• Swiss Muslim Fined £178 for Saying ‘Allahu Akbar’
• UAE Friday Sermon: The Importance Of Brotherhood In Islam
• Pakistan Wants to Reform Madrasas, Experts Advise Fixing Public Education First
• NIA Probe into ‘IS Module’ Looks into Kashmir Link
• What Does China Want To Achieve By 'Modifying' Islam?
• Pompeo, At Site of Obama's Address to Muslim World, Rebukes His Legacy: 'Age Of Self-Inflicted American Shame Is Over'
• After Apartheid Wall, Israel Unveils ‘Apartheid Road’ In West Bank
• Swiss Muslim Fined £178 for Saying ‘Allahu Akbar’
• Florida Congressman Seeks Halt to Federal Funds for Nation of Islam
• Brotherhood connection: German state puts Turkish organization under scrutiny
• Meet the Muslims on the Queen’s New Year Honours list
• French troops to stay in Syria until political solution
• UAE Friday Sermon: The Importance Of Brotherhood In Islam
• Iraqi politicians demand probe into reported visits to Israeli-occupied territories
• Ceasefire deal sees jihadists take over Syria's Idlib: Reports
• Several Turkish Soldiers, Ankara-Backed Militants Killed in Kurds' Operations in Aleppo
• Syrian, Russian Military Convoys Sent to Hama, Idlib after Heightened Tensions
• 5 British Soldiers Killed in Eastern Deir Ezzur
• New combat drone used in airstrike against Saudi mercenaries: Yemeni Army
• Pakistan Wants to Reform Madrasas, Experts Advise Fixing Public Education First
• Islamabad wants Taliban to negotiate with Afghan govt
• In Final Adieu, Justice (R) Muslim Compiles a To-Do List for Sindh Govt
• Pak Anti-Terrorism Court Sentences Cyber stalker to 24 Years in Jail
• Military test fires newly-inducted air defence weapon system
• Govt criticised for Pakistan being called ‘US-China battleground’
• Two terrorists killed during Op Raddul Fasaad
• NIA Probe into ‘IS Module’ Looks into Kashmir Link
• MP: Govt Officer Claims Being Hounded Because He Is Muslim
• Triple Talaq Ordinance to Be Re-Promulgated
• Do not equate Taliban talks with dialogue in J&K: Army chief
• China takes India envoy on trip to Uighur camps
• What Does China Want To Achieve By 'Modifying' Islam?
• Indonesia to Put Muslim Issues Forward at UN Security Council
• Indonesian pastor turns ex-child soldiers to peace
• No sense in modelling IIUM after Oxford, says don
• Malaysia maintains stance on Israeli Paralympic athletes ban
• Pompeo, At Site of Obama's Address to Muslim World, Rebukes His Legacy: 'Age Of Self-Inflicted American Shame Is Over'
• Pompeo hopes to establish coalition consisting of GCC states, Egypt and Jordan
• Texas county GOP rejects move to oust Muslim vice-chair
• Ex-US ambassador slams reaction to Khashoggi murder
• Mike Pompeo: Barack Obama is to blame for Iran's expansion
• After Apartheid Wall, Israel Unveils ‘Apartheid Road’ In West Bank
• Israel To Confiscate Palestinian Land For Settlement Project In Central West Bank
• Several Saudi-backed militants killed in Yemen’s retaliatory drone raid
• Six soldiers killed, 20 injured in Houthi drone attack on Yemen’s army parade
• Hamas say Egypt to fully reopen Gaza border despite PA pullout
• Secret deal: Qatar can’t prosecute any Turkish soldier on its territory
• Yemen’s information minister calls for firm stance against Houthis
• Palestinian boat catches fire as Israeli navy fires at fishermen off Gaza
• Taliban Kill 32 Afghan Security Men, Militias
• 14 Taliban, ISIS-K Militants Killed In Afghan, Coalition Forces Operations
• Bangladesh man jailed for posting altered pictures of PM on Facebook
• Rohingya Hindu refugees in Bangladesh want to return to Myanmar: US daily
• Dawood Ibrahim gives a portion of his narco-money to Jihadist-Islamist groups
• Dozens killed as Taliban attack troops in four provinces
• Over 30,000 flee Boko Haram violence in northern Nigeria: UN
• Central African Republic open to Russian military base
• Three protesters die in Sudan demonstration
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Swiss Muslim Fined £178 for Saying ‘Allahu Akbar’
Jan 10, 2019
Israeli police secure the entrance to a divided road and put a new barrier in the section to be used by Palestinian drivers near the West Bank town of al-Zayyem on January 10, 2019. (Photo by AFP)
Swiss police have defended handing a Muslim man a £178 fine for saying “Allahu Akbar” in public because passersby could have mistaken him for a terrorist.
The man, identified in Swiss media as Orhan E., says he used the phrase after spotting a friend while walking through Schaffhausen, northern Switzerland, in May last year.
The phrase literally means “God is greatest” but is commonly used by Arabic speakers as an all-purpose response to a range of emotions, including joy, distress or surprise - similar to “oh my God” in English.
However, it has also gained a degree of notoriety in the western world through its use as a battle cry during Islamist terror attacks.
Orhan, who went public with his account this week, told local daily Schaffhauser Nachrichten he thought nothing of the phrase, which he said is used by Muslims “almost every second sentence”.
However, as he conversed with his friend “he was approached by an off-duty police officer” who said his “loud and clear” use of the expression could have caused people to fear an imminent terror attack, The Local reports.
“I didn’t want any problems and I spent two minutes trying to explain why I had said what I did,” Orhan said.
The policewoman nevertheless called for armed back-up. Orhan says he was “manhandled” by officers before being issued with a 150 Swiss francs (£120) fine for causing a public nuisance, plus a 60 franc (£58) processing free.
Orhan said that he had decided to come forward with his story following a recent incident in which a Muslim man was allegedly punched by a Swiss border guard after using the phrase.
“I was born here and have never experienced anything like this,” he said. “Just because terrorists misuse these two words doesn’t mean I have bad intentions when I say them.”
A media spokesperson for the force maintained that officer had acted “appropriately” out of concern for public order.
However, the town’s security chief, Romeo Bettini, said that it was “completely wrong” to suggest that saying “Allahu Akbar” was banned in Schffhausen and insisted Orhan had been targeted because he shouted the phrase - a claim the young man denies.
UAE Friday Sermon: The Importance Of Brotherhood In Islam
By Ruba Haza
January 11, 2019
Allah has endowed upon the human being the blessing of having siblings, being a priceless gift from Him, worshippers will hear on Friday.
It was illustrated in the Holy Book in the story of Prophet Musa (Moses), for He says, “and We gave him out of Our mercy his brother Aaron as a prophet.” (Mariam: 53).
The gift was awarded by Allah in response to the supplication of Prophet Musa to his Lord to make his brother Haroon (Aaron) a helping hand for him in his life affairs.
So, he invoked Him saying, “increase through him my strength. And let him share my task.” (Taha: 31-32).
The sermon will tell worshippers that a brother to a brother is a protection shield, aid and a source of strength.
They stand by one another and help each other with all that which they can afford. As such, a brother becomes the refuge to which his brothers can seek while facing the burdens of life, embodying in this the perfect and most beautiful and honourable bonds.
Through their firm ties, brothers impart happiness and tranquillity to the hearts of their parents, consolidation and harmony to their families as well as solidarity and peace to their society.
Prophet Mohammed has advocated us that one’s brother, whether a biological one or a milk kinship, are the most people worthy of one’s kindness and honouring after parents and sisters.
He said, “Do acts of goodness towards your mother, your father, your sister, your brother, then the next closest, and then the next closest.”
As for the aspects of goodness towards brother, they involve asking about him, about his children and family members, as well as checking about his conditions, showing love to him, visiting him and sharing with him every happy and sad moment in life.
Furthermore, one other aspect of the splendid relationship between brothers is that each one of them is a mirror for the other.
If one of them sees a flaw in the other, he hastens to correct it; when he finds in him a shortcoming, he strives to perfect it; and when he gives him a piece of advice, he will be honest and sincere in doing so.
On this account, the Prophet said, “If one of you was asked for advice by his brother, he should do so.”
Pakistan Wants To Reform Madrasas, Experts Advise Fixing Public Education First
January 10, 2019
Youths sporting peach fuzz sway as they chant parts of the Quran. They sit in the courtyard of a sprawling Islamic seminary, or Madrasa, on the outskirts of the village of Meer Muhammad, in Pakistan's rural heartland in Punjab.
By graduation, these students should have memorized Islam's holiest book and finer points of Islamic law. They will have mastered little else.
They need little else, argues Muhammad Saleem Asif, a religious scholar and the principal of the Madrasa, the Roza Tul Quran Al Kareem School. These students, repeating the words of God, raise the spirits and morals of their community, he says.
"The seminaries deal with man's spiritual issues," Asif says. "They bless the communities around them."
But in the village, just around the corner from the Madrasa, the principal of a government-funded girls' high school worries about the seminary's influence, and its lack of basic education.
"This is a matter of concern for our entire society," says Abida Akram. "I try [to] keep my students and my kids away from the Madrasas. They contaminate the students' minds, and if they remain unchecked, it will lead to disaster."
Akram gestures toward a muddy lane, where the Madrasa keeps another compound for its female students. It is dank and dirty, in contrast with the well-lit compound reserved for older boys, which features new computer equipment.
Many of the Madrasa's female students and teachers wear long robes and face veils, a style of dress imported from Saudi Arabia, which follows a harsh interpretation of Islam. Akram says her school takes in the Madrasa's female dropouts, whom she describes as poorly educated.
"I don't think they have learned anything in the seminaries," she says.
These scenes and tensions play out across Pakistan, where madrasas flourish. From an estimated 150 at Pakistan's independence in 1947, there are now some 32,000 Madrasas attended by some 2.5 million students, according to Azmat Abbas, author of Madrasah Mirage: A Contemporary History of Islamic Schools in Pakistan. (Other estimates range as high as more than 60,000 madrasas).
Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan has said he wants the Madrasas to produce better-qualified students. "Seminary students should also become engineers and doctors," Khan said last August, in his first public address. He called on Madrasas to introduce a core curriculum including subjects like math, English and science.
Khan's call — not the first from a Pakistani leader — reflected decades of anxiety surrounding Pakistan's madrasas. Most are privately funded and fall outside government control, and there has long been concern that they produce unskilled graduates steeped in intolerant versions of Islam.
Even Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, chief of Pakistan's army, the country's most powerful institution, has pondered the fate of seminary students: "Will they become maulvis [clerics]," he asked in 2017, "or they will become terrorists?"
Madrasas boomed under the decade-long rule of Gen. Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, which ended in 1988. Many catered to Afghans who had sought refuge in Pakistan, fleeing the Soviet war in their own country. The Taliban movement later emerged among Afghan students who were trained in some of those seminaries. And some of the most prominent leaders of Pakistani sectarian and militant groups have come from Madrasa backgrounds.
But research over the years into Madrasas' links with militancy has so far presented a complex and incomplete picture. Some research has found that although Madrasa students show high levels of support for violence, there is also notable support for violence among public school students — and they far outnumber Madrasa students, who account for less than 10 percent of all children who attend school in Pakistan.
According to researchers who have studied Madrasas, now the majority of seminaries do not advocate militancy. Instead, they follow a deeply conservative interpretation of Islam similar to that preached in Saudi Arabia. Other Madrasas are aligned with Barelvis, adhering to a South Asian stream of Sunni Islam which encourages visits to saints' shrines and embraces chanting and dance. A smaller number of Madrasas are operated for Shiite Muslims.
Barelvi Madrasa students attracted attention last fall, when they formed the bulk of angry, sometimes violent, demonstrations across Pakistan. They were lashing out against the Supreme Court's decision to acquit a Christian woman accused of insulting Islam. They did not recognize the legitimacy of the court, and led calls for the woman, Asia Bibi, to be hanged and decapitated.
In urging Madrasa reforms, Khan is trying where decades' worth of other Pakistani government attempts have failed. The most recent attempt to reform Madrasas was made by the former government of Punjab, Pakistan's most populous province, before it was voted out of office last year.
Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan, a legislator who served as spokesman for the former provincial government, says the province shuttered some two dozen Madrasas, seen as irredeemably militant. He says many other Madrasas were teaching students that Muslims who followed different sects were infidels — worthy of being killed. The provincial government destroyed the incendiary material, though it did not close down these Madrasas.
And it was not able to introduce basic school subjects or moderate the Madrasa syllabus. There was a lack of political will to push against powerful Madrasas whose backers continue to form a minority voting bloc in Pakistan's parliament.
"My government should have done it. The government before me should have done it," says Khan, the former provincial government spokesman. "Political will is required, all governments lack that."
After the prime minister's speech in August, National Assembly speaker Asad Qaiser vowed the government would leave Madrasas alone. "We are neither introducing a new syllabus for Madrasas nor are we drafting any policy," Qaiser told a group of clerics in October.
But the government plans to introduce a uniform curriculum for public schools, private schools and Madrasas.
Education minister Shafqat Mahmood tells NPR that reforms would introduce "five or six main core curriculum" subjects.
"You might be surprised to know there is no resistance," Mahmood says, referring to Madrasas. "On the contrary, they want to carry out these reforms."
Not really, Madrasa leaders say.
"The seminaries oppose reforms — they think the government is trying to roll back or ruin this system," says Shaikh Tanveer Alavi, a senior teacher at Jamia Muhammadia, a Madrasa in Islamabad. He says they worried the government was trying to undo Madrasas' curriculum and erode their independence.
Alavi says many Madrasas, including his, were already adding core curriculum subjects, to offer more employment opportunities to graduates. He showed NPR reporters a math class, where a teacher scribbled algebra equations on a white board. Students tried to solve the problems in groups on a carpeted floor.
Madrasa Mirage author Azmat Abbas says seminaries will resist reform. Right now, "they can do whatever they want," Abbas says. "With state regulation comes responsibility, and then penalties."
And experts on Pakistan say the government's focus on Madrasa reform misses the point.
"Do the math," says Michael Kugelman, senior associate for South Asia at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. "You got plenty of people who go to non-religious schools and prestigious colleges, and they are radicalized."
Kugelman says there is a need to "look at the whole education system."
Or at least reform the public school system, says Mosharraf Zaidi, an analyst who ran a Pakistani education campaign. "The public education system vastly, vastly under-serves Pakistani kids," Zaidi says.
With a better school system, he says, parents will have less incentive to send their children to Madrasas. More than 22 million Pakistani children are not in school, largely because they have no decent institutions to attend. That overshadows the estimated 2.5 million children enrolled in Madrasas, he says.
Back in Meer Muhammad, Akram, the girls' school principal, is weary of reform promises. Perhaps, she says, if the government forced the Madrasas to appoint "a professional instead of a mullah [cleric]" to teach and oversee education, "I think it will be much better."
Until then, Akram says, the government should focus on providing needed funding to high schools like hers. On a recent day, 40 girls were crammed into a math class. Akram says the school is short of teachers — they have 12, but need 15 more.
But at least here, she says, students get an education — not indoctrination.
NIA probe into ‘IS module’ looks into Kashmir link
by Deeptiman Tiwary
January 11, 2019
The NIA’s investigations into the suspected Amroha-Delhi module of the Islamic State have now found a Kashmir link to the alleged conspiracy. Interrogation of Saqib Iftekhar — a Hapur-based muezzin under arrest for allegedly helping the group acquire weapons — is learnt to have revealed that he had travelled to Jammu and Kashmir twice in search of weapons and to meet militants.
