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Over 100-Year-Old Cheravally Jamaat Masjid of Kerala Turns Venue for Hindu Wedding, Jamaat Committee Met All Its Expenses

New Age Islam News Bureau

20 Jan 2020

Sarath Sasi of Kappil Kizhakku, Kayamkulam and Anju Ashok Kumar tied the knot on the mosque premises, with a Hindu priest leading the rituals.


• 'Visit My Mosque': Bengaluru's Modi Masjid Opens Its Doors To People Of All Faiths

• No Proof for Love Jihad, Don’t Add Fuel to Flames, Rift in Church On Issue

• All Afghans Are Persecuted, Says Hamid Karzai on Citizenship Amendment Act

• Citizenship Act not necessary, CAA, NRC India’s internal matter: Sheikh Hasina

• Uighur Town Clings To Its Cultural Past In Spite Of China's Efforts to Extinguish It

• 3 Men in Dubai Fined Dh500, 000 Each For Insulting Islam Online

• US Transferring ISIL Terrorists to Western Iraq Again after Hashd Al-Shaabi's Cleansing Efforts

• UK Courts Hand Far-Right Extremists Lighter Online Crime Sentences Than Islamists

• Jordanian Parliament Votes To Ban Israeli Gas Imports Following Mass Protests

• Pakistan Stands For Regional Peace, Says FM

• Speaker Warns Europe of Iran's Possible Review of Cooperation with IAEA



• Over 100-Year-Old Cheravally Jamaat Masjid of Kerala Turns Venue for Hindu Wedding, Jamaat Committee Met All Its Expenses

• 'Visit My Mosque': Bengaluru's Modi Masjid Opens Its Doors To People Of All Faiths

• No Proof for Love Jihad, Don’t Add Fuel to Flames, Rift in Church On Issue

• Hindus, Muslim Eat At Loreto Nuns’ Food ATM

• Shaheen Bagh protesters express solidarity with Kashmiri Pandits on exodus day

• ‘Extraordinary horrors inflicted on Muslims of UP’

• Rising Dalit voices against CAA

• Anti-CAA protests: Seized blankets from protest site in legal manner, says Lucknow Police

• 50 lakh Muslim infiltrators will be chased out of India if needed: BJP's Dilip Ghosh

• 30 years in exile, Kashmiri Pandits demand one place for their settlement in Kashmir

• 550 Delhi Sikh pilgrims to visit Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Pakistan on Baisakhi

• Kashmiri Pandits observe 'holocaust day', seek early return and rehabilitation in Valley

• Gandhi wanted to spend 15 August, 1947 in Pakistan: Book

• Bihar: ‘Not about religion, protest against bid to create rift’

• Hyderabad: Not radicals, we follow the Constitution, claims PFI

• BJP leader hands out pamphlets in Muslim areas to debunk CAA myths

• Muslim would be asked documents to prove their nationality: Shashi Tharoor

• Pragya Thakur claims ISIS behind sending poisonous chemical, threat letter to her

• Varanasi: UP ATS arrests man for passing sensitive information to ISI


South Asia

• All Afghans Are Persecuted, Says Hamid Karzai on Citizenship Amendment Act

• Citizenship Act not necessary, CAA, NRC India’s internal matter: Sheikh Hasina

• Parents Picket Bangladesh School over Decision to Drop 'Islamic' Dress Code

• Increasing the spread of religious extremism and the rise of Salafism in Afghanistan

• Popular Afghan actor Saleem Shaheen jailed for ‘cybercrime’ conviction

• Wells visit to Pakistan ahead of Afghan Peace Deal

• Afghan government official’s family members brutally killed in Kabul

• Taliban kill 6 members of same Afghan family


Southeast Asia

• Uighur Town Clings To Its Cultural Past In Spite Of China's Efforts to Extinguish It

• Malaysia’s Islamic schools need help

• Pope’s possible visit to Indonesia, East Timor and PNG

• 5 Indonesians kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf militants: Philippine military


Arab World

• 3 Men in Dubai Fined Dh500, 000 Each For Insulting Islam Online

• Hariri urges new government formation to 'calm popular storm' in Lebanon

• Iraqi protesters block main roads on day of deadline for government

• Canada says there are no firm plans for downloading black boxes from crashed jet

• Lebanese security forces, protesters clash for second night

• Lebanon’s Hariri: ‘stop wasting time’ in government talks, economic solutions

• Lebanon to release protesters detained after night of riots

• Protesters back on Beirut streets after overnight bid to storm parliament


North America

• US Transferring ISIL Terrorists to Western Iraq Again after Hashd Al-Shaabi's Cleansing Efforts

• Pompeo Calls On International Community To Classify Hezbollah A Terrorist Group

• Security Expert: Washington Relocating ISIL to Iraq to Nullify Parliament's Pull-Out Decision



• UK Courts Hand Far-Right Extremists Lighter Online Crime Sentences Than Islamists

• UK Police Pull 'Outrageous' Pamphlet On Islamic Extremism

• UK’s Johnson, France’s Macron Reiterate Commitment to Iran Nuclear Deal

• Putin: Don't lose hope that Libya conflict will be solved

• Cyprus brands Turkey a ‘pirate state’ in gas drilling row

• UK: Legal group urges arrest warrant for Egypt’s Sisi

• Only Libya-owned political process can end conflict: EU

• Drilling for energy is our right: Turkish Cyprus

• Turkey condemns EU statement on drilling in Eastern Med



• Jordanian Parliament Votes To Ban Israeli Gas Imports Following Mass Protests

• Nigeria: 17 Soldiers Killed, Several Abducted in Battle With Boko Haram

• Somali military kills eight al-Shabaab militants

• ‘Pace of repentant Boko Haram members’ reintegration slow’

• Libyan tribesmen say they have closed al-Sharara and al-Feel oilfields

• Somalia claims liberating 5 villages from al-Shabaab

• Al-Shabaab attacks challenge counter terrorism strategies

• Libya: Haftar forces break truce on day of conference

• Boko Haram set Yobe State many years behind – Governor Buni



• Pakistan Stands For Regional Peace, Says FM

• PML-N says ‘unware’ of dialogue offer from PM Imran

• What made PML-Q give a one-week ultimatum to govt

• Protest continues against arrest of PML-N Swat leaders

• LHC to decide on removing Nawaz's name from ECL today

• 545 cases of sexual assault reported at three major hospitals in Karachi last year



• Speaker Warns Europe of Iran's Possible Review of Cooperation with IAEA

• Iran says it remains in nuclear deal, EU claims “Unfounded”

• Iran backtracks on plan to send flight recorders to Ukraine

• Iran says it is preparing for satellite launch

• Israel to build anti-tunnel sensor network along Lebanon border

• Paper: 16 US Servicemen Flown to Kuwait Hospitals with Severe Injuries after Iran's Missile Strike

• Yemen says Houthi attack is revenge for Soleimani, calls on UN to condemn

• Iran's Larijani chides EU for 'humiliating' capitulation to US

• Israel floods hundreds of acres of farmlands in Gaza

• Palestinian child held for several weeks in solitary confinement at Israeli jail

• Palestinian impatience threatens Gaza cease-fire

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau



Over 100-Year-Old Cheravally Jamaat Masjid of Kerala Turns Venue for Hindu Wedding, Jamaat Committee Met All Its Expenses

Jan 20, 2020

ALAPPUZHA: The over 100-year-old Cheravally Jamaat Masjid in Kayamkulam on Sunday hosted a Hindu wedding on its premises, complete with a vegetarian feast – including two payasam -- for 4,000 people. People cutting across religions attended the event while the jamaat committee met all its expenses.

Sarath Sasi of Kappil Kizhakku, Kayamkulam and Anju Ashok Kumar tied the knot on the mosque premises, with a Hindu priest leading the rituals. The couple later entered the mosque and sought the blessings of chief imam Riyasudeen Faizy.

Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the wedding was as an example of unity from Kerala. “Congratulations to the newlyweds, families, mosque authorities and people of Cheravally,” he said in a tweet.

“The committee also gave Anju 10 sovereign gold and Rs 2 lakh as wedding gift besides home equipment like TV and fridge,” said Nujumudeen Alummoottil, secretary of Cheravally Muslim Jamaat Committee. He said he knew Anju’s father personally, and wanted to help the family after the father passed away.

Nujumudeen said Anju is also the first woman to enter the mosque. “All religions teach people to love and care for others. Those lessons led to this wedding,” he said.

He had received an application from Bindu, wife of late Ashok Kumar, seeking help to conduct the wedding of her 24-year-old daughter Anju in October last year. “When I shared the application with committee members, all of them came forward to arrange facilities for the wedding. Bindu is staying in a rented house with her three children. We decided to conduct the wedding as per Hindu rituals on the mosque premises,” he said.

“I have a jewellery shop in Kayamkulam and I knew Anju’s father Ashokan, who was a goldsmith. He died of cardiac arrest at the age of 49 on March 14, 2018 after dropping his son Anand at Kayamkulam Boys High School for his SSLC examination and his son wrote the exam without knowing about Ashokan’s demise. I had visited the family then after reading about it in the newspaper. I had also extended some help then,” he said.

Both Anju and her sister Amritha had stopped their studies after completing Plus-Two due to financial constraints. Anand is pursuing higher secondary education now.

On Sunday, Bindu was lost for words to express her gratitude to the committee. She and her husband had sold their house and land in Kayamkulam around 17 years ago owing to financial constraints and they were living in rented houses since then. The unexpected demise of Ashokan came as a shock. “I have joined a private firm as cleaner for a salary of Rs 7,000. The rent of our present house near Cheravally temple is Rs 2,500 and we are somehow meeting our monthly expenses. I did not have any other means to conduct the wedding that I sought Nujumudin’s help,” she said.



'Visit My Mosque': Bengaluru's Modi Masjid Opens Its Doors To People Of All Faiths

Jan 20, 2020

BENGALURU: Dozens showed up at Modi Masjid in Tasker Town on Sunday morning after the 170-year-old mosque opened its doors to men and women of all faiths, inviting them to visit and learn more about Islam.

The visitors were taken on a tour of the masjid and various postures of prayer were demonstrated by the organisers. They were told about the teachings and practices in Islam and verses from the Quran were recited. A Q&A session where members of non-Muslim communities voiced their doubts, besides a meditation session, were also held as part of the event. Visitors were given a copy of the Quran to browse through.

The open invitation,‘Visit My Mosque’, to understand Islam better, was issued earlier in the week by Mumbai-based charitable trust Rahmath Group to non-Muslim communities, through social media. The group organised a similar event at the mosque in the past for students of a Christian college.

“The masjid doors were opened to all fellow Indians, on Sunday. We planned such an event to bridge the gap between Muslim and non-Muslim communities. To this day, there continues to be a lot of misconceptions about Islam. This event was aimed at empowering all communities with more information about the Muslim community and try to answer any questions they may have,” said Sadiqh Sailani of Rahmath Group.

“The most common question people raised was regarding the status of women in Islam. People asked questions about Muslim women’s attire and many were of the misconception that women are oppressed. The status of women in Islam is very high and the clothes are more of a religious practice than a social obligation — we explained this to them. A few others raised questions about jihad as well,” said Sadiqh.

The mosque was named after Modi Abdul Gafoor, a 19th century merchant. Apart from this mosque, there are two more mosques are in Bengaluru known as Modi Masjid.

The organisers plan to hold a similar event in the city next month.



No proof for Love Jihad, don’t add fuel to flames, rift in church on issue

17 January, 2020

KOCHI: ‘Sathyadeepam’, mouthpiece of Ernakulam Angamali Archdiocese coming under the church, has come forward against the circular of Syro Malabar Synod that Christian girls in Kerala are being targeted over ‘Love Jihad’. The circular associated with Love Jihad is inappropriate and POC director's article supporting the circular published in ‘Janmabhoomi’ is of concern, the mouthpiece criticised.

In the wake of protests across the country against Citizenship Amendment Act, issuing a circular in the name of Love Jihad is to minimize one religion and it is like adding fuel to flames, it pointed. The article mentioned that the government and the high court have made it clear that there is no evidence for Love jihad. All these were mentioned in the article of Father Kuriakose, former chief editor of ‘Sathyadeepam’ and secretary of the bishops’ panel.In an official communiqué, the church expressed serious concern over the issue and exhorted believers to be alert. It also said such practices were posing a serious threat to secular fabric of the state and cited many incidents to buttress its claim.

It also said that along the 21 people missing from north Kerala in 2016 who believed to have joined the Islamic State, many were converts from Christianity.



All Afghans Are Persecuted, Says Hamid Karzai on Citizenship Amendment Act

January 20, 2020

New Delhi: After Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s remarks questioning the Citizenship (Amendment) Act comes another adverse comment from a top leader of a stakeholder country – Afghanistan.

Speaking up against India’s decision to grant citizenship to Sikhs, Hindus and other non-Muslims from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said India should treat all Afghans equally.

“We don’t have persecuted minorities in Afghanistan…the whole country is persecuted. We have been in war and conflict for a long time. All religions in Afghanistan – Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs – which are our three main religions, have suffered,” Karzai told The Hindu during a visit to Delhi.

Karzai, who addressed the inaugural session of the government’s Raisina Dialogue last week, said, “The feeling in Afghanistan is very different to what the perception here in India may be. When I became President, the Principal of a school, in his 90s, whom I had known for many years, came to see me. As he left, he said, ‘I have only one request: our Hindus and Sikhs have suffered a lot more [during the Taliban regime], and they deserve much more, so bring them back from wherever they have fled in Pakistan or India, and restore their properties.”

“That is the sentiment in Afghanistan. And I hope that sentiment would be reflected in India as well with regard to other Afghans, who are Muslim, as well.”

According to a Ministry of External Affairs estimate in 2011, there are over 18,000 refugees from Afghanistan in India. Most of them are Sikhs and Hindus. Media reports said many fled to India in 2013 too.

Significantly, Karzai, widely considered a friend of India’s, also said that he hoped the sentiment that minorities must be protected “would be reflected in India with regard to other Afghans, who are Muslim, as well”.

Like Hasina had stated that CAA is an “internal” matter for India, Karzai too called the Narendra Modi government’s decision to amend the Citizenship Act as “India’s decision, and (that) they may have had reasons for it and the law brought to Parliament”. The Indian government in December had stated that the basis for granting citizenship to non-Muslim Afghans on the grounds of religious persecution through the CAA was due to attacks on minorities in Afghanistan during the Taliban rule and that the present government had “substantially addressed the concerns of the minority communities as per their constitutional provisions.”



Citizenship Act not necessary, CAA, NRC India’s internal matter: Sheikh Hasina

January 19, 2020

In her first remarks on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has termed the contentious law and the National Register of Citizenship (NRC) as an “internal matter” of India but at the same time, said the act was “not necessary”.

“We don’t understand why (the Indian government) did it. It was not necessary,” Hasina told Gulf News in an interview on Saturday.

The Awami League party chief’s remarks came weeks after Bangladesh Foreign Minister A K Abdul Momen said that the two laws are India’s “internal issues”, but said any “uncertainty” in the country is likely to affect its neighbours.

Hasina, who is in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi, also said that there has been no recorded reverse migration from India.

“No, there is no reverse migration from India. But within India, people are facing many problems,” the Bangladeshi Prime Minister said.

“(Still), it is an internal affair,” she added.

“Bangladesh has always maintained that the CAA and NRC are internal matters of India. The Government of India, on their part, has also repeatedly maintained that the NRC is an internal exercise of India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has in person assured me of the same during my visit to New Delhi in October 2019,” she said.

Hasina also said that the relationship between Bangladesh and India is currently at its best, with cooperation in a “wide spectrum of areas”.

Modi and Hasina had held talks on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in October last year. It was during this time that the Bangladeshi Prime Minister told her Indian counterpart that NRC had become a matter of “great concern” in the neighbouring country.

However, Modi assured that there was “nothing to be worried” since India and Bangladesh have good relations.

Asked by The Indian Express whether she was satisfied with Modi’s assurance, Hasina had said, “Oboshoyi (Of course).”



Uighur town clings to its cultural past in spite of China's efforts to extinguish it

January 20, 2020

The winding, crowded lanes of old Yarkand, an ancient Silk Road town, preserve patterns of life that go back centuries.

On a recent morning, smoke wafted from sputtering grills of lamb and ovens lined with baking flatbread. Clangs rang from a coppersmith shaping bowls with a hammer. Twangs from a dutar, a two-stringed lute, floated from a store selling traditional musical instruments. In a dimly lit teahouse, old men in Muslim head caps murmured in conversation.

Sitting on the fringe of the Taklamakan Desert, Yarkand remains a cultural cradle for Uighurs, a mostly Muslim minority in China’s far western Xinjiang region. But their way of life is under intense pressure.

Uighurs have for three years endured a sweeping campaign to turn them into obedient followers of the Communist Party, to weaken their commitment to Islam and to shift them from farms to factories. Towns and cities across Xinjiang are surrounded by big police checkpoints that use facial recognition scanners to record people coming and going.

A million or more Uighurs have been sent to indoctrination camps since 2017. Yarkand was decimated by these detentions.

In 2018, this city of approximately 200,000 people was effectively closed off to foreign journalists, with police checkpoints blocking entry by car. Since last year, though, the authorities in Xinjiang have eased up enough that we were allowed in.

Our visit revealed a town scarred by recent upheavals. Bulldozers are encroaching on houses in the old town, condemned as “slums,” to make way for new neighbourhoods.

Yet the Uighurs there also appeared resilient. They hold onto customs woven from their history as farmers, merchants and Muslims living on the edge of deserts.

We arrived in Yarkand by a morning train from Hotan, a small city 175 miles to the southeast. After some negotiations and hushed phone calls, a police officer and a propaganda official who had hurried to the station allowed us to visit as long we agreed to be on a train that night to Kashgar, the next city on our journey to see how the Xinjiang region was changing.

A brief taxi ride took us to old Yarkand as stores and restaurants began to stir to life. We were watched constantly by plainclothes officers, and we limited conversations with residents to brief chats, for fear of bringing them trouble.

Yarkand still offers glimpses of its ancient splendors. The main lane in the old commercial area is dotted with the two-story homes of merchants, faded and cracked. Their wooden balustrades and plaster ceilings are decorated with swirling floral patterns, recalling Yarkand’s history as a stop on trade routes crisscrossing China, Central Asia and beyond.

Yarkand was the capital of an Islamic dynasty, the Yarkand Khanate, which lasted two centuries from 1514. Uighurs credit the Khanate with collecting and refining a revered set of musical performances, the Twelve Muqam. Tombs of the khans lie in a sprawling cemetery here.

On the chief shopping street, knots of women in bright dresses wandered into shops selling children’s clothes, or debated over sparkling trays of necklaces and rings at jewelry stalls. Portly stall holders laid out piles of dried dates and raisins, or sanzi, a snack of fried dough.

On this journey through southern Xinjiang, places we had visited in the depths of the crackdown in 2017 and 2018 seemed busier and more crowded now, suggesting that restrictions on residents had eased a bit.

Police checkpoints throughout towns and cities have become less stringent in the past year, and it is easier to move around. In the bazaars, more faces had the weather-hardened features of farmers, suggesting it was easier to travel from villages.

The reasons for these changes weren’t clear; officials have not offered explanations. The government may have felt more confident after detaining so many people. Or it may have felt it had to ease up a little because the restrictions were suffocating the local economy and tourism, and drawing international condemnation.

Even so, Yarkand remains girded by security. Protective metal grates encased many shops. Cooks’ cleavers were chained to benches, as police rules demand, to prevent potential stabbings.

