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Islamic World News ( 23 Jan 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Pakistan Council of Islamic Ideology Says Organ Transplantation ‘Un-Islamic’
















Taliban militants in Afghanistan have called on the new US president, Donald Trump, to withdraw American forces from the "quagmire" of the war-torn country or face “shameful defeat".

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Pakistan Council of Islamic Ideology Says Organ Transplantation ‘Un-Islamic’

Taliban to Trump: Pull Out Troops or Face 'Shameful Defeat'

Chinese President Calls for East Jerusalem as Capital of Palestinian State

Just When You Thought ISIS Couldn't Do Anything Worse

Boko Haram Female Bombers Using Babies to Thwart Detection in Nigeria

 

Pakistan

Pakistan Council of Islamic Ideology Says Organ Transplantation ‘Un-Islamic’

Two Suicide Jackets Recovered From Abu Bakar Mosque

69 Pakistanis detained in Saudi Arabia for ‘terrorism’: report

Christian and Muslim Mark Interfaith Harmony in Punjab

Jhangvi Likely To Become JUI-F Parliamentary Leader In PA

Karachi was slaughter-house before PML-N’s tenure: Saad Rafique

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South Asia

Taliban to Trump: Pull Out Troops or Face 'Shameful Defeat'

Afghan Police Arrest Terrorists Hailing From Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan

Kandahar resident arrested for having links with ISIS loyalists

Taliban commander among 14 killed in latest operations: MoD

Myanmar asks for ‘time and space’ to solve Rohingya Muslim crisis

Two Bangladeshis arrested in Malaysia for suspected link to Islamic State cell

Afghanistan: Iran is supplying Taliban with rockets to strike us

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Southeast Asia

Chinese President Calls for East Jerusalem as Capital of Palestinian State

Zaid Dares Govt to Drop Half Measures and Go for Full Islamic State

Indonesia police question cleric over lecture on communist symbols

Malaysia arrests 4 linked to Islamic State cell in Philippines

Wanted Thai Muslim leader suspected of inspiring militant attacks

4 linked to Islamic State cell in Sabah nabbed

Hard-line Indonesian cleric questioned, lashes out at Joko

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Arab World

Just When You Thought ISIS Couldn't Do Anything Worse

Syrian Army Conducts Massive Operation in Deir Ezzur, Kills Tens of ISIL Terrorists

S Arabia Seeks Stronger US Ties under Trump

Iraq: ISIL Terrorists Brutally Take Out, Eat Civilian's Heart Alive in Kirkuk to Spread Reign of Terror

Assailants kill five Egypt soldiers in Sinai

Syria talks focused on cease-fire start in Kazakhstan

After 100 days of fighting, Mosul’s east recaptured

Trump, Sisi discuss fighting terrorism in first phone call

Military Official: Syrian Gov't Troops Close to Entering Raqqa City Countryside

ISIL, Al-Nusra Terrorists Sustain Heavy Losses in Syrian Army Operations in Eastern, Northern Homs

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Africa

Boko Haram Female Bombers Using Babies to Thwart Detection in Nigeria

Al-Shabaab Fighting Kills 5 in Somalia

AUN students’ campaign wins African anti-extremism competition

236 people buried after IDP camp bombing by Nigerian jet – Official

UN: Boko Haram’s toll includes 515,000 malnourished kids

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India

Under Rajiv Gandhi, India Was Ready With Hydrogen Bomb to Counter Pakistan's Nukes

Taslima Nasreen: India Needs Uniform Civil Law, Muslim Groups: She Has Got Too Much Freedom

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Mideast

Turkish Military Says Killed 65 ISIS Militants in Syria

Erdogan Asks Tanzania to Act against Gulen Network

Syria peace process in Astana great success: Iran Foreign Ministry

Yemen army claims control of strategic port city of Mokha

Israeli court convicts nuclear whistle-blower for violating terms of release

Palestinians protest Israeli atrocities outside Knesset

UN, Ansarullah reach consensus on holding fresh Yemen talks

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North America

Muslim Activist at Anti-Trump Rally: Trump ‘Wants the Extermination of Muslims Globally’

Senior Palestinian official: Moving US embassy ‘a declaration of war’ on Muslims

Muslim scholars slam US embassy move to Jerusalem

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Europe

Will Marine Le Pen’s Changed Tone Be Enough to Win over France?

Syria peace talks off to rocky start; U.S. refutes Russian claims of joint air mission

Greek Supreme Court ruling on Turkish soldiers delayed

Portugal backs Turkey's fight against terrorism

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/pakistan-council-of-islamic-ideology-says-organ-transplantation-‘un-islamic’/d/109833

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Pakistan Council of Islamic Ideology Says Organ Transplantation ‘Un-Islamic’

January 24, 2017

Islamabad [Pakistan]: Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) and Wafaq-ul-Madaris have termed the Organ and Tissue Transplant (amendment) Bill 2016 as ‘non-Islamic’ and decided to challenge it in court.

A member who belongs to both of the forums said that this bill was unconstitutional and according to Shariah did not have any worth, reports the Daily Times.

“In this connection, we will consult with the members of Council of Islamic Ideology and Wafaq-ul-Madaris and after that, we will take it to the court of law,” said the member.

He said that Islam does not permit organ transplantation of the kind adopted in the bill.

“If the government wants to prevent the smuggling of human organs, then it would have to take solid and sagacious measures, he added.

Earlier on Monday, the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Health Services unanimously approved the Transplantation of Human Organs Amendment Bill 2016 after a prolonged debate.

CII is a constitutional body in Pakistan, responsible for giving legal advice on Islamic issues to the government and the Parliament. (ANI)

http://www.siasat.com/news/cii-says-organ-transplantation-un-islamic-1116395/

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Taliban to Trump: Pull out troops or face 'shameful defeat'

Jan 24, 2017

Taliban militants in Afghanistan have called on the new US president, Donald Trump, to withdraw American forces from the "quagmire" of the war-torn country or face “shameful defeat".

In an open letter to Trump published on one of its official webpages, the group said nothing has been achieved in 15 years of occupation except bloodshed and destruction.

"So, the responsibility to bring to an end this war also rests on your shoulders," it said, adding the US has lost credibility after spending a trillion dollars on a fruitless entanglement.

Some 8,400 US troops remain in Afghanistan and Washington says they are there to train and support local forces and fight terrorists. However, the Taliban have gone from strength to strength and even Daesh terrorists have now found a foothold in the country.

Trump has said little publicly about Afghanistan but two of his top military appointments - General James "Mad Dog" Mattis as Pentagon chief and former General Michael Flynn as national security adviser - formerly commanded US occupation of the Central Asian country. 

Trump has also sharply criticized past presidents for failed policies and the mishandling of conflicts in the Muslim world, Afghanistan included.

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis (R) is greeted by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford as he arrives for the first day January 21, 2017 at the Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia. (Photo by AFP)

In their letter, the Taliban warned Trump against relying on the kind of "unrealistic" reports presented to former presidents by their generals.

"They would emphasize continuation of war and occupation of Afghanistan because they can have better positions and privileges in war," the letter said.

The group said the US was occupying Afghanistan while Washington would not accept foreign forces on its territory or even in a neighboring country.

"You have to realize that the Afghan Muslim nation has risen up against foreign occupation," it said.

The Taliban have made steady inroads against the government in Kabul since occupation forces said they ended their main combat mission in 2014, with troops now in control of only two thirds of the country.

The Taliban warned that if the US "insists on continuing her failed arrogant policies, one can foresee that she will ruin herself beyond repair due to a historically shameful defeat."

Fifteen years after the occupation, the economic and security situation across Afghanistan has become even worse than it was before the American invasion.

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/01/24/507490/Afghanistan-Taliban-Trump

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Chinese President Calls for East Jerusalem as Capital of Palestinian State

 Jan 21, 2016

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday called for establishing a Palestinian state within the pre-1967-war borders amid efforts by Beijing to assert its economic and political clout in the Middle East.

>> Trump outs his enemies at bizarre talk with CIA  || President Trump: The Optimistic Scenario || Debunking the brutal rape and murder myth that shaped New York

Addressing the Cairo-based Arab League, Xi said the Palestinian problem "should not be marginalized."

"China supports the peaceful process in the Middle East [and] the establishment of a Palestinian state with its capital being eastern Jerusalem," he added through an interpreter.

>> Be the first to get updates on China, Trump and the Palestinians: Download our App, sign up to Breaking News Alerts, and Subscribe

Xi announced 50 million yuan ($7.6 million) in aid for the Palestinians.

The United States, an ally of Jerusalem, has unsuccessfully attempted to break a long-standing stalemate in Palestinian-Israeli peacemaking.

Tensions between the two sides have been growing in recent months after a wave of Palestinian stabbing attacks on Israelis and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers.

"Maintaining the legitimate interests of the Palestinian people is the responsibility of the Arab League as well as the international community," Xi said.

For the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to end, negotiations should be pushed forward to reach a peace agreement, he said.

The Chinese president had arrived in Egypt Wednesday as part of a regional tour that has already taken him to Saudi Arabia.

Iran will be the final stop in his three-nation trip.

Xi's current visit to Egypt is the first by a Chinese head of state to the country in twelve years.

On Thursday, the two countries signed 21 cooperation deals in different fields including energy, technology, investment, transport, agriculture, housing and culture as well as a 1-billion-dollar grant offered to Egypt's central bank.

Egypt is seeking foreign investment to revitalize its economy, battered by political upheaval since the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosny Mubarak.

China and Saudi Arabia on Tuesday signed a memorandum of understanding to build a nuclear reactor in the oil-rich kingdom.

Xi's visit to Iran comes days after the implementation of a landmark nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, leading to the lifting of international sanctions on Iran.

http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.698833

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Just When You Thought ISIS Couldn't Do Anything Worse

January 23, 2017

ISIS cut out a man’s heart and ate it while he was still alive, as well as executing seven people it accused of spying for the regime with a bulldozer.

Sources in the Kirkuk province who requested anonymity spoke to Al  Sumariya News on Sunday relating the latest horrors perpetrated by Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).

“Islamic State [ISIS/ISIL] used a bulldozer to execute seven people that were charged with contacting government forces. The bulldozer ran them over while they were alive. Among the people who were executed were people who belonged to the Iraqi security forces,” the source said.

In a separate incident, the source told how “one ISIS fighter cut out a man’s heart and ate it while the man was still alive. The man was charged with contacting government forces. ISIS executed the prisoners at the air force base in Bakara near the Al Hawija district located 55 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk and took photos of it.”

Since gaining control of Al Hawija in June 2014, ISIS has executed dozens of residents of the district for various “crimes.” The most common offense is cooperating with Iraqi security forces.

https://www.clarionproject.org/news/just-when-you-thought-isis-couldnt-do-anything-worse

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Boko Haram Female Bombers Using Babies to Thwart Detection in Nigeria

Jan 24, 2017

Nigerian authorities have warned that female Takfiri bombers are using babies to thwart detection before their attacks.

According to a new report, Nigerian officials stated that terrorist groups have been using women to carry out bombing attacks for some time but the use of babies in attacks signals a "dangerous" trend.

The report, published by the state-run BBC on Monday, called these bombings “suicide attacks,” but the fact that the innocent infants have no forethought or deliberation for killing themselves and others render the terminology null and void.

On January 13, two women wearing concealed explosives managed to slip past a checkpoint in the town of Madagali and detonate their bombs, killing themselves and four other people. The assailants were able to slip past security because they were mistaken for civilians as they were carrying infants.

The main suspect for the blast is the Takfiri Boko Haram terrorist group, which is known for using women and young girls in their attacks. Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to Daesh, another Takfiri group, which has been wreaking havoc in the Middle East and North Africa over the past few years.  

Victims of bomb blasts receive treatment at a hospital in Miduguri on October 16, 2015 were at least 34 people were killed in a wave of bombing attacks in northeast Nigeria. (Photo by AFP)

In 2015, four women attempted to launch another attack on the town. Two were stopped at a checkpoint, but the two other, who were carrying babies, managed to pass the checkpoints and explode their explosives.

Nigeria has been at war with Boko Haram since the group started an insurgency in Borno about eight years ago. Almost 15,000 people have been killed while the violence has displaced more than two million.

In recent months, army troops and civilian fighters in Nigeria have managed to foil many bomb attacks involving terrorists wearing explosive vests before the assailants were able to reach heavily-populated targets and detonate their bombs of their own accord. In response to the government’s actions, the terrorists have increased their bombing attacks.

On January 16, at least four people, including a university professor, were killed after a young girl, accompanied by a small child, detonated her explosive-laden vest at a university campus in Nigeria’s northeastern province of Borno.

