New Age Islam
Mon Nov 30 2020, 06:44 PM

Islamic World News ( 24 Dec 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Thane School Bans Muslim Girls and Mothers from Wearing Hijab Citing Security Reasons













Photo: Kulbhushan Jadhav meets his mother and wife. (Twitter/@ForeignOfficePk)

 

Bacha Khan University Bars Male and Female Students from 'Sitting Idle' Together

Anti-Saudi Rally In Bahrain In Solidarity With Oppressed Shia Muslims

Six Dead in Suicide Attack near Afghan Spy Agency Compound: Officials

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India

Thane School Bans Muslim Girls and Mothers from Wearing Hijab Citing Security Reasons

Kulbhushan jadhav's Meeting with Mother and Wife Not the 'Last,' Clarifies Pakistan

CPM in Kerala bypasses RBI objections, launches foray into Islamic banking in Kannur

Pak violates ceasefire on second consecutive day along LoC

NIA set to seek Zakir Naik’s provisional arrest in Malaysia

Congress claims govt lacks policy on Pakistan

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Pakistan

Bacha Khan University Bars Male and Female Students from 'Sitting Idle' Together

Hafiz Saeed Opens MML Office in NA-120

I was the first chief minister to address the existence of death squads in Balochistan: Abdul Malik Baloch

Pakistan to open schools in Gulf countries for overseas children

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Arab World

Syrian Mufti Calls on Christians, Muslims to Unite against US Quds Move

Mosul Celebrates First Post-IS Christmas

Terrorists Plunder Museum's Artifacts in Northwestern Syria

Terrorist Groups Continue to Kidnap Each Others' Members in Northern Syria

Six Islamic State Militants Involved In Killing Policeman, Killed In Kirkuk

Al-Nusra One Step Closer to Full Collapse in Southwestern Damascus

Army Imposes Control over Terrorists' Key Bastion in Damascus

Syrian Army Evacuates Safely Tens of Refugees from Camp in Region Controlled by US-Backed Militants

Iran Downplays US MPs' Letter, Stresses IAEA Role to Certify Compliance with N. Deal

SDF Declares War on Turkish Forces in Afrin

Syrian Army Utilizing Cutting-Edge Anti-Tank Missile System in Southwestern Damascus

Iran Blasts Saudi FM for "Big Lies"

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Mideast

Anti-Saudi Rally in Bahrain in Solidarity with Oppressed Shia Muslims

Al Khalifa court sentences 6 Shia Bahrainis to death

Pope calls for peace in Jerusalem in Christmas message

Jerusalem violence, rain put damper on Bethlehem Christmas

Turkey dismisses over 2,700 in post-coup purges

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South Asia

Six Dead in Suicide Attack near Afghan Spy Agency Compound: Officials

Afghan Border Forces Personnel Suffer Heavy Casualties in Helmand Bombing

ISIS operating in 8 to 9 provinces of Afghanistan, claims Pak minister

Militants suffer casualties in Afghan Special Forces operations in Laghman

ISIS claims responsibility for the suicide attack in Kabul city

Militants responsible for the destruction of electricity pylons killed in Wardak

Resignation from Balkh government was Noor’s own decision: Abdullah

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Europe

In Christmas Message, Queen Honours Cities Hit By Terror

Chelsea bomber is 'trying to radicalize inmates and has gone on a hunger strike' after he was convicted in Manhattan attack that injured 30 people

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Africa

Egyptian Film Featuring Michael Jackson Dance Sequence Inside Mosque Angers Radical Islamists

‘10,000 refugees’ to be relocated from Libya to Europe next year

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North America

Guatemala Says It Is Moving Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/thane-school-bans-muslim-girls-and-mothers-from-wearing-hijab-citing-security-reasons/d/113691

 

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Thane School Bans Muslim Girls And Mothers From Wearing Hijab Citing Security Reasons

 

The Symbiosis  School in Mumbra has issued a circular banning Muslim girls and their guardians from wearing hijabs or naqab- veil that covers their faces- citing security reasons.

The circular said students, parents and family members would have to reveal their face by lifting the veil while entering school premises, according to a report by The Indian Express. As per the circular, students would not be allowed to cover their faces even while leaving the school, the report adds.

The report says that many parents have objected to the circular saying that it was an interference with their religious practices. But, some parents have welcomed the decision.

The report quoted School trustee KamalrajDeo who said some students left school in a fully-veiled burkha because of which the security guards often found it difficult to identify girls when their parents come to take them home.

He also said recently there was an attempt to abduct girl students by two women wearing hijabs. According to him, the women, with their faces covered, came to school seeking to take their child home early.  “We summoned the class teacher, but before she could arrive, the two ran away,” he said.

“I don’t intend to hurt any religious sentiments, but on camera, faces need to be revealed, for our records… It is purely for safety reasons,” he said.

Last year, a PIL was filed in the Delhi High Court seeking a ban on burqas and other face veils in public places due to security threat to the capital. However, the HC had said the government will take care of it if it is a policy decision.

In 2015, the Supreme Court had upheld CBSE’s ban on hijab and long sleeves in medical entrance test.

outlookindia.com/website/story/thane-school-bans-muslim-girls-and-mothers-from-wearing-hijab-citing-security-re/305953

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Bacha Khan University bars male and female students from 'sitting idle' together

Abdullah MalikDecember 25, 2017

Charsadda's Bacha Khan University administration sent out a notification earlier this month banning male students or employees from "idle sitting" or roaming with female students, a move which stirred a controversy on social media after the notification became public on Monday.

The notification, issued by the university's Chief Proctor Muhammad Shakeel, also imposed a ban on smoking, the use of chaadar, using the rooftops of campus buildings and ragging new students.

University spokesperson Saeed Khan, however, denied knowledge of any such notification while speaking to the media.

Dr Shakeel, on the other hand, defended the move while speaking to the media, DawnNews reported. He said that the decision had been taken in the larger interest of the students "as they waste a lot of their time roaming around the campus".

He strongly denied the notion that the university was being turned into a madrassah.

The university was forced to close in January 2016 for two weeks after an attack on its campus claimed over 20 lives.

dawn.com/news/1378779/bacha-khan-university-bars-male-and-female-students-from-sitting-idle-together

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Syrian Mufti Calls on Christians, Muslims to Unite against US Quds Move

December, 25, 2017

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Grand Mufti of Syria Sheikh Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun called on Muslims and Christians around the world to unite against US President Donald Trump’s recent decision to declare al-Quds (Jerusalem) as the Israeli regime’s capital.

Speaking to Lebanon’s Arabic-language Al Mayadeen TV, Sheikh Hassoun called on Christians and the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, to voice their protest against the US decision.

The Syrian cleric also called on all Christians and Muslims around the globe to unite against Washington’s planned move to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Quds.

Sheikh Hassoun’s remarks came after more than 100 countries defied Trump on Thursday and voted in favor of a United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for the United States to withdraw its decision to recognize Quds as Israel’s capital.

Trump officially declared the disputed city Israel's capital, despite warnings from around the world that the measure risks triggering a fresh wave of violence in the Middle East.

In a speech at the White House on December 6, Trump said his administration would also begin a years-long process of moving the American embassy in Tel Aviv to the holy city.

The announcement was a major shift by Washington that overturns decades of US foreign policy.

Palestinian leaders had previously warned the move would threaten a two-state solution.

Israel has occupied East Quds since the 1967 Middle East war. It annexed the area in 1980 and sees it as its exclusive domain. Under international law, the area is considered to be occupied territory.

tasnimnews.com/en/news/2017/12/25/1610805/syrian-mufti-calls-on-christians-muslims-to-unite-against-us-quds-move

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Six dead in suicide attack near Afghan spy agency compound: officials

AFPDecember 25, 2017

A suicide attacker on foot blew himself up near a compound belonging to the Afghan intelligence agency in Kabul on Monday, killing six civilians, officials said.

The attacker struck at a time when workers were arriving at their offices.

It comes a week after militants stormed a National Directorate of Security (NDS) training centre in the Afghan capital.

Interior Ministry Spokesman Najib Danish told AFP six civilians in a car were killed when the attacker detonated himself.

“Six people were martyred and three others were wounded,” Danish said.

“They were hit when they were passing the area in their Toyota sedan vehicle. We still do not know the target of the attack but it happened on the main road.”

The Health Ministry confirmed the death toll but put the number of wounded at one.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the latest attack in Kabul which in recent months has become one of the deadliest places in the war-torn country for civilians.

An AFP reporter at the blast site said the attack happened outside the main entrance to an NDS compound.

Security forces have swarmed the area, closing off the main road leading to the building.

Ambulances were seen leaving the scene, apparently taking casualties to hospitals in the city.

“Our initial information shows a blast took place near an intelligence headquarters in ShashDarak neighbourhood of Kabul,” Deputy Interior Ministry Spokesman NasratRahimi told AFP.

Last week's attack on the NDS was claimed by the militant Islamic State group, which has expanded its presence in Afghanistan since it first appeared in the region in 2015.

It has scaled up its attacks in Kabul, including those on the country's Shia community.

The resurgent Taliban and, increasingly, IS are both stepping up their assaults on security installations and mosques.

On Friday, a suicide bomber drove an explosives-packed Humvee into a police compound in the southern province of Kandahar, killing at least six officers and destroying a building.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the pre-dawn ambush.

Afghan forces, already beset by desertions and corruption, have seen casualties soar to what a US watchdog has described as “shockingly high” levels since Nato forces officially ended their combat mission in 2014 and began a training and support role.

