New Age Islam
Thu Aug 13 2020, 01:19 PM

Islamic World News ( 27 Feb 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Shia and Sunni Clerics Shift Friday Namaz Timing on Holi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“We understand that the festival comes once in a year for our Hindu brothers. Thus, to ensure that our Hindu brothers can play Holi and we can also offer namaz, we have decided to change the timings.

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Shia and Sunni Clerics Shift Friday Namaz Timing on Holi

Civil Society Activists Condemn Alleged Torture of Sajid Masih, Call for Independent Probe

Islam Respects Right of Jews to ‘Live in Dignity,’ Muslim World Declares

Facebook Removes Page of Firebrand Myanmar Monk Dubbed As ‘Buddhist Bin Laden’

After ISIS, U.S. Military Confronts Challenge from Russia, China in Middle East

Indonesia: Christians Flogged In Public for Playing Banned Children's Game

 

India

Shia and Sunni Clerics shift Friday Namaz Timing on Holi

ISIS Does Not Exist In Kashmir Valley: Union Home Ministry

AIMPLB Plans Silent March Against ‘Defective’ Triple Talaq Legislation

Call to hit Army convoys in J&K as Qaida-IS struggle intensifies

Dispatched Group Of Astan Quds Razavi Entered India For 'Interfaith Dialogue'

Lashkar terrorist killed in Bandipora encounter

Defence ties with Jordan, deals on health, culture on table

BJP’s Fatehpur MLA shares ‘fake news’ on JNU student Najeeb joining Islamic State

Kashmir: LeT militant killed in Bandipora

Maldives declines India’s invite for 16-nation naval war games ‘Milan’

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Pakistan

Civil Society Activists Condemn Alleged Torture of Sajid Masih, Call for Independent Probe

Speakers Call for Inclusion Of Sufi Teachings In National Curriculum

US trying to pit Muslim nations against each other: Maulana Sherani

India, Pakistan foreign secretaries may meet in Kabul

Senior Trump aide calls for ‘new relationship’ with Pakistan

Government plans to try Hussain Haqqani over funds misuse

Siraj-led Senate delegation visits LoC to boost morale of troops

US, other countries equally concerned about terror financing, Pakistan told

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Arab World

Islam Respects Right of Jews to ‘Live in Dignity,’ Muslim World Declares

Daesh Widows Pile Pressure on Iraqi Justice System

Russia-ordered 'pause' goes into effect east of Damascus

Fresh violence mars first day of Syria enclave ‘truce’

Syrian Air Force Bombs ISIL's Positions, Movements in Homs Province

US Continues Bombing Raids against Syria Gov't Forces

More Militants in Hama, Idlib Provinces End Battle with Syrian Army

US-led coalition warplanes kill at least 24 in Syria's Dayr al-Zawr

Egypt aborts suicide attack in Sinai, 11 terrorists killed

One child killed since Syrian enclave ‘truce’ began

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South Asia

Facebook Removes Page of Firebrand Myanmar Monk Dubbed As ‘Buddhist Bin Laden’

ISIS Attack Repulsed In North Of Afghanistan, 9 Militants Killed, 13 Wounded

Afghan Taliban call for direct talks with US

Lets forget the past, start new chapter with Pakistan: Ghani

Rohingya Crisis: The UN failure makes reform call louder

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani makes offer to Taliban for peace talks

Thousands of Rohingya flee ‘no man’s land’ after resettlement talks

Bangladesh’s hostile politics may cause resurgence of militancy: ICG

Sri Lanka Shops, Mosque Damaged in Buddhist-Muslim Clash

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North America

After ISIS, U.S. Military Confronts Challenge from Russia, China in Middle East

Canada: Myanmar Committed Ethnic Cleansing In Rakhine

Mosque wins zoning approval: 'My children are the future of Carmel'

Trump discusses Iran in calls with Saudi, UAE leaders: White House

Protesters rally after Iranian minister addresses UN rights body

US Adds Several Islamic State Affiliates to Terror List

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Southeast Asia

Indonesia: Christians Flogged In Public for Playing Banned Children's Game

Indonesia’s Ideological Convergence: Emerging Trend In Islamic Regulations?

Repent over nightclub launch of Muslim headscarves, Perkasa tells Neelofa

Guan Eng donates RM40,000 to Islamic school

Singapore Seeks to Bar Communications From Terror-Attack Sites

Police Arrest Four Members of 'Muslim Cyber Army'

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Europe

UK Has Spent $2.4bn on Bombing Iraq, Syria: Official Data

UN Experts: North Korea Sent Banned Chemical Items To Syria

Europeans Working Against US Efforts to Harm Iran Deal

Court in Prague releases Syrian Kurdish PYD leader

Terrorists shelling blocks civilian evacuations in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta: Russia

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Mideast

Al-Aqsa Mosque Preacher Condemns US ‘Provocative’ Quds Plan

Jihadist: Hamas Wave of Arrests Follows Islamic State Attack in Sinai

US, Britain liable for Saudi military offensive in Yemen: Iran

Failed UNSC resolution attempt to hide US, UK complicity in Yemen war: Zarif

Fresh Saudi airstrikes leave dozen more civilians dead across Yemen

Jerusalem al-Quds church reopens as Israel suspends controversial plans

After Russian veto, US, allies condemn Iran over missiles to Yemen

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Africa

Kenya Hunting Down 7 Al-Shabaab Militia after Wajir Attack

Nigeria: 1,130 Hostages Freed From Boko Haram

15 killed in fresh violence in DR Congo

U.S. military kills two al-Shabab militants, injures another

Two Nigerian soldiers killed in Boko Haram attack

U.S. places new sanctions on Boko Haram, leader

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/shia-and-sunni-clerics-shift-friday-namaz-timing-on-holi/d/114445

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Shia and Sunni Clerics shift Friday Namaz Timing on Holi

TNN | Feb 28, 2018

LUCKNOW: Prominent Shia and Sunni clerics have altered timings for Friday prayers at two of the biggest mosques here for Holi on March 2 to maintain peace and harmony. They have extended the timing of the congregational Jumah (Friday).

While Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawad has extended the namaz timing at Asafi (Bada) Imambara by 30 minutes, Sunni cleric Maulana Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahli has requested Muslims to shift Jumah timings by halfan-hour this Friday. A day ago, chief minister Yogi Adityanath, while reviewing security for Holi, had asked officials to talk to Muslim clerics to see if namaz timings could be changed to ensure peaceful Holi celebrations. Farangi Mahli, who is also the executive committee member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, on Tuesday urged mosques in mixed population areas to postpone prayer timings until after 1pm, keeping sentiments of Hindus in mind.

On March 2, Friday prayers at Aishbagh Eidgah will be held at 1.45pm as against the regular 12.45pm. At Asafi mosque, Namaz-e-Jumah for the Shia community will be held at 1pm instead of regular 12.22 pm, said Jawad.

The official permission to play colours is till 12noon but people generally go beyond that time. We thought it will be best if all mosques, especially those in mixed population areas, push their prayer timings by half-an-hour so that both events can be held peacefully,” Farangi Mahli told TOI.

The cleric said that Hindus last year had postponed the Jagannath Yatra passing through Eidgah area by two hours on Bakrid to respect the Muslim festival.

“There were changes made in the yatra’s route as well. So, it will be good to respect one another’s religious sentiments,” he said.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/clerics-shift-friday-namaz-timing-on-holi/articleshow/63103409.cms

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Civil society activists condemn alleged torture of Sajid Masih, call for independent probe

February 26, 2018

Civil society activists on Monday demanded an "independent inquiry" into the alleged torture of a Christian man, accused of committing blasphemy, and his cousin at the hands of the Federal Investigation Agency's (FIA) Cyber Crime Unit, read a statement issued on Monday.

Patras Masih, a resident of Shahdara, Lahore, was arrested by police last week for allegedly posting blasphemous content online. The arrest was made following a day-long agitation by hundreds of people including activists of Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYRA) and other religious parties.

The allegations were being investigated by FIA's Cyber Crime unit that had summoned Patras' cousin Sajid Masih for questioning on Friday. However, the interrogation came to an unlikely end when Sajid jumped from the fourth floor of the building and was severely injured.

The hospital authorities on Sunday said Sajid's condition was "stable" while a case was registered against him for attempted suicide at the Civil Lines police station.

In a video statement to the media, Sajid accused the FIA officials of torturing him and snatching his phone.

He claimed that he had jumped because the investigation officers ordered him to "sexually assault" Patras. “They asked me to abuse myself, but I refused to do so. Later, they asked me to sexually assault my cousin, but I remained silent and jumped from the building,” he had said.

Following Sajid's allegations, FIA Director General Bashir Ahmed Memon ordered a probe against the officials named.

Khalid Anees, the FIA’s cybercrime head, had told Dawn that the director general had constituted a team, led by Syed Farid Ali Shah, to conduct an inquiry against Inspector Khalid Saeed Shah, forensic department official Ali Afroz and two other officials for their alleged involvement in torturing and abusing Sajid Masih during interrogation.

Farid Shah visited Sajid Masih at the hospital on Sunday afternoon and recorded his statement.

The statement issued by Digital Rights Foundation and co signed by several other Human rights organisations including HRCP condemned the incident and called for effective oversight of law enforcement agencies to hold them accountable and prevent abuse of power.

It also demanded that the police withdraw the case registered against Sajid for attempted suicide.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1391873

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Islam Respects Right of Jews to ‘Live in Dignity,’ Muslim World Declares

By Ben Cohen

Feb 28, 2018

As the keener readers of Jewish media outlets and social media feeds will doubtless be aware, there is an active bidding war going on right now between the rival Gulf Arab states of Qatar and Saudi Arabia for the hearts and minds of American Jews.

Over the last few months, several American Jewish figures of varying degrees of influence have flown to Doha to hear directly from the ruling al-Thani family about why they have been profoundly misunderstood regarding their embrace of the Palestinian terrorists of Hamas and the ruling regime in Iran. Meanwhile, the Saudis have seemingly upended decades of Salafi Islamist propaganda against the Jews by discreetly warming relations with Israel, explicitly identifying Iran’s rulers as the single greatest threat to the Middle East, and stoking political opposition to the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.

In this maelstrom of political consultants, PR flaks and advocacy leaders armed with talking points, the figure of Muhammad al-Issa is something of an incongruity. A former Saudi minister of justice, and presently the secretary-general of the influential, Mecca-based Muslim World League, al-Issa has, in recent weeks, been addressing the twin issues of antisemitism and anti-Judaism among the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims with an unprecedented candor.

Spending two hours with the methodical, scholarly al-Issa — as The Algemeiner did in Washington, DC, earlier this month — it is plain to see why, at this particular juncture, he is an asset to a Saudi government eager to convince the West that, finally, it stands resolute against both Sunni and Shi’a variants of Islamism, and is determined to establish Islam as a religion of peace and coexistence. Still, to reduce Al-Issa’s own message to a strictly political calculation would be a grave mistake, if only because its theological content needs to be heard irrespective of the political machinations in Gulf capitals.

Our interview began, therefore, with a quote — specifically, a hadith, a saying of the Prophet Muhammad, that has been cited widely by Islamist preachers inciting hatred against Jews: “The Muslims will kill the Jews, and the Jews will hide behind the stones and the trees, and the stones and the trees will say: Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him, except for the Gharqad tree, which is one of their trees.”

In al-Issa’s view, to brandish this hadith as a modern-day weapon against the Jews is foremost a crime against Islam itself. He pointed to a verse in the Quran which declares, “Let there be no compulsion in religion, for the truth stands out clearly from falsehood,” alongside another which states unambiguously, “For you is your religion, and for me is my religion.”

“Islam is a humane religion, and a religion of coexistence and tolerance,” al-Issa said. “It is a religion that calls its followers and all mankind to peace. It neither calls for war, nor does it welcome war at all. It only accepts war when it is imposed from outside.”

How, then, to explain a quotation that appears to relish the prospect of a final reckoning with the Jews? Al-Issa’s answer centered not on the text itself, the wording of which he did not dispute, but on a broader explanation of its purpose and significance. The hadith in question, he said, was one among many visions and reflections of Muhammad, some of which explicitly mentioned violent conflict between his own followers. “Is this to be interpreted as the Prophet encouraging his followers to fight?” al-Issa asked.

The hadith about the Jews, he continued, “speaks of a matter that might occur (in the future) or that might have occurred many times in the past. But that doesn’t mean it is encouraging this fighting … it’s a prophecy, merely a prophecy.” For al-Issa, context is all, and it is what marks the difference between a moderate interpretation of Islam and an extremist one. “Those who memorize the texts verbatim should not be treated like those who understand them,” he explained. “Extremism and fanaticism is a mental disorder, and not a religious problem.”

Part of this “mental disorder,” al-Issa said, involved the interpretation of Islamic texts, such as this hadith, in a manner designed to reinforce the ideological predispositions of extremists. On one level, he said, the apocalyptic interpretation “puzzled” him, because it clearly contradicted core Muslim teachings about religious coexistence. On a deeper level, he added, “it hurts me that these incorrect interpretations and understandings exist.”

Throughout our discussion, al-Issa was adamant that Muhammad’s faith was predicated on an appreciation for a divine order in which differences between religions and nations are a cause for peace, rather than conflict — the diametrical opposite of the vengeful teachings of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist organizations. Another widely-cited antisemitic meme among Muslims — that the Jews are descendants of “apes and pigs” — elicited a dismissive chuckle from al-Issa, who excoriated the “stupidity” of those for whom a Quranic verse that Jews profaning the Sabbath “shall be as apes despicable!” is a transcendent condemnation of all Jews, everywhere, for all time.

Moreover, al-Issa stressed that — in contrast to the long-standing Christian depiction of the Jews as eternally responsible for the death of Jesus — Islam did not approach Judaism from the vantage point of “original sin.”

“Islam as a religion has never accused Judaism as a religion of anything,” he stated plainly. “Therefore, there’s no problem which requires a dialogue [similar to that between Judaism and Christianity].” A Muslim, then, faces no challenge to their faith when it comes to “respecting the Jewish religion and the right of the Jews to live in dignity.”

When that “dignity” includes an independent, sovereign state that is yet to exchange ambassadors with Saudi Arabia after seventy years of existence, what then? Again and again, al-Issa emphasized the political neutrality of the Muslim World League, and the need for a strict separation between religious faith and political orientation. At the same time, he gave no succor to historic Arab ambitions for Israel’s elimination.

Peace begins, al-Issa said, by recognizing that all the nations of the region will remain exactly where they are. “Therefore they have to coexist, and to offer concessions,” he said. “Otherwise we won’t just be fighting for the next seventy years, but for thousands of years.”

Just as important, he said, is a revision of fundamental world-views. “The idea that disagreeing with someone over creed or philosophy requires that you hate and fight that person is insanity,” he stated. “And they pay the price of this when it comes to peace.” To view Islam as a religion of “resistance,” al-Issa asserted, “negates the tradition of the Creator Almighty, who created His universe in such a way that it contains diversity and variety.”

What stands out in al-Issa’s religious message is its plain-speaking transparency. A similar approach was on view in January, when, on the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, he penned a statement in which, in the words of the Middle East expert and historian Robert Satloff, “Saudi Arabia took a giant step toward joining the world in its recognition of the enormity of the Holocaust.” In that statement, al-Issa spoke of the “evil” of Nazism and condemned the “denial of the Holocaust or minimizing of its effect a crime to distort history, and an insult to the dignity of those innocent souls who have perished.”

Hearing such words led, ironically, to a question that was painful but necessary to ask: Are the world’s Muslims listening to you? Are your words having an impact on the people who need to hear them most? Al-Issa’s response underlined his conviction that the Muslim World League, founded in 1962, still carries decisive weight among the faithful.

“The League is definitely heeded and greatly respected in the Islamic world,” he said. “That includes those who have differed with us regarding some opinions. But at the end of the day, they respect the League. Whenever any opinion or idea is presented on the religious level, and we have not weighed in, they seek our input.” As to the scale of the challenge, al-Issa did not minimize what lies ahead, even joking that a boost in the “birthrate of intelligent people” would not go amiss.

Ultimately, al-Issa believes, that intelligence will spring from education. In that sense, his expression of his end vision carried something of an echo of an American civil rights leader. “We must increase our closeness, our knowledge of one another, and our cooperation,” he said. “And our love of one another.”

These are not sentiments that we have heard from a mainstream, powerful Muslim leader in the past. They are, of course, a comforting antidote to the venal rhetoric of theologians like Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood. But because of that, al-Issa’s future work will inevitably encounter skepticism — above all from those who fervently wish him every success. Only he can change this perception, and one leaves his company with the distinct sense that he knows that.

https://www.algemeiner.com/2018/02/27/islam-respects-right-of-jews-to-live-in-dignity-muslim-world-league-chief-muhammad-al-issa-declares/

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Facebook removes page of firebrand Myanmar monk dubbed as ‘Buddhist Bin Laden’

Feb 27, 2018

Facebook has removed the page of a Myanmar monk once dubbed the “Buddhist Bin Laden” for his incendiary posts about Muslims, the company confirmed, as it faces pressure to clamp down on hate speech.

Wirathu, a prominent face of Myanmar’s Buddhist ultra-nationalist movement, had amassed hundreds of thousands of followers on the network, using it as a platform to attack Muslims, singling out the stateless Rohingya minority.

Nearly 700,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since last August following a military crackdown in Rakhine state that has been likened to ethnic cleansing by the US and the UN, but which has been applauded by Myanmar nationalists online.

A Facebook spokesperson told AFP late Monday that Wirathu’s page had been removed.

“Our community standards prohibit organizations and people dedicated to promoting hatred and violence against others”, a Facebook spokesperson said in an email.

“If a person consistently shares content promoting hate, we may take a range of actions such as temporarily suspending their ability to post and ultimately, removal of their account.”

The page was taken down in late January.

Wirathu could not be reached for comment, but he said in a video last year that his account had been temporarily banned for 30 days because “Facebook is occupied by the Muslims.”

Facebook use has grown exponentially in Myanmar since a quasi-civilian government opened up the telecoms sector in 2013, making it easier for people to access the internet in the largely Buddhist country.

Hardline monks like Wirathu took to the platform as well, gaining notoriety for fanning anti-Muslim hatred through inflammatory posts.

His tirades have been blamed for stoking sectarian violence, which has plagued Myanmar’s transition to democracy.

After Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi came to power in 2016, the government dissolved the Ma Ba Tha group to which Wirathu belonged, and slapped the monk with a one-year speaking ban.

But the man who once appeared on the cover of Time magazine as the “face of Buddhist terror” remains influential.

The social media giant has faced calls to rein in hate speech on its Myanmar accounts for years, with pressure mounting during the Rohingya crisis.

Thet Swe Win, a Yangon-based interfaith activist, said Facebook’s move sent a symbolic message about not tolerating hate speech.

But getting rid of the page will not resolve the problem, he warned.

“They remove his account but not his videos, and his religious hate speeches, they are still on Facebook and his followers are spreading it,” he said.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/facebook-removes-page-of-firebrand-myanmar-monk-dubbed-as-buddhist-bin-laden/story-eMWy8WaYi8KCIJDDHC5FTP.html

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After ISIS, U.S. military confronts challenge from Russia, China in Middle East

By Missy Ryan

February 27

The United States must contend with growing competition from Russia and China across the Middle East following the defeat of the Islamic State, a senior U.S. official told lawmakers Tuesday.

Gen. Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command (Centcom), described an array of steps those “great power” nations have taken to expand their military and political clout in a way that challenges American interests from Syria to Afghanistan.

Describing the chief issues facing the U.S. military in the region, Votel took aim at what he characterized as Moscow’s attempts to monopolize events in Syria, where the course of a grinding civil conflict was redirected by Russia’s military intervention in 2015.

Although President Vladimir Putin announced a drawdown of Russian forces from Syria in December, Moscow’s continued military support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has allowed his government to claw back areas under opposition control.

In Syria, “Moscow is playing the role of arsonist and firefighter ... fueling tensions and then trying to resolve them in their favor, and then manipulating all the parties they can in order to achieve their objectives,” he said during testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.

The new focus reflects a shift outlined in the Trump administration’s recent national defense strategy, which seeks to reorient the Pentagon from the counterinsurgency wars that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks toward competition with large, sophisticated nations posing a threat to U.S. military primacy.

Although U.S. officials acknowledge that counterterrorism threats emanating from the Centcom region are far from being vanquished, they also have embraced a “great powers” lens to view the region.

Syria in particular, Votel said in his written statement, has emerged as a testing ground for new Russian weapons and military tactics, often without taking care to protect civilians. Enhanced Russian air defenses likewise pose a new threat to U.S. air activities in the region.

The general said that Russia was seeking to exploit differences among the complicated array of factions in Syria — the Assad government, Iran and Turkey, along with the United States and the Kurdish forces it has supported against the Islamic State.

While the United States and its allies have pushed the Islamic State out of most areas it once controlled, a U.S. force of about 2,000 troops remains in northern and eastern Syria in a bid to prevent the extremists from returning.

The general blamed Russia for failing to enforce a U.N.-backed cease fire approved over the weekend. “Either Russia has to admit that it’s not capable, or it doesn’t want to play a role in ending the Syrian conflict here,” he said. “I think their role is incredibly destabilizing.”

Votel, meanwhile, said that Russia had “exaggerated” the threat posed by an Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan and had mischaracterized that group’s rise as an indication of a failed U.S. strategy.

Votel also referred toChina’s growing military ambitions in the region, citing a new base in Djibouti, its attempts to expand arms sales to U.S. allies and, like Russia, its efforts to develop “multidimensional” ties with U.S. adversary Iran.

The general suggested that the United States would try to balance the new focus on great- power competition and the ongoing threats from militant groups by relying on allies in a way that might allow for a smaller U.S. footprint in the region.

U.S. efforts to elevate the military capabilities of regional allies have had mixed success.

One large-scale threat identified by the Trump administration that does reside within the Middle East is Iran. Officials have said that pushing back against Tehran’s support for armed proxy groups across the region, including in Syria and Yemen, and ensuring that Iran cannot obtain nuclear weapons are top priorities.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/after-isis-us-military-confronts-challenge-from-russia-china-in-middle-east/2018/02/27/049b451c-1bd1-11e8-9de1-147dd2df3829_story.html?utm_term=.f4b50eb5f28d

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Indonesia: Christians flogged in public for playing banned children's game

28 Feb 2018

Two Indonesian Christians were publicly flogged in conservative Aceh province Tuesday for playing a children’s entertainment game seen as violating Islamic law.

Hundreds of onlookers ridiculed and took pictures of the pair were who were among five people – including a couple whipped two dozen times each for showing affection in public – who were lashed with a rattan stick.

Aceh is the only province in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country that imposes sharia law and people can be flogged for a range of offences – from gambling, to drinking alcohol to having gay sex or relations outside of marriage.

On Tuesday, Dahlan Silitonga, 61, and Tjia Nyuk Hwa, 45, were flogged six and seven times respectively after being arrested for playing a long-standing game at a children’s entertainment complex that lets users exchange coins for prizes or vouchers, including cash.

The pair were accused of gambling while another man Ridwan MR got 19 lashes for being involved in the game.

“This is to create a deterrent effect, in order for people not to repeat violations of Islamic sharia law,” Banda Aceh’s mayor Aminullah Usman said.

“We purposely do it in front of the public ... so it won’t happen again.”

About 300 spectators, including some two dozen tourists from neighbouring Malaysia, jeered the gambling-accused trio as they were whipped on a makeshift stage outside a mosque.

“You are old, show remorse,” the crowd screamed.

Non-Muslim Tjia Nyuk Hwa tried to hide her face in a specially provided white cloak with head-covering hijab.

The two Christians are among just a handful of non-Muslims to be punished under Aceh’s strict religious law since it was adopted in 2001 as part of a deal with the central government to end a long-running insurgency.

In January, an Indonesian Christian was flogged for selling alcohol in the province at the tip of Sumatra island, which made headlines recently after local police publicly humiliated a group of transgender women.

About 98% of Aceh’s five million residents are Muslims subject to religious law.

Non-Muslims who have committed an offence that violates both national and religious laws can choose to be prosecuted under either system.

Christians and other non-Muslims sometimes choose a flogging to avoid a lengthy court process and jail term.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/28/indonesia-christians-flogged-in-public-for-playing-banned-childrens-game

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India

 

ISIS Does Not Exist In Kashmir Valley: Union Home Ministry

February 28, 2018

The Union Home Ministry on Tuesday asserted that Islamic State has no existence in the Valley. “There is no physical infrastructure or manpower of the Islamic State in the Valley. It does not exist in the Valley,” a home ministry spokesperson said.

The assertion came after the terrorist group claimed responsibility for the killing of a policeman, Farooq Ahmad Yatoo, in Jammu & Kashmir on Sunday. Another official said Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) could be behind the attack on the policeman, and Esha Fazali, a local militant who first joined the Hizbul Mujahideen and later shifted allegiance to LeT, has emerged as the prime suspect.

Minister of State, Home, Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, meanwhile, said, “This can be a trick of Pakistan. They should think how much this will damage their own country. We will continue to retaliate and it will be harmful for Pakistan.”

In an encounter in November 2017, a terrorist, identified as Mugees, and a sub-inspector, Imran Tak, were killed. Amaq, official news agency of Islamic State, had claimed responsibility for the attack and pictures of Mugees with the Islamic State flag in the background had surfaced on social media. Security officials had then said Mugees belonged to extremist group Tehrik-ul- Mujahideen and was its Pulwama district commander. Tehrik-ul-Mujahideen was among the first few militant groups that emerged in Jammu and Kashmir in the 1990s.

However, police have found no logistic connection between Mugees and Tehrik-ul-Mujahideen, a home ministry official said.

Could be lone wolf attack: J&K DGP

A day after the Islamic State’s channel Amaq claimed responsibility for the killing of a policeman in Srinagar, J&K police said it could be a lone wolf attack. “(It) could be a lone wolf attack,” DGP S P Vaid told The Indian Express. “(It could be) someone is impressed by the ideology of Islamic state the way Zakir Musa is influenced by Al Qaeda”. He added, “This was the claim on website. They also claimed it in November. But on ground, we don’t see any change”.

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/isis-does-not-exist-in-kashmir-valley-mha-5080957/

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AIMPLB plans silent march against ‘defective’ triple talaq legislation

February 27, 2018

Terming the triple talaq legislation as “defective”, the All India Muslim Personal Law board on Tuesday demanded the Centre withdraw it in the interest of Muslim women. The board also announced a silent march of Muslim women will be taken out here tomorrow in support of its demands.

“It is a totally defective bill and not only against the Constitution but also against Islamic principles. A large number of Muslim women are worried and lot of protests are on across the country against the bill,” AIMPLB secretary, Umrain Mahfooz, said at a press conference here. He said that the board had written to the prime minister expressing concerns over the bill but there was no response.

There are several provisions in the bill which, if it becomes an Act, will create and enhance problems for Muslim women, he claimed. Board member Yasmin Farooqui said a large number of Muslim women will take out a silent march tomorrow against the bill. “The bill is anti-women, anti children. It is going to break families. The bill has been drafted in such a way that it will damage families and increase problems for women,” she said. She said the silent march will be carried out from Chardarwaja to Muslim Musafirkhana.

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/aimplb-plans-silent-march-against-defective-triple-talaq-legislation-5080427/

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Call to hit Army convoys in J&K as Qaida-IS struggle intensifies

Bharti Jain

Feb 28, 2018

NEW DELHI: Zakir Musa, the head of Al Qaeda-affiliated Kashmiri outfit Ghazwat-ul-Hind, has reportedly asked "able" Indian youth to attack military convoys with petrol bombs in order to make the Army's movements difficult.

While urging 'fighters" in Kashmir to "rise above group and hero worship," Musa in a video of his speech released on Telegram on Sunday, asked them to also target companies associated with the Indian government as well as foreign firms seeking investment opportunities in India, the SITE Intelligence Group reported.

Musa's call for attacks on Indian Army, which he described as "the primary enemy of our jihad" , coincided with the Islamic State terror group owning up to the killing of J&K police constable Farooq Ahmed Yatoo on Sunday, via its Amaq News Agency. A poster titled "The War Has Just Begun" was put out by Amaq on Monday, showing a rifle allegedly taken as a war spoil and warning of more strikes.

While a home ministry official insisted that IS as an organisation did not exist in the Valley, intelligence reports have repeatedly warned of growing radicalisation of Kashmiri youth, inspired by the online jihadi propaganda of global outfits like IS and Al Qaeda. "There are small groups of self-radicalised youths here and they are plotting strikes to liberate Kashmir through jihad. However, there is no cohesiveness among such individuals and groups," said an officer.

One such group is Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen (TuM), with a handful of cadres in central and south Kashmir. The initial probe into constable Yatoo's killing point to the involvement of TuM cadre Esha Fazali. "While IS has claimed the attack, this needs to be authenticated. There is no perceptible presence of IS in the Valley, though there may be some lone wolves influenced by IS ideology," J&K DGP S P Vaid told TOI on Tuesday.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/call-to-hit-army-convoys-in-jk-as-qaida-is-struggle-intensifies/articleshow/63102701.cms

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Dispatched Group Of Astan Quds Razavi Entered India For 'Interfaith Dialogue'

February 27, 2018

Dispatched group of Astan Quds Razavi entered India to participate in the first pre-meeting of international conference of Imam Reza (A) and Interfaith Dialogue.

Based on the 4th part of the decree of Astan Quds Razavi’s custodian issued by the Supreme leader regarding cultural effect both in Iran and the Islamic world, Hujjat al-Islam wa al-Msulimins Dr. Mohammad Hadi Abdkhodaei and Dr. Abd al-Karim Biazar Shirazi, and Dr. Mahmoud Waeizi attended, as representatives of Astan Quds Razavi, the first pre-meeting of international conference of Imam Reza (A) and Interfaith Dialogue in India.

Visiting Islamic studies department and Persian language section of the Islamic National University of Delhi, visiting Indian seminaries, and participating at the scientific meeting of educative conduct of Hazrat Zahra (S) held in al-Mustafa higher education institute of Delhi are some of the programs of this dispatched team.

Delivering a lecture among Iranians, having a meeting with Hujjat al-Islam wa al-Muslimin Mahdavi Pour, representative of Wali Faqih in India, paying tribute to the grave of martyr Sales Ghazi Noorollah Shushtari, visiting Aligarh University, visiting Al-Mustafa International University branch in Delhi are other programs of the Astan Quds Razavi’s team.

Full report at:

http://en.abna24.com/news/central-asia-subcontinent/dispatched-group-of-astan-quds-razavi-entered-india-for-interfaith-dialogue_883667.html

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Lashkar terrorist killed in Bandipora encounter

M Saleem Pandit

Feb 27, 2018

SRINAGAR: Security forces have gunned down an unidentified Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist in an encounter at Khosh Mohalla in north Kashmir’s Bandipora.

Sources said the encounter began late on Monday night when three terrorists, holed up in a house, opened fire at a joint team of CRPF, Army and police. Though they managed to escape, one of the terrorists was killed in the retaliatory fire. Sources said militant sympathizers used the cover of darkness to facilitate the escape of the terrorists.

“Nobody was retrieved from the site on Monday. But we later learnt that one of the terrorists, injured in the encounter, has died,” said Inspector General of Police Kashmir Range S P Pani.

Militant sympathizers in Bandipora held a funeral for the slain terrorist on Tuesday. Hundreds of people attended the last rites of the terrorist, who was given a gun salute.

The IG said that the villagers refused to hand over the body to police, following which a case was filed against them for obstructing policemen from doing their duty.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/lashkar-terrorist-killed-in-bandipora-encounter/articleshow/63098403.cms

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Defence ties with Jordan, deals on health, culture on table

By Shubhajit Roy

February 28, 2018

A framework on defence cooperation, a twinning agreement between archaeological sites in Agra and Petra (Jordan), establishment of a centre for excellence in Amman by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), and some agreements on health, culture, customs are on the table as the visiting King of Jordan Abdullah II Bin Al-Hussein meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday.

On Tuesday night, Modi broke protocol for the seventh time as he received Abdullah II at the airport in Delhi. The PM, who had landed after his visit to Karnataka, was just in time for the Jordanian King’s arrival. Modi, who met King Abdullah in Amman earlier this month on his way to Palestine, has deviated from protocol six times — for Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Japan PM Shinzo Abe, UAE Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (twice), Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina and US President Barack Obama.

King Abdullah will be delivering a speech, “Islamic Heritage: promoting understanding and moderation”, on Thursday in which he will talk about Indian society and its multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural diversity, and its experience in dealing with religious extremism.

Sources said that while Modi will attend the event — being organised by the India Islamic Cultural Centre — there is a possibility that he may speak there as well. “However, the PM’s speech has not been finalised yet,” a source said.

This is a first such event to be organised for a foreign leader from the Arab world in the last three and a half years of Modi government. The audience will include Islamic scholars and think-tank representatives, and influential leaders from the Muslim community, apart from representatives from the Arab world.

According to sources, the Jordanian King personally selected the topic of speech, and it assumes significance since he is a descendant of Prophet Muhammad and has been seen to take a leadership role in countering extremism and radicalisation in the Arab world through what is known as the “Aqaba Process”.

The king will also release an Urdu translation of his cousin Prince Ghazi Bin Mohammad’s book ‘A Thinking Person’s Guide to Islam’. Sources said security cooperation has been enhanced in the last couple of years, and the current dialogue mechanism exists between Deputy National Security Advisor from the Indian side and the Jordanian Director of Intelligence. Their first meeting took place in July 2016, and the next round is expected this year.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/narendra-modi-king-abdullah-ii-bin-al-hussein-defence-ties-with-jordan-deals-on-health-culture-on-table-5080922/

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BJP’s Fatehpur MLA shares ‘fake news’ on JNU student Najeeb joining Islamic State

February 28, 2018

BJP Fatehpur legislator Vikram Singh on Tuesday deleted his social media post about missing Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student Najeeb Ahmad having “joined the ISIS” after a social media backlash, claiming that he later found it to be an “unauthentic old fake piece of news”.

On Monday, Singh had posted on Facebook: “Ajeeb Najeeb/JNU student Najeeb had gone missing from campus many months ago. The BJP, ABVP and Sangh were blamed for his disappearance by his Naxal friends. Among them were Kejriwal, Rahul Gandhi ji, Mani Shankar Aiyar ji, Shashi Tharoor ji, Gulam Nabi Azad ji and leftist media.Now after almost a year, it has come to the fore that he.has joined the ISIS in their global jihad. I believe that all those secular politicians who had so readily spoken out will give their statements today as well. Two points that we draw from this series of events are 1. Universities like JNU, those of Kerala, Jadavpur University, Hyderabad University, etc. serving as recruitment centres of global jihad should be watched closely by central investigative agencies. 2. Are Naxals and Jihadists exchanging soldiers as part of an agreement in these centres.”

After social media users lashed out at Singh, he got the post deleted.  “My admin put out the post after they came across a news item claiming Najeeb was abroad, fighting in the ranks of the ISIS. So we put it out on social media,” Singh told The Indian Express.  “But we began getting many calls and social media comments asking us to check the veracity of the news. When we checked, we found it was an unauthentic old fake piece of news. And it is wrong to accuse someone of such a serious crime till he is proven guilty. So we have deleted the post,” he said.

Najeeb had gone missing from JNU on October 15, 2016, following a scuffle with students, allegedly affiliated to the ABVP.

On Monday, protesters including Najeeb’s family and students from institutions like JNU, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi University and Aligarh Muslim University stayed put outside the CBI headquarters in New Delhi, alleging that no progress had been made in the case so far.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/bjps-fatehpur-mla-shares-fake-news-on-jnu-student-najeeb-joining-islamic-state-5080857/

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Kashmir: LeT militant killed in Bandipora

February 27, 2018

A Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant, believed to be from Pakistan, who was injured in a gunfight with security forces in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district yesterday, has succumbed to injuries, police said.

There was an exchange of fire between the militants and the security forces in Bon Mollah village of Hajan in Bandipora district yesterday. After the firing stopped, a search was conducted, but no dead body was recovered, a police spokesman said on Tuesday.

