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Islamic World News ( 14 Feb 2010, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Obama names special envoy to the Muslim world

In Middle East, Clinton asks for patience with U.S. strategy

Hillary in Gulf for tough stance on Iran

Cheney: Biden 'Dead Wrong' on Terror Threat

Generation Jihad, One Born Every Minute and Mastercrafts

Saudi calls for boycott against men selling lingerie

Come Together: Islamic Student Center opens, shows off work of interfaith groups

Ulema council opposes unofficial marriage

If Shah Rukh Khan is a “Pak Jehadi agent”,then Who is the patriotic Muslim?

A Test For Saudi Arabia's Terrorist-Rehab Program

Pune blast: Bhatkal brothers emerge prime suspects

Muslim firebrands challenge Hamas rule in Gaza

Indonesia's Top Judge Backs Bill to Curb Polygamy

Islamophobia is as dangerous as racism and anti-semitism

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: The closed minds that deny a civilisation's glories

Aston school to step up research on Islamic finance

Gilani beats hasty retreat in judiciary row

Pakistan People’s Party workers stage rallies in support of Zardari

Indo-Pak talks to be held as per schedule: Krishna

Indian films only hope for Pakistani cinema

NATO rockets kill 12 Afghan civilians

Nigeria: Muslim Leaders Tasks FG on Police Killings

FBI followed protocol in imam's shooting in Dearborn, ex-agent says

Islamic students’ body under lens

Chavan, Patil unaware of Centre's terror alert

LeT militant killed in Kashmir gunfight

Pak pounds border posts with rockets

Pune blast once again shows gaps in local policing

Terror and talks can't co-exist: BJP

US had warned of attack in Pune, Mumbai

Pune blast: JuD role not ruled out, govt wants Headley access

At Marjah, troops face death at every corner

Iran sanctions: Clinton visits key allies in Persian Gulf

NATO claims responsibility for 12 Afghan civilian deaths

13 Yemeni army personnel killed in chopper crash

Hamas, Fatah join Gaza reconciliation talks: Palestinians

No rethinking on talks with Pakistan

Yasin Malik seeks a place on India, Pakistan dialogue table

Delhi, Kanpur, Indore in JuD’s terror hit list

Explosives seized in Gujarat

Bangladesh executed 411 people since 1971: Official

US, Israel up pressure for sanctions on Iran

Pak judiciary & govt head for showdown

Taliban Fighters Said to Flee Under Coalition Pressure

Hamas: British Journalist Ordered Held for 15 Days

The anti-Muslim Nile Hotel

Arabs losing Somaliland to Israel

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL of this Page: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/obama-names-special-envoy-to-the-muslim-world/d/2466

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Obama names special envoy to the Muslim world

February 15, 2010

In case you were out of the house Saturday doing errands and forgetting to get your special someone a sweet something for Valentine's Day, President Obama chose that day to make a surprise announcement.

The announcement came in a special video which he taped for the U.S.-Islamic World Conference meeting now in Qatar. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was there Sunday.

But it was Obama who announced, as a continuation of his determined outreach to the world's Muslim communities, the appointment of a special emissary to the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference that bills itself as the collective voice of the Muslim world.

He's Rashad Hussain, a deputy associate counsel, who, of course, has a Harvard degree. Obama, who spent his childhood in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, has made....

...several such outreaches -- such as his special Hajj message here in November -- with special taped messages on Muslim holidays and his trip to and speech in Cairo last summer. So far, the gestures have gone unrequited.

The president said:

    As an accomplished lawyer and a close and trusted member of my White House staff, Rashad has played a key role in developing the partnerships I called for in Cairo. And as a hafiz of the Qur’an, he is a respected member of the American Muslim community.

One White House official called the move an "important part of the president's commitment to engaging Muslims around the world based on mutual respect and mutual interest."

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Assalaamu alaykum. And on behalf of the American people—including Muslim communities across America—greetings as you gather for the 7th U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha.

I want to thank all those whose support has made this Forum possible, especially the Amir of Qatar, the government of Qatar and the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution. It is fitting that you gather again in Doha—a place where our countries come together to forge innovative partnerships in education and medicine, science and technology.

Thank you all for being here. As leaders in government, academia, media, business, faith organizations and civil society, you understand that we are all bound together by common aspirations—to live with dignity, to get an education, to enjoy healthy lives, to live in peace and security, and to give our children a better future.

Yet you also know that the United States and Muslims around the world have often slipped into a cycle of misunderstanding and mistrust that can lead to conflict rather than cooperation.

That is why in Cairo last year I called for a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect. I laid out a vision where we all embrace our responsibilities to build a world that is more peaceful and secure. It has only been eight months since Cairo, and much remains to be done. But I believe we’ve laid the groundwork to turn those pledges into action.

The United States is responsibly ending the war in Iraq; we are removing all our combat brigades from Iraq by the end of August, and we will partner with the Iraqi people on behalf of their long-term security and prosperity. In Afghanistan and beyond, we are forging partnerships to isolate violent extremists, reduce corruption and to promote good governance and development that improves lives. We remain unyielding in pursuit of a two-state solution that recognizes the rights and security of Israelis and Palestinians. And the United States will continue to stand for....

... the human rights and dignity of people around the world.

And while the United States will never waver in these efforts, I also pledged in Cairo to seek new partnerships in Muslim communities around the world—not just with governments, but with people, to address the issues that matter most in our daily lives.

Since then, my administration has made a sustained effort to listen. We’ve held thousands of events and town halls—with students, civil society groups, faith leaders and entrepreneurs—in the United States and around the world, including Secretary Clinton’s landmark visit to Pakistan. And I look forward to continuing the dialogue during my visit to Indonesia next month.

This dialogue has helped us turn many of the initiatives I outlined in Cairo into action.

We’re partnering to promote education.  We’re expanding exchange programs and pursuing new opportunities for online learning, connecting students in America with those in Qatar and other Muslim communities. Because knowledge is the currency of the 21st century, and countries that educate their children—including their daughters—are more likely to prosper.

We’re partnering to broaden economic development.  We’re working to ensure that the global economic recovery creates jobs and prosperity in all regions of the world. And to help foster innovation and job-creation, I’ll host a Summit on Entrepreneurship in April with business leaders and entrepreneurs from Muslim communities around the world.

We’re partnering to increase collaboration on science and technology. We’ve launched a Global Technology and Innovation Fund that will invest in technological development across the Middle East, Africa and Asia.  And the first of our distinguished Science Envoys have begun visiting countries to deepen science and technology cooperation over the long-term.

And we’re partnering to promote global health. We worked together to address H1N1, which was a concern of many Muslims during the hajj.  We’ve joined with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio. And as part of our increased commitment to foreign assistance, we’ve launched major initiatives to promote global health and food security around the world.

To deepen these partnerships, and to develop others, I’m proud to announce today that I am appointing my Special Envoy to the OIC—Rashad Hussain. As an accomplished lawyer and a close and trusted member of my White House staff, Rashad has played a key role in developing the partnerships I called for in Cairo. And as a hafiz of the Qur’an, he is a respected member of the American Muslim community, and I thank him for carrying forward this important work.

None of this will be easy. Fully realizing the new beginning we envision will take a long-term commitment. But we have begun. Now, it falls to us all, governments and individuals, to do the hard work that must be done—turning words into deeds and “Writing the Next Chapter” in the ties between us, with faith in each other, on the basis of mutual respect.

Thank you coming to Doha in that spirit. Thank you for your work to advance the principles we share—justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings. Let us succeed together. And may God’s peace be upon you.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2010/02/obama-organization-of-islamic-conference.html

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In Middle East, Clinton asks for patience with U.S. strategy

By Glenn Kessler

February 15, 2010

DOHA, QATAR -- Call it Hillary Rodham Clinton's "Keep Hope Alive" tour.

The secretary of state ventured to the Middle East this weekend to assuage doubts that have arisen over the Obama administration after an initial bout of euphoria that the new president could quickly break the stalemates within the region, and between Islam and the West.

In what aides billed as a sequel to President Obama's speech in Cairo last June, in which he called for ending the "cycle of suspicion and discord" between the United States and the Muslim world, Clinton on Sunday delivered a lengthy speech before the U.S.-Islamic World Forum here that essentially pleaded for patience even as many of the administration's initiatives on Middle Eastern peace, and on outreach to Iran, have faltered.

Clinton acknowledged concerns in the region "that the U.S. commitment is insufficient or insincere, that we have not fully embraced the spirit of mutual respect and partnership that the president described, or that we will fail to translate that spirit into the concrete steps needed to achieve real and lasting change in the world."

But she said such changes "cannot happen overnight or even in a year."

"It takes patience, persistence and hard work from us all," Clinton said.

Arab diplomats privately have expressed dismay and disappointment with the Obama administration's performance, though some acknowledge that hopes were perhaps too high after the Bush administration, which was little loved in the region.

Early in Obama's tenure, the president appeared to take a strong stand against Israeli settlement expansion and, in the Cairo speech, suggested a striking sympathy to the Palestinian narrative. Many Arabs, however, believe Obama buckled to strong Israeli resistance and accepted something less than a full settlement freeze. Now, months later, the administration is still struggling to rekindle talks.

"This is hard work," Clinton said. "I know people are disappointed that we have not yet achieved a breakthrough." But she added: "We must remember that neither the United States nor any country can force a solution. The parties must resolve their differences through negotiations."

Clinton also said that the United States had tried to engage with Iran but got little in return and had tried to close the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, but "our progress has been slow because this is difficult." She added that the United States had faced "a difficult balance" when it imposed new airline security regulations that targeted many Arabs.

In her speech, with Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and Prime Minister Hamad bin Jasim al-Thani in the audience, Clinton stressed the need for fundamental rights, including freedom of religion, freedom of expression and women's rights. Freedom House, which tracks citizens' rights worldwide, ranks Qatar low in all of those areas.

Clinton noted that after the Obama administration joined the U.N. Human Rights Council, "one of our first acts was to work with Egypt on a freedom of expression resolution."

Egypt also ranks poorly in the Freedom House ratings, and Clinton's remark prompted Saad Eddin Ibrahim, who was jailed in Egypt for his democracy work, to note during a question-and-answer session that the problem in the Middle East is not freedom of expression but "freedom after expression."

