New Age Islam
Thu Oct 22 2020, 05:16 AM

Islamic World News ( 21 Feb 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Pak Federal Shariat Court Validates Test-Tube Babies Conditionally
























An American flag still stands next to one of more than 170 toppled Jewish headstones after a weekend vandalism attack on Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, a suburb of St Louis, Mo., on Feb. 21. (Tom Gannam/Reuters)

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Pak Federal Shariat Court Validates Test-Tube Babies Conditionally

2005 Delhi Serial Blasts: Forced Us to Eat Faeces, Made Us Sign Blank Papers, Says Fazili

Muslim-American Activists Raise Money to Repair Vandalized Jewish Cemetery

France’s Le Pen Cancels Mufti Meeting over Headscarf

Syria: Rift Widening between Terrorists of FSA, Tahrir Al-Sham Haya'at

 

Pakistan

Pak Federal Shariat Court Validates Test-Tube Babies Conditionally

JuDWarns of Holding Long March for Hafiz Saeed

Pakistan's army chief Qamar Bajwa blames India for his country's terrorist menace

Police operation kills eight ‘terrorists’ in Karachi

Botched suicide attack kills seven in Charsadda

NADRA to prepare record of families affected by terrorism

Pakistan doesn’t want confrontation with Kabul

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India

2005 Delhi Serial Blasts: Forced Us to Eat Faeces, Made Us Sign Blank Papers, Says Fazili

India-China Talks Today Amid Diplomatic Chill; Azhar Ban, NSG Bid Key Issues

NIA Court Frames Charges Against Abu Dhabi Isis Case Accused

Apex maritime security body still missing, nine years after 26/11 terror strikes

Missouri man charged with trying to plan terrorist attack

Money-laundering case: Zakir Naik ready to give statement via e-media, says counsel to ED

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North America

Muslim-American Activists Raise Money to Repair Vandalized Jewish Cemetery

At Least 11 US Jewish Centers Get Bomb Threats

Canada to welcome 1,200 Yazidi refugees in $21m operation

An American Muslim veteran reflects on resisting the Muslim Ban

Analysis: Radical Islamist threat increasing in Canada

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Europe

France’s Le Pen Cancels Mufti Meeting over Headscarf

Vatican, Al-Azhar Team Up To Counter Religious Justification for Violence

British Police arrests 5 teenagers planning to join terror group

IS won’t be defeated unless corruption tackled: TI

Generosity of British Muslims to be celebrated at charity awards ceremony

Russia finds new jihadist coalition in Syria ‘worrisome’: Foreign Ministry

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Arab World

Syria: Rift Widening between Terrorists of FSA, Tahrir Al-Sham Haya'at

Syria: Tens of FSA-Linked Terrorists Killed in Clashes with ISIL in Dara'a

Al-Azhar: The End Is Near For ISIS

US-backed alliance enters Syria’s Deir al-Zor province

CIA-backed aid for Syrian rebels ‘frozen’ after Islamist attack

Civilian casualties reported as US-backed militants enter Syria’s Dayr al-Zawr

Riyadh may send forces to Syria to back US campaign against Daesh: Saudi FM

UAE, Kurds Standing against US, Turkey in Syria

Syrian Army Shatters ISIL's Last Remaining Defense Line outside Deir Hafer

Syrian Army Marching on Al-Nusra Positions in Western Aleppo

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Southeast Asia

Criminal Expert Witness Says Ahok Guilty of 'Desecrating' Quran

Malaysia’s Muslims Grapple With Being ‘Good Enough’

Here Come the Malaysian Morality Police

Benjamin Netanyahu took two-hour flight detour to avoid Indonesian airspace

Anies Denies Pandering to Hardline Muslim Groups

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Mideast

Turkish Military: 44 ISIS Militants Killed In North Syria

Unity between Shia, Sunni Muslims Boosts Mideast Security: Iran Minister

Iran, Turkey trade barbs over Syria

Seven million Yemenis close to starvation: UN

Iran to stand by Syria until ultimate victory: Rouhan

International conference on Palestine enters second day in Iranian capital

Israeli warplanes bombard military positions outside Damascus: Reports

Army soldiers, allies kill Saudi mercenaries off Yemen coast

7 million people face starvation in conflict-ridden Yemen: UN

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Africa

Bodies of 74 Migrants Wash Up On Libyan Beach

Curfew imposed after 14 people killed in ethnic fighting in central Nigeria

Gaddafi son's trial unfair: UN

DPP closes its case in Muslim murder trial after 36 witnesses

Sudan: Islamists Reject All Constitutional Amendments

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South Asia

Bangladesh: Islamic Leader Promises Protection to Christians and Hindus

Over 50 Afghan nationals deported

Myanmar probing police 'cover-up' of deaths of two Rohingya Muslims

Bangladesh: Blogger's Murder Planner Faces Anti-Terror Remand

UN envoy visits Rohingya camps again

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/pak-federal-shariat-court-validates-test-tube-babies-conditionally/d/110169

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Pak Federal Shariat Court Validates Test-Tube Babies Conditionally

February 22, 2017

LAHORE - The Federal Shariat Court yesterday declared the option of using ‘test tube baby’ method for conceiving babies for the married couples having some medical complications as lawful.

The court declared if the sperm has been obtained from the father and the egg from the mother and the same has been fertilised in the test tube through medical process and the embryo is then placed in the womb of the actual mother, the child would belong to the actual mother and father. “This process cannot be considered as illegal or against the injunctions of the holy Quran and Sunnah,” it reads.

“The sperm and the egg belong to the actual father and mother. If the couple agrees to go through the prescribed medical procedure, then legally no question can be raised in respect of the birth of the child. The child in such a case would be legal and legitimate,” the court gave the reason for validating the process.

The Federal Shariat Court categorically declared, “In all other cases where a woman is arranged as a surrogate mother against the monetary consideration or some other reason, the whole procedure as well as the resulting birth of the child would be illegal and against the injunctions of the holy Quran and Sunnah,” reads the decision.

“In Pakistan, such an agreement, oral or written, would ordinarily be governed by the Contract Act, so suitable amendment be made in Section 2 of the Contract Act, 1872 and it may be specifically provided that any agreement regarding surrogacy would not be enforceable by law as the same would contain unlawful proposals and unlawful considerations,” the decision states.

The Federal Shariat Court sought amendment to the Pakistan Penal Code and suitable legisdlation regarding definition of surrogacy by August 15, 2017. The same be declared as an offence punishable with imprisonment as well as fine, the decision says.

http://nation.com.pk/national/22-Feb-2017/federal-shariat-court-validates-test-tube-babies-conditionally

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2005 Delhi Serial Blasts: Forced Us to Eat Faeces, Made Us Sign Blank Papers, Says Fazili

February 22, 2017

It has been almost 12 years since Mohammad Hussain Fazili was picked up from his Srinagar home by a special team of the Delhi Police. But even today, he vividly remembers each of the first 50 days he spent in police remand.

The 42-year-old returned home to Srinagar Saturday after almost 12 years in jail in connection with the 2005 Delhi serial blasts. Fazili and another accused, Mohd Rafiq Shah, were acquitted by a Delhi court last week.

Sitting at home, Fazili alleged the Delhi Police tried everything — from mental to physical torture — to extract a confession.

“I still tremble recalling those days,” said Fazili in a hushed tone so others cannot hear him. “They forced feaces into our mouth and then shoved rotis and water so we would gulp it down.”

Senior Special Cell officers refused to comment on the allegations.

Fazili, who was a shawl weaver on the outskirts of Srinagar, alleged that the torture started even before the accused were taken to court for police remand. “As we arrived in Delhi, we were taken to the police station in Lodhi Colony,” he alleged. “I was asked to lie on a bench and my hands were tied underneath it. Two policemen stood on my legs and one walked over my abdomen. Another forced me to drink water mixed with detergent.”

Fazili said before they were taken to a judge that evening, policemen warned them against complaining. “They said, ‘Don’t dare open your mouth before judge sahib… If you do, you will face even worse’,” he alleged.

He said police forced them to sign around 200 blank papers.

“They (the policemen) would tell us that they knew we are innocent. But they would tell us they have a hundred ways to implicate us in the case,” he alleged.

Fazili said their 50-day ordeal ended once they were shifted to Tihar jail. “In Tihar, they didn’t torture us,” he said. “But there was a fear of attack from criminals. They were very aggressive initially — they made me sweep about two kilometres of the floor. But later, as the case unfolded, their behaviour changed. The day I was acquitted, sweets were distributed.”

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/2005-delhi-serial-blasts-forced-us-to-eat-faeces-made-us-sign-blank-papers-says-fazili-4537298/

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Muslim-American activists raise money to repair vandalized Jewish cemetery

Feb 22, 2017

Two Muslim-Americans activists launched a crowdfunding campaign Tuesday to raise money to repair a historic Jewish cemetery in St. Louis that was vandalized over the weekend. Within two hours, the fundraising campaign started by Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi had already surpassed its goal of $20,000. "Through this campaign, we hope to send a united message from the Jewish and Muslim communities that there is no place for this type of hate, desecration, and violence in America," the crowdfunding webpage read.

More than 100 headstones were toppled or damaged in the attacks, believed to have happened late Sunday night or early Monday. Investigators are reviewing surveillance footage to help identify suspects.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R), who is Jewish, has condemned the attacks as "despicable" and "cowardly" and requested volunteers to help him clean up the cemetery Wednesday afternoon. The Missouri House of Representatives in Jefferson City held a moment of silence Tuesday for the cemetery, which opened in 1893. "Anxiety is high. Your loved ones are there. Your memories are there," said Karen Aroesty, the St. Louis regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.

The cemetery attack marks the second instance of anti-Semitic violence this week alone, after bomb threats were called into 11 Jewish community centers nationwide on Monday. Since early January, 54 Jewish community centers across 27 states have faced threats.

http://nation.com.pk/international/22-Feb-2017/muslim-american-activists-raise-money-to-repair-vandalized-jewish-cemetery

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France’s Le Pen cancels Mufti meeting over headscarf

Feb 21, 2017

France’s far-right National Front presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has canceled a meeting with Lebanon’s Grand Mufti after being told she should have to wear a headscarf.

Le Pen was scheduled to meet Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian on Tuesday but walked away from the meeting after refusing to put on a headscarf. She is currently on a two-day trip in Lebanon.

"You can pass on my respects to the grand mufti, but I will not cover myself up," she said.

The Mufti’s spokesman, Khaldoun Awas, told reporters that Le Pen had been informed before the meeting that she would be required to wear head covering, and that he was "surprised by her refusal."

"I personally greeted her at the door of the Edict House and wanted to hand her a white headscarf that was in my hand, she refused to take it," said Awas.

"I urged her to put it on, she refused and said she would not put it on and walked out without attending the previously agreed upon meeting with the Mufti. The Edict House regrets such inappropriate behavior at such meetings," he added.

French legislation bans headscarves in classrooms. Le Pen has proposed extending the 2004 law banning headscarves and other religious symbols in all public spaces.

She launched her election bid earlier in the month with an anti-Islam stance. She has also noted that if she is elected as president, mosques and places of Islamic teaching will be closed down.

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/02/21/511564/france-lebanon-le-pen-head-scarf

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Syria: Rift Widening between Terrorists of FSA, Tahrir Al-Sham Haya'at

Feb 22, 2017

The websites quoted one of the commanders of FSA-linked Tajamo'a Thawar Al-Atareb as saying that unknown assailants abducted Ens Ibrahim Abu Zeid, a field commander of the group near the town of al-Atareb.

The websites added that Tajamo'a Thawar Al-Atareb blamed that Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at was behind the abduction of Abu Zeid, because Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at had previously captured several senior commanders of the group.

The websites also disclosed that Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at is planning to take control over al-Atareb town.

Late in January, Al-Nusra Front (recently renamed to Fatah al-Sham Front)

 and several militant groups declared forming a new coalition under the name of Tahrir Al-Sham Hay'at to narrow down widening rifts amongst their commanders and members.

The Al-Nusra Front, Nouralddeen al-Zinki Movement, Jeish al-Sonah, Jabhat Ansaraldeen and Liwa al-Haq announced that they would act under a united coalition named the Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at.

The five merged terrorist groups act under the command of Abu Jaber Hashem al-Sheikh, who was one of the commanders of Ahrar al-Sham. The new coalition led by al-Sheikh is now fighting against Ahrar al-Sham, a rival terrorist group operating mainly in Northwestern Syria.

Al-Sheikh resigned from his post in Ahrar al-Sham after he was appointed as the commander of Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at.

A number of Ahrar al-Sham's commanders, including the groups' spokesman Abu Yusuf al-Mohajer, Hesam Salameh and Abu al-Fatah al-Farqali Mesri also joined the new coalition.

Terrorist groups' websites claimed that Al-Nusra Commander Abu Mohammad al-Joulani will be the top commander of Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at.

Ahrar al-Sham rejected its affiliation to the new coalition, but websites close to the terrorist groups have disclosed that Ahrar al-Sham, Faylaq al-Sham, Jeish al-Izzah, Turkistani party and Liwa al-Tamkin will soon start a new front called Tahrir al-Syria Front.

Nusra terrorists have been attacking positions of other terrorist rivals across Northwestern Syria.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951204000338

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Pakistan

 

Pak Federal Shariat Court Validates Test-Tube Babies Conditionally

February 22, 2017

LAHORE - The Federal Shariat Court yesterday declared the option of using ‘test tube baby’ method for conceiving babies for the married couples having some medical complications as lawful.

The court declared if the sperm has been obtained from the father and the egg from the mother and the same has been fertilised in the test tube through medical process and the embryo is then placed in the womb of the actual mother, the child would belong to the actual mother and father. “This process cannot be considered as illegal or against the injunctions of the holy Quran and Sunnah,” it reads.

“The sperm and the egg belong to the actual father and mother. If the couple agrees to go through the prescribed medical procedure, then legally no question can be raised in respect of the birth of the child. The child in such a case would be legal and legitimate,” the court gave the reason for validating the process.

The Federal Shariat Court categorically declared, “In all other cases where a woman is arranged as a surrogate mother against the monetary consideration or some other reason, the whole procedure as well as the resulting birth of the child would be illegal and against the injunctions of the holy Quran and Sunnah,” reads the decision.

“In Pakistan, such an agreement, oral or written, would ordinarily be governed by the Contract Act, so suitable amendment be made in Section 2 of the Contract Act, 1872 and it may be specifically provided that any agreement regarding surrogacy would not be enforceable by law as the same would contain unlawful proposals and unlawful considerations,” the decision states.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/national/22-Feb-2017/federal-shariat-court-validates-test-tube-babies-conditionally

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JuDWarns of Holding Long March for Hafiz Saeed

February 22, 2017

LAHORE - Jamaatud Dawa yesterday organised countrywide protests against Defence Minister Khawaja Asif’s statement about Hafiz Saeed and warned to hold long march if the detained party chief was not released within days.

A statement issued by JuD said large number of JuD workers participated in protests held in different cities and expressed their feelings of anger over the defence minister’s remark, demanding his resignation.

The defence minister had said Hafiz Saaed can pose a serious threat to society while addressing a security conference in Munich, Germany a couple of days ago.

In Lahore, demonstration was held at Choburji Chowk. Followers of Hafiz Saeed belonging to students, lawyers and traders community also joined the demonstration. Participants carried banners and placards containing text “Hafiz Saeed --- Pakistan’s defender, Mian Modi friendship --- Unacceptable”, should anti-government slogans and demanded immediate release of their chief.

Addressing to demonstration, JuD leader Hafiz Abdul Rehman Makki warned to hold a long march towards Islamabad if Hafiz Saeed was not releases. He said that external forces were conspiring to spread provocation in peaceful workers of JuD. “Statement of some ministers is part of the agenda. Any worker of JuD had never plucked a single leaf and always approached the courts,” he said.

JuD leader said that they did not want provocation in country as they always condemned terrorism and tried to create an atmosphere of unity and solidarity in the country. Convener Tehreek e Hurmat e Rasool Maulana Ameer Hamza said that Khawaja Asif was defence minister but speaking for India.

JuD leader Hafiz Masood said that Khawaja Asif’s statement was very disappointing. Hafiz Talha Saeed, Head JuD Lahore Abul Hashim Rabbani, Secretary General Tehreek Azadi Jammu Kashmir (TAJK) Hafiz Khalid Waleed, Maulana Idrees Farooqi, Usman Shafiq and others also spoke to the demonstration.