Morale has been further eroded by long-running fears that the militants have insider help everything from infiltrators in the ranks to corrupt Afghan forces selling equipment to the Taliban.

dawn.com/news/1378769/six-dead-in-suicide-attack-near-afghan-spy-agency-compound-officials

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India

Thane School Bans Muslim Girls And Mothers From Wearing Hijab Citing Security Reasons

 

The Symbiosis  School in Mumbra has issued a circular banning Muslim girls and their guardians from wearing hijabs or naqab- veil that covers their faces- citing security reasons.

The circular said students, parents and family members would have to reveal their face by lifting the veil while entering school premises, according to a report by The Indian Express. As per the circular, students would not be allowed to cover their faces even while leaving the school, the report adds.

The report says that many parents have objected to the circular saying that it was an interference with their religious practices. But, some parents have welcomed the decision.

The report quoted School trustee KamalrajDeo who said some students left school in a fully-veiled burkha because of which the security guards often found it difficult to identify girls when their parents come to take them home.

He also said recently there was an attempt to abduct girl students by two women wearing hijabs. According to him, the women, with their faces covered, came to school seeking to take their child home early.  “We summoned the class teacher, but before she could arrive, the two ran away,” he said.

“I don’t intend to hurt any religious sentiments, but on camera, faces need to be revealed, for our records… It is purely for safety reasons,” he said.

Last year, a PIL was filed in the Delhi High Court seeking a ban on burqas and other face veils in public places due to security threat to the capital. However, the HC had said the government will take care of it if it is a policy decision.

In 2015, the Supreme Court had upheld CBSE’s ban on hijab and long sleeves in medical entrance test.

outlookindia.com/website/story/thane-school-bans-muslim-girls-and-mothers-from-wearing-hijab-citing-security-re/305953

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Kulbhushan Jadhav's meeting with mother and wife not the 'last,' clarifies Pakistan

TIMESOFINDIA.COM | Updated: Dec 25, 2017

Shortly after a meeting between jailed Indian national KulbhushanJadhav and his mother and wife, Pakistan was at pains to clarify that this was not their "last meeting"

Jadhav is on death row in Pakistan, for alleged "espionage and sabotage"

KulbhushanJadhav meets his mother and wife. (Twitter/@ForeignOfficePk)KulbhushanJadhav's meeting with mother and wife not the 'last,' clarifies Pakistan

NEW DELHI: Shortly after an interaction between jailed Indian national KulbhushanJadhav and his mother and wife, Pakistan was at pains to clarify that this was not their "last meeting."

"This is not the last meeting. Let me say it categorically," news agency IANS quoted Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal as saying at a press conference after the meeting.

Jadhav is on death row in Pakistan, for alleged "espionage and sabotage."

Faisal claimed that the meeting had not been organised to win the ongoing case at the International Court of Justice.

Pakistan also backtracked from its foreign minister's remarks from Sunday that Indian diplomat JP Singh's presence at the meeting could be called "consular access."

After India refuted the claim, the country's foreign office also explicitly said the meeting did not fall into said category.

"It was a humanitarian meeting, it was not consular access. Indian diplomat JP Singh was present and could see the meeting but was not allowed to meet (Jadhav)," said Faisal.

Read also: After KulbhushanJadhav's meeting with wife and mother, Pakistan releases new video

The meeting at the Pakistan foreign office, held 21 months after his arrest, happened across a glass barrier, with Jadhav on one side, and his wife and mother on the other.

It was extended by 10 minutes following a request from Jadhav.

Pakistan has maintained that it permitted the meeting as a "humanitarian gesture, on the birthday of the father of the nation, Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah".

However, it is suspected that it had more to do with the international pressure surrounding the case, than with any humanitarian considerations.

Jadhav, a 47-year-old retired Indian Navy officer was arrested by Pakistani counter-terrorism officials in March 2016, after being suspected of being involved in subversive activities in Balochistan and Karachi. A military court in April 2017 found him guilty of "espionage and sabotage" and sentenced him to death.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/kulbhushan-jadhavs-meeting-with-mother-and-wife-not-the-last-clarifies-pakistan/articleshow/62241521.cms

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CPM in Kerala bypasses RBI objections, launches foray into Islamic banking in Kannur

 

25 Dec, 2017

 

A move by the previous Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala to open an Islamic bank did not take off due to objections from several quarters, especially the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

However, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) that heads the ruling coalition has found a way out to overcome the objections–open a bank outside the purview of the bank regulator.

The central bank had initially opposed the move stating that it was against the current banking laws. Last month, the RBI passed its final verdict on Islamic banking, saying that it was against the principle of providing wider and equal opportunities to all the citizens to access banking and financial services.

The CPM has bypassed the RBI by launching the Sharia-compliant bank as a society in the primary co-operative sector, which is not governed by the apex bank regulations. The bank called Halal Fayida Co-operative Society was inaugurated by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in Kannur, the cradle of the Communist movement in the state, on 24 December.

Kerala has a large network of primary co-operative societies spread across the state. A large number of these societies function as banks by receiving deposits from public and lending money. Halal Fadiya will be one such institution.

The primary cooperative banks had come under the scanner of RBI and the Income Tax department during demonetisation. A tussle to make them accountable to the IT department has been going on for years, but the state government staunchly opposed such moves saying that the sector was playing an important role in the development of the state.

B Unnikrishnan, former general manager of State Cooperative Bank, said the primary cooperative banks are not being monitored by the RBI since they are being operated under a state Act. They function in Kerala under the State Co-operative Societies Act, 1969. All powers under the Act are vested with the Registrar of State Cooperatives, who comes under the administrative control of the state government.

The previous LDF government led by VS Achuthanandan had proposed the Islamic bank in 2009 under the aegis of Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC), the industrial and investment promotion agency of the state government, with the objective of attracting investments into the cash-strapped state.

The brain behind the move was Finance Minister Thomas Isaac, a neo-liberalist who found the huge sums of money kept outside the formal interest-based banking system by devout Muslims as an alternative to the private capital that the hardliners in his party, including the then chief minister, opposed.

Isaac had targeted mainly Muslims from Kerala working in the Middle East, who are familiar with Islamic banking. According to Centre for Development Studies (CDS), Thiruvananthapuram, Muslims accounted for over 40 percent of the estimated 2.4 million non-resident Keralites and about 45 percent of over Rs.1 lakh foreign remittances the state receives a year now.

After the Islamic bank project hit a roadblock, Isaac mooted Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) to mobilise funds for infrastructure development outside the state budget. However, the CPM was not ready to abandon the Islamic banking project.

The party found the concept financially and political rewarding. The party saw huge potential for Islamic bank in the state since 27 percent of the population is Muslim. A major section of this population has been keeping away the formal banking system in the absence of Sharia-compliant banking institutions.

M Shajir, president of Kannur district Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), the youth wing of the party, who is the chief promoter of Halal Fayida, said they had mooted the idea after it was found that a large section of the Muslim community in the district did not have a bank account.

“A large number of the community keep their money at home. Many lost their savings during the demonetisation period since they could not produce proper documents to show the source of their income. Hence, we decided to come up with a solution to address the issue,” Shajir said.

The CPM found the co-operative sector ideal for the foray into Islamic banking since it has high stakes in the sector. More than 90 percent of the cooperative banks in Kerala are controlled by political parties, according to Unnikrishnan.

Of this, 75 per cent are under the control of the CPM. Unnikrishnan told Firstpost that co-operative banks in Kerala were flush with money unlike in other states. The total deposit base of cooperative banks in Kerala crossed Rs 1.40 lakh crore in 2016, according to the state level bankers committee.

Apart from banks, the CPM has also launched several other commercial ventures such as amusement parks, hospitals, schools, colleges and even manufacturing units in the co-operative sector. Most of these ventures were developed with funds ploughed in from its cooperative institutions.

The biggest benefit of the Islamic bank, however, is the Muslim support. The CPM was finding it difficult to make inroads into the community due to its atheist tag. The party, therefore, has been trying to reach out to the minority community through intermediaries.

The party was able to win a few seats in the Muslim heartland of Malappuram in the last Assembly election by fielding independents. The party leadership believe that initiatives such as Islamic banking will take the party close to the community.

The promoters of the society have secured the support of 21 minority organisations. Shajar said these organisations had bought shares and were spreading the word about the initiative. He hopes that others will also join the society as it will function strictly according to Sharia law.

“Like any other Islamic institution, the society will not pay interest on deposits or charge interest on loans. It will also follow ethical financing practices and refrain from lending money for industries like gambling, pornography and liquor, which are considered forbidden in Islam,” he added.

Shajar said that the bank will invest only in Halal business ventures. It will initially invest the funds in meat processing units, construction and contracting businesses, he added.

Shajar has denied any political motive behind the initiative. He said that it was not aimed at making electoral gains. The CPM is against identity politics and it will never promote it. He said that the bank was open to all. Since it is a cooperative society anybody can buy shares and avail its services.

However, the Hindu organisations see red in the initiative. The Hindu Aikyavedi has viewed it as a communal move aimed at wooing the Muslims. State Bharatiya Janaty Party spokesman, J Padmakumar termed the initiative unconstitutional.

He told Firstpost that the Islamic bank will divide the people on religious lines. He said that the RBI had rejected the concept of Islamic bank as it was against the secular traditions of the state. The CPM is trying to introduce it through the backdoor.