"We don't have any magic wands we can wave," Clinton replied.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/14/AR2010021402295.html

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Hillary in Gulf for tough stance on Iran

Monday, February 15, 2010

DOHA: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flew in to Qatar on Sunday on the first leg of a Gulf tour aimed at ramping up the pressure on Iran over its controversial nuclear programme.

The US chief diplomat’s three-day trip, which will also take her to Saudi Arabia, is aimed at enlisting broad regional support, including from Turkey, in a drive to stop Iran’s sensitive nuclear work, her aides told reporters.

Clinton’s mission comes amid a US security buildup involving the deployment of anti-missile systems to the Gulf as well as a flurry of visits to the region by senior US diplomats and military officials.

As well as meetings with Qatari leaders, Clinton was due to hold talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan whose country has good ties with Iran and has repeatedly offered to serve as mediator on the nuclear issue.

“We obviously need to have Turkey’s support as we move forward and contemplate particular actions on the pressure track,” Clinton’s spokesman Philip Crowley said.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is due to visit Iran next week to push for a diplomatic solution to the standoff over Iran’s refusal to suspend uranium enrichment.

The sensitive process, which makes fuel for nuclear reactors but in highly extended form can also produce the fissile core of an atomic bomb, lies at the centre of Western fears that Iran is concealing a drive for a weapon, something Tehran strongly denies. Ahead of his talks with Clinton, Erdogan said Turkey was willing to serve as the venue for an exchange of Iranian nuclear fuel in any settlement between Tehran and the West.

Iran, which rejects accusations of seeking to build a nuclear bomb, said last Tuesday that it has started the process of producing 20 percent enriched uranium, defying Western threats of fresh sanctions.

The move came amid deadlock over a UN-drafted proposal for Iran to ship its low-enriched uranium (LEU) abroad in return for higher grade nuclear fuel from France and Russia for a Tehran medical research reactor.

Full report at: http://thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=224335

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Cheney: Biden 'Dead Wrong' on Terror Threat

14 Feb 2010

WASHINGTON – Former Vice President Dick Cheney blasted Vice President Biden’s assertion that another 9/11-style attack is unlikely. In an exclusive interview on ABC's “This Week,” he called Biden’s view “dead wrong.”

“I think, in fact, the situation with respect to Al Qaeda, to say, you know, that was big attack we had on 9/11 but it’s not likely again – I just think that’s just dead wrong,” Cheney said.

“I think the biggest strategic threat the United States faces today is the possibility of another 9/11 with a nuclear weapon or a biological agent of some kind. And I think Al Qaeda is out there – even as we meet – trying to do that,” Cheney said to ABC’s Jonathan Karl.

Biden told CNN's Larry King on Wednesday that “The idea of there being a massive attack in the United States like 9/11 is unlikely, in my view.”

“But if you see what's happening, particularly with al Qaeda and the Arabian Peninsula, they have decided to move in the direction of much more small bore but devastatingly frightening attacks,” Biden added.

Cheney also said he disagreed with the Bush administration's release of prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay detention centre and with the decision to subject terrorists to criminal courts, the Associated Press reported.

Full report at: newsmax.com/InsideCover/cheney-bush-terror-trials/2010/02/14/id/349848?s=al&promo_code=9750-1

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Generation Jihad, One Born Every Minute and Mastercrafts

14 February 2010

There's trouble afoot from Bradford to Southampton while Monty Don does something old-fashioned with a tree

Staff and families at a Southampton maternity unit in C4's One Born Every Minute.

Documentary-maker Peter Taylor toured the heartland of radicalised Islamic youth (as I have now begun to think of my native West Yorkshire) in the first part of BBC2's Generation Jihad, which opened with pounding drums and bombs and beards before settling for an image of Bradford (possibly supplied by the tourist office) bathed in Hovis sunlight and scrutinised by grazing cows.

It was a story of contrasts. We heard about Hammaad Munshi, a 15-year-old Dewsbury boy "groomed" in online chatrooms by jihadi maniacs and arrested some months later with a schoolbag full of ball bearings; in his bedroom were scribblings about Allah and martyrdom and a hard drive concealing tips on how to make your own napalm and submachine guns. Munshi wasn't your masked rioting type, but a normal GCSE student from a well-regarded family, the grandson of a respected Islamic scholar. He was, said a neighbour and family friend, "a good little boy who listened to his parents and stayed out of trouble". But as the editor of Asian Express put it, who knows what teenagers are up to on the internet "while Mum's downstairs watching her favourite Bollywood dances on the Indian channel"? It was a film to put the fear of God into moderate Muslim parents.

Taylor played pool with an Asian youth worker who spoke eloquently about the changing climate following the Rushdie protests and fatwa that pushed young people – already hardened against their Britishness by racist abuse and violence – into "re-examining their faith" and "asserting their Islamic identities" in a way that transcended race or nationhood. Young men who had embraced western habits of drinking and clubbing were now praying five times a day and studying the Qur'an, stoking their zeal with atrocities beamed in from Bosnia, the Middle East, Chechnya – and later Afghanistan and Iraq, attuning themselves to global whisperings, and (a hard thing to prove) fettling themselves for holy war. We heard from two friends in their 20s from Halifax, out of prison on licence after serving time for "glorifying terrorism". "As Muslims, we don't have loyalty to where we've been born and bred," said one. "We only have loyalty to Islam."

Full report at: /www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/2010/feb/14/generation-jihad-mastercrafts-phil-hogan

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Saudi calls for boycott against men selling lingerie

February 14, 2010

Having men staff in lingerie shops a contradiction in Islamic Saudi Arabia, says organiser

Dubai: A call for boycott has emerged in Saudi Arabia over lingerie shops that employ male staff.

Since 2007, the Labour Ministry has required women staff in these shops, but the law has not been enforced. Read related story

Reem Assad, an economics professor and organiser of the boycott call, told the BBC that having men staff in lingerie shops is a contradiction in Islamic Saudi Arabia.

Assad urged women to begin a two-week boycott of lingerie shops with male staff.

The call for the boycott was organised through her Facebook page since public protests are illegal in the country. Islamic scholars have given their support to the campaign.

"I am calling for salesmen to be replaced with saleswomen," Asaad told the media. "I just hope that many respond and boycott," she said.

Since 2008, Asaad has been urging officials to allow saleswomen in shops open to both male and female clients.

http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/saudi-arabia/saudi-calls-for-boycott-against-men-selling-lingerie-1.582803

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Come Together: Islamic Student Center opens, shows off work of interfaith groups

By Kellie Bramlet

February 14, 2010

What was once a convenience store now stands as a symbol of diversity.

On Saturday afternoon, the Islamic Student Centre opened its doors to the public for the first time, showcasing how the work of Lubbock interfaith groups was able to transform a decaying building to a place for peacemaking and understanding, said Cherif Amor, a Texas Tech professor who designed the building.

The centre’s purpose is twofold, Amor explained. It was first started to serve Muslim students, but to also help teach others about the Islamic faith.

"It's a platform that brings people together for understanding," Amor said. "It's all about teaching."

Muslim students who attended the opening said they were grateful to see the centre. Located at 3419 LaSalle Ave., the Islamic Centre of the South Plains is out of reach for Texas Tech students without cars, they explained. This centre is much closer to campus.

Amor purchased the closed convenience store at 2222 15th St. and then came to both the Lubbock Muslim community and the interfaith groups. He said one of the biggest obstacles in transforming the building was changing the convenience store's business

zoning to the zoning required to operate a religion and education centre.

Amor said he was initially nervous about starting the centre because of the many negative misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding the Islamic faith. So, he approached interfaith groups about working together. He said they quickly came to his support and wrote letters to the city focusing on the need for a place like this.

The zoning was changed without a problem, he said.

Full report at: http://lubbockonline.com/stories/021410/fea_562846639.shtml

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Ulema council opposes unofficial marriage

02/14/2010

The Indoneian Ulema Council (MUI) is throwing its weight behind the Religious Affairs Ministry plan to outlaw unofficial marriage (nikah siri), a common practise in the Moslem-majority Indonesia.

“This sort of marriage brings more misfortune than luck, so we support the Religious Affairs Ministry plan,” MUI chairman Mar’uf Amin said Sunday.

The MUI also hoped the ban would reduce the incidence of women being mistreated by spouses, he said.

Last week, the Religious Affairs Ministry director general for Islamic propagation Nasaruddin Umar said his office had submitted the religious court bill (banning unofficial marriages) to the State Secretariat for consideration, before could be passed on to the House of Representatives for deliberation.

The bill sets out punishments for those married unofficially, as well as polygamy and contract marriages.

If the bill comes into force, perpetrators are liable to punishments of up to 3 months’ imprisonment and Rp 5 million fines.

http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2010/02/14/ulema-council-opposes-unofficial-marriage.html

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If Shah Rukh Khan is a “Pak Jehadi agent”,then Who is the patriotic Muslim?

By Tanveer Jafri

Many extreme forces in India have come together against the Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan. The reason behind their opposition to Shah Rukh is said to be his advocacy for Pakistani players' participation in the Indian Premier League (IPL), though neither he has taken any Pakistani player in his team-Kolkata Knight Riders nor he has said any such thing which tantamount to the sympathy towards Pakistan. On the very next day of Shahrukh's statement about the Pakistani players, the Home Minister of India Mr. P. Chidambaram assured the security of foreign players including Pakistani players. But no extremist leader or organisation dared to object Chidambaram, instead they opted to attack the soft target i.e. Shah Rukh Khan. Narrow minded politicians themselves want to become popular by way of opposing a famous personality.

The so-called 'nationalist leaders' who are nowadays criticising Shahrukh Khan include the leaders of the Shiv Sena, Rashtriya swayam sewak sangh (RSS) sister organisations like Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) & Bajrang Dal, and the Sri Ram Sena chief Pramod Muthalik, and along with them the yoga guru Baba Ramdev. Some among these have threatened SRK that they will burn him alive and also. They are also asking Shahrukh to leave Mumbai and shift to Karachi. Let us have a look at the family background of that Shahrukh Khan against whom such insulting vocabulary is being used.

Full report at: www.modernghana.com/news/263739/1/if-shah-rukh-khan-is-a-pak-jehadi-agentthen-who-is.html

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A Test For Saudi Arabia's Terrorist-Rehab Program

by Kelly McEvers

February 15, 2010

In a recent audio statement, the group behind the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a Detroit-bound airline called on Muslims to attack Americans wherever they find them.

