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Islamic World News ( 28 Sept 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Priests’ Body: No Temple-Mosque Dispute In Mathura, We Don’t Want What Happened In Ayodhya to Happen Here


New Age Islam News Bureau

29 September 2020

A view of Krishna Janambhoomi temple and Shahi Idgah mosque in Mathura (PTI)

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• Gujarat: Muslims Arrange Last Rites of COVID Victims Irrespective Of Religion

• Father of Pakistani Man, Ali Hassan, Who Stabbed Two outside the Former Paris Office of the Controversial Charlie Hebdo Magazine says, Proud of My Son

• Threat to Evacuate US Diplomats from Iraq Raises Fear of War

• Azerbaijani Army Takes Control of Occupied High Grounds

• Saudi Arabia Takes down Terrorist Cell Trained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards

• Yemen War: Journos Gather ‘War Crime’ Evidence at Scene of Saudi-Led Airstrike

• Abdullah Visit to Pakistan ‘Forges Common Understanding on Afghan Peace’: Qureshi

 

India

• Priests’ Body: No Temple-Mosque Dispute In Mathura, We Don’t Want What Happened In Ayodhya to Happen Here

• Gujarat: Muslims Arrange Last Rites of COVID Victims Irrespective Of Religion

• Wasim Rizvi Former Shia Central Waqf Board Chairman Writes to PM:  Scrap Places of Worship Act to Reclaim Land from Mosques Constructed Over Ancient Temples

• Pakistan Delisted 4000 Terrorists to Sustain Terror Ecosystem, India Tells UN Rights Body

• J&K Medical Student Tabish Khan Turning Waste To Art

• SSP-rank officer promoting Islamophobia, says Jammu Muslim body

• NIA court gives life sentence to Kerala man for joining Islamic State, imposes fine of Rs 2.10 lakh

• Terrorist slain in Pulwama encounter was longest-surviving Lashkar commander: DGP

• Pakistan violates ceasefire along LoC in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch

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Pakistan

• Father of Pakistani Man, Ali Hassan, Who Stabbed Two outside the Former Paris Office of the Controversial Charlie Hebdo Magazine says, Proud of My Son

• Pakistan’s Opposition, Public Increasingly Irked by the Military’s Role in Politics

• Shia-Sunni Rift on Rise in Pakistan, But Imran Khan Govt’s Silence May Be Strategic

• ‘Muslim Economies Need To Reduce Trust Deficit through Frequent Trade Fairs’

• PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif arrested in money-laundering case

• Afghan reconciliation leader thanks Pakistan for facilitating peace process

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North America

• Threat to Evacuate US Diplomats from Iraq Raises Fear of War

• US to try to end violence between Armenia, Azerbaijan

• US hopes Turkey-Greece talks lead to rapprochement

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Europe

• Azerbaijani Army Takes Control of Occupied High Grounds

• Azerbaijan Opens Fire towards Military Unit In Armenia, Hits Civilian Bus

• UK's Johnson raises concerns with Turkey's Erdogan over east Med tensions

• Russia calls on Azerbaijan, Armenia to exercise restraint

• Aliyev, Macron discuss Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict

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Arab world

• Saudi Arabia Takes down Terrorist Cell Trained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards

• Threat to evacuate US diplomats from Iraq raises fear of war

• EU is ‘disappointed’ and ‘concerned’ after Lebanon prime minister-designate resigns

• Egypt police arrest 382 people protesting against President Sisi: Rights group

• At least 5 civilians killed in rocket fire near Baghdad airport: Army

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Mideast

• Yemen War: Journos Gather ‘War Crime’ Evidence at Scene of Saudi-Led Airstrike

• Rayeesi: Iran’s Judiciary Uninfluenced by US, Europeans’ Hues and Cries

• IRGC Spokesman: US, Europe Not Able to Confront Iran

• Iran Warns Armenia, Azerbaijan to Watch Bullets

• Iran Strongly Dismisses Possibility of Bilateral Talks with US

• Turkey’s Erdogan sees EU summit as chance for reset: Spokesman

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South Asia

• Abdullah Visit to Pakistan ‘Forges Common Understanding on Afghan Peace’: Qureshi

• Pakistan Opens Borders to Afghanistan

• Sri Lanka, Afghanistan Ink Bilateral MOU

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Southeast Asia

• Federal Court Rejects Jais’ Bid To Appeal against Quashing Of Shariah Charges against Ezra Zaid

• Selangor Religious Authorities Fail in Move over Publication Of Book

• Musa Aman confident new CM Hajiji will take Sabah to greater heights

• Perak targets five million domestic tourists amid spike in Covid-19 cases

• PM Muhyiddin: Islam compelled Putrajaya to impose MCO to save lives

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Africa

• Civilian Prime Minister Appointed In Mali with Eye on Removal of ECOWAS Sanctions

• Sudan signs deal with foreign donors granting financial aid to poor families

• Nigeria’s labor unions suspend planned strike

• Somalia: 16 al-Shabaab terrorists killed, 40 kids freed

• Nigeria's Boko Haram crisis: 'Bomb on donkey' used to ambush Borno governor

• 13 Boko Haram militants surrender to Nigerian troops

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL:  https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/priests-body-no-temple-mosque/d/122986

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 Priests’ Body: No Temple-Mosque Dispute In Mathura, We Don’t Want What Happened In Ayodhya to Happen Here

Sep 29, 2020

 

A view of Krishna Janambhoomi temple and Shahi Idgah mosque in Mathura (PTI)

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 AGRA: “We don’t want what happened in Ayodhya to happen here,” said Mahesh Pathak, president of the All India Teerth Purohit Mahasabha. The body of priests said there is no dispute on the temple and the mosque as the matter was resolved by an agreement five decades ago, but the issue is being unnecessarily raked up again for “political gain.”

The All India Teerth Purohit Mahasabha is a 60 years old registered organisation with its head office in Haridwar. It has over 90 organisations of temple priests across the country as its members.

“Even if there were any disagreement, it would have been resolved amicably by the two communities without disrupting peace …. This is just an unnecessary diversion after 52 years of the agreement between the managements of Shahi Idgah mosque and Sri Krishna Janamsthan Sansthan in 1968,” said Mahesh Pathak, the national president of the priests’ body.

Notably, Pathak had contested the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Mathura as a Congress candidate.

“Being a local resident and the president of priests’ body, it is my moral responsibility to maintain the peaceful atmosphere of the religious town. Some outsiders are trying to spoil the peace and harmony of the temple town by raising issues which could create communal tensions in the city,” he added.

The suit, filed by Lucknow resident Ranjana Agnihotri and five others, including a Delhi resident, claims that the mosque is exactly where Krishna was born and they have sought the ownership of the entire 13.37-acre land. It also sought cancellation of a compromise decree between the governing body of the temple complex and the management trust of the mosque in 1968.

The court hearing on the issue of ownership of Krishna Janmasthan land and the removal of Shahi Eidgah mosque in Mathura was deferred to September 30.

Meanwhile, Sri Krishna Janmasthan Seva Sansthan secretary Kapil Sharma said that the matter is not related to the ownership of the land only, but also the sentiments and faith of lakhs of Krishna devotees. Hence, a logical decision is needed in the matter, he added. The Sansthan is also a party to the petition filed by the Lucknow resident.

On the possibility of an out-of-court resolution of the dispute, Sharma said, “Had it been possible then the Ayodhya matter would too have been resolved.” He added that the court’s decisions will be followed by everyone.

In a petition filed in a Mathura court by Supreme Court lawyer Vishnu Shankar Jain, it has been stated that Shree Krishna Janmasthan Seva Sansthan is a registered society that has overpowered the trust, which was “non-functional since 1958 and had fraudulently entered into a compromise with the Committee of Management Trust Masjid Idgah on October 12,1968”.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/agra/no-temple-mosque-dispute-in-mathura-says-priests-body/articleshow/78370580.cms

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Gujarat: Muslims Arrange Last Rites of COVID Victims Irrespective Of Religion

Sep 29, 2020

 

A team of 22 Muslim social workers arranges the last rites of COVID-19 victims irrespective of religion.

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Vadodara: A team of 22 Muslim social workers arranges the last rites of COVID-19 victims irrespective of religion.

Talking to media person, Zubair Gopalani said that in some cases, relatives were scared to perform the rites of the victim. He said that in such situations, Baroda Muslim Doctors Association not only performed the last rites but also followed all the rituals as per the deceased’s faith.

Service available 24/7

The association also ensures that the service is available 24/7 by introducing shift system.

Disclose the details of the precautionary measures, Gopalani said that all persons who arrange the final rites cover their body with PPE. They also dump PPE once the rites are completed, he added.

He further said that no person among the 22 member team ever contracted coronavirus.

Coronavirus cases in Gujarat

Meanwile, The total number of cases in the state now stands at 1,28,949.

“Of which, there are 16,354 active cases, 1,09,211 patients were discharged while 3,384 have succumbed to the virus,” State Health Department.

India’s COVID-19 count reached 57,32,519 including 9,66,382 active cases, and 46,74,988 cured, discharged, or migrated patients and 91,149 deaths, informed the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

https://www.siasat.com/gujarat-muslims-arrange-last-rites-of-covid-victims-irrespective-of-religion-1985771/amp/

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Father of Pakistani Man, Ali Hassan, Who Stabbed Two outside the Former Paris Office of the Controversial Charlie Hebdo Magazine says, Proud of My Son

Imtiaz Ahmad

Sep 28, 2020

 

This grab taken from a video obtained by AFP shows French police detaining an alleged suspect after several people were injured near the former offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo following an attack by a man wielding a knife in Paris on September 25, 2020.(AFP)

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The father of Ali Hassan, a young man who stabbed two persons in an attack using a meat cleaver outside the former Paris office of the controversial Charlie Hebdo magazine last week, has said he is “proud” of his son. In an interview to the web-based channel Naya Pakistan, the father, whose name is not revealed, said his son has “done a great job” and he is “very happy” about the attack.

The French government had condemned the stabbing on Friday outside the former office of the satirical magazine as an act of “Islamist terrorism”.

The man, earlier identified as Ali Hassan, seriously injured two employees of TV production agency Premieres Lignes, whose offices are in the same city centre block that used to house the magazine Charlie Hebdo. The magazine had shifted out after the January 2015 attacks on Charlie Hebdo, a policewoman and a Jewish supermarket that left 17 people dead. The magazine’s current address is kept secret for security reasons, AFP reported.

On Monday, the news agency said the man, who had declared earlier in a two-minute video that he was going to target the magazine, identified himself as Zaheer Hassan Mehmood.

Ali Hassan aka Zaheer Hassan Mehmood is accused of stabbing two persons believed to be working with the magazine. Friday’s attack came three weeks into a trial in Paris of suspected accomplices of the culprits in the January 2015 attacks on Charlie Hebdo, a policewoman and a Jewish supermarket that left 17 people dead, news agency Reuters said.

Back in Pakistan, the attacker’s father appealed to the Imran Khan government and other Islamic countries to help bring his son home. “I want to appeal to the Pakistan government to bring my son home. He has done service in the cause of Islam and we are a Muslim country,” he told the Pakistani channel.

Ali Hassan, his father said, “was a good son” who prayed regularly and attended Milad twice a year. He said that Ali Hassan was a follower of Muhammad Ilyas Qadri, a Pakistani Sunni Muslim scholar and founder of the Dawat-e-Islami organisation, which has established a chain of madrasas across Pakistan and abroad.

Ali Hassan’s father, a farmer, lives in the small town of Mandi Bahauddin in Punjab. He said that Ali Hassan had gone to France two years ago. Of his five sons, three are abroad - two in France and one in Italy. “My son has the heart of a lion,” he told his interviewer.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/proud-of-my-son-says-father-of-pakistani-man-who-stabbed-2-in-paris/story-4SlYyadJihMniXNBp6ENbI.html

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Threat to evacuate US diplomats from Iraq raises fear of war

28 September 2020

Washington has made preparations to withdraw diplomats from Iraq after warning Baghdad it could shut its embassy, two Iraqi officials and two Western diplomats said, a step Iraqis fear could turn their country into a battle zone.

Any move by the United States to reduce its diplomatic presence in a country where it has up to 5,000 troops would be widely seen in the region as an escalation of its confrontation with Iran, which Washington blames for missile and bomb attacks.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

That in turn would open the possibility of military action, with just weeks to go before an election in which President Donald Trump has campaigned on a hard line towards Tehran and its proxies.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened to close the embassy in a phone call a week ago to President Barham Salih, two Iraqi government sources said. The conversation was initially reported by an Iraqi news website.

By Sunday, Washington had begun preparations to withdraw diplomatic staff if such a decision is taken, those sources and the two Western diplomats said.

The concern among the Iraqis is that withdrawing diplomats would be followed quickly by military action against forces Washington blamed for attacks.

Populist Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who commands a following of millions of Iraqis, last week pleaded for groups to avoid aggravation that would turn Iraq into a battleground.

One of the Western diplomats said the US administration did not "want to be limited in their options" to weaken Iran or pro-Iranian militias in Iraq. Asked whether he expected Washington to respond with economic or military measures, the diplomat replied: "Strikes."

The US State Department, asked about plans to withdraw from Iraq, said: "We never comment on the Secretary's private diplomatic conversations with foreign leaders ... Iran-backed groups launching rockets at our Embassy are a danger not only to us but to the Government of Iraq."

Earlier this month, the United States military said it would reduce its presence in Iraq to 3,000 troops from 5,200.

The Pentagon said on Monday it was committed to supporting Iraq's long-term "security, stability, and prosperity" and US military operations against Islamic State continued.

Perennial risk

In a region polarized between allies of Iran and the United States, Iraq is the rare exception: a country that has close ties with both. But that has left it open to a perennial risk of becoming a battleground in a proxy war.

That risk was hammered home in January this year, when Washington killed Iran's most important military commander, Qassem Soleimani, with a drone strike at Baghdad airport. Iran responded with missiles fired at US bases in Iraq.

Since then, a new prime minister has taken power in Iraq, supported by the United States, while Tehran still maintains close links to powerful Shia armed movements.

Rockets regularly fly across the Tigris towards the heavily fortified US diplomatic compound, constructed to be the biggest US embassy in the world in central Baghdad's so-called Green Zone during the US occupation after a 2003 invasion.

