New Age Islam
Tue Nov 24 2020, 06:19 PM

Islamic World News ( 26 Jan 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Russia’s New Syria to Be Neither Arab or Muslim

















President Bashar Al-Assad with Russia's President Vladimir Putin [File photo]

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Russia’s New Syria to Be Neither Arab or Muslim

The Sacrifices of Muslim Ulema in Freedom Struggle Cannot Be Forgotten: R-Day in Deeni Madrasas

Saudi Arabia’s Ultra-Conservative Footprint in Africa

Pakistani, Afghan Visa Applicants to Face Extreme Vetting: Trump

Hopes Rise for Warming Of Iran-Arab Relations

 

Europe

Russia’s New Syria to Be Neither Arab or Muslim

Austria Arrests 14 Suspected Islamic State Members In Major Raids

Greek court blocks extradition of Turkey coup suspects

Channel 4's Extremely British Muslims to lift lid on life as a Birmingham Muslim

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India

The Sacrifices of Muslim Ulema in Freedom Struggle Cannot Be Forgotten: R-Day in Deeni Madrasas

India, UAE Condemn Use of Religion to Justify State-Sponsored Terrorism

10 soldiers killed, 4 missing as two avalanches hit Gurez sector of Kashmir: Army

Sena Medal for 3 soldiers who gunned down Hizbul terrorist Burhan Wani

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Africa

Saudi Arabia’s Ultra-Conservative Footprint in Africa

Libyan Forces Say They Found 90 Bodies at Site of US Air Strike

Boko Haram kill three in Nigeria, says police

Somalia's al Shabaab says kills dozens of Kenyan troops in raid on base

Government set to recruit more police reservists to fight Al-Shabaab

Al-Shabab, Kenya claim dozens of deaths in Somalia attack

Masturbation… from perspective of Islam

Trump crackdown on refugees hits home for Somali community

Dozens feared dead as al Shabaab seizes KDF base in Somalia

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North America

Pakistani, Afghan Visa Applicants to Face Extreme Vetting: Trump

Man Attacks Muslim Airline Employee, Tells Her President Trump ‘Will Get Rid Of All Of You’

Trump administration debates designating Muslim Brotherhood as terrorist group

Trump's hopes for Syria safe zones may force decision on Assad

Trump expected to block refugees, restrict Muslims

Trump ‘will get rid of all of you’, Muslim airline employee attacked at JFK

Khizr Khan: Muslim ban could hurt US security

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Arab World

Hopes Rise for Warming Of Iran-Arab Relations

At Least 40 ISIL Militants Annihilated in Iraq Air Raids West of Mosul

Iraqi children flocking back to east Mosul schools

Bahraini police torture protester to death during dawn raids: Reports

Is US ‘terror tag’ likely for Muslim Brotherhood?

Al-Nusra Front Still Fighting against Rival Groups in Idlib, Aleppo

Syrian Army Units Find EU-Made Drugs in Terrorists' Vehicle

Syria: ISIL Offensive Repulsed Southeast of Aleppo Province

Tens of ISIL Terrorists Killed in Syrian-Russian Airstrikes in Deir Ezzur

Iraqi government troops win back two villages north of Mosul

Syrian Army Starts New Phase of Operations in Eastern Ghouta of Damascus

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Pakistan

Pakistan Bans Famed Religious TV Host for Hurling Blasphemy Allegations

PUC, MWL Vow Joint Struggle for Resolution of Ummah Challenges

‘Witch-Hunting’ Of Seminaries Not Acceptable: JUI Leader

Pakistan Could Be Added to Trump’s Muslim Ban List

Media’s role on national issues highlighted

Two ‘TTP militants’ killed in encounter

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Mideast

Turkey: ISIS, Nusra Are ‘Terrorist Organizations’

Israel Approves 153 More Settler Homes

Turkey angered as Greece blocks soldiers’ extradition

US warns over anti-American violence risk in Turkey

Kuwait: Tehran positive, willing to cooperate

Trump’s Iran visa ban hurting dual nationals

Yemen could face famine if no immediate action taken: UN officials

Yemeni snipers kill 2 Saudi troopers in retaliatory attacks

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Southeast Asia

Islamic State Pushing For Asian Links, Expansion, Says Philippines

Jais Blasts Sellers Making Sham Claims about Islam To Push Products

Indonesian radical cleric decries Communist symbols on new rupiah notes

Indonesian family, including kids, held over IS links

Jakarta Stocks Miss Gain as Governor Race Takes Islamic Turn

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South Asia

Freezing Weather Kills 27 Afghan Children

Afghan and Pakistani border guards clash in Spin Boldak

Afghan nation will never forget Indian nation’s cooperation: Atmar

Steps to be taken to arrest 9 guards of Vice President Dostum: Chakhansuri

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/russia’s-new-syria-to-be-neither-arab-or-muslim/d/109863

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Russia’s New Syria to Be Neither Arab or Muslim

January 26, 2017

A leaked document, reported to be a Kremlin-drafted new constitution for Syria, appears to outline a future Syrian state as being neither Arab nor Muslim in character. The draft constitution was handed to representatives of the Bashar Al-Assad regime, as well as the opposition.

The document contains 27 articles within it and changes much from previous constitutions, particularly in terms of identity. Rather than referring to Syria by its formal name of the Syrian Arab Republic, the apparently new constitution has reduced it to the “Syrian Republic”, erasing the Arab identity from the state’s name.

The proposed Russian-backed constitution also describes Syria as a “secular and democratic” republic, and erases the previous article that stipulated that Islamic jurisprudence would be foundation of any legislation passed in the Arab country.

Similarly, the president of the republic, previously required to be of the Muslim faith in order to be representative of the overwhelming majority of the Syrian people, was redefined as being from any faith and ethnicity.

In what may be seen as a further attack on Syria’s predominantly Arab population, the constitution calls for autonomous Kurdish-controlled regions in the north of the country, drawing equality between both the Arabic and Kurdish languages, despite Kurds being a significant minority population.

According to the document, rule in Syria would be devolved away from centralised authorities in Damascus and will be represented by a new parliament that is comprised of the regional representatives of the decentralised provincial governments.

The draft constitution, if genuine, will likely inflame the Syrian opposition who will view the “new” Syria as being similar to a Soviet-era rump state rather than an independent and sovereign republic. It will also likely spell trouble for the Assad regime, who will be accused of betraying the Arab identity, and allowing the republic to be placed under the thumb of Russia, now widely seen as an imperialist power.

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170126-russias-new-syria-to-be-neither-arab-nor-muslim/

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The sacrifices of Muslim Ulema in freedom struggle cannot be forgotten: R-Day in Deeni Madrasas

January 27, 2017

Hyderabad: 68th Republic Day was celebrated in almost all the Deeni Madrasas in Hyderabad city. Speaking on this occasion, Maulana Shabbir Ahmed after unfurling the national flag at the office of Jamiatul-ul-Ulema near Masjid Zam Zam, Amberpet highlighted the role of Muslim Ulema and their sacrifices during freedom struggle of India. He further told that whenever there was a need for blood, Muslims offered their blood for the security of the country. He made a special mention of sacrifices of Maulana Husain Ahmed Madani, Maulana Fazla-e-Haq Khairabadi and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.

On the occasion Republic Day, the students were told about constitution of India wherein all the citizens have been guaranteed equal rights. Republic Day was celebrated Jamia Ashraf –ul-uloom, Faizul ullm, Darul Uloom and many other Deeni Madrasas.

http://www.siasat.com/news/sacrifices-muslim-ulema-freedom-struggle-cannot-forgotten-r-day-deeni-madrasas-1118292/

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Saudi Arabia’s ultra-conservative footprint in Africa

27 January 2017

There is much debate about what spurs political violence. The explanations are multi-fold. There is one aspect that I’d like to discuss as it relates to Africa, and that is the role of Saudi Arabia. Let me be clear: With the exception of a handful of countries, none of which are in Africa, Saudi Arabia, that is to say the government, the religious establishment and members of the ruling family and business community, does not fund violence.

Promoting intolerance and supremacism

It has, however, over the last half century launched the single largest public diplomacy campaign in history, pumping up to $100 billion into ultra-conservative interpretations of Islam.1Sohail Nakhoda, “Keynote: Workshop on Islamic Developments in Southeast Asia,” Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 15 November 2015; Prince Ghazi Bin Muhammad Bin Talal, “What Has Broken? Political, Sociological, Cultural and Religious Changes in the Middle East over the Last 25 Years”, S.R. Nathan Distinguished Lecture, Middle East Institute, 17 November 2015; David Aufhauser, An Assessment of Current Efforts to Combat Terrorism Financing, Testimony of Hon. David D. Aufhauser, Washington DC: Government Printing Office, June 15, 2004, p. 46. That campaign has succeeded in making ultra-conservatism a force in Muslim religious communities across the globe. It involves the promotion of an intolerant, supremacist, anti-pluralistic interpretation of Islam that even where it rejects involvement in politics creates an environment which, in given circumstances, serves as a breeding ground, but more often fosters a mindset in which militancy and violence against the other is not beyond the pale.

What that campaign has done, certainly in Muslim majority countries in Africa, is to ensure that representatives of Saudi-backed ultra-conservatism have influence in society as well as the highest circles of government. This is important because, contrary to widespread beliefs, the Saudi campaign is not primarily about religion, it’s about geopolitics, it’s about a struggle with Iran for hegemony in the Muslim world. As a result, it’s about anti-Shi’ism and an ultra-conservative narrative that counters that of Shi’ism and what remains of Iran’s post-1979 revolutionary zeal.

The campaign also meant that at times resolving the question of whether the kingdom maintains links to violent groups takes one into murky territory. Again, I want to be clear, certainly with the rise of the Islamic State (IS) group and its affiliates in Africa and elsewhere, and even before with the emergence of Al-Qaeda, Saudi Arabia has made countering jihadism a cornerstone of its policy. That is, however, easier said than done.

What is evident in Africa is that the kingdom, or at least prominent members of its clergy, appear to have maintained wittingly or unwittingly some degree of contact with jihadist groups, including IS affiliates. What I want to do is anecdotally illustrate the impact of Saudi-backed ultra-conservatism on three African states – Nigeria, Niger and Mali – and how this at times relates to political violence in the region.

Nigeria

Let’s start with Nigeria. One of the earliest instances in which Saudi Arabia flexed its expanding soft power in West Africa was in 1999 when Zamfara, a region where IS affiliate Boko Haram has been active, became the first Nigerian state to adopt Sharia. A Saudi official stood next to Governor Ahmed Sani when he made the announcement. Freedom of religion scholar Paul Marshall recalls seeing some years later hundreds of Saudi-funded motorbikes in the courtyard of the governor’s residence. They had been purchased to enforce gender segregation in public transport. Sheikh Abdul-Aziz, the religious and cultural attaché at the Saudi embassy in Abuja, declared in 2004 that the kingdom had been monitoring the application of Islamic law in Nigeria “with delight.”2Email exchange with the author, 11 January 2016; Pew Research Centre, The Global Spread of Wahhabi Islam: How Great a Threat? 3 May 2005.

Like elsewhere in the Muslim world, local politicians in Zamfara were forging an opportunistic alliance with Saudi Arabia. If geopolitics was the Saudi driver, domestic politics was what motivated at least some of their local partners. Nonetheless, the lines between militant but peaceful politics and violence were often blurry. Political violence analyst Jacob Zenn asserts that Boko Haram even has some kind of representation in the kingdom. 3Jacob Zenn, “Boko Haram’s International Connections,” Combatting Terrorism Centre, West Point, 14 January 2013. A Boko Haram founder who was killed in 2009, Muhammad Yusuf, was granted refuge by the kingdom in 2004 to evade a Nigerian military crackdown. In Mecca, he forged links with like-minded Salafi clerics 4Andrew Walker, “Join us or die: the birth of Boko Haram,” The Guardian, 4 February 2015. that proved to be more decisive than his debates with Nigerian clerics who were critical of his interpretation of Islam.5Ahmad Salkida, Muhammad Yusuf: “Teaching and preaching controversies,” Salkida.com [website now defunct], 28 February 2009.

Once back in Maiduguri, the capital of Nigeria’s Borno state, Yusuf built with their assistance a state within a state centred around the Ibn Taymiyyah mosque and a compound in the city centre on land bought with the help of his father-in-law. Yusuf’s group had its own institutions, including a Shura or advisory council, a religious police force that enforced Islamic law, and a rudimentary welfare, microfinance and job creation system. 6Ahmad Salkida, Muhammad Yusuf: “Teaching and preaching controversies,” Salkida.com [website now defunct], 28 February 2009; Andrew Walker, “Join us or die: the birth of Boko Haram,” The Guardian, 4 February 2015.

It operated under a deal struck in talks in Mecca brokered by a prominent Salafi cleric between a dissident Boko Haram factional leader identified as Aby Muhammed and a close aide to former Nigerian President Jonathan Goodwill. 7Agence France Press, “Nigeria not talking to Boko Haram Islamists, president says,” 18 November 2012; Andrew Walker, “Join us or die: the birth of Boko Haram,” The Guardian, 4 February 2015. Under the agreement Yusuf pledged not to preach violence and to distance himself from separatist groups, an understanding he later violated. Boko Haram has further suggested that before joining IS, it had met with Al-Qaeda operatives in Saudi Arabia. 8Monica Mark, “Boko Haram vows to fight until Nigeria establishes sharia law,” The Guardian, 27 January 2012. Moreover, a Boko Haram operative responsible for attacking a church in Nigeria reportedly spent months in Saudi Arabia prior to the attack. 9Jacob Zenn, Boko Haram’s International Connections, Combatting Terrorism Centre at West Point, 14 January 2013.

Yusuf’s religious teacher, Sheikh Ja’afar Adam, a graduate of the Islamic University of Medina, presided over a popular mosque in the Nigerian city of Kano that helped him build a mass audience. Adam’s popularity allowed him to promote colleagues, many of whom were also graduates of the same university in Medina, who became influential preachers and government officials. Adam was liberally funded by Al-Muntada al-Islami Trust, a London-based charity with ties to Saudi Arabia 10Alex Thurston, “How far does Saudi Arabia’s influence go? Look at Nigeria,” The Washington Post, 31 October 2016. which has repeatedly been accused by Nigerian intelligence and a British peer, Lord Alton of Liverpool, of having links to Boko Haram and serving as a platform for militant Islamic scholars. 11Jamie Doward, “Peer raises fears over UK charity’s alleged links to Boko Haram,” The Observer, 8 September 2012. Al-Muntada, which operates a mosque and a primary school in London, has denied the allegations while a UK Charity Commission investigation failed to substantiate the allegations. Kenyan and Somali intelligence nonetheless suspected Al-Muntada of also funding Al-Qaeda’s Somali affiliate, Al-Shabab.12Interview with Islam scholar, 4 November 2016.

Among scholars hosted by Al-Muntada are Mohammad Al Arifi, a Saudi preacher who argues that “the desire to shed blood, to smash skulls and to sever limbs for the sake of Allah and in defence of His religion, is, undoubtedly, an honour for the believer”. He also reasons that the Muslim world would not have suffered humiliation had it followed “the Quranic verses that deal with fighting the infidels and conquering their countries, say that they should convert to Islam, pay the jizya poll tax, or be killed”.13The Middle East Media Research Institute, “Saudi Cleric Muhammad Al-Arifi: ‘The Desire to Shed Blood, to Smash Skulls, and to Sever Limbs for the Sake of Allah Is an Honour for the Believer,” 12 August 2010.

