New Age Islam
Sat Sep 24 2022, 04:51 PM

Islamic World News ( 23 Jan 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Comment | Comment

Pakistan: Armed Teachers In Peshawar Classrooms: 'You Have Guns. You Can Fight It Out'

New Age Islam News Bureau

24 Jan 2016 

A Pakistani teacher handles an AK-47 assault rifle during a weapons training session for School, CCollege and University  teachers at a Police Training Centre in Peshawar on January 27, 2015, AFP/File


  Pakistan: Armed Teachers In Peshawar Classrooms: 'You Have Guns. You Can Fight It Out'


 ISIS Suicide Bombers, Aged 12-15, May Target PM Narendra Modi: Intelligence

 Government Mulls Israel-Type Fencing Along Pakistan Border

 India, Bahrain Sign Pact On Transfer Of Sentenced Persons

 Foreign secretary-level meeting between India, Pakistan likely in February

 Francois Hollande starts India visit, says Rafale jet deal will take time



 Pakistan: Armed Teachers In Classrooms: 'You Have Guns. You Can Fight It Out'

 'Seminary Teacher Injured In IED Blast, Not Jud Leader'

 After Charsadda Attack, Special Force To Secure Balochistan Universities

 Rehman Malik, former minister, may become ‘star witness’ against Musharraf

 Rangers chief seeks Baloch jirga’s help against criminals

 5.2 magnitude quake felt in parts of KP


Arab World

 Strikes On East Syrian Town Kill 63, Including Children

 Assad, Russia To Blame If Talks Fail — Syrian Rebel Group

 Kerry Reassures Saudi Arabia Of ‘Solid Relationship’

 Syria: Terrorists Suffer Major Losses in Army Attacks North, South of Hama

 Yemeni Forces Take Control of Strategic Region in Dhale Province

 Militants Withdraw from More Lands in Syria's Lattakia Province

 Syria: Army Continues to Crush Militant Groups North of Hama

 President Xi: Iran, China Opening New Chapter in Ties

 Iranian, Chinese Presidents Review Ways to Fight Terrorism, Extremism in Region

 Russian Aircraft Drops Humanitarian Aid for Besieged Towns in Aleppo

 60% hike in recruitment of expatriate workers in Saudi Arabia

 Saudi Labor Ministry and ‘Hadaf’ officially launch ‘remote employment program’ for citizens


South Asia

 34 Militants Killed, 48 Wounded In Afghan Army Operations

 NATO-Funded Printers To Help Moi Process Up To 1,000 Passports Daily

North America

 Biden: We Are Prepared For Military Solution Against Daesh In Syria

 Kerry Reassures Gcc Over Warming Us-Iran Relations

 Pakistan 'can and must' dismantle all terror networks: Barack Obama


 ‘British, American And Russian Troops In Libya’

 Tunisia PM: Democracy Will Be Preserved ‘Whatever The Cost’



 17-Year-Old British Admits To Murdering Female Saudi Student In UK

 France Plans To Prolong State Of Emergency Over Terror Threat



 Palestinian Girl, 13, Shot Dead By Israeli Guards

 Yemeni Refuses To Leave Gitmo As 2 Depart For Balkans

 Two Injured As Rocket Fired From Syria Lands In Street In Turkey

 European Court Rules Turkey Discriminates Against Alevi Community

 Hezbollah arms ‘come from Iran’

 Tehran gains more leeway for meddling

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Armed Teachers In Classrooms: 'You Have Guns. You Can Fight It Out'

AFP , 24 January 2016

PESHAWAR: Headmaster Naveed Gul walked past the armed guard at the gate into his office. As primary school pupils studied their morning lessons outside, he reached beneath his warm woolly sweater, and pulled out a gun. "This is an M20 pistol," he said. "It's made in China and it works perfectly."

A debate over arming teachers has surged in Pakistan once more, days after assistant chemistry professor Syed Hamid Husain opened fire on the Taliban gunmen who stormed the university campus where he worked.

Students told how the 33-year-old father-of-two died shielding them with a handgun during the attack that claimed 21 lives at Bacha Khan University (BKU) in Charsadda.

Teachers there had been given permission to carry firearms after the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan massacred at least 144 people, the majority of them children, at Peshawar's Army Public School (APS) in December 2014.

At the Government Primary School Akhunabad in the city, Gul slid his own gun a Chinese knockoff of a Soviet WWII-era pistol quickly into the desk drawer, saying weapons in school give him confidence.

"You have guns with you. You can fight it out," he said.

The headmaster already has the scenario played out in his mind.

"If one terrorist were to come and I'm sitting here... I will automatically take out my pistol," he said gesturing. "So I take cover from here, and fire with a sharp mind."

“I want to protect myself and my students,” Gul said.

'Where did he get the courage?'

Psychologists discussing mass shootings in the United States (US) recently told AFP that post-traumatic stress can translate into such hyper-vigilance: a state of alert close to paranoia. But Gul is matter-of-fact.

Militants have long targeted education in Pakistan, from the shooting of Malala Yousafzai in Swat in 2012 to the APS massacre and Wednesday's assault at BKU.

On Friday, the TTP faction behind the Charsadda attack vowed to continue targeting schools and students, calling them "nurseries".

Provincial spokesman Shaukat Yousafzai said that with 68,000 schools and just 55,000 policemen in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), the government cannot provide security, so it gave in to the teachers' demand they be allowed to carry weapons.

"There is no harm in using them in case of an attack," Yousafzai said.

But Peshawar-based analyst and retired brigadier Saad Khan said arming teachers is "stupid".

"These are young men," he said. "If a fight breaks out, you know, the rush of blood, and if somebody has a gun..."

Instead of killing attackers on the spot, Khan called for rooting out the long-term causes of militancy, echoing critics of a national crackdown on extremism who say it has failed to go far enough.

"Let them become men of books," he said.

Syed Hamid Husain, by all accounts, had been just such a man a brilliant academic lecturing at a university named after a peace icon known as the 'Frontier Gandhi'.

Husain's family said that changed after the APS massacre.

Elder brother Sajjad expressed a baffled pride in the actions of his kind-hearted sibling, who he said as a child would faint at the sight of blood.

"We don't know where he got that much courage from," Sajjad told AFP tearfully at the family home in Swabi, near Charsadda, clutching his three-year-old nephew in one arm and a picture of the child's father in the other.

The Taliban's cold slaughter of dozens of children in the APS massacre had changed his "soft" brother into something more "cruel", Sajjad said.

"He said he felt a trembling inside... that something should be done."

'We are not scared'

In the US the debate over arming teachers is nuanced. President Barack Obama's recent tears over the shooting of 20 children in Connecticut in 2012 prompted powerful arguments on both sides, as did Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson's call for guns in schools last October.

In KP, for parents and students, the question appears unsettlingly one-sided.

"They (teachers) can fight and kill maybe two, three, four people," said Ehsanullah, whose son attends the Akhunabad school.

"When they come, our teacher will attack them," said ten-year-old pupil Shafey Hussain.

"We are not scared of anybody."

He spoke with heartbreaking certainty: both that the attack will come, and that the adults can save him when it does.




 ISIS Suicide Bombers, Aged 12-15, May Target PM Narendra Modi: Intelligence

Rajshekhar Jha | TNN | Jan 24, 2016

New DELHI: Last Independence Day, PM Narendra Modi took his security detail unawares when he broke the cordon to meet children on his way out of Red Fort. This did not go unnoticed by Islamic extremist groups who have been planning to target Modi, according to well-placed sources.

The special Protection Group (SPG) that protects the PM is in a tizzy over an intelligence alert that terrorist groups, including Islamic State adherents, could be preparing teens to carry out a fidayeen attack on the PM. The inputs are understood to have said that boys aged 12-15 and trained in weapons and explosives may have sneaked into the country, triggering a high level of preparedness. The alert was issued on Friday and circulated among SPG, police and intel units in NCR.

Following intelligence inputs of potential child squads targeting PM Modi on Republic Day, the SPG and senior advisers have been briefed and it has been urged that the PM not breach the security cordon.The Delhi police has been asked to keep a watch for possible suspects on R-Day. The special cell too has been alerted and asked to carry out search operations. The cell has received an anonymous communication related to the present threat, a source said.

The IS has recently released videos showing children learning to use machine guns and rocket launchers apart from rigorous physical training. PoK and Af-Pak-based groups are also learned to have children in their camps. One of these is Ansar-ud Tawhid (AuT), which has been helping IS spread its wings in India.

TOI had reported earlier that security threat assessment has been on an all-time high. The French foreign intelligence unit, directorate general of external security and Indian agencies, assisted by CIA, have been finalising the security detail of dignitaries and across Delhi.



Government Mulls Israel-Type Fencing Along Pakistan Border

Jan 24, 2016

 DELHI: An Israel-type highly secured fencing may come up along the Indo-Pak border to check infiltration from across the border as the government is exploring the possibility of installing such a barrier in the sensitive frontiers of Punjab and Jammu.

