging to Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a breakaway faction of the Pakistani Taliban, near the Afghan border, causing an unspecified number of militant casualties.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar has claimed to have carried out a number of attacks, including the February 13 suicide assault in Lahore that killed seven police officer and six civilians. Pakistan says Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and the main Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan militant groups had been operating from Afghan areas near the Pakistani border and that Kabul in the past ignored Islamabad's pleas to take action against them.

Shahbaz Sharif, chief minister in the eastern Punjab province, announced late Friday the arrest of a suspect in connection with the Feb. 13 suicide bombing. He played a video containing what he said was the man's confession, in which the man says he was associated with Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and that he helped the bomber to carry out the attack.

Pakistan's military said Friday it summoned Afghan diplomats and handed over a list of 76 suspected "terrorists" who were hiding in Afghanistan. Pakistan wants immediate action by Afghan authorities, including the suspects' extradition to Islamabad.

In Kabul, the Afghan government Saturday summoned Pakistan's ambassador in protest of recent shelling in Afghanistan's eastern provinces. The foreign ministry summoned Ambassador Abrar Hussain in Kabul, where Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai sought an explanation from Hussain, but also gave his condolences regarding recent suicide attacks in Pakistan.

At least two people have been killed and two others wounded in the shelling from Pakistan, according to reports.

Karzai said the Afghan government wants Pakistan to take strict action against terrorists that are hiding in Pakistan.

He expressed concern over the closure of the Torkham and Chaman border crossings and asked that the gates be reopened. Apart from disrupting trade, the closure of border may also delay the repatriation of Afghan refugees by the refugee agency of the United Nations.

These refugees have been living in Pakistan since the 1980s after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Pakistani officials say the country sheltered 5 million Afghan refugees at one time and there are still an estimated 1.3 million registered and over a million more unregistered living in the country. Pakistan has allowed registered refugees to remain in the country until the end of this year.

Also on Saturday, Afghan army chief of staff Gen. Qadam Shah Shahim, said his forces killed 1,955 Islamic State group fighters over the past year.

He told reporters in Kabul that he regretted that Pakistan attacked eastern Afghanistan with artillery fire and said "we have shared our concerns through diplomatic channels with Pakistani authorities. We are waiting for the response through the diplomatic channels; otherwise we are fully ready to defend our country."

To a question about the list of 76 "terrorists" given by Islamabad to Kabul, Shahim said they too gave such a list of terrorists to Pakistan in the past and hoped Pakistan will act against them because they were using Pakistani soil to launch attacks in his country.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-shuts-key-border-crossing-in-wake-of-shrine-attack/articleshow/57222496.cms

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Punjab govt seeks Rangers help to combat terrorism

ABBAS HAIDER — UPDATED 44 minutes ago

The Punjab government during a provincial apex committee meeting chaired by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif on Sunday decided to seek support from the Rangers to combat terrorism in Punjab days after a suicide attack in Lahore killed at least 15 people and wounded 85 others.

The details regarding the nature and extent of support to be provided by the Rangers will be finalised later, according to a statement released by the Punjab government.

The suicide attack on Lahore's Mall Road claimed by the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar hit a protest of chemists and pharmaceuticals manufacturers which was attended by up to 400 people last Monday. At least six police officials were killed in the blast.

Following the attack, Punjab’s law enforcement agencies had launched a province-wide crackdown on banned militant organisations.

Meeting participants today decided that indiscriminate action must be taken against banned outfits, and that all small and large agents with links to banned outfits must be arrested. The provincial apex committee agreed that all sources of financial assistance to banned organisations must be shut down.

The apex committee agreed to widen the scope of intelligence-based operations in the province and resolved to punish facilitators of terrorists, the statement said, adding that there will be strict surveillance of Punjab's border districts.

Steps taken under the National Action Plan to counter terrorism, militancy, extremism and sectarianism are to be reviewed, the statement today said.

Foolproof security arrangements have been ordered for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and international visitors.

National Security Adviser Lt Gen (retd) Nasser Janjua, Corps Commander Lahore Lt Gen Sadiq Ali, Provincial Anti-terrorism Minister Col (r) Muhammad Ayub, Director General Punjab Rangers Maj Gen Azhar Naveed Hayat, Inspector General Police Punjab Mushtaq Sukhera and other high-level civil and military officials attended the apex committee meeting.

On Friday evening, Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif claimed the provincial government had arrested a facilitator and eliminated the terrorist network involved in the suicide attack. Sharif had said the army and Rangers could be called in on a need-basis.

dawn.com/news/1315722/punjab-govt-seeks-rangers-help-to-combat-terrorism

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Arab World

Al-Azhar supports Grand Imam's call to pay attention to democracy

Sun, 19/02/2017

Several al-Azhar scholars have their declared support of Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayyeb’s call on the necessity of paying attention to crucial issues that occupy the Islamic world and to avoid wasting time with trivial issues. He also urged scholars to renew their visions on political issues such as democracy, as several political forces claim that democracy is a form of disbelief.

Speaking to Al-Masry Al-Youm, Abdel Fattah al-Awary, dean of al-Azhar University’s faculty of fundamentals of religion, said Tayyeb’s calls for reconsidering issues that concern Muslims, like democracy, never stop. He described this as an important Islamic issue whatever people may call it -- some name it "shura" (consultation) while others refer to it as "freedom [of choice]". In general, he added, people have the right to utilise the best way of choosing their representatives or president.

Ahmed Kereima, professor of Islamic law and Sharia, said Tayyeb’s call reinforces Islam's teachings.

In related news, Omar Hamroush, secretary of the parliamentary religious committee, said those who criticize the statement from al-Azhar’s Senior Scholars Authority rejecting reforms to verbal divorce (triple talaq), as proposed by the president, had hoped for more contemporary thought. “We, as a committee, respect the authority’s viewpoint and will consider that in the draft law, so as to conform to Sharia and the thoughts of the authority.”

“Al-Azhar's [opinion], for me and the committee, is a red line that cannot be surpassed. However, we cannot deny the fact that some issues need review from Tayyeb as well as the authority and the Islamic Research Academy.”

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

egyptindependent.com//news/al-azhar-supports-grand-imam-s-call-pay-attention-democracy

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The Islamic State holds about 3,500 slaves in Iraq, U.N. says

By Ishaan Tharoor January 19, 2016

A member of Iraq's security forces holds a rocket-propelled grenade as he stands guard during an operation to clear a district on the eastern outskirts of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, on Sunday. (AFP via Getty Images)

The United Nations released a report this week detailing the "staggering civilian death toll in Iraq" over the past two years. It found that nearly 19,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the Islamic State's insurgency flared at the beginning of 2014, while some 3.2 million Iraqis have been displaced.

The report also estimated that some 3,500 Iraqis continue to be held captive as the jihadists’ “slaves,” including many women and girls from the persecuted Yazidi sect who have been abducted and forced into sexual slavery.

Compiled jointly by the United Nations' mission in Iraq and its Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the report details myriad abuses and atrocities that have ravaged the country in recent years. From Jan. 1, 2014 to the end of last October, the world body recorded at least 55,047 civilian casualties in Iraq: 18,802 killed and 36,245 wounded.

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The statistics, say U.N. officials, still don't convey the whole story. Since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, Iraq has endured waves of deadly turmoil. The recent havoc unleashed by the Islamic State, as well as the heavy-handed actions of a constellation of pro-government militias and factions, have traumatized countless Iraqis and destabilized the state.

“Even the obscene casualty figures fail to accurately reflect exactly how terribly civilians are suffering in Iraq. The figures capture those who were killed or maimed by overt violence, but countless others have died from the lack of access to basic food, water or medical care,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights  Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement accompanying the report.

According to U.N. figures, nearly 4 million Iraqis are internally displaced by conflict -- the vast majority of whom were forced to flee their homes in the past two years.

The report, compiled using government and NGO figures, as well as numerous testimonies and eyewitness accounts from Iraqis, paints a bleak picture of a nation that has steadily unraveled amid a bitter sectarian conflict.

It echoes an earlier study by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum that first raised the prospect of a "genocide" taking place in northern Iraq, where the jihadists have systematically targeted religious minorities.

"The violence suffered by civilians in Iraq remains staggering," the U.N. report states in the opening summary. "The so-called ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ (ISIL) continues to commit systematic and widespread violence and abuses of international human rights law and humanitarian law. These acts may, in some instances, amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide."

washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/01/19/the-islamic-state-holds-about-3500-slaves-in-iraq-u-n-says/?utm_term=.6a9a9f69c326

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Blowing up houses, digging up graves: Iraqis purge Islamic State

Sunday, 19 February 2017 11:19 GMT

RFAILA, Iraq, Feb 19 (Reuters) - The mood was festive as seven men each carried a bomb into a house on the edge of a village in northern Iraq.

Dozens of residents of Rfaila, young and old, had flocked to watch the house of their former neighbour Abu Maitham be blown up, filming the spectacle on phones to the sound of patriotic music blaring from a parked car.

They said Abu Maitham joined Islamic State militants who ruled over hundreds of towns and villages like Rfaila for more than two years, subjecting the local population to a life of violence and privation.

Abu Maitham had already fled when Iraqi forces drove the militants from the area last year as they advanced north towards Mosul, Islamic State's largest urban stronghold. The city's eastern half was cleared by January and the start of an assault on the western side was declared on Sunday.

In their wake, local people are purging every last vestige of Islamic State's presence: demolishing militants' homes and even digging up their graves.

The campaign points to a wider reckoning within Iraq's Sunni Muslim community, part of which sided with Islamic State militants who overran around one third of Iraq in 2014.

Inside the house in Rfaila, about 45 km (30 miles) south of Mosul, Ayad Jasim arranged the tubs of explosives in a circle on the floor and connected them to a wire leading out to a battery pack.

"It soothes the soul," said Jasim, as he prepared to detonate the house - his 79th since security forces regained control of the area. "There are still many left".

Jasim's motives are both patriotic and personal. His own home in another village nearby was blown up by Islamic State, and 27 members of his extended family have disappeared or been killed by the group including a 10-year-old boy.

Jasim has U.S. forces to thank for his skills: they taught him and other select soldiers how to handle explosives after invading Iraq in 2003.

As for the bombs - tubs of C4 weighing about 2 kg (4-1/2 pounds) each - they were made by Islamic State and designed to kill or maim Iraqi security forces, but have been dug up for reuse by the militants' enemies.

The first blast destroyed only the back of the house, so two more bombs were brought to finish the job. The second explosion ripped down the rest of the building with a flash followed by a shockwave.

The audience surged towards the pile of concrete where a house had stood moments before, clambering onto the collapsed roof and firing celebratory shots into the air as the dust settled.

"PURIFYING THE LAND"

Almost everyone in the area has friends and family members who were killed by Islamic State, many of them in the security forces.

In Rfaila alone, seven officers were executed by Islamic State and several dozen policemen and soldiers were taken away, presumably to their deaths, according to residents.

Many members of the security forces who fled when Islamic State overran the area have now returned, joining government-backed Sunni militia and seeking revenge.

"This village suffered a lot," said 26-year-old resident Ammar Ibrahim, who used to be in the security forces, but is now in a Sunni militia. "They (Islamic State) blew up our houses so we are blowing up theirs. No trace of them will remain."

"Everyone cleans their own village," said another resident.

In some cases, local people have dug up the graves of Islamic State militants who were buried locally.

One resident of Rfaila described how the remains of a militant known as Abu Taha had recently been exhumed, attached to the back of a vehicle and dragged through the streets until the bones flew apart, leaving nothing behind. Several children listening to him laughed gleefully.

Photographs of the episode are posted on the Facebook page of another Rfaila resident, a member of the elite Counter Terrorism Service, urging anyone with information about other militants' grave sites to contact him "so we can purify the land from these filthy germs".

In a picture of a separate incident, the skull of another militant whose corpse was dug up in the same area sits on the bonnet of a car with a cigarette wedged between the jaw for comic effect. All but one tooth has been knocked out.

"BLOOD OF MARTYRS"

Abu Maitham was an employee of the Iraqi oil ministry before Islamic State took over, and had been involved in the insurgency against U.S. forces since 2003 along with his brother, whose house close by has also been demolished.

Residents of Rfaila said Abu Maitham and other militants from the village had left with their families as security forces closed in last year, heading north towards Mosul.

But some individuals who helped Islamic State maintain control by informing on those who broke the group's rules are still present.

Those people must go, residents said, but it is difficult to prove their guilt in a court because they did not formally swear allegiance to Islamic State, take up arms, or wear the group's uniform.

"There is no evidence so the court releases them," said Ammar Abu Rami, a brother and bodyguard of the mayor of Mosul, who is from Rfaila.

Instead, some residents are taking matters into their own hands, throwing grenades at the homes of people they accuse of supporting Islamic State. "They don't kill them: just frighten them," Abu Rami said.

Another resident said: "Their (the state's) procedures are slow and emotions are high. They (the authorities) say wait a bit, but people can't."

