New Age Islam
Fri Aug 14 2020, 07:08 PM

Islamic World News ( 9 Dec 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Religious Harmony: Pilgrims of the Sabarimala Temple Visit a Mosque and Church as Part of the Annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku Pilgrimage
















Famed Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa Temple

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Religious Harmony:  Pilgrims of the Sabarimala Temple Visit a Mosque and Church as Part of the Annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku Pilgrimage

Catholic Monks Beatified In Algeria, First In A Muslim Nation

Pakistan Scholars Vow To Eradicate Terrorism, Extremism and Sectarian Violence

US Needs ‘Puppet’ Like Saudi Arabia To Achieve Global Domination: Analyst

Pakistan’s Spy Service Actively Working for Jihadist Organization to Be Part of Bangladesh’s Next Government

 

India

Religious Harmony:  Pilgrims of the Sabarimala Temple Visit a Mosque and Church as Part of the Annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku Pilgrimage

Accused of ‘Love Jihad’, This Kashmiri Youth is Not Giving Up on His Rajasthani Bride

Muslims in This Bihar's Muzaffarpur Village Divide Road on Caste Lines

Never Said J&K Conflict Was ‘Hindu India versus Muslim Kashmir’, Says Hurriyat Chairman Mirwaiz Umar

Wanted Hizbul militant arrested in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kishtwar

3 LeT terrorists killed in encounter near Srinagar; Army Jawan, 3 civilians hurt

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Africa

Catholic Monks Beatified In Algeria, First In A Muslim Nation

Amnesty Calls On ICC to Fully Probe Boko Haram Conflict Atrocities

UN launches aid delivery from Jordan to 650,000 Syrians

Civilians killed as Nigerian troops fight Boko Haram at flashpoint village

4 al-Shabab members killed by airstrike in Somalia, U.S. says

Boko Haram kills two soldiers in Nigeria attack

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Pakistan

Pakistan Scholars Vow To Eradicate Terrorism, Extremism and Sectarian Violence

Foreign Minister Sees Talks on US Financial Aid Restoration

Saudi Arabia increases pilgrim quota by 5,000

PTI govt’s honeymoon is over, it’s time to deliver: Siraj

Iran seeks regional front against US ‘economic terrorism’

Five ‘terrorists’ held in Bahawalpur raid

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North America

US Needs ‘Puppet’ Like Saudi Arabia To Achieve Global Domination: Analyst

Pak Continues To Harbour Terrorists; US Should Not Give It Even One Dollar: Nikki Haley

US Christian evangelical groups donated some $65 million to Israeli settlements: Report

Details of calls to attack Trump by US ‘Muslim Sisters’ allied to Brotherhood

US senator allied to Trump berates Saudi military

US-Saudi relationship enters uncharted territory

Report details extent of Kushner, bin Salman friendship

Khashoggi's last words were 'I can't breathe': CNN

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South Asia

Pakistan’s Spy Service Actively Working for Jihadist Organization to Be Part of Bangladesh’s Next Government

Taliban Commander Mullah Nusrat Killed With His 11 Fighters in Faryab

Afghan forces foil rocket attack on Kabul city

Prominent Taliban leader killed in Jawzjan airstrikes

Bangladesh Prime Minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia: Quest for enhanced friendship

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Arab World

Saudi Arabia Rules Out Extraditing Khashoggi Case Suspects

A Year after Daesh Defeat, Iraq in Throes of Political Crisis

Arabs in talks with US for security pact, says Saudi FM

Tahrir Al-Sham Captures Strategic Road in Northwestern Syria

US Army Sets up New Military Base at Iraq's Border with Syria

Turkey-Backed Senior Militant Commander Surrenders to Syrian Army

Popular Uprising against Israeli Forces' Plans in Syria's Occupied Golan

Syrian Army Pre-empts Terrorists' Attacks from Demilitarized Zone in Idlib, Hama

Syria media says no attack on airport after reported air defence fire

Egyptian police kill two suspects in November attack on Coptic Christians

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Europe

Far-Right Groups across Europe 'Using Islamist Techniques' To Recruit Followers, Report Says

‘Muslims in Europe Must Detoxify Prevailing Opinion about Themselves’

Muslim School Theatre Partnership Tackles Stereotypes and History of Islam in Canada

Erdogan’s ‘concern’ over France protests mocked

‘Yellow vests’ reveal Europe’s failure in democracy, human rights: Erdogan

French PM calls for lifting Israeli blockade on Gaza

Hassan Rouhani calls US sanctions 'economic terrorism'

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Southeast Asia

Jubilant Malays Rally after Malaysia Refuses UN Racial Equality Pledge

Malaysian Muslims Rally to Defend Rights amid Racial Tensions

Young Filipinos favour new Muslim region in Mindanao

Opposition leaders warn PH govt not to 'disturb' Islam

KL rights chief defends human rights after huge pro-Malay rally

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Mideast

Israeli Minister, Settlers 'Provocatively' Tour Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound

Yemen Govt Confirms Progress on Prisoner Swap Deal with Houthis

Yemeni parties hold first direct meeting at peace talks

Palestinian President Abbas says will dissolve parliament dominated by Hamas

Israel says located second Hezbollah tunnel from Lebanon

Official: US opposes discontinuing support of Saudi-led coalition in Yemen

UN warns of rise in Israeli violence, vandalism in West Bank

Israel says located second ‘Hezbollah’ tunnel from Lebanon

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/religious-harmony---pilgrims-of-the-sabarimala-temple-visit-a-mosque-and-church-as-part-of-the-annual-mandalam-makaravilakku-pilgrimage/d/117118

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Religious Harmony:  Pilgrims of the Sabarimala Temple Visit a Mosque and Church as Part of the Annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku Pilgrimage

December 9, 2018

Can you imagine Hindu devotees circumambulating a mosque in their ritual attire and taking bath in a church pond as part of their annual temple pilgrimage?

This is not a fairy tale of religious harmony but a real-life scene in Kerala where pilgrims of the famed Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa Temple visit a mosque and church as part of the annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrimage.

Both the Erumeli Nainar Juma Masjid, also known as Vavar Palli (mosque), in Kottayam district and Arthunkal St Andrew’s Basilica in neighbouring Alappuzha have been opening its portals for the devotees of Lord Ayyappa for decades during the two-month-long pilgrim season beginning in mid-November.

Wearing the traditional black dress and bead-chain and smearing ‘bhasmam’, the holy ash, on forehead, chest and arms, Hindu pilgrims visit the mosque and the church every year and offer prayers, reviving the local myth of the Lord Ayyappa’s friendship with a Muslim youth and a Christian priest.

It is heartening to see how the managements of the mosque and church wholeheartedly welcome and provide facilities for the Hindu pilgrims who step in chanting aloud ‘swamiye saranam Ayyappa’ mantras praising their deity.

According to local lore, Vavar, for whom the mosque is dedicated, was the Muslim companion of Lord Ayyappa, the adopted son of the erstwhile Pandalam king as per Hindu belief.

The Arthunkal church legends stated that one of its erstwhile vicars, popularly known as Arthunkal Veluthachan (fair-skinned father) among local people, had been a great friend of Ayyappa.

Even when the country had witnessed tensions in the name of religion and belief, this temple, church and mosque stood as a unique example of deep-rooted communal harmony in Kerala.

According to Hakim, joint secretary, Erumeli Mahalla Muslim Jama-ath, not only Keralites but devotees from neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh also visit the Vavar mosque, situated over 60 km from Sabarimala, every year and offer prayers before they start trekking the hill shrine.

“A large number of Ayyappa pilgrims visit the mosque throughout the November-January annual pilgrim season. They do not enter the prayer hall but circumambulate the mosque, provide kanikka (offering) and break coconut at the premises,” he told PTI.

“It is beautiful to see when we perform namaz inside the hall, our Hindu brothers perambulate the mosque and offer prayers as part of their traditional believes. The legend of the friendship of Ayyappa and Vavar is the reflection of the deep-rooted secularism and communal harmony in Kerala,” he said.

The Jama-ath, which takes care of the administration of the centuries-old mosque, provides parking facilities and space for placing ‘viri’ (bed spread) for the ‘Ayyappas’, how the Sabarimala pilgrims are generally known as.

The Nainar Juma Masjid also conducts an annual festival named ‘Chandanakudam’ as a prelude to the ‘pettathullal’, the ceremonial mass dance of Ayyappa devotees, at the end of the yearly pilgrim season.

Interestingly, there is a place at Sabarimala known as ‘vavar nada’, dedicated to the ‘Vavarswamy’, how the Muslim friend of Ayyappa is fondly being called by Hindu devotees.

Meanwhile, Fr Christopher M Arthasseril, the parish priest of Arthunkal Basilica, said it has for long been a custom for the sea-side church to receive the Sabarimala pilgrims.

After offering prayers at Sabarimala, a large number of Ayyappa devotees visit the 16th-century Arthunkal Basilica, built by Portuguese missionaries, to take out their ‘mala’ (bead-chain) worn as part of the pilgrimage.

“Majority of the pilgrims visit the church to remove the traditional bead-chain marking the end of their 41-day vrata (renunciation of worldly pleasures),” Fr Arthasseril told PTI.

After removing the chain by paying respect before the idol of Saint Sebastian, the devotees take a bath in a tank in the church premises or a dip in the sea, he said.

Detailing the legend behind the church’s Sabarimala connection, the priest said the visit of the pilgrims commemorate the bond between Lord Ayyappa and a Jesuit priest, one of the early vicars of the church.

“The legend linking Sabarimala and Arthunkal Church has been attributed to Fr Jacomo Fenicio, a Jesuit who had served as the vicar of the church from 1584. As per the records, he had great interest and knowledge in Hindu culture and traditions and also in local martial arts like Kalaripayattu,” he said.

The local legend was that the priest, believed to have magical powers to heal diseases, was a friend of Lord Ayyappa, the adopted son of Pandalam king. Many had even considered them as brothers, as per the lore.

The priest said they used to clean the temple pond before the Sabarimala season and provide other necessary arrangements to host Ayyappa pilgrims.

However, both the mosque and church authorities admitted that the number of Sabarimala pilgrims was comparatively less this year.

The devastation caused by the August deluge and the intense protests by devotees and right-wing groups against the implementation of the Supreme Court verdict permitting women of all age groups at the hill shrine have affected the pilgrim inflow.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/when-a-hindu-deity-muslim-christian-friendships-set-a-pilgrim-tradition-in-kerala-5485422/

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Catholic Monks Beatified In Algeria, First In A Muslim Nation

Dec 10, 2018

The Catholic Church has beatified in Algeria seven French monks and 12 other members of the clergy killed during the country's civil war, the first ceremony of its kind in a Muslim country.

Papal envoy Cardinal Angelo Becciu read the official decree on Saturday, stating that the 19 men and women would "from now on be called blessed" at an event in the coastal city of Oran.

Some 1,200 people, including pilgrims and relatives and friends of the beatified, filled the Chapel of Our Lady of Santa Cruz as the service was held under tight security.

The 19 Roman Catholic clergy were killed between 1994 and 1996 as Algeria was in the grips of a decade-long civil war between government forces and rebel groups that left up to 200,000 people dead.

Those beatified included seven French Trappist monks, who were murdered after being kidnapped by gunmen from the Notre Dame de l'Atlas monastery in Tibhirine in 1996.

The Armed Islamic Group of Algeria claimed at the time that it had slit their throats, but responsibility for the murders has never been conclusively established.

Only the heads of the men, aged between 45 and 82, were ever found.

Also beatified was former Bishop of Oran Pierre Claverie, who was killed with his driver on August 1, 1996, when a remote-controlled bomb exploded at his residence.

The five other religious men and six women honoured, including citizens of France, Spain, Belgium and Malta, were gunned down in 1994 and 1995.

Opening the ceremony, Archbishop Paul Desfarges of Algiers paid tribute to "the thousands and thousands of victims of the Algerian civil war" from 1991 to 2002, describing them as anonymous heroes.

"We did not want a beatification between Christians, because these brothers and sisters died among tens and tens of thousands of Algerian" Muslims, Desfarges said.

Beatification is the first step on the path to Roman Catholic sainthood.

Fraternity and solidarity

Pope Francis himself spoke of the beatification in prayers at Saint Peter's Square in the Vatican on Saturday. "May this beatification be an incentive for all to build a world of fraternity and solidarity together", the pope said.

Oran parish priest Father Thierry Becker said a prayer in Arabic for the Virgin Mary during the beatification ceremony in Algeria.

Local Muslim dignitaries received the families of the 19 beatified clergymen and women at the Ibn Badis Grand Mosque, in the presence of Cardinal Becciu and Algeria's minister of religious affairs.

"We Muslims associate this event with much joy," Imam Mostapha Jaber said at the mosque.

"These Christian martyrs killed during this national tragedy ... had a good mission - (they were) determined to spread peace," he added.

The murders of the clergy garnered widespread attention both in Algeria and abroad. 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/12/catholic-monks-beatified-algeria-muslim-nation-181209072606299.html

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Pakistan Scholars Vow To Eradicate Terrorism, Extremism and Sectarian Violence

DECEMBER 10, 2018

Gujranwala: Leadership of political and religious organisations vowed to carry out joint struggle to annihilate menace of terrorism, extremism and sectarian violence.

A Joint Declaration issued at the Seerat-e-Rehmat-ul-Alameen Conference also stated that any organisation or religious group would not be allowed to do politics on ‘Finality of Prophethood issue and sanctity of Risalat’. The Joint Declaration issued with the consent of religious and political organisations also resolved that elements maligning state institutions must be exposed.

The conference vowed that protection of Madaris-e-Arabia and Masajid would be ensured on a priority.

Pakistan Ulema Council chairman Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi told the conference that Islamic Sections from Constitution of Pakistan could not be annulled and added that Qadiyani community was declared infidel with consent of people of Pakistan in accordance of Shariah Islamic.

“It is responsibility of the state in Pakistan to ensure that Qadiyani community live in Pakistan as per rights and privileges given to them through Constitution of Pakistan,” he said. Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi also said that some elements in Pakistan were trying to create differences and mistrust between security forces of Pakistan and nation. He added that elements making propaganda and maligning Pak-Force on religious grounds should provide evidence to support their allegations or prepare themselves for a strict action.

Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi also urged on ruling elite to take guidance from religious scholars and contain the elements fanning rumors on different religious issues. “Madaris-e-Arabia are serving people of Pakistan and any illegal action against them will not be tolerated,” he said. Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi also said that prime minister Imran khan will fulfill his promises regarding Madaris-e-Arabia.

Furthermore, Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi demanded that hearing on review petition of Asia Masih case be ensured on a priority basis. He said that the elements who created chaos all over the country in reaction to Asia Masih case were not representatives of religious organizations. “Leadership of all the religious schools of thought should keep check on these elements. Elements who targeted Milad-e-Mustafa gathering in Karachi are enemies of Islam and Muslims,” he said.

https://dailytimes.com.pk/331814/scholars-vow-to-eradicate-terrorism-extremism-and-sectarian-violence/

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US needs ‘puppet’ like Saudi Arabia to achieve global domination: Analyst

Dec 9, 2018

Saudi Arabia has is a regional "puppet" of the United States, an American analyst says, arguing that Washington needs Riyadh as part of its grand plan for global domination.

Keith Preston, director of Attackthesystem.com, made the remarks while discussing Washington’s continued support for the ongoing Saudi war against Yemen despite international outrage.

Timothy Lenderking, the deputy assistant secretary for Persian Gulf affairs in the Near East Bureau of the US Department of State, told a security forum in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday that Washington was under pressure to stop supporting the military aggression.

"There are pressures in our system ... to either withdraw from the conflict or discontinue our support of the coalition, which we are strongly opposed to on the administration side,” Lenderking said, according to Reuters.

“We do believe that the support for the coalition is necessary,” he added, referring to a Saudi-led coalition—including the UAE—which has been pounding Yemeni targets since March 2015. “It sends a wrong message if we discontinue our support.”

Referring to Lenderking’s words, Preston said Washington has always sought to punish countries that opt for independence from its domination.

“The United States’ goal is to incorporate all of the world’s population into this wider neoliberal dominated global system” that emerged after Cold War, he said.

“The principle issue here is that the United States for decades now… has attempted to gradually build an international empire for itself through a network of” clients and puppets, Preston told Press TV on Sunday.

“Saudi Arabia has for decades been an important part of the American empire and in fact the Saudi government has become intertwined with the American government and the American industry,” he added.

Noting that Riyadh and Washington had a “symbiotic” relationship, Preston said the US was supporting Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen because the Middle Eastern ally had lost its own puppet regime.

Riyadh’s unprovoked war began in March 2015 with the declared goal of returning fugitive former President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi to power and destroying the Houthi Ansarullah Movement.

The US has been providing Riyadh with weapons and intelligence throughout the course of war, truning a blind eye on Saudi atrocities in Yemen.

The war has killed thousands of civilians and put the impoverished country on the verge of a humanitarian crisis by destroying most of its critical infrastructure. Thousands of Yemenis have already died because in cholera outbreaks.

Preston likened the Houthi movement to Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution and said Washington has always had a “vendetta” against Iran and any movement that resembles the revolution.

“Yemen is similar in the sense that there is a revolutionary struggle underway that is opposed to the Saudi puppet government and of course, Saudi Arabia is an American ally,” the analyst said.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/12/09/582483/US-Saudi-Arabia-puppet-global-domination-Yemen-war

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Pakistan’s spy service actively working for jihadist organization to be part of Bangladesh’s next government

December 9, 2018

The Pakistani spy agency, Inter Service Intelligence, is manipulating the upcoming general elections in Bangladesh this month to help the jihadist Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat e Islami Bangladesh (JIB) form the next government.

According to several counterterrorism organizations and individuals, Jamaat e Islami is a terrorist organization with network in a number of Western countries including United States, United Kingdom and Canada….In fact, one of the JI war criminals tried in absentia in Bangladesh, Ashrafuzzaman Khan, fled to the U.S. and helped establish and lead one of these American JI organizations: the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA).

Pakistan is a state sponsor of jihad terror itself, yet is now claiming that it is Bangladesh and India that have the terrorist problem. Abdullah Khan, Managing Director of Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, accused Bangladesh and India of engaging in “state sponsored terrorism,” claiming that the Islamic State is “provoked by the governments of India and Bangladesh which are known for their ‘state-sponsored terrorism’ against the Muslim communities.”

Just yesterday, Republican Representative William R. Keating submitted a resolution in Congress “asking the US government to promote free, fair, transparent, and credible elections in Bangladesh.”

Despite criticism of Donald Trump as the primary leader in the “populist” movement because of his resistance to the jihad and his opposition to the globalist movement that is eroding democratic societies:

Political analysts say, US President Donald Trump only can save Bangladesh from going into the grips of radical Islamists. As a time-tested friend of Bangladesh, United States needs to effectively help Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in saving the country from becoming a Sharia nation or Caliphate.

