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Islamic World News ( 13 Oct 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Salafis Flash Saudi Fatwa to Counter Anti-Vaccination Lobby Among Muslims

New Age Islam News Bureau

13 Oct 2017

Pakistani senators have rejected a bid to raise the legal age of marriage for women from 16 to 18. Image for representational purpose only. (File photo | AFP)



 Salafis Flash Saudi Fatwa to Counter Anti-Vaccination Lobby Among Muslims

 Pakistan Senators Reject Raising Marriage Age As 'Un-Islamic'

 Hamas, Fatah Agree To Complete Gaza Handover by December 1

 Iraq PM Denies Attack Plan As Tensions Rise With Kurds

 Bangladesh Issues Arrest Warrants for Khaleda Zia



 Salafis Flash Saudi Fatwa to Counter Anti-Vaccination Lobby Among Muslims

 Supreme Court Puts Government's Rohingya Deportation Plans on Hold

 Army, CRPF officials discuss ways to thwart terror incidents

 For second consecutive day, Pakistani troops resort to mortal shelling along LoC in Poonch



 Pakistan Senators Reject Raising Marriage Age As 'Un-Islamic'

 Sanaullah Stirs Up a Hornet’s Nest, Calls Ahmadis Muslims

 Christian leaders condemn hate speech of MNA Safdar in National Assembly

 New NAB chairman vows to adopt zero-tolerance policy

 US delegation ‘acknowledges Pakistan’s sacrifices in War on Terror’

 Three members of Ahmadiyya community sentenced to death in Pakistan

 Pakistan attaches high value to ties with Iran: PM



 Hamas, Fatah Agree To Complete Gaza Handover by December 1

 Iran Backs 'United’ Spain amid Catalan Secession Bid

 Erdogan Accuses US of 'Sacrificing' Relations with Turkey

 Iranian DM: US Blacklisting of IRGC Meant to Help Terrorists

 Arab coalition destroy Houthi missile launch site in Yemen's Hudaydah

 UN opens second line of contact with Houthis in Hezbollah stronghold


Arab World

 Iraq PM Denies Attack Plan As Tensions Rise With Kurds

 At least 50 displaced Syrians killed by ISIS triple car bombing

 1,000 ISIL Terrorists Arrive in Deir Ezzur from Iraq

 ISIL Occupies Energy Field in Eastern Deir Ezzur after Clashes with Kurds

 100 Militants Surrender to Syrian Army in Northeastern Aleppo

 Saudi Minister of State: Fight against terrorism must be taken to every avenue

 Kurdistan willing to hold talks with Iraqi officials over existing row: KRG


South Asia

 Bangladesh Issues Arrest Warrants for Khaleda Zia

 Taliban Leader among 5 Killed As A-29s Pound Their Hideouts in Mirza Olang

 Afghan civilian casualties soar as US ramps up airstrikes

 Bangladesh govt bars 3 NGOs from Rohingya relief work over security

 Hekmatyar declares his strong opposition with unity government formation

 Top Taliban leaders say the group has no intentions to participate in talks

 Karzai warns of growing US-Russia rivalry in Afghanistan, slams Taliban for destructions


Southeast Asia

 Jokowi Defends Islam, Approval Rating Remains High: Poll

 Zamihan Banned From Giving Lectures In Mosques, Surau

 Rohingya refugee gets jail sentence increased for harbouring migrants

 Ahmadis chide PPIM for siccing Jais on them despite dialogue invite

 Muslims, non-Muslims sharing restaurants in Kelantan common, says PAS



 German Minister Suggests Recognizing Muslim Holidays

 British Islamic State recruiter Sally-Anne Jones killed in US drone strike

 Christians in Middle East Feel 'Abandoned, Betrayed' By the West

 Official investigation slams police over handling of Berlin terror attacker

 Chile welcomes more than 60 Syrian refugees

 Trump’s Iran plans pushing EU toward Russia, China: Germany

 Germany extends passport controls amid attack fears


North America

 Trump Will Not Ratify Iran Nuclear Deal As More Sanctions Are Approved

 US To Pull Out Of UNESCO amid Palestinian Tensions

 New York Jail Accidentally Puts Islamic State Suspect in General Population

 US-Canadian couple, three children freed from terrorist custody in Kohat

 Trump infuriated when aides told him to keep US in Iran deal: Report

 Trump needs 'comprehensive strategy' to deal with Iran: Ryan

 Trump to announce US strategy on Iran on Friday: White House



 Burkina Faso: The Social Roots of Jihadist Violence in Burkina Faso's North

 Kenya bans demonstrations against presidential re-run in three major city centers

 Somalia: Somali Musician, Kept from US Internship, Blames Trump Travel Ban

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Salafis Flash Saudi Fatwa to Counter Anti-Vaccination Lobby Among Muslims

Oct 10, 2017

KOZHIKODE: The Salafi groups in Kerala are distributing copies of fatwa from scholars in Saudi Arabia to overcome the resistance against administration of Measles Rubella Vaccine among the Muslim community in Kerala.

Vaccination drive under the National Immunisation Programme has met with opposition from certain religious groups and advocates of 'alternative medicines' at some parts of the state. Fatwa from Saudi scholars are being distributed to overcome the resistance from the Muslim community.

"All major religious leaders in Kerala have come up in support of the Vaccination drive but still there is reluctance to accept it from some corners. The misinformation campaign in the social media is the major hurdle. Stories unrelated to MR vaccine are being spread to sabotage the drive," said C P Saleem, junior health inspector and a Salafi preacher.

Saleem is currently engaged in organising meetings to exhort the Muslim community to get the children vaccinated. He has prepared a post using the fatwa by late Shaykh Ibn Baz, the renowned scholar in Saudi Arabia. The Salafi scholar had unequivocally asserted that there is nothing wrong in 'giving treatment 'if there is a fear that the disease may occur because of the presence of an epidemic or other factors which may cause disease.'

The fatwa went on to add that "there is nothing wrong in giving medicines to ward off the feared disease'. The fatwa committee Saudi that quoted Ibn Baz added that the side effects of vaccination can be overlooked 'when compared to the great harm that is warded off, namely the diseases that may kill or cause great harm to a person's health.'

The fatwa likens administering of vaccination to circumcision. The pain caused by the surgical procedure 'is outweighed by the great benefits that are served by this action.'

"The Shari'a principle with regard to this matter is that the lesser of two evils may be done in order to ward off greater evil, if it is necessary to do one of them," the fatwa said.

Saleem said that a major concern over the vaccination among the community is that it may affect the reproductive system. "We tell the gathering that even countries that promote population growth encourage vaccination. We produce the vaccination cards given to people in the Gulf countries. The fatwa has become a major tool to convince the Muslim community. The copy of the fatwa are displayed at some hospitals in the Muslim-dominated areas," Saleem said.



Pakistan senators reject raising marriage age as 'un-Islamic'

Oct 13, 2017

Pakistani senators have rejected a bid to raise the legal age of marriage for women from 16 to 18. Image for representational purpose only. (File photo | AFP)


ISLAMABAD: Pakistani senators have rejected a bid to raise the legal age of marriage for women from 16 to 18, a senator told AFP, declaring it "un-Islamic" in a decision condemned by human rights activists.

The senate body tasked with examining the amendment decided against it unanimously earlier this week, government senator Muhammad Javed Abbasi told AFP on Thursday.

"According to Islamic traditions, it's understood that a girl becomes adult in between 12 to 16 years of age, so how can we define an age for marriage," Abbasi said.

Child marriage remains common in some areas of deeply conservative Pakistan, where woman have sought their rights for decades.

A previous attempt to amend the marriage bill last year was scuttled by a religious body which branded it "blasphemous" and against Islam.

The Council of Islamic Ideology said there was no specific age limit for marriage in sharia law as an individual can marry when he or she reaches puberty and puberty cannot be defined by age.

Human rights activists today slammed the latest decision.

"Those who blocked this amendment should be ashamed of themselves," said activist Hina Jilani.

"Their interpretation is wrong," she said, adding that doctors clearly advise against the marriage of young girls for health reasons.

"We will confront this extremist and fundamentalist ideology and will launch protest," she said.



Hamas, Fatah agree to complete Gaza handover by December 1

12 October 2017

Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation deal on Thursday after Hamas agreed to hand over administrative control of Gaza, including the key Rafah border crossing, a decade after seizing the enclave in a civil war.

The deal brokered by Egypt bridges a bitter gulf between the Western-backed mainstream Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas, an Islamist movement designated as a militant group by Western countries and Israel.

Palestinian unity could also bolster Abbas’s hand in any revival of talks on a Palestinian state in Israeli-occupied territory. Internal Palestinian strife has been a major obstacle to peacemaking, with Hamas having fought three wars with Israel since 2008 and continuing to call for its destruction.

Hamas’s agreement to transfer administrative powers in Gaza to a Fatah-backed government marked a major reversal, prompted partly by its fears of financial and political isolation after its main patron and donor Qatar plunged in June into a major diplomatic dispute with key allies like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Qatar of supporting Islamist militants, which it denies.

Celebrating unity

Thousands of Palestinians took to the streets across Gaza on Thursday in celebration of the unity pact, with loudspeakers on open cars blasting national songs, youths dancing and hugging and many waving Palestine and Egyptian flags.

Egypt helped mediate several previous attempts to reconcile the two movements and form a power-sharing unity government in Gaza and the West Bank, where Abbas and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) are based.

Hamas and Fatah agreed in 2014 to form a national reconciliation government but the deal soon dissipated in mutual recriminations with Hamas continuing to dominate Gaza.

“The legitimate government, the government of consensus, will return according to its responsibilities and according to the law,” Fatah delegation chief Azzam Al-Ahmed said at the signing ceremony in Cairo.

He said the unity government would “run all institutions without exception,” including all border crossings with Israel and in Rafah, Gaza’s only access point with Egypt.

The agreement calls for Abbas’s presidential guard to assume responsibility of the Rafah crossing on Nov. 1, and for the full handover of administrative control of Gaza to the unity government to be completed by Dec. 1.

Analysts said the deal is more likely to stick than earlier ones given Hamas’s growing isolation and realisation of how hard Gaza, its economy hobbled by border blockades and infrastructure shattered by wars with Israel, was to govern and rebuild.

Deeper Egyptian involvement, believed to have been backed by Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, also helped cement the deal.

“We in Hamas are determined and are serious this time and just like all other times...We have dissolved the administrative committee (shadow government)...We have opened the door to reaching this reconciliation,” Saleh Arouri, the head of Hamas negotiators in Cairo, said after the signing ceremony.

Delegations from the two rivals have been in talks in Cairo this week to work out the details of the administrative handover, including security in Gaza and at border crossings.

Rafah crossing

Key was the Rafah crossing, once the gateway to the world for the 2 million people packed into the small impoverished territory. Fatah said it should be run by presidential guards with supervision from the European Union border agency, known as EUBAM, instead of the currently deployed Hamas-linked employees.

“EUBAM Rafah maintains readiness to redeploy to the Rafah crossing point when the security and political situations will allow,” said Mohammad Al-Saadi, press officer for the EU Coordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support.

Any decision on EUBAM deployment would be taken in conjunction with the Palestinian Authority and Israel’s government, he said in a statement.

Some 3,000 Fatah security officers are to join the Gaza police force. But Hamas would remain the most powerful armed Palestinian faction with around 25,000 well-armed militants.

Both rivals hope the deal’s proposed deployment of security personnel from the PA to Gaza’s borders will encourage Egypt and Israel to lift tight restrictions at frontier crossings - a step urgently needed to help Gaza revive a war-shattered economy.

Another major issue in talks on the deal was the fate of 40,000-50,000 public employees Hamas has hired in Gaza since 2007, a thorny point that helped crash the 2014 unity accord.

Under the deal, these employees will receive 50 percent of what their PA salary would be - or equivalent to what they are being paid now by Hamas - pending vetting of their professional qualifications.

Hamas and Fatah are also debating a potential date for presidential and legislative elections and reforms of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which is in charge of long-stalled peace efforts with Israel.

The last Palestinian legislative election was in 2006 when Hamas scored a surprise victory. This sparked the political rupture between Hamas and Fatah which eventually led to their short civil war in Gaza.


Iraq PM denies attack plan as tensions rise with Kurds

October 13, 2017

ARBIL - Iraq’s prime minister on Thursday denied an attack on the Kurds was imminent, in a bid to defuse tensions that had prompted Kurdish peshmerga fighters to temporarily seal off road links with the rest of the country.

“We are not going to use our army to fight our people or to make war on our Kurdish citizens or others,” Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said.

“Our duty is to preserve the unity of our country, to implement the constitution, and to protect citizens and national forces,” he told a meeting of tribal leaders from the western province of Anbar.

The rise in tensions came two weeks after Kurdish voters overwhelmingly backed independence in a non-binding referendum that the central government condemned as illegal. Iraqi Kurdish forces closed the two main roads connecting Arbil and Dohuk with the northern city of Mosul for several hours, a Kurdish military official said.

“The closure was prompted by fears of a possible attack by Iraqi forces on the disputed areas,” held by Kurdish forces but outside the autonomous Kurdish region in the north of the country, the official said.

Kurdish authorities said late Wednesday they feared Iraqi government forces and allied paramilitary units were gearing up to launch an assault on the autonomous region.

“We’re receiving dangerous messages that the Hashed al-Shaabi (paramilitary forces) and federal police are preparing a major attack from the southwest of Kirkuk and north of Mosul against Kurdistan,” the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Security Council said.

Security sources said Thursday that Iraq’s elite Counter Terrorism Service and Rapid Response Force had deployed more forces near peshmerga positions around Rashad, a village some 65 kilometres (40 miles) southwest of Kirkuk city.

The oil-rich province of the same name, areas of which took part in the referendum, is disputed between the Kurds and Baghdad.

Iraq’s Joint Operations Command, which groups all pro-government forces, played down the tensions, expressing confidence that dialogue would resolve the problem.

“Our mission is clear: we are fighting a single enemy, Daesh,” Brigadier General Yahiya Rassul said, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.

“All that interests Iraqis... is to liberate our country and beat the terrorist group,” he said. “We do not forget the role played by the peshmerga.”

He said Iraqi government forces had previously operated close to peshmerga lines near the northern city of Tal Afar.

Asked if there had been movements of Iraqi forces close to peshmerga positions, Colonel Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the US-led coalition battling IS in Syria and Iraq, said: “We don’t see that.”

The coalition has worked with both peshmerga and Iraqi pro-government forces in the battle to oust IS from areas of Iraq it seized in mid-2014.

“Our mission is clear - to defeat Daesh,” Dillon said.

“We have done that throughout Iraq. We will support the Iraqis in the same way we have in the last three years to make sure that Daesh is defeated”.

Central authorities severed ties between the Kurdish autonomous region and the outside world after the referendum by cutting international air links.

Neighbouring Turkey and Iran, which fear that Iraqi Kurdish moves towards independence could fuel demands from their own sizeable Kurdish communities, have also threatened to close their borders to oil exports.

An Iraqi court on Wednesday ordered the arrest of senior Kurdish officials responsible for organising the referendum, saying they had done so “in contravention of a ruling by the Iraqi supreme court”.

The warrant is likely to prove toothless as Baghdad’s security forces do not operate inside Kurdistan, but it could stop the officials leaving the region.

Iraq has also launched a probe into Kurdistan’s lucrative oil revenues and pledged to expose “corrupt” officials in the region who might have illegally monopolised the market.



Bangladesh issues arrest warrants for Khaleda Zia

October 13, 2017

DHAKA - Two courts in Bangladesh issued warrants Thursday for the arrest of the opposition leader and former premier Khaleda Zia, a move her party said was politically motivated ahead of elections expected next year.

The move came after the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina launched a crackdown on the opposition, arresting leaders and supporters of Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

One of the warrants relates to a failure to respond to a court summons in a defamation case, Dhaka’s chief prosecutor Abdullah Abu told AFP.

The second was issued by a special anti-graft court after Zia failed to attend a hearing in a long-running case relating to the alleged embezzlement of funds meant for an orphanage, Abu said.

Earlier in the week, another court had ordered Zia’s arrest on charges she incited the firebombing of a bus in 2015.

It is not the first time that a court has issued orders to arrest Zia, currently on a visit to London where her son lives, but police have not acted on previous warrants. Political scientist Ataur Rahman said he believed this time could be different.

“There are several reasons. One is to derail the party as it tries to step up protests and build momentum for the next polls,” he told AFP.

“Secondly, to deprive it of its leadership and third is that the government is sending a message that it is very much in control.”

Bangladesh is widely expected to hold a general election next year, the first since polls in 2014 which the BNP boycotted over fears they would be rigged.

That allowed Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s party to win without even contesting most of the parliamentary seats.

Since then opposition officials say tens of thousands of their activists and supporters have been arrested and prosecuted by the government.

Hasina’s secular government has faced criticism from opposition politicians for its handling of the Rohingya crisis, which led to a huge influx of refugees into the impoverished country.

Pro-opposition lawyers have also accused her of pressuring the chief justice, a major critic of the government, to go on a long leave of absence that some say he may never return from.

The warrants come days after police arrested the leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s largest Islamist party and a key BNP ally, on charges of planning an act of sabotage.

Jamaat called a nationwide strike on Thursday to protest the arrests of its leaders, but it was not widely observed and passed off peacefully.





Supreme Court puts government's Rohingya deportation plans on hold

October 13, 2017

Anusha Soni

The Supreme Court today deferred the deportation of Rohingya Muslim refugees from India till its next hearing on November 21 and said there is not an "iota of doubt" that a humanitarian approach should be taken on the matter.

In a strongly-worded observation, the Supreme Court reminded the government that it has multiple responsibilities, and must balance national and humanitarian values. It said the Rohingya Muslims issue is of great magnitude and the state has a big role to play.

"The Constitution is based on humanitarian values. The state has a multi-pronged role. While national security and economic interests need to be secured, innocent women and children cannot be ignored," the apex court said.

Deferring the matter to November 21, the Supreme Court, however, allowed the Rohingya petitioners to approach it in case of any contingency.

Earlier, the Centre in an affidavit had termed Rohingya refugees as "illegal" immigrants and said some of them were part of a "sinister" design of Pakistan's ISI and terror groups such as the ISIS, whose presence in the country will pose a "serious" national security threat.

The affidavit was submitted in response to a plea filed by the Rohingya immigrants, claiming they had taken refuge in India after escaping from Myanmar due to widespread discrimination, violence and bloodshed against the community there.

Earlier this week, a group of eminent personalities had urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to not deport Rohingya refugees and asylum-seekers, saying a proposal that the entire community is a threat to national security is basedon "false assumption".

In an open letter, 51 prominent names including Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, former home minister P Chidambaram, former Union home secretary G K Pillai among others, observed that as an aspiring global leader, India cannot afford to adopt a "shortsighted approach".



Army, CRPF officials discuss ways to thwart terror incidents

Oct 12, 2017

JAMMU: Army and CRPF officials on Thursday met here and discussed strategies to thwart "nefarious designs of terrorists and to maintain law and order" in the region.

