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Islamic World News ( 25 Jan 2022, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Salafis Are Up In Arms Against Gender-Neutral Initiatives In Educational Institutions In Kerala

New Age Islam News Bureau

25 January 2022


Image used for representational purpose only


• Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind moves SC, Seeks Hearing Of 2020 PIL On Fake News Regarding Tablighi Congregation As A Reason For The Spread Of Covid-19

• Afghan Women Activists Meet With Islamic Emirate Of Afghanistan Delegation In Oslo Talks

• Nusrat Ghani: Ex-Minister's Claims Reignite Rows Over Tories And Islam

• Pakistan Govt Flayed In Senate By Opposition For Appeasing Terrorists, Letting Taliban Speak On Its Behalf


• Madhya Pradesh: Muslim Man Donates Land For Samadhi Of Jain Monk

• Anti-CAA Protest Sites Were Deliberately Picked Close To 25 Mosques: Prosecution Opposing Umar Bail Plea

• Assembly elections: 4 of AIMIM’s 27 UP tickets so far given to Hindus

• Man beaten for travelling with Hindu woman booked under anti-conversion law


South Asia

• Islamic Emirate Meets With Envoys of 7 Nations, EU in Oslo

• Islamic Emirate: Talks with Afghan Civil Society 'Constructive'

• Positive step: Taliban on India-Pakistan effort to supply 50,000 MT of wheat to Afghanistan

• Acting FM Amir Khan Motaqi praises Oslo talks as achievement

• Money injection continues into Afghanistan’s economy, $32 million arrived in Kabul



• Upper class Britons 'more likely' to be Islamophobic, study finds

• Head of Conservative Muslim Forum says Boris Johnson must explain why he sacked Nusrat Ghani

• Report Finds Muslim Communities Among Most Discriminated Against In UK

• Australian teenager begs for help from inside Syrian prison at centre of dramatic battle between Islamic State and Kurdish fighters



• Lahore Court Acquits Man Of Blasphemy Charge After 10 Years

• Winds Of Change In Pakistan As PM Imran Khan Loses Support Of Partymen, Army: Report

• 10 Pakistanis held in Paris for money laundering, human trafficking, using fake documents

• Human rights complaint cell set up in Islamabad


Arab World

• Syrian Kurds Say Islamic State Militants Surrender After Prison Raid

• Lebanon depression ‘orchestrated by the country’s elite’: World Bank

• Lebanon’s former PM Hariri declares boycotting elections, stepping away from politics

• Syrian prison battle death toll tops 150, concern over fate of minors

• Saudi Arabia, Romania sign defence deal renewing commitment to peace

• UAE reaffirms it will respond to Yemen’s Houthi attacks against it: Foreign ministry

• UAE cooperated closely with US to repel second Houthi attack on Abu Dhabi: Ambassador

• Bomb explosion kills 3 soldiers in Iraq’s Kirkuk



• Hamas: Palestinian Resistance Will Eventually Lift Israel’s Siege On Gaza

• Iran: 48k Civilians Killed under Pretext of US Fight against Terrorism

• Stone-throwing Israeli settlers attack Palestinian village

• Iran could hold direct talks with US to reach ‘good’ nuclear deal: FM

• Iran says it rules out US prisoner release as nuclear talks precondition

• Palestinian PM warns of escalating Israeli settlers’ violence against Palestinians in West Bank

• Saudi warplanes heavily bomb Yemeni cities amid internet blackout



• Morocco Wages "Soft" War Against Islamic Extremism In Prisons

• Taraba State Governor Ishaku Warns Muslim Council Against Attempt To Cause Religious Tension

• Over 30 killed in fresh communal violence in South Sudan

• Bomb blast kills at least 6 in Somalia

• Algeria’s leader in Egypt for talks on Libya, Ethiopia dam

• Libya parliament committee urges change of PM

• Burkina Faso army says it has deposed president, suspended constitution


Southeast Asia

• Selangor Islamic Religious Council Appeals To Reinstate 3 Children’s Unilateral Conversion To Islam

• Involvement in politics: Education Ministry reminds teachers not to violate conditions, neglect duty as educators

• Surakarta to commence construction of Islamic Centre next year

• Johor PAS says looking to discuss understanding with Umno, BN ahead of state polls


North America

• U.S. Troops Join Assault On Prison In Syria Where Islamic State Holds Hostage Hundreds Of Boys

• The unlikely story of America’s highest ranking Muslim soldier and TikTok favourit

• Islamic State prison break reinforces value of US military protection for Syria's Kurds

• US ‘prepared to meet directly’ and ‘urgently’ with Iran on nuclear issue

• US uses missile interceptors to thwart Houthi attack on UAE

• UN says 1,000 tents in NW Syria collapsed, damaged by snow

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Salafis Are Up In Arms Against Gender-Neutral Initiatives In Educational Institutions In Kerala


Image used for representational purpose only


Jan 23, 20

KOCHI: Salafi groups, which represent a large section of Muslim population in the state, are up in arms against various gender-neutral initiatives in government educational institutions in the state, alleging that the move is part of ‘global agenda to develop a liberal society that challenges moral values’.

It is learnt that different Salafi organizations in the state have decided to strongly oppose the gender clubs to come up in schools and colleges under the Kudumbashree mission and also to oppose the move of many government institutions to introduce gender-neutral uniforms.

A professional conference organized by Mujahid Students Movement (MSM), the students’ wing of the official faction of Kerala Nadvathul Mujahideen (KNM), at Aluva last week released a book which calls to oppose the gender-neutral initiatives in the state. The book observes that the gender-neutral uniforms will destroy the general concept that sex between people of two opposite gender is a normal thing and it will lead to the destruction of entire humanity. It also says the introduction of common uniforms for girls and boys is against nature and it will challenge the mental and biological identity of a person. Another major faction of Salafis, the Markazudawa wing of KNM have also decided to strongly oppose the gender-neutral initiatives across the state. On, Thursday, Wisdom Islamic Organisation, another major Mujahid-Salafi splinter group also came up strongly against the gender clubs in educational institutions, alleging that the gender clubs are part of an agenda to “impose an ideology of a minority who wants free sex on the vast minority who wants to remain morally viable”.

Recently a group of people under the banner of Muslim coordination committe strong protested when Government higher secondary school, Balussery in Kozhikode, introduced gender-neutral uniform.

The Muslim Students Federation (MSF), affiliated to Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), too were among those who protested.

AI Majeed, state general secretary of KNM, said that the organization will go to any extent to oppose gender clubs and gender-neutral initiatives, including common uniforms for girls and boys in colleges and schools. “We cannot be mute spectators. We will oppose them strongly,” he said.

A statement issued by T K Asharf, general secretary of Wisdom Islamic Organisation, said the proposal to form gender clubs in schools and colleges can only be seen as a deliberate move aiming to destroy male-female identities. Gender clubs are pushing the new generation towards gender dysphoria, he said. “The gender neutral uniform brought to Balussery School was a test dose of this move. Authorities opposed the protest against that uniform with the police force. Kudumbashree also promotes the same agenda by distributing mixed male-female posters under the caption ‘Indivisible World’ on campuses,” he said.

We want gender justice, not gender equality. Those who believe in moral values cannot embrace a liberal culture that confuses men and women. Kudumbashrees should not cause family breakdown, he added.

Hussain Madavur, vice-president of KNM (Markazudawa), said that the organization cannot agree with any gender-neutral initiatives, including gender clubs.

Source: Times Of India

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Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind moves SC, Seeks Hearing Of 2020 PIL On Fake News Regarding Tablighi Congregation As A Reason For The Spread Of Covid-19



Jan 24, 2022

NEW DELHI: A Muslim organisation on Monday moved the Supreme Court seeking a final hearing of its 2020 PIL which had sought a direction to the Centre to stop the dissemination of fake news and strict action against a section of media for allegedly “spreading communal hatred” by portraying Tablighi Jamaat congregation as a reason for the spread of Covid-19.

Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind, on whose plea the apex court has issued notices to the Centre and others including the Press Council of India in May 2020, has sought an urgent hearing of its plea in the backdrop of upcoming assembly polls in five states.

“It is submitted that the present matter has assumed particular importance because elections to the Legislative Assemblies of five states are being conducted presently. The dissemination of hate speech during electoral campaigns poses a grave threat to the peace and harmony in the country. The Applicants/Petitioners humbly submit that this court needs to give specific directions to control the dissemination of fake news and hate speeches and the matter needs to be heard urgently,” said the plea which was filed through lawyer Ejaz Maqbool.

The dissemination of fake news and hate speech poses a grave danger to the lives and liberties of a large section of citizens, it said, adding that the PIL was last listed for hearing on September 02, last year and since then, it has not come up for hearing.

“The date on the case status on the website keeps changing constantly. The present status for the listing of the matter as per the website of this court is February 9,” it said.

The PIL had sought direction to the Central Government to stop the dissemination of fake news and take strict action against the sections of the media spreading bigotry and communal hatred concerning the Nizamuddin Markaz issue.

It had also sought direction to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to identify and take strict action against sections of the media that were communalising the Nizamuddin Markaz issue.

“Issue a writ in the nature of mandamus, or any other writ, order or direction holding the Cable Television Network (Amendment) Rules, 2021 amending the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994 as unconstitutional and thereby struck down,” it said.

On September 2 last year, a bench headed by CJI N V Ramana had said that a section of media gives communal colour to news bringing a bad name to the country.

Prior to this, it, while issuing the notice on the PIL, had directed that the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) be also made a party to the plea.

As per the media reports, at least 9,000 people had participated in the religious gathering at Tablighi Jamaat's headquarters in Nizamuddin West in 2020 and the congregation became a key source for the spread of Covid-19 in India as many of the participants had traveled to various parts of the country for missionary works.

Source: Times Of India

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Afghan Women Activists Meet With Islamic Emirate Of Afghanistan Delegation In Oslo Talks


Fowzia Kofee/Oslo Talks


January 25, 2022

Representatives of Afghan women's rights in a meeting with the delegation of the Islamic Emirate on Sunday in Oslo called for girls’ schools to be reopened and for the inclusion of women in the government. 

The closed-door meeting was attended by six women's rights defenders, seven politicians and a high-profile journalist as well as the 15-member delegation of the Islamic Emirate. 

The women representatives who attended the summit included Mahbooba Saraj, Huda Khamosh, Gul Ghotai Jasor, Masouda Karokhel, Shah Gul Rezai and Jamila Afghan. 

During her speech at the meeting, Huda Khamosh called on the Islamic Emirate to release the women protesters who were allegedly detained by the current Afghan government. 

She presented the participants with a proposal formed by the Afghan civil society community and women’s rights activists.

Khamosh urged the UN to monitor the human rights situation in Afghanistan.

The proposal of the women’s representatives in Oslo are as follows: 

“Formation of an independent council by the UN to monitor the human rights status in Afghanistan. Formation of a roadmap for resolving the political issues via the people. Respecting the rights of citizens, particularly the right to work, to receive an education, and to enjoy freedom of speech. The Islamic Emirate is committed to the constitution.” 

“Some important matters including human rights, women’s rights and problems that exist in the private sector were discussed,” said Nazifa Jalali, a women’s rights defender. 

The US special envoy for Afghanistan Thomas West tweeted from Oslo, saying he welcomed Norway's taking the initiative to hold a meeting between the Islamic Emirate delegation and the Afghan civil society leaders.  

“Welcome our hosts' initiative to bring Afghan civil society and Taliban together for dialogue. Civil society leaders are the backbone of healthy and prosperous economies and societies," he said.

The women’s rights and human rights defenders praised the Oslo conference and called to convene face-to-face meetings between the Islamic Emirate and civil society members inside the country.

“These meetings should be meaningful and with a clear aim. The participation of all political and social parties and those who suffered when the Islamic Emirate came to power should be emphasized,” said Fawzia Koofi, leader of Hezb-e-Mawj Tahawol.  

The Afghan women’s rights defenders hoped the Oslo summit would be effective in ensuring women’s rights. 

“This is a positive step as the representatives of women are invited to the summit while women are sidelined in Afghanistan,” said Monisa, a women’s rights activist. 

The Sunday summit of Oslo between the Islamic Emirate delegation and the civil community’s representatives came days after two female protestors went missing in Kabul.

Source: Tolo News

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Nusrat Ghani: Ex-Minister's Claims Reignite Rows Over Tories And Islam


Tory MP Nusrat Ghani


January 25, 2022

Tory MP Nusrat Ghani's allegations have reignited a long-running row about the Conservative Party's approach to what's often called "Islamophobia".

Almost four years ago, the then-chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum, Mohammed Amin, broke ranks and claimed the party was failing to take decisive action against anti-Muslim sentiment for fear of the political consequences.

He was later expelled from his role and joined the Lib Dems - but his was not the only critical voice.

Baroness Warsi, a former Tory party chair and cabinet minister, has spoken of being "ashamed" of her party's approach to what she's repeatedly described as institutional racism.

In the past few years, specific instances have been raised - one of the most high-profile being Boris Johnson's comments from 2018, in which he compared women wearing burkas to letterboxes or bank robbers.

There have also been a number of allegations about party representatives and members making discriminatory comments or sharing offensive material online.

PM orders inquiry into 'Muslimness' sacking claim

Report says PM burka remark suggests insensitivity

But beyond the circumstances of any individual case, the wider question has been about the way the party has responded to such claims.

Critics say there's been an unwillingness within senior ranks to recognise the severity of the issue or to tackle it head on, which they claim has allowed anti-Muslim sentiment to go unchecked too often.

That's something the Conservative Party has consistently denied, saying it's always acted swiftly and decisively when allegations have been raised, and doesn't tolerate any prejudice or discrimination.