NIA sources claimed that Iftekhar travelled to Kashmir first in May last year. “He visited Bandipora in North Kashmir and then went Rajouri in Jammu,” an NIA officer said.
His second visit to the Valley was in August when he visited Tral, the officer said. “He had gone to Tral to meet a Maulvi. He and the Maulvi are known to each other as they studied theology in an Amroha seminary together. He asked the Maulvi to arrange for weapons and to help him meet Mujahideen. The Maulvi expressed the inability to arrange for weapons but promised to help him meet Mujahideen,” the officer said.
An NIA team is now in Kashmir to identify and question the Maulvi and to ascertain if the group ever came in contact with Kashmiri militants.
NIA has so far arrested 11 people in connection with the case, with Mufti Suhail — an Islamic Preacher from Jaffarabad in Delhi — being accused of being the leader of the group.
The core group allegedly had four members — Suhail; Mohammed Anas, a civil engineering student from Amity University ; Zubair and Zaid, all of them residents of Jaffarabad in Delhi. On instructions from their handler they had decided to form the group to carry out IS activities, NIA sources said.
To maintain secrecy, they would create a Telegram group every morning to chat and delete it the same evening, NIA sources said.
On December 26, NIA arrested 10 people from Delhi’s Jaffarabad and UP’s Amroha for allegedly being part of a group called Harkat-ul-Harb-e-Islam. The agency alleged that the group owed allegiance to the Islamic State and was being handled by an online entity by the name of Abu Malik Peshawari.
During its raids, the NIA had claimed to have seized a huge cache of arms and explosives.
Officially, the NIA has maintained that the group had plans to target “vital installations and important personalities which included politicians”.
What does China want to achieve by 'modifying' Islam?
On Sunday, Chinese authorities announced their plan to Sinicize Islam through a five-year plan. According to a report published in the state-run Global Times newspaper, on January 4, representatives of Islamic associations from eight Chinese provinces participated in a Beijing seminar and discussed the outline for how to align Islam with Chinese norms. A government official said it was important for China's Muslim community to "improve their political stance and follow the [Communist] Party's lead."
The announcement came just days after police reportedly raided three unregistered mosques in the southwestern Yunnan province, injuring dozens of worshippers and arresting more than 40 people.
David Stroup, a China expert at the University of Oklahoma, told DW that the Chinese government wants to tighten control over Islamic groups and take measures to remove overly foreign features from public places.
"This could mean continued efforts to remove public signs in Arabic or make changes to Arab-style mosques," Stroup said. "At the same time, the government may try to assert more direct control over the practice of faith, especially over the clerics' weekly sermons," he added.
'The Muslim isolation'
Haiyun Ma, a history professor at the US-based Frostburg State University, says that the Chinese government's Sinicization drive borders on xenophobic. Ma believes that by emphasizing the need to remove foreign influences, the Communist Party wants to create a Chinese version of Islam that is guided by atheism.
"Beijing considers the Arab influence as dangerous and believes it should be totally eliminated from the lives of Chinese Muslims," Ma underlined.
"Also, it wants to cut off Chinese Muslims from other Muslim countries. In other words, China is trying to isolate its Muslim community while claiming it is embracing globalization," Ma added.
Many analysts see the increased efforts to Sinicize Islam as part of a large-scale crackdown on Muslims, especially in the Xinjiang region. The authorities have reportedly put at least one million Xinjiang Muslims in internment camps. These measures have raised concerns among Muslims in other parts of China that Beijing wants to implement the Sinicization model across the country.
In November last year, Global Times reported that officials in regions with sizable Muslim populations are "learning" from the Xinjiang experience, which, according to the government, is aimed at curbing terrorism.
Analyst Stroup says the international community needs to increase pressure on Beijing to force it to alter its treatment of the Muslim community.
"So far, the international community has not taken up the issue in a serious manner," said Stroup.
Ma is of the view that it won't be easy for Beijing to Sinicize Islam as its multibillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is inviting influences from a number of Muslim-majority countries like Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and Turkey.
But the expert believes the US could use its influence to pressure China.
"It is possible that the US and other Western countries can work with the Muslim nations to tackle this issue," suggested Ma. "In other words, the US can win the hearts and minds of key Islamic countries."
A precursor to a major conflict?
Ma believes that local authorities are likely to play a major role in the Sinicization drive, but warns that it comes with some risks.
Violent conflicts between local authorities and Muslim communities have erupted in Ningxia and Yunnan in the past few years. Cui Haoxin, a Hui Muslim poet, told DW that the Sinicization measures will not be easily accepted by the Muslim communities.
Cui says that such acts could have a snowball effect and are likely to transform into a major conflict in the future.
"It is hard to rationalize these measures," Cui said, adding that the situation for Muslims in China is getting worse.
Pompeo, at site of Obama's address to Muslim world, rebukes his legacy: 'Age of self-inflicted American shame is over'
January 11, 2019
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday launched an astonishing rebuke of former President Barack Obama’s foreign policy at the site of Obama’s famous speech to the Muslim world -- declaring that “the age of self-inflicted American shame is over.”
Pompeo delivered his remarks in Cairo, where Obama famously spoke in 2009 and promised a new beginning with Muslim and Arab countries. He was criticized by conservatives for placing too much blame on the U.S. for strife in the region.
Pompeo, while not mentioning Obama by name, said that “it was here, in this city, another American stood before you” and “told you that radical Islamist terrorism does not stem from ideology.”
“He told you that 9/11 led my country to abandon its ideals, particularly in the Middle East,” he said at the American University in Cairo. “He told you that the United States and the Muslim world needed ‘a new beginning.’ The results of these misjudgments have been dire.”
Pompeo said that under Obama, the U.S. abandoned its allies and was “timid” about asserting itself, that the U.S. “grossly underestimated the tenacity and viciousness of radical Islamism,” and kept silent as Iranians tried to rise up against the regime in Tehran.
He also criticized Obama-era policy for “wishful thinking [that] led us to look the other way” as Hezbollah built up its weaponry in Lebanon, and for doing nothing as Syrian President Bashar Assad gassed his own people.
He then took another swipe at the 2015 Iran nuclear deal -- from which the U.S. withdrew last year. The U.S. has since re-imposed economic sanctions on the country, including on oil exports.
“Our eagerness to address only Muslims, not nations, ignored the rich diversity of the Middle East, and frayed old bonds. It undermined the concept of the nation-state, the building block of international stability,” he said. “And our desire for peace at any cost led us to strike a deal with Iran, our common enemy.”
But he promised his audience that the Trump administration was ushering in a new era of U.S. foreign policy.
“The good news is this: The age of self-inflicted American shame is over, and so are the policies that produced so much needless suffering. Now comes the real ‘new beginning,’” he said.
His speech emphasized America as a force for good in the region. He cited accomplishments under Trump’s leadership -- including the pushback of Islamic State, the withdrawal of more troops and personnel from Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and building a coalition to push back against Iranian influence.
“We have rediscovered our voice. We have rebuilt our relationships. We have rejected false overtures from enemies. And look at what we have accomplished together,” he said.
Pompeo’s speech comes as part of a tour of the region, including Jordan and other Gulf nations, as he seeks to coordinate an anti-Iran strategy. It comes after a sudden decision from President Trump last month to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, leading to concern from some allies in the region about U.S. commitments.
On Thursday, Pompeo appeared to attempt to assuage those fears by pledging U.S. commitment.
“Our aim is to partner with our friends and vigorously oppose our enemies, because a strong, secure, and economically viable Middle East is in our national interest – and yours,” he said. “Let me be clear: America will not retreat until the terror fight is over.”
After apartheid wall, Israel unveils ‘apartheid road’ in West Bank
Jan 10, 2019
After constructing the controversial "apartheid wall" to separate Jerusalem al-Quds from the rest of the West Bank, Israel has now opened the “apartheid road” in the area, separating Palestinian and Israeli drivers with a wall.
The roughly 3.5km stretch, which was inaugurated on Wednesday, features an eight-meter high wall that puts Palestinian drivers, who are banned from entering the city, on the western side and Israeli settlers on the eastern side.
The road was constructed over a decade ago but remained closed amid a dispute between the Israeli military and police over a checkpoint.
While segregated Israeli roads are common, none had featured a wall before.
Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said the highway would ease heavy traffic for settlers in the area while helping Israel overcome “security challenges."
The road’s opening prompted condemnation from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
“This is an Israeli example of apartheid and racist separation that once existed in South Africa,” PLO Executive Committee member Ahmad Majdalani told Israeli media. “Any Israeli who believes in democracy should feel ashamed about this new road.”
The Palestinian Authority said in a statement that the road posed a challenge to “the credibility of the international community."
"It's a shame on the international community to see an apartheid regime being established and deepened without doing anything to stop it," the PA statement read.
Palestinians have long feared that the road and other similar construction projects in the area would eventually split the West Bank in half, further hindering Palestinian plans for a future state.
Ir Amim, an Israeli NGO opposing Israel's settlement expansion activities, warned that the road facilitates settlers’ commute at the expense of Palestinian communities.
According to Aviv Tatarsky, who works with the NGO, the new road further isolates some Palestinian villages from Jerusalem al-Quds while forcing Palestinians traveling between the north and south of the West Bank to change course.
About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built illegally since the 1967 occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Jerusalem al-Quds is already separated from the West Bank by the so-called Israeli “apartheid wall.”
Israel began building the 712-kilometer barrier of towering concrete walls, barbed-wire fences, trenches and closed military roads inside the occupied West Bank back in 2002.
The International Court of Justice said in 2004 that the apartheid wall violated international law and urged Israel to remove it.
Florida Congressman Seeks Halt to Federal Funds for Nation of Islam
BY MARK TAPSCOTT
January 11, 2019
Rep. Vern Buchanan was incensed when he read a news report that Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam receives federal funds for “services” to U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) inmates.
The Florida Republican fired off a Jan. 7 letter to Acting Attorney General Matt Whittaker demanding the Department of Justice (DOJ) “immediately cease all contracts with the Nation of Islam and prohibit it from receiving any contracts in the future.”
Buchanan noted in his letter that Nation of Islam was contracted by BOP “to conduct so-called ‘spiritual guide services’ and ‘study services’ to inmates, and he said, “the fact that hard-earned American tax dollars are being funneled to this extremist group is not only unacceptable, it’s downright immoral.”
He also asked Whittaker to begin an immediate “full review of all ongoing and future contracts to ensure that the U.S. government is not financing domestic or foreign hate groups.”
Buchanan has yet to get a response from DOJ or BOP, his spokesman Anthony Cruz, told The Epoch Times on Jan. 10.
Buchanan’s demands are prompting questions about why federal prison officials would pay Farrakhan’s group more than $354,000, according to the Washington Examiner’s Alana Goodman, for services that are available at no cost from faith-based groups such as Prison Fellowship.
Farrakhan is infamous for saying that Adolf Hitler was “a great man” and that Jews and Caucasians are “evil,” among his teachings, which have led to the Black Muslim organization being condemned across the political spectrum as a hate group.
A review of federal spending data by The Epoch Times confirmed that federal funds are going to the Nation of Islam, as was first reported by Goodman. The review also found that Prison Fellowship International has received more than $3.5 million in awards from the Department of State’s Agency for International Development (AID) for human rights work overseas, mainly in Zambia and Ethiopia.
The data revealed a different story for Prison Fellowship U.S., which has been deeply involved in inmate counseling and rehabilitation activities across the country since its founding in 1976 by former Nixon White House aide Charles Colson.
Unlike the Nation of Islam, Prison Fellowship U.S. has received no federal funding. That’s because, according to spokesman Jim Forbes, “Prison Fellowship is faith-based. We don’t take any, zero, government dollars.”
Asked if his group would respond if approached by DOJ or BOP to conduct programs in the federal prison system, Forbes said, “That has actually happened with the passage of the First Step Act, by them basically acknowledging that faith-based programs do work within the prison system.”
Forbes was referring to legislation signed by President Donald Trump on Dec. 21, 2018, after a rare bipartisan effort to reform federal prison sentencing and rehabilitation practices.
As The Epoch Times previously reported, the bill “gives judges more discretion when sentencing drug and lower-level offenders, while also reducing the recidivism risks of prisoners by expanding on programs such as job training.”
The bill, for which Trump and his son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, lobbied intensely, passed in the House of Representatives, 358-36, while the Senate also overwhelmingly approved the measure, 87–12.
The First Step Act was needed, according to a Prison Fellowship analysis, because “until now, federal prisons unnecessarily limited the ability of nonprofit organizations and volunteers to mentor prisoners and provide programming.”
The new law “prevents discrimination against faith-based programs and instructs the Bureau of Prisons that faith-based programs proven to reduce recidivism are permitted to function as education and reentry programs,” the analysis said.
The specific details of Prison Fellowship’s new work in the U.S. prison system are still being developed, according to Forbes.
Meanwhile, Cruz said the congressman would “take this into consideration when deciding on a further course of action” regarding the Nation of Islam funding.
A spokesman for BOP was unavailable to answer any questions about funding for the Nation of Islam or related issues, due to the partial shutdown of the federal government.
The U.S. prison system released 34,530 inmates in 2018 and a third of them are likely to be re-arrested within three years, according to BOP data. There are more than 180,000 inmates in the system, which is 14 to 25 percent more than the system’s facilities are designed to hold.
An estimated 16,000 inmates, according to BOP, are currently on waiting lists for basic literacy training, which illustrates that “demand for rehabilitative programming in the federal prison system far exceeds capacity,” Prison Fellowship said.
Brotherhood connection: German state puts Turkish organization under scrutiny
10 January 2019
Bavaria’s Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said in a statement published on Wednesday (January 9, 2019) that the Turkish Islamic Union might be subject to a control by the Constitution Protection Authority Homeland intelligence Agency.
“What is especially alarming is the invitation sent to representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood to attend a seminar recently held in Cologne,” he said.
“The group adopts positions that cannot be reconciled with the requirements of the German constitution. Therefore, the state must be vigilant in this regard,” he is quoted by DW to have said.
Also a prominent member of the European Parliament for the Christian Social Party of Bavarian, criticized the efforts of Turkish President Recep Erdogan to put all people with Turkish roots throughout Europe under his influence.
The member of the Green Party, Jim Ozdemir, also criticized the Cologne seminar, saying it “shows that President Erdogan is continuing to extend his arm in Europe.”
German government commissioner for religious freedom, Marcos Grobel, also rejected the “Foreign political influence on Muslims who are living in Germany.”
The Union, based in Cologne, is under the supervision of the Turkish Religious Affairs Office in Ankara. German outlets reported that imams of some Turkish mosques in Germany responded to the request of the Turkish Consulate General to inform them about the followers of the preacher Fathullah Gulen.
In the past years, the Union received funds from various German state funds, within projects that work to prevent radicalization among Muslim youth.
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Meet the Muslims on the Queen’s New Year Honours list
January 05, 2019
LONDON: A record number of Muslims have been named in the Queen’s New Year Honors list for achievements ranging across technology, the arts, business and community work.
Among the 1,148 recipients recognized in the list are Aamer Naeem, CEO of the charity Penny Appeal; Nasar Mahmood, chairman of the British Muslim Heritage Center; and Supt. Umer Khan of Greater Manchester Police, who all received an Officer of Order of the British Empire (OBE) for community work.
Dr. Malik Ramadhan, head of the accident and emergency unit at the Royal London Hospital, who operated through the night on 12 victims of the London Bridge terror attack in June 2017, also received an OBE.