“Pakistani ISI desperately looking for victory of BNP-Jamaat,” by Anita Mathur, Weekly Blitz, December 6, 2018:

Bangladesh is scheduled to hold the next general election on December 30. This election particularly is seen as a battle between secularist Awami League and radical Islamist Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its political and ideological darling, Jamaat e Islami Bangladesh (JIB). Despite this fact, India unfortunately has been maintaining total silence while Pakistani spy agency Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) has become extremely active in ensuring victory of its long-time ally JIB and BNP. Pakistan wants to see an anti-Indian political force in power in Bangladesh.

Desperate game of Pakistani ISI:

Pakistani spy agency – Inter Service Intelligence has become active in seeing Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat e Islami Bangladesh (JIB) form the next government in Bangladesh following December 30 general election. According to credible sources, ISI is seeing the upcoming election as a battle between Islamabad and New Delhi and are willing to see an anti-Indian BNP and Jamaat win a landslide victory. With this goal, ISI officials had already held meeting with BNP’s fugitive leader Tarique Rahman in London as well JIB leader barrister Abdur Razzak promising all possible cooperation in attaining this target.

ISI also has been using its contacts in the US Capitol, including the US Senate and Congress with the agenda of getting Washington’s support towards BNP and Jamaat.

Jamaat is a global terror outfit:

According to several counterterrorism organizations and individuals, Jamaat e Islami is a terrorist organization with network in a number of Western countries including United States, United Kingdom and Canada. Commenting on Jamaat e Islami (JI), Abha Shankar, Senior Analyst at the Investigation Projection Terrorism Investigative Project on Terrorism and Sam Westrop, Director of Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum in an article wrote, “In the decades since the 1971 war, JI has committed violent acts all across South Asia and, today, the Bangladeshi branch is closely involved with Islamist terror in both Bangladesh and India. JI leaders have openly expressed support for Taliban terrorists and mourned their deaths. And in 2017, the U.S. government designated Hizbul Mujahideen, a Kashmiri jihadist group and JI Pakistan’s “militant wing,” as a terrorist organization.”

Pakistan hates Indo-Bangladesh offensives on militancy:

Earlier a Pakistan-based research report conducted by Abdullah Khan, the Managing Director of Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS) said, counterterrorism and counter-militancy initiatives of Bangladesh and India are “state sponsored terrorism”. It said Islamic State (ISIS) is “provoked by the governments of India and Bangladesh which are known for their ‘state-sponsored terrorism’ against the Muslim communities”. The report claims, “Bangladesh, India and Pakistan are under a new Eresulting from a major shift from the Middle East.”

According to the PICSS report, ‘Wilayat-e-Hind’ (WeH) is the new chapter of Daesh which is quickly attracting the educated youth in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, and promoting its radical Islamic and antisemitic ideology.

The study titled “Prospects of Daesh’s Expansion in South Asia” further said, “An unorganised presence of WeH militants has been identified in parts of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and other countries of the South Asian region. The WeH operates as an Indian chapter of the ISIS which was formally announced in 2016.”

It highlights that the Indian citizens, especially from Kerala State, find ISIS more attractive than any other radical Islamic militancy group and at least 54 people from Kerala have announced to join the ISIS during the past three years.

“Those who have joined the Wilayat-e-Hind are well-educated and most of them are engineers, doctors and MBA degree holders. Indian citizens are mostly joining Khorasan chapter of Daesh than the core group in Syria or Iraq. However, the possible launching route of Indian ISIS members to Afghanistan is not clear yet,” the study reads.

Criticizing the counter-militancy initiatives of Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Abdullah Khan told Pakistan Today, “…… the WeH Bangladesh chapter was another surprise addition where the so-called secular regime of Prime Minister Hasina was targeting religious Muslim groups under a witch-hunt drive.”

Here, Pakistani research group falsely portrays notorious radical Islamic militancy groups such as Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), Ansar Al Islam (AAI), Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB) and the student front of Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh (JIB) as “Muslim groups” with the ulterior motive of misleading the global and in particular Western counterterrorism bodies.

US State Department branded Jamaat affiliate HM as terrorist entity.

https://www.weeklyblitz.net/news/pakistans-spy-service-actively-working-for-jihadist-organization-to-be-part-of-bangladeshs-next-government/

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India

 

Accused of ‘Love Jihad’, This Kashmiri Youth is Not Giving Up on His Rajasthani Bride

December 9, 2018

Aakash Hassan

Srinagar: Gulzar Ahmad and Ritu Khandelwal had been dating for six months when they finally thought of getting married. But the young couple knew that their journey was not going to be easy because of their religions. Ahmad hails from Kashmir and is a Muslim, Khandelwal is a Hindu from Barmer district of Rajasthan.

Gulzar moved to Jodhpur, Rajasthan from north Kashmir’s Kupwara in 2014 and started working as a chef in a restaurant. The 21-year-old then shifted to Barmer in 2015 where he began working in another restaurant.

Ritu used to visit the place often and when Ahmad spotted her one day it was “love at first sight”.

“We both fell in love at first sight, perhaps,” says Gulzar. “She was a college student and later began teaching at a school. Our relationship grew stronger but I was always scared because of our different religions,” he adds.

“When Ritu proposed marriage to me, I told her it was not possible,” he says. “But she surprised me, saying she will convert to Islam.”

In December 2017, the couple moved to Srinagar and married in J&K High Court.

“Ritu converted to Islam and we filed the affidavit before the court and then we got married,” says Gulzar. Ritu was given a Muslim name, Zainab.

Trouble Brews

Soon after learning about their marriage, Ritu’s parents filed a police case against Gulzar, terming it another case of ‘love jihad’, alleged campaigns to convert non-Muslim women via marriage to Muslim men.

“Videos were circulated in which I was accused of kidnapping their girl. Hate campaigns were launched against me,” he says.

When a team of Rajasthan police visited Kashmir and tried to take away Ritu, who was to their surprise then called Zainab, the couple moved to court.

“The high court directed us not to interfere in their life and so we went back to Rajasthan. They had all the papers and were legally married,” a police official who was part of the team that visited Kashmir told News18.

However, the hate didn’t stop, which forced the couple to release a video of their own in which made it clear that they are living together of their own free will.

“I have converted to Islam and my name is Zainab. Please let us live together. We beg you,” Zainab is seen saying in the video.

Love Breaks Barriers

The couple could finally live a normal and peaceful life like they wanted. They moved from Kupwara to Srinagar and Gulzar started working at a local café. During this time, Zainab’s relatives visited Kashmir and met her.

“Her cousins, uncle and aunt visited us in summers and stayed with us for nearly two weeks,” says Gulzar, scrolling through photos on his phone. Zainab is seen with her relatives at tourist destination Gulmarg, cheering and enjoying.

“Everyone was accepting of us and she used to talk to her parents regularly as well,” he says.

In September, Zainab’s uncle, who Gulzar says is a lieutenant rank officer in the Indian Army and posted in Srinagar, invited them for lunch. “His uncle is posted in Badami Bagh Cantonment, Srinagar. We went to meet him and had lunch with him and his wife. He treated us well,” says Gulzar.

The Twist

On November 26, Gulzar left the café in the evening, packing a pizza for Zainab. He was shocked to see his wife not home. The couple was living in a rented accommodation in Rajbagh, uptown Srinagar.

The landlord has seen Zainab going out in the afternoon, alone.

“I called her phone, but it was switched off. I contacted every person I knew, but everyone was clueless,” Gulzar told News18.

The next day, he went to the local police station and filed a missing person’s complaint. But he was surprised after few days when a Hindi newspaper cited Zainab as part of a story of “homecoming of a girl caught in love jihad by a Kashmiri youth.”

The report alleged that she was “brainwashed and lured into love jihad” by a Kashmiri youth.

“We received an application from the girl and her father that she was converted to Islam forcibly. The girl said she has come back and wants to live with the family,” Barmer SP Rahul Barhat told News18. “We are investigating the matter and will see if the girl was forced into the marriage or is being forced by her parents,” he said.

Gulzar Ahmad feels that his wife was kidnapped and taken forcibly by a relative. “I think she was taken back home forcefully and is under pressure,” he says. “I have been talking to her relatives. From what I gather, she is being threatened.”

Jammu and Kashmir police are yet to file an FIR in the case.

“We have received the complaint and given the newspaper report, we talked to the local police officers. We will take the investigation ahead,” said Ayaz Geelani, the SHO of Rajbagh police station. “We will see if we can send a team to Rajasthan.”

Gulzar Ahmad says that the local police are not taking pains in the case. “They are yet to register an FIR. She is my wife and no one can snatch her from me,” he says.

He now plans to approach the court.

The Supreme Court while hearing the alleged ‘love jihad’ case in Kerala had stated that: “The right to marry a person of one’s choice… The choice of a partner whether within or outside marriage lies within the exclusive domain of each individual. Intimacies of marriage lie within a core zone of privacy, which is inviolable.”

Despite repeated attempts to contact Zainab, News18 couldn’t talk to her or her family.

https://www.news18.com/news/india/accused-of-love-jihad-this-kashmiri-youth-is-not-giving-up-on-his-rajasthani-bride-1965341.html

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Muslims In This Bihar's Muzaffarpur Village Divide Road On Caste Lines

Sujeet Jha

December 9, 2018

Caste runs deep in Indian society and religion is no bar. In Bihar's Muzaffarpur, a Muslim Mohalla has a road that has been split into two. People living in the area have divided the road that divides them by building a wall. Half of the road now belongs to the Sheikhs, considered upper caste, and the other half to the Ansaris, considered lower in the caste order among Muslims. The problem is the narrow road has a wall in the middle and is useless for cars or other four-wheelers.

Damodarpuri Tola in Panapur Haveli panchayat in Muzaffarpur's Kanti is a Muslim-dominated village. Sheikhs among them have had their domination questioned by Ansaris.

Recently, on November 18, a wedding in an Ansari household led to a fight between the two communities within the community. The Sheikhs did not like the Sheikh-level pomp and show on the Ansari side. A quarrel turned into a free for all.

The ensuing mediation round returned a verdict that ended in construction of a wall dividing the road and prohibiting entry into each other's turf. Speaking to our reporter, Naseeruddin Ansari accused the Sheikhs of mistreating them. He is happy with the wall because, well, 'we don't want to do anything with them'.

Sheikhs claim no such history of animosity between the two communities. They believe a minor tiff has been blown out of proportion. Mohammed Salim told our reporter that the casteist scuffle has led to the wall that separates them and the mosque on the Ansari side.

"We cannot go to offer namaz to that side. It's an irony that people who follow one religion and one book have erected a wall that divides them into two. What can be worse than this?" Salim said.

Full report at:

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/muslims-in-this-bihar-village-divide-road-on-caste-lines-1405849-2018-12-09

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Never said J&K conflict was ‘Hindu India versus Muslim Kashmir’, says Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar

Dec 10, 2018

Ashiq Hussain

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq , chairman of the Hurriyat Conference and the chief cleric of the Valley’s main mosque, spoke to Ashiq Hussain about the separatist body’s position on a peaceful resolution for the Kashmir problem, the difference in approach between the Vajpayee and Modi governments, and why the Hurriyat has failed to make headway. Edited excerpts:

When Narendra Modi became Prime Minister, you were hopeful of forward movement on Kashmir citing your experiences under (late former PM) Atal Bihari Vajpayee era. Does that hope still exist?

There has been a change in policy as far as New Delhi is concerned as compared to the policy adopted by then NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government under Vajpayee. I think the basis of that engagement then was the realisation that Kashmir is a humanitarian problem. That is why Mr Vajpayee said we are willing to engage within the ambit of humanity. That opened a way for us to engage with Delhi and also go to Pakistan… This was a triangular approach where every party was talking to the other party. That approach is totally missing now. We have seen hardening of stand and extreme repression. That Vajpayee doctrine has been replaced by Doval doctrine. Now the state is engaging people through cordon-and-search operations. While Vajpayee was talking about peace, Mr Modi and his team are talking about war.

After Imran Khan came to power in Pakistan, he has repeatedly talked about Kashmir.

From day one , he (Imran Khan) mentioned that ‘if India walks one step, we will walk two steps.’ Pakistan did mean to engage but there has to be willingness on both sides. Mr Khan is repeatedly asking India to engage but there is no response on this side. The thing is that New Delhi is not willing to engage with Islamabad or with Kashmiris at this juncture. May be it has to do with the coming elections. It is very clear that their agenda is Hindutva and they want to focus on that.

India says there will be no talks till violence stops and accuses Pakistan of fomenting trouble in?Kashmir.

Many analysts say that if the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) feels that they are on a weaker wicket, they might use Kashmir and Pakistan in a broader context. If anything doesn’t work, definitely Pakistan, terrorism and Kashmir are those issues where they can rake up nationalistic ideas. It has to be seen what happens. And India accusing Pakistan of violence — they have been doing it for the past many years. The fact is that these are indigenous, young Kashmiri boys who are getting killed, maimed and blinded.

It has been more than 25 years that the separatists have been working in Kashmir without any breakthrough on the issue. Why have you failed?

What can you do when the other side is not ready to acknowledge the problem? They are only using military means. There is not much you can do other than being steadfast and strong. And that is what we have done. And that is what people have shown – generations of Kashmiris. Every other day we have to deal with different issues or disputes. Issues like settling outsiders, institutional autonomies and J&K Bank (turned into a public sector bank).

How do you see the Islamic State and al-Qaeda in Kashmir?

As far as the Kashmir militant movement is concerned, you can’t label it as al-Qaeda or any other thing. There is absolutely no trace of that. Even parties like Hizbul Mujahideen and others, they have been very clear about what their goal is. They are limited to Kashmir. There are certain aberrations, certain youth; when you are pushed to the wall, there is a possibility that certain sections tend to see things from a different picture. As a Mirwaiz, as a religious head, we have always maintained that it is a political problem. We have never said that it is Hindu India versus Muslim Kashmir.

This year has turned out to be the deadliest as far as killing of militants has been concerned in recent years. The central government says they are gaining control of the situation.

When has India said otherwise? India is claiming that Kashmir is our integral part but the fact is that (they) are not bothered about its people. It is only territory they are talking about. It is a very clear indication that they are dealing with the problem militarily. They are only bothered about how it is going to be played out in India. The public opinion is also being molded by a jingoistic media.

Hurriyat’s meeting with ex-PM of Norway Kjell Magne Bondevik has generated a lot of buzz. How did it come about?

It was after 5-6 years that a visit by any foreign dignitary happened. Mr Bondevik and particularly Oslo Center (founded by Bondevik) have some experience in conflict regions. He came here, went to Delhi, and went across to Islamabad. The important thing is that he talked about involvement of Kashmiris and secondly that there can be no military solution. Definitely his visit must have the blessings of certain powers; otherwise he would not have been allowed to come here.

So you think the Centre had given him the go-ahead?

Definitely, there has been some interest on Kashmir recently in the international arena ,especially after the UN (human rights) report on Kashmir. We hope the initiative will continue and there is some movement forward.

In the recent urban body polls, you gave a boycott call while the National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) abstained, which resulted in the BJP making impressive gains in Kashmir, uncontested. Would you again ask the people to boycott and allow the BJP to dominate?

In terms of space to pro-India parties, NC, PDP or BJP won’t make any difference. In any case the institution of the army and the paramilitary forces is what guides government of India’s policy here. Even today, NC and PDP are getting labelled as being pro-Pakistan. I don’t think BJP making inroads is going to bother us because they are using money and muscle.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/never-said-j-k-conflict-was-hindu-india-versus-muslim-kashmir-says-hurriyat-chairman-mirwaiz-umar/story-dGOXe4dJrY7yo2OM1ccIQM.html

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Wanted Hizbul militant arrested in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kishtwar

Dec 09, 2018

A wanted Hizbul Mujahideen militant, who was luring youths into militancy, was arrested on Sunday in Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir, a senior police officer said.

Reyaz Ahmad, a resident of Sounder Dachhan village and a close associate of hardcore terrorist Mohammad Amin alias ‘Jhangir’, was arrested by a police party based on specific information from the town, senior superintendent of police, Kishtwar, Rajinder Gupta told PTI.

He said several pictures of Ahmad holding an AK assault rifle had gone viral on social media in the recent past and his name also surfaced during interrogation of two of his associates who were arrested in the town on July 1.

Following the arrest of his two associates, a case was registered at the Kishtwar police station.

The officer said Ahmad was also involved in another case related to militancy in the Parimpora locality of Srinagar. “Some more arrests and recoveries are expected at his disclosure,” the officer said, adding he was a “hardcore motivator encouraging local youth to join militancy”.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/wanted-hizbul-militant-arrested-in-jammu-and-kashmir-s-kishtwar/story-XnE3BSE2QgSDJUccaUJ0MK.html

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3 LeT terrorists killed in encounter near Srinagar; Army jawan, 3 civilians hurt

Dec 9, 2018

SRINAGAR: Three Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists, including one of the youngest terrorist in Kashmir, were killed in an 18-hour gunfight with security forces on the outskirts of Srinagar Sunday.

A soldier and three civilians were also injured during the encounter, a police spokesperson said.

"A search operation was launched Saturday jointly by the police and the security forces, based on a credible input about the presence of terrorists in the Mujgund area on the Bandipora road," he added.

During the operation, the search party was fired upon by the terrorists who were hiding, the police spokesperson said. The fire was retaliated, leading to a gunfight, he added.

"In the initial exchange of fire, one Army jawan was injured, who is admitted to a hospital. Three civilians also sustained injuries as the area was open and they were shifted to a hospital. They are stated to be stable," the spokesperson said.

Three terrorists were killed in the counter and their bodies were retrieved from the site, he added.

The slain terrorists were identified as Mudasir Rashid Parray and Saqib Bilal Sheikh -- both residents of the Hajin area in Bandipora district -- and from the evidence collected, one terrorists was learnt to be a Pakistani, identified as Ali, the spokesperson said.

"The three terrorists were affiliated to proscribed terror outfit LeT," he added.

Parray was reportedly 14 years of age and one of the youngest terrorists killed in the valley. His gun-wielding picture had surfaced on the social media earlier this week, after he had gone missing from his house in August.

However, the police said Parray's age could not be confirmed.

"We do not know if he was 14 or 16, though he looked young. There is no way to confirm whether he was the youngest terrorists ever or not," a senior police official said.

A huge quantity of arms and ammunition, including rifles, was recovered from the encounter site, the police spokesperson said.

"All those materials have been taken in the case records for further investigation and probing the slain terrorists ' complicity in other terror cases," he added.

The slain terrorists were wanted by the law for "their complicity in terror crimes", he said.f

"Ali, according to police records, was involved in several terror crimes and cases were registered against him, including for attacks on security establishments and civilian atrocities. He was involved in the recruitment of ultras in the Hajin and Sumbal areas of Bandipora," the police spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, clashes between groups of youngsters and security forces took place in the area during the day, a police official said.