Singh inquiry

Last spring, an inquiry into the issue, established by Mr Johnson and led by academic Prof Swaran Singh, found there was discrimination and anti-Muslim sentiment within the Conservative Party, but claims of institutional racism were not borne out.

It did criticise the party's complaints process, and Prof Singh said it should make "uncomfortable reading".

Now the issue has come back to the fore - just as the party is already riven with internal struggles.

The severity of Nusrat Ghani's claim - that her Muslim faith was given as a reason for her sacking as a minister in 2020 - adds to the pressure piling on the prime minister at the start of what could be a pivotal week for his leadership.

Her accusations have been denied by the Chief Whip Mark Spencer, who said they were "completely false".

There were already questions about internal party management, specifically claims - denied by Downing Street - of undue pressure on MPs that amounted to intimidation, or threats to withdraw constituency funding.

Accusations and denials of the most serious nature are being heard in public, which only serves to highlight the deepening tensions within the Tory ranks.

The prime minister has said he takes Ms Ghani's claims "extremely seriously", and has ordered a Cabinet Office inquiry.

But already there are calls - including from the Muslim Council of Britain - for the Equality and Human Rights Commission to step in.

The watchdog says it will consider the findings from the Cabinet Office inquiry, and does not rule out using its legal powers if it is not satisfied with the party's progress towards implementing the recommendations arising from Prof Singh's review.

Some in the Conservative Party had hoped Prof Singh's investigation might have drawn a line under what has been a damaging issue; the report produced a series of recommendations that the party says its committed to delivering.

There are others who still believe there's been a failure to adequately address anti-Muslim sentiment from the top of the party down.

The latest allegations, which are now subject to an investigation, have once again shone a spotlight on the way the Conservative Party handles claims of Islamophobia, and it seems it's an issue that's far from resolved.

Source: BBC News

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Pakistan Govt Flayed In Senate By Opposition For Appeasing Terrorists, Letting Taliban Speak On Its Behalf


This combination photo shows PPP Senator Sherry Rehman (L), Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed (C) and JI Senator Mushtaq Ahmad (R). — Photo via Senate of Pakistan Facebook


Iftikhar A. Khan

January 25, 2022

ISLAMABAD: The opposition in the Senate on Monday slammed the government for what it called “a policy of appeasement” towards terrorist outfits, noting that talks with those who challenged writ of the state had emboldened and encouraged such actors.

Speaking on an adjournment motion on the rising tide of terrorism, opposition senators also voiced concern over talks with the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which were being held through a government that was not recognised by any country of the world.

They said that the recently unveiled National Security Policy be discussed in parliament and that an internal security policy, as well as the Afghan strategy, should be framed in light of that discussion.

Senators claimed the government was devoting all its energies to stifling dissent and cornering its political opponents, while ignoring its responsibility to protect the lives of the people.

Rashid warns of terror threat against opposition march, urges them to reconsider plan

However, the interior minister claimed that negotiations with the banned group had stalled because their demands were unreasonable, warning the opposition of a potential terror threat if it went ahead with its proposed long march and asked them to consider rescheduling it.

Opening debate on the topic, Pakistan Peoples Party leader Sherry Rehman sought an explanation on how a sitting prime minister can decide who is the leader of the opposition or who is not — a reference to PM Khan’s recent statement where he said that he had no respect for Shehbaz Sharif and didn’t consider him an opposition leader.

“This is not his decision, nor is it his prerogative. It is the sovereign right of the people to elect their representatives, not his own prerogative as a manifestation of his own hubris and bizarre conceptualisation of the political and constitutional reality of the country,” she remarked.

She also criticised the prime minister for constantly blaming either previous governments, external factors, or anyone but his own government for all the ills that plagued the country. She said the people of Pakistan no longer knew where to turn in their hour of unprecedented misery as crisis after crisis was unleashed on citizens.

“He is making a laughing stock of Pakistan by threatening his own country, but also sending a message to his selectors, who are now clearly fed up with this amateurish show. Too much is at stake, given Pakistan’s national security challenges and economic distress. You can’t have rule by tantrum. Pakistan will not be sacrificed to anyone’s ego,” she concluded.

But defending his party chief, Leader of the House in the Senate Dr Shahzad Wasim said that the prime minister was merely holding up a mirror to the opposition.

Asking sarcastically who could possibly threaten “such an incompetent opposition”, he said after disqualification by the courts, they first distributed sweets and then started asking ‘mujhe kyon nikala’ (why was I removed). This prompted a token walkout by the opposition.

Former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani said the state had been patronising extremist right wing forces and religious groups, adding that TTP was said to be reorganising in Afghanistan.

He said that the TTP kept on violating a ceasefire agreement, but the government still says its doors are open for talks.

Senator Tahir Bizenjo of the National Party said that over the last 10 days, eight terrorist attacks had taken place across the country, while Nawabzada Umar Farooq Kasi said that negotiating with terrorists only encouraged them.

Jamaat-i-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmad regretted that terrorists and target killers ruled the roost and demanded that former military ruler Pervez Musharraf be brought to Pakistan and tried for his surrender before the US and the murder of Nawab Akbar Bugti.

He asked who was it that actually negotiated with the TTP, and what were the terms of these talks. He also sought an explanation from the interior minister over his statement about presence of terrorists’ sleeper cells in Islamabad.

Responding to the opposition, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said no talks were currently being held with the TTP since their demands were considered to be against the country’s security interests.

He claimed India does not want good relations between the Afghan Taliban and Pakistan, adding that evidence suggested RAW was behind many terror attacks in the country, which were carried out by local criminals hired by the Indian agency.

He also disclosed that the opposition’s protest march on the capital, scheduled for March this year, was also under threat of terrorist attack and called on its leadership to reconsider its decision.

Source: Dawn

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Madhya Pradesh: Muslim man donates land for samadhi of Jain monk

24th January 2022

Neemuch: In a novel gesture, a Muslim man donated his land for the last rites of a Jain monk in Singoli in Neemuch district of Madhya Pradesh.

Jain pontiff Muni Shri Shantisagar died on Thursday and, as per religious belief, a tract of land on Neemuch-Singoli Road belonging to Ashraf Meo aka Guddu, former chairman of Singoli Nagar Panchayat, was found apt for his funeral, followers said on Monday.

Though members of the local Jain community offered huge sums of money to Guddu for the land for the last rites of the monk, he declined, they added.

Money does not count for me. It is my privilege that a samadhi (memorial) of a Jain monk will come up on my land. I have been getting phone calls congratulating me for setting such a fine example of communal amity and brotherhood in Singoli,” he said.

Source: Siasat Daily

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Anti-CAA protest sites were deliberately picked close to 25 mosques: Prosecution opposing Umar bail plea

by Anand Mohan J

January 25, 2022

The prosecution opposing former JNU student Umar Khalid’s bail in a northeast Delhi riots case has told a Delhi court that all 25 anti-CAA protest sites in Delhi were picked because of their proximity to mosques, but were “purposefully given secular names”.

Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad made these arguments before Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat, arguing that the 25 protest sites were close to local mosques. Giving out examples, the SPP said: “Shreeram colony protest site was actually Noorani Masjid protest. Sadar Bazar protest site was Shahi Idgaah. Shastri Park protest site was actually Wahid Jama Masjid. Gandhi Park protest site was actually Jamila Masjid… All 25 protests sites I have pointed out are in close vicinity of masjids. That is the identification of these protest sites.”

The SPP argued that the organisers of the protest sites wanted to “create ground work for 24X7 sit-in protests”.

“They spread misinformation and instigate the Muslim community to join the protests, including women and children,” the SPP argued.

He argued that the protest sites were not organic in nature and that “hidden elements were PFI, Jamat-e-Hind and Student Islamic Organisation of India”.

Prasad argued that the purpose of the Jamia Awareness Campaign Team (JACT) was to “spread disinformation and instigate Muslims about CAA, NRC and to induce their women and children to join protests”.

The SPP argued that there was “a public perception that Umar Khalid is an atheist and studying in JNU, which vouches for being secular”. Prasad added: “Then why did you join a Muslim group (Muslim Students of JNU)? You potray yourself as something else for public knowledge.”

Prasad also drew parallels between several incidents of rioting which took place against the backdrop of the CAA-NRC protest with the Delhi riots, stating: “Almost every person involved in December 2019 riots surfaced in 2020… Difference between 2019 and 2020 is Jamia and Shaheen Bagh were deliberately avoided and women were used as forefront to make it look like rightful dissent in 2020.”

Alleging that the conspirators of the 2019 incident learned their lesson, and that this could be seen in JNU student Sharjeel Imam’s speech, the SPP submitted, “Northeast Delhi (was) chosen for its social, economic matrix for mass-scale violence.”

Source: Indian Express

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Assembly elections: 4 of AIMIM’s 27 UP tickets so far given to Hindus

Mohd Dilshad

Jan 25, 2022

MUZAFFARNAGAR: Hyderabad-based All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) has given tickets to four Hindu candidates out of 27 fielded for Uttar Pradesh assembly polls so far. Among the four candidates, one of them has been fielded from Muzaffarnagar’s communally-sensitive Budhana assembly segment.

State president of AIMIM Shaukat Ali said, “In the coming days, we will give more tickets to our Hindu brothers. We do not give tickets on the basis of religion. We are considered communal, but the fact is, it is the BJP that doesn't offer tickets to Muslims.”

Providing further details of candidates, Ali said that Pandit Manmohan Jha will contest from Sahibabad constituency in Ghaziabad, Bheem Singh Balyan from Budhana seat, Vinod Jatav from Hastinapur seat in Meerut and Vikas Srivastava from Ramnagar in Barabanki.

Source: Times Of India

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Man beaten for travelling with Hindu woman booked under anti-conversion law

By Shruti Tomar

Jan 25, 2022

BHOPAL: A 26-year-old Muslim man was on Monday booked under Madhya Pradesh’s anti-conversation law 10 days after he was assaulted for travelling on a train with a Hindu woman in Ujjain.

Arun Solanki, a local police officer, said the case was registered against Asif Sheikh, a resident of Indore, for extortion and allegedly forcing the 25-year-old woman from Mhow to marry him. He said Sheikh was booked on the woman’s complaint.

In her complaint, the woman said Sheikh, a friend of her husband, would come to her house frequently, and a few months ago, clicked her “objectionable photos”. She alleged Sheikh threatened to defame her and was blackmailing her for money. Solanki said recently he allegedly started pressuring her for conversion for marriage.

The woman claimed she was under pressure and was following what he was instructed her to do. She added the accused was “forcefully taking her to Ajmer” when some people stopped them. The woman said she got scared and did not file any complaint at Ujjain.

Police said they were trying to arrest the accused, who was on January 14 dragged out of the train and thrashed at the Ujjain railway station for allegedly misguiding the woman, who is married and a mother of a child.

Government railway police superintendent (Ujjain) Nivedita Gupta earlier said the man and woman were family friends. “The woman’s mother has confirmed the same. We allowed them to go.”

Madhya Pradesh is among the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states, which have criminalised what they call forced religious conversion, including through interfaith marriages. Critics of the legislation say they are being misused to target Muslims and tend to infantilise women to prevent them from choosing who they wish to marry.

Source: Hindustan Times

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South Asia


Islamic Emirate Meets With Envoys of 7 Nations, EU in Oslo

January 25, 2022

Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and his delegation met with the envoys of the European Union and seven countries on Monday in Oslo, according to the Foreign Ministry. 

The Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhi said on Twitter that the delegation met with the EU special envoy plus those from the US, UK, Norway, Germany, Italy, France, and Qatar. 

“The meeting focused on discussions about the economy, humanitarian aid, security, the central bank, health and other relevant issues,” he said, “The discussions are in progress, a full report will follow.”

The US special envoy for Afghanistan Thomas West in a series of tweets on Sunday evening said that the US and allies were seeking ways to address the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.   

“As we seek to address (the) humanitarian crisis together with allies, partners, and relief organizations, we will continue clear-eyed diplomacy with the Taliban regarding our concerns and our abiding interest in a stable, rights-respecting and inclusive Afghanistan,” he said. 

Political analysts believe that such meetings could play a vital role in solving the problems in the country. 

“There is a need to take a constructive step inside Afghanistan for the formation of an inclusive and sustainable government,” said professor Sayed Baqir Mohseni. 

Source: Tolo News

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Islamic Emirate: Talks with Afghan Civil Society 'Constructive'

January 25, 2022

The Islamic Emirate said that the talks with the representatives of the Afghan civil society held on Sunday in Norway’s capital Oslo were “constructive." 

A joint statement of the one-day summit among the Afghans issued by the Islamic Emirate, said that the participants “recognized” the only path for resolving the existing Afghan problems is understanding and cooperation.

"The participants of the meeting recognized that understanding and joint cooperation are the only solutions to all the problems of Afghanistan,” Islamic Emirate’s Spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said. “All the participants, with one voice, declared such meetings to be in the interest of the country.” 

The venue of the talks was the Soria Moria hotel and conference center. 

The closed-door meeting was attended by six women's rights defenders, seven politicians and a high-profile journalist as well as the 15-member delegation of the Islamic Emirate. 

The women representatives attended the summit included Mahbooba Saraj, Huda Khamosh, Masouda Karokhel, Shah Gul Rezai, Jamila Afghan. 

The seven politicians were Sayed Ishaq Gailani, Hilaluddin Hilal, Abdul Karim Khuram, Jafar Mahdawi, Amin Ahmad, Ismail Ghazanfar and Khan Aqa Ziarmal.

Lotfullah Najafizada of TOLOnews represented the Afghan media community at the Oslo summit. 