In recent weeks rocket attacks near the embassy have increased and roadside bombs targeted convoys carrying equipment to the US-led military coalition. One roadside attack hit a British convoy in Baghdad, the first of its kind against Western diplomats in Iraq for years.

On Monday three children and two women were killed when two militia rockets hit a family home, the Iraqi military said. Police sources said Baghdad airport was the intended target.

Two Iraqi intelligence sources suggested plans to withdraw American diplomats were not yet in motion, and would depend on whether Iraqi security forces were able to do a better job of halting attacks. They said they had received orders to prevent attacks on US sites, and had been told that US evacuations would begin only if that effort failed.

Double-edged sword

Iraqis are concerned about the impact of November's presidential election on the Trump administration's decision-making.

While Trump has boasted of his hard line against Iran, he has also long promised to withdraw US troops from engagements in the Middle East. The United States is already drawing down its force sent to help defeat Islamic State fighters in Iraq from 2014-2017.

Some Iraqi officials dismissed Pompeo's threat to pull out diplomats as bluster, designed to scare armed groups into stopping attacks. But they said it could backfire by provoking the militias instead, if they sense an opportunity to push Washington to retreat.

"The American threat to close their embassy is merely a pressure tactic, but is a double-edged sword," said Gati Rikabi, a member of Iraq's parliamentary security committee.

He and another committee member said US moves were designed to scare Iraqi leaders into supporting Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who has tried to check the power of Iran-aligned militia groups, with scant success.

Hawks on both sides

The militias are under public pressure to rein in supporters who might provoke Washington. Since last year, public opinion in Iraq has turned sharply against political groups seen as fomenting violence on behalf of Iran.

Publicly, the powerful Iran-backed Shia militia groups which control large factions in parliament have tried to distance themselves from attacks on Western targets.

US officials say they think the Shia militias or their Iranian backers have created splinter offshoots to carry out such attacks, allowing the main organisations to evade blame.

A senior figure in a Shia Muslim political party said he thought Trump might want to pull out diplomats to keep them out of harm's way and avoid an embarrassing pre-election incident.

Militia attacks were not necessarily under Tehran's control, he said, noting that Iran's foreign ministry had publicly called for a halt to attacks on diplomatic missions in Iraq.

"Iran wants to boot the Americans out, but not at any cost. It doesn't want instability on its Western border," the Shia leader said. "Just like there are hawks in the US, there are hawks in Iran who have contact with the groups carrying out attacks, who aren't necessarily following state policy."

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/09/29/Threat-to-evacuate-US-diplomats-from-Iraq-raises-fear-of-war

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Threat to evacuate US diplomats from Iraq raises fear of war

28 September 2020

Washington has made preparations to withdraw diplomats from Iraq after warning Baghdad it could shut its embassy, two Iraqi officials and two Western diplomats said, a step Iraqis fear could turn their country into a battle zone.

Any move by the United States to reduce its diplomatic presence in a country where it has up to 5,000 troops would be widely seen in the region as an escalation of its confrontation with Iran, which Washington blames for missile and bomb attacks.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

That in turn would open the possibility of military action, with just weeks to go before an election in which President Donald Trump has campaigned on a hard line towards Tehran and its proxies.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened to close the embassy in a phone call a week ago to President Barham Salih, two Iraqi government sources said. The conversation was initially reported by an Iraqi news website.

By Sunday, Washington had begun preparations to withdraw diplomatic staff if such a decision is taken, those sources and the two Western diplomats said.

The concern among the Iraqis is that withdrawing diplomats would be followed quickly by military action against forces Washington blamed for attacks.

Populist Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who commands a following of millions of Iraqis, last week pleaded for groups to avoid aggravation that would turn Iraq into a battleground.

One of the Western diplomats said the US administration did not "want to be limited in their options" to weaken Iran or pro-Iranian militias in Iraq. Asked whether he expected Washington to respond with economic or military measures, the diplomat replied: "Strikes."

The US State Department, asked about plans to withdraw from Iraq, said: "We never comment on the Secretary's private diplomatic conversations with foreign leaders ... Iran-backed groups launching rockets at our Embassy are a danger not only to us but to the Government of Iraq."

Earlier this month, the United States military said it would reduce its presence in Iraq to 3,000 troops from 5,200.

The Pentagon said on Monday it was committed to supporting Iraq's long-term "security, stability, and prosperity" and US military operations against Islamic State continued.

Perennial risk

In a region polarized between allies of Iran and the United States, Iraq is the rare exception: a country that has close ties with both. But that has left it open to a perennial risk of becoming a battleground in a proxy war.

That risk was hammered home in January this year, when Washington killed Iran's most important military commander, Qassem Soleimani, with a drone strike at Baghdad airport. Iran responded with missiles fired at US bases in Iraq.

Since then, a new prime minister has taken power in Iraq, supported by the United States, while Tehran still maintains close links to powerful Shia armed movements.

Rockets regularly fly across the Tigris towards the heavily fortified US diplomatic compound, constructed to be the biggest US embassy in the world in central Baghdad's so-called Green Zone during the US occupation after a 2003 invasion.

In recent weeks rocket attacks near the embassy have increased and roadside bombs targeted convoys carrying equipment to the US-led military coalition. One roadside attack hit a British convoy in Baghdad, the first of its kind against Western diplomats in Iraq for years.

On Monday three children and two women were killed when two militia rockets hit a family home, the Iraqi military said. Police sources said Baghdad airport was the intended target.

Two Iraqi intelligence sources suggested plans to withdraw American diplomats were not yet in motion, and would depend on whether Iraqi security forces were able to do a better job of halting attacks. They said they had received orders to prevent attacks on US sites, and had been told that US evacuations would begin only if that effort failed.

Double-edged sword

Iraqis are concerned about the impact of November's presidential election on the Trump administration's decision-making.

While Trump has boasted of his hard line against Iran, he has also long promised to withdraw US troops from engagements in the Middle East. The United States is already drawing down its force sent to help defeat Islamic State fighters in Iraq from 2014-2017.

Some Iraqi officials dismissed Pompeo's threat to pull out diplomats as bluster, designed to scare armed groups into stopping attacks. But they said it could backfire by provoking the militias instead, if they sense an opportunity to push Washington to retreat.

"The American threat to close their embassy is merely a pressure tactic, but is a double-edged sword," said Gati Rikabi, a member of Iraq's parliamentary security committee.

He and another committee member said US moves were designed to scare Iraqi leaders into supporting Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who has tried to check the power of Iran-aligned militia groups, with scant success.

Hawks on both sides

The militias are under public pressure to rein in supporters who might provoke Washington. Since last year, public opinion in Iraq has turned sharply against political groups seen as fomenting violence on behalf of Iran.

Publicly, the powerful Iran-backed Shia militia groups which control large factions in parliament have tried to distance themselves from attacks on Western targets.

US officials say they think the Shia militias or their Iranian backers have created splinter offshoots to carry out such attacks, allowing the main organisations to evade blame.

A senior figure in a Shia Muslim political party said he thought Trump might want to pull out diplomats to keep them out of harm's way and avoid an embarrassing pre-election incident.

Militia attacks were not necessarily under Tehran's control, he said, noting that Iran's foreign ministry had publicly called for a halt to attacks on diplomatic missions in Iraq.

"Iran wants to boot the Americans out, but not at any cost. It doesn't want instability on its Western border," the Shia leader said. "Just like there are hawks in the US, there are hawks in Iran who have contact with the groups carrying out attacks, who aren't necessarily following state policy."

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/09/29/Threat-to-evacuate-US-diplomats-from-Iraq-raises-fear-of-war

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Azerbaijani army takes control of occupied high grounds

Jeyhun Aliyev  

28.09.2020

Azerbaijani army cleared several "advantageous high grounds" around the Talysh village of the occupying Armenian forces, the country's Defense Ministry said in a statement on Monday.

Border clashes broke out early Sunday when the Armenian forces targeted Azerbaijani civilian settlements and military positions, leading to casualties.

"Units of the Azerbaijan Army, moving from the high grounds and advantageous positions liberated from the Armenian armed forces, continue the counter-attack to consolidate the achieved success," the ministry said.

The written statement also said that a large number of Armenian forces have been killed, adding "the enemy" suffered heavy losses.

"By inflicting rocket-artillery and air strikes on enemy positions, he was forced to retreat from the frontiers he was trying to hold," it added.

Relations between the two former Soviet nations have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Upper Karabakh, or Nagorno-Karabakh, an internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan.

Four UN Security Council and two UN General Assembly resolutions as well as many international organizations demand the withdrawal of the occupying forces.

The OSCE Minsk Group – co-chaired by France, Russia and the US – was formed in 1992 to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, but to no avail. A cease-fire, however, was declared in 1994.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/azerbaijani-army-takes-control-of-occupied-high-grounds/1987956

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Saudi Arabia takes down terrorist cell trained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards

Tuqa Khalid

28 September 2020

Saudi Arabia took down this month a terrorist cell that received training by the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) in Iran, arrested 10 individuals and seized weapons and explosives, the spokesman for the presidency of the State Security said on Monday.

Three members of the terrorist cell received training inside Iran including different methods of creating explosives, while the rest were “linked to the cell in various roles,” state news agency SPA reported citing a statement by the Saudi State Security.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

The Saudi authorities also seized large quantities of weapons and explosives hidden in a house and on a farm, including electrical components used in the making of explosives such as capacitors, transformers and resistors, gunpowder, chemicals, Kalashnikov rifles, guns, sniper rifle, live ammunition, machine guns, blades, military clothes, and wireless communication devices.

The authorities are interrogating all 10 of the arrested individuals to find out more information about their activities and others who are connected to them inside the country and abroad, and they will be referred to prosecution after the investigations are complete.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/09/28/Saudi-Arabia-takes-down-terrorist-cell-trained-by-Iran-s-Revolutionary-Guards

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Yemen war: Journos gather ‘war crime’ evidence at scene of Saudi-led airstrike

28 September 2020

A group of journalists have looked for evidence of war crime at the scene of a recent massacre of civilians, including children, during a Saudi Arabia-led strike that targeted a civilian home near Yemen’s border with the kingdom.

The Sky News team that identified itself as the first journalists to independently investigate the attack, “discovered evidence of a recent potential war crime in northern Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition, which is backed by the US and Britain,” the network reported on its website on Monday.

The attack saw a jet reaching the remote village of Washah before striking the home where only women and children were present at the time, while refusing to even “touch” any other nearby structure.

“No other home in the area was touched,” the network cited a relative as saying. A total of nine civilians were killed in the attack, six of them children.

The war has killed tens of thousands of Yemenis and rendered the country into the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in an unsuccessful attempt to restore power to Yemen’s former Saudi-allied officials.

The ammunition used in the bombing against the village was identified as US-made 500-pound (230-kilogram) GBU-12 Paveway II bomb. Around this time last year, UK-based rights body Amnesty International likewise revealed that the same type of ammunition, manufactured by US company Raytheon, had been used in an airstrike on Yemen’s southwestern province of Ta’izz, killing six people, including three children.

The bomb that is used for precision strikes has been regularly dropped on the Arab world’s poorest nation in the course of the Saudi-led war. This is while the invading coalition claims that it refuses to deliberately target civilians.

Following the attack on the village, the jet was still circling for around 15 minutes above the site, the Sky News report said, pointing to a common practice by the coalition’s warplanes that is apparently aimed at scaring relief workers and others trying to help away from the places that have just been attacked.

After the United States, the UK and France rank among the biggest supporters of the war, likewise providing the invading coalition with arms as well as logistical and political backing.

Sky News said, “There's already growing controversy over why Britain is still supporting the campaign.”

The Amnesty has also found the Western trio to be complicit in the war crimes that have been committed by the coalition against the Yemeni people.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/09/28/635181/Yemen-Saudi-Arabia-massacre-war-crime-civilians-investigation

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Abdullah Visit to Pakistan ‘Forges Common Understanding on Afghan Peace’: Qureshi

29 Sep 2020

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – The Foreign Minister of Pakistan Shah Mahmoud Qureshi said Chairman of HCNR Abdullah Abdullah’s visit will greatly help to strengthen relations with Afghanistan and “forge a common understanding on the Afghan peace process,” MoFA said in a statement Monday evening.

Welcoming Abdullah in Pakistna, Qureshi said this visit “will open a new chapter in bilateral ties, further strengthen relations” and “forge a common understanding” on the Afghan peace process.

Reaffirming Pakistan’s support for the Afghan peace process, he said Pakistan has “always maintained there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict and encouraged all parties to reach a political solution through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process.”

The Qureshi underscored Pakistan’s support for a peaceful, stable, united, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan, saying “mistakes of the past should not be repeated; nor past history should dictate the future course of action.”

“…there was a need to guard against the detrimental role of ‘spoilers’, both within and outside Afghanistan, who do not wish to see return of peace in the region,” he added.

The remarks came after Abdullah made his first officials visit to Pakistan as Chairman of High Council for National Reconciliation of Afghanistan.

Abdullah and his delegation is due to meet Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday.  

https://www.khaama.com/abdullah-visit-to-pakistan-forges-common-understanding-on-afghan-peace-qureshi-2343/

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India

 

Wasim Rizvi Former Shia Central Waqf Board Chairman Writes to PM:  Scrap Places of Worship Act to Reclaim Land from Mosques Constructed Over Ancient Temples

By Maulshree Seth

September 29, 2020

DEMANDING THAT the Places of Worship Act, 1991, be abolished and that a high-level committee be appointed to “reclaim land from mosques constructed over ancient temples,” Wasim Rizvi, former chairman of Uttar Pradesh Shia central Waqf Board, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday. Demanding that the “original status” of such sites be restored, Rizvi gave details of such structures not just in Uttar Pradesh but also in Gujarat, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and New Delhi.

Rizvi gave examples of Keshav Dev Mandir and “Krishna Janmabhoomi” in Mathura and claimed that the temple was demolished by Aurangzeb in 1670 and a mosque was constructed there. He also cited the example of Atala Devi Temple in Jaunpur district of eastern Uttar Pradesh and claimed that the temple was demolished in 1377 by Firoz Shah Tughlaq and Atala Mosque was built instead.

Rizvi alleged in the letter that these ancient temples were demolished by the Mughals and “mosques were illegally constructed instead.” He wrote that India is a democratic country but “hardliners who came from outside looted the country”.