Abd al-Aziz Fawzan al-Fawzan, a Saudi academic, is another Al-Muntada favourite. Al-Fawzan advises the faithful that “if (a) person is an infidel, even if this person is my mother or father, God forbid, or my son or daughter, I must hate him, his heresy and his defiance of Allah and His prophet. I must hate his abominable deeds.”14“Stand for Peace”, briefing document: Month of Mercy Conference, 2012. Organisationally, the charity also maintained close ties to major Saudi funding organisations, including the Muslim World League (MWL), the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), and Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation,15Samuel Westrop, “Grooming Jihadists,” Gatestone Institute, 28 July 2014. a Saudi governmental non-non-governmental organisation that was shut down in the wake of 9/11 because of its jihadist ties.

Adam publicly condemned Yusuf after he took over Boko Haram. In response, Yusuf in 2007 ordered the assassination of Adam, a protégé of the Saudi-funded Izala Society (formally known as the Society for the Removal of Innovation and Re-establishment of the Sunnah), which sprang up in northern Nigeria in the late 1970s to campaign against Sufi practices and has since gained ground in several West African states. Much like Saudi Arabia and Wahhabism’s relationship to jihadism, Izala after spawning Boko Haram became one of its main targets. The group has since the killing of Adam gunned down several other prominent Saudi-backed clerics.

Nigerian journalists and activists see a direct link between the influx of Saudi funds into Yusuf’s stomping ground in northern Nigeria and the greater intolerance that rolled back the influence of Sufis that had dominated the region for centuries and sought to marginalize Shi’is. According to Shi’i activist Hairun Elbinawi. 16Hairun Elbinawi, “How Wahhabism Made The North Lethally Intolerant: Gratitude To Nigerian Christians,” Newsrescue.com, 7 February 2016:

They built their own mosques with Saudi funds so that they will not follow kafirs in prayers and they erected their own madrasa schools where they indoctrinated people on the deviant teachings of Wahhabism. With Saudi petro-dollars, these Wahhabis quickly spread across the towns and villages of Northern Nigeria… This resulted in countless, senseless inter-religious conflicts that resulted in the death of thousands of innocent Nigerians on both sides.

Adam started his career as a young preacher in Izala, a Salafist movement founded in the late 1970s by prominent judge and charismatic orator Abubakr Gumi who was the prime facilitator of Saudi influence and the rise of Salafism in Northern Nigeria. A close associate, Gumi represented northern Nigeria at gatherings of the MWL starting in the 1960s, was a member of the consultative council of the Islamic University of Medina in the 1970s and was awarded for his efforts with the King Faisal Prize in 1987. All along, Gumi and Izala benefited from generous Saudi financial support for its anti-Sufi and anti-Shi’i campaigns. 17Ousmane Kane, Muslim Modernity in Postcolonial Nigeria, Leiden: Brill, 2003.

Adam and Gumi’s close ties to the kingdom did not mean that they uncritically adopted Saudi views. Their ultra-conservative views did not prevent them from at times adopting positions that took local circumstances in Northern Nigeria into account at the expense of ultra-conservative rigidity. Adam’s questioning of the legitimacy of democracy, for example, did not stop him becoming for a period of time a government official in the state of Kano. In another example, Gumi at one point urged Muslim women to vote because “politics is more important than prayer”, a position that at the time would have been anathema to Saudi-backed ultra-conservative scholars. Similarly, Adam suggested that Salafists and Kano’s two major Sufi orders, viewed by Saudi puritans as heretics, should have equal shares of an annual, public Ramadan service. 18Alex Thurston, “How far does Saudi Arabia’s influence go? Look at Nigeria,” The Washington Post, 31 October 2016.

Peregrino Brimah, a trained medical doctor who teaches biology, anatomy and physiology at colleges in New York never gave much thought while growing up in Nigeria to the fact that clerics increasingly were developing links to Saudi Arabia. He said: “You could see the money, the big ones were leading the good life, they ran scholarship programmes. In fact, I was offered a scholarship to study at King Fahd University in Riyadh. I never thought about it until December 2015 when up to a 1,000 Shiites were killed by the military in northern Nigeria,” Brimah said.19Interview with the author, 8 February 2016. “Since I started looking at it, I’ve realised how successful, how extraordinarily successful the Wahhabis have been.”

Brimah decided to stand up for Shi’i rights after an incident in which the army arrested prominent Shi’i cleric Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky following a clash in Kaduna state. 20Hadassah Egbedi, “The Arrest of Sheikh Ibrahim Zazaky Revealed these Four Things,” Ventures Africa, 17 December 2015. The Nigerian army confirmed that it had attacked sites in the ancient university town Zaria after hundreds of Shi’i demonstrators had blocked a convoy of Nigeria’s army chief, General Tukur Buratai, in an alleged effort to kill him. Military police said Shi’is had crawled through tall grass towards Buratai’s vehicle “with the intent to attack the vehicle with [a] petrol bomb” while others “suddenly resorted to firing gunshots from the direction of the mosque”. Scores were killed in the incident.21Aljazeera, “Nigeria accused of killing hundreds of Shia Muslims,” 16 December 2015. A phone call to Nigerian President Mohammed Buhari in which King Salman expressed his support for the government’s fight against terrorist groups was widely seen as Saudi endorsement of the army’s crackdown on the country’s Shi’i minority. The state-owned Saudi Press Agency quoted Salman as saying that Islam condemned such “criminal acts” and that the kingdom, in a reference to Iran, opposed foreign interference in Nigeria.22“King Salman vows support to Nigeria’s fight against terror,” Arab News, 19 December 2015.

Brimah’s defence of the Shi’is has cost him dearly and further illustrated the degree to which Saudi-funded Wahhabism and Salafism had altered the nature of Nigerian society.

I lost everything I had built on social media the minute I stood up for the Shi’is. I had thousands of fans. Suddenly, I was losing 200-300 followers a day. My brother hasn’t spoken to me since. The last thing he said to me is: “how can you adopt Shi’i ideology?” I raised the issue in a Sunni chat forum. It became quickly clear that these attitudes were not accidental. They are the product of Saudi-sponsored teachings of serious hatred. People don’t understand what they are being taught. They rejoice when thousand Shi’is are killed. Even worse is the fact that they hate people like me who stand up for the Shi’is even more than they hate the Shi’is themselves.

In response to Brimah’s writing about the clash, Buratai, the Nigerian army chief, invited him for a chat. Brimah politely declined. After again accusing the army of having massacred Shi’is, Buratai’s spokesman, Colonel S.K. Usman, adopting the Saudi line of Shi’is being Iranian stooges, and accused Brimah of being on the Islamic republic’s payroll. In an email, Usman wrote:

Several of us hold you in high esteem based on perceived honesty, intellectual prowess and ability to speak your mind. That was before, but the recent incident of attempted assassination of the chief of army staff by the Islamic Movement of Nigeria and subsequent events and actions by some groups and individuals such as you made one to have a rethink. I was quite aware of your concerted effort to smear the good name and reputation of the chief of army staff to the extent of calling for his resignation. He went out of his way to write to you and even invited you for constructive engagement. But because you have dubious intents, you cleverly refused… God indeed is very merciful for exposing you. Let me make it abundantly clear to you that your acts are not directed to the person of the chief of army staff, they have far reaching implication on our national security. Please think about it and mend your ways and refund whatever funds you coveted for the campaign of calumny.23Email dated 9 January 2016 from Col S.K. Usman to Peregrino Brimah, provided by Brimah to the author.

Brimah’s inbox has since then been inundated with anti-Shi’i, anti-Iranian writings in what he believes is a military-inspired campaign.

Brimah was not the only one to voice opposition to Saudi-backed ultra-conservatism. Murtada Muhammad Gusau, chief imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’at Mosque and Alhaji Abdurrahman Okene’ s Mosque in Nigeria’s Okene Kogi State, took exception to the kingdom’s global effort to criminalise blasphemy, legitimise in the process curbs on free speech and reinforce growing Muslim intolerance towards any unfettered discussion of the faith. In a lengthy article in a Nigerian newspaper, Gusau debunked the Saudi-inspired crackdown on alleged blasphemists, citing multiple verses from the Qur’an that advocate patience and tolerance and reject the killing of those that curse or berate the Prophet Muhammad.24Murtada Muhammad Gusau, “Kano Killing: What Islam says about blasphemy and killings,” The Premium Times, 5 June 2016.

Brimah and Gusau were among the relatively few willing to invoke the wrath of spreading ultra-conservative, sectarian forms of Islam across a swath of Africa at an often dizzying pace. In the process, African politicians and ultra-conservatives, in cooperation with Saudi Arabia, have let a genie of intolerance, discrimination, supremacy and bigotry out of the bottle.

Niger

In the Sahel state of Niger, Issoufou Yahaya recalls his student days in the 1980s when there wasn’t a single mosque on his campus. “Today, we have more mosques here than we have lecture rooms. So much has changed in such a short time,” he said.25Yaroslav Trofimov, “Jihad Comes to Africa,” Wall Street Journal, 5 February 2016.

One cannot avoid noticing Saudi Arabia’s role in this development. The flags of Niger and Saudi Arabia feature on a monument close to the office tower from which Yahaya administers the History department of the Université Abdou Moumouni in the Niger capital of Niamey.

Sheikh Boureima Abdou Daouda, an internet-savvy graduate of the Islamic University of Medina and the Niamey university’s medical faculty as well as an author and translator of numerous books, attracts tens of thousands of worshippers to the Grand Mosque where he insists that “We must adopt Islam, we cannot adapt it.”26Abdourahmane Idrissa, “The Invention of Order: Republican Codes and Islamic Law in Niger, unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Florida, 2009. Daouda serves as an advisor to Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou and chairs the League of Islamic Scholars and Preachers of the Countries of the Sahel. “Before, people here turned to religion when they reached middle age, and particularly after they retired. But now, it is above all the young ones. What we see is a flourishing of Islam.” Daouda said.27Yaroslav Trofimov, “Jihad Comes to Africa,” Wall Street Journal, 5 February 2016.

What Daouda did not mention was that Africa, the battleground where Iran put up its toughest cultural and religious resistance to Saudi-backed ultra-conservatism, was witnessing the world’s highest rates of conversion to Shi’a Islam since many Sunni tribes in southern Iraq adopted Shi’ism in the 19th century. Shi’is were until recently virtually non-existent in Africa, with the exception of migrants from Lebanon and the Indian subcontinent. A Pew Research survey suggests that that has changed dramatically. The number of Shi’is has jumped from 0 in 1980 to 12 per cent of Nigeria’s 90-million strong Muslim community in 2012. Shiites account today for 21 per cent of Chad’s Muslims, 20 per cent in Tanzania and eight per cent in Gaza, according to the survey.28Pew Research Centre, “The World’s Muslims: Unity and Diversity,” 9 August 2012; Yaroslav Trofimov, “With Iran-Backed Conversions, Shiites Gain Ground in Africa,” The Wall Street Journal, 10 May 2016.

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1701/S00090/saudi-arabias-ultra-conservative-footprint-in-africa.htm

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Pakistani, Afghan visa applicants to face extreme vetting: Trump

ANWAR IQBAL

Jan 27, 2017

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump has indicated that both Pakistan and Afghanistan will be among the countries whose citizens will have to go through an “extreme vetting” process before entering the United States.

In an interview to ABC News, Mr Trump also said he was going to sign an order placing a ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries entering the US on Wednesday but it was delayed, apparently because of a huge public backlash.

The interview, broadcast on Wednesday night, was his first to a television channel since he took oath as president on Jan 20 and covered a wide range of subjects, from Obamacare to immigration and war against terrorists.

Reports that the Trump administration would establish a registry for collecting data about Muslims living in the US brought thousands of protesters out in a New York park on Wednesday night and a former secretary of state said she too would register as a Muslim if Muslims were asked to do so.

Madeleine Albright, the first woman US secretary of state, tweeted: “I was raised Catholic, became Episcopalian and found out later my family was Jewish. I stand ready to register as Muslim in solidarity.”

US shouldn’t have invaded Iraq, admits president

Her message was re-tweeted by about 20,000 people and liked by almost 40,000.

In the ABC News interview, recorded on Wednesday morning, President Trump said he was going to sign an order banning at least some Muslims from entering the United States in two hours. Later he did sign two orders — authorising the construction of a wall on the US-Mexico border and deportation of illegal immigrants — but those did not include the proposed ban on Muslims.

Asked to name the countries whose citizens would not enter the US, the president said: “You’ll be hearing about it in two hours because I have a whole list. You’ll be very thrilled.”

He said he was focusing on the people who came “with evil intentions. I don’t want that. They’re ISIS [Islamic State militant group]. They’re coming under false pretence. I don’t want that.”

Later, he defended his plan in a tweet as well, saying “as your president, I have no higher duty than to protect the lives of the American people”.

When the interviewer, David Muir, asked why Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were not on the ban list, Mr Trump said: “We’re going to have extreme vetting in all cases. And I mean extreme. And we’re not letting people in if we think there’s even a little chance of some problem.”

Asked if this was the Muslim ban that he had talked about during the election campaign, he said: “It’s not the Muslim ban. But it’s countries that have tremendous terror.... And it’s countries that people are going to come in and cause us tremendous problems.”

He said: “It’s going to be very hard to come in. Right now it’s very easy to come in. It’s gonna be very, very hard.”

Mr Trump said he would also create safe zones in Syria for refugees to live in, as he would not allow them to enter the US.

He said his predecessor Barack Obama and secretaries of state Hillary Clinton and John Kerry had allowed tens of thousands of people to enter the country.

“The FBI is now investigating more people than ever before having to do with terror, and it’s from the group of people that came in,” he said, adding: “Our country has a lot of problems… they’re deep problems, they’re serious problems. We don’t need more.”

Referring to the involvement of a Muslim Pakistani couple in the 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, the president said: “I don’t want terror in this country. You look at what happened in San Bernardino.... You look at what happened in the World Trade Centre.”

Asked if he was concerned that these measures could cause more anger among Muslims, he said: “There’s plenty of anger right now. How can you have more? The world is as angry as it gets.”

Explaining why he thought there was so much anger in the world, Mr Trump said: “All of this has happened. We went into Iraq. We shouldn’t have gone into Iraq. We shouldn’t have gotten out the way we got out.”

He also defended the suggestion he made as a presidential candidate that the US should have “kept the oil” in Iraq. “We should’ve kept the oil when we got out… had we taken the oil, you wouldn’t have ISIS because they fuel themselves with the oil… when we left, we left Iraq, which wasn’t a government. It’s not a government now,” he explained.

“We should’ve taken the oil. And if we took the oil you wouldn’t have ISIS. And we would have had wealth. We have spent right now $6 trillion in the Middle East. And our country is falling apart.”

Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2017

http://www.dawn.com/news/1311028/pakistani-afghan-visa-applicants-to-face-extreme-vetting-trump

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Hopes rise for warming of Iran-Arab relations

Jan 27, 2017

Kuwait has voiced optimism over the prospects of better relations between Iran and the Persian Gulf Arab states following a recent visit to Tehran by the Kuwaiti foreign minister, who delivered an important message to the Islamic Republic.

On Friday, Kuwait’s al-Rai newspaper quoted Kuwaiti Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled al-Jarallah as saying that Tehran has announced its readiness for détente in ties with Persian Gulf states.

The remarks came days after Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Hamad  Al Sabah traveled to Tehran, bearing a letter from the country’s emir on behalf of the Persian Gulf littoral states, which are apparently seeking to fix ties with Tehran.

The visit was the first one to take place by a senior official from the region since early 2016, when ties between Iran and several such countries started to suffer amid the confrontational approach taken by the new Saudi rulers vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic.

Jarallah further said the letter contained principles of potential joint negotiations, adding that it can pave the way for improvement in Iran’s relations with the Persian Gulf nations.

“We felt that the Iranian side has comprehended the content of the letter and was willing to take follow-up steps in accordance with it,” he added, according to the report.

