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Islamic World News ( 14 Jan 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Says Cinemas, Song Concerts Harmful










Photo: Photo: Saudi Arabia's top religious authority has called cinemas and singing concerts harmful and corrupting, in a move that could complicate government efforts to introduce cultural reforms to the conservative kingdom.

 

Turkey Says If U.S. Wants Kurds At Syria Talks, Invite Islamic State Too

Italian Prison Guards Warn Imams Are Spreading Extremism Behind Bars

ISIS Militants Kidnap 13 Seminary Teachers In East Of Afghanistan

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Arab World

Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Says Cinemas, Song Concerts Harmful

30 Dead as Islamic State Attacks City in East Syria: Monitor

IS Ambush Kills 8 Shia Militiamen In NE Iraq

Army combs Mosul University after driving out Islamic State

IS launches new assault on besieged eastern city in Syria

In parts of Mosul, a semblance of normality despite war

Syrian Army Kicks Off Massive Ground, Air Operations in Eastern Homs Province

Iraqi Commander: US Choppers Helping ISIL Terrorists in Hamreen Region Overnight

Syrian General: Operations in Damascus First Likely Response to Israeli Aggression

Islamic figures hail King’s efforts to unify Muslims

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Mideast

Turkey Says If U.S. Wants Kurds At Syria Talks, Invite Islamic State Too

9 ISIL Militants ‘Neutralized’ In Northern Syria: Military

Bank of China to establish deposit bank in Turkey

Bahrain executes three Shias convicted of killing policemen

Palestinian president opens Vatican embassy

Turkish Soldiers Suspended for Selling Weapons with FSA Help

Turkey’s embattled tourism sector needs four years to recover: Association

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Europe

Italian Prison Guards Warn Imams Are Spreading Extremism Behind Bars

Russia's Chechnya Chief Says Over 50 Suspected Militants Detained

World diplomats in Paris to urge renewed Mideast peace talks

Austria's Anti-Immigrant Freedom Party Calls For Ban On 'Fascistic Islam'

German plane from Oman lands in Kuwait over bomb threat

Spain arrests three accused of connections to Islamist militants

Belgian Anti-Terror Units Raid Islamist Stronghold Molenbeek

Sadiq Khan, London’s first Muslim mayor, on connecting citizens

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South Asia

ISIS Militants Kidnap 13 Seminary Teachers In East Of Afghanistan

Senior Taliban Commander Among 21 Killed In Latest Operations: Moi

Afghan peace official fired for calling Taliban ‘Angels of Peace’

Study rejects massive involvement of Afghan refugees in crimes in Pakistan

Roadside bomb kills seven Afghan civilians: officials

Bangladesh police arrests 'mastermind' behind Dhaka cafe siege

Russia calls on Taliban to renounce violence, launch intra-Afghan dialogue

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India

Uttar Pradesh Polls: Islamic Seminary Deoband Bans Entry Of Politicians

ISI Backed Kandahar Hijackers: Plane Crisis Negotiator Doval

Separatists restrict shutdown to Fridays

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North America

Imam To Launch Campaign Against Muslim Registry

Man arrested after Washington state Islamic Center fire

Police: Mosque outside Seattle torched

S.F. Mayor to Resist Trump ‘Muslim Registry’ He Never Proposed

US Supreme Court takes up suit over 2001 detention of Muslims

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Pakistan

Pakistan's Double Standards: 'Extremist Outfits Are Not Terror Groups', Interior Minister Says

Pakistan PM Inaugurates Water Treatment Plant At Hindu’s Holy Site

China gives Pakistan two ships for security of CPEC sea route

Punjabis are tired of 'Takht-i-Lahore': Imran Khan

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Southeast Asia

Airstrikes In Syria Kill Islamic State Militants From Malaysia: Reports

RAM rates AA3 for Cahya Mata Sarawak’s RM2b Islamic debt notes

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/saudi-arabia’s-grand-mufti-says-cinemas,-song-concerts-harmful/d/109727

 

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Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Says Cinemas, Song Concerts Harmful

January 15th, 2017

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s top religious authority has called cinemas and singing concerts harmful and corrupting, in a move that could complicate government efforts to introduce cultural reforms to the conservative kingdom.

The comments by Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, published on his website, said cinemas and round-the-clock entertainment could open the door to “atheistic or rotten” foreign films and encourage the mixing of the sexes.

Cinemas and public concerts are already banned in the conservative kingdom. But the government promised a shake-up of the cultural scene with a set of “Vision 2030” reforms announced by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz last year.

The head of the government’s General Authority for Entertainment, Amr al-Madani, stirred debate last week when he raised the possibility of opening cinemas and staging concerts this year.

The Saudi Gazette quoted Madani as saying Saudi singer Mohammed Abdo would perform in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah very soon. Up to now, singers have been limited to performing for private gatherings.

“I hope those in charge of the Entertainment Author­ity are guided to turn it from bad to good and not to open doors to evil,” Al al-Sheikh said on his weekly television programme, according to a transcript of his comments on his website.

“Motion pictures may broadcast shameless, immoral, atheistic or rotten films,” Al al-Sheikh said.

“The Mufti...also stressed that there is nothing good in song parties, for entertainment day and night and opening of movie houses at all times is an invitation to mixing of sexes,” he added.

The “Vision 2030” initiative is meant to jumpstart the private sector, provide jobs for a growing population and open up Saudis’ cloistered lifestyles.

The plan’s said it considers culture and entertainment “indispensable to our quality of life”.

In remarks carried by Foreign Affairs magazine last week, Prince Mohammed said he believed only a small percentage of clerics were too dogmatic to be reasoned with while more than half could be persuaded through engagement and dialogue to support the plan.

In a country that adheres to an austere brand of Wahhabi Sunni Islam, where gender segregation is mandatory and concerts and cinemas are banned, the plan’s seemingly anodyne goals to empower women, promote sports and invest in entertainment are controversial.

Saudi Arabia’s clerics offer legitimacy and public support to a king who styles himself the guardian of Islam’s holiest sites. They retain control of the justice system but leave most other matters of governance to him, so long as his edicts do not contradict their interpretation of Islamic law.

  dawn.com/news/1308489/saudi-arabias-grand-mufti-says-cinemas-song-concerts-harmful

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Turkey says If U.S. wants Kurds at Syria talks, invite Islamic State too

Posted on January 15, 2017

ISTANBUL, — If the United States wants to invite Kurds to the upcoming Syrian peace talks it might as well invite the Islamic State jihadist group too, said Turkey’s foreign minister Saturday whose country views Kurdish fighters in Syria as extremists.

The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG), have been Western allies in the Syrian conflict but are condemned by Turkey, which will co-host the peace talks in Kazakhstan with Russia set for January 23.

Syrian Kurds have not been invited to the talks on the political future of Syria due to take place in Astana, PYD representative in France said Tuesday.

Turkey calls the PYD a “terror group” for its alleged links to Kurdish separatist militants in Turkey and has blasted the US repeatedly for working with the group on the ground in Syria.

Turkey fears the creation of an autonomous Kurdish region in Syrian Kurdistan — similar to the Kurdish region in Iraqi Kurdistan — would spur the separatist ambitions of Turkey’s own Kurds.

A comment by a US State Department spokesman this week that Washington believes the PYD would “have to be a part of this process… at some point” infuriated Ankara.

“If you are going to invite a terror group to the table then you might as well invite Al Nusra and Daesh,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters, referring to the former Al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front, known previously as Al-Nusra Front, and the so-called Islamic State (IS).

“We do not deny the US role and contribution (to the talks), but we expect the following from the new US administration: it must stop co-operating with terror groups,” he said.

“The current (US) administration is making serious mistakes,” he said.

It was not the first diplomatic spat over the heated Kurdish issue this week.

A US Central Command tweet insisting its Kurdish allies were not linked to outlawed militants whipped up a storm Thursday, with Ankara asking if Washington had “lost its senses”.

Washington regards the Kurdish YPG of Syrian Kurdistan as key ally against Islamic State and the most effective fighting force against IS in Syria and has provided them with arms, air support as well as the military advisers. The Kurdish militia has seized swathes of Syria from IS.

Relations between the US and Turkey have become increasingly bitter in the last month, with Ankara expressing hope of a “new chapter” under President-elect Donald Trump.

While Washington has played a key role in attempts to bring Syria’s warring parties to the negotiating table in the past, it has been notably absent from the cooperation between Ankara and Moscow to broker a nationwide ceasefire that is meant to pave the way for the January 23 peace talks.

Despite backing opposite sides in the Syrian conflict, Russia and Turkey are keen for a deal to end the conflict and both sides appear to think Trump’s administration could help.

The Astana talks are scheduled to begin just three days after Trump is inaugurated.

Turkey said this week that Russia had agreed the incoming US administration should be present at the upcoming talks, though there was no confirmation from Moscow.

A representative for the Syrian Kurds said that they had not been invited to take part.

In 2013, Syrian Kurds have established three autonomous zones, or Cantons of Jazeera, Kobani and Afrin and a Kurdish government across Syrian Kurdistan (northern Syria) in 2013. On March 17, 2016 Syria’s Kurds declared a federal region in Syrian Kurdistan.

Syrian Kurds on Dec. 30, 2016 have approved a blueprint for a system of federal government in Syrian Kurdistan, reaffirming their plans for autonomy in areas they have controlled during the civil war.

Copyright ©, respective author or news agency, AFP | Ekurd.net

 ekurd.net/turkey-us-kurds-syria-2017-01-15

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Italian Prison Guards Warn Imams Are Spreading Extremism Behind Bars

TERRORISTS are using prison imams to recruit new members, Italian guards have warned.

Jan 14, 2017

Extremism is growing behind bars, Italian prison guards have warned

They said the imams were free to enter and travel within the prisons at will, spreading messages and propaganda and leading to the creation of jihadi cells behind bars.

They also said the 70 mosques within the country’s jails were leading to a spike in jihadi recruitment.

Donato Capece, the general secretary for Italy’s biggest prison guard union, said prisons needed help to stop the growth of extremism.

The danger of unqualified imams in UK who ‘REFUSE to speak English'

Muslims tell kids to turn off Peppa Pig for 'Islamic alternative'

He said: “There are twenty imams coming in and out [of the country’s jails] just like parish priests do. And that is in addition to 150 self-proclaimed imams, who are in jail serving a sentence.

“They are all free to move from section to section from the morning until the evening and this has caused the elimination of the guard who went to check each section from time to time.”

He said there was enough evidence to show extremism in prisons was growing to demand more help from the government.

The fight against ISIS

Fri, November 18, 2016

The battle against ISIS militants (also abbreviated as Daesh, ISIL, IS and Islamic State) continues in the Middle East.

An Iraqi Shi'ite fighter fires a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) during clashes with Islamic State militants on the outskirt of Falluja

Helicopter fires weapons during clashes with Islamic State militants in the northwestern Golan district of Falluja

An Iraqi Shi'ite fighter carries weapons on the outskirt of Falluja

Iraqi government forces take position ea

An Afghan National Army soldier fires an

A man takes a selfie in front of a fire from oil that has been set ablaze in the Qayyarah area

Mr Capece said: “Let’s remember the last arrest in Ciampino of an alleged terrorist who had been radicalised in prison but there are several precedents.”

He said prisoners were losing their discipline and attacking guards or starting fights leading to an environment of chaos in which terrorist recruiters flourish.

Mr Capece said Italian prisons needed more support from the government to combat terrorism

Mr Capece said: “They have fun kicking men in uniforms or triggering riots. This is the way used by suspected terrorists to contact ordinary people, who are indoctrinated and become a risk for the future."

He concluded by appealing for support from the Italian government when it comes to hiring new guards - especially those who speak Arabic.

Mr Capece said more Arabic speakers were needed

Mr Capece said: “We must remember that many of these men speak Arabic and Arabic is not only a national language but consists of many dialects that we do not know. If we want to do prevention, we must at least understand them: hiring people who know the language or do ad hoc training to allow staff to understand and do prevention. Then there is also the problem of government cuts.

“We went from 45,000 [staff members] in 2001, provided by the law, to the present 38,000. To this, we can add the fact that so many old agents are retiring."

  express.co.uk/news/world/754321/prison-imams-muslim-jihadi-terrorist-training-grounds-italy-donato-capece

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ISIS militants kidnap 13 seminary teachers in East of Afghanistan

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Jan 15 2017

At least 13 seminary teachers were abducted by the loyalists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group in eastern Nangarhar province, local officials said Sunday.

The officials further added that the incident took place in Haska Mina district after a group of ISIS militants stormed into a religious school in Deh Bala area.

A local official speaking on the condition of anonymity confirmed that the 13 abducted teachers were taken to an unknown location.

District administrative chief Sazwali confirmed the abduction of the teachers speaking to VOA’s Afghanistan service.

The loyalists of the terror group have not commented regarding the report so far.

This comes as the loyalists of the terror group torched at least 65 houses in Kot district which was once under the control of the terror group.

Provincial governor’s spokesman Ataullah Khogyani confirmed the incident and said no casualties were incurred to the local residents but an official in Kot said the loyalists of the terror group torched the houses of those who refused to pledge allegiance to them.