Abu Maitham's house had already been torched from the inside before it was blown up. Scratched onto the charred wall of one room that would soon cease to exist were the words: "No bargaining with the blood of our martyrs. The time for dialogue is over." (editing by David Stamp)

news.trust.org/item/20170219112508-po2ze/

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Saudi Arabia’s ‘Islamic military alliance’ against terrorism makes no sense

By Adam Taylor December 17, 2015

Saudi Arabia announces Islamic military coalition  Play Video0:58

Saudi Arabia's crown prince and defense minister Mohammed bin Salma on Tuesday announced the formation of a 34-state Islamic military coalition to combat terrorism. (Reuters)

This week, Saudi Arabia announced that it was forming a new “Islamic military alliance" devoted to fighting global terrorism. The plan stemmed from the "keenness of the Muslim world to fight this disease, which affected the Islamic world first, before the international community as a whole," Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman told reporters during a rare news conference.

In many ways, this alliance seems designed to calm Western critics who have frequently complained that the Muslim world isn't doing enough to combat terrorism and extremism. However, the details of the planned alliance are more than a little unclear and have left some scratching their heads, unsure who exactly is in the alliance and what it is actually designed to do.

And as you can see, much of the reaction on social media hasn't been positive.

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 Hend Amry @LibyaLiberty

Saudi spox says coalition is to fight the source of terrorism in the Muslim world. Are you gonna tell 'em or am I? twitter.com/rudawenglish/status/676670235022196736 …

1:21 PM - 15 Dec 2015

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 Micah Zenko @MicahZenko

Saudi-led coalition to counter terrorism is like Sinaloa cartel leading a counternarcotics campaign. Fighting competitors, not behaviors.

10:16 PM - 16 Dec 2015

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 Hayder al-Khoei @Hayder_alKhoei

Saudi Arabia heads a UN Human Rights Council panel & now it leads an alliance against terrorism. This joke doesn't need a punch-line.

3:51 PM - 15 Dec 2015

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Saudi Arabia has tried hard recently to convince the West that it is taking the lead on tackling the problems of extremism and terrorism. But it's no exaggeration to say there are some perplexing aspects to this new alliance.

First, some of the countries apparently in the alliance claim to have never heard of it

A total of 34 nations have been declared as members of the alliance, but already some countries have come out to say that they never agreed to anything.

“We came to know about it (the alliance) through news reports," a senior official of Pakistan’s Foreign Office told the Express Tribune after the announcement. "We have asked our ambassador in Saudi Arabia to get details on it." Another unnamed individual told the newspaper that they were unsure whether they were part of any military alliance and noted that the country would not get involved in an alliance without United Nations backing.

Pakistan isn't the only country that got a surprise with the list. The governments of Malaysia and Lebanon have also suggested they knew little about the alliance that they were listed as a part of.

Other countries listed as being part of the alliance do not have Muslim majorities

Confusingly, while the Saudi government suggested its members came from "all over the Islamic world," a number of the countries listed as members do not have Muslim majorities. For example, over 80 percent of Uganda is Christian, while as much as 75 percent of Gabon is Christian. In Benin, the largest religion is Catholicism, and in Togo, the majority of the population holds indigenous beliefs.

These countries do have large Muslim minorities and ties to the Muslim world, including membership of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (another alliance created at the behest of the Saudis). However, their involvement in the alliance is still surprising – especially when you consider the countries not in the alliance.

Where does the Islamic State get its funding?  Play Video1:38

The Islamic State is one of the most well-funded terrorist organizations in the world. So where does it get its money? (Jorge Ribas/The Washington Post)

A number major Muslim countries are not part of the alliance

Some of the most important Muslim countries in the world, including Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Indonesia, are not part of the alliance. Why not exactly?

Well, in the first two cases, the reasoning seems depressingly obvious – both are Shiite majority nations.

The exclusion of Shiite nations in an alliance designed to represent the Islamic world seems to reinforce the belief that Saudi Arabia's alliance is motivated by a sectarian rivalry with Iran and not terrorism. Saudi officials deny this. “This is not a Sunni coalition or a Shia coalition,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said at a news conference in Paris. Many people do not buy this (in Lebanon, government officials have had to assure the Shiite militant group and political party Hezbollah that it would not be targeted by the alliance).

Meanwhile, Afghanistan has been asked to join the alliance but has not made a decision at the time of writing, while it is not clear whether Indonesia has been asked to join yet.

It's unclear what exactly the alliance is aiming to do

Perhaps the most damning criticism of the alliance is just how vague it is. Jubeir has said that "nothing is off the table" when it comes to the alliance, which will not only have a military component but also tackle terrorist funding and ideology. What that means in practice is anyone's guess.

Saudi Arabia has also gone to lengths to suggest that the alliance would not be limited to attempts to fight the Islamic State, but would focus on terrorism in general. Some, such as Brian Whitaker of the al-Bab website, have argued that Saudi Arabia's definition of terrorism is worryingly broad. "Under a law introduced last year, virtually any criticism of the kingdom's political system or its interpretation of Islam counts as terrorism," Whitaker writes. Does this now apply to other countries in the alliance, too?

Many critics of Saudi Arabia say that for all its big talk in the fight against the Islamic State, the kingdom has proved unwilling to go after one of the key factors in the group's rise: the Saudi clerics who spread a radical Wahhabism that influences extremism around the world. There's a kernel of truth here – Saudi Arabia has certainly taken steps to stop the more extreme preachers, but it often seems just as interested in pushing a regional sectarian rivalry with Iran.

The problem is that that sectarianism often feeds further into extremism. And while this new alliance may appear to target terrorism, it's not hard to see it as an extension of the Saudi-led coalition currently fighting in Yemen – a war that sums up the sectarian quagmire currently engulfing the Middle East.

washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/12/17/saudi-arabias-islamic-military-alliance-against-terrorism-makes-no-sense/?utm_term=.901a5463c1b0

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Iraq launches assault on Islamic State-held west Mosul

19 Feb 2017 - 14:01

Iraq launches assault on Islamic State-held west Mosul

Smoke rises after a rocket landed in the middle of the Iraqi rapid response forces' position during a battle against Islamic State militants in the south of Mosul, Iraq February 19, 2017. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Oreij, Iraq: Iraqi forces launched an offensive Sunday on jihadists defending Mosul's west bank, in what could be the most brutal fighting yet in a four-month-old operation on the country's second city.

They swiftly retook five villages and set their sights on Mosul airport, which lies just south of the city, marking a new phase in Iraq's largest military operation in years.

The Islamic State group has put up stiff resistance to defend Mosul, the city where its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed a "caliphate" in 2014.

"Our forces are beginning the liberation of the citizens from the terror of Daesh," Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a short televised speech, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

"We announce the start of a new phase in the operation. We are coming, Nineveh, to liberate the western side of Mosul," he said, referring to the province of which Mosul is the capital.

A top army commander then announced that forces led by federal police units retook villages south of Mosul, including Athbah, which leaves them within striking distance of the airport.

"We launched our operation at 7:00 am (0400 GMT)... We are heading towards the airport," said Abbas al-Juburi of the interior ministry's elite Rapid Response force.

"We destroyed two car bombs and killed several Daesh members," he told AFP near the front line.

'Toughest nut'

Military vehicles blared patriotic songs as heavy bombardment and shooting could be heard in the distance.

The jihadists overran Mosul and swathes of other territory north and west of Baghdad in 2014, sweeping aside security forces ill-prepared to face the assault.

The Iraqi government launched the offensive to reconquer Mosul on October 17, throwing tens of thousands of forces into the long-awaited counter-attack with air and ground support from the US-led coalition.

The Joint Operations Command coordinating the fight against IS declared east Mosul "fully liberated" on January 24.

But it took Iraq's most seasoned forces -- the elite Counter-Terrorism Service -- more than two months to clear the eastern side of Mosul.

After a pause, federal forces now face what was always billed as the toughest nut to crack: Mosul's west bank, home to the narrow streets of the Old City.

"West Mosul had the potential certainly of being more difficult, with house-to-house fighting on a larger and more bloody scale," said Patrick Skinner, from the Soufan Group intelligence consultancy.

Narrow streets

The streets around the historical centre, which includes the mosque in which Baghdadi made his only public appearance in June 2014, will be impassable for many military vehicles and force government fighters to take on IS in perilous dismounted warfare.

Prior to the offensive that saw IS seize Mosul and much of Iraq's Sunni Arab heartland nearly three years ago, the east bank was more ethnically diverse than the west, where analysts believe the jihadists could enjoy more support.

"IS resistance could be greater in this area and it will be harder, but all the more important, to completely clear the networks from Mosul after its recapture," said Emily Anagnostos, Iraq analyst at the Institute for the Study of War.

While the federal forces' attrition is said to be high, IS's had been undoubtedly higher and commanders have said the jihadists may no longer have the resources to defend east Mosul effectively.

Recent incidents in the recaptured east point to the difficulty of ensuring remnants of IS have not blended in with the civilian population in a huge city which most residents did not flee ahead of the government offensive.

Aid organisations had feared an exodus of unprecedented proportions before the start of the Mosul operation but half a million -- a significant majority -- of residents stayed home.

Trapped civilians

Their continued presence prevented both sides from resorting to deadlier weaponry, which may have slowed down the battle but averted a potentially much more serious humanitarian emergency in the middle of winter as well as more extensive material damage to the city.

"Mosul is going better than we expected, but there are serious dangers ahead," Lise Grande, UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, told AFP.

Residents of west Mosul have reported very difficult living conditions and warned that they were already low on food, with weeks of fighting expected to lie ahead.

Save the Children urged all parties to protect the estimated 350,000 children currently trapped in west Mosul.

"This is the grim choice for children in western Mosul right now: bombs, crossfire and hunger if they stay -- or execution and snipers if they try to run," said the charity's Iraq director, Maurizio Crivallero.

IS fighters and Mosul residents remained able to move across both sides of the city during much of the fighting in the east but all bridges across the Tigris have now been dropped and the jihadists in the west are all but besieged.

IS has used civilians as human shields as part of its defence tactics and killed residents attempting to flee, making it both difficult and dangerous for the population to escape.

thepeninsulaqatar.com/article/19/02/2017/Iraq-launches-assault-on-Islamic-State-held-west-Mosul

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28 IS terrorists killed in northern Syria

19 Feb 2017

ANKARA: At least 28 Islamic State terrorists were killed in northern Syria in the last 24 hours by Turkish forces and the U.S.-led coalition, according to a Turkish General Staff statement Sunday.

Turkish army forces killed at least 12 IS terrorists as part of the ongoing Operation Euphrates Shield which Sunday marks the 180th day.

Meanwhile, 16 other IS terrorists were killed by airstrikes carried out by a U.S.-led coalition in northern Syria, the army statement added.

The statement said that 41 IS targets, including shelters, had been hit by Turkish Land Forces while 11 others were struck by the U.S.-led coalition.

In addition, Turkish fighter jets destroyed 9 targets including a building used as a hideout and two vehicles.

The Turkish-led Operation Euphrates Shield began in late August to improve security, support coalition forces, and eliminate the terror threat along the Turkish border using FSA fighters backed by Turkish artillery and jets.

Last October, the Iraqi army, backed by the coalition and local allies on the ground, began a wide-ranging campaign to retake Mosul, which IS overran in mid-2014.

thepeninsulaqatar.com/article/19/02/2017/28-IS-terrorists-killed-in-northern-Syria

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15 Shia militiamen killed in IS attack west of Mosul

19 Feb 2017 - 13:04

NINEVEH, Iraq: At least 15 Shia pro-government fighters were killed in a Islamic State attack in Iraq’s northern city of Mosul, according to a militia fighter.

Scores of IS militants -- armed with heavy weapons and mortar shells -- attacked several villages late Friday in southwestern Tal Afar, 60 kilometers west of Mosul, Hassan al-Draji told Anadolu Agency.

The attack was thwarted by fighters of the Hashd al-Shaabi militia, leaving 44 IS militants dead, he said.

“Fifteen militia fighters were killed and 12 others injured in the confrontation,” al-Draji said.

Meanwhile, Iraqi military commander General Jassim Nizal said final preparations were in full swing to stage a military operation against IS militants in western Mosul.

“The offensive will be launched from numerous fronts with the support of the U.S.-led coalition with a view to eliminating IS,” he said.

Iraqi forces have driven IS militants from most of eastern Mosul as part of a wide-ranging offensive launched last October to retake the city, which the terrorist group overran in mid-2014.

thepeninsulaqatar.com/article/19/02/2017/15-Shia-militiamen-killed-in-IS-attack-west-of-Mosul

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8 Islamic State militants dead as coalition airstrikes target western Mosul districts

By  Mohamed Mostafa

Feb 19, 2017

Airstrike by the US-led international coalition aircraft.

Nineveh (IraqiNews.com) Eight Islamic State militants were killed and 20 were injured when fighter jets from the U.S.-led international military coalition bombed their locations in western Mosul as operations launched to retake that area.

A medical source was quoted by Shafaaq news website saying the airstrikes targeted the militants in the districts of Yarmouk and Wadi Akab in the west of the city.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a brief announcement on Sunday that security forces launched an operation to retake the western side of Mosul, Islamic State militants’ largest stronghold in Iraq which the group took over in 2014. He said on January 24th that government forces, backed by popular militias and U.S.-led coalition troops, had cleared the whole of the eastern region from militants after more than three months of fighting.

Recapturing Mosul would represent the strongest blow to Islamic State’s proclaimed “Islamic Caliphate”. Iraqi and international coalition generals had predicted the western part of the city to be fully recaptured within six months, while the United Nations predicted 250.000 civilians to be displaced by the fighting.

