New Age Islam
Thu Aug 13 2020, 04:54 AM

Islamic World News ( 21 Jan 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit Becomes First Univ to Pass Resolution against CAA







• Christian Nuns Feed Hindus and Muslims from the Neighboring Slums Eat at Loreto Nuns’ Food ATM

• Her Choice, Hers Alone: Love Jihad Is a Communal, Patriarchal Hoax; Syro-Malabar Church Claimed That “Love Jihad Is Not an Illusion”

• Pakistan: Hindu Custodian of Mosque Situated on Karachi’s Busiest Faisal Street

• Taliban Offer to Reduce Violence Won’t Aid Peace, Official Says

• Pahang Joins Push For Athletes to Wear Shariah-Compliant Attire

• Donald Trump Says He's Discussing Kashmir Issue with Imran Khan

• UK MPs Express Concern about CAA-NPR-NRC In House Of Commons

• ISIS 'Mufti' Weighing Over 300 Lbs Captured By Iraqi SWAT

• Iran Expands Support for Taliban, Targets U.S. Troops In Afghanistan

 

India

• Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit Becomes First Univ to Pass Resolution against CAA

• Christian Nuns Feed Hindus and Muslims from the Neighboring Slums Eat at Loreto Nuns’ Food ATM

• Her Choice, Hers Alone: Love Jihad Is a Communal, Patriarchal Hoax; Syro-Malabar Church Claimed That “Love Jihad Is Not an Illusion”

• Counsel kids in Shaheen Bagh, may suffer mental trauma: NCPCR

• K’taka dy CM, MLA attack Muslims over terror, CAA

• Soldier, SPO killed in Pulwama encounter

• Denied permission by cops, Muslim protesters in Doon call off anti-CAA stir

• Peace Party in SC files curative petition in Ayodhya land dispute case

• Police officer killed, Army jawan injured in encounter in J-K’s Pulwama district

• Not going back on CAA, those protesting may continue: Amit Shah

• Communal Agenda is to end equality, trap Muslims: Prof Deshpande

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Pakistan

• Pakistan: Hindu Custodian of Mosque Situated on Karachi’s Busiest Faisal Street

• Pakistan: US 'Applauded' Steps against Terror Financing

• Pakistan’s Hybrid ‘Civilian–Military’ Government Weakens Democracy

• LHC asks Maryam…: Is there nobody to look after Nawaz in London?

• PTI-PML-Q relations: Skeptic Q-League urges consistency on road to mending ties

• Faisal Vawda held US nationality at the time of filing nomination papers: report

• PM Imran meets leaders from Singapore, Azerbaijan at Davos

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South Asia

• Taliban Offer to Reduce Violence Won’t Aid Peace, Official Says

• Afghan Officials: Taliban Kills Six Members Of Same Family

• Bangladesh: 15 Sentenced to Death for Roles in 2 Massacres

• Bangladesh: 22 Rohingya Muslims detained before trafficked

• Ghani appoints his deputy chief of Staff as acting MOFA

• Dhaka awaiting UN green light to relocate 100,000 Rohingya to $275m island

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Southeast Asia

• Pahang Joins Push For Athletes to Wear Shariah-Compliant Attire

• Indonesian Government Deploys ‘Mosque Hunters’ Who Use Drones to Combat Radicalism

• MUI orders evictees to vacate mosque, return it to 'its proper function'

• Islamic nursery kids spread early CNY joy with cakes for neighbours

• Philippine military says 5 Indonesians kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf militants

• Muslim insurgents, Thai govt hold peace dialogue in KL

• Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia coalition defends Ikram over Islamic assault allegations

• In Malaysia, are China’s citizens becoming the new bogeyman?

• Religious status on MyKad to stay, says home affairs ministry

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North America

• Donald Trump Says He's Discussing Kashmir Issue with Imran Khan

• US Military Declassified Documents Claim ‘Success’ In Hacking ISIS

• Iranian student deported from US despite federal judge order

• More US troops ‘treated’ after Iran attack on US base, Pentagon admits

• US calls for ‘immediate’ resumption of Libya oil production

• Is the US provoking war with Iran?

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Europe

• UK MPs Express Concern about CAA-NPR-NRC In House Of Commons

• British MPs Urge UK Government to Recognize Palestine

• UK adds entire Hezbollah movement to terror blacklist

• French police arrest seven for Islamist extremist-linked terror plot

• Trial of suspected jihadist recruiter opens in Paris

• ISIS Wife’s Return to Norway Divides Government

• Kosovo Woman Repatriated From Syria Accused of Terror

• Kentucky Muslims urged to raise their voices on ‘Muslim Day’ at State Capitol

• Tories to introduce new counter-terrorism bill in March

• UK, Egypt leaders discuss cease-fire in Libya

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Arab World

• ISIS 'Mufti' Weighing Over 300 Lbs Captured By Iraqi SWAT

• Lebanon unveils new government headed by Hassan Diab

• On the sinister objectives of Abu Dhabi's 'crusade' against political Islam

• Saudi Islamic affairs minister, Malaysian counterpart discuss moderation, rejection of extremism

• Muslim World League chief heads delegation to genocide sites in Bosnia and Poland

• Isis founding member confirmed by spies as group's new leader

• Iraqi forces make more arrests in anti-ISIS crackdown as attack kills soldier

• Saudi dismisses reports crown prince is behind hacking of Amazon boss Bezos' phone

• MP: US Forces to Fully Evacuate Iraq by Yearend

• UN chief says will work with new Lebanese govt on reforms

• Lebanese protesters block roads in Beirut after new government announced

• At least 10 protesters killed over two days: Iraq human rights commission

• Protesters condemn Hassan Diab’s new government in Lebanon

• Lebanon needs foreign support, decision on Eurobond: New finance minister

• Russian air strikes in Syria kill 12 civilians: Monitor

• Iraq’s caretaker PM Abdul Mahdi condemns attack near US Embassy

• Saudi Council of Ministers says it backs Cyprus in territorial dispute

• Lebanon’s Hariri says he does not want to return to premiership

• Saudi Islamic affairs minister, Malaysian counterpart discuss moderation, rejection of extremism

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Mideast

• Iran Expands Support for Taliban, Targets U.S. Troops In Afghanistan

• Iranian MP announces $3 million award for ‘whoever kills Trump’

• Adel al-Jubeir: Iran ‘largest sponsor of terrorism in the world’

• Israeli PM vows to annex Jordan Valley, all West Bank settlements if re-elected

• Palestine urges EU to take tougher stand on Israel's 'open battle' against occupied Jerusalem al-Quds

• Hezbollah's threat to Israel rises amid Lebanon chaos

• 80 soldiers killed by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen

• Hamas chief to remain outside Gaza for months: Deputy

• Israel troops kill three Palestinians who crossed over from Gaza

• Jailed UK-Australian academic says Iran made spy offer

• Iran confirms reports that two missiles downed Ukraine airliner

• Dozens of Houthis killed in clashes with Yemeni army

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Africa

• Libya’s Haftar Must Choose Political Over Military Solution: Turkey

• Top al-Shabaab fighter defects in Somalia

• Militants kill 36 civilians in Burkina Faso market attack

• Nigeria: 17 Soldiers Killed, Several Abducted in Battle with Boko Haram

• UN confirms Boko Haram attack on key humanitarian facility in Borno

• Suicide Bombing in Western Chad Kills at Least 9

• Grenade blast kills five at Sudan wedding: Police

• French FM Le Drian bolsters Algeria ties in rare visit

• UN Security Council calls for immediate ceasefire in Libya

• Nigerian forces kill Zakzaky supporter in Abuja

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/sree-sankaracharya-university-of-sanskrit-becomes-first-univ-to-pass-resolution-against-caa/d/120860

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Sree Sankaracharya University Of Sanskrit Becomes First Univ To Pass Resolution Against CAA

Jan 20, 2020

Kochi: The Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit (SSUS) at Kalady in Kerala has become the first university in the country to pass a resolution against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CA).

The resolution passed was by the university’s 15-member syndicate with no dissent. Mincing no words, it condemned “the violence unleashed upon students, teachers and scholars by saffron supporters with the active abetment of the Modi government.”

The resolution was moved by the student representative in the syndicate, K.V. Abhijith.

The resolution added, “The ruling BJP is trying to stifle every voice of dissent by brutally attacking the youth of the country, be it students who protested against the fees hike in Jawaharlal Nehru University or the ones who agitated against the Citizenship Amendment Act on other campuses. The BJP government is using the police and goons to muzzle all those who are raising their voices against it.”

The university also urged the academic community to launch a strong protest against the “horrifying violence on students and teachers.”

Established in 1994, SSUS is one of the pioneering Sanskrit universities in India in teaching, research and innovations. It is named after the Hindu sage and philosopher Adi Sankaracharya.

On contemporary issues, the campus is known to take some pretty firm stances. Last month, the varsity’s academic council passed a resolution asking the Centre to withdraw the draft education policy, calling it out as a “deviation from secularism, humanism and contemporary scientific thought”.

https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/politics/200120/sanskrit-univ-passes-resolution-against-caa.html

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Christian Nuns Feed Hindus and Muslims from the Neighboring Slums Eat at Loreto Nuns’ Food ATM

January 17, 2020

Kolkata, Jan 17, 2020: As the clock strikes noon, this small empty courtyard in Entally fills up with eager eyes and empty tummies. The promise of food has been bringing the hungry mouths from the neighboring slums to this courtyard every afternoon since the beginning of the New Year.

It’s a strange mix here — Christian nuns feed Hindus and Muslims of all ages from the slums. They eat and share out of each other’s plates and create a picture of complete harmony that could be a testament to vouch for in these troubled times.

We are talking about the food ATM installed by the nuns of the Kolkata Mary Ward Social Centre at Loreto Convent Entally. The initiative was undertaken to feed slum dwellers of the neighboring Tangra, Motijheel, Dhapa and Palmer Bazar areas. A little under 200 people, mostly kids, are fed lunch now. But the volunteers are hopeful that with more help coming in, they will be able to feed more people soon.

For the moment, Loreto schools on Elliot Road and at Entally and Bowbazar are collecting, pooling and ferrying food to the food ATM. Loreto School Dharamtala has also pledged to contribute to the initiative. Students of these schools have been divided into batches. Under the supervision of teacher coordinators, they bring fresh, clean, home-cooked food, packed in containers ready to be distributed to the slum dwellers as they walk in. Every name is recorded in the register maintained at the ATM.

“They sit around the courtyard to eat. We provide fresh drinking water, an egg and a banana each, along with the home-cooked food and do not allow them to carry it away. We make them sit there and eat everything because we know that carrying back the food can lead to wastage,” said director of the center Monica Suchiang, who designed the program.

There’s quite a variety on the menu and no two plates are similar. If Salma Khatoun got a plate of biryani, Baby Singh may have got khichdi and subzi. No one is so selfish that s/he won’t share. In fact, they are happy sharing. On Thursday afternoon, 15-year-old ragpicker Zuber shared his fried rice and chilli chicken with friend and fellow ragpicker Raju who had got puri sabzi along with the egg and banana.

“We eat together and happily share our food. Madams here fill our bellies once a day),” Zuber said in Hindi.

School children who donate the food, bring in whatever is cooked at home. This is why no two children’s food packs are the same. Hence, the variety in the meals served.

“We are happy that every child is eager to help. Each week, one class has to bring in food just once. Every child brings enough to feed one hungry mouth,” explained Nandini Bhattacharya, a teacher at Loreto Elliot Road, who is coordinating for her school. The center’s cafeteria also cooks and serves thalis of rice, daal and subzi for the food ATM.

http://mattersindia.com/2020/01/hindus-muslim-eat-at-loreto-nuns-food-atm/

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Her Choice, Hers Alone: Love Jihad Is a Communal, Patriarchal Hoax; Syro-Malabar Church Claimed That “Love Jihad Is Not an Illusion”

January 18, 2020

The Syro-Malabar church of Kerala has claimed that “love jihad is not an illusion”, that Christian women are being lured abroad by Muslim men to become “sex slaves”. These church elders have followed the Hindutva playbook, where the idea of love jihad is classic kindling for communal tension. At the core of this bugbear lies a refusal to accept that in our free republic, adult female citizens are at liberty to fall in love with anyone they want.

Of course crimes against women should be prosecuted, whatever the religion of the perpetrator. But in traditional patriarchy a woman just thinking for herself and making her own sexual choices is a matter of horror, a rent in the social fabric – which is why a young woman is surveilled, and kept in place with the weights of chastity and reputation and honour, and if she still steps out of her bounds, real violence. The purity of sealed social categories rests on woman – religion, caste, gotra, family, status are all threatened by her independence.

Kerala, for all the educational and economic achievements of its women, is no exception to this conservatism. In this case, the Syro-Malabar church has made common cause with the Islamophobia rampant in India today, to the great satisfaction of varied patriarchal institutions. But no one who sees citizens as equals can buy into this noxious notion of love jihad, which denies women the right to choose their faiths and their spouses.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/toi-editorials/her-choice-hers-alone-love-jihad-is-a-communal-patriarchal-hoax/

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Pakistan: Hindu Custodian of Mosque Situated on Karachi’s Busiest Faisal Street

Aamir Latif

21.01.2020

KARACHI, Pakistan

Visitors do not find any architectural attraction towards a mosque situated on Karachi’s busiest Faisal Street, but the difference in this mosque -- in the heart of Pakistan’s commercial capital -- is that its custodian is a Hindu.  

A Hindu custodian of a mosque in a Muslim majority country may sound far-fetched. But Pahlaj Rae, a local businessman has been taking care of this mosque over many years.

On a typical Friday, he reaches the mosque, much before worshipers arrive to supervise arrangements. He rolls plastic sheets on the stony floor outside the mosque, to temporarily add to the capacity to house faithful to offer prayers. 

“We began this [arrangement] nearly three years ago. There was no mosque in the vicinity, where my employees and others working in nearby offices could go and offer prayers,” Rae told Anadolu Agency.

When the number of worshipers swelled, he hired a permanent imam (prayer leader), and a muazzin (one who calls for prayer five times a day).

He also shuts down his gas station located nearby for two hours to provide space for the Friday prayers.

“I have done nothing special. I am not doing this for publicity or advertisement. It was my duty to take care of the spiritual and religious requirements of my employees, and neighbors,” said Rae.

Fearing that publicity will wash away his benevolence and invoke religious sensitivities, he refused to be get photographed. 

Rae said shutting down business for a couple of hours on Friday has never bothered him.

“It does not occur to me that there is any financial loss by keeping the gas station shut for two hours. And even if it does, I do not care. The feeling that you have done something good for your brothers and friends is more precious," he said.   

Religious harmony 

Akhtar Shaikh, Muslim business partner of Rae, said that taking care of a mosque by a Hindu reflected the excellent religious harmony between the majority and the minority communities in the city. 

“It was my idea to make permanent arrangements for Friday and daily prayers, but later, he [Rae] took it to himself and did everything”, Shaikh told Anadolu Agency.

“Now, he [Rae] is managing everything, from utility bills to salaries [of imam and muazzin], and other expenses”, he added.

Rae said religious harmony in the city has turned better since he saw mobs attacking Hindu temples, following the demolition of the 16th-century Babri Mosque, in neighboring India in 1992.

Rae himself had taken shelter in the house of his Muslim neighbors when a charged mob, calling for revenge, was marching towards the country’s famous Shri Swami Narayan temple in 1992.

In Pakistan some 30 temples were attacked, 25 of them across the southern province of Sindh, home to 85% of the Hindus in Pakistan. Since then all these temples have been either rebuilt or repaired.

In India, then Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao had also pledged to rebuild the Babri Mosque, in a televised address to the nation.

However, the Indian Supreme Court last November handed the site of the historic mosque to Hindus for the construction of a temple following a prolonged legal battle.

“There is no comparison between the situations in 1992 and Nov. 2019. I had to leave my home and take shelter to save me and my family, but in Nov. 2019, I stayed at my home without any fear,” added Rae.

Hindus, the largest minority in Pakistan, make up 4% of the country’s more than 200 million population.

Pakistan is home to several sites revered by Hindus. The Katas Raj temple in the northeastern Chakwal district and Sadhu Bela temple in southern Sukkur district are the two most visited rites by Hindus across the world.

According to local media, the government plans to reclaim and restore 400 temples, which have been illegally occupied by land grabbers, to Hindus across the country.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/pakistan-hindu-custodian-of-mosque-in-karachi/1709004

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Taliban Offer to Reduce Violence Won’t Aid Peace, Official Says

By Eltaf Najafizada

January 20, 2020

The Taliban’s offer to reduce violence for several days ahead of fresh talks with the U.S. would not bring the war-torn nation any closer to peace when the majority of the country remained excluded from the negotiations, a senior Afghan official said.

“The plan for violence reduction or anything of its kind is a vague proposal” that can deceive citizens and the international community, second Vice President of Afghanistan, Sarwar Danish said on Sunday in the capital Kabul. “So far, the government and the people -- including civil society, political parties, and ethnic groups -- have been sidelined in the peace negotiations,” between the Taliban and the U.S. “and, in such a situation, peace cannot be achieved,” Danish said.

The Taliban offered a 7 to 10 day halt in its military operations ahead of renegotiations with the U.S. The proposal was given to Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation in Doha, Qatar, where the group has a political office.

The U.S. had asked for a complete long-term cease-fire before a peace deal. The deal will allow some 13,000 troops to return home and bring an end to the 18-year war in Afghanistan. The protracted and bloody conflict has killed tens of thousands of Afghans, more than 2,400 U.S. forces and cost the U.S. about $900 billion

.

“Reduced violence isn’t a form a cease-fire, it is still a form of violence,” said Waheed Omar, a close aide to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, on Twitter. “What will be the indicators of a reduced violence scenario as against a full violence scenario? Confusing and unmeasurable.”

Taliban, which controls a large swathe of Afghanistan, has said it will open direct talks with Afghan officials after the U.S. troop withdrawal deal. Ghani has said the Taliban must first accept a nationwide cease-fire before any direct peace negotiations.

The U.S. resumed the talks with the Taliban in December months after President Donald Trump abruptly called off the dialog in response to a suicide bomb attack in Kabul that killed an American soldier.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-01-20/taliban-offer-to-reduce-violence-won-t-aid-peace-official-says

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Pahang joins push for athletes to wear Shariah-compliant attire

21 Jan 2020

KUANTAN, Jan 21 — The Pahang government is also moving in the direction of getting Muslim athletes to don Shariah-compliant attire, said Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail.

He said this was called for by Islam and was a good move more so as more and more Muslim athletes were embracing Shariah-compliant sporting attire.

However, he said the matter would be fine tuned first with the relevant experts like the state mufti, Shariah experts, academics and sports associations giving their inputs.

He was speaking to reporters after opening a seminar today on Shariah-compliant attire for sports, at Kolej Universiti Islam Pahang Sultan Ahmad Shah here, which was attended by 480 participants including coaches from the Pahang Sports Council.

If all goes well, the move is expected to be implemented from April starting with schools.

The sports listed are silat, fencing, archery, shooting, golf, wushu, tenpin bowling, taekwondo, judo aquatics, equestrian, netball, athletics, basketball, badminton, squash, volleyball and sailing.

Pahang’s neighbour Terengganu, which is ruled by PAS, an ultra-conservative Islamic party, last year had also stated that it wants Muslim athletes in the state to don syariah-compliant attire starting this year.

However, the Terengganu government did not give an enforcement time-frame. — Bernama

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/01/21/pahang-joins-push-for-athletes-to-wear-shariah-compliant-attire/1830202

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Donald Trump says he's discussing Kashmir issue with Imran Khan

Jan 22, 2020

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan are “working together on some borders” and discussing the Kashmir issue ahead of Trump's visit to India expected to take place in February.

“We're working together on some borders, and we're talking about Kashmir and the relation to what's going on with Pakistan and India. And if we can help, we certainly will be helping. And we've been watching that and following it very, very closely,” Trump said in remarks on Tuesday, ahead of his meeting with Imran Khan on the sidelines of the World Economic Summit, in Davos, Switzerland.

It was not immediately clear what Trump meant by “working together on some borders,” but US officials, including during recent visits to Pakistan, have been impressing on Islamabad to stop cross-border terrorism and bankrolling of terror groups directing attacks against India.

Pakistan in turn has accused India of adopting an aggressive stance at the border and sought US help in not only defusing the situation but also in getting Pakistan out of the Financial Action Task Force listing as it complies with its requirements. The Trump administration and the international community is yet to be convinced that Pakistan has met all the metrics.

In his brief remarks, Imran Khan too pressed Trump to play an active role in resolving tensions with India. “For us, in Pakistan, it (India) is a big issue. And, of course, we always hope that the US will play its part in resolving it because no other country can,” Khan said, in a repetition of his plea he made to Trump during his visit to the White House in July 2019.

India has dismissed multiple Trump offers to play the role of a mediator+ as unnecessary while reiterating issues with Pakistan are bilateral in nature and can be resolved without third party intervention.

Trump also implicitly confirmed an upcoming visit to India while saying a concurrent visit to Pakistan was not on the cards. “Well, we're visiting right now, so we won't really have to,” he said in response to a question whether he will also be visit Pakistan, suggesting that since he has met Khan in Davos there would be no visit.

“But we -- I wanted to say hello for both a relationship standpoint -- we've had a great relationship -- and from the standpoint of our two countries. We're getting along very well. I would say we've never been closer with Pakistan than we are right now. And that's a big statement, although I wouldn't say at all times we were close, as a country. But we are very close right now because of the relationship that we have. So it's very important,” Trump said.

Although he has met Prime Minister Modi several times over the past three years, Trump is expected to visit India in February for his first official visit as President, depending on the outcome of the impeachment trial in the Senate that began on Wednesday. A swift exoneration is expected to lead to a quick India visit, in part to burnish his foreign policy legacy and trade and business chops ahead of the November Presidential election.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/donald-trump-says-hes-discussing-kashmir-issue-with-imran-khan/articleshow/73500413.cms

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UK MPs Express Concern about CAA-NPR-NRC In House Of Commons

21 Jan 2020

The news of the current unrest in India due to the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has reached beyond borders. The unrelenting protests, news of police brutality and the high-handedness of the state administration has received international attention. Solidarity for the students who have been beaten up in state-sponsored attacks and the fear of the marginalized and the minorities in India have led to people from all over the world to lend their voice to the cause of saving the secularism and the Constitution of India.

In another example of the same, a meeting was organized by the Ambedkar International Mission (UK) and the South Asia Solidarity Group in the UK Parliament (House of Commons) on January 20 to discuss the CAA, National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NRC) and the protests against them that are taking place all over India. At the meeting, several British MPs expressed their concern about the legislation, its implications for human rights and potential for mass disenfranchisement of Muslims, and the situation in India more generally.

Amrit Wilson of the South Asia Solidarity group introduced the meeting, highlighting the scale of the protests by students, women, Muslim communities, Dalits, urban and rural workers and many others and the violence which had been unleashed on the protestors. She also presented a report by the People’s Tribunals on State Action in Uttar Pradesh, India which documented the violence against Muslims by the police in a direct response to directions from the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath who had called for ‘revenge’ to taken against the Muslim community for protesting.

At the meeting, lawyer and legal scholar Gautam Bhatia explained the brazenly discriminatory nature of the CAA, the potential for the mass disenfranchisement of Muslims and why it undermines the Indian citizenship guaranteed by the Constitution.

