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Islamic World News ( 15 March 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Support Swells for Nahid Afrin After Fatwa Says She Can't Sing in Public

New Age Islam News Bureau

15 March 2017

Afrin, Assam’s pride, said she was shocked to learn of the fatwa.


 Support Swells for Nahid Afrin After Fatwa Says She Can't Sing in Public

 Man Breaks Into US Mosque, Tears Apart Copies of Holy Quran

 Afghanistan Facing a Brutal Enemy, Jihad Fatwa Unjustified: Afghanistan’s Ulema Council

 Swedish Minister Says Returning ISIS Fighters Should Be Integrated



 Pakistan Violates Truce in J&K for 3rd Time in 24 Hours

 Donate wedding clothes and help the poor

 India suspends cross-border trade with Pakistan


North America

 Donald Trump Gives CIA Authority to Carry Out Drone Strikes: Report

 US government says new travel ban ‘substantially different’

 US envoy ends Mideast visit with vows to seek peace

 Failing to prosecute South Sudan atrocities is appeasement, says UN

 Muslim couple sues US’ United airlines after being kicked off flight


South Asia

 Sufi Leader, Daughter Murdered In Bangladesh

 17 foreign ISIS militants killed in US airstrikes in East of Afghanistan

 President Ghani rejects proposed uniform design for school girls

 Probe team updates on Kabul military hospital attack, 50 confirmed dead

 Top Haqqani commander Abdullah among 10 killed in Paktika airstrike



 Russian-Backed Syria Talks Derailed As Rebels Boycott

 Dutch PM hits back: "Erdogan's tone is getting more hysterical, against The Netherlands, Germany"



 Forced Conversion a Crime in Islam, Says Nawaz Sharif

 Pakistan, US Should Work Together To Destroy IS Before It Gains Foothold in Afghanistan'

 Three militants hanged in Sahiwal prison, says ISPR

 Blasphemy is unpardonable sin, says Nawaz Sharif

 Pakistan promises nuclear arms responsibility: Official

 Balochistan higher education secretary abducted from Quetta

 Musharraf ready to face trial if army provides security

 No army brigade sent to Saudi Arabia, claims defence minister



 Turkey Vows To Mobilize Islamic World against Euro-Fascism

 Gaza Tailor Makes Prayer Caps for Jewish Worshippers

 Bahrain's Top Shi'ite Muslim Cleric Trial Postponed Till May

 Jewish MP Raps Netanyahu for Lying about Iran

 Kurdish Leader: World Losing Trust in Turkey

 Turks hack Twitter accounts of Borussia Dortmund, UNICEF and others after diplomatic row

 European Council Chair Tusk slams Turkey amid Dutch row


Arab World

 Over 800 Health Workers Killed In Syrian ‘War Crimes’: Report

 Saudi Deputy Crown Prince, Trump Meeting A 'Turning Point' In Ties: Saudi Adviser

 Mosul IS commander killed as Iraqi forces march to recapture Tigris River Bridge

 Yemen: 2 Al-Qaeda suspects killed in air strike, says security source

 In war crime, Syria deliberately bombed Damascus water supply – UN

 Syrian Army Deploys Forces 3km Away from ISIL-Held Deir Hafer

 Syria: US Forces Evacuating ISIL Commanders from Deir Ezzur

 Homs: Syrian Army Wins Back More Territories in Energy-Rich Regions

 Intelligence Minister Says Iran Mounts Intel Devices in Syria to Monitor Terrorists



 Libya’s Eastern Parliament Speaker Says Russia Offered Aid

 Death toll reaches 72 in Ethiopia landfill collapse: Reports

 Somalian pirates hijack first commercial ship since 2012


Southeast Asia

 Malaysia to Deport 50 North Koreans Despite Ban: Deputy PM

 North Korea blames US and South Korea for Malaysia attack

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Support Swells for Nahid Afrin After Fatwa Says She Can't Sing in Public

March 15, 2017

Shonipur (Assam): Days after a Muslim girl was trolled on social media for singing Hindu devotional songs in a Kannada show, a fatwa has been issued ‘barring’ a 15-year-old girl from singing in public.

Citing Sharia laws, 46 Muslim clerics have issued a fatwa against up-and-coming singer Nahid Afrin asking her to stop performing in public. Afrin was the runner-up in the 2015 season of a singing reality TV show. She has also lent her voice to a song in Sonakshi Sinha-starrer Akira.

Afrin has reportedly sung songs denouncing the Islamic State terror group and Assam Police are investigating whether the fatwa was in reaction to it.

Following the intervention of Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, the clerics said the fatwa wasn’t against Afrin, but against loud music near religious places.

Taking to Twitter, Sonowal wrote: Freedom of artists are essence of democracy. Spoke to Nahid and reiterated our Govt's commitment to provide safety and security to artists.



Man Breaks Into US Mosque, Tears Apart Copies of Holy Quran

March 15, 2017

An unidentified man broke into an Arizona mosque early Monday morning and ripped up copies of the Holy Quran.

The Islamic Centre of Tucson deplored the incident in a Facebook post and said it seemed that the unidentified man wanted to damage the centre’s property.

“He ripped copies of the Holy Quran and threw them around the prayer room before leaving the building,” the centre wrote. “Thankfully no one was hurt.

The man can be seen in the CCTV footage wearing a University of Arizona T-shirt and breaking into the mosque at about 3:30 in the morning.

Mosque management went on to say that the police was as usual very cooperative to the community and executed a comprehensive investigation to nail the culprit.

“The camera footage leads us to believe the sole intent of this individual was to damage the centre’s religious property,” they wrote. “The Tucson Police Department responded quickly. As always, they were kind, courteous, and thorough with their investigation.”

Tucson Police Sgt Kim Bay said the police were searching for the man seen in the footage. “There is no indication this was a hate crime,” he said while adding that the department can only say this for sure once they have interrogated the person.

“Although we are disheartened by this incident, we understand that this is an isolated incident,” the mosque said. “The ICT has been a part of the Tucson community since the late 1980’s and since then, the Tucson community has been kind, welcoming, and supportive.”

Imraan Siddiqi, executive director of Arizona chapter of The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), urged the “local, state and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate this incident as a possible hate crime and for religious and political leaders to speak out against the growing Islamophobia in our state and nation that results in such acts of bigotry”.



Afghanistan Facing A Brutal Enemy, Jihad Fatwa Unjustified: Afghanistan’s Ulema Council Wed Mar 15 2017

The Chief of Afghanistan’s Ulema Council Maulvi Qeyamuddin Kashaf has dismissed the Jihad Fatwa in Afghanistan as incorrect as he condemned the deadly attack on Kabul Military Hospital in strongest words.

In his meeting with the Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah, Mawlavi Kashaf said Afghanistan is facing a brutal enemy, noting that attack on wounded patients and doctors in Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan hospital.

Calling the attack a massacre of the defenceless people, Maulvi Kashaf said the militant groups are for issuing Fatwa’s while carrying suicide attacks in mosques, insisting that mosques are not the places where the foreign forces are coming for prayers.

Maulvi Kashaf further added that those issuing Jihad Fatwas are moving in a wrong direction and their stance is not justified, insisting that Sharia Law is enforced in the country.

In his turn, Chief Executive Abdullah slammed the militants for misusing Islam to carry out insurgency against an Islamic government.

He said the militant groups have paved the way for the other terrorist groups to come to Afghanistan and conduct insurgency in the country.

Abdulalh further added that investigations are underway regarding the attack on Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan Hospital.

According to Adullah, at least 49 people were killed and more than one hundred people were wounded in the attack.



Swedish minister says returning ISIS fighters should be integrated


Tue, Mar 14, 2017

Alice Bah Kuhnke, minister of Culture and Democracy made the remark on Sunday evening as she was quizzed on how Sweden should deal with jihadi defectors by the state broadcaster SVT.

Ms Kuhnke said: “First of all if there are suspicions of crimes, they need to be investigated. And any such crimes should be punished.

“But after that we need structures locally, such as social services, around our country to integrate them back into our democratic society.”

More than 300 people have travelled from Sweden to join extremist cults in the Middle East and an estimated 150 have since returned, according to Sweden’s security service (Säpo).

Appearing on television programme Agenda, Ms Kuhnke was also challenged on how many of the jihadi fighters had been de-radicalised upon their return to the European nation.

She said: “No one knows.”

She was then asked about how many people had been given support to integrate back into society, to which the government minister said: “About 10, 20, 30 people have been supported by our municipalities. That is too few.

“We must cooperate much better. Police, the social services and Säpo have to work together. There are many municipalities which don’t even know who is responsible.”

Liberal Party leader Jan Björklund hit out against the remarks, branding Ms Kuhnke’s comments “ignorant”.

Speaking to, he said: “The answers she gave were obviously wrong, she blamed authorities and municipalities, and seemed to want to free herself from responsibility.

“She seemed very ignorant. It's very strange. It was quite obvious that the culture minister was ignorant of the issues, even though she knew what she was going to be interviewed about on television. [It left] a very amateurish impression.”

Responding to the criticism of his minister, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said the suggestion that returning ISIS fighters were the responsibility of municipalities was wrong.

He said: “Terrorism is an extremely serious issue, it is about the security of citizens, therefore it is a clear national issue and a national responsibility, and a priority of the government.”

The Swedish PM also added he had every confidence in Ms Kuhnke as she herself has said some of the comments in the interview came across wrong.

In January, it was revealed authorities are preparing to deal with terrorism, similar to the Paris terror attacks in November 2015, on Swedish soil.

At the time, Säpo chief Anders Thornberg outlined Islamic extremism as one of the greatest threats to national security.

In October 2016 it emerged one Swedish council had considered giving ISIS fighters state-financed driving licenses and housing grants as incentives to reintegrate into society.

At the time, Lund County’s municipal co-ordinator against violent extremism, Anna Sjostrand, said her region would deal with the returned radicals the same way they would deal with criminals attempting to reenter society.

Ms Sjostrand said: “When the subject first came up, we thought, ‘Oh God, how should we handle this?’ But we pretty quickly realised that we should deal with [people defecting from ISIS] in the same way [we deal with people defecting from criminal gangs].”





