New Age Islam
Wed Aug 12 2020, 11:18 PM

Islamic World News ( 16 Dec 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Taliban, Haqqani Network Leaders Freely Operates In Pakistan: Pentagon











Islamic State chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has had a $25m bounty placed on his headReuters

Taliban, Haqqani Network Leaders Freely Operates In Pakistan: Pentagon

Why Should India Worry About Russia's Growing Friendship with the Taliban?

Nothing Wrong With Family Planning, Expert Tells Muslims

Revealed: Canadian Links to Extremist Networks in Bangladesh

Kerala HC Wants Talaq Power Taken Away From Muslim Men; Recommends Uniform Marriage Code

 

North America

Taliban, Haqqani Network Leaders Freely Operates In Pakistan: Pentagon

US Boosts Reward On ISIS Leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, To $25m

Vigil Expresses Solidarity between Jas, Muslim Americans

Trump promises Syria 'safe zones', Obama says no easy fix

Muslim Civil Rights Group Honors Jewish Counterpart with Award

Obama defends U.S. approach toward war in Syria

US House: Iran violated the nuclear agreement by ‘supporting terrorism’

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Europe

Why Should India Worry About Russia's Growing Friendship with the Taliban?

Ex-EU Commissioner: Why Morocco Is an ‘Arab Spring Success Story’

Comprehensive ceasefire, peace talks sole way out of Syria crisis: Russia

IOM says refugee death toll nears 7,200 in 2016

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Southeast Asia

Nothing Wrong With Family Planning, Expert Tells Muslims

Close Proximity Raids Make Malaysia Tougher Than Saudi Arabia

Melanau Catholics brace for the new Malaysian order

Zahid urges all to respect efforts in upholding Islamic laws

Ejection of nine Muslims from Kupang 'not retaliation' for Bandung cas

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South Asia

Revealed: Canadian Links to Extremist Networks in Bangladesh

16 ISIS Loyalists Killed In US Airstrike In East Of Afghanistan

Bangladesh remembers 1971 heroes on Victory Day with pledge for secular society

No trace of Pakistani 'terrorist' Mubasher after release from Dhaka jail

800 Russian mariners took part in post-war minesweeping

Aga Khan Trust for Culture to rebuild 4 historic sites in Kabul

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India

Kerala HC Wants Talaq Power Taken Away From Muslim Men; Recommends Uniform Marriage Code

Rajnath Singh’s Remarks on Pakistan a Declaration of War: Hafiz Saeed

ED to ask NIA for information on Zakir Naik’s finances

Muslims rack up numbers, seek education quota

India ‘sabotaging’ efforts to normalise relations: Pakistan

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Arab World

Nusra, Ahrar Al-Sham Terrorists Continue to Block Civilians' Exit from Fua'a, Kafraya

Syria: 9,500 Militants Evacuated from Aleppo City

Over 50 More ISIL Terrorists Including Commanders Killed in Syrian Army Attacks in Palmyra

Syria: Lebanese Hezbollah Fighters Arrive in Homs to Combat ISIL Terrorists

Syrian arrested in Saudi Arabia over pro-Assad Facebook photo

West, allies getting revenge for Aleppo victory: Syria's UN envoy

Syria: Militants Agree with Evacuation of Fua'a, Kafraya Civilians

Aleppo: Syrian Army Continues to Hunt Terrorists in Newly-Freed Districts

Syria: Terrorists Block Idlib-Bound SARC' Humanitarian Convoy in Northern Hama

Informed Source: Large Number of Turkish, Saudi Officers Deployed in Syria's Aleppo City

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Pakistan

Sindh Govt Decides To Review Bill on Forced Conversion

Rulers Have Learnt Nothing from Fall of Dhaka: Jamaat-e-Islami Chief

COAS Confirms Death Sentence to 13 Terrorists

Balochistan govt ‘disagrees with some points’ in SC report: Bugti

PUC urges UN, Muslim world to take notice of atrocities in Aleppo

Pakistan ‘willing’ to discuss Dr Afridi’s freedom with US

Rangers foiled suicide bomber's attempt to attack Imam Bargah in Hyderabad

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Mideast

PLO Warns Peace Prospects ‘Dead’ If US Embassy Moves To Jerusalem

Car Bomb Attack Kills 13 Soldiers in Turkey

Aleppo evacuations not over, says Turkish foreign minister

Iran becomes an uncompromising actor in the Middle East

Rouhani urges Muslim countries to 'present bright face of Islam'

Iran in Aleppo: ‘Kill all those who are trapped’

Iran, Turkey, Russia will meet in Moscow to discuss Syria: Iran

Iran ready to dispatch humanitarian aid to Syria: First VP

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Africa

12 Soldiers Killed In Militant Attack on Burkina Faso Army Post

Maiduguri flooded by victims of Boko Haram insurgency

Muslim leaders are asking Gambia’s Muslim president to respect democracy and step down

MMM: Nigerians blast cleric, Muhammad Gusauin who said scheme is against Islam

‘No time for enjoyment until Boko Haram is defeated’

Boko Haram: UN launches appeal for 500,000 victims

South Sudan opposition welcomes president's call for national dialogue

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/taliban,-haqqani-network-leaders-freely-operates-in-pakistan--pentagon/d/109410

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Taliban, Haqqani network leaders freely operates in Pakistan: Pentagon

Dec 17 2016

The TOP leaders of the Taliban group and the notorious Haqqani terrorist network are still freely operating from their safe havens in Pakistan, Pentagon said in its latest report.

“Afghan-oriented militant groups, including Taliban and Haqqani Network senior leadership, retain freedom of action from safe havens inside Pakistani territory,” Pentagon said in a report provided to congress.

Thee report “Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan”, further added that “the United States continues to be clear with Pakistan about steps it should take to improve the security environment and deny safe havens to terrorist and extremist groups.”

The report said Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from both the Afghan insurgency and extremist networks, including the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and to a lesser extent al Qaeda, and other insurgent and extremist groups, which continue to attempt to reassert their authority and prominence.

“These pervasive insurgent, terrorist, and criminal networks constitute a threat to Afghanistan’s stability. Revenue from opium trafficking continues to sustain the insurgency and Afghan criminal networks. Additionally, extortion and kidnappings by low-level criminal networks have increased in some areas of Afghanistan. The Afghanistan-Pakistan border region remains a sanctuary for various groups. These include the Taliban, al Qaeda, AQIS, the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), ISIL-K, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. This sanctuary and these groups remain a security challenge for both countries and pose a threat to regional stability and security,” the report added.

According to the report, the Afghan Government’s relationship with Pakistan remains a critical aspect of enhancing security and stability in Afghanistan, adding that “Since the beginning of President Ghani’s tenure, leaders from both countries have generally made a concerted effort to improve relations and better address mutual security interests, such as the threat from various extremist groups that reside in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.”

 Pentagon said Afghanistan-Pakistan relations deteriorated following a major Haqqani Network attack against a National Directorate of Security (NDS) building in Kabul on April 19, 2016, and continued to do so as tensions over construction at the Torkham Gate border crossing in June 2016 led to exchanges of gunfire that resulted in casualties to both Afghan and Pakistani military personnel.

However, it added that Afghanistan and Pakistan have taken cautious steps toward improving the bilateral relationship.

“Multiple high-level engagements have produced efforts to deescalate border tensions, attempts to advance political reconciliation talks between the Afghan Government and the Taliban, and fostered greater military-to-military cooperation,” the report said.

http://www.khaama.com/taliban-haqqani-network-leaders-freely-operates-in-pakistan-pentagon-02487

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Why Should India Worry About Russia's Growing Friendship with the Taliban?

Dec 16, 2016

Russia’s decision to recognise Taliban as a ‘political movement’ hasn’t gone down well with long-term ally India, which has a history with the hardline Islamist movement that’s vying with the Islamic State to gain a stronghold in Afghanistan.

India has been disturbed by recent events, the spokesperson at India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Vikas Swaroop, reportedly reacted to reports of Russia courting the Taliban.

Swaroop added that he didn’t expect India’s bilateral relations with Russia to worsen.

On the other hand, the Russians have been pretty forthright about their involvement with the Taliban.

According to recent media reports, a Russian official said during a speech he gave in Afghan Parliament that Russia’s interests in fighting the Islamic State converge with that of the Taliban.

The Taliban ruled Afghanistan, with strict interpretation of Sharia law, for nearly five years before being toppled by US-led Coalition troops in the wake of September 11, 2001 attacks.

Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment played a key role in the formation of Taliban and arguably call shots in the Islamist movement to this day, a detail that Russia hasn’t missed.

At the recent ‘Heart of Asia’ conference organised in India, Russia’s envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov criticised India and Afghanistan for showing up Pakistan’s National Security Advisor (NSA) Sartaj Aziz due to Islamabad’s involvement in sponsoring terrorism in both South Asian countries. Kabulov also cited to critics close cooperation between America and India to defend Moscow’s expanding military ties with Pakistan.

Russia and Pakistan troops’s participated in a military exercise on the subcontinent in September, an event widely discussed in India.

Moscow’s collaboration with the Taliban, and Pakistan, started around when IS started to make headway in Central Asia, as per some accounts.

Kremlin reportedly worries that growing IS presence in the neighbourhood would inspire separatists within Russia to stir trouble in the restive Chechnya province.

Taliban isn’t on good terms with IS, with both radical Islamic movements vying for leadership in the Muslim world. The Putin leadership is said to see this mistrust between the two radical Islamist movements as an opportunity, that could be exploited to serve Moscow’s security interests. But whether or not the Kremlin anticipated friction with old ally India over this strategy is anybody’s guess.

The writing on the wall for India about the emerging Russia-Taliban nexus started  to become clearer last year, when reports of Moscow’s intelligence sharing with the Taliban first surfaced. A closer understanding with Taliban will inevitably lean Russia toward Pakistan, and it may have some serious implications for India’s interests.

Closer Russia-Pakistan relations

Indian authorities have time and again accused Pakistan Army of financing and arming anti-India militants.

India’s claims are based on the precedent of the Taliban, which was created and groomed by the ‘military-mullah’ establishment in Islamabad with support from the US, in order to counter Soviet-backed Northern Alliance in the 1980s.

Practically the handlers of the Taliban, the Pakistan Army and intelligence agency, the ISI, have also been accused of sponsoring terrorism on Indian targets through redirecting American money and weapons allotted to originally fund the Taliban project and ,after 9/11, combat terrorism.

Pakistan’s armed forces have been involved in three lost wars with India since 1947 and there is a deep mistrust of India’s intentions in the Pakistan’s security establishment.

While the trend of US resources being used against India is more of history as the superpower moves away from Pakistan and closer to India, Russian involvement with the Pakistan Army to reach out to Taliban may end up causing security problems like India has faced in the past.

India’s history with the Taliban

A hijacked Indian Airlines’ flight, IC814, which was on its way to New Delhi, was diverted midway by Islamist militants belonging to  Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), a terror group fighting Indian forces in Kashmir, and ultimately taken to Kandahar in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in 1999.

While the Taliban officially claimed that it wasn’t involved in the entire episode and just intended to act as mediator to help negotiate the release of Indian hostages, there was a perception in Indian political and military circles that the Kabul regime was in cahoots with the hijackers.

The Taliban is reported to have provided armed security to the hijacked airplane as it stood on the Kandahar air strip, which Indians saw as the Taliban regime providing cover to the hijackers in anticipation of an Indian rescue operation.

Russia’s favourable overtures to the Taliban may cause a friction in India-Russia relations, which have flourished since the signing of 1971 friendship treaty.

Fear of losing crucial ground in Afghanistan

India has invested $2 billion in Afghanistan in the post-war reconstruction effort, as it sees the resource-rich country as IMPORTANT to meet its future security and energy needs. The present democratically elected Ashraf Ghani government, like most of the previous administrations since 2004, has been mindful of India’s interests, which may not be the case if Taliban makes its way back into Afghanistan’s politics and society.

India severed diplomatic relations with Afghanistan when the Taliban was in power, and remains suspicious of its fundamentalist political ideology.

A more influential Taliban in Kabul will present a headwind for India.

http://www.inuth.com/india/why-should-india-worry-about-russias-growing-friendship-with-the-taliban/

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Nothing Wrong With Family Planning, Expert Tells Muslims

Aedi Asri

December 16, 2016

KUALA LUMPUR: Malay Muslims should come out of simplistic interpretations about family planning, said a gynaecologist, adding to a growing debate on the subject sparked by Terengganu’s latest initiative to encourage families to have more children.

Dr Harlina Siraj of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia said couples should plan their families so that they would not be financially burdened.

She said many viewed family planning as rejecting the qada and qadar, the Islamic concept of divine destiny.

“We cannot be so simplistic because there are many things to consider,” Harlina told FMT today.

“Family planning should be seen differently. If it is seen as irresponsible and rejecting a blessing, we have to change the way we see it today. It is those who do not plan who are the irresponsible ones.”

Harlina, who is active in Muslim NGO Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia, cited research which showed children born to parents who had “planned and waited” have a brighter future.

Recently, think tank, Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) said the Terengganu government’s move to give incentives to raise the birth rate in the state may worsen poverty in the state.

In response, Malay rights group Perkasa defended the programme, saying there was no proof children born in poor families would miss out in life.

On December 12, Terengganu Menteri Besar Ahmad Razif Abdul Rahman said the campaign would continue until it achieved its target of 25,000 births a year, compared to the current 20,000.

The state is offering couples RM100 for their first child, RM200 for every subsequent child to the seventh child, and RM500 for each following child. The cash incentives will be paid into their National Education Savings Scheme (SSPN-i) accounts.

According to the Statistics Department, Terengganu has the second highest birth rate in the country after Putrajaya, with 23.8 births in 2015 and 23.7 births in 2014 for every 1,000 residents.

Up to couples

Harlina said it was up to couples to decide the size of their families.

“Nobody can force them, but every couple must take into account their own capabilities (to raise children),” she said.

Harlina cited an explanation by Islamic scholar Dr Abdel-Rahim Omran in his book, Family Planning in the Legacy of Islam.

She said couples should take into account five criteria before deciding to have children, including physical ability, economic capability, emotional state of the mother and social support.

“Every couple has different levels of capability,” she added.

A fatwa from Al-Azhar, the institute considered as an authority in the Muslim world, had in 1988 ruled that family planning was sanctioned by Islam.

Harlina said while she did not object to Terengganu’s plan, population growth should not be based merely on demographics.

“It is good if the incentives go into the SSPN-1 accounts and not paid like BR1M, and I also don’t think couples are going to have more babies just to get the money.

“But it would be better if the state government used the money to create a support structure for working mothers.

“Their main problem is there is no quality childcare support system,” she said, adding that many working mothers were forced to abandon their careers after having children.

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2016/12/16/nothing-wrong-with-family-planning-expert-tells-muslims/

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Revealed: Canadian Links to Extremist Networks in Bangladesh

By Genevieve Zingg

December 17, 2016

Violent Islamic extremism has been an increasingly visible threat in Bangladesh over the last two years, reaching a critical juncture when the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the Dhaka attack of July 2016. The terror attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery in the capital’s diplomatic quarters, which left 24 non-Muslims and foreign nationals dead after a six-hour hostage situation, was reportedly carried out by local networks affiliated with ISIS.

Though it remains unclear whether the perpetrators received material support from the terror group or operated independently, new evidence has emerged confirming that the plan was brought to ISIS for approval and advice prior to being carried out. On December 1, Reuters reported that the Bangladeshi authorities are in possession of communications between the architect of the attack and Abu Terek Mohammad Tajuddin Kausar, an ISIS militant born in Bangladesh but living in Australia. Kausar explicitly approved the attack and advised the five radicals to target non-Muslim foreigners and expatriates.

In the wake of a series of killings targeting atheist bloggers, religious minorities, and prominent LGBT activists throughout 2014 and 2015, Bangladesh’s political leaders vehemently denied any ISIS presence in the country. The brutal attacks, often committed with machetes, were downplayed as a string of unrelated and isolated domestic incidents attributed to small, relatively unsophisticated local terrorist groups. However, the coordination of the Dhaka attack, its high death toll, and the confirmation of the Islamic States’ role in its planning all indicate a concerning new development in the country’s terrorist activity.

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In addition to raising national security concerns, the existence of active ISIS cells in Bangladesh has exposed significant transnational terror links to Canada. Investigations conducted in the aftermath of the attack have identified at least three terrorist suspects with ties to Canada. Tamim Chowdhury, identified as the mastermind of the Dhaka attack, was a Canadian citizen raised in Ontario and educated in chemistry at the University of Windsor. Chowdhury travelled to Syria for militant training after graduating in 2012, and Bangladeshi officials believe he is linked to a group of Islamic radicals in Alberta known to counterterrorism analysts as the “Calgary cluster.” The group is reportedly responsible for at least two terror attacks and more than 70 deaths. Following Chowdhury’s death during a police raid in August 2016, ISIS published an article in its Rumiyah magazine describing him as the “Former Head of Military and Covert Operations of the Soldiers of Khilafah in Bengal.”

A second connection to Canada surfaced upon the identification of Mohammad Zahidul Islam, killed by Bangladeshi special operation forces in a shootout in September 2016. Islam was allegedly the military commander of the ISIS faction in Bangladesh, responsible for providing arms training to new recruits. The Canadian Department of National Defense recently launched an investigation to determine whether Islam, a former major in the Bangladeshi army, was trained by the Canadian Armed Forces as part of an international military cooperation program for six months in 2014. Only 35 members of the Bangladeshi Armed Forces have been trained in Canada over the last decade.