The latest movements by ISIS loyalist in Nangarhar come as the terror group received major blows during the counter-terrorism operations during the recent months.

Both the Afghan and US forces conducted regular strikes against the loyalists of the terror group in this province.

The increased raids, usually involving drone strikes, by the US forces followed a broader role granted by the Obama administration earlier last year.

The broader role was granted amid concerns that the loyalists of the terror group are attempting to expand foothold in the country and turn the eastern Nangarhar province into a regional operational hub for its fighters.

  khaama.com/isis-militants-kidnap-13-seminary-teachers-in-east-of-afghanistan-02678

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Arab World

Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Says Cinemas, Song Concerts Harmful

January 15th, 2017

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s top religious authority has called cinemas and singing concerts harmful and corrupting, in a move that could complicate government efforts to introduce cultural reforms to the conservative kingdom.

The comments by Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, published on his website, said cinemas and round-the-clock entertainment could open the door to “atheistic or rotten” foreign films and encourage the mixing of the sexes.

Cinemas and public concerts are already banned in the conservative kingdom. But the government promised a shake-up of the cultural scene with a set of “Vision 2030” reforms announced by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz last year.

The head of the government’s General Authority for Entertainment, Amr al-Madani, stirred debate last week when he raised the possibility of opening cinemas and staging concerts this year.

The Saudi Gazette quoted Madani as saying Saudi singer Mohammed Abdo would perform in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah very soon. Up to now, singers have been limited to performing for private gatherings.

“I hope those in charge of the Entertainment Author­ity are guided to turn it from bad to good and not to open doors to evil,” Al al-Sheikh said on his weekly television programme, according to a transcript of his comments on his website.

“Motion pictures may broadcast shameless, immoral, atheistic or rotten films,” Al al-Sheikh said.

“The Mufti...also stressed that there is nothing good in song parties, for entertainment day and night and opening of movie houses at all times is an invitation to mixing of sexes,” he added.

The “Vision 2030” initiative is meant to jumpstart the private sector, provide jobs for a growing population and open up Saudis’ cloistered lifestyles.

The plan’s said it considers culture and entertainment “indispensable to our quality of life”.

In remarks carried by Foreign Affairs magazine last week, Prince Mohammed said he believed only a small percentage of clerics were too dogmatic to be reasoned with while more than half could be persuaded through engagement and dialogue to support the plan.

In a country that adheres to an austere brand of Wahhabi Sunni Islam, where gender segregation is mandatory and concerts and cinemas are banned, the plan’s seemingly anodyne goals to empower women, promote sports and invest in entertainment are controversial.

Saudi Arabia’s clerics offer legitimacy and public support to a king who styles himself the guardian of Islam’s holiest sites. They retain control of the justice system but leave most other matters of governance to him, so long as his edicts do not contradict their interpretation of Islamic law.

  dawn.com/news/1308489/saudi-arabias-grand-mufti-says-cinemas-song-concerts-harmful

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30 Dead as Islamic State Attacks City in East Syria: Monitor

15 Jan 20170

(AFP) BEIRUT, Lebanon — The Islamic State group launched a ferocious assault Saturday on a city in eastern Syria, leaving more than 30 jihadists and regime fighters dead, a monitoring group said.

At least 12 members of government forces and 20 IS militants were among the dead in the IS attack on regime positions in Deir Ezzor, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Both the Observatory and Syrian state news agency SANA said two civilians were also killed in IS rocket fire on government-controlled zones in the city.

Around 200,000 people live in Deir Ezzor city, which has been besieged by IS since early 2015 and is the capital of the oil-rich province of the same name.

IS has sought to overrun the entire city, including the key nearby military airport.

Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said Saturday’s attack was the “most violent” assault mounted by IS on the city in more than a year.

He said IS was using tunnel bombs and suicide attackers, while Syrian and allied warplanes battered jihadist positions with air strikes.

“Daesh is amassing its forces to attack Deir Ezzor and breach government lines,” a Syrian military source told AFP, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

He said jihadists had aimed to cut the route between the airport and the city, but that the government’s counter-attack had stopped IS.

“Warplanes attacked Daesh’s supply lines in all the battlefronts and around the airport,” he said.

IS is excluded from a nationwide truce that was brokered by Turkey and Russia and came into effect on December 30.

Diplomatic efforts to end Syria’s nearly six-year war have thus far failed, but Moscow and Ankara are hoping that peace talks in the Kazakh capital of Astana later this month will lead to a political solution.

  breitbart.com/jerusalem/2017/01/15/30-dead-islamic-state-attacks-city-east-syria-monitor/

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IS ambush kills 8 Shia militiamen in NE Iraq

15 Jan 2017

DIYALA, Iraq: Eight members of the Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militia were killed in a Islamic State ambush Saturday in northeastern Iraq, according to a local police officer.

“The commander of Hashd al-Shaabi's 110th Brigade and seven members were killed in a IS ambush in the Hamrin Mountains area northeast of the city of Baqubah [Diyala’s provincial capital],” Captain Habib al-Simari, a Diyala province police officer, told Anadolu Agency.

The officer added that Hashd al-Shaabi militiamen had been on a mission in the area before they were targeted.

The ambush followed the death of an Iraqi army officer and a soldier, with four others wounded, earlier today when unidentified assailants targeted a checkpoint in Imam Ways in northeastern Baqubah.

The attacks took place despite last week’s large-scale security operation by Diyala police to secure the provincial borders against IS militants entering from the Kirkuk and Saladin provinces.

Established in 2014, Hashd al-Shaabi is an umbrella group of pro-government Shia militias formed for the express purpose of fighting IS.

In October, the Iraqi army – backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and local allies on the ground – began a wide-ranging operation to retake Mosul, IS's last bastion in northern Iraq, which the militant group overran in 2014.

 thepeninsulaqatar.com/article/15/01/2017/IS-ambush-kills-8-Shia-militiamen-in-NE-Iraq

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Army combs Mosul University after driving out Islamic State

Jan 15, 2017

Military vehicles of Iraqi security forces are seen during a battle with Islamic State militants, in al-Zuhoor neighborhood of Mosul, Iraq, January 8, 2017. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari

Nineveh (IraqiNews.com) Iraqi army’s elite Counter-Terrorism Forces continued on Sunday to comb Mosul University campus after they had driven Islamic State militants out on Saturday, a senior officer said.

Abdul-Wahab al-Saedi, a top commander of the force, said in statements on Sunday that the forces continue to comb the university’s buildings, and will move afterwards to invade other districts enlisted in the battles plan after finishing.

Mosul University was a major Islamic State stronghold in the eastern section of Mosul. Iraqi generals said, after the university was retaken, that government forces became in control of 90 percent of that area since U.S.-backed operations launched in October to free the city.

Islamic State militants still maintain strongholds in the west of the Tigris River, which halves the city. Iraqi forces managed a few days ago to reach the eastern bank for the first time since October.

Recapturing Mosul would represent a fatal blow to the extremist group’s existence in Iraq as the city was previously proclaimed the capital of IS’s self-styled ‘Islamic Caliphate”.

Conflict in Mosul has forced at least 173.000 civilians to flee homes to refugee camps.

  iraqinews.com/iraq-war/army-combs-mosul-university-driving/

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IS launches new assault on besieged eastern city in Syria

AP | Jan 14, 2017

BEIRUT: Syrian opposition activists say Islamic State militants have launched a new offensive on government-held areas in the contested eastern city of Deir el-Zour.

They report intense fighting Saturday between Syrian troops and IS members in the city and in the vicinity of a nearby military airport controlled by government forces.

The extremists, who control most of Deir el-Zour province, have kept the provincial capital under siege since 2014. Government forces have withstood the encirclement thanks to air-dropped humanitarian assistance and weapons and ammunition flown into the airport.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says Saturday's offensive was the most intense attack in a year. Others reported loud explosions that shook the city and said Syrian warplanes were taking part in the battles.

 timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/is-launches-new-assault-on-besieged-eastern-city-in-syria/articleshow/56537527.cms

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In parts of Mosul, a semblance of normality despite war

Reuters | Jan 15, 2017, 12.57 PM IST

MOSUL (IRAQ): In some parts of Mosul, you can almost forget that a war is being waged over the city between Iraqi forces and Islamic State militants who still control more than half of it - at least momentarily.

Cars clog the streets, stalls are heaped with fresh produce and bicycles weave through the traffic, as the city slowly emerges from more than two years under the iron grip of Islamic State.

As Iraqi forces prise away more and more of the militants' largest urban stronghold, a semblance of normality is returning to eastern districts that were retaken in the early stages of a campaign that began nearly three months ago.

But reminders of the conflict and the militants' legacy are never far away.

"We are trying to forget," said 19-year old Wisam, slicing meat off a skewer to serve a customer in the Zuhour neighbourhood.

"It will take time - some things have got inside our heads."

Around his stall, the market was bustling with people enjoying the freedom to walk around undisturbed by the Hisba, which enforced Islamic State rules and punished infractions with fines and flogging.

Young men ran after a ball on a soccer pitch, some wearing shorts, which were forbidden under Islamic State. The logos on their football shirts, however, are still missing: the militants deemed them un-Islamic and ordered they be removed, particularly those resembling a cross.

Occasionally, the militants themselves came to play, prompting everyone else to flee in fear of being caught in the crosshairs of coalition planes targeting Islamic State, said 22-year old Osama, who runs the pitch.

Under militant rule, matches had to stop at prayer time and players only ever had one eye on the ball, Osama said. The other eye was on the street, in case an Islamic State patrol drove past.

There is still a mark where a mortar bomb tore through the synthetic turf, and only shards of glass remain in the window panes after a car bomb exploded nearby when Iraqi forces retook Zuhour in early November.

Many people stayed in their homes throughout the battle, defying predictions of an exodus from the city where as many as 1.5 million were said to live.

Those who left - both during the fighting and before - are also returning, even though basic services such as electricity, health facilities and water have not been restored.

'Indescribable'

The municipality has resumed work, but much of its equipment was damaged by Islamic State, which converted some of its vehicles into car bombs, so authorities are borrowing them from other provinces.

At a busy intersection, workers were digging up the road to fix a water pipe damaged by an air strike. A taxi drove past, its passengers singing along to loud music and dancing in their seats.

"It's an indescribable feeling," said a man in the front passenger seat, who comes from a district recently retaken by the security forces. "I can't express it".

Some vehicles still fly white flags to identify their passengers as non-combatants, and the crow of cockerels is interrupted by bursts of sustained gun fire and the thud of artillery - audible from the front line further forward.

Thousands are still fleeing clashes in the city and for them, life is far from normal.

At a gathering point for the displaced on the road out of Mosul, Umm Muhammed sat with the few possessions she grabbed before fleeing the Sumer district this week: a change of clothes, a Koran and a cage containing three brightly coloured budgies.

After 10 years of marriage, Umm Muhammed's husband divorced her for the widow of an Islamic State militant who was killed in battle, she said.

Although Muslim men are allowed to marry up to four women, Umm Mohammed said the new wife forced her husband to seek a divorce.

Iraqi authorities however do not recognise the divorce because it was granted by an Islamic State judge, so she is still officially married.

"I am divorced and married," said Umm Mohammed, who unlike many women in Mosul has removed the full face veil imposed by Islamic State.

"It's a new life; an uncertain life".

 timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/in-parts-of-mosul-a-semblance-of-normality-despite-war/articleshow/56560348.cms

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Syrian Army Kicks Off Massive Ground, Air Operations in Eastern Homs Province

Jan 15, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army started large-scale military operations against the ISIL terrorists in the Eastern part of Homs province and managed to take control of several regions in the early hours of their offensive.

The Syrian army troops started their fresh military operations after pounding the terrorists' military positions with artillery shells and missiles.

The Syrian army managed to take control of several regions Northeast of T4 airbase and East of Station 4, killing and injuring a number of the ISIL terrorists as well as destroying several military vehicles.

The army units also pounded the ISIL's gathering centers and movements in Taloul Alab al-Tayas region Northeast of Station 4 in the Western part of the ancient city of Palmyra (Tadmur), killing tens of the ISIL terrorists and destroying several of their military vehicles.

The Syrian fighter jets also hit the ISIL's gathering centers, supply routes and movements of the terrorists in Arak and Western Badiya in the surrounding areas of Sha'er and on al-Bardeh road in the neighborhood of al-Quaryatayn and in the surrounding areas of Palmyra city and al-Bayarat region to West of Mosul in Eastern and Southeastern Homs province which resulted in the destruction of targets and inflicted heavy losses and casualties on the terrorists.

Meantime, a battlefield source announced that over 10,000 Syrian soldiers and National Defense Forces as well as Desert Falcons (Syrian army's special forces) are participating in the ongoing military operations.

"The main purpose of the operation is to take control of the oil and gas wells in Jazel, al-Shaer and Mehr regions and eventually seize control of ancient Palmyra," the source said.

The source went on to say that the Syrian army troops have already advanced three kilometers in the depth of the region North and East of T4 airbase.