The General Officer Commanding (GOC) of 26 Infantry Division Major General Sanjay Singh met Inspector General of the CRPF Abhay Vir Chauhan at the sector headquarters of the paramilitary force here, an official said.

"The discussion was around strategies to thwart the nefarious designs of the terrorists and to meet challenges of counter insurgency and law and order in the region," CRPF spokesperson Ashish Kumar Jha said in a statement.

He said that Chauhan apprised the GOC about the role and deployment of the CRPF in the Jammu area.

"Both officers appreciated the prevailing coordination between the CRPF and the Army and discussed various steps to enhance the synergy and the level of coordination between the two major forces in the region," the spokesperson said.

Full report at:



For second consecutive day, Pakistani troops resort to mortal shelling along LoC in Poonch

October 13, 2017

Pakistani troops continued unprovoked mortar shelling, besides firing small and automatic weapons, at various places along the Line of Control (LoC) in Krishna Ghati and Digwar sectors of Poonch district for the second day of Friday.

Sources said that after a brief lull during night, intense mortar shelling re-started from across the border in Khari Karmara area adjoining Chakkan Da Bagh cross LoC point near Poonch town in the morning. There have also heavy shelling in Sadotra and adjoining Krishna Ghati sector.

The Indian Army retaliated, however, there are no reports of casualty or damage on the Indian side so far. Yesterday, an Army jawan and a defence porter had died while six other personnel, including a porter, were injured in mortar shelling by Pakistan in Krishna Ghati sector.

Meanwhile, sources said schools in Digwar and Karmara areas have been closed for today in view of the intense shelling from across the border.

The latest round of mortar shelling and firing from Pakistan came only two days after it handed over a 35-year-old woman from Poonch to Indian troops at Chakkan Da Bagh. The Pakistani troops had described it “a gesture of goodwill and its efforts to maintain peace and tranquility along the Line of Control’’.

Sources attributed the escalation of shelling on borders to growing desperation on Pakistan side over its failure to push in armed terrorists into the state before the onset of winter when mountainous passes get closed due to snow fall. Alert BSF troops in Arnia sector had last month detected an incomplete cross border tunnel emanating from Pakistan side of the international border.

During the past two months, there have been nearly 50 infiltration attempts from across the border and 44 of them were successfully foiled by alert troops, sources said. A few terrorists who managed to enter the state have been eliminated, they added.

The shelling has also caused damage to residential houses at many places, making a sizeable number of people shift to safer places, while cross LoC trade and travel between two sides through Chakkan Da Bagh on Poonch-Rawalakote road remains suspended.

Full report at:





Sanaullah Stirs Up A Hornet’s Nest, Calls Ahmadis Muslims

October 13, 2017

After Capt (retd) Safdar’s recent diatribe against Ahmadis which met with severe criticism by opposition parties and on social media, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) appears to be in a fix again after Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Thursday made a controversial statement favouring the minority community.

Sanaullah’s statement that “Ahmadis (also) act upon ‘Namaz’ (prayer) and ‘Roza’ (fast); they go to mosques and recite Azan” incited countrywide protests.

The Punjab minister, while talking to a private channel, stirred up a hornet’s nest by calling Ahmadis Muslims.

“Opposition with Ahmadis is over the Khatm-e-Nubuwwat issue,” he said, and added that “according to Ulema, the Ahmadis cannot say their prayers, recite Azan and construct their mosques. But there are several complexities. The matter should be discussed at certain level.”

Rana Sanaullah said that there will be a big reaction if someone says that the Ahmadis should be recruited into the army. “It should not be discussed in detail as it will cause provocation,” he added.

The minister however said that it was the responsibility of the government to protect their lives and property.


Nevertheless, Rana Sanaullah in a late night clarification said that he never declared “Qadianis” as Muslims. He said this statement had been wrongly attached to him. The minister further said that Captain (r) Safdar during his speech in parliament was correct however his claim that there are also Qadianis in the Army is totally wrong.

PML-Q MOVES RESOLUTION IN PA AGAINST LAW MINISTER: Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) on Thursday moved a resolution in the Punjab Assembly against Law Minister Rana Sanaullah for what it termed a ‘controversial’ statement.

The resolution, which was moved by PML-Q’s parliamentary leader Moonis Elahi, stated that the provincial minister’s attempt to prove Ahmadis as Muslims amounts to treason against the Constitution. “This House expresses grave concern about recent talk on a TV channel about Ahmadis by the Punjab law minister which has greatly hurt the sentiments of entire Muslim Ummah,” the resolution stated.

“This inexcusable statement of Rana Sanaullah would have not only shaken heavens but also hurt the heart of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) without whom we are nothing. Our honour is because of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him),” it said.

The resolution reads that Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims in 1974 constitutionally. “In 1984 through a presidential ordinance, they (Ahmadis) were bounded not to use Islamic teachings whereas in his talk the minister has committed inexcusable crime of treason against the Constitution to prove them as Muslims,” the resolution said.

In view of his statement, the government should immediately call an explanation from the law minister as to how he was declaring deviators from the Khatm-e-Nubawwat as Muslims and what were the heinous motives behind his this statement, the party demanded in the resolution.

After Capt (retd) Safdar’s recent diatribe against Ahmadis which met with severe criticism by opposition parties and on social media, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) appears to be in a fix again after Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Thursday made a controversial statement favouring the minority community.

Sanaullah’s statement that “Ahmadis (also) act upon ‘Namaz’ (prayer) and ‘Roza’ (fast); they go to mosques and recite Azan” incited countrywide protests.

The Punjab minister, while talking to a private channel, stirred up a hornet’s nest by calling Ahmadis Muslims.

“Opposition with Ahmadis is over the Khatm-e-Nubuwwat issue,” he said, and added that “according to Ulema, the Ahmadis cannot say their prayers, recite Azan and construct their mosques. But there are several complexities. The matter should be discussed at certain level.”

Rana Sanaullah said that there will be a big reaction if someone says that the Ahmadis should be recruited into the army. “It should not be discussed in detail as it will cause provocation,” he added.

The minister however said that it was the responsibility of the government to protect their lives and property.


Nevertheless, Rana Sanaullah in a late night clarification said that he never declared “Qadianis” as Muslims. He said this statement had been wrongly attached to him. The minister further said that Captain (r) Safdar during his speech in parliament was correct however his claim that there are also Qadianis in the Army is totally wrong.

PML-Q MOVES RESOLUTION IN PA AGAINST LAW MINISTER: Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) on Thursday moved a resolution in the Punjab Assembly against Law Minister Rana Sanaullah for what it termed a ‘controversial’ statement.

The resolution, which was moved by PML-Q’s parliamentary leader Moonis Elahi, stated that the provincial minister’s attempt to prove Ahmadis as Muslims amounts to treason against the Constitution. “This House expresses grave concern about recent talk on a TV channel about Ahmadis by the Punjab law minister which has greatly hurt the sentiments of entire Muslim Ummah,” the resolution stated.

“This inexcusable statement of Rana Sanaullah would have not only shaken heavens but also hurt the heart of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) without whom we are nothing. Our honour is because of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him),” it said.

The resolution reads that Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims in 1974 constitutionally. “In 1984 through a presidential ordinance, they (Ahmadis) were bounded not to use Islamic teachings whereas in his talk the minister has committed inexcusable crime of treason against the Constitution to prove them as Muslims,” the resolution said.

In view of his statement, the government should immediately call an explanation from the law minister as to how he was declaring deviators from the Khatm-e-Nubawwat as Muslims and what were the heinous motives behind his this statement, the party demanded in the resolution.



Christian leaders condemn hate speech of MNA Safdar in National Assembly

October 13, 2017

Captain (Rtd) Safdar, who is son in law of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif criticized the renaming of Quaid-e-Azam University Physics Centre after Professor Dr Abdus Salam, a Pakistani Ahmadiyyia community individual who won Nobel Prize.

“These people [Ahmadis] are a threat to this country, its constitution and ideology. This situation is heading towards a dangerous point,” said Safdar in his speech.

Mr. Safdar added “Pakistan was created with an ideology to protect the finality of Prophethood [Khatm-i-Naboowat] so Islam is practiced here”

Captain retired Safdar went further ahead and demanded signature of employees entering in Pakistan Armed Forces, Pakistan Supreme Court, Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and other department on declaration of Khatm-i-Naboowat that non-Muslim may be set away from national security institutions.

The Christians, Ahmadi, Hindus and other religious minorities were declared Non-Muslims under Amendment 18th in constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Dr. Nazir S Bhatti, President of Pakistan Christian Congress PCC have strongly condemned hate speech of Capt. (Rtd.) Safdar and termed if against ideology of Pakistan.

“He urged political forces to raise voice against hate speech of ruling party MNA which has created issues of safety and security of members of religious minorities in Pakistan” added Nazir Bhatti

The Founder of Masehi Inqalabi Tehreek, Ex-Chairman Standing Committee on Minority Affairs Sindh and Former Member Provincial Assembly Sindh Mr. Saleem Khursheed Khokhar criticized the speech of Capt. (R) Safdar in the National Assembly of Pakistan wherein he called for a ban on hiring Ahmadis in the armed forces and other important institutions of the country.

He said his speech was discrimination for the minorities of Pakistan. A democratic state gives equal status and rights to all its citizen. Probably the constitution of Pakistan itself declares equal rights for all. He said would Capt. (R) Safdar accept different treatment and persecution for himself and his family based on religion in a non-Muslim majority country.

He said Nawaz Sharif and his party has a history of using dirty politics to capture the extremist vote bank.

Full report at:



New NAB chairman vows to adopt zero-tolerance policy


ISLAMABAD: National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman Justice (r) Javed Iqbal Thursday said that corruption could not be eliminated until NAB's officials adopted a zero-tolerance policy and adhered to transparency, merit and honesty.

He was addressing NAB officers at NAB Headquarters Rawalpindi, after taking charge as NAB Chairman.

The chairman said, "In a bid to restore bureau's prestige, the principle of 'accountability for all' would be strictly implemented and all inquiries/investigations would be conducted within given time, instead of lingering on for years."

"All cases filed by NAB to Accountability Courts, High Courts and Supreme Court of Pakistan would be followed effectively and bureau's stance would be presented before them as per law", he said.

The chairman said he did not take dictations from anyone in the past and won't do in the future.

Justice Javed Iqbal directed the NAB officers to work with due diligence without being influenced, saying "You belong to an institution which is mandated to curb menace of corruption from the country. People are having high hopes from this institution." "You are aware of the fact that corruption is root cause of all evils and if you receive any application against any department/individual, you must look into the matter according to law of the land", he further directed the officers.

Full report at:



US delegation ‘acknowledges Pakistan’s sacrifices in War on Terror’

October 12, 2017

Hours after security forces recovered a US-Canadian couple and their three children who were captured from Afghanistan in 2012, a top US delegation appreciated and acknowledged Pakistan Army’s contributions and the country’s sacrifices in War on Terror.

A US delegation comprising senior director for South Asia Lisa Curtis, Ambassador Alice G Wells and Ambassador David Hale, among other representatives called on Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Thursday, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said.

The delegation briefed the army chief on contours of US strategy in South Asia, the communiqué said.

“Discussion focused on regional security situation including Afghanistan and how Pakistan has positively contributed towards peace and stability in the region,” the statement read.

The COAS, the ISPR added, highlighted Pakistan’s concerns regarding peace and stability in the region.

“He reiterated that Pakistan has done its best despite constraints and shall continue its efforts for the sake of the future of Pakistan and in line with aspirations of Pakistani people.”

Pak-US ties for Afghan peace stressed

Earlier, the visiting team also met Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad.

The US delegation emphasised the importance of reinvigorating the bilateral relationship with Pakistan in order to achieve common objectives of peace and stability in Afghanistan as well as in the region.

The two sides agreed to continue bilateral engagements at all levels, according to a statement.

Reiterating Pakistan’s stance for a politically negotiated settlement owned and led by Afghans, the foreign secretary reaffirmed Pakistan’s constructive participation in all regional and bilateral mechanisms aimed at pursuing a peaceful solution to the Afghan conflict.

The US delegation was also informed on the recent visit by Pakistani officials to Kabul with a view to intensify engagement and addressing mutual concerns particularly border management and repatriation of refugees.

Highlighting Pakistan’s ongoing law enforcement and counter-terrorism campaign, Janjua apprised the US delegation of Pakistan’s efforts in eliminating terrorism from the Pakistani soil. Pakistan’s concerns on continued attacks from across the border were also shared.

The US delegation was informed about the atrocities and human rights violations being committed by the Indian forces in the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IoK) resulting in hundreds of casualties.

It was noted that persistent Indian refusal to engage with Pakistan despite repeated overtures for a comprehensive dialogue was adversely impacting regional stability.

The government has been under increased pressure from Washington to crack down on alleged militant sanctuaries inside its borders after US President Donald Trump lambasted the country in a televised address in August.

Full report at:



Three members of Ahmadiyya community sentenced to death in Pakistan

OCTOBER 12, 2017

According to police official Muhammad Ashar, the people had displayed posters in the village urging social boycott of the Ahmadiyya community which three people had teared down. “The posters carried Islamic verses,” he said.

Three members of the persecuted Ahmadiyya community have been sentenced to death in Pakistan’s Punjab province for committing blasphemy by tearing up posters that demanded boycott of the minority sect.

They have also been fined Rs 200,000 each and in case they don’t pay the fine, they would undergo six months of rigorous punishment.

Additional District and Sessions Judge of Sheikhupura district of Punjab province Mian Javed Akram announced the verdict on Wednesday after the prosecution submitted evidence and presented all witnesses in the case.

A blasphemy case registered against them in May in 2014 for tearing religious posters.

According to Sharqpur police station official Muhammad Ashar, the people had displayed posters in the village urging social boycott of the Ahmadiyya community. “The posters carried Islamic verses,” he said.

On removing the posters, a complaint was filed against the three men that led to their subsequent arrest.

The convicts admitted before the court that they had removed the posters for demanding social boycott of Ahmadiyya community but not to commit blasphemy.

Their counsel will challenge the verdict in the higher court.

On Wednesday, ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law Mohammad Safdar launched a tirade against the Ahmaddiya community, demanding their exclusion from the government and military service.

The Ahmadiyya community was declared non-Muslims in Pakistan through a constitutional amendment in 1974 during the tenure of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

This measure was later followed with former president Gen Ziaul Haq, making it a punishable offence for Ahmadiyyas to call themselves Muslim or to refer to their faith as Islam.

Full report at:



Pakistan attaches high value to ties with Iran: PM

October 13, 2017

ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi Thursday said Pakistan attached high importance to its relations with Iran.

In a meeting here with Iranian Ambassador Mehdi Honardoost, he said both the countries enjoyed close and cordial relations.

“This provided a basis for enhancing mutually beneficial trade and investment relations that would reflect the true potential of the two countries,” he added.  The Prime Minister also expressed his satisfaction over frequent high level contacts between the two countries, recalling his meeting with the President Dr Hassan Rouhani in New York.

The Ambassador conveyed the greetings of the Iranian leadership to the Prime Minister and emphasized the importance that Iran attaches to its relations with Pakistan.

He reiterated his commitment to further enhance Iran-Pakistan bilateral relations with a focus on economic relations between the two countries. He said that Iran is keen on further expanding bilateral relations with Pakistan in all spheres.

Meanwhile, Takashi Kurai, Ambassador of Japan to Pakistan called on Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

Abbasi said that Pakistan regarded Japan as a close friend and a reliable economic partner. The Prime Minister highlighted the significant improvement in the economic and security environment of Pakistan and attributed it to the successful law enforcement operations against terrorist groups. Emphasising on bilateral relations, Abbasi said that Pakistan looks forward to greater level of cooperation between the two countries particularly in the areas of trade, investment, infrastructure, energy and people to people contact.

He said Japan may consider a 3-4 year exception for Pakistani textiles under Temporary Tariff Measures to bring Pakistan at par with its competitors which enjoy free access to Japanese market.

The Prime Minister also welcomed companies from Japan to invest in Pakistan that would enhance the capacity of Pakistan industrial sector to produce value added goods.

Ambassador of Japan appreciated Pakistan’s economic growth and stated that Pakistan’s perception particularly in Japan has changed to a business-friendly country.

Full report at:





Iran backs 'united’ Spain amid Catalan secession bid

Oct 12, 2017

Iran says it supports a “united” Spain and calls for national solidarity and peace in the face of a push for secession in Catalonia which has plunged the country into one of its worst crises in recent years.

“Iran, in line with its principled policies, believes in a united, integrated and democratic Spain and calls for the preservation of stability, peace and national solidarity and respect for the provisions of the Spanish Constitution,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Thursday.

Tensions have been running high ever since an October 1 independence referendum in Catalonia which has been declared illegal by the federal government in Spain.

Almost 90 percent of voters backed Catalonia’s independence with a turnout of 43 percent but the plebiscite was marred by violence after Spanish police tried to halt the voting.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont signed an independence declaration on Tuesday but said the manifesto would not be implemented for several weeks to allow talks with the government in Madrid.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has ruled out dialog over the secession bid but left the door open for constitutional reforms.

Qassemi said, “The Islamic Republic of Iran underlines the need for adhering to the rule of law and avoiding violence and pursuing demands in a peaceful and legal manner.”

The spokesman called Spain "an important political and economic partner of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Europe," saying Tehran is closely monitoring developments in Catalonia.

“Iran believes that the interests of all the people in Spain, and the country's political stability and economic growth will be sustained more and better through national unity and synergy,” Qassemi said.



Erdogan accuses US of 'sacrificing' relations with Turkey

October 13, 2017

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday said the US was in danger of “sacrificing” its relations with Turkey, as he blamed the American envoy to Ankara for the crisis in relations between the Nato allies.

“It is the ambassador here who caused this,” Erdogan told a meeting in Ankara, referring to the outgoing US envoy in Turkey, John Bass.

“It is unacceptable for the United States to sacrifice a strategic partner like Turkey for a presumptuous ambassador,” he said.

The dispute erupted last week when Turkey arrested a Turkish employee of the US consulate in Istanbul on suspicion of links to Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Muslim preacher who Ankara blames for last year's failed coup.

In response, Washington halted issuing non-immigrant visas from its missions in Turkey, prompting Turkish missions in the US to hit back with a tit-for-tat move.

Although Turkish officials blamed the ambassador for the spat, the State Department said Bass had been operating with the full authority of the US government.

Bass is due to leave Turkey at the weekend after he was named the US envoy to Afghanistan earlier this year.

“If the giant America is ruled by an ambassador in Ankara, what a shame,” Erdogan said.

On Monday, Turkish prosecutors summoned another local employee working at the US consulate in Istanbul.

Erdogan on Thursday claimed that he was hiding in the consulate, but Bass had denied this the day before, telling reporters: “No one's hiding at any of our facilities.”

Turkish authorities this week detained his wife, his son and his daughter.