"We fear that the Islamic bank may encourage hawala business and help divisive forces to pump money into the state. This is a very dangerous move. Our party would oppose it,” he added.

firstpost.com/india/cpm-in-kerala-bypasses-rbi-objections-launches-foray-into-islamic-banking-in-kannur-4275097.html

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Pak violates ceasefire on second consecutive day along LoC

Sanjay Khajuria | TNN | Dec 24, 2017

JAMMU: Pakistani troops violated ceasefire agreement along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir's Poonch district on Sunday, just a day after four soldiers were killed in heavy crossfire in Rajouri.

According to sources, Pakistani rangers targeted forward posts and villages in Shahpur sector around 12.55 pm. No casualty was reported and the Indian forces retaliated "strongly and effectively".

Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed a total of 881 ceasefire violations this year along the LoC and the International Border (IB), the highest in the past seven years. There were 449 such violations in 2016. As per reports, the border skirmishes along IB and LoC this year till date has resulted into killing of 34 people, including 14 Army personnel, 12 civilians and four BSF personnel.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pak-violates-ceasefire-on-second-consecutive-day-along-loc/articleshow/62232816.cms

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NIA set to seek ZakirNaik’s provisional arrest in Malaysia

Bharti Jain | TNN | Dec 25, 2017

NEW DELHI: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) will move a request for provisional arrest of controversial televangelist ZakirNaik, believed to be in Malaysia, apart from submitting a fresh plea to Interpol on Tuesday for a red corner notice (RCN) against him.

On receipt of the provisional request for arrest, Malaysia, as per terms of its extradition agreement with India, will be obligated to confirm Naik's location within its jurisdiction and arrest him pending presentation of a formal extradition request by India.

Interpol had earlier this month announced rejection of the NIA's request for a red notice against Naik, stating that no chargesheet was filed against him at the time of submitting that request. However, with the chargesheet filed subsequently in October, the NIA will now submit a copy of that along with the fresh RCN request.

Naik was charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for heading the Islamic Research Foundation, declared 'unlawful' in 2016. The televangelist was last known to be in Malaysia, where he has been granted 'permanent residency'. According to NIA sources, Malaysia will be required to arrest Naik upon receipt of NIA's request for his provisional arrest.

Once the arrest is made, a formal request for his extradition must be moved by India within the next 60 days.

The agencies are moving Interpol for the preacher's provisional arrest as he is known to have been travelling out of Malaysia from time to time.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/nia-set-to-seek-zakir-naiks-provisional-arrest-in-malaysia/articleshow/62236072.cms

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Congress claims govt lacks policy on Pakistan

TNN | Dec 25, 2017

NEW DELHI: A day after crossborder firing killed four Army men including a major, Congress accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of lacking a Pakistan policy, saying it was time the BJP leader told the country why he visited Pakistan two years ago.

Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said ceasefire violations by Pakistan were increasing since the Modi government came to office and the figure stood at 900 in 2017.

"Repeated border transgressions and firing raise fundamental questions which the PM must answer. What is your government's policy towards Pakistan? For the last three and a half years, all the country has seen are flip-flops. Two years ago you went to Pakistan. Why did you go there and then why did you invite the ISI to investigate the Pathankot terror attack when the finger of complicity pointed to the Pakistani establishment. How long will Indian soldiers keep getting martyred in the absence of a policy?" Tewari asked.

He said the Modi government's "cluelessness" on the recalcitrant neighbour was in stark contrast to BJP's belligerence when it was in the opposition. Raising Modi's remarks that former PM Manmohan Singh was colluding with Pakistan, Tewari said, "During Gujarat elections, you pointed fingers at honourable people who have held top positions in government and accused Pakistan of destabilising the government."

The spokesman said India was getting isolated in the neighbourhood, claiming the new government in Nepal was not inclined towards India while the Chinese influence in Sri Lanka was getting worrisome and Maldives had signed a free trade agreement with China without informing India.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/congress-claims-govt-lacks-policy-on-pakistan/articleshow/62236147.cms

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Pakistan

Bacha Khan University bars male and female students from 'sitting idle' together

Abdullah MalikDecember 25, 2017

Charsadda's Bacha Khan University administration sent out a notification earlier this month banning male students or employees from "idle sitting" or roaming with female students, a move which stirred a controversy on social media after the notification became public on Monday.

The notification, issued by the university's Chief Proctor Muhammad Shakeel, also imposed a ban on smoking, the use of chaadar, using the rooftops of campus buildings and ragging new students.

University spokesperson Saeed Khan, however, denied knowledge of any such notification while speaking to the media.

Dr Shakeel, on the other hand, defended the move while speaking to the media, DawnNews reported. He said that the decision had been taken in the larger interest of the students "as they waste a lot of their time roaming around the campus".

He strongly denied the notion that the university was being turned into a madrassah.

The university was forced to close in January 2016 for two weeks after an attack on its campus claimed over 20 lives.

dawn.com/news/1378779/bacha-khan-university-bars-male-and-female-students-from-sitting-idle-together

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Hafiz Saeed opens MML office in NA-120

December 25, 2017

LAHORE: Notwithstanding the opposition by the interior ministry to entry of offshoots of proscribed entities into the national political arena, JamaatudDawa Emir Hafiz Muhammad Saeed opened an office of a subsidiary of the JuD here on Sunday.

The JuD chief visited different areas of National Assembly constituency NA-120, the Lahore seat the Sharifs had never lost since their debut in politics in 1985 here.

He inaugurated an office of the Milli Muslim League (MML), the political face of the JuD, on Mohni Road and listened to civic problems of the area people.

The MML, which surfaced in the by-polls for NA-120 in September this year and gained fourth position with votes double than the tally of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Jamaat-i-Islami combined, is yet to be registered with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The interior ministry has opposed registration of the MML as a political party terming it an offshoot of banned outfits.

People welcomed Hafiz Saeed by showering rose petals on his vehicle in Kasurpura, Chaudhry Park and Outfall Road.

dawn.com/news/1378682/hafiz-saeed-opens-mml-office-in-na-120

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I was the first chief minister to address the existence of death squads in Balochistan: Abdul Malik Baloch

 

Law and order in Balochistan has been bad recently. Last month, the bullet-riddled bodies of at least 20 young men were discovered in Kech district, near the Pak-Iran border. They were passing through the province apparently on their way to Europe as illegal migrants when unknown gunmen killed them. They all came from various districts in central Punjab.

More recently, on November 25, a suicide bomb attack in Quetta targeted a Frontier Corps convoy, leaving at least five people dead and injuring a further 26. The police in Balochistan have also found themselves under renewed attack. Since October, at least 10 policemen have been killed in and around Quetta alone. Two senior officers, an additional inspector general and a superintendent of police, were among the dead. The Hazara community, too, is facing a new wave of violence. At least 13 members of the community have been killed since June this year. Many more have been injured in targeted attacks.

All this while there have been rising concerns that Balochistan’s resources are not benefitting its own people. In October, the government signed an agreement with a Chinese firm, extending its lease till 2022 to mine gold and copper from Saindak in Chagai district. Though the company shares 25 per cent of its profit with Pakistani authorities, only a fraction of it goes to Balochistan. Later, on November 24, Federal Minister for Ports and Shipping Mir HasilBizenjo informed the Senate that 91 per cent of the income to be generated from Gwadar port would go to China. The remaining amount will go to the Gwadar Port Authority.

Abdul Malik Baloch is well-placed to make informed comments on such developments. A senior member of the National Party, which is one of the constituents of the coalition government in Balochistan, he also worked as the province’s chief minister from 2013-2015.

Unlike many senior Baloch politicians, he comes from a middle-class family from Turbat in southern Balochistan. An ophthalmologist by training, he started taking part in politics when he was studying medicine. In 1988-1990, he served as Balochistan’s minister for health and then as provincial education minister for a year in 1993. He was a member of the Senate between 2006 and 2012 and has played a major role in the drafting of the landmark 18th Constitutional Amendment that was passed in 2010, which increased the level of provincial autonomy in the administrative, financial, social and economic sectors. Here, he shares his views with the Herald on a range of issues facing Balochistan.

Shah Meer Baloch. Your critics say you did not fight for Balochistan’s rights the way you should have when you were chief minister. What do you say?

Abdul Malik Baloch. That is not the reality. Baloch identity, Baloch survival and control of Baloch coasts and natural resources are the goals that have always driven our politics. I do not like confrontation without good reason but I do want the rights of the Baloch to be given to them. The federal government should give us our rights because in the 21st century the Baloch cannot live in darkness. This is the position I took whenever I felt the need to talk about the rights of the Baloch — whether it was the issue of [gold and copper mines] at RekoDiq, or the census or development funding for the province.

I stopped the land mafia in Gwadar to a large extent and also returned land to its original owners who were poor and needy. Approximately 100,000 acres of land were transferred to the Balochistan government [from the federal authorities]. The problem over Gwadar port’s [ownership] has been long in the making. In the era of Pervez Musharraf, the port was given to Singapore. Then during the government of the Pakistan Peoples Party, its ownership shares were sold to the Chinese. All this happened before my term in office began [and I could not undo it].

I tried my best to save the mineral reserves of RekoDiq safe [from outside interests] for two-and-a-half years — until the case was shifted to the International Court of Arbitration. When it comes to missing persons, we already know that their number is reported to have greatly decreased even if the issue is not completely resolved.