The potential role of a third Canadian in the attack was hotly debated. Tahmid Hasib Khan, a Canadian citizen and University of Toronto student, was initially believed to be a hostage in the Dhaka café but was subsequently detained by Bangladeshi authorities. He was arrested after video footage filmed by witnesses and militants within the bakery emerged, depicting Khan holding a gun and smoking cigarettes with the militants. Police later said forensic analysts determined that the student had been forced to hold the weapon. The nature of his involvement in the attack remained murky at the time of his detainment in August, when he was charged only with “a lack of cooperation with the policing authority.” In October 2016, investigators from the Bangladeshi counterterrorism unit released a statement clearing Khan of any links to the attack and a Dhaka court acquitted him of terrorism.

The eighth largest country in the world with 168 million people, Bangladesh was ranked 22nd on the 2016 Global Terrorism Index, between South Sudan and China. Last year the country was ranked 25th, while this year it was included in a group of countries that saw “dramatic increases” in number of deaths from terrorism. According to the report, which does not include the Dhaka attack, Bangladesh recorded 459 attacks and 75 deaths as a result of terrorist activity in 2015, accounting for 4 percent of the global total.

In response to growing national concerns regarding terrorism in the country, Bangladeshi authorities unleashed a widescale anti-terrorism crackdown. By early October, authorities claimed to have killed 42 militants and detained hundreds of suspects, according to an internal police report. Authorities have cited new information regarding the financing of the attack as evidence of their success in combating the rise of Islamic terrorism within Bangladesh’s borders.

Only a handful of those arrested, however, have been militants or extremists. Further, of those militants arrested, all were reportedly low-level local extremists without any discernible ties to international terrorist organizations or command-level power within domestic terror structures. The counterterrorism model Bangladeshi authorities are operating may be casting a wide net, but is failing to identify and apprehend key transnational terror culprits at the command level.

In fact, authorities initialized a massive extremism crackdown in June 2016, the month prior to the Dhaka attack, and arrested more than 14,000 people. Yet the terrorists responsible for the deaths in the Holy Artisanal Bakery remained undetected by the operation, and the detainments do not appear to have uncovered any substantive information or yielded any significant results. The majority of those arrested are believed to be petty criminals with no links to domestic or international terrorism.

The numerous links to Canada exposed by the Dhaka attack emphasizes the transnationalism of modern terrorism. As evidenced by the exclusively electronic communications between Kausar and Chowdhury, prominent terror networks are increasingly dependent on sophisticated technological strategies to plan and execute attacks, radicalize and train new recruits, and disseminate propaganda materials. To identify upper level actors in modern terrorist networks like ISIS, it is essential that Bangladesh update its counterterrorism approach to focus on global, cross-border terror mechanisms and strategies rather than focusing on a rapidly disappearing “on the ground” domestic model of terrorism confined to local areas and actors. To prevent terror being cultivated abroad and exported into the country, as has evidently been a facet of Canadian radicalization, Bangladesh should develop its counterterrorism strategies to focus on partnership and cooperation with foreign governments and technologically advanced methods of analyzing military records, flight and travel information to “hot zones” and conflict areas in particular, social media data, and other metrics that may have a stronger capacity to anticipate and prevent attacks.

Developing joint partnerships with foreign governments to target the growth of cross-border terrorism is critical to successfully mitigating the threat of extremist activity in Bangladesh. Politicizing the Dhaka attack as a product of local opposition forces ignores the global reality of modern terror networks and hampers the effectiveness of counterterrorism efforts in the country. Bangladesh’s leaders must first acknowledge the reality of the threat, and subsequently work to develop counterterrorism policies suited to the transnational nature of young, modern terrorist networks like the Islamic State.

Genevieve Zingg is a journalist covering foreign policy, international security, and refugees and migration issues. She is a research affiliate with the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society and a Research Analyst with the NATO Council of Canada. She is based in Toronto, Canada

http://thediplomat.com/2016/12/revealed-canadian-links-to-extremist-networks-in-bangladesh/

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Kerala HC Wants Talaq Power Taken Away From Muslim Men; Recommends Uniform Marriage Code

Mahir Haneef

Dec 17, 2016

KOCHI: The Kerala high court on Friday recommended for taking away the power of talaq from Muslim men and said a uniform code should be brought in to govern marriages.

A single bench of the court made the recommendations after considering four petitions that were filed by spouses involved in triple talaqs. While one of them (WP-C No. 37436 of 2003) had questioned a lower court's order to provide maintenance following a triple talaq using a 'talaq kuri', others had challenged passport authorities' insistence for a court decree to prove dissolution of their marriages, which were carried out through talaqs.

Recommending for bringing in a uniform code of marriage, the court said in the judgement, "There are many areas in which religious laws can be reconciled with secular laws without there being a conflict of each other. While emphasizing the need for national oneness in areas where it is possible, and allowing citizens to have their own identity based on religious practices or belief, endeavour shall be made for common code of conduct to regulate behaviour of subjects. The need is for a Common Civil Code; though it is debated at different levels but still it remains a mirage for want of agreement among different groups. This essentially arises out of misconception as to the secular law. It is possible to have a common code at least for the marriage law in India."

The court also suggested that the power to end marriage by pronouncing talaq should be taken away from Muslim man and woman and should be vested with a court. "In the light of the above discussion, there is no difficulty to hold that the right of divorce as permitted in Islamic Law to the husband and wife can be divested from them to restore it to the court. Entrustment to effect divorce through the court in no way would affect the practice of sharia law in accordance with Qur'anic injunction. If the operative cause of the law of permitting husband and wife to effect divorce in accordance with the Qur'anic injunction failed; to achieve its objectives, in the form of Maslahah (public good), task of effecting divorce through court becomes inevitable to sub-serve the purpose of law," the judgment stated.

Further, the court said a political system that is not established under the Islamic law can bring in changes to Sharia as it only sets out guidelines. Through the judgment, the court said, "Nowhere in Islam, any form of government or authority has been singularly pointed out as a political form of establishment. On the other hand Islam only laid down principles relating to the human life in every walks of his life till his death. Therefore, any form of the government promoting the religious values must be honoured and obeyed by the believer."

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kochi/kerala-hc-wants-talaq-power-taken-away-from-muslim-men-recommends-for-uniform-marriage-code/articleshow/56025920.cms

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North America

 

US Boosts Reward On ISIS Leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, To $25m

December 17, 2016

WASHINGTON - The United States on Friday more than doubled the bounty on the head of the shadowy leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, to $25 million.

The announcement by the State Department "Rewards for Justice Program" came as US-backed local forces close in on the militant movement's main urban strongholds in Iraq and Syria, the cities of Mosul and Raqa. The cash will be paid to anyone who can offer "information leading to the location, arrest or conviction" of the elusive militant, known to his followers as "Caliph Ibrahim".

"Under al-Baghdadi, ISIL has been responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians in the Middle East, including the brutal murder of numerous civilian hostages from Japan, the United Kingdom, and the US," the State Department said. Baghdadi has kept a low profile, despite having declared himself the leader of a renewed Muslim caliphate, but last month released a defiant audio message urging his supporters to defend Mosul.

It is not clear if he is in the besieged city, where he declared his caliphate in 2014 after the IS group seized territory covering much of eastern Syria and northern Iraq.

The video, which showed a man with a black and grey beard wearing a black robe and matching turban, is the only one IS has released of Baghdadi to date.

He has been reported wounded in US-led coalition air strikes multiple times, but the claims have never been verified, and his apparent survival has added to his mystique.

According to an official Iraqi government document, Baghdadi was born in Samarra in 1971 and has four children with his first wife - two boys and two girls born between 2000 and 2008.

An Iraqi intelligence report records that Baghdadi has a PhD in Islamic studies and was a professor at Tikrit University. Baghdadi apparently joined the insurgency that erupted after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq and spent time in an American military prison.

http://nation.com.pk/international/17-Dec-2016/us-boosts-reward-on-is-leader-to-25m

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Vigil Expresses Solidarity Between Jas, Muslim Americans 

DECEMBER 16, 2016

Japanese American community groups held a vigil on Dec. 7 in Little Tokyo to express solidarity with Muslim Americans, immigrants and others concerned about how they will be treated by the incoming Trump Administration.

More than 200 people attended the event in the plaza of the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, sponsored by Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress (NCRR), the Nikkei Progressives and the Vigilant Love Coalition.

Co-emcee Tanzila Ahmed of 18 Million Rising noted that a similar vigil was held a year ago in the wake of anti-Muslim sentiment following terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. “Since then there has been an increase in attacks against the Muslim community, against immigrant communities, against people of color … incited by the political rhetoric out there … It’s bittersweet that we have to come here again now, and we need to work harder than ever to mobilize.”

Co-emcee Sean Miura of Tuesday Night Café explained that the 75th anniversary of the PEARL Harbor attack was chosen for the date of the vigil because for Japanese Americans it marked the beginning of their wartime incarceration. “Almost 2,000 Issei … were rounded up by the FBI [the day after Pearl Harbor]and taken away first to temporary facilities … like Tuna Canyon in Tujunga and Griffith Park, and eventually faraway places like Missoula, Montana and Bismarck, North Dakota …

“It’s really clear that the U.S. government knew exactly who they were coming for … knew the names of people who they wanted to round up … leaders in the community, folks who ran language schools, folks who ran community centers, religious leaders.”

Rinban William Briones of Nishi Hongwanji noted that Buddhist priests were among the first group arrested and held in Department of Justice camps, accused of “culturally subversive activities.” He pointed out that the eventual roundup of all Japanese Americans on the West Coast in 1942 was not just a result of Pearl Harbor. “It was the culmination of a history of racial discrimination against Asians that began in the mid-1800s when the Chinese first immigrated to the U.S.,” he said, adding that Japanese were denied the right to become NATURALIZED citizens, to own land, or to marry outside their race, and in 1924 immigration from Japan was halted altogether.

Asians, like Muslims today, have been viewed as separate from mainstream society because of “racial assumptions,” Briones said, calling for unity between the two communities.

Incarceree’s Perspective

Jim Matsuoka, 80, who was incarcerated at Manzanar as a child, recalled dreading PEARL Harbor Day when he was growing up because people “made me feel like I was part of this sneak attack.”

He described last Nov. 8 as “another day of infamy” because of the election results. “All the ideals of America were scorned in their haste to make America great again, or was it make America white again? … We believe in the American ideals. We fought for and struggled to honor these beautiful ideals, ideals that make our country great … They trampled on all that was dear to you and me. It makes me wonder about all who sacrificed, who gave their all for this country …

“I won’t let them define me anymore. I am a first-class citizen whether they like it or not. If they don’t like it, they can kiss my yellow … Brothers and sisters, let us not hang our heads in defeat … Let us hoist the standard, let us unite for fairness for all of us … No to racism, no to sexism, no to homophobia, no to the wall, no to registration for Muslim Americans, and most of all no to Donald Trump.”

Kristin Fukushima of Nikkei Progressives said, “We take inspiration from the courage and resilience of the Issei and Nisei who suffered the greatest losses during World War II and survived to rebuild the community. We take inspiration from the progressive history of our community — from the people who challenged the evacuation, like Mitsuye Endo, Gordon Hirabayashi, Fred Korematsu and Min Yasui, to the Nisei progressives who challenged racist housing laws, to the Sansei who opposed the Vietnam War, fought for ethnic studies, inspired by the civil rights movement, and returned to defend Little Tokyo from redevelopment.

“We take inspiration from the fighting spirit of our community during the almost ten-year campaign to win redress and an apology from the United States government in 1988 — setting a precedent against such scapegoating and incarcerations ever happening again. We proudly take on the responsibility to stand up for others who face similar discrimination …

“We pledge to make Little Tokyo and all communities a safe place no matter a person’s race, religion or gender preference … We are Muslims. We are immigrants. We are people of color. We are Sikhs and Jews. We are LGBTQ. We are marginalized. We are women and we all stand together.”

Duaa Alwan of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California said that in the current political climate, many people in the Muslim American community are “very scared … not just the inability to be who they were, to practice what they believe, but even to be just walking out on the street. There are literally people who are choosing to stay more indoors, to be very careful.”

“Islamophobia is not new,” she added. “It’s existed for a while, and it actually was built upon decades of people only seeing Muslims as terrorists on TV and in films … All of you standing here strong represent a lot more people who actually believe in justice … in the sacredness of life and being respectful to one another.”

Noting that her organization receives reports of bullying on a daily basis, Alwan stressed the IMPORTANCE of reassuring children who are fearful. “Always be there to speak up, always be there to stand strong.”

Syed Husseini, outreach manager for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said that society seemed to be moving away from racism, “but we’ve seen in the past 18 months such vitriol and such demagoguery that’s very reminiscent of those past days … There’s kind of a regression taking place.”

In order to combat hate crimes, he emphasized, it is IMPORTANT to “understand the rights we are given … If we don’t understand those rights, we won’t be able to defend ourselves … We’re going to do a lot of ‘know your rights’ workshops [to show]how we can protect ourselves and be proactive.”

Miura added, “In your daily life … if you see something, do something.” But he urged everyone to first read about “do’s and don’ts of bystander intervention … There are ways to do it that are better than others.”

Asssemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) said, “In the 1980s there was a congressional fact-finding commission that found clearly that the incarceration of over 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II was caused by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria and failure of political leadership. As now the only Japanese American in the California State Legislature, I had a special obligation to be here tonight because we know that the effort to incarcerate Japanese Americans … started right here in California and much of it started in the California Legislature.

“But now we are proud to be Californians, and California must lead the country in showing the progressive way. We need to stand up and fight against this rising tide of anti-Islamic sentiment … The State Assembly and the State Senate … made a strong statement in support of immigrants, of Muslims… We are all standing with you, we are all standing together … to fight for what’s right.”

Asiyah Ayubbi, who performed a song, spoke about growing up black, Asian and Muslim (she is a granddaughter of Great Leap’s Nobuko Miyamoto). Although she wore a hijab while living in Michigan, where there is a large population of Arab Americans, when she moved to Los Angeles, “I decided to remove my hijab because I was scared … I have to go in the streets … and take care of errands and go to work and go to school … Who’s going to stand next to me and protect me now? …

“Even though I don’t wear hijab anymore, I still practice my faith, I still make music … praising the prophet, spreading love.”

Carlos Amador, lead organizer of the California Immigrant Policy Center, said he was undocumented for 12 years but was able to adjust his status and wants to help those in similar situations. Although the federal government has a “well-oiled deportation machine,” he said, his group has been working with the State Legislature and Los Angeles County to ensure that undocumented immigrants have due process and representation.

Laboni Hoq, litigation director for Asian Americans Advancing Justice, said that she and her colleagues were initially stunned by the outcome of the election, but “we realized it’s time to bond together and figure out a plan to move forward … We are not going to take this lying down … We are hoping to lead some of those efforts in solidarity with other community organizations …

“We need to protect people in our community who are under immediate attack … people who are DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] recipients and who are DACA-eligible who took the step of exposing their immigration status and being put in the system where the government has their information … They don’t know what is going to be done with that information once Trump comes into office.”

Hoq said that Mayor Eric Garcett has shown “a lot of leadership in terms of organizing civil rights communities to think about the best way to provide representation for undocumented folks and other people who are vulnerable in this new era.”

Following a performance by poet Ruben Funkahuatl Guevara, the participants marched to the Japanese American National Museum via Second Street and Central Avenue, holding candles and a banner. The event concluded with more speeches and singing, and promises to continue working together.

Full report at:

http://www.rafu.com/2016/12/vigil-expresses-solidarity-between-jas-muslim-americans/

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Trump promises Syria 'safe zones', Obama says no easy fix

December 17, 2016

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said on Friday his administration would build "safe zones" to try to help civilians trapped in Syria's bloody conflict, an idea that President Barack Obama said would be too hard to enforce.

Trump and Obama spoke separately of the conflict after efforts to evacuate civilians from the city of Aleppo ground to a halt on Friday after weeks of bombardments by the Syrian army.

"We're going to try and patch that up and we're going to try and help people," said Republican Trump, who takes over from Obama on Jan. 20.

"We're going to build safe zones," he told supporters at a rally in Florida. "We're going to get the Gulf States to pay for the safe zones."

However, Obama earlier told reporters that the idea presented a "continued challenge" because safe zones would require protection by ground forces, something to which the Syrian government and its backers in Moscow and Tehran would be unlikely to agree.

Obama said he hoped Syria and Russia would respond to international pressure over the tragedy and work with Turkey to let the remaining civilians in Aleppo flee safely.

Obama, a Democrat, has been preoccupied with the Syrian conflict during much of his time in the White House but has steadfastly resisted calls to engage militarily and instead focused on trying to broker a diplomatic solution.

"I cannot claim that we’ve been successful. And so that’s something that, as is true with a lot of issues and problems around the world, I have to go to bed with every night," Obama said on Friday.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/17-Dec-2016/trump-promises-syria-safe-zones-obama-says-no-easy-fix

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Muslim Civil Rights Group Honors Jewish Counterpart With Award

December 17, 2016

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a leading civil rights organization for American Muslims, is preparing to honor the advocacy group Jewish Voice for Peace in the latest sign that Jewish and Muslim leaders are boosting their collaboration as hate crimes against their communities increase.