In the wake of Pathankot terror attack, which was carried out by the Pakistan-based JeM terrorists after crossing the border, the issue of ensuring zero infiltration along the Indo-Pak border was discussed in several meetings attended by top government functionaries, including Home minister Rajnath Singh and NSA Ajit Doval.

"In one of these meetings, they discussed whether India can adopt an Israel-type border guarding mechanism along the western frontier," a home ministry official said.

Interestingly, in November 2014, the home minister had visited one of the border outposts in Gaza and was "greatly impressed" by the technology used in the highly sophisticated border security system of Israel which includes high-quality long-range day cameras along with night observation systems employing third generation thermal imagers.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had reportedly told Singh that Israel was "ready and willing" to share with India its technology for border protection.

Israel is hailed to have the best border protection system in the world, and depends more on technology than humans to protect its border.

The technology includes high-quality long-range day cameras along with night observation systems, third generation thermal imagers, long-range detection radars, electronic touch and motion sensors on the fence as well as underground sensors to detect any tunnelling attempts.

The Israeli border fencing along West Bank, Gaza and Egypt also consists of latticed steel, topped and edged with razor wire, extending at least two metres below ground and in some sections reaching seven metres above the ground.

Ditches and observation posts with cameras and antennae will line the route.

An electronic pulse will run through the fence, setting off an alarm on contact that will allow security guards to locate the exact spot of attempted infiltration.

A sandy tracking path shows the footprints of infiltrators and an military patrol road gives unhindered access to army units.

Singh was also given a detailed briefing by the Israeli army about the border-guarding mechanism put in place.

The home minister was told that in certain "dark areas" where fencing was not possible, like on India-Pakistan border as well, Israel had used small UAVs for security coverage.

Besides, every border post on the Israel border is a self-sufficient unit.

Recently, Hungary and Bulgaria have turned to Israel for advice on building a fence modelled on the one set up on the southern Israeli border with Egypt to stop influx of refugees.

The US, India and other countries have sent delegations to Israel in the past to examine the innovations involved in the barrier.



India, Bahrain Sign Pact On Transfer Of Sentenced Persons

PTI | Jan 23, 2016

NAMA: India and Bahrain signed an agreement on the transfer of sentenced persons as External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj held talks with her Bahraini counterpart and discussed an entire gamut of bilateral ties.

Swaraj, who is here for a two-day visit to attend the first ministerial meeting of the India-Arab League Cooperation Forum to be held tomorrow, held a wide-ranging discussions with Bahrain's Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa.

In a special gesture, Khalid received Swaraj at the Bahrain International Airport upon her arrival here.

During her meeting with Khalid, Swaraj also recalled her call on with Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa who also in a rare gesture received her at an international air show here as both of them watched India's indigenously developed Druv helicopters and Tejas Light Combat Aircraft perform aerobatics in the skies.

Swaraj and Khalid met for about 25 minutes after which the two leaders signed the agreement on the transfer of sentenced persons.

According to the pact, once an expatriate has been sentenced in the other country, the sentence can be served in the country of origin.

Later on Swaraj accompanied by Khalid visited the Little India area. A massive crowed gathered at the Little India. Swaraj in a procession walked towards the Shrinath temple along with Khalid amid loud cheers and Punjabi drum beats.

Both Swaraj and Khalid spent a few minutes at the temple along with the entire Indian delegation.



Foreign Secretary-Level Meeting Between India, Pakistan Likely In February

ANI | Jan 24, 2016

Karachi: A senior Pakistani official has claimed that the country's foreign secretary will hold a meeting with his Indian counterpart in February.

According to the Dawn, the official said that its dates had not been finalized.

The January 15 meeting, which had to decide the timetable and modalities of the resumed peace dialogue, was postponed after a terrorist attack on an airbase in Pathankot.

Senior officials from both sides have been in touch with each other for rescheduling the meeting.

After a series of high-level contacts starting with an ice-breaking meeting in Paris between Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi and climaxing with the latter's surprise trip to Lahore, Pakistan and India had agreed last month to resume the bilateral dialogue after a hiatus of two years because of tensions along the Line of Control and Working Boundary.

The resumed dialogue was named Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue and it was agreed that the foreign secretaries of the two countries would meet on January 15 to decide about the timetable and modalities of the process.



Francois Hollande Starts India Visit, Says Rafale Jet Deal Will Take Time

AFP | Jan 24, 2016

ANDIGARH: French president Francois Hollande played down the prospects of a swift conclusion to a drawn-out deal for New Delhi to buy 36 French fighter jets as he began a three-day visit to India on Sunday.

The invitation for Hollande to be chief guest at the Republic Day parade on Tuesday had raised expectations that the multi-billion dollar agreement for the Rafale jets would finally be sealed.

But on landing in Chandigarh, Hollande cooled talk that the contract was on the verge of being signed, saying further discussions were needed on a prior inter-governmental agreement. "We are going to take another step on the road which we hope will lead us to India's acquisition of the 36 Rafale jets," he told reporters.

"India needs them and France has shown that it has the world's best aircraft. "The commercial contract can only come after the inter-governmental accord... which will be discussed during my visit," he added.

In an interview with the Press Trust of India, Hollande said the eventual deal would "pave the way for an unprecedented industrial and technological cooperation" for the next four decades. "Agreeing on the technicalities of this arrangement obviously takes time, but we are on the right track," he added.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in Paris last year that his government had agreed to buy the jets as India looks to modernise its Soviet-era military and keep up with neighbouring Pakistan and China.

The two leaders stepped into the long-delayed deal after torturous negotiations over a much-larger agreement first signed with France's Dassault Aviation in 2012 broke down.

A sticking point has been New Delhi's insistence that arms makers invest a percentage of the value of any major deal in India, known as the offset clause.

Hollande began his second official visit to India in Chandigarh, which was designed by French architect Le Corbusier more than 60 years ago. He and Modi strolled through Chandigarh's renowned Rock Garden, with its sculptures made out of rubble from the city's construction.

The French leader, who is travelling with a number of senior cabinet ministers and a large business delegation, will also address a forum of Indian CEOs along with Modi in the evening.

In a tweet, Modi said he was "honoured & delighted" to host Hollande and pledged to "build on the ground covered during our previous interactions".

On Monday, the leaders are expected to announce a roadmap for building six French nuclear reactors in western Maharashtra state, more than five years after a bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement was signed.

They will also lay a foundation stone at the new headquarters of the International Solar Alliance, a 121-nation group launched by Modi at the Paris COP21 conference in November, to expand affordable solar power.





'Seminary Teacher Injured In IED Blast, Not JuD Leader'

DAWN.COM | ALI AKBARm 24 01 16

PESHAWAR: Rubbishing circulating intelligence reports, Senior Superintendent Police Operations Abbas Majeed Marwat on Sunday denied that Qari Salahuddin, who was apparently targeted by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) earlier today, is a leader of the Kashmir-based Jamatud Dawa.

Salahuddin is an Afghan national who teaches at a local seminary, the SSP said, echoing DSP Khalid's earlier claim of the same.

Earlier in the day, an IED had detonated near Salahuddin's vehicle, injuring him and his driver-cum-guard, Abdul Shakoor, and a passerby, Deputy Superintendent Police Khalid said.

The remote-controlled bomb contained three kilograms of explosive material, Bomb Disposal Squad officials said.

Television footage showed a badly damaged car at the site of the explosion, which was cordoned off as an investigation was initiated into the attack.

Intelligence sources had claimed the IED targeted Qari Salahuddin – actually Syed Salahuddin – a freedom fighter and leader of Kashmir-based Jamatud Dawa.



After Charsadda Attack, Special Force To Secure Balochistan Universities


QUETTA: Balochistan government has decided to establish a special force to be deployed at university campuses across the province in the aftermath of the brutal attack on the Bacha Khan University in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Charsadda town last week.

“The new force would be subservient to vice chancellors,” Akbar Hussain Durrani, Balochistan home secretary, told He however said administrative powers over the force would be with police.

Durrani said 60 personnel will be deployed at each university, adding that the force will be well equipped.

The decision comes in the aftermath of a terrorist attack at the Bacha Khan University in Charsadda, which claimed more than 20 lives, when unidentified gunmen opened fire on students and faculty members as they gathered at the school for a poetry recital to commemorate the death anniversary of the activist and leader whom the school is named after.

Read: Mock counter-terrorism drill leaves PU students fleeing in fear.

This was the second major attack on an education institution after terrorists massacred 144 people at a Peshawar school in Dec 2014 – the most brutal act of terror in the country's history.

Both, the Peshawar school massacre and the Bacha Khan University attack, were claimed by Umar Mansoor of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Geedar group.

Security in and around all university campuses in Balochistan had already been tightened after last week's attack in Charsadda to avert any untoward incident.

Following the attack on the Charsadda varsity last week, security arrangements at universities and colleges have been upgraded all across the country.

The Punjab government also issued orders for foolproof security arrangements in public, private, missionary, armed forces, multinational schools, colleges and universities.