I appealed twice to the Council of Common Interests to resolve the issue of Afghan immigrants and made it clear that they must not be counted in the census. Since it is an international matter, the federal government extended [their stay] but we succeeded in [ensuring] that Afghan immigrants were not counted in the recent census. The fear of the Baloch majority becoming a minority in its own province vanished when the National Party took lead on the issue.

Only during my term in office, the federal government gave Balochistanall its rightful share in the federal funds. Earlier, if the federal government talked of giving 500 million rupees, it released only 100 million rupees. I ensured that all designated funds were received and spent on their intended purposes.

Shah Meer Baloch. During your tenure as chief minister, you started a dialogue with Baloch separatist activists living abroad. What happened to that?

Abdul Malik Baloch. When I took office, I made it clear to the federal government and the military establishment that the issue of insurgency in Balochistan could only be resolved through political dialogue. I had full support of the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif and the military establishment. The dialogue I started received a positive response from exiled Baloch leaders. I met Mir Suleman Dawood Jan Ahmedzai, the Khan of Kalat, and BrahumdaghBugti. Both agreed to come back [to Pakistan] after putting their demands on the government’s table. But I do not know what happened to the dialogue after I left office.

Shah Meer Baloch. The Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) claims that it is targeting your party because of your association with death squads set up to counter Baloch insurgents. How do you respond to this claim?

Abdul Malik Baloch. This is totally false. I was the first chief minister to address the existence of death squads. I retracted many identification cards issued to members of death squads. I believe I have greatly succeeded in this.

The National Party does not have any kind of connection to death squads. The BLF said this only to hide its own nefarious acts. All these militant organisations fighting in the name of freedom have promoted the idea of a civil war in the Baloch society. They should stop this now. They have been killing Baloch civilians and political workers in the name of countering the military establishment or security agencies.

Shah Meer Baloch. Will your party join hands with the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-Mengal) to work for the interests of the Baloch together?

Abdul Malik Baloch. My party has always wanted good ties with BNP-Mengal but this has never been reciprocated. We need good ties between the two parties so that we can solve such issues as the presence of Afghan immigrants in Balochistan with mutual understanding.

Shah Meer Baloch. The madrasa system is said to be penetrating your home division of Makran. Do you see this as a threat to nationalist politics?

Abdul Malik Baloch. Baloch society, as a whole, used to be secular and liberal. But for the last 30 years, the Afghan war and other ill-fated policies have affected Balochistan very negatively. As a result, religious extremism came to the province in the form of Shia-Sunni conflict. Extremism has been instilled in Balochistan since the time of ZiaulHaq in a very conscious and pre-planned way, although its strength has waxed and waned with the passage of time.

Shah Meer Baloch. The presence of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group is a new major threat to Balochistan. How do you view it?

Abdul Malik Baloch. Religious extremism in Balochistan has taken the form of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and al-Qaeda, etc. Now IS poses a bigger threat than other militant groups. I cannot say if it already has its organisational setup [in the province] but it is not difficult for extremists to establish their networks in Balochistan because members of extremist groups keep moving from one place to another.

herald.dawn.com/news/1153954/i-was-the-first-chief-minister-to-address-the-existence-of-death-squads-in-balochistan-abdul-malik-baloch

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Pakistan to open schools in Gulf countries for overseas children

December 25, 2017

Pakistani schools would be set up in Gulf countries to help provide affordable education for children of the overseas Pakistani community, Barrister Amjad Malik, the head of the board of governors of Overseas Pakistanis Foundation (OPF), told APP on Sunday.

He said that the government launched various welfare programmes for overseas Pakistanis. It is the responsibility of government to provide maximum facilities to over 90 million overseas Pakistanis, he added.

The Overseas Pakistanis Advisory Council (OPAC) was playing a leading role in pursuing the interests of the community, he said, adding that the issues of the overseas community would be resolved on a priority basis.

Barrister Amjad Malik said that the number of overseas Pakistanis in Gulf countries had been declining due to the political and economic situations of the Gulf. Pakistan was looking for new labour markets to reduce unemployment, he added.

He said he personally visited 23 countries and held meetings with overseas Pakistanis, addressed their issues and informed them about the upcoming welfare projects.

Malik expressed his hope that in near future, overseas Pakistanis would get representation in the parliament and overseas banks would also be set up at embassy level to facilitate overseas Pakistanis.

He said that more housing schemes would be launched for expatriates and the OPF is planning to provide low-cost housing to the families of deceased Overseas Pakistanis.

He said 300 houses would be handed over to the overseas allottees in Zone-V within in three months and after another three months, 300 more houses would be handed over to the owners.

dawn.com/news/1378599/pakistan-to-open-schools-in-gulf-countries-for-overseas-children

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Arab World

Syrian Mufti Calls on Christians, Muslims to Unite against US Quds Move

December, 25, 2017

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Grand Mufti of Syria Sheikh Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun called on Muslims and Christians around the world to unite against US President Donald Trump’s recent decision to declare al-Quds (Jerusalem) as the Israeli regime’s capital.

Speaking to Lebanon’s Arabic-language Al Mayadeen TV, Sheikh Hassoun called on Christians and the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, to voice their protest against the US decision.

The Syrian cleric also called on all Christians and Muslims around the globe to unite against Washington’s planned move to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Quds.

Sheikh Hassoun’s remarks came after more than 100 countries defied Trump on Thursday and voted in favor of a United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for the United States to withdraw its decision to recognize Quds as Israel’s capital.

Trump officially declared the disputed city Israel's capital, despite warnings from around the world that the measure risks triggering a fresh wave of violence in the Middle East.

In a speech at the White House on December 6, Trump said his administration would also begin a years-long process of moving the American embassy in Tel Aviv to the holy city.

The announcement was a major shift by Washington that overturns decades of US foreign policy.

Palestinian leaders had previously warned the move would threaten a two-state solution.

Israel has occupied East Quds since the 1967 Middle East war. It annexed the area in 1980 and sees it as its exclusive domain. Under international law, the area is considered to be occupied territory.

tasnimnews.com/en/news/2017/12/25/1610805/syrian-mufti-calls-on-christians-muslims-to-unite-against-us-quds-move

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Mosul celebrates first post-IS Christmas

AFP | Dec 24, 2017

MOSUL (IRAQ): Hymns filled today a church in Iraq's second city Mosul as worshippers celebrated Christmas for the first time in four years after the end of jihadist rule.

Tens of thousands of Christians fled northern Iraqi towns in 2014 as the Islamic State group seized Mosul and swathes of the surrounding Nineveh province.

But Iraqi forces expelled the jihadists from the city this year after months of battle, allowing Christians to return to pray at Saint Paul's church.

This morning, the patriarch of Iraq's Chaldean Catholic Church, Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, called on dozens to pray for "peace and stability in Mosul, Iraq and the world".

Muslims, as well as local and military officials, stood with Christian worshippers amid the candles and Christmas trees.

On the church's walls, white sheets covered up window frames blasted empty in the war.

Armoured vehicles sat outside the church, where the portrait of a Christian killed under IS rule was displayed as a reminder of the city's grim recent history.

FarqadMalko, a Christian woman in the congregation, said celebrating the mass on Christmas Eve was "important to relaunch Christian life" in the city.

She is one of the few to have returned to the area after Iraqi forces defeated IS in the city in July.

She said she was determined "to work and go to church in Mosul".

The jihadists' defeat is a massive turnaround for an organisation that once ruled over millions of people in a territory as big as Italy encompassing large parts of Syria and nearly a third of Iraq.

This month Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory in the three-year campaign backed by a US-led coalition to expel IS from Iraq.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/mosul-celebrates-first-post-is-christmas/articleshow/62233334.cms

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Terrorists Plunder Museum's Artifacts in Northwestern Syria

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Al-Nusra Front (Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at or the Levant Liberation Board) has started looting a number of historical artifacts from one of the most important museums of the country in Idlib city, local sources reported on Monday.

The sources said that the Al-Nusra has transferred secretly the entire historical artifacts and precious collections from an important museum in Idlib city to an unknown location in the last few days without informing the museum's staff.

The sources said that a group of Al-Nusra terrorists from Hama province tried a week ago to enter the national museum but faced the guards, adding that the Al-Nusra group later called on opposition-affiliated Civil Department and took permission to enter the museum.

The council further dismissed the guards and appointed new guards for the museum, the sources added.

The museum- that is one of the most important museums in Syria, was built in 1987 and was home to a large number of valuable monuments and artifacts from several regions of the province whose antiquity date back to the third millennium BC up to Islamic era. 

An Arab media outlet reported in November that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) excavated several historical regions in Aleppo province and transferred a number of artifacts to a US-run base in the Northern part of the province.

The Arabic-language al-Watan online quoted well-informed sources as reporting that the SDF started to dig in several regions close to the town of Manbij in Northeastern Aleppo.

It went on to say that the SDF's excavation operation was carried out mainly near the al-Feran al-Ehti'yati (the reserve furnace) region in the town of Manbij, adding that the SDF did not allow any civilians to enter or ever approach the excavation sites.

Al-Watan further said that a large ancient inscription on stone was unearthed in excavation operation, adding that the SDF later transferred the inscription stone by several trucks to a US-run base near the small town of Tharin close to Manbij.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961004000950

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Terrorist Groups Continue to Kidnap Each Others' Members in Northern Syria

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Local sources in Northwestern Aleppo reported on Monday that the Al-Nusra Front (Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at or the Levant Liberation Board) and its rival Nouralddeen al-Zinki terrorist group have started arresting each others' members again amid continued infighting.