Satpal Muman, chair of the UK’s largest Dalit organisation, CasteWatchUK, reminded the audience of B.R.Ambedkar's warning that 'Hindu Raj' would be a calamity for India, and expressed solidarity with the many thousands on the streets in India defending their fundamental freedoms. He also noted the active role of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh and other overseas Hindutva organisations in blocking legislation in the UK which would make caste discrimination illegal.

Stephen Timms, MP for East Ham (Labour) said, “I have been struck by the diversity of the people who are protesting against these measures in India in my constituency. Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs are all coming together.”

On Gautam Bhatia’s explanation about how the CAA-NPR-NRC would give more power to the government to cancel OCI status, Rupa Huq, MP for Ealing Central and Acton (Labour) expressed her concern about the impact of the legislation and raised the question of how NRIs’ citizenship may be affected.

MPs Claudia Webbe and Pat McFadden too expressed their concern and pledged to call on PM Modi to revoke the discriminatory CAA which violates human rights.

Members of the audience who had come from all over the country and represented a wide range of sections of the Indian diaspora in the UK spoke about the global rise in fascism, drawing parallels between far-right party leaders like Brazi’s Jair Bolsonaro, Boris Johnson, Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu. They emphasized the importance of sending a message to Modi about the opposition of the diaspora to these discriminatory measures by organising large scale protests and raising awareness in the wider community.

The press release also stated that there would be National Demonstration against Fascism on January 25, bringing together many different diaspora organizations in solidarity with the resistance. The rally at Downing Street and March to the Indian High Commission has been called by: South Asia Solidarity Group, CasteWatch UK, Tamil People in the UK, Co-ordinating Committee of Malayali Muslims, Kashmir Solidarity Movement, SOAS India Society, Indian Workers Association (GB), Ghadar International, Indian Muslim Federation(UK), Federation of Redbridge Muslim Organisations (FORMO) & other diaspora groups.

https://www.sabrangindia.in/article/uk-mps-express-concern-about-caa-npr-nrc-house-commons

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ISIS 'mufti' weighing over 300 lbs captured by Iraqi SWAT

JANUARY 18, 2020

A massively obese ISIS “mufti” was pulled from his hiding place by elite Iraqi SWAT team members in a raid on Thursday. He is considered to be one of the "biggest" captures in recent months. Photos show that the tremendously large man – one report saying he weighed 560lbs – was too large to fit into a police car and had to be put in the back of a police vehicle, wedged between a mounted machine gun and the back of the lorry. He was carted off to prison.

Ali Y. Al-Baroodi

@AliBaroodi

Latest photos for #ISIS Mufti. He was the strongest supporter of demolishing Mosul heritage. He used to give the Friday Sermon in my neighborhood. He cheered up in the very Friday after the blowing of Prophet Jonah Mosque in the early days of their invasion.

📷 Social media https://twitter.com/AliBaroodi/status/1217752217639362561 …

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Ali Y. Al-Baroodi

@AliBaroodi

A big ISIS head is arrested in #Mosul. Shifaa Al-Nima was an ISIS mufti and the 2nd justice figure after Abu Ayoob. https://twitter.com/SecMedCell/status/1217735876698083335 …

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Shifa al-Nima was nabbed by the SWAT regiment of the Nineveh police command in northern Iraq's Mosul district, according to Iraq’s security media cell. The country has continued to fight ISIS even amid months of protests and recent US-Iran tensions there. The US-led coalition suspended anti-ISIS operations earlier this month but has recently tried to restart them.

According Iraqi police, this “mufti” was a well-known preacher who spread extremism in mosques against security forces and incited on behalf of ISIS.

“He is considered one of the foremost leaders of ISIS and was responsible for issuing fatwas that led to the murder of scholars and clerics,” the police said.

Nima also issued the fatwa to bomb the tomb of the Prophet Yunus in Mosul, an ancient cultural site. He was arrested in western Mosul's Mansur neighborhood, the so-called “right side” of the city due to its being on the right bank of the Tigris river.

Locals in Mosul have terrible memories of the “mufti,” who they say was a strong supporter of destroying Mosul's heritage.

Photos posted online show that the ISIS member had become massively obese in hiding, weighing several hundred pounds. It was unclear how he was removed from his hiding place; many online mocked his weight, saying he must have been hiding in a bakery.

Photos from his time as a mufti under ISIS show him smiling and relaxing. His name is sometimes given as “Shia Naemah,” Shifa bin Ali al-Nima’a or Abu Abdul Bari.

ISIS continues to have a presence in Iraq, but it has been unable to launch major operations. Nevertheless, it has many sleeper cells and also has members living in caves and hideouts in rural areas of Iraq, preparing for a resurgence.

https://www.jpost.com/OMG/ISIS-mufti-weighing-300-lbs-captured-by-Iraqi-SWAT-614449

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Iran expands support for Taliban, targets U.S. troops in Afghanistan

January 20, 2020

Escalating U.S.-Iran tensions mean Afghanistan, which shares a border with Iran, could be the next proxy battleground between Washington and Tehran, a clash that threatens to undermine the Trump administration’s pursuit of a peace deal with the Taliban and eventual drawdown of American troops.

Administration officials have recently warned of the potential for expanding Iranian activity in Afghanistan, and sources say Tehran’s support for the Taliban is well known in intelligence circles, where analysts are examining the extent to which the insurgent group already outsources some of its attack planning operations to Iran.

Communications intercepted between Taliban operatives based in Mashhad, Iran, and their counterparts working in Quetta, Pakistan, have exposed at least some level of such operational connectivity, one source told The Washington Times.

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2020/jan/20/iran-expands-taliban-support-targets-us-troops-afg/

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India

 

Counsel kids in Shaheen Bagh, may suffer mental trauma: NCPCR

January 22, 2020

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) Tuesday issued an order to the District Magistrate of South East Delhi to identify the children involved in Shaheen Bagh protests and send them for counselling. In its order, the NCPCR said the children “may suffer from mental trauma” because of “rumours and miscommunication” regarding the CAA.

“We issued the order Tuesday. This order is based on viral videos, which show children saying things like ‘Pradhan Mantri humko desh se nikal denge (the Prime Minister will throw us out of the country)’, and ‘Home Minister ko kaagaz nahi dikhayenge toh who humein detention camp mein bhej denge (if we don’t show documents to the Home Minister, he will send us to detention camps)’. This is the effect of rumours regarding CAA. For the children to be affected by this and say things like this is extremely worrying. We believe the children are in need of intense counselling. If need be, their parents should also be sent for counselling,” said chairperson NCPCR Priyank Kanoongo.

Kanoongo added that it is apparent the children have suffered from deep trauma because of the “rumours floating around”. He said local counselling centres are available to this end. The NCPCR has taken cognizance of the matter under Section 13 of the CPCR Act, 2005.

“In view of the seriousness of the issue and its impact on the children, you are requested to issue necessary directions to DCPO along with Police Child Welfare Officer/SJPU to identify these children and arrange counselling session for them and also for their parents, if deemed fit. Further, if required, these children may be produced before the CWC,” states the order.

The District Magistrate is to submit a report to the NCPCR within 10 days.

L-G Baijal meets protesters, calls for peace

After parents of school-going children stressed their concerns to Delhi Police about the protests at Shaheen Bagh disrupting their children’s commute to school, a delegation of protesters, including five women, met Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, after being “approached by the administration”. A member of the delegation said an alternative route will be provided to school buses passing through the area. In a statement, L-G Baijal also appealed to the protesters to “maintain peace and order and call off their agitation”.

https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/counsel-kids-in-shaheen-bagh-may-suffer-mental-trauma-ncpcr-6228713/

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K’taka dy CM, MLA attack Muslims over terror, CAA

Jan 22, 2020

DAVANAGERE/ MYSURU: Terrorists only come from Pakistan, Karnataka deputy chief minister Govind Karjol said on Tuesday while another senior BJP functionary — Honnalli MLA M P Renukacharya — suggested that some Muslims run masjids only to “store arms and ammunition”.

“There are no Hindu terrorists. I never heard the word Hindu terrorism,” Karjol said in Mysuru.

Meanwhile, speaking at a Citizenship (Amendment) Act awareness campaign in Davanagere, Renukacharya, who is also political secretary to the CM, said, “There are some anti-nationals who give fatwas from masjids. Do you conduct prayers inside masjids? No, instead you store arms and ammunition. Is this the reason for running masjids?”

He also urged Muslims to visit Hindu mutts and temples, saying, “You will only get prasadam and thirtha (holy water) and nothing else.” He added, “You (Muslims) killed our youth who opposed cow slaughter and you expect us to be silent? It is impossible.’’ He also said, “Davanagere sitting MP GM Siddeshwar and I got only 500 to 600 Muslim votes in the last three elections. Even then, without discrimination, we gave lakhs of rupees in grants to shaadi mahals and masjids. (Chief minister BS) Yediyurappa, too, has given over Rs 250 crore in grants, but why do Muslims still hate BJP? It is the most unfortunate thing.”

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/ktaka-dy-cm-mla-attack-muslims-over-terror-caa/articleshow/73505799.cms

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Soldier, SPO killed in Pulwama encounter

Jan 21, 2020

SRINAGAR: An Army jawan and a special police officer (SPO) of J&K Police’s Special Operations Group (SOG) were killed during an anti-insurgency operation in Awantipora area of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Tuesday.

Based on intelligence inputs, a joint team of Army’s 50 RR, 185 Bn, CRPF and J&K Police’s SOG launched a cordon-and-search operation in Awantipora’s Khrew area. There was no fire exchange until 12pm. “As the security forces zeroed in on the terrorists’ hideout, the latter opened fire at the search party, triggering an encounter,” said an official.

“In the ensuing gunfight, SPO Shahbaz Ahmed, a resident of Rajouri district, was killed on the spot while Army’s Rahul Kumar (50 RR) sustained bullet injuries. Kumar was rushed to a hospital where he succumbed during treatment,” a police spokesperson said.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/soldier-spo-killed-in-pulwama-encounter/articleshow/73498954.cms

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Denied permission by cops, Muslim protesters in Doon call off anti-CAA stir

Jan 22, 2020

Dehradun: Hundreds of men, women and children from minority community had to call off their protest in city’s Reetha Mandi locality after police denied them permission to strike in the locality park here on Tuesday.

While the community members claimed that they had sought prior permission from departments concerned, police said that the city has a designated ‘dharna sthal’ and whoever wants to protest should sit at that spot and not at any random location.

On the lines of Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, hundreds of Muslim men, women and children, on the call of local ward corporator, Congress’s Itaat Khan, gathered at MDDA Park situated at city’s Nehru colony on Tuesday morning. Around 300 protesters also started raising anti-government slogans and demanded that the both Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) should be revoked immediately.

However, barely 30 minutes into the protest, police teams reached the park and asked them to call off the dharna immediately saying that they were not given permission to organise such a large gathering.

Speaking to TOI, Itaat Khan said that they had sought permission from various departments. “We had approached the district administration, the Mussoorie Dehradun Development Authority and even police but we were denied permission citing one reason or the either. I was also told that there is no space available at dharna sthal, following which, we decided to organise a peaceful protest at the park,” Khan said.

Khan added that they had informed the administration that they would be holding a peaceful protest from 10 am to 5 pm every day. He said, “The administration is not ready to give us place anywhere and I was even threatened by the people in power. This is nothing but misuse of power by the government. Also, we were protesting at one side of the park and there was enough space for children to play.”

Meanwhile, SP city Shweta Chaubey told TOI that the protesters who had gathered at Reetha Mandi were already informed that they were not supposed to protest at any random location.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/denied-permission-by-cops-muslim-protesters-in-doon-call-off-anti-caa-stir/articleshow/73498061.cms

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Peace Party in SC files curative petition in Ayodhya land dispute case

January 21, 2020

Acurative petition was filed in the politically sensitive Ram Janambhoom-Babri Masjid land dispute case on Tuesday challenging the November 9 verdict which cleared the way for construction of a Ram Temple at the disputed site at Ayodhya.

The top court had in a historic verdict on November 9 last year backed the construction of the Ram temple by a government trust at the site, and ruled that an alternative 5-acre plot must be found for a mosque in the Hindu holy town.

It had on December 12 dismissed a batch of 19 review pleas filed by Muslim and Hindu parties after finding no ground to entertain them.

The curative petition filed by Mohammed Ayyub, President of Peace Party of India, contended as erroneous the November 9 judgment and said that the possession must be held in favour of the Muslims who were in "lawful possession till the premises were attached".

This is the first curative petition filed by a political party, which was not one of the original litigants in decades old title dispute.

A curative petition is the last legal recourse in the apex court and is generally heard in-chamber unless a prima facie case is made out for reconsideration of the verdict.

The petition said that title claim must be based on exclusive possession but the Hindus did not have unimpeded possession of either the inner or the outer courtyard of the disputed property.

The mere existence of a structure underneath the disputed property cannot lead to title claim and no argument other than reliance on the report of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) was put forth, the plea said.

"Having marshalled through the entirety of evidence, this court specifically finds that a finding of title cannot be based in law on the archaeological findings which have been arrived at by ASI," it added.

"No argument other than reliance on the report of the ASI was put forth to support the contention that even if the underlying structure was believed to be a temple, the rights that may flow from it were recognized by subsequent sovereigns. The mere existence of a structure underneath the disputed property cannot lead to a legally enforceable claim to title today," it said.

It also contended that at some point of the Mughal empire, a mosque was constructed at the disputed site.

"Even if this court was to assume that the underlying structure was in fact a Hindu temple which vested title to the disputed site in the plaintiff deities, no evidence was led by the plaintiffs to establish that upon the change in legal regime to the Mughal sovereign, such rights were recognized," the plea said.

The judgment holds that Muslims were in possession of the mosque till it was desecrated and Hindus came to be in possession by illegal acts and the same cannot be equated to lawful possession as it is unprecedented, unconscionable and against the principles of Rule of Law to equate the two, the petition said.

"There is no dispute in regard to the faith and belief of the Hindus that the birth of Lord Ram is ascribed to have taken place at Ayodhya. What is disputed is whether the disputed site below the central dome of the Babri Masjid is the place of birth of Lord Ram.

"And, it was categorically submitted that there is no evidence of the area below the central dome being worshipped as the place of birth of Lord Ram before 1949. And, the judgment seems to have held that there, in fact, was no evidence to suggest that the Ram Chabutra was ever under the central dome or that the idols existed inside the mosque prior to December 1949," the petition said.

The petitioner submitted that since its construction during Mughal ruler Babur's regime, the structure was being used as a mosque and the travelogues also noticed the same, therefore it cannot be said there was no evidence prior to 1860 of worship by the Muslims at there.

Among the 10 original litigants, whose review petitions were dismissed on December 12, last year by the apex court, eight were filed by the Muslim parties which includes those supported by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.

Key Muslim litigant, Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board, had decided not to seek review of the unanimous November 9 verdict.

Nirmohi Akhara and Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha were the two Hindu bodies whose review pleas were rejected by the bench.

Among the nine "third parties" were 40 rights activists who had jointly moved the top court seeking review of its verdict.

Full report at:

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/peace-party-in-sc-files-curative-petition-in-ayodhya-land-dispute-case-1638920-2020-01-21

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Police officer killed, Army jawan injured in encounter in J-K’s Pulwama district

January 21, 2020

A special police officer was killed and a soldier injured on Tuesday in an encounter with militants in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district, police said.  The encounter broke out in the district’s Khrew area when the security forces had launched a cordon and search operation, a police official said.

Special Police Officer Shahbaz Ahmad was killed while an Army jawan injured in the exchange of fire, the official said.

He said the operation was on till last reports came in.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/police-officer-killed-army-jawan-injured-in-encounter-in-j-ks-pulwama-district-6228080/

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Not going back on CAA, those protesting may continue: Amit Shah

January 21, 2020

Even as protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) continue in various parts of the country, Union Home Minister Amit Shah Tuesday said the government won’t step back on the contentious legislation. Addressing a rally in Lucknow, Shah said, “I want to say it again that the government is not going back on the CAA. Those who want to protest may continue doing so.”

Asserting that the law has nothing against the citizens of the country, Shah hit out at the Opposition parties for spreading “lies” about the CAA. “There is no provision of taking anyone’s citizenship in CAA. Canards being spread against CAA by Congress, SP, BSP, TMC,” the Home Minister added.

Shah also said, “At the time of Partition, Hindu, Sikh Buddhist and Jain constituted 30 per cent of the population in Bangladesh and 23 per cent in Pakistan. But today, it’s just 7 per cent and 3 per cent, respectively. Where have these people gone? Those who are protesting against CAA, I want to ask them this.”

Talking about the January 5 violence in JNU campus, the Home Minister said “those talking about breaking Bharat Mata into 1000 pieces will be sent to jail”. “JNU mein desh virodhi naare lage. Mujhe batao jo Bharat Mata ke 1000 tukde karne ki baat kare use jail mein dalna chahiye ya nahi? Bharat Mata ke khilaaf is desh mein naare lage toh jail ki salakhon ke peeche daal dunga. (Anti-national slogans were chanted in JNU. Those who chant that Bharat Mata should be broken into a thousand pieces, should be put in jail or not? If you chant slogans against Bharat Mata, I will put you behind bars).”

“I challenge Rahul, Akhilesh, Mamata and Mayawati for a discussion on CAA with me in public forum,” Shah added.

He also declared that within three months, a “sky-touching Ram temple would be constructed in Ayodhya”.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/not-going-back-on-caa-those-protesting-may-continue-amit-shah-6227918/

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Communal Agenda is to end equality, trap Muslims: Prof Deshpande

January 21, 2020

Hyderabad:  The communal agenda of Hindutva ideology followers is to overthrow equality among religions said Professor Satish Deshpande from the University of Delhi.

An attempt to corner the Muslim community was also underway through a legal route said the sociology professor who was delivering the ninth SR Sankaran Memorial Lecture on ‘Casteism and Communalism: Friends and Enemies’.

The event was organized by the Centre for Dalit Studies (CDS) on Sunday, TNIE reported.

“Today’s communal agenda is to overthrow the existing reality — equality of all religions. Our Constitution doesn’t recognize the difference between religions. The communal agenda is to ‘correct’ personal law, so that due recognition will be given to the Hindus, that is the communal agenda,” he said.

Inviting all sections of people to participate, the professor said an attempt to create a unifying national project of othering Muslims is on its way and everyone is invited to be part of it.

“If you leave aside minute differences, it is Dalitization of Muslims, where a particular group is being considered as inferior and unrescualbly other,” said Deshpande adding the ruling party has adopted a legal route to corner Muslim community.

“There is an attempt to turn this into legal reality, by making set legally unequal laws.”

Alleging that ruling government’s move is an attempt to “re-enact” Manusmriti, he said Manusmriti is de facto unequal.

“The Constitution of India has no room for discrimination against religious minorities or lower castes,” he added.

Full report at:

https://www.siasat.com/communal-agenda-end-equality-trap-muslims-prof-deshpande-1799871/

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Pakistan

 

Pakistan: US 'Applauded' Steps Against Terror Financing

By Ayaz Gul

January 20, 2020

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - Pakistan hosted high-level talks with the United States on Monday to review steps Islamabad has taken to choke funding sources to terrorist groups.

The two sides, officials say, also discussed ways to increase bilateral trade.

U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Alice Wells led her delegation in meetings with senior Pakistani officials at the ministries of interior and commerce to formally begin her four-day visit amid warming relations.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry has announced that Prime Minister Imran Khan will hold a bilateral meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the three-day World Economic Forum in Davos starting Tuesday. This would be the third interaction between the two leaders since their White House meeting in July 2019.

Wells' discussions in Islamabad come ahead of next month's meeting of the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which monitors global money laundering and terror financing, where Pakistan's efforts will be assessed.

The FATF meeting, hosted by China, will decide whether Islamabad remains on a so-called "gray list" of countries lacking adequate mechanisms to counter terrorism funding.

A Pakistani statement said senior Interior Ministry officials briefed the U.S. delegation about "significant progress" the government has made on "legislative and administrative matters" to ensure compliance with an action plan FATF has outlined for Pakistan. Wells "applauded the progress," it added.

Pakistani officials have been urging the United States, a key FATF member, to help Islamabad exit the gray list. 

In October, the FATF asked Pakistan to address all issues identified in the action plan by February 2020. Failure to do so could lead to a downgrade to the agency’s blacklist, placing tough sanctions on the country’s banking system.

Trade talks

Earlier, the U.S. delegation held extensive talks with top officials at the Commerce Ministry.

"The U.S. is eager to increase the trade potential between our two nations," noted Abdul Razak Dawood, head of the ministry, after his meeting with the U.S. delegation. "Ms. Wells is of the opinion that agriculture is one sector where immediate progress can be made."

He said Wells appreciated the role of several prominent U.S. companies who had worked "very successfully" in Pakistan for a long time.

After her talks with Dawood and his delegation, Wells tweeted that both countries "share the goal of increasing bilateral trade." She praised Pakistan's economic reforms, saying, "They are making it a more attractive environment" for U.S. businesses.

The progress in traditionally turbulent U.S.-Pakistan relations stemmed mainly from Islamabad's cooperation in facilitating Washington's peace talks with Taliban insurgents aimed at bringing an end to the 18-year-old war in neighboring Afghanistan.

Last month, the Trump administration announced it would soon resume International Military Education and Training (IMET) programs for young Pakistani army officers.

The Pakistani government welcomed the move as another step underscoring the growing partnership with the U.S.

A State Department spokesperson noted in remarks emailed to VOA prior to Wells' visit that there is much room to grow the current $6.6 billion annual bilateral trade relationship. The Trump administration sees the U.S.-Pakistan relationship as one of potential, she added.

"We have made clear that fulfilling that potential requires progress on our joint efforts to bring stability to Afghanistan, and on Pakistan taking sustained and irreversible action against the militant groups and terrorist groups that destabilize the region from its soil," the spokesperson stressed.

The IMET was a part of U.S. security assistance for Pakistan worth some $2 billion that Trump suspended in January 2018 to press Islamabad to crack down on militant groups on its soil and help in Afghan peace-building efforts. The overall security assistance remains suspended, however.

https://www.voanews.com/south-central-asia/pakistan-us-applauded-steps-against-terror-financing

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Pakistan’s hybrid ‘civilian–military’ government weakens democracy

Ayesha Siddiqa

21 January 2020

Pakistan enters 2020 slouched under the burden of a weak democracy with a strong military, a tense neighbourhood and a geopolitical environment under pressure from US–China great power rivalry. With political instability and a plummeting economy weakening, the civilian government’s dependence on the military has grown. Pakistan also faces deteriorating relations with India and amid growing concerns regarding US hostilities with neighbouring Iran blowing into its territory

In 2018, Pakistan elected Prime Minister Imran Khan. But last year, instead of stabilising his government, the Prime Minister tried to crack the accountability whip on his political opponents. Leaders of both opposition parties, Mian Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Asif Ali Zardari of the Pakistan People’s Party were incarcerated alongside several other party leaders. The government arrested a prominent PML-N leader, Rana Sanaullah, under trumped-up charges of narcotics smuggling. This generated strong resentment in Punjab province, the country’s heartland.

But speculation that the displeasure would reverberate on the streets was not realised. People did not even protest the price hikes of basic utilities and food, which indicates the impact of decades of patronage politics that has systematically weakened politics in the country. The second half of last year saw a plummeting economy and rising inflation. But patronage politics deprived people of their capacity to protest and conduct political movements. An exciting exception was the student solidarity march, a disjointed movement of left-leaning students across the country.