Ankara wanted to open a new page in relations with the US under President Donald Trump but a spate of issues have raised tensions, including the US refusal to extradite Gulen and American support for Kurdish militias in Syria.

Full report at:



Iranian DM: US Blacklisting of IRGC Meant to Help Terrorists

Oct 12, 2017

General Hatami described the IRGC as the most important anti-terrorism force in the region which is at the frontline of the fight against terrorists, saying that the IRGC has made great sacrifice for the security and peace of the Middle-East.

He noted that the US blacklisting of the IRGC is itself a terrorist move because it will help the terrorists and deteriorate instability in the region and beyond.

Iran’s defense minister noted that Tehran will not allow the US to disrupt regional stability through proxy wars.

He stressed that the Islamic Republic’s three branches of power together with its Armed Forces are united in countering such plots.

In relevant remarks on Wednesday, Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi warned that his country considers sanctions and blacklisting of the IRGC as declaration of war by Washington.

"Given the fact that armies and armed forces guarantee protection and security of countries, we see such a move as declaration of war," Salehi said, addressing a group of media elites and analysts of British think tanks in London.

He also warned that breaching the 2015 nuclear deal by the US President Donald Trump will entail global repercussions.

In relevant remarks on Monday night, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned of his country's tough reaction to Washington's possible labeling of the IRGC as a terrorist group.

"If the US officials make such a strategic mistake, the Islamic Republic will certainly reciprocate," Zarif said in an interview with the state TV.

He underlined that his country has planned certain countermeasures which will be declared in due time.

Elsewhere, Zarif rejected talks about Tehran's missile or defense programs, stressing, "The Islamic Republic of Iran's defense power is aimed at defending the country against any negative will against the nation and is not negotiable."

His remarks came after IRGC top Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari said imposition of new sanctions by Washington against Iran means a US withdrawal from the nuclear deal, and warned that the US should leave the region and stay 2,000km away from Iran if the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) comes into effect.

"The Islamic Republic (of Iran) sees implementation of the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) as the US unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal and as we have declared in the past too, if the US new sanctions act comes into action, the country (the US) should transfer its regional bases to 2,000km away, that is as far as the range of Iranian missiles," General Jafari said on Sunday.

Away from CAATSA that puts Iran under presidential executive order 13224 and considers the IRGC as an entity supporting terrorist groups, Gen. Jafari noted reports coming from Washington that the US president's new strategy intends to designate the IRGC itself as a terrorist organization, and issued a tough warning to Donald Trump, saying, "If reports prove to be true that the stupid US administration intends to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization, then the IRGC will also specify the US army as a group (and target) like ISIL in all parts of the world, specially the Middle-East."

He further noted the US objective behind its growing hostilities towards Iran, saying the US is wrong to think that threatening Iran and imposing new sanctions on the country can force Tehran to sit to the negotiating table on the regional issues.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran intends to solve the regional issues somewhere else other than the negotiating table; (the US should know that) there is (absolutely) nothing and no one to negotiate about or with," the IRGC chief commander stressed.

He said any new US sanctions would ruin the chances for any kind of interaction "forever". "These sanctions accomplish the experience of the nuclear deal for us. An experience that showed that the US makes use of talks as a means of pressure and hostility rather than interaction or problem solving."

"The Americans should know that the Islamic Republic of Iran will use the opportunity provided by the Trump administration's stupid behavior towards the nuclear deal to make a leap in its conventional defense, missile and regional programs," he added.

CAATSA is a United States federal law that imposed sanctions on Iran, North Korea and Russia. The bill was passed during the 115th Congress, 98–2 in the Senate. In the part that pertains to Iran (also known as Countering Iran's Destabilizing Actions Act or CIDAA), the sanctions act focuses on punishments specifically addressed at the IRGC.

Full report at:



Arab coalition destroy Houthi missile launch site in Yemen's Hudaydah

12 October 2017

The Arab coalition announced on Friday that it had destroyed a Houthi missile launch site in Hudaydah that is used to target Saudi Arabia.

A coalition unmanned aircraft documented earlier this month targeted locations of Houthi and Saleh militias in different areas near the Saudi-Yemeni border.

Coalition aircraft managed to destroy military vehicles carrying militants towards the Saudi border in an attempt to plant mines and advance towards the border.

Arab coalition fighters also targeted military reinforcements of Houthi militias and destroyed a weapons storehouse and sites for their gatherings in the Bihan district, west of Shabbwa province.



UN opens second line of contact with Houthis in Hezbollah stronghold

12 October 2017

Diplomats in New York told Lebanese daily An-Nahar that the office of UN envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed has opened a “second” line of contact with the Houthis via the Almasirah television channel that broadcasts from Beirut’s Dahiyeh with the support of the Hezbollah militia.

According to the daily, a diplomat said that a number of international experts working on the Yemeni affair visited Beirut more than once and met with a number of Houthi officials.

Meanwhile, UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric acknowledged there is a second line of contact for communication between the UN special envoy and some Houthi followers in Lebanon.

Dujarric said these meetings are not official and are usually utilized for mediation efforts between the conflicting parties.

He added that there constant phone calls between the special envoy and his team and the Houthis.

Full report at:



Arab World


At least 50 displaced Syrians killed by ISIS triple car bombing

13 October 2017

A medical source in the Kurdish Red Crescent said ISIS suicide bombers killed at least 50 people in a triple car bomb attack Thursday in northeastern Syria.

The source added that a large number of people were also injured in the attack.

The car bombing targeting displaced Syrians in the province of Hasakeh was reported to have killed at least 18 people earlier, including Kurdish security forces, according to the  Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Britain-based monitor said the attack was carried out by ISIS and took place in an area where Syrians displaced from Deir Ezzor province usually gather.

“At least 18 people, including displaced persons and members of the Asayesh Kurdish security forces, were killed,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

Two separate offensives targeting ISIS are underway in the eastern oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor, one by Russia-backed government forces and the other by US-backed Kurdish-Arab fighters known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

SDF spokesman Talal Sello confirmed a car bombing targeting people displaced from Deir Ezzor, saying it took place in the Hasakeh’s southern area of Abu Fass.

“Dozens of people were killed and wounded,” Sello told AFP.

After the blast, “the civilians escaped towards desert areas where mines exploded and the toll rose”, he added, without providing further details.

Much of Hasakeh province and Hasakeh city are under the control of a Kurdish “autonomous administration” with smaller parts of both controlled by the central government.

Abu Fass is where Kurdish authorities gather people displaced by conflict before allowing them to enter camps where they can shelter, the Observatory said.

Earlier Thursday, the monitoring group, which relies on a network of sources inside war-torn Syria, said regime forces had retaken four neighborhoods in the town of Mayadeen in Deir Ezzor province.

The state news agency SANA confirmed that regime forces had re-entered Mayadeen.

Last week, ISIS succeeded in expelling Syrian forces from Mayadeen two days after they entered the town.

A Syrian army source had recently described Mayadeen as the “military capital” of ISIS in Deir Ezzor.



1,000 ISIL Terrorists Arrive in Deir Ezzur from Iraq

Oct 12, 2017

According to Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), 1,000 foreign members and commanders of the ISIL from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan and Turkistan have arrived in Syria.

Reporting that the newly-arrived terrorists have taken the responsibility for military operations in the town of al-Mayadeen and the Eastern parts of Deir Ezzur under the name of 'al-Qaradish' group, the SOHR added that they don’t trust the Syrian and Arab-origin ISIL members in Syria.

Meantime, military sources confirmed on Wednesday that the Syrian Army troops are getting ready to kick off the final phase of their operation to purge the entire neighborhoods in Eastern Deir Ezzur city of the ISIL terrorists.

Full report at:



ISIL Occupies Energy Field in Eastern Deir Ezzur after Clashes with Kurds

Oct 12, 2017

According to the Arabic-language al-Ahd news website, the ISIL terrorists gained control over Koniko gas field in Northeastern Deir Ezzur on Thursday after an earlier agreement between the ISIL and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) failed in the region.

The US-backed SDF is giving room and space to the ISIL under a deal that first came into practice in Raqqa to give a safe corridor to the terrorists to move deep into Central Syria, gifting the SDF easy control over lands in Northeastern Deir Ezzur near the border with Iraq.

Yet, some groups of ISIL have defied the agreement in a few regions in Northeastern Deir Ezzur. Al-Ahd said a group of ISIL shrugged off the deal after the SDF advanced to receive control of Koniko gas field.

The report said over 10 SDF forces were killed and wounded during the clashes.

Meantime, a military source said on Wednesday that the Syrian Army troops are completing the siege on the Eastern Deir Ezzur city, adding that the ISIL terrorists are trying to leave the city before the siege is completed.

The source said that several groups of terrorists are leaving Deir Ezzur city for the town of Albu Kamal in the Southeastern part of the province near the border with Iraq.

"Small convoys of off-road vehicles and failed attempts to cross the Euphrates River from the Western to the Eastern bank by means of waterborne platforms were detected," the source said.

According to the source, government forces continue the offensive from several directions and a number of villages along the Euphrates River have been cleared of terrorists.

Full report at:



100 Militants Surrender to Syrian Army in Northeastern Aleppo

Oct 12, 2017

The militants formerly fighting in Manbij region in Northeastern Aleppo surrendered themselves and their arms to the Syrian government and filed request for amnesty to return to normal life as the forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad continue gaining ground across the country.

Local sources in Aleppo had earlier said that some 2,000 militants have declared readiness to end fight against the government after rising public protests against the presence of terrorists in the Eastern districts of the city.

"In an unprecedented move, a least 2,000 militants have contacted their families and announced their readiness to lay down arms and join the peace plan in Aleppo city," militants' relatives and family members said.

"In the meantime, renowned figures and tribal leaders in Aleppo districts have formed local committees to identify those militants who want to join the peace agreement to introduce them to the national reconciliation committees," they said, adding, "Popular protests against militancy and the Syrian government forces' advances have caused a rising despair among the militants and a recent growth in their surrender to the government forces."

Full report at:



Saudi Minister of State: Fight against terrorism must be taken to every avenue

13 October 2017

The Saudi Minister of State for Arabian Gulf Affairs, Thamer al-Sabhan, called for the fight against terrorism to be taken to every avenue warning from the existence of terrorists within governments.

“Is it possible that the world can be satisfied with the existence of ISIS and al-Qaeda within the parliaments and governments of countries? The world must unite against all the parties of evil,” he said in a Tweet on Thursday.

On Sunday October 8, al-Sabhan welcomed the US sanctions against Hezbollah saying that the best solution to address Hezbollah is through the formation of an international coalition against them and those allied with them.

Full report at:



Kurdistan willing to hold talks with Iraqi officials over existing row: KRG

Oct 12, 2017

Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has expressed willingness to hold negotiations with the Iraqi government regarding their dispute over the restrictions that Baghdad has imposed on the semi-autonomous region.

In a statement issued overnight, the KRG said it is willing to discuss its dispute with Baghdad over Kurdish airports, border posts and banks, Reuters reported on Thursday.

Iraqi website NRT also reported Thursday that the road connecting the Kurdistan region with Nineveh Province has been blocked by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.

“The two main roads connecting Erbil and Dohuk to Mosul were cut off on Thursday with sand embankments as a precautionary measure after we detected an increase in deployments and movements of Iraqi forces near the front line with the Peshmerga,” AFP quoted a Kurdish official as saying.

However, another Kurdish official said later in the day that the barriers were removed.

“The closure was prompted by fears of a possible attack by Iraqi forces on the disputed areas,” held by Kurdish forces but outside the autonomous Kurdish region, the official added.

The move came after Kurdish authorities said late on Wednesday they feared Iraqi government forces and allied paramilitary units were preparing to launch an assault on the region.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi government spokesman has rejected speculations about Iraq’s alleged plans to invade the Kurdistan region, saying Baghdad will only fight Daesh Takfiri terrorists.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has reaffirmed the country’s determination to protect its Kurdish population against any threats amid the ongoing tensions.

Tensions have been running high between Iraq’s Kurds and central authorities in the wake of last month’s Kurdish independence referendum.

Much of the international community has been vocally critical of the referendum. Kurdish officials claim that over 90 percent of the voters in the semi-autonomous region have said ‘Yes’ to separation from Iraq.

In response to the non-binding Kurdish independence referendum on September 25, the Iraqi government has cut Kurdistan’s direct air links with the outside world, partially isolating the northern region.

Baghdad has also called on the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to either cancel the result of the plebiscite or face potential sanctions, international isolation, and military intervention.

Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council has issued arrest warrants for the elections and referendum commission chairman of Kurdistan region and his two aides over the controversial referendum.

Full report at:



South Asia


Taliban leader among 5 killed as A-29s pound their hideouts in Mirza Olang

Oct 12 2017

At least five Taliban militants were killed in the airstrikes of the Afghan Air Force in northern Sar-e-Pul province of Afghanistan.

The 209th Shaheen Corps of the Afghan national army in the North said the A-29 fighter planes pounded the hideouts of the Taliban insurgents in Mirza Olang area of Sayad district.

According to the Shaheen Corps, a local leader of the group identified as Mullah Syed Ahmad was among those killed.

At least two Taliban insurgents were critically wounded in the airstrikes, the Shaheen Corps added.

The Taliban insurgents group has not commented regarding the report so far.

Sar-e-Pul is among the relatively volatile provinces in northern parts of the country where insurgents belonging to Taliban as well as the terrorist networks, including ISIS are actively operating in some of its districts.

The Taliban insurgents took control of the strategic Mirza Olang a couple of months ago, taking hostage hundreds of the local residents.

The group also committed horrific crimes against the local residents and brutally murdered scores of people.

However, the Afghan forces and local government and tribal elders managed to rescue the remaining trapped civiliasn before the militants manage to harm them.



Afghan civilian casualties soar as US ramps up airstrikes

October 13, 2017

KABUL - Civilian casualties caused by airstrikes in Afghanistan surged in the first nine months of this year, the United Nations said Thursday, as the US ramps up aerial attacks in the war-torn country.

Women and children accounted for more than two thirds of the victims, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said in a report, a toll increased by the Afghan Air Force carrying out its own aerial bombardments along with US Forces.

UNAMA recorded 466 civilian deaths and injuries from airstrikes between January and September, up 52 percent from the same period last year.

International forces were responsible for 38 percent of the victims.

The US, which is the only foreign force in Afghanistan carrying out airstrikes, dropped 751 bombs and missiles on Taliban and Islamic State militants in September, up 50 percent from August and the highest since October 2010, according to US Air Forces Central Command data.

That takes the total number of bombs and missiles this year to 3,238, which is more than the previous two years combined.

The sharp increase in bombardments follows US President Donald Trump’s open-ended strategy announcement in August that involves stepping up attacks on insurgents and deploying more American troops to the country, as well as more aircraft.

But civilians are paying a heavy price for the increased use of airstrikes which often miss their intended target.

Last month a US aerial attack in the Afghan capital Kabul during Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ visit to the city caused several civilian casualties when a missile malfunctioned and landed on the wrong house.

Earlier this month an “erroneous” airstrike by Afghan forces killed 10 security forces in volatile Helmand province as the country’s military tried to oust Taliban fighters from a stronghold.

UNAMA said overall civilian casualties from the grinding conflict stood at 8,019 in the January-September period, down six percent from last year, with insurgents accounting for more than 60 percent of the civilian deaths and injuries.

The drop in casualties was largely due to pro-government forces killing and wounding fewer people - down 19 percent from a year ago to 1,578.

“Despite the overall reduction in civilian casualties, the failure of parties to the conflict to take adequate precautions to prevent harm to civilians continued to manifest in increased women and child casualties, particularly fatalities,” the report said.

Anti-government fighters continued to deliberately target civilians using tactics that amount to war crimes under international law, UNAMA said, highlighting assaults against the minority Shia population.

The UN has documented civilian casualties in the war-ravaged country since 2009.

Full report at:



Bangladesh govt bars 3 NGOs from Rohingya relief work over security

October 12, 2017

The Bangladesh government has ordered three charities – the internationally-based Muslim Aid and Islamic Relief Bangladesh, as well as the nationally-based Fazlullah Foundation – to stop providing relief to displaced Rohingya fleeing Myanmar due to security concerns.

According to foreign ministry officials, the charities were told to suspend their services in Cox’s Bazar after a meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs on Wednesday evening, for their alleged involvement in influencing the Rohingya in the name of relief work.

“The committee has learned that these non-governmental organisations were preaching Islam among the Rohingya people and constructing mosques in the name of relief operations,” Lawmaker Mahjabeen Khaled, a member of the parliamentary standing committee, told the Dhaka Tribune on Thursday.

“The committee has recommended that the government scrutinise the services and funding of these charities, and for the relief materials of the charities to be submitted to the deputy commissioner’s office so that they may be distributed under the deputy commissioner’s supervision,” she added, stressing that there were security concerns.

According to the NGO Affairs Bureau of Bangladesh, these charities were carrying out their operations across the country legally, as they were still registered.

“None of these organisations have had their registration cancelled, but they have been asked to stop providing aid to the Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar. They are still carrying out their operations across the rest of the country,” Md Shahadat Hossain, director (registration and audit) of the bureau, told the Dhaka Tribune.

Also Read- Militant funding: 17 foreign NGOs under intel surveillance

“Among them, Muslim Aid’s relief operations for the displaced Rohingya were cancelled last month,” he added.

However, he refused to disclose the reason behind the government decision.

Former foreign minister Dipu Moni, also chair of the parliamentary standing committee on foreign affairs, said they had asked several charities to stop their operations due to some serious allegations against them.

“There were some serious allegations of irregularities against several charities, which were then blacklisted. It is believed that some of them encourage radicalism and provide funds to militants, and we cannot let them do so with Rohingyas,” she told the Dhaka Tribune.

When contacted, Muslim Aid’s officials said that they had been carrying out their services with the approval of the NGO Affairs Bureau and stopped their operation in Cox’s Bazar soon after the government’s decision.

“The government asked us to stop providing aid among the Rohingya refugees without clarifying particular reasons and we have withdrawn our relief works instantly,” Md Iqbal Ahmed, head of recourse (mobilisation and advocacy) of Muslim Aid, said.

“Muslim Aid is not affiliated with any other activities except relief work,” he added.

Islamic Relief Bangladesh Coordinator (Media) Safiul Azam said that they had applied for permission from the NGO Affairs Bureau to begin relief operations, but were yet to get a response.

“There are few other organisations under the name ‘Islamic Relief’ and we are yet to know which one is barred from conducting relief operations,” Safiul told the Dhaka Tribune.

“We have not started working in Cox’s Bazar, as we are waiting for the government approval,” he added.

Also Read- Relief received for Rohingya so far

Fazlullah Foundation Chairman Abu Reza Md Nezamuddin Nadwi, also MP of Chittagong 15, told the Dhaka Tribune: “The foreign ministry has no authority to suspend the activities of NGOs. This falls under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister’s Office.”

He added that he had been in contact with intelligence and Home Ministry officials, who had told him to continue the foundation’s relief work as there were no problems with his organisation.