He added that the security personnel fired tear gas shells and pellets to disperse the protesters.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/3-let-terrorists-killed-in-encounter-near-srinagar-army-jawan-3-civilians-hurt/articleshow/67015359.cms

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Africa

 

Amnesty calls on ICC to fully probe Boko Haram conflict atrocities

December 10, 2018

Amnesty International on Monday said the International Criminal Court should start a full-blown investigation into atrocities committed in the Boko Haram insurgency, accusing Nigeria of failing to bring those responsible to justice.

ICC chief prosecutor Fatma Bensouda opened a preliminary examination in 2010 into eight potential cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the violence.

Six cases relate to the jihadists and include the killing of civilians, mass kidnapping, attacks on schools and places of worship, sexual violence, plus the use of children in conflict.

The other two -- involving attacks on civilians, mass arrests and detention of suspects, abuse, torture and summary executions -- concern the military. Boko Haram's Islamist insurgency has killed more than 27,000 people and left 1.8 million homeless in northeast Nigeria since 2009, triggering a humanitarian crisis in the wider region.

President Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler, in June 2015 promised to "leave no stone unturned to promote the rule of law and deal with all cases of human rights abuses".

Bensouda acknowledged in her latest annual report published on December 5 that Nigeria appeared to have taken "concrete steps" towards investigating the allegations.

She wrote there appeared to be a "tangible prospect" of proceedings against Boko Haram members but not against troops "since the Nigerian authorities tend to deny any allegation".

But Amnesty International suggested Abuja was keeping her "in limbo" by giving the impression of domestic action but in reality doing very little.

"Eight years since the opening of the preliminary examination and faced with the continuing commission of crimes under international law and the possibility of a never-ending preliminary analysis, it is time for the OTP (Office of the Prosecutor) to open a formal investigation in Nigeria," it said.

There was no immediate response from the government or military. But both have previously dismissed accusations from Amnesty as being without foundation.

Central to the human rights group's argument is Nigeria's investigations into alleged military atrocities and its prosecution of thousands of Boko Haram suspects.

None of the more than 20 government inquiries launched into claims of abuse by troops and civilian militia members in the last nine years has led to formal investigations and prosecutions, it pointed out.

Instead, the proceedings appeared designed to provide a "veneer of accountability" and exonerate senior officers and "shield persons concerned from criminal responsibility", it alleged.

At the same time there had been a "minimal" number of prosecutions against mid- to high-ranking Boko Haram members for serious crimes such as terrorism, murder or hostage-taking.

The report said mass trials of more than 1,000 suspects that began in October 2017 were a "sham" designed to provide "legal cover" for those held in prolonged, arbitrary and unlawful detention.

Prosecutions were based on unreliable and untested confessions or guilty pleas, while defendants had a lack of access to lawyers and trials were rushed through.

Most of those on trial were acquitted due to lack of evidence or walked free because of time already served in custody. The majority appeared to be civilians caught up in the conflict.

Amnesty said Nigeria had failed to meet its obligations under international law to investigate and prosecute crimes as part of the ICC's preliminary examination.

Further delays to a formal investigation "will allow further destruction and decay of evidence", it added in the 74-page report.

"It is in the interests of both the OTP and Nigeria to demonstrate that serious steps are being taken to cure Nigeria's inability or unwillingness to bring perpetrators to justice," it said. "Above all it is in the interest of victims.

https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/amnesty-calls-on-icc-to-fully-probe-boko-haram-conflict-atrocities-118121000057_1.html

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UN launches aid delivery from Jordan to 650,000 Syrians

9 December 2018

The United Nations said Sunday it began delivering aid to hundreds of thousands of Syrians through the Jaber-Nassib border crossing with Jordan, which reopened two months ago.

In total, “369 trucks carrying 11,200 metric tons of... assistance for over 650,000 people” will be involved in the four-week operation, the UN’s humanitarian agency OCHA said.

The “exceptional” delivery, which amounts to one-month’s worth of aid, would be carried out by six UN agencies and one international NGO, it added.

“This is a major logistical operation in an effort to mitigate the suffering of the Syrian people,” said Anders Pedersen, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Jordan.

Among the immediate needs of Syrians were food, shelter, water and medical care, according to OCHA.

“We are working closely with our UN partners inside Syria to ensure this assistance reaches those who need it most,” Pedersen added.

Syrian regime forces retook control of the border crossing from rebels in July.

Known as Jaber on the Jordanian side and Nassib in Syria, the crossing is a key Middle East trade route and its reopening in October after a three-year closure was seen as a boon for the economies of both countries.

Syria’s civil war has killed more than 360,000 people since it started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/12/09/UN-launches-aid-delivery-from-Jordan-to-650-000-Syrians.html

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Civilians killed as Nigerian troops fight Boko Haram at flashpoint village

9 December 2018

Nigerian soldiers intercepted a column of Boko Haram fighters on Friday near a military base in northeast Nigeria, triggering a fierce gun battle that killed three civilians, security sources told AFP.

A soldier was injured in the fight, which happened in Jakana village, some 30 kilometers (nearly 20 miles) from the Borno state capital, Maiduguri.

In July, extremists raided the military base in Jakana and burnt down a police station. About 80 people were killed in a previous attack on Jakana and nearby Mainok in March 2013.

On Saturday, military sources said the latest incident saw troops fight a two-hour battle with fighters from the ISIS-backed Boko Haram faction from 6:00 pm (1700 GMT) on Friday.

“It was an intense fight. Our troops saw them passing near the village and confronted them,” a senior military officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“The terrorists were obviously heading toward the bush to congregate and launch an attack somewhere. One soldier was injured and three civilians caught up in the fight were killed.”

A member of a civilian militia assisting the military with security said the extremists fired at troops with anti-aircraft guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

“The terrorists did not intend to attack, they fought soldiers to defend themselves and escape,” he added.

The fighting underlined the persistent threat to troops in the remote region, which has seen more than 20 attacks on military bases since July.

Two bases were attacked on Thursday and Friday in the Rann and Bama areas of Borno. Eight soldiers were killed in an attack last Saturday in the Yobe village of Buni Gari.

Most attacks on the military are blamed on, or claimed by, the self-styled ISIS West Africa Province (ISWAP).

Friday’s fighting disrupted traffic along the main road between Maiduguri and the state capital of neighboring Yobe state, Damaturu.

Boko Haram is active in the area and have on several occasions barricaded the road, killing motorists and burning vehicles.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2018/12/09/Civilians-killed-as-Nigerian-troops-fight-Boko-Haram-at-flashpoint-village-.html

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4 al-Shabab members killed by airstrike in Somalia, U.S. says

December 9, 2018

JOHANNESBURG -- The U.S. military says it has killed four members of the al-Shabab extremist group with a "self-defence airstrike" outside Somalia's capital after partner forces were attacked.

The U.S. Africa Command statement says the airstrike occurred on Saturday near Basra, a community outside the capital, Mogadishu. The statement says no civilians were involved.

The U.S. military has carried out 39 airstrikes this year against the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab, Africa's most active Islamic extremist group, which controls parts of rural southern and central Somalia and continues to stage deadly attacks in Mogadishu and other cities.

Full report at:

https://www.ctvnews.ca/world/4-al-shabab-members-killed-by-airstrike-in-somalia-u-s-says-1.4210921

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Boko Haram kills two soldiers in Nigeria attack

2018-12-10

Two soldiers were killed when suspected Boko Haram fighters loyal to factional leader Abubakar Shekau attacked a military base in northeast Nigeria, security sources told AFP on Sunday.

The twin gun and suicide attacks happened early Saturday evening at Gulumba village, in the Bama district of Borno state.

The use of human bombs is a hallmark of the Shekau faction, which is known to operate in the area. Last month, Shekau released a video claiming attacks against troops in Gulumba.

"We lost two soldiers and two more were injured in the attack by the Shekau faction," said one military source.

"The terrorists came in nine gun trucks with a suicide bomber at about 5:50 pm (1650 GMT) and attacked the base."

A second source said the suicide bomber tried to infiltrate the base but was "neutralised" by troops. He also said two soldiers were killed and two others were injured.

"The terrorists faced stiff resistance and were forced to withdraw," he added.

Neither source wanted to be identified as they were not authorised to speak to the media.

Attacks by fighters loyal to Shekau have reduced considerably in recent months, which sources attribute to the firebrand leader's ill health.

Instead, the IS-backed Boko Haram faction Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) has been blamed or claimed responsibility for a wave of attacks against the military since July.

ISWAP split from Shekau's faction in mid-2016 in protest at the latter's indiscriminate targeting of civilians, and pledged to hit only "hard" military or government targets.

AFP has reported 22 other attacks on military bases since mid-July, including two last Thursday and Friday in the Rann and Bama areas of Borno.

Eight soldiers were killed in an attack on December 1 in the village of Buni Gari, in neighbouring Yobe state.

The attacks have increased pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari, who was elected in 2015 on a promise to defeat the Islamists and has repeatedly said they are virtually defeated.

Also on Saturday, three civilians were killed in fighting between troops and ISWAP in Jakana, 30km from the Borno state capital Maiduguri.

Full report at:

https://www.news24.com/Africa/News/boko-haram-kills-two-soldiers-in-nigeria-attack-20181209

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Pakistan

 

Foreign minister sees talks on US financial aid restoration

December 10, 2018

MULTAN: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi says there are chances of restoration of a dialogue with the US government for the restoration of American financial assistance to Pakistan.

Speaking at a reception here on Sunday, minister said the government was making efforts to bring foreign investment to the country to improve economy. He said foreign missions abroad had been asked to make efforts to bring investment to Pakistan.

He said that political leadership of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan had no objection to the creation of south Punjab province, however a `small segment’ in Sindh and Punjab had some reservations.

“A small segment in Sindh thinks that the creation of south Punjab may pave the way for the demand for the division of Sindh which is totally baseless as no one is demanding the division of Sindh,” he said.

He said that the PTI government was sincere for the creation of south Punjab. “Right now we are trying to create a consensus among political parties.”

He said initially a sub-secretariat (of south Punjab) would be established in Multan for which funds would be allocated in next fiscal. Qureshi said he was not aware of changes to be made in the ministries.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1450530/foreign-minister-sees-talks-on-us-financial-aid-restoration

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Saudi Arabia increases pilgrim quota by 5,000

DECEMBER 10, 2018

Saudi Arabia increased quota of Pakistani pilgrims for next year’s Hajj by 5,000, according to a spokesman of Ministry of Religious Affairs. Reportedly an agreement was signed in this regard by Minister of Religious Affairs Pir Noor ul Haq Qadri and his Saudi Arabian counterpart. Under the arrangement, more than 184, 000 pilgrims will perform Hajj from Pakistan next year.

It was also decided that Pakistani pilgrims would be included in ‘Road to Makkah’ project in phases and initially, 35,000 pilgrims from Sindh province would benefit from this scheme. Verification and immigration process of the pilgrims would then be conducted at Karachi airport and Pakistani pilgrims would also be awarded e-visas.

During the meeting of officials from both countries, the Pakistani officials were informed that decision relating to abolishing of 2,000 riyal fee will be made after holding consultation with Khadim-e-Haramayn al-Sharifayn. Moreover, the Saudi Arabian authorities assured that they would be considering a further increase in Hajj quota. Pir Noor ul Haq Qadri expressed gratification to the Saudi Arabian authorities for implementing recommendations proposed by the Pakistani authorities.

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/331950/saudi-arabia-increases-pilgrim-quota-by-5000/

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PTI govt’s honeymoon is over, it’s time to deliver: Siraj

DECEMBER 9, 2018

LAHORE: Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Ameer Siraj-ul-Haq on Sunday stated the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) government honeymoon period is over and now its time for them to deliver on their promises.

While addressing a ceremony, the JI chief said the government had made many announcements but it failed to deliver, adding that philosophy of this government is to take U-turns.

He also raised questions about what steps has the government taken in the past four months towards making the country like the state of Medina and said that everyone is worried regarding the downfall of rupee against US dollar.

The JI leader further criticized the on going anti-encroachments drives in Karachi and Lahore, adding that at least six thousand homes have been destroyed in the name of illegal encroachment.

He further said that their party has not decided to start a movement yet but it will represent the public in voicing their problems.

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/331658/pti-govts-honeymoon-is-over-its-time-to-deliver-siraj/

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Iran seeks regional front against US ‘economic terrorism’

DECEMBER 9, 2018

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said US sanctions were “economic terrorism”, as he sought to foster a united front from visiting regional officials on Saturday.

Addressing parliament speakers from Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, Russia and Turkey, Rouhani said they had all suffered economic pressure from the US.

“We are facing an all-out assault which is not only threatening our independence and identity but also is bent on breaking our longstanding ties,” he said. Washington has reimposed an oil embargo and other damaging sanctions on Iran since withdrawing in May from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and major powers.

“America’s unjust and illegal sanctions against the honourable nation of Iran have targeted our nation in a clear instance of terrorism,” Rouhani said. “Economic terrorism is designed to create panic in the economy of a country and fear in other countries in order to prevent investment.”

The conference in Tehran was a second annual meeting of parliament speakers focused on terrorism and regional cooperation. The first was held last December in Islamabad.

Most participating countries have faced harsh sanctions and other economic pressure as part of the Trump administration’s use of trade as a diplomatic weapon.

A brief truce in Trump’s trade war with China was again in doubt this week after the arrest of Chinese telecom giant Huawei’s chief financial officer, who was detained in Canada to face fraud charges in the US. Washington has continued to pile fresh sanctions on Russia that began over its military intervention in Ukraine, while Turkey also faced penalties this year over the detention of an American pastor.

‘We are all punished’

Trump has also cancelled hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Pakistan, accusing it of failing to crack down on militancy.

“When they put pressure on China’s trade, we are all harmed… By punishing Turkey, we are all punished. Any time they threaten Russia, we too consider our security to be endangered,” Rouhani said. “When they impose sanctions on Iran, they deprive all of us of the benefits of international trade, energy security and sustainable development. And in fact, they impose sanctions on everyone. “We are here to say that we don’t intend to tolerate such insolence.”

Rouhani warned Europe — which has strongly objected to the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal — that much is at stake in its efforts to bypass US sanctions and maintain trade with Iran.

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/331371/iran-seeks-regional-front-against-us-economic-terrorism/

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Five ‘terrorists’ held in Bahawalpur raid

DECEMBER 9, 2018

The Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) foiled a major terror bid on Saturday as it arrested five suspected terrorists besides seizing suicide jackets, hand grenades and arms from their possession.

A CTD spokesman said that on an intelligence tip-off regarding presence of suspected terrorists, the CTD conducted an operation in Bahawalpur city. During the raid, five suspects were apprehended with suicide jackets, hand grenades and weapons.

The CTD confiscated the suicide jackets, grenades and arms and shifted the arrested terrorists to an undisclosed location for further investigation.

https://dailytimes.com.pk/331482/five-terrorists-held-in-bahawalpur-raid/

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North America

 

Pak Continues To Harbour Terrorists; US Should Not Give It Even One Dollar: Nikki Haley

Dec 10, 2018

NEW YORK: Pakistan continues to harbour terrorists that turn around and kill American soldiers, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has said, asserting that Washington should not give Islamabad even a dollar until it addresses the issue.

Haley, the first Indian-American ever appointed to a Cabinet position in any US presidential administration, said the US did not need to give money to countries that wish harm to America, go behind its back and try and "stop us from doing things".

" ... I think there should be a strategic view on which countries we partner with, which ones we count on to work with us on certain things, and move forward accordingly. I think we just blindly allow money to keep going without thinking that this is real leverage. We have to use it," Haley told US magazine 'The Atlantic'.

"The one example I'll give you is, look at Pakistan. Giving them over a billion dollars, and they continue to harbour terrorists that turn around and kill our soldiers — that's never okay. We shouldn't even give them a dollar until they correct it. Use the billion dollars. That's not a small amount of change," she said.

Haley will step down as the UN envoy at the end of this year. US President Donald Trump last week nominated chief State Department spokeswoman and a former Fox News journalist Heather Nauert as Haley's successor.

In October, Haley announced that she was leaving the post by the end of the year. The 46-year-old former South Carolina governor has served nearly two years in the post.

She said Pakistan should be told "you have to do these things before we will even start to help you with your military or start to help you on counterterrorism".

Asked if she does not agree that foreign aid can turn an adversary into an ally, or can make a country more favourable than it would be otherwise, Haley said, "no, I think it absolutely can. I think that you do have to use it as leverage".

"I don't think you should blindly give it and then expect goodwill. You have to ask for goodwill and then give it when you see good things happen," she said.

In September, the Trump administration cancelled $300 million in military aid to Islamabad for not doing enough against terror groups active on its soil.

Last month, Trump defended his administration's decision to stop hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Pakistan, saying Islamabad does not do "a damn thing" for the US and its government helped late al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden hide near its garrison city of Rawalpindi.

Referring to Laden and his former compound in Abbottabad in Pakistan, Trump told Fox News, "you know, living – think of this – living in Pakistan, beautifully in Pakistan in what I guess they considered a nice mansion, I don't know, I've seen nicer".

"But living in Pakistan right next to the military academy, everybody in Pakistan knew he was there," Trump said.

The US Naval Special Warfare Development Group forces, in a daring helicopter raid, killed Laden in 2011 and demolished the compound.

"We give Pakistan $1.3 billion a year... (Laden] lived in Pakistan, we're supporting Pakistan, we're giving them $1.3 billion a year - which we don't give them anymore, by the way, I ended it because they don't do anything for us, they don't do a damn thing for us," he said.

Trump began the new year by launching an attack on Islamabad in his first tweet of 2018, accusing it of "lies and deceit".

"The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies and deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools," he wrote.

"They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!" Trump added.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pak-continues-to-harbour-terrorists-us-should-not-give-it-even-one-dollar-nikki-haley/articleshow/67019675.cms

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US Christian evangelical groups donated some $65 million to Israeli settlements: Report

Dec 9, 2018

Evangelical Christian groups have reportedly raised tens of millions of dollars over the past decade to fund settlement projects in the occupied West Bank as the Israeli regime presses ahead with its land expropriation policies in the occupied territories irrespective of great international outcry.

According to a report published by the English-language Haaretz daily newspaper, it is estimated the total amount of money collected in the past 10 years to be somewhere between $50 million and $65 million.

The report added that Hayovel (The Jubilee), an American non-profit organization that claims to bring Christian volunteers from all over the world to serve Jewish farmers in occupied lands, has brought more than 1,700 volunteers to Har Brakha settlement near Nablus alone.

The paper further revealed that the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs has offered Hayovel $16,000 a year for the production of materials promoting Israel and settlements abroad.

American-born founder of the Heart of Israel (also known as the Binyamin Fund), Aaron Katsof– who lives in the West Bank settlement of Shiloh – said his association collects hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for projects in the settlements.

Katsof noted that even though evangelicals do not account for the bulk of the money he raises, they do account for the vast majority of his donors.