Khan tried to bring temporary economic relief by seeking cash from Pakistan’s new benefactor China and traditional partners like the United States. Through the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) agreement signed in 2015, Beijing is expected to invest approximately US$ 61 billion in various projects in the country. However, the investment seems to have slowed after the 2018 change of government in Pakistan due to Islamabad’s hesitation over the cost of various projects. More importantly, Khan’s government wanted China to provide cash. Ultimately, Pakistan’s Prime Minister received conditions-laden relief of US$6 billion from the International Monetary Fund. But the inability to strengthen the economy made the government appear shaky.

Its weakness made it more dependent on the military. Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa held meetings with agriculturists and businessmen to convince them to pay taxes and increase exports, indicating a new form of politics where the civilian government is directly controlled by the armed forces.

Last August, Khan’s political dependency on Bajwa became more apparent when he extended the Army Chief’s tenure. The order lacked legality and became highly controversial, resulting in a court case. On 28 November, the Supreme Court ruled to extend Bajwa’s tenure by six months and ordered the Parliament to formulate new rules in the Army Act and the 1973 Constitution for the process.

Ultimately, Bajwa got the three-year extension he desired by successfully manipulating political parties that have weakened due to years of poor political direction. Pakistan’s political parties have weakened to the point where they must negotiate timidly for short-term personal benefits rather than long-term political dividends.

Bajwa’s continuation will further weaken Pakistan’s democratic institutions, as his team have adopted harsh measures to tame the judiciary and media. Restrictions were placed on the media to not air news outside of that recommended by the military’s public relations agency. In early December 2019, a group of militants threatened violence against the main English-language newspaper Dawn. The Army has a history of using militant groups in threatening political opponents with mob violence. These actions indicate that despite fighting several wars against Islamist terrorists, the military has not abandoned its traditional approach of using militants.

In late 2019 even the Taliban surfaced in some of the tribal agencies. From the military’s perspective this may be necessary to convince the Taliban to negotiate with the United States.

In July the Khan–Bajwa team undertook a successful tour of the United States. Despite not securing a promise of needed cash from Washington, the trip helped restart a conversation between the two states. This was certainly an improvement from 2018 when US President Donald Trump angrily tweeted about Pakistan, soliciting a response from Khan.

Bajwa received a 21-gun salute upon his arrival at the Pentagon and was present during most discussions with the US President, indicating Washington’s support of his extended tenure. The two countries have much to negotiate, from US troop withdrawal in Afghanistan to reducing Pakistan’s dependency on China. But 2019 was an interesting year with Pakistan’s hybrid ‘civilian–military’ government trying to balance both its relationships with China and the United States.

Pakistan has also struggled to stay out of the Iran–Saudi Arabia cold war. Close relations with Riyadh stymied the military’s ability to signal its neutrality to Iran despite Khan and Bajwa both visiting Tehran last year.

Relations with India also worsened in 2019, with the terrorist attack in Indian-administered Kashmir killing about 40 paramilitary personnel. India accused Pakistan-based group Jaish-e-Mohammed of the attack and responded by bombing an alleged terrorist training site in Balakot, Pakistan. The military exchange that followed lowered the threshold for conflict on both sides of the border. With Delhi’s hardening stance towards terror attacks, compounded with deepening religious conservatism in India, especially drastic changes in its citizenship laws targeting Muslims, South Asia has become a region to watch for escalation in 2020.

A limited war would not bode well for either India or Pakistan. It would certainly not be good for Pakistan, given that it struggled last year to portray itself as a safe tourist destination. A good network of highways, partly built with Chinese help and money, and aggressive advertisement may help. But much depends on political, economic and social stability — three areas where the country has miles to travel before it can regain confidence.

Full report at:

https://www.eastasiaforum.org/2020/01/21/pakistans-hybrid-civilian-military-government-weakens-democracy/

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LHC asks Maryam…: Is there nobody to look after Nawaz in London?

January 22, 2020

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday asked the counsel for Maryam Nawaz why she was insisting on going abroad.

“If her father is alone [in London] and nobody is there to take care of him,” asked the judge while hearing a petition, filed by Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) vice president, seeking removal of her name from the exit control list (ECL) and a one-time permission to travel abroad.

The lawyer replied that her father Nawaz Sharif was severely ill and being the daughter, it was her [Maryam Nawaz] right to look after him. Justice Tariq Abbasi, one of the two-member LHC bench, told Maryam Nawaz that her blood relations were in London to attend to ailing Nawaz Sharif. Amjad Pervez Advocate, counsel for Maryam Nawaz, stated that her client had lost her mother when she had to come to Pakistan from London to attend to a court hearing. The judge remarked that she had herself come to Pakistan leaving her mother on the death bed there.

Maryam contended that it was a known fact that her father was allowed to go abroad on account of his critical health condition. She said her father had not regained his health so far as he was still undergoing diagnostic process as per a medical report, filed with the court after duly attested by the Pakistan High Commission in London.

Full report at:

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/602442-lhc-asks-maryam-is-there-nobody-to-look-after-nawaz-in-london

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PTI-PML-Q relations: Skeptic Q-League urges consistency on road to mending ties

Tariq Butt

January 22, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has started fulfilling the commitments and promises made by it with the Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) which, however, emphasizes consistency to keep the relations afloat.

Senior PML-Q leaders The News talked to say things are settling down and the serious rupture in the ties is being repaired. If the present approach continued, most problems that marred the ties will be taken care of, they say.

The federal government, according to them, has started issuing instructions to post officials recommended by the PML-Q in districts where its representatives won in the 2018 general elections.

When contacted by The News, prominent PML-Q leader Chaudhry Moonis Elahi expressed the hope that relations were fast becoming normal. He said his party was an ally of the ruling alliance and didn’t want to create any problems for it.

However, other PML-Qstalwarts said that the tension between Prime Minister Imran Khan and Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi continues to exist as before. They have neither met since long nor have they any plan to hold a session in the near future. Efforts to arrange a meeting have so far been fruitless due to the existing bad blood.

According to insiders, at one point of the sit-in organized by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, an influential civilian leader disclosed that he has the information that the Chaudhrys of Gujrat have sponsored this agitation and are also funding it.

However, in the same meeting another powerful figure rebutted this and said that the information was misplaced and wrong. Pervaiz Elahi was accordingly conveyed what transpired in the meeting convened when the sit-in was in progress. He expressed annoyance over it.

At another point, the influential leader, in a meeting, urged Pervaiz Elahi not to address pressers in the company of Fazlur Rehman as the JUI-F chief was getting undue media projection. However, he was told that in any case the sit-in was bound to attract massive coverage because it was an event worth reporting by the electronic and print media.

On his return from those deliberations, the Speaker revealed to his colleagues what transpired in the huddle. He was told by his party leaders that it was not the matter of projection of Fazlur Rehman but of Pervaiz Elahi as the influential person did not want the Speaker to get publicity.

Insiders say that no federal person, who matters, even bothered to inquire about the health of PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain when he returned from Germany after his treatment although he has been seriously ill. On the other hand, they say even the sworn political rivals telephoned the Chaudhrys to express solidarity with Shujaat Hussain and wish him good health.

They point out that the Chaudhrys have relations with Fazlur Rehman and his father since decades despite at time being in different political camps. The Chaudhrys talked to the JUI-F chief because of their acceptability from the government side. When some federal ministers tried to spoil the peace efforts, Pervaiz Elahi rushed back to Lahore from Islamabad abandoning the dialogue process.

About the offer the PML-Nawaz has made to work for making Pervaiz Elahi the chief minister of Punjab in place of Usman Buzdar, the PML-Q insiders said that the PML-N was offering its backing just as bait so that the ruling alliance cracks.

They said that it was an open secret that some leaders, who deserted the PML-Q and joined the PTI, often try to spoil the relationship between the two parties by mis-feeding the rulers.

The insiders said that the PML-Q is well aware that the federal government has agreed to implement the pledges, which had been reduced in writing at the time of forging coalition, under pressure from its allies.

They said when all the allied parties are articulating the same kind of grudges; the pressure naturally builds up on the senior partner. However, they stressed that steadfastness needs to be observed to keep the relations smooth and orderly.

Full report at:

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/602425-pti-pml-q-relations-skeptic-q-league-urges-consistency-on-road-to-mending-ties

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Faisal Vawda held US nationality at the time of filing nomination papers: report

JANUARY 22, 2020

An investigative report published in a national daily on Monday reveals that Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda may have committed perjury by falsely declaring in an oath to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that he did not hold any foreign nationality.

According to the newspaper, Vawda was in possession of a United States passport at the time he filed his nomination papers on June 11, 2018. The minister remained an American national even at the time the scrutiny of his nomination papers was completed.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan in a past judgment has categorically ruled that candidates who hold dual nationality are supposed to submit a renunciation certificate of the foreign nationality along with their nomination papers.

The same judgment has previously led to the disqualification of various lawmakers, notable among whom Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) senators Saadia Abbasi and Haroon Akhtar.

In Vawda’s case, the last date to file the nomination papers for the July 2018 elections was June 11.

Documents showed that Vawda submitted his election papers on the last date, June 11, 2018, along with an affidavit in which he declared that he does not hold any citizenship other than that of Pakistan.

The returning officer of Vawda’s constituency, NA-249 Karachi, approved his nomination papers on June 18, 2018.

It was only after getting this approval that Vawda approached the US Consulate in Karachi to relinquish his US nationality. This means that the minister had been an American citizen at the time his candidature was finalised.

Official US documents show that Vawda approached the US consulate for the revocation of his American citizenship on June 22, 2018 (Friday).

Usually, the process to relinquish a US nationality may take a couple of weeks or even months, as it requires clearance from all concerned departments of the US government.

However, the consulate issued the ‘Certificate of Loss of Nationality’ to Vawda on its next working day, which was June 25, 2018 (Monday).

Legal view

Three legal experts from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) agreed that whoever holds dual nationality at the time of submitting their nomination papers was set to for instant disqualification, and also agreed that the person could be penalised for perjury as well.

The top legal minds of the country even argued that the minister already stands disqualified on the bases of the previous judgments issued by the apex court.

Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry, who was asked about the fate of such a lawmaker, said it was a straight case of disqualification. The minister was not told that it was Vawda who had held the dual citizenship.

But Fawad, who is also a lawyer, insisted that in such a case the National Assembly speaker has to send a reference to the ECP. Even an ordinary citizen can challenge it in the Supreme Court or the high courts or file a reference against the parliamentarian in the ECP, Fawad said while explaining the procedure.

One of the top legal gurus of the PTI, who is said to be very close to Prime Minister Imran Khan, when contacted, said there were three possibilities in such a case.

It is pertinent to mention here that this lawyer, before giving his opinion, was told that the lawmaker in question was Vawda. He had insisted on knowing the identity of the MNA in question.

“There are three consequences for Faisal Vawda if it is proved that he initiated the process of renunciation of foreign citizenship after submission of the nomination papers. 1) He might be disqualified under Article 63 (1) (c) for concealing his dual nationality. (2) He might be de-seated, and (3) he can be penalized on the charges of perjury as former chief justice Saqib Nisar had added an affidavit which every candidate contesting the election has to submit with their nomination papers. In this affidavit, the candidate has to inform the ECP on oath that he doesn’t have any dual nationality. If the candidate lies on oath then he will be penalized on the charges of perjury by the Apex Court,” said the PM’s aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and PTI member Syed Ali Zafar said that a parliamentarian can be disqualified if it was proven that the lawmaker had hidden their dual nationality at the time of filing their nomination papers. Zafar was not told that the lawmaker in question was Vawda.

Besides the ruling party’s legal experts, well-respected lawyers, including retired justice Nasir Aslam Zahid and former SCBA president Kamran Murtaza also agreed that the case led to a disqualification.

Vawda’s version

A source close to Vawda alleged that the minister was not in favour of surrendering his American nationality as he was not confident about winning the election. He claimed that Vawda relinquished his nationality after he was “assured” of his victory. The reporter had contacted Faisal Vawda twice to seek his version on the story. The minister was first approached on March 27, 2019, with a set of questions via WhatsApp. However, the minister did not respond to the message.

The federal minister was once again sent the same questionnaire on April 10, 2019, but this time the minister said, “Pls [please] go ahead.” Following is the text of the questionnaire that the newspaper had sent. “Hello Sir, I hope you are fine. Sir, I am doing a story about your dual nationality. I will appreciate if you kindly respond to my following query. Sir, you have submitted your nomination papers on June 11, 2018. In your nomination papers, you declared on oath that you have no dual nationality. I have obtained the surrender certificate (renunciation letter) issued by US Consulate Karachi. According to these documents, you submitted your application for renouncing your US nationality on June 22, 2018. The US Consulate issued you the renunciation letter on June 25, 2018. Sir these documents prove that you misrepresented and misstated on oath. Isn’t it a violation of the Constitution and the Elections Laws?”

ECP’s failure

ECP spokesperson Nadeem Qasim, when asked about the case, said that body cannot take notice on a dual nationality of any parliamentarian on its own. Someone has to challenge the dual nationality of the said parliamentarian in an ECP tribunal, he said. “If proved that the said parliamentarian was a foreign national at the time of filing of nomination papers then he will be disqualified,” said the spokesperson.

However, Vawda’s dual citizenship did not go unchallenged.

His rival candidate Abdul Qadir Mandokhel of the PPP had approached the Sindh High Court to seek his opponent’s disqualification. But the PPP leader later withdrew his plea from the high court. Mandokhel, when contacted, alleged that he took back his petition after facing “immense pressure” from certain quarters. He had also alleged that his party leadership had pressured him to take back his petition.

In the past, the Supreme Court had taken suo motu notices on such cases rather than waiting for petitions. The then-chief justice Saqib Nisar had declared that there was no need for a petition if such a case was reported by the media.

In 2018, Supreme Court disqualified PML-N’s Saadia Abbasi and Haroon Akhtar for holding dual nationality at the time of filing their nomination papers. The court also ignored the fact the two lawmakers had applied for a renunciation of their American and Canadian citizenship, respectively, when they filed their papers.

“Adverting now to the matter of Ms Saadia Abbasi, it is an admitted fact that she had a dual nationality of United States of America. It is her case that she had renounced and surrendered such nationality. In support of her contention, she has filed a copy of the Statement of Understanding Concerning the Consequences and Ramifications of Renunciation or Relinquishment of US Nationality, attested on February 8, 2018, in the Consul of the United States of America; a copy of the certificate of loss of nationality of the United States dated February 13, 2018, approved on February 20, 2018; and also a copy of oath/affirmation of Renunciation of Nationality of United States dated February 8, 2018,” said the judgment.

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/543810/faisal-vawda-held-us-nationality-at-the-time-of-filing-nomination-papers-report/

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PM Imran meets leaders from Singapore, Azerbaijan at Davos

Naveed Siddiqui

January 22, 2020

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday held bilateral meetings with the leaders of Singapore and Azerbaijan on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.

According to an official statement issued by the Foreign Office, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev and PM Imran discussed a whole spectrum of bilateral relations that are "marked by mutual trust and support".

The prime minister appreciated Azerbaijan’s valuable contributions, the statement read, including those as a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir. The premier reiterated Pakistan’s support to Azerbaijan on the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh, the statement added.

Imran also briefed the president on the human rights violations in occupied Kashmir as well as the impact of the Indian government's unilateral actions of stripping the region of its special autonomous status.

The two sides reiterated their mutual support for each other's national causes and resolved to further deepen cooperation in all fields, the statement read.

The meeting ended with the president inviting Imran to visit Azerbaijan.

Meanwhile, during a meeting with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Imran invited Singaporean businessmen and investors to "increase their footprint in Pakistan" by referring to an improvement in Pakistan's business rankings.

According to the statement, both the leaders expressed the desire to further deepen bilateral ties with a focus on increasing trade and investment.

Imran also informed his counterpart on the human rights violations in occupied Kashmir.

The prime minister will deliver a keynote address at the WEF special session today (Wednesday) and also interact with corporate leaders at the Pakistan Strategy Dialogue.

According to the Foreign Office, the prime minister will speak to senior international media persons and editors during a session with the Forum’s international media council.

The premier is accompanied in Davos by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Adviser on Commerce Abdul Razaq Dawood, Special Assistant on National Security Mooed Yusuf, Special Assistant on Overseas Pakistanis Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari, Adviser on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh and Ambassador at large for Investments Ali Jehangir Siddiqui.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1529870/pm-imran-meets-leaders-from-singapore-azerbaijan-at-davos

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South Asia

 

Afghan Officials: Taliban Kills Six Members Of Same Family

January 20, 2020

The Taliban has killed six members of the same family, including an infant girl, in a remote village in the country's north, Afghan officials say.

The Taliban denied involvement, saying the attack on January 18 was triggered by a personal dispute.

However, local Afghan officials said January 19 the family was sentenced to death by the Taliban for immoral acts before being shot dead, said Jawed Bedar, a spokesman for Faryab Province's governor.

The infant girl's mother and twin sister survived, but both of the child's legs had to be amputated, Bedar said.

Afghan security forces deployed to the village early January 19 and helped evacuate the two survivors to the hospital.

Bedar said the Taliban attacked the government troops when they arrived. Three Taliban members were killed in the ensuing gun battle.

The Taliban now controls or holds sway over approximately half of Afghanistan.

https://www.rferl.org/a/afghan-officials-taliban-kills-six-members-of-same-family/30386688.html

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Bangladesh: 15 Sentenced to Death for Roles in 2 Massacres

2020-01-20

Two Bangladesh trial courts on Monday sentenced 15 people to death – 10 militants and five former police – for massacres in 1988 and 2001.

Dhaka Metropolitan Session Court Judge Rabiul Alam sentenced the militants who killed five people 19 years ago at a rally of the Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB).

“The court has handed down capital punishment for the 10 militants belonging to the Harkat-ul Jihad-al-Islami Bangladesh (HuJI) for the grenade attack at the rally,” public prosecutor Salahuddin Howlader told BenarNews.

“The court has observed that the HuJI carried out the attack for political causes,” the prosecutor said.

Meanwhile in Chittagong, Judge Md Ismail Hossain sentenced five former police officers who shot 24 supporters of Sheikh Hasina, who was not prime minister at the time, during a January 1988 Awami League rally. Hasina attended the rally and was not injured.

In Dhaka, four of the defendants in the grenade attack, Mufti Mainuddin Sheikh, Arif Hasan Suman, Sabbir Ahmed and Shawkat Osman alias Sheikh Farid were present. The others, Jahangir Alam Badar, Mohibul Muttakin, Aminul Mursalin, Mufti Abdul Hai, Mufti Shafiqur Rahman and Nur Islam have absconded.

CPB President Mujahidul Islam Selim said his party is pleased that justice was served two decades after the attack.

“After coming to power, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) government in December 2003 closed the investigation saying that the case had no merit. As we waged political agitation, the same BNP government initiated a reinvestigation of the case,” Selim told BenarNews. “But the BNP tenure ended before the completion of the investigation.”

Four people died at the scene of the Jan. 20, 2001, attack while a fifth died later at a hospital. Police under the BNP government submitted a final report on Dec. 17, 2003, that did not list any suspects.

“As justice was not done for previous attacks, the militants then carried out a grenade attack on Hasina in 2004,” he said.

The HuJI carried out a grenade attack on Hasina on Aug 21, 2004, the same year as a similar attack against Anwar Chaudhury, the British envoy in Bangladesh.

Selim said some BNP and Awami League leaders blamed the 2001 attack on the CPB.

“We handed over evidence of the attack to Hasina who assured us there would be justice. Today’s verdict proves that the attack was a militant attack, not an ‘internal political in fight’ of the CPB,” he said.

In 2005, the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate asked police to reinvestigate following a CPB petition. That investigation led to the police Criminal Investigating Department submitting a charge-sheet on Nov 27, 2013, accusing 13 HuJI militants.

One suspect, HuJI chief Mufti Abdul Hannan was executed for his role in another attack, while two others were acquitted. The other 10 were sentenced to death on Monday.

1988 massacre verdict

On Jan. 24, 1988, police shot and killed 24 at an Awami League rally in Chittagong attended by Hasina, who was the party’s president at the time.

Public prosecutor Shabu Biswas told journalists that police shot at Hasina’s motorcade without any provocation at the direction of Mirza Rakibul Huda, the then-Chittagong police commissioner who has since died.

Biswas said the court sentenced J.C. Mandal, Mostafigur Rahman, Pradip Barua, Shah Md Abdullah and Mamtaj Uddin.

“They were punished as they misused their power that led to the death of 24 innocent people,” he said.

Four of the defendants were in court while Mandal has absconded. In addition to the death sentences, all five were sentenced to 10 years for causing severe injury with dangerous weapons.

Hasina had gone to Chittagong to rally supporters in a movement to get rid of military ruler H.M. Ershad who came to power following a coup on March 24, 1982.

Full report at:

https://www.benarnews.org/english/news/bengali/death-sentence-01202020140147.html

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Bangladesh: 22 Rohingya Muslims detained before trafficked

21st Jan 2020

By SM Najmus Sakib

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA): Bangladesh police detained some 22 Muslim Rohingya refugees as they were gathered to be trafficked to Malaysia through Bay of Bengal, a police officer told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday.

In a tip off, police in a drive, detained 18 Rohingya women, three men and one child who gathered at the coast area of Bahar Chara village in Teknaf of Cox’s Bazar Monday night to be trafficked to Malaysia illegally through Bay Bengal, Liakat Ali, the police inspector at Bahar Chara police outpost told Anadolu Agency.

Police, however, could not arrest any broker in the incident, he said, adding that they will send back the detained Rohingya refugees to their respective refugee camps on Tuesday.

Some 796 Rohingya were detained in 28 law enforcement drives in Bangladesh last year, while 29 brokers were arrested, according to the local daily Prothom Alo.

Of these drives, at least seven human traffickers were killed in alleged gunfights with law enforcement officers, and three of them were Rohingya, while the other four were Bangladeshi, it added.

Rohingya, described by the UN as one of the most persecuted community in the world, has been facing systematic state persecution in the northern Rakhine state of Myanmar since early 1970s.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, pushing the number of persecuted people in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled “Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience”.

Full report at:

http://muslimnews.co.uk/news/south-asia/bangladesh-22-rohingya-muslims-detained-trafficked/

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Ghani appoints his deputy chief of Staff as acting MOFA

21 Jan 2020

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has appointed his deputy chief of staff, Mohammad Haroon Chakhansuri as the deputy minister for political affairs and Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, the palace confirmed in a statement.

According to a statement published by the President’s office, Mohammad Haroon Chakhansuri, the deputy chief of staff for ARG has been appointed as the deputy minister for political affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) with a President’s decree and has also been assigned as the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The decree has further determined that the deputy for policial affairs shall also lead the ministry’s reform process considering quality improvement, professionalism, and efficiency.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/ghani-appoints-his-deputy-chief-of-staff-as-acting-mof-797906670/

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Dhaka awaiting UN green light to relocate 100,000 Rohingya to $275m island

January 22, 2020

DHAKA: Authorities in Bangladesh were on Tuesday still awaiting the green light from UN inspectors to start the controversial relocation of 100,000 Rohingya refugees to a newly built $275 million island camp.

Although Dhaka has insisted the tiny island of Bhasan Char is ready to begin receiving families, UN technical experts have yet to carry out health and safety checks.

“Although everything is ready on the ground, we are yet to fix a date to begin the relocation process,” Shah Kamal, senior secretary of the Bangladeshi Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, told Arab News.

A UN team had been scheduled to visit the island in November last year to assess the safety of facilities and amenities on offer, but the inspection was postponed after Bangladesh asked the UN to explain the reasons for the checks.