CAIR will present one of its inaugural “Defender of Liberty” awards to the Jewish group, a strong opponent of Israel’s policies toward Palestinians, at its annual banquet next week.

The award is CAIR’s direct response to the political rise of President-elect Donald Trump, whose rhetoric has targeted Muslims and inspired hate crimes against Americans who are visibly practicing the Islamic faith ― along with Sikhs and others who are mistakenly identified as Muslims. The self-described alt-right movement, which promotes racist and xenophobic views, often suggests that Islam is inherently violent by citing the mistreatment of minorities such as Jews and Christians in the Muslim-majority world.

Interfaith solidarity is more IMPORTANT now than ever, the Muslim group’s communications director, Ibrahim Hooper, told The Huffington Post.

“In an atmosphere in which many wrongly believe there’s an inherent conflict between Jewish and Muslim communities, it sends a strong message that that is not the case — that members of the Jewish and Muslim community have a tremendous amount amount in common on issues of social justice and civil liberties,” Hooper said. CAIR believes the Jewish group will be a leading advocate to ensure Muslims in America are not left alone to defend their communities, he added.

Both Muslim and Jewish people, along with many other groups, have been targets of hate since Trump’s election, making coordination and cooperation between advocacy organizations even more IMPORTANT, JVP member Donna Nevel said.

Jewish Americans expressed their concern as Trump received support from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and offered a position in his administration to white nationalist Steve Bannon of Breitbart News ― and as vandals defaced U.S. schools, synagogues and homes with swastika graffiti after Trump’s Nov. 8 victory.

Full report at:

http://www.huffingtonpost.in/entry/cair-muslim-jewish-rights_us_58544695e4b0b3ddfd8c8718

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Obama defends U.S. approach toward war in Syria

December 17, 2016

President Barack Obama on Friday defended the U.S. approach toward the civil war in Syria, saying he understood the desire for action to end the conflict but it would have been impossible to do "on the cheap" without a full U.S. military intervention.

"Unless we were all in and willing to take over Syria, we were going to have problems," Obama told a news conference, noting that it would have required "putting large numbers of U.S. troops on the ground, uninvited, without any international law mandate."

Obama's remarks came as efforts to evacuate civilians from the last opposition-held areas of the Syrian city of Aleppo ground to a halt on Friday after weeks of bombardments by the Syrian army that have deprived insurgents of nearly all their territory in the city, a divided zone during the nearly six-year civil war.

A Syrian official source said the evacuation was halted because rebels had sought to take out people they had abducted with them, and they had also tried to take weapons hidden in bags. This was denied by Aleppo-based rebel groups.

Obama denounced claims from the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and its allies that all innocent civilians who were trapped in Aleppo had been able to leave, saying the reports were efforts to "obfuscate the truth".

"Humanitarian organizations who know better and who are on the ground have said unequivocally that there are still tens of thousands that are trapped and are prepared to leave," Obama said at Friday's news conference. "So right now our biggest priority is to get them out."

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/17-Dec-2016/obama-defends-u-s-approach-toward-war-in-syria

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US House: Iran violated the nuclear agreement by ‘supporting terrorism’

16 December 2016

The Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in the US House of Representatives, Ed Royce, rejected Tehran’s claims about the violation of the United States nuclear deal, saying that “Iran is the one who violated the agreement through its support to terrorism. Indeed, the quest to develop a missile capable of striking the United States is a direct threat to American national security.”

Royce said in a statement Thursday that “the extension of sanctions for ten years against Iran has nothing to do with the nuclear deal, and we should not be fooled by Tehran.”

According to Royce, the law will renew existing sanctions - which were not part of President Obama’s nuclear agreement – in an effort to confront Iran’s illegal missile program, and ensures Trump’s administration another set of strong sanctions if Iran went on to build a nuclear weapon.

The head of the Foreign Relations Committee in the US House of Representatives, stressed that “Iran is the only party who has violated the terms of the agreement. This law will ensure that the United States reserves the right to hold accountable the Iranian regime.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2016/12/16/US-House-Iran-violated-the-nuclear-agreement-by-supporting-terrorism-.html

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Europe

 

Ex-EU Commissioner: Why Morocco Is an ‘Arab Spring Success Story’

December 16, 2016

Casablanca — In an exclusive with the EU Bulletin, ex-EU Commissioner Štefan Füle explains why Morocco and Tunisia are perhaps the only two Arab Spring success stories.

When asked why he thinks Morocco and Tunisia would perhaps be the only two countries that have successfully Füle, the former European Union Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy (ENP) Commissioner tells the EU Bulletin that there are three main reasons for their successes.

“One of the elements,” he says, “is a stronger civil society within these two countries.”

“The second element was, and particularly for Tunisia, that even those Islamist political parties, which you would have otherwise might call ‘Muslim Brotherhood’, have understood their political service to be a service for the country and it was not necessarily some kind of religious ‘fata morgana.’”

“And they have been ready to make some painful compromise delivering their service to the country and to its citizens,” continues.

The third element of the success, says Füle, “was that these two countries have made it much more clear than other partners what they would like to see as an assistance and help from the European Union,” adding that “Morocco and Tunisia were also listening when we were in the sort of most humble way making certain recommendations how this or that reform would work and what kind of impact it might have.”

According to Füle, it seems Morocco’s strong civil society, its commitment to serving its citizens and its humility in asking for advice is what made it an Arab Spring success story.

https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2016/12/203836/ex-eu-commissioner-why-morocco-is-an-arab-spring-success-story/

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Comprehensive ceasefire, peace talks sole way out of Syria crisis: Russia

Dec 17, 2016

Russia says a political settlement based on the resumption of "inclusive inter-Syrian" negotiations and enforcing an "all-encompassing ceasefire" is the sole solution to the years-long conflict in the Arab country.

"The first and foremost task today is the establishment of all-encompassing ceasefire and the resumption of inter-Syrian negotiations, the readiness of which Damascus has re-confirmed repeatedly," Russia’s Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin said at a Security Council meeting in New York on Friday.

He added that Moscow, however, believes that delivering humanitarian aid and a simultaneous fight against terror must complement parallel efforts to reach a ceasefire and hold negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition.

"We are convinced that there is no alternative to the political regulation [than the one] based on the inclusive inter-Syrian dialogue with the parallel provision of ceasefire, access to humanitarian aid and continuation of the fight against terrorism," the Russian diplomat stated.

Churkin also hailed his country's counter-terrorism operations in Syria which he said have barred terrorists from capturing the capital Damascus, minimized their military and economic potential, and liberated vast territories, including the major city of Aleppo, from the clutches of militants.

Moscow keeps on taking all possible measures to reduce tensions and resolve vital humanitarian issues in the country, particularly in newly-liberated Aleppo, he said.

“At the same time, massive humanitarian and medical aid is being provided to the Syrian population affected by the conflict, and the main wave of humanitarian aid is being delivered to Aleppo for a couple of days now,” Churkin added.

He went on to say that the military operations in the northwestern city as well as the evacuation of militants and their families from the eastern part of Aleppo “are coming to an end.”

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2016/12/17/498206/Russia-Syria-Churkin-nterSyrian-negotiations-UN-Aleppo

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IOM says refugee death toll nears 7,200 in 2016

Dec 16, 2016

The number of refugees feared to have died this year has approached the figure of 7,200, showing more than a 20-percent increase compared to 2015, says the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The organization said on Friday that 7,189 refugees had either died or remained missing on the routes taken by asylum-seekers around the world.

The IOM said on average 20 refugees die each day.

Another 200 to 300 people could perish by the end of the year if the trend continues, the Geneva-based IOM warned.

The perilous sea routes across the Mediterranean remain by far the world's deadliest, the IOM said, adding that half of those deaths are related to the routes across the Mediterranean.

As of late Thursday, the IOM said 4,812 people had lost their lives in the Mediterranean Sea trying to reach the European countries of Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Spain since the beginning of 2016.

The IOM said this number was likely already outdated, pointing to information it had received on Friday indicating that another 88 people were feared missing after a boat carrying 114 was reported sunk off the coast of Zawiya in Libya.

In 2015, 3,567 people had died trying to cross the Mediterranean.

The surge this year in the refugees’ death toll comes amid a drop by more than half in the number of refugees who arrived on the European continent, falling from 883,393 in 2015 to only 357,249 this year, the IOM said.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2016/12/16/498164/IOM-refugee-death-toll

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Southeast Asia

 

Close Proximity Raids Make Malaysia Tougher Than Saudi Arabia

December 17, 2016

PETALING JAYA: The way Malaysian religious authorities are policing khalwat (close proximity) is beyond anything in Saudi Arabia or other Gulf States today, warns a leading NGO.

G25 adviser Mohd Sheriff Kassim points out that even Saudi Arabia, the country which is home to Islam’s holiest site, has issued stern guidelines to limit the powers of the moral police to harass and arrest Muslims.

“The instruction is that the moral police should not take the law into their own hands and instead, it should advise those committing offences under the morality laws to change and repent,” he said In a statement today.

His comments were in response to the recent death and injuries of two policemen who jumped from buildings to escape raids by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais).

Just two months ago, Jais introduced a mobile phone app, called “Hotline Jais”, for people to report religious offences, including khalwat.

Sheriff added that Malays who visited or lived in Arab states have not come across any country where so-called moral police raid private homes.

He also pointed out that some ulama consider khalwat raids un-Islamic as it gave the impression that the religion used only punishment to uphold morals.

Khalwat raids also tended to target the lower-income group as the “rich and powerful” had more resources to “get away with bigger sins”. Sheriff noted that khalwat laws could be easily exploited by a person’s enemies to “settle a score”.

“Our authorities should learn from the failed experience of dictatorial regimes which criminalised personal thoughts and behaviour to discourage individualism and promote mass obedience to the state ideology,” he said.

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2016/12/17/khalwat-raids-make-malaysia-tougher-than-saudi-arabia/

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Melanau Catholics brace for the new Malaysian order

Dec 16, 2016

SARAWAK: They sat saying the rosary in the Melanau language. Outside, mosquitoes buzzed in the still, humid air as dusk settled. The murmur of prayer ended. Unexpectedly voices burst into song: "Teach, oh teach us, Holy Mother, how to conquer every sin…" they belt out with gusto.It was October — the Month of the Holy Rosary. Catholics living along the Oya River in Sarawak on the island of Borneo are devout. Each evening they gather at a different parishioner's house for prayer, comfort and support.Malaysia is changing. Islamic fundamentalism and fermenting discord in the Malaysian mainland is reaching deep into the heart of Borneo.The Melanau people of Sarawak, numbering some 124,000, according to government figures, are predominantly Muslim. In Dalat however, they are mostly Catholic and they are feeling the strain.There is a desire to protect their identity and family values. They have been Catholic for generations but they are struggling to transfer this to their children.Their main worry is that their children will abandon their faith, convert to Islam, marry and adopt a different lifestyle.Unlike in neighboring Indonesia, Malaysia prohibits marriage between Muslims and non-Muslims. Non-Muslim Malaysians must convert to Islam to marry a Muslim."They convert because of marriage, but sometimes because it brings privileges like jobs or scholarships," said Erma, a young civil servant in the city of Kuching.

Rose Sute, a grandmother involved in community work at St. Bernard's Church by the River in Dalat, spoke of a crisis of faith among young people."They easily convert and our community is getting smaller. We try to teach them to be strong, to keep their faith but we cannot stand in the way of love. We have to let them go," she said."Tragedies have happened. Parents may be against their children converting for the sake of marriage, the young may be weak and get frustrated… there are many cases," she said, referring to cases of suicides among young people.The Melanau Catholic community in Dalat is around 6,000 strong. Christians and Muslims live in the same town, albeit in separate areas. Still, there is integration between the two communities.Muslim young people attend a computer skills training center run by the parish, for example."We're all family," said Rose. Her friend, Pauline Philip Ruby, who works in the parish house, nodded in agreement. Both have Muslim relatives.Pauline and her husband constantly worry about the youngest three of their eight children. The triplets are finishing school and are at an age where they could be influenced by the changes happening in Malaysia, they said."We all have relatives who are now Muslims. We visit one another during festivals. We mourn together as a family when there is a death and celebrate each other's festivals," Pauline said.

Full report at:

http://www.heraldmalaysia.com/news/melanau-catholics-brace-for-the-new-malaysian-order/33738/5

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Zahid urges all to respect efforts in upholding Islamic laws

15 December 2016

PUTRAJAYA: Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi urges all parties to respect efforts in upholding Islamic laws and teachings in the country.

Zahid also urges Non-Muslims not to interfere with Islamic affairs and leave the matter of practising Islam only to the Muslims.

"It is irrelevant to ask the non-Muslims whether our wuduk (ablution) or solat (prayers) are performed correctly, it is up to us to decide.

"I am worried as nowadays there are people who are concerned that there is a dualism in this struggle ... but please leave it to the Islamic community to mould the foundation of Islam themselves," Zahid said during his closing remarks at the Islamic Law Council (MPI) Conference on Law and Politics held at Everly HOTEL here.

Zahid, who is also the Home Minister said the Muslim community in the country will not neglect the importance of other religions but urged all parties including the Muslims to respect each others believes and practices.

He also urged non-Muslims to value the concept of "Lakum dinukum waliya din", where it is an Islamic monotheism that refers "to you be your religion, and to me my religion.

Full report at:

http://www.thesundaily.my/news/2096821

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Ejection of nine Muslims from Kupang 'not retaliation' for Bandung cas

December 16, 2016

A group that intercepted nine Muslims at El Tari Airport in Kupang last week has said its actions were not a form of “retaliation” for the recent disruption of a Christmas gathering in Bandung.

In a press release on Friday, the group, which calls itself Brigade Meo, said the media reports claiming that its action was made in retaliation for what had happened in Bandung were not accurate. “We received a tip-off from a member of the public that nine people would arrive in Kupang and we coordinated with the police,” the release said. According to the group, the nine were to be picked up by a supporter of Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, “an organization whose ideology is not in line with [the state ideology] Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution.”

“Hizbut Tahrir is prohibited from conducting any activities in East Nusa Tenggara,” the realease read.

The group said the police had examined the nine men and then consulted with East Nusa Tenggara’s Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI).

Full report at:

http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2016/12/16/ejection-of-nine-muslims-from-kupang-not-retaliation-for-bandung-case.html

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South Asia

 

16 ISIS loyalists killed in US airstrike in East of Afghanistan

Dec 17 2016

At least 16 loyalists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group were killed in a US airstrike in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

According to a statement released by the provincial police commandment, the militants were killed in A DRONEstrike conducted in Achin district late on Friday night.

The statement further added that the airstrike was carried out in Abdul Khel area and a weapons and explosives cache belonging to the terror group was also destroyed.

The local residents did not suffer any casualties in the airstrike, the statement added.

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

This comes as at least 8 loyalists of the terror group were killed in separate drone strikes conducted in this province last week.

The US forces based in Afghanistan have stepped up airstrikes against the loyalists of the terror group in eastern Nangarhar province during the recent months.

The increased raids followed amid concerns that the loyalists of the terror group are attempting to establish the Khurasan Caliphate and turn the province into operational base of the group.

http://www.khaama.com/16-isis-loyalists-killed-in-us-airstrike-in-east-of-afghanistan-02485

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Bangladesh remembers 1971 heroes on Victory Day with pledge for secular society

2016-12-17

Bangladeshis have renewed the pledge to build a rich country by thwarting militancy, fundamentalism and communalism on the 45th anniversary of the victory over Pakistan.

After over two decades of West Pakistani rule, Bengalis in then the East Pakistan won a bloody war to carve out an independent state on Dec 16, 1971.

The nation paid tribute to the three million martyrs of the war on the Victory Day on Friday.

National flags were hoisted atop government, semi-government, non-government and residential buildings. The National Memorial in Savar and other monuments across the country were covered with flowers of love and respect.

People sporting red and green outfits carried national flags in Victory Day marches.

President Md Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina paid tribute at the National Memorial in Savar at 6am.

They observed a moment of silence in memory of the martyrs.

The sound of the bugle cut through the winter morning chill as soldiers saluted the heroes of the Liberation War that put an end to repression by the Pakistanis.

Deputy Speaker Fazle Rabbi Miah, Leader of the Opposition Raushon Ershad, Cabinet members, MPs, Supreme Court judges, the heads of the armed forces, war veterans from the Indian Army and foreign diplomats paid tributes by placing flowers at the memorial. 

After them, crowds of people descended on the memorial bringing flags and flowers for the special day.

BNP Chairperson and former prime minister Khaleda Zia, flanked by senior party leaders, placed wreath at the memorial around 11am.   

The war that raged on for nine months after the declaration of independence by the nation’s father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman ended with the Pakistan Army’s surrender at Ramna Race Course, which is now Suhrawardy Udyan.

Lt Gen Amir Abdullah Khan Niyazi, martial law administrator in what was the East Pakistan, signed the official document of surrender sitting next to Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora, the joint commander of Indian forces and the Mukti Bahini.

In a ride backwards, those who had violently opposed the independence struggle, clawed their way back to politics again only within four years of liberation, after the assassination of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

With the return of the Awami League to power in 2009, Bangladesh started trying those who committed crimes against humanity during the war. Freedom fighters view the hanging of six war criminals as a new victory.