“You have to realize that while the average Jew gives $1,500, the average Christian gives $50,” he said. “But their share is growing very, very fast.”

Less than a month before US President Donald Trump took office, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2334, calling on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem” al-Quds.

About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.

The last round of Israeli-Palestinian talks collapsed in 2014. Among the major sticking points in those negotiations was Israel’s continued settlement expansion on Palestinian territories.

Trump backtracked on Washington’s support for a “two-state solution” earlier this year, saying he would support any solution favored by both sides.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/12/09/582471/US-Christian-evangelical-group-have-donated-some-65-million-to-Israeli-settlements-Report

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Details of calls to attack Trump by US ‘Muslim Sisters’ allied to Brotherhood

9 December 2018

For the first time in US political history, two Muslim women joined the ranks of the US Congress with Western and Arab media widely reporting on their win during the first midterm elections under US President Donald Trump. Ilhan Omar, a Democrat, is the first Somali American to serve in Congress and Michigan Democrat Rashida Tlaib  is a Palestinian American.

However, the Democrats’ battle against the Republican control of the US Congress, led to an alliance with Political Islamist  movements in order to restore their control on government, pushing Muslim candidates and women activists of immigrant minorities, onto the electoral scene.

The common ground between Congresswomen Omar and Tlaib is that both are anti-Trump and his political team and options, especially his foreign policy starting from the sanctions on Iran to the isolation of the Muslim Brotherhood and all movements of political Islam. Those sponsoring and supporting the two Muslim women to reach the US Congress adopted a tactic to infiltrate through their immigrant and Black minority communities in general, and women’s groups in particular. One example of that is the Palestinian American activist Linda Sarsour with roots in Muslim Brotherhood and a member of the Council on American-Islamic Relations known as CAIR.

Who is Linda Sarsour?

The name of the Palestinian Linda Sarsour (38), appeared in the public scene, when Barak Obama took office in 2008 as President of the United States. Since then Sarsour became a familiar face in the White House.

“I have been invited at least to seven meetings in the White House since April 2010,”  she has been quoted.

This  culminated in receiving the “Champion of Change” award from President Obama in 2012.

A social media site still carries a previous US Department of State promotional tweet, published in July 2014 saying: “Share with Mrs. Linda Sarsour about Islam in America.”

The paradox here is that the description of the “Obama” award is similar to the title of “Youth and Change”, the first book taught by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin - the spiritual leader of Hamas, the military arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine – to Muslim women, according to Rajaa Halbi, an officer in the women’s movement in Hamas, and who personally learned from this book directly from Hamas founder and spiritual leader Sheikh Yassin.

What we know about Linda Sarsour is that she was born in 1980 in Brooklyn, New York, from Palestinian parents from al-Bireh in the West Bank in Occupied Palestine.

In recent years, she took part in protests and anti-Trump demonstrations.

She has been employed as the president of the Arab American Association of New York, Which was created by Palestinian Ahmed Jaber, a member of the Qatar International Foundation responsible for funding the association.

Linda Sarsour and her husband, Maher Jouda, who is also a Palestinian from al-Bireh, were investigated and  placed under observation by US Federal authorities in 2004 on their suspicious relations with extremist elements.

Also, the New York Police Department opened an investigation into the Arab American Association of New York for its links to terrorism and extremism, especially its links with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

Sarsour activities with Muslim Brotherhood

One of the activities in which Linda Sarsour participated was an annual meeting of the International Network of Muslim Brotherhood in North America and Canada in 2016, which lasted for three days, from December 26-28, organized by the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA).

Also participating in this conference was the Muslim Students Association ( MSA), which was established in 1979 by a women’s group called “The Sisters of Success” which is affiliated to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and its Palestinian Executive Director and co-founder Nihad Awad.

At that event, appearing next to Linda Sarsour was Samah Safi Bayazid, a Jordanian film director, accompanied by her brother and cameraman, Mohammad Safi Bayazid, who were responsible for filming and producing a show called “Noor” for Saudi cleric Salman Odeh, who is detained in Saudi Arabia.

Samah posted on her twitter account the picture with Linda at the event.  She had also posted a photo with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and her brother, in addition to another picture of her participating in ALSHARQ FORUM managed by Palestinian Waddah Khanfar in Turkey.

Among the speakers at the conference were: Siraj Wahhaj, who is described by his supporters as a pioneering Islamic preacher in New York and a hero of social community work; Jasser Auda, who is a founding member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, president of Maqasid Studies in London, and professor of Islamic studies at Carlton University in Canada, member in the European Council for Fatwa and Research and a former member of Qatar Foundation; and Jamal Badawi, a member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars and a founding member of CAIR.

Wahhaj, whom Linda Sarsour has admired and who in turn influenced her, was back in the national spotlight when his son Siraj Ibn Wahhaj was arrested in Aug. 2018 and jailed on a Georgia warrant alleging child abduction. Law enforcement officers searching a rural northern New Mexico compound for a missing three-year-old boy found 11 children in filthy conditions and hardly any food, and weapons where Wahhaj was allegedly training them how to execute mass shootings in America’s schools.

As for Jasser Auda, he is a founding member of the International World Union of Muslim Scholars, sponsored and chaired by extremist cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, and author of the book “Disrupting the Domineering Systems: Jihad and the Folly of State Sovereignty,” published in 2017, in which he called on Islamic entities to think strategically to restore the concept of true jihad and its institutions to the life of the nation and that it should not be repelled by the current political and media situation, no matter how urgent.

His book also emphasizes that “Islamic entities, and even honest humanity in general should begin to think about the coarse means the Islamic societies and humanity itself could use to eliminate those gangs and to disintegrate the tyrannical entities.”

Jasser Auda book also preaches that: “The concept of state sovereignty is one of the greatest lies and myths. It is the disaster of the idea and politics that have afflicted humankind in our time, which are being invested by tyranny and gain huge gains on the ground, especially in the eradication or distortion of jihad in Islam or damaging its image to serve their interests.”

What about Linda Sarsour’s declaration of Jihad?

From all that is mentioned, we can touch the influence of Muslim Brotherhood in shaping the thoughts of American activist Linda Sarsour and consequently her declaring her “Jihad” against US President Donald Trump, in addition to her call for the application of “Sharia”, the rule of Islam in the United States of America, during a speech at the annual meeting of the San Francisco branch of CAIR.  These are terms used by Muslim Brotherhood teachings and in the views of Sayyid Qutb, a scholar and co-founder of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, as well as from Abul A’la Maududi’s books “Islam and Ignorance” and “Fundamentals of Islam”. These terms are used and preached also by al-Qaeda terrorist organization and ISIS extremist group.

In her speech, Linda Sarsour said: “God is waiting for us to stand up to those who are oppressing our societies, not only in the Middle East and abroad, but also here in the United States, and this is a kind of jihad, where you have fascists, white supremacists and Islamophobes. We have to remain angry. Those who are currently sitting in the White House are not normal. Normal citizens should not be among this administration. If something terrible happens, you will be responsible for that.”

“You have no choice but to be politicized, engage and be part of the resistance to defend our right to be Muslims in the United States. Opposition is the highest form of national expression in a country like the United States,” she said.

Despite the claims of Islamist activist Linda Sarsour that her speech - which was about human rights - was taken out of its context, but according to some observers, that her defense is just only one of the tactics of the Muslim Brotherhood and their dodgers in the use of the terms of jihad, as they are afraid to say the word openly, as the collective memory of the West in general, is still tense toward events blamed on extremists, so the Muslim Brotherhood resorts to political terms away from its militant tones when using the Jihad word.

What Linda Sarsour has said is not far from those of Zainab al Ghazali, one the most prominent women of the Muslim Brotherhood who said in her book, “My daughter: the love of jihad”: “The nation is subjected to many hardships, but the most difficult is to abandon the breeding of jihad and love of death for the sake of God ... And my daughter’s role is to awaken the spirit of jihad and love of martyrdom in your husband and your daughter and this is your role, which I ask you and the whole nation awaits”.

Linda Sarsour made headlines once against when she called for “Jihad” against Trump and his administration in 2017. However, Political Islamists – the masterminds behind the so-called “Arab Spring” – have said time and again that the word “Jihad” could not be re-interpreted in any other sense except in the meaning of “physical fighting” against the rulers through a coup or revolution against them.

As she said in one of her conversations with the Arab Muslim community in New York via Skype: “What happened in the Middle East revolutions inspired the Arabs in the United States,” adding that: “After the Arab Spring, we worked harder than the last four decades, because in this country there are rights and freedoms which do not exist in the Arab countries. We began to exercise our rights here. Tthe Arab Spring encouraged us to be involved in the political life - you gave us courage.”

Muslim Sisters to topple Trump

Through the interaction and support of the president of the Islamic Society of North America (USA), Dr. Ingrid Mattson, who is of Canadian origin, and is designated as the mother of “Muslim sisters” in the United States, whom former President Obama chose to speak at his inauguration in January 2009 – and with the campaign Women’s march against Trump led by Linda Sarsour and Somali Ilhan Omar, the spiritual daughter of Obama, who said in a tweet in November 2017: “Thank you Obama for being a source of inspiration, hope and change! I have always been proud to call you my president!”

In addition, there is Dalia Mogahed, former Executive Director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, and was chosen to serve on Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in 2009. She is known as a staunch critic of Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and one of the vocal participants of the annual meeting of the International Network of Muslim Brotherhood in North America and Canada, in the presence of Turkish president’s daughter Soumaya Erdogan and othe Muslim Sisters hosted by Obama at a dinner in the White House.

It turns out that the common ground for these “sisters”, who are supported by former US President Obama, are the protest, sit-ins and demonstrations on US streets. On one hand, they are “Mujahideen”, as Linda Sarsour describes, in the face of tyrants and opponents of Trump's foreign policies -  from the siege of Iran, the fight against political Islam groups, and his choice of Saudi Arabia under the leadership of King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as a strategic ally.

Muslim Brotherhood document to establish a “Caliphate” in America and Canada

In this context, it should be noted that the document, which was released by the US authorities in 2017, was found among 5,000 pages of the International Network of Muslim Brotherhood, in the house of Ismail al-Barassi, a member of the group (Palestinian origin and American) who was arrested in Virginia in 2004 on charges of belonging to Hamas. The document was presented as evidence during his trial in 2008.

The document, entitled “Explanatory Note to the Strategic Objective of Muslim Brotherhood in North America,” was presented in 1991 by Mohammed Akram, the secretary of the group’s Shura Council, in what he described as an attempt to explain the long-term plan adopted by the Muslim Brotherhood’s North American Shura Council in 1987, in which he notes that the Empowerment Memorandum is based on the realization of the overall strategic objective of the Muslim Brotherhood in North America, namely, the establishment of an Islamic movement led by the Muslim Brotherhood that embraces Muslim issues locally and globally and proposes Islam as an alternative to civilization.

The second objective is to achieve naturalization and empowerment in North America and to establish a mechanism for that.

The document referred to the International Network of Muslim Brotherhood’s important plan of implementing naturalization and empowerment of the Muslim Brotherhood in North America and Canada, “that Islam and its movement be part of the country in which he lives”, by turning to stable institutions and stabilizing these institutions within the Muslim community.

The document names a number of Islamic organizations that are affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, which according to Al Arabiya English, are all the organizations affiliated with CAIR - the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the Islamic Information Foundation founded by Egyptian Canadian Dr. Jamal Badawi, the center run by Hamed Ghazali, and many others.

The document explains the need to absorb Muslims and win their loyalty from all classes and colors in America and Canada, for the interest of the naturalization plan, saying: “At that time, If we ask for money, it will be abundant. Even if we asked men to come in, they will.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2018/12/08/Details-of-calls-by-US-Muslim-Sisters-of-Muslim-Brotherhood-to-attack-Trump-.html

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US senator allied to Trump berates Saudi military

Dec 10, 2018

A Republican US senator, often an ally of President Donald Trump, has echoed the president's derogatory remarks about Saudi Arabia's military capabilities, saying the Saudi military "can't fight [its way] out of a paper bag."

In pointed remarks made to Fox News on Sunday, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who is a hawk on Iran, said Saudi Arabia would be defeated by Iran militarily "in about a week" if it did not have the support of the United States.

"Let me put it this way — I want to be very blunt with you: If it weren't for the United States, they'd be speaking Farsi in about a week in Saudi Arabia," Graham said.

Saudi Arabia is not involved in a war with Iran, and Tehran has made it clear that it will never initiate military aggression against any country. But Riyadh has launched a war on impoverished Yemen, where it has been bogged down for almost four years now despite disproportionately superior military power.

Earlier, President Trump had belittled Riyadh by saying Saudi rulers might not last "for two weeks" without the support of the US. But Trump has also taken a stubborn stance in defense of the Saudi leadership in an international scandal over the state-ordered murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi. In attempting to justify that defense, Trump has partially pointed to the massive purchases of American weapons by Riyadh.

Khashoggi was brutally killed by a 15-member hit squad inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2.

Unlike President Trump, however, Senator Graham has turned against the Saudi leadership following that murder.

Citing informed sources, The Washington Post reported in mid-November that the CIA “has concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi's assassination.” Trump said at the time that the CIA conclusion was "very premature."

Ankara, which says it has evidence from inside the consulate, has said the order for the hit "came from the highest levels of the Saudi government." But it has said Saudi King Salman himself was not involved, giving the impression that Saudi Arabia's number-two person, Mohammed, was responsible.

Saudi Arabia has attempted to shift the blame for Khashoggi’s murder to Mohammed’s underlings, including at least one of his advisers. But it has claimed that the criminality somehow stops short of reaching the crown prince himself.

The CIA has not published its findings on Khashoggi's murder. But the agency's director, Gina Haspel, recently briefed a group of senators on the matter. Graham was among them.

In his Fox News interview, Graham confirmed the report that the CIA believed Mohammed was responsible.

"It's the most brilliant briefing I've ever received in my time in Congress... There is no doubt by any senator who received this briefing that MbS was complicit in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi," Graham told Fox News, using Mohammed's initials.

"A murderous regime' & 'a thug like MbS'

The US senator also dismissed the notion that the US is reliant on Saudi Arabia — something President Trump sought to highlight in defending the Saudi leadership.

"They give us 9 percent of our oil imports. We need them a lot less than they need us," Graham said. "I don't buy this idea you've got to hook up to a murderous regime, a thug like MbS, to protect America from Iran. Quite the opposite. I think by hooking up with him we hurt our ability to govern the region.”

Graham has formerly called Mohammed "a wrecking ball" who "has got to go."

In November, Republican and Democrat senators at US Congress introduced legislation to suspend weapons sales to Saudi Arabia in the wake of Kashoggi's murder.

Graham said the Congress would press ahead with that legislation and would officially hold Mohammed responsible in the murder of Khashoggi.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/12/10/582493/US-Saudi-Arabia-Lindsey-Graham-cant-fight-out-of-a-paper-bag

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US-Saudi relationship enters uncharted territory

Dec 9, 2018

Ties between Saudi Arabia and the United States face an uncertain future as Congress and the White House grow more divided over punishing the traditional Middle East ally over a range of issues, including the ongoing war against Yemen.

While Saudi Arabia continues to receive unconditional support from the administration of US President Donald Trump, Riyadh’s stature has plummeted in the halls of Capitol Hill.

The Trump White House has so far resisted international pressure to go after the de facto Saudi leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for his actions.

Besides leading a deadly war on Yemen since March 2015, the crown prince is also accused of ordering a hit job on dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered after entering the Saudi consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul on October 2.

Trump argues that punishing Saudi Arabia in high times like this would alienate the longtime ally and push it away towards Russia, jeopardizing Israel and billions of dollars in arms deals.

American lawmakers, however, are not buying that argument and think the US can still punish MbS without harming ties.

A bipartisan group of US Senators have brought a resolution which, if approved, would give the Trump administration 30 days to pull troops in or “affecting” Yemen, unless they are fighting al Qaeda.

“In March 2015, Saudi Arabia instituted a naval and aerial blockade on Yemen, and currently maintains strict limits on air and sea transit to the country which contribute to delays of critical humanitarian aid and commercial supplies to a nation that imports as much as 90 percent of its food and relies on imported fuel,” the resolution reads.

The US and a series of other Western countries continue to provide Saudi Arabia with weapons and intelligence despite the atrocities in Yemen.

Timothy Lenderking, the deputy assistant secretary for Persian Gulf affairs in the Near East Bureau of the US Department of State, told a security forum in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday that Washington was under pressure to stop supporting the military aggression.

"There are pressures in our system ... to either withdraw from the conflict or discontinue our support of the coalition, which we are strongly opposed to on the administration side,” Lenderking said, according to Reuters.

“We do believe that the support for the coalition is necessary,” he added, referring to a Saudi-led coalition—including the UAE—which has been pounding Yemeni targets since March 2015. “It sends a wrong message if we discontinue our support.”

The resolution also seeks to declare with “high confidence” the MbS was indeed behind Khashoggi’s murder.

The measure’s sponsors have accused US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis of “misleading” the lawmakers about Khashoggi.

Pompeo claimed last month that there was no definitive evidence that MbS was behind Khashoggi’s murder, while Mattis simply said there was “no smoking gun.”

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/12/09/582457/US-support-Saudi-war-on-Yemen-necessary-Lenderking

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Report details extent of Kushner, bin Salman friendship

09.12.2018

By Umar Farooq

WASHINGTON

The reason why the U.S. has become so close to Saudi Arabia is due to the friendship cultivated between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Jared Kushner, The New York Times said Saturday.

"The relationship between Jared Kushner and Mohammed bin Salman constitutes the foundation of the [Donald] Trump policy not just toward Saudi Arabia but toward the region," Martin Indyk, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, told The Times.

Kushner, adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump, and bin Salman have been exchanging private, one-on-one messages with each other through WhatsApp, the newspaper reported.

After the White House had imposed restrictions on conversations that to Trump's adviser and son-in-law, they were still continuing their conversations, reaching a point where they were on a first-name basis with one another.

And the conversations went on even in the aftermath of the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and columnist for The Washington Post, went missing after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

With the world watching, after initially saying he had left the consulate alive, weeks later the Saudi administration admitted he was killed there.

It was Kushner who had become the crown prince's "most important defender" in the White House after the killing, several people familiar with the matter told The Times.

The newspaper said that the relationship between Kushner and bin Salman, fostered over the past two years, has been a focal point into Trump's embrace of Saudi Arabia, and then becoming one of the U.S.'s most important allies.

After the 2016 presidential election, a group of Saudi delegates met with Kushner, and then reported back to Riyadh that Kushner had been satisfied in Saudi Arabia's role in fighting terrorism, along with a proposal to share intelligence to help fight against extremism, according to a presentation prepared by the delegation.

The delegation had invited Trump to come to Riyadh, and Kushner pushed for it to happen in the weeks after the president was inaugurated.

"By the time of the inauguration Mr. Kushner was already arguing that under the influence of Prince Mohammed, Saudi Arabia could play a pivotal role in advancing a Middle East peace deal," The Times said, citing three people familiar with the matter.