Nadwi further said that a letter in this regard had been sent from the Ministry of Foreign affairs to the NGO Affairs Bureau.

However, when contacted, NGO Affairs Bureau Director General Khandaker Rakibur Rahman said that the matter was yet to be resolved and he could not comment on whether the NGOs would be allowed to conduct relief operations for the Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar.

Over 520,000 displaced Rohingya have fled Myanmar for Bangladesh since August 25 this year, when insurgent attacks on security check posts caused a renewed military crackdown in Rakhine state.

Full report at:



Hekmatyar declares his strong opposition with unity government formation

Oct 12 2017

The leader of Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin Hekmatyar declared his strong opposition with the formation of the national unity government led by President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.

Speaking during a gathering of the Kharoti peace, Hekmatyar said the results of the upcoming elections should not be suspended at any cost and the foreigners must be stopped to intervene and should not be allowed to decide regarding the election outcomes. Hekmatyar further added that the current government has not been formed based on the votes of the people but has been shared among two groups by the foreigners.

According to Hekmatyar, the previous elections were marred by massive frauds and the majority of the people could not participate in the elections.

He presented Ghazni province as one of the examples where representatives from only residents of the four districts of the province have chosen the representatives for the whole province.

The leader of Hezb-e-Islami also added that certain political parties fear the elections and oppose the voting, insisting that the time has passed when people were using force to make into the presidential palace.

Full report at:



Top Taliban leaders say the group has no intentions to participate in talks

Oct 12 2017

Top Taliban leaders have said the group has not intentions to participate in the upcoming talks regarding the peace process in Oman.

Two senior Afghan Taliban leaders, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the group’s leadership council met on Tuesday and decided it would not send a delegation to Muscat even if the group was invited to participate.

“Till that time, we were not invited, but even if we received any invitation, our senior members decided not to participate in the meeting,” said one of the Taliban leaders.

However, a member of the Afghan high peace council, Amin Waqad has told the paper that the council participates in the talks as they consider it vital and important due to the presence of the Taliban group members.

The meeting regarding the Afghan peace process is expected to kick off in Muscat on 16th of this month.

The meeting will be organized in the framework of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group consisting of the United States, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and China representatives.

The last meeting of the group ended without any breakthrough to start the Afghan peace process after the Taliban group responded the peace calls with unprecedented violence.

The group staged some of the largest attacks last year including a major attack on the VIP protection unit that left scores of people dead or wounded.

The attack forced the Afghan government to withdraw from the peace efforts and opted a strict military option against the group.

Full report at:



Karzai warns of growing US-Russia rivalry in Afghanistan, slams Taliban for destructions

Oct 12 2017

The former Afghan President Hamid Karzai warned regarding the growing rivalries between the United States and Russia in Afghanistan as he once again reiterated his opposition towards the new US strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia.

Speaking to reporters during a press conference in Kabul, Karzai the United States and Russia were engaged in rivalries against each other during the Jihad times against the Soviet forces.

However, he said the rivalries still exist and continue to grow in the country with the Afghan people suffering from the continued war and violence.

He also slammed the Taliban group for their so-called holy war and said he has sent a letter to them to stop violence.

According to Karzai, the Taliban-led insurgency continues to harm and destroy the Afghan people only.

In other parts of his speech, Karzai said a Loya Jirga (Grand Council Meeting of the elders) should be convened to discuss the new US strategy.

The United States announced its new policy for Afghanistan and South Asia late in August and vowed to continue suppressing the militant and terrorist groups, a move which was widely welcomed by the Afghan officials.

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


Jokowi Defends Islam, Approval Rating Remains High: Poll

October 13, 2017

Jakarta. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo’s approval rating remains high as a majority of Indonesians agree that he defends Islam, according to a new survey by Jakarta-based pollster Indikator Politik Indonesia.

The survey was conducted from Sep. 17-24 in 34 provinces across the archipelago and showed that 68 percent of 1,220 respondents claimed that they were satisfied with Jokowi’s leadership.

The study also revealed that many citizens think of Jokowi as a leader who actively defends Islam, contrary to many hard-line Islamist groups in the country who have tried to portray the president as hostile to clerics and anti-Islamic.

"Around 67 percent of respondents claimed that [Jokowi] defends Islam, meanwhile, only 6 percent of them claimed that he is anti-Islam," said Burhanuddin Muhtadi, the executive director of Indikator.

Burhanuddin said the survey showed that a majority of respondents do not believe that Jokowi is hostile to Islam or its clerics in the country.

"This means that this percentage is very low in contrast to the spreading public judgments on social media," Burhanuddin said, referring to the percentage of citizens who believe Jokowi is hostile to Islam.

He added that the survey findings reinforce other survey result findings pointing to Jokowi's vast support at another run for presidency in 2019.

Jakarta-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and poll firm Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting (SMRC) show in recent reports a high public satisfaction rate with Jokowi's administration since taking office in 2014.

"If the public thinks Jokowi is hostile to ulemas or is anti-Islam, Jokowi's political support will consequently be very low," Burhanuddin explained.

Moreover, the survey also showed that 64 percent of respondents did not think that the president is actively protecting the now-disbanded Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).

"In fact, 52 percent of respondents thought the PKI issue was only exhaled and exaggerated by particular groups in a bid to attack the Jokowi administration," Burhanuddin added.



Zamihan banned from giving lectures in mosques, surau

October 12, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Muslim preacher Zamihan Mat Zin has been banned from giving lectures at mosques and suraus in Selangor, The Star Online reported.

Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) director Haris Kasim sent a letter to all concerned, informing them about the suspension today.

In the letter, he said Zamihan, who is Persatuan Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah (Aswaja) president, was now being investigated under Section 4 of the Sedition Act.

Zamihan was arrested yesterday and remanded for two days from today for investigations into a talk he gave at a mosque in Shah Alam last Sunday.

Yesterday, it was reported that the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) referred Zamihan to the disciplinary board following his alleged criticism of the Johor sultan during a religious talk.

Jakim director-general Othman Mustapha said Jakim took a serious view on Zamihan’s statements in the video that was uploaded on YouTube, and agreed there were hints of criticism aimed at Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar.

Full report at:



Rohingya refugee gets jail sentence increased for harbouring migrants

October 13, 2017

PUTRAJAYA, Oct 13 — A Rohingya UNHCR refugee, who has just completed his jail sentence, was ordered by the Court of Appeal today to serve another two years behind bars for harbouring smuggled migrants.

A three-man bench, comprising Datuk Wira Mohtarudin Baki, Datuk Seri Zakaria Sam and Datuk Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil, increased the jail sentence from three years to five years against Mohd Hussein Mohd Kassim.

“The jail sentence imposed by the Alor Setar High Court was manifestly inadequate. The prosecution’s appeal (for an increase in the jail sentence) is allowed,” said Justice Mohtarudin who chaired the court panel.

He ordered Mohd Hussein, 30, to serve another two years jail from the date of his arrest on July 2, 2015.

In today’s proceeding, Justice Zakaria said that Mohd Hussein, as a refugee himself, should be thankful that Malaysia has given him refuge but instead he got involved in a syndicate.

After Mohd Hussein was released from prison on July 2 this year, he was placed at the Belantik immigration detention depot in Sik, Kedah.

He was sentenced to three years jail by the Alor Setar High Court after pleading guilty to the charge of harbouring 20 Bangladeshis and Myanmar migrants, aged between 18 to 54, who were smuggled into the country.

Mohd Hussein committed the offence at Lot 84, Jalan Titi Haji Idris, Kampung Alor Sentap, Pokok Sena, Kedah at 4.44 am on July 2, 2015 in which the migrants were confined and found to be in feeble state.

On Sept 15, this year his compatriot, Muhammad Yunus also had his jail term increased from three years to five years by the Court of Appeal for a similar offence.

Full report at:



Ahmadis chide PPIM for siccing Jais on them despite dialogue invite


October 13, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 13 ― Followers of the Ahmadiyyah community have accused the Malaysian Muslim Consumers’ Association (PPIM) of stoking hatred and pitting other Muslims against them via “aggressive” and inflammatory remarks.

Ainul Yakin M. Zin, a spokesman for the Malaysian Ahmadiyyah community pointed out that PPIM has yet to formally respond to the invitation for an open dialogue, which the former has proposed to be held on October 28.

But despite this, Ainul said that PPIM chose instead to go to the Selangor Islamic Department (Jais) and demanded for the religious authorities to take action against the Ahmadiyyah community.

“This is the problem with PPIM, they want action to be taken aggressively, they did not contact us or reply our letter about the open dialogue, we have sought a date but until today there has been no response from them,” he told Malay Mail Online.

In a video recording of PPIM's press conference after meeting with state religious authorities, PPIM called for members of the Ahmadiyyah community to be arrested and invited like-minded NGOs to help “stop” the propagation of the “deviant” sect.

“What is not nice is that what they said in the video, it is full of hatred, incitement which can cause anger in society, it is almost as though they want to attack and kill us,” Ainul said.

He said he would be lodging a police report over PPIM's remarks made in the video, but at the same time urged the the consumer group to make a decision regarding the open dialogue.

“We are still open for the talk, if you want religious authorities to be present, we are fine with that...but calling other NGOs to come to our place and demonstrate is not Islamic,” Ainul stressed.

Earlier this month, PPIM chief activist Datuk Nadzim Johan had said his group will accept the offer for an open dialogue on “religious issues” but the topics of discussion must be ironed out beforehand and that religious authorities should also be present.

The Ahmadis, who are derogatorily called Qadianis here, adhere to the same beliefs as the Sunni branch of Islam, but also believe that their founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was the Imam Mahdi, Islam’s prophesied redeemer.

At a PPIM press conference on September 27, Masridzi Sat, a spokesman for a group calling itself Gerakan Banteras Aktiviti Haram asked state religious authorities to take action against Baitusalam, a three-storey building in Kampung Nakhoda, Batu Caves — a nexus for Ahmadiyyah followers here.

Masridzi reportedly hinted that inaction by the authorities may lead to his group taking the law into their own hands.

Full report at:



Muslims, non-Muslims sharing restaurants in Kelantan common, says PAS

Minderjeet Kaur

October 12, 2017

PETALING JAYA: PAS says Malays and Chinese running businesses in the same shop is a common sight in Kelantan and it is encouraged as long as they keep their premises clean.

The party’s secretary-general, Takiyuddin Hassan, said Malays would usually operate the food business in a shop while leaving the sale of drinks to the Chinese.

“The Muslims sell rice while the Chinese sell drinks. It is common in Kelantan. As long as it is clean and hygienic from the perspective of the religion, that is OK.

“It is the same thing with the laundry business. Even if it is run by a Muslim but it is not clean, that is not according to Islamic teachings,” he told FMT.

Takiyuddin was responding to recent comments made by Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) officer Zamihan Mat Zin who appeared to criticise the Johor Sultan for rebuking a Muslim-only laundrette in Muar while disparaging Malaysian Chinese for being allegedly unclean.

Zamihan defended his right to share his personal views for Muslims to remain “pure” by not mixing their laundry with that of non-Muslims.

He also claimed that non-Muslims and the Chinese, in particular, were unclean as they wiped themselves with toilet paper after using the toilet.

“What about the menstrual blood in their undergarments? They hug dogs, drink alcohol and that alcohol drips onto their clothes. They eat pork,” he said when giving a talk at a mosque in Shah Alam last Sunday.

He has since been arrested and is being investigated for sedition.

Takiyuddin, the Kota Bharu MP, said there was nothing wrong in Muslims drinking tea or coffee in a Chinese restaurant.

He said Muslims were allowed to receive services from non-Muslim shops or businesses as long as they were clean from the perspective of the religion.

He also cited the example of a Muslim marrying a convert who should not break ties with his or her own family members after the marriage.

“The relationship with the parents who are non-Muslim must be maintained. That is another basic principle in Islam,” he added.

PAS has ruled Kelantan since its victory in the 1990 general election.

Full report at:





German minister suggests recognizing Muslim holidays



Germany’s Muslim community has welcomed Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere’s suggestion of recognizing Islamic holidays in the country.

Aiman Mazyek, who chairs the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, said such a move would enhance the integration of Muslim migrants.

De Maiziere, a senior minister from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrat (CDU) party, told an election meeting in Lower Saxony this week he was open to having recognized Muslim public holidays.

“I am ready to discuss whether we can introduce a Muslim holiday,” de Maiziere said, adding that Catholics or Protestants could celebrate their religious festivals in regions where they had a large population.

“In places where many Muslims live, why we don’t consider having a Muslim holiday?” he added.

Germany is home to nearly 4.7 million Muslims, and they constitute nearly 5.7 percent of the population. Many of them are second- or third-generation Turkish families who migrated to the country in the 1960s.

Mazyek told local media recognizing Islamic public holidays in regions with large Muslim populations would end problems faced by students or workers when they wanted to take the day off for major religious celebrations.

He said a Muslim police officer could take the day off during an Islamic religious festival but work over Christmas, replacing his Christian colleagues.

However, de Maiziere’s proposal did not win strong support from his own party. Bernd Althusmann, the CDU’s premier candidate in Lower Saxony, criticized de Maiziere’s suggestion.

“In Germany, public holidays have a long tradition, I don’t see any reason to change this now,” he told local media on Thursday.



British Islamic State recruiter Sally-Anne Jones killed in US drone strike

Oct, 12 2017

London: British Islamic State recruiter Sally-Anne Jones, nicknamed the "White Widow", has been killed in a US drone strike, a media report said.

Jones was said to have been killed in June in a US strike close to the border between Syria and Iraq, the Sun newspaper reported citing CIA officials.

Previously a punk musician, Jones was the world's most wanted female terrorist for more than three years.

Muslim convert Jones fled to Syria from Kent in 2013 and married computer hacker Junaid Hussain, an Islamic State fighter from Birmingham, and took her then 11-year-old son, Joe Dixon, with her.

A Whitehall source told the Sun: "The Americans zapped her trying to get away from Raqqa. Quite frankly, it's good riddance."

CIA officials told their UK counterparts that a US Air Force Predator killed 50-year-old Jones. But news of the death was kept quiet over fears her son might have also been killed in the strike.

It is not known if her son was with her, the newspaper said.

Reports said Jones was last seen alive fleeing the carnage in Raqqa and heading towards the Syrian border town of Mayadin.

Jones regularly used her son as a human shield, the report said.

Jones was called the "White Widow" after her husband Hussain was killed by a drone in 2015.

Full report at:



Christians in Middle East feel 'abandoned, betrayed' by the West

By Elise Harris

Rome, Italy, Oct 12, 2017 / 10:20 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As interreligious tensions and a migration crisis continue in the Middle East, key Church leaders in the region have said Christians largely feel abandoned by the international community, which has done little to help resolve the situation.

According to Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius Joseph III Younan, Christians in the Middle East “feel that we have been abandoned, even betrayed, because we were hoping that the international community would defend our rights and provide us with the equal chance to live in our homeland, but that wasn't the case.”

“It's not easy to endure that violent upheaval in those two countries, in Iraq and Syria,” he said, explaining that both faithful and Church leaders in the region share this sense of abandonment and betrayal by Western countries in particular, which he said are more “opportunistic” than helpful.

“We, the heads of Churches, along with some other prominent lay people who have been caring for their communities, we try to send our voice, our rights, like St. John the Baptist, but it seems that we are shouting in the desert,” he said.

Younan cited “opportunistic geopolitics” as one of the main reasons Christians have either been left homeless with no funding to rebuild their cities, or left lingering in refugee camps for years due to a backlog in visa requests while being denied official refugee status.

“We don't have the interest regarding our faith among the politicians that govern the Western countries. We don't have the numbers, we don't have the oil, we don't pose any terrorist threat to the civilized world, and therefore we have been put aside and neglected,” he said.

The patriarch is in Rome for the Oct. 9-12 plenary assembly marking the centenary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and the Pontifical Oriental Institute, founded by Benedict XV.

Christians from Iraq and Syria who have fled to neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan are still living “in a kind of limbo. They don't know what to do for their children,” he said.

In terms of numbers, Younan said that so far more than 50 percent of Christians in Iraq have already left the country, while a third of the remaining Christian population is internally displaced.

As far as the Christian presence in Syria, “we can easily talk about a third” of the Christian population having left, with many still waiting to be admitted to new countries.

The main needs of refugees and displaced persons is first of all humanitarian assistance, Younan said, explaining that the Church tries to provide for their basic needs, “but surely its not enough,” since most have already been displaced for several years.

“We still suffer with them in our souls because we don't know what to do for them. We can't seek refugee visas for them, because otherwise the Christian community would be empty in their homelands and for us this is a great loss,” he said. “But we try to respond to their basic needs.”

In terms of dialogue between Christianity and Islam, the patriarch said at times it's difficult to speak of such a dialogue in the current cultural context, but it must happen at the level of “the believers of each religion.”

At the present moment, dialogue is focused on how the two can mutually and peacefully coexist, he said, with an emphasis on the fact that “we live in the 21 st century, that we have to respect each other, to accept each other and not discriminate because of religion.”

“This is also the mission, the task of the countries who have a word to say on the international scene,” he said. “We sit together at the United Nations...and we talk about human rights and therefore we have to uphold those rights for all, not only for the ones who believe in our religion, but for all people.”

While the Holy See, and Pope Francis in particular, understand and are doing their best to help in the plight of Christians in the Middle East, Younan said that in the broader community “the geopolitical strategy of the mighty countries is still in, let's say, the 'winning' part in the world.”

“To follow the ethics of the Gospel, the real defense of human rights is for those who are the weakest and for the forgotten ones among the minorities in the Middle East,” he said, but “that's not the case, we are not the point of their interest.”

The first right that needs to be promoted for Christians in the Middle East is to be able “to live in freedom as equal citizens,” rather than second-class citizens who face harsh discrimination which frequently goes unpunished by the law, the patriarch said.

Another key right is the ability “to choose our creed, our religion, and the right also to announce our creed, our religion to others,” he said.

However, currently “it's forbidden” to evangelize in Muslim countries apart from Lebanon. Because of this, “we've been always, along the centuries, reduced to minorities because we've been forbidden to be missionaries in our own country.”

Issuing an appeal to the international community, Younan asked that Western nations not look at Christian and other minorities in the Middle East “as numbers, but as people, as persons, being persecuted along the centuries.”

“We've been reduced to minorities not because we had to leave our countries, but because we are not considered equal citizens with the Muslim majority,” he said, and called on “this so-called civilized world not just to look for their own political, economic interest,” but to protect “the rights of those who are persecuted because of their religion and their creed.”

Full report at:



Official investigation slams police over handling of Berlin terror attacker

12 October 2017

An ex-federal prosecutor tasked by the city of Berlin to look into the police’s surveillance of terrorist Anis Amri found that investigators repeatedly missed chances to stop him before he killed anyone.

The final report by former federal prosecutor Bruno Jost found that Berlin police investigations into Amri before he drove a truck into a Christmas market last December were “full of mistakes” “insufficient” and “unprofessional.”

