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Islamic World News ( 9 Jan 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Only Hell Awaits If Non-Muslims Lead, Hadi Says In Piece Calling For Islamic Supremacy

New Age Islam News Bureau

9 Jan 2019

Mahfouz Ould al-Walid, known as “Abu Hafs al-Mauritani”, is the former Mufti of al-Qaeda.



 Al-Qaeda Mufti Abu Hafs Sheds Light on Iran, Qatar Influence on Extremist Groups

 Only Hell Awaits If Non-Muslims Lead, Hadi Says In Piece Calling For Islamic Supremacy

 Israel Must Respect Intl. Law, Leave Occupied Golan Heights: Jordan

 Afghan Taliban Call off Peace Talks with US Over ‘Agenda Differences’

 Indian MPs Pass Contentious Citizenship Bill That Excludes Muslims

 Uproar as Islamists Reportedly Spotted at Muslim Meeting in Cologne, Germany

 Army Affirms Support for Regional Peace Initiatives


Southeast Asia

 Only Hell Awaits If Non-Muslims Lead, Hadi Says In Piece Calling For Islamic Supremacy

 Indonesia to focus on Shariah financing to fund infrastructure projects in 2019

 Protest against Muslim group draws flack in Indonesia

 Kit Siang: Will Hadi Awang’s ‘hell’ warning scare MIC away from Cameron Highlands?

 Jokowi's running mate offers Ahok olive branch

 Chinese-Indonesian politician reports Muslim official over Mandarin campaign remark



Arab World

 Al-Qaeda Mufti Abu Hafs Sheds Light on Iran, Qatar Influence on Extremist Groups

 Children Tortured In Iraq Kurdistan for ‘Daesh Links’

 'Kuwait to Distance Itself from GCC as Israel Expand Ties With Arab States'

 Ansarullah: No Practical Step Taken to Establish Ceasefire in Hudaydah

 ISIS Attack in East Syria Leaves 32 Dead

 Saudi Security Forces Attack Qatif, Kill 5 People

 6 US-Backed SDF Militants Killed, 11 Wounded by Unknown Assailants in Raqqa

 Qatari ambassador to Russia: Iran has legitimate interests in Syria



 Israel Must Respect Intl. Law, Leave Occupied Golan Heights: Jordan

 Sudan Town Honours 'Martyrs' Killed In Recent Protests against Government

 US airstrikes kill 10 al-Shabaab militants in Somalia

 Nigerian troops foil Boko Haram attack

 Nigeria's Buhari accepts setbacks in Boko Haram fight


South Asia

 Afghan Taliban Call off Peace Talks with US Over ‘Agenda Differences’

 Dozens of Rohingya flee India for Bangladesh: Officials

 Saudi Rohingya deportations slammed

 Several militants killed in separate airstrikes of Coalition and Afghan Special Forces



 Indian MPs Pass Contentious Citizenship Bill That Excludes Muslims

 Terrorism here to stay as long as nations use it as state policy: Army chief

 Iran: Can use ‘influence’ over Taliban for India

 Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati Seeks Muslims’ Cooperation to Defeat Communal Elements

 India, Australia discuss trade, defence, counter-terrorism ahead of Raisina Dialogue

 Islamic State flag desecrates Kashmir mosque

 CJI Ranjan Gogoi-led Constitution bench on Ayodhya, hearing starts Jan 10



 Uproar as Islamists Reportedly Spotted at Muslim Meeting in Cologne, Germany

 Pope’s Outreach to Islamic World In 2019 Has Deep Roots

 EU puts Iran intelligence unit and two staff on terrorism list, freezes assets

 Dutch Minister: Iran behind two assassinations in the Netherlands

 Assad lost legitimacy, British envoy says

 EU to impose sanctions on Iranian intelligence service



 Army Affirms Support for Regional Peace Initiatives

 PM Asserts Pak ‘Paid Huge Price’ In Afghan War

 Marriyum questions why Crown Prince was feasted at a ‘university’

 Senate body proposes giving boost to construction activities in Gwadar

 Qureshi reiterates Pak’s commitment to help end bloodshed in Afghanistan

 Army pledges to continue efforts for peace in country



 Israeli Opposition Politician Secretly Visits Abu Dhabi, Meets Top Emirati Officials: Report

 Turkey to ask US to hand over military bases in Syria

 Turkey-Qatar pact can be ‘misused for military missions’ in the Gulf

 UNSC set to discuss new Yemen mission proposed by Guterres

 Egypt limits crossing Rafah for Palestinians of Gaza, Hamas official says

 UN envoy holds talks with Yemen president amid preparations to boost Hodeidah monitoring team


North America

 US Special Envoy Khalilzad Embarks On 4-Country Tour for Afghan Peace Efforts

 Pompeo: US committed to security of Jordan, confronting ISIS and Iran

 Contrasting Trump, Pompeo Vows To Punish Saudi over Khashoggi Murder

 Erdogan says new US conditions for Syria withdrawal a 'mistake'

 Muslim Community Hopes To Build Mosque in Leamington

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Only Hell Awaits If Non-Muslims Lead, Hadi Says In Piece Calling For Islamic Supremacy

Jan 09, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 8 — Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang has delivered a warning to Muslims to place their trust in Muslim leaders regardless of their wickedness, claiming that believers will end up in hell if led by non-Muslims.

In a lengthy opinion piece titled “Rule of Law: Where is Allah?” today, the PAS president stressed the importance of religion in keeping the law, and the importance for Islam to reign supreme in the governance of country.

“If the one leading is a Muslim, even if he were cruel, at least (others) can become cattle herders,” the Marang MP wrote.

“But if the one who leads is a non-Muslim, even if he were the kindest, (others) can work however they wish [but] without any limits of what is ‘halal’ and ‘haram’ they will still end up in hell.”

His remark was a rehash of a quote he frequently cites from Muhammad ibn Abbad al-Mu’tamid from the Abbadid dynasty, the third and last ruler of Seville under al-Andalus, the medieval Muslim territory over Iberia.

As his kingdom fell to Moroccan Berber invaders, Al-Mu’tamid was quoted saying: “I have no desire to be branded by my descendants as the man who delivered al-Andalus as prey to the infidels I would rather be a camel-driver in Africa than a swineherd in Castile”.

In his piece, Hadi stressed that the country can only be saved with guidance from Allah, including a faith-based judiciary that is superior to man-made laws.

He also claimed that only an Islamic party deserves to inherit Quranic teachings to provide such guidance — a veiled reference to his own Islamist party — rather than party devoid of morals and faith to God and his Prophet.

In his dissection of the “Rule of Law”, Hadi had urged for Prophet Muhammad to be the role model of law-keeping, including forsaking revenge by pardoning those who repented.

“Don’t ever take the infidelic West as an example, because the best of them will still end up in hell, since their kindness is without any faith to Allah and the End Times,” he wrote.

“Rule of Law” refers to a concept where all members of society, regardless of status, are subject to and governed by the same set of laws.

Hadi has long been a proponent of a Malay-Muslim rule. In 2017, he pointed out that Malaysia should be led by the Malay-Muslims as they are the dominant community, and suggested that the group holds the top decision-making positions in the Cabinet.



Al-Qaeda Mufti Abu Hafs sheds light on Iran, Qatar influence on extremist groups

8 January 2019

Mahfouz Ould al-Walid, known as “Abu Hafs al-Mauritani,” the former Mufti of al-Qaeda, revealed in an interview with Al Arabiya English what he described as the balanced relationship pursued by both the Iranian regime and Qatar with armed extremist groups.

According to his interpretation, the two countries’ relations with al-Qaeda, the Takfir, Hijra, Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and other armed groups are part of the agenda to maintain “political interests”.

“There is no doubt that Iran was present with al-Qaeda for more than one reason, including the geographical location adjacent to Afghanistan. Qatar also had a partial presence, as it wasn’t in the face of the Taliban, and I think it is the only country that did not send troops to Afghanistan during the American war,” he told Al Arabiya English.

Abu Hafs added: “Qatar had a certain policy towards Islamic trends and it was less hostile than the rest of the other countries. This led armed groups and organizations to exclude Qatar from the rest of the Gulf countries, despite its involvement in what is known as the war on terrorism.”

Abu Hafs – the negotiator who finalized the deal to house al-Qaeda and other armed terrorist organization in Iran after the war on Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks – said: “Iran was keen not to clash with Islamist groups and was really doing politics. Iran was able to avoid the armed confrontation on its territory with these groups. At the same time, Iran sought to not be the starting point for any military action against other countries, (as he described)”.

According to him, Tehran “managed to retain a kind of excellence and independence in the face of the so-called terrorism, Iran did not engage in the US war on terrorism, making gains through this balance.”

He explained: “I was responsible for negotiating with the Iranians when members of the organization and their families entered Iran. Al-Qaeda leaders asked me to negotiate with the Iranians, but I refused because in the past Iran tried to initiate a relationship and al-Qaeda turned it down, so it was clear that considering the situation they will not accept”.

He also said that this impression was transferred to the Iranian side so they sought contact and discussed the humanitarian situation and about overcoming past differences. “Negotiating with them was not limited to the issue of al-Qaeda, but included all the jihadi and Islamic groups that were present in Afghanistan,” said Abu Hafsa.

Negotiations with Iran

Abu Hafs said that after the fall of Taliban, when militant groups had to leave Afghanistan, the Iranians asked him to negotiate the admission of women, children, widows and victims of the US war on terror and the transit of fighters across their territory.

“A large number of young men who were under watch were able to return and others couldn’t since they didn’t have official papers or had problems in their countries of origin. They stayed in Iran until the international community became wary of their presence so they were arrested,” he said.

When news emerged about the presence of some al-Qaeda leaders in Tehran, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard had to hand over some individuals and others to the government of Pakistan, while keeping the more important figures in the country.

“The fact is Iranians handled the situation very well; they secured themselves with the Americans as well as with militant groups.”

Abu Hafs also praised how the Iranian regime treated al-Qaeda Shoura Council and other leaders of the extremist groups. “At first, we were put in jail and then they liberated us, they treated us well, and they did not deliberately insult our sects or doctrines,” he said.

About the mysterious relationship between Qatari and Iranian regimes, and Islamist armed groups, Abu Hafs said: “This does not mean there is a special relationship between Qatar and Iran and these armed groups, in fact these two countries were looking after their political interests, where they were less severe in the confrontation and had converging policies and I think they succeeded to a large extent, while there are major countries which couldn’t assess things properly and engaged in the US war.”

Expel ‘infidels’ from the Arab Peninsula

Abu Hafs al-Mauritani who stayed in Tehran – with other al-Qaeda leaders – for a decade, explained that the “Jihadist” extremist groups ignored the presence of al-Udeid American base in Qatar, which was the base for launching American raids targeting Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Iraq.

According to him, they believed in the agenda: “Expel the Infidels from the Arab Peninsula”.

“Islamist groups do not classify Qatar as a state that applies the rules of Islamic Sharia’h, nor is it a good role model, nor their view toward Turkey or Iran, according to the understandings and definitions of these groups, but they see that these countries did not consider the wars of these groups a priority for them. There are countries that volunteer in the fight against al-Jamaat and all that is Islamic and thus topped the list of hostility by Islamic groups.”

He added that both Qatar and Iran managed to break the intensity of hostility toward Islamist groups and have not made it a priority to confront them at least.

Abu Hafs also explained Osama bin Laden’s choice of Qatar as a destination for his son, Hamza bin Laden currently the leader of al-Qaeda, as mentioned in his diaries released by the US authorities.

According to him, this is due to his (Osama bin Laden) contentment at Qatar’s political approach of not confronting Islamist and armed groups and not pursuing strict policy against them.

“Perhaps Sheikh Osama felt it (Qatar) will be the best country for his sons to live in, and today Qatar hosts a number of Osama bin Laden sons after they returned from their mother’s home in Syria’s Latakia, after leaving Iran, and they were granted the Qatari nationality,” he added.

Al Jazeera and Osama bin Laden

Abu Hafs al-Mauritani, who was al-Qaeda Mufti, confirmed that details mentioned in documents seized from Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan’s Abbottabad – regarding al-Qaeda leader’s communication with Al-Jazeera’s correspondents – was true.

“Al-Jazeera channel was for them the most important watched Arab satellite TV, that’s why addresses for Al-Jazeera correspondents were provided, as it was very natural that these Islamist movements seek to spread their messages through the most popular channels,” he said.

“Hence Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda were eager to deliver their message through it. On the other hand, Al-Jazeera allowed broadcasting of the messages of Islamist movements more than any other channel, and it also sought to cover news related to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda,” he said.

Abu Hafs pointed out that Al-Jazeera – following pressure from the United States and Britain – “adopted a different policy, only publishing news with value to its standard and editorial policy.”



Israel must respect intl. law, leave occupied Golan Heights: Jordan

Jan 9, 2019

Jordan has hit out at Israel over its recent call for the United States to recognize the regime’s occupation of the Golan Heights, saying Tel Aviv will have to eventually pull its forces out of the Syrian region.

“The Golan Heights are occupied Syrian territory. International law is clear on that. It has to be treated as such,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told a press conference with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Amman on Tuesday.

He then called on the Tel Aviv regime to leave the Golan Heights based on the 1974 Golan ceasefire deal with the Damascus government.

“Our position is that Israel needs to withdraw from that territory in the framework of a peace agreement,” Safadi said.

Just two days earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed that Israel would “never leave the Golan Heights,” urging all countries to recognize the regime’s grip over the occupied territory. Netanyahu made the comments in a meeting with US National Security Adviser John Bolton in the occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.

In 1967, Israel waged a full-scale war against Arab territories, during which it occupied a large swathe of Syria’s Golan and annexed it four years later, a move never recognized by the international community.

In 1973, another war, known as the Arab-Israeli War, broke out. A year later, a United Nations-brokered ceasefire came into force, according to which Tel Aviv and Damascus agreed to separate their troops and create a buffer zone in the Golan.

Israel has over the past decades built dozens of settlements in the Golan Heights in defiance of international calls for the regime to stop its illegal construction activities.

