New Age Islam
Thu Aug 13 2020, 01:50 AM

Islamic World News ( 4 Nov 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

RSS, BJP Muslim Leaders Line up Meets with Imams: The Agenda of the Meetings Is to Request Influential Muslim Voices to Be Supportive of the Cause of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya







ALL India Markaza-e-Majilis-e-Chistia, a Sufi Body, Vows to Welcome Supreme Court

Terror Fight Gains Won’t Be Wasted To Suit ‘Vested Agenda’: COAS

Malaysia Remains Transit Point for Terrorist Groups, Says US Report

Hezbollah Will Go To Great Lengths to Protect the Power It Has Won Over Decades

Spokesman Confirms Iranian President's Peace Letters to Saudi King

Bangladesh Rohingya Island Relocation 'Uncertain' after UN Doubts

Mali Says 54 Are Killed in Jihadist Attack on Army; ISIS Claims Responsibility

US Islamic Expert Hopes To Meet Selangor Ruler, Advisers on Zakat for Non-Muslims

German City Declares ‘Nazi Emergency’ Amid Rise In Extremism

 

India

RSS, BJP Muslim Leaders Line up Meets with Imams: The Agenda of the Meetings Is to Request Influential Muslim Voices to Be Supportive of the Cause of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya

ALL India Markaza-e-Majilis-e-Chistia, a Sufi Body, Vows to Welcome Supreme Court Judgement

The Minority Report: Muslim Community Must Take Charge Of Improving Their Human Capital

Pakistan opens fire at forward posts in Jammu & Kashmir's Poonch

Pakistan violates ceasefire along International Border in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua

PM Modi seeks strong punitive action against those supporting terrorism

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Pakistan

Terror Fight Gains Won’t Be Wasted To Suit ‘Vested Agenda’: COAS

Fazlur Rehman Using Religion Card to Exploit Peoples' Religious Sentiments: Religious Scholar

Pakistan saved from paying $1.2bn penalty as Karkey dispute 'amicably' resolved: PM Imran

PA asks Sindh govt to lift Zia-era ban on student unions

Christian Marriage and Divorce Bill caught between feuding ministries

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Southeast Asia

Malaysia Remains Transit Point for Terrorist Groups, Says US Report

WhatsApp becomes battleground in Mali's jihad conflict

Jakim’s halal recognition meets Ukrainian Muslims' needs

Home minister: Mandatory background checks on foreign missionaries to Malaysia

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Arab World

Hezbollah Will Go To Great Lengths to Protect the Power It Has Won Over Decades

Egypt Army Kills 83 Militants in North Sinai

At least six killed as security forces open fire on Iraq protesters

Lebanon's Aoun: Dialogue with protesters crucial to solve issues at hand

Three protesters shot dead in Iraq’s Karbala near Iran consulate: Medics

Saudi navy takes part in international maritime exercise

Syrian hopes raised amid ongoing Geneva peace talks

Lebanese army clashes with protesters after upsurge in anti-government demonstrations

Iraqi security forces conducting large-scale arrest campaigns in Baghdad: witnesses

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Mideast

Spokesman Confirms Iranian President's Peace Letters to Saudi King

State Department says Iran still biggest state sponsor of terror, spends $1B per year on proxies

Over a dozen killed in car bomb attack near Turkey-Syria border

Anti-ISIS coalition destroys terror group's tunnel systems

Protesters Attack Iranian Consulate in Iraqi City

Turkey captures Baghdadi's sister in Syria: officials

Israel opens probe after video shows unarmed Palestinian shot in back

Iran to host International Conference on Palestinian Resistance

Turkish forces neutralize PKK terrorist listed in Ankara's most wanted

Iran-backed Iraq leaders agree on ‘road map’

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South Asia

Bangladesh Rohingya Island Relocation 'Uncertain' after UN Doubts

Nine children killed in Afghanistan landmine blast

Afghan official: Kabul to probe Pakistan security complaint

Afghan president, Chinese FM discuss dialogue with Taliban

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Africa

Mali Says 54 Are Killed in Jihadist Attack on Army; ISIS Claims Responsibility

Nigerian troops kill 6 Boko Haram fighters in gunfight

Muslims find Atlantic City peaceful place to worship and live

Sudan protest group has ‘no objection’ to handing al-Bashir to ICC

Haftar forces kill child in Libya: UN-recognized gov’t

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North America

US Islamic Expert Hopes To Meet Selangor Ruler, Advisers on Zakat for Non-Muslims

Twitter Fueled Attacks on Muslim Candidates In 2018, Study Finds

‘If We Can Keep the Oil Away From ISIS, They Will Never Regenerate:’ Graham

US State Department Hails Saudi Role in Combating Terrorism

US remains ‘committed to political settlement’ in Afghanistan

US sanctions Iranian supreme leader's 'inner circle'

US mortars found in terrorist YPG/PKK arsenal in Syria

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Europe

German City Declares ‘Nazi Emergency’ Amid Rise In Extremism

Turkey to return ISIS prisoners stripped of citizenship, minister claims

Italy to ban flights by Iran's Mahan Air from mid-December

British politicians must do more to tackle extremism, says top adviser

Halkbank seeks to dismiss US claims that it helped Iran evade sanctions

Germany condemns Iran's move to speed up uranium enrichment

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/rss,-bjp-muslim-leaders-line-up-meets-with-imams--the-agenda-of-the-meetings-is-to-request-influential-muslim-voices-to-be-supportive-of-the-cause-of-the-ram-temple-in-ayodhya/d/120185

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RSS, BJP Muslim Leaders Line up Meets with Imams: The Agenda of the Meetings Is to Request Influential Muslim Voices to Be Supportive of the Cause of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya

NOV 04, 2019

Ahead of the Ayodhya verdict, the RSS and BJP have drafted a plan for their Muslim leaders to meet the community's clergy and academics including Jamiat Ulemae-Hind head Maulana Syed Arshad Madani and Shia cleric Maulana Syed Kalbe Jawad.

One of such meetings between community leaders with representatives of the Sangh Parivar, presided over by minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, is scheduled for Tuesday, ET has learnt.

The planning for this outreach was done last week at a meeting attended by RSS joint general secretary Krishna Gopal, former BJP organising secretary Ram Lal who is in charge of the organisation's outreach programmes now and Muslim Rashtriya Manch mentor Indresh Kumar. Muslim leaders identified by the Sangh Parivar are scheduled to have more than 20 meetings with Muslim scholars and organisations in the next one week, ET has learnt.

Sangh leaders, ET has learnt, have also approached members of the Muslim Personal Law Board to attend the meeting on Tuesday.

According to a person in the know of the matter, the agenda of the meetings is to request influential Muslim voices to be supportive of the cause of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, and help the community see it “not as a Hindu-Muslim issue but as a battle to right a wrong committed by Babar, an aggressor”.

“As a community, Muslims missed several turning points when this issue could have been sorted out. This is a Hindu majority country and the Ram temple is an issue of faith. Muslims have to see the issue, beyond the prism of mosque and temple,” Minority Commission chairman Syed Ghayorul Hasan Rizvi told ET. BJP national minority cell head Abdul Rashid Ansari said the main focus of the meetings was to tell the community to not let anyone get provoked by social media messages.

Apart from India Islamic Cultural Centre president Sirajuddin Qureshi, a number of Muslim scholars, including from ulemas and university professors have been invited to participate in the meeting on Tuesday, likely to be held at the home of Naqvi.

According to Arun Anand, the chief executive of the RSS-affiliated Indraprastha Vishwa Samvad Kendra, "It is in the country's larger interest that the Muslims look up to Dara Shikoh and APJ Abdul Kalam as their role models, and distance themselves from the legacy of aggressors such as Babar, Aurangzeb and Ghazni. The community should look at Cheraman mosque, built for faith, as its symbol, not at the Babri Masjid.” 

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/rss-bjp-muslim-leaders-line-up-meets-with-imams/articleshow/71912015.cms

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ALL India Markaza-e-Majilis-e-Chistia, a Sufi Body, Vows to Welcome Supreme Court Judgement

05th November 2019

HYDERABAD: ALL India Markaza-e-Majilis-e-Chistia (AIMMC), a-based Sufi organisation established in 1956, passed a unanimous resolution stating that the Supreme Court judgement in the Ayodhya-Babri Masjid title dispute case would be welcomed regardless of whether it was in favour of Hindus or Muslims.

In a meeting, the general secretary of the AIIMC Muzaffar Ali Soofi Chisti, while reiterating the teachings of Islam and Sufism about spreading peace, said that the verdict should not be considered as a religious issue but should be treated as a land dispute.

http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/telangana/2019/nov/05/sufi-body-vows-to-welcome--judgement-2057172.html

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Terror fight gains won’t be wasted to suit ‘vested agenda’: COAS

Baqir Sajjad Syed

November 05, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The army said on Monday that it stood ready to assist ‘national institutions’ in accordance with the country’s Constitution.

Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa, while chairing a corps commanders meeting at the General Headquarters, said: “Pakistan Army as organ of the state will continue to support national institutions as and when asked as per Constitution.”

The meeting, which is a monthly feature at the GHQ, is attended by the army’s top brass, including corps commanders, principal staff officers at the headquarters, and the chiefs of military’s intelligence services.

The Inter-Services Public Relations, which released quotes from the army chief’s remarks at the conference, did not say in which context they were made.

The comments, however, came in the backdrop of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl’s (JUI-F) ongoing sit-in in Islamabad and demand for resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan and holding of fresh elections in the country.

The government, under Article 245 of the Constitution, can call the armed forces to its aid in emergency situations.

JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman last Friday gave a two-day deadline for the prime minister to resign and had threatened to march to D-Chowk, in front of Parliament House, but was later forced to go soft on that after failing to get backing of key opposition parties — Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Peoples Party.

The multiparty conference convened on Monday to formulate the future strategy for the agitation also failed to deliver the much needed backing for JUI-F’s plans as one of the party leaders Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri soon after the MPC told reporters that the venue of the sit-in, currently in the federal capital’s H-9 Sector, was not being changed.

Gen Bajwa, in his comments at the conference, said that security and stability in the country had been achieved through a national approach and sacrifices rendered in the fight against terrorism. “We shall not let it reverse to suit any vested agenda at any cost,” the army chief stressed while rejecting moves that could destabilise the country.

The army chief on this occasion further underscored the need for unity among various organs of the state. “While Pakistan Armed Forces with support of national institutions and the nation are fully prepared and committed to thwart all threats including on Eastern Border/LoC, continued cohesion of all national stakeholders on key national issues is essential to defeat inimical forces,” he asserted.

These were the first formal remarks from the army chief since the agitation, named Azadi march by its organisers, kicked off from Karachi on Oct 27.

While participating in a private TV programme few days back, Military spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor had, however, said: “The opposition should understand that the army is an impartial organisation. We believe on the rule of the law and the Constitution. Our support is not for one party but it lies with a democratically elected government.”

Maj Gen Ghafoor was then responding to the JUI-F chief’s speech at the sit-in on Friday in which he had asked the “institutions” to remain “impartial”. He had, however, not specified which institution/s he was addressing.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1514972/terror-fight-gains-wont-be-wasted-to-suit-vested-agenda-coas

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Malaysia remains transit point for terrorist groups, says US report

November 2, 2019

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia remains a “source and transit” point for terrorist groups like the Islamic State (IS), Abu Sayyaf, al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah, says a US government’s report on terrorism in 2018.

The Country Reports on Terrorism 2018, published yesterday, takes note of Malaysia’s efforts to combat terrorism by various means, including monitoring social media, border patrols and rules to counter financing of terrorism.

This includes Bank Negara’s “Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Financing of Terrorism Policy-Digital Currencies” directive.

The report said that while there were no-IS affiliated attacks in Malaysia last year, suspected IS supporters from Turkey and individuals travelling to the southern Philippines to support IS-affiliated groups used Malaysia as a transit point.

“Malaysia monitored, arrested, deported and tried suspected supporters of terrorist groups,” said the report.

Last year, the report said police arrested some 20 individuals in Sabah for alleged terrorism-related activities, including smuggling militants into southern Philippines, enabling kidnapping operations, recruiting children as militants and human shields, as well as participating in Abu Sayyaf beheadings.

“Malaysia also co-operated with the US and others to increase border security capacity at airports and in the Sulu Sea to counter terrorist messaging on social media and to improve terrorist prosecutions.”

The report highlighted four terrorism-related incidents in Malaysia for 2018.

These were the unsuccessful kidnapping attempt in Malaysian territorial waters in August; the kidnapping of two Indonesian fishermen off the coast of Semporna, Sabah (Sept 11); the killing of two kidnapping-for-ransom group members near Kunak, Sabah (Sept 20); and the kidnapping of three Malaysian crew of a tugboat near Pegasus Reef, Sabah.

Malaysia, the report added, continues to support counter-terrorism efforts in numerous regional and multilateral organisations and events.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2019/11/02/malaysia-remains-transit-point-for-terrorist-groups-says-us-report/

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Hezbollah will go to great lengths to protect the power it has won over decades

Lizzie Porter

Nov 3, 2019

“Dear Nasrallah, all of them means all of them, and you before all of them.” So read a placard held by a woman from Hezbollah’s stronghold in Beirut’s southern suburbs – a nod to protesters’ demands that Lebanon’s entire political class should step down. The mass demonstrations that have swept through Lebanon for the past fortnight have targeted the ruling elite with widespread criticism – including Hezbollah. Like all of Lebanon’s traditional political parties, it has seen rarely voiced dissent from within its traditional support base. Researchers say a taboo has been broken in Shiite communities, which now feel able to criticise their leaders.

Lebanon’s dismal economy and US sanctions – part of Washington’s maximum-pressure campaign on Iran and its proxies – have affected Hezbollah’s ability to provide jobs and community services, which had won it loyalty historically.

And with 13 seats in parliament and three Cabinet positions, the party has not been spared accusations of corruption aimed at Lebanon’s entire political elite.

Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, at first appeared to support the demonstrations, saying they “surpassed sects, doctrines, regions and political orientations”. His party was not taking part only because doing so risked turning the popular movement into “a political conflict”, he reasoned.

Yet as criticisms of Hezbollah and its allies grew, media affiliated to the party began to portray demonstrations as foreign-funded conspiracies. Supporters instigated violence against protesters trying to change Lebanon’s sectarian-based political status quo, from which the party benefits. Last Tuesday, men loyal to Hezbollah and its Shiite ally, the Amal Movement, attacked peaceful protesters in central Beirut. The same afternoon, prime minister Saad Hariri resigned, although he remains in a caretaker capacity as deliberations over a replacement continue.

In a speech on Friday – his third since protests began nearly three weeks ago – Nasrallah denied suggestions of an existential crisis. Hezbollah is “not at all worried or scared” about its future, he insisted. He appeared keen to present himself as a protector of Lebanon’s best interests and as a keeper of peace.

Nasrallah also denied that the previous Cabinet – or any before that – was a “Hezbollah government”, but he emphasised the need for a swift government formation. That is probably because the party had been enjoying more power within the Lebanese establishment than ever before. Among the three government departments it controls is the health ministry. Its allies and significant cabinet presence have helped it to be at once both a non-state paramilitary and a state entity with power in government.

There is a parallel between the current state of Lebanon and Iraq, where demonstrators have widely denounced Iran-backed political parties and paramilitaries. Crucially, this is happening in Shiite-majority cities in southern Iraq, from where groups aligned with Tehran have recruited fighters and developed support bases. In Baghdad, protesters beat a poster showing powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Qassem Suleimani, who runs Iranian operations in Iraq, his face crossed out with a large red X. In an indication of his power in Baghdad, the commander has met Iraqi officials several times since protests began.

In response to the demonstrations, Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis, an Iraqi adviser to Mr Suleimani, said his forces were “ready, with the same care with which we confronted ISIS, to stand against this sedition”, claiming that the protests' intent was to “destroy Iraq”.

Back in Lebanon, the current juncture is undoubtedly a challenge to Hezbollah. But it will weather this. The past two weeks of protests do not spell its downfall, nor the end of many people in Lebanon supporting – or at least tolerating – its existence.