Abul Kalam Azad Choudhury, who founded the Azad Choudhury Academy and Welfare Trust, received a Master of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to education in Bangladesh, and immigration officer Jahaid Ahmad received the same award for services to law and order.
Faeeza Vaid, 34, executive director of the Muslim Women’s Network, who four years ago helped to set up the charity’s helpline to assist women fleeing forced marriages or at risk of so-called “honor” violence, was also appointed an MBE.
“I call myself a Muslim feminist,” said Vaid. “My faith tells me I need to stand for equality and justice.”
Many people in their early 20s are still trying to decide what to do with their lives. Not Saeed Atcha.
At age 22, he is already CEO of his own magazine publishing venture, a trustee of several charities, a trainer, mentor and motivational speaker. The British government has also spotted his talent and, in November, he was appointed social mobility commissioner.
Now Atcha has become the youngest person named in the Queen’s New Year Honours list, receiving an MBE for services to young people in the Manchester region, where he has lived all
As is the custom, he was told about the award several weeks ago but was sworn to secrecy until the official announcement. “I am the worst person at keeping a secret, so I told my closest family and a couple of close friends — four people in all — and then put it to the back of my mind,” Atcha told Arab News.
“When I got the letter asking me if I would accept it, I thought it might be a joke. I didn’t realize you could refuse it. So I checked and realized this was real. You really don’t expect an honor like this, especially at my age. I was quite emotional about it.”
Atcha said that his faith had helped him through difficult times. The grandson of Indians who emigrated from India in the 1950s and settled near Manchester in northwest England, Atcha spent much of his childhood in foster care. His mother has a neurological condition that meant she was not always able to look after him.
He was only 2 when he first went into care. He was reunited with his mother when he was 5, but six years later went back into foster care with relatives.
By his own admission he was “a tearaway” as a teenager. “I didn’t have a criminal record, but I was not the easiest child,” he said.
His rebellious streak led him to start Xplode, a magazine for young people, after a teacher reprimanded him for focusing too much on the school magazine instead of studying for his GCSE exams.
“Instead of a school magazine, I decided I would produce a borough-wide magazine.”
He approached the assistant director of the local council to ask for office space and within a week was installed in an office in Bolton town center with support to source funding. He was 15.
“I’ve never been afraid to go to the top,” he said. Next he acquired funding and a business mentor from O2, the mobile network company.
Xplode is produced entirely by teenagers and young people for their own peer group. More than 7,500 copies are distributed to schools, colleges, supermarkets and coffee shops.
Atcha has since set up Employ, which has helped more than 5,000 young people improve their chances of finding employment.
He is also a trustee for three charitable organizations and is on the board of governors for his old school. Somehow he fits it all around studying for a master’s degree in public relations at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Atcha believes he carries a triple responsibility. “I’m young, I’m a Muslim and I come from a disadvantaged background. Muslims sometimes marginalize themselves. The idea that in one of the most advanced countries in the world, a young person can’t escape the path of disadvantage because of their postcode or their parents’ income or because they’ve been in care, offends me.”
Recently, Atcha attended the Misk Global Forum in Riyadh. “I’ve never been to a conference attended by 6,000 young people. If only I could return to Saudi Arabia more often. The government is really investing in young people there, which is essential for our future, as my personal journey shows.”
And those GCSE exams that his teacher was so worried about? Atcha passed them all. With flying colors.
Chaudhry was 21 when he fell in love with dance, which is on the late side if you want to make a career out of it. But he soon made up for lost time. At 58, he can look back on a career as a performer and manager that has taken him all over the world and culminated in an OBE for services to dance and dance production.
Muslims are not generally seen to have a strong tradition of dance, unlike poetry and literature. But Chaudhry said that his OBE is recognition of the wealth of talent in the Muslim world.
“It’s wonderful. It is a testament to how, despite all the paranoia and the negativity about the Muslim world and what it brings, it is such an important source of talent and it is making a difference to how we live our lives. It’s a big message because it shows that all the work on integration and celebrating diversity is bearing fruit.”
Chaudhry was born in Lahore, Pakistan, and was 3 when he came to Britain with his parents. His father had been a professor of mathematics in Pakistan, but had to take a job as a security guard, while his mother, who was from a wealthy family, worked on the assembly line at a bakery.
He was 17 when he was first captivated by a contemporary dance performance at the famous Sadler’s Wells theater in London. He had embarked on an English degree at the University of Sussex, but abandoned his studies in favor of a career in dancing.
Chaudhry enrolled at the London Contemporary Dance School, graduating in 1986, “which was quite late.” But he has worked consistently in opera and theater in Germany and Belgium as well as the UK.
After retiring from dancing in 1999, he completed a master’s degree in arts management. Eighteen years ago, he sold his apartment to raise cash to found the Akram Khan Company with dancer Akram Khan, a specialist in kathak, a north Indian dance style.
Alongside running the company, Chaudhry was also a creative producer for Chinese dancer Yang Liping and for the English National Ballet for four years.
He is delighted that so many Muslims have been honored. “It thrills me, actually. Every single person I’ve seen on that list has earned it. There hasn’t been any political correctness about wanting to ensure they get enough black and brown and Muslim faces. It’s a testament to the breadth and scope of the awards, and how they see value in a society.”
Malik is one of a rare, but growing, breed — a Muslim woman who is also a qualified fitness instructor.
The 51-year-old was the first, certainly in her locality if not the whole UK, when she qualified in 1995. Since then she has inspired other Muslim women to improve their health and reduce social isolation through exercise.
Malik also fundraises for a children’s hospice in her home city, Leeds, and four years ago established a charity, Give a Gift, to get British Asians involved in charitable work. Her efforts have been recognized with an MBE.
Malik, who was born to Pakistani immigrants, had an inkling that something was afoot when a letter arrived marked “Cabinet Office.” Her husband, Hanif, had received a similar one in 2016, telling him that he had been nominated for an OBE. Nevertheless, it still left her “shocked and overjoyed.”
The honoring of so many British Muslims was gratifying, she said. “When something appears in the media, it’s always related to extremism and we get linked with that. It’s fantastic for Muslims to be recognized for the good work they are doing.
“My faith is my first and foremost reason for what we’re doing. We do what we do to help anybody and everybody.”
As soon as she qualified as a fitness instructor in October 1995, Malik was approached to start fitness classes for Pakistani and Bangladeshi women in Leeds. Research showed they were at risk of developing chronic health problems, but social isolation, poor language skills and cultural tradition prevented them from taking exercise.
“I was given my first class within a week,” said Malik, who speaks Urdu and Punjabi. The classes took off and she has now helped more than 40 women from ethnic minorities go on to qualify as instructors.
Her charity work includes the Ramadan Toys Appeal. She has also raised more £100,000 for Martin House Children’s Hospice, which is used by more than a third of Muslims living in the West Yorkshire region of England.
In 2003, tragedy struck Malik’s own family when she was shot by a masked man who had broken into the family home. At the time, she was five months’ pregnant with her daughter, Hibah, having given birth to a stillborn son previously. Her attacker was never caught.
Full report at:
French troops to stay in Syria until political solution
By Yusuf Ozcan
France will withdraw from Syria only after a political solution, said the foreign minister on Thursday.
“We will for sure withdraw [from Syria] when a political solution is found,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told CNews television.
Stating that they have soldiers in Iraq and briefly in Syria to support the U.S., Le Drian added that the fight against Daesh terror group was not over yet.
He noted that France’s main target was the fight against Daesh.
Touching on the YPG/PKK terror group, which uses the name SDF in Syria, Le Drian said it was his country’s biggest ally in Syria.
“They fight against Daesh on the ground. The U.S. decision to pullout from Syria is a serious decision because SDF is being put in a hard situation,” adding that they had to provide their security with their allies at the international level.
He added that Russia had responsibility to find political solution in the war-torn country as Moscow has been supporting the Bashar al-Assad regime.
In December, U.S. President Donald Trump announced plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, claiming that American forces had defeated Daesh there.
Full report at:
Iraqi politicians demand probe into reported visits to Israeli-occupied territories
Jan 10, 2019
A reported visit to the Israeli-occupied territories by several Iraqi lawmakers has sparked a wave of condemnations from the Arab country’s political leaders, with some of them demanding a probe to identify those who crossed a “red line.”
Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced on Sunday that three Iraqi delegations had secretly visited the occupied territories in 2018.
The ministry said the 15 Iraqi dignitaries had visited “Israeli officials and universities,” as well as the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem al-Quds.
The report did not identify any members of the Iraqi delegations, nor did it specify with which Israeli officials they had held talks. It said the most recent of the visits was in December.
According to Baghdad al-Youm website, Nasr al-Shammari, deputy secretary-general of Iraq’s Islamic Resistance Movement (al-Nojaba) said in case the report is proved to be true, those who visited the occupied territories should be punished.
The Foreign Relations Committee of Iraq’s parliament also said the Israeli report was aimed at “creating sedition in the country.”
Furat al-Tamimi, a member of the committee, said the issue will be discussed in the upcoming meeting between the parliamentary committee and the foreign ministry, according to Iraq’s Arabic-language al-Sumeriyah news channel.
If the trip has taken place, al-Tamimi said, the responsibility for this issue lies with the security departments, particularly the national security.
Meanwhile, prominent politician and leader of Iraq’s al-Qarar Coalition Athil al-Nujaifi denied reports that he had been among those who visited the occupied territories.
The report first drew strong reaction from First Deputy Speaker of Iraqi Parliament Hassan Karim al-Kaabi, who said in a statement on Monday that “To go to the occupied territory is a red line, and an extremely sensitive issue for all Muslims.”
He also called for “an investigation… to identify those who went to the occupied territory, particularly if they are lawmakers.”
Iraq does not formally recognize Israel, and Baghdad and Tel Aviv are technically still at war.
Ceasefire deal sees jihadists take over Syria's Idlib: Reports
Jan 10, 2019
BEIRUT: The main jihadist alliance in Syria's Idlib region reached a deal on Thursday ending days of deadly fighting with rival rebels and extending its influence over the whole rebel enclave.
The agreement brings an immediate end to the fighting between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), led by Al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate, and the rival Turkish-backed National Liberation Front (NLF), according to the jihadists' propaganda website Ebaa.
"This morning, HTS and the NLF signed an agreement to put an end to ongoing fighting... and establish the control of the salvation government in all areas," Ebaa said.
The so-called "salvation government" is the administrative arm of HTS, which has been gaining ground inside Syria's last major rebel bastion in recent days.
Since September, Idlib has been shielded from a threatened government offensive by a precarious truce agreed between government ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said Thursday's deal saw the whole rebel enclave come under HTS administrative control.
Other jihadist factions — such as the Al-Qaeda-linked Hurras al-Deen group and the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) — are present in other areas of Idlib but are allied with HTS, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.
On Wednesday, a deal between HTS and rival rebel commanders saw the jihadist-led alliance take control of two parts of Idlib, Sahl al-Ghab and Jabal Shahshabo.
Full report at:
Several Turkish Soldiers, Ankara-Backed Militants Killed in Kurds' Operations in Aleppo
Jan 10, 2019
The Kurdish-language Hawar news reported on Thursday that the Kurdish forces destroyed an armored vehicle of the Turkish army in operations against them in Afrin, killing a Turkish soldier and wounding two others.
It added that during the operations near the town of Kaljabrin in A'azaz region in Western Aleppo, a military vehicle of the Ankara-backed militants was smashed and 5 of them were killed and wounded.
Meantime, at least 7 Ankara-affiliated militants were killed and wounded and their military vehicle was destroyed during the Kurdish forces' operations against the Turkish army in Afrin and Mar'e region in Western Aleppo earlier this week.
The Turkish army and its allied militants continue to occupy parts of Northwestern Aleppo, as local sources say Ankara has turned several villages in Afrin region to military bases.
The Turkish army and its allies have expelled the residents of Jia border village in Raju area of Afrin in Northwestern Aleppo and turned their village to a military base, Hawar news reported on Sunday.
The Kurdish media pointed to the cutting of over 3,000 trees and destruction of 20 hectares of agricultural lands in the surrounding areas of the village, and said that the Turkish army had deployed tanks, armored vehicles and heavy weapons at its military base.
Full report at:
The Turkish-backed militants have also been looting assets of the civilians in Afrin region.
Syrian, Russian Military Convoys Sent to Hama, Idlib after Heightened Tensions
Jan 10, 2019
Field sources in Northern Syria reported on Thursday that a Russian military convoy, consisting of several armored, military, engineering and personnel carrier vehicles, have been sent to the strategic village of Salba in the Southern parts of the town of Hayalin in Western Hama.
They added that the Syrian army also sent several military convoys to Northern Hama and Southern Idlib, noting that over 250 forces of the Syrian army's fifth Division along with extensive military equipment, including 15 military vehicles and tens of trucks carrying weapons and equipment, were dispatched to the strategic town of al-Moshirfeh in Southeastern parts of the town of Abu Dali in Southeastern Idlib.
Meantime, the Syrian army units in Northern Hama targeted the terrorists in the town of al-Latamineh and its surrounding areas with artillery fire, leaving heavy tolls on them.
Also, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front) has gained control of 80% of regions occupied by other terrorist groups in Idlib, Hama, Aleppo and Lattakia during infightings among militants in Northern Syria in the past 9 days.
In a relevant development on Wednesday, the Syrian army continued warding off renewed attacks by Tahrir al-Sham from the demilitarized zone in Northern Hama and Southern Idlib.
The Syrian Army's missile and artillery units pounded the terrorists' movements from Wadi al-Dorat in Eastern al-Latamanieh in Northern Hama towards the Syrian Army's military point in the region, killing and wounding a large number of terrorists, while forcing others to retreat.
The Syrian army's artillery units also targeted and pounded a terrorist group who intended to penetrate into the army's military positions from the town of Mourek, killing and wounding a number of them as well as destroying their weapons and military equipment.
In Southeastern Idlib, the army's artillery units also targeted and pounded Tahrir al-Sham's movements from al-Khowin and al-Zarzour regions towards the army's military positions before they could penetrate into their positions.
Full report at:
5 British Soldiers Killed in Eastern Deir Ezzur
Jan 10, 2019
The Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper quoted local sources in Eastern Syria as saying on Thursday that the ISIL missile attacks on the town of al-Sha'afah killed 5 British forces fighting under the command of the US-led coalition and wounded a number of others.
They added that the wounded soldiers were transferred to al-Shadadi hospital in Southeastern Hasaka.
According to the report, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has withdrawn from some of their positions after the ISIL attacks against al-Sha'afah which was earlier under the control of the Kurdish forces.
The missile strikes were the second ISIL attack on British troops in Syria in days.
Full report at:
New combat drone used in airstrike against Saudi mercenaries: Yemeni Army
Jan 10, 2019
The spokesman for Yemeni Armed Forces says army troopers and allied fighters from Popular Committees made use of a new domestically-developed combat drone in their air raid against Saudi-backed militiamen loyal to former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi at an air base in the country’s southwestern province of Lahij.
Speaking during a press conference in the capital Sana’a on Thursday, Brigadier General Yahya Saree said Yemeni soldiers and their allies had attacked Saudi mercenaries at al-Anad Air Base with a Qasef K2 (Striker K2) drone.
He added that the new drone could strike its designated targets from 20 meters away, and that it could carry a large payload of explosive materials.
Saree further noted that dozens of high-ranking Saudi-paid militiamen were killed or injured in the aerial attack, noting that the injured mercenaries were transported by helicopter to Aden German International Hospital in the port city of Aden.