Syria has repeatedly reaffirmed its sovereignty over the Golan Heights, saying the territory must be completely restored to its control.

Since 2011 – when foreign-sponsored militancy first broke out across Syria – Israel has been using Golan to prop up anti-Damascus Takfiri terrorists.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Safadi, whose country is the custodian of Jerusalem al-Quds' Muslim holy sites, described the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the region’s central problem.

While Amman and Washington “don’t always agree on every issue, we will continue to work together to solve the region’s problems,” he added.



Afghan Taliban call off peace talks with US over ‘agenda differences’

JANUARY 9, 2019

The Afghan Taliban said on Tuesday they had called off peace talks with US officials in Qatar this week due to an “agenda disagreement”, especially over the involvement of Afghan officials as well as a possible ceasefire and prisoner exchange.

Two days of peace talks had been set to start on Wednesday, Taliban officials told Reuters earlier, but the hardline Islamic militant group had refused to allow “puppet” Afghan officials to join.

The war in Afghanistan is America’s longest overseas military intervention. It has cost Washington nearly a trillion dollars and killed tens of thousands of people.

“The U.S. officials insisted that the Taliban should meet the Afghan authorities in Qatar and both sides were in disagreement over declaring a ceasefire in 2019,” a Taliban source told Reuters.

“Both sides have agreed to not meet in Qatar.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said earlier the two sides were still working on the technical details and were not clear on the agenda for the talks.

The US Embassy in Kabul did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the cancellation.

The talks, which would have been the fourth round with US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, would have involved a US withdrawal, prisoner exchange and the lifting of a ban on movement of Taliban leaders, a Taliban leader had told Reuters.

Taliban sources said that they had demanded US authorities release 25,000 prisoners and they would free 3,000, but that US officials were not keen to discuss the exchange at this stage.

“We would never announce any ceasefire until and unless we achieve major gains on the ground. We have the feeling that Zalmay Khalilzad doesn’t have enough power to make important decisions,” a second Taliban official said.

The Taliban said Khalilzad would visit the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and China to continue the discussion. Khalilzad’s office was not available for a comment.

The Taliban have rejected repeated requests from regional powers to allow Afghan officials to take part in the talks, insisting that the United States is their main adversary in the 17-year war.

The insurgents, seeking to reimpose strict Islamic law after their 2001 ouster by US-led troops, called off a meeting with US officials in Saudi Arabia this week because of Riyadh’s insistence on bringing the Western-backed Afghan government to the table. Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the UAE took part in the last round of talks in December.

Western diplomats based in Kabul said Pakistan’s cooperation in the peace process will be crucial to its success. Independent security analysts and diplomats said the neighbouring country’s powerful military has kept close ties with the Afghan Taliban.

U.S. officials have accused Pakistan of providing safe haven to Taliban militants in its border regions and using them as an arm of its foreign policy. Pakistan denies the claim.

The United States, which sent troops to Afghanistan in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington and at the peak of the deployment had more than 100,000 troops in the country, withdrew most of its forces in 2014.

It keeps around 14,000 troops there as part of a NATO-led mission aiding Afghan security forces and hunting militants.

Reports last month about U.S. President Donald Trump’s plans to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan triggered uncertainty in Kabul which depends on the United States and other foreign powers for military support and training.

As peace talks gained momentum a draft agreement drawn up by the influential U.S. think tank RAND Corporation outlining the clauses for a potential peace deal was circulated among Afghan officials and diplomats in Kabul.

The document, reviewed by Reuters, suggests that the United States and NATO withdraw their military missions in phases over an expected period of 18 months. It adds that the United States may continue providing civilian assistance.



Indian MPs pass contentious citizenship bill that excludes Muslims

Jan. 08, 2019

NEW DELHI: India's lower house passed Tuesday legislation that will grant citizenship to members of certain religious minorities but not Muslims, sparking protests in the country's northeast.

The bill seeks to give citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, who came to India before Dec. 31, 2014.

Critics have called the proposal, contained in a Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019, blatantly anti-Muslim and an attempt by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party to boost its Hindu voter base ahead of a general election due by May.

The legislation, which still needs approval in the upper house, sparked a second day of protests Tuesday in the northeastern state of Assam, where millions have settled in recent decades after fleeing neighboring countries.

Demonstrators in the state are angry about the bill not because it excludes Muslims but because it grants citizenship to settlers from elsewhere, accusing the migrants of taking away jobs from indigenous groups.

India wants to give citizenship to immigrants belonging to religious minorities persecuted in neighboring Muslim countries, including Pakistan, because they have nowhere go except India, Rajnath Singh told Parliament Tuesday. "The beneficiaries of the bill can reside in any state of the country."

But there is significant opposition to the proposal, in particular from the northeastern state of Assam, where residents have for years complained that immigrants from Bangladesh have put a big strain on resources.

But Singh tried to reassure Assam it would not have to bear any burden alone.

"The burden of those persecuted migrants will be shared by the whole country. Assam alone should not have to bear the entire burden," he said.

Last year the Assam government published a draft citizens' register that left off four million people unable to prove they were living there before 1971, when millions fled Bangladesh's war of independence.

A deadline to provide documents to be included in the registry passed on December 31, and the final list is due to be published on June 30.

In Tuesday's protests in Assam, the militant North East Students' Organization vandalized BJP offices and set banners and posters on fire.

Samujjal Bhattacharyya from NESO told AFP that people in the region would not "accept the political injustice perpetrated by the BJP".

Police said that protesters threw stones at officers.

"We have identified the stone pelters by seeing video footage and they will be booked soon," Assam police official Surjeet Singh Panesar said.

On Monday a small party in the BJP-led coalition in Assam, the Asom Gana Parishad, walked out of the alliance in protest at the bill, saying it would lead to an influx of Bangladeshi Hindus.



Uproar as Islamists Reportedly Spotted at Muslim Meeting in Cologne, Germany


Leading representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood, regarded as an Islamist and even terrorist organization in some countries, have reportedly attended a recent conference in Cologne, dedicated to the future of European Muslims. The event’s organisers have insisted it is important to stay in contact with all "socially relevant groups".

The Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), that organised the II Meeting of European Muslims in the recently opened central mosque in Cologne (the biggest one in Germany), is under fire in Germany over reports about the Muslim Brotherhood* participating in the gathering. 

As the newspaper Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger reported, members of the Egyptian-founded organisation, attended the event along with about a hundred guests, who gathered to discuss the future of Muslims in Europe. The regional Interior Minister in North Rhine-Westphalia confirmed that two participants were identified as ones linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, which the Office for the Protection of the Constitution closely monitors.

Politicians from both the Christian Democrat Union and the Social Democrats have strongly criticised the organisers for cooperating with religious radicals. The head of the city district, where the event took place, also lambasted the DITIB, condemned earlier for receiving support from Turkey’s governmental body of religious affairs Diyanet. Josef Wirges (SPD) told the German broadcaster ARD that he had not been informed about the three-day congress.

At the same time, the DITIB’s spokesman told the German press agency that it was important to stay in contact with all "socially relevant groups". Although in the final statement the DITIB mentioned terrorist organisations that abuse Islamic teachings, there was no reference to the Muslim Brotherhood. Additionally, it expressed concern over physical manifestations of Islamophobia.

The security authorities in Germany are warning about a growing number of Muslim Brotherhood supporters, topping 1,000, with 109 radical prayer houses, 50 Islamic centres and the central office "Islamic Community in Germany e.V." (IGD), located in Cologne. In an interview with the German outlet Focus, head of the regional office for the constitutional protection Burkhard Freier noted that the danger posed by the Muslim Brotherhood is much greater than by Salafists.

“Despite assurances, the IGD and the network of co-operators pursue one goal above all: the establishment of Islamic states of God, eventually in Germany as well”, he said

Since its founding in Egypt in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood has fledged into a pan-Islamic organisation with over a million worldwide members in 70 countries. It is regarded as a terrorist organisation in many countries, including Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. In Sweden, the MB has been active since the late 1970s.



Army affirms support for regional peace initiatives

Baqir Sajjad Syed

January 09, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The army’s top brass on Tuesday affirmed its support for “all initiatives” for regional peace.

This affirmation was made at the corps commanders’ conference held at the General Headquarters.

“Forum reiterated to continue its efforts for bringing enduring peace in the country while supporting all initiatives towards regional peace,” the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said at the end of the meeting presided over by Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and attended by the corps commanders and the principal staff officers. The meeting reviewed geo-strategic environment and security situation of the country.

The statement did not specify which regional peace initiatives it was referring to, but it was apparently about the Afghan peace process.

Pakistan has lately initiated a new effort to restart the stalled peace talks by facilitating a meeting between the Taliban and the United States at Abu Dhabi.

The meeting was described as “positive” and “productive” by the UAE and the US, respectively, and it had been decided by all stakeholders that the process would continue. The next meeting, it is said, would be held soon though its venue and dates are yet to be announced.

But alongside this process Pakistan has announced revival of a trilateral process with Turkey and Afghanistan although it is being pitched as a new initiative, whose summit will be held in Istanbul. Moreover, Pakistan has in the past also worked with Qataris, Russians, and the Chinese for Afghan peace. Iranians have also started their own process and have held a couple of rounds of meetings with the Taliban.

The latest effort launched together with the US, the UAE and Saudi Arabia has not gone down well with some of Pakistan’s other partners with whom it remained engaged in the past. It was for this reason Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi last month undertook a whirlwind regional tour for explaining his government’s latest initiative.

The ISPR in a way endorsed what Mr Qureshi told the Russians, Chinese, Qataris and Iranians during his visits. The Pakistani position has been that it supports a negotiated settlement of the Afghan conflict.

The commanders also deliberated on the progress made on fencing of Afghan border. Of the total planned length of 2,611km, 643km have been fenced — 461km in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 182km in Balochistan. Moreover, 233 forts have been completed and another 140 are under construction. A total of 843 border forts are planned to be constructed along Pak-Afghan border.

The meeting also discussed ceasefire violations by India along the Line of Control.

Meanwhile, Afghan President’s Special Envoy for Regional Consensus for Afghan Peace, Umer Daudzai, met Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the Foreign Office.

This was Mr Daudzai’s first visit abroad since he was given this new role.

Mr Qureshi told the envoy that there was a growing international convergence on the need to end the suffering of Afghan people through peaceful settlement of the conflict.

He said that Pakistan would do all it could to help the people of Afghanistan see the earliest possible end to bloodshed and enter a new phase of peace and prosperity.



Southeast Asia


Indonesia to focus on Shariah financing to fund infrastructure projects in 2019

January 08 2019

Indonesia will dip further into Islamic sovereign bond sales this year to fund infrastructure projects, relying less on global investors and expediting a deepening of its financial markets.

The finance ministry expects to use 28.43tn rupiah ($1.96bn) of 2019 sukuk proceeds to build 619 projects encompassing roads, ports, airports, railways, and marriage halls, director general of Budget Financing and Risk Management Luky Alfirman said last month.

Last year’s sukuk projects are expected to reach 22.53tn rupiah.

“We want to bring alternatives to state budget financing and deepen the Shariah financial market,” Alfirman told a forum in Jakarta on December 21.

The Islamic bond market in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation is lagging behind neighbouring Malaysia. With Muslims making up almost 90% of the population, the size of Shariah-compliant bonds will account for about 25% to 30% of the gross borrowing set for this year.

The total outstanding of tradable government bonds amounted to 2,374.5tn rupiah as of December 11, 16% of it in Islamic securities. The slice of banking assets complying with the ban on interest hovered at about 5% for the past three years.

“Our sukuk market is smaller compared to the conventional market,” Alfirman said. “Hence, companies issue more conventional bonds rather than sukuk.”

Southeast Asia’s largest economy relies heavily on offshore funds to finance its budget deficit, with foreign investors owning almost 40% of its bonds. The government sees the fiscal deficit at 1.9% of gross domestic product last year.



Protest against Muslim group draws flack in Indonesia

January 8, 2019

Muslim hardliners in Indonesia have come under fire from rights activists for breaking up a recent book launch held by members of an Ahmadiyya group.

The incident sparked calls for regulations limiting the activities of Ahmadis to be rescinded.

Organizers of the book launch at an Ahmadiyya mosque in Bandung in West Java province were forced to call the event off after protesters from dozens of hard-line groups, including the notorious Islamic Defenders Front, gathered outside and threatened to storm the venue despite a heavy police presence.

The book in question featured works of the sect's founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.

The protesters claimed the event was in defiance of a 2008 joint ministerial decree banning the Ahmadiyya from disseminating their beliefs and teachings as well as a 2011 regulation from the governor restricting Ahmadi activities.  

"We held the rally to enforce the joint ministerial decree and the regulation which both clearly prohibit the Ahmadiyya community's activities in Indonesia," one protester, Muhammad Ro'in, told BBC Indonesia.

The Ahmadiyya community, which believes the Prophet Mohammed was not the last prophet, has long been subjected to persecution and discrimination from mainstream Muslims.

This has included restricting the sect's ability to worship and turning a blind eye to acts of violence, according to rights activists, who said such persecution runs contrary to Indonesia's secular constitution.

The 2008 joint ministerial decree and subsequent local edicts have helped spur such persecution they said.

Halili, director of research at the Jakarta-based Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, said intolerant groups would continue to make use of the regulations to justify their acts.

"Intolerant actions like this will re-occur if the regulations are not revoked,"Halili told

Central and local governments have a duty to serve as protectors of citizens' rights particularly those of vulnerable minority groups, he said.

Petrus Selestinus, coordinator of the Indonesian Democratic Defenders Team, said authorities should act to dispel the idea held by many hard-line groups that they are more powerful than the state.

"What happened in Bandung certainly threatens minority groups' safety," he said.

"Our constitution states that adhering to a certain religion or belief is the right of every citizen, with no exception," he said.

A moderate Muslim scholar Ahmad Suaedy also strongly condemned the protest.

Full report at:



Kit Siang: Will Hadi Awang’s ‘hell’ warning scare MIC away from Cameron Highlands?