There are still enough people like those watching Nasrallah speak via televised links in Beirut’s southern suburbs last Friday who say they want reform but are not sure about wholesale change.

“I’m going to give the new government a chance,” engineering student Hassan Zaher told me. “With reforms, with popular pressure, maybe we’ll get good results.”

Beyond those core supporters who attend its events and rallies, Hezbollah still has support for its anti-Israel stance. Even among protesters – many of whom openly dislike Hezbollah – the militant group’s disarmament is not one of the main concerns. When I interviewed her earlier this year, caretaker interior minister Raya El Hassan – from Mr Hariri’s political bloc, traditionally opposed to Hezbollah – said Hezbollah represented part of the Lebanese population: “I’m part of the cabinet and I have to deal with my colleagues,” she said in a resigned tone.

Hezbollah plays the long game. It disapproves of critical voices from within Shiite communities complaining about corruption and poor services. It will take measures to silence them. There has been at least one televised apology from a protester who has denounced Hezbollah. Another outspoken critic of the party told me attempts to protest in Beirut’s southern suburbs “had been suppressed” and that 10 demonstrators had been detained by the army in areas of south Lebanon where Hezbollah wields significant power.

But the group’s bigger concern is threats to its military might – its weapons arsenal – and its political sway. This is one reason behind its insistence on quick formation of a new government using the existing system. It is willing to go to great lengths to defend the power and influence it has won over more than three decades in Lebanon. This has enabled it to expand to Syria, Iraq and Yemen, where it sends fighters and senior commanders in training and strategy roles. Analysts warn of conflict in Lebanon if Hezbollah feels so threatened that it uses more force to quell protesters’ demands for change.

Hezbollah is being challenged by widespread calls for an end to the overall political system in which it has won legitimacy and power. But for the moment, it isn’t clear that there are enough people in Lebanon who are willing to jump into the unknown of a new, non-sectarian system, with all the uncertainties that would bring. It is not clear that others could provide the services upon which the current political elites – including Hezbollah – have built loyalty. Without viable alternatives who have the financial and political power to challenge it, the group will live on.

https://www.thenational.ae/opinion/comment/hezbollah-will-go-to-great-lengths-to-protect-the-power-it-has-won-over-decades-1.932640

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Spokesman Confirms Iranian President's Peace Letters to Saudi King

Nov 04, 2019

"The honorable president has sent some letters (to the Saudi King). The base of these letters is regional peace and stability," Rabiyee told reporters in a press conference in Tehran on Monday.

"We believe that there could be bilateral ties established in numerous fields in the region and the US pressures should not stir a gap between neighbors," he added.

Rabiyee underlined that the regional states have deep interests in the region, adding, "The trans-regional countries, even a superpower like the US, act based on their interests in the region and they will leave the region if their interests are not met." Iran had earlier underlined readiness to hold talks with Saudi Arabia in a bid to remove the misunderstandings.

“The Islamic Republic has announced that it is always ready, with or without a mediator, to hold talks with its neighbors, including Saudi Arabia, so that if there is any misunderstanding, it could be cleared," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi said last month.

The Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said that regional countries should prevent events that would allow “third parties and trans-regional states to exploit this situation".

Iran has always praised efforts by different countries that seek to establish security in the region with goodwill, he emphasized.

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980813001039

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Bangladesh Rohingya Island Relocation 'Uncertain' after UN Doubts

November 3, 2019

DHAKA - Bangladesh said Sunday plans to relocate thousands of Rohingya living in overcrowded refugee camps to a remote island were “uncertain” after authorities failed to gain support from U.N. agencies.

Dhaka had wanted to begin its long-held plan this month to move 100,000 people to the mud-silt island of Bhashan Char, amid growing frustration with the presence of the squalid tent settlements in its southeastern border towns.

Bangladesh has said thousands of Rohingya families have volunteered to relocate, with some 3,500 of the Muslim minority due to be moved between mid-November to February during calm seas.

But the plan was in doubt as the U.N. has not supported the relocation so far, Bangladesh disaster management and relief minister Enamur Rahman told AFP.

“This has become uncertain,” Rahman said of the relocation to the island, which takes around three hours to reach by boat.

“They [U.N. agencies] still haven't agreed to the relocation plan.”

Aid agencies including the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the World Food Program (WFP), which held meetings with the government, told him the island was “isolated” and “flood-prone.”

The agencies set out a list of conditions that had to be met, including a regular shipping service between the islet in the Bay of Bengal and the mainland, Rahman added.

The organizations provide humanitarian aid to the nearly one million Rohingya in the vast camps, including 740,000 who fled a military crackdown in Myanmar in August 2017.

“We won't do anything forcefully,” he said, adding that at least two ships were set to ply the waters between the site and the mainland.

A U.N. official told AFP on Sunday that “U.N. agencies cannot support a move for which [they] have no technical information.”

Dhaka is due to hold another round of talks with the agencies on Wednesday, Rahman said.

Global activist group Fortify Rights said last month it interviewed 14 Rohingya at three camps, including some who appeared on lists of refugees allegedly willing to go, and found none had been consulted “and all opposed it.”

Other groups have also expressed misgivings about moving people to the island, which is regularly hit by devastating cyclones.

https://www.voanews.com/south-central-asia/bangladesh-rohingya-island-relocation-uncertain-after-un-doubts

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Mali Says 54 Are Killed in Jihadist Attack on Army; ISIS Claims Responsibility

Nov. 2, 2019

BAMAKO, Mali — At least 53 soldiers and one civilian have been killed in a jihadist attack on a military post in northern Mali on Friday, the government said on Saturday.

In a post on Twitter, the army described it as a “terrorist attack.” On Saturday, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the assault on the army post in Indelimane, in the Menaka region, according to the group’s Amaq news agency. 

The attack was one of the deadliest strikes against the West African country’s military in recent memory. The violence is expected to further raise tensions in the capital, Bamako, where military families have already protested in the streets.

Relatives say that soldiers have not been adequately protected on the ground as they face an array of jihadist groups.

Mali has suffered sporadic violence since 2012, when Islamist militants took over the north of the country. The country is still reeling from deadly jihadist raids in late September that underscored the increasing reach and sophistication of armed groups operating in the region.

A government spokesman, Yaya Sangare, said on Twitter early on Saturday that “54 bodies including one civilian” were found, along with 10 survivors, in the latest assault. The attack unleashed “considerable material damage,” he said, but added, “The situation is under control.”

When the authorities first reported the attack by armed men on the army post, they gave a lower provisional death toll.

From their stronghold in Mali, groups with ties to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have been able to fan out across the Sahel, destabilizing parts of Niger and Burkina Faso.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/02/world/africa/mali-jihadist-attack.html

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US Islamic expert hopes to meet Selangor ruler, advisers on zakat for non-Muslims

November 5, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR: A leading Muslim thinker and writer says he is not surprised by a state mufti’s opposition to a proposal that zakat funds be extended to non-Muslim recipients, after Selangor’s Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah called for an end to all public debates on the matter.

Ebrahim Moosa, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Notre Dame in the US, who supported the proposal recently forwarded by PKR’s Anwar Ibrahim, said he had expected resistance from scholars on the issue.

But he welcomed the sultan’s call to stop debating the matter in public, and offered to meet the ruler and state religious advisers to further discuss the topic of zakat.

“I would also love to have the opportunity to converse with His Royal Highness the Sultan of Selangor and his council of learned scholars on both the wisdom of the legal (fiqh) tradition and the spirit of the Quran in the context of a changing and dynamic society like Malaysia,” Moosa told FMT.

“It would be an amazing development in Malaysia if the sultan could be instrumental in advancing such a momentous initiative.”

Yesterday, the Selangor sultan cited the state mufti Mohd Tamyes Abd Wahid’s advice to him in rejecting a proposal that the Islamic wealth tax be used to help needy non-Muslims.

Tamyes said among others that zakat money could only be given to non-Muslims if such help would result in their conversion to Islam.

Zakat is a religious obligation for Muslims who meet several criteria of wealth. A Muslim owning wealth above a minimum amount is obliged to pay an annual rate of 2.5%.

Anwar first made the suggestion to open up zakat to the poor from other religions during a conference on zakat organised by the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Council (MAIWP) and UiTM on Oct 30. He also said the proposal would require fatwa and policy changes.

Moosa, a South African scholar who has published works on Islamic thought and ethics, philosophy and literature, backed the proposal but said it would require greater literacy on Islam among the present Muslim scholars.

He said the giving of zakat to non-Muslims was a practice dating back to classical times, also endorsed by renowned Muslim jurist Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

“It is a move to encourage Malaysian Muslims and society at large to think in terms of their responsibilities to others and members of all faiths and convictions. That is what the Quran describes as the ‘steep path’ (aqabah) which involves promoting human freedom and caring for the poor,” said Moosa.

But in a statement through his private secretary yesterday, the sultan warned that the issue of opening up zakat funds should not be used for political purposes or to “be in the good books of certain people”.

Moosa said he understood the ruler’s concerns, adding that it was the sultan’s right to “propose what he best thinks is the way forward in deliberating the future of zakat to non-Muslims”.

“The proposal by Anwar requires deliberation, scholarly debate and public education. The preference of His Highness might be in keeping with some traditions in Malaysia but there are also other more visible traditions of public discussion about important issues that are enabled by the digital age,” he said.

Moosa said zakat’s objective was for the greater human good, based on the principle of public interest.

“A debate about the value of zakat to society at large should involve an understanding of the higher principles of Islam involving human good and what constitutes human dignity,” he added.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2019/11/05/us-islamic-expert-hopes-to-meet-selangor-ruler-advisers-on-zakat-for-non-muslims/

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German city declares ‘Nazi emergency’ amid rise in extremism

By Ebony Bowden

November 3, 2019

The German city of Dresden has declared a “Nazi emergency” — with local lawmakers citing years of increased far-right extremism in the area, according to a new report.

Dresden city councilors passed a resolution this week warning that the strength of the movement was growing, CNN reported. The move is symbolic and has no legal consequences.

“For years, politicians have failed to position themselves clearly and unequivocally against the right-wing extremists, and to outlaw them,” councilor Max Aschenbach told CNN.

“There is a serious problem — similar to the climate emergency — with right-wing extremism right up to the middle of society,” he said.

Dresden, in Germany’s east, is where anti-Islam protests broke out in the wake of the 2015 Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris.

A far-right movement called Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West first emerged in Dresden in 2013 and still holds rallies regularly in the city, according to the report.

Far right party Alternative for Deutschland also won 27.5 percent of the vote there in this year’s state election.

The “Nazi emergency” vote passed Dresden’s city council on Wednesday, 39 votes to 29.

The center-right Christian Democratic Union party, which voted against the resolution, called it an “intended provocation.”

Jan Donhauser, chairman of the CDU group on the council, told CNN the resolution was damaging to Dresden’s reputation and denied there was an emergency.

“The choice of words in the title of the application does not do justice to the realities in our city: the vast majority of Dresdeners are neither right-wing extremists nor anti-democratic,” Donhauser said.

https://nypost.com/2019/11/03/german-city-declares-nazi-emergency-amid-rise-in-extremism/

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India

 

The Minority Report: Muslim Community Must Take Charge Of Improving Their Human Capital

November 5, 2019

A country can truly rise when all its communities are economically empowered. Higher education (HE) is one of the most powerful drivers towards economic empowerment. It unlocks new avenues for aspiring citizens to develop their human capital, access better employment and financial opportunities, and improve quality of life. Today, socio-economic growth is driven by the knowledge economy and the biggest benefactors of this new economy are people and countries that are focusing on human capital development.

The recently released AISHE 2018-19 report indicates tremendous change among all communities except for those designated ‘general merit’. The compound annual growth rates (CAGR) of the communities are 6.3% (SC), 7.8% (ST), 6.3% (OBC), 7.7% (Muslims), and 7.5% (other minority communities), between 2012-13 and 2018-19. In the same period, enrollment of general category dropped at a CAGR of negative 0.5%. GoI’s institution of the 10% EWS category may be a response to this decline.

Enrollment proportions for the SC, ST and OBC communities in 2018-19 are close to their population composition—14.9% enrollment against 16.6% of the population for SCs, 5.5% enrollment against 8.6% of the population for STs, and 36.3% enrollment against 40.9% of the population for OBCs. Towards the objectives of inclusive enrollment and coverage, affirmative action has indeed yielded results.

Minorities, however, have not demonstrated the same progress. Minorities constitute 20.2% of India’s population, but only 7.5% in HE enrollment. AISHE only tracks Muslims separately, who represent 5.2% of HE enrollment against 14.2% of the population. All other designated minority religions are jointly categorised—Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, and others—and are collectively at 2.3% of total enrollment against 6% of the population. The upcoming 2021 census will inform us of the latest composition.

Women’s education and fertility rates

Education impacts access to employment opportunities, quality of life, development of human capital, and the ability to uplift communities. Education and literacy, especially of women, also have a significant impact on population growth and fertility rates. Previous article by authors Pai and Baid (FE, May 28) correlates female literacy with a decrease in fertility rates to establish that educating girls is one of the most salient contributors to fertility downturn. Economic empowerment is another. The Muslim community experienced a 23% decrease in fertility rates between 2003-05 and 2013-15 correlating with an increase of 30% in female literacy (only 14% in male literacy). Other religions too saw significant drops in fertility, but given that the Muslim community had the highest fertility rate, by far at 3.4 in 2003-05, the impact is greater. Higher education of the Muslim community, especially among women, will take this progress further.

Enrollment of Muslim women in higher education rose faster than men’s between 2012-13 and 2018-19—8.7% vs 6.9%. Total enrollment increased from 5.85 lakh to 9.66 lakh for women and 6.67 lakh to 9.93 lakh for men, as shown in accompanying table. In the ‘Other Minorities’ communities combined, women lead men in enrollment—4.71 lakh vs 3.97 lakh in 2018-19. As analysed in our previous article (FE, Oct 18), it seems women across all communities are enrolling in larger numbers with clear aspirations. Now, growth rates must accelerate to improve gross enrollment ratios (GER) within the community.

Focus on Muslim-dominated areas

For rapid improvement of human capital development amongst the Muslim community, it will help to focus on areas with larger populations. Accompanying table shows the five states with the highest number of Muslims along with J&K, which has a Muslim majority population at 68.3%. Uttar Pradesh is first with 3.84 crore Muslims at 19.3% of its population. These six states together have 11.3 crore Muslims, 66% of the India total. This data is per 2011 census; the upcoming 2021 census will provide an update.

GER is an excellent indication of human capital development within a community. Since, AISHE does not provide GER estimations for Muslims and other minority communities, the authors have made estimations. Muslim GER was calculated using census 2011 compositions in each state, and the eligible 18-23 years population and number of Muslims enrolled from AISHE. In all six states and India total, there is a stark difference between the overall GER and estimated Muslim GER. For example, Uttar Pradesh’s GER is 25.8, but estimated Muslim GER is only 6.6. Surprisingly, even J&K being a Muslim-majority state has a low Muslim GER, 18.1, compared to the state GER of 30.9. It speaks volumes of the failure of the state to provide adequate opportunities for development to its citizens.

Low GER amongst the Muslim community across India, at 9.7, indicates the need for a different approach. A special drive to increase capacity and number of schools and colleges in Muslim-dominated areas is necessary. Further, focused training toward competitive exams for government jobs and skill development programmes such as National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) will provide opportunities for educated Muslims to utilise their skills in the workforce. The central government and state governments, where Muslims are in higher numbers, must make it a mission to improve enrollment in the community. Targets to accelerate GER over the next five years must be set and executed. The ministry of minority affairs has sufficient budget of `4,700 crore year-on-year already allocated to implement this. Priority to Muslims’ higher education, especially women, must be executed in this budget.

The Muslim community must take charge of improving their human capital. When other groups like SC/ST/OBCs have demonstrated such rapid improvement, there is no reason the Muslim community cannot. In this world, where the velocity of change is unprecedented due to technology, the internet and other drivers, every community must focus on its human capital development. The Indian Muslim community must utilise every advantage they possess to ensure their children are not left behind in this new world dynamic. Focusing on higher education is one of those compelling advantages.