Jost was tasked by the Berlin interior ministry in April to look into possible failings in the monitoring of the Tunisian jihadist in the months before the attack.

Amri hijacked a truck on December 19th last year, killed its Polish driver and ploughed the vehicle through the market, claiming 11 more lives and wounding dozens.

He was shot dead by Italian police while on the run in Milan, four days after the attack which was claimed by terror group Isis.

In the aftermath of Germany's bloodiest jihadist attack, officials admitted a series of security failures that allowed Amri to register under multiple identities and evade authorities while he was in contact with Islamist militants. Immigration authorities had also issued Amri with a deportation order.

Jost was scathing in the report published Thursday, saying that authorities in Berlin and Baden-Württemberg dropped the ball on easy chances to put Amri in jail, despite the fact he was considered highly dangerous.

“You can’t just deal with a case like that of Amri in a run of the mill way, that isn’t adequate,” he said. “He was listed as a dangerous Islamist and his case was so regularly and so intensively discussed like few others. You can’t just act like you’ve arrested a petty thief.”

The special investigator found that, although Berlin police considered Amri to be the most dangerous Islamist in the city, they only put him under surveillance for a few weeks. Even then, the monitoring stopped on weekends and on public holidays.

Jost came to the conclusion that it would have been hard to build a case against Amri on suspicion of planning a terror attack. But he said that there was enough evidence to imprison him for drug dealing due to recordings of his phone conversations.

But chaotic communications between departments in the Berlin prosecution service led to no one taking responsibility for the investigation, Jost found. The head of narcotics investigations claimed to the special investigator that he had no recollection of being told to investigate Amri.

The investigator also found that the justice system in Baden-Württemberg was culpable for Amri slipping through the net.

In the summer of 2016 the Tunisian was caught with two fake Italian ID cards in the southern state. But two days later he was released.

Jost found it incomprehensible how no arrest warrant was issued “despite long-standing, urgent attempts to deport him. From my point of view this would have been possible.”

"They did everything wrong you could possibly do wrong," he said.

The special investigator laid some of the blame for the confused approach of state authorities at the feet of the refugee crisis of late 2015, when hundreds of thousands of migrants arrived in the country claiming asylum.

Full report at:



Chile welcomes more than 60 Syrian refugees

12 October 2017

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet welcomed more than 60 Syrian refugees to the country’s capital of Santiago on Thursday, as Chile joined other Latin American nations in offering safe harbor to families fleeing Syria’s civil war.

At a ceremony at the country’s airport in Santiago, Bachelet greeted 14 newly arrived Syrian families, who will be resettled in furnished homes with social benefits, including monthly stipends, schooling, healthcare and language classes.

“We know you have struggled and what we hope is that, in our country, you will find a place to rebuild your lives,” Bachelet said.

More than 2 million people fleeing wars or persecution have joined the ranks of the world’s refugees in 2017, according to the United Nations, even as the United States and countries in Europe have begun to implement ever more restrictive asylum policies. The humanitarian crisis has prompted several South American nations, including Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Colombia, to begin accepting small numbers of refugees from Syria.



Trump’s Iran plans pushing EU toward Russia, China: Germany

Oct 13, 2017

US President Donald Trump’s reported plans to “decertify” the 2015 Iran nuclear deal is alienating Washington’s European allies, pushing them towards Russia and China, says German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel.

“It’s imperative that Europe sticks together on this issue,” Gabriel, a Social Democrat, told the RND German newspaper group on Thursday. “We also have to tell the Americans that their behavior on the Iran issue will drive us Europeans into a common position with Russia and China against the USA.”

The comments came amid speculation that Trump was going to unveil a broad strategy on confronting Iran on Friday, in part by refusing to certify Tehran's commitment to the nuclear deal with the P5+1 group of nations—the US, the UK, France, China, Russia and Germany.

Under the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Islamic Republic agreed to put certain restrictions on its peaceful nuclear program in exchange for the removal of all nuclear-related sanctions.

Having called the agreement an “embarrassment” and the “worst deal ever negotiated,” Trump has desperately sought a pretext to scrap or weaken the JCPOA and get rid of the limits it imposes on Washington’s ability to pursue more hostile policies against Tehran.

Senior US officials, European leaders and prominent US lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have advised Trump against the move, saying it would leave the US isolated, concede the diplomatic high ground to Tehran, and ultimately endanger the landmark agreement.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has on a number of occasions confirmed Iran’s adherence to the terms mandated by the deal.

Trump’s refusal to certify Iran’s commitment would leave it to a reluctant Congress to decide whether the sanctions relief should be extended.

Trump’s ‘football’ policy

Gabriel said Thursday that Washington was treating the JCPOA “like a football” and this could lead to serious consequences like drawing a wedge between Europe and the US.

Noting that only the US, Russia and China could avert a new nuclear arms race, Gabriel said, “It must be in our interest to press for more trust.”

Full report at:



Germany extends passport controls amid attack fears

Oct 12, 2017

Germany has extended temporary passport controls on its border with Austria and for flights coming from Greece for six more months amid continuing concerns about attacks and illegal immigration, the Interior Ministry said on Thursday.

The European Commission last month offered initial backing to a Franco-German proposal to allow more permanent border checks within the bloc's Schengen free-travel zone.

Germany notified the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, the President of the European Parliament and the interior ministers of the EU-Schengen states about its decision in a letter on Wednesday.

The commission allowed Germany to control its border with Austria in 2015 after a surge of refugees and migrants began arriving in western Europe.

The temporary permission was due to expire on Nov. 11.

Immigration will be a key issue in coalition talks by Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, the pro-business Free Democrats and the environmentalist Greens.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere justified Germany's move given continued security concerns, and said a complete return to free travel within the Schengen area was contingent on an improvement in the overall situation.

Germany was hit by five extremist attacks in 2016, including one in December on a Berlin Christmas market that killed 12 people.

"We are working hard on this, all member states, the EU Commission and the EU Council, but there is still a long way to go," de Maiziere said in a statement.

Border controls also apply to flights to Germany from Greece, which was the gateway for thousands of migrants from Iraq and Syria.

Full report at:



North America


Trump will not ratify Iran nuclear deal as more sanctions are approved

13 October 2017

A source in the White House revealed to Al Arabiya Television on Thursday that US President Donald Trump will announce on Friday his refusal to ratify the nuclear agreement with Iran.

The move comes just as the US Congress’ Foreign Affairs Committee approved a new law imposing more sanctions on Iran for their Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Program on Thursday.

The source added that national security adviser HR McMaster and Chairman of the Joined Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford informed Congress on Thursday that President Trump’s intention is not to ratify the agreement. The Whitehouse will make the official announcement on Friday.

New sanctions approved

In response to Iran’s ballistic missile proliferation activites in the past year the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved the ‘Iran Ballistic Missiles and International Sanctions Enforcement Act’ legislation, introduced by Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, whic expands sanctions against Iran for its illicit ballistic missile program.

“Today’s important bill requires a comprehensive investigation to identify and designate the companies, banks, and individuals – both inside and outside Iran – which supply the regime’s missile and conventional weapons programs, subjecting them to sanctions,” said Chairman Royce.

“As former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter warned, ‘the I in ICBM stands for intercontinental, which means having the capability from flying from Iran to the United States.’ There is no question that the U.S. must take strong action now to curb Iran’s dangerous pursuit of ballistic missiles, “ Royce added.

The US administration has to provide a report on Iran’s ballistic missile proliferation activities with in 90 days for the law to pass.



US to pull out of UNESCO amid Palestinian tensions

12 October 2017

US officials have told The Associated Press that the United States is pulling out of UNESCO, after repeated criticism of resolutions by the UN cultural agency that Washington sees as anti-Israel.

UNESCO head said it has had official notification from US that it was withdrawing from UNESCO. The organization said the United States’ decision to withdraw from UNESCO represents a loss to the “United Nations family” and to multilateralism.

While the US stopped funding UNESCO after it voted to include Palestine as a member in 2011, the State Department has maintained a UNESCO office at its Paris headquarters and sought to weigh in on policy behind the scenes. The withdrawal was confirmed on Thursday by US officials speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to be publicly named discussing the decision. It was not clear when the move would be formally announced.

The decision comes as the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is voting to choose a new director this week, in tense balloting overshadowed by the agency’s funding troubles and divisions over Palestinian membership.

Many saw the vote to include Palestine as evidence of long-running, ingrained anti-Israel bias within the United Nations, where Israel and its allies are far outnumbered by Arab countries and their supporters.

Protecting cultural sites, traditions

UNESCO is best known for its World Heritage program to protect cultural sites and traditions around the world. The agency also works to improve education for girls in desperately poor countries and in scientific fields, to promote better understanding of the horrors of the Holocaust and to defend media freedom, among other activities.

The Trump administration has been preparing for a likely withdrawal for months, and a decision was expected before the end of the year, according to US officials. Several diplomats who were to have been posted to the mission this summer were told that their positions were on hold and advised to seek other jobs.

In addition, the Trump administration’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year contains no provision for the possibility that UNESCO funding restrictions might be lifted.

The lack of staffing and funding plans for UNESCO by the US have been accompanied by repeated denunciations of UNESCO by senior US officials, including US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

Full report at:



New York Jail Accidentally Puts Islamic State Suspect in General Population

12 Oct 2017

A Manhattan detention center mistakenly housed an Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) suspect with the jail’s general population soon after he was arrested for allegedly participating in a terrorist plot with at least two other men to attack New York City in 2016.

In May 2016, federal authorities arrested 19-year-old Canadian Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy for his role in an alleged plot to detonate bombs in Times Square and in the subways.

The New York Times (NYT) reports:

The government said the men [Bahnasawy and his accomplices] had also planned to open fire at concert venues in New York, and that their plot had been detailed in communications with an undercover FBI agent, who had posed as an ISIS supporter and convinced them he would work with them.

Bahnasawy’s arrest yielded the apprehension of two other alleged accomplices — U.S. Citizen Alha Haroon, who was residing in jihadi sanctuary Pakistan, and Filipino Russell Salic, a 37-year-old.

Citing recently unsealed court papers, NYT explains:

Shortly after his arrest, jail officials mistakenly moved him into the general population of a federal detention center in Manhattan, instead of holding him in isolation. That lasted one day — long enough for him to have money stolen from his commissary account.

Several months later, after being allowed to move into the general population, Mr. El Bahnasawy was given drugs by another inmate, leading to more complications.

The unsealed court documents shed light on the shortcomings of the Manhattan detention center pertaining to handling high-value prisoners.

Ultimately, the FBI and New York Police Department (NYPD) were able to foil the ISIS-linked plot in New York, which was supposed to take place in 2016 during Ramadan, the holiest month for Muslims, when jihadist attacks tend to intensify across the world. Islamist and various terrorist organizations encourage martyrdom and jihad during Ramadan, claiming Muslims who engage in such heinous activities will be especially rewarded.

“The authorities said Mr. El Bahnasawy was arrested in New Jersey after he entered the United States from Canada. The government said it had arrested two other plotters overseas, including Talha Haroon, a 19-year-old American citizen living in Pakistan, and Russell Salic, 37, of the Philippines,” notes NYT.

“Mr. El Bahnasawy pleaded guilty in October 2016 to conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and other charges,” it adds.

Officials at the Manhattan detention center reportedly attempted to keep their mistakes secret.

Full report at:



US-Canadian couple, three children freed from terrorist custody in Kohat

Zulfiqar Ali

October 13, 2017

• Kidnapped in Afghanistan in 2012, the woman gave birth to the children during captivity

• Operation conducted by Pakistan forces ‘based on actionable intelligence from US authorities’: ISPR

PESHAWAR: Security forces, with the support of US intelligence, freed an American woman, her Canadian husband and their three children from terrorists’ captivity.

The foreigners were recovered from Nawe Kali, a remote area about 15 kilometres southwest of Kohat town, on Wednesday night following a joint operation by security forces and intelligence agencies, officials said.

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement that the five foreign hostages had been recovered from terrorists during an operation based on intelligence shared by the United States. “US intelligence agencies had been tracking them and shared their shifting across to Pakistan on Oct 11, 2017, through the Kurram Agency border,” said the statement.

However, sources told Dawn on Thursday that the hostages had been recovered from a settled area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the buzzing unmanned air vehicles had been seen in the skies of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and KP for the past 10 days.

American national Caitlan Coleman, 31, and her husband Joshua Boyle, 33, had been in the captivity of terrorists since 2012. They were kept inside Afghanistan. The couple had been kidnapped while travelling in the war-torn country as tourists. The woman was pregnant when kidnapped and gave birth to three children during captivity.

The officials said that one of the kidnappers had been taken into custody while his two accomplices fled after an exchange of fire with the security forces.

They said the vehicle carrying the hostages was intercepted near Kohat amid surveillance of drones in the area.

“One of the hostage-takers was injured in the exchange of fire near the town of Kohat,” said an official on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to talk to the media. The ISPR blamed a “terrorist outfit” for kidnapping, but did not name it in its statement. However, US intelligence officials believed that the Haqqani network was behind it.

Residents in Kohat and adjacent tribal areas said drones had been seen flying over the areas for the past 10 days. They were also flying over Hangu district and Kurram and North Waziristan agencies, according to locals.

This was the deepest ever activity of drones inside Pakistani territory.

Media reported that the drones had appeared in the sky of Kohat on Wednesday that created panic among the residents. Following the movement of drones, Pakistan Air Force planes and helicopter gunships appeared to intercept ‘foreign objects’.

The officials said the vehicle carrying the hostages had entered through the Kurram tribal region and then moved to Kohat district. It was intercepted near Nawe Kali.

Kohat and adjacent districts house a large number of refugees and unregistered Afghan nationals.

“The success [of the operation] underscores the importance of timely intelligence sharing and Pakistan’s continued commitment towards fighting this menace [of terrorism] through cooperation between two forces against a common enemy,” the ISPR statement said.

“The hostages were recovered through an intelligence-based operation by Pakistani troops,” it said, adding that the foreigners had been captured by terrorists in Afghanistan in 2012 and kept as hostages there.

Full report at:



Trump infuriated when aides told him to keep US in Iran deal: Report

Oct 12, 2017

US President Donald Trump was infuriated when Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and top national security aides pressured him to “recertify” the 2015 international nuclear agreement with Iran in July.

He threw a fit," The Washington Post reported on Wednesday, citing an unnamed source familiar with the discussion. "He was furious. Really furious. It's clear he felt jammed."

“He was incensed by the arguments of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis and others that the landmark 2015 deal, while flawed, offered stability and other benefits,” said one person familiar with the meeting.

Trump will unveil on Friday Washington’s strategy with regard to the international nuclear agreement with Iran, the White House said Thursday.

Trump, who has described the Iran accord as “the worst deal ever,” has until October 15 to decide whether to certify that Iran is in compliance with the agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Trump is expected to declare to Congress on Sunday that retaining the 2015 nuclear deal is no longer in the US national interest, opening the possibility for Congress to re-impose sanctions against Iran and undermining a landmark victory of multilateral diplomacy.

The US president has desperately sought a pretext to scrap or weaken the JCPOA and get rid of the limits it imposes on the US ability to pursue more hostile policies against Iran.

'Trump's motivations for revoking Iran deal are political'

Experts argue that Trump's motivations for revoking the nuclear deal are more political than strategic.

"He doesn't want to certify the Iran deal for more domestic reasons than international ones," Vali Nasr, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, told the Post.

"He doesn't want to certify that any piece of the Obama strategy is working," said the Iranian-American academic and author who has specialized in the Middle East.

This is while the other parties to the deal, including US allies, have thrown their weight behind the accord, confirming that the Islamic Republic has been in full compliance with the deal.

“We are on a tightrope. We don’t know what will happen,” said one Western diplomat worried that Trump’s action will undermine the international agreement.

Full report at:



Trump needs 'comprehensive strategy' to deal with Iran: Ryan

Oct 12, 2017

US House Speaker Paul Ryan has voiced opposition to the 2015 landmark nuclear agreement signed between Iran and the P5+1, claiming Tehran's moves have gotten worse since the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). was inked. “I think this deal was a bad deal — it allows them to get nuclear weapons,” Ryan told reporters at his weekly press conference on Thursday.

The House speaker said that he believed that the administration of former US President Barack Obama had struck a bad deal with Iran and the Donald Trump administration needed a "comprehensive strategy" to deal with Iran.

US officials often make unfounded accusations that Iran has been seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran has strongly denied the allegations.

Ryan also claimed Iran was bullying its neighbors and destabilizing the region. "Their activities and behaviors have only gotten worse since the Iran Deal,” he argued.

“I think we are due for a comprehensive strategy in Iran and I think that’s what the administration is working on and getting set to announce,” Ryan said. “With respect to some of these other multilateral deals, if they were bad deals than they were bad deals, and if they can replace it with superior policy then that’s what any new administration should try to do.”

The comments of Ryan, who is a Republican from Wisconsin, come as US Republican President Trump prepares to announce whether he will certify the agreement.

Trump has blasted the deal with world powers as “incompetently drawn,” fueling speculations that he is going to “decertify” the landmark agreement.

Full report at:



Trump to announce US strategy on Iran on Friday: White House

Oct 12, 2017

US President Donald Trump will unveil on Friday Washington’s strategy with regard to the international nuclear agreement with Iran, the White House says.

"At 12:45 tomorrow, the president will deliver remarks announcing the strategy to the country," White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday.

Trump is expected to declare to Congress on Sunday that retaining the 2015 nuclear deal is no longer in the US national interest, opening the possibility for Congress to re-impose sanctions against Iran and undermining a landmark victory of multilateral diplomacy.

Trump has to report to Congress on October 15 whether or not Iran is complying with the nuclear deal. If he argues that Iran is not in compliance, that could cause an American withdrawal from the international pact.

This in itself does not mean the deal will collapse, but it will mark a clear break with Washington's allies, who have pleaded with Trump to respect the accord.

Trump, who has described the Iran accord as “the worst deal ever,” has until October 15 to decide whether to certify that Iran is in compliance with the agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Trump has desperately sought a pretext to scrap or weaken the JCPOA and get rid of the limits it imposes on the US ability to pursue more hostile policies against Iran.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has recently reported that Iran is complying with the agreement.

In a letter to Trump last week, at least 180 members of the US Congress called on Trump to endorse the Iran nuclear deal, saying an American withdrawal from the pact would be against the interests of the US and its allies.

Whether Congress would be willing to reimpose sanctions is not clear. While most Republicans, and some Democrats, opposed the deal when it was approved in 2015, there is little apparent desire in Congress for dealing with the issue now.

This is while the other parties to the deal, along with the entire international community, have thrown their weight behind the accord, praising the Islamic Republic for its full commitment to its side of the bargain.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini warned last month that the deal "doesn't belong to one country... it belongs to the international community."

Full report at:





Burkina Faso: The Social Roots of Jihadist Violence in Burkina Faso's North

12 OCTOBER 2017

Jihadist violence in the West African Sahel has now spread to the north of Burkina Faso. The response of Ouagadougou and its partners must go beyond the obvious religious and security dimensions of the crisis, and any solution must take into account deep-rooted social and local factors.