After paying respects to the martyrs, Information Minister Hasanul Huq Inu said the country is moving ahead under Hasina’s leadership by removing 'war crimes garbage’ before adding that ‘the remaining garbage will be removed'.

Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon said the government has started the process to confiscate the assets of the war criminals.

Freedom fighter Idris Ali from Savar said, "It's a relief that the war criminals have been tried. The trial of others will needs to be completed as well."

Six-year-old Moni Aktar came to the National Memorial with her father Sayeef Chowdhury. She face was glistening with happiness after she placed flowers at the memorial.

Sayeef said he brought his daughter there to introduce her to the Liberation War and the nation's history.

One Akash Mahmud from Rampura said, "My expectation is that the otherh war criminals will also be tried, and communalism and extremism will end."

Sammilito Sangskritik Jote, the alliance of all cultural organisations, took out a procession from the Central Shaheed Minar to Dhaka University's TSC with the slogan - 'Build unity to end communalism'.

Jote President Golam Kuddus said the martyrs did not sacrifice their lives for a mere change of the national flag.

"We wanted a country where people from all religions and all levels of society will live in peace and harmony...that's why democracy, socialism, secularism and nationalism were added to the Constitution as fundamental principles," he said.

Ruling Awami League also organised a procession marking the Victory Day.

"The main obstacle to cement the victory is communalism. So our vow will be to prevent and defeat this communalism under Sheikh Hasina's leadership and build a secular Bangladesh dreamt by Bangabandhu," General Secretary Obaidul Quader said at the programme.

A 31-gun salute at the National Parade Ground at sunrise set off Victory Day celebrations.

A contingent of freedom fighters, armed forces and security forces took part in the colourful parade at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar.

President Hamid arrived around 10am and was greeted by Hasina, Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Haque and heads of the three forces.

The Army, Navy, Air Force, BNCC, BGB, Police, RAB, Ansar, VDP, Coast Guard, Fire Service and Civil Defence Force took part in the parade, organised by the 9th Infantry Division.

The president inspected the parade and took salutes from an army jeep.

Thousands of people from different walks of life enjoyed the two-hour long parade.

In Chittagong, a huge crowd gathered at the Shaheed Minar with flags and flowers to celebrate the final victory in the Liberation War.

A police team was the first to place flowers at the Shaheed Minar, followed by politicians and general people.

Full report at:

http://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2016/12/17/bangladesh-remembers-1971-heroes-on-victory-day-with-pledge-for-secular-society

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No trace of Pakistani 'terrorist' Mubasher after release from Dhaka jail

2016-12-15

Mubasher Shahid alias Mubin alias Yayha, said to be a 'coordinator' of Pakistan-based terror outfit Laskhar-e-Tayyaba, has gone missing after his release from the Dhaka Central Jail.

Authorities say there is no trace of this Pakistani national for the last one month.

Mubasher was arrested twice in Dhaka between 2009 and 2010 and four cases were slapped against him.

Dhaka's Fifth Metropolitan Special Tribunal Judge Ruhul Amin let him off on Oct 1, 2014 in two cases of peddling fake currency.

Then on Nov 10 this year, the same tribunal's present judge Mohammed Zahirul Kabir let him off in two other cases under the Explosives Act and the Anti-Terrorism Act.

But the media came to know about his release from jail a month after he had been let go, three days after the court verdict.

Mubasher's counsel Syeda Tahmina Hasmi told bdnews24.com: "Mubasher was released from Dhaka Central Jail on Nov 13. But I am not aware where he is now."

Neither the jail authorities are aware of his whereabouts.

After his arrest from Dhaka's Uttara in January 2009, Mubasher was charged with peddling fake currencies. The court documents stated his permanent address as 'C-9 Shamsee Society, Wireless Gate, Karachi.'

On Apr 6, 2010, the High Court granted him bail with his counsel Hashmi standing guarantee.

He was arrested the next day from a hotel in Old Dhaka by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).

The elite police unit had then said that Mubasher was training militants in Bangladesh for the last five years.

He was arrested during a meeting at the hotel with several other militants, but the others managed to escape, according to RAB.

Full report at:

http://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2016/12/15/no-trace-of-pakistani-terrorist-mubasher-after-release-from-dhaka-jail

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800 Russian mariners took part in post-war minesweeping

December 17, 2016

Russian navy officials, who extended their all-out support to Bangladesh in the mine-sweeping operation in the Bay of Bengal after the independence of the country, attended the Victory Day celebration.

In 1971, the USSR supported the struggle of the people of Bangladesh for independence and was one of the first to recognise the new sovereign state, said a Russian embassy press release yesterday.

After the liberation, the Soviet Union extended its helping hand to Bangladesh in reviving its economy. Of great importance was the mine-sweeping operation in the Chittagong port conducted by Special Expedition-12 of the Soviet Navy in 1972-1974.

To remember the self-sacrificing job of Russian navy officers, the government invited them to visit the country again after 42 years and to celebrate its 46th Victory Day together.

More than 800 Russian mariners were involved in the minesweeping operation in the Bay of Bengal. However, only four of them managed to visit, since many of their colleagues either died or could not travel due to their age.

Victor Kozhurin, captain second rank, who served as a senior engineer of the Special Expedition-12 engineer service, led the delegation. The guests arrived in Dhaka along with their spouses on the eve of the Victory Day.

Vladimir Karamyshev served as a senior assistant to the commander of the main minesweeper. Alexander Chukanin was the commander of Electro Mechanic Combat Unit-5 Floating Crane "Chernomorets 13".

Full report at:

http://www.thedailystar.net/city/800-russian-mariners-took-part-post-war-minesweeping-1331101

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Aga Khan Trust for Culture to rebuild 4 historic sites in Kabul

Dec 17 2016

The Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) will soon start the rebuilding process of four historic sites in capital Kabul, including the sites located along Kabul River.

The AKTC officials informed regarding the plans during a meeting with the Minister of Urban Development and Housing Syed Sadat Mansoor Naderi.

Hailing the Aga Khan Trust for Culture’s resolute cooperation in Afghanistan, Minister emphasized on the need for coordination among the urban sector and asked the Kabul municipality, the capital zone authority, and the officials of urban development sector to jointly work for the implementation of the agreement with the Aga Khan Foundation.

The Head of Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Afghanistan Ajmal Maiwandi said efforts are underway to start the rebuilding of four historic sites in Kabul, including the sites located along Kabul River from Pul-e-Artal to Pul-e-Mahmood Khan, Eidgah historic mosque, Bala Hisar, and Dar-ul-Aman.

Full report at:

http://www.khaama.com/aga-khan-foundation-to-rebuild-4-historic-sites-in-kabul-02488

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India

 

Rajnath Singh’s remarks on Pakistan a declaration of war: Hafiz Saeed

December 16, 2016

Jammat-ud-Dawah chief Hafiz Saeed on Friday said he considers Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s remarks that Pakistan would be splintered into 10 if it failed to quell terrorism as a “declaration of war”. We consider Rajnath’s statement as declaration of war and accept the challenge. We don’t accept ceasefire line as Line of Control (LoC),” he said while addressing a rally in Nasser Bagh Lahore. He warned the government not to give clean chit to alleged Indian spy Kalbhushan.

“We warn the government not give clean chit to Kalbhushan. Rather it must expose India’s evil designs in Pakistan,” he said. Saeed said that Rajnath talked about breaking Pakistan but Sartaj Aziz remained silent. “I want to tell India that it is not the Pakistan of 1971. Today Pakistan is a nuclear weapon state and the biggest power of Muslim world.”

Addressing a Martyrs’ Day function in Kathua district in Jammu and Kashmir, Singh had on Sunday said, “Pakistan came into existence after India got divided on religious lines but it could not keep itself united. In 1971, it got split into two and, if it does not mend its ways, it will get splintered into 10 pieces and India will have no role in it.”

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/rajnath-singhs-remarks-on-pakistan-a-declaration-of-war-hafiz-saeed-4430951/

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ED to ask NIA for information on Zakir Naik’s finances

by Rashmi Rajput

December 17, 2016

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) plans to write to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for information on the financial transactions of Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF). The ED wants to check for financial irregularities in the funds received by the banned NGO, which is being probed by the NIA for charges of radicalisation.

“We have learnt that the probe conducted by the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the Mumbai Police found certain unexplained financial transactions and even some shell companies floated by IRF founder Zakir Naik. The IRF also received donations from foreign contributors, and therefore we want to probe if there have been any irregularities in these funds,” said an ED official.

The agency plans to scrutinise the IRF’s papers to check if the discrepenices amount to a case of violation under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act or if shell companies were floated to launder money.

“Our probe will first dwell on the point whether it (the discrepancies) is a FCRA violation or a case under PMLA. Once that is decided, we will chart our future course of action,” added the official. ED sources said floating of shell companies and diverting funds to accounts held by ‘relatives’ are regular modus operandi employed in money laundering cases.

“The EOW probe indicates that Naik transferred money received by the IRF to the accounts held by his relatives and also rerouted the money through some companies. These ‘layerings’ are a regular ploy used by offenders to launder money,” said the official. “Only after we study the case papers would we be able to ascertain the trail of the money and the purpose for floating these companies,” he added.

Meanwhile, sources claimed the initial probe by the NIA against Naik, the controversial televangelist, has revealed financial irregularities.

“Around 65-70 per cent of the IRF’s donors are domestic, of which most were by people who have visited the NGO or the programmes organised by them and made ‘small contributions’ of less than Rs 10,000. These contributors are difficult to track,” said an official.

“While the funds released by the IRF towards donations or scholarships are shown as ‘expenses’, the same also acted as a source of income for the Islamic International School (IIS), an affiliate of the IRF, which are not properly reflected in the account books,” added the official.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/ed-to-ask-nia-for-information-on-zakir-naiks-finances-4431143/

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Muslims rack up numbers, seek education quota

Dec 17, 2016

NAGPUR: A day after Maratha muk morcha (silent march), a similar rally but pipping the former in numbers was held by Muslims under the aegis of Jamait-Ulema-e-Hind, on Thursday.

Though seeking 5% quota in education, the tone was more against any change in triple talaaq and interference in Shariat laws. Unlike rallies by other communities, women were absent here.

Organizers said it could have been difficult to control the crowd if women were included. "Women are being misguided in the name of banning triple talaaq," said participants of the rally.

As against close to 20,000 participants in the Maratha rally, the number of Muslims was up to 40,000. Organizers say this was a show of strength before taking to the streets.

Taking a cue from Maratha rallies that began from June this year, Muslims too started holding silent marches in the state since the last two months.

Before Nagpur, the Muslim reservation rallies were held in Bhusawal, Parbhani, Akola and Aurangabad. The rally held on Thursday was the biggest, said Javed Ansari of United Students Association (USA) and a participant.

The rally began from Indora Square off Kamptee Road and ended at LIC Square. Later, a delegation met the chief minister who assured to look into their demands, said a source among the organizers. Leaders of Congress, NCP and BSP, apart from Asaddudin Owaisi-led AIMIM, took part in the rally.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/Muslims-rack-up-numbers-seek-edu-quota/articleshow/56008710.cms

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India ‘sabotaging’ efforts to normalise relations: Pakistan

December 16, 2016

Pakistan has accused India of “sabotaging” efforts to normalise relations and using “flimsiest of reasons” to avoid talks, as it called on New Delhi to show “seriousness” in resolving the Kashmir issue. “The trajectory (of ties) has been down the slope. India has tried to do everything to sabotage every goodwill gesture that we made towards normalising relations,” Foreign Office Spokesman Nafees Zakaria told PTI. Asked about why the two countries could not resume talks in 2016, Zakaria alleged that India was using “flimsiest of reasons to avoid talks”. “Every time there is prospect for talks, they come up with a new excuse. They want to suppress Kashmiris and use Pakistan card and border tension to hide their crimes against humanity” in Kashmir and also for “playing domestic politics”, he claimed.

Asked if 2017 will be better for bilateral ties, the Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman said it depends on the “Indian attitude, Indian intransigence and Indian behaviour to improve the security situation in the region”. “Most importantly, they should also immediately stop the bloodshed in Kashmir,” he said. “India should show that it is ready for talks. It should show seriousness to resolve Kashmir,” Zakaria said.

Noting that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had said on the sidelines of Heart of Asia summit in Pakistan last year that peace process would continue and no incident would be able to derail the talks, Zakaria said since the Pathankot attack, India has been using it as a pretext to “run away from talks”.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/kashmir-issue-india-pakistan-relations-nafeez-zakaria-4430268/

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Arab World

 

Nusra, Ahrar Al-Sham Terrorists Continue to Block Civilians' Exit from Fua'a, Kafraya

Dec 16, 2016

Fatah al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham did not allow any ambulance or bus to leave Fua'a and Kafraya, while an agreement reached by the Syrian government and Jeish al-Fatah coalition of terrorist groups allows evacuation of militants and their families from Aleppo in return for transferring the injured, patients and the elderly trapped in the predominately Shiite towns to army-controlled regions.

Some people who are originally from Fua'a and Kafraya and their families and friends are trapped inside the two towns came to Ramouseh to Southern Aleppo to block the relocation of Aleppo militants and their families to Idlib through Ramouseh. They said that they will continue to block al-Ramouseh corridor till the militants allow the injured and patients leave Fua'a and Kafraya.

Media sources said militants have opened fire at those people who have closed al-Ramouseh corridor to prevent exit of militant and their families in a retaliatory move.  

Syrian al-Ikhbariya state TV channel reported meantime that militants in Eastern Aleppo are to take some abducted people with them during the evacuation, which is a breach of the deal.

Syrian TV reported earlier that militants shelled an evacuation corridor from Eastern Aleppo in the al-Ramouseh district.

The evacuation of militants and their families from Eastern Aleppo has been suspended following the violation of the agreement.

Terrorist groups' artillery units shelled heavily al-Ramouseh corridor in the Southern parts of Aleppo city regardless of the ceasefire, blocking once again exit of remaining militants and their families from the city.

The terrorists violated the ceasefire and shelled al-Ramouseh corridor through which militants and their families were leaving the Eastern neighborhoods of the city.

Terrorist snipers also targeted al-Ramouseh corridor.

Green buses that were in al-Ramouseh left the scene after terrorists targeted the corridor and blocked evacuation of militants.

The Syrian TV FOR its part confirmed violation of ceasefire by the terrorists and reported that the militant groups have captured a number of civilians.

Based on reports, just before shelling of al-Ramouseh corridor by terrorist groups over 150 vehicles left militant-held neighborhoods in Aleppo city to the Southwestern countryside of the city via al-Ramouseh corridor.

In the meantime, more groups of militants left Aleppo's Eastern districts with their families.

3,475 men, 3,137 women, 2,359 children and 108 wounded have left Aleppo.

According to more reports, the terrorist groups have swaped a number of abducted people with captured terrorists.

Thousands of militants started evacuating Aleppo city Thursday afternoon in yet another landmark victory for the Syrian army and its allies, Iran, Hezbollah, Russia and Iraqi popular forces from al-Nujaba.

The Russian Defense Ministry announced on Thursday afternoon that the first group of militants, including 1,500 armed men and their families, left Eastern Aleppo on buses and ambulances under the ceasefire agreement.

Also, the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria said that the first convoy of buses with militants left Eastern Aleppo. The evacuation would take place in several stages. In the first stage, a sum of 1,500 militants, including most the wounded rebels and their family members, left Aleppo. A sum of 4,000 to 5,000 militants and an estimated number of 10,000 people who were said to be their family members were to leave Eastern Aleppo under the deal.

Meanwhile, the Russian General Staff said that the pullout of militants and their families through a humanitarian corridor began in Eastern Aleppo, adding that wounded militants would be evacuated by the Russian Reconciliation Center with International Red Cross involvement.

 “To allow the militants leave the city, a 21km humanitarian corridor has been set up. Of those, 6km lie across Aleppo's territories controlled by government troops and the other 15km to the West of the city go through militant-held areas," Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov said.

Media sources said on Friday that at least 8,079 militants and their families have been evacuated from Eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo city to Southwestern countryside of the city in last 24 hours.

SANA reported that 10 cargos of vehicles have evacuated 8,079 militants and their family members from the neighborhoods of Salahuddin, al-Ansari, al-Mashhad, and al-Zobaydiyeh to the Southwestern countryside of Aleppo via al-Ramouseh corridor under the supervision of the Syrian Red Crescent Society and the International Red Cross Committee.

A total of over 2300 terrorists and their families left Eastern neighborhoods on Thursday.

Before the departure, many terrorist groups blew up their main headquarters and weapons and ammunition depots and burned their offices and documents that reveal their sources of funds, armaments and intelligence information.

The Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria announced that the exiting trend of militant from Aleppo is being done under monitoring of the center's officer and the staff of International Red Cross Committee.

Thousands of militants started evacuating Aleppo city Thursday afternoon in yet another landmark victory for the Syrian army and its allies, Iran, Hezbollah, Russia and Iraqi popular forces from al-Nujaba.

Reports said on Thursday that the militants who were preparing to evacuate Aleppo under an internationally-negotiated ceasefire deal opened fire on residential areas in Eastern Aleppo again as tens of buses arrived in their region to start their relocation to Idlib, after Turkey demanded to take them out to Northern Aleppo province to take part in the Euphrates Shield Operation.

Syria's state TV reported on Thursday that terrorists restarted artillery attacks on residential areas in the Eastern districts of Aleppo city, breaching the truce once again.