The man who was speaking for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, Said Ali al-Shehri, is a citizen of Saudi Arabia who served time at Guantanamo Bay and later graduated from a Saudi program designed to rehabilitate radical Muslims.

Even though several of the program's graduates have found their way back to the battlefield, Saudi Arabia says it will continue trying to rehabilitate terrorists.

The program was created by the Saudi Ministry of Interior in an effort to re-educate extremists about the peaceful principles of Islam and reintegrate them to mainstream Saudi society.

The teachings didn't stick with Shehri, who after his release, traveled to Yemen and has been identified as a leader of the Yemeni branch of al-Qaida.

The path was similar for another Guantanamo detainee, Mohammad al-Awfi, who ended up in Yemen working for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. But now, surprisingly, Awfi is back in Saudi Arabia after he recrossed the border and gave himself up.

A Prime Example

To understand what works and what doesn't work about Saudi Arabia's rehabilitation program, consider the case of Awfi. Just after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, he traveled to the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Authorities arrested him on suspicion of aiding terrorist groups.

As he recently told the BBC, he later was sent to Guantanamo.

"They put you in shorts in an area with extremely cold air conditioning for months until you requested to see the interrogators and tell them things," Awfi said.

In all, Awfi spent six years at Guantanamo. He was released in November 2007 and sent to the rehabilitation center just outside of Riyadh.

Full report at: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=123661284

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Pune blast: Bhatkal brothers emerge prime suspects

S Ahmed Ali

15 February 2010

MUMBAI: Even as Maharashtra ATS and Pune police wait for the chemical analysis reports to establish which group was responsible for Saturday’s bomb blast in Pune, Riyaz Bhatkal and his brother Iqbal Bhatkal, founder-members of the Indian Mujahideen (IM), have emerged as prime suspects.

Sources said the modus operandi of the blast looks the handiwork of IM led by Riyaz Bhatkal, held responsible for at least 11 blasts across the country since 2005. The blasts stopped in 2008 when Mumbai crime branch busted the module and arrested its leading members. ‘‘Bhatkal has been masterminding various blasts since 2005. But it was only after the Mumbai police busted the ring that his and Sadiq Shaikh’s names cropped up. Until then, all investigating agencies had been speculating the hand of Lashkar-e-Taiba,’’ said an officer on condition of anonymity. ‘‘The only difference this time is that they have chosen the place frequented by foreigners to make a big impact like 26/11,’’ an ATS source said.

IM has a strong presence in Pune. ‘‘Many of its members who are at large belong to Pune and adjoining villages; as their base, Pune becomes a soft target,’’ said another source. In 2008, when crime branch arrested 21 IM members, the prime accused, Riyaz Bhatkal, his brother Iqbal Bhatkal, and their associates, Mohammed Ali, Amin, Irfan and Abu Rashid remained at large. Among the 21 arrested, most are well educated and from well-off families. Top among them were the computer engineer Mohammed Mansoor Asgar Peerbhoy and MBBS doctor Anwar Bagwan. During interrogations, the accused revealed that all the operations were carried out under Bhatkal, a small time extortionist in Kurla.

Full report at: timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Pune-blast-Bhatkal-brothers-emerge-prime-suspects/articleshow/5574490.cms

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Muslim firebrands challenge Hamas rule in Gaza

By KARIN LAUB

Feb. 14, 2010

RAFAH, Gaza Strip -- They preach global jihad, or holy war, adhere to an ultraconservative form of Islam and are becoming a headache even for Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza.

Jihadi Salafis, as they are known, have organized into small, shadowy armed groups that have clashed with Hamas forces and fired rockets at Israel in defiance of Hamas' informal truce.

Perhaps even more worrisome for Hamas, they claim a growing appeal among Gazans in the territory's pressure cooker of isolation and poverty, raising fears they could serve as a bridgehead for their ideological twin, al-Qaida, from which they take their call for global holy war.

Hamas insists it dismantled the groups after a mosque shootout last summer that left 26 dead.

But after months of lying low, Jihadi Salafis become active again. Besides resuming rocket fire on Israel in recent weeks, they blew up the car of a Hamas chief outside his southern Gaza home. The chief, who was not in the car, was unhurt, and the group that claimed responsibility said the blast was a warning.

"We will not stop targeting the figures of this perverted, crooked government (Hamas), breaking their bones and cleansing the pure land of the Gaza Strip of these abominations," said the group, the Soldiers of the Monotheism Brigades. "What will come next will be harder and more horrible."

Going by names like "Rolling Thunder" and "Army of God," they oppose Hamas for refraining from imposing Islamic law since seizing power in Gaza in 2007 and largely sticking to a tactical truce with Israel since the latter's devastating offensive last year.

Expert opinion holds that al-Qaida has shown little interest in inviting the Gaza groups it inspired into the fold. But even an al-Qaida foothold in Gaza could pose a significant challenge to Hamas' control as well as its attempts to get off Western governments' terrorist list and lift the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza.

Full report at: http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/world/story/1014683.html

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Indonesia's Top Judge Backs Bill to Curb Polygamy

February 15, 2010

The Constitutional Court chief on Sunday threw his weight behind a forthcoming bill to fine or jail men who failed to register their marriages in order to skirt polygamy restrictions.

Mahfud MD said that unregistered marriages, known locally as siri, should be stamped out to protect women and children.

A bill to amend a religious law on marriage is due to be debated in the House of Representatives sometime this year.

“I completely agree with the bill as many people have become victims” of unregistered marriages, Mahfud said. “The children are neglected while [women] are made objects of lust.”

Nasaruddin Umar, director general for Islamic guidance at the Ministry of Religious Affairs, said that the ministry also supported the legislation. He warned that once the bill was passed by the House, all citizens would be required to register their marriages or face legal sanctions.

“No more unregistered marriages,” he said. “All marriages should be legally registered with the state.”

Nasaruddin said the ministry had reviewed numerous cases of men entering into unregistered unions for their own benefit, including under the guise of “avoiding committing sin” through adultery. He also said that some men remarried without the consent of their first wives, which violated polygamy laws.

“In Islam, marriage is very sacred and holy. No man is allowed to fool around with it,” Nasaruddin said.

The Religious Affairs Ministry started drafting the bill three years ago with the aim of protecting women and children. “The draft is now with the State Secretariat and is ready to be handed to the president for review,” Nasaruddin said.

Article 143 of the bill states that “anyone who intentionally conducts a marriage without a marriage registrar faces a maximum fine of Rp 6 million [$642] or six months imprisonment.”

Full report at: //www.thejakartaglobe.com/home/indonesias-top-judge-backs-bill-to-curb-polygamy/358673

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Islamophobia is as dangerous as racism and anti-semitism

By Turkish Premier Erdogan

14.02.2010

Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan said islamophobia was as dangerous a phenomenon as racism and anti-semitism, Anadolu Agency reported.

In his address to the US-Islamic World Forum in Doha on Saturday, Erdogan said tendencies towards cultural conflicts was as dangerous as, and may be even more dangerous than international terrorism, spread of nuclear weapons and environmental problems.

"Such views that would bring civilizations against each other, creates psychological barriers between peoples. Problems like racism, intolerance, discrimination, extremism are insidiously trying to diffuse into societies like deadly diseases," said Erdogan.

He said concepts of "Islam" and "Muslim" in the western world were being depicted with negative connotations in popular culture products like movies, TV series, music, photos and cartoons, even in scientific researches, noting that in a way cultural antagonism was pumped into the subconscious of the people.

Erdogan pointed out that the local outfits of the people of certain Islamic countries, their beards, and veils, some of their common words were depicted as accessories of terrorism, noting that pumping of such antagonism created deep fears in societies and causing them to look at each other with suspicion.

He said generalization of acts of terror in away to blame it on the whole Islamic World and muslims were wrong, noting that victims of acts of terror was muslims again for the most part.

He said none of the divine religions would approve of terrorism adding that islamophobia was as dangerous a phenomenon as racism and anti-semitism, calling on the U.S. and EU to take measures against islamophopia growing insidiously in their territories.

Erdogan said Islamic countries were mentioned together with violations of rights urging these countries to make self criticism and question the reasons of this negative image.

Erdogan called on the islamic world to display the same reaction to all crimes against humanity without discriminating.

http://en.trend.az/regions/met/turkey/1638858.html

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Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: The closed minds that deny a civilisation's glories

15 February 2010

Muslims are seeing Koranic injunctions where none exist

Confused Dad Mohamed from somewhere in the US sends his dilemma to an Islamic guidance website through whom Allah apparently communicates his orders – on how we dress, what we do minute by minute, unholy TV programmes, wicked vitamins and even wickeder relations between males and females.

I paraphrase Mohamed's frantic appeal for clarity. His children watch cartoons, and have stuffed toys, quilts and pillow cases with Mickey Mouse on them. Is all that halal? Now many of us detest the addictive and manipulative Disney brand which targets young children. But this fully grown, procreative adult cannot trust his own mind and seeks instructions from unverified voices of authority. How abject is that?

These global sites control people, push through Maoist "cleansing". Miserable mullahs are closing down the Muslim mind and heart the world over. Meanwhile "true believers" desperately seek enslavement and thank their enslavers. The questions posed are startling in their naiveté. May we sing? Is it OK for a man to listen to a woman singer? Do I watch a female newsreader? Yes, says a wise one – as long as she is properly covered up and not wearing perfume. Don't laugh. It is tragic, not funny.

Somehow in the last decade or so, millions of believers have been persuaded that they are repositories of sin because they watch films, love music and paintings, read books, experience temporal pleasures and ecstasies. Remember the ferocity with which the Taliban destroyed all pre-Islamic treasures? Saudi Arabia is guilty of similar vandalism. Thus they seek to recreate the piety of triumphant Islam. Well they didn't have cameras, mobile phones, cars and computers then. Should these be banned too?

Full report at: www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/yasmin-alibhai-brown/yasmin-alibhaibrown-the-closed-minds-that-deny--a-civilisations-glories-1899560.html

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Aston school to step up research on Islamic finance

By Jonathan Guthrie

February 15 2010

Dubai-based trading company Surgi-Tech has awarded Aston Business School £1.5m to set up an Islamic Finance and Business Centre at its campus in Birmingham.

The centre will allow Aston to increase teaching and research into Islamic finance, which has been expanding as Muslims seek alternatives to Western finance that are compliant with sharia law.