“The UN is yet to finalize its technical expert team. Once it has, we will organize the assessment visit,” Kamal said.

Bhasan Char is located in the Bay of Bengal and was formed with Himalayan silt in 2006. In recent months, several international rights organizations have urged Bangladesh not to relocate the Rohingya to the island due to it being in an area prone to cyclones.

Bangladeshi authorities claim it is safe and includes barracks to house the refugees, cyclone centers, schools, hospitals, mosques, community centers, and children’s playgrounds.

However, following the international pressure, Dhaka said it would only move refugees who had volunteered for the initiative. “So far, we have enrolled 5,200 families who have registered voluntarily for the relocation and the total refugee number will be around 30,000,” Kamal added.

The UN says it has already sent details to the Bangladeshi government regarding the technical team’s visit to the island.

“We are awaiting confirmation from the government regarding alternative dates, as we have shared relevant information with the government of Bangladesh regarding the objectives of the proposed onsite visits, which are part of a broader assessment process,” Louise Donovan, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees at Cox’s Bazar, told Arab News.

“The UN has emphasized the importance of undertaking independent and thorough technical and protection assessments that consider safety, sustainability, and protection issues prior to any relocation taking place. The assessment process should include onsite visits to Bhasan Char,” she added.

Bangladesh has already spent $275 million to construct the facilities on the island and make it habitable for the Rohingya.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1616381/world

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Southeast Asia

 

Indonesian Government Deploys ‘Mosque Hunters’ Who Use Drones to Combat Radicalism

22 January 2020

How many mosques are there in Indonesia? “Only God knows,” former Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla once said. It’s likely that few have pondered just exactly how many mosques exist in the nation with the world’s largest Muslim population, but now the Indonesian government has deployed a task force to conduct the country’s first mosque census.

The team of so-called “mosque hunters” is led by the Ministry of Religion’s Fakhry Affan and now consists of roughly 1,000 people. Affan has been collecting data on the number of mosques in Indonesia since 2013. So far, he has accounted for roughly 75 percent of all mosques, which is recorded at 554,152. According to government estimates, Indonesia is home to roughly 700,000 mosques.

That’s quite an astounding number, but isn’t really that surprising considering Indonesia is home to over 209 million Muslims, or 87.17 percent of the total population of around 257 million. The number of Muslims in Indonesia is projected to increase to over 256 million by 2050.

Affan and his team use drones to map out mosques. They then combine this data with each mosque’s documents into a single digital database.

“We used to do this manually, but now we’ve gone fully digital,” Affan told AFP in an interview.

The government also plans to develop an Android app that catalogues the nation’s many mosques so that Indonesians can easily locate nearby mosques.

But the census also fulfills the more pressing goal of combating radicalism, which is often spread through sermons.

“Radical ideologies can develop anywhere, and mosques are one of the easiest places to spread such ideologies,” Affan said. “You don’t need to invite anyone to the mosque, people come on their own. We want to ensure that all imams and mosque staff are preaching moderate Islam.”

Affan admits that the task of identifying every single mosque in Indonesia will never end because they are constantly being built.

“You rarely ever hear of a mosque shutting down. The number will only continue to rise,” Affan said.

This, as religious minorities in Indonesia continue to struggle with building their places of worship.

During President Joko Widodo’s first term, levels of tolerance and freedom of religion plummeted. The SETARA Institute reported 846 cases of violation of religious freedom during this period.

During the same period, 32 churches and 5 Ahmadi mosques shut down (Ahmadis are a highly persecuted Muslim minority). And that doesn’t include instances of minority religions being denied permits to build places of worship. This usually occurs when locals and adherents of the majority religion resist the construction of temples and churches, or when permits are insufficient.

In May 2019, local Hindus were denied a permit to build a temple in a region that is home to over 7,000 Hindus, even after fulfilling all administrative requirements. The request to build the temple was shut down after locals began to protest.

If mosques seldom shut down in a nation with diverse beliefs, the same should be said for other religions’ places of worship.

https://www.vice.com/en_in/article/dygpkz/indonesian-government-deploys-mosque-hunters-use-drones-combat-radicalism

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MUI orders evictees to vacate mosque, return it to 'its proper function'

January 21, 2020 

The Bandung Wetan office of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) has issued a letter ordering evictees of Taman Sari subdistrict in Bandung, West Java to leave a mosque they have been using as a shelter to “return the place of worship to its proper function.” One of the evicted residents, 45-year-old Eva Aryani Effendi, said she and 57 residents of community unit (RW) 11 of the subdistrict had been taking shelter temporarily in Al-Islam Mosque in Taman Sari after authorities evicted them and demolished their homes They were forcefully evicted on Dec. 12 as the city administration is planning a rumah deret (row houses) project in the area. The eviction led to a clash between security personnel and residents who refused to be relocated. The rumah deret project began while former Bandung mayor Ridwan Kamil was in office. Ridwan, who currently serves as West Java governor,...

Full report at:

https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/01/21/mui-orders-evictees-to-vacate-mosque-return-it-to-its-proper-function.html

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Islamic nursery kids spread early CNY joy with cakes for neighbours

Faiz Zainudin

January 21, 2020

SHAH ALAM: A group of children from an Islamic nursery today spread early Chinese New Year joy to their neighbours with greetings and cakes.

The 69 children from Pusat Asuhan Tunas Islam (PASTI) Little Imtiyaz, looking adorable in their green uniforms and skullcaps, were split into groups to visit as many Chinese families as they could in their neighbourhood.

“Happy Chinese New Year uncle, aunty,” they said cheerfully while handing out cakes and kuih that they bought.

PASTI manager Farriz Abd Rahman said they organised the activity to teach the children about community relations and charity, regardless of race or religion.

He added that they organised similar visits for the different festivals every year.

“At the same time, it teaches the children on the rights of their neighbours, regardless of racial or religious differences and the importance of unity in the community.

“When we teach them and ask them to do it (wish and give gifts) they understand quickly how to properly give a gift to their neighbours. If we just tell them without them doing it, they won’t really understand.”

During Muslim celebrations like Hari Raya Aidilfitri, the students will invite their neighbours to PASTI Little Imtiyaz’s open house.

Last year, Farriz said, one of their Chinese neighbours came to the daycare to give “ang pow” to the students.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/01/21/islamic-nursery-kids-spread-early-cny-joy-with-cakes-for-neighbours/

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Philippine military says 5 Indonesians kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf militants

JANUARY 19, 2020

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippine military on Sunday said it has launched search and rescue operations for five Indonesian fishermen kidnapped by militants belonging to the Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf group in Malaysian waters last week.

Eight Indonesians were abducted in Sabah on Thursday. Three were released, while the remaining five were probably brought by their captors to the southern Philippine province of Sulu, said Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana, chief of the military’s Western Mindanao Command.

Sulu is Abu Sayyaf’s stronghold.

Sobejana disclosed the abduction a day after soldiers clashed with Abu Sayyaf members in Sulare island in Parang town, in Sulu, killing one militant and destroying a speed boat believed to have been used in the kidnapping.

Sobejana said Malaysian authorities had immediately coordinated with the Philippine military after the abduction.

Indonesia’s foreign ministry said it also has coordinated with the Philippine government and was still waiting for official information about the incident.

The speed boat was positively identified by the three Indonesian fishermen who have been freed as the one used in the abduction staged by six militants, Sobejana said.

“The likelihood they are in Sulare island or Parang, Sulu is very high,” he said.

Full report at:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-philippines-security/philippine-military-says-5-indonesians-kidnapped-by-abu-sayyaf-militants-idUSKBN1ZI0BZ

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Muslim insurgents, Thai govt hold peace dialogue in KL

January 22, 2020

BANGKOK: A senior Thai official met an envoy of the main insurgent group fighting in the country’s largely Muslim south in what both sides described as a positive step towards a peace process, the Thai government said on Tuesday.

The meeting in Kuala Lumpur marked the first time the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) had returned to talks since it pulled out of an earlier peace dialogue in 2014.

The long-running insurgency in the Malay-speaking region of predominantly Buddhist Thailand has killed some 7,000 people over the past 15 years.

The conflict has flared on and off for decades as insurgent groups like the BRN continued a guerrilla war to demand independence for Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat provinces, which were part of an independent Malay sultanate before they were annexed by the Thais in 1909. Successive Thai governments have refused to allow any degree of autonomy in the restive region.

General Wanlop Rugsanaoh, the head of Thailand’s Peace Dialogue Panel, met with Anas Abdulrahman, a representative of the BRN on Monday for a discussion brokered by the Malaysian government, a Thai government statement said.

A senior BRN official, Abdul Aziz Jabal, described the meeting as “the first round of official peace dialogue.”

He told a news conference in Kuala Lumpur that the two sides agreed on several mutual commitments, including a framework and terms of reference laying ground rules for future talks.

The BRN official added that the talks were attended by “observers from overseas“, without elaborating.

The BRN was among several insurgent groups to have participated in formal peace talks with the Thai government until a military coup in 2014. The military junta resumed talks with other insurgent groups two years later but the BRN did not join that process, which stalled in 2018.

Since then, the BRN and the Thai government have had several contacts, including a secret meeting last August outside of Thailand.

Mara Patani, an umbrella group representing other insurgent factions, welcomed Monday’s meeting as a positive step for the stalled peace process.

Full report at:

https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2020/01/558559/muslim-insurgents-thai-govt-hold-peace-dialogue-kl

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Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia coalition defends Ikram over Islamic assault allegations

21 Jan 2020

BY RADZI RAZAK

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 21 — A non-governmental organisation (NGO) Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM) today defended Muslim group Ikram after the latter was accused of having Salafist leanings and trying to enforce “fringe ideas of Islam”.

In a joint statement today, GBM’s Senior Executive Ibrahim Tajuddin and Programme Consultant Eugene Yapp slammed writer Murray Hunter who wrote the article titled “Islamic Assault on Malaysia’s Higher Education”, saying that the allegations were unfounded as Ikram has been working diligently with fellow NGOs of multi-ethnicities and faiths to spread its Rahmah Nation concept.

“In working together with other members of organisation within GBM that are of different faith and ethnic composition, Ikram utilises the guiding principles of Islam to disseminate and educate the general public on a better and more prosperous way of life where one is able to find and understand themselves and the people around them.

“In this respect, Ikram’s vision of a ‘Rahmah Nation’ deserves mention simply because non-Muslim coalition members within GBM such as the Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH) and others are able to stand together with Ikram on such goals for nation building,” the statement said.

The statement also elaborated on the numerous initiatives that Ikram, which is a founding member of GBM, has championed over the years, including the IMPAK BM initiative that helps B40 families from various multi-ethnic backgrounds.

GBM said Ikram has never shied away from collaborating with other ethnic groups, contrary to what was depicted by the article.

“It is in this respect that Hunter’s article has failed to achieve. Rather than spur educational reforms, Hunter’s article has brought disrepute as well as fostered further dissensions and suspicions with communities.

“To our agreement, our nation is not perfect, there is much that is not right with it and there exist the differences of expectations in terms of our national trajectory and even identities. But that is within the realm of dialogues, negotiations and most critically, in reaching out to all Rakyat that are of different languages, beliefs, practices and cultures that could be utilised to form the common understanding between Malaysians,” the statement said.

Last Thursday, Asia Sentinel alleged that former education minister, Maszlee Malik, appointed at least 26 university officials with Islamist leanings and who were aligned with him and Perlis Mufti Datuk Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin prior to his resignation as education minister.

Maszlee did not deny links with Ikram but dismissed claims he was carrying out the group’s agenda. The former education minister also insisted that he is committed to diversity amid allegations of proselytisation.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/01/21/gabungan-bertindak-malaysia-coalition-defends-ikram-over-islamic-assault-al/1830133

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In Malaysia, are China’s citizens becoming the new bogeyman?

22 Jan 2020

By Ida Lim

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 22 — Are China’s nationals increasingly being cast by some Malaysians as the new bogeyman to put disproportionate fear into fellow Malaysians?

Some analysts think this may be the case, citing the role of Malay right-wing groups allegedly playing up local racial unease and misinformation of illegal immigrants from China in attempts to dislodge the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration, against the backdrop of China being an economic and political superpower.

Prof James Chin, director of University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute, agreed that China’s citizens are becoming the new bogeyman in Malaysia, saying that an obvious reason for this situation is the “racial politics” in Malaysia.

“Putra or right-wing groups also paint non-Malays, especially the Chinese, as wanting to take over Malaysia, so using this fake news as an issue to drum up anti-Chinese sentiments. It’s all political, no truth,” he told Malay Mail when contacted.

He was referring to the controversial Malay party whose president and founder Datuk Ibrahim Ali is also the leader of Malay-Muslim rights group Perkasa.

“There is now a campaign to light up racial tensions to bring down the PH government. Too many things are happening to be a coincidence,” said Chin, who viewed efforts to paint Chinese nationals as the bogeyman through repeated raising of fears of those illegally present in Malaysia as part of efforts to stir up racial tension here.

Over the past year, Malaysian authorities have been forced to deny and refute various wild claims regarding Chinese nationals, including a rumour in August 2019 of three million citizens from China slipping in unauthorised during a system breakdown at KLIA.

But the Immigration Department later said that manual checks were carried out on all foreign visitors during the system glitch in line with its standard operating procedure, and that the system had been restored.

Another example was Malay party Putra’s vice-president Datuk Hamidah Osman who in May 2019 reportedly claimed to have heard that more than 100,000 Chinese nationals allegedly obtained Malaysian citizenship under the PH government, a spurious claim which was quickly debunked by the Home Ministry which revealed that only 37 of individuals originally from China had obtained Malaysian citizenship since the PH coalition became government on May 10, 2018 until May 15, 2019.

But just yesterday, Tan Sri Rais Yatim from ruling coalition component Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, also complained about the long-term multiple entry visa for Malaysians visiting China, claiming that Chinese citizens may use this as a means to settle in Malaysia.

Chin indicated that fears of Chinese nationals acquiring Malaysian citizenship or staying in Malaysia illegally were overblown in reality, when cross-checked against statistics.

He said the Chinese nationals were being singled out over rising concern on illegal immigrants, pointing to data that showed their numbers were lower compared to undocumented individuals originating from other countries such as Indonesia.

“Basically the issue of Chinese immigration is all hogwash. It is not possible for the Chinese to get citizenship or PR in Malaysia. They can only get Malaysia My Second Home visa which is only valid for 10 years.

“There are of course some who pay to get fake PR but the numbers are small. You have to remember that even if they come here, Malaysia is used as a stepping stone, most of them do not plan to live here forever.

“Many of these right-wing groups are associated with Umno or PAS so we should not be surprised by them using this issue to drum up support,” he said, noting the danger that some Malays would believe such claims and opt to take up vigilantism against illegal immigrants.

“The point is all these racial stuff will get worse until the PH government cracks down on these groups. It is clear some of them have broken laws. We also need a hate speech law. You can see these groups are now using CNY decorations as an issue in Puchong, they just want to raise the political temperature up — Malays vs Chinese,” he said when referring to a recent controversy over cultural festival Chinese New Year decorations in a school, suggesting that such actions could be considered as inciting racial hatred.

As for Malaysians’ sentiments towards China’s citizens, Chin said this is clouded and defined by their respective race and religion, suggesting that the Malays would look at Chinese nationals in a kinder light if they are Muslims, and would accept them temporarily staying in Malaysia.

Chin said the Chinese Malaysian community does not have a strong feeling either way, with most able to see that Chinese tourism brings economic benefit but with most not likely to agree to give them the right to stay.

“Most Malaysians see China as both threat and opportunity — they know we have to deal with China but we are also scared that China will dominate us,” he said, referring to concerns of both economic and political dominance by China.

“So there is no single set of feelings towards the Chinese. Also the feelings of the Malay population is always clouded by China’s treatment of its Muslim population,” Chin claimed.

In a survey by Singaporean think-tank ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute released last week, many Malaysians surveyed viewed China as the most influential economic power compared to the United States, as rivalry between the two superpowers continued to heat up.

But respondents from Malaysia were also overwhelmingly worried of China’s growing regional political and strategic influence in the country, with 80.9 per cent stating so.

Beijing has faced international condemnation, and protests from Muslim groups here, for rounding up an estimated one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic minorities in internment camps in the north-western region of Xinjiang.

Blurring of anti-Chinese sentiments

Prof William Case of the University of Nottingham Malaysia said the only surprising aspect of this “nativist enmity” was how long it has taken to set in, pointing at the festering anti-Chinese sentiments since the May 2018 elections when Barisan Nasional became the default Opposition after losing to PH.

“Anti-Chinese sentiments have been on the boil since the last election, the fall of Barisan, and the emergence of what is disparaged by many as Pakatan’s ‘Chinese government’,” he said, alluding to the fairly large number of key ministries and other offices led by DAP members.

The DAP is a multiracial party that continues to be labelled as Chinese by its political rivals.

“But Pakatan seemed able at the same time to promote and quarantine its extensive dealings with mainland China, even in the face of mounting evidence of severe mistreatment of Uighurs.

“Though Malaysia’s government has been highly vocal, of course, in its criticisms over Palestinians, Rohingya, and Kashmiris, it has remained pragmatic, even mute with regard to Xinjiang, citing the importance for Malaysia of mainland investment flows and export markets,” said Case, who heads the university’s School of Politics, History and International Relations.

Case suggested that previously separate sentiments against local Chinese and citizens from mainland China appear to be increasingly mixed and generalised, saying that the clearest illustration of this is the speed at which angry rumours were taking hold.

“And social media users, of course, delight in fanning the flames with fake news,” he said, noting that the negative imagery generated by actual incidents of Chinese citizens in online scamming activities while in Malaysia is further heightened by “rumours and fake news over an increasingly nefarious mainland presence”.

“So, in a sense, the divergence in outlooks toward local and mainland Chinese is now being resolved, with ethnic grievances growing more generalised. The real test will come when, as Pakatan fears, mainland Chinese come to feel so unwelcome that their investment does indeed begin to dry up,” he said.

“Pakatan’s victory in the last general election, in seeming to make Bumiputera privileging less certain, triggered an ethnic backlash against local Chinese. At the same time, the new Pakatan government reengaged with mainland Chinese investment, restarting infrastructure projects (though on terms that remain opaque). I believe that PAS-controlled state governments on the East Coast sought also to increase mainland investment.

“But this dissonance in sentiments toward local and mainland Chinese seems now to be undergoing some ‘rationalisation’, with Bumiputera suspicions growing more generalised and consistent. This may be reflected also in Malaysia’s growing slightly more assertive lately with regard to the South China Sea,” he also noted.

UiTM Sabah political lecturer Asri Salleh said that the main reason why Chinese illegal immigrants or overstaying Chinese tourists are being singled out could be due to ill-behaving Chinese tourists leaving a bad impression on Malaysians.

He suggested that illegal Chinese immigrants “are the most visible due to the massive number of the Chinese tourists”, adding that “it all boils down mostly to negative perception Malaysians have about the Chinese illegal immigrants” and also noting that some would have trouble differentiating the illegal immigrants from tourists.

Delicate race relations

Peter Chang Thiam Chai, deputy director of University of Malaya’s Institute of China Studies, noted that China’s re-emergence as an economic powerhouse is as a whole positive but has some negative side-effects.

Chang noted that China’s preferred working partners when they began to invest in Malaysia were the local Chinese due to a shared culture and language, which then led to perception that China’s investments disproportionately benefit the Malaysian Chinese.

“In Malaysia, there is perception that China’s increased investment would disproportionately benefit some, while disadvantaging others, thus accentuating the pre-existing social economic divide along ethnic lines,” he said, pointing to the lingering perception that the socio-economic gap in Malaysia still cuts across ethnic lines and favour the non-Bumiputera.

Chang said the Immigration Department’s recent busting of online gambling syndicates masterminded by PRC or China’s nationals add to these negativities.

“The overstaying and illegal activities committed by Chinese citizens is staining China’s image abroad, undermining Beijing’s effort to maintain strong diplomatic, economic ties with countries in the region, including Malaysia.

“Most Malaysians at times cannot differentiate between the PRC Chinese and Malaysia Chinese. And these illegal activities committed by the former not only damages China’s reputation but can adversely affect Malaysia race relations,” he said.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/01/22/in-malaysia-are-chinas-citizens-becoming-the-new-bogeyman/1830299

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Religious status on MyKad to stay, says home affairs ministry

January 21, 2020

PUTRAJAYA: There are no plans to carry out a study on abolishing the religious status of a person on the identity card, the home ministry said today.

The ministry released the statement today following a video and text message over the matter which had gone viral on WhatsApp.

The ministry said the recording of religious details on the identity card was implemented by the National Registration Department in accordance with Regulation 4 (cc) of the National Registration Regulations 1990 (PPPN 1990).

“Recording ‘Islam’ on the front of the identity card is in accordance with the First Schedule, Regulation 5 (2) of the PPPN 1990.

“For non-Muslims, the details on their religion is only included in the chip,” he said.

The ministry said the action was in accordance with the provisions of Article 3 (1) of the Federal Constitution that Islam is the official religion of the federation. However, other religions can be practised peacefully in any part of the federation.

“The details on religion on the identity card of a Muslim individual is among the important elements that help with the enforcement of Article 11 (4) of the Federal Constitution and the applicable shariah laws,” the ministry said.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/01/21/religious-status-on-mykad-to-stay-says-home-affairs-ministry/

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North America

 

US military declassified documents claim ‘success’ in hacking ISIS

21 January 2020

The US military claims to have “successfully” disrupted the online propaganda efforts of ISIS in a hacking operation dating back at least to 2016, according to declassified national security documents released on Tuesday.

The heavily redacted, previously top secret documents said the US Cyber Command “successfully contested ISIS in the information domain” and limited its online efforts on radicalization and recruitment “by imposing time and resource costs” on the extremist group.

The documents released by the National Security Archive at George Washington University offer the most detailed look at “Operation Glowing Symphony,” the first offensive hacking operation acknowledged by the Pentagon.

The assessment pointed to a “significant reduction” in the online campaign waged by ISIS, but added that the Cyber Command efforts were slowed by a “lengthy and difficult” process for approving its operations.

It said that, given the expectation of “more frequent and widely scoped cyber operations,” better procedures should be in place to “help expedite the request and approval process.”

Officials have previously acknowledged the use of offensive cyber weapons as part of the US arsenal, but the newly released documents offer the most detailed assessment of the moves against ISIS by a joint task force created in 2016 by president Barack Obama.

According to a statement from the university archive, “Glowing Symphony” was initially approved for a 30-day window in late 2016 but a July 2017 administrative message extended the operation, and it was unclear if it is continuing.

The documents released under a Freedom of Information Act request “reveal the unprecedented complexity of the operation, resulting challenges in coordination and deconfliction, and assessments of effectiveness,” the GWU archive said.

The hacking operation represents the US response to concerns about how extremist groups had been using social media and online services to promote their cause, often seeking to spread propaganda for recruitment and radicalization.

According to the university archive, the latest documents and public comments by Cyber Command chief General Paul Nakasone offer clues to how the joint task force operates and what it may do in response to efforts to disrupt the US election campaign.

Nakasone said in a 2019 interview that another task force called the Russia Small Group had been formed to be able to “rapidly to address a threat” to the campaign.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/01/21/US-military-declassified-documents-claim-success-in-hacking-ISIS.html

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Iranian student deported from US despite federal judge order

22 January 2020

An Iranian student, who had a valid F-1 US student visa, has been deported from the United States in spite of a federal court order to delay his removal.

Mohammad Shahab Dehghani Hossein Abadi arrived in Boston on Sunday to continue his studies at Northeastern University, but was detained by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the Boston Logan International Airport.