The terrorists had also in a similar case earlier jeopardized the agreement on Tuesday night after they received some messages from Ankara about Turkey's increasing pressures on Damascus through military intervention in Northern Aleppo province combined with the western states' mounting pressures on Syria and its allies that accused the latter of war crimes in Eastern Aleppo. The ceasefire agreement that was reached on Tuesday went off after the terrorists violated its terms, making the warring sides to initiate a new round of talks that resulted in an agreement on Wednesday.

On Thursday and as tens of buses and ambulances were taking wounded militants to areas South-West of Aleppo, the militants once again violated the ceasefire after Turkey, in a unilateral move against the internationally-endorsed ceasefire agreement - negotiated by Syria, Iran, Russia and the militants and their sponsors - announced that it intended to take the militants to Northern Aleppo province to give them a role in Ankara's Euphrates Shield Operation.

Meantime, Sky News reported on Thursday that tens of Turkish ambulances arrived in the Western parts of Aleppo province to transfer the wounded terrorists to Turkey as Ankara intruded again in violation of the agreement between the two warring sides that included relocation of all militants and their wounded members and families to Idlib in Northwestern Syria.

The violation of the ceasefire happened as all measures and preparations were made for the evacuation of terrorist groups and their family members from Eastern Aleppo to Idlib province in the next stage.

Syria's state TV reported that based on the agreement between the Syrian authorities and the terrorists' leaders, 4,000 militants and their family members - that were said to be around 10,000 people - would leave Eastern Aleppo.

Estimates said some 15,000 to 20,000 civilians were at the time in the very few districts controlled by the terrorists in Eastern Aleppo.

The terrorists were allowed to take only light arms with themselves during the evacuation.

The terrorist groups started setting fire on their bases, vehicles, weapons caches and extra food supplies. They also sought to destroy the documents which revealed their ties with foreign states that support them.

Meantime, al-Mayadeen news channel reported that the agreement to relocate the militants includes evacuation of civilians from the two towns of Fua'a and Kafraya in Idlib, besieged by the terrorists.

According to reports, the two warring sides pledged to remain committed to the terms of the agreement.

After ambulances started evacuating the wounded from Eastern to Western Aleppo in the morning, the latest reports said on Thursday morning that the Syrian and Russian forces were ready to start evacuation of militants from Aleppo to relocate them to Idlib province.

According to the Russian reconciliation center, about 20 buses and 10 ambulances would carry out evacuation of the wounded militants.

The wounded were to be sent to Ramouseh, South-West of Aleppo, first to be dispatched to Idlib via Khan Touman and the roads in Northern Hama.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950926000506

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Syria: 9,500 Militants Evacuated from Aleppo City

Dec 16, 2016

"9,500 out of 15,000 militants and their family members in Eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo city have left the city," the Russian center said.

The terrorists meantime continued to target Tal Baqlou region in Northern Hama and al-Ramouseh corridor in Southern Aleppo, forcing the general governor's delegation and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to leave Tal Baqlou.

The World Health Organization announced that it has warned the Red Cross and Red Crescent to leave this region.

The terrorist groups also targeted simultaneously Fua'a and Kafraya regions in Idlib and al-Ramouseh corridor and the neighborhood of al-Rashedeen in Southern Aleppo city to disturb the agreement on the evacuation of militants from the Eastern districts of Aleppo.

The terrorist groups are trying to take with them their weapons and kidnapped people while leaving Aleppo city to the Southern countryside of the city.

Reports also said that militants have started targeting the entire residential areas. 

Reports said earlier today that the terrorist groups' artillery units shelled heavily al-Ramouseh corridor in the Southern parts of Aleppo city regardless of the ceasefire, blocking once again exit of remaining militants and their families from the city.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950926000690

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Over 50 More ISIL Terrorists Including Commanders Killed in Syrian Army Attacks in Palmyra

Dec 16, 2016

The army units targeted ISIL's positions in Tadmur region, killing 52 militants, including Obayd al-Na'eimi, Neskhadov Khan from Chechnya, Abu Torab al-Maleki from Saudi Arabia and Head of ISIL's information Hamad al-Hajajami.

A workshop of terrorist used to manufacture hell canons and another missile-building workshop came under attacks by the Syrian soldiers in al-Rastan North of Homs.

In the meantime, five bomb-laden suicide vehicles of the ISIL were destroyed in the army attack.

Meanwhile, army's artillery units pounded bases of Fatah al-Sham Front (previously known as the al-Nusra Front) in al-Za'afaraniyeh and al-Qantou in Northern Homs, leaving a number of militants dead.

Reports said earlier today that the Syrian Air Force carried out several combat flights over ISIL's positions in the Western and Southwestern directions of the ancient city of Palmyra (Tadmur) in Eastern Homs, killing 116 militants and wounding many more. The fighter jets pounded ISIL's positions in the regions of Abu Kaleh Dam and Qasr al-Hayer, killing 116 terrorists and destroying 12 vehicles, including bomb-laden ones.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950926000775

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Syria: Lebanese Hezbollah Fighters Arrive in Homs to Combat ISIL Terrorists

Dec 16, 2016

A large number of Hezbollah combatants arrived in Eastern Homs to assist the army to repel ISIL's attack on T4 airbase and take part in an imminent offensive to recapture the ancient city of Palmyra and energy-rich fields with the back up of the Russian and Syrian fighter jets.

Hezbollah also will face ISIL in order not to approach the towns of al-Quaryatayn and Maheen.

Also the Syrian Air Force carried out several combat flights over ISIL's positions in the Western and Southwestern directions of the ancient city of Palmyra (Tadmur) in Eastern Homs earlier today, killing 116 militants and wounding many more.

The fighter jets pounded ISIL's positions in the regions of Abu Kaleh Dam and Qasr al-Hayer, killing 116 terrorists and destroying 12 vehicles, including bomb-laden ones.

The Syrian state news agency reported that over 70 ISIL militants were killed in air raid in Albu Kaleh and several rocket launchers and machinegun-equipped vehicles were destroyed.

Full report at:

The Syrian army troops for their part targeted ISIL's positions near al-Katibeh al-Mahjoureh.  

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950926000713

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Syrian arrested in Saudi Arabia over pro-Assad Facebook photo

December 16, 2016

Saudi police arrested a Syrian resident in Riyadh after he posted a photo of himself on Facebook praising the recapture of his home city of Aleppo by government forces, according to a report in al-Riyadh newspaper on Friday.

A photo published with the report showed a man with his hand raised and his fingers pointed in a victory sign. His facial features were blurred to conceal his identity.

The newspaper said the resident, indentified as being in his 40s, was accused of publishing statements related to the war in Syria.

Saudi Arabia is a major regional backer of the rebel brigades fighting to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The rebels were dealt a crippling blow this week when Syrian government forces recaptured Aleppo.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/16-Dec-2016/syrian-arrested-in-saudi-arabia-over-pro-assad-facebook-photo

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West, allies getting revenge for Aleppo victory: Syria's UN envoy

Dec 16, 2016

The West's recent initiatives at the United Nations over the situation in Syria are the "saddest images of diplomatic and political hypocrisy,” Syria's envoy to the UN tells Press TV.

“All these initiatives are getting blind with regard to identifying the criminals and they are just seeking the distortion of the facts and the definition of the Syrian government and its allies and getting revenge for the triumph of the Syrian army and its allies over the terrorists in Aleppo,” Bashar Ja'afari told Press TV in an exclusive interview on Friday.

The senior Syrian diplomat also stated that the main sponsors of terrorist activities in Syria, including Britain, France, and the United States, are getting “frantically hysterical” in the wake of the liberation of Aleppo from the clutches of foreign-backed militants.

The Syrian ambassador's comments came a few hours after diplomats said France was drafting a UN Security Council resolution in a declared bid to ensure international observers for Aleppo evacuations and enable humanitarian aid to reach the city.

Commenting on an evacuation deal for the former militant-held areas of the northwestern city, Ja'afari said the main problem affecting the process was the “non-respect” and “non-observation” of the agreement by the "most radical elements" within terrorist groups.

Therefore, he said, Syria had no option but to halt the last part of the evacuation process until things are clarified and stronger guarantees are offered by the terrorists' foreign sponsors.

The Syrian diplomat added that the terrorists’ "heinous" practices will definitely prevent thousands of civilians from returning to their homes which were used as the militants' "strongholds."

Earlier in the day, evacuations of civilians and militants from eastern Aleppo was suspended after terrorists opened fire on the convoy at one of the crossing points, violating a truce deal brokered by Russia and Turkey stipulating the evacuations.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the suspension, saying that terrorist groups such as Ahrar al-Sham “have prevented buses and ambulances from entering Fuaa and Kafraya, despite pledging… that they would let the evacuation go ahead.” The two government-held villages, situated in Idlib province, are under militant siege.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Ja’afari argued that Syria is facing an international terrorist war on its soil.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2016/12/16/498193/Syria-UN-Aleppo-evacuations-war-terrorists-Bashar-alJaafari

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Syria: Militants Agree with Evacuation of Fua'a, Kafraya Civilians

Dec 16, 2016

"Buses moved from Aleppo to Kafraya and Fua'a to evacuate the injured, children and women from the predominately Shiite towns, transferring them to the government-controlled regions," sources privy to opposition groups said.

"Nearly 200 buses and several ambulances have been dispatched to Fua'a and Kafraya," the sources added.

Reports said earlier today that Fatah al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham did not allow any ambulance or bus to leave Fua'a and Kafraya, while an agreement reached by the Syrian government and Jeish al-Fatah coalition of terrorist groups allows evacuation of militants and their families from Aleppo in return for transferring the injured, patients and the elderly trapped in the predominately Shiite towns to army-controlled regions.

Some people who are originally from Fua'a and Kafraya and their families and friends are trapped inside the two towns came to Ramouseh to Southern Aleppo to block the relocation of Aleppo militants and their families to Idlib through Ramouseh. They said that they will continue to block al-Ramouseh corridor till the militants allow the injured and patients leave Fua'a and Kafraya.

Media sources said militants have opened fire at those people who have closed al-Ramouseh corridor to prevent exit of militant and their families in a retaliatory move. 

Syrian al-Ikhbariya state TV CHANNEL reported meantime that militants in Eastern Aleppo are to take some abducted people with them during the evacuation, which is a breach of the deal.

Syrian TV reported earlier that militants shelled an evacuation corridor from Eastern Aleppo in the al-Ramouseh district.

The evacuation of militants and their families from Eastern Aleppo has been suspended following the violation of the agreement.

Terrorist groups' artillery units shelled heavily al-Ramouseh corridor in the Southern parts of Aleppo city regardless of the ceasefire, blocking once again exit of remaining militants and their families from the city.

The terrorists violated the ceasefire and shelled al-Ramouseh corridor through which militants and their families were leaving the Eastern neighborhoods of the city.

Terrorist snipers also targeted al-Ramouseh corridor.

Green buses that were in al-Ramouseh left the scene after terrorists targeted the corridor and blocked evacuation of militants.

The Syrian TV for its part confirmed violation of ceasefire by the terrorists and reported that the militant groups have captured a number of civilians.

Based on reports, just before shelling of al-Ramouseh corridor by terrorist groups over 150 vehicles left militant-held neighborhoods in Aleppo city to the Southwestern countryside of the city via al-Ramouseh corridor.

In the meantime, more groups of militants left Aleppo's Eastern districts with their families.

3,475 men, 3,137 women, 2,359 children and 108 wounded have left Aleppo.

According to more reports, the terrorist groups have swapped a number of abducted people with captured terrorists.

Thousands of militants started evacuating Aleppo city Thursday afternoon in yet another landmark victory for the Syrian army and its allies, Iran, Hezbollah, Russia and Iraqi popular forces from al-Nujaba.

The Russian Defense Ministry announced on Thursday afternoon that the first group of militants, including 1,500 armed men and their families, left Eastern Aleppo on buses and ambulances under the ceasefire agreement.

Also, the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria said that the first convoy of buses with militants left Eastern Aleppo. The evacuation would take place in several stages. In the first stage, a sum of 1,500 militants, including most the wounded rebels and their family members, left Aleppo. A sum of 4,000 to 5,000 militants and an estimated number of 10,000 people who were said to be their family members were to leave Eastern Aleppo under the deal.

Meanwhile, the Russian General Staff said that the pullout of militants and their families through a humanitarian corridor began in Eastern Aleppo, adding that wounded militants would be evacuated by the Russian Reconciliation Center with International Red Cross involvement.

“To allow the militants leave the city, a 21km humanitarian corridor has been set up. Of those, 6km lie across Aleppo's territories controlled by government troops and the other 15km to the West of the city go through militant-held areas," Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov said.

Media sources said on Friday that at least 8,079 militants and their families have been evacuated from Eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo city to Southwestern countryside of the city in last 24 hours.

SANA reported that 10 cargos of vehicles have evacuated 8,079 militants and their family members from the neighborhoods of Salahuddin, al-Ansari, al-Mashhad, and al-Zobaydiyeh to the Southwestern countryside of Aleppo via al-Ramouseh corridor under the supervision of the Syrian Red Crescent Society and the International Red Cross Committee.

A total of over 2300 terrorists and their families left Eastern neighborhoods on Thursday.

Before the departure, many terrorist groups blew up their main headquarters and weapons and ammunition depots and burned their offices and documents that reveal their sources of funds, armaments and intelligence information.

The Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria announced that the exiting trend of militant from Aleppo is being done under monitoring of the center's officer and the staff of International Red Cross Committee.

Thousands of militants started evacuating Aleppo city Thursday afternoon in yet another landmark victory for the Syrian army and its allies, Iran, Hezbollah, Russia and Iraqi popular forces from al-Nujaba.

Reports said on Thursday that the militants who were preparing to evacuate Aleppo under an internationally-negotiated ceasefire deal opened fire on residential areas in Eastern Aleppo again as tens of buses arrived in their region to start their relocation to Idlib, after Turkey demanded to take them out to Northern Aleppo province to take part in the Euphrates Shield Operation.

Syria's state TV reported on Thursday that terrorists restarted artillery attacks on residential areas in the Eastern districts of Aleppo city, breaching the truce once again.

The terrorists had also in a similar case earlier jeopardized the agreement on Tuesday night after they received some messages from Ankara about Turkey's increasing pressures on Damascus through military intervention in Northern Aleppo province combined with the western states' mounting pressures on Syria and its allies that accused the latter of war crimes in Eastern Aleppo. The ceasefire agreement that was reached on Tuesday went off after the terrorists violated its terms, making the warring sides to initiate a new round of talks that resulted in an agreement on Wednesday.

On Thursday and as tens of buses and ambulances were taking wounded militants to areas South-West of Aleppo, the militants once again violated the ceasefire after Turkey, in a unilateral move against the internationally-endorsed ceasefire agreement - negotiated by Syria, Iran, Russia and the militants and their sponsors - announced that it intended to take the militants to Northern Aleppo province to give them a role in Ankara's Euphrates Shield Operation.

Meantime, Sky News reported on Thursday that tens of Turkish ambulances arrived in the Western parts of Aleppo province to transfer the wounded terrorists to Turkey as Ankara intruded again in violation of the agreement between the two warring sides that included relocation of all militants and their wounded members and families to Idlib in Northwestern Syria.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950926000796

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Aleppo: Syrian Army Continues to Hunt Terrorists in Newly-Freed Districts

Dec 16, 2016

"The operation by the Syrian Army aimed at liberating the militant-controlled neighborhoods of Eastern Aleppo has been completed," the Russian center said.

"The Syrian government forces continue to hit and destroy isolated pockets of militant resistance,” the Center added.

According to the latest figures from the Russian Defense ministry, only 2 percent of Aleppo is still controlled by a few militants.

Reports said earlier today that the terrorist groups' artillery units shelled heavily al-Ramouseh corridor in Southern part of Aleppo city regardless of ceasefire, blocking once again exit of remaining militants and their families from the city.

Terrorists violated ceasefire and shelled al-Ramouseh corridor through which militants and their families were leaving the Eastern neighborhoods of the city.

Terrorist snipers also targeted al-Ramouseh corridor.

Green buses that were in al-Ramouseh left the scene after terrorists targeted the corridor and blocked evacuation of militants.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950926000727

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Syria: Terrorists Block Idlib-Bound SARC' Humanitarian Convoy in Northern Hama

Dec 16, 2016

Terrorist groups' missile units targeted al-Soqaylbiyeh passageway connecting Northwestern Hama to Southern Idlib to stop the SARC' convoy and buses's movement to Fua'a and Kafraya in Northern Idlib to transfer the injured, patients and the elderly to government-held areas.

The SARC convoy and buses that were to go through al-Soqaylbiyeh passage way are still stopping at Tal Baqlo-Al-Madiq Fort in Northwestern Hama.

Thousands of militants started evacuating Aleppo city Thursday afternoon in yet another landmark victory for the Syrian army and its allies, Iran, Hezbollah, Russia and Iraqi popular forces from al-Nujaba.

The Russian Defense Ministry announced on Thursday afternoon that the first group of militants, including 1,500 armed men and their families, left Eastern Aleppo on buses and ambulances under the ceasefire agreement.

Also, the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria said that the first convoy of buses with militants left Eastern Aleppo. The evacuation would take place in several stages. In the first stage, a sum of 1,500 militants, including most the wounded rebels and their family members, left Aleppo. A sum of 4,000 to 5,000 militants and an estimated number of 10,000 people who were said to be their family members were to leave Eastern Aleppo under the deal.