Visits by Kushner to Saudi Arabia also coincided with moves by bin Salman to consolidate power in the kingdom.

After Kushner visited Saudi Arabia with Trump in June 2017, bin Salman ousted his cousin Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and replaced him as crown prince. Then, days after Kushner visited later in the fall, the crown prince imprisoned 200 members of the Saudi Royal family at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh.

"After each play for power, President Trump publicly praised Prince Mohammed," The Times said.

While Kushner continues to push that the U.S. must stand by bin Salman, it is unsure whether he can be the key to the Trump administration's Middle East strategy.

The main interest of Kushner is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a family friend to the Kushners, The Times noted.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/report-details-extent-of-kushner-bin-salman-friendship/1333412

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Khashoggi's last words were 'I can't breathe': CNN

10.12.2018

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON

"I can't breathe" were the final words of a Washington Post columnist who was killed at the hands of Saudi agents in Riyadh's Istanbul consulate, according to a report released Sunday.

CNN reported Jamal Khashoggi's final words citing a source who was briefed on his killing. That source, CNN said, had read a translated transcript of Khashoggi's Oct. 2 killing.

The unnamed individual insisted that the killing was not consistent with Khashoggi having been killed as a result of a botched rendition operation -- the explanation Saudi Arabia settled on after offering various narratives surrounding his disappearance.

The source said Khashoggi struggled to overcome a group of people in the consulate who were determined to kill him.

"I can't breathe," Khashoggi said.

"I can't breathe."

"I can't breathe."

Khashoggi, a Saudi national and U.S. resident, had gone to the Saudi diplomatic building in Istanbul to pick up papers that would have allowed him to marry his Turkish fiancee. But the source said the transcript indicates that he knew almost immediately after entering that things were amiss, recognizing one of the men who meets him inside.

"You are coming back," the man says.

"You can't do that," Khashoggi replies. "People are waiting outside."

He was likely referring to Hatice Cengiz, his fiancee who was waiting nearby with instructions to call friends if he did not emerge.

The source said the transcript includes mention of the saw the Saudi agents were using to dismember Khashoggi's body while the perpetrators were told to listen to music to avoid the sounds of human dismemberment.

After Khashoggi said he can't breathe the transcript notes additional screams and mention of "saw" and "cutting."

Dr. Salah Muhammad al-Tubaiqi is one of the Saudis identified on the transcript by Turkish authorities.

Al-Tubaiqi is the head of forensic medicine at the Saudi interior ministry. He allegedly tells the group of individuals to put in earphones "or listen to music like me" to avoid the macabre task they have set upon.

The release of the new information comes as U.S. President Donald Trump and his senior officials continue to distance Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from Khashoggi's murder despite bipartisan congressional calls for the Saudi leader to be held to account.

Trump had dismissed the CIA's assessment that bin Salman personally had Khashoggi killed.

The office of a U.S. senator who was briefed on the agency's findings by Director Gina Haspel said the account given to CNN was consistent with the briefing, the news network said.

Besides al-Tubaiqi and Khashoggi the transcript only explicitly mentions Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, a former diplomat and current intelligence official close to bin Salman.

Mutreb placed numerous calls to an individual in Riyadh who remains unknown. But he was giving almost a play-by-play of what was transpiring inside the diplomatic building to whoever was on the other end of the call.

But CNN said the "working assumption" is that Mutreb was speaking to Saud al-Qahtani, bin Salman's closest aide.

A source close to Saudi Arabia's investigation into Khashoggi's killing said Mutreb and al-Tubaiqi deny making any calls.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/khashoggis-last-words-were-i-cant-breathe-cnn/1334014

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South Asia

 

Taliban commander Mullah Nusrat killed with his 11 fighters in Faryab

Dec 10 2018

A commander of the Taliban group Mullah Nusrat was killed with his eleven fighters in northern Faryab province of Afghanistan, the Afghan military said.

According to a statement released by 209th Shaheen Corps of the Afghan Military, a clash broke out between the Afghan armed forces and Taliban militants in Hab Baza area of Dawlatbad district.

The statement further added that 12 Taliban militants, including their local commander Mullah Nusrat were killed during the clash.

According to 209th Shaheen Corps, at least fifteen others including one of their commanders Mullah Musa were wounded during the clash with the armed forces.

The Afghan forces also confiscated some weapons belonging to Taliban following the clash, the 209th Shaheen Corps said, adding that security personnel and local residents did not suffer casualties during the clash.

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

Faryab is among the relatively volatile provinces in North of Afghanistan where the Taliban militants and other groups are actively operating in some of its districts and often carry out terrorist related activities.

https://www.khaama.com/taliban-commander-mullah-nusrat-killed-with-his-11-fighters-in-faryab-02902/

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Afghan forces foil rocket attack on Kabul city

Dec 10 2018

The Afghan security forces have thwarted militants bid to carry out a rocket attack on Kabl city, the security authorities said late on Sunday.

The Kabul Police Commandment confirmed that the police forces have foiled a rocket attack on Kabul city.

According to a statement released by Kabul Police Commandment, the police forces discovered a BM-1 rocket from the vicinity of the 9th police district of the city at around 6:32am local time.

The statement further added that the rocket was discovered in Dasht Padola area and was defused by the Explosives Ordnance Disposal team of police.

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

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/afghan-forces-foil-rocket-attack-on-kabul-city-02901/

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Prominent Taliban leader killed in Jawzjan airstrikes

Dec 08 2018

A prominent local leader of the Taliban group was killed during the airstrikes conducted in northern Jawzjan province of Afghanistan, the Afghan army said Saturday.

According to a statement released by 209th Shaheen Corps of the Afghan Military in the North, the Afghan forces conducted airstrikes in Faizabad district of Jawzjan on Friday, leaving a prominent of Taliban Wali Mohammad dead.

The statement further added that three accomplices of Wali Mohammad were also critically wounded during the same airstrikes.

According to 209th Shaheen Corps, the Afghan forces also conducted airstrikes in Daichi village of Faryab province,leaving at least three militants dead and three more wounded.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/prominent-taliban-leader-killed-in-jawzjan-airstrikes-02891/

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Bangladesh Prime Minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia: Quest for enhanced friendship

2018-12-09

Bangladesh has maintained excellent relations with Saudi Arabia since long with growing engagements in trade and investment in recent years. Over these years both the countries have experienced and learnt to identify potential areas of economic cooperation for mutual benefit.

As the engagements are growing, Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minster of Bangladesh undertook her sixth official visit to Saudi Arabia on 16-19 October 2018 in an effort to further strengthening the relations between Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia. This visit saw intensive engagements of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh in Saudi Arabia over three days with an audience with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and meeting with Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense.

During the visit, the prime minister also attended a business seminar, inaugurated the newly built Chancery Complex of Bangladesh Embassy in Riyadh and layed the foundation of chancery building of the Consulate General of Bangladesh in Jeddah.

During the meeting with the King the entire gamut of bilateral relations as well as regional and international issues of mutual interest were discussed. Both the leaders commended the unprecedented gain in momentum of bilateral relations of two countries in recent years and emphasized on further expansion of the relations through cooperation and engagements at different levels.

Saudi Vision 2030 promoted by the Saudi Government under the guidance of King Salman and the transformational development of the Kingdom offer Bangladesh the opportunity to explore new areas of cooperation in areas of manpower, trade, investment, education and agriculture.

Bangladesh’s ‘Vision 2021’ to become a middle-income country and ‘Vision 2041’ to attain the status of a high mid-income country warrant Bangladesh to engage in a fast growing trade and economic cooperation with major regional partners like Saudi Arabia.

Accordingly, during the meeting of two leaders it was reiterated that the cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh would continue and both the countries would be development partners. In order to fulfill this objective, exchange of economic and investment-related delegations between the two countries and utilizing the opportunities of economic, cultural and defense cooperation would play a pivotal role.

In terms of cooperation for common goal, Bangladesh Prime Minister appreciated the great visionary role played by the King for the development of the Muslim Ummah. There is a special place of Saudi Arabia in the heart of Bangladeshi Muslims as the two holy mosques exist in Makkah and Madina and Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Thus a great opportunity exists between Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia to work together in depicting the true face of Islam, especially to disseminate real message of this religion so that none could benefit by misrepresenting Islam in the respective countries. Both the countries have cooperated in such endeavour by establishing 560 uniquely-designed mosques cum Islamic Cultural Center in Bangladesh with facilities like Imam training center, Haj training camp and pilgrim centers. It is expected that this initiative will support the efforts for establishing a peaceful, progressive and harmonious Bangladesh.

During the meeting between the Crown Prince and the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, the recent development activities of Bangladesh, particularly in areas of food security, housing, education, and poverty reduction were highlighted. The crown Prince appreciated Bangladesh’s proactive quest for promience in every sector as well as the unprecedented gain in momentum of bilateral relations of the two countries and emphasized the need for further expansion of relations through cooperation in areas like trade and investments.

In terms of encouraging more Saudi investors to invest in Bangladesh, Bangladesh Prime Minister reiterated the offer to allocate a huge chunk of land to establish an exclusive economic zone for Saudi investors. The Crown Prince expressed interest in widening its relation with Bangladesh and taking advantage of the announcement of offer for Saudi Arbia and mentioned that a high-level delegation from Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudid Arabia along with businessmen and experts will be sent to Bangladesh within two months to explore the trade and investment potentials. He also stressed on the need for increasing such interactions of business delegations of the two countries on regular basis to further accelerate trade and investments between the two countries.

In terms of political cooperation, the Crown Price urged all Muslim countries to work together for combating the menace of terrorism and mentioned that both the countries could work together on this issue through exchange of information and experience. Bangladesh Prime Minister said that the activities of some of the derailed groups have maligned the image of the entire Muslim world and affirmed Bangladesh’s policy of zero tolerance against terrorism and violent extremism. In this regard it is worth noting that the people of different faiths and religions are living with peace and harmony in Bangladesh. It is apparent that various initiatives of the Government in countering militancy and religious sectarianism have produced a positive outcome in Bangladesh, attracting high praise from all over the world.

The Prime Minister also reiterated Bangladesh’s commitment to send four officials to work at the General Secretariat of Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) in Riyadh. The Crown Prince repeated Bangladesh’s importance for Saudi Arabia and expressed happiness in Bangladesh’s decision to join the Saudi-led Center to fight against terrorism and violent extremism.

Both the leaders also pledged to work towards global peace, stability and development and in particular welfare of the Muslim Ummah and emphasized the need for resolving problems through negotiations instead of conflicts.

In the context of Palestine, Bangladesh Prime Minister reiterated its support and commitment for an independent Palestine State with Jerusalem as the capital. The Crown Prince appreciated Bangladesh highly for its principled position and actions in respect of Palestine. Besides, both the leaders stressed on s cooperation between Bangaldesh and Saudi Arabia. There are scopes to cooperate in the field of military construction, border surveillance, mine clearing and training, and both the countries agreed in furthering the joint engagements.

Another highlight of Bangldesh Prime Minister’s visit to the Kingdom was her attendance at a business session in Riyadh organized by the Council of Saudi Chambers and Bangladesh Embassy in Riyadh. The business session was attended by the leaders of the Council of Saudi Chambers and Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other Business leaders. The effective interactions in the business meeting is expected to increase further engagements between the business leaders of two countries in the days ahead and create more opportunities for Saudi investors to explore investment opportunities in Bangladesh. The meeting emphasized the need to exchange trade delegations between business chambers of Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh to identify the priorities and opportunities of trade and investment between the two countries, which should assist in achieving the untapped potentials of trade and investment between the two countries.

The Prime Minister of Bangladesh urged Saudi entrepreneurs and businessmen to invest in 100 Special Economic Zones earmarked for priority sectors like energy, power, infrastructure and communication networks, high tech parks, IT, textiles and agro-based industries. Appraising the vision of Bangladesh to achieve the status of middle income country by 2021 and a high middle income country by 2041, Bangladesh Prime Minister urged Saudi Investors and entrepreneurs to take advantage of the positive investment and business climate prevailing in Bangladesh. Bangladesh’s solid macroeconomic stability in recent years with a solvent credit rating and a low inflation and decreasing lending rate should be benefecial for Saudi entrepreneurs if they opt for one or two Economic Zones earmarked exclusively for the Saudi investors. Keeping that in mind a number of business and investment related MOUs were signed between Bangladesh and Saudi companies during the Business Meeting, which is expected to play key role in augmenting further economic ties between the two countries.

Bangladeshi expatriate workers and diaspora in Saudi Arabi is contributing to the construction and economic growth of both the economies of Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia. During inaugurating own chancery premises of the Embassy and Consulate General of Bangladesh in Riyadh and Jeddah, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh recognized outstanding contributions of diaspora to the developments of Bangladesh. She also praised the diaspora for putting their efforts and hard work for the economic benefit of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Given that the diaspora have regarded Saudi Arabia as their temporary home, the Prime Minister advised the expatriate community to abide by the rules and regulations of their host country.

The latest visit of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh to Saudi Arabia seems to have given a solid push in terms of taking the bilateral relations to a new height and laying the foundation for establishing wider partnership between Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia in the coming days.

Elaborate discussion by Bangladesh Prime Minister with His Majesty the King and Crown Prince on these issues should increase the level of confidence between the two countries enormously. It is expected that mutual engagements in different sectors, particularly in the area of trade, investment and defense would see an immediate improvement in the short term. Also, the signing of five business MOUs in different sectors is expected to increse Saudi investment in Bangladesh in those areas as well as in other sectors in the near future.

Full report at:

http://saudigazette.com.sa/article/549829/SAUDI-ARABIA/Bangladesh-Prime-Ministers-visit-to-Saudi-Arabia-Quest-for-enhanced-friendship

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Arab World

 

Saudi Arabia rules out extraditing Khashoggi case suspects

Dec 9, 2018

Saudi Arabia says it is not sending back two of its former senior officials to Turkey, which seeks to arrest them on suspicion of planning the October murder of a renowned Saudi dissident journalist.

"We don't extradite our citizens," Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told a news conference at the annual [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council ([P]GCC) summit in Riyadh on Sunday, Reuters reported.

Turkish officials said last week that the Prosecutor's Office in the country had concluded there was "strong suspicion" that Saud al-Qahtani, a top aide to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and General Ahmed al-Asiri, who used to serve as deputy head of foreign intelligence, were among the planners of Jamal Khashoggi's October 2 killing at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

The Washington Post columnist and strong critic of bin Salman entered the diplomatic facility in Istanbul on that day to secure documents for a pending marriage. He never left the building.

Riyadh was at first in denial about the killing, but finally said Khashoggi had been murdered during a “rogue” operation.

A recent report by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) suggested that bin Salman had been behind the crime.

Warning to Qatar

Jubeir also said Qatar had been asked to "adjust its negative polices" in order to return as an active member of the [P]GCC.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt all cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar on June 5 last year, after officially accusing it of “sponsoring terrorism.” Doha roundly rejects the accusation.

Turning down an invite, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani shunned this year’s summit, and instead sent the emirate’s foreign minister.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/12/09/582486/Saudi-Arabia-extradition-Khashoggi-suspects-Turkey-Qatar

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A year after Daesh defeat, Iraq in throes of political crisis

December 10, 2018

BAGHDAD: A year since Iraq announced “victory” over the Daesh group, the country finds itself in the throes of political and economic crises left unresolved during the long battle against militants.

Unified against the common menace of Daesh, Iraq’s political elites are now at loggerheads over the drawn-out formation of a cabinet as the threat of renewed popular protests looms.

Iraq is no stranger to instability. It fought an eight-year war with Iran in the 1980s, then a conflict over Kuwait followed by a crippling international embargo and the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

A sectarian war ensued, capped in 2014 by Daesh’s devastating sweep across a third of the country.

Backed by a US-led international coalition, Iraqi troops and paramilitary forces battled the militants for three years, until Baghdad finally declared it had won in December 2017.

After decades of nearly back-to-back wars, Iraq’s decision-makers are now forced to face deep-rooted dilemmas left festering for years.

“In Iraq you’ve seen many ‘missions accomplished’,” said Renad Mansour, senior fellow at Chatham House in London.

“But as usual, the much more challenging victory is the political victory — which has always been left for another day.”

Five months after Baghdad declared its win, the country held legislative elections that did not produce a clear governing coalition.

Then-prime minister Haider Al-Abadi failed to hold on to his position despite claiming credit for victory, as people turned to populist parties who tapped anger over corruption.

The ongoing power struggle among various parties has stymied efforts by new premier Adel Abdel Mahdi, widely seen as a weak consensus candidate, to form a government.

In October, Abdel Mahdi managed to fill 14 of the cabinet’s 22 posts, but repeated efforts to hold a parliamentary vote on the remaining eight, including the key interior and defense ministries, have failed.

“The distribution of power, the race to acquire as many government positions as possible under the guise of real competition between parties — that is at the root of the problem,” Iraqi political analyst Jassem Hanoun told AFP.

“Iraq is still living in a transition period, without political stability or a clear administrative vision for the country.”

As the process drags on, observers have wondered whether Abdel Mahdi could step down, further destabilising a country just getting back on its feet.

“Withdrawal is an option,” a source close to the government said, adding that Abdel Mahdi “has his resignation letter in his back pocket.”

“Only if the political situation gets significantly worse can I see him taking it out of his pocket and using it,” the source said.

But the thorny issues facing Iraq extend beyond the capital.

Much of the country remains in ruins after three years of ferocious fighting, including large swathes of one-time Daesh capital Mosul and the northern Sinjar region.

An international summit in Kuwait in February gathered around $30 billion in pledges for Iraq’s reconstruction — less than a third of what Baghdad hoped to receive.

More than 1.8 million Iraqis are still displaced, many languishing in camps, and 8 million require humanitarian aid, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council.

“If this is what ‘victory’ looks like, then there is little to celebrate for millions of Iraqis still haunted by the crimes of the IS and the long war to eliminate it,” said NRC’s head Jan Egeland.

Violence has dropped across Iraq, according to the United Nations, which recorded the lowest casualty figures in six years in November with 41 civilians killed.

But the threat of hit-and-run attacks lingers.

A recent study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies found that while the total number of Daesh attacks in Iraq had dropped in 2018, those against government targets had increased compared to 2017.

Observers are also worried that the bitter squabbles among Iraqi’s political forces could turn violent.

“Because of the divisions among the parties, anything is possible,” Hanoun said.

One scenario would be a conflict among the country’s competing Shiite Muslim factions, which he said would be a “disaster.”

But another major fault line divides Iraq’s entrenched politicians and an increasingly frustrated public.

Deadly protests in the summer of 2017 saw tens of thousands turn out over unemployment, a lack of public services, and accusations of corruption.

Rampant power cuts mean millions of Iraqis have just a few hours of state-provided electricity per day. The country is ranked the 12th most corrupt in the world, according to the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index.