In Sialkot, JuD held protest at Allama Iqbal Chowk. JuD Sialkot head Maulana Ramzan Manzoor, Ameer Jamaat e Islami (JI) Shakeel Akhtar, PTI leader Umar Farooq, Head PSF Gujranwala region Faisal Gujar, ex MPA Arshad Bhaggu and others addressed to protest.

In Islamabad, a demonstration was held in front of National Press Club. Large number of people participated. Indian and US flags were burned at the end of demonstration. President Anjuman Taajran Ajmal Baloch, Leader Anjuman Taajran Kashif Choudhry, Joint Secretary Islamabad Imran Khan and others spoke to demonstration.

In Karachi, JuD held protest outside Press Club. Doctor Muzammal Iqbal Hashmi and others addressed.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/lahore/22-Feb-2017/jud-warns-of-holding-long-march-for-hafiz-saeed

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Pakistan's army chief Qamar Bajwa blames India for his country's terrorist menace

Feb 22, 2017

NEW DELHI: Pakistan's army chief is now blaming India for Islamabad's inability or unwillingness to act against terror that's been grown and nourished on its own soil.

"We are fully aware of Indian design and her support to terrorism in Pakistan and the region," Bajwa said, according to a press release issued by the media wing of Pakistan's armed forces, which said the army chief was addressing troops at the Line of Control (LoC) in the Mattewala, Munaawar Sector.

Even as he exhorted his troops to "respond effectively" to what he called India's "unprovoked" ceasefire violations, Bajwa said these alleged violations are part of a deliberate "design" on India's part.

"At one hand, the ceasefire violations by Indian forces are an effort to divert world's attention from its atrocities against innocent Kashmiris, while on the other hand it is an attempt to dilute our response against terrorism and militancy," Bajwa said, according to the press release issued by Inter-Services Public relations.

Bajwa cited the example of alleged Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav as one of the ways in which India is allegedly undermining Pakistan's efforts to stem terror there.

"Kulbhushan Yadev (Jadhav) is one such evidence of these efforts and his case will be taken to the logical conclusion," Bajwa said.

Jadhav was reportedly arrested in Balochistan last March. India has since acknowledged Jadhav is a retired Indian Navy officer, but has denied the allegation that he was in any way connected to the government.

In fact, just in December, Sartaj Aziz, foreign affairs advisor to Pakistani's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told the Pakistani Senate that Yadav's dossier didn't have conclusive evidence that he was a spy.

"It (the dossier) did not have any conclusive evidence," Aziz was quoted as saying by Geo TV.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistans-army-chief-qamar-bajwa-blames-india-for-his-countrys-terrorist-menace/articleshow/57284991.cms

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Police operation kills eight ‘terrorists’ in Karachi

February 22, 2017

Karachi: During an operation the Karachi police killed eight ‘terrorists’ on Wednesday, reported Waqt News.

According to details the operation was conducted on a tip-off in Bakra Peeri area of Maleer. While talking to media SSP Maleer Rao Anwar stated that operation was started during early hours. “Among the dead is commander of banned organization-Gul Zaman,” he said.

Police retrieved laptops, hand grenades and arms from the ‘terrorists’.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/national/22-Feb-2017/police-operation-kills-eight-terrorists-in-karachi

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Botched suicide attack kills seven in Charsadda

22-Feb-17

PESHAWAR: At least seven people, including a lawyer and an eight-year-old boy, were killed and as many as 25 others were injured when three terrorists wearing suicide vests attacked the sessions court in Tangi tehsil of Charsadda on Tuesday.

According to local sources, the attack begun at around 11:40am when the terrorists opened indiscriminate fire using automatic weapons and hurled grenades at the security officials in an attempt to enter the court. According to a source, the gunfire was immediately followed by explosions of hand grenades, one of which exploded at the entrance, while another went off near the bar room where a number of lawyers were reportedly present at that time.

However, timely action by policemen stationed at the sessions court prevented the attackers from entering the premises, as they gunned down two attackers and the third one blew himself up after failing to enter the building.

Charsadda District Police Officer (DPO) Sohail Khalid informed the media that all the three attackers had been killed in retaliatory fire. "The policemen on duty at the court fought bravely, as they were able to kill the attackers outside the entrance, thus preventing large-scale casualties. None of the attackers was able to enter the gates," he said. "Bomb disposal experts told us that each bomber was wearing seven to eight kilogrammes of explosives."

Like many government buildings and offices of law enforcement agencies, the security at sessions court in Tangi had also been beefed up after threats of terrorist attacks in the wake of military action against Afghanistan-based Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA)

Charsadda Assistant Commissioner Inayatullah Khan told the media that the injured included six policemen who confronted the terrorists in a gunbattle that lasted for at least 14 minutes.

A witness, Sarfaraz Khan, who got injured after being hit by shrapnel, informed Daily Times that he had gone to the court for his hearing when the attack took place. "I heard gunshots and explosions before I was hit by a shrapnel, and fell down on the ground. I only remember that a rickshaw driver lifted me and brought me to the hospital," he said at the district hospital.

Another man who witnessed the attack, Muhammad Hussain, said he was about to enter the complex when he heard the blast.

When I looked up I saw three armed men, hurling grenades and opening fire," said the 35-year-old civil servant, adding he sought shelter in a nearby police barracks from where he heard the gunfight.

A number of injured were first rushed to the Tehsil Headquarters Hospital Tangi, but they had to be shifted to Charsadda after being provided first aid, as the hospital lacked specialised facilities for treating the injured persons.

Soon after the news of the attack, ambulances were dispatched from Peshawar and Mardan to the spot. At least 12 injured persons were shifted to the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar.

Full report at:

http://dailytimes.com.pk/khyber-pakhtunkhwa/22-Feb-17/botched-suicide-attack-kills-seven-in-charsadda

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NADRA to prepare record of families affected by terrorism

22-Feb-17

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly's Standing committee on The Interior has directed NADRA to prepare a record of families affected by terrorism.

The committee also directed the authority to compile a list of martyred and injured soldiers.

The committee met under Shamim Ahmad Khan at NADRA headquarters. Committee members present were Javed Ali Shah, Ghalib Khan, Sheikh Akram, Iftikharul Hasan, Basit Bokhari, Shahid Bhatti, and Ali Hasan Gilani.

Some members expressed their reservations over the minutes of the previous meeting. The Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) for 2017-18 was also approved.

Akram asserted that Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had never attended the committee meeting.

"If the Minister gives his time to the committee meeting then it will be a matter of pride and honour for the committee," he added. The committee Chairman said the minister had only attended a meeting last year.

Akram stated however, that former interior minister Rehman Malik used to attend meetings regularly. Criticising Malik, some members objected to this being mentioned at the meeting.

Full report at:

http://dailytimes.com.pk/pakistan/22-Feb-17/nadra-to-prepare-record-of-families-affected-by-terrorism

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Pakistan doesn’t want confrontation with Kabul

February 22, 2017

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Tuesday said it did not want any confrontation with Afghanistan and was committed to resolve all issues peacefully with the neighbouring country.

In a meeting with UN Special Representative of Secretary General for Afghanistan Tadamichi Yamamoto here, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said Pakistan was committed to Afghan peace and expected the same from the other side.

Earlier, Pakistan and Afghanistan reached a tentative peace agreement with Kabul promising to act against terrorists’ sanctuaries inside the Afghan territory but at the same time it handed a list of 32 alleged training centers seeking action from Islamabad.

Last week, Pakistan’s military had handed over a list of 76 most wanted terrorists to the Afghanistan embassy officials at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi as Jamatul Ahrar claimed responsibility for terror strikes inside Pakistan.

This week, Pakistan forces had moved heavy artillery and military equipment closer to Pak-Afghan in a bid to stop infiltration and destroy the militants’ hideouts along the frontier.

In the meeting with Sartaj Aziz, Tadamichi Yamamoto shared the UN’s vision of making meaningful contribution towards peace and stability in Afghanistan.

“Both sides agreed on the need of continued and constructive efforts for Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process,” said the statement issued by the Foreign Ministry after the meeting.

Aziz stressed the need for a politically negotiated settlement in Afghanistan. “The two sides discussed the emerging situation in Afghanistan and the need for strengthening efforts for enduring peace and stability,” the statement added.

Meanwhile, Pakistan reaffirmed support to Azerbaijan on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. A foreign office spokesperson rejected reports that Pakistan did not send any observers for so-called referendum in Nagorno Karabakh.

He reiterated Pakistan's stance on the conflict that “we support Azerbaijan's position on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”

He added: “Pakistan's position is that the solution has to be found within the territory of Azerbaijan i.e. complete return of occupied Azeri lands by Armenia in accordance with the resolutions of the UN Security Council and withdrawal of Armenian army from Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent districts and Return of IDPs and refugees to their homes.”

Pakistan is a Member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Contact Group on Aggression of the Republic of Armenia against the Republic of Azerbaijan, the spokesperson said.

Afghan Envoy Omar Zakhilwal also held a meeting with Sartaj Aziz last night in a bid to defuse the tension arising out of the new wave of terrorisms – with clear links to Afghanistan-based terror groups.

APP adds: Foreign Office Spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said the meeting took place in Islamabad in which the early elimination of tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan were discussed. Both had mutual understanding on bilateral relations in between the two countries.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/national/22-Feb-2017/pakistan-doesn-t-want-confrontation-with-kabul

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India

 

2005 Delhi serial blasts: Forced us to eat faeces, made us sign blank papers, says Fazili

by Bashaarat Masood

February 22, 2017

It has been almost 12 years since Mohammad Hussain Fazili was picked up from his Srinagar home by a special team of the Delhi Police. But even today, he vividly remembers each of the first 50 days he spent in police remand.

The 42-year-old returned home to Srinagar Saturday after almost 12 years in jail in connection with the 2005 Delhi serial blasts. Fazili and another accused, Mohd Rafiq Shah, were acquitted by a Delhi court last week.

Sitting at home, Fazili alleged the Delhi Police tried everything — from mental to physical torture — to extract a confession.

“I still tremble recalling those days,” said Fazili in a hushed tone so others cannot hear him. “They forced feaces into our mouth and then shoved rotis and water so we would gulp it down.”

Senior Special Cell officers refused to comment on the allegations.

Fazili, who was a shawl weaver on the outskirts of Srinagar, alleged that the torture started even before the accused were taken to court for police remand. “As we arrived in Delhi, we were taken to the police station in Lodhi Colony,” he alleged. “I was asked to lie on a bench and my hands were tied underneath it. Two policemen stood on my legs and one walked over my abdomen. Another forced me to drink water mixed with detergent.”

Fazili said before they were taken to a judge that evening, policemen warned them against complaining. “They said, ‘Don’t dare open your mouth before judge sahib… If you do, you will face even worse’,” he alleged.

He said police forced them to sign around 200 blank papers.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/2005-delhi-serial-blasts-forced-us-to-eat-faeces-made-us-sign-blank-papers-says-fazili-4537298/

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India-China talks today amid diplomatic chill; Azhar ban, NSG bid key issues

Feb 22, 2017

Top officials from India and China will on Wednesday hold the first round of the upgraded strategic dialogue in snow-bound Beijing amid a diplomatic chill and cautious optimism about a thaw as the year progresses.

Foreign secretary S Jaishankar, who was India’s longest-serving envoy to China between 2009 and 2013, flew into Beijing from Colombo on Tuesday and met China’s top diplomat, state councillor Yang Jiechi, within hours.

But the focus will be on Wednesday, when Jaishankar walks into one of the many ornate halls of the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, a scenic complex and former residence of Mao Zedong, to meet executive vice-foreign minister Zhang Yesui.

The 64-year-old Yesui, who studied at the London School of Economics, and Jaishankar are expected to discuss a gamut of issues. India’s top diplomat is expected to raise two key problems that hit ties last year – China blocking India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and opposing New Delhi’s repeated efforts to get Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar listed by the UN’s al-Qaeda and Islamic State committee.

Read: It’s time India changed the foreign policy calculus with Pakistan and China

There’s unlikely to be progress in either case.

Only last week, China said there was no consensus among UN Security Council members as India hasn’t provided “solid evidence” against Azhar, accused by New Delhi of masterminding last year’s terror attack on Pathankot airbase.

On the NSG issue, China’s stand is that it wants to uphold the sanctity of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Since India is not a signatory to the pact, admitting it into the NSG would spell doom for the NPT regime - that’s what China has been saying and is likely to say during the strategic dialogue as well.

It‘s possible that China could raise the issue of India’s reluctance to come on board for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), President Xi Jinping’s ambitious, multi-billion dollar connectivity project over land and sea.

Full report at:

http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/india-china-to-hold-talks-today-amid-diplomatic-chill-jaish-chief-masood-azhar-s-un-bad-nsg-bid-remain-key-issues/story-IputQqjf5mWQ9u6TM72P1M.html

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Nia Court Frames Charges Against Abu Dhabi Isis Case Accused

February 21, 2017

New Delhi: A special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court on Tuesday framed charges against three accused in connection with the Abu Dhabi ISIS case.

Charges have been framed against Sheikh Azhar ul Islam, Adnan Hassan and Mohammed Farhan Shaikh, for offences punishable under Section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Sections 18, 20, 38, 39 & 40 of the UA (P) Act1967.

The next date for the hearing of the matter has been fixed for March 29.

The accused were arrested on January 29 after their arrival from Abu Dhabi on January 28.

While Adnan Hassan and Mohammed Farhan Shaikh had been frequently visiting the UAE in a search for jobs since 2008 and 2012 respectively, Shaikh Azhar ul Islam joined them in UAE in July 2015.

Hassan had an earlier affiliation with the Indian Mujahideen and later leaned towards the ISIS.

Investigations have established that the accused, in connivance with other known and unknown associates had hatched a criminal conspiracy to propagate ideology, recruit persons, raise funds and facilitate the travel of such recruited persons to Syria to join the ISIS and further its activities.

In furtherance of the aforesaid conspiracy, the accused persons had created multiple email IDs, used multiple mobile numbers obtained from their associates of different countries, formed various online forums and groups on various social media platforms, using internet and invited and associated like-minded persons, residents of different countries from different parts of the world.

Full report at:

http://www.siasat.com/news/nia-court-frames-charges-abu-dhabi-isis-case-accused-1136471/

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NIA court frames charges against Abu Dhabi ISIS case accused

February 22, 2017

A special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court on Tuesday framed charges against three accused in connection with the Abu Dhabi ISIS case.

Charges have been framed against Sheikh Azhar ul Islam, Adnan Hassan and Mohammed Farhan Shaikh, for offences punishable under Section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Sections 18, 20, 38, 39 & 40 of the UA (P) Act1967.

The next date for the hearing of the matter has been fixed for March 29.

The accused were arrested on January 29 after their arrival from Abu Dhabi on January 28.

While Adnan Hassan and Mohammed Farhan Shaikh had been frequently visiting the UAE in a search for jobs since 2008 and 2012 respectively, Shaikh Azhar ul Islam joined them in UAE in July 2015.

Hassan had an earlier affiliation with the Indian Mujahideen and later leaned towards the ISIS.

Investigations have established that the accused, in connivance with other known and unknown associates had hatched a criminal conspiracy to propagate ideology, recruit persons, raise funds and facilitate the travel of such recruited persons to Syria to join the ISIS and further its activities.

In furtherance of the aforesaid conspiracy, the accused persons had created multiple email IDs, used multiple mobile numbers obtained from their associates of different countries, formed various online forums and groups on various social media platforms, using internet and invited and associated like-minded persons, residents of different countries from different parts of the world.

They formed a terrorist gang and acted as a frontal group of the ISIS and incited, motivated, invited and facilitated people of different nationalities to leave their respective countries and travel to Syria to join, support and further activities of the ISIS.

The accused were actively involved in perpetuating, promoting and propagating ideologies and terrorist activities of the ISIS. They had voluntarily advocated and professed to be the supporters and members of the ISIS and actively supported, invited support from others, propagated and promoted unlawful activities and terrorists activities of the ISIS by exhorting, inciting, luring and influencing others to become members of this organization by disseminating incriminating contents including sharing comments, pages, videos, images, literature and openly endorsing, justifying and glorifying the terrorist acts of the ISIS.

Full report at:

http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-nia-court-frames-charges-against-abu-dhabi-isis-case-accused-2330150

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Apex maritime security body still missing, nine years after 26/11 terror strikes

Feb 21, 2017

NEW DELHI: The government is yet to get cracking on a national maritime authority (NMA), which was strongly recommended after the 26/11 terror strikes in 2008 and promised by the NDA government soon after it came to power in 2014, even as Phase-II of the coastal surveillance network (CSN) was finally approved on Tuesday.

