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Pakistan Clerics Issue Fatwa against Terror in Name of Religion and Categorically Refute All the Extremist Ideologies on the Pretext of Shariah

New Age Islam News Bureau

19 Sept 2019

Don’t Go to Kashmir for Jihad: Imran Khan to Pakistanis

 Nationwide NRC Call Targets Muslims but Will Prove Infiltration Claims Wrong: Gen. Secy Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind

 Ayodhya Case: Archaeological Data Wasn’t Studied By Experts, Says SC

 Millions May Risk Jail as Jakarta Looks To Criminalize Sex Outside Wedlock amid Indonesia's Conservative Islam Trend

 Ringleader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Sends New Message for Terrorists to Save ISIL

 Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu Fails To Win Majority in Close Election

 Muslim, Jewish Leaders Team up to Foster Religious Understanding

 Taliban Afghanistan Bomb Attack Leaves 120 Casualties



 Pakistan Clerics Issue Fatwa against Terror in Name of Religion: Categorically Refuted All the Extremist Ideologies on the Pretext of Shariah

 Don’t Go To Kashmir for Jihad: Imran Khan to Pakistanis

 Pakistan insinuates India hand in retired Lt Col’s Nepal disappearance

 ‘It will be a big tragedy if Afghan peace talks don’t make headway’: Imran Khan

 Pakistan in on Malaysian leader's joint venture bid

 PM, army chief discuss Kashmir situation

 Imran says will urge Trump to restart Afghan peace talks

 European Parliament slams India for denying Kashmiris right to self determination



 Nationwide NRC Call Targets Muslims but Will Prove Infiltration Claims Wrong: Gen. Secy Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind

 Ayodhya Case: Archaeological Data Wasn’t Studied By Experts, Says SC

 Babri Masjid Case: JuH Warns Sunni Waqf Board against Any Deal

 Jamiat hails SC move to finish Ayodhya case hearing by Oct 18

 Resolving Babri Masjid Issue through Dialogue Would Have Been Better Than Supreme Court Taking a Decision: UP CM

 Ayodhya: SC View on Hindu Belief in Birthplace of Lord Ram Evokes Sharp Reaction from Muslim Lawyer

 Muslim family thrashed at Aligarh railway station, AMU terms it communal

 J&K development will spark revolt by PoK people: Satya Pal Malik

 Kartarpur Corrdior: For alternate passage, Punjab govt transfers mortgaged land to LPAI

 Mumbai court issues fresh NBW against Zakir Naik

 After airspace refusal to PM Modi’s plane, MEA says Pakistan should reflect


Southeast Asia

 Millions May Risk Jail as Jakarta Looks To Criminalize Sex Outside Wedlock amid Indonesia's Conservative Islam Trend

 President Tsai Meets with Local Muslims, Touts Taiwan’s Muslim-Friendly Environment

 Malay Muslim Parties' Pact Rattles Nerves in Multiethnic Malaysia

 MCA to Umno-PAS: Don't fight for just one race and undermine Malaysia's stability

 With new Foreign Policy Framework, Malaysia to no longer stay silent against global injustice

Churches slam PAS for ‘Christianisation’ claim, says event commemorated Malaysia Day


Arab World

 Ringleader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Sends New Message for Terrorists to Save ISIL

 To Find Clues in Saudi Oil Attacks, U.S. Examines Missile and Drone Parts

 10 Iran-backed fighters killed in Syria attack: Report

 How Qatar is using Disinformation Tactics to Attack its Rivals

 Saudi Arabia says oil attacks 'unquestionably' sponsored by Iran

 Egypt says police kill 9 suspected militants in Cairo

 Kuwaiti army places some units in a ‘state of combat readiness’

 Saudi ambassador describes Khashoggi murder as 'stain'



 Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu Fails To Win Majority in Close Election

 Yemeni Minister Reveals UAE Links with Al-Qaeda, ISIL

 Trump sees many options short of war with Iran after attacks on Saudis

 Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei approved Saudi strike: Report

 Iran to hold annual Gulf drills with 200 frigates, speedboats

 Netanyahu cancels UN visit over post-poll ‘political context’: Officials

 Yemen’s Houthis threaten to attack targets in the United Arab Emirates

 Minister says US sanctions on Iran hit Turkey worst

 Palestinians ready for dialogue with any future Israeli leader



 Muslim, Jewish Leaders Team up to Foster Religious Understanding

 UN Chief Rejects Claim He Didn’t Condemn China Over Muslims

 Liam Fox: Britain must accept that Iran nuclear deal is 'dead'

 Johnson, Trump discuss need for a united diplomatic response to Saudi attacks

 Germany extends anti-ISIS surveillance flights, training

 Bosnia’s capital to host international halal fair


South Asia

 Taliban Afghanistan Bomb Attack Leaves 120 Casualties

 Afghanistan War: Taliban Tell Trump Their 'Doors Are Open'

 Hasina-Modi Talks in New York: Bangladesh Doesn't See NRC as Problem

 Suicide bomb in southern Afghanistan kills at least 20

 Car bomb attack kills 10 in southern Afghanistan: Governor

 Air Force foils Taliban bid to detonate Tanker truck and car packed with explosives

 Explosion close to Ghani’s election rally in Parwan leaves 26 dead and 42 wounded

 Prominent Taliban leader Qari Abdullah dies of wounds from an airstrike

 Taliban: Doors are open to resuming talks with US

 Global body warns of looming food crisis in Rohingya camps



 To Build a New Sudan, Take it off the U.S. Terror List

 Libya: Haftar hit GNA-aligned forces fighting ISIS in Sirte

 13 al-Shabab militants killed in offensive in southern Somalia

 Tunisia presidential candidate Nabil Karoui to stay in jail

 Somali army liberates 3 villages from al-Shabaab

 Bomb blast in Mogadishu kills 3, wounds 6

 Nigerian children targeted by both Boko Haram and army


North America

 AJC National Interreligious Mission Engages Muslim Leaders in Chicago

 Trump sees many options short of war with Iran as Pompeo backs Saudis' ‘right to defend’

 US Islamist leader meets State Department high official on Kashmir issue

 Israel spies and spies and spies on US

 US library drops event co-hosted by Saudi crown prince

 Russia accuses US of hindering peace process in Syria

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Pakistan Clerics Issue Fatwa against Terror in Name of Religion: Categorically Refuted All the Extremist Ideologies on the Pretext of Shariah


By Shaikh Muhammad Bilal

Nation has been misguided for long time by the terrorists and their affiliates on to the righteousness of the Pakistan’s official position in the war on Terror.

Pakistan Clerics Issue Fatwa Against Terror in Name of Religion

Finally, ‘Paigham-e-Pakistan Fatwa’ has categorically refuted all the extremist ideologies which call for armed rebellion against the state and its institutions on the pretext of Shariah, sectarian differences and Jihad More than 5 thousand learned scholars of Islam including renowned Muftis and heads of all the federations of madaris prepared this Fatwa and its authenticity has been confirmed by all the Ulema making it a consensus of whole scholarship of Islam in Pakistan.

Paigham-e-Pakistan (Message of Pakistan in Urdu) is a fatwa sought by the Government of Pakistan to counter terrorism. The fatwa was prepared by International Islamic University and signed by 1,800 scholars from various Islamic schools of thought.

This historic fatwa serves as the national counter terrorism narrative of Pakistan. It has not only strengthened the writ of state but has also backed the struggle of security institutions adamant at ending the inhumane phenomenon of terrorism, extremism and sectarianism.

As Prophet (PBUH) has said that "my nation will not collectively agree on wrong ", the unanimity of Ulema for this Fatwa is an extra-ordinary achievement for Pakistan and whole Muslim Ummah.

Some of the great religious personalities like lmam-e-Kaaba, Egyptian Grand Mufti and Mufti Taqi Usmani, who issued and endorsed this Fatwa, have been qualified Muftis for decades and their thousands of students are also leading Ulema in the Muslim World. In addition, the heads of federations of madaris have also been in this sacred job for many years. Therefore, the outlawed terrorist outfits like TTP's disagreement with this Fatwa holds no substance.

The militants who silence everyone through oppression are totally ignorant of teachings of Prophet (PBUH) and the four rightly guided Caliphs. Therefore, in Paigham-e-Pakistan, it has been declared: Those who impose their viewpoints by force are responsible for spreading mischief on earth (Fasad fil Arz)." Terrorist groups like TTP fall in this category, hence, their propaganda should be rejected and they should be dealt as per law. After this Fatwa, there is no space left for exploitation of the concept of Jihad for committing suicide bombings in Pakistan. Islam is a universal religion; therefore, it is the utmost responsibility of every Muslim in Pakistan to safeguard Islam and Pakistan from hostile propaganda. Persuasion of our national narrative, Paigham-e-Pakistan, in its true manifestation is the only way forward for strengthening our national unity and security.

Combating and waging war is the prerogative of State. Any individual or group initiating such movement is against the teaching of Islam and commits a heinous crime punishable under ta’zir’.

Shaikh Muhammad Bilal is a freelance journalist from Pakistan.



Don’t go to Kashmir for jihad: Imran Khan to Pakistanis

Sep 19, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan warned Pakistanis on Wednesday not to go to Kashmir to fight jihad, saying it will hurt the cause of the Kashmiris.

“If anyone from Pakistan goes to India to fight jihad...he will be the first to do an injustice to Kashmiris, he will be the enemy of Kashmiris,” Khan told the media after inaugurating the Torkham Terminal at Pak-Afghan border.

Khan claimed that India needed just “an excuse to launch crackdown on the besieged people of Kashmir.”

He has repeatedly claimed that India could launch a “false flag” operation to divert attention from Kashmir.

Khan also ruled out talks with India unless New Delhi lifts curfew in Kashmir and revoke the abrogation of Article 370.


Nationwide NRC Call Targets Muslims but Will Prove Infiltration Claims Wrong: Gen. Secy Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind


18 September, 2019

New Delhi: Mahmood Madani, the general secretary of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, has defended his call for a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC), saying while the exercise is meant to target Muslims, it will end up having a positive effect as it will reveal just how exaggerated the claims of “infiltration” are.

In an interview to ThePrint, Madani explained that he was responding to a senior member of the Modi government who wanted “infiltrators to be deported”.

“There is a senior member of the Government of India who stood in Parliament and pointed a finger at ‘infiltrators’ in the country,” Madani told ThePrint. “I have a problem with that finger — because it points towards Mahmood Madani and other Muslims.”

Though Madani didn’t name him, it was Union Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah who had spoken about the need for a nationwide NRC and said infiltrators in every inch of the country will be deported.

“So in response to that I say, come and conduct NRC. Why only in Assam, conduct it in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Haryana too,” Madani said. “They are pointing one finger towards us but the other three are pointing towards them and their black hearts.” 

The Jamiat general secretary further said the fact that only 19 lakh people were excluded in the final NRC list published in August, shows how exaggerated the claims of exclusion were.

“Of the 19 lakh, not even 50 per cent are Muslim,” Madani said. “And even among those excluded, there may be some genuine citizens. The Jamiat is willing to provide legal aid and help to any genuine citizen who was left out of the NRC.”

Madani added that the Jamiat, one of the most influential Muslim bodies in the country, will also send a delegation to Assam soon. 

‘Additional burden on Indian Muslims to prove Indianness’

Indian Muslims can have many differences but despite that, they stand by the country and have always stood by it, Madani said.

His statements come in the wake of the controversy he sparked last week when he said that the Jamiat supports the abrogation of Article 370 and that Jammu and Kashmir is a part of India and there can be no compromise on that.

Madani blamed Pakistan for his remarks. “I have no problem if Imran Khan raises issues regarding Kashmir, but why does Pakistan have to portray an incorrect picture of Indian Muslims?” Madani told ThePrint.

He also blamed Pakistan for Indian Muslims having to constantly assert their Indianness. “It’s true that there is an additional burden on Indian Muslims to assert their patriotism and love for the country but it exists because Pakistan constantly exaggerates the differences among Indian Muslims and uses it to target India,” Madani said. “This increases our responsibility to speak up against Pakistan.”

He added that it is his duty to speak up against ‘the extremism of Pakistani elements’. “If Maninderjeet Singh Bitta can speak up against Sikh extremism, why shouldn’t I speak up when Pakistan misuses Islam to spread terrorism?” Madani asked.

Madani had earlier hit out at Pakistan for projecting Indian Muslims as being opposed to the government’s moves.

‘Why do people assume my statements are politically motivated?’

Mahmood Madani’s support for the government scrapping Article 370 came soon after RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat met Arshad Madani, the president of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind.

Mahmood Madani said he doesn’t know about the details of the interaction between Bhagwat and Arshad Madani, but he supports and encourages dialogue.

“In all modern and civilised societies, there is only one way to minimise differences — and that is through dialogue,” Madani said. “We have never opposed dialogue with the RSS.”

After Madani praised the RSS recently, critics said he may be under pressure or a means to help with a political career.

“When Hindus or a Hindu organisation supports the government on certain issues, no one assumes it has a political agenda,” Madani said. “Why do people assume Mahmood Madani is speaking out of pressure? Am I not Indian?”

‘Government must enact an anti-lynching law’

Speaking about the increased incidents of hate crimes against Muslims, Madani said there needs to be a separate law against mob lynching. “Besides the law, we should also have commissions for minority hate crimes, just like the United States and Europe have anti-racism commissions,” Madani said.

He added that societies must be educated to not take the law into their hands.  “Organisations like the RSS must educate societies to not take the law into their hands, as has been the case when rumours of child theft have caused mob lynchings,” Madani said.

While Arshad Madani was part of the Ayodhya mediation panel, which submitted its report in August, Mahmood Madani says he will accept whatever final decision that the Supreme Court takes. “I have always maintained that the land should be given to Muslims as the Babri Masjid stood there,” he said. “That said, whatever the Supreme Court decides will be accepted by us.”


Ayodhya case: Archaeological data wasn’t studied by experts, says SC

Sep 19, 2019

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday reiterated that the study paper submitted by four historians, termed “eminent” by the Sunni Waqf Board to counter Hindu parties’ ownership claim over the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid disputed site, “could at best be regarded as an opinion”.

When senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan repeatedly invoked what he called the eminence of the historians to urge the court to give more weightage to to their opinion and not damn their May 13, 1991, study paper titled ‘Babri Mosque or Rama’s Birthplace? Historians Report to the Indian Nation’, a bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer said, “These historians did not examine the archaeological data. It is not to damn them, but since the specific evidence through excavation by Archaeological Survey of India had not been taken into account by them, it at the highest will be an opinion of the historians.”

Dhavan said he would add the adjective “experts” before the historians. One of the four historians, Prof Suraj Bhan, deposed as an expert witness for Sunni Waqf Board before the Allahabad HC in three phases, from February 22, 2000, to August 10, 2000; from August 26, 2002, to September 12, 2002, and then from March 20, 2006, to March 28, 2006. Bhan did his postgraduate in Sanskrit from Delhi University in 1955 and joined the ASI as technical assistant in 1956 -1957.

Bhan did a further MA in archaeology in 1960. He got his PhD degree in 1975 on ‘Historic Archaeology of Saraswati and Drishdavati Valleys’. Following are excerpts from his deposition before Allahabad HC:

“I am an MA in Sanskrit language. I cannot speak Sanskrit and since I have not used it for quite some time, I face difficulty in reading as also following it.”

“Since construction of mosques after demolishing temples is not the subject of my research, so I did not make an endeavour to make a study of those places. Otherwise also, I am not a historian with regard to medieval period... I did not read Skanda Purana. I don’t think it is necessary to read other Puranas also as their study is not my subject. But it is true that I am not a specialist in history.”

“I am not a specialist in sculpture. Epigraphy, too, is not my field. My speciality was field archaeology, not ethnography. I am not a specialist in history of temple architecture.”

Only (R S) Sharma and myself had gone to Ayodhya at the time of Ayodhya research. Out of four impartial historians, two of us had gone to Ayodhya. We were given only six weeks time for the entire study. Pressure was being repeatedly exerted; so we submitted our report without going through the record of the (archaeological) excavation work by B B Lal.”

“It is true that I am not a specialist in history. My testimony in this litigation has been only as an archaeologist.”



Millions may risk jail as Jakarta looks to criminalize sex outside wedlock amid Indonesia's conservative Islam trend

SEP 19, 2019

JAKARTA – Indonesia is poised to pass a new penal code that criminalizes consensual sex outside marriage and introduces stiff penalties for insulting the president’s dignity — a move rights groups criticized as an intrusive assault on basic freedoms.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim majority country and has substantial Christian, Hindu and Buddhist minorities, but has seen a recent trend toward deeper religious piety and conservative Islamic activism.

The new criminal code is due to be adopted in the next week after parliament and the government agreed on a final draft on Wednesday, four parliamentarians told Reuters.

Lawmakers told Reuters that the new penal code, which would replace a Dutch colonial-era set of laws, was a long overdue expression of Indonesian independence and religiosity.

“The state must protect citizens from behaviur that is contrary to the supreme precepts of God,” said Nasir Djamil, a politician from the Prosperous Justice Party. He said leaders of all religions had been consulted on the changes given that Indonesia’s founding ideology was based on belief in God.

Under the proposed laws, unmarried couples who “live together as a husband and wife” could be jailed for six months or face a maximum fine of 10 million rupiah ($710), which is three months’ salary for many Indonesians.

A prosecution can proceed if a village chief, who heads the lowest tier of government, files a complaint with police, and parents or children of the accused do not object. Parents, children and spouses can also lodge a complaint.

The inclusion of the new power for village chiefs was warranted because “the victim of adultery is also society,” another lawmaker, Teuku Taufiqulhadi, said.

The Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, an NGO, said millions of Indonesians could be ensnared by the new laws. It noted a study indicating that 40 percent of Indonesian adolescents engaged in pre-marital sexual activity.

“Across the board, this is a ratcheting up of conservatism. It’s extremely regressive,” said Tim Lindsey, director of the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society.

A maximum one-year prison term also can be applied to a person who has sex with someone who is not their spouse and a close family member lodges a complaint. The law also impacts homosexuals as gay marriage is not recognized in Indonesia.

The code also establishes prison terms for those found to commit “obscene acts,” defined as violating norms of decency and politeness through “lust or sexuality,” whether by heterosexuals or gay people.

The new laws will also apply to foreigners. However, asked whether tourists in Indonesia could face jail for extramarital sex, Taufiqulhadi said: “No problem, as long as people don’t know.”

There would also be a maximum four-year prison term for women who have an abortion, applicable if there was no medical emergency or rape involved. The code further introduces fines for some people who promote contraception, and a six-month prison term for unauthorized discussion of “tools of abortion.

In addition, local authorities would get greater freedom to introduce punishments for breaches of customary laws not covered in the penal code. There are more than 400 local regulations that activists say impinge civil rights, such as the mandatory wearing of a hijab, an Islamic headscarf for women.

Meanwhile, parliament has reintroduced the offense of “attacking the honor or dignity” of Indonesia’s president and vice president. A similar law was struck down by the Constitutional Court in 2006, and the new version is likely to be challenged by rights activists as well.



Ringleader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Sends New Message for Terrorists To Save ISIL

Sep 18, 2019

The Arabic-language TV network Al-Alam reported that al-Baghdadi in his message has asserted that after five years since its establishment, the ISIL is still active and continues its operation.

The ISIL ringleader reiterated that the ISIL will welcome the militants who would join the terrorist organization.

“The ISIL terrorists in a war of attrition has targeted 11 countries while conducting 63 military operations in three days and hitting targets in 10 provinces,” al-Baghdadi said.

The ISIL ringleader also warned the US troops and their allies in Mali, Niger, Yemen, Tunisia, Libya and Asian regions that they will face a fate similar to the US troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

Al-Baghdadi’s audio message comes while the self-proclaimed caliphate of the ISIL that declared existence in 2014 is gone and its militants are fleeing in Iraqi and Syrian deserts.

In a relevant development earlier in September, a relative of al-Baghdadi said that the ISIL ringleader has recently admitted extensive differences among the terrorist group’s commanders, acknowledging that he has lost his position.

The Arabic-language al-Qaza newspaper quoted Ibrahim Ali al-Badri, al-Baghdadi's cousin, as saying that in his latest meeting with the ISIL leader, he admitted that all of his aides have rebelled against him and differences among high ranks have gone so wide that the Arab and foreign commanders are plotting a coup now.

The cousin has confessed to the Iraqi judiciary officials that al-Baghdadi's bodyguard has transferred him from al-Sha'afah region in Eastern Deir Ezzur to an area 10 to 15 minutes away which hosted the ISIL ringleader's nearly 150-square-meter hideout.

Al-Badri added that al-Baghdadi has started developing wrath at the Tunisian and Saudi members of the ISIL for sowing discord among the terrorists and for their extremist behavior, and disclosed that the ISIL ringleader is sufferring acute illness and his left ear had also undergone surgerical operations in Albu Kamal region in Syria.