The sources reported that militants of Nouralddeen al-Zinki have captured a number of Al-Nusra members in Northwestern Aleppo as they were returning from their positions in the town of Anadan and Hayan in Northern Aleppo.

They added that Al-Nusra terrorists, meantime, captured a number of al-Zinki fighters in Jam'iyat al-Rahal region near the town of Kafr Naha in Western Aleppo. 

In relevant developments but in Idlib province earlier today the Al-Nusra Front kidnapped and executed Former Commander of Jund al-Malahem Ahmad al-Jazar that had recently defected the Al-Nusra in the village of Abdita in Jabal al-Zawiyeh in Southern Idlib.

In the meantime, a group of Al-Nusra members stormed the command center of a battalion affiliated to Saraqi Brigade-Free Army terrorist group and stole weapons and vehicles in the centers in SoutheasternIdlib.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961004001054

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Six Islamic State Militants Involved In Killing Policeman, Killed In Kirkuk

Dec 25, 2017

Kirkuk (IraqiNews.com) Six militants, involved in killing a policeman and his son, were killed in southwest of Kirkuk, a commander has announced.

“Military units managed to kill three Islamic State militants, who are involved in killing Colonel Fadel Saeed al-Sabaawi, his son and four paramilitary personnel on Sunday on the road linking between Hawija and Riyad,” Maj. Gen. Ali FadelUmran, Commander of Kirkuk Operations, told Alghad Press on Monday.

“The operation to follow the militants took place at al-Saadiya village in Hawija, southwest of Kirkuk,” Umran added. “Al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces ) killed three other militants in south of Kirkuk.”

Several militants killed on Sunday a chief of police department and his son, as they set up an ambush on the road between Kirkuk and Hawija.

Earlier on the day, security troops in Kirkuk announced applying a one-week plan to protect civilians during the celebrations of Christmas and the New Year at the province.

Officials in the province of Kirkuk previously urged reinforcing military troops in the south and west, as the region still have IS members who escaped during liberation offensives of Hawija and mainly in houses and tunnels at remote areas in Riyad, al-Rashad and between al-Abbassi and Dibis.

The Joint Operations Command announced in October the liberation of each of Hawija, Riyad and al-Rashad. Over 1,300 members were killed during offensives to free Hawija, while over 800 members were killed during the second phase of operations.

iraqinews.com/iraq-war/six-islamic-state-involved-killing-policeman-killed-kirkuk/

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Al-Nusra One Step Closer to Full Collapse in Southwestern Damascus

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army troops drove the Al-Nusra Front (Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at or the Levant Liberation Board) out of more regions in Southwestern Damascus, pushing the terrorists towards complete failure and collapse, field sources said on Monday.

The sources said that the army men advanced against the Al-Nusra towards Beit Jinn Farm and took control of Naba'a al-Manbaj and deployed 800 meters away from Sheikh Abdullah Maqam and building blocks in Beit Jinn Farm.

The sources said that a large number of Al-Nusra terrorists were killed or wounded in the attacks, adding that the army has tightened siege on terrorists' main supply line between Beit Jinn Farm and the small town of Mughur al-Mir.

In the meantime, the army's missile units targeted a military vehicle of the Al-Nusra in Beit Jinn Farm, killing the terrorists on board.  

Relevant reports said on Sunday that the army men engaged in a fresh round of clashes with the Al-Nusra in Southwestern Damascus and pushed them away from Khirbet Harqal near al-Hanaker Northeast of Harfa on the slopes of Jabal (mount) al-Sheikh near the border with Quneitra province.

Khirbet Harqal was one of the main strongholds of Al-Nusra in al-HaramounTajamo region from which the terrorist group's mortar and missile units were targeting the villages of Harfa and al-Maqrouseh.

The army men imposed full military control over Beit Jinn Farm and its road to the town of Beit Jinn after taking back Khirbet al-Harqal. 

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961004000443

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Army Imposes Control over Terrorists' Key Bastion in Damascus

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army units managed to take control of terrorists' strategic military stronghold in Southwestern Damascus, killing scores of militants and injuring many more in heavy clashes.

Al-Nusra Front (Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at or the Levant Liberation Board) sustained heavy losses and casualties in fierce clashes with the government forces in Southwestern Damascus.

The army also hit hard the military positions of the terrorists in other key provinces across Syria.

Damascus

The Syrian Army troops continued to hit the strongholds of the al-Nusra Front in Southwestern Damascus on Sunday and imposed control over a key position used by terrorists to launch attacks on government forces.

The army men engaged in a fresh round of clashes with the Al-Nusra in Southwestern Damascus and pushed them away from Khirbet Harqal near al-Hanaker Northeast of Harfa on the slopes of Jabal (mount) al-Sheikh near the border with Quneitra province.

Khirbet Harqal was one of the main strongholds of Al-Nusra in al-HaramounTajamo region from which the terrorist group's mortar and missile units were targeting the villages of Harfa and al-Maqrouseh.

The army men imposed full military control over Beit Jinn Farm and its road to the town of Beit Jinn after taking back Khirbet al-Harqal.

Hama

The Syrian Army soldiers carried out a preemptive strike on a group of terrorists and killed all the militants before they could attack the pro-government forces' strongholds in Northern Hama, military sources confirmed on Sunday.

The sources said that a group of terrorists that were planning to storm the army positions from Jurf al-Asi region near al-Zalaqiyat in Northern Hama were hit by the army men in a preemptive assault.

The terrorists came in the army's trap and suffered a heavy death toll.

In the meantime, the army's artillery shelled the remaining pockets of the terrorist group, leaving the entire members of the group dead.

Field sources said earlier on Sunday that hundreds of Liwa al-Quds Palestinian fighters-that had previously been dispatched to DeirEzzur-were sent to Northern Hama to take part in an imminent large-scale operation against the Al-Nusra Front in Idlib province.

The sources added that the army men have had the terrorists under continued and vast artillery fire in Northern Hama in the last few days, including terrorists' strongholds in the towns of Kafr Zita and al-Latamina.

Meantime, Aqaba Riyadh al-Ali'awi, a notorious terrorist commander, was killed in a Syrian Army operation against the Al-Nusra Front in Northern Hama, field sources reported on Sunday.

The sources said that the army men engaged in heavy fighting with Al-Nusra in al-Musheirefeh and al-Latamina regions, killing a number of militants and destoning their equipment.

They further said that Aqaba Riyadh al-Ali'awi, a field commander of Jeish al-Izzah in the town of al-Latamina in Northern Hama, was also killed in the army attack.

Field sources said earlier on Sunday that hundreds of Liwa al-Quds Palestinian fighters - that had previously been dispatched to DeirEzzur - were sent to Northern Hama to take part in an imminent large-scale operation against the Al-Nusra Front in Idlib province.

The sources added that the army men have had the terrorists under continued and vast artillery fire in Northern Hama in the last few days, including terrorists' strongholds in the towns of Kafr Zita and al-Latamina.

Idlib

The Russian Air Force continued to hit Southern Idlib on Sunday morning, striking several regions under the control of Al-Nusra Front.

Russian jets flying out of the Humeimim Airport in Jableh began the day by relentlessly bombing the Al-Nusra positions in the town of Abu Dali in Southern Idlib, the AMN reported.

Following the airstrikes on Abu Dali, the Russians targeted several other areas controlled by the Al-Nusra, including the towns of Mosheirefeh, al-Latamina, Al-Rahjan and Kafr Zita.

The Russian airstrikes came just hours after the Syrian Army launched more than 100 surface-to-surface missiles towards terrorists' positions in Northern Hama.

Lattakia

The Syrian Army has dispatched soldiers and military hardware to Northern Lattakia after Ahrar al-Sham terrorist groups reinvigorated its presence, a field source said on Sunday.

The sources said that the army has forwarded hundreds of fresh forces and a large volume of military equipment to Northern Lattakia, adding that Ahrar al-Sham, meantime, has sent more militants and heavy weapons to the region.

The sources said that last round of clashes between the army and the terrorist groups in the region took place in June 2016 and lasted until August of the same year.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961004000277

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Syrian Army Evacuates Safely Tens of Refugees from Camp in Region Controlled by US-Backed Militants

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army troops transferred safely ten families from al-Rukban refugee camp in a region under the control of the US-backed militant groups near the border with Jordan, military sources confirmed on Monday.

The sources said that the army units paved the ground for evacuating 70 refugees from 10 families from al-Rukban camp near the border with Jordan.

The sources further said that the refugees - that were mainly children and women - returned to their villages and region in Eastern Homs after the army guaranteed their safe passage.

Humanitarian condition in al-Rukban has deteriorated due to the militant groups' control over the region, the sources said, adding that terrorists do not allow dispatch of medicine and food stuff to the camp.    

A source familiar with the situation reported earlier this month that militant groups blocked roads and forbade refugees from leaving the al-Rukban camp, located in the US zone of influence on the Syria-Jordan border.

"QuwwatShahid Ahmad Abdu militants installed roadblocks in the al-Tanf region and are not allowing refugees to leave the al-Rukban camp, who are trying to leave the US-controlled 55 –kilometer zone," the source said.

Back in October, the Russian Defense Ministry accused the US of establishing a training camp for militants near al-Rukban to create a new "moderate opposition," slamming Washington's move as "a war crime," since it prevented the Syrian government from setting up a safe corridor for the delivery of humanitarian supplies to refugees.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961004000386

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Iran Downplays US MPs' Letter, Stresses IAEA Role to Certify Compliance with N. Deal

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Iranian foreign ministry played down a letter sent by 24 Republican members of the US House to the secretaries of state and defense claiming Tehran's violation of the 2015 nuclear deal, stressing that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is the only authority vested with the power of verifying Iran's compliance.