09 January 2019

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 9 — DAP's Lim Kit Siang continued today to press MIC over the party’s apparent decision to possibly give up contesting the Cameron Highlands by-election amid reports that Umno wants the seat for itself.

The Iskandar Puteri MP questioned MIC’s delay in naming a candidate for the federal seat, and wondered if it was due to PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s warning yesterday that hell awaits Muslims if they are led by non-Muslims.

“What is of more immediate interest, however, is whether MIC is going to concede Cameron Highland seat to Umno because of Hadi’s warning of ‘hell’ and PAS’ 3578 votes?

“In actual fact, I have great doubts that Hadi will be able to deliver the 3,578 votes in the Cameron Highlands by-election on January 26, as I do not believe that the general PAS membership are ‘all fours’ with Hadi in rejecting Malaysia as a plural society and his antediluvian view that a corrupt Muslim is always better than clean and honest non-Muslims, which is also not the teaching of Islam or the great religions of the world,” Lim said.

Traditionally the Cameron Highlands federal seat has been contested by MIC since 2004. During the 14th General Election, the party’s vice-president Datuk C Sivarraajh defeated DAP candidate M Manogaran.

Manogaran then filed a petition on June 4, 2018 to cancel the result of the Cameron Highlands constituency for violating the Election Offences Act.

He accused Sivarraajh of allegedly giving bribes of between RM30 and RM1,000 to Orang Asli voters via their Tok Batin (community chiefs) to ensure they voted for BN.

On November 30, 2018 the seat was declared null and void by the Election Court as it was proven that Sivarraajh was aware and consented to corrupt practices being committed.

In the same statement, Lim also condemned Abdul Hadi’s warning of ‘hell’ and accused the PAS chief of finally showing his true colours.

He said the nation could now understand why under Abdul Hadi’s leadership the Islamist party had supported former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s kleptocrat government.

The veteran politician accused Abdul Hadi of not being fully committed to battle corruption, since the latter regards a corrupt Muslim as better than a clean non-Muslim and this was the reason there was no strong objections against corruption scandals such as 1MDB, Felda, Felcra, Mara and Tabung Haji.

He also observed that PAS is now laying claim to be the only party to fight for the Malay-Muslim agenda in light of Umno’s fall from grace.

“But PAS leaders cannot be more wrong as PAS cannot have the monopoly to champion the Malay-Muslim agenda in Malaysia.

Full report at:



Jokowi's running mate offers Ahok olive branch

JAN 8, 2019

A recent statement of regret issued by Indonesian vice-presidential candidate Ma'ruf Amin for testifying against former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama in a blasphemy case has paved the way for a reconciliation between the two, with analysts viewing it as a political move to appease pluralists.

In a 48-second interview with a local media outlet which went viral last week, the 75-year-old conservative cleric, formerly chairman of the influential Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), admitted that he was made to give the testimony as part of law enforcement.

Mr Ma'ruf, the running mate of President Joko Widodo in polls set for April, was a key prosecution witness in a case that led to the imprisonment of Basuki, popularly known by his Chinese nickname Ahok, on the grounds that he had insulted the Quran.

Indonesian Institute of Sciences socio-political researcher Amin Mudzakkir said Mr Ma'ruf's recent statement has served as a precondition to a reconciliation with Basuki on his expected release from jail on Jan 24. He underlined the statement's political nature, saying it is aimed at attracting voters from minority groups, particularly Basuki's supporters.

"If Ahok later responds to Ma'ruf positively, that could be productive for Ma'ruf's campaign," Mr Amin told The Straits Times, adding that the statement needs to be followed by a meeting between the two later, in order to create a stronger effect.

Basuki, Jakarta's first Chinese and Christian governor, was sentenced to two years' jail after a Jakarta court ruled that he was guilty of blasphemy against Islam in May 2017, just weeks after he lost the Jakarta gubernatorial election to his rival, former culture and education minister Anies Baswedan.

Basuki's early release took into account remission that he received over the Christmas holidays.

Political analyst Arya Fernandes from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies said Mr Ma'ruf's statement is a political move based on electoral considerations as he does not want to lose votes from minority groups and Basuki's backers.

"Minority groups are waiting to see Mr Ma'ruf's further commitment on pluralism because Ahok's case showed his different stance," Mr Arya said. "The statement is to comfort the minority."

During his tenure as MUI chairman, Mr Ma'ruf supported controversial regulations, like a ministerial decree that bans religious activities of Ahmadiyah followers, and issued unfavourable recommendations, including one suggesting that Muslims do not congratulate Christians celebrating Christmas.

The decision by Mr Joko, a reform-minded leader, to pick Mr Ma'ruf as his partner in his re-election bid is seen by many as a way to boost his Islamic credentials - and temper his image of being anti-Islam - in the country with the world's biggest Muslim population.

Mr Arya, however, noted that the impact of the statement on the electability of the Joko Widodo-Ma'ruf Amin pair is likely to be insignificant as there has been no notable change in Mr Joko's popularity among voters after he declared his intention to team up with Mr Ma'ruf in August last year.

Full report at:



Chinese-Indonesian politician reports Muslim official over Mandarin campaign remark

Jan 09, 2019

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A National Awakening Party (PKB) politician of Chinese descent has filed a police report against a senior Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) official for questioning his use of Mandarin to gain support from Chinese-Indonesian voters.

Heriandi Lim, a legislative candidate, filed the report on Sunday (Jan 6).

He claimed that a Jan 2 tweet made by Tengku Zulkarnain, the deputy secretary-general of MUI, in which he questioned Heriandi's nationality for using Mandarin on his campaign poster was a form of hate speech.

Zulkarnain's tweet, which has since been deleted, received 1,896 likes, 1,210 retweets and 771 comments.

"This is the campaign posters of legislative candidates. The question is, which country are these candidates from...? If these are truly campaign posters for an election in Indonesia, how do all of you feel about them...? Happy...? Or upset...?" Zulkarnain wrote on his Twitter account @ustadtengkuzul.

The post was accompanied by a photo of campaign posters for Heriandi and four other candidates that bear Chinese characters.

Heriandi said he was reporting Zulkarnain for allegedly spreading hatred, in accordance to Article 28 (2) of Law No. 11/2008 on information and electronic transactions, which carries a maximum prison sentence of six years and a fine of 1 billion rupiah (S$96,035).

The legislative candidate also accused Zulkarnain of violating Article 310 of the Criminal Code, which carries a nine-month jail term.

"I came here to file a report against a blasphemous statement made by an Indonesian," Heriandi told reporters after submitting his report at the National Police's Criminal Investigation Division (Bareskrim) in Central Jakarta on Sunday.

"I was warned beforehand not to come because the person I'm reporting is said to have impunity and can say whatever he wants. But I ignored (the warnings)."

Heriandi said he became aware of the situation upon receiving a notification from Facebook asking whether he wanted to tag himself in a photo.

He was shocked to discover that the photo was part of several Facebook posts urging people not to vote for him in the upcoming April 17 legislative election.

He later found that someone on Twitter had slammed his election campaign for using Chinese characters, prompting him to report the person to Bareskrim.

"The Chinese characters form my Chinese name; I don't know why that's such a problem for them," Heriandi said, adding that he had decided to use Chinese characters on his campaign posters to cater to his Chinese-Indonesian constituents.

He questioned the motives of Zulkarnain's Twitter post, which doubted his Indonesian citizenship.

"It's clear that I'm a legislative candidate and an Indonesian citizen that has passed the National Election Commission's (KPU) screening test to run for a legislative seat," he said.

PKB secretary-general Daniel Johan stepped forward in defence of Heriandi.

"I don't see a problem with (campaigning in Mandarin); it's a similar campaign strategy used by other legislative candidates who use local languages such as Javanese, Maduranese, Batak and Arabic," Daniel told The Jakarta Post. "It's a cultural approach to winning the hearts of the constituents."

Surya Tjandra, a legislative candidate from the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI), echoed Daniel's sentiments.

Full report at:



Arab World


Children tortured in Iraq Kurdistan for ‘Daesh links’

January 08, 2019

BAGHDAD: Security forces in Iraqi Kurdistan have been “torturing children” to force them to confess to having links with Daesh, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday.

The rights group said it interviewed 23 boys aged between 14 and 17 who were charged with, or convicted of, belonging to Daesh, and that 16 of them said they had been “tortured” during questioning.

Some boys said members of the Kurdish security forces known as Asayesh beat them with plastic pipes, electric cables or rods while others said they were subjected to electric shocks or a painful stress position dubbed the “scorpion,” the watchdog said.

“Several boys said the torture continued over consecutive days, and only ended when they confessed” to involvement with Daesh, it said.

“Most said they had no access to a lawyer and they were not allowed to read the confessions Asayesh wrote and forced them to sign,” it added. It said the punishment inflicted by security forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq took place in 2017 and 2018 despite promises by authorities to investigate the torture claims.

“Nearly two years after the Kurdistan Regional Government promised to investigate the torture of child detainees, it is still occurring with alarming frequency,” said Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director at HRW.

The watchdog said its staff interviewed the boys during a November visit to a detention center in Irbil, where 63 children are being held.

A senior Kurdish official dismissed the allegations.

Dindar Zebari, international affairs adviser to the Kurdish government, told AFP that “HRW never visited” the detention center.

According to HRW, most of the boys said their interrogators told them what they should confess and many said they gave false testimony only to stop the torture.

“My confession says that I joined Daesh for 16 days, but actually I didn’t join at all,” a 16-year-old child told HRW.

A 14-year-old said: “First they said I should say I was with Daesh, so I agreed. Then they told me I had to say I worked for Daesh for three months. I told them I was not part of Daesh, but they said, ‘No, you have to say it’.”

The boy said that after two hours of interrogation and torture he agreed to their demands.

“The Kurdistan authorities should immediately end all torture of child detainees and investigate those responsible,” HRW said.



'Kuwait to distance itself from GCC as Israel expand ties with Arab states'

Jan 8, 2019

Although Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states concur on many policies, such as Syrian government being admitted back into the Arab world, some issues remain unresolved within the council as Kuwait is apparently not following in the footsteps of others to normalize diplomatic ties with the Israeli regime.

According to a commentary published by the US-based al-Monitor media site, Kuwaiti officials are not on board with their GCC counterparts on establishment of relations with the Tel Aviv regime.

It noted that Kuwait threw its backing behind Lebanon at the UN Security Council on December 19, 2018, saying the Israeli military’s operation to block what it claims are tunnels the Hezbollah resistance movement has dug into the occupied territories are in violation of Lebanese sovereignty.

“Lebanon has been living for years with Israeli violations. Israel has tried to exaggerate this incident militarily, and in the media,” Kuwaiti Ambassador Mansour Ayyad al-Otaibi asid at the time.

Otaibi then condemned "Israeli violations against Lebanese sovereignty, in land, air and sea,” stressing that efforts by Hezbollah to counter Israel are “legitimate” resistance and not terrorism.

The Kuwaiti government even considered opening an embassy in Palestine last year as part of attempts to strengthen its diplomatic presence in the occupied territories.

President of the Kuwait Football Association, Sheikh Ahmad Yussef, recently told the Kuwaiti Arab-language al-Rai daily newspaper that his country would not co-host the 2022 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament with Qatar as the Persian Gulf kingdom would not issue entry visas for Israelis – something that is against FIFA regulation.

This is while Israeli politician and the leader of the opposition Israeli Labor Party, Avi Gabbay, secretly visited Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, last month and discussed various regional issues with three senior Emirati officials.

Israeli Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz visited Oman on November 4 last year to attend an international transport conference and pitch a railway project that would link the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean via the Israeli-occupied territories.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in late November 2018 visited Oman, where he met Sultan Sayyid Qaboos bin Said Al Said at the Bait al-Barakah Royal Palace in the coastal city of Seeb near the capital Muscat.

Israel’s English-language daily newspaper The Jerusalem Post reported that the two men had discussed ways to advance the so-called Middle East peace process as well as mattes of mutual interest with regard to the region’s stability.

Netanyahu was accompanied by senior officials, including the head of the Mossad spy agency and his national security adviser.

Netanyahu's unpublicized visit to Oman came on the same day that Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev traveled to the UAE to accompany Israel’s judo team at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam 2018.

Regev arrived in Abu Dhabi on October 26, and she participated in the opening ceremony of the international event at the Emirati capital’s Zayed Sports City, Palestinian Arabic-language Ma’an news agency reported.

Her visit to the UAE marked the first of its kind by an Israeli minister to a Persian Gulf littoral state.

Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi have no diplomatic ties and the UAE does not recognize Israel, but the two sides have increased backchannel cooperation in recent years. There have been numerous reports of growing contacts between Saudi and Israeli officials too.

Full report at:



Ansarullah: No Practical Step Taken to Establish Ceasefire in Hudaydah

Jan 08, 2019

"Practically, there has been no action taken in this regard yet," Adnan Qassem Ali Qoflah, Ansarullah's official in charge of foreign relations, told FNA on Tuesday.

He expressed the hope that the UN envoy to Yemen could take effective steps to implement the peace agreement in Hudaydeh.

Qoflah also warned of the dire situation of the Yemeni nation after three years of war in the country, and said 27mln people are in dire need of humanitarian aid.

His remarks came after Dayfallah al-Shami, the spokesman of Yemen's National Salvation Government, announced on Monday that over 15,000 civilians had been directly killed by the Saudi-led war on Yemen since 2015, while more than 17,000 others had lost their lives as a result of the coalition siege on the nation.

Al-Shami said that 15,359 civilians had been killed directly by the Saudi airstrikes and attacks against Yemen since the start of war in 2015.

He added that more than 17,608 people had also died as a result of the Saudi-led coalition's siege on Yemen and the forced stay of patients who needed to travel abroad for treatment.

According to al-Shami, over 24,121 civilians were also wounded during the Yemen war.

He said millions of people were in need of different humanitarian aid due to the catastrophe created by the Saudi-led coalition's aggression.