Long spared by the Sahel's armed groups, Burkina Faso now faces increasingly frequent and lethal attacks in its north. Although this insecurity in large part is an extension of the Malian conflict, the crisis has strong local dynamics. Ansarul Islam, the group behind much of the violence, which often is portrayed as tied to jihadists elsewhere in the Sahel, is first and foremost a movement challenging the prevailing social order in Soum province, in Burkina's Sahel region. While military operations reasserted the state's control in the spring of 2017, the crisis is far from over. Ouagadougou and its foreign partners recognise that their response requires more than military offensives and that a definitive resolution of the crisis hinges in part on the situation in Mali. However, their approach needs to better take account of the local and social roots of the crisis, which are more profound than its religious and security dimensions.

In its early stages, Ansarul Islam, founded by Malam Ibrahim Dicko, a preacher from Soum, is a manifestation of widespread discontent at the province's social order. For years, Malam promoted equality between classes and questioned the dominance of traditional chiefs and the monopolisation of religious authority by marabout families - religious leaders - whom he accuses of enriching themselves at the population's expense. This rhetoric earned him a wide audience, especially among young people and socially disadvantaged sectors of the population. His turn to violence lost him many followers, but his movement retains enough support to continue a low-intensity insurgency against local and national authorities. Reports of his death during the spring 2017 military operations have not been confirmed and in any case would not end the crisis.

A product of local socio-political and cultural conditions, Ansarul Islam is at least as much a social uprising as it is a religious movement. It is less a group critical of modernity than a movement that rejects traditions it believes archaic. It expresses the grievances of a silent majority that holds neither political power nor religious authority. Ansarul Islam uses Islam to frame its opposition to an ossified social order that breeds widespread frustration. Nor is the movement primarily a self-defence group for Fulani, who are in the majority in the Sahel region. Ethnic and identity-based grievances for now assume a marginal role in its discourse.

The distant relationship between state and populations in Burkina's Sahel region also fuels the crisis. The contrast between the north's economic potential and its lack of infrastructure feeds a sense of abandonment amongst its population. As in central Mali, local communities see state representatives and security forces as foreigners trying to enrich themselves rather than state agents responsible for providing services. As a result, Soum inhabitants are reluctant to cooperate with security forces who are often from other provinces and whose behaviour is sometimes brutal.

The northern Burkina crisis is also more than a mere reflection of the situation in central Mali. Ansarul Islam uses Mali as a support base and similarities on both sides of the border exist. But the surge of violence supposedly committed in the name of jihad distracts from conflict's extremely local and social dimensions and the ability of armed groups to exploit social divides. Insecurity in northern Burkina is due not only to the development deficit, the central state's failure to understand a territory in its peripheries, or the spillover from its neighbour's war. It is above all the result of a profound social crisis in the north. Divisions between masters and subjects, rulers and ruled, ancient and modern provide the base upon which Malam Dicko's popularity grew.

A definitive resolution of the crisis depends in part on Mali's stabilisation as well as the implementation of effective development plans by the government and its partners. More importantly, though, it requires devising a more balanced social order and for local communities to resolve their differences. In this context, the government's efforts to address the crisis should factor in the following points:

Formulate responses that take into account the social and local dimensions of the crisis. While the local order continues to provoke frustration and conflict, ending the crisis will be hard. The scope for government action in this respect is limited: it should not seek to upend a centuries-old social order. The onus should be on local actors to devise solutions adapted to local circumstances. The government and its international partners can at best encourage intercommunal and inter-generational dialogue.

Reduce the gulf between security forces and authorities and the local population. Several measures could help: improving intelligence and providing informants better protection; encouraging security forces and the civil service to recruit Fulani (without imposing quotas); boosting joint civil-military activities; prioritising the appointment of Fulani speakers as civil servants and security officials in the Sahel; and severely punishing abuses by officials.

Place greater emphasis in the Sahel region emergency program - the development component of the government's response - on promoting herding, improving justice provision and fighting corruption. Supporting livestock breeding and addressing the dysfunction in the judicial system and the scourge of corruption in the administration would reduce negative perceptions of the state and show it can be useful to the public.

Work toward strengthening, in the long term, judicial and police cooperation between Mali and Burkina. This would facilitate investigations that have ramifications in both countries and the management and prosecution of prisoners and suspects.

I. Introduction

In 2015, Burkina joined the group of Sahel countries under attack from armed and criminal groups that are mainly based in Mali but that also operate from several countries in the region. The area most affected by these attacks is the Sahel region, in the north of the country, on the border with Mali and Niger. However, it was only after the attack on Nassoumbou, in Soum province in December 2016, that the Burkina authorities finally understood that the crisis was caused by local dynamics as well as by the crisis in neighbouring Mali.[fn]A counter-terrorism battalion of several hundred men is based at Nassoumbou.Hide Footnote This report focuses on the province of Soum, epicentre of the conflict and birthplace of the Ansarul Islam group led by Malam Ibrahim Dicko, but also examines the situation in other provinces in the Sahel region (Oudalan, Séno and Yagha) as well as along the country's other borders, which are also vulnerable.[fn]The northern part of Burkina is composed of two administrative regions: the North and the Sahel. The latter is divided into four provinces: Soum, Oudalan, Séno and Yagha. To avoid confusion, this report uses "Sahel region" to refer to this administrative region and "the Sahel" to refer to the area that stretches from Mauritania to Sudan. Similarly, it uses "the north" to refer to the northern part of the country and "the North region" to refer to the administrative region.Hide Footnote

Soum is mainly populated by Fulani, Burkina's second largest ethnic group. According to the 2006 census, the figures from which need to be treated with caution, the mother tongue of 56 per cent of the Sahel region's population is Fulfulde, the Fulani language. Several interlocutors estimate that around 70 to 75 per cent of the population in the Sahel region is Fulani.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, inhabitants of Soum, Ouagadougou, May 2017; local authorities, Djibo, May 2017. "Recensement général de la population et de l'habitation (RGPH) 2006. Analyse des résultats définitifs. Thème 2: Etat et structure de la population", Institut national de la statistique et de la démographie, October 2009 ( Footnote The main subdivisions of this ethnic group are the noble classes and groups descended from slaves, called Rimaibé. The Rimaibé were originally indigenous population groups who were conquered and assimilated by the Fulani. Today, Fulani and Rimaibé are included in the same Fulani ethnic group. They share the same culture, the same language and often have identical family names. Nevertheless, there is still a clear divide. In the words of one Fulani representative: "Everybody knows their place".[fn]Crisis Group interview, Fulani representative, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote In Soum, the indigenous inhabitants, the Kurumba, also called the Fulsé, are in a minority. Some Mossi (Burkina's majority ethnic group) and members of other groups also live in the province.

The Sahel region's precolonial history explains its current social and political organisation.[fn]See the work of Professor Hamidou Diallo, "Le foyer de Wuro-Saba au Jelgooji (Burkina Faso) et la quête d'une suprématie islamique (1858-2000)", in Muriel Gomez-Perez, Islam politique au Sud du Sahara. Identités, discours et enjeux (2009), p. 401; and "Naissance et évolution des pouvoirs peuls au Sahel burkinabè (Jelgooji, Liptaako et Yaaga) du XVIIIe à la fin du XIXe", in Hamidou Diallo, Moussa Willy Bantenga, Le Burkina Faso passé et présent (2015), pp. 97-114. Crisis Group interviews, historian, Ouagadougou, January and May 2017.Hide Footnote Between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries, Fulani herders from the Inner Niger Delta evicted sedentary farmers and established Fulani domination. The new social hierarchy included nobles and royal families, marabout (Muslim preacher) families, artisans, blacksmiths, weavers, griots (West African story tellers), slave descendants, etc.[fn]There are rivalries between the most important marabout families. The Cissé, considered to be the true and legitimate holders of religious authority and the Doukouré, Marka who came from Mali in the colonial period, belong to two rival branches of the Tijanyia brotherhood. Crisis Group interviews, historian, former senior civil servant, Ouagadougou, May 2017. Jean-Louis Triaud, David Robinson, La Tijâniyya: une confrérie musulmane à la conquête de l'Afrique (Paris, 2005).Hide Footnote The Fulani never managed to establish a single political entity,[fn]The region was divided into the emirates of Liptako, Yagha and Jelgooji. The latter, which corresponds to the province of Soum, was itself divided into Djibo and Baraboulé chefferies.Hide Footnote but used Islam as a route to emancipation from animist sedentary peoples. This resembles the current situation in which groups with a Fulani majority are in armed conflict with a central government dominated by the Bambara in Mali and the Mossi in Burkina. The current social revolt in Soum is not therefore trying to restore the Massina Empire, of which they were never part, or the Kingdom of Jelgooji, which never existed as a unified political entity, but rather a continuation of past struggles using other methods and a reflection of the divisions that have troubled the province down through history.

This report, which continues Crisis Group's research into how to address the increase in violent extremism, analyses the root causes of the crisis, which has its origins in an ossified and unequal social order.[fn]For previous Crisis Group reports on jihadism, see the Crisis Group Special Report N°1, Exploiting Disorder: al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, 14 March 2016.Hide Footnote It emphasises the need to provide a long-term response that is not only military and that takes account of the social dimensions of the crisis. It also evaluates the military response initiated at the beginning of 2017. Although these military operations have reasserted government control, the authorities and their partners have no grounds to adopt a triumphalist attitude. The attacks continue and even if Malam should die, the jihadist groups know how to adapt to the new situation better than the armies that fight them. This report is based on about 50 interviews with members of the security forces, local and national authorities, the government and the opposition, civil society, researchers and the population of Soum. These interviews were mainly conducted between January and May 2017 in Ouagadougou and Djibo.

President of the Centre of Quranic Masters of Burkina Faso and a colleague speak to Crisis Group's West Africa Analyst Cynthia Ohayon in Ouagadougou, on 10 October 2017. CRISIS GROUP/Julie David de Lossy

II. The Social Roots of the Crisis

A. Malam Ibrahim Dicko, from the Radio to Jihad

The main protagonist of the crisis in Soum is the founder of Ansarul Islam, Malam Ibrahim Dicko. His real name is Boureima Dicko and he was born into a marabout family in a place called Soboulé, in the province of Soum. He is (or was) about 40 years old. Malam, who is in fragile health, studied at conventional and Koranic schools in Burkina and Mali, and went on to teach in Niger.[fn]According to one of his former colleagues, Malam is frail, like a lost child and incapable of carrying out physical chores. He is also diabetic. "Malam" means "marabout" in the Hausa language. Crisis Group interviews, former elected representative, Fulani representative, security source, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote In 2009, he began preaching in many villages in Soum, where he appointed local representatives,[fn]Crisis Group interview, former elected representative, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote and on two popular radio stations, La Voix du Soum and La radio lutte contre la désertification (LRCD). He preached at a now-closed mosque in Djibo on Fridays.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, humanitarian worker, security source, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote

In 2012, the authorities officially recognised his association, al-Irchad.[fn]"Comment est né Ansaroul Islam, premier groupe djihadiste de l'Histoire du Burkina Faso", Le Monde, 11 April 2017.Hide Footnote Malam's skill as an orator and anti-establishment discourse drew a large audience throughout the province (see section II.B).[fn]Crisis Group interviews, deputy, former elected representative, humanitarian worker, Fulani representative, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote He found it easy to fund the almost daily radio broadcasting of his sermons, apparently with external financial aid.[fn]Crisis Group interview, former elected representative, Ouagadougou, May 2017. Some Burkina commercial radio stations sell broadcasting slots.Hide Footnote Burkina's transition government blocked funding for the construction of several mosques, which fuelled the resentment of Malam and his followers toward the sons of marabouts and princes of Soum, whom they accused of using their influence in Ouagadougou to prevent the construction of mosques connected to al-Irchad.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, Fulani representative, opposition member, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote

The radical nature of Malam's speeches led the local, traditional and religious authorities to ring alarm bells, but nobody took any genuine preventative action.[fn]Crisis Group interview, former official, Ouagadougou, January 2017; former elected representative, Ouagadougou, May 2017. A European Union report published in September 2016 mentions a certain "Malam Ibrahima", a well-known radical preacher in Soum. "Facteurs et acteurs de la radicalisation dans les zones frontalières au Burkina Faso", Regional European Union Programme for the Prevention of Violent Extremism in the Sahel and the Maghreb.Hide Footnote For a while, Malam was reportedly placed under the surveillance of security services during Blaise Compaoré's regime, but they probably lost track of him following the destabilisation of the security apparatus caused by the fall of the regime.[fn]Crisis Group interview, official in the former regime, Ouagadougou, May 2017. Andrew McGregor, "Islamist Insurgency in Burkina Faso: A Profile of Malam Ibrahim Dicko", Aberfoyle International Security, 30 April 2017.Hide Footnote He was arrested by the French Operation Serval in September 2013 in Tessalit, northern Mali, in possession of a large sum of euros, according to some sources.[fn]"Qui est l'imam Ibrahim Dicko, la nouvelle terreur du nord du Burkina?", Jeune Afrique, 9 January 2017. A security source mentioned the sum of €9,000. Crisis Group interviews, security source, Fulani representative, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote After a spell in prison in Bamako, he was released in 2015.[fn]Several hypotheses are circulating about the reasons for his release: the Malian justice system was bribed; he was released because he was ill; influential political leaders intervened to secure his release. Crisis Group interviews, former official, Ouagadougou, January 2017; Fulani representative, security source, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote In Mali, he is reported to have met his mentor Hamadoun Koufa, leader of the Macina Liberation Front, an armed group active in central Mali, during 2015.[fn]Andrew McGregor, op. cit.Hide Footnote

At the beginning of 2016, the emir of Djibo and the grand imam, whose daughter Malam married, disowned him.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, Fulani representative, humanitarian worker, security source, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote He then repudiated his wife and took to the bush, losing most of his followers in the process. Only a close circle of loyal supporters followed him to Mali for training.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, humanitarian worker, Ouagadougou, local elected representative, Djibo, May 2017. At the end of 2016, rumours circulated according to which Malam's group proposed to pay its members CFA70,000 (€107) per week for training in Mali. The monthly minimum wage in Burkina Faso is CFA33,000 (€50). Crisis Group interview, Fulani representative, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote From there, he tried to eliminate his former comrades.[fn]He ordered the killing of his former right hand man, Hamadoun Tamboura, alias Hamadoun Boly. Crisis Group interviews, local elected representative, civil society representatives, Djibo, May 2017.Hide Footnote Ansarul Islam has a strong tendency toward settling accounts, which led one locally elected representatives to fear that a "cycle of vengeance" would be established in the long term.[fn]Crisis Group interview, local elected representative, Djibo, May 2017.Hide Footnote The attack on the Nassoumbou military base on 16 December 2016, reportedly led by Ansarul Islam and the Islamic State in Greater Sahara (ISGS) cost the lives of twelve Burkina soldiers and made Ansarul Islam's existence official.[fn]Officially given its seal of approval by the Islamic State at the end of 2016, the ISGS operates mainly in the so-called three borders zone (Mali, Burkina, Niger) known as Liptako-Gourma, and is led by Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahraoui, a former dissident member of al-Mourabitoun. His links with Ansarul Islam are unclear but security sources believe that the two groups organised the attack on Nassoumbou together.Hide Footnote

In June 2017, the unauthenticated publication of a Facebook page claiming to be from Ansarul Islam said that Jafar Dicko, Malam's younger brother, had succeeded him at the head of the movement. This information corroborated the feeling among Burkina security sources that Malam may have died of wounds sustained during the military offensives in the spring. In the absence of formal proof or the confirmation or otherwise by Ansarul Islam, doubts remain.

B. The Challenge to an Ossified and Unequal Social Order

Whether Malam is dead or alive, his ideas and dissent have swept the province and become firmly established. First, he denounces marabout families for enriching themselves by using their status of sole legitimate holders of religious authority to extort money from the population. This reflected the division between the traditional marabout families, who have historic legitimacy and within which the imamate is passed down on a hereditary basis, and a new generation of Muslim scholars who believe that religious authority should no longer be the prerogative of a minority. Malam challenges the right of the imams from these families to be the only ones authorised to lead prayers or give opinions on religious matters, especially as they do not always have the required knowledge. Mastery of Arabic lends credibility to this new generation of scholars in the eyes of the population. Malam also denounces the all-powerful nature of traditional chefferies (traditional leaders).[fn]Crisis Group interviews, historian, former minister, inhabitant of Soum, Fulani representative, former elected representative, Ouagadougou, May 2017; local authorities, political representatives, Djibo, May 2017.Hide Footnote

This challenge to the social order drives the questioning of traditional practices that, according to Malam, are not prescribed by Islam, such as gifts of money to marabouts at ceremonies, dowries or the organisation of costly parties to celebrate marriages and baptisms. A marriage can cost as much as CFA500,000 (€760), ten times the urban monthly minimum wage.[fn]Crisis Group interview, former elected representative, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote This rhetoric prompts support from the most disadvantaged because it removes a financial burden. Malam also contests the hierarchical relationships between descendants of masters, the Fulani, and the descendants of slaves, the Rimaibé. Although slavery was abolished in the colonial period, there is still a marked division between these two groups.