He pointed out that Saudi mercenaries were now in a state of panic and terror as a result of the high-precision military operation, stressing that their commanders would no longer be able to escape unscathed if they continued to serve the aggressors.
Yemeni snipers shoot dead nine Saudi mercenaries
Meanwhile, at least nine Saudi-backed militiamen have been killed when Yemeni army soldiers and fighters from Popular Committees launched separate attacks in Saudi Arabia’s southern border region of Jizan as well as the northern Yemeni province of al-Jawf.
The media bureau of Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement said Yemeni forces and their allies fatally shot five Saudi mercenaries in the Wadi Jarrah area of the region, located 966 kilometers south of the Saudi capital Riyadh on Thursday evening.
Two other Saudi-sponsored militiamen were killed when Yemeni forces targeted them east of the mountainous Jabal al-Doud district.
Elsewhere in the Khabb and Sha'af district of Jawf province, Yemeni sharpshooters killed two Saudi-backed militiamen.
Also on Thursday, Yemeni army soldiers and fighters from Popular Committees carried out offensives against the positions of Saudi mercenaries in the Tabishia’a area of Yemen’s southern coastal province of Ta’izz, killing and injuring scores of the Saudi-paid militiamen in the process.
Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating military campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the aim of bringing Hadi’s government back to power and crushing the country’s Houthi Ansarullah movement.
According to a new report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, the Saudi-led war has so far claimed the lives of around 56,000 Yemenis.
The Saudi-led war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN has already said that a record 22.2 million Yemenis are in dire need of food, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger. According to the world body, Yemen is suffering from the most severe famine in more than 100 years.
Full report at:
Islamabad wants Taliban to negotiate with Afghan govt
Baqir Sajjad Syed
January 11, 2019
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan wants the Taliban to give up their refusal to talk to the Afghan government so that a political settlement of the 17-year-old conflict could be negotiated.
“We want them to sit together. It is for Afghans to sort out their problems and as long as they do not sit down and talk to each other, outsiders can do little to help them,” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said in a conversation with Dawn on Thursday.
Pakistan last month facilitated a meeting between the United States and the Taliban in Abu Dhabi, which was also attended by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The talks were described as “positive” and “productive” by the UAE and the US, but Taliban have remained stuck to their position that they would not talk to the government in Kabul, which they call a “puppet regime”. The insurgent group instead wants to first reach a settlement with the US on the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.
Criticising Taliban’s refusal to talk to Afghan government, Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah on Wednesday said that as long as that did not happen the hopes of ending the conflict would remain a pipe dream.
Another round of talks to build on Abu Dhabi meeting is expected later this month.
Meanwhile, Foreign Office spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal in a tweet emphasised Pakistan’s commitment to an intra-Afghan dialogue. “Pakistan is facilitating efforts for a peaceful solution in Afghanistan. We believe that an intra-Afghan dialogue is the only way to a successful negotiated settlement,” he wrote in a post on the microblogging site.
Asked about the prospects for this impasse on initiation of an intra-Afghan process being overcome, Foreign Minister Qureshi appeared hopeful and recalled that till lately “no one could have thought of US and Taliban representatives sitting under one roof and talking to each other, but that happened”.
Mr Qureshi late last month undertook a whirlwind regional tour visiting Afghanistan, Iran, China and Russia to take their leaderships on board about the latest Pakistani effort to revive talks that have been stalled since July 2015, when they broke down over a leak that insurgency’s leader Mullah Omar had been long dead. Later, he travelled to Doha for the same purpose.
Earlier this week, Mr Qureshi during a meeting with Afghan president’s special envoy for regional consensus for Afghan peace Umer Daudzai in Islamabad assured him that Pakistan would do all to help the people of Afghanistan see the earliest possible end to bloodshed. US special envoy for Afghan peace and reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad is due in Islamabad next week.
Talking about his regional contacts, the foreign minister said a regional convergence about ending the war in Afghanistan through a political settlement had emerged. Pakistan, Afghanistan, US and Taliban, he maintained, were “on the same page” that there had to be a political solution. Russia, China, and Iran also agree with this position, he added.
In Final Adieu, Justice (R) Muslim Compiles A To-Do List For Sindh Govt
By Z Ali
January 11, 2019
HYDERABAD: The Supreme Court-mandated Commission on Water and Sanitation, whose stint is expiring on January 15, appears to have set ambitious goals for the provincial government in its recommendations submitted in its final report to the apex court.
The report highlights the achievements and sets short, mid and long-term goals for the government whose track record on the water supply, drainage and environment fronts remains far from satisfactory.
As the report highlights, all the mega projects of water supply, sewage treatment, solid waste management, stopping pollution of waterways and protecting the environment are either at the nascent stage or the planning one. Over the course of Justice (Retd) Amir Hani Muslim’s stint as its chairman, since January, 2018, the commission received 750 applications or complaints, of which 450 were completely or ‘substantively’ sorted out.
The commission has directed the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) to prepare a master plan to meet the existing and future requirement for the water supply and drainage. It also ordered the Sindh government to submit a phase-wise rehabilitation plan for the existing water distribution network within three months. Justice (R) Muslim recommended that the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) should be assigned the task of monitoring water quality of the filtration plants as well as of the distribution network.
The commission has given June 30, 2019, as the deadline to the KWSB for the installation of flow meters at all water supply stations and a year for the installation across the board’s network. The board will also have to upload real-time water flow data for public information on its website from July 31, 2019. “Water losses consume a quarter of Karachi’s total water,” the commission underlined, emphasising the need to plug the losses and ensuring effective maintenance.
The commission set March 2019 as the deadline for completion of the 100 MGD Dhabeji pumping station, while giving three weeks to the board to make 18 reverse osmosis plants in Karachi operational. “The federal and provincial governments should resolve the issues pertaining to K-IV water supply project on priority.”
The project will provide an additional 250 million gallons per day water to the city from Kotri barrage through the K B Feeder canal. The board has been directed to adhere to deadlines for the completion of Treatment Plants (TP) I, III and IV while the Defence Housing Authority will have to operationalise the 2 MGD TP at Sea View beach. “The people of Karachi suffer unhealthy and unhygienic conditions at the beach due to disposal of sewerage from several phases of DHA.” The TP at the DHA has been given a deadline for April 2019 for completion. A 100-MGD TP V has been planned on Mai Kolachi Road and Karachi Port Trust will have to complete it in two years.
The Sindh Solid Waste Management Board (SSWMB) will have to establish six garbage transfer stations (GTS) equipped with up-to-date machines, equipment and tools. The scheme has been included in ADP 2018-19 and will be implemented by the board.
The development and upgrade of landfill sites at Jam Chakro and Gond Pass as per international standards will also have to be carried out. These projects have also been included in the next year’s provincial ADP. The SSWMB has been asked to develop waste to energy projects for which funds will be earmarked in next ADP.
The commission has suggested adding a tertiary sewage treatment system to enable the treated sewerage to be used by industrial consumers. It noted that the SITE industries at present are using up to 40 MGD of KWSB’s filtered water. “The potable water of the board can be saved for domestic uses.”
With the construction of trunk sewers about 29 kilometers in Lyari river and about 23 kms in Malir river, the flow of sewage in the rivers will stop as the S III sewage treatment project becomes functional.
To prevent the rivers from encroachment and solid waste dumping, the commission proposed that trees should be planted and theme parks developed which will also help protect the environment. “Every storm drain has been converted into a sewer,” Justice (R) Muslim observed.
The commission observed that the Sindh Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) needs a complete overhaul of its physical, technical and academic capacity.
It recommended that a climate change cell, research and development wing and law enforcement cell should be established in SEPA, as also proposed by its director-general. The commission also asked the government to set up environmental laboratories which will conduct research as well. It tasked the agency to finalise the survey of all industrial units in the province by June 2019 and ensure that the industries which have submitted undertakings for construction of in-house effluent treatment systems abide by their commitment.
The commission suggested the inclusion of environment as a subject in the educational curriculum and conducting regular studies on urban air quality. It stressed that EPA’s offices should be established in all districts.
“All the orders, directives and instructions passed or communicated by the water commission from January 14, 2018, to January 15, 2019, may be made a rule of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.” The government or private parties which submitted undertakings to the commission will face legal consequences if they failed to ensure compliance.
All the materials, records and proceedings of the commission will remain in the custody of the commission’s registrar at the Sindh High Court until the apex court decides the proper custodian. The provincial secretary, Tameezuddin Khero, is the only government official who finds a critical mention in the report, with the commission suggesting that this former secretary of PHED should not be posted in any department that deals with fundamental rights.
The commission credited itself for getting rehabilitated 1,465 out of 2,207 RO plants in the province. It directed the government to restore
the remaining by June 2019.
“Even the rehabilitation of all the water supply and drainage schemes might not resolve the problem for the reasons that there are several areas which still don’t have these facilities.”
The commission ordered the provincial government to undertake a survey to identify such areas. The PHED was supposed to install 237 new RO plants in Tharparkar through the Pak Oasis Company. But during the commission’s stint, only 34 could be set up.
“The provincial government should ensure that all the remaining RO plants are installed by the end of March this year,” the commission ordered, pointing out that its intervention sorted out the differences between the government and the Pak Oasis Company. The commission observed that untreated municipal, industrial and other sewage is being dumped directly into the Indus River, its canals and distributaries. Initially, 180 such points in 15 districts have been taken up where the provincial government will set up treatment systems by the end of 2019.
On the subject of aquifers, Justice (R) Muslim stated that he could not find the reliable data and advised the provincial government to conduct a survey followed by regulation of consumption of sub-surface water.
The government has also been asked to install incinerators in all government hospitals in the province, provide filtered water in 4,000 government schools by June 2019, and the remaining schools by June 2020.
The sugar mills and distilleries which massively contribute to polluting the environment and waterways will have to be brought under stringent regulation. The commission proposed the government to explore the option of constructing small dams in Nangarparkar taluka of Tharparkar district. The SSWMB has been directed to make its offices functional in Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Nawabshah, Larkana and Sukkur divisions and to establish landfill sites in all districts in the province. The combined effluent treatment plants (CEPT) will be built in Nooriabad SITE by June 2019 and for Hyderabad and Sukkur by December 2019.
The commission pointed out that all the water filtration plants in Hyderabad, which requires 75 MGD water per day, were nonfunctional before it ordered their rehabilitation.
After the rehab, 56 MGD water is being supplied to the city while construction of more filtration plants is required. During the commission’s stint, none of the four sewage treatment plants in Hyderabad could be made operational.
Full report at:
Pak Anti-Terrorism Court Sentences Cyber stalker to 24 Years in Jail
Jan 10, 2019
LAHORE: An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan has sentenced a cyberstalker to 24 years in jail for blackmailing 200 lady doctors and nurses through their social media accounts - the maximum punishment awarded to a convict in the offence related to social media crimes in the country's history.
Anti-Terrorism Court Lahore Judge Sajjad Ahmad on Wednesday sentenced Abdul Wahab to a total of 24 years in prison along with a fine of Rs 7 lakh.
The judge sentenced Wahab to 14-year imprisonment along with Rs 500,000 fine. In addition to this, he was sentenced to seven-year in jail along with Rs 100,000 fine. He was awarded a further three-year jail term and fined Rs 100,000.
"All the sentences will run concurrently and benefit of section 382-B of CrPC shall be given to convict," the court ruled.
The section 382-B says that the length of any sentence of imprisonment imposed upon an accused shall be treated as reduced by any period during which he/she was detained in custody for such an offence.
Wahab, a resident of Punjab's Layyah district, was arrested in 2015 from Naran after the scam surfaced that nearly 200 women, including lady doctors and nurses of some government teaching hospitals of Lahore, had been harassed or blackmailed by him.
Subsequently, Lahore Police registered a case against him on the complaint of the Young Doctors Association (YDA).
Most of the victims were house officers and postgraduate trainees from King Edward Medical University, Fatima Jinnah Medical University and Children Hospital, Lahore.
The convict introduced himself as an official of the "military intelligence (MI)" and extorted money from them by threatening them that he would upload their objectionable pictures on their Facebook accounts.
Dr Salman Kazmi, of YDA, said the convict also hacked the Whatsapp accounts of lady doctors and nurses, blackmailing them with objectionable video clips and photos and then extorting money from them.
He said the victims were reluctant to testify against the convict because of family reasons but the YDA persuaded them.
During the trial, 31 witnesses (lady doctors and nurses) recorded their statements as state counsel Abdul Rauf Wattoo presented arguments from the prosecution side.
The defendant's lawyer claimed that "a false case” had been registered against his client and pleaded before the court to issue orders for his acquittal.
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Military test fires newly-inducted air defence weapon system
January 11, 2019
Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Thursday said induction of long-range air defence weapon system LY80 has greatly enhanced the capability of the military’s air defence arm, Radio Pakistan reported.
Gen Bajwa said this while witnessing the firepower capability display along with Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan at the air defence firing range near Karachi.
“The LY80 weapon system will strengthen the national defence,” Gen Bajwa was quoted as saying.
While interacting with the officers and troops, the army chief congratulated the army air defence for the successful conduct of firepower capability display.
Firing by the air defence weapon systems was the culminating event of the two-week-long exercise Al-Bayza 2019, read a statement issued by the military’s media wing.
Hallmark of the event was the first-ever fire by the recently inducted long-range air defence weapon system LY80.
“Induction of LY-80 has realised the concept of a comprehensive, layered and integrated air defence capability with enhanced lethality,” read the Inter-Services Public relations statement.
Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan congratulated the Pakistan Army over induction of LY 80, saying the system has reinforced the country’s overall air defence capability.
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Govt criticised for Pakistan being called ‘US-China battleground’
January 11, 2019
PESHAWAR: Chief of his own faction of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Thursday said Pakistan was being called a ‘battleground’ between China and America due to the wrong policies of the government.
“Regrettably, our country is being called a battlefield between China and US,” Mr Fazl told a condolence reference held for the party’s provincial chief and parliamentarian, Maulana Amanullah Khan, here.
Awami National Party central general secretary Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz provincial president Amir Muqam, Jamaat-i-Islami provincial chief and Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan, Pakistan People’s Party provincial president Humayun Khan, Qaumi Watan Party general secretary Hashim Babar, JUI-F general secretary Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri and leaders of other parties also spoke on the occasion.
The speakers paid rich tribute to the deceased and eulogised his struggle for democracy and religion.
Coming down heavily on the ruling PTI over its policies, the JUI-F chief said the government had wasted over $35 billion Chinese investment to get the US blessings.
He said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project was a game changer for the country but the government made it controversial and that the government was safeguarding the interests of the US and Jewish lobby.
Mr Fazl said former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was declared a friend of his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, while the sitting prime minister was talking about peace and friendship with the country’s archrival.
He said despite the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor, the government received a cold response from New Delhi, who had rejected the offer of talks and friendship.
The JUI-F chief said the National Accountability Bureau was being used as a tool to victimise political opponents of the government.
He said the PTI had abolished its own Ehtesab Commission in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Mr Fazl said his party had demanded the abolition of the NAB during discussion on 18th Constitutional Amendment in 2010 but the PPP and PML-N did not support the demand.
“Now, let these two parties bear the consequences,” he said in a lighter vein.
The JUI-F chief said parliament could do away with the NAB if the KP government amended the law to abolish the Ehtesab Commission.
He said military ruler Pervez Musharraf had created NAB to blackmail politicians and that he had opposed the move at that time, too.
Mr Fazl said a group of corrupt elements could not hold fair accountability of others.