The 24-year-old economics student had traveled to Iran for a short visit and flew back into the US to start his spring semester when he was held for secondary questioning, which is common for Iranians when entering the US through the airport, according to his lead attorney Kerry Doyle.

While he was detained, a Massachusetts district court judge granted him an emergency stay, nonetheless, he was deported Monday night, Doyle added.

CBP officials alleged that he had planned to stay in the US permanently and violate his visa, but Doyle rejected the claim.

"There is absolutely no evidence of that," Doyle said. "When we found out, we went beyond every effort to communicate with CBP, because there are legitimate cases where they deny entry to somebody. In the past they have been able to tell us the issue, but this time they completely stonewalled us and even lied to us."

According to court documents and his attorneys, Dehghani went through a thorough vetting process with the US government lasting one year before he obtained his visa. He had studied at the university for two semesters, left the US, and then was finally approved to return last week.

The student “does not pose any threat of terrorist activity and has no criminal record in any country,” his attorneys said in a court filing. “It is unclear why [Customs and Border Protection] would now decide, after conducting a full visa issuance process, that Plaintiff’s student visa should be revoked.”

Meanwhile, CBP issued a statement, claiming it was "unaware of the issuance of any court order barring the removal of the subject from the United States" when Dehghani boarded the flight and the plane’s doors closed.

On Monday, Judge Allison D. Burroughs ordered that the student’s removal be postponed for 48 hours or until further order of the court, according to the court docket.

A day later, Judge Richard Stearns said the case is now "moot" because Dehghani was "never admitted into the United States, is no longer in custody, and the court does not have jurisdiction to order his return," CBP said in a statement.

Northeastern University said in a statement it had not received a "satisfactory explanation" from CBP for the student's deportation.

"We believe that a clear explanation is needed, especially because the deportation took place after a 48-hour extension was granted by a federal judge. Only in the most extreme instances should students have their academic pursuits interrupted by government intervention."

His arrest was condemned by lawmakers and the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, which vowed to try and contribute to his defense. Protests were also held at the airport after the student was arrested.

ACLU Massachusetts

@ACLU_Mass

"In America, nobody is above the law—including CBP officials... We are looking at all options to hold CBP accountable for wrongfully deporting Iranians and other students who hold valid visas.”#dontdeportstudents

Read our full statement here: https://www.aclum.org/en/news/statement-aclu-massachusetts-iranian-student-removed-us …

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US Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley from Massachusetts said on Twitter that "Shahab is my constituent & I’m demanding answers."

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley

@RepPressley

As a @Northeastern & @UMassBoston student, Shahab is my constituent & I’m demanding answers. @CBP hastily put Shahab on a flight out of @BostonLogan w/o due process, violating a court order. We won’t stand for this in the #MA7. #StopDeportingStudentshttps://www.wbur.org/news/2020/01/21/iranian-northeastern-cbp-immigration-deportation-shahab-dehghani-boston-logan …

Iranian Student Deported From Boston Despite Federal Court Order

Shahab Dehghani's attorney says he was traveling with a valid student visa but was held for secondary questioning by Customs and Border Protection. A federal judge issued a stay on the agency's order...

wbur.org

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In addition, Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey said he had asked the immigration agency why they regarded Dehghani as a threat, but received no answer.

"Customs and Border Protection did not provide me any answers for why it refused entry to Shahab Dehghani, nor did it acknowledge the alarming discrepancy in moving forward with his removal despite a Federal District Court order granting Mr. Dehghani a stay in order to review the decision of CBP," Markey said in a statement.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren also criticized CBP, noting the student had a "valid F1 visa." She tweeted, "We must fight the Trump administration's xenophobic policies."

Earlier this month, Warren sent a letter to CBP, asking the agency questions about reports that "dozens" of Iranians and Iranian Americans were being held up at US borders.

After inauguration in 2016, US President Donald Trump controversially pushed through a ban suspending issuance of immigrant and non-immigrant visas to applicants from the Muslim-majority countries of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.

The restriction, which has gained notoriety as “a Muslim ban,” later expanded to include Venezuela and North Korea, and, as Trump suggested during his electoral campaign, could end up affecting even more countries.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/22/616789/US-Customs-Border-Protection-Iranian-student

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More US troops ‘treated’ after Iran attack on US base, Pentagon admits

22 January 2020

The US military says there were more troops were in the US base in Iraq, when it came under attack by Iran retaliation for the US assassination of Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani.

US Central Command announced Tuesday that apart from the 11 previously announced injured, additional troops were being treated.

The CENTCOM has refused to mention the exact figure so far and appears to be taking advantage of US President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate to make the announcement as smoothly as possible in order to save the US military’s reputation in the wake of the disastrous defeat.

Capt. Bill Urban, spokesman for CENTOM, claimed that the additional service members were moved "out of an abundance of caution" and that "it is possible additional injuries may be identified in the future."

"As medical treatment and evaluations in theater continue, additional service members have been identified as having potential injuries," Urban claimed. "These service members -- out of an abundance of caution -- have been transported to Landstuhl, Germany for further evaluations and necessary treatment on an outpatient basis. Given the nature of injuries already noted, it is possible additional injuries may be identified in the future."

On January 8, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) fired volleys of ballistic missiles at Ain al-Assad, and another outpost in Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan.

The missile operation was in response to the January 3 assassination of Lieutenant General Soleimani, commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), and a group of their companions in Baghdad. The cowardly operation was conducted under US President Donald Trump’s direction. The US Department of Defense took responsibility for the assassination.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/22/616784/More-US-troops-%E2%80%98treated%E2%80%99-after-Iran-attack

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US calls for ‘immediate’ resumption of Libya oil production

21 January 2020

The United States has called for the “immediate” resumption of Libya’s vital oil exports, after rebel militia loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar shut off production at the North African country’s major oil fields last week.

“The suspension of National Oil Corporation (NOC) operations risks exacerbating the humanitarian emergency in #Libya and inflicting further needless suffering on the Libyan people,” the US Embassy in Tripoli tweeted.

“NOC operations should resume immediately,” it said. 

Industry experts, however, say Washington opposes the suspension of Libyan crude exports because of the impact on the world oil market.

Haftar’s militia, at war with government forces, stopped the production at virtually all of the nation’s oil fields on the eve of an international peace conference in the German capital, Berlin, on Sunday.

Global oil prices jumped to above 65 dollars a barrel on Monday as the Libyan disruptions coincided with the shutdown of some oil outputs in Iraq, reigniting fears about the market’s vulnerability to geopolitical risks in key supply regions.

The NOC earlier confirmed that Libya’s daily crude output of 1.3 million barrels a day would be virtually wiped out.

“The storage capacity of these ports is limited and the NOC will be obliged to put a complete halt to crude production once maximum capacity has been reached,” the oil company said on Monday.

In recent years, oil-rich Libya has been divided between two rival camps: the internationally-recognized government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, and another group based in the eastern city of Tobruk, supported militarily by Haftar’s militia.

The rebels launched an offensive to capture the capital, Tripoli, in April last year, but, despite intense fighting, they have so far failed to achieve their objective and the offensive has stalled outside the capital.

The Berlin conference was the latest of many diplomatic attempts aimed at pushing Libya on a path to peace.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/21/616750/Libya-US-oil-Haftar

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Is the US provoking war with Iran?

21 January 2020

By Yuram Abdullah Weiler

The Islamic Republic of Iran is approaching its forty-first anniversary celebration of the victory of its revolution that freed Iranians from the oppressive yoke of the US-imposed dictator, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.  Yet recent events such as the assassination of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani and the downing of a Ukrainian International Airlines plane have created a somber background for what should be a festive occasion.

These two tragic events were not isolated; the US appears once again to be attempting to provoke a war with Iran, a brief three years after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed by the P5+1 nations, and hope of improved relations between the Islamic Republic and America seemed to be on the horizon.  The brazenly arrogant US president in league with his overtly Iranophobic secretary of state not only has shot down those hopeful expectations, but also has once again made the specter of war breaking out a frighteningly real possibility.

Washington’s pretexts for war

The US has never forgiven the Iranian people for overthrowing its dictatorial puppet ruler and thus breaking free from US hegemony.  American General Robert Huyser was sent to Tehran, arriving on January 3, 1979, almost two weeks before the former shah fled the country on January 16, for the purpose of planning a coup to install another ruler acceptable to Washington.   On February 1, Ayatollah Seyed Mousavi Ruhollah Khomeini made a triumphant return to Iran after fifteen years of exile, and went on to found an Islamic Republic, much to the chagrin of the US hegemon. The Washington regime has never recovered from the loss of its local enforcer in the Persian Gulf, and has been busily trying to recoup ever since.

Later in November of that auspicious year of the victory of the Islamic Revolution, many Iranian students felt that because of the former shah’s entry into the US, a coup d'état attempt was imminent.  Therefore, some of them, including current Vice President for Women and Family Affairs, Massoumeh Ebtekar, took preemptive action by occupying the US embassy in Tehran and detaining the staff, some of whom were later found to be CIA operatives. US President Jimmy Carter authorized an abortive rescue operation in April 1980 to free the hostages, after negotiations had failed to yield sufficiently rapid results, but the mission ended in disaster, with eight Americans losing their lives in the fiasco.

The embassy takeover by the students in November 1980 likewise was a watershed event for relations between the fledgling Islamic Republic and America. The revengeful war hawks in Washington have never forgotten how 52 Americans were detained for a total of 444 days.  At the same time, the war planners in Washington steadfastly refuse to acknowledge, or are oblivious to the fact that the oppressed people of Iran were held hostage by the US under the brutal rule of their imposed Pahlavi dictator for a period of 25 years—over 9,000 days—against which the detention period of the embassy personnel pales in comparison.

Provoking conflict with Iran

After failing to free the embassy hostages, Carter gave a green light to Iraqi dictator Saddam to attack Iran on September 22, 1980 with 45,000 troops on four fronts simultaneously.  After a bloody 8-year-long war, which Washington expected to topple the Islamic government in Tehran, Iran accepted a United Nations mandated ceasefire, but not before over half a million Iranians had been martyred in defense of their country,  and the US had brazenly downed Iran Air Flight 655 killing all 290 on board.

Since the Trump regime came to power in 2017, it has unceasingly been attempting to drag the Islamic Republic into a war.  No sooner than the current occupant of the Oval Office assumed his position that he had issued an executive order banning Iranians and citizens of six other Muslim-majority countries, namely Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syrian, Sudan and Yemen, from entering the US, which has been followed by successive Islamophobic and xenophobic policies that have become characteristic of the Trump regime.

With Mike Pompeo taking over the helm at the US State Department in April 2018, the “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran really ramped up.  By May 2018, Pompeo had convinced Trump to withdraw the US from the JCPOA.  Iran was accused of mining the Straits of Hormuz and attacking tankers, after which Trump threatened the Islamic Republic with a military strike in retaliation for shooting down one of the US Navy’s most advanced high-tech drones, which had violated Iranian airspace. The US president supposedly called off the threatened retaliatory attack at the last minute out of his concern for possible loss of life.

In July 2019, the unscrupulous regime in Washington offered a bribe to the captain of the Iranian oil tanker, Adrian Darya 1, in a bald-faced attempt to entice the ship’s master, Captain Akhilesh Kumar, to move to a place where the US could seize the vessel and its cargo of 2.1 million barrels of crude oil. As an aside, for his incorruptible honesty and ethical behavior, Captain Kumar made Lloyd’s list of the 100 most influential people in the shipping industry.

Early Friday morning on January 3, 2020, the US draft-dodger-in-chief ordered the gangland-style assassination of General Soleimani, along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, both of whom were instrumental in the defeat of the Daesh terrorist group that had infested Syria and Iraq, and posed a threat to Iran and the rest of western Asia.  Martyr Soleimani was killed allegedly in retaliation for the death of an American contractor at an Iraqi base near Kirkuk. 

‘We don’t want war,’ or do they?

With this exceptionally imprudent provocation, Trump not only unleased a massive backlash of anti-American anger throughout the Middle East, but also triggered a measured but highly effective retaliatory response by Iran, which launched a salvo of missiles at two bases in Iraq, after warning the US in advance to minimize collateral damage. According to reports from an eyewitness at Ain al-Asad, the missile strike targeting the base was so accurate that some of the US Blackhawk attack helicopters were literally cut in two inside their Quonset hut hangers. Yet both Trump and his chief hit man, Pompeo, incredulously insisted that their wanton act of US state-sponsored terrorism was “to stop a war.”

The accidental and most regrettable downing of Ukrainian International Airlines Flight PS-752, may involve more than human error under incredibly tense conditions. With the plane’s IFF transponder switched off, the Tor missile defense system, which had reverted to manual operation because of an unknown source jamming communications, would have automatically identified the plane as “hostile”. The Iranian missile operator, unable to contact higher-ups for verification due to the disrupted communications and given the high level of alert, had little basis to question the hostile tag applied by Tor to the aircraft.

Given that the US military has known capabilities to alter or mask IFF transponder signals, as does the Israeli regime, it is entirely possible that this tragedy, which led some protesters to blame the Iranian government, may have been deliberately caused by the US in collusion with its Zionist ally in hopes of triggering their goal of regime change. While no clear evidence of tampering with the transponder has surfaced as yet, it is known that the 737-800, whose registration or “tail number” was UR-PSR, was photographed at the Israeli entity’s Ben Gurion Airport five times since March of 2017, the last time being on October 18, 2019 at approximately 2:40 in the afternoon.

According to author and attorney Dan Kovalik, the US and its Zionist ally have been preparing for a war with Iran for over 10 years now. It is interesting to note that Saddam, before invading Iran in 1980 insisted that he did not want war, just like Trump and Pompeo are now insisting that they do not want war. Perhaps dictators, dictator wannabes and their deputies are all alike, since clearly, this despicable duo desperately wants to provoke a war with Iran.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/21/616755/Is-the-US-provoking-war-with-Iran

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Europe

 

British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

January 21, 2020

LONDON: A group of British MPs has called for the UK to recognize the state of Palestine ahead of a visit by Prince Charles to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

In a letter to The Times, the MPs, along with figures from think tanks and pressure groups, said the move was long overdue and would help fulfill Britain’s “promise of equal rights for peoples in two states.”

The call comes as the heir to the British throne travels on Thursday to Israel and the occupied West Bank.

During the visit, he will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem.

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

The letter said since 2014, no meaningful progress has been made in the peace process, and Israel’s actions are pushing a two-state solution beyond reach.

“Illegal Israeli settlements, described by the Foreign Office as undermining peace efforts, are expanding,” the letter said.

Among the signatories are Emily Thornberry, a candidate for the Labour Party leadership, and Crispin Blunt, chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council.

Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian envoy to the UK, welcomed the move but said full recognition from the British government should have happened many years ago.

“Recognition doesn’t contradict peacemaking and negotiations,” Zomlot told Arab News, referring to the main argument used by the UK against taking such a step.

“It reinforces the vision (of a Palestinian state) and a negotiated two-state solution. It should happen now because of the threat of annexation (of Palestinian territory) and the killing of the two-state solution.”

Alistair Carmichael, a Liberal Democrat MP who signed the letter, told Arab News that the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government toward Palestine “makes the achievement of a two-state solution more and more remote with every week that passes.”

He said: “The UK has historic and political obligations toward Israelis and Palestinians. There’s now no longer any good reason not to recognize the state of Palestine.”

A spokesman for Labour MP Fabian Hamilton, who also signed the letter, told Arab News: “The fact that this has cross-party support shows the growing desire across Parliament for the recognition of a Palestinian state and a two-state solution.”

Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, said the international community needs to finally stand up for the solution that it has had on the table for decades.

Doyle, an Arab News columnist, said the letter is an “indication that many people in British politics think we should be doing this, we should be standing up for the Palestinian right to self-determination, the legal rights, at a time when the state of Israel is doing everything to stop this, to take more land from the Palestinians.”

The letter was timed to coincide with a meeting of European foreign ministers on Monday, who discussed the Middle East peace process.

The Palestinian Authority, which runs parts of the West Bank, has been increasing calls for European countries to recognize the state of Palestine as the US has shifted to a more pro-Israel stance, including recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017.

Writing in The Guardian on Monday, Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Europe could strengthen its role in the peace process if it recognized Palestine.

“European recognition of this state is not only a European responsibility but a concrete way to move towards a just and lasting peace,” he said.

Only nine out of the 28 EU countries have so far recognized Palestine as a state, compared to 138 out of the 193 UN member states.

In 2011, the UK’s then-Foreign Minister William Hague said the British government “reserves the right” to recognize Palestine “at a time of our own choosing, and when it can best serve the cause of peace.”

In 2012, the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade Palestine’s status to that of “nonmember observer state.”

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1616351/middle-east

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UK adds entire Hezbollah movement to terror blacklist

19/01/2020

LONDON - Britain’s Finance Ministry added Lebanon’s entire Hezbollah movement to its list of terrorist groups subject to asset freezing.

The ministry previously only targeted the Shia organisation’s military wing but, as of January 17, included the entire group on its terror list. The designation requires any individual or institution in Britain with accounts or financial services connected to Hezbollah to suspend them or face prosecution.

“Hezbollah itself has publicly denied a distinction between its military and political wings,” the Treasury said in a notice posted on its website.

“The group in its entirety is assessed to be concerned in terrorism and was proscribed as a terrorist organisation in the UK in March 2019,” it added. “This listing includes the military wing, the jihad council and all units reporting to it, including the external security organisation.”

Britain’s move comes amid heightened tensions in the Middle East after the United States killed Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani in an air strike January 3. Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah threatened Iran’s enemies with retaliation.

Britain proscribes 75 international terrorist organisations under terrorism legislation passed in 2000.

Iranian general sanctioned

The US State Department said January 17 that it imposed penalties on Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps General Hassan Shahvarpour for directing a massacre of nearly 150 demonstrators in south-western Iran in November.

Full report at:

https://thearabweekly.com/uk-adds-entire-hezbollah-movement-terror-blacklist-0

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French police arrest seven for Islamist extremist-linked terror plot

JAN 21, 2020

PARIS – Security forces on Monday arrested seven men believed to be planning a terror attack in France and preparing to travel to conflict zones in Iraq and Syria, according to sources close to the case.

They were detained by France’s DGSI domestic intelligence agency in the western coastal city of Brest and the surrounding Finistere region.

Some of the men were on the country’s “Fiche S” list of potential security risks because of their links with Islamic extremists, one of the sources said.

Investigations will continue to determine how far the suspects had advanced in their plans for the attack and flight to the Middle East.

France has been on high alert since a wave of jihadi attacks that began in 2015 that have killed more than 250 people.

Dozens of French citizens left to join the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq before U.S.-led coalition forces dislodged the insurgents from their “caliphate” last year.

IS leaders also urged followers in France to stage attacks on their own, often targeting security forces, and officials have said the threat of further IS-inspired attacks remains high.

French officials say they have foiled several terror plots in recent months.

Last May, police arrested a 16-year-old in the eastern city of Strasbourg as part of investigations into a suspected plot to attack security forces and possibly the presidential Elysee Palace.

Full report at:

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/01/21/world/crime-legal-world/french-police-arrest-seven-islamist-extremist-linked-terror-plot/#.Xifnk08zbIV

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Trial of suspected jihadist recruiter opens in Paris

20/01/2020

The trial opened in Paris on Monday of Mourad Farès, who is accused of running a group of jihadists as well as recruiting people to fight in Syria and financing terrorism.

It’s thought the 35-year-old from Thonon-les-bains in eastern France was involved in several recruitment networks and he is linked to the departure for Syria of ten young people from Strasbourg in 2013.

Mourad Farès, is suspected of organizing meetings in Paris, Strasbourg and Lyon, and using social networks to actively encourage people to head for Syria

In July 2013, after receiving several bank transfers, he himself set off for Syria with 3 others.

Once in Syria, he joined Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, the group which later changed its name to Islamic State.

He was allegedly given training in the use of arms but claims he never engaged in combat and was instead involved in surveillance.

Farès left Syria of his own accord and was arrested in Turkey in August 2014.

He was handed over to France in September 2014 and has been in prison since.

Full report at:

http://www.rfi.fr/en/france/20200120-trial-suspected-jihadist-recruiter-opens-paris

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ISIS Wife’s Return to Norway Divides Government

By Henrik Pryser Libell

Jan. 20, 2020

OSLO, Norway — Before the woman left for Syria in 2013, she had grown up on the eastern side of Oslo in a Norwegian-Pakistani family, playing soccer and attending university, according to a recent profile. In Syria, she ended up living in Islamic State territory, marrying twice in the Caliphate and having two children, officials say.

When she and her children were plucked from a Kurdish-controlled detention camp in Syria and arrived back on Norwegian soil on Saturday, she was taken into custody for fear that she was a security risk.

The family was being kept under surveillance and medical observation in an Oslo hospital, and Norwegian news outlets reported on Monday that the woman would remain in custody for at least four more weeks.

The Norwegian government suggested that the decision to bring back the unidentified woman, now 29, had been a humanitarian one: One of her two children — a boy, 5, and a girl, 3 — was believed to be seriously ill. But the move has prompted a national debate over what the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said was “a difficult consular case,” and had threatened to bring down the government.

The decision was met with staunch opposition from the government’s coalition partner, the anti-immigrant and law-and-order Progress Party, and there were suggestions that if the matter was not settled to its liking, it could blow up the coalition that holds up the government.

The party stopped short of doing that on Monday, while still registering its discontent. After an emergency meeting on Monday, the Progress Party said that it would withdraw from the four-party governing coalition, but that it would still continue to support the government.

A spokesman for the party, Jon Engen-Helgheim, said last week that he strongly disagreed with the decision to bring the woman home. She has been charged by the Norwegian Security Police with “participation in a terrorist organization” for joining the Nusra Front and the Islamic State. The charge is punishable by up to six years in prison on conviction.

“This woman has turned her back on us,” Mr. Engen-Helgheim said. “She hates all that we stand for. She joined a gruesome terror army and contributed to prosecution, decapitation, burnings and the murder of innocent women, children and adults.”

“We do not want her kind in Norway, and we certainly don’t want Norwegian authorities spending enormous resources getting them to Norway,” he added.

With the defeat of the Islamic State and the militants’ loss of territory in the Middle East, countries across Europe have had to grapple with the return of those associated with the group. Turkey’s decision to release ISIS detainees has also forced Western European nations to confront a problem they had long sought to avoid: what to do about the potential return of radicalized, often battle-hardened Europeans to countries that do not want them back.

By November 2019, there were 12,300 foreigners detained in camps in Syria, including over 8,700 children from more than 40 nations, according to estimates by the charity Save the Children. A report from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy showed similar figures.

Preparation to repatriate the woman to Norway began in October, according to officials. Since March 2019, she had been held in the Al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria, along with thousands of other women and children. (Four other ISIS-affiliated women from Norway remain in Syrian camps.)

Officials said that she was married to an ISIS fighter named Bastian Vasquez, a Norwegian with a Chilean background. He went missing under unclear circumstances in 2015. Later, the woman married another ISIS fighter. Both of their stories were told by the author Asne Seierstad in her biography of foreign fighters in Syria, “Two Sisters.” In the book, the woman is identified by the name “Emira.”

Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that she and her children had been repatriated because of fears that her son was seriously ill.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway told the state broadcaster NRK on Thursday, “What is important is that the presumably ill child now can get medical treatment in Norway.”

During a Monday news conference, Ms. Solberg explained that the government originally preferred to just bring the sick child back to the country but could not separate him from his mother.