The defence acquisitions council, chaired by defence minister Manohar Parrikar, accorded the initial nod or "acceptance of necessity" to the Rs 803 crore project for Phase-II of the CSN. This will involve setting up 38 more radar stations with static radars and electro-optic sensors, four mobile surveillance stations and integration of VTMS (vessel traffic management systems) sites in the Gulfs of Kutch and Khambat.

This follows Phase-I at a cost of Rs 600 crore, under which 36 radar stations on the mainland, six in Lakshadweep and Minicoy and four in Andaman and Nicobar are now operational after several delays, say officials. The CSN, incidentally, was first mooted almost two decades ago but gained momentum only after the 26/11 terror strikes in Mumbai rocked India like never before.

Similarly, while several measures ranging from setting up of state marine police stations and the Sagar Prahari Bal to the naval NC3I (national command, control, communication and intelligence) network have been implemented, the overall progress on revamping the country's entire coastal security architecture has been excruciatingly slow.

A glaring example is the NDA government's failure to act on its own promise, made during the President's address to Parliament in June 2014, of setting up the NMA to ensure effective coordination among the multiple authorities dealing with maritime and coastal security issues in the country.

The urgent need for an apex federal body to coordinate and bring synergy among the different stakeholders, ranging from central ministries and state governments to the Navy, Coast Guard, customs, intelligence agencies and port authorities, was even stressed way back in 2001 by the high-powered Group of Ministers on "reforming the national security system" after the 1999 Kargil conflict.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/apex-maritime-security-body-still-missing-nine-years-after-26/11-terror-strikes/articleshow/57278709.cms

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Missouri man charged with trying to plan terrorist attack

February 22, 2017

A Missouri native who said he wanted to participate in a terrorist attack that would cause many deaths and injuries is charged with helping plan a Presidents Day attack on buses, trains and a train station in Kansas City, federal officials said Tuesday.

Robert Lorenzo Hester Jr., 25, a Missouri-born U.S. citizen from Columbia, was charged in federal court in Kansas City with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. He was arrested Friday when he arrived at a meeting with what he thought was an Islamic State sympathizer who was an undercover FBI agent.

The arrest was made public Tuesday after Hester made his first court appearance, during which a judge ordered him to remain in custody. A detention hearing was scheduled for Friday.

Online court records didn’t list an attorney for Hester on Tuesday.

A criminal complaint said federal officials began investigating Hester in August 2016 after receiving tips about social media posts in which he said he had converted to Islam and expressed hatred for the United States and a tendency toward violence. Undercover FBI agents contacted Hester first online and then in several face-to-face meetings to discuss whether he wanted to participate in a terrorist attack.

During those contacts, Hester “expressed his interest in and exhibited his willingness to commit violence in support of a foreign terrorist organization,” according to the complaint. Hester, a married father of two children who served less than a year in the U.S. Army, also provided materials such as roofing nails, batteries and other items that he was told would be used to build bombs for the attack, the complaint said. He also was shown weapons and was told several backpacks containing explosives would be placed in different locations in Kansas City.

The undercover agent told Hester the supposed terrorist organization was planning on “killing a lot of people” in an attack “10 times more” severe than the Boston Marathon attack, according to the complaint. Hester approved of the plans and rejected the undercover agent’s offer to walk away if he didn’t want to participate, the complaint said.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/world/missouri-man-charged-with-trying-to-plan-terrorist-attack-4537349/

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Money-laundering case: Zakir Naik ready to give statement via e-media, says counsel to ED

February 22, 2017

Controversial televangelist Zakir Naik has offered to depose through Skype before the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which is probing a money laundering case against Naik and his now outlawed outfit Islamic Research Foundation (IRF).

“My client is willing and ready to give any statement before you via Skype or any other mode of electronic media to assist you in your investigation,” read a letter sent by Naik’s counsel.

However, sources in the central agency told The Indian Express that they will reject the offer made by Naik as they want to subject him to custodial interrogation. Naik is reported to be holed up in Saudi Arabia along with his wife and children. Last week, the ED arrested his close confidant Aamir Abdul Mannan Gazdar, a marble trader by profession, in the case. While the agency has pegged Naik’s worth around a few thousand crore, the probe is currently concentrating on the Rs 200 crore transaction allegedly handled by Gazdar on behalf of Naik, which they suspect was laundered money.

“Gazdar has not cooperated during investigation and has evaded our questions on the source of the money and its spending,” said an official.

“Naik received money through donation and also by selling content produced by Harmony Media, a production house, to companies based in Dubai and London. Money received through donation and from the production company has been routed to companies that we suspect are shell companies floated to round trip funds to buy real estate. We require to subject him to custodial interrogation and therefore questioning through Skype is not an option we will avail,” the official added.

In his letter, Naik has also sought that the investigation by the ED be kept on hold till the Tribunal Court decides on the ban on IRF. IRF has been banned for five years following a government notification declaring it an ‘unlawful association’ under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Naik has challenged the ban. “My client has always been law abiding and has never been accused of any offence much less of the offence of the magnitude that is under consideration.”

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/money-laundering-case-naik-ready-to-give-statement-via-e-media-counsel-to-ed/

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North America

 

Muslim-American Activists Raise Money to Repair Vandalized Jewish Cemetery

By Colby Itkowitz

February 21

After the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis over the long holiday weekend, an incident in which more than 150 headstones were toppled or damaged, two American Muslim activists started a fundraiser to help pay for needed repairs.

“Through this campaign, we hope to send a united message from the Jewish and Muslim communities that there is no place for this type of hate, desecration, and violence in America,” the fundraising page on the site LaunchingGood reads. “We pray that this restores a sense of security and peace to the Jewish-American community who has undoubtedly been shaken by this event.”

Within a few hours of going up Tuesday afternoon, the page had exceeded its goal of raising $20,000.

Tarek El-Messidi, who created the campaign with fellow activist Linda Sarsour said when he saw the news about the vandalism at Chesed Shel Emeth Society cemetery in the St. Louis suburb of University City, he was reminded of a story about the prophet Muhammad, who had stood up when a Jewish funeral procession passed. When asked why, he said, “Is it not a human soul?”

“That story goes to show more than anything the humanity of the prophet. … We should bring the story to life here and show every person deserves to rest in peace,” El-Messidi said. “This is a great way to show respect and honor for our Jewish cousins.”

St. Louis Jewish cemetery vandalized  Play Video0:51

Missouri authorities are investigating after dozens of headstones were damaged at a Jewish cemetery near St.Louis. (AP)

Through his nonprofit, Celebrate Mercy, El-Messidi’s mission is to not only educate people about the prophet’s teachings but also to rally Muslims to respond to evil with good. A national Muslim leader in Knoxville, Tenn., he helped launch a Muslim-led fundraiser for the victims of the San Bernardino terrorist attack in 2015 that ultimately raised more than $215,000. In 2012, after the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, El-Messidi called on Muslims to write condolence letters to the Stevens’s family and presented 8,000 of them to Steven’s sister that Thanksgiving.

[American Muslims ‘grieve for the victims like any other human being,’ raise more than $170,000 for San Bernardino families]

Since the rise of hate crime incidents after the November election, both Muslim and Jewish communities in the United States have been targeted, their institutions are threatened, their people bullied. It’s a shared experience that is bringing them together in solidarity, El-Messidi said.

Full report at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2017/02/21/every-person-deserves-to-rest-in-peace-american-muslims-raising-money-to-repair-vandalized-jewish-cemetery/?utm_term=.b586501b0a5b

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At least 11 US Jewish centers get bomb threats

Feb 22, 2017

WASHINGTON: Nearly a dozen Jewish community centers across the United States received bomb threats that led to evacuations Monday, in the latest wave of such attacks since Donald Trump became president a month ago.

The latest phoned-in threats, at 11 separate sites, bring to 69 the total number of such incidents -- at 54 Jewish community centers in 27 US states and one Canadian province -- according to the JCC Association of North America.

It cautioned, however, that all bomb threats made Monday, as well as on three other dates -- January 9, 18 and 31 -- turned out to be hoaxes, and all targeted community centers have resumed normal operations.

The FBI and the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division are said to be investigating the incidents.

Meanwhile, local media reported that more than 100 headstones were damaged at a Jewish cemetery in St Louis, Missouri.

"Over the past weekend, unknown persons knocked over multiple monument headstones within the cemetery," University City police said in a statement.

Police staff declined to confirm the number of damaged headstones at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery as they review video surveillance on the property and nearby businesses for the ongoing investigation.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremism, said in a recent report that the number of hate groups is rising and now at near-historic highs, linking it to the surge in "right-wing populism" during a bitterly fought presidential election that "electrified the radical right" and ultimately elected Trump.

White House condemnation

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/21-Feb-2017/at-least-11-us-jewish-centers-get-bomb-threats

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Canada to welcome 1,200 Yazidi refugees in $21m operation

22 February 2017

Canada will resettle 1,200 Yazidi refugees who faced persecution by ISIS, the immigration minister said Tuesday.

Some 400 have already been airlifted to this country.

"Our operation is under way and individual survivors of Daesh have been arriving in Canada for resettlement in the last number of months and this began on October 25, 2016," Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, using an Arabic name for ISIS.

"Our government will resettle approximately 1,200 highly vulnerable survivors of Daesh and their family members in Canada," he added.

The initiative follows Parliament's resolution last fall to take in Yazidis facing "genocide" in Iraq at the hands of ISIS.

The original aim was to bring over women and girls at risk, but Hussen told a news conference that Ottawa had learned that "Daesh has also deliberately targeted boys and as such we are helping to resettle all child survivors of Daesh."

Hussen said the migrants are arriving on commercial flights at a "controlled pace" to avoid overwhelming Canada's refugee system.

The operation is expected to cost Can$28 million (US$21 million).

Since coming to power in late 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government has resettled 40,000 Syrian refugees.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/02/22/Indian-doctor-abducted-by-ISIS-in-Libya-rescued.html

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An American Muslim veteran reflects on resisting the Muslim Ban

By Usmaan Z. Chaudhry

February 22, 2017

I am an American Muslim veteran. I was raised in America, and I joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) while in college. I followed in the footsteps of generations of men in my family who have served proudly and with distinctions in the military. Many of my family members served in the Pakistani military and were immensely proud of me when I commissioned for the US Air Force.

Loyalty to one’s country and respect for the armed forces is a part of my family’s heritage. Upon joining the military, I was proud to fight under the flag of a country that is a defender of religious freedom.

I separated from the military while Barack Obama was still president, and while I did not agree with all of his policies, I had deep respect for him as my commander-in-chief. Like many of my friends, I was shocked when Donald Trump won the election. The situation became even more surreal when he issued the “Muslim ban”. Like so many others, I was in disbelief and shock.

Having served in the military, it makes me sick that the freedom our military fights to defend and promote is being rapidly eroded. Freedom of speech is under assault, LGBT protection laws may be repealed or reduced and independent federal agencies are having their scientific studies vetted by the administration before public release to ensure it aligns with their views. Racism is rampant and children are taunted in schools: “Go back where you came from!”

The fact that Trump’s travel ban is, for all purposes, targeted at Muslims, evokes a very strange mix of emotions in me. It represents a betrayal where my own government, which I and thousands of other Muslims have fought to defend, has violated our American values. The rights I fought for in the military are now being denied to so many. While I and other American Muslims are (for now, at least) free to come and go – if I didn’t have US citizenship, I would very likely be affected by the ban as well. It is just this thin wall that stands between me and the fate of others who were stranded at airports around the world.

Knowing that our massive military and the world’s most powerful weapons are in the hands of a reactionary man unwilling to accept expert advice from those around him frightens me. It disturbs me that Trump will direct our military, my military that I am at heart, a part of. I’ve served under multiple presidents, and while I haven’t felt strong support for all of them, I’ve always had the utmost respect for them all and have been proud to serve under them.

I am a patriot, and feel an instinctive swell of pride any time I hear the national anthem playing. Upon hearing the first few notes, my automatic memory is of pausing any activity I may have been engaged in, snapping to attention, in uniform, doing a sharp heel pivot to face the nearest flag on base, and saluting till the music subsides – even though it has been almost five years since I left the military.

However, this assault on our national values makes me feel slightly guilty for my unyielding patriotism. How strange is it to feel an unwavering allegiance to a country that has taken such actions against others of my faith – a country where freedom to worship is supposed to be an unalienable right? Would this kind of betrayal and insult not outweigh or make me question my patriotism?

Despite everything, this hasn’t and won’t shake my patriotism. That is because I know the catalyst for these events is the election of a man unfit to run a country, and I will not let him affect my loyalty to America. It’s a sad reality nonetheless that such actions can make me, and others, feel this way about our country.

Therefore, the recent “Muslim ban” protest in front of the White House hit even closer to home for me than some of the other protests this year. Seeing the diversity in the crowd made me fiercely proud that people of so many different backgrounds and races cared deeply about this issue.

As both a veteran and a citizen, I felt encouraged and motivated to see my fellow Americans stand up for our human rights, just as I and my military colleagues had fought for theirs. My existing desire to resist, fight back, and stand up for our values was amplified further by others at the protest. I took a number of photos at the event, trying to capture the emotion as best I could. A few of my shots are included in this post.

The recent “Muslim ban” protest in front of the White House hit even closer to home for me.

As both a veteran and a citizen, I felt encouraged and motivated to see my fellow Americans stand up for our human rights.

My existing desire to resist, fight back, and stand up for our values was amplified further by others at the protest.

Full report at:

http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/46525/an-american-muslim-veteran-reflects-on-resisting-the-muslim-ban/

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Analysis: Radical Islamist threat increasing in Canada

Feb 21, 2017

According to a recent report published in the Gatestone Institute, the Ottawa Public Library displays books that were written by Muslim Brotherhood leaders but the library rejected two books that are critical of radical Islam.  This incident is part of a wider phenomenon where radical Islamist thought is gaining prominence within Canada. Iranian dissident Arastu Sassani told JerusalemOnline that there are now many Saudi trained imams who are active in Canada that are disseminating radical Islamist thought.

For example, Sheikh Said Rageah, a prominent Saudi educated cleric, advocates the death penalty for apostasy. “The good looking and charming man appeals to youth especially,” Sassani stated. She claimed that he admonished Muslim women who wear blue jeans and referred to life in the West as mental slavery: “It is imams like him and there are many who are transforming Muslims into traditional Islamists.”

Iranian dissident Avideh-Motmean Fars noted that in February 2015, the Muslim Student Association of York University handed out free copies of the book “Women in Islam,” which has a chapter that advises that wives should be beaten as part of a three-stage correctional process. Fars stressed that the dissemination of this book at a Canadian university and similar statements by imams in Canadian mosques highlight the threat that radical Islamist ideas pose to Canadian society.

“As a Canadian citizen, I feel concerned that many individuals from Canada have become ISIS terrorists,” Fars noted. “The fact is that there is an ideological network in Canada which has the money and infrastructure and therefore the ability to create the political, social and cultural space to support their objectives of developing extremism. The rise of Islamist radicalization in Canada is indeed alarming.” The question is, how did this all come about?

Muslim dissident Rahael Raza claims that the rise of radical Islam began in Canada in the late 1990’s, when US Customs officials arrested Ahmed Ressam after he came off a ferry from Canada in a car loaded with bomb-making materials. According to Iranian dissident Shabnam Assadollahi, Ressam belonged to a Montreal-based terrorist cell that had planned to attack the Los Angeles International Airport. Shortly after that arrest, Islamist terrorists were reported to be a leading threat in Canada.

In 2014, Pakistani writer Tahir Gora warned Canada about Muslim Brotherhood front groups targeting the Canadian Parliament and suggested that the promotion of certain Muslim candidates by Islamist organizations was not a good sign for Canadian politics. Assadollahi told JerusalemOnline: “We now see the result of this during the 15 months of Trudeau liberals being in power.” In order to highlight this, she cited M-103, otherwise known as the anti-Islamophobia motion, which is set to be discussed in the Canadian Parliament.

Full report at:

http://www.jerusalemonline.com/news/world-news/around-the-globe/analysis-the-rise-of-radical-islam-in-canada-26808

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Europe

 

France’s Le Pen Cancels Mufti Meeting over Headscarf

Feb 21, 2017

By Simon Carraud | BEIRUT

French far-right National Front presidential candidate Marine Le Pen canceled a meeting on Tuesday with Lebanon's grand mufti, its top cleric for Sunni Muslims, after refusing to wear a headscarf for the encounter.