A man walks past the scene of a bombing after at least 20 people were killed when a young female bomber detonated her explosives at a bus station in Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria, on June 22, 2015. (Photo by AFP)

Half a million West African kids malnourished

Meanwhile, the UN’s West African humanitarian coordinator, Toby Lanzer announced that Boko Haram’s actions in the region have put the lives of over half a million children in danger of severe malnutrition.

He stressed that if these children do not receive aid soon, they will die, adding that several communities have already lost all their infants. “If they don’t get the help they need on time, they die."

“What we have seen is extraordinary…I have seen adults sapped of all energy, who are almost unable to walk. We have had villages and towns devoid of 2- and 3- and 4-year-old children because they’ve died,” he added.

While noting that Nigeria and the Lake Chad region have been hit worst by the crisis, he stressed that there are about 11 million people there are “in desperate need” of aid while some 7.1 million more of them are “severely food-insecure.”

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/01/24/507482/nigeria-boko-haram-takfiri-babies

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Pakistan

 

Two Suicide Jackets Recovered From Abu Bakar Mosque

Jan 24, 2017

PESHAWAR: The police on Monday recovered two suicide jackets from a mosque on the outskirts of the capital city. However, no arrests were made.

An official at the Paharipura police station told Dawn that acting on a tip-off police personnel checked Abu Bakar mosque near Benazir Hospital along the motorway. He said the cops recovered two suicide jackets containing about five kilogramme explosives from the room of the prayer leader of the mosque. However, the prayer leader was not present in the room at the time of the raid.

SSP operations Sajjad Khan said the police defused the explosives, adding a search operation was also being conducted in the area to arrest the culprits. He said police’s timely action saved the provincial capital from an untoward incident. The Counter-Terrorism Department registered FIR and started investigations.

Published in Dawn January 24th, 2017

http://www.dawn.com/news/1310396/two-suicide-jackets-recovered-from-mosque

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69 Pakistanis detained in Saudi Arabia for ‘terrorism’: report

Jan 24, 2017

ISLAMABAD: At least 69 Pakistanis are being held in Saudi Arabia for their alleged involvement in terror-related offenses. The most recent arrest came on Saturday when Saudi security forces rounded up Fatima Ramadan Balochi Murad along with her Saudi husband from an apartment in the Al Naseem district after a tip-off, Saudi Gazette reported Monday.

Murad was detained in a security operation launched after a firefight and subsequent blowing up of two suspected terrorists in Jeddah on Saturday. This is not the first time Pakistani citizens have been suspected of perpetuating terror in the oil-rich kingdom. In July last year, a Pakistani suspect Abdullah Qalzar Khan blew himself up near Solaiman Fakeih Hospital in Jeddah, which led to the arrest of as many as 49 Pakistani residents who were subsequently interrogated.

Meanwhile, a terror attempt, which involved two Pakistanis; Solaiman Arab Deen and Farman Naqshaband Khan, was also foiled last October in Jeddah. The suspects had planned to carry out bomb blasts in Al Jowhara Stadium. Through its communications portal, the Saudi Interior Ministry revealed that 5,085 terror suspects from 40 countries were in detention in five intelligence prisons in the kingdom. "There are 4,254 Saudis detained in intelligence prisons, constituting the largest number of suspects," it said. The Saudis are followed by 282 Yemenis and 218 Syrians. There are three suspects from the US and one each from France, Belgium and Canada.

Around 266,412 Pakistanis were deported from different countries during the last three years (2014-2016), Ministry of Interior's data said. They were deported from a total of 133 countries majority of which the majority were from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Iran. A country-wise breakup indicating their deportation on Monday revealed that 78,409 Pakistanis were deported during the year 2014, 116,185 in 2015 and the number of deportees stood at 71,818 during 2016. The data issued by Interior Division further showed that 1,920 Pakistanis were deported from Oman through Sea while 48,093 were deported from Iran through land during the last three years.

The number of deportees from Iran through land was 4,956 in 2014, 26,978 in 2015 and 16,159 in 2016. The data showed that 37 deportees were returned from European

Union (EU) countries who were sent to Pakistan without due process of law, that is, verification of their national status, as required under standard operational procedures for deportation from abroad.

In November last year, Federal Investigation Agency statistics revealed that nearly 250,000 Pakistanis have been deported, mostly from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates over the past three years.

Full report at:

http://dailytimes.com.pk/pakistan/24-Jan-17/69-pakistanis-detained-in-saudi-arabia-for-terrorism-report

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Christian and Muslim mark Interfaith Harmony in Punjab

Jan 24, 2017

Sialkot: January 23, 2017. (PCP) Pakistan Council for Social Welfare & Human Rights organized the inter-religious harmony ceremony with the collaboration of Dioceses of Sialkot at Hunter Memorial Church Hunter Pura Sialkot. Thepurpose of this inter religious harmony ceremony was to extend the Christmas greetings to Christians community. Lord Mayor of Nottingham City UK Mohammad Saghir, Chairman PCSW&HR Mr. Muhammad Ijaz Noori, Zonal Khateeb Gujranwala Division Moulana Abdul Ghafoor Noori, Mr. Emmanuel K Gill and notable Muslim and Christian Leaders participated in the ceremony. Bishop of Sialkot Rt. Rev. Alwin Samuel and other Christian leaders warmly welcomed the Lord Mayor of Nottingham, Chairman PCSW&HR Mr. Muhammad Ijaz Noori, Zonal Khateeb and others Muslims leaders at Hunter Memorial Church. Representatives of Print and Electronic Media also participated in the ceremony.

Before the start of inter religious harmony ceremony the Lord Mayor of Nottingham City UK Mohammad Saghir, Chairman PCSW&HR Mr. Muhammad Ijaz Noori, Bishop of Sialkot Rt. Rev. Alwin Samuel, Moulana Abdul Ghafoor Noori, Director PCSW&HR Ch. Muhammad Ijaz and other notable personalities talked with Media and shared their point of view on the different national and international issues on inter- religious & inter-cultural harmony, social tolerance and minorities affairs as well as overseas Pakistani’s contribution for the creation of the positive image of Pakistan in Great Britain and other countries. They also spoke that Christians are Pakistanis as Muslims and deserve equal rights as guaranteed in the Constitution of Pakistan as well as according to Islamic teachings. They also demanded for the immediate removal of sense of insecurity among the minorities, elimination of discrimination, provision of fundamental rights and an improvement in the status of human rights, provided to all communities of Pakistan in constitution of Pakistan.

While taking during the inter religious harmony ceremony the Bishop of Sialkot Rt. Rev. Awin Samuel once again warmly welcomed to all participants of ceremony especially their Muslims guests. He said that perhaps it is first time in the present history of Sialkot that Muslims leaders come to Church to extend their Christmas greetings this showed a great gesture of religious and social tolerance as well as interfaith harmony and national spirit. He specially thanked to PCSW&HR Chairman Mr. Muhammad Ijaz Noori for organizing this ceremony with the collaboration of Diocese of Sialkot. He also thanked to Lord Mayor of Nottingham City UK to participate in the inter religious ceremony. Bishop of Sialkot Rt. Rev. Awin Samuel also said that by participating in each other religious festivals cheers we may make Pakistan stronger and peaceful as per the vision of found of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

The Bishop of Sialkot also said that I believe that we both Christians and Muslims must recognize with joy the religious values of each others that we have in common, and give thanks to God for them. Both of us believe in one God, the only God, who is all justice and all mercy; we believe in the importance of prayer, of fasting, almsgiving, of repentance and of pardon; we believe that God will be a merciful judge to us all at the end of time, and we hope that after the resurrection He will be satisfied with us and we know that we will be satisfied with him. We should recognize and respect our differences. “Those are the important differences which we can accept with humility and respect, in mutual tolerance; this is a mystery about which, I am certain, God will one day enlighten us. He further added I believe that today, God invites us to change our old practices. We must respect each other, and we must stimulate each other in good works on the path of God.

While addressing during the ceremony the Zonal Khateeb Gujranwala Division Auqaf Department Moulana Abdul Ghafoor Noori said that Islam has no space for extremism, fundamentalism or obscurantism and those who happen to be extremists are in fact unaware of the real spirit of Islam. Allah Almighty has not created any contraction in religion. Islam is religion of peace & love and orders to respect the all religions and human kind.

The Zonal Khateeb quoted the saying of the Holy Prophet that Islam creates ease and does not pave way for difficulties. The Prophet said in Sahih Bukhari, when you preach religion, create easiness and do not create difficulties and contraction. Convey the message and invitation to people in such a manner that they get glad tidings, feel openness within themselves lest they should adopt hatred and run away from Islam. Islam not only condemns conservative approach but also ordains us to root it out. The approach of the Holy Prophet was open, frank and accommodating.

Full report at:

http://www.pakistanchristianpost.com/detail.php?hnewsid=6276

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Jhangvi likely to become JUI-F parliamentary leader in PA

Jan 24, 2017

I got elected to develop Jhang and ensure law and order’

Maulana Masroor Nawaz Jhangvi—son of slain Maulana Haq Nawaz Jhangvi who founded the now proscribed Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP)—became the lawmaker of country’s largest provincial assembly officially, as he took the oath on the opening day of the 26th session of Punjab Assembly on Monday.

Jhangvi became the Member of Provincial Assembly (MPA) with an overwhelming margin of more than 12,000 votes from PP-78 (Jhang) in the by-election held on December 1 last year. Jhangvi’s victory in the by-election raised many questions keeping in view the implementation of National Action Plan (NAP) as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ)—a militant outfit that has carried out several sectarian attacks—was named after his late father.

Soon after taking an oath of his office on Monday Jhangvi delivered a speech on the floor of the house and said that he is ready to cooperate with the provincial government in order to maintain the law and order in Jhang—an area that has been engulfed with sectarian sentiments for more than two and a half decade.

“I got elected just because of two issues: the development of Jhang and to ensure the law and order,” Jhangvi said, adding that these two points remained the central points of his entire election campaign. He was of the view that his district was facing numerous challenges, including health, education and unemployment, and he will strive hard for the uplift of his constituency.

“The District Headquarters Hospital of Jhang lacks the basic health facilities, as most of the patients were referred to Faisalabad or Multan,” he said, adding that Jhang must be given the status of a division. Jhangvi also demanded that a bench of Lahore High Court (LHC) must be established in the Faisalabad division. It is pertinent to mention here that Auqaf and Religious Affairs Minister Syed Zaeem Hussain Qadri congratulated Jhangvi after visiting him on his seat.

Full report at:

http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2017/01/24/jhangvi-likely-to-become-jui-f-parliamentary-leader-in-pa/

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Karachi was slaughter-house before PML-N’s tenure: Saad Rafique

January 23, 2017

GUJRANWALA: Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique on Monday said that Pakistan’s financial hub Karachi before the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz’s rule was a ‘slaughter house’, adding that dacoits ruled upon the province of Sindh.

The federal minister was addressing a workers convention in Gujranwala. On the occasion, Rafique lambasted his party’s opponents in his speech.

“The five-year rule of Bilawal’s father was extremely detrimental for the country,” he said, adding that Musharraf’s eight-year tenure was also of ‘sheer destruction’.

The PML-N leader said that his party after taking over the country’s affairs into its hands put it on the track of progress.

“We saved the country from bankruptcy,” he added.

During his speech, Rafique highly criticised political rival Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chief Imran Khan.

Rafique in an apparent message aimed at the PTI chief said that mocking people doesn’t suit him.

He said that despite getting elected some parties didn’t work for the betterment of their respective provinces.

“We won’t mock you like you mock us,” he said, adding that he will not refer the PTI stalwarts as 'lambo gang' as they refer PML-N leaders as 'motu gang'.

It seems that Imran Khan after facing backlash from PML-N leaders over the issue, refrained from using the term and instead referred the rivals as 'Maryam's gang'.

On Sunday, Imran while addressing a rally in Kasur had criticised the rulers of the country, especially the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his party.

PTI chairman Imran Khan claimed that PM is not going to escape in the Panama Leaks case being heard by the Supreme Court.

Imran Khan had slammed the rulers over non-provision of heath and other basic necessities to the people of country. The PTI chief had also claimed that his party would emerge victorious in the upcoming 2018 elections.

Full report at:

https://www.geo.tv/latest/128413-Karachi-was-slaughter-house-before-PML-Ns-tenure-Saad-Rafique

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South Asia

 

Afghan police arrest terrorists hailing from Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan

Jan 24 2017

The Afghan police forces have arrested two terrorists who are hailing from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, local officials in Sar-e-Pul province said.

The two men were arrested during a night operation conducted in Qaflatoon area of Sayad district.

Mohammad Zahir Wahdat appeared in a press conference along with the detained militants, saying four Afghan Taliban insurgents were also killed during the operation.

He said the terrorists have been identified as Demir Zenliyov and Abdul Mateen who have confessed that they came from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.

Wahdat further added that another militant hailing from Afghanistan was also wounded during the operation and is in custody of the police forces.