Interest-bearing finance is theoretically banned under Islamic strictures against usury. Finance based on shared ownership of assets is preferred.

However, scholars have tended to endorse the pragmatic principle that Muslims may use interest-bearing finance if sharia-compliant funds are hard to obtain. This explains why many observant British Muslims have historically purchased houses using conventional mortgages.

"Islamic finance is growing at a fast rate and is gaining in confidence," said Bahaa El Din El Sharaani, president and chief executive of Surgi-Tech.

"It has suffered far less from current turmoil than the [mainstream] financial system and may offer positives that we should investigate." Mr El Sharaani said that the economy of Dubai was in better shape than implied by the well-publicised difficulties of property group Dubai World.

Mr Sharaani said that Birmingham was an attractive place to sponsor an Islamic finance centre because Aston was a highly-rated school and the city had a large Muslim population.

Birmingham has more Muslim inhabitants - 150,000 - than any other British city apart from London. It is also home to Islamic Bank of Britain, a small quoted bank.

Omneya Abdelsalam, director of the centre, said that it would offer mscs and doctorates in Islamic finance as well as short courses for executives.

Mike West, executive dean of Aston Business School, said the centre would help Aston attract more students from Muslim countries. He said: "This is a time when higher education has to show that it can innovate, and the centre is an example of that."

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/7e2ee82c-19d0-11df-af3e-00144feab49a.html

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Gilani beats hasty retreat in judiciary row

By Asim Yasin

February 15, 2010

Says SC decision to be final; no threat to system

RAWALPINDI: Within 24 hours of the issuance of controversial notifications of appointment of judges in the superior judiciary, the government on Sunday beat a hasty retreat as Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani tactfully suggested that “any government” could take wrong decisions and insisted that the judiciary’s verdict in the issue would be the deciding factor.

“There can be difference of opinion over the interpretation of the Constitution and law. There can be wrong decisions but there is no wrong without a corrective remedy. This does not mean the situation poses a threat to democracy, to the country or the institutions,” he said while talking to newsmen at the SOS Village in Rawalpindi.

The prime minister, fending a barrage of questions pertaining to Saturday’s controversial notifications which backfired on the government, maintained his typically calm demeanour but there was no mistaking his deliberate attempt to show respect for the Supreme Court. He confidently stated that the issue would be resolved soon. “We will resolve the issue with the judiciary as it is not the Kashmir issue that appears impossible to resolve,” was how he put it.

The prime minister said there could be a difference of opinion among legal experts on the interpretation of the law as there was always so in such matters and added, “Now the issue is before the Supreme Court and let the apex court decide it.”

Asked whether it was a collective decision or of one individual, the prime minister said it was discussed by legal experts and certainly there was a difference of opinion on the interpretation but, ultimately, a decisionwas made. “The decisions sometimes hit the mark and sometimes they go wrong, but there is no wrong that has no remedy,” he added with a wry smile.

Full report at: http://thenews.com.pk/top_story_detail.asp?Id=27254

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Pakistan People’s Party workers stage rallies in support of Zardari

Monday, February 15, 2010

ISLAMABAD: Workers of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) on Sunday staged rallies in different cities to show support for President Asif Ali Zardari and express full confidence in his leadership.

In Islamabad, the PPP activists held a rally in front of the National Press Club. They gathered in large numbers in front of the Press Club with placards inscribed with slogans in support of President Asif Ali Zardari.

Addressing the participants of the rally, President of Women Wing MPA Nargis Faiz Malik said Pakistan People’s Party believed in merit, rule of law and supremacy of constitution. She said appointment of judges have been made on merit. She alleged that some elements in the country were indulging in power politics. The MPA said Pakistan People’s Party would not be blackmailed by elements who wanted to destabilize the country.

Local leaders and workers of PPP from the district, city and tehsil Rawalpindi also took out rally to express full confidence in President Zardari and stronglycriticized Nawaz Sharif’s statement against the president.

Despite heavy rain and gusty winds, hundreds of PPP leaders and workers gathered at Benazir Bhutto’s memorial, and marched up to Rawalpindi Press Club. Addressing the participants outside the Rawalpindi Press Club, the speakers said President and PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari has put the country on the development path and prospered the nation through his wise policies and decisions.

Full report at: http://thenews.com.pk/top_story_detail.asp?Id=27256

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Indo-Pak talks to be held as per schedule: Krishna

February 15, 2010

CHENNAI: External affairs minister S M Krishna on Sunday declined to comment on the fate of the February 25 foreign secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan in the wake of the Pune bomb blast, adding that the incident may not deviate schedule of talks.

"I am not going to talk about the talks right now. Let us wait for the report (of the investigative agencies) first," Krishna told reporters here when asked whether the Pune blast would have any impact on the dialogue.

Terming the blast as "most tragic and unfortunate", Krishna said, "We will resist the forces of terrorism resolutely and with firmness and determination."

He said, "We are well aware that the dark forces of terrorism are against peace and amity between nations. It is most tragic and unfortunate that they have struck again leading to a loss of innocent lives."

An improvised explosive device, kept in a packet outside the kitchen of the popular German bakery in Pune, exploded at around 1930 hours last night when a waiter attempted to open it, killing nine persons and injuring 57 others.

In a sign of thawing of Indo-Pak relations embittered after the Mumbai terror attack, the two nations had recently decided to hold the foreign secretary-level talks in New Delhi on February 25.

"They (terrorists) want to create fear and suspicion," Krishna said, adding, "They sow seeds of distress to create confusion and we will not be cowed down by the terror".

Pointing out that the National Investigation Agency and forensic experts were already in Pune, Krishna said, "By this evening, we will be in a position to get the report. Once the report is available, the government will evaluate the whole situation and then we will do deep monitoring".

http://thenews.com.pk/updates.asp?id=98703

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Indian films only hope for Pakistani cinema

By Jamal Shahid

Monday, 15 Feb, 2010

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s film industry is sick, so sick that cinema houses have closed and the 150 which are still open survive on charity.

“If the government did not permit Indian films, the remaining 150 cinema houses would also be converted into commercial plazas and wedding halls.

The situation is bad. Out of these 150 less than 70 are showing films,” officials with the ministry of culture said.

“The only reason Pushto films are being made is that they have a market in Afghanistan,” said an official.

Pakistan’s film industry has fallen on such bad days that the people who had brought glory to it in the past are seeking handouts to survive.

In a recent meeting with USAID, it was sad to learn that a delegation headed by chairperson Senate standing committee on culture Nilofar Bakhtiar and comprising of representatives from the ministry of culture, actors and producers was begging the Americans to save the dying film industry.

Sources in the ministry said USAID was ready to fund only if feasibility plans included job creation, sustainability as well as accounting, auditing and transparency.

The USAID officials said money could be provided only through proper channels for maximum utilisation.

According to the ministry of culture, lack of expertise in making good films was the major reason for the slum in the industry.

“It does not matter how good the direction, acting, music and script is. Everything suffers if quality is poor,” said a source in the ministry.

He said the government was also considering post-production facilities. “A delegation headed by Ms Nilofar Bakhtiar is likely to meet the prime minister to convince him for funds for film processing labs at Pakistan National Council of the Arts,” he said.

 Full report at: dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/national/16-indian-films-only-hope-for-pakistani-cinema-hs-06

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NATO rockets kill 12 Afghan civilians

Associated Press

MARJAH, Afghanistan: Twelve Afghans died Sunday when two rockets fired at insurgents missed their target and struck a house during the second day of NATO’s most ambitious effort yet to break the militants’ grip on the country’s dangerous south.

Thousands of NATO and Afghan troops encountered pockets of resistance, fighting off sniper attacks, as they moved deeper into Marjah, a town of 80,000 people that is the linchpin of the militants’ logistical and opium-smuggling network in Helmand province.

Marines and Afghan troops used metal detectors and sniffer dogs, searching compound to compound for explosives rigged to explode. Blasts from controlled detonations could be heard about every 10 minutes north of Marjah.

Afghan and international troops want to secure the area, set up a local government and rush in development aid in what is seen as the first test of the new US strategy for turning the tide of the eight-year-old war. The civilian deaths were a blow to NATO and the Afghan government’s attempts to win the allegiance of Afghans and get them to turn away from the insurgents.

NATO said two rockets from a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System were aimed at insurgents firing on Afghan and NATO forces, but stuck 300 meters off their intended target.

“We deeply regret this tragic loss of life,” said Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan. “The current operation in central Helmand is aimed at restoring security and stability to this vital area of Afghanistan. It’s regrettable that in the course of our joint efforts, innocent lives were lost.”

McChrystal said he had apologized to Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the accident and had suspended the use of the rocket system until the incident can be reviewed.

Karzai issued a statement minutes earlier saying 10 members of the same family died when the rocket hit a house in Marjah. He ordered an investigation into who fired the rocket. Before the offensive began Saturday, Karzai pleaded with Afghan and foreign military leaders to be “seriously careful for the safety of civilians.”

On the first day of the offensive, NATO reported two troop casualties — an American and a Briton. Afghan officials said at least 27 insurgents have been killed in the operation.

“We’re in the majority of the city at this point,” said Lt. Josh Diddams, a Marine spokesman. He said the nature of the resistance has changed from the initial assault, with insurgents now holding ground in some neighborhoods. “We’re starting to come across areas where the insurgents have actually taken up defensive positions,” he said. “Initially it was more hit and run.”

It could take weeks to completely reclaim Marjah, according to Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, a top Marine commander in the south.

 http://www.arabnews.com/?page=4&section=0&article=132956&d=15&m=2&y=2010

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Nigeria: Muslim Leaders Tasks FG on Police Killings

15 February 2010

The Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) yesterday in Abuja called on the federal government to immediately make public steps taken to bring men of Nigerian police involved in the extra-judicial killings in the Boko Haram crisis to book.

Secretary-General of the council and Baba Adini of Egbaland, Dr. Abdul-Lateef Adegbite, said that it is disheartening that elements of Nigerian Police can still be involved such brutality against the same citizens they are meant to protect.

"A few days ago, Al-Jazeera Satellite Television aired a report on Nigeria Police brutality while suppressing the Boko Haram rebellion in the North-Eastern part of Nigeria last year. Unarmed Nigerians, some of them cripples, were lined up ordered to lie down and were shot dead in cold blood by members of the Nigeria Police. This savage and inhuman act is contrary to Nigeria Law, since no one is authorized in this country to carry out summary killing.