Earlier, Head of the Iraqi parliament's Security Committee Sadeq al-Hosseini had said that the ISIL had lost 13 of its emirs (senior commanders) and is now facing a vacuum in the leadership.

Relevant reports said last month that al-Baghdadi had chosen one of the Iraqi commanders of the terrorist group in Mosul as his successor.

The Arabic-language Baghdad al-Youm news website affiliated to the ISIL quoted Fazel Abu Raqif, an Iraqi security expert, as saying that Abdollah Qardash, one of the inmates in Bouka prison near the town of Um al-Qasr in Iraq, which was protected by the US, and the Mufti of al-Qaeda, was adopted as al-Baghdadi's successor.

He added that Qardash was one of the dangerous commanders close to Baghdadi, noting that he was the first person who joined the ISIL leader after Mosul's collapse.

His remarks came as reports said late in July that al-Baghdadi was hiding in Syria after he was paralyzed in Iraq’s recent anti-terror operations.

“Al-Baghdadi together with a number of his Arab and foreign aides are presently in Syria as he is feeling too much danger after several ISIL commanders were killed in Iraqi Army’s military operations on ISIL’s hideouts in Western Iraq,” Head of Iraq’s Intelligence Forces Abu Ali al-Basri told the Arabic-language al-Sabah newspaper.

He noted that al-Baghdadi was taken a defensive position under threat by Iraq’s intelligence forces, escaping battle with the Syrian and Iraqi armies.

Al-Basri noted that al-Baghdadi was still very much popular among his foreign, Arab and Iraqi militants, and said that the ISIL ringleader is now replacing some his commanders after he lost a number of his militants and aides in a joint military operation by the Iraqi intelligence forces and the Syrian Army.

He reiterated that al-Baghdadi had been paralyzed after he sustained a spinal cord injury in the Iraqi forces’ attack on a meeting between him and his aides in al-Hojin region before the ISIL left the region in 2018.



Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu fails to win majority in close election

Sep 19, 2019

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to win a ruling majority in an election that produced a virtual tie between his right-wing bloc and a centre-left grouping that would be led by former military chief Benny Gantz.

The outcome, according to almost complete results published on Wednesday, dealt a new blow to Israel's longest-serving leader who was already weakened by the inability to put together an administration after an inconclusive election in April.

But with coalition-building again key to forming a government, it could be days or even weeks before it becomes clear whether the wily politician hailed by supporters as "King Bibi" has been dethroned after a decade in power.

With Israeli media reporting more than 90 per cent of votes counted in Tuesday's election, the bloc led by Netanyahu's Likud party was more or less even with a likely grouping headed by Gantz's centrist Blue and White party.

A Likud-led bloc looked poised to control 55 of parliament's 120 seats, with 56 going to a centre-left alliance, numbers falling short of a majority government of 61 lawmakers.

A Likud spokesman said the leaders of right-wing factions met Netanyahu at the prime minister's office on Wednesday and pledged to work with him to form the next government.

The ballot's wildcard, former defence minister Avigdor Lieberman, emerged as a likely kingmaker as head of the secular-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, projected to capture nine seats.

Lieberman has been pushing for a unity government comprised of the biggest parties. He declined to back Netanyahu's bid to form a narrow right-wing and religious coalition after the April election, bringing about Tuesday's unprecedented repeat vote.

Netanyahu, who made his close relationship with US President Donald Trump a main selling point in his campaign, has made no claim of victory or concession of defeat, and he planned to address Likud party legislators later in the day.

Some of the party's leaders issued nearly identical statements expressing their allegiance to Netanyahu.

"He remains party chairman and its candidate to continue as Prime Minister," said energy minister Yuval Steinitz of Likud.

Netanyahu, 69, appeared fatigued and hoarse in a 3am election night speech to party faithful earlier on Wednesday in which he said he intended to form a "Zionist government", without Arab parties that could lend support to Gantz.


Once the last votes are tallied, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will consult with leaders of parties that won parliamentary representation about whom to tap to try to form a government. The nominee would then have up to 42 days to do so.

Gantz has not ruled out a unity administration with Likud but has said Blue and White would not join such a government if it included Netanyahu, citing looming corruption charges against the Prime Minister, who has denied any wrongdoing.

In a further complication, Lieberman has rejected any alliance that includes ultra-Orthodox parties - Netanyahu's traditional partners.

Lieberman, a Jewish settler and immigrant from the former Soviet Union, had focused his campaign on weakening the power rabbis and religious politicians have on everyday life in Israel, such as ultra-Orthodox control of the administration of marriage and divorce.

Campaigns run by Likud and Blue and White pointed to only narrow differences on many important issues: the regional struggle against Iran, the Palestinian conflict, relations with the United States and the economy.

An end to the Netanyahu era would be unlikely to bring about a significant change in policy on hotly disputed issues in the peace process with the Palestinians that collapsed five years ago.

Three corruption investigations and the Israeli attorney general's announced intention to charge him with fraud and bribery have also chipped away at Netanyahu's seeming invincibility.

Netanyahu can argue at a pre-trial hearing in October against indictment. But an election loss could leave him more at risk of prosecution in the graft cases, without the shield of parliamentary immunity that his current political allies had promised to seek for him.



Muslim, Jewish Leaders Team up to Foster Religious Understanding

September 19, 2019

Although the site is remote, it has plenty of symbolism: Beginning this Sunday, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders from some 15 countries will meet in the southern Italian city of Matera, one of Europe’s 2019 cultural capitals, to take part in the Jewish European Islamic Summit. The leaders are laying the groundwork that will allow them to speak out together more strongly on the issues affecting them.

“I think the project, in this particular arrangement, is rather unique. It is a tender blossom that must be nurtured and that deserves further support,” Tarafa Baghajati tells DW. Baghajati, a civil engineer from Vienna, is one of Austria’s more prominent imams. Together with others, the 58-year-old founded the Initiative of Austrian Muslims (IMÖ) in 1999. He was also involved in the creation of Platform Christians and Muslims, founded in 2006. He will be taking part in the summit in Matera.

Into the future, side by side

The project is indeed unique. In Europe, generally, Jewish and Muslim leaders often only appear together at public events hosted by politicians, at three-way dialogues between Christians, Jews and Muslims, or at interfaith conferences.

But three years ago, another group was founded: the Muslim Jewish Leadership Council (MJLC). It was established when a total of 14 European Jewish and Muslim leaders met in Vienna at the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, known as KAICIID.

At first, the MJLC was a small group. Notably, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the president of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER), was a member from the start. Over the course of several meetings, mutual trust grew and a true exchange began. The MJLC organized the conference in Matera.

Hurdles in Vienna

While the KAICIID is financed by Saudi Arabia, it is respected among experts. Yet it is currently under threat. In June, the lower house of Austria’s parliament voted to withdraw from the international organisation and moved to cancel the agreement establishing Vienna as the KAICIID’s headquarters, leaving KAICIID’s future uncertain. Austria was one of the group’s initial founders, along with Saudi Arabia and Spain.

Yet, the Matera meeting of Jewish and Muslim religious leaders represents a new dimension in a dialogue that is often overshadowed by the Middle East conflict. Imams and rabbis from Ireland to Greece and Romania, from Lithuania to Portugal, will be in attendance. CER Secretary General Gady Gronich told DW that in choosing Matera, the group wanted to underline the fact, “that we are all part of Europe’s culture.”

Moreover, Gronich added, Italy, like many other European countries currently governed by right-wing populists, recently sought to limit religious practices related to the slaughtering of animals and the circumcision of young men, both of which are common in Judaism and Islam. For now, those initiatives have been put aside, he said.

Concern about right-wing populists

Gronich says Europe’s Jewish and Muslim communities are both very concerned about such political attempts aimed at limiting religious practices. He explained that in Matera, both sides hope to create a new committee. Comprised of two Jewish and two Muslim leaders, the committee would be able to publicly address controversial topics and discuss them with political leaders in Brussels or other European capitals.

Baghajati also talked about these concrete attempts to limit religious practice and immediately referred to the “rise of right-wing populists” across the continent. He pointed to the Alternative for Germany (AfD), far-right parties in Austria, Matteo Salvini and his League party in Italy, and Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV) in the Netherlands.

Baghajati said such groups push Islamophobia, “mainly against refugees, but also against Muslims in general, as a political platform with populist overtones.” He pointed out that although such sentiments were being peddled 20 years ago, some of the groups using them have now assumed governing power.

“That is why we are saying, ‘nip it in the bud.’ And who better to sound the alarm than Jews or Muslims,” Baghajati said. “Together, we want to show that a liberal Europe, one of openness and with respect for human rights, is the right way forward.”

Standing up against anti-Semitism

Another topic that leaders from the MJLC and others gathered in Matera will discuss is the problem of anti-Semitism among refugees and migrants.

“Instances of anti-Semitism among migrants is troubling,” Granich said. “Unforunately, we’re hearing of such cases more frequently, on a weekly basis. Nevertheless, the Jewish community has many Muslim partners and friends across Europe who stand with us in opposition to it.”

Gronich said a number of “formal and informal” discussions aimed at tackling the problem have already taken place. He added that, “We cannot forget that there are a number of groups on the Muslim side that do not want to talk to us. It’s not all rosy, and not everyone is willing to engage in dialogue. But we want to exchange ideas with those who are willing to talk, so that we can build a future together.”

A role model for Europe

Of course, much dialogue happens beyond public view, such as last year, when a group of 30 rabbis visited Tunisia.

In Berlin, rabbis and imams have worked together in a more public fashion over the years. And recently, religious leaders have taken to accompanying young Jews and Muslims on visits to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Musuem, a former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp located in what is today Poland, in order to foster understanding of the Holocaust.

Baghajati spoke of the “very positive experience” both sides have enjoyed in Austria. He said rabbis and imams have taken members of their communities along on trips together, and that the groups have stood in solidarity with one another when confronted with anti-Semitic or Islamophobic attacks. In his opinion, the relationship is “exemplary for Europe.”

Another thing Baghajati finds remarkable is the fact that, “Imams and rabbis are coming together on their own, without third-party mediation — here in Europe, outside the Middle East. And that they’re saying, we don’t want anyone to tell us how relations between Jews and Muslims have to be.”

“If intellectuals or religious dignitaries — imams and rabbis — on both sides don’t do this, who will?” he added.


Taliban Afghanistan Bomb Attack Leaves 120 Casualties

Sep 19, 2019

At least 20 people have been killed and nearly 100 others wounded after a Taliban bomb attack targeted a building of the intelligence services in southern Afghanistan, officials say.

The bomb attack occurred in the city of Qalat, the capital of Zabul Province, on Thursday morning, and according to Atta Jan Haqbayan, the head of Zabul’s provincial council, it targeted the building of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) there.

The official said that the huge blast also wounded 95 people and warned that “the number of casualties may rise as rescue teams and people are still searching the bodies under the rubble.”

Reuters also quoted an unnamed senior Defense Ministry official in Kabul as saying that the militants sought to target a training base for NDS but parked the explosives-laden vehicle outside a hospital gate nearby.

Reports said that several women, children, health workers, and patients in the hospital were critically wounded.

Rahmatullah Yarmal, Zabul’s governor, said that the regional hospital of Zabul was destroyed in the attack.

“Ambulances have also been called from Kandahar city to transfer the wounded to hospitals in Kandahar province. Most of the victims have been taken to private hospitals,” Afghanistan’s Tolo News television channel quoted local officials as saying.

The Taliban militant group, which launched a fresh string of deadly strikes across the war-torn country this week, claimed the Thursday bomb attack, saying that it had targeted the NDS office.

Just days ago, the Taliban launched two separate bomb attacks, killing a total of 46 people and wounding dozens more.

One of those attacks hit an election campaign rally in the city of Charikar, the provincial capital of Parwan, and killed at least 24 people. The event was attended by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani but he was unhurt.

The other one killed at least 22 people after a bomb blast hit the center of the capital, Kabul.

The new wave of violence comes after the US-Taliban peace talks collapsed last week.

The US and its allies invaded Afghanistan to remove the Taliban regime. Some 18 years on, Washington has been seeking truce with the militant group.



Pakistan insinuates India hand in retired Lt Col’s Nepal disappearance

Sep 19, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Wednesday raked up the issue of its retired army officer Lt Col Habib Zahir, who had gone “missing” in Nepal in April 2017, alleging that the involvement of “hostile agencies” behind his disappearance could not be ruled out.

A statement issued by Pakistan’s foreign ministry said, “Responding to a media query, regarding Indian media reports/tweets claiming that Lt Col Habib is in Indian custody and speculation about a swap with Commander Jadhav, the spokesperson stated that Lt Col Habib Zahir is a retired Pakistani officer who went missing in Nepal, where he had gone for a job interview in April 2017...Pakistan maintains that involvement of hostile agencies cannot be ruled out.”

It added that the Pakistan government “shall not rest until he is home”.

Pakistan's sudden claim appears intriguing

Intriguingly, Pakistan suddenly raised the issue of the ‘disapperance’ of retired army officer Lt Col Habib Zahir in a suo motu statement more than two years after he went ‘missing’, and also allude to “media reports” about a “swap” with Kulbhushan Jadhav, the Indian sentenced to death by a Pakistan military court allegedly for terrorism and espionage.

In April 2017, just days after Jadhav was sentenced, the Pakistan foreign ministry had alleged that Habib was trapped in Nepal after being lured into a job offer. The spokesperson had then alleged that he had disappeared from Lumbini near Nepal’s border with India and was suspected to be in Indian custody.

On Wednesday, Pakistan said that it had repeatedly requested the Indian government to locate Habib. “However, no positive response has been received. His family is very distressed and also approached the UN Working Group on Enforced Involuntary Disappearances for assistance in locating him. His disappearance has also been reported in media, including outside Pakistan,” a foreign ministry statement said.

Pakistan claimed that Habib’s family said that he had posted his CV on LinkedIn and to a UN website for a job. “In response, he received a call and email from one Mr Mark, stating that he had been shortlisted for the job of vice-president. He was asked to visit Kathmandu for which he was sent an air ticket for Lahore-Oman-Kathmandu by Oman Airlines for an interview on April 6, 2017,” it said.

Pakistan alleged that a probe revealed that the UK cell number of Mark was fake. “The website that he (Habib) was contacted from was found to be operated from India and was subsequently taken down,” the statement alleged.

It said that after landing in Kathmandu, Habib left for Lumbini airport by Buddha Air. At 1 pm on April 6, 2017, he messaged his wife from his cellphone intimating that he had landed safely at Lumbini, which is 5 km from the Indian border, the statement said, alleging that his family lost contact from him thereafter.



‘It will be a big tragedy if Afghan peace talks don’t make headway’: Imran Khan

18 Sep 2019

The Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has said it would be a big tragedy if Afghan peace talks don’t make headway.

He made the remarks during a ceremony at Torkham crossing earlier today, according to Reuters.

Khan further added “We will put our best (effort) that these talks are resumed again.”

Furthermore, Khan said Pakistan had directed Taliban leaders to participate in earlier peace talks in Qatar and only discovered too late that talks had broken down.

He also added that his next role would have been to convince the Taliban to open talks with the Afghan government.

The U.S. President Donald Trump called off peace talks with the Taliban group on 8th of this month after a series of deadly attacks in Kabul city that killed dozens including an American soldier.

Meanwhile, President Trump said last week “There are much better ways to set up a negotiation. The Taliban knows they made a big mistake, and they have no idea how to recover!”

President Trump further added “The Taliban has never been hit harder than it is being hit right now. Killing 12 people, including one great American soldier, was not a good idea.”

On the other hand, the Taliban group are hopeful that peace negotiations between the group’s leaders and U.S. representatives will revive soon.

Taliban chief negotiator Sher Abbas Stanikzai recently told Russia’s RT in Moscow “Our stance is that there is no solution to the conflict except negotiations and except peace on the table.”

Stanikzai further added “We hope that Mr. Trump rethinks his announcement and comes back to where we were.”



Pakistan in on Malaysian leader's joint venture bid

Q: Mr President, could you tell us what’s the Indian aim behind the current move in Kashmir of removing its special status and dividing it into two union territories? And what is the possible solution of this long-standing issue, if India would not follow UNSC resolutions?

Arif Alvi: First of all, I must thank the government of Turkey and the people of Turkey of having stood by the people of Pakistan in all times of need and for taking very bold stand on Kashmir, exactly reflecting on the law and 11 United Nations resolutions on Kashmir.

The Indian prime minister [Jawaharlal Nehru] when he went to the United Nations on the Kashmir issue. He went to the UN and promised a plebiscite in Kashmir to ask for the opinion of Kashmiri people on their fate and they kept on promising the same until the mid-'60s. But later, the Indian government started changing [its attitude] and then Pakistan and India went into Simla Agreement which meant bilateral discussions. But, [since then] at all international forums India discourages discussions.

Even India has labeled Kashmiris’ movement as a terrorist movement and you understand and my Turkish brothers will understand it very well that is how illegally they have labeled all freedom struggles, which are recognized by the UN, to be terrorist movements. That is what India tried to do.

But despite that, since 1972 when we got into the Simla accord, India has not held a single meeting on Kashmir and today they make a statement that Kashmir is an integral part of India. That's not the only issue which worries me, the issue which worries me is that [Indian Prime Minister Narendra] Modi’s government subscribes to an RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] philosophy which is very similar to [Adolph] Hitler’s philosophy of ethnic cleansing of handing the minorities and suppressing them. After the Gujarat riots, after which no democratic government in the world was ready to give Modi a visa, that pattern continues [in India]. That pattern continues in Kashmir, even in Assam, making the people of Assam and Bengal -- about 4 million Muslims -- stateless.

Recently, about two weeks ago, the UN said that you should not be making the people stateless, all the Muslims. But still he [Modi] targeted the minorities. Entire action is not only targeted to Muslims, also question of all minorities. If you make the people stateless, if you suppress the Muslims in India, if you suppress the Muslims in Kashmir and the minorities in all of India, India is treading a very dangerous path.

Again, I am thankful to the government of Turkey and President Erdogan who called me when the Pulwama incident became a crisis. I am grateful to President Erdogan for having called me and for having understood and taking pride in the fact that Pakistan with stood the onslaught of India.

Q: Why UN and other world powers are not interested to help resolve Kashmir issue despite passing of 71 years? Do you think Pakistan and India could go to war if India would not withdraw its recent actions in Kashmir?

Alvi: I think it is the first time after 1965 when Kashmir was discussed in the UN. I think present Modi's government has brought the situation to a level where the governments throughout the world have to react. Today is the 45th day when the voice of Kashmiri people is totally suppressed and nobody knows about the exact situation inside Kashmir as the valley was entirely locked down. On information, on television, on cell phones, on landlines, there is a total lockdown.There is curfew. Can you imagine that people who would be requiring medicines and people who need to earn livelihood. They all behind curfew. So, you can’t stop eight million people in Kashmir Valley, can not be put under curfew. I think the situation is humanitarian-wise, it is a major crisis. I think the world has to and world is looking into it. And I believe that the Indian government is living under a falsehood, under a false intention, as well as a false belief about the future that they will be able to suppress Kashmiri people, but, no people can be suppressed.

You look at the Palestinian, no people can be suppressed in the world. Whether they were the Jews in the Europe, Nazis could not suppress them. People can not be suppressed.I believe that sooner or later Kashmir is going to have a plebiscite. Pakistan wants peace, you know when Imran Khan became the prime minister he made so many overtures, every time he [Khan] said if India takes one step forward Pakistan will take two steps forward, let's sit down and talk. But every time India rejected those overtures and we started feeling that India might be considering this as our weakness. We want peace not because of weakness, we want peace to bring prosperity between Pakistan and India. As India is facing extreme poverty, it is tremendous, it is much more than Pakistan -- if there is peace, there is going to be lessening of the burden on military spending but Indian belligerence is the same it, has belligerent relations with all neighbors -- including Pakistan -- and this is a very sad situation.

Q: Recently you said that Muslims do not want war, but we will not step back if we are forced into it, you meant that Pakistan will not go into war first against India?

Alvi: I believe and I narrate that the saying of our Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that Muslims do not want war, but if it’s imposed upon them they fight back with the will of Allah and that's a jihad. First, Pakistan doesn't want war, second we are nuclear states, important, thirdly the extremist elements and the fascist regime of Mr. Modi has its thumb on the nuclear bombs and they are so nervous in doing this that I remember during the Pulwama situation when in February this year Pakistan shot down two Indian aircraft, they [Indian] shot down their own helicopter. So their finger on the button is very dangerous. India is an irresponsible nuclear power. India exploded its first device in 1974, it’s second device in the 90s. When Pakistan also then reacted by showing the world that we also have nuclear power. That is why peace is very important. That is why Indian withdrawal from 370 etc. and going towards plebiscite in Kashmir is very important.