"We don’t listen to such vain and illogical words and they shouldn’t be taken seriously and we don’t expect to hear right and correct words from the Americans about Iran," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi told reporters in his weekly press conference in Tehran on Monday.

He underlined that judgment on Iran's compliance with the nuclear deal can only be made by the IAEA and not the US Congress, advising the European countries not to be fooled by the US mischiefs in issues related to the nuclear deal.

Iran and the Group 5+1 (the US, Russia, China, Britain and France plus Germany) signed the nuclear agreement on July 14, 2015 and started implementing it on January 16, 2016.

Under the JCPOA, Iran undertook to put limits on its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of nuclear-related sanctions imposed against Tehran.

The IAEA has already issued 9 reports verifying Iran’s full compliance with the agreement.

Trump’s refusal to certify Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA did not constitute a US exit from the accord.

The other parties to the accord - Britain, Germany, France, Russia, China and the European Union - have all reaffirmed their commitment to it and urged the United States not to back out.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961004000833

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SDF Declares War on Turkish Forces in Afrin

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced that its forces are well-prepared to face the Turkish army and its affiliated military groups after the Turkish forces threatened to attack the town of Afrin in Northwestern Aleppo, a media outlet reported on Monday.

Al-Sharq al-Awsat daily quoted Head of the Democratic Unity Joint Party Ayesha Hasou as saying that the entire residents in the town of Afrin are at the highest level of preparedness to defend their town against possible attack by the Turkish troops and their affiliated militants.

Hasou further told the paper that ever since the escalation of crisis in Syria, Afrin has been under siege in three directions and from the side of Turkey, has been under repeated air attacks and different threats.

"Afrin will be turned into Turkish invaders' graveyard similar to Kobani and Raqqa that became the graveyards of ISIL," she underlined.    

The Kurdish-language Hawar news reported on Sunday that the Turkey-backed militant groups' missile and artillery units launched a heavy shelling on the villages of Sankarli, Khirbet Shera, Basoufian and Ba'eiyeh in Shera region in Afrin.

Hawar news also quoted al-Bab Military Council as reporting that the Turkish army men have conducted attacks on several villages North of al-Bab, arresting a large number of civilians, including 40 Kurds and transferred them to an unknown destination.

Most of the arrests are happening in the villages of Tal Batal, Qa'arKalbin, Jadoud and the small town of Qabassin whose residents are mostly Kurds.    

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=1396100400062

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Syrian Army Utilizing Cutting-Edge Anti-Tank Missile System in Southwestern Damascus

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army's artillery units have been using first generation Russia-made Malyutka anti-tank missile system to hit the strongholds of the terrorist groups in Southwestern Damascus, a Russian media outlet reported on Monday.

According to the Arabic-language website of Russia's state news agency, Sputnik, the Malyutka anti-tank missile system has been designed to destroy armored vehicles, but the army used it to destroy terrorists' positons in Southwestern Damascus.

Sputnik further added that Malyutka missile's effective range is 3 km and can move at the speed of 120 meters per second, adding that the missile's length is 86 cm while its weight is 11 kg.

The army is also utilizing Konkurs, Metis and Kornet guided anti-tank missiles in war on terrorism across the country.

The Sputnik reported on Sunday that the army's artillery units were using ZU-23 cannons that were mounted on armored vehicles to target terrorists' positions in Beit Jinn and Mughur al-Mir in Southwestern Damascus.

It added that the terrorists' heavy counter-attacks made the army men use ZSU-23 autocannons known as Shilka to target accurately the terrorists' positions.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961004000996

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Iran Blasts Saudi FM for "Big Lies"

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Iranian foreign ministry lashed out at Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir for his "big lies" and allegations that Tehran is supporting terrorism, reminding him of Iran's pioneering role in fighting terrorist groups.

"Such comments don’t need a response; the reality is that the era of big lies and such lies has ended and today we are living in the world of communications and everyone is aware of the Islamic Republic of Iran's policies and Iran's practical measures in the fight against terrorism," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi told reporters in Tehran on Monday.

He advised the Saudi top diplomat not to be proud of the goods and weapons that his country has purchased from foreign states with petrodollars, stressing that they can be effective in short term but will bring bad reputation and disgrace for him and his government in the long run.

In relevant remarks in 2016, Qassemi had blasted Saudi Arabia for spreading the Wahhabism ideology in a bid to increase the terrorist and extremist activities in the Middle East.

"The world has come to learn that Saudi Arabia and Wahhabism, the radical ideology freely preached in the Arab country, are to blame for the violent acts of extremism in the Middle East region and elsewhere," Qassemi said.

The Iranian foreign ministry spokesman reiterated that Saudi Arabia’s attempts to cover up its role in the spread of terrorism and extremism in the region have failed.

"Despite Saudi Arabia’s constant attempts to hide such realities as its involvement in the world’s most horrific terrorist operation and child-killing in Yemen by using petrodollars, today, the world has well learned that the source of these scourges is the Saudi regime and the fake ideology of Wahhabism, which is the basis for the country’s political livelihood,” Qassemi added.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961004000949

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Mideast

Anti-Saudi rally in Bahrain in solidarity with oppressed Shia Muslims

December 25, 2017

According to the Manama Post, Buri, al-Malikiya, and al-Murkh are among the areas in Bahrain that have been the scene of demonstrations against the Al Saud regime’s crimes against Shia Muslims in Saudi Arabia’s Qatif and al-Awamiyah.

(AhlulBayt News Agency) - People in different parts of Bahrain have been holding rallies in recent days in solidarity with the oppressed Shia Muslims of Saudi Arabia.

According to the Manama Post, Buri, al-Malikiya, and al-Murkh are among the areas in Bahrain that have been the scene of demonstrations against the Al Saud regime’s crimes against Shia Muslims in Saudi Arabia’s Qatif and al-Awamiyah.

The demonstrators have also voiced protest against continued detention of the leader of Bahraini Shias Sheikh IssaQassem.

Since 2011, Saudi Arabia’s Shia-majority Eastern Province has been the scene of anti-regime demonstrations, with the protesters calling for freedom of speech, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination exercised by authorities.

The Riyadh regime has responded with a brutal crackdown on dissent.

Since May, Saudi regime forces have imposed a deadly crackdown on Awamiyah – the hometown of late prominent Shia cleric Sheikh NimrBaqir al-Nimr, whose execution by the Al Saud regime drew firm international condemnation and sparked mass protests across the Middle East.

Saudi authorities call the clampdown a “security campaign” against gunmen there, and have launched almost daily attacks against the town, destroying residential areas, setting fire to buildings, and reportedly threatening the residents to either leave or face potentially deadly swoops. 

en.abna24.com/news/bahrain/anti-saudi-rally-in-bahrain-in-solidarity-with-oppressed-shia-muslims_874080.html

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Al Khalifa court sentences 6 Shia Bahrainis to death

Mon 25 December 2017

TEHRAN, Dec. 25 (MNA) – A military court of Al Khalifa regime has sentenced four Shia Bahrainis to death on false charges of having planned to assassinate the country’s commander of armed forces.

Under the verdicts issued on Monday amid silence from the international community, the four Shia Bahrainis sentenced to death have also been stripped of their citizenships.

Those sentenced to death are Adil Mubarak, Sayyad Fazil Sayyad Abbas, Sayyad Alawi al-Mousavi, Sayyad Morteza al-Sanadi, Muhammad al-Mutaghwi, and Habib al-Jamri.

The military court also sentenced seven other defendants in this case to seven years in prison, in addition to revoking their citizenship.

Meanwhile, the military court acquitted five others of all charges. 

en.mehrnews.com/news/130625/Al-Khalifa-court-sentences-6-Shia-Bahrainis-to-death

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Pope calls for peace in Jerusalem in Christmas message

AFP | Dec 25, 2017

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis called for "peace for Jerusalem" and "mutual trust" on the Korean peninsula as he highlighted the suffering of children in conflicts across the world in his Christmas address on Monday.

In the traditional "Urbi et Orbi" address in Saint Peter's Square, the pontiff spoke of "growing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians", hoping that the "will to resume dialogue may prevail between the parties and that a negotiated solution can finally be reached, one that would allow the peaceful coexistence of two states".

"Let us pray that confrontation may be overcome on the Korean peninsula and that mutual trust may increase in the interest of the world as a whole," the pope said.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/europe/pope-calls-for-peace-in-jerusalem-in-christmas-message/articleshow/62241043.cms

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Jerusalem violence, rain put damper on Bethlehem Christmas

AP | Dec 25, 2017

BETHLEHEM: It was a subdued Christmas Eve in the traditional birthplace of Jesus on Sunday, with spirits dampened by cold, rainy weather and recent violence sparked by President Donald Trump's recognition of nearby Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Crowds were thinner than previous years as visitors, especially Arab Christians living in Israel and the West Bank, appeared to be deterred by clashes that have broken out in recent weeks between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces. Although there was no violence Sunday, Palestinian officials scaled back the celebrations in protest.

Claire Degout, a tourist from France, said she would not allow Trump's pronouncement, which has infuriated the Palestinians and drawn widespread international opposition, affect her decision to celebrate Christmas in the Holy Land.

"The decision of one man cannot affect all the Holy Land," she said. "Jerusalem belongs to everybody, you know, and it will be always like that, whatever Trump says."