"Nigerian Muslims regard this extra judicial killing by the Nigeria Police as an affront to Nigerians which has seriously brought Nigeria image into disrepute. We therefore call on the Federal Government to make public what steps have been taken to bring the perpetrators of this act of shame to book. In other Society not only would arrests have been immediately made, heads would have rolled from the highest Command of the Nigeria Police down to the Command of the Units assigned to the suppression of the unrest in the affected area," Adegbite said.

http://allafrica.com/stories/201002150719.html

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FBI followed protocol in imam's shooting in Dearborn, ex-agent says

Paul Egan

February 15. 2010

He says SWAT team followed protocol in raid that killed imam

Detroit -- A retired agent who spent more than 20 years on the Detroit FBI's SWAT team says he believes agents acted appropriately in an Oct. 28 operation in which an imam was shot 20 times at a Dearborn warehouse.

The FBI, which controlled the warehouse as part of a sting operation, was trying to arrest Luqman Ameen Abdullah on a criminal complaint charging him with stolen goods and weapons offenses.

The indictment identified Abdullah, 53, also known as Christopher Thomas, as "a highly placed leader of a nationwide radical fundamentalist Sunni group" that sought to establish a separate state within the United States governed by Sharia law.

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100215/METRO/2150330/1409/FBI-followed-protocol-in-imam-s-shooting-in-Dearborn--ex-agent-says#ixzz0fbfDL0rB

Muslim and community groups have accused the FBI of excessive force in the raid, which Abayomi Azikiwe of the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice described as "a targeted assassination."

Among the concerns is the number of gunshot wounds detailed in the medical examiner's report and the fact Abdullah's corpse was left handcuffed while an FBI dog allegedly shot by Abdullah was airlifted for medical treatment.

A report of a Dearborn Police investigation of the incident has not been released. The report of an internal FBI investigation is completed but has not been released and is being reviewed by the civil rights division of the U.S. Justice Department.

Gregory Stejskal served more than 30 years with the FBI until his retirement in 2006, was on the SWAT team from 1977-98, serving as senior team leader, and now teaches at the police academy at Washtenaw Community College.

He said he has studied the medical examiner's report and media reports and has discussed the incident with FBI agents. Stejskal believes the bureau acted properly and that its agents will be exonerated.

Full report at: http://www.detnews.com/

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Islamic students’ body under lens

Sachin Parashar

15 February 2010

NEW DELHI: Investigating agencies probing the Pune blast are now looking into the clandestine operations of an organization called Islamic Students Congregation (ISC), which first came on the Indian security radar in 2007 when a Sudanese member of al-Qaida visited Pune and stayed there for a month interacting with members of ISC. It was only after the Sudanese national left India that the authorities realized his true identity. He had come to India assuming a fake identity.

While Pune’s association with Abu Zubaidah, Osama bin Laden’s No.3 man, is well known, the fact that Pune was likely to be targeted by al-Qaida became obvious in August 2006, when three al-Qaida operatives were arrested in Algeria. “These three men had then disclosed that the same year in March, all three of them had visited Pune on a reconnaissance mission. It then became clear that Pune was on al-Qaida’s hit list,” said the official.

The fact that the perpetrators targeted German Bakery and not the Chabad House has also set officials thinking. “It’s possible that they found it easier to plant the bomb in the bakery. However, it can’t be ruled out that the perpetrators were influenced by al-Qaida leader Bekkay Harrach who has been issuing threats against Germany,” said the official.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Islamic-students-body-under-lens/articleshow/5574526.cms

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Chavan, Patil unaware of Centre's terror alert

Yogesh Naik

15 February 2010

MUMBAI: Were Maharashtra CM Ashok Chavan and home minister R R Patil aware of the advisories sent by the Centre? Their initial replies show they were unaware of any alert. Soon after the blasts in Pune, Union home secretary G K Pillai said that LeT operative David Headley caught by the US authorities had surveyed the Chabad House and Osho Ashram in Pune.

He said the state was advised about this on October 12, 2009.

Chavan said that Headley had done a recce of Chabad House and Osho Ashram. During the press conference in Mantralaya on Saturday night, Chavan was asked by the media why the state government did not provide enough security at the German Bakery and Koregaon Park area despite an alert to the Chabad House and Osho Ashram. He said he wasn’t aware of this and would check up.

At about 11 pm on Saturday, TOI called up Patil and asked him if there was any alert or intelligence input from the Centre as declared by Pillai. Patil said there was no alert.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Chavan-Patil-unaware-of-Centres-terror-alert/articleshow/5574485.cms

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LeT militant killed in Kashmir gunfight

15 February 2010

JAMMU: One Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant was killed in a gunfight with security forces in the mountainous forests of Rajouri district in Jammu and Kashmir, police said Monday.

Columns of army and state police threw a cordon around the forest of Triath in Rajouri district, about 100 km northwest of Jammu, Sunday evening. Security forces had received information about the presence of a group of militants there.

The gunfight between the encircling security forces and hiding militants continued for over three hours and ended past midnight. According to army officials, one LeT militant was killed while at least two others managed to escape.

An AK-47 rifle and ammunition were seized from the killed militant.

Security forces are searching the area to catch the other militants, said officials.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Gunbattle-breaks-out-between-militants-troops-in-Kashmir/articleshow/5574816.cms

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Pak pounds border posts with rockets

15 February 2010

JAMMU: A junior commissioned officer (JCO) was injured as Pakistani troops pounded Indian posts with 15 rockets and opened indiscriminate machine gun fire along the line of control (LoC) in Poonch district in the “biggest” ceasefire violation in Jammu and Kashmir.

There were 17 infiltration bids and nine truce violations along the border this year. The last ceasefire violation occurred on January 26 when Pakistani troops resorted to unprovoked firing in Kanachak sub-sector of Jammu.

Pakistani troops fired 15 under-barrel grenade launcher rockets on five Indian forward defence locations from its eight border posts along the LoC in Krishna Gati sub-sector of Poonch district at 6.15 pm on Saturday, Brig Gurdeep Singh said.

It was followed by heavy firing on the forward posts, he said, adding “heavy and indiscriminate firing continued for two hours”. The rockets missed the intended target and exploded near the posts, he said.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Pak-pounds-border-posts-with-rockets/articleshow/5574440.cms

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Pune blast once again shows gaps in local policing

15 February 2010

NEW DELHI: The Pune blast has exposed the need to quicken both top-end intelligence operations as well as stem the rot seeping through the first line of defence represented by the beat constabulary and the local police station.

Incidents like the blast at the popular German Bakery in Pune underline the importance of local intelligence collection and the need for a close watch on the criminal-organised crime-terror linkages. A much-frequented eatery was a soft target as seen in the bomb at Gokul chat house in Hyderabad in 2007 and the much earlier Nirula bombing in Delhi.

The nature of the attack that involved stealth rather than a frontal assault as was the case in the 26/11 strikes points to some local involvement even if the plot was scripted outside India. "Unless the morale of the police and its professionalism is intact, terror modules will slip through our fingers. There is no replacement for the thana," said a police officer.

Sources conversant with security operations point to the dwindling input of human intelligence "humint" in recent years. Despite Pune being very much on the radar of jihadi groups and having been proved to be a major recruitment centre for the Indian Mujahideen, not enough was done to keep tabs on elements who felt bold enough to plant the explosive at German Bakery.

While Maharashtra police has been subject to political interference and its efficacy subverted by "interests" that have even intervened to protect wanted persons, efforts of state home minister R R Patil, while seen to be better that his predecessors, are yet to yield fruit. All the more so as the locales near German Bakery like Osho ashram and a Chabad House are very much targets.

Even on reforming institutional mechanisms to better process intelligence, progress has been slow. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has not involved himself with the nitty-gritty of operations with the practice of the PM being briefed by intelligence chiefs falling into disuse. Under M K Narayanan, the NSA office did not probe deeper reform of policing and intelligence structures with some wondering whether he had a mandate to do so to begin with.

Ironically, a US team had visited India to look at how the Multi Agency Centre (MAC) functioned after 9/11 as part of an effort to collect inputs on best practices worldwide. The US national counter-terrorism centre has been up and running but it is only now that home minister P Chidambaram has put plans for a NCTC into forward gear. Even now there is a view that the National Intelligence Agency, set up by Chidambaram, can itself be expanded into a NCTC with the assimilation of a part of what other agencies are doing. This may well be quicker.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Pune-blast-once-again-shows-gaps-in-local-policing/articleshow/5573932.cms

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Terror and talks can't co-exist: BJP

15 February 2010

NEW DELHI: Responding sharply to the Pune blast, BJP on Sunday called for immediate cancellation of dialogue with Pakistan and said terror and talks could not go hand in hand.

The main Opposition party called upon the government not to proceed any further with the current initiative to move ahead with resumption of talks at the level of foreign secretaries.

"Terror and talks cannot co-exist; when terror threatens India, then not talking is also a legitimate diplomatic option," leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley told reporters.

The high-level talks are slated to start here on February 25 after India's decision to revise its earlier position of not resuming such exercise until Islamabad took action against the masterminds of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

Jaitley assailed the government for taking an intriguing U-turn on dialogue with Pakistan. "So long as Pakistan continues to build an infrastructure for terror against India, we cannot talk to Pakistan," he said. He made Pakistan's cooperation in punishing the guilty of the Mumbai attacks the precondition for resmumption of talks. "The composite dialogue cannot proceed," he said.

Jaitley also blamed the government for agreeing to allow the return of Kashmiris who had crossed the border into PoK in the early 1990s. "This means legitimising infiltration," he said.

Jaitley claimed that the government had not even taken the Congress party into confidence about restarting dialogue with Pakistan.

He said the Pune incident was a clear pointer to inadequate security responses and sloppy intelligence gathering. "Indians will not accept India as a soft state," he said.

Talking to the media after a meeting of the BJP core group, Jaitley warned the government against "misconceived and adventurist steps" like resuming talks with Islamabad.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Terror-and-talks-cant-co-exist-BJP/articleshow/5573930.cms

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US had warned of attack in Pune, Mumbai

Sachin Parashar

15 February 2010

NEW DELHI: Top intelligence sources have confirmed that days before US defence secretary Robert Gates's visit to India last month, the US had warned New Delhi that al-Qaida-influenced elements were likely to carry out an attack in Pune and Mumbai. The US agencies, however, failed to give any real reason for the specific mention of the two cities, merely referring to the CD in which an al-Qaida leader, Abu Mustafa Yasid, had threatened terrorist strikes.