According to the provincial governor, the mean have also confessed that they visited Afghanistan to assist the Afghan fighters and train them in conducting insurgency.

The men have also added that they are experts and were trained on suicide attacks, creating landmines, and other terrorist activities.

Wahdat said he is hopeful that the government will take immediate steps to conduct operations in Sar-e-Pul province, insisting that he has long been raising concerns regarding the presence of foreign fighters in this province.

http://www.khaama.com/afghan-police-arrest-terrorists-hailing-from-turkmenistan-kazakhstan-02738

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Kandahar resident arrested for having links with ISIS loyalists

Jan 24 2017

A resident of the southern Kandahar province was arrested for having links with the loyalists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group.

According to the local security officials in Nangarhar, the suspect was arrested from the vicinity of Achin district.

The officials further added that the suspect has been identified as Abdul Satar and is in custody of the police forces for further investigation.

No further details were given by the security officials regarding the apprehension of the suspect.

The loyalists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group have not commented regarding the report so far.

This comes as reports have emerged recently suggesting that ISIS loyalists have started recruitment for the group in other parts of the country, specifically in eastern Kunar province.

The head of the high peace council for Kunar, Mohammad Ismail Munib, said the loyalist of the terror group have started advertisements and are spreading propaganda among the residents of Kunar.

Full report at:

http://www.khaama.com/kandahar-resident-arrested-for-having-links-with-isis-loyalists-02737

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Taliban commander among 14 killed in latest operations: MoD

Jan 23 2017

At least 14 militants including a local commander of the Taliban were killed in the latest counter-terrorism operations, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) said Monday.

According to a statement by MoD, at least 13 militants were also injured during the joint operations conducted in the past 24 hours.

The statement further added that the operations were conducted with the support of the Afghan air force and artillery units of the Afghan army, targeting the militants in Kapisa, Nangarhar, Uruzgan, Kandahar, Kunduz and Helmand provinces.

At least 5 of the militants were killed including a commander of the group identified as Mullah Ghafar in Pul-e-Manan area of Dehrawood district in Uruzgan, MoD said.

The ministry also added that 7 militants were wounded during the same operation and cache of weapons and ammunition belonging to Taliban was discovered and seized in Nakhooni district of Kandahar.

Full report at:

http://www.khaama.com/taliban-commander-among-14-killed-in-latest-operations-mod-02734

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Myanmar asks for ‘time and space’ to solve Rohingya Muslim crisis

Jan 23, 2017

Myanmar’s deputy defence chief onMonday urged the world to give his government “time and space” to solve a crisis involving the Rohingya Muslim minority amid concerns jihadists could exploit the situation.

Rear Admiral Myint Nwe told a security forum in Singapore his government is “fully aware of the growing concern about the widespread reports on (the) situation in Rakhine state” where the Rohingya live, and was committed to address the issue and punish wrongdoers.

Since October Myanmar’s army has carried out “clearance operations” in the north of the western state to root out insurgents accused of deadly raids on police border posts.

At least 66,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, alleging rape, murder and torture at the hands of security forces.

Myanmar has long faced international criticism over its treatment of the Rohingya. Most people in the majority Buddhist community consider them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

“The government does not condone rights abuses against innocent civilians. Legal action will be taken in response to any substantiated claim,” Myint Nwe said.

The admiral was responding to a keynote address by Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein at th Fullerton Forum organised by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Hishammuddin warned that the situation in Rakhine -- if not addressed properly -- could be exploited by the Islamic State group as it seeks a base in Southeast Asia.

“This horrific possibility has the potential to cause death and destruction well beyond the borders of ASEAN,” he added, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Answering a delegate’s question, Hishammuddin said the Rohingya issue “is going to test ASEAN solidarity... It needs to be resolved, we cannot sweep it under the carpet, it affects a lot of Muslims and it’s very emotional”.

Full report at:

belong -- should play a key role in working out a solution with Myanmar’s leaders.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/myanmar-asks-for-time-and-space-to-solve-rohingya-muslim-crisis/story-uGWcaUtVOqFdq0VW4QPGoN.html

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Two Bangladeshis arrested in Malaysia for suspected link to Islamic State cell

2017-01-23

Muslim-majority Malaysia has been on high alert since an attack last January by Islamic State-linked militants in Jakarta, the capital of neighbouring Indonesia.

The cell, operating out of the province of Mindanao, was led by a former university lecturer, Mahmud Ahmad, who is known to be a Malaysian member of Islamic State, Malaysian Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said in a statement on Monday.

The cell had planned to use the east Malaysian state of Sabah as a transit point for South Asian and Southeast Asian militant recruits looking to join Islamic State in the Philippines, Khalid said.

Photo courtesy of Royal Malaysia Police Photo courtesy of Royal Malaysia Police Photo courtesy of Royal Malaysia Police Photo courtesy of Royal Malaysia Police He said one of the arrested suspects, a Philippine man, had been instructed to recruit new followers from Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia, as well as Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, and arrange for their travel to Mindanao.

The suspect, a watch-seller, was arrested in Sabah along with a Malaysian woman who was planning to marry and travel with him to the Philippines, Khalid said.

The two Bangladeshi men were arrested in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur. They had allegedly been recruited by the Philippine suspect.

"The two are suspected of having links with Daesh groups in Bangladesh," Khalid said, using another name for Islamic State.

Khalid said Mahmud's cell had joined up with the Philippine militant group, Abu Sayyaf, and pledged its allegiance to the group's leader and the country's most-wanted man, Isnilon Hapilon.

Full report at:

http://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2017/01/23/two-bangladeshis-arrested-in-malaysia-for-suspected-link-to-islamic-state-cell

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Afghanistan: Iran is supplying Taliban with rockets to strike us

23 January 2017

Iran continues to provide the Taliban with missiles to hit Afghan forces, the governor of Helmand province told Afghanistan’s daily newspaper Hayat Allah Hayat.

He stated that ten rockets were fired by the Taliban at government headquarters in Helmand province, which borders Pakistan, and that the inscription on the missiles showed that they were made in Iran.

Afghan officials added that Iranian-made missiles launched by the Taliban were found in clashes that took place in the cities of Krmesar and Sunken.

The governor believes that the reason behind Tehran’s support of the Taliban is due to the dispute between Iran and Afghanistan regarding the Helman River, which flows into lake Hamon in Baluchestan province in eastern Iran. Tehran believes Afghanistan changed the path of the river causing the lake to dry out.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/01/23/Afghanistan-Iran-is-supplying-Taliban-with-rockets-to-strike-us.html

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Southeast Asia

 

Zaid dares govt to drop half measures and go for full Islamic state

January 24, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR: Former de facto law minister Zaid Ibrahim today challenged the government, and those pushing for shariah law punishment enhancements, to go all the way in their Islamisation policy.

He dared the government to change the Federal Constitution to bring about a fully Islamic administration, rather than introducing “half-baked” measures.

In his latest blog post, Zaid also urged the government to state its intentions clearly on Islamisation so that Malaysians, especially the Malays, would know exactly what was in store.

He said if the government wanted a religious shariah-compliant country, it should realise that the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Act 355) amendment was “merely a set of half-baked half-measures that served no purpose”.

He challenged the government and those such as PAS president Hadi Awang to amend the Federal Constitution to remove its secular nature if they were really serious about having an Islamic state such as that espoused by the Taliban.

He also challenged the government to use the Feb 18 rally with PAS to set the wheels in motion for a constitutional amendment.

“There will be no need for the Act 355 amendment then,” he said.

In criticising former chief justice Abdul Hamid Mohamad’s views on the Constitution and hudud, Zaid said:

“He wants Islamic criminal law — hudud — to be the basis of Malaysian law. In response to those who oppose PAS’ plan to amend the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Act 355), Tun Abdul Hamid said that the government could simply amend other legislation such as the Penal Code to introduce hudud-like laws.”

In other words, Zaid said, Hamid was telling non-Muslims to count their blessings and not oppose the Act 355 amendment and that if they were to oppose it, the prime minister could simply amend the Penal Code and introduce hudud for everyone.

Saying Hamid was wrong, Zaid added that it was not as easy as that. Those pushing for hudud must first amend the Federal Constitution.

“The Constitution must first declare Malaysia to be an Islamic state — that is, a religious state — and that all laws must conform to the tenets of Islam.

“It would also be helpful if our Federal Court were to convene a special hearing to reject the Supreme Court’s decision in Che Omar Che Soh v PP [1988] 2 MLJ 55, which declared the Federal Constitution to be a secular one.

“It is only with these fundamental changes that the prime minister can amend the Penal Code and related legislation so that hudud can be entrenched in this country.”

That, Zaid said, was what a gentleman or a committed Islamist would do. Malaysia, however, had many hypocrites speaking for Islam.

He said these people – which included politicians, civil servants and even former judges – had ganged together to come up with the Act 355 amendment, which effectively metes out hudud-like punishments for Muslims convicted of crimes.

He noted that the proponents of the amendment were telling Muslims that this was to “defend Islam’s honour” and that it was a “sin” not to support them.

In addition, non-Muslims were being assured that the Act 355 amendment did not apply to them.

Zaid sees this as the BN strategy to get the votes in the coming general election.

“So I challenge the prime minister, Hadi and the former chief justice to amend the Federal Constitution. Do not be afraid and don’t hide behind the Act 355 amendment.

Zaid said Muslim law was personal law in this country — that is, it applies to Muslims only.

“The very distinction of personal law and general law exists only in a secular Constitution – there is no such distinction in a theocracy.”

He called on the government to come clean on what Malaysia would be like in 50 years, asking if the government wanted half the country to be governed by Taliban-type law and the other half by secular law.

Zaid said Malays and Muslims also needed to know if men and women would have to sit in separate seats on buses and aeroplanes soon.

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2017/01/24/zaid-dares-govt-to-drop-half-measures-and-go-for-full-islamic-state/

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Indonesia police question cleric over lecture on communist symbols

Jan 24, 2017

Indonesian police on Monday questioned a Muslim cleric over a hate speech complaint by a civil group following a lecture in which he said new banknotes carried the communist hammer-and-sickle symbol.

Communism remains a highly sensitive issue in Indonesia after bloody anti-communist purges in the country in 1965 and symbols and some literature remain outlawed.

Habib Rizieq, head of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), is being investigated over two separate complaints, as authorities take a tougher stance against fundamentalist groups in the world's largest Muslim-majority nation.

Rizieq made the comments about the banknotes in a videotaped lecture last month.

"This is already a formal investigation," said Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono. "We are looking further into his comments on whether the money has the hammer-and-sickle symbol."

The central bank has denied the new banknotes carry any communist symbols.

"What's being seen by some people as a hammer and sickle symbol is actually the Bank Indonesia logo...and it is part of the security elements in the notes to prevent counterfeiting," Bank Indonesia said in a statement this month.

Last week, Rizieq was questioned by police over claims that he made defamatory comments in 2014 about one of Indonesia's founding fathers, Sukarno, and had questioned the legitimacy of the state ideology, Pancasila.

If found guilty, he could face up to four years in prison.

The cleric has denied wrongdoing in both cases.

Rizieq's supporters condemned the investigation of the complaints as indicating the "criminalization" of their leader.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/23-Jan-2017/indonesia-police-question-cleric-over-lecture-on-communist-symbols

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Malaysia arrests 4 linked to Islamic State cell in Philippines

Jan 24 2017

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian police said on Monday they had arrested four people, among them three foreigners, with links to an Islamic State cell based out of the southern Philippines.

Muslim-majority Malaysia has been on high alert since an attack last January by Islamic State-linked militants in Jakarta, the capital of neighboring Indonesia.

The cell, operating out of the province of Mindanao, was led by a former university lecturer, Mahmud Ahmad, who is known to be a Malaysian member of Islamic State, Malaysian Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said in a statement.

The cell had planned to use the east Malaysian state of Sabah as a transit point for South Asian and Southeast Asian militant recruits looking to join Islamic State in the Philippines, Khalid said.

He said one of the arrested suspects, a Filipino, had been instructed to recruit new followers from Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia, as well as Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, and arrange for their travel to Mindanao.

The suspect, a watch-seller, was arrested in Sabah along with a Malaysian woman who was planning to marry and travel with him to the Philippines, Khalid said.

Police also arrested two Bangladeshi men in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, who had allegedly been recruited by the Philippine suspect.

"The two are suspected of having links with Daesh groups in Bangladesh," Khalid said, using another name for Islamic State.

Full report at:

http://news.abs-cbn.com/news/01/23/17/malaysia-arrests-4-linked-to-islamic-state-cell-in-philippines

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Wanted Thai Muslim leader suspected of inspiring militant attacks

Jan 24, 2017

More than a decade ago, Sapae-ing Basor was one of Thailand's most wanted, his face plastered on posters around the south offering 10 million baht, more than US$250,000, for his capture.