Malam justifies his anti-establishment discourse by affirming it is in line with pure Islam and not perverted by tradition. For example, he says social inequalities are contrary to Islam. He uses Islam to challenge an ossified and unequal social order and practices that are no longer in line with the aspirations of the population. In this region, the Muslim religion is more of a tradition than a religious practice per se. It is not uncommon for princes to drink alcohol and it is forbidden to greet anyone by saying "salam aleikoum" in the courts of the chiefs.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, Fulani representative, former senior official, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote

Although Malam's movement is mainly composed of Fulani and Rimaibé, it is not strongly ethnic in character. His discourse certainly calls on the Fulani to defend themselves from the many humiliations to which they are subjected, although he does not openly say this in his sermons. But when he preaches equality between the Fulani and the Rimaibé, he is trying to reduce ethnic divisions.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, Fulani representative, former elected representative, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote Moreover, there are not only Fulani and Rimaibé in his movement.[fn]There are also reportedly Songhai, Mossi and Fulsé. A Fulani representative tells how assailants associated with Malam spoke in Mooré, a language that not many Fulani from the Sahel region can speak well. The teacher killed in March 2017, Salif Badini, a Fulsé, was a former member of Malam's group. Crisis Group interviews, journalist, diplomats, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote Most of his followers are Fulani and Rimaibé because his sermons are in Fulfulde and most inhabitants of the Sahel region are from these communities, both of them Fulfulde-speaking. Malam also says "we are the Rimaibé of the whites", revealing an unsurprising anti-Western dimension.[fn]Crisis Group interview, Fulani representative, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote

In 2009-2010, Malam's sermons had a considerable impact throughout Soum. A revealing anecdote illustrates his success: an old elected representative of the province tells how a party activist one day suggested postponing their meeting, because "Malam is on the radio".[fn]Crisis Group interview, former elected representative, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote Malam lost most of his followers when he resorted to violence,[fn]Crisis Group interviews, local authorities, political representatives, Djibo, former elected representative, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote which suggests that although his discourse was successful, not many people believe that the armed struggle can provide a solution. Some of his ideas have taken hold in Soum. For example, it is now rare for a marriage to involve a party with dancing, flutes and drums as per the Fulani tradition.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, former elected representative, marabout, Fulani representative, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote

His discourse has proved particularly attractive to young people and the more disadvantaged social sectors because he styles himself as a "defender of the poor" and a "liberator" who wants to lighten the weight of archaic and restrictive traditions.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, deputy, Fulani representative, former elected representative, marabout, Ouagadougou, local elected representative, Djibo, May 2017.Hide Footnote The Rimaibé, the lowest social class in Fulani society in Soum, are naturally very receptive to his calls for equality.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, local authorities, local elected representatives, Djibo, May 2017; Rimaibé marabouts, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote His success reflects a generational division between older people, who are inclined to preserve tradition, and young people, who are ready to challenge the status quo as they seek to find a place for themselves in society. The same former elected representative tells how, during the Tabaski festival, a young follower of Malam criticised the practice according to which imams are the first to sacrifice their sheep. Those close to the imam belittled him and said he should not talk about the imam in this way.[fn]Crisis Group interview, former elected representative, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote

While Malam was head of the al-Irchad association, it attracted support from government employees, especially teachers. Al-Irchad helped some of them to repay debts as contracting debt is contrary to Islam.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, local authority, local elected representative, civil servants, Djibo, May 2017.Hide Footnote Some teachers were implicated in smuggling illegal goods, which would explain Ansarul Islam's wish to eliminate them and stop them from denouncing their former comrades.[fn]Crisis Group interview, senior civil servant, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote This gives credence to the impression that Ansarul Islam is targeting schools. However, although some schools have been threatened (although there have been no claims of responsibility), the attacks on teachers seem to be reprisals against former comrades (and potential informants to the security forces) rather than a wish to attack Western schools.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, senior civil servant, Ouagadougou, civil servant, Djibo, May 2017.Hide Footnote The teacher killed at the beginning of March 2017, Salif Badini, was a former al-Irchad member and he had reportedly become an informer of the security forces.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, senior civil servant, journalist, diplomat, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote

The Ansarul Islam phenomenon is therefore the product of socio-political and cultural realities in Soum. It expresses the grievances of the silent majority that holds neither political power nor religious authority. It is not so much an Islamist challenge to modernity as a rejection of traditions that perpetuate an ossified society that breeds frustration. This phenomenon, which has deep local roots, seems to have attracted support from groups in neighbouring Mali, which gives it regional ramifications.

C. A Distant Relationship with the Government

Local perception of the government as being distant and incapable of providing services also explains the increasing support for Malam's movement. People feel that the government has abandoned the Sahel region and has not made the best of its economic potential. However, the Sahel region has the second lowest individual poverty rate in the country.[fn]The Sahel region has a poverty rate of 21 per cent, compared to 40 per cent in the country as a whole. "Profil de pauvreté et d'inégalités. Enquête multisectorielle continue (EMC) 2014", Institut national de la statistique et de la démographie (INSD), November 2015, p. 30, Footnote It is more the contrast between the region's rich agricultural, pastoral and mining resources and its lack of development that causes frustration.

Poor infrastructure, especially the roads, a limited number of health centres and schools, lack of water and electricity supply make it seem that "all the indicators are in the red".[fn]Crisis Group interviews, humanitarian worker, Ouagadougou, economic operators, Djibo, May 2017. In 2014, the Sahel region came last in Burkina for access to basic services in less than 30 minutes. The primary school attendance rate is the lowest in the country (32.7 per cent), compared to 73.9 per cent in the country as a whole. "La region du Sahel en chiffres", Ministry of Economy and Finance, Sahel Region Department, 2015, Footnote The drought and the low water tables hold back the region's main economic activities, which are agriculture and livestock farming.[fn]Many livestock farmers feel they have to migrate, while others have lost their animals and are employed as herders. This represents a step backwards socially and causes frustration. Crisis Group interviews, security source, opposition member, Fulani representative, former minister, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote Djibo, the province's administrative centre, is home to the country's biggest cattle market, but the town's roads have yet to be asphalted.[fn]The road is asphalted as far as Koungoussi. The bad condition of the road means it sometimes takes more than four hours to drive the 95km from Koungoussi to Djibo. Asphalting is under way and should be finished by the end of 2018. The funds for this work were reportedly misappropriated on several occasions. Crisis Group interview, local authority, Djibo, May 2017; Crisis Group email correspondence, Fulani representative, May 2017.Hide Footnote The mining boom showed how foreigners exploit the region's extensive subsoil resources with no benefits accruing to local people.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, deputy, Ouagadougou, June 2016; traditional authority, Djibo, May 2017.Hide Footnote Reflecting the feeling of abandonment by the government, several interlocutors in Djibo called for the government to tackle Soum's remoteness by raising its administrative status from province to region.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, economic operators, political representatives, Djibo, May 2017.Hide Footnote These problems are aggravated by the humanitarian crisis caused by the increasing insecurity.

The population of the Sahel region has a negative view of the government. A former elected representative summarised it in this way: "People are really afraid of the authorities". They think the government is more inclined to look after itself rather than look after them and that is prepared to use force to do so.[fn]Crisis Group interview, former elected representative, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote Historically reluctant to send their children to "French" schools, the Fulani often find it more difficult to find their way around an administrative system that is based on the French model and to understand and demand their rights. Few members of the civil service and the security forces sent to the Sahel region have a good command of Fulfulde. The language barrier increases the gap between the administration and the public. Soum's inhabitants stress the difficulty of obtaining civil status documents and the authorities' inability to help herders retrieve their stolen livestock.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, economic operators, Djibo, Fulani representative, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote Although civil servants have long perceived the appointment to posts in the Burkina Sahel as punishment, many of them have become rich on the proceeds of trafficking, corruption and racketeering.[fn]For example, a farmer who cuts down a single branch from a tree in a protected forest can incur a fine of CFA50,000 (€76). This money is usually pocketed by water and forest rangers. Crisis Group interviews, deputy, opposition member, Ouagadougou, civil society representatives, Djibo, May 2017.Hide Footnote

In the Sahel region and beyond, there is a sense of victimisation among the Fulani, who are present throughout Burkina. Some complain of under-representation among the political and administrative elite and deplore the fact that, in their eyes, state institutions (justice, administration, security forces) discriminate in favour of other communities whenever there is a dispute.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, security source, Ouagadougou, June 2016; Fulani representatives, Ouagadougou, October 2016; opposition member, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote

This difficult Fulani relationship with the government complicates the fight against Ansarul Islam. From the start, the security forces found it difficult to secure the cooperation of the public, whether because some of them support the movement, while others refuse to inform on their own people, or because Ansarul Islam has established a climate of terror. The arrival of military reinforcements has gone some way to reassure the population and several interlocutors said that the population was slightly more inclined to help the security forces. For example, the security forces are trying to be more discreet when they contact their informants.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, local authorities, Djibo, former elected representative, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote Nevertheless, distrust remains, and Ansarul Islam is still said to have supporters in the villages. The security forces still complain of a lack of public support and cooperation.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, former elected representative, security source, marabout, Ouagadougou, local elected representative, Djibo, May 2017; telephone interview, security source, June 2017.Hide Footnote

People are worried about the way the security forces will behave and these fears may increase now that military reinforcements have arrived. Our interlocutors deplored the arbitrary arrest and ill-treatment of local people, which may strengthen the feeling of injustice and alienation.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, former official, Ouagadougou, January 2017; Fulani representative, security source, humanitarian worker, diplomat, Ouagadougou, May 2017; local elected representative, religious leader, Djibo, May 2017. A Human Rights Watch report, which denounced human rights violations by the Malian and Burkina security forces in the fight against jihadism, confirmed these fears. "Mali: Unchecked Abuses in Military Operations", Human Rights Watch, 8 September 2017.Hide Footnote The security forces say they sometimes arrest an entire group to avoid the impression that those who are allowed to go free are informants and therefore stop them becoming targets for Ansarul Islam.[fn]Crisis Group interview, local elected representative, Djibo, May 2017.Hide Footnote Whether or not that is true, it is nonetheless the case that the people of Soum feel stigmatised and this represents a real danger.

D. An Especially Vulnerable Province on the Border with Mali

In some respects, the situation in Soum resembles that in the central region of Mali, a country with which Burkina shares a border of more than 1,000km. The Islamist leader Hamadoun Kouffa and Malam Ibrahim Dicko, who know each other, have had similar careers and have a similar discourse. Both preached in villages and on the radio and criticised the social order, the local elites and the government.[fn]For more on central Mali, see Crisis Group Africa Report N°238, Central Mali: an Uprising in the Making, 6 July 2016.Hide Footnote However, the situation in Burkina is different to that in Mali. Radical groups in central Mali seem to have drawn their support more from free nomadic pastoralists than from the Rimaibé, and they seek to broaden their following by disseminating sermons in other languages as well as in Fulfulde. The crisis in Soum has so far remained at a low intensity. Although it has created a climate of terror, Ansarul Islam has not managed to plunge the entire province in violence. For the moment, the Soum population is generally not inclined to take up arms.

There have been several attempts to establish terrorist cells in Burkina. The Katiba Ansar Dine Sud tried, unsuccessfully, to create a cell in the West, in the area where the attack on Samorogouan (Hauts-Bassins region) took place in October 2015. To the East, members of al-Mourabitoun, a dissident group that split from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, reportedly tried to establish a base in the Tapoa Forest. They failed because they are not so much at home in the forest compared to the desert and because military cooperation between Niger and Burkina works better than between Mali and Burkina (see section III.C.). The failure was also due to the fact that, contrary to in Soum, the populations of eastern and western Burkina are more stable and not ready for war.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, security sources, Ouagadougou, January 2017. Al-Mourabitoun was the product of an alliance between the Brigade des Enturbannés, a dissident al-Qaeda group in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, and part of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa in 2013. At the end of 2015, al-Mourabitoun rejoined AQIM and in 2017, the two groups joined others to form the Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (GSIM). See Marc Mémier, "AQMI et Al-Mourabitoun, le djihad sahélien réunifié?", Etudes de l'Institut Français des Relations Internationales (IFRI), January 2017.Hide Footnote

It would be wrong to interpret the situation in northern Burkina as an extension of the Malian conflict, even though that conflict increases the availability of weapons and provides a safe haven for Ansarul Islam's men. The crisis in Soum is not simply a mirror image of the situation in central Mali. It is mainly the result of acute local tensions. Several factors make it vulnerable and explain why this province is by far the most affected province in Burkina Faso.

The lack of an alternative narrative and the weakening of religious and traditional leaders are allowing Malam's rhetoric to gain ground.

The traditional and religious authorities of Soum are not particularly involved in the fight against radicalism.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, political representatives, Djibo, May 2017.Hide Footnote Unlike the neighbouring province of Séno, Soum has fewer Muslim intellectuals and scholars capable of combating the ideas that encourage violence and intolerance.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, historian, security source, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote The absence of a central traditional power, strong rivalries between the three chefferies of Djibo, Baraboulé and Tongomayel and their politicisation further complicate their role.[fn]The emir of Djibo's brother is the town's deputy mayor, Oumarou Dicko. Crisis Group interviews, former official, historian, humanitarian worker, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote The lack of an alternative narrative and the weakening of religious and traditional leaders are allowing Malam's rhetoric to gain ground.

Soum suffers from a lack of development and infrastructure. In contrast, Dori, capital of Séno province, received more investment because it is the region's administrative centre and because the 11 December national holiday was held there in 2013. Dori houses the regional hospital, while the January 2016 abduction of Ken Elliot, a prominent local Australian-Burkina doctor, reduced health-care provision in Djibo.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, local authorities, Djibo, security source, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote Finally, Djibo is closer to the Malian border (about 60km) than Dori (about 160km). Soum also lacks political leaders with a national profile, while Séno has long benefitted from the influence of the charismatic former mayor of Dori, the late Hama Arba Diallo.

Soum's vulnerability is also due to historical reasons. The division between the Fulani and the Rimaibé is more marked there than in the neighbouring provinces of Séno and Yagha. It is therefore logical that the challenge to social inequalities should find greater acceptance there. The emirates of Séno and Yagha were more homogeneous than that of Jelgooji (now Soum), which was affected by divisions between families and chefferies. In Séno and Yagha, the longer-standing spread of Islam allowed it to better resist external influences.[fn]Crisis Group interview, historian, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote Geographical factors also play a part, since it is more difficult to find cover on the great plains of Séno and Yagha than in the forest located between Djibo and the Malian border. Finally, animism prevails in eastern and western Burkina, while 95 per cent of the population in the Sahel region follows Islam. All this helps explain why Islamic discourse has had greater traction in the Sahel region.

III. A Considerable Military Effort

At the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017, the number of attacks in Soum increased and it looked as though the government might lose control over parts of the North. In the spring of 2017, the security forces began to reassert control, but were unable to eradicate the threat, as shown by the persistence of targeted killings and the increasing number of attacks (see chronology in Appendix C). The slow and problematic reconstruction of the security apparatus following the fall of the Compaoré regime explains the difficulties in providing an adequate response. Strengthening regional cooperation is an essential component of this response.

A. The Sahel Region under Threat

In the spring of 2017, the government's decision to send military reinforcements to the North and undertake joint operations with Malian and French forces in Operation Barkhane allowed the Burkina army to gain the upper hand and go some way to reassuring the local population.[fn]The Groupement des forces anti-terroristes (GFAT), which became the Groupement des forces de sécurisation du Nord (GFSN), has between 500 and 1,600 men. Operations Panga (Burkina, Mali, Barkhane) and Bayard (Barkhane) destroyed major logistical bases in Foulsaré Forest and led to arrests. Crisis Group interviews, diplomats, security sources, humanitarian worker, inhabitant of Soum, Ouagadougou, May 2017; local elected representative, religious leader, Djibo, May 2017. Operation Barkhane, which involved 4,000 French soldiers, followed Operation Serval in July 2014. Based in N'Djamena, Chad, it fights armed terrorist groups in the Sahara-Sahel Belt.Hide Footnote Visits by several ministers to the region sent a strong signal that the government would not withdraw. Even the opposition recognises the "progress in the fight against terrorism".[fn]Crisis Group interview, opposition member, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote However, it is not clear to the security forces how they are going to maintain the pressure and ensure their long-term presence.[fn]A security source said: "we will be in this quagmire for a long time", while another recognised that "There is a lot to do". Crisis Group interviews, security sources, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote The rainy season, which makes roads unusable and isolates the population between July and October, has not brought the lull that some observers were expecting.

The capacity of jihadist groups to reform, replace an incapacitated leader and formulate new strategies and courses of action should not be underestimated.[fn]Crisis Group interview, security source, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote Even if Ansarul Islam has been weakened, it might still be able to take advantage of this breeding ground for recruitment. The remaining members might be even more determined. The possible death of their founder could galvanise them and make them more violent and less inclined to compromise. In the words of one security source: "We need to pay attention to how we kill this monster".[fn]Crisis Group interview, security source, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote The fear and the threat remain, as shown by the increase in the number of targeted killings and attacks that have used a weapon not seen before in Burkina: improvised explosive devices, used for the first time in August 2017.[fn]Some of the people killed in July were members of Ansarul Islam and sought by the security forces. "Meurtres dans le nord du Burkina: Ansarul Islam victime d'une guerre intestine?", Radio France Internationale (RFI), 26 July 2017; "Burkina: Un véhicule de l'armée saute sur un engin explosif dans le Soum", Burkina 24 (, 23 September 2017.Hide Footnote

In addition, sending reinforcements to Soum reduces the number of soldiers available to protect other regions. Armed groups might therefore launch attacks elsewhere. The abduction of civil servants in May 2017 in Oudalan, the attacks on two gendarmerie posts in the West (Djibasso and Toéni) in September 2017, could indicate that the threat has moved to another area, or that new groups might take advantage of the focus on Soum and attack elsewhere.[fn]The lack of troops will be eased by the return of the battalion deployed in Darfur (about 850 men). Crisis Group interviews, diplomats, security source, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote

Ansarul Islam is both a local movement and a group that has contacts, albeit problematic ones, with jihadists active in the Sahel. Although Malam is (or was) close to Hamadoun Kouffa, his links with the new coalition affiliated to al-Qaeda and led by Iyad ag Ghali, the Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimin, (Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims, GSIM), are unclear. Some sources say he has disowned this alliance, while others think the GSIM is not interested in the contact because Malam is not powerful enough.[fn]Crisis Group interview, security source, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote There are reportedly divergences between Kouffa and Malam. The former is reportedly jealous of the increasing power of his "young friend" and did not approve of the killing of Malam's former comrades because of the prohibition of killing Muslims.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, security sources, diplomats, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote The publication on 12 September 2017 of a Facebook page attributed to Ansarul Islam, in which the movement denounced the death of Muslims in the mid-August 2017 terrorist attack in Ouagadougou, suggests there are strong divergences between Ansarul Islam and GSIM. However, this information should be treated with caution, as the Facebook page has not been authenticated.

At the beginning of 2017, Malam seemed to be getting closer to the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) and they reportedly carried out a joint attack on Nassoumbou.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, security sources, Ouagadougou, January and May 2017.Hide Footnote Ansarul Islam uses central Mali as a support base and must therefore have contact with groups that operate there.[fn]Crisis Group interview, security source, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote Ansarul Islam may be plotting a middle course between two tendencies represented by the GSIM and the ISGS.