Trump abandoned decades of American policy Dec. 6 by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and saying he would move the U.S. Embassy to the holy city.

Trump said the move merely recognizes the fact that Jerusalem already serves as Israel's capital and that he was not prejudging negotiations on the city's final borders. But Palestinians, who seek Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as their capital, saw the declaration as unfairly siding with Israel. On Thursday, the U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to reject Trump's decision. The Old City, in east Jerusalem, is home to sensitive Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites.

The announcement triggered weeks of unrest in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including near-daily clashes in Bethlehem, which lies just south of Jerusalem.

By midafternoon, hundreds of people had gathered in Manger Square near the city's main Christmas for celebrations, greeted by bagpipe-playing young Palestinian marching bands and scout troops. Accompanying the decorations was a large banner protesting Trump's Jerusalem declaration.

But after nightfall, the crowds had thinned as rain fell and temperatures dipped to about 9 degrees (49 F). Just a few dozen people milled about Manger Square, while others took shelter in the church and other nearby buildings.

Bethlehem's mayor, Anton Salman, said celebrations were toned down because of anger over Trump's decision.

"We decided to limit the Christmas celebrations to the religious rituals as an expression of rejection and anger and sympathy with the victims who fell in the recent protests," he said.

Next to the square was a poster that read "Manger Square appeal" and "(hash)handsoffjerusalem."

"We want to show the people that we are people who deserve life, deserve our freedom, deserve our independence, deserve Jerusalem as our capital," he said.

Archbishop PierbattistaPizzaballa, the apostolic administrator of Jerusalem, the top Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land, crossed through an Israeli military checkpoint to enter Bethlehem from Jerusalem. His black limousine was escorted by a group of men on motorcycles, some of them wearing red Santa hats.

Pizzaballa, who last week rejected the U.S. decision, tried to steer clear of politics. He waved to the crowd, shook hands and hugged well-wishers.

"Now it's time to enjoy," he said. "We as Christians we will enjoy, despite all the difficulties we have. Merry Christmas."

But in his homily during midnight Mass, Pizzaballa prayed for the peace of Jerusalem and appealed to politicians "to have courage" to make bold decisions that respect all peoples. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a Muslim, was among those in attendance.

"There is no peace if someone is excluded. Jerusalem should include, not exclude," Pizzaballa said. "The mother, Jerusalem is our mother, loves all her children. If one is missing, the mother cannot be in peace."

"We need vision," he added. "And despite the many disappointments of the past and of the present days, with determination, do not abandon having a vision, but on the contrary, even more than before, let yourself be provoked by the cry of the poor and the afflicted."

James Thorburn, a visitor from London, said it was important to enjoy the holiday and show solidarity with Bethlehem's residents.

"I know that a lot of people did cancel," he said. "I felt I should come to support the Palestinians."

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/jerusalem-violence-rain-put-damper-on-bethlehem-christmas/articleshow/62236206.cms

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Turkey dismisses over 2,700 in post-coup purges

AFPUpdated December 25, 2017

ANKARA: The Turkish government on Sunday ordered the sacking of more than 2,700 people working in public institutions over their alleged links to “terror” groups, in the latest round of purges since last year’s failed coup.

In a separate emergency decree, the country’s defence procurement agency was ordered to answer to President RecepTayyip Erdogan instead of the defence ministry in a move widely viewed as a further expansion of his powers.

Turkey’s intelligence service (MIT) also came under Mr Erdogan’s control in August.

A total of 2,756 people, including academics, soldiers and military personal, were removed from different bodies, including the interior, foreign and defence ministries, according to the Official Gazette. All those dismissed were either members of “terror” organisations or had links to structures which were acting against national security, it said.

Seventeen Turkish institutions, including two newspapers and seven associations, have been ordered to close their operations.

More than 140,000 people, including judges, lawyers and academics, have been sacked or suspended since a failed coup in July last year, while some 55,000 people have been arrested over suspected links to US-based Islamic cleric FethullahGulen and the coup attempt.

Turkey claims Mr Gulen and his Hizmet (service) movement, which it calls the “Fethullah Terrorist Organisation”, ordered and conducted the attempted coup.

Mr Gulen, who has been living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, denies any links to terrorism and the failed putsch.

Mr Erdogan, who has accused Mr Gulen and his followers of infiltrating state institutions, said that the sackings were necessary to remove what he called the “virus” of Mr Gulen’s influence from state bodies.

Critics accuse the government of using the state of emergency legislation to target its opponents, including opposition journalists and pro-Kurdish critics.

The co-leader of the main pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Demo­cratic Party, SelahattinDemirtas, is among those detained on terrorism charges, something he denies.

The decree on the dismissals was published alongside another announcement that men accused of “acting against the constitutional order” would have to wear a single colour uniform, either brown or grey, during court hearings.

The uniform will also apply to those accused of attempting to abolish the Turkish government and will come into force next month.

dawn.com/news/1378708/turkey-dismisses-over-2700-in-post-coup-purges

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South Asia

Six dead in suicide attack near Afghan spy agency compound: officials

AFPDecember 25, 2017

A suicide attacker on foot blew himself up near a compound belonging to the Afghan intelligence agency in Kabul on Monday, killing six civilians, officials said.

The attacker struck at a time when workers were arriving at their offices.

It comes a week after militants stormed a National Directorate of Security (NDS) training centre in the Afghan capital.

Interior Ministry Spokesman Najib Danish told AFP six civilians in a car were killed when the attacker detonated himself.

“Six people were martyred and three others were wounded,” Danish said.

“They were hit when they were passing the area in their Toyota sedan vehicle. We still do not know the target of the attack but it happened on the main road.”

The Health Ministry confirmed the death toll but put the number of wounded at one.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the latest attack in Kabul which in recent months has become one of the deadliest places in the war-torn country for civilians.

An AFP reporter at the blast site said the attack happened outside the main entrance to an NDS compound.

Security forces have swarmed the area, closing off the main road leading to the building.

Ambulances were seen leaving the scene, apparently taking casualties to hospitals in the city.

“Our initial information shows a blast took place near an intelligence headquarters in ShashDarak neighbourhood of Kabul,” Deputy Interior Ministry Spokesman NasratRahimi told AFP.

Last week's attack on the NDS was claimed by the militant Islamic State group, which has expanded its presence in Afghanistan since it first appeared in the region in 2015.

It has scaled up its attacks in Kabul, including those on the country's Shia community.

The resurgent Taliban and, increasingly, IS are both stepping up their assaults on security installations and mosques.

On Friday, a suicide bomber drove an explosives-packed Humvee into a police compound in the southern province of Kandahar, killing at least six officers and destroying a building.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the pre-dawn ambush.

Afghan forces, already beset by desertions and corruption, have seen casualties soar to what a US watchdog has described as “shockingly high” levels since Nato forces officially ended their combat mission in 2014 and began a training and support role.

Morale has been further eroded by long-running fears that the militants have insider help everything from infiltrators in the ranks to corrupt Afghan forces selling equipment to the Taliban.

dawn.com/news/1378769/six-dead-in-suicide-attack-near-afghan-spy-agency-compound-officials

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Afghan border forces personnel suffer heavy casualties in Helmand bombing

By KHAAMA PRESS - Mon Dec 25 2017

The Afghan border police forces personnel suffered heavy casualties in roadside bombing in southern Helmand province of Afghanistan.

According to the local government officials, the incident took place in the vicinity of the restive Marjah district amid ongoing counter-terrorism operations.

Provincial governor’s spokesman Omar Zwak confirmed the incident and said at least six border forces personnel lost their lives in the explosion and six others were wounded.

He said the incident took place after the armored personnel carriers of the border police forces struck with the improvised explosive devices planted on a roadside.

In the meantime, Zwak said at least ten Taliban insurgents have also been killed during the operations and around twelve sustained injuries.

He said two local commanders of the Taliban group were also among those killed during the operations of the Afghan security forces.

The anti-government armed militant groups including the Taliban insurgents have not commented regarding the report so far.

Helmand is among the volatile provinces in southern Afghanistan where the Taliban insurgents are actively operating in it various districts and often carry out insurgency activities.

This comes as at least seven civilians were killed and three others were wounded in a similar incident in this province on Sunday.

khaama.com/afghan-border-forces-personnel-suffer-heavy-casualties-in-helmand-bombing-04121

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ISIS operating in 8 to 9 provinces of Afghanistan, claims Pak minister

By KHAAMA PRESS - Mon Dec 25 2017

Pakistan’s minister of foreign affairs Khawaj Mohammad Asif has claimed that the loyalists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group are operating in eight to nine provinces of Afghanistan.

Speaking during a debate aired by a private TV channel, Asif went on to claim that a huge part of the country was not under the control of the Afghan government.

He also criticized the coalition in Afghanistan and accused them of the failure to brign peace and stability in Afghanistan despite thousands of the forces were deployed with modern military equipment.

Asif further added that 9,000 ton opium was being cultivated in Afghanistan, which was an alarming situation, calling it a strange scenario that a huge cache of narcotics amounting 150 billion dollar was being smuggled from Afghanistan in the presence of Allied forces.

The latest remarks by the senior Pakistani official come as pressures are on the rise on Islamabad to act against the terror safe havens, mainly the Taliban and the notorious Haqqani terrorist which the US and Afghan officials believe have sanctuaries and enjoy from the freedom of action in the country.