However, Pakistan is a responsible nuclear state, having asked India all the time, when we caught their [Indian] pilot in Pakistan: One plane came into Pakistan, it was dropped in Pakistan, second plane was in Pakistan, it was shot down but landed in India. Has this plane not landed in Pakistan they would had been lying about it also. I believe that, Indians for the first time after 1971 crossed into Pakistan territory this time after the Pulwama incident, and I am afraid if Indian atrocities continue in the occupied Kashmir, there might be an influx of refugees towards Pakistan. We want peace -- but at the same time if India attack us, we will retaliate and I don't think India can imagine that people with the faith can withstand all kinds of onslaught on their territory.

Q: Last month, Malaysia’s prime minister proposed a Turkey-Malaysia-Pakistan joint venture to unite the Muslim world. As president of Pakistan, what role would you play to realize it?

Alvi: I think it’s very important. Before our recent meetings [with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan], I and Imran khan had first time met with President Erdogan in 2011 and 2012, I think President Erdogan is a very visionary leader, at the same time Prime Minister Mahathir and Prime Minister Imran Khan are also very visionary leaders, these three are big democracies, these three are democracies which are strong with huge populations.

I think it’s very important that these countries get together on economic issues. What’s happening in the Middle East, Turkey is playing a good and major role around its border in Syria and trying to achieve peace. There will be a major rebuilding in the Middle East and a major rebuilding of Afghanistan when there is peace. So I think Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia can play a huge role not only for peace but at the same time for joint venture for development throughout the Middle East and in the Muslim world. These are principled people, these are people who do not like foreign hegemonies hurting their countries, and Pakistan also. These countries have been harmed by foreign hegemonies. Turkey has been harmed, Malaysia has been harmed and Pakistan. And by corruption. These countries and these governments have fought corruption to the hilt. And Pakistan is still under pressure from India and I think cooperation among them is very important for the Muslim world.

Q: How do you see the future ties between Turkey and Pakistan? In what areas do you think bilateral relations should be further strengthened?

Alvi: I think bilateral relation between Pakistan and Turkey are exemplary as both are very very close friends. It does not relate only since the formation of Pakistan but since Khilafat Movement, we have close relations. I remember my father talking about the Khilafat movement with passion. He passed away in the 80s. He played a role himself in the Khilafat movement and I think that was the original binding. We started this friendship which is unique in the world. All Pakistanis travelled abroad, who went to Turkey can link with that. This is friendship between governments but more importantly friendship between people. I think after the Khilafat movement the second and third generation is living right now and i think we must let our people know both in Pakistan and Turkey that what a change we thought to bring in the world when we resisted in the Khilafat situation.

In future, there can be good economic ventures between Turkey and Pakistan, there could be good cultural exchanges between the people of Pakistan and Turkey and there could be good defense relations between Pakistan and Turkey. We can cooperate in building of aircraft, we can cooperate in building of all infrastructure. With the help of Turkey, we were building a frigate which I inaugurated few months ago. I think there is tremendous cooperation between the two brotherly countries. I think it will keep on improving. Turmoil in the future which is coming towards the World: global warming, the nationalism which is coming up and reduction of globalization by itself, these are new areas where World is still confused on what to do and which direction to go. In fact, 6 years, 7 years from now all it was about multinational global cooperation. I think there is more nationalism today. So, I think, these are very ripe areas for us to look at for more and more cooperation and therefore to provide the leadership to countries which are not so well of to provide leadership towards better education, better health standards, to preserve the environment in Turkey, Pakistan, Malaysia. Pakistan and Turkey themselves are great examples that we live together, we think together and we should be working together.

Q: Turkish people are pleased with Pakistan's support in the fight against Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO). In this context, do you think the FETO danger is well perceived internationally?

Alvi: I think it’s well perceived internationally, I think we stand by Turkey with understanding of what happened and Pakistan took immediate steps in fight. When I visited Turkey for the Istanbul Airport’s inauguration, President Erdogan made a special request that cases of all those terrorists in Pakistan should be expedited and we went ahead and expedited those cases and handed over the schools to Maarif foundation.

I think Turkey was wise enough to handle that issue well and in time although it went through crisis because of that and we understand that the crisis that Turkish government and President Erdogan went through. It was because of support of the people Turkey that who were able to withstand, It is a great example to the World that when people are with you nobody can touch you.

I’m glad, we understand what is happening and we have been able to manage it and I am sure Turkish government would also be able to manage it.



PM, army chief discuss Kashmir situation

September 19, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa on Wednesday called on Prime Minister Imran Khan and discussed several matters including the Kashmir situation and the latter’s forthcoming visits to the US and Saudi Arabia.

“Latest developments in the regional environment, situation in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and the prime minister’s forthcoming visit to Saudi Arabia and the US to attend United Nations General Assembly session were discussed during the meeting,” said a press release issued by the Prime Minister Office.

During his visit to the US, the prime minister will also meet US President Donald Trump who had offered to mediate between Pakistan and India on the issue of Kashmir.

Mr Khan will address the UN General Assembly on Sept 25 followed by the address of the Indian prime minister the same day.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Khan telephoned Prime Minister Stefan Lofven of Sweden and discussed with him the situation in occupied Kashmir.

According to the PM Office, the prime minister highlighted India’s illegal and unilateral steps of Aug 5 to change the disputed status of Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir and to alter its demographic structure. He underlined that these steps were in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions and international law.

Highlighting the dire human rights and humanitarian situation in occupied Kashmir, Mr Khan called for immediate lifting of lockdown and curfew in place for 45 days, removal of restrictions on movement, provision of access to humanitarian organisations and respect for the rights and freedom of the Kashmiri people.

The prime minister was quoted as saying: “International community must urge India to comply with its obligations under international human rights conventions.”

Prime Minister Lofven expressed concern over the human rights situation and highlighted the importance of de-escalation of the situation and resolution of issues through dialogue.

The two leaders agreed to stay in touch and continue to work together for peace and stability in the region.

Later addressing at the groundbreaking ceremony of Easy Prefabricated Homes, the prime minister said that the technology would help meeting the government’s plan to provide affordable housing facility on fast track. “I recently visited Gwadar where a 5-star hotel was built in five months through this technology,” he said.

Mr Khan sought China’s help for affordable housing, and other sectors like agriculture, export and relocation of industries from China to Pakistan.

The plant for Easy Prefabricated Homes is being set up by leading Chinese Company Henan D.R. Construction Group on Lahore-Abdul Hakeem Motorway (M-3) in a Special Economic Zone.

During the PM’s visit to Beijing, Henan D.R. Construction Group had decided to invest in Pakistan and transfer the technology to participate and manufacture prefabricated houses in Pakistan for export and domestic demand.



Imran says will urge Trump to restart Afghan peace talks

September 19, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Wednesday that he would urge US President Donald Trump next week to revive Afghanistan peace talks with the Afghan Taliban.

Trump abruptly canceled secret talks with the Taliban at his Camp David retreat that were planned for Sept. 8 and has since said the talks are “dead”.

“It will be a big tragedy if these talks don’t make headway,” the prime minister said at a ceremony at Pakistan’s Torkham border crossing with Afghanistan.

“Peace in Afghanistan would also help bring peace and economic development in the whole region,” he said, adding the opening of the terminal would help push bilateral trade with the neighbouring country and create job opportunities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The prime minister said since peace and peaceful coexistence were part of his party’s manifesto, his government tried to have good relations with the neighbours, including Afghanistan, and engaged President Ashraf Ghani for confidence-building.

Imran said he would meet Trump in New York on Monday, and would emphasise that there had been “destruction and chaos in Afghanistan for the last 40 years”.

“We will put our best (effort) that these talks are resumed again,” he said.

He said Pakistan had directed Taliban leaders to participate in earlier peace talks in Qatar and only discovered too late that talks had broken down. He said his next role would have been to convince the Taliban to open talks with the Afghan government.

The premier is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly while in New York.

The PM also said there was “no chance of talks” with India about its clampdown on the disputed territory of Kashmir until it lifted a curfew for people there.

Imran Khan warned that those “intending to cross the Line of Control (LoC) in an “attempt to wage a Jihad in Kashmir”, saying it would be an act of “extreme enmity towards the Kashmiris”.

“Anyone who thinks that he will cross the border to join the Kashmiris is a big enemy of them and Pakistan,” he said.

Any such move on the part of individuals, he said, would help India exploit the situation, which would term it cross-border infiltration.

“Don’t give India an excuse to cover its human right violations in Kashmir. This can make life more difficult for the Kashmiris, who are already suffering at the hands of the Indian troops,” he said.

The prime minister categorically rejected any concession to the jailed political leaders, namely Nawaz Sharif, Asif Ali Zardari, who had plundered the national wealth, saying holding them accountable “was a must to put the country back on right track”.



European Parliament slams India for denying Kashmiris right to self determination

September 19, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Members of the European Parliament strongly censured the Indian government’s continuous obduracy in denying the Kashmiris their fundamental right to self-determination as guaranteed by United Nations Security Council resolutions.

According to Kashmir Media Service, in a special debate of the plenary of the European Parliament held at Strasbourg, France on the issue of Kashmir after 12 years, members of the European Parliament demanded the immediate lifting of the lockdown, restoration of normalcy, fundamental rights, communication blackout, and freedom of movement and release of political prisoners in Indian occupied Kashmir (IOK).

Member of the Council of the European Union Tytti Tuppurainen read out a statement on behalf of the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, on the situation in Kashmir.

She said that India had been violating fundamental human rights in Kashmir since August 5.

She said that India had deployed additional troops in the occupied valley besides on the Line of Control (LOC).

She said that the situation had not returned to normalcy as reports were pouring in about the arrests of political leaders, students and activists.

She called for the EU to work with Pakistan and India to defuse further escalation and engage both parties for a peaceful settlement of the dispute in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people.

She added, restrictions imposed by the Indian government on the Kashmiri people were of grave concerns to them and the European parliament high representative had already taken up the issue with India’s external affairs minister in Brussels.

“The EU should demand lifting of the restrictions by restoring basic human rights, restoration of all social services and freedom of movement,” Tuppurainen said, adding that no one could afford another escalation over IOK.

Concluding her statement, she said that the EU would continue to monitor the situation and would make every effort to avoid escalation in the region.

Traian Basescu of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats, categorically termed the situation in IOK as alarming and unacceptable.

He said that the continuous trampling of fundamental rights of the Kashmiri people continued unabated and warned that due to escalation two nuclear-armed powers had come to a head to head conflict.

Member of the group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament Maria Arena also expressed concerns over arrests in the occupied valley where hospitals and houses were running out of basic needs including medicines and foodstuff.

The deployment of ten million Indian soldiers had turned the valley into the world’s most militarised zone.

She warned that the situation was made more dangerous by Modi’s government after it revoked the autonomous special status of IOK.

Shaffaq Mohammad of the Renew Europe Group said being a Kashmiri himself, the situation in IOK pained him greatly.

“Kashmir is in real crises as the sufferings of the local people has been surging,” he said.

Mohammad called upon the EU to stand by the people of IOK and ensure security and stability in the region.

He demanded that Kashmiris be allowed to exercise their right to self-determination.

Moreover, Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance’s member Gina Dowding also voiced concern and said the EU could be a facilitator in the process by pulling them out of darkness.

She said that reports about rapes and other crimes being committed by Indian forces in IOK were appalling.

“Mobile phone services are shut down and there is a complete lockdown,” she said.

She demanded the restoration of all basic rights of Kashmiris and urged the EU to play its role in ending the crisis there.

Bernhard Zimniok of Identity and Democracy Group maintained that the Kashmir dispute remained unresolved in the last seventy years with the occupied valley witnessing countless deaths.

“The EU could support the peace process to resolve the issue between the two countries,” he said.

Confederal Group of the European United Left’s member Idoia Villanueva Ruiz stressed upon peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue in accordance with the international resolutions.

Richard Corbett, Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, said that the coercive step taken by the Indian government was a stain on Indian democracy.

“The only viable and permanent solution was to allow the Kashmiris their right to self-determination in line with the UNSC resolutions after the issue was taken by India to the UN,” he said.

He also demanded implementation of those resolutions.

Phil Bennion, another member, also demanded the lifting of the curfew and release of all the political leaders in the occupied Kashmir.

He demanded that the EU delegation should be allowed to visit IOK.

European Conservatives and Reformists Group’s Nosheena Mobarik said the EU always upheld its treaties, so it should also press for implementation of UN resolutions on Kashmir.

She held India responsible for its bellicose attitude and destruction in occupied Kashmir.

She further called upon the EU to set aside its apathy and ensure the Kashmiris their right to self-determination which was denied by India.

Giuliano Pisapia, member of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament along with Anthea Mcintyre and other members also stressed upon hectic diplomatic efforts on part of the EU to resolve the decades-old dispute which could destabilise the whole region.

Referring to the UN human rights commission reports about human rights violations in IOK, they lamented that these violations continued with indiscriminate use of pellet guns against innocent people including infants.

No one was held responsible for maiming and killing of innocent people.

Sylviane H Ainardi particularly mentioned that Kashmir was a disputed region as recognised by the UN and said that it was incumbent upon this house to uphold fundamental rights of the Kashmiris.



Babri Masjid case: JuH warns Sunni Waqf Board against any deal

by Rasia Hashmi

September 19, 2019

Lucknow: Accusing chairperson of UP Sunni Central Waqf Board, Zufar Farooqi of engaging in activities that raise “suspicion” about his intent to safeguard interests of Babri Masjid in the Ayodhya title suit in Supreme Court, a faction of the Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind (JuH) on Wednesday warned that any deal against law and justice will not be accepted by the community.

However, Farooqi dismissed the allegations and said the JuH faction has nothing to do with the case.

Talking to reporters in Lucknow, Maulana Muhammad Matinul Haq Osama Qasmi, state chief of the Mehmood Madani fraction of JuH, warned Farooqi, saying “And if he continues this way, the JuH will hit the streets.” Times of India reported.

TOI quoted him as saying, “Sunni Waqf Board chairman recently wrote to Justice Khalifulla’s mediation panel to resume talks between both parties. We are not against mediation, but when the court is more than halfway through the hearing, the move appears suspicious.”

Maulana Osama said that he has learnt that Farooqi recently sacked lawyers closely attached with the case to include new ones at the last minute. ‘The fresh set of lawyers, I am told, have been in favour of unilateral surrender’ he said.

While saying that the decision of the Supreme Court will be acceptable to the community, Maulana Osama warned that the suspicious activities of community’s representatives will not be tolerated.

Meanwhile, Zufar Farooqi said, “The faction of the Jamiat making these baseless accusations is not connected to the Babri Masjid case. The real president of Jamiat in Uttar Pradesh is Maulana Ashhad Rashidi, who is a party in the case. And he’s pursuing the case in apex court.”

Office secretary of Arshad Madani-led JuH in UP, Ghufran Qasmi also supported Zufar Farooqi’s statement saying “It is the Arshad Madani faction which is fighting the title suit and is represented by Maulana Rashidi. We have no connection with the press conference held in Lucknow.”


Jamiat hails SC move to finish Ayodhya case hearing by Oct 18

by shameen

September 19, 2019

New Delhi: The Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, a prominent Muslim organisation, has welcomed the Supreme Court decision to complete arguments in the Ayodhya case by October 18.

“We have all along welcomed the verdict by courts. We are confident that in this matter too the court will dispense justice, which will be based on legal merit rather than the foundation of faith,” Jamiat head Maulana Arshad Madani said here on Wednesday. On an earlier remark of the court that “the Ayodhya controversy is solely a battle for possesion of land, which the political parties have converted into a Hindu-Muslim fight,” Madani said such controversies were a blot on the Hindu-Muslim brotherhood in the country.

It should be settled legally so that in the future there was no recurrence of such type of incidents, he added.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday said all parties should make an effort to conclude the case by October 18. Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi will retire on November 18.



Resolving Babri Masjid Issue through Dialogue Would Have Been Better Than Supreme Court Taking a Decision: UP CM

September 19, 2019

Lucknow: Resolving Babri Masjid issue through dialogue would have been better than Supreme Court taking a decision, said Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath after the apex court set October 18 target to complete hearing in the case.

Speaking to News18 Network Group Editor-in-Chief Rahul Joshi in an exclusive interview, Adityanath said, "It would have been good had the Muslim community taken an initiative to end the issue when the Supreme Court gave time for mediation, but that did not happen. People can only move towards a solution when they think positively, but when they are stubborn, then only the Supreme Court can take a decision."

He added that the Uttar Pradesh government respects the verdict of the court. "The decision is taken on the basis of facts and evidences. We are hopeful and we will follow the judgment. Earlier also, we have followed the rulings of the Supreme Court," he said.

Adityanath's reaction came hours after a five-judge apex court bench hearing the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land title case on Wednesday set a target to complete the hearing. "Let us make a joint effort to conclude the same by October 18,” Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said.

Earlier, in March, the Supreme Court had referred the land dispute case in Ayodhya for mediation. Fourteen appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among the three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.

The three-member mediation panel for mediation constituted by the Apex Court was headed by former Supreme Court judge FM Kalifullah, with spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and, lawyer and mediation expert Sriram Panchu as other members. The panel was expected to finish the mediation process within eight weeks, from March 15 to May 15. The media was barred from reporting on the mediation process to maintain confidentiality.



Ayodhya: SC view on Hindu belief in birthplace of Lord Ram evokes sharp reaction from Muslim lawyer

Sep 18, 2019

NEW DELHI: In a high pitched reaction, the Muslim parties termed as "conjecture" the Supreme Court's observation Wednesday that the Hindus believed in some divinity in the central dome of the disputed structure at Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid site which made them offer prayers at the railings put up by the British in 1855.

The 5-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, was scrutinising the vehement submission of the Muslim parties that Hindu worshippers never had access to the central dome and used to offer prayers at the railings.

The bench asked senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for the Muslim parties, that "maybe the 'Ram Chabutara' was the creation of 1885, but it coincides with the setting up of the railing (prohibiting entry of Hindus into the inner courtyard).

"Why Ram Chabutara was set up in the close proximity of the railing. Hindus believed of some divinity in the central dome and this is the reason they were praying at the railing."

Dhavan then said in raised voice: "This is just a conjecture of My Lords." He later apologised for the comment.

The bench had asked him "whether the Hindus were praying at the railings with the belief that the birthplace of deity was under central dome".

The Allahabad High Court had given one-third area, including the Central dome of the now-demolished structure, to deity 'Ram Lalla' after holding that it was the birthplace.

The top court questioned Dhavan, appearing for Sunni Waqf Board and others including original litigant M Siddiq, about the proximity of 'Ram Chabutara' with the railings near the central dome.

The bench, hearing the politically sensitive case on the 26th day, said that before putting up of the railings in 1850s both community members were going inside, and the presence of 'Ram Chabutara' so close to the railing has got some "significance" because Hindus might be praying there believing the central dome to be the birthplace.

"Why do people go near the railings. They go there because they believed that it (central dome) was the birthplace... There was oral evidence that Hindus prayed at the railings," the unnerved bench sought to know from Dhavan after his high pitched reaction.

The senior advocate replied: "I will go near the railings out of curiosity... They (Hindus) might have been going there to destroy the place", because a very tense situation had been prevailing there for quite long time.

There was "no evidence" on record that the Hindus prayed at the railing, he said.

"I am sorry for using the word conjecture," the senior lawyer later told the bench and added, "you become more aggressive when you are tired".

The bench shot back, "if you are tired then we can wrap up the day's hearing".

Then bench then sought details of all the evidence with regard to the railings at the disputed site.

The railings were raised in 1850s by the Britishers following the communal flare up between the two communities and later, Hindus were allowed entry in the outer courtyards only, the lawyer said.

At the outset, Dhavan again dealt with the report of historians R S Sharma, M Athar Ali, D N Jha and Suraj Bhan on the Ayodhya dispute and assailed the HC verdict saying that it did not consider the report.

The report had stated that the site where Babri Masjid stood could not have been the birthplace of Lord Ram, he said, adding it was not considered because one of the historians, D N Jha, did not sign it.

The bench again said that the 1991 report of historians "at the highest" was an "opinion" and moreover, the historians were never examined.

Dhavan referred to the testimonies of various witnesses and gazetteers of many travellers to drive home the point that there was Babri mosque at the disputed site and the Hindu parties failed to prove the place under the central dome was the exact birthplace of Lord Ram.

He trashed the views of British traveller Hans Baker and P Carnegi who had said that the mosque was built on the ruins of a Hindu temple and said that there were the "figment of their imagination".

"No travellers and gazetteers mentioned that the birthplace of Lord Ram was under central dome of the structure," Dhavan said.

There should be "gradation" of the documents and equal amount of reliance cannot be placed on official records and the accounts of travellers and gazetteers.

He said that various Hindu witnesses have said that the idols were placed inside the central dome in December 1949 as against their claim that they were there since time immemorial.

The bench would resume hearing on Thursday.

The Allahabad High Court, in its judgment of 2010 on four civil lawsuits, had partitioned the 2.77-acre disputed land equally among Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla. Fourteen appeals have been filed in the Supreme Court against the verdict.


Muslim family thrashed at Aligarh railway station, AMU terms it communal

Akram Khan

September 18, 2019

Afamily travelling from Kannauj to Aligarh for treatment was attacked by a mob of around 25 men at the Aligarh Railway Station. The family reportedly belongs to the Muslim community.