But when the spiritual leader of many Muslims in insurgency-torn southern Thailand died at 81 in self-imposed exile in Malaysia January 10, it wasn't just thousands of his followers mourning in mosques that noted his passing.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha expressed his condolences. So did Thawee Sodsong, the officer who signed Sapae-ing's arrest warrant, meeting relatives in Pattani, the insurgency's epicenter.

The government's careful treading indicates how large Sapae-ing loomed in the imagination of southern Thailand, where a grinding insurgency has killed some 7,000 people since 2004. Several separatist groups are active in the three provinces closest to the Malaysian border, and Sapae-ing was associated with the most powerful, the Barisan Revolusi Nasional or BRN.

Malay Muslims who make up the majority in of the three provinces have resented what they see as an imposition of Buddhist culture for decades. After a nationalist military junta seized power in 1932, Thailand passed the "National Culture Act'' to press a uniform culture on the country. Lessons taught in local Jawi script were switched to Thai, and Muslim courts were replaced by civil courts, sparking resistance.

Sapae-ing was educated in local Islamic schools before departing for Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to study Islamic law in 1964. After his return, he swiftly established himself as a theologian. He became headmaster at Thamma Witthaya, a prominent Islamic school.  Over the 1960s and 70s, the rebellion was sporadic and fractured among dozens of separatist groups. Violence waned in the 1990s, as Thailand allowed limited cultural rights.

In the early 2000s, attacks escalated, led by the BRN. Sapae-ing was senior in the BRN but his official role in the organization is unclear.

Don Pathan, a southern Thailand security analyst, said that although was little proof Sapae-ing was involved organizing day-to-day fighting, he served as a "one-man religious police.''

"It was enough to build a new generation of separatists,'' Don said.

Then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra launched a bloody crackdown on separatists in 2004. Lawyers disappeared. Imams were shot. An army roundup on a single October day left 85 protesters dead; seven were shot to death and the rest suffocated in overcrowded trucks taking them away to be detained.

Full report at:

http://www.thestandard.com.hk/breaking-news.php?id=84014

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4 linked to Islamic State cell in Sabah nabbed

Bernama | January 24, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR: The Bukit Aman Special Task Force has crippled an Islamic State (IS) militant group trying to start a base in Sabah.

They had intended to use the Sabah base as a transit point for militants in Southeast Asia and South Asia to enter Southern Philippines where they could join other IS militants.

Inspector-general of police (IGP) Khalid Abu Bakar said four suspects comprising, three foreigners from Bangladesh and one from the Philippines plus a local woman were detained here and in Kota Kinabalu.

The suspects, aged between 27 and 31, were detained by Bukit Aman’s Special Task Force (Operations and Counter-Terrorism) department during separate operations between Jan 13 and Jan 19.

“With the arrest of the suspects, the Special Task Force has crippled a new group of IS militants who had planned to use Sabah as their transit point for militants in Southeast Asia and South Asia to sneak into southern Philippines,” Khalid said in a statement yesterday.

He said the first suspect, a Filipino aged 31, who is believed to be a member of the IS militant group but who worked as a salesman in a shop selling watches in Kota Kinabalu, was detained on Jan 13.

The Filipino was believed to be under the leadership of Mahmud Ahmad (the former Universiti Malaya lecturer who had joined the IS group in Southern Philippines).

“The suspect was believed to have been directed by Mahmud Ahmad to recruit new members from Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Rohingnya from Myanmar before sending them to southern Philippines to join the IS militant group in Marawi City, Mindanao, Philippines,” he said.

According to Khalid, the second suspect was a local woman, aged 27, and detained together with the first suspect in Kota Kinabalu.

“The unemployed woman from Selangor was roped in early last month through social media,” he said adding that the woman took a flight from KLIA on Jan 13, to join the first suspect in Kota Kinabalu.

Full report at:

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2017/01/24/4-linked-to-islamic-state-cell-in-sabah-nabbed/

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Hard-line Indonesian cleric questioned, lashes out at Joko

January 24, 2017

The hard-line cleric behind the push to jail Jakarta’s governor for blasphemy was yesterday questioned by police over an alleged hate speech and claims that he defamed state symbols by suggesting new Indonesian currency notes carried the communist hammer-and-sickle symbol.

Rizieq Shihab, who heads the vigilante Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), arrived at Jakarta’s police headquarters yesterday on the back of a flat-bed truck, accompanied by about 2000 supporters chanting the national anthem to demonstrate their patriotism.

It was the second time this month the cleric has been hauled in by police.

A similar protest, staged as Mr Rizieq faced questioning in West Java over separate claims he slandered the state’s founding ideology of Pancasila, turned violent when FPI supporters clashed with a rival group gathered in support of the police investigation.

While Mr Rizieq has said he would submit peacefully to interrogation, he stoked further trouble yesterday by unfavourably comparing President Joko Widodo’s treatment of Islamic clerics to that of his predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

“I was merely providing a warning to the people of Indonesia, telling them to be vigilant of the rise of PKI (the banned communist party). I have stated the same thing to parliament. But because of my warning I am being questioned as a defendant,” Mr Rizieq told the crowd on his way into police headquarters.

“Never during the previous regime has a cleric, leader of Muslims in Indonesia, been criminalised.”

The comments will be particularly grating for Jokowi, as he is known, as he struggles to deal with the rising political influence of conservative Islam in Indonesia, amid suspicions SBY financed the popular push to indict Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja “Ahok” Purnama, a key Jokowi ally.

The latest slander allegations against the FPI leader relate to a sermon delivered late last year in which he suggested the Bank of Indonesia had knowingly allowed a security feature he claims strongly resembles the hammer and sickle to be used on the new 100,000 rupiah note.

Full report at:

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/hardline-indonesian-cleric-questioned-lashes-out-at-joko/news-story/a27179b17420f49250678f3fe1d9311a

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Arab World

 

Syrian Army Conducts Massive Operation in Deir Ezzur, Kills Tens of ISIL Terrorists

Jan 23, 2017

The Syrian army units and popular forces continued their military advances in al-Maqaber region in Deir Ezzur and managed to lay siege on the ISIL terrorists in al-Ma'amel and Soriyeh Juneid regions, killing tens of the militants.

The military hardware, weapons and ammunition of the terrorists were also destroyed in the Syrian army offensive.

Meantime, the Syrian army's missile and artillery units also targeted the ISIL's gathering centers and movements in al-Mohandesin region near al-Tharda mountains in the Southern part of Deir Ezzur, killing and injuring several terrorists.

The ISIL's military tank was also destroyed in the army attacks.

The Syrian army forces also targeted ISIL's gathering centers in the villages of al-Baqiliyeh and Ayash as well as the surrounding areas of Brigade 137 as well as al-Tim and al-Haviqeh areas.

The Syrian army also destroyed ISIL's drone in al-Maqaber region in the Southern part of Deir Ezzur.

The Russian warplanes also targeted the ISIL's military positions in Panorama and the surrounding areas of Deir Ezzur military airport, killing and injuring several ISIL terrorists.

The Syrian fighter jets also hit and destroyed two arms depots of the ISIL in Sheikh Yassin and al-Amal regions.

In a relevant development on Sunday, the ISIL terrorist group failed to prevail over the Syrian Army troops' positions in the Southern and Southwestern outskirts of Deir Ezzur city, and inflicted major losses on the militants.

The army soldiers engaged in fierce clashes with the ISIL terrorists near Panorama district and also near Deir Ezzur's military airport.

The ISIL suffered heavy casualties and its military hardware sustained major damage in the clashes.

In the meantime, the army's aircraft launched heavy airstrikes on ISIL's gatherings and movements in al-Thardah mountain, Panorama farms and the districts of al-Arzi and al-Omal.

The Syrian and Russian warplanes also carried out joint combat flights over ISIL's defense lines in Deir Ezzur's cemetery and Jonayd Division in the Southern outskirts of the city, while the army's artillery and missile units shelled the same positions of the terrorists, inflicting a number of casualties on the terrorists.

Reports said earlier on Sunday that the army troops engaged in intense battle with ISIL terrorists and drove them out of more positions in two key districts in the Southwestern outskirts of Deir Ezzur with the back up of the country's Air Force and artillery units.

The army soldiers continued to advance against ISIL in Deir Ezzur's cemetery, and seized control over several positions.

In the meantime, the army aircraft and artillery units pounded ISIL's movements in the cemetery, killing and wounding a number of militants.

A military source said that ISIL tried to open new battlefields in the Eastern outskirts of Deir Ezzur to decrease the army's pressure on its forces in the cemetery but the army men in al-Omal district managed to foil terrorists' attempts, killing or wounding a large number of militants and destroying their vehicles and positions.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951104000623

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S Arabia seeks stronger US ties under Trump

Jan 24, 2017

RIYADH - Longtime US ally Saudi Arabia on Monday said it hopes for strengthened relations under President Donald Trump.

At its weekly meeting chaired by King Salman, the cabinet cited “the strength of ties between Saudi Arabia and the United States and the wish to develop and reinforce them”, the official Saudi Press Agency said.

The cabinet also conveyed its congratulations to Trump following his investiture last Friday.

The United States and Saudi Arabia have a decades-old relationship based on the exchange of American security for Saudi oil. But ties between Riyadh and Washington became increasingly frayed during the eight-year administration of former president Barack Obama.

Saudi leaders felt Obama was reluctant to get involved in the civil war in Syria and other regional conflicts.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said last week that he expects the Trump administration to be more engaged in the Middle East, and the world in general, while “rebuilding” relationships with allies. Trump has threatened to ban Muslims from the United States.

Gulf Arab states are quietly applauding the arrival in the White House of a hawkish leader opposed to their adversary Iran, even if they suspect Donald Trump’s short temper and abrasive Tweets may at times heighten tensions in the combustible Middle East. While many countries around the world listened with concern to his protectionist inaugural address, Gulf Arab officials appear optimistic. They see in Trump a strong president who will shore up Washington’s role as their main strategic partner in a region central to US security and energy interests.

Saudi Arabia in particular appears relieved at the departure of Barack Obama, who it felt considered Riyadh’s alliance with Washington less important than negotiating a deal in 2015 to neutralise Iran’s nuclear programme.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/24-Jan-2017/s-arabia-seeks-stronger-us-ties-under-trump

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Iraq: ISIL Terrorists Brutally Take Out, Eat Civilian's Heart Alive in Kirkuk to Spread Reign of Terror

Jan 23, 2017

"The ISIL killed seven people by running a bulldozer over them and took the eighth civilian's heart while he was alive on charges of spying for the government forces," a security source in Kirkuk province disclosed on Monday.

The source noted that the ISIL terrorists committed the heinous crime inside al-Bokareh airbase near Hawija around 55 kilometers Southwest of Kirkuk province.

"Another ISIL terrorist took the heart of an Iraqi civilian for allegations about his cooperation with the Iraqi security forces," he added.

The ISIL has committed similar crimes against the Iraqi civilians many times before in Kirkuk province.

In mid-December, the ISIL executed 17 people, mostly youths, in al-Hawija region over accusations of cooperating with security forces and mutiny against the terrorist group.

The ISIL group took 17 people out of their residences in the early hours of December 12 before executing them by a fire squad inside al-Bokareh airbase.

Meantime, a security source disclosed that a large number of civilians, including women and children, have escaped from the ISIL and approached Peshmerga forces.

The people had fled the ISIL-controlled al-Makhous, al-Madina and al-Akouleh regions to reach Maktab Khaled that is under the rule of the Peshmerga forces.

The ISIL had captured the the town of Hawija in June 2014.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951104001251

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Assailants kill five Egypt soldiers in Sinai

Jan 24, 2017

CAIRO - The Egyptian army said Monday that assailants killed five soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula, where security forces have been targeted in a spate of militant attacks.

“The armed forces mourn with great sadness and sorrow the five martyrs who were martyred in Sinai at the hands of disloyal fundamentalist elements, enemies of the nation and religion,” the military said.

The statement did not elaborate on the cause of their deaths.

Militants have killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen since the military overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 unleashed a bloody crackdown on his supporters. The crackdown decimated the Islamist movement and killed hundreds of his followers, and set off a militant insurgency that has killed hundreds of security personnel.

Most of the attacks have taken place in the Sinai Peninsula, which borders Israel and the Palestinian Gaza Strip, but attacks have also been carried out in other areas including Cairo.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/24-Jan-2017/assailants-kill-five-egypt-soldiers-in-sinai

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Syria talks focused on cease-fire start in Kazakhstan

Jan 24, 2017

ASTANA: Syria's government envoy and a rebel leader traded barbs as talks between the Mideast country's warring sides got underway in Kazakhstan on Monday in the first face-to-face meeting between the Damascus government and rebel factions fighting to overthrow it.

The gathering in Astana, the Kazakh capital, is also the start of a new effort to end six years of carnage that has killed hundreds of thousands, displaced half of Syria's population and sent millions of refugees to neighboring countries and Europe.

The UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, is participating in the talks, which if successful, are expected to be followed by more political talks in February in Geneva.

The new US administration is not directly involved, because of the "immediate demands of the transition," the State Department said on Saturday, but Washington is represented by the U.S. ambassador to Kazakhstan, George Krol, who attended Monday's opening session held at the luxury Rixos President Hotel in Astana.

After a one-hour closed session during which de Mistura mediated, the Damascus envoy came out to denounce to reporters a speech delivered by the head of the rebel factions attending the gathering as "provocative" and "insolent."

Bashar Ja'afari, Syria's UN ambassador, said rebel leader Mohammad Alloush's speech in Astana did not rise to the level of the gathering of diplomats attending the conference.

Ja'afari repeatedly referred to the rebel delegation as representatives of "terrorist armed groups" and said the final agenda for the talks is not ready yet.

"These provocative and belittling acts characterized the words and action of the armed terrorist groups meant to provoke the attendees," he said, adding that Alloush's opening speech was unsuitable for those who came to Astana.

Ja'afari was referring to Alloush's speech in which he described Syrian President Bashar Assad's government as "terrorist" and called for placing armed groups fighting alongside the Syrian army, including Lebanon's Hezbollah group, on a global list of terrorist organizations.

"The presence of foreign militias invited by the regime, most notably the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Iraqi Hezbollah ... contributes to the continuation of bloodshed and obstructs any opportunity for a ceasefire," Alloush said.

Assad's forces and their allies are no different than the ISIS group and should be designated as "terrorist groups," he said.

The harsh and uncompromising tone delivered by the two sides, so soon after the talks started with an opening ceremony and speeches by various representatives, was a bad omen for the gathering.

Earlier, Osama Abo Zayd, a rebel media representative to the talks, told The Associated Press that the scope of the negotiations is limited to strengthening the cease-fire.

"There's no significance to negotiations if the people on whose behalf we are negotiating are being killed," he said, adding that there has been absolutely no discussion about elections or Assad's future.

Syria's war is estimated to have killed about 400,000 people since March 2011. The conflict, which started as an uprising against Assad's rule against the backdrop of Arab Spring movements, quickly descended into all-out civil war.

Ahead of the talks, delegates passed through the hotel's soaring atrium, where songbirds are kept to chirp in cages, on their way to the conference room.

Reflecting persisting tensions, Arab TV stations said the rebel delegates stalled, entering the room a few minutes late to register their displeasure at being seated at the same oval-shaped table as the Iranian delegation. The hotel was closed off to all but a handful of representatives of the media.

Russia, Turkish and Iranian delegates were all seated around the same table, along with de Mistura and the US ambassador.

After a short opening ceremony during which Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov spoke, the meeting went into closed session. It wasn't immediately clear if there would be any direct talks between the rebels and Damascus representatives behind the closed doors.

At the top of the agenda is an effort to consolidate last month's cease-fire brokered by Turkey and Russia. The truce, which excludes extremist groups such as the ISIS group and the al-Qaida affiliate in Syria, has reduced overall violence but fighting and violations continue on multiple fronts.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/23-Jan-2017/syria-talks-focused-on-cease-fire-start-in-kazakhstan

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After 100 days of fighting, Mosul’s east recaptured

24 January 2017

Iraqi officials said on Monday government forces had taken complete control of eastern Mosul, 100 days after the start of their US-backed campaign to dislodge ISIS militants from the city.

The deputy parliament speaker announced the capture of the east of the city, ISIS's last major stronghold in Iraq, after a meeting with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

"We completed the total liberation of the left bank of Mosul and this is a gift to the Iraqi people," said Sheikh Humam Hamoudi in a statement.

The army on Sunday entered Rashidiya, the last district under the control of the militants on the east bank of the Tigris, said military spokesman Brigadier-General Yahya Rasool.

Mopping-up operations were still under way on Monday to flush out remaining militants in a pocket in this northeastern district, he said in a statement.

A resident of Rashidiya said the army had stormed the area after air strikes destroyed a tank and car bomb the militants had been preparing to attack the advancing forces.

A resident of Zanjali, a district on the west side of Mosul, said ISIS fighters "have arrived from the left bank and are trying to find houses on the right bank", fleeing from the government forces' advance. The resident asked not to identified as the militants kill those caught speaking with the outside world.

Iraqi forces launched a campaign on Oct. 17 to retake Mosul from the hardline Sunni group, which captured the city in 2014, declaring from its Grand Mosque a "caliphate" that also spanned parts of Syria, ruled by its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Militants cornered

The defense ministry had earlier on Monday issued a statement announcing the complete takeover of eastern Mosul, adding that Abadi would be making a formal announcement later. The statement was later removed from the ministry's website.

A US-led coalition is providing air and ground support to the Iraqi forces.

The west side of Mosul could prove more complicated to take than the east as it is crisscrossed by streets too narrow for armored vehicles.

The militants are expected to put up a tough fight as they are cornered in a shrinking area of the northern Iraqi city.

Mosul had a pre-war population of nearly 2 million, and about 750,000 people are estimated to live in western Mosul. More than 160,000 have been displaced since the start of the offensive, according to the United Nations.

The battle for Mosul, involving 100,000 Iraqi troops, members of the Kurdish security forces and Shiite militiamen, is the biggest ground operation in Iraq since the US-led invasion of 2003.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/01/24/After-100-days-of-fighting-Mosul-s-east-recaptured.html

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Trump, Sisi discuss fighting terrorism in first phone call

23 January 2017

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi discussed fighting terrorism and extremism with US President Donald Trump in a telephone call, and Trump applauded Egypt’s efforts on those fronts, Sisi’s office said on Monday.

Trump told Sisi he appreciates the difficulties faced by Egypt in its “war on terror” and affirmed his administration’s commitment to supporting the country, Sisi’s spokesman Alaa Youssef said in a statement.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/01/23/Trump-Sisi-discuss-fighting-terrorism-in-first-phone-call.html

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Military Official: Syrian Gov't Troops Close to Entering Raqqa City Countryside

Jan 23, 2017

"The Syrian government forces have taken control over the mountains in the Western part of Raqqa province and are now very close to pave their way into the Raqqa city countryside," a Syrian army general revealed on Monday.

The Syrian general said that the government troops have blocked the supply lines between Southwestern Raqqa and the ISIL-controlled areas in the Eastern and Southeastern parts of Aleppo province.

He said that the primary goal of the Syrian army's advances is to establish control over Sabkheh al-Jaboul in Southeastern Aleppo to cut the supply routes from Tabaqeh in Raqqa countryside to the Eastern parts of Aleppo province.

"The Syrian army's control over Sabkheh al-Jaboul region will be a prelude to a new operation towards the city of Maskaneh which is one of the three remaining ISIL bases in Aleppo province," the Syrian general added.

He went on to say that the Maskaneh operations is expected to happen with the intensification of the military operation against the ISIL near the town of al-Bab, specially because the Syrian army has recaptured several ISIL-controlled regions in near Al-Bab.

In relevant remarks on Sunday, a field source disclosed minutes ago that a large column of Syrian army soldiers and the Lebanese Hezbollah fighters has arrived in Southeastern Aleppo to take part in an imminent large-scale operation in the region and further move towards Raqqa.

The source said that a long military convoy of army men and Hezbollah fighters has arrived in Southeastern Aleppo to join their comrades to start an imminent operation against ISIL near Aleppo's borders with Raqqa province.

The source added that the government forces' first phase of operation will cover Khanasser towards Maskana region, Deir Hafer and al-Bab to open a Western front on Raqqa province.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951104000843

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ISIL, Al-Nusra Terrorists Sustain Heavy Losses in Syrian Army Operations in Eastern, Northern Homs

Jan 23, 2017

The ISIL's military positions in Tal al-Morsed, Bazr al-Favaereh and Tal al-Awamid in the Eastern part of al-Quaryatayn came under the Syrian army's attacks, resulting in the death of several ISIL terrorists and destruction of four military vehicles.

The Syrian fighter jets also hit the movements and gathering centers of the ISIL terrorists in Mohaseh, al-Baredeh and al-Betra South of the T4 airbase in Eastern Homs, destroying a large number of their military vehicles.

In Northern Homs, the Syrian army's artillery and missile units targeted the military positions and gathering centers of Fatah al-Sham Front terrorists in the two villages of Azz al-Din and Um Sharhouh which resulted in the destruction of a number of military bases and mortar launchers as well as military vehicles of the terrorists.

The Syrian army also targeted the gathering centers of al-Nusra Front in Talbisieh and its surrounding farms as well as Taldo in al-Houleh in Northern Homs, killing and injuring several terrorists.

In a relevant development on Sunday, the Syrian army's missile units targeted the positions of Fatah al-Sham Front in Northern Homs, destroying the group's operation room there.

The missile units shelled the operations room of Fatah al-Sham and Rejalullah militants in Housh Hajaw, destroying it completely.

A number of terrorists were killed and several military vehicles of them were destroyed in the missile attack.

In the meantime, the army's artillery units targeted the gatherings and movements of al-Nusra in Northern Homs, inflicting major losses on the militants.

Also, the Syrian fighter jets raided ISIL's military positions in the surrounding areas of the ancient city of Palmyra (Tadmur) on Friday, killing over a dozen terrorists, including a notorious commander.

Abu Omar al-Saraqebi, a senior commander of the ISIL, was among 15 ISIL terrorists killed in the Syrian airstrikes on the Southern part of the village of Sharifeh in the Eastern countryside of Homs.

An armored vehicle of the ISIL terrorist group was also destroyed in aerial bombardments.

The Syrian air force also pounded the ISIL's gathering centers and movements in the surrounding areas of T4 airbase, destroying two tanks and several military vehicles.

Meantime, the Syrian army retook more lands South and West of the T4 airbase in Eastern Homs, including several hilltops and regions overlooking Alfo Sefat road.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951104000757

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Africa

 

Al-Shabaab fighting kills 5 in Somalia

24 January 2017

At least five people including three soldiers were killed Monday in heavy fighting between the Somali army and heavily armed militia belonging to al-Shabaab, officials said.

Abdurrahman Ahmed, a Somali national army captain, said that the fighting began after al-Shabaab attacked an army base in Afgoye, the lower Shabelle region, a town 30 kilometers southwest of the capital Mogadishu.

“Al-Shabaab militants attacked an army base in Afgoye. Three soldiers were killed and two others were also wounded. We killed two al-Shabaab militants and wounded over 10 others. Our forces are controlling the entire town,” Abdurrahman said.

The fighting began at 5:00 pm local time (1400GMT) and ended by 7:00 pm, eyewitness Mukhtar Ali said.

“It was rush hour when the fighting began, we don’t know the real casualties caused by the fighting. We are still hearing sporadic gunfire,” he said.

Afgoye is a strategic agriculture town which has seen more attacks in recent years since the Somali government recaptured it from al-Shabaab in 2012.

Separately, three people including soldiers and al-Shabaab fighters were killed in fighting in the town of Eil-baraf, in the middle Shabelle region, Monday. Qadar Mohamed Abdi, Eil-baraf commissioner, confirmed the fighting and casualties.

http://www.worldbulletin.net/africa/183615/al-shabaab-fighting-kills-5-in-somalia

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AUN students’ campaign wins African anti-extremism competition

January 23, 2017

The American University of Nigeria (AUN) has won the first Africa Regional Peer-to-Peer, P2P, Challenging Extremism Competition, which was held in Ghana on January 13.  Thirty-two African universities competed.

Team AUN comprising Zamiyat Abubakar, Abdulmalik Aminu, Exploits Nicholas, Hafiz Michika, and Mohammed Ahmed– a multidisciplinary selection from three of AUN’s schools–faced off with counterparts from the University for Development Studies, Ghana, UDS, which was the first runner-up, and Tunis Business School, Tunisia, TBS, the second runner-up.

Congratulating the victorious team, President Margee Ensign said: “All of us at AUN are so proud of our students, and of the faculty who assisted them, in winning this important international award. The creativity, intelligence, hard work, and vision which went into this project, which promotes inter-religious understanding and tolerance, reflect what is best about the American University of Nigeria.  May we all continue to build a more thoughtful, peaceful, and just world together”.

AUN received the first prize of $5,000.  The first runner-up prize of $3,000 won by UDS and TBS, the second runner-up, earned $1,000.  The Accra, Ghana, outing was the first P2P challenge on extremism competition to be organized for Africa since the Challenging Extremism program kicked off 17 years ago.

Team AUN’s #IAmABeliever campaign was strongly commended by Facebook, Edventure Partners, and by officials of the U.S. State Department, co-sponsors of the competition.  The judges described the campaign as “extraordinarily coherent”.