This CD was later released to the media but it did not mention the names of Pune or Mumbai. "In hindsight, it does appear that they must have had more authentic reasons for insisting that Pune or Mumbai was likely to be targeted. While we couldn't have forced them to disclose the exact source of information, authorities in Maharashtra were immediately alerted," said a top intelligence official, adding that this information was also the provocation for Gates telling defence minister A K Antony that al-Qaida was trying to provoke a war between India and Pakistan.

The fact that the incident took place despite the strong alert, the official said, had once again proved that India still lacked assessment capabilities and the mechanism to ensure adequate follow-up action.

Sources said the Pune blast has forced security agencies to have a closer look at the little known Islamic Students Congregation (ISC), an organization headquartered in Pune and comprising Arab students. The ISC is said to have branches in Hyderabad, Mumbai and Bangalore too. This organization is said to carry out its activities, mainly student meetings, unobtrusively without attracting media attention.

Full report at: timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/US-had-warned-of-attack-in-Pune-Mumbai/articleshow/5573845.cms

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Pune blast: JuD role not ruled out, govt wants Headley access

15 February 2010

PUNE/NEW DELHI: The involvement of Pakistan-based Jamaat-ul- Dawah(JUD) behind the Pune terror attack was not ruled out by the government tonight, days after the front of terror group Lashker-e-Taiba(LeT) spoke of the western city being a target.

As investigators pieced together clues to unravel the identity of those behind last night's attack on German Bakery, the possibility of execution of terror plans by LeT at the places recced by Pakistani-American David Headley, a terror suspect, currently in US custody in connection with 26/11 is also being looked into.

After visiting the site of the attack in which nine persons were killed, home minister P Chidambaram renewed the demand for access to Headley. Pune was one of the places Headley had surveyed. The Koregaon Park area, the Chabad House and Osho Ashram in the vicinity of the targeted eatery was known to have been recced by Headley.

In possibly a joint effort, the involvement of Indian Mujahideen (IM) which has got LeT help in carrying out some attacks in the country was also not being ruled out by police.

No arrests have been made in the attack in which officials said the deadly RDX and Ammonium Nitrate were suspected to have been used. Two foreigners--Italian woman and an Iranian male student--were among those killed in the first strike since the Mumbai carnage on November 26, 2008.

"Seeing that just recently the JuD had made the statement saying that Pune is a fair target, we will have to link one and the other and then think that some of these agencies in Pakistan are behind the (Pune)blast," Home Secretary G K Pillai told a TV channel tonight. Pillai however said it is too early to draw out any conclusions.

A high level meeting convened by Chidambaram analysed the speech made by JuD leader Hafiz Abdur Rahman Makki at the Kashmir Solidarity Day conference in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir on February 4 in which he had mentioned about attacks on Indian cities including Pune.

Full report at: timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Pune-blast-JuD-role-not-ruled-out-govt-wants-Headley-access/articleshow/5573467.cms

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At Marjah, troops face death at every corner

15 February 2010

MARJAH: Squads of Marines and Afghan soldiers slowly pressed deeper into the Taliban stronghold of Marjah on Sunday, painstakingly clearing out booby-trapped houses one by one.

Homemade bombs and mines slowed the advance of thousands of US, British and Afghan soldiers in Nato’s most ambitious effort yet to break the militants’ grip over their southern heartland.

Using metal detectors and sniffer dogs, US forces found caches of explosives rigged to blow as they went from compound to compound. They also discovered several sniper positions, freshly abandoned and booby-trapped with grenades.

It could take weeks to reclaim Marjah, said a top Marine commander. “That doesn’t necessarily mean an intense gun battle, but it probably will be 30 days of clearing,” Brig Gen Larry Nicholson said. “I am more than cautiously optimistic that we will get it done before that.”

Nato said it hoped to secure Marjah, the largest town under Taliban control and a key opium smuggling hub, within days, set up a local government, and rush in development aid in a first test of the new US strategy for turning the tide of the eight-year war. The offensive is the largest since the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

Afghan officials said on Sunday at least 27 insurgents had been killed in the operation. Helmand government spokesman Daoud Ahmadi said troops found a large cache of bomb-making materials in one compound in Marjah.

Two NATO soldiers were killed on the first day of the operation — one American and one Briton, according to military officials in their countries.

On Sunday, most of the Marines said they would have preferred a straight-up gunbattle to the “death at every corner” crawl they faced, though they continued to advance slowly through the town. “Basically, if you hear the boom, it’s good. It means you’re still alive after the thing goes off,” said Lance Corp Justin Hennes, 22, of Lakeland, Florida.

“Could you please take the mines out?” Mohammad Kazeem, a local pharmacist, asked the Marines through an interpreter. The entrance up to his shop had been completely booby-trapped, without anyway for him to re-enter his home, he said.

Meanwhile, twelve Afghans died when two rockets fired at insurgents missed their target and struck a house on Sunday. “We deeply regret this tragic loss of life,” said Gen Stanley McChrystal, the top American commander in Afghanistan.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/At-Marjah-troops-face-death-at-every-corner/articleshow/5574362.cms

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Iran sanctions: Clinton visits key allies in Persian Gulf

15February 2010

DOHA: US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton began a visit to two Persian Gulf allies Sunday as part of a broader Obama administration effort to shore up support for taking a tougher stance against Iran's nuclear program.

Her stops in Qatar and in Saudi Arabia coincide with a string of diplomatic and military contacts in the Middle East, including a visit to Egypt Sunday by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Clinton's top three deputies - James Steinberg, Jacob Lew and William Burns - will be in the region in coming days, and a Clinton aide said Gen. David Petraeus, chief of US Central Command with responsibility for US military operations across the Middle East, would also be in the region.

Their agenda is not focused exclusively Iran. There also is an American push for closer cooperation in Yemen against al-Qaida, a move toward bolstering diplomatic relations with Syria and efforts to get Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations back on track.

After an overnight flight from Washington, Clinton went directly into a series of high-level meetings in the Qatari capital and was delivering an evening speech at the US-Islamic World Forum, where she was expected to echo and elaborate on President Barack Obama's call during an appearance at Cairo University in Egypt last June for a new level of engagement with the Muslim world.

She also was holding a one-on-one meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was attending the US-Islamic World Forum, which is jointly organized by the Qatari Foreign Ministry and the US Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy.

Obama addressed the forum by video on Saturday, announcing that he is appointing a special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Full report at: timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/Iran-sanctions-Clinton-visits-key-allies-in-Persian-Gulf/articleshow/5573206.cms

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NATO claims responsibility for 12 Afghan civilian deaths

15 February 2010

KABUL: The NATO force in Afghanistan on Sunday said 12 Afghan civilians were killed when a rocket missed its intended target during a major offensive against the Taliban.

"Two rockets from a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launched at insurgents firing upon Afghan and ISAF forces impacted approximately 300 metres off their intended target, killing 12 civilians in Nad Ali district, Helmand province today," NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement.

"ISAF commander General Stanley McChrystal conveyed his apologies to President Hamid Karzai for this unfortunate incident," it said.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/NATO-claims-responsibility-for-12-Afghan-civilian-deaths/articleshow/5573541.cms

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13 Yemeni army personnel killed in chopper crash

15 February 2010

SANA'A (Yemen): Thirteen army personnel were killed and one injured when a military helicopter crashed in the restive province of Saada in northwestern Yemen, the defence ministry reported.

The helicopter was carrying seven soldiers and a crew of four when it crashed shortly after it took off from a military airport in Kahlan area of Saada, some 240 km northwest of the capital, Sana'a.

All eleven died instantly, the ministry said in a statement. Two soldiers on the ground were also killed and a third injured, the ministry said.

Officials blamed the crash on a "technical fault" but gave no further details.

Saada has been the scene of fierce battles between the army and Shia rebels in the last five-and-a-half years.

The two sides agreed on a ceasefire that took effect at midnight Friday and remains in place.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/13-Yemeni-army-personnel-killed-in-chopper-crash/articleshow/5574812.cms

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Hamas, Fatah join Gaza reconciliation talks: Palestinians

15 February 2010

GAZA CITY: Palestinian groups including Hamas and Fatah held talks today in the Gaza Strip aimed at finding reconciliation between the rival factions, they said in a statement.

The meeting, the first for two years according to Ayman Taha, a spokesman for Hamas in the Palestinian enclave, was designed to overcome obstacles to the signing of an reconciliation pact in Cairo late last year.

The deal, negotiated over several months under Egyptian mediation, was signed by Fatah by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, but Hamas has so far refused to endorse it.

Participants in today's talks agreed on the need to continue their efforts for an agreement, and welcomed the "positive atmosphere" during the Gaza meeting, according to the statement.

The head of the Hamas government, Ismail Haniya, said in a separate statement that there was no alternative to Egyptian mediation for Palestinian reconciliation and called for a solution before a March 27-28 Arab summit in Libya.

Cairo has twice postponed the signing of the agreement because of deep divisions between Hamas and Fatah, who have been at loggerheads with each other since the former seized power from the latter in Gaza in June 2007.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/Hamas-Fatah-join-Gaza-reconciliation-talks-Palestinians/articleshow/5574372.cms

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No rethinking on talks with Pakistan

Siddharth Varadarajan

“Terrorists are opposed to the dialogue. Why should we oblige them?”

New Delhi: India has no intention of allowing terrorists to dictate the scope and schedule of diplomatic interaction with Pakistan and will not let Saturday’s bombing of a bakery in Pune derail the February 25 meeting of foreign secretaries, highly placed sources told The Hindu.

With investigations into the attack still under way, officials said on Sunday there would be no “knee-jerk reaction.” India knows the situation is complex, they added.

Speaking to reporters in Chennai, where he had gone to deliver the Rajaji memorial lecture, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna hinted that the motive of the bombers was to disrupt the impending dialogue with Pakistan. “We are well aware that the dark forces of terrorism are against peace and amity between nations,” he said.