The injured were admitted to the JN Medical College in Aligarh in critical condition, the Government Railway Police (GRP) said.

According to the victim family, about 20-25 people approached them and started beating them up as soon as they got off the train at the Aligarh railway station.

The family said that the men belonged to some organization as they all had the same 'gamcha' (towel) on their necks and were carrying identical ID cards.

The GRP said that the victim family's statement has been recorded and action will be taken on the basis of the same.

The victim family has alleged that the policemen stationed at the railway station kept shooting the incident on their mobile phones and kept witnessing the crime as mute spectators and didn't bother to save them even though they were being thrashed ruthlessly on the ground.

After the mob left, police took the injured family to the JN Medical College in Aligarh, where they are undergoing treatment. Members of the family have reportedly received serious head injuries.

"Some passengers were coming to Aligarh in Mau-Anand Vihar train. A dispute broke over getting off the train after which led violence. Two people have been injured and both are undergoing treatment in the hospital. A case will be registered after the statement of the family is recorded," a GRP inspector said.

Students of the Aligarh Muslim University have expressed their anger over the incident. Former Students' Union president has linked the incident to the Dharma Samaj Mahavidhyalya in Aligarh.

He said that they are against this type of mindset and urged the Administrative Officer and SSP to take stringent action against the culprits.

"Today this happened in Aligarh, but tomorrow such incidents will burn entire India. Some people in this country are walking in the footsteps of Hitler and they want to recreate the same atmosphere in India as it was in Germany under Hitler," the former AMU Students' Union president said.

"Panic is being spread through mob lynching, people are being killed over cows. No religion promotes these practices. I appeal to everyone, be it a Muslim or a non-Muslim, do not support such people," he added.

Deputy Superintendent of Police (SP) said that a memorandum has been submitted AMU students to take action against the culprits.

The incident is being termed as a case of communal violence, however, police has not confirmed any such report yet and the Deputy SP has said that this is not a case of mob lynching.



J&K development will spark revolt by PoK people: Satya Pal Malik

Sep 19, 2019

SRINAGAR: Jammu & Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik on Wednesday said that instead of taking over Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK) by force, the development in J&K should prompt the people on the other side of LoC to “revolt” and join India.

Addressing a function here, Malik said that some ministers have been talking about taking back PoK from Pakistan by force.

“I have been seeing from the past 10 to 15 days that many of our ministers, who do not get to talk on international matters, have been repeatedly talking about invading POK, taking it back etc. My belief is that if POK is the next target, we can take it on the basis on the development of J&K.

“If we can give love and respect to the people of J&K and secure the future of their children, bring development and prosperity, I can guarantee that within a year or so there will be a revolt in POK and you will get it without a confrontation ... the residents of POK will on their own say that they want to come this side. This is my roadmap for POK,” the governor said.

Malik urged the countrymen to treat people from Kashmir with love and respect and said officers have been placed in every state to help Kashmiri students



Kartarpur Corrdior: For alternate passage, Punjab govt transfers mortgaged land to LPAI

by Navjeevan Gopal

September 19, 2019

For an alternate passage for Kartarpur Corridor project, Punjab government has transferred in the name of Land Ports Authority of India a chunk of land which is not encumbrances free.

The land, located between barbed fencing and zero line in the jurisdiction of Pakhoke village, is to be used for making an alternate passage to Pakistan with the latter expressing its inability to complete the bridge on their side by the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev in November, said a government functionary.

Through an order recently, Punjab Financial Commissioner Revenue KBS Sidhu transferred the 21 kanal of land, which includes land against which a loan was taken by a private individual from Oriental Bank of Commerce, Shukarpura branch, Batala. The loan as of now remains outstanding as per bank officials.

The order by Sidhu noted that the decision as to who will make payment for the land pledged with bank be taken later.

Sidhu was not available for comment. Two different individuals were in possession of the government land in equal parts through a conveyance deed and pledged their chunks of land for an amount of Rs 15 lakh respectively in May 2012 and October 25, 2012 to Oriental Bank of Commerce Shukarpura branch Batala. Citing a Supreme Court order dating back to January 2011 where it declared invalid the policy to transfer government land to “unauthorised cultivators”, Punjab cancelled the conveyance deed in December 2013, making the state owner and the possessor of the land again.

Subsequently, one of the two individuals paid back Rs 15 lakh to the bank and was issued the no objection certificate. However, the chunk against which second individual had taken Rs 15 lakh is yet to pay back the full amount to the bank.

Gurdaspur Deputy Commissioner Vipul Ujjwal, sources said, took up the matter with Punjab Financial Commissioner Revenue for the transfer of the land to LPAI last month…Gurdaspur DC apprised Sidhu in a written communication that,”LPAI Project Director had told that as Pakistan government is presently not constructing bridge on opposite side, hence the government land across border is urgently required keeping in view of the alternate alignment of movement of pilgrims as the bridge constructed by NHAI authorities may not be functional on November 12, 2019. It is requested to expedite the transfer of land across to LPAI for developing alternative route at the earliest.”

Dera Baba Nanak Sub Divisional magistrate Gursimran Singh, when reached on phone, said that the NHAI bridge would be ready in time and the alternate passage would be a stopgap arrangement to connect to a temporary passage on Pakistani side till the latter constructs the bridge on their side.

Oriental Bank of Commerce, Shukarpura, branch manager Shahbaz Singh said the along with the individual who was the initial borrower, all others in whose names the land was transferred will become a party in the bank recovery proceedings till the time outstanding dues were not cleared.



Mumbai court issues fresh NBW against Zakir Naik

September 19, 2019

A special court here on Wednesday issued a fresh non-bailable warrant (NBW) against fugitive Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, currently based in Malaysia, in the 2016 alleged money laundering case.

The warrant was issued by Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court judge PP Rajvaidya on a plea filed bythe Enforcement Directorate (ED) which is probing the case.

Last week, Naik had moved a plea through his lawyer seeking time for two months to appear before the court, which was rejected. The ED on Monday moved a fresh plea seeking the NBW.

The ED has claimed to have identified Rs 193.06 crore as the proceeds of crime in the 2016 case.

aik, a 53-year-old radical television preacher, left India in 2016 and subsequently moved to the largely Muslim Malaysia, where he was granted permanent residency.

The ED booked him in 2016 on an FIR filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

The controversial preacher is wanted by authorities for alleged money laundering and inciting extremism through hate speeches.

An NBW had earlier been issued against him in the past in the money laundering case.

In July this year, the court issued summons against Naik after taking cognisance of a complaint filed by the ED against Dubai-based jeweller Abdul Kadir Najmudin Sathak for allegedly assisting the preacher in raise and diverting funds.

Earlier, the agency had attached Naik’s properties, including Islamic International School in Chennai, ten flats, three godowns, two buildings and land in Pune and Mumbai, besides bank accounts.



 After airspace refusal to PM Modi’s plane, MEA says Pakistan should reflect

by Shubhajit Roy

September 19, 2019

Hours after Pakistan on Wednesday rejected India’s request to allow Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s special plane to use its airspace for his visit to the US via Germany, citing “the current situation in Kashmir”, India expressed “regret” over Islamabad’s decision and said it should “reconsider its old habit” of misrepresenting the reasons for taking unilateral action.

In a video message, Pakistan’s Foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said, “India had requested Pakistan to allow Modi to use its airspace to travel to Germany on the 21st (Sept) and return on 28th (Sept). In the light of the current situation in Kashmir, India’s attitude and atrocities there, we have decided to not allow our airspace for the flight of the Indian Prime Minister.”

Qureshi said the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad had been informed of Pakistan’s decision to not allow Air India One to fly over the country.

 response, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, “We regret the decision of the Government of Pakistan to deny overflight clearance for the VVIP special flight for a second time in two weeks, which is otherwise granted routinely by any normal country. Pakistan should reflect upon its decision to deviate from well-established international practice, as well as reconsider its old habit of misrepresenting the reasons for taking unilateral action.”

Modi is travelling to the US on September 21 to attend the ‘Howdy Modi’ diaspora event on September 22 along with US President Donald Trump. He will also address the UN General Assembly in New York on September 27.



Southeast Asia


President Tsai meets with local Muslims, touts Taiwan’s Muslim-friendly environment

By Huang Tzu-ti


TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) invited Taiwanese Muslims to work with the government on fostering ties between the island and the Islamic world on Wednesday (Sept. 18).

Tsai met with local Muslims who have returned from their pilgrimage to Mecca this year. Noting that Islam is one of the most influential religions in the world, she lauded the values of peace and justice embraced by the world’s second-largest religion.

Taiwan is making an effort to become a Muslim-friendly society, Tsai said, in the areas of tourism, trade, culture, and more. She told the group that nurturing exchanges between Muslims and non-Muslim Taiwanese has been placed at the top of her administration's agenda.

As an example, she said Taiwan has pushed for the establishment of Halal-certified facilities and services. At least 200 restaurants have passed Halal requirements, and the capital city of Taiwan launched the island’s first vending machine to sell Halal food earlier this month.

Other measures aimed at making Muslim residents or visitors “feel like home” include promoting Halal hospitals and setting up prayer rooms at airports, railway stations, and tourist attractions like the National Palace Museum.

According to Tsai, this endeavor by the government has received international recognition. A survey released by the Mastercard-Crescent Rating Global Muslim Travel Index 2019 listed Taiwan as the third most Muslim-friendly country outside of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.




Malay Muslim Parties' Pact Rattles Nerves in Multiethnic Malaysia

By Zsombor Peter

September 18, 2019

BANGKOK - A new political alliance between Malaysia's two largest Malay Muslim parties is rousing fears the move could further stall the government's progressive agenda and raise already simmering racial and religious tensions in the country.

Ethnic Malays and other indigenous groups known as Bumiputra make up nearly two-thirds of Malaysia's 31.8 million people, with Chinese and Indians accounting for 21% and 6%, respectively. The country's Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus make up roughly the same mix.

The ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition drew heavily on Chinese and Indian votes to pull off a shock election defeat last year of Barisan Nasional, the political juggernaut that had ruled the country since independence from Britain in 1957.

'Power should be with us'

UMNO, the driving force behind Barisan, formalized an alliance with the Islamist PAS party on Saturday in a bid to win back power and reverse course on policies they say are eroding the constitutional privileges of the country's majority Malays and Muslims.

"As the majority of this country, we should form the government. The power should be with us," PAS spokesman Kamaruzaman Mohamad told VOA in explaining the reason for the alliance.

"If we want to defend the rights of Islam, the rights of Bahasa Melayu [the Malay language], the special rights of the Bumiputra and Malay, we have to be united so that we can [raise] our voice, we can show our strength, so that this government will not abuse these special rights."

Kamaruzaman dismissed speculation of any coming communal discord.

"We are Muslim and non-Muslim. We are living together harmoniously with no bad incident," he said, insisting the alliance would not change that.

"We are not going to abuse any right of any religion or any race. That is ... clearly stated in the Constitution. So there is no issue that we are going to spark any racial tension."

Adib Zalkapli, a Malaysia-based director of Bower Group Asia, a consultancy, said the parties would continue, however, to play on the country's entrenched ethnoreligious fault lines to woo voters.

"That is their founding principles, if you like. They got together on the basis of Malay unity and Muslim unity, and claims ... by the party operators that Malay Muslims are being marginalized by the new government. So you can expect more of this racial rhetoric from the new alliance," he told VOA.

UMNO and PAS had been flirting with a pact for some time. Since Pakatan's surprise victory last year, they have handed the ruling coalition a series of defeats in three consecutive by-elections by running a single, joint candidate in each.

Eyes on next election

Adib said UMNO's move to make the alliance official signaled that the party was banking on Malay Muslim votes over those of the more diverse Barisan coalition, which it still fronts, to win the next general election, due by 2023.

But he is skeptical it will work, noting that Malaysia has never had a monoethnic coalition running the government in its history.

What the new allies can do, Adib said, is hold back Pakatan's more progressive policy plans and move it to the right.

They have been at it already.

The parties stirred up fears of lost privileges among Malays to pressure the new government into abandoning election pledges to sign a U.N. convention on racial discrimination and to ratify the Rome Statute, which would have seen Malaysia join the International Criminal Court. Pakatan's efforts to repeal an anti-fake-news law also were shot down in the Senate, which the opposition controls.

The string of defeats and U-turns has hurt the new government. Opinion polling by the Merdeka Center, a research group, shows its approval rating plunging from 79% just after the general election to 39% in March.

An UMNO-PAS alliance "may not be able to win power, but it could potentially force the government to adopt some of its ideology or its political ambition," Adib said. "In the case of PAS, the Islamist party, the party has obviously sharia ambition. So the danger is that this alliance will be able to force the government parties to dance to their tune."

'Klang Valley narrative'

Others think the fears of rising tensions are more perception than reality.

Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, who heads the National University of Malaysia's Institute of Ethnic Studies, called it the "Klang Valley narrative," so named for the area around Kuala Lumpur, the capital, where the country's professionals and NGOs are concentrated.

"They read what is on the ground based on what they do. If they see a traffic jam, they think [it] is also a racial and ethnic traffic jam," said Shamsul, who thinks class concerns now mostly trump racial or religious ones, noting that Malaysia has not had any race riots since the late 1960s.

He recently wrapped up a two-year, government-funded study on Malaysia's race relations that found an encouraging amount of ethnic intermingling and a prevailing attitude of inclusion.

"So I always say there's a lot of tongue wagging in this country, but not parang waving," Shamsul said, referring to a local machete-like cutting tool.



MCA to Umno-PAS: Don't fight for just one race and undermine Malaysia's stability

19 September 2019


KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 19 — MCA president Datuk Wee Ka Siong today reminded Umno and PAS that the cooperation that has been formalised between the two biggest Malay parties should not be a threat to the secular system within the framework of the Federal Constitution.

Wee said both parties will need the support of all Malaysians to ensure the success of political cooperation between them.

If the coalition fights for only one religion and race and undermines the stability of the country as stipulated in the Federal Constitution, then MCA will not compromise and take appropriate action.

The cooperation between Umno and PAS must extend to all segments of the Malaysian community and adhere to the principles contained in the charter that was signed on September 14,” he said in a statement today.

Wee said MCA's struggle from day one whether being in government or Opposition has always been to uphold the Federal Constitution and the values of diversity and simplicity.

As I have stated before MCA's stance is that Barisan Nasional must form a political coalition that represents all races.

Whether staying with the Barisan Nasional or in the matter of Umno-PAS cooperation, MCA continue to use this stance as a guide,” he added.

Wee said Umno and PAS must fulfill the charter, which is centred on unifying the ummah (Muslim community) to harmonise multiracial Malaysia and at the same time ensuring the interests of the non-malay community is protected.

Malaysia will continue to enjoy harmony only when the spirit of diversity is maintained. Political parties that fight for just one race or religion will not be able to govern the country and will eventually be rejected by the people,” he said.

On Saturday, PAS and Umno signed a joint charter for their political cooperation that contained a “national agenda” accommodating the other races but was primarily concerned about Malay-Muslim interests.

The collaboration was formed with the express purpose of defeating Pakatan Harapan (PH) in the next general election.

The two Opposition parties are working to build support among Malay-Muslims whose majority support did not end up with PH during last year’s general election.



With new Foreign Policy Framework, Malaysia to no longer stay silent against global injustice

19 September 2019


PUTRAJAYA, Sept 19 — A new Foreign Policy Framework was launched by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad yesterday, with Putrajaya declaring its intention to not shy away from speaking up against regional or global breaches of human rights and inequality.

Themed “Change in Continuity”, it is also poised to turn Malaysia into a more influential and respected voice regionally and in the global political arena, while at the same time not abandoning its internal interests.

In the document launched yesterday, Putrajaya pledged to prioritise maintaining good relations with other nations while practicing justice and fairness, and endorsing mutually beneficial international trade markets.

The Framework also assured that national interests concerning national security, the economic prosperity of the nation, and its identity as a nation and position within the Muslim world would not be adversely affected.

In order to maintain a reputable and culture rich identity, the Framework pushes for a Malaysia to actively speak out against human rights violations, and endorse amicable and sustainable outcomes for international conflicts while assisting post disaster or conflict situations.

At the same time, the framework pushes for actions that would propel Malaysia into a position to be seen as an exemplary Islamic country, one that is inclusive, developed and progressive.

In doing so, Malaysia can demonstrate to the world, the goodness of Islam and the ummah in line with the principle of ‘rahmatan lil alamin’ (mercy for all).

In formulating its foreign policy, Malaysia will be cognisant and make fair assessments on the roles and contributions of various Islamic movements, without any prejudice,” read the Framework.

As for topics concerning national security, the ongoing South China Sea territorial dispute was cited within the Framework, with the new policy said to encourage stability and peace that can be achieved through continuous dialogues among member states, and suggestions for the area to instead be turned into trade hub.

Putrajaya has in recent times patched up its relationship with China after Dr Mahathir and Pakatan Harapan took a slightly hostile position towards the global superpower’s hold over the previous Barisan Nasional administration.

However, Putrajaya had also been criticised for its position towards China’s treatment of the Muslim Uighur minorities, ranging from either silence to minister Datuk Mujahid Yusof Rawa’s alleged remarks echoing Beijing’s stance on the matter.

Dr Mahathir, in his speech at the launch yesterday, said among the tangible actions would be active participation at international gatherings where Malaysia is a member of, which could in turn influence the outcome of decisions at other conventions where Malaysia is not a member.

He said another outcome from the new Framework could see Malaysia shape the discourse on other emerging issues such as those surrounding the Industrial Revolution 4.0, and the blue economy.

Dr Mahathir also pointed out the Framework meant Malaysia would not bow down to international pressure and pledged to speak up against actions opposing multilateralism, which he said was under threat and a topic of great concern to Malaysia.

As examples, he said actions such instances of powerful countries imposing their will onto smaller nations and countries who “flagrantly violate” international agreements and conventions was of great concern to Malaysia.

Malaysia reserves the right to express its opinion and if necessary, its protestations, against injustices, oppressions and other crimes against humanity that is committed by any nations.

Malaysia had never shied away from what it believes to be a responsibility and commitment to mankind. Malaysia will submit what it must but it will be under open protest,” he said in his speech at Perdana Putra yesterday.

Malaysia will nevertheless remain steadfast in pursuing its foreign policy goals based on the principles of justice and fairness. I am optimistic that we will be able to achieve these goals,” he added.

In recent months, Wisma Putra has been vocal in its support for the plight of Palestinians in the face of injustice by Israel and the Rohingya minority in Myanmar, consistent with its pledge in the Pakatan Harapan’s election manifesto.

Last month, Dr Mahathir had also brought up the issue of the volatile tensions in the Jammu and Kashmir region with India, following New Delhi’s move to cancel the special status of both regions which had enabled the people to formulate their own laws and prevent foreigners from residing in the territories.



Churches slam PAS for ‘Christianisation’ claim, says event commemorated Malaysia Day

18 September 2019


KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 18 — The Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM) has lambasted PAS deputy president Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man for inferring a church social forum held on September 14 was used for the purpose of political propaganda.

In rebutting Tuan Ibrahim’s claim, CCM clarified that the “New Malaysia Narrative” forum that was held in the Mega Chinese Methodist Church in Kota Damansara, Selangor was part of the church’s Malaysia Day observance to assist its members to contribute to nation building by participating in a shared narrative.

The forum which featured a panel of speakers was to encourage the participants to play their role within the unfolding story of a ‘New’ Malaysia by understanding our shared historical heritage and calling for better understanding of our shared destiny as citizens of our country.

To that end, the PAS leader should not imply that the forum was used for political propaganda and therefore stop insinuating that the church was promoting it,” it said in a statement here.

Deputy Youth and Sports Minister Steven Sim Chee Keong who attended the forum as one of the speakers, was accused of zealously promoting the “Kingdom of God”, a Christian concept of a spiritual realm over which God reigns or the fulfilment of God’s will on Earth.

Tuan Ibrahim claimed that Sim allegedly preached the idea alongside other Christian topics such as the “Jesus Manifesto” at the “Naratif Malaysia Baru” (New Malaysia Narrative) forum on Saturday.

The phrase Kingdom of God, or Kingdom of Heaven, occurs frequently in the New Testament, primarily attributed to Jesus Christ in the first three Gospels.

In response, Sim said earlier today his reference to the Bible during the forum was merely aimed at urging Christians to become better Malaysians by rejecting racism and corruption.

The Bukit Mertajam MP stressed that he did not criticise any religion nor did he propose the establishment of a Christian government as claimed by Tuan Ibrahim.

Sim said his speech stressed on values espoused by the Bible as guidance to become better citizens, such as justice, transparency, helping the weak and poor, rejecting corruption, oppression and racism.

Malay-Muslim conservative groups here, have consistently spoken out against Christianisation, human rights, and religious pluralism as alleged threats against the Malay-Muslim community in recent years.