In a circular issued last week, it has been stated that educational institutions will not be allowed to work in case of unsatisfactory security arrangements.

Meanwhile, teachers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – where both school attacks took place – have been allowed to bear arms and were imparted training to use firearms after the Peshawar Army Public School attack.



Rehman Malik, former minister, may become ‘star witness’ against Musharraf

MALIK ASAD, 24 January 2016

ISLAMABAD: With the testimony of US lobbyist Mark Siegel, the prosecution in Benazir murder case completed the production of evidence and witnesses against former president Pervez Musharraf.

However, the prosecution is likely to introduce former minister Senator Rehman Malik as an additional witness before the court.

Advocate Khawaja Imtiaz Ahmed, the special prosecutor in the high-profile murder case, told Dawn that Mr Malik may be brought before the court as an additional witness to establish Gen Musharraf’s link in the assassination of Ms Bhutto.

He said in his statement recorded before the investigation officer, Senator Malik had testified that Gen Musharraf threatened Ms Bhutto at a meeting held in Dubai prior to her departure for Pakistan in 2007.

With Mark Siegel’s statement, prosecution completes production of evidence and witnesses in Benazir murder case

Sources in the prosecution said Mr Malik had claimed that he witnessed Musharraf threatening Ms Bhutto at the Dubai meeting that her future depended on her relationship with him (Musharraf).

In his statement recorded with the FIA in April 2013, Mr Malik also claimed to have written multiple letters to Gen Musharraf requesting him to provide appropriate security to Ms Bhutto.

Sources in the prosecution claimed that the testimony of Mr Malik would strengthen the prosecution case against Gen Musharraf.

It may be mentioned that in 2010 the prosecution named four witnesses against Gen Musharraf.

They were: former secretary interior Syed Kamal Shah, former director general National Crisis Management Cell retired brigadier Javed Iqbal, former director general Intelligence Bureau retired brigadier Ejaz Shah and US lobbyist Mark Siegel. Kamal Shah, Iqbal and Siegel recorded their statements with the anti-terrorism court (ATC). However, the prosecution did not bring Ejaz Shah into the witness box where his testimony could be used against Gen Musharraf.

On January 20, 2016, Mark Siegel concluded his statement with the court via a video link from the US. The ATC summoned Mr Siegel in 2012 but he could not appear before the court because of security concerns. In October last year, he consented to testify in the case via a video link.

During the cross examination, Barrister Farogh Nasim, the counsel for Gen Musharraf, produced evidence before the ATC to establish that Mr Siegel was a paid lobbyist of the PPP and his statement could not be termed as free, fair and transparent.

Barrister Nasim also shared with the ATC photocopies of Mr Siegel’s contract with the previous PPP government for the projection of Pakistan.

In the testimony of October 1, Mr Siegel alleged that despite imminent threats to her life, Gen Musharraf deliberately deprived Ms Bhutto of the security detail she deserved being a former prime minister.

The case against Musharraf was built on the four witnesses. Except Mr Siegel, the rest of the witnesses held key posts under Gen Musharraf. Two of them have already retracted their statements implicating their former boss while the prosecution decided not to call Ejaz Shah into the witness box, saying his testimony was not needed.

Kamal Shah and Cheema recorded their statements with the ATC in January last year. According to a defence counsel, they did not utter any word against Gen Musharraf.

The joint investigation team, which probed the case, in its report claimed that Mr Siegel alleged in his statement that Ms Bhutto had sent him an email on October 26, 2007, expressing her sense of insecurity.

She also wrote that if something happened to her, she would hold Musharraf responsible along with the individuals mentioned in her letter to Musharraf on October 16, 2007. In that letter, she had mentioned Ejaz Shah, retired Lt Gen Hameed Gul and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi.



Rangers chief seeks Baloch jirga’s help against criminals


KARACHI: A week after he met representatives of the Pakhtun community in the metropolis, the director general of Rangers met a Baloch jirga on Saturday and appealed to Baloch people to keep an eye on anti-state and criminal elements in their neighbourhoods.

The 100-member jirga, which was led by state minister and Pakistan Muslim League-N leader Abdul Hakeem Baloch, called on Rangers DG Major General Bilal Akbar at his office.

According to a Rangers’ statement, the jirga not only appreciated the Rangers operation in Karachi but also assured the paramilitary force of their support.

It said that the Rangers chief particularly mentioned the “Baloch people” when he appealed them to keep an eye on anti-state and criminal elements in their neighbourhoods and cooperate with his soldiers for their arrest.

“The 100-member strong delegation of Baloch jirga led by MNA Abdul Hakeem Baloch visited the Pakistan Rangers, Sindh headquarters,” said the statement. “The Rangers DG traditionally welcomed the delegation and briefed the members about the situation in the city.”

The Rangers chief shared facts with the delegation about the law and order situation in Karachi before and after the operation, which was widely appreciated by the jirga.

He informed the delegation that the people were approaching the Rangers helpline, 1101, round the clock with their complaints.

“The Rangers DG told the jirga that the Karachi operation is going on indiscriminately and showed his resolve to continue it till its logical end. The Baloch people should keep an eye on people’s enemy and criminal elements in their neighbourhoods and approach Rangers helpline 1101 in case of presence of any criminal in their areas,” said the statement.

Earlier, the Rangers chief called on Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad at Governor House and discussed issues relating to Karachi situation, security measures at educational and other institutions across the province in the wake of the recent attack on Bacha Khan University in Charsadda.

“They showed their resolve to continue the operation in Karachi till the elimination of the last terrorist. They also appreciated the role of security agencies to maintain law and order in the city,” said a Governor House statement.

“The governor said that law enforcement agencies have maintained the law and order situation in Karachi as well as in Sindh by sacrificing their lives. The people of Sindh recognise their contribution and pay tribute to their brave efforts,” it added.



5.2 magnitude quake felt in parts of KP

ALI AKBAR  24 01 16

PESHAWAR: A 5.2 magnitude earthquake was felt in Malakand, Dir, Swat and Chitral on Sunday, the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) said.

The quake originated from the Hindu Kush region in Afghanistan and occurred at a depth of about 80 kilometres, the PMD said.

This is the second quake felt in the northern areas within the past 48 hours.

Yesterday's quake was felt in Buner, Malakand, Swat and adjoining areas. The PMD recorded its magnitude as 5.0, with its epicentre near the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border at a focal depth of 80 km.

Over a dozen small quakes have been felt the Hindu Kush region since 2016 began.

"[Our country is located] on an earthquake-prone belt, but this does not mean that things are dangerous for Pakistan all the time," Director General Met Dr Ghulam Rasul, the country’s top meteorologist, said earlier in January.

Small and frequent tremors are far less dangerous, he said, as they help dissipate seismic energy which, if stored up for too long, manifests itself in the shape of massive quakes that can cause widespread damage.

Pakistan is located in the Indus-Tsangpo Suture Zone, which is roughly 200 km north of the Himalaya Front and is defined by an exposed ophiolite chain along its southern margin.

This region has the highest rates of seismicity and largest earthquakes in the Himalaya region, caused mainly by movement on thrust faults.

Along the western margin of the Tibetan Plateau, in the vicinity of south-eastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan, the South Asian plate translates obliquely relative to the Eurasia plate, resulting in a complex fold-and-thrust belt known as the Sulaiman Range.

Faulting in this region includes strike-slip, reverse-slip and oblique-slip motion and often results in shallow, destructive earthquakes.

The PMD recorded about 851 seismic disturbances in 2015.



Arab World
















Displaced people, who fled the violence from Islamic State-controlled area of al-Bab, warm themselves around a fire as they wait in the Syrian village of Akda to cross into Turkey on Saturday. Photograph: Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters


Strikes on east Syrian town kill 63, including children

Jan 24, 2016

BEIRUT — At least 63 people, including nine children, have died in air strikes believed to be carried out by Russian warplanes on a town in eastern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday.

The raids on Khasham near the city of Deir Al-Zor on Saturday were among a series of strikes that also hit two other town in the past 48 hours, killing scores of people.

Russian jets have been bombing around Deir Al-Zor as Syrian pro-government forces clash with Daesh (the so-called IS) fighters, who control most of the province. The group has besieged remaining government-held areas of the city since last March and last week launched new attacks.

Warplanes have also hit Daesh’s de facto capital of Raqqa over the past two days, killing at least 44 people in the city, the Observatory said, raising its toll from Saturday after many of the wounded died of their injuries. — Reuters



Assad, Russia to blame if talks fail — Syrian rebel group

REUTERS, 23 January 2016

BEIRUT, Lebanon : Syrian armed rebel groups said on Saturday they held the Syrian government and Russia responsible for any failure of peace talks to end the country’s civil war, even before negotiations due to start in Geneva next week.

Syria’s opposition has demanded an end to government sieges and a halt to Russian air raids as goodwill measures before they will attend talks set for Jan. 25.