He said his party was fighting to liberate the country from foreign powers and their agents.
“We will take our fight to its logical end to get real freedom,” he said adding that the successive governments did not make decisions independently and were dictated by foreign powers.
He said the supremacy of the Constitution would bring social, political and economic stability in the country.
The JUI-F chief said foreign agents were trying to distort the image of Pakistan.
He alleged that Britain continued to treat Pakistan as its colony and that the acquittal of Christian woman Asia Bibi in a blasphemy case proved his apprehension in that respect.
Addressing the reference, ANP leader Main Iftikhar Hussain alleged that the establishment was patronising Prime Minister Imran Khan.
He said the PTI government would collapse in the centre if the establishment withdrew its support.
The ANP leader called for unity among opposition parties, especially PPP and PML-N.
He said all corrupt men had joined the PTI to protect their ill-gotten wealth and political careers.
Mr Hussain said Premier Imran Khan had been installed to bring changes to the 18th Constitutional Amendment.
He demanded more autonomy for provinces to strengthen federation instead of the rollback if the 18th Amendment.
The ANP leader urged Pakistan, big powers and other neighbours to play their role for the political settlement of the Afghan issue.
He said neighbours and big powers should not waste the ‘golden opportunity’ to end war in Afghanistan as the US had given clear indication of withdrawing its forces from the war-torn country.
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Two terrorists killed during Op Raddul Fasaad
January 11, 2019
RAWALPINDI: Two terrorists were killed during Operation Raddul Fasaad, the Inter-Services Public Relations said in a press statement on Friday.
The frontier corps of Balochistan conducted intelligence-based operations (IBOs) on suspected terrorist hideouts in Kalat, Kharan, Maiwand areas of Balochistan.
Weapons and ammunition including sub-machine guns, an improvised explosive device (IEDs), grenades, mines, rocket-propelled grenade (RPG-7) and communication equipment were recovered.
MP: Govt officer claims being hounded because he is Muslim
January 11, 2019
After being rebuked by a senior bureaucrat for reportedly not coming prepared to an official meeting, a deputy secretary level officer has alleged that in his 17-year service he has been made to feel untouchable and that his Khan surname “has hounded me like a ghost”.
Posted in the public health engineering department, Niyaz Khan was asked to get out of the official meeting on Wednesday by principal secretary Vivek Agrawal after a heated exchange. Khan left the meeting and complained to the chief secretary about his alleged insult. Seeking a transfer to other department, the deputy secretary said he does not want to work with Agrawal.
After the incident was reported in local media, in a series of tweets on Thursday Khan gave a vent to his frustration. “There was a time when I was on the verge of depression but literature saved me from fall. I have transformed all discrimination against me into creation and now I am an English novelist with five novels,” he said tweeted.
“17 years in government service, transfer in 10 districts and 19 shiftings. I was always made to feel uncomfortable like a German Jew. Khan surname hounded me like a ghost,” read his another tweet. In another tweet, he said he was writing his sixth novel to show how Muslim officers are regarded as Second Class citizens. In another tweet he said he had exposed biggest ODF scam in Guna and brutalities against Saharia tribe.
Triple talaq ordinance to be re-promulgated
January 11, 2019
The Union Cabinet Thursday approved a proposal to re-promulgate the ordinance making the practice of instant triple talaq a criminal offence, sources said.
The earlier ordinance was to expire on January 22. The Bill to convert the first ordinance into a law is pending in Rajya Sabha. A fresh Bill to make the practice of triple talaq among Muslims a penal offence was introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 17 last year to replace an ordinance issued in September.
The Cabinet has also approved re-issuance of an ordinance to allow a committee to run the Medical Council of India. A Bill to convert an earlier ordinance into a law is pending approval in Parliament.
While the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill, 2017, that seeks to overhaul the medical education system in India and replace the MCI is yet to be passed, the term of the MCI’s elected members ends shortly. To overcome the situation, the government had recently issued an ordinance to supersede MCI and give its powers to a board of governors.
Cabinet nod to 2 AIIMS in J&K, 1 in Gujarat
The Union Cabinet on Thursday approved the setting up of three new AIIMS, even as the existing six struggle to get faculty members. They will be set up in Jammu’s Vijaynagar at a cost of Rs 1,661 crore, in Pulwama at Rs 1,828 crore and in Rajkot at Rs 1,195 crore.
Two AIIMS will be set up in J&K as there were protests in Jammu when an institute was announced in Kashmir.
Each institute will add 100 MBBS seats and 60 B.Sc (Nursing) seats, and the new AIIMS will have 15-20 super-specialty departments. “Each new AIIMS will add around 750 hospital beds. As per data of the current functional AIIMS, it is expected that each new AIIMS would cater to around 1,500 OPD patients per day and around 1,000 IPD patients per month,” Health Minister J P Nadda said.
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Do not equate Taliban talks with dialogue in J&K: Army chief
Jan 11, 2019
NEW DELHI: General Bipin Rawat on Thursday rejected any dialogue with either Pakistan or separatists and militant groups in Jammu and Kashmir till they shunned violence, a day after he backed talks with the Taliban if they were ready for lasting peace in war-ravaged Afghanistan.
India cannot afford to be “left out of the bandwagon” if some countries like the US, Russia, Pakistan and Iran are talking to Taliban because New Delhi too had “interests” in Afghanistan, he said.
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China takes India envoy on trip to Uighur camps
Jan 11, 2019
NEW DELHI: Indian envoy in Beijing was among a select group of diplomats to be taken, in a first, by China to the Xinjiang province where many ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities have been interned in re-education camps apparently meant to de-radicalise them. Chinese officials here said the visit was meant to familiarise senior diplomats, including the Pakistan envoy, with social and economic progress in the province.
In all, 12 envoys, mostly from Muslim majority nations, travelled to Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi and the cities of Kashgar and Hotan late last month. Xinjiang’s regional government invited diplomatic envoys as well as representatives of envoys from Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Afghanistan, Thailand, and Kuwait, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. The envoys visited markets, mosques, factories, as well as vocational education and training centres.
Indonesia to Put Muslim Issues Forward at UN Security Council
January 10, 2019
JAKARTA, INDONESIA —
Indonesia says it will use its new position on the U.N. Security Council to focus attention on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. But observers say Jakarta should use its seat to put forward a broader range of issues affecting Muslims and the agenda of developing countries.
Indonesia officially became a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council Jan. 1, along with four other countries: South Africa, Belgium, Dominican Republic and Germany.
Four areas and Palestine
During their candidacy, Indonesia pledged to focus on four issues. The Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi reiterated that they will focus on strengthening the peace ecosystem and global stability, enhancing synergy between regional organizations with the Security Council in keeping the peace, facing the international challenge of terrorism, and establishing a global partnership.
“Other than that, the issue in Palestine will also become Indonesia’s focus as non-permanent member in the U.N. Security Council,” the minister said.
“Indonesia is very concerned with the countries that changed their stance and it is against some of the U.N. resolutions that should be the basis of solving the Israel-Palestine conflict,” she added.
Fitri Bintang Timur, a researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Jakarta said it is an opportunity to put forward issues that are important not only for Indonesia, but for countries with similar political interests.
“For example middle-power countries and Islamic countries. Indonesia can encourage interventions that are important. Issues such as Palestine, Syria or Myanmar can be handled through an agreement,” she told VOA.
Rohingya and ASEAN
Indonesian can play a part, not only with the Palestine-Israel conflict, in solving the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, said Hikmahanto Juwana, a professor of International Law at the University of Indonesia.
“But that also depends on the U.N.’s intensity in their involvement in the Rohingya issue. We hoped that we could’ve solved it within a regional organization. But ASEAN has already tried and failed, so I think it’s necessary to discuss it in an international forum,” he said.
Juwana mentioned that discussion on the Rohingya has started in the U.N. and it has sent a special rapporteur to Myanmar.
But he said that bringing up the issue involving a fellow ASEAN member state will also be difficult.
“The problem in ASEAN is because the member states must have a consensus in an issue and that they have non-interference principle,” Juwana told VOA.
Nevertheless, Marsudi said in a press statement Wednesday that Indonesia will continue to contribute so that the Rohingya issue in Rakhine State will make progress.
Timur, of CSIS, said that in this case Indonesia could serve as a buffer for Myanmar when the U.N. decides to intervene in the Rohingya crisis.
“In that case, Indonesia can say that intervention must be done through a regional organization within ASEAN. Then Indonesia can create a regional approach through lobbying, to solve the humanitarian conflict the ASEAN way,” she said.
And that will put Indonesia in a leadership position in ASEAN. Timur explained that without any Southeast Asian representative in the Security Council, it would be easier for them to make an agreement that might undermine ASEAN.
“But now Indonesia is a non-permanent member, they can lobby the UNSC,” she added.
Moderate voice of the Muslim world
Timur further explained that as a Muslim majority country, Indonesia could portray and voice a more moderate view of Islam. And its position would play out well in the lobbying on conflicts in other Muslim countries.
“Such as the situation in the Middle East or conflict in Yemen,” Timur said.
But Indonesia’s role as a non-permanent member largely depends on the capacity of the diplomats posted at the U.N.
Juwana said the current foreign policy under President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s leadership focuses more on bilateral relations rather than multilateral.
“Our foreign policy must be increased in capacity and deploy skillful diplomats,” he said.
But Marsudi said the Indonesian team at the U.N. has been strengthened since October 2018.
“Moreover, Indonesia will hold the presidency of security council on May 2019 and in the middle of 2020,” she added.
Other than contributions in discussions and lobbying, Indonesia will also send 4,000 peacekeepers by 2019. Indonesia currently has 3,500 peacekeepers on different missions with the U.N.
Marsudi also said Jakarta will send more women peacekeepers from Indonesia, especially in conflict areas where many of the victims are women and children.
“As of now only 3 percent of the total number U.N. peacekeepers from Indonesia are women,” she said.
Change of leadership in Indonesia
The foreign minister said she had to lobby all members of the U.N. for three years before Indonesia finally won the post against Maldives with 144 votes out of 198. She added the landslide victory showed that Indonesia has gained credibility in international diplomacy.
But Timur warned the current presidential election campaign should not undermine the work of Indonesia in the U.N. Security Council.
“I’m afraid that things can change depending on the next presidency. We may have a different president, or if not a different minister who might not be as active in the international forum so we’ll see,” she said.
Indonesian pastor turns ex-child soldiers to peace
January 10, 2019
In January 1999, a fight between a Christian public transport driver and a Muslim in the capital of Indonesia's Maluku province, Ambon, kicked off a bloody sectarian conflict.
Three months later, Reverend Jacklevyn Frits Manuputty travelled to New York in the United States following an invitation from the Presbyterian Church Synod there.
The pastor, popularly known as Reverend Jacky, was serving as director of the Research and Development Agency of the Protestant Church in Maluku at that time.
So, he used the chance to share accounts of Christians who had become victims of the sectarian conflict back in Ambon.
However, members of his audience asked why he focused only on Christian victims when Muslims were also victimized. The tough questioning hit him hard and he began to think more about humanity and implicit underlying issues.
After returning to the conflict-torn mixed Christian and Muslim city of Ambon in October that year, he also visited refugees of conflicts with a religious dimension in Myanmar and Sri Lanka.
And he sharpened his thinking on the role played by children in sectarian conflicts and the impacts on them.
In Maluku province, large numbers of children became participants in the sectarian strife which ended in February 2002 when a peace agreement was signed by members of the two warring groups.
The four-year conflict resulted in the destruction of hundreds of churches and mosques and the razing of thousands of homes.
At least 5,000 people were killed and half a million others were displaced, according to some reports.
Reverend Jacky, who is co-founder and director of the Interfaith Organization in Maluku, has since sought to promote community-based dialogue across the religious divide.
In 2011, in cooperation with some local Muslim leaders, he officially formed a movement called Peace Provocateurs, aimed at building collective pride among young people, particularly those who effectively became child soldiers in the sectarian conflict.
Many young people were, in the wake of the peace agreement, left living in communities deeply divided along religious lines and traumatized by the past. Worse, former child soldiers were stigmatized as combatants.
"Principally, no matter how bad a person is, he or she still has the seed of peacefulness within himself or herself," said Reverend Jacky, who in 2012 received an award from the New York-based Tanembaum Center for Inter-religious Understanding.
The Peace Provocateurs use arts and social media to promote peace and friendship while countering attempts by others to foment strife.
About 40 former child soldiers, including Ronald Regang, have joined the movement so far. "I met Reverend Jacky in 2004," Regang said.
In the sectarian conflict, he first joined a children's troop and was then appointed as a troop leader and learned to use assault rifles including AK-47s and M16s to deadly effect.
"I was only 10 years old when it broke out in 1999," said the Protestant layman, now 29. "All I knew about was fighting against those who desecrated my religion. If I had to kill people, it was because I had no choice."
Not long after his meeting with Reverend Jacky, Regang was asked by the pastor to join a peace-building program held by the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) at the state-run Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta province.
"I was lucky," said Regang, who now runs a community called Red Home where young people learn to employ arts to deliver a message of peace.
"Reverend Jacky helped me out of the so-called satanic circle. Now my life is so meaningful, and I can promote peace," he said.
For Reverend Jacky, providing as many spaces as possible for young people to maintain friendships is crucial in his efforts to promote peace in still tense Ambon.
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No sense in modelling IIUM after Oxford, says don
January 11, 2019
PETALING JAYA: A sociology professor has urged the next president of the International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM) to reassess the idea of making the institution an Oxford for Muslim countries.
Syed Farid Alatas, a Malaysian attached to the National University of Singapore, said he believed local institutions should “get over this business” of wanting to emulate internationally recognised institutions, particularly Western ones, for the mere sake of it.
He said he was all for pushing IIUM towards high standards.
“But it shouldn’t mean we should model ourselves after Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard or any of these universities for the sake of it because many aspects of their education models are not appropriate for us,” he told FMT.
The idea of turning IIUM into an Oxford has been articulated a number of times by its former president, Education Minister Maszlee Malik.
Maszlee recently announced that he had relinquished the presidency. Yesterday, the varsity said it had submitted the names of candidates to Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who in turn submitted them to IIUM’s constitutional head, the Sultan of Pahang. Farid said some universities abroad tended to marginalise non-Western voices and would teach Asian-related subjects, such as Eastern religions, from Eurocentric perspectives.
“This is understandably so because they are Europeans studying another society or civilisation,” he said.
“But we can’t adopt the same kind of approach in Malaysia because we are not merely studying Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists, but understanding them through our own perspectives.”
He gave the example of European studies of Hinduism, saying the typical way would be to see the religion from a Christian point of view. This was opposed to the method of, for instance, the 12th century Muslim scholar Al-Biruni, who attempted to understand Hinduism, he added.
He noted that Europeans would typically assume that Hinduism, like Christianity, comes in different dominations, whereas it is in reality several different religions and the Hindus are variegated according to the deities they worship.
He also criticised what he called the “capitalistic approach” of Western universities, saying this had brought about an obsession with maintaining performance indicators and keeping or cancelling programmes according to their popularity.
“If a programme or department is not popular, it gets shut down, even though you can argue why it should be there. That’s why you see philosophy departments shutting down, for example.”
He also spoke of the “disease of wanting to go higher” in rankings and said it had infected many universities that follow Western models.
He alleged that this had resulted in dishonesty in academic practices, citing cases in which postgraduate students are required to put the names of their supervisors on their publications as co-authors although they haven’t done any of the work.