Le Pen, among the frontrunners for the presidency, is using a two-day visit to Lebanon to bolster her foreign policy credentials nine weeks from the April 23 first round, and may be partly targeting potential Franco-Lebanese votes.

Many Lebanese fled to France, Lebanon's former colonial power, during their country's 1975-1990 civil war and became French citizens.

After meeting Christian President Michel Aoun - her first public handshake with a head of state - and Sunni Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri on Monday, she had been scheduled to meet the Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian

He heads the Dar al-Fatwa, the top religious authority for Sunni Muslims in the multireligious country.

"I met the grand mufti of Al-Azhar," she told reporters, referring to a visit in 2015 to Cairo's 1,000-year-old center of Islamic learning. "The highest Sunni authority didn't have this requirement, but it doesn't matter.

"You can pass on my respects to the grand mufti, but I will not cover myself up," she said.

The cleric's press office said Le Pen's aides had been informed beforehand that a headscarf was required for the meeting and had been "surprised by her refusal".

But it was no surprise in the French political context.

French law bans headscarves in the public service and for high school pupils, in the name of church-state separation and equal rights for women. Le Pen wants to extend this ban to all public places, a measure that would affect Muslims most of all.

HARIRI'S VEILED MESSAGE

Buoyed by the election of President Donald Trump in the United States and by Britain's vote to leave the European Union, Le Pen's anti-immigration, anti-EU National Front (FN) hopes for similar populist momentum in France.

Like Trump, she has said radical Islamism must be faced head on, although she has toned down her party's rhetoric to attract more mainstream support and possibly even woo some Muslim voters disillusioned with France's traditional parties.

After meeting Hariri on Monday, Le Pen went against current French policy in Syria by describing President Bashar al-Assad as the "only viable solution" for preventing Islamic State from taking power in Syria.

Lebanon has some 1.5 million Syrian refugees.

"I explained clearly that ... Bashar al-Assad was obviously today a much more reassuring solution for France than Islamic State would be if it came to power in Syria," she told reporters.

Hariri, whose family has close links to conservative former French President Jacques Chirac and still has a home in France, issued a strongly-worded statement after their meeting.

Full report at:

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-election-lepen-idUSKBN1600R6

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Vatican, Al-Azhar team up to counter religious justification for violence

February 21, 2017

The Vatican and Al-Azhar University, one of Islam’s most renowned schools of Sunni thought, will be joining forces to discuss how to fight religious extremism that uses God’s name to justify violence. The president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue will travel to Cairo to participate in the special seminar.

ROME - The Vatican and one of Islam’s most renowned schools of Sunni thought are joining forces to discuss how they can work together in combating religious extremism that uses God’s name to justify violence.

On February 21 the Vatican announced that Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, will travel to Cairo to participate in a special seminar at the Al-Azhar University.

He will be joined by the council’s secretary, Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, and the head of their Office for Islam, Monsignor Khaled Akasheh, to discuss the theme “The role of al-Azhar al-Sharif and of the Vatican in countering the phenomena of fanaticism, extremism and violence in the name of religion.”

The meeting will take place “on the vigil” of February 24 in honor of Pope Saint John Paul II’s visit to the university on that day in 2000. It will also be attended by the Holy See’s ambassador to Egypt, Archbishop Bruno Musarò, as well as various representatives from Al-Azhar.

Currently Ahmed al Tayyeb, the Imam of al Azhar is considered by some Muslims to be the highest authority of the 1.5-billion strong Sunni Muslim world and oversees Egypt’s al-Azhar Mosque and the prestigious al-Azhar University attached to it.

Founded in the Fatimid dynasty in the late 10th century together with the adjoining mosque, the university is one of the most renowned study centers for the legal principals of Sunni Islam.

Al Tayyeb paid a visit to the Vatican May 23 for a meeting with Pope Francis, which marked a major step in thawing relations between the al-Azhar institution and the Holy See, which were strained in 2011 with claims that Pope Benedict XVI had “interfered” in Egypt’s internal affairs by condemning a bomb attack on a church in Alexandria during the time of Coptic Christmas.

Since then relations have continued to move forward at a surprisingly fast pace, leading to the October 21 announcement from the Vatican that sometime this spring the Holy See and the Al-Azhar Mosque and adjunct University will officially resume dialogue. After the announcement, the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, traveled to Cairo for an October 23 meeting with a delegation from Al-Azhar to discuss the details.

Ayuso made a similar visit to Al-Azhar in July 2016, where he met with Sunni academic and politician Mahmoud Hamdi Zakzouk to discuss the formal resumption of dialogue between the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and Al-Azhar University, which culminated in the October 23 encounter.

The current seminar, which is the work of several “preliminary meetings,” can been seen as the next step in officially restoring ties.

In an interview with Vatican Radio published May 24, the day after his historic visit to the Vatican, Al Tayyeb spoke out harshly against terrorism carried out by extremist Islamic groups such as ISIS, saying that “those who kill Muslims, and who also kill Christians, have misunderstood the texts of Islam either intentionally or by negligence.”

“We must not blame religions because of the deviations of some of their followers,” he said, and issued a global appeal asking that the entire world “close ranks to confront and put an end to terrorism.”

If the growing problem of terrorism is neglected, it’s not just the east that will pay the price, but “both east and west could suffer together, as we have seen.”

In their February 21 communique, the Vatican also announced that from February 21-25 the annual meeting of the Board of Directors of the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel will take place in Dakar, Senegal.

Founded by St. John Paul II in 1984, the foundation was established by the late pontiff after his first visit to Africa, during which he came face to face with the daily suffering the people endured due to years of draught and desertification.

While the foundation was previously under the care of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the dicastery has since merged with several others to form a new, mega-dicastery for Integral Human Development, which is now responsible for the Sahel foundation.

The 5-day meeting will be attended by various representatives from the Holy See, including the new dicastery’s secretary, Monsignor Giampietro Dal Toso, who will participate as an observer, and the Vatican ambassador to Senegal, Archbishop Michael Wallace Banach.

According to the communique, discussion will focus largely on projects awaiting funding. In 2016 alone 43 projects in 6 countries were financed for a grand total of $550,000. Since the foundation’s beginning until 2015, they have financed roughly 3,200 projects in the Sahel region, for a total of more than $37,000,000.

With particular help received from both the Italian and German bishops’ conferences, specific projects focus on eliminating desertification and managing and developing agricultural units. Other projects are aimed at providing water pumping systems and improving drinking water and renewable energies. The foundation also seeks to form skilled technical personnel.

Recent data from the Human Development Index, which measures the level of development in each country worldwide, shows that 19 of the 20 least developed countries on the list come from Africa, the communique said. Of these 19 countries, 7 are from the Sahel region.

Full report at:

https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2017/02/21/vatican-al-azhar-team-counter-religious-justification-violence/

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British Police arrests 5 teenagers planning to join terror group

Feb 22, 2017

Police have arrested five teenagers in London on suspicion of planning a trip to join a banned terror group.

The group, ranging in age from 15 to 19, were detained at an addresses across the capital on suspicion of travelling to join a suspected terror group. 

Scotland Yard did not elaborate on which organisation the teenagers were attempting to join, but confirmed the arrests came following raids at four different homes last month.

A Met Police spokesman said: 'Officers from the MPS Counter Terrorism Command have today, Monday, February 20, arrested five males under 20-years-old on suspicion of Preparation of Terrorist Acts, Contrary to Section 5 of the Terrorism Act 2006.

'The arrests follow searches at four residential addresses in London on Tuesday, 14 January.

'This morning a 17-year-old male and a 16-year-old male were arrested at separate residential addresses in south London.

'Two other teenagers - 17-year-old male and a 19-year-old male - were arrested at a residential address in west London.

'A further residential address was searched in Lambeth earlier today in connection with the investigation.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/21-Feb-2017/british-police-arrests-5-teenagers-planning-to-join-terror-group

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IS won’t be defeated unless corruption tackled: TI

Feb 22, 2017

LONDON - Western governments need to step up their efforts to combat corruption if they are to defeat militants such as the Islamic State group and Boko Haram, Transparency International warned Tuesday.

Corrupt practices in states such as Nigeria, Libya and Iraq are providing fertile ground for extremists, the organisation’s British branch said in a report.

“Corruption is the most powerful weapon in the armoury of violent extremism,” it said in a 44-page report entitled “The Big Spin”. The report said extremist groups drew on public anger at the abuse of power as a means to radicalise and recruit. They also use corrupt officials and their links to organised crime to facilitate financial and arms flows.

Corruption also hollows out state institutions that should keep extremist forces in check, the report said.

Air strikes against the likes of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria are “woefully insufficient” in building long-term stability, which requires accountable governments, the monitor said.

“Radical movements like ISIS thrive when people lose all faith in those in power - when officials profit from the misery of the many, when the police exploit rather than protect, and when economic opportunity is skewed in favour of the connected few.”

Islamic State seeks to portray itself as a countervailing force for for political integrity and reliable public service delivery, the report said.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/22-Feb-2017/is-won-t-be-defeated-unless-corruption-tackled-ti

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Generosity of British Muslims to be celebrated at charity awards ceremony

February 22nd 2017

The first awards ceremony dedicated to the achievements of charities led by British Muslims will take place in London on Wednesday evening. Muslims across Britain will congregate in the capital to attend the inaugural Muslim Charities Forum’s Humanitarian Awards, which are aimed at “building hope, not walls”. The awards, organised by the largest umbrella body for British Muslim-led charities, the Muslim Charities Forum (MCF),will showcase the contributions British Muslims have made to communities in need in the UK and abroad. £100m raised during Ramadan alone The MCF said the event has been arranged in response to “a growing trend of Islamophobia and hate crime”. British Muslim volunteers collectively devote 10,000 days of time towards charity every year, according to data compiled by the organisation. The Charity Commission confirmed that in 2016 British Muslims were the most generous givers in the UK after the community raised over £100m during Ramadan alone.

Full report at:

https://inews.co.uk/essentials/news/generosity-british-muslims-celebrated-charity-awards-ceremony/

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Russia finds new jihadist coalition in Syria ‘worrisome’: Foreign Ministry

By News Desk - 22/02/2017

Reports saying the militant coalition Tahrir al-Sham harbor plans for creating a new “Islamic State” are worrisome, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday.

“We find worrisome the reports the Organization for the Liberation of the Levant [Tahrir al-Sham – TASS] harbors plans for declaring within a month the creation of another Islamic State in the south of Idlib Province and north of Hama Province, a second one after the caliphate in Raqqa,” Zakharova said.

Full report at:

https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/russia-finds-new-jihadist-coalition-syria-worrisome-foreign-ministry/

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Arab World

 

Syria: Rift Widening between Terrorists of FSA, Tahrir Al-Sham Haya'at

Feb 22, 2017

The websites quoted one of the commanders of FSA-linked Tajamo'a Thawar Al-Atareb as saying that unknown assailants abducted Ens Ibrahim Abu Zeid, a field commander of the group near the town of al-Atareb.

The websites added that Tajamo'a Thawar Al-Atareb blamed that Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at was behind the abduction of Abu Zeid, because Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at had previously captured several senior commanders of the group.

The websites also disclosed that Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at is planning to take control over al-Atareb town.

Late in January, Al-Nusra Front (recently renamed to Fatah al-Sham Front)

 and several militant groups declared forming a new coalition under the name of Tahrir Al-Sham Hay'at to narrow down widening rifts amongst their commanders and members.

The Al-Nusra Front, Nouralddeen al-Zinki Movement, Jeish al-Sonah, Jabhat Ansaraldeen and Liwa al-Haq announced that they would act under a united coalition named the Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at.

The five merged terrorist groups act under the command of Abu Jaber Hashem al-Sheikh, who was one of the commanders of Ahrar al-Sham. The new coalition led by al-Sheikh is now fighting against Ahrar al-Sham, a rival terrorist group operating mainly in Northwestern Syria.

Al-Sheikh resigned from his post in Ahrar al-Sham after he was appointed as the commander of Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at.

A number of Ahrar al-Sham's commanders, including the groups' spokesman Abu Yusuf al-Mohajer, Hesam Salameh and Abu al-Fatah al-Farqali Mesri also joined the new coalition.

Terrorist groups' websites claimed that Al-Nusra Commander Abu Mohammad al-Joulani will be the top commander of Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at.

Ahrar al-Sham rejected its affiliation to the new coalition, but websites close to the terrorist groups have disclosed that Ahrar al-Sham, Faylaq al-Sham, Jeish al-Izzah, Turkistani party and Liwa al-Tamkin will soon start a new front called Tahrir al-Syria Front.

Nusra terrorists have been attacking positions of other terrorist rivals across Northwestern Syria.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951204000338

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Syria: Tens of FSA-Linked Terrorists Killed in Clashes with ISIL in Dara'a

Feb 21, 2017

The sources said that militants of Jeish Khaled, affiliated to the ISIL, stormed the positions of Liwa Shohada al-Horiyeh and Ferqah al-Haq affiliated to the FSA in Hawz Yarmouk and managed to take control of Tal (hill) Majmou and the towns of Saham al-Joulan, Tasil, Adwan and Jalin.

Over 50 fighters from Liwa Shohada al-Horiyeh and Ferqah al-Haq were also killed in the clashes, added the sources.

Al-massdar said that 70 militants from both sides were killed in the infighting in Dara'a but most of them were from the two FSA-linked terrorist groups.

Sources privy to the terrorist groups in Southern Syria disclosed on Wednesday that vice-chairman of the delegation sent by an FSA-affiliated group to the first round of Astana talks has been killed in a bomb blast North-East Dara'a.

Tallal al-Khalaf, the Vice-Chairman of the tribal delegation and military representative of Jeish al-Ahrar Tribes - a branch of the FSA - to the Astana talks on Syria, was killed in a booby-trap explosion as he was driving  his car from Jadal to al-Shayah in al-Lejah region.

Three of al-Khalaf's aides were also killed in the terror attack.

Full report at:

No one has thus far claimed responsibility for the attack.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951203001464

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Al-Azhar: The end is near for ISIS

22 February 2017

In response to a video issued by ISIS showing the bomber behind the explosions that targeted a cathedral in Cairo in December, Al-Azhar said that while the group is trying to export propaganda to seem in control, it is actually in a process of decay.

“ISIS is using sectarian strife as a new trick but the group is nearing its end,” The Sunni Muslim world’s highest theological institution said in a statement.

“It was clearly obvious that ISIS’ video aims at exaggerating the group’s actual might, especially after the heavy losses it recently suffered by losing most of its controlled territories in Mosul in Iraq, Al-Raqqa and Deir Zour in Syria and Sirte in Libya.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/02/22/Al-Azhar-The-end-is-near-for-ISIS-in-Egypt.html

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US-backed alliance enters Syria’s Deir al-Zor province

22 February 2017

The US-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance has crossed into Deir al-Zor province for the first time as part of an offensive against ISIS, a Kurdish military source said on Tuesday.

The advance into the province, most of which is under the control of the ultra-hardline group, is part of an operation to encircle and ultimately capture its de facto Syrian capital of Raqqa in the north of the country.

One aim of the campaign is to cut ISIS’ supply lines from Raqqa to Deir al-Zor province.

The move also expands the SDF’s area of operations against ISIS, which is being fought by all sides in the complex Syria conflict.

Later on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group reported that at least 11 people were killed and more than 35 wounded in air strikes in a town in northern Deir al-Zor province, in an area where US-led coalition warplanes have operated.

It was not clear whose air force had carried them out, or if the incident was linked to the SDF advance, the Observatory said.

“Military operations of the SDF are now taking place within the provincial boundaries of Deir al-Zor, from the north - so, via southern Hasaka (province),” the Kurdish military source told Reuters.

The SDF, which includes the Kurdish YPG militia and Arab fighting groups, captured some 15 villages from ISIS militants in their incursion into the province, the source added, without specifying when this had taken place.

ISIS controls most of Deir al-Zor province apart from a Syrian government-held enclave in Deir al-Zor city and a nearby military air base.

Different groups in Syria’s multi-sided conflict are fighting a number of separate battles against ISIS.

Syria’s army and its allies, backed by Russia, have been fighting back against ISIS assaults in Deir al-Zor city and have engaged in clashes with the group further west.

Humanitarian concerns

Turkish-backed Syrian rebels, meanwhile, are fighting for control of the northern city of al-Bab, which monitors say is still mostly in ISIS hands, but which the rebels have pushed into.

That battle has brought the Turkish-backed rebels into close proximity with Syrian government forces, which had advanced towards the city from another direction before the rebels entered it.