Meanwhile, the Russian General Staff said that the pullout of militants and their families through a humanitarian corridor began in Eastern Aleppo, adding that wounded militants would be evacuated by the Russian Reconciliation Center with International Red Cross involvement.

 “To allow the militants leave the city, a 21km humanitarian corridor has been set up. Of those, 6km lie across Aleppo's territories controlled by government troops and the other 15km to the West of the city go through militant-held areas," Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov said.

Media sources said on Friday that at least 8,079 militants and their families have been evacuated from Eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo city to Southwestern countryside of the city in last 24 hours.

SANA reported that 10 cargos of vehicles have evacuated 8,079 militants and their family members from the neighborhoods of Salahuddin, al-Ansari, al-Mashhad, and al-Zobaydiyeh to the Southwestern countryside of Aleppo via al-Ramouseh corridor under the supervision of the Syrian Red Crescent Society and the International Red Cross Committee.

A total of over 2300 terrorists and their families left Eastern neighborhoods on Thursday.

Before the departure, many terrorist groups blew up their main headquarters and weapons and ammunition depots and burned their offices and documents that reveal their sources of funds, armaments and intelligence information.

The Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria announced that the exiting trend of militant from Aleppo is being done under monitoring of the center's officer and the staff of International Red Cross Committee.

Thousands of militants started evacuating Aleppo city Thursday afternoon in yet another landmark victory for the Syrian army and its allies, Iran, Hezbollah, Russia and Iraqi popular forces from al-Nujaba.

Reports said on Thursday that the militants who were preparing to evacuate Aleppo under an internationally-negotiated ceasefire deal opened fire on residential areas in Eastern Aleppo again as tens of buses arrived in their region to start their relocation to Idlib, after Turkey demanded to take them out to Northern Aleppo province to take part in the Euphrates Shield Operation.

Syria's state TV reported on Thursday that terrorists restarted artillery attacks on residential areas in the Eastern districts of Aleppo city, breaching the truce once again.

The terrorists had also in a similar case earlier jeopardized the agreement on Tuesday night after they received some messages from Ankara about Turkey's increasing pressures on Damascus through military intervention in Northern Aleppo province combined with the western states' mounting pressures on Syria and its allies that accused the latter of war crimes in Eastern Aleppo. The ceasefire agreement that was reached on Tuesday went off after the terrorists violated its terms, making the warring sides to initiate a new round of talks that resulted in an agreement on Wednesday.

On Thursday and as tens of buses and ambulances were taking wounded militants to areas South-West of Aleppo, the militants once again violated the ceasefire after Turkey, in a unilateral move against the internationally-endorsed ceasefire agreement - negotiated by Syria, Iran, Russia and the militants and their sponsors - announced that it intended to take the militants to Northern Aleppo province to give them a role in Ankara's Euphrates Shield Operation.

Meantime, Sky News reported on Thursday that tens of Turkish ambulances arrived in the Western parts of Aleppo province to transfer the wounded terrorists to Turkey as Ankara intruded again in violation of the agreement between the two warring sides that included relocation of all militants and their wounded members and families to Idlib in Northwestern Syria.

The violation of the ceasefire happened as all measures and preparations were made for the evacuation of terrorist groups and their family members from Eastern Aleppo to Idlib province in the next stage.

Syria's state TV reported that based on the agreement between the Syrian authorities and the terrorists' leaders, 4,000 militants and their family members - that were said to be around 10,000 people - would leave Eastern Aleppo.

Estimates said some 15,000 to 20,000 civilians were at the time in the very few districts controlled by the terrorists in Eastern Aleppo.

The terrorists were allowed to take only LIGHT arms with themselves during the evacuation.

The terrorist groups started setting fire on their bases, vehicles, weapons caches and extra food supplies. They also sought to destroy the documents which revealed their ties with foreign states that support them.

Meantime, al-Mayadeen news channel reported that the agreement to relocate the militants includes evacuation of civilians from the two towns of Fua'a and Kafraya in Idlib, besieged by the terrorists.

According to reports, the two warring sides pledged to remain committed to the terms of the agreement.

After ambulances started evacuating the wounded from Eastern to Western Aleppo in the morning, the latest reports said on Thursday morning that the Syrian and Russian forces were ready to start evacuation of militants from Aleppo to relocate them to Idlib province.

According to the Russian reconciliation center, about 20 buses and 10 ambulances would carry out evacuation of the wounded militants.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950926000430

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Informed Source: Large Number of Turkish, Saudi Officers Deployed in Syria's Aleppo City

Dec 16, 2016

Abdul Hadi Narsi told Arabic Sputnik a few hours before the start of the militants' evacuation from Aleppo on Thursday evening that a large number of Saudi and Turkish officers had been leading war on the Syrian army in the Eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo city.

"Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tries to transfer terrorists (in Aleppo) to Turkey," Nasri added.

"The Syrian government has found out that there is a black BOX of the Saudi and Turkish officers and a diversity of intelligence services in the militant-held part of Eastern Aleppo city," Nasri disclosed.

He further added that the terrorist groups told us that there are 1,000 militants (in their front) in order to prevent us from realizing the black box and other relevant information, but later presence of 5,000 militants (in their front) surprised us.

Nasri went on to say that Erdogan plans to transfer these militants to Turkey. The Turkish president's decision is testifying that the entire affairs (related to the terrorists' battle against the Syrian government in Aleppo) had been directed in Turkey, adding, "In the meantime, there are people (Turkish agents) in Syria that are leading affairs (war on Damascus). The Syrian army is currently tracking those people."

Thousands of militants started evacuating Aleppo city Thursday afternoon in yet another landmark victory for the Syrian army and its allies, Iran, Hezbollah, Russia and Iraqi popular forces from al-Nujaba.

The Russian Defense Ministry announced on Thursday afternoon that the first group of militants, including 1,500 armed men and their families, left Eastern Aleppo on buses and ambulances under the ceasefire agreement.

The Defense Ministry said in a statement that ambulances and buses with militants leaving Aleppo were accompanied by Russian servicemen and Red Cross staff.

Also, the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria said that the first convoy of buses with militants left Eastern Aleppo. The evacuation would take place in several stages. In the first stage, a sum of 1,500 militants, including most the wounded rebels and their family members, left Aleppo. A sum of 4,000 to 5,000 militants and an estimated number of 10,000 people who were said to be their family members were to leave Eastern Aleppo under the deal.

Meanwhile, the Russian General Staff said that the pullout of militants and their families through a humanitarian corridor began in Eastern Aleppo, adding that wounded militants would be evacuated by the Russian Reconciliation Center with International Red Cross involvement.

 “To allow the militants leave the city, a 21km humanitarian corridor has been set up. Of those, 6km lie across Aleppo's territories controlled by government troops and the other 15km to the West of the city go through militant-held areas," Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov said.

He added that 20 buses and 10 ambulances were being used for the evacuation in addition to over 100 vehicles belonging to the militants themselves.

"Following the order of the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, President Vladimir Putin, the evacuation of 5,000 militants and members of their families from the Eastern districts of Aleppo has begun today," the General added.

Also, Spokesperson for the ICRC in Syria, Ingy Sedky said that "we expected that during the day there would be around 250 wounded and critically wounded to be evacuated", adding that, "the whole operation would take some time because it would require multiple rotations, but the operation was going as planned".

Reports said that the militants who were preparing to evacuate Aleppo under an internationally-negotiated ceasefire deal opened fire on residential areas in Eastern Aleppo again as tens of buses arrived in their region to start their relocation to Idlib, after Turkey demanded to take them out to Northern Aleppo province to take part in the Euphrates Shield Operation.

Syria's state TV reported on Thursday that terrorists restarted artillery attacks on residential areas in the Eastern districts of Aleppo city, breaching the truce once again.

The terrorists had also in a similar case earlier jeopardized the agreement on Tuesday night after they received some messages from Ankara about Turkey's increasing pressures on Damascus through military intervention in Northern Aleppo province combined with the western states' mounting pressures on Syria and its allies that accused the latter of war crimes in Eastern Aleppo. The ceasefire agreement that was reached on Tuesday went off after the terrorists violated its terms, making the warring sides to initiate a new round of talks that resulted in an agreement on Wednesday.

On Thursday and as tens of buses and ambulances were taking wounded militants to areas South-West of Aleppo, the militants once again violated the ceasefire after Turkey, in a unilateral move against the internationally-endorsed ceasefire agreement - negotiated by Syria, Iran, Russia and the militants and their sponsors - announced that it intended to take the militants to Northern Aleppo province to give them a role in Ankara's Euphrates Shield Operation.

Meantime, Sky News reported on Thursday that tens of Turkish ambulances arrived in the Western parts of Aleppo province to transfer the wounded terrorists to Turkey as Ankara intruded again in violation of the agreement between the two warring sides that included relocation of all militants and their wounded members and families to Idlib in Northwestern Syria.

The violation of the ceasefire happened as all measures and preparations were made for the evacuation of terrorist groups and their family members from Eastern Aleppo to Idlib province in the next stage.

Syria's state TV reported that based on the agreement between the Syrian authorities and the terrorists' leaders, 4,000 militants and their family members - that were said to be around 10,000 people - would leave Eastern Aleppo.

Estimates said some 15,000 to 20,000 civilians were at the time in the very few districts controlled by the terrorists in Eastern Aleppo.

The terrorists were allowed to take only LIGHT arms with themselves during the evacuation.

The terrorist groups started setting fire on their bases, vehicles, weapons caches and extra food supplies. They also sought to destroy the documents which revealed their ties with foreign states that support them.

Meantime, al-Mayadeen news channel reported that the agreement to relocate the militants includes evacuation of civilians from the two towns of Fua'a and Kafraya in Idlib, besieged by the terrorists.

According to reports, the two warring sides pledged to remain committed to the terms of the agreement.

After ambulances started evacuating the wounded from Eastern to Western Aleppo in the morning, the latest reports said on Thursday morning that the Syrian and Russian forces were ready to start evacuation of militants from Aleppo to relocate them to Idlib province.

According to the Russian reconciliation center, about 20 buses and 10 ambulances would carry out evacuation of the wounded militants.

The wounded were to be sent to Ramouseh, South-West of Aleppo, first to be dispatched to Idlib via Khan Touman and the roads in Northern Hama.

The Russian reconciliation center said in a statement that it was "preparing to evacuate the remaining militants and their family members from the Eastern districts of the city of Aleppo in collaboration with the Syrian authorities".

The reconciliation center was monitoring the situation in the area using surveillance CAMERAS and drones, adding that Russian soldiers would also accompany the militants during the evacuation from Aleppo to Idlib.

The Syrian authorities were guaranteeing that all members of armed groups who decided to leave Eastern Aleppo would be safe, the center said.

"The Syrian authorities are guaranteeing safety of all members of armed groups who decided to leave the Eastern districts of Aleppo," the center added in the statement.

The Syrian authorities and terrorist groups stationed in the Eastern parts of Aleppo reached an agreement to evacuate militants from the region in return for relocating thousands of besieged civilians from Fua'a and Kafraya in Idlib to government-ruled territories.

The latest reports said 29 buses and ambulances are on their way to Idlib to evacuate the wounded, women and children from Faua'a and Kafraya to government-held territories via Northern Hama. According to official statements, the evacuation would take place in several phases.

A sum of 1,200 wounded people along with their family members are to leave the two besieged towns in Idlib in the first stage.

Local sources close to the dissidents said that all preparations have been made for the evacuation of militants and their families from Aleppo.

The latest reports from Eastern Aleppo said tens of ambulances and Green Buses have arrived at militant-held territories, and terrorists are readying to start evacuation any moment.

Evacuation of wounded militants started at 9 am (Syria Times). Reports said the ambulances were heading for medical centers in Western Aleppo.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950926000212

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Pakistan

 

Sindh govt decides to review bill on forced conversion

HABIB KHAN GHORI

December 17, 2016

KARACHI: The Sindh government has decided to review the protection of minorities bill, which had been recently passed by the provincial assembly, after religious scholars objected to some of its clauses.

The decision was indicated in a policy statement issued by Senior Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Nisar Ahmad Khuhro here on Friday.

This bill, which was passed by the assembly in the last week of November, invited the ire of religious scholars who believed some of its clauses were against the teachings of Islam and contrary to the Constitution.

Mr Khuhro, who is also the Sindh chapter president of the PPP, recalled that according to Surah Al-Baqar Ayat 256 of the Holy Quran the religion could not be changed forcibly, therefore, no Muslim could think contrary to the teachings nor could legislate such a law.

He said the marriage of a person aged less than 18 years was banned as its law existed on the statutory book. He said there was no restriction of the age on change of religion, therefore, it should not be linked with the age of marriage as such this misunderstanding ought to be removed.

“Forcible conversion to the religion and solemnizing wedding under 18 years of age was contrary to the Shariat and constitution and the Sindh assembly has not carried any legislation against Shariat and the constitution but only forcible conversion of religion under 18 years of age and getting married has been declared illegal,” said Mr Khuhro.

He said the bill of protection to the minorities had been sent to the governor for his assent. Whether the governor gave his assent or not, the bill in both the conditions would be reviewed and amended by the assembly, he added.

The minister said the Sindh government did not like to make it an issue of its ego, as such the assembly could again review any clause of the bill.

Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2016

http://www.dawn.com/news/1302797/sindh-govt-decides-to-review-bill-on-forced-conversion

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Rulers Have Learnt Nothing from Fall of Dhaka: Jamaat-e-Islami Chief

17-Dec-16

LAHORE: Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Chief Senator Sirajul Haq has said that the rulers have not learnt a lesson from the fall of Dhaka nor have they mended their ways after the country split into two.

Addressing the Friday congregation at Mansoora mosque, he said the smaller provinces of the country had a feeling of deprivation due to inequitable distribution of the resources. “Had the mandate of the Bengalis been accepted, the debacle of East Pakistan might not have occurred,” he maintained.

Sirajul Haq said that the enemy exploited the hatred, and as a result East Pakistan turned into Bangladesh. He said that the rulers would have to remove the sense of deprivation among the people of the smaller provinces to prevent such tragedies in the future.

Full report at:

http://dailytimes.com.pk/punjab/17-Dec-16/rulers-have-learnt-nothing-from-fall-of-dhaka-siraj

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COAS confirms death sentence to 13 terrorists

17-Dec-16

ISLAMABAD: To give a strong message to terrorists on the second anniversary of the martyrs of the Army Public School Peshawar, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa confirmed death sentences awarded to another 13 hardcore terrorists. These terrorists were involved in heinous offences related to terrorism, including killing and slaughtering of innocent civilians, officials of Law Enforcement Agencies and Armed Forces of Pakistan.

These terrorists also include those who planned and executed attacks on Bacha Khan University Charsada, Parade Lane Mosque Rawalpindi, Marriot HOTEL Islamabad, Office of World Vision NGO at Mansehra and educational institution at Nawagai Buner. On the whole, they were involved in killing 325 persons and in causing injuries to 366 others. Firearms and explosives were also recovered from their possession, an ISPR spokesman said in a statement on Friday.

These convicts were tried by military courts. All 13 convicts admitted their offences before the magistrate and the trial courts. These terrorists belonged to proscribed organisations, spokesman told.

Those who were awarded death sentence and confirmed by army chief are as follows

Latif Ullah Mehsud: The convict was a member of a proscribed organisation. He was involved in killing innocent civilians and attacking Law Enforcement Agencies of Pakistan, which resulted in the death of 150 civilians (members and attendees of local Jirga) and seven soldiers of Frontier Constabulary.

Arafat: The convict was a member of a proscribed organisation. He was involved in attacking Marriot HOTEL Islamabad and Parade Lane Mosque Rawalpindi, which resulted in the death of 110 persons and injuries to 330 others.

Wahid Ali, Akbar Ali, Muhammad Riaz and Noor Ullah: These four convicts were members of proscribed organisations. They were involved in attacking Bacha Khan University Charsadda, which resulted in the deaths of 17 civilians and injuries to 19 others. They were also found in possession of firearms and explosives.

Abdul Rehman: The convict was a member of a proscribed organisation. He was involved in attacking Armed Forces and Law Enforcement Agencies of Pakistan. He was also involved in slaughtering Capt Najam Riaz Raja, Capt Juniad Khan, Naik Shahid Rasool, Lance Naik Shakeel Ahmed and in injuring 2 police officials. He was involved in the destruction of an educational institution as well.

Full report at:

http://dailytimes.com.pk/islamabad/17-Dec-16/coas-confirms-death-sentence-to-13-terrorists

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Balochistan govt ‘disagrees with some points’ in SC report: Bugti

SALEEM SHAHID

December 17, 2016

QUETTA: The Balochistan government welcomes the Supreme Court commission’s report on the Quetta carnage, but at the same time it “disagrees with some of its observations” and will present its submissions to the Supreme Court, Mir Sarfaraz Bugti, the provincial home minister, said on Friday.

The minister, speaking at a press conference at the Quetta Press Club, said the government would try its best to address the shortcomings pointed out in the report.

“We are happy that the commission has appreciated the Balochistan government’s action in Pishin against militants in which Jahangir Badini, a commander of a banned organisation and two of his accomplices, were eliminated,” Mr Bugti said.