Providing more insight, AUN Faculty Adviser who led the Team to Ghana,Jacob Jacob, said, “Our students worked extremely hard.  Their presentation was very coherent.  Winning this competition shows our expertise within a region that is extremely important and on a very important topic.”

Mr. Jacob, who is interim associate dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and chair of the Communications and Multimedia program further confirmed that “. . . various governmental and non-governmental organizations have expressed interest in the students’ campaign, and rightly so.  I can’t see a better key to countering violent extremism, which has to be led by young people and delivered peer to peer.  It has to be backed by research and must be well targeted.”

The campaign revolved around the concept, “I am a Believer, but I am also human, a brother, a sister, an artisan, a father, a mother, and a student.”  It seeks to respect and validate everyone’s beliefs as beliefs, distinct from the believer, while emphasising interdependence, interrelatedness, shared beliefs and values, and a common sense of humanity.

As part of the campaign, team AUN created a digital tool Beliepedia that provides an online space to show Islamic and Christian teachings and scriptural texts on some challenging questions on human existence, such as What is the purpose of life? and Why does God permit suffering?  The tool allows readers to comment and share posts on social media.  It also enables Christian and Muslim leaders and clerics to post answers to questions.

Full report at:

http://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/more-news/221334-aun-students-campaign-wins-african-anti-extremism-competition.html

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236 people buried after IDP camp bombing by Nigerian jet – Official

January 23, 2017

A total of 234 people were killed and buried after a Nigerian military jet mistakenly bombed a camp occupied by persons displaced by Boko Haram, an official has said.

The Chairman of Kala-Balge Local Government Area of Borno State, Babagana Malarima, said 234 persons were buried in Rann village, which is in the local government, after the January 17 bombing.

The Nigerian military and the federal government have described the bombing as an accident and expressed solidarity with the victims. An Air Force investigation team has since arrived Borno to investigate the attack.

The military said the jet was meant to target suspected Boko Haram members when it accidentally bombed the camp.

Mr. Malarima said two other injured persons died in the hospital after they were flown by helicopter from the camp.

He disclosed this on Friday when the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, visited Rann.

The council chairman is the first government official to give a major casualty figure after the Doctors without Borders, MSF, announced on the day of the attack that 52 persons died and 120 others injured.

The MSF later said the death toll could be as high as 174.

“We buried 234 corpses in Rann after the bombs were dropped on the IDP camp,” Mr. Malarima said. “We have two others injured persons that died while in hospital in Maiduguri.”

Several of the wounded were flown by helicopter to Maiduguri due to the bad and insecure state of roads that link the Borno Capital with Kala-Balge, where the Rann camp is located.

Full report at:

http://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/221343-236-people-buried-idp-camp-bombing-nigerian-jet-official.html

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UN: Boko Haram’s toll includes 515,000 malnourished kids

January 24, 2017

More than half a million children in the West African area wracked by Boko Haram extremists are so malnourished their lives could be in danger unless they get aid, a U.N. humanitarian official said Monday, describing a region where millions get by on one meal a day and some communities have lost all their toddlers.

Military campaigns have driven Boko Haram from much of the territory it took during a seven-year uprising that killed more than 20,000 people, displaced over 2 million and shocked the world with the abduction of nearly 300 schoolgirls. But as aid workers got into areas the Islamic militants had controlled, the suffering they left behind became clear in the last six months, said Toby Lanzer, the U.N’s humanitarian coordinator for the region.

“What we have seen is extraordinary,” he said at a news briefing at U.N. headquarters. “I have seen adults sapped of all energy, who are almost unable to walk. We have had villages and towns devoid of 2- and 3- and 4-year-old children because they’ve died.”

Some totally destroyed towns had been cut off from the outside world for more than three years, Lanzer said.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari declared that Boko Haram was “technically defeated” in December 2015, but attacks have continued in some places. Two women suicide bombers killed at least 30 people and wounded 67 on Friday at a northeastern Nigerian market, in violence blamed on Boko Haram.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/world/un-boko-harams-toll-includes-515000-malnourished-kids-4488671/

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India

 

Under Rajiv Gandhi, India was ready with hydrogen bomb to counter Pakistan's nukes

Jan 24, 2017

NEW DELHI: India under Rajiv Gandhi made preparations in 1985 to test a hydrogen bomb in response to Pakistan’s nuclear programmes, recently released US documents showed. Concerned about the possibility of a nuclear arms race in South Asia, the Ronald Reagan administration wanted to send an emissary to mediate between the two neighbours and help ease tensions.

About 930,000 declassified documents, running into more than 12 million pages and recently posted online by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), provide interesting insights into India’s nuclear weapons capabilities during the 1980s and Delhi's increasing concerns over Pakistan's nuclear programme at the time.

In one of the documents, the world’s premier intelligence agency said it faced difficulties in gathering details of Delhi’s nuclear programme as Indian security was “extremely tight”.

The spy agency said the hydrogen bomb that the government of Rajiv Gandhi was preparing to explode was much stronger than the one tested 11years earlier, when his mother Indira was the Prime Minister. India at the time was also far ahead than Pakistan on nuclear technology, it noted.

While Rajiv Gandhi was initially hesitant to pursue his mother’s plan to push the nuclear programme, his mind changed when he got reports in early 1985 that Pakistan was making progress with nuclear weapons, according to the CIA. On May 4, 1985, he stated that Pakistan’s persistent efforts to join the nuclear club had compelled India to review its nuclear policy.

The agency said the H-bomb was created by a team of 36 scientists at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre near Mumbai. The CIA also claimed that India was stockpiling plutonium for nuclear arsenal. “A rapid series of Pakistani tests would compel New Delhi to develop nuclear weapons and touch off a nuclear arms race between the two,” assessed a CIA document.

But, according to CIA assessment, fear of international political and economic reprisals would deter India from conducting an attack on Pakistan’s nuclear facilities. “China and not Pakistan is perceived as a long-term threat to the Indian security,” it noted.

On sending an emissary, a document said while India was not warm to the idea, it nonetheless was not against giving the person an audience.

The agency had suggested that the emissary should meet Rajiv Gandhi but refrained from predicting an outcome. On the other hand, Islamabad would welcome a US representative, according to the spy agency.

At the time, Pakistan was seen as a key ally of the US in South Asia, and India as a friend of the Soviet Union.

The Rajiv Gandhi government didn’t go ahead with the testing. It was in 1998 under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee that India again conducted nuclear tests. Pakistan followed with its own testing. The CIA documents, posted online on January 17, were declassified after the mandatory 25 years.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/under-rajiv-gandhi-india-was-ready-with-hydrogen-bomb-to-counter-pakistans-nukes/articleshow/56749397.cms

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Taslima Nasreen: India Needs Uniform Civil Law, Muslim Groups: She Has Got Too Much Freedom

January 23, 2017

Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen, who has been living in exile since 1994 after facing the ire of fundamentalists, said India urgently needed a uniform civil law.

During a surprise session at the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) 2017 in Diggi Palace, the controversial writer also said criticism of Islam is the only way to establish secularism in Islamic countries.

Outside the JLF venue, Muslim organisations protested against the participation of Taslima Nasreen at the festival. "Taslima was thrown out of Bangladesh. She was allowed to stay in this country, but she has got too much freedom," said Qari Moinuddin, convenor, Rajasthan Muslim Forum.

"The JLF organizers have assured us that they will never call these two people (Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasreen) to the Jaipur Literature Festival again without consulting us," said the convenor of the Rajasthan Muslim Forum.

ALSO READ: Uniform Civil Code soon? Modi government writes to Law Commission

Here is what Taslima Nasreen said at the Jaipur Literature Festival:

"When I or anyone else criticise Hinduism, Buddhism or other religions nothing happens. But the moment you criticise Islam, people come running after your life," Taslima said at a session titled Exile.

"They issue fatwas against you and they want to kill you. But why do they need to do so? If they disagree with me, they can write against me, share their views like we do. They can have conversations rather than fatwas," the 55-year-old writer said.

Nasreen said Muslim women are "oppressed" and that uniform civil law is the need of the hour to protect their rights. "If you have a set of laws for Hindus, if Hindu women can divorce their husbands and have a say in their property, and we have seen how progressive that has been, then why are Islamic fundamentalists against a uniform civil law? Is not having a uniform civil law democratic," the author of 'Lajja' said.

"A uniform civil law is urgently needed in India for the protection of women. The fundamentalists should introspect and ask themselves why are they not ready to accept criticism," the Bangladeshi author said.

"What do you mean by secularism, does it require you to encourage Muslim fundamentalists? For Muslim votes, you throw a writer out of the country and continue to patronise misogynists," she maintained.

Full report at:

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/taslima-nasreen-jlf-uniform-civil-law-muslim-protest-diggi-palace/1/864441.html

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Mideast

 

Turkish military says killed 65 ISIS militants in Syria

Jan 24, 2017

Sixty-five Islamic State militants were killed in operations by the Turkish army in support of rebels in northern Syria on Sunday, the Turkish military said on Monday.

Turkey launched an operation to drive the jihadists away from the Syrian border five months ago and have been besieging the Islamic State controlled town of al-Bab for weeks.

http://nation.com.pk/international/23-Jan-2017/turkish-military-says-killed-65-isis-militants-in-syria

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Erdogan asks Tanzania to act against Gulen network

Jan 24, 2017

DAR ES SALAAM - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday asked his Tanzanian counterpart John Magufuli to take action against the network of an exiled cleric he blames for last year’s failed coup.

The Hizmet movement run by US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, is linked to a network of schools across the world, including in Africa, and the Turkish president is rallying leaders on the continent to help him fight the influence of his longtime rival.

“The party that wants to overthrow me isn’t only in Turkey... I am convinced that Tanzania will from now on take measures against this terrorist organisation,” Erdogan said after meeting Magufuli.

It was not clear what action he had asked Tanzania to take against the schools, which are believed to be affiliated with Gulen’s movement. They are extremely popular among the country’s middle class and often among the best performing schools.

Turkish officials accuse Gulen of using his vast private education network to build influence and of running a “parallel state” inside Turkey. Gulen, a former Erdogan ally, vehemently denies the allegations. A reclusive figure, he has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999.

Hizmet describes itself as promoting Islam through charity efforts and educational work in countries stretching from Turkey to Africa and Central Asia to the United States. Erdogan, whose five-day tour will also take him to Mozambique and Madagascar, also discussed business and trade.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/24-Jan-2017/erdogan-asks-tanzania-to-act-against-gulen-network

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Syria peace process in Astana great success: Iran Foreign Ministry

Jan 23, 2017

Iran has praised as a diplomatic “success” the peace talks underway between Damascus and opposition groups in the Kazakh capital, Astana, expressing hope that the process will work to consolidate the ceasefire holding across Syria.

“The issue of ceasefire is the most important point that will be discussed today and tomorrow,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said Monday.

“I do not think that the talks can enter other subjects during this limited time,” said Qassemi, expressing hope, however, that the meeting “can take some steps forward concerning the stabilization of the ceasefire.”

He called the meeting a “great success,” which can pave the way for humanitarian aid delivery to conflict-stricken areas of Syria.

The two-day negotiations, which opened in Astana earlier on Monday, aim to end the six-year conflict gripping Syria.

Delegates from Iran, Russia and Turkey are mediating the UN-backed negotiations.

OIC Rohingya committee

Elsewhere in his comments, Qassemi outlined some the achievements made at a recent meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Malaysia over the plight of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, adding  that a committee had been set up to address the sufferings of the persecuted community.

He said Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who also joined the conference, had written to UN Secretary General António Guterres, communicating Iran’s concern over the situation of Muslim minorities in Myanmar.

Through the OIC, the UN and other international bodies, Iran seeks to urge the Myanmarese government to change its attitude towards the Rohingya, the spokesman noted.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/01/23/507393/Iran-Astana-Syria-Rohingya-Kuwait-JCPOA

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Yemen army claims control of strategic port city of Mokha

24 January 2017

Forces allied with the internationally-recognized government of Yemen seized control of a strategic Red Sea port on Monday after waging an assault against Shiite militias, a top military commander said.

Brig. Gen. Ahmed Seif al-Yafai said in press remarks that his forces have entered the city of Mokha, where dozens of families were seen fleeing days of clashes and bombardment. Dozens of fighters were killed as the bodies of the slain men littered streets and sidewalks, witnesses said.

Mokha, one of Yemen’s oldest ports, is seen as a weapons lifeline to the militias and their allies — who control the capital, Sanaa, and much of the northern region.

A Saudi-led military coalition is backing the government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and seeking to restore him to power.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2017/01/24/Yemen-army-claims-control-of-strategic-port-city-of-Mokha.html

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Israeli court convicts nuclear whistle-blower for violating terms of release

Jan 24, 2017

An Israeli court has convicted nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu of what it described as a violation of the terms of his release from prison under parole, more than a decade after he completed an 18-year prison sentence.