Last month, Gerakan Pembela Ummah, a coalition of Malay-Muslim groups, had listed several issues it deems “major threats” against the majority community, which included Christian evangelism.


Arab World


To Find Clues in Saudi Oil Attacks, U.S. Examines Missile and Drone Parts

By Eric Schmitt, Julian E. Barnes and David D. Kirkpatrick

Sept. 17, 2019

WASHINGTON — American investigators are examining missile circuit boards recovered after strikes against Saudi oil facilities to determine the trajectory of the attack — and whether it originated from Iran — as the Trump administration debates how, and whether, to retaliate.

Analysts are poring over satellite imagery of the damage sites, and assessing radar tracks of at least some of the low-flying cruise missiles that were used. Communication intercepts from before and after the attacks are being reviewed to see if they implicate Iranian officials.

Perhaps most important, forensic analysis is underway of missile and drone parts from the attack sites. The Saudis have recovered pristine circuit boards from one of the cruise missiles that fell short of its target, providing forensics specialists the possibility of tracing the missile’s point of origin, according to a senior American official briefed on the intelligence.

One theory gaining traction among American officials is that the cruise missiles were launched from Iran and programmed to fly around the northern Persian Gulf through Iraqi air space instead of directly across the gulf where the United States has much better surveillance, one senior official said. In the hours before the attacks, American intelligence detected unusual activity at military bases in southwest Iran that would be consistent with preparations for strikes, another senior American official said. Within the administration, there is much discussion over what retaliatory action to take, if any, and whether such a response would appear to be doing the Saudis’ bidding. The question is a challenging one for President Trump, who first declared after the attacks that the United States was “locked and loaded,” but then softened his tone and said he would like to avoid conflict.

The attack is viewed as the most destructive strike to Saudi Arabia since it opened an offensive in Yemen more than four years ago. The strikes at the Abqaiq processing facility and Khurais oil field initially cut by more than 50 percent the oil produced by the kingdom, which supplies about a tenth of the worldwide total. By Tuesday, Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s national oil company, said it would fully restore oil production by the end of September at facilities that were attacked by air on Saturday.

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have presented Mr. Trump with an array of military options — presumably both bombing targets such as the missile-launching sites and storage areas as well as covert cyberoperations that could disable or disrupt Iran’s oil infrastructure.

A big concern is to ensure that any strikes be proportional and not escalate the conflict, particularly with world leaders gathering next week in New York for the United Nations General Assembly. Officials also voiced worry about the cost of doing nothing, at least openly, in response to attacks that have cut in half the oil production of one of Washington’s main allies in the Middle East.

If Iran is proved to be behind the attacks, it may be because it is looking for increased diplomatic and economic leverage, said current and former officials. Tehran has been pressed by the tough economic sanctions imposed by the Trump administration. Although an attack by Iran would represent a sharp escalation, Iranian officials may be counting that Mr. Trump’s reluctance to start a war in the Middle East will restrain the American response. Iran may believe that by committing a dramatic strike, the current and former officials said, it could improve its negotiating position before the United Nations meeting.

American officials say they have no doubt that the drones and missiles used in the attacks were Iranian technology and components. But they have not yet released information on whether the strikes were planned and directed by Iran, and launched by Iran’s proxies in the region — or whether they were actually launched from Iranian territory.

Some officials said they have come to believe the cruise missiles were launched from Iran, but others familiar with the intelligence noted that the evidence is not yet irrefutable, and Tehran has taken steps to obscure the origin of the strike.

The United States has prepared a document laying out the current understanding of the facts of the strike on Saudi Arabia in which the American government has “high confidence,” according to multiple American officials. The intelligence assessment is ready to be declassified, but it will not be released until Saudi Arabia has had a chance to make its own conclusions and release information it wants, officials said.

Who Was Behind the Saudi Oil Attack? What the Evidence Shows

American officials have offered only satellite photos, which analysts said were insufficient to prove where the attack came from, which weapons were used and who fired them.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was scheduled on Wednesday to meet with officials in Saudi Arabia, a visit that could result in the release of the American report.

The rulers of Saudi Arabia appear in no rush to pinpoint the source of the attack or call for any specific response.

A Saudi military spokesman said Monday that the kingdom’s initial investigation had indicated that the weapons were Iranian-made and that the attack was not launched from Yemen. But so far the Saudis have lagged American officials in their willingness to openly blame Iran for carrying out the attack.

Underscoring its go-slow approach, the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it intended to invite the United Nations and other international experts to visit the site of the attacks and participate in the investigations. “The kingdom will take appropriate measures based on the results of the investigation,” the statement said, suggesting that the Saudis would wait a prolonged period before taking action.

Analysts said Saudi Arabia might be reluctant to engage in a military confrontation before confirming the American response. The rulers of the kingdom may also be worried because the attack demonstrated ominous vulnerabilities in their air defense systems. Although Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest spenders in the world on military hardware, the damage from Saturday’s airstrike suggested scant preparation for a full-fledged air war.

Saudi rulers have at least once actively covered up an Iranian attack inside the kingdom to avoid making accusations that could lead to a clash. After a terrorist bombing at the Khobar Towers complex killed 19 United States Air Force personnel in 1996, scholars say, the Saudis deliberately sought to obfuscate Iran’s responsibility in an attempt to avoid a military conflict. (The United States still ultimately concluded that Iran was responsible.)

Michael J. Morell, a former acting director of the C.I.A., said during a speech on Monday night in Northern Virginia that if Iran was found responsible for directing or carrying out the attacks, that would amount to an act of war and the United States would “need to respond.”

Mr. Morell, who said he had no inside information, said he favored some kind of proportional military strike, perhaps against Iranian missile sites and storage areas but not against Iranian oil infrastructure.

Adm. Michael G. Mullen, who retired from the military after serving as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted the danger of the situation because there was little effective way to communicate with the Iranians to avoid escalation and misjudgment.

It’s a situation ripe with the possibility of miscalculation,” he said. “We have not had a good line of communication with Iran since 1979, so if something happens, the odds of us getting it right are pretty small.”

Mr. Morell said it would be important to have allies such as Britain and France join any retaliation so the United States was not going it alone.

France has no evidence showing where drones that attacked the Saudi oil facilities came from, the French foreign minister said on Tuesday.

Up to now France doesn’t have evidence to say that these drones came from one place or another, and I don’t know if anyone has evidence,” the minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, told reporters in Cairo.

Eric Schmitt and Julian Barnes reported from Washington, and David D. Kirkpatrick from Istanbul. Helene Cooper contributed reporting from Washington, and Stanley Reed from London.



10 Iran-backed fighters killed in Syria attack: Report

17 Sept 2019

A missile attack by an unidentified aircraft hit a position near a Syrian government-held town along the Iraqi border overnight on Tuesday, reportedly killing at least 10 Iran-backed fighters.

The attack took place in Al Bukamal, in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Az Zor, security officials said.

Reuters news agency reported the raid was carried out by unmanned aerial vehicle. However, according to the report, it caused no casualties.

The missile hit a weapons depot belonging to Iraqi factions operating under the banner of the Popular Mobilization Forces, the name given to mainly Shia militias in Iraq that are backed by Iran.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Deir Ezzor 24, an activist collective, said 10 fighters were killed. Iraqi officials confirmed the death toll to the Associated Press news agency.

It was the latest in a series of unclaimed attacks inside Iraq and along the border with Syria targeting Iran-backed militias. Last week, unknown warplanes targeted an arms depot and Iranian-backed militia posts in Al Bukamal, killing at least 18 fighters.

A Syrian security official said Israeli jets were behind Tuesday's attack, but denied there were casualties.

US officials confirmed Israel was behind at least one of the recent attacks inside Iraq.

Israel frequently hits Iranian targets in war-ravaged Syria and appears to have recently expanded its campaign. It has said it will not allow the Iranians, who support forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, to establish a permanent military presence in Syria.

Iran-backed forces, including Lebanon's Hezbollah militia, played a major role in recovering Al Bukamal from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) in late 2017. The border crossing to Iraq, however, remains closed.



How Qatar is using Disinformation Tactics to Attack its Rivals

Joyce Toledano

18 SEP 2019

The second half of this decade has been sharply defined by the explosion of “fake news” and misinformation as an overt and viable political weapon. While disinformation campaigns are nothing new—they are, after all, a popular wartime tactic—the easy access offered by the Internet amplifies the impact of such efforts.

In the Persian Gulf, disinformation has become a key tool to leverage information by most states, but it has also been turned inward. In recent years, escalating tensions between Qatar and neighboring Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been marked by a spike in the use of disinformation to further each faction’s respective goals. Qatar specifically has been repeatedly outed for its alleged editorial interference in Qatari-owned Al Jazeera.

However, as tensions continue to simmer and a resolution seems distant at best, fake news is quickly becoming the status quo for how these countries attempt to nudge the other into some sort of action. The landscape highlights a fascinating case study of how fake news can affect regional political discourse.

A War of Words

The current diplomatic tensions between Qatar and the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council—led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE—has been ongoing since 2017, driven by what the anti-Qatar bloc claims is Qatar’s overt support of terrorism. The latter has admitted that it has provided some support to Islamist groups, namely the Muslim Brotherhood.

The pro-Qatar bloc, which also includes regional powers Turkey and Iran, has used disinformation extensively, along with other media tactics, to shape narratives in the region in a variety of areas. Qatar has never been afraid to wield its media influence through Al Jazeera, which claims to be impartial but yet has been repeatedly accused of pushing overtly pro-Qatar agendas.

In many cases, this has included publishing damning stories about Saudi Arabia and the U.S. willfully ignoring crises and political incidents transpiring within their own borders. The news organization has built a global brand and has hired major names in the news media, but it remains clouded by allegations of government interference.

Turkey itself is not far behind, with one of the most impressive disinformation operations in the world today. A survey conducted by Reuters in conjunction with Oxford University found that nearly 49% of Turkish citizens believed they were exposed to fake news. Moreover, the country has a terrible track record for its treatment of the press, with the number of journalists currently sitting in jail for refusing to parrot the government’s propaganda.

The final leg of the tripod, Iran, uses an expansive network of websites to peddle disinformation across the globe. A special Reuters report found that Iran operates over 70 websites in 15 countries that push pro-Iranian stories. It is worth noting that Qatar, Turkey, and Iran all rank below 100 on Reporters Without Borders’ yearly World Press Freedom Index (128th, 157th, and 170th, respectively).

This disinformation convergence has already been shown to distort news cycles, as a Columbia University study revealed in 2018. The report found that pro-Qatar bots aggressively pushed favorable hashtags and tweets at any mention, spiking traffic visibly at times. A more recent case highlights how this bloc cooperates to peddle misinformation and fake news to its benefit.

The proxy war being fought between Qatar and its Gulf rivals spilled into the light when an article published in the Middle East Eye—another alleged Qatari mouthpiece—alleged that the UAE had provided funding to anti-Erdoğan insurgents planning a coup in Turkey. The story and the allegations within were explosive and potentially dangerous for an already tense region.

News that a foreign power directly intervened in a sovereign state’s affairs are not to be ignored. Even worse, the article spread aggressively across social media and reached hundreds of thousands of readers in a short period of time. The problem was that the article was completely unverified and immediately refuted by all the parties accused of any wrongdoing.

The Middle East Eye was taken to court in London over libel, and while the case was withdrawn, the publication was forced to make damning revelations about its news process.

MEE admitted that the entirety of the story was sourced from a single unverified Turkish Intelligence agency, something MEE has repeatedly been accused of doing. Even worse, the Middle East Eye has been revealed to extensively share journalists and executives with Al Jazeera itself.

The case simply shows how effectively disinformation can be coordinated. The Middle East Eye, acting on a single tip from Turkish Intelligence, published several accusations against a foreign state without verifying the source. By using a smaller, less expansive publication than Al Jazeera, Qatar was able to publish significant disinformation with less fear of it being revealed as such (though in this case, the plan backfired). Despite this revelation, the web has nevertheless made it easy for actors like Iran, Turkey, and Qatar to spread their chosen agendas and pass them off as fact by public consensus.

A New Kind of Cold War

The current conflicts, which reach up to but manage to avoid any real armed warfare, are reminiscent of the Cold War and accompanying propaganda. Although the arena has changed, the use of disinformation, agitprop, and other non-bellicose reprisals recall a war for the minds of citizens that could leave lasting scars across the region.

As it becomes easier to spread disinformation throughout the web, and the world, it is also worth noting that these new conflicts, which have moved from the battlefield to the Twitter feed, are no less dangerous. This new modus operandi presents ample documentation surrounding the risks of engaging in a proxy war where fact becomes commodity and fiction becomes reality.



 Saudi Arabia says oil attacks 'unquestionably' sponsored by Iran

Sep 18, 2019

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday that strikes on its oil infrastructure were "unquestionably" sponsored by Iran, adding that the strikes originated from the north but the exact launch site was yet to be pinned down.

It displayed what it said were fragments of the arsenal of 18 drones and seven cruise missiles that devastated two facilities in the country's east, knocking out half the kingdom's oil production.

"The attack was launched from the north and unquestionably sponsored by Iran," defence ministry spokesman Turki al-Maliki told a press conference. "We are working to know the exact launch point."

However, he would not be drawn on whether Saudi Arabia believed that Iran would ultimately be found to be the culprit, only saying they were confident they would find where the weapons were fired from.

Diplomats at the United Nations said experts were expected in the kingdom to lead an international inquiry.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has directly blamed Iran for the strikes, was due to hold talks Wednesday with Saudi leadership as he arrived in Jeddah to weigh with the US allies a response to the strike that roiled global energy markets.

Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who have claimed Saturday's strikes, vowed meanwhile they had the means to hit "dozens of targets" in the United Arab Emirates.

Saudi's de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Russian leader Vladimir Putin in a phone call the kingdom wants an international investigation that would be seen as highly credible, the state news agency SPA reported.

President Donald Trump - who has already re-imposed sanctions that have crippled Iran's economy - on Wednesday promised to "substantially increase" the measures, winning quick praise from Riyadh.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that the administration has concluded that the attack involved cruise missiles from Iran and that evidence would be presented at the UN General Assembly next week.

"As the president said, we don't want war with anybody, but the United States is prepared," Vice President Mike Pence said in a speech in Washington on Tuesday.

The apparent hardening of the US position came as Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ruled out negotiations with Washington "at any level".

That appeared to nix remaining hopes for a dramatic meeting between President Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations next week.

Speaking to reporters on Air Force One, Trump said he too had cooled on what had always seemed to be a diplomatic longshot.

"I never rule anything out, but I prefer not meeting him," Trump said.

Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, who are locked in a prolonged conflict with a Saudi-led military coalition, claimed responsibility for Saturday's oil installation attacks, which took out six percent of global supplies. But Riyadh and Washington have both ruled that out.

"Despite Iran's efforts to make it appear so" they did not originate from Yemen, Maliki said, adding the strike was beyond the capabilities of the militia -- who have however mounted dozens of smaller attacks on Saudi territory.

"The precision impact of the cruise missile indicated advance capability beyond (Iranian) proxy capacity," he said, adding that they also struck from a direction that ruled out its southern neighbour Yemen as a source.

Observers say the experience in Yemen, where despite their vast firepower, the Saudis have failed to subdue the ragtag but highly motivated militia, has made Riyadh circumspect about wading into another conflict.

"I certainly hope we're not (going to have another war)," Riyadh's ambassador to London Prince Khalid bin Bandar told the BBC in an interview. "We are trying not to react too quickly because the last thing we need is more conflict in the region," he said. Iran has stuck with its account that the Houthis were responsible, and Rouhani said Wednesday the rebels had done so as a "warning" about a possible wider war in response to the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen.

State media said Tehran had written to Washington through the Swiss embassy on Monday, denying any role in attacks on Saudi oil installations and warning it would respond to any action.

The message "emphasised that if any actions are taken against Iran, that action will face an immediate response from Iran and its scope will not be limited to just a threat," the official IRNA news agency said.

Trump called off a retaliatory missile attack on Iran in June after the Iranians shot down a spy drone.

Trump's administration is considering responses to the latest attack, including a cyber attack or a physical strike on Iranian oil infrastructure or its Revolutionary Guards, NBC News reported, citing unnamed US officials.

Oil prices have see-sawed since the attacks, with record gains Monday followed by a tumble Tuesday as the Saudi assurances on supply soothed the markets.



Egypt says police kill 9 suspected militants in Cairo

18 September 2019

Egypt’s Interior Ministry says police have killed nine suspected members of a militant group with links to the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood in two separate Cairo shootouts.

Wednesday’s statement says the militants were members of the Revolution Brigade, a breakaway faction of the Muslim Brotherhood group that has targeted security forces in militant attacks.

It says the gunfire exchange took place at their hideouts in the northeastern district of Obour, and the southern May 15th City, as police were trying to arrest them.

It added that rifles and ammunition were found at the scene.

Egypt is fighting an insurgency led by a local affiliate of ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula as well as smaller militant groups allegedly belonging to the Brotherhood.



Kuwaiti army places some units in a ‘state of combat readiness’

19 September 2019

Kuwait’s army said Wednesday it was raising its readiness levels and carrying out military exercises, amid soaring regional tensions after neighboring Iran was accused of attacking Saudi oil infrastructure.

Kuwait also said it was investigating accounts that a drone intruded into its airspace and flew over the royal palace on Saturday, the same day an assault on two oil facilities knocked out half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production.

In view of the escalating situation in the country, the General Staff of the Army announces the lifting of the combat readiness of some of its units,” it said in a statement posted on Twitter.

It said it was aiming to reach the “highest levels of readiness and combat efficiency” in order to “preserve the security of the country and the safety of its lands, waters, and airspace from any potential dangers.”

Yemen’s Iran-allied Houthi militia group claim to have carried out Saturday’s strike, but the United States has blamed Iran and there has bee speculation the assault was launched from Iraq.

Saudi’s defense ministry said Wednesday that the drones and cruise missiles struck from the north, ruling out Yemen as the source.

Iraq on Sunday denied any link, saying it is “constitutionally committed to preventing any use of its soil to attack its neighbors”.

Kuwait shares land borders with Iraq and Saudi Arabia and sea borders with Iran.



Saudi ambassador describes Khashoggi murder as 'stain'

Fatih Hafiz Mehmet 


Saudi Arabia's envoy to London described the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last fall as a "stain" for the kingdom.

"What happened in Istanbul almost a year ago, was a stain on Saudi Arabia, stain on our culture, our people, our government," Saudi Ambassador to London Prince Khalid Bin Bandar Al-Saud told the BBC in a special interview on Wednesday.

"I wish it didn't happen," he said.

The remarks -- the first time Saudi Arabia has called the brutal murder a "stain" on the kingdom -- come only two weeks before the first anniversary of the incident.

Khashoggi was killed on Oct. 2, 2018 at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Saudi Arabia initially denied any knowledge of his whereabouts after he went missing, but later attempted to blame his death on a team of rogue operatives carrying out a botched rendition operation.

Khashoggi, according to reports by the UN and other independent organizations, was murdered and dismembered, very likely on orders of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.

Al-Saud was speaking to the BBC about the recent attack on the kingdom's oil installation when he took a question on the Khashoggi murder.

He called the attack on the oil installations a "blow for the whole world and world economy, not just Saudi Arabia."

On Saturday, armed drones struck two facilities of Saudi Arabia's oil company Aramco.

Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for the attacks, and U.S. President Donald Trump squarely blaming Iran have raised fears of conflict in the region.





Yemeni Minister Reveals UAE Links with Al-Qaeda, ISIL

Sep 18, 2019

"We have evidence to prove that the UAE has relations with al-Qaeda and ISIL terrorist groups in Yemen," al-Jabwani wrote in his twitter page on Wednesday.

He added that the UAE uses these terrorists to attack the Yemeni army forces and equipment on Shabwah-Abyan road in Southern Yemen.

Al-Jabwani underlined the need for the residents of Shabwah and Abyan provinces to take stance against the UAE and its affiliated terrorists.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia have been supporting the Takfiri terrorist groups in Southern Yemen against the Yemeni popular forces for a long time.

The Yemeni intelligence sources disclosed in 2016 that the country's security forces had gained access to a series of documents and correspondence which prove the UAE's role in supporting Al-Qaeda and other radical terrorists groups in Southern Yemen.

"The documents and letters gained by the Yemeni security forces clearly show that the United Arab Emirates has supported Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups in Yemen, specially in the Southern part of the country," the Arabic-language Emirate al-Youm quoted unnamed Yemeni intelligence officials as saying.

The sources reiterated that the UAE spies had given a lot of cash and weapons to the commanders of the Al-Qaeda and the ISIL in Yemen to conduct their terrorist acts in the Southern Yemeni provinces.

"These documents and intelligence unveil the relations between a UAE intelligence officer with senior commanders of Al-Qaeda and the ISIL in Yemen," they added.



Trump sees many options short of war with Iran after attacks on Saudis

Jeff Mason, Stephen Kalin

SEPTEMBER 18, 2019

LOS ANGELES/JEDDAH (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday there were many options short of war with Iran after U.S. ally Saudi Arabia displayed remnants of drones and missiles it said were used in a crippling attack on its oil sites that was “unquestionably sponsored” by Tehran.