Pai is Chairman, Aarin Capital Partners and Holla, Technology Fellow, C-CAMP. Views are personal.

https://www.financialexpress.com/opinion/the-minority-report-muslim-community-must-take-charge-of-improvinjg-their-human-capital/1754331/

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Pakistan opens fire at forward posts in Jammu & Kashmir's Poonch

Nov 5, 2019

JAMMU: Pakistani Rangers on Tuesday targeted forward posts along the LoC in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir with small arms firing, a defence official said.

The Indian Army effectively retaliated.

"At about 0740 hours, the Pakistan army initiated unprovoked ceasefire violation by firing of small arms along LoC in Kirni sector in Poonch district", he said.

The firing stopped around 8 am.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pakistan-opens-fire-at-forward-posts-in-jammu-kashmirs-poonch/articleshow/71916984.cms

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Pakistan violates ceasefire along International Border in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua

Nov 4, 2019

JAMMU: Pakistani rangers on Monday targeted forward posts with small fire arms along the International Border in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua district, officials said.

There was no report of any casualty or damage in the firing, they said.

The unprovoked firing from across the border in Manyari-Chorgali area in Hiranagar sector started around 8.30pm, they said.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pakistan-violates-ceasefire-along-international-border-in-jammu-and-kashmirs-kathua/articleshow/71909308.cms

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PM Modi seeks strong punitive action against those supporting terrorism

Nov 4, 2019

BANGKOK: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday affirmed the priority India attaches to firm and unambiguous action against terrorism and pitched for strong action against those abetting, sheltering and supporting terror groups.

Addressing the 14th East Asia Summit, a grouping of 18 countries including India, PM Modi called terrorism the most heinous cross border crime, and sought decisive global action against the menace.

The leaders of the grouping vowed to scale up efforts to deal with terrorism, radicalisation and transnational crimes including by ramping up coordination with anti-terror watchdog FATF and relevant UN agencies.

"The prime minister underlined the priority India attaches to firm and unambiguous action against terrorism which is the most heinous trans-border crime and also action against those who abet, shelter and support terrorist groups which is the most heinous cross border crime," Vijay Thakur Singh, Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs, told reporters here.

She said the EAS leaders also emphasized the imperative of acting against terror groups and those spreading violent extremism and radicalism.

The East Asia Summit is the premier forum in the Asia-Pacific region to deal with issues relating security and defence. Since its inception in 2005, it has played a significant role in the strategic, geopolitical and economic evolution of East Asia.

Apart from the 10 ASEAN member states, East Asia Summit includes India, China, Japan, Republic of Korea, Australia, New Zealand, United States and Russia. India was represented at the summit by Prime Minister Modi.

Singh said India welcomed 10-nation grouping ASEAN's outlook on Indo-Pacific, reaffirmed ASEAN's centrality in the region and highlighted convergence with India's Indo-Pacific vision.

The Prime Minister also proposed an Indo-Pacific Ocean's initiative to conserve and sustainably use the maritime domain and to make meaningful effort to create a safe and secure maritime domain.

At the end of its EAS summit, the powerful bloc came out with a declaration listing measures to be taken by member countries to deal with various security challenges facing the region as well as on ways to counter narratives of the terror groups. The group also released two other declarations.

"Coming together for a better future for our planet. Today's East Asia Summit was characterised by fruitful deliberations on ways to mitigate various global challenges," he tweeted.

The EAS declaration called for effective measures to counter terrorism including by containing terror financing in the region, seen as an affirmation of India's call for concerted approach to deal with terror groups.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pm-modi-seeks-strong-punitive-action-against-those-supporting-terrorism/articleshow/71907140.cms

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Pakistan

 

Fazlur Rehman Using Religion Card To Exploit Peoples' Religious Sentiments: Religious Scholar

04th November 2019

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman was using religious card to gain political mileage and exploit peoples religious sentiments as no amendment was possible in blasphemy law in present political scenario, said leading religious scholar ISLAMABAD, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 4th Nov, 2019 ) :Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman was using religious card to gain political mileage and exploit peoples religious sentiments as no amendment was possible in blasphemy law in present political scenario, said leading religious scholar.

Talking to APP, Mufti Khubaib Salman, a prayer leader of Jamia Amir Hamza, Rawalpindi said Pakistan was created in the name of islam and our religion is no need of protection. The issue of Namoos e-Risalat Peace Be Upon Him (PBUH) was settled in the constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan and using religion card in the Islamic country was painful and contrary to the factual position.

Maulana was using the name of religion to oust the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government by using religious seminary students. The Maulana is least concerned with any issue of national importance and is only interested in obtaining power, he said.

The meek response to the use of religion by Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz has raised question mark on their role as modern progressive political parties.

The use of religion for political purpose sets a dangerous trend, he said and added that both Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) was against the use of religion for political purpose and they supported a broad based national and constitutional agenda. He said Fazl should better concentrate on raising people's issues being confronted to the common man and should use the opportunity to resolve peoples issues.

"I do not want to become part of the sit-in if it is being fuelled with religious bigotry," a PML-N supporter said in an informal chat with APP saying Fazl should not be allowed to create a "mess".

Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) Chairman Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi has already said in a statement that there was no need to mix politics with religion and Maulana Fazl should reconsider his decision of using religion and posing (self claimed) dangers to Namoos-e-Risalat and recognizing Israel.

https://www.urdupoint.com/en/pakistan/fazlur-rehman-using-religion-card-to-exploit-753460.html

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Pakistan saved from paying $1.2bn penalty as Karkey dispute 'amicably' resolved: PM Imran

November 04, 2019

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday announced that his government, with the help of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has "amicably resolved" the Karkey dispute and saved Pakistan from paying the $1.2 billion penalty imposed by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

The prime minister in a tweet congratulated the government's negotiation team "for doing an excellent job in achieving this". He did not provide details of how the dispute was resolved.

The Karkey Karadeniz Elektrik Uretin (KKEU) was one of 12 rental power companies that had been awarded contracts by the PPP government in 2008-09 to 'resolve' the power crisis.

A ship was brought to Karachi port in April 2011 to provide electricity to the national grid under the then government’s Rental Power Plants (RPP) policy to overcome the energy crisis. However, it failed to generate 231 megawatts as was required under the agreement, even though $9 million had been paid to the company in advance as capacity charges.

The plant produced only 30-55MW of electricity and that too at a cost of Rs41 per unit, which was a serious breach of contract, according to the prosecution. This led to a 50 per cent increase in the refund claim by the government, from $80m to $120m.

According to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), after a reference was filed against Karkey, the Turkish company had requested a plea-bargain deal and said it was ready to pay $18m to NAB and promised not to go for international arbitration.

However, some politicians moved the Supreme Court and then chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry struck down the deal and insisted on recovering the full $120m from the Turkish firm.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1514885/pakistan-saved-from-paying-12bn-penalty-as-karkey-dispute-amicably-resolved-pm-imran

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PA asks Sindh govt to lift Zia-era ban on student unions

Hasan Mansoor

November 05, 2019

KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly on Monday unanimously passed a resolution that asked the provincial government to lift the ban on student unions in the educational institutions of Sindh by introducing a code of conduct that may help avoid conflict among various student organisations in future.

The “historic” resolution was originally moved by the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party’s Nida Khuhro, which was later endorsed by the three major opposition parties in the house — the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Grand Democratic Alliance and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

The mover said the resolution was of crucial importance for the youth of Sindh to actively and meaningfully participate in the democratic, social, cultural and political processes of their country and province.

“The student unions provide an opportunity to the students to enhance their leadership skills through participation in healthy political, cultural and social activities.”

The house resolved and recommended to the Sindh government “to lift the ban on student unions in the educational institutions of Sindh in the light of Article 16 (freedom of assembly) and Article 17 (freedom of association) of the Constitution”.

“The student unions are a major forum for organising social activities and for addressing a range of academic and welfare issues through collective representation of students. It will also allow students to practise their skills of diplomacy, debate, politics and leadership,” said the resolution.

It went on: “This house further recommends the Sindh government that instead of imposing a ban on the student unions, they should strictly be regulated through the code of conduct in order to avoid any conflict amongst the different student organisations. “This important step will help in reviving the student unions as well as maintaining healthy environment within the educational institutions of Sindh.”

Scores of students belonging to student organisations from various districts of the province were allowed by Speaker Siraj Durrani to witness the proceedings while the resolution was being moved.

Nida Khuhro said student unions were nurseries of producing leaders in the country, which were abolished by dictator General Ziaul Haq in 1984. She said all the senior politicians of the country were products of student unions.

She said Benazir Bhutto had lifted the ban on student unions and trade unions soon after she was sworn in as prime minister in 1988; however, it was challenged in court a couple of years later. She said the apex court’s judgement had not imposed a ban on student unions; thus, Sindh should revive them forthwith.

Information Minister Saeed Ghani said the ban on student unions had gravely affected the politics based on ideology and promoted the politics of friction and sectarianism.

He said dictators designed their plot in such a manner that they made politics a negative thing. He said students should form unions at college and university levels to make their own opinions.

Agriculture Minister Ismail Rahu said banning student unions explicitly showed the mindset of dictators and such remnants of the dictators should be uprooted.

Women Development Minister Shehla Raza said she was one of the many politicians who were groomed through student unions. She said good politicians had stopped emerging in the country since that ban was imposed.

MQM’s Mohammad Hussain joined the list of movers of the resolution. He said student unions had provided a positive platform to the country’s youth to become stakeholders in policymaking and leadership.

He said the ban should have been lifted decades ago; but that could not happen. He said the provincial government should restore the unions through a notification forthwith.

GDA’s Razzaq Rahimoon and PTI’s Imran Shah also became movers and supported the resolution.

PPP’s Ghulam Qadir Chandio and Sharjeel Memon called it a historic piece of legislation.

Speaker Durrani placed the resolution before the house and got it passed unanimously. The house resounded with sloganeering by the students sitting in the galleries.

Zardari’s health

PPP’s Sadia Javed presented a resolution expressing concern over the deteriorating health condition of former president Asif Zardari, which too was passed unanimously by the house.

“This house expresses its serious concerns over the lack of provision of proper healthcare facilities to former President Asif Ali Zardari,” the resolution said.

“As the former president has been undergoing serious health problems, therefore, this house demands that a board of private doctors and specialists be constituted for his medical check.”

The resolution went on: “Since the government has formed the board, it has also raised alarm and advised to immediately examine the status of clotting in the arteries; sugar levels are fluctuating and if they were not brought under control can cause serious harm to other organs including hypoglycaemia. The government-formed board itself has pointed out that due to non-provision of special orth-bedding in jail, his longstanding spinal condition has deteriorated significantly exacerbating cervical and spondylitis issues.”

The house asked the Sindh government to approach the federal government for the provision of proper healthcare facilities to Mr Zardari, including “constitution of a medical board of private doctors and specialists; and not to put at risk the life of former president Asif Ali Zardari”.

The resolution was passed unanimously.

Resolution against PTI lawmaker

PPP’s Burhan Chandio moved another resolution in which he claimed the guards of PTI’s parliamentary leader Haleem Sheikh resorted to firing during his visit to Kunri that “created havoc in the area”.

He further said: “The guards of the honourable member of this august house kidnapped Mr Rizwan, who was severely tortured before he was rescued and [Rizwan] has marks all over his body.”

He said Rizwan was being treated in a hospital. He said provocation and use of violence on the part of the PTI lawmaker was unbecoming of a public representative, “which has seriously hurt the feelings of the people of Sindh”.

The resolution demanded that the provincial government order an inquiry and “punish those who are found guilty of aerial firing and kidnapping of a resident of Kunri”.

This resolution was also passed unanimously as members belonging to the three large opposition parties were absent on that occasion.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1514921/pa-asks-sindh-govt-to-lift-zia-era-ban-on-student-unions

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Christian Marriage and Divorce Bill caught between feuding ministries

Kalbe Ali

November 05, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Years after efforts to update Christian personal laws began, the draft Christian Marriage and Divorce Bill 2019 has become the subject of an ideological divide between progressive elements and the Catholic clergy in Pakistan as well as a rift between the ministries of human rights and law and justice.

The bill, which aims to update prevailing 140-year-old Christian personal laws, was approved by the federal cabinet in August. At the time, Minister of Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari had expressed confidence that the bill would soon be presented in the National Assembly, her ministry being the mover.

But the bill, which would update the Christian Divorce Act 1869 and the Christian Marriage Act 1870, is now in limbo and both the ministries of human rights and law have claimed the bill is with the other ministry.

The bill was first forwarded to the law ministry by the Ministry of Human Rights to be vetted.

Maleeka Bokhari, the parliamentary secretary for law, held several rounds of meetings with three primary parties: the Community World Service – National Lobbying Delegation (CWS/NLD), a second group lead by Peter Jacob from the Centre for Social Justice and a Catholic group led by Father James Channan.

While the first two groups are proponents of the law, the third is a staunch opponent and one of the key reasons for the delay in it being tabled.

After the consultations were completed, the bill was returned to the human rights ministry in September.

A law ministry official said there were “serious concerns” about the draft, and “it is expected that the Ministry of Human Rights will accommodate the concerns of all the stakeholders.”

The Ministry of Human Rights returned the bill to the law ministry in the second week of October after meetings with the three groups in question. But the Ministry of Law has maintained that all its concerns have not been incorporated.

The key issue for both ministries arises from objections put forward by the Catholic clergy. Father James Channan, who is part of the one of the groups sharing its concerns with the government, has claimed that the clergy of Pakistan does not recognise a number of provisions in the draft, including the right to divorce.

“We represent the largest group among Christians in Pakistan and there are around 1.2 billion Catholics in the world led by the Pope,” he said. “This law, like the Christian Divorce Act 1869, is against the teachings of the Bible and the Christian laws the Code of Canon.”

The second group involved, led by Mr Jacob, also includes Bishop Alexander John. They believe in progressive laws, and have lauded the law and human rights ministries for incorporating their recommendations into the bill.

“There should not be any role of either the Council of Islamic Ideology or the orthodox churches in laws related to individuals in the modern era,” Mr Jacob said.

CWS/NLD, the third party, has pursued bringing Christian marriage and divorce laws up to date for more than four years. They believe that it is the responsibility of the state and not the clergy to formulate legislation that benefits citizens.

“These are delaying tactics by a few individuals now that the bill is in its final stages,” CWS’ Asif Adeel told Dawn.

He added that were several rounds of consultations held by Kamran Michael, the minister for human rights during the last PML-N government, and later by former minister of human rights Mumtaz Ahmed Tarar.

“Such people should have come up at that time,” he said.

He recalled that Mr Tarar had announced in October 2017 that the Christian Marriage and Divorce Bill would be forwarded to the cabinet for final approval.

“Such people delayed it by two years and now some group wants to delay the bill further,’ Mr Aqeel said. “Many issues can be resolved and added when the bill is taken up by the standing committees.”

But when will the bill reach the standing committees?

In a meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights on Oct 7, Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari complained to Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the committee chair, that the Law Division is deliberately delaying public concern legislation.

A senior law ministry official maintained that they had to follow their set rules.

“This is not unique to this draft. It is a routine matter that if stakeholders want to give their input it is given due consideration by the law ministry. In this case, there were serious concerns raised by some members of the Christian community, mainly the clergy,” the official told Dawn.

The official said these concerns have been forwarded to the Ministry of Human Rights to be incorporated into the bill. The human rights ministry has made some amendments to the bill, based on the law ministry’s recommendations.

The Ministry of Human Rights is not willing to accommodate the outright opposition to any law that permits divorce, a human rights ministry official said.

“We want a progressive law as per the needs of the Christian community in modern times,” the official said, who also said the draft was returned to the law ministry in early October.

The senior law ministry official told Dawn they have not received the draft.

To end the discussion between both ministries in the meeting on Oct 7, Mr Bhutto Zardari had said the matter was between two government departments, and they should resolve it before bringing anything to the committee.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1514913/christian-marriage-and-divorce-bill-caught-between-feuding-ministries

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Southeast Asia

 

WhatsApp becomes battleground in Mali's jihad conflict

November 5, 2019

BAMAKO: A digital war is unfolding in Mali alongside a jihadist conflict that has claimed thousands of lives: the battle to sway young minds is being waged on the mobile phone.