“We hold the Assad regime and its Russian ally responsible for any failure of the political process due to their continued war crimes” including sieges and bombardment of civilian areas, a joint statement from dozens of rebel factions said.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Saturday after talks with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states in Saudi Arabia that he was confident Syria peace talks would proceed.

“We are confident that with good initiative in the next day or so those talks can get going and that the UN representative special envoy Staffan De Mistura will be convening people in an appropriate manner for the proximity talks that will be the first meeting in Geneva,” he told reporters in Riyadh.

Kerry also said there was agreement that immediately after the first round of talks the International Support Group on Syria would convene.



Kerry reassures Saudi Arabia of ‘solid relationship’

Jan 24, 2016

US Secretary of State John Kerry reassured Saudi Arabia on Sunday of the “solid relationship” between both countries, even after the lifting of sanctions on the kingdom’s regional rival Iran.

“We have as solid a relationship, as clear an alliance, and as strong a friendship with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia as we’ve ever had,” Kerry said before departing from Riyadh.

Saudi King Salman on Saturday met with Kerry in the capital Riyadh, and discussed regional affairs, the state-run news agency reported.

During the meeting, the two discussed the latest developments in the region, “particularly the latest developments on the Syrian arena as well as the importance of addressing the Iranian interference in the internal affairs of States,” according to the Saudi Press Agency.

The meeting, which took place at the Al-Auja palace, was attended by senior officials on both sides, including Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir, who Kerry had earlier met with.

At a joint press conference after their earlier meeting on Saturday, Kerry expressed his concerns about Iran’s military support to the Shiite Lebanese movement Hezbollah.

The United States and Saudi Arabia have both criticized and denounced Hezbollah’s support to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime after protests erupted in Syria against the embattled leader’s rule in 2011 but turned into a civil war.

Also on Saturday, foreign ministers of the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) held a joint meeting with Kerry at King Salman airbase in Riyadh. — Al Arabiya



Syria: Terrorists Suffer Major Losses in Army Attacks North, South of Hama

 TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army intensified attacks on the gathering centers of the militant groups, mainly the Jeish al-Fatah and al-Nusra Front, in the Northern and Southern parts of Hama province and inflicted a heavy death toll on the terrorists.

Defense lines of the Jeish al-Fatah militant groups near the village of Skeik and towns of Kafr Zita and al-Lataminah in the Northern part of Hama province were massively attacked by the Syrian army.

Jeish al-Fatah suffered a heavy death toll in the attacks while it weapons and military hardware also sustained major damage.

In the meantime, scores of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front's members were killed or injured in the Syrian army's offensives near Hirbnafsa in the Southwestern territories of the province.

Earlier reports said that the Syrian army and the National Defense Forces (NDF) stormed militants' centers in the Northern parts of Hama province, and inflicted large casualties on terrorists.

"The concentration centers of the Takfiri terrorists came under the heavy attacks of the Syrian government forces in Jabal Shahshabo, which claimed the lives of many terrorists and destroyed their heavy machinegun-equipped vehicles," a field source told the FNA.

"The Syrian government forces hit the Takfiri militants' positions hard near the town of al-Tamanna in the Southern side of al-Khazanat in Idlib's Khan Sheikhoun region, which ended in destruction of the terrorist group's weapons and ammunition," the source further added.



Yemeni Forces Take Control of Strategic Region in Dhale Province

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Yemeni army and popular forces continued their advances in Dhale, and seized back a strategic town in the province's Damt region.

The Yemeni forces took full control of al-Riashia town in Damt region of Dhale province, inflicting heavy losses on the Saudi-led forces.

The Yemeni army also hit hard the Saudi forces' positions near Kofel military base in Ma'rib province, killing dozens of them.

Meantime, the Yemeni forces destroyed the Saudi military positions in Ta'iz province.

Saudi Arabia has been striking Yemen for 302 days now to restore power to fugitive president Mansour Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh. The Saudi-led aggression has so far killed at least 8,000 Yemenis, including hundreds of women and children.

Hadi stepped down in January and refused to reconsider the decision despite calls by Ansarullah revolutionaries of the Houthi movement.

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

Over 3,750 schools have been closed and at least 1.2 million Yemeni people have been displaced so far.



Militants Withdraw from More Lands in Syria's Lattakia Province

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army said its troops continue to march on militants' positions in the mountainous regions of Lattakia province, and seized back control over more villages and heights the near border with Turkey.

"The Syrian army and the National Defense Forces (NDF) pushed the militant groups back from the mountains and the village of al-Swida, the mountains of Sarkal, the height of 465 and the villages of Beit Awan, Baladr and Reif Mkhtaro in the Northern battlefields of the coastal province after hours of fierce battle," army sources said.

"Scores of the militants were killed or wounded in the attacks," the sources said.

"The Syrian army's engineering units have launched operations to defuse explosive devices and landmines planted by the militant groups in the buildings and along the roads," they went on to say.

The Syrian army announced earlier today that the militant groups withdrew from more lands in the Northern part of Lattakia province after the Syrian Army and its popular allies stormed their positions.

"The Syrian army troops and the NDF captured the villages of al-Qalabea and Beit Riha near border with Turkey," the army said.

"Over 150 militants were killed or wounded in the army attack, while more others fled the battlefields leaving behind their military equipment and weapons," the army added.



Gov't Forces Drive Militants Back From More Territories North of Syria's Lattakia

TEHRAN (FNA)- The militant groups withdrew from more lands in the Northern part of Lattakia province after the Syrian Army and its popular allies stormed their positions, the army announced Saturday.

"The Syrian army troops and the National Defense Forces (NDF) continued to advance against the militant groups in the mountainous regions of Lattakia province and pushed them back from the villages of al-Qalabea and Beit Riha near border with Turkey," the army said.

"Over 150 militants were killed or wounded in the army attack, while more others fled the battlefields leaving behind their military equipment and weapons," the army added.

In relevant development in the coastal province on Friday, the Syrian army and the NDF drove the militant groups back from more territories in Lattakia after hours of heavy fighting.

"The militant groups withdrew from al-Kalouksi mountains, Katf al-Qamou'a, the villages of al-Qanimeh, al-Qalaye'a, Beit Seker, al-Owyenat and Khan al-Jouz after the Syrian army and the NDF stormed their positions in the Northern part of Lattakia province," the army said.

"The Syrian army also retook full control over Tal al-Harb al-Electronia in the province," the army added.

"The militant groups left behind scores of the dead and injured members and fled the battlefields," the army went on to say.



Syria: Army Continues to Crush Militant Groups North of Hama

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army and the National Defense Forces (NDF) stormed militants' centers in the Northern parts of Hama province, and inflicted large casualties on terrorists on Saturday.

"The concentration centers of the Takfiri terrorists came under the heavy attacks of the Syrian government forces in Jabal Shahshabo, which claimed the lives of many terrorists and destroyed their heavy machinegun-equipped vehicles," a field source told the FNA.

"The Syrian government forces hit the Takfiri militants' positions hard near the town of al-Tamanna in the Southern side of al-Khazanat in Idlib's Khan Sheikhoun region, which ended in destruction of the terrorist group's weapons and ammunition," the source further added.

In relevant development in the battlefields of Hama on Friday, the Syrian army alongside the popular forces engaged in fierce clashes with the terrorist groups of Ahrar al-Sham, Jeish al-Nassr, Jeish al-Fatah and al-Izza Jama'ah across Hama province, and inflicted major losses on the terrorists.

"The Syrian army and the NDF targeted gathering centers of Ahrar al-Sham and Jeish al-Nassr in Jabal Shahshabo, which ended in destruction of a depot of weapons and ammunition as well as a number of the militants' vehicles," the army said.

"Jeish al-Fatah' defense lines in the village of Lahaya came under the heavy attack of the Syrian government forces, which left several terrorists killed or wounded," the army said, adding, "Several vehicles of al-Izza Jama'ah terrorist group were also destroyed as a result of the army attack in Latmin North of Hama province."



President Xi: Iran, China Opening New Chapter in Ties

TEHRAN (FNA)- Visiting President Xi Jinping said Iran and China have signed several letters of intent for a new chapter in strategic economic cooperation.

President Xi, who arrived in Tehran on Friday night, was officially welcomed by President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday. The Chinese leader, whose made a great contribution to the nuclear deal, said the two nations have made headway in traditional friendship and economic engagement.

President Xi said Beijing has remained Iran’s biggest trading partner and a top buyer of its crude oil, and that Tehran is an important partner for China in the Middle East. “Enhanced ties serve the two developing countries’ strategic interests,” he maintained.

According to the Chinese leader, Tehran and Beijing agreed to work together in the region and beyond, particularly at the United Nations and the Shanghai Cooperation Council.

“This visit convinced me that prospects (of the bilateral ties) are promising. I am confident that establishment of political relations between Iran and China has resulted in important achievements in the political, economic and cultural sectors.”

In conclusion, President Xi said, “China is ready to start a new chapter in bilateral relations by upgrading the current level of interaction and cooperation.”