“It was a constructive discussion. There were some shared opinions over the prolonging of political talks among the Afghan society,” said Abdul Latif Nazari, a member of the Islamic Emirate delegation.

Former president Hamid Karzai praised the Oslo summit meeting held between Afghans and said the only way toward peace and stability is with intra-Afghan understanding that reflects the will of the people.

“There were people representing the Afghan civil society at the (Oslo) meeting who support the Islamic Emirate government in Afghanistan but they attended on behalf of the Afghan civil community,” said Sayed Javad Hussieni, head of the Hezb-e-Adalat wa Tawsi-a. 

Source: Tolo News

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Positive step: Taliban on India-Pakistan effort to supply 50,000 MT of wheat to Afghanistan

Jan 25, 2022

NEW DELHI: Despite their past antipathy towards India, the Taliban for now continue to respond positively to the Indian government’s outreach efforts. As Afghanistan battles an acute shortage of food, its UN ambassador designate said India’s agreement with Pakistan to supply 50,000 MT of wheat to Afghanistan, which is facing its worst drought in decades, is a positive step that will help the local people.

“It is a positive step. These humanitarian assistance are for the people of Afghanistan for which we are grateful for the government of India. We also thank the government of Pakistan for reaching an agreement with India and providing facilities for transportation on of the wheat to Afghanistan,” said Taliban’s UN ambassador-designate Suhail Shaheen.

The Taliban had earlier too welcomed India’s offer of supplying wheat to Kabul through the land border with Pakistan saying Afghanistan is passing through a critical time. Asked about the possibility of Indian diplomats returning to Afghanistan, Shaheen had said the Taliban were open to receiving all diplomats and committed to providing security for their routine diplomatic functions.

The UN has called for $5 billion in aid for Afghanistan in 2022 to deal with the humanitarian crisis that the country is facing.

“A full-blown humanitarian catastrophe looms. My message is urgent: don’t shut the door on the people of Afghanistan,” said UN aid chief Martin Griffiths earlier this month.

Source: Times Of India

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Acting FM Amir Khan Motaqi praises Oslo talks as achievement

25 Jan 2022

Acting Foreign Minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan Amir Khan Motaqi said that Oslo talks are a key achievement for Afghanistan.

Speaking with Associated Press on Monday, January 24, 2022, Amir Khan Motaqi said that during the talks with representatives of the International Community they understood that the world is not leaving Afghanistan alone especially in terms of humanitarian assistance.

The IEA delegation led by Amir Khan Motaqi held talks with representatives of seven countries and the EU and discussed education, humanitarian assistance, health, and the release of Afghanistan’s frozen assets.

On the first day of the talks, the delegation met with Afghan civil society, non-Taliban Afghan figures, and Afghan women.

Source: Khaama Press

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Money injection continues into Afghanistan’s economy, $32 million arrived in Kabul

25 Jan 2022

As the International Community is trying to avert the collapse of Afghanistan’s economic and social collapse by Injecting money, $32 million in cash arrived in Kabul on Sunday, January 23, 2022.

Afghanistan Central Bank-Da Afghanistan Bank- in a statement announced that the money has arrived in Kabul and was transferred to Afghanistan International Bank, AIB.

The money is part of the process that the United Nations has pledged to be going on until March 2022.

The amount of cash that has been planned to be conducted every single week is good timing as Afghanistan desperately needs cash to prevent the collapse of the banking system.

The international community has provided to Afghanistan $200 million worth of humanitarian assistance in the past two months.

Source: Khaama Press

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Upper class Britons 'more likely' to be Islamophobic, study finds

24 January, 2022

A University of Birmingham study has found that Britons from middle and upper-class occupational groups are more likely to hold Islamophobic views than those from working class occupational groups.

Using a sample size of 1,667 adults, the survey conducted with pollster YouGov revealed that 23.3 percent of people from occupations defined as middle or upper class held prejudiced views towards Muslims, as compared to 23.2 percent of working class respondents.

"Prejudice towards Islam and Muslims stands out in the UK, not only because it is much more widespread than most forms of racism, but also because prejudice toward Islam is more common among those who are wealthier and well-educated," said Dr Stephen H. Jones, the lead author of the study.

The study, titled "The Dinner Table Prejudice: Islamophobia in Contemporary Britain", also found that older men, working class people, Conservative voters, and Brexiteers were more likely to hold Islamophobic views.

Overall, the study found that 25 percent of Britons harbour negative feelings towards Muslims, with a further 9.9 percent saying that they had "very negative" feelings towards them.

Muslims were also identified as the second "least liked group", behind Romani and Irish travellers, with support for restricting Muslim migration 4-6 percent higher than for other groups.

Researchers also found that while the British public is almost three times more likely to hold prejudiced views on Islam, they were also more likely to make factually incorrect statements on Muslm faith and its adherents.

In their report, the study's authors recommend that the government acknowledge the "lack of criticism that Islamophobic discourses and practices trigger", and urged educators to "provide clear guidance clarifying when tropes about the Islamic tradition move from acceptable criticism to become harmful".

Among other recommendations, they also urged the BBC and other broadcasters to "maintain their commitments to religion programming, but with renewed emphasis on combatting intolerance".

Source: The New Arab

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Head of Conservative Muslim Forum says Boris Johnson must explain why he sacked Nusrat Ghani

Rob Merrick

January 25, 2022

The head of the Conservative Muslim Forum has called on Boris Johnson to explain whether Nusrat Ghani was sacked for her “Muslimness” – after he ducked questions.

Mohamed Sheikh said the prime minister could clear up whether the junior transport minister was dismissed “because of her incompetence” or whether there were “other reasons”.

“Why did that happen? I think the prime minister must come out and say why did he sack the minister,” Lord Sheikh said.

Asked if the issue “could be simply solved”, he replied: “Absolutely. He needs to be very clear about it. As a prime minister, it’s his privilege. He can bring people on or he can sack people.”

The forum chair also demanded clear terms of reference for the Cabinet Office inquiry into the controversy, moments after No 10 was unable to say what those terms will be.

“The report must be made public in full. I don’t want a scenario where bits of the report are truncated,” Lord Sheikh told BBC Radio 4. “And if any anyone is found to have behaved badly, that person must be held to account.”

No 10 was unable to say whether the full findings of the inquiry will be published and has rebuffed Labour calls for the chief whip, Mark Spencer, to be investigated under the ministerial code.

Ms Ghani has alleged that, when she was sacked in 2020, Tory whips told her that her “Muslim woman minister status was making colleagues feel uncomfortable”.

Mr Spencer identified himself as the person accused of making the remarks, but said: “These accusations are completely false and I consider them to be defamatory.”

Quizzed on a hospital visit, Mr Johnson declined to back Mr Spencer, saying: “We must wait and see what the investigation produces.”

He said he was “very glad there’s an investigation taking place now,” – having refused to set one up, nearly two years ago – but claimed: “I can’t say more, really, about it.”

Ms Ghani welcomed the announcement, but said she needed to see the terms of reference to have confidence in it.

“The terms of reference of the inquiry must include all that was said in Downing Street and by the whip,” the Conservative backbencher argued.

The anti-fascism campaign group Hope Not Hate said the Equalities and Human Rights Commission should open an investigation into Islamophobia within the Tory party.

“Islamophobia runs right through the Conservative party, from its grassroots activists to its most senior figures. This has real life consequences for Muslim communities in the UK,” said Nick Lowles, the group’s chief executive.

Source: Independent UK

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Report finds Muslim communities among most discriminated against in UK

January 24, 2022

British Muslims have been categorized as being one of the most discriminated communities across the UK, according to a new report on Islamophobia published on Monday.

The analysis by the University of Birmingham and data analysis firm YouGov discovered that the British public are more likely to hold discriminatory and negative views on Islam than on any other religion and a significant minority of this population hold incorrect and conspiratorial views on British Muslim communities.

The study revealed that the demographics of those most likely to hold such Islamophobic views and beliefs are among the elderly population, working-class, males, and those who voted to leave the EU as well as supporters of the Conservative Party under Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“Prejudice towards Islam and Muslims stands out in the UK, not only because it is much more widespread than most forms of racism, but also because prejudice toward Islam is more common among those who are wealthier and well-educated,” said Stephen H. Jones, the lead author of the study.

“No one is calling for laws regulating criticism of religion, but we have to recognize that the British public has been systematically miseducated about Islamic tradition and take steps to remedy this,” Jones added.

According to the report, the non-Muslim British public is three times more likely to hold prejudiced views of Islam than they are of other faiths. Support for the prohibition of Muslim migration to the UK is 4-6% higher than it is for other religious and ethnic minority groups and British people are more confident in making incorrect judgments about Islam than other non-Christian faiths.

The report further finds that over one in four people hold conspiratorial views on the so-called "Sharia no-go areas." Some 26.5% agree that there are certain areas of the UK that operate under Sharia law and that non-Muslims are prohibited from entering. 36.3% agree that Islam threatens the British way of life. The vast majority of them are Tory and Brexit supporters.

Just over a quarter of the British public harbor negative views towards Muslims with 9.9% feeling “very negative” towards them. In comparison, only 8.5% of the public hold negative views for Jewish people, 6.4% for Black people, and 8.4% for other white people of different nationalities.

The study, however, found that people from middle and upper-class occupational groups are also more likely to hold prejudiced views against Muslims and Islamic beliefs. People from higher social groups are 4.8% more likely to view Islam as “literalistic,” without interpretation, than other lower social groups.

As well as reporting on the scale of Islamophobia in the UK, the report also offered various recommendations to combat and offer solutions to anti-Muslim discrimination, including the public acknowledgment of Islamophobia by the government and equally higher public institutions.

Source: Yenisafak

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Australian teenager begs for help from inside Syrian prison at centre of dramatic battle between Islamic State and Kurdish fighters

January 24, 2022

A 17-year-old Australian inside a Syrian prison at the centre of intense fighting between Islamic State militants and Kurdish-led forces has sent his family audio recordings in which he begs for help.

Islamic State (IS) fighters have besieged the prison since January 20 in an attempt to free some of the thousands of IS members held inside.

The Australian teen, who the ABC cannot identify, said he suffered a head wound as gunfire and explosions rattled around him.

"I'm Australian," he repeated urgently in audio clips he recorded on a phone.

"I'm scared I might die any time."

The 17-year-old has spent the last three years inside the Guweiran prison in the Syrian town of Hasakah, in the country's north-east.

The militants breached a wall near the gates of the prison, where roughly 5,000 men and 700 boys are detained, by detonating a car bomb and killing dozens of staff, allowing inmates to flee.

Kurdish-led forces, with US military support, have since fought back to try and reassert control of the prison and the surrounding area.

'I don't know what to do'

Caught in the chaos of the attack, the Australian boy has sent a handful of short voice recordings to his family in Sydney, describing the terror of the last few days.

"They're not stopping shooting," he said in an Australian accent.

"Every little bit, they shoot. Every little bit they're hitting missiles. I don't know what to do."

In another recording, he described the bodies of those killed in the attack lying in front of him.

The Australian boy's voice recordings, obtained exclusively by the ABC, give a glimpse into one of the boldest attacks by Islamic State militants since the group lost most of its territory in Syria in 2019.

They were sent to the boy's family in Sydney via a messaging app, and were shared with a family friend, Kamalle Dabboussy, who has been campaigning for the boy to be brought back to Australia.

"Over the last 24 hours in particular, it's been a huge shock to the family," Mr Dabboussy said.

None of the teenager's extended family have had any direct contact with the boy since he was detained three years ago.

"Before he left, he was a really happy child," Mr Dabboussy said.

"He'd actually quite like the big brother role, playing with younger kids around the place. He was just a normal suburban kid."

How did he end up in Syria?

It's understood the boy has been in Syria since 2015, when he travelled to the newly declared Islamic State caliphate with his parents and siblings.

He would have been about 11 years old when he was taken from Australia.

His mother is reportedly still alive and in the makeshift Roj detention camp, a couple of hours drive away from the prison, though the two are not in regular contact.

Following the liberation of the last Islamic State stronghold of Baghouz in 2019, he and his mother were transferred to a camp in north-east Syria, before they were separated and the boy was taken to prison.

He has remained there ever since.

Inside the prison, conditions are poor, with overcrowding, inadequate healthcare, and deteriorating mental health among the detained children, one humanitarian worker who visited the site last year said.

At least 40 Australian children remain in detention of some form across the north-east of Syria, according to the organisation Save the Children.

"What we know is that there are a large number of Australian women and children who were caught up in a conflict with [IS] that ended back in 2019," said Mat Tinkler, Save the Children's acting chief executive.

"Many of the male relatives of these women and children either died during the conflict or have been imprisoned."

Mr Tinkler said his organisation had made repeated appeals to the Australian federal government to intervene to have Australian children imprisoned in Syria returned home to their families.

"But that plea unfortunately has fallen on deaf ears and the Australian government has refused to act for several years now," he said.

Mr Dabboussy also said the government had taken too long to act.

"They're acutely aware of the situation and have chosen to sit on their hands and not do anything," Mr Dabboussy said.

The Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said she was seeking advice about the matter.

Source: ABC News

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Lahore court acquits man of blasphemy charge after 10 years

January 25, 2022

LAHORE: A sessions court has acquitted a man in a case of alleged blasphemy registered by Mughalpura police in 2011.

Asim Aslam was arrested following the FIR registered on the complaint of his brother Faisal Aslam under section 295-B of the PPC. The complainant himself admitted in the FIR that the suspect had a history of mental illness.

A trial court had awarded the suspect life imprisonment on the basis of his confessional statement. Later, he challenged his conviction before the Lahore High Court in 2015.