The Syrian army’s advance towards al-Bab has raised fears of sparking a confrontation with Turkey.

The United Nations said on Tuesday an estimated 5,000 civilians were trapped by fighting in and around al-Bab and that 300 non-combatants had been killed since December, many of them by air strikes.

Turkey and Russia have both been carrying out air strikes around the city.

“As the operation advances, parties to the conflict may be preparing for urban battles ... which could place civilians in the area at heightened risk of death and injury, as well as (making them) vulnerable to being used as human shields,” the UN’s humanitarian coordination body said in a statement.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/02/22/US-backed-alliance-enters-Syria-s-Deir-al-Zor-province.html

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CIA-backed aid for Syrian rebels ‘frozen’ after Islamist attack

22 February 2017

CIA-coordinated military aid for rebels in northwest Syria has been frozen since they came under major Islamist attack last month, rebel sources said, raising doubts about foreign support key to their war against President Bashar al-Assad.

Rebel officials said that no official explanation had been given for the move this month following the jihadist assault, though several said they believed the main objective was to prevent arms and cash falling into Islamist militant hands. But they said they expected the aid freeze to be temporary.

The halt in assistance, which has included salaries, training, ammunition and in some cases guided anti-tank missiles, is a response to jihadist attacks and has nothing to do with U.S. President Donald Trump replacing Barack Obama in January, two U.S. officials familiar with the CIA-led program said.

The freeze reflects the troubles facing Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels in the almost six-year-old revolt against Assad, who now appears militarily unassailable in his core western region largely thanks to direct intervention on his side by Russia and Iran. "The reality is that you have changes in the area, and these changes inevitably have repercussions," said an official with one of the affected FSA rebel groups. He said no military assistance could "enter at present until matters are organized. There is a new arrangement but nothing has crystallized yet".

The support funneled to vetted FSA factions has included contributions from Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia - states that have opposed Assad. It is one of several foreign aid channels to rebels. Others still function.

The CIA declined comment on the reported freeze in support. A Qatari official said his government had nothing to say on the matter. Turkish officials said only they could not discuss "operational details". There was no word from Saudi Arabia.

The freeze reflects the troubles facing Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels in the almost six-year-old revolt against Assad. (AFP)

Reuters confirmed the freeze with officials from five of the FSA groups that have been recipients of financial and military support from the so-called "MOM operations room". It was also confirmed by two other senior FSA figures briefed on the matter.

They spoke on condition of anonymity given the covert nature of the CIA-backed program and the sensitivity of the subject.

Several rebels believed the aid halt was temporary, with new arrangements expected, but there was no clarity yet. Confirming the freeze, two senior FSA sources said donor states were aiming to send the aid to one, unified fighting force - a coherence that has eluded rebels throughout Syria's civil war.

One of the FSA officials said he did not expect the rebels to be abandoned as they represent the best hope for blocking a further expansion of Sunni jihadist influence in Syria, and to fight back against the growing role of Iran there.

Declining rebel fortunes

Idlib and nearby areas of Aleppo, Hama and Latakia provinces are among the last footholds of the anti-Assad insurgency in western Syria - the part of the country where he has shored up his rule by holding onto the main cities and the coast.

Islamists have long been seen as the more formidable insurgent force in the northwestern Idlib area though a dozen or more U.S.-vetted FSA groups have also operated there and nearby.

Last month's militant assault on the FSA groups was launched by a group formerly known as the Nusra Front, al Qaeda's official affiliate in the war until last year when it formally cut ties and renamed itself Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.

The jihadist onslaught led several FSA groups to merge with the powerful Islamist faction Ahrar al-Sham, widely believed to be backed by Assad's foreign adversaries in the region.

That will likely give pause to foreign donors: Ahrar al-Sham is set apart from the FSA factions by a strongly Sunni Islamist ideology and it has previously fought alongside the Nusra Front.

Military aid to rebel groups has ebbed and flowed throughout the life of the program, U.S. officials said, as Washington and its allies have kept a close eye on any leakage to more militant factions, something one official called "a constant problem".

Trump's Syria policy

Before assuming office, Trump suggested he could end support for FSA groups and give priority to the fight against ISIS, whose well-armed jihadists hold large tracts of eastern and central Syria.

But Trump's administration has yet to declare a firm policy towards Syria and Iraq, despite his repeated vows to eradicate ISIS, so it has been "business as usual" with covert and overt training and military support programs, one U.S. official said.

Some FSA groups hope Trump's animosity towards Iran could yet result in enhanced U.S. support.

Jihadist forces attacked while FSA envoys attended Russian-backed Syria peace talks in Kazakhstan, accusing the rebels of conspiring with Moscow and Washington against Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. The United States has carried out a deadly series of air strikes against Fateh al-Sham in Idlib this year.

MOM-backed rebels had suffered a heavy blow in December when Syrian government forces ousted them from eastern Aleppo with decisive help from the Russian air force and Iranian-backed militias. Eastern Aleppo had been seen as an FSA stronghold.

An official with an FSA group that has received MOM aid said none came this month "and there are no signals". Another said a regular meeting of the MOM had been canceled this month.

"I expect a reorganization," he said, adding that there were still around 15,000 combatants with FSA groups in the northwest.

The CIA-backed program has regulated aid to the rebels after a period of unchecked support early in the war - especially from Gulf states - helped give rise to an array of insurgent groups, many of them strongly Islamist in ideology.

A similar program continues to operate in southern Syria with Jordanian backing. Some of the FSA groups backed through the MOM in the north continue to receive Turkish support as they participate in the Turkey-led Euphrates Shield offensive against IS and Kurdish groups to the northeast of Aleppo.

FSA groups have long complained that the aid provided falls far short of what they need to confront the better armed Syrian army. Their demands for anti-aircraft missiles have been consistently rebuffed.

U.S. intelligence and military officials said the leakage, sale and capture of U.S.-supplied and other weapons from units of the FSA to ISIS, the Nusra Front, and other splinter militant groups have been a concern since the CIA and U.S. military began arming and training a limited number of rebels.

From the start, said one of the officials, some U.S.-backed rebels have migrated from groups that were battered by Syrian government forces to others such as IS that were seizing and holding territory at the time. Aid has slowed or stopped in Idlib and nearby areas, officials said, amid fears the pattern may be continuing after rebels lost ground there.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/02/22/CIA-backed-aid-for-Syrian-rebels-frozen-after-Islamist-attack-.html

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Civilian casualties reported as US-backed militants enter Syria’s Dayr al-Zawr

Feb 22, 2017

At least 11 civilians have been killed as US-backed militants make their first major incursion into the Syrian province of Dayr al-Zawr.

The so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militants, entered Dayr al-Zawr on Tuesday as part of their operations aimed at liberating the Daesh-held city of Raqqah.

"Our aim is to cut the road to Raqqah and besiege Daesh... We have liberated 15 villages,” said SDF field commander Dejwar Khabat.

He added the SDF had set up their base on a fortified hill in Makmaneh, which is located some 100 kilometers from Raqqah -- Daesh’s stronghold in Syria. 

"We have entered the first villages of Dayr al-Zawr province," said another SDF commander Abu Khawlah. "Our entry into Dayr al-Zawr was a big surprise (for Daesh), and there will be more surprises coming," he added.

The SDF launched its campaign to capture Raqqah in November 2016 and took control of some areas up the Euphrates Valley.

Smoke rises near the village of Bir Fawaz as members the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militant group advance during their offensive towards the Daesh’s Syrian stronghold as part of the third phase to retake the city and its surroundings, on February 8, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The US-led coalition says it is working with the SDF to try to defeat Daesh in the militant-riddled Syrian city. However, there have been numerous reports of US-led airstrikes targeting Syrian civilians, military and infrastructure.

Meanwhile, the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least 11 people were killed in airstrikes in a Daesh-held village in Dayr al-Zawr.

Members of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militant group stand on their military vehicle in northern Dayr al-Zawr province ahead of an offensive against Daesh, Syria February 21, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

"The death toll could rise because there are at least 35 people wounded, some of them in critical condition," said the UK-based monitoring group’s director, Rami Abdel Rahman.

Nearly two-thirds of the 30,000 SDF militants belong to the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey considers a "terrorist" group. Although the US insists that it only provides military support to the Arab components of the SDF, Turkey has been enraged by Washington’s support for the group.

US military aid halted: FSA 

Meanwhile, the FSA has reported that the CIA has cut off their military aid after the group was attacked by Jabhat Fateh al-Sham terrorist group, formerly known as al-Nusra Front, last month.

Militant officials said that there has been no official explanation for the move, but several said it is probably linked to preventing arms and cash falling into the hands of Daesh and other Takfiri terrorist groups. The US supports the militant group by supplying salaries, training, ammunition, and anti-tank missiles via coordination through Qatar, Turkey, and Saud Arabia.

A female member of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militant group adjusts a mortar in northern Dayr al-Zawr province ahead of an offensive against Daesh, Syria February 21, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

"The reality is that you have changes in the area, and these changes inevitably have repercussions," said a FSA official. He added that no aid could "enter at present until matters are organized. There is a new arrangement but nothing has crystallized yet."

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/02/22/511569/syria-sdf-militants-civilians

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Riyadh may send forces to Syria to back US campaign against Daesh: Saudi FM

Feb 21, 2017

Saudi Arabia says it is ready to support the United States in its so-called war against the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in Syria by sending ground troops and special forces to the war-torn Arab country.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir made the remarks in an exclusive interview with the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung published on Monday, adding that there were consultations with the Americans to “find out what the plan is and what you need to implement it.”

He also stated that along with Riyadh, other Persian Gulf Arab “countries” were also “ready to allocate forces to fight on the US side,” without giving further details about the potential military initiative.

Since 2014, the United States has been leading a campaign in Syria and neighboring Iraq with the declared objective of hitting Daesh.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the Saudi foreign minister said the “main idea is that” the territories liberated from the grips of Daesh must be handed over to the armed foreign-backed Syrian opposition groups to prevent the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement, Iran and the Syrian government from wresting control of them.

Jubeir also reiterated Riyadh’s stance regarding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying he must step down, claiming that the upcoming Geneva peace talks was to organize the political transition to the establishment of a “new Syria without Assad.”

A fresh round of UN-led negotiations is scheduled to be held in Geneva, Switzerland, on Thursday, involving the Syrian government and representatives from armed opposition groups.

Damascus has repeatedly blamed the six-year-old militancy in Syria on some Western states and their regional allies, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

A Yemeni boy sits amid the rubble of damaged houses following Saudi airstrikes on the outskirts of the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, on February 1, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Jubeir’s comments come as the Saudi regime has been engaged in a full-scale unsuccessful campaign against its southern impoverished neighbor Yemen since March 2015, in an attempt to bring back to power Yemen’s President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, who has resigned, and undermine the popular Houthi Ansarullah movement.

The campaign has killed at least 11,400 Yemenis, according to the latest tallies, and has taken a heavy toll on the country’s facilities and infrastructure, destroying many hospitals, schools, and factories.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/02/21/511555/Saudi-Arabia-Syria-US-Adel-alJubeir-Iran-Hezbollah-Yemen

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UAE, Kurds Standing against US, Turkey in Syria

Feb 22, 2017

Observers believe that given the UAE's aid to the Kurds under the conditions that the US has left them and Turkey seeks to annihilate them, a confrontation between Ankara and Abu Dhabi is foreseeable.

Meantime, the Syrian government considers the Kurds as a main part of the country's society and given the field situation in Syria has preferred to use their assistance against terrorism in their own regions.

No clear hostility is seen between the Syrian army and the SDF, meaning that the UAE and Damascus may confront the US and Turkey's excessive demands through the Kurdish card, analysts said on Wednesday.

Politicians in Turkey had warned in November that the US is playing a dangerous game in the Middle-East, playing with the Kurds and Ankara to implement its plots to disintegrate Syria and Iraq.

The sources said that al-Bab city in Aleppo is so important for Ankara that it has accepted to play a part in Washington's game as control over the city and its surrounding region would prevent geographical coordination among Kurdish cantons in Northern Syria; this is while the Kurds and the Syrian government consider al-Bab as a strategic region given its rich oil resources and special geographical situation.

The sources said the US could be playing the same double-cross game in Iraq as Turkey is unlikely to adopt such defiant measures in Iraq without Washington's greenlight.

The sources said the US seems to be after the disintegration of the regions under the Syrian and Iraqi governments' control to use them as a winning card to implement its policies in future negotiations.

Reports said on February 13 that the Turkish troops and their affiliated forces had taken as much as 40 per cent of the Northern Syrian town of al-Bab from ISIL.

But only a few days later, reinvigorated ISIL troops returned to the battle scene and captured almost the entire city. Media sources disclosed on February 19 that the Turkish army and Ankara-backed militant groups have sustained a major defeat in al-Bab and lost almost the entire town.

"In spite of what Turkey has claimed that the Euphrates Shield military operation in al-Bab is nearing its end, the Turkish-back militants have not made any progress in the town and the ISIL is now in control of 90 percent of al-Bab," the Arabic-language Al-Watan daily said quoting the pro-militant Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951204000349

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Syrian Army Shatters ISIL's Last Remaining Defense Line outside Deir Hafer

Feb 21, 2017

The army men continued their advances against ISIL in the Eastern parts of Aleppo province, and imposed full control over the key village of Humeimeh, the nearest village to the terrorist-held town of Deir Hafer.

Battlefield reports said after some initial advances of the army in the region near Deir Hafer, the pro-government troops deployed in Kuweires airbase opened heavy artillery and rocket attack on ISIL's positions in Humeimeh, killing a number of them and forcing others to retreat towards Deir Hafer.

Battlefield reports also mentioned Russian airstrikes on ISIL's defense line in Humeimeh.

Other sources said that the Syrian fighter jets carried out several heavy attacks on ISIL's positions in the towns of al-Mahdoum, Rasm al-Karoum and Tal (hill) al-Sous in the same region, and inflicted major losses on the terrorists.

On Saturday, the army troops continued their anti-ISIL attacks in Eastern Aleppo and managed to capture several strategic hills near the key town of Deir Hafer.

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

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

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

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951203001412

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Syrian Army Marching on Al-Nusra Positions in Western Aleppo

Feb 21, 2017

The army men pushed Al-Nusra terrorists back from more positions in Benjamin (Menyan) region West of Dhahiyah al-Assad neighborhood and won back Mansharah 1, 2 and Abu Omar settlements as well as al-Mantaj (resort) area.

Initial reports said the Al-Nusra Front has suffered heavy casualties in the attack.

In the meantime, the army's artillery units staged heavy fire on terrorists' positions and movements in Qabah al-Assad close to Dhahiya al-Assad.

Reports said earlier today that the army troops started a fresh offensive against terrorist groups in the Western countryside of Aleppo and managed to win control over a key bridge, cutting off militants' line of supply.

The army soldiers carried out a retaliatory offensive from Dhahiyah al-Assad neighborhood towards al-Sowrah defense station in reaction to terrorist groups' mortar shelling of residential areas in the neighborhoods of Jam'iyat al-Zahra and New Aleppo in the Western part of Aleppo city.

The army men could significantly advance against terrorists and seized control over the strategic al-Raqqa bridge after hours of clashes.

A military source said that al-Raqqa bridge was one of the main supplying lines of the terrorists deployed in the Western countryside of Aleppo city.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951203001485

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Southeast Asia

 

Criminal Expert Witness Says Ahok Guilty of 'Desecrating' Quran

Feb 22, 2017

Jakarta. A criminal expert witness has used the word "desecration" rather than "insult" to describe what Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama did when he referred to a verse in the Quran in a speech on Pramuka Island in September last year which triggered the blasphemy charge — and now trial — against him.

Mudzakir spoke as an expert witness in Ahok's blasphemy trial on Tuesday (21/02) in South Jakarta. According to him, Ahok was guilty of desecrating Islam since in his Pramuka Island speech he referred directly to a Quranic verse, and not its translation.

"Ahok desecrated [Quranic verse] Al Maidah 51," Mudzakkir said. "Calling it an insult is taking it a bit lightly."

"Just as someone might desecrate a flag, Ahok desecrated the Quranic verse he quoted. It would've been different had he referred to a translation of the verse, then he would be guilty of insulting the translation," he added.

Mudzakkir said the court should charge Ahok with article 156a of the Criminal Law.

"That article also uses the word 'desecration,'" he said. In Indonesian, the word is "penodaan."