“This is done so the number of publications of the academic staff increases, and thus, their ranking in the system,” he said.
“This market-oriented attitude is damaging and a university cannot become great like this. The university should be about intellectual culture. It should be about passion and a profound interest in studying and it should be guided ethically so that this passion can grow.”
He also said local universities must work on ridding the Malay world of racial stereotyping, which he described as a legacy of European colonisation.
“In that sense, we cannot say we want any of our universities to be seen as the Oxford of the East or something like that since our universities still need to be decolonised,” he added.
He welcomed Maszlee’s decision to give up his university post, saying it would be better for non-politicians to helm educational institutions.
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Malaysia maintains stance on Israeli Paralympic athletes ban
January 10, 2019
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has reiterated that it will not permit Israeli athletes hoping to compete in the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships in Kuching, Borneo, to enter the country. The event runs from July 29 to Aug. 4, and is one of the qualifying events for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.
“We will not allow them (to enter). If they come, then it is an offense,” Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told reporters on Thursday. He explained that since Malaysia, a staunch supporter of Palestinian independence, has no diplomatic relations with Israel and does not recognize it as a state, it would be against the law to issue visas to the Israeli squad.
The 93-year old prime minister’s statement is in keeping with the country’s long-held policy toward Israel. In the past, Israeli squads have been refused entry to compete in international sailing competitions and tennis tournaments in Malaysia.
Despite mounting pressure from the International Paralympic Committee and the Israeli Olympic Committee, Malaysia is holding firm in its stance. “If they want to withdraw the championship hosting rights from Malaysia, then they can try to do so,” Mahathir said.
Muslim Imran, president of the Palestinian Cultural Organization Malaysia and a Kuala Lumpur-based Palestinian, said he sees the ban as a reaction to allegations that Israel undermined Malaysia’s national security through Mossad’s rumored involvement in the murder of Fadi Mohammad Al-Batsh, a Palestinian academic and member of Hamas who was killed in the Malaysian capital last year. Imran also pointed out that Malaysia’s decision was consistent with its long-standing opposition to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
“Malaysia is serious about its political support for the Palestinian struggle. More pressure has to be piled on Israel to end its apartheid policies,” he told Arab News.
Malaysia has been one of the most vocal critics of the decades-long occupation.
Mahathir voiced his country’s support for the Palestinian state at last year’s UN General Assembly, condemning Israel for ignoring the criticism of the international community and human rights groups for the occupation of Palestine.
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Pompeo hopes to establish coalition consisting of GCC states, Egypt and Jordan
10 January 2019
US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, said on Thursday that the Trump administration hopes to establish a coalition consisting of the GCC states, Egypt, and Jordan, naming it the “Middle East Strategic Alliance”.
“The Trump Administration is also working to establish the Middle East Strategic Alliance – or ‘MESA’ to confront the region’s most serious threats, and bolster energy and economic cooperation. This effort is bringing together members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, as well as Egypt and Jordan. Today we ask those countries to take the next step in solidifying MESA,” Pompeo said in a speech in Cairo during a Middle East tour.
Ending Middle East rivalries
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Thursday for an end to Middle East rivalries to roll back Tehran’s influence and vowed to “expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria.
“It’s time for old rivalries to end, for the sake of the greater good of the region,” Pompeo said in a speech in Cairo during a Middle East tour to reassure allies about US plans to withdraw troops from Syria.
The US “will use diplomacy and work with our partners to expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria and will bolster efforts “to bring peace and stability to the long-suffering Syrian people,” he said.
US works with its allies
“We once had tens of thousands of US military personnel in Saudi Arabia. Now that number is a tiny fraction. When we do set up major bases, as we have done in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Turkey, and the UAE, it is at the invitation of the host country.
Our allies and partners have helped greatly in the counter-ISIS effort.
France and Britain joined our strikes on Syria and have supported our anti-terror effort. Jordan and Turkey have hosted millions of Syrians fleeing violence.”
“Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries have given generously toward stabilization efforts. We thank all of them for their help, and we urge them to continue.
The United States has also helped liberated areas – an important means of preventing the ISIS from re-emerging. We have provided nearly $2.5 billion in humanitarian assistance to Iraq since 2014.”
Partnerships for future
“We’re also building partnerships for future shared prosperity. It’s time for old rivalries to end, for the sake of the greater good of the region.
The Trump Administration is also working to establish the Middle East Strategic Alliance to confront the region’s most serious threats, and bolster energy and economic cooperation. This effort is bringing together members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, as well as Egypt and Jordan. Today we ask those countries to take the next step in solidifying MESA.”
New bonds taking root
“New bonds are taking root that were unimaginable until very recently.
Who could’ve believed a few years ago that an Israeli Prime Minister would visit Muscat?
Or that new ties would emerge between Saudi Arabia and Iraq?
Or that a Roman Catholic Pope would visit this city to meet with Muslim imams and the head of the Coptic faith?”
Tough US sanctions against Iran
“The nations of the Middle East will never enjoy security, achieve economic stability, or advance the dreams of its peoples if Iran’s revolutionary regime persists on its current course.
February 11th will mark 40 years since that oppressive regime came to power.
America’s economic sanctions against the regime are the strongest in history, and will keep getting tougher until Iran starts behaving like a normal country.” The 12 demands we stated in May remain in force, because the regime’s threat to the region endures.
Middle East tour
Pompeo’s speech came on the third leg of a nine-nation Mideast tour aimed at reassuring the US’ Arab partners that the Trump administration is not walking away from the region amid confusion and concern over plans to withdraw US forces from Syria.
Earlier in Cairo, he met with Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry to discuss security and economic cooperation.
Texas county GOP rejects move to oust Muslim vice-chair
By Umar Farooq
A Texas county Republican committee voted Thursday to block a push from a small group of party members to oust a Muslim vice chairman from his post within the party.
Shahid Shafi defied many odds by being appointed to serve as vice chairman of the Republican Party in Tarrant County, the third most populated county in Texas. He initially won a city council seat, serving as a delegate to Texas Republican conventions.
The trauma surgeon accomplished all this while maintaining his Muslim identity, which prompted a small faction within the party to put forth a motion calling for his dismissal.
"I believe in freedom of speech. I believe in freedom of expression, and I think diversity of opinion within any group is good for the group, is good for the party. But what we cannot do, and we don't do, is discriminate against a specific person based on their religion, caste, creed, color or country of origin," Shafi said in an interview with CNN.
"They're doing a disservice to our party. That's not what our party is about."
The movement to oust Shafi was headed by Dorrie O’Brien, the chair of a local precinct, who sees a contradiction with him maintaining his religion while keeping a high-ranking position in the Texas Republican Party.
"We don’t think he’s suitable as a practicing Muslim to be vice chair because he’d be the representative for ALL Republicans in Tarrant County, and not ALL Republicans in Tarrant County think Islam is safe or acceptable," O’Brien said in a Facebook post. "There are big questions surrounding exactly where Dr. Shafi’s loyalties lie, vis a vis Democrat and Republican policies."
On Thursday, the Tarrant County Republican Party overwhelmingly voted in favor of Shafi with a vote of 139-49.
Many Republican leaders came to the defense of the vice chairman, emphasizing the country's foundation of freedom of religion.
"Discrimination against Dr. Shafi b/c he’s Muslim is wrong. The Constitution prohibits any religious test for public office & the First Amendment protects religious liberty for every faith. The Party of Lincoln should welcome everybody & celebrate Liberty," Texas Senator Ted Cruz said on Twitter.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott pointed out that "the promise of freedom of religion is guaranteed" under the First Amendment of the Constitution, in a statement obtained by local outlets.
Full report at:
Ex-US ambassador slams reaction to Khashoggi murder
By Umar Farooq
The former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia said Thursday that the response to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is a farce in terms of sanctions Washington should be imposing.
Robert Jordan, who served under former President George W. Bush, spoke to CNN and critiqued the actions taken by the U.S. in the 100 days since Khashoggi's killing.
Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and contributor to The Washington Post, was killed and dismembered by a group of Saudi operatives shortly after he entered the country's consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
Riyadh offered various, conflicting narratives to explain his disappearance before acknowledging he was murdered in the diplomatic building, seeking to blame his death on a botched rendition operation being carried out by rogue agents.
"We have seen nothing from this administration other than canceling the visas of some of the henchman which means they can't come here and go to Disneyland. That is a farce in terms the kinds of sanctions we should be imposing," Jordan said in an interview with CNN.
The former ambassador went further to say the U.S. should not repeat their attendance at the Davos in the Desert conference, which has been held for the past two years in Riyadh, and the Saudi Consul General in Istanbul should not be given travel privileges on American soil.
"We talked about limiting the war in Yemen, limiting our assistance, but we haven’t really seen much action in that regard," Jordan added.
Last month, the Senate passed a resolution to end the U.S. support for the Saudi-led war efforts in Yemen, in a rebuke to the longtime American ally.
The bill, however, was unable to reach the House of Representatives due to a provision passed in the chamber.
Full report at:
Mike Pompeo: Barack Obama is to blame for Iran's expansion
January 10, 2019
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a caustic critique of Middle East policies under former president Barack Obama casting blame on the previous American administration for the expansion of Iranian power in the region and rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
In the address delivered at the American University in Cairo, Mr Pompeo said former US policy had been misguided and wishful, weakening America's role in the region. However, he went on, President Donald Trump had “reasserted its traditional role as a force for good in this region, because we've learned from our mistakes.”
“We grossly underestimated the tenacity and viciousness of radical Islamism, a debauched strain of the faith that seeks to upend every other form of worship or governance. ISIS drove to the outskirts of Baghdad as America hesitated,” lamented Pompeo. "In falsely seeing ourselves as a force for what ails the Middle East, we were timid about asserting ourselves when the times — and our partners — demanded it."
"President Trump has reversed our willful blindness to the danger of the [Iranian] regime and withdrew from the failed nuclear deal, with its false promises," Mr Pompeo said. "The nations of the Middle East will never enjoy security, achieve economic stability, or advance the dreams of its peoples if Iran's revolutionary regime persists on its current course."
"In Syria, the US will use diplomacy and work with our partners to expel every last Iranian boot, and work through the UN-led process to bring peace and stability to the long-suffering Syrian people," he said.
Unlike Mr Obama’s June 2009 speech to a diverse audience of Cairo University students and faculty, Egyptian government officials and religious and civil society leaders – the Pompeo address was delivered to a hand-picked group of leaders close to the administration of President Abel Fatah El Sisi and influential alumni, including stalwarts of the business community.
With most still on their winter break, only a sprinkling of students attended the speech in the Moaz Al Alfi Hall, with a capacity of 250 people.
Still Mr Pompeo’s speech drew the attention of young educated Egyptians. Many of whom watched the televised address through the lens of a past generation, addressed first by Mr Obama in the lead-up to the Arab Spring.
“I think that the fundamental misunderstanding comes from Trump and not Obama,” said Omar El Gammal a 24-year-old graduate politics graduate researcher at Cairo University. “America being the liberating force that comes to rescue us somehow reminds me of the colonial idea of the ‘white man's burden’.”
“Pompeo seems to ignore that the US dismantlement of Iraqi state under George W Bush is the main reason behind the terrorism we are witnessing in the region,” Mr El Gammal said.
In his speech Mr Pompeo underscored United States’ commitment to the areas liberated from ISIS.
“We have provided nearly $2.5 billion in humanitarian assistance to Iraq since 2014, and our churches and non-profits do good work too,” Mr Pompeo said. “We and our allies generated nearly $30 billion in grants and financing support to aid Iraq’s reconstruction during the Kuwait Reconstruction Conference last year. “
Yasser Ahmed, a 29-year-old graduate student in Social Work at AUC agreed with Mr Pompeo’s assertion that former president Obama had failed to see the danger posed by the region’s extremist aspirations.
“Obama did underestimate the danger of the Muslim Brotherhood,” Mr Ahmed said.
“Still it seems we are now forced into a box where the only choice is between Islamists or authoritarian military systems and that leaves young Arabs with so little hope,” he explained. “It’s frightening Pompeo that the only way for prosperity and more freedom in the Arab world is to have a regime change in Iran, it makes it seem like this region is facing yet another war.”
Mr Pompeo’s emphasis on Iran and the security issues facing Israel were discordant notes for the Egyptians watching the speech.
The secretary lauded UAE sports officials for allowing the Israeli national anthem to be played as the Israeli judo champion was crowned the winner of a tournament in Abu Dhabi. “These steps toward rapprochement are necessary for greater security in the face of shared threats,” said Mr Pompeo.
“I feel it would have been better to focus on the Egypt-USA relationship, because, simply, he is currently in Egypt,” mused Michael Mamdouh, a 21-year-old business major at Ain Shams University. “Actually, Egyptians don’t care much about Iran as we care about fighting terrorism here.”
“We are not exactly delighted to hear him supporting Israel and praising Trump’s decision to relocate the US Embassy to Jerusalem. Of course, he knows as diplomat that we do not support this action,” said Mr Mamdouh.
“Still I appreciated Mr Pompeo mentioning positive things about President Sisi and saying that our leader should be a role model for others in accepting and supporting religious pluralism,” explained Mr Mamdouh, a Coptic Christian.
Dina Osama, a 22-year-old Cairo University politics major noted that despite clear policy differences with president Obama, the current US administration is painting a vision of America as a positive force in a troubled region.
“Pompeo is trying also to steer Middle East countries into the American orbit by saying the United States is a force for good,” said Ms Osama. “With their historic commitments to humanitarian and security aid, and pledging to continue to help the Arab countries to fight terrorism.”
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Israel to confiscate Palestinian land for settlement project in central West Bank
Jan 10, 2019
Israeli authorities plan to confiscate thousands of square meters of private Palestinian land in the central part of the West Bank to construct a settlement in violation of international law and UN Security Council resolutions condemning the Tel Aviv regime’s settlement expansion policies in the occupied territories.
The Palestinian National Bureau for the Defense of Land and Settlement Resistance said in a statement on Thursday that the Israeli Ministry of Finance had issued building permits for a settlement project, which would expropriate 139 dunams (139,000 square meters) of Palestinian land from Dayr Dibwan city.
The statement added that Israeli officials aimed to connect Ma'ale Mikhmas and Mitzpe Dan settlements through the confiscation.
It further noted that the Israeli regime had advanced plans for the construction of 2,500 settler units near Efrat settlement, located 12 kilometers south of Jerusalem al-Quds.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, in a statement, condemned the Tel Aviv regime’s latest plan to confiscate more Palestinian land.
“This decision affirms that [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu [‘s] administration is pressing ahead with its land theft and settlement expansion policies, ignoring international outcry over such practices, and hell-bent to exterminate the [so-called] two-state solution,” the statement pointed out.
The ministry then called on regional and international institutions in addition to the international community to not just release statements in condemnation of Israeli settlements or express concerns over the fate of the so-called two-state solution, but to oblige Israel as an occupying regime to adhere to international peace, comply with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 and end its occupation of Palestinian territories.
Less than a month before US President Donald Trump took office, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2334, calling on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem” al-Quds.
About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.
Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.
The last round of Israeli-Palestinian talks collapsed in 2014. Among the major sticking points in those negotiations was Israel’s continued settlement expansion on Palestinian territories.
Trump backtracked on Washington’s support for a “two-state solution” in 2017, saying he would support any solution favored by both sides.