Military media said earlier on Sunday that army and Federal Police forces recaptured six villages and a major power station near the western shore of the Tigris River.

iraqinews.com/iraq-war/8-islamic-state-militants-dead-airstrikes-target-western-mosul-districts/

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Iraq: Trump's Muslim ban 'a matter of life and death'

 

US President Donald Trump's executive order barred Syrian refugees indefinitely and imposed a 90-day suspension on visas for nationals of seven majority-Muslim countries [EPA]

Omar Al Saleh is a roving correspondent with Al Jazeera based in Doha.

Haval al-Kurdi, his wife and their three children were preparing to leave Iraq last month to start a new life as refugees in the United States.

They were scheduled to fly to San Diego, California, and arrive on the evening of January 20. But just 10 hours before the start of their journey, the International Organization for Migration gave Kurdi a call that would change his life.

"They told me that the host country has changed their policy, and imposed a ban on refugees for 120 days," Kurdi told Al Jazeera.

"I'm shocked and I feel hopeless. This decision is a matter of life and death for me and my family," he said, noting that over the past 10 years, he worked with several American companies. "The terrorists and extremists consider me a traitor and infidel. Trump accuses me of being a terrorist Muslim. What do I do now? I need a solution. I need help."

INTERACTIVE: Where do immigrants in the US come from?

US President Donald Trump's executive order halted the US refugee programme for 120 days, barred Syrian refugees indefinitely, and imposed a 90-day suspension on visas for nationals of seven majority-Muslim countries: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Libya.

But a federal judge blocked parts of the order, and an appeals court unanimously upheld the judge's ruling. The matter could ultimately end up before the Supreme Court.

In the meantime, the move has caused anger and resentment in Iraq, where members of parliament voted to ban visas for US nationals in response. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who rejected this request, urged Trump to review the Muslim ban, noting in a statement that the US president has "stressed the importance of coordination to find a solution to this issue as soon as possible and [said] that he will direct the US state department in this regard".

The terrorists and extremists consider me a traitor and infidel. Trump accuses me of being a terrorist Muslim. What do I do now? I need a solution. I need help.

Haval al-Kurdi, Iraqi resident

Five thousand US troops are currently deployed in Iraq to assist in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).

Despite public pressure on the Iraqi prime minister to retaliate - including calls to expel the US ambassador from Iraq - Abadi told a news conference in Baghdad last week that he had no immediate plans to do so.

"We have before us the battle to liberate all of Nineveh province [from ISIL] and other areas. I don't want to affect the national interest by a hasty decision. But we have influence and we are working behind the scenes to change things," Abadi said.

Abbas al-Bayati, a member of the ruling Islamic Dawa Party, told Al Jazeera that the US was "supporting us in the fight against terrorism. I think the prime minister of Iraq and the Iraqi people appreciate that fact, and therefore the military relationship should not be affected by the travel ban."

Iraqi politicians, media outlets and religious figures, meanwhile, have lambasted what they called the government's weak response.

"The government is trying to be diplomatic. But we need to be firm," Aliya Nussaif, a member of parliament's legal committee, told Al Jazeera.

"We are victims of terrorism. Have you heard of an Iraqi blowing himself up in America? We have to take similar actions against Americans in Iraq. If the security agreement signed with the US does not respect and keep our sovereignty, then we should scrap it."

Although it is not clear how many Iraqi nationals have been affected by Trump's ban, the United Nations refugee agency said that the order has put 20,000 people waiting for resettlement in the US in a precarious position.

The US is the leading resettlement country in the world, according to the UN, with more than 145,000 refugees, including 11,000 Iraqis, applying in 2016.

Since the 2003 Iraq war, thousands of Iraqis have been admitted to the US either as refugees or holders of Special Immigrant Visas (SIV), a programme aimed at facilitating entry for Iraqis who were employed by or on behalf of the US government and troops in Iraq. Some media reports have suggested that up to 110,000 Iraqis worked with the US between 2003 and 2011, the year that US troops withdrew from Iraq.

In 2016, the State Department said that more than 2,000 Iraqis were issued with SIVs, while hundreds more were awaiting further processing.

Trump's ban is affecting not only immigrants, but also holders of green cards, business visas and student visas.

Kurdi, meanwhile, has been living in a temporary home in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq since his family's bid to enter the US was stalled. He has urged the Trump administration to lift the ban.

"If America continues like that, it will turn into a dictatorship and become like the Soviet Union. I call on leaders of European countries and Canada to help me and my family," he said. "I even call on the governor of California to help me and bring me and my family in."

aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/02/iraq-trump-muslim-ban-matter-life-death-170216104927588.html

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Islamic State bleeding money, its 'business model' in free fall

AP | Updated: Feb 19, 2017, 01.26 PM IST

BAGHDAD: The Islamic State group+ is hemorrhaging money with every piece of territory it loses, according to a new analysis that found that the group's "business model" is on the path to failure.

The analysis released on Saturday by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence and the accounting firm EY found that the self-proclaimed caliphate's financial resources have been drained substantially since the days beginning in mid-2014 when it captured banks, oil wells and entire warehouses of weapons as it amassed land.

The report found that Islamic State revenue has declined from up to $1.9 billion in 2014 to at most $870 million in 2016.

"One of the mistakes that's been made in the past when we were talking about Islamic State was talking about it purely as a terrorist organization. It is a terrorist organization but it is more than that. It holds territory," said Peter Neumann, director of the center at King's College London. "That also means it has a lot more expenses. It needs to fix roads. It needs to pay teachers. It needs to run health services. It needs to pay for these things that al-Qaida never had to."

But less money may not make the group less dangerous, the report said.

"We know from the attacks in Paris+ and Brussels+ and Berlin that none of them was expensive," Neumann said.

Most of the recent attacks in Europe and the US were self-financed by the people that carried them out, with little input or money from the IS leadership in the war zone of Syria and Iraq.

Among the top sources of revenue for the Islamic State group were taxes and fees, oil, ransoms, and looting or other extortion. All of those, Neumann said, required newly captured territory to be sustainable and to keep the group's promise of a caliphate.

A federal lawsuit filed in December was a prime example of Islamic State's revenues from a combination of seized land, taxes and extortion. According to the court filing, the group received at least 20 percent of the proceeds of items excavated from archaeological sites under its control and taxed antiquities sold in its territories. At one point, a child was kidnapped to force an antiquities merchant to pay, said the lawsuit, which sought the recovery of four ancient artifacts believed to have been put up for sale by the group.

But that income only flows when Islamic State can exert absolute control. According to an update Friday from the global coalition against Islamic State, the group has lost 62 percent of the territory it controlled in Iraq at its height in August 2014 and 30 percent of its territory in Syria.

"The business model was also to constantly expand and to plunder the areas that were becoming part of the caliphate. It was essentially a pyramid scheme which relied upon constant expansion," Neumann said.

A US defense official said IS still has enough money to pay its bills, despite the fact that it has lost sources of income and has reduced what it pays foot soldiers. The official said the US certainly has not seen IS' financial situation damaged to the point that it has degraded its ability to conduct external attacks. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss IS and spoke only on condition of anonymity.

Near-daily car bombings in Baghdad+ indicate that the group's ability to inflict carnage is undiminished in Iraq, even as it cedes ground it once controlled.

But Neumann said the fall of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul could be a lethal blow in the long term.

"The brand of Islamic State will suffer and the attractiveness of wanting to carry out terrorist attacks in the name of Islamic State will suffer because it is no longer projecting strength and utopia," Neumann said.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/islamic-state-bleeding-money-its-business-model-in-free-fall/articleshow/57231501.cms

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Aleppo: Syrian Soldiers Score More Victories against ISIL Near Deir Hafer

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Syrian Army troops continued their anti-ISIL attacks in Eastern Aleppo and managed to capture several strategic hills near the key town of Deir Hafer.

The army soldiers engaged in fierce clashes with ISIL and entered the village of Humeimeh al-Kabireh, taking control of a large part of it after seizing the Humeimeh al-Kabireh hill.

The Russian fighter jets carried out several combat flights over ISIL's positions simultaneous with the army's advances in the region.

A military source said that the army troops could take control of all ISIL road to Deir Hafer and to the villages of Ein al-Hanash and al-Humeimiyeh.

The army men also prevailed over ISIL's defense lines in the village of Rasm al-Harmal and won control of a part of the village after hours of heavy fighting with terrorists.  

In relevant developments in the province on Friday, the army troops stormed ISIL's defense lines in a region between Kuweires airbase and the town of Deir Hafer, winning back a key hill after several hours of clashes.

The army men engaged in fierce clashes with ISIL in Eastern Aleppo and could take back the strategic hill of Humeimeh Southwest of Showeilakh or Northwest of Humeimeh al-Kabireh.

ISIL suffered heavy casualties in the attack and pulled the remaining pockets of its forces back form the battlefield to evade more casualties.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951130001002

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South Asia

Ghani suggests isolation of countries using terrorism as instrument of state policy

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Feb 19 2017

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani suggested the isolation of the countries using terrorism as an instrument of state policy in a bid to eliminate the menace of terrorism.

Speaking during the Munich security conference, President Ghani said the support offered by countries to terrorism, weakening of the nations, and corruption are the main issues that further enable the terror groups to expand their activities.

He said it is important that the countries which are using terrorism as an instrument of state policy to achieve their targets should be isolated.

President Ghani further added that is facing terrorism in the frontline and is currently engaged in battling around 20 terrorist groups, emphasizing that the ongoing war against terrorism is not only aimed at the freedom of Afghanistan but is waged for the global security.

According to President Ghani, terrorism does not recognize boundaries and no region will remain safe from the menace of terrorism.

He also added that the recent attacks in Kabul, Kandahar, Helmand, and Pakistan’s Sindh province indicate that there are no good or bad terrorists.

President Ghani added that terrorism is one of the major challenges of the era which needs a full commitment to be eliminated.

khaama.com/ghani-suggests-isolation-of-countries-using-terrorism-as-instrument-of-state-policy-02919

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Afghan forces kill top Al-Qaeda figure, ex-leader of Pakistani militants

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Feb 19 2017

The Afghan security forces have killed a top figure of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network who was leading the Pakistani militants during the Taliban regime.

The Afghan intelligence, National Directorate of Security (NDS), said the Al-Qaeda leader Saifullah Akhtar was killed during a special raid of the NDS Special Forces in Nawa district.

NDS further added that the operation was conducted on 9th January leading to the death of Akhtar.

According to NDS, Akhtar had deployed around 30,000 militants from different countries, including Central Asian states to fight in Afghanistan.

Akhtar was in command of a terrorist camp in Bagram as he was closely working with Ayman Al-Zawahiri besides he was in command of another terrorist camp in Rishkur district of Kabul.

He was detained two times in Pakistan but was released later, NDS said, adding that Akhtar was in command of the war in Afghanistan after his release.

The National Directorate of Security (NDS) also added that Akhtar was actively involved in leading the foreign and Pakistani insurgents in their fight against the Afghan government.

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

khaama.com/afghan-forces-kill-top-al-qaeda-figure-ex-leader-of-pakistani-militants-02918

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Taliban office in Qatar should be closed if the group pursues violence: Ghani

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Feb 19 2017

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has said the Taliban office in Qatar should be closed if the group pursues violence.

During a meeting with the Qatar foreign minister, President Ghani said sanctions should also be applied on the group if no breakthrough was made in bring the leaders of the group to negotiations table.

He said the main priority is that the group abandon violence and participate in peace process.

President Ghani further added that the findings of the Afghan government reveals the group was involved in Kandahar attack which was plotted by the group’s leadership council.

In his turn, Qatar’s foreign minister said there is no justification for violence and his government is committed to continue to its efforts to help bring peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Dozens of people were killed or wounded after an explosive device planted in a government compound went off in Kandahar city last month.

At least five UAE diplomats, several Afghan officials, including deputy governor of Kandahar were killed in the attack.

The UAE ambassador to Afghanistan Juma Al Kaabi was also wounded in the attack who later succumbed to his injuries.

khaama.com/taliban-office-in-qatar-should-be-closed-if-the-group-pursues-violence-ghani-02923

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Pakistan rulers support terrorism: Afghanistan Assembly Speaker

Rajendra Sharma | TNN | Updated: Feb 19, 2017, 05.05 PM IST

INDORE: Amid absence of Pakistan in South Asian Speakers' summit, Afghanistan came down heavily on Pakistan about sponsoring terrorism+ in the neighbouring states. Afghanistan even said that if Pakistan does not change its policy, terrorism could become a big threat for itself.

"Terrorism in South Asia is the biggest and most serious issue where neighbouring countries like Afghanistan as the main sufferer. It has been established that rulers of Pakistan support terrorism openly and the country's policy on terrorism is also not in the interest of other countries of the region. In future terrorism will be a big threat to Pakistan itself," Speaker of Afghanistan Assembly Abdul Raouf Ibrahimi told TOI.

Ibrahim also express his gratitude toward the Indian Parliament and Inter-Parliamentary Union for inviting Afghanistan to the summit and expected cooperation in combating terrorism in the country. He said the need of international community considering the Paris Agreement, is to focus on improving life of the people, ensuring security, economic development and addressing cultural and environmental issues.