On Saturday, the Syrian Army troops, backed up by the Russian and Syrian fighter jets, started a fresh round of anti-ISIL operation to the West of Palmyra, capturing more lands in the region.

The Army soldiers engaged in fierce clashes with ISIL near T4 airbase and al-Bardeh region, killing a large number of terrorists and driving the rest of them out of more positions in Eastern Homs.

The Syrian and Russian warplanes carried out tens of combat sorties over ISIL's gatherings and movements near Palmyra and energy fields near the city and al-Bardeh.

Meantime, a military source said that the ISIL is after capturing T4 airbase and then the town of al-Quaryatayn, but the Syrian and Russian warplanes have foiled plans of terrorists in preemptive strikes.

According to another military source, the first phase of the army's special operation in Eastern Homs is aimed at capturing the Jazal mountain and Al-Maher gas fields to liberate these sites from ISIL's control.

In relevant developments in the province on Friday, the army's artillery units shelled ISIL's bases in Eastern Homs, killing at least four militants, including the terrorist group's security commander.

At least four ISIL militants were killed and over a dozen more were wounded under the heavy fire of the Syria army's artillery units in Eastern Homs.

Abu Hafs al-Mashrifi, the ISIL chief of security in Homs, who used to lead the terrorist group's security operations in Homs province, was killed along with other terrorists under the Syrian army fire in the village of Huweises East of Homs.

A source close to the ISIL also confirmed al-Mashrifi’s death. The attack also destroyed two ISIL vehicles and a tactical unit.

 en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951026000671

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Iraqi Commander: US Choppers Helping ISIL Terrorists in Hamreen Region Overnight

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The US helicopters have helped the ISIL terrorists in Hamreen mountains in several nighttime operations during the past several weeks, a senior commander of the Iraqi popular forces in the region disclosed on Sunday.

"It seems that the US troops are looking for a new scenario to disrupt the military operations in the city of Mosul through conflicts in Hamreen strategic mountains," the commander said.

The strategic Hamreen mountain stretches from Salahuddin to Diyala and from there to Kirkuk province. Hamreen mountain is of paramount strategic importance as it fully oversees the region.

Last Monday, the Iraqi volunteer forces (Hashd al-Shaabi) blocked the US soldiers' path to Mak'hul mountain in Northern Salahuddin and expelled them from the region once again.

The Arabic-language media reported that al-Nujaba Movement forces prevented the US army men from climbing Mak'hul mountain that is under the full control of Hashd al-Sha'abi and Iraqi security forces.

The al-Nujaba Movement noted that that the US soldiers and their armored vehicles intended to climb Mak'hul mountain but al-Nujaba forces pushed them back them from the region.

Last Saturday, the al-Nujaba Movement had also blocked the US army troops from climbing the same mountain.

In late October, Deputy Chief of the Nineveh Provincial Council Noureddin Qablan announced that the US-led coalition warplanes launched airstrikes on an army base in Nineveh province, killing several soldiers.

"The US fighter jets hit one of the military bases of Iraqi Army's 16th Division in a region North of Mosul, and the attack left four Iraqi soldiers dead," Qablan said.

He said that the US army confirmed the attack, calling it a "mistake".

Qablan said that it was not the first time the US warplanes hit the Iraqi army and volunteer forces  military positions, adding, "The US-led coalition has each time said that air raids were not deliberate."

 en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951026000767

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Syrian General: Operations in Damascus First Likely Response to Israeli Aggression

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- A senior Syrian General underlined that Syria will intensify operations against the Israeli-affiliated terrorist groups in Western Ghouta of Damascus as the first likely response to Tel Aviv's recent attack.

"Syria's first response to the Israeli aggression will be suppression of the dangerous terrorists affiliated to the Israeli regime in Beit Jen in the Western countryside of Damascus," Brigadier General Rajab Deeb said on Sunday.

He categorically dismissed rumors that Israel has targeted a cargo of the Iranian missiles as incorrect, and said Tel Aviv's silence on its new aggression against al-Mezzeh airbase and its results indicates that the regime has not attained its desired objective.

Noting that there is no need for Syria's direct response to the attack, Deeb said that the Syrian army will intensify its operations against the terrorists in an important region whose consequences will affect the Zionist regime, but he did not provide any further detail.

Syrian sources confirmed on Friday that Israel had launched an attack on a military airport near Damascus.

Syrian State TV said that al-Mezzeh military air facility was struck several times near the Syrian capital of Damascus.

Israeli rockets took aim at an ammunition depot, producing an enormous explosion, according to the state TV.

The airport is a major strategic asset used by Syrian elites, military officials and troops as a transit complex.

The Syrian government also used the airport as a military outpost to launch artillery shells at former terrorist-held areas in the suburbs of Damascus.

Following the attacks, a Syrian army spokesman warned that Israel would face repercussions of the "flagrant" attack on the al-Mezzeh military airport.

A spokesman was also quoted on the state TV as saying that the projectiles originated near Lake Tiberias in Northern Israel just after midnight.

 en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951026000440

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Islamic figures hail King’s efforts to unify Muslims

Sunday 15 January 2017

RIYADH: Scholars, preachers and Islamic figures in various Muslim countries have praised the efforts of King Salman to unify Muslims and advocate their causes.

They commended the large expansions carried out in the Two Holy Mosques to increase pilgrims’ comfort during Haj and Umrah.

Sheikh Mohammed Abdul Khabier Azad, imam and preacher at the Royal Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan, described the decisions taken by King Salman since he took the reins of government as wise and rational, adding that they “changed the course of history for the good of the nation.”

Azad said Muslims support the significant Saudi contribution to the fight against terrorism.

Dr. Mamadou Bamba Ndiaye, former Senegalese minister of religious affairs, praised the considerable and ongoing efforts by King Salman with regard to the Two Holy Mosques and their visitors.

“The approval of the increase in the number of pilgrims for this year by 20 percent from previous years has rejoiced millions of Muslims in various parts of the globe,” he said.

  arabnews.com/node/1039136/saudi-arabia

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Mideast

Turkey says If U.S. wants Kurds at Syria talks, invite Islamic State too

Posted on January 15, 2017

ISTANBUL, — If the United States wants to invite Kurds to the upcoming Syrian peace talks it might as well invite the Islamic State jihadist group too, said Turkey’s foreign minister Saturday whose country views Kurdish fighters in Syria as extremists.

The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG), have been Western allies in the Syrian conflict but are condemned by Turkey, which will co-host the peace talks in Kazakhstan with Russia set for January 23.

Syrian Kurds have not been invited to the talks on the political future of Syria due to take place in Astana, PYD representative in France said Tuesday.

Turkey calls the PYD a “terror group” for its alleged links to Kurdish separatist militants in Turkey and has blasted the US repeatedly for working with the group on the ground in Syria.

Turkey fears the creation of an autonomous Kurdish region in Syrian Kurdistan — similar to the Kurdish region in Iraqi Kurdistan — would spur the separatist ambitions of Turkey’s own Kurds.

A comment by a US State Department spokesman this week that Washington believes the PYD would “have to be a part of this process… at some point” infuriated Ankara.

“If you are going to invite a terror group to the table then you might as well invite Al Nusra and Daesh,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters, referring to the former Al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front, known previously as Al-Nusra Front, and the so-called Islamic State (IS).

“We do not deny the US role and contribution (to the talks), but we expect the following from the new US administration: it must stop co-operating with terror groups,” he said.

“The current (US) administration is making serious mistakes,” he said.

It was not the first diplomatic spat over the heated Kurdish issue this week.

A US Central Command tweet insisting its Kurdish allies were not linked to outlawed militants whipped up a storm Thursday, with Ankara asking if Washington had “lost its senses”.

Washington regards the Kurdish YPG of Syrian Kurdistan as key ally against Islamic State and the most effective fighting force against IS in Syria and has provided them with arms, air support as well as the military advisers. The Kurdish militia has seized swathes of Syria from IS.

Relations between the US and Turkey have become increasingly bitter in the last month, with Ankara expressing hope of a “new chapter” under President-elect Donald Trump.

While Washington has played a key role in attempts to bring Syria’s warring parties to the negotiating table in the past, it has been notably absent from the cooperation between Ankara and Moscow to broker a nationwide ceasefire that is meant to pave the way for the January 23 peace talks.

Despite backing opposite sides in the Syrian conflict, Russia and Turkey are keen for a deal to end the conflict and both sides appear to think Trump’s administration could help.

The Astana talks are scheduled to begin just three days after Trump is inaugurated.

Turkey said this week that Russia had agreed the incoming US administration should be present at the upcoming talks, though there was no confirmation from Moscow.

A representative for the Syrian Kurds said that they had not been invited to take part.

In 2013, Syrian Kurds have established three autonomous zones, or Cantons of Jazeera, Kobani and Afrin and a Kurdish government across Syrian Kurdistan (northern Syria) in 2013. On March 17, 2016 Syria’s Kurds declared a federal region in Syrian Kurdistan.

Syrian Kurds on Dec. 30, 2016 have approved a blueprint for a system of federal government in Syrian Kurdistan, reaffirming their plans for autonomy in areas they have controlled during the civil war.

Copyright ©, respective author or news agency, AFP | Ekurd.net

 ekurd.net/turkey-us-kurds-syria-2017-01-15

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9 ISIL militants ‘neutralized’ in northern Syria: Military

January/15/2017

A total of nine Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants have been “neutralized” in northern Syria over the last 24 hours as part of the ongoing Euphrates Shield operation, the Turkish military said Jan. 15. 

Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralized” in their statements to imply the militants in question were either killed or captured.     

According to a statement issued by the Turkish General Staff, a total of 186 ISIL targets including shelters, defense positions, command control centers, weapons and vehicles were hit with howitzers and tanks multiple-launch rocket launchers.     

Separately, Turkish jets destroyed 12 other ISIL targets including a control point in air raids on the al-Bab and Bzagah regions, the statement added.     

The Turkish army is supporting Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters in liberating al-Bab, a strategic city for ISIL, from the jihadist group. Jan. 15 marks the 145th day since the city was surrounded.     

The operation is part of the Turkish-led Euphrates Shield operation, which began in late August 2016 to improve security, support coalition forces and eliminate the terror threat along Turkey’s border using FSA fighters backed by Turkish artillery and jets. In total, 43 landmines and 2,927 makeshift explosives have been defused since the start of the operation on Aug. 24, 2016.

  hurriyetdailynews.com/9-isil-militants-neutralized-in-northern-syria-military.aspx?pageID=238&nID=108529&NewsCatID=352

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Bank of China to establish deposit bank in Turkey

January/15/2017

The Bank of China (BOC) has received permission to operate a deposit bank in Turkey through the investment of $300 million, Turkey’s banking watchdog said late Jan. 13, according to Anadolu Agency.

In a statement, the country’s Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) said BOC had brought the “required capital” and would apply to start operating shortly.     

The bank, the world’s seventh largest and the third largest in China, has been interested in Turkey for a long time. BOC launched preparations to establish a commercial bank in the country in 2015 after establishing a representative office in 2011.     

BOC will become the second Chinese lender to operate in Turkey after the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), which purchased a majority stake in Tekstilbank last year.     

Meanwhile, the BDDK recently said three foreign banks had voiced a strong interest in Turkey and were likely to enter the Turkish market in 2017.

BDDK head Mehmet Ali Akben said last month that the lenders were from the Gulf region that had banking licenses in Turkey, including the Bank of Bahrain and Kuwait, which recently opened a representative office in Turkey.

Akben said there was also an American financial group that had plans to enter the Turkish market.

  hurriyetdailynews.com/bank-of-china-to-establish-deposit-bank-in-turkey--------.aspx?pageID=238&nID=108540&NewsCatID=345

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Bahrain executes three Shias convicted of killing policemen

REUTERS

Bahraini authorities on Sunday executed three Shia Muslim men convicted of killing an Emirati police officer and two Bahraini policemen in a 2014 bomb attack, in a move likely to stoke protests in the restive Gulf island kingdom.

The executions came less than a week after the country's highest court confirmed the punishment against Abbas al-Samea, Sami Mushaima and Ali al-Singace, the first death sentences to be carried out since 2010.

State news agency BNA said the men were executed by firing squad in the presence of a judge, doctor and a Muslim cleric.

“Arab Spring” demonstrations led by Bahrain's Shia majority were crushed by the Sunni-ruled government with help from its Gulf Arab neighbours, deepening sectarian rivalry in the war-damaged region.

Authorities last year escalated a crackdown on its Shia critics by imprisoning a top rights campaigner, shuttering the main opposition block and revoking the community's spiritual leader of his citizenship.

Activists condemned the executions and warned the move would undermine security.

“This is a black day in Bahrain's history. It is the most heinous crime committed by the government of Bahrain and a shame upon its rulers ... This act is a security threat to Bahrain and the entire region,” said Syed Ahmed Alwadaei of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.

  dawn.com/news/1308591/bahrain-executes-three-shias-convicted-of-killing-policemen

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Palestinian president opens Vatican embassy

January 15th, 2017

VATICAN CITY: Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas warned on Saturday that moving the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would “not help the peace process,” as he opened a Palestinian embassy to the Vatican.