The Chinese President arrived in Tehran on Friday night. During the landmark visit, Iran and China signed 17 documents for cooperation in economic, industrial, cultural and judicial fields. They include one signed between Iranian and Chinese nuclear chiefs for peaceful energy cooperation as well as for environmental cooperation, financing of a bullet train railway and banking. 

During his visit, President Xi is scheduled to hold talks with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei.



Iranian, Chinese Presidents Review Ways to Fight Terrorism, Extremism in Region

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that he has conferred on ways to reinvigorate campaign against terrorist and extremist groups in the region in the meeting with his visiting Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Tehran on Saturday.

"Campaign against terrorism, extremism, violence and fighting against differences that have entangled the region were among issues discussed between the two sides," President Rouhani said at a joint press conference with Xi in Tehran today.

Establishment of security and stability in the Middle-East region, consultations and assistance to those countries which are fighting against terrorism, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, unilateralism, the future of the region and the world as well as threats that need attention in the mid- and long-run and the important goals sought by Tehran and Beijing in the region were also among the reviewed areas, according to Rouhani.

Elsewhere, he referred to the endorsement of different documents between the two countries and the necessity for enhancement of bilateral relations, and said, "Today, we negotiated the two countries' strategic relations, compilation of a comprehensive 25-year-long plan and enhancement of the level of the two countries' ties up to $600bln in the next 10 years."

The Iranian president said that he and President Xi also discussed the monetary, banking and investment issues as well as long-term contracts on energy, railways, ports and technology parks construction and expansion of cooperation in industrial, mining and tourism sectors.

"In addition to economic issues, we also discussed and exchanged views in areas of science, new technologies, culture, tourism, security and defense," he added.

"I consider the Chinese president's important visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran along with a high-ranking delegation as an important historical event and I rest assured that a new chapter of cooperation has opened between Iran and China from now on," Rouhani underlined.

In relevant remarks in November, Iranian First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri in a meeting with Head of the Central Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party Meng Jianzhu in Tehran underlined the need for Tehran-Beijing cooperation to confront extremism and terrorism in the region.

"The worst form of violence is underway in Iraq and Syria today and Iran is ready to cooperate with China in resolving the regional problems," Jahangiri said during the meeting.

Also on Tuesday evening, President Rouhani in a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed to assist any world state which seeks Iran's help in campaign against terrorism.

During the meeting in Tehran, Rouhani expressed concern about exacerbation of insecurity by terrorism in the region, and said that policy of his government is based on constructive interaction with other countries, specially neighbors.

Iran will reply positively to the requests of those countries which are fighting against terrorism, he added.

Rouhani described sowing discord and disputes among Muslims as an unacceptable issue, and said Iran favors strengthening unity and solidarity among all Muslims, whether Shiite or Sunni, and is ready to cooperate with countries of the region in the fight against terrorism, extremism and sectarianism.



Russian Aircraft Drops Humanitarian Aid for Besieged Towns in Aleppo

TEHRAN (FNA)- Residents of the besieged towns of al-Zahra and Nubl, Northwest of Aleppo province, who are under the Al-Nusra Front terrorists' intensive missile and artillery attacks received a consignment of foodstuff and medical aid dropped by a Russian cargo plane.

Syrian activists said on Saturday that a Russian cargo plane has carried humanitarian aid to al-Zahra and Nubl towns in Aleppo.

"The aircraft which was escorted by three Russian fighter jets dropped humanitarian aid to the two towns," Mohammad Hassan al-Halabi, an activist, was quoted as saying by al-Youm al-Sabe' news website.

According to the report, the Syrian army planes had also a few days earlier airdropped aid to the residents of the two besieged towns.

While the UN and the Red Crescent Society have sent new cargos of humanitarian aid and foodstuff to the besieged town of Madaya in Damascus province and Fuaa and Kefraya towns in Idlib province earlier this month, al-Zahra and Nubl had been left helpless.

Nubl and al-Zahra in Northwest of Aleppo province have been surrounded by terrorists for years now and people have been dying of hunger in there too.

The situation in Nubl and al-Zahra is much worse than other towns as they have been under siege by the al-Nusra Front terrorists for nearly four years now. Tens of people have died of hunger and lack of medicine in these two Shiite-populated towns.



60% hike in recruitment of expatriate workers in Saudi Arabia

Jan 24, 2016 , Saleh Al-Zahrani

JEDDAH — The issuance of recruitment visas for foreign workers increased by 60 percent in 2015 in comparison to the previous year, according to experts.

Namaa Group Head Abdullah Al-Shaddadi said the Kingdom recruited a total of 1.6 million expatriates during the past year.

“Despite the fact that the Ministry of Labor successfully employed 250,000 Saudis during the past year and a total of 772,000 Saudis during the past five years, the rate of unemployment in the Kingdom remains high,” said Al-Shaddadi.

He added that Saudi employees in the private sector constitute 15 percent of total workers.

“There are 1.6 million Saudis employed in the private sector while more than eight million expatriates from 120 different nationalities are working in the private sector. Most of the expatriates are from Asian countries. Despite many programs and regulations the ministry has put in place to increase Saudi employment, the need for foreign workers is steadily increasing,” said Al-Shaddadi.

He also said that there are over a million participants in the Hafiz program for employment training and aid and over 600,000 participants in the Jadarah employment program.

“The number of Saudi graduates is increasing. About a quarter of a million Saudis are graduating on an annual basis and only 120,000 jobs are offered,” said Al-Shaddadi.

“The ministry should review the qualifications required for recruiting expatriates. There are many foreign residents in the Kingdom with low competence. This means that Saudi graduates are more competent to replace foreign workers,” said Al-Shaddadi.

Economist Abdulilah Mouminah said many Saudis who own businesses do not actually run their own businesses.

“Saudis have relied on expatriates for too long to the point that it has become a part of the Saudi culture. Saudis need to empower other Saudis in order to regain a more nationally independent job market,” said Mouminah.



Saudi Labor Ministry and ‘Hadaf’ officially launch ‘remote employment program’ for citizens

Jan 24, 2016

Saudi Gazette report

RIYADH – The Ministry of Labor and the Human Resources Development Fund (Hadaf) have officially launched the ‘remote employment program’ so as to increase job opportunities for Saudi women in particular and Saudi men in general in different cities and governorates of the Kingdom.

This will open the way for employing citizens in suitable, stable and productive jobs, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported Saturday quoting Khaled Aba Al-Khail, director general of Information Center in the Labor Ministry as saying.

Aba Al-Khail said that ‘remote employment’ includes numerous fields that are specified by the nature of work.

He mentioned several fields as an example; translation, programming, accounting, auditing, investment consultancy, human resources, data entry, training consultancy, research, technical support, digital media, sales representative, client service, training and education consultancy, interior designing, wholesale and retail trade, education and personal services, transport, storage, telecommunications and financial and insurance services, among others.

Aba Al-Khail stressed that the program is one of the most important in increasing the participation of Saudis in general and Saudi women in particular in the labor market. It is also a tool for serving jobseekers who are looking for work in the private sector.

Employees will no longer need to travel to place of work.

By introducing this system, the Ministry of Labor is striving to create flexible, diverse and suitable job opportunities required by the business sectors in different regions.

He said that the program, which has come as a result of technological advancement, is keen to create a new culture in the local labor market. Jobs will be offered officially in the private sector firms, but they will not require the actual presence of the employee in the firm. The employee can work either in the Hadaf ‘remote employment program’ centers or from home, as required by the firms.

The contractual relations for freelance workers are organized by a written official contract in which it is clearly mentioned that employees will be working for employers according to the ‘remote employment program’.

Aba Al-Khail stressed that it is important that the employee is registered in the General Organization for Social Insurance (GOSI) as a worker in the ‘remote employment program’ on the basis of full working hours or part-time in the ‘remote employment program’ portal. The ministry has specified the work environment and place.

The ministry has given employers two options. First, to work from home. Second, to work from the ‘remote employment program’ centers that Hadaf has started in different cities of the Kingdom.

The work will be monitored and registered via the ‘remote employment program’ portal. Aba Al-Khail said the ‘remote employment program’ includes many fields depending on the job nature.



South Asia


34 militants killed, 48 wounded in Afghan army operations

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sat Jan 23 2016

At least 36 anti-government armed militants were killed and 48 others were wounded in counter-terrorism operations led by the Afghan National Army (ANA) forces in the past 24 hours.

The Ministry of Defense (MoD) said the operations were jointly conducted in various parts of the country and as a result at least 48 militants were also injured.

A statement by MoD said at last 46 others were also injured during the operations and various types of weapons and ammunition were confiscated by the security forces.

The operations were conducted in the vicinity of AChin and Behsud districts of Nangarhar province, Manogi district of Kunar, Qarghai district of Laghman, Khoshi, Mohammad Agha and Azra districts of Logar, Nerkh and Daimerdad districts of Maidan Wardak, central parts and Dasht-e-district of Kunduz, Tagab district of Badakhshan, Nawa district of Helmand, central Baghlan, Koh-e-Safi district of Parwan province.