Full report at:

http://jakartaglobe.id/news/criminal-expert-witness-says-ahok-guilty-desecrating-Quran/

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Malaysia’s Muslims Grapple With Being ‘Good Enough’

22 February 2017

KUALA LUMPUR: Shereen Ezaini wears a hijab when she goes out, observes the five pillars of Islam such as fasting and praying five times a day, and plans one day to go on the Haj. It is, in the 29-year-old’s own words, “living life the way a Muslim’s life should be”.

But somehow, that just is not good enough in the eyes of some fellow Malaysian Muslims.Pic: YoutubedPic: Youtubed

Remembering her days at university in 2009, the young mother of two said: “I was at a lecture wearing jeans, and I remember my lecturer, she told me that I am not being ‘Muslim enough’. The blouse that I was wearing fell to my knees.”

Looking incredulous, she continued: “I am not ‘Muslim enough’ because I am wearing jeans? Or I am not Muslim enough because I am drinking Starbucks?”

THE FUSS

With a rising tide of moral policing and debate over what is halal (permissible in Islam) and haram (forbidden in Islam) in recent years, Ms Shereen is not the only Muslim in Malaysia who has heard such criticism, or felt somehow pressured by the voices of religious fundamentalism.

In 2015, concerns about growing conservatism made headlines when security guards at some government buildings went overboard in trying to enforce dress codes even on non-Muslim women. That same year, multi-medalled gymnast Farah Ann Abdul Hadi was criticised by religious authorities and conservative netizens because she wore a “revealing” leotard.

In 2016, Auntie Anne’s, a pretzel chain that has been operating in Malaysia for years, had issues with its halal food certification because of - among other technicalities - a menu item named a “pretzel dog”.

And during the Pokemon Go hype, the mufti of Federal Territories, Zulkifli Mohamad al-Bakri, declared that it was haram for Muslims to play the augmented-reality game. Just this past Valentine’s Day, the National Muslim Youth Association warned women to stay away from using emoticons and too much fragrance.

Ms Shereen sees such events as making a fuss over the “trivial”. “Malay Muslims tend to focus on unnecessary things, for example, the ‘I Want To Touch A Dog’ programme'; so many unimportant issues they are taking very seriously,” she said.

CAUSE FOR CONCERN?

But, couple this trend with the number of Malaysians arrested for suspected terror links, and political campaigning that has turned to Islam to woo and retain the Malay vote, and many worry that moderate-Muslim Malaysia - once a beacon of religious pluralism and tolerance - is shifting inexorably towards a stricter, more fundamentalist Islam.

According to Pew Research Centre’s Global Attitudes survey 2015, 11 per cent of people in Malaysia held favourable views of ISIS, and nearly a quarter were unsure of their views - this despite the Malaysian government declaring ISIS a terrorist organisation.

Is sympathy for a more extreme view of Islam creeping into the mainstream in Malaysia?

“No,” insists GrabCar driver Zeli Amat, during a drive through downtown Kuala Lumpur. The former businessman said he has moved house some “20 times” around Malaysia. “I have lived in so many neighbourhoods. The sentiment on the ground is still good. There is no strong focus on extremist ideologies.”

Mr Zeli, 45, believes Malaysian Muslims are merely becoming more observant of Islam. He himself reconnected with his faith after what he admits was a secular life filled with mistakes. “I can see the Islamic values getting stronger. A lot more people are wearing the hijab, a lot more people are going to the mosque,” he said.

But Mr Asyraf Ismayatim is less prosaic. A Masters student of political science at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), he has been monitoring chatrooms, student forums and blogs. He feels the university culture take on a more “conservative slant” over the years.

“There are hardline comments from foreign-exchange students who reject integration, comments that female students’ clothes are too tight. Even on the IIUM Facebook page, there are some ultra-conservative comments surfacing,” he said.

IIUM lecturer Ahmad El-Muhamady, whose field is political violence and terrorism, says, that more and more, Malaysian Muslims are using “signifiers of Islam” to pass judgement on one another.

“What are the criteria that we can use to say that you are ‘Muslim enough’? It could be your dress code, it could be the interaction between genders, or it could be (that) if you are educated in the UK or the US, you are less Islamic than me because I studied in the Middle East and am more educated in religious matters,” he said.

The Malay-Muslim Identity Struggle

It’s this struggle with the question of “what is a good Malay-Muslim”, or “what does it mean to be Muslim in Malaysia”, that lies at the heart of Malaysian society today, some observers believe.

Research interviews among young people aged between 18 and 35, conducted by not-for-profit research centre IMAN, reveal that many are grappling with their Malay-Muslim identity.

If you want to identify with being a proud Malay, said IMAN founding member Dina Zaman, “there will be those who say we are lazy and we are this and that”. “The only (other) identity we have is to be Muslim, but we also have issues being Muslim because ‘we are not good enough’,” she added.

Ms Dina, a former journalist and published author, cited the issue of whether Muslims should be wishing Christians a merry Christmas as an example of how edicts, guidelines and fatwas can sometimes be confusing for Muslims.

“The Federal Territories’ mufti said that it is okay to wish Christians, so I forwarded it to my mother, who then forwarded it to her friends,” said Ms Dina. “She said all the aunties were very confused, saying ‘our ustaz (Muslim scholar) says we cannot wish people Merry Christmas’.

“The mufti says this, another person says that, what is what, who do we follow? Everybody has their own opinion.”

This state of equivocation and identity confusion is exactly what extremists do best at exploiting, according to Mr Ahmad. As an advisor to Malaysian police’s special rehabilitation programme, he has spent years counselling militant detainees.

The more-than-200 suspects currently detained are proof of the illiberal portion of Malaysian society, “but at the same time, we have the so-called liberal side of society and the moderate side of society”, he said.

“So, as young people who are just coming out from the university, they look at this society and ask, ‘What is going on and which route do I take?’ They are coming to a crossroad.”

At this juncture is where the extremists come in ready with answers - a “specific world view” about how Islam should be practised in daily life, disseminated via digital media.

“(Democracy) has been hijacked by certain groups trying to impose their values upon others. This is the phenomena (where) groups of people might say, ‘I don’t think that you are Muslim enough’,” he said.

One Youth’s Tussle With ‘Jihad’

Hamzah Nazari knows what it is like to grapple with “being a good enough Muslim” - so much so that he once hoped to die in jihad as a martyr.

The 31-year-old former political journalist’s half-Malay, half-English racial heritage meant he found it hard to fit in in his early years at an all-Malay high school.

“As a 13-year-old, it was very confusing. I stuck out like a sore thumb. And in high school, we learnt how Malaysia was colonised by the British,” he said. “I got called anjing penjanjah, which means colonial dog, and I got into a lot of fights.”

Growing up with a very religious father in a conservative Muslim family, Mr Hamzah was seven when his dad told him about the conflict in Palestine and explained jihad to him. “I responded that we should go there and help them and if we die, we go to heaven. I told my mum (about it) and she was not very happy.”

Mr Hamzah spent much of his teenage years apart from his father, and says he would have been a prime target for radicalisation. Not having been taught the meaning behind the teachings of Islam “left space for me to misunderstand a lot of things”.

“When I was a young man in my 20s, I was not a very good person and I was less of a good Muslim then. I was worried about whether or not I would go to heaven,” he said. “So my friends and I were hanging out and discussing how to go to heaven, like this was a real issue for us, looking for a way to die in jihad.”

Mr Hamzah carried that with him until about two years ago, when he was sent to Palestine as a reporter in Gaza. “I believed what I was doing (reporting the news) was a good thing … I had gone there hoping to die, when in actual fact, that is not what jihad means,” he said.

These days, he strives to be a good Muslim by “being a good son, a good brother, employee, a good member of society, being helpful and being peaceful, and being a good example to other people”, he says.

But there are challenges. Mr Hamzah says he can sometimes see why one might be “pulled to one side or the other”. “You have your extremist Muslims or your ‘very conservative Muslims’, so to speak. And you have your very liberal and secular people.

“What they have in common is that they only think that there are only two sides to the conversation. And they believe that there is no middle ground. So what I see is that there is a very large middle ground, but it is very silent.”

That wide grey area, he adds with a smile, is where he finds himself these days.

Mosques: A ‘Don’t Question’ Culture?

Writer and human rights activist Marina Mahathir isn’t alone in believing that many Muslims, like Mr Hamzah, lack guidance.

Full report at:

http://www.malaysiandigest.com/features/659620-malaysia-s-muslims-grapple-with-being-good-enough.html

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Here Come the Malaysian Morality Police

By Ana Salvá

February 22, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR — The religious officers raided actress Faye Kusairi’s family home after someone reported her for being “too close” to a person of the opposite sex in an isolated place, an offense punishable in Malaysia with up to two years in prison. It was late at night and they didn’t even have a warrant.

Aiming to catch the lovers in an inappropriate situation, five agents cut off the safety grill of her family penthouse duplex and broke the fireproof door to go in. But Faye was not even there: she was out with a friend. Instead the agents found her father, mother, and brother.

“They told my father that they were looking for me with someone else’s husband,” says Faye, who has not received an official apology.

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False and inaccurate denunciations are a recurring pattern, a particularly concerning trend given the authority of Malaysia’s religious officers, who investigate violations of the sharia code. “Their powers are similar to that of a police investigating a civil offense, i.e murder,” according to Malaysian lawyer Fahri Azzat.

In December, officials broke into a police officer’s apartment on the fourth floor. Instead of a couple caught in the act, they found a single woman in one of the rooms — and an open window. Her lover had jumped from the window to evade arrest and later died in the hospital. Another policeman also suffered several injuries after jumping to escape from the morality agents that night.

The religious police are not only looking for espoused lovers in hotels and homes. Among the offenses that breach the sharia code is pre-marital sex or extra-marital sex, alcohol consumption, not fasting during Ramadan, or not attending mosque on Fridays. The agents also persecute Shiite Muslims as well as homosexuals and transsexuals, who are considered men who “dress or act” as women.

Islam in Malaysia has become more conservative in recent years and the reach of hardline religious authorities is increasing. Fatwas (the rulings of religious scholars) have taken on all the force of law. In many cases, religious officials take media with them on their morality raids and video footage, including the faces and personal information of suspects, is broadcast on national television.

The mainstream media has a tendency to focus on morality and some reports are reported in a sensationalistic manner which at times violates people’s privacy. “This hinders people from seeking redress and sharing their experiences, as they fear the repercussions. Reports of the arrest of trans women in the media have led to [their] termination of employment or tension in the family,” explains Thilaga Sulathireh, a researcher at the NGO Justice for Sisters.

In Malaysia, about 60 percent of the population is Muslim, most of them ethnic Malay. But many others, including many Malaysians of Chinese and Indian descent, or members of indigenous tribes, are Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, or non-religious. The 1957 Constitution in theory guarantees religious freedom for non-Malays, but at the same time Islam is the religion of the state. Muslims are subject to a double legal system and some of the cases are tried by specific sharia courts, different from those of the ordinary judicial system.

Muslims cannot go unnoticed because their religion is indicated on their identity cards, while it is not specified for members of other religions. Anyone who wants to marry a Muslim must convert to Islam. Choosing a different religion is not an easy task, as it requires the approval of an Islamic court. Renouncing Islam in some states is a criminal offense.

The context also affects non-Muslims. All Malaysian women should cover their legs in some government buildings. A few weeks ago the Department of Islamic Development recommended that the pretzel franchise Auntie Anne rename their “Pretzel dog” to a “Pretzel sausage” to receive a halal certificate (signifying foods that are allowed to be eaten according to Islam).

Only Muslims can use the word Allah, the Arabic word for God, even though it is also a Christian term for describing their own deity. Malay-language Bibles are banned everywhere except in churches. And for disappointed Christians, this is only one example of increasing Islamization in the country.

Saint Valentine Day’s global celebrations are banned for Muslims. The religious authorities claim this is a Christian celebration that also promotes promiscuity and immoral activities. This year, as part of the annual anti-Valentine’s day campaign, a Muslim youth group called on Muslim women to avoid using emoticons in text messages and refrain from wearing “excessive” fragrance in the presence of a man that is not a relative. They also called on Muslim youths to publicly berate unmarried Muslim couples who were dating on February 14.

Full report at:

http://thediplomat.com/2017/02/here-come-the-malaysian-morality-police/

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Benjamin Netanyahu took two-hour flight detour to avoid Indonesian airspace

22 February 2017

The Israeli prime minister was forced to take a two-and-a-half-hour detour en route to Australia, apparently to avoid Indonesian airspace.

Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Sydney at about 6.30am AEDT on Wednesday for a four-day visit, the first time an Israeli prime minister has visited Australia.

The average direct flight from Singapore to Sydney takes about eight and a half hours; according to the flight tracking site FlightAware, Netanyahu’s total flight time was just over 11 hours as his flight path dodged Indonesia’s airspace.

A member of Netanyahu’s delegation confirmed the route to the Guardian.

The flight was operated by El Al, the flag carrier of Israel that is disallowed from venturing into the airspace of many Muslim nations, including Pakistan.

Indonesia is home to the largest population of Muslim people in the world – the vast majority of the total population of about 240 million – and it is staunchly supportive of the Palestinian cause.

Full report at:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/22/netanyahu-flight-detour-indonesia-israel-australia

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Anies Denies Pandering to Hardline Muslim Groups

Feb 22, 2017

Jakarta. Anies Baswedan, a former education minister in Muslim-majority Indonesia facing a run-off vote against a Christian to be Jakarta governor, on Tuesday (21/02) denied pandering to hardline Islamists to win support and said he could unite the capital after a divisive election.

Anies is set to take on Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, Jakarta's Christian and ethnic Chinese governor, in a second-round vote on April 19. Ahok got the most votes in the first round on Feb. 15, but not by enough to avoid a run-off, unofficial counts show.

Campaigning for the poll has been overshadowed by religious tensions, with protests led by hardline group Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) against Ahok, and calls for voters to choose a Muslim.

Photographs of Baswedan meeting FPI leader Habib Rizieq were widely published in media, leading his critics to accuse him of tarnishing his reputation as a moderate Muslim.

"I think there's a framing that is not fair here," Anies said in an interview at his Jakarta home.

"If I met the Catholic community, am I then considered no longer a Muslim? If I met the Buddhist community, am I then considered no longer a Muslim?"

He said the media was giving a distorted impression of his campaign, which included meetings with a range of religious groups.

"Often times, they only see one meeting, even though I've gone for dozens of other meetings," Anies said, sitting with a portrait of Sukarno, Indonesia's founding father, hanging on a wall near him.

"I interact with all residents of Jakarta."

Anies, a respected academic who won a Fulbright scholarship to study in the United States, was picked by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to be education minister, but was dropped from the cabinet in a reshuffle last year.

Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population but is officially secular and home to minority Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and other communities.

"Unite not divide"

The post of Jakarta governor has been a stepping stone to higher office. Jokowi was previously governor and Ahok was his deputy.

The city vote is being widely seen as a proxy battle for the next presidential election, in 2019.

Ahok has the support of Jokowi's ruling party while Anies has the backing of an influential former general, Prabowo Subianto, and his Gerindra Party. Prabowo narrowly lost the last presidential election, in 2014, to Jokowi.

Overshadowing the campaign has been Ahok's trial for blasphemy for allegedly insulting the Quran.

He denies the accusation that was filed after he said voters were deceived by his opponents who used a verse in the Quran to imply that Muslims should not vote for a leader of a different religion.

The trial, which began in December, seemed to dent his support initially, but it later rebounded, helped by middle-class approval of his efforts to improve the bureaucracy and tackle traffic jams and flooding.

Full report at:

http://www.jakartaglobe.beritasatu.com/news/anies-denies-pandering-hardline-muslim-groups/

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Mideast

 

Turkish military: 44 ISIS militants killed in north Syria

 21 February 2017

Turkish forces and the US-led coalition have killed at least 44 ISIS extremists in northern Syria in the last 24 hours, Turkish news agency Anadolu reported.

Land and air forces have stuck 109 ISIS targets, including shelters, as part of Operation Euphrates Shield.

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

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/02/21/Turkish-military-44-ISIS-militants-killed-in-north-Syria-.html

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Unity between Shia, Sunni Muslims boosts Mideast security: Iran minister

Feb 21, 2017

Iranian Intelligence Minister Seyyed Mahmoud Alavi says unity and cordial relations between Shia and Sunni Muslims play a key role in reinforcing security in the Middle East.

During a conference on the role of Islamic unity in the establishment of sustainable regional security held in the western Iranian city of Sanandaj on Tuesday, Alavi said Muslims must reinforce their unity in order to create a Middle East region free of violence.