Abbas held a private meeting with Pope Francis before heading to inaugurate the diplomatic mission, located in a building facing the Vatican that also houses the embassies of Peru and Burkina Faso.

Speaking briefly to reporters, Abbas reiterated his opposition to the possible transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem, pledged by US President-elect Donald Trump.

Abbas warns US against moving its mission to Jerusalem

“We cannot say anything yet because it has not happened, but if this does happen it will not help the peace process. I hope it will not happen,” said Abbas, speaking in Arabic.

In an interview with French daily Le Figaro on Friday Abbas said the Palestinians might consider “reversing recognition” of Israel if Trump moved the US embassy to Jerusalem.

“I wrote to president[-elect] Trump to ask him not to do it. Not only would this move deprive the United States of all legitimacy in playing a role in conflict resolution, it would also destroy the two-state solution,” Abbas was quoted as saying.

Trump promised during the election campaign to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the American embassy there.

Such a step would be a historic break with US policy, and with most of the international community, over the status of Jerusalem, also claimed by the Palestinians as capital of their future state, an issue to be settled by negotiation.

Abbas met Pope Francis for 20 minutes ahead of the embassy opening.

Among the gifts exchanged, Abbas offered the pontiff a stone from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, according to Greg Burke, spokesman for the Holy See.

A Vatican statement regarding Israel and the Palestinians added: “Hope was expressed that direct negotiations between the parties may be resumed to bring an end to the violence that causes unacceptable suffering to civilian populations, and to find a just and lasting solution.”

The private audience was the third meeting between Pope Francis and Abbas. The pontiff visited Israel and the Occupied Territories in 2014 and Abbas made a trip to the Vatican the following year for the canonisation of two Palestinian nuns.

Relations between the Vatican and the Palestinian Authority turned a new page in 2015 with the signing of an agreement to create a Palestinian embassy at the Vatican.

The agreement — two years after the Vatican recognised Palestine as a state — provoked the ire of Israel, which was also angered when Pope Francis called Abbas “an angel of peace” during their meeting in May 2015.

  dawn.com/news/1308485/palestinian-president-opens-vatican-embassy

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Turkish Soldiers Suspended for Selling Weapons with FSA Help

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Tens of Turkish soldiers were suspended after selling their weapons and military equipment with the help of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) on the sidelines of the Euphrates Shield Operation in Northern Aleppo.

Al-Watan newspaper said that social media activists have released reports along with images showing that "50 Turkish military men have been suspended and ordered to drop their operations in the Euphrates Shield Operation".

Meantime, dissident activists from Northern Aleppo reported that "after the Euphrates Shield Operation, we witnessed new equipment and guns in Northern Syria, and after investigation it became clear that the warfare equipment belonged to the Euphrates Shield Operation forces".

Opposition sources had also disclosed in September that militants affiliated to the Turkey-backed FSA have received a batch of advanced military vehicles in Northern Aleppo.

"The FSA-affiliated terrorist group of al-Hamza that is under the command of the Euphrates Shield Operation Room has received a number of military vehicles from the US army officers deployed in Northern Aleppo," the sources said.

Opposition sources have also released several photos showing the US army vehicles with al-Hamaza terrorist group's emblem.

Al-Hamzah had previously claimed that it is independent and is not working with any foreign country.

 en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13951026000527

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Turkey’s embattled tourism sector needs four years to recover: Association

January/15/2017

Turkey’s tourism sector, which has been hit by several factors, needs four years to rebound, according to a leading sector representative.

“The next six months will matter a lot. For a full recovery, we need at least four years on the condition that all the conditions go well,” said the head of the Hotel Association Turkey (TÜROB), Timur Bayındır.

Due to a number of terror attacks, the Russian crisis and a failed coup attempt last July, the tourism sector has been experiencing its darkest days. A total of 24 million tourists visited Turkey in the first 11 months of 2016 – a 31 percent decline compared to the same period of 2015, according to Bayındır.

The plunge in tourism revenue is expected to be around 40 percent. The whole sector had a 12.9 percent of share in the country’s GDP in 2015 and produced an 8.3 percent contribution to employment.

“We have seen quite difficult days. The problems in our sector have directly negatively affected 54 other sectors. After a harsh year, we also started 2017 under bad conditions,” said Bayındır.

He noted that the sector started to face problems in 2013, but the steepest plunge both in the number of tourist arrivals and tourism income was seen in 2016 amid a number of fatal terror attacks.

In order to be able to overcome these losses and to recover its image, Turkey needs to launch a comprehensive promotional campaign, according to Bayındır.

“Despite all negativities, Istanbul is a wonderful city, which attracted huge investments in tourism. This is also the case for many other parts of Turkey. We must all launch an aggressive promotional campaign together with leading international companies. We must tell this again and again,” he said, adding that the country’s image had been great until five years ago.

“I, however, do not know who will pay for such a comprehensive campaign. Our sector has been in a very bad position. Even Turkish Airlines has cut its budget,” he said, adding that the country’s tourism minister was not a natural member of the Economic Coordination Board.

  hurriyetdailynews.com/turkeys-embattled-tourism-sector-needs-four-years-to-recover-association.aspx?pageID=238&nID=108543&NewsCatID=349

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Europe

Italian Prison Guards Warn Imams Are Spreading Extremism Behind Bars

TERRORISTS are using prison imams to recruit new members, Italian guards have warned.

Jan 14, 2017

Extremism is growing behind bars, Italian prison guards have warned

They said the imams were free to enter and travel within the prisons at will, spreading messages and propaganda and leading to the creation of jihadi cells behind bars.

They also said the 70 mosques within the country’s jails were leading to a spike in jihadi recruitment.

Donato Capece, the general secretary for Italy’s biggest prison guard union, said prisons needed help to stop the growth of extremism.

The danger of unqualified imams in UK who ‘REFUSE to speak English'

Muslims tell kids to turn off Peppa Pig for 'Islamic alternative'

He said: “There are twenty imams coming in and out [of the country’s jails] just like parish priests do. And that is in addition to 150 self-proclaimed imams, who are in jail serving a sentence.

“They are all free to move from section to section from the morning until the evening and this has caused the elimination of the guard who went to check each section from time to time.”

He said there was enough evidence to show extremism in prisons was growing to demand more help from the government.

The fight against ISIS

Fri, November 18, 2016

The battle against ISIS militants (also abbreviated as Daesh, ISIL, IS and Islamic State) continues in the Middle East.

An Iraqi Shi'ite fighter fires a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) during clashes with Islamic State militants on the outskirt of Falluja

Helicopter fires weapons during clashes with Islamic State militants in the northwestern Golan district of Falluja

An Iraqi Shi'ite fighter carries weapons on the outskirt of Falluja

Iraqi government forces take position ea

An Afghan National Army soldier fires an

A man takes a selfie in front of a fire from oil that has been set ablaze in the Qayyarah area

Mr Capece said: “Let’s remember the last arrest in Ciampino of an alleged terrorist who had been radicalised in prison but there are several precedents.”

He said prisoners were losing their discipline and attacking guards or starting fights leading to an environment of chaos in which terrorist recruiters flourish.

Mr Capece said Italian prisons needed more support from the government to combat terrorism

Mr Capece said: “They have fun kicking men in uniforms or triggering riots. This is the way used by suspected terrorists to contact ordinary people, who are indoctrinated and become a risk for the future."

He concluded by appealing for support from the Italian government when it comes to hiring new guards - especially those who speak Arabic.

Mr Capece said more Arabic speakers were needed

Mr Capece said: “We must remember that many of these men speak Arabic and Arabic is not only a national language but consists of many dialects that we do not know. If we want to do prevention, we must at least understand them: hiring people who know the language or do ad hoc training to allow staff to understand and do prevention. Then there is also the problem of government cuts.

“We went from 45,000 [staff members] in 2001, provided by the law, to the present 38,000. To this, we can add the fact that so many old agents are retiring."

  express.co.uk/news/world/754321/prison-imams-muslim-jihadi-terrorist-training-grounds-italy-donato-capece

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Russia's Chechnya chief says over 50 suspected militants detained

Reuters | Jan 15, 2017, 03.22 PM IST

Ramzan Kadyrov, the hardline pro-Moscow head of Russia's Northern Caucasus Republic of Chechnya, said on Sunday that more than 50 suspected militants were detained in the biggest sting operation of recent years.

Moscow has waged two wars against separatists in the predominantly Muslim region since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The region is now ruled by Kadyrov, a former rebel fighter now loyal to President Vladimir Putin.

Civil rights activists accuse Kadyrov of arbitrary arrests of dissidents.

Kadyrov said on his Instagram account that a group directed by a Chechen-born militant based in Syria had been targeted.

"As of now, all the band-group was neutralized, more than 50 of its participants were delivered to police stations," Kadyrov said.

The security situation in the North Caucasus region remains volatile as unemployment and corruption is rife, pushing some young men to embrace radical versions of Islam.

Some Chechens are known to be fighting as committed jihadis on the side of Islamic State in Syria and Moscow fears they may return to attack Russia, something they have threatened to do.

The Kremlin has justified its campaign of air strikes in Syria by saying its main objective was to crush Islamic State.

 timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/europe/russias-chechnya-chief-says-over-50-suspected-militants-detained/articleshow/56563580.cms

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World diplomats in Paris to urge renewed Mideast peace talks

AP | Jan 15, 2017

PARIS: Fearing a new eruption of violence in the Middle East, more than 70 world diplomats gathered in Paris on Sunday to push for renewed peace talks that would lead to a Palestinian state.

The conference is meant to be a forceful message to US President-elect Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that much of the world wants peace and sees a two-state solution as the best way to achieve it in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Netanyahu has snubbed Sunday's conference as "rigged" against Israel, and Trump's incoming administration isn't taking part.

"A two-state solution is the only possible one," French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said in opening the conference, calling it "more indispensable than ever" to solve the protracted conflict.

"Both parties are very far apart and their relationship is one of distrust - a particularly dangerous situation," Ayrault added. "Our collective responsibility is to bring Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table. We know it is difficult, but is there an alternative? No, there isn't."

French diplomats fear Trump will unleash new tensions in the region by condoning settlements on land claimed by the Palestinians and potentially moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to contested Jerusalem.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is in Paris defending American interests at the conference, in his last major diplomatic foray before he leaves office. It marks the end of eight years of failed US efforts at Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy.

Netanyahu declined an invitation to a special meeting after the conference, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was initially expected, but his visit to Paris was postponed.

According to a draft statement obtained by The Associated Press on Friday, the conference will urge Israel and the Palestinians "to officially restate their commitment to the two-state solution."

It also will affirm that the international community "will not recognize" changes to Israel's pre-1967 lines without agreement by both sides.

Pro-Israel demonstrators planned a protest Sunday in Paris.

The final declaration also may warn Trump against moving the embassy, a move that could be seen as recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital after decades of insisting that the city's status must be determined by direct negotiations.

Israeli and Palestinian leaders have not negotiated even indirectly since a failed US-led peace effort in 2014.

 timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/europe/world-diplomats-in-paris-to-urge-renewed-mideast-peace-talks/articleshow/56564697.cms

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Austria's Anti-Immigrant Freedom Party Calls For Ban On 'Fascistic Islam'

15/01/2017

“We need zero and minus immigration.”

Entry CreatorLast changes a few seconds ago.Title-3ImageRonen Zvulun / Reuters Hide on Apple News articlesCredit (e.g. Credit: Photographer/Agency)Credit URLCaptionImage Description (Not shown on published page)Head of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPOe) Heinz-Christian Strache (L) visits "The Valley of the Communities" monument which bears engravings with the names of some 5000 Jewish communities destroyed by the Nazis or their collaborators at Yad Vashem's Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem, April 12, 2016.

The head of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPO) on Saturday called for a law banning “fascistic Islam” and Muslim symbols, comparable to an existing law banning Nazi symbols, saying Islam could wipe out European society.

Austria needs “a law which prohibits fascistic Islam”, Heinz Christian Strache told several thousand supporters at the party’s new year meeting in Salzburg.

“Let us put an end to this policy of Islamization... otherwise we Austrians, we Europeans will come to an abrupt end,” Strache said, in an apparent reference to the course pursued by the coalition government.

The junior coalition party OVP called on Wednesday for halving the number of asylum applications accepted this year to around 17,000.

Strache responded by saying: “We need zero and minus immigration.”

Any law against extreme elements of Islam should be similar to the law Austria introduced after WW2 banning the Nazi Party and Nazi symbols, a party spokesman said when asked for clarification.

The Freedom Party’s anti-Muslim message has been well-received by a large minority of Austria’s electorate. Its presidential candidate Norbert Hofer was defeated in a run-off vote last month but gained 47 percent support.

The nation of 8.7 million people has received more than 130,000 claims for asylum from people fleeing war and poverty in countries such as Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq since the summer of 2015.

About 600,000 Muslims, some of whom arrived during Europe’s migration crisis, live in Austria.

The party, which has long called for a ban on face veils, also called for changing the way refugees are taken care of.

The state, not NGOs like the Catholic charity Caritas, should be in charge of their care to make sure money is spent efficiently, Hofer himself said at the same event on Saturday.

(Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

  huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/01/14/austrias-anti-immigrant-freedom-party-calls-for-ban-on-fascist/?utm_hp_ref=au-world

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German plane from Oman lands in Kuwait over bomb threat

AP | Updated: Jan 15, 2017

KUWAIT CITY: A Germany-bound airplane from Oman has landed in Kuwait over a bomb threat.

The state-run KUNA news agency said the plane from the Omani city of Salalah bound for Cologne landed there Sunday morning over the threat.

KUNA said some 299 people were evacuated from the plane.

KUNA said authorities were searching the flight.

The only plane that took off from Salalah bound for Cologne on Sunday morning was Eurowings flight No. EW117, an Airbus A330-203.

Eurowings did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

 timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/german-plane-from-oman-lands-in-kuwait-over-bomb-threat/articleshow/56562344.cms

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Spain arrests three accused of connections to Islamist militants

Sun Jan 15, 2017

MADRID (Reuters) - Spanish police have arrested three people accused of connections with Islamist militants, the Interior Ministry said on Friday, two in Spain's North African enclave of Ceuta and a third in the northern town of Figueras.

The two detained had been through a long radicalisation process and formed part of a group which was thought to be at an advanced stage of preparation for potential attacks, it said.

Police, searching six locations in relation to the arrests, found one gun and three non-firing weapons, the ministry said, though it did not elaborate.

Separately, the ministry said later on Friday that police had detained a Moroccan man with Dutch papers accused of belonging to Islamic State and who may have returned to Spain from a conflict zone within the last couple of days.

The man was arrested through cooperation with Dutch and other authorities that had monitored his movements as he travelled from Turkey to Spain, the ministry said.

Spanish police have arrested 181 people accused of connections to Islamist militant groups since raising the country-wide security alert to one below the highest level in 2015.

(Reporting by Paul Day; Editing by Toby Chopra and Hugh Lawson)

 af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFKBN14Z0B5?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+reuters%2FAFRICATopNews+%28News+%2F+AFRICA+%2F+Top+News%29&&rpc=401

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Belgian Anti-Terror Units Raid Islamist Stronghold Molenbeek

14 Jan 201726

Belgian anti-terror units are raiding Molenbeek-Saint-Jean, the densely populated suburb of Brussels which has been described as Europe’s “jihadi capital”.

According to MailOnline the area was on “lockdown” on Saturday, with raids concentrated on the Rue Delaunoy.

This is the same street where Salah Abdeslam, mastermind of the mass-casualty Paris terror attacks, once lived.

The Belgian authorities had to implement a similar lockdown in 2016 after Brussels was rocked by a series of blasts which killed 33 and injured over 300, with a heavy armed forces presence creating the appearance of a city under military occupation.

Molenbeek has played host to a number of high-profile Islamists besides Abdeslam, including the perpetrators of the Madrid train bombings, which killed 191 people and wounded 1,841, and Mehdi Nemmouche, who shot and killed four people in the Jewish Museum of Belgium in 2014.

The area’s terror links are so persistent and extensive that commentators have dubbed it “The Islamic State of Molenbeek”.

Céline Praille, a spokeswoman for the Brussels prosecutor’s office, confirmed on RTL radio that “Several raids are being carried out as part of an investigation into terrorist activities.”

Another spokeswoman, Ine Van Wymersch,  claims “The operation has ended. Nothing was found, no weapons, no explosives” – although three people have been detained.

Henry Bolton OBE, former head of the Borders Unit at the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), told Breitbart London that terror activities in Molenbeek pose as great a risk to British nationals as they do to Belgians, as long as the UK remains within the European Union (EU) and its Single Market.

“Freedom of movement within the EU means that a terrorist in Molenbeek is as much of a problem for Britain as it is for Belgium,” he said. “Anis Amri demonstrated this quite clearly in his movements after his attack in Berlin.”

“The EU’s policies have enabled terrorists to reach the UK’s front door and unfortunately that front door is not secure. Checks on EU identity documents at UK Borders are minimal. Most travellers from the EU are simply waved through, including criminals and potential terrorists.”

  breitbart.com/london/2017/01/14/breaking-belgian-anti-terror-units-raid-islamist-stronghold/

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Sadiq Khan, London’s first Muslim mayor, on connecting citizens

January 14, 2017

SADIQ KHAN, MAYOR OF LONDON:  I am so proud that London has today chosen hope over fear, and unity over division.

DAVID TERESHCHUK, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND CORRESPONDENT:  When Sadiq Khan was elected mayor of London seven months ago, he became the first ever Muslim to lead a capital city in the Western world.  During the campaign, his conservative opponent had made Khan’s religion a big issue.  Gillian Tett is the America’s editor of the London-based “Financial Times.”

GILLIAN TETT, FINANCIAL TIMES:  There were dark insinuations that Sadiq Khan had somehow become associated with extremism, ultimate extreme Islamic ideas, and Sadiq Khan indicated very strongly that actually, he was very much part of the moderate wing of Islamic population who are trying to fight back against extremists.

DAVID TERESHCHUK:  American political consultant Rod O’Connor watched the khan campaign closely.

ROD O’CONNOR, AMERICAN POLITICAL CONSULTANT:  He’s standing up and saying, “Look, I’m able to represent all people, I’m able to talk to all people.  The core beliefs I have are not necessarily based on a religious doctrine.”

People have tried to exploit questions around religious identity, and safety and security tied to religious identity, and this is a very — a very compelling example of a place where you can see that just doesn’t work.  People looked deeper; I think Sadiq gave them an opportunity to look deeper, and they made a choice.

DAVID TERESHCHUK: Khan says his priorities as mayor are developing affordable housing, investing in transportation infrastructure, preparing youth for the jobs of tomorrow, and ensuring London remains a place that welcomes migrants.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  London is open.

SADIQ KHAN:  At a time when our cities are becoming more diverse, the job of politicians is to make sure we make it easier to integrate, that we bust myths, we build bridges, if you like, rather than walls.

DAVID TERESHCHUK: For his part, Khan has reached out to Christian and Jewish and other religions to promote better inter-faith relations.

SADIQ KHAN:  I have never held myself out as a Muslim leader.  But it’s a fact I’m a leader of Islamic faith, so that brings with that a responsibility, especially in current times.  So, during the month of Ramadan for example, when I was fasting, it was brilliant that, you know, churches and synagogues around London invited me there.  The archbishop of Canterbury invited me to Lambeth Palace, and the chief rabbi.

We invited a hundred children from every borough in London, and the archbishop and chief rabbi and I opened our fast together and took a brilliant selfie as well.

DAVID TERESHCHUK:  That selfie went viral across Britain and globally.  It’s symbolic of Khan’s common touch, which friends say stems from his upbringing in working-class south London.

KHAN:  My life experiences have made me the person who I am.

DAVID TERESHCHUK:  Khan’s life began in London, the fifth of eight children raised by a bus driver and a seamstress who emigrated from Pakistan in the 1960s.  The family lived in a public housing project notorious for its violence.

SADIQ KHAN:  It was a tough housing project, and, you know, you’ve got a choice to either defend yourself, or to get beaten up and, you know, be the victim of bullying.  So, at an early age, all of my brothers, I’ve got six brothers, and a sister, we joined the local boxing club, because it made you streetwise.  You know how to look after yourself, how to make sure you’re safe, really important.  But there are other skills in boxing as well, how to be magnanimous, how to be a team player, how to keep fit.

DAVID TERESHCHUK:   What do you think now that you’re in the position you’re in?  Does street fighting still help?

SADIQ KHAN:  Well, some say politics is street fighting, how to defend yourself, how to make sure you expose your opponent’s weaknesses, how to always be moving, don’t stand still — these are life-skills.

DAVID TERESHCHUK:  Skills that Khan now deploys to connect communities that might not otherwise not associate, in a city where, by his count, 300 languages are spoken.

SADIQ KHAN:  Listen, it’s not perfect, but actually, we’re a great city.  You’ve got in London: Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, those not members in an organized faith, rich, poor, old, young; all going on, interconnecting lives, breaking bread together, studying together, working together.

We can’t have a laissez-faire attitude towards integration.  We’ve got to think of our schools, about our colleges, about places of work — are we ensuring that everyone has a chance to fulfill their potential, to meet their neighbors and to get on?

DAVID TERESHCHUK: Khan has also encouraged religious and other minorities to report to law enforcement any and all hate crimes, which spiked upward after the U.K. voted last summer to leave the European Union.

SADIQ KHAN:  The good news is that the police, and myself, and others, have a zero tolerance towards hate crime.  We — the public has confidence to report it, which is very, very important.  I’m a firm believer in stamping out at an early stage name-calling, verbal abuse, before it escalates.  And I’m very pleased that, you know, we will carry on and be that great, great city that doesn’t just tolerate difference, but respects it, embraces it, and celebrates it.

This interview originally appeared on Religion and Ethics Newsweekly.

  pbs.org/newshour/bb/sadiq-khan-londons-first-muslim-mayor-connecting-citizens/

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South Asia

ISIS militants kidnap 13 seminary teachers in East of Afghanistan

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Jan 15 2017

At least 13 seminary teachers were abducted by the loyalists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group in eastern Nangarhar province, local officials said Sunday.

The officials further added that the incident took place in Haska Mina district after a group of ISIS militants stormed into a religious school in Deh Bala area.

A local official speaking on the condition of anonymity confirmed that the 13 abducted teachers were taken to an unknown location.

District administrative chief Sazwali confirmed the abduction of the teachers speaking to VOA’s Afghanistan service.

The loyalists of the terror group have not commented regarding the report so far.

This comes as the loyalists of the terror group torched at least 65 houses in Kot district which was once under the control of the terror group.

Provincial governor’s spokesman Ataullah Khogyani confirmed the incident and said no casualties were incurred to the local residents but an official in Kot said the loyalists of the terror group torched the houses of those who refused to pledge allegiance to them.

The latest movements by ISIS loyalist in Nangarhar come as the terror group received major blows during the counter-terrorism operations during the recent months.

Both the Afghan and US forces conducted regular strikes against the loyalists of the terror group in this province.

The increased raids, usually involving drone strikes, by the US forces followed a broader role granted by the Obama administration earlier last year.

The broader role was granted amid concerns that the loyalists of the terror group are attempting to expand foothold in the country and turn the eastern Nangarhar province into a regional operational hub for its fighters.

  khaama.com/isis-militants-kidnap-13-seminary-teachers-in-east-of-afghanistan-02678

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Senior Taliban commander among 21 killed in latest operations: MoI

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Jan 15 2017

A senior commander of the Taliban group was killed along with at least 20 other militants during the counter-terrorism operations in the past 24 hours, the Ministry of Interior (MoI) said Sunday.

According to a statement by MoI “In past 24 hours, Afghan National Police launched four Counter-Terrorism joint operations to clear some of the areas from terrorists and enemies of peace and stability of Afghanistan.”

The statement further added that the operations were conducted in Kapisa, Parwan, Oruzgan and Khost provinces.

“As a result 21 armed militants were killed including a senior commander of armed Taliban,” MoI added.

According to MoI, Afghan National Police discovered and confiscated light and heavy rounds of ammunition and an explosives-laden vehicle during the operations.

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

This comes as the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) are busy conducting their annual counter-terrorism operation to suppress the insurgency activities of the militant groups.

The annual, Shafaq, military operation was launched in response to Taliban’s spring offensive which was launched earlier in April this year.

The security officials are saying that the annual ANDSF operations aim to eliminate the key leaders of the anti-government armed militant groups.

  khaama.com/senior-taliban-commander-among-21-killed-in-latest-operations-moi-02677

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Afghan peace official fired for calling Taliban ‘Angels of Peace’

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Jan 15 2017

An official of the Afghan High Peace Council has been fired for his controversial remarks calling the Taliban group ‘Angels of Peace’.

Abdul Hakim Mujahid, adviser to High Peace Council, was fired for his remarks and insulting the national dignitaries and leaders.

The Office of the Chief Executive confirmed reports regarding Mujahid’s dismissal from the High Peace Council office.

The Afghan government on Saturday strongly reacted towards the remarks of Mujahid, saying the Afghan government is strongly committed to freedom of expression and will not allow anyone to misuse the term to call ‘Angels of Peace’ those who are killing the Afghan people, women, and children, and those destroying sacred places and the country.

The Office of the President, ARG Palace, said Saturday that the terrorist groups are acting on instructions of the outsiders to conduct insurgency and destructive activities to take the country backwards and said the Afghan forces have the right to fight against such groups.

It also added that all dignitaries of the country must be respected and any insult to the national personalities and leaders will lead to discomfort among the people, insisting that such steps will never be acceptable and tolerable.

The Office of the President said the government to take immediate steps to investigate the issue and share with the nation regarding the steps taken.

  khaama.com/afghan-peace-official-fired-for-calling-taliban-angels-of-peace-02675

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Study rejects massive involvement of Afghan refugees in crimes in Pakistan

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Jan 15 2017

The Afghan refugees are not involved in major crimes on a large extent as claimed by the officials in Pakistan, a new study reveals.