The message from Mr. Krishna and senior officials was clear: there will be no backing away from talks. Even if the Pune incident is traced to a Pakistan-based organisation like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, this would only strengthen India’s position that terrorism needs to be the main focus of the coming meeting.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior official criticised the Opposition BJP’s demand that the proposed talks be called off. “Not talking may be a legitimate diplomatic option, as Arun Jaitley has said, but is it an effective option?” he asked. Terrorists will attempt to strike at targets in India whether there are talks or not.

“What we do know is that the terrorists are opposed to the dialogue. Why should we oblige them?,” the official added.

In Sunday’s interactions of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Home Minister P. Chidambaram, National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon, the intelligence chiefs and others, all stakeholders agreed there should be no deviation from the current policy of trying to have a dialogue with Pakistan on terrorism. And the Congress party supports this line as well, the sources said.

“If we stop talking, it is not given that terrorism will stop,” a senior official said. “Terrorist threats require a different response. Calling off talks will not reduce those threats.” He added that the government was still not sure who was responsible for Pune. “We have our suspicions but Pakistan has been creating layers of deniability over the years which may make it difficult to directly pin the blame on anyone there.”

As far as the talks themselves are concerned, the sources stressed that they had low expectations. “We are not dealing with the Pakistan of 2004 or 2005,” said an official, referring to the period when the two sides made progress on a number of issues. “There is a very different situation across the border today.”

http://www.hindu.com/2010/02/15/stories/2010021557440100.htm

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Yasin Malik seeks a place on India, Pakistan dialogue table

Shujaat Bukhari

SRINAGAR: Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman Yasin Malik on Sunday sought a place on the dialogue table between India and Pakistan. He asked New Delhi to restore the credibility of institution of dialogue.

Speaking after a function here to release a book on JKLF founder Maqbool Butt, Mr. Malik said he was never against dialogue and believed that solutions came from this process only. But he asked how a solution could emerge without the participation of the basic party. India and Pakistan were holding talks without taking the people of Kashmir into confidence.

On the recently floated proposal of amnesty to militants returning from across the Line of Control, he said: “The surrender policy of the government may be a cause for dialogue between India and Pakistan, but to the Kashmiri people it is nothing but humiliation.”

Taking a dig at Pakistan, he quoted a recent statement by its Foreign Secretary in which he had termed the dialogue between the Kashmiri leadership and India as “treachery.” He said: “Then what will be this dialogue process called, if Kashmiris are kept away from it.”

“A must”

Mr. Malik said inclusion of the Kashmiri people in the dialogue process was a must, as they only had the right to decide their future.

The institution of dialogue had lost its credibility in Kashmir. “This needs to be restored.”

Paying tribute to Maqbool Butt, who was hanged in the Tihar Jail in 1984, Mr. Malik said: “He was not only a great leader but an ideology, which should be a source of inspiration for all Kashmiris.” “Bhat was romanticism, he was a dreamer, an ideology, who always thought that the Kashmiris should be left to decide their own future.”

“This is the reason he was termed double agent, as he dared to tell this to both India and Pakistan,” he said.

http://www.hindu.com/2010/02/15/stories/2010021555241100.htm

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Delhi, Kanpur, Indore in JuD’s terror hit list

 

Intelligence officials in New Delhi are scanning the video footages of a recent meeting of Pakistan-based militants in Muzaffarabad (in PoK) for clues after it transpired that Jamaat-ud-Duwah leader Abdul Rehman Makki had signalled at a possible attacks on Indian cities, including Pune.

The Maharashtrian city became the first victim of terrorist strike in 15 months after 26/11 Mumbai attacks. Makki is deputy to his brother-in-law and Jamat-ud-Duwah aamir (chief) Hafiz Muhammed Saeed. Saeed, one of the masterminds of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks that was carried out by LeT, too vowed to renew terror attacks in India. JuD is the frontal outfit and the political arms of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba.

Video clippings of the meeting on Kashmir Solidarity Day conference held in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir on February 4 have shown Makki as saying that cities like Pune, Delhi and Kanpur were fair targets.

“Kashmir had become a cold issue. But by denying Pakistan water, India has ensured that every farmer in Punjab is lining up with his tractor and plough, ready to overrun India. At one time, jihadis were interested only in the liberation of Kashmir, but the water issue had ensured that Delhi, Pune and Kanpur were all fair targets,” Makki is believed to have said.

A declaration unanimously adopted at conference had said the PoK status as a “base camp” for militant groups should be restored and the ban on Kashmiri jihadi groups should be lifted.

“If the rulers cannot help the Kashmiris, they should open the field for Kashmiri mujahideen instead of creating hurdles. They (mujahideen) will deal with India,” said the declaration issued in Urdu.

Full report at: www.dailypioneer.com/236099/Delhi-Kanpur-Indore-in-JuD%E2%80%99s-terror-hit-list.html

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Explosives seized in Gujarat

Rathin Das | Ahmedabad

A high security alert has been sounded across Gujarat following Saturday’s blast in Pune killing nine people.

Gujarat too had faced such situation on July 26, 2008 when 22 blasts in Ahmedabad had left 57 killed and nearly 200 injured.

Bombs were found in 27 places in Surat during the next three days, but did not go off due to defects in their integrated circuits (ICs).

Apart from the usual security drill already in place since last few months, police teams have stepped up their checks at all public places like railway stations, bus terminus and cinema halls.

Surprise checks are being conducted on all hotels and guest houses which could be probable hide-outs for anti-national elements and other shady characters. The police had last month booked the manager and owner of the hotel where David Headley’s accomplice Tahawur Rana and his wife Samraz Akhtar had clandestinely stayed in November 2008.

Meanwhile, a seizure of detonators and explosives from south Gujarat had sent shock waves through the police department since Sunday morning. Three people have been arrested with about 600 detonators and 200 kg of ammonium nitrate which can be used as explosives. They were arrested on Sunday morning when they were carrying these explosives in a car and an auto-rickshaw through the highway near Vapi in Valsad district of south Gujarat.

But, after proper investigations, the police have ruled out any terrorist angle to the seizure. Valsad District Superintendent of Police DJ Patel told The Pioneer on Sunday evening that there is no terrorist link to these explosives.

“They were carrying these explosives for blasting in their stone quarries near Vapi,” Patel told this correspondent.

The shopkeeper who sold these explosives had the license but those carrying it did not have the requisite license, the District SP clarified about the reason for their arrests.

“We are hundred per cent sure there is no terrorist angle to these explosives,” the district police chief assured The Pioneer.

http://www.dailypioneer.com/236097/Explosives-seized-in-Gujarat.html

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Bangladesh executed 411 people since 1971: Official

 

Bangladesh has executed more than 400 people since the country became independent in 1971, an official said on Sunday, and more than 1,000 others are currently sitting on death row.

The authorities last month hanged five army officers convicted of killing the country’s independence leader, taking the number of executions since 1971 to 411, deputy prisons chief Golam Haider said.

At least 36 women have been sentenced to death but none went to the gallows, another prison official said, speaking on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to reveal figures.

“Those hanged were all men,” the official said, adding that at least 1,020 convicts were currently on death row.

Bangladesh has been handing down death penalties with increasing frequency since 2002, when fast-track courts were established as part of a crackdown on rising crime.

http://www.dailypioneer.com/236086/Bangladesh-executed-411-people-since-1971-Official.html

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US, Israel up pressure for sanctions on Iran

Feb 15, 2010

Doha : The United States declared on Sunday it saw few alternatives to more sanctions on Iran, saying it sought a peaceful end to a nuclear standoff but did not want to engage diplomatically "while they are building their bomb".

With military experts warning of the risks of any military action, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Iran to reconsider 'dangerous policy decisions' on its nuclear programme.

"Iran leaves the international community little choice but to impose greater costs for its provocative steps," Clinton told a US-Islamic World Forum in Qatar.

"I would like to figure out a way to handle it in as peaceful an approach possible, and I certainly welcome any meaningful engagement, but ... we don't want to be engaging while they are building their bomb," Clinton said.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday that Iran was now able to enrich uranium to more than 80 per cent purity, close to levels experts say would be needed for a nuclear bomb, although he denied it had any such intention.

A new round of UN sanctions would require the consent of veto-wielding Security Council members Russia and China, both of which have been less inclined to impose them in the past.

Vice President Joe Biden expressed optimism that China might agree. "We have the support of everyone from Russia to Europe. And I believe we'll get the support of China to continue to impose sanctions on Iran to isolate them," he told NBC TV.

Clinton is due to visit Saudi Arabia for talks with King Abdullah on Monday, continuing her tour to seek Arab countries' backing for action against Iran and support for talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

US officials have hinted that one way Saudi Arabia could help diplomatically would be to offer China, a major consumer of Iranian crude, guarantees it would meet its oil requirements, a step that might ease Beijing's resistance to new sanctions.

Full report at: www.indianexpress.com/news/us-israel-up-pressure-for-sanctions-on-iran/579881/

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Pak judiciary & govt head for showdown

PTI and AP

PAKISTAN’S Supreme Court has struck down President Asif Ali Zardari’s order appointing two top judges, stoking fears of a fresh showdown between the government and judiciary with the ruling PPP blaming the fiercely independent Chief Justice for the crisis.

Going against the recommendations of the country’s top judge Iftikhar Chaudhry, Zardari on Saturday appointed Lahore High Court Chief Justice Khwaja Muhammad Sharif as a judge of the apex court.

Zardari also named Saqib Nisar as acting Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court. But within hours, Nisar defied his order and said he would not take oath.

Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Reza Gilani sought to defuse the tension on Sunday over the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the presidential order appointing two top judges, saying the dispute would not threaten political stability.

But former PM Nawaz Sharif said Zardari’s decision to appoint two judges opposed by the court showed he was “ the biggest threat to democracy”. Zardari has clashed with Chief Justice Chaudhry in the past, and the court’s decision to reject the appointments sparked fears that the conflict could destabilise Pakistan at a time when it is battling a raging Taliban- led insurgency.

“ Today, if there is really a danger to democracy, it is through these kinds of acts by Zardari,” Sharif said. “ The government is attacking the judiciary to protect the corrupt.”

Information minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said Sharif had spoken in anger and would “ certainly correct his position”. The President’s push for judges opposed by the court came about two months after it struck down an amnesty protecting Zardari and several other senior politicians from graft charges.

But Gilani denied the appointments had anything to do with the court’s previous ruling and seemed to take a moderate stance on working through the latest disagreement.