The high court in 2021 suspended the sentence and directed the sessions court to hold a fresh trial of the suspect in light of his mental health.

The suspect also filed an application for his acquittal under section 265-K of the Cr.PC.

Additional District & Sessions Judge Khalid Wazir allowed the application of Aslam and acquitted him of the charge.

Source: Dawn

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Winds of change in Pakistan as PM Imran Khan loses support of partymen, Army: Report

Jan 25, 2022

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has lost the support of his own partymen and the army, indicating 'winds of change' in Pakistan, reported the Policy Research Group (POREG).

Defence Minister of the ruling Pakistani government Pervez Khattak's attack on Imran Khan about the negligence of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) by the Centre and greater dissatisfaction within the military over Imran Khan's handling of internal security can become a major cause of concern for Pakistan Prime Minister.

In the short to medium term, Khattak might represent a danger to Prime Minister Imran Khan.

According to Maiteen Haider of the renowned Lahore newspaper The Nation, Khattak has the backing of eighty legislators in the lower house of Parliament (National Assembly) for an 'in-house' charge.

Khattar's outburst during a parliamentary party gathering on January 13 came just one day after he was alleged to have missed the inauguration of Pakistan's new National Security Policy.

Recent rumours that the ruling party has developed severe flaws have gained credence as a result of this, reported the research group.

"KP is being neglected in the provision of electricity and gas while these facilities are being enjoyed by the people of other provinces," he fumed as Imran Khan squirmed.

He warned Imran Khan, "if the situation lingered on, the people of KP would not vote for the PTI."

Another PTI veteran, Noor Alam also critiqued Imran Khan saying, "It seems that Peshawar is not a district of this country, but Mianwali and Swat are," he said comparing his home town to the Prime Minister's constituency. And created a flutter in political circles, saying "Am I not a Pakistani, am I only here to cast my vote?"

Source: Times Of India

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10 Pakistanis held in Paris for money laundering, human trafficking, using fake documents

Jan 25, 2022

PARIS: Ten Pakistani nationals have been arrested from the suburbs of Paris, on the suspicion of money laundering, human trafficking and fake documents, according to sources.

As per media reports, police suspect two brothers among the 10 arrested, to be controlling this network. Police got a whiff of the network in June 2020 after being informed of suspicious packages carrying fake European documents arriving in France, from Pakistan via Turkey and Greece.

According to sources, the fake documents included official documents of countries in the Schengen area and in particular for France, including passports, identity cards and residence permits.

Following this lead, investigators from the Central Office for the Suppression of Irregular Immigration and the Employment of Undocumented Foreigners and OCRGDF (Central Office for the Suppression of Serious Financial Crime) began investigations into the presence of illegal workers operating in the Paris region, largely in the construction sector.

During the probe, the French authorities also unearthed 20 legal companies involved in the construction business that were linked to a large network of "taxi" companies, which were used to redirect the funds to nearly 200 bank accounts opened with false papers.

This network transferred money to the various accounts using fake invoices or documents and then got the money out of the legal circuit by withdrawing large amounts from these bank accounts through ATMs.

Part of the money withdrawn was used to pay illegal Pakistanis working in these construction sites and the remaining diverted to Pakistan.

Source: Times Of India

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Human rights complaint cell set up in Islamabad

January 25, 2022

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari on Monday launched the human rights complaint cell at her ministry.

She announced the launching of the cell at a meeting which was attended by ministry of human rights joint secretary, all directors general and senior officers of ministry attended.

Regional human rights directors from Quetta, Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi participated in the meeting via Zoom link, says a press release.

It said that Human Rights Complaint Cell has been established under the Ministry of Human Rights for receiving, sifting, segregating and forwarding of complaints both at federal and provincial levels.

At regional levels, ministry will be looking after the process of registration of complaints through its directorate of human rights existing in provincial capitals.

With the help of this cell, the ministry would refer complaints after their registration to department/agency concerned at any level and would be getting a regular feedback for their timely redressal.

A dedicated team of the cell will maintain proper data on all kinds of complaints received.

Apart from this, human rights violations have been categorised to ensure apposite scrutiny and strong coordination among the departments.

In the meeting, Human Rights DG briefed the participants about the cell that how it has been established after multiple rounds of consultation at provincial and federal levels.

It will be operated under a well devised system generating an automated database on registration as well as tracking of complaints.

He told the participants that a special code would be allotted to every application/complaint that may be registered through any channel including written application sent through post, email or recorded on assigned telephone numbers.

After registration, ministry would perpetually monitor and take follow-up on all complaints.

Source: Dawn

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Arab World


Syrian Kurds say Islamic State militants surrender after prison raid

24 Jan, 2022

AMMAN: Kurdish-led forces said on Monday they raided part of a prison seized by Islamic State fighters in northeastern Syria and forced at least 300 of the militants to surrender.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG militia, said militants were still holed up in other buildings, and plans were underway to clear the rest of the detention complex in Hasaka city.

"The operations to break into the prison have begun," one SDF source said. Another said allies in a US-led coalition were involved in the "ongoing operations" without elaborating. There was no immediate statement from Islamic State.

At least 180 inmates and militants and 27 security forces have died since Islamic State fighters attacked the jail on Thursday in a bid to free their members, officials have said.

The SDF initially said it had thwarted the breakout, but later acknowledged that inmates had taken over parts of the facility.

Syrian Kurdish forces tighten siege after IS prison break

The United Nations children's agency (UNICEF) called late on Sunday for the evacuation of the nearly 850 children held in the complex with the militants and their families, saying their safety was at "immediate risk".

SDF officials declined to go into further details on their planned operation.

"Very sensitive developments are taking place regarding ending the mutiny of Daesh (the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State) mercenaries," SDF spokesman Farhad Shami said in a tweet.

Arab tribal figures in touch with relatives said they feared the death toll was much higher than figures released by the SDF.

Residents said thousands of families had fled since security services raided the surrounding Ghweiran neighbourhood to search for freed prisoners.

The jail is the largest among several publicly known ones where the SDF holds suspected militants and other detainees in what aids groups say are overcrowded and inhumane conditions.

The US-based Human Rights Watch says the SDF holds a total of about 12,000 men and boys suspected of Islamic State affiliation, including 2,000 to 4,000 foreigners from almost 50 countries.

Source: Brecorde

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Lebanon depression ‘orchestrated by the country’s elite’: World Bank

25 January ,2022

Lebanon’s economic depression “is orchestrated by the country’s elite” and “has come to threaten the country’s long-term stability and social peace,” the World Bank said in a press release on Tuesday attached to its latest report on the country.

Lebanon’s descent into financial ruin began in 2019, the result of a poorly managed spending binge that pushed up debt, political paralysis as rival factions squabbled and foreign lenders’ reluctance to bail the country out unless it reformed.

The World Bank ranks the crisis as among the most severe globally since the mid-19th century, devastating a country once seen as a wealthy and liberal outpost in the Middle East before civil war broke out from 1975 to 1990.

“Lebanon’s deliberate depression is orchestrated by the country’s elite that has long captured the state and lived off its economic rents,” the release stated, citing the World Bank Lebanon Economic Monitor Fall 2021 report.

“This capture persists despite the severity of the crisis -- one of the top ten, possibly top three most severe economic collapses worldwide since the 1850s; it has come to threaten the country’s long-term stability and social peace.”

Lebanese government revenues fell by almost half in 2021 to reach 6.6 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), marking the 3rd lowest ratio globally after Somalia and Yemen, the bank said in its press release on Tuesday.

Real GDP is estimated to have declined by 10.5 percent, according to the World Bank Lebanon Economic Monitor, while gross debt is estimated to have reached 183 percent percent of GDP in 2021, a ratio only exceeded by Japan, Sudan and Greece, the release insisted.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Lebanon’s former PM Hariri declares boycotting elections, stepping away from politics

24 January ,2022

Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Monday announced his intent to boycott the upcoming parliamentary elections and his decision to step away from the domestic political scene for the time being.

Reading from a prepared statement, a tearful Hariri called on members of his Future Movement political party to follow suit and suspend their participation in politics.

Recalling his slain father, Rafik Hariri, the three-time premier said he had to objectives after entering the political life: prevent another civil war from breaking out in Lebanon and providing a better life for Lebanese.

“I succeeded in the first one, but I did not have enough success in the second,” Hariri said from his Downtown Beirut residence.

Hariri, who once enjoyed strong ties with the West and the Gulf, saw his image tarnished in recent years after making multiple concessions to Hezbollah and its allies.

He cited reaching agreements to end the violence on May 7, 2008, after Hezbollah fighters took over Beirut. He then visited Syria’s Bashar al-Assad in Damascus after the assassination of his father. Hariri also conceded and endorsed political rival Michel Aoun to become the next president of Lebanon and subsequently agreed to a new electoral law, which saw his party lose significant parliamentary representation.

But Hariri defended his decisions and said he was the only one who admitted his wrongdoings.

“I was the only one who responded to the October Revolution, and I submitted the resignation of my government,” he said, referring to the nationwide anti-government protests that broke out in October 2019.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Syrian prison battle death toll tops 150, concern over fate of minors

24 January ,2022

Kurdish forces locked down a Syrian city Monday to trap ISIS fighters who attacked a prison there five days earlier, leaving more than 150 dead in fierce battles.

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The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) charged that the ISIS militants were using hundreds of minors as “human shields” inside the Ghwayran prison in the northeastern city of Hasakeh.

The UN childrens’ agency UNICEF called for the protection of some 850 minors detained inside the jail, some as young as 12, warning that they could be “harmed or forcibly recruited” by ISIS.

More than 100 ISIS fighters late Thursday stormed Ghwayran prison using suicide truck bombs and heavy weapons, setting off days of clashes both inside the facility and in surrounding neighborhoods.

The fighting died down Sunday evening as the US-backed SDF consolidated control over areas around the jail and declared the entire city locked down for a week.

“To prevent terrorist cells from escaping... the Kurdish administration in northeast Syria announces a complete lockdown on areas inside and outside Hasakeh city for a period of seven days starting on January 24,” the administration said.

Businesses were ordered to close with the exception of essential services, such as medical centers, bakeries and fuel distribution centers.

Civilians were hunkering down Monday in their homes as Kurdish fighters backed by the US-led coalition combed the area for hideout terrorists, reported an AFP correspondent.

The SDF erected several checkpoints at the entrances to Hasakeh, with even tighter security measures imposed in neighborhoods adjacent to the jail, the correspondent revealed.

The SDF said in a statement its advances inside the prison were stymied by the use of hundreds of minors as “human shields” by IS jihadists holed up in a dormitory.

The group said the adolescents, who had been detained over suspected links to ISIS, were being kept in a “rehabilitation center” in the jail.

The Britain-based group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Monday that a precarious lull in fighting continued to hold, as holdout terrorists were refusing to surrender.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Saudi Arabia, Romania sign defence deal renewing commitment to peace

25 January ,2022

Saudi Arabia and Romania have entered a defense cooperation deal that will see an exchange of expertise in technology, communication systems, and medical services, in addition to training, according to the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

It comes as part of an agreement signed by the Kingdom, represented by Dr. Khalid bin Hussein al-Bayari, Assistant Minister of Defense for Executive Affairs, and Romania, represented by Simona Cojocaru, State Secretary and Chief of the Department for Defense Policy, Planning and International Relations.

The arrangement was established as the countries renew their commitment to “promote and encourage international peace and stability,” SPA reported.

Source: Al Arabiya

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UAE reaffirms it will respond to Yemen’s Houthi attacks against it: Foreign ministry

25 January ,2022

The United Arab Emirates has reaffirmed that Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi attacks against the Gulf country will not be received “without a thorough and comprehensive response,” the foreign ministry said on Monday.

The UAE intercepted early on Monday a missile attack launched by the Houthis targeting Abu Dhabi, the second such attack within a week. The first strike killed three people and injured six people.

“The UAE reserves the right to respond against these terrorist attacks and such blatant criminal escalation,” the ministry insisted, describing these attacks as “a heinous crime committed by the terrorist Houthi militia in breach of international and humanitarian laws.”

The statement added: “This terrorist militia is continuing its criminal activities without being held accountable, by causing terror and chaos in the region to achieve its unlawful aims and objectives.”

The UAE also expressed its strong condemnation and denunciation of the terrorist Houthi militia's attack on Jazan in Saudi Arabia with a ballistic missile, which left two civilians injured.

The ministry considered this to be a dangerous escalation and cowardly act that threatens the security, safety, and lives of civilians and called for the taking of all necessary measures to protect civilians from Houthi threats.

The UAE reaffirmed its solidarity with the Kingdom over these terrorist attacks and reiterated its stance against all threats to the Kingdom's security, stability, and the safety of its citizens and residents.

Source: Al Arabiya

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UAE cooperated closely with US to repel second Houthi attack on Abu Dhabi: Ambassador

24 January ,2022

The UAE cooperated closely with the US to thwart a second Houthi attack on Abu Dhabi within a week, Emirati ambassador to the US Yousef Al-Otaiba said on Monday.

“Close UAE-US cooperation helped to repel another round of Houthi terror attacks this morning in the UAE,” the ambassador said on Twitter.

The UAE intercepted early Monday a missile attack launched by the Iran-backed Houthis targeting Abu Dhabi, the second such attempted strike within less than a week.

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The Ministry of Defense said it intercepted and destroyed the two Houthi ballistic missiles with no casualties.

US Central Command detailed: “US forces at Al Dhafra Air Base, near Abu Dhabi in the UAE engaged two inbound missile threats with multiple Patriot interceptors coincident to efforts by the armed forces of the UAE.”