There are many options. There’s the ultimate option and there are options that are a lot less than that. And we’ll see,” Trump told reporters in Los Angeles. “I’m saying the ultimate option meaning go in — war.”

The president struck a cautious note as his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, during a visit to Saudi Arabia, described the attacks as “an act of war” on the kingdom, the world’s largest oil exporter.

Trump said on Twitter that he had ordered the U.S. Treasury to “substantially increase sanctions” on Iran, which denies carrying out the attacks, and told reporters the unspecified, punitive economic measures would be unveiled within 48 hours.

Trump’s tweet followed repeated U.S. assertions that the Islamic Republic was behind Saturday’s attacks and came hours after Saudi Arabia said the strike was a “test of global will”.

Iran again denied involvement in the Sept. 14 raids, which hit the world’s biggest crude oil processing facility and initially knocked out half of Saudi output. Saudi Arabia is the world’s leading oil exporter.

Responsibility was claimed by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group, which on Wednesday gave more details of the raid, saying it was launched from three sites in Yemen.

In a remark that may further strain a tense political atmosphere in the Gulf, the Houthis said they had listed dozens of sites in the United Arab Emirates, Riyadh’s top Arab ally, as possible targets for attacks.


To bolster its assertion that Iran was responsible, Saudi Arabia showed drone and missile debris it said amounted to undeniable evidence of Iranian aggression.

A total of 25 drones and missiles were used in the attacks sponsored by Iran but not launched from Yemen, Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki told a news conference.”The attack was launched from the north and unquestionably sponsored by Iran, he said, adding Iranian Delta Wing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) were used in addition to cruise missiles.

An investigation into the origin of the attacks was still under way and the result will be announced later, he said.

The attack exposed gaps in Saudi air defenses despite billions spent on Western military hardware.

Proof of Iranian responsibility, and evidence that the attack was launched from Iranian territory, could pressure Riyadh and Washington into a response. Both nations, however, were stressing the need for caution.

Trump has previously said he does not want war and is coordinating with Gulf and European states.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, said the strike was a “real test of the global will” to confront subversion of the international order.

His envoy to London, Prince Khalid bin Bander, told the BBC the attack was “almost certainly” Iranian-backed: “We’re trying not to react too quickly because the last thing we need is more conflict in the region.”

The Islamic Republic dismissed the allegations.

They want to impose maximum ... pressure on Iran through slander,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said.

We don’t want conflict in the region ... Who started the conflict?” he added, blaming Washington and its Gulf allies for the war in Yemen.

Yemen’s Houthi movement, battling a Western-backed, Saudi-led coalition for more than four years, said it used drones to assault state oil company Aramco’s sites. U.S. officials, however, have said the attack was not launched by the Houthis.

The raid exposed the vulnerability of Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure and threw down a gauntlet to the United States, which wants to curb Iranian influence in the region.

The attack is like Sept. 11th for Saudi Arabia. It is a game changer,” said one Saudi security analyst.


Visiting Jeddah, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the attacks would be a major focus of next week’s annual U.N. General Assembly meeting and suggested Saudi Arabia could make its case there.

It was an act of war against them directly, and I’m confident they will do that,” he told reporters before meeting the Saudi crown prince, later tweeting that the United States supports Saudi Arabia’s right to defend itself.

The two men “agreed that the Iranian regime must be held accountable for its continued aggressive, reckless, and threatening behavior,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement after their talks.

U.N. officials monitoring sanctions on Iran and Yemen were also heading to Saudi Arabia to investigate. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said a major confrontation in the Gulf would have “devastating consequences” for the region and globally.

France, which is trying to salvage an international nuclear deal with Iran that Washington quit last year, said it wanted to establish the facts before reacting.

A U.S. official told Reuters on Tuesday the strikes originated in southwestern Iran. Three officials said they involved cruise missiles and drones, indicating more complexity and sophistication than initially thought.

Saudi Arabia’s finance minister told Reuters the attack had no impact on revenues and Aramco was continuing to supply markets without interruption.

U.S. efforts to bring about a U.N. Security Council response looked unlikely to succeed as Russia and China have veto powers and were expected to shield Iran.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has offered to sell defense systems to Riyadh, called for a “thorough and impartial” probe during a phone call with Prince Mohammed.


The 2015 nuclear deal ushered in a brief detente in long hostile relations between Iran and the United States. But antagonism returned when Trump pulled out of the pact, reached before he took office, and reimposed sanctions, severely damaging the Iranian economy. Iran has ruled out talks with Washington unless it returns to the pact.

Trump said he is not looking to meet Rouhani at the United Nations next week. Rouhani and his foreign minister may not attend the annual General Assembly at all unless U.S. visas are issued in the coming hours, Iranian state media reported.

Washington and its Gulf allies want Iran to stop supporting regional proxies, including in Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon, as well as to put more limitations on its nuclear and missile programs.



Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei approved Saudi strike: Report

Sep 19, 2019

WASHINGTON: Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei approved last weekend's attack on Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure, CBS News reported Wednesday, citing an unnamed US official. The report came after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, flying to the kingdom, called Saturday's strikes which knocked out half of Saudi crude output an "act of war."

CBS, without giving specifics about the US official or how they obtained the information, said Khamenei approved the attack only on condition that it be carried out in a way to deny Iranian involvement.

US officials quoted said the the most damning evidence against Iran is unreleased satellite photos showing Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps making preparations for the attack at Iran's Ahvaz air base.

The significance of those photos only became clear later, the report said. "We were caught completely off guard," the network quoted a US official as saying.

Iranian state media said Tehran had written to Washington through the Swiss embassy on Monday, denying any role in the attacks and warning it would respond to any action against it.

Tehran-supported Houthis rebels in the kingdom's southern neighbor Yemen have claimed responsibility, but both Washington and Riyadh have ruled that out.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, earlier told AFP the US administration has concluded the attack involved cruise missiles from Iran, and said evidence would be presented at the UN General Assembly next week.

Vice President Mike Pence reiterated President Donald Trump's comments that "we don't want war with anybody, but the United States is prepared."

Trump last year pulled out of a hard-won deal between Tehran and international powers that froze Iran's nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions.

Washington reimposed crippling economic penalties, including against Iran's vital oil sector, and Tehran began taking steps back from the deal.



Iran to hold annual Gulf drills with 200 frigates, speedboats

18 September 2019

Iran will hold its annual military parade on Sept. 22 in the Gulf with 200 frigates and speedboats, the semi-official Iran Front Page website reported on Wednesday, at a time of soaring tension between Tehran and Washington.

The parade will mark the beginning of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980, the IFP said.

The semi-official Fars news agency said it would be a joint manoeuvre with the participation of regular army and elite Revolutionary Guards’ naval forces.

Over 200 vessels of naval forces of the army, the coast guards and the Revolutionary Guards will take part in the parade,” Fars quoted Admiral Mojtaba Mohammadi as saying.

On Sept. 22 last year, 12 Guards members were among 25 people killed when gunmen fired on a viewing stand as military

officials watched a ceremony in the southern city of Ahvaz marking the start of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

US President Donald Trump ordered a major increase in sanctions on Iran on Wednesday as Saudi Arabia displayed remnants of drones and missiles it said were used in an attack on its oil sites “unquestionably sponsored” by Tehran.

Iran again denied involvement in the Sept. 14 raids.



Netanyahu cancels UN visit over post-poll ‘political context’: Officials

18 September 2019

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cancelled his planned visit to the United Nations General Assembly due to the “political context in the country”, sources in his office told AFP Wednesday.

Initial results from Tuesday’s general election show Netanyahu’s Likud party tied with the Blue and White alliance of his main challenger, former army chief Benny Gantz.

Gantz, said on Wednesday it appeared from the exit polls that Israel’s longest-serving leader was defeated but that only official results would tell.

In his own speech to right-wing Likud party faithful, Netanyahu, sipping water frequently and speaking in a hoarse voice, made no claim of victory or concession of defeat, saying he was awaiting a vote tally.

In a related development, Israel’s Arab coalition appears poised to emerge as the main opposition bloc following Tuesday’s election, a historic first that would grant a new platform to a long-marginalized minority.



Yemen’s Houthis threaten to attack targets in the United Arab Emirates

18 September 2019

Yemen’s Houthi militia, which claims it was behind the weekend attack on Saudi oil facilities, said on Wednesday it has dozens of sites located in the United Arab Emirates listed as possible targets for attacks.

A military spokesman of the Iran-back militia group said the Houthis have new drones, powered by “normal and jet engines” that can reach targets deep in Saudi Arabia.

Arab Coalition Spokesperson Colonel Turki al-Maliki said on Wednesday that Saturday's attacks on two of Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities were “unquestionably sponsored by Iran” and “did not originate from Yemen despite Iran's best efforts to make it appear so.”

On Saturday drone attacks caused fires at two Saudi Aramco facilities, in Abqaiq and Hijrat Khurais oilfield. He said those attacks are an extension of attacks on Afif and Dawadmi which occurred on May 14.

US intelligence shows that the attack originated from Iran and the Arab Coalition’s preliminary findings showed the weapons were made by Iran.



Minister says US sanctions on Iran hit Turkey worst

Sep 18, 2019

Turkey’s Minister for Trade Ruhsar Pekcan says her country has been the worst hit by a series of American sanctions imposed on Iran.

Pekcan told a gathering of Iranian businessmen and government officials in Ankara that Turkey has lost more in trade revenues than any other country since Washington imposed its sanctions on Iran in November.

"Turkey has been the most affected by the sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran,” said Pekcan, according to comments covered on the website of the Turkish newspaper Sabah and a similar report by Iran’s official IRNA news agency.

The minister said, however, that Ankara would continue to seek to expand its trade ties with Tehran despite the American pressures.

Turkey and Iran had been eyeing a major jump in bilateral trade before the sanctions started as a target of 30-billion in exchanges had been set in various documents signed by top officials of the neighboring countries.

Sanction has affected the trade, however, with current exchanges estimated to be around $12 billion. The hit of the bans has been mostly felt in Turkey’s import of energy and petrochemicals from Iran.

Iranian authorities said earlier this year that exports to Turkey had significantly decreased in June and July, allowing Ankara to post a surplus in trade with Iran for a first time in years.

Pekcan told the Wednesday meeting attended by the head of the office of the Iranian president Mahmoud Vaezi that Turkey and Iran would still be able to move toward the $30bn goal in bilateral trade given opportunities that could arise from a preferential trade agreement between the two countries.

She said a total of 166 Turkish companies have remained active in Iran despite the US sanctions while bringing to the country a total of $1.3 billion in investment.



Palestinians ready for dialogue with any future Israeli leader

September 18, 2019

OSLO: The Palestinians are prepared to engage in dialogue with any future Israeli leader, Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki said Wednesday in Oslo, the day after general elections in Israel ended in deadlock.

Whoever will be able to form a government, we are ready to sit with him or her in order to restart the negotiations,” Al-Maliki told reporters after the elections ended in a tie between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main challenger Benny Gantz.

Al-Maliki is accompanying Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas on a two-day visit to Oslo.

Their trip comes ahead of a meeting next week in New York of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee of donors to the Palestinians, headed by Norway.

The tied vote in Israel raised the prospect of tough negotiations to build a unity government or even the end of Netanyahu’s long rule.

Sources in Netanyahu’s office told AFP he was canceling a planned trip next week to the UN General Assembly due to the “political context” in Israel.

Al-Maliki on Wednesday reiterated the Palestinian Authority’s insistence on a two-state solution for peace, after Netanyahu’s deeply controversial campaign pledge to annex the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank.

The plan, which would cover around a third of the territory, would not annex Palestinian cities such as Jericho, but they would effectively be surrounded.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned that the plan would violate international law, with his spokesman saying: “Such steps, if implemented... would be devastating to the potential of reviving negotiations and regional peace, while severely undermining the viability of the two-state solution.”



UN chief rejects claim he didn’t condemn China over Muslims

19 September 2019

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has strongly rejected claims by five human rights groups that he hasn’t condemned the Chinese government’s detention of more than a million Muslims in the Xinjiang region, saying he has spoken out forcefully.

I don’t think anyone has been more persistent and more clear in talking to the Chinese authorities in relation to this issue than myself,” he told reporters Wednesday. “It is absolutely not true that I’ve only done discreet diplomacy.”

On the contrary, Guterres said that during his visit to Beijing in April, he “not only did raise the issue,” but he “made it public.”

The five rights groups said in a letter to the secretary-general circulated Tuesday that he would make an important contribution to addressing “one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time” by speaking out against China’s internment of the Uighurs and members of other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups and calling for the immediate closure of detention camps for them.

The letter was signed by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists, the International Federation for Human Rights, and the World Uyghur Conference.

Guterres said he told the Chinese “that it is very important to act in a way that each community feels that their identity is respected and that they belong, at the same time, to the society as a whole.”

There couldn't be a more clear message,” he said. “So, if there is an area where I believe I’ve been doing publicly much more than many other leaders around the world (it) is this.”

Guterres said he will continue acting to guarantee that “all human rights in all circumstances are fully respected in that situation.”

Does that mean detention centers should be closed? “It will mean to do everything that is necessary for human rights to be respected,” Guterres replied.

Criticism has grown over China’s internment of the Uighurs and other Muslims, and Guterres has been criticized previously by human rights groups and some governments for his behind-the-scenes approach and failure to address their plight publicly.

China’s government insists the detention sites are “vocational” centers aimed at training and skills development. It has sharply criticized 22 Western countries that called for an end to mass arbitrary detentions and other abuses of Uighurs and other Muslims in the Xinjiang region.

In a report earlier this year to counter criticism of internment camps and other oppressive security in the traditionally Islamic region, China said it had arrested nearly 13,000 people it described as “terrorists” and had broken up hundreds of “terrorist gangs” in Xinjiang since 2014.



Liam Fox: Britain must accept that Iran nuclear deal is 'dead'


Britain must accept the Iran nuclear deal is “dead” and join America in trying to force Tehran back to the negotiating table, former defence secretary Liam Fox said tonight.

Mr Fox, who was in the cabinet until July, will use a speech in Washington to warn that the 2015 agreement was "flawed" from the start and that attempts to keep it alive are "futile".

The intervention is effectively a call for Boris Johnson to join Donald Trump in withdrawing from the deal and comes amid escalating tensions in the wake of the attack on two Saudi oil facilities.

Iran’s supreme leader on Tuesday ruled out talks with US officials “at any level”, appearing to end hopes of a meeting between Mr Trump and Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president, at the United Nations in New York next week.

Meanwhile King Salman of Saudi Arabia spoke for the first time since the drone attack over the weekend, calling on fellow world leaders to deliver a united message of condemnation.

He called on the international community "to shoulder its responsibility in condemning the perpetrators" and "clearly confronting" those behind it.

The threat of imminent military action appeared to have faded, for now at least, as the Trump administration sought proof to back up its suspicion that Iran was behind the attacks.

Since pulling the US out of the Iran nuclear deal, which was struck by his predecessor Barack Obama, Mr Trump and his officials have attempted to lobby other signatories to do likewise.

Britain has remained in the pact, which swapped the cessation of Iran’s nuclear programme for sanctions relief, along with France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union, as well as Iran itself.

But since Mr Johnson became prime minister there has been renewed lobbying from the US administration to move Britain closer to the its position and perhaps even leave the deal entirely.

Mr Fox, who was international trade secretary until the summer and remains well-connected in Republican circles, will reveal his opposition to the deal today in a speech to the Heritage Foundation, a right-leaning think tank.

Following the decision of President Trump to withdraw, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is dead and European attempts to salvage it are futile," Mr Fox writes in a piece for The Telegraph’s website previewing the speech.

"Britain should follow the US lead and operate a policy that would reduce Iranian oil exports to zero in an attempt to force a change of behaviour from the Khamenei regime.

"The agreement has been shown to give scant, and only short term, reduction in Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons. The original aim of halting Iran’s nuclear weapon programme now offers merely a delay with the problem left as a toxic legacy to future governments."

Saturday's drone attack on Abqaiq - the world's largest processing plant - and the Khurais oilfield have knocked out 5.7 million barrels per day (bpd), or six percent of global total, making it the biggest disruption to oil production in modern history.

Iran has denied it launched the attacks, with the Houthi rebels in Yemen - who Tehran backs - claiming responsibility.

But the Saudi defences failed to stop the missiles because they were pointing South to prevent an attack from Yemen, according to a senior US official talking to CBS News - raising suspicions the attack came from elsewhere.

The strike has intensified tensions between Iran and the Saudis. It has also decreased the chance of Mr Trump pivoting and seeking a new nuclear deal with Iran after years of its “maximum pressure” campaign.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s highest authority, said: "Iranian officials, at any level, will never talk to American officials.”

He added: "If America changes its behaviour and returns to the nuclear deal, then it can join multilateral talks between Iran and other parties to the deal.”

Mike Pence, the US vice president, tweeted:

Vice President Mike Pence


America’s maximum pressure campaign against the Iranian regime is working. And if Iran conducted this attack to pressure the President to back off, they will fail.


9:58 PM - Sep 17, 2019

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Mr Johnson talked to Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, on Tuesday and agreed a “collective response” was needed over the attack, according to a read-out from Downing Street.

Meanwhile Germany is set to extend its embargo on weapons sales to Saudi Arabia for a further six months, despite calls in Berlin to ease the ban over growing tensions in the Gulf.

I see no reason to change the government’s position on this matter,” Ms Merkel said on Tuesday, effectively shutting down calls from her own MPs to lift the ban.


Johnson, Trump discuss need for a united diplomatic response to Saudi attacks

18 September 2019

US President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson discussed on Wednesday the need for a “united diplomatic response” to the attack on Saudi oil installations, Downing Street said without mentioning a military option.

They condemned the attacks and discussed the need for a united diplomatic response from international partners. They also spoke about Iran and agreed that they must not be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon,” the British leader’s office said in a statement.

In Riyadh, Saudi Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki said the attack could not have come from Yemen, adding the Houthi militia group was “covering up” for Iran.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who landed in Jeddah to discuss the matter with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, described strikes on key Saudi oil installations as an “act of war”, reiterating that it was an “Iranian attack”.


Germany extends anti-ISIS surveillance flights, training

18 September 2019

Germany on Wednesday extended by one year its military contribution to the multinational coalition against ISIS terrorist group but decided to end its Tornado reconnaissance flights in six months.

Although ISIS has lost the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria, underground militant cells are still considered a major threat in the war-ravaged region.

Germany has been taking high-resolution images of potential ISIS targets for the coalition, using Tornado fighter-jets based in Jordan, and has also provided aerial refueling to partner nations.

The air force part of the mission will end next March 31 under a compromise deal reached between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and her junior coalition partners the Social Democrats, who wanted to end the deployment now.

The German military will however continue until October 31, 2020 the training of security forces in Baghdad and in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq.



Bosnia’s capital to host international halal fair

Talha Ozturk and Alma Cekovic



A three-day international halal industry exhibition will open in the Bosnia and Herzegovina's capital Sarajevo on Sept. 26.

The Sarajevo Halal Fair (SHF), which will be held for the second time in Sarajevo, is expected to host around 100 exhibitors from 30 countries.

Anadolu Agency is the global communication partner for the event, which is organized by Bosna Bank International (BBI).

Amer Bukvic, BBI’s chief executive officer, said more participants will attend the fair compared to the previous one.

"The fair makes Sarajevo the center of Europe in the field of halal production," said Bukvic.

Damir Alihodzic, the head of Agency for Halal Quality Certification in Bosnia and Herzegovina, said since they started operations in the countries of the region, 141 companies have received halal food certification.

The fair will enable the participants from the Balkan countries -- including Serbia, Slovenia and Albania -- as well as from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Malaysia and the EU countries to introduce halal food products.



South Asia


Afghanistan war: Taliban tell Trump their 'doors are open'

18 September 2019

The Taliban have told the BBC that their "doors are open" should US President Donald Trump want to resume peace talks in the future.

Chief negotiator Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai insisted negotiation remained "the only way for peace in Afghanistan" during an exclusive interview.

Mr Stanikzai's words came a week after Mr Trump declared the talks "dead".

Earlier this month, the two sides had appeared close to a deal to end the 18-year conflict.

Mr Trump had even invited senior Taliban leaders and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to meet at Camp David on 8 September.

But a Taliban attack in the Afghan capital Kabul on 6 September, which killed a US soldier and 11 others, prompted Mr Trump to pull out, saying the group "probably don't have the power to negotiate" if they were unable to agree to a ceasefire during talks.

Late on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement condemning recent Taliban attacks, saying the group "must begin to demonstrate a genuine commitment to peace".

Mr Stanikzai dismissed American concerns, telling the BBC the Taliban had done nothing wrong.

"They killed thousands of Talibans according to them," he told the BBC's chief international correspondent, Lyse Doucet. "But in the meantime, if one [US] soldier has been killed that doesn't mean they should show that reaction because there is no ceasefire from both sides."