“Looking at two-state or one-state, I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one both parties like. I can live with either one,” the US president said during a joint press conference with Netanyahu in Washington on February 15, 2017. https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/01/10/585401/Israel-to-seize-Palestinian-land-for-settlement-project-in-central-West-Bank
Several Saudi-backed militants killed in Yemen’s retaliatory drone raid
Jan 10, 2019
Yemeni armed forces, led by the Houthi Ansarullah movement, have launched a retaliatory drone attack against a gathering of Saudi-backed militants loyal to the ex-regime in the country’s southern province of Lahej, killing several of them.
Yemen’s Arabic-language al-Masirah television network said the attack targeted “the leadership of the invaders” on Thursday. It said several militants were killed in the raid, without specifying the number.
Saudi-owned broadcaster Al-Arabiya said five were killed and several others injured when the combat drone struck a military base in al-Anad district, where a military parade was taking place.
Some 12 more Saudi-backed forces were also wounded in the retaliatory attack, according to the report.
Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating military campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the aim of bringing the former Riyadh-backed government back to power.
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Six soldiers killed, 20 injured in Houthi drone attack on Yemen’s army parade
10 January 2019
In their continuous attempts to abort the Sweden peace agreement brokered by the United Nations – the pro-Iranian Houthi militias launched on Thursday, a drone attack targeting a military parade by the Yemeni National Army in al-Anad military base in Lahaj province.
Al Arabiya news channel correspondent reported that six soldiers of the Yemeni Army were killed and 20 others injured, among them journalists as well as the governor of Lahaj, the deputy chief of army staff, the head of the intelligence unit, the commander of the military police and the army commander of the fourth region.
For his part, the correspondent of Al Hadath news channel reported that an Iranian-made bomb-laden drone exploded on a podium, attended by officials from the ministry of defense, watching the parade.
The correspondent pointed out that ambulances were seen carrying the wounded to Aden hospitals.
Also, Yemen’s Information Minister Muammar al-Iryani said that: “Once again this proves that the Houthi criminal militias are not ready for peace and that they are exploiting truces in order for deployment and reinforcements,” adding that two senior military officials were wounded in the attack.
“This is time for the international community to stand by the legitimate government and force the militias to give up their weapons and pull out of the cities,” he added.
It is worth mentioning that the Yemeni army used to launch attacks against al-Qaeda terrorist organization from al-Anad military base in Lahaj.
On the other hand, as many as 15 members of the coup militias were killed on Wednesday during a failed attempt to fire a ballistic missile in al-Tayyar district in Saada governorate north of Yemen, targeting Saudi Arabia.
Al Arabiya sources said the Houthis, among them missiles’ experts, were trying to launch the ballistic missiles targeting the kingdom when it exploded.
The Arab coalition backing the legitimate Yemeni army released a video documenting the Houthis’ violations, especially in regards to violations related to their use of populated areas and civilians for military purposes.
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Hamas say Egypt to fully reopen Gaza border despite PA pullout
11 January 2019
Gaza’s rulers Hamas said Thursday that Egypt plans to fully reopen its border crossing with the enclave, days after partially closing it amid infighting between Palestinian factions.
Forces loyal to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas withdrew on Sunday from the Rafah border crossing, accusing rivals Hamas of interference. The crossing is the only way for Palestinians to leave Gaza that bypasses Israel.
Egypt has prevented Gazans from leaving the enclave since Abbas’s Palestinian Authority withdrew its staff. An Egyptian security delegation visited Gaza on Thursday, meeting with senior Hamas officials including its head Ismail Haniya.
Khalil al-Hayya, deputy head of Hamas, told journalists the Egyptians “assured us that there will be no changes at the Rafah border and it will stay open”. It was not immediately clear when the crossing would fully reopen.
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Secret deal: Qatar can’t prosecute any Turkish soldier on its territory
10 January 2019
Turkey’s secret military agreement with Qatar is full of loopholes and vague terms that appear to have been deliberately inserted, revealed the Nordic Monitor, a Sweden-based monitoring site.
As per the agreement, Turkey deployed thousands of troops to Qatar, while a clause in the agreement states that Qatar cannot prosecute any Turkish soldier on its land in case of any legal violations.
This clause constitutes a clear violation of Qatar’s sovereignty. It also recalls the period of foreign colonization of the Arab region when foreign soldiers were protected by their countries on the lands of the colonies they occupy and cannot be prosecuted by local authorities for crimes and offenses committed by them.
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Yemen’s information minister calls for firm stance against Houthis
10 January 2019
Yemen’s Information Minister Muammar al-Iryani, called upon the international community to take a firm stance against the Houthi miltias for not abiding by the Sweden agreement.
The minister said the delegation of the Houthis in the ceasefire monitoring committee headed by the UN in Hodeidah port city, refuses to move outside the city under vague pretexts.
He stressed that the Yemeni people and the legitimate government backed by the Arab coalition, are able to expel the pro-Iranian militias, if the United Nations is unable to force them to implement the agreement reached in Sweden last December.
UN Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths briefed the UN Security Council on Wednesday, declaring that both parties to the conflict renewed their commitments to the Sweden agreement, pointing out that progress has been made, despite difficulties faced.
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Palestinian boat catches fire as Israeli navy fires at fishermen off Gaza
Jan 10, 2019
A Palestinian fishing boat has caught fire after Israeli naval forces repeatedly opened fire on a group of vessels off the northern coast of the blockaded Gaza Strip.
Palestinian media on Thursday reported that the Israeli navy fired on Gaza fishing boats off the shores of the besieged Palestinian enclave, causing one of them to catch fire.
Head of the Fishermen Committees in the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, Zakaria Bakr, told Palestinian Ma'an news agency that the Israeli raid took place as Palestinian boats were located three nautical miles off the northern coast of Gaza.
Sources said at least two fishermen aboard the boat, which was set on fire, were detained by the Tel Aviv regime's forces. The Israeli naval vessels then towed some Palestinian boats to the Port of Ashdod in southern Israel.
Israel imposed a limit of three nautical miles on fishing in the waters off the Gaza until August 2014, when Palestinian fishermen were allowed to go out six miles under a ceasefire agreement reached between Israel and Palestinians following a deadly 50-day Israeli war.
The fishing zone were supposed to extend to 20 nautical miles under the Oslo Accords, which were signed between the Israeli regime and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) during the early-mid 1990s to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In May 2017, Israeli authorities increased the fishing area for Gazan fishermen to nine nautical miles.
Over the past few years, Israeli forces have carried out more than a hundred attacks on Palestinian boats, arresting dozens of fishermen and confiscating several boats.
The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade since June 2007. The blockade has caused a decline in the standard of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty.
Tensions have been running high near the Gaza border fence separating the enclave from the occupied territories ever since anti-occupation protest rallies began in the Gaza Strip on March 30. More than 240 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and over 23,000 have sustained injuries.
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Taliban kill 32 Afghan security men, militias
January 11, 2019
KABUL: The Taliban launched a series of attacks on security checkpoints in four Afghan provinces early on Thursday, killing 32 members of the security forces and pro-government militias, provincial officials said. The latest Taliban attacks came in the northern provinces of Kunduz, Baghlan, Takhar and Badghis in the west.
Ahmad Fahim Qarluq, the chief of the Qala-e-Zal district in Kunduz, said a large number of Taliban attacked security checkpoints in the early hours, killing 10 soldiers and police and wounding 11. Qarluq said 25 Taliban fighters were killed.
In Baghlan and Takhar provinces, the Taliban killed 16 members of pro-government militias in attacks on outposts, officials said. They also said the Taliban suffered heavy casualties. To the west, in Badghis province, Jamshid Shahabi, spokesman for the governor, said six members of the security forces were killed and 10 wounded in clashes.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the attacks, and said in statement that the militants had killed dozens of members of the security forces and captured a large number of weapon and ammunition.
14 Taliban, ISIS-K militants killed in Afghan, coalition forces operations
10 Jan 2019
At least 14 Taliban and ISIS Khurasan (ISIS-K) militants were killed during separate operations and airstrikes conducted by the Afghan and coalition forces based in Afghanistan.
According to the informed military sources, the Afghan Special Operations Forces conducted a raid in Sarobi district of Paktika province, killing 1 ISIS-K fighter and seizing weapons and ammunition.
The sources further added that a coalition air strike killed 10 ISIS-K fighters in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.
A coalition air strike killed 3 Taliban fighters in Tarin Kot district, the sources added.
The anti-government armed militant and terrorist groups including ISIS-K sympathizers have not commented regarding the killing of the group’s militants so far.
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Bangladesh man jailed for posting altered pictures of PM on Facebook
Jan 10, 2019
A Bangladeshi man who distorted and posted photos of the prime minister has been sentenced to seven years in jail under tough internet laws that critics say are used to muzzle dissent.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, re-elected in December in polls tainted by violence, mass arrests and claims of rigging, has been accused of increasing authoritarianism.
Mohammad Monir, 35, was found guilty late Wednesday by a Dhaka cyber tribunal for doctoring and publishing on social media images of Hasina and ex-president Zillur Rahman.
“He posted those distorted images in his Facebook status and made derogatory remarks in the photo captions,” prosecutor Nazrul Islam Shamim told AFP.
He was convicted under section 57 of the South Asian country’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) laws.
Shamim said that since the cyber court began functioning in 2013, at least seven people have been sentenced to jail for similar offences involving Hasina and others.
At least 200 more such cases are pending and in various stage of trial, he said.
Rights groups have documented how the ICT laws have been used to silence criticism in the country of 165 million people.
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Rohingya Hindu refugees in Bangladesh want to return to Myanmar: US daily
January 10, 2019
Rohingya Hindus who sought refuge in Bangladesh want to return to Myanmar but were not being allowed by Bangladesh officials, according to the Los Angeles Times.
In a report from the Kutupalong Refugee Camp in Bangladesh, the newspaper said on Wednesday that 105 Hindu families were ready to leave when a deal was made by the UN last May for refugees to return home to Rakhine state in Myanmar.
But they are stranded in Bangladesh because their return home was canceled when the UN decided it was not safe for refugees to go back to Myanmar, Hindu refugees were quoted as telling the newspaper.
The 400 Hindu refugees in Bangladesh are segregated and housed in a separate facility called Hindu Camp, which is under round-the-clock securit.
Hindu and Muslim refugees in Bangladesh live in a state mutual animosity.
The Los Angeles Times said that Hindu families have appealed to the Indian government for help, but have so far received only humanitarian aid.
"India is a land for all Hindus. Mr. (Narendra) Modi (Prime Minister) is a Hindu. Why is he not helping us?" the newspaper quoted Shishu Sheel, a 32-year-old leader in the refugee camp for Hindus, as saying.
The Hindus were victims of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a Muslim organisation led by the Pakistan-born Ataullah abu Ammar Jununi, and fled to Bangladesh as it was the only escape available to them, the newspaper said.
Unlike the more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees, the Hindus have Myanmar citizenship, the newspaper said.
The newspaper said that the Bangladesh's Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commission has ruled out repatriating only the Hindus, and not the Muslims, whose return the UN has determined was unsafe.
"We treat all refugees the same way and will not be prioritising repatriation of the Hindu refugees over Rohingya Muslims," Shamimul Huq Pavel, the commission official who oversees a separate camp for Hindu, told the Los Angeles Times.
The exodus of the Rohingya to Bangladesh began in August 2017 when the ARSA attacked security posts in Myanmar and the security forces and vigilantes retaliated killing hundreds of Muslims and destroying their villages.
The UN has condemned the security forces' response to the ARSA attacks as disproportionate and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called it "ethnic cleansing".
However, the Hindus were attacked by ARSA unlike the Muslim refugees who were victims of security forces and Myanmarese vigilantes, the newspaper said.
Amnesty International, that verified the the ARSA attacks, said in a report last May that 99 Hindu children, women and men had been killed.
The rights organisation said that in one incident in August 2017, 53 Hindus from Ah Nauk Kha Maung Seik village were rounded up and killed execution-style by the ARSA and later the remains of 45 victims were found in mass graves.
In neighbouring Ye Bauk Kyar village, 46 Hindus disappeared and the community believe that they were killed by ARSA, Amnesty said.
Tirana Hassan, Crisis Response Director at Amnesty International, said: "It's hard to ignore the sheer brutality of ARSA's actions, which have left an indelible impression on the survivors we've spoken to. Accountability for these atrocities is every bit as crucial as it is for the crimes against humanity carried out by Myanmar's security forces in Rakhine."
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Dawood Ibrahim gives a portion of his narco-money to Jihadist-Islamist groups
January 11, 2019
According to a Sri Lankan newspaper Ceylon Today, startling new information has been released about a huge narcotics seizure. There are indications the war on drugs has intensified in Sri Lanka over 2018, ending the year with this massive narcotics seizure. On December 31, 2018, the Sri Lankan Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) conducted a raid on a large, upscale house in Dehiwala, south of Colombo, where the house was being occupied by two men from Bangladesh, ages 35 and 38. During the raid, police seized over 272kg of heroin and 5kg of cocaine, with a combined street value of US$20 million. A police spokesman states this narcotics seizure from Islamic gangs is the largest haul of heroin ever recorded in Sri Lanka. In December 2018, over 500kg of heroin was seized in Sri Lanka, while police say 736kg of heroin was seized over the year of 2018.
According to the report, A 23-year-old Bangladeshi woman was arrested along with 32 kg of heroin, with a street value of Rs. 384 million, at a safe house in Ratmalana on December 16, 2018 evening, a senior Policeman said. The suspect woman was initially picked up from a location in neighboring Dehiwala by undercover sleuths from the Police Narcotic Bureau (PNB) who had operated on a tip-off.
At the time of her arrest in Dehiwala, the suspect was in a possession of one kilogram of heroin and subsequently led sleuths to the larger haul of the narcotic at Ratmalana, he added. Investigators are certain that the woman was not a ‘lone wolf’ operator and are searching for other contacts both in the country and elsewhere.
According to sleuths close to the investigation the suspect is believed to have been involved in the narcotic trade for a considerable period of time. At the time of her arrest the suspect was living in a rented house.
On December 31, 2018 Sri Lanka’s largest English newspaper The Island in a report said, the arrested drug dealer had brought the drugs into the country from Afghanistan via sea and air and then had used luxury vehicles to transport heroin to the house in Dehiwala. The two men had also procured valuable properties in Colombo using the money made from the drug racket, according to police.
Dehiwala: The drug distribution hub:
The region of Dehiwala, south Colombo, has a large population of Muslims; considerable Islamic gang activity is concentrated there for the illegal drug trade. Most of the drugs seized by Sri Lankan authorities in December 2018 have identified the Dehiwala area as being the central distribution hub for the country’s drug trade. The two Bangladeshi men arrested for the latest historic drug seizure were living a lavish lifestyle in a large luxurious home, and the drugs were being transported using their expensive, high-end vehicles. Dehiwala is known for its high-income neighborhoods where these Islamic gang members led affluent lifestyles, owning many valuable properties in the area and laundering money into area businesses owned by Muslims.
Drug money goes into terrorism:
Beneath the polished exterior of these Bangladeshi drug traffickers, there is a sinister connection to merciless Islamic gangs and terror. Locals say these Islamic gangs are waging “chemical warfare” on non-Muslim families by creating a hard drug epidemic to destroy their communities, especially since the Islamic gang members typically do not use the drugs they are distributing into the local Sinhalese communities. The heroin seized in Sri Lanka comes from Afghanistan, by air and sea. The proceeds are used to finance terror networks across the world, so these recent historic drug seizures have likely had a direct impact on the global war on terror, possibly saving the lives of many innocent people.