“Jihadists today are recruiting on WhatsApp. We have to stop the bloodshed,” said Hama Cisse, a moderate imam.

He says fiery sermons relayed through the mobile phone application by jihadist leader Amadou Koufa are luring young men from the Fulani ethnic community to join his ranks.

“Our children are leaving and getting themselves killed with Koufa, and there’s more and more of them every day,” Cisse said.

In the 1980s, then a Koranic student, Koufa was a roving storyteller – a deep-rooted oral tradition in Mali – reciting love poems in exchange for a few coins.

Much later, after completing his religious education abroad, Koufa re-invented himself as radical, preaching a hardline form of Islam.

Using his honed oratorical skills and stirring ancient resentments against elites, his message went straight to the heart of many young Fulani, also called Peuls, whose herding community has long battled poverty and stigma.

His means for channelling this message have kept in lockstep with technology.

Sermons that were once broadcast on the radio and then distributed by audiocassette are now transmitted by WhatsApp – the messaging app of choice in a country that currently boasts 150 cell phone subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, but little internet coverage.

Many in the Fulani community have direct knowledge of a young man drawn into the ranks of the Katiba Macina, the biggest of the militias wreaking carnage in central Mali and stirring up fighting between ethnic groups.

In addition to the mounting death toll, hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes and hundreds of schools have closed as teachers flee the jihadists.

In other communities, many point the finger of blame at the Fulani people as a whole, for there are longstanding frictions between this herder group and sedentary farmers. Today, tit-for-tat violence has become a tragic, near-daily act.

The jihadists’ strategy of division and provocation is timeless – but the tactics are relentlessly modern.

Digital technology is being used as a recruiting sergeant. Pictures of butchered corpses or torched villages or footage of clashes with the army are the weapons, aimed at both enraging and persuading.

But the radicals are not the only voice.

Moderates, too, are taking their message of Islamic tolerance to young Fulani, seeking to counter distortion and propaganda.

One of them is Cisse, who said he “closely knew” Koufa in the 1980s when he too was a religious student.

Cisse, 55, regularly makes radio broadcasts from the capital Bamako, on the Fulani radio station Tabital Pulaaku, which are immediately retransmitted via WhatsApp.

In one notable intervention this year, during Ramadan, Cisse directly targeted Koufa and those who “lap up his words.”

“He said that before he came, the Macina (a region in central Mali) wasn’t Islamic, that before he came along, it was dark. I told him he didn’t bring Islam to the Macina, he brought the Wahhabis, and it’s not the same,” Cisse said, referring to the Saudi-inspired puritanical strand of Islam.

“A few days later, Koufa gave a nasty reply – he was angry.”

Cisse is from the Mopti region, but he has been unable to go back since he started receiving death threats in 2016.

Others who have joined the fight do not claim to have a religious rank, but simply wish to end a taboo of silence that swelled as the jihadists ascended.

One of them is Ousmane Bocoum, 36, who sells cloth skirts at a market in Mopti.

The flamboyantly dressed trader spends his spare moments combing the internet for sermons that distort Islam, and pointing them out to his contacts who then counter the propaganda on their WhatsApp and Facebook groups.

“I explain what the Koran really says,” Bocoum said. “Every person is in at least a dozen different WhatsApp groups, people forward the messages and usually I have a reaction within half an hour.”

Many of those reactions are insults or threats, but there are often useful exchanges.

“It’s my faith which prompted me to act,” said Bocoum, who met with US lawmakers during a visit to Washington in July.

“I don’t fight them, I simply want to bring them back to reason.”

Last year, he said, he set up a “debate” with Koufa’s men in Mopti.

“They accepted but then at the last moment, Koufa issued a message forbidding them to come. He was worried about their safety.”

That failure illustrates one of the problems of finding common ground through dialogue – an approach espoused in June by the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank but rejected by the government in Bamako.

Bocoum is also exploring an innovative path aimed at “deconstructing” the rhetoric of the jihadists to make it less alluring to the young.

In March he set up a group in Mopti called the Association of Preachers for the Preservation of Unity and Social Peace.

The goal is to draw on traditional doctors or teachers in villages who are not tempted by the idea of collaborating with Koufa and are willing to give children an enlightened Koranic education.

In exchange, the association would provide agricultural help for the poor and for Koranic schools – each participating village would set aside five hectares (12 acres) of land for this purpose.

This way, families living in rural areas that have been abandoned de facto by the state would regain trust in their future, and a vicious circle would become a virtuous one, Bocoum hopes.

Thanks to word of mouth, recruits to the jihad would return home.

“Fathers would speak to their sons, uncles would speak to their nephews, persuading them to come home and cultivate their fields,” he said. - AFP

https://www.nst.com.my/world/world/2019/11/535916/whatsapp-becomes-battleground-malis-jihad-conflict

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Jakim’s halal recognition meets Ukrainian Muslims' needs

November 05, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR: The recognition of Ukraine’s halal certification by the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) meets the need and demand of around two million Muslims currently residing in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergiy Kyslytsya (pic) said the identification of Kyiv-based LLC Certification Centre ‘Halal’ as one of the recognised Foreign Halal Certification Bodies (FHCB) early this year is important alongside the aim of boosting the existing bilateral trade growth between Ukraine and Malaysia.

 “This is important not only for the purpose of exporting it (products) to the Muslim countries, but also reasonably important for the Muslim population in Ukraine (of) around two million people (which is) a number that is higher than in some Muslim countries,” he said to Bernama in an exclusive interview at the news agency’s headquarters during his two-day working visit to Malaysia recently.

Kyslytsya led a Ukrainian delegation comprising Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director-General for the Asia Pacific Region Zhanna Leshchynska and Ambassador of Ukraine to Malaysia Olexander Nechytaylo for Political Consultations between Foreign Ministries of the two countries.

Elaborating, the deputy minister said Ukraine, with such a significant Muslim population, is keen to sit as one of the Observer States of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

“Several years ago, we did apply but somehow (it has) not proceeded. We (Ukraine) need to attend to the religious (and) national interest of the Muslim population in our country as well.

“I hope that with the help of countries like Malaysia and other partners in the OIC, sooner or later, our Observer States status will be considered positive.”

Bernama’s report of the (halal) recognition by Jakim early this year, which was announced on the Ukraine Ambassador to Malaysia’s Facebook post, also indirectly gave ‘good news’ for Ukrainian exporters, according to Nechytaylo.

Nechytaylo added that Ukraine-Malaysia bilateral trade had been growing for the third consecutive year and has now approached US$400 million, and the recognition is good news for Ukrainian exporters.

Full report at:

http://www.dailyexpress.com.my/news/142827/jakim-s-halal-recognition-meets-ukrainian-muslims-needs/

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Home minister: Mandatory background checks on foreign missionaries to Malaysia

30 Oct 2019

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 30 — All foreign missionaries who are coming to Malaysia to hold religious talks would have their background vetted prior to their speaking engagements.

Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said his ministry is conducting checks with related religious bodies in the country to ensure missionary groups are free from deviant teachings.

“Whoever comes here, regardless of the form of talks, will be monitored. For Muslim missionaries, there are the State Religious Councils and those found not having credentials, will not be allowed. We will also monitor non-Muslim missionaries as well,” he said when winding up debate on the 2020 Supply Bill at Dewan Rakyat yesterday.

On the standard operating procedure (SOP) for the entry of priests, pastors and monks for Hindu temples and Granthi from Gudhwara, Muhyiddin said the Immigration Department issues Visit Pass (Professional) for missionary category to foreigners for 12 months and can be extended up to a maximum of 36 months.

On the issuance of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) cards to refugees, Muhyiddin said the ministry is reviewing the process of issuing the card so that it is only issued after obtaining approval from the Immigration Department.

“Actually, those who came to the country such as Rohingyas do not have any documents at all and from the international aspect, they are known as stateless persons but upon entering Malaysia they are considered refugees by UNCHR and were issued the card,” he said. 

He said Malaysia is not a member country of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol and is not subject to the responsibilities under the convention including providing employment for refugees.

However, based on its humanitarian policy, the government through the National Security Council is considering how to provide opportunities to UNHCR card holders to work and to carry out economic activities to support themselves before being sent to a third country.

Meanwhile, Muhyiddin said the policy of decriminalising drug abuse should be studied carefully before  it can be implemented.   

He said it involved a major shift in policy and drug laws apart from changes needed to comply with International Drug Convention so that they are not in conflict with Malaysia’s commitment at international level.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/10/30/home-minister-mandatory-background-checks-on-foreign-missionaries-to-malays/1804966

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Arab World

 

Egypt army kills 83 militants in North Sinai

November 05, 2019

CAIRO: Egypt’s army said on Monday it had killed 83 militants in clashes in the restive Sinai Peninsula, where a Daesh affiliate has waged a long-running insurgency.

Security forces killed 77 extremists, who were found with stacks of weapons and ammunition in north and central Sinai, the army said.

Six other “highly dangerous” militants were killed in shootouts in the region, the army said in a statement on a nationwide anti-militant operation between Sept. 28 and Nov. 4.

About 61 “criminals, wanted individuals and suspects” were arrested, it said.

Security forces also destroyed dozens of hideouts and vehicles as part of the ongoing operation, according to the statement.

Security

Egypt has for years been fighting an insurgency in North Sinai that escalated after the military’s 2013 ouster of the then-president following mass protests.

In February 2018, the army and police launched a nationwide operation against militants, mainly focused on North Sinai.

The operation also targets other areas including the Western Desert along the porous border with Libya.

The latest army figures brings the death toll of suspected militants in the Sinai region to more than 830.

About 60 security personnel have been killed since the start of the offensive.

Following the death of Daesh chief Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi late last month, the group’s North Sinai affiliate has pledged allegiance to his successor, Abu Ibrahim Al-Hashimi Al-Quraishi.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1579166/middle-east

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At least six killed as security forces open fire on Iraq protesters

4 November 2019

Iraqi security forces killed at least five people when they opened fire on protesters in Baghdad on Monday, a Reuters witness said, as thousands took part in the largest wave of anti-government protests for decades.

Demonstrations also took place in several other locations, including the main Gulf port Umm Qasr and southern Shatra, where security forces also killed a protester.

In Baghdad, a Reuters cameraman saw one man shot dead, his body carried away by fellow protesters, when security forces opened fire with live rounds on demonstrators near the Ahrar Bridge. He also saw at least four others killed.

Security and medical sources put the toll at four killed and 34 wounded, but could only confirm one death was from live fire. Two were a result of rubber bullets and tear gas, giving no reason for the fourth death.

The sources also said two people were killed, including a police officer, when special forces tasked with protecting the heavily fortified Green Zone opened live fire on protesters. At least 22 people were wounded.

A spokesman for the prime minister said a group of protesters had crossed the bridge and set fire to a restaurant, and that law enforcement “dealt” with them. He did not elaborate.

Separately, at least one protester was killed and 10 wounded after police used live fire and tear gas against them in the town of Shatra, 45 km (28 miles) north of the southern city of Nassiriya, security and medical sources said.

More than 250 Iraqis have been killed in demonstrations since the start of October against a government they see as corrupt and beholden to foreign interests.

Monday’s deaths were in addition to three protesters killed late on Sunday when security forces opened fire on a crowd trying to storm the Iranian consulate in the Shiite Muslim holy city of Karbala, security and medical sources said.

Protesters defied the prime minister’s earlier plea to end the demonstrations which he says are costing Iraq’s economy billions of dollars and disrupting daily life.

The protests have broken nearly two years of relative stability in Iraq since they started on Oct.1. More than 250 people have been killed.

Despite the country’s oil wealth, many people live in poverty with limited access to clean water, electricity, healthcare or education.

“The youth have lived through economic hardships, explosions, oppression. We want to root out this political elite completely. We want to get rid of this gang, then maybe we can rest,” said a protester, said a protester, who did not wish to be identified, who had camped overnight in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square.

Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi appealed to protesters on Sunday night to suspend their movement which he said had achieved its goals and was hurting the economy.

The premier has said he is willing to resign if politicians agree on a replacement and promised a number of reforms, but protesters say that is not enough and that the entire political class needs to go.

Operations at Iraq’s main Gulf port of Umm Qasr, which receives the bulk of the country’s grain, vegetable oil and sugar imports, have been at a complete standstill since Wednesday.

The anger over economic hardship and corruption is aimed at the sectarian power-sharing system of governance introduced in Iraq after 2003 and the political elites benefiting from it.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/11/04/Defying-PM-thousands-of-Iraqis-continue-to-flood-Baghdad-s-Tahrir-Square.html

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Lebanon's Aoun: Dialogue with protesters crucial to solve issues at hand

4 November 2019

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun said on Monday that there is a need for dialogue with demonstrators in order to come to an understanding on the issues at hand.

On its official Twitter page, The Lebanese Presidency cited Aoun as saying to the UN Special Coordinator in Lebanon that one of the first tasks of the new government will be to follow up the anti-corruption, and carry out an investigation process that will include all officials in departments at different levels.

Demonstrators continue to block roads across Lebanon, including in the capital Beirut, as anti-government protests enter their third week. Lebanon’s National News Agency reported that while some roads such as the Nahr al-Kalb highway had been reopened, others remain closed by protesters on Monday morning.

A rally of support for President Aoun took place on Sunday, in a seeming counter-move against the nationwide protests, which have called for the resignation of the entire government. Aoun's son-in-law Gebran Bassil, who is also leader of his political party the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and foreign minister, attended the rally and called on demonstrators to refrain from accusing everyone of corruption.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/11/04/Lebanon-s-Aoun-Dialogue-with-protesters-crucial-to-solve-issues-at-hand.html

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Three protesters shot dead in Iraq’s Karbala near Iran consulate: Medics

4 November 2019

Three protesters were shot dead and 12 others were injured in Iraq’s holy city of Karbala near the Iranian consulate on Monday, AFP reported, when Iraqi demonstrators attacked the building.

Burning tires and chanting “Iran out, Kerbala remains free,” the crowd assembled in front of the consulate late on Sunday.

“We came here today to revolt and hold a protest in front of the Iranian consulate. We came to pull down the Iranian flag and lift the Iraqi flag instead,” said one protester in Kerbala who refused to be identified.

Al Arabiya sources confirmed that security forces secured the building and reports say shots were fired in the air to disperse the demonstrators who threw stones and burned tires around the building.

There were no immediate reports of causalities, which comes amid ongoing protests in the capital Baghdad and majority-Shia provinces in the south.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi foreign ministry condemned on Monday the attack on the consulate, affirming its commitment to the inviolability of the diplomatic missions guaranteed by the Vienna Convention, and calling on protesters to avoid endangering its security.

The ministry added that such actions will not affect the "friendly and neighborly relations between the two neighboring countries."

The protests are directed at a postwar political system and a class of elite leaders that Iraqis accuse of pillaging the country’s wealth while the country grows poorer. But protesters have also directed their rage at neighboring Iran and the powerful Iraqi Shia militias tied to it.

The anti-government protests in Karbala, Baghdad and cities across southern Iraq have often turned violent, with security forces opening fire and protesters torching government buildings and headquarters of Iran-backed militias.

More than 250 people have been killed in the security crackdown this month.

Calls for sweeping changes

The protests have grown and demonstrators are now calling for sweeping changes, not just the government’s resignation.

Tens of thousands of protesters have gathered in Baghdad’s central Tahrir Square and across southern Iraq in recent days, calling for the overhaul of the political system established after the 2003 US-led invasion. Protesters have also taken over a large tower in the square that was abandoned after it was damaged in the war.

Thousands of students have skipped classes to take part in the street rallies, blaming the political elite for widespread corruption, high unemployment and poor public services.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/11/04/Iraqi-protesters-attack-Iran-consulate-in-Karbala.html

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Saudi navy takes part in international maritime exercise

5 November 2019

The Royal Saudi Naval Forces are participating in the International Maritime Exercise 2019 (IMX 19), which began on Sunday in Manama, Bahrain, according to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

Hosted by the US Naval Forces Central Command (CENTCOM), the exercise extends from the Gulf of Aqaba to the northern Arabian Gulf.

According to the US Central Command, IMX19 serves to demonstrate the global resolve in maintaining regional security and stability, freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce from the Suez Canal south to the Bab el-Mandeb Strait through the Strait of Hormuz to the Northern Arabian Gulf.