"From our side, our doors are open for negotiations," he added. "So we hope the other side also rethink their decision regarding the negotiation."

What did the deal include?

The full and exact details are not known.

However, Zalmay Khalilzad, Washington's top negotiator, revealed some details of the agreement "in principle" - including the US withdrawing 5,400 troops from Afghanistan within 20 weeks - during a television interview on 3 September.

In exchange for the troop withdrawal, the Taliban were willing to pledge that Afghanistan would never again be used as a base for foreign terrorism.

Mr Stanikzai told the BBC a ceasefire between the Taliban and foreign troops would have come into effect after the agreement was signed.

However, no such ceasefire would have existed between the Taliban and Afghan government forces, he said.

The Taliban - who are now in control of more territory than at any point since US-led forces ousted them in 2001 - do not recognise the legitimacy of President Ashraf Ghani's administration. They have refused to hold direct talks with the Afghan government until a US deal is agreed.

Mr Stanikzai said intra-Afghan talks would have started on 23 September, had a deal been reached, and would have included discussions about a wider ceasefire.

He also confirmed that the Taliban had approached both Russia and China for help in the peace negotiations.

Meanwhile the Afghan national security advisor said that Taliban "intimidation tactics" would not succeed.

"The only way they can see peace in Afghanistan is by negotiating with the Afghan government," Dr Hamdullah Mohibt told the BBC.

He added: "Open discussions with our neighbours, those who are sponsoring and supporting the Taliban - that needs to be at the front of our discussions, not the back of it."

What is the security situation in Afghanistan?

An average of 74 people were killed every day in the country in August, according to data collected by the BBC.

Without a deal, attacks are continuing unabated. Two suicide bombers on Tuesday left at least 48 people dead. Medical staff said children were among the casualties at an election rally targeted by one bomber. President Ghani had been due to speak ahead of elections later this month.

Both attacks were claimed by the Taliban.

However, when pressed on the high civilian death toll, Mr Stanikzai blamed "foreign forces", citing United Nations statistics which show more civilians were killed by Afghan and US forces in the first half of 2019 than by insurgents.

He also defended the Taliban for taking shelter in civilian homes, and refused to be drawn on the many direct Taliban attacks which had killed ordinary men, women and children.



Hasina-Modi talks in New York: Bangladesh doesn't see NRC as problem

19 Sep 2019

Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen has said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi will discuss all the "problems" in the bilateral relations in New York meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

But he said the government does not see the Assam's citizenship exercise or NRC as a "problem".

"It's an internal matter of India," he reiterated, "But there are concerns in Bangladesh".

The foreign minister was briefing media on Wednesday about the visit.

The meeting in New York will be held a week before their bilateral meeting in New Delhi on October 5 when Hasina will be on an official visit to India.

Asked whether they will discuss NRC issue in the New York meeting, the foreign minister said the prime minister will raise "all the problems" in New York, and details will be discussed there.

Asked whether the government considers NRC as a problem, he replied, "We don't consider it as a problem. It's an internal matter of India".

"But many in Bangladesh have expressed their concerns," he said.

The foreign minister earlier said he is not worried about the NRC where nearly 2 million people have been left off a citizens’ list.

Indian foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar also conveyed to him that it’s an “internal matter” of India.

Bangladesh will not face any problem, Momen had said citing Jaishankar.

India's northeastern state of Assam, after a mammoth years-long exercise to check illegal immigration from neighbouring Muslim-majority Bangladesh, released the list earlier on Saturday with 1.9 million people excluded.

There are concerns in Bangladesh about Assam’s NRC as many fears those finally deemed illegal after on completion of the appeal process might be pushed into Bangladesh which is grappling with the Rohingya refugee crisis.

Bangladesh and India are currently enjoying the best of relations.

Over 100 agreements have been signed in the last 10 years, 68 of which were concluded in the last three years alone.

The decades-old land boundary and maritime issues have been solved, but the equitable share of the Teesta river water remains unresolved.


Suicide bomb in southern Afghanistan kills at least 20

September 19, 2019

A powerful early morning suicide truck bomb devastated a hospital in southern Afghanistan on Thursday, killing at least 20 people and wounding more than 90 others, an official said.

The Taliban took responsibility for the attack, which destroyed part of the hospital in Qalat, the capital of southern Zabul province, and left a fleet of ambulances broken and battered.

Residents, many of whom had come to see their sick family members, used shawls and blankets to carry the wounded inside the destroyed building, while authorities scrambled to take the worst of the wounded to hospitals in nearby Kandahar.

In the early hours after the explosion there were contradictory figures of the dead and wounded. The provincial governor's spokesman Gul Islam Seyal put the death toll at 12 but said authorities were on the scene sifting through the debris. Atta Jan Haqbayan, head of the provincial council, put the death toll at 20.

The Taliban, who have been carrying out nearly daily attacks since peace talks with the United States collapsed earlier this month, said the target was a nearby government intelligence department building.

Haqbayan said the wall of the National Security Department (NDS) building was damaged. He couldn't say whether any personnel were among the casualties.



Car bomb attack kills 10 in southern Afghanistan: Governor

19 September 2019

A car bomb attack targeting an intelligence services building in the southern Afghan city of Qalat on Thursday left at least 10 people dead and 85 wounded, the governor of Zabul province told AFP.

This morning a car bomb targeted the NDS in Qalat of Zabul. The regional hospital of Zabul was also located there and has been destroyed in the attack,” said Rahmatullah Yarmal.

The bombing was later claimed by a Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, who said the attack was against the National Directorate of Security.

The blast in Zabul is just the latest in a string of deadly Taliban bombings across the country as violence intensifies before the end of the summer fighting season.

The increase in fighting also comes after US President Donald Trump earlier this month abruptly ended talks with the Taliban following nearly a year of seeking a deal that would have allowed the US to begin withdrawing troops from its longest war.

Trump’s declaration that the talks were “dead” spurred the Taliban to declare last week that the only other option was more fighting, sparking fears of more attacks ahead of presidential elections at the end of the month.

A BBC investigation released on Monday claimed that 74 people were killed every day on average in August, with 611 incidents resulting in 2,307 deaths.



Air Force foils Taliban bid to detonate Tanker truck and car packed with explosives

18 Sep 2019

The security forces foiled Taliban bid to detonate a Tanker truck and car packed with explosives in South-eastern Paktiya province.

The 203rd Thunder Corps said in a statement the Air Forces conducted an airstrike in Zurmat district which destroyed a Tanker truck and car packed with explosives.

The statement further added that the Taliban militants were intending to detonate the two Vehicle-borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIEDs) in an unknown location.

Furthermore, the 203rd Thunder Corps said the security forces conducted the airstrike based on an accurate intelligence tip which also destroyed a cache of weapons and ammunitions.

The 203rd Thunder Corps also added that the airstrike killed 3 Taliban militants as well but did not inflict casualties on anyone else.



Explosion close to Ghani’s election rally in Parwan leaves 26 dead and 42 wounded

17 Sep 2019

An explosion outside the election rally of Ashraf Ghani killed more than 26 people in Parwan province.

According to reports, the explosion took place moments before President Ghani start his speech.

An official in Parwan Provincial Hospital confirmed that the explosion killed at least 26 people and wounded around 42 others.

The local officials had earlier confirmed that an improvised explosive device planted in a security vehicle went off close to the entrance gate of the compound where the rally is organized.

Wahida Shakar, a spokesperson for provincial government had earlier said a magnetic bomb went off close to the election rally compound.



Prominent Taliban leader Qari Abdullah dies of wounds from an airstrike

18 Sep 2019

Qari Abdullah alias Asadullah, one of the most prominent leaders of Taliban in Jawzjan province has succumbed to injures he had sustained in an airstrike a while ago.

The 209th Shaheen Corps said in a statement that Qari Abdullah was main commander of the Taliban in Khamab district of Jawzjan province.

The statement further added that Qari Abdullah sustained injuries in airstrike in Aqcha district a while ago.

Qari Abdullah died of his wounds on Tuesday, the 209th Shaheen Corps said, adding that he was involved in major terrorist related activities against the civilians and security personnel in Jawzjan.



Taliban: Doors are open to resuming talks with US

Sep 18, 2019

The Taliban says its “doors are open” to resuming talks with the United States following the collapse of negotiations between Washington and the Afghan militant group earlier this month.

From our side, our doors are open for negotiations,” Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, the chief Taliban negotiator, said on Wednesday.

He insisted that negotiation remained “the only way for peace in Afghanistan.”

Stanikzai also defended the Taliban’s role in recent fighting across Afghanistan after US President Donald Trump cited an attack that killed an American soldier as his reason for calling off the negotiations earlier this month.

Stanikzai argued that the Americans had also admitted to killing thousands of Taliban militants during the talks.

Under a draft accord that the two sides had agreed to before the talks were ceased, thousands of US troops would have been pulled out over the next few months in exchange for Taliban guarantees.

But last week Trump revealed he had cancelled an unprecedented meeting between the Taliban and himself secretly scheduled for Camp David.

Speaking at a memorial service marking the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Trump said the two sides “had peace talks scheduled a few days ago” but upon learning about the killing of “a great American soldier from Puerto Rico and 11 other innocent people”, he had “called them off.”

The Taliban, which now control or have influence in about half of Afghanistan’s territory, have held several rounds of direct talks with US officials in the Qatari capital Doha since October.

The negotiations take place almost 18 years after the US invaded Afghanistan to overthrow a ruling Taliban regime. US troops were first sent to Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks.

Nearly 20,000 foreign troops, most of them Americans, are currently deployed in Afghanistan as part of a mission to purportedly train, assist, and advise Afghan security forces.

Bomber, gunmen hit government office in eastern Afghanistan

In a separate development on Wednesday, a bomber and gunmen wounded at least nine people, including a woman and a child, in an attack on a government building in eastern Afghanistan.

The attackers detonated explosives before gunmen poured into the building in the city of Jalalabad.

The office is a distribution center for national identity cards, which people need to vote in the upcoming presidential election in 10 days.

Afghan security forces surrounded the building and are clashing with the attackers in a bid to counter the attack,” said Sohrab Qaderi, a member of the Nangarhar provincial council.

On Tuesday, a series of attacks left over two dozen people dead at a rally for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in the central province of Parwan. Twenty-two people were also killed in a blast in Kabul just over an hour later.

More violence is expected in the coming days as Afghans prepare for the election on September 28, which the Taliban has promised to disrupt.

We already warned people not to attend election rallies. If they suffer any losses that is their own responsibility,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement released after Tuesday’s blasts.



Global body warns of looming food crisis in Rohingya camps

September 19, 2019

DHAKA: The world’s largest humanitarian organization on Wednesday made an urgent appeal for donations to help plug a $40 million (SR150 million) shortfall in funding to feed nearly 900,000 Rohingya refugees.

With stocks expected to run out within two months, the World Food Programme (WFP) warned of an imminent food crisis in squalid camps at Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh unless donors released more funds soon.

Hervé Verhoosel, spokesman for the UN’s food-assistance arm, told journalists in Geneva on Friday that it cost the organization about $16 million every month to feed the Rohingya refugees.

The UN’s Joint Response Plan (JRP) was launched earlier this year to raise $920 million for the Rohingya humanitarian crisis. According to the financial tracking system of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), only 38 percent of the target had been raised so far this year.

Out of the funds released by donors, around 35.8 percent were used for food security while 17.3 percent and 34.7 percent were allocated to health and nutrition respectively.

We have two months’ worth of food in stock and have a funding shortfall of around $40 million for the period of August to January,” Gemma Snowdon, WFP spokeswoman at Cox’s Bazar, told Arab News.

The JRP is only around one-third funded which means that the implementation of programs will suffer this year. Funding is always a concern for aid organizations, especially as we’re two years into this crisis,” she said.

The WFP needs $24 million a month to sustain its operations in Cox’s Bazar which includes $16 million to feed people. The organization also undertakes engineering and disaster risk-reduction work at the camps and runs nutrition, livelihoods and school feeding programs for the Rohingya refugees.

The funding shortfall has also created concern among other aid agencies which have been working on the ground there since August 2017.

As the largest responder in all 34 camps, we have been working closely with the Inter Sector Coordination Group and working in every area of humanitarian assistance in the Rohingya camps. We will discuss the funding issues at the next JRP meeting which will take place shortly,” said Sajedur Hasan, director of BRAC, a Bangladeshi non-government organization.

BRAC has been working for the well-being of the Rohingya from the very beginning of the refugee crisis, employing more than 2,000 staff to provide humanitarian assistance.

We don’t have any contingency plan regarding the food support program,” Hasan said.

Bangladesh is currently hosting more than 1.1 million Rohingya refugees at camps in Cox’s Bazar, after a majority of them fled the Myanmar army from their Rakhine state homeland in August 2017.





To Build a New Sudan, Take It Off the U.S. Terror List

By Bobby Ghosh

September 18, 2019

The most useful thing President Donald Trump’s administration can do immediately for Sudan is to take it off the State Department’s list of nations that sponsor terrorism. That designation severely restricts the country’s access to international aid, foreign investment and remittances, all critical to the survival of the new civilian-led government and to hopes for a smooth democratic transition in Khartoum.

But the White House should be mindful of the mistakes made by the administrations of Barack Obama and George W. Bush, which were too eager — and too credulous — in de-listing Cuba and North Korea. And it should learn the lesson of the American experience with Myanmar, where economic sanctions were removed too soon.   

Sudan has been a designated sponsor of terror since 1993, and its new foreign minister, Asmaa Abdalla, has made it her top priority to get her country off the list. She has Egypt’s support, a welcome sign of improved relations between the long-squabbling neighbors. Gulf Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, keen to invest in Sudan, would welcome the removal of any restraints.

The most powerful argument for de-listing comes from Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, a former United Nations economist. He has promised to heal the economy, a program he reckons will need $8 billion in foreign aid in the next two years and another $2 billion deposited as reserves to boost the sagging Sudanese pound.

Delivering on his promise is Hamdok’s best defense against revanchism by the Sudanese military leadership, which agreed to a transitional government only under international pressure. The popular uprising that toppled the long-time military dictator Omar al-Bashir in April was fired as much by dissatisfaction with the economy as by a hunger for political freedoms.

The U.S. is not averse to de-listing Sudan: Indeed, Obama had begun the process at the tail end of his presidency; and before the uprising caused it to hesitate, the Trump administration had begun discussing de-listing as part of a counter-terrorism agreement with Khartoum.

If everyone is agreed, the de-listing of Sudan is a gimme, right? Not so fast.

The recent history of the list is not promising. President Bush removed North Korea in 2008, to save a nuclear deal that Pyongyang likely had no intention of honoring. Two years later, the Obama administration was threatening redesignation; Trump would follow through on that threat in 2017.

For his part, Obama de-listed Cuba in 2015, as part of his resumption of diplomatic relations. But Cuba’s failure to deliver on the promise — implied, if not stated — of political reform, not to mention its support of deepening repression in Venezuela, has recently prompted the Trump administration to consider imposing sanctions afresh.

But arguably the most cautionary of the cautionary tales in this regard is Myanmar, which was never on the list of terrorism sponsors, but under stiff economic sanctions during the long period of military dictatorship — not unlike Sudan’s. In 2012, the Obama administration began to loosen the sanctions after the start of a democratic transition — again, not unlike Sudan’s. In yet another parallel, this was welcomed by Myanmar’s neighbors.

Sure enough, investment and aid flowed. But the military retained considerable power, and soon thereafter, in cahoots with the elected government, it unleashed a campaign of terror against the long-suffering minority Rohingya community that turned into a genocide that continues to this day. In an embarrassing about-face, the U.S. was obliged to withdraw military assistance to Myamnar, and the Trump administration has had to impose sanctions on the military leadership.

How to prevent that from happening in Sudan? Delisting cannot be a half measure: Donors and investors will need a clear signal from Washington that it is safe to back the new government. At the same time, the Trump administration needs to keep a close eye on the generals, and ensure that they don’t change their minds about the democratic process.

The challenge for the U.S. is to make clear to Sudan’s top brass that any mischief will be met with swift sanctions, on individual officers and anybody who does business with them. (Punishing Myanmar’s generals might have an exemplary effect.) If this means donors and investors are cautious about associating with the military, that is no bad thing. Sudan’s economy will benefit from a more vibrant private sector, its polity from more active nongovernmental organizations.



Libya: Haftar hit GNA-aligned forces fighting ISIS in Sirte

September 17, 2019

Khalifa Haftar, the Libyan military commander, has pounded positions of ally forces of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in the city of Sirte formerly controlled by the Islamic state group, ISIS.

The three air raids were launched Friday, Libyan Express reports, adding that two strikes hit the Sirte Protection Force’s personnel, killing at least two and injuring 18.

Meanwhile, a military source from Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) told Sputnik Monday that at least 32 people were killed and over 50 were severely injured in the airstrikes on Sirte.

The Sirte Protection Forces, SPF, believe some of the airstrikes were conducted by foreign drones.

The SPF condemned the raids noting that they hindered its efforts in fighting ISIS and its sleeper cells as well as Gaddafi loyalists willing to create chaos in the coastal city.

The SPF also laid into the alleged involvement of foreign drones in the raids as it called on “all Libyans and international community to condemn the foreign strikes on its forces”, Libya Express notes.

Likewise, the High Council of State (HCS) has expressed deep concern over the airstrikes targeting the Libyan Army forces, assigned to protect and secure the city of Sirte.

These foreign-operated airstrikes on Libyan territory, in support of the criminal gangs led by war criminal Haftar, demonstrate his intention to expand the circle of conflict and wars in Libya,” the HCS stated.

It added that the targeting of the SPF, which serves as an effective barrier against the threat of ISIS, shows the desire of these gangs, and the countries behind them, to bring back terrorism to Sirte and the whole region.”

Sirte, home to former leader Muammar Gaddafi, became from 2014 ISIS’s stronghold in Africa. The GNA forces backed by US air forces regained the city in 2016.

The latest incidents complicate further the Libyan crisis and UN efforts to unite both parties.

Libya, divided since the fall of Gaddafi in 2011, has been further cracked early this year after Haftar launched a surprise campaign to capture Tripoli in an effort, he claimed, to drive out terrorists and armed gangs.



13 al-Shabab militants killed in offensive in southern Somalia


MOGADISHU, Sept. 18 (Xinhua) -- Security forces in southern Somalia on Tuesday killed 13 al-Shabab fighters during an operation in the Lower Juba region, an official said on Wednesday.

Abdi Nur Ibrahim Hussein, Jubbaland security forces spokesman told journalists that the offensive was carried out by the Somali army and Jubbaland state forces in many villages in Jamame town as the forces inflicted severe casualties on the militants and drove them out of the town.

Our forces moved from Bar Sanguni area passing through many villages in Jamame and the fiercest resistance from the militants happened in Koban village, but we finally defeated the extremists killing 13 of them and burnt their vehicles and recovered many weapons and ammunition," Hussein said.

"Three of our soldiers sustained injuries during the operation in which we captured many villages in Jamame including Koban," he added. Locals reported witnessing intense clashes in the town.

"Government forces entered Jamame town conducting operations and there was intense clashes between the militants and the army that caused panic among the residents, but the army is now in the town and al-Shabab fighters withdrew from it," Ahmed Awale, a local inhabitant told Xinhua through phone.

The latest offensive came barely three days after Somali forces killed nine al-Shabab militants in Qoryoley town in the southern region of Somalia.

Southern regions of Somalia have been a theatre of clashes between al-Shabab extremists and government army after the militants were chased out from the capital Mogadishu in August 2011 by Amison forces and the Somali army.



Tunisia presidential candidate Nabil Karoui to stay in jail

19 September 2019

A fresh appeal for the release of jailed media mogul Nabil Karoui who has reached a runoff in Tunisia’s presidential polls was turned down on Wednesday, his lawyers said.

The judge has refused to give a ruling, saying it was not in his jurisdiction,” lawyer Kamel Ben Messoud said, after requesting his release the previous day.

We will appeal,” he told AFP.

The court did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation.

Karoui, a 56-year-old media magnate, is under investigation for alleged money laundering and has been in pretrial detention since August 23.

Lawyer Nazih Souii said it was the third time a judge had said the matter was beyond his jurisdiction.

The court of appeals refused to pass judgement on September 3, as did the court of cassation on September 13.

Tunisia’s electoral commission, ISIE, has confirmed Karoui made it to the presidential runoff along with law professor Kais Saied following Sunday’s first round vote.

Karoui remains eligible to run despite his imprisonment, as long as any conviction does not also specifically deprive him of his civil rights, according to ISIE.

He campaigned through the Nessma television channel he founded. ISIE has said it is investigating alleged electoral violations, including by Nessma TV.

Depending on potential appeals, the second round could be staged on October 6, the same day as legislative elections, or on October 13, ISIE said.

Observers from the European Union said the first round has been “transparent.”

But it called for the candidates to have the “same opportunities” to campaign, in an apparent allusion to Karoui.