Protest leaders have threatened a return to the streets if these issues, as well as the political stalemate, are not resolved.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1418341/middle-east

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Arabs in talks with US for security pact, says Saudi FM

December 10, 2018

RIYADH: Arab countries are in talks with the United States for a new security agreement to protect the Middle East from “external aggression”, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir said on Sunday.

“The aim is to achieve security arrangements in the Middle East that can protect the region from external aggression... and strengthen relations between the United States and the countries of the region,” Jubeir said.

Read: US quietly expanding defense ties with Saudis

The Saudi minister was talking at a news conference at the end of a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Riyadh.

Asked about reports of talks on the creation of an Arab-American military alliance against Iran, he said: “Talks are continuing between the United States and the Gulf states around this question and ideas are being drawn up.”

“It’s a work in progress and the two parties want to see it happen,” said Jubeir, adding that the alliance would include Egypt and be called the Middle East Strategic Alliance, or MESA.

Media reports have indicated in recent months that an Arab-American anti-Iranian alliance could emerge, and that it would be similar to Nato.

Qatar boycotts summit

Bahrain and Qatar traded barbs over the Qatari emir’s decision not to attend the GCC summit, an absence that suggests a rift between Doha and three Gulf Arab states is unlikely to be resolved soon.

Qatar sent its state minister for foreign affairs to the annual one-day summit, which is overshadowed by the economic and diplomatic boycott of Doha since mid-2017 by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt over allegations that Doha supports terrorism, which Qatar denies.

Take a look: Qatar crisis creates ‘new’ Gulf with no winners

“Qatar’s emir should have accepted the fair demands (of the boycotting states) and attended the summit,” Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said in a tweet.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman opened the gathering, urging member states Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, the UAE and Qatar to maintain a united front against Iran and terrorism.

“This requires all of us to maintain our countries’ gains and to work with our partners to preserve security and stability in the region and the world,” he said in a speech.

Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber al-Sabah, who has tried unsuccessfully to mediate the Qatar row, then called for an end to media campaigns that he said threatened regional unity.

Doha last week abruptly announced it was exiting the oil exporters’ group Opec after 57 years to focus on gas, in an apparent swipe at the bloc’s de facto leader Saudi Arabia. .

Bitter divide

Saudi Arabia has resisted US pressure to restore ties with Doha following Khashoggi’s murder, an act that drew condemnation and scrutiny of Riyadh’s assertive regional policies.

Kushner gave advice to Saudi prince after Khashoggi murder: NYT

A US State Department official on Sunday urged Gulf states to mend fences to confront Iran and help enable a proposed new Middle East security alliance that would include the Gulf bloc, Egypt and Jordan.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1450471/arabs-in-talks-with-us-for-security-pact-says-saudi-fm

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Tahrir Al-Sham Captures Strategic Road in Northwestern Syria

Dec 09, 2018

Tahrir al-Sham stormed NLF's positions in the village of al-Saharah North of the town of al-Aratab in Western Aleppo to reinvigorate its positions near the strategic road to find a leverage on Turkey over Sochi Agreement.

Tahrir al-Sham has captured vast regions in its recent attacks on the rival terrorists in Idlib province.

Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at has captured al-Roj Plain, Janat al-Qara, Zizoun, al-Sahn and al-Laj regions and highway that connects Aleppo to Lattakia via Idlib.

Tahrir al-Sham as the most powerful terrorist group in Northern and Northwestern Syria is on the brink of seizing full control of Idlib province, a local source said.

In the meantime, the Turkistani Islamic Party with over 10,000 riflemen has been backed up by Turkey via secret border-crossing in the village of Ein al-Baydh at Syria-Turkey border, the source said, adding that Turkistani is the main rival for Tahrir al-Sham. 

Informed sources said last week that Tahrir al-Sham Hayat and Ahrar al-Sham terrorist groups resumed and intensified their clashes over a strategic road in the Southern part of Idlib province.

Heavy clashes broke out between Tahrir al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham militants on the outskirts of Ma'arat al-Nu'aman in Southern Idlib, field sources reported.

The sources noted that the infighting broke out after Tahrir al-Sham entered Heish region controlled by Ahrar al-Sham and set up an inspection post there. Ahrar al-Sham also targeted and pounded Tahrir al-Sham's post and put their forces on alert.

Tahrir al-Sham also hit the military posts of the National Liberation Front in Babolin area in Heish region, they added.

The sources also pointed to the preparations by Tahrir al-Sham Hayat to launch a large-scale military operation in the region, and said Tahrir al-Sham aims to seize control of the international highway passing through Ma'arat al-Nu'aman city.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970918000974

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US Army Sets up New Military Base at Iraq's Border with Syria

Dec 09, 2018

The Arabic-language al-Ma'aloumah news website quoted Farhan Mahd al-Deilami, a member of Anbar province Council, as reporting that the US forces have established a new base in the Western part of the province.

It further reported that the US has deployed a surprising number of troops on the Northern bank of the Euphrates River 30 km away from al-Ramanah region near the town of al-Qa'em at border with Syria, adding that the move will enable the US forces to have the upper-hand in regions between Anbar and Nineveh provinces.

The official further told the news website that the ISIL terrorists have been infiltrating into deserts between Anbar and Nineveh provinces via the borderlines with Syria. 

A senior commander of Hashd al-Shaabi (Iraqi popular forces) said on Tuesday that the ISIL commanders were hiding at US bases at Iraq's border with Syria and warned that Washington sought to use the terrorists as a leverage against Baghdad and Damascus.

The Arabic-language al-Ma'aloumeh news website quoted Hashem al-Moussavi as saying that a number of ISIL leaders were sheltered at Iraq's border with Syria to survive current attacks by the Iraqi security forces and Hashd al-Shaabi.

He added that Syria's al-Tanf base is the main stronghold of the terrorists and supplies the ISIL remnants with weapons, military equipment and intelligence, noting that Washington aims to use the ISIL commanders as a leverage to pressure Baghdad and Damascus.

Al-Moussavi said that the Iraqi security forces and Hashd al-Shaabi are at present trying to cleanse Wadi Houran region in al-Anbar (at the borders between Iraq and Syria) from terrorists, adding that the US fighter jets often provide a cover to the ISIL moves between Iraq and Syria.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970918000661

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Turkey-Backed Senior Militant Commander Surrenders to Syrian Army

Dec 09, 2018

A high-ranking commander of Mohammad al-Fateh, affiliated to the Turkey-backed Free Army, surrendered to the Damascus army forces after defecting his group in occupied Afrin region.

The defected militant was also one of the security commanders of Suleiman Shah Brigade, and has called for government amnesty.

Debates and tensions have been widening among Ankara-backed militants in occupied regions in Aleppo province.

Hawar news reported last week that the Kurdish militia blasted a military vehicle of Ankara-backed Firqa al-Hamzah militants in Afrin on a road between the center of the town and the village of Basoutah in Shirawa, killing 4 terrorists and severely wounding 2 others.

They also targeted a vehicle of al-Shamiyah Front terrorist group in the village of Koubleh near Afrin, destroying the car and killing one militant inside.

Meantime, the Kurds' operations against Faylaq al-Sham terrorists on the road linking Borj Heidar in Shirawa region killed two militants.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970918000558

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Popular Uprising against Israeli Forces' Plans in Syria's Occupied Golan

Dec 09, 2018

SANA reported that a large number of farmers in the occupied Golan and residents of the village of Masdah took to the streets and opposed an Israeli plan to install a network of wind turbine generators on their lands.

The protestors, whose daily life mainly depends on farming, said that installation of the turbines entails negative consequences for the environment.

The protestors said that the plant is the worst economic plan the Israeli occupiers have ever implemented in the Golan region, adding that Tel Aviv intends to devalue Golan's land to force the residents to leave the region.

Israel plans to install 52 wind turbines in al-Hafayer, Sahita, al-Khavarit, al-Mosana'a, Hama al-Moshirafah and Ra'abanah in an area as large as 6,000 hectares in occupied Golan which is supposed to be a new plan to expel locals from their lands, according to SANA.

Syria's state news agency reported last month that residents in Israeli-occupied Golan in Syria's Quneitra province held a sit-in and opposed an Israeli plan for the Judaization of their region.

SANA said that Syrians in the occupied Golan held a sit-in in the small town of Majdal Shams to declare their opposition to any Israeli plan for Judaization of the Golan, including election for a local council.

It further said that the protestors underlined their adherence to their Syrian identity, vowing to continue uprising against Israeli forces to free the occupied Golan.

In the meantime, people gathered in Ein al-Tinah region in Quneitra province and declared their full support for the occupied Golan's resident, opposing the Israeli-planned election for a local council.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970918000493

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Syrian Army Pre-empts Terrorists' Attacks from Demilitarized Zone in Idlib, Hama

Dec 09, 2018

The army's artillery units, deployed in the village of Bardij Northeast of the town of al-Saqilbiyeh in Northwestern Hama pounded terrorists' movements in Tal al-Sakhar in the demilitarized zone, inflicting major losses on the militants and preempting their attack.

The remaining pockets of the terrorists retreated from the region.

In the meantime, other artillery units shelled the positions and movements of the terrorists in al-Sakhar, al-Jisat, Wadi al-Dorat, Ma'arkabah and Albuyzeh in Northern Hama and al-Ziyarah and the Water Reservoirs in Western al-Ghaab Plain.

Also, terrorists' movements in al-Khowein, al-Habit and its nearby regions in Southeastern Idlib came under the army's attack.

The terrorist suffered a number of casualties and their military hardware sustained major damage in the attacks. 

The terrorists' refusal to implement the Sochi Agreement to establish a demilitarized zone is pushing the army to initiate its long-waited assault on militants in Idlib that had been put on hold due to the Sochi Agreement.

Colonel Mar'ei Hamdan, a Syrian military expert, was quoted by the Arabic-language website of Sputnik news agency as saying last month that Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front) is in control of nearly 70% of towns and villages in Idlib province and makes provocative moves against the Syrian army, adding that the army's commitment to decrease tensions is not lasting forever.

He added that the Syrian army has so far repelled all attacks by terrorists against its positions and inflicted heavy damages on them, noting that the army is now necessitated to come out of the defensive mood to retake control of Idlib.

Hamdan said that Tahrir al-Sham will resort to a full-scale military operation against the Syrian and Russian armies soon, after rejecting the Sochi agreement last October, which leaves no room for ceasefire or disarmament anymore, and underlined that the Syrian army's battle against Tahrir al-Sham is inevitable.

Meantime, the Turkey-backed Ahrar al-Sham and National Liberation Front (NLF) terrorist groups has also dismissed the Russian-Turkish Sochi agreement and is preparing for military operations against the army in Northern Syria, calling for a coalition with Tahrir al-Sham.

Tahrir al-Sham and other allied terrorist groups have not left the demilitarized zone two months after the Sochi agreement and have instead reinvigorated their strongholds and targeted the army positions every day.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970918000214

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Syria media says no attack on airport after reported air defence fire

10 December 2018

Syrian state media said Sunday that air defenses had opened fire near Damascus airport, before withdrawing the report after what appeared to be a false alarm.

“Our air defenses engaged hostile aerial targets in the vicinity of Damascus International Airport,” the official SANA news agency said, without providing more details.

But the report was later withdrawn by both SANA and state television without explanation.

SANA then quoted sources at the airport as saying that “there was no aggression” and that “traffic was normal”.

A well-informed source told AFP that “there was evidently a false alarm”.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the sound of explosions rocked an area close to the airport and fire from air defenses was also heard.

The latest incident comes just over a week after Syria accused Israel of striking south of the capital.

The Britain-based Observatory said those were the first missiles to hit Syria since an air defense upgrade after the downing of a Russian plane in September.

Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in neighboring Syria against what it says are Iranian targets, many of them in the area south of Damascus.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/12/10/Syria-air-defenses-fire-on-targets-near-Damascus-airport.html

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Egyptian police kill two suspects in November attack on Coptic Christians

Dec 8, 2018

Egyptian police have killed two terror suspects purportedly linked to last month's deadly attack on a bus transporting Coptic Christians in the central province of Minya.

According to a statement by the Ministry of Interior of Egypt on Saturday, police, helped by the military, found the gunmen in Assiut governorate, which lies to the south of Minya.

The gunmen, suspected of involvement in the November 2 attack that killed at least seven Coptic pilgrims, were reportedly in possession of three automatic rifles, one shotgun and an unspecified amount of ammunition.

Security forces also found one of the vehicles used in the attack, which also injured 14 others.

The ministry said the mobile phone of one of the victims of the attack, Kamal Yousef Shehata, was also found.

Egyptian security forces had previously killed 19 militants over their alleged involvement in the assault.

The Coptic pilgrims were heading towards St. Samuel the Confessor monastery in the province, located 260 kilometers south of Cairo.

The Takfiri Daesh terrorist group claimed responsibility for the assault, which was carried out almost at the exact location of a similar attack in May last year by the terrorists that killed 28 Coptic Christians.

Coptic Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt's predominantly Sunni Muslim population of some 100 million.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/12/08/582369/Egypt-Minya-terror-attack-Minya-Coptic-Christians

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Europe

 

Far-right groups across Europe 'using Islamist techniques' to recruit followers, report says

Dec 10, 2018

Far-right extremists across Europe are successfully integrating themselves into the political mainstream by shunning street violence and adopting the same recruitment techniques used by jihadis, according to a new report.

The research, carried out by the Counter Extremism Project, was revealed exclusively to The Independent ahead of a major march in London organised by Ukip and English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson.

Ukip, which has won millions of votes in previous British elections, has been hit by a string of high-profile resignations in protest at the direction taken by leader Gerard Batten, who recently appointed Robinson as an adviser.

Campaigners warn that although Robinson and other anti-Islam figures publicly eschew violence, their ability to shift into the political mainstream and hijack topical issues broadens their public appeal.

David Ibsen, executive director of the Counter Extremism Project, said: “Portraying themselves in this way is definitely a tactic to increase the reach of their message and, as such, increase the potential of radicalisation.”

He said anti-Islam figures and white nationalists were using online channels to “build communities” around specific issues, in a way that has previously been seen with jihadis who capitalise on topics like the Iraq War and airstrikes.

“The real worrying issue is that, with the power of social media, these claims create an ecosystem where people looking for legitimate mainstream movements access extremist culture,” Mr Ibsen added.

“What we cannot ignore is how these groups will affect pluralism, peace and tolerance.”

Defectors from Ukip have told The Independent they fear the party is morphing into a successor to the racist British National Party and condemned Mr Batten’s “obsession” with Robinson and Islam.

Robinson called the exodus “brilliant” and claimed Ukip would become “a populist, revolutionist political party”.

Mr Batten, a Ukip MEP for London, has repeatedly branded Islam a “death cult” and the party’s latest manifesto included proposals to create Muslim-only prisons and repeal hate crime laws.

Ukip claims it has gained 8,000 new members since Mr Batten took charge in February, and the leader said Robinson’s appointment has given the party “access to a million Facebook followers”.

While the EDL founder has denied inciting violence, his posts formed part of the inspiration for the Finsbury Park terror attack, which saw a man plough a van into Muslims during Ramadan.

British security services have been increasing their focus on the far-right since the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox by a white supremacist in 2016.

The number of right-wing extremists arrested and jailed for terror offences has been increasing, and MI5 has recently taken the lead on intelligence operations from counterterror police.

The Independent understands that discussions are ongoing over where to set the bar for far-right terror investigations, with much of the material inspiring extremists online falling short of a criminal threshold.

The Counter Extremism Project’s report said that while some groups openly espouse violent white supremacy, others are propagating radical stances under the guise of populism.

Researchers said far-right political parties and groups across Europe were hijacking legitimate concerns over Islamist terrorism, while scapegoating Muslim immigrants for economic hardship faced by young Europeans.

“More than 70 years after the defeat of Nazi Germany, ethno-nationalist and white supremacist movements in Europe continue to thrive,” the report said. 

“Populist groups claim that they are striving to protect average hardworking Europeans by preserving their livelihoods and heritages from economic and cultural threats posed by immigrants and ethnic minorities.

“Though not all of these groups directly link their ideologies to Nazism, their propaganda portrays immigrants and ethnic minorities in a similar manner to how Nazi propaganda portrayed Jews, blaming them for national economic troubles and depicting them as a serious threat to the broader national identity.”

Researchers noted the success of parties like Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland and Italy’s Lega Nord, who have “been able to generate substantial popular support by promising to defend their respective countries against the cultural attacks of immigrants and foreign influence”.

While Britain’s electoral system limits the ability of fringe groups to gain parliamentary seats, organisations using the same tactics appear to be attracting growing memberships.

The pan-European white nationalist group Generation Identity, which originated in France, declared its presence in Britain last year and has since launched waves of protests, publicity stunts and stickering drives to attract more members.

The group has openly discussed how it looks to “engage with the student demographic” and targets 18 to 30-year-olds with a slick social media presence in multiple languages.

Generation Identity’s central ideology claims that white people are being “replaced” by ethnic minorities in Europe and calls for non-whites to be “relocated” from the continent.

Austrian leader Martin Sellner has been prevented from entering the UK and the group has been marred by infighting, but recruitment continues.

The Counter Extremism Project said Generation Identity has “renounced violence in favour of utilising social media and public demonstrations to portray themselves as a legitimate, mainstream movement protecting European culture.”

Researchers warned that similar groups have been able to gain support by attacking minorities, rather than openly promoting white supremacy.

Meanwhile, neo-Nazi groups such as Combat 18 and the Nordic Resistance Movement are still able to recruit for overtly violent aims.

The British government banned the neo-Nazi organisation National Action in 2016 but its members split into rebranded regional factions, including some that are still in operation.

National Action supporters include a British soldier who was recruiting fellow troops for a race war, a man who plotted to murder a Labour MP and another who tried to behead a Sikh man.

The group has characterised its ideology as “white jihad” and police investigations have exposed the existence of gory propaganda material.

“Not only do these violent white supremacist groups employ similar strategies to some of the most prominent Islamist terror groups, but they are also motivated to pursue the radical end goal of an ethnically or culturally homogenous state due to similar concerns that their identity and way of life are under threat,” the Counter Extremism Project said.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/far-right-groups-europe-afd-tommy-robinson-generation-identity-recruitment-islam-a8674136.html

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‘Muslims in Europe must detoxify prevailing opinion about themselves’

December 9, 2018

The far right in Europe has been on the rise since the fatwa against Salman Rushdi.

This was stated by an award-winning British author and playwright of Pakistani descent, Hanif Kureishi, at the ThinkFest held at the Institute of Business Administration’s City Campus, Karachi, on Saturday.

His keynote address was titled, “Where now?”

“We writers have to pause to ponder as to where and what’s gone wrong,” said Kureishi. “People who call themselves Muslims shooting people and causing bomb blasts are causing this.”

“We now know that the fatwa was disgraceful. The Western world is now turning to the right because of Muslim militancy,” Kureishi said. Race and religion, he said, would now fuel totalitarianism.