“This has come as a source of encouragement for us.” Anwarul Haq Kakar, a spokesman for the provincial government, was also present at the press conference.

Mr Bugti said that the government would take all recommendations seriously and would make measures to bring about improvements.

Asked to comment on a demand by the Tehreek-i-Insaf and the Pakistan Peoples Party to sack the chief minister, the home minister said Nawab Sanaullah Zehri was an elected leader of the house and those who were making such demands should wait till the next general election.

In reply to another question, he said the provincial government had “taken positively” the observations made by Justice Qazi Faez Isa and would try to make improvements in the administrative machinery in the light of observations made by the judge.

Sarfaraz Bugti said the provincial government’s collaboration with intelligence agencies had resulted in the elimination of the mastermind of the Aug 8 carnage. He said the government agencies had worked round the clock to banish terrorism and now “there is no sanctuary for these anti-state elements”.

“The number of intelligence-based operations in Balochistan is the highest in the country,” Sarfaraz Bugti added.

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/news/1302871/balochistan-govt-disagrees-with-some-points-in-sc-report-bugti

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PUC urges UN, Muslim world to take notice of atrocities in Aleppo

17-Dec-16

ISLAMABAD: Clerics and religious scholars on Friday demanded of the United Nations (UN) and the Islamic Summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to take notice of the prevailing atrocities on the people of Aleppo.

The clerics, speaking at a conference to mark 'Solidarity Day with Oppressed Syrians', also urged Muslim countries' leadership to take action through the 'Islamic Militarily Alliance' against elements responsible for interfering in the affairs of Muslim countries, particularly of the Arab world.

The Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) hosted the conference titled 'Call for Aleppo' in Islamabad to express solidarity with oppressed people of Syria. Clerics from different religious schools of thought vowed on the occasion that the people of Pakistan were willing to support the oppressed Syrians.

Addressing the gathering, PUC Chairman Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi said that silence on part of the world community on the prevailing atrocities against the people of Syria was very alarming and concerning. "Genocide is being perpetrated against the people of Syria," Tahir Ashrafi said, adding that Muslim countries, including Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, should play their role to stop the ongoing massacre against Syrian people, especially children and women.

He said that the world leadership was demonstrating a criminal negligence over the killing of innocent children in Syria. He resolved that the Pakistan Ulema Council would continue its struggle against the atrocities by informing the people of Pakistan about the ongoing mayhem in Syria and Iraq.

He also urged the ruling governments of Iran and Russia to have pity on innocent children of Syria, who were being butchered as a result of heavy bombardment. "Conspiracies to plant a dictator and killer in Syria will not prove successful," said Tahir Ashrafi said, and warned the world leadership that the entire world could turn into hell if the sequel of foreign interference continued in Yemen and Bahrain after Aleppo. Maulana Aqeel, Maulana Abdus Saboor, Maulana Abdul Hameed Sabri, Maulana Tahir Aqeel and Maulana Ashfaq Patafi also addressed the conference.

Full report at:

http://dailytimes.com.pk/pakistan/17-Dec-16/-puc--urges-un-muslim-world-to-take-notice-of-atrocities-in-aleppo

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Pakistan ‘willing’ to discuss Dr Afridi’s freedom with US

December 17, 2016

WASHINGTON - Pakistan said it would be “willing” to discuss with President-elect Donald Trump’s administration freedom for a jailed Pakistani doctor who helped the United States track down Osama bin Laden.

A top Pakistani diplomat said Islamabad is open to a "sustained dialogue" with India and would be open to offers of assistance regarding talks with New Delhi, including from the incoming Trump administration.

Tariq Fatemi, Prime Minister's Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs, told VOA on Thursday that the entire region wants Pakistan and India to “end this state of acrimony and hostility”.

“India and Pakistan, in my humble view, have no other option but to talk to each other,” he added.

Asked if US President-elect Trump could help mediate talks between Pakistan and neighbouring India, Fatemi said, “Any assistance, any help, any intervention, any offer of good offices (of people) that have good relations with both India and Pakistan will be welcome.”

Last month, Trump and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif held an unusually frank phone conversation during which the incoming US leader telling Sharif he would be willing to help Pakistan resolve its outstanding issues with India. “I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems. It will be an honour and I will personally do it,” Trump said in a transcript of the phone call released by the Pakistani government.

The government’s readout of the very casual phone call, in which Trump said Sharif was “a terrific guy” doing “amazing work”, raised considerable debate over diplomatic practices, VOA pointed out. Sharif had called to congratulate Trump on his election win.

While Pakistan previously has sought UN or US mediation over Kashmir, India has long opposed involving a third party mediator.

The special assistant said Pakistan looks “forward to engaging in very substantive ways with the incoming administration, particularly” with the state and defence departments.

Fatemi is ending a 10-day mission to Washington to talk with members of Trump’s transition team as well as to brief members of Congress and research institutions on Pakistan’s efforts to counter terrorism and promote regional peace and stability. Although he listed all officials of the outgoing Obama administration with whom he interacted, he did not name any one from the Trump administration whom he had met.

Later, talking to Pakistani newsmen, Fatemi underscored the resolve of Prime Minister Sharif's government to build a stable and secure Pakistan.

Fatemi highlighted the tremendous sacrifices rendered by the people and security forces of Pakistan in the campaign against terrorism during his contacts in Washington. He emphasised that Pakistan had paid a very heavy price and was firmly committed to eliminating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

He, however, added that Pakistan, being a sovereign State, would decide the scale, pace and reach of its counter terrorism efforts in line with its economic and operational limitations as well as other capacity constraints.

Fatemi told Pakistani reporters that though Trump administration was not yet in place, Pakistan looked forward to working closely with the new president-elect and his team with particular focus on economic linkages and trade that formed a common denominator in the agenda of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President-elect Trump.

The special assistant indicated that his current visit to the US would be followed by other high-level visits. Pakistan was aiming at building a comprehensive, sustained and forward-looking relationship with the US, he said.

On Afghanistan, he told VOA, “We are involved in peace in Afghanistan. We have a conviction that peace and stability in Pakistan is dependent to peace in Afghanistan. Our economic and energy plans with Central Asia and trade to Eastern Europe can only happen if there is stability in Afghanistan.”

Fatemi said Pakistan is “willing to play a role in the Afghan peace process,” but to do that “Pakistan and Afghanistan will have to take their military and intelligence relationship to a higher level.”

“We used our limited influence on Taliban to bring them on the table. It didn’t sustain because they (Taliban) think that the incentives are not attractive enough,” he said. “Some think that there are divisions within Taliban leadership; some think that foreign powers send conflicting signals to them.”

Responding to a question, Fatemi said Pakistan would be “willing” to discuss with President-elect Donald Trump’s administration freedom for a jailed Pakistani doctor who helped the United States track down Osama bin Laden.

The doctor, Shakil Afridi, is serving 33 years in a Pakistani prison on treason charges. US authorities have denounced Afridi’s treatment as unjust and unwarranted and have frequently demanded his release.

“Pakistan would be willing to look at how we could move forward in a resolution of this problem,” Fatemi told VOA.

“We are not holding on to Dr Shakil Afridi because of some personal animosity,” he insisted.

During his election campaign, Trump told Fox News that if elected he would get Afridi out of the jail “in two minutes”.

Fatemi told VOA that a presidential pardon could be sought for the doctor under Pakistani laws but only after judicial proceedings are concluded.

“The whole process has to go through the judiciary, and it is for the judiciary then to decide whether a case is ripe or not ripe for it to be sent before the president for a possible exercise of the powers of the president to give pardon,” Fatemi said.

He reiterated that Afridi’s fake immunisation drive seriously hurt and raised suspicions about vaccination programmes the World Health Organisation is running in Pakistan.

The government’s readout of the very casual phone call, in which Trump said Sharif was “a terrific guy” doing “amazing work”, raised considerable debate over diplomatic practices, VOA pointed out. Sharif had called to congratulate Trump on his election win.

While Pakistan previously has sought UN or US mediation over Kashmir, India has long opposed involving a third party mediator.

The special assistant said Pakistan looks “forward to engaging in very substantive ways with the incoming administration, particularly” with the state and defence departments.

Fatemi is ending a 10-day mission to Washington to talk with members of Trump’s transition team as well as to brief members of Congress and research institutions on Pakistan’s efforts to counter terrorism and promote regional peace and stability. Although he listed all officials of the outgoing Obama administration with whom he interacted, he did not name any one from the Trump administration whom he had met.

Later, talking to Pakistani newsmen, Fatemi underscored the resolve of Prime Minister Sharif’s government to build a stable and secure Pakistan.

Fatemi highlighted the tremendous sacrifices rendered by the people and security forces of Pakistan in the campaign against terrorism during his contacts in Washington. He emphasised that Pakistan had paid a very heavy price and was firmly committed to eliminating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

He, however, added that Pakistan, being a sovereign State, would decide the scale, pace and reach of its counter terrorism efforts in line with its economic and operational limitations as well as other capacity constraints.

Fatemi told Pakistani reporters that though Trump administration was not yet in place, Pakistan looked forward to working closely with the new president-elect and his team with particular focus on economic linkages and trade that formed a common denominator in the agenda of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President-elect Trump.

The special assistant indicated that his current visit to the US would be followed by other high-level visits. Pakistan was aiming at building a comprehensive, sustained and forward-looking relationship with the US, he said.

On Afghanistan, he told VOA, “We are involved in peace in Afghanistan. We have a conviction that peace and stability in Pakistan is dependent to peace in Afghanistan. Our economic and energy plans with Central Asia and trade to Eastern Europe can only happen if there is stability in Afghanistan.”

Fatemi said Pakistan is “willing to play a role in the Afghan peace process,” but to do that “Pakistan and Afghanistan will have to take their military and intelligence relationship to a higher level.”

“We used our limited influence on Taliban to bring them on the table. It didn’t sustain because they (Taliban) think that the incentives are not attractive enough,” he said. “Some think that there are divisions within Taliban leadership; some think that foreign powers send conflicting signals to them.”

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/national/17-Dec-2016/pakistan-willing-to-discuss-dr-afridi-s-freedom-with-us

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Rangers foiled suicide bomber's attempt to attack Imam Bargah in Hyderabad

December 16, 2016

HYDERABAD: Rangers killed a suspected suicide bomber on Friday during a search operation, as he tried to enter an Imam Bargah.

According to media reports, rangers told that suicide bomber was trying to enter an Imam Bargah. When they noticed that the terrorist also tried to create a diversion by first throwing a hand grenade at the Rangers’ vehicle in Latifabad No. 11 area.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/national/16-Dec-2016/rangers-foiled-suicide-bomber-s-attempt-to-attack-imam-bargah-in-hyderabad

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Mideast

 

PLO warns peace prospects ‘dead’ if US embassy moves to Jerusalem

17 December 2016

A senior Palestinian official warned on Friday that implementation of Donald Trump’s pledge to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem would destroy any prospects for peace with Israel, even as a spokesman for the US president-elect said he remained committed to the move.

Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, issued the grim prediction just a day after Trump announced his decision to nominate as ambassador to Israel David Friedman, a pro-Israel hardliner who supports continued building of Jewish settlements and shifting the embassy from Tel Aviv.

Speaking to foreign journalists, Erekat said Jerusalem was a final-status issue to be negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians, who also want it as the capital of a future independent state.

Successive US administrations have avoided formally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. If Trump makes good on his campaign promise, it would up-end decades of US policy, enrage the Muslim world and draw international condemnation.

Jerusalem is home to sites sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians.

“No one should take any decisions which may preempt or prejudge (negotiations) because this will be the destruction of the peace process as a whole,” Erekat said, according to a transcript provided by an aide. The last U.S.-backed talks on statehood collapsed in 2014.

He further warned of dire consequences if Israel annexes settlements built on occupied land. Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer and close friend of Trump who has no diplomatic experience, has advocated the idea of Israel annexing the West Bank, as it did with Arab East Jerusalem following its capture in the 1967 Middle East war in a move not recognized internationally.

Erekat said he would like to look Trump and Friedman in the eye and tell them “if you were to take these steps of moving the embassy and annexing settlements in the West Bank, you are sending this region to more chaos, lawlessness and extremism.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has had a fractious relationship with President Barack Obama, was satisfied with Friedman’s appointment, according to the Israeli website Ynet, and several members of his right-wing government welcomed the choice.

Liberal Jewish-American groups have raised objections over positions he has stated in writings and press interviews, which they see as a rejection of a two-state solution, a longtime bedrock of U.S. Middle East policy, and alignment with Israel’s far right.

Trump spokesman Jason Miller said the president-elect “remains firmly committed” to relocating the embassy but that it was “premature” to present a timetable for such a move.

US-based analysts said that while Friedman’s appointment could signal a break with longstanding US policy as well as Obama’s sometimes tough approach to ally Israel, US ambassadors typically do not drive Middle East policy and it was still unclear how far Trump would be prepared to go.

Friedman, who must be confirmed by the US Senate, declined to answer questions when contracted by Reuters. “I’ll do that at some point, but I’m not providing any comments just yet,” he said.

In Thursday’s announcement, Friedman said he looked forward to doing the job “from the US embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.”

“Appointing David Friedman ... is a positive declaration of intent,” Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked tweeted. “David is a true friend of Israel.”

Friedman has also called liberal Jewish Americans supporting a two-state solution “worse than kapos,” a reference to Jewish prisoners in World War Two concentration camps assigned by Nazi guards to supervise fellow inmates.

J Street, a liberal pro-Israel group, told supporters Friedman’s appointment was “unacceptable” and it would fight to persuade US senators not to confirm his nomination.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2016/12/17/Peace-prospects-dead-if-Trump-moves-US-embassy-to-Jerusalem-Palestinian-aide.html

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Car bomb attack kills 13 soldiers in Turkey

Dec 17, 2016

A car bomb attack has exploded outside a university in the central Turkish city of Kayseri, killing 13 soldiers and injuring at least 48 others, the Turkish army has said.

The blast occurred as a bus carrying soldiers was passing by at a bus stop at the campus of Erciyes University on Saturday.

Broadcaster NTV said the bus was carrying both off-duty soldiers and civilians when it was hit by the blast.

The Turkish army said civilians may have also been injured in the blast.

The office of Turkey’s prime minister imposed a temporary blackout on coverage of the explosion and urged the media to refrain from publishing anything that may caused “fear in the public, panic and disorder and which may serve the aims of terrorist organizations.”

Local news agency Dogan said the bus was hit by the explosion as it drove past a car that is believed to have been laden with explosives.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2016/12/17/498236/Turkey-Kayseri-bus-explosion

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Aleppo evacuations not over, says Turkish foreign minister

December 16, 2016

ISTANBUL: Turkey on Friday claimed that the evacuation of rebels and their families from the eastern sector of Syria's Aleppo was not finished, a claim echoed by a Syrian military source.

"The evacuations are not over and many people still want to leave the area," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a press conference in Ankara.

The evacuation of the last rebel-held pocket of territory in Aleppo has been "suspended" but is not over, a Syrian military source told AFP on Friday. The source said there had been a "suspension" of the operations but that "they are not finished".

The statements contradict claims made by the Russian defence ministry which said that the operation was "complete".

Russia's defence ministry on Friday also announced it had finished evacuating rebels and their family members from Syria's Aleppo, with only "radical and intransigent" militants left inside.

"The (Russian) operation... to evacuate rebels and members of their families from eastern districts of Aleppo is complete," it said in a statement.

It claimed that "all of the women and children have been moved from the rebel-controlled neighbourhoods".

"According to those evacuated in the last convoy, everyone who wanted to leave eastern Aleppo districts over the past day has left," it said, adding that a total of 4,500 rebels and 337 injured have been moved out of Aleppo.

"Militant groups of radical and intransigent gangs who are shooting at Syrian troops are left in some neighbourhoods" it said, adding that the Syrian army "continue to liberate various Aleppo neighbourhoods where radicals are located".

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/16-Dec-2016/aleppo-evacuations-not-over-says-turkish-foreign-minister

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Iran becomes an uncompromising actor in the Middle East

December 17, 2016

The battle for Aleppo is nearly over as regime forces along with Iranian troops, Shiite militias and Russian elite forces have captured the opposition-held parts of the city. While the city is devastated, a demographic change is likely since the sectarian and ethnic structure of the city is being changed by Iran. Aleppo, which has been a major city in Syria throughout history - known for significant Islamic scholars, preserving its strategic regional position and becoming modern Syria's second largest and most industrialized city - is on the brink of falling into Iran's hands both geographically and ideologically. Iran has adopted sectarianism as a tool for expanding its political influence by mobilizing all Shiite groups and minorities around the world and making Shiite Muslim and non-Muslim communities in the poor countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Turkey has long been struggling to meet the demands of Syrians, which is primarily for a democratic regime. Despite these efforts, Turkey has become entangled in the terror attacks of the PKK's Syrian offshoot, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), and Daesh, the first of which is explicitly supported by the U.S. and certain EU countries. Nevertheless, Ankara has made several efforts to stop the bloodshed in Aleppo in a bid to convince Russia to prevent a massacre. Finally, a truce accord was reached and accepted by all parties to stop the firing and evacuate civilians as well as opposition fighters to Idlib first, then to Turkey's border.

Turkey has declared that all preparations have been made to welcome the refugees, such as building tents and mobilization hospitals. Just as the buses were sent to start taking civilians, primarily wounded ones, Iran's proxy groups violated the truce.