“Thus, it is my request that the Places of Worship Act, 1991… should be abolished and such mosques should be removed from these places and a high level committee or new legislation should be constituted to restore temples in their original places,” wrote Rizvi. “I have sent a proposal to the Prime Minister to abolish The Places of Worship Act, 1991, which was formulated by Congress to appease radical forces and protect illegal mosques constructed by mugols by demolition of temples. I have given details of such mosques and temples,” claimed Rizvi.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/scrap-places-of-worship-act-shia-waqf-board-ex-chief-writes-to-pm-6629208/

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Pakistan delisted 4000 terrorists to sustain terror ecosystem, India tells UN rights body

Sep 29, 2020

NEW DELHI: In another showdown at the UN Human Rights Council, India on Monday accused Pakistan of delisting 4000 terrorists to sustain its terror ecosystem and of using training camps and terrorist launch pads in PoK for ramping up cross-border terrorism.

The government said that none of Pakistan’s "vile accusations" against India could stifle the voice of the minorities and the people under its subjugation.

"The fate of religious and ethnic minorities is well known when beheading is the only option in Pakistan in exchange for freedom of religion," said Pawan Badhe, first secretary with Indian permanent mission in Geneva, exercising India's right of reply after Pakistan again raised the issue of alleged human rights violations in India.

The official said various international organisations had termed Pakistan as the killing fields for minorities and that the Ahmadis remained the most persecuted community in Pakistan under the aegis of "the so-called Constitution of Pakistan".

Badhe said Pakistan’s "deceit and hypocrisy" was best demonstrated when it orchestrated mass influx to Pakistan-occupied parts of Indian Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh through discriminatory domicile laws.

"It’s baffling that there are three outsiders for every 4 in the Pakistan-occupied parts of Indian Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. While civil, political and constitutional rights are non-existent in Pakistan-occupied parts of Indian Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, deliberate economic policies have also subjugated them to a life of extreme poverty," he said.

"In contrast, full-scale training camps and launch pads of terrorists are being escalated (sic) in Pakistan-occupied parts of Indian Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh at great expense for sustaining cross border terrorism against India. It’s not without reason that Pakistan remains a safe harbour for terrorists. While the world is busy combating the Covid-19 pandemic, Pakistan hoodwinks the world to allow delisting more than 4000 proscribed terrorists to sustain its terror ecosystem," added the official.

In scathing counter-attack on the human rights issue, the official also said it was deplorable that Pakistan had institutionalised enforced disappearance as a tool of subjugation against dissent and criticism not just against individuals but against the entire society. "Children as young as 12 years old in Baluchistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh are normally abducted and trained to be suicide bombers," he said.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-delisted-4000-terrorists-to-sustain-terror-ecosystem-india-tells-un-rights-body/articleshow/78375282.cms

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J&K medical student Tabish Khan turning waste to art

Sep 29, 2020

ANANTNAG: Pursuing two of her passions simultaneously, Tabish Aijaz Khan of Anantnag district is a self-taught artist who paints on Chinar leaves and waste material while pursuing her education.

Tabish hailing from Iqbal Abad in South Kashmir's Anantnag district is currently pursuing MBBS and is having tremendous skills in painting. She has been a self-taught painting artist since her school days. She was in 4th standard when she first drew painting and since then it has become her hobby.

"I started painting cartoons and drawings back in school as a hobby and with practice, my painting skills were improved," Tabish told ANI.

Back in 2016, Tabish completed her schooling and took up painting while preparing for medical college. This is when she realized that she is passionate about her art.

"I started painting more in 2016 and I used to post the pictures of my art on the social media platforms for which I received a great response. It encouraged me to paint more. Earlier, I used to think it is my hobby but during this time, I realised it was my passion," she said.

Being an artist, Tabish sees even a broken cup and chinar leaf as her canvas.

"I paint on canvas sheet, papers but I also paint on waste material like chinar leaves, wooden block, broken cup, plate eggshell, and stone. As I believe that nothing is useless, it is the way you see the object. When those useless things are painted, it is turned into a beautiful art piece," she added.

On being asked about her parent's reaction to her painting, Tabish said, "Currently, I am in the fourth year of my medical course. My parents have always been supportive. They have encouraged me to pursue both painting and MBBS."

"Painting helps me to relieve my stress as my course (medical) is a stressful one," she added.

Tabish's mother said, "I am really proud of my daughter. She always wanted to pursue the medical course and become a doctor. I am happy to see her pursue both - painting and academics."

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/jk-medical-student-tabish-khan-turning-waste-to-art/articleshow/78377749.cms

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SSP-rank officer promoting Islamophobia, says Jammu Muslim body

SEPTEMBER 28, 2020

He is resorting to a sinister campaign through his personal twitter handle, it says

The Jammu-based Muslim Joint Action Committee (MJAC), in a letter written to the J&K Home secretary, has alleged that a SSP-rank officer “was resorting to wanton vilification and repeated attacks through his tweets on Islam and Muslims”.

“SSP, Security, Jammu, Mr. Swarn Singh Kotwal through his tweets on Islam and Muslims is projecting them as terrorists and airing his political views in contravention to the service conducts rules,” the letter written by Parvez Khan, member of the MJAC, reads.

The letter, also addressed to top police officers of the Union Territory (UT), said despite being in a very sensitive place of posting and responsible for the safety and security of all sections of society, “he on August 29, 2020 used an unexpected language to project all Muslims as terrorists”.

The alleged tweet of the SSP attached with the letter reads: “Time n again all political parties after every terrorist act of violence paddles aatankwad Ka Koi dharm Nahin hota......but this I think is the biggest fraud being played on all of us. From Delhi, Bengaluru to Sweden the religion is very much visible. Srilanaka n Burma knew it in days (sic).”

“The SSP through his personal twitter handle has been resorting to a planned and sinister campaign to malign Muslims and Islam and create an atmosphere of Islamophobia. The moral turpitude is aimed clearly at creating enmity and feelings of hatred and ill-will between different religions.”

The complainant sought an investigation and legal action against the officer.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/ssp-rank-officer-promoting-islamophobia-says-jammu-muslim-body/article32717778.ece

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NIA court gives life sentence to Kerala man for joining Islamic State, imposes fine of Rs 2.10 lakh

September 28, 2020

Kochi: An NIA court on Monday awarded life imprisonment to a man who was convicted for intentionally and knowingly joining Islamic State and later proceeding to Iraq to further the activities of the dreaded terror group.

The Special NIA court also imposed a fine of Rs 2,10,000 on Subahani Haja Moideen, who hails from Idukki district, who was arrested by the NIA in 2016 following a crackdown in Tamil Nadu with the help of central security agencies and other state police.

The court on Friday had found him guilty under IPC Sections 120(B) (Criminal Conspiracy), Section 125 (waging war against Asiatic power in alliance with the Government of India) and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Section 20 (Punishment for being member of terrorist gang or organisation).

The court had also convicted him under UAPA Section 38 (Offence relating to membership of a terrorist organisation) and 39 (Offence relating to support given to a terrorist organisation).

However, Moideen was found not guilty for an offence under IPC section 122 (Collecting arms, etc, with intention of waging war against the Government of India).

According to the chargesheet filed by the National Investigation Agency, Moideen intentionally and knowingly became an Islamic State member in April 2015.

To further the activities of the terror group, he proceeded to Iraq during April-September 2015, joined the terrorist organisation and waged war against the Government of Iraq, an Asiatic Power in alliance with the Government of India, the NIA had said in its chargesheet.

https://www.firstpost.com/india/nia-court-gives-life-sentence-to-kerala-man-for-joining-islamic-state-imposes-fine-of-rs-2-10-lakh-8859311.html

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Terrorist slain in Pulwama encounter was longest-surviving Lashkar commander: DGP

Sep 28, 2020

SRINAGAR: Top Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist Aijaz Ahmed Reshi, who was killed along with an aide in an anti-terror operation in Pulwama’s Samboora area late Sunday, was one of the longest surviving commanders of the outfit, J&K DGP Dilbagh Singh said on Monday. Lashkar’s main recruiter, Reshi was involved in numerous attacks on security forces, inflicting heavy casualties.

Reshi initially worked as an overground worker and had joined militancy even before Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, the poster boy of new-age militancy in J&K who was killed in an encounter in July 2016, DGP Singh told reporters at district police lines in Awantipora, Pulwama.

Reshi had recruited ultras like Towseef Khanday, Rafiq Dar and Adil Ahmed, all of whom rose to top ranks before being slain by security forces in different anti-terror operations. “Reshi had also recruited and trained Sajad Ahmed Sofi, who was killed alongside him in Sunday’s encounter,” the DGP said.

“Reshi took part in an attack at EDI Pampore killing eight CRPF men. He had transported the Lashkar men to the spot as well,” DGP Singh said. “He had fired at an Army party, killing three soldiers at Kadlabal, Pampore,” he added.

The encounter at Samboora started Sunday afternoon but due to darkness, a search operation couldn’t take place even after the gunfight came to a close with the killing of two terrorists. A soldier was also injured in the fire exchange. When a search was started on Monday morning, bodies of the slain ultras were recovered along with two AK-47 rifles, two magazines, some rounds and other incriminating material, DGP Singh said.

“Reshi’s killing is a big success for the security forces and there will be a significant dip in the local terrorist recruitment in the areas he was operating,” the DGP said, adding that the militancy graph in J&K is now lower as compared to previous years. “In the past 15 days, three youth were brought back. And this year so far, 24 youth who had left homes and joined militancy were brought back with the active cooperation of their parents,” he said.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/terrorist-slain-in-pulwama-encounter-was-longest-surviving-lashkar-commander-dgp/articleshow/78371619.cms

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Pakistan violates ceasefire along LoC in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch

Edited by Arpan Rai

Sep 29, 2020

The Indian Army is responding to firing from across the border in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district on Tuesday. The firing is a result of Pakistan violating the ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC), said the army.

“Pakistan initiated unprovoked ceasefire violation by firing with small arms and intense shelling with mortars along LoC in Mankote sector in Poonch, Jammu and Kashmir. Indian Army retaliated befittingly,” army officials said.

The firing started in the Mankote sector in Poonch around 4:30 am on Tuesday, they added.

In September alone this year, the Pakistan army has violated the ceasefire 44 times this month.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/pakistan-violates-ceasefire-along-loc-in-jammu-and-kashmir-s-poonch/story-FqLxsYWq7XlqkSh1y4cR2O.html

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Pakistan

 

Pakistan’s opposition, public increasingly irked by the military’s role in politics

TCA Raghavan

Sep 28, 2020

Former Pakistan prime minister (PM), Nawaz Sharif’s, defiant roar summarises both his biography and Pakistan’s history over the past three decades. The occasion was an opposition conference on video on September 20. Quite apart from what the former PM said, the occasion was significant. The conference was hosted by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). It brought together all the major opposition parties and leaders. The Pakistan Muslim League (N) — Nawaz Sharif’s party — coordinating action with the PPP has not been seen for some time. These two together make up a large chunk of the political spectrum and both are now increasingly led by charismatic next generation leaders — Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz and Benazir Bhutto’s son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. What is common to both is that they attach to their names that of a parent who was the political face of Pakistan for long periods of its history — Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto. This is dynastic politics, of course, but it is also real politics.

What made the news most was Nawaz Sharif’s broadside against Prime Minister Imran Khan and his government, of course, but more against those “who installed Imran Khan and who manipulated elections to bring an incapable man like him into power and thus, destroyed the country”. Khan’s failures of economic and foreign policy, on Kashmir, Pakistan’s international isolation, alienation from Saudi Arabia and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the stagnation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), thus formed one aspect of the speech. The real firepower was in the references to the erosion and throttling of democracy, that “every child knows that no prime minister has been allowed to complete five years in power”, of a “state above the state”.

All this refers to the role of the military — euphemistically called the establishment — in politics. What has been less reported than his references to the military and the generals were the comments about the judiciary and how it acts in concert with the military.

Nawaz Sharif has been PM longer than anyone else — in all over nine years but spread over three terms in which the first (November 1990-July 1993) and the third (June 2013-July 2017) are separated by a quarter of a century. While the military, or at least certain generals, had much to do with his meteoric rise through the 1980s, once PM, Nawaz Sharif acted as if he was in charge. His first tenure ended, therefore, with a bitter feud with the president; the second with a coup after GeneralPervez Musharraf’s Kargil misadventure; the third with what amounted to a judicial coup – or so at least many in Pakistan felt. In each of the three terms, his party had a majority but this was no defence against the forces arrayed against him.

The third term was marked by near constant friction with the military on a whole range of issues. A close political associate and astute observer, former foreign minister Sartaj Aziz, has recently written: “Nawaz Sharif’s transition away from the military establishment grew incrementally when his core political interests or stakes were threatened by the absence of real democracy”. Nawaz Sharif’s second and third terms stand out for his willingness to walk Pakistan’s most dangerous minefield — relations with India. That story is well known. The point, however, is that Nawaz Sharif understood intuitively that his authority as PM could be cemented only by limiting the role of the military and for this to happen some improvement of relations, if not normalisation with India, was essential. Sartaj Aziz also notes, “Fundamentally, Nawaz Sharif did not fully comprehend the depth and strength of de facto forces and also ignored the importance of a broader coalition of political forces for establishing the supremacy of democratic institutions.”

Whether this present front of opposition unity and better atmospherics between the leaders of the PML-(N) and the PPP, therefore, heralds something new happening in Pakistan is too early to say. Nawaz Sharif stands disqualified from politics for life and effectively in exile. Most Pakistani politicians in the opposition are fearful of the skeletons in their cupboards and the risk of jail or worse is real. Yet for all this both the PML-(N) and the PPP have remained largely intact with no major desertions or breakaways in the past two years. Khan’s problems, on the other hand, are mounting — not the least of which is managing the growing clamour in public discourse that the military is too involved in national affairs. Nawaz Sharif’s speech is designed clearly at advancing this discourse. Certainly he knows that what displeases the military more than anything else is an open discussion of its political role. Possibly he believes that agitation on this front will increase pressure — both on Khan and the military — and mistakes happen under pressure. The September speech may well mark Nawaz Sharif’s fourth foray into Pakistan’s murky terrain of curbing the military. If that is so, then describing Nawaz Sharif as epitomising a man with his future behind him may well sum up his biography as also Pakistan’s political history.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/analysis/pakistan-s-opposition-public-increasingly-irked-by-the-military-s-role-in-politics/story-M46BvE5zUDfqBfIg426xgM.html

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Shia-Sunni rift on rise in Pakistan, but Imran Khan govt’s silence may be strategic

AYESHA SIDDIQA

28 September, 2020

Pakistan’s mainstream media may have hid it well, but sectarian tension between Sunnis and Shias seems to be back, especially in the commercial capital of Karachi and some urban centres of Punjab. Although Pakistan’s state authorities and its supporters on social media have tried to project this conflict as an Indian conspiracy, the accusation does not explain the fact that a number of Deobandi parties, extremist, and militant groups have come together to harass the Shia population right in the eyesight of the country’s security apparatus. Violence has not begun, but its likelihood looms large. The fear generated through sloganeering is in itself harmful for the Shias.