Saudi Arabia and some of its allies, including the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, and Sudan, launched a brutal war against Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall Yemen’s former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

The aggression initially consisted of a bombing campaign but was later coupled with a naval blockade and the deployment of ground forces to Yemen.

The Saudi-led war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The United Nations (UN) has said that a record 22.2 million Yemenis are in dire need of food, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger.

Despite Riyadh's claims that it is bombing the positions of the Ansarullah fighters, Saudi bombers are flattening residential areas and civilian infrastructures.

Full report at:



ISIS attack in east Syria leaves 32 dead

8 January 2019

Extremists defending their last bastion in eastern Syria used the cover of bad weather to launch a deadly counterattack against a Kurdish-led force, a war monitor said Tuesday.

ISIS was unable to hold on to the positions they attacked but the assault killed 23 members of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and also left nine extremists dead.

ISIS fighters took advantage of poor visibility to unleash suicide attackers on SDF forces along the front line in the Euphrates valley late on Sunday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“Twenty-three SDF fighters were killed and nine IS jihadists were also killed in fighting that lasted all night and into Monday morning,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.

The extremists often launch attacks under the cover of bad weather that cancels out their opponents' advantage of US-led coalition air power.

Full report at:



Saudi Security Forces Attack Qatif, Kill 5 People

Jan 08, 2019

Informed sources in Eastern Saudi Arabia were quoted by Mer'at al-Jazirah news website as saying that the Saudi forces attacked the houses in al-Jash and Um al-Homam regions in al-Qatif on Monday, killing 5 people and detaining 2 others.

The operations were conducted on the threshold of the 3rd anniversary of execution of prominent Shiite Leader Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr by the Saudi regime.

Qatif, situated in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, has been the scene of anti-regime protests since 2011, with demonstrators demanding free speech, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination.

Riyadh has suppressed pro-democracy rallies, but they have intensified since January 2016 when the Al Saud regime executed respected Sheikh Nimr.

In 2017, Awamiyah, another Shiite-populated Qatif town, witnessed a deadly military crackdown on protests that were being held against the regime’s attempt to raze the historical Musawara neighborhood.

Saudi rulers claimed the district’s narrow streets served as a hideout for armed men who were behind the attacks on Saudi forces in Eastern Province.

Riyadh then deployed military forces with heavy weapons to the town, while bulldozers escorted by heavily armored military vehicles demolished several houses, businesses and historical sites across the region.

Full report at:



6 US-Backed SDF Militants Killed, 11 Wounded by Unknown Assailants in Raqqa

Jan 08, 2019

Media activists in Raqqa reported that the assailants exploded a bomb in a military headquarters of the Kurdish forces near the Arabic School in Raqqa city center, killing six SDF militants and injuring eight more.

Meantime, some battlefield sources said that the attack has been carried out by the ISIL.

In another attack a roadside bomb hit the SDF forces in al-Kantari-Solouk Road in Northern Raqqa which resulted in the death of a SDF member and injury of several others.

The Turkish army also targeted a patrol car of the Kurdish forces near Nas-Tal village in Northern Raqqa near Turkish border. There is yet no report on the number of casualties among the SDF forces.

In a relevant development on Sunday, media reports said that the Syrian Democratic Forces retreated from a region in Eastern Deir Ezzur after residents protested against the SDF's presence in that area.

The SDF forces withdrew from the village of al-Kashkiyeh in Southeastern Deir Ezzur, the Arabic-language al-Manar news website reported.

It noted that local people objected to SDF's presence in Deir Ezzur and the death of a number of civilians in a recent US airstrike and SDF's attacks on a house in the region.

Full report at:



Qatari ambassador to Russia: Iran has legitimate interests in Syria

9 January 2019

Iran has the right to defend its interests in Syria, Qatar’s Ambassador to Russia, Fahd bin Mohammad Al-Attiyah told the Interfax News Agency on Sunday.

“Iran just like any other country has legitimate interests,” Al-Attiyah said. “We don’t mind these legitimate interests to be protected.”

In the interview, Attiyah blamed the Syrian regime for crushing its opposition, adding that they should be held accountable for foreign interferences in the country, not anyone else.

“What we mind is when they cross the line of legitimacy and when Iran starts, just like any other country, to entrench itself in a way that does not serve the Syrian interests, the Syrian people, when sectarianism becomes a policy in order to divide and control, and that is what we do not accept,” Al-Attiyah added.

Full report at:





Sudan Town Honours 'Martyrs' Killed In Recent Protests against Government

Jan 8, 2019

Hundreds of people have held what they called a martyrs' rally in the eastern Sudanese town of al-Gadaref to honor those killed in clashes during recent nationwide demonstrations against the 29-year rule of President Omar al-Bashir.

The Tuesday protest was organized by the Sudanese Professionals' Association, a group of teachers, doctors and engineers that has spearheaded the ongoing anti-government demonstrations across the country.

Al-Gadaref is an impoverished agricultural town in eastern Sudan. The main market was shut as demonstrators gathered downtown.

They held anti-government placards and chanted slogans such as "Peace, justice, freedom" and "Revolution is the choice of the people."

The angry demonstrators were confronted by riot police who fired tear gas as protesters prepared to march on the provincial council building.

Witnesses said groups of protesters managed to reach the council building and one of their representatives read out a petition calling for the president to resign.

Demonstrations have expanded to a dozen cities across the country since December 19 in the wake of a move by the government to triple the price of a loaf of bread.

There have been calls by human rights groups for authorities in Sudan to investigate the use of lethal force by security forces against protesters.

In Khartoum, authorities say 19 people have died. On the other hand, Amnesty International says it has “credible reports” that 37 people died in the first five days of protests.

Human Rights Watch said independent groups monitoring the situation in Sudan had put the death toll at 40.

Interior Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman said Monday that more than 800 protesters had been arrested across Sudan since the unrest began. Opposition leaders, activists and journalists have also been detained as part of a crackdown to prevent the spread of protests.

Sudan’s economy has stagnated for most of Bashir’s rule. He has also failed to keep peace in the religiously and ethnically diverse country, losing three-quarters of Sudan’s oil wealth when South Sudan seceded in 2011 following a referendum.

Inflation is currently running at 70 percent and the Sudanese pound has plunged in value. Shortages of bread and fuel have hit several cities.



US airstrikes kill 10 al-Shabaab militants in Somalia


At least 10 al-Shabaab militants were killed over the past three days in a series of air strikes in Somalia aimed at weakening the terrorist group, the U.S military said in a statement on Tuesday.

The first airstrike was conducted on Saturday in the Lower Shabelle Region, killing six militants and destroying one vehicle.

“This airstrike was conducted to diminish al-Shabaab’s freedom of movement and to increase pressure on the terrorist network in the area,” the statement said.

The second airstrikes took place on Monday targeting al-Shabaab in the vicinity of Baqdaad, killing at least 4 militants, it added.

The statement said the two airstrikes carried out on Monday were in self-defense of Somali partner after they were reportedly engaged by al-Shabaab militants.

“At this time we assess no civilians were injured or killed in these airstrikes,” it said.

The U.S. military said it conducts operations jointly with its Somali partners and are committed to preventing al-Shabaab from taking advantage of safe havens from which they can build capacity and attack the people of Somalia.

“We remain fully committed to supporting the Federal Government of Somalia, its forces, and its partners in the fight against al-Shabaab,” said Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Gregg P. Olson, director of operations of the U.S. Africa Command.

Al-Shabaab fighters have been pushed from urban centers and are currently using rural areas in the southern and central parts of Somalia to plot and direct attacks.

The U.S. army further said it will continue to work with its partners in Somalia to transfer the responsibility for long-term security in the country from the African Union peacekeepers to the Federal government of Somalia.

Full report at:



Nigerian troops foil Boko Haram attack


Dozens of Boko Haram terrorists were killed Monday night as they set fire to homes in one community and raided another close to Maiduguri, the capital of northeast Nigeria’s Borno State.

“Militants suspected to be from the Abubakar Shekau faction of Boko Haram invaded and burnt many houses in Ajilari while another set attacked Auno. But they met stiff resistance from the troops, who inflicted heavy casualties on them,” Babagana Ibrahim, a member of the local vigilante group, told Anadolu Agency.

“No fewer than 50 terrorists were killed and their gun[-mounted] trucks seized. The ground troops were closely supported by the Air Force, which shelled the militants as they fled from the ground troops.”

Ahmad Salkida, a local independent journalist believed to have a deep understanding of the insurgency, confirmed the attacks on his Twitter account.

Salkida said the brazen attacks on communities less than 25 kilometers from Maiduguri underline the ambition of the militants to capture the city if given the opportunity.

Earlier Monday, the army said over 100 militants were killed in various clearance operations in the communities of Goniri, Damasak, Kross Kauwa and Monguno in Yobe and Borno -- the two states most ravaged by the militancy.

After a lull, Boko Haram in the middle of last year resumed deadly attacks on troop locations, resulting in the deaths of many soldiers in the region.

Full report at:



Nigeria's Buhari accepts setbacks in Boko Haram fight


Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has acknowledged setbacks in the fight against Boko Haram, as the jihadists launched fresh attacks in the restive northeast.

The 76-year-old head of state was elected in 2015 on a promise to end the Islamist insurgency, which has killed more than 27,000 people since 2009 and left 1.8 million homeless.

But as he seeks a second term in elections next month, a wave of attacks, including against military bases, has undermined his repeated claim that the group is virtually defeated.

Soldiers have also complained that Boko Haram fighters are better armed and that morale is low, particularly because of a lack of rotation and support.

In a recorded interview broadcast late on Monday on Arise TV, Buhari conceded that troops had come under pressure from the Islamists' guerrilla warfare.

Buhari, a former army general who became military ruler after ousting the elected government in a coup in 1983, said the "question of morale is correct".

Efforts were being made to address the issue, he said.

Relentless hit-and-run raids, as well as suicide bomb attacks, were hard to deal with by conventional means, he argued.

"There is really what I would call battle fatigue," he said, adding that retraining would help combat the jihadists' tactics.

On Monday evening, fighters loyal to factional leader Abubakar Shekau attacked Sajeri village on the outskirts of the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, killing three people.

At the same time, militants aligned to the Islamic State group-backed Boko Haram faction attacked a military facility in Auno, some 23km  south of the city.

The increase in attacks has seen the appointment of five different commanders of the military operation against Boko Haram in the last two years.

But Buhari has refused to sack his military top brass, unlike his predecessor Goodluck Jonathan, who removed senior officers as the jihadists began taking over territory.

"I accept responsibility for that," Buhari said in the interview, adding that he was "measuring the options very critically".

But he said that such appointments were not to be taken lightly.

Full report at:



South Asia


Dozens of Rohingya flee India for Bangladesh: officials

January 08, 2019

DHAKA: Dozens of Rohingya Muslims have crossed the border into Bangladesh from India in recent days, officials said Tuesday, as New Delhi faces censure for deporting the persecuted minority to Myanmar.

Last week India handed a Rohingya family of five to Myanmar authorities, despite the army there being accused of genocide against the stateless group.

The forced return — the second in recent months — was criticized by the United Nations and rights groups who accused India of disregarding international law and sending the Rohingya to danger.

India, which is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention, arrested 230 Rohingya in 2018 — the most in years as Hindu hard-liners called for the displaced Muslims to be deported en masse.

Bangladesh border officials and police said dozens of Rohingya had been detained crossing from India in the past week. They were sent to refugee camps in the country’s south, where a million of the displaced Muslims live in hardship.

The round-ups in India, and fear of deportation to Myanmar, had fueled the recent exodus, Bangladesh officials said.

“They told us they panicked after India started detaining Rohingya refugees and deporting them to Myanmar,” said Shahjahan Kabir, a police chief in the eastern Bangladeshi border town of Brahmanpara.

He told AFP that 17 Rohingya were detained last Thursday after crossing into Bangladesh, followed by 31 at a different border point. Most had been living in India for up to six years, Kabir added.

In Cox’s Bazar, a border district where some 720,000 Rohingya have sought refuge from a Myanmar army crackdown in August 2017, local officials said at least 57 had arrived in recent days.

“They have come from places like Hyderabad and Jammu and Kashmir,” said Rezaul Karim, government administrator of the giant Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar. Hyderabad is a major city in southern India and Jammu and Kashmir the only Muslim-majority territory under Indian control.

For decades the Rohingya have faced persecution and pogroms in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, which refuses to recognize them as citizens and falsely labels them “Bengali” illegal immigrants.

They were concentrated in Rakhine state, the epicenter of a brutal Myanmar army offensive in August 2017 that UN investigators described as genocidal in intent.

Amnesty International, among other rights groups, has blasted India for forcibly repatriating the Rohingya to Myanmar when persecution in Rakhine is ongoing.

Dozens of Rohingya were also deported from Saudi Arabia to Bangladesh at the weekend, reported the London-based Middle East Eye website.

Indian officials say around 40,000 Rohingya are living in India. The United Nations refugee agency says around 18,000 Rohingya are registered with the UNHCR.



Saudi Rohingya deportations slammed

January 9, 2019

Rights activists and Rohingya refugees have slammed Saudi Arabia's detention and deportation to Bangladesh of allegedly illegal Rohingya immigrants as inhuman and unwise.

Saudi Arabia deported at least 13 Rohingya from a Jeddah detention center early Jan. 8, reported the English language The Daily Star based in the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka.

A policeman at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka, Abdur Rahman, told publication that the Rohingyas arrived there around 2 am.

"They have admitted that they are Rohingyas, but they have Bangladeshi passports," he said.

Based on video footage, the London-based 'Middle East Eye' said Jan. 8 that Saudi Arabia was moving to deport scores of stateless Rohingyas who were seen "being handcuffed, lined up and prepared for removal to Bangladesh."

Nay Sin Lwin, a Rohingya activist based in Frankfurt, Germany, told Al Jazeera that most Rohingya entered Saudi Arabia after deadly sectarian violence in Rakhine State of Myanmar in 2012 using passports obtained through allegedly fake documents.

Nay San Lwin explained that upon entering Saudi Arabia, their fingerprints had been registered as "Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi or Nepalese" as the Rohingya identity was not accepted.