Pakistan violates truce in J&K for 3rd time in 24 hours

Mar 14, 2017

JAMMU: In yet another violation of the truce along Line of Control in border district Poonch of the Jammu region, the Pakistani troops on Monday targeted the forward Indian posts along the LoC for the third time in the last 24 hours, forcing the authorities to suspend the Poonch-Rawalkote bus service and postpone examinations.

Sunday's firing partially damaged the Trade Felicitation Centre (TFC), Chaka da Bagh, in Poonch and forced authorities to suspend the Jammu-Rawalkote bus service, sources from Poonch said.

"The Pakistani Army fired unprovoked in Poonch sector from 0640 hours on Monday," Jammu defence spokesperson Lt Col Manish Mehta said here on Monday.

He said, "Pakistani troops using 82 mm mortars, automatic weapons targeted our forward defended locations along Line of Control (LoC) and the fire was responded by our troops in a befitting manner, ensuing a heavy exchange of fire."



Donate wedding clothes and help the poor

Mar 15, 2017

MANGALURU: The Zawaj Charitable Trust, an organization of Muslim youths, has started a novel campaign of collecting wedding clothes from recently married couples to help the poor.

It is quite common for couples to store away wedding clothes and not use them after a few months or a year. Considering this, the trust decided to place clothes collection boxes at masjids, shopping malls and other places in and around Mangaluru.

Though the main aim is to inspire newly wedded couples to donate, the trust also pleads with others to donate clothes for the poor. The trust, formed through a WhatsApp group, plans to expand this initiative to all districts of the state to help the economically weaker sections.

Trust president Ismail Kana told TOI the objective is to help the poor by donating collected clothes. "Most couples do not use their wedding clothes after wearing it for two or three times. They should donate such clothes to the poor. I sought the cooperation of friends through social media networks. As a result, the Zawaj Charitable Trust was formed on February 28 after a meeting at Surathkal," he said.

Initially, the trust collected clothes directly from donors. Now, it plans to place clothes collection boxes at all major masjid premises, Forum Fiza Mall, City Centre Mall, Thokkotu, Moodbidri, Surathkal and other towns. "We commenced the initiative by placing a clothes collection box in front of the Kutchi Memon Masjid at Bunder in the city on Monday," Ismail said adding that the collected clothes will be distributed to the poor during Ramzan.

The trust also plans to extend financial support to marriages in poor families. "We have already distributed two sarees each to 39 brides and gifted a suit to a groom. With this new initiative of clothes collection, we expect more people to support us," he added.

Trust convener Sameeruddin Padubettu said, "We'll also collect used clothes from donors directly and distribute them among the poor and needy. Donors may contact 9686584868 or 9164435578 to hand over clothes to the trust."



India suspends cross-border trade with Pakistan

Mar 15, 2017

JAMMU: Indian authorities suspended cross-border trade with Pakistan along the Line of Control (LoC) on Tuesday after Pakistan continued unprovoked ceasefire violation in the border district of Poonch. The firing severely damaged the Trade Facilitation Centre (TFC) at Chaka-da-Bagh.

On Monday, the cross-LoC bus service from Poonch to Pakistan's Rawlakote had been suspended as a "precautionary measure".

According to TFC officer Tanveer Ahmed, trucks were sent by Indian traders to `zero point' at Chaka-daBagh on Tuesday , but Pakistani authorities didn't open the LoC gate. "After waiting for some time, we returned," Ahmed said.

Sources said there was no likelihood of trade resuming on Wednesday . On March 1, Jammu & Kashmir police recovered a cache of arms and ammunitions being smuggled in a truck along the Muzaf smuggled in a truck along the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar route. A Chinese pistol, two pistol magazines, 14 rounds of pistol ammunition, four AK magazines, 120 AK ammunitions and two Chinese grenades were recovered from a "camouflage cavity" of the truck by police.

Trading between two sides began in 2008 but has since witnessed highs and lows. Pakistan suspended trading in August 2016 without sighting any reason.

On November 2, tension along LoC and the International Border had led to the suspension of trading and the Karvan-e-Aman Bus Service.



North America


Donald Trump gives CIA authority to carry out drone strikes: Report

CIA drone strikes were quite successful in elimination of high profile terrorists from the safe havens of Pakistan.

March 14, 2017

US President Donald Trump has reportedly given CIA necessary authorisation to carry out drone strikes against terror groups, a move that could have implications for Pakistan. This is a change from the policies of the previous Obama Administration under which the Department of Defence was authorised to carry out such strikes and the CIA used drones to gather intelligence information, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed sources.

The White House and the CIA have so far not responded to the news report.

According to the daily, Trump gave such an authorisation to the CIA not long after he visited its headquarters on January 21.

“The Trump administration is also giving the military more authority to conduct operations on its own without first getting a sign off from the Pentagon or the White House,” the report said.

The report said Trump’s unexpected decision to give the CIA the strike authority created ferment inside the US government within days of his visit, as US military officials scrambled to respond to the new directive.

According to New America’s research — a Washington DC based think-tank — before Obama changed his policy and only authorised the Department of Defence to carry out drone strikes, CIA’s drone strikes were mostly used in Pakistan.

It has resulted in the death of at least 1,904 people and the figure could be as high as 3,114, US scholars Peter Bergen and David Sterman wrote in CNN on January 21, a day after Trump was sworn in as the US President.

US drone strikes were halted in the last eight months of the Obama Administration.

In recent weeks, top Pentagon generals have expressed concerns over the continued presence of terrorist safe havens in Pakistan.

CIA drone strikes were quite successful in elimination of high profile terrorists from the safe havens of Pakistan.

“The United States has killed more than 50 al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders in Pakistan since the beginning of the CIA drone campaign,” Bergen and Sterman wrote in the CNN op-ed.

At the same time they warned that before taking a decision on reviving drone strikes in Pakistan, the Trump administration should take into account that the US is quite unpopular in Pakistan.

“Under Obama, the drone war in Pakistan reached its height, and Trump, should he choose to do so, can easily bring that war back,” the two American scholars said and had predicted that Trump may well escalate the drone war in Pakistan and there is not much to stop him if he chooses to do so.



US government says new travel ban ‘substantially different’

Trump's revised ban applies to Somalia, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Yemen and temporarily shuts down the US refugee program.

March 15, 2017

President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban is “substantially different” from the original and a judge shouldn’t apply a previous restraining order to the new version, federal lawyers said in a court filing. Justice Department lawyers filed the documents in US District Court in Seattle, two days before the executive order is set to go into effect. Washington and several other states are trying to block the revised ban that affects six mostly Muslim nations, saying it’s unconstitutional.

Government lawyers say the new version removed provisions that “purportedly drew religious distinctions — erasing any doubt that national security, not religion, is the focus.”

They made their filings with Judge James Robart, who blocked the original ban last month. Washington state wants him to apply that decision to the new order.

Trump’s revised ban applies to Somalia, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Yemen and temporarily shuts down the US refugee program.

Unlike the original order, it says people with visas won’t be affected and removes language that would have given priority to religious minorities for entry to the US Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, joined in his lawsuit by heavily Democratic California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Oregon, said the revised ban is still flawed and harms residents, universities and businesses, especially tech companies such as Washington state-based

Microsoft and Amazon that rely on foreign workers. Lawyers for New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and other cities filed documents Tuesday with the court supporting Washington state’s lawsuit.

A hearing in a separate lawsuit by Hawaii is scheduled for Wednesday.



US envoy ends Mideast visit with vows to seek peace

Trump campaigned on promises that he would depart from decades of American policy in the region

March 15, 2017

A US envoy wrapped up his first visit to the Middle East with commitments from Israel and the Palestinians to advance “a genuine and lasting peace.” A joint US-Palestinian statement gave few details on how President Donald Trump plans to break decades of deadlock and hostilities. It said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would discuss possibilities for peace with Trump on an upcoming visit to Washington.

Trump campaigned on promises that he would depart from decades of American policy in the region, and he signaled a much closer relationship with Israel than former President Barack Obama.

His platform made no mention of Palestinian statehood, a key goal of the US and international community for two decades. He promised to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to disputed Jerusalem, a move favored by Israel and bitterly opposed by the Palestinians, and signaled much greater tolerance for Israeli settlement construction on occupied lands.

But since taking office, Trump appears to have backpedaled. He seems to be in no rush to move the embassy, and during a White House meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month, he urged restraint on Israeli settlement construction. He also has left the door open to a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

The visit by Trump’s envoy, Jason Greenblatt, appeared to be aimed largely at listening to both sides as the White House decides how to move forward. The US issued similarly worded statements after a meeting with Netanyahu on Monday and Abbas yesterday.

In his talks with the Israelis, Greenblatt affirmed Trump’s commitment to Israel’s security. With the Palestinians, he discussed plans to help grow their economy. On the settlement issue, the statement said the US and Israel held discussions in hopes of finding an approach “that is consistent with the goal of advancing peace and security.”

In a gesture to Israel, yesterday’s statement said that Abbas committed to “preventing inflammatory rhetoric and incitement” and to “heighten his outreach efforts to the Israeli public.” Both men also affirmed the “joint determination to combat violence and terrorism.”



Failing to prosecute South Sudan atrocities is appeasement, says UN

"The challenge for accountability is that alleged perpetrators still occupy senior political and military positions," said Yasmin Sooka, the head of a UN human rights investigation

March 14, 2017

The failure to prosecute atrocities in South Sudan is “appeasement” and makes the world complicit in the continuing bloodshed, the head of a UN human rights investigation said on Tuesday. “The challenge for accountability is that alleged perpetrators still occupy senior political and military positions,” Yasmin Sooka told the UN Human Rights Council.

“A small coterie of South Sudan’s political leaders show total disregard not just for international human rights norms but for the welfare of their own people. They have squandered the oil wealth and plundered the country’s resources.”



Muslim couple sues US’ United airlines after being kicked off flight

An attorney for the couple said they think "inherent bias" prompted flight crew members to kick the Shebleys off the United Flight after Eaman asked for assistance with a child booster seat.