“There is no need for enmity among Muslims, because we have a cancerous tumor called the usurping [regime of] Israel in the region,” the Iranian intelligence minister said.

He, however, emphasized that Israel moves closer to collapse every day.

Alavi said enemies seek to sow discord among Muslims, knowing that united Muslim nations cannot be defeated.

He noted that Shia and Sunni Muslims in Iran are united, saying such unity has increased the country’s security despite widespread insecurity in regional countries, including Turkey, Iraq and Pakistan, and even in Europe and the US.

“The enemy has made its utmost effort to cause insecurity in the country but it has failed,” the Iranian minister said.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/02/21/511526/Iran-Israel-Daesh-Mahmoud-Alavi-Shia-Sunni

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Iran, Turkey trade barbs over Syria

Feb 22, 2017

ISTANBUL -  Diplomatic tensions escalated between Turkey and Iran on Tuesday as the regional powers traded accusations over their roles in the Syria conflict and the Middle East.

The pair have been rivals for centuries but have sought to forge a pragmatic relationship in recent years, with the Islamic Republic strongly supporting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after last year's failed coup.

But mainly Sunni Muslim Turkey and Shiite Iran have been on opposite sides of the conflict in Syria, with Ankara seeking the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad and Tehran, along with Russia, his key backer.

The tensions come with UN-backed peace talks for Syria due to restart on Thursday and Turkey engaged in fierce fighting inside Syria to capture the town of Al-Bab from militants.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu lashed out at Iran in a speech to the Munich Security Conference at the weekend, saying some of its actions had undermined security in the region and urging Tehran to promote stability.

"Iran wants to make Syria and Iraq Shiite," he was quoted as saying by Turkish state media.

Erdogan has also in recent weeks accused Iran of promoting a "Persian nationalism" that had damaged the Middle East.

The Iranian foreign ministry on Monday summoned the Turkish envoy to issue a protest after Cavusoglu's comments while spokesman Bahram Ghassemi warned that Tehran's patience "has limits".

"We hope that such statements are not made again. If our Turkish friends continue with this attitude we will not remain silent," he added.

Turkey's foreign ministry spokesman Huseyin Muftuoglu hit back by saying it was "incomprehensible" to receive such accusations from Tehran who he charged with "not hesitating to push into war zones refugees sheltering from regional crises."

"Instead of accusing countries that have criticised Iran, it should take constructive steps and review its own regional policies."

The angry exchanges have come just after Erdogan returned from a week-long tour to the Arabian peninsula, including talks with the leadership of Iran's arch regional foe and Ankara's Sunni ally Saudi Arabia.

Ali Vaez, senior Iran analyst with the International Crisis Group, said Iran and Turkey feared the other was seeking to capture regional hegemony via proxies on the ground.

"With each failure to find an accommodation, the context of Turkey's and Iran's rivalry has become more complex and disagreements more intractable," he told AFP.

While Turkey has backed rebels in Syria throughout the conflict, Tehran has played a crucial role in aiding Assad. Iran has provided few details over its involvement but has confirmed the deaths of some 1,000 volunteer fighters in Syria.

Ankara has meanwhile warned Iran and its allies in the Baghdad government against using Shiite militia in the assault to recapture the militant-held Iraqi city of Mosul.

"It's very dangerous to send Shiite militia into a 99 percent Sunni Arab city," Cavusoglu said on Tuesday.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/22-Feb-2017/iran-turkey-trade-barbs-over-syria

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Seven million Yemenis close to starvation: UN

Feb 22, 2017

SANAA - Seven million Yemenis are closer than ever to starvation, the UN humanitarian coordinator in the country warned Tuesday, almost two years since a conflict escalated between the government and rebels.

"Seven million Yemenis do not know where their next meal will come from and are ever closer to starvation" in a country of 27 million people, Jamie McGoldrick said.

"Over 17 million people are currently unable to adequately feed themselves and are frequently forced to skip meals - women and girls eat the least and last," he said in a statement.

Yemen's war pits the internationally recognised government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi against Huthi rebels allied with forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The fighting has intensified since a Saudi-led coalition intervened in support of the government in March 2015 after the Huthis seized the capital the previous September.

Since early January, pro-government forces have pressed a major offensive aimed at recapturing Yemen's Red Sea coastline, and retook the southwestern port of Mokha earlier this month.

"I am deeply concerned with the escalation of conflict and militarisation of Yemen's western coast. It is coming at a great cost to civilians," McGoldrick said.

Unexploded rockets have landed inside the rebel-held port of Hodeida, he said, "reducing even further the number of ships and imports" vital for Yemen's food supplies.

"Given that the country is 80-90 percent dependent on imported food staples, I am compelled to raise the alarm," the UN official said.

"If left unabated, these factors combined could accelerate the onset of famine."

Also on Tuesday, the UN children's agency warned that 462,000 children were suffering from acute malnutrition.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/22-Feb-2017/seven-million-yemenis-close-to-starvation-un

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Iran to stand by Syria until ultimate victory: Rouhan

Feb 22, 2017

President Hassan Rouhani has reassured Syria of Iran’s steadfast support for the Arab nation both on the battlefield against terrorists and the diplomatic front.

“Iran’s support for the Syrian people will last until ultimate victory,” he told top Syrian parliamentarian Hadiya Khalaf Abbas in Tehran on Wednesday.

Rouhani said “Iran will stand by the Syrian people against terrorism and support the upcoming talks” between Damascus and opposition groups, which will be held under the United Nations auspices in Geneva on February 23.

The Iranian president further hailed the Syrian government’s advances against terrorist groups.

The gains, he said, have even worked to positively affect foreign governments’ view of the developments in Syria, adding that they now feel that they must accept the realities on the ground in the Arab state.

At Damascus’ request, Iran has been lending military advisory support to the Syrian Army in its efforts to combat Takfiri terrorists. The Islamic Republic has also been providing the country with humanitarian assistance.

The support, together with backing from Russia, another ally of Syria, has played an instrumental role in the Syrian army’s gains against Takfiri militants on several fronts.

Besides military advisory support, Iran, along with Russia and Turkey, has mediated two rounds of crisis resolution talks between the Syrian government and opposition groups in Astana, Kazakhstan, over the past weeks.

The Iranian chief executive was meeting with the Syrian official on the sidelines of the 6th International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Intifada, which is underway in the Iranian capital.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/02/22/511628/Iran-Syria-Rouhani-Palestine

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Iran to stand by Syria until ultimate victory: Rouhani

Feb 22, 2017

President Hassan Rouhani has reassured Syria of Iran’s steadfast support for the Arab nation both on the battlefield against terrorists and the diplomatic front.

“Iran’s support for the Syrian people will last until ultimate victory,” he told top Syrian parliamentarian Hadiya Khalaf Abbas in Tehran on Wednesday.

Rouhani said “Iran will stand by the Syrian people against terrorism and support the upcoming talks” between Damascus and opposition groups, which will be held under the United Nations auspices in Geneva on February 23.

The Iranian president further hailed the Syrian government’s advances against terrorist groups.

The gains, he said, have even worked to positively affect foreign governments’ view of the developments in Syria, adding that they now feel that they must accept the realities on the ground in the Arab state.

At Damascus’ request, Iran has been lending military advisory support to the Syrian Army in its efforts to combat Takfiri terrorists. The Islamic Republic has also been providing the country with humanitarian assistance.

The support, together with backing from Russia, another ally of Syria, has played an instrumental role in the Syrian army’s gains against Takfiri militants on several fronts.

Besides military advisory support, Iran, along with Russia and Turkey, has mediated two rounds of crisis resolution talks between the Syrian government and opposition groups in Astana, Kazakhstan, over the past weeks.

The Iranian chief executive was meeting with the Syrian official on the sidelines of the 6th International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Intifada, which is underway in the Iranian capital.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/02/22/511628/Iran-Syria-Rouhani-Palestine

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International conference on Palestine enters second day in Iranian capital

Feb 22, 2017

The Iranian capital, Tehran, is hosting the second day of an international forum in support of the Palestinian cause, with hundreds of foreign guests, including senior Palestinian leaders and officials of Muslim nations, in attendance.

The annual event, dubbed the 6th International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Intifada (Uprising), continued for a second and last day in Tehran on Monday morning with the motto of “Together Supporting Palestine.”

Around 700 foreign guests from dozens of countries and representatives of pro-Palestinian organizations are taking part in the conference.

The Monday round started with a speech by Iranian Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani, who underlined the importance of resistance against Israeli occupation.

He said if Muslims and all those fighting the suppression “are looking towards the West, specifically the United States, to help the Palestinian cause, they are mistaken. It will never happen.”

The only way Palestinians will achieve liberation “is by putting their trust in God and continuing resistance,” the Judiciary chief added.

Iraqi Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri was the first foreign guest to give an address, during which he reaffirmed Baghdad’s support for the Palestinian cause of liberation from Israeli occupation and the rights of the Palestinian people.

He added that all Muslim countries should help Palestine “get up on its feet and become strong” as a state, condemning Israel for failing to abide by UN resolutions.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and senior international figures are scheduled to deliver speeches during the Monday session.

The Tehran conference opened on Tuesday with a brief address by Iran’s Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, who is the chairman, during which he referred to the Israeli regime’s increased activity to rally several regional states around itself and against Iran.

The summit was then officially inaugurated with an address by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.

Ayatollah Khamenei called the issue of Palestine the top priority of the Muslim world and all freedom seekers and urged all-out support for Palestinian resistance.

Intifada points to large-scale Palestinian protests against Israel’s 1967 occupation of their territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

This handout photo provided by the official website of the Center for Preserving and Publishing the Works of Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei on February 21, 2017 shows delegations attending a conference on Palestine in Tehran. (Via AFP)

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/02/22/511587/Iran-Tehran-Palestine

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Israeli warplanes bombard military positions outside Damascus: Reports

Feb 22, 2017

Israeli military aircraft have reportedly carried out an overnight airstrike against Syrian army positions in the strategic and mountainous Qalamoun region, which lies north of the capital Damascus along the border with neighboring Lebanon.

A Syrian military source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said an Israeli fighter jet crossed into Syria’s airspace at around 3 a.m. local time (0100 GMT) on Wednesday after circling the skies of Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley and flying above the eastern city of Baalbek, al-Masdar News reported.

The source added that the airstrike hit Jard Nalhleh area of Qalamoun, located about 330 kilometers (205 miles) north of Damascus.

The Lebanese and Arabic-language online newspaper el-Nashra later reported that a convoy transporting weapons was the target. No injuries were reported.

The Israeli media outlets alleged that the weapons shipment was destined to fighters from the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement, who are fighting alongside Syrian government soldiers against foreign-sponsored Takfiri militants.

The aerial attack came a fortnight after Israeli tanks shelled an open area in the occupied Golan Heights, without causing any casualties.

Israeli jets have time and again carried out sorties inside the Syrian territory under various pretexts.

On January 13, a huge explosion rocked Mezzeh Military Airport, less than eight kilometers southwest of Damascus and caused a large fire. There was no immediate report of casualties though.

Syrian state TV quoted the army command as saying that the rockets, which it said were fired from an area close to the Sea of Galilee in the north of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, hit the airport’s compound.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/02/22/511625/Israel-fighter-jets-airstrike-Syria-army-positions-Damascus

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Army soldiers, allies kill Saudi mercenaries off Yemen coast

Feb 22, 2017

Yemeni forces have launched an operation against Riyadh-backed militiamen loyal to the former government, killing scores of them, including the commander of Saudi-led Emirati troops in Yemen.

The media bureau of the operations command in Yemen announced on Wednesday that a host of Saudi mercenaries died and sustained injuries when Yemeni troopers launched a medium-range ballistic missile at their gathering close to the strategic Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden, the al-Masirah television network reported.

The report added that several high-ranking pro-Saudi commanders were among the slain militiamen in the missile attack that hit the city of Mokha in Ta’izz Province.

Nasser Moshabib al-Atibi, the commander of Emirati troops in Yemen, was among those killed. Arabic-language Here Aden news agency later reported that Major General Ahad Saif al-Yafei, the the second-in-command of the Saudi-backed military forces, had been killed in the missile attack.

Emirati officials have not made any comments on the report yet.

Yemeni militia commander Major General Ahad Saif al-Yafei

Separately, Yemeni soldiers and allied popular forces struck a position of Saudi mercenaries in al-Hanani area of Maqbanah district in the country’s southwestern province of Ta’izz, leaving scores of pro-Saudi gunmen dead and injured.

Meanwhile, Yemen’s army spokesman Brigadier General Sharaf Luqman praised the “stinging and painful” retaliatory missile attacks against Saudi Arabia.

Even though the assaults do not match Saudi regime’s indiscriminate airstrikes in number, they have accurately hit the designated targets inside Saudi Arabia, Luqman pointed out.

Saudi strikes claim more civilian lives

In another development, Saudi fighter jets also carried a string of airstrikes against residential neighborhoods across Yemen on Wednesday, leaving several people killed and injured.

Six civilian lost their lives when Saudi warplanes bombarded Jabal al-Ahmar mountainous area in the al-Humaydat district of Yemen’s northern province of al-Jawf.

A Yemeni child stands amid debris at the site of a Saudi air raid that hit a funeral reception in the Arhab district, located 40 kilometers north of the capital Sana’a, on February 16, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Saudi aircraft also launched more than 20 airstrikes against other regions in Yemen, with no immediate reports of casualties and the extent of damage caused.

Saudi Arabia has been engaged in a deadly campaign against Yemen since March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall the former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who is a close Riyadh ally.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/02/22/511609/Yemen-army-soldiers-Popular-Committees-missile-attack-Saudi-mercenaries-airstrikes-civilian-casualties

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7 million people face starvation in conflict-ridden Yemen: UN

Feb 21, 2017

The United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Yemen has warned of a deepening food crisis in the country, which is reeling from a Saudi military aggression, saying almost a quarter of the country’s 27 million population are facing starvation.

"Seven million Yemenis do not know where their next meal will come from and are ever closer to starvation,” Jamie McGoldrick said in a statement released on Tuesday.

He also estimated that more than 17 million Yemenis are not able to adequately feed themselves and thus forced to skip meals while “women and girls eat the least and last.”

The UN official further voiced concern about rising food prices, food shortages, disruptions to agricultural production, and lowering purchasing power.

UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen Jamie McGoldrick gives a press conference in the Yemeni capital city of Sana’a on January 16, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

“Given that the country is 80-90 percent dependent on imported food staples; I am compelled to raise the alarm. If left unabated, these factors combined could accelerate the onset of famine,” he said.

Elsewhere in his statement, McGoldrick expressed deep worries over the escalation of conflict in the western coast of Yemen, saying the fighting is restricting the flow of life-saving commodities into Hudaydah Port.

The airstrikes conducted by Saudi fighter jets have destroyed critical roads and bridges across Hudaydah Province.

On Monday, the UN International Children's Fund (UNICEF) warned that 462,000 children were suffering from acute malnutrition in Yemen.

Earlier this month, the UN appealed for $2.1 billion to provide food and other life-saving aid for some 12 million Yemenis expected to need assistance this year.

Three UN agencies further said in a joint statement that the number of food insecure people in Yemen had risen by three million during the past seven months, reaching an estimated 17.1 million people.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/02/21/511551/Yemen-Jamie-McGoldrick-UN

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Mideast

 

Bodies of 74 migrants wash up on Libyan beach

Feb 22, 2017

CAIRO: At least 74 bodies of African migrants have washed ashore in western Libya, the Libyan Red Crescent said on Tuesday, the latest tragedy at sea along a perilous but increasingly popular trafficking route to Europe.

The bodies were found near the western Libyan city of Zawiya on Monday, Red Crescent spokesman Mohammed al-Misrati said, adding that he feared more might surface. He said a torn rubber boat, the kind that usually carry up to 120 people, was found nearby.

The Red Crescent’s branch in Zawiya said there are bodies still floating out at sea but it has no means to retrieve them.

The International Organisation of Migration said the traffickers took the engine and left the boat to drift. Another 12 migrants remain missing and are “presumed drowned,” and a sole survivor was transferred to a hospital in a coma, the UN migration agency said on Twitter.

The Red Crescent posted photographs of dozens of bodies in white and black bags, lined up along the shore. Al-Misrati said the bodies would be taken to a cemetery for unidentified people in the capital, Tripoli. The Red Crescent appealed for help on Facebook, saying there are no vehicles to transport the bodies.

Al-Misrati had initially said the bodies were found overnight on Tuesday, but later clarified that they were recovered on Monday afternoon and evening.