The Saudi military attache in Bahrain, Brig. Gen. Fahad Al-Thunayan, said the exercise aims to enhance cooperation and strengthen relations between participating countries.

The Saudi Royal Naval Forces took part in the multinational mixed international naval drill IMX19, launched on Sunday from the Bahrain-based US Naval Forces Central Command, with the participation of 56 countries and seven international organizations.

The US Central Command said that the American-Saudi naval exercises aim at preserving the regional security and maritime navigation. It said that a Saudi F-15 fighter jet accompanied an American B-52 bomber in training sorties to protect regional security.

The common objective of the drill was to enhance cooperation and achieve common goals to strengthen the relations among the participating countries.

Commodore Abdullah bin Fuhaid Al-Shammari, assistant commander of IMX 19 and commander of the Royal Saudi naval force, said: “The Saudi navy’s participation in this international exercise reflects the devotion of the Royal Saudi Navy command to strengthening international relations and sustaining joint work with the rest of the world, including 56 countries and seven international organizations.”

He added that the exercise is being implemented under the supervision of the US Army War College in two phases, the first of which is theoretical and academic training. “Hypotheses that hinder navigation and free flow of world trade are developed and then analyzed to find alternative solutions,” he said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/11/05/Pompeo-says-he-looks-forward-to-continuing-strong-US-Saudi-partnership.html

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Syrian hopes raised amid ongoing Geneva peace talks

Nov 4, 2019

A 2-day meet at the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva between the rival Syrian delegations appears to have succeed in making some minor progress as, for the first time since the war began, the divided Syrians held face-to-face talks.

The Constitutional Committee Body which includes some 150 members, all of whom are Syrian, announced an agreement had been reached on an agenda and the composition of the 45-member drafting group which will meet again this week to further the talks.

“The formation of Syria’s constitutional committee and its inception in Geneva on October 30th was the culmination of over two years of efforts by the three guarantor states of the Syria Peace Process. Iran, Russia and Turkey, who initiated the Astana process in January 2017 on the back of a Syria-wide ceasefire between the government and armed groups.”

Despite the promising signs coming out of Geneva. Syria remains a troubled country, with fighting still raging in the North.

I managed to sit down with a Syrian analyst to find out how hopeful Syrians were about the future.

Some critics had accused Russia and Iran of meddling in the talks, a point rebuked by supporters of Damascus.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/11/04/610403/Syrian-hopes-raised-amid-ongoing-Geneva-peace-talks

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Lebanese army clashes with protesters after upsurge in anti-government demonstrations

NAJIA HOUSSARI

November 05, 2019

BEIRUT: Anti-government protesters clashed with security forces as demonstrators on Monday took to the streets in force and again blocked roads throughout Lebanon.

Last week’s resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri had prompted a lull in protests which have rocked the country since Oct. 17.

But with no new Cabinet in place, crowds packed Beirut and other Lebanese towns and cities amid reports that Hariri had on Monday afternoon met in his residence with government Minister Gebran Bassil.

It was the first meeting between them since Hariri quit but there was a media blackout on the discussions.

Sources close to the former premier told Arab News: “Consultations are taking place away from the media because the situation is critical and the search for solutions is underway so that the country cannot collapse.”

The source added that there was unlikely to be any truth in social media claims that a process for forming a new government was coming together.

The UN special coordinator for Lebanon, Jan Kubis, on Monday offered the international organization’s assistance to Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun “in the matters it wishes to achieve to face the current circumstances.”

After a weekend of relative calm, protesters filled streets in Beirut, Sidon, Tripoli, Zahle and Jal El-Dib on Sunday night in response to supporters of Aoun and the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) gathering around the presidential office.

Jihad Nammour, an activist and coordinator of the Arab Master in Democracy and Human Rights (ARMA) program, told Arab News: “After seeing the people around the presidential palace and listening to Aoun and the head of the FPM, Bassil, it became clear that the powers had ignored the people’s movement.

“Aoun and Bassil presented themselves as honest and trying to fight corruption. Aoun ignored the issue of scheduling parliamentary consultations, which enraged people and led them to renew their protests on a larger scale. The protests seem to be happening according to the people’s will,” he added.

The latest protests against the ruling elite saw more roadblocks and activists entering public buildings to urge employees to stop work and join the movement.

Educational institutions backed away from their call to resume classes. In Tripoli, in northern Lebanon, a stampede took place after the Lebanese army fired rubber bullets, injuring a young man who was taken to hospital.

Roads and banks were blocked for the first time in the Shouf area, where the majority of people support the Progressive Socialist Party.

An activist in the Zouk district, which links Beirut to northern Lebanon, said protesters had left the streets because they thought their demands were being heeded, but Aoun’s speech had led them to believe that promises were not being kept.

Another activist said: “We will bring down the remaining pillars of power in the same way we were able to bring down the government. They thought the revolution was dead, but it is not, and we are coming back stronger.”

Holistic medicine consultant, Kawsar Chayya, told Arab News: “Nothing will stop the protesters. They are able to unite using one word and bring the people back to the streets. Trust has brought them together because they are all living in the same painful situation, they fear for the country’s state, and want to fight corruption.”

Chayya said: “The authorities are still acting in the same way as they did before. If a date is set for the appointment of a new prime minister, we want that person to be one of the people and have nothing to do with politicians. We want independent ministers and early elections even if they are in accordance with the current law.

“Young people on the streets are thinking of a further escalation if their demands are not heard. We hope that things will remain peaceful.”

Nammour added: “People can no longer be silenced. They were buying their silence with money and jobs. Now that the economic situation has deteriorated and the state has fallen apart, they have no growth plan and they can no longer hire people.

They are trying everything in their power, but even their supporters will abandon them shortly and things will fall out of the hands of leaders and authorities.”

Dr. Abdul Samad said: “The battle is long, and roads cannot remain blocked for a long time. We have to think of new methods, negative cannot persist.”

He added that it was important that the president and his supporters did not ignore the demands of the Lebanese people because otherwise they would destroy the country.

“They must listen to the people and respond to their demands. Those in power think in narrow gutters, not about the fate of a country.”

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1579206/middle-east

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Iraqi security forces conducting large-scale arrest campaigns in Baghdad: witnesses

November 04, 2019

BAGHDAD: The Internet was blocked in Baghdad on Monday night as security forces rounded up residents in the Iraqi capital.

Iraqi forces were conducting large-scale arrests, targeting residents of Salhiya and Allawi areas in central Baghdad who are accused of sheltering demonstrators, witnesses told Arab News.

Earlier, Iraqi security forces killed at least five people when they opened fire on protesters in Baghdad on Monday, a Reuters witness said, as thousands took part in the largest wave of anti-government protests for decades.

A Reuters cameraman saw one man shot dead, his body carried away by fellow protesters, when security forces opened fire with live rounds on demonstrators near Baghdad’s Ahrar Bridge. He also saw at least four others killed.

Security and medical sources put the toll at four killed and 34 wounded, but could only confirm one death was from live fire. Two were a result of rubber bullets and tear gas, not live ammunition, they said, giving no reason for the fourth death.

The sources also said two people were killed, including a police officer, when special forces tasked with protecting the heavily fortified Green Zone opened live fire on protesters. At least 22 people were injured.

A spokesman for the prime minister said a group of protesters had crossed the bridge and set fire to a restaurant, and that law enforcement “dealt” with them. He did not elaborate.

More than 250 Iraqis have been killed in demonstrations since the start of October against a government they see as corrupt and beholden to foreign interests.

Monday’s deaths were in addition to three protesters killed late on Sunday when security forces who opened fire on a crowd trying to storm the Iranian consulate in the Shiite Muslim holy city of Kerbala, security and medical sources said.

Thousands of anti-government protesters had gathered in central Baghdad on Monday, defying a plea by Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi to stand down.

Since putting down an insurgency by Islamic State in 2017, Iraq has enjoyed two years of comparative stability. But despite its oil wealth, many people live in poverty with limited access to clean water, electricity, health care or education.

The protesters blame a political system that shares power among sectarian parties, making corruption entrenched.

“The youth have lived through economic hardships, explosions, oppression. We want to root out this political elite completely,” said a protester who had camped overnight in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square. He asked that he not be identified.

Abdul-Mahdi appealed to protesters on Sunday night to suspend their movement, which he said had achieved its goals and was hurting the economy.

He has said he is willing to resign if politicians agree on a replacement, and has promised a number of reforms. But protesters say that is not enough and the entire political class needs to go.

The political elite is seen by many as subservient to one or other of Baghdad’s main allies, the United States and Iran, foes who use Iraq as a proxy in a struggle for regional influence.

Since last Wednesday, protests have halted operations at Iraq’s main Gulf port Umm Qasr near the oil city of Basra.

Security authorities said they would begin arresting those blocking roads for denying other Iraqis access to crucial medicine and food.

Elsewhere in the south, at least 5,000 protesters gathered in the city of Diwaniya, blocking roads. Most government offices and schools were closed, police and local officials said.

Protesters in Nassiriya shut off the local passport, education, water, and sanitation department offices.

The incident in Kerbala was the latest sign of anti-Iranian anger that has emerged during the biggest wave of demonstrations in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein in a US-led invasion.

Reuters reported last week that a powerful political party had contemplated withdrawing support for Abdul-Mahdi but decided to keep him in power for now after holding a secret meeting in Baghdad attended by a general from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

Burning tires and chanting “Iran out, Kerbala remains free,” the crowd assembled in front of the consulate late on Sunday. Iraq’s High Commisson on Human Rights said the crowd tried to break into the consulate, while security sources said they tried to torch it.

The rights commission confirmed that three people were shot dead. A dozen more were wounded, including members of the security forces, it said.

Kerbala hosts the world’s largest annual religious pilgrimages, attended by millions of people from Iran, the main regional Shiite power.

Protesters see Iran as the main power behind the Shiite political parties that have wielded power in Iraq since the US-led invasion.

The spread of anti-Iranian sentiment deep into Iraq’s Shiite heartland signals a broad discontent with Tehran’s interference, and Iraqi Shiites’ shifting priorities with sectarian identity taking a back seat to economic concerns.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1578991/middle-east

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Mideast

 

State Department says Iran still biggest state sponsor of terror, spends $1B per year on proxies

November 04, 2019

Iran is still the "world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism" and Al Qaeda wants to reestablish itself as the "vanguard of the global jihadist movement," the State Department said in its Country Reports on Terrorism 2018, which was released Friday.

The Tehran regime has spent nearly $1 billion per year to support terror groups "that serve as its proxies and expand its malign influence across the globe," the State Department said. Those groups include Hezbollah, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Iran has also plotted its own terrorist acts around the globe, most notably in Belgium, France, and Germany, according to the department.

Al Qaeda continued to fester in 2018, as well.

"Despite our sustained efforts since Sept. 11, 2001, and the group’s leadership losses, Al Qaeda's regional affiliates continue to expand their ranks, plot, and carry out attacks, as well as raise funds and inspire new recruits through social media and virtual technologies," the State Department said.

The U.S. continues to combat terrorism on all fronts, and "pursue Al Qaeda globally" while also apply maximum pressure on Iran, "significantly expanding sanctions on Iranian state actors and proxies," according to the department.

In one piece of good news, the report said events in 2018 set the stage for the Islamic State (ISIS) to take a major hit in 2019.

U.S. and partner forces liberated "nearly all territory ISIS previously held in Iraq and Syria," which led to the final destruction of the so-called ISIS "caliphate" this year, per the State Department.

Secretary Pompeo

@SecPompeo

The gains are evident in @StateDeptCT's 2018 Country Reports on Terrorism. The Global @Coalition to Defeat ISIS played a critical role in defeating ISIS in #Iraq & #Syria. We'll continue to work with our partners to ensure the defeat of this evil is permanent. https://twitter.com/StateDept/status/1190317611436740608 …

Department of State

@StateDept

Today, @StateDeptCT Ambassador Nathan Sales briefed the media on the release of the Country Reports on Terrorism 2018. Watch his full remarks. https://youtu.be/47r6ebnt-nc  #CRT2018

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The report was released six days after ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi killed himself one week ago by detonating an explosive vest during a raid by U.S. forces at a compound in northern Syria. The terror group has since announced a new leader.

However, the report sounded a note of caution.

"Even as ISIS lost almost all its physical territory, the group proved its ability to adapt, especially through its efforts to inspire or direct followers online," it said. "Over the last year, ISIS’s global presence evolved with affiliates and networks conducting attacks in the Middle East, South and East Asia, and Africa."

Terrorists' use of technology also evolved, including the increased use of drones and encryption.

The State Department made strides in 2018 when it came to restricting terrorist travel, including in the realm of "border security and information sharing measures," and issued dozens of sanctions to combat terrorist financing, it said.

The White House in October released the National Strategy for Counterterrorism, the country's first such strategy since 2011. It slammed Iran as the "world's central banker of international terrorism."

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/state-department-iran-terrorism-isis-al-qaeda

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Over a dozen killed in car bomb attack near Turkey-Syria border

3 Nov 2019

At least 13 people have been killed in a car bomb explosion in a Syrian town on the border with Turkey, according to the Turkish defence ministry.

The blast on Saturday ripped through a crowded market in Tal Abyad, a town controlled by Turkish-backed opposition fighters.

"Based on first findings, 13 civilians were killed and around 20 others injured" in the explosion, Turkey's defence ministry said in a statement.

The northeastern town has witnessed some of the heaviest fighting since the Turkish military launched an operation in northeast Syria last month against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is spearheaded by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and was for years allied to the United States in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) armed group.

An AFP news agency correspondent in Tal Abyad saw the skeletons of two motorbikes ablaze in the middle of a rubble-strewn street.

A group of men carried the severely burned body of a victim onto the back of a pickup truck, as a veiled young woman stood aghast by the side of the street.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said pro-Turkey fighters and civilians were among the dead and wounded in the car explosion.

"We condemn this inhuman attack of the bloody PKK/YPG terrorists who attacked the innocent civilians of Tal Abyad who returned to their homes and lands as a result of the Operation Peace Spring," Turkey's defence ministry said on Twitter.

No group has yet taken responsibility for the attack.

Turkish operation

The Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is designated a terrorist group by Ankara and its Western allies. The PKK launched a separatist rebellion against the Turkish state in 1984.

Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist group because of its ties to PKK rebels in southeast Turkey.

On October 9, days after US President Donald Trump's abrupt decision to pull out US troops from northeast Syria, Turkey and allied Syrian rebels launched the cross-border operation and seized control of Tal Abyad and some 120km (75 miles) of land along the frontier.

Turkey says the goal of the offensive was to carve out a "safe zone" cleared of the Kurdish fighters and repatriate some of the 3.6 million refugees currently residing on its soil.

On Friday, Turkish and Russian troops in armoured vehicles held their first joint ground patrols in northeast Syria under a deal between the two countries that forced the YPG away from territory near Turkey's border.

Full report at:

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/11/dozen-killed-car-bomb-attack-turkey-syria-border-191102150356576.html

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Anti-ISIS coalition destroys terror group's tunnel systems

November 04, 2019

The Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) anti-ISIS coalition recently uncovered and destroyed several of the terror group's tunnel systems and suspected safe havens in northern Iraq, according to military officials.

OIR used demolition material -- rather than the more common precision strike -- to destroy a 1,300-foot tunnel in Ninewah Province, which shares a border with northeastern Syria. The subterranean hideout was considered a long-term safe haven for Islamic State (ISIS) members, and it contained "bed down areas, a stove for cooking and electrical material for lighting," coalition officials said in a press release Saturday.

“There is an awareness to where Daesh is hiding,” OIR Commander and Air Force Maj. Gen. Eric Hill said, referring to ISIS by its Arabic acronym.

The announcement came one week after ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi killed himself by detonating an explosive vest during a raid by U.S. forces at a compound in northern Syria. The terror group since announced a new leader and has threatened to get revenge on the U.S.

Meanwhile, the French Air Force on Thursday bombed an ISIS weapons cache in Iraq and posted footage of the assault online.