The government hopes the security will bring back tourists, and Yarkand has converted a gracefully reconstructed palace of the khans into a gaudy attraction, which doubles as a film and television set.

“Chinese culture, Chinese expression,” says a sign at the entrance to the building. Inside, visitors are greeted by a billboard portrait of Xi Jinping, the Communist Party leader, waving against a background showing modern apartment buildings.

Some signs of change in Yarkand since the crackdown are subtle. In a dusty park, six barbers wielded razors, scraping whiskers from men’s faces, occasionally grunting to a customer to stay still or tilt his head.

Not long ago, barbers were in less demand. Beginning in the 1990s, southern Xinjiang experienced an Islamic resurgence. More younger men wore Muslim skull caps and grew beards, while more women took to wearing the heavy headdresses and long dresses common in the Middle East to display their Islamic piety.

The government blamed this resurgence of religion for growing ethnic resistance and violence, including a clash in Yarkand in 2014, when Uighurs with axes and knives attacked a government office and police station and killed 37 people, according to government reports.

Now displays of Islamic faith have virtually all disappeared from Yarkand, and across all Xinjiang, in the wake of the mass detentions and a wave of prohibitions. Most women wore modest headscarves or none at all; only a few old men had beards. Mosques appeared closed or largely empty, even at prayer times. Observing Ramadan is officially discouraged. When we stopped outside the Juma Mosque, a man scurried out and shooed us away.

“Love the Party, Love the Country,” the banner above the entrance said. That message was repeated outside other Xinjiang mosques.

Not all traditions have disappeared.

Amid the rubble of a demolished lot, residents bought sheep for Eid al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice, called Corban by Uighurs. They stared intensely over the local variety of sheep with their extravagantly fat rumps and pried open their jaws to check their mouths. The sheep would be killed and shared for days of feasting.

Restaurants in old Yarkand were a hubbub of multigenerational families gathered around servings of noodles, samsa — baked pastry pockets of mince — and mutton soup. Signs on the restaurant walls repeated the government’s call for ethnic unity.

“All ethnic groups must bind together as tightly as pomegranate seeds,” said a sign seen in most stores.

In a basement-level cafe, Uighur women in their 20s in sunglasses, jeans and bright skirts chattered over sweet drinks. One woman sat beside a small, old man with a white beard, perhaps her grandfather, offering him spoonfuls of ice cream.

Members of China’s Han majority were an uncommon sight. Yarkand is over 90% Uighur, although Chinese culture and language are spreading. A young girl passed by on the back of an electric cycle, clutching a textbook for learning Chinese — the language at school for Uighur children now.

As we walked around, we wondered if passersby might be former detainees of indoctrination camps or prisons. We watched young men absorbed in a streetside lucky draw game, shouting or grimacing at the results. We could only guess how many more men would have been around before the wave of detentions.

Government records from six villages in rural areas of Yarkand in 2018 showed nearly 16% of 3,249 adults listed were held in indoctrination camps, prisons or criminal detention centers, Adrian Zenz, a German researcher who has closely studied Xinjiang, said in a recent report.

Near the train station in Yarkand, one indoctrination camp appeared empty; the usual cordon of guards had gone. The government has said the camps across Xinjiang are shrinking. But other, bigger ones we tried to visit across southern Xinjiang were still under heavy guard, suggesting they stayed in operation.

Old Yarkand may not survive much longer.

“Take reform all the way,” said a slogan painted on gutted homes waiting to be pulled down.



3 Men in Dubai Fined Dh500, 000 Each For Insulting Islam Online

January 20, 2020

They posted insults on Instagram and Facebook.

Three security guards of a five-star resort have each been fined Dh500,000 by a Dubai court for insulting Islam on social media.

The Dubai public prosecution accused the three Sri Lankans, aged between 28 and 34, of contempt of religion through posts on Instagram and Facebook. It referred them to trial pursuant to the anti-discriminatory and hatred law and the Federal Penal Code.

The Dubai Court of First Instance ordered that all the three accused be deported after paying the fines.

The trio has been detained.

The case dates back to May 19 last year. It was registered at Al Barsha police station.

A police sergeant said they moved to the resort after receiving the report. "We found the three guards were already restrained by their colleagues.

"With a prosecution warrant, we later searched their places and seized their mobile phones and laptops."

The incident was reported by a senior public relations officer at the resort. "I learned about the three employees' posts in May last year. We summoned them for an internal probe. They admitted they had those posts on their accounts on Facebook."

The sergeant told the prosecution investigator that the three defendants admitted they had posted those inappropriate messages and pictures on their accounts on social media.

Copies of those messages and pictures have been used as prosecution evidence in the case file.

During the prosecution investigation, the three accused confessed to the charge.

The verdict has now become final as no one of the defendants filed an appeal within the legal deadline.



US Transferring ISIL Terrorists to Western Iraq Again after Hashd Al-Shaabi's Cleansing Efforts

Jan 19, 2020

"After the US forces prevented Iraqi forces from approaching Wadi Houran and the Western desert of al-Anbar, finally, Hashd al-Shaabi could remove the existing obstacles and defeat the ISIL terrorists in the region and cleanse Wadi Houran completely," Head of Badr Organization's Office in al-Anbar Qusai al-Anbari told the Arabic-language al-Ma'aloumeh news website on Sunday.

"But after the cleansing operations, the US forces stationed near the region facilitated the trafficking of the ISIL terrorists and their transfer to Wadi Houran and the Western desert by reopening a number of roads and heliborne operations," he added.

Al-Anbari said that the US forces have in the first stage transferred a number of ISIL ringleaders with foreign nationalities to Wadi Houran and the Western desert of al-Anbar to revive the ISIL under a new name to foment insecurity in Iraq.

In relevant remarks in February, Iraq's security experts disclosed that the US Army was training ISIL terrorists in Al-Anbar province after relocating them from Syria to Iraq to prepare them for creating insecurity in the country.

"The US Army troops are preparing and training the ISIL militants in al-Qadaf and Wadi al-Houran regions of Al-Anbar province with the aim of carrying out terrorist attacks and restarting insecurity in Iraq," al-Ma'aloumeh quoted Kazim al-Haaj, an Iraqi security expert, as saying.

He noted that according to the intel obtained from Iraqi security forces in Al-Anbar province, the US had transferred the ISIL terrorists on Apache and Chinook helicopters to Iraq.

Pointing to the occupation of several regions in Western Iraq, including Wadi al-Houran and al-Qadaf, al-Haaj reiterated that the US Army was using this opportunity to deploy the ISIL terrorists after training them in areas where it plans to make hot.



UK courts hand far-right extremists lighter online crime sentences than Islamists

January 19, 2020

LONDON: Far-right extremists are handed much lighter prison sentences in the UK for online crimes compared to Islamists, new research has found.

Far-right offenders received sentences of around 24.5 months for hate and terror crimes committed on the internet. Islamists, however, were sentenced to treble that figure with prison terms averaging 73.4 months, according to the study from the Henry Jackson Society, a foreign policy think tank.

The research found Islamists still posed a greater threat and committed more serious offences online than the far right.

But it also said a factor in the disparity in the sentencing is a failure by the British government to proscribe far-right groups as “terrorist,” therefore making them harder to prosecute than Islamist extremists.

“The lack of far-right groups subject to proscription in the UK, when compared to Islamist groups, has left the authorities reliant on hate crime legislation rather than specific terrorist offences which carry heftier sentences,” Nikita Malik, the report’s author, said.

The report looked at more than 100 court cases related to online extremism between 2015 and 2019 and ranked the offenses into six bands, according to 20 indicators.

According to the classification system, 65.5 percent of far-right offenders were situated in the lowest three risk bands and 34.4 percent  were in the highest three.

In contrast, 52 percent of Islamists convicted of offences were in these higher bands and 48 percent were in lower bands. 

“Islamists profiled in the report commit more dangerous, harmful, and complex offences online,” Malik said. “They do so with intent and to a large audience. Contrary to some narratives, it is Islamists that continue to pose a severe risk online.”

The report, commissioned by Facebook, aimed to develop new ways of identifying those who abuse social media platforms to spread extremism and hate.

The categorization system is designed to help social media companies respond to the most dangerous and harmful offenders.

Almost one third of the offenders analysed in the report used Facebook as a means to disseminate their views and content.

But the public forums were often used in conjunction with encrypted applications such as Telegram.

As a result, the report recommends that those tracking the extremists “monitor the migration of offenders from one platform to another, where they may take their followers and continue to promote extremist views.”



Jordanian Parliament votes to ban Israeli gas imports following mass protests

19 January 2020

Members of the Jordanian Parliament voted on Sunday to prohibit the import of gas from Israel following protests in the country’s capital city of Amman.

The vote follows protests by hundreds of Jordanians on Friday in downtown Amman, calling on the government to cancel an import agreement that saw Israel begin pumping natural gas to the Kingdom at the start of this year.

Earlier this month, Jordan’s National Electric Power Co., said gas pumping had started as part of a multi-billion-dollar deal with Texas-based Noble Energy, aimed at lowering the cost of power in the energy-poor Kingdom.

Noble Energy and Israel’s Delek Group are, among others, partners in the newly operational Leviathan gas field off Israel’s Mediterranean coast.

When the deal was signed in 2016, it was not reviewed by Jordan’s lower house of Parliament. Last year, that body issued a non-binding resolution against the agreement.

From the same Leviathan gas field, Israel has also begun exporting natural gas to Egypt. On Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boasted about the move, saying on Twitter that he has labored to make Israel a “world power exporter.”



Pakistan stands for regional peace, says FM

January 20, 2020

ISLAMABAD/WASHINGTON: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said that he had “constructive engagement” with his counterparts in Iran, the United States and Arab countries on efforts to defuse tensions and promote peace in the Middle East.

Mr Qureshi made the statement through his official Twitter account after returning to the country early on Sunday.

“[I] visited Iran, Saudi Arabia, Oman, US and Qatar on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s directive. Had constructive engagement with counterparts on efforts to defuse tensions & promote peace in [the] ME. Pakistan’s message I took to all; We stand for peace and stability in the region,” he said.

Through another tweet, Mr Qureshi said that during his visit to the US, he got the opportunity to meet Secretary General of the UN António Guterres and during the meeting, he apprised him of the situation in India-held Kashmir.

“[I] also met UNSG @antonioguterres in NY [New York] where I underscored the critical importance of the international community’s continued attention to the suffering of Kashmiris under Indian occupation and for this to be resolved in line with UN resolutions and the will of the Kashmiri people.”

Islamabad wants Trump to discuss Kashmir issue with Indian leaders

Earlier, while reviewing his US visit with journalists at the Pakistan’s embassy in Washington, Mr Qureshi stated that Pakistan wanted US President Donald Trump to discuss the Kashmir issue with Indian leaders if he visited New Delhi next month.

The foreign minister said US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross would soon visit Pakistan with a delegation of American businessmen to explore investment possibilities.

“I discussed this with Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo on Friday and he assured me that Secretary Ross will soon visit Pakistan with a delegation,” Mr Qureshi said.

Mr Pompeo’s response to Pakistan’s request for reviewing travel advisories was also “positive”, he added.

US travel advisories depict Pakis­tan as a country not safe for tourists, which hampers Islamabad’s efforts to promote tourism.

Mr Qureshi said Pakistan wanted President Trump to raise the Kashmir issue in New Delhi because the situation in the occupied valley remained grave.

“Curfew in the valley entered its sixth month. Human rights violations continue. Media restrictions are unchanged. Pellet guns are still used. People are disappearing. Women are dishonoured,” he said.

The foreign minister noted that India arranged a guided tour of some New Delhi-based diplomats to the selected areas in held Kashmir to hide the real situation.

“But we want President Trump to discuss the real situation with the Indian leaders,” he said.

Mr Qureshi pointed out that the UN Security Council held two meetings on Kashmir in the past five months, negating India’s claim that this was an internal matter.

“It is an unresolved issue, which needs the attention of world leaders like President Trump,” he said.

“I told Secretary Pompeo, please take notice of this as the situation can get worse,” he added.

On Iran, he said, Secretary Pom­peo acknowledged Pakistan’s positive role. “I told them clearly that Pakistan is not playing a mediatory role. Our objective is de-escalation. We want to avoid a new war in the region.”

He said Pakistan was against this war because it would have a “negative impact on the country, region and the world. Oil prices will go up, which will have an adverse impact on Pakistan’s economy”.

Asked who would Pakistan side with if there’s a war, he said: “We told them we can be partner for peace, not war.”

The Iranian leaders, he said, told him that they wanted to improve their relations with all countries in the region, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The leaders in Tehran, he said, had identified “Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Bahrain as areas of differences” and told him that they wanted talks with Arabs on this issue.



Speaker Warns Europe of Iran's Possible Review of Cooperation with IAEA

Jan 19, 2020

"Iran does not like threatening. Over a year after the US hostile behavior towards the nuclear issue, Europe has just sufficed to issue political statements and the Islamic Republic of Iran has shown tolerance for a long time," Larijani said, addressing an open session of the parliament in Tehran on Sunday.

"We clearly declare that if Europe shows an unjust behavior in using article 37 of the nuclear deal, for any reason, then the Islamic Republic will make a serious decision over its cooperation with the Agency and a relevant bill is standing ready at the parliament," he added.

Larijani, meantime, said that Iran will not take action to start anything, but will act appropriate to Europe's moves, and added, "It is better (for them) to show a fair behavior."

According to Article 37 of the nuclear deal, “Upon receipt of the notification from the complaining participant, including a description of the good-faith efforts the participant made to exhaust the dispute resolution process specified in this JCPOA, the UN Security Council, in accordance with its procedures, shall vote on a resolution to continue the sanctions lifting.”

“If the resolution described above has not been adopted within 30 days of the notification, then the provisions of the old UN Security Council resolutions would be re-imposed, unless the UN Security Council decides otherwise,” reads Article 37.

European states involved in Iran's nuclear talk, including Britain, France, and Germany, started a process that could lead to the United Nations' sanctions being re-imposed on Iran and the collapse of the 2015 nuclear deal after triggering the deal’s Dispute Resolution Mechanism (DRM).

In relevant remarks last Wednesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif lashed out at the 3 European signatories of the nuclear deal for abiding by unilateral pressures of the US, underlining that the trio’s Tuesday unconstructive move was a strategic blunder.

Zarif denounced as a “strategic mistake” the European trio’s decision to trigger a dispute mechanism under the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The top diplomat criticized the European signatories to the landmark deal once again on Tuesday for failing to abide by their commitments under the JCPOA and said triggering a dispute resolution mechanism is legally baseless and politically a strategic blunder.





Hindus, Muslim eat at Loreto nuns’ food ATM

January 17, 2020

Kolkata, Jan 17, 2020: As the clock strikes noon, this small empty courtyard in Entally fills up with eager eyes and empty tummies. The promise of food has been bringing the hungry mouths from the neighboring slums to this courtyard every afternoon since the beginning of the new year.

It’s a strange mix here — Christian nuns feed Hindus and Muslims of all ages from the slums. They eat and share out of each other’s plates and create a picture of complete harmony that could be a testament to vouch for in these troubled times.

We are talking about the food ATM installed by the nuns of the Kolkata Mary Ward Social Centre at Loreto Convent Entally. The initiative was undertaken to feed slum dwellers of the neighboring Tangra, Motijheel, Dhapa and Palmer Bazar areas. A little under 200 people, mostly kids, are fed lunch now. But the volunteers are hopeful that with more help coming in, they will be able to feed more people soon.

For the moment, Loreto schools on Elliot Road and at Entally and Bowbazar are collecting, pooling and ferrying food to the food ATM. Loreto School Dharamtala has also pledged to contribute to the initiative. Students of these schools have been divided into batches. Under the supervision of teacher coordinators, they bring fresh, clean, home-cooked food, packed in containers ready to be distributed to the slum dwellers as they walk in. Every name is recorded in the register maintained at the ATM.

“They sit around the courtyard to eat. We provide fresh drinking water, an egg and a banana each, along with the home-cooked food and do not allow them to carry it away. We make them sit there and eat everything because we know that carrying back the food can lead to wastage,” said director of the center Monica Suchiang, who designed the program.

There’s quite a variety on the menu and no two plates are similar. If Salma Khatoun got a plate of biryani, Baby Singh may have got khichdi and subzi. No one is so selfish that s/he won’t share. In fact, they are happy sharing. On Thursday afternoon, 15-year-old ragpicker Zuber shared his fried rice and chilli chicken with friend and fellow ragpicker Raju who had got puri sabzi along with the egg and banana.

“We eat together and happily share our food. Madams here fill our bellies once a day),” Zuber said in Hindi.

School children who donate the food, bring in whatever is cooked at home. This is why no two children’s food packs are the same. Hence, the variety in the meals served.

“We are happy that every child is eager to help. Each week, one class has to bring in food just once. Every child brings enough to feed one hungry mouth,” explained Nandini Bhattacharya, a teacher at Loreto Elliot Road, who is coordinating for her school. The center’s cafeteria also cooks and serves thalis of rice, daal and subzi for the food ATM.



Shaheen Bagh protesters express solidarity with Kashmiri Pandits on exodus day

Asad Ashraf

January 20, 2020

Aday after a controversy broke out over a tweet by filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri claiming the January 19 event at Delhi's Shaheen Bagh was aimed at celebrating the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits, protesters at the venue have on Sunday called for a meeting in solidarity with Kashmiri Pandits, who were forced to leave the Kashmir valley in 1990 amid rising Islamic Militancy.

This comes after the filmmakers's tweet was countered by the official Twitter handle of the Shaheen Bagh protest on Saturday, wherein the protestors said that the event scheduled on January 19 has no link to the exodus.

To commemorate the exodus, the protesters have invited two prominent Kashmiri Pandits, performance artist Inder Salim and theatre personality MK Raina to speak to the gathering on this occasion.

Talking to India Today, Mk Raina asserted that the decision of Shaheen Bagh protesters to stand by Kashmiri Pandits shows that those agitating at Shaheenbagh are not exclusive in their approach and also understand the pain of others who have undergone similar experiences in the past, be that the Pandits in Kashmir or Sikhs in Punjab.

"Shaheen Bagh is one of the biggest Gandhian Satyagrah post Independence. This kind of sporadic movement is unprecedented in India. This is a movement which will give a new shape to our country. We have been a unique country all the way, and this uniqueness of such huge diversity is threatened by recent turn of events in the country. These protesters are determined to reclaim the idea that was envisioned as India. Their protest is for a democratic and humane India which cannot be undermined by some allegations."

Commenting on Tweets by Vivek Agnihotri, Raina said, "While I do not doubt their intentions but would like to say that people who suffered persecution for being minority can only understand the pain of protesters who are out there to protest in the chilling cold. Unfortunately, I have experienced all this myself. I was in Kashmir at the time of exodus and know what it feels to become stateless. I could see in the eyes of my parents, the desire to go back to their homeland and can very much relate that with the pain of Muslim minorities in India. As far as people like Agnihotri and Anupam Kher are concerned, I would believe that their intention is right but their approach is not."

Inder Salim who will also be speaking at the gathering on Sunday stated the Kashmiris were torn between Indian and Pakistani establishments.

"All clear expressions are inadequate to think of the colossal tragedy that has happened and continues to unfold in Kashmir," he said.

"I have not come across anything as of now about people celebrating the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. I also believe that the killing of unarmed civilians, both Muslims and Pandits during early nineties made exodus a possibility. Too many tragedies occurred to think of only Pandits from those days. However, engineered hate pushed both communities to the edge. Kashmiri people are torn between Indian and Pakistani state," Inder said.