“Our dilemma was hence to bring home a child with his mother, or risk that a sick 5-year-old child might die,” she said.  “To me it was important that the boy came home to Norway.”

Norway is led by a center-right coalition of four parties — Ms. Solberg’s Conservatives, along with the Progress Party, and the smaller Liberal and Christian parties — that has governed Norway since 2013.

Its most recent incarnation took shape last year, when it included all four parties for the first time, but the decision by the Progress Party to pull out means that Ms. Stolberg will continue to lead but as the head of a minority government.

Under Norway’s penal code, raising children within Islamic State territory qualifies as participation in a terrorist organization, prosecutors argued in the first case against a Norwegian woman who had left for Syria. The woman, who was caught on her way to the country, was convicted.

Many Norwegians say they feared that the 29-year-old woman’s return posed a security threat to the country, but the police did not raise the terrorism threat level.

“Norway is well equipped with legal framework to deal with returnees from the Islamic State,” said Magnus Ranstorp, an associate professor and head of terrorism research at the Swedish Defense University in Stockholm. Mr. Ranstorp has served as an expert witness in some of the trials against fighters returning to Norway from Syria.

Mr. Ranstorp said that about 140 people had left Norway for Syria, and that the Scandinavian country had given about 10 returnees “severe convictions” since 2012. In neighboring Sweden, in contrast, about 300 had left for Syria, 150 returned, and only two have been prosecuted.

“The woman remains a security concern,” he acknowledged. “But at least she will be under control and surveillance in Norway. Apart from France, no European-born returnees from the war in Syria had carried out new terror attacks in Europe.”

“France has 500 terrorist convicts and 1,200 people in jail who are involved in Islamic State ideology,” Mr. Ranstorp noted. “Within the next two years, many of them will be released from prison. The security services will be very busy handling this situation.”

The woman in Norway will plead not guilty to all charges, her lawyer, Nils Christian Nordhus, said on Sunday. He said that she was willing to cooperate with the police and had been questioned.

Full report at:

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/20/world/europe/isis-norway.html

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Kosovo Woman Repatriated From Syria Accused of Terror

Jan. 20, 2020

PRISTINA, Kosovo — Kosovo prosecutors on Monday filed terrorism charges against an Albanian woman who allegedly joined a terror group in Syria.

A statement said the defendant woman identified as V.B. left Kosovo in September 2014 together with her husband and two children. They went to neighboring Skopje, North Macedonia, and then to Turkey where they crossed the Syrian border to join the Islamic State group, authorities said.

Her husband, identified as E.H., was killed in April 2015 in Syria.

The defendant was there until April 2019 when they were part of a group of 110 Kosovo citizens repatriated from Syria.

Full report at:

https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2020/01/20/world/europe/ap-eu-kosovo-terror-charges.html

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Kentucky Muslims urged to raise their voices on ‘Muslim Day’ at State Capitol

January 21, 2020

Hundreds of Muslims from Kentucky will converge on Wednesday for the first-ever “Muslim Day” at the state capitol Frankfort where they will get the chance to voice their opinions on a slew of subjects, including politics.

Waheeda Muhammad, chair of the Kentucky Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), said the event aims to familiarize Muslims with government works, to bring them together with their representatives and make their voices heard.

“We want Muslims to know that they need to be involved. Part of being a good citizen is meeting your representatives, letting them hear your voice and participating in government,” Muhammad told WKU Public Radio.

With the event, Muslims will be encouraged to engage in politics and participate in government. They will also receive education to express themselves in order to shed light on the misinterpretations shrouding the Islamic faith, as well as learn how to advocate on issues affecting the Muslim community. Some visitors even plan to advocate to pass stronger anti-bullying laws.

“One thing that really helps is for people to know a Muslim one-on-one, and that’s part of encouraging Muslims to get out, to be involved in society, because if people know you personally, that’s their image of Islam,” Muhammad said.

The number of Muslims in Kentucky has been increasing since 1960 and doubled each decade since then. Immigration from all over the Muslim world and conversion to Islam, largely by African-Americans, are the major reasons for population growth. There are currently 37 mosques and three Muslim schools in Kentucky.

"The event is not government-sanctioned. This is 100 percent planned and funded by the Kentucky Muslim community. No funding for this is coming from outside of Kentucky, and no funding for this is coming from anywhere other than the Muslim community,” Muhammad added.

Muslims from all over the state will visit the building, meet with lawmakers and also pray in the Rotunda.

“The Muslim community is a positive contributor to the health and economic well-being of Kentucky, with Muslims serving as doctors, professors, auto workers, small business owners, and in numerous other professions,” a resolution in the Kentucky House of Representatives says.

Full report at:

https://www.yenisafak.com/en/news/kentuckymuslims-urgedtoraise-theirvoices-onmuslimday-at-state-capitol-3510136

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Tories to introduce new counter-terrorism bill in March

21 January 2020

Freshly invigorated by their resounding success in last month’s general election, the hard right Tory government is pressing ahead with its plans to radicalise Britain’s security environment even further.

According to the Home Office a new terror and security bill will be introduced in Parliament in mid-March.

A central feature of the new bill is the imposition of harsher custodial sentences on convicted terrorists and stricter monitoring by the authorities once they are released.

The Home Office plans to scrap automatic early release for terrorism convicts, in addition to imposing a minimum prison term of 14 years for serious terrorism-related offences.

The hardline Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has used the terror attack in London Bridge in late November 2019 – in which two people were killed – to justify the new measures.

The Home Secretary claimed that the “senseless terror attack” has “confronted us with some hard truths about how we deal with terrorist offenders”.

Apart from imposing harsher prison sentences and more stringent monitoring post-release, the new Home Office measures include a 10 percent increase in terror funding to the value of £90 million.  

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/21/616748/UK-Tories-Counter-Terrorism-Bill-Parliament--

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UK, Egypt leaders discuss cease-fire in Libya

Ahmet Gürhan Kartal  

21.01.2020

LONDON

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Tuesday there was a need to maintain the cease-fire in Libya and look for a political solution to the lingering crisis.

His remarks came at a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fateh al-Sisi in Downing Street, a day after the UK-Africa Investment Summit, according to a statement from the British government.

Since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: renegade Gen. Khalifa Haftar in eastern Libya, supported mainly by Egypt and the UAE, and the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, which enjoys the UN and international recognition.

On Jan. 12, the conflict parties announced a cease-fire in response to a joint call by the Turkish and Russian leaders. However, the talks for a permanent cease-fire deal ended without an agreement after Haftar left Moscow without signing the deal.

On Sunday, Haftar accepted in Berlin to designate members to a UN-proposed military commission with five members from each side to monitor implementation of the cease-fire.

However, reports said on Tuesday that forces loyal to Haftar once again violated the fragile cease-fire with the UN-recognized government in Tripoli, firing mortar shells on southern areas of the capital.

The two leaders further discussed increasing bilateral trade, resumption of flights to Egypt’s Sharm El Sheikh and collaboration in education, according to the statement.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/uk-egypt-leaders-discuss-cease-fire-in-libya/1709563

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Arab World

 

Lebanon unveils new government headed by Hassan Diab

21 January 2020

Crisis-hit Lebanon’s nearly three-month wait for a new government ended on Tuesday when a line-up led by Prime Minister Hassan Diab was announced at the presidential palace.

A government official read out the 20 names in a brief address after President Michel Aoun signed off on the names, agreed on after more than a month of tense negotiations.

The new prime minister Diab vowed that his newly-unveiled government would strive to meet the demands of a three-month-old protest movement demanding radical change.

“This is a government that represents the aspirations of the demonstrators who have been mobilized nationwide for more than three months,” he said, moments after the line-up was read out at the presidential palace.

He said his government “will strive to meet their demands for an independent judiciary, for the recovery of embezzled funds, for the fight against illegal gains.”

New cabinet

Prime Minister: Hassan Diab

Deputy PM and Defense: Zeina Akar

Interior: Mohamed Fahmi

Justice: Marie-Claude Najm

Finance: Ghazi Wazni

Foreign Affairs: Nassif Hitti

Environment and Administrative Development: Damianos Kattar

Telecommunications: Talal Hawat

Economy Minister: Raoul Nehme

Industry Minister: Imad Hoballah

Public Works: Michel Najjar

Labor Minister: Lamia Yammine

Energy Minister: Raymond Ghajar

Social Affairs and Tourism Minister: Ramzi Mousharrafiyeh

Youth and Sports Minister: Varte Ohanian

Education Minister: Tarek Majzoub

Health Minister: Hamad Hassan

Agriculture and Culture Minister: Abbas Mortada

Displaced: Ghada Shreim

Information Minister: Manal Abdel Samad

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/21/Lebananese-PM-to-meet-President-Aoun-for-government-announcement-.html

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On the sinister objectives of Abu Dhabi's 'crusade' against political Islam

Andreas Krieg

21 January 2020

Abu Dhabi has firmly established itself as a cyber powerhouse, using its cyber capabilities not just for sabotage and espionage, but increasingly for subversion as well - that is, weaponising narratives to undermine civil society in the MENA region.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the UAE’s foreign policy is far from secular. Its meta-narrative of “tolerance” and “religious coexistence” is not just a soft power tool to depoliticise Islam and undermine Islamism in the region; it also serves as a shell, albeit intellectually hollow, to promote a form of Islam that is politically quietist.

The UAE well understands the power of religion and ideology to mobilise and demobilise civil society in the Arab world. Its promotion of Sufism is everything but secular: it serves as an ideological and religious footing for its aggressive foreign policy stance in the region.

Separation of mosque and state

Since the mid-2000s, Abu Dhabi, the centre of gravity of the seven-emirate federation of the UAE, has been on the offensive, promoting a form of “Emirati exceptionalism” that not only rests on relative social and economic liberties, but also advocates a separation of mosque and state.

Some have come to hail Abu Dhabi’s model as Jeffersonian: a Middle Eastern state that promotes secularism in the region is a gift for Western neoconservatives and illiberal liberals who view the role of Islam in Middle Eastern states as problematic.

The UAE’s narrative was purposefully designed to appeal to a Western, particularly American audience, in the aftermath of 9/11, the Islamist surge during the Arab Spring, and the rise of the Islamic State.

Yet, for Abu Dhabi, its crusade against Islam in the political space has another, more sinister objective: depoliticising civil society while monopolising sociopolitical power and authority in the hands of the state. Abu Dhabi’s Islamist paranoia is rooted in a deep-seated fear of the soft power appeal of political Islam as the traditional opposition to the region’s authoritarian status quo.

The angst over political Islam among Abu Dhabi’s elite emanates from the belief that the narratives of Islam, once married with political objectives, can no longer be controlled by the state or the regime, creating a potential civil-societal dynamic that could undermine the status quo. The Arab Spring was a case in point.

Hence, as the old authoritarian status quo started to crumble in 2011, the UAE was quick to mobilise its financial and military power to shape the region’s future sociopolitical trajectory. From Libya, to Egypt, to Yemen and Sudan, the UAE has been the region’s foremost counterrevolutionary force, trying to install or support regimes that contain civil society, champion military rule and remain immune to the appeal of political Islam.

Whitewashing authoritarian crackdowns

But what Abu Dhabi needed was an alternative narrative, one that was able to whitewash authoritarian crackdowns as counterterrorist operations promoting secular “tolerance”.

Sufism, a politically quietist branch of Islam embracing its more intrinsic virtues, offered exactly that: an alternative narrative of Islam based on a more palatable version of a religion that has widely been vilified in the West.

As the self-proclaimed champion of counterterrorism, Abu Dhabi has used Sufism skilfully to represent the “true Islam” - one that offers an apparent panacea for curing the extremist elements of Salafism, while providing a simplistic ontological basis for counter-extremism that entirely rests on theology, thereby neglecting the empirical evidence of sociopolitical factors driving extremism.

In so doing, Abu Dhabi has nurtured theological centres in Libya, Egypt and the UAE, which would propagate a version of Islam that at first sight is quietist, but at a closer look is just as political in its instrumentalisation as other forms of political Islam.

When the 2016 Grozny conference on Sunni Islam, jointly financed by the UAE and Egypt and coordinated by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov - a personal friend of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed - called for a return to a more “tolerant” version of Islam that rejected political activism, the message was political. 

When the UAE’s Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, led by Sufi scholar Sheikh Abdallah bin Bayyah, called for the separation of mosque and state, the message was political, calling for the de-politicisation of civil society and making obedience to the political ruler an Islamic virtue.

Likewise, when bin Bayyah’s student, American Islamic scholar Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, outlawed rebellion against the political leadership, the message was political. When Aref al-Nayed, a Sufi scholar from Libya who served as Libya’s ambassador to the UAE and now heads the Dubai-based Islamic think tank Kalam, designated Islamist revolutionaries in Libya as terrorists, the message was political.

Maintaining regime legitimacy

Instrumentalised as a geopolitical soft power tool by the UAE via the promotion of theological centres, conferences and scholars, Sufism becomes a not-so-quietist counterpole to Salafism. It provides the moral justification for clamping down on political opposition and civil society, offering a theological foundation for the moral equivalence between Islamism and terrorism - both vital elements of Abu Dhabi’s communications strategy in the region.

When Libya’s Khalifa Haftar indiscriminately uses violence to advance on the UN-backed government in Tripoli; when Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi violently clamps down on dissidents; or when the Southern Transitional Council runs torture camps for Islamists in Yemen, the UAE’s theological (dis)information network provides ideological justification.

In so doing, the UAE has politicised the secularisation of politics as a means to ideologically make sense of its foreign policy objectives. It has become instrumental to the maintenance of regime legitimacy in Libya, Egypt and Abu Dhabi, and features as a central theme in the meta-narrative of “tolerance” - a narrative that preaches tolerance for religious coexistence, while legitimising intolerance towards those who oppose the sociopolitical status quo.

Full report at:

https://www.middleeasteye.net/opinion/uaes-foreign-policy-far-secular

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Saudi Islamic affairs minister, Malaysian counterpart discuss moderation, rejection of extremism

January 21, 2020

RIYADH: Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Asheikh on Tuesday received Malaysia’s Islamic Affairs Minister Dr. Mujahid Yusof. Al-Asheikh briefed him on his ministry’s efforts to spread Islam according to the approach of moderation and rejection of extremism.

Hajj and Umrah Minister Dr. Mohammed Saleh Bentin received the Malaysian minister on Monday. They discussed Malaysian pilgrims’ affairs and early preparations to serve them.

The two sides signed an agreement that organizes the arrival of pilgrims coming from Malaysia, and arranges services to be provided for them during their stay at the holy sites.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1616376/saudi-arabia

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Muslim World League chief heads delegation to genocide sites in Bosnia and Poland

January 22, 2020

MAKKAH: The secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL), Dr. Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, will lead a high-level delegation of Islamic scholars from various sects to visit the site of the  genocide at Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the death camp at Auschwitz in Poland.

The visits come as part of an international tour to sites of injustice and persecution by members of the league, to condemn the heinous crimes committed against humanity, regardless of the identity or values of the perpetrators or victims.

As representatives of the MWL, the delegation will show its solidarity with all victims, in accordance with the peaceful values of Islam.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1616411/saudi-arabia

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Isis founding member confirmed by spies as group's new leader

20 Jan 2020

The new leader of Islamic State has been confirmed as Amir Mohammed Abdul Rahman al-Mawli al-Salbi, according to officials from two intelligence services. He is one of the terror group’s founding members and has led the enslavement of Iraq’s Yazidi minority and has overseen operations around the globe.

The Guardian has learned that Salbi was named leader hours after the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in October. The name that the group gave for Baghdadi’s replacement at the time, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi, was a nom de guerre not recognised by other senior leaders or intelligence agencies.

In the three months since the raid that killed Baghdadi, a fuller picture of Salbi has been pieced together by regional and western spies, placing him at the centre of Isis decision-making – and that of its forerunners – and portraying him as a hardened veteran in the same vein as Baghdadi, unflinching in his loyalty to the extremist group.

Salbi is considered to be one of the most influential ideologues among the now depleted ranks of Isis. Born into an Iraqi Turkmen family in the town of Tal Afar, he is one of the few non-Arabs among the leadership.

He is also known by the nom de guerre Haji Abdullah, and in some circles as Abdullah Qardash – although Iraqi officials suggest the latter was a separate Isis figure who died two years ago.

Salbi, as intelligence officials now know him, rose through the ranks helped by his background as an Islamic scholar and gave religious rulings that underwrote the genocide against Yazidis and the emptying of the Nieveh Plains in northern Iraq during the height of the Isis rampage. Salbi holds a degree in sharia law from the University of Mosul. In 2004 he was detained by US forces in Camp Bucca prison in southern Iraq where he met Baghdadi. He is believed to have at least one son.

Before Baghdadi’s death in a US military raid in north-west Syria on 27 October, the US state department put a $5m bounty on Salbi’s head and on two other senior members of the group. Salbi was touted as a potential replacement for the ailing Baghdadi in August but confirmation of his appointment took several months to secure.

Since then he is understood to have been trying to consolidate the new Isis leadership, nearly all of whom apart from Salbi himself are drawn from a new generation who were too young to play roles in Isis’s founding battles against US forces from 2004 or in the Iraqi civil war that followed.

Isis is yet to regain anything like the juggernaut-like momentum that led to it threatening the regional order after Baghdadi proclaimed himself a caliph of the Islamic world in mid-2014. However, it has shown signs of regrouping since it lost its last foothold of land in the deserts of eastern Syria in March last year.

Kurdish forces in northern Iraq have warned since last summer of an increase in attacks in the centre and north of the country. Isis claimed to have carried out 106 attacks between 20 and 26 December to avenge the deaths of Baghdadi and the Isis propaganda chief, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, on the same day.

A senior Iraqi Kurdish official said: “We’ve seen significant uptick in Isis attacks from mid last year, with the centre of gravity having now moved further south. We’re now tracking on average 60 attacks a month through assassinations, roadside bombs and assaults on Iraqi security forces.

“Their rural networks remain very much intact; after all, Isis members in Iraq still receive monthly salaries and training in remote mountainous areas. That network allows the organisation to endure, even when militarily defeated.”

The hunt for Salbi has extended to Turkey where his brother, Adel Salbi, is a representative in a political party called the Turkmen Iraqi Front. The new Isis leader is thought to have maintained connections with his brother until he was named as leader.

Intelligence officials have little insight into his whereabouts but suggest he is unlikely to have followed Baghdadi to Idlib province and would have preferred to stay in a small band of towns to the west of Mosul.

The city of Mosul itself has been a refuge for what remains of the group’s leaders and rank and file, who have attempted to melt back into communities that are steadily rebuilding after five years of war and dislocation.

Another senior Isis figure who used religious credentials to offer rulings, Shifa al-Nima, was arrested last week in a Mosul suburb. He was taken to a detention centre on a flatbed truck as he weighed 254kg (nearly 40st) and was unable to walk.

Iraqi officials said Nima regularly ordered the execution of clerics and security officials who did not abide by the rigid decrees of the organisation.

Across the border in Syria, officials are still struggling to contain what British, French and other European officials regard as the biggest residual threat posed by Isis – two large detention centres set up to house members of the group and their families who fled its last redoubt.

Al-Hol and al-Roj camps, controlled by Syrian Kurdish forces, remain hotbeds of extremism. Corners of al-Hol camp in particular remain off-limits to security forces and there have been widespread reports of hardline religious instruction being given by female members of the group regarded as irreconcilables. Kurdish sources have spoken of indoctrination taking place and other members of the camp being intimidated and harassed by hardliners.

What to do with the foreign Isis prisoners in Syria, thought to number around 2,000, has vexed European officials who fear both a mass breakout from overstretched prisons and the political consequences of allowing citizens who had travelled to join Isis to return home.

Full report at:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/20/isis-leader-confirmed-amir-mohammed-abdul-rahman-al-mawli-al-salbi

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Iraqi forces make more arrests in anti-ISIS crackdown as attack kills soldier

January 19-2020

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service announced on Sunday that it had arrested of a senior member of the Islamic State in the western city of Fallujah after a terrorist attack by the group killed a soldier and wounded two others at an Iraqi army post in a town south of Kirkuk.

The Counter-Terrorism Service posted on its Twitter account that its forces were able to “arrest the security official of the Fallujah region, in continuation of the pursuit of terrorist networks.” The service did not indicate the identity of the detainee, nor did it publish his photo, an often questionable practice that Iraqi security forces.

In a similar operation in Anbar province, where Fallujah is located, the anti-terror agency announced that it had arrested a “wanted terrorist” and had found two weapons and ammunition caches in the Khalidiya area, found by relying on confessions of previous detainees to locate him.

Over the past few days, Iraqi security forces have launched a number of security campaigns to track down Islamic State sleeper cells in areas that were previously under their control.

On Thursday in Mosul, Iraqi police arrested what was they said was a chief figure in the extremist organization, its so-called Mufti in Mosul. During the Islamic State's occupation of the city of Mosul in 2014, Shifa issued a fatwa, a religious edict, authorizing the bombing of the prophet Jonah's tomb in the city in 2014.

Read More: Iraqi police arrest ISIS religious official in eastern Mosul

Three days earlier, the Iraqi military communications center announced the arrest of six other alleged terrorists.

Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State in 2017, but senior military leaders have warned that the organization is still maintaining activity through sleeper cells, exercising the strongest influence in tracts rural Iraq.

From their hideouts in bleak and inhospitable parts of the country, the terror group’s sleeper cells have planned and launched a series of attacks on security forces in Nineveh, Anbar, Salahuddin, Diyala, and Kirkuk provinces.

Full report at:

https://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/9bd5a4f1-765c-4dda-94b8-99f0d5cb0c2b

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Saudi dismisses reports crown prince is behind hacking of Amazon boss Bezos' phone

January 22, 2020

Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday that a media report that the Kingdom is behind the hacking of Amazon.com Inc founder Jeff Bezos' phone was "absurd".

Bezos' phone was hacked in 2018 after receiving a WhatsApp message that had been sent from the personal account of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, The Guardian had reported on Tuesday, citing sources.

The encrypted message from the number used by the crown prince is believed to have included a malicious file that infiltrated the phone Bezos had used and extracted large amounts of data within hours, the report said. The newspaper, while quoting "Saudi experts", which include dissidents, said that the alleged hack may be a result of Bezos' ownership of The Washington Post, which published articles written by slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which were critical of the Kingdom.

The relationship between the Amazon chief executive and the Saudi government had soured since early last year after he alluded to Saudi Arabia's displeasure at The Washington Post's coverage of the murder of Khashoggi.

The Guardian further said that the findings of a forensic analysis of Bezos' phone have also been seen by United Nations special rapporteur Agnès Callamard, who has found enough evidence to approach Saudi Arabia for an explanation over the matter. Callamard had also investigated Khashoggi's murder and had found "credible evidence" to implicate the Saudi crown prince and other members of the Kingdom's administration.

Bezos' security chief said at the time that Saudi had access to his phone and gained private information from it involving text messages between him and a former television anchor, who the National Enquirer tabloid newspaper said Bezos was dating.

Saudi Arabia however maintained it had nothing to do with the leaked media reports or the alleged hacking of Bezos' phone.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1529872/saudi-dismisses-reports-crown-prince-is-behind-hacking-of-amazon-boss-bezos-phone

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MP: US Forces to Fully Evacuate Iraq by Yearend

Jan 21, 2020

"We will witness the end of the US forces' presence in Iraq in the current year," Ali al-Qanemi, a senior member of the Iraqi parliament's security and defense committee, told the Arabic-language Baghdad al-Youm news website on Tuesday.