Over the last few years, the drug problem in Sri Lanka has become so severe that in mid-2018, the government announced an end to the almost 50-year moratorium on the death penalty for convicted drug dealers. Usually, a convicted drug dealer has his or her death sentence, by hanging, commuted to life in prison, but this may no longer be the situation, as President Sirisena stated that he “was ready to sign the death warrants.” Despite criticism from human rights lobbyists in Sri Lanka, who tried unsuccessfully to eliminate the death penalty in 2018, the success of Filipino President Duterte’s war on drugs is being cited as a good starting point, because Sri Lanka has become an important destination for international drug smuggling. People believe these Islamic gangs have become so powerful in Sri Lanka that they are creating an underground army to become a serious threat to the government.
These fears reached critical levels in Sri Lanka when a conspiracy to assassinate President Sirisena, along with two top political leaders, was revealed in late October 2018. An investigation discovered the assassination plot was connected to a network of Islamic gangs in the criminal underworld, which resulted in some political upheaval within the coalition government. The war on drugs in Sri Lanka has become an issue of national security, so Duterte-style counter measures are seen as necessary for the government to maintain control against the growing influence of the criminal underworld led by dangerous Islamic gangs that have eliminated all other rivals in the illegal drug trade. After the complete eradication of the LTTE terror network in 2009, merciless Islamic gangs have emerged as the leaders of the criminal underworld in Sri Lanka.
There is an important connection to Bangladesh with these massive drug seizures. International networks of Islamic gangs from Bangladesh are notorious for human trafficking, terrorism, money laundering, weapons, fraud and drugs. These gangs are based inside Bangladesh, a country that has a major problem with organized crime, corruption and Islamic jihad activity. In 2018, over 650 Bangladeshi illegal migrants were apprehended trying to enter the US over the Southwest border. In one case from 2018, a major human trafficker from Bangladesh was arrested while living in a Mexican hotel close to the US border. Much more work must be done in order to stop ruthless Islamic gangs from infiltrating other countries, as they have direct links to international Islamic terror networks through the drug trade in Afghanistan.
ISI’s hands behind narco-trade:
The overall world production of heroin is centered in the narcostate of Afghanistan, which has the world’s largest opium poppy plantations, tightly controlled by the Taliban. Reliable statistics on world opium production do not include Pakistan as a major source of opium, plus opium grown in Pakistan is more expensive. Occupational military forces by the US have done very little to deter the opium farmers in Afghanistan, which experienced peak levels in 2017. The highest growth of opium poppies comes from the southern provinces of Afghanistan adjacent to the Pakistan border. For the manufacture of heroin, Afghanistan has the world monopoly of export grade heroin with over 500 estimated manufacturing facilities. Although the heroin from the historic seizure is said to originate from Pakistan, it was likely grown and manufactured in Afghanistan in the southern border provinces for cheap shipment into Pakistan for further distribution through a criminal network of Islamic gangs there. The area of Iran-Afghanistan-Pakistan is known as the Golden Crescent in the illegal opium drug trade.
Sri Lanka as a distribution hub in the world drug trade is a relatively new phenomenon, so there is not much supporting data aside from some recent massive drug seizures. However, the expected shipping route is by water from the coast of Pakistan through the Arabian Sea to the busy port of Colombo. Major shipments of heroin are often transported through shipping containers and the heroin may change ships in the ocean after leaving the port in Pakistan, as one seizure from a Sri Lankan fishing boat revealed.
Pakistani spy agency Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) has been dealing in drugs and counterfeit Indian currency notes for many years, which is one of the main sources of ISI’s fund which goes to various jihadist and militancy groups. International known infamous drug cartel Dawood Ibrahim is one of the key operatives of ISI in running this nefarious trade throughout the world.
ISI buys heroin from the Afghanistan-based Talibans at a fixed rate, which is several folds lower than the international market price. Talibans prefer selling drugs to ISI instead of individual buyers as they get the payment in advance. After buying the consignment from Afghanistan, heroin in packs of 500 grams each are transported to Pakistan in military vehicles as well as vehicles of the Pakistani spy agency. In Pakistan, the consignments are handed over to Dawood Ibrahim’s men with specific instructions of how and where the sales proceeds should be distributed. Accordingly, Dawood Ibrahim’s D-Company men send the consignment to different nations and once the drugs are sold, cash received from the sale are distributed amongst various jihadist and militancy groups as per ISI’s directives.
More about Dawood Ibrahim:
Dawood Ibrahim is the notorious godfather of illegal drug dealings and is Number 3 on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List since 2011 as the mastermind of the 1993 Mumbai bombings which killed 257 people and injured 1400. He has links with Al Qaeda, AQIS, Lashkar e Toiba, Jamaat e Islami as well as other jihadist and Islamist outfits in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Dawood also maintains links with Philippine’s Abu Saiyyaf militancy group.
For many years, Dawood Ibrahim has been living in Karachi, Pakistan under the direct assistance of ISI. In Karachi, he has properties and investments worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Sitting in Pakistan, Dawood Ibrahim, as per directives of ISI, operates global drug trade as well as distributes fund to several jihadist and militancy outfits. He also has investments in Indian film industry.
According to newspaper reports, Dawood Ibrahim had provided the fund to the 2008-Mumbai terror attackers while has financed Islamic terror in the Gujarat region through L-e-T, being a large terror group centered in Pakistan. In 2003, Dawood Ibrahim was declared a global terrorist by the US and Indian governments. From 2017, as per directives from ISI, Dawood Ibrahim has started providing fund to Jamaat e Islami’s chapters in India and Bangladesh.
A nexus of ISI-Dawood:
Dawood Ibrahim has established a small group of individuals from Bangladesh (mostly females) who are responsible in overseeing the trafficking of narcotics from Pakistan to Sri Lanka and the coordinate sending the consignments to several Western destinations. Dhaka’s largest vernacular daily Prothom Alo has already revealed the name of one of the key aides of ISI-Dawood nexus in Bangladesh. A Bangladeshi female named Shahina Akhter is one of the key figures of the nexus in Bangladesh. She coordinates with another Bangladeshi living in Australia for ensuring smooth transportation of narcotics to various countries in the West.
ISI-Dawood’s joint mission:
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Dozens killed as Taliban attack troops in four provinces
Jan 10, 2019
Taliban militants have killed at least 32 members of security forces and pro-government militias during a series of coordinated attacks on checkpoints in four Afghan provinces.
Officials said the attacks took place in the northern provinces of Kunduz, Baghlan, and Takhar, and in the western province of Badghis early Thursday.
In Kunduz, at least 10 soldiers and police were killed and 11 others wounded in the clashes which also left 25 Taliban fighters dead, a local official said.
In neighboring Baghlan and Takhar provinces, local Afghan officials said the Taliban killed 16 members of pro-government militias, but also suffered heavy casualties.
In Badghis, six members of security forces were killed and 10 others wounded, spokesman for the provincial governor Jamshid Shahabi said.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement, saying dozens of Afghan troops had been killed and a large amount of ammunition and weapons seized.
On Monday, more than 20 Afghan security forces were killed as Taliban militants stormed security checkpoints in Badghis.
The attacks come even as the Kabul government has stepped up efforts to convince the Taliban to end the 17-year militancy amid Washington’s failures on the battleground.
US State Department's special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has said he had held "productive" meetings in Abu Dhabi with Afghan and international partners "to promote intra-Afghan dialogue towards ending the conflict."
Khalilzad said the Taliban seek an agreement on the withdrawal of foreign forces, while the US wants assurances from the militant group that its forces would not be attacked.
The talks are the latest in a flurry of diplomatic efforts aimed at putting an end to the war in Afghanistan which began with the US invasion 17 years ago.
The United States invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 after the September 11 attacks. US forces have remained bogged down there through the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama and now Donald Trump.
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Over 30,000 flee Boko Haram violence in northern Nigeria: UN
Jan 10, 2019
The United Nations (UN) has warned about growing violence by Boko Haram militants in northeastern Nigeria, saying tens of thousands of people — mostly women and children —have fled their homes in the conflict-ridden area over the past weeks.
The international body raised the alarm on Wednesday following heavy clashes between Nigerian government forces and armed militants from the Takfiri terrorist group in Baga Town, on the shores of Lake Chad, about 200 kilometers north of the Borno State capital, Maiduguri.
“More than 30,000 internally displaced people have arrived in Maiduguri, mainly from Baga, in recent weeks. The majority of these people have arrived since December 20, 2018, often after arduous journeys with young children,” said the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon.
He said a clash on December 26 triggered a “massive displacement” of civilians, causing men, women, and children to flock to already-overcrowded camps in Maiduguri and struggle with a lack of “humanitarian assistance, notably shelter, food, water and sanitation.”
The UN report said a second attack on Monguno, a garrison town southwest of Baga, on December 28 had also led to the arrival of some 20,000 people at one camp in Maiduguri, stretching its capacity beyond the limit.
“The impact of the recent fighting on innocent civilians is devastating and has created a humanitarian tragedy. It is heart-wrenching to see so many of these people living in congested camps, or sleeping outside with no shelter. Civilians continue to bear the brunt of the conflict and the United Nations is extremely concerned about the impact that violence in northeast Nigeria, especially in Borno State, is having on civilians,” Kallon said.
The UN official further said “some 260 aid workers” had to withdraw from three local government areas in northern Borno State near Lake Chad since November, citing possible attacks by Boko Haram militants.
Kallon said the withdrawal — the largest since the international response to the violence increased in 2016 — had affected the delivery of humanitarian assistance to “hundreds of thousands of people.”
Boko Haram’s nine-year militancy is estimated to have killed more than 27,000 people and forced 1.8 million others to flee their homes, also triggering a humanitarian crisis in Nigeria.
In 2015, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s security record has become a campaign issue ahead of a February election in which he is seeking a second term.
Buhari, a former general, came to power in 2015 on a platform of stamping out Boko Haram; but despite retaking swathes of territory from the group, Boko Haram continues to stage attacks targeting both civilians and military personnel.
Buhari’s government maintains that the militancy is close to defeat.
Central African Republic open to Russian military base
Jan 11, 2019
Moscow is considering the establishment of a military base in the Central African Republic (CAR), where Russian forces are already training local troops as part of a deal with Bangui.
Central African Republic Defense Minister Marie-Noelle Koyara told Russia's RIA Novosti news agency that the establishment of a Russian military base is possible under an agreement signed in August between Moscow and Bangui.
“We have not yet spoken about the concrete development of the base, but such a possibility is not excluded in the framework agreement,” Koyara said.
“If the presidents, as supreme commanders and leaders of the nation, decide to deploy the base, then our countries will carry it out,” she added.
She further explained that authorities and armed groups of the Central African Republic are ready for a meeting to discuss the move under the auspices of the African Union.
“Armed groups are ready for a meeting, we are ready for a meeting, all interested parties are ready for a meeting, and now we are waiting for the response from the African Union as a coordinator, when and where it should take place."
“Our population perceives Russia very well. When the talk is about Russia, people understand that this is a full-fledged partner that may change the country’s future. And it is this human support, so to speak from the masses, that suggests that the word ‘partner’ is fully applicable to Russia,” Koyara added.
She said an army training center had already been established in the country with Russia, which could not be considered a military base.
Russia has already deployed light arms and troops to CAR —a member of the United Nations — after obtaining approval from the UN Security Council.
The Central African Republic, a former French colony, has for decades been mired in poverty, hunger and violence due to ethnic and religious conflict between rival militias.
The United States, which has a significant military presence in Africa, has recently launched a new strategy to counter what it calls the ‘predatory’ practices of Russia and China in the continent.
US National Security Adviser John Bolton accused Moscow and Beijing of using “corrupt” and “predatory” practices to gain an economic advantage over Washington in Africa.
“They [China and Russia] are deliberately and aggressively targeting their investments in the region to gain a competitive advantage over the United States,” he added.
China has already provided many countries in Asia and Africa with billions of dollars in aid and loans for roads, railways, ports and other major infrastructure projects. It has also set up its first overseas military base in Djibouti in 2017, where the US also has its main base of operations in Africa.
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Three protesters die in Sudan demonstration
Jan 10, 2019
Three protesters died after police broke up an anti-government demonstration in Sudan, police said Thursday, as thousands chanted support for President Omar al-Bashir at a rival rally in Khartoum.
Wednesday's competing rallies in the Sudanese capital followed a month of angry street protests over a government decision to triple the price of bread at a time when the country faces an acute shortage of foreign currency and soaring inflation.
Protesters chanting "Freedom, Peace, Justice" and "Revolution is the people's choice" blocked a key road in Omdurman, the twin city to Khartoum, but were quickly confronted with tear gas by riot police, witnesses said.
Videos posted on social media showed some demonstrators pelting police officers with rocks. The footage could not be verified independently.
On Thursday, police confirmed that three protesters had died in the Omdurman anti-government protest but did not specify how they had died.
"An illegal gathering was held in Omdurman and police dispersed it with tear gas," police spokesman Hashim Abdelrahim said in a statement.
"Police later received reports that three protesters had died and several injured. We are now investigating."
Late on Wednesday, a doctor said six protesters were being treated at Omdurman's main hospital for gunshot wounds.
"I myself gave medicine to six people wounded by bullets," he said without offering details.
Thousands of government supporters gathered at the rival rally on Wednesday at a sprawling ground in the capital to cheer for Bashir, who analysts say is facing the most series challenge to his regime since he swept to power in a coup in 1989.
The opposition National Umma Party urged doctors to help those injured, also saying some at the anti-Bashir rally had been hit by bullets.
A group of doctors at Omdurman's main hospital said that police fired tear gas at the facility.
"They fired tear gas inside the hospital and there was also shooting inside the hospital," the group said in a statement, without specifying who had opened fire.
Sudanese authorities did not comment on the clashes, but Bashir and others have blamed violence at the month-long protests on "thugs" and "conspirators," without naming them.
Crowds cheer Bashir
Authorities have so far confirmed at least 22 deaths, including two security personnel, since demonstrations erupted on December 19, but Human Rights Watch has put the death toll at 40, including children.
In the initial protests, which started in December in towns and villages before spreading to Khartoum, several buildings of Bashir's ruling National Congress Party were torched.
Wednesday's anti-government protest came soon after thousands of people danced and cheered Bashir at the rally held in the capital's Green Yard as police officers, soldiers, and security agents secured the premise.
Men, women, and children carrying pro-Bashir banners arrived in buses from early in the morning, almost filling the site.
"This gathering sends a message to those who think that Sudan will become like other countries that have been destroyed," Bashir told a cheering crowd. "We will stop anyone who destroys our properties."
Crowds chanted "Allahu akbar" (God is greatest) and "Yes, yes, Bashir, we will follow you" at the rally, where the president was accompanied by his wife and a group of ministers.
"Those who tried to destroy Sudan... put conditions on us to solve our problems, I tell them that our dignity is more than the price of dollars," Bashir said in an apparent dig at Washington, which had imposed a trade embargo on Khartoum in 1997.
The embargo was lifted in October 2017, but Sudanese officials, including Bashir, have continued to blame Washington for the country's economic woes.
Sudan slams foreign critics
Dressed in a khaki shirt and trousers and waving his trademark cane, a smiling Bashir greeted the crowd as men and women whistled and waved flags.
"We are with our leader because our brothers want to destroy our country, but we will save it," a woman supporter told AFP.
More than 800 protesters, opposition leaders, activists, and journalists have been arrested since the unrest began, officials say.
On Wednesday, Sudan slammed Britain, Canada, Norway, and the United States for a joint statement expressing concern at the situation in the country.
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