"We can reach SDGs if neighbouring countries work together towards peace and security in the region. Terrorism is a very serious threat to the countries particularly, Afghanistan and we need cooperation from India to improve life of people in Afghanistan and security in political areas," reiterated Ibrahim.

Emphasising long term mutual understanding and good relations with India, he said that India is a big influential country and has always been a friend to Afghanistan. We want to further improve the relations and seek cooperation in different areas.

Pleading ignorance on Pakistan's absence in the summit+ , Speaker of Sri Lanka parliament, Karu Jayasuriya said, "Terrorism is a big issue and we should have cordial relations among the members. This summit is important in addressing all such issues."

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pakistan-rulers-support-terrorism-afghanistan-assembly-speaker/articleshow/57232682.cms

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ISIS leader among 6 killed by own explosives in Nangarhar

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Feb 19 2017

A leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group loyalists was killed in a premature explosion in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

According to the local security officials, the ISIS leader was killed along with five other militants of the terror group in the restive Kot district.

The militants were planning to plant an Improvised Explosive Device around 7:30 pm on Saturday night in Badarghondi area when the mine went off prematurely.

The local officials further added that the ISIS leader killed in the explosion has been identified as Shakir who is also famous as Warak.

The anti-government armed militant groups including the loyalists of ISIS terrorist group have not commented regarding the report so far.

Nangarahr is among the relatively calm provinces in eastern Afghanistan but the anti-government armed militant groups are actively operating in some of its remote districts.

This comes as the Afghan security forces launched a clearance operation against ISIS loyalist earlier this month with the local officials saying the operations are being conducted with the support of the US forces who are providing air support to the ground forces.

khaama.com/isis-leader-among-6-killed-by-own-explosives-in-nangarhar-02922

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Military ready to respond to artillery shelling from Pakistan: Officials

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Feb 19 2017

The provincial council in eastern Nangarhar province called a meeting following persistent artillery shelling by Pakistan.

The provincial police commandment said the meeting was also attended by the security chief Gen. Syed Gul Aqa Roohani and other high level provincial officials.

The meeting concluded with local security officials saying full military preparations have been considered to respond to the aggression.

Provincial governor Mohammad Gulab Mangal said the security forces are prepared to intervene in a bid to prevent the artillery shelling but he said the provincial government prefers to resolve the issue through diplomatic means.

 According to the local government officials, the heavy artillery shelling was launched days after the security forces launched a major operations, Shaheen-25, to suppress the insurgents in this province.

The officials further added that nearly 400 artillery rounds have been fired on Lalpur district so far and at least four children have been wounded.

Provincial officials also added that the shelling has resulted into displacement of around 300 families although the number of displaced people and losses could be higher.

khaama.com/military-ready-to-respond-to-artillery-shelling-from-pakistan-officials-02921

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Vice President Pence reaffirm continued US support to Afghanistan

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Feb 19 2017

The Vice President of the United States Mike Pence reaffirmed continued support to the Afghan people and government, emphasizing that Afghanistan has a particular importance to Washington.

Pence made the remarks during a meeting with President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani on the sidelines of the Munich security conference as the two sides held talks on security, economic, regional, and other issues of bilateral interest.

Hailing the Afghan forces for their sacrifices, Pence said Washington is currently assessing plans to increase the number of US troops for the training of the Afghan forces.

In his turn, President Ghani said the ongoing violence in Afghanistan is not a civil war but the country is lying in the frontline to combat terrorism.

President Ghani further added that Afghanistan has the capabilities to fight terror but insisted that the Afghan forces need more equipment and support to continue their fight in suppressing the terror groups.

The Office of the President, ARG Palace, said the two sides also discussed the 4-year plan for the development of the Afghan security forces besides holding talks on Afghan elections.

khaama.com/vice-president-pence-reaffirm-continued-us-support-to-afghanistan-02920

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Mideast

In Lebanon, an avant-garde mosque to preach coexistence

February 19, 2017

The Amir Shakib Arslan mosque is intended to make visitors reflect on religion and modernity and the symbolic gesture of constructing a mosque in a village whose residents worship elsewhere

From a distance, there's little to suggest that the building at the entrance of the Druze heartland village of Mukhtara in Lebanon's Chouf mountains is a mosque.

After all, despite practising a faith that is an offshoot of Shiite Islam, the Druze do not worship at mosques, and the building strays far from the traditional rendering of a Muslim prayer house.

But the Amir Shakib Arslan mosque is intended to make visitors reflect on religion and modernity -- and on the symbolic gesture of constructing a mosque in a village whose residents worship elsewhere.

It is named after the grandfather of Walid Jumblatt, the head of Lebanon's Druze community, who commissioned and funded the project, and replaces a mosque that once stood in Mukhtara but was destroyed decades ago in a feud.

Its unusual design is the result of Jumblatt's decision to give architect Makram el-Kadi free reign to reinterpret what a mosque could look like.

Instead of the traditional domed roof alongside a minaret tower, a cage-like structure of white steel beams has been constructed to sit over an existing traditional Lebanese stone building like a "veil", Kadi says.

At one back corner of the roof, the white blades of the structure bend up towards the sky in a tower that implies a minaret.

The interior of the Amir Shakib Arslan mosque designed by Lebanese architect Makram el-Kadi at the entrance of the Druze heartland village of Mukhtara in Lebanon's Chouf mountains

Light and air flow between the blades, which contrast with the heavy sand-coloured stone of the one-storey traditional building beneath.

In places, the spaces between the blades are filled to create two words that can only be perceived from a distance: on the minaret above, "Allah" or "God", and below, the word "al-Insan" or "human being".

For Kadi, the project is the product of years of reimagining the architecture of the mosque.

"There's nothing scripted, neither in the Koran nor in the hadith (words and practices of the Prophet Mohammed) that tells you what a mosque should be," he told AFP.

- 'A new kind of calligraphy' -

But despite the lack of religious constraints and the young demographics of Islam, the design of mosques has remained largely static.

"Given this big number of young people in the religion, you don't see as much experimentation in the architecture of the mosque as you would expect," Kadi said.

The unusual design of the Amir Shakib Arslan mosque is the result of Walid Jumblatt's decision to give architect Makram el-Kadi free reign to reinterpret what a mosque could look like

Inside, the Mukhtara mosque's walls are largely bare and white, with the sun streaming in from a skylight cut into the vaulted roof.

At the back of the room, where religious texts are traditionally stored, the word "Iqra" or "read" appears in wooden latticework, a nod to the first word of the Koran and a reminder, Kadi says, of the religious imperative to read, not merely recite.

The interior is dominated by a striking carpet featuring an abstract black-and-white pattern -- a first-of-its-kind print of soundwaves taken from a recording of Koranic recitation.

"The carpet is a new kind of calligraphy, in the sense that it's a visual representation of spoken language," said artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan, who conceived the piece.

Moments in the soundwaves where the word "God" appeared were removed, in part to avoid the possibility of visitors stepping on the word.

"But also to reflect something that's very important in this mosque... that God is both concealed and ultimately very present," added Abu Hamdan.

For all the innovation of the mosque, it retains certain elemental features, including an orientation towards Mecca, which Muslims face to pray and, for now, a traditional adhan, or call to prayer.

Abu Hamdan produced a reinterpreted adhan, with the words spoken rather than sung, but it was deemed a little too avant-garde and has been replaced for now with a standard sung recording.

- 'Diversity and coexistence' -

For Jumblatt, the project's aims were twofold: to emphasise the ties between the Druze faith and other branches of Islam, but also to promote religious tolerance.

Lebanon still bears the scars of its 1975-1990 civil war, in which all factions and sects committed abuses, and it has been rocked by the consequences of the conflict in neighbouring Syria.

"I think the message that we have to say again and again, always in Lebanon, is that it's a place of diversity and coexistence," Jumblatt said.

"Lebanon cannot survive but through its diversity."

The Chouf area where Mukhtara is located witnessed some of the bloodiest massacres of the civil war, committed both by and against the Druze.

More recently, the Druze have been among the religious minorities targeted for forced conversions and expulsions by jihadists in Syria who consider them apostates.

For Mukhtara residents, the mosque is something of a curiosity, regarded as a gesture towards outsiders rather than a potential prayer house for themselves.

"I haven't been inside, but from the outside the design is really nice," said 50-year-old Sabah Abdel Samad, whose pharmacy is opposite the mosque.

"It's something very lovely, promoting pluralism and acceptance of the other," she added.

"Many of our Muslim brothers pass through here, it's a good thing for them to have a place to pray."

Kadi sees the mosque an "act of bridging" between the different branches of Islam at a time "when such gestures... are rarely being made".

"The fact that it's done in this way, that it's done at this time specifically, sends a strong message: that there's an alternative, you can be religious without being close-minded."

afp.com/en/news/23/lebanon-avant-garde-mosque-preach-coexistence

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Turkey to clear ISIL from Raqqa pending agreement with US, coalition: Erdoğan

February/19/2017

Turkey to clear ISIL from Raqqa pending agreement with US, coalition: Erdoğan

Turkey will clear the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) from Raqqa if an agreement is reached with the United States and the U.S.-led coalition fighting the jihadist group, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said.

“We will also clear Raqqa of the herd of killers called Deash if we come to terms with the U.S. and the coalition,” said Erdoğan at a rally in the southeastern province of Gaziantep on Feb. 19, using an Arabic acronym for ISIL.

He said the Turkish army and Ankara-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels were conducting successful battles in the northern Syrian city of al-Bab and that Raqqa was the next target.

Turkey and FSA rebels have been trying to capture al-Bab from ISIL since December last year as part of its ongoing Euphrates Shield operation, which was launched on Aug. 24, 2016, in order to clear the border with Syria of terrorist organizations.

Since the beginning of the operation, Turkish troops have experienced the highest number of fatalities in al-Bab.

Erdoğan’s remarks came one day after Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said Feb. 18 that Turkey would be part of an operation to liberate Raqqa, though not directly, if a deal with U.S.-led coalition forces could be reached.

“We will not be directly part of an operation [on Raqqa]; we will provide tactical support, of course if we agree in principle,” state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Yıldırım as saying on Feb. 18 in Germany, where he went to attend the Munich Security Conference.

“The opportunities and capabilities are being reviewed,” he said.

Yıldırım said “local forces, civil insurgents, Free Syrian Army and other militia” would go be in the forefront as one group while “we will be in the back,” adding that the U.S. and Turkey would have a military presence in the Raqqa operation.

Yıldırım raised the issue of the fight against ISIL in a meeting with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence later in the day and said Turkey and the U.S. must take a joint stance in the effort, a statement issued by the Turkish prime minister’s office said on Feb. 18.

No mention of the Raqqa operation was made in the statement.

Pence told Yıldırım that they wanted to make a new start with the latter as Turkey-U.S. relations hit a bumpy road during the last months of the previous U.S. administration, the statement added.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is a U.S.-backed militia that mostly comprises Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) and some Arab rebels, launched a multi-phased operation to liberate Raqqa of ISIL militants at the end of last year.

Turkey regards the YPG, which is the military wing of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), as a terror organization due to its links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Ankara objects to the involvement of the YPG and PYD in efforts to liberate ISIL’s de facto capital in Syria.

“You know, we had a proposal to clear Deash from Raqqa after [doing the same for] al-Bab. We told them [the U.S.] that it is not right to act with the PYD and YPG, which are extensions of the PKK, and a terror organization should not be chosen over another one. This does not befit a friendship,” said Yıldırım.

“I believe the new U.S. administration will take this into consideration,” he said, adding that he would broach the topic later with Pence.

hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-to-clear-isil-from-raqqa-pending-agreement-with-us-coalition-erdogan.aspx?pageID=238&nID=109912&NewsCatID=352

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Iran main sponsor of global terror: Saudi foreign minister

Reuters | Feb 19, 2017, 03.58 PM IST

MUNICH: Saudi Arabia's foreign minister on Sunday rejected Iranian calls for dialogue saying Tehran was the main sponsor of terrorism in the world, a destabilising force in the Middle East and wanted to "destroy us."

"Iran remains the single main sponsor of terrorism in the world," Adel al-Jubeir told delegates at the Munich Security Conference. "It's determined to upend the order in Middle East ... (and) until and unless Iran changes its behaviour it would be very difficult to deal with a country like this."

Al-Jubeir said Iran was propping up the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, funding the Houthi separatists in Yemen and violent groups across the region. He said the international community needed to set clear "red lines" to halt Iran's actions.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/iran-main-sponsor-of-global-terror-saudi-foreign-minister/articleshow/57234137.cms

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Turkish foreign minister calls for more US special forces in anti-Islamic State fight

By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES

Published: February 19, 2017

MUNICH — Ankara has asked for more U.S. special operations forces to be inserted in Syria to help in the fight against the Islamic State group, Turkey’s top diplomat said Sunday.

United States Vice President Mike Pence, second left and Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, second right, head their delegations at their meeting, during the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017.

PRIME MINISTER'S PRESS SERVICE/POOL PHOTO VIA AP

“We proposed the United States put special operations forces on the ground to support local forces,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in Munich.

article continues below

The Pentagon also is considering a recommendation that conventional ground forces be sent to Syria as part of a package of options to be presented this month to President Donald Trump to accelerate operations against the Islamic State group.