Officials from various embassies, apart from those of Bangladesh, had refused to accept them, he told Al Jazeera.

Despite the Saudi government being legally within its rights, Rohingya deportations to Bangladesh were inhuman, said Holy Cross Father Liton Hubert Gomes, secretary of Catholic Bishops' Justice and Peace Commission in Bangladesh.

"I don't know what makes Saudi Arabia detain and deport Rohingya immigrants to Bangladesh right now," he said.

Despite the illegal status of the Rohingya in Saudi, they deserved sanctuary on humanitarian grounds and at least as fellow Muslim brethren, the priest added.

Nur Khan, a Dhaka-based lawyer and rights activist, also criticized the Saudis.

"Rohingya are stateless people and denied citizenship despite their presence in Rakhine State of Myanmar for centuries, and they have never been citizens of Bangladesh," Khan told

"Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh to save their lives as Myanmar authorities have clearly demonstrated Rohingya are not welcome through their repressive and aggressive actions.

"Bangladesh is already overburdened with more than a million Rohingya refugees, so Saudi should have lessened the load instead of putting more pressure on Bangladesh."

Rohingya Muslims have endured abuses and persecution in Rakhine State of Buddhist Myanmar for decades.

Despite their presence in the country for generations, Rohingya have been denied citizenship and basic rights and are seen by many in Myanmar as recent illegal immigrants.

For decades, Rohingya have trickled into Bangladesh, residing in squalid refugee camps in south-eastern border districts.

Full report at:



Several militants killed in separate airstrikes of Coalition and Afghan Special Forces

08 Jan 2019

Several Taliban militants have been killed in separate airstrikes conducted by the Afghan Special Forces and Coalition Forces based in Afghanistan.

The airstrikes have reportedly been carried out in Helmand, Uruzgan, Laghman, Logar, Ghazni, and Faryab provinces in the past 24 hours.

According to the informed military sources, Afghan Special Operations Forces conducted a raid in Musa Qalah, killing 6 Taliban fighters and destroying 2 roadside bombs, while the coalition forces carried out a separate airstrike in support of the Afghan forces and self-defense in Musala Qala district, killing 3 additional Taliban militants and destroying a weapons cache.

Similarly, Afghan Special Operations Forces conducted a raid in Safaar of Helmand, killing 5 Taliban fighters while a coalition air strike killed 1 Taliban fighter in Nahr-e Saraj, the sources said, adding that a coalition air strike in Tarin Kot of Uruzgan left 2 Taliban fighters dead.

In the meantime a coalition air strike killed 1 Taliban fighter in Qarghah’i district of Laghman and the Afghan Special Operations Forces killed 1 Taliban fighter in Baraki Barak of Logar.

Full report at:





Terrorism here to stay as long as nations use it as state policy: Army chief

Jan 9, 2019

NEW DELHI: Asserting that terrorism is becoming a new form of warfare, Army chief General Bipin Rawat said on Wednesday the menace is spreading its head like a "multi-headed monster" and is "here to stay" as long as states continue to use it as a state policy.

Rawat, speaking at a panel discussion at the Raisina Dialogue here, also said that there was a need to control social media as it was becoming a source of spreading radicalisation.

He said a different kind of radicalisation was being witnessed in India and in Jammu and Kashmir, the youth were getting radicalised due to a lot of misinformation, disinformation, and a lot of falsehoods on religion being fed to them.

"That is why you find more and more educated youth being drawn into terrorism," he said.

Terrorism is here to stay as long as there are nations that continue to sponsor it as a state policy, Rawat said, without naming Pakistan.

"Terrorism is becoming a new form of warfare. A weaker nation is using terrorists as proxy to put pressure on another nation to come to terms with it," he said.

The phenomenon of terrorism is now spreading its head like a multi-headed monster, Rawat said.

On the Afghan peace process, he said there should be negotiations with the Taliban, but without conditions.

He also asserted that Pakistan has always kept the Taliban in its backyard and should be concerned about it.



Iran: Can use ‘influence’ over Taliban for India

Jan 9, 2019

NEW DELHI: Iran has admitted to having “influence” on the Taliban in Afghanistan, and offered to “use” that influence for India. As Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif meets the Indian leadership for bilateral talks as well as address the Raisina Dialogue, Tehran’s connections with the Taliban are coming out of the closet.

Last week, an Iranian delegation met the Taliban in Tehran, though highlevel Iranian sources say the first meeting was held in Moscow. “We have some influence on the Taliban, but we generally use it on behalf of the Afghan government. We’re happy to use it for India too,” they said.

India is not likely to accept any such offer. In the past 17 years, India has built some contacts, though no one is certain how broad or deep they may be. In any case, India remains squarely on the side of the Kabul government. So any "contacts" with the Taliban is necessarily covert, sources said.

A Washington “leak” that the Trump administration might reduce its Afghanistan footprint by as many as 7,000 fighters has resurrected regional manoeuvres with the Taliban for a possible post-US situation.

The US has opened direct talks with the Taliban, the fourth round of which will be held in Qatar on Wednesday. According to reports, the US acquiesced to the Taliban’s demand to hold the talks in Qatar refusing to go to Riyadh as was originally planned. Reports say a draft agreement includes a phased withdrawal of US troops while keeping a civilian footprint in the country. Others say the US might restrict itself to a counter-terrorism role, keeping main urban centres away from the Taliban.

But there is no clarity on the issue at all yet, only a lot of jostling by neighbouring powers.

Iranian sources, on the other hand, say the “deal” under discussion, has brought the old group of countries — Saudi Arabia, UAE and Pakistan back together, countries that had supported the Taliban government in the first place. The US envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad too has a long history of negotiating with the Taliban in the 1990s, working for US oil interests then. Media reports from Pakistan say the UAE and Saudi Arabia have given financial assistance to Pakistan to incentivise Islamabad to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.

The Afghan NSA, Hamdullah Mohib, who was in Delhi for talks with Indian officials last week was dismissive about the efficacy of the peace negotiations under way. He represented the Afghan government at a recent meeting with the UAE, Saudi Arabia and US in Abu Dhabi late December. But despite the demand for the Afghan government to join the talks, the Taliban have refused to have them at the table.

For the Afghan government, the Taliban talks are a "hurried" affair, believing that there are different views within the US on this.

Iran and Afghanistan government share one belief which they have shared with the Indian government -- that a Talibandominated Afghanistan would be a security threat for India and Iran but "would be an existential threat for Pakistan."

That is not how Pakistan sees its situation, instead believing it is on the cusp of a second victory against a superpower.

Full report at:



Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati seeks Muslims’ cooperation to defeat communal elements

Jan 08, 2019

New Delhi: Shankaracharya of Dwarka peeth Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati in a statement condemned the elements who are creating violence and disrupting peace in the name of the temple. He said followers of every religion living in India have the responsibility to play their role in the development and growth of the country while following their own religion. He urged all to solve their issues peacefully while defeating violent elements. He said while the Babri Masjid case is in the court, several organisations are making propagandas regarding immediate construction of the temple.

Shankar Acharya said we want to solve the matter through consensus.

Full report at:



India, Australia discuss trade, defence, counter-terrorism ahead of Raisina Dialogue

Jan 08, 2019

New Delhi: India and Australia held discussions for collaboration between the two countries in the areas of defence, trade and investment, and counter-terrorism.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj held discussions with her Australian counterpart and “friend” Marise Payne here on Tuesday, ahead of the much anticipated Raisina Dialogue, 2019. Payne is slated to deliver the Ministerial Address on ‘The Arrival of Global Politics’ at the event.

“With friend and counterpart @SushmaSwaraj ahead of @raisinadialogue to discuss our shared strategic interests & opportunities for India, Australia collaboration in trade and investment, defence and counterterrorism,” Payne tweeted after the meeting.

The two leaders took stock of defence and security partnerships, discussed enhancing regional cooperation in Indo-Pacific, and collaboration in all aspects of the bilateral relationship, according to a statement from India’s Ministry of External Affairs.

Full report at:



Islamic State flag desecrates Kashmir mosque

January 9, 2019

Muslims in India's Jammu and Kashmir state have joined to wash clean a mosque after it was desecrated by Islamic State supporters who waved the militant organization's flag inside it.

Muslims in droves congregated at Jamia Masjid in the city of Srinagar on Jan. 4 and took part in the cleaning before Friday prayers.

On the previous Friday, Dec. 29, a group of masked youths moved to the chief cleric's seat and waived the flag of the so-called Islamic State, the global terrorist organization seeking to establish an Islamic caliphate.

A video of the incident that went viral showed a masked youth waiving the group's flag while others chanted slogans.

One person was seen trying to stand on the chief cleric's chair and fix the flag on it.

The incident was shocking and has deeply hurt the sentiments of the people in this Muslim majority state, according to Sheikh Ghulam Hassan, a senior member of the mosque's management committee.

"It shows utter disregard of this group of miscreants for Islamic institutions, values and Islamic teachings," Hassan told

"Such elements not only malign the name of Islam but also abuse it."

He added that Jamia Masjid has been the epicentre of region's Islamic religious life since being built 1394 and any attempt to desecrate it would be sternly dealt with.

Soon after the flag waving was reported, Kashmir's chief religious cleric, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, appealed for worshippers and the heads of all religious organizations to assemble at the mosque to take part in the purification process.

Mirwaiz, who leads a popular demand for the region's freedom from Indian rule, said the "sacrilegious" act would damage the cause of freedom.

"The way our right to self-determination is being maligned, and attempts are being made to change its direction, won't be tolerated," Mirwaiz said.

"The whole community is against these elements."

Kashmir separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani and Yasin Malik said in a joint statement that there are attempts to high-jack Kashmir's freedom movement and link it with a global agenda.

They said that the Kashmir struggle is purely indigenous in nature as people are fighting Indian rule.

The goal of self-determination was motivated by Islamic values, the separatists said.

On June 23, last year, the Jammu and Kashmir government for the first time admitted the presence of Islamic State in the strife-torn Kashmir Valley.

Earlier, official Indian agencies dismissed reports about the IS presence as media propaganda.

Radicalization of youth in Kashmir gained ground following the killing of the militant leader Burhan Wani in mid-2016.

During the past 30 years, an estimated 100,000 people have died in Jammu and Kashmir, including civilians, militants, and army personnel, after groups began an armed struggle to free Kashmir from Indian rule or to merge it with neighbouring Pakistan.

Full report at:



CJI Ranjan Gogoi-led Constitution bench on Ayodhya, hearing starts Jan 10

January 9, 2019

THE Supreme Court on Tuesday set up a five-judge Constitution Bench to hear the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land title dispute case. Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi will head the bench, which will also comprise Justices S A Bobde, N V Ramana, U U Lalit and D Y Chandrachud.

A notice issued by the Court said the Bench will take up the matter for hearing at 10.30 am on January 10. It is hearing appeals against the Allahabad High Court verdict of September 30, 2010, ordering a three-way division of the disputed 2.77 acres at the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site, giving a third each to the Nirmohi Akhara sect, the Sunni Central Wakf Board, Uttar Pradesh, and Ramlalla Virajman.

On January 4, the top court had said that further orders in the matter would be passed on January 10 by “the appropriate bench, as may be constituted”.

The apex court is hearing 14 appeals against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment. On October 29 last year, the court had fixed the matter for hearing in the first week of January. An application for an urgent hearing by advancing the date, filed by the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, had been turned down by the top court.

Earlier, on September 27, during a hearing of the Ayodhya land dispute case, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, by 2:1 majority, had refused to refer to a five-judge Constitution bench the issue of reconsideration of its observations in a 1994 judgment that a mosque was not integral to Islam.

Dismissal of the plea to refer the matter to a larger bench had cleared the way for beginning of the final hearing of the appeals.

In the 1994 order in the Dr M Ismail Faruqui etc vs Union Of India And Others case, the court had said a mosque not an “essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam, and hence “its acquisition (by the State) is not prohibited by the provisions in the Constitution of India”. The petitioners had contended that earlier decisions in the Ayodhya case were influenced by this statement and hence it should be re-examined by a Constitution bench.

But the Supreme Court judgment rejected this and said, “to conclude, we again make it clear that questionable observations made in Ismail Faruqui’s case… were made in context of land acquisition” and that “those observations were neither relevant for deciding the suits nor relevant for deciding these appeals”. The judges added that “the observation need not be read broadly to hold that a mosque can never be an essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam”.

The Faruqui verdict had come on a plea challenging the constitutional validity of the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act-1993, under which 67.703 acres were acquired in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid complex.

Full report at:





Pope’s outreach to Islamic world in 2019 has deep roots

Elise Harris

Jan. 8, 2019

Once Pope Francis embarks on his trip to Panama to celebrate the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day on Jan. 23, it’s essentially off to the races. For the rest of the spring, he’ll have a jam-packed papal itinerary that will focus heavily on dialogue with the Islamic world.

In a recent interview with the Italian broadcast network TV2000, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said Christian/Muslim relations has been a priority for Francis since the beginning of his papacy and it will continue to be a priority in 2019, seen mostly through trips the pope is taking to Islamic countries.

“The pope’s attention toward the Arab world is due to the difficulties which today are found in relations between Christianity and Islam, with the tragic drifts of terrorism and religious fundamentalism,” Parolin said in the interview.

“Faced with this situation the pope from the beginning of his pontificate has sought to promote encounter,” he said, adding that Francis is in many ways “characterized by this desire to promote encounter against every indifference. This is the meaning of the attention he will be giving this year through his trips to the Arab world.”

Francis’s keen attention to Catholic-Muslim relations was showcased by the fact that his first international trip after being elected to the papacy in 2013 was a May 2014 visit to the Holy Land. Since then, dialogue with Islam has continued to be a strong emphasis for the pope in his travels, including a visit to Turkey in November 2014, to the Central African Republic in 2015 and to Egypt in the spring of 2017, all of which have a Muslim majority.