The so-called Jerusalem Magistrate Court made the ruling on January 10, but it was not cleared for publication until Monday. A sentence is due on March 14.

The 62-year-old former nuclear technician was convicted of meeting two US nationals in East Jerusalem al-Quds in 2013 without having permission to do so. He was, however, cleared of two other counts.

Vanunu had also been accused of moving apartments in 2014 without notifying Israeli authorities and attending an interview in 2015 with Israel’s Hebrew-language Channel 2 television network.

In the interview, the nuclear whistle-blower reportedly revealed details about Tel Aviv’s “greatest secrets” regarding its clandestine atomic activities. In the lengthy interview broadcast on September 4, 2015, Vanunu explained how he once exposed the existence of Israel’s nuclear arsenal and elaborated on a potential disaster that could emanate from Israel’s notorious Dimona nuclear plant.

The file photo shows Israel’s nuclear facility in the Negev Desert outside Dimona.

Vanunu leaked the details and pictures of Israel’s nuclear weapons program to Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper in 1986.

Israeli intelligence agents drugged and abducted him in Italy in 1986 and then transported him to the occupied territories for prosecution. He spent the subsequent 18 years behind bars, 11 of which were spent in solitary confinement.

Vanunu faces a travel ban, among a long and stringent list of restrictions. He insists that he wants to annul his “citizenship.”

The Israeli regime, however, has repeatedly rejected Vanunu’s request for leaving the occupied territories and reuniting with his family in Norway.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/01/24/507493/Israel-nuclear-whistleblower-Vanunu-violation-terms-of-release

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Palestinians protest Israeli atrocities outside Knesset

Jan 24, 2017

Palestinian demonstrators have marched on the Israeli Knesset in protest to the death of a Bedouin villager killed by Israeli forces during a demolition raid in the village of Umm al-Hayran.

During the Monday protests held in East Jerusalem al-Quds, the demonstrators demanded the release of the body of Yaqoub Mousa Abu al-Qian, who was killed last Wednesday.

Israelis claimed Qian rammed Israeli officers with his vehicle and left an officer dead, but witnesses described the Israeli narrative as being fabricated.

The protesters also censured the recent destruction of Palestinian homes and Tel Aviv’s approval of the construction of hundreds of new Israeli settler units in East Jerusalem al-Quds.

Israel’s approval of the settler units comes despite international calls to end the unlawful practice, and a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution condemning them as illegal.

Bedouin women react to the demolition of houses in the village of Umm al-Hayran on January 18, 2017.

On December 23, the UNSC passed Resolution 2334 with 14 votes in favor and one abstention by the US. It condemned the establishment of settlements by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories as a “flagrant violation under international law,” which it said was “dangerously imperiling the viability” of peace and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/01/24/507485/palestine-israeli-knesset-protest

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UN, Ansarullah reach consensus on holding fresh Yemen talks

Jan 23, 2017

The United Nations and Yemeni Houthi Ansarullah movement have reached an agreement to restart a new round of peace talks with negotiators from the resigned government of former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi to end the nearly two-year-old conflict in the Arab country.

The United Nations special envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, said on Monday that he had recently met with Ansarullah and the General People's Congress leaders, and the two sides had agreed on talks in the Jordanian capital city of Amman on the formation of a ceasefire committee before the UN-sponsored peace talks later this year, Lebanon-based Arabic-language al-Mayadeen television news network reported.

Yemeni sources say the talks on the ceasefire committee will last a week, and UN experts in addition to representatives from the Ansarullah movement and the Saudi-backed former Yemeni regime will head to Saudi Arabia once a truce agreement has been struck in Amman.

The UN envoy said earlier that the talks in Jordan would deal with the technical aspects of the ceasefire committee, and political issues are excluded from the forthcoming negotiations.

On October 29, 2016, Hadi rejected a peace proposal by the UN envoy, saying the plan “rewards” the Houthi Ansarullah movement.

Resigned Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi

Details of the road map, which includes security and political arrangements, have not been made public, but according to informed sources, the proposed peace roadmap gives the Houthis, who are in control of large swathes of the country, including the capital of Sana’a, a share of the future government.

The plan also shrinks the president’s powers in exchange for the Houthis’ withdrawal from several major cities, including the capital, and the handover of their heavy weapons to a third party.

The president must also transfer power to the vice president, who in return appoints a new premier to form a new government, in which the Houthi-controlled north and the pro-Hadi south would have equal representation.

Strategic Red Sea port of Mukha not taken by Hadi loyalists

Meanwhile, the Yemeni Defense Ministry has roundly dismissed reports that Hadi loyalists have captured the port city of Mukha, situated 346 kilometers south of Sana'a.

A source in the ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Yemeni soldiers and fighters from allied Popular Committees had engaged in fierce skirmishes with the Saudi-sponsored militiamen in Dhubab district overlooking the Bab el-Mandeb strait, killing scores of the armed men.

Yemeni Houthi Ansarullah fighters, dressed in army fatigues, march in a parade during a gathering in the capital, Sana’a, on January 1,2017. (Photo by AFP)

The source added that Saudi military aircraft were supporting the pro-Saudi gunmen during the firefight, noting that there were dozens of African nationals among the Saudi mercenaries.

The United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, says the Yemeni conflict has claimed the lives of 10,000 people and left 40,000 others wounded.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/01/23/507451/Yemen-UN-Houthi-Ansarullah-talks-

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North America

 

Muslim Activist at Anti-Trump Rally: Trump ‘Wants the Extermination of Muslims Globally’

January 23, 2017

Darakshan Raja, co-founder of the Muslim American Women's Policy Forum and formerly a researcher at the Urban Institute, said at a rally on inauguration day that President Trump “made a lot of Islamophobic comments in his inauguration. He said he wants the extermination of radical Islam. What that basically means is he wants the extermination of Muslims globally.”

Raja was reacting to President Trump’s inaugural address in which he said that he will “unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth.”

Speaking at an Occupy Inauguration anti-Trump rally at McPherson Square near the White House, Raja asked the crowd, “Are you going to show up when those registries happen? Are you going to continue to show up and carry the fact that under Obama every single year over 20,000 bombs have been dropped in Muslim majority countries with the majority of victims being Muslim women?”

“Will you make sure that you don’t continue to force us Muslim women to have to pick our American identity and completely ruin us and destroy, and take us apart from our transnational sisters who are actually the ones suffering from U.S. imperialism and bombs while we suffer domestically?” Raja asked.

“It is important that you just don’t care about our lives only because you see us as American.”

Raja also scolded some in the crowd for signs portraying a Muslim woman in an American flag hijab that said, “We the people are greater than fear.”

“Now I look around and I see a lot of this imagery of we the people and there’s a Muslim woman in a hijab that is in it,” she said. “I want you all though to be critical a little bit because to say we the people and to use a Muslim woman’s body in the hijab to show somehow that we are progressive is exploitation of Muslim women’s bodies. Are you going to show up when those registries happen?”

Other speakers at the afternoon rally included left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore and representatives of the Black Lives Matter and Indigenous Environmental Network groups.

http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/lauretta-brown/muslim-activist-anti-trump-rally-trump-wants-extermination-muslims

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Senior Palestinian official: Moving US embassy ‘a declaration of war’ on Muslims

January 23, 2017

A senior Palestinian official warned Sunday that a move by the Trump administration to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would be perceived as an act of aggression against the entire Muslim world.

“In our opinion moving the embassy to Jerusalem is a declaration of war against Muslims,” Fatah Central Committee member Jibril Rajoub, who also presides over the Palestinian soccer association, told The Times of Israel in an interview.

Rajoub, one of the most powerful figures in Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s ruling Fatah party, warned that “it is not inconceivable that the United States will give the Jews the keys to the holy sites in Jerusalem – sites also holy to both Christians and Muslims. If someone among you [Israelis] thinks there won’t be consequences, he is making a grave mistake.”

“We are talking about a dangerous step that won’t bring stability to the ground,” he continued, adding that “it contradicts previous United Nations resolutions and the policy of the United States since 1967.”

“We don’t intend to wave a white flag” in front of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or US President Donald Trump, he declared.

Last week, Rajoub called Trump a “lunatic” and a “fascist,” attacking his promise to move the embassy to Jerusalem in an interview translated by MEMRI.

On Sunday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said talks had begun on moving the embassy, but seemed to indicate an actual move could be a long time away. “We are at the very beginning stages of even discussing this subject,” he said in a statement.

The statement contrasted with reports over the last several weeks that the announcement of the move could come as early as this week, but also confirmed that the administration intends to at least entertain the plan, despite warnings from the international community that it could significantly ramp up tensions in the volatile region.

Spicer’s statement came about an hour before Trump and Netanyahu held their first phone conversation since Trump became president Friday, with the president inviting Netanyahu to visit next month. Neither the White House nor the Prime Minister’s Office made any mention of the embassy move in statements sent out following the phone call.

Rajoub’s comments echoed statements made by other officials in the PA and Fatah, as well as declarations by leaders in the Arab world, including in states that are considered moderate and have relations with Israel.

One such country, Jordan, a key player in the saga over the potential embassy move, has already said such a step would be “crossing a red line.” The ruling Hashemite dynasty in Jordan sees itself as the protector of the holy Muslim sites in Jerusalem, in particular the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which its stewards in the Islamic Waqf administer.

Thus, Amman asserts that if the new US administration follows through with its promise to move the embassy, it will constitute a direct attack on its authority in Jerusalem and its status at the city’s holy sites.

Jordan’s King Abdullah met with Abbas in Amman on Sunday to discuss the issue. According to Israel Radio, Abbas asked Abdullah to help establish a direct line of communication between the PA and the administration in light of growing anxiety regarding the embassy move.

Following the meeting, Abbas said that he and Abdullah agreed upon “a series of steps we’ll take if the US moves the embassy to Jerusalem,” without elaborating.

A Palestinian official told Israel Radio after the meeting that if Trump gives the go-ahead to the embassy move, the PA will turn to the United Nations General Assembly to request a suspension of Israel’s UN membership.

On Monday, a spokesman for the Jordanian government said that unspecified contacts were taking place to safeguard the kingdom’s role as caretaker of the Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, and declared that Israel, as an occupying power, has no right to make unilateral changes in areas it had taken by force.

Saudi Arabia has also warned of the consequences that will result from moving the embassy to Jerusalem.

Palestinian officials told The Times of Israel that any step by the Americans and Israelis to move the embassy to Jerusalem will likely have dramatic consequences. According to the officials, the leadership of the Palestinian Liberation Organization has already decided that if the move goes through it will renounce its recognition of Israel, as well as in practice its recognition of the Oslo Accords.

On Monday, the PLO leadership is expected to meet in order to deliberate the possibility the embassy will indeed by moved, as well as its response to such a step. “No one will try and no one can demand from people to act with restraint. No one will try to stop the demonstrations on the ground against a step like this,” the officials said.

Pressure builds toward a planned outburst

If a decision to move the embassy is made, Fatah will try to lead the demonstrations on the ground in order to prevent its rival Hamas from “stealing the show.”

But to a great extent Israel’s concern should not be a spontaneous eruption on the ground, but rather an organized outburst, since the PA and Fatah – together with Arab states like Jordan and Saudi Arabia – have already outlined a clear plan of resistance.

Thus, in order to prevent mass protests and an outbreak of violence, Israel will need the assistance of the PA and Jordan, although it is doubtful they will be forthcoming in offering their help. Israel will be dependent to a great extent on the goodwill of the PA to preserve the prevailing quiet, even though the PA will have little interest in doing so in light of the particularly dramatic and troublesome manner in which Palestinians will interpret an embassy move.

Full report at:

http://www.timesofisrael.com/senior-palestinian-official-moving-us-embassy-a-declaration-of-war-on-muslims/

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Muslim scholars slam US embassy move to Jerusalem

22 January 2017

The International Union for Muslim Scholars (IUMS) has warned against the planned relocation of the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“[Such a move] would be a brazen violation of UN resolutions,” the Doha-based body said in a statement released on Saturday.

Newly-inaugurated U.S. President Donald Trump has pledged during his electoral campaign to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem despite reluctance to do so by past administrations -- Republican and Democrat alike.

While Israel claimed the city as its "eternal capital" after occupying East Jerusalem during the 1967 Arab-Israel war, the international community does not recognize the claim and foreign embassies are currently located in Tel Aviv.

Earlier this month, Senate Republicans introduced legislation to relocate the embassy and recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

“Muslim intellectuals, scholars and leaders will not accept relocating the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem,” the IUMS said.

It warned that the embassy relocation “would fuel the spirit of conflict and sedition, play into the hands of extremists and incite hatred against those assaulting the rights of the Palestinian people”.