OIR Spokesman Col. Myles B. Caggins III

@OIRSpox

French Air Force bombed ISIS weapons caches in Iraq on Oct. 31. 🛩💥 Daech, tu ne peux pas nous échapper. 🇫🇷 قصفت القوات الجوية الفرنسية مخابئ أسلحة داعش في العراق يوم 31 تشرين الأول. إنفجار!🇮🇶 https://twitter.com/etatmajorfr/status/1190242042892427264 …

État-Major Armées

@EtatMajorFR

Le 31/10, les Rafale français de l'opération Chammal ont détruit plusieurs caches de Daech dans le nord-est irakien. Le combat continue. http://bit.ly/CHA_OP  https://twitter.com/florence_parly/status/1190231610899288065 …

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Two other tunnel systems under an unoccupied village in Ninewah Province were also blown up, one by demolition material and the other by an F-35 airstrike, the coalition said.

OIR also conducted an Oct. 25 kinetic strike on an ISIS tunnel and cave system in the area.

The coalition said the tunnels contained "bed down locations" for terrorists and were believed to be a transit hub for the fighters.

ISIS regularly used tunnel systems in the mountains outside Mosul between 2014 and 2016, according to officials. The hideouts were never properly destroyed, and terrorists still use the underground systems to flee from the "relentless pressure" of coalition partners, Hill said.

"Denying Daesh safe haven removes their ability to hide and plan their future terrorist activities," OIR said in a statement.

The pressure from coalition forces, combined with the approaching rainy season, has led officials to believe the fighters will flee to the mountains for safety, according to the coalition.

We think we’re effectively, through our partners, keeping them on the run, continuing to eliminate them, pursuing them wherever they go," Hill added.

Full report at:

https://www.foxnews.com/world/anti-isis-coalition-destroys-terror-groups-tunnels-iraq

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Protesters Attack Iranian Consulate in Iraqi City

By Sune Engel Rasmussen in Erbil

Nov. 3, 2019

Iraqi protesters attacked the Iranian consulate in the city of Karbala, in the latest sign of mounting anger against Tehran’s involvement in the country’s affairs.

Protesters scaled the consulate’s walls late Sunday while hauling an Iraqi flag. Security forces fired rubber bullets to disperse protesters who were throwing Molotov cocktails over the wall, video footage witnesses provided to The Wall Street Journal showed.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/protesters-attack-iranian-consulate-in-iraqi-city-11572826343

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Turkey captures Baghdadi's sister in Syria: officials

November 05, 2019

Turkey captured the sister of dead Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Monday in the northern Syrian town of Azaz, a senior Turkish official told Reuters, and is interrogating her husband and daughter-in-law who were also detained.

Rasmiya Awad, 65, was detained in a raid near Azaz, the official said, referring to a Turkish-controlled Syrian town near the border. When captured, she was also accompanied by five children.

“We hope to gather a trove of intelligence from Baghdadi’s sister on the inner workings of IS,” the official said.

Little independent information is available on Baghdadi’s sister and Reuters was not immediately able to verify if the captured individual was her.

Baghdadi killed himself last month when cornered in a tunnel during a raid by US special forces in northwestern Syria. Islamic State, in an audio tape posted online on Thursday, confirmed that its leader had died and vowed revenge against the United States.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s communications director said the woman’s capture was evidence of Turkey’s determination to fight against Islamic State.

“The arrest of al-Baghdadi’s sister is yet another example of the success of our counter-terrorism operations,” Fahrettin Altun wrote on Twitter early on Tuesday.

“Much dark propaganda against Turkey has been circulating to raise doubts about our resolve against Daesh,” he wrote, using another name for Islamic State.

“Our strong counter-terrorism cooperation with like-minded partners can never be questioned.”

Baghdadi had risen from obscurity to lead the ultra-hardline group and declare himself “caliph” of all Muslims, holding sway over huge areas of Iraq and Syria from 2014-2017 before Islamic State’s control was wrested away by US-led coalition forces including Iraqis and Syrian Kurds.

The group said a successor to Baghdadi identified as Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Quraishi had been appointed. A senior US official last week said Washington was looking at the new leader to determine where he came from.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1515030/turkey-captures-baghdadis-sister-in-syria-officials

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Israel opens probe after video shows unarmed Palestinian shot in back

4 November 2019

Israeli police said Sunday an enquiry had been opened and officers suspended after a video emerged online apparently showing a border guard shooting an unarmed Palestinian in the back with a sponge-tipped bullet.

Israel’s Channel 13 had broadcast the video on Saturday evening, showing border guards – part of the Israeli police – telling a Palestinian to turn back at a West Bank checkpoint on the edge of Jerusalem.

As the man walks away, his arms raised, one of the officers fires a sponge-tipped bullet, ammunition generally used for crowd control but which can be lethal at short distances.

The man instantly falls to the ground, shouting in pain.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the justice ministry had opened an investigation into the incident, which he said took place a year and a half ago.

“As soon as the incident became known the female border police officer was removed from duty,” he said.

“The other border policemen who were there were also removed and some of them were transferred from their positions,” he added.

On Sunday, the Palestinian Liberation Organization slammed Israel over the incident and urged the United Nations to act.

“The video shows the extent of blind hatred and Zionist racism,” it said.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/11/04/Israel-opens-probe-after-video-shows-unarmed-Palestinian-shot-in-back-.html

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Iran to host International Conference on Palestinian Resistance

Nov 4, 2019

The World Assembly of Islamic Awakening plans to hold an international conference on resistance of the Palestinian nation early next year.

The three-day International Conference of Palestinian Resistance will open on January 29, 2020 with the purpose of promoting the discourse of resistance.

The participants will discuss a wide range of issues, including the theoretical, epistemological and intellectual foundations of Palestinian resistance, in addition to the Islamic Revolution, Islamic Awakening and the Palestinian cause as well as capabilities, opportunities, challenges and threats facing Palestinian resistance.

They will also exchange views about illuminating the position of leaders, scholars, elites, intellectuals, society, Islamic parties and justice-seekers in support of Palestine as well as the discourse of resistance, prospects, strategies, solutions and the future ahead.

All scholars, researchers, experts and thinkers are invited to submit their articles on the above-mentioned topics until January 10, 2020.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei in July hailed the Palestinian people’s “stunning resistance,” saying it heralds a “definite” victory against Israel.

“Victory will not be achieved without resistance and struggle, and we believe according to the indubitable divine promise that the issue of Palestine will definitely be in the interest of the Palestinian people and the Islamic world,” the Leader said as he received the deputy head of the Hamas Political Bureau, Salih al-Aruri, as well as a letter from Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh in Tehran.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/11/04/610363/Palestine-resistance-conference-Iran-Islamic-Awakening

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Turkish forces neutralize PKK terrorist listed in Ankara's most wanted

Nov 4, 2019

Turkish forces have killed one of the most wanted members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group during a counter-terrorism operation in Iraq’s northern semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.

A security source, requesting not to be named, said on Monday that Musluh Ike, better known by the nom de guerre Tekoser Zagros, was “neutralized” in a a joint precision operation by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) and Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in Metina region of northern Iraq.

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#Turkey: Most wanted PKK #terrorist neutralized in N.Iraqhttp://v.aa.com.tr/1634741

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The Turkish military generally uses the term "neutralize" to signify that the militants were killed, captured or surrendered.

Ike was reportedly in charge of Metina region. He joined the PKK in the 1990s, and was the mastermind of many acts of terror in the Semdinli and Cukurca districts of Turkey’s southeastern province of Hakkari.

PKK militants regularly clash with Turkish forces in the Kurdish-dominated southeast of Turkey attached to northern Iraq.

Turkey, along with the European Union and the United States, has declared the PKK a terrorist group and banned it. The militant group has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region since 1984.

A shaky ceasefire between the PKK and the Turkish government collapsed in July 2015. Attacks on Turkish security forces have soared ever since.

Over the past few months, Turkish ground and air forces have been carrying out operations against PKK positions in the country as well as in northern Iraq and neighboring Syria.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/11/04/610362/Turkish-forces-neutralize-most-wanted-PKK-terrorist-in-northern-Iraq

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Iran-backed Iraq leaders agree on ‘road map’

SUADAD AL-SALHY

November 05, 2019

BAGHDAD: Iraqi politicians have agreed on a “roadmap” to resolve the current crisis and meet the demands of demonstrators, prominent allies of Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi told Arab News on Monday.

Changing the prime minister’s administrative and military team, a ministerial reshuffle involving more than half the Cabinet, changing electoral laws and the members of the electoral commission are the most prominent points of the proposals, negotiators said.

Baghdad and nine southern Shiite-dominated provinces have seen mass protests since October 1 against corruption, unemployment and a lack of basic services.

More than 250 demonstrators have been killed and more than 11,000 wounded, most of them in Baghdad, in a brutal crackdown led by Abdul Mahdi and his allies.

The demonstrations, the largest of their kind since 2003, are the first in which Shiite protesters represent have come out against the government, also largely Shiite.

Demonstrators, who returned to the streets last Friday in larger numbers after being stopped for two weeks over killings and arrests, have widened their demands to include the overthrow of Abdul Mahdi and early parliamentary elections, preceded by an amendment to the election laws.

After intense meetings over the past few weeks, Iranian-backed political forces agreed to a package of resolutions aimed at calming demonstrators and pleasing the supreme religious authority in Najaf, which has declared its full support for the demands.

The proposed road map, which includes dramatic changes in the composition of senior government staff, does not include any mention of early elections or the resignation of Abdul Mahdi within the options or solutions on the table.

“With our conviction that Adel (Abdul Mahdi) is not fit to remain as prime minister for another week … we will not allow his dismissal or resignation now,” a prominent ally of the government told Arab News.

“We believe that keeping him as prime minister is a must now, because his fall means we will have to change a prime minister every six months.

“Agreeing on early elections is long story that needs Sunnis and Kurds involved, and this is difficult to achieve in short time.”

Sacrificing Muhammad Al-Hashemi, the head of the prime minister’s office, is the most significant change that will affect the Abdul Mahdi’s personal team.

“Everyone knows that Abu Jihad (Al-Hashemi) is the actual prime minister and is responsible for half of the devastation caused by the government until today,” one source told Arab News.

“If ‘Abu Jihad’ gets out of the prime minister’s office, everything will be fixed.”

Al-Hashemi, or “the bulldozer,” is a prominent leader in the Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council and former director of the office of the late Shiite leader Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim, the most prominent leader of the Iraqi opposition during the rule of Saddam Hussein.

Al-Hashemi, one of the chief negotiators of the pro-Iran Al-Binna’a Alliance, the second largest parliamentary bloc to name the prime minister and form the government in 2018, is credited with getting Abdul Mahdi into office.

“Abdul-Mahdi is tired and weak and his team is in chaos. In addition, ‘Abu Jihad’ enjoys the full support and confidence of the Iranians. This opened the door wide for ‘Abu Jihad’ to expand his powers.

Dismissing Al-Hashemi and other senior officials of Abdul Mahdi’s office is part of the proposed plan presented by Gen. Qassim Suleiman, commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and commander of field operations in Iraq, after returning from Najaf Saturday evening following a meeting with a representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shiites and the most influential cleric in Iraq, who seen as the godfather of the political process since 2003, key negotiators told Arab News.

Suleiman’s plan also lists a Cabinet reshuffle, combined with a package of important new laws and amendments.

“We are racing against time. The situation is very critical and we have no more than a week or two to implement what we have agreed to calm the people and please Najaf (Al-Sistani),” a political ally of Abdul Mahdi told Arab News.

“Our priority was to exclude the threat of Shiite-Shiite fighting from the equation, and with the return of Muqtada Al-Sadr to Qom and the intervention of Najaf, this threat is now over.”

Suleiman, who has absolute influence over the majority of Shiite political forces and armed factions, arrived in Baghdad on Thursday and asked to meet Al-Sistani to “calm tensions” between Al-Sistani and Iran’s supreme religious leader, Ali Khamenei.

“Things are heading for calm. Najaf almost approved the plan, but the demonstrations will continue because Najaf wants them (protesters) to remain as well as the Americans, but there will be some kind of truce.”

Influential Shiite cleric Al-Sadr, who has the largest parliamentary bloc and biggest armed faction with millions of followers, also announced his adoption of the protesters’ full demands two weeks ago, and vowed to protect them from any threats.

Demonstrations in the provinces of Amara and Dhi Qar, Al-Sadr’s southern stronghold, have witnessed bloody clashes between demonstrators and armed factions, including the Badr Organization and Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq, the most powerful Shiite groups.

Suleimani, after leaving Najaf, met Al-Sadr and asked him to go back to Qom, in Iran, which he left a week ago at the request of the Iranian authorities in response to the abuses committed by his followers against the demonstrators.

“Sadr was seeking bloodshed and his removal from the scene was necessary,” one Shiite source told Arab News.

A senior aide to Al-Sadr told Arab News on condition of anonymity: “All that was said about Al-Sadr’s meeting with Suleimani and the agreement between them is not true, and Al-Sadr, wherever he is, will not sell Iraq or sell what he believes in.”

Al-Sistani, meanwhile, will monitor the steps to implement changes in Iraq, “but will not loosen his grip on Abdul Mahdi or his allies,” a source told Arab News.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1579196/middle-east

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South Asia

 

Nine children killed in Afghanistan landmine blast

2 Nov 2019

Nine children were killed when a planted roadside bomb exploded as they walked to school in a northeastern province of Afghanistan, government and police officials said.

The blast happened in Darqad district of Takhar province on Saturday, when the children, aged between eight and 11, stepped on the bomb planted on a road in a Taliban-controlled village.

"In the morning on roadside, nine children were killed in a landmine blast placed by the Taliban. Three children, who were part of the group, are missing," Jawad Hejri, a spokesman for the Takhar provincial governor, told Al Jazeera.

No group has claimed responsibility for the blast, and the Taliban did not immediately respond to a request for comment following the deaths of the children, the latest victims in a growing toll of civilian casualties in the war.

"This area is under Taliban control and since security forces launched attacks to clear it, the Taliban have planted anti-personnel mines," Khalil Asir, a spokesman for the provincial police, told Reuters news agency.

In May, a landmine killed seven children and wounded two more in the southern province of Ghazni.

Last month, the United Nations released a report saying an "unprecedented" number of civilians were killed or wounded in Afghanistan from July to September this year.

The figures - 1,174 deaths and 3,139 injuries from July 1 until September 30 - represent a 42 percent increase compared with the same period last year.

A month earlier, seven children were killed and 10 more wounded in the eastern province of Laghman when a mortar shell exploded while they were playing with it.

The Taliban often uses roadside bombs and landmines to target Afghan security forces, but the lethal weapons also inflict casualties on civilians.

Years of conflict have left Afghanistan strewn with landmines, unexploded mortars, rockets and homemade bombs - and many are picked up by curious children.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/11/children-killed-afghanistan-landmine-blast-191102131906010.html

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Afghan official: Kabul to probe Pakistan security complaint

Nov 4, 2019

KABUL: Pakistan closed its consular services in Kabul on Monday, citing unspecified security concerns and an Afghan official said the government would investigate the issue, though it was not officially informed of any concerns.

Pakistan's Embassy announced the closure in a statement, saying that the consular services would no longer be available until further information.

On Sunday, Pakistan's foreign affairs ministry summoned the Afghan chargé d'affaires to convey concerns about the safety of its diplomats in Kabul.

"The Afghan chargé d'affaires was informed that the officers and staff of the Embassy of Pakistan were being harassed over the past two days," it said, adding that they were blocked while on the road and that embassy vehicles were hit by motorcycles while on their way to the diplomatic mission in Kabul.

Gran Hewad, spokesman for the Afghan foreign ministry, told The Associated Press that authorities will investigate the issue. "We are in contact with the Pakistan Embassy here in Kabul to solve the issue," he said.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/afghan-official-kabul-to-probe-pakistan-security-complaint/articleshow/71888549.cms

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Afghan president, Chinese FM discuss dialogue with Taliban

5 November 2019

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi have discussed a planned meeting in Beijing that would include Afghan figures and Taliban representatives.

That meeting - known as “intra-Afghan dialogue” -was to take place last month but has been postponed. No new date has been set. The last time it was held was in July in Qatar.

The dialogue is a separate process from the US-Taliban talks that collapsed in September.