In January 2016, Saudi Arabia unilaterally severed its diplomatic ties with Iran after protesters scaled the walls of the kingdom’s diplomatic premises in Tehran and Mashhad in protest at its execution earlier of senior Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

Several of the kingdom’s allies subsequently followed in Riyadh’s footsteps and took steps to damage their bilateral ties with Tehran.

However, Saudi officials have in recent months toned down their rhetoric against Iran, which has stolen the spotlight in the region with its influential role in the diplomatic efforts aimed at ending the Syria crisis.

During his trip to Tehran, the top Kuwaiti diplomat met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who said the Islamic Republic's power serving regional security and stability, and added that Tehran would back any measure that would strengthen those two qualities.

The Iranian chief executive reminded that security in the Middle East region would be guaranteed only through dialogue, friendship and cooperation among regional countries.

For his part, the Kuwaiti minister praised Iran’s efforts to contribute to the promotion of relations among regional countries.

The Kuwaiti foreign minister was also quoted as saying by media that the letter he gave to President Rouhani stressed the “necessity of improving relations.”

According to the media reports, Hamad  Al Sabah also said Persian Gulf Arab nations hope the ties “with Iran will normalize,” and that Iran and the Arab countries should be “regional partners.”

Jarrah said, though, that there was still no agreement on the timing for potential meetings featuring talks aimed at mending ties, and that it was still too early to talk of the potential reopening of the Iranian embassies in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/01/27/507955/Iran-Kuwait-Persian-Gulf-Saudi-Arabia

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Europe

 

Austria arrests 14 suspected Islamic State members in major raids

Jan 27, 2017

Fourteen people were arrested in Austria on Thursday as some 800 police investigating possible members of the Islamic State jihadist group carried out raids in Vienna and Graz in the south, authorities said.

The raids however were not related to the arrest in Vienna last week of a 17-year-old suspected Islamist extremist, and investigators did not believe a terror attack was imminent, reports said.

“As part of an ongoing investigation into suspected membership of terrorist organisation IS, a coordinated operation planned for some time took place involving 800 officers,” Graz prosecutors said.

Eight men were initially detained, including three Austrians of foreign descent, two Bosnians, a Syrian, a Bulgarian and a Macedonian, all aged between 21 and 49, a spokesman said.

Four of the arrests took place in Vienna and four in Graz.

A further three men and three women from the Balkans were later also arrested in Graz.

Two of the women are wives of the male suspects, prosecutors said.

Media reports said that as well as apartments, police also raided unofficial mosques, mostly in Graz. They also said the operation targeted individuals from former Yugoslavia suspected of establishing a jihadist network in Austria.

Dozens ‘brainwashed’

The Kronen Zeitung tabloid reported that the raids focused on the network of a Muslim preacher from Bosnia jailed for 20 years last July in Graz for recruiting young IS fighters.

The accused, known as Ebu Tejma, “brainwashed” dozens of people aged between 14 and 30 and enlisted a number of them to fight for IS in Syria, his trial heard.

Ebu Tejma fled from Bosnia to Vienna following the break-up of Yugoslavia and preached in various Austrian and southern German cities, becoming a “key figure” in pushing IS propaganda, according to the prosecution.

He was arrested during a far-reaching crackdown on Austrian jihadist networks in 2014 and denied the charges against him.

Austria has so far been spared getting hit by the string of attacks by Islamist extremists in other European countries in the past few years.

But around 300 people have either left or were intercepted trying to leave Austria to fight in Syria, according to the interior ministry. Around 40 have died there while some 90 have come back.

The 17-year-old of Albanian origin arrested in Vienna on Friday was thought to have been planning a bomb attack. The following day a suspected accomplice was arrested in Neuss, Germany.

Media reports said that they had experimented with making explosives in the 21-year-old’s Neuss apartment. Authorities said the Austrian had told investigators he made an experimental bomb.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/austria-arrests-14-suspected-islamic-state-members-in-major-raids/story-6CReqPGGuMduepXENkZSqN.html

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Greek court blocks extradition of Turkey coup suspects

26 January 2017

Greece's Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the extradition of eight Turkish military officers sought by Ankara over July's failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a justice source said.

The court ordered that the officers -- two commanders, four captains and two sergeants -- be released from police custody.

The judges' ruling conforms with the arguments of prosecutors who said the officers would not receive a fair trial in Turkey.

The eight had landed a helicopter in the northern Greek city of Alexandroupolis in July, a day after the botched coup against Erdogan.

Turkey has branded them "terrorists" and the case is awkward for Athens, which is working with NATO ally Ankara to stem the flow of migrants through its territory towards western Europe.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2017/01/26/Greek-court-blocks-extradition-of-Turkey-coup-suspects.html

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Channel 4's Extremely British Muslims to lift lid on life as a Birmingham Muslim

26 JAN 2017

A new documentary TV series is to lift the lid on life as a Muslim in Britain, after film makers had unprecedented access to Birmingham Central Mosque.

The Channel 4 series Extremely British Muslims has spent a year following some of the 6,000 worshippers at one of the largest mosques in Europe.

The cameras have captured their day-to-day lives to explore three themes – finding a partner, the identity crisis facing young Muslim men and the challenges faced by some British Muslims as they try to reconcile the rules of their faith with life in Britain.

It also exposes the dealings of the Sharia Court, including following women who are trying to get a divorce.

And it reveals that there is such demand from Muslims wanting to check the religion’s rules that the Mosque runs a daily telephone helpline.

The resulting three-part series begins on February 23.

Why is Birmingham Central Mosque involved?

The mosque’s leaders hope that by opening their doors they will put paid to false ideas about their religion.

Birmingham Central Mosque’s manager Mohammed Ali says: “There seems to be a lot of mythology about what goes on in and around a mosque and Muslim community and this is our attempt to deal with these myths and ensure that the facts are there for everyone to see.”

Making young girls wear hijab is 'as bad as pole dancing or spray tans' for kids

Channel 4 say: “As the number of Muslims in the UK reaches three million, and at a time when British Muslims have found themselves thrust into the spotlight, we have been given privileged access to go beyond the news agenda, into the mosque and document the bustling heart of this community and the many ways in which it intersects with the lives of its worshippers – from its funeral service and Sharia council, to its marriage bureau.”

What does the first episode cover?

In All the Single Muslims, the cameras follow young men and women as they try to find spouses through the mosques Marriage Bureau service.

One couple on a date have very differing views on a woman’s place in a marriage.

He says: “There are some things I would expect from a wife. I would want my wife to look after me by cooking. The house is her responsibility.”

The episode follows Ash, 29, who is resisting his mum’s attempts to arrange a marriage with a girl in Pakistan.

Ash says: “I said ‘No mum, we’re from different worlds’. My mum says ‘What do you mean? She talks English’.

“I was just baffled by that, I was like, OK, so all I’m looking for is somebody that speaks English, shouldn’t be too hard – I could find one at the bus stop right now. Yeah, looking for a little bit more than that mum!”

The episode also explores how women can seek a divorce through the mosque’s Sharia Council. It’s the only one in the country with a female judge on the panel.

Boys To Men – isn’t that a pop group?

It’s also the title of the second episode, which mainly follows two young Muslim men, Waz and Nav.

There’s one scene on a train in which they joke about whose long beard makes them look more like a terrorist.

Nav says: “You notice how many people are looking at us on the train? You probably get that a lot. They probably think you look more likely to blow yourself up than me.

“I can get away with a hipster, you look more like a caveman.”

Waz’s friend Reza says: “Here in Birmingham I’m treated as a foreigner but when I go back to my country of origin I am treated as a foreigner.

Full report at:

http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/showbiz-tv/channel-4s-extremely-british-muslims-12511863

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India

 

India, UAE condemn use of religion to justify state-sponsored terrorism

Indrani Bagchi

Jan 26, 2017

NEW DELHI: India and UAE would work together to counter radicalisation and misuse of religion by groups and countries for inciting hatred and perpetrating acts of terrorism.

A joint statement issued at the end of the visit by the UAE crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan declared "strong condemnation of and resolute opposition to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, wherever committed and by whomever, and declared that there could be no justification for terrorism anywhere."

While the statement did not mention, it was clearly aimed at Pakistan. It said, "The two sides condemn efforts, including by states, to use religion to justify, sustain and sponsor terrorism against other countries."

They further deplored efforts by countries to give religious and sectarian colour to political issues and pointed out the responsibility of all States to control the activities of the so-called 'non-State actors'.

India has stepped up diplomatic pressure against terrorism. But UAE, confronting the twin dangers of Pakistan-supported terror groups in close proximity as well as the looming dangers of Daesh/ISIS, looks at this with growing alarm.

The most recent reminder was the killing of 5 UAE diplomats in Kandahar - the Taliban asserted it was not their doing. The UAE is reluctant to openly condemn the Taliban who they had supported in Afghanistan in the 1990s, alongwith Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. A security team from the UAE has just returned from Afghanistan after investigating the attack in Kandahar. Anwar Gargash, minister of state for foreign affairs said the government would take appropriate steps after the team submits its report. For the time being, the government is being circumspect on the possible outcome of the investigation.

But with indications that it may have been the work of Haqqani network, with help from the ISI, as the Kandahar police chief stated, the UAE is in a bind. Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of the Haqqani network is now also the deputy leader of the Afghan Taliban, so it would be difficult to insulate the Taliban from responsibility. But it reinforces the Indian position against good and bad Taliban/terrorists.

The attack has reinforced one of the beliefs driving the UAE's current approach - on the need to counter extremist ideologies that have created groups like al-Qaida and now ISIS/Daesh. The same UAE was a supporter of the Taliban government in Afghanistan, but after 9/11 decided to send troops to fight al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.

Today, this country, through numerous state-sponsored organizations like Hedayah, is working with schools, Islamic clerics, and governments to steer away from extremist ideologies, weed out extremism from school curricula and even tailor the message clerics deliver to the faithful. Within UAE, the Friday sermons delivered by the imams are written and vetted by a government department on Islamic affairs to make sure the message is of "tolerance, moderation" etc.

It shows the growing alarm coursing through these societies about radicalized Islam becoming an existential threat. "There is a close relationship between extremism and terrorism. Not every extremist becomes a terrorist, but every terrorist is first an extremist," said state foreign minister Anwar Gargash, to Indian journalists in Abu Dhabi this week.

"We have a problem within Islam, within Muslim societies, while the Islamization of states is also contributing to growing extremism," he added.

There is a growing sense that countering terrorism is key to maintaining what they call the "UAE model" - a modern, tolerant Muslim nation. It is actually one of the anchors that have drawn India and UAE to each other in recent years.

"We are seeing a reincarnation - al-Qaida is reincarnated as ISIS. After ISIS is eliminated, what will we see next?"

They believe they are working towards a three-pronged approach - this needs strong international cooperation and the patience to continue the battle over a very long time. "These are, security cooperation with others, strong efforts to block the money trail for terrorists and their groups, and to build a compelling counter-narrative against violent extremism," Gargash said.

"The five UAE diplomats killed in the Kandahar terror attack were some of my close friends, one of them was even my roommate in college," Ali Rashid Al Nuaimi chairman of Hedayah, told TOI. Al Nuaimi said they were working with a growing number of countries to develop strategies on three fronts - countering foreign terrorist fighters; re-educating and rehabilitating terrorists/fighters returning to their countries from terror battlegrounds like Syria and Iraq; and trying to save children from being used by groups like IS and Boko Haram.

In the joint statement, both leaders emphasised the importance of promoting inclusiveness, openness and tolerance within and among societies. Both sides noted the importance of efforts to disrupt terrorist networks, their financing and movement. The UAE is also the only Arab nation to support the India-sponsored Convention on international terrorism in the UN.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/india-uae-condemn-use-of-religion-to-justify-state-sponsored-terrorism/articleshow/56798557.cms

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10 soldiers killed, 4 missing as two avalanches hit Gurez sector of Kashmir: Army

Jan 26, 2017

SRINAGAR: Ten soldiers have been killed and four have gone missing after two avalanches hit Gurez sector of Kashmir, an Army official said on Thursday.

The first avalanche hit an Army camp in Gurez sector of Bandipora district near the Line of Control on Wednesday evening in which several soldiers were trapped, the Army official said.

He said rescue operations were launched and seven soldiers including a Junior Commissioned Officer were saved.

"Bodies of three soldiers were retrieved this morning," he said.

The official said another avalanche hit a patrol party which was on its way to a post in Gurez sector on Wednesday evening.

"Rescue teams have so far retrieved seven bodies from the spot of the incident," the official said.

He said search and rescue operation to find the missing soldiers are on.

On Wednesday, an officer was killed in an avalanche at Sonamarg in central Kashmir Ganderbal district while four members of a family died in another avalanche in Gurez sector.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/10-soldiers-killed-4-missing-as-two-avalanches-hit-gurez-sector-of-kashmir-army/articleshow/56798716.cms

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Sena Medal for 3 soldiers who gunned down Hizbul terrorist Burhan Wani

Jan 26, 2017

SRINAGAR/NEW DELHI: Tucked away in the remote hills of south Kashmir, it is jubilation all around at the Rashtriya Rifles unit as three of its personnel have been awarded Sena Medal for having gunned down dreaded terrorist Burhan Wani+ .

As details of the July 8 operation last year emerge, it transpires that young Major Sandeep Kumar, who led the crack team following "actionable" intelligence input that Sartaj Aziz and two other militants were hiding in a house in Bumdoora village, showed nerves of steel and exemplary restraint in the face of extreme provocation in neutralising them.

The village, 18 km southeast of Anantnag, was cordoned off but the news of Army's presence got leaked, making their task all the more daunting.

It was a long wait for Major Sandeep Kumar, Captain Manik Sharma and Naik Arvind Singh Chauhan before they could lead their team in storming the house where the militants were holed up.

Protesting crowds began swelling by the minute, shouting slogans and pelting the Army contingent with stones.

Leading the assault team, Captain Sharma and two others even made an attempt to enter the house as Major Kumar stood behind them, ready to provide cover fire. However, they had to retreat amid heavy stone-pelting by the villagers.

"We were counting every minute and even planning to throw a cordon around the house as dusk approached fast and with it the milling, restive crowd carrying stones," recalled a police officer who was in touch with the Army contingent from the district headquarters.

Major Kumar and his team made another attempt to storm the house and the militants opened a burst of gunfire.

Aziz made an unsuccessful attempt to escape, but was shot dead.

Time was running fast and two more militants, who were believed to be inside, were to be accounted for.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/sena-medal-for-3-soldiers-who-gunned-down-hizbul-terrorist-burhan-wani/articleshow/56795989.cms

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Africa

 

Libyan forces say they found 90 bodies at site of US air strike

27 January 2017

Libyan forces have found some 90 bodies of slain militants at the sites of recent US air strikes near the former ISIS stronghold of Sirte, they said in a statement on Thursday.

The forces posted pictures of desert hideouts covered with sand and grass and said the sites were being used for training. Shells, suicide belts and booby traps had been recovered there, the statement added.

They also said they had arrested two suspected militants and killed four who refused to surrender. The forces are led by brigades from the city of Misrata and ousted ISIS from Sirte in a near seven-month campaign that ended in December.

US officials have said more than 80 militants, some plotting attacks in Europe, had been killed a week ago when B-2 bombers dropped about 100 precision guided munitions on camps about 28 miles (45 km) southwest of Sirte.

They said the strikes targeted militants who had fled from Sirte. The Misrata-led forces said most of those found at the sites of the strikes were not among those who had fled from Sirte.

The forces’ statement gave no details of the militants’ nationalities or where they were thought to have been previously.

Pictures posted alongside the statement showed desert shelters covered with canvas or plastic sheeting and branches, and a hideout dug into the sand. There were also pictures of a number of several dead bodies, burnt out vehicles, weapons and satellite phones.

The statement said some 70 bodies had been found in one location and 20 bodies at another spot. It was not clear how far apart the two sites were.

ISIS defeat in Sirte left the group without any territory it controlled in Libya, though it has a presence in other parts of the country.