Citing unidentified sources, CNN reported on Wednesday that top military planners were debating whether to include such a proposal in a report that Trump ordered Jan. 28.

Last week, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said it was premature to say whether more troops are needed, but did say the U.S. plans to intensify its fight.

In recent months, Turkish troops have taken on a larger role against the Islamic State in Syria, working closely with Russian forces who have been key in restoring the fortunes of President Bashar Assad’s government.

During the Obama administration, Ankara was at odds with the U.S. over how to fight the Islamic State group in Syria, and over Washington’s close coordination with Kurdish fighters.

Meanwhile, Turkey also wants to see NATO dedicate more resources to its southern flank, where turbulence in Syria and Iraq has resulted in a flood of refugees flowing into Turkey.

“NATO, whatever it exhibits on its eastern flank (with Russia) should be exhibited it on its southern direction as well,” Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik said.

stripes.com/news/turkish-foreign-minister-calls-for-more-us-special-forces-in-anti-islamic-state-fight-1.454777

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PKK militant killed after ordering deadly attack on lodgings in Turkey’s southeast

February/19/2017

PKK militant killed after ordering deadly attack on lodgings in Turkey’s southeast

A senior figure from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) who was killed during an operation in southeastern province of Mardin on Feb. 17 had previously ordered a car bomb attack that killed two people at lodgings housing judicial personnel in Şanlıurfa later in the day, authorities have alleged.

The PKK militant, Yaşar Uygur, codenamed “Behzat,” was killed at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 17, while the car bomb attack occurred in the Viranşehir district of Şanlıurfa around two hours later.

Uygur, who was allegedly the group’s commander in Mardin, was one of two who ordered the deadly attack in Şanlıurfa, according to daily Habertürk.

The other, İshak Özçaktu (“Porsipi”) is reportedly hiding from security forces in a rural area of Diyarbakır’s Lice district.

Meanwhile, police also stated that they found Katyusha missiles in the shelter where Uygur was killed.

Authorities alleged that the missiles were set to be used in attacks on locations that were scouted by PKK militants in Istanbul, Ankara, İzmir and Kocaeli.

Uygur and Özçaktu were also reportedly behind attacks that have killed at least 150 people across Turkey.

Two people, including an 11-year-old child, were killed and 15 others were wounded in the car bomb attack on the lodgings for judiciary personnel in Viranşehir.

The 11-year-old, Ahmet Oktay Günak, was out to feed a cat he was taking care of outside their house, said the boy’s father, Mustafa Günak.

One of the guards of the neighborhood, İbrahim Kete, was also killed in the attack. He was found dead under the rubble after the explosion.

The attack, which took place at around 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 17, was so loud it caused temporary hearing loss.

Şanlıurfa Gov. Güngör Azim Tuna said one ton of explosives was planted in a car that was parked outside the lodgings before being detonated with remote control.

The governor said the PKK was responsible for the attack. Police have detained 26 people in connection with the assault.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, Food, Agriculture and Livestock Minister Faruk Çelik and Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ went to the district to inspect the site of the attack and visit the wounded.

“The vehicle was detonated just as a security guard who saw it being parked was about to intervene with a gun,” Soylu told reporters in Viranşehir on Feb. 18, adding that the blast caused damage to 14 buildings nearby.

Eleven people were still being treated in hospital, Soylu said, including two in intensive care.

“As of last night, a total of 26 people had been detained, while our security forces are conducting the necessary work,” he added.

A previous statement from the Şanlıurfa Governor’s Office said the owner of the vehicle used in the attack was among those being held.

hurriyetdailynews.com/pkk-militant-killed-after-ordering-deadly-attack-on-lodgings-in-turkeys-southeast.aspx?pageID=238&nID=109913&NewsCatID=341

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Turkey made its views heard with Euphrates Shield op: Defense minister

February/19/2017

Turkey’s views on Syria are being listened to thanks to the ongoing Euphrates Shield Operation, Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Işık has said, adding that the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party’s (PYD) plan to unite its cantons have been prevented.

Speaking to the Hürriyet Daily News in Munich where he came to attend the Munich Security Conference, Işık also gave insights into his meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis on the sidelines of the NATO Defense Ministers meeting on Feb. 15-16.

“We have for a long time been telling the U.S. that cooperating with the PYD against Deash, working with a terrorist against another [terrorist], was wrong. We have been telling them that the problems this will cause will lead to a waste of time and an increase in costs,” said Işık, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

“At the beginning they did not care much. They listened to us out of courtesy but they were continuing on doing what they were doing. Now they listen and they respond,” he said.

“This happened by way of the Euphrates Shield Operation. Maybe not Jarablus but the capturing of Dabiq made the U.S.’ change their perception. They knew Dabiq’s symbolic meaning for Deash and that Deash had located forces there,” he said.

In Islamic eschatology, Dabiq is the place where the armies of Muslims led by the Mahdi (the Messiah) will fight against the “Roman,” or non-Muslim, armies led by the Dajjal, the anti-Christ or false Mahdi, just before the apocalypse.

“The U.S. has thanked us many times for the Dabiq operation. Putting the Russian jet crisis in the past and finally the al-Bab operation has changed the U.S.’ perception,” he said.

Turkey shot down a Russian jet in November 2015, resulting in a severe downturn with Moscow.

“First, the actors in the Syria arena have changed; Turkey is also involved in support of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Second, Deash has been removed from Turkey’s border and has also retreated. And third, the field has changed. Now there has been a wide field that is under the control of Turkey-backed forces. By this means, our views are being listened to,” Işık said.

“When we talked with Mattis, he said they did not have any preparations except the current Raqqa operation that is being led by the PYD, which is no different than the PKK [the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] to us,” Işık said.

“‘We have a Plan A,’ he said. ‘Tell us Plan B,’ he added. After that, they sent us their chief of joint staff [Joseph Dunford] to Turkey. They held a meeting with our chief of general staff [Hulusi Akar]. We made our proposals [to them]. They are also planning the new strategy U.S. President Donald Trump wanted,” he said.

“We want our plan to find life there. We want the Raqqa operation to be conducted through the FSA and Arab forces, while leaving the PYD out. But still nothing is set for sure,” Işık said.

“But there are three main topics that Mattis told us. ‘First, you deserve more support for the fight against the PKK, and we will give it. Second, we will support you more in the Euphrates Shield Operation. And third, it is not possible that the PYD will join [the Afrin and Kobane cantons].’ This last point is especially important for us and I believe this has been achieved by means of the Euphrates Shield operation,” Işık said.

hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-made-its-views-heard-with-euphrates-shield-op-defense-minister-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=109907&NewsCatID=359

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Israeli Army Detains Ten Palestinians in West Bank, Arrest Warants for 40 More Issued

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Israeli forces on Sunday detained ten Palestinians from several cities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to local sources.

The Israeli soldiers, stationed at the entrance of al-Fahs road, detained a Palestinian truck driver from the city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank after Israeli soldiers claimed he tried to carry out a run-over attack, WAFA reported.

The driver’s identity remains unknown.

Israeli forces also detained three from the town of Beit Fjjar, South of Bethlehem, making the total number of detainees from that town up to 50 since 2017.

Soldiers also detained three, including a minor, from the town of Silwan in Ramallah.

Meanwhile, Israeli police detained two Palestinians from the town of Hizma, North of East Jerusalem and another from the neighborhood of Jabal al-Mukkaber in East Jerusalem after raiding their homes.

Also on Monday, The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) said in a statement that Israeli authorities issued 40 administrative detention orders, without charge or trial, against Palestinian detainees,

PPS lawyer, Mahmoud al-Halabi, noted that 14 orders were issued against Palestinians who were detained for the first time or re-detained after being released.

Over the years, Israel has placed thousands of Palestinians in administrative detention for prolonged periods of time, without trying them, without informing them of the charges against them, and without allowing them or their counsel to examine the evidence.

Palestinian detainees have continuously resorted to open-ended hunger strikes as a means to protest their illegal detention and demand an end to this policy which violates international law.

In February 2016, Palestinian journalist Mohammad Al Qiq ended 94 days of hunger strike which placed him on the verge of death. Al-Qiq was protesting his detention without charge or trial.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951201001175

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North America

There Were a Lot of American Terrorists in the News This Week. None Were Muslim.

February 19th, 2017

Home-grown terrorism is a serious problem in America, but major media outlets often fail to give the issue the time and attention it deserves; typically, they do not even label these incidents as acts of terrorism. I am not referring here to the attacks President Donald Trump (falsely) accuses the media of ignoring– I’m talking, instead, about real acts of violence committed by far-right and white supremacist groups.

As the Southern Poverty Law Center reported this week, the number of hate groups in the United States has spiked in the last fifteen years, the vast majority of which are far-right and/or anti-minority. In the past two weeks alone, at least four possible terrorist attacks were thwarted by law enforcement.

On February 8, a Georgia man was arrested after he showed up at a hospital with ricin poisoning. Details of the case are still emerging, the 4th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team of the Army National Guard was called in to ensure there was no continuing threat to the general public.

A few days later, a Florida man, A. Lee Bentley, III, was arrested after he delivered ten improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to an unnamed informant, who turned the devices over to authorities. Bentley had paid his would-be accomplice to place the IEDs in Target stores along the East Coast, from New York to Florida. Bentley planned to purchase Target shares after the terrorist attack, presumably to take advantage of a dip in their value created by the attack.

This past Tuesday, a woman was arrested and charged with a hate crime for vandalizing a Davis, California Islamic Center on January 22. The suspect, Lauren Kirk-Coehlo, smashed the windows of the building and wrapped the door handles with pork. The Sacramento Bee reported that Kirk-Coehlo “had searched for information about bomb vests and said in a text exchange with an unidentified party that while she had not killed anyone yet, ‘I have dreams and aspirations’ and ‘I would like to kill … many people.’” Davis police Detective Daniel La Fond said Kirk-Coehlo “is an immediate danger to the public.”

Finally, on Wednesday, February 15, a South Carolina man was arrested after allegedly telling an undercover federal agent he wanted to carry out a large-scale attack on non-whites, and scrawl on a building “In the Spirit of Dylan Roof, afterwards.” The man had communicated his intentions to an undercover agent, from whom he hoped to buy a Glock handgun and hollow-point ammunition.

These stories are not only attracting less attention and outrage from mainstream media outlets. Their perpetrators are also receiving very different legal treatment, when compared with Muslims accused of similar crimes. This distinction was made clear in the case of Robert Doggart, who was arrested in April 2016 after trying to recruit accomplices in a plot to burn down a mosque in a predominantly Muslim community in upstate New York. Doggart, who has been under house arrest, is not being charged with terrorism. If he was Muslim, there is no doubt he would have been labeled a terrorist.

Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric must be fought at every turn, but it is also symptomatic of a larger problem. Non-Muslim allies must realize that the fight against Islamophobia in this country will not be won until the legal and normative distinctions between Muslim and non-Muslim criminals are dismantled. This is a long-haul fight, and one that will need to be waged long after Trump is out of office.

muftah.org/lot-american-terrorists-news-week-none-muslim/#.WKmGHNJ951s

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Muslim majority needs to become more vocal

Fri., Feb. 17, 2017

Muslim communities are going through tough times but the proper method of responding is necessary to avoid more serious problems in the future.

By KAMRAN SIDDIQUI

The recent attempt for a travel ban in the United States on people from seven Muslim majority countries and the terrorist attack on a Muslim mosque in Quebec City are deplorable acts that are unacceptable in any civilized society and must be condemned.

The solidarity shown by the people of United States and Canada with Muslims in this difficult time is a commendable act, which strengthens the faith in humanity and evidently proves why these societies deserved to be called civilized.

Muslim communities are going through tough times and their future in these societies depends on how they handle this situation and emerge from it. There is no question there are issues within Muslim communities living in the West that include an increase in radicalization, especially among youth, integration with local communities, and respecting the social norms of the society and its secular values.

One approach is to play victim’s role, claim their innocence and held others responsible for creating this hostile environment that had led to these terrible acts. This approach, however, will lead Muslims into the state of denial and move them away from self-correction, which will amplify these issues and put Muslims on a collision course with everyone else.

The other approach is to consider these incidents as a self-check to identify the problems within the Muslim community and take corrective actions to eliminate the root causes. If such problems are not identified, acknowledged and corrected at an early stage then they may lead to more serious problems in the future.

One of the root causes of these problems is that Muslims in the West live under the influence of multi-faceted geopolitical conflicts in the Muslim world. Muslims view these conflicts with a monochromatic lens as a conspiracy of West against Islam.

This sentiment is sustained through prayer sermons, which highlights the global Muslim sufferings. This has led to the development of biased attitude toward other communities and consequently the self-isolation. This is a major obstacle in their integration into the society and a source of religious extremism.

The other root cause is the lack of acknowledgement of values and expectations of a secular and pluralistic society. In a secular society, religion is a personal matter and the practicing of religious rituals is restricted to the private lives. In the public sphere, every person is equal in the eyes of the state, irrespective of race, religion and gender.

However, Muslims often demand religious preference in public affairs. The follower of every religion considers his/her religion to be the only true religion and Muslims are no exceptions. However, in a pluralistic society one must respect other religions and maintain secular social norms equally with all its citizens. If Islamophobia is unacceptable on one side, then hatred towards Jews due to the Palestine-Israel conflict is also inappropriate.