He added that the parliament's decision to expel the US forces is binding on the government, adding that Baghdad is adopting the necessary measures to this end.

Al-Qanem said after the parliament's decision and given the conditions in Iraq, the US forces have no reason to continue their presence in the country.

In early January, the Iraqi parliament voted to expel coalition forces over a US drone attack near Baghdad International airport that assassinated Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Qods Force Commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), or Hashad al-Shabi, five Iranian, and five Iraqi militaries.

"The Iraqi government must work to end the presence of any foreign troops on Iraqi soil and prohibit them from using its land, airspace or water for any reason," the parliament's resolution read.

The US State Department, in turn, stated that any new

Following the vote in the Iraqi parliament, the administration of President Donald Trump expressed its keen disappointment over the decision.

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13981101000525

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UN chief says will work with new Lebanese govt on reforms

22 January 2020

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres welcomed the formation of a new Lebanese government on Wednesday and will work with the new premier to support reforms in the heavily indebted country grappling with an urgent economic crisis.

A statement issued by Guterres’ spokesperson also said the United Nations was committed to supporting “Lebanon’s strengthening of its sovereignty, stability and political independence”.

Lebanon formed a new government under Prime Minister Hassan Diab after the Shia Hezbollah movement and its allies agreed on a cabinet after weeks of wrangling over portfolios.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/22/UN-secretary-general-welcomes-new-Lebanon-government.html

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Lebanese protesters block roads in Beirut after new government announced

22 January 2020

Lebanese protesters blocked roads in the capital Beirut on Wednesday morning, the day after the new government was formed, according to Lebanese media sources.

Lebanon formed a new government on Tuesday under Prime Minister Hassan Diab, backed by the Iranian-allied Hezbollah and allies including President Michel Aoun.

Demonstrators overnight Tuesday took to the streets in protest against the new government with people gathering in front of one of the entrances leading to the parliament in the center of the capital.

Further protests are expected after protesters widely condemned the new government and continued to call for an end to corruption and the current sectarian system.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/22/Lebanese-protesters-block-roads-in-Beirut-after-new-government-announced.html

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At least 10 protesters killed over two days: Iraq human rights commission

22 January 2020

At least 10 protesters were killed in Iraq on Monday and Tuesday, the country's semi-official human rights commission said on Tuesday evening.

Another 88 people were arrested as protesters blocked main roads in the capital Baghdad, as well as in Basra and Nassirieh.

Clashes erupted for the third consecutive day in Baghdad's Aviation Square and in a number of southern cities, including Basra, Karbala, and Najaf. The protesters, mostly young men, threw stones and Molotov cocktails at the police, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

In a speech during a parliamentary session, the caretaker Prime Minister, Adil Abdul Mahdi, said that his country is in a complex regional and international situation, pointing out that the state is in an embarrassing situation with its "citizens and other countries."

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/22/At-least-10-protesters-killed-over-two-days-Iraq-human-rights-commission.html

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Protesters condemn Hassan Diab’s new government in Lebanon

22 January 2020

Lebanese protesters denounced the country’s new government and vowed to continue demonstrations on Wednesday.

“This is an anti-people government, it is a sectarian government which is not representative of the social and demographic terrain of the Lebanese population”, said 62-year-old engineer Abdullah Hassan.

Hassan had gathered alongside other protesters on Tuesday night in reaction to the announcement of a new government under Prime Minister Hassan Diab.

While protesters have demanded a government of technocrats and new elections, the new cabinet is backed by many of the establishment parties which protesters have denounced, including Iranian-backed Hezbollah and President Michel Aoun’s allied Free Patriotic Movement.

“It feels like day one in terms of the things we asked for, instead they got new images of old members, they are exactly the same as before, just with different masks,” said school teacher Farah.

The heavily indebted country has been without effective government since Saad Hariri resigned as premier in October, prompted by protests against a political elite seen as having caused the crisis through state corruption.

Hariri and his Future Movement have stayed out of the government, along with the staunchly anti-Hezbollah Christian Lebanese Forces party and the Progressive Socialist Party of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt.

Weeks of wrangling over portfolios among Hezbollah’s allies held up an agreement until Tuesday, when the heavily armed group delivered an ultimatum to its allies to make a deal or suffer the consequences, sources familiar with the talks said.

The cabinet is made up of 20 specialist ministers backed by parties. Economist Ghazi Wazni was nominated finance minister with the backing of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. Nassif Hitti, a former ambassador to the Arab League, was named foreign minister with the backing of Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement.

While Eddy Nader, a 31-year-old digital marketing manager, said that not all the new ministers are corrupt, he added that “they aren’t able to do anything.”

“The establishment is too strong, they have a strong position against the people”, he added.

American University of Beirut student, Nathalie Bissat, 25, said the government formation is “useless as long as the system which we’re trying to demolish is still in place, no matter what they form right now, it’s just stalling.”

Online, analysts and activists also voiced their concern.

Lebanese activist Sara Assaf tweeted saying “For nearly 100 days, we asked for a technocrat independent Govt, aiming to fight corruption and restore national & international trust. We got the exact opposite, a govt fully controlled by Nasrallah & Bassil! Expect more protests, road blocks and violence!”

Sara Assaf

@SaraAssaf

For nearly 100 days, we asked for a technocrat independent Govt, aiming to fight corruption and restore national & international trust.

We got the exact opposite, a govt fully controlled by Nasrallah & Bassil!

Expect more protests, road blocks and violence!#Lebanon

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Other analysts said that Hezbollah’s role in the government’s formation meant it might have difficulty convincing other states to provide urgently needed financial support.

“It will certainly not be easy for a government of this type to convince the outside world to help Lebanon.” Nabil Boumonsef, deputy editor-in-chief of the An-Nahar newspaper, said in comments on the new government.

Mohanad Hage Ali, a fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Center, said the new government of “one colour” could further polarise Lebanese politics. Hariri’s absence meant that old Sunni-Shiite tensions might be reactivated, said Ali.

On Twitter, Lebanese celebrities also criticized the new government. Lebanese singer Elissa summarized the mood in a one-word tweet, describing the new government as a “joke.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/22/Hassan-Diab-s-new-government-could-further-polarize-Lebanese-politics.html

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Lebanon needs foreign support, decision on Eurobond: New finance minister

22 January 2020

Lebanon’s new government needs foreign support to help it rescue the country from an unprecedented economic and financial crisis, the finance minister said on Wednesday hours after he was named.

The government must make a decision on a $1.2 billion Eurobond maturing in March, Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni also told local broadcaster al-Jadeed.

He said the Cabinet has to restore confidence because the country was in a state of collapse.

Earlier on Tuesday, Prime Minister Hassan Diab vowed that his newly-unveiled government would strive to meet the demands of a three-month-old protest movement demanding radical change.

One of the government’s first tasks will be to decide its approach to looming sovereign bond repayments, including a $1.2 billion Eurobond maturing in March.

Lebanon’s union of exchange dealers said on Tuesday it had decided to set the exchange rate at a maximum of 2,000 pounds to the US dollar in agreement with the central bank governor.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/22/Lebanon-needs-foreign-support-decision-on-Eurobond-New-finance-minister-.html

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Russian air strikes in Syria kill 12 civilians: Monitor

21 January 2020

Russian air strikes on several locations in northern Syria on Tuesday killed at least 12 civilians, including seven children, a war monitoring group said.

Two of the victims were killed in a southeastern area of Idlib province while the other 10 died in a western region of neighbouring Aleppo province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/21/Russian-air-strikes-in-Syria-kill-12-civilians-Monitor.html

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Iraq’s caretaker PM Abdul Mahdi condemns attack near US Embassy

21 January 2020

Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi condemned the attack near the US Embassy on Tuesday, the Iraqi News Agency (INA) reported on Telegram.

“Targeting the US Embassy is a crime committed against a diplomatic mission on Iraqi grounds,” INA quoted Abdul Mahdi as saying.

He also instructed Baghdad Operations to immediately investigate the attack and find those behind it.

Two rockets landed near the US embassy in Baghdad early Tuesday morning, according to security sources.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/21/Iraq-s-caretaker-PM-Abdul-Mahdi-condemns-attack-near-US-Embassy.html

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Saudi Council of Ministers says it backs Cyprus in territorial dispute

21 January 2020

Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers expressed on Tuesday the Kingdom’s full support for Cyprus’ sovereignty over its territories.

Cyprus is currently in a dispute with Turkey after Ankara continued to pursue oil and gas drilling in territory which is recognized as Cypriot.

After the meeting, which was chaired by King Salman bin Abdulaziz, the minister of media said that the Kingdom is following the recent developments in the Middle East with great interest, adding that the council expressed its concerns for security and stability in the region.

Turki al-Shabhanah also renewed the Kingdom’s call for all parties to abide by the UN Security Council’s resolutions to resolve any dispute, in order to maintain international peace and security and stability.

The meeting was held to discuss the “Women, Business, and the Law” report that was issued by the World Bank, and the Kingdom’s classification as the economy that made the biggest progress globally toward gender equality since 2017.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/01/21/Saudi-Council-of-Ministers-says-it-backs-Cyprus-in-territorial-dispute.html

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Lebanon’s Hariri says he does not want to return to premiership

21 January 2020

Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri says he does not intend to return to the premiership and head a new government, stating that he has moved on from the post and that he is not obstructing the formation of a new cabinet amid a deep financial crisis.

“Analyses that say the obstruction of government formation is linked to my return to the premiership are simply delusions and undisguised attempts to make me responsible for the obstruction,” Hariri wrote in a series of posts published on his official Twitter page on Tuesday.

Saad Hariri

@saadhariri

التحليلات التي تتحدث عن سيناريوهات تربط عرقلة تأليف الحكومة بترتيب عودتي إلى رئاسة الحكومة مجرد أوهام ومحاولات مكشوفة لتحميلي مسؤولية العرقلة وخلافات أهل الفريق السياسي الواحد. ١/٣

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He added, “My decisive decision is that [the premiership] is behind me, and that my resignation responded to people’s anger in order to open the way for a new phase.”

Hariri then rejected rumors that he is behind the delay in the formation of a new government, reiterating his call for the formation of a new government.

Saad Hariri

@saadhariri

21h

Replying to @saadhariri

قراري حاسم بأن كرسي السلطة صارت خلفي وان استقالتي استجابت لغضب الناس كي تفتح الطريق لمرحلة جديدة ولحكومة تنصرف إلى العمل وتطوي صفحة المراوحة في تصريف الأعمال. ٢/٣

Saad Hariri

@saadhariri

أما للمتخوفين من هذه السيناريوهات والقائلين بان أحداً من أولياء أمر التأليف لم يعد يريد #سعد_الحريري في رئاسة الحكومة فأقول ؛ سعد الحريري اتخذ قراره ومفتاح القرار بيده .. فتشوا عمن سرق مفاتيح التأليف وأقفل  الأبواب على ولادة الحكومة. ٣/٣ #لبنان #لبنان_ينتفض

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Amnesty: Excessive force against Lebanon protests must stop

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has warned against the excessive use of force against protesters over the weekend that left hundreds of people injured.

We call on Lebanon to stop using excessive force against protesters. Over 400 people were injured as security forces cracked down on protests in Lebanon,” the human rights group wrote in a post published on its official Twitter page on Tuesday.

Amnesty International

@amnesty

❗️ We call on #Lebanon to stop using excessive force against protesters ❗️

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Although mostly peaceful protesters, anti-riot police used water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets and batons. Injuries included suffocation, broken limbs and severe wounds,” it added.

Parliament 2020 budget session postponed to Jan. 27-28

Separately, a parliament session set to discuss and endorse the draft 2020 state budget was postponed until next week.

Lebanon’s official National News Agency said on Tuesday that legislators were initially scheduled to hold sessions on January 22-23, but it was postponed until January 27-28.

National News Agency

@NNALeb

ارجاء جلسة مناقشة الموازنة الى 27 و28 الحاليhttp://nna-leb.gov.lb/ar/show-news/457836/27-28 …

ارجاء جلسة مناقشة الموازنة الى 27 و28 الحالي

وطنية - أرجئت الجلسة النيابية التي كانت مقررة في الساعة الحادية عشرة من قبل ظهر يومي الاربعاء والخميس في 22 و23 من الشهر الحالي لمناقشة الموازنة العامة والموازنات الملحقة لعام 2020 الى الساعة الحادية

nna-leb.gov.lb

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Lebanon is hoping to reduce its budget deficit and push through economic reforms amid worsening economic and political crises.

Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab has vowed to form a government made up of “independent specialists,” who do not belong to political parties.

Nabih Berri, who serves as both the parliament speaker and leader of the Amal movement, as well as Hezbollah officials have called for the formation of a techno-political government, which embraces and represents all parties.

Lebanon has been facing a very tough economic situation because of the failing policies of successive governments, which have led to the impoverishment of the people.

Growth in Lebanon has plummeted in the wake of endless political deadlocks and an economic crisis in recent years.

The country hosts 1.5 million Syrian refugees, and their presence is often blamed for putting pressure on the already struggling economy.

Unemployment stands at more than 20 percent, according to official figures.

The Lebanese Finance Ministry says the national debt is hovering around $85 billion, which accounts for more than 150 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Successive governments have also failed to address a waste management crisis or improve the electricity grid, which is plagued by daily power cuts.

On October 29, Hariri submitted his resignation to President Michel Aoun.

Under the constitution, Hariri’s cabinet would stay on in a caretaker capacity until a new government is formed.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/21/616734/Lebanon%E2%80%99s-Hariri-says-he-does-not-want-to-return-to-premiership

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Saudi Islamic affairs minister, Malaysian counterpart discuss moderation, rejection of extremism

January 21, 2020

RIYADH: Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Asheikh on Tuesday received Malaysia’s Islamic Affairs Minister Dr. Mujahid Yusof. Al-Asheikh briefed him on his ministry’s efforts to spread Islam according to the approach of moderation and rejection of extremism.

Hajj and Umrah Minister Dr. Mohammed Saleh Bentin received the Malaysian minister on Monday. They discussed Malaysian pilgrims’ affairs and early preparations to serve them.

The two sides signed an agreement that organizes the arrival of pilgrims coming from Malaysia, and arranges services to be provided for them during their stay at the holy sites.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1616376/saudi-arabia

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Iranian MP announces $3 million award for ‘whoever kills Trump’

21 January 2020

An Iranian lawmaker announced a 3 million dollar award to “whoever kills Trump”, Iranian semi-official News agency reported.

“On behalf of people of Kerman province, we will pay 3 million dollar award in cash to whoever kills Trump,” Ahmad Hamzeh told parliamentarians, according to ISNA.

He did not elaborate whether it was a decision made by Iran’s clerical rulers to threaten US President Donald Trump.

Kerman is the hometown of Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top commander of the Quds Force who was killed by a US drone on Jan. 3 in Iraq.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/21/Iranian-MP-announces-3-million-award-for-whoever-kills-Trump-.html

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Adel al-Jubeir: Iran ‘largest sponsor of terrorism in the world’

22 January 2020

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir called on the International community to continue its pressure on the Iranian regime to change its destructive behavior in the region, branding the Islamic Republic as “the largest sponsor of terrorism in the world.”

During a session hosted by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament convened in Brussels, Minister al-Jubeir tackled several issues affecting the stability of the region.

He said Saudi Arabia extended its hand to Iran since 1979 but seen nothing “but death and destruction.”

“They [the Iranian regime] do not believe in the principle of non-interference. They are the largest sponsor of terrorism in the world, that’s why we have a problem with Iran,” said al-Jubeir in front of the European Parliament.

He added that “pressure needs to be continued on Iran” so that it changes its behavior in the region.

Speaking about the unprecedented protests in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, al-Jubeir said Iranian regime is losing influence internally and regionally.

“Now the Iranians [Iranian regime] are on the defensive, they have demonstrations in Iran, you have Shiite demonstrating in Iraq against Iran’s influence and you have demonstrations in Lebanon against Hezbollah. These are all reactions to Iran’s aggressive policies in the region,” said al-Jubeir.

Regarding the Yemeni crisis, al-Jubeir affirmed the kingdom’s stance toward achieving a political solution to end the war in Yemen.

“We have worked on de-escalation. The Houthis have reduced their missile attacks against Saudi Arabia. Military operations in Yemen are now substantially reduced - by 80 percent. There have been confidence building measures associated with ports and airports and exchange of prisoners.”

Al-Jubeir pointed out that the international community stopped short of blaming the Iranian-allied Houthi militia for the killing and the maiming of thousands of innocent Yemenis. “Nobody said anything, and we get blamed. There is something fundamentally wrong with this picture,” he said.

He said Saudi Arabia provided $14 billion to Yemen in economic and humanitarian assistance, “more than any country in the world” but the Houthis stole that assistance.

Al-Jubeir said the Houthi militia launched more than 300 ballistic missile attacks against the kingdom and more than 200 drone attacks and nobody blamed these acts.

“The Houthis besieged towns and villages and lead their people to starve and the coalition [Arab coalition supporting the Yemeni legitimate government] gets the blame.”

He said the European Union has an important military and economic role to play in the region.

Regarding the Qatar crisis, al-Jubeir said the problem still exists and that “it is up to the Qatari brothers to come up with a change in their behavior that would allow the way to move forward.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/01/22/Adel-al-Jubei-Iran-largest-sponsor-of-terrorism-in-the-world-.html

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Israeli PM vows to annex Jordan Valley, all West Bank settlements if re-elected

22 January 2020

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has doubled down on his pledge to annex the Jordan Valley and all the settlements in the West Bank as the Israeli elections draw near.

In a speech launching his right-wing Likud party’s election campaign in Jerusalem al-Quds on Tuesday, Netanyahu vowed to “apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and the Northern Dead Sea … without delay and without any veto of [senior Arab-majority Joint List lawmaker] Ahmad Tibi.”

“Not only will we not uproot anyone, we will apply Israeli law to all Israeli settlements without exception,” he added.

The remarks came hours after Netanyahu’s main rival, Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz, said he would work to advance the annexation of the Jordan Valley “in coordination with the international community” if he wins the March 2 general elections.

Netanyahu urged Gantz not to wait until after the elections, but rather support the measure if it is brought before the Israeli parliament (Knesset) for a vote.

“Why wait until after the elections if it is possible to apply sovereignty over the Jordan Valley already with broad agreement in the Knesset? Benny Gantz, I expect your answer this evening, unless Ahmad Tibi vetoed you,” the Israeli premier said.

Gantz retorted by tweeting, “First we’ll discuss immunity and then we’ll manage applying sovereignty,” referring to Netanyahu’s request from the Knesset to be exempt from prosecution in the three corruption cases he is charged with.

In September 2019, right before the last elections, Netanyahu vowed that if re-elected, he planned to annex additional “vital” parts of the West Bank beyond the Jordan Valley and the major settlement blocs, and do so in coordination with the United States.

The cabinet agreed to turn the wildcat settlement of Mevoot Yericho in the Jordan Valley into an official settlement.

Shortly later, however, the Israeli prime minister said that he had been told by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit that a transition government could not make such a move so close to an election.

The Jordan Valley is a fertile strip of land that accounts for roughly one quarter of the West Bank. Approximately 70,000 Palestinians and some 9,500 Israeli settlers currently live in the Jordan Valley.

Palestine urges action on Israeli land theft

The office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a statement that the calls to annex areas of the West Bank would “undermine the foundations of the peace process” and regional stability.

Additionally Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour told a UN Security Council meeting that “neither threats nor attempts at annexation should go unchallenged.”

“The urgency of stopping Israeli annexation schemes cannot be underestimated; immediate action is needed before it is too late,” he said, noting that the UN Charter’s prohibition on acquiring territory by force must be upheld along with Security Council resolutions reaffirming the illegality of Israeli settlements.

Moreover, UN political chief Rosemary DiCarlo reiterated that “all settlements are illegal under international law and remain an obstacle to peace” and warned against any annexation bid.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/22/616790/Israel-Benjamin-Netanyahu-annex-Jordan-Valley

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Palestine urges EU to take tougher stand on Israel's 'open battle' against occupied Jerusalem al-Quds

21 January 2020

The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates has criticized the European Union for its “weak and late” measures vis-à-vis the Israeli regime’s activities across Palestinian territories, particularly in Jerusalem al-Quds, calling on the 28-member bloc to adopt a firmer stand against the Tel Aviv regime’s “open battle” against the occupied holy city.

“The Occupation (Israel) has established a sort of immunity against any effects and consequences of statements issued by the European Union or its individual member states as it continues to commit crimes against our people, throwing against the wall all the international condemnations, pleas and expressions of concern,” the ministry said in a statement released on Tuesday.

Wafa News Agency

@WAFA_PS

"الخارجية": الاتحاد الأوروبي مطالب بموقف أقوى في مواجهة المعركة المفتوحة على القدس

 http://www.wafa.ps/ar_page.aspx?id=BRQHzPa868802015532aBRQHzP …

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The statement noted that “contentment with statements of rejection of occupation measures remains shy, weak and late, and does not rise to the level of the problem and the responsibilities of the European Union and its member states.”

The Palestinian foreign ministry then called on the EU “to take a stronger position to confront the open battle over Jerusalem al-Quds.”

The statement also pointed to the Israeli regime’s continued crimes the Palestinian nation, mentioning the seizure of residential buildings, expulsion of their residents and subsequent handover to settlers or Judaic associations as well as distribution of demolition notices among dozens of Palestinian families.

The ministry later talked about the Israeli regime’s daily provocations at al-Aqsa Mosque plus Palestinian schools in Jerusalem al-Quds and settlement construction, calling on the EU to adopt a more effective stance to stop the acts of aggression.

Israel has been occupying the West Bank, including East al-Quds, since 1967. Ever since, it has been building settlements throughout the land, in a move condemned by the United Nations and considered illegal under international law.

International bodies and rights groups say Israeli demolitions of Palestinian structures in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds are an attempt to uproot Palestinians from their native territory and confiscate more land for the expansion of illegal settlements.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/21/616761/Palestine-urges-EU-to-take-tougher-stand-on-Israel-battle-on-occupied-Jerusalem-al-Quds

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Hezbollah's threat to Israel rises amid Lebanon chaos

January 19, 2020

Lebanon's political crisis escalated this weekend, with hundreds of civilians wounded in running street battles against security forces. The chaos will increase the Lebanese Hezbollah's temptation to lash out at Israel to unify the nation against a common enemy.

At the source of tensions here is a months-long political and economic crisis.

Infuriated by decades of corruption and mismanagement, and an Iranian-engineered political system that prioritizes sectarian cronyism over efficient public services, the Lebanese people are demanding wholesale reform. But the political class won't give it to them. Prime Minister Saad Hariri's pro-Western Future Movement is sympathetic to reform, but Hariri is a weak and uncertain leader. He lacks the tenacity to challenge Hezbollah. And that's the key here.

Built around a mixture of patronage and thuggery, Hezbollah and its Amal ally have reinforced the rot at the heart of Beirut politics. With the support of its March 8 alliance partner, President Michel Aoun and his Free Patriotic Movement party, Hezbollah has been able to veto or water down any reform plans. Instead, Hezbollah has thrown its support behind new Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab. Their hope is that Diab's token reforms might end the protests and attract much-needed international loans. But it hasn't worked. Diab is rightly seen by protesters as a tool of the elites. They're demanding a technocratic government beyond the reach of the elites, and they're refusing to accept anything but that.

The problem for Hezbollah is that the larger these protests become and the longer they continue, the greater threat Lebanon's political class faces. Energy and water shortages are increasing, banks are restricting withdrawals, and the nation's finances are near to imploding. And led by the United States and France, the international community is refusing to provide a financial lifeline unless reform comes first.