It was during his stop in the Central African Republic’s capital of Bangui that Francis decided to inaugurate his Jubilee of Mercy early, opening the holy door of the city’s cathedral a full week before the jubilee was officially set to begin in Rome.

Francis’s looming Feb. 3-5 trip to the United Arab Emirates and subsequent outing to Morocco March 30-31 are further signs that dialogue with the Islamic world will continue to be a strong priority.

In a statement announcing the pope’s visit to the UAE, former Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said the trip “shows the fundamental importance the Holy Father gives to inter-religious dialogue. Pope Francis visiting the Arab world is a perfect example of the culture of encounter.”

Yet this interest in dialogue with Islam is not something that began with his election, but it goes back to his time in Argentina. Even as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, the future pope fostered strong ties with both the Jewish and Islamic communities.

The then-Archbishop Bergoglio made at least three visits to the Centro Islamico - the Islamic Center - of Buenos Aires and met frequently with Omar Abboud, the leader of Buenos Aires’ Islamic community, leaving a clear impression that he wanted the Catholic and Muslim communities to be partners.

In 2010 he co-authored a book with his friend Rabbi Abraham Skorka, rector of the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary in Buenos Aires. Both Skorka and Abboud were invited by the now-Pope Francis to be part of his formal delegation during his visit to the Holy Land in 2014, and they were also both present for his 2015 trip to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families.

They were also both present at a June prayer event in the Vatican gardens with Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, former Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to pray for peace between the two nations.

At the time, the decision to have both a Jew and a Muslim as part of his Holy Land delegation was hugely symbolic given not only the tensions between the communities in the area, but also because Francis inherited the papacy at a time when the Vatican’s relationship with Islam was suffering from the fallout of an unfortunate comment made by his predecessor, Benedict XVI, during a speech that offended the Islamic community.

During a 2006 visit to Regensburg, Germany, Benedict gave a 40-minute academic lecture at the University of Regensburg on the relationship between reason and faith, at one point quoting a Byzantine emperor who had been critical of Islam. In the backlash, Christian churches were attacked throughout the Muslim world and small bouts of violence sprang up amid protests.

Though Benedict apologized for the comment, relations between Islam and the Catholic Church continued to be strained - a strain that has been eased with remarkable speed and depth during the Francis papacy.

A visible sign of this thawing in relations can be seen in the Vatican’s restoration of dialogue with the prestigious al-Azhar mosque and university in Egypt. The Imam of al-Azhar, currently Ahmed al-Tayyeb, is considered by some Muslims to be the highest authority in Sunni Islam.

Francis first met al-Tayeeb at the Vatican in May 2016, marking a reconciliation between the al-Azhar institution and the Holy See whose relationship had been strained in 2011 with claims that Benedict XVI had “interfered” in Egypt’s internal affairs by condemning a bomb attack on a church in Alexandria during the time of Coptic Christmas.

Since then, al-Tayeeb has made further visits to the Vatican, and Francis himself visited al-Azhar during his visit to Egypt last spring.

These improved relations between Islam and Catholicism are undeniably due at least in part to Francis’s frequent amicable remarks about Islam and his insistence that not all Muslims are terrorists. In a March 2017 speech to popular movements, for example, Francis famously said: “Muslim terrorism does not exist…there are fundamentalist and violent individuals in all peoples and religions.”

His comments sparked debate among both faithful and scholars, who argue that passages of the Quran inciting violence against those considered “infidels” are indefensible.

Most recently a group of Algerian and French converts to Christianity launched an online petition asking Francis to reconsider his conciliatory attitude toward Muslims and the Islamic faith.

In the petition, which so far has garnered some 2,740 signatures from around the world, the authors spoke to Francis directly, saying “you do not like to beat around the bush and neither do we, so allow us to say frankly that we do not understand your teaching about Islam.”

“If Islam is a good religion in itself, as you continue to teach, then why did we become Catholic?” they said and asked the pope to convene a synod on the dangers of Islam.

However, the pope’s travel itinerary this spring, particularly his visits to the UAE and Morocco, sends the message that whatever the concerns about his attitude toward Islam may be, it likely won’t change.

In a speech to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See on Monday, Francis said his visits to the UAE and Morocco “represent two important opportunities to advance interreligious dialogue and mutual understanding between the followers of both religions in this year that marks the 800th anniversary of the historic meeting between Saint Francis of Assisi and Sultan al-Malik al-Kāmil,” the fourth sultan of Egypt.



EU puts Iran intelligence unit and two staff on terrorism list, freezes assets

8 January 2019

The European Union on Tuesday agreed to place a unit of the Iranian Intelligence ministry and two of its staff on the EU terrorist list for planning assassinations in Europe, the Danish Foreign Ministry and EU diplomats said.

The decision, which freezes financial assets in the bloc belonging to the unit and the two individuals, comes after Denmark said last year it suspected an Iranian government intelligence service of carrying out an assassination plot on its soil.

France has said there was no doubt the Iranian intelligence ministry was behind a failed attack in Paris.

Iran has denied any involvement in the alleged plots, saying the accusations were intended to damage EU-Iran relations.

“EU just agreed to enact sanctions against an Iranian Intelligence Service for its assassination plots on European soil. Strong signal from the EU that we will not accept such behaviour in Europe,” Denmark’s Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said on Twitter.

The decision was taken without debate at an unrelated meeting of Europe ministers in Brussels and the asset freeze comes into effect on Wednesday, EU officials said.

The Danish Foreign Ministry named the two employees as the deputy minister and director general of intelligence, Saeid Hashemi Moghadam, and Assadollah Asadi, a Vienna-based diplomat. Their names are set to appear officially in the EU’s Official Journal on Wednesday.

The move follows efforts by Denmark and France to marshal an EU-wide response to the accusations of the Iranian attack plots in France and Denmark late last year.

But imposing economic sanctions on Iran, however slight, remains highly sensitive for the bloc.

The EU has been straining to uphold the 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and world powers that U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of in May. It has been less willing to consider sanctions, instead seeking talks with Tehran.

Full report at:



Dutch Minister: Iran behind two assassinations in the Netherlands

8 January 2019

The Netherlands accused Iran Tuesday of involvement in the murder of two dissidents on Dutch soil, adding that the EU was hitting Tehran with sanctions partly as a result of the killings.

The Dutch secret service “has strong indications that Iran was involved in the assassinations of two Dutch nationals of Iranian origin in Almere 2015 and in The Hague in 2017,” Foreign Minister Stef Blok said in a letter to parliament.

“These individuals were opponents of the Iranian regime,” he said in the letter, also signed by Dutch Interior Minister Kajsa Ollongren.

“The Netherlands considers it probable that Iran had a hand in the preparation or commissioning of assassinations and attacks on EU territory,” the ministers said.

They added that the EU had on Tuesday “partly at the recommendation of the Netherlands” agreed to impose fresh sanctions on Iran.

Dutch police have previously named the two victims as Ali Motamed, 56, who was killed in the central city of Almere in 2015, and Ahmad Molla Nissi, 52, murdered in The Hague in 2017.

Last June, the Netherlands expelled two workers from the Iranian embassy in connection with the murders.

Tehran at the time protested the expulsion of the two diplomats as an “unfriendly and destructive move” and threatened to retaliate.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen had earlier confirmed that the European Union has agreed on new sanctions targeting the Iranian Intelligence and Security Ministry and two Iranian nationals.

Denmark had led efforts for sanctions after allegations that Tehran tried to kill three Iranian dissidents on Danish soil.

Full report at:



Assad lost legitimacy, British envoy says


By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal


The Assad regime in Syria “lost its legitimacy due to its atrocities against Syrian people,” according to Martin Longden, the U.K.’s special representative for Syria.

Longden said on Twitter on Tuesday that the U.K. closed its embassy in Damascus in 2012 and “we have no plans to reopen it.”

“End of story,” he stressed.

The U.K. shuttered its embassy in Damascus after the Bashar al-Assad regime targeted Syrians following anti-regime protests, which followed similar protests of the Arab Spring.

UK critical of Assad

The U.K. has been critical of the regime in Syria since the beginning of atrocities targeting civilians.

“Protecting Syrians and getting them the lifesaving aid they need must be paramount,” said then-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson almost a year ago, in response to the devastating siege of Eastern Ghouta.

“The U.K. is committed to working closely with all international partners to secure an end to the terrible bloodshed and make progress towards a political solution, which is the only way to bring peace to the people of Syria,” he said.

“The Syrian regime has an abhorrent record of using chemical weapons against its own people,” and chemical arms have “become an all-too-regular weapon of war in the Syrian conflict,” Peter Wilson, Britain’s representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said following chemical weapons use by Assad forces in various locations, including Douma.

Wilson’s statement came at an OPCW Executive Council Meeting last year following joint airstrikes by the U.S., U.K., and France on reported Assad regime chemical weapons facilities in Syria.

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on protesters with unexpected ferocity.

Full report at:



EU to impose sanctions on Iranian intelligence service


The EU has agreed to impose sanctions on an Iranian intelligence service over its alleged plots to assassinate figures critical to Tehran in Europe, Danish foreign minister said on Tuesday.

“EU just agreed to enact sanctions against an Iranian Intelligence Service for its assassination plots on European soil,” Anders Samuelsen wrote on Twitter.

“Strong signal from the EU that we will not accept such behavior in Europe,” Samuelsen added.

The foreign minister described the move as an “Important day for European Foreign Policy!”

Danish Foreign Ministry said together with the EU countries, the ministry has decided to include two persons from the Iranian intelligence, including director Saeid Hashemi Moghadam, to the EU’s terror list.

The decision comes after police averted plots by the Iranian intelligence service in Europe, including Denmark and France, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Last year, France froze the assets of two Iranians, including Moghadam, thought to be members of Iran's security and intelligence establishment over a bomb plot near Paris in June, 2018.

Last October, local media in Denmark reported that the county thwarted an Iranian plot to assassinate a Tehran opponent in the country after a bomb attack killed at least 25 people in Iran’s southwestern city of Ahvaz.

On Tuesday, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen wrote on Twitter: “Very encouraging that EU has just agreed on new targeted sanctions against Iran in response to hostile activities and plots being planned and perpetrated in Europe, including Denmark.”

Full report at:





PM asserts Pak ‘paid huge price’ in Afghan war

Jan 09, 2019

Prime Minister Imran Khan has categorically stated that Pakistan would neither fight anyone’s war in future nor be treated like a hired gun because the country had paid a huge cost in the Afghan war.

In an interview with TRT World, a Turkish news channel, the prime minister said from Afghan jihad onward, Pakistan paid an enormous price in the form of 80,000 casualties, four million Afghan refugees, militancy and the emergence of kalashnikov culture.

The prime minister said instead of the previous mantra of doing more, Pakistan would now be an ally in peace, adding the country has been playing its role to facilitate the peace process in Afghanistan.


Responding to a query pertaining to conditions of Uighur Muslims in China’s far western Xinjiang province, the PM feigned ignorance, saying he doesn’t know much about the conditions Uighur community lives in.

The interviewer asked about Pakistan’s silence on the treatment being meted out to the Muslim ethnic community, asking is Pakistan not criticising China because it is doing business with the emerging superpower.

The Muslim community is reportedly facing persecution at the hands of the Chinese government. According to a report, up to 1.1 million people are believed to be held in “concentration camps” where they are allegedly forced to renounce their religion and Uighur language, and memorise and recite Chinese characters and propaganda songs.

China denies these reports and terms it “Western propaganda”.

Responding to a query, he said China has been extremely helpful to Pakistan as it has been developing special economic zones and Gwadar Port that would boost the national economy. He said China has cooperated with Pakistan in a number of areas, which he cannot even disclose because China wants Pakistan to keep the details of aid confidential.


On Pak-India ties, the prime minister said far before breaking ground for Kartarpur Corridor, he had offered the Indian government to hold dialogue as two nuclear nations could not even afford cold war, what to talk of a nuclear one. But, he said, Pakistan was rebuffed by India just to bag anti-Pakistan votes as the elections are coming up there.

Imran Khan also lamented the unabated killings of innocent Kashmiris in Indian Occupied Kashmir. He said the international community including the United Nations acknowledge that there is an indigenous freedom struggle in occupied Kashmir and its solution lies only in dialogue, not violence.


On Pak-Turkish ties, PM Imran claimed that even before the creation of Pakistan, the Muslims of the sub-continent had a special liking for Turkey for being the only independent Muslim state that time.

He added that even the Muslims of this region had donated money to support the Turkish freedom struggle.  [Muslims of sub-continent launched Khilafat Movement to support Ottoman Caliphate that had been abolished after Ottomans lost the World War I. Kamal Attaturk finally abolished the institution in 1924 and sent the caliph in exile].

During his visit to the brotherly country, the two sides decided to form a working group to ponder over the enhancement of bilateral trade during the next five to ten years, he revealed.

On the state of economy, the PM said that the government was striving to stabilise the national economy by increasing foreign reserves and exports.



Marriyum questions why Crown Prince was feasted at a ‘university’

January 7, 2019

LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb has said Prime Minister Imran Khan ‘chauffeured’ the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan during his visit to please him as he owns secret businesses in the UAE and Aleema Khan is their Benami custodian.

Talking to media outside the Islamabad High Court, Marriyum pointed out the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government’s second U-turn on turning the PM House into a university and inquired as to why the PM took a dignitary to a university for an official feast.

“If PM Imran was so keen on taking the crown prince to lunch in a University then the Quiad-e-Azam University is a much better university in the city,” she said.

The former information minister also said the government has no economic projects that can generate money for the country or the lender, which is why they are taking this money and piling it onto the people of Pakistan as pure debt with no pay-back mechanism.

“PM Imran is at best a conjurer with no principle stance who performs to suit different audiences,” she said adding when animal conservation suits his interests he becomes a wildlife saviour and when he wants to please someone he opens hunting of endangered species.

Aurangzeb also said the entire notification fiasco of Farrukh Saleem was a distraction; the real questions raised by the government’s economic spokesperson have still not been answered by the premier.

The PML-N leader further said comments passed by the Supreme Court regarding Buzdar’s Punjab government are a testament of the fact his government has no capacity or capability to run the country.