The solidarity with Muslim community shown during these incidents confirmed that the people of Canada and U.S. consider Muslims living there to be part of their societies. However, it is also necessary for Muslim community to reciprocate this feeling and demonstrate their sense of belonging to these countries. Through their actions, they must defy the allegations that Muslims living in the West lack their allegiance towards the country in which they live as rightful citizens.

While the tragedy in Quebec City provided an opportunity for the Muslim community to bridge any mistrust that exists, unfortunately the Arab-Muslim community failed to demonstrate their allegiance to the land when the coffins of three victims were wrapped in Algerian and Tunisian flags.

The prime minister of Canada, the premier of Quebec, and mayors of Montreal and Quebec City were all present at the funeral prayers to pay respect to the victims, who for them were Canadians. But the Arab-Muslim community showed no respect to their gesture or the sentiment of a common Canadian by reminding them that they are Algerian and Tunisian first and then Canadian.

There is no doubt the vast majority of Muslims live peacefully in Western countries and fulfil their responsibilities as members of Western society but they need to become more vocal to negate the inappropriate actions of a small fraction that tends to alienate the community.

Instead of turning a blind eye, they must acknowledge the issues and take corrective actions. They should demonstrate they belong here and become an integral part of its social mosaic, and share respect for other communities to keep these societies safe and prosperous for future generations.

Kamran Siddiqui is an engineering professor at the University of Western Ontario.

thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2017/02/17/muslim-majority-needs-to-become-more-vocal.html

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Pentagon admits using depleted uranium rounds in Syria

DAWN.COM — PUBLISHED about 24 hours ago

Months after rubbishing any ideas of using a controversial type of armour-piercing round that has been linked with long term health related complications, the Pentagon has acknowledged that it used depleted uranium rounds during two high-profile air raids back in November 2015, The Washington Post reported.

The use of the ammunition came to light earlier this week when a report was issued by a joint Air Wars-Foreign Policy investigation, which stated that a 30mm depleted uranium bullet called PGU-14 had been fired during two air raids.

Approximately 5,200 rounds were fired from A-10 ground attack aircraft on November 16, 2015 and November 22, 2015, in airstrikes in Syria’s eastern desert. The strikes targeted the militant Islamic State (IS) group’s oil supply during Operation Tidal Wave II, confirmed US Central Command spokesman Major Josh Jacques.

The strikes involved the use of 30mm cannon fire, rockets and guided bombs, and helped destroy more than 300 vehicles, most of which were civilian tanker trucks, according to the Pentagon.

The two raids were championed by the Pentagon and footage of trucks being destroyed was posted online. The Pentagon also stated that no civilians were present during the attacks as fliers had been dropped before strafing runs warning those in their trucks to flee.

Earlier in February 2015, Captain John Moore, a spokesman for the US-led anti-ISIS coalition in Iraq and Syria, said in an email, "US and Coalition aircraft have not been and will not be using depleted uranium munitions in Iraq or Syria during Operation Inherent Resolve."

Later that year the Pentagon’s stance toward depleted uranium changed as US-led forces ramped up their campaign to go after the Islamic State’s cash flow, using depleted uranium ammunition in Operation Tidal Wave II to attack the militant outfit’s oil trucks in Syria and ensuring that the vehicles were rendered completely inoperable.

Depleted uranium rounds are used as armour-piercing rounds owing to the material’s high density, helping it penetrate certain tank shells.

Exposure to depleted uranium causes long term side effects, with the United Nations (UN) issuing a report in 2014 stating that direct contact with large amounts of depleted-uranium through the handling of scrap metal, for instance, could “result in exposure of radiological significance.”

However, there is no international treaty or rule that explicitly bans their use.

Major Josh Jacques did not rule out the possibility that the US-led coalition might use depleted uranium rounds again, adding that the locations where they were used in November 2015 have been marked for cleanup in the future.

However, as the area is still primarily controlled by the Islamic State, whatever scrap was left behind from the strikes has likely been recovered and sold.

dawn.com/news/1315551/pentagon-admits-using-depleted-uranium-rounds-in-syria

 

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Avalanche kills seven in northern Pakistan

AFP | Feb 19, 2017, 05.36 PM IST

Pakistani volunteers and army soldiers carry a body of a villager killed in an avalanche in Upper Chitral in Pakistan on Feb. 6, 2017. (AP Photo)

Pakistani volunteers and army soldiers carry a body of a villager killed in an avalanche in Upper Chitral in P... Read More

CHITRAL, PAKISTAN: An avalanche killed at least seven labourers in northern Pakistan on Sunday, a senior official said, with up to four more trapped beneath the snow.

The accident, which also injured seven, happened near the Lowari Tunnel which connects the districts of Dir and Chitral in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, senior local administration official Shahab Hameed told AFP.

"Efforts are also being made to pull the remaining workers out alive," he added.

Rescue teams have rushed to the area to help travellers stranded by the avalanche and provide medical attention for the injured.

At least 13 people were killed and 20 homes destroyed by avalanches and heavy rain which struck the region earlier this month -- while the death toll in neighbouring Afghanistan rose to almost 200.

Severe weather hits Pakistan every year, with avalanches in winter and flash floods in summer.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/avalanche-kills-seven-in-northern-pakistan/articleshow/57235141.cms

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‘May God have mercy on our country’: Pakistan’s resolve tested in fight against Islamic extremism

19 February, 2017

Critics accuse government of allowing partisan politics, sectarian bias and hostility to neighbouring countries to get in the way of curbing violent groups

Humiliated by a spate of suicide bombings that shook the nation and shattered official claims of winning the war on terrorism, Pakistani authorities have launched a sweeping retaliatory offensive across the country, hunting and killing more than 100 suspected Islamist militants, pledging to “liquidate” all terrorists, and placing security forces on high alert.

Pakistan has also accused next-door Afghanistan of harbouring the armed groups believed to be behind most of the bombings, and it has demanded that Kabul take action against them. On Saturday, Pakistani forces reportedly shelled suspected militant camps across the border, triggering a protest from Afghan officials as tensions rose between the hostile neighbouring countries.

We are so self-congratulatory that we declared success in the middle of a fightBABAR SATTAR, LAWYER AND RIGHTS ACTIVIST

But the blitz of punitive lethal action and the attempt to deflect blame toward foreign sources do not seem to have convinced many Pakistanis. They have seen similar vows of a decisive crackdown on Islamist militancy peter out after previous deadly attacks, especially since the terrorist massacre of 141 students and teachers at an elite army school just over two years ago.

Instead, the stunning new eruption of violence, claimed by Islamic State (IS) and its local affiliates as part of a new war on the Pakistani state, has triggered an outpouring of anguished and angry recrimination against Pakistan’s leaders for failing to acknowledge and address the ongoing threat of Islamist violence and the forces that feed it.

The half-dozen bombings and other attacks, carried out between Monday and Thursday in scattered locations across the country, killed more than 125 and left several hundred people injured. One blast killed 16 people in a crowded downtown area of Lahore, Pakistan’s eastern cultural capital and political nerve centre. The most deadly suicide attack, at a packed Sufi shrine in southeastern Sindh province, left at least 88 people dead and 250 injured.

In opinion pieces and TV debates, in conversations at tea shops and Sufi shrines, people complained the government had become complacent after a massive 2015 military operation that drove thousands of Pakistani Taliban fighters and other militants from the northwest border region, from which many fled into Afghanistan.

Suspected mastermind of Mumbai attacks caught up in Pakistan crackdown

Since that much-praised victory, critics said, Pakistani officials have allowed partisan politics, sectarian bias and hostility to neighbouring countries to get in the way of curbing other violent religious groups, targeting them selectively and doing little to curb radical seminaries and hate speech under a plan launched by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after the army school siege.

“We are so self-congratulatory that we declared success in the middle of a fight,” lawyer and rights activist Babar Sattar wrote in the News International newspaper on Saturday. “But what have we done to address the ideological basis of terror? Has the supply chain of hate-filled violent ideology been shut down?

“Bravado is useful to bolster public confidence when under attack but it is no substitute for sensible policy.”

A policeman stands guard on road due to security high alert in northwest Pakistan. Photo: Xinhua

At the Bari Imam shrine in Islamabad on Saturday, devotees of a 17th-century Sufi saint gathered at the historic sanctuary, despite official warnings and heavy security, as others did at the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine that was bombed on Thursday in Sindh. Arif Ali, 50, a civil engineer, brought his young son to Bari Imam and said he prayed to the saint to stop the violence.

“May God have mercy on us and our country,” Ali said. “We thought all the blasts and explosions were over, but now it is the same havoc as before. These terrorists don’t spare even mosques or schools.

These terrorists don’t spare even mosques or schools. The sad thing is that our government seems to be helpless in crushing themARIF ALI, CIVIL ENGINEER

“The sad thing is that our government seems to be helpless in crushing them. Look at these police, they are standing here but they cannot protect anyone. I say it would be better if this government resigns and the army takes over.”

Military and civilian officials have taken pains to speak with one voice on the new terrorist threat, and there seems little danger of the army stepping in as it has done during past crises. Sharif has made a number of tough anti-terrorism statements as well as condemned the shrine bombing Thursday as “an attack on the progressive and inclusive future of Pakistan”.

However, the military establishment has taken the lead in accusing Afghanistan of failing to go after the militants – an ironic role reversal after years of complaints by Afghan and US officials that Pakistan has been sheltering anti-Afghan Taliban forces on its side of the border.

On Friday, Afghan diplomats were called to Pakistan army headquarters and handed a list of 76 terrorists – largely from the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JUA) group, an affiliate of IS that claimed most of the bombings – and were told the fighters were operating from Afghan soil. On Saturday, Afghan officials formally complained that Pakistan had shelled civilian areas in Afghanistan’s Nangahar province, near the Pakistani border.

In other areas of Pakistan, official attitudes toward a hodgepodge of religious militant groups have been more ambivalent. Some are tolerated for their political or sectarian affiliations, others for their strong opposition to Hindu-led India. But experts said that many of these groups have ties to the local IS affiliates that claimed the bombings, and that attempting to differentiate among the militant groups has been a disastrous mistake.

The disappeared: why Pakistan is feeling spooked over missing social media activists

“These groups come in various colours and varieties, but they share a common purpose. Ultimately they are joined at the hip,” said Rifaat Hussain, a professor of government and public policy at Pakistan’s National University of Sciences and Technology.

The recent bombings, he said, constitute “the rejuvenation of a dangerous version of Islam. The message of these terrorists to the government is: ‘We are alive and kicking, and we can strike wherever we want.’”

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Russian Military Expert: Syria to Start Major Anti-Terrorism Battle in Raqqa Soon

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- A prominent Russian military analyst underlined that a major battle will start against the terrorist groups in Raqqa in the near future, adding that the massive military operations will prevent the Turkey-backed forces' further advance and disintegration of Syria.

"The major battle in Syria will start within one month or a little time more than one month with the aim of liberating Raqqa city as the ISIL's main base in Syria, and other regions occupied by the terrorist group," Yuri Larogov said in an interview with Gazeta.ru newspaper.

He also said that given the current complicated situation in peace talks in Astana, every one should remember that the truce doesn’t include the terrorist groups like the ISIL and al-Nusra (Fatah al-Sham) Front that the international community has legitimized fighting against them.

A squadron of Tu-95MS strategic bombers equipped with advanced missiles struck repeatedly ISIL's positions in Raqqa in Northeastern Syria on Friday, using the airspace of Iran and Iraq to reach the targets, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

The Russian ministry announced in a statement on Friday that the country's fighter jets targeted training and command centers of a large terrorist group affiliated to ISIL in Raqqa's countryside.

The statement said that the Russian bombers left their bases and flew over Iran and Iraq, targeting ISIL's positions in Raqqa by Kh-101-air-to-surface cruise missiles.

The statement further added that several Sukhoi-30 SM and Sukhoi-33 fighter jets took off from Humeimim airbase in Lattakia and backed up the Russian squadron in the Raqqa operation.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951201000667

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Syrian Army to Launch Imminent Operations in Eastern Damascus

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army forces and their allies will soon start massive military operations against al-Nusra (Fatah al-Sham) Front in the Eastern countryside of Damascus, a field source revealed on Sunday.

A high-ranking Russian military delegation of experts along with a number of Syrian army officers have visited certain army points and positions in al-Wafedeen, Tal Kurdi and Tal al-Sawan, the source said.

The goal of this visit was studying the field situation and coordination to start military operations against al-Nusra Front and other terrorist groups in the region which are not committed to the ceasefire agreement and do not allow the residents of Eastern Ghouta (countryside) to leave the region through the specified corridor in al-Wafedeen camp, he added.

Another field source in Eastern Ghouta also underlined that massive operations will soon start in several fronts in Eastern Ghouta.

The terrorist groups target the al-Wafedeen Refugee camp in Eastern Ghouta with a barrage of missile and rockets, preventing exit of civilians and militants via a safe corridor set up by the Syrian Army.

Terrorist groups' missile units shell the humanitarian corridor in al-Wafedeen refugee camp, preventing evacuation of civilians and those militants that intend to join peace with the Syrian government.