Spokesman Captain Bill Urban revealed the missiles didn’t impact the US base and there were no casualties. He added that US forces “set a heightened alert posture at the time of the attack, the second in the span of a week, which did involve Airmen using available bunkers.”

“US forces at Al Dhafra remain vigilant and ready to respond in case of any follow-on attacks.”

Monday's attack comes a week after the Houthis used cruise and ballistic missiles, as well as drones, in an attack on Abu Dhabi that killed three people and injured six others.

The Emirati ambassador renewed the UAE’s calls for the US to redesignate Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis as a terrorist organization.

Otaiba added: “(The) next step is to shut off financial and arms flows from their backers. (The) US should move now to put the Houthis back on the terrorist list.”

President Joe Biden’s administration revoked a terrorist designation of the Houthis introduced by former President Donald Trump in January of last year. Biden also announced ending of US support for the offensive operations of the Arab Coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, which intervened in Yemen in 2015.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Bomb explosion kills 3 soldiers in Iraq’s Kirkuk

Ibrahim Saleh  



Three Iraqi soldiers were killed in a bomb explosion in the northern Kirkuk province on Monday, according to a local police officer.

An explosive device planted by Daesh/ISIS terrorists exploded at a military vehicle in a rural area in Daquq district in Kirkuk, the officer said, requesting anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.

A fourth soldier was injured in the attack.

Iraqi forces have launched a manhunt for the attackers, the officer said.

Monday’s attack was the second by Daesh/ISIS terrorists in less than a week after the terror group killed 11 soldiers in a deadly attack on Friday in the eastern Diyala province.

In recent months, suspected Daesh/ISIS terrorists have stepped up attacks, particularly in the area between Kirkuk, Saladin, and Diyala.

In 2017, Iraq declared victory over Daesh/ISIS by reclaiming all territories the terrorist group controlled since the summer of 2014, which was estimated to be about a third of the country’s territory.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Hamas: Palestinian resistance will eventually lift Israel’s siege on Gaza

24 January 2022

The Palestinian resistance will finally succeed in lifting Israel’s years-long siege on the impoverished Gaza Strip and commence its reconstruction, the resistance movement Hamas says.

In a press statement, carried by the Palestinian Information Center, Hamas Political Bureau member Mousa Abu Marzouk said on Sunday that all options are on the table to deal with the Israeli behavior. “We will not accept any Israeli delays or any attempts to link the prisoners swap deal with the reconstruction file,” the Hamas official added.

Gaza, home to some two million Palestinians, has been under Israeli siege since June 2007.  The tight blockade has caused a decline in the standards of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty.

Abu Marzouk further stressed that the Gaza-based Hamas is working to relieve Gaza citizens’ suffering, saying that the Palestinian Authority (PA), which is based in the occupied West Bank, does not want any solution for the blockaded enclave except after removing Hamas from the scene. The Ramallah-based PA, which is run by the ruling Fatah party and led by President Mahmoud Abbas, considers Hamas as its arch-rival.

“Fatah movement deals with the institutions of the Palestinian people as a private property,” the Hamas official went on to say, accusing Fatah of being one of the most important causes of Palestinian crises. He said the establishment of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is supposed to be according to a transparent and fair mechanism, and “not according to the Fatah movement.”

Abu Marzouk further emphasized that there is a necessity to reshape the leadership of the Palestinian people according to democratic and national foundations, to strengthen partnership in decision-making, to end current monochromic attitude, and to rebuild the PLO so that it encompasses all components of the Palestinian people.

Elsewhere in his remarks, he also hailed efforts by Russia to end the Palestinian division, stressing that Hamas has no conditions on national dialogs, and has never set conditions for commencing new rounds of dialog.

Abu Marzouk noted that Hamas had welcomed the Russian invitation, but that “officials in the Fatah movement did not inform the Russians of their response.”

The Palestinian leadership has been divided between Fatah and Hamas since 2006, when the latter scored a landslide victory in parliamentary elections in the Gaza Strip. Hamas has ever since been running the coastal enclave, while Fatah has been based in the autonomous parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Previous reconciliation attempts by the two sides to form a power-sharing unity government in Gaza and the West Bank have failed.

In the latest Israeli bombardment campaign against the Gaza Strip, at least 260 Palestinians, including over 60 children, were killed in a time span of 11 days that began on May 10 last year.

That came following Palestinian retaliation for violent Israeli raids on worshipers at al-Aqsa Mosque and the regime’s plans to force a number of Palestinian families out of their homes at the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East al-Quds.

Source: Press TV

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Iran: 48k Civilians Killed under Pretext of US Fight against Terrorism


"Under the pretext of countering terrorism, the US has conducted at least 14,000 drone strikes in seven countries over the last two decades," Qaribabadi wrote on his Twitter account on Monday.

"The result? 48,000 civilians killed, tens of thousands of homes shattered into pieces," he added.

In relevant remarks in November, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani blamed the US for exacerbated misery, poverty and terrorism in the world, specially in Afghanistan.

Shamkhani made the remarks, addressing the third edition of the Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan in New Delhi, India.

He said that the US and its coalition allies should be held accountable for the myriad of crises Afghanistan is facing today, adding the “least responsibility” they bear is to compensate for all the damage they have inflicted on the Afghan people over the past two decades.

“Twenty years ago, the United States occupied Afghanistan under the pretext of confronting the Taliban and al-Qaeda, claiming to be fighting terrorism and preaching that they want to turn Afghanistan into a role model and a source of inspiration.”

However, instead of acting on such a claim, it made the situation in Afghanistan even worse, he said. “Terrorism, poverty and misery, as well as drug cultivation and trafficking and migration, increased while a large number of innocent people in Afghanistan were massacred by American fighter jets at weddings and mourning ceremonies for vague reasons. The state- and nation-building claimed by the United States ground to a halt.”

Shamkhani said the US turned out to be a failure even in its “most basic role, i.e. the establishment of the army and security system”, which quickly collapsed after Washington and its allies left Afghanistan and the Taliban group took over.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Stone-throwing Israeli settlers attack Palestinian village

25 January ,2022

Israeli settlers drove through a Palestinian village in the occupied West Bank on Monday, throwing rocks through the windows of vehicles and businesses and injuring a teenager, a Palestinian official said.

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It was the latest in a series of settler attacks in recent months. On Friday, settlers attacked Palestinians and Israeli peace activists in the West Bank and set a car on fire. Last month, a settler was shot and killed by a Palestinian gunman, setting off revenge attacks.

The Israeli military confirmed the incident on Monday, saying the Israelis had caused “significant damage” and that police have opened an investigation.

Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian Authority official, said a Palestinian teenager was taken to the hospital after being struck in the head by a stone. He said the teenager was “lightly wounded.”

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz released a statement saying anyone who throws stones or lights cars on fire “is a terrorist and will be treated as such.”

Israeli officials have repeatedly vowed to take action against settler violence in recent months. Palestinians and Israeli rights groups say the army rarely intervenes and often sides with the settlers.

Nearly 500,000 Israeli settlers live in 130 settlement and dozens of unauthorized outposts across the occupied West Bank. The Palestinians view the settlements as the main obstacle to resolving the conflict. Most countries see these settlements as a violation of international law.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Iran could hold direct talks with US to reach ‘good’ nuclear deal: FM

24 January ,2022

Iran could hold direct talks with the US over its 2015 nuclear deal if it deems it necessary to reach a “good” agreement, Tehran’s top diplomat said on Monday.

“The US is sending messages calling for direct talks with us… If we reach a stage in the negotiations where it becomes necessary to have a [direct] dialogue with the US to reach a good agreement, we will not ignore it,” Iranian state media quoted Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian as saying.

Talks between Iran and the remaining signatories to the 2015 deal – Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain – are currently taking place in Vienna.

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The US is participating indirectly in the talks due to Iran’s refusal to negotiate directly with Washington. The talks aim to bring Iran back into compliance with the nuclear pact and facilitate a US return to the agreement.

US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley, who heads up the US negotiating team in Vienna, told Reuters on Sunday that Washington would “welcome” direct talks with Tehran but added that his side has “heard nothing to that effect.”

Under the 2015 deal, Iran limited its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.

Washington withdrew from the deal in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump, who also reimposed sweeping sanctions on Tehran.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Iran says it rules out US prisoner release as nuclear talks precondition

24 January ,2022

Iran on Monday ruled out any US preconditions for reviving a 2015 nuclear deal, including the release of American prisoners held by the Islamic Republic.

“Iran has never accepted any preconditions by the United States... The US official’s comments on the release of US prisoners in Iran is for domestic use,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told a weekly news conference.

The lead US nuclear negotiator told Reuters on Sunday the United States was unlikely to strike an agreement with Iran to revive the nuclear pact unless Tehran released four US citizens Washington claims it is holding hostage.

Iran’s state news agency IRNA said earlier on Monday that setting such preconditions would slow down indirect talks between Tehran and Washington to secure the deal.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Palestinian PM warns of escalating Israeli settlers’ violence against Palestinians in West Bank

25 January 2022

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has warned of escalating violence by extremist Israeli settlers against Palestinians and their properties across the occupied West Bank, condemning their attacks against local communities in the occupied territories.

Speaking at a weekly cabinet session in the northeastern West Bank city of Tubas, Shtayyeh stated that the Palestinian Authority condemns the seizure of Palestinian farms by hundreds of Israeli settlers in northern West Bank as well as their putting of signs on the roads prohibiting farmers from reaching their lands.

“Tubas and the Jordan Valley areas witness gradual annihilation of the West Bank. Israel continues to destroy the Palestinian lands, plows them with tanks and heavy military vehicles, and destroys all elements of Palestinian steadfastness,” he said.

Shtayyeh added that Israeli authorities “are expelling the Palestinians from their living places under the pretext of military training and prevent them from returning to their homes.”

Settlers attack Palestinians, stores in Huwara

The Palestinian prime minister’s remarks came on the same day that Israeli settlers stormed the West Bank Palestinian town of Huwara, and vandalized stores, homes, and vehicles in a violent attack that left three Palestinians injured.

The Israeli army said in a statement that “there was an altercation between settlers and Palestinians, in which several Palestinian vehicles and businesses in Huwara were damaged.”

“The altercation began when a number of vehicles traveling in a convoy on Route 60 through the Huwara threw stones” causing extensive damage, the statement added.

According to Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din, the attack occurred in full view of Israeli military forces, who often heavily patrol that section of the road.

Yesh Din said that a group of extremist Israeli settlers arrived in a convoy of cars accompanied by Israeli troops, from the direction of the Tapuah junction, and that the convoy played loud music.

The convoy stopped in Huwara, which lies south of Nablus. Those in the vehicles threw stones at Palestinian cars, stores, and homes, shattering windows and injuring three Palestinians, the rights group noted.

‘Settlers conducting pogrom against Palestinians’

Yesh Din’s executive director Lior Amihai warned that Israeli settlers are conducting a pogrom against the Palestinians.

“In broad daylight, under the guise of protection from the soldiers, a convoy of settlers is conducting a pogrom against the Palestinians,” Amihai stated.

Last month, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates called upon the international community to intervene immediately and to pressure the occupying Israeli regime into stopping “acts of terrorism” committed by extremist settlers against Palestinians and their communities.

The ministry, in a statement, urged UN Secretary General António Guterres to promptly activate the international protection system for Palestinian civilians under the Israeli occupation.

Source: Press TV

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Saudi warplanes heavily bomb Yemeni cities amid internet blackout

25 January 2022

The Saudi-led coalition’s fighter jets have launched new airstrikes on the Yemeni capital of Sana’a and nearby cities, as Riyadh escalates its aggression against the war-ravaged country.

Yemen's al-Masirah television reported the fresh air raids on the impoverished country, saying the warplanes repeatedly pounded different areas in Sana’a and its neighboring cities in the early hours of Tuesday.

The television network said the Saudi-led coalition’s fighter jets launched five rounds of airstrikes on al-Nahdin and al-Hafa areas in the al-Sabeen district of Sana’a, and a raid on the the Faj Attan district in the mountainous outskirts of the capital.

Saudi warplanes also launched three raids on the Jarban area in the Sanhan district of the capital, two raids on the Arhab district, in addition to destroying the telecommunications network with two raids on the district of al-Hosn in Khawlan.

There is still no report of possible casualties in the Tuesday’s aggression.

The airstrikes continue amid a nationwide internet blackout since the Saudi-led coalition bombed a telecommunications hub in Yemen’s port city of Hudaydah last week.

The incident has severely limited independent media and human rights monitoring efforts. Observers say the attack appears a deliberate move by the Saudi-led coalition to keep the world in the dark about the extent of death and destruction resulting from its airstrikes in Yemen.  

Yemen's northwestern provinces of Hajjah and Sa’ada were targeted earlier on Monday as the coalition stepped up its airstrikes on Yemen over the past week, leaving more than 100 people killed and many more injured.

Saudi Arabia, backed by the United States and regional allies, launched the war on Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of former Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi back to power and crushing Ansarullah movement.

The war has left hundreds of thousands of Yemenis dead and displaced millions more. It has also destroyed Yemen’s infrastructure and spread famine and infectious diseases there.

Despite heavily-armed Saudi Arabia’s incessant bombardment of the impoverished country, the Yemeni armed forces and the Popular Committees have grown steadily in strength against the Saudi-led invaders and left Riyadh and its allies bogged down in the country.

‘Yemen Hurricane II showed only a small portion of our capabilities’

Yemen's Supreme Political Council said in a statement late Monday that the recent large-scale operation, dubbed Yemen Hurricane II, was launched deep inside Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in response to the massacre in Yemen by the two countries.