Tuesday’s Afghan statement says Ghani and Wang underscored the Afghan government and people’s role in the peace process.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/11/05/Afghan-president-Chinese-FM-discuss-dialogue-with-Taliban.html

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Africa

 

Nigerian troops kill 6 Boko Haram fighters in gunfight

2019-11-03

ABUJA, Nov. 3 (Xinhua) -- At least Six Boko Haram fighters were killed by Nigerian troops in a gunfight, as they attempted to take over a military base in the northeastern state of Borno, defense sources said on Sunday.

The troops engaged the Boko Haram militants in a gunfight on Friday night, as they targeted the military base in Gwon town of Mafa local government area, located around 10 km north of Maiduguri, the state capital, a senior defense official who preferred anonymity told Xinhua.

The gunfight lasted for about three hours, causing more militants to escape with bullet wounds, said the source.

Another source said the militants stormed the military base with four gun trucks and motorcycles. In their attempt to gain entry into base, they destroyed two gates leading to the military formation.

Following the repelled attack, troops have intensified search for Boko Haram militants in the locality, added the source.

The Nigerian military is yet to officially confirm the development.

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-11/03/c_138525771.htm

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Muslims find Atlantic City peaceful place to worship and live

Diane Abdur-Raheem

November 05, 2019

ATLANTIC CITY — Diane Abdur-Raheem converted to Islam in 1975 when she lived in Los Angeles. She returned in 1979 to her hometown here, where she has lived ever since.

Abdur-Raheem recalls receiving the most criticism for being Muslim in the resort after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks perpetrated by the Islamic extremist group Al-Qaeda.

“It didn’t make that much of a difference until things happened, like Sept. 11, of course, how people started to look at me because I was always garbed. I always had my Muslim garb on, but I never let that bother me. I’m basically a strong-willed person, so looks and attitudes and things of that nature is not something that I will allow myself to worry about,” Abdur-Raheem said.

Since the 2016 presidential campaign and election of Donald Trump, Abdur-Raheem and other Muslims in the city say they have been able to live and worship without the fear and intimidation that exist in other parts of the country.

By comparison, someone threw a pig’s head at the Al-Aqsa Islamic Society in 2015 in Philadelphia.

A couple of women wearing head scarves, or hijabs, were attacked in 2016 in New York City.

After crimes against Jewish people, crimes against Muslims were the second highest percentage of religious bias offenses nationally, FBI statistics from 2017 show.

Atlantic City Police Department spokesman Sgt. Kevin Fair said he is not aware of any hate crimes against Muslims during his 16 years on the police force.

Councilman Kaleem Shabazz, who is Muslim, said as far as he knows, the city has been remarkably free of anti-Islamic incidents.

“The Atlantic City Police Department will treat the mosque just like they treat the church and the synagogue,” said Shabazz, who added a dialogue was started between law enforcement and the Islamic community at least three years ago. “We have been very fortunate in Atlantic City.”

The city was one of the first places in the area to have a mosque, said Ralph Hunter, co-founder of the African-American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey. The mosque was called Atlantic City Muslim Temple No. 10.

During a City Council meeting Friday, an ordinance was introduced that would rename one of the corners of Massachusetts and Melrose avenues Imam W. Deen Mohammed Corner to acknowledge the resort’s historical ties to Islam, Shabazz said.

There are three mosques in the city. A fourth one, Masjid Al-Furqaan, in the 1200 block of Atlantic Avenue, was damaged in a fire in 2016.

The oldest mosque still existing in the resort is Masjid Muhammad of Atlantic City on North Albany Avenue, which has mostly African-American members with some Egyptians and Pakistanis, Shabazz said.

Imam Amin Muhammad of Masjid Muhammad said Islam’s core principles apply no matter what mosque a worshipper attends.

A Muslim should acquire knowledge, practice the religion, be sincere, be scrupulous and fear Allah, or God.

Masjid Al-Taqwa, in the 3500 block of Atlantic Avenue, is attended by many Egyptians, Pakistanis and some African Americans, Shabazz said.

Masjid Al-Hera, in the 2400 block of Atlantic, has 80% attendance by people from Bangladesh, 10% from India and Pakistan and 10% from other countries, said Imam Dr. Muhammad.

Muslims are business people, doctors, teachers and professors, Amin said.

“There is a misunderstanding or a misconception about Muslims,” said Amin, who lives in the resort. “Some people in the name of Islam are doing bad things. ... Real Islam is to spread peace, tolerance and tranquility.”

Prior to coming to the city, Amin was with the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, which caters to a population of 2.3 million people.

The small-town feeling of the resort, population 37,804, suits Amin. He is the founding imam of Masjid Al-Hera, which was established in 2011. Former Mayors Lorenzo T. Langford and Frank Gilliam Jr., current Mayor Marty Small Sr. and U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, D-2nd, have all been to his mosque, Amin said.

Full report at:

https://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/rac/diversity/muslims-find-atlantic-city-peaceful-place-to-worship-and-live/article_2a606e3d-90df-55de-97b7-d82c77e510ce.html#21

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Sudan protest group has ‘no objection’ to handing al-Bashir to ICC

4 November 2019

The protest movement that led to the ouster of Sudan’s longtime president Omar al-Bashir said Sunday it was not against handing over the deposed autocrat to the International Criminal Court to be tried for genocide.

Al-Bashir, who was ousted by the army in April after a nationwide agitation against his rule, has long been accused by the Hague-based ICC of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the devastating conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region.

“We have no objection in handing over Bashir to the ICC,” Ibrahim Al-Sheikh, a leader of umbrella protest movement the Forces of Freedom and Change, told reporters late on Sunday.

“All the members of the Forces of Freedom and Change agree on that.”

Global rights groups, opposition factions who fought Bashir’s forces over the years and activists have consistently demanded that the former leader be handed over to the ICC.

After he was deposed on April 11, ICC prosecutors once again demanded Bashir stand trial for mass killings in Darfur.

The military generals who had initially seized power in the aftermath of the president’s fall have refused to hand him over to the ICC.

The country has since August been ruled by a joint civilian-military sovereign council, which includes leaders of the protest umbrella.

The body is tasked with overseeing the transition to full civilian rule.

The transitional authorities would need to ratify the ICC’s Rome Statute to allow for the transfer of the ousted ruler to the Hague.

The Darfur conflict flared in 2003 when ethnic African rebels took up arms against the then Arab-dominated government of al-Bashir, accusing it of marginalizing the region economically and politically.

Khartoum then applied what rights groups say was a scorched earth policy against ethnic groups suspected of supporting the rebels – raping, killing, looting and burning villages.

About 300,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced in the conflict, the United Nations says.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/11/04/Sudan-protest-group-has-no-objection-to-handing-al-Bashir-to-ICC-.html

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Haftar forces kill child in Libya: UN-recognized gov’t

Safiye Karabacak  

05.11.2019

TRIPOLI

The UN-recognized government in Libya on Monday accused forces loyal to east Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar of killing a child and injuring an adult in a rocket attack.

Mohammed Nakasa was killed and a person was injured as a result of the rocket strike in Salahaddin region, south of the capital Tripoli, by the forces affiliated with Haftar, said a statement by the Government of National Accord (GNA).

Libya has remained beset by turmoil since long-serving leader Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed in a bloody NATO-backed uprising in 2011.

Since then, the country has seen the emergence of two rival seats of power: one in eastern Libya, to which Haftar is affiliated, and another in Tripoli, which enjoys UN recognition.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/haftar-forces-kill-child-in-libya-un-recognized-gov-t/1635634

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North America

 

Twitter fueled attacks on Muslim candidates in 2018, study finds

By Craig Timberg

November 4, 2019

Muslim candidates, including Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, endured torrents of hateful, xenophobic and threatening tweets during last year’s campaign season, much of it amplified through bots and other fake accounts, according to a study to be released Tuesday.

The study, by the Social Science Research Council, analyzed 113,000 Twitter messages directed at Muslim candidates. The tweets called the candidates “dogs” and “pieces of garbage” and accused them of marrying siblings, being terrorists and seeking to impose the values of a “demonic” faith on Americans.

The threats and verbal attacks flowed so heavily toward Omar (D-Minn.) — who came to the United States as a refugee from Somalia and has become a visible symbol of Muslim political aspirations — that the report categorized more half of all accounts that mentioned Omar as “trolls” because they tweeted or retweeted hateful, Islamophobic or xenophobic content.

The vitriol of the tweets far surpassed what Muslim candidates reported encountering on campaign trails in their own districts, evidence, the report said, that Twitter was responsible for the spread of images and words from a small number of influential voices to a national and international audience.

“We ended up with manufactured outrage that was amplified by faceless individuals, organizations and governments,” said Lawrence Pintak, lead author of the report and a professor at the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. The study is called “#Islamophobia: Stoking Fear and Prejudice in the 2018 Midterms.”

As a result of this social media blitz, Pintak said, “you create a sector of society that buys into this exaggeration of lies and exaggeration of hate in this online echo chamber, and it spills into the mainstream media and into mainstream consciousness.” Many of the tweets cited by the report appear to violate Twitter’s terms of service, which prohibit violent threats and attacks based on religious affiliation, and the researchers found that a large number of the accounts they studied were eventually closed or deleted by the user, which can be a tactic to remove evidence of disinformation campaigns.

“Death threats, incitement to violence, and hateful conduct have no place on Twitter,” said company spokeswoman Katie Rosborough after reviewing an advanced copy of the report. “We believe this behavior undermines freedom of expression and the power of healthy public conversation. People using their accounts to spread this type of content will face enforcement action.”

Omar complained publicly Sunday about the threats against her life on Twitter by retweeting a compilation of them and saying, “Yo @Twitter this is unacceptable!” That prompted talks between her office and the company.

After reviewing an advanced copy of Tuesday’s report, she called it “a wake-up call.”

“It has become clear that these platforms do not take seriously their role providing a platform for white nationalist hate and dangerous misinformation in this country,” Omar said. “We as a nation need to think seriously about ways to address online threats to our safety and our democracy.”

The office of Tlaib (D-Mich.), who was born in Detroit to Palestinian immigrant parents, did not respond to a request for comment about the report.

Omar’s wearing a traditional Muslim hijab head-covering was a particular source of anger in tweets reviewed for the study, as were unfounded claims that she sought to impose Islamic Sharia law on Americans and was complicit in the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh last year.

“No one that wears a #Hijab should be running for office in America. The #Quran #Islam and our #Constitution are Not compatible in any way,” said one tweet.

A set of three identical tweets said of Omar, “No way she belongs in this country. No way she should be involved in anything! Or breathing.”

The researchers examined and categorized 113,000 tweets directed toward Omar, Tlaib and a third, unsuccessful Muslim congressional candidate in the two months before the November midterm election. Overall Muslim women were more likely to be targeted online than men. And a relatively small number of influential accounts had outsized reach, thanks to accounts that tended to retweet, quote or comment rather than author tweets themselves.

“All these things that happened online — all this hate, all this controversy — were manufactured.” said Jonathan Albright, a social media researcher at Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism and a co-author of the report. “They wouldn’t exist if somebody hadn’t built a platform like this to amplify them.”

Particularly potent was right-wing journalist Laura Loomer, whom the report dubbed “Queen of the Trolls” for her ability to shape anti-Muslim online narratives. One tweet quoted in the report said, “MUST WATCH: I confronted Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, two Jihadi U.S. candidates with connections to terror organizations.” It also claimed that they hated Jewish people.

Loomer, who was banned from Twitter and Facebook in 2018, did not respond to emails seeking comment.

The account for President Trump, @realdonaldtrump, also played an influential role, in part because people seeking to spread anti-Muslim sentiment would direct their messages to Trump, potentially increasing their reach, the report found. The study concerned a period last year before Trump said, in July, that Omar, Tlaib and two other congresswomen of color should “go back” to their countries even though three of them were born in the United States.

The report found that automated “bot” accounts — along with so-called “sock puppets,” which are controlled by people disguising their identities — played crucial roles in spreading hateful content directed toward Muslim politicians. Of the top 20 conservative accounts that spread messages about Omar, at least nine were bots, the report found.

Albright said the report also attempted to assess the impact of anti-Muslim messages on Facebook but failed because posts typically were deleted or otherwise made inaccessible before they could be collected for analysis.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/twitter-fueled-attacks-on-muslim-candidates-in-2018-study-finds/2019/11/04/be0bf432-ff51-11e9-9518-1e76abc088b6_story.html

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‘If We Can Keep the Oil Away From ISIS, They Will Never Regenerate:’ Graham

November 2, 2019

BY MIMI NGUYEN LY

A day after ISIS confirmed the death of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and named his successor, Abu Ibrahim Hashimi al-Quraishi, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) reiterated the importance of keeping oil out of the reach of the terrorist group in order to stem its expansion.

Speaking to reporters on Friday in Pendleton, South Carolina, Graham clarified what he believes will keep the terror group, which has been decimated by U.S. and allied forces in recent years, from making a comeback.

“ISIS will never come back in Syria if we can keep the oil out of their hands,” he said. “That’s how the caliphate got so large—$45 million a month was generated in oil revenue used by ISIS to keep the caliphate going.”

“If we can keep the oil away from ISIS, they will never regenerate like they did before, and a small number of troops over there [Syria region] working with the Kurds will keep them [ISIS terrorists] from coming back,” he added.

Graham also added that he envisions the United States will maintain “a military presence in Syria and make sure the oil fields do not fall into the hands of ISIS or Iran,” and “continue to partner with the SDF Kurdish forces and make sure ISIS doesn’t regenerate.”

Weeks earlier, Graham also expressed his optimism about the situation in Syria.

“The big thing for me is the oil fields,” Graham told Fox News on Oct. 20. “President Trump is thinking outside the box. I was so impressed with his thinking about the oil.”

“Not only are we going to deny the oil fields falling into Iranian hands. I believe we’re on the verge of a joint venture between us and the Syrian Democratic Forces, who helped destroy ISIS and keep them destroyed, to modernize the oil fields and make sure they get the revenue, not the Iranians, not Assad.”

He later said: “I still believe that, if we abandon the Kurds, nobody helps you in the future. They have lost 10,000 fighters to destroy the caliphate. But there are 15,000 or 20,000 ISIS fighters running around in Syria and Iraq. A small contingent of Americans providing airpower and capability will keep ISIS at bay and keep the jails locked up and the ISIS fighters won’t break out.”

Defense Secretary Mark Esper confirmed on Oct. 25 at a press conference in Brussels that the United States would send forces to Syria to help keep oil fields out of reach of ISIS.

“Ultimately, we always intended—as the president directed—to maintain a presence at the Al-Tanf garrison,” Esper said. “As I’ve said over the past several days, we’re also considering how we might reposition forces in the area in order to ensure we secure the oil fields.”

“We are now taking some actions—I am not going to get into the details—to strengthen our position at Deir ez-Zor to ensure that we can deny ISIS access to the oil fields because we want to make sure that they don’t have access to the resources that may allow them to strike within the region, to strike Europe, to strike the United States.”

Trump on Oct. 27 said his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria in early October has nothing to do with the operation to capture or kill al-Baghdadi.

After Trump’s remarks, Graham—who had previously criticized Trump over the move to pull out U.S. troops—said that he could understand the president’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria.

“When it comes to what’s happening in Syria, I like what I see. The president’s position and my position are really not that far off,” he said on Oct. 27 at the White House.

He later said: “If we can continue to partner with the Kurds, secure the oil revenues—for their sake, not Iran’s sake, not for ISIS’s sake—and help pay the costs of operations, [it] makes imminent sense to me.

Full report at:

https://www.theepochtimes.com/if-we-can-keep-the-oil-away-from-isis-they-will-never-regenerate-graham_3135252.html

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US State Department Hails Saudi Role in Combating Terrorism

2 November, 2019

The United States hailed on Friday Saudi Arabia’s efforts in combating terrorism and the threat of ISIS and al-Qaeda sympathizers.

In its annual terrorism report for 2018, the State Department said Saudi Arabia “continued to maintain a strong counter-terrorism relationship with the United States and responded to terrorist threats from violent militant groups, ISIS sympathizers, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Iran-backed Houthi militants based in Yemen.”