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

The Afghan national security forces have doubled counter-terrorism operations in different parts of the country amid deteriorating security situation in the country.

The Taliban-led insurgency have been rampant during the recent weeks in different parts of the country, including capital Kabul besides the newly-emerged loyalists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group are looking to expand foothold in the country.



NATO-funded printers to help MoI process up to 1,000 passports daily

By GHANIZADA - Sat Jan 23 2016

The Central Passport Department operating within the framework of the Ministry of Interior (MoI), has received new passport printers, purchased by NATO-led Resolute Support (RS) mission.

The purchase of the new printers comes as the number of applicants acquiring passports has been on the rise with the Central Passport Department personnel working in two shifts to respond to the demands of the Afghan citizens.

“NATO has purchased passport printers for the Afghan Ministry of Interior (MoI). Each day, thousands of Afghan citizens visit the office in ?#?Kabul? to obtain a new passport,” according to an online statement by Resolute Support (RS) mission.

The statement further added that the new passport machines, the MoI will process the passport applications faster. Before the new passport machines, each passport had to be hand signed.

Additionally, old passports were easily forged, RS said, adding that the new passport machine will shorten prep time for passports and visas for companies that want to do business in Afghanistan. According to the MoI, 700-1,000 passports can be processed daily.

Meanwhile, the Afghan government is launching online enrollment for electronic passport in a bid to expedite the process for the applicants.

The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology of Afghanistan (MICT) earlier announced that a plan has been prepared for the online enrollment and distribution of passports through Afghan Post.

The Afghan government launched distribution of electronic passports in early 2013 by obtaining the biometric data of the applicant that can be used to identify the holder. The new system has made it harder for criminals and insurgents to travel.

The launch of online enrollment for the electronic passports has been widely welcomed with Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah saying the launch of the system is yet another step to fight corruption.



North America


Biden: We are prepared for military solution against Daesh in Syria

 24 January 2016

ISTANBUL: US Vice President Joe Biden said on Saturday that the US and Turkey were prepared for a military solution against Daesh in Syria should the Syrian government and rebels fail to reach a political settlement.

The latest round of Syria peace talks are planned to begin on Monday in Geneva but were at risk of being delayed partly because of a dispute over who will comprise the opposition delegation.

Syrian armed rebel groups said on Saturday they held the Syrian government and Russia responsible for any failure of peace talks to end the country’s civil war, even before negotiations were due to start.

“We do know it would better if we can reach a political solution but we are prepared ..., if that’s not possible, to have a military solution to this operation in taking out Daesh,” Biden said at a news conference after a meeting with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

A US official later clarified that Biden was talking about a military solution to Daesh, not Syria as a whole.

Biden said he and Davutoglu also discussed how the two NATO allies could further support Sunni Arab rebel forces fighting to oust President Bashar Assad.

Saleh Muslim, co-chair of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), the main Kurdish political grouping in Syria, said on Friday the Syria peace talks would fail if Syrian Kurds are not represented.

Davutoglu said on Saturday the PYD’s military wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) had become an increasing threat to Turkey. According to local media, on the way to Turkey from Davos, he also told reporters Ankara would strike YPG in northern Syria just like it hits PKK targets in northern Iraq.

Biden strongly criticized the PKK. Davutoglu also reiterated the Turkey’s respect for the territorial unity of Iraq, where it deployed troops despite Baghdad’s objections.



Kerry reassures GCC over warming US-Iran relations


Sunday 24 January 2016

RIYADH: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman met with US Secretary of State John Kerry as he arrived here on Saturday and held talks with the GCC foreign ministers on conflicts in the region, including Iran and Syria.

The talks with King Salman also covered a gamut of key bilateral and regional issues. The king and Kerry expressed their concerns over regional conflicts, which are hampering all efforts for peace and security.

The two leaders discussed the forthcoming peace negotiations and coordination with Syrian factions besides Iranian meddling in the affairs of the Arab nations, particularly those of the GCC.

They also pledged to continue and intensify support to the moderate Syrian opposition, while the political track is being pursued.

The talks were attended by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman; Musaed bin Mohammed Al-Aiban, minister of state; Adel Al-Toraifi, minister of culture and information; Adel Al-Jubeir, foreign minister; and Chief of General Intelligence Khalid bin Ali Al-Homaidan. US Ambassador Joseph W. Westphal was also present.

Speaking at a joint press conference, Kerry expressed concern about what he described as Iranian “interference” in other countries, including Yemen. “The US remains concerned about some of the activities that Iran is engaged in other countries,” like Yemen, Syria and Lebanon, he said.

The top US diplomat, however, reassured Gulf Arab allies that Washington “will stand by them against any external threat.”

He also reiterated US support for Saudi-led war in Yemen against terrorists and militants, including Houthi rebels. He said that the Saudi decision to launch airstrikes in Yemen aimed at dealing with the Houthis and Al-Qaeda operatives.

Kerry sought agreement from Gulf partners on Syrian opposition groups to be represented at the upcoming peace talks.

Al-Jubeir and Kerry presented a united front on Syria and Iran, after the extraordinary meeting of the GCC foreign ministers. They said the US and the GCC agreed on the need to confront the destabilizing Iranian activities in the region and on an unspecified understanding that will allow the UN-led Syria talks to begin next week as planned.

Al-Jubeir said at the press conference: “We had discussed the Iranian interference in the region’s affairs and ways to confront it. We also discussed the latest developments regarding the outcome of the Camp David summit.”

Al-Jubeir confirmed the congruence of viewpoints on the issues discussed at the joint meeting which comes as part of continuing consultation and coordination between the US and GCC states.

On Iranian meddling in Arab affairs, Kerry said: “Let me assure everybody that the US-Gulf relationship is one that is built on mutual interests, on mutual defense and I think there is no doubt whatsoever in the minds of the countries that make up the GCC that the US will stand with them against any external threat.”

Kerry also announced that the Syria Support Group of 20 nations and organizations will meet “very shortly” to help push peace in the war-ravaged country.

Kerry said he had discussed with the GCC foreign ministers the implementation of the nuclear agreement with Iran, reassuring anew that the agreement seeks to eliminate nuclear weapons in the region as a strategic priority for all parties.

Kerry said that the US and the GCC had underscored the importance of the partnership, the commitment toward making this partnership a success, in addition to an agreement to soon meet anew and regularly.

Kerry said that “the incidents we witnessed over the last weeks confirm that the incidents are accelerating and that we have to get ready at all levels to confront them.”

Referring to the forthcoming peace talks on Syria, Kerry said: “We reached an understanding on how to begin this first round of negotiations on Syria.” Al-Jubeir echoed similar views: “A way has been paved for a proximity meeting in Geneva.”

Kerry was also due to have talks with Riad Hijab, chair of the Syrian opposition’s High Negotiations Committee, which was formed in Saudi Arabia last month.

“We’re quite confident that there is a way to invite the various interested stakeholders in a way that provides for cohesion and an ability to be able to move the process forward,” said Kerry, adding that “there are still sharp divisions especially about the future of President Bashar Assad.” He was highly critical of the Assad regime and named Assad as “the magnet that attracts violent terrorists and jihadis.”

Referring to the peace talks, Kerry said that there was agreement that immediately after the first round of talks the International Support Group on Syria would convene.

In Yemen, there is the Houthi rebellion, said Kerry, while noting the formation of a coalition to fight Daesh. He stressed working with partners and the Iraqis to develop a comprehensive military force to help the people restore Al-Anbar province.

GCC Secretary-General Abdulateef Al-Zayani called on the international community to do more to find solutions to the challenges facing the Middle East.

He also denounced the abduction of Al Jazeera news channel team in the Yemeni city of Taiz, describing the act as a violation of international laws which guarantee complete freedom to the media to cover events.



Pakistan 'can and must' dismantle all terror networks: Barack Obama

PTI | Jan 24, 2016,

SHINGTON: In a strong message, US president Barack Obama told Pakistan on Sunday that it "can and must" take more effective action against terrorist groups operating from its soil by "delegitimising, disrupting and dismantling" terror networks there.

Describing the terror attack on the IAF base in Pathankot as "another example of the inexcusable terrorism that India has endured for too long", Obama gave credit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for reaching out to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif after the attack.

"Both leaders are advancing a dialogue on how to confront violent extremism and terrorism across the region," Obama told PTI in an interview here during which he answered a wide range of questions covering Indo-US ties, terrorism and outcome of the Paris climate change summit.

Voicing his belief that the Indo-US relationship can be one of the defining partnerships of the century, Obama said that Modi shared his enthusiasm for a strong partnership and "we have developed a friendship and close working relationship, including our conversations on the new secure lines between our offices".

Asked if the relationship has achieved its full potential, the US president replied, "Absolutely not."

On the Pathankot attack, Obama said, "We join India in condemning the attack, saluting the Indians who fought to prevent more loss of life and extending our condolences to the victims and their families.