Libyan and Western security officials have long warned that some fighters escaped from Sirte before the battle or during its early stages. ISIS leaders have said they intend to regroup from outside Sirte.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2017/01/27/Libyan-forces-say-they-found-90-bodies-at-site-of-US-air-strike.html

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Boko Haram kill three in Nigeria, says police

January 26, 2017

Boko Haram Islamists raided a village in northeast Nigeria earlier this week, killing three men and abducting seven women, police said on Thursday. The militants raided a village in the northeastern district of Askira Uba on Monday, firing weapons and burning buildings to the ground, Borno state police commissioner Damian Chukwu told AFP.

Casting doubt on government claims that Boko Haram is “technically defeated”, the police chief said officers had been deployed in the area to forestall further attacks.

“Homes and vehicles were burned in the attack which made villagers ran into the bush,” said Chukwu.

Askira Uba is near the town of Chibok, where more than 200 schoolgirls were abducted in April 2014, drawing global attention to the raging Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria’s northeast.

Nigeria recently said it has forced the jihadists out of their Sambisa forest stronghold, but residents in the area believe the IS-affiliated group is still present.

The raid was the latest in a string of assaults or attempted attacks in Borno state by suicide bombers, often young women.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/world/boko-haram-kill-three-in-nigeria-says-police-4493179/

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Somalia's al Shabaab says kills dozens of Kenyan troops in raid on base

Jan 27, 2017

The Islamist group al Shabaab said its fighters killed dozens of Kenyan troops when they attacked a remote military base in Somalia on Friday, while Kenya's army dismissed the report and said "scores" of militants were killed.

A spokesman for al Shabaab, which often launches attacks on troops of the African Union's AMISOM force, said its fighters killed at least 66 Kenyans at the base in the southern town of Kulbiyow, near the Kenyan border.

Al Shabaab said it lost fighters but did not give numbers.

Kenyan military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Paul Njuguna denied the claim that al Shabaab had killed dozens of soldiers but did not give any casualty figures.

In a statement, he said al Shabaab attackers used a vehicle packed with explosives to try to blast their way into the camp of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF). "KDF soldiers repulsed the terrorists, killing scores," he said.

Njuguna said the attack was launched around dawn on Friday.

In January 2016, al Shabaab said it had killed more than 100 Kenyan soldiers in El Adde, a Somali camp near the border with Kenya. The military never gave details of casualties, but Kenya media reports suggested a toll of that magnitude.

Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab's military operation spokesman, had told Reuters al Shabaab fighters rammed two suicide car bombs into the base and seized it. "We are pursuing the Kenyan soldiers who ran away into the woods," he said.

Al Shabaab, whose assessment of casualties often differs markedly from official versions, typically rams the entrance to a target site with a car or truck bomb so fighters can storm in.

Full report at:

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-somalia-attacks-idUSKBN15B0C9

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Government set to recruit more police reservists to fight Al-Shabaab

Jan 27, 2017

The National Government is planning to recruit more police reservists in Garissa, Mandera and Wajir counties to fight Al-Shabaab.

Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet said the move is aimed at boosting security in North Eastern following frequent attacks by Al-Shabaab.

Boinnet said the recruitment process is underway and the police reservists will help in the fight against terrorism, following a spate of attacks on Kenyan soil by the militants that have claimed hundreds of lives.

He further said the number of police officers in the stations along the Kenya-Somalia border has been increased.

“The government will recruit more police reservists in Garissa, Mandera and Wajir counties to boost security and help monitor border security,” he added.

“The government is following the relevant legal procedures in the recruitment process. Security has also been beefed in police stations along the Kenya-Somalia border like Diff Police Station which has been overrun a number of times by Al-Shabaab,” said Boinnet who was speaking in Wajir Town.

Northern Kenya leaders, led by Mandera Governor Ali Roba, had asked the government to hire 900 local reservists in the three counties who understand the region’s terrain to patrol and help security personnel in the war against Al-Shabaab militants.

Full report at:

http://www.hivisasa.com/garissa/news/192829

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Al-Shabab, Kenya claim dozens of deaths in Somalia attack

January 27, 2017

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — A spokesman for extremist group al-Shabab said Friday its fighters killed at least 51 Kenyan soldiers in an attack on a military base in Somalia. But Kenya denied it, saying “scores” of the extremist fighters were killed instead when its soldiers repelled the assault.

Al-Shabab spokesman Sheikh Abdiaziz Abu-Musab said the extremists seized military vehicles during the early morning attack in Kulbiyow town in Lower Jubba region.

But Kenyan military spokesman P.M. Njuguna said in a statement that the “rumors” being spread by al-Shabab were false. Kenyan soldiers with the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia “fiercely engaged” the al-Shabab fighters who tried to penetrate the base with an explosives-laden vehicle, Njuguna said.

A Somali military officer, Col. Ahmed Ali, said al-Shabab’s massive suicide car bomb allowed dozens of extremists with machine guns to overrun the Kenyan camp, torching tents and arms depots.

Ali disputed al-Shabab’s claim of killing at least 51 soldiers, saying the Kenyans fought back before retreating to a nearby area. He declined to give further details.

Al-Qaida’s East African affiliate is fighting to impose a strict version of Islam in this Horn of Africa nation. It has lashed out with deadly attacks against countries like neighboring Kenya that contribute to the African Union mission.

Thousands of the AU troops are in Somalia to bolster the country’s weak government, while al-Shabab continues to launch deadly guerrilla attacks like this week’s assault on a hotel in the capital, Mogadishu, that killed at least 26.

Somalia’s security forces are supposed to be taking on more responsibility as the AU force prepares to withdraw by the end of 2020. But concerns remain high about the country’s security, and the ongoing al-Shabab attacks in the capital and elsewhere have contributed to several delays in Somalia’s upcoming presidential elections, a key step in the country’s recovery.

Full report at:

http://wtop.com/africa/2017/01/al-shabab-kenya-trade-claims-in-morning-attack-in-somalia/

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Masturbation… from perspective of Islam

27 January 2017

Those who guard their sexual organs except with their spouses; or those whom their right hand possesses, for (with regard to them) they are without blame. But those who crave something beyond that are transgressors.” (Al-Mu’mun: 5-7)

A larger group of Muslim jurists, exegetes and legists consider masturbation as completely forbidden. It is their opinion that the above verse of the Quran explicitly lays down avenues from which the believer is permitted to seek sexual gratification, namely their spouses and the slaves (during the time when slavery was in vogue). These scholars therefore argue that since “‘Masturbation is excluded by the Almighty an indulgence in it becomes an infraction of the divine will”.

Further, the conclusion Jurists have drawn from the following Aayat: ‘And those who do not find the means to marry should remain chaste until the Almighty gives them resources by His grace’ (Quran 24: 33) are the following:

Firstly, in this Aayat the Almighty has given the command of chastity and, according to the principles of Fiqh, a command (an imperative) denotes incumbency and obligation. Hence to remain chaste is compulsory and to refrain from that which is contrary to it, for example, adultery, fornication, and sodomy is equally compulsory. This is due to the fact that obligatory chastity will not materialize except by complete

abstinence from all that which is contrary to chastity.

Secondly, in the above verse of the Quran, the Almighty has made chastity obligatory on those who are unable to enter into lawful marriage. Since the Almighty has not made an allowance for masturbation an indulgence in the practice therefore means an indulgence in something not sanctioned by the Creator of the heavens and the earth.

Imam Qurtubi, one of the revered scholars of Quranic exegesis has posited that since the Almighty has not provided a third alternative to marriage and abstinence then, any other sexual act is unlawful. The same position held by Imam al-Qurtubi has been upheld by ‘Imam Baighawi.

The traditions of the Prophet of Islam compel the conclusion that abstinence from masturbation is better than an indulgence in it. In an hadith reported by Abdullah ibn Masuud the Prophet of Islam (s.a.w) once said: “O group of youth! Whoever among you who can marry should do so because it keeps the gaze low and protects the private parts. And he who cannot marry should make it compulsory upon himself to fast because fasting attenuates sexual desires’. Here again, the Prophet has not given an alternative different from the one the Almighty has offered in the Quran. Rather, what we see is an encouragement from the Prophet to the youth to marry, to avoid fornication and other illicit sexual acts including masturbation and homosexualism. Perhaps in order to emphasize the prohibition and make it as complete as possible, the Prophet says again: ‘Seven persons are such that the Almighty will not look at them on the Day of resurrection nor will He purify them nor will He include them among those He will favour. They will enter hellfire first except those who repent. These include someone who masturbates, someone who performs the act of sodomy or homosexuality or lesbianism; a person upon whom the act of sodomy, homosexuality or lesbianism is performed; a perpetual drunkard; the person who hits his parents so much that they appeal for help; and the person who harms his neighbours so much so that they curse him and the person who commits adultery with his neighbour’s wife. (Ibn Katheer vol. 5 p. 458).

Let me begin to close with this: The Prophet is reported of have said in a tradition reported by Anas ibn Malik: ‘The person who performs Nikah (sexual act) with his hands (i.e. masturbates) is cursed”.

Thus dear reader, in creating humanity male and female, the Almighty, may His name be exalted, had plans not only for each and every one of us but equally for every organ in our body. The mouth is designed for speech and for consumption of food and drinks. Our genitals are made in such a way that they equally perform dual functions: means for the evacuation of our internal extremities and infirmities and for sexual pleasure and procreation. In order words, the creation of the phallus for men in the manner of a rod is not happenstance. Just as the insertion of the pen in water would render the former invalid the subjection of our organs to purposes or means that they were not naturally meant for would lead to earthly tribulations and eternal damnation.

As for your question whether masturbation is a grievous sin, I guess it should be clear from the above that this is better avoided as it is not sanctioned in Islam. All sexual conducts which do not comply with or are contrary to the intendment of the Creator are infractions of the Will of the Almighty. In a lecture the other day, I asked my audience to imagine how it would feel if an iron rod which has spent hours in a burning oven and has become red by it is now inserted in someone’s private part. Boys and girls in the hall could only imagine how painful and tortuous it would be for whoever have to suffer such interdiction. I then told them that is the similitude of the punishment that would result from engagement in sexual practices which run foul of the Will of the Almighty. While you may or may not experience the interdictions and punishments for such infractions here on earth, it is certain that immediately your soul departs your body, you shall be brought face to face with the consequences of the evil life you led while on earth. On that day, the Quran tells us, there shall be no Senior Advocates of Truth (SAT) or Senior Advocates of Corruption (SAC). The Almighty says: On that day we shall set a seal on their mouths; their hands will then speak to us, and their feet shall bear witness, to all that they did (Quran 36:65)

Full report at:

http://guardian.ng/features/masturbation-from-perspective-of-islam/

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Trump crackdown on refugees hits home for Somali community

Jan 26, 2017

Jeylani Abdi Mohamed has spent most of his years as an American working to win approval for his mother’s move to the United States.

And he thought it was about to happen – until the news leaked this week about an impending executive order from President Donald J. Trump that would bar refugees from his native Somalia and six other Muslim countries.

“It was really devastating” to hear the news, said Mohamed, 27, who moved to America as a refugee a decade ago. “But I understand the reason he did it.”

Trump spent much of his presidential campaign promising to crack down on the threat he saw coming from Muslim refugees.

His draft executive order -- which circulated widely this week among agencies that work with refugees -- would keep that promise.

The president’s order would freeze all refugee resettlement for 120 days and bar the issuance of visas to people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

It would also institute an “extreme vetting” process toughening the rigorous security screenings that refugees already face, and cut the number of refugees admitted to the United States in fiscal 2017 from 110,000 – former President Barack Obama’s goal – to 50,000.

In the draft order, Trump said he is forcing the changes in the refugee admission program “to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States.”

According to research from the Cato Institute, a libertarian organization, there are relatively few such attacks. Of the 3.25 million refugees admitted into the United States since 1975, 20 became terrorists, resulting in the deaths of three Americans, according to the group. “The chance of being murdered in a terrorist attack committed by a refugee is one in 3.64 billion a year,” the Cato Institute said.

In contrast, Forbes reported last year that the odds of winning a Powerball jackpot are 1 in 292.2 million – meaning the average Powerball player is 12.46 times more likely to win the Powerball than he is to be killed by a refugee terrorist.

A Somali refugee wounded nine people in a stabbing rampage at a Minnesota mall last fall, and another Somali injured nine people in an attack at Ohio State University a few weeks later.

Given that history, Mohamed understood why Trump plans on cracking down on refugees.

“If he feels he has to do this to make America 100 percent safe, I understand,” he said. “If you have one bad tomato in the bunch, it’s going to affect all the good tomatoes.”

Still, people who work with Buffalo’s large refugee communities don’t understand what Trump is doing.

“These heartless actions will not make our country safer,” said Dr. Myron Glick, founder and director of Jericho Road Community Health Center.

“This is setting up a situation where people might think Muslims are terrorists” when the vast majority are not, Glick added. “That gives cover for people to do bad things.”

Trump’s potential order is expected to have huge ramifications not just for families like Mohamed’s, but for cities such as Buffalo.

While its largest number of refugees came from Burma in the past 15 years, Buffalo also welcomed 4,848 refugees from the countries whose outcasts would be banned under the Trump order.

Most notably, a sizable Somali community has developed on the West Side, as 2,735 newcomers have arrived from that strife-torn African nation.

“We didn’t cause any kind of trouble,” said Imam Yahye Omar of the Buffalo Islamic Community Center. “We are American citizens who didn’t do anything wrong.”

What’s more, refugees from Somalia and elsewhere have contributed greatly to the stabilization of Buffalo’s population and its economic rebound, said Eva M. Hassett, executive director of the International Institute of Buffalo, one of four agencies in the city that resettle refugees.

Trump’s four-month hold on refugee resettlement, along with his dramatic cut in the number of refugees to be admitted to the United States this year, will result in fewer newcomers moving to Buffalo, she said.

Agencies such as the International Institute get federal funds to resettle refugees, and most of the people end up working not long after moving to America. So Trump’s move could mean less federal money coming to Buffalo, along with fewer hard-working newcomers, Hassett said.

“Certainly this has the potential to have a negative economic impact,” she said.

It will have a negative effect on Mohamed, who became a U.S. citizen five years ago in hopes that it would help his mother’s case for resettlement.  Mohamed now holds an associate’s degree and a job at Buffalo Wire Works, and has a wife and three young children.

Full report at:

https://buffalonews.com/2017/01/26/trump-crackdown-refugees-hits-home-somali-community/

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Dozens feared dead as al Shabaab seizes KDF base in Somalia

Jan. 27, 2017

Al Shabaab said on Friday its fighters killed dozens of Kenyan troops when they attacked a remote military base in Somalia on Thursday, a claim KDF had denied.

A spokesman for al Shabaab, which often launches attacks on the African troops fighting with the African Union's AMISOM force, said its fighters killed at least 57 Kenyans at the base in the southern town of Kulbiyow, near the Kenyan border.

"That is false," Kenyan military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Paul Njuguna told Reuters, without giving any casualty figures. "The operation is ongoing. We are receiving updates."

In January 2016, al Shabaab said it had killed more than 100 Kenyan soldiers in El Adde, a Somali camp near the border with Kenya. The Kenyan military never gave details of casualties, but Kenya media reports suggested a toll of that magnitude.

"We are pursuing the Kenyan soldiers who ran away into the woods," Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab's military operation spokesman, told Reuters about Friday's attack.

"Two mujahideen (fighters) rammed suicide car bombs into the base in Kulbiyow town before storming it," he said, adding that alongside counting 57 Kenyan bodies the group seized vehicles and weapons. "We have taken over the base."

Al Shabaab, whose assessment of casualties often differs markedly from official versions, typically rams the entrance to a target site with a car or truck bomb so fighters can storm in.