Commenting on the decision of protesters at Shaheenbagh to stand by Kashmiri Pandits on the day of exodus, he said, "Any solidarity with Kashmiri Pandit's is a positive step which actually has been ignored by the Left and the Centre and has provided BJP an axe."

There is also enthusiasm on the ground among protesters who also resonate the sentiments expressed by Inder Salim and MK Raina, whp were also victims of the Exodus.

Jamia Alumna and film maker Saba Rahman who has been actively taking part in the protests for the past one month believes that these kind of solidarity will strengthen the protest.

Full report at:



‘Extraordinary horrors inflicted on Muslims of UP’


Over the past month, there have been protests across India on the CAA/NPR/NRIC process. Universities have been on the frontline, suffering attacks by storm troopers and even more so by, shamefully, uniformed keepers of law and order.

The Jamia Millia Islamia leads the roll of honour, followed by Jawaharlal Nehru University and Aligarh Muslim University. The attacks on these centres of learning have been the focus of attention, even as obfuscation continues to prevent an accounting for the misdeeds of security personnel. Meanwhile, the women of Shaheen Bagh continue to shed light through wintry nights on the aspirations of their fellow citizens across India.

Surprisingly, however, scant attention has been paid to the extraordinary horrors inflicted on the hapless Muslims of Uttar Pradesh. Unable to accept the message demanding equality as citizens from the peaceful protesters sheltering behind the national flag and the Constitution, the saffron-clad chief minister of the state asked for “revenge”. This is perhaps a unique instance, from any corner of the world, of a person responsible for the welfare of those in his charge seeking “revenge” because they would not bow to the majoritarian diktats of his party.

That this message was well understood by his administration, including the police, became clear as a reign of terror was unleashed on the Muslims. The attitude of the Uttar Pradesh police was perhaps best appreciated by the Bengal BJP president, who was happy that they shot protesters like dogs.

Inadequate reportage by the media kept under the radar the chilling details of what was transpiring in the neighbourhood of Delhi until some fact-finding teams visited many of those affected and some who had lost their sons and brothers to police firing.

A “people’s tribunal” was held in Delhi on January 16 to expose the shocking chain of events that swept the capital and western Uttar Pradesh, and which continue to cast their leaden weight on the lives of the people.

As with so much else prevailing in the country as a whole today, where the establishment creates neo-truth, cheered on by fawning acolytes, the fate of the Uttar Pradesh Muslim became a casualty. The jury for the people’s tribunal was made up of former justices of the Supreme Court, a former chief justice of Delhi High Court, eminent academics and retired civil servants.

The jury was “deeply worried and dismayed by the testimonies placed before it. It is convinced that the entire state machinery, led from the top, acted with grave prejudice and perpetrated violence targeting one particular community, the state’s Muslim population, and the social activists leading the movement”.

Having heard the testimonies of field workers, lawyers, human rights defenders, civil society activists, doctors and eyewitnesses and also looked at the videos of victims, the jury found that “the UP police has been guilty of inflicting enormous violence targeting the Muslim community, peaceful protesters, and not even sparing those (who) were not involved in the protest”.

Apart from the violence on the protesters, the police brutality included “the arrest of and filing of false cases against innocent people; the destruction of vehicles and property by entering people’s homes, as well as CCTV cameras; threats to and intimidation of people picked up (for) speaking the truth about what happened; communalised abuses against victims; custody violence even on minors; firing and killing people without following the law; preventing medical personnel from treating the injured and threatening the injured against accessing medical care”.

The testimonies at the tribunal revealed that in keeping with the establishment’s disdain for the truth, the victims’ complaints about police brutality, violence and destruction of property were either not filed or were filed incorrectly. On the other hand, thousands of FIRs were filed against unnamed people on the charge that they had become violent, the intention being to continue harassment and intimidation. The jury found that the issuance of notices to the public for damage allegedly caused to public property, without specifying culpability in a court of law, was entirely illegal.

One of the most chilling revelations to emerge from the tribunal was the repeated charge that hospitals would not admit even seriously injured people as they were apparently concerned about displeasing the government.

As a consequence some died without treatment or while being shifted from one hospital to another. Such conduct on the part of the state or the institution would be a violation of Article 21, Supreme Court rulings and international treaties to which India is a signatory, besides the matter of the Hippocratic oath.

There were allegations that ambulances were not provided when necessary, when the Red Cross is honoured even in war. This despicable conduct by those concerned would likely have put them in front of an international tribunal investigating human rights had Uttar Pradesh been an independent country.

The jury concluded: “The state of affairs in UP shows a complete collapse of rule of law. In fact, the very state administration that is charged with protecting the rule of law is perpetrating violence upon its own people.”

Full report at:



Rising Dalit voices against CAA

17 Jan 2020

People of India are  now coming to see that, if implemented the  Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and  National Register of Citizens (NRC) are going to pose a threat to the future of not just people belonging to the Muslim community, but also the Scheduled Castes / Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes of the country.

To raise awareness about the perils of these fascist policies among all the people fighting for the government to take back the flawed legislation, many leaders fighting for the rights of the marginalized Dalits have come forward to explain why the CAA-NPR-NRC is going to be a nightmare for all minorities and marginalized.

Chandrashekhar Azad, the founder of the Bhim Army that works on the ideals of the Father of the Indian Constitution, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, had written for a publication about the dangers of the CAA NRC to the tribals where he mentioned, “The NRC process will be rigged, mistakes will be introduced in their names and their citizenship will be taken away to deprive them of the reservation benefits.”

Prakash Ambedkar, President of the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi in an interview said, “They don’t have land ownership documents. Tomorrow, if the government asks them to produce identity documents, what will they do? The problem is even more serious vis-à-vis the Scheduled Tribes (STs). Do you know that in 1871, the British Government had promulgated the Criminal Tribes Act? This black law was meant to suppress the Tribals who had fought against the British, to alienate them. The Dalit-bahujans of the country should see through this conspiracy and oppose them.”

Jignesh Mevani told reporters, “The Citizenship Amendment Act is a black law and is against the India Constitution. The idea of India in the preamble of the Constitution is that of a secular, socialist and democratic country.”

Dalit leader Siddharth Parmar, addressed a meet saying that the current fight is between the Indian Constitution, authored by Dr BR Ambedkar, and those who want that the country to live by the codes scripted in the ancient treatise Manusmriti. “The real intention of the government is revive Manusmriti, which codifies inequalities, even as undermining the equality focus of the Constitution.”

The SCs, STs and OBCs have been kept away from education and property ownership and the rampant illiteracy coupled with the lack of awareness about maintaining documents is set to affect the Dalits and Tribal Communities if the CAA and NRC are implemented.

Dalit activists like Pawan Rao Ambedkar, Sushil Gautam and Azad too have been attacked in their fight against the CAA.

Full report at:



Anti-CAA protests: Seized blankets from protest site in legal manner, says Lucknow Police

January 20, 2020

After a group of women protesting against the new citizenship law and proposed NRC in Old Lucknow area alleged that police took away their blankets on Saturday night, police on Sunday said the blankets were seized in a “legal manner” to avoid any law and order problem.

Meanwhile, an FIR has been registered against unidentified people for “violating Section 144 of the CrPC”. Police termed the sit-in illegal, saying no protest was allowed in Ghantaghar as per Allahabad High Court’s order.

A statement issued by Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police (Lucknow) Vikas Chandra Tripathi said that the blankets were removed as some organisations were trying to distribute them as a result of which even those who were not a part of the protest came to take the blankets.

“During the illegal protest at Ghantaghar park (in Old Lucknow), some people were trying to make a temporary barricading with ropes and sticks and were spreading sheets. They were stopped from doing so. Members of some organisations brought blankets and were distributing them. As a result, several people who were not part of the protest came in large numbers to take the blankets. Police then removed those people and the blankets from the spot. The blankets have been seized in a legal manner.”

Lucknow Police also urged people not to spread rumours.

Police Commissioner Sujeet Pandey dismissed the allegations levelled by the protesters.

On Saturday night, the protesters had alleged that the previous day, police tried to force them to leave by pouring water on the bonfires. They further alleged that on Saturday night, they came and snatched their blankets, food items and floor sheets. It was also alleged that police cut the electricity supply at Ghantaghar and locked the nearby public toilet.

On Sunday, the protests at Ghantaghar continued for the third day, with the number of protesters swelling.

Full report at:



50 lakh Muslim infiltrators will be chased out of India if needed: BJP's Dilip Ghosh

January 19, 2020

Raking up another controversy, BJP West Bengal chief Dilip Ghosh on Sunday said that 50 lakh Muslim infiltrators will be identified and "chased out of the country" if needed.

This comes as the Bengal BJP chief was attacking West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee on the issue of appeasement.

He said, "Fifty lakh Muslim infiltrators will be identified, if needed they will be chased out of the country. Firstly their names will be removed from voters' list then Didi [CM Mamata Banerjee] can't appease anyone."

This comes after Dilip Ghosh stoked a controversy a few days ago when he said that people damaging public property should be "shot like dogs".



#WATCH Dilip Ghosh, West Bengal BJP Chief in North 24 Parganas: 50 lakh Muslim infiltrators will be identified, if needed they will be chased out of the country. Firstly their names will be removed from voters' list then Didi (CM Mamata Banerjee) can't appease anyone.

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10:42 PM - Jan 19, 2020

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"Who do they think the public property that they are destroying belongs to? Their father? Public property belongs to the taxpayers. You [Mamata] do not say anything because they are your voters. In Assam and Uttar Pradesh, our government has shot these people like dogs," Dilip Ghosh said.

He said, "The governments of Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Karnataka did the right thing by opening fire on these anti-national elements [during anti-CAA protests]."

Dilip Ghosh, in fact, on Sunday doubled down on his remark and further brazened it out saying that such people "will never be spared".

"Those who vandalise public property in the state should be shot dead. I had said it in a speech and they [opposition] created a lot of ruckus about it. I will repeat the same thing that those who vandalize public property should be shot dead," Ghosh said addressing a public gathering in North 24 Parganas.

"What should be done with these infiltrators who vandalize public property? Should they be given Prasad? Those who vandalized public property will be identified. First, they will be shot and then bombed. Nobody will be spared," Dilip Ghosh said.

Full report at:



30 years in exile, Kashmiri Pandits demand one place for their settlement in Kashmir

Jan 19, 2020

JAMMU: Despite the social media having been deluged by displaced Kashmiri pandits' video clippings vowing to "return and die" in the Valley, the community on Sunday appeared to be plagued by self doubts over the prospects of their return.

They demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should settle the community living as "refugees in their own country" for the past 30 years at one place in the Valley.

In the backdrop of Vidhu Vinod Chopra's film 'Shikara' on exodus of KPs, to be released in February, several Kashmiri pandits have taken to social media to express their love and willingness to return to their homeland in the Valley to "live and die" there.

"Haji Sahib, we will come back. We will live and die in Kashmir. Our ashes will be immersed in river Vitasta in Kashmir," is one such video clipping among many similar ones doing the rounds on social media.

Kashmiri pandits consider 'safety and security' as the biggest hurdle in their return to their roots in the Valley.

The displaced KPs across the world commemorated January 19 as 'holocaust day', when over 70 thousand pandit families numbering over 3.5 lakh were forced out of the Valley due to killings and terror by Pakistan sponsored terrorists in 1990.

The event this year was held against the backdrop of abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and the Citizenship Amendment Act.

"We are hopeful that after the epochal decisions on August 5 and amendments in Citizenship Act, Union government under the visionary leadership of PM Narendra Modi will address the pain and agony suffered by Hindus of Kashmir for last 30 years", Panun Kashmir convener Agnishakher said.

He said while Panun Kashmir bats for separate territory to be carved out in Kashmir for 7 lakh KPs, it is for government to discuss with the community the ways and means of the basis of return and rehabilitation of exiled community in accordance with the principle of non-refoulement.

Sitting in one-room quartet at Jagti camp on the outskirts of Jammu city, 89-year-old Mohan Lal Dhar wants one place settlement for all KPs in Kashmir.

He is hopeful that the government under PM Modi will rehabilitate them in Kashmir again.

Dhar, who is among the seven lakh-odd Kashmiri Pandits who had to flee Kashmir Valley in the wake of spread of terrorism in 1989-90, says they are living as "refugees in their own country" for three decades but “nothing� is being done for their return and rehabilitation, because terrorism is still on.

Somawati, who living Muthi camp after their migration from North Kashmir's Wadipora belt, wants to return to the valley to die there as she urges Modi ji to create condition at one place in valley.

"I want to die there. That is my last wish. Modi ji should settle us at one place in a secured environment. We are hopeful that our dream will be fulfilled", she added.

Spelling there demand, All State Kashmiri Pandit Conference (ASKPC) General Secretary Dr T K Bhat said tmost KPs feel that "one place-settlement" is only alternative for return and rehabilitation of the minuscule community in Kashmir after ensuring their safety and security.

"Our core concern is safety and security for the community in Kashmir Valley," Bhat said.

Stressing on the security aspect, Bhat said, "You can guard our houses, colonies...but it is not possible to provide security to each and every Kashmiri Pandit when they go out in the market. Security is the most important aspect connected to the return of the community."

The UPA-1 government had offered a rehabilitation package for KPs that proposed Rs 7.5 lakh to every Kashmiri Pandit family willing to return to the Valley.

Several families volunteered to return and filled up the forms. Eight years after that, there has been no progress," said Poshker Nath, who has been living Roopnagar in Jammu.

The Ministry of Home Affairs had in a written reply in Parliament said that only one family has returned.

Prof B L Zutshi, a prominent social activist said, "one place homeland is the political empowerment of the community, and we look forward to this political empowerment.â€?Â

He said, “right since 1947, Kashmir was gradually moving into grip of fanaticism and theo-fascism and 1990 saw the culmination of a well orchestrated ploy to dislodge Kashmir Pandits – the epitome of Indian Nationhood in Kashmir.

Bihari Kak, a popular artist and member of Athwas Cultural Association also feels that the security of the community is prime and first thing for return to the valley.

The KPs say their return to the Kashmir Valley is linked to employment, as the youths willing to return need to have a source of livelihood.

Full report at:



550 Delhi Sikh pilgrims to visit Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Pakistan on Baisakhi

Jan 19, 2020

JALANDHAR: 555 Sikh devotees from New Delhi will go to Pakistan via Attari border on April 11 to celebrate Baisakhi at Gurdwara Panja Sahib, Hasan Abdal.

“Sikh devotees will leave from New Delhi on 11th April and will return on April 21, 2020. We have already asked Sikhs devotees interested in the pilgrimage to the Sikh shrines in Pakistan to deposit their passports with DSGMC by Feb 15, 2020,” said Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee president Manjinder Singh Sirsa.

He said that both Sikhs and Sahajdhari Sikhs living in the national capital, having valid identity proof like Aadhar card, Pan Card etc and having Indian passport with at least one-year validity could deposit their duly filled application in DSGMC office on any working day in working hours at the yatra counter in DSGMC office Gurdwara Rakab Ganj by Feb 15.

“Sikh devotees will cross Attari Border on April 12 and will reach holy shrine Panja Sahib through special train on the same day. They will celebrate Baisakhi at Gurdwara Panja Sahib on April 13 and April 14 following which they would leave for Nanakana Sahib through special train on April 15 and will pay obeisance at Gurdwara Nankana Sahib, Gurdwara Sacha Sauda, Gurdwara Dera Sahib (Lahore), Gurdwara Rori Sahib (Aminabad) and Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib (Narowal), Janamsthan Guru Ram Dass Ji, Shahi Kila, Samadhi of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and other Local Sikh Pilgrims /heritage sites before returning from Lahore to Amritsar on April 21,” said Sirsa.

Full report at:



Kashmiri Pandits observe 'holocaust day', seek early return and rehabilitation in Valley

Jan 19, 2020

JAMMU: The 21-year-old Ritik Jotshi was among a group of Kashmiri Pandits who have joined a peaceful sit in outside Raj Bhavan here on Sunday to mark the completion of their 30 years in exile. The protest was part of the 'holocaust day' which is being observed by the displaced community who were forced to flee from Kashmir to Jammu and other states in the early 90s soon after the outbreak of militancy.

Chanting high pitch slogans in support of the demand for their return and rehabilitation in the valley, Jotshi whose family migrated from their ancestral Brahman Mohalla village in Anantnag district of south Kashmir is hopeful of making it back to his village with dignity.

"This is for the first time that I am joining the protest here. We want the government to come out with a roadmap for our return and rehabilitation in the valley without further delay," he told .

Jotshi said he had visited his ancestral village for a few days after his birth in Jammu but "the desire in my heart to live in my land remains alive."

"The government needs to look into the plight of Kashmiri Pandits on humanitarian grounds and ensure our return and rehabilitation," he said.

Joining him in highlighting the demand, Akash Pandit of Shopian and Amit Koul of Ashmuqam, who were also in their 20s, said the community wants justice as successive governments have only made promises and done nothing concrete to ensure their return to the land of their ancestors.

Sunandan Handoo, another youth, however, demanded a probe commission to look into the atrocities on the community leading to their exodus and strict punishment to those responsible.

The protest was organised by All State Kashmiri Pandit Conference (ASKPC), whose delegation led by its president Ravinder Raina later submitted a memorandum to the Lt Governor G C Murmu, highlighting various demands with special thrust for return and rehabilitation in their homeland.

Apart from the ASKPC, several other pandit organisations including the All Party Migrant Coordination Committee (APMCC), Panun Kashmir, All India Pandit Conference (AIPC) and All Displaced KP United Forum organised separate functions to commemorate the 'holocaust day'.

The day also marked a campaign #HumWapasAayenge on social media by the community, pledging to return home after 30 years of exile.

"We request Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Lt Governor to address all our issues related to social, economic and political rights. There is also a need to set a time frame for our return and rehabilitation in the valley," APMCC chairman Vinod Pandita said.

Raina said the community has entered into 31st year of exile and living as refugees in their own country. KPs have been "cheated by hollow promises" of return and rehabilitation by all successive governments.

"Government after taking into confidence the community leaders, should come out with a blueprint for resettlement of community at one place in Kashmir with political empowerment and economic rehabilitation, till then community be declared as internally displaced," he said.

Convenor of Panun Kashmir, Agnishekhar said this year the 'holocaust day was observed in the backdrop of historical and epochal decisions taken by the Union government with regards to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and amendment in Citizenship Act which have reestablished the faith of entire exiled Hindus of Kashmir.

"The pain and agony of forced displacement has left indelible marks on the psyche of Hindus of Kashmir and last 30 years have added to our festering wounds," he said.

Full report at:



Gandhi wanted to spend 15 August, 1947 in Pakistan: Book

Jan 19, 2020

NEW DELHI: Mahatma Gandhi wanted to spend August 15, 1947, the first day of freedom, in breakaway Pakistan rather than in India, says a new book by former Union minister M J Akbar.

This was, however, neither tokenism nor a gesture of support for a country carved out of multifaith India in the name of one religion, Islam, the author writes in "Gandhi's Hinduism: The Struggle Against Jinnah's Islam".

"It was a promise of defiance. Gandhi simply did not believe in the partition of India, and the creation of new, 'unnatural' borders by an arbitrary scalpel in a fit of what he described as momentary madness," he says.

The book analyses both the ideology and the personality of those who shaped the fate of the region, and spells out the blunders, lapses and conscious chicanery that permeated the politics of seven explosive years between 1940 and 1947.

Gandhi, a devout Hindu, believed faith could nurture the civilisational harmony of India, a land where every religion had flourished, it says.