The US Vice President Mike Pence during his visit to Afghanistan on Friday reiterated Washington’s stance regarding the terror safe havens in Pakistan.

He said “For too long Pakistan has provided safe haven to the Taliban and many terrorist organizations, but those days are over. President Trump has put Pakistan on notice.”

“As the President said, so I say now: Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with the United States, and Pakistan has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists,” he added.

khaama.com/isis-operating-in-8-to-9-provinces-of-afghanistan-claims-pak-minister-04119

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Militants suffer casualties in Afghan Special Forces operations in Laghman

By KHAAMA PRESS - Mon Dec 25 2017

At least seven militants were killed during the Afghan Special Forces operations in eastern Laghman province of Afghanistan.

The provincial government in a statement said the operations were conducted by the Afghan commandos and with the support of the Afghan Air Force in Alingar district

The statement further added that the hideouts of the militants were targeted in Qasaba, Slingar, Nimnan, and Shingar areas.

According to the provincial government, two famous local leaders of the militants identified as Amrullah and his deputy Hamdullah who is also famous as Abu Bakar were among those killed.

At least three suspects were also arrested during the same operations, the provincial government said, adding that the militants killed during the operations were involved in terrorist-related activities in various parts of Laghman province.

The anti-government armed militant groups including the Taliban insurgents have not commented regarding the report so far.

Laghman is among the relatively calm provinces in East of Afghanistan but the anti-government armed militants are attempting to expand their insurgency activities in this province lately.

The provincial government earlier said a suicide bomber who had disguised himself in women’s dress was arrested during an operation of the security forces in this province.

khaama.com/militants-suffer-casualties-in-afghan-special-forces-operations-in-laghman-04120

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ISIS claims responsibility for the suicide attack in Kabul city

By KHAAMA PRESS - Mon Dec 25 2017

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group offshoot, ISIS Khurasan, has claimed responsibility for the suicide attack in Kabul city.

The group issued a statement claiming that the attack near the intelligence compound in ShashDarak area of Kabul city was carried by a ISIS suicide bomber.

The statement further adds that the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber who has been identified as Moshin Al-Khurasani, claiming that several people were killed or wounded in the attack.

However, the Afghan security officials are saying that six people were killed and three others were wounded in the attack.

The ministry of interior spokesman Najib Danish confirmed the casualties toll and said the main target of the attacker has still not been confirmed.

He said the bomber was on foot and detonated his explosives on a roadside, leaving six people dead and three others wounded.

According to Danish, the victims of the incident are all ordinary civilians who were crossing the area when the blast happened.

This is not the first time terror group is claiming responsibility for an attack in Kabul but the group has claimed responsibility for numerous other attacks including coordinated attacks on mosques and gatherings.

The group has been attempting to carry out attacks amid mounting pressures the loyalists of the terror group are facing during the ongoing counter-terrorism operations conducted both the Afghan and US forces based in Afghanistan.

khaama.com/isis-claims-responsibility-for-the-suicide-attack-in-kabul-city-04118

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Militants responsible for the destruction of electricity pylons killed in Wardak

By KHAAMA PRESS - Mon Dec 25 2017

At least fifteen militants who were responsible for the destruction of electricity pylons in central MaidanWardak province of Afghanistan have been killed during the military operations, the local security officials said.

Provincial police chief Gen. Ahmad FahimQayem said the militants were killed during the ongoing clearance operations in Syedabad district.

He said two key Taliban group figures identified as Mawlavi Gul Amin and MawlaviFayaz are also amogn those killed and the two individuals were involved in destroying electricity pylons transferring 220kV of electricity between Arghandi-Ghazni.

Gen. Qayem further added that twenty villages have been cleared from the presence of the Taliban insurgents so far and several vehicles along with some weapons have also been confiscated during the operations.

MaidanWardak is among the relatively volatile provinces in central parts of the country, located close to capital Kabul.

The anti-government armed militants are actively operating in its various districts and often carry out insurgency activities, mainly in the districts lying along the highway connecting Kabul with the southeastern and southern provinces.

A top leader of the notorious Haqqani terrorist network was killed along with dozens of other militants in an operation in this province late last month.

khaama.com/militants-responsible-for-the-destruction-of-electricity-pylons-killed-in-wardak-04117

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Resignation from Balkh government was Noor’s own decision: Abdullah

By KHAAMA PRESS - Mon Dec 25 2017

The Chief Executive of the Unity Government Abdullah Abdullah dismissed the harsh remarks of Ata Mohammad Mohammad Noor against himself and rejected the notion that he was involved behind his dismissal.

Speaking during the meeting of the cabinet, Abdullah said he was only informed regarding his resignation as Balkh governor nearly two weeks ago.

Insisting that he was not involved at any level regarding the decision for the resignation of the Balkh governor, the Chief Executive said Noor had started negations with the presidential palace at his own capacity and had submitted his resignation during the negotiations.

Abdullah further added that the issue must be resolved peacefully as the government is committed to fulfill the commitments it has made to the international, apparently gesturing towards Noor’s remarks that the Chief Executive’s legitimacy will be compromised if Jamiat-e-Islami retrieves its support.

He also called on the political parties and leaders to join hands for the future of the country considering the ongoing situation.

In the meantime, Abdullah admitted that the government had missed some opportunities over the period of the past three years however he said all the governments face ups and downs and flexibility should never be mistaken as weakness.

This comes as Noor said Saturday that none one can dismiss him as the governor of Balkh province by issuing a decree, insisting that the political party he is representing is one of the main sides which played a key role in the formation of the government of national unity.

He also harshly criticized Abdullah and blamed him for conspiring against him in the government and attempting to dissolve the Jamiat party as he called him a snake up in ones own sleeves.

khaama.com/resignation-from-balkh-government-was-noors-own-decision-abdullah-04116

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Europe

In Christmas message, queen honors cities hit by terror

AP | Dec 25, 2017

LONDON: Queen Elizabeth II is using her annual Christmas message to pay tribute to the way the cities of London and Manchester pulled together after extremist attacks earlier this year.

Remarks pre-recorded by the 91-year-old monarch will be televised on Christmas Day in the United Kingdom and the 51 other Commonwealth countries.

Excerpts released by Buckingham Palace indicate Elizabeth praises the "powerful identities" of Manchester, hit by a suicide bomber in May, and London, which endured attacks on Parliament, London Bridge and other landmarks.

The queen says it was her privilege to visit young survivors of the attack on a Manchester concert hall as they were recovering from the blast which claimed 22 lives.

"I describe that hospital visit as a 'privilege' because the patients I met were an example to us all, showing extraordinary bravery and resilience," she says.

Elizabeth also pays tribute to her husband, 96-year-old Prince Philip, who this year stepped down from most public duties because of his advancing years.

The queen, Philip and family members plan to attend a church service Monday on the grounds of Elizabeth's country estate in Sandringham, 110 miles (175 miles) north of London.

They typically mingle with locals who come to watch them arrive.

The royal family has a private lunch scheduled afterward. This is the first Christmas the family will be joined by Prince Harry's fiancee, American actress Meghan Markle. They plan to marry at Windsor Castle in May.

Elizabeth says in her brief broadcast that the royal family looks forward "to welcoming new members into it next year" _ an apparent reference to Markle and the baby expected in the spring by Prince William and his wife, Kate.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/uk/in-christmas-message-queen-honors-cities-hit-by-terror/articleshow/62239858.cms

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Chelsea bomber is 'trying to radicalize inmates and has gone on a hunger strike' after he was convicted in Manhattan attack that injured 30 people

25 December 2017

Federal prosecutors say the man who was convicted of setting off a bomb in Manhattan that injured 30 people last year has been attempting to radicalize fellow jail inmates.

The government says Ahmad Khan Rahimi gave other inmates access to speeches by Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki and materials including bomb-making instructions, The New York Times reports.

Federal prosecutors allege that they found the materials on Rahimi's laptop. These materials were then used in Rahimi's trial.

The allegations came in a letter Friday from the office of Acting US Attorney Joon Kim to Judge Richard Berman.

Federal prosecutors say Ahmad Khan Rahimi (above), the man who was convicted of setting off a bomb in Manhattan that injured 30 people last year, has been attempting to radicalize fellow jail inmates

Berman is to sentence Rahimi on January 18 after a jury convicted him in October of all the charges against him.

Jurors in Manhattan found Rahimi guilty of all charges, including counts of using a weapon of mass destruction and bombing a public place.

He was convicted on all eight counts after a short but tense trial in which prosecutors accused his attorneys of using the 'Al Qaeda playbook.'

The Afghanistan-born man living in Elizabeth, New Jersey, faces a maximum punishment of life in prison.

The government says Rahimi gave other inmates access to speeches by Osama bin Laden (left) and Anwar al-Awlaki (right) and materials including bomb-making instructions

Prosecutors say the inmates Rahimi shared the materials with included SajmirAlimehmeti, a Bronx man who has been charged with providing material support to the Islamic State.

Rahimi shared the materials with inmates during Friday prayer sessions at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, the Manhattan jail where inmates are housed while they await trial or sentencing, the federal government alleged.

The letter from Kim's office to the judge alleged that after employees at the jail learned of Rahimi's 'radicalization efforts,' they searched his personal property and found an address book with names and inmate numbers of other suspected terrorists, including Muhanad Mahmoud Al Farekh and MaalikAlim Jones.

Al Farekh, a native of Texas, was convicted in 2009 of helping to plot an attack on a US military base in Afghanistan.

Jones, a native of Maryland, pleaded