March 14, 2017

A Muslim couple has sued US’ United Airlines for forcing them off a flight last year after they sought help with a child booster seat, alleging that they were discriminated against based on faith. Mohamad and Eaman Shebley, of northern Chicago suburbs, alleged that they were preparing to take off on a flight from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to Washington DC when they were suddenly kicked off.

The Shebleys filed the lawsuit on Friday in a federal court through attorneys with the local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in connection with the March 20, 2016, incident aboard the SkyWest flight, operating as United Express from Chicago to Washington, the Chicago Tribune reported. An attorney for the couple said they think “inherent bias” prompted flight crew members to kick the Shebleys off the United Flight after Eaman asked for assistance with a child booster seat.

In a statement, a spokeswoman with United declined to comment on the suit, but said, “Both SkyWest and United hold our employees to the highest standards of professionalism and have zero tolerance for discrimination.” The suit comes at a time of growing anxiety among Muslims who worry they can be targeted and removed from flights just for making other passengers feel uncomfortable, CAIR officials said.

“We believe the time is right now to bring this to the attention of the courts and the federal government and ask for some accountability on behalf of the airlines — that’s really what this suit is about,” Phil Robertson, CAIR Chicago’s lead attorney who is representing the Shebleys in the suit, told reporters. “This affects more than the Shebley family…It affects our entire community,” said Ahmed Rehab, CAIR Chicago’s executive director.

The family’s removal from the flight came after the parents requested an additional shoulder harness that goes around the back of the seat and attaches to the lap belt for their youngest daughter’s booster seat. The 15-page, three-count suit, states that they had sought a strap for their child sitting in the booster seat, but were told by a flight attendant that the airline did not provide over-the-shoulder harnesses for passengers.

Another crew member told the family that the child could not sit in a booster seat but ignored subsequent questions from Eaman, a Lebanese-American who wears a headscarf. Despite removing the booster chair and storing it, the Shebleys claimed they were asked to leave the plane by the flight attendant and the plane’s pilot.



South Asia


Sufi leader, daughter murdered in Bangladesh

There have been systematic assaults in Bangladesh in recent years specially targeting minorities, secular bloggers, intellectuals and foreigners.

March 14, 2017

A Sufi spiritual leader and his daughter were brutally murdered by unidentified attackers in Bangladesh, amid a series of systematic assaults targeting minorities, Sufis and bloggers in the Muslim-majority nation. Farhad Hossain Chowdhury, 55, and his adopted daughter Rupali Begum were found murdered last night in a Khanqah — a building designed specifically for gatherings of a Sufi brotherhood — close to the man’s home in Dinajpur’s Bochaganj upazila, about 350 kilometres north of Dhaka, police said.

“Both of them had bullet marks on their bodies and the young woman’s neck was slit with a sharp weapon,” Dhaka Tribune reported.

Police said there was a power cut in the area when the incident took place. Farhad, a Pir or Sufi spiritual leader, was also the former president of Setabganj municipality unit of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) which is headed by former prime minister Khaleda Zia.

Bochaganj police station Officer-in-Charge Habibul Haque said the case was under investigation.

Haque said that there had been no immediate clues to the means and motives of the murder. They suspect that it could be an Islamist extremist attack or result of a political or personal conflict.

“We are carrying out an inquest,” the officer added.

There have been systematic assaults in Bangladesh in recent years specially targeting minorities, secular bloggers, intellectuals and foreigners.

Over a dozen Sufi Muslims have been found with their throats slit in Bangladesh since 2013. The authorities blamed homegrown Islamist extremists for the killings.



17 foreign ISIS militants killed in US airstrikes in East of Afghanistan

Wed Mar 15 2017

At least seventeen militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group have been killed in a series of airstrikes in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

The provincial police commandment in a statement said the airstrikes were carried out late on Tuesday night in Achin district.

The statement further added at least four airstrikes were carried out targeting the militants in the vicinity of Pekh and Mamand Dara areas.

According to the police commandment, several weapons, ammunition, and explosives belonging to the militants were also destroyed.

The local residents and security forces did not suffer any casualties during the airstrikes, the police commandment added.

Nangarhar is among the relatively calm provinces in eastern Afghanistan but the anti-government armed militant groups have recently increased their insurgency activities in some parts of the province during the recent years.

The latest coordinated attack by ISIS loyalists came as the Afghan forces are busy conducting counter-terrorism operations in the restive districts of Nangarhar under the Shaheen-25 operations launched several weeks ago.

The operations are being conducted with the support of the US forces based in Afghanistan who are providing close-air support under a broader role granted by the Obama administration earlier last year to target the terrorist groups in the country.



President Ghani rejects proposed uniform design for school girls

Mar 15 2017

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has rejected the proposed uniforms for the school girls prepared by the Ministry of Education.

Shah Hussain Murtazawi, a spokesman for President Ghani, said the proposed designed has been dismissed as in appropriate and in contrast with the culture of the country.

He said President Ghani has rejected the proposed design, insisting that no design will be acceptable unless the economic situation of the families has been taken into consideration.

President Ghani has instructed the Ministry of Education to work on another design in consultation with the teachers, parents, and the school students.

He has said the proposed should include the considerations to be economically viable for the families and in line with the traditions of the country.

This comes as the picture so of the proposed design went viral on social media today after it was released by the Ministry of Education.

There have been mixed reactions regarding the proposed design with some saying the government should not force the school students to wear the new uniform.

According to the design, the blue color dress has been proposed for the school girls studying in preliminary classes while the gray color has been proposed for the medium and high school students.



Probe team updates on Kabul military hospital attack, 50 confirmed dead

Wed Mar 15 2017

A delegation which has been given the task to investigate the deadly Kabul military hospital attack provided partial updates regarding the investigation.

According to the head of the probe team Hialuddin Hilal, investigations confirm fifty people were killed in the attack and at least 30 others were wounded.

He said the attack was carried out by a group of at least five insurgents who managed to open entry into the tightly secured compound by detonating a vehicle packed with explosives.

Hilal further added that no evidences have been found to confirm that the attack on the hospital was carried out by insider support.

However, he said at least twenty people having different positions and duties have been charged with negligence and an investigation is still underway.

According to Hilal, the militants had used a vehicle with a fake registration plate and the owner of the vehicle has been confirmed.

He also added that the militants main target was to attack the specialists of the hospital who were busy in a meeting and the militants used automatic rifles, hand grenades, and military knives to kill the people.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group claimed responsibility behind the attack but Hilal said it would be early to confirm who was behind the attack as investigations are still underway.



Top Haqqani commander Abdullah among 10 killed in Paktika airstrike

Mar 15 2017

A top commander of the Haqqani terrorist network was killed in an airstrike conducted in southeastern Paktika province of Afghanistan.

The Ministry of Interior (MoI) said “Yesterday evening, a top commander of the Haqqani terrorist network along with nine others killed and two others wounded in a targeted airstrike of the Afghan Air Force.”

The air raid took place in the Dara-e-Shinki village, Zirok district of eastern Paktika province, MoI added.

According to the Ministry, during the air raid, two vehicles and some amount of light and heavy rounds of ammunition were also destroyed.

Haqqani network was formed in the late 1970s by Jalaluddin Haqqani. The group is allied with al-Qaida and the Afghan Taliban and cooperates with other terrorist organizations in the region.

The US Department of State designated the HQN as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on September 7, 2012.

This come as local officials in Paktika said at least twenty nine insurgents of the Taliban group including two senior leaders of the group were killed in a US drone strike in the same district on Monday.





Russian-backed Syria talks derailed as rebels boycott

Russia has sought to revive diplomacy over Syria since its air force helped government forces defeat rebel groups in eastern Aleppo in December, Assad's biggest victory of the war.

March 14, 2017

Russian-led peace talks on Syria were derailed on Tuesday as rebels backed by Turkey boycotted a third round of meetings in Kazakhstan and the Kremlin indicated there were international divisions over the process. Russia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s most powerful ally, said the rebels’ reasons for staying away were unconvincing and their decision came as a surprise. Describing the rebels as Turkish proxies, the Syrian government envoy said Ankara had broken “its commitments” to the Astana process. The rebels said they would not attend the talks, scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, because of what they called Russia’s unwillingness to end air strikes on rebel-held areas and its failure to get the Syrian army and Iranian-backed militia to abide by a ceasefire. Russia has sought to revive diplomacy over Syria since its air force helped government forces defeat rebel groups in eastern Aleppo in December, Assad’s biggest victory of the war.

The cooperation of Turkey, one of the main backers of rebel groups fighting in northern Syria, has been crucial to the Russian diplomatic effort, helping to broker a ceasefire in December after the rebels’ Aleppo defeat. Two previous rounds of Astana talks have sought to consolidate that ceasefire, reflecting an improvement in Russian-Turkish ties that had been strained to breaking point by the Syrian war. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Russian Defence Ministry was in touch with Syrian rebel leaders who boycotted the talks, the Interfax news agency reported. He said Russia was dealing with the situation.

The Kremlin spokesman described the talks as hugely complex. “Sometimes the situation at these talks is really complicated because of substantial differences in approaches of various countries,” Dmitry Peskov said during a conference call. Alexander Lavrentiev, the head of the Russian delegation in Astana, told reporters the opposition’s absence was “sad” but there was still “many things to discuss and make decisions about”.


Russian President Vladimir Putin had credited the Kazakhstan talks, which focus on reducing the fighting, with jumpstarting UN-led peace talks in Geneva seeking a political settlement to the six-year conflict. The Geneva talks broke off without any progress as seemingly unbridgeable divisions persist, chiefly over the future of Assad who seems militarily unassailable in the areas of western Syria under government control. The previous Astana talks had been attended by rebel groups fighting under the Free Syrian Army banner. A spokesman for the rebels on Monday accused Russia of “continuing its crimes” against civilians in Syria – a reference to Russian air strikes – and of supporting “the crimes of the Syrian regime”.

The spokesman for the High Negotiations Committee, which groups armed and political opponents of Assad, suggested the rebels could yet go to Astana, though the decision was so far not to. “They are waiting to hear a response from Russia, but until this moment nothing came,” Salem al-Muslat told the al-Hadath news channel in an interview. The rebels say Russia has failed to live up to its commitments as a guarantor of the ceasefire, saying government and allied forces continue to press attacks on remaining rebel-held areas in western Syria.