According to the local newspaper, Dawn News, a total of 11,685 cases were registered during the period 2014 to September 30, 2016.

Out of the recorded cases 10,549 were put up in court and only 134 involved Afghan refugees which come to 1.27 per cent of the total number of cases landing in court.

The paper cited documents obtained from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s Directorate of Prosecution and Department of Police to cross-check and corroborate the statistics.

According to the documents, the cases involved 23,007 accused, of which only 300 were Afghan refugees. Thus, the percentage of Afghan refugees accused of the said crimes comes to 1.3pc.

However, figures provided by the Department of Police, however, are slightly higher which shows a total of 146 cases involving Afghan refugees were registered in 2014, 96 were registered in 2015, and a total of 100 cases were registered against Afghan refugees between January 1 and September 30, 2016.

This comes as a prominent Pakistani politician has claimed last year that many undocumented Afghan refugees are behind the incidents of kidnappings for ransom and terrorism in the country, particularly in Peshawar city.

The Chairman of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf has also claimed that the hostility within the host population has increased as a result of the incidents involving the undocumented Afghan refugees.

On the other hand, the Afghan refugees became subject to harassment besides they were forced to leave the country following a deadly attack on a school late in 2014 that left scores of people dead or wounded in Peshawar city of Pakistan.

  khaama.com/study-rejects-massive-involvement-of-afghan-refugees-in-crimes-in-pakistan-02674

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Roadside bomb kills seven Afghan civilians: officials

AFP

At least seven civilians, including a women and three children, were killed when their truck hit a roadside bomb in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, officials said.

The villagers were travelling from Pacheer Agam district to a nearby village in Nangarhar province, Hijratullah Rahmani district governor of Pacheer Agam told AFP.

“Unfortunately, in the blast, seven civilians, including a woman and three children were killed and one wounded,” he said.

No one claimed responsibility, but the interior ministry in a statement blamed “enemies of peace and stability,” a term Afghan officials use to refer to Taliban.

Nangarhar is also home to militant Islamic State group fighters, who are trying to expand their presence in Afghanistan by winning over sympathisers, recruiting followers and challenging the Taliban on their own turf.

Afghan civilians are paying a heavy price for the escalating conflict across the country. A total of 2,562 civilians were killed and another 5,835 wounded in the first nine months of 2016, according to a UN report.

Last week, over 50 people, mostly civilians, were killed in multiple Taliban bombings across Afghanistan.

  dawn.com/news/1308589/roadside-bomb-kills-seven-afghan-civilians-officials

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Bangladesh police arrests 'mastermind' behind Dhaka cafe siege

PTI | Jan 14, 2017

DHAKA: Bangladesh police on Saturday said they have arrested a top Islamist militant accused of being one of the "masterminds" of the country's worst terror attack at a popular Dhaka cafe and plotting murders of religious minorities including two Hindu priests.

ISIS-linked outlawed Neo-Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen recruiter Jahangir Alam alias Rajib alias Gandhi was arrested Friday night from Elenga, some 120 kms north of Dhaka, Counter-Terrorism and Transnational police unit chief Monirul Islam told media.

He said that Alam was one of the "key players" of the July attack on Holey Artisan restaurant who were captured alive so far as "13 of the 17 militants who were presumed to have plotted the attack were killed in encounters so far".

"During the initial interrogation he has admitted to his direct link to plot of staging the attack on Gulshan's Holey Artisan and the subsequent Eid congregation in Sholakia," Islam said.

The official said the police investigations found that Alam was involved in plotting murders of 22 people including a slain Japanese national, a Hindu tailor, two Hindu priests, a village doctor, a Sufi Muslim, a professor of state-run Rajshahi University and several others in the past four years.

The development came two weeks after five suspected JMB operatives were arrested over plotting attacks on the New Year's Eve and 30-kg explosives were seized from them.

A breakaway faction of JMB constituted the Neo-JMB which was behind the July 1 attack on the Dhaka cafe in which 22 people, including 17 foreigners, were killed. An Indian girl was among those killed in Bangladesh's worst terror attack.

Police said Alam's name surfaced during investigations when they found that he served Neo-JMB as the commander of the outfit for the Northern districts.

The arrest was made a week after Neo-JMB's most wanted leader Nurul Islam alias Marzan and another extremist were killed by counter-terrorism forces in Mohammadpur Beribadh area of the capital during a pre-dawn raid.

Police had claimed that Marzan coordinated the attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery.

Bangladeshi-Canadian Tamim Chowdhury, who was singled out by the police as the neo-JMB chief and the key player in the recent terror activities in Bangladesh, and two others were killed in a police operation in Narayanganj on August 27.

Last week, RAB arrested 10 people from different parts of Dhaka for their suspected involvement with the cafe attackers.

A dozen other top and second-tier leaders of the New JMB group are still absconding.

 timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/bangladesh-police-arrests-mastermind-behind-dhaka-cafe-siege/articleshow/56537599.cms

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Russia calls on Taliban to renounce violence, launch intra-Afghan dialogue

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sat Jan 14 2017

Russia has called on the leaders of the Taliban group to renounce violence and launch an intra-Afghan dialogue to end the ongoing violence in the country.

Maria Zakharova, spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, told reporters the security situation in Afghanistan remains challenging as the number of terrorist attacks is on the rise in Afghanistan.

Zakharova further added that “Although armed opposition has somewhat scaled back its offensive which is a usual thing for the winter.”

“On January 10 alone, two terrorist attacks were perpetrated in Kabul and two more in the administrative centres of Helmand and Kandahar provinces. According to preliminary reports, nearly 50 people were killed in these attacks and over 90 were injured to a varying extent. It is worth mentioning that terrorists targeted deputies of the Parliament of Afghanistan in Kabul, as well as the ambassador and diplomats of the United Arab Emirates  in Kandahar,” she said.

She said “We resolutely condemn these heinous crimes perpetrated by the terrorists. There can be no justification for them. Our sympathy and support go out to all the victims, to the families of the deceased and to our colleagues, foreign diplomats. We hope that the masterminds and perpetrators of these terrorist attacks will receive the punishment they deserve.”

“We urge the warring parties in Afghanistan, primarily the leaders of the Taliban movement, to renounce violence and to take urgent action to launch intra-Afghan dialogue,” she added.

  khaama.com/russia-calls-on-taliban-to-renounce-violence-launch-intra-afghan-dialogue-02671

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India

Uttar Pradesh polls: Islamic seminary Deoband bans entry of politicians

Shailvee Sharda | TNN | Updated: Jan 15, 2017

LUCKNOW: India's leading Islamic seminary, Darul-uloom Deoband has closed its gates for politicians in the election season.

Talking to TOI, spokesperson of the organisation Maulana Ashraf Usmani said, "we are a religious organisation... no candidate can come to us for political reasons." He added that the Rector Maulana Mufti Abdul Kasim Nomani will not meet Muslim leaders of any political party till the elections are on.

"We cannot allow politicians to use our alma mater for any kind of electoral mileage. We don't have time for such people till the election are on," the spokesperson said citing Maulana Nomani. In February 2016, the institution banned the entry of politicians and people with known political affiliations on its campus. "Students and teachers have been instructed not to participate in any political debates as well," he said.

He stated that the decision has been taken in wake of the general elections the model code of conduct for which became effective on January 4. Nominations for the first phase is slated to begin on January 17. As many as 73 constituencies in western UP including deoband would go to poll on February 11.

In the past, it has been a tradition for candidates to pay a visit to Darul-uloom Deoband. Based on the notion that muslims vote en bloc, visit of candidate was said to cause a swing of votes in the region. The visitors list included stalwarts like Mulayam Singh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi. Sources said that political parties may make attempt to trigger a swing by kindling their religious sentiments in the backdrop of the Muzaffarnagar riots.

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi is already campaigning in the region while Prime Minister Narendra modi is expected to address a public rally soon. UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav's campaign plan for Western UP which begins with Saharanpur (district where Darul-uloom Deoband is located) is expected to be released in 3-4 days.

 timesofindia.indiatimes.com/elections/assembly-elections/uttar-pradesh/news/uttar-pradesh-polls-islamic-seminary-deoband-bans-entry-of-politicians/articleshow/56560490.cms?

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ISI backed Kandahar hijackers: Plane crisis negotiator Doval

Himanshi Dhawan | TNN | Updated: Jan 15, 2017

NEW DELHI: The Indian Airlines flight IC-814 hijackers were actively supported by Pakistan's spy agency ISI, leaving them under no pressure to end the hostage crisis soon, according to national security adviser Ajit Doval, who was among those tasked as negotiator to defuse the crisis. The Kathmandu-Delhi flight, with 180 passengers and crew on board, was taken over by five hijackers soon after take-off on December 24, 1999, spiralling into one of the worst hostage crises in Indian history.

Doval said that if the Taliban hijackers did not have ISI support, India could have resolved the crisis. Doval's comments are part of 'Defeat is an Orphan: How Pakistan lost the Great South Asian War', a new book by Myra Macdonald, former India bureau chief for Reuters. The crisis finally ended with the release of dreaded terrorists Maulana Masood Azhar, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and Mushtaq Zargar.

"There were a lot of Taliban on the tarmac with their weapons," says Doval. The negotiating team made another discovery when they landed.

Two ISI men were on the tarmac and others soon joined them. One was a lieutenantcolonel and the other a major, said Doval, who had spent many years serving in Pakistan. To make matters worse, the Indian officials realised the hijackers were communicating directly with ISI officers in Kandahar.

"We were getting very good intelligence about all that was happening," Doval says. With support from outside, the hijackers were far less susceptible to being worn down by negotiations writes Macdonald. "If these people were not getting active ISI support in Kandahar, we could have got the hijacking vacated," Doval says.

"The ISI had removed all the pressure we were trying to put on the hijackers." Even their safe exit was guaranteed, so they had no need to negotiate an escape route. "Normally that is not the way hijackers talk. Normally the biggest fear is how to get out," he says in the book.

Doval goes on to outline how time was not on their side either. The then NDA government was under severe public pressure and was keen to end the hostage crisis before January 1. This put the negotiators on a tight deadline. Usually, writes Macdonald, it would be the hijackers who feared running out of time while trained negotiators remained calm, following an unofficial rule book put together from years of internationally pooled experience.

"In a normal hijacking, the stop-clock is for them," says Doval, implying that it was New Delhi rather than the hijackers that lost its nerve. Doval describes the three released men as "ISI-sponsored terrorists".

 timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/isi-backed-kandahar-hijackers-plane-crisis-negotiator-doval/articleshow/56550843.cms

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Separatists restrict shutdown to Fridays

PTI | Jan 15, 2017

SRINAGAR: The separatists in Kashmir have further scaled down their ongoing agitation by restricting the strike call to every Friday and have asked people to observe a 'black day' on Republic Day.

In a fresh protest programme issued late last night, the separatists - hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, moderate Hurriyat chief Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and JKLF chief Yasin Malik - asked the people to observe strike only on Fridays.

After the unrest broke out in the Valley following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani in July last year, the separatists have been issuing regular protest programmes. The protests have died away since November and the separatists restricted the strike to Friday and Saturday every week.

In view of Republic Day, the separatists have called for a shutdown on Thursday as well this week. They have also called for joint protest on Monday after the afternoon prayer.

 timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/separatists-restrict-shutdown-to-fridays/articleshow/56562245.cms

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North America

Imam to launch campaign against Muslim registry

Published on Jan. 15, 2017

Paul-Hasan-1-jpgImam Paul Hasan talks with The Chronicle-Telegram on Friday at the Lorain Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Program on Kelly Place..STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE

LORAIN — She carried the Bible and walked by faith.

Imam Paul Hasan talks about his spiritual foundation with reverence.

“My mother was a sincere, practicing, good Christian woman,” he said. “I would not be the Muslim, the imam that I am today without my Christian mother. To say Muslims have an issue with Christianity is just not true and goes against every ounce of love I have for my mother.”

Hasan, 62, is a prominent local voice regarding Islam and what it means to be Muslim. Hasan has worked tirelessly in the community — staging vigils after shooting deaths, calling for an end to neighborhood violence and working with local leaders in an effort to improve the community. He uses scripture, African parables and quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X to weave together his points in a way that is authentic and natural.

Hasan, a longtime community activist who feels compelled to put himself on the front lines, is the founding member of the nationally known organization The International Council for Urban Peace, Justice and Empowerment, and he also founded the official Lorain County organizing committee for the Holy Day of Atonement, which is an annual remembrance of the Million Man March, during which more than a million black men gathered Oct. 16, 1995, in Washington, D.C., to pledge self-reliance and commitment to family and community.

But Hasan said he doesn’t do it for selfish glory. Especially not now, he said, not when the country is days away from the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump.

Hasan said he has to be outspoken because his Muslim brothers and sisters need an ally.

As such, come Monday — coincidently Martin Luther King Jr. Day — Hasan will launch a national campaign opposing the creation of any Muslim database that could be part of Trump’s campaign trail promises to crack down on Muslim immigration into the United States.

A news conference describing the campaign is set for 12:30 p.m. Monday at Lorain’s South Branch Library, 2121 Homewood Ave.