On the other hand, Jinnah was a political Muslim rather than a practicing believer and was determined to carve up a syncretic subcontinent in the name of Islam.

His confidence came from a wartime deal with Britain, embodied in the 'August Offer' of 1940. Gandhi's strength lay in ideological commitment which was, in the end, ravaged by the communal violence that engineered partition.

The price of this epic confrontation, paid by the people, has stretched into generations, the book says.

According to the author, Gandhi's immediate concern after independence was the fate of partition's principal victims, the minorities: Hindus in Pakistan and Muslims in India.

"He wanted to be in Noakhali, East Pakistan, where Hindus had suffered bitterly in the 1946 riots and prevent any recurrence. Gandhi was still struggling to build hope from the incendiary debris of communal violence," he writes in the book, published by Bloomsbury India.

The book says that on May 31, 1947, Gandhi told Pathan leader Abdul Ghaffar Khan, known as 'Frontier Gandhi', that he wanted to visit the North West Frontier and live in Pakistan after independence.

"... I don't believe in these divisions of the country. I am not going to ask anybody's permission. If they kill me for their defiance, I shall embrace death with a smiling face. That is, if Pakistan comes into existence, I intend to go there, tour it, live there and see what they do to me," the book quotes him as telling.

Akbar says Gandhi remained consistent through the long and turbulent roller-coaster ride of high-voltage events.

"For more than 50 years, he sang, literally, from the same hymn sheet. Religion, said his hymn, was a catechism of love, tolerance and unity. Whether in South Africa or India, for over half of a century till the end of his public career in 1948, he explained why he was proud to be a Hindu," he writes.

Gandhi's personal and political life, writes Akbar, were fused by a humanism which believed that the unity of India lay in acceptance of religious and cultural diversity, and its geography was a natural evolution of shared space between Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis or indeed any community that had made this vast subcontinent its home.

Full report at:



Bihar: ‘Not about religion, protest against bid to create rift’

by Santosh Singh

January 20, 2020

It is 10.30 pm. Subzibagh in Patna is abuzz. Traffic moves unhindered on one half of the road. The other half has about 70 rows of plastic chairs facing a stage. On the stage are teenagers chanting the Azadi slogan on a microphone.

Residents of Subzibagh and nearby areas have been peacefully protesting against CAA, NRP and NRC since January 11. It is a round-the-clock protest that is being attended by people of all age. Protesters include businessmen, students, housewives and the elderly.

“We have not created any forum. It is a spontaneous protest that is gaining momentum. It has support from all communities,” says Sameer, a post-graduate student. Another organiser says, “We are not letting traffic be disrupted. This protest is not about religion. It is against the government’s attempt to tamper with the Constitution and create a rift among Hindus and Muslims.”

Sakeena, a middle-aged woman at the protest, says, “Some of us come after we complete domestic chores and eat dinner.”

Afzal, one of the organisers, points at some youths and says they have come from as far as Begusarai. “The response is overwhelming and it is growing each day. The best part is the growing presence of women. The Shaheen Bagh protest has inspired us.”

Afzal says no political party is associated with the protest even though Jan Adhikar Party leader Pappu Yadav and Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) spokesperson Danish Rizwan have expressed solidarity with them. Local residents say they are meeting expenses by pooling in money.

At Gaya’s Shantibagh, the protest against CAA, NRC and NPR has entered three weeks. It is being organised by Samvidhan Bachao Morcha, a front formed by local residents. Morcha convenor Ummai Khan says the protest is being attended by women from all communities in large numbers. “Students’ involvement is laudable. We are getting support from like-minded people from all quarters.”

Full report at:



Hyderabad: Not radicals, we follow the Constitution, claims PFI

Jan 20, 2020

Hyderabad: In response to an article published in these pages on January 18, 2020, about the Popular Front of India (PFI), titled, ‘PFI story an epitome of self-radicalization’, Mr M. Mohammed Ali Jinnah, general secretary, PFI, in a rejoinder, in which without factual refutation but repetitive rhetorical refutations, claims instead that “the author makes very serious accusation in a casual manner without bothering to substantiate the same”.

The rejoinder further claims, “for instance, when the author accuses that PFI members ‘indulge in a series of heinous offences ranging from political murders, hate campaigns, alleged forced conversions, and possession of arms to murderous attacks, among others’, the report doesn’t cite a single example”.

“We challenge (you) to come up with a single instance of Popular Front members indulging in hate campaign or forced conversion. Not a single leader speaking on behalf of PFI has ever made a single derogatory statement against other religions communities. Hate speech and provocations have never been a style of the organisation,” the press release said.

“The National Investigation Agency, the top anti-terror investigation agency in the country after yearlong investigation of 89 cases of mixed marriages in Kerala, could not come up with a single case of love Jihad or forced conversation.  The agency finally submitted its report to the Supreme Court, denying the existence of love jihad,” the release argues.

“The article has no basis in truth. Pointing to some local incidents of political clashes and the NIA rejected ‘love jihad theory’, the report quotes anonymous PFI watchers to claim that ‘most of its members are self-radicalised’ and this is the sole reason why one finds them fearlessly indulging in a series of serious offences over the last many years. Each and every activity of PFI is in accordance with the Constitution of India. Issues and problems taken up by the organisation are in the interest of empowering democracy and ensuring inclusiveness. It works for an India of equal rights for all,” the PFI statement claimed.

The use of abstract and highly subjective allegations such as “self –radicalisation”, which the author himself doesn’t bother to explain, only demonises and tarnishes the exercise of the freedom guaranteed by the Constitution for association and for democratic activism. To accuse the members of an organisation with tens of thousands of members and millions of supporters across the country of being ‘self radicalised’ without any basis is not an honest way of doing journalism, it claimed

Full report at:



BJP leader hands out pamphlets in Muslim areas to debunk CAA myths

Jan 19, 2020

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) general secretary (organisation) Sunil Bansal on Sunday distributed pamphlets in Muslim-dominated localities to invite people to party chief Amit Shah’s January 21 rally in the state capital to debunk myths on the citizenship law.

The BJP chief’s rally is among the six that the party has planned by its top leaders in UP on the issue.

Bansal’s move to visit Muslim localities comes amid the ongoing protests at Lucknow’s Clock Tower by Muslim women and children against the citizenship law as well as the National Register of Citizens.

During his mass contact, Bansal was seen visiting shopkeepers too along with houses, which included many Muslim households.

“They visited us with pamphlets and invited us for January 21 rally. They urged us to study the points on citizenship law and said Indians, whether Muslims or otherwise, have nothing to fear. These words are reassuring and we hope that the government lives up to its commitment of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas and sabka vishwas’,” said Mohd Yaqub who was among those whom Bansal met during his mass contact.

The BJP alleged that the ‘sit-in’ by Muslim women in Lucknow against CAA was aimed at discrediting the state government and sponsored by Congress and SP.

“The protests are sponsored mainly to discredit the government. After the violent protests by those who were instigated or backed by Congress or SP, the Yogi Adityanath government has acted strongly against them. Those behind the act have been identified and the government is now attaching their properties. This has infuriated the SP and the Congress,” said UP BJP spokesman Chandramohan.

“A majority of minorities understand that the propaganda against the Citizenship Law is sponsored by a dispirited opposition. Rallies by our top leaders would expose the opposition completely,” Chandramohan said.

To drum up support further Bharatiya Janata Party’s youth wing (BJYM) UP chief Subhash Yaduvansh also launched a hashtag #UPBJYMSUPPORTSCAA which was among top three trends on twitter.

“Citizenship law is to ensure protection of human rights of persecuted minorities in three countries and isn’t against any Indian citizen. The opposition parties like Samajwadi Party are out to target us for their narrow political gains and for which they are tweaking the citizenship narrative,” Yaduvansh said.

Full report at:



Muslim would be asked documents to prove their nationality: Shashi Tharoor

Jan 19, 2020

KOZHIKODE (KERALA): Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said here that the ongoing protests in the country over the citizenship law could be defused if Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister assure that they would "drop the idea of the National Register of Citizens" and will no longer go to every door asking for documentary proof of "where your father and mother were born."

Speaking at the Kerala Literature Festival, Tharoor also said that during the National Population Register (NPR) enumeration, Muslims would be asked to produce documents to prove their nationality.

"Home Minister has explicitly tied CAA with NRC. CAA says if you can prove you are from these countries (Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan) we will fast track your citizenship," said Tharoor.

"Every Indian would be asked for documentation and 65 per cent Indians don't have birth certificates. If people of these faiths (Hindus, Sikh, Parsi, Christian and Buddhist) don't have a birth certificate they would be allowed for something else whereas Muslim without documentation would be asked "how can we believe that you are not from Pakistan," he said.

"They would be asked to prove that they are born here," he said.

The MP from Thiruvananthapuram said: "The protest that has intensified can be diffused if Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah say we are dropping NRC and we would not ask NPR enumerators to go to every door asking for where their father and mother were born."

"They must assure that they will no longer give power to officials to write 'dubious citizenship' against your names," said Tharoor.

"But they (PM Narendra Modi & Home Minister Amit Shah) are not prepared to give all those assurances and it says about their intent. Their intention is very much to identify people living in India," he added.

Full report at:



Pragya Thakur claims ISIS behind sending poisonous chemical, threat letter to her

Jan 19, 2020

BHOPAL: BJP Lok Sabha member from Bhopal, Pragya Singh Thakur on Sunday claimed that ISIS was behind the `threat letter' and `harmful chemical power' dispatched in an anonymous envelop at her residence. Pragya said now it's up to the Congress ruled government in Madhya Pradesh to provide her security.

"I have also information that ISIS is related to the threat letter and harmful chemical powder sent to me. Those who live in India and send explosive material to Sanyasis and patriots could never be a nationalist. He would be only a terrorist," Pragya told reporters in Bhind.

Pragya had on January 13, complained to the Bhopal police that she received a threat letter in Urdu that contained a mysterious white powder and crossed out pictures of her, PM Narendra Modi, home minister Amit Shah and NSA Pankaj Doval. The MP anti-terror squad traced the threat letter to a clinic in Dhanegaon in Nanded district of Maharashtra, and arrested a 35-year-old doctor Sayyed Abdul Rehman Khan (35), for sending these suspicious envelopes to the MP.

The BJP leader who reached her home tome to condole the demise of RSS Pracharak, Apaarbal Singh Kushwaha also hit out at the Congress government for supporting anti-nationals.

"The entire matter is being probed by the police and a person involved has also been detained. The police are also aware of the threat letter and chemical but the Congress leaders have termed it a lie and a drama. In fact, Congress always supports terrorists. They (Congress leaders) are used to do this," said Pragya.

She said that police investigation in the matter was underway and the truth will come out. Some more information on this case has been revealed, said Pragya. On a question whether she would ask the state government to step up her security, Pragya said, "It’s up to the state government whether they should increase the security or not."

Meanwhile, former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has also demanded extensive investigation into threat letter to Pragya. "I demand to the state government that the entire matter should be investigated seriously at a high level and the main conspirator behind this be exposed," stated Chouhan.

Full report at:



Varanasi: UP ATS arrests man for passing sensitive information to ISI

January 20, 2020

A 23-year-old man was on Sunday arrested in Varanasi for allegedly passing on sensitive information to Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agents in Pakistan. The man was held during a joint operation by the Uttar Pradesh anti-terrorism squad and military intelligence sleuths.

According to PTI, police also seized a mobile phone from Rashid Ahmad, which he used for sending photographs and video clips of vital Army installations and CRPF camps to the ISI agents across the border.

Full report at:



South Asia


Parents Picket Bangladesh School over Decision to Drop 'Islamic' Dress Code

JANUARY 16, 2020

Dhaka: Hundreds of parents picketed a top Bangladesh school and blocked a major road in the capital to protest against a decision to make Islamic dress optional for students.

Some 200-300 parents held hands and blocked a road in front of an Ideal School and College campus in Dhaka's Banasree neighbourhood on Wednesday, said local police chief Abdul Kuddus.

Ideal is one of the country's best private school chains, with branches in several middle-class neighbourhoods. Its students regularly top nationwide exam tables.

Parents said the school this year dropped a requirement for boys to wear Islamic skull caps and for girls to wear an "orna", a loose scarf-like shawl that covers the chest.

"It has been a tradition of this school since 1973 and we don't have any problem with it," said Tofazzal Hossain, a parent. "Why did the authorities suddenly take such an anti-Islamic decision without discussing it with us?"

College principal Shahan Ara Begum said neither item of clothing had been banned, but rather made optional. She said also that Muslim traditions should not be forced on pupils belonging to other faiths.

Although overwhelmingly Muslim, Bangladesh is officially secular.

Thousands of people took to social media to criticise the school's new dress code.

"How would the female students go in front of their male teachers without the orna?" Facebook user Shipon Ahmed wrote.



Increasing the spread of religious extremism and the rise of Salafism in Afghanistan

20 Jan 2020

Those who cross Shah Dushamshira Street (The street of downtown Kabul now called “Farkhonda“) will never be able to not remember “Farkhonda” once. Farkhonda was a young girl killed in the most outrageous manner by a number of angry and religious people on March 1, 2009.

A group of unwise men, provoked by the Mullah of Shah Do Shamshira’s, (the shrine of Liath ibn Qais bin Abbas, an Arab religious figure in Afghanistan), rebelled against Farkhonda on the charge of burning the Koran and killed her under a fist and throwing the stones. They then drove the car on her dead body and finally burned her body near the Kabul River.

After the grievous murder incident, Farkhonda was found to have no guilt and even she was a religiously educated girl, she became a symbol of the victims of ruthlessly violent religious extremism. In the area where she was killed, a memorial minaret is built and is commemorated on March 5 each year. But the assassination of Farkhonda once again heightened the chaos of the rise of extremism in the social layers. Many also warned of intensifying religious extremism in Afghanistan in those days.

But nothing more than a few media articles and a few reports came out. Now, more than five years after her death, fears have been raised about the unnecessary growth of extremism in Afghanistan. This time too, a Salafist-Quietist mullah’s reaction in western Afghanistan on the type of hijab of women has led to the rise of extremism in social and media circles in Afghanistan.

Not long ago, an Afghan religious clerk warns to punish women who disregard Islamic Hijab. Mullah Mujib Rahman Ansari, a Salafist mullah in Herat city, what he considered as ” Increasing of prostitution” in Herat, He responded by saying that if he saw in his area north of the city of Herat a boy and a girl circling outside the framework of blood-relations and customs, he would be imposed Hudud (religion punishments of Islamic law (shariah) on them. He named the walking of girls and boys “adultery” and called on his supporters to execute “Islamic law” on anyone who saw them in the city.

Subsequently, Mawlawi Hanif, the parliament member, also said in a statement that 100 percent of those leaving their homes on Friday were in violation of public morality. Of course, he later apologized for what he said and described the result as a border of rage. The same remarks and statements reflect his attitude toward those who view Friday as a hike and to be a walk. Subsequently, supporters of Mullah Mujib Rahman Ansari mounted billboards in Herat city that read, “Women without hijab have husbands without zeal”.

The uproar that ensued showed that concern for the rise of extremism in society was slowly becoming a nightmare.

How does moderate Islam become radical Islam?

Throughout post-Islamic history, the people of Afghanistan have been associated with a kind of traditional balanced Islam that derives from the influence of custom and social traditions on society.

The structure of society in Afghanistan is the result of the integration of religion and social traditions. The Afghan nation is made up of various tribes and groups, and the status of the “tribe” and its affiliations is still strong in the social structure. Tribal customs and traditions have also largely overshadowed people’s religious beliefs. On the other hand, the majority of people in Afghanistan follow Hanafi Islam, and everyone knows that Imam Abu Hanifa was one of the most balanced and moderate jurisprudentialists.

For this reason, until the 1980s, views such as Wahhabism of Saudi Arabia and the Salafism of India and Pakistan had little effect on the religious culture of the people in Afghanistan. When King Mohammad Zahir Shah made the veil optional and a number of women discovered the veil, religious scholars did not stand up to it, and for years the veil was accepted as an optional tradition in Afghanistan.

Following the May 7 coup of leftist officers in Afghanistan and the coming of the former Soviet-backed regime, religious “jihad” as a rally ignited the flames of war in Afghanistan. In addition to US support for the Mujahidin’s battles against the government and the former Soviet forces, the Arabs and Pakistanis have not only provided much mujahideen aid to the jihadists in Afghanistan but have also been in the barricades themselves. With the presence of Arabs, attitudes of Wahhabism and Salafism in Afghanistan have also become widespread.

A large number of Afghans in Pakistan’s religious madrasas where Salafism was taught increased their influence in Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia also brought a number of Afghan mullahs to Saudi Arabia to speak out against the influence of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Afghanistan, where it provided them with the opportunity to teach Salafism. Returning to the country, these mullahs became fierce Salafist propagandists in Afghanistan, and their influence and attitudes have now reached such a level that the Hanafi religion in Afghanistan is stepping back.

“The concern is that the government is not taking any action. Governments have been unable to respond to the rapid growth of extremism over the past eighteen years because of continued clashes with the Taliban and military opposition, fearing the opening of a new front in the cities. The fear continues, even though it is well-known that Salafist followers in Afghanistan make it possible for the Taliban to recruit.”, Written by Nasima Bari, an afghan human rights activist in southern Afghanistan, who recently published the book ‘the monster’s shadow’ in Pashto language which explains how the religious and social extremism threat afghan society and women rights.

Salafist movements, such as Hizb ut-Tahrir and the Jamiat-E Eslah, while opposing Taliban methods, are generally the same, and these movements, consciously or unconsciously, pave the way for Taliban recruitment in Afghanistan. These movements, far more dangerous than the Taliban, have targeted academic and educational institutions.

Full report at:



Popular Afghan actor Saleem Shaheen jailed for ‘cybercrime’ conviction

20 Jan 2020

According to reports, Saleem Shaheen was detained 3 months ago from Kabul airport when he was going to attend a festival in India.

A first trial approved a 3-year jail period for Saleem Shaheen convicted of blackmailing a girl in Kabul whose video footage was with him. He was asking the girl to pay her a certain amount of money.

The second trial court has reduced his jail period to 2 years.

Jamshid Rasuli, a spokesperson for the General Attorney Office (GAO) told RFA that Saleem Shaheen had filmed a girl several months ago to use the footage in his future movie, but later the girl complained that Shaheen was blackmailing her to publicize the film if she denies paying.

“According to Afghanistan’s criminal code, the allegation falls under cybercrime’, Rasuli said.

Sahra Karimi, head of the Afghan Film Authority, speaking to Khaama Press condemned the act by Salim Shaheen and praised the timely proceedings of the judiciary bodies.

“This should be a lesson to other men directors and producers on how to behave with their female colleagues”, Sahra said.

But Saleem Shaheen said he has filmed and produced a clip from the birthday party of the girl against AFN 200K, but later the girl denied to pay him the amount.

“Its a plot by my rivals”, Shaheen said.

Saleem Shaheen has produced over 110 movies reflecting Afghanistan’s social issues and has gained the name ‘Sultan-e-cinema’ in Afghanistan.

Full report at:



Wells visit to Pakistan ahead of Afghan Peace Deal

20 Jan 2020

Before heading Islamabad, Wells visited New Delhi, where she held talks with senior Indian officials on a range of issues that concerns India on different fronts.

The focus of the top US diplomat’s visit will be on the imminent peace deal between the Afghan Taliban and the US. Over the last couple of weeks, the Taliban have indicated that they will reduce the level of violence, which has led to the signing of a potential peace deal.