"Tragedies like this also underscore why the US and India continue to be such close partners in fighting terrorism."

Obama was of the view that Sharif recognised that insecurity in Pakistan is a threat to its own stability and that of the region. After the December, 2014 school massacre in Peshawar he had vowed to target all militants, regardless of their agenda or affiliation.

"That is the right policy. Since then, we have seen Pakistan take action against several specific groups. We have also seen continued terrorism inside Pakistan such as the recent attack on the university in north west Pakistan."

The US president said that he still believed that "Pakistan can and must" take more effective action against terrorist groups that operate from its territory.

"Pakistan has an opportunity to show that it is serious about delegitimising, disrupting and dismantling terrorist networks. In the region and around the world, there must be zero tolerance for safe havens and terrorists must be brought to justice," he asserted in his third interview to PTI.

Referring to bilateral ties with India, Obama said his visit last year reflected how the ties between the two countries have been transformed.

"Since I took office, I have worked to deepen our cooperation with India across the board and I continue to believe that the relationship between India and the United States can be one of the defining partnerships of this century.

"However, common values--two democracies, two innovative economies, two diverse societies--make us natural partners. We are linked by the ties of family--millions of Indian Americans," the US President said.

He said his hope was that his visit could help spark a new era of cooperation between the two countries and "I believe it did".

"The past 12 months have been a year of progress across the three priorities that I identified in my speech to the Indian people at Siri Fort.

"We're deepening our partnerships to promote the development that lifts up our people, including rural Indians- helping farmers, boost their yields and working expanding access to electricity and clean water," Obama said.

He said both the countries continue to expand the economic partnerships that help reduce poverty and create opportunity, pushing bilateral trade to a record levels, expanding hi-tech collaborations and increasing students exchanges, including for girls and women who deserve the same education and opportunities and boys and men.

Obama said the two countries were doing even more as global partners including more military exercises, greater cooperation in the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean region and working together to confront climate change.

"I continue to believe that America can be India's best partner. So I hope future generations can look back at this moment and see that this was the time when the world's largest democracy became true global partners.

"In my final year as President, continuing to deepen our ties will continue to be one of my foreign policy priorities," Obama said.





‘British, American and Russian troops in Libya’


 24 January 2016

TRIPOLI: Dozens of British, Russia and American troops have arrived in Libya in support for the weak internationally-recognized government in Tobruk, London-based daily Asharq Al-Awsat reported.

The daily also said French troops are expected to arrive soon for the same purpose. The officers and soldiers are currently stationed in Jamal Abdulnasir military base south of Tobruk where the parliament is holding its sessions in the city.

Witnesses in the base, meanwhile, said the number of foreign troops mounts to 500 troops in the past three weeks, but a security official, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said they are just dozens.

However, a small group of Americans have arrived west of Tripoli, where the opposing government is.

On Friday, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford said a decisive military action is needed to halt the spread of Daesh in Libya, saying the group wanted to use the north African nation as a platform to coordinate activity across the continent.

A spokesman for Libya’s recognized government in the east said it was requesting a “limited intervention by the international community to “protect oil fields from Daesh attacks.”



Tunisia PM: Democracy will be preserved ‘whatever the cost’


 24 January 2016

TUNIS: Tunisia’s prime minister said on Saturday that the country’s young democracy would be preserved “whatever the cost” following four days of violent job protests and riots, and that it would take time to respond to young people’s economic demands.

An Interior Ministry spokesman said the situation was calm across most of the country, a day after authorities imposed a nationwide nighttime curfew. The demonstrations that began in the impoverished town of Kasserine on Tuesday and spread across the country are the most serious since the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Tunisia has been held up as a model for democratic progress since the 2011 revolution. But there has been rising discontent over a lack of jobs and high living costs, especially in the country’s interior. The country is also facing a threat from militants, who launched three major attacks last year and have been gaining strength in neighboring Libya.

Prime Minister Habib Essid told a news conference that he understood the demands of young Tunisians, but said people seeking to “destroy the democratic transition” had taken advantage of the protests.

“I appeal for calm and for national unity and complete security across the country to preserve our nascent democracy which is the only example of success in the region,” he said.

“There has been huge political progress but we acknowledge that there are lots of economic difficulties. We will respond to young people’s economic demands but we need a bit of time for that.” He said Tunisian democracy would not be destroyed, “whatever the cost.”

The curfew began on Friday, when there was further violence in the capital, Tunis. The interior ministry said almost 70 people had been arrested for damaging property or theft.

“Tunisia’s stability and security has been targeted,” President Beji Caid Essebsi said in a televised address late on Friday. “Even Daesh in Libya wants to take advantage of this situation of violence.”





17-year-old British admits to murdering female Saudi student in UK

24 January 2016

JEDDAH: A British teenager has admitted that he killed 31-year-old Saudi doctoral student, Nahid Almanea, by stabbing her 16 times as she walked from her student accommodation along the Salary Brook Trail toward the University of Essex on the morning of June 17, 2014.

The 17-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, also pleaded guilty to the murder of James Attfield, 33, a father of five, by stabbing him over 100 times.

Almanea, who was wearing hijab, was killed just months after moving to Britain for her Ph.D.

Attfield was killed while walking along a riverside path in what police described as one of the most brutal attacks they had ever seen, with his attacker stabbing him 102 times, on March 29, 2014.

Almanea was walking on a footpath in the Salary Brook area of Colchester when she was stabbed in the head and body, three months later on June 17.

She was found lying in a pool of blood just six months after she had moved to the UK to study.

Dressed in a grey suit and black leather jacket, the bespectacled defendant admitted to the killings in court on Friday.

The teenager, from Colchester, was arrested after he was found with a knife on May 26 last year in the same area that Almanea was killed.

The University of Essex student, who was living in the town, was wearing a dark navy-blue abaya, or full-length robe, when she was attacked.

Following the stabbings, Essex police said there were striking similarities between the killings of Attfield and Almanea but nothing to link the victims.

At the height of their investigation, more than 100 detectives, uniformed officers, community support officers and civilian staff were involved. A number of people were also arrested.

A murder trial has already been fixed to start on April 11, at a venue yet to be decided.



France plans to prolong state of emergency over terror threat

AP | Jan 23, 2016

PARIS: President Francois Hollande has announced that the French government will ask parliament to approve a three-month renewal of the state of emergency put into place after the Nov. 13 Paris attacks that killed 130 people.

It would be the second time the measure has been prolonged.

The president's office said Friday that Hollande cited "the terrorist threat" in asking the government to present a bill at the Feb. 3 Cabinet meeting seeking a three-month extension of the state of emergency. The current state of emergency is to expire at the end of February.

A state of emergency gives special powers to authorities, making it easier to place people under house arrest and conduct searches. Critics contend the measure impinges on personal freedoms to little effect.





Palestinian girl, 13, shot dead by Israeli guards

Jan 24, 2016

JERUSALEM — A 13-year-old Palestinian girl was shot dead by an Israeli security guard she allegedly tried to stab at a settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Israeli police said on Saturday.

It was the latest fatality in an almost four-month-long surge of violence that has raised concern of wider escalation, a decade after the last Palestinian uprising subsided, and it followed two stabbings this week inside settlements carried out by Palestinian teenagers, according to Israeli authorities.

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said initial investigations showed the teenager “had fought with her family and left her home with a knife and intending to die.” Holding a knife, she ran toward the security guard at the entrance to Anatot settlement and he opened fire at her, Samri said. Her father arrived at the scene shortly after the incident and was arrested, she added.

The family of the teenager, Ruqayya Abu Eid, confirmed her death. Her mother, Reeda Abu Eid, said there had been no trouble before her daughter left the family home, a tent in the Palestinian village Anata.

“Her father works in a farm and Ruqayya used to go to him. I didn’t see her when she left so I expected she had gone to her father,” she said. “Ruqayya is a small girl, how could she stab someone?“

Since the start of October, Israeli forces have killed at least 149 Palestinians, 95 of them assailants according to authorities. Most of the others have died in violent protests.

On Sunday, an Israeli mother of six was stabbed to death at her home in a West Bank settlement and a 15-year-old Palestinian was arrested for the attack.

On Monday, Israeli troops shot and wounded a 17-year-old Palestinian who had allegedly stabbed and wounded a pregnant Israeli woman in a settlement.

The bloodshed has been fueled by various factors including frustration over the 2014 collapse of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and the growth of Jewish settlements on land Palestinians seek for an independent state. — Reuters



Yemeni refuses to leave Gitmo as 2 depart for Balkans


Published — Sunday 24 January 2016

MIAMI: A Guantanamo Bay prisoner who protested his indefinite confinement with a lengthy hunger strike has taken the unusual step of turning down a chance to finally leave the US base in Cuba, rejecting an offer to be resettled in an unfamiliar new country.

Muhammad Bawazir, a 35-year-old from Yemen, refused to board a plane as two other prisoners were being flown out for resettlement in the Balkans, his lawyer, John Chandler, said. Since returning to his homeland was not an option, he insisted on being sent to a country where he has family.