Somali army liberates 3 villages from al-Shabaab

Mohammed Dhaysane 



Somali army has liberated at least three villages from al-Shabaab militant group in the country’s southwestern region of Bay on Wednesday, officials said.

Nour Ali Mohamed, acting commander of the Somali military’s 154th battalion, told media that Somali forces liberated Rahole, Biyo-dhale and Bandhub villages from al-Shabaab after an operation against the group in the region.

During our operation, we have killed several al-Shabaab militants and wounded several others,” Mohamed added.

Ibrahim Mohamed Nour Shigshigow, the mayor of Dinsor town, said the operation will continue until the Bay region is cleared of al-Shabaab militants.

The operation came days after bomb explosion near a police station in Dinsor town, which left at least five people dead and four others injured.



Bomb blast in Mogadishu kills 3, wounds 6

Mohammed Dhaysane 



Bbomb blast killed at least three people, including civilians and soldiers, in Somalia on Wednesday, officials confirmed.

The explosion targeted a Somali lawmaker and a recently opened restaurant in the capital Mogadishu, also leaving six others wounded, Mohamed Bulle, a police officer in Mogadishu, told Anadolu Agency over the phone.

The explosion was a car bomb attack that targeted multiple vehicles including the vehicle of lower house MP Abdukadir Arabow and a restaurant,” Bulle said.

The wounded were rushed to hospitals for treatment, the police officer said. Police launched an investigation into the incident.

According to local media, Arabow survived the attack, while his bodyguards were among the casualties.

Medical sources also confirmed the casualties to Anadolu Agency over the phone.

Al-Qaeda linked group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the deadly blast.



Nigerian children targeted by both Boko Haram and army

September 19, 2019

Children are being doubly victimised in northeast Nigeria’s decade-long insurgency, according to a rights group, as they’re vulnerable to abduction by factions of Islamic militant group Boko Haram, and also likely to be locked up afterwards by the Nigerian military.

The United Nations says more than 3,600 children, including 1,617 girls, were detained between January 2013 and March 2019 under suspicion of being involved with non-state armed groups. Tens of thousands of children are believed to have been kidnapped by militants during this time.

Anietie Ewang, the Nigeria researcher for US-based Human Rights Watch, told The Irish Times she recently interviewed 32 children who had spent time in Giwa Barracks, an infamous prison near Maiduguri, in Borno State. They were all held for suspected Boko Haram involvement and the youngest was just 10 years old.

Some described being beaten by soldiers after they were arrested or during interrogations.

Severe overcrowding

We found that many children were detained after attacks on their village by Boko Haram. When they fled with members of their community to seek safety, the Nigerian security services arrested them as suspected Boko Haram members,” she said.

Many of them spoke about the suffering in detention, the conditions that they described were appalling. When they spoke to us you could see it was very difficult for them to remember their time in military detention. Children described severe overcrowding with about 200-300 detainees in a small cell. They said there was so little room for them at night to sleep they had to sleep on their sides,” Ms Ewang said.

One child interviewee described being crammed into a cell like “razorblades in a pack”.

Fifteen of the 32 were imprisoned for more than one year, while some were detained for more than three years. They weren’t allowed to contact family members while in detention.

Stigmatised afterwards

Nearly half of those who spoke to Human Rights Watch said they had seen the bodies of other detainees who had succumbed to illness at Giwa Barracks.

The experience affected the children badly, said Ms Ewang.

Now they’re struggling to go back to school, to start businesses and have a source of income. They complain there is no support for them from the government,” Ms Ewang said. Some are stigmatised afterwards and called “Boko Haram wives” by others in camps for displaced people.

There’s no legal process as far as we know. None of the children were ever brought before any sort of judicial process.”

The researcher said abductions are still continuing, though on a smaller scale than previous years, and that there’s “no real way of knowing” the total number of children that have been abducted during the conflict.

The truth is in conflicts like this vulnerable groups suffer the most impact, and in this case we’re seeing children doubly victimised by Boko Haram and then the Nigerian army through these detentions. Children should be treated as victims and not perpetrators, regardless of the context in which they’ve been apprehended.”



North America


AJC National Interreligious Mission Engages Muslim Leaders in Chicago

September 19, 2019

CHICAGO, Sept. 18, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- An AJC leadership delegation met with key Muslim organizations and individuals in Chicago. The two-day visit was part of AJC's national "listening tour" aimed at deepening engagement with American Muslim community institutions and leaders.

"Jews and Muslims are natural allies in the United States to fight bigotry against both groups and protect our shared democratic freedoms," said Ari Gordon, AJC's U.S. Director of Muslim-Jewish Relations. "As Americans, we must overcome mutual suspicion and work together for the common good of our communities, our country and our world."

Greater Chicago is home to approximately 10% of the American Muslim population. More than 70 Islamic centers serve communities with diverse ethnic and national backgrounds.

The AJC delegation held substantive encounters with leadership of prominent groups in Chicago, including the Muslim Community Center, Muslim Education Center; The Mosque Cares: Ministry of Imam W.D. Mohammed; the Nigerian Islamic Association; and Suzy's Place, a domestic violence shelter founded by Muslims.

Topics addressed included the joint fight against bigotry and hate crimes targeting Muslims and Jews, identifying and combatting misperceptions of the other within the respective communities, and navigating intercommunal challenges arising from different understandings of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Challenges and opportunities for Muslim-Jewish relations on campuses were discussed with Muslim chaplains and institutional leaders supporting Muslim students and interfaith relations in higher education.

In addition, the AJC delegation's meeting with local Palestinian Americans opened a conversation about barriers to achieving a just and secure peace between Israelis and Palestinians and how to improve Palestinian-Jewish relations in the United States.

Roberta S. Baruch, Chair of AJC's Interreligious Affairs Commission, led the 13-member group of AJC national and Chicago leaders who are involved with the leading global Jewish advocacy organization's pathbreaking work in interreligious affairs.

The AJC "listening tour," launched in March in Washington, DC, seeks to inform AJC's national leadership on the most constructive approach to build bridges and partner with American Muslims. The visits also aim to open channels of communication to discuss the most difficult aspects of Muslim-Jewish relations in a substantive, candid, and productive way. Chicago was the second venue for the AJC tour.

Muslim-Jewish relations is a top priority for AJC. Three years ago, AJC launched the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council (MJAC) in partnership with the Islamic Society of North America. MJAC is a bipartisan national civil society coalition that advocates on issues of shared domestic concern to both Muslims and Jews. With nine regional affiliates across the country, the MJAC network reaches hundreds of Muslim and Jewish leaders, modeling effective intercommunal partnership during a time of political polarization.



Trump sees many options short of war with Iran as Pompeo backs Saudis' ‘right to defend’

September 19, 2019

US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday there were many options short of war with Iran after US ally Saudi Arabia displayed remnants of drones and missiles it said were used in a crippling attack on its oil sites that was “unquestionably sponsored” by Tehran.

There are many options. There’s the ultimate option and there are options that are a lot less than that. And we’ll see,” Trump told reporters in Los Angeles. “I’m saying the ultimate option meaning go in — war.”

Trump said on Twitter that he had ordered the US Treasury to “substantially increase sanctions” on Iran, which denies carrying out the attacks, and told reporters the unspecified, punitive economic measures would be unveiled within 48 hours.

Trump’s tweet followed repeated US assertions that the Islamic Republic was behind Saturday’s attacks and came hours after Saudi Arabia said the strike was a “test of global will”.

The president struck a cautious note as his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday, during a visit to Saudi Arabia, described the attacks as “an act of war” on the kingdom, the world’s largest oil exporter, and said America backs Saudi Arabia’s “right to defend itself”.

Iran, which has denied involvement in the attack, warned the US it will retaliate immediately if it is targeted.

The attacks have reignited fears over a wider conflagration in the region, as tensions remain high over Iran’s collapsing nuclear deal with world powers.

Pompeo’s comments on Twitter came after meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s defense minister. The Saudis on Wednesday displayed missile and drone wreckage and cited other evidence they alleged shows the raid was “unquestionably sponsored by Iran”.

Pompeo called the attacks “unprecedented”. “The Iranian regime’s threatening behavior will not be tolerated.”

Pompeo was to next visit the United Arab Emirates to meet with Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The UAE is a close ally of Saudi Arabia and joined the kingdom in its war in Yemen against the Houthis.

The UAE announced on Thursday it had joined a US-led coalition to protect waterways across the Mideast after an attack on Saudi oil installations.

The state-run WAM news agency quoted Salem al-Zaabi of the Emirati Foreign Ministry as saying the UAE joined the coalition to “ensure global energy security and the continued flow of energy supplies to the global economy”.

Saudi Arabia joined the coalition on Wednesday. Australia, Bahrain and the United Kingdom also are taking part.

The US formed the coalition after attacks on oil tankers that American officials blame on Iran, as well as Iran’s seizure of tankers in the region. Iran denies being behind the tanker explosions, though the attacks came after Tehran threatened to stop oil exports from the Persian Gulf.



US Islamist leader meets State Department high official on Kashmir issue

September 18, 2019

An American Islamist delegation that included a supporter of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan, a group that directly supports Kashmiri terrorists, met last week with a senior State Department official, the Pakistani news website reported.

Leaders of the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO) met with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Pakistan Affairs Ervin Massinga, a Sept. 6 tweet from the State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs shows. The delegation included Zahid Bukhari, executive director of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)’s Council for Social Justice; Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR); Osama Abu Irshaid, executive director of American Muslims for Palestine (AMP); and USCMO Secretary General Oussama Jammal.

India’s decision last month to end the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status has heightened tensions with Pakistan. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency has helped foment terrorist activity in the region for decades. Pakistan and India fought a series of wars over the territory since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.

U.S. Islamists rallied behind Pakistan since India announced the change in Kashmir’s status.

AMP, a rabidly anti-Israel group, tried to compare the Jammu and Kashmir issue to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Revoking Article 370 has turned India from administrator to fully-fledged colonizer, following, in many ways, Israel’s methods,” AMP wrote.

CAIR and its chapters also protested India’s decision.

State Department officials told the USCMO delegation that the U.S. hopes to see direct talks between India and Pakistan.

Multiple posts on Bukhari’s Facebook page show his support for Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan.

Hizb ul-Mujahideen, a terrorist group that has waged a jihadist struggle against India in Kashmir since 1989, has a close relationship with Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan. The Canadian Revenue Agency called this group the armed wing of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan. Hizb ul-Mujahideen was founded by a Jamaat-e-Islami member and evidence suggests a close financial relationship with the terrorist group.

Jamaat-e-Islami death squads killed thousands of civilians during Bangladesh’s 1971 War of Independence from Pakistan. A Bangladeshi war crimes tribunal convicted former Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) Secretary General Ashrafuzzaman Khan in 2013 on 11 counts of kidnapping and murder of 18 intellectuals in the War of Independence.

ICNA has historic ties to Jamaat-e-Islami, which aims to create an Islamic society. ICNA’s 1994 Charter and By-Laws, which bears Bukhari’s imprint, states that Islam should be “sincerely and exclusively implemented in all aspects of human life” through “democratic, legal and peaceful means.”

Bukhari has offered a similar vision.

We are to prove our claim that Islam is the only answer and the only solution for all socioeconomic, political and cultural problems,” Bukhari said in the July 1992 issue of ICNA’s monthly periodical The Message International.



Israel spies and spies and spies on US

Sep 18, 2019

By Philip Giraldi

Here we go again! Israel is caught red handed spying against the United States and everyone in Congress is silent, as are nearly all the mainstream media which failed to report the story. And the federal government itself, quick to persecute a Russian woman who tried to join the NRA, concedes that the White House and Justice Department have done absolutely nothing to either rebuke or punish the Israeli perpetrators. One senior intelligence official commented that “I’m not aware of any accountability at all.

Only President Donald Trump, predictably, had something so say in his usual personalized fashion, which was that the report was “hard to believe,” that “I don’t think the Israelis were spying on us. My relationship with Israel has been great…Anything is possible but I don’t believe it.”

Ironically, the placement of technical surveillance devices by Israel was clearly intended to target cellphone communications to and from the Trump White House. As the president frequently chats with top aides and friends on non-secure phones, the operation sought to pick up conversations involving Trump with the expectation that the security-averse president would say things off the record that might be considered top secret.

The Politico report, which is sourced to top intelligence and security officials, details how “miniature surveillance devices” referred to as “Stingrays” imitate regular cell phone towers to fool phones being used nearby into providing information on their locations and identities. According to the article, the devices are referred to by technicians as “international mobile subscriber identity-catchers or IMSI-catchers, they also can capture the contents of calls and data use.”

Over one year ago, government security agencies discovered the electronic footprints that indicated the presence of the surveillance devices around Washington including near the White House. Forensic analysis involved dismantling the devices to let them “tell you a little about their history, where the parts and pieces come from, how old are they, who had access to them, and that will help get you to what the origins are.” One source observed afterwards that “It was pretty clear that the Israelis were responsible.”

The Israeli Embassy denied any involvement in the espionage and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu adroitly and predictably lied regarding the report, saying “We have a directive, I have a directive: No intelligence work in the United States, no spies. And it’s vigorously implemented, without any exception. It is a complete fabrication, a complete fabrication.”

The Israelis are characteristically extremely aggressive in their intelligence gathering operations, particularly in targeting the United States, even though Trump has done the Netanyahu government many favors. These have included moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem al-Quds, withdrawing from the nuclear deal and sanctioning Iran, recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and looking the other way as Israel expands its settlements and regularly bombs Syria and Lebanon.

Israel’s high-risk spying is legendary, but the notion that it is particularly good at it is, like everything having to do with Israel, much overrated. Mossad has been caught in flagrante numerous times. In 2010, an undercover Mossad hit team was caught on 30 minutes of surveillance video as it wandered through a luxury Dubai hotel where it had gone to kill a leading Hamas official. And the notion that Mossad and CIA work hand-in-hand is also a fiction. Working level Agency officers dislike their reckless Mossad counterparts. Newsweek magazine’s “Spy Talk” once cited a poll of CIA officers that ranked Israel “dead last” among friendly countries in actual intelligence cooperation with Washington.

The fact is that Israel conducts espionage and influence operations against the United States more aggressively than any other “friendly” country, including tapping White House phones used by Bill Clinton to speak with Monica Lewinski. Israeli “experts” regularly provide alarmist and inaccurate private briefings for American Senators on Capitol Hill. Israel also constantly manufactures pretexts to draw the US into new conflicts in the Middle East, starting with the Lavon Affair in Alexandria Egypt in 1954 and including the false flag attack on the USS. Liberty in 1967. In short, Israel has no reluctance to use its enormous political and media clout in the US to pressure successive administrations to conform to its own foreign and security policy views.

The persistent spying, no matter what Netanyahu claims, is a very good reason why Israel should not receive billions of dollars in military assistance annually. Starting in 1957, Israel’s friends stole enriched uranium from a Pennsylvania refinery to create a nuclear arsenal. More recently we have learned how Arnon Milchan, a Hollywood producer/billionaire born in Israel, arranged the illegal purchase of 800 krytron triggers to use in the production of nuclear weapons. The operation also involved current Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

The existence of a large scale Israeli spying effort at the time of 9/11 has been widely reported, incorporating Israeli companies in New Jersey and Florida as well as hundreds of “art students” nationwide. Five “dancing” Israelis from one of the companies were observed celebrating against the backdrop of the twin towers going down.

While it is often observed that everyone spies on everyone else, espionage is a high-risk business, particularly when spying on friends. Israel, relying on Washington for billions of dollars and also for political cover in international fora like the United Nations, does not spy discreetly, largely because it knows that few in Washington will seek to hold it accountable. There were, for example, no consequences for the Israelis when Israeli Mossad intelligence officers using US passports and pretending to be Americans recruited terrorists to carry out attacks inside Iran. Israelis using US passports in that fashion put every American traveler at risk.

Israel, where government and business work hand in hand, has obtained significant advantage by systematically stealing American technology with both military and civilian applications. The US developed technology is then reverse engineered and used by the Israelis to support their own exports. Sometimes, when the technology is military in nature and winds up in the hands of an adversary, the consequences can be serious. Israel has sold advanced weapons systems to China that incorporate technology developed by American companies.

The reality of Israeli large-scale spying in the United States is indisputable. One might cite Jonathan Pollard, who stole more highly classified information than any spy in history. And then there were Ben-Ami Kadish, Stuart Nozette and Larry Franklin, other spies for Israel who have been caught and tried, but they are only the tip of the iceberg. Israel always features prominently in the annual FBI report called “Foreign Economic Collection and Industrial Espionage.” The 2005 report states “Israel has an active program to gather proprietary information within the United States. These collection activities are primarily directed at obtaining information on military systems and advanced computing applications that can be used in Israel’s sizable armaments industry.” It adds that Israel recruits spies, uses electronic methods, and carries out computer intrusion to gain the information.

A 1996 Defense Investigative Service report noted that Israel has great success stealing technology by exploiting the numerous co-production projects that it has with the Pentagon. It says “Placing Israeli nationals in key industries …is a technique utilized with great success.” A General Accounting Office (GAO) examination of espionage directed against American defense and security industries described how Israeli citizens residing in the US had stolen sensitive technology to manufacture artillery gun tubes, obtained classified plans for reconnaissance systems, and passed sensitive aerospace designs to unauthorized users.

The GAO has concluded that Israel “conducts the most aggressive espionage operation against the United States of any US ally.” In June 2006, a Pentagon administrative judge ruled against a difficult to even imagine appeal by an Israeli denied a security clearance, saying that “The Israeli government is actively engaged in military and industrial espionage in the United States.” FBI counter intelligence officer John Cole has also reported how many cases of Israeli espionage are dropped under orders from the Justice Department., making Israel’s spying consequence free. He provides a “conservative estimate” of 125 viable investigations into Israeli espionage involving both American citizens and Israelis that were stopped due to political pressure.

So, did Israel really spy on Donald Trump? Sure it did. And Netanyahu is, metaphorically speaking, thumbing his nose at the American president and asking with a grin, “What are you going to do about it?”

Philip Giraldi is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer who served nineteen years overseas in Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Spain. He was the CIA Chief of Base for the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and was one of the first Americans to enter Afghanistan in December 2001.



US library drops event co-hosted by Saudi crown prince

James Reinl 



The New York Public Library said Wednesday it is cancelling an event co-hosted by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s charity organization amid public opposition ahead of the anniversary of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Evan Chesler, chairman of the library’s board of trustees, said that canceling the workshop was the “appropriate thing to do” following weeks of protests and an online petition that had gathered thousands of signatures.

In a statement, the library described “public concern” around the Sept. 23 event, the so-called Misk-OSGEY Youth Forum, which was being co-hosted by bin Salman’s Misk Foundation and the UN’s youth envoy Jayathma Wickramanayake.

Campaigners argued that the UN and the library should not cooperate with bin Salman, saying it served to whitewash his reputation after a string of human rights violations including Khashoggi’s murder.

Suzanne Nossel, CEO of rights group PEN America, said the library had made the “right choice”, saying bin Salman’s government had “orchestrated the murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”

The library is the crown jewel of the literary community in New York and indeed the nation. But it’s also an institution that stands for the free exchange of ideas and free expression, qualities that the crown prince has repeatedly disdained in both words and actions,” said Nossel.

Somia Elrowmeim, from the protest group Action Corps, also praised the decision to scrap the event and urged “other institutions of democracy and freedom to do the same.”

Mohammad bin Salman can try to whitewash his crimes against humanity, but we will not let him wipe his bloody hands on our flag,” said Elrowmeim.

Khashoggi, a U.S.-based journalist who frequently criticized the Saudi government, was killed and dismembered on Oct. 2 last year after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, where he was making arrangements for his planned wedding.

The CIA assessed that bin Salman had ordered Khashoggi’s murder. U.N. expert Agnes Callamard has described the death as a “premeditated execution” and called for bin Salman and other high-ranking Saudis to be investigated.

Officials in Riyadh, who initially said Khashoggi had left the premises unharmed, now say the journalist was killed in a rogue operation that did not involve bin Salman. Activists have called for accountability in Khashoggi’s death.



Russia accuses US of hindering peace process in Syria

Ilena Teslova



Russia’s Ministry of Defense on Wednesday accused the U.S. of escalating the situation in Syria to justify its presence in the country.

"The U.S. and its allies are indifferent to the fate of ordinary Syrians. The Americans need hotbeds of tension in Syria only to justify their illegal presence on the territory of a sovereign state and to satisfy their geopolitical ambitions by any means," Mikhail Mizintsev, head of Russia's National Defense Management Center, told reporters in Moscow.

Mizintsev slammed the U.S. actions in Syria, saying that only complete withdrawal of the U.S. troops will help stabilize the situation in the country.

"The U.S. presence only exacerbates the criminal situation and prevents the restoration of peaceful life in the country," he added.

Mizintsev said the U.S. liberation of Raqqa resulted in total destruction of once prosperous city.

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.

Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million others displaced, according to UN officials.




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