The potential peace deal sparks a green light for the Afghan government and civilian people who have lost their dear and near ones over the past decades of war. On the other hand, the Afghan government is not entirely optimistic about the Taliban’s commitment to the reduction of the level of violence.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi is in Washington, engaging with senior Trump administration officials as well as US Congressmen over the peace deal with the Taliban.

Full report at:



Afghan government official’s family members brutally killed in Kabul

20 Jan 2020

According to Nasrat Rahimi a spokesperson at the Ministry of Interior Affairs, an unknown man has entered into the house of a government employee on Sunday evening and has brutally killed 4 members of his family with an ax.

“Abdul Sattar works at the Ministry of Transport whose wife and 3 children have been murdered”, Rahimi said.

Police have started investigations, Rahimi added.

The incident has occurred at the Jangalag area of Chehlsutoon, in district 7 of Kabul city.

No individual or group has so far claimed the responsibility for this murder.

Full report at:



Taliban kill 6 members of same Afghan family

January 19, 2020

KABUL: Afghan officials said Sunday that the Taliban executed six members of the same family, including an infant girl, in a remote village in the country’s north.

The Taliban denied any involvement, saying the attack Saturday was triggered by a personal dispute.

However, local Afghan officials said the family was accused by the Taliban of working in prostitution. The insurgents sentenced them to death for immoral acts, then stormed the house and opened fire, according to Jawed Bedar, a spokesman for Faryab province’s governor.

The infant girl’s mother and twin sister survived, but both of the child’s legs had to be amputated, the spokesman said.

He said Afghan security forces deployed to the village early Sunday and helped evacuate the two survivors to the hospital.

He said the Taliban attacked the government troops when they arrived. The ensuing gunbattle killed three Taliban members, who Bedar said were involved in the family’s killing.

The Taliban control the village in Andkhoy district where the killings took place, making it difficult to accurately determine what happened, he added.

The Taliban now control or hold sway over roughly half of Afghanistan.

Locals in the area also disputed the accounts of prostitution. Instead, they claimed that a member of the slain family was a former Taliban militant who recently joined the peace process, according to Andkhoy district chief Sultan Mohammad Sanjer.

It was not immediately possible to reconcile the conflicting accounts.

The Taliban continue to stage near-daily attacks targeting Afghan and US forces, even as they hold peace talks with the US and have given the US envoy a document outlining their offer for a temporary cease-fire in Afghanistan.

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


Malaysia’s Islamic schools need help

Sheith Khidhir

20 January 2020

Last week, Malaysian media reported that the country’s finance minister, Lim Guan Eng had handed over an allocation of RM100 million (US$24,646,124) to the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Mujahid Yusof Rawa for the purpose of upgrading and maintaining registered Islamic schools.

The allocation is divided into RM50 million (US$12,323,062) for religious Muslim schools (tahfiz schools), RM25 million (US$6,161,801) for public and private Islamic schools and RM25 million (US$6,161,801) for registered hut schools (sekolah pondok). Hut schools don't charge a fee and are run by volunteer teachers.

“The RM100 million (US$24,646,124) allocation reflects the Federal Government’s ongoing commitment to ensure that students enjoy a safe learning and comfortable environment in tahfiz schools, public and private religious schools and pondok schools,” Lim said in a statement.

The keyword in Lim’s statement is, of course, “safe” learning.

Malaysia’s Islamic schools are infamous for their lack of safety, especially when speaking of tahfiz schools and sekolah pondok. There have been numerous incidents of accidental fires and other mishaps which have resulted in the tragic loss of life.

The most recent of these cases is the infamous Tahfiz Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah fire. The fire that broke out at the tahfiz school at Datuk Keramat, Kuala Lumpur in September, 2017 resulted in the deaths of 21 students and two teachers. Sadly, this is just one of many cases.

The fact of the matter is that it isn’t just fires which have been plaguing these schools. There are also issues such as the case of 11-year-old tahfiz student, Mohamad Thaqif Amin Mohd Gaddafi, who died after alleged abuse at the hands of his school’s assistant warden in Kota Tinggi, a town in the southern state of Johor in Malaysia. The death was reported in April, 2017.

More recently, in September 2019, a tahfiz school in Kuching, the capital of Sarawak - a state in East Malaysia - received heavy criticism on social media regarding a purported parental consent form listing “absurd” forms of punishment for pupils enrolled there. The consent form asked parents to agree to the tahfiz school taking disciplinary action which included 60 strokes of the cane, shaving students’ heads bald, pouring excrement over the students, and standing under the searing midday sun after Zohor (12.42 pm) till Asar (3.56 pm). Zohor and Asar are two out of Islam’s five obligatory daily prayer times.

The form also allegedly noted that those who refused to continue their religious studies would not be given school leaving certificates. Parents were also required to send their children to the school even if they (the children) refused to continue with their religious studies.

In hopes of addressing these types of issues, several non-government organisations (NGOs), civil societies, and human rights advocates have called for Islamic religious schools to be brought under the purview of the country’s education ministry and that it be made compulsory for these schools to be registered under them.

In June 2017, Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) head, Noor Azimah Rahim was quoted by local media in Malaysia as saying that ideally, anything related to education should be placed under the education ministry.

“The ministry must be able to play some kind of supervisory role and monitor the types of education available in the country. I’m not saying the ministry should impose anything in terms of the schools’ curriculum or even teaching, but it must play a ‘big brother’ role, such as the central bank’s supervision of banks,” she said.

Islamic religious schools are an important symbol of Islamic presence in Malaysia and their prosperity, in turn, represents the prosperity of the religion. The safety of these schools should be made a priority and many observers believe that these schools should be placed under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education. Sadly, this has yet to take place.

The Malaysian government’s allocation for the safety of Islamic schools is indeed welcomed but unless a more permanent solution is found, throwing money at the problem will not make it go away. It is hoped that the Malaysian government will consider the calls of NGOs, civil societies and activists to remedy the situation.



Pope’s possible visit to Indonesia, East Timor and PNG

January 20, 2020

A visit from Pope Francis to Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and East Timor may happen in September, according to an Indonesian Muslim leader who met with the Pope this week.

Sheikh Yahya Cholil Staquf leads the 50 million member Nahdlatul Ulama movement, which calls for a reformed ‘humanitarian Islam’ and has developed a theological framework for Islam that rejects the concepts of caliphate, Sharia law, and ‘kafir’ (infidels).

Staquf met with the Pope this week, while in Rome for a meeting of the Abrahamic Faiths Initiative, which gathers Christians, Muslim and Jewish leaders to discuss the promotion of peace and fraternity. US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback attended the meetings.

Pope Francis met with the group on 15 January. After that meeting, Staquf told CNA that the Pope said he plans to visit Indonesia, East Timor, and New Guinea in September.

The Vatican has not yet confirmed such a trip. Indonesia is home to the largest population of Muslims in the world. The country’s 229 million Muslims make up more than 12 percent of the global Muslim population. Nearly all of Indonesia’s Muslims are Sunni.

There are 24 million Christians living in Indonesia, 7 million of them are Catholic. Pope St Paul VI visited the country in 1970, and Pope St John Paul II traveled there in 1989. East Timor is a small country on the island of Timor. It gained independence from Indonesia in 1999, following decades of bloody conflict as the region vied for national sovereignty.

The country’s second president, Jose Manuel Ramos-Horta, shared the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize with East Timorese Bishop Ximenes Bolo, for their efforts to reach a peaceful and just end to fighting in the country. Bishop Belo is now a missionary in Mozambique.

More than 1 million people live in East Timor; more than 98 percent of them are Catholic. It is one of few majority Catholic countries in Southeast Asia. Pope St John Paul II visited East Timor in 1989.

Papua New Guinea is a country of nearly nine million people on the eastern half of the island of New Guinea. The other side of island consists of two Indonesian provinces. Papua New Guinea is a nation of considerable cultural diversity, comprised of small traditional communities of various groups, some of which remain uncontacted by Westerners.

Full report at:



5 Indonesians kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf militants: Philippine military

January 19, 2020

MANILA: The Philippine military on Sunday said it has launched search and rescue operations for five Indonesian fishermen kidnapped by militants belonging to the Daesh-linked Abu Sayyaf group in Malaysian waters last week.

Eight Indonesians were abducted in Sabah on Thursday. Three were released, while the remaining five were probably brought by their captors to the southern Philippine province of Sulu, said Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, chief of the military’s Western Mindanao Command.

Sulu is Abu Sayyaf’s stronghold.

Sobejana disclosed the abduction a day after soldiers clashed with Abu Sayyaf members in Sulare island in Parang town, in Sulu, killing one militant and destroying a speed boat believed to have been used in the kidnapping.

Sobejana said Malaysian authorities had immediately coordinated with the Philippine military after the abduction.

Indonesia’s foreign ministry said it also has coordinated with the Philippine government and was still waiting for official information about the incident.

The speed boat was positively identified by the three Indonesian fishermen who have been freed as the one used in the abduction staged by six militants, Sobejana said.

“The likelihood they are in Sulare island or Parang, Sulu is very high,” he said.

Full report at:



Arab World


Hariri urges new government formation to 'calm popular storm' in Lebanon

19 January 2020

Lebanon’s Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri has urged politicians to urgently form a new government and “stop wasting time” to find solutions for the Lebanese economic crisis in order to “calm the popular storm.”

“We feared for Beirut yesterday, but as usual, it has stitched the wounds of its sons from the ranks of the security forces and protesters and removed from its face the remains of anger, rioting and the smoke of blazes,” Hariri wrote on his official Twitter page on Sunday, after a night of violent clashes between security forces and protesters.

“We plead to God for the recovery and safety of all those wounded and for sparing our country the threat of descending into strife,” Hariri added.

“There is a way to calm the popular storm. There is a way to calm the popular storm. Stop wasting time, form a government and open the door to political and economic solutions.

“To keep the army, security forces and protesters in a state of confrontation is to circle inside the problem,” the caretaker Lebanese prime minister pointed out.

On Saturday evening, almost 400 people were wounded during running skirmishes between Lebanese anti-government protesters and security forces in Beirut.

According to a toll compiled by AFP from figures provided by the Red Cross and Civil Defence, at least 377 people – both protesters and members of the security forces – sustained injuries in the mayhem.

Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab has vowed to form a government made up of “independent specialists,” who do not belong to political parties.

Nabih Berri, who serves as both the parliament speaker and leader of the Amal movement, as well as Hezbollah officials have called for the formation of a techno-political government, which embraces and represents all parties.

Lebanon has been facing a very tough economic situation because of the failing policies of successive governments, which have led to the impoverishment of the people.

Growth in Lebanon has plummeted in the wake of endless political deadlocks and an economic crisis in recent years.

The country hosts 1.5 million Syrian refugees, and their presence is often blamed for putting pressure on the already struggling economy.

Unemployment stands at more than 20 percent, according to official figures.

The Lebanese Finance Ministry says the national debt is hovering around $85 billion, which accounts for more than 150 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Successive governments have also failed to address a waste management crisis or improve the electricity grid, which is plagued by daily power cuts.

On October 29, Hariri submitted his resignation to President Michel Aoun.

Under the constitution, Hariri’s cabinet would stay on in a caretaker capacity until a new government is formed.

The protests began on October 17, when the government proposed imposing a tax on Whatsapp calls, along with other austerity measures.



Iraqi protesters block main roads on day of deadline for government

20 January 2020

Demonstrators in Iraq took to the streets and blocked main roads throughout the country Monday, as the deadline for the government to meet the demands of the protesters expires.

Footage showed protesters in the capital blocking main roads. The Iraqi News Agency says several people have been detained for trying to block Mohamed al-Qasim road, which connects the southern and northern parts of Baghdad. 

Al Arabiya English


Watch: Iraqi protesters block main roads in the capital Baghdad on the day of the deadline they set for the government to meet their demands. …

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Protesters also blocked and set up tents on the main road between Baghdad and Nasiriyah, two of the biggest cities in the country, the Iraqi News Agency reported. The highway connecting al-Diwaniyah and other provinces has been closed too.

Iraqi protesters earlier in the day closed main roads in al-Wasit governorate’s city of Kut which borders Iran, Al Arabiya’s correspondent reported.

The UN Iraq Representative urged renewed push for reform and called for demonstrations to remain peaceful, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq tweeted.

The representative also urged the Iraqi authorities to do everything to protest the peaceful demonstrators. “Violent suppression of peaceful protesters is intolerable and must be avoided at all costs,” the statement published by UNAMI said.

Monday was the deadline for the government to meet the protesters’ demands, the most important of which are forming a temporary government, holding early elections, and investigating the death of protesters and kidnapping of activists.

Full report at:



Canada says there are no firm plans for downloading black boxes from crashed jet

19 January 2020

There are still no firm plans for downloading the cockpit and flight data from a Ukrainian airliner which was shot down by Iran 10 days ago, Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB) said on Sunday.

The TSB said in a statement that two of its crash investigators had left Tehran earlier on Sunday after a six-day visit during which they examined the wreckage.

A total of 176 people died in the disaster, 57 of them Canadian citizens.



Lebanese security forces, protesters clash for second night

19 January 2020

The Mohammad al-Amin Mosque in downtown Beirut opened its doors to every religion and sect for evening prayer on Sunday to condemn Saturday's violence by police and army that left 400 protesters injured overnight.

The situation at the mosque quickly turned tense after night prayers with a massive military parade of commanders, including armored vehicles, guns, and military personnel being deployed.

Anti-riot police fired tear gas and water cannons at the protesters who were also seen throwing stones.

Al Arabiya English


• 12h

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Lebanese security forces fire water cannons at stone-throwing protesters in the second night of violence in Beirut, which has been rocked by some of the worst unrest since demonstrations against the ruling elite began in October. …

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Al Arabiya English


Video shows vandals smashing storefront windows close to Nijmeh Square in downtown Beirut where parliament sits as Lebanese security forces fire water cannons to stop the protesters. …

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1:50 AM - Jan 20, 2020

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The weekend clashes were the worst since the protests began in October over rising popular frustration with a political class that is struggling to contain a growing economic crisis.

The government sent mixed signals about the unrest, with President Michel Aoun calling on the army and security forces to “preserve the safety of peaceful protesters and prevent vandalism” while Interior Minister Raya El Hassan defended the right to peaceful protest and condemned attacks on security forces and property. Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri termed the clashes “crazy, suspicious, and unacceptable.”

Clashes started outside Parliament in central Beirut on Saturday afternoon, but later spread across the city.

According to the French news agency AFP, 337 people were injured, including 80 who were admitted to hospital. Several protestors were arrested; Instagram channels that monitor the protests released names of those incarcerated overnight.

Many wearing crash helmets and gas masks, protestors launched fireworks and rocks at police. In turn, the Lebanese Army forced them away from the downtown area, after some people used tennis rackets to volley the tear gas canisters back toward the authorities.

This week’s events have seen a return to road closures and burning tires on a scale not seen since October. Protesters have returned to the streets in full force denouncing government failures to address the worsening economic crisis.

“Now it’s a genuine matter of survival,” 21-year-old student, Omar told Al Arabiya English. “We need to make really good financial decisions if we want to live properly.”

Omar, who is hoping to graduate in the spring, said he would have to use money intended for his university fees to cover his living costs. If this happens, the American University of Beirut student will need a bank loan.

“But right now, it is really scary to go to a bank to try and get a loan,” Omar said. Banks have imposed strict restrictions on people trying to withdraw their savings in an attempt to prevent a financial collapse.

Omar has been out protesting every night this week in an attempt to force politicians to make changes.

“We’ve been on the streets since October and nothing has changed, we have to keep going,” he said. “We need to target the banks. We want our money back.”

This wave of protests comes as Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab is facing further obstructions in forming his 18-member cabinet, and the country temporarily lost its right to vote in the UN because of a late payment.

Diab, who was designated to be the next Prime Minister in mid-December, has moved away from a technocratic government in a potential line-up that was leaked on Thursday.

“The guy who is in charge of forming the government, he is in a really good position right now to change everything in Lebanon,” Omar says. “It’s a matter of him making a decision.”

However, Saturday’s clashes appeared to have made that decision for him, with protesters denouncing him on the streets.

“He screwed up,” one female masked protester told Al Arabiya English last night on condition of anonymity.

Despite a desperate need for a new government to stop the deepening economic crisis, protesters are refusing to accept anything less than their demands for a leadership of technocratic experts.

Full report at:



Lebanon’s Hariri: ‘stop wasting time’ in government talks, economic solutions

19 January 2020

Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Sunday urged politicians to urgently form a new government and find solutions for the country’s economic crisis, after a night of violent clashes between security forces and protesters.

“There is a roadmap to calm the popular storm. Stop wasting time, form a government, open the door to political and economic solutions,” tweeted Hariri, who resigned as prime minister in October under pressure from a wave of protests.

Full report at:



Lebanon to release protesters detained after night of riots

19 January 2020

Lebanon's public prosecutor ordered the release Sunday of more than 30 people detained the previous evening, according to the National State News agency, in the worst day of violence since protests erupted three months ago.

The public prosecutor said all 34 arrested are to be released, except those other pending cases.

The clashes took place amid the backdrop of a rapidly worsening financial crisis and an ongoing impasse over the formation of a new government. The Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned in late October.

Protesters have called for more rallies on Sunday.



Protesters back on Beirut streets after overnight bid to storm parliament

January 19, 2020

BEIRUT: Lebanese protesters took to the streets again on Sunday after unprecedented overnight violence in Beirut in which nearly 400 people were injured. 

Security forces fired water cannon at young men hurling stones outside parliament. Protesters chanting “Revolution” tried to climb over barbed wire and fencing to storm the building.

Security forces urged people to remain calm, or they would be forced back.

“We’re not scared. This is all for our future and our children,” said protester Bassam Taleb.

“The country is frozen. The state is not doing a thing, they’re a bunch of thieves. And if you have money in the bank, you can’t even get a hundred dollars out.”

One protester taunted security forces with a flame-throwing aerosol, as others shone bright green laser lights in their direction. Anti-riot forces responded with water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets.

The new violence followed a five-hour confrontation between protesters and security forces near parliament on Saturday night.

Demonstrators tried to penetrate a security fence and iron barriers to reach parliament, lobbing firecrackers and anything else they could find including traffic lights, tree branches, manhole covers and tiles.

Security forces retaliated with water cannons and tear gas, and the Lebanese army was contacted for backup.

Lebanon has been experiencing unrest since October, when people took to the streets to protest against corruption, the political elite and economic hardship.

But Saturday night’s demonstrations were the most violent so far and there is no indication that public anger is abating.

Saad Hariri stepped down as prime minister on Oct. 29 but has remained in a caretaker capacity. Hisnominated successor, Hassan Diab, has been unable to form a government amid sectarian political squabbling.

Full report at:



North America


Pompeo calls on international community to classify Hezbollah a terrorist group

January 19, 2020

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on “all nations” on Saturday to classify Lebanon’s Hezbollah as a terrorist group.

The US secretary’s statement followed Britain’s action which added the Hezbollah movement to its terrorism blacklist. The UK had previously targeted the movement’s military wing, but the new sanctions classified all Hezbollah organizations and institutions under the Terrorist Asset-Freezing Act 2020 and froze all its assets.

“We call on all nations to designate Hizballah as the terrorist organization it is,” Pompeo wrote on his Twitter account.

His statement came as he marked the fifth anniversary of the murder of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman.

Secretary Pompeo


On this 5 year anniversary of prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s death, we remember the 1994 AMIA Jewish center attack in Buenos Aires and his tireless efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice. We call on all nations to designate #Hizballah as the terrorist organization it is.