“The operation achieved our goals in these two aggressor countries,” the statement said, calling on the Yemeni army and popular committees to "intensify their efforts to conduct unique operations against the aggressors."

The Supreme Political Council said Yemeni army forces and popular committees are steadfast in liberating all the occupied territories, adding, “The countries that do not know the history of Yemen should reconsider their calculations today.”

Addressing the aggressor countries in Yemen, the statement underlined that "what you saw was only a small portion of our capabilities in counterattacks."

The spokesman for Yemeni armed forces confirmed the attacks in the early hours of Monday, saying Yemeni troops carried out Yemen Hurricane II against sensitive targets deep inside the UAE and Saudi Arabia, using domestically-developed ballistic missiles and combat drones.

The retaliatory attacks came only a week after Yemeni forces carried out airstrikes against strategic facilities deep inside the UAE on January 17, using domestically-manufactured combat drones and ballistic missiles.

The Abu Dhabi police, in a statement published on the official Emirates News Agency WAM, said three fuel tanker trucks had exploded in the industrial Musaffah area, near the storage facilities of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), and that a fire had also broken out at a construction site at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

At least three people have been killed and six others wounded in the suspected drone attack, according to Emirati authorities. 

‘We will target UAE’s military, economic facilities if it continues aggression’

Mohammed Abdul-Salam, the spokesman of Yemen’s Ansarullah movement, warned the UAE on Monday that the country’s military and economic facilities would be targeted by the Yemeni armed forces if it continued its aggression against the impoverished country.

“The UAE cannot tolerate missile attacks as it is a small state relying on security, economy and relations, and includes a grouping of international companies operating in the region,” Abdul-Salam said in an interview with Lebanon's al-Mayadeen television network.

Commenting on Yemen Hurricane II operation, he said the UAE is “a state without depth, therefore, if the UAE loses its security, the state, prestige and everything will be lost."

"We were counting on the UAE to take a clear position, after it twice announced its withdrawal from Yemen."

Source: Press TV

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Morocco Wages "Soft" War Against Islamic Extremism In Prisons

January 24, 2022

RABAT — In Europe, deradicalization policies are often highly contested and their effectiveness is regularly questioned. But Morocco, a majority Muslim country, has become a pioneer in these sorts of programs. To face the terrorist threat on its territory, the North African kingdom is not content with preventing attacks and neutralizing actors. A security source contacted by Jeune Afrique spoke of a "multi-dimensional strategy that does not rely solely on the security approach.”

Unlike in Western democracies, King Mohammed VI's status as "Commander of the Faithful" offers undeniable leeway for developing a religious counter-discourse. In association with his partners in the Sahel and West Africa, he has been allowed to set up the training of imams at the Mohammed VI Institute.

The 2014 reorganization of the Higher Council of Ulemas, the only body authorized to issue fatwas (rulings on Islamic law given by a recognized authority), has made it possible to effectively combat the issuers of fatwas belonging to radical Islam.

Questioning dogma

But it is the Moussalaha (reconciliation in Arabic) program, launched in 2017, that constitutes the most original practice in Morocco in terms of counter-terrorism. Its principle: to care for and accompany detainees incarcerated for terrorism-related reasons.

Mohamed Damir, a 48-year-old Moroccan father of three, is a former beneficiary of the program. Damir was sentenced to death for terrorism following the 2003 attacks in Casablanca — in which he did not participate — at the age of 26. After the attacks, Moroccan authorities responded with a crackdown on circles tied to radical Islam.

Damir, who frequented unarmed groups and mosques where fundamentalist messages were common, was among those arrested. He spent a total of 15 years and 13 days in prison. He blames his radicalization on "a lack of maturity combined with a lack of scientific and cultural education.”

His first years in prison reinforced his radicalization; he continued to learn passages of the Koran by heart, without trying to contextualize or interpret them. Then came loneliness and doubts. Alone with himself, Damir began to question the dogmas he had mechanically assimilated and took the first steps to carry out his studies remotely.

Fit to reintegrate

He began by studying international law in French. Since it was mandatory to attend classes in person to pursue a master's degree, he had to give up his plan. But the study bug never left him. He enrolled in a sociology degree in Rabat, then in the department of psychology in Salé, and finally in a theology degree at a university in Tetouan. During detention, he claims to have read more than 1,500 books in three different languages.

At first, his death sentence was commuted to 30 years in prison. Then came Moussalaha, which for him was the "consecration of his own efforts."

On the docket is a vast economic and social reintegration program, as well as the creation of an individual project to become independent and "learn to manage a home."

Judged fit to reintegrate into civil society, he was released after 15 years behind bars. Of the first 25 people in the program, 15 have had their sentences reduced. To date, only one person who participated in the program has re-offended on a common law offense.

The release is accompanied by individualized psychological counseling. According to Damir, all the released inmates have "found a path to peace." This is an undeniable success, far from the controversies raised in Europe by deradicalization programs.

Search for meaning

For Abdellah El Youssoufi, born in 1990, everything began outside of Morocco's borders. Originally from Al-Hoceima in the Rif mountains in the north of the country, he decided to leave Morocco for Tunisia in 2011 in the hope of finding a job and better living conditions.

In Tunis, El Youssoufi joined the ranks of Ansar al-Sharia, one of the most prominent Salafist organizations of the moment. The Islamist political party Ennahdha made its comeback after the fall of Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. According to El Youssoufi, fundamentalist preaching became commonplace in the country and those who did it were not worried about the local police interfering.

He found within these structures a form of self-esteem that he had never experienced before: "With the Salafist organizations, I found hope for a better future. They offered me a dignified job in commerce, and then little by little, they trusted me and gave me more and more responsibilities. With these people, I felt for the first time that my life was not in vain.”

He made several preaching calls to join the ranks of Ansar al-Sharia, where he vehemently criticized the Moroccan state.

"Beyond the search for meaning, extreme poverty, the lack of professional prospects and, above all, the lack of consideration and respect when you come from a disadvantaged background in Morocco are all factors that played a role in my radicalization," he explains.

It was a video posted on YouTube that alerted the Moroccan authorities, who decided to contact their Tunisian counterparts. Arrested and interrogated in Tunisia for 10 days, El Youssoufi was sent back to Morocco, where he was sentenced to three years in prison in 2014.

His incarceration in turn pushed him to introspection. He said prison was a period of great questioning. It allowed him to reflect on what he experienced during his years within the Salafist movement. He saw “the limits of the responses provided by these movements to the political and social problems of our countries, as well as their contradictions with Islam and the message of our Prophet.”

Still a Muslim

Having also taken part in the Moussalaha program, El Youssoufi’s deradicalization is part of the same path as that described by Mohamed Damir — the culmination of a maturation process.

"Moussalaha was a chance and a golden opportunity for me to start a new life, on a healthy and balanced basis. But it was preceded by a long work of self-questioning, a personal effort to turn the page of this period which is for me a failure at all levels," he says.

While he says he was constantly supported and encouraged by the penitentiary hierarchy, he also received pressure from several of his fellow prisoners, who perceived his ideological shift as a "betrayal.” This did not prevent him from obtaining a degree in computer science.

Since its inception, 207 prisoners have participated in Moussalaha and 116 have been granted a royal pardon. Damir says he never lost his faith during his detention: "What changed was my way of reading and interpreting the sacred texts," he says.

Today, he believes that reading allowed him to break free from his ideological straitjacket: "Without reading, you can't access anything.”

Source: World Crunch

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Taraba State Governor Ishaku Warns Muslim Council Against Attempt To Cause Religious Tension

January 24, 2022

Taraba state governor, Arc Darius Ishaku has warned the leadership of the state Muslim Council against any attempt to cause religious or political tension in the state.

Ishaku, who spoke to journalists in Jalingo through his Commissioner of Information and Orientation, Barr. Danjuma Adamu, said his administration would deal decisively with any group or individual whose aim is to disrupt the peace of the state.

He noted that the allegation of bias against Muslims in appointments made by the Muslim Council against the administration of Governor Ishaku at a press conference on Friday, January 21, 2022 was false and ridiculous.

“As we speak,government views the action as a blatant attempt to cause religious and political sentiment among the loving people of the state,” he stated.

He maintained that Taraba state Muslims Council took the wrong step in channeling its complaint of the so-called marginalisation of Muslims in appointments.

He lamented that the allegation by the Muslim Council was an embarrassment to the state and the personality of Governor Ishaku.

He informed that during the Christmas homage in 2021 in Takum LGA of the state, the Muslims Council led by its chairman, Abdumumin Abubakar, a retired Khadi, praised the governor for his fairness in dealing with the two major religions in the state.

Source: Blueprint

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Over 30 killed in fresh communal violence in South Sudan

Benjamin Takpiny  


JUBA, South Sudan

At least 33 people were killed, including four children, in an attack over the weekend on a village in South Sudan’s Jonglei state.

Matuor Mabior, secretary general of the Bor Community Youth Association, confirmed Monday to Anadolu Agency that armed youth from the neighboring Pibor Administrative Area attacked Baidit Payam in the afternoon, also leaving scores injured.

Mabior said the attackers also took off with an undisclosed number of cattle.

“The number of cattle raided is not yet confirmed, but the death toll according to the information we have gathered is 33,” he said.

He disclosed that the situation remains tense, urging the state government to intervene.

“The security situation is still tense because people are still afraid of another attack, since it is not the first time that armed youth have attacked Bor County.

“There are no security personnel that have been sent to the area. The people who have been attacked are the ones protecting themselves,” he added.

Bor South County Commissioner Yuot Alier also confirmed the incident, saying that around 20 other people were wounded in Sunday’s attack and some homes were burned.

Alier said 33 people were shot dead and three children were drowned while people tried to hide.

He said the attackers left with hundreds of cattle. Two of the attackers were reportedly killed.

Tuong Majok, the acting governor of Jonglei state, who is also the state minister of cabinet affairs, condemned the attack and urged South Sudan's government to intervene to stop the "cowardly attacks" against civilians.

In November last year, nine people were reportedly killed in two separate incidents in Bor town.

Greater Jonglei region authorities have been convening peace and reconciliation conferences to discuss the issues of killings and cattle rustling in their surroundings.

But revenge attacks, cattle raiding and child abduction in some areas persist.

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan said that revenge attacks and cattle-related killings remain the biggest insecurity incidents after political violence subsided in the country following the signing of a revitalized peace agreement.

In January 2021, the communities of Jonglei and Pibor agreed to a number of resolutions at a peace and reconciliation conference in the capital Juba aimed at ending the violence. The latest attack shows that the resolutions are being implemented by both sides.

The peace conference, attended by Vice President James Wani Igga, agreed to compensate the families of those killed or injured during the violence.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Bomb blast kills at least 6 in Somalia

Mohammed Dhaysane  



At least six people were killed and more than 10 others wounded in Somalia when a bombing targeted a teashop on Monday afternoon in the Middle Shabelle region, officials said.

The attack took place in the town of Qalimow, located 65 kilometers (40 miles) north of the country's capital Mogadishu.

A police officer in the nearby town of Balad told Anadolu Agency that the blast was the result of remotely controlled explosives planted in the teashop, with the woman who owned the venue, a waiter, and four soldiers were among those killed in the attack claimed by the al-Shabaab terror group.

"The region is full of explosives planted by the terrorist group al-Shabaab and most people in the area can't tell the security forces if they see one, because of fear of al-Shabaab," the officer told Anadolu Agency.

The al-Qaeda-affiliated group claimed that it had targeted the teashop for being a meeting point of Somali government soldiers.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Algeria’s leader in Egypt for talks on Libya, Ethiopia dam

24 January ,2022

Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune arrived in Cairo on Monday for a two-day visit focusing on bilateral ties and the turmoil in Libya, officials said.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi received Tebboune at the Cairo international airport, according to the Egyptian leader's office.

The visit is the Algerian leader’s first to Egypt since he took office late in 2019, it said. El-Sissi visited Algeria in 2014.

The two leaders will discuss the upheaval in neighboring Libya, which failed to hold its first presidential election last month, the state-run Algeria Press Service said.

The news agency reported that Algeria-Egypt consultations will aim to support holding elections that “will preserve Libya’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Source: Al Arabiya

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Libya parliament committee urges change of PM

24 January ,2022

A Libyan parliament committee on Monday said the chamber should choose a new interim prime minister and ruled out fresh elections for at least nine months after a planned national vote collapsed in December.

A move by the eastern-based parliament to replace Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah, who was installed through a UN-backed peace process, might be rejected by other factions, while an electoral delay may disappoint Libyans who had registered for the vote.

The UN-backed plan had called for both parliamentary and presidential elections on December 24, but preparations for the vote fell apart over disagreements about fundamental rules, including the eligibility of some main candidates.

After the election process collapsed the parliament set up a political roadmap committee to look at what to do next.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Burkina Faso army says it has deposed president, suspended constitution

24 January ,2022

Burkina Faso's army said on Monday it had ousted President Roch Kabore, suspended the constitution, dissolved the government and the national assembly, and closed the borders.

The announcement, signed by Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba and read by another officer on state television, said the takeover had been carried out without violence and that those detained were at a secure location.

The statement was made in the name of a previously unheard of entity, the Patriotic Movement for Safeguard and Restoration or MPSR, its French language acronym.

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“MPSR, which includes all sections of the army, has decided to end President Kabore's post today,” it said.

It cited the deterioration of the security situation and what it described as Kabore's inability to unite the nation and effectively respond to the challenges it faces.

The army broadcast came after two days of confusion and fear in the capital Ouagadougou, where fighting erupted at army camps on Sunday, with soldiers demanding more support for their fight against militants.