"The division and fragmentation that have affected the Islamic world push those waiting in the ambush to gain more profits by taking advantage of this opportunity," the statement read, going on to call on Muslims and international organizations to raise their voices to protect the Palestinian rights.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/america-canada/183545/muslim-scholars-slam-us-embassy-move-to-jerusalem

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Europe

 

Will Marine Le Pen’s changed tone be enough to win over France?

By Joel Dreyfuss

January 23

Marine Le Pen has taken the lead in the latest poll of French presidential candidates, confirming that she and her right-wing National Front are no longer outsiders. A survey for Le Monde and a unit of Sciences Po showed Le Pen pulling ahead of center-right candidate Francois Fillon in the first round of presidential elections scheduled for April 23. The survey of nearly 16,000 likely voters put her chance of winning at 25 percent to 26 percent vs. 23 percent to 25 percent for Fillon.

Le Pen is widely expected to reach the second round of the presidential elections on May 7, confirming her success in moving the political party founded by her father from a fringe group to a major political player. Le Pen recently unveiled her campaign strategy for 2017 and there is reason for the French establishment to worry. After keeping a low profile for several months, the leader of the far-right National Front has emerged with an approach designed to appeal to a broad range of French voters worried about the economy, the future of France and the persistent threat of terrorism.

As her presentations to the media and to voters in the first weeks of 2017 suggest, Le Pen has clearly spent the last few months honing a cleaner, less controversial persona that she hopes will take her to victory. Her basic message has not changed. She wants to take France out of the European Union, regain control of France’s national borders, get tough with refugees and improve relations with Vladimir Putin’s Russia. She also wants to restore the death penalty.

And at a meeting of far-right parties in Koblenz, Germany last weekend, she told attendees that Trump’s victory and England’s Brexit vote were signals that 2016 “was the year the Anglo-Saxon world woke up.”

But gone are some of the inflammatory comments long associated with the party founded by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen. She has literally dropped much of the language of her father. An analysis of speeches of the two Le Pens by Stanford University professor Cécile Alduy last year showed that Marine never uses some favorite phrases of her father, including “race,” “genuine Frenchmen,” “gas chambers” or “a detail” of history (a reference to the Holocaust).

A documentary by the French TV show “Envoyé special” last year also noted that she has modified her earlier rhetoric about the fear of being overwhelmed culturally by immigrants. Now she defines immigration strictly as an economic problem, threatening higher unemployment and lower wages.

She expelled her father from his post of honorary party president in 2015 after he reiterated his previous statements that the Holocaust gas chambers were a “detail” of history and that France should ally with Putin to save the “white world.” Echoing the strategy used by Hillary Clinton in creating an identity distinct from her husband, Marine Le Pen’s campaign material doesn’t even use her last name. She is simply Marine, with the slogan, “In the name of the people.”

But Marine has not been immune to controversial declarations of her own; a couple of years ago she declared that seeing Muslim men pray in the street reminded her of the Nazi occupation. Her current platform would bar the children of undocumented immigrants from receiving a free education.

But most of the sharp edges of the National Front have been smoothed away in the new campaign. Addressing a group of English-speaking journalists recently, Le Pen denied a shift of attitude in her recent comment that “Islam is compatible” with the principles of the French Republic. “I’ve always made a difference between religious Islam and political, fundamentalist Islam that wants to impose sharia law,” she said.

She was one of the first foreign leaders to congratulate President Trump in November and she saw his victory as part of a populist wave that could sweep her into office. “Donald Trump has made possible what was presented as completely impossible,” Le Pen told CNN in an interview. “So it’s a sign of hope for those who cannot bear wild globalization. They cannot bear the political life led by the elites.”

Le Pen does not limit her criticism to the political elites. She argues that left-right political designations have lost their meaning. “The issue is whether you are a nationalist or not,” she said, a position that ties up nicely with her reasons for an exit from the European Union: border sovereignty, monetary sovereignty, legislative sovereignty. She called the euro a “knife in the ribs” of European nations to force them to embrace the European Union’s drastic austerity measures.

Like Trump, she favors closer ties with Russia to fight Islamic fundamentalism and says she hopes Putin and Trump can get on better terms. “We’re in the middle here,” she noted –- both geographically and politically. While Trump’s financial ties to Russia remain murky, Le Pen’s are very clear. In 2014 the National Front financed its political campaign with loans totaling $11.5 million from the First Czech Russian Bank, a small private lender in Moscow, according to Bloomberg. Le Pen was not apologetic. “The French banks won’t lend to us,” she noted at the time — one more example she can use of the French establishment ganging up on her upstart party.

Le Pen still faces a tough race. Since President François Hollande declined to seek a second term, his Socialist Party has been given little chance of retaining the Élysée Palace. But two younger candidates, former education minister Benoit Hamon, running in the Socialist Party primary (the first round was Sunday, with a second round on Jan. 29) later this month, and former economy minister Emmanuel Macron, running as an independent, lead the field of left-of-center candidates. Both have taken un-socialist (some critics say right-wing) positions on the economy and the perennial need for reform.

So far, former prime minister François Fillon, who outdistanced both the more moderate Alain Juppé and former president Nicolas Sarkozy in the center-right primaries, remains the favorite, despite his austerity proposals that include slashing 500,000 civil service jobs. Fillon has slipped in recent weeks and drew sharp reactions from French commentators by referring to his Christianity, a no-no in France’s militantly secular political tradition. The “misstep” could be an undisguised appeal to those who might vote for Le Pen. Not surprisingly, in return, she has focused much of her criticism on Fillon, particularly on his proposals to reduce France’s extensive social safety net.

Most polls still show Le Pen losing to Fillon, Macron or Valls in head-to-head competition. She brushes off the results. As Trump and Fillon have shown, you can’t count on poll results. The more important question may be whether French voters believe the new Le Pen is really new.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/global-opinions/wp/2017/01/23/will-marine-le-pens-changed-tone-be-enough-to-win-over-france/?utm_term=.0af1a9c78692

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Syria peace talks off to rocky start; U.S. refutes Russian claims of joint air mission

Jan 24, 2017

Talks between the Syrian government and representatives of rebel factions got off to a rocky start Monday after their first face-to-face meeting in Kazakhstan that marked a major shift in the war's dynamics and confirmed Russia's role as regional heavyweight.

The gathering in Astana, the Kazakh capital, is the latest in a long line of diplomatic initiatives aimed at ending the nearly 6-year-old civil war, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced half of Syria's population.

The talks are focused on shoring up a shaky cease-fire declared Dec. 30, not on reaching a larger political settlement. Syria's bitter divide was on vivid display as the delegates emerged from a closed, hour-long session marked by cold glances and sharp exchanges.

Syria's U.N. envoy Bashar Ja'afari said the opposition delegation represented "terrorist armed groups," and denounced the opening address delivered by the chief rebel negotiator, calling it "provocative" and "insolent."

The head of the rebel delegation, Mohammad Alloush, had described Syrian President Bashar Assad's government as a "terrorist" entity. He called for armed groups fighting alongside it, including the Lebanese Hezbollah, to be placed on a global list of terrorist organizations, according to a video leaked by opposition delegates.

"The presence of foreign militias invited by the regime, most notably the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Iraqi Hezbollah ... contributes to the continuation of bloodshed and obstructs any opportunity for a cease-fire," Alloush said.

Such outfits were no different, he added, than the Islamic State group, which is excluded from the cease-fire.

On Monday the U.S. said Russia's claim that its warplanes flew a joint mission over Syria with the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group is "rubbish."

Russia's Defense Ministry said its forces in Syria had received coordinates of IS targets near al-Bab on Sunday "from the U.S. side via hotline with the international coalition headquarters."

U.S. Air Force Col. John Dorrian, a coalition spokesman, almost immediately labeled the Russian claim as propaganda.

U.S. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said the U.S. does have routine "deconfliction" talks with Russia to avoid unintended aerial incidents in Syria's crowded skies. But Davis says there have been no changes to that arrangement, and the U.S. has insisted for months that it has no coordination or sharing of targets with Russia.

After an opening ceremony, both sides split and did not meet face-to-face again. The meeting later concluded until Tuesday.

Still, it was a significant departure from past meetings, given the fact that Syria's government delegation sat opposite representatives of more than a dozen armed factions it describes as terrorists.

U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura mediated the talks, which are to be followed by more negotiations in Geneva next month. A year ago, he was shuttling between government and opposition delegations in separate rooms in Geneva, in talks brokered by the U.S. and Russia that led nowhere.

The talks in Astana, a former Soviet republic, reflected the shifting dynamics in Syria since then, with Russia emerging as the main power broker and the U.S. relegated to the role of observer.

The Trump administration is not directly involved because of the "immediate demands of the transition," the State Department said Saturday. The U.S. ambassador to Kazakhstan, George Krol, attended Monday's session at the luxury Rixos President Hotel, a Turkish-owned chain.

The two sides were brought to the table by Russia and Iran, which have provided crucial support to Assad, and Turkey, a leading sponsor of the opposition. Turkey, whose president is embroiled in troubles at home, has recently improved ties with Moscow, raising hopes for a breakthrough.

A political figure from the Army of Islam, a Saudi-backed group once singled out by Moscow as a terrorist group, leads the opposition delegation made up heavily of rebel factions, also a first.

But the Syrian parties remain deeply divided on almost everything, including who is to blame for repeated cease-fire violations, and whether it should apply to the al-Qaida-linked Fatah al-Sham Front, which fights alongside mainstream rebel factions.

Ja'afari accused the opposition of "misinterpreting the idea of the cessation of hostilities," and defended a government offensive in the Barada Valley outside Damascus. The fighting there has cut off water to millions of the capital's residents for a month.

The government, which has always portrayed the conflict as a war on terrorism, is hoping to win international support and potentially recruit rebel factions to help it battle extremist groups. Cabinet minister Ali Haidar told The Associated Press in Damascus that the talks would "test intentions" on the cease-fire.

The rebels are bitter over a string of territorial losses, including last month's defeat in Aleppo, Syria's largest city and former commercial center. Russia, with its massive air power, and Iran, with thousands of Shiite militiamen in Syria, turned the war unequivocally in Assad's favor.

With little room to maneuver, rebel groups, particularly those beholden to Turkish assistance and those operating in northern Syria, agreed to send representatives to Astana.

The opposition delegation accused the government of undermining the talks to pre-empt any discussion of a political transition.

Issam al-Rais, a representative of a rebel faction in southern Syria, said there would be "no need to go further (to discuss) a political transition" if the cease-fire could not be strengthened. He said opposition factions were discussing mechanisms to verify cease-fire violations with Turkey and Russia.

Yahya al-Aridi, a spokesman for the rebel delegation, said the opposition had a "productive" meeting with Russian and Turkish representatives in Astana, in the presence of de Mistura. He said the talks would conclude Tuesday.

Russia's official news agency Tass said the final document for the talks is to call on Syria's rebels to distance themselves from Fatah al-Sham, an al-Qaida-linked group in Syria. Tass added the three countries would confirm their determination to jointly fight the Islamic State group and Fatah al-Sham.

Full report at:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-syria-peace-talks-20170123-story.html

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Greek Supreme Court ruling on Turkish soldiers delayed

23 January 2017

An extradition ruling on eight Turkish soldiers allegedly involved in the July coup attempt will be made at the Supreme Court on Thursday, judges said Monday.

The court had been due to make a decision Monday but judges postponed the case after one judge suffered an accident.

The soldiers, who deny involvement in the coup bid, fled Turkey on the night of July 15 in a Blackhawk helicopter and landed in Greece.

They claimed asylum on the grounds that their lives were at risk in Turkey. Their case is being heard by the Supreme Court after previous rulings to extradite three and not extradite the other five were contested.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/europe/183600/eu-warns-britain-against-pre-brexit-trade-talks

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Portugal backs Turkey's fight against terrorism

23 January 2017

 Portugal stands with Turkey in its fight against terrorism, a Portuguese official said Monday.

The remarks of the chairman of the National Defense Committee of Portuguese parliament, Marco Antonio Costa came as he presented his Turkish counterpart Yusuf Beyazit with an official declaration condemning New Year’s Eve nightclub attack in Istanbul.

During the attack, 39 were killed and 69 injured when Abdulgadir Masharipov armed with an assault rifle stormed the venue beside the Bosphorus just over an hour into the New Year.

Costa did not share the exact date the declaration was accepted by the Portuguese parliament.

Beyazit for his turn recalled that Turkey and the Turkish people also received a strong message of solidarity from Portugal after the failed July 15 coup attempt last year.

Noting that Turkey maintained its fight simultaneously against around ten terrorist groups, Beyazit thanked Lisbon for standing by Ankara in its counterterrorism efforts and for not discriminating against any particular group or groups.

According to Turkey, Ankara does not receive enough support from its traditional western allies in its fight against terrorist groups such as PKK and PYD, which is the Syrian affiliate of PKK.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/europe/183589/portugal-backs-turkeys-fight-against-terrorism

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