He said that after 1989 some of the young people today were turning to militant revolutions. Muslims, he said, were the “new Jews” of Europe. “We have to detoxify the prevailing opinion about ourselves,” he said.

Fortunately, he said, there was the generation of young Muslims who were seeing things objectively and could well be instrumental in bringing about secular radicalism. This could give us all something to look forward to, he said, adding that that while the attitude of the European majority could not be defended, the Muslims also had to indulge in introspection.

Speaking from the point of view of his own family, he said his father migrated to Britain seeking security, education and progress. However, he said racism was there and further waves of immigrants fuelled this feeling all the more as they tried to preserve their racial and cultural identity. They were totally alienated.

Speaking next, Azeem Ibrahim of the US Army War College and a senior Fellow at the Centre for Global Policy in Washington, said there were 1.2 billion Muslims in the world but there were only a miniscule number of radicals yet they were so militant that we seemed to be losing the battle against them.

Quoting the Global Terrorism Index prepared by the University of Maryland in the US, he said that thus far there had been 150 cases of terrorism in 163 countries. He named Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Tunisia, Nigeria, and India as the centres of terrorism and said there were 274 known groups most notable among these being the ISIS, Daesh and Boko Haram. Nigeria and India, he said, were not Muslim majority countries. “That goes to show why the West has this negative impression of us,” he said. The majority of the ISIS militants, he said, were from Tunisia.

Wahabiism, he said, was an extremely conservative form of Islam and they viewed Shias and Sufis unfavourably. “Terrorists cannot be defeated militarily,” he said.

Next to speak was Dr Flagg Miller from the University of California at Davis, CA, USA. He said his research had been based on 1,500 audiotapes he had got from Afghanistan.

Tracing Laden’s rise to primacy, he said he was at the bottom of his career in 1996. Then he used the global media to attain the position that he did by 2011.

He said what was really responsible for this was the US global ambitions after the end of the Cold War. “Al-Qaeda has a history on which the US empire has a bearing.”

Imtiaz Gul, head of the Centre for Research and Security Studies at Islamabad, and author of “Pakistan: Before and after Osama Bin Laden”, said that there were 120 active groups in 60 countries. These active groups, he said, shared an ideology and did not recognise national boundaries.

The year 1979, he said, was decisive as regards what we are seeing today and cited the Soviet entry into Afghanistan and the consequent mobilisation of radical groups from all over the world by the US. There were even volunteers from the West, he said. However, he said, we should not mix radicalism with religiosity.

He cited the case of his own brothers who, he said, offered their prayers five times a day but were anything but radicalised. He said the graph of radical violence in Pakistan had gone down over the last five years.

Full report at:

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/403503-muslims-in-europe-must-detoxify-prevailing-opinion-about-themselves

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Muslim school theatre partnership tackles stereotypes and history of Islam in Canada

Dec 08, 2018

Kids from Calgary Islamic School's Omar Bin Al-Khattab campus are using the power of theatre to tackle subjects like Islamophobia, identity and the history of Muslims in Canada, working with a local theatre company.

In a first for both organizations, the school has teamed up with Calgary-based Trickster Theatre for a crash course in acting and performance, resulting in a show performed by kindergarten to Grade 9 students.

"It's been amazing," said Grade 9 teacher Noreen Bashir. "They've been here preparing our students with props, rehearsals and the kids have had an amazing time learning all about the arts world."

The partnership was the result of a successful $11,000 grant application through the Calgary Arts Development.

"Our main theme is the history of Muslims in Canada with each class asked to create a play as part of that bigger picture. My class is dealing with stereotypes and Islamophobia, another class is dealing with first Mosque that was built in Canada, language barriers, and Muslims as community helpers," said Bashir.

"I just want them to be proud of who they are. To show the world that we are not what you think we are, we are just like everybody else but at the same time we're also very different so accept us and we accept you."

The week-long workshops involved eight actors from Trickster working with different classes on acting and performing skills.

"It's the first time that an Islamic school has worked with Trickster. They learned some things about the faith and working with an Islamic school," said school principal Raiha Idrees.

"What we're trying to do is change some of the stereotypical beliefs. As part of the initiative they'll be producing a CD that has the plays and messages from the classes and it's envisioned that it will be shared both at the national level and international."

One skit involves a dress worn by a girl, symbolizing the hijab head covering worn by many Muslim women, addressing how it's accepted in society and why it is worn.

"When children bring these messages other children are able to relate to it so much better," said Idrees.

Trickster Theatre has been approached by Islamic schools in the past but this was the first time they were able to bring a project to reality and overcome some of the hurdles involved.

"For them it was a huge risk into a new kind of territory," said Trickster's production director, David Chantler.

"It was a great experience for us. We've never built a show based on the teachings of the Qur'an or the habits of the Muslim faith and it was a huge eyeopener for us and great experience.

"We entered it a little tentatively but they were open to the whole experience and the kids had a fantastic time."

The kids say the experience has helped them acquire new skills like public speaking, acting and an increase in confidence.

"We get to learn and be proud of our religion and they help us learn new skills like acting and public speaking," said Sala Waqas.

"I'm excited and proud that us Muslims are finally being able to show the world what we're really all about. We're talking about how people have the wrong idea about us, that we're terrorists, bombers, extremists, stuff like that," said Grade 9 student Tayyib Zia.

Full report at:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/calgary-islamic-school-muslim-trickster-theatre-1.4937977

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Erdogan’s ‘concern’ over France protests mocked

9 December 2018

Remarks made by the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over France’s "failure in democracy" following boiling protests were ridiculed and criticized in the Middle East.

Erdogan expressed, Saturday, his concern regarding the chaos caused by the ‘Yellow Vest’ protests in Paris, while pointing to France’s discrimination against refugees and Islam, independent news site T24 reported.

The Turkish president, known for his repressive approaches towards demonstrations and opponents, stressed, while delivering a speech in Istanbul, he is against the chaos caused by the protesters, as well as the disproportionate use of force by French police.

"The picture that has emerged shows us that Europe has failed in the lessons of democracy, human rights, freedoms," Erdoğan said, adding, "Those who provoke hostility against refugees and Islamophobia have been caught in their own trap."

He assured that the law enforcement in Turkey acted in a humane way. At the same time, he urged to consider the situation in France and note how the local police treated protestors.

The Turkish media cover the protests, with scenes of them being broadcast extensively in recent days, showing students kneeling with their hands above their heads after their arrest near Paris.

"Look what the police forces of those who criticize our police are doing," Erdogan said.

Social media users mocked Erdogan’s statements, citing his own questionable policies and human rights record.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2018/12/09/Erdogan-s-concern-over-France-protests-mocked-.html

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‘Yellow vests’ reveal Europe’s failure in democracy, human rights: Erdogan

Dec 8, 2018

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that the ongoing "yellow vests" protest movement reveals Europe’s failure in democracy, human rights and freedom, speaking at a rally in the Turkish city of Istanbul.

"Let me say this again: we are against both the chaos caused by protesters and the disproportionate violence being used against them. However, the picture at the hand shows that Europe failed the exam of democracy, human rights and freedoms,” said Erdogan on Saturday.

Erdogan further highlighted Europe’s shortcomings in meeting the demands of its own citizens, saying that "the security and prosperity walls they care about so much were shaken, not by migrants or Muslims but by their own citizens.”

“Those who provoked enmity against migrants and Islamophobia fell in their own ditch."

Addressing Turkey’s long-time concerns about Kurdish terrorist groups freely operating in Europe, Erdogan went on to stress how these groups have played part in orchestrating unrest in the ongoing protests.

“The sympathizers of the separatist terrorist organization (referencing the Kurdistan Workers Party PKK militant group), who we warned them (Europe) not to protect and support for years, are now among the primary perpetrators of this chaos,” said the Turkish President.

“The PKK's branches are there. The DHKP-C (People's Liberation Army-Front terror group) is there."

Erdogan’s particular comment on the Kurdish groups comes as numerous videos and images posted online from the Paris protests show signs and inscriptions related to the various Kurdish separatist groups.

The "yellow vest" movement began three weeks ago over a planned fuel-tax hike, but has since snowballed into a general movement against French President Emmanuel Macron's perceived elitist governance.

Macron, who is expected to address the nation early next week, is now experiencing the biggest crisis since being elected 18 months ago.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/12/08/582386/Yellow-vests-erdogan

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French PM calls for lifting Israeli blockade on Gaza

Dec 8, 2018

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has called for lifting Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip after he met with his Palestinian counterpart Rami Hamdallah.

The two held the meeting in the French capital Paris on Friday, during which Philippe called for the "lifting of the Israeli blockade" imposed on Gaza and the reconciliation of the two rival Palestinian movements.

"There will be no peace without a lasting solution for Gaza, which requires inter-Palestinian reconciliation and the lifting of the Israeli blockade," he said.

The Palestinian prime minister reiterated his call for an international conference with “'wide-ranging stakeholders” to “get the peace process going again.”

Gaza has been under the Israeli land, air and sea blockade since June 2007. The siege has caused a decline in living standards as well as unprecedented unemployment and poverty.

Philippe also raised concern over what he described as the "alarming situation" in the region due to "the acceleration of the Israeli occupation" and confrontations between the Palestinians and Israeli forces near the fence separating Gaza from the occupied territories.

Tensions have been running high near the fence since March 30, which marked the start of a series of protests called “The Great March of Return.” Palestinian protesters demand the right to return for those driven out of their homeland.

Some 240 Palestinians have been killed and over 20,000 others wounded in the renewed Gaza clashes, according to the latest figures released by the Gaza Health Ministry.

The last round of the so-called peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians collapsed in 2014. Israel’s illegal settlement activities and its refusal to release senior Palestinian prisoners were among major stumbling blocks.

Palestinians are seeking to create an independent state on the territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem al-Quds, and the Gaza Strip.

Israel, however, has refused to return to the 1967 borders and is unwilling to discuss the issue of occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.

France, Palestine sign agreements

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, who also visited Paris, signed agreements in different fields with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian on Saturday.

The agreements cover education, finance, local governance, civil defense, the environment, water, private sector development and agriculture, according to the Palestinian foreign ministry.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/12/08/582321/France-Palestine-Israel-conflict

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Hassan Rouhani calls US sanctions 'economic terrorism'

December 9, 2018

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said US sanctions were "economic terrorism", as he sought to foster a united front from visiting regional officials on Saturday.

Addressing parliament speakers from Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, Russia and Turkey, Mr Rouhani said they had all suffered economic pressure from the US.

"We are facing an all-out assault which is not only threatening our independence and identity but also is bent on breaking our longstanding ties," he said.

Washington has reimposed an oil embargo and other damaging sanctions on Iran since withdrawing in May from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and major powers.

"America's unjust and illegal sanctions against the honourable nation of Iran have targeted our nation in a clear instance of terrorism," Mr Rouhani said.

"Economic terrorism is designed to create panic in the economy of a country and fear in other countries in order to prevent investment."

The conference in Tehran was a second annual meeting of parliament speakers focused on terrorism and regional cooperation. The first was held last December in Islamabad.

Most participating countries have faced harsh sanctions and other economic pressure as part of the Trump administration's use of trade as a diplomatic weapon.

A brief truce in Donald Trump's trade war with China was again in doubt this week after the arrest of Chinese telecom giant Huawei's chief financial officer, who was detained in Canada to face fraud charges in the US.

Washington has continued to pile fresh sanctions on Russia that began over its military intervention in Ukraine, while Turkey also faced penalties this year over the detention of an American pastor.

Mr Trump has also cancelled hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Pakistan, accusing it of failing to crack down on militancy.

"When they put pressure on China's trade, we are all harmed... By punishing Turkey, we are all punished. Any time they threaten Russia, we too consider our security to be endangered," Mr Rouhani said.

"When they impose sanctions on Iran, they deprive all of us of the benefits of international trade, energy security and sustainable development. And in fact, they impose sanctions on everyone.

"We are here to say that we don't intend to tolerate such insolence."

Rouhani warned Europe – which has strongly objected to the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal – that much is at stake in its efforts to bypass US sanctions and maintain trade with Iran.

"They should know that by sanctioning Iran, they would harm our ability to fight drugs and terrorism," Mr Rouhani said, referring to Iran's efforts to combat smuggling, particularly from Afghanistan.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/hassan-rouhani-calls-us-sanctions-economic-terrorism-1.800650

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Southeast Asia

 

Jubilant Malays Rally After Malaysia Refuses UN Racial Equality Pledge

December 09, 2018

Kuala Lumpur. Tens of thousands of Malay Muslims rallied in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday to celebrate the Malaysian government's refusal to ratify a United Nations convention against racial discrimination.

After weeks of pressure by pro-Malay groups, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's multi-ethnic government decided last month that it would not ratify the convention, without giving a reason for going back on an earlier commitment to sign.

Groups reperesenting Malays, who account for around 60 percent of Malaysia's multi-ethnic population, raised fears that signing the UN pledge could have undermined Malay privileges and threatened Islam's status as Malaysia's official religion.

Badly beaten in an election earlier this year, Malay opposition parties seized on the issue, along with activists, to organize the rally, as race is a sensitive matter for the southeast Asian nation of 32 million people. Seeking to rebuild support, Najib Razak, Malaysia's scandal-plagued former prime minister, and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who replaced him as head of the former ruling party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), and the leader of Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS), all attended the rally.

Their supporters, wearing white, converged on the capital's Merdeka Square following afternoon prayers. Some chanted "God is Greatest" and slogans against the UN convention, while holding up placards calling for the defense of Malay rights and dignity.

Citing police estimates, media put the size of the rally at around 50,000 people.

"We are here to defend our rights as Malays," said Faridah Harun, a 59-year-old mother of seven, who traveled down from the northern state of Perak to join the rally with her husband.

"We have ruled this country very well for a very long time, but now there are people who want to take over and do things like shut down MARA," she said, referring to a trust fund for Malays and indigenous people.

Affirmative action policies introduced after deadly race riots in the late 1960s gave Malays advantages, including university quotas, housing discounts, government guaranteed savings plans, and equity ownership quotas.

Whereas Mahathir's coalition enjoyed overwhelming support among voters from the minority ethnic Chinese and Indian communities, who together account for 30 percent of the population, it remains locked in a battle to win over Malays who have remained loyal to UMNO and PAS.

In a statement published late Friday, Mahathir said the government had no objection to the rally so long as it remained peaceful and orderly.

"On behalf of the government, if the rally is held on the basis of thanksgiving, we are thankful for the support shown," he said in the video posted on his social media pages.

https://jakartaglobe.id/international/jubilant-malays-rally-malaysia-refuses-un-racial-equality-pledge/

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Malaysian Muslims rally to defend rights amid racial tensions

Dec 8, 2018

Tens of thousands of Muslims have staged a rally in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, calling for the protection of their rights amid growing racial tensions in the multi-ethnic country.

Malaysian Muslims – at around 50,000 by police estimates – gathered in downtown Kuala Lumpur after prayers on Saturday afternoon to protest against a plan by the government to ratify a UN convention which aims to eliminate racial discrimination.

Large numbers of police forces along with security guards were deployed on the streets and major roads were closed.

Dressed in white, the demonstrators chanted "God is great" and waved banners that read "Long live the Malays.”    

Pro-government ethnic Malays, who account for around 60 percent of Malaysia's multi-ethnic population, expressed concern that signing the UN pledge could have undermined Malay privileges and threatened Islam's status as the official religion in the southeast Asian nation of 32 million people.

After weeks of pressure by pro-Malay groups, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's multi-ethnic government decided last month that it would not ratify the convention, without giving a reason why it was going back on an earlier commitment to sign.

"We are here to defend our rights as Malays," said Faridah Harun, a 59-year-old mother of seven, who travelled down from the northern state of Perak to join the rally with her husband.

"We have ruled this country very well for a very long time, but now there are people who want to take over and do things like shut down MARA," she said, referring to a trust fund for Malays and indigenous people.

"I hope the other races don't challenge the rights of the Malays. As a Muslim, I want Islam to be the first (priority) in Malaysia," said another protester, Arif Hashim, 26.

The Malaysian premier said in a statement published late Friday that the government had no objection to the rally as long as it remained peaceful and orderly.

"On behalf of the government, if the rally is held on the basis of thanksgiving, we are thankful for the support shown," he said in the video posted on his social media pages.

After Malays, the Chinese form the largest minority in the country with 24.6 percent of the population, followed by 7.3 percent Indians and 0.7 percent from national origins.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/12/08/582343/Malaysian-Muslims-Kuala-Lumpur-racial-discrimination

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Young Filipinos favour new Muslim region in Mindanao

December 10, 2018

Young Filipinos in the southern Philippines favor a law, which will be put to a vote next month, that will pave the way for a new Muslim political entity in Mindanao.

This was the result of a first round of surveys carried out in October and November by the non-government group International Alert Philippines and released on Dec. 6.

A repeat survey will be conducted in the first week of January, two weeks before the Mindanao plebiscite on Jan. 21.

Residents of the region will be asked whether they are for or against the ratification of the so-called Bangsamoro Organic Law.

At least 89.4 percent of survey respondents aged 18-35 registered their intention to vote in favor.

Nikki de la Rosa, International Alert’s country manager, said the figure was "significant considering that the youth comprise 57 percent of the registered voters in the region."

She said those who favor the law should explain how a new region could create more jobs, encourage more investments and prove that it will also be beneficial to non-Muslims.

In July this year, President Rodrigo Duterte signed off on the law that aims to give greater autonomy to Muslims in the southern Philippines.

The Bangsamoro Organic Law comes into effect four years after the government signed a peace agreement with the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro ended the armed struggle waged by the MILF since it broke away from the Moro National Liberation Front in the late 1970s.

The new law provides for the creation of a "transitional" body — composed mostly of former rebel fighters — that will facilitate the expansion of an existing Muslim region.

Under the law, the national government will retain police and military forces in the area while the rebels are expected to lay down their weapons in phases.

The countdown for the Jan. 21 plebiscite to ratify the Bangsamoro Organic Law began on Dec. 7 with the start of dissemination of information assemblies in villages and towns in Mindanano.

Full report at:

https://www.ucanews.com/news/young-filipinos-favor-new-muslim-region-in-mindanao/84058

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Opposition leaders warn PH govt not to 'disturb' Islam

DEC 9, 2018

More than 50,000 Malay Muslims gathered at the Malaysian capital's Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) yesterday afternoon in a celebratory gathering-turned-political rally after the government bowed to their earlier demands not to ratify a United Nations anti-discrimination charter.

Although organised by Malay-Muslim civil society groups, the rally was spearheaded by the two largest Malay opposition parties, Umno and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), whose top leaders were the main speakers on a mobile stage set up in front of the historic square.

Even former premier Najib Razak was seated among them, after earlier riding the light rail transit with his wife Rosmah Mansor to the rally venue.