Kabore's whereabouts were unknown on Monday after heavy gunfire was heard in the area around his residence overnight.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Southeast Asia


Selangor Islamic Religious Council Appeals To Reinstate 3 Children’s Unilateral Conversion To Islam

Ho Kit Yen

January 25, 2022

PUTRAJAYA: A case involving the unilateral conversion to Islam of three children was stood down by the Court of Appeal today to wait for another similar case that is up for hearing at the Federal Court tomorrow.

The Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) and state muallaf registry are seeking to reinstate the conversion status of the three children at the Court of Appeal after the High Court struck down their earlier bid.

The three teenagers were aged between eight and 13 when their father converted them to Islam at a mosque in Batu Muda, Gombak on March 16, 2015. The following day, the father registered their conversion at the Hidayah Centre Foundation, an entity under the state government.

Their non-Muslim mother – who has since divorced the father – claimed she was not consulted on the children’s conversion to Islam. The children alleged that they did not agree to embrace Islam.

The mother and children subsequently filed a lawsuit against Mais, seeking to quash the conversion. The federal government was named as co-defendant in the suit.

High Court judge Mohd Zaki Abdul Wahab had on Dec 28, 2020 ruled in favour of the mother and children’s application to quash the children’s conversion to Islam.

The court ruled that it was bound by the 2018 Federal Court decision in kindergarten teacher M Indira Gandhi’s children’s conversion case where it was held that the consent of both mother and father were needed.

Aggrieved over the High Court’s decision, Mais filed an appeal before the Court of Appeal.

During the appeal hearing today, Mais’ lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla informed the court that there would be a similar unilateral conversion case before the Federal Court tomorrow where the same questions of law would be raised.

In this case, the Federal Court will hear Mais’ bid to appeal to reinstate the conversion of five children – done by their father – into Islam.

“I humbly request for this hearing to be stood down until the Federal Court hears our leave application tomorrow,” he said.

Lawyer Sa’adiah Din, representing the mother and three children, said they had no objection to the hearing being adjourned until the Federal Court disposed of the other case.

Judge Suraya Othman then said the court would fix a new hearing date pending the Federal Court case. Other Court of Appeal judges who sat with her were Azizah Nawawi and Hashim Hamzah.

In the case tomorrow, Mais is seeking to appeal against a lower court ruling that granted a 33-year-old mother’s application to revoke the conversion of her five children to Islam, done unilaterally by her former husband.

The former husband converted the five children – aged between eight and 14 – in 2018, without the mother’s knowledge and consent.

She only knew about her children becoming Muslims after receiving a letter from Mais in 2019.

Source: Free Malaysia Today

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Involvement in politics: Education Ministry reminds teachers not to violate conditions, neglect duty as educators

24 Jan 2022

KOTA KINABALU, Jan 24 — The Ministry of Education (MOE) has reminded teachers not to violate the conditions that offer them the flexibility to be involved in politics and to continue to abide by current rules set by the department.

Deputy Education Minister II Datuk Mohamad Alamin said although there were no specifc guidelines regarding the matter thus far, teachers keen on politics should not neglect their real duty as educators.

He said he was happy with the move by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob in allowing teachers to get involved in politics but, at the same time, worried that teachers may violate the conditions or be more involved in politics than their task (as teachers).

“As such, I want to remind all teachers that although they get involved in politics, never forget their real duty and don’t ever neglect their task as teachers,” he told reporters after visiting the Institute of Teachers Education Gaya Campus here today.

Source: Malay Mail

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Surakarta to commence construction of Islamic Centre next year

January 25, 2022

Surakarta, Central Java (ANTARA) - The Surakarta municipal government in Central Java confirmed that construction of an Islamic Centre, sponsored by the United Arab Emirates Government, will commence next year following the finalisation of the building's design.

Construction of the Islamic Centre in Surakarta will be entirely sponsored by the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, as a present for the city.

"(The construction) may commence next year, as the building's drawing has recently been finalised," Surakarta Mayor Gibran Rakabuming Raka stated in Surakarta on Monday.

The Islamic Centre will be located in the city's Jebres Sub-district, by the east of the city centre, and close to the existing Solo Techno Park, he noted.

Surakarta's Sebelas Maret University and the Indonesia Institute of the Arts complex will also be located a short distance from the Islamic Centre, the mayor affirmed.

"The Islamic Centre (at its designated location) will conform with the existing local ecosystem, and the Crown Prince has also consented to the final location," Raka remarked.

The mayor remarked that construction of the Islamic Centre will not be hindered despite the mountainous terrain of the designated location.

Raka expressed optimism that the Islamic Centre would provide alternative activities beneficial for residents and boost the religious activities of Muslims in Surakarta and the adjacent regions.

Apart from the Islamic Centre in Surakarta, Crown Prince Al Nahyan also plans to build a new Grand Mosque bearing the name of Sheikh Zayed in the city as a mark of homage to him upon completion.

Source: Antara News

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Johor PAS says looking to discuss understanding with Umno, BN ahead of state polls

24 Jan 2022

JOHOR BARU, Jan 24 — Johor PAS is looking to meet with the state Umno leadership to discuss the understanding between the two parties to face the Johor state election in the spirit of Muafakat Nasional (MN).

Johor PAS Liaison commissioner Abdullah Husin said the meeting between the two parties was to be held today, but it had to be cancelled due to the busy schedule of Johor Umno Liaison Committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohammad.

“Maybe we will meet in the near future,” he said when met at the Johor PAS Office here.

He was asked to comment on the statement by Hasni, who is also Johor Barisan Nasional (BN) chairman, that the state BN planned to contest solo in the state election.

Abdullah said he viewed Hasni’s statement as merely the opinion of the state’s Umno and BN chapters, as any decision on whether BN would contest solo or otherwise would depend on the decision of the Umno Supreme Council and PAS Central Committee.

He said there was still room for discussion under MN with Umno or the state BN, but no matter what the circumstances were, the party was ready to face state election.

According to Abdullah, any decision made from those discussions will not affect Johor PAS’ preparations for the state polls, and a 15,000-strong PAS election machinery will be mobilised for the purpose.

Source: Malay Mail

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North America


U.S. Troops Join Assault On Prison In Syria Where Islamic State Holds Hostage Hundreds Of Boys

January 25, 2022

American ground forces have joined the fight to retake control of a prison in northeast Syria where Islamic State group fighters are holding hundreds of boys hostage, the Pentagon said Monday.

After four days of U.S. air strikes, the fight has become the biggest known U.S. engagement with the Islamic State group since the fall of its so-called caliphate three years ago.

Hundreds of Islamic State group fighters attacked the makeshift prison in Hasaka, Syria, on Friday in an effort to free their detained comrades in one of the boldest attacks by the group in the region in recent years.

The siege of the prison, which houses about 3,000 suspected Islamic State fighters and almost 700 boys, has evolved into a hostage crisis with Islamic State group fighters still holding about one-quarter of the prison and using the boys as human shields.

The overcrowded, makeshift prison has long been an avowed target for a resurgent Islamic State. Housed in a converted technical college, it is the largest of several prisons in the region holding thousands of fighters detained after the territorial defeat of the Islamic State group in 2019.

The U.S.-backed force overseeing the prison, the Syrian Democratic Forces, has complained for years that it lacked the ability to operate it securely.

The SDF said that it had recaptured one of the prison’s three buildings in a dawn raid Monday.

An SDF spokesman said about 300 Islamic State group fighters had surrendered but that the Islamic State had threatened to kill the boys if the coalition continued its assault on the prison.

“We have some reports saying that ISIS is threatening to kill all the minors if we continue attacking them,” the spokesperson, Farhad Shami, said, using an alternative name for the Islamic State group.

In a voice recording obtained by Human Rights Watch on Sunday, a boy who identified himself as a 17-year-old Australian said he had been wounded in an air strike but there was no medical care available.

The Pentagon said that the coalition had moved in armoured Bradley Fighting Vehicles to back the SDF forces, indicating for the first time that U.S. ground forces were involved in the fight. A coalition official said the vehicles had been fired at and had returned fire.

“We have provided limited ground support, strategically positioned to assist security in the area,” John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesperson, told reporters in Washington. “For instance, putting Bradley Fighting Vehicles across access points to help block as obstacles.” U.S. military officials said the Bradleys were being used as barricades while the SDF tightened its cordon around the prison.

The United States has also carried out air strikes with Apache helicopter gunships over the past four days to try to break the siege, killing an unknown number of prisoners.

The American troops are part of a residual force of the U.S.-led military coalition that was kept in Syria to assist in the fight against the Islamic State group and to protect oil installations. There are about 700 U.S. troops in northeast Syria, operating mostly from a base in Hasaka, and another 200 near Syria’s border with Jordan.

Shami said that 30 SDF fighters had been killed in the operation to take back the prison and that about 200 Islamic State fighters and inmates who joined them in an attempt to escape had been killed since Friday. It was not clear how many prisoners had escaped.

The siege of the Sinaa prison in Hasaka demonstrated that the Islamic State group still had the ability to mount a co-ordinated military operation, despite its territorial defeat by the U.S.-led coalition and Kurdish-led forces three years ago.

It has also highlighted the plight of thousands of foreign children brought to the Islamic State caliphate in Syria by their parents, who have been detained for three years in camps and prisons in northeastern Syria and abandoned by their own countries.

The inmates in Hasaka include boys as young as 12, including Syrians, Iraqis and about 150 non-Arab foreigners. Some had been transferred to the prison after they were deemed too old to remain in detention camps that held families of Islamic State group suspects.

The Syria director for Save the Children, Sonia Khush, said those holding the children were responsible for their safety. But she also blamed the foreign governments for not repatriating their detained citizens and their children.

“Responsibility for anything that happens to these children also lies at the door of foreign governments who have thought that they can simply abandon their child nationals in Syria,” Khush said. “Risk of death or injury is directly linked to these governments’ refusal to take them home.”

At its peak, the Islamic State group held territory the size of Britain straddling Iraq and Syria. An estimated 40,000 foreigners, including children, made their way to Syria to fight or work for the caliphate.

Thousands of them brought their young children – too young to understand and much too young to make a choice. Other children were born there.

When the last piece of the Islamic State caliphate in Baghuz, Syria, fell three years ago, surviving women and young children were put in detention camps while suspected fighters and boys as young as 10 were sent to prison.

The main detention camp for Islamic State families, Al Hol, is squalid, overcrowded and dangerous, with not enough food or medical services, not enough guards, and an increasingly radicalized segment of detainees who terrorize other camp residents.

When the boys at the camps become teenagers, they are usually transferred to Sinaa prison in Hasaka.

Detainees there, including minors, are packed into overcrowded cells without access to sunlight. There is insufficient food and little medical care, according to prison guards in the impoverished breakaway region of Syria known as Rojava.

When they reach age 18, the youths are placed with the general prison population, where wounded Islamic State fighters sleep three to a bed. None of the non-Syrian detainees have been charged with a crime or gone to trial.

While Rojava authorities run a rehabilitation centre, it has space for only about 150 detainees. When they finish the course, the Syrians are released, but the non-Syrians are returned to prison.

“We help them to construct their prisons, to train their staff, to run as good a prison system as they can, but they are not getting what they need,” said Anne Speckhard, director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism. “Prisoners are lying on top of each other.”

Thousands of Islamic State recruits came from Europe, but most European countries, citing security concerns, have refused to repatriate their citizens, apart from orphans. Some have stripped their nationals detained in Syria of citizenship for joining the Islamic State group.

Source: The Globe And Mail

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The unlikely story of America’s highest ranking Muslim soldier and TikTok favourit

January 24, 2022

By Joseph Hammond

(RNS) — Roughly half of the content creators on social media platform TikTok are under the age of 28. It’s just one reason why the popularity of Army Colonel Khallid Shabazz, who has some 43,000 followers on the social media platform, is so surprising.

Most TikTok users hadn’t even been born when Shabazz joined the military 28 years ago and are of a generation with few ties to military service — some 71% of young Americans between 17 and 24 are thought to be ineligible to serve due to health or other issues, according to a recent report.

Shabazz’s TikTok account includes a mix of his weightlifting exploits peppered with Quranic and biblical messages. Aphorisms abound. “If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to meet it” appears to be one of his favorites. As a chaplain, Shabazz is used to handing out nuggets of advice and wisdom to troubled soldiers — the sort of counsel a younger, more troubled Shabazz could have benefitted from.

Not long after converting to Islam — facing discrimination from other soldiers, disappointment from his Lutheran family and with more than one citation for insubordination on his record — Shabazz was ready to quit the military.

But a chance encounter with a Christian army chaplain not only convinced him to stay in the military but to pursue chaplaincy himself.

“Honestly, it was like a revelation from God,” Shabazz told the Army News Service. “When it hit my ears, I knew that was what I was going to do in life. It was incredible.”

Nearly three decades later, with his 2018 promotion to colonel, Shabazz is the highest-ranking Muslim chaplain in the U.S. Military. He serves as command chaplain for U.S. Army Central, the three-star command responsible for land operations in the Middle East, according to Army Times.

As a child, Shabazz was molested by a family friend — an experience, he said, that put him in an emotional tailspin and left him an angry young man. He spent 8th grade in special education. He failed 9th grade and 12th grade.

After completing summer school, he enrolled at Jarvis Christian College in Texas, a historically Black school affiliated with the Disciples of Christ. There he played on the basketball team and studied with the goal of becoming a minister. But he fell in with the wrong crowd, he has said, began drinking and partying and often found himself in violent altercations. It was during one of these drunken brawls that he was assaulted, beaten with a shovel and shot in the back.