Later, it was learnt that one LeT militant was injured in the encounter and this morning police came to know about the death of the said militant, he said. Since the body was already in the village, a request was made to the villagers to handover the body to police, the spokesman said. Meanwhile, the body was buried amidst a procession led by some miscreants, he said.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/kashmir-let-militant-killed-in-bandipora-5079899/

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Maldives declines India’s invite for 16-nation naval war games ‘Milan’

February 27, 2018

The Maldives declined Indian Navy’s invitation to attend ‘Milan’, an eight-day multilateral naval exercise, Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba said on Tuesday. Sharing details of the mega event that is set to take place at the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lanba said 16 countries will participate in the biennial naval exercise from March 6 to 13.

On the aggressive posturing adopted by China in the Indo-Pacific region, Lanba said there has been no change in the pattern of their deployment.

“We are aware of the Chinese activities in Indian Ocean region. Their pattern of deployment has remained same since many years. At any time, there are 8-10 ships in the Indian Ocean,” he was quoted as saying by ANI.

India has recently expressed “deep dismay” over Maldives’ decision to extend the state of emergency for another 30 days. MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said India desires to see that democracy is fully restored in Maldives. The island nation has been witnessing a brutal crackdown against dissidents under the orders of President Abdulla Yameen.

India has also urged Maldives government to release the Chief Justice and a Supreme Court judge, and political prisoners.

The Maldives government has, however, brushed aside India’s concerns saying that New Delhi’s public statements were a “clear distortion of facts.”

“The Government of Maldives takes note of the public statements issued by the Government of India that ignore the facts and ground realities with regard to the ongoing political developments in the Maldives. The assertion by the Government of India that the extension of the State of Emergency by the People’s Majlis was unconstitutional is a clear distortion of facts, which ignore the Constitution and Laws of the Maldives,” the Maldives government had said in a statement.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/maldives-declines-indian-navys-invite-for-16-nation-naval-war-games-milan-in-march-5079851/

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Pakistan

 

Speakers call for inclusion of Sufi teachings in national curriculum

Feb 28, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Research think-tank MUSLIM Institute organised a roundtable discussion on the topic of “Sufism and Peace: Case study of Indonesia and Pakistan” in Islamabad.

Indonesia Embassy in Islamabad DHM Musurifun Lajawa, Indonesia Nahdlatual Ulema Researcher Sofiuddin, Indonesian Police Superintendent Fathonia Riaz, former ambassador Fouzia Nasreen, NUST CIPS Associated Dean Dr Tughral Yamin, IIUI History Department Chairman Dr Mujeeb Ahmad, MUSLIM Institute Coordinator Tahir Mehmood and Research Associate Ahmad Al Qadri were the speakers of the roundtable discussion

Speakers said that Sufis played a vital role for the humanity, and their hallmark was devotion to Almighty and service to humanity, and they had become a powerful moral force in the society.

In Indonesia, speakers said, Islam was spread neither by political power nor by Muslim jurists and added that it was done by Sufis, who were very tolerant of local culture. Sufis are the promoters of harmony, respect for humanity, selflessness, love and peace, they added.

“This harmony and peace is the real face of Islam and we need to show this real face of Islam to the world by our character,” the speakers stressed. Sufism has the power to attract people of different faiths, and treats humanity equally, they added.

Speaker argued that the Sufi teachings were deliberately excluded from the national curriculum which increased extremist ideologies in the society. In order to promote peace and tolerance in society, Sufi teachings must be inculcated in the national curriculum, they demanded.

International and national policymakers should understand the role of Sufism and utilise it accordingly for the betterment of society, they suggested.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/02/27/speakers-call-for-inclusion-of-sufi-teachings-in-national-curriculum/

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US trying to pit Muslim nations against each other: Maulana Sherani

By Mohammad Zafar

February 28, 2018

QUETTA: Former Council of Islamic Ideology chairman Maulana Mohammad Khan Sherani has said that the United States is hatching a conspiracy to pit brotherly nations against each another.

“The US is trying to use Ummah as a tool to win its war on terror and establish control over the entire world,” said the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl central leader while speaking at the Azmat-i-Quran Conference in Madarsa-Maftah-ul-Alum in Dera Murad Jamali.

“Muslims will face the worst situation if they do not unite against anti-Islamic forces.”

He asked the people to send their children to Deeni Madaras to receive education according to the Islamic principles as “our success lies in Islamic teachings”.

Trump tweets are not considered official US policy: PM Abbasi

Full report at:

https://tribune.com.pk/story/1646540/1-us-trying-pit-muslim-nations-maulana-sherani/

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India, Pakistan foreign secretaries may meet in Kabul

Jawed Naqvi

February 28, 2018

NEW DELHI: Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale will come face to face with his Pakistani counterpart, Tehmina Janjua, in Kabul this week for the Kabul conference, the Hindustan Times said on Tuesday.

Mr Gokhale will attend the conference on Wednesday in which 25 countries will be participating.

Though an official one-to-one meeting between the foreign secretaries hasn’t been confirmed by either of the two countries, if it takes place, the paper said, it would be the first such meeting between India and Pakistan since National Security Adviser Ajit Doval met his Pakistan counterpart in December 2017 in Bangkok.

The speculated meeting of the top diplomats at the Kabul conference comes in the backdrop of recent attacks on an army camp in Jammu and Kashmir’s Sunjwan, which India blames on Pakistan. The attack claimed the lives of five soldiers and one civilian, India claims.

Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said at the time that Pakistan will “pay for the misadventure”. According to NDTV, Ms Sitharaman had alleged that three militants of the Jaish-e-Mohammad, who atta­cked the army camp, were controlled by handlers in Pakistan.

Pakistan is “expanding the arch of terror to areas south of Pir Panjal ranges and resorting to ceasefire violations to assist infiltration”, she said.

The “Kabul Process” meeting is an Afghan government-led initiative with stakeholders to find lasting peace in the war-torn country, including the contours of engaging with Taliban outfit. This is the second such meeting of the Kabul Process and is taking place amid stepped up prospects that the elusive TAPI gas pipeline connecting Turkmenis­tan and India through Afghan­istan and Pakistan could be taking shape.

Earlier, in the first stand-alone trip by the India’s foreign secretary to China after last year’s tense standoff in Doklam, Mr Gokhale quietly paid a visit to Beijing last week.

Indian Express reported both sides agreeing on a roadmap for the coming year, including discussions on visits by respective foreign ministers and other officials.

It quoted sources as saying that the brief for Mr Gokhale, a fluent Mandarin speaker who had played a key role in the disengagement at Doklam, was to lay the ground for normalising India-China ties, which have been strained recently, ahead of Prime Minister Narendra

Modi’s likely visit to Qingdao in China in June this year for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisa­tion Summit.

Mr Gokhale was in Beijing on the day China lifted its objections to grey-listing of Pakistan with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) over terror financing, in what the paper saw as a major achievement for Delhi.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1392193/india-pakistan-foreign-secretaries-may-meet-in-kabul

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Senior Trump aide calls for ‘new relationship’ with Pakistan

February 28, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Repeating allegations about Haqqani network sanctuaries and shortcomings in Pakistani efforts to check illicit financing, senior US National Security official Lisa Curtis said on Tuesday the Trump administration wanted a “new relationship” with Islamabad.

“Ms Curtis urged the government of Pakistan to address the continuing presence of the Haqqani network and other terrorist groups within its territory, and reiterated the international community’s long-standing concern about ongoing deficiencies in Pakistan’s implementation of its anti-money laundering/counterterrorism finance regime,” the US Embassy said in a statement on her trip.

The message was conveyed by Ms Curtis, deputy assistant to President Trump and US National Security Council’s senior director for South and Central Asia, during her meetings with Pakistani interlocutors. The senior US official made a two-day visit to Islamabad during which she met Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Chief of the General Staff Lt Gen Bilal Akbar.

Curiously Ms Curtis’ public message sharply contrasted the assessment shared by Centcom Com­mander Gen Joseph Votel at a hearing of the US House of Representatives in Washington on Tuesday, which was positive.

According to Reuters, Gen Votel said: “We are now beginning to see very positive indicators ... that they are moving in the right direction.” He cited unspecified Pakistani actions “on the ground”. He maintained that the actions did not “yet equal the decisive action that we would like to see them take in terms of a strategic shift, but they are positive indicators”.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1392186/senior-trump-aide-calls-for-new-relationship-with-pakistan

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Government plans to try Hussain Haqqani over funds misuse

February 28, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court was told on Tuesday that the federal government was planning to initiate a case of misuse of funds against former ambassador to the US Hussain Haqqani.

Additional Attorney General Muhammad Waqar Rana informed a three-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) was weighing its options regarding a move to register an FIR against Mr Haqqani, and needed a week’s time.

The apex court had taken up the suo motu case in order to ensure the implementation of an earlier court order to bring Mr Haqqani back to Pakistan.

On June 4, 2013, a nine-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by then chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, had directed the interior secretary at the time to adopt legal measures to ensure that Mr Haqqani was brought back to Pakistan. The court had also hinted that it would adopt coercive measures in view of the former ambassador’s constant refusal to appear before it.

Mr Haqqani was at the centre of a controversy in which he had allegedly sent a memorandum to former US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen seeking direct US intervention to avert a possible overthrow of the civilian government by the military in the backdrop of America’s May 2, 2011 raid to kill Osama Bin Laden in an Abbottabad compound.

Later, the Supreme Court constituted a judicial commission which, on June 12, 2012, held Mr Haqqani as the originator and architect of the memo.

At the last hearing on Feb 15, the Supreme Court had issued arrest warrants for Mr Haqqani for breaching an earlier undertaking to appear in person before the court on a four-day notice. This was in addition to the FIA’s efforts to approach Interpol’s headquarters in Lyon (France) for the issuance of red warrants against Mr Haqqani.

But on Tuesday, the AAG explained in court that the warrant of arrest issued by the court did not fulfil Interpol’s requirements. One of the conditions for the issuance of red warrants was that the punishment for the offence should spread over at least two years, whereas the arrest warrants issued for Mr Haqqani was for committing contempt of court, the maximum penalty for which was six months, the AAG said.

The federal government had dispatched a set of questions to Interpol on Feb 22, but needed time to furnish a dossier as follow up.

The AAG also requested in-camera proceedings, while stating that though the government did not have issues with an open hearing but every time the court took up the matter, Mr Haqqani and his lobby would become active against Pakistan. The AAG also sought an audience in chamber to share some sensitive information and the court granted permission.

The chief justice observed that nothing could harm Pakistan as long as the blessings of Almighty Allah were with it. The court also wondered whether Mr Haqqani was a dual national or not and asked why the federal government had not proceeded against him in view of the commission’s report submitted earlier.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1392190/government-plans-to-try-hussain-haqqani-over-funds-misuse

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Siraj-led Senate delegation visits LoC to boost morale of troops

Feb 28, 2018

LAHORE: Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq led a Senate delegation to the Line of Control (LoC) on Tuesday to boost the morale of the Pakistan Army units stationed on the front line.

The delegation met the families of the martyrs and enquired about the health of those injured by Indian shelling. Speaking on the occasion, the JI chief urged the Kashmiris in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) not to feel alone as 200 million people in Pakistan stood behind them.

He said the hands of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi were drenched with the blood of innocent Kashmiris. However, he said, the Kashmiris were nearing their goal of winning self-determination.

He saluted the bravery of the people residing at the LoC and said the Pakistani nation would not abandon those who were affected by continuous Indian shelling across the border.

He said due to the sacrifices of the armed forces and the people living near the border, the nation could enjoy peace and security. He said the army personnel guarding the country’s borders and its ideology were in high spirits, adding that the entire nation would stand shoulder to shoulder with them against the enemy.

Sirajul Haq further said that the liberation of Kashmir would change India’s map. He said it was high time that India granted the right of self-determination to Kashmiris in line with the United Nations (UN) resolutions. He urged the world community to take notice of India’s brutalities and bloodshed in occupied Kashmir.

Furthermore, he said if India committed any aggression against Pakistan, the Pakistani nation would give a befitting reply to its enemy.

He also said it was the federal government’s responsibility to solve the problems being faced by the people of Azad Kashmir.  He said JI had also made efforts in this connection and Azad Kashmir had been included in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) on his suggestion.

He urged the federal government to give Kashmir a higher profit on the hydel power being generated from Mangla dam to help them move towards self-reliance.

Moreover, Siraj said that India was blocking Pakistan’s river water by building dams in an attempt to convert the country into a desert. He also said India was creating instability in Pakistan by sponsoring terrorism.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/02/27/siraj-led-senate-delegation-visits-loc-to-boost-morale-of-troops/

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US, other countries equally concerned about terror financing, Pakistan told

BY MIAN ABRAR

Feb 28, 2018

ISLAMABAD: A top American official has asked Pakistan to act against the Haqqani Network and other militant groups and address the international community’s concerns about terror financing, the US embassy said on Tuesday.

Deputy Assistant to the President and the US National Security Council’s Senior Director for South and Central Asia Lisa Curtis made the remarks during her meetings with Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Chief of the General Staff Lt Gen Bilal Akbar, it said.

“Curtis urged the government of Pakistan to address the continuing presence of the Haqqani Network and other terrorist groups within its territory, and reiterated the international community’s long-standing concern about ongoing deficiencies in Pakistan’s implementation of its anti-money laundering/ counter-terrorism finance regime,” the embassy said in a statement.

The Haqqani Network, blamed for several deadly attacks against Indian interests in Afghanistan including the 2008 bombing of the Indian mission in Kabul that killed 58 people, has also carried out a number of kidnappings and attacks against US interests in Afghanistan.

In her meetings with Pakistani officials, Curtis said that the US seeks to move toward a new relationship with Pakistan, based on a shared commitment to defeat all terrorist groups that threaten regional stability and security as well as on a shared vision of a peaceful future for Afghanistan.

She acknowledged Pakistan’s considerable sacrifices fighting terrorism.

She emphasised that America’s South Asia strategy represents an opportunity to work together to bring about a stable, peaceful Afghanistan which would enable the dignified return of Afghan refugees to their homeland.

She said the strategy would help to defeat of ISIS in South Asia and the elimination of terrorist groups that threaten both Pakistan and the United States.

A source privy to the dialogue informed Pakistan Today that during the talks, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal told the US delegation that Pakistanis are a resilient nation and they would always defy pressure tactics. “Pakistan could jointly work with and the US for regional peace if treated respectfully. Hence, the basis of a relationship between Pakistan and US should be shared economic development, besides security issues,” the source, quoting the minister, said.

The source further said that Ahsan informed the US official that for trust building and harmony between the two states, joint efforts were a must to defeat the menace of terrorism, and added that Pakistan sincerely believed in durable peace in Afghanistan.

Lisa Curtis, commonly known as an anti-Pakistan hawk in the US establishment, visited Pakistan this week after the US made extra efforts to put Islamabad on the ‘Grey List’ of Financial Action Task Force in a meeting held in Paris.

Foreign Office Spokesman Mohammad Faisal tweeted about Curtis’ meeting with foreign secretary Tehmina Janjua. He did not provide further details of the meeting.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/02/27/us-urges-pakistan-to-act-against-haqqani-network-other-terror-groups/

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Arab World

 

Daesh Widows Pile Pressure on Iraqi Justice System

28 February 2018

ANKARA/BAGHDAD: Turkey has increased diplomatic efforts to release citizens held in Iraq after 16 Turkish women linked to Daesh were sentenced to death.

Iraq is holding a series of trials of foreign fighters linked to Daesh, including women who joined the group after it launched a devastating takeover of the north of the country in 2014. About 300 Turkish women affiliated with Daesh are held in Iraqi prisons, AFP reported.

Ankara says that the detentions have no legal basis. Officials have requested the return of children and adults who have not committed any crimes, the Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah reported on Tuesday. Ankara is in contact with Iraqi authorities for their safe release, the officials said, adding that four children have returned to Turkey.

Reports say that the women, of various nationalities, currently on trial in Iraq are wives or widows of Daesh members or implicated in attacks by the group by providing its members with logistics assistance.

In court in Baghdad on Sunday, the women were sentenced to death by hanging. Four of the women were accompanied by young children. A judicial official told AFP they had all confessed to the charges and admitted entering Iraq illegally to join their Daesh militant husbands.

A source at the Iraqi Supreme Judiciary Council told Arab News that the women have the right to appeal before the federal court.

“These women have confessed that they committed terrorist crimes on Iraqi soil and were tried according to Iraqi laws,” the source said. “No Iraqi or non-Iraqi authority has the right to interfere in the work of the judiciary.”

Jamal Assadi, a senior government legal adviser, told Arab News that every state has full freedom to try any foreigner who commits an offense on its territory. “Iraq is no exception to this principle,” he said.

He said many Iraqis were tried and sentenced in Turkey and Iraq “had not expressed any objection.”

The number of Daesh fighters’ relatives held in Iraq has flooded the country’s legal system. More than 1,300 women and children surrendered to the Iraqi authorities in August alone after Daesh was forced into retreat.

The speed of the trials and death sentences in a country still raw from the suffering brought by the extremists has raised concerns from human rights groups. Iraq has one of the highest execution rates in the world.

Last month, a German woman of Moroccan origin was also sentenced to death for being a member of Daesh.

Human Rights Watch denounced the rulings as “unfair.”

However, Iraq also extradited to Russia four women and 27 children allegedly linked to the group, claiming that they were “trapped” into joining it.

The sentencing of Turks risks upsetting a delicate, but improving, relationship between Ankara and Baghdad.

Last month, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and his Iraqi counterpart Haider Al-Abadi agreed to increase their cooperation against Daesh.

On Feb. 17, Turkish authorities extradited a top Daesh leader to Iraq after he had fled to Turkey’s northwestern province of Sakarya. Authorities said his capture was the result of intense cooperation between Baghdad, Washington and Ankara.

Turkey recently pledged $5 billion (SR18.75 billion) to help reconstruction efforts in Iraq after the devastation of Daesh.

“In light of the recent positive developments between Iraq and Turkey, it is unlikely that this case would develop into a diplomatic crisis,” Dr. Muhanad Seloom, associate lecturer in international relations at the University of Exeter, told Arab News.

“Cross-border criminal cases are inherently complex because of states’ sovereign powers, types of legal systems, and different governance systems,” he added.

In order to secure the release and extradition of its citizens, Seloom said the Turkish government should provide legal representation to its citizens incarcerated in Iraq and initiate talks with the Iraqi government.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1255946/middle-east

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Russia-ordered 'pause' goes into effect east of Damascus

Feb 27, 2018

BEIRUT: A Russia-ordered "humanitarian pause" has gone into effect to allow civilians to leave a rebel-held enclave near Damascus, giving a brief respite to the residents of the besieged area that has been under intense attack by the Syrian government for weeks.