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In 2004, Nisman was appointed Special Prosecutor in charge of the investigation of the 1994 terrorist attack against the Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA). Two years later, Nisman formally accused the government of Iran of directing the AMIA bombing, and Hezbollah of carrying it out.

According to the prosecution, Argentina had been targeted by Iran after a decision was made to suspend a nuclear technology transfer contract to Tehran.

Following the accusation, Interpol published six names of individuals accused for their role in the attack, including senior Hezbollah leader Imad Mughniyeh.

“We remember the 1994 AMIA Jewish center attack in Buenos Aires and his tireless efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice,” Pompeo said.



Security Expert: Washington Relocating ISIL to Iraq to Nullify Parliament's Pull-Out Decision

Jan 19, 2020

"Washington is transferring several ISIL ringleaders who have been trained at its bases in Syria, specially in al-Tanf and Hasaka, to Iraq," Karim al-Khikani told the Arabic-language al-Ma'aloumeh news website on Sunday.

He added that after relocating the ISIL terrorists, Washington will attempt to introduce Iraq to the UN Security Council as the first threat to the global security to pave the ground for its forces' long-term deployment in the Arab country.

Al-Khikani called on the Iraqi government to further equip the security forces and sign agreements with China or Russia to buy reconnaissance balloons and thermal cameras to monitor the terrorists' moves at borders.

In relevant remarks in February, Iraq's security experts disclosed that the US Army was training ISIL terrorists in Al-Anbar province after relocating them from Syria to Iraq to prepare them for creating insecurity in the country.

"The US Army troops are preparing and training the ISIL militants in al-Qadaf and Wadi al-Houran regions of Al-Anbar province with the aim of carrying out terrorist attacks and restarting insecurity in Iraq," al-Ma'aloumeh quoted Kazim al-Haaj, an Iraqi security expert, as saying.

He noted that according to the intel obtained from Iraqi security forces in Al-Anbar province, the US had transferred the ISIL terrorists on Apache and Chinook helicopters to Iraq.

Full report at:





UK police pull 'outrageous' pamphlet on Islamic extremism

Karim El-Bar  



Britain’s anti-terror police were forced to withdraw a document that said believing Muslims were oppressed was a sign of extremism after uproar from rights groups, local media reported.

The Metro, a British daily, reported a 12-page document released by counter terrorism police in southeast England was intended to give examples of behavior to look out for that could be considered “extremist.”

The document was called “Safeguarding young people and adults from ideological extremism,” and listed several extremist groups. Chief amongst them was Al Muhajiroun group. The organization has already been banned for supporting terrorist Islamist groups, but controversy arose over what police considered to be their other extreme views.

The document read: “Al Muhajiroun promotes the view that Muslims are persecuted in the UK by the government and media. You may hear someone state this view or voice concern for ‘oppressed Muslims’ in other countries.”

It was this kind of wide-ranging accusation that lead several Muslim and rights groups to voice concern that freedom of speech could be undermined.

With protests in India over a controversial citizenship law perceived to discriminate against Muslims, and increasing global alarm over Chinese treatment of its Muslim Uighur minority, the fear was that Muslims could be shut out of debates, already widely reported by mainstream media, for fear of being seen as extremist.

The document did not just include outright extremist groups like Al Muhajiroun and neo-Nazis. It is also included Extinction Rebellion, an activist environmental group that engage in disruptive civil disobedience to raise awareness about climate change.

A police spokesperson said the document was designed “for a very specific audience” who understood the “complexities” of the environment they work in.

“We are in the process of confirming who it has been shared with and recalling it,” the spokesperson said. “We as Counter Terrorism Policing, along with our partners, have a responsibility to protect vulnerable people. Officers are trained to spot those who may be vulnerable.”

- Prevent

Prevent is a government program to confront far-right and religious extremism. The program requires public sector workers from the National Health Service staff to teachers to tell the government if they feel someone is at risk of radicalization.

The program has been criticized for disproportionately targeting the Muslim community, and has been branded as toxic by parts of the community. Government ministers have consistently stood by the program.

Rights group Liberty said it would be “outrageous” to refer someone under the Prevent scheme if “someone expresses the view that Muslims are oppressed.”

“Prevent has always been a blunt instrument that undermines free expression, embeds discrimination in public services and sows distrust among communities,” said Rosalind Comyn, Liberty’s policy and campaigns officer.

CAGE, another rights group that focuses on Muslim detainees, also condemned the document, and Prevent as a whole.

“Prevent is not only validating Islamophobia, but is entrenching it across the public sector. The leaked Prevent document seeks to determine which forms of political expression are acceptable, or beyond the pale,” said Dr. Adnan Siddiqui, the group’s director.

- Muslim Council of Britain

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) urged the parties concerned “to ensure that evidence-based views that reflect legitimate concerns by Muslims are not conflated with claims of extremism.”

Speaking about the treatment of Muslims in China, Myanmar and Kashmir, MCB Secretary General Harun Khan said: “This is clear oppression which everyone – not just Muslims – should be voicing concerns about.”

The MCB have been increasingly active in the public sphere lately. The main opposition, center-left Labour Party is currently undergoing leadership elections, and the MCB have published a list of 10 key pledges to support Muslim communities, asking candidates standing for leader to support them.

The pledges are: tackling racism and Islamophobia, defending religious liberty, engaging with Muslim communities, ensuring safety at places of worship, effective health and elderly care services, defending refugees, enhancing minority participation in British economic, social and political life, addressing disparities in the criminal justice system, equality in education, and having an ethical foreign policy.

The five Labour leadership candidates have publicly pledged to support then 10-point program.

The MCB have also been active with regards to the ruling, center-right Conservative Party, having previously accused it of “denial, dismissal and deceit” and having a “blindspot” about Islamophobia.

Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister Boris Johnson had previously promised an investigation into Islamophobia in his party, but the remit was later broadened to include all forms of discrimination in a move derided by critics as watering down the focus on the perceived issue of Islamophobia within the party.



UK’s Johnson, France’s Macron reiterate commitment to Iran nuclear deal

19 January 2020

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated their commitment on Sunday to the Iran nuclear deal and agreed a long-term framework was needed, Downing Street said on Sunday.

“On Iran, the leaders reiterated their commitment to the JCPoA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) and also acknowledged the need to define a long-term framework to prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon,” a Downing Street spokeswoman said in a statement after the two met on the sidelines of a Libya summit in Berlin.

“They agreed on the importance of de-escalation and of working with international partners to find a diplomatic way through the current tensions,” she added.



Putin: Don't lose hope that Libya conflict will be solved

19 January 2020

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday said he hoped that the Berlin summit on Libya could bring further progress and that Moscow’s peace efforts had yielded first results.

“We don’t lose hope that dialogue will continue and the conflict will be solved,” Putin said before meeting Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the conference.

Putin said that Russia and Turkey had taken a “very good step” by urging Libyan factions to stop fighting, adding that large military actions had been stopped in Libya.



Cyprus brands Turkey a ‘pirate state’ in gas drilling row

19 January 2020

Cyprus accused on Sunday Turkey of turning into a “pirate state” in its attack of Ankara’s exploratory oil and gas drilling off its coastal waters a day after the EU issued its own warning.

“Turkey is turning into a pirate state in the eastern Mediterranean,” said the statement from the Cypriot presidency.

“Turkey insists on going down the path of international illegality it has chosen,” it added.

The statement came a day after the European Union called on Turkey to drop its plans to drill around Cyprus and the eastern Mediterranean, arguing such exploration was “illegal.”

Earlier, EU foreign policy spokesman Peter Stano said: “Concrete steps towards creating an environment conducive to dialogue in good faith are needed.

“The intention by Turkey to launch further exploration and drilling activities in the wider region goes, regrettably, in the opposite direction,” he said, in a statement released Saturday.

But Turkey’s foreign ministry said Sunday: “The Turkish Cypriots have rights on this field... as much as the Greek Cypriots.

“The two sides will share the income if oil or natural gas are found there.”

Its ship Yavuz had arrived at the “G” license field for its first round of drilling, the statement added.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed Thursday that Turkey would start exploring for gas in the eastern Mediterranean “as soon as possible” this year, after signing a maritime deal with Libya.

Ankara angered neighboring countries in the Mediterranean with an agreement signed with the Tripoli government in November, which claimed extensive areas of the sea for Turkey.

Greece says the deal fails to respect its maritime rights around the island of Crete.

Full report at:



UK: Legal group urges arrest warrant for Egypt’s Sisi

Hasan Esen  



A legal chambers in the U.K. has called on judicial authorities to issue an arrest warrant for the incumbent Egyptian president for his role in the death of Mohamed Morsi, the country's first democratically-elected president.

The International Justice Chambers (Guernica 37) in a statement late on Sunday urged the London counter-terrorism units to launch a probe into “credible allegations of torture made against the Egyptian government and state organs.”

The call came ahead of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s expected visit to the U.K. where he will participate in an investment summit seeking to strengthen ties between London and African nations.

Morsi was ousted in a military coup by Sisi in 2013 and died during trial last June.

At the time of his death, Morsi faced a host of legal charges, which he, along with numerous human rights groups and independent observers, said were politically motivated.

The statement went on to say that there was concrete evidence suggesting the military junta’s treatment killed Morsi and that his death was intentional.

It added that it was unlikely that Sisi was unaware of the torture Morsi suffered in prison.

The legal chambers said the U.K. was responsible for taking action on torture-related crimes no matter where it was committed, adding relevant steps had to be taken regarding Sisi’s visit to the kingdom.

They had previously urged the UN to launch an independent probe into Morsi’s death.

Full report at:



Only Libya-owned political process can end conflict: EU

Sena Güler  


The European Union said Sunday that the conflict in Libya could only end through a political process that is led and owned by the country itself following a summit in Germany to establish peace there.

“As the European Union, we reaffirm that the only sustainable solution to the crisis in Libya is through UN-led mediation efforts that put the needs of all Libyan people at the forefront. Only a Libyan-led and Libyan-owned political process can end the conflict and bring lasting peace,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a joint statement.

They said Sunday’s conference on Libya in Berlin “brought together the most influential regional and international partners at this critical moment in the Libyan crisis.”

Recalling the commitment of participants to refrain from acts that would endanger the truce, they added: “An agreement has also been reached on a swift follow-up. This is an important step forward.”

The statement also voiced support for the “unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Libya, in the interest of regional stability and prosperity.”

Noting that the “first significant step” was taken through the conference, it said the EU will play an important role in its wake.

“We will reflect on how to best contribute to the monitoring of the ceasefire and the respect of the arms embargo,” it added.

At its conclusion, Sunday’s international conference in Berlin on finding peace in Libya stressed its commitment to implementing a fragile cease-fire in the North African country.

Since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: warlord Khalifa Haftar’s in eastern Libya supported mainly by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, which enjoys UN and international recognition.

Full report at:



Drilling for energy is our right: Turkish Cyprus

Muhammet Ikbal Arslan 


The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) will conduct energy drilling through the licenses it granted to the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO), said the Turkish Cypriot deputy prime minister and foreign minister on Sunday.

“The TRNC will of course drill in the licensed areas we gave the TPAO in the past. Nobody can deny that the Turkish Cypriot nation has the right among the mentioned areas,” Kudret Ozersay told Turkish reporters.

“Thus, just as the Greek Cypriot side is drilling with the licenses it gives to companies, we will also drill through licenses we give to Turkish Petroleum.”

Turkish Cyprus did not issue those licenses “for nothing,” he added.

All interested parties should cooperate on natural gas as soon as possible in the Eastern Mediterranean, he said.

Hami Aksoy, spokesman for Turkey’s Foreign Ministry, said earlier Sunday that the Turkish drill ship Yavuz is headed to license area G south of the island of Cyprusfor its third drilling operation in line with the licenses granted to the Turkish Petroleum Corporation in 2011 by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

‘We will defend Turkish Cypriots’ rights’

Separately, the Turkish Cypriot Foreign Ministry said in a statement Sunday that they will do everything to protect their rights with Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The ministry decried Greek Cyprus’ “excessive rhetoric” as well as its “hijacker” mindset that rejects all proposals for cooperation.

Full report at:



Turkey condemns EU statement on drilling in Eastern Med

Erdogan Cagatay Zontur  


Turkey on Sunday condemned a statement by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell critical of Turkey’s energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean.

“The EU, acting under the pretext of union solidarity, should first of all end its unrealistic, prejudiced, and double standard policies,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hami Aksoy said in a statement.

“The European Union has remained silent since 2003 to the usurpation and violation of the rights of both Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots in the Eastern Mediterranean. The EU has never mentioned or referred to the Turkish Cypriots in any of its statement on the subject and as such it ignored the existence and rights of the Turkish Cypriots,” Aksoy said, referring to the year before Greek Cypriot administration of Southern Cyprus joined the EU, falsely claiming to represent the whole island, including the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

“No one should doubt that Turkey will continue to protect the rights of the Turkish Cypriots also in the south of the island, until their rights to the hydrocarbon resources of the island are guaranteed and a cooperation mechanism is established within the framework of the proposal of 13 July 2019,” Aksoy added, citing a Turkish Cypriot proposal.

On Saturday, following the announcement that Turkey’s drill ship Yavuz is to be dispatched for more drilling, Borrell issued a statement on Turkey’s so-called “illegal drilling activities in [Greek] Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone.”

Aksoy stressed that the Yavuz proceeded to license area G south of the island to conduct its third drilling operation in line with the licenses granted to the Turkish Petroleum Corporation in 2011 by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

“In this license area, as the co-owners of the island, Turkish Cypriots have as many rights as the Greek Cypriots. Should oil and natural gas be found in this area, both parties will share the revenues together,” he said.

“In this regard, the proposal made by Turkish Cypriot authorities on 13 July 2019 concerning the equitable sharing of the hydrocarbon resources and revenues is still valid and is an important opportunity for a solution,” Aksoy added.

Drilling in the Eastern Med

On Nov. 27, Ankara and the Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) signed two separate pacts, one on military cooperation and the other on maritime boundaries of countries in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The maritime pact asserted Turkey's rights in the Eastern Mediterranean in the face of unilateral drilling by the Greek Cypriot administration, clarifying that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus also has rights to the resources in the area. It went into effect on Dec. 8.

It further underlined that Ankara had a say in projects that involve it as it has the longest coastline in the Mediterranean and that it is prepared to cooperate with all countries in the region except the Greek Cypriot administration.

Turkey is a guarantor nation for the TRNC and has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration's unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting that the TRNC also has rights to the resources in the area.

In 1974, following a coup aimed at the annexation of Cyprus by Greece, Ankara had to intervene as a guarantor power. In 1983, the TRNC was founded.

Full report at:





Nigeria: 17 Soldiers Killed, Several Abducted in Battle With Boko Haram

19 JANUARY 2020

By Michael Olugbode

Maiduguri — Not less than 17 soldiers were killed in confrontations between the military and Boko Haram insurgents along Bama-Gwoza road weekend.

Many soldiers were also said to have been abducted by the insurgents in the confrontations, even as the number of casualties, though also large from the Boko Haram side, could not be ascertained as at the time of filing this report.

The insurgents were said to have attacked Firgi, 20 kilometres north of Pulka along the road from Gwoza to Bama on Friday night.

They were said to have killed 13 soldiers in the crossfire that took over two hours.

The insurgents, whose number of casualties could not be ascertained, were said to have gotten some military retreating.

They were equally said to have carted away some arms, ammunition and vehicles belonging to Nigerian Army.

An impeccable source told our reporter that during the crossfire around 10pm of 17 January, 2020 on Firgi, 20km north of Pulka along the road to Bama, "13 government forces members were killed with four of their vehicles taken away."

The insurgents were back on the same axis the second day, Saturday to continue from where they left.

They were said to have attacked a military company at Banki junction on Bama-Gwoza road at 10 pm.

The battle was said to have been on for about three hours (10pm to 1am), with both sides pushing for victory.

The casualties on the side of the military was four with the record from the insurgents not known.

The insurgents were also said to have abducted yet to be ascertained number of soldiers and carted away arms and ammunition.

Efforts to get confirmation from the military was not successful as at the time of filing this report as text messages to both Col. Sagir Musa, Army spokesman and Col. Isa Ado, spokesman of the military joint task force on counter insurgency in the Northeast (Operation Lafiya Dole) were not responded to.

Meanwhile, the head of the counter insurgency operation in the Northeast (Operation Lafiya Dole), Maj. Gen. Olusegun Adeniyi, said that Boko Haram had failed in the ongoing war against the country.

He equally promised that the military would not allow them an inch of land in Nigeria.

Speaking at a party organized for the troops in Maiduguri on Saturday evening, Adeniyi who led a victory dance, said: "Boko Haram has failed, we are not going to let them get an inch of land in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states."

Adeniyi, who called out officers and soldiers and guests at the get- together to be part of the victory dance, said: "We are happy to dance and shame Boko Haram who do not want us to be happy."

The Army Chief, who was joined in the dance by the Borno Deputy Governor, Alhaji Usman Kadafur, the Guest of Honour at the occasion, said: "I have made a covenant to go after Boko Haram, fight Boko Haram and end their menace."

Responding, Alhaji Kadafur said: "I feel honoured to be Special Guest of Honour.

We appreciate all the efforts by the military to safeguard our territory. We pray to God for guidance and repose of the soul of heroes. those that have paid the supreme price and we asked that God continue to be with their widows and orphans."



Somali military kills eight al-Shabaab militants

Mohammed Dhaysane  



Gunmen belonging to the Somalia-based al-Qaeda affiliated group al-Shabaab attacked a Somali National Army base Sunday night in the coastal town of Marka, some 90 kilometers (56 miles) southwest of the capital Mogadishu.

The attack began with mortar fire followed by heavy fighting between al-Shabaab and the Somali military.

The Somali military said on Twitter that it had repelled the attack.

"The terrorist group attempted to attack our military base in Marka, but our forces repulsed the attack and killed eight al-Shabaab members and wounded 11 others," it said.

No soldiers from the National Army were killed or wounded, it added.

Earlier Sunday, several al-Shabaab militants were killed in a military offensive in the Lower Juba region, according to a spokesman for Jubaland state.

Full report at:



‘Pace of repentant Boko Haram members’ reintegration slow’

January 20, 2020

The Camp Commandant of the Operation Safe Corridor, Brig. Gen. Musa Ibrahim, has said the slow pace of reintegrating de-radicalised Boko Haram members into the society is a major challenge facing the operation.

The operation is in charge of de-radicalisation, rehabilitation and reintegration of repentant Boko Haram members.

Ibrahim explained that the reintegration component of the operation was not the sole responsibility of the DRR camp.

The commandant said this in his address to the Managing Director, North East Development Commission, Goni Alkali, at Mallam Sidi, Kwami Local Government Area, venue of the DRR in Gombe State on Saturday.

Ibrahim stated, “The conduct of the de-radicalisation at the DRR camp has been successful so far. A major challenge that has affected the programme is the delay in the aspect of reintegration.

“The reintegration process is not the baby of the Operation Safe Corridor, we only interface. It is imperative to comment that this aspect is not within the complete control of the Operation Safe Corridor.

Full report at:



Libyan tribesmen say they have closed al-Sharara and al-Feel oilfields

19 January 2020

A group representing southern Libyan tribesmen said on Sunday it had closed the southern al-Sharara and al-Feel oilfields, virtually halting all of Libya’s oil output during a major international peace summit for Libya in Berlin.

The leader of the Fezzan Anger group, Bashir al-Sheikh, told Reuters it had shut two fields, just two days after other fields in the east of the country were also shut.

Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) is cutting production at the al-Sharara and al-Feel oilfields, which pump around 400,000 barrels day, after forces under the command of Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) shut a pipeline from the fields, the company said on Sunday.

Full report at:



Somalia claims liberating 5 villages from al-Shabaab

Mohammed Dhaysane 



Somali forces claimed to have killed at least 12 al-Shabaab militants and liberated five villages from al-Qaeda affiliated group in the country’s south.

Hassan Adan Mohamed, a commander of the country’s elite forces, told state media that the forces conducted an operation against al-Shabaab in lower Juba province, killing 12 militants and wounding 15 others.

He said that the forces liberated Malayley, Janale-gay, Rernerow, Bandar Jadiid and Bengani villages from al-Shabaab during the military operation.

The liberated villages located approximately 90 kilometers ( 56 miles) from the port city of Kismayo, the administrative capital of Jubaland State.

Full report at:



Al-Shabaab attacks challenge counter terrorism strategies

JANUARY 20 2020

The increased number of attacks by Somali terrorist group al Shabaab in Kenya and Somalia could lead to security chiefs rethinking their counter-terrorism policy.

In a year when the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) is considering reducing its troops in Somalia, al-Shabaab has launched several assaults in the two countries since December, killing at least 130 people in the attacks.

This past week, as Kenya marked the first anniversary of the attack on the dusitD2 complex in Nairobi on January 15, the US embassy issued a statement that the resurgent attacks by al-Shabaab could destabilise the country and East Africa.

Twenty-one people were killed and at least 28 injured in the dusitD2 terror attack.

January 15 is also the day al-Shabaab ambushed a Kenya Defence Forces camp in El-Adde, Somalia, in 2016, killing an unknown number of soldiers.

The US government said it was partnering with Kenya in training, sharing information, and “fighting side by side” to defeat al-Shabaab.

The terror group, which appeared spent between 2012 and 2015, has recently resurged with attacks in Kenya and Mogadishu.

In December, al-Shabaab killed at least 85 people in a car bomb explosion in Mogadishu.

On January 6, the group raided Simba Camp, a base used by Kenyan and US troops in Manda Bay in Lamu County, killing one US serviceman and two contactors, and destroying up to five planes. Five al-Shabaab terrorists were killed in the attack.

This attack was quickly followed by four others that targeted a passenger bus in Lamu and raids in Garissa and Wajir in northern Kenya, killing at least 10 civilians. On average, al-Shabaab have launched at least two attacks every week in Kenya and Somalia since October last year.

The US Africa Command, which shared the Manda Bay base with Kenyan troops, says al-Shabaab may be weaker now. In a statement published in the Military Times this past week, spokesman Col Christopher Karns said: “While these terrorists present a threat that should be taken very seriously, they also specialise in lies to create doubt about the international community’s resolve to reduce their influence. There is danger if their false narratives are confused with truth and seeds of doubt are planted.”

Meanwhile, Amisom is planning to gradually reduce troop numbers in Somalia starting this year, leaving much of the security responsibility to the Somali National Army (SNA).

In his New Year’s message, the head of Amisom, Francisco Madeira, said the UN and the FGS had formed a tripartite team to conduct “a threat assessment”, which will determine the number of troops to be withdrawn at a time.

“This exercise will inform the conditions under which the African Union is going to implement the third drawdown of 1,000 Burundian troops from February, and serve as a prerequisite for other mandated tasks chiefly aligning Amisom’s Conops,” he said, referring to the operations policy of Amisom known as the Concept of Operations (Conops).

Amisom is currently operations under Conops, in which several Forward Operating Bases have been reconfigured and others folded up as troop numbers reduce.

The UN Security Council made a resolution in 2017 for a gradual drawdown. Somalia’s partners, including the UN, have been holding discussions on how to implement the phased withdrawal in an election year. A total pull-out is expected in 2021, as the Mission has suffered from funding cuts since 2017 when the EU reduced its budgetary allocation. The last withdrawal was 1,000 troops from the Burundi contingent in March 2019.

“This year will be a turning point for Amisom and Somalia. The country will hold historic elections to choose national leaders,” said Assistant Inspector-General of Police Augustine Magnus Kailie, who is the Amisom Police Commissioner. “As Amisom police, we will play a critical role in ensuring that the Somali people elect their leaders in a safe and secure environment.”

The resurgent attacks could prove an added challenge. Some Somali politicians say that Amisom’s own operations have been broken for the past five years, allowing al Shabaab to regroup.

“The question should be, when was the last time Amisom took an offensive operation or joint operation with SNA against al-Shabaab? The answer is six years ago! It is time to review the status of mission agreement and time for the EU funders to implement mutual accountability,” said Abdirazak Mohamed, a former Internal Security minister in Somalia, now a Federal Member of Parliament. “Pursuing the same strategy will not give you different outcome. Troop surge will not fix the al-Shabaab quagmire; a different strategy is needed to address it including negotiating with al-Shabaab. In asymmetric war, the intent of the militant is not to win the fight, but by not losing the war, they win.”

Amisom says it has, since last year, deployed a larger civilian component to have a “a much closer follow-up on monitoring to the work of our military and police.” But some experts think Amisom and partners like the US have been too focused on the armed efforts to tame al-Shabaab.

In Kenya, security chiefs would not reveal their next step for al-Shabaab; the official position is that the war on the terrorists will continue.

Abdulaziz Ali Ibrahim Xildhiban, the former spokesman of the Federal Government of Somalia, said that besides morphing into thugs, al-Shabaab could be profiting from infiltration into Somalia government institutions including the national intelligence agency.

“The government has been doing little because of lack of capacity of the SNA, and a divisive leadership that is using al Shabaab to subdue and intimidate opponents ahead of the elections,” said Mr Xildhiban.

Mustafa Ali, the chairman of the Horn International Institute for Strategic Studies, a regional think-tank in Nairobi, said the terror group sees ambushes as a strategy to remain relevant after its combat war was curtailed.

“In order to replenish its diminished financial resources, they carry out such attacks to assure sympathisers that they are still potent and effective. Such organisations also use visible terrorist attacks to attract new donors and supporters,” said Dr Ali.

Mr Madeira said restructuring the security sector and improved co-operation between the federal government, Amisom and partners are critical to improvement of security in Somalia this year.

This is will require the training of more SNA soldiers to maintain peace in the cities and towns that have been liberated, and allow Amisom to advance despite logistics and supplies being overstretched.



Hussein Sheikh-Ali, founder and chair of Somalia’s security research think-tank Hiraal Institute, and former national security adviser, weighed in on US drone attacks.

"I believe that this strategy will not in any way affect al-Shabaab’s short- or long-term capabilities. The US is just playing whack-a-mole. Somali people don’t take this strategy seriously anymore."

Full report at:



Libya: Haftar forces break truce on day of conference

Enes Canli  



As world leaders met in Berlin Sunday to chart a way forward for peace in Libya, forces of warlord Khalifa Haftar have been violating a week-old cease-fire around the capital Tripoli.

Periodic gunshots have been heard south of the Libyan capital, and black smoke can be seen rising, according to reports on the ground.

Haftar’s forces launched mortar attacks on Al Halatat and Khallet al-Furjan, both south of Tripoli, Abdul-Malik Al-Madani, spokesman for the operation by Libya’s UN-recognized government to defend the capital, told Anadolu Agency.

Al-Madani also said their Burkan Al-Ghadab (Volcano of Rage) Operation retaliated against Haftar’s forces and took control of the situation.

He added that a mortar attack by Haftar militias hit oil tankers in the Halatat region, causing a fire and explosions.

Since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: one in eastern Libya supported mainly by Egypt and the UAE, and the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, which enjoys UN and international recognition.

Libya’s internationally recognized government in Tripoli has been under attack by Haftar since last April, and fighting over the last nine months has killed more than 1,000 people.

On Jan. 12, the warring sides of the Libyan conflict announced a cease-fire in response to a joint call by Turkish and Russian leaders.

But last Monday, talks for a permanent cease-fire deal ended without an agreement after Haftar left Moscow without signing the deal.

Full report at:



Boko Haram set Yobe State many years behind – Governor Buni

January 19, 2020

By Maina Maina

Governor Mala Buni of Yobe state has said the challenges of the Boko Haram insurgency has set back the progress of the state many years, affected the people in many ways and had sapped the very scarce resources that the state would have used in more useful and more impactful ways to improve the living conditions of the people of the state.

Governor Buni stated this, while swearing the Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Baba Malam Wali and seven newly appointed permanent Secretaries at the Banquet Hall Government House, Damaturu.

The governor said, “We are required as government officials and public servants to always lead the way with new ideas and new initiatives that would address our challenges and bring about a qualitative improvement in the lives of our people.

” the progress that our state desires and our people deserve, then we have to continue to be more careful and as individual take obligation and official responsibilities to serve our people. ”

He revealed that, he made the decision to confirm Baba Malam Wali as substantive SSG in recognition of his hard work and loyalty, “and because he fully shares in my vision for the state a vision borne of my total commitment to make Yobe a better place for all its people.

“we would stay true to the values we profess, knowing that history would pass a very favourable verdict on us if we served with truth and honesty and dedication and with all our hearts.”

Full report at:





PML-N says ‘unware’ of dialogue offer from PM Imran

Murtaza Ali Shah

January 20, 2020

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Monday said that the party has not received any offer for a dialogue from Prime Minister Imran Khan and it will take a decision in this regard in consultation with other parties.

PM’s advisor Naeem-ul-Haque had on Sunday made a dialogue offer saying the premier is ready to talk to the opposition parties.

Speaking to Geo News anchor Shahzad Iqbal during the programme ‘Naya Pakistan’, Haque said that if the opposition even gave a “hint”, the government will not back out from talking to it.

Responding to the PM's advisor, senior PML-N sources said that they have not received a offer from the government, adding that the PML-N will discuss the matter with all opposition parties .

Taking a jibe at PM Imran Khan, the PML-N's senior leadership said, “Khan has ruined Pakistan’s economy and institution in just 17 months because of his high headedness and arrogance, adding that it’s time for him to come to senses and stop playing with the lives of Pakistani people.”

The offer from the ruling party is being considered as an important development since the government and opposition have been at loggerheads on the accountability drive.

Opposition parties have accused the government of using anti-graft body NAB to settle scores. The government, on the other hand, has accused opposition politicians of looting the country’s wealth and stashing it abroad.

It is pertinent to mention that the government is facing problems from the coalition partners who are unhappy over unfulfillment of promises made with them.

Speaking on the recent criticism of the government by its allies, Haque said their concerns were valid. “We have to tell them [allies] that the government doesn’t have funds,” he said. “Politics is about ‘give and take’.”

The government has bolstered its efforts to woo its coalition parties — the PML-Q, the MQM-P, the BNP-M and the GDA — after MQM-P's Convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui resigned last week.



What made PML-Q give a one-week ultimatum to govt

Zulqernain Tahir

January 20, 2020

LAHORE: The Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), an important ally of the ruling PTI especially in Punjab, still has no problem with Chief Minister Usman Buzdar but wants ‘complete administrative share’ in the districts where it has strong political base which it cannot afford to concede to its rivals, it emerged on Sunday.

The party of the Chaudhrys of Gujrat — Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi — is flexing its muscles to secure that share from Punjab’s ‘top bureaucracy’ that is apparently not under the control of Mr Buzdar who is struggling in governance matters.

Had Mr Buzdar been a ‘powerful’ chief minister, the PML-Q would not have serious concerns and not given a “one week ultimatum” to the PTI to seriously consider its grievances, believe some party leaders.

After a major reshuffle in Punjab back in November, more administrative control has been given to the chief secretary and the police chief who reportedly take orders directly from the PM secretariat, leaving Mr Buzdar with a ‘ceremonial’ title of chief executive.

In the face of strong criticism of Mr Buzdar for his ‘poor’ governance, especially the latest flour crisis in the province, the PTI government spokespersons at the Centre and Punjab — Firdous Ashiq Awan and Fayyazul Hasan Chohan — say the government has no plan to replace him (Buzdar).

“This week is very important. We will see if a standing order has been conveyed with regard to empowering our ministers and lawmakers. If not, then we will weigh other options we have,” said a senior PML-Q leader in a chat with Dawn on Sunday.

Replying to a question about the PML-Q’s ‘trust level’ in Mr Buzdar, he said: “We are very much comfortable with CM Buzdar and want him to continue … but at the same time we want full administrative share in the districts where we have strong political base.”

To a question whether Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi was a ‘possible replacement’ of Mr Buzdar and this had been conveyed to Prime Minister Imran Khan during the PTI-PML-Q talks, the PML-Q leader said: “We haven’t conveyed anything like this. What we want is redressal of our genuine concerns with regard to empowering our lawmakers and have us on board in consultation process.”

To another question about the PML-N’s offer to Mr Elahi to hold the reins of Punjab, he said: “We had this offer in the past after the 2018 elections, but we declined.” However, a senior PML-N leader told Dawn that the PML-Q leadership had been approached of late with an offer to join hands if the Q-League was considering parting ways with the PTI but so far there had not been any reply from it.

In its ‘final’ round of talks with the PTI delegation led by PM Khan’s close aide Jehangir Tareen, the PML-Q leaders led by MNAs Moonis Elahi and Tariq Bashir Cheema last week had warned that it might review its alliance with it (PTI) if their legitimate demands were not met in a week.

Talking to Dawn earlier, Moonis Elahi said: “The PTI has assured us of redressing our grievances within a week. In case the promises made to us are not met (this week) there will be no next round of talks (with PTI).”

In a tweet in response to an assertion that the PML-Q had complained about Mr Buzdar, Mr Moonis had also said: “We never complained about @UsmanAKBuzdar. If anything... we have always supported him. @ImranKhanPTI needs to put his house in order starting with people leaking fake news.”

The PTI in talks had agreed to empower the PML-Q’s ministers — two in Punjab and one at the Centre -- besides giving the latter share in administrative powers in three districts — Gujrat, Chakwal and Bahawalpur and as many tehsils of Malikwal, Phalia and Daska.

As a lobby in the PTI has also been active to join the ‘chorus’ from different quarters, including the elements in the establishment, to oust Mr Buzdar for his ‘bad governance’, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan declared on Sunday: “CM Buzdar is going nowhere and will complete his five years term.”

She also indirectly targeted Federal Science Minister Fawad Chaudhry who had recently criticised Buzdar for his inability to govern. “Those in the party (PTI) criticising Buzdar are in fact targeting PM Imran Khan,” she said.

Fawad Chaudhry had written a letter to the premier raising questions over performance of Mr Buzdar, complaining the “Punjab government is giving a bad name to the PTI due to its poor performance.”

In his letter to the PM, Mr Chaudhry contended: “Each province shall, by law, establish a local government system and devolve political, administrative and financial responsibility, and authority to the elected representatives of the local governments. It is noted with great concern that provinces have been continuously violating Article 140A of the Constitution, and the grossest violation is the inequitable distribution of funds among the districts.”

He said non-compliance of Article 140A and inequitable distribution of funds to districts had caused disappointment and disillusionment among the people. “Strong federation demands an equitable division of resources among the provinces and to district level. The Punjab government is being run in a way as it was run by the last Shahbaz Sharif regime,” he complained.

There is another group active in the Punjab PTI led by a politician who had heavily financed the party rallies in the past. The PTI is also facing the challenge to placate the concerns of other allies – the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) and Balochistan Awami Party (BAP).

Firdous Ashiq Awan said: “Soon good news will come from its allies and the PTI government will complete its term.”

Full report at:



Protest continues against arrest of PML-N Swat leaders

Essa Khankhel

January 20, 2020

MINGORA: The leaders and activists of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and traders continued protest for the second consecutive day on Sunday against the arrest of two party workers.

Expressing unity with the party workers, the traders union shuttered down their shops and markets in protest in Kabal town. Speaking on the occasion, the party leaders including Habib Ali Shah, Muhammad Sher Khan, Ishtiaq Khan, Ahmed Shah, Muhammad Hussain, Alam Iqbal, Mufti Arifullah, Kashif Ghafoor and others criticised the government for subjecting the workers to political victimisation. “The government should think twice before inflicting atrocities on the opposition parties’ leaders, otherwise it would face the same tomorrow,” Khashif Ghafoor said.

They said the police were meant to safeguard the lives and properties of citizens but the government had made the police “kidnappers”. Meanwhile, addressing a press conference in the Swat Press Club, PML-N district president Qaimoos Khan, general secretary Syed Habib Ali Shah, Malik Fida Muhammad Khan and others announced to register a case against the Federal Minister for Communications Murad Saeed and OGDCL official Mir Wais, holding them responsible for the arrest-cum-abduction of PML-N Kabal tehsil president Abdul Ghafoor and former tehsil councilor Usman Ghani. They said the driver and car of the missing workers were still at the police station, adding that they contacted the district police officer and deputy commissioner but they expressed their ignorance.



LHC to decide on removing Nawaz's name from ECL today

Rana Bilal

January 20, 2020

A two-member bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) will hear a petition today (Monday) regarding removing former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's name from the Exit Control List (ECL).

In November last year, the government had announced that the former prime minister will be given a "one-time" permission to travel abroad for his medical treatment for a period of four weeks.

Speaking at a news conference at the time, Federal Minister for Law and Justice Farogh Naseem said the permission was "not conditional to anyone's consent" and was granted to fulfil the government's obligations in view of Nawaz's "adverse critical medical condition".

However, the government had asked the Sharif family to submit an indemnity bond "to the tune of Rs7-7.5 billion".

Following this, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had rejected the government's decision, terming it "biased" and "based on revenge politics".

PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif announced that the party's legal team had approached the LHC against the condition of submitting indemnity bonds and had accused the government of playing "dirty politics".

On Nov 16, the LHC had allowed Nawaz to travel abroad for a period of four weeks, extendable on the basis of medical reports and had suspended the condition of submitting indemnity bonds.

The bench had granted the permission mainly in the light of undertakings, with slight modifications, submitted on behalf of the Sharif brothers.

In his undertaking, Nawaz had said: "I undertake to return to Pakistan as per my past record to face the process of law and justice within four weeks or as soon as I am declared healthy and fit to travel back to Pakistan by my doctors. I also do hereby bind myself to the undertaking given by my brother Mian Muham­mad Shahbaz Sharif.”

Shehbaz's undertaking had added: "I do hereby undertake to ensure return of my brother Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, within four weeks or as and when certified by doctors that he has regained his health and is fit to return to Pakistan. I further undertake to provide/send the periodical medical reports of the doctor duly notarised by the embassy to the registrar of this court."

Subsequently, Nawaz had left for London for medical treatment during his bail period of four weeks without the condition of submitting indemnity bonds.

Cafe picture creates controversy

Earlier this month, a picture of Nawaz at a London restaurant along with some members of his family had surfaced on social media raising questions about the 'serious nature' of the former premier's health.

Federal Science Minister Fawad Chaudhry had uploaded the photo on his Twitter account.

Making a satirical comment, the outspoken minister said: “In London’s intensive care unit, the treatment against plundering is underway and all patients present (there) are feeling better.”

Scampering to do damage control, the PML-N had submitted a letter from a leading cardiac surgeon terming the ex-PM’s stay in the UK "vital" for his health management.

Full report at:



545 cases of sexual assault reported at three major hospitals in Karachi last year

Imtiaz Ali

January 20, 2020

KARACHI: As many as 545 cases of sexual assaults were reported at three major hospitals of the city in 2019, according to officials and data obtained by Dawn on Sunday.