The Syrian government envoy to the talks said his delegation was in Astana to meet Syria’s Russian and Iranian allies, not the rebel factions. “When one of the three guarantors breaks their commitment – and I mean Turkey – this means that Turkey must be the one that is asked about the non-attendance or participation of these armed groups,” Bashar al Ja’afari, the envoy, said in broadcast remarks from Astana. Last week, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was in Moscow seeking to build cooperation with Putin over military operations in Syria. Turkey is attempting to create a border “safe zone” in northern Syria free of Islamic State and the Kurdish YPG militia. The Russian-backed Syrian army has advanced to the frontier of YPG-held areas, but is not fighting the Kurds.



Dutch PM hits back: "Erdogan's tone is getting more hysterical, against The Netherlands, Germany"

March 14, 2017

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Tuesday slammed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after he said the Dutch “character” was “broken” over the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. “He (Erdogan) continues to escalate the situation,” Rutte told Dutch news TV channel RTL Nieuws, adding “it’s a repugnant historical falsehood”, as a diplomatic row between The Hague and Ankara reached a new low point.

peaking in Ankara, Erdogan touched a raw nerve with the Dutch when he recalled the mid-1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia, where lightly-armed Dutch peacekeepers were overrun by Bosnian Serb forces and failed to protect Muslim refugees. Almost 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were then massacred and their bodies thrown in mass graves in the biggest incident of bloodshed on European soil since World War II.

The incident caused the Dutch government’s resignation in 2002 after it finally admitted that it could have done more –and the incident remains a source of national soul-searching to this day. “The Netherlands and the Dutch, we know them from the Srebrenica massacre. We know how much their morality, their character is broken from the 8,000 Bosnians that were massacred,” Erdogan said.

“We know this well. No one should give us a lesson in civilisation,” he added. But Dutch premier Mark Rutte hit back saying: “Erdogan’s tone is getting more and more hysterical, not only against The Netherlands, but also against Germany.” “We won’t sink to that level and now we’re being confronted with an idiotic fact,” Rutte said.

“It’s totally unacceptable,” he said. Turkey on Monday suspended top level talks with The Netherlands in a spiralling spat with The Hague and the EU after Turkish ministers were blocked from staging rallies to court the votes of expatriate Turks in a referendum to give Erdogan greater powers. Ankara was especially angered by the acts of the Dutch days ahead of general elections in the country when authorities prevented the foreign minister’s plane from landing and expelled the family minister over the weekend.





Forced conversion a crime in Islam, says Nawaz Sharif

Omer Farooq Khan

Mar 15, 2017

PM Nawaz Sharif said on Tuesday that Pakistan was a progressive country where no one could force others to adopt a certain religion. "It is not for us to decide who will go to heaven or hell, but our duty is to make this place a heaven on earth," Sharif said in a Holi event.

"Forced conversion is a crime in Islam," he said. Sharif said his duty was to serve the followers of all religions. "God will not ask aruler what he did for followers of a certain religion," said Sharif.

"Prophets preached religion and forced nobody to accept teachings. Our Constitution consists of these principles." "Pakistan was not created to oppose any religion, but to prevent religious persecution."

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'Pakistan, US should work together to destroy IS before it gains foothold in Afghanistan'

Pakistan’s new ambassador to the United States Aizaz Chaudhry has expressed the confidence that President Trump and his new administration will engage positively with Pakistan, saying the two nations have been partners for last seven decades and their multifaceted ties have benefited both.

It was vital that the United States and Pakistan work together to destroy the militant Islamic State (IS) before it gains any footholds in Afghanistan, he said.

In his first interview with APP, after assuming his new assignment in Washington on Monday, Ambassador Chaudhry said he would work to deepen the mutually beneficial ties the two countries have enjoyed since long.

The ambassador said that given that both President Trump and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif have strong business backgrounds, the two countries can certainly profit from strong economic relations.

“One area where the two countries have cooperated closely in the recent past is the shared desire to defeat the menace of terrorism. Our partnership has helped to defeat Al-Qaeda,” the ambassador said.

Underscoring Pakistan’s unwavering commitment to counter terrorism, the ambassador said Pakistan and the US could continue this mission until our region is rid of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

On Afghanistan, the ambassador stated that the two countries could also work together to stabilise Afghanistan. “Pakistan would like to see a stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan. We have suffered in the past from instability in Afghanistan.”

When his attention was drawn to the fact that some US lawmakers continue to express reservation about Pakistan’s commitment to fight terrorism, the Ambassador said it was important that the US lawmakers were apprised of the reality of today’s Pakistan, which was way too different from the perceptions created by some detractors.

“The US remains one of our most important relationships in terms of trade, economy, defence, energy, health, education, and culture,” the ambassador said and added the he was here to build on the excellent history of cooperation the two countries have enjoyed since long.

“I am confident that US President Trump and his administration will engage positively with Pakistan for the common benefit of our two countries,” the ambassador added.

He said that Pakistan has turned the tide against terrorism and Operation Zarb-i-Azb was a resounding success. “We are now consolidating through a new military operation Raddul Fasaad, which is meant to search and eliminate terrorists hiding in our society,” he added.

The ambassador said that the implementation of the National Action Plan has become one of the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s top priorities.

“As foreign secretary of Pakistan, I was honoured to sit in many high level meetings where such decisions were taken and reviewed. I can say it with authority that Pakistan is now well on its way to defeat terrorism in our country.”

He said he would make efforts to take this positive story to each member of the US Congress and show them the fast emerging positive reality of Pakistan. “We would also welcome the US legislators to visit Pakistan and see for themselves the new, stronger and prosperous Pakistan,” he added.

Ambassador Chaudhary said that before arriving in Washington, he called on the president and the prime minister as well as senior civil and military leadership, and there was a complete consensus in Pakistan to have friendly and cooperative ties with the United States.



Three militants hanged in Sahiwal prison, says ISPR

Mar 15, 2017

Three militants convicted by military courts were executed on Wednesday at a high security prison in Sahiwal, read a statement issued by military’s media wing.

According to the Inter-Services Public Relations, the militants were involved in committing heinous offences relating to terrorism, including attacks on armed forces and law enforcement agencies.

The military courts, in their two-year tenure, handed over a total of 161 death sentences of which 21 have been executed so far, said ISPR.

Sharing details of the executed convicts, ISPR said that two of the convicts — Said Zaman Khan and Muhammad Zeeshan — were members of banned outfit Harkat-ul Jihad al-Islami. While the third convict was member of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

All the three convicts were found guilty of attacking armed forces and law enforcement agencies, said ISPR.

They admitted their offences before the magistrate and the trial court and were subsequently awarded death sentences, the statement added.

The execution of militants convicted by military courts had resumed after a gap of nearly one year as five members of the banned TTP were hanged in the district jail earlier this month.

During its two-year constitutional life, the military courts, set up to try civilians charged with terrorism after the carnage at the Army Public School in Peshawar in 2014, have convicted 274 accused. Of them 161 were awarded death sentence and 113 prison terms, mostly life imprisonment.



Blasphemy is unpardonable sin, says Nawaz Sharif

Mar 14, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday ordered authorities to take immediate action against 'blasphemous' content on the social media and remove sacrilegious contents and punish the perpetrators, days after a high court order.

"Those behind this heinous crime should be dealt with, without any delay," Sharif ordered Federal Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan.

"The blasphemous content on social media is a nefarious conspiracy to hurt the religious sentiments of entire Muslim ummah (community)," he was quoted as saying.

He also ordered to take necessary actions in accordance with the judicial guidelines issued by the court.

"Those responsible for blasphemy should be traced and punished according to the law," he said.

The Islamabad high court judge Shuakat Siddiqui last week directed the interior ministry to take actions against Facebook pages with alleged anti-Islam material.

Sharif also said that accountability of those who misuse the blasphemy law for their personal interests should be ensured.

He also asked the relevant departments to approach international social media platforms to put the blasphemous content off the internet.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's National Assembly on Tuesday passed a unanimous resolution condemning the sacrilegious contents appearing on social media and agreed to constitute a ten-member committee to monitor such content.

The lower house also agreed that, if required, the government should take legislative action against those posting blasphemous content on social media.

The resolution said that the "objectionable material is hurting the sentiments of the Muslims."

The House adopted a motion authorising Speaker National Assembly to constitute a ten-member special committee to suggest measures for blocking the sacrilegious and blasphemous material on social media and action against the responsible persons for this crime.

Blasphemy is very sensitive issue in Pakistan and those accused of it become an easy target for extremists.



Pakistan promises nuclear arms responsibility: Official

Mar 14, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan vowed on Tuesday to work to prevent non-nuclear states from gaining the technology that would put them on the path to acquiring nuclear weapons _ even though both Islamabad and neighbor New Delhi have defied non-proliferation treaties to become competing nuclear powers.

The pledge was delivered by Sartaj Aziz, adviser to Pakistan's prime minister on foreign affairs, at a multi-nation conference on non-proliferation in Islamabad, attended by representatives of South and Central Asia, as well as China and Russia.

Pakistan is signatory to the 13-year-old United Nations resolution aimed at curbing the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, with a particular emphasis on preventing non-state actors from getting their hands on massively destructive technology as well as materials.

But Islamabad has had a sketchy history in this area, with the architect of its nuclear weapons program, Qadeer Khan, accused of clandestinely giving North Korea nuclear weapons technology.

When India started down the nuclear road by launching its program in the early 1970s, Pakistan was quick to follow. The tensions between the two countries _ neither of which is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Agreement _ have raised the specter of a nuclear confrontation between the two hostile neighbors.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1947 when majority Muslim Pakistan was created from the larger South Asian subcontinent.



Balochistan higher education secretary abducted from Quetta

Mar 15, 2017

Armed men kidnapped Balochistan Higher Education Secretary Abdullah Jan in Quetta on Wednesday morning, police sources said.

They said unidentified gunmen picked up the official from Quetta's Sabzal Road area when he was on his way to work.

Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri took notice of the kidnapping and directed the inspector general of police to ensure his immediate recovery. A search operation was launched in various parts of Quetta to recover the secretary.

Jan's abduction comes at a time when Pakistan's 6th census is underway throughout the country and a large number of government employees, including those from the education department, are participating in the process.



Musharraf ready to face trial if army provides security

March 15th, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Former president Pervez Musharraf has said he will end his self-exile if he is provided security by the armed forces.

The former military ruler’s counsel, Akhtar Shah, submitted an application in an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in which he said Mr Musharraf will face the stalled judges detention trial if he is given security by the Ministry of Defence.

The former president had earlier requested the ATC to direct the authorities concerned to provide foolproof security for his appearance in court in the judges detention case.

The court had then ordered the IGP and interior secretary to make arrangements for the provision of security to the former general to ensure his presence in court.

He has now specifically asked for security from the defence ministry. Mr Shah told the court that his client did not trust the interior ministry, which had filed a complaint under Article 6 of the Constitution for high treason. Mr Musharraf has sought exemption from personal appearance till arrangements are made.

In the application, Mr Shah has said the petitioner intends to appear before the court if provided adequate security. Given the situation in the country, the counsel said, security threats are more serious now.

He has said Mr Musharraf is under constant watch of doctors, is being treated and has been advised not to travel.

The prosecutor, Amir Nadeem Tabish, said the interior ministry had time and again submitted that Mr Musharraf would be provided security if he was ready to appear before the court. However, he said, Mr Musharraf submits a new application at every hearing and has not appeared before the court for one reason or the other.

Mr Tabish said being a fugitive of law, Mr Musharraf could not seek relief nor would any lawyer represent him unless he surrenders before the court.



No army brigade sent to Saudi Arabia, claims defence minister

March 15, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Wednesday categorically rejected reports regarding the deployment of Pakistani army personnel to Saudi Arabia to assist the kingdom in its ongoing war with ongoing Saudi-Yemen conflict.

“No military personnel have been sent to Saudi Arabia in perspective of the Saudi Arabia-Yemen conflict,” said the minister.

Equating terror with Islam promoted extremism: Khawaja Asif

He was speaking on the floor of the National Assembly in response to a point of order raised by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) MNA Shafqat Mahmood.

Mahmood was referring to some reports and posts on the social media which suggested that a Pakistan Army brigade was sent to Saudi Arabia.

Asif said, “It is our policy not to get involved in Saudi Arabia-Yemen conflict. If any decision had to be taken, it will flow through the parliament.”

As discussed in this house and approved, he stressed, “It would be our endeavour that our role is not partisan rather we would play a conciliatory role”.

According to the federal minister, under a 1982 agreement between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, just above 1,000 Pakistanis including technicians, doctors and engineers have been living in the country for many years.

Khawaja Asif directs nuclear threat at Israel after reading fake news

“The decision of this house [National Assembly] is like an order for the government that Pakistan will not get involved Saudi Arabia-Yemen conflict,” Asif maintained.

Saudi Arabia and its mostly Gulf Arab allies intervened in Yemen’s civil war in March 2015 after Houthi rebels deposed the Hadi administration, which went into exile in Saudi Arabia.

The coalition has since launched thousands of air attacks on the Houthis and their allies in Yemen’s army but paused the strikes on Sanaa in March after reaching an informal agreement with the Houthis to cool combat on the Yemeni-Saudi border.





Turkey vows to mobilize Islamic world against Euro-fascism


Turkey will intensify its efforts against racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia on all international platforms, especially at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) as Turkey’s government is currently the term president, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said March 14.

“This matter is not a matter merely for Turkey. This fascism that shows its dirty face is negatively impacting all Muslims and foreigners living in Europe,” he said at a Doctor’s Day meeting.

Erdoğan called on Turks, Muslims and foreigners living in Germany and the Netherlands not to vote for parties that espouse anti-Turkey policies.

In a new attack against the Dutch in their spat, Erdoğan also held the Netherlands responsible for Europe’s worst mass killing since World War II.

“We know the Netherlands and the Dutch from the Srebrenica massacre. We know how rotten their character is from their massacre of 8,000 Bosnians there,” he said.

“We are familiar with how the character of their civilization was corrupted, how they have massacred 8,000 Bosnians there; we know them well,” Erdoğan noted.

Erdoğan was referring to a Dutch battalion of United Nations peacekeepers who failed to halt the slaughter by Bosnian Serb forces of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia in 1995.

In 2002, the government of Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok resigned en masse in recognition that the country’s soldiers failed to do enough to prevent the slaughter.

Some European countries have turned into “toys of racist and fascist parties” Erdoğan stated. He also slammed German Chancellor Angela Merkel for siding with the Netherlands.

“We know that you are no different from them. We do not expect anything else. [Dutch PM Mark Rutte] attacks with his horses and dogs, and you [Merkel] attack with your horses and dogs.”

The Netherlands exhibited “state terror” by not permitting Turkish ministers to rally with Turks in the country on March 11 and by intervening against protesters with police, Erdoğan said, adding that the country had greatly damaged Europe and the EU. “Now, the EU, for those who want to cooperate with, is not a symbol of the law, freedoms and human rights anymore. Europe is so important that it cannot be left at the mercy of a rogue state. I invite the whole world to take a determined position to be more sensitive.”



Gaza tailor makes prayer caps for Jewish worshippers

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

March 13, 2017

GAZA (Reuters) It’s not easy doing business from Gaza, but tailor Mohammad Abu Shanab has found a demand he can supply – his sewing factory is churning out religious skull caps, for devout Jewish men.

Since Israel resumed importing clothing from Gaza in 2015, Abu Shanab has renewed commercial contacts to sell merchandise to neighboring Israel. With salaries in Gaza much lower, Abu Shanab’s costs are very competitive.

“We make all kinds of clothes and recently began making the skull caps that are worn by Israeli rabbis and Christian priests,” said Abu Shanab, adding that as far as Gazans were concerned, religion was not an obstacle.

“In the foundation of our religion, we believe in Christianity and Judaism, we believe in the prophets Musa (Moses) and Issa (Jesus), so we have no problem making the headwear even if they are for Jews or Christians.”

Abu Shanab, 61, added a new production line to cater to the increased demand, even as the pace remains slow and exporting goods from the blockaded territory is rife with bureaucracy.

Israel imposes strict export procedures which greatly increase transport costs. Every shipment, no matter how small, must be sent separately.

So far Abu Shanab has sent 400 skull caps, also known as kippot or yarmulkes, and 1,000 bow ties to his Israeli client. Gaza factories also make goods according to design specifications of Israeli companies who send them the fabric.

Abu Shanab said he is also in talks with an Israeli buyer to produce the long coats worn by ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Before Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, after defeating forces loyal to the party of President Mahmoud Abbas, the territory’s sewing sector was one the largest employers with over 900 factories employing around 40,000 people.

But in the past decade, Israel and Egypt have imposed a blockade on Gaza and its two million people. Unemployment stands at 43 percent and 80 percent of the population is dependent on aid, according to the United Nations.

“Before (2007) I used to employ 70 workers but later I could keep only 10 to 15 of them,” said Hassan Shehada, another factory owner.

“Today I have 50 workers and I can increase it to 100,” he said.

But there’s still some way to go. Shehada said Israeli clients are afraid to trade with Gaza out of fear that another violent flare-up would force crossings to close and lead to financial losses.



Bahrain's Top Shi'ite Muslim Cleric Trial Postponed Till May

March 14, 2017

DUBAI (Reuters) - A Bahraini court on Tuesday delayed a ruling in the trial of the spiritual leader of the country's Shi'ite Muslim majority on charges of collecting funds illegally and money laundering, local media reported.

Ayatollah Isa Qassim, who is in his mid-70s, faces up to 15 years in jail if convicted in the trial that has ratcheted up tensions in the Western-allied Gulf Arab state where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is based.

The kingdom had been convulsed by occasional protests since authorities crushed 2011 protests mainly by Shi'ites demanding a bigger share in running the country.

The court had been expected to issue a ruling on Tuesday. But the Arabic-language al-Wassat said that, after convening under heavy security, it postponed the ruling in Qassim's case until May 7, giving no reason for the decision.

Overnight, hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Qasim's village west of the capital Manama, to show their support for the elderly cleric, according to videos and pictures posted online by activists.

Qassim also faces expulsion from the kingdom after authorities revoked his citizenship last year for alleged foreign links and fomenting violence, charges he had denied.

The charges emanate from the collection of an Islamic tax called Khums, which in Shi'ite Islam is collected and spent by a senior cleric in the interest of the needy.

Qassim's defense lawyers have refused to attend the hearing, which they saw as an attack on the country's Shi'tes.

State news agency BNA, which also reported the postponement, quoted the public prosecutor as saying Qassim and two other co-defendants are accused of collecting donations without permission and "conducting operations with the aim of hiding its source and to render it legal".

"It is a strictly an organizational matter that has nothing to do with religious duties," he added, according to BNA.

The trial is part of a wider crackdown on dissent that included a ban last year on the main Shi'ite Muslim group Wefaq. Authorities accuse it of fomenting sectarian unrest and having links to a foreign power, an apparent reference to Iran.

Bahrain's justice ministry took steps last week to dissolve the secular National Democratic Action Society (Waad) it accuses of supporting terrorism.



Jewish MP Raps Netanyahu for Lying about Iran

Tue Mar 14, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- Representative of the Iranian Jewish community at the parliament Siamak Mareh Sedq blasted Israel's prime minister for his recent remarks against Iran, and said nothing more is expected from "racist" Benjamin Netanyahu.

"Netanyahu is an insane vampire drowned in crimes from head to toe and the recent remarks made by the racist Israeli prime minister is not surprising to me," Mareh Sedq said, addressing an open session of the parliament in Tehran on Tuesday.

He referred to Netanyahu's role in killing innocent Palestinian women and children and occupation of the Palestinian lands, and said nothing is expected from him but nonsense.

Mareh Sedq said contradictory to the statements made by Netanyahu against Iran, anti-Semitism and racism have never been witnessed in the Iranian culture.