The real question, however, is why has such tension returned? Why is it that all major Deobandi militant groups are back to knocking at the doors of Pakistan’s Shias? And why are non-militant Sunni religious groups, such as the Deobandis and Barelvis, trying to scare the life out of Shias, or anyone who is supporting Iran?

Many people I spoke with are linking the recent development with the Pakistani government and military’s desire to divert attention from retired Lt General Asim Bajwa’s scam of his large personal business empire in the United States. Some tend to see it in the context of pushing back the political opposition. Such explanations are worth thinking about but don’t sufficiently explain the reemergence of the Shia-Sunni discord or why the State would take such a major risk of unleashing danger that is tantamount to walking on a landmine.

Saving Asim Bajwa’s reputation may be necessary, but it doesn’t deserve such a risk. The missing piece of the puzzle is probably Iran, and perhaps Tehran’s links with China.

Eruption of anger

It was in the second week of September that thousands of Deobandi followers took to Karachi’s main Shahrae Faisal road chanting anti-Shia slogans, referring to the community as ‘kafir’ (non-Muslim) and calling upon the state to ban Ashura, the Shias’ main religious event to mourn the death of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Hussain in 680 AD. A prominent Sunni cleric even demanded an end to Muharram processions.

For Shias, the first month of the Islamic calendar, Muharram, is spent remembering the tragic incident that also lays out the fractious history and internal conflict of Islam dating back to the early years. This year, Deobandi clerics accused some of their Shia counterparts of committing blasphemy against certain controversial figures in Islamic history whom the Deobandis respect but the Shias don’t. This division is known and historic, but the sudden eruption of anger is strange.

The Imran Khan government’s response, thus far, has been to stop the media from reporting on the matter. This is probably an attempt to contain any outbreak of violence, because Shias in Pakistan are a sizeable minority. They represent about 21 per cent of the total Muslim population, the highest number in a country after Iran.

However, violence is inevitable because the anger and anxiety on both sides seem to be mounting. There is also the fact that Deobandi ideology has been given a freer hand, as demonstrated by the passing of the Tahaffuz-e-Bunyad bill in July 2020 in the provincial Punjab Assembly. While incorporating blasphemy law in government rules even deeper, the bill is problematic due to its lack of consensus on key religious concepts between Sunnis and Shias.

One would imagine that the State would try to avoid any outbreak of violence or even tension. After all, Pakistan has reportedly witnessed the killing of approximately 4,847 Shias in incidents of sectarian violence between 2001 and 2018. Karachi saw the targeted killing of Shia doctors and lawyers in 1999, even before 9/11. The sectarian violence, which was irksome for the state, was finally brought under control as a result of the two key military operations against terrorism — Zarbe Azab (2014-17) and Radul Fasad (2017-19).

Interestingly, the Barelvis who are known for greater sympathy with the Shias also seem to have turned against them now. Although the ideological shift had started to become visible in the early part of 2010, the Barelvi Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) joining the Deobandis against the Shias is even more dramatic.

The limited but highly dangerous Deobandi gatherings followed by the Barelvi TLP rallies expressing shared anti-Shia sentiment despite having divergent ideologies could blow up in Pakistan’s face.

Also read: Asim Bajwa’s dirty money is RAW saazish in Imran Khan’s Pakistan

Violence and influence

Like the Middle East, Pakistan could prove to be a whirlpool of sectarian tension and violence. Though the first instance of Sunni-Shia tension erupted around 1951 in Sindh, it built up more decisively during the 1980s. General Zia-ul-Haq’s regime looked away while the Anjuman-e-Sipah-e-Sahaba (ASS) took birth in Jhang, South Punjab in 1986. It later turned into the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) that became the mothership of all Deobandi militancy. It gave birth to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) during the early 1990s, and also the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Ansar, and later Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

During counter-terrorism operations by Pakistan, segments from the SSP, LeJ and JeM went into making the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Some members of this even went on to join Daesh. The SSP was also one of the first organisations to fight in Afghanistan. Besides militancy, the organisation also engaged in politics. Its leader, Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, initially contested elections in 1988 from a Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam–Fazlur Rehman (JUI-F) ticket, and later formed his own party. Around the time Haq was killed in 1990 outside Islamabad, Pakistan saw a lot of bloodshed, including sectarian violence, through the decade of the 1980s, 1990s, and the 2000s. Like the evolution of its militant wings, the SSP’s political face also evolved. One of its current forms is the group Ahle Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat (ASWJ), which is visible in electoral politics. The SSP and other militant groups are part of the Deobandi network that comprises militant outfits, political groups, and welfare institutions.

The network is so well spread out in the largest province of Punjab that there are over 20,000 staunch Deobandi voters in every constituency, which makes the group important for all political parties and builds their influence. The JUI-F, headed by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, is one of the most prominent faces of the network. It is instrumental in partnering with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and spreading the influence of Rehman’s network in Sindh and Baluchistan.

The Iran angle

The Jaish-e-Mohammed, which was considered as dedicated to Kashmir, began talking about sectarian issues as recently as early September 2020.

The need to hide Asim Bajwa’s financial sins is not sufficient reason to explain the sudden turn in JeM’s narrative. Though not going all guns blazing after Shias, its recent writings have clearly stated that it subscribes to the overall ASWJ ideology. The JeM, however, has taken a more aggressive position against the Ahmediyas and blasphemy, particularly challenging France on the Charlie Hebdo issue. These were matters that the JeM has avoided in the past. Its members that I spoke with would categorically say that they didn’t want to divert attention from jihad outside Pakistan.

To many, the internal shift in the Deobandi militant discourse indicates a growing Saudi influence. Indeed, in one of its publications on 12 August, the JeM seemed angry when it described the Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi as “these traitor Makhdooms and their patrons will find their name in hell along with Pervez Musharraf [for abandoning the fight for Kashmir]”. Clearly, the reference to Kashmir was a peg to lash out at Qureshi for his recent rant against Riyadh. Most of the Deobandi militant organisations and its madrassa network are beholden to Middle Eastern patronage that started during the 1980s.

However, this in itself is not an indication that the JeM or the Deobandi network has grown independent of the Pakistani state. In fact, starting from early 2018, JeM literature had begun criticising Iran, something that was never done in the past. This was happening before the Pakistan government claimed that Masood Azhar and his family had gone missing.

The rise in sectarian rhetoric or focus on Iran, which is linked with the sectarian issue, even of militant outfits that were never known to dabble in such matters, indicates a critical shift. It is possible that the Deobandi network is responding to changes in larger Middle Eastern politics. Some argue that fear is being used as a tool to silence Shias from raising their voice in support of Iran, or against the peace deal between the UAE and Israel that may even extend to Saudi Arabia. The re-emergence of the TTP in bordering areas, the re-birth of the Malik Ishaq group of LeJ that is now more vociferously using a sectarian agenda, along with the presence of Daesh in areas of Afghanistan close to Pakistan, could pose a challenge for Iran.

It certainly raises questions about the security of Iran’s development projects in cooperation with China.

The silence of the Pakistani government can be explained as its urge to discourage domestic violence. However, it may also be to hide some internal divisions regarding its geo-political agenda — issues like recognition of Israel, a necessary containment of Iran, and its continued dependence on the US. It also raises questions about Pakistan’s attitude towards the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which as expert Andrew Small recently argued is coming down on Pakistan’s agenda. The silence on an ever-bloating sectarianism may turn out to be more strategic than tactical.

Ayesha Siddiqa is research associate, SOAS London and author of Military Inc; Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy. She tweets: @iamthedrifter. Views are personal.

https://theprint.in/opinion/shia-sunni-rift-on-rise-in-pakistan-but-imran-khan-govts-silence-may-be-strategic/511942/

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‘Muslim economies need to reduce trust deficit through frequent trade fairs’

September 29, 2020

KARACHI: Foreign and local dignitaries on Monday emphasised need of removing trust deficits in the Muslim economies through frequent trade fairs and meetings to strengthen their economic cooperation.

Sheikh Sultan, vice president of Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) said Muslim countries have enormous resources and potentials to succeed, but the task is to translate the potential into real asset.

“Absence of unity and cooperation among the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) countries is a biggest challenge in the present uncertain political and economic situation,” Sultan said, addressing a webinar organised by the FPCCI.

OIC is the second largest bloc of the world and represents one-fourth of total land with 4.1 percent of the world population. Gross GDP of OIC is $6.5 trillion with average per capita income $ 7,189. Intra-regional trade is 17.5 percent of total trade of OIC countries while the intra-region foreign direct investment stands 2-3 percent of GDP.

“Pakistan has strong and significant relations with all Muslim nations at political level, but these relations do not reflect in terms of trade volume despite the fact that there is huge potential of trade,” said Sultan.

“The reason behind the low level of trade is lack of information sharing and low level of interaction among the private sectors of Pakistan and OIC countries.” Pakistan has signed free trade agreement only with Malaysia and preferential trade agreements with Indonesia, Mauritius and Iran.

Trade and Investment Attaché of Pakistan in Qatar Salman Ali said value-added food products, pharmaceutical, construction material and agro based product have huge export opportunities for Pakistan.

“FPCCI and TDAP (Trader Development Authority of Pakistan) should regularly participate in the exhibitions organised by Qatar for the enhancement of trade,” Ali said. Trade and Investment Attache of Pakistan in Jordan Khadim Ali said India and Europe are penetrating in Jordan and share of Pakistan in Jordan’s trade is less than one percent. “There are no marketing efforts and only one delegation of Pakistan visited Jordan last year,” he said.

Consul General of Pakistan in Turkey Bilal Pasha said there is no trade agreement among 57 countries of OIC, which is the main reason of low intra-regional trade. “Market access, connectivity, transportation, financial connectivity and B2B connectivity are challenges which Pakistan faces in trade with Muslim countries,” said Pasha. “Turkey is advance in science and technology and there is scope of collaboration for both countries in light engineering, chemical, agriculture, leather and textile.”

Trade and Investment Attaché of Pakistan in Indonesia Fauzia Perveen said there are huge non-tariff barriers in terms of import licence and quality requirements.

Pakistan and Indonesia operationalised preferential trade agreement in 2013, which is mainly benefiting Indonesia. Lack of shipping lines is another issue and almost 20-25 days are required for trade with Indonesia. Dates, meat and ethanol have potentials of exports towards Indonesia, Perveen said.

Commercial Secretary of Pakistan in Tajikistan Rashid Imtiaz said Tajikistan is gateway to Central Asia and Pakistan is mainly exporting sugar and importing cotton from Tajikistan. “Connectivity is the main issue due to uncertain situation in Afghanistan.”

Commercial Counselor of Pakistan in Oman Hanif Bashir said India and China are marketing their products in Oman, which is mainly an importing country. Bashir also advised regular business council meetings, trade fairs and exhibitions.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/721699-muslim-economies-need-to-reduce-trust-deficit-through-frequent-trade-fairs

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PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif arrested in money-laundering case

Sep 28, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), arrested Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president and leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif from the Lahore high court premises on Monday in a money-laundering case after his bail application was rejected.

The arrest came days after the Army had counselled the opposition not to drag the GHQ into their fight with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan,

Sharif had appeared before the high court to secure an extension to his pre-arrest bail when his plea was rejected. Within minutes of bail denial, the anti-graft body took him into custody. A two-member HC bench had extended Sharif’s pre-arrest bail earlier this month.

Sharif’s court appearance drew a large crowd of PML-N supporters, including women, chanting slogans against the NAB, PM Imran Khan and his government. Following Sharif’s arrest, footage of a scuffle between security personnel and charged PML-N supporters was aired on TV stations.

The case against him is related to NAB’s December 2019 reference under which it had frozen 23 properties owned by Sharif and his sons, Hamza and Suleman, over claims that they had acquired assets beyond their known sources of income and laundered money.

According to NAB, an investigation had found that the PML-N president had allegedly acquired properties in the name of his wives Nusrat and Tehmina Durrani. The PML-N denies the allegations, claiming that the anti-corruption body was merely trying to harass the opposition at the government’s behest.

“Make no mistake. Shahbaz Sharif has been arrested ONLY because he REFUSED to play in the hands of those who wanted to use him against his brother (Nawaz Sharif),” Maryam Nawaz, PML-N leader and ex-PM Nawaz Sharif’s daughter, posted on Twitter. “He preferred standing behind prison bars than to stand against his brother,” she said.

In another tweet, Maryam said: “If there were accountability and justice in this country, it would not have been Shahbaz Sharif who was arrested but Asim Bajwa and his family.”

Earlier this month, a Pakistani journalist broke the news alleging that the current chairman of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and former military spokesperson Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa (Retd) had used his offices, since 2002, when he was a lieutenant colonel, in setting up the off-shore businesses of his wife, sons and brothers. “The media was pressured not to broadcast news of Bajwa’s corruption but later forced to air his clarification of news which was already not reported in local media,” she said.

Reacting to the arrest, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb claimed that it was the direct result of the united opposition’s all-party conference. “For the past two years, the NAB and PM Khan nexus has been harassing all political opponents,” she said, alleging that Sharif’s arrest was clear proof that the incumbent government has started the process to rig the upcoming Gilgit-Baltistan elections. “This was done on the orders of Imran Khan,” she alleged. “We will not be discouraged from our fight against this government,” she said, adding, “This drama will not succeed.”

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pml-n-president-shahbaz-sharif-arrested-in-money-laundering-case/articleshow/78371621.cms

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Afghan reconciliation leader thanks Pakistan for facilitating peace process

29 Sep 2020

Chairman of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation Dr Abdullah Abdullah on Monday thanked the Pakistani leadership for its efforts to take the Afghan peace process to its logical conclusion, Radio Pakistan reported.

Abdullah lauded Pakistan's role in the peace process during a meeting with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Islamabad.