The group, which once ruled much of Somalia, wants to topple the Western-backed government in Mogadishu and drive out the peacekeepers made up of soldiers from Kenya, Djibouti, Uganda, Ethiopia and other African nations.

Driven out from the capital Mogadishu in 2011, al Shabaab has been fighting for years to impose its strict interpretation of Islam on Somalia.

Full report at:

http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2017/01/27/dozens-feared-dead-as-al-shabaab-seizes-kdf-base-in-somalia_c1495574

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North America

 

Man attacks Muslim airline employee, tells her President Trump ‘will get rid of all of you’

Jan 27, 2017

A Massachusetts man is accused of attacking a Muslim airline employee at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, allegedly kicking and shouting obscenities at the woman and telling her that President Donald Trump “will get rid of all of you,” authorities said.

The Queens District Attorney’s Office said Robin Rhodes, of Worchester, had arrived from Aruba and was awaiting a connecting flight to Massachusetts on Wednesday night when he approached Delta employee Rabeeya Khan, who wears a hijab, while she was sitting in her office.

Queens District Attorney Richard A Brown said Rhodes came up to the door and went on a profanity-laced tirade, asking the woman if she was praying. Rhodes then allegedly punched the door, which hit the back of Khan’s chair. Khan asked Rhodes what she had done to him and Rhodes replied, “You did nothing.” He then cursed at her and kicked her in the leg, Brown said.

When another person tried to calm him down, Brown said Rhodes moved away from the door and Khan ran out of the office. Rhodes followed her, got down on his knees and began to bow down in imitation of a Muslim praying, shouted obscenities and said “Trump is here now. He will get rid of all of you. You can ask Germany, Belgium and France about these kind of people. You see what happens,” Brown said.

At the time of his arrest, Rhodes allegedly told police, “I guess I am going to jail for disorderly conduct. I couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman because their back was to me and they had something covering their head.”

Rhodes was charged with assault, unlawful imprisonment, menacing and harassment as hate crimes. It was not immediately clear if he has an attorney who can comment on the charges.

“The bigotry and hatred that the defendant is accused of manifesting and acting upon have no place in a civilized society — especially in Queens County, the most culturally diverse county in the nation,” Brown said. “Crimes of hate will never be tolerated here and when they do, regrettably occur, those responsible will be brought to justice.”

http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/man-attacks-muslim-airline-employee-tells-her-president-trump-will-get-rid-of-all-of-you/story-Uzr89sPYuFO0UTviEZBkTP.html

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Trump administration debates designating Muslim Brotherhood as terrorist group

7 Jan 2017

A debate is under way in the Trump administration about whether the United States should declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation and subject it to US sanctions, according to US officials and people close to President Donald Trump's transition team.

A faction led by Michael Flynn, Trump's National Security Advisor, wants to add the Brotherhood to the State Department and US Treasury lists of foreign terrorist organisations, the sources said. "I know it has been discussed. I'm in favour of it," said a Trump transition advisor, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The advisor said Flynn's team discussed adding the group to the US list of terrorist groups but said it was ultimately unclear when or even if the administration ultimately would go ahead with such a move. Other Trump advisors, as well as many veteran national security, diplomatic, law enforcement and intelligence officials argue the Brotherhood has evolved peacefully in some countries, according to officials and people close to Trump's entourage.

They worry that a US move to designate the entire Brotherhood a terrorist group would complicate relations with Turkey, a key American ally in the fight against Islamic State, and where the Islamist-rooted AKP Party that dominates the Turkish government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in power. Tunisia's Islamist Ennahda Party has also participated in democratic elections.

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the country's oldest Islamist movement, was designated as a terrorist organisation in that country in 2013. It is not clear which faction within the US administration has the upper hand, and Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Mario Diaz-Balart this month introduced legislation to add the Brotherhood to the terrorist list. There was no immediate comment from the White House.

MIXED RECORD

Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates among others have designated the group on their terrorist lists, and Trump's nominee for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, described the Brotherhood an "an agent of radical Islam", during his Senate confirmation hearing.

US criminal law prohibits people in the United States from knowingly providing "material support" to designated terrorist organisations, and members of such groups are banned from entering the United States. Some conservative and anti-Muslim activists have argued for years that the Brotherhood, which was founded in Egypt in 1928 and sought to establish a worldwide Islamic caliphate by peaceful means, has been a breeding ground for terrorists.

Some branches of the Brotherhood, including the Palestinian group Hamas, have engaged in anti-government violence and provoked violent government reactions. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda, was once a member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

Other offshoots in Turkey and Tunisia have forsworn violence and come to power by democratic means. Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Mursi became Egypt's first freely elected president in June 2012 in the aftermath of the ousting of long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak. An army takeover stripped Mursi of power in 2013 following mass protests against his rule. Hundreds of Islamists have since been killed and arrested.

Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Trump spoke by phone this week and the two leaders discussed ways to boost the fight against terrorism and extremism. A US official who declined to be identified said there had been discussions at the State Department which looked at intelligence and information on the group in which it was thought "it would be difficult to justify legally, in terms of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, to meet the criteria".

"It's one thing to say one group's ideology has been used to influence a terrorist organisation and another thing to say that this group is a terrorist organisation," said the US official.

Full report at:

http://www.dnaindia.com/world/report-trump-administration-debates-designating-muslim-brotherhood-as-terrorist-group-2296586

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Trump's hopes for Syria safe zones may force decision on Assad

Jan 27, 2017

President Donald Trump's push to create safe zones in Syria could force him to make some risky decisions about how far to go to protect refugees, including shooting down Syrian or Russian aircraft or committing thousands of U.S. troops, experts said.

Trump said on Wednesday he "will absolutely do safe zones in Syria" for refugees fleeing violence. According to a document seen by Reuters, he is expected in the coming days to order the Pentagon and the State Department to draft a plan to create such zones in Syria and nearby nations.

The document did not spell out what would make a safe zone "safe" and whether it would protect refugees only from threats on the ground - such as jihadist fighters - or whether Trump envisions a no-fly zone policed by America and its allies.

If it is a no-fly zone, without negotiating some agreement with Russia Trump would have to decide whether to give the U.S. military the authority to shoot down Syrian or Russian aircraft if they posed a threat to people in that zone, which his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, refused to do.

"This essentially boils down to a willingness to go to war to protect refugees," said Jim Phillips, a Middle East expert at the Heritage Foundation think-tank in Washington, noting Russia's advanced air defenses.

Trump promised during his campaign to target jihadists from Islamic State, and he has sought to avoid being dragged deeper into Syria's conflict - raising the question of whether he might be satisfied by assurances, perhaps from Moscow, that neither Russian nor Syrian jets would target the zone.

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Trump did not consult with Russia and warned that the consequences of such a plan "ought to be weighed up."

Anthony Cordesman, a military expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, cautioned that a safe zone inside Syria could become a diplomatic albatross that would force a Trump administration to juggle a host of ethnic and political tensions in Syria indefinitely.

Other experts said jihadists could be attracted to the zone, either to carry out attacks that would embarrass the United States or to use the zone as a safe haven where militants could regroup.

Such a zone also would be expensive, given the need to house, feed, educate and provide medical care to the refugees.

"I think these people really have no idea what it takes to support 25,000 people, which is really a small number, in terms of the (internally displaced) and refugees" in Syria, Cordesman said.

The draft document gave no details on what would constitute a safe zone, where one might be set up and who would defend it.

Jordan, Turkey and other neighboring countries already host millions of Syrian refugees. The Turkish government pressed Obama, without success, to create a no-fly zone on Syria's border with Turkey but now is at odds with Washington over its support for Kurdish fighters in Syria.

"It is important that this (the plan) does not exacerbate the situation with refugees," he said.

Phillips and other experts, including former U.S. officials, said many refugees would not be satisfied by assurances from Moscow, while any deal with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who also is backed by Iran, might not go over well with America's Arab allies.

The Pentagon declined comment on Thursday, saying no formal directive to develop such plans had been handed down yet, and some U.S. military officials appeared unaware of the document before seeing it described in the media on Wednesday.

"Our department right now is tasked with one thing in Syria, and that is to degrade and defeat ISIS," said Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/27-Jan-2017/trump-s-hopes-for-syria-safe-zones-may-force-decision-on-assad

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Trump expected to block refugees, restrict Muslims

Jan 27, 2017

WASHINGTON -  President Donald Trump is reportedly poised on Thursday to suspend the US refugee program for four months and halt visas for travellers from seven Muslim countries.

A draft executive order published in the Washington Post and New York Times said refugees from war-torn Syria will be indefinitely banned, while the broader US refugee admissions program will be suspended for 120 days as officials draw up a list of low risk countries.

Meanwhile, all visa applications from countries deemed a terrorist threat - Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen - will be halted for 30 days.

Alongside this, the Pentagon will be given 90 days to draw up a plan to set up “safe zones” in or near Syria where refugees from its civil war can shelter. It is unclear whether the published draft is the final version, or when Trump will sign it, but it would make good on his campaign promises.

Trump told ABC News late Wednesday that his plan to limit the entry of people from Muslim countries was necessary because the world is “a total mess.”

“No it’s not the Muslim ban, but it’s countries that have tremendous terror,” Trump said. “And it’s countries that people are going to come in and cause us tremendous problems.”

Trump refused to say which countries were on the list, but he did say he believed that Europe “made a tremendous mistake by allowing these millions of people to go into Germany and various other countries,” describing it as “a disaster.”

Trump was asked if he worried that the limits would anger Muslims around the world. “Anger? There’s plenty of anger right now. How can you have more?” he said.

“The world is a mess. The world is as angry as it gets. What, you think this is going to cause a little more anger? The world is an angry place. ... We went into Iraq. We shouldn’t have gone into Iraq. We shouldn’t have gotten out the way we got out. The world is a total mess.”

Trump vowed to impose “extreme vetting” for people who seek to enter the United States from certain countries.

“And I mean extreme. And we’re not letting people in if we think there is even some chance of some problem,” he said, without defining how that process would differ from current strict entry requirements.

Trump’s hardline attitude towards what he calls “radical terrorism” was one of the most controversial themes of his election campaign.

Rights groups have accused him of stigmatizing a global faith, and some experts warn that offending America’s Muslim allies will hurt the fight against extremism. “Turning our back on vulnerable refugees doesn’t protect the United States,” said Michael Olsen, former director of the US National Counterterrorism Center.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump may order a review that could lead to bringing back a CIA program for holding terrorism suspects in secret overseas “black site” prisons where interrogation techniques often condemned as torture were used, two US officials said.

The black sites were used to detain suspects captured in President George W. Bush’s “war on terrorism” after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and were formally closed by former President Barack Obama.

Any return to the Bush administration’s initial anti-terrorism tactics - including secret prisons and interrogation methods considered torture under international law - would likely alienate key US allies in the fight against militant groups like al Qaeda and Islamic State.

The officials said Trump is expected to sign an executive order in the next few days. It would call for a high-level review into “whether to reinitiate a program of interrogation of high-value alien terrorists to be operated outside the United States” and whether the CIA should run the facilities, according to a copy of the draft published by the Washington Post. Reuters could not independently verify the document. Trump administration spokesman Sean Spicer said the draft was not a White House document. The draft published by the Washington Post appeared to have sections missing, suggesting that it may not have been a full version ready for Trump to sign.

US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said the Trump administration did not write the document.

“My understanding is this was written by somebody who worked on the transition before who’s not in the Trump administration. This is not a product of the administration,” Ryan said in an interview with MSNBC.

Aides to Obama said during his tenure that his prohibition against torture and efforts to close the Guantanamo prison in Cuba helped increase counterterrorism cooperation from US allies in the Arab world.

The now-defunct program’s practices dubbed enhanced interrogation techniques - which included simulated drowning, known as waterboarding - were criticized around the world and denounced by Obama and other senior US officials as torture.

The document ignited a bipartisan outcry in Congress. Many people in US intelligence agencies and within the military are opposed to reopening the harsh interrogation program, according to multiple serving officers.

“The President can sign whatever executive orders he likes. But the law is the law. We are not bringing back torture in the United States of America,” Senator John McCain, a Republican who underwent torture as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, said in a statement.

The CIA black sites were located in Poland, Lithuania, Romania, Thailand and Afghanistan.

In 2006, Bush ended the use of harsh interrogation techniques and closed all the black sites except for one in Kabul.

Asked whether he wants waterboarding as president, Trump answered in an interview with ABC News: “I will rely on (CIA director Mike) Pompeo and (Defense Secretary James) Mattis and my group. And if they don’t want to do it, that’s fine. If they do want to do it, then I will work toward that end,” Trump said.

“I want to do everything within the bounds of what we’re allowed to do if it’s legal. If they don’t want to do it, that’s fine. Do I feel it works? Absolutely I feel it works.”

Mattis and Pompeo had not been aware such plans were in the works, according to a congressional source.

Trump’s draft order would authorize a review of interrogation techniques that US officials could use on terrorism suspects, keep open the detention center at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and send new prisoners there.

Trump’s draft also revokes directives by Obama to grant the International Committee of the Red Cross access to all detainees in US custody and restrict interrogation methods to those in a US Army field manual.

Trump vowed during the 2016 election campaign to resume waterboarding and a “hell of a lot worse” because even if torture does not work, “they deserve it anyway.”

He has said he wanted to keep Guantanamo open and “load it up with some bad dudes.”

Of the 41 prisoners left at Guantanamo, 10 face charges in war-crimes proceedings known as military commissions, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, accused mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and his alleged co-conspirators. Bush established the military commissions, which Obama later changed.

The draft order said, “No person in the custody of the United States shall at any time be subjected to torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, as proscribed by US law.” It does not mention international laws to which the United States is a signatory that prohibit torture.

Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act in 2015, which reaffirmed a prohibition on torture and required US interrogators to adhere to techniques in the Army field manual.

However, the Justice Department under Trump could issue an interpretation of US law that allows for the use of harsh interrogation techniques as occurred in the “torture memos” drafted under the Bush administration in 2002 and subsequently withdrawn.

Despite the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden during Obama’s presidency, the dramatic spread of groups like Islamic State has exacerbated the threat from violent Islamist organizations.

In a statement accompanying the draft order, the administration criticizes Obama’s policies, saying, “The United States has refrained from exercising certain authorities critical to its defense.” But it acknowledges that the National Defense Authorization Act “provides a significant statutory barrier to the resumption of the CIA interrogation program.”

Human rights groups decried any attempt to bring back the black sites.

“This is an extremely disturbing and outrageous attempt to open the door again to systematic torture and secret detention. This is the Trump administration making good on its most worrisome comments during the campaign,” said Naureen Shah, Amnesty International USA’s director of national security and human rights.

Critics say a return to harsh interrogations would enflame tensions in Muslim countries and be counterproductive.

In the draft document, references to the “global war on terrorism” were edited and replaced with the phrase “fight against radicalism,” reflecting language Trump often uses.

A former senior US intelligence official, who requested anonymity, said many CIA officers would oppose reinstatement of black site interrogations, in part because they were forced to obtain lawyers after the withdrawal of the Justice Department memos that legalized the harsh techniques.

“People felt they were hung out to dry,” the former official said. “There is a lack of trust there.”

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/27-Jan-2017/trump-expected-to-block-refugees-restrict-muslims

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Trump ‘will get rid of all of you’, Muslim airline employee attacked at JFK

27 January 2017

A Massachusetts man is accused of attacking a Muslim airline employee at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, allegedly kicking and shouting obscenities at the woman and telling her that President Donald Trump “will get rid of all of you,” authorities said.

The Queens District Attorney’s Office said Robin Rhodes, of Worchester, had arrived from Aruba and was awaiting a connecting flight to Massachusetts Wednesday night when he approached Delta employee Rabeeya Khan, who wears a hijab, while she was sitting in her office.

Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said Rhodes came up to the door and went on a profanity-laced tirade, asking the woman if she was praying. Rhodes then allegedly punched the door, which hit the back of Khan’s chair. Khan asked Rhodes what she had done to him and Rhodes replied, “You did nothing.” He then cursed at her and kicked her in the leg, Brown said.

Also read: Trump moving forward with border wall, weighs refugee cuts

When another person tried to calm him down, Brown said Rhodes moved away from the door and Khan ran out of the office. Rhodes followed her, got down on his knees and began to bow down in imitation of a Muslim praying, shouted obscenities and said “Trump is here now. He will get rid of all of you. You can ask Germany, Belgium and France about these kind of people. You see what happens,” Brown said.

At the time of his arrest, Rhodes allegedly told police, “I guess I am going to jail for disorderly conduct. I couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman because their back was to me and they had something covering their head.” Rhodes was charged with assault, unlawful imprisonment, menacing and harassment as hate crimes. It was not immediately clear if he has an attorney who can comment on the charges.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2017/01/27/Trump-will-get-rid-of-all-of-you-Muslim-airline-employee-attacked-at-JFK.html

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Khizr Khan: Muslim ban could hurt US security

January 26, 2017

If the President alienates Muslim Americans, frequent President Donald Trump critic Khizr Khan said he may end up endangering national security.

"Muslim are at the front lines. Patriotic Muslims within the United States feel alienated and if they are alienated, they will not be as supportive of his policies, as supportive of security and the threats that loom within our country," the Gold Star father told CNN's Alisyn Camerota Thursday on "New Day."

"He should be reaching out to Muslims. He should be reaching out, joining hands to deal with the safety of the United States."

Khan, whose son was killed in Iraq, hit the national stage after delivering a passionate appeal at July's Democratic National Convention to encourage voters to support Hillary Clinton. He said Trump regularly smears religious minorities like his family.

Trump is considering a blanket ban on refugees. The ban is one of the more controversial of his campaign promises aimed at fighting terrorism and could specifically affect Muslim immigrants and refugees.

But the order -- along with rhetoric which Khan calls racist and xenophobic -- endangers the security of the US.

"Instead of reducing that anger within the United States and outside the United States, this executive order, these executive orders and this rhetoric further endangers my country, endangers the safety of my country," Khan said.

He said Trump's proposal is unconstitutional, because it discriminates based on religious faith.

Full report at:

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/01/26/politics/khizr-khan-trump-muslim-ban/

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Arab World

 

At Least 40 ISIL Militants Annihilated in Iraq Air Raids West of Mosul

Jan 26, 2017

The Iraqi Army's information center said in a statement that the ISIL militants were preparing to carry out an attack on Popular Mobilization Forces, locally known as Hashd al-Shaabi, in Ein al-Hissan village South of Tal Afar that came under the aerial attack in al-Qirawan region, West of Mosul.     

Three ISIL vehicles were destroyed in the air raids and all militants inside the vehicles were annihilated, the statement added.

The new casualties on the ISIL militants near the terror group's last urban bastion in Northern Iraq comes a day after the Iraqi defense ministry announced that ISIL has lost over 50 percent of its militants in the city of Mosul in Nineveh province in the last 100 days.

"The intelligence obtained by us indicates that there have been over 6,000 ISIL terrorists in Mosul and around 3,400 of them have been killed in battles with Iraq's joint military forces in the major city of Nineveh province," Iraqi Defense Ministry Spokesman Colonel Laith al-Naimi said on Wednesday.

He noted that over 250 bomb-laden vehicles and the entire bomb-making workshops of the terrorists have been destroyed in Mosul which means that the ISIL has been paralyzed by the Iraqi forces.

Earlier on Wednesday, Iraqi rapid response forces have begun targeting the ISIL positions on the Western bank of the Tigris River in Mosul, after officials announced the complete recapture of the Eastern side.

Mopping-up operations were still under way in Rashidiya, the last district liberated from the militants on the East bank of the Tigris to flush out remaining militants in a pocket in the Northeastern district.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951107000775

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Iraqi children flocking back to east Mosul schools

Jan 27, 2017

MOSUL: They have been waiting for two and half years and the children of Iraq's east Mosul are flocking to enrol in their reopened schools, eager not to waste another day.

"It's a great day, today we are giving our children their right to receive an education," said Ghassan Ahmed, queueing with his seven-year-old in the yard of Farahedi primary school.

The red-and-yellow walls of the school in Muharbeen, a neighbourhood of northeastern Mosul that was retaken from the Islamic State jihadist group, are still riddled with bullet holes.

Life is starting to return to the city's east bank, which Iraqi forces have now completely retaken from IS, 100 days into a vast military operation launched in mid-October on the jihadists' last major stronghold in the country.

Ghassan Ahmed was a professor at the University of Mosul before IS seized the city in June 2014.

Like many other parents, he refused to send his child to school under IS's self-proclaimed "caliphate". His son has never been to any school.

"I kept them at home and started teaching them the official curriculum of the Iraqi government myself," he said.

Across the street, the charred carcass of a building stands as a reminder that only days ago the entire neighbourhood was a battlefield where jihadists countered advancing Iraqi forces with suicide car bombs, snipers and mortar fire.

Mohammed, a nine-year-old from the neighbourhood, said IS burnt down the house as part of tactics to prevent raids by US and other warplanes on their positions.

- 'Education cannot wait' -

Just like 250 other children, Mohammed was at the Farahedi school for the first time since the jihadists took over his city.

He said he could not wait to return to school despite the fact that it still lacked running water, electricity and schoolbooks.

"I'm super happy to be going back to class. I want to become a doctor," he said with a toothy grin.

As an explosion rumbled in the distance, the birds fell briefly silent but Mohammed didn't flinch and went off to play with his friends.

In east Mosul, which a minority fled when the offensive was launched but where half a million residents stayed, 30 schools reopened this week and a total of 16,000 children were enrolled.

"Education can't wait. It must be a priority," Maulid Warfa, who heads the UN children's agency UNICEF in Arbil, the nearby capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, told AFP.

"Schools can be a tool to slowly help them heal from the trauma... Many children in this city have seen way too much destruction and death."

According to the Britain-based charity Save The Children, at least 300,000 children live on Mosul's west bank, which is still fully controlled by IS and expected to see bitter street fighting in the weeks ahead.

Millions of children have lived under the tyrannical rule of IS since the group proclaimed its caliphate in June 2014.

Many were kept out of school for more than two years, some forcibly enlisted as child soldiers.

- Building the future -

The jihadist group has lost about two-thirds of the territory it once controlled in Iraq, but its trademark ultraviolence has traumatised the population.

The immediate challenge, however, is to bring children back to school, UNICEF's Warfa said.

"With two million inhabitants in Mosul, bearing in mind that 35 percent of the population are children, we're really talking about a huge number of children who will need to go back to school," he said.

"It's a huge task," said Warfa, adding that another 40 schools were scheduled to reopen in coming weeks.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/26-Jan-2017/iraqi-children-flocking-back-to-east-mosul-schools

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Bahraini police torture protester to death during dawn raids: Reports

Jan 27, 2017

Bahraini regime forces have carried out a dawn raid against supporters of a prominent Shia cleric on trial, reportedly torturing one of them to death and severely injuring another.

Footage released on Thursday showed masked forces attacking Diraz, the native village of Sheikh Isa Qassim, and shooting at the protesters, who were out on the streets again ahead of the cleric’s trial session.

Anti-regime demonstrators have been staging sit-in protests in Diraz since authorities revoked Sheikh Qassim’s citizenship in June over accusations of sowing sectarian discord in the sheikhdom. The top cleric has denied the charges.

The village has also been under siege by regime forces for some six months.

During the raids, Manama’s troops tortured one of Sheikh Qassim’s supporters, who later succumbed to his wounds, AFP reported.

A 21-year-old has been hospitalized with critical injuries after he was shot in the head, medical sources said.

Later, dozens of protesters took to the streets in different parts of Bahrain, including in Juffair, Hamala, Sanabis, al-Markh and Sitra, to voice support for the fellow protesters in Diraz, chanting anti-regime slogans.

Bahraini protesters stage an anti-regime rally in the village of Hamala on January 26, 2017.

Sheikh Isa Qassim, the spiritual leader of Bahrain’s dissolved opposition bloc, the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, went on trial in July on charges of illegal fundraising and money laundering.

The cleric is also scheduled to attend another hearing session on Monday on charges of inciting violence and “serving foreign interests.”

Tensions have escalated in Bahrain following the execution of three anti-regime activists by firing squad on January 15.

The killings came a week after the Court of Cassation upheld death sentences over the killing of three policemen, including an Emirati officer, in the village of al-Daih in March 2014. The defendants had denied the charges.

The executions drew angry international reactions, with UN human rights commissioner spokesman Rupert Colville describing the killings as “appalling.”

Thousands of anti-regime protesters have held numerous demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the kingdom on February 14, 2011.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/01/27/507938/Bahrain-protest-Diraz-torture

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Is US ‘terror tag’ likely for Muslim Brotherhood?

27 January 2017

A debate is under way in the Trump administration about whether the United States should declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization and subject it to US sanctions, according to US officials and people close to President Donald Trump’s transition team.

A faction led by Michael Flynn, Trump’s National Security Advisor, wants to add the Brotherhood to the State Department and US Treasury lists of foreign terrorist organizations, the sources said. “I know it has been discussed. I’m in favor of it,” said a Trump transition advisor, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The advisor said Flynn’s team discussed adding the group to the US list of terrorist groups but said it was ultimately unclear when or even if the administration ultimately would go ahead with such a move.

Also read: What remains of Egypt’s January 25 revolution?

Other Trump advisors, as well as many veteran national security, diplomatic, law enforcement and intelligence officials argue the Brotherhood has evolved peacefully in some countries, according to officials and people close to Trump’s entourage. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the country’s oldest Islamist movement, was designated as a terrorist organization in that country in 2013.

It is not clear which faction within the US administration has the upper hand, and Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Mario Diaz-Balart this month introduced legislation to add the Brotherhood to the terrorist list. There was no immediate comment from the White House.

Mixed record

Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, described the Brotherhood an “an agent of radical Islam”, during his Senate confirmation hearing.

US criminal law prohibits people in the United States from knowingly providing “material support” to designated terrorist organizations, and members of such groups are banned from entering the United States. Some conservative and anti-Muslim activists have argued for years that the Brotherhood has been a breeding ground for terrorists.

Some branches of the Brotherhood, including the Palestinian group Hamas, have engaged in anti-government violence and provoked violent government reactions. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda, was once a member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

Also read: Trump, Sisi discuss fighting terrorism in first phone call

Sisi and Trump spoke by phone this week and the two leaders discussed ways to boost the fight against terrorism and extremism. A US official who declined to be identified told Reuters there had been discussions at the State Department which looked at intelligence and information on the group in which it was thought “it would be difficult to justify legally, in terms of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, to meet the criteria”.

“It’s one thing to say one group’s ideology has been used to influence a terrorist organization and another thing to say that this group is a terrorist organization,” said the US official.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/01/27/Will-Trump-designate-Muslim-Brotherhood-as-terror-group-.html

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Al-Nusra Front Still Fighting against Rival Groups in Idlib, Aleppo

Jan 26, 2017

The al-Nusra Front has intensified its attacks against other militants and is now attempting to take control of Hayyan town in Northern Aleppo by surrounding Faylaq al-Sham and Jabha al-Shamiya terrorists' positions in the region.

Meantime, a field commander of al-Nusra Front, namely Taha al-Khatib, along with 5 members of the terrorist group were killed in clashes with Soqour al-Sham militants in Jabal al-Zawiya region in Southern Idlib.

After clashes intensified between the al-Nusra Front and other militants, the terrorist groups of Soqour al-Sham, Jeish al-Islam (in Idlib), Jeish al-Mujahedeen, Istaqam Kama Amart and al-Jabha al-Shamiya (in Western Aleppo) declared unity with Ahrar al-Sham terrorist group.

In a relevant development on Wednesday, al-Nusra Front took control of Jeish al-Mujahedeen camps and centers in the Northern parts of Lattakia as infighting among the terrorist groups has intensified.

News websites affiliated to the terrorist groups reported that the development came after al-Nusra Front launched heavy attacks on Jeish al-Mujahedeen bases in Jabal al-Akrad and Jabal al-Turkman and ended the latter group's presence in Lattakia.

Also, al-Nusra Front members arrested Jeish al-Mujahedeen's top commander in the coastal areas, Yahya Barimo, and seized weapons and ammunition of the terrorist group.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951107000806

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Syrian Army Units Find EU-Made Drugs in Terrorists' Vehicle

Jan 26, 2017

The vehicle was carrying missiles, RPGs and ammunitions, moving towards Wadi al-Azib in Northern Hama when it was stopped and seized.

Also, the Syrian army forces could find a large amount of EU-made medicine inside the vehicle.

Meantime, the Syrian army's missile and artillery units targeted the al-Nusra Front (recently renamed to Fatah al-Sham Front)'s gathering centers and moves in the two villages of Taloul al-Hamar and al-Dallak in Western Salamiya in Hama which killed and wounded several terrorists and destroyed their military equipment.

Also, on Monday, the Syrian fighter jets pounded the terrorists' military positions in the Northern part of Hama province after militants attacked the government forces in yet another flagrant violation of the nationwide ceasefire.

The terrorists sustained heavy losses in the Syrian airstrikes as several of them were killed and many more were injured.

The terrorists targeted several Syrian army military positions in Northern Hama province, including al-Ma'amal al-Azraq (Blue Factory) in the surrounding areas of the city of Souran and al-Shalivit military stations in the countryside of Mohradeh.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951107000430

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Syria: ISIL Offensive Repulsed Southeast of Aleppo Province

Jan 26, 2017

The terrorists attacked the Syrian army positions in the recently-purged heights of Khanasser with the hope of reoccupying the heights again but their offensive was warded off by the army units and their allies.

Nearly 20 ISIL terrorists were killed and wounded during the clashes and several of their military vehicles were smashed.

The Syrian army troops have cleansed 15sq/km of the Eastern parts of Khanasser town which includes a number of heights and villages in line with operations to establish security on the strategic Aleppo-Khanasser-Ithriya road.

On Tuesday, the army soldiers had hit ISIL's positions in the Western direction of Khanasser road and managed to advance against militants in Shabis mountain.

A military source disclosed on Wednesday that a large number of Syrian army's fresh forces and a large volume of military equipment have arrived in the Eastern parts of Aleppo province to reinvigorate government forces for a new phase of anti-ISIL operation in the region.

The sources said that a convoy of fresh forces and equipment of the army has arrived in Eastern Aleppo to take part in an imminent anti-ISIL operation in the regions surrounding the towns of al-Bab and Deir Hafer in next few days.

The army's Special Forces have liberated over 20 regions from ISIL only after a few days of attacks East of Aleppo province.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951107000242

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Tens of ISIL Terrorists Killed in Syrian-Russian Airstrikes in Deir Ezzur

Jan 26, 2017

The Syrian air force bombed the ISIL positions in Deir Ezzur which destroyed the terrorist group's al-Rakaz base near Kaziya Sukr in Salehiya Hatla region, inflicting 15 losses on the militants inside.

Also, the Syrian airplanes launched repeated attacks against the ISIL bases and moves at Setta Illa Rob street and near al-Tamwin square as well as al-Konamat, al-Maqaber and Jabal al-Tharda districts and al-Baliqiya, Marat and Khasham villages near Deir Ezzur city which killed tens of militants and blew up several military vehicles.

Meantime, the Russian and Syrian fighter jets targeted the ISIL centers in al-Roshdiya and al-Hawiqa districts of Deir Ezzur and the regions near al-Maqaber and Sariya Jonayd in the Southern parts of the city and inflicted heavy damage and losses on the ISIL terrorists.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that its long-range bombers continued airstrikes on ISIL targets in Syria's Deir Ezzur.