In relevant remarks on Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blasted Netanyahu's remarks, and said he is falsifying the Jews' holy book and resorting to fake history.

"To sell bigoted lies against a nation which has saved Jews 3 times, Netanyahu is resorting to fake history and is falsifying Torah," Zarif wrote on his Twitter account in reaction to the recent anti-Iran claims by Netanyahu.

The Iranian foreign minister said that once again Netanyahu not only distorts the realities of today, but also distorts the past, including Jewish scripture.

"It is truly regrettable that bigotry gets to the point of making allegations against an entire nation which has saved Jews three times in its history,” Zarif added.

Also on Sunday, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said that Netanyahu had both misreported Iran’s pre-Islam history and inverted facts. “Apparently, neither he is acquainted with history, nor he has read the Torah,” Larijani said.

Netanyahu made his claims during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Friday by referring to a legend commemorated through the Jewish holiday of Purim, which Israel started celebrating Saturday night.

While scholars do not agree on the accuracy of the Purim story, Netanyahu has constantly referred to the legend as a basis of his anti-Iran arguments in his meetings with different world leaders.



Kurdish Leader: World Losing Trust in Turkey

Tue Mar 14, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- A senior leader of the Syrian Democratic Union Party underlined that the Turkish government's wrong policies in the region have damaged the world states' trust in Ankara.

"We can say that the world countries have lost trust in Turkey and its supporters who call themselves as moderate dissidents in Syria, as Turkey is not yet neutral in the Syrian issue and is after spreading extremist thoughts in the region with the help of its Syrian and Arab mercenaries," Ebrahim, the media official of the Syrian Democratic Union Party in Europe, told FNA on Tuesday.

Noting that Turkey is not after annihilating the ISIL, he said Ankara wants to suppress the Kurds and their friends in other Syrian tribes.

His remarks came after Dutch authorities banned two ministers from campaigning for Turkey’s April constitutional referendum which seeks to extend Erdogan's powers.

Erdogan has warned that the Netherlands will “pay the price” for its “shameless” treatment of Turkey’s ministers.

Several German municipalities have also canceled rallies by Turkish ministers campaigning for a “yes” vote in the April referendum.



Turks hack Twitter accounts of Borussia Dortmund, UNICEF and others after diplomatic row


Turkish hackers have hacked a number of Twitter accounts following a diplomatic row with Germany and the Netherlands over a ban on Turkish ministers entering the country.

Among the hacked accounts were those of Borussia Dortmund, UNICEF USA, Amnesty International, Forbes, BBC North America, Reuters Japan, and Duke University.

Hackers shared a video of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at Davos 2009 with his famous “One Minute” dialogue with former Israeli President Simon Peres.

“A little bit of an Ottoman Slap to you, see you on April 16,” the hackers added in a reference to the referendum on controversial constitutional amendments.

The hackers reportedly did not explain the connection between such institutions such as Toyota Italy and Duke University and Turkey’s diplomatic spat with EU members.

The hacked accounts were subsequently reclaimed.



European Council Chair Tusk slams Turkey amid Dutch row


Turkish accusations of fascism in the Netherlands are “completely detached from reality,” European Council President Donald Tusk wrote via his official Twitter account on March 15.

Turkey’s remarks came after the Netherlands cancelled rallies by Turkish politicians in Rotterdam, which had aimed to drum up support for a referendum that would change the constitution.

“Rotterdam, the city of Erasmus, totally destroyed by the Nazis, which now has a mayor born in Morocco: If any anyone sees fascism in Rotterdam they are completely detached from reality,” Tusk told a plenary session of the European Parliament.

His remarks were echoed by European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker, who told the European Parliament that he was “scandalized” by comments from the Turkish government, saying they drove Turkey further away from becoming a member of the European Union.



Arab World


Over 800 health workers killed in Syrian ‘war crimes’: Report

In the crosshairs, an estimated 15,000 doctors -- about half the pre-war number -- fled the country, leaving hundreds of thousands of civilians without access to basic care.

March 15, 2017

More than 800 health workers have died in “acts of war crimes” in Syria since 2011, in hospital bombings, shootings, torture and executions perpetrated mainly by government-backed forces, researchers said on Wednesday. The Syrian government and its ally, Russia, have turned the violent withholding of healthcare into a weapon of war, according to an analysis published in The Lancet medical journal.

This “weaponisation” of healthcare, it said, “has translated into hundreds of health workers killed, hundreds more incarcerated or tortured and hundreds of health facilities deliberately and systematically attacked.”

In the crosshairs, an estimated 15,000 doctors — about half the pre-war number — fled the country, leaving hundreds of thousands of civilians without access to basic care.

“The international community has left these violations of international humanitarian and human rights law largely unanswered,” the authors of the report said.

It was compiled by experts from universities in Beirut, Britain and the United States, as well as the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) and Multi-Aid Programs, an NGO.

The data they gathered showed that 782 health workers were killed from March 2011 to September last year.

Of the total, 247 (32 percent) were doctors, 176 (23 percent) nurses and 146 (19 percent) medics, according to Physicians for Human Rights, a nonprofit group.

The rest included pharmacists, medical students, ambulance workers and veterinarians who were added to the list because they were killed while treating people.

Shelling and bombing of hospitals and clinics accounted for 426 (55 percent) of deaths, the report said.

Shootings of medical professionals followed with 180 deaths (23 percent), torture with 101 (13 percent) and executions with 61 (eight percent).

Since September 2016, at least 32 more lost their lives, “which brings the total number of health workers killed in acts of war crimes over the six years of the conflict to 814,” the study said.

This was probably a gross underestimate, it added.

The war in Syria has killed at least 320,000 people and displaced millions in six years.

The evidence suggested that the Syrian government targeted medics as a strategy, and to an extent never before seen in war, the researchers said.

The majority of the attacks on health facilities, 94 percent, were the work of “the Syrian government and its allies, including Russia”.

“With the military surge that began in late September 2015, when Russia joined Syrian government forces, 2016 marked the worst year of the conflict to date in terms of attacks on medical facilities,” the study said.



Saudi deputy crown prince, Trump meeting a 'turning point' in ties: Saudi adviser

Mar 15, 2017

Saudi Arabia hailed a “historical turning point” in US-Saudi relations after a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman highlighted the two leaders' shared view that Iran posed a regional security threat.

The meeting on Tuesday appeared to signal a meeting of the minds on many issues between Trump and Prince Mohammed, in a marked difference from Riyadh's often fraught relationship with the Obama administration, especially in the wake of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

“This meeting is considered a historical turning point in relations between both countries and which had passed through a period of divergence of views on many issues,” a senior adviser to Prince Mohammed said in a statement.

“But the meeting today restored issues to their right path and form a big change in relations between both countries in political, military, security and economic issues,” the adviser said.

Saudi Arabia had viewed with unease the administration of US President Barack Obama, whom they felt considered Riyadh's alliance with Washington less important than negotiating the Iran nuclear deal.

Riyadh and other Gulf allies see in Trump a strong president who will shore up Washington's role as their main strategic partner and help contain Riyadh's adversary Iran in a region central to US security and energy interests, regional analysts said.

The deputy crown prince viewed the nuclear deal as “very dangerous”, the senior adviser said, adding that both leaders had identical views on “the danger of Iran's regional expansionist activities”. The White House has said the deal was not in the best interest of the United States.

The meeting was the first since Trump's January 20 inauguration with the prince, who is leading the kingdom's efforts to revive state finances by diversifying the economy away from a reliance on falling crude oil revenues.

Under the plan, which seeks to promote the private sector and make state-owned companies more efficient, Riyadh plans to sell up to 5 per cent of state oil giant Saudi Aramco in what is expected to be the world's biggest initial public offering.

The two leaders, who discussed opportunities for US companies to invest in Saudi Arabia, kicked off their talks in the Oval Office posing for a picture in front of journalists.

US Vice President Mike Pence, Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, chief of staff Reince Priebus and strategist Steve Bannon were also present at the Oval Office meeting with Prince Mohammed.

The meeting also appeared to illustrate support for some of the most contentious issues that Trump has faced since taking office.

On a travel ban against six Muslim-majority countries, the adviser said Prince Mohammed did not regard it as one that was aimed at “Muslim countries or Islam”.

Earlier this month Trump signed a revised executive order on banning citizens from Yemen, Iran, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Libya from traveling to the US but removed Iraq from the list, after his controversial first attempt was blocked in the court. Trump's travel ban has come under criticism for targeting citizens of several mainly Muslim countries.

The senior adviser said Prince Mohammed “expressed his satisfaction after the meeting on the positive position and clarifications he heard from President Trump on his views on Islam”.

The senior adviser said the leaders discussed the “successful Saudi experience of setting up a border protection system” on the Saudi-Iraq border which has prevented smuggling.

Trump has vowed to start work quickly on the barrier along the nearly 2,000-mile US-Mexico border to prevent illegal immigrants and drugs from crossing to the north.



Mosul IS commander killed as Iraqi forces march to recapture Tigris river bridge

Federal police killed the military commander of the Old City, Abu Abdul Rahman al-Ansary, during operations to clear Bab al-Tob district, a federal police officer said.

March 14, 2017

Iraqi government forces killed the Islamic State commander of Mosul’s Old City on Tuesday as the battle for the militants’ last stronghold in Iraq focused on a bridge crossing the Tigris river. As fighting intensified on Tuesday after the previous day’s heavy rains, civilians streamed out of western neighbourhoods recaptured by the government, cold and hungry but relieved to be free of the militants’ grip. IS snipers were slowing the advance of Interior Ministry Rapid Response units on the Iron Bridge linking western and eastern Mosul but the elite forces were still inching forward, officers said. Government forces also pushed into areas of western Mosul, Islamic State’s last redoubt in the city that has been the de facto capital of their self-declared caliphate.