The campaign calls on people to sign an online petition opposing the initiation and implementation of any Muslim registry.

The petition reads, in part:

“Muslim citizens (whether U.S. born or immigrants from scores of other nations) have made positive contributions to every sector of our nation — government, economy, military, education, science, health care, culture, and sports & entertainment. Blind fear of ‘The Other’ is what drives the proposed Muslim or nationality registry. It’s based on the doctrine of ‘guilty until proven innocent’ rather than ‘innocent until proven guilty’ — a foundational concept of the U.S. legal system. It’s also a violation of basic constitutional rights and reminiscent of the early stages of what became the categorical internment of U.S. citizens of Japanese descent into concentration camps during WWII.”

The entire petition is at bit.ly/2ipb4Ja.

“This campaign is intentionally beginning in Lorain,” Hasan said Friday from the offices of the Lorain Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Program on Kelly Place. “We are the international city of many religions, cultures and nationalities, but also a city experiencing severe economic hardship. It’s a perfect place to send our message of solidarity from people of all religions, races, economic conditions, nationalities and ages to the Trump administration that a Muslim registry or anything like it, which is fundamentally discriminatory, will be defiantly resisted.”

While Hasan’s faith story began with Christianity, by his late teenage years he was searching for something that could unify African-Americans without the limits he experienced in the Christian faith. While a student at Bowling Green State University in 1974, Hasan said, he went to Chicago to hear a speech by the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam. He walked into a room of thousands of African-Americans and the atmosphere was orderly, respectful and uplifting, he said, and he decided he wanted to be a Muslim.

“What makes this country better than any other country is we can rise above the fear and rhetoric and be great because we are a country of unimaginable freedoms,” Hasan said. “Where else could I have looked for and found Islam and be able to practice is a way that is free and open. We do that in this country with Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism or any other religion.”

Hasan said his conversion was easy because he was mentally ready. Since then, his life has been about service and ministering — an imam is a central leader in Islam.

“I chose to be an active imam, and I’ll do it until I can’t anymore,” Hasam said.

In recent years as political discussions turned divisive and his daughter joined the U.S. Navy, Hasan said, his drive to be a vocal Muslim grew along with his concerns. He denounces terrorism in the name of Islam, advocates for the United States to be proactive in protecting its citizens and wants more people to understand the love and peace behind his religion.

He also wants the community to join him in pledging to fight against any proposed Muslim registry.

“I know people are saying that it may not happen or that’s not what he meant. But we just don’t know,” Hasan said. “That’s why we have to be the ones that say, ‘Not now, not ever, not in our country.’”

  chroniclet.com/Local-News/2017/01/15/Lorain-imam-to-launch-campaign-against-Muslim-registry-in-U-S.html

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Man arrested after Washington state Islamic Center fire

 

A Washington man was arrested on Saturday on charges of setting fire to an Islamic center in Bellevue, Washington, authorities said.

Isaac Wayne Wilson, 37, was arrested after he was discovered in a parking lot near the Islamic Center of Eastside, where a fire broke out in the middle of the night.

Bellevue Police Chief Steve Mylett said Wilson was arrested on suspicion of second degree arson, and on an outstanding warrant for felony first degree malicious mischief in Seattle.

Police and fire agencies received several calls alerting them to a fire at the center around 2:45 a.m. Firefighters found heavy fire on the first and second floors, Fire Chief Mark Risen said, adding that firefighters quickly prevented the fire from spreading to other parts of the building.

There were no injuries, Risen said.

Imam Faizel of the Islamic Center of Eastside said he was shocked by the incident.

"As a community, yes we are heartbroken, we are sad that we have lost our place of worship. I have been the imam there for 16 years and never have we ever experienced anything like this," he told a news conference.

The motive remains unknown, Mylett said, and the incident is under investigation.

The mosque solicited donations on its web site to rebuild, saying "Together we can build something better, bigger, and beautiful."

  reuters.com/article/us-washington-fire-mosque-idUSKBN14Z06C?rpc=401&

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Police: Mosque outside Seattle torched

Sun January 15, 2017

Man arrested, investigated for arson

The mosque is located in Bellevue, Washington

(CNN)A mosque was badly burned outside Seattle early Saturday, and police believe the fire was intentionally set.

The incident occurred in Bellevue, Washington. No one was in the Islamic Center of Eastside at the time and no injuries were reported.

CNN affiliate KCPQ said firefighters spotted 40-foot flames on the back side of the building. "Crews were able to save half of the building," the station reported..

"We have confirmed it was arson, but do not know a motive," Bellevue Police Chief Steve Mylett said.

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 DeborahHorne @DeborahKIRO7

'We are heartbroken. But as a community we stand together. I request everybody to pray for us. We pray for peace.' - Imam Faizel

7:21 AM - 15 Jan 2017 · Bellevue, WA

  15 15 Retweets   26 26 likes

Isaac Wayne Wilson was charged with felony malicious mischief and is being investigated for arson, Mylett said. CNN affiliate KCPQ said the man is age 37.

Police found the suspect lying on the ground near the back of the building, KCPQ said..

Wilson was being held at the King County Correctional Facility in Seattle, and bail has been denied. Investigators were not currently considering the act a hate crime, Mylett said.

The FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and Bellevue fire and police officials were investigating.

CNN affiliate KOMO reported deputy prosecutor Mike Hogan as saying "the suspect had prior contacts with the mosque."

"Police said the suspect had previously been arrested for making a disturbance at the mosque," the station said.

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 Gabe Cohen @GabeCohenKOMO

Highland Community Center will host prayer thru Monday after arson fire at Bellevue mosque. #komonews

9:11 AM - 15 Jan 2017

  1 1 Retweet   4 4 likes

The Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington state, in a Facebook post, urged people "not to jump to conclusions about the motive" and said "please give authorities time to investigate."

The group said authorities "have the situation under control" and asked people who have any knowledge about the incident or the suspect to contact 911.

The facility, also known as the Bellevue Masjid, is closed until further notice "due to the fire," its website said. A local community center was being used for prayers, the mosque said.

The mosque is asking for donations to rebuild. A funding appeal website said that over the last half-year, "this center and a neighboring Islamic center have seen numerous acts of vandalism."

 us.cnn.com/2017/01/15/us/washington-mosque-arson/index.html

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S.F. Mayor to Resist Trump ‘Muslim Registry’ He Never Proposed

15 Jan 201711

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee vowed Friday evening to “resist” a registry of Muslim Americans allegedly proposed by President-elect Donald Trump, likening it to the policy of President (and Democrat) Franklin Delano Roosevelt of interning Japanese-Americans during the Second World War.

There is one problem, however: Trump never made that proposal. Mayor Lee evidently fell for a prominent example of “fake news.”

The idea of a “registry” was invented by journalists, as explained by Breitbart News in 2015:

Step 1: Seed. The lie begins with a Yahoo! profile in which Trump is asked, supposedly (the reporter does not provide his exact question), if he would “require registering Muslims in a database or giving them a form of special identification that noted their religion.”

Trump does not say yes or no. Instead, he dodges the question, and comes back to the question of monitoring mosques (which the U.S. has done in the past): “We’re going to have to–we’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely,” Trump said when presented with the idea. “We’re going to have to look at the mosques. We’re going to have to look very, very carefully.”

The Yahoo! reporter, Hunter Walker (a hater of note), construes Trump’s answer as follows: “He wouldn’t rule it out.”

Step 2: Amplify. The story is picked up by CNN. Sara Murray asks whether Trump would “rule out” a database for Muslims–borrowing from Walker’s article. Trump is surprised, and tells her, truthfully, that he never responded to Walker’s question.

Here is their exchange, as reported by CNN:

When Murray asked whether Trump would rule out a database for Muslims, he said he didn’t “know where you heard that.”

“Yahoo News asked you about it, you didn’t rule it out,” Murray said as Trump worked a ropeline after the event.

“No, I never — I never responded to that question,” Trump said.

“So would you not support it?” Murray asked.

“I never responded to that question, Sara,” Trump said.

He added that he didn’t “know who wrote it,” referring to the Yahoo News article, and declined to answer a follow-up question from Murray about whether he would “support something like that,” referring to a Muslim database.

Step 3: Distort. NBC News’ Vaughn Hillyard confronts Trump: “Should there be a database system that tracks the Muslims here in this country?” Trump replies: “There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases. We should have a lot of systems. And today you can do it. But right now, we have to have a border, we have to have strength, we have to have a wall, and we cannot let what’s happening to this country happen any longer.” Hillyard asks: “But that’s something your White House would like to implement?” Trump: “Oh I would certainly implement that. Absolutely.” Hillyard follows up: What do you think the effect of that would be? How would that work? It would stop people from coming in illegally. We have to stop people from coming into our country illegally.” Hillyard asks if Trump would go to mosques to register people. “Different places,” Trump says.

It is clear from the exchange that Trump thinks Hillyard is talking about new entrants to the United States, presumably Syrian refugees. But Hillyard reports Trump’s answer as if he is talking unambiguously about Muslims already in the United States.

Step 4: Smear. Hillyard comes back later, asking Trump: “Mr. Trump, why would Muslim databases not be the same thing as requiring Jews to register in Nazi Germany?” Trump realizes Hillyard is out for blood. “You tell me,” he says, and walks away.

The story goes viral: “Donald Trump Is In Favor Of Legally Requiring American Muslims to Register on a Database,” writes Zeke Miller of Time, linking to Hillyard’s story at NBC. A proposal Trump never made is now an established mainstream media fact.

On Friday night, Lee told journalists at the Islamic Society of San Francisco, according to the San Francisco Chronicle: “I am totally, 100 percent opposed to any registry that identifies anyone because of their religion or race.”

The Chronicle did not question the premise of his statement — nor did the Los Angeles Times or the Sacramento Bee, who made similar recent mistakes.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. His new book, How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

  breitbart.com/california/2017/01/15/s-f-mayor-opposes-trump-muslim-registry-never-proposed/

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US Supreme Court takes up suit over 2001 detention of Muslims

AP

Ahmer Abbasi speaks softly as he describes the strip searches, the extra shoves, the curses that he endured in a federal jail in Brooklyn following the Sept 11 attacks.

“I don't think I deserved it,” Abbasi said during a telephone interview with The Associated Press from his home in Karachi.

Abbasi's quiet, matter-of-fact tone belies his determination, even after 15 years, to seek justice in American courts provided the US Supreme Court will let him.

The justices on Wednesday are hearing an appeal from former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former FBI Director Robert Mueller and other former US officials that seeks to shut down the lawsuit that human rights lawyers have filed on behalf of Abbasi and others over their harsh treatment and prolonged detention.

“Somebody has to be accountable, somebody has to be responsible,” said Abbasi, 42, who works in real estate in Pakistan.

The former officials, including the top immigration enforcement officer and the warden and deputy warden at the New York City jail, say it should not be them.

“Senior government officials should not be regularly second-guessed by lawsuits seeking money damages from them in their personal capacity,” said Richard Samp, chief counsel at the Washington Legal Foundation and author of a brief from four former attorneys general.

Abbasi was among more than 80 men who were picked up in the days and weeks following Sept 11 on immigration violations.

Until then, he said he had been “living the American dream” since coming from Pakistan in 1993. He was living in Jersey City, New Jersey, across the river from Manhattan and driving a taxi in New York.

He acknowledges he remained in the United States after he should have left and that he entered into a fraudulent marriage so he could get a coveted “green card” that would allow him to stay in the US legally.

He might never have been caught except for the terrorist attacks and the aggressive response of officials who wanted to be sure there would be no follow-on strikes.

When he was arrested in late September 2001, Abbasi said he readily admitted he was in the country illegally and assumed he would be quickly deported. Instead, he was held for nearly 11 months, including more than four months in the most restrictive conditions.

He was strip-searched frequently and allowed out of his cell for no more than a couple of hours a day. He was deported in August 2002.

The Justice Department's inspector general produced two reports detailing problems with the detentions. The government settled an earlier suit involving five other men for $1.2 million.

Rachel Meeropol of the Center for Constitutional Rights will argue the Supreme Court case.

Meeropol said the men she is representing were arrested without any evidence linking them to terrorism because they fit a profile in law enforcement's eyes. “They were a group of individuals who looked how they imagined the hijackers looked,” Meeropol said.

A divided panel of the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said the men were detained “as if they were terrorists, in the most restrictive conditions of confinement available, simply because these individuals were, or appeared to be, Arab or Muslim.”

The appeals court said that the suit could go forward because “the suffering endured by those who were imprisoned merely because they were caught up in the hysteria of the days immediately following 9/11 is not without a remedy.”

The case stems from a class-action suit originally filed in 2002. It's the third time the court has intervened in lawsuits against Ashcroft and others from Muslims who were arrested in the US following the 2001 attacks. The justices have twice sided with Ashcroft.

The odds that the court will come out differently this time are long, especially because only six justices will take part. Justice Sonia Sotomayor was a member of the New York-based federal appeals court that heard an earlier version of the case and Justice Elena Kagan worked on the issue when she served in the Justice Department.