No civilian has managed to leave Eastern Ghouta via the corridor in al-Wafedeen, field sources said.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951201000568

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Syrian Army Inches Closer to Palmyra

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army, supported by the Russian air force, continued military operations in Eastern Homs and won back control of several points in the Western parts of the ancient city of Tadmur (Palmyra).

After fierce clashes with the ISIL terrorists and leaving tens of dead and wounded militants, the army forces regained full control of the two regions of al-Majbal and al-Ramal on the road linking Homs and Tadmur cities.

Concurrent with the operations, the Russian fighter jets heavily bombed ISIL's positions in the two regions and their nearby areas, inflicting casualties on the terrorists.

A military source said that the Syrian army forces are now 8km away from the Western gates of Tadmur city near al-Sawaqah school after liberating al-Ramal region and they are now able to lay siege on ISIL militants in certain districts from the three Northern, Western and Southern directions.

Earlier today, the Syrian army troops retook full control of Western Torfeh farms near al-Bayarat region West of Palmyra city.

The ISIL terrorists sustained heavy losses and casualties in tough battle with the Syrian army troops.

Meantime, a military source said that the Syrian army has fortified its military positions in the surrounding areas of al-Bayarat region and the army's engineering units are defusing mines and bombs from the liberated areas in Eastern Homs.

Also, on Saturday, the army soldiers stormed ISIL's defense lines and managed to take back the village of al-Kalabiyeh in al-Bayarat region.

ISIL suffered a heavy death toll and its military vehicles sustained major damage in the attack.

Also, the army soldiers stormed ISIL's defense lines near Tadmur and won back al-Kalabiyeh farms South of al-Bayarat, advancing almost 2km in the region.

The ISIL suffered a heavy death toll and its military hardware sustained major damage in the attack.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951201001204

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ISIL Executes Senior Commander in Hasaka

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The ISIL terrorist group executed one of its own senior commanders as he was trying to flee with a large amount of cash from areas under the terrorist group's control in the countryside of Hasaka in Northern Syria.

Abu Mohammad was captured as he was trying to flee the town of Merkedeh with $150,000 of cash, local sources in Hasaka province disclosed.

The ISIL executed Abu Mohammad after accusing him of spying for the coalition forces.

In a relevant development in late October, the ISIL executed eight of its own senior militants, including two Saudi nationals, in the Southern part of Hasaka city as they were trying to flee to the neighboring provinces.

"Six top ISIL security chiefs were executed in the town of Merkedeh while they were trying to escape to Deir Ezzur province," an informed source said.

The source also noted that the ISIL also executed two of its own Saudi militants in Merkedeh city.

There have been frequent reports that ISIL has executed fighters and civilians for attempting to flee its territory in Syria and Iraq, or for alleged spying.

In late September, the ISIL publicly executed a dozen of its member militants for attempting to desert their posts in the Syrian province of Raqqa.

"The ISIL military leadership has publicly beheaded 12 of its own militants for evacuating their posts at the battlefront in Eastern Syria without permission,” a Raqqa-based media activist said.

"The militants were executed on Tuesday evening in front of hundreds of people in Central Raqqa,” the source said.

In March, the ISIL publicly executed eight Dutch nationals, who had joined the group in 2015, for expressing opposition.

ISIL’s “sharia court” ordered the execution of the foreign militants in public.

The militants were arrested at a checkpoint while trying to escape Raqqa.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951201001221

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Aleppo: ISIL Makes Further Advances in Al-Bab Despite Turkey's Heavy Air Raids

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The ISIL terrorist group continued to push the Turkish army and Ankara-backed militants back in the town of al-Bab on Sunday.

The ISIL terrorists managed to capture several positions of the Euphrates Shield forces South of al-Bab town.

The ISIL continued its attacks on the Southern part of al-Bab and took control of several buildings in the surrounding areas of Tadef Square in Southern al-Bab.

The ISIL's advances came despite heavy air raids by the Turkish air force and Turkish army's artillery and rocket attacks.

The Turkish army and air force, meanwhile, pounded the ISIL-controlled areas in the Western and Southern parts of al-Bab which resulted in the death of five civilians and injury of over 10 others.

In a relevant development on Saturday, the ISIL stormed the defense lines of the Turkish soldiers and Ankara-backed militants of the Euphrates Shield near the town of al-Bab, taking control over several key positions in the region.

ISIL engaged in fierce clashes with the forces of the Euphrates Shield Operation Northwest of al-Bab and managed to take control of Dawar al-Ra'ei region and al-Shahabi farms North of al-Bab, inflicting major losses on the Turkish army and allied militants.

The Ankara-backed militant group pulled the remaining pockets of their forces back from the battlefield to evade more casualties.

A media source reported that simultaneous with ISIL's advances near al-Bab, the Turkish air force targeted ISIL's positions in the Northwestern neighborhoods and along the road connecting al-Bab to the towns of Qabasin and Baza'ah.

The source added that ISIL has now brought most of al-Bab's neighborhoods back under its control and has found the upper hand over the Turkish troops in the battlefield.

A Turkish soldier was killed and three more were wounded in clashes with ISIL near a key town in Eastern Aleppo on Sunday.

Turkish soldiers and forces of the Euphrates Shield Operation engaged in fierce clashes with ISIL near the town of al-Bab.

A Turkish soldier was killed and three others were injured by ISIL in the battlefield.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951201001157

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Southeast Asia

Fear among Malaysian Christians amid bid to increase Islamic law

Sun 19 Feb 2017

By Antony Bushfield

Christians in Malaysia are becoming increasingly concerned about attempts to give Islamic courts more power and the ability to impose prison time of up to 30 years.

The country's Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) is trying to strengthen the position of Sharia law in the multi-cultural society.

Around 60 per cent of the nation are Muslim, 20 per cent Buddhists, 10 per cent Christians and 6 per cent Hindus.

Parliament will discuss the proposed amendment to the law that would allow Islamic courts to impose prison terms of 30 years, fines of £18,000 and 100 lashes.

Currently the courts, which rule on religious matters and family law for Muslims, can only impose three years jail time, six lashes and fines of around £800.

Although Christians would not be hauled into an Islamic Court on a religious matter they could find themselves there if they are involved in a family matter with a Muslim.

The country's Democratic Action Party said it will oppose the change in parliament.

premierchristianradio.com/News/World/Fear-among-Malaysian-Christians-amid-bid-to-increase-Islamic-law

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China stages another mass anti-terror rally in Xinjiang

Reuters | Feb 19, 2017, 12.30 PM IST

BEIJING: Chinese security forces have staged another mass anti-terror rally in the restive far western region of Xinjiang, parading hundreds of armed men through the streets of the regional capital Urumqi in a show of force after an uptick in violence.

Hundreds have died in Xinjiang in the past few years, mostly in unrest between the Muslim Uighur people, who call the region home, and the ethnic majority Han Chinese. Beijing blames the unrest on Islamist militants.

The Xinjiang government's news website on Saturday showed pictures of hundreds of gun-toting police and soldiers standing in front of a government building shouting out pledges to defeat terror and lines of armoured vehicles driving though the streets.

Xinjiang deputy party secretary Zhu Hailun said the Urumqi rally, following on from ones in Kashgar and Hotan in Xinjiang's Uighur heartland in the region's deep south, were a sign of "real action" to deepen the fight against terror.

Militants and extremists would be "smashed and destroyed", Zhu said.

The official Xinjiang Daily on Sunday further quoted Zhu as saying at the Saturday rally that no effort would be spared in this regard.

"With guns by our bodies, knives unsheathed, fists out and hands extended, we must use thunderous power to strike hard against terrorist activities," Zhu said.

After a period of relative calm, there has been a rise in violence in recent weeks, particularly in the region's south.

On Tuesday, three knife-wielding attackers killed five people and injured another five in Pishan County before themselves being shot dead in Hotan prefecture.

In December, five people were killed when attackers drove a vehicle into a government building and police shot dead what authorities described as three terror suspects last month.

The government has blamed much of the unrest on separatist Islamist militants, though rights groups and exiles say anger at tightening Chinese controls on the religion and culture of Muslim Uighurs is more to blame.

China routinely denies any repression in Xinjiang.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/china/china-stages-another-mass-anti-terror-rally-in-xinjiang/articleshow/57232284.cms

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Africa

Libyan general slams Europe, US for supporting terrorist groups

February 19, 2017 - 3:29 PM

(AhlulBayt News Agency) - Libyan General Khalifa Haftar has accused several European countries and the United States of supporting terrorist groups in Libya by secretly providing them weapons and training.

In an interview aired on the Egyptian ON LIVE radio channel on Saturday, Haftar described France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, and the United States as “partners” to the terrorists in Libya.

He said those countries had to reconsider their positions.

The Libyan general also said Turkey used to back terrorists but “we sent back in coffins the terrorists that Turkey had dispatched” to Libya.

Turkey will pay dearly for the harm it did to the Libyan nation, he said, without elaborating further.

Haftar was an ally of Libya’s long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi but joined the Libyan revolution against Gaddafi in 2011.

Libya has been dominated by violence since a NATO military intervention that followed the 2011 uprising and that led to the overthrow and death of Gaddafi. Rival governments were set up in Tripoli and eastern Libya back in 2014.

General Haftar is linked to the government based in the east, in the port city of Tobruk, and has refused to profess allegiance to the United Nations (UN)-recognized government in Tripoli. His forces have been fighting militias loyal to the Tripoli government since 2014.

en.abna24.com/news/africa/libyan-general-slams-europe-us-for-supporting-terrorist-groups.html

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Libya, not Syria, will be the foundation of Trump and Putin's new world order

Kim Sengupta | The Independent | Updated: Feb 19, 2017, 03.02 PM IST

BRUSSELS: The focus of Nato's conference in Brussels, the first since Donald Trump got to the White House, was on the message he sent to an organisation of Western allies he had called "obsolete" while speaking of his admiration for Vladimir Putin.

The message, a veiled threat, conveyed by US Defence Secretary James Mattis, was that the continuing failure of the alliance to pay its share on security would lead to the US reevaluating its commitment to the defence of Europe. That and the continuing fallout over Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn's departure after clandestine contacts with the Russians, were the sources of fascination and foreboding here. Almost unnoticed a development took place at the end of the summit, on Libya, which is likely to have great resonance in relations between Nato, the US and Russia, Trump and Putin. Nato's secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, announced that the alliance is likely to provide security support to the Libyan government of Fayez al-Sarraj.

"We have said for some time that we are ready to help Libya but that any assistance has to be based on a request from the Libyan government," said Stoltenberg. "This is the request we received yesterday - training local forces is one of the best weapons in the fight against terrorism and building stability."

Libya has, of course, become a source of huge trouble for Europe since David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy instigated Nato's military intervention and the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi six years ago. It is the main conduit for hundreds of thousands of refugees crossing the Mediterranean and also the lawless place where Isis has established its main base for carrying out attacks in the Maghreb.

Special forces of Western countries are already in action in Libya - the US has carried out airstrikes on Isis and other Islamist terrorists. But any formal deployment of forces by Nato faces problems. There is the danger of mission creep: being sucked into a violent and semi-anarchic quagmire, as well as the fact that the Government of National Accord, headed by Fayez al-Sarraj, which Nato is supposed to prop up, has very little territory and very little power.

The man who claims to wield real power - an aspiring new Gaddafi according to his enemies - is former general Khalifa Haftar with his force the Libyan National Army (LNA). He has the backing of Egypt and the UAE whose warplanes have carried out airstrikes in his support. Now, crucially, he has the support of a Russia expanding its influence across the Middle-East and North Africa.

General Haftar went to Moscow twice last year to seek help and then turned up on board the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov as it was returning from waters off the coast of Syria where it had been part of the blitzkrieg enabling Bashar al-Assad to recapture Aleppo. He met the Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu, on board, to discuss, according to the Kremlin, "fighting international terrorist groups in the Middle East."

The US under Barack Obama had refused to deal with General Haftar but the Libyan commander and his backers, the parliament in Benghazi, one of the country's three governments, say they are also now optimistic that they will get the support of the Trump administration.

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was the first foreign leader to congratulate Trump after his victory and the Egyptian president has been pressing Washington to switch its support to General Haftar. And, according to reports, members of the Trump team have started discussing the Haftar option. An American official in Brussels commented: "The Trump people may well think Libya would be a less sensitive theatre to cooperate with the Russians on counter-terrorism than Syria: the common conception is that Libya is a mess - we have Daesh [Isis] running around there and if this guy Haftar is being effective, then maybe he is the man."

Even before the coming of Trump there has been a feeling among some American officials that the problems being faced by Europe from Libya were, to an extent, self-induced. Paris and London were very much the cheerleaders in getting rid of Colonel Gaddafi, with Washington somewhat dubious about the outcome. The military mission was initially French and British led, but the Americans had to step in as shortfalls in equipment and bombs and missiles became apparent. In his speech to Nato at the end of the conflict, US defence secretary Leon Panetta warned that "legitimate questions about whether, if present trends continue, Nato will again be able to sustain the kind of operations we have seen in Libya without the US taking on even more of the burden."

The "trends" that Panetta was talking about was most of Nato not paying their way for the defence of the alliance. American officials pointed out that Mattis was having to make the same point again, much more forcefully, this week, six years later.