Syria's state-run Al-Ikhbariya TV broadcast footage from a crossing point manned by the Syrian military between the enclave, known as eastern Ghouta, and Damascus, saying preparations were under way to allow civilians to leave, including those in medical vehicles. The TV said a restaurant was also set up there.

Russia's state news agency Tass said Russian military police on the ground have set up the humanitarian corridor with the Syrian troops.

The Wafideen crossing point is near Douma, one of the largest towns in eastern Ghouta, and is about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the center of Damascus. The TV showed small buses waiting at a parking area, but there were no signs of anyone coming out of the enclave.

Al-Ikhbariya's journalist on the ground said mortar shells had targeted the crossing, preventing civilians from leaving. It was not immediately possible to verify the claim. A least a couple of mortars were heard as the broadcast was live, some appeared to be outgoing from government areas.

The director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdurrahman, said about five shells from government areas fell on the enclave. One shell fell in an area where the government had began a ground offensive, and it was not clear if it was fired by the government or the rebels.

Russian Gen. Viktor Pankov told Tass that residents can't leave because of the shelling.

The Russian five-hour humanitarian pause, ordered by President Vladimir Putin, comes as a UN cease-fire failed to take hold in eastern Ghouta. Residents and aid groups criticized such unilateral truces for lacking international monitoring and consensus of all the parties.

Ingy Sedky, spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said humanitarian corridors need to be well planned and must be implemented with the consent of parties on all sides.

"This is essential so that people can leave safely, if they chose to do so," she said. "And for those who decide to leave, all measure should be taken to provide assistance, protection and shelter to them. And those who remain must be protected from any attacks."

The enclave's residents fear they could face harassment and possibly arrest if they go into government areas, after years of living in the rebel-held enclave.

A weekend resolution unanimously approved by the UN Security Council for a 30-day cease-fire across Syria failed to stop the carnage in eastern Ghouta where more than 500 people have been killed since last week.

At least 34 people were killed on Monday by airstrikes and shelling, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The UN estimates that nearly 400,000 people live in dire conditions from the siege in eastern Ghouta, which has been under intensive bombing by government forces for weeks.

Rami Aburrahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said violence has dramatically declined in eastern Ghouta overnight but reported a number of shells on Tuesday morning. It was not immediately clear where they landed or who fired them, Abdurrahman said.

Firas Abdullah, a Douma activist, said a bomb landed in the town after the pause began, as well as three ground missiles.

Civilians caught in the violence have mocked Putin's order of a five-hour open corridor, saying it gives only a couple of hours of calm before violence resumes. The Army of Islam, which is the largest insurgent group in Ghouta, said the Russia-ordered pauses circumvents the UN resolution.

Russia's military campaign to support Syrian President Bashar Assad has helped turned the tide of the war in the Syrian government's favor.

The eastern Ghouta residents also fear their region would meet the same fate as the eastern, rebel-held half of the city of Aleppo, where a similar Russian-ordered pause in 2016 called on residents to evacuate the area and for gunmen to lay down their arms.

BEIRUT: A Russia-ordered "humanitarian pause" has gone into effect to allow civilians to leave a rebel-held enclave near Damascus, giving a brief respite to the residents of the besieged area that has been under intense attack by the Syrian government for weeks.

Syria's state-run Al-Ikhbariya TV broadcast footage from a crossing point manned by the Syrian military between the enclave, known as eastern Ghouta, and Damascus, saying preparations were under way to allow civilians to leave, including those in medical vehicles. The TV said a restaurant was also set up there.

Russia's state news agency Tass said Russian military police on the ground have set up the humanitarian corridor with the Syrian troops.

The Wafideen crossing point is near Douma, one of the largest towns in eastern Ghouta, and is about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the center of Damascus. The TV showed small buses waiting at a parking area, but there were no signs of anyone coming out of the enclave.

Al-Ikhbariya's journalist on the ground said mortar shells had targeted the crossing, preventing civilians from leaving. It was not immediately possible to verify the claim. A least a couple of mortars were heard as the broadcast was live, some appeared to be outgoing from government areas.

The director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdurrahman, said about five shells from government areas fell on the enclave. One shell fell in an area where the government had began a ground offensive, and it was not clear if it was fired by the government or the rebels.

Russian Gen. Viktor Pankov told Tass that residents can't leave because of the shelling.

The Russian five-hour humanitarian pause, ordered by President Vladimir Putin, comes as a UN cease-fire failed to take hold in eastern Ghouta. Residents and aid groups criticized such unilateral truces for lacking international monitoring and consensus of all the parties.

Ingy Sedky, spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said humanitarian corridors need to be well planned and must be implemented with the consent of parties on all sides.

"This is essential so that people can leave safely, if they chose to do so," she said. "And for those who decide to leave, all measure should be taken to provide assistance, protection and shelter to them. And those who remain must be protected from any attacks."

The enclave's residents fear they could face harassment and possibly arrest if they go into government areas, after years of living in the rebel-held enclave.

A weekend resolution unanimously approved by the UN Security Council for a 30-day cease-fire across Syria failed to stop the carnage in eastern Ghouta where more than 500 people have been killed since last week.

At least 34 people were killed on Monday by airstrikes and shelling, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The UN estimates that nearly 400,000 people live in dire conditions from the siege in eastern Ghouta, which has been under intensive bombing by government forces for weeks.

Rami Aburrahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said violence has dramatically declined in eastern Ghouta overnight but reported a number of shells on Tuesday morning. It was not immediately clear where they landed or who fired them, Abdurrahman said.

Firas Abdullah, a Douma activist, said a bomb landed in the town after the pause began, as well as three ground missiles.

Civilians caught in the violence have mocked Putin's order of a five-hour open corridor, saying it gives only a couple of hours of calm before violence resumes. The Army of Islam, which is the largest insurgent group in Ghouta, said the Russia-ordered pauses circumvents the UN resolution.

Russia's military campaign to support Syrian President Bashar Assad has helped turned the tide of the war in the Syrian government's favor.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/nri/middle-east-news/russia-ordered-pause-goes-into-effect-east-of-damascus/articleshow/63094990.cms

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Fresh violence mars first day of Syria enclave ‘truce’

February 28, 2018

DOUMA/ MOSCOW/ PRAGUE - A humanitarian “pause” announced by Russia in Syria’s deadly bombardment of Eastern Ghouta struggled to take hold Tuesday, with fresh violence erupting and no sign of aid deliveries or residents leaving the besieged enclave.

Nine days after Russian-backed regime forces intensified their campaign against the rebel-held enclave, the deal offered some respite to civilians who had been cowering in their basements.

But the first day of a five-hour daily “pause” announced by Russia was marred by fresh violence that saw at least two civilians killed by regime rocket fire.

Moscow’s plan falls short of a broader 30-day ceasefire which was voted by the United Nations but has yet to take effect, and has inspired little trust from among the 400,000 residents of the besieged enclave.

The regime deployed buses at the Al-Wafideen checkpoint to transport residents wanting to use a humanitarian corridor to flee what UN chief Antonio Guterres last called “hell on earth”.

But no civilians ventured towards the regime forces guarding the checkpoint, where large portraits of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin could be seen side-by-side. State news agency SANA accused armed groups in Eastern Ghouta of firing several rockets on the path of the corridor declared by Russia to allow for the evacuation of civilians.

It singled out the former Al-Qaeda affiliate present in some parts of the enclave, accusing it of trying to prevent civilians from leaving “to use them as human shields”.

Some residents left the basements they had been cowering in for days to check on their property and buy food despite skyrocketing prices in the enclave, besieged since 2013. But many in the enclave, which lies on the eastern outskirts of the Syria capital, appeared distrustful of the “pause” announced by Damascus’s main ally.

“This Russian truce is a farce. Russia is killing us and bombing us every day,” said Samer al-Buaidhani, a 25-year-old resident of Douma, which is the main town in Eastern Ghouta.

“I don’t believe it’s safe for me or my family to leave by this system,” he told AFP.

More than 550 civilians, almost a quarter of them children, have been killed since february 18 in the Syrian and Russian bombardment of Eastern Ghouta, making it one of the bloodiest episodes of the country’s seven-year-old conflict.

Violence levels were significantly lower on Tuesday as the “humanitarian pause” kicked in but two civilians were killed by rocket fire on the town of Jisreen, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

Another 16 people were wounded across Eastern Ghouta, the Britain-based group said.

The Kremlin on Tuesday said the future of a ceasefire in a war-ravaged enclave near Damascus will depend on the rebels holed up there, as the Russian military accused the fighters of violating a “humanitarian pause” called by Moscow.

“It will depend on how the terrorist groups behave, whether they will open fire, whether provocations from them will continue,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists when asked whether a daily five-hour pause in fighting will increase.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday ordered a daily “pause” from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm to evacuate civilians from the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta, outside Damascus, following a UN Security Council weekend vote to approve a 30-day truce.

But the United Nations said Tuesday that fighting has raged on in the area despite the truce, making relief operations impossible.

“We shall see in practice whether the pleas by the three illegal armed groups... to carry out the UNSC resolution correspond with their intentions,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday during a joint press conference with French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Meanwhile, a Czech court on Tuesday released prominent Syrian Kurdish leader Saleh Muslim, wanted by Turkey on terror charges, prompting outrage in Ankara which said the move showed “support for terrorism”. Turkey on Monday said it had formally asked for the extradition of one of the leading figureheads of the Syrian Kurds, who was detained by Czech police at the weekend at Ankara’s request.

“The judge decided to release Saleh Muslim. At the same time, Muslim promised the court that he would not leave the territory of the European Union and would report to the court at its request,” court spokeswoman Marketa Puci told AFP.

Muslim’s lawyer Miroslav Krutina told reporters that Muslim vowed to participate in all extradition proceedings requested by Turkey.

Muslim is wanted by Turkey over a 2016 bombing in Ankara and faces 30 life sentences if convicted. He denies the charges. Until now, he had been able to move around the EU without problem. The former leader of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) is still a figurehead for Kurds in Syria.

The decision to release him was hailed by several dozen Kurds who had come to show their solidarity in front of the municipal court building in central Prague. Turkey lashed out at Czech judicial authorities for their move, saying it showed “support for terrorism”.

“This decision is very clearly a decision in support for terrorism,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag told reporters in Ankara, adding it would have a “negative impact” on relations between Prague and Ankara.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis declined to comment on the case Tuesday, insisting that “it’s a Czech court that decides, I do not know this case, I cannot express myself.”

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/28-Feb-2018/fresh-violence-mars-first-day-of-syria-enclave-truce

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Syrian Air Force Bombs ISIL's Positions, Movements in Homs Province

Feb 27, 2018

The fighter jets carried out several bombardments on ISIL strongholds in al-Mo'ayzileh region and al-Mo'ayzileh dam in Eastern Badiyeh (desert) and East of al-Heil oilfield near the town of Palmyra (Tadmur).

The warplanes further struck ISIL's movements near al-Mohasa Mountain South of the town of al-Quaryatayn in Southwestern Homs.

ISIL suffered a number of casualties and its vehicles and equipment were destroyed in the air raids.  

The Syrian Army troops repelled terrorist groups' heavy offensive in Northern Homs on Wednesday, inflicting heavy casualties on the militants and destroying their equipment.

The army men, backed up by the artillery and missile units, fended off terrorists' heavy attack in the villages of Jowalik and Sanisal in Northern Homs.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961208001418

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US Continues Bombing Raids against Syria Gov't Forces

Feb 27, 2018

The sources said that the fighter jets pounded the army positions at the Northern entrance of Deir Ezzur city near al-Salehiyeh settlement, adding that the Syrian air-defense units opened fire at invading American jets.

The officials in Damascus and Washington have yet to comment on the incident.

Other sources, which preferred to remain anonymous, said that the pro-government forces have reportedly captured 22 areas in a bid to take back energy resources in the rebel-held regions in Deir Ezzur province, but they had to retreat, however, following the US heavy airstrikes.

A media outlet reported earlier this month that a US Army attack drone destroyed a Syrian Army tank in Eastern Deir Ezzur to become the second raid in a week by the US air force on the Syrian army.

The Arabic-language website of Reuters quoted a US official as reporting that an MQ-9 drone of the US forces destroyed a Russia-made T-72 tank of the Syrian Army in Deir Ezzur.

Also, the US army announced that it destroyed a tank that had entered the fire range of the US-backed militants.

In the meantime, a US official, who requested anonymity, disclosed that at least two pro-Syrian government forces were killed in that attack.

The drone attack on the Syrian tank was the second US attack on Damascus forces in last week.

The US-led coalition carried out several airstrikes on Syrian forces in Deir Ezzur province in early February.

The US military claimed that so-called anti-ISIL coalition forces repelled a threatening Syrian Army-led attack consisting of five hundred troops – backed by artillery, tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems and mortars against positions of Arab and Kurdish militias at energy fields near the town of Khasham on the Eastern bank of the Euphrates River in Deir Ezzur province.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961208001322

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More Militants in Hama, Idlib Provinces End Battle with Syrian Army

Feb 27, 2018

The ministry's report said that militants in 11 regions in Idlib and Hama provinces surrendered to the government forces, adding that a sum of 2,407 regions, towns and villages have thus far joined peace with the army.

The Russian ministry said on Sunday that representatives of militants in 17 more regions in Hama province endorsed peace with the Syrian Army, adding that the total number of towns, villages and regions that have thus far joined the nationwide reconciliation plan stands at 2,386 now.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961208000955

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US-led coalition warplanes kill at least 24 in Syria's Dayr al-Zawr

Feb 27, 2018

US-led coalition airstrikes have claimed the lives of at least 24 people in Syria’s eastern Dayr al-Zawr province.

According to Syria's official SANA news agency on Tuesday, a series of airstrikes targeted an internally displaced persons' camp in the provice's eastern region of Dhahret al-Allouni.

The attacks also injured a large number of people and destroyed or severally damaged civilian property.

The incident took place just hours after Damascus called on the United Nations Security Council to act against the insistence of the US-led coalition purportedly fighting the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group on perpetrating massacres against the Syrian nation.

On February 25, Syria’s official news agency SANA reported that US-led airstrikes had targeted the villages of al-Sha'afa and Dharat Allouni in the country’s eastern province of Dayr al-Zawr, killing 29 civilians and injuring dozens of others.

The US-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes against what are said to be Daesh targets inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/27/553833/syria-us-airstrike-civilians

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Egypt aborts suicide attack in Sinai, 11 terrorists killed

27 February 2018

The Egyptian military forces hit and destroyed 20 targets and a number of headquarters used by terrorist elements as their base.

The forces destroyed two car bombs and attacked with artillery bombardment 185 targets aiming at the hiding places, weapons and ammunition depots belonging to the terrorist elements based on confirmed information on these targets.

The statement said that the military forces foiled a suicide attack set to target the armed forces.

Four high-risk terrorists wearing explosive belts and military uniforms, similar to those of the armed forces were arrested.

Security forces found a highly dangerous terrorist location in the city of Arish and eliminated seven armed terrorist elements during an exchange of fire.

The terrorists had three automatic rifles, two explosive devices for detonation and a means of subsistence.

The army said a cache of weapons buried underground had been found containing large quantities of weapons and ammunition and reported the destruction of 375 hideouts, a shelter, a storehouse and trenches made for terrorist elements.

The locations contained quantities of ammunition, grenades and detonators, large quantities of narcotics, rations, fuel and auto spare parts.

The Egyptian army arrested 641 criminal suspects, bringing the total number of the arrested to 2235 individuals, including 547 criminal elements, wanted and sentenced were handed over to the authorities.

The security check of 241 individuals is being inspected, 1447 individuals were released after proven innocent of performing acts of violation of the law.

According to the army statement, the Air Force discovered and destroyed two four-wheel-drive vehicles loaded with quantities of ammunition and highly explosive materials on the southern strategic route while trying to infiltrate into Egyptian territory.

On the western direction, border guards managed to seize 30 firearms, thwarted four attempts to trespass illegally and arrested 419 infiltrators of different nationalities.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/02/27/Egypt-aborts-suicide-attack-in-Sinai-11-terrorists-killed.html

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One child killed since Syrian enclave ‘truce’ began

27 February 2018

A few hours after announcing a five-hour truce declared by Russia on Tuesday morning, Syrian activists reported the killing of two civilians following the bombing of an exit path for the civilians stranded in the eastern Ghouta.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that "the forces of the regime launched a raid on the town of Al-Aftris, threw two barrels of explosives on the town of Chifonya and also shelled locations in the outskirts of the cities of Harasta and Duma, in Dumah and in the town of Masraba, where a civilian was wounded."

Syria regime rocket fire killed a civilian, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said the victim was a boy in the town of Jisreen, where seven people were also wounded.

The United Nations confirmed the continued fighting in the eastern Ghouta despite the truce. "The fighting continued this morning, according to reports from the eastern Ghouta," UN spokesman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Jens Laerke told reporters in Geneva.

"It is still too early to talk about any relief operations for civilians as clashes continue,” he added.

Russia blamed the Syrian opposition for bombing a passageway made for civilians. TASS news agency quoted the Russian army as accusing the Syrian opposition fighters in eastern Ghouta of raiding the path with mortar shells.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/02/27/One-child-killed-since-Syrian-enclave-truce-began.html

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South Asia

 

ISIS attack repulsed in North of Afghanistan, 9 militants killed, 13 wounded

Feb 27 2018

A major attack by the militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria /ISIS) terrorist group was repulsed in northern Jawzjan province of Afghanistan, leaving several militants dead or wounded.

The 209th Shaheen Corps of the Afghan National Arnmy in thr North said a large group of ISIS militants launched a large scale attack in Darzad district but their attack was repulsed by the security forces.

The source further added that nine militants were killed and thirteen others were wounded after the Afghan forces responded to the militants attack.

According to Shaheen Corps, the attack was launched on security posts of the Afghan National defense and security forces but did not elaborate further if the Afghan forces suffered any casualty or not.

The anti-government armed militant and terrorist groups have not commented regarding the report so far.

Jawzjan is among the relatively volatile provinces in the North where the anti-government armed militant groups including the Taliban insurgents are actively operating in some of its districts.

At least fourteen militants affiliated with the terror group were killed during the airstrikes conducted in this province earlier this month.