Qureshi said Pakistan backed a peaceful and durable political solution of Afghanistan's conflict through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

He said Pakistan had been playing the role of a facilitator in the process "as a shared responsibility", according to the report.

The foreign minister said the US-Taliban agreement and later the intra-Afghan dialogue held in Doha had raised the prospects of longlasting peace in Afghanistan. He said the Afghan leadership should seize this "historic opportunity" and undertake serious efforts to take the peace process to its conclusion.

Qureshi said an eye should also be kept on "the spoilers who do not want peace and stability in the region", adding that the international community will have to come forward for the reconstruction and economic stability of Afghanistan.

"Pakistan desires dignified return of millions of Afghan refugees to their homeland," the minister said.

He said Pakistan respects the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Afghanistan and wants to develop strong economic cooperation with the neighbouring country.

Addressing a press conference after the meeting, Qureshi said Pakistan had always maintained that there was no military solution to the Afghan conflict, which could be ended only through a political settlement.

"We have fulfilled our responsibility, now you have to go forward and play your part and I hope that you will be successful," he told the Afghan leadership. "Whatever we can do to facilitate we have done and will do it."

Earlier in the day, Abdullah had arrived in Islamabad on a three-day official visit. This is the Afghan leader's first visit to Pakistan in his capacity as chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation.

He is accompanied by a high-level delegation comprising prominent members of the council.

According to the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abdullah will also meet Prime Minister Imran Khan, President Dr Arif Alvi, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani and National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser during the trip.

In a tweet shortly after arriving, Abdullah said that he will meet the Pakistani leadership and "exchange views on Afghanistan peace and bilateral relations".

Later, he visited the Foreign Office where he was welcomed by FM Qureshi. The visiting dignitary also planted a sapling at the premises.

On Sunday, the Afghan leader had stated that the visit would provide a unique opportunity for the two sides to exchange views on Afghanistan peace talks in Doha and bilateral relations.

"I hope this visit will open a new chapter of mutual cooperation at all levels, especially on achieving a lasting and dignified peace in Afghanistan," he had said on Twitter.

During his visit, Abdullah will also speak at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad and will also meet journalists.

The visit will provide an opportunity for wide-ranging exchange of views on the Afghan peace process and strengthening of Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral relations and people-to-people interaction.

Hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan would be unwise: PM Imran

In an op-ed published in The Washington Post on Saturday, Prime Minister Imran Khan warned that a hasty international withdrawal from Afghanistan would be "unwise" and cautioned against setting unrealistic timelines.

The premier said that the path leading to the talks between the Afghan leadership and the Taliban was not easy but "we were able to press on thanks to the courage and flexibility that were on display from all sides".

He pointed out that the United States and its allies had facilitated the prisoner exchange — which the Taliban had linked to resumption of the peace talks — while both the Afghan government and the Taliban had "responded to the Afghan people’s yearning for peace".

The premier said that the intra-Afghan negotiations were "likely to be even more difficult, requiring patience and compromise from all sides".

"Progress could be slow and painstaking; there may even be the occasional deadlock, as Afghans work together for their future. At such times, we would do well to remember that a bloodless deadlock on the negotiating table is infinitely better than a bloody stalemate on the battlefield," he wrote.

He added that all sides who were invested in the Afghan peace process should "resist the temptation for setting unrealistic timelines". He also warned of regional spoilers, who he said saw instability in Afghanistan as an advantage for their own political purposes.

The premier highlighted that it was important to start planning for what would happen in post-war Afghanistan. "How can the world help a post-war Afghanistan transition to sustainable peace? How do we create conditions that will enable the millions of Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, and other countries, to return to their homeland with dignity and honour?"

He assured that Pakistan would continue to support the Afghan peace process. "Like the United States, Pakistan does not want to see Afghanistan become a sanctuary for international terrorism ever again."

https://www.dawn.com/news/1582095/afghan-reconciliation-leader-thanks-pakistan-for-facilitating-peace-process

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North America

 

US to try to end violence between Armenia, Azerbaijan

Betul Yuruk  

28.09.2020

NEW YORK

President Donald Trump said Sunday that the US is looking into what can be done to stop the violence between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Trump told reporters at a White House press conference that the US has “a lot of good relationships in that area. We will see if we can stop it.”

Border clashes broke out early Sunday after Armenian forces targeted Azerbaijani civilian settlements and military positions in the region, which is also known as Upper Karabakh.

Relations between the two former Soviet nations have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military 'occupied' Upper Karabakh, an internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan.

Four UN Security Council and two UN General Assembly resolutions as well as many international organizations demand the withdrawal of the occupying forces.

The OSCE Minsk Group – co-chaired by France, Russia and the US – was formed in 1992 to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, but to no avail. A cease-fire, however, was agreed upon in 1994.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-to-try-to-end-violence-between-armenia-azerbaijan/1987815

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US hopes Turkey-Greece talks lead to rapprochement

Michael Hernandez  

28.09.2020

WASHINGTON

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday the US hopes forthcoming Greek and Turkish talks to resolve maritime disputes in the eastern Mediterranean will lead to better bilateral relations between the neighbors.

"We’ve said all along the way conflict is resolved is not through shows of force, it’s not through demonstrations of power, it’s through dialogue. It’s through international systems, agreement, conversations, dialogue. That’s how these maritime disputes ought to be resolved," Pompeo said during an interview with Greece's Athens News Agency.

"We hope the exploratory talks not only get kicked off right, but it’s important that they’re resolved in a way that delivers outcomes that each of the two nations find more than acceptable," he added.

Addressing the UN General Assembly on Friday, Greek Premier Kyriakos Mitsotakis hailed the forthcoming talks with Ankara as "a step in the right direction”.

“If President Erdogan really believes the UN stands as a beacon of hope and a bastion of global cooperation, I would urge him to act in accordance with this fact,” he said, referring to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Greece, with France's support, has disputed Turkey's energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean, trying to box in Turkish maritime territory based on small islands near the Turkish coast.

Turkey, the country with the longest coastline on the Mediterranean, has sent drill ships with a military escort to explore for energy on its continental shelf, saying that Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus also have rights in the region.

To reduce tensions, Turkey has called for dialogue to ensure fair sharing of the region's resources.

The 61st round of exploratory talks between Turkey and Greece will start soon, the Greek Foreign Ministry said last week.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-hopes-turkey-greece-talks-lead-to-rapprochement/1988782

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Europe

 

Azerbaijan opens fire towards military unit in Armenia, hits civilian bus

29 September 2020

Azeri armed forces opened fire on an Armenian military unit in the border town of Vardenis, and miles away from a breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region which has been the focus of clashes in the past few days, the Armenian defense ministry said.

A civilian bus was set on fire after being hit by an Azeri unmanned drone, it said in a statement.

Separately, Armenia denied an earlier report by Azerbaijan’s defense ministry that the Armenian army had shelled the Dashkesan region on the border between the two countries.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/09/29/Azerbaijan-open-fire-towards-military-unit-in-Armenia-hit-civilian-bus-Defense-Mini

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UK's Johnson raises concerns with Turkey's Erdogan over east Med tensions

29 September 2020

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday that he was concerned about tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, welcoming news that Turkey and Greece had agreed to talks, Johnson's office said in a statement.

NATO allies Greece and Turkey, at loggerheads on a range of issues, have agreed to resume exploratory talks over contested maritime claims following weeks of tension, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was beginning a two-day trip to Greece.

"The Prime Minister expressed his concern about recent tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean. He stressed the need for calm and welcomed the news that Turkey and Greece have agreed to talks," Johnson's office said.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/09/29/UK-s-Johnson-raises-concerns-with-Turkey-s-Erdogan-over-east-Med-tensions

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Russia calls on Azerbaijan, Armenia to exercise restraint

Elena Teslova  

28.09.2020

MOSCOW

Russia on Monday called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to exercise restraint and give up military methods of conducting affairs.

Speaking to reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the escalation of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh is the “most serious concern.”

Russia considers it “inappropriate” to draw a conclusion on who is right and who is guilty, and uses its good relations with Armenia and Azerbaijan in a bid to de-escalate the situation, Peskov said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has been in contact with his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts in order to promote peacemaking efforts, he added.

The Kremlin spokesman said that President Vladimir Putin held a phone talk with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan at the latter’s request on Sunday and that he will talk to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev if necessary.

Moscow is also "in full contact" with Ankara on the issue, the spokesman added.

“At the moment, we call on all parties, especially the parties to the conflict, to exercise maximum restraint, to abandon military methods of conducting affairs, and also to refrain from any steps that may provoke further undesirable aggravation of the situation,” he said.

Border clashes broke out early Sunday when Armenian forces targeted Azerbaijani civilian settlements and military positions, leading to casualties.

Azerbaijan’s parliament declared a state of war in some of its cities and regions following Armenia’s border violations and attacks in the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Relations between the two former Soviet neighbors have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Upper Karabakh, or Nagorno-Karabakh, an internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan.

Four UN Security Council and two UN General Assembly resolutions as well as many international organizations demand the withdrawal of the occupying forces.

The OSCE Minsk Group – co-chaired by France, Russia and the US – was formed in 1992 to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, but to no avail. A cease-fire, however, was agreed upon in 1994.

France, Germany and Russia, among others, have urged an immediate halt to clashes in the occupied region.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/russia-calls-on-azerbaijan-armenia-to-exercise-restraint/1988438

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Aliyev, Macron discuss Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict

Ruslan Rehimov  

28.09.2020

BAKU

The presidents of Azerbaijan and France on Monday discussed escalating hostilities after the Armenian forces shelled Azerbaijani military and civilian positions in the occupied Upper Karabakh, or Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Emmanuel Macron phoned Ilham Aliyev and voiced concern about clashes on the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontline, saying the problem should be resolved through negotiations, according to a statement from Azerbaijan’s Presidency.

Aliyev noted that the Armenian administration deliberately disrupted the negotiation process and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan's statement that “Nagorno-Karabakh is Armenia” had given a serious blow to the process, the statement read.

The Azerbaijani president said the Armenian army fired at the Azerbaijani positions and civilian settlements on Sep. 27, causing civilian and military casualties, and the Azerbaijani army started a counterattack in response, the statement added.

Aliyev emphasized that the Armenian administration is responsible for all the events, according to the statement.

Border clashes broke out early Sunday after Armenian forces targeted Azerbaijani civilian settlements and military positions in the region, which is also known as Upper Karabakh.

Relations between the two former Soviet nations have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Upper Karabakh, an internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan.

Four UN Security Council and two UN General Assembly resolutions as well as many international organizations demand the withdrawal of the occupying forces.

The OSCE Minsk Group – co-chaired by France, Russia and the US – was formed in 1992 to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, but to no avail. A cease-fire, however, was agreed upon in 1994.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/aliyev-macron-discuss-armenia-azerbaijan-conflict/1988019

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Arab world

 

Threat to evacuate US diplomats from Iraq raises fear of war

28 September 2020

Washington has made preparations to withdraw diplomats from Iraq after warning Baghdad it could shut its embassy, two Iraqi officials and two Western diplomats said, a step Iraqis fear could turn their country into a battle zone.

Any move by the United States to reduce its diplomatic presence in a country where it has up to 5,000 troops would be widely seen in the region as an escalation of its confrontation with Iran, which Washington blames for missile and bomb attacks.

That in turn would open the possibility of military action, with just weeks to go before an election in which President Donald Trump has campaigned on a hard line towards Tehran and its proxies.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened to close the embassy in a phone call a week ago to President Barham Salih, two Iraqi government sources said. The conversation was initially reported by an Iraqi news website.

By Sunday, Washington had begun preparations to withdraw diplomatic staff if such a decision is taken, those sources and the two Western diplomats said.

The concern among the Iraqis is that withdrawing diplomats would be followed quickly by military action against forces Washington blamed for attacks.

Populist Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who commands a following of millions of Iraqis, last week pleaded for groups to avoid aggravation that would turn Iraq into a battleground.

One of the Western diplomats said the US administration did not "want to be limited in their options" to weaken Iran or pro-Iranian militias in Iraq. Asked whether he expected Washington to respond with economic or military measures, the diplomat replied: "Strikes."

The US State Department, asked about plans to withdraw from Iraq, said: "We never comment on the Secretary's private diplomatic conversations with foreign leaders ... Iran-backed groups launching rockets at our Embassy are a danger not only to us but to the Government of Iraq."

Earlier this month, the United States military said it would reduce its presence in Iraq to 3,000 troops from 5,200.

The Pentagon said on Monday it was committed to supporting Iraq's long-term "security, stability, and prosperity" and US military operations against Islamic State continued.

Perennial risk

In a region polarized between allies of Iran and the United States, Iraq is the rare exception: a country that has close ties with both. But that has left it open to a perennial risk of becoming a battleground in a proxy war.

That risk was hammered home in January this year, when Washington killed Iran's most important military commander, Qassem Soleimani, with a drone strike at Baghdad airport. Iran responded with missiles fired at US bases in Iraq.

Since then, a new prime minister has taken power in Iraq, supported by the United States, while Tehran still maintains close links to powerful Shia armed movements.

Rockets regularly fly across the Tigris towards the heavily fortified US diplomatic compound, constructed to be the biggest US embassy in the world in central Baghdad's so-called Green Zone during the US occupation after a 2003 invasion.

In recent weeks rocket attacks near the embassy have increased and roadside bombs targeted convoys carrying equipment to the US-led military coalition. One roadside attack hit a British convoy in Baghdad, the first of its kind against Western diplomats in Iraq for years.

On Monday three children and two women were killed when two militia rockets hit a family home, the Iraqi military said. Police sources said Baghdad airport was the intended target.

Two Iraqi intelligence sources suggested plans to withdraw American diplomats were not yet in motion, and would depend on whether Iraqi security forces were able to do a better job of halting attacks. They said they had received orders to prevent attacks on US sites, and had been told that US evacuations would begin only if that effort failed.

Double-edged sword

Iraqis are concerned about the impact of November's presidential election on the Trump administration's decision-making.

While Trump has boasted of his hard line against Iran, he has also long promised to withdraw US troops from engagements in the Middle East. The United States is already drawing down its force sent to help defeat Islamic State fighters in Iraq from 2014-2017.

Some Iraqi officials dismissed Pompeo's threat to pull out diplomats as bluster, designed to scare armed groups into stopping attacks. But they said it could backfire by provoking the militias instead, if they sense an opportunity to push Washington to retreat.