The issue of money is not something bothering General Haftar at the moment. Russia has printed 4bn Libyan Dinars (around $2.8bn) on contract to the Libyan Central Bank which it has transferred it to his backers in Benghazi. Haftar now claims that Moscow will enable him to spend the money legitimately by helping to lift the UN arms embargo in place since 2011. This allows only the UN-backed GNC administration in Tripoli to bring in weapons with the approval of the UN Security Council Committee.

General Haftar does not lack weapons: a steady, illicit flow comes from the Arab states backing him and his LNA is undoubtedly the most effective non-Islamist force in the country at present. Nato and the EU had been trying to get the general to come to an agreement with al-Sarraj's General National Council, namely that he retains military command while accepting the civilian administration. Boris Johnson wished earlier this month that "Gen Haftar can be persuaded that he can be a big part of the future of Libya but without necessarily having to be a new jefe."

But efforts to this end have been fruitless with General Haftar increasingly empowered by the backing of his international friends. Italian foreign minister Angeleno Afano was due to ask for help on the issue from Sergey Lavrov at a meeting of foreign ministers in Bonn yesterday. But news from there was dominated by the first meeting between Russia's foreign minister and Rex Tillerson, Trump's new secretary of state.

It looks increasingly likely that what happens in Libya, as in so much else in the tide of current geopolitics, is likely to be decided by how relations evolve between Trump and Putin; the forming of the new order, with other international players increasingly on the sideline.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/libya-not-syria-will-be-the-foundation-of-trump-and-putins-new-world-order/articleshow/57232557.cms

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Muslim Groups Criticize Wilders' 'Moroccan Scum' Comments

19 Feb 2017

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -- Muslim organizations in the Netherlands have criticized disparaging comments about Moroccans made by anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders, but say they are just the latest in a long string of insults.

Launching his campaign Saturday for the Netherlands' March 15 parliamentary election, Wilders criticized what he called "Moroccan scum" for making the Netherlands unsafe.

Ebubekir Ozture, director of the Muslim umbrella group Contact Organ Muslims and Government, on Sunday called Wilders comments "reprehensible," but added, "It is not the first time and probably won't be the last time," that Wilders has used such language.

Wilders was convicted late last year of inciting discrimination and insulting a group for anti-Moroccan comments he made before and after local elections in 2014. He branded the conviction "political."

© 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/E/EU_NETHERLANDS_ELECTION_WILDERS?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2017-02-19-06-19-09

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Islamic Extremists Denounce Somalia's New President

 

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) -- A commander of Somalia's Islamic extremist rebels denounced said the country's recent election of a new president and vowed to continue fighting the government, the first official comment from al-Shabab since the president's election earlier this month.

In an audio message released by al-Shabab's radio arm Sunday, Sheikh Hassan Yaqub, a senior commander of the extremist group, called Somalia's new president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed an "apostate" and warned Somalis against supporting him. Mohamed, who holds both Somali and U.S. citizenship, was elected Feb. 8.

The al-Shabab leader also referred the new president as "evil-minded," recalling his eight-month tenure as the prime minister of Somalia in 2010 and 2011, during which the extremists lost control of Mogadishu, the capital.

"Remember how much harm he inflicted upon Muslims during his time as prime minister," said Yaqub.

The group has since lost most of its key strongholds across south and central Somalia to a multi-pronged offensive by allied Somali and African Union forces.

Despite being ousted from most of Somalia's cities and towns, al-Shabab continues to carry out deadly attacks, many by suicide bombers, across large parts of south and central Somalia, including Mogadishu.

Al-Shabab's assaults threaten this nation's attempts to rebuild from decades of chaos.

© 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/A/AF_SOMALIA_AL_SHABAB?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2017-02-19-05-20-35

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Europe

Prevent 'not trusted' by many British Muslims and 'must reform'

19 Feb 2017

The Government's Prevent campaign must be reformed as it is "simply not trusted" by a large proportion of Britain's Muslims, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation has said.

Prevent needs to explain what it does, why the basis of interventions are and engage with a wider range of Muslims to improve, David Anderson told Peston on Sunday.

However, Prevent does not simply deal with the threat posed by radical Islam Mr Anderson said, adding 25% of interventions are to do with the extreme right-wing.

The rise of the increase in far-right extremism is in part linked to attacks carried out by the so-called Islamic State in Europe, but also due to a rise in anti-Semitism, Mr Anderson said.

However, he added that the far-right terror threat was very "fragmented", but added you do not need a large organisation to destroy a "large number of lives" as attacks by Anders Breivik and the attack on Berlin's Christmas market in December displayed.

Mr Anderson, who is soon to step down from his position, added that there are now less terror laws than under the Coalition Government, but this was a benefit as red-tape had been axed and grievances removed.

itv.com/news/2017-02-19/prevent-not-trusted-by-many-british-muslims-and-must-reform/

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Emmanuel Macron struggles to impress French Muslims

 

When asked if she would vote for the centrist Emmanuel Macron over the far-right Marine Le Pen in a possible runoff for the French presidency, Nadia Henni-Moulai could only muster an unenthusiastic "I'll see".

"Macron might convince me by then … but I won't vote for him by default," she said before vexing at the "anti-Islam continuum from the far-right to the far-left".

Henni-Moulai, a French Muslim of Algerian origin, was one of several Muslims Al Jazeera spoke to who expressed reservations about backing Macron.

No religion is a problem in France today

Emmanuel Macron, French presidential candidate

Their positions varied from cautious support to promises to avoid voting in the election altogether.

The upcoming contest could have serious consequences for the country's Muslims, with polls putting the Front National's Le Pen in front in the first round of voting.

Restrictions on halal meat, religious clothing, and "burkinis" have formed part of the far-right leader's strategy to fight for the "soul of France".

Macron, her centrist rival, trails behind her in the first round, but polls show he has a healthy lead should the pair face off in the deciding second round.

At 39, the former minister for economy has pulled in energetic crowds for his campaign rallies, drawn by his promise of "democratic revolution" in the face of a global turn to far-right populism of the kind represented by Le Pen.

On Islam, Macron has been cordial, insisting "no religion is a problem in France today" and even drawing ire from the right by condemning French "crimes and acts of barbarism" during its colonial rule in Algeria.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen leads the polls for the first round of voting but falls behind Macron in the second [AP Photo/Michel Euler]

Henni-Moulai, the founder of the website Melting Book, which aims to amplify minority voices in the media, cast doubt on whether Macron could deliver on his energetic campaign, given his "establishment" background.

"He presents himself as against the system, but like the others he graduated from the ENA," she said, using the acronym for the National School of Administration, where France's top civil servants are trained.

"He worked as an investment banker afterwards …. Despite his claims, he is a part of the system," she added.

The temptations of indulging in anti-Muslim rhetoric were too strong and Macron would eventually succumb, Henni-Moulai claimed.

"Muslim bashing is inescapable, especially if you want to reach the Elysée palace.

"I'm quite skeptical about his ability to get elected with his current arguments … as the French adage goes: Campaign from the right, govern from the centre."

Sarkozy example

Not everyone Al Jazeera spoke to carried their skepticism of Macron as strongly as Henni-Moulai, but a thread of doubt surrounding whether he would follow through on his promises featured in most of the conversations.

Yousef Barbouch, a sales professional from the southern city of Toulouse, praised Macron's stance on Islam but pointed out that past successful candidates had reneged on their earlier goodwill.

"There is a certain optimism you feel when you see his position on Islam within society and on hijabis, for example," Barbouch said.

"[Macron] has this British and American mindset where he doesn't care what you believe as long as you bring a value to the country, and that's really refreshing to hear in today's context of fear [surrounding Islam]."

However, Barbouch recalled the example of former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who he said had started his tenure with similar statements before turning his back on them later.

"I won't forget that in 2009, Sarkozy had similar opinions; he defended hijabis, for example, but seven years later he's fiercely opposed to the headscarf."

Karim Brequin, a Parisian business consultant, also noted receptiveness among Muslims for Macron's amiable comments on Islam but said his association with controversial establishment figures could count against him.

"Many are looking towards Macron as he seems to be more culturally aware than the other candidates," Brequin told Al Jazeera.

"The fact that he is young and represents some kind of new momentum is relevant to many … however, his relationship with Dominique Strauss-Kahn raises questions," he said, referring to the former finance minister once touted as a future president until he became embroiled in a rape scandal.

Rim-Sarah Alouane, a researcher in Public Law at the University Toulouse Capitole, said Macron deserved praise for not using fear of Islam as an electoral device.

Credit has to be given to Macron for being one of the very rare candidates who do not abuse laïcité [French secularism] and Muslims to power his campaign

Rim-Sarah Alouane, Researcher in Public Law

"Credit has to be given to Macron for being one of the very few candidates who do not abuse laïcité [French secularism] and Muslims to power their campaign," she said, adding: "His American-style empowerment discourse makes it possible to restore sorely needed hope to French Muslims who have been targeted both by the right and the left during the presidential campaign debates."

That praise, however, was tempered by the fear that Macron's promises seemed "to good to be true ...

"This new hope of the French political landscape [Macron] has a very elusive programme that does not address the roots of the economic and social issues faced by the most disenfranchised populations in this country.

"Going to visit the banlieues [suburbs] or declaring loudly that multiculturalism is great is laudable, and of course very much needed, but unless he moves beyond words, people will not be fooled."

Such economic concerns were also a factor for Yasser Louati, a leading French activist against Islamophobia.

Although statistics based on religion are hard to come by in France owing to state prohibition on their collection, immigrants, many of whom are Muslim, have almost double the unemployment rate of French-born residents.

"Macron will bring no positive changes to the working class and minorities whatsoever," Louati said.

"His positions are known to be highly in favour of neoliberalism, with a complete disregard for its catastrophic social consequences, such as unequal concentration of power and wealth, repression, or environmental crisis."

Louati conceded that Macron had made "brave declarations" on the role of the state in discriminating against minority youths and had avoided exploiting anti-Islamic rhetoric, but said his key platform policies remain unknown.

"Nobody knows what his programme is about ... Macron has never expressed how to effectively tackle the root causes of racism or whether he intends to repeal Islamophobic laws."

Taking a harder line than any of the other French Muslims Al Jazeera spoke to, Louati said he would avoid voting in the upcoming elections.

"I would not vote for Emmanuel Macron nor any other candidate because that would be giving more credit to a morally bankrupt and institutionally failed political system."

aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/02/emmanuel-macron-struggles-impress-french-muslims-170218192439532.html

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Muslim parents 'send Primary school headteacher death threats and complain about her "offensive" clothes' as fears grow over a second Trojan Horse plot

19 February 2017

The headteacher of a mostly Muslim primary school has been forced to work from home by death threats from parents who hate her western values.

Trish O'Donnell, head of Clarksfield Primary School in Oldham, has endured 'harassment and intimidation' in the form of 'aggressive verbal abuse' and 'threats to blow up her car' from parents pushing conservative Muslim values.

It is feared they are making a 'Trojan Horse' attempt to Islamicise the school.

Parents have complained the way she dresses is 'unsuitable' and that pictures of her daughters in her office are 'offensive'.

The school is mostly filled with Pakistani pupils who do not speak English as a first language. A section of its website titled British values only reads: 'coming soon'.

Since becoming head in 2006, Mrs O'Donnell has taken the school Ofsted rating from needing improvement to good.

Prison psychologist converted to Islam and married an...

German chancellor Angela Merkel urges Europe to take MORE...

But now she feels her position is untenable due to the pressure from Muslim parents trying to change the school from within.

According to an Oldham council report, seen by The Sunday Times, she wrote that she had a 'very strong reasons to believe that . . . a "Trojan Horse" agenda [is] being played out'. 

And the head teachers' union, the NAHT, said it was 'supporting a number of members in the Oldham area with a variety of apparent Trojan Horse issues'.

The council report says the school's 2013 parent-governor Nasim Ashraf hosted 'Islamic teaching sessions' at the school while his wife, Hafizan Zaman, 'made remarks to Asian staff members that they should be wearing a veil and covering their heads'.

They took exception to Hindi music being played in class, were angered by sex education and were accused of intimidating staff and undermining the headteacher.

The report said they tried to mobilise parents to 'secure changes at the school to reflect their interpretation of Islam' but did not suggest they were involved in the violent threats.

Ashraf's sister Shasta Khan is serving eight years in jail for plotting to attack Jews in Manchester.

She's friends on Facebook with Tahir Alam, the architect of a similar 'Trojan Horse' plot on several schools in Birmingham in 2014.

In the plot activists launched a campaign to oust headteachers using dirty tricks such as spreading false allegations and packing governing bodies with their supporters. 

Tahir Alam and Razwan Faraz were part of the 'Park View Brotherhood' of teachers, which exchanged some 3,000 messages in a WhatsApp group, including offensive comments about British soldiers, the Boston Marathon bombings and the murder of soldier Lee Rigby.

Mr Faraz, a former deputy headteacher of the Trojan-Horse linked Nansen Primary School, is under an interim teaching ban, while Mr Alam was banned from any involvement with schools by the Department for Education (DfE).

Clarksfield Primary's Chairman of Governors Saima Kausar and Mrs O'Donnell declined to comment.

Ashraf denied any Trojan Horse plot but said he wanted to remove Mrs O'Donnell because the school was failing.

dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4239352/Muslim-parents-sent-school-headteacher-death-threats.html#ixzz4Z8JQj2M9

 

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