The 209th Shaheen Corps of the Afghan Military in the North said at least two foreign nationals hailing from Uzbekistan were also among those killed.

The Shaheen Corps further added that the airstrikes were carried out on ISIS hideouts in Sardara, Maktab Imam Bukhtari, Bibi Maryam, Aqsai, and Maimana Qeshlaq areas of Darzab.

https://www.khaama.com/isis-attack-repulsed-in-north-of-afghanistan-9-militants-killed-13-wounded-04552

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Afghan Taliban call for direct talks with US

February 28, 2018

KABUL -  The Taliban have called for direct talks with the US to find a "peaceful solution" to the conflict in Afghanistan, in an apparent policy shift after months of escalating attacks.

Civilian casualties surged in recent months as militants from the Taliban unleashed a wave of bloodshed in urban areas and on security forces in response to a new open-ended military policy by US President Donald Trump.

In a statement posted late Monday, the Taliban said they "call on American officials to talk directly to the Political Office of Islamic Emirate regarding a peaceful solution to the Afghan quandary".

The statement referenced local reports that said US envoy Alice Wells had suggested during a recent visit to Kabul that a window was still open for talks .

It came days before the second round of a regional peace conference in Kabul, where representatives from 25 countries will discuss counter-terrorism and conflict resolution strategies in the war, which US officials have described as a stalemate.

Washington has long called for talks with the Taliban, but historically insisted that any dialogue must include the Afghan government in Kabul. There has been no response to the Taliban's offer from US officials.

Kabul urged the militants to take "practical steps", with government spokesman Haroon Chakhansori adding that "all doors for peace talks are open". "If they are Afghans they should come and talk to the Afghan government, the US will not talk to them," he told a press conference.

But a senior Taliban commander told AFP Tuesday that the group had little interest in including the Afghan government - or Islamabad, the militants' historic backers - in the potential sit down. "We are the real parties, so let's sit and talk directly, without the presence of any third party, either Pakistan or Afghanistan," the commander said.

The apparent openness to negotiations is unusual for the militant group, which has repeatedly stated that it will not enter talks until foreign troops leave the country.

Afghan political analyst Abdul Bari said increased US pressure on the Taliban and on Pakistan in recent months had forced the militants' hand. But he urged caution, saying that both the US and the Taliban have used such carrot and stick policies for years.

"It is too soon to know whether they are very honest this time. The group has always rejected any talks offer in the past," he said.

More than 16 years since the US invasion, less than 60 percent of Afghanistan's territory is under the Afghan government's control or influence, NATO figures have shown, with the rest controlled or contested by the Taliban and other militant groups.

Unveiling his new Afghan strategy last August, Trump said the US presence in Afghanistan would remain open-ended, as Washington dramatically stepped up strikes on militant strongholds.

The US has also increased pressure on neighbouring Pakistan, which it accuses of supporting the Taliban, freezing millions in aid in January and last week pushing to have the country included on a terror financing watchlist.

Analysts have suggested that the pressure may be driving a surge in attacks on soft targets including a spate of deadly assaults in Kabul in January, including on a luxury hotel and a massive ambulance bomb which detonated in a crowded street.

Trump ruled out holding talks with the Taliban in the wake of those attacks, though State Department officials have insisted they still hope to bring the insurgents to the negotiating table.

The Afghan capital will host the latest Kabul Process conference Wednesday, with President Ashraf Ghani vowing Tuesday his government will "present a comprehensive peace plan for Taliban and Pakistan".

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/28-Feb-2018/afghan-taliban-call-for-direct-talks-with-us

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Lets forget the past, start new chapter with Pakistan: Ghani

February 28, 2018

President Ashraf Ghani officially opened the second Kabul Process meeting in the Afghan capital on Wednesday and said peace needs to be sought with the Taliban in order for them to become a political group, reported Tolo News.

Ghani said the peace process, and a ceasefire must be agreed upon with the Taliban.

“The Afghan government must be accepting and we will also work on the list of freeing Taliban prisoners”, he said.

Ghani also called on Pakistan to hold talks government to government and said: “We will be ready to starts talks with Pakistan and forget the past and start a new chapter.”

Ghani sent a strong message to the Taliban however, and said today peace is in their hands. He called on the group to accept the offer and to join the peace process and together with Afghanistan “save the country”.

Ghani also announced the Afghan government will provide passports to Taliban members and their families and will issue visas, open an office for them - even in Kabul - and will also work to remove sanctions against Taliban leaders.

Earlier in his speech Ghani said Afghanistan is determined to overcome the current threats and expand shared interests and grasp opportunities.

Ghani thanked delegates from all the countries in attendance for their support over peace in Afghanistan and said the threats are increasing and the enemies of Afghanistan are transnational criminals.

He went on to say the Afghan government and the international community have analyzed the scale and scope of the threat and drafted numerous resolutions and agreements to address the threat, but consensus is still needed to take coordinated action among states to counter the threat.

He told delegates: “Your presence here is a visible reminder that we are an international community united not only by shared threats, but shared interests and shared opportunities.”

Ghani thanked Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Turkey and other countries who are cooperating in economic projects with Afghanistan. “Our economic cooperation with Russia and China is also increasing,” he said.

The president said Afghanistan’s sense of justice is derived from its Islamic faith, culture and civilization. As a 99.9% Muslim country, faith has always united Afghans in the face of adversities and allowed the countrymen to overcome the seemingly impossible.

He stated that every Afghan, regardless of their ethnicity, is equal among Afghans and this sense of equality is rooted in the country’s past, as every major city has served as a capital of an empire or a state through history.

Ghani said Afghanistan has never threatened any country and has also not let anyone use its soil to threaten another country.

He also said that contrary to the image portrayed of a land of “endless conflict”, Afghanistan’s history is one of long periods of peace and prosperity, punctuated by foreign invasions and subsequent rebuilding.

He also stated that Afghanistan plays an important role in Asia. Over 2,500 years of history and archeology shows that the country functioned not merely as a crossroad of civilizations but as a cross-road civilization.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/28-Feb-2018/lets-forget-the-past-start-new-chapter-with-pakistan-ghani

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Rohingya Crisis: The UN failure makes reform call louder

February 28, 2018

Monday was another day of reckoning for the United Nations.

As the UN chief and the UN high commissioner on human rights decried the mass violation of human rights, genocide and unjust wars raging all over the world from Syria to Myanmar to Congo, one thing came out even clearer -- the undemocratic character of the UN system has left the world an unsafe place for the weak.

As one million Rohingyas flee into Bangladesh in the face of mass rape and murder, as bombs fall on Syria after a ceasefire, as Congo slides back into the world's biggest genocide with an estimated five million dead, and as the UN Security Council miserably fails to pass any resolution because of the vested interest of one or more of the five permanent members also referred to as P5, the call is growing louder and clearer for reforms of the UN system.

And so a helpless UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Monday said: “I remind all parties of their absolute obligation and international humanitarian and human rights law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure at all times.”

But how exactly do the international community, to be specific the P5, has so far reacted to such times of need? Most of the times, they vetoed any move to pass resolutions that they thought would harm their interest at the cost of human rights and human lives.

In the Cold War era and in later years, the USSR/ Russia had cast 132 vetoes mainly to block entry of any country into the UN that it thought would undermine its position. The US just lagged behind with 83 vetoes, mostly to block moves against Israeli atrocities on the Palestinians.

Another P5 member the UK used veto power 32 times beginning with the Suez Canal crisis and carrying it on when it went to war with Argentina over the Falkland Island in 1982.

France cast 18 vetoes. China used the power 11 times -- the first one was to block Mongolia's admission to the UN.

These powerful countries hold this veto power so close to their chest to derail any move that  goes against their interest that the US and the UK would probably not have accepted the creation of the UN without this privilege.

The 1945 San Francisco conference is a case in point when a number of small and medium states opposed the provision of veto power as it “violated the notion of sovereign equality”. They were roughly snubbed by the P5 who made it clear that their participation in the UN was contingent to veto power.

And so from then on, the veto left the UN system ineffective when it concerned foreign policy and other interest of the P5 no matter if this meant permitting mass killings and genocide.

Another mentionable case is Myanmar. In 2007 when China and Russia cast a double veto on a draft resolution calling on Myanmar to cease military attacks on Rohingyas and other ethnic minority people. The duo again vetoed another Security Council move on Myanmar in 2009. And finally in March 2017, China and Russia together once again blocked a UNSC press statement to condemn the genocide on the Rohingyas. In September, they once again blocked a discussion in the UNSC on the Rohingyas' plight.

Under such circumstances, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad Al Hussein has lamented, “When journalists are jailed in huge numbers in Turkey, and the Rohingya are dehumanised, deprived and slaughtered in their homes -- with all these examples bedevilling us, why are we doing so little to stop them, even though we should know how dangerous all of this is?”

In the face of such fecklessness by the UN ranging from the genocide of Rwanda to Bosnia to Congo to Sudan to Ukraine to other corners of the world, a major discourse has surfaced about reforming the UN to stop the veto power of the P5.

Canada launched the International Commission on Intervention and States Sovereignty in 2000 giving birth to the concept of “responsibility to protect” that argues P5 members should agree not to use veto to obstruct military intervention to save human lives. The concept was endorsed by UN members at the World Summit in 2005.

In support of the move, five small countries known as S5 -- Singapore, Costa Rica, Jordan, Switzerland and Liechtenstein -- proposed reforms to refrain the P5 from using veto to block Security Council actions aimed at preventing and ending genocides or crimes against humanity. Its proposals were tabled at the General Assembly in 2012 but were literally killed.

Right now two proposals, one by France and Mexico and supported by 99 states and the other by Liechtenstein backed by 27 small countries has been adopted by 112 states.

Then French president Francois Hollande in his UN General Assembly address in 2015 categorically pledged “France would never use its power of veto where there have been mass atrocities”. The UK has endorsed this view.

The Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) group formed by 24 small and medium states have laid down a code of conduct for the Security Council regarding genocides and atrocities.

Meantime, a 2008 move by the Holocaust Museum, American Academy of Diplomacy and the US Institute of Peace have recommended that the P-5 should agree that unless three permanent members were to agree to veto a given resolution, all five would abstain or support it.

But the US, China and Russia refrain from participating in such reform moves, making any such reforms still a far cry nevertheless a growing demand. The system is unjust and skewed as even if the whole world agrees to an action that would be skirted if any of the P5 members feel otherwise.

Full report at:

http://www.thedailystar.net/frontpage/rohingya-crisis-the-un-failure-makes-reform-call-louder-1541263

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Afghan President Ashraf Ghani makes offer to Taliban for peace talks

28 February 2018

KABUL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani offered recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political group, as part of a proposed political process that could lead to peace talks aimed at ending more than 16 years of war.

At a meeting on Wednesday of nations involved in the so-called Kabul Process, aimed at building a platform for peace talks, Ghani proposed a ceasefire and a release of prisoners, saying he would be ready to accept a review of the constitution as part of a pact with the Taliban.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1256071/world

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Thousands of Rohingya flee ‘no man’s land’ after resettlement talks

28 February 2018

DHAKA/YANGON: Thousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled a strip of land on the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh after the two countries met to discuss resettling them, an official and a community leader said.

The United Nations refugee agency has expressed concern that some 5,300 people who were staying in the area — outside of Myanmar’s border fence but on Myanmar’s side of a creek that marks the international border — would be forcibly returned without due consideration for their safety.

Nearly 700,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar for Bangladesh after insurgent attacks on Aug. 25 sparked a military crackdown that the UN as has said amounted to ethnic cleansing, with reports of arson attacks, murder and rape.

Major Iqbal Ahmed, a senior Bangladesh border guard official said on Tuesday evening that roughly half of the people who had been staying in no man’s land had entered Bangladesh and made their way to refugee camps in Bangladesh in just over a week.

“They are leaving the place in fear,” Iqbal Ahmed said. “Now there are roughly 2,500-3,000 people in the no man’s land. We talked to some of them and asked them to go back, but they said they can’t.”

Local officials from the two sides met on February 20 and visited the area.

Dil Mohammed, a leader among the people who have been staying in no man’s land, said that a meeting with community leaders promised by Myanmar officials had not materialized, confirming that several hundred families had moved into Bangladesh since February 20.

“We are in constant fear. We are not going to the camps,” he said, referring to temporary camps Myanmar has established to house possible returnees under a repatriation agreement it signed with Bangladesh in November.

“There’s no guarantee for life. We need security and all basic rights including citizenship like other communities are granted by the Myanmar government,” said Dil Mohammed.

Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay said on Wednesday that the area was Myanmar’s territory.

“According to the rules they cannot stay there, 150 feet from the borderline. They stay there to create a situation where Myanmar security forces and government official will remove them.”

“The media, especially Reuters, and human rights organizations would put pressure and make accusations that they are being cleared,” he said. “It is a trap to put more pressure on Myanmar, to make more criticism of Myanmar.”

After the February 20 meeting, Zaw Htay was quoted in Myanmar-language media saying some of the people staying in the border area were “terrorists” linked to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army that attacked Myanmar security posts on August 25.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1256031/world

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Bangladesh’s hostile politics may cause resurgence of militancy: ICG

2018-02-28

In a report released on Wednesday, it said there is a growing risk that Islamist militants will exploit the fallout created by political polarisation with the general elections approaching.

The study, Countering Jihadist Militancy in Bangladesh, says the lull in violence in recent months ‘may prove as a temporary respite’.

The Bangladeshi jihadi landscape is now dominated by banned outfits, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh or JMB and Ansar al-Islam, according to ICG.

“The state confronted groups responsible for an earlier wave of violence with some success from 2004 to 2008. Subsequently, especially since controversial January 2014 elections, bitter political divisions have reopened space for new forms of jihadist activism,” it read.

On the jailing of the BNP chief Khaleda Zia for graft, the organisation said it signals the opening salvo of a new wave of political infighting reminiscent of January 2014 and 2015.

“Alleged extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and indiscriminate government crackdowns on political rivals are occurring at the expense of a counter-terrorism strategy that is needed to address growing jihadist activism and expanding links to transnational groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS.”

The ICG report says a faction of the JMB appears to have links with the Islamic State and describes Ansar al-Islam as affiliated with al-Qaeda’s South Asian chapter.

Bangladesh’s recent history of jihadism dates back to the late 1990s with the Afghanistan war veterans returning to the country, the study says.

It said the ‘first wave of violence’, involving JMB and Harkat-ul Jihad al-Islami Bangladesh or HuJI,B, peaked with the JMB’s August 2005 synchronised explosions in 63 districts. 

“Successive governments subsequently took action against the JMB’s leadership, but the group has revived itself, albeit in a new form. Another group, Ansar-al Islam, has also emerged, while a JMB splinter – dubbed the “neo-Jamaat-ul Mujahideen” by law enforcement agencies – calls itself the Islamic State-Bangladesh and has funnelled fighters into Iraq and Syria,” reads the ICG report.

 Concluding that contentious politics have played a role in the second wave of violence, the organisation says Ansar-al Islam found the trials of 1971 war crimes as an assault on Islam and perpetrated attacks on secular activists and bloggers, who demanded capital punishment for war criminals.

The JMB, however, has a longer list of enemies, according to ICG. “It considers perceived symbols of the secular state and anyone not subscribing to its interpretation of Islam as legitimate targets.”

Bangladesh Police have claimed the group played a part in attacks claimed by ISIS on prominent members of minority communities and religious facilities and events, including Ahmadi mosques, Sufi shrines, Buddhist and Hindu temples, and Shia festivals.

“An attack on a Dhaka café on 1-2 July 2016 that killed over twenty people, mostly foreigners, appears to have involved loose cooperation between different groups, including both rural-based madrasa students and elite urban young men,” reads the ICG study.

It says the ruling Awami League has 'politicised the threat' and its crackdowns on rivals undermine efforts to disrupt jihadist recruitment and attacks”.

Full report at:

https://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2018/02/28/bangladeshs-hostile-politics-may-cause-resurgence-of-militancy-icg

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Sri Lanka Shops, Mosque Damaged in Buddhist-Muslim Clash

February 27, 2018

COLOMBO —

At least five people were wounded and several shops and a mosque damaged in a clash between majority Sinhalese Buddhists and minority Muslims in eastern Sri Lanka, police said on Tuesday.

Renewed tension has been growing between the two communities since last year, with some hardline Buddhist groups accusing Muslims of forcing people to convert to Islam and vandalizing Buddhist archaeological sites.

Police had been deployed in the eastern town of Ampara to control the unrest after a Sinhalese mob attacked a mosque, four shops and several vehicles late on Monday, spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said.

Gunasekara said no arrests had been made so far.

The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka (MCSL), an umbrella body that includes most Muslim organizations in the country, condemned the attack and requested the government to conduct an impartial inquiry into it and arrest the perpetrators.

"The government has the sole responsibility to ensure the safety and security of all its citizens irrespective of religious belief, caste or ethnicity," the Council said in a statement.

"This form of mob violence is continuing to grow and Muslim business establishments are targeted."

Last year, diplomats condemned violence against Muslims and urged the government to uphold minority rights and freedom of religion after more than 20 attacks on Muslims, including arson at Muslim-owned businesses and mosques.

President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe have promised to protect minorities, but attacks against Muslims have continued.

Muslims comprise about nine percent of Sri Lanka's population of 21 million. Buddhists make up about 70 percent and Hindus about 13 percent.

The government ended a full-blown 26-year civil war by defeating mostly Hindu Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009, with claims of atrocities on both sides.

Full report at:

https://www.voanews.com/a/sri-lanka-shops-mosque-damaged-in-buddhist-muslim-clash/4272547.html

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North America

 

Canada: Myanmar committed ethnic cleansing in Rakhine

Feb 28, 2018

Canada’s foreign minister says what has taken place against the Rohingya Muslim community in western Myanmar constitutes “ethnic cleansing.”

Speaking at a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Thursday, Chrystia Freeland described the atrocities against the Rohingya people in Myanmar’s Rakhine State as “ethnic cleansing.”

Thousand of Rohingya Muslims have been killed in state-sponsored violence that began in late 2016 and intensified in August 2017. Nearly 700,000 Rohingya have also escaped to neighboring Bangladesh since August last year.

Myanmar, however, has constantly denied that ethnic cleansing has taken place, and claimed that its military has been engaged in “legitimate counterinsurgency operations.”