One seat on the nine-member high court has been empty since Justice Antonin Scalia died in February. Four justices a majority of those taking part on Wednesday voted to limit the ability to sue Ashcroft in the two earlier cases.

Abbasi said he harbours no anger toward the United States. If anything, he misses his time there. His brother is an American citizen and his nephew recently graduated from Penn State.

He said he tried to get a visa to attend the high court hearing. “I was denied for some reason,” Abbasi said. So, too, were others who sought visas, Meeropol said.

  dawn.com/news/1308415/us-supreme-court-takes-up-suit-over-2001-detention-of-muslims

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Pakistan

Pakistan's double standards: 'Extremist outfits are not terror groups', interior minister says

Shailaja Neelakantan | Updated: Jan 15, 2017

NEW DELHI: Pakistan's interior minister has publicly and unwittingly acknowledged something the world has long known - Islamabad makes a distinction between 'good terrorists' and 'bad terrorists'. And the government is now facing a backlash from an aghast opposition for promoting this distinction, Pakistani media reported.

Last week, in the Pakistani Senate, interior minister Chaudhry Nisar said there should be a distinction made between banned terrorist outfits and banned sectarian organizations. The meaning of the former is self evident; the latter refers to extremist religious organizations.

Nisar's comments were no slip of the tongue, because yesterday, he went so far as to say there should be separate laws for the two groups.

"Those suggesting that I uttered something sacrilegious by saying terrorist organisations and those organisations that were proscribed on the basis of sectarian differences are different have not examined the record," he said, referring to the list of proscribed organisations compiled by the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta).

"Can Allama Sajid Naqvi be linked to any terrorist organisation? Can [Syed Hamid Ali Shah] Moosavi be linked to a terrorist organisation? No, they are patriotic Pakistanis," Nisar said about the two Shia leaders, whose groups are indeed on the Nacta list.

When Nisar first made these comments last week, stunned Senate members staged a walk out. The opposition Pakistan People's Party called minister Nisar "a spokesman [for] terrorist outfits".

Another opposition member, MQM senator Tahir Hussain said the interior minister's remarks were surprising as some sectarian organisations were more dangerous and cruel than the Taliban. Hussain accused the government of promoting sectarianism, and added that "sectarian outfits were equally terrorists," Dawn reported.

Nisar made those remarks in the context of his defending his meeting with Ahmed Ludhianivi, chief of the banned sectarian organisation Ahle-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ).

Last month, a Pakistan Supreme Court-constituted commission came down heavily against Nisar for meeting with the banned group in October. The Commission - set up to investigate the August Quetta massacre - went so far as to say the country's central government was "cavorting with" banned terror groups, Dawn reported.

Clearly that made no difference to Nisar. "It is unfair to link everything to Maulana Ludhiyanvi," he said yesterday, referring to criticism of his meeting with the head of the banned ASWJ.

The Pakistani press took Nisar to task for his comments, but such things have never made much difference in the past.

"...to suggest that sectarian violence is some lesser form of terrorism, which is what the interior minister's words imply, is wrong: it is the very bedrock upon which terrorism of the kind we see in Pakistan is based," said a Dawn editorial

A Pakistan ki Awaz editorial titled 'Chaudhry Nisar's wisdom' was scathing in its criticism of Nisar.

"For the security czar of a country battling the malign effects of terrorism to be attempting to draw fine distinctions between sectarian and other terrorism, in a pale mirror image of Musharraf's good and bad Taliban binary, beggars belief. Sectarian terrorism's toll is as horrendous, if not worse, than 'pure' terrorism. And is the worthy minister unaware of the nexus between sectarian and other terrorist organisations? Terrorists are terrorists, period," the editorial wrote.

 timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistans-double-standards-extremist-outfits-are-not-terror-groups-interior-minister-says/articleshow/56561458.cms

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Pakistan PM inaugurates water treatment plant at Hindu’s holy site

Yudhvir Rana | TNN | Jan 12, 2017

AMRITSAR: Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif inaugurated a water treatment plant installed at Amar Kund (sacred pond) in Katasraj cluster of Hindu temples in Chakwal district of Pakistan.

While talking to TOI on Thursday, Pakistan's Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Chairman Farooq ul Saddiq informed that Sharif not only came all the way to inaugurate the water treatment plant but also brought peacocks from his house 'Jatti Umra' which will be kept in temple garden.

ETPB is entrusted with the task of management of Hindu and Sikh religious properties in Pakistan after Indo Pak partition in 1947. ETPB has installed the water treatment plant at Amar Kund for Hindu devotees who visit cluster of temples during various religious occasion especially during Shivaratri.

He informed that the water treatmetn plant inauguration was done amidst chanting of Hindu mantra's and Muslim prayers adding that Sharif also paid obeisance at Shiva Temple and interacted with Hindu priest.

ETPB was still carrying out the project of installation of gold plated Shikhar Kalash (peak urn) after repairing the domes of temples at Katasraj, he informed.

Farooq informed that they would also give contract for the bottling of holy water on the lines of Abe Zamsam (holy water from the well of Zamzam located within mosque Al Harm in Mecca) which would be made available to devotee coming to Katasraj from far flung places.

Prominent Hindu and Sikh leaders, including Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee president Tara Singh, Ramesh Singh, Pak provincial assembly members etc., were present on the occasion .

ETPB chairman informed that Sharif had shown keen interest in the project of Baba Nanak University coming up at Nankana Sahib, birth place of Sikh's first master Guru Nanak Dev and Gandhara International University, a revival project of three thousand year old Buddhist university at ancient Taxila.

 timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-pm-inaugurates-water-treatment-plant-at-hindus-holy-site/articleshow/56505702.cms

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China gives Pakistan two ships for security of CPEC sea route

TNN | Updated: Jan 15, 2017, 02.32 PM IST

NEW DELHI: China yesterday handed over two maritime patrol vessels to the Pakistan Navy for joint security along the sea route of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor+ (CPEC), Dawn reported.

Yesterday, the Chinese vessels were received by the Commander of the Pakistan Navy Vice-Admiral Arifullah Hussaini. The ships are called PMSS Hingol and PMSS Basol after two rivers in the region.

"The ships have become part of the Pakistan Navy from today and the (Pakistan) navy would become stronger with the induction of these maritime vessels," Hussaini was quoted as saying by the Dawn. He added that the Pakistan-China friendship+ was becoming stronger and deeper than the ocean, day by day.

China is expected to provide two more ships "Dasht" and "Zhob" to the Pakistan navy. It is already working on them and they are expected to be completed soon.

Pakistan has already raised a new division of the army to ensure security along the CPEC route and in and around the Gwadar port+ . Security of Gwadar city has been handed over to the army's new division created during the tenure of former chief of army staff retired Gen Raheel Sharif.

The CPEC is an economic corridor+ comprising a collection of projects currently under construction at a cost of $54 billion. CPEC aims to facilitate trade along an overland route that connects Kashgar and Gwadar, through the construction of a network of highways, railways, optical fibre and pipelines.

"The economic corridor will be a game-changer for Pakistan and China, and the entire region would benefit from it," the Pak navy official said. "The CPEC will open new vistas of speedy development in Balochistan and create thousands of jobs for the local youth," he said.

In 2014, China took over management of Pakistan's Gwadar port, en route to key Hormuz Straits oil shipping lanes. The move had raised concerns in India about its fellow Asian giant's growing strategic clout.

 timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/china-gives-pakistan-two-ships-for-security-of-cpec-sea-route/articleshow/56558924.cms

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Punjabis are tired of 'Takht-i-Lahore': Imran Khan

DAWN.COM

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan addressing a gathering in Dera Ghazi Khan on Sunday said the people of Punjab are tired of 'Takht-i-Lahore'.

In an attempt to rally support for his party, the PTI chief said, referring to the ruling PML-N, "You will quickly be free from these people."

"There is one law for the powerful but another for the common man... Young boys are educated in seminaries and can't progress in life," he said.

"We will build a naya Pakistan in which boys who receive education can go onto become prime minister," he vowed.

"It is the government's responsibility to give you social benefits as long as you are jobless," he said.

He announced his intention to "try and build" a Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital in DG Khan.

"It takes a lot of work to build a cancer hospital," he said.

The PTI chief briefed the audience on the Panama case and conducted an informal audience poll asking attendees whether they believed the prime minister would be proven guilty in the case.

  dawn.com/news/1308588/punjabis-are-tired-of-takht-i-lahore-imran-khan

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Southeast Asia

Airstrikes in Syria kill Islamic State militants from Malaysia: Reports

Posted 15 Jan 2017

KUALA LUMPUR: Three Malaysian militants, including an Islamic State (IS) group leader, were killed on Friday (Jan 13) following airstrikes in Raqqa, Syria, according to reports by Malaysian media citing Bukit Aman counter terrorism unit deputy director Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay.

The leader who was killed has been named as 50-year-old Zainuri Kamaruddin, also known as Abu Talhah, local media reports said.

Zainuri had appeared in a propaganda video by the militant group that threatened the Malaysian government and went viral in May last year.

He is known to have led a Malay-speaking arm of IS known as Katibah Nusantara.

Zainuri's family member said they were informed of his death in the early hours of Saturday by a friend of his in Syria, reported Malay daily Mingguan Malaysia.

The death of the three Malaysian militants brings the number of those killed in Iraq and Syria to 30, Ayob was quoted as saying.

  channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/airstrikes-in-syria-kill-islamic-state-militants-from-malaysia/3439808.html

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RAM rates AA3 for Cahya Mata Sarawak’s RM2b Islamic debt notes

 

KUALA LUMPUR: RAM Rating Services Bhd has assigned an AA3/Stable rating to Cahya Mata Sarawak Bhd’s (CMS) proposed RM2bil Islamic medium term notes (MTN) programme (2017/2037).

“We have also reaffirmed the AA3/Stable/P1 corporate credit ratings of CMS,” it said.

The ratings agency also withdrew the rating assigned to CMS’s proposed RM1bil Sukuk Ijarah programme (2016/2036) which has not been issued.

RAM Ratings said the ratings are supported by CMS’s strong business profile as the sole cement manufacturer in Sarawak.

“The group’s somewhat diversified sources of income are also viewed favourably, albeit mostly being related to the construction sector,” it pointed out.

In the last two years, CMS has been enjoying strong growth in profitability from its construction material and trading as well as construction and road maintenance divisions.

“Backed by strong market position and vertically integrated operations, the group is expected to benefit from the development of the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) initiative as well as the Pan Borneo Highway project when it takes off,” it said.

The ratings continue to reflect the goup’s superior financial profile.

RAM Ratings also noted that CMS had been able to maintain a net cash position in the past five years despite being actively acquiring new investment assets.

“CMS’s profit before tax for 9M FY Dec 2016 plunged 40% on-year from lower cement sales volume, higher cost of raw materials due to the weaker Ringgit as well as a substantial loss in its share of associate, mainly from 25%-held OM Materials (Sarawak) Sdn Bhd (OMS).

“Nevertheless, the group’s financial position remained robust with a gearing ratio of 0.11 times as at end-September 2016,” it added.

CMS’s funds from operations (FFO) debt cover also stayed strong at 0.92 times in 9M FY Dec 2016. Including an expected drawdown of RM500mil Sukuk this year, the group’s financial profile is expected to remain comparable against AA3 peers.

“CMS is envisaged to maintain a healthy FFO debt coverage ratio of above 0.30 times and gearing ratio of less than 0.40 times.

“Moderating the ratings is the group’s geographical concentration risk. Given that its entire business operation is based in Sarawak, CMS’s performance is dependent on economic conditions in the State.

“Moreover, as the group’s products are targeted at the property and construction industries, it also has to contend with the cyclical nature of these sectors. CMS’s growing investments in commodity processing ventures in Samalaju are also exposed to execution risk and volatile commodity prices,” it pointed out.

Elsewhere, being substantially owned by the family of Sarawak’s Yang di-Pertua Negeri, Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud (formerly the chief minister of Sarawak), the group is exposed to some degree of political risk.

“Any change in the State’s political landscape could have an adverse impact on the group. That said, we draw comfort from the group’s already-entrenched market position and its crucial role in Sarawak’s overall economic development.

“At present, members of Abdul Taib’s family hold a 39.6%-stake in CMS,” it pointed out.

Established in 1974, CMS is a Sarawak-based conglomerate listed on Bursa Malaysia. Starting off purely as a cement manufacturer, its core businesses now include trading in construction materials, construction and road maintenance and to a smaller extent, property development.

CMS is directly involved in the Samalaju Industrial Park (SIP) via the provision of lodging services for the workers of SIP and its investments in a ferrosilicon and manganese smelter project as well as a phosphate plant.

The group is also involved in the development of a new township adjoining SIP. Elsewhere, CMS holds a 50% non-controlling interest in Sacofa Sdn Bhd, a telecommunications infrastructure provider.

thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2017/01/15/ram-rates-aa3-for-cahya-mata-sarawak-rm2b-islamic-debt-notes/

 

URL: http://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/saudi-arabia’s-grand-mufti-says-cinemas,-song-concerts-harmful/d/109727

 

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