Ansarul Islam rarely claims responsibility for its actions and has no official channel of communication. It is difficult to blame the group for all the security incidents in the Sahel region. It does not have a monopoly of violence. Banditry and other criminal activities affect the region. Insecurity is exacerbated by the trafficking of light arms from Algeria, Libya and Mali, where Boulikessi, close to the border, is a staging post.[fn]Crisis Group interview, former civil servant, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote A Kalashnikov costs CFA300,000 or two heifers.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, local elected representatives, Djibo, May 2017.Hide Footnote

Another cause for concern is the presence of Koglweogo, civilian self-defence groups, in many places in the country. They defend their communities from criminals, insecurity and cattle theft. When they are composed of local villagers, their presence does not seem to pose a problem.[fn]For example, the localities of Pobe Mengao, Aribinda and Tongomayel. Crisis Group interview, traditional authority, Djibo, May 2017. Created in the 1990s to protect the environment, the Koglweogo are now self-defence groups that combat insecurity, crime and banditry. Since 2015, they have become more numerous and spread particularly to the centre, the North region and southern and eastern Burkina.Hide Footnote However, Koglweogo from other regions of Burkina were chased out of Kerboulé (a gold panning site 60km from Djibo) by armed men (possibly connected to Ansarul Islam).[fn]Crisis Group interviews, local authorities, local elected representative, Djibo, security source, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote Clashes between Koglweogo and other armed groups cannot be ruled out. The presence of Ruga, groups of Fulani herders armed with hunting guns and responsible for recovering lost or stolen herds, could further complicate the security equation, even though there is currently no evidence that they pose any kind of a risk.[fn]According to one security source, members of the Ruga were arrested during the operations conducted in spring 2017. Crisis Group telephone interview, security source, June 2017.Hide Footnote

B. A Security Apparatus under Reconstruction

The political unrest in Burkina since Blaise Compaoré's fall from power in October 2014 disrupted the security apparatus. Compaoré's diplomacy allowed him to keep many armed groups away from Burkina territory by displaying a benevolent attitude toward some of them. The intelligence service depended more on men and their networks than on institutions. Created in October 2015, the National Intelligence Agency (ANR) is a "big machine [that] has not really got off the ground yet", even though it had begun to centralise intelligence.[fn]Crisis Group interview, security source, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote The dismantling of the Presidential Security Regiment (RSP), an elite army unit under Compaoré, also disrupted the security apparatus.[fn]The arms held by the RSP have not always been appropriately redistributed. One security source says that at the time of the terrorist attack on Ouagadougou in January 2016, one of the reasons the Burkina security forces were not able to launch an attack on the Hotel Splendid was because they did not have night vision spectacles. Those held by the RSP were put into storage instead of being distributed to units that would need them. Crisis Group interview, security source, Ouagadougou, January 2016.Hide Footnote

In the long term, the main challenge facing the Burkina security forces is adapting to new threats. The asymmetric war against non-state armed groups requires resources and strategies that are very different to those required in conventional warfare. The security forces have become accustomed to life in their barracks rather than going out to fight, as Burkina has never gone to war against another country (except for two brief armed conflicts with Mali in 1974 and 1985) and has not suffered a civil war. Promoting a culture of combat and sacrifice, the exact opposite of "a ceremonial army", is bound to take time.[fn]Crisis Group interview, diplomat, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote However, Burkina soldiers have had experience of combat during deployments in external operations in sometimes difficult terrain (Darfur, northern Mali).

As long as the armed forces are not able to work among the local population like the jihadist groups do, the latter will have an advantage.

Two elements that are lacking but are indispensable in the fight against armed groups are air power and intelligence. Unarmed Burkina reconnaissance planes are only able to signal a threat: in a remote area, it would need several hours to drive to a given place. Combat helicopters are also necessary. But in addition to equipment, it is training that is really needed. The armed forces deployed in the North also lack the motorbikes they need to move around the bush as easily as their enemies. There is still no intelligence system. As long as the armed forces are not able to work among the local population like the jihadist groups do, the latter will have an advantage.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, humanitarian worker, security sources, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote

In addition, the security forces suffer from more deep-seated problems. The generation gap undermines cohesion. Ordinary soldiers, young and dissatisfied with their material conditions, believe the hierarchy still supports the old regime, does not have the motivation to leave their air-conditioned offices and is incapable of tackling the new threats. Young non-commissioned officers deplore the weakness of the general staff's communications and its limited use of new technologies, in a context in which communication is key to defeating terrorism.[fn]Crisis Group interview, security source, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote

Human resources management is another weakness: there are not enough administration officers, they do not have the necessary skills and this causes frustration especially with regard to promotion.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, security source, Ouagadougou, January and May 2017.Hide Footnote The army hierarchy is top-heavy with too many high-ranking colonels and not enough junior officers.[fn]Crisis Group interview, diplomat, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote Finally, the historic rivalry between the police force and the gendarmerie undermines their effectiveness. These two corps are deployed in both urban and rural areas and their duties overlap.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, security sources, Ouagadougou, January 2016, January and May 2017. The tension between police officers and gendarmes within the Republican Security and Protection Group, responsible for presidential security, illustrates this distrust. "Burkina Faso: tensions entre policiers et gendarmes de la garde présidentielle",, 7 August 2017.Hide Footnote All these weaknesses, which should be dealt with as part of security sector reform, partly explain why the security forces are finding it difficult to counter the threat posed by Ansarul Islam.

C. Regional and International Cooperation

Adapting to cross-border threats involves strengthening regional and international cooperation. While the Burkina military recognise that France's assistance is indispensable, they want "to sort things out themselves", because "nobody is going to die in [their] place".[fn]Crisis Group interviews, security sources, Ouagadougou, January and May 2017.Hide Footnote One sector of public opinion does not trust France. Some people accuse it of playing a double game vis-à-vis armed groups, particularly with regard to the Tuareg of northern Mali. The result is a desire to diversify partnerships and get help from the United States, Germany, Russia and Eastern Europe.

Burkina has strengthened regional cooperation with Mali and Niger. They have finally formalised the right of hot pursuit but this can pose problems because of sometimes inefficient communications and the risk of clashes between armies.[fn]The unwritten rule states that a neighbouring army should not go more than 40km beyond the border. Crisis Group interviews, security sources, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote The region's countries, encouraged by France, are trying to strengthen regional cooperation through a G5 Sahel (Burkina, Mali, Niger, Chad, Mauritania) joint force project. However, Burkina officers are not very enthusiastic about it. They view it as "an endless round of meetings", according to one security source.[fn]Crisis Group interview, security source, Ouagadougou, May 2017. The plan for a G5 Sahel joint force was officially announced at the Bamako summit at the start of February 2017. The aim would be to combat insecurity and terrorist armed groups in the Sahel. The five G5 countries were to each provide 1,000 men, deployed along three border zones: Mali-Mauritania, Mali-Burkina-Niger and Chad-Niger. The G5, which was formed in 2014, aims to provide a regional response to a regional problem and to "africanise" security.Hide Footnote The Burkina leadership believes that Chad and Mauritania are too far away to be worried about the same threats.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, security sources, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote Besides, funding of the G5 force has not yet been secured.[fn]Crisis Group interview, diplomat, Ouagadougou, May 2017. The budget proposed for the joint force is €423 million, but this figure could be revised downwards. Crisis Group interview, diplomat, Paris, July 2017. The European Union has promised €50 million and G5 members have agreed to contribute €10 million each. In addition to operational and technical assistance, France has promised €8 million.Hide Footnote

The tripartite dynamic between Burkina, Mali and Niger that is emerging with the plan to deploy one of the three components of the G5 force in the three borders zone, known as Liptako-Gourma, provokes greater optimism. The Burkina believe it is more effective to work in three rather than five. The force will be deployed in Liptako-Gourma but will not include Soum, which remains a Burkina-Mali problem.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, security sources, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote

The creation of the G5 joint force raises the question of coordination with MINUSMA.

The Burkina military are also sceptical about the effectiveness of the UN mission in Mali, MINUSMA. They feel its mandate is inadequate.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, security sources, Ouagadougou, September 2016, January and May 2017. United Nations Security Council Resolution 2359 (21 June 2017) supported the creation of a joint G5 force to improve security and enable MINUSMA to fulfil its mandate. Resolution 2364 (29 June 2017) prolonged MINUSMA's mandate and provided for cooperation, coordination and information sharing between the G5 force and the UN mission.Hide Footnote The creation of the G5 joint force raises the question of coordination with MINUSMA, which already has more than 15,000 soldiers and police officers and costs close to $1 billion per year. Moreover, complex overlapping of remits runs the risk of undermining the force's effectiveness. Besides, the vagueness of the joint force's mandate, targeting "terrorist groups" and "other organised criminal groups", further complicates the task.

Cooperation is not going as well with Mali as it is with Niger. Some sectors of the Burkina security apparatus are irritated with their Malian neighbour, whom they accuse of not being effective enough in the fight against the armed groups on their territory, leading to the conflict there spilling over into Burkina.[fn]Ibid.Hide Footnote One security source deplored the presence of certain armed groups either close to or supported by Bamako along the border with Burkina.[fn]Crisis Group interview, security source, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote The difficult relations between Burkina and Mali date from the Compaoré era, when members of Malian armed groups, starting with the leader of Ansar Dine, the Tuareg Iyad ag Ghali, were allowed to move freely in Ouagadougou. The Burkina military believe their Malian counterparts are "lazy" and joined the army to get an income and not to defend the country.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, security sources, Ouagadougou, January and May 2017.Hide Footnote Conversely, they are well disposed toward Niger, because it deploys the resources necessary to prevent armed groups from proliferating on its territory. The Burkina military praise their Nigerien counterparts for their proactive approach and effectiveness.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, security sources, Ouagadougou, May 2017. The good understanding between Burkina and Niger is also based on the special relationship between the Nigerien president, Mahamadou Issoufou, and the president of the Burkina National Assembly, Salif Diallo, who died at the end of August 2017.Hide Footnote

IV. Formulate a Global and Enduring Response

At the start of 2017, after months of denial, the Burkina authorities finally understood the need to go beyond military action and formulate a global response to the crisis. They launched an emergency development program for the Sahel region aimed at building infrastructure and reducing poverty. However, these development efforts will not be enough to resolve the crisis, the causes of which are local and deeply rooted in the structure of Fulani society in Soum. An understanding of the importance of the following measures could help to provide a more effective response.

Formulate responses that take into account the social and local dimensions of the crisis. Ansarul Islam's ideology is based on its challenge to a social order that breeds frustration and conflict. The government should not seek to disturb socio-cultural dynamics or to upend a centuries-old social order. It is perhaps better to focus on encouraging local actors to find solutions adapted to a crisis that is deeply rooted in local circumstances. The government and its international partners will not find solutions to questions that pertain to the private life of northern Burkina Faso's society. They can at best encourage intercommunal and inter-generational dialogue that may help them identify solutions to their own crisis.

Reduce the gulf between security forces and authorities and the local population. Strengthening the military presence will not be truly effective for as long as local people refuse to collaborate with the security forces. In the short term, the latter should prioritise the development of an intelligence system and gain access to the community, for example, by distributing mobile phones more generously to enable individuals and units to communicate more easily and by making a special effort to protect them.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, security sources, Ouagadougou, January and May 2017.Hide Footnote Deploying Fulfulde-speaking troops and civil servants would also help to reduce the language barrier.

In the long term, distrust could be eased if more Fulani were recruited into the security forces and the civil service. It is not necessary to impose quotas or to adopt a policy of positive discrimination, which would give unwanted ethnic overtones to the initiative. However, for example, the government could encourage recruitment by making the entrance examinations more accessible, while remembering that the Fulani have not traditionally had a vocation for joining the security forces or the civil service.[fn]Crisis Group interview, security source, Ouagadougou, May 2017. A resident of Soum who wants to enter the entrance examinations for the army or the gendarmerie must go to Dori or Kaya respectively, both of which are located about 200km from Djibo.Hide Footnote

Boosting the military's civic activities would help to show that the security forces can make a useful contribution and go some way to reducing public distrust in them.[fn]Crisis Group interview, security source, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote Finally, arrests should be carried out according to due procedure and should respect human rights. Abusive behaviour by the security forces and civil servants - racketeering, intimidation, arbitrary arrests, physical abuse - must be punished more severely.

Regulate religious discourse to combat intolerant and hateful statements, an area where religious and traditional authorities could play a key role. There is a need to improve understanding of the religious landscape in order to fight against intolerant and hateful statements, give more support to Islamic education and invest in the training of imams and Muslim scholars in order to provide them with tools to combat ideas that encourage violence and intolerance. The legitimacy of religious and traditional leaders is sometimes challenged so this is also about ensuring they are sufficiently representative, avoiding any impression that they support the government or are in its pay and ensuring that young people feel they defend their interests. The authorities could prioritise the establishment in Djibo of a section of the Union Fraternelle des Croyants, an association based in Dori that promotes religious tolerance and dialogue.

Place greater emphasis in the emergency program for the Sahel region on promoting livestock breeding, improving justice provision and fighting corruption.[fn]"Programme d'urgence pour le Sahel au Burkina Faso (PUS-BF), 2017-2020", final document, June 2017, copy supplied to Crisis Group.Hide Footnote The perception that the government is doing nothing to support livestock breeding, the region's main economic activity, increases alienation.[fn]There is a widespread feeling in Burkina (and in neighbouring countries) that herding is the poor relation of development policies even though it contributes a lot to GDP. Crisis Group interviews, Fulani representatives, Ouagadougou, October 2016.Hide Footnote As herders are mostly Fulani, this feeling could take on an ethnic connotation. For example, it should increase the size of grazing areas and the number of wells and improve cattle tracks.[fn]Crisis Group interview, religious leader, Djibo, May 2017.Hide Footnote Infrastructure should also be at the heart of development policies. For example, the construction of a regional hospital in Djibo, on the model of the one in Dori, would improve health care in the provincial capital. The failings of the judiciary and the corruption in the public administration are grievances often expressed by the public. Doing more to address these two issues would send a message that the government can have a useful and positive impact on the daily life of the inhabitants of the Sahel region.

Strengthen judicial and police cooperation between Mali and Burkina, so that the authorities of these countries can be informed when one of their nationals is arrested in another country.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, security sources, Ouagadougou, January and May 2017.Hide Footnote It is not enough to arrest members of jihadist groups. It is also necessary to open investigations across several countries and then bring perpetrators to justice. This will prevent them exploiting the lack of coordination between countries and slipping through the net. Although police cooperation has improved, a lot remains to be done with regard to the judiciary.[fn]Crisis Group interview, security source, Ouagadougou, May 2017.Hide Footnote

Moreover, the security forces deployed in the North urgently need more motorbikes in order to move around the bush more easily and better means of communication to improve the circulation of information. The Burkina armed forces could also do more to improve their reporting to national public opinion about the progress they are making.

V. Conclusion

It is still too early to assess the long-term effectiveness of the government's response. But, already, the lull expected in the wake of the rainy season (July to October), which should have impeded movement and reduced attacks by Ansarul Islam, has not materialised. Several lethal attacks took place in northern Burkina in July, August and September. The weakening of this armed group or the death of its founder will not be enough to resolve the security and social crisis in northern Burkina. The crisis will last for as long as the deep roots that permitted its growth remain and could indeed spread to other provinces if nothing is done.



Kenya bans demonstrations against presidential re-run in three major city centers

Oct 12, 2017

The Kenyan government has imposed a ban on demonstrations before a re-run of the country’s presidential election.

In an order issued on Thursday, authorities banned protests in business districts of the capital Nairobi, as well as the western city of Kisumu and the coastal city of Mombasa.

Internal Security Minister Fred Matiang‘i said those who violated the ban would be held personally liable for any damage.

The order comes amid a deepening political standoff in Kenya as the country prepares for a repeat of the August 8 presidential election, the results of which were annulled by the Supreme Court.

The incumbent president and the declared winner of the original vote, Uhuru Kenyatta, has criticized the annulment of the vote, the first decision of its kind in Africa, saying he would win the re-run anyway.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga has, however, boycotted the October 26 vote, saying irregularities that led to the annulment of the first round still remain unaddressed.

Odinga has called on his supporters to stage protests to demand electoral reforms and sacking of certain officials from the country’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

The three cities included in the Thursday ban are Odinga’s major strongholds and there are fears of widespread clashes between police and the opposition leader’s supporters.

A coalition of opposition parties has said it would ignore the ban and take to the streets on Friday. It also said that demonstrations would be held on a daily basis as of Monday.

At least 37 people were killed across Kenya in the violence that followed the first round, according to a Kenyan rights group.

Full report at:



Somalia: Somali Musician, Kept from US Internship, Blames Trump Travel Ban

12 OCTOBER 2017

By Mohamed Olad Hassan

The Somali musician Hassan-Nour Sayid — known by his stage name, Aar Maanta — and his band, the Urban Nomads, were supposed to be in Minnesota last week, where they were to kick off a monthlong internship of performances and workshops set up through the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis.

Visa delays, however, have led to the cancellation of the event, and Aar told VOA he thinks it is because the Trump administration has delayed his visa to come to the U.S. because he is Muslim and Somali.

"After months of planning these peaceful events, I was expecting only the inevitable reasons could bring them to a disappointing halt, but now I think it is because of being Muslim and Somali. Why I was discriminated and singled out in the visa process," Aar told VOA Somali. "I blame the current U.S. government."

Dual citizenship

Aar is a respected and well-known band leader, with dual citizenship in Somalia and Britain, though he says these qualifications did not help him get a U.S. visa "easily and on time."

"My four other colleagues — musicians in the band — are Italian, French, Nepalese-Scottish and British-Caribbean, and all received their visas with no trouble. Only me. I think it is because I am the band's sole Somali and Muslim member," he said.

He said his passport was held by the U.S. consulate, and he was told his application was placed under "additional administrative processing."

In an email, a State Department official told VOA they were not able to discuss individual visas.

"Since visa records are confidential under the Immigration and Nationality Act, we are not able to discuss individual visa cases. We would also note that visa applications do not include questions pertaining to religious identity/affiliation. U.S. immigration law does not contain visa ineligibilities based on religious identity/affiliation," the official wrote.

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, who on Tuesday addressed a question by VOA on a visa denial to the ousted Venezuela attorney general, said visa applications are confidential under federal law.

"So visa applications — and those are confidential, so no matter who it is or what the cause is, that's something that we don't comment on. I think we've talked about that before. They're confidential under a federal law," Nauert said.


Aar — a Somali singer, songwriter, actor, composer, instrumentalist and music producer — moved to the United Kingdom in the late 1980s, on the eve of the civil war in Somalia. He has lived there since, and has received his British citizenship. But he says he always realized that holding a Western passport would not change "his true identity."

"I was always telling my Somali fans that it does not matter whether you have a British passport or American passport or the passport of any other Western country, you will always and forever remain Somali," he said.

Under a revised travel order signed last month by President Donald Trump, travelers to the United States from eight countries face new restrictions, which take effect Oct. 18. The new executive order will affect citizens from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Chad, North Korea and Venezuela.

The new restrictions ban Somali immigrants from entry to the U.S., according to immigration attorneys. However, non-immigrants who are seeking business or tourist visas, such as Aar, must undergo additional screening measures.

According to tour organizers, the Urban Nomads have worked with the Cedar Cultural Center twice before, where they performed live music, led songwriting and held poetry workshops for young people. During the planned trip, though, the band would have extended its performances outside the metro area, carrying a message of unity for Somali-American communities.

Surprised by visa challenges

In a written statement, Fadumo Ibrahim, the program's manager at the Cedar Cultural Center, said she was surprised by the visa challenges the musician faced, given his work with the center in the past.

"This case is a concrete example of how travel restrictions and the travel ban limit artistic voices and freedom," Ibrahim said. "While it's obviously important for the artists, it's equally important for the community who had been anticipating this residency.

"Aar Maanta's visit to Minnesota would have brought hope and positivity to the Somali and larger communities here at a time when we all really need it," she said.

Midnimo, the Somali word for "unity," is a program that features Somali artists from Minnesota and around the world in residencies and events that increase understanding of Somali culture through music.

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