Full report at:



Senate body proposes giving boost to construction activities in Gwadar

Jamal Shahid

January 09, 2019

ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary committee has proposed giving a boost to construction activities in Gwadar, especially construction of houses, so that businesses in the port city could flourish.

The Senate Committee on Maritime Affairs made the recommendation during a meeting on Tuesday after Senator Shamim Afridi complained about poor housing facilities in Gwadar.

Gwadar Port Authority (GPA) chairman Dostain Khan Jamaldini also agreed with the committee’s suggestion, saying that construction activities should be allowed in those zones in the port city which have been cleared in the master plan to meet accommodation requirements.

He briefed the Senate committee on hurdles in the way of the port city’s development and steps being taken to remove them.

Mr Jamaldini informed the committee that a railway network was still missing in the city, besides there was a shortage of skilled workforce.

“Besides tax incentives the Gwadar port needs subsides like those offered to Port Qasim for 15 years. These steps are important at a time when Saudi Arabia is showing interest to invest in Gwadar,” he said.

During his presentation, the GPA chairman responded to queries and complaints by the committee members.

Some members complained that while development of Gwadar was being planned, interests of local fishermen had not been taken under consideration.

Mr Jamaldini replied that a new fishery was being developed in Gwadar. He said that space had been allocated for residential areas for local people of the city.

Some members of the committee were of the view that a false impression was created about business opportunities in Gwadar through advertisements during the tenure of former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf. They said the move attracted a large number of investors who purchased land in the port city from local people at throwaway prices.

Senator Mohammad Akram of the National Party claimed that local fishermen were still being dislocated in Gwadar.

Senator Rana Mahmoodul Hassan lamented the downgrading of the fishing industry in the country.

Senator Kauda Babar said a sub-committee was formed by the chairperson of the main committee, Nuzhar Sadiq of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. The sub-committee, he added, prepared a report about Gwadar’s problems.

Full report at:



Qureshi reiterates Pak’s commitment to help end bloodshed in Afghanistan

Jan 09, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Afghan president’s special envoy for regional consensus on Afghan peace met Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Islamabad on Tuesday, in what was his first visit abroad following his appointment to the new position.

Mohammad Umer Daudzai conveyed President Ashraf Ghani’s greetings to the Pakistani leadership and expressed Afghanistan’s “strong desire to work closely with Pakistan in all areas of mutual interest”, a statement issued by the Foreign Office said.

The special envoy also relayed “deep appreciation of the sincerity and vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan for peace and stability in Pakistan”, the press release added.

Daudzai acknowledged that the fact that Qureshi visited Kabul thrice within a span of four months was “a clear proof of Pakistan’s strong support for Afghanistan”.

During his visit, the envoy briefed the foreign minister on the nature of his position which entails that he “help create harmony among the various stakeholders”.

The foreign minister welcomed Daudzai and assured him of Pakistan’s commitment to peace in the region. He said stability in Afghanistan was in Pakistan’s own national interest, and necessary for economic development and prosperity in the region.

Qureshi highlighted the growing global view that the suffering of the Afghan people needs to be brought to an end through a peaceful resolution of the conflict. He assured the envoy that Pakistan “would do all to help the people of Afghanistan see the earliest possible end to bloodshed and enter a new phase of peace and prosperity”.

The Afghan special envoy noted that the two countries had a “unique relationship marked by commonalities and similarity of interests”. He stressed that the relationship needed to be utilised to its fullest through various bilateral cooperation mechanisms. He communicated the Afghan government’s strong desire to take maximum advantage of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) in all areas of cooperation.

Daudzai noted that “enhancing bilateral trade and economic activities and more regular cultural and people-to-people contacts was the need of the hour”, according to the FO statement.

Full report at:



Army pledges to continue efforts for peace in country

JANUARY 9, 2019

Pakistan Army on Tuesday vowed to continue efforts for bringing peace to the country as well as the region.

“Forum reiterated to continue its efforts for bringing enduring peace in the country while supporting all initiatives towards regional peace,” a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) after the 217th Corps Commanders Conference held at the GHQ said.

The meeting chaired by Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa reviewed geo-strategic environment and security situation of the country. Progress of ongoing operations, fencing along Pak-Afghan border, situation along Eastern Border, including Indian ceasefire violations deliberately targeting innocent citizens, and Afghan reconciliation process were also discussed, according to the ISPR.





Israeli opposition politician secretly visits Abu Dhabi, meets top Emirati officials: Report

Jan 8, 2019

Israeli politician and the leader of the opposition Israeli Labor Party, Avi Gabbay, has reportedly paid a secret visit to the United Arab Emirates and discussed various regional issues with three senior Emirati officials, as a number of Arab countries in the Persian Gulf region are warming their relations with the Tel Aviv regime after clandestine contacts.

Gabbay secretly visited Abu Dhabi last month, and exchanged viewpoints on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, US President Donald Trump's "deal of the century", the so-called Arab Peace Initiative, Iran’s regional clout as well as political developments in the occupied territories with the trio, Israel’s Channel 10 television network reported.

The three Emirati officials, whom the Israeli opposition politician held talks with are believed to be ministers or even higher-ranked officials.

The report added that Gabbay was accompanied on his visit, which took place between December 2 and 4 last year, by former journalist Henrique Cymerman.

Gabbay was said to have flown to Abu Dhabi on a commercial flight via the Jordanian capital city of Amman. He was protected by local security forces during his visit.

He reportedly updated the director of Israel's Mossad spy agency, Yossi Cohen, on the content of his meetings immediately upon return to Israel.

The visit was reportedly coordinated via a Moroccan national, who has ties with senior Emirati officials and has previously arranged other meetings for Gabbay with senior Arab officials.

Israeli Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz visited Oman on November 4 last year to attend an international transport conference and pitch a railway project that would link the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean via the Israeli-occupied territories.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in late November 2018 visited Oman, where he met Sultan Sayyid Qaboos bin Said Al Said at the Bait al-Barakah Royal Palace in the coastal city of Seeb near the capital Muscat.

Israel’s English-language daily newspaper The Jerusalem Post reported that the two men had discussed ways to advance the so-called Middle East peace process as well as mattes of mutual interest with regard to the region’s stability.

Netanyahu was accompanied by senior officials, including the head of the Mossad spy agency and his national security adviser.

Netanyahu's unpublicized visit to Oman came on the same day that Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev traveled to the UAE to accompany Israel’s judo team at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam 2018.

Regev arrived in Abu Dhabi on October 26, and she participated in the opening ceremony of the international event at the Emirati capital’s Zayed Sports City, Palestinian Arabic-language Ma’an news agency reported.

Her visit to the UAE marked the first of its kind by an Israeli minister to a Persian Gulf littoral state.

Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi have no diplomatic ties and the UAE does not recognize Israel, but the two sides have increased backchannel cooperation in recent years. There have been numerous reports of growing contacts between Saudi and Israeli officials too.

Among Arab countries, Israel has diplomatic relations only with Egypt and Jordan.

Saudi Arabia has hostile ties with resistance movements in the Palestinian territories, including Hamas which is fighting the Israeli occupation.



Turkey to ask US to hand over military bases in Syria

8 January 2019

Turkey was expected to ask US officials either to hand over its military bases in Syria to Ankara or to destroy them, the newspaper Hurriyet reported, a request that could further complicate discussions over the US withdrawal from Syria.

The request was expected to come in talks on Tuesday between US National Security Adviser John Bolton and his Turkish counterpart, Ibrahim Kalin. Bolton had also added a condition to the talks: Turkey must agree to protect the Kurdish YPG militia, a US ally. Ankara calls YPG a terrorist group.

It was unclear immediately after the talks whether either condition was met. With tensions simmering over US plans to exit Syria, Bolton did not meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Trump said last month he was bringing home the some US 2,000 troops in Syria, saying they had succeeded in their mission to defeat ISIS. His abrupt move sparked concern among officials in Washington and allies abroad and prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to resign.

The YPG has been a key ally in campaign against ISIS, an alliance that has long caused tension between Washington and Ankara. Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish south east.

“Give them or destroy them,” a Hurriyet newspaper headline said, referring to what it said were 22 US military bases in Syria. It cited unspecified sources as saying Turkey would not accept Washington’s handing them over to the YPG.

A senior Turkish security official told Reuters last week Washington needed to allow Turkey to use its bases in Syria.

Bolton was joined by US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford and US special Syria envoy James Jeffrey as he met with Kalin on Tuesday morning in Ankara. They concluded their talks by late morning.

Kalin is Erdogan’s spokesman and deputy head of Turkey’s security and foreign policies board.

Erdogan warned on Monday the US withdrawal must be planned carefully and with the right partners. Only Turkey, he said, had “the power and commitment to perform that task”.

In an op-ed article for the New York Times, Erdogan said Turkey was committed to defeating ISIS and “other terrorist groups” in Syria.

Full report at:



Turkey-Qatar pact can be ‘misused for military missions’ in the Gulf

8 January 2019

Turkey’s military agreement with Qatar is full of loopholes and vague terms that appear to have been deliberately inserted, according to a report by the Nordic Monitor, a Sweden-based monitoring site.

The report by Abdullah Bozkurt, reveals that the bilateral agreement would allow Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to use Turkish air, land and naval assets to promote his own ideological and personal interests in the Gulf and beyond by using the hard power of the NATO military alliance’s second largest army.

“If not checked, the agreement carries huge risks of escalation of Turkey’s involvement in potential conflicts that may have nothing to do with protecting or promoting Turkey’s national interests. This further confirms the view that the vagueness in the agreement provisions were deliberate and systematic to allow Erdogan to use them as he sees fit,” writes Bozkurt. 

Combat missions

The agreement goes beyond mere training and joint exercises and also incorporates “operations,” which may very well suggest combat missions for Turkish troops.

According to the report in the Nordic Monitor, “The agreement was rushed through the cumbersome and slow-moving process in the Turkish Parliament in 2017 when Turkey wanted to send a message to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Arab states that had picked a fight with Qatar, Erdogan’s sweetheart Islamist ally.”

Article 4 of the “Implementation Agreement Between the Government of the Republic of Turkey and the Government of the State of Qatar on Deployment of Turkish Forces into Territory of Qatar,” which was signed on April 28, 2016 in Doha, includes the undefined phrase “any other missions” for the deployment of Turkish troops. This means Erdoğan can also bypass the Turkish Parliament for authorization of overseas missions, using the vague definition to fit his whims and would not need to obtain the advance approval from Parliament that is required for the deployment of Turkish troops abroad according to the Turkish Constitution.

The full text of this provision in the agreement reads as follows: “The main mission of the unit is to support enhancement of defense capabilities of Qatar through joint/combined exercises and training, and subject to approval by both parties, execute training/exercises with other nations’ armed forces and contribute to the counter-terrorism and international peace support operations and any other missions mutually agreed upon by written consent of both parties.”

Ambiguity in the agreement

Another ambiguity in the agreement, which was incorporated into Turkish law on June 9, 2017, is that it does not say how long Turkish troops will remain in Qatar. Article 1 of the agreement on the scope and the purpose of the agreement say that the deal regulates “the long term, as well as temporary, presence and activities of Turkish Armed Forces.”

What “the long term” prospect is and who defines the duration of the commitment for Turkish troops and on what criteria are not specified in the agreement. Article 17 specifies the duration of the agreement to be 10 years with automatic renewals for an additional term of five years for each extension. Whether that term applies to the presence of troops remains an open question.

The agreement does not specify force level or the number of troops. Article 2 states that Turkey will send air, land and naval assets to Qatar without setting any number or level of the forces. Although section two of this article states that “the deployment of the forces shall be in accordance with the plan to be accepted by the Parties,” the following section says Turkey will make a determination on “the duration of the mission of personnel to be assigned.”

Furthermore, Turkey’s military agreement with Qatar does not foresee a third-party dispute settlement mechanism, either. Article 16 of the agreement says disputes “shall be resolved by negotiation between the Parties, without referring to the jurisdiction of any third party, establishment, or national or international tribunal.”

This implementation agreement is actually a follow-up of the “framework” military cooperation agreement that was signed by the two countries on December 19, 2014, and entered into force on June 15, 2015. In contrast to the framework deal, the implementation agreement gives detailed clues as to what Turkey and Qatar hope to accomplish in the Gulf.

Full report at:



UNSC set to discuss new Yemen mission proposed by Guterres

Jan 9, 2019

The UN Security Council (UNSC) is set to discuss a proposal for a new observer mission to Yemen’s lifeline port city of Hudaydah, which will be tasked with monitoring a ceasefire recently agreed by the warring parties and the pullout of rival forces from the flashpoint area.

Diplomats said the 15-member UN body would meet on later Wednesday to assess the proposal put forward by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres after Yemen’s warring parties, namely Houthi Ansarullah movement and the country’s former Saudi-backed government, agreed a truce in the Houthi-held port in Sweden on December 13.

In a letter on Tuesday, Guterres asked the council to approve the deployment of up to 75 observers to the ports of Hudaydah, Saleef and Ras Isa, backed by additional administrative and security staff, for six months to “monitor the compliance of the parties to the ceasefire.”

Guterres said the larger monitoring mission would contribute to sustaining a “fragile political process” re-launched by UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths.

The proposed mission “would provide important support for the special envoy’s efforts to facilitate an inclusive political process with the aim of reaching a negotiated settlement that will bring about a permanent end to the conflict in Yemen,” said Guterres in his proposal.

Griffiths will also brief the council on Wednesday on his latest efforts aimed at shoring up the truce.

On Tuesday, Griffiths met with Yemen’s former Saudi-backed government officials, including president Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and members of the ex-parliament in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, after holding talks with Houthi leaders in the capital Sana’a.

Once the proposal is approved, diplomats would begin negotiations on a draft resolution to formally establish the mission.

Diplomats said Britain was working on a draft resolution to approve Guterres’ proposal, but had not yet circulated it to council members.

The Council will need to take action on Guterres’ request by about January 20, when a 30-day authorization for an advance monitoring team led by retired Dutch General Patrick Cammaert expires.