Freeland, a former editor of Thomson Reuters Digital, also said that she was gravely concerned about the imprisonment of two Reuters journalist for covering the violence against the Rohingya people.

“For true democracy to flourish, fundamental freedoms such as freedom of the press must be respected. That is why Canada is gravely concerned by the imprisonment of two Reuters journalists who dared to report on the crimes in Rakhine State,” she said.

The journalist — Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27 — had been working on a Reuters investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men who were buried in a mass grave in Rakhine.

They were arrested last December during a meeting with two police officials over dinner for “possessing important and secret government documents related to Rakhine state and security forces.”

Earlier this year, they were officially charged for breaching a colonial-era law. The charges brought against them could carry a penalty of up to 14 years behind bars.

Myanmar claims it recognizes freedom of the press, but it has blocked UN investigators from accessing an area where thousands of Rohingya are believed to have been killed.

The UN human rights office said earlier this month that it was “alarmed at the serious erosion of freedom of expression in Myanmar.”

Government troops have been committing killings, making arbitrary arrests, and carrying out arson attacks in Muslim villages in Rakhine.

Myanmar’s plan to resettle refugees scares more of them away

Meanwhile, thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees who had been living on a strip of land on the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh have fled the area to take refuge in camps inside Bangladesh.

The exodus came after the two countries agreed on the resettlement of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh back to Myanmar.

Since representatives from the two sides met to discuss the issue on February 20, half of the refugees have left the no man’s land and entered into Bangladesh, according to a senior Bangladeshi border guard official, Major Iqbal Ahmed.

“They are leaving the place in fear,” he told Reuters on Tuesday. “Now there are roughly 2,500-3,000 people in the no man’s land. We talked to some of them and asked them to go back, but they said they can’t.”

Refugees on the border say there is no guarantee for their safety back Myanmar.

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/28/553849/Myanmar-Rohingya-Canada-Freeland-ethnic-cleansing

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Mosque wins zoning approval: 'My children are the future of Carmel'

Feb. 27, 2018

CARMEL, Ind. — The city's Board of Zoning Appeals voted 3-2 late Monday night to approve a proposal to build a mosque in an area of Carmel that is predominately residential.

A healthy roar and clapping followed the announcement of the vote, more than five hours after the meeting started. An unprecedented crowd turned out for an opportunity to address the board, with 88 speaking in favor of the mosque and 88 opposing it.

The Al Salam Foundation asked for permission to build the mosque at 141st Street and Shelborne Road. City staff recommended approval, saying the plans meet zoning requirements and houses of worship are considered compatible with neighborhoods.

About 700 people packed the firstl floor at the 1,600-seat Palladium concert hall, filing in as a harpist quietly plucked away at tunes such as “Stairway to Heaven” and “Beauty and the Beast.”

More: Pothole blitz begins on Indianapolis streets as council fast-tracks Mayor Joe Hogsett's emergency money

The occasion was both the first time Carmel had employed a harpist at a zoning meeting and the first it had to book the Palladium, the only city facility that could accommodate the heightened interest the mosque has drawn.

On several occasions, the board asked speakers to give up their slots if they were going to repeat what had already been said. They also asked people to raise their hands in opposition or support instead of speaking, but most wanted their chance to talk even as the clock turned closer to midnight.

Dozens of members of the congregation, wearing blue ribbons to show support, spoke in favor of the mosque. Many painted the picture they were everyday Americans, just like those living in the nearby neighborhoods, who want to be part of the fabric of the community.

Shadia Jalal of Carmel said the mosque will be a key part of that community.

“My family not only lives in Carmel but gives to Carmel,” she said. “We work, volunteer, coach, attend public schools and much more. My children are the future of Carmel. I am no activist, but I am a Muslim and a mom. … I choose to instill in my children my values. These happen to be Muslim values, but also universally good values of honesty, integrity, kindness, values that honor the Golden Rule of doing to others what you want to be done to you.”

Many said they would strive to be good neighbors, pointing out that the congregation is mainly professionals.

“A large part of the foreboding is due to fear of other,” said Ali Hasan of Carmel. "But we aren’t the other. We are Americans.”

Only a few speaking against the proposal brought up religion. Paul Knutson said he’s a Christian who lives just north of the site in Westfield.

“It’s not that I don’t like my neighbors. It’s not that I’m being hateful. I oppose the spread of Islam,” he said to a scattering of clapping, which the board quickly squashed.

Several have made the point the crowd in opposition to the mosque is ethnically diverse. Carmel is about 10 percent Asian American and many of those folks live in West Clay.

Many of those against the mosque specifically said they had no problem with Muslims or with the congregation building a mosque in a place they thought would be more appropriate, perhaps along a commercial corridor. But many, especially from Overbook Farms, Grannan Grove and Long Ridge Estates said the increased traffic, lighting and noise would hurt their property values. They want to see houses developed on the site if anything.

Gregg and Michelle Pellicone live next door and worry about the congregation's future expansion plans. They say the congregation hasn't been upfront about expansion plans and will move to add a gymnasium, athletic fields and a school.

“Opposition has never been about religion and to suggest so is insulting,” Michelle said. “This is about site suitability and transparency of plans.”

In the end, board members approved the mosque after asking several technical questions about whether the site could accommodate it. Leo Dierckman, Brad Grabow and Dennis Lockwood voted in favor while Alan Potasnik and James Hawkins voted no.

The congregation will raise funds before beginning construction. The timeline is unclear. There are no expansion plans at this point, congregation officials say. They would have to ask the board for permission to build anything beyond the mosque and parking lot.

The 35-foot-tall building will have a flattened bronze dome topped with a crescent moon and a 75-foot tall minaret. The majority of the 15-acre property will be green space, though there will be 102 parking spaces.

Leaders of Al Salam Foundation said they met for eight hours last week with a lawyer representing neighboring homeowners. At the hearing, the congregation said it would reduce the size of the building, shift parking away from homes, build a privacy fence along the western property line, add landscaping and lower light poles.

The first floor will be about 13,000 square feet, with the basement that size or smaller. Original plans called for 28,000 square feet on two levels.

The planning department compiled a list of 17 similar houses of worship that have received permission to build alongside neighborhoods. Six are larger than the mosque, including the 31,350-square-foot Greek Orthodox Church at 106th Street and Shelborne Road.

The Al Salam congregation is a diverse group that has been holding prayers in a small office space south of 96th Street. Some of its members are immigrants from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and their American-born children, as well as converts to the faith. Their members are drawn mostly from Carmel, Westfield and Zionsville.

Congregation leaders say they've struggled for four years to find land in Carmel available for sale for their mosque. They had a purchase offer on a site near 146th Street with more room for development, but the deal fell through due to covenants restricting what could be built there.

Mayor Jim Brainard and community faith leaders view the proposal of a mosque as a milestone in the city's cultural diversity, another sign that Carmel is a welcoming and inclusive place. During the past decade, Carmel has added a Jewish synagogue, a Greek Orthodox Church and a Mormon temple.

Area homeowners have packed two earlier city meetings, largely to speak against the mosque's location. A record 400 people tried to attend the Jan. 22 Board of Zoning Appeals meeting, about 100 more than the room could accommodate. The board delayed its decision until Monday in order to give everyone a chance to speak and booked the 1,600-seat Palladium, a first for a city zoning hearing.

Full report at:

https://www.indystar.com/story/news/local/hamilton-county/2018/02/26/200-people-sign-up-speak-carmel-mosque-meeting/368187002/

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Trump discusses Iran in calls with Saudi, UAE leaders: White House

February 28, 2018

US President Donald Trump discussed Iran’s “destabilizing activities” and other security and economic issues in separate telephone calls with senior Saudi and Emirati leaders on Tuesday, the White House said.

In calls with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates, Trump thanked them for highlighting ways that Gulf Arab states “can better counter Iranian destabilizing activities and defeat terrorists and extremists,” the White House said.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE , along with Bahrain and Egypt, cut off travel and trade ties with Qatar in June, accusing it of supporting terrorism and their arch-rival Iran . The United States is trying to resolve the dispute.

Qatar denies the charges and says the four Arab countries aim to curtail its sovereignty.

The two crown princes, as well as Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, are planning to visit Trump for bilateral meetings in March and April, a senior US official said on Friday.

The agenda for the meetings will include setting up a summit of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, the official said, which Washington hopes will be held later this year, as well as Middle East peace and Iran .

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/28-Feb-2018/trump-discusses-iran-in-calls-with-saudi-uae-leaders-white-house

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Protesters rally after Iranian minister addresses UN rights body

28 February 2018

As Iran’s justice minister addressed the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday, protesters rallied outside against the senior official who is on European Union and Swiss sanctions lists over alleged involvement in violations including arbitrary arrests and a rise in executions while he was president of the Tehran judiciary.

Alireza Avai was a senior judiciary official during the 1980s and the Mujahedin-e Khalq, an Iranian opposition group, accuses him of playing a role in the Islamic Republic’s execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988.

He said a recent reform of its drug laws should lead to fewer executions after the UN Secretary General said he remained alarmed about their high number - nearly 500 last year.

Attempts by Reuters to reach the Iranian foreign and justice ministries as well as its diplomatic mission in Geneva for comment were not successful.

About 100 demonstrators gathered outside the United Nations’ European headquarters in Geneva to protest against Avai’s participation in the rights council session.

Avai told the forum that in Iran, the Islamic penal code and criminal procedure code had been revised to be more efficient and safeguard the rights of the accused.

“In this context the counter-narcotics law was amended. As a result, executions related to drug crimes will decrease remarkably,” he said. Iran is second only to China in its use of the death penalty, Amnesty International said last year.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres voiced concern earlier on Tuesday at the high number of executions in Iran, persistent reports of the use of torture to coerce confessions, the killing of anti-government protesters last December, harassment of activists and closures of social media accounts.

Iran carried out at least 482 executions last year, including five people convicted of crimes committed under the age of 18, Guterres said in a report calling for a moratorium. The executions were mainly for drug-related offences and murder, and some for “sexual offences”.

This compared with 530 executions in 2016, but Guterres said he remained “alarmed by the high number” of executions and death sentences issued by Iran’s Revolutionary Courts. “Reports that drug offenders are often deprived of basic due process and fair trial rights continue to be received,” his report said.

He also cited continuing reports pointing to “a pattern of physical or mental pressure applied upon prisoners to coerce confessions, some of them televised.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2018/02/28/Protesters-rally-after-Iranian-minister-addresses-UN-rights-body.html

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US Adds Several Islamic State Affiliates to Terror List

February 27, 2018

The U.S. State Department on Tuesday branded seven Islamic State groups from around the world and two of its leaders as terrorists in an effort to cut off any financial support they may have been getting from within the United States.

The top U.S. diplomatic agency blacklisted ISIS-West Africa, ISIS-Philippines and ISIS-Bangladesh, along with four other ISIS-affiliated groups — ISIS-Somalia, Jund al-Khilafah-Tunisia, ISIS-Egypt and the Maute Group. The State Department said it also has sanctioned two ISIS leaders, Mahad Moalim and Abu Musab al-Barnawi.

Nathan Sales, the State Department's counterterrorism coordinator, said in a statement that the designations "target key ISIS-affiliated groups and leaders outside its fallen caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Today’s actions are a critical step in degrading ISIS's global network and denying its affiliates the resources they need to plan and carry out terrorist attacks.”

The law under which the sanctions were imposed blocks the IS groups from conducting any business transactions linked to any properties they may have in the U.S. and prohibits Americans from doing business with them.

The State Department said the sanctions send a message globally that "these groups and individuals have committed or pose a significant risk of committing acts of terrorism. Terrorist designations expose and isolate entities and individuals, and deny them access to the U.S. financial system. Moreover, designations can assist the law enforcement activities of U.S. agencies and other governments."

It said the terrorist designations are part of the U.S. plan to defeat IS insurgents.

Full report at:

https://www.voanews.com/a/us-state-department-adds-islamic-state-affiliates-to-terror-list/4272753.html

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Southeast Asia

 

Indonesia’s Ideological Convergence: Emerging Trend In Islamic Regulations?

February 28, 2018

There is an emerging ideological convergence among activists from different Indonesian Islamic groups toward a more Shariah-oriented outlook. Such a convergence can be seen from the joint efforts of these activists to enact local Islamic regulations in various Indonesian regions.

By Alexander R Arifianto*

Since the Defending Islam rallies in late 2016 and early 2017, there is a perception of a growing ideological convergence between clerics and activists affiliated with different Indonesian Islamic groups, ranging from mainstream ones such as Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah – the two largest Indonesian Islamic groups, to the more conservative groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) and Islamic Defenders Front (FPI).

Beyond the headlines, this apparent convergence can be found in numerous localities throughout Indonesia. Since Indonesia’s political decentralisation began in 2001, activists from these groups have worked together in numerous localities throughout Indonesia to successfully enact and implement local shari’ah regulations known as perda shari’ah in these localities. As of today, nearly 450 local regulations have been implemented by more than 100 Indonesian cities and municipalities.

The Pamekasan Case

Previous research on Islamic regulations in Indonesia concluded that these regulations were developed to bolster the Islamic credentials of local mayors or regents (bupati) so that they could easily win re-election to their positions. They also found the regulations tend to be enacted in the regions with a strong history of Islamism in their politics, for instance, in West Java and South Sulawesi provinces, which were former sites of the Darul Islam rebellion during the 1950s and early 1960s.

However, research by the RSIS’ Indonesia Programme found these regulations are enacted by local councils (DPRD) and executives after extensive lobbying by prominent clerics representing a wide variety of Islamic organisations, which lends support to the ideological convergence thesis outlined above. Also these regulations are now being introduced in areas that historically do not have a strong tradition of regional Islamism, such as in East and Central Java provinces.

An example can be found in the Pamekasan District in Madura Island, East Java province. The regulation here was enacted after an extensive lobbying campaign by a group of local religious scholars (ulama). They were united under the banner of the local branch of the Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI), with support from the local branches of NU, Muhammadiyah, Al Irsyad, and Sarekat Islam (SI).

The perda was enacted unanimously by Pamekasan’s legislative council owing to the united support from these Islamic organisations, which argued the regulation should be enacted because of the strong Islamic tradition present both within the regency and Madura Island in general.

Uztaz Dwiyanto, the deputy chairman of MUI branch in Pamekasan, said no DPRD councillors were willing to oppose it, as the ulama would have “campaigned to vote them out of office” if they expressed any opposition to the regulation. Kyai Haji Kholil-ur-Rahman, a notable cleric who led the movement to enact the regulation, was then elected as the Bupati of Pamekasan from 2008 to 2013.

After Pamekasan enacted the first perda in 2003, at least five additional regulations were also enacted by the regency — including those which require women to wear headscarves (hijab) while appearing in public places, require all primary school graduates to be tested on their Qur’anic reading proficiency, prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages, and prohibit the establishment of nightclubs and other forms of entertainment within the regency.

The Bojonegoro Regulation

A second example can be found in Bojonegoro District, in the border between East and Central Java provinces. While it is historically known as an area where non-observant Muslims (abangan) predominated as late as the 1980s, it is now transformed as a region where deep expressions of Islamic piety now can be seen clearly in the public sphere. This motivates a group of local clerics to promote a perda mandating primary school graduates to recite the Qur’an properly.

Introduced in 2017, the proposed regulation receives strong support from local branches of Islamic organisations, ranging from NU and Muhammadiyah to more conservative groups like HTI. The latter organisation is having an increased following within this rural region. It has established its own Islamic cooperative, which has attracted many small farmers and tradesmen to become its members, because it does not charge any interests on its loans.

With the Islamist Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) as its primary sponsor, the regulation receives wide support from Bojonegoro’s legislative council. The only party which publicly opposes its enactment is the Indonesian Democratic Party Struggle (PDIP), which expresses concerns that the regulation intervenes in the private lives of Bojonegoro residents.

It also believes the perda can be perceived as a regulation that favours Muslims over other religious faiths, something that violates Indonesia’s national ideology Pancasila, which promotes the equality of all recognised religious groups in Indonesia.

However, other parties represented in the legislative council have expressed their support for the perda, because they do not want to be seen as intimidating the local ulama who are unanimously supporting it, especially as the regency is due to hold its local election in June this year. It is expected to win an easy passage in the council.

Underlying Implications

The effective lobbying for local shari’ah regulations in Pamekasan and Bojonegoro districts illustrates the emerging ideological convergence among activists of mainstream and more conservative Islamic groups in Indonesia to support the enactment of these regulations. This is notwithstanding the fact they are contradictory to the national ideology of Pancasila and the 1945 Indonesian constitution, which bars the creation of laws that favours one religious group above others.

The proliferation of these regulations in multiple localities throughout Indonesia is a ‘bottom-up’ strategy by Islamic groups to change Indonesia’s legal foundation to become more religiously-based instead of Pancasila-based. This is something Indonesian policymakers should be paying more attention to in order to better appreciate the implications for nation building.

https://www.eurasiareview.com/28022018-indonesias-ideological-convergence-emerging-trend-in-islamic-regulations-analysis/

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Repent over nightclub launch of Muslim headscarves, Perkasa tells Neelofa

February 27, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 27 — Celebrity entrepreneur Noor Neelofa Mohd Noor should repent for launching her latest range of hijab or Muslim headscarves at a nightclub here, Bumiputera and Muslim rights group Perkasa’s women’s wing said today.

Marini Nasution, who heads Perkasa's Wiranita wing, said the dancing at the launch event as depicted in videos online was "not suitable" to promote headscarves.

“Wiranita Perkasa wishes to advise Neelofa to immediately repent and turn over a new leaf,” she said in a statement today.

Earlier in the statement, Marini questioned Neelofa’s justification: “Why did Hajah Neelofa hold the Neelofa hijab launch event at a nightclub? What is her motive actually? Did she intend to evangelise to that night club’s visitors?

“Neelofa’s reason is related to the suitability of the theme and cheap sponsorship costs. Is this a valid reason? Is enjoining good in an area full of vice acceptable by Allah SWT? Are there no other places that are suitable for the purpose of the promotion with even better prices?” she further added, suggesting that the launch could have been held for much less at shopping malls or halls.

Marini said Muslim women and women who wear the hijab should stay away from vice areas, further asking Neelofa to refer to the Muslim holy book al-Quran and Islamic teachings on hijab or to refer to Perkasa’s Islamic affairs bureau chairman.