Based on local reporting, the Kingdom continued to see a reduction in the number of deaths attributable to terrorist violence as the government actively and effectively improved its counter-terrorism readiness.

“Through a range of counter-terrorism initiatives, many in partnership with the US government, Saudi Arabia took tangible steps to strengthen its counter-terrorism capabilities in border security, counter terrorist financing and countering violent extremism,” said the report.

Saudi Arabia remained a key member and active participant in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and co-leads the Defeat-ISIS Coalition’s Counter-ISIS Finance Group, it stressed.

The Kingdom co-chairs the Riyadh-based Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC) with the United States, an initiative founded in 2017 to increase US-Gulf multilateral collaboration to counter terrorist financing.

Full report at:

https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1972936/us-state-department-hails-saudi-role-combating-terrorism

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US remains ‘committed to political settlement’ in Afghanistan

Anwar Iqbal

November 05, 2019

WASHINGTON: The next phase in the US effort to restart the Afghan peace process is to convince both friends and adversaries that Washington remains committed to a political settlement in Afghanistan despite recent setbacks, an official document shows.

The statement, issued after US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad completed his renewed efforts to restart peace talks, stresses that Washington continues to “support a political settlement to end the war in Afghanistan”, but it also believes that “a reduction in violence is necessary to bring about a lasting peace”.

In September, the United States and Taliban came close to finalising a deal for ending the 18-year-old war in Afghanistan but a Taliban attack in Kabul that killed dozens of people, including an American soldier, derailed the effort.

Senior Taliban leaders and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani were already scheduled to meet US President Donald Trump in Kabul for signing the deal, but Mr Trump cancelled the trip hours before their expected arrival and said that talks with the Taliban would only restart if they first stop the fight.

But he sent Ambassador Khalilzad back on the peace trail two weeks ago, dispatching him first to European capitals and then to the South Asian region for consulting US allies and adversaries on how to restart the talk process. He first went to Brussels for talks with America’s Nato allies who have contributed troops to the US-led military mission in Afghanistan.

In South Asia, the US envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation visited both Kabul and Islamabad to review various options for re-engaging the Taliban while ensuring that the Afghan government also remains involved in the process.

Mr Khalilzad visited Kabul twice -- from Oct 26 to Oct 28 and from Oct 29 to Nov 1 – and met President Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah, and other government officials as well as former officials, members of the civil society, and the religious community to “brief them and to hear their views on the peace process”, as the official statement said.

On Oct 28-29, Mr Khalilzad visited Islamabad where he met Prime Minister Imran Khan, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and other government officials.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1515007/us-remains-committed-to-political-settlement-in-afghanistan

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US sanctions Iranian supreme leader's 'inner circle'

Michael Hernandez  

04.11.2019

WASHINGTON

The U.S. on Monday sanctioned nine individuals and Iran's Armed Forces General Staff in a move targeting Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's "inner circle" on the 40th anniversary of the Iranian hostage crisis.

Khamenei himself was placed under U.S. sanctions in June as part of the Trump administration's "maximum pressure" policy on Iran, which has seen sweeping economic penalties imposed on the Iranian economy and the country's officials and institutions.

Washington has been seeking new negotiations with Tehran on its nuclear program and other activities it considers destabilizing after President Donald Trump in May 2018 unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from the nuclear pact world powers struck with Iran.

Iran started to cut its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal in a retaliatory move following the U.S.'s unilateral decision to withdraw from the agreement between Tehran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany and the EU. The deal allows Iran to reduce its commitments in case of other parties' breaches. Tehran insists the EU to act more actively regarding the implementation of its part of obligations, saying it will return to the full compliance with the deal once the EU has nullified the U.S. sanctions.

The new designations include Mojtaba Khamenei, the Iranian leader's son, whom the Treasury Department said is being blacklisted "for representing the Supreme Leader in an official capacity despite never being elected or appointed to a government position."

Gholam-Ali Hadad-Adel, the junior Khamenei's father-in-law and an advisor to the supreme leader, was also designated for working on his behalf.

Also sanctioned are Ebrahim Raisi, the head of the Iranian judiciary, Mohammad Mohammadi Golpayegani, Khamenei's Chief of Staff, and Vahid Haghanian, a top aide to Khamenei.

"Today the Treasury Department is targeting the unelected officials who surround Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, and implement his destabilizing policies," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

Mohammad Bagheri, who was appointed to head the Iranian Armed Forces General Staff, was also placed under U.S. sanctions "for being a person appointed to a position as a state official of Iran by the Supreme Leader of Iran." The U.S. further designated two individuals whom it said have been intimately involved in Iran-directed terrorist attacks in the past.

Hossein Dehghan, a brigadier general with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was the head of the corps' forces in Syria and Lebanon during the 1983 Marine Barracks Bombing in Beirut that killed 241 U.S. service members.

And the department further blacklisted Ali Akbar Velayati, an individual wanted in Argentina on charges ties to the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association, and whom the Treasury said has helped Tehran extend credit lines to the Syrian regime.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-sanctions-iranian-supreme-leaders-inner-circle/1635502

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US mortars found in terrorist YPG/PKK arsenal in Syria

Omer Koparan and Burak Karacaoglu  

04.11.2019

RAS AL-AYN, Syria

Belying U.S. promises to retrieve arms and ammunition it gave to terror group supposedly to fight ISIS/Daesh, U.S. mortar shells have been found in northeastern Syria in ammunition stores belonging to YPG/PKK terrorists.

Since the start of Turkey’s anti-terror operation in northern Syria last month, the terrorist YPG/PKK has martyred 17 civilians – including a woman, two children, and one infant -- and injured 36 in southern Turkey using mortars fired across the border from northern Syria.

Three Turkish soldiers were also martyred and 13 injured by PKK/YPG terrorists' mortar and cannon attacks since Oct. 9.

Turkish soldiers and their allies in the Syrian National Army seized ammunition with English labels and technical information in Ras al-Ayn, an area liberated by Operation Peace Spring, according to Anadolu Agency reporters on the ground.

Each of the many 60 ammunition crates seized, found to have been made in the U.S., has two mortar shells, and 120-mm mortars known to have a range of eight kilometers.

For years before Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring, launched on Oct. 9, U.S. forces worked with the terrorist YPG/PKK over Turkish objections, also supplying them with ample arms and ammunition, which the U.S. pledged to retrieve once Daesh was defeated.

Yet mortars like those found in northern Syria were fired into Turkish border areas and at Turkish soldiers since Oct. 9, the start of the operation, meaning that U.S. mortars given to YPG/PKK terrorists may be responsible for martyring and injuring scores of Turkish soldiers and civilians.

Turkey on Oct. 9 launched Operation Peace Spring to eliminate terrorists from northern Syria in order to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees, and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.

On Oct. 22, Turkey reached an agreement with Russia to force YPG/PKK terrorists to withdraw from the planned terror-free zone with their weapons.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S., and the European Union -- has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. The YPG/PKK is its Syrian offshoot.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-mortars-found-in-terrorist-ypg-pkk-arsenal-in-syria/1635220

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Europe

 

Turkey to return ISIS prisoners stripped of citizenship, minister claims

Nov 4, 2019

Turkey said Monday it would send ISIS prisoners back to their countries of origin, regardless of whether they had been stripped of citizenship.

Interior Minister Soleyman Soylu said Turkey had nearly 1,200 foreign members of ISIS in custody, and had captured 287 during its recent operation in northern Syria.

"Of course, those that are in our hands, we will send them back to their countries," he said, according to state news agency Anadolu.

"However, the world has devised a new method. They say, 'Let's strip them of their citizenship … Let them be tried where they are'.

"It is impossible for us to accept this view … We will send [ISIS] members to their countries whether they strip them of their citizenship or not.

“Turkey is not a hotel for ISIS members of any country."

It is not known whether Turkey will be able to do so in practice.

Western countries have often refused to accept the repatriation of citizens who left to join ISIS in Syria, and have stripped many of their citizenship.

Under the New York Convention of 1961 it is illegal to leave someone stateless, but several countries, including Britain and France, have not ratified it, and recent cases have triggered prolonged legal battles.

The UK has stripped more than 100 people of their citizenship for allegedly joining militant groups abroad.

High-profile cases such as that of teenage ISIS recruit Shamima Begum and alleged recruit Jack Letts, also known as "Jihadi Jack", have sparked court proceedings and fierce political debate.

On Monday Turkey requested that Germany repatriate 20 of its fighters, in total 80 of its nationals are being detained.

It said four of the German ISIS fighters have been captured since the Turkish military offensive in northeast Syria launched in October and the other 16 were already in Turkish custody.

In a policy document published last month on the issue, Anthony Dworkin, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, called on EU countries to end their “policy denial” and start repatriating detained ISIS supporters.

He wrote: “European countries should end their policy of denial and look for the first available opportunity to start repatriating detained ISIS supporters from Syria. Doing so offers numerous advantages, providing ways of: distinguishing between the different categories of European ISIS supporters; establishing their responsibility for specific crimes through fair and well-conducted trials; and using the information they possess to learn more about ISIS.

“The potential threat that returnees could pose, and difficulties in prosecuting them, may well be exaggerated, and ways exist for European governments to mitigate them.

“Repatriation would also be the fastest way to move detainees out of the situation of instability they currently find themselves in. It would limit both the risk of losing control of committed ISIS supporters and the harm that delay is inflicting on hundreds of children.”

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/turkey-to-return-isis-prisoners-stripped-of-citizenship-minister-claims-1.933027

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Italy to ban flights by Iran's Mahan Air from mid-December

NOVEMBER 2, 2019

DUBAI (Reuters) - Italy is set to ban flights by Iran’s Mahan Air, an Iranian industry official said on Saturday, as the United States seeks action against the airline accused by the West of transporting military equipment and personnel to Middle East war zones.

Germany and France have both already banned flights by the airline, and Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio told U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in early October that Rome was set to make a decision on whether to follow suit.

Italy’s air authority ENAC said in a statement that the ban on Mahan’s flights to Rome and Milan would take effect in mid-December.

The Association of Iranian Airlines (AIA) confirmed the news of the ban.

“Along with their pressure on our country, the Americans have pressed Italy to stop Mahan Air flights to Rome and Milan,” Maqsoud Asadi Samani, secretary of the AIA, was quoted as saying by the semi-official news agency Mehr.

Mahan Air officials could not be reached for comment.

Germany revoked the airline’s licence in January in the wake of U.S. pressure, while France banned it in March, accusing it of transporting military equipment and personnel to Syria and other Middle East war zones.

The United States imposed sanctions on Mahan in 2011, saying it provided financial and other support to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

Full report at:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-iran-sanctions-italy/italy-to-ban-flights-by-irans-mahan-air-from-mid-december-idUSKBN1XC0FV

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British politicians must do more to tackle extremism, says top adviser

Jack Dutton

Nov 5, 2019

The British government’s extremism adviser has called on leaders of the country’s three main political parties to commit to challenging hateful acts.

Sara Khan has written to Conservative leader and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson, head of the Liberal Democrats, accusing politicians of not doing enough to counter extremism.

The letter, which follows the recent release of the Commission for Countering Extremism’s report Challenging Hateful Extremism, said: “Our country’s response to hateful extremism is weak, insufficient and often ineffective. In the interests of our country, we need to do better.

“Hateful extremism is undermining the social fabric of our country and is having a devastating impact on the lives of individuals, communities and the country as a whole."

In the letter, the commission puts forward some recommendations for the British government to adopt.

These include a clear vision and definition for a whole-society effort to counter hateful extremism that is proportionate, based on human rights and focuses on victims, and a review of existing legal powers to ensure they are being used effectively.

It also calls for a task force led by the Home Secretary to prioritise and co-ordinate efforts across society against the most pressing incidents and issues.

Ms Khan called on the main parties to prepare plans for tackling hateful extremism “to protect our democratic values and the rights of everyone in this country”.

She said people from ethnic, racial or religious minorities were most likely to be attacked by extremists, as well as women and those who hold different political views.

“The active attempts to diminish pluralism, normalise hateful narratives – which often include making the moral case for violence – demand an urgent response,” Ms Khan said.

On Tuesday she will make the case for urgent action on extremism in a speech at the Bridging Northern Communities conference organised by Leeds Council.

Ms Khan will say that extremists seek to exploit local tension to spread hatred.

She will praise the tireless work of those challenging day-to-day extremism and set out her vision for a new approach to tackle it.

The report released in October detailed the deep harm to people, communities and society caused by those who incite or amplify hatred, engage in persistent hatred or who make the moral case for violence.

Ms Khan describes this as hateful extremism, and argued that society needs to be quicker to identify it, get better at protecting victims and do more to challenge extremists.

Polling by the commission last year showed that 73 per cent of people want to see more done to challenge extremism.

A separate report released last month found that in Europe, Muslims are facing a “new kind of terror” which is rooted in Islamophobia and white supremacist ideology.

The European Islamophobia Report said nationalist, populist and far-right movements have increased their influence across the European continent.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/british-politicians-must-do-more-to-tackle-extremism-says-top-adviser-1.933295

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Halkbank seeks to dismiss US claims that it helped Iran evade sanctions

Nov 5, 2019

A lawyer for a Turkish bank filed court papers on Monday saying it would seek to dismiss a US indictment against it for helping Iran evade sanctions on billions of dollars that were frozen in foreign accounts.

Halkbank, a major state-owned Turkish lender, has refused to respond to the charges in court since the case was filed last month.

The indictment, which was filed by prosecutors at Manhattan’s Federal Court, accused the bank of running a “brazen scheme” between 2012 and 2016 to evade US sanctions on Iran.

Prosecutors charged the bank for helping to increase Iran’s revenues from oil and gas sales using front companies, and through knowledge and under protection of officials in Iran and Turkey.

The officials received millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks, the indictment said.

On Monday, the lawyer representing the Turkish lender said the bank would request the removal of US District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan, who presided over a previous trial on the matter and has been assigned the new case.

But the bank said it did not plan to fight the US indictment in the American court.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/halkbank-seeks-to-dismiss-us-claims-that-it-helped-iran-evade-sanctions-1.933293

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Germany condemns Iran's move to speed up uranium enrichment

Nov 4, 2019

Germany’s Foreign Minister on Monday said Iran’s claim of developing advanced machines to quicken uranium enrichment jeopardises the 2015 nuclear deal.

Heiko Maas urged Tehran to return to the agreement.

Iran has been gradually reducing its commitment to the deal since the US withdrew from it last year and reimposed sanctions, blocking its oil exports to pressure Tehran into negotiating stricter limits on its nuclear programme.

Under the agreement between Iran and world powers, Tehran is limited to enriching uranium with just over 5,000 of its first-generation IR-1 centrifuges, which are widely considered to be outdated.

But the new IR-6 machines can refine uranium 10 times faster.

“Iran has built very advanced centrifuges, which do not comply with the agreement,” Mr Maas said in Hungary.

Tehran was now operating 60 IR-6 advanced centrifuges and its scientists were developing an IR-9 able to enrich 50 times faster than IR-1s, its nuclear agency chief Ali Akbar Salehi told state television earlier on Monday.

Iran said the move was a direct result of US President Donald Trump pulling out of the agreement.

Mr Maas called it unacceptable.

The nuclear deal, under which international sanctions against Iran were lifted, was designed to extend the time Tehran would need to obtain enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb to about a year from a couple of months.

Tehran denies ever having sought to build a nuclear bomb.

Mr Maas also spoke of tension with Nato ally Turkey over its incursion into Syria on October 9 to attack the Kurdish YPG militia, after Mr Trump’s abrupt withdrawal of US troops.

He said Turkey was an important Nato member but Berlin expected it to act as a partner.

Mr Maas said Germany would uphold its ban on the export of arms to Turkey that could be used in Syria.

He said the EU should speak with a common voice on matters related to the US, China or Turkey, whose President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is due to visit Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Thursday.

The EU said earlier on Monday that it was still committed to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, even as that deal continues to collapse.

Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for the European Commission, said on Monday that the deal “is a matter of our security, not just the region or Europe but globally".

But Ms Kocijancic said the EU’s commitment to the deal “depends on the full compliance by Iran.”

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/germany-condemns-iran-s-move-to-speed-up-uranium-enrichment-1.933274

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