Federal police killed the military commander of the Old City, Abu Abdul Rahman al-Ansary, during operations to clear Bab al-Tob district, a federal police officer said. With many IS leaders having already retreated from Mosul, Ansary’s death comes as blow to the militants as they defend their shrinking area of control street-by-street and house-by-house. Capturing the Iron Bridge would mean Iraqi forces hold three of the five bridges in Mosul that span the Tigris, all of which have been damaged by the militants and US-led air strikes. The southernmost two have already been retaken. “We are still moving toward the Iron Bridge. We are taking out snipers hiding in the surrounding building, we are still pushing for the Iron Bridge,” Brigadier General Mahdi Abbas Abdullah of the Rapid Response force told Reuters.

Near the Mosul Museum, Iraq forces used armoured vehicles and tanks to attack snipers pinning down troops clearing areas around the bridge. An air strike targeting one Islamic State position hit a building, engulfing nearby troops in smoke and dust. Since starting the offensive in October, Iraqi forces with US-led coalition support have retaken eastern Mosul and about 30 percent of the west from the militants, who are outnumbered but fiercely defending their last stronghold in Iraq. For much of Tuesday, the troops were within 100m (330 feet) of the bridge. “It’s very key for our forces to secure the riverside and prevent Daesh militants from turning around our advancing forces,” a Rapid Response spokesman said in the morning, using an Arab acronym for Islamic State.

They expected to gain control of the Iron Bridge and the nearby area by the end of the day, he said. “Seizing the bridge will help further tighten the noose around Daesh fighters entrenched inside the old city,” he said.


The boom of shelling and heavy machinegun fire could be heard from the centre of Mosul and helicopter gunships strafed the ground from above on Tuesday morning. Amid the combat, a steady stream of refugees trudged out of the western districts, carrying suitcases, bottles of water and other possessions. Some pushed children and sick elderly relatives in handcarts and wheelbarrows. Soldiers packed them into trucks on the Mosul-Baghdad highway to be taken to processing areas. Most left in the dark early morning hours or after the army recaptured their neighbourhoods. Food had been scarce, they said. “We fled at 5 a.m. (0200 GMT) after the army had arrived. There has been a lot of shelling by Daesh,” said Hamid Hadi, a teacher. “Mostly we’ve been eating water mixed with tomatoes.”

Ashraf Ali, a nurse who escaped with his wife and two children, said mortar rounds were falling as they fled. They took advantage of the army retaking their district to get out. “Daesh wanted us to move to their areas but we escaped when the army arrived,” he said. As many as 600,000 civilians are caught with the militants inside Mosul, which Iraqi forces have effectively sealed off from the remaining territory that Islamic State controls in Iraq and Syria. The Iraqi forces include army, special forces, Kurdish peshmerga and Shi’ite militias.

More than 200,000 Mosul residents have been displaced since the start of the campaign in October. The Ministry of Immigration and Displacement said on Tuesday that in recent days, almost 13,000 displaced people from western Mosul had been received seeking assistance and temporary accomodation each day. “Whenever we advance there are more people coming out,” said one Iraqi officer directing refugee transport. “There are more people on this side of the city and people are trying to leave because there is no food and no supplies in their area.”

Losing Mosul would be a major strike against Islamic State. It is by far the largest city the militants have held since their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed himself leader of a caliphate spanning Iraq and Syria from a mosque in Mosul in the summer of 2014.



Yemen: 2 Al-Qaeda suspects killed in air strike, says security source

The United States has conducted more than 40 air raids, including drone strikes, against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in March alone.

March 15, 2017

Two suspected members of Yemen’s Al-Qaeda were killed today in an air raid on the southern Hadramawt province, a security official said. The two, going by the names Abu Jandal al-Hadrami and Abu Hashim al-Sharuri, were killed in what appeared to be a US air strike, the official said, requesting that his name be withheld. The United States has conducted more than 40 air raids, including drone strikes, against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in March alone.

Many of the strikes have targeted towns in southern provinces where the radical group is known to operate. At least 25 suspected AQAP members have been killed in the raids. The United States regards AQAP as the jihadist network’s most dangerous branch. However, Washington rarely reports on its drone raids on Yemen, which began in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

More than two years of civil war between government forces and Shiite rebels in Yemen have created a power vacuum which AQAP has exploited to consolidate its presence in the south and east. At least 7,400 people have been killed and 40,000 wounded over the past two years, according to the United Nations. Hadramawt, Yemen’s largest governorate, is currently under government control. AQAP continues to hold limited sway in the province.



In war crime, Syria deliberately bombed Damascus water supply – UN

There was no evidence of Russian involvement in chlorine attacks.

March 14, 2017

Syria’s air force deliberately bombed water sources in December, a war crime that cut off water for 5.5 million people in and around the capital Damascus, the U.N. Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria said on Tuesday. The commission said it had found no evidence of deliberate contamination of the water supply or demolition by armed groups, as the Syrian government maintained at the time.

Rebels had controlled the springs of the Wadi Barada valley, northwest of Damascus since 2012 and faced a major offensive by Syrian government forces and their allies, despite a ceasefire deal. The rebels withdrew at the end of January. The commission, led by Brazilian investigator Paulo Pinheiro, said there were no reports of people suffering water contamination on or before Dec. 23, when the Syrian air force hit al-Fija spring with at least two air strikes.

“While the presence of armed group fighters at (the) spring constituted a military target, the extensive damage inflicted to the spring had a devastating impact on more than five million civilians in both government and opposition controlled areas who were deprived of regular access to potable water for over one month,” the commission’s report said.

“The attack amounts to the war crime of attacking objects indispensable for the survival of the civilian population, and further violated the principle of proportionality in attacks.”

The commission’s conclusions were based on interviews with residents and satellite imagery, as well as publicly available information. The report, which covered the period between July 21, 2016, and Feb. 28 this year, came less than two weeks after the commission said that Syrian government aircraft deliberately bombed and strafed a humanitarian convoy, killing 14 aid workers, in September last year.

In a separate incident, aircraft – most likely Syrian or Russian – bombed the longstanding headquarters of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent in the town of Idlib, Tuesday’s report said.

The commission also documented the use of lethal chlorine gas on multiple occasions by government and pro-government forces, in the suburbs of Damascus and Idlib province.

There was no evidence of Russian involvement in chlorine attacks, the report said.



Syrian Army Deploys Forces 3km Away from ISIL-Held Deir Hafer

Tue Mar 14, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army soldiers continued to advance against ISIL in vast areas in Eastern Aleppo and captured territories only 3km away from the strategic town of Deir Hafer, a field source said Tuesday.

The source pointed to the army advances in Shweilakh, Karkiz regions and Tal (hill) Hamimeh, and said the Syrian pro-government forces are just 3km away from Deir Hafer and will liberate the ISIL-held town soon.

The source said army's control over Deir Hafer will open the path for the Syrian army to move from the Eastern parts of Aleppo province to Raqqa, while they can also move towards the town of Khanasser to complete their operation there to reinvigorate security to the Aleppo-Hama road.

Reports said earlier today that the army troops managed to drive the terrorists out of one more key settlement near the key town of Deir Hafer.

The army units engaged in another round of intense battle with ISIL West of Deir Hafer and managed to recapture Hamimeh al-Saqireh settlement, killing and wounding a number of terrorists.

In the meantime, the Syrian Air Force carried out several combat flights over the positions and movements of ISIL in the Western direction of Deir Hafer, killing tens of terrorists and destroying several positions and military vehicles.

A local source said that the army's control over Hamimeh al-Kabireh and Hamimeh al-Saqireh reinvigorated security to Kuweires airbase.



Syria: US Forces Evacuating ISIL Commanders from Deir Ezzur

Tue Mar 14, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- Arab media outlets said that the US troops have carried out another heliborne operation to evacuate 10 more ISIL commanders from the Eastern province of Deir Ezzur.

The Arabic language al-Hadath news website reported that several US military helicopters landed on kilometer 10 of Deir Ezzur-Hasaka road and evacuated a number of ISIL commanders from the region.

"After the helicopter landed, several US marines took 10 ISIL commanders on board and left the region," the report said.

"Abu Dajane Fransawi has most likely been among the top ISIL commanders taken away by the US marines," it added.

Abu Dajaneh was ISIL's man in charge of the terrorist group's financial affairs in Forat (Euphrates) oilfield.

Local sources disclosed in January that the US-led coalition's helicopters carried out an unprecedented heliborne operation in areas West of Deir Ezzur city to relocate ISIL's foreign fighters from the region.

The sources said that 6 helicopters were present in the operations, including two that carried a number of soldiers and Arabic translators in a region near al-Kebr station.

The source said the US troops left the helicopters and staged a raid on the terrorists at a water pump station, killing a number of them. "Then they took several ISIL terrorists captive, in an action that more seemed like a theatrical move".

"It looked like a drill and our suspicions grew when we came to realize that they only took captive those ISIL members who were foreigners," he added.

Other sources said that "the coalition forces that could speak Arabic with the accent of the Persian Gulf states took with them some of the non-Syrian members of the ISIL".



Homs: Syrian Army Wins Back More Territories in Energy-Rich Regions

Tue Mar 14, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army troops continued their advances against ISIL in Eastern Homs, driving terrorists out of more regions near the oil and gas fields.

The army men engaged in fierce clashes with ISIL Northeast of the newly-liberated city of Palmyra (Tadmur) and pushed the terrorists back from the strategic region of al-Sawameh along the road to Arak oilfield.

In the meantime, the army soldiers took back al-Qabab region North of Tal (hill) al-Ameriyeh and Palmyra from ISIL.

A military source said, meantime, that the army's control over the Northeastern and Southern fronts, Sabkhat al-Mouh, power convertor station, al-Kaziyeh and Maktab al-Dowar Southeast of Palmyra, will restore more security to the ancient city.

The source further added that a large number of ISIL terrorists were killed and a number of its vehicles equipped with heavy machinegunswere destroyed in the army attacks, including a vehicle with license plate number registered in Saudi Arabia.    

On Monday, the army troops targeted heavily a long military column of ISIL terrorists East of the newly-liberated city of Palmyra en route to Deir Ezzur, inflicting heavy damage on the terrorists' convoy.

The army units targeted ISIL's military convoy of vehicles that were retreating from the Eastern direction of Palmyra towards the terrorist-held regions in Deir Ezzur province, destroying several vehicles and killing or wounding their crew.