Last night, Neelofa celebrated her 29th birthday by launching her latest product range called Be Lofa at Zouk Kuala Lumpur. The venue regularly hosts product launches, especially in the beauty and fashion industry.

Full report at:

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/repent-over-nightclub-launch-of-muslim-headscarves-perkasa-tells-neelofa#V0M83HO3XkCRW3OI.97

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Guan Eng donates RM40,000 to Islamic school

Predeep Nambiar

February 27, 2018

GEORGE TOWN: Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng donated RM40,000 towards an upgrade of an Islamic secondary school in Sungai Bakap on the mainland.

The donation will go towards the building of a hostel block at Sekolah Menengah Islam Ad-Diniah, Sungai Duri.

Lim said as a chief minister for all races, he would continue to support education for people of different races.

“Despite being under fire by MCA for being anti-Chinese for helping the Malays in the state, I hereby announce a RM40,000 donation from my own allocation,” he told a press conference in Komtar today.

The school’s principal Abd Latif Shaari thanked Lim for his donation, saying the total cost of the building was RM410,000 and it was organising a fundraiser soon.

He said the school was built 10 years ago on a 4ha piece of land, with five blocks. He said at present there are 123 students, with 14 teachers and three assistants.

“We would like to thank the chief minister for his donation and his concern for those who want to take a pathway towards religious studies,” Latif said.

Meanwhile, state Religious Affairs Committee chairman Abdul Malik Abul Kassim said the Penang government had spent RM36.8 million to help Islamic schools, its teachers and students last year.

“The state government also hands out ex-gratia payments to Kafa teachers worth RM900,000 yearly, not including cash aid and bonuses that were never enjoyed by religious teachers before this.

Full report at:

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2018/02/27/guan-eng-donates-rm40000-to-islamic-school/

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Singapore Seeks to Bar Communications From Terror-Attack Sites

February 28, 2018

Singapore. Singapore on Tuesday (27/02) proposed a new law to prevent people at terror-attack sites from taking photographs or videos or communicating about police operations, a measure security experts say would be among the first of its kind worldwide.

Although the wealthy city-state ranks as one of the safest countries globally, authorities say it has been a target of Islamic extremists since the 1990s and they have stepped up efforts to deter terrorism in recent years.

"I'm not aware of any other countries taking such a proactive stance against the propagation of images or information during a terrorist incident," said Dan Bould, Asia director of crisis management at Aon, which provides services such as risk management. The measure would stop counterterrorism tactics and capabilities from becoming widely known and limit the footage available for propaganda use by terrorist groups and their followers, added Bould, a former captain in the British Army.

Introduced in parliament on Tuesday, the Public Order and Safety (Special Powers) Bill 2018 would allow police to issue a "communications stop order" following approval from the home affairs minister, the Ministry of Home Affairs said.

That would "require all persons in the incident area to stop making or communicating films or pictures of the incident area, and stop communicating text or audio messages about the ongoing security operations in the incident area," it said in a statement. The new measures would also cover journalists, and breaches could lead to a maximum fine of S$20,000 ($15,200) and prison terms of up to two years, a ministry spokeswoman told Reuters.

Information leaks to terrorists could risk the lives of security officers and those caught up in an attack, the ministry said, citing media coverage of police operations in a 2015 attack on a Jewish deli in Paris and a 2008 attack in India's financial capital of Mumbai.

Ian Wilson, a specialist in terrorism and counterterrorism at Australia's Murdoch University, said the proposals seemed "deeply flawed," however, as they would be difficult to apply in a digital age.

In some terror incidents, such as the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, media coverage has helped authorities find perpetrators or identify those in harm's way, he added.

The proposed law was "unprecedented when it comes to state attempts to stem the communication or recording of a security operation or terrorist incident," Wilson said.

Full report at:

http://jakartaglobe.id/international/singapore-seeks-bar-communications-terror-attack-sites/

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Police Arrest Four Members of 'Muslim Cyber Army'

February 27, 2018

Jakarta. The directorate of cyber crime at the national police’s criminal investigation unit, or Bareskrim, on Tuesday (27/02) confirmed the arrest of four suspected members of a group believed to have been behind the spread of fake news through social media in the country.

"Based on the results of the investigation, this group has often spread provocative issues on social media," said Brig. Gen. Fadil Imran, head of Bareskrim’s cyber crime directorate, as quoted by BeritaSatu.com.

Fadil was referring to a group known as "The Family MCA [Muslim Cyber Army]."

The fake news stories spread by the group included the supposed rise of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), kidnapping of ulemas and defamation toward the president, Fadil added.

The suspects – ML, RSD, RS and Yus – were arrested in different locations across Indonesia: Tanjung Priok in North Jakarta, Pangkal Pinang in Bangka Belitung, Jembrana in Bali and Sumedang in West Java.

They also reportedly spread content containing cyber viruses to individuals and groups.

"They have intentionally spread viruses to individuals or groups they are opposed to in order to cause damage to the recipient’s electronic devices," Fadil said.

The suspects were charged with inciting hate speech on the basis of ethnic, religious, racial and societal groups (SARA) under the 2016 Information and Electronic Transactions Act (ITE) Law.

'Be Careful With Hoax'

Suhardi Alius, chief of the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT), said Indonesian citizens must be mindful of the spread of fake news and hate speech.

"Be careful with hoax and hate speech, it’s important to be able to sort and select information," Suhardi said after meeting.

Full report at:

http://jakartaglobe.id/news/police-arrest-four-members-muslim-cyber-army/

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Europe

 

UK has spent $2.4bn on bombing Iraq, Syria: Official data

Feb 27, 2018

The British government has spent over $2.44 billion (£1.7bn) to carry out airstrikes in Iraq and Syria since 2014, the year the US and its allies formed a so-called coalition to allegedly counter terrorist groups wreaking havoc in the two Arab countries, according to official data.

The larger chunk of the money, around $2 billion (£1.5bn), has gone into flying the Royal Air Force (RAF)’s Tornado and Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets as well as Reaper attack and surveillance drones for more than 42,000 hours.

The figures, revealed on Monday in response to a Freedom of Information requests by anti-war group Drone Wars UK, seemed to be a fraction of what London has spent over the course of its unauthorized intervention dubbed Operation Shader.

The British air force has also dropped over 3,500 units of various munitions in over 1,700 airstrikes on Syrian and Iraqi targets at a cost of around $375 million (£267mn) over the past three and a half years.

That includes Paveway IV laser-guided bombs that cost an estimated $98,000 (£70,000) apiece for the older version and $140,000 (£100,000) for the enhanced ones.

RAF pilots have also fired no less than 8 Storm Shadow cruise missiles that are said to cost around $1,100,000 (£800,000) per unit, the activist group said.

The costs would grow if besides fuel, which is included in official figures, undisclosed data such as crew payments, aircraft maintenance and capital data are also included.

Drone Wars UK estimates that it costs the RAF $112,000 (£80,000) to keep the multi-role Typhoons airborne for an hour, while the figure drops to $49,000 (£35,000) and ($4,900) £3,500 for Tornado and Reaper aircraft respectively.

However large, the numbers are still a fraction of what the US-led coalition has collectively spent during the campaign, which has seen 105,000 bombs and missiles used in some 29,000 airstrikes. Drone Wars said the military campaign has cost around $10.5 billion (£8 bn).

The sheer number of US-led airstrikes since 2014 has alarmed rights activists about the possible civilian casualties.

While the US has only admitted to killing 841 civilians in the strikes, Drone Wars UK said it had recorded over 6,000 civilian deaths as a result of the military campaign. Neither Syria nor the United Nations have authorized the attacks.

The coalition forces have on many occasions air-dropped weapons and equipment for terrorists while targeting Syrian and Iraqi government forces who fight them.

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/27/553756/UK-Syria-Iraq-Operation-Shader-Costs

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UN experts: North Korea sent banned chemical items to Syria

28 February 2018

UNITED NATIONS: UN experts say North Korea sent items used in ballistic missile and chemical weapons programs to Syria along with missile technicians in violation of UN sanctions, and it transferred banned ballistic missiles systems to Myanmar.

The panel of experts monitoring sanctions against North Korea said its investigations into Pyongyang’s transfer of prohibited ballistic missile, conventional arms and dual use goods found more than 40 previously unreported shipments to Syria between 2012 and 2017.

The Associated Press reported on Feb. 2 that according to the experts, North Korea was flouting UN sanctions on oil and gas, engaging in prohibited ballistic missile cooperation with Syria and Myanmar, and illegally exporting commodities that brought in nearly $200 million in nine months last year.

AP obtained details from the more than 200-page report Tuesday.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1256001/world

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Europeans working against US efforts to harm Iran deal

Feb 27, 2018

Major powers in Europe have been working to find ways to nullify efforts by US President Donald Trump to undermine the nuclear deal with Iran, says David O’Sullivan, the European Union ambassador to the United States.

O’Sullivan said the capitals in Europe believed that there was almost no justification to sabotage the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran that had proved to be working well under international norms, adding that Trump’s efforts to reintroduce sanctions that Iran managed to get lifted through the deal were just helpless.

“We removed the sanctions which were part of the deal, and in good faith you cannot put back those sanctions without due cause,” said O’Sullivan in a Monday meeting with a group of journalists in Washington.

The diplomat said the EU was searching for an accommodation with Washington over the issue, but said that Brussels was determined to protect the nuclear deal as it was “fundamental” to the continent’s security. He also ruled out speculations that the EU might, under Trump’s pressure, decide to renegotiate the aspects of the deal.

“We will not renegotiate the deal, and we will not do anything which in our view puts the deal in jeopardy,” said O’Sullivan, adding, “... we will not do anything which jeopardizes the deal, which is absolutely fundamental to Europe’s national security,”

The comments could be a serious blow to efforts by the Trump administration to persuade European allies to scale back their ties with Iran in order to force the country into some new concessions over the historic nuclear deal. The White House has indicated that it wants more sanctions on Iran over the country’s missile program, something many say is totally unrelated to the nuclear agreement.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/27/553805/EU-US-Iran-nuclear-deal

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Court in Prague releases Syrian Kurdish PYD leader

Feb 27, 2018

A court in the Czech Republic has decided to release Salih Muslim, a former co-leader of Syria’s Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), despite an extradition request by Turkey.

Miroslav Krutina, a lawyer of Muslim, said on Tuesday that the Kurdish politician was released earlier in the day after a hearing in Prague.

“The judge released my client,” said Krutina, adding that Muslim had vowed to participate in all proceedings related to the request for extradition.

Muslim was arrested on Saturday on a red notice of Interpol requested by Turkey. He was attending a conference on the Middle East when a Turkish participant took a photo of him and tipped off the police.

Muslim has been a very influential figure in the PYD even after his resignation from co-leadership. Several dozen Kurds gathered in front of the municipal court building in central Prague to express their solidarity with the Kurdish politician. They hailed the decision by Judge Jaroslav Pytloun to release Muslim.

Pytloun would not elaborate on the reasoning behind his decision. Authorities in Ankara had said before the Tuesday hearing that Muslim’s case was a “day of reckoning” for the Czech Republic. They called on Prague, an ally of Ankara in NATO, to hand over Muslim so that he could face trial over terror charges against him. Turkey’s Justice Ministry also sent formal documents to Prague on Monday, demanding Muslim’s extradition.

Turkey's reaction

In Ankara, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag told reporters, "This decision is very clearly a decision in support for terrorism."

"We know, the world knows, the Czech Republic knows that PYD-YPG-PKK... is a bloody-minded terror organization, which has harmed civilians," he said, making a reference to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

The Turkish official also warned that the verdict would affect ties between Turkey and the Czech Republic although he did not elaborate on any specific Turkish action over the case.

Turkey’s Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul also called on Czech authorities to reverse in the "shortest possible time" the decision on Muslim’s release, which he called a mistake. He said Turkey could not accept a verdict which was not in line with international law.

Turkey announced a $1 million award for Muslim’s arrest when he was put on Ankara’s most wanted list earlier in February. Turkish prosecutors brought fresh charges against Muslim on Monday, accusing him of involvement in a terror attack earlier this month on a tax office in Ankara.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/27/553779/Czech-court-Syria-Kurdish-politician

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Terrorists shelling blocks civilian evacuations in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta: Russia

Feb 27, 2018

Russia’s military says terrorists are blocking civilian evacuations from Syria’s Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta by shelling the route out of the area hours after a humanitarian pause went into effect to help the residents flee the militant-held area.

Russia President Vladimir Putin on Monday ordered the implementation of a daily five-hour ceasefire in Eastern Ghouta from Tuesday and the creation of a humanitarian corridor through which civilians can leave the militant-held area.

However, the chief of the group controlling the de-escalation zone in the area, Viktor Pankov, said Tuesday that not a single civilian had been able to leave the area via the corridor in the settlement of Vafidin, Russian news agencies reported.

“On February 27 at 9 a.m. a humanitarian corridor was opened for the civilians’ exit from the de-escalation zone. Now intense fire is underway from the militants’ side and no civilians have left,” he said.

Syrian government forces, helped by the Russian military, have created the necessary conditions for civilians to be safely received in Vafidin and that medical care was available nearby if necessary, according to Russian news agencies.

They said buses to carry civilians to the destinations where they could be temporarily housed were on standby.

The so-called Jaish al-Islam Takfiri militant group stationed in the Damascus suburb denied the recent shelling.

The United Nations also said fighting raged on in the eastern Ghouta district of Syria on Tuesday, despite the five-hour truce.

“Clearly the situation on the ground is not such that convoys can go in or medical evacuations can go out,” UN humanitarian spokesman Jens Laerke told a briefing in Geneva.

The ceasefire came three days after the United Nations Security Council unanimously voted in favor of a resolution demanding a 30-day truce in Syria “without delay” to allow aid access and medical evacuations.

The resolution was adopted by 15 votes to none, after several delays and a flurry of last-minute negotiations.

Eastern Ghouta, a besieged area on the outskirts of Damascus which is home to some 400,000 people, has witnessed deadly violence over the past few days, with foreign-sponsored terrorists launching mortar attacks on the Syrian capital in the face of an imminent humiliating defeat.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/27/553766/Russia-military-Viktor-Pankov-terrorists-Syria-Eastern-Ghouta-civilians-evacuations-ceasefire

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Mideast

 

Al-Aqsa Mosque Preacher Condemns US ‘Provocative’ Quds Plan

February, 27, 2018

Speaking to the Tasnim News Agency, Sheikh Sabri said by setting May 14 as the date for the relocation of its embassy to Quds, Washington aims to provoke (Muslims) and create challenges.

He further pointed to US President Donald Trump’s measures against Palestinians and said his moves are hostile, adding that Trump exhibits a blind and abusive behavior toward Islam and Muslims.

The cleric also said the US, Britain and France are backing the Israeli regime to create deterrence against Muslims.

US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on Friday said the United States is planning to open its embassy in Quds in May.

“We are excited about taking this historic step, and look forward with anticipation to the May opening,” she said.

Earlier, an official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said most embassy staff will remain in Tel Aviv.

“Come May, we’re moving the ambassador and a small team to Arnona,” the compound that currently houses the consular operations of the US Consulate General in Quds, the official said.

“What will happen by May, is a sign will be put up in Arnona identifying the facility as the US Embassy,” the official added.

Another US official, also requesting anonymity, said that a new embassy building will be later constructed in another location in Quds.

The State Department spokeswoman said the search for a permanent site had already begun.

According to another US officials, the new US embassy in Quds would open on May 14 to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Nakba Day (Day of Catastrophe), which marks the anniversary of the forcible eviction of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland by Israelis in 1948.

 A senior Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official slammed the announcement, saying Washington’s decision to open its embassy in May to coincide with Nakba Day “is a provocation to Arabs.”

“The American administration's decisions to recognize Quds as Israel's capital and choose the Palestinian people's Nakba as the date for this step is a blatant violation of international law,” he said.

Erkat added that the move will result in “the destruction of the two state option, as well as a blatant provocation to all Arabs and Muslims.”

Trump on December 6 defied global warnings and said Washington formally recognized Quds as the capital of Israel and would begin the process of moving its embassy to the occupied city, breaking with decades of American policy.

His decision infuriated the Palestinians, who declared that Washington could no longer play a role as lead mediator in the Middle East peace process. It also sparked outrage across the Muslim world and even Washington’s Arab allies.

The United Nations General Assembly on December 21 overwhelmingly voted in favor of a resolution that calls on the US to withdraw its controversial recognition of Quds as the Israeli capital.

The 193-nation assembly adopted the resolution by a decisive vote of 128 to 9, with 35 abstentions.

https://www.tasnimnews.com/en/news/2018/02/27/1668035/al-aqsa-mosque-preacher-condemns-us-provocative-quds-plan

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Jihadist: Hamas Wave of Arrests Follows Islamic State Attack in Sinai

27 Feb 2018

TEL AVIV — Hamas security forces have stepped up their pursuit of Islamic State operatives and supporters as well as other Salafist jihadists in the Gaza Strip, even while a Hamas delegation is visiting Egypt led by politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh, a senior Gaza jihadist affiliated with IS ideology told Breitbart Jerusalem.

According to jihadist Abu Baker al-Maqdesi, in the wake of an announcement from Wilyat Sinai that two Palestinians from Gaza had participated in an IS attack on an Egyptian army headquarters in the town of Al Arish in Sinai, Hamas began making a new wave of arrests against those suspected of being IS supporters and operatives in the Gaza Strip.

Al-Maqdesi said that 14 jihadists were arrested on Sunday, including seven Hamas members who he said live near the home of one of the two Gazans IS says took part in the attack against Egyptian army base 101 in Al Arish. Al-Maqdesi added that those arrested are suspected of cooperating with the jihadists.

One of the seven Hamas members who were arrested is said to be an imam at one of the mosques in the neighborhood of Sheikh Radwan, the neighborhood where one of the two Palestinian jihadists who were killed in Sinai lived. The Hamas imam is suspected of reciting the prayer for the dead to remember Abdel Rahman Banat, who died in the attack on the Egyptian base.

According to al-Maqdesi, Hamas forces raided Banat’s home despite the family being well-known as Hamas supporters, with many of its members serving in Hamas’s so-called military wing. The security forces prevented the family from erecting a mourning tent to receive condolences. Hamas even set up roadblocks near the family’s home to prevent others from reaching the tent.

Al-Maqdesi also said that Hamas has prevented the family of the second Gaza jihadist killed in Sinai, Tareq al-Sheiq, from erecting their own mourning tent.