Chandler said he spent months trying to persuade Bawazir to accept the resettlement in another country he refused to name. But the prisoner, who was 21 when captured in Afghanistan, apparently decided at the last minute he couldn’t do it.

“It’s a country I’d go to in a heartbeat,” the Atlanta-based attorney said. “I can’t help you with the logic of his position. It’s just a very emotional reaction from a man who has been locked up for 14 years. “

Several prisoners over the years have resisted returning to their own countries, fearing they might be imprisoned and tortured. Some ethnic Uighurs held for years at Guantanamo once spurned a resettlement officer in the Pacific island nation of Palau because it seemed too close to China, the country they said they fled because of intense persecution.

Still, the decision by Bawazir is unusual. Yemeni prisoners at Guantanamo, who can’t be sent to their homeland because of the civil war there, have been described by officials and lawyers as eager for any way out of the prison.

“The rest of the guys there, if I had offered them the opportunity to go they would have said ‘show me the plane,’ said Chandler, who has three clients at Guantanamo after two others went to the UAE for resettlement.

The two prisoner releases brought to 16 the total to leave in January as President Barack Obama works to whittle down the number of low-level detainees as he seeks to close the detention center on the base and move the remainder of the men to the US.



Two Injured As Rocket Fired From Syria Lands In Street In Turkey

January 23, 2016

Two people were injured when a rocket apparently fired from the Syrian side of the border landed in a street in the southeastern province of Kilis, the Governor's Office said on Saturday.

In a statement, the Governor's Office said the explosion caused small damage in nearby buildings. The two people were lightly injured and are undergoing treatment at the Kilis State Hospital, it also said.

A news report earlier in the day said that two Katyusha rockets hit Kilis, one landing in the yard of a religious tomb and the other in a street. The report by Doğan news agency said the rockets were believed to have been fired from Bab area, controlled by the the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

On Monday one person was killed and several wounded when a mortar apparently fired from inside Syria struck a school in Kilis. Media reports said the mortar had been fired from an ISIL-controlled area.

Kilis is on the edge of a roughly 100-kilometer strip of Syrian territory controlled by ISIL. Turkish towns in the region have often seen artillery fire spill over during Syria's almost five-year civil war.

Turkey's armed forces, part of an anti-ISIL air campaign, have generally retaliated.



European Court Rules Turkey Discriminates Against Alevi Community

January 22, 2016

The European Court of Human Rights has rejected Turkey's appeal to a ruling that Turkey's failure to exempt cemevis -- Alevi places of worship -- from paying their electricity bills and the existence of compulsory religious courses at Turkish schools are in violation of the article on discrimination in the European Convention on Human Rights, İzzettin Doğan, the president of the Cem Foundation, announced on Friday.

The court ruled in September 2014 that Turkey's compulsory religion course violates the convention's article regarding the right to education and urged Turkey to switch to a new system in which students would not be required to take such a class.

The court also ruled in December of 2014 that Turkey's failure to exempt cemevis from paying their electricity bills constitutes discrimination, which goes against the convention. It referred in this regard to Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) together with Article 9 (right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion).

Doğan announced on Friday that Turkey appealed both of the rulings in 2015; however, the court rejected the appeal in a clear acknowledgement of Turkey's discrimination against the Alevi community.

The Religious Affairs Directorate neither allocates funds for Alevi activities nor pays the salaries of Alevi religious leaders. In effect, the directorate's budget is reserved for the Sunni community.

The status of Alevi cemevis has been an issue of contention in Turkey. Churches, mosques and synagogues are recognized by the state as houses of worship, and as such are provided with utilities free of charge, while cemevis are not.

However, the subject goes beyond having to pay electric bills. The state does not grant cemevis legal status; only mosques are legitimate places of worship in Islam, so cemevis are considered cultural centers. Despite earlier rulings by the court that give cemevis the status of places of worship and orders the Turkish government to respect Alevis' faith, the government has ignored the ruling and similar requests, something that has become a source of frustration for the Alevi community in Turkey.

Existence of compulsory religious courses at Turkish schools are highly controversial, too. The Turkish government instructed in 2014 that the culture of religion and knowledge of morality course be included among the classes required at primary and secondary schools and their equivalents during the 2014-2015 school year.

According to the Alevi minority, Turkey's current education system explicitly ignores the differences in the society and the whole system is formed according to Sunni beliefs.

However, Article 12 of Law No. 1739 on Turkish national education states: “Secularism is fundamental in education in Turkey."

The total population of Alevis in Turkey is estimated to be around 10 million. The history of Alevis under the Ottoman Empire has yet to be resolved, but the relationship between the Sunni and Alevi communities in Anatolia was troubled from the start.



Hezbollah arms ‘come from Iran’

Saturday 23 January 2016

RIYADH: US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed his concerns over Iran’s military support to the Shiite Lebanese terror group of Hezbollah on Saturday.

Kerry said most of Hezbollah’s arms come from Iran through Syria to Lebanon and that the group has about 80,000 missiles.

The US and Saudi Arabia have both criticized and denounced Hezbollah’s support to Assad’s regime after protests erupted in Syria against the embattled leader’s rule in 2011 but turned into a civil war.



Tehran gains more leeway for meddling


24 January 2016

The lifting of nearly all the economic sanctions against Iran last week was celebrated worldwide as a victory of American and European diplomacy. A victory because Iran has accepted the need to downgrade its nuclear energy program and has pledged to no longer try to develop nuclear weapons.

From Washington to Paris and Moscow, political leaders are patting themselves on their backs as saviors of world peace for having gotten the Iranians to accept their demands and sign the agreement. But they left out of the document a crucial part of what causes most of the tensions in the Middle East: The insistent Iranian meddling in the internal affairs of several Arab countries. Americans admit this failure, but insist that they could not include it in the agreement because of Iran’s objections.

With the lifting of sanctions, it is estimated that Iran will now have access to $100 billion of its own money, which was frozen in bank accounts abroad for years. This will leave the country with more resources to continue its interference in the Arab world. From Iraq to Lebanon, Syria and even in Yemen, the fingers of the Iranians are everywhere, arming and providing economic and political support to the Iraqi government and its Shiite militias; to Hezbollah; to the government of the dictator Bashar Assad, and to Houthi rebels.

In Syria alone it is estimated that the Iranian government has injected billions of dollars in support of the Assad government, and up to 3,000 soldiers of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard are fighting there against the Syrian rebels.

In an article in the New York Times this week, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir insisted that the Kingdom and its Gulf allies will continue to resist Iranian expansion in the region and respond with force to acts of aggression from Tehran.

“The Iranian government’s behavior has been consistent since the 1979 revolution,” wrote Al-Jubeir. “The constitution that Iran adopted states the objective of exporting revolution. As a consequence, Iran has supported violent extremist groups, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen and sectarian militias in Iraq. (...) It is clear why Iran wants Bashar Assad of Syria to remain in power: In its 2014 report on terrorism, the State Department wrote that Iran considers Syria ‘as a crucial causeway to the its weapons supply route to Hezbollah,’” he added.

The cynicism of the agreement with Iran was echoed by many Saudi analysts. “Khamenei (the religious leader of Iran) traded a bomb he did not have for a document that gives carte blanche to the Revolutionary Guard in the region and stripped the P5 + 1 of any influence over Iran,” Mohammed Alyahya told the British newspaper Guardian.

“Riyadh has decided not to allow Iran to posture itself as the protector of the Shiites in the Arab world as it has been doing since 1979,” wrote Emirati professor Abdulkhaleq Abdulla in Gulf News. “They (the Saudis) have had enough of Iran’s bullying, and genuinely feel they are being targeted by Tehran as much as by Daesh.”

And the Iranians themselves are now admitting that with the end of economic sanctions, the country will have more money available to help its allies in the region. An Iranian security official told the Reuters news agency that funding for the Revolutionary Guard and its international arm, the Quds Force, would increase.

“It is clear that our leaders will not hesitate to allocate more funds for the Revolutionary Guard when needed. More money (available) means more funds for the Guard,” another Iranian official told Reuters.

Saudi Arabia is seeing a new and decisive leadership in Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, who took the throne in January 2015.

The military intervention in Yemen, led by the Saudis to contain the spread of the Houthi rebels, has lasted over 10 months and we show no sign of withdrawing from the conflict. Internally, reacting to the very low price of oil on the international market, our government increased the price of gasoline in December 2015 and, soon after, also increased the tariffs for electricity and water.

This new tough stance of the Saudis will not let the Iranians continue to present themselves to the world as innocents in the region. It is estimated that last year Iran executed a thousand people accused of various crimes. This is much more than the 150 that were executed in the Kingdom last year. From the outside, Iran may seem to be a more progressive country than Saudi Arabia, but behind the scenes it is the ayatollahs who hold power. And it is in Iran where government supporters still chant “Death to America! The United States is the Great Satan,” and not in Saudi Arabia.