In the meantime, the Syrian Air Force carried out several combat flights over ISIL's positions in Arak village and near the Third Station in Eastern Homs.

Also, the army soldiers continued to attack ISIL's positons from Palmyra's military airport towards Bayarat al-Sharqi and engaged in fierce clashes with them on a road between Palmyra and al-Sukhnah town, killing and wounding a number of terrorists.

Elsewhere in the province, the army men targeted badly the terrorists' positions and concentration centers in Tal Zahab settlement in al-Houleh plain and in al-Qantou town.



Intelligence Minister Says Iran Mounts Intel Devices in Syria to Monitor Terrorists

Tue Mar 14, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi revealed on Tuesday that the country has sent intelligence devices to Syria to gather intel from the terrorists and monitor their moves.

"Security goods are a type of products exported by the Islamic Republic and today the intelligence ministry's technical team has installed the most powerful devices in Syria and the terrorists' bases are precisely monitored through this vitally necessary intel" gathered by these devices, Alavi said, addressing a forum in the Central city of Isfahan on Tuesday.

Iran is providing Iraq and Syria with military advisory and humanitarian aid in their fight against terrorist groups.

Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force Commander Major General Qassem Soleimani said in March that Takfiri terrorism threatens all Muslims, and Iran has waged war on those terrorists that trade enslaved women and children.

"The fire of Takfiri and Takfirism has engulfed in homes of our Sunni brothers. Those behind this are under the illusion that they can bring Shiism and the Islamic Republic to their knees. More than anywhere else, Takfiri groups have targeted the sanctity of humanity and the Sunni world," General Soleimani said, addressing a ceremony in Tehran.

General Soleimani then asked those behind the smear campaign to question Iran's policy in its ongoing war on terror, "Is it adventurism if the Islamic Republic makes sacrifices to defend Muslims? Is it wrong for the Islamic Republic to battle a group that in just one region is buying and selling some 20,000 unfortunate enslaved young women? Is it wrong for the Islamic Republic to stand against the anti-Muslim current and stop the demolition of Mosques and Muslim holy sites?"





Libya’s eastern parliament speaker says Russia offered aid

In January, he also visited a Russian aircraft carrier off Libya's coast and had a call with the Russian defense minister.

March 15, 2017

The speaker of the parliament based in the eastern part of Libya said that Russia has promised military assistance. House of Representatives President Agila Saleh told Russia’s state RIA Novosti news agency that authorities in the east have asked Moscow to help train army personnel and repair military equipment.

Saleh says that “we were promised assistance in the fight against terrorism.” Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter, a military chief allied with the parliament opposed to the United Nations-backed government in Tripoli, twice traveled to Moscow last year. In January, he also visited a Russian aircraft carrier off Libya’s coast and had a call with the Russian defense minister.

Saleh said that about 70 soldiers from Hifter’s forces were sent to Russia last month for medical treatment. At the same time, Russia also hosted Faez Sarraj, the prime minister of the government in Tripoli, this month in an apparent effort to expand its clout in the fractured country by talking to both sides.

Libya sank into chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and has remained split between rival parliaments and governments in the east and west, each backed by a set of militias, tribes and political factions.



Death toll reaches 72 in Ethiopia landfill collapse: Reports

Officials say they have already relocated hundreds of people from the landfill, where waste-pickers salvaged items to make a living and others found inexpensive housing.

March 14, 2017

The death toll has risen to 72 after Saturday’s collapse of a mountain of garbage in a landfill outside Ethiopia’s capital, state broadcaster EBC reported on Tuesday. Many victims were women and children as makeshift homes inside the Koshe landfill were buried in debris. It is not clear how the collapse occurred.

Officials say they have already relocated hundreds of people from the landfill, where waste-pickers salvaged items to make a living and others found inexpensive housing. Ethiopia has declared three days of national mourning that will be observed as of tomorrow. The first funerals of victims began Monday.



Somalian pirates hijack first commercial ship since 2012

March 14, 2017

Pirates have hijacked a Sri Lankan-flagged oil tanker, a Somali official said on Tuesday, the first time they have successfully taken a commercial ship since 2012. The Aris 13 sent a distress call on Monday, turned off its tracking system and altered course for the Somali port town of Alula, said John Steed of the aid group Oceans Beyond Piracy.

“The pirates hijacked the oil tanker and they brought it near Alula,” Mohamud Ahmed Eynab, the district commissioner for Alula, told Reuters on Tuesday by phone. Pirates in the town confirmed they were expecting the ship.

The tanker was believed to have eight crew on board, said Steed, an expert on piracy who is in contact with naval forces tracking the ship.

“The ship reported it was being followed by two skiffs yesterday afternoon. Then it disappeared,” he told Reuters.

Aircraft from regional naval force EU Navfor were flying overhead to track the ship’s progress and to try to determine what was happening, he said.

Data from Reuters systems showed it made a sharp about turn just after it passed the Horn of Africa on its voyage from Djibouti to Mogadishu.

The 1,800 deadweight tonne Aris 13 is owned by Panama company Armi Shipping and managed by Aurora Ship Management in the United Arab Emirates, according to the Equasis shipping data website, managed by the French transport ministry.

The ship was being monitored by the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Organisation (UKMTO), which coordinates the management of all merchant ships and yachts in the Gulf of Aden area, the head of the

International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur, Noel Choong, said.

The UKMTO in Dubai said it had no further information.

In their heyday five years ago, Somali pirates launched 237 attacks off the coast of Somalia in 2011, the International Maritime Bureau says, and held hundreds of hostages.

That year, Ocean’s Beyond Piracy estimated the global cost of piracy was about $7 billion. The shipping industry bore roughly 80 percent of those costs, the group’s analysis showed.

But attacks fell sharply after ship owners tightened security and avoided the Somali coast.

Intervention by regional naval forces that flooded into the area helped disrupt several hijack bids and improved security for the strategic trade route that leads through the Suez Canal and links the oilfields of the Middle East with European ports.



Southeast Asia


Malaysia to deport 50 North Koreans despite ban: Deputy PM

Mar 14, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will deport 50 North Koreans for overstaying their visas, the deputy prime minister said on Tuesday, in an apparent exception to a departure ban imposed after the assassination of Kim Jong-Nam.

The killing of the half-brother of North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Un with VX nerve agent in Malaysia last month triggered an angry standoff between Kuala Lumpur and Pyongyang that has seen them expel each other's ambassadors and refuse to let their citizens leave.

But Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told reporters that 50 North Koreans working in Sarawak state on Borneo island -- home to coal mines which often employ foreign workers, would be deported from Malaysia despite the ban.

"We will send the North Korean workers in Sarawak who have exceeded their visa back to Pyongyang for overstaying," he said. "They will be deported soon."

He did not say why the government had decided on the expulsion despite Kuala Lumpur's bar on North Korean nationals leaving the country -- a tit-for-tat measure put in place after Pyongyang prohibited Malaysians from leaving its borders last week.

The diplomatic crisis erupted last month after North Korea attacked the Malaysian investigation into Kim's killing as an attempt to smear the secretive regime.

Three Malaysian embassy staff and six family members are stranded in North Korea as a result.

Pyongyang, which has never confirmed Kim's identity, has repeatedly demanded the return of his body but Malaysian authorities have refused to release it without a DNA sample from next-of-kin.

The body, which is currently being kept in a morgue in the capital, has been embalmed to prevent it from decomposing more than a month after the assassination, the deputy prime minister said.

"It's an effort to preserve the body, because if it is kept in the mortuary it might decompose," he said.

Two women -- one Vietnamese and one Indonesian -- have been arrested and charged with the murder. CCTV footage shows them smearing the 45-year-old's face with a piece of cloth. Pyongyang has insisted that he most likely died of a heart attack.

Relations between North Korea and Malaysia had been particularly warm, with a reciprocal visa-free travel deal for visitors, prior to the high-profile killing.

Up to 100,000 North Koreans are believed to be working abroad and their remittances are a valuable source of foreign currency for the isolated regime.



North Korea blames US and South Korea for Malaysia attack

Malaysian authorities have identified the victim as Kim Jong Nam, though he was using a North Korean passport under the name Kim Chol.

March 14, 2017

North Korea has tried to shift the blame for the deadly attack in Malaysia on the estranged half-brother of its leader Kim Jong Un to the United States and South Korea. North Korea’s deputy UN ambassador, Kim In Ryong, told a news conference that “from A to Z, this case is the product of reckless moves of the United States and South Korean authorities,” who he said are trying to tarnish the North’s image and bringing down its social system.

Malaysian authorities say Kim Jong Nam died after two women smeared his face with the banned VX nerve agent at Kuala Lumpur’s airport on February 13, but North Korea which is widely suspected to be behind the attack rejects the findings.

Ambassador Kim said the cause of Kim Jong Nam’s death “has not yet been clearly identified, but the United States and the South Korean authorities are groundlessly blaming the DPRK,” using the initials of the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Malaysian authorities have identified the victim as Kim Jong Nam, though he was using a North Korean passport under the name Kim Chol. The ambassador, like other North Korean officials, referred to him only as Kim Chol and did not say he was Kim Jong Un’s half brother.

He asked why the person who applied the VX agent, which is fatal if a tiny amount is inhaled, is still alive while the man it was applied to died.

The ambassador asserted that the US is one of the few countries that can manufacture VX and that it has stockpiled chemical weapons in South Korea, which could have provided the chemical agent for the attack on Kim Jong Nam.

“It is a final aim sought by the United States to store up the international repugnancy towards the DPRK,” he said of the attack, with the intention of provoking a “nuclear war against DPRK at any cost.”

“So the US and South Korea were starting the political chicanery to bring down the social system in DPRK,” the ambassador said.

He said the DPRK will respond by continuing to bolster its defenses “and the capability for the pre-emptive strike with a nuclear force.”

The North Korean envoy held a press conference at UN headquarters in New York after the DPRK boycotted a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, which was addressed by its special investigator on human rights in the reclusive northeast Asian nation.

Tomas Ojea Quintana told the council that tensions caused by North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear tests are jeopardizing efforts to improve human rights in the secretive country.





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