He survived thanks to a medical evacuation but decided to table his studies. He went back to Louisiana, his home state. The only job he could find was as a janitor at K-mart. With few options, like many young men before him, Shabazz joined the military.

It was there he first read “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” also absorbing the movie starring Denzel Washington when it was released in 1992.

“I never considered myself a smart person, and I found a lot to inspire me in his story; Malcolm X had an 8th-grade education but educated himself by reading the dictionary,” said Shabazz, “I hadn’t seen a strong African-American male like that in my community. I wanted to be educated and to stand for something bigger than myself. So I decided to become like Malcolm and even took the last name Shabazz in imitation of him.”

But his conversion made him the focus of discrimination in the military. It was a lot to handle for a young soldier in the 1990s, and he fell into old habits. He faced disciplinary action for insubordination. He contemplated suicide.

It was during that time when he met the Christian chaplain.

“I was getting ready to deploy, possibly to war, and I was crying, and I saw the chaplain, and I said to myself, ‘If there is a God, please don’t have the chaplain come over and talk to me,'” Shabazz recalled. “But God had other plans.”

It was this chaplain who, after talking to Shabazz, encouraged him to pursue a role as a Muslim chaplain. He received a master of divinity from Hartford Seminary, now Hartford University for Religion and Peace, one of few places offering programs for Islamic chaplaincy. Shabazz was commissioned as a chaplain in 1998, having studied Arabic in Jordan along the way. He later also obtained a M.A. in interfaith dialogue from Claremont Lincoln University.

With his seniority as a colonel, Shabazz is now responsible for tens of thousands of soldiers and oversees more junior chaplains. Regardless of whether a chaplain wears a Christian cross, a Muslim crescent, a Jewish Star of David or another symbol on his uniform, he has to be ready to minister to soldiers of all faiths.

“The majority of my job is counseling about domestic issues or critical incident debriefings, and only 1% of my job is actual religious counseling.”

Still, in order to better understand Christian soldiers who make up the majority of the military, Shabazz continued his study of that faith as well. He eventually obtained a doctorate in Christian theology and religious vocations from North Texas Theological Seminary. He believes his experience as a practicing member of both religions has helped to make him a better chaplain.

“It’s easier today to be a Muslim soldier in the army than when I began. There are a lot more Muslims represented in the military. Beards are allowed now in the army, as are hijabs. Arabic classes are now available. Friday service is more of an established thing. Some bases have mosques and even more have makeshift musalahs for prayer,” he said, using the Arabic term for a pop-up prayer area.

Shabazz’s own unlikely success on social media speaks about how times have changed. The former college basketball player spends long hours at the gym, which offer him a chance to meet soldiers and inspire them in an informal setting.

It was at a gym where other soldiers, surprised to find their chaplain in the gym, encouraged him to join TikTok.

“Last year when I transferred from the Air Force Reserve to active duty in the Army, I felt overwhelmed and scared,” said soldier Andy M Niang,” So I reached out to Col. Shabazz, and his words of encouragement and prayers made me go through Army basic training like a beast. I dropped from 227 lbs. to 189 lbs. in weight and ended up an honor graduate.”

According to Shabazz, there are five Muslim chaplains in the army, three in the Air Force, and one in the Navy. Shabazz said there is more work to be done. Unlike other faiths, Shabazz said, he hasn’t encountered any Muslim chaplain assistants — the non-commissioned officers who assist chaplains in their work.

Source: Religion News

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Islamic State prison break reinforces value of US military protection for Syria's Kurds

Amberin Zaman

January 24, 2022

Kurdish-led forces in northeast Syria battled for a fifth day to regain full control of the country’s largest prison for Islamic State (IS) detainees, as coalition aircraft bombed jihadi targets in support of the effort to contain the deadliest violence since the territorial defeat of their so-called “caliphate” in 2019.

A spokesperson for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said the US-backed multiethnic army had gained control of one of the buildings in the overcrowded complex, which holds around 5,000 IS suspects, most of them foreign fighters. Some 300 of them had surrendered, the SDF said. But the group reportedly retained control of the north wing of the prison. It is now confirmed that American and British special forces are taking part in the operation to retake the prison, the Rojava Information Center, an independent research organization documenting economic and security developments in northeast Syria, said citing sources on the ground.

On Monday, coalition officials confirmed they were offering support both from the air and on the ground.

Around 700 boys being held at the facility were being used as human shields by the jihadis, according to SDF forces. The UK-based charity Save the Children said today it had audio testimony suggesting that “there have already been multiple child deaths and casualties.” The charity noted in a statement, “This included one boy pleading for help. The SDF stated that the children were being used as human shields and said yesterday that the responsibility for the children’s lives lays solely with the fighters inside the prison.” The charity added that it could not independently confirm the claims.

Most of the boys, known as the “cubs of the caliphate,” are thought to have been captured following the fall of Baghouz, the jihadis last patch of territory that fell in March 2019.

Letta Tayler, associate director and counterterrorism lead at Human Rights Watch, asserted in a series of tweets that “some of these boys are [IS] suspects while many are [IS] suspects’ family members. These boys have not seen a judge or been charged with a crime. Most never chose to live under [IS].”

Over 170 people, mostly jihadis, have been killed and thousands of civilians displaced by the fighting since hundreds of the group’s suspected members broke out of al-Sina’a prison Jan 20. They fled after two vehicles packed with explosives were detonated by suspected IS militants outside the building. The SDF said it had lost 27 of its own fighters in the clashes.

The violence spread to the nearby Ghweiran and al-Zuhour neighborhoods, as IS fighters stormed civilian houses and killed at least five civilians on the first night of the attack, according to the Rojava Information Center. It said one of the civilians had been beheaded, a signature atrocity during four years of IS rule over large swathes of Syria and neighboring Iraq.

The World Health Organization said at least 5,500 families had been uprooted from their homes as a result of the bloody events.

The chaos at the detention facility was waiting to happen, with a near-identical plot to free IS prisoners foiled in November. Al-Hol camp, housing some 10,000 women and children from IS, has also been the scene of lethal attacks against security personnel and fellow prisoners.

The Kurdish-led autonomous administration has complained bitterly over the refusal of foreign governments, notably European ones, to repatriate nationals who joined IS. The US-led coalition has provided millions of dollars in funding over the years to help improve security at the detention facilities and train local forces overseeing them.

The jihadis have been regrouping in SDF-controlled areas for some time, mainly in Arab majority Deir ez Zor, where they force locals to share the proceeds of oil produced at makeshift refineries, steal sheep and have been building a network of collaborators to facilitate their illicit activities. They have also been escalating attacks inside Iraq, killing 11 Iraqi soldiers in a Jan. 21 attack.

The Rojava Information Center documented 14 attacks claimed by IS in November alone.

The collapse of the Syrian economy and the country’s worst drought in 70 years has created a fertile breeding ground for IS, though they are nowhere close to regaining their former strength. US military officials contend that the threat is “containable.”

"The coalition is confident in its assessment that the recent [IS] escape attempt will not pose a significant threat to Iraq or the region," the Combined Joint Task Force of Operation Inherent Resolve, the US-led international coalition combatting IS, said in a Jan. 23 statement.

The past days’ tumult might have called such confident assertions into question. However, with all eyes trained on Russian military threats against Ukraine, there is very little chance that the United States will increase present troop levels in the northeast from an estimated 900 special operation forces deployed there, diplomatic sources say. The most immediate result will rather be further funding to harden security at the detention centers.

Aaron Stein, director of research at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and author of “The US War Against ISIS,” told Al-Monitor, “The challenge with the prisons from the get go is that the US wasn’t legally allowed to build specialized facilities [in northeast Syria]. So you had the SDF converting schools with small amounts of aid and quiet assistance from the [US] Task Force with basic security gear and biometrics.” Stein continued, “Then you had overcrowding because of how many IS folks there were left after the war.”

“It’s not a great situation, and efforts to offload foreigners — the majority of which are not European — remain a challenge,” Stein said.

The bloody revolt will have reminded some increasingly anti-American voices within the autonomous administration of their vulnerability and the value of protection provided by US forces. The United States says the mission of its forces is to degrade IS and prevent its resurgence. But the US presence is also a bulwark against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Turkey and its Sunni rebel proxies, all of whom are unremittingly hostile to the Kurds.

There is speculation that the administration’s decision to remove protestors encamped near a bridge linking its territory to Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq may have been accelerated if not actually prompted by the unrest. The crossing had been sealed since Dec. 15 by the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq in response to the violent clashes that erupted between youths demonstrating in solidarity with the protestors. The SDF had as recently as Jan. 7 refused to act on the KRG’s demands. 

As Al-Monitor first reported, KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani decided last week to allow aid deliveries over the bridge twice a month following sustained pressure from the United States. The KRG said, however, that it would not allow the resumption of commercial and human traffic until the protestors, who were calling for the return of the bodies of Syrian Kurdish fighters killed in ongoing military operations by Turkey, left.

The tents sheltering the protestors were removed by the local authorities over the weekend, and KRG officials confirmed to Al-Monitor that the crossing would gradually reopen to all traffic starting Jan. 24.

The standoff was seen as a test for Mazlum Kobane, commander in chief of the SDF. Kobane has been accused by KRG officials of failing to assert his authority over the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been waging an armed insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984. PKK commanders played a key role in assisting the US-led coalition in the battle against IS, and PKK cadres remain influential in the Syrian Kurdish enclave.

The youth group that clashed with KRG forces on the border is closely linked to the PKK and involved in its indoctrination and recruitment activities.

Kobane and many key members of the autonomous administration used to be active members of the group. Turkey has touted this as an excuse to launch multiple incursions against the Syrian Kurds, most recently in October 2019. Turkey has recently been spreading rumors of a growing rift between Kobane and pro-PKK hawks within the administration, part of a calculated push to sow the kinds of division it claims already exist.

Aliza Marcus, one of the leading Western experts on the PKK and author of “Blood and Belief, The PKK and the Kurdish Fight for Independence,” discounted the notion that the PKK had decided to remove the protestors because of the violence in Hasakah. “The tent protest had gone on for a long time and wasn’t accomplishing anything. Meanwhile, the closure of the border was actually hurting everyone in Rojava, including their support base,” Marcus told Al-Monitor. “The PKK can be very pragmatic, and in this case, they and their activists realized there was no benefit, just a cost, to continuing. They have lost nothing by abandoning the protest,” Marcus added.

Source: Al Monitor

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US ‘prepared to meet directly’ and ‘urgently’ with Iran on nuclear issue

January 24, 2022

WASHINGTON: The US State Department on Monday repeated that it remains open to meeting with Iranian officials directly to discuss the nuclear deal and other issues after Iran’s foreign minister said Tehran would consider this but had made no decisions.

Speaking at a briefing, State Department spokesman Ned Price also said the US had not made Iran’s releasing four Americans a condition of reaching an agreement for both nations to resume compliance with the nuclear deal, saying that achieving such an agreement was an uncertain proposition.

Earlier on Monday, the State Department said the US was prepared to hold direct talks with Iran after Tehran said it would consider such an option.

“We are prepared to meet directly,” a State Department spokesperson said.

“We have long held the position that it would be more productive to engage with Iran directly, on both JCPOA negotiations and other issues,” the spokesperson said, referring to the nuclear deal between Iran and major powers.

The spokesperson said that meeting directly would allow “more efficient communication” needed to reach an understanding on what is needed to resuscitate the 2015 deal.

“Given the pace of Iran’s nuclear advances, we are almost out of time to reach an understanding on mutual return to full implementation of the JCPOA,” the official said.

The comments came after Iran said Monday it will consider direct talks with the United States during ongoing negotiations in Vienna aimed at restoring the deal.

“Iran is not currently talking with the US directly,” Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said in televised remarks.

Source: Arab News

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US uses missile interceptors to thwart Houthi attack on UAE

Michael Hernandez 



US forces stationed at a base near Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), used multiple Patriot missile batteries to intercept missiles fired by Yemen's Houthi rebels, the military confirmed on Monday.

The Houthi attack was the second in a week as a Saudi-led coalition, of which the UAE is a part, ramps up its military campaign against the rebel group.

The US forces, stationed at al-Dhafra Air Base, "engaged two inbound missile threats with multiple Patriot interceptors coincident to efforts by the armed forces of the UAE in the early morning hours of Jan. 24, 2022," Central Command spokesman Capt. Bill Urban said in a statement.

"The combined efforts successfully prevented both missiles from impacting the base. There were no U.S. casualties," he said. "U.S. forces at Al Dhafra remain vigilant and ready to respond in case of any follow-on attacks."

There are roughly 2,000 US service members at al-Dhafra.

The Houthis, who overran much of Yemen in 2014, regularly carry out rocket and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia, and, beginning last week, on the UAE, saying they are in retaliation for the Saudi-led coalition's assault on Yemen.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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UN says 1,000 tents in NW Syria collapsed, damaged by snow

Michael Hernandez  



Roughly 1,000 tents used by the UN to shelter internally-displaced persons in northwest Syria have collapsed or been badly damaged by snow, an official said on Monday.

Roughly 100,000 people have been affected by the inclement weather, Mark Cutts, the UN's deputy humanitarian coordinator for Syria, told reporters at press conference.

"Many of these people do not have shovels or other equipment to clear the snow so they've been clearing snow from the tents with their bare hands," he said.

"You see pictures of children walking in the snow and on the eyes and their sandals it's really, uh, you know, particularly bad for the elderly people and people with disabilities who are living in these torn and ripped and flimsy tents in these sub-zero temperatures," he added.

Images from the region captured by Anadolu Agency depict makeshift tent camps badly damaged by snow amid frigid temperatures as civilians attempt to brave the harsh winter conditions.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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