Six Russian long-range Tu-22M3 bombers launched airstrikes on two ISIL's control centers, as well as arms and ammunition depots and hardware in Syria's Deir Ezzur.

"Means of objective control confirmed that all designated targets had been successfully destroyed," the statement said.

The Russian Defense Ministry said that the Tu-22M3 long-range bombers took off from an airfield in Russia and flew over the territory of Iraq and Iran.

"Su-30SM and Su-35S provided air cover to the Russian bombers from the Hmeimim airbase."

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951107000358

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Iraqi government troops win back two villages north of Mosul

Jan 27, 2017

Iraqi army soldiers have managed to regain control over two villages north of the strategic city of Mosul as government forces, backed by fighters from allied Popular Mobilization Units and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, are involved in multi-pronged operations to expel Daesh terrorists from their last urban stronghold in the country.

Lieutenant Colonel Diya Lafta said troops from his Ninth Armored Division began advancing toward the villages on Thursday morning, and liberated them from the clutches of Daesh extremists “after a few hours.”

Witnesses said government forces were mostly in control of the village of Shereikhan by afternoon, but skirmishes between Iraqi army troops and the militants continued in the surrounding villages.

The development came on the same day that Iraqi forces targeted Daesh fortifications across the Tigris River and in western Mosul as part of preparations for the next phase of the military campaign against the Takfiris.

“We are noticing gatherings of the enemy on the other side and vehicles and we try to deal with them with all the weapons we have. We are now absolutely ready to begin our assault on the western side and God willing victory will be ours,” Major Mohamed Ali said.

Iraqi army vehicles secure a street on January 22, 2017 at the entrance of St. George's Monastery, a historical Chaldean Catholic church on the northern outskirt of Mosul, which was destroyed by Daesh Takfiri terrorists in 2015. (Photo by AFP)

The Iraqi army announced in a statement on Sunday that all districts of eastern Mosul had been cleared of Daesh militants, after retaking al-Milayeen neighborhood and al-Binaa al-Jahiz area. Government forces raised the national flag over buildings there. In a statement on Tuesday, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi lauded the "unmatched heroism of all security forces factions" and public support for the operation.

Daesh still maintains firm control over the western quarter of Mosul. The United Nations estimates that some 750,000 civilians are trapped in the area as Iraqi army soldiers and their allies are gearing up for the next phase of fighting against the militants.

Daesh drone drops explosives on residential building in Mosul

Meanwhile, three members of a family sustained injures when a drone belonging to the Daesh terror group dropped explosives on a house in the Bab al-Toub neighborhood of central Mosul.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/01/27/507928/Iraqi-soldiers-Shereikhan-Mosul

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Syrian Army Starts New Phase of Operations in Eastern Ghouta of Damascus

Jan 26, 2017

The Syrian troops shattered the terrorists' defense lines upon starting their operations and cleansed militants from a number of farms near the two towns, inflicting heavy casualties and damage on them.

The terrorists stationed in Harasta town violated the ceasefire and attacked the region's fruits and vegetable market but they were forced to withdraw after facing the army's resistance.

The Syrian soldiers have managed to liberate extensive parts of Eastern Ghouta in recent months, adding that at present, a number of towns and farms, including Jeish al-Islam's main stronghold, Douma, are still under the terrorists' occupation.

The Syrian army troops had on Wednesday repulsed an attack by Fatah al-Sham Front (previously known as the al-Nusra Front) in Southwestern Damascus while the country's fighter jets targeted terrorists' military convoy in Eastern Ghouta.

Fatah al-Sham terrorists approached the village of al-Maqrouseh in Western Ghouta near the border with al-Quneitra province to prevail over government forces' position, but their attack was repelled by the army men.

At least 14 members of Fatah al-Sham were killed or wounded in the clashes. The rest of terrorists fled the battlefield.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951107000558

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Mideast

 

Turkey: ISIS, Nusra are ‘terrorist organizations’

26 January 2017

Turkey says it now considers both the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Al-Nusra Front, now known as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, as “terrorist organizations”, an official from Ankara’s foreign ministry said.

This comes after Jabhat Fateh al-Sham launched several attacks on the Free Syrian Army in the northwestern region of Syria on Tuesday and threatened to launch more attacks towards moderate Syrian opposition rebels which Turkey supports.

The source from the Turkish foreign ministry also said that the recent attacks may be one way to delay a political solution to the Syrian crisis.

He also added that Turkey is unaware of a Russian proposal for a draft new Syrian constitution presented during the two-day talks in Kazakhstan’s Astana that would see Syrian Kurds gain autonomy.

Turkey said on Thursday that it is waiting to see the outcome of United States President Donald Trump’s pledge to order safe zones in Syria, but has long advocated such a plan, Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Huseyin Muftuoglu said on Thursday.

Trump said on Wednesday he “will absolutely do safe zones in Syria” for refugees fleeing violence. According to a document seen by Reuters, Trump is expected to order the Pentagon and the State Department in the coming days to craft such a plan.

“We have seen the US President’s request for conducting a study. What’s important is the results of this study and what kind of recommendation will come out,” Muftuoglu told reporters at a briefing in Ankara.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/01/26/Turkey-identifies-ISIS-Jabhat-Fateh-al-Sham-as-terrorist-organizations-.html

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Israel approves 153 more settler homes

Jan 27, 2017

JERUSALEM: Israeli officials gave final approval Thursday to 153 east Jerusalem settler homes, the deputy mayor said, adding to a sharp increase in such projects since US President Donald Trump took office.

Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Meir Turgeman told AFP the approvals by a city planning committee were among those held up due to pressure from former US president Barack Obama’s administration. Following Trump’s inauguration, Turgeman spoke of plans for some 11,000 homes in process for annexed east Jerusalem. “I’m going to deliver permits for thousands of homes in Jerusalem in the coming months,” Turgeman said.

Thursday’s approvals were for the settlement neighbourhood of Gilo.

Israel has announced a major settlement expansion in the days following Trump’s January 20 inauguration.

On Sunday, the city planning committee approved building permits for 566 settler homes in east Jerusalem. Two days later, the defence ministry announced plans for 2,500 settler homes in the occupied West Bank.

 Trump has pledged strong support for Israel, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has moved quickly to take advantage.

In a telling break with the Obama administration, Trump’s White House has not condemned Israel’s settlement expansion.

The announcements have deeply concerned those seeking to salvage a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Settlements are viewed by much of the world as illegal and major stumbling blocks to peace efforts as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/27-Jan-2017/israel-approves-153-more-settler-homes

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Turkey angered as Greece blocks soldiers’ extradition

Jan 27, 2017

ATHENS/ANKARA -  Greece's Supreme Court ruled against the extradition of eight Turkish soldiers who fled to Greece in July after a failed coup attempt in Turkey, a decision which angered Ankara and further strained relations between the two neighbours.

Turkey has demanded Greece extradite them, alleging they were involved in the coup attempt and has branded them traitors. The men - three majors, three captains and two sergeant-majors - landed a helicopter in northern Greece on July 16 and sought political asylum saying they feared for their lives in Turkey.

They deny playing a role in the attempt to oust President Tayyip Erdogan, which led to a purge of the military and civil service.

"The possibility of their rights being violated or reduced regardless of the degree of guilt or the gravity of the crimes they are accused of does not allow the implementation of extradition rules," a Supreme Court president said.

The soldiers have been kept in protective custody pending final decisions on their asylum applications in Greece. Their lawyer Christos Mylonopoulos said the verdict was "a big victory for European values". But the decision brought an angry response from the Turkish foreign ministry, which accused Greece of protecting plotters and said relations between the two countries would be reviewed.

Turkey would "use all avenues of law" to ensure the soldiers' extradition and prosecution, it added.

"Once again Greece, an ally and a neighbour, has failed to fulfill the basics of the fight against terrorism," it said. "The impact of this decision thought to be made with political motives on our mutual ties, our cooperation in the fight against terrorism and our work on other mutual and regional issues will be subject to a comprehensive review."

The state-run Anadolu news agency reported earlier that Turkish authorities had issued arrest warrants for the soldiers.

The soldiers have been accused in Turkey of attempting to abrogate the constitution, attempting to dissolve parliament and seizing a helicopter using violence and for attempting to assassinate Erdogan.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/27-Jan-2017/turkey-angered-as-greece-blocks-soldiers-extradition

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US warns over anti-American violence risk in Turkey

Jan 27, 2017

ISTANBUL - The United States embassy in Turkey on Thursday warned against the risk of attacks against its citizens in the country after a rise in anti-American rhetoric.

Turkey has been hit by a slew of attacks over the last months claimed by militants and Kurdish militants that have left the country on edge.

In the latest strikes, 39 people were gunned down in an attack on New Year’s night claimed by Islamic State (IS) militants at an Istanbul nightclub.

Just three weeks earlier, 46 people were killed in a double suicide bombing claimed by Kurdish militants close to the stadium of the Besiktas football club.

The attacks prompted claims in the radical conservative press that the United States had a hand in the violence, although the allegations have been repeatedly and angrily denied by the embassy.

“An increase in anti-American rhetoric has the potential to inspire independent actors to carry out acts of violence against US citizens,” the embassy said in a travel warning.

It said new attacks could occur at major events, tourist sites, restaurants, nightclubs, shopping centres, places of worship, and transportation hubs.

An October order for family members of employees posted to the US Consulate in Istanbul to depart Turkey temporarily remains in place, it added.

Meanwhile, all US government travel to Istanbul is subject to State Department approval, it said.

This is based on intelligence “indicating extremist groups are continuing frequent and aggressive efforts to attack US citizens and foreign expatriates in areas of Istanbul where they reside or frequent,” it said.

Several Turkish officials and media outlets blamed the United States for the failed July 15 coup aimed at toppling President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, allegations ridiculed by Washington.

The alleged mastermind of the plot, the preacher Fethullah Gulen, lives in the United States but has denied any links to the putsch.

Washington has so far not yielded to persistent Turkish requests to extradite Gulen, increasing tensions in relations and rasing the hackles of Erdogan’s supporters.

In another sign of the poor atmosphere, Erdogan on December 27 accused the United States of supporting “terror groups” in Syria, even including Islamic State (IS) militants.

Meanwhile, Turkey on Thursday said it would watch closely new US President Donald Trump’s reported interest in setting up safe zones in Syria to house refugees, an idea that Ankara has pushed for months.

US media reported earlier Thursday that the Pentagon would be given 90 days to draw up a plan to set up “safe zones” in or near Syria where refugees from the nation’s civil war can shelter.

Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Huseyin Muftuoglu told reporters that Ankara would make an assessment after seeing what Washington proposed.

“What is important is what the result will be of this study, what type of recommendations will come out,” Muftuoglu told reporters in Ankara.

“Turkey has from the start suggested this. Jarabulus is the best example,” he said, referring to a Syrian border town taken in August by Ankara-backed Syrian rebels from militants.

Thousands of Syrians have since crossed back to Jarabulus, with the Turkish authorities emphasising a degree of normality has now returned to the town.

Ankara launched an ambitious military operation on August 24 against the Islamic State group (IS) and Kurdish militia forces to push them away from its border.

Supporting Syrian opposition fighters from different groups, the operation dubbed “Euphrates Shield” recaptured towns from IS including Jarabulus and Al Rai in northern Syria.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/27-Jan-2017/us-warns-over-anti-american-violence-risk-in-turkey

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Kuwait: Tehran positive, willing to cooperate

26 January 2017

“We have seen a positive attitude from the Iranian side and a willingness to cooperate,” says Kuwaiti deputy Foreign Minister Khaled al-Jarallah said in his first comment after his country’s outreach to the Iranian government on behalf of the GCC.

The Gulf message was conveyed by Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sabah Khaled al-Hamad al-Sabah to the Iranian President Hassan Rowhani.

“The message and its content focused on laying the foundations for a joint dialogue based on the abstention from interfering in Gulf affairs and respecting the sovereignty of the GCC states and all the UN Council articles. It will be a breakthrough in the bilateral relations between the Gulf and the Iranian regime,” said Jarallah.

“We will take positive action to achieve the accord and wipe out the tension between the Gulf countries and Iran,” he said.

The Kuwaiti deputy Foreign Minister explained that there was no fixed deadline to hold future meetings, adding that the GCC message aimed at achieving consensus for dialogues in the future.

“We hope to reach a consensus based on the raised foundations and the conviction that it would be the beginning of a breakthrough between Iran and the Gulf. This will lead to further steps strengthening the relations,” he added.

As for the return of the diplomatic ties between Gulf countries and Iran, and the re-opening of Tehran’s embassies in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, Jarallah said that it is still too early to discuss these issues.

“First, we must focus on the mutual relations and specific guarantees. The message was comprehensive and did not address any detail about the bilateral relations between Iran and any GCC country,” he added.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2017/01/26/Kuwait-Tehran-response-positive-willing-to-cooperate.html

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Trump’s Iran visa ban hurting dual nationals

Jan 27, 2017

Early signs are appearing that a plan by US President Donald Trump to suspend visas for Iranians has already started to undermine Iranian-American dual nationals living in the US as well as businesses that rely on travels to and from the Islamic Republic.  

AFP in a report quoted several travel agents as saying that Trump’s plan had made life "difficult' for Iranians living in the US.

"That will be very difficult for the Iranian community that live in the United States and difficult for the people that live in Iran, because they have so many relatives in this country and when they want to come they cannot because it's very difficult,” the report quoted Iranian travel specialist Mike Amiri, who founded Amiri Tours and Travel Service some 50 years ago. 

“Right now, today, we have five cancellations because of the announcement," he said.

Trump is expected to sign executive orders blocking visas to anyone from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, according to several congressional aides and immigration experts briefed on the matter.

The bans have not yet been confirmed but a draft executive order obtained by journalists on 25 January showed a decision was imminent.

AFP quoted another travel agent - Farhad Besharati – as saying that Trump’s plan to suspend visas for Iranians had even affected the prospects for Iran travel businesses.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/01/27/507958/Trumps-Iran-visa-ban-hurting-dual-nationals

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Yemen could face famine if no immediate action taken: UN officials

Jan 27, 2017

United Nations officials have warned about the dire humanitarian situation in Yemen in the wake of the nearly two-year-old Saudi war in the impoverished Arab country, stating that Yemen could face famine this year.

“The conflict in Yemen is now the primary driver of the largest food security emergency in the world," UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O'Brien told the Security Council on Thursday.

"If there is no immediate action, famine is now a possible scenario for 2017,” he pointed out.

O'Brien also expressed sorrow over the plight of Yemeni children, saying a child under the age of 10 is dying every 10 minutes of "preventable causes."

The top UN official further warned that grain silos will run out of storage within the next few months because foreign banks no longer conduct financial transactions with many of the country's commercial banks.

UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed speaks to the press after arriving at Sana’a International Airport, Yemen, on October 23, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

'Tragic consequences of Saudi airstrikes'

UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, for his part, told the Security Council that the “dangerous” upsurge in Saudi airstrikes and fighting between Houthi Ansarullah fighters and Saudi-sponsored militiamen loyal to resigned Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi are having “tragic consequences for the Yemeni people.”

Ould Cheikh Ahmed also criticized Hadi for rejecting his peace proposals.

“Hadi continues to criticize the proposals without agreeing to discuss them and this will hinder and impede the path towards peace,” the UN envoy told the Security Council.

A Yemeni infant suffering from malnutrition receives treatment at a medical center in Bani Hawat, on the outskirts of the Yemeni capital Sana’a, on January 9, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

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

McGoldrick told reporters in Sana’a earlier this month that the figure was based on lists of victims gathered by health facilities and the actual number might be higher.