"The American threat to close their embassy is merely a pressure tactic, but is a double-edged sword," said Gati Rikabi, a member of Iraq's parliamentary security committee.

He and another committee member said US moves were designed to scare Iraqi leaders into supporting Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who has tried to check the power of Iran-aligned militia groups, with scant success.

Hawks on both sides

The militias are under public pressure to rein in supporters who might provoke Washington. Since last year, public opinion in Iraq has turned sharply against political groups seen as fomenting violence on behalf of Iran.

Publicly, the powerful Iran-backed Shia militia groups which control large factions in parliament have tried to distance themselves from attacks on Western targets.

US officials say they think the Shia militias or their Iranian backers have created splinter offshoots to carry out such attacks, allowing the main organisations to evade blame.

A senior figure in a Shia Muslim political party said he thought Trump might want to pull out diplomats to keep them out of harm's way and avoid an embarrassing pre-election incident.

Militia attacks were not necessarily under Tehran's control, he said, noting that Iran's foreign ministry had publicly called for a halt to attacks on diplomatic missions in Iraq.

"Iran wants to boot the Americans out, but not at any cost. It doesn't want instability on its Western border," the Shia leader said. "Just like there are hawks in the US, there are hawks in Iran who have contact with the groups carrying out attacks, who aren't necessarily following state policy."

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/09/29/Threat-to-evacuate-US-diplomats-from-Iraq-raises-fear-of-war

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EU is ‘disappointed’ and ‘concerned’ after Lebanon prime minister-designate resigns

28 September 2020

The European Union said on Monday it is disappointed and concerned about the Lebanese prime minister-designate’s decision to quit, urging Lebanon to form a government to win financial support from the International Monetary Fund.

For all the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

“The European Union notes with disappointment and concern the resignation of Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib and the circumstances that led to his decision,” the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said in a statement.

“Lebanon’s leaders must unite and do their utmost for the timely formation of a government,” Borrell said. “The swift formation of a government would be also crucial to reach an urgently needed agreement with the International Monetary Fund.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/09/28/EU-is-disappointed-and-concerned-after-Lebanon-prime-minister-designate-s-resigna

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Egypt police arrest 382 people protesting against President Sisi: Rights group

28 September 2020

At least 382 people have been arrested in Egypt in the wake of a recent spate of demonstrations against the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a rights group says.

The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms said on Monday that it had directly documented 249 cases of arrest over the past nine days.

Another 133 had been documented by other rights groups or lawyers, it added.

Egypt’s public prosecutor recently said it had ordered the release of 68 minors in connection with the demonstrations.

Anti-government protesters have braved a heavy-handed crackdown by the police in the past few days.

Apart from the capital Cairo, protesters have also taken to the streets in the governorates of Giza, Damietta on the Nile Delta and Luxor in the south.

Several videos posted online purportedly show security forces firing live bullets to disperse the angry crowds.

On Saturday, family members and medical sources said a protester had been killed in clashes with the police in a village south of Cairo.

A major grievance against the Sisi administration has to do with his decision to order the demolition of ‘illegal’ construction nationwide. People are required to pay a fine to legalize their home ownership.

In an apparent reference to the protests, Sisi on Sunday praised Egyptians for enduring tough economic conditions and said some were trying to exploit Egypt's challenges to undermine the country.

“They choose the difficult conditions to offend and sow suspicion among Egyptians about what we are doing – that this is at their expense and against them,” Sisi said during the inauguration of a petrochemical plant north of Cairo.

Exiled businessman Mohamed Ali, who has influenced the anti-Sisi protests since last year in online videos, has intensified his efforts recently.

The prominent opposition figure has accused the government of wasting money on lavish construction projects.

Last year’s protests sparked a wide-ranging crackdown by the police and security forces. Amnesty International said at least 4,000 people had been arrested.

Since his election in 2014, Sisi has overseen a broad crackdown on political dissent, which was extended with a wave of arrests last September.

Security services tried to preempt the latest wave of protests by launching a campaign of arrests that included political figures and high-profile activists.

Egypt declared as unauthorized all demonstrations in 2013 after Sisi, then defense minister, led a military coup and ousted the democratically-elected President Mohamed Morsi.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/09/28/635225/Egypt-police-Sisi

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At least 5 civilians killed in rocket fire near Baghdad airport: Army

29 September 2020

Three Iraqi children and two women from the same family were killed Monday when a rocket targeting Baghdad airport, where US troops are stationed, fell instead on their home, the army said.

The latest in a string of incidents targeting American interests in Iraq came after Washington threatened to close its embassy and withdraw its 3,000 troops from the country unless the rocket attacks stop.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

The attacks, which started around a year ago, have caused few casualties.

Monday's incident was the first to claim so many civilian lives. The army said it also wounded two other children.

Twitter accounts supporting US arch-enemy Iran regularly praise the attacks, but that was not the case Monday, and no group immediately claimed responsibility.

Previous attacks of the same nature have been claimed by murky groups saying they are acting against the "American occupier".

Experts say they include former members of pro-Iranian factions of the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary alliance.

The Iraqi army, in its statement Monday, accused "criminal gangs and groups of outlaws" of seeking to "create chaos and terrorize people".

Between October and July, at least 39 rocket attacks targeted US interests in Iraq. Almost the same number again have taken place since.

Iraqi intelligence sources have blamed the attacks on a small group of hardline Iran-backed paramilitary factions.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/09/29/At-least-5-civilians-killed-in-rocket-fire-near-Baghdad-airport-Army

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Mideast

 

Rayeesi: Iran’s Judiciary Uninfluenced by US, Europeans’ Hues and Cries

Sep 28, 2020

“The US and certain European states are centers of crimes and they put their knees on the neck of justice-seekers to stop their voice as a new torture method,” Rayeesi said on Monday, addressing the Judiciary officials in Tehran.

He warned that the enemies want to display crime and murder as a normal thing in the Iranian society, and underlined, “The Judiciary will not be influenced by the hues and cries of the hegemonic system and the mercenaries of the US and Europe and merely moves on the path of justice and law.”

Rayeesi also blasted the western states for instrumental use of human rights.

His remarks came after the US officials and some European missions and envoys to Iran, including the German ambassador, made comments in reaction to the execution of 27yearold Iranian Navid Afkari who had received a death sentence for murdering a citizen in 2018.

Based on Islamic Sharia Laws, the family of the victim decide the fate of the murderer after the convict is found guilty at the court under a judicial decree called Qisas, i.e. "retaliation in kind", "eye for an eye", or retributive justice; they could either receive ransom money or ask for hanging in retribution.

The family of the victim, Hassan Torkmani, a Water and Sewage Organization employee, had urged to practice their right of hanging in retribution.

But since Navid Afkari had also taken part in 2018 protests in some Iranian cities, opposition groups based in Europe and the US have been seeking to politicize the case.

https://en.farsnews.ir/newstext.aspx?nn=13990707000892

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IRGC Spokesman: US, Europe Not Able to Confront Iran

Sep 28, 2020

“Today, the Americans and Europeans are much weaker than the past in treating Iran and they will not be able to confront Iran in any areas,” General Sharif said, addressing a ceremony in the Northeastern province of Khorassan Razavi on Monday.

He added that the Iranian nation’s strong determination and obedience to the Supreme Leader have paralyzed the enemies in confrontation against the country.

“If we were not a powerful country, the Americans would not raise such hues and cries against us,” General Sharif said.

In relevant remarks on Saturday, Iranian Army Deputy Commander Brigadier General Mohammad Hossein Dadras said that the US power to impose its unilateral policies to the world is declining.

“Today, we have attained such a power and honor that if we send a ship to the other side of the world (Latin America), it carries out its mission well without being disturbed; this is the shadow of our power in that region,” General Dadras said.

He referred to the US declining power, and said, “Today the countries which have been under the US hegemony have distanced themselves from the country and we are witnessing new world powers and [the US] unilateralism is being annihilated.”

Deputy Head of Iran's Ports and Maritime Organization Jalil Eslami underlined last month that given the Iranian vessels’ professional behavior in international waters, Washington is not able to seize them under the pretext of sanctions.

“If a country acts based on the technical and engineering protocols and the rules, no country can seize its ships,” Eslami told reporters in Tehran.

He referred to the US sanctions against Iran and Washington’s attempts to use them as a pretext to carry out illegal acts against the Iranian vessels, and said, “Experience has shown that the US can adopt no measure against the ships which have Iranian flag and identity.”

Eslami reminded of the Iranian vessels’ recent voyage to Venezuela to supply the country with its needed fuel, and said, “Iran’s oil tankers met all international maritime rules and the US could not do anything.”

Early in June, five Iranian oil tankers carrying millions of barrels of gasoline and components entered the ports of the fuel-starved South American country and came back to Iran.

The ships, their cargoes and their insurance papers had all been issued by Iran.

President Maduro appreciated Iran, China, Russia and Cuba for their assistance to Caracas, describing them as the real friends of his country.

Late in June, the sixth Iranian ship loaded with food and medical supplies anchored at the port of La Guayra in Venezuela to help the Latin American country in fighting coronavirus epidemic.

President Rouhani said his country is always entitled to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and warned that if his country's oil tankers in the Caribbean or anywhere in the world get into trouble by the Americans, Tehran will definitely retaliate.

“Although some of the US measures have created unacceptable conditions in different parts of the world, we will not be the initiator of tension and clash,” Rouhani said in a phone call with the Qatari Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in May.

Referring to the American moves in the Caribbean, he reiterated, “If our oil tankers face problems in the Caribbean Sea or anywhere in the world by the Americans, they will face problems reciprocally."

https://en.farsnews.ir/newstext.aspx?nn=13990707000798

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Iran Warns Armenia, Azerbaijan to Watch Bullets

Sep 28, 2020

“We warn them that no bullet should be shot towards our borders. Two mortar rounds had hit areas near our borders by mistake and we notified them and we hope that tranquility will be established,” General Rezayee told reporters in Tehran on Monday.

He called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to resolve their problems through talks, and said, “Of course, we monitor their fire exchanges and these clashes will not benefit any of them as others could misuse the situation.”

General Rezayee said that he has sent messages to the authorities of the two countries’ border guards.

Iran has invited the neighboring countries of Azerbaijan Republic and Armenia to avoid tensions and adhere to self-restraint to resolve Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, stressing the need for regional peace.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called on his Azeri and Armenian counterparts to refrain from military ways as tensions have risen between the two countries over Nagorno-Karabakh region.

During phone conversations with Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Azeri Foreign Minister Jeyhoun Bayramov, Zarif voiced concern over the situation and called on both sides to declare ceasefire and end hostilities.

He called for negotiations according to the international law and expressed Iran's readiness to use all its capacities to help settle disputes.

Battles between Armenian and Azerbaijan forces over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh have continued overnight, as international calls for calm after the heaviest fighting between the two sides in years grew.

The Armenian Defence Ministry on Monday morning reported fighting throughout the night, while Azerbaijan’s Defence Ministry said Armenian forces were shelling the town of Terter.

The clashes between the two former Soviet republics, which fought a war in the 1990s, were the latest flare-up of a long-running conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a breakaway region that is inside Azerbaijan but is run by ethnic Armenians.

Defence ministry officials in Nagorno-Karabakh said on Monday 15 more servicemen had died overnight, bringing their total military fatality count to 32 since clashes erupted on Sunday morning.

Both sides, meanwhile, reported civilian casualties.

Nagorno-Karabakh separatists said one Armenian woman and a child were killed, while Baku said that an Azerbaijani family of five died in shelling launched by Armenian separatists.

“We are tired of Azerbaijan’s threats, we will fight to the death to resolve the problem once and for all,” Artak Bagdasaryan, 36, told the AFP news agency in Yerevan, adding that he was waiting to be conscripted into the army.

Azerbaijan claimed it captured a strategic mountain in the region that helps control transport communications between Yerevan and the enclave.

The clashes prompted a flurry of diplomacy to reduce tension in a decades-old conflict amid fears the violence could spiral out of control.

“We are a step away from a large-scale war,” Olesya Vartanyan of the International Crisis Group told AFP.

“One of the main reasons for the current escalation is a lack of any proactive international mediation between the sides for weeks,” she added.

“We’re looking at it very strongly,” he told a news briefing, adding, “We have a lot of good relationships in that area. We’ll see if we can stop it.”

The US State Department condemned the violence in a statement, calling for an immediate halt to hostilities and any rhetoric or other actions that could make the situation worse.

US Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement that hostilities could escalate into a wider conflict and urged the Donald Trump administration to push for more observers along the ceasefire line and for Russia “to stop cynically providing arms to both sides”.

Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 after fighting that left 30,000 dead and forced many more from their homes.

Although a ceasefire was reached in 1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia frequently accuse each other of attacks around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the separate Azerbaijan-Armenia frontier.

Armenia said Azerbaijani forces had attacked civilian targets including Nagorno-Karabakh’s capital, Stepanakert, and promised a “proportionate response”.

“We stay strong next to our army to protect our motherland from Azeri invasion,” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan wrote on Twitter.

Azerbaijan denied an Armenian Defence Ministry statement that said Azerbaijani helicopters and tanks had been destroyed, and accused Armenian forces of launching “deliberate and targeted” attacks along the front line.

“We defend our territory, our cause is right!” Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev said in an address to the nation, echoing the words of Joseph Stalin at the outbreak of World War II in Russia. “Karabakh is Azerbaijan,” he said.

Both Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh declared martial law and military mobilisation. Azerbaijan imposed military rule and a curfew in large cities.

Turkey, an Azerbaijan ally, said it was talking to members of the so-called Minsk Group, which mediates between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Russia, France and the US are co-presidents.

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone to Pashinyan but no details of the conversation were available, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke to Aliyev.

Erdogan, promising support for Azerbaijan, said Armenia was “the biggest threat to peace in the region” and called on “the entire world to stand with Azerbaijan in their battle against invasion and cruelty”.

Pashinyan hit back, accusing Turkey of “dangerous behaviour” and urging the international community to ensure Ankara does not get involved in the conflict.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “extremely concerned” and called on the sides to stop fighting and return to talks.

The European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and Pope Francis also urged both sides to stop military actions and return to negotiations.

At least 200 people were killed in a flare-up of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in April 2016. At least 16 people were killed in clashes in July.