A source in Hamas confirmed these details in a conversation with Breitbart Jerusalem, but said the seven Hamas members were released after a few hours of questioning while the imam has been removed from his post as head of the mosque for reciting the prayer for the dead on behalf of Banat.

On Saturday, IS declared that the attack by Wilyat Sinai, its offshoot in Sinai, was carried out by four kamikaze-style fighters who killed or wounded dozens of Egyptian soldiers. IS in Sinai said that two of its members killed in the attack were Egyptian and the other two were Palestinian.

Photos of the Palestinians were released along with their IS names, but al-Maqdesi, himself a senior jihadist in the Gaza Strip, told Breitbart Jerusalem that the two were former operatives of Hamas’ so-called military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. They joined the ranks of IS in Sinai one year ago.

The two were identified as Banat, a resident of the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood in Gaza City, and al-Sheiq, from the city of Rafah.

Full report at:

http://www.breitbart.com/jerusalem/2018/02/27/jihadist-hamas-wave-arrests-follow-islamic-state-attack-sinai/

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US, Britain liable for Saudi military offensive in Yemen: Iran

Feb 27, 2018

The United States and Britain are responsible for Saudi Arabia's continued warmongering and military aggression against Yemen, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi says.

"The performance of the US and Britain over the past three years at the [United Nations] Security Council has been unconstructive and in line with giving legitimacy to the aggressors against Yemen," Qassemi said on Tuesday.

He added that Washington and London have been using the mechanisms of the UN Security Council over the past three years to cover up "war crimes" committed by Saudi Arabia and its allies in the impoverished country.

The Iranian spokesman made the comment a day after Russia vetoed a resolution at the Security Council, presented by Britain and strongly backed by the United States, that called for "additional measures" against Iran over accusations that it violated the 2015 arms embargo on the war-torn Arabian Peninsula state.

The draft resolution gained 11 favorable votes at the 15-member Security Council but was blocked by Russia's veto. China and Kazakhstan abstained, while Bolivia also voted against the measure.

A group of so-called independent United Nations experts monitoring the sanctions on Yemen reported to the Security Council in January that it had “identified missile remnants, related military equipment and military unmanned aerial vehicles that are of Iranian origin and were brought into Yemen after the imposition of the targeted arms embargo.”

The Security Council instead adopted unanimously a Russian-written resolution that called for a one-year extension of sanctions against Yemen and a renewal of the work of the panel of experts.

In reaction to Western efforts to target Iran over the allegations of providing arms to Yemen's Houthis, Qassemi said, "As had been expected, the UK-proposed resolution had no outcome for its sponsors due to its unrealistic [nature] and led to another defeat, particularly for the United States of America, on the international scene and at the United Nations."

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Abbas Araqchi said on Tuesday that Russia's vote against the UN draft resolution represented another setback for the US.

"Based on a one-sided report, they intended to pass a resolution that also referred to Iran, but they failed," Araqchi said, adding, "This is yet another failure by the US government to drag Iran to the Security Council."

Elsewhere in his comments, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson expressed deep concern over the continued warmongering policies and relentless attacks on the oppressed Yemeni people and called on the international community to take a decisive action to stop foreign aggression and killing of thousands of innocent people in Yemen.

Qassemi said all those who are playing a destructive role by selling modern arms to boost the aggressive countries weapons stockpiles, escalating the Yemeni crisis and destabilizing the Middle East region, are responsible for any harm coming to the women and children of Yemen.

He warned that Yemen is suffering from a humanitarian catastrophe due to a devastating war and sanctions.

He said the US, Britain and France, who had been the sponsors and supporters of the vetoed resolution, were sending out the wrong signals and evading accountability.

Qassemi said these countries are the main suppliers of lethal weapons and are playing a prominent role in Saudi Arabia's warmongering and ongoing military aggression against Yemen.

Since March 2015, the Saudi regime, together with a coalition of its allies, has been heavily bombarding Yemen as part of a brutal campaign against its impoverished southern neighbor. It has been attempting unsuccessfully to reinstall Yemen’s former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh.

The Saudi campaign has killed at least 13,600 people since its onset. Furthermore, much of the country’s infrastructure, including hospitals, schools, and factories, has been reduced to rubble in the Saudi war.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/27/553811/Bahram-Qassemi-Security-Council-Britain-US-Russia-Yemen

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Failed UNSC resolution attempt to hide US, UK complicity in Yemen war: Zarif

Feb 27, 2018

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says the US and UK's recent failed anti-Tehran resolution is nothing but an attempt to cover up their roll in Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen.

Zarif also reiterated Tehran's calls for ceasefire, aid, and an inclusive government in the country, while stressing that dialogue was the only solution to the crisis in Yemen.

"Desperate attempt @ UNSC by US&UK to cover up complicity in 3 yrs of Saudi & Emirati war crimes in Yemen failed. Since the very start, Iran called for ceasefire, aid, dialogue & inclusive government. This—not a delusion of military victory or accusations—remains the only solution" Zarif tweeted late on Tuesday.

The Iranian foreign minister made the comment a day after Russia vetoed a resolution at the Security Council, presented by Britain and strongly backed by the United States, which called for "additional measures" against Iran over accusations that it violated the 2015 arms embargo on the war-torn Arabian Peninsula state.

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi has said that the United States and Britain are responsible for Saudi Arabia's continued warmongering and military aggression against Yemen.

Earlier in the day, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Abbas Araqchi said that Russia's vote against the UN draft resolution represented another setback for the US.

The draft resolution gained 11 favorable votes at the 15-member Security Council but was blocked by Russia's veto. China and Kazakhstan abstained, while Bolivia also voted against the measure.

A group of so-called independent United Nations experts monitoring the sanctions on Yemen reported to the Security Council in January that it had “identified missile remnants, related military equipment and military unmanned aerial vehicles that are of Iranian origin and were brought into Yemen after the imposition of the targeted arms embargo.”

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/27/553831/iran-zarif-unsc-tweet

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Fresh Saudi airstrikes leave dozen more civilians dead across Yemen

Feb 27, 2018

More than a dozen people have lost their lives in fresh Saudi airstrikes against civilian targets across Yemen as Riyadh presses ahead with its devastating aerial campaign against its crisis-stricken southern neighbor.

Local sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Arabic-language al-Masirah television network that Saudi military aircraft on Tuesday evening struck an area in the At Tuhayat district of Yemen's western coastal province of Hudaydah, killing four people.

A woman and her two sons also lost their lives when Saudi jets targeted their house in the Nihm district of the mountainous northwestern province of Sa’ada. Two people sustained injuries in the aerial assault as well.

Earlier in the day, Saudi warplanes bombarded residential neighborhoods in the Sahar district of the same Yemeni province, leaving ten civilians killed and injured.

Saudi Arabia has been incessantly pounding Yemen since March 2015 in an attempt to crush the popular Houthi Ansarullah movement and reinstate former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who is a staunch ally of the Riyadh regime.

At least 13,600 people have been killed since the onset of Saudi Arabia’s military campaign against Yemen. Much of the Arabian Peninsula country's infrastructure, including hospitals, schools and factories, has been reduced to rubble due to the war.

The United Nations says a record 22.2 million people are in need of food aid, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger.

Meanwhile, a high-ranking UN aid official has warned against the “catastrophic” living conditions in Yemen, stating that there is a growing risk of famine and cholera there.

“After three years of conflict, conditions in Yemen are catastrophic,” John Ging, UN director of aid operations, told the UN Security Council on Tuesday.

He added, “People's lives have continued unraveling. Conflict has escalated since November driving an estimated 100,000 people from their homes.”

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/27/553821/Fresh-Saudi-airstrikes-leave-dozen-more-civilians-dead-across-Yemen

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Jerusalem al-Quds church reopens as Israel suspends controversial plans

Feb 28, 2018

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem al-Quds has reopened its doors after Israel backtracked on its controversial tax and land grab plans targeting churches in the city.

The church, seen by many as the holiest site in Christianity, reopened at around 4:00 a.m. local time (0200 GMT) on Wednesday after a three-day closure in protest at the Tel Aviv regime’s controversial measures.

The Jerusalem al-Quds municipality had canceled a tax exemption it had granted church-owned commercial properties in the Israeli-occupied city. Israeli cabinet ministers also began studying a bill to expropriate land in Jerusalem al-Quds that churches sold to private real estate firms in recent years.

In response, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and Catholic leaders, who jointly manage the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, shuttered its doors on Sunday to protest  the “unprecedented attack against Christians,” locking out thousands of pilgrims and tourists.

They described the Israeli tax policy as “an attempt to weaken the Christian presence in Jerusalem [al-Quds].”

The church closure, which seemed to be the longest since at least 1990, also drew criticism from Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan, which is the custodian of holy sites in the Israeli-occupied city.

Israel finally buckled under pressure, with Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyahu’s office announcing in a statement that it was suspending the tax collection and freezing the legislation until a newly formed committee — to be headed by Regional Cooperation  Minister Tzachi Hanegbi —  could resolve the issues with the churches.

The committee would work “with the participation of all relevant parties, to formulate a solution for the issue of municipal taxes on properties owned by churches that are not houses of worship,” the statement read.

The church leaders welcomed the suspension and ended the protest.

Israel lays claim to the whole Jerusalem al-Quds, but the international community views the ancient city’s eastern sector as occupied land and Palestinians consider it as the capital of their future state.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/28/553850/Israel-Palestine-Jerusalem

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After Russian veto, US, allies condemn Iran over missiles to Yemen

28 February 2018

The United States and three European allies condemned Iran on Tuesday after the United Nations found Tehran had violated the arms embargo on Yemen by failing to block supplies of missiles and drones to Houthi rebels.

Britain, France, Germany and the United States urged Iran to “immediately cease all activities that are inconsistent or would violate” the UN resolution that established the arms embargo in 2015.

The joint condemnation came a day after Russia vetoed a British-drafted resolution renewing sanctions on Yemen and citing “particular concern” for the report’s findings about Iran.

The report by a UN panel of experts in January concluded that Iran was in violation after determining that missiles fired by the Houthis at Saudi Arabia last year were made in Iran.

Russia, however, questioned the findings and blocked the resolution, saying the report did not contain conclusive evidence of Iran’s violation of the arms embargo.

“We condemn Iran’s non-compliance, as described by the panel, which poses serious risks to peace and stability in the region,” said the joint statement released by the US mission.

All four countries are signatories to the Iran nuclear deal.

The Russia veto was a setback for the United States as it pushes the Security Council to take a stronger stance toward Iran over its role in regional conflicts and missile tests.

The US administration maintains that Iran is not living up to its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal, which President Donald Trump has criticized as the “worst ever.”

The British-drafted resolution that was strongly backed by the United States was vetoed by Russia after 11 countries voted in favor at the 15-member Security Council.

China and Kazakhstan abstained and Bolivia voted against it.

An earlier version of the draft included a condemnation of Iran for failing to block the military supplies to the Houthis, but that was dropped from a final version that Russia nevertheless vetoed.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/02/28/After-Russian-veto-US-allies-condemn-Iran-over-missiles-to-Yemen-.html

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Africa

 

Kenya Hunting Down 7 Al-Shabaab Militia After Wajir Attack

27 FEBRUARY 2018

By Joseph Muraya

Wajir — Authorities are pursuing seven Al-Shabaab terrorists believed to have played a role in last week's attack at a primary school in Wajir that left three teachers dead.

One suspect is already in custody.

North Eastern Regional Commissioner Mohamud Saleh says they will not relent until they weed out terror elements in the expansive Wajir County.

"They are our boys; we will get them," he asserted.

Teachers who killed were non-locals.

The county borders war-torn Somalia, where Al-Shabaab terrorists operate from.

http://allafrica.com/stories/201802280087.html

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Nigeria: 1,130 hostages freed from Boko Haram

Feb 28, 2018

At least 1,130 civilians were freed, and 37 suspected Boko Haram militants were killed during a joint offensive by Cameroonian and Nigerian troops in communities around the Lake Chad region on Monday, according to a Nigerian army spokesman.

In a statement on Tuesday, spokesman Colonel Onyema Nwackukwu said the offensives took place in border villages of Kusha-Kucha, Surdewala, Alkanerik, Magdewerne and Mayen, culminating in the destruction of several Boko Haram camps and seizure of weapons, including machine guns and anti-aircraft guns.

Four improvised explosive devices were also destroyed.

Nwackukwu said some 603 hostages were freed across Kusha-Kucha, Surdewala, Alkanerik, Magdewerne and Mayen villages; they were taken to the Nigerian Bama town for profiling and handing over to relief agencies.

"The troops also extracted 194 civilians held captive by the insurgents and destroyed makeshift accommodations erected by the insurgents. Additionally, the combined troops successfully cleared Miyanti and Wudila villages, where they rescued three men, 121 women and 209 children," the army spokesman added.

Full report at:

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/02/nigeria-1130-hostages-freed-boko-haram-180227165358744.html

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15 killed in fresh violence in DR Congo

Feb 27, 2018

Fifteen people have been killed in a resurgence of violence in DR Congo's troubled Kasai region blamed on a suspected militia, a local leader said Tuesday.

"Kamwina Nsapu militiamen arrived in the administrative center of Lombelu (on Monday) and made a surprise attack on an army combat patrol," Andre Kapiola, Lombelu sector chief in Kasai Central, told AFP.

"We have collected the bodies of 14 militiamen," Kapiola said, adding that one soldier was also killed.

However several Lombelu residents told AFP that about half of those killed in the attack would have been "ordinary citizens".

Violence in the vast Kasai region first erupted after a tribal chieftain known as the Kamwina Nsapu, who rebelled against the regime of President Joseph Kabila, was killed in August 2016.

Kapiola said the situation was "under control" but that the population of the village, which is 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the major regional town of Kananga, had fled into the bush.

"Many militiamen are scattered through the diamond mines," a local mining official told AFP, adding that the miners feared for their safety.

A local military source also blamed the Kamwina Nsapu militia for the attack, saying the group are "trying to reorganize" and "trying to steal weapons".

Joachim Likaka, administrator of the territory of Demba, said reinforcements had been sent to the area to counter any new attacks.

Kamwina Nsapu militia forces were suspected of killing nine people, as well as burning down a village hospital and some houses, on January 30.

The guerilla movement has been leading a bloody rebellion against moves by Kabila to extend his stay in power.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/27/553814/DR-Congo-Violence-Death-Toll-

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U.S. military kills two al-Shabab militants, injures another

2018-02-28

MOGADISHU, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- The U. S. forces on Monday conducted an airstrike against Al-Shabaab militants in southern Somalia, killing two terrorists and injured another, the military said on Tuesday.

The U.S. Africa Command (Africom) said no civilian was killed in the drone strike which was carried out on Monday in coordination with Somalia government in the vicinity of Jilib.

"In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. forces conducted an airstrike against Al-Shabaab militants on Feb. 26, in the vicinity of Jilib, Somalia, killing two terrorists and wounding one terrorist," Africom said in a statement.

The militants have recently increased their attacks against Africa Union and Somali forces especially in Mogadishu where they killed at least 32 people and wounded over 50 others in twin blasts last week.

The AMISOM and Somali forces have also increased airstrikes in southern Somalia in the recent past, resulting in the killing of several militants and some defections.

Full report at:

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-02/28/c_137004158.htm

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Two Nigerian soldiers killed in Boko Haram attack

2018-02-27

Kano - Two Nigerian soldiers were killed and four injured in an ambush by Boko Haram militants in the country's northeastern state of Borno, the army said on Tuesday.

The attack on Monday happened as soldiers were travelling between the towns of Biu and Damboa.

Borno state has been at the heart of the jihadist insurgency that has killed 20 000 people and displaced 2.6 million more since 2009.

"Our men fell into an ambush by Boko Haram terrorists while on their way to Damboa from Biu," a military officer told AFP.

"They fought the terrorists and we lost two men in the fight."

A military vehicle was also seized in the attack, he added.

Despite repeated claims from the authorities in Abuja that they have "crushed the terrorists", attacks and suicide bombings persist in hard-to-reach rural areas and outlying towns.

Last week Boko Haram militants stormed a girls' school in Dapchi, in neighbouring Yobe state, and abducted more than 100 schoolgirls.

Full report at:

https://www.news24.com/Africa/News/two-nigerian-soldiers-killed-in-boko-haram-attack-20180227

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U.S. places new sanctions on Boko Haram, leader

February 27, 2018

The United States government has imposed new sanctions on the terror group, Boko Haram, and its factional leader, Mus’ab al-Barnawi.

The new sanctions by the U.S. Treasury Department targets the Islamic State and its affiliate networks around the world.

The U.S. department added Boko Haram, also known as ISIS-West Africa, to the sanction list for global terrorism.

Mr. al-Barnawi and Mahad Moalim from Somalia and seven organisations in Africa and Asia, linked to Islamic state (ISIS), were added to the list.

Mr. al-Barnawi was the spokesperson for Boko Haram before the group pledged allegiance to ISIL.

The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said the additions include ISIS-Philippines, ISIS-Bangladesh, ISIS-West Africa, ISIS-Egypt, ISIS-Somalia, Jund al-Khilafah-Tunisia, also known as ISIS-Tunisia, and the Philippines-based Maute Group, also known as Islamic State of Lanao.

Reuters reports that the U.S. State Department, in a separate statement, said that it had designated 40 Islamic State leaders and operatives dating back to 2011 under an order aimed at denying them access to the U.S. financial system, including the latest additions.

“These designations are part of a larger comprehensive plan to defeat ISIS that, in coordination with the 75-member Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, has made significant progress toward that goal.

“This effort is destroying ISIS in its safe havens, denying its ability to recruit foreign terrorist fighters, stifling its financial resources, negating the false propaganda it disseminates over the internet and social media, and helping to stabilise liberated areas in Iraq and Syria so the displaced can return to their homes and begin to rebuild their lives,” the statement added.

Islamic State fighters were driven last year from all the population centres they occupied in both Syria and Iraq, but Washington still considers them a threat, capable of carrying out an insurgency and plotting attacks elsewhere, Reuters reported.

In Nigeria Boko Haram has remained a threat despite the government’s claim the group has been defeated.

Boko Haram fighters have continued to carry out deadly attacks and abductions — although on a reduced scale.

Full report at:

https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/260066-u-s-places-new-sanctions-boko-haram-leader.html

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