As many as 417 suspects of the said sexual assault cases were also brought for medical examination at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi and Abbasi Shaheed Hospital.

It has been revealed in the data of the three hospitals that 407 females became victims of rape while 138 were sodomy cases in the year.

The police surgeon’s data for the year 2019 reviewed by Dawn did not provide age of the victims of sexual assaults.

“Gradually, the cases of sexual assaults have increased in the metropolis as compared to the past,” observed police surgeon Dr Qarar Ahmed Abbasi.

The three hospitals’ data showed that 2,500 rape cases and 593 sodomy cases had been reported from 2013 to 2019 in the city.

The data revealed that 325 rape cases were reported in 2013, 324 in 2014, 342 in 2015, 360 in 2016, 331 in 2017, 411 in 2018 and 407 rape cases were reported last year.

As many as 1,709 suspects in the said rape cases and 454 suspects in the said sodomy cases were also brought at the hospitals for medical examination.

Firearms victims

Dr Abbasi said that gradually victims of firearms and bomb blasts had decreased significantly in the metropolis as compared to the past as per the hospitals’ record as no explosion case was reported in 2019.

It has been pointed out that 249 persons killed by firearms were brought to the mortuaries of the three hospitals for a post-mortem examination last year.

During the same period, 1,158 persons were shot at and wounded and got admitted for treatment to the hospitals.

Dr Qarar Abbasi said the exact figure of the persons shot dead may be slightly higher as of the 1,158 injured persons a few might have died during treatment. Sometimes it happened that relatives did not want to get autopsy reports and took away the bodies without allowing the doctors to fulfill legal formalities.

The police surgeon’s data for seven years (from 2013 to 2019) revealed that 7,301 persons were shot dead in the provincial capital.

A gradual decrease of victims of firearms was visible from the data as it has been revealed that 2,191 people were shot dead in 2013, 2,029 in 2014, 1,247 in 2015, 675 in 2016, 601 in 2017, 309 in 2018 and 249 in 2019.

These were the victims of firearms whose autopsies were carried out by the medico-legal sections of the three hospitals.

The data for the last seven years, from 2013 to 2019, also showed that 767 people were also killed with hard, blunt and sharp-edged instruments in the city.

Bomb blasts victims

Similarly, the number of persons killed in bomb blasts in the metropolis had also decreased significantly as per the police surgeon’s data.

It said that no victim of bomb blast was reported in 2019.

However, it has been stated that during the six years, from 2013 to 2018, 275 persons had become casualties of improvised explosive devices in the metropolis.

It has been revealed that 136 persons were killed in explosions in 2013, 55 in 2014, 23 in 2015, 39 in 2016, seven in 2017 and 15 in 2018.

For other categories of incidents and crimes, the police surgeon’s data for the last seven years (2013 to 2019) revealed that 3,774 persons were killed in road accidents while 303 persons were killed under trains while crossing the tracks.

During the said period, 220 people died of burn wounds, 150 drowned while 141 died of electric shocks, including 37 in 2019.

Full report at:





Iran says it remains in nuclear deal, EU claims “Unfounded”

20 January 2020

Iran still remains in its 2015 nuclear deal despite rolling back its commitments to the pact, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Monday, criticizing European powers for failing to salvage the agreement.

“Tehran still remains in the deal ... the European powers’ claims about Iran violating the deal are unfounded,” he told a televised weekly news conference.

“Whether Iran will further decrease its nuclear commitments will depend on other parties and whether Iran’s interests are secured under the deal,” Mousavi said.



Iran backtracks on plan to send flight recorders to Ukraine

19 January 2020

The Iranian official leading the investigation into the Ukrainian jetliner that was accidentally shot down by the Revolutionary Guard appeared to backtrack Sunday on plans to send the flight recorders abroad for analysis, a day after saying they would be sent to Kyiv.

Hassan Rezaeifar was quoted by the state-run IRNA news agency as saying “the flight recorders from the Ukrainian Boeing are in Iranian hands and we have no plans to send them out.”

He said Iran is working to recover the data and cabin recordings, and that it may send the flight recorders - commonly known as black boxes - to Ukraine or France. “But as of yet, we have made no decision.”

The same official was quoted by the semi-official Tasnim news agency on Saturday as saying the recorders would be sent to Ukraine, where French, American and Canadian experts would help analyze them. Iranian officials previously said the black boxes were damaged but are usable.

It was not immediately possible to reconcile the conflicting accounts. Iran may be hesitant to turn over the recorders for fear that more details from the crash - including the harrowing 20 seconds between when the first and second surface-to-air missiles hit the plane - will come to light.

The Guard’s air defenses shot the plane down shortly after it took off from Tehran on Jan. 8, killing all 176 people on board. Hours earlier, the Guard had launched ballistic missiles at US troops in Iraq in response to the US airstrike that killed Iran’s top general in Baghdad. Officials say lower-level officers mistook the plane for a US cruise missile.

Iranian officials initially said the crash was caused by a technical problem and invited countries that lost citizens to help investigate. Three days later, Iran admitted responsibility after Western leaders said there was strong evidence the plane was hit by a surface-to-air missile.

The victims included 57 Canadian citizens as well as 11 Ukrainians, 17 people from Sweden, four Afghans and four British citizens. Most of those killed were Iranians. The other five nations have demanded Iran accept full responsibility and pay compensation to the victims’ families.

Full report at:



Iran says it is preparing for satellite launch

19 January 2020

Iran said Sunday that two newly constructed satellites have passed pre-launch tests and will be transported to the nation’s space center for eventual launch, without elaborating.

Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi tweeted about the development, calling it an “important research step.”

Iran has not said when it will launch the satellites, but often coordinates its launches with national holidays. It will celebrate the 41st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution next month.

Iran’s largely state-run media say the 90-kilogram (200-pound) Zafar satellites each have four high-resolution color cameras and will monitor and transmit data on natural resources as well as agricultural and environmental developments.

Iran says its satellite program, like its nuclear activities, is aimed at scientific research and other civilian applications. The US and other Western countries have long been suspicious of the program because the same technology can be used to develop long-range missiles.

Iran tried and failed to launch two satellites into orbit in January and February last year.

A rocket exploded inside the Imam Khomeini Space Center in August during what officials later said was a test-launch. Iranian officials did not acknowledge the mishap until satellite imagery showed the explosion. Officials blamed a technical malfunction.

In a separate incident, a fire killed three researchers at the space center, which is some 240 kilometers (150 miles) southeast of the capital, Tehran.

Full report at:



Israel to build anti-tunnel sensor network along Lebanon border

19 January 2020

Israel’s military announced on Sunday the start of construction of an underground network of sensors along the Lebanese frontier to detect any cross-border tunnel building.

The project is getting under way a year after the Israeli military said it had destroyed a series of infiltration tunnels dug by the Lebanese Hezbollah group.

“All the drilling is being done on the Israeli side of the blue line,” military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus, referring to the border demarcation with Lebanon, said in a conference call with journalists.

He said the planned Israeli network “was not a wall” but seismic and acoustic sensors buried in the ground.

Israel had informed UN peacekeepers in south Lebanon about the work “to make sure everybody knows what we are doing and that we are operating on the Israeli side” of the border, Conricus said.

He said deployment of the network was beginning on Sunday at Misgav Am, an Israeli border community, and drilling there could go on for up to two months, Conricus said.

“The overall plan is to expand the location of the sensors and place them at additional locations along the blue line,” Conricus said, without giving an end-date for construction.

Full report at:



Paper: 16 US Servicemen Flown to Kuwait Hospitals with Severe Injuries after Iran's Missile Strike

Jan 19, 2020

The Arabic-language Al-Qabas paper quoted informed sources as saying on Sunday that the 16 US militaries, included some whose bodies had been severely burnt and some others who had sustained shrapnel wounds, have been transferred to a US military hospital in Kuwait under strict security measures.

It added that the wounded military men have gone under surgical operations and are still kept at the ICU section of the hospital.

According to the paper, several other US forces who had sustained mild injuries in Iran's missile strike are being treated in Iraq.

The US president and the Pentagon have both claimed that there has been no casualty in Iran's missile raid on Ain Al-Assad airbase.

Last Thursday, the US Central Command revealed that 11 personnel stationed at an Iraqi airbase which incurred a retaliatory missile attack by Iran over the Pentagon's assassination of Tehran's top commander, Qassem Soleimani, had to be sent out of the country after displaying concussion symptoms.

“While no US service members were killed" in the Iranian missile attack on Ein Al-Assad military base, "several were treated for concussion symptoms from the blast and are still being assessed”, Navy Captain Bill Urban stated in a statement.

Upon initial examination, eight troops were flown out of the war-ravaged country to a medical facility in Germany for further checks, while three others were taken to Camp Arifjan, a US Army installation in Kuwait.

The temporary removal of the troops was taken “out of an abundance of caution”, Urban said, refusing to divulge any more details about the condition of the servicemen or the extent of their injuries.

“The health and welfare of our personnel is a top priority and we will not discuss any individual's medical status,” he added.

The air base, which houses US troops, is one of the largest and oldest military bases and located in Al-Anbar province in Western Iraq. It found itself under fire from volleys of ballistic missiles launched from Iran days after a US drone strike near Baghdad assassinated Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Qods Force Commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani who played a major role in beating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, ISIS or Daesh) terror group in both Syria and Iraq.

His assassination has inflamed tensions between Washington and Tehran, and drew a harsh rebuke from Baghdad, prompting the Iraqi Parliament to pass a resolution ordering American forces to leave the country.

While experts and pundits have been surprised by improvements in Iranian ballistic prowess after satellite images displayed accuracy of Iranian missile strikes on US airbase, President Donald Trump has claimed that Tehran's military operation left no casualties.

Briefing media on operational objective of missile attacks on US bases, IRGC Aerospace Commander Brigadier General Ali Hajizadeh stated that Iran was not after killing anyone although "tens of US troops have likely been killed and wounded and were transferred to Israel and Jordan on 9 sorties of C-130 flights".

He noted that had Iran intended to kill the American forces, it could have planned high casualty operations to kill 500 US military men in the first step and 4,000 to 5,000 others in the second and third phases within 48 hours.

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei has called the military operation "only a slap across the face" of the United States, stating that "military moves like this are not enough. The Americans' corruption-stirring presence should come to an end".

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Yemen says Houthi attack is revenge for Soleimani, calls on UN to condemn

19 January 2020

Yemeni Minister of Information Moammar al-Eryani says the Houthi missile and drone attack on a military camp in Marib is an act of revenge for Iran’s Qassem Soleimani’s killing, calling on the UN to condemn the attack.

“The attack by Iran’s mercenaries, “the Houthi militia”, with Iranian missiles … as an act of revenge for the killing of Soleimani is a terrorist crime,” al-Eryani said in a tweet on Sunday.

The Iran-backed Houthi militia killed at least 79 soldiers and wounded 150 more in a missile and drone attack on a training camp in Yemen on Saturday, in one of the deadliest attacks of the five-year-old civil war.

The minister condemned the UN’s silence after the attack and the Iranian escalation of the conflict in Yemen, “which threatens to destroy efforts of ending the war.”

“We call on the UN special envoy Martin Griffiths to take a position and condemn this savage attack … because silence gives green light for more crimes,” the Yemeni minister added.

The bombing marks a further escalation of the proxy war playing out in the Middle East, and comes two weeks after the US killed one of Iran’s most powerful military leaders, Qassem Soleimani, in a drone attack in Iraq.

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Iran's Larijani chides EU for 'humiliating' capitulation to US

19 January 2020

Iran's Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani has censured France, Britain and Germany for triggering a dispute mechanism in the 2015 landmark nuclear deal with Tehran under the US pressure. 

Germany has admitted that the three countries launched the mechanism, set out in article 36 of the deal, after US President Donald Trump threatened to impose 25% tariffs on European cars.

"The move by the three European countries with regard to Iran's nuclear issue and their bid to launch article 36 of the nuclear agreement is regrettable," Larijani told an open session of the parliament in Tehran Sunday.

"One of the European countries' ministers has explicitly stated that the US has threatened if we do not apply the trigger mechanism, it will raise tariffs on car imports by 25%," he added.

Larijani was apparently referring to German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer who admitted Thursday that Trump had secretly warned the three countries to act against Iran or have him impose tariffs of 25% on European cars.

“This expression or threat, as you will, does exist,” she told a press conference in London when asked about the report in the Washington Post.

While the Europeans have said they were not joining a “maximum pressure” campaign by the Trump administration which abandoned the pact in 2018, the triggering of the mechanism amounts to formally accusing Tehran of violating the terms of the agreement.

Russia and China, key signatories to the nuclear pact known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), have said they saw no grounds to trigger the mechanism and Iran has dismissed the step as a “strategic mistake”.

"The problem is not in Iran's behavior while you have repeatedly castigated the American withdrawal yourselves. The problem is in the threat by America which has forced a powerful bloc like Europe to a humiliating and unjust behavior," Larijani said, addressing the so-called E3.

Iran patiently waited for one year after the US pulled out of the nuclear agreement, but the remaining signatories were not able to fulfill their obligations to protect Tehran's economic interests under the deal.

Earlier this month, Iran announced that it would scrap all limits on its nuclear program after the US assassinated top Iranian military commander General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq, which the Europeans failed to condemn.

"Iran is not amenable to threat. More than a year and so has passed since America's hostile behavior with regard to the nuclear issue, but Europe has merely issued a political statement. The Islamic Republic of Iran has been patient for too long," Larijani said. 

"We expressly declare that if Europe, for whatever reason, behaves unfairly in using article 36 of the nuclear agreement, the Islamic Republic of Iran will accordingly make a serious decision on cooperation with the [International Atomic Energy] Agency and the plan has already been prepared in Majlis," he said.

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Israel floods hundreds of acres of farmlands in Gaza

19 January 2020

Ruba Shabit

Israel has opened the gates of its rainwater harvesting dams near the besieged Gaza Strip, flooding more than 100 hectares of Palestinian farmland in less than two weeks.

Israel’s uncontrolled opening of dams’ gates has caused $500,000 worth of damage to agricultural areas in Gaza. It was the third time in a week that Israel had opened the floodgates, flooding farmland and harming agricultural products.

Israeli crop-duster planes also flew along the so called- buffer zone, spraying chemicals assumed to be herbicides. The chemicals were carried by westward-blowing wind into the strip damaging Palestinian crops and farmland.

The spraying was conducted for about four hours a day, with the sprayed chemicals reaching Palestinian farmland inside Gaza. The spraying is typically carried out without prior notice or warning to Palestinian farmers.

Israel carries out the spraying about twice a year which poses a potential threat to the life of Palestinians as it directly undermines food security.

Experts say the Israeli practices have led to huge financial losses for Palestinian farmers prompting many to stop cultivating the fields near the fence. Gazan farmers have long been struggling to make ends meet due to the Israeli occupation.

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Palestinian child held for several weeks in solitary confinement at Israeli jail

19 January 2020

Israeli authorities have locked up a Palestinian child in solitary confinement for nearly four weeks after abducting him from the occupied Jerusalem al-Quds, local media reports say.

According to the Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs, 15-year-old Musaab Abu Ghazalah was held in solitary confinement for 27 days at Ofek Prison, where only teenagers are jailed, the Palestinian Information Center reported on Sunday.

This came after Israeli prison authorities rejected his request to be transferred to a jail where Palestinian prisoners are held.

Israeli jailers also obstructed his lawyer’s repeated attempts to visit him in jail.

Abu Ghazalah was detained by Tel Aviv regime forces from Jerusalem on December 22 after an Israeli court sentenced him to three months in jail. He had already been placed under house arrest for one and a half years. 

In May 2019, a study by Abdul-Naser Farwana, a Palestinian ex-prisoner and researcher at the Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs Commission, found that Israel had arrested some 16,500 Palestinian children since the outbreak of the Second Intifada (uprising) in late-2000.

Rights groups say the Israeli detention of Palestinian minors involves harsh interrogation and conditions that violate international law. They say a large number of detained Palestinian children often arrive at Israeli interrogation centers blindfolded, bound and physically abused.

Evidence collected by Defense for Children International - Palestine shows these children endure harsh detention conditions while held in isolation, such as 24-hour lighting. Most reported they had nowhere to rest besides a filthy mattress on the floor.   Although minors under 12 years of age are not allowed to be arrested or detained under Israeli law, they are not immune to being made prisoners for allegations of throwing rocks at Israeli forces.

Back in March last year, the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, said that around 40 Palestinian children had been killed and hundreds more wounded in one year of anti-occupation protest rallies along the fence that separates the besieged Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied territories.

It also strongly called for an end to violence against children in Gaza and elsewhere across the occupied territories.

Senior Palestinian officials have repeatedly said that Israeli army is deliberately targeting and killing Palestinian children.

A recent decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to launch a full investigation into war crimes in Palestinian territories has raised alarm among current and former Israeli officials and military personnel, who may face global arrest warrants as a result of the probe.

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Palestinian impatience threatens Gaza cease-fire

January 20, 2020

GAZA CITY: The launch of incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory could mark the resumption of hostilities after some Palestinians expressed frustration at the lack of results from the temporary agreement with Israel.

There was no official announcement from the Palestinian factions about renewed hostilities, and Talal Abu Zarifa, a member of the Committee for the Return March, described them as “individual actions.”

Egypt had brokered a short-term agreement between Hamas and Israel in October 2018 to ease Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip and provide concessions in exchange for easing demonstrations on the border.

These included increasing the fishing zone in the Gaza Sea, allowing an increase in exports of products from the Gaza Strip, and the import of some materials that Israel had banned.

Media reports spoke of additional talks recently in Cairo to reach a long-term agreement between Hamas and Israel, which had been unsuccessful.

Bassem Naim, a Hamas leader, said the discussions were about extending the duration of the arrangement for an additional six months, as the previous timetable ended in December.

“The talk about a long-term agreement is only media gossip. The talks were centered on extending the duration of the previous understandings. There is no progress in the Israeli implementation of what has been agreed upon so far,” Naim said.

He added “Israel always make elections as excuse to prolong the period of understandings without improving them.”

The October 2018 agreement talked of two phases. The first was to provide specific facilities for the Gaza Strip, and the second was to begin after the formation of the Israeli government over a long-term truce that would include a prisoner exchange deal. Political science professor Mokhamar Abu Saada believes that the tension on the Gaza border is over the slow implementation of the agreement.

“We have noticed in the previous Israeli election period that there was an escalation as Hamas and factions tried to obtain more Israeli facilities. It was a way to pressure the Israeli government as it knew that the Israeli reaction would be limited in this period,” Abu Saada told Arab News.

“Netanyahu cannot at this stage reach a long-term agreement with Hamas because of the Israeli elections, because all he wants is to keep the Gaza Strip calm without tension, but he has no ability to offer much,” he added.

Press reports talk of a tension between Hamas and Egypt that led to the recent escalation in the Gaza Strip. Taher Al-Nounou, media adviser to Ismail Haniyeh, denied this.

He said in a press statement: “The head of Hamas attaches special importance to this firm and growing relationship (with Egypt), as Egypt has from its geographical position a central role in the path of the Palestinian issue.”

Egypt allowed Haniyeh to travel on a foreign tour at the end of last year for the first time since he became head of Hamas in 2017.

A Hamas leader who declined to be identified said that there is a tension in the relationship between Egypt and Hamas as a result of Haniyeh’s visit to Tehran to participate in the funeral of Qassem Soleimani.

“Hamas promised Egypt that Haniyeh would not visit Tehran but after the assassination of Soleimani there was a necessity to do so, which angered Egypt and increased tension,” he said.

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