Azerbaijan has pledged to take back the territory, by force if necessary, while Armenia has said it will do all it can to defend the area.

https://en.farsnews.ir/newstext.aspx?nn=13990707000686

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Iran Strongly Dismisses Possibility of Bilateral Talks with US

Sep 28, 2020

“There have been no talks held or due to be held,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters in a press conference in Tehran.

He referred to US President Donald Trump’s recent remarks that he will reach an agreement with Iran in half a day and talks will be held in more difficult conditions for Tehran after the US elections, and said, “Mr. Trump does not have any correct understanding of the nature of international relations and ties between Iran and the US. Also, his advisors apparently do not want to understand what has happened.”

Khatibzadeh said that the path is clear, and explained, "The US should first accept its big mistake [i.e. withdrawal from the nuclear deal], respect the international laws and its undertakings, stop the inhuman war and cruel sanctions against the Iranian nation and make up for the loses and damages inflicted on Iran, then it can find a corner in the room of negotiations between Iran and the Group 4+1 (France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China) based on the nuclear deal."

In relevant remarks earlier this month, Khatibzadeh blasted the US for continued economic terrorism against Tehran, stressing that his country would not change its policies while under sanctions.

“It is clear that the path of our policies towards the US has not changed and the US is still bullying and practicing economic terrorism against the Iranian nation and it is not ashamed of saying publically that it is attempting to witness the Iranian nation hungry and as long as this policy continues, Iran’s policy will not change either,” Khatibzadeh said.

He added that the US is also attempting to block flow of capital through the humanitarian channel launched by Switzerland to help Iran purchase the needed medicine and food, and noted, “We are much pessimistic about the US aims and measures.”

Asked about Russia’s preparedness to help direct talks between Iran and the US, Khatibzadeh said that Tehran is sure about the Russian friends’ good will but is suspicious of Washington’s aims and behavior.

Trump, a stern critic of the historic deal, unilaterally pulled Washington out of the JCPOA in May 2018, and unleashed the “toughest ever” sanctions against the Islamic Republic in defiance of global criticism in an attempt to strangle the Iranian oil trade, but to no avail since its "so-called maximum pressure policy" has failed to push Tehran to the negotiating table.

In response to the US’ unilateral move, Tehran has so far rowed back on its nuclear commitments four times in compliance with Articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA, but stressed that its retaliatory measures will be reversible as soon as Europe finds practical ways to shield the mutual trade from the US sanctions.

Tehran has particularly been disappointed with failure of the three European signatories to the JCPOA -- Britain, France and Germany -- to protect its business interests under the deal after the United States' withdrawal.

On January 5, Iran took a final step in reducing its commitments, and said it would no longer observe any operational limitations on its nuclear industry, whether concerning the capacity and level of uranium enrichment, the volume of stockpiled uranium or research and development.

Now the US has stepped up attempts aimed at extending the UN arms ban on Iran that is set to expire as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which has been endorsed by Security Council Resolution 2231.

The US first sought to extend the Iran's arms embargo in a fresh UNSC resolution in contradiction to the contents of the Resolution 2231 in two attempts within a month, but failed.

The United Nations Security Council resoundingly rejected last month the second US bid to extend an arms embargo on Iran, which is due to expire in October.

The resolution needed support from nine of 15 votes to pass. Eleven members abstained, including France, Germany and Britain, while the US and the Dominican Republic were the only “yes” votes.

The United States has become isolated over Iran at the Security Council following President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the multilateral Iran nuclear deal 2018.

Iran had said that the US resolution would fail to gain the required support at the Security Council, pointing out that Washington has no legal right to invoke a snapback mechanism to reinstate sanctions against Tehran under the 2015 nuclear deal that the US unilaterally left in May 2018.

In relevant remarks in August, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said it is by no means justifiable for the US to use Dispute Resolution Mechanism with regard to UNSC Resolution 2231.

"US recourse to Dispute Resolution Mechanism in 2231 has NO LEG TO STAND ON," Zarif wrote on his Twitter page late Sunday.

"AmbJohnBolton has repeated today what he said on May 8, 2018, while National Security Advisor in the Trump administration," he noted, adding, "At least he is consistent—a trait notably absent in this US administration."

Zarif' tweet came in reaction to former US National Security Advisor John Bolton's article in Wall Street Journal where he criticized US' decision to trigger ‘snapback mechanism’ against Iran, saying, "The agreement [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action]’s backers argue that Washington, having withdrawn from the deal, has no standing to invoke its provisions. They’re right. It’s too cute by half to say we’re in the nuclear deal for purposes we want but not for those we don’t."

https://en.farsnews.ir/newstext.aspx?nn=13990707000454

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Turkey’s Erdogan sees EU summit as chance for reset: Spokesman

28 September 2020

Turkey sees a European Union summit this week as an opportunity to reset relations between them, but the bloc must produce specific proposals and a timetable to work on a roadmap together, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said.

Tensions flared between Turkey and EU member Greece after Ankara sent a seismic vessel to explore for hydrocarbons in disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean last month and the October 1-2 summit aims to calm the bitter dispute.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

A Turkish and a Greek warship collided during the standoff and Turkey has since recalled the Oruc Reis vessel to allow for diplomacy. Ankara and Athens have agreed to resume talks over their contested maritime claims.

However, the row has also brought to a head strains between EU candidate Turkey and the bloc over issues such as migration, Turkey’s involvement in Syria and Libya and what the EU says is growing authoritarianism under Erdogan.

“I believe the EU summit has a chance to have a reset in Turkey-EU relations. It is an important opportunity. We can have a reset there. And I see this willingness on the part of many EU member countries,” presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told Reuters.

“They also have to understand that they cannot expect Turkey to do everything,” Kalin said in an interview. “It must be a mutual process. If Turkey is expected to do X, Y, Z, EU countries must fulfill their responsibilities as well.”

Senior EU diplomats and officials have said the bloc is unlikely to follow through on a threat to impose sanctions on Turkey after Ankara’s agreement last week to resume exploratory talks with Greece, which were halted in 2016.

Work was continuing on deciding a date for the resumption of talks, Kalin said, adding the talks would continue where they left off and focus not just on issues of continental shelves and maritime limits, but on islands and air space.

He said he believed the talks would have a positive impact and would also focus on political consultation and military-to-military talks. “In all of these three tracks we believe we will make some good progress very soon,” he said.

Turkey got involved in a war of words with France during the east Mediterranean dispute and Erdogan last week held his first talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in months in a bid to ease the tensions.

Kalin said there was a positive atmosphere in those talks with the two leaders agreeing to try and find ways to minimize their differences.

“I believe all these things will produce a more positive agenda and a more positive atmosphere between Turkey and France,” he said.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/09/28/Turkey-s-Erdogan-sees-EU-summit-as-chance-for-reset-Spokesman

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South Asia

 

Pakistan Opens Borders to Afghanistan

By Mohammad Haroon Alim

29 Sep 2020

Pakistan has announced that it will open its land border with Afghanistan for passengers, and transfer of goods from the country.

Mohammad Sadiq Pakistan’s special envoy to Afghanistan said in a tweet Monday night, that “All border terminals with Afghanistan located in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including Torkham, will be opened for pedestrian traffic on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Will fully revert to pre-Corona schedule shortly. Officials at the border crossings are being informed.”

The Pakistani government blocked all transit routes and public transportation after the outbreak of the coronavirus.

“At the request of the Afghanistan government, Pakistan opened five border crossing-points for facilitating transit trade, bilateral trade, and pedestrian movement, the Foreign Minister also highlighted the USD 1 billion development and capacity-building assistance that Pakistan has extended to support reconstruction and economic development in Afghanistan,” Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

This comes in as Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for Nation Reconciliation, traveled to Pakistan on Monday at the official invitation of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

During his three-day visit, the chairman of HCNR will discuss the Afghan peace process and bilateral co-operation with Pakistani governmental officials.

https://www.khaama.com/pakistan-opens-its-borders-to-afghanistan-889765/

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Sri Lanka, Afghanistan Ink Bilateral MOU

By Mohammad Haroon Alim

29 Sep 2020

On Monday, September 28, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka signed a “historical” memorandum, which provides both nations a trading desk within commerce chambers and helps their shared commercial goals put to practice.

The MOU was virtually signed between, CEOs of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment, Sayed Zaman Hashemi, and the Ceylon (Sri Lankan) Chamber of Commerce, Manjula de Silva.

Afghanistan Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Ashraf Haidari, also witnessed the signing ceremony of this memorandum.

“I am delighted to witness the fruition of our shared hard efforts over the past year to sign this historic MOU between our two Chambers of Commerce, which I have no doubt will work together, in partnership with our two Embassies here and in Kabul, to foster and deepen commercial ties between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka,” the statement quoted.

The Afghan Ambassador acknowledged the strong support from the leaderships of both countries for expanding bilateral relationships, and forging long lasting people to people ties between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

The MOU enables both of the chambers to “disseminate all such information as may be relevant to enhance bilateral trade and business; initiate and promote joint ventures, partnerships and other business linkages; provide technical expertise; arrange visits between the two countries; formulate proposals to accelerate bilateral relations; and convene meetings, conferences, and discussions.” The statement read.

To that end, both sides agreed on regular webinars, including major investors, to exchange business ideas and to discuss the specifics of investment opportunities in agribusiness (tea, saffron, coconut oil, fresh fruits and dried nuts), services (skilled and unskilled labor), logistics, textiles (garments, rugs and carpets), gemstones (precious and semi-precious stones), tourism, medical tourism, higher education tourism, as well as other sectors of mutual investment interest.

Haidari stated, that pending Air Services Agreement, Trade, Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements are to be signed to enhance and facilitate bilateral trade.

Once signed both countries could initiate a free trade MOU (FTA) to remove all the barriers and gain easy-profitable trade and investments, the nations will benefit a growth in all the aspects of bilateral cooperation ties.

https://www.khaama.com/sri-lanka-afghanistan-signs-historic-bilateral-mou-987831/

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Southeast Asia

 

Federal Court rejects Jais’ bid to appeal against quashing of Shariah charges against Ezra Zaid

29 Sep 2020

BY IDA LIM

PUTRAJAYA, Sept 29 — The Federal Court today rejected the Selangor Islamic Religious Affairs Department’s (Jais) attempt to appeal against the Court of Appeal’s decision in favour of publishing company ZI Publications Sdn Bhd’s director Mohd Ezra Mohd Zaid over a book published in 2012.

Today was the hearing of an application for leave to appeal by Jais, the Selangor state government and three others from the Selangor Islamic authorities against a previous court ruling that had quashed the Shariah trial against Ezra for a Shariah offence purportedly committed by his company ZI Publications.

After hearing arguments from both sides, Federal Court judge Datuk Zaleha Yusof said the three-man bench that she chaired had decided not to accept the arguments by Jais’ lawyers and accept the arguments by Ezra’s lawyers instead.

“This is our unanimous decision. Sorry Puan Fatimah, we are not with you, we are with Encik Fahri. Application is dismissed and costs to be paid to the first and second respondent,” she said, before then ordering Jais and the five others to pay a total of RM10,000 in costs to both ZI Publications and Ezra.

The other Federal Court judges on the panel today are Datuk Zabariah Mohd Yusof and Datuk Harmindar Singh Dhaliwal.

Can a company be charged with Shariah offences?

Earlier, Selangor state assistant legal adviser Siti Fatimah Talib, who represented Jais and the others from the Selangor Islamic bodies, had presented six questions of law to the Federal Court, which she said were novel legal questions that should be heard and decided by the court.

Siti Fatimah then argued that the Shariah offence in a Selangor state law should apply to Ezra who is the director of ZI Publications.

Under Section 16 of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Selangor) Enactment 1995 which was used to charge Ezra, it was stated that “any person” who among other things prints or publishes any book with contents contrary to Islamic law shall be guilty of an offence.

Siti Fatimah noted that this Selangor state law did not define what a “person” means, but said that the Interpretation Act’s Section 3 which gives the definition of “person” as including “a body of persons, corporate or unincorporate” could be used to interpret the Selangor state law.

Citing the Section 3 definition which defines “person” as also covering artificial legal persons such as companies, Siti Fatimah then argued that this meant that both the company ZI Publications and its director Ezra could be charged in the Shariah court for offences under the Syariah Criminal Offences (Selangor) Enactment.

The decision that states a company cannot profess a religion

Fahri Azzat, one of the lawyers representing Ezra and ZI Publications, said that the legal questions put forward by Jais’ lawyers could be summed up as revolving around two issues.

“The first is can a company be charged in Shariah court. The other one, can a director be held personally liable for acts committed by a company that purportedly committed Shariah offences.

“There is no controversy over these questions, and it actually stems from a misunderstanding of who these Shariah laws apply to. So My Lady, we say at the outset all these questions have already been dealt with and already answered in a previous Federal Court case,” he told the Federal Court.

Fahri also highlighted that Section 1(2) of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Selangor) Enactment 1995 — the state law which was used to charge Ezra — states that “this Enactment shall apply to Muslims only”.

Fahri pointed out that this meant that this Selangor state law does not apply simply to “persons”, but applies specifically to “persons professing the religion of Islam”.

Fahri then quoted the Court of Appeal’s September 2019 decision in Ezra’s case, where the court had said that it is well established in law that a company is a separate legal entity from its shareholders and that a company cannot assume the religion of shareholders.

The Court of Appeal had also then emphasised that a company as an artificial legal person is incapable of practising or professing a religion, unlike individuals or natural persons who can profess a religion.

Fahri then read out the Federal Court’s 1998 decision in the case of Kesultanan Pahang v Sathask Realty Sdn Bhd, where the court had examined a Pahang state law and whether it applied to a company and said: “Therefore, in the context of Section 2, an artificial legal person, as opposed to a natural person, cannot be a ‘Malay’ and become a subject of the Ruler of Pahang. This is because a corporation cannot speak Malay or any Malayan language and cannot profess Islam.”

“So there we have it. That’s the answer to all these questions and there is no need for this application to go any further,” Fahri said when arguing why the Federal Court should dismiss Jais’ application for leave to appeal.

This same Federal Court ruling in 1998 was also cited by the Court of Appeal when it had in September 2019 ruled in favour of Ezra and quashed the Shariah trial against him.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/09/29/federal-court-rejects-jais-bid-to-appeal-against-quashing-of-shariah-charge/1907721

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Selangor religious authorities fail in move over publication of book

V Anbalagan

September 29, 2020

PUTRAJAYA: An eight-year ordeal for a director of a company which published a book said to have gone against the Quran and hadith has come to an end.