“ I want to give a message to the nation that the country’s institutions are strong, and we will work within our domains,” Gilani said. “ Let the court interpret.” The government is scheduled to present its case before the court on February 18. “ If our stand is accepted, that is perfect. If not, we will accept that,” Kaira said.

A special bench of the apex court took suo motu notice of the President’s orders and suspended them during an emergency hearing on Saturday evening.

As reports of an impending government- judiciary showdown did the rounds, rumours swirled here that Zardari, also chief of the ruling PPP, could resort to extraordinary steps, including imposition of emergency, to assert his authority.

Reacting to rumours, presidential spokesperson Farhatullah Babar told reporters that emergency was not being imposed.

TV news channels quoted sources in the presidency as saying that all decisions would be made by the government in accordance with the law and the Constitution.

Soon after the presidency issued the two notifications for judicial appointments, Chaudhry, who was in Karachi, took suo motu notice of the matter and constituted a special bench to hear it on an urgent basis.

The three- judge special bench heard the case last evening and suspended the notifications issued by the President, saying they violated Article 177 of the Constitution which states that all members of the superior judiciary will be appointed by the President after consulting the Chief Justice.

The special bench said the current Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court would continue to work in his position. Babar claimed the Chief Justice was consulted before the appointments were announced.

Several PPP leaders held Chaudhry responsible for the current crisis, with president of its Punjab chapter Rana Aftab Ahmed saying the heavens would not have fallen if the Chief Justice had waited till Monday to take up the matter.

“ Perhaps, this is the first example in the country’s history of the Supreme Court holding a session in the evening to suspend a presidential order,” he said.

Mail Today, New Delhi.

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Taliban Fighters Said to Flee Under Coalition Pressure

By ROD NORDLAND and C. J. CHIVERS

February 15, 2010

KABUL, Afghanistan — A large number of Taliban fighters have fled the city of Marja, their former stronghold in Helmand Province, under pressure from United States and Afghan forces and may have crossed the border into Pakistan, the Afghan interior minister said on Monday.

 At a news conference held by senior Afghan officials and Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the United States commander in Afghanistan, the officials said some Taliban fighters remained in Marja, largely in the southern part of the city.

“We are not facing any threat now except in South Marja, where there is a slight resistance, not enough to be an obstacle to our forces, “ Gen. Sher Mohammed Zazai, the Afghan National Army commander in Helmand, said in the televised press conference.

A bazaar in the south of Marja had previously been a stronghold of the Taliban within the city. The city of 80,000 people is the last large population center held by the Taliban in Helmand, but officials at the press conference said there were still three more districts in the province under Taliban control outside the scope of the current offensive.

Afghan officials offered their own account on Monday of an incident in which American-led coalition forces said 12 people were killed in an American rocket attack. Afghan officials said nine were civilians and the other three insurgents using their compound as a shelter. General McChrystal apologized for the incident and suspended the use of the weapons system used in the attack.

The rocket barrage came after American Marines and Afghan soldiers began taking intense small-arms fire from a mud-walled compound in the area, American officers said. The answering artillery fire hit a building a few hundred yards way.

Officers said the barrage had been fired from Camp Bastion, a large British and American base to the northeast, by a weapons system known as Himars, an acronym for High Mobility Artillery Rocket System.

Its munitions are GPS-guided and advertised as being accurate enough to strike within a yard of their intended targets.

“The compound that was hit was not the one we were targeting,” said Capt. Joshua Biggers, the commander of Company K, Third Battalion, Sixth Marines, which had been engaged in a rolling gun battle with Taliban fighters in the area.

At the news conference on Monday, the interior minister, Mohammed Hanif Atmar, said that the 12 included 9 civilians and 3 insurgents who had forced the civilians to give them refuge. He said local tribal leaders had accepted their apology for the mishap.

He also said authorities were investigating reports that Taliban from Marja had fled across the frontier, presumably to Pakistan, which borders Helmand Province. The nearest large Pakistani city, Quetta, is believed to serve as a sanctuary for senior Taliban leaders from Afghanistan.

Full report at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/16/world/asia/16afghan.html?hp

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Hamas: British Journalist Ordered Held for 15 Days

February 15, 2010

GAZA City, Gaza Strip (AP) -- Hamas officials said Monday that a British freelance journalist detained in Gaza will be held for 15 days, an unprecedented step against a foreigner since the Islamic militants seized Gaza in 2007.

Documentary filmmaker Paul Martin was detained Sunday at a Gaza military tribunal where he was to testify on behalf of a local man accused of collaborating with Israel, said Hamas Interior Ministry spokesman Ehab Ghussein. He had just begun to speak when the prosecutor ordered police to arrest him, saying the Briton was wanted in the case, according to Ehab Jaber, the attorney for the Gaza man accused of collaborating.

''The policeman put the handcuffs on him, and took him out of the court to prison. They were rough with him,'' said Jaber, who witnessed the scene.

Ghussein said Martin, who has produced reports in the past for British Broadcasting Corp. and The Times of London, is suspected of harming Gaza's security. He said the order to detain him for 15 days was based on a confession by a suspected collaborator with Israel -- an apparent reference to the man on trial.

Martin has met with British consular officials since his arrest, Ghussein said.

The British Consulate in Jerusalem said Martin was 55 years old. A spokeswoman said the British government was ''very concerned'' and has been in touch with Martin's family. She spoke on customary condition of anonymity.

Iyad Alami, a lawyer for the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza, met with Martin for half an hour on Monday. Martin was in good condition, Alami said, adding that he wanted to learn more about the case before deciding whether his group would represent the journalist. He would not share any more details on the meeting.

The rights group's director, Raji Sourani, said earlier Monday that he was asked by Martin to represent him.

Full report at: www.nytimes.com/aponline/2010/02/15/world/AP-ML-Palestinians-Briton-Detained.html?_r=1

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The anti-Muslim Nile Hotel

Ruqaya Izzidien

15 February 2010

burkiniAs a regular visitor to the land of the Pharaohs and having lived there for about a year, I often feel that Egypt is my second home. Well, due to some complicated genetics, maybe my fourth home. My point is that Cairo was not the place I expected I would be discriminated against for being Muslim.

When I was living in Mohandiseen a couple of years ago, a British-Egyptian friend of mine was visiting the country so we planned a few escapades. One of them, admittedly one of the rather less adventurous outings, was a day at the pool in the Nile Hotel (then, the Nile Hilton). I know, I know … tourist alert, but humor me.

Being an observant Muslim, I decided to buy an unrevealing swimsuit for the day and went straight to the swimwear shop inside the hotel. I opted for a 3-piece swimsuit that covered me from head to toe, which is the type of outfit popular with other Arabs and Egyptians, especially when they frequent the North Coast with their families. Ever the sore-thumb in the UK, I had little time for self-consciousness by the pool, so my friend and I paid our entrance fees and went to sit down.

After about half an hour, we noticed some of the hotel staff talking about us, but I put it down to the phenomenon that is Arab curiosity and ignored it. More of a staff crowd was gathering and as my friend went to the toilet, I went for a swim. I was completely aware of the commotion I was causing above water until I heard voices getting increasingly louder. I was being beckoned out of the pool.

Following some profuse and almost choreographed arm gesticulating, I left the pool, with my friend joining me at the staff desk. In my mind I thought perhaps the water had been contaminated, not for a second did it cross my mind that I was being too Muslim.

“You can’t go in the pool wearing those clothes,” the hotel told me.

The staff said it was for health reasons; maybe I had a rash on my arm which I was covering. So I showed them my arm. Then I said that that lady over there might have a rash on her arse and we’d never know…

Full report at: http://bikyamasr.com/?p=8654

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Arabs losing Somaliland to Israel

By: Abdulaziz Al-Mutairi

15 February 2010

Somaliland people are Sunni Muslims with Arabic roots. The origin of major Somaliland tribes like Samaroon and Darood are from Yemen, while Isaaq tribe is from Iraq and has connected to Al-Ahlu Bait (the family tree of Prophet Mohamed PUBH). The history writes that Isaaq Bin Ahmed, grandfather of Isaaq tribe in Somaliland, Ethiopia and Djibouti migrated with his family from Mosul and Al-Anbar cities of Iraq to Yemen after the collapse of Abbasid Empire.

The name Abbasid is referred to the uncle of Prophet Mohamed (PUBH), and was used for the empire after collapse of Umayyad Caliphate in Damascus, Syria. Abbasid ruled from 750 – 1258 of Gregorian calendar. Abbasid transferred their capital from Damascus to Baghdad on year of 762. The Islamic civilization witnessed development in all sides including science and trade. The Abbasid era is known as ‘Golden Era’ in Islamic history. The Abbasid Empire varnished after Mongol invaded Baghdad, Iraq destroying the Islamic civilization.

After collapse of Abbasid Empire and Mohamed Al-Abbasid (Ruler of the empire) was killed by Mongol invading forces, the killing of the close associates of the empire started mainly the Al-Ahlu Bait, which forced majority of them to migrate to outside Iraq. The family of Isaaq Bin Ahmed was one of these families who migrated to saver places. The family started their journey from Mosul City, Al-Samara City, Medina and finally landed Hadramout City of Yemen.

The father of Isaaq Bin Ahmed passed away in Yemen, and his brother Abdulrahman Bin Ahmed travelled back to Saudi Arabia and to Iraq. Isaaq Bin Ahmed continued his mission of teaching religion to the people in the region and traveled to Harare City of Ethiopia where he thought religion many years. Isaaq landed undisclosed location in eastern Somaliland, and later married from the people in Harare City. This is overview of the roots of the people of Somaliland. Today, the tribe of Abdurrahman Bin Ahmed is living in Mosul City and is thousands.

Somaliland established functioning administration from 1991 without outside support, and contacted the Arab brothers to support their call for sovereignty, however, no one response their voices of freedom. Arabs know that Somalia collapsed, and it’s impossible to force Somaliland again into another out-of-wedlock marriage with southern Somalia.

In other hand, Somalia failed to sort out their problems and violence continues taking lives of thousands and forcing others out of their houses in southern Somalia. This indicates that peace-loving people of Somaliland are serious of separating from rest of Somalia. Somaliland built strong and sustainable modern nation. They hosted free and fair elections, and country had three presidents in less than 20 years.

Full report at: http://somalilandpress.com/11760/arabs-losing-somaliland-to-israel/

URL of this Page:http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/obama-names-special-envoy-to-the-muslim-world/d/2466


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