"When the two biggest Malay parties are united, Umno and PAS cooperating, we can do anything. The 15th general election, we will take back Putrajaya," said Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan, referring to the next general election. "The important thing is to find the right formula. People don't respect or care about our dignity. They insult our religion because we have lost power. For us to rise again, we must regain power."

His PAS counterpart Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man warned that if the government "wavers again (on Malay and Islamic issues), the people are ready to gather in Putrajaya to topple PH (Pakatan Harapan)".

Having first proposed it as a mass protest against the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd), organisers went ahead with the demonstration, calling it a thanksgiving rally, after the PH government backtracked in November from ratifying the agreement.

Malaysia and Brunei are the only two countries out of the 57 members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation that are not party to convention.

Mr Abdullah Zaik, head of Muslim group ISMA, said: "Our issue is not Icerd, but an evil liberal democratic agenda which sidelines anything religious. This is the real threat. The PH government today has a liberal democratic agenda. It is dominated by non-Muslims."

Despite PH coming to power in May burnishing reformist credentials, racial issues continue to loom large, with segments of the Malay community voicing fears that the charter would erode privileges granted under a decades-old affirmative action policy and their special rights under the Constitution.

Roads leading to the iconic square had been closed ahead of the rally, as tens of thousands from across Malaysia came dressed in white T-shirts bearing slogans such as "Protest against Icerd", and chanting "Malays rise!" and "Long live Islam".

Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, whose party has the largest bloc of Muslim MPs in Parliament, warned that "if Islam is disturbed, if Malays are disturbed, if our rights are disturbed, we will rise up and show we are united".

Although people were given permission to assemble between 2pm and 6pm, the rally ended an hour early as rain began to fall while PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang was justifying the special position of Islam, Malays and other aboriginal people in Malaysia as part of the nation's unwritten "social contract".

"The social contract is better than Icerd and better than following Western culture, which respects animals more than humans," he said, after receiving the loudest cheers of the afternoon.

Kuala Lumpur city police later said the total attendance was 55,000. The crowds dispersed peacefully.

In the morning, a group of about 300 members of Pertahan, a Malay martial arts (silat) group, gathered at the Federal Territories Mosque to march to the nearby National Palace and hand over a memorandum to the King.

They recited praises to Prophet Muhammad as they made the 2km journey before handing the memo to palace officials.

Malaysia's Human Rights Commission, or Suhakam, had also planned to hold a gathering attended by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in Petaling Jaya yesterday to mark Human Rights Day. But the commission said it had been asked by the police to postpone the event to today due to "security risks... that border on national security".

Full report at:

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/opposition-leaders-warn-ph-govt-not-to-disturb-islam

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KL rights chief defends human rights after huge pro-Malay rally

Dec 10, 2018

PETALING JAYA • Human rights allow for and encourage collective success, says the head of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) a day after 55,000 Malay Muslims rallied to celebrate the government's decision to not ratify a United Nations rights convention against racial discrimination.

"Human rights empower us to enjoy collective success," said Tan Sri Razali Ismail at Suhakam's Human Rights Day gathering in Petaling Jaya yesterday. "Many governments have been able to achieve economic success because of their respect for human rights.

"People crave liberation from poverty, and citizens in nations that are built on greater economic freedom enjoy greater access to ideas and resources to participate fully in an increasingly interconnected and competitive world, leaving no one behind," the Suhakam chairman added.

The rally held by Malay Muslims was to celebrate the Mahathir administration's backing away from ratifying the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd), which some fear would reduce the rights of Malays. Tens of thousands of Malay Muslims mobilised by opposition parties rallied in Kuala Lumpur last Saturday to celebrate the government's U-turn.

Suhakam's gathering on human rights that was scheduled to take place the same day was postponed to yesterday over security concerns. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who had been due to attend the Suhakam gathering yesterday, cancelled his appearance.

At an education event last Saturday, Tun Dr Mahathir said his government refused to ratify Icerd because Malays need more opportunities to avoid being left behind.

But Mr Razali said yesterday that the historic change of government after the May 9 election, which saw Dr Mahathir's coalition wrest power from long-time ruling party Umno, was an example of Malaysians standing up for human rights.

"When Malaysians bring about change in Malaysia by voting against bad governance, we made the decision to reject corruption, to reject bad governance.

"These (corruption and bad governance) were violations against human rights. So, what we did on that historic day together as Malaysians, whether we realise it or not, was to stand up for human rights," he told the crowd of several hundred people.

He added that the principles of human rights were in line with all religions in the world, including Islam.

"Human rights have sometimes been misunderstood, seen as a threat to religion. To me, this view needs to be corrected as Islam is a religion that places importance on human dignity and that is what is being championed in (the fight for) human rights," he said.

Of the 57 members of the Organisation of Islamic Conference, only Malaysia and Brunei had not ratified Icerd. Indonesia, along with major Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey, had signed.

The huge Malay Muslim rally, called an anti-Icerd rally, was a setback for the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, said veteran PH lawmaker Lim Kit Siang.

"I said it was a setback for Pakatan to build a New Malaysia because... Saturday's rally would not have happened if the Pakatan government had handled the Icerd issue better," he wrote on his blog yesterday.

Full report at:

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/kl-rights-chief-defends-human-rights-after-huge-pro-malay-rally

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Mideast

 

Israeli minister, settlers 'provocatively' tour al-Aqsa Mosque compound

Dec 9, 2018

Israeli Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Uri Ariel and a group of settlers have "provocatively" entered the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the occupied Old City of East Jerusalem al-Quds.

The Palestinian Ma'an news agency, citing Firas al-Dibs, spokesman of the Islamic Waqf (Endowment) organization, said the bunch entered the compound under heavy protection by Israeli police officers on Sunday.

They toured the compound “provocatively,” al-Dibs said.

The minister also performed prayers with his companions.

A similar incident occurred in mid-November.

Visits by Israelis to the compound have increased over the past week about the same time as the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.

The number of Israeli officials, or members of the Knesset, who enter the sacred compound in a provocative manner, has increased in the past few months after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided in July to allow legislators to visit the compound once every three months following a restriction of access that has been in place since October 2015.

Most of the Knesset members are right-wing extremists who support the demolition of the Islamic site in order to build a Jewish temple instead on what is known among settlers as the Temple Mount.

The al-Aqsa Mosque compound sits just above the Western Wall plaza and houses both the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa mosque.

Tensions continue in the occupied Palestinian territories as part of the aftermath of US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s "capital" and relocation of the US embassy to the occupied city.

On December 21 last year, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly voted in favor of a resolution that calls on the US to withdraw its controversial policy shift.

Despite the vote, the US went ahead with the embassy transfer on May 14, triggering demonstrations in the occupied Palestinian territories, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Morocco and other Muslim countries.

Angered by Trump’s move, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas boycotted his administration, saying Washington is no longer qualified to serve as the sole mediator in the decades-long conflict with Israel, and that an international mechanism should be devised to replace the US in the so-called peace process.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/12/09/582459/Israel-Aqsa

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Yemen govt confirms progress on prisoner swap deal with Houthis

9 December 2018

The legitimate Yemeni government’s delegation currently in Sweden have confirmed progress has been made in the technical aspects of a possible prisoner swap deal with the Houthi militias.

Brigadier Askar Ahmed Za’il told Al Arabiya that direct consultations were held with the opposing delegation from Sanaa to discuss the details of the mechanisms to form an exchange of prisoners and the methods of assembly and transport and international bodies that would supervise the process.

He said he expected consultations on the prisoners' file to be confirmed within the next 24 hours.

The current round of direct negotiations is currently the first to tackle the issue of political prisoners and being held by the two sides face to face since the start of the talks which began on Thursday.

The Ambassadors of the permanent members of the UN Security Council called on the parties to work towards progress in the ongoing talks in Sweden on confidence-building measures, the negotiating framework and the reduction of violence.

The ambassadors of both delegations met on Sunday morning. A member of the Yemeni delegation Mohammed al-Amiri said that the international community renewed its commitment to Security Council resolution 2216 to end the crisis of the coup.

Both parties formed specialized working committees to consult with the United Nations. The committees differ for both sides. The delegation of the legitimate government formed three committees concerning prisoners, the economic situation and Taiz.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/12/09/Yemen-govt-confirms-progress-on-prisoner-swap-deal-with-Houthis.html

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Yemeni parties hold first direct meeting at peace talks

December 10, 2018

RIMBO: Yemen’s warring parties held the first direct talks in UN-led peace efforts in Sweden on Sunday to iron out a prisoner swap, one of several confidence-building measures intended to help launch a political process to end nearly four years of conflict.

Since talks began on Thursday, UN officials have been shu­tt­ling between delegations from the Iranian-aligned Hou­thi group and the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi which is backed by a Saudi-led military coalition.

The first negotiations in over two years were convened amid pressure from Western nations, some of which supply arms and intelligence to Saudi Arabia and other members of the coalition. The war in Yemen has killed tens of thousands of people and caused a major humanitarian disaster.

Mediator Martin Griffiths opened the new round due to last until Dec 13 by announcing a deal to release thousands of prisoners. The two sides met in a renovated castle outside Stockholm on Sunday to discuss implementation of the deal.

The team from Hadi’s government initially refused to enter the room, saying the Houthis needed to include more senior delegates, but the meeting went ahead, delegates said.

“We are very optimistic about having a breakthrough on the prisoners issue ... we have exchanged some lists in the past but each side needs to update them,” said Askar Ahmed Zayl, a delegate from Hadi’s government.

The parties have yet to agree on trickier issues such as re-opening Sanaa airport and a truce in the port city of Hodeidah, both held by the Houthis, both further confidence-building measures that are the focus of the talks in addition to a framework for negotiations.

“We have three or four days. If we end up without any agreement then this round has failed,” the Houthi’s main negotiator Mohammed Abdusalam told reporters.

“But if we have a draft on some general framework, the reopening of Sanaa airport, the prisoners release, keeping the central bank neutral and a de-escalation in Hodeidah ... then this will be a good step to hold another round in one or two months.” Griffiths praised the parties’ “positive spirit” in engaging constructively and urged for calm on the ground in Yemen, where sporadic battles have continued in the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, a lifeline for millions, and other parts of the country.

The war has pushed the impoverished Arab country to the brink of starvation and spawned the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis.

Gulf Arab states are expected to discuss the war during an annual summit on Sunday in Saudi Arabia, which along with the United Arab Emirates leads the Western-backed Sunni Muslim military alliance trying to restore Hadi’s government.

A US State Department official said on Sunday the United States would continue to back the coalition after the Senate last month voted to advance a resolution to end US military support for the war.

One diplomat at the talks said the peace round could be considered successful if they resulted in agreements on the de-escalation of hostilities, on the prisoners swap and on a further round of consultations.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1450576/yemeni-parties-hold-first-direct-meeting-at-peace-talks

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Palestinian President Abbas says will dissolve parliament dominated by Hamas

9 December 2018

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday that he would dissolve the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and the Palestinian Authority’s parliament, which Hamas controls the majority of in 2006, according to Reuters.

“In a legal way, we will dissolve the Legislative Council and this will happen soon,” said Abbas.

Abbas was speaking at the presidential headquarters in Ramallah at a conference organized by the Ministry of National Economy on governance and fighting corruption.

The PLC meetings were stalled after Hamas had violently seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/12/09/Palestinian-President-Abbas-says-will-dissolve-parliament-dominated-by-Hamas.html

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Israel says located second Hezbollah tunnel from Lebanon

9 December 2018

Israel’s army said Saturday it had located another tunnel crossing into its territory from Lebanon, the second such find since launching an operation to expose and destroy alleged Hezbollah attack tunnels.

“The IDF has located an additional Hezbollah cross-border attack tunnel,” spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus said, refusing to give details on its precise location or dimensions.

“The tunnel crosses into Israel, like the first tunnel it is not yet operational and does not pose an imminent threat to Israeli communities,” he said in a briefing with journalists.

On Tuesday, the army launched an operation dubbed “Northern Shield” to destroy tunnels it said were dug under the border by the militant group Hezbollah, sharing images of one found near the Israeli town of Metula.

Conricus said Saturday that the army had placed explosives in the newly exposed tunnel to prevent its use as a means to infiltrate Israel, but had not yet destroyed it.

He said the Israeli military had issued warnings in Arabic to residents of southern Lebanon to stay away.

Following the army’s announcement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the operation to track the tunnels “is in its beginning”.

“We’ll continue to act till its completion,” he said in a statement.

Conricus said the military was aware of a third tunnel leading from south Lebanon into Israel.

Despite not having its exact location, he said Israel asked UNIFIL, the UN mission monitoring the border region, to “take action and block the tunnel on the Lebanese side”.

The announcement of the new find came after Israeli soldiers on Saturday opened fire at what they perceived to be three “Hezbollah activists” approaching the border near Yiftah, south of Metula, where the army was carrying out engineering work.

Conricus said the army believed the three individuals intended to take sensors the Israeli soldiers had placed in the ground as part of their efforts to uncover tunnels.

Lebanon’s official NNA news agency said Israeli forces fired shots in the air east of the village of Mays Al-Jabal after they had been surprised because of heavy fog by a routine Lebanese army patrol.

Also Saturday, the Kremlin said Netanyahu called Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose forces are fighting on the same side as Hezbollah in Syria, to tell him about the tunnel operation.

Putin “stressed the need to ensure stability along the line separating Israel and Lebanon”, the Russian embassy in Israel said.

Netanyahu’s office said he reiterated in the call “Israel’s policy to prevent the establishment of an Iranian presence in Syria and to act against Iranian and Hezbollah aggression”.

Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in Syria against what it says are Iranian military targets and deliveries of advanced arms to Hezbollah.

However, a friendly fire incident in Syria in September that led to the downing of a Russian plane by Syrian air defences during an Israeli strike has complicated Israeli operations.

Iran-backed Hezbollah is the only group in Lebanon not to have disarmed after the country’s 1975-1990 civil war.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/12/09/Israel-says-located-second-Hezbollah-tunnel-from-Lebanon.html

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Official: US opposes discontinuing support of Saudi-led coalition in Yemen

9 December 2018

The US administration is strongly opposed to discontinuing support of Saudi-led Arab Coalition in Yemen, a US State Department official told a  security summit on Yemen in Abu Dhabi on Sunday..

The United States believes that the Yemen that emerges from civil war should not contain any Iranian-backed threat to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the official added.

"We do believe that the support for the coalition is necessary. It sends a wrong message if we discontinue our support," said Timothy Lenderking, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Arabian Gulf Affairs.

He stated that the United States is also encouraging the Yemeni government, backed by the Saudi-led coalition, and the Iran-aligned Houthi militias to engage in peace talks taking place in Sweden.

"Looking down the road we seek a stable and unified Yemen that fosters rather than drains regional and global stability."

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/12/09/Official-US-opposes-discontinuing-support-of-Saudi-led-coalition-in-Yemen-.html

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UN warns of rise in Israeli violence, vandalism in West Bank

Dec 9, 2018

The United Nations says violence and vandalism committed by Israeli settlers against Palestinians and their property have been on the rise since the beginning of the year 2018.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on Sunday made the news in a report published in its biweekly Protection of Civilians, comparing a weekly average of five attacks resulting in injuries with an average of three in 2017 and two in 2016.

The report, which covered the period from November 20 to December 3, further said Israeli authorities had demolished or seized 33 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C of the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds, including two structures built as humanitarian assistance, under the pretext of lacking a building permit.

OCHA said the controversial demolitions and seizures had displaced 16 people, including six children, and affected at least 226 others, adding that 24 of the targeted structures had been in East Jerusalem al-Quds and the remaining nine had been in Area C, which makes more than 60 percent of the entire occupied West Bank.

The report added at least 11 attacks had been conducted by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank during the same period, resulting in Palestinian property damage. Furthermore, about 85 Palestinian-owned trees, mostly olive ones, had been vandalized by Israeli settlers in Turmusayya village, near Ramallah.

In five other incidents in different localities of the West Bank, Israeli settlers punctured the tires of 52 Palestinian vehicles, and wrote racist and anti-Arab slogans with spray on some of the vehicles and on the walls of schools, mosques and several homes.

Back in October, Israeli settlers stoned to death a Palestinian woman near a West Bank checkpoint south of Nablus.

The tragic incident came two days after a group of Israeli settlers from the Yitzhar settlement broke into a high school in Urif village, located in southern Nablus, and began throwing stones at horrified students inside their classrooms.

Dozens of students were injured during the invasion, which also led to the disruption of classes and material damage.   

About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/12/09/582460/Israeli-violence-UN-West-Bank

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Israel says located second ‘Hezbollah’ tunnel from Lebanon

December 09, 2018

JERUSALEM: Israel’s army said on Saturday it had located another tunnel crossing into its territory from Lebanon, the second such find since launching an operation to expose and destroy alleged Hezbollah “attack tunnels.”

“The IDF has located an additional Hezbollah cross-border attack tunnel,” spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said, refusing to give details on its precise location or dimensions.

“The tunnel crosses into Israel, like the first tunnel it is not yet operational and does not pose an imminent threat to Israeli communities,” he said in a briefing with journalists.

On Tuesday, the army launched an operation dubbed “Northern Shield” to destroy tunnels it said were dug under the border by the militant group Hezbollah, sharing images of one found near the Israeli town of Metula.

Conricus said on Saturday that the army had placed explosives in the newly exposed tunnel to prevent its use as a means to infiltrate Israel, but had not yet destroyed it. He said the Israeli military had issued warnings in Arabic to residents of southern Lebanon to stay away.

Following the army’s announcement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the operation to track the tunnels “is in its beginning.”

“We’ll continue to act till its completion,” he said in a statement.

Conricus said the military was aware of a third tunnel leading from south Lebanon into Israel.

Despite not having its exact location, he said Israel asked UNIFIL, the UN mission monitoring the border region, to “take action and block the tunnel on the Lebanese side.”

The announcement of the new find came after Israeli soldiers on Saturday opened fire at what they perceived to be three “Hezbollah activists” approaching the border near Yiftah, south of Metula, where the army was carrying out engineering work.

Conricus said the army believed the three individuals intended to take sensors the Israeli soldiers had placed in the ground as part of their efforts to uncover tunnels.

Lebanon’s official NNA news agency said Israeli forces fired shots in the air east of the village of Mays Al-Jabal after they had been surprised because of heavy fog by a routine Lebanese army patrol.

Also Saturday, the Kremlin said Netanyahu called Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose forces are fighting on the same side as Hezbollah in Syria, to tell him about the tunnel operation.

Putin “stressed the need to ensure stability along the line separating Israel and Lebanon,” the Russian Embassy in Israel said.

Netanyahu’s office said he reiterated in the call “Israel’s policy to prevent the establishment of an Iranian presence in Syria and to act against Iranian and Hezbollah aggression.”

Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against what it says are Iranian military targets and deliveries of advanced arms to Hezbollah.

However, a friendly fire incident in Syria in September that led to the downing of a Russian plane by Syrian air defenses during an Israeli strike has complicated Israeli operations.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1418121/middle-east

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