This follows a Federal Court decision by a three-member bench today to refuse leave to an appeal application by the Selangor religious authorities and the state government.

“This is our unanimous decision. Sorry, we are not with you,” said bench chairman Zaleha Yusof to Selangor assistant legal adviser Siti Fatimah Talib, who represented the Islamic Religious Department (Jais), its director-general, enforcement chief, Selangor shariah prosecution chief and the Selangor government.

This means the six legal questions posed by the applicants did not cross the threshold of Section 96 of the Courts of Judicature Act 1964 as they were not novel.

Zaleha, who sat with Zabariah Mohd Yusof and Harmindar Singh Dhaliwal, also ordered the applicants to pay RM10,000 in costs to company director Ezra Zaid and ZI Publications Sdn Bhd.

Siti Fatimah had earlier submitted that Ezra could be prosecuted for whatever offence allegedly committed by the company under the Selangor Syariah Criminal Enactment.

She said the company was an “artificial person”.

“Section 3 of the Interpretation Act states that ‘person’ includes a body of persons, corporate or unincorporate,” said Siti Fatimah, who was assisted by state legal officer Muhammad Haziq Hashim.

She said leave ought to be granted for the court to clarify if the common law applies to shariah law to lift the corporate veil of a company.

Lawyer Fahri Azzat said the questions posed had been dealt with by a previous Federal Court hearing as shariah law only applied to persons professing the religion of Islam.

“A corporation cannot speak Malay or any Malayan language and cannot profess Islam,” he said, citing a passage from the case of Kesultanan Pahang v Sathask Realty Sdn Bhd.

Senior federal counsel Maisarah Juhari, who represented the federal government, said it was not taking a position as it was only a nominal respondent.

Ezra told reporters later he was relieved following the apex court’s decision to dismiss the leave application.

“I feel great as the judges supported last year’s Court of Appeal ruling in our favour,” said Ezra, the son of former law minister Zaid Ibrahim.

Fahri, who was assisted by lawyers K Shanmuga and Nizam Bashir, said he hoped the shariah prosecutor would drop the criminal charges against Ezra.

He said the High Court would also assess damages payable to Ezra, as ordered by the Court of Appeal.

On Sept 25, Court of Appeal judge Umi Kalthum Abdul Majid, who chaired a three-member bench, allowed the appeal by Ezra, who published “Allah, Kebebasan dan Cinta”, the Malay translation of Canadian author Irshad Manji’s work “Allah, Liberty and Love”.

Umi had said the conduct of the state religious authorities would lead to the “law of the jungle and rule by ulama”.

Ezra, in his suit, had asked for compensation for mental distress, agony and torture when he was under the watch of Jais’ enforcement officials.

On March 7, 2018, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur dismissed Ezra’s bid to challenge the religious authorities’ action against him for publishing the book.

Ezra claimed trial at the Syariah Court on March 7, 2013, under Section 16 of the Syariah Criminal Enactment.

In 2012, the home ministry banned Manji’s book, saying it contravened the teachings of the Quran and hadith.

The books were also seized during a raid by Jais on Ezra’s publishing firm, ZI Publications.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/09/29/selangor-religious-authorities-fail-in-move-over-publication-of-book/

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Musa Aman confident new CM Hajiji will take Sabah to greater heights

29 Sep 2020

BY YISWAREE PALANSAMY

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 29 — Former Sabah chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman today congratulated Datuk Hajiji Mohd Noor on his swearing in as the 16th chief minister of the state, following a whirlwind election amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a statement today, Musa said Hajiji, who served as a minister under his leadership when he was the 14th chief minister, had always given his full commitment and professionalism to his job.

“While he is a compassionate individual, he is a firm leader, able to make decisions without fear or favour.

“I am confident that with his wisdom and vast experience, he has the capacity to lead Sabah, bringing the much needed economic revival for the people and future development of the state,” Musa said.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/09/29/musa-aman-confident-new-cm-hajiji-will-take-sabah-to-greater-heights/1907713

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Perak targets five million domestic tourists amid spike in Covid-19 cases

29 Sep 2020

BY JOHN BUNYAN

IPOH, Sept 29 — The Perak government is targeting five million domestic tourists for this year amid a spike in Covid-19 cases in Malaysia, which has crossed the 11,000 mark, with 1,011 active cases.

State Housing, Local Government and Tourism Committee chairman Datuk Nolee Ashilin Mohammed Radzi said the target was set following the overwhelming bookings received by hotels around Perak post the movement control order.

“We have received more than 90,000 room bookings in 67 sample hotels around Perak,” she told a press conference after attending the closing ceremony of the Semarak Tourism Carnival at the Lost World Hotel Sunway here.

Based on 2019’s statistics, Nolee said that Perak had received a total of 10.1 million domestic tourists, who stayed overnight.

“However, for this year we are only targeting half of the amount we achieved last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Cooperation among industry players is important in order to develop tourism packages which will attract the domestic visitors to come more than once,” she added.

Noting the spike Covid-19 cases at the moment, Nolee said that the state government will do its best to maintain its green zone status.

“This is what we can do at the moment. That’s why we urge and emphasise industry players to carry on with the standard operating procedures.

“We also need to educate the people who visit the state to play their part as responsible tourists in order to maintain their safety,” she said.

Yesterday, Malaysia reported 115 new Covid-19 cases, bringing Malaysia’s cumulative positive cases to 11,034 while the death toll remained at 134.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/09/29/perak-targets-five-million-domestic-tourists-amid-spike-in-covid-19-cases/1907740

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PM Muhyiddin: Islam compelled Putrajaya to impose MCO to save lives

29 Sep 2020

BY SYED JAYMAL ZAHIID

SEPANG, Sept 29 — Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said today his government based its response to the Covid-19 pandemic on Islamic principles, applying the maqasid shariah to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and save lives.

The maqasid shariah is defined as the overriding philosophy or objective of Islamic law.

Muhyiddin told an international Shariah law conference here that the movement control order was intended to preserve lives and protect citizes’ right to faith, a key tenet of Shariah law.

“In order to protect lives, which is one of the principles of maqasid shariah, the government had enforced several phases of the movement control order,” Muhyiddin said in his opening speech at the Nusantara Shariah Legal and Judiciary Conference.

“As the ruling government, we have a duty to curb the spread of this dangerous virus, and that was why we enforced the MCO,” he added.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/09/29/pm-muhyiddin-islam-compelled-putrajaya-to-impose-mco-to-save-lives/1907760

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Africa

 

Civilian prime minister appointed in Mali with eye on removal of ECOWAS sanctions

28 September 2020

Moctar Ouane, Mali's former foreign minister and a civilian, has been appointed as the African nation’s interim prime minister, in a political gesture that would likely convince the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to lift the sanctions it slapped on the country in the wake of last month's military coup.

The appointment of a civilian prime minister was a major prerequisite set by the West African regional economic bloc to remove the economic sanctions imposed on Mali following the junta's takeover of the country

Following the August 18 mutiny by Malian armed forces, ECOWAS 15 member states closed their borders with and stopped financial flows to the country, exerting pressure on the junta to hand back the government to civilians.

Ouane, 64, had served as Mali’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 1995 to 2002 and later as a diplomatic adviser to ECOWAS.

From 2004 to 2011, under former President Amadou Toumani Toure, he was minister of foreign affairs.

Mali’s new transitional president, former Defense Minister Bah Ndaw, appointed Ouane as prime minister on Sunday.

Ndaw, himself a retired colonel, was sworn into office as Mali's transitional president on Friday.

Junta coup leader Colonel Assimi Goita agreed to let Ndaw act as the head of the transitional government until presidential elections are held in 18 months. Goita made himself Ndaw's vice-president.

Five weeks ago, former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta was overthrown by the junta.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/09/28/635180/ECOWAS-Mali-Ouane-Appointment-Prime-Minister

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Sudan signs deal with foreign donors granting financial aid to poor families

28 September 2020

The EU, several member states and the World Bank have signed a deal for almost $190 million in direct financial aid to poor families in Sudan, official news agency SUNA said.

The Sudan Family Support Program (SFSP) aims to give some 32 million people, or around 80 percent of the population, 500 Sudanese pounds (nine dollars at the official rate, or just over two dollars on the black market) per person per month for a year, according to the World Bank.

Direct aid payments to half a million people across several of Sudan’s states will start in October, SUNA said, and the program will be gradually expanded over two years, for a total cost of $1.9 billion.

For all the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

EU-World Bank financing announced Sunday accounts for $110 million, while contributions from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden amount to a total of $78.2 million, according to an EU statement.

The deal was signed in Khartoum in the presence of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.

Acting finance minister Heba Mohamed Ali Ahmed called the SFSP “an important part of the transitional government’s reform agenda.”

“It will alleviate some of the economic challenges currently facing Sudanese throughout the country, including in rural areas, especially women and the most vulnerable,” she said, according to the EU statement.

Experts say the move aims to ease the impact on the population as the government progressively cuts fuel subsidies in response to a huge budget deficit and an economic crisis aggravated by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Sudan declared a state of economic emergency earlier this month to avert a downturn due to the dramatic fall of its local currency against the US dollar and soaring inflation.

In July, Sudan recorded a year-on-year inflation rate of almost 150 percent, according to the central bank.

Economic hardship, which triggered protests in December 2018 that led to the ouster of long-time autocrat Omar al-Bashir, remains a pressing challenge in Sudan.

Hamdok has said his government needs $8 billion to rescue the ailing economy, while in June, international donors pledged just $1.8 billion in aid to Sudan’s transitional authorities.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/09/28/Sudan-signs-deal-with-foreign-donors-granting-financial-aid-to-poor-families

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Nigeria’s labor unions suspend planned strike

28.09.2020

Labor unions in Nigeria suspended a nationwide strike planned for Monday against hike in petrol prices and electricity tariffs, following reaching an agreement with the government, local media reported.

In a meeting that continued until the wee hours of Monday, the two sides agreed to suspend the application of the cost-reflective electricity tariff adjustments for two weeks, and to “reduce the overdependency on importation of petroleum products to ensure energy security,” according to The Punch local news website.

However, the price of petrol will remain unchanged, according to Nairametrics local website.

“All parties agreed on the urgency for increasing the local refining capacity of the nation to reduce the overdependency on importation of petroleum products to ensure energy security, reduce cost of finished products, increase employment and business opportunities for Nigerians,” The Punch quoted the communique as reading.

The agreement also handled housing needs of the labors.

“On Housing, 10 per cent to be allocated to Nigerian workers under the ongoing Ministry of Housing and Finance initiative ,” the communique was quoted as reading.

Trade Union Congress’ President Quadri Olaleye told The Punch: “We signed a document to suspend the action for two weeks for the government to implement those things that we agreed in the agreement. So, we are suspending [the strike] for two weeks.”

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/nigeria-s-labor-unions-suspend-planned-strike/1988359

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Somalia: 16 al-Shabaab terrorists killed, 40 kids freed

Mohammed Dhaysane  

26.09.2020

GAROWE, Somalia

At least 16 al-Shabaab terrorists were killed and 40 captive children rescued in a military operation in southwestern Somalia, officials said on Saturday.

The operation against the al-Qaeda affiliated group was carried out near the recently liberated agricultural town of Bariire, located 62 kilometers (38 miles) from the capital Mogadishu, in the Lower Shabelle region.

“During the operation in Nuuney village outside Bariire town, the military managed to rescue at least 40 children hailing from different parts of the country,” Ahmed Hassan Salad, a military commander, told the media.

The insurgents had kidnapped the children and planned to use them as suicide bombers, according to Somali military radio.

Security officials in the Lower Shabelle region told Anadolu Agency that operations against al-Shabaab will continue without letup to curb the group’s ability to disrupt next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/somalia-16-al-shabaab-terrorists-killed-40-kids-freed/1986494

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Nigeria's Boko Haram crisis: 'Bomb on donkey' used to ambush Borno governor

29 September 2020

Militants linked to the Islamic State group (IS) have used a donkey strapped with explosives to ambush the convoy of the governor of Nigeria's north-eastern Borno state.

Governor Babagana Zulum was returning to the state capital, Maiduguri, from Baga town when they were ambushed.

Sunday's attack came two days after he had survived another attack while travelling to an area near Lake Chad.

At least 18 people were killed in that ambush.

Among them were 14 police officers and soldiers and four civilians.

Islamic State West Africa Province (Iswap) militants, who were behind the attack, split from Boko Haram, an Islamist group that launched its insurgency in north-eastern Nigeria a decade ago.

The group's campaign of violence has spread to neighbouring countries, killing more than 30,000 people and forcing two million from their homes, according to the UN.

What happened in Sunday's attack?

Governor Zulum was returning from Baga where he had accompanied hundreds of residents who returned to the town they fled in 2014 following deadly jihadist attacks.

When soldiers saw the donkey on the road, they shot at it. Explosives then went off and the militants immediately came out from their hide-out to open fire on the convoy, an official who was in one of the vehicles in Governor Zulum's convoy told the BBC.

A number of insurgents were killed in the ensuing shoot-out. No-one in the convoy - including the governor - was injured but some vehicles were damaged by bullets, the official said.

Governor Zulum said last week that feeding people displaced by violence in the state was not financially sustainable, insisting that the only option was for them to return and rebuild their homes in order to live a "dignified" life, news agency AFP reports.

Aid agencies have, however, expressed worry about the people's security.

Despite regional efforts to end Boko Haram's campaign of violence, the group has stepped up its attacks in recent months.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-54331260

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13 Boko Haram militants surrender to Nigerian troops

September 28, 2020

The Nigerian military on Sunday confirmed that 13 suspected Boko Haram militants surrendered to troops during an operation aimed at smoking out remnants of the terror group in the country’s northeast region.

The terrorists surrendered as troops on Saturday “sustained aerial bombardment and aggressive intensive clearance operation” in the Bama area of the northern state of Borno, John Enenche, the military spokesman, said in a statement.

According to Enenche, 17 children and six women, identified as family members of the suspected militants, also surrendered to troops at the Kodila village in the same Bama area of Borno.

He added that the suspects are currently undergoing “thorough profiling and investigation in line with global best practices in handling such cases.”

Boko Haram has been trying to establish an Islamist state in northeastern Nigeria since 2009, extending its attacks to countries in the Lake Chad Basin

https://africa.cgtn.com/2020/09/28/13-boko-haram-militants-surrender-to-nigerian-troops/

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