Under a resolution adopted last month, the world body deployed to Yemen a small team of about 16 international monitors led by Cammaert.

According to Guterres’ proposal, Cammaert would also head the new observer mission.

The UN is proposing to bring the warring sides together again for a new round of talks later this month, probably in Kuwait.

Hudaydah, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis, has seen some of the heaviest fighting in the Saudi-led aggression, which began in March 2015.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates launched the Hudaydah offensive in June but have been facing strong resistance from Yemeni armed forces — led by the Houthis — as well as the city’s residents.

The Saudi war has killed tens of thousands of Yemeni people and made the country the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.

Full report at:



Egypt limits crossing Rafah for Palestinians of Gaza, Hamas official says

Jan 8, 2019

Egypt has blocked Palestinians from entering the country from the Gaza Strip after Palestinian Authority personnel left the Rafah border crossing and officers from the Islamic resistance movement Hamas replaced them, Hamas officials say.

Wael Abu Omar, a spokesman for the Hamas-run authority in charge of the border crossing, said on Tuesday that Gazans seeking to return from Egypt would still be allowed through but no one would be able to leave the Palestinian enclave.

"For now, it is just for one day, it is not clear if it will be extended," the spokesman said.

The resistance movement says it took control of the crossing in a bid “to avoid a vacuum.”

Brigadier General Yehya Hammad, the Hamas-appointed director of the crossing, said his men had completed their deployment and were ready to operate the passage.

After they took up their posts, the body of a Palestinian who had died in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, and two women accompanying the coffin were allowed to enter Gaza. The women's passports were stamped by Hamas officers.

Gazan travelers hoped that the Egyptian side would open the crossing permanently.

"We hope the Egyptian side will open the crossing permanently as it did in the past to allow stranded patients, students, residents of third countries and humanitarian cases to travel," said Hammad, standing in the passport hall.

Upon arriving in Gaza, Hani Abu Sharekh, 48, said he hoped Egypt would soon resume full operation of the facility to allow passengers out of the coastal enclave. "There is no alternative to Rafah crossing, it is the only window for most of our people to travel and to seek treatment and education," Abu Sharekh said after returning from a trip to Cairo, where his wife had received medical treatment.

Human rights groups say Rafah, the only way for Gazans to leave the Palestinian enclave that bypasses Israel, has been the sole exit point from Gaza for an estimated 95 percent of its population of two million.

On Sunday, the Palestinian Authority, which is led by President Mahmoud Abbas, announced its pullout from Rafah, accusing Hamas of undermining its operations and detaining some of its workers. The authority had retaken control of the crossing in late 2017 as part of a reconciliation deal between Abbas' Fatah party and Hamas. The deal has since broken down and Abbas has taken a series of measures against Gaza.

Hamas said Abbas, who has imposed a series of economic sanctions on Gaza, was destroying the prospects for unity.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already said he would put his stamp on the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation deal only if Hamas recognizes Israel, cuts ties with Iran, and disbands its military wing, known as the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, and its estimated 25,000 fighters, who have defended Gaza against three deadly Israeli wars over the past decade.

Israel has restricted the movement of Palestinians in and out of the Gaza Strip since the early 1990s. Restrictions intensified in June 2007, when Tel Aviv imposed a land, sea and air blockade on Gaza, citing security concerns.

Full report at:



UN envoy holds talks with Yemen president amid preparations to boost Hodeidah monitoring team

January 09, 2019

JEDDAH: The United Nations envoy for Yemen held talks Tuesday with the country’s president, as he sought to shore up a truce in key port Hodeidah.

Martin Griffiths met with the Yemeni authorities after seeing Houthi militant leaders in Sanaa on a tour aimed at ensuring both sides make good on a ceasefire deal agreed in Sweden last month.

Yemen’s internationally recognized leader Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi expressed his “support for the efforts and work” of Griffiths at the talks in the Saudi capital, the Saba news agency reported.

The head of the president’s office Abdullah al-Alimi wrote on Twitter that Hadi remained committed to the Sweden accord and stood ready to open up “all humanitarian access.”

Griffiths is set to brief the UN Security Council Wednesday on the ceasefire deal, AFP repoted.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has asked the Security Council to approve the deployment of up to 75 observers to Hodeidah for six months to monitor the ceasefire, Reuters reported.

The council will need to take action on Guterres' request by about Jan. 20, when a 30-day authorization for an advance monitoring team led by retired Dutch General Patrick Cammaert expires.

It was not immediately clear how many monitors were currently on the ground with Cammaert.

The United Nations has said the monitors are not uniformed or armed.

In his Dec. 31 proposal to the council, seen by Reuters, Guterres described the proposed 75-strong team as "a nimble presence" to monitor compliance of the deal and establish and assess facts and conditions on the ground.

The UN has said the truce has largely held in the city since the agreement came into force on Dec. 18.

The pro-Hadi Arab coalition, which includes Saudi Arabia, has accused the Houthis of dozens of violations of the truce.

Griffiths is looking to push on with steps agreed   in Sweden, including the redeployment of rival forces from Hodeidah.

He is also hoping to bring the sides together again for a new round of peace talks later this month.

Full report at:



North America


US Special Envoy Khalilzad Embarks On 4-Country Tour For Afghan Peace Efforts

Naveed Siddiqui

January 09, 2019

US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad on Tuesday embarked on a two-week tour of Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and China for talks with each country's leadership on the Afghan peace process.

The US Secretary of State's Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Ambassador Khalilzad, is leading an intra-agency delegation and will meet officials in each country in order to "facilitate an inclusive peace process in Afghanistan", a handout from the US State Department said.

The envoy's trip will end on Jan 21.

The press release stressed the US' desire to reach a "political settlement" to the Afghan conflict and "empower the Afghan people to chart a shared course for their nation’s future".

"The United States supports the desire of the Afghan people and the international community for a political settlement that ends the 40-year conflict and ensures Afghanistan never again serves as a platform for international terrorism," the statement added.

It further claimed that the US goal is to "promote dialogue among Afghans" and ensure that all concerned parties reach a solution that will allow "every Afghan citizen [to] enjoy equal rights and responsibilities under the rule of law".

The US special envoy is actively trying to broker a political solution to the Afghan conflict and has held multiple meetings with the leadership of Afghanistan as well as that of other countries in the region, including Pakistan.

He has also held three round of talks with the Afghan Taliban in order to reach a settlement that would allow the US to withdraw its army and end a 17-year-old war — America's longest.



Pompeo: US committed to security of Jordan, confronting ISIS and Iran

8 January 2019

In a joint press conference with his Jordanian counterpart, Ayman Safadi, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo stressed over Washington’s commitment to Jordan’s security, and to confronting the most important threats facing the region, ISIS and Iran.

Pompeo assured the relations between the two countries will continue to strengthen, in terms of settling the Syrian crisis and in the fight against terrorism.

Addressing Safadi, Pompeo said: “Your nation plays a critical role in regional security and stability including through its efforts to peacefully resolve the Syrian conflict, fight the spread of radical Islamic terrorism and counter the Iranian regime’s malign activities in the region and the world.”

“Jordan made a powerful statement by recalling its ambassador in Tehran last year in protest of the Iranian regime’s flagrant transgressions of security and sovereignty. I also want to thank the governor Jordan for its help to combat Iran’s attempts to evade sanctions,” he added.

Pompeo also said that the withdrawal of US troops from Syria would not affect Jordan’s security.

For his part, the Jordanian foreign minister said that the US’s support for Jordan has helped the Kingdom host nearly 1.3 million Syrian refugees so far.

He tapped on Jordan's suffering with Iran's “expansion policy in the region”, as well as shed light on Jordan’s work with Washington for securing Al Tanf region, and the return of the Syrian refuges in Rukban refugee camp to Syria.

Full report at:



Contrasting Trump, Pompeo vows to punish Saudi over Khashoggi murder

Jan 8, 2019

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says his country will punish Saudi Arabia for the “heinous” murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, contrasting President Donald Trump’s statements that doing so would hurt American interests.

While Trump had suggested in the aftermath of the murder that there was too much at stake for Washington to go after Riyadh, Pompeo made it clear that Khashoggi’s murderers were not getting away with their deeds.

"We've taken a very clear message to the world with respect to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi," the top US diplomat told CNBC on Monday. "This was a heinous act. It's unacceptable. It's inconsistent with the way nations ought to behave around the world."

Weeks after Khashoggi, a US resident, went missing after entering the Saudi consulate in Turkey’s Istanbul on October 2, Riyadh admitted that he had been killed by security agents in a brawl.

Mounting evidence released by Turkish officials, coupled with a controversial CIA assessment, left little doubt that the hit job had been ordered by Saudi leaders, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in particular.

Defying his own intelligence agents, however, Trump said back then that punishing the Saudi would jeopardize billions of dollars in weapons deals with the kingdom and cause oil prices to skyrocket.

At the time, Trump even warned that punishing Saudis puts Israel in the harm's way.

Asked whether oil prices had anything to do with Washington’s response, Pompeo said: "They're disconnected."

"We've told the Saudis that we've held Saudi citizens accountable for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. We will continue to do so as new facts arise," Pompeo said, referring to a series of sanctions that Washington slapped on 17 Saudi officials in the aftermath of the killing.

"At the same time, we're going to continue to do the things that protect the American people, and that includes a deep and lasting relationship with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia" he continued.

Mixed messages

Pompeo made the remarks a day before setting off on a Middle East tour that would include stops in Jordan, Egypt and several countries in the Persian Gulf region.

It was not yet clear how serious Pompeo's pledge was because several outlets reported later on that he was planning to applaud Riyadh's handling of Khashoggi's murder in a speech in the Egyptian capital on Tuesday.

The Trump administration’s reluctance to punish bin Salman over Khashoggi’s murder as well as the kingdom’s deadly war on Yemen has prompted bipartisan fury in Congress.

Last month, the Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution that called MbS an “accomplice” in the murder.

Full report at:



Erdogan says new US conditions for Syria withdrawal a 'mistake'

January 8, 2019

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday lambasted comments made by US National Security Adviser John Bolton over the need for Ankara to guarantee the protection of Kurdish groups in Syria.

Mr Ergodan said new conditions laid out by Mr Bolton regarding the withdrawal of US troops from Syria are “unacceptable” and a “grave mistake,” shortly after the national security adviser held meetings with officials in Ankara.

Mr Erdogan refused to meet Mr Bolton who landed in Turkey on Monday after visiting Israel, in an apparent snub over disagreements about Kurdish fighters in Syria.

National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said US officials were told Mr Erdogan cited local election season and a speech to parliament for not meeting with Mr Bolton.

The Turkish president spoke in parliament to criticise new conditions for a US withdrawal.

"It is not possible to accept or swallow the message given by Bolton from Israel," Mr Erdogan told his party's members of parliament.

Mr Bolton said while in Israel that the US would not withdraw troops from Syria until it could guarantee that its Kurdish partners would not be endangered by Ankara.

“We don’t think the Turks ought to undertake military action that’s not fully co-ordinated with and agreed to by the United States,” Mr Bolton said. “So that they meet the president’s requirement that the Syrian opposition forces that have fought with us are not endangered.”

The US backs the People’s Protection Units (YPG) — a Syrian Kurdish group that commands much of the country’s northeast and is the main backbone of a US-backed alliance fighting ISIS in the country.

Mr Erdogan on Tuesday said that "despite the fact that we reached a clear agreement with Mr. Trump, different voices have been raised from different echelons of the US administration."

But he added that "Mr. Trump's views on Syria and his determination to pull out remain our point of reference."

He said that he could not compromise on the issue of the YPG in Syria, which Ankara views as a terrorist organisation and part of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

"For Turkey, there is no difference between PKK, YPG … or Daesh," he said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.

"Very soon we will act to neutralise terrorist groups in Syria. And we will take out other terror groups that might try to prevent us from doing this," he told parliamentarians from his Justice and Development Party.

Mr Erdogan also criticised the US for claiming that Turkey targets “Kurds” in Syria. He said such allegations are “dishonourable, ugly, vulgar and defaming”.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Bolton and his Turkish counterpart Ibrahim Kalin had a productive discussion regarding the US decision to withdraw from Syria, a spokesman for the US National Security Council said.

Mr Marquis also said in a statement the two sides had identified further issues for dialogue and that the United States looks forward to military-to-military consultations on Tuesday.

Mr Trump's shifting timetable for pulling US troops out of Syria has left allies and other players in the region confused and jockeying for influence over a withdrawal strategy that appeared to be a work in progress.

Mr Trump insisted on Monday that his policy on withdrawing troops from Syria had not changed, even as the drawdown timeline shifted from “coming back now” to “leaving at a proper pace”, which his national security advisor has suggested could take months, if not years.

Full report at:



Muslim community hopes to build mosque in Leamington

Jan 09, 2019

A growing congregation in Leamington has members of the Muslim-faith raising money to build their own mosque in the municipality.

Members say it started out with about five people, but has grown over the last 10 years. They have been renting a small store in the town, but two years ago St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church provided space to rent to hold their prayers. It`s grown since then, often up to 70 adults now show up for prayers.

"We were looking for something that could accommodate these numbers," said Dr. Basel El-Tawil, a member of the community.

They were able to find a piece of land in Leamington, but have yet to close the deal. So far, they have raised more than the half of what's needed for the $400,000 lot.

El-Tawil hopes their goal is met so they can build the mosque by the end of the year.

"It's a place for gathering, for refugees and the rest of the Muslim community here in Leamington," said El-Tawil. "It's a place where you know it will be safe and good for the kids, for the families together."

They have been working with Windsor Islamic Association to raise money. The new mosque will become a part of the association. Imam Mohamed Al-Gammali said Syrian families have settled in Leamington and having a mosque would mean a lot to them.

"We thought that our obligation to help them as newcomers to find a place for them to keep their identity, to come together, not only just for religious purpose even for other social life to connect to each other, help one another," he said.

Full report at:

"They are growing so we have to help them for their basic needs."




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