Iran asked for the evacuation of Shiite militias trapped in Fuah and Kafarya. The truce in Aleppo has nothing to do with Fuah and Kafarya. Iran and its proxies attempted to benefit from the situation. By doing so, Iran has clearly violated the truce despite Russia, Damascus and Turkey. As a result of Turkey's long diplomatic efforts, the evacuation commenced again.

The threat, posed by the rise of Iran in the region, has shown that Tehran does not recognize any dire humanitarian situation or the decisions of its allies. Although Tehran and Moscow defeated the opposition together, causing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Aleppo and accepted the truce, Iran changed its mind suddenly despite Russia's alleged disapproval.

Iran's actions and desires in the region become more dangerous and a direct threat to peace. Iraq's war against Daesh turned into a sectarian conflict after Iran-backed militias became involved in military operations. Iran's support for Houthi rebels by using Shiism as a common political identity led to a deadly war after Saudi Arabia started pounding the poorest Arab country for not letting Iran establish a proxy government nearby.

Besides the Middle East, Iran has also uses sectarianism on a global scale. Several reports indicate that Iran has been making great efforts to make Shiite the peoples of poor African and recent Latin America Muslim communities.

Full report at:

http://www.dailysabah.com/mideast/2016/12/17/iran-becomes-an-uncompromising-actor-in-the-middle-east

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Rouhani urges Muslim countries to 'present bright face of Islam'

December 17, 2016

President Hassan Rouhani called Muslim nations and countries to represent the bright face of Islam to the world.

In separate messages to the heads of Islamic countries on Friday, to congratulate the anniversary of the Holy Prophet's (PBUH) birthday due on December 17, Rouhani hoped for further cordial and friendly bonds among Muslim nations, thanks to the blessed day bearer of glad tidings, blessings and good role model.

The President hoped that Muslim countries will make further efforts to present the bright and divine image of Islam to the world nations.

Full report at:

http://en.mehrnews.com/news/122061/Rouhani-urges-Muslim-countries-to-present-bright-face-of-Islam

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Iran in Aleppo: ‘Kill all those who are trapped’

16 December 2016

Syrian media sources said that General Javad al-Ghafari, commander of the Revolutionary Guards and 16 IRGC-backed Shiite militias wants to kill all those who are still trapped in eastern Aleppo, which is hampering the completion of the operation aiming to evacuate the rest of the civilians and fighters.

The sources said that General Ghafari has been in conflict with the Russians since the beginning; since he didn’t want civilians and opposition fighters to evacuate the besieged neighborhoods.

He hindered the Russian-Turkish agreement, where Iranian media had started to attack Russia in line with talks about this agreement.

Iranian media hinted about a conflict of interest between the two sides in Syria.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2016/12/16/Iranian-Revolutionary-Guards-chief-in-Aleppo-Kill-all-those-who-are-still-trapped-.html

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Iran, Turkey, Russia will meet in Moscow to discuss Syria: Iran

Dec 17, 2016

TOPdiplomats from Iran, Russia, and Turkey are to discuss the status quo in Syria in a meeting in Moscow later this month, the Iranian Foreign Ministry has announced.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Friday that the meeting has been scheduled for December 27 on an initiative from Iran.

He explained that Iran had been engaged in sustained efforts to help the civilians in the Syrian city of Aleppo and restore stability there.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran, he said, had been holding numerous PHONE conversations with some of his counterparts, including from Syria, Turkey, and Russia, and had tried to tap into all good offices and fix the ministerial talks in Moscow.

Qassemi said the Syrian crisis was a “fabricated” one and stressed that Iran had been involved in efforts to resolve it ever since the conflict began in 2011.

“The fabricated crisis in Syria and the dispatching of nameless terrorists by their Western-Arab axis of sponsors to the country at the height of developments referred to as the Arab Spring with the chimera of toppling Syria’s legitimate government have been the reasons for all these humanitarian and material catastrophes in the country,” Qassemi said.

The Islamic Republic has been the first country to produce initiatives aimed at bringing about ceasefires, allowing humanitarian aid transfer, and enabling inter-Syrian talks, the spokesperson said.

Foreign regimes seeking Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster have been channeling military assistance and financial support to the anti-Damascus militants in Syria since 2011.

Iran and Russia have been aiding the Syrian government to fight back the foreign-sponsored militancy.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2016/12/17/498229/Iran-Qassemi-Syria-Russia-Turkey-Moscow-Aleppo

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Iran ready to dispatch humanitarian aid to Syria: First VP

Dec 16, 2016

Iranian First Vice President Es'haq Jahangiri has expressed the Islamic Republic’s readiness to send humanitarian aid to conflict-ridden areas in Syria, urging joint Tehran-Ankara efforts to diplomatically resolve the crisis in the Arab country.

Jahangiri made the remarks in a PHONE conversation with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Friday.

“With the help of each other, [we] have to prevent an increase in killing and bloodshed in the region, including in Syria, and make efforts to save civilians trapped and besieged in different regions across the country,” he said.

Jahangiri also called for the swift delivery of relief aid to Syria, saying, “The Islamic Republic of Iran has been ready for the dispatch of humanitarian aid to Syria since yesterday (Thursday).”

He further expressed hope that that Iranian and Turkish political officials could in through cooperation  "take serious steps toward settling Syria’s issues diplomatically.”

“Regional issues can be resolved more quickly through the expansion of cooperation and growth in coordination between Iran and Turkey,” the Iranian official added.

Turkey’s security and stability is IMPORTANT for Iran, Jahangiri said, called for cooperation and mutual assistance in the fight against extremism and terrorism.

Yildirim, for his part, said the humanitarian situation in eastern Aleppo is alarming and his country is ready to do its best for civilians there, according to an informed source at the Turkish prime ministry.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2016/12/16/498169/Iran-Syria-Eshaq-Jahangiri

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Africa

 

12 soldiers killed in militant attack on Burkina Faso army post

Dec 16, 2016

Twelve Burkina Faso soldiers have been killed in an attack by dozens of unidentified assailants on a military post in Nassoumbou commune of the northwestern province of Soum.

The province's high commissioner, Mohamed Dah, claimed extremist militants were behind the Friday attack.

The army said the attack was carried out at about 5:00 a.m. local time on the military post, located about 30 kilometers from Mali's border.

"About 40 heavily armed individuals who have not yet been identified" carried out the attack, the army said in a statement.

Reports said those killed in the attack were mostly army soldiers but gendarme soldiers were also among them.

It was not stated whether any assailants were killed or injured in the attack.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the assault.

The attackers had also set fire to tents and military vehicles, according to reports.

Militant attacks are seldom launched in the West African country. However, Burkina Faso's neighboring country, Mali, harbors many active militants.

Authorities are concerned that the extended desert borders between the two countries could become a transit point for militants to cross over into Burkina Faso and carry out terrorist attacks there.

A newly-formed militant group led by a combatant formerly loyal to Algeria's Mokhtar Belmokhtar claimed to have attacked a Burkinabe military post in September, and unidentified gunmen killed three Burkinabe soldiers and two civilians in October.

In January, Takfiri terrorists linked to al-Qaeda staged a hostage-taking attack on a HOTEL in Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou, which left 29 people dead. The attackers stormed a hotel where UN staff and Westerners regularly stayed.

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2016/12/16/498145/Africa-Burkina-Faso-Militant-attack

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Maiduguri flooded by victims of Boko Haram insurgency

17 December 2016

Ali Bukar didn't know anyone when he arrived in Maiduguri with 43 people in tow and not a coin in his pocket.

Bukar was fleeing the brutal killings of civilians by the Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria -- along with his wives, his sons, their wives and grandchildren.

They slept in a parking lot "until a man took pity on us," he said.

The camps set up for displaced people are not sufficient, so many residents of Maiduguri have opened their DOORS to these victims of conflict.

But now years later the refugees still cannot return to their home villages, and struggling city residents are starting to blame the influx for problems in the community.

Between 70 to 90 percent of the displaced in Maiduguri have relied on the compassion of the local people to survive.

Bukar and his family have never stayed at a camp. A local merchant had welcomed them to his home and fed them for a year, the scar-faced old man told AFP.

But then they had to leave because the financial burden became too much, Bukar said.

Today the family is living in a so-called "hosting community", one of hundreds of such private places where refugees are sheltered around the city.

"I couldn't just sit there and WATCH people die of hunger, I had to help them,"  said Baba Kura Al-Kahi, the boss of these hosting communities, a local  businessman who made his fortune in real estate and in 2013 turned over some land he owned to the displaced.

 Boko Haram epicentre

 Today many refugees are squatters on construction sites, in schools, in public housing, while thousands of others are taken in by relatives or members of their ethnic group, often Kanuri or Hausa.

Neighbours have organised aid, growing food for the most needy, bringing them CLOTHES and sheets and cooking utensils.

But "resources are overstretched, especially with regards to water and sanitation, with regards to hospital facilities, with regards to even food security issues," the Borno state governor, Kashim Shettima, told AFP.

Still Maiduguri, after years of being under siege, has a semblance of normal life compared with the devastated hinterland.

The city's ceasefire has been pushed back four hours to 10:00 pm. Soldiers and checkpoints are less noticeable and merchants and passers-by have returned to the centre city's sidewalks. The schools, which were closed for two years, reopened last month.

Over the past year, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari's government has made repeated announcements that Boko Haram is close to being defeated, and Shettima considers the battle "over" and predicts that hundreds of thousands of displaced people will have returned to their homes by May

But this is the cradle of Boko Haram and they have not disappeared.  

Just last weekend, a new suicide bombing hit Maiduguri's busy market, killing one person and injuring 18 others. The two bombers were girls thought to be only seven or eight years old, a hallmark of the jihadist group which often uses women or girls in such operations -- especially in Borno state -- the epicentre of their insurgency.

  Begging and prostitution

 And the economy of the region has been ravaged by war. Unemployment is sky high at around 35 percent or more, according to the Borno governor. In the streets of Maiduguri the number of beggars in rags who bang on the windshields of the cars stopped at red LIGHTS has mushroomed.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/africa/181847/maiduguri-flooded-by-victims-of-boko-haram-insurgency

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Muslim leaders are asking Gambia’s Muslim president to respect democracy and step down

December 16, 2016

Gambian president Yahya Jammeh has so far been unmoved by calls from fellow African leaders, the United Nations, and others to acknowledge his electoral defeat of earlier this month. The latest petition, by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), may get the attention of the longtime leader who often portrays himself as a devout Muslim.

The OIC, a 57-member organization that exists to “safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world,” issued a statement today calling on Jammeh to “fully respect the results” of the Dec. 1 election that showed him losing to property developer Adama Barrow. The OIC has been funding projects in Gambia, a Muslim-majority country, for years.

Jammeh, who has been president of The Gambia for the last 22 years, originally conceded the election held on Dec. 1 to his rival. A week later, after the new ruling coalition promised to prosecute Jammeh, the longtime leader said that he rejected the results. He has called for a recount, led by a “God-fearing” electoral commission. (After Barrow’s win and Jammeh’s concession, the OIC had issued a statement expressing its “profound satisfaction” with the peaceful and democratic elections that had taken place.)

Full report at:

http://qz.com/865333/muslim-countries-are-asking-gambias-president-yahya-jammeh-to-step-down/

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MMM: Nigerians blast cleric, Muhammad Gusauin who said scheme is against Islam

December 16, 2016

Nigerians, particularly MMM supporters and subscribers have blasted an Islamic cleric, Murtadha Muhammad Gusauin, who said participating in the ponzi scheme was against the tenet of Islam.

The Imam had delivered a lecture at the central mosque in Okene, Kogi State which was shared on Facebook and other social media platforms.

He said the idea of providing help to people on the basis of return was not supported by Islam as reward for alms giving would be in the hereafter.

Gusauin had said, “The example of those who spend their wealth in the Way of Allah is like that of a grain of corn that sprouts seven ears, and in every ear there are a hundred grains. Thus Allah multiplies the action of whomsoever He wills.

“Allah is Munificent, All-Knowing. Those who spend their wealth in the Way of Allah and do not follow up their spending by stressing their benevolence and causing hurt, will find their reward secure with their Lord. They have no cause for fear and grief.” (Al Baqarah, :261-262).

“Islam also teaches us to give something to other without wishing for greater return. Allah reminded us:

“Do not give something to seek for a better return.” (Tafsir al Qurtubi, 19/67).

“It all shows that the MMM transaction is not in line with some principles of Islam, thus it shouldn’t be preserved,” he stated.

His lecture, however, generated reaction from Nigerians as some persons noted that the scheme was a form of business and others giving in to the opinion of the religious cleric.

Read some of the reactions on Facebook below:

Haruna Idris: “It’s a pity that so many people in Nigeria don’t knw where to eat from instead, they choose to eat from every trains of hell. U re consuming interest from unknown Source”

Michael Korede Olorunyomi: “Nigerians tend to play religious cards at every opportunity. Is corruption biblical/islamic?’cos most of this so called clergy men/religious Nigerians have never come out in the open to condemn corruption in strong terms.

“1.most of this pastors/imams are the ones praying for the politicians.

“2.some pay their tithes from the proceeds of corruption.3.some of them you see them taking selfies with these politicians.

Full report at:

http://dailypost.ng/2016/12/16/mmm-nigerians-blast-cleric-muhammad-gusauin-said-scheme-islam/

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‘No time for enjoyment until Boko Haram is defeated’

17 December 2016 

• Our Troops Are Not Protesting, Says GOC

The Acting General Officer Commanding (GOC) of 7 Division of the Nigerian Army,Brig-Gen. Victor Ezugwu, has said there would be “no enjoyment for soldiers” in the Theatre Command until Boko Haram is defeated and peace restored to the Northeast region of the country.

Ezugwu gave the charges yesterday while decorating four PROMOTED Colonels and three Brigadier Generals at the Officers’ Mess of

Maimalari Cantonment, Maiduguri.

The GOC also denied that troops protested yesterday in Bama, as reported by online media, saying he returned in a helicopter yesterday morning from the 212 Armoured Brigade in Bama.

“There is nothing like soldiers’ protests or mutiny, as reported in the social media. These are all speculations that has no iota of truth by sympathisers of Boko Haram insurgents, who are already being decimated by our fighting troops in the Sambisa Forest front lines,” said Ezugwu.

He said if there were any protests by the troops, he would be the first person or the military commanding officer on ground (Bama) from Maiduguri to meet the protesting soldiers.

He stated that the spread of such rumours in the ongoing fight against Boko Haram insurgency are the makings of sympathizers of the terrorists, who do not want the war to end.

Ezugwu said the officers’ PROMOTIONS by the Nigerian Army was a reward of excellence and their performances in the Theatre Command in fighting insurgency to the finish.

“This is a big day for you, and you should ensure that the remnants of insurgents in the Sambisa Forest and Northern Borno State are cleared, so as to restore peace in the affected region,” he told the affected troops.

Full report at:

http://guardian.ng/news/no-time-for-enjoyment-until-boko-haram-is-defeated/

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Boko Haram: UN launches appeal for 500,000 victims

December 16, 2016

The UN High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR, on Friday launched a multi-million dollar inter-agency appeal to provide support for about 500,000 Boko Haram victims from Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

The UNHCR Commissioner, Filippo Grandi, said while launching the initiative in Yaoundé that the Boko Haram crisis caused one of the largest displacements on the African continent.

“This is one of Africa’s largest displacement crisis and the world cannot afford to brush it under the carpet,” he said, according to the UN Secretary-General’s office.

The UNHCR chief also announced the Nigeria Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRRP).

Earlier in the week, Mr. Grandi visited refugees and internally displaced people in Niger, Chad, and Cameroon.

The UNHCR chief will visit refugees and internally displaced persons in Nigeria in the coming days.

“The suffering and desperate conditions in the Lake Chad region are among the harshest I have seen.

“Refugees, returnees and host communities who have survived violence and trauma by the Boko Haram insurgency urgently need help,” he said.

The UN and its partners are seeking $241 million in 2017 to support about 460,000 people through the 2017 Nigeria RRRP.

More than half of the funds, $154.29 million, will be allocated to refugees in Niger, with $67.25 million for operations in Cameroon and $19.61 million for those in Chad.

While security in the host countries has improved, refugees remain insufficiently protected, lack durable shelter, food, and health care, are facing malnutrition, and need access to water, sanitation, and hygiene as well as education and a means of livelihood.

Environmental damage is also an issue throughout the host countries.

Stepped up funding from the international community is essential, particularly because the situation remains unpredictable and there are no immediate prospects of a resolution or an opportunity for return.

The UNHCR chief urged the international community to invest in development programmes for refugees and the host communities.

Full report at:

http://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/more-news/218253-boko-haram-un-launches-appeal-500000-victims.html

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South Sudan opposition welcomes president's call for national dialogue

Dec 16, 2016

South Sudan's opposition has welcomed President Salva Kiir's call for "national dialogue" to put an end to three years of civil war.

Former Vice President Riek Machar's SPLM/A IO party "welcomed the national dialogue as a way of achieving peace, but it must not be led by President Salva Kiir," party spokesman Nyarji Roman said in a statement on Friday.

On Wednesday, Kiir called for a "national dialogue" open to all, asking for forgiveness "for any mistakes I might have committed."

The president said the initiative aims to "save the country from disintegration."

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2016/12/16/498183/South-Sudan-opposition-national-dialogue

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