Libyan coast guard spokesman Ayoub Gassim said over 500 migrants were rescued at sea on Friday and Saturday off the coast of Sebratha, a city to the west of Zawiya. The migrants’ boats were about 8-11 kilometres from the coast. Gassim said the smugglers pack larger rubber boats with up to 180 people, dramatically increasing the risk of capsizing.

“We are seeing the new boats, which are not equipped with anything, but they carry more people,” he said. “This is going to be even more disastrous for the migrants.” The Libya to Italy smuggling route across the Mediterranean has seen record numbers of migrant drownings in 2016, Fabrice Leggeri, director of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, said last week.

Some 4,579 migrant deaths were documented in 2016, up from 2,869 deaths the previous year and 3,161 in 2014. The real number of deaths is believed to be much higher.

Leggeri blamed the small dinghies and poor vessels used by the smugglers for the high death rate.

Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2017

http://www.dawn.com/news/1316298/bodies-of-74-migrants-wash-up-on-libyan-beach

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Curfew imposed after 14 people killed in ethnic fighting in central Nigeria

Feb 22, 2017

The government has imposed a 24-hour curfew on parts of central Nigeria, a government spokesman said on Tuesday, after clashes killed at least 14 in the region.

Conflict over grazing land and water, chiefly between semi-nomadic Muslim herders and Christian farmers, has piled pressure on authorities already facing an Islamist insurgency in its northeast and rebels in the oil-rich south.

Gunmen shot dead at least 14 villagers and destroyed property in an attack on the Kaura village of Takad in southern Kaduna state on Monday, said Enock Andong, a local community leader.

As a result of violence in Kaura and the Jema'a region, the state government imposed a 24-hour curfew on the two areas, Samuel Aruwan, a spokesman for the governor of Kaduna, said in a statement.

Kaduna - a flashpoint for north-south, Muslim-Christian frictions - has in recent months seen the worst violence since 800 people were killed in riots after elections in 2011.

Aruwan said a curfew "became necessary to protect life and property and avoid the further breakdown of law and order".

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/22-Feb-2017/curfew-imposed-after-14-people-killed-in-ethnic-fighting-in-central-nigeria

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Gaddafi son's trial unfair: UN

Feb 22, 2017

GENEVA - The trial of a son of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi fell short of international standards and the appeals court should review the sentence of death passed in absentia or order a re-trial, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

"This trial was a missed opportunity for justice," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a statement.

The UN said in a report that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi should also face separate charges of crimes against humanity, including murder and persecution, at the International Criminal Court (ICC) that is seeking his surrender.

Since his father's toppling in 2011, Saif has been held in Zintan, a mountainous western region, by one of the factions that began contending for power after Gaddafi was killed.

He was sentenced to death in July 2015 by a Tripoli court for war crimes, including killing protesters during the revolution. Zintani forces refused to hand him over, saying they did not trust Tripoli to guarantee he does not escape.

The UN report on the trial of 37 defendants including Saif cited serious violations of due process, such as prolonged incommunicado detention without access to families or lawyers, and allegations of torture that were not properly investigated.

The proceedings "fell short of international norms and standards for fair trial and also breached Libyan law in some respects", it said. No prosecution witnesses were called to testify, undermining the defendants' ability to challenge evidence.

Appeals are pending at Libya's Court of Cassation.

"We are calling on the Court of Cassation in particular to take into full account the due process violations that we have identified and to take remedial action," Claudio Cordone, the UN human rights representative in Libya, told a news briefing by telephone.

"The court can either change the verdict themselves or can send back the case for retrial by the same court of first instance or by another one," he said.

Saif, former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi and former Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi a-Mahmoudi were among nine defendants sentenced to death by firing squad.

"The Libyan Government has been unable to secure the arrest and surrender of (Gaddafi), who remains in Zintan and is considered to be outside the control of the internationally-recognised Libyan authorities," the UN report said.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/22-Feb-2017/gaddafi-son-s-trial-unfair-un

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DPP closes its case in Muslim murder trial after 36 witnesses

Feb 22, 2017

Prosecution handling the terrorism trial against 14 people accused of being behind the killings of Muslim Clerics across the country, has closed its case with evidence from 36 witnesses.

Lino Anguzu, the lead prosecutor closed the case with evidence from the Investigating Officer, Detective Inspector Byamugisha Fulgence attached to Kampala Metropolitan South in Katwe Makindye Division.

Detective Byamugisha told the International Crimes Division court that on December 31, 2014 he received the case file from late Detective Senior Superintendent of Police Julius Ongwen, soon after the death of Sheikh Mustafa Bahiga.

Detective Byamugisha however confirmed to a penal of three justices led by Ezekiel Muhanguzi that he had no evidence linking the accused persons to the murders of Sheikhs Mustafa Bahiga and Hassan Ibrahim Kirya, but that it is the fliers he arrested them with, that formed the genesis of the case.

The officer testified that the fliers bore names and photographs of Shiekhs Bahiga, Kirya, Prince Kassim Nakibinge, Shiekh Kibaate, Najib Sonko and Sadiq Ndaula, who were to be eliminated over property wrangles within Muslims.

Byamugisha also revealed that the eye witness in Sheikh Bahiga’s death, a guard living opposite the scene of crime at Bwebajja where Bahiga was gunned down, went missing before he could testify in court.

Full report at:

http://www.nigeriatoday.ng/2017/02/dpp-closes-its-case-in-muslim-murder-trial-after-36-witnesses/

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Sudan: Islamists Reject All Constitutional Amendments

21 FEBRUARY 2017

Khartoum — Sudanese Islamist groups have waved aside the equating of men and women and called for keeping the legal procedures for marriage that are based on the Shari'a, rejecting all draft amendments to the Sudanese Constitution.

A number of Islamist groups met with the Islamic Fiqh Acadey, the Sudan Scholars' Corporation, representatives of Sufis and a Sudanese emergency parliamentary committee for the amendments to the constitution at the National Parliament on Monday, as part of meetings which discuss draft constitutional amendments.

The groups called for the need to retain the punishment for apostasy, including stoning, in Sudan's constitution. They categorically rejected the draft amendments to the Sudanese Constitution, particularly with regard to toppling the legal procedures on marriage for women, and equality between men and women in inheritance affairs.

The Ansar El Sunna El Muhamadiyah group said that the draft amendments abolish the punishment of apostasy and stoning, 'opening up the field for advocating the doctrines of the Shiites and atheism' and entering the Cedaw into Sudan 'through a different door'. Cedaw is the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly.

Badria Suleiman, a member of the emergency parliamentary committee, said in a press statement after the meeting on Monday that the discussion focussed on the rights and freedoms, in particular the presence of a guardian appointed to sign the marriage contract on behalf of the woman. Furthermore the freedom of religion, apostasy, and adultery were discussed.

Personal status laws in Sudan govern legal procedures that pertain to personal and familial relations, including marriage, divorce and inheritance, and are based on the Shari'a, the divine law of Islam. A Sudanese marriage contract might reiterate the wife's right to work outside of the home, while women's capacity to own property is among the main factors affecting their security.

Full report at:

http://allafrica.com/stories/201702220333.html

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South Asia

 

Bangladesh: Islamic leader promises protection to Christians and Hindus

21/02/2017

At a seminar for Interreligious Dialogue, organized  by the Commission for Dialogue and Ecumenism at St. Michael's Church, Chalna parish of Bangladesh and attended by representatives from three different religions, an Islamic leader promised protection to Christians and Hindus.

"I invite everyone to consult me at all times, if they hear news of persecution against Christians and Hindus. I will go on the site and will stop it", said Alhaj Nazrul Islam Molla, Chairman of the Ulama League Dakop, sub-district of Khulna (south-western Bangladesh). The Islamic leader spoke at the workshop which brought together 65 representatives: Catholics, Hindus and Muslims, all engaged in the creation of a society of peace and harmony.

Inaugurating the event the bishop, Msgr. James Romen Boiragi, explained the reasons for such an initiative. "We want to promote the understanding between members of different religious groups- he said - we all need to know each other in depth. “This is because”, he stressed, “the lack of mutual understanding brings misunderstanding and conflict between the various faiths.”

According to Msgr. Boiragi, often "political leaders are working only for their own benefit, and not to build peace. If the religious leaders work together, they could achieve peace in the easiest way through discussions and proposals ".

For his part, Alhaj Molla Nazrul Islam said that "Islam is a religion of peace. Our Prophet Muhammad has suffered much in his lifetime to establish peace. We must do the same.” Then the Muslim leader, who is very influential in his community, invited everyone to report episodes of violence or discrimination committed against minorities. "If you see that someone is trying to create problems in your groups in the name of Islam, inform me. I will address the problem and help you to solve it.”

The Hindu leader Madon Mohon Roy said that the Hindu tradition maintains peace: "The god Krishna came to earth to establish peace. Respect for the religion of others is the only way to create a peaceful world ".

Fr. Pietanza Dominico Mimmo, director of the Center for Interreligious Dialogue of Khulna and one of the organizers, believes that "these kind of seminars bring very positive results, with friendly relations between the members of various faiths.”

"Given that we Christians are a minority - he said - we should organize more similar opportunities to reduce religious fanaticism in Bangladesh".

Full report at:

http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2017/02/21/bd_islamic_leader_promises_protection_to_christians__hindu/1294060

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Over 50 Afghan nationals deported

February 22, 2017

KHYBER AGENCY - As many as 59 Afghan nationals including four women and eight children were deported to Afghanistan through Torkham border, sources said on Tuesday. Official sources said that the Afghan nationals were apprehended as they tried to enter Pakistani territory through a deserted route in Pasedkhel and other bordering areas of tehsil Landi Kotal without legal travelling documents. The Frontier Corps (FC) personnel had shifted them to Cantonment for investigation.

On Monday, the political administration officials deported the arrested Afghan nationals by handing them over to the Afghan border security officials at Torkham border. A bride who was also stranded at the border was also permitted to cross the border to Afghanistan.

The bride had been brought in a procession from Abbottabad to be taken to Jalalabad city of Nengarhar province of Afghanistan. However, on the same day, the border was closed and she stayed for four days in Gagra area of tehsil Landi Kotal.

She alongwith seven of her relatives was permitted to move to Afghanistan on Monday.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/national/22-Feb-2017/over-50-afghan-nationals-deported

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Myanmar probing police 'cover-up' of deaths of two Rohingya Muslims

Feb 22, 2017

Myanmar's army-controlled home ministry is investigating a cover-up by the country's border force of the deaths in custody of two Rohingya Muslims in troubled Rakhine State, according to a police report reviewed by Reuters and interviews with two senior security officials.

The internal document is the first official admission of serious wrongdoing by security forces in their crackdown against insurgents in northwestern Myanmar that has sent more than 70,000 people fleeing across the border to Bangladesh.

When contacted by Reuters, the Home Affairs Ministry denied an investigation was under way, but the commander of the Border Guard Police (BGP) in the area where the incident took place and a senior home ministry security official confirmed the authenticity of the document and said it was not the only such case that was being looked into.

The home ministry oversees the national police force, which includes the BGP. The ministry is headed by an army general.

Myanmar is under growing international pressure to take action against those who are alleged to have committed atrocities in Rakhine. The United Nations has documented mass killings and rapes it says may amount to crimes against humanity.

About 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims live in apartheid-like conditions in northwestern Myanmar, where they are denied citizenship. Many in Buddhist-majority Myanmar regard them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

The civilian government led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has repeatedly denied almost all allegations against the country's still-powerful armed forces during what it has said was a lawful counterinsurgency campaign that began in October.

"NOT TELLING THE TRUTH"

The undated document reviewed by Reuters, titled "A cover-up of two deaths by Border Guard Police", was compiled by a BGP unit in northern Rakhine and focuses on two men who were arrested on Oct. 18 and questioned on suspicion of aiding insurgents.

The men died in custody, the document says, without specifying a cause of death. Instead of reporting the deaths, it says BGP officers in the village of Nga Khu Ya, in Maungdaw township, recorded that they had been transferred, with eight others, to another police detention center.

Thura San Lwin, BGP chief in Maungdaw township, near the border with Bangladesh, said the document outlining the findings of the investigation had been submitted to police headquarters in the capital, Naypyitaw.

"We are taking actions to punish those who lied in their reports. We won't forgive them. We are also taking actions to punish those who did not follow the rule of law," he said.

He said two other incidents of BGP officers on the ground "not telling the truth" in reports on the security crackdown were also being investigated by the home ministry.

He declined to provide further details about the nature of those other two incidents, or about the probe into the Nga Khu Ya case.

Contradicting the local commander, Home Ministry spokesman Police Colonel Myo Thu Soe denied that any BGP officers had lied to conceal the deaths of the two detainees. He said the pair, who were father and son, died from asthma on the way to a hospital on Oct. 18.

Presidential spokesman Zaw Htay said the government "has instructed the police to look into unreliable reports" during their operation in Rakhine. He declined to elaborate.

BLAME GAME

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division, said cover-ups of abuses by security forces were common in Myanmar.

"There are many other cases of abuse that still need to be exposed," he said, adding that abuses committed by the army were "serious and widespread, and probably dwarf what the BGP committed".

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/22-Feb-2017/myanmar-probing-police-cover-up-of-deaths-of-two-rohingya-muslims

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Bangladesh: Blogger's Murder Planner Faces Anti-Terror Remand

2017-02-21

A Dhaka court Tuesday granted police a five-day remand to interrogate a man convicted in the 2013 hacking death of a secular blogger, following his extradition from Malaysia with an associate who was allegedly accompanying him to the southern Philippines. Redwanul Azad Rana, who fled Bangladesh before being sentenced to death for the murder of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider, and Rana’s associate, Ashraf, were deported to Bangladesh on Monday. They were arrested in Malaysia after trying to join the militant Abu Sayyaf Group in the Philippines, according to Bangladeshi police officials.

Rana was convicted and sentenced in absentia in December 2015 for the Haider killing, but he appeared in court Tuesday over a different charge related to Bangladesh’s revised anti-terror laws. Six others were convicted in the trial stemming from the blogger’s murder, including Mohammad Faisal bin Nayem, who also received a death sentence.

On Feb. 15, 2013, machete-wielding assailants killed Haider, an activist with the Shahbag movement, which seeks the executions of convicted war criminals from Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence from Pakistan and a ban on religion-based parties in Bangladesh. Other suspects identified Rana as the planner of Haider’s killing.

It was the first of a series of fatal attacks targeting secular writers and publishers of secular works. After Haider’s murder, six other bloggers and publisher were killed during similar attacks in 2015 and 2016 by suspected Islamic militants.

Anti-Terrorism Act

Rana was arrested on Monday after returning to Bangladesh from Malaysia, Dhaka Metropolitan Police spokesman Masudur Rahman told BenarNews.

“We sought a 10-day remand for Rana and his associate extradited from Malaysia, but the court granted five days,” Rahman said.

Haider’s father, Nazimuddin, asked how Rana was able to leave the country in the first place.

“My question is how does he manage to flee? Would Rana be arrested at all without extradition by Malaysian police?”  Nazimuddin told BenarNews.

Meanwhile, a police leader praised efforts to capture the suspects.

“The police were able to identify and arrest the killers of Ahmed Rajib Haider in two months, starting from zero,” police counterterrorism chief Monirul Islam told BenarNews.

“His real identity was detected with only two pieces of information, the nickname Rana and a description of his physique,” Islam said.

He said Rana managed to flee to Malaysia before law enforcers could determine his identity. In 2014, police sent his photograph and relevant information to their Malaysian counterparts, Islam said.

“We had been in contact with the Malaysian detective polices,” he said.

Full report at:

http://www.benarnews.org/english/news/bengali/killer-caught-02212017155932.html

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UN envoy visits Rohingya camps again

February 22, 2017

She talked to the Rohingya refugees there

UN human rights envoy Yanghee Lee has visited Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar for the second consecutive day.

She went to Noyapara refugee camp around 11am Wednesday and then visited Leda unregistered camp in Teknaf. She talked to the Rohingya refugees there.

Lee, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the issue, had visited the refugee camps on Tuesday after holding talks with government ministers in Dhaka about the crisis.

The UN envoy arrived in Bangladesh on Tuesday on a four-day tour.

Also Read- Rohingyas still entering Bangladesh fearing further atrocities

Earlier, she was in Myanmar on a 12-day visit. She talked to government officials during her Myanmar visit.

An estimated 70,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar since the army began a massive anti-insurgency operation in the Rohingya-dominated area in October last year.

Full report at:

http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2017/02/22/un-envoy-visits-rohingya-camps/

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