The Saudi war on Yemen, which local sources say has killed at least 11,400 people, was launched in an unsuccessful attempt to reinstate the former government.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/01/27/507930/UN-Yemen-famine-humanitarian-crisis-fighting-Saudi-Arabia-aggression-airstrikes

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Yemeni snipers kill 2 Saudi troopers in retaliatory attacks

Jan 26, 2017

Yemeni army soldiers, backed by fighters from allied Popular Committees, have shot dead two Saudi troops in the kingdom’s southwestern border region of Najran as the Riyadh regime pushes ahead with its aerial bombardment campaign against its crisis-hit southern neighbor.

Yemeni forces shot and killed two Saudi troops in Talah military base of Najran, located 844 kilometers south of the capital Riyadh, on Thursday evening, Arabic-language al-Masirah television network reported.

Earlier, Yemeni forces and their allies had targeted and killed a Saudi soldier in the same military site.

Separately, Yemeni soldiers and Popular Committees fighters fired a barrage of artillery rounds at al-Jaiba base in Jizan region, located 969 kilometers south of Riyadh, but there were no immediate reports of possible casualties or damage.

Yemeni forces and their allies also lobbed a number of artillery shells against al-Rabu'ah compound in Asir region, but no casualties were reported.

Yemen's Houthi Ansarullah movement said on Wednesday that at least 16 Saudi soldiers had been killed in sniper attacks by Houthi fighters and allies in the three border regions of Jizan, Asir and Najran since the beginning of 2017.

A report by Reuters published in April last year showed that at least 400 Saudi soldiers had been killed in cross-border fire since the start of Riyadh's campaign in March 2015. Riyadh has maintained a policy of ambiguity regarding its casualties in the war on Yemen. Senior military officials have said that they would not release such information until after the campaign.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/01/26/507913/Yemen-Popular-Committees-attacks-Saudi-Najran-airstrikes-Taizz

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Southeast Asia

 

Islamic State pushing for Asian links, expansion, says Philippines

January 26, 2017

The Philippines has received intelligence that shows closer links between domestic militants and Islamic State, its defence minister said on Thursday, adding weight to worries that Middle East extremists are building a network in Southeast Asia. Intelligence from allies showed a leader of the Abu Sayyaf militant group, which has gained notoriety for piracy and kidnapping in the southern Philippines, was trying to spread into new areas of the Philippines upon the instruction of Islamic State, according to Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

US President Donald Trump & His Mexican Counterpart Mutually Agree To Cancel Meet: Here's Why

 “Isnilon Hapilon left his traditional area of operation on Basilan island and went to Lanao del Sur to see the area and find out if it is conducive for them to move there,” Lorenzana told a news conference, referring to an Abu Sayyaf leader. Lanao del Sur is a province on the main southern island of Mindanao, to the northeast of the much smaller Basilan island. Lorenzana did not say which country provided the intelligence but said it included information that Hapilon had made the move to survey the new area “at the behest” of Islamic State.

The army had until recently denied the existence of links between Islamic State and Muslim militants in the Philippines and said Abu Sayyaf was had only pledged allegiance to the network to boost its profile. Abu Sayyaf, which operates in two southern islands, has kidnapped dozens of foreigners over recent years and beheaded several of them, including two Canadians last year.

The United States has a $5 million bounty on the head of Hapilon for leading the 2001 kidnapping of 20 people, including three Americans, on a resort island. He has been identified as Abu Sayyaf’s commander on Basilan. President Rodrigo Duterte has recently raised the alarm about the prospect of Islamic State “contaminating” the Philippines if driven out of Iraq and Syria.

“They were communicating before but not as much as what they are doing now when ISIS in the Middle East are having trouble retaining their areas,” Lorenzana said, referring to contacts between Abu Sayyaf and Islamic State. Lanao del Sur is a stronghold of a the Maute rebel group, which has also pledged allegiance to Islamic State. Several of its members have been arrested for a bombing last year in which 14 people were killed. Philippine forces on Thursday dropped bombs and fired shells at rebel positions in the mountains of Lanao del Sur in a bid to flush out Hapilon, Lorenzana said.

http://indianexpress.com/article/world/islamic-state-pushing-for-asian-links-expansion-says-philippines-4492953/

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Jais blasts sellers making sham claims about Islam to push products

January 27, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR, January 27 — The Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) today criticised Muslims who falsely tout their products as Shariah compliant to deceive consumers, saying this could mar the perception of Islam.

“Some of their claims are actually based upon fabricated hadiths and matters that are wholly untrue. Such practice can degrade the noble status of Islam, for mocking the hadith of Rasulullah SAW itself, and also corrupt the aqidah (faith) of the Muslims,” it said in its Friday sermon.

“Today, we see an increasing amount of products with the claim of having Quranic verses being read over them, whether the complete 30 juz (chapters) or part of it. These products are sold at a premium price and way more expensive compared to the regular ones.

“Similarly, reading incantations over certain water and medicine for the sake of money, and claiming that this ‘holy’ water can cure illness or increase the love between the spouses,” Jais said.

The sermon added that such actions opened up possibilities of Quranic verses being used to justify false claims or benefits just to sell a certain product.

Last year, Harian Metro ran a feature on “Quran therapy” chicken, where Quranic verses were recited over chickens in cold storage, right after they have gone through halal slaughter.

Full report at:

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/jais-blasts-sellers-making-sham-claims-about-islam-to-push-products

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Indonesian radical cleric decries Communist symbols on new rupiah notes

Jan 27, 2017

Religious radicals in Indonesia are clashing with the government after a cleric claimed he could see communist imagery hidden on the country's new currency.

Habib Rizieq, the leader of the militant Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) recorded comments last month in which he claimed new Indonesian rupiah notes carry the hammer-and-sickle, an iconic symbol of communism. On the notes, the letters B and I (for "Bank Indonesia") overlap in a way that vaguely recalls the communist logo - if you squint hard enough.

This may seem like a trivial dispute, but it's a provocative attack in the world's most populous Muslim nation, where hundreds of thousands of people (or more) were killed in the 1960s for being communists or suspected communists.

Razieq's claim puzzled many Indonesians, who cannot see the hammer-and-sickle no matter how hard they tried.

Gandrasta Bangko, a 35-year old marketing director in Jakarta, took to social media to mock the allegation. "Just saw a cloud formation that looks like Palu-Arit," he tweeted, using the Indonesian term for hammer-and-sickle. "Preparing lawyer team to sue anyone responsible for this [expletive]."

An unsigned editorial published Tuesday in Indonesia's Tempo magazine said that "we can rightly accuse Rizieq of suffering from acute communism-phobia. It is more laughable than criminal." The editorial argued that rather than focusing on absurd debates over phantom imagery, the group should be restrained by being held responsible for their actual crimes.

After speaking with police, Rizieq denied that he had improperly accused the government of communism - but still didn't back down on his claim that the bills have threatening imagery.

Full report at:

http://www.afr.com/news/world/asia/indonesian-radical-cleric-decries-communist-symbols-on-new-rupiah-notes-20170127-gtzw4p

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Indonesian family, including kids, held over IS links

Jan 27, 2017

DENPASAR: Indonesian police have detained a family of five, including three children, after they were deported from Turkey for allegedly seeking to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State (IS) group, an official said Thursday.

The family were the latest Indonesians to be caught attempting to join the militants. Hundreds of radicals from the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country have flocked to the Middle East to fight with IS in recent years.

The family left Indonesia for Turkey in August, from where they planned to cross to Syria to join IS, police said.

But they were caught by Turkish soldiers this month and deported back to Indonesia, arriving late Tuesday on the resort island of Bali, local police spokesman Hengky Widjaja said.

“We interrogated them for two days,” he said. “This morning they were sent for further questioning by the national police (in Jakarta).”

The 39-year-old father received his masters degree in Australia and their youngest child - now aged three - was born in Australia, authorities said. The other two children are aged seven and 12.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/27-Jan-2017/indonesian-family-including-kids-held-over-is-links

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Jakarta Stocks Miss Gain as Governor Race Takes Islamic Turn

January 27, 2017

(Bloomberg) -- It’s the world’s worst-performing emerging stock market since the election of U.S. President Donald Trump and the only developing Southeast Asian exchange to see outflows this year.

Investors are concerned over a religious feud that’s erupted in the race for Jakarta governor, government attempts to gag criticism and a rate-cutting cycle that looks to have ended. The Jakarta Composite Index has fallen 3 percent since Nov. 8 when Trump’s win fueled expectations for a stronger dollar and faster Federal Reserve rate increases, compared with a 1.3 percent advance in a gauge of emerging-market equities.

Voters go to the polls Feb. 15 in a contest in which the incumbent governor, an ethnic Chinese Christian who’s an ally of President Joko Widodo, has appeared in court over charges he insulted Islam. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims have taken to the streets in protest, with the race viewed as a possible precursor to a conservative Muslim challenge against Widodo in the 2019 presidential vote.

“The Jakarta election is being seen as a struggle between those who believe that Indonesia should remain a moderate country and the right wing movement,” said Jemmy Paul, investment director at PT Sucorinvest Asset Management in Jakarta. “Foreigners also see this as posing a risk to the ability of President Widodo to continue his reform agenda.”

Overseas investors have been trimming their positions, said Paul. Foreign funds pulled $110 million from local equities this month through Wednesday, compared with inflows of $152 million in Thailand and $77 million in Malaysia. Paul, who said he still targets a 13 percent increase in the stock benchmark this year, said they may reenter the market after the election. The JCI declined 0.2 percent as of 9:08 a.m. local time on Friday,

Factors that are weighing on Indonesia’s stock market:

Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who was Widodo’s deputy before he became president in 2014, has been charged with blasphemy for comments saying voters were being deceived by people trying to use Koranic verses to say that Muslims were not permitted to support a Christian leader. Purnama has denied the charges. He leads the three-way race with 38.2 percent support in a poll by Indikator Politik Indonesia, the Jakarta Post reported on Thursday.

The government said on Jan. 3 it was cutting all business ties with JPMorgan Chase & Co. because of a November note in which the U.S. firm downgraded its assessment of Indonesian equities by two notches. It also said that other banks that are primary dealers for its sovereign-bond issues should maintain professionalism and integrity. JPMorgan last week raised its tactical view on Indonesian stocks by one level to neutral.

Rising U.S. interest rates and a stronger greenback are weighing on the rupiah this year, with the 13,836 a dollar year-end median estimate of analysts implying a 3.5 percent drop from current levels.

Morgan Stanley is predicting two 25-basis-point rate increases by Bank Indonesia in the second half of 2017 to stem inflation and says “risks are tilted to the downside” due to the global headwinds, according to a Jan. 17 note by strategists Sean Gardiner and Aarti Shah.

Indonesia’s reaction to the JPMorgan note and the apparent influence of religion on the political process are causes for investor concern, said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney.

Full report at:

http://www.bloombergquint.com/markets/2017/01/26/indonesian-stocks-miss-rally-as-jakarta-race-takes-islamic-turn

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South Asia

 

Freezing weather kills 27 Afghan children

Jan 27, 2017

MAZAR-I-SHARIF - Heavy snowfall and freezing weather has killed 27 children, all under the age of five, in a remote district in northern Afghanistan, officials said Thursday, with fears the toll could rise.

Roads in Darzaab in northern Jawzjan province were blocked by 50 centimetres (20 inches) of snow, cutting off access for villagers in the area to medical care as temperatures plunged to -10 degrees Celsius (14 Fahrenheit).

“Unfortunately we have 27 children killed due to heavy snowfall and freezing weather,” district governor Rahmatullah Hashar told AFP, saying the deaths had occurred over the last two or three days. All the children were under the age of five, he said, adding the blocked roads mean the toll could still increase.

The deaths were confirmed by the Jawzjan provincial governor’s spokesman, Reza Ghafoori, who said aid would be delivered via emergency committees. Heavy snowfall and avalanches kill scores of people in Afghanistan each winter. In 2015, avalanches killed some 300 people across the country, the bulk of them in the mountainous province of Panjshir, north of Kabul. Rescue efforts after disasters such as avalanches and flash floods, which often hit as snows melt in the spring, are frequently hampered by lack of equipment.

Poor infrastructure makes it difficult for rescue teams to reach isolated areas.

http://nation.com.pk/international/27-Jan-2017/freezing-weather-kills-27-afghan-children

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Afghan and Pakistani border guards clash in Spin Boldak

Jan 27 2017

The Afghan and Pakistani security forces exchanged fire in Spin Boldak district located close to Durand Line, the local officials said.

The incident took place late on Thursday after the Afghan border guards opened fire on a number of militants who were trying to enter the district from the other side of the line.

Provincial police spokesman Zia Durani confirmed that a border policeman lost his life and two others were wounded during the clash.

He said the Pakistani border guards opened fire on the Afghan police forces after the militants came under fire.

According to Durani, the militants and Pakistani militia forces have likely suffered casualties during the clash but there are no reports regarding the number.

The militant groups and Pakistani authorities have not commented regarding the incident to so far.

Incidents involving cross-border attacks mainly by the militants are not rare as the porous areas along the Durand Line are normally frequented by the Afghan militants as well as the foreign insurgents including the Pakistani Taliban insurgents.

Full report at:

http://www.khaama.com/afghan-and-pakistani-border-guards-clash-in-spin-boldak-02740

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Afghan nation will never forget Indian nation’s cooperation: Atmar

Jan 26 2017

The Afghan nation will never forget the aid and cooperation delivered by the Indian people and government, Afghan National Security Adviser (NSA) Mohammad Hanif Atmar said Thursday.

In his statement released on the occasion of the Republic Day in India, Atmar said “On this auspicious occasion and important day, let me convey my best wishes and happiest moments for the government and people of India.”

Atmar further added “This day reminds us our strong commitment for an evergreen friendship, cooperation, countering terrorism and getting rid of extremism.”

“It makes us remember the hardships and sorrows the Great Mahatma Gandhi has tolerated for the sovereignty of this great nation,” he said, adding that “We all have to follow him, for peace, for prosperity, for the welfare of our people and for the harmony of whole mankind.”

According to Atmar “Afghanistan and India for centuries have very strong relations. We have shared historical, cultural, political and social values.”

“The people and government of Afghanistan will never forget the aids and cooperation of Indian Nation and Government in different sectors,” Atmar added.

He also said “We are really thankful for all this and we will firmly stand united and committed against our enemies.”

India has remained one of the key donors for the reconstruction of Afghanistan following the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.

Full report at:

http://www.khaama.com/afghan-nation-will-never-forget-indian-nations-cooperation-atmar-02739

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Steps to be taken to arrest 9 guards of Vice President Dostum: Chakhansuri

Jan 26 2017

The Afghan government assures that practical steps will be taken to arrest nine security guards of the Vice President General Abdul Rashid Dostum over alleged kidnapping and sexual abuse of rival Ahmad Khan Ishchi.

President Ghani’s spokesman Haroon Chakhansuri told reporters on Wednesday that the Afghan Attorney General and the judicial institutions continue to their work with transparency.

He said arrest warrants have been issued and the Ministry of Interior is obliged to take practical steps as per the warrants.

Chakhansuri further added that the Attorney General has more authorities to take further steps if the nine security guards of General Dostum were not arrested.

Without providing further information, Chakhansuri said the media will be updated when further steps are taken.

The arrest warrants were issued on Monday after the men refused to appear before the Attorney General to respond regarding the alleged accusations.

The Vice President and his security guards have been summoned for at least three times by the Attorney General but neither of them has responded to the summonses.

According to Afghan law he could be suspended from his position and put under house arrest for his refusal to cooperate with the investigation, Attorney General Farid Hamidi told The Wall Street Journal.

However, the Office of the Vice President has said it would cooperate with a government investigation, saying the accusations by the rivals are baseless efforts to defame Gen. Dostum.

Full report at:

http://www.khaama.com/steps-to-be-taken-to-arrest-9-guards-of-vice-president-dostum-chakhansuri-02737

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