In turn, Hezbollah must look for alternate means of diluting the protest energy. Lashing out at Israel is one obvious area it will consider. Hezbollah recalls how its 2006 war with Israel unified Lebanese from across the sectarian spectrum behind the group's national resistance narrative. Hezbollah has thousands of rockets with which to target Israel, so its threat cannot be considered idle. And it's not simply Israel in the crosshairs here. With Ayatollah Ali Khamenei determined to impose some blood price on America for its killing of Qassem Soleimani, Hezbollah may also target American interests.

Full report at:

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/hezbollah-threat-to-israel-rises-amid-lebanon-chaos

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80 soldiers killed by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen

January 19, 2020

(CNN)At least 80 Yemeni soldiers attending prayers at a mosque were killed and 130 others injured in ballistic missile and drone attacks by Iran-backed Houthi rebels, the UN Special Envoy for Yemen reported Sunday.

"I have said before that the hard-earned progress that Yemen has made on de-escalation is very fragile. Such actions can derail this progress," Martin Griffiths warned, urging all parties to "stop the escalation" and focus energies into policy instead.

The attack happened in the province of Marib on Saturday at a mosque at a military camp, in what Yemen's President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi condemned as a "heinous" and "cowardly terrorist operation committed by the Houthis."

Yemen has been embroiled in a yearslong civil war that has pitted a coalition backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

Yemen's Ministry of Defense said the attack was "to avenge the killing of the Iranian terrorist Qasem Soleimani," who died in a US drone strike in Iraq on January 3. The ministry offered no evidence to show how it might know the rebels' motive.

The attack does come, however, as several nations in the Middle East ready themselves for retaliatory attacks by Iranian-backed militias.

Full report at:

https://edition.cnn.com/2020/01/19/middleeast/yemen-houthi-attack-intl/index.html

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Hamas chief to remain outside Gaza for months: Deputy

22 January 2020

The leader of Palestinian militant group Hamas will remain outside the Gaza Strip the group runs for up to a year, a senior official said Tuesday.

Ismail Haniya left Gaza in December on his first major foreign tour since taking over as the group’s leader in 2017.

He has since visited Turkey, Egypt, and Malaysia as well Iran, for the funeral of Iranian general Qasesm Soleimani, killed by a US air strike in Iraq.

“Haniya will remain abroad and continue to run Hamas until he has completed all the tasks and all the goals of his foreign tour,” the movement’s deputy chief Khalil al-Hayya told journalists.

The trip could last up to a year, he said.

Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, has fought three wars with Israel since 2008 but an uneasy truce has taken hold of late.

Haniya is currently in the Gulf state of Qatar, which is a longtime Hamas ally and allied to the Muslim Brotherhood, in which Hamas has its ideological roots.

The Hamas leader left Gaza via Egypt, the only state apart from Israel to border Gaza.

Hayya admitted the Iranian visit had caused tensions with Egypt, which is allied with Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia.

“Our brothers in Egypt rebuked us for visiting Iran, but (Hamas) has its own independent stance,” Hayya said, saying the visit strengthened “the relationship between Hamas and Iran.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/22/Hamas-chief-to-remain-outside-Gaza-for-months-Deputy-.html

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Israel troops kill three Palestinians who crossed over from Gaza

22 January 2020

Israeli troops on Tuesday shot dead three Palestinians who crossed into Israel from Gaza and hurled an explosive device at soldiers, the army said.

“I can confirm that all three were killed,” an army spokeswoman told AFP.

The army earlier reported that shots had been fired but without detailing Palestinian casualties.

“We just identified 3 terrorists who crossed the security fence from #Gaza into #Israel,” the army wrote on Twitter.

“After our soldiers arrived at the scene, the terrorists hurled an explosive device at them. In response, our soldiers opened fire at the terrorists. Hits were identified.”

Israeli public radio said the raiders penetrated 400 meters (yards) into Israel from central Gaza “under cover of stormy weather” before the troops stopped them.

The army said Israeli civilians living in the vicinity near the border with the Hamas-run Gaza Strip had not been in danger at any time.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/22/Israel-troops-kill-three-Palestinians-who-crossed-over-from-Gaza-.html

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Jailed UK-Australian academic says Iran made spy offer

21 January 2020

An Australian-British academic jailed in Iran for espionage rejected Tehran’s offer to work as a spy, according to letters she smuggled out of prison published in British media Tuesday.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert wrote that the first 10 months she spent in an isolated Revolutionary Guard-run wing of Tehran’s Evin prison had “gravely damaged” her mental health, according to extracts in the Guardian and the Times newspapers.

“I am still denied phone calls and visitations, and I am afraid that my mental and emotional state may further deteriorate if I remain in this extremely restrictive detention ward,” she wrote.

She is serving a 10-year sentence for espionage, charges which she rejected, along with offers to become a spy for Iran.

“Please accept this letter as an official and definitive rejection of your offer to me to work with the intelligence branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps,” she wrote, according to the Guardian.

“I am not a spy. I have never been a spy and I have no interest to work for a spying organisation in any country.

“When I leave Iran, I want to be a free woman and live a free life, not under the shadow of extortion and threats,” she added.

The academic’s arrest was confirmed in September.

She was accused of “spying for another country” but her family said at the time that she had been detained for months before that.

Moore-Gilbert, a lecturer in Islamic studies at the University of Melbourne, claimed she was shown two different decisions to her appeal -- one for a 13-month sentence, another confirming the original sentence of 10 years.

The months in solitary confinement, where the lights remain on for 24 hours a day, had contributed to her being hospitalized, she wrote.

“In the past month I have been to the special care at Baghiatallah Hospital twice and the prison infirmary six times.

“I think I am in the midst of a serious psychological problem.”

The Cambridge University educated academic also said her case manager had taken her books “hostage in order to put psychological pressure on me”.

“In addition, in the past three months I have only had one four-minute phone call with my family,” she wrote, according to extracts in the Times.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/21/Jailed-UK-Australian-academic-says-Iran-made-spy-offer-.html

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Iran confirms reports that two missiles downed Ukraine airliner

21 January 2020

Two missiles were fired at a Ukrainian airliner that was brought down earlier this month, Iran’s civil aviation authority confirmed in a preliminary report posted on its website late Monday.

“Investigators... discovered that two Tor-M1 missiles... were fired at the aircraft,” it said, adding an investigation was ongoing to assess the bearing their impact had on the accident.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/21/Iran-confirms-reports-that-two-missiles-downed-Ukraine-airliner.html

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Dozens of Houthis killed in clashes with Yemeni army

21 January 2020

The Yemeni army destroyed an Iran-backed Houthi battalion and killed several Houthi leaders, according to Yemeni military sources on Tuesday.

The Yemeni Armed Forces announced Tuesday morning that it achieved “great” victories in the Nahm front, east of the capital Sanaa, noting that dozens of Houthis were killed and wounded.

“The National Army managed to liberate a mountain range area in the Nahm Front east of the capital, which was under the control of the Houthi militias, pointing to the army’s continued progress in the midst of desertion and a major collapse amongst [the Houthis],” said a statement issued by the Yemeni Armed Forces' media center on Twitter.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/01/21/Dozens-of-Houthis-killed-in-clashes-with-Yemeni-army.html

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Africa

 

Libya’s Haftar must choose political over military solution: Turkey

21 January 2020

Turkey says Khalifa Haftar, the commander of rebel militia in Libya, must submit to international calls for a political solution to the persisting armed conflict in the North African country.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu made the remark during an interview with Turkish broadcaster NTV at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday, two days after a multinational peace summit was held on the Libyan conflict in the German capital, Berlin.

Since 2014, two rival seats of power have emerged in Libya: the internationally-recognized government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, and another group based in the eastern city of Tobruk, supported militarily by Haftar’s militia.

The rebels launched an offensive to capture the capital, Tripoli, in April last year, interrupting peace negotiations underway at the time. Despite intense fighting, Haftar has so far failed to achieve his objective and his offensive has stalled outside the capital.

On Sunday, leaders from Turkey, Russia, Egypt, France, Italy, Britain, and the United States, as well as Sarraj and Haftar, attended a United Nations (UN)-backed summit in Berlin to help establish a “permanent” ceasefire between the warring sides.

The final communiqué of the day-long summit, the first such event since 2018, called on all the parties concerned in the conflict “to redouble their efforts for a sustained suspension of hostilities, de-escalation and a permanent ceasefire.” Participants also pledged not to interfere in Libya’s internal affairs and its conflict. They also agreed to “fully respect” the arms embargo imposed on the North African country by the UN in 2011.

However, Haftar refused to sign the joint communiqué produced in Berlin.

Cavusoglu further said on Tuesday that Haftar’s refusal to sign the communiqué raised questions about his intent.

“Does Haftar want a political or military solution? Until now, his stance has shown he wants a military one,” the Turkish foreign minister said. “Haftar must immediately fall back to the political solution line and take concrete and positive steps in line with calls of the international community for calm on the ground.”

Turkey reached a military agreement with the Libyan government recently and, on a request from Sarraj, pledged to send troops to the North African country to help his government defend itself against Haftar’s attacks.

However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that Ankara had not yet sent troops to war-torn Libya, stressing that his country had so far only deployed military advisers and trainers there.

The apparent retreat was due to the general agreement in Berlin to refrain from interfering in Libyan affairs.

Pointing to that agreement, Cavusoglu said, “There were calls for no one to send additional forces or weapons there. All participants pledged to abide by this as long as the ceasefire continues.”

He was referring to a ceasefire that has been shakily holding around the capital since January 11. Two days later, Turkey and Russia mediated peace talks between Sarraj and Haftar to shore up that ceasefire; but the talks ended without result when Haftar walked away.

Libya plunged into chaos in 2011, when a popular uprising and a NATO intervention led to the ouster of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi and his execution by unruly fighters.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/21/616736/Turkey-Libya-Haftar-political-solution

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Top al-Shabaab fighter defects in Somalia

22.01.2020

MOGADISHU, Somalia

A senior al-Shabaab fighter who traveled from London to join the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Shabaab militant group in the Horn of Africa has defected to the Somali government.

In an interview with the Voice of America (VOA) published Tuesday, Zubair al-Muhajir, who was born in Ivory Coast and joined al-Shabaab in 2006, said he fell out with the group in 2013 when he was arrested and imprisoned for three years by its elite Al-Amniyat unit, which specializes in carrying out assassinations, choreographing and staging suicide attacks and gathering intelligence.

“I defected because al-Shabaab, they are lying to the Muslims and to the world. They are claiming to implement the Sharia (Islamic law) which is not true because I know from incidents where they went against the Sharia,” he told VOA.

"The reality of their actions is totally against their Sharia – they are killing innocent people and they are lying to the people.

“If the people realize that the ideology is wrong with Islamic proofs, I think al-Shabaab will no longer be there for a long time,” he added.

The Somali government under President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo has an amnesty program for al-Shabaab fighters who have defected. According to Farmajo, its main aim is to “pardon the Somali youth who were misled by al-Shabaab” after they renounce their membership.

Security analysts in East Africa have said the inducement by the Somali government has prompted a significant number of youths to defect from the group.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/top-al-shabaab-fighter-defects-in-somalia/1709801

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Militants kill 36 civilians in Burkina Faso market attack

21 January 2020

Thirty-six civilians were killed in Burkina Faso on Monday in what the government called a terrorist attack on a market in Sanmatenga province.

Armed militants forced their way into the market of the village of Alamou and attacked people there before burning the structure to the ground, the government said in a statement on Tuesday.

The bloodshed is part of a surge in violence in the West African country that has killed hundreds, forced nearly a million from their homes and made much of the north ungovernable over the past two years.

"These repeated attacks on innocent civilians call for real cooperation between defense and security forces," the government said.

President Roch Marc Kabore called for two days of national mourning in response to the attack. It was not immediately clear who was responsible.

Militant groups with links to al-Qaeda and Daesh Takfiri terrorist groups have carried out increasingly brazen attacks against civilian and military targets in Burkina Faso in recent months, including an attack on a mining convoy in November that killed nearly 40 people.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/21/616770/Burkina-Faso-terrorist-attack-Sanmatenga-province

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Nigeria: 17 Soldiers Killed, Several Abducted in Battle With Boko Haram

19 JANUARY 2020

By Michael Olugbode

Maiduguri — Not less than 17 soldiers were killed in confrontations between the military and Boko Haram insurgents along Bama-Gwoza road weekend.

Many soldiers were also said to have been abducted by the insurgents in the confrontations, even as the number of casualties, though also large from the Boko Haram side, could not be ascertained as at the time of filing this report.

The insurgents were said to have attacked Firgi, 20 kilometres north of Pulka along the road from Gwoza to Bama on Friday night.

They were said to have killed 13 soldiers in the crossfire that took over two hours.

The insurgents, whose number of casualties could not be ascertained, were said to have gotten some military retreating.

They were equally said to have carted away some arms, ammunition and vehicles belonging to Nigerian Army.

An impeccable source told our reporter that during the crossfire around 10pm of 17 January, 2020 on Firgi, 20km north of Pulka along the road to Bama, "13 government forces members were killed with four of their vehicles taken away."

The insurgents were back on the same axis the second day, Saturday to continue from where they left.

They were said to have attacked a military company at Banki junction on Bama-Gwoza road at 10 pm.

The battle was said to have been on for about three hours (10pm to 1am), with both sides pushing for victory.

The casualties on the side of the military was four with the record from the insurgents not known.

The insurgents were also said to have abducted yet to be ascertained number of soldiers and carted away arms and ammunition.

Efforts to get confirmation from the military was not successful as at the time of filing this report as text messages to both Col. Sagir Musa, Army spokesman and Col. Isa Ado, spokesman of the military joint task force on counter insurgency in the Northeast (Operation Lafiya Dole) were not responded to.

Meanwhile, the head of the counter insurgency operation in the Northeast (Operation Lafiya Dole), Maj. Gen. Olusegun Adeniyi, said that Boko Haram had failed in the ongoing war against the country.

He equally promised that the military would not allow them an inch of land in Nigeria.

Speaking at a party organized for the troops in Maiduguri on Saturday evening, Adeniyi who led a victory dance, said: "Boko Haram has failed, we are not going to let them get an inch of land in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states."

Adeniyi, who called out officers and soldiers and guests at the get- together to be part of the victory dance, said: "We are happy to dance and shame Boko Haram who do not want us to be happy."

The Army Chief, who was joined in the dance by the Borno Deputy Governor, Alhaji Usman Kadafur, the Guest of Honour at the occasion, said: "I have made a covenant to go after Boko Haram, fight Boko Haram and end their menace."

Responding, Alhaji Kadafur said: "I feel honoured to be Special Guest of Honour.

Full report at:

https://allafrica.com/stories/202001190213.html

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UN confirms Boko Haram attack on key humanitarian facility in Borno

January 20, 2020

The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, on Monday condemned an attack by Boko Haram on one of its buildings in Ngala, a border town in Borno State.

On Saturday, Boko Haram attacked Ngala, the headquarters of the Gamboru-Ngala local government, hitting a building housing UN humanitarian workers.

Due to a lack of communication facilities in Ngala, journalists could not immediately confirm the attack when the rumour filtered to town.

A statement issued by the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said Mr Kallon was outraged and “strongly condemns the attack”.

The statement said the building was the UN’s “main humanitarian accommodation in Ngala.

“I am outraged by the extremely violent attack on this key humanitarian facility where five United Nations staff were staying at the time of the incident,” the UN Humanitarian Coordinator said.

The statement explained that the attack, which occurred on the evening of Saturday, was “a direct target of a complex assault by heavily armed non-state armed groups operatives.

“An entire section of the facility was burned down as well as one of the few vehicles UN agencies rely on for movement and aid delivery.”

The statement added that the”protective security measures deployed at the humanitarian hub” prevented any harm to the staff who were in the facility.

“I am shocked by the violence and intensity of this attack, which is the latest of too many incidents directly targeting humanitarian actors and the assistance we provide,” Mr Kallon stressed.

“I am relieved all staff is now safe and secure. Aid workers, humanitarian facilities and assets cannot be a target and must be protected and respected at all times.”

He added that before the attack, aid workers had been providing assistance to more than 55,000 people in the town of Ngala.

In 2019, over 10,000 people displaced by the violence arrived in Ngala, “searching for security and basic services.

He said humanitarian hubs in Borno State, like the one attacked on Saturday, “are critical to the humanitarian response.”

“They provide operating environments for aid workers in remote locations where some of the most vulnerable people live or have sought refuge.”

“Such incidents have a disastrous effect on the lives of the most vulnerable people who depend on our assistance to survive. Many of them had already fled violence in their area of origin and were hoping to find safety and assistance in Ngala.

“This also jeopardises the ability to aid workers to stay and deliver assistance to the people most in need in remote areas in Borno State.”

Full report at:

https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/373557-un-confirms-boko-haram-attack-on-key-humanitarian-facility-in-borno.html

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Suicide Bombing in Western Chad Kills at Least 9

Jan. 20, 2020

N'DJAMENA, Chad — A suicide bombing has killed at least nine people in western Chad, a local official and a resident said Monday.

A woman set off explosives in a crowd in Kaiga-Kindjiria, a town that has been attacked by Boko Haram insurgents in the past, according to Dimoya Souapelbe, the prefect of the local department of Fouli in the Lake Chad province. He put the toll from Sunday night’s attack at 10 dead and several wounded.

A local humanitarian worker said at least 9 people were dead and two injured. The worker spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak to the press.

Chad has suffered attacks for years by Nigeria’s Boko Haram fighters, who have crossed borders and killed tens of thousands during its 10-year insurgency.

Boko Haram extremists killed at least five people in August in Kaiga-Kindjiria.

Many fighters are in the Lake Chad region, launching attacks in Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger.

https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2020/01/20/world/africa/ap-af-chad-attack.html

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Grenade blast kills five at Sudan wedding: Police

21 January 2020

A grenade detonated by a member of Sudan’s security forces at a wedding party in the capital Khartoum killed himself and four other people, police said late Monday.

It was not immediately clear whether the detonation in the impoverished east Khartoum district of Haj Youssef was accidental or deliberate.

The health ministry said 40 people attending the marriage were also injured.

The security situation in the capital remains fragile after last year’s uprising that led to the ouster of longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir in April following months of protests against his rule.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/21/Grenade-blast-kills-five-at-Sudan-wedding-Police-.html

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French FM Le Drian bolsters Algeria ties in rare visit

22 January 2020

France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian met Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Tuesday, as the North African country’s former colonizer seeks to boost ties and defuse regional conflicts.

Tebboune, who came to power last month in a presidential election, received the first senior French government official to visit Algeria since the justice minister a year ago.

That visit came just before an unprecedented protest movement burst onto the scene, forcing longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down in April.

“The presidential elections took place. There is now a new government and France wants to work with it,” Le Drian said.

“President Tebboune has shown an ambition for Algeria - one of deep reform, to reinforce governance, the rule of law and freedoms,” he told reporters.

The Algerian leader’s vision also seeks “to revive the economy in accordance with the aspirations that Algerians have shown for the last year,” Le Drian said.

Tebboune, once a prime minister under Bouteflika, won the December election amid an official turnout of less than 40 percent.

Analysts believe voter participation was substantially lower, in a context where the Hirak protest movement viewed the election as a ploy by an unreformed elite to consolidate its power.

Le Drian’s visit came amid international efforts to resolve the conflict in Libya - a neighbor of Algeria - and crises in the Sahel.

Tebboune was among invitees to a summit on Libya held in Berlin on Sunday.

“We were together in Berlin, the day before yesterday, on Libya’s conflict and we will coordinate our efforts beyond even... a sustainable ceasefire” and recreating a political dialogue between Libya’s warring parties, Le Drian said.

“We will also take stock of the situation in the Sahel and recall our common objectives of security and fighting against terrorism,” he added.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2020/01/22/French-FM-Le-Drian-bolsters-Algeria-ties-in-rare-visit-.html

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UN Security Council calls for immediate ceasefire in Libya

22 January 2020

The United Nations Security Council has called on warring sides in Libya to conclude a ceasefire agreement “as soon as possible” and pave the way for ending the long-running conflict in the North African country.

The Council made the plea on Tuesday after a summit on the Libyan crisis was held in the German capital of Berlin at weekend, which saw the formation of a military commission that is supposed to define ways of consolidating a cessation of hostilities.

The commission is made up of five members each from the internationally-recognized Government of National (GNA) in Tripoli and the rebel militia groups commanded by renegade General Khalifa Haftar.

"The members of the Security Council urged the Libyan parties to engage constructively in the five + five military commission in order to conclude a ceasefire agreement as soon as possible," the Council said.

Since 2014, Libya has been divided between two rival camps — the Tripoli-based GNA led by Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and a camp supported militarily by Haftar’s militias in the eastern city of Tobruk.

Haftar, who is mainly backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, launched an offensive in April to capture Tripoli and unseat the UN-recognized government; however, his forces have been bogged down near the capital.

After months of combat, which has killed more than 2,000 people, a ceasefire was agreed to take effect on January 12 but was soon ignored.

On Sunday, leaders from Turkey, Russia, Egypt, France, Italy, Britain and the United States, as well as Sarraj and Haftar, attended the UN-backed summit in Berlin to help establish a “permanent” ceasefire between the warring sides.

The final communiqué of the day-long summit urged all the parties concerned in the persisting conflict “to redouble their efforts for a sustained suspension of hostilities, de-escalation and a permanent ceasefire.”

Furthermore, the participants of the summit pledged not to interfere in Libya’s internal affairs and its deadly conflict.

Turkey recently reached a military agreement with the Libyan government to send troops to the North African country and help the GNA defend itself against Haftar’s attacks.

The oil-rich country plunged into chaos in 2011, when a popular uprising and a NATO intervention led to the ouster of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi and his execution by unruly fighters.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/22/616782/United-Nations-Security-Council-ceasefire-agreement-Libya-conflict-

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Nigerian forces kill Zakzaky supporter in Abuja

21 January 2020

Nigerian forces have killed one individual in an attack on protesters demanding the release of jailed Muslim cleric Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky in the capital, Abuja.

The incident took place on Tuesday as security forces fired live ammunition and teargas to disperse the supporters and members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), led by Sheikh Zakzaky, in the capital city.

A witness told The Cable, a Nigerian online newspaper, that the protesters pelted the police officers with stones as they tried to disperse them, and then the security operatives started to fire tear gas and released bullets into the air.

“The police shot into the air. It was that bullet that hit the man on the head. Immediately after the first shot was fired, they all dispersed,” the witness said.

Chanting slogans against the government of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, the protesters held portraits of Zakzaky as well as banners condemning the cleric’s imprisonment.

Zakzaky, who is in his mid-60s, has been in detention since December 2015 after his residence in the city of Zaria was raided by Nigeria’s forces, during which he was beaten and lost vision in his left eye.

During the brutal arrest, three of his sons were also killed, his wife sustained serious wounds, and more than 300 of his followers were killed.

Zakzaky was charged in April 2018 with murder, culpable homicide, unlawful assembly, the disruption of public peace, and other accusations. He has pleaded not guilty, vehemently rejecting all the accusations brought up against him.

In 2016, Nigeria’s federal high court ordered Zakzaky’s unconditional release from jail following a trial, but the government has so far refused to set him free.

The IMN members say the Nigerian government has turned a deaf ear to all protests calling for the top cleric’s release.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/21/616765/Nigeria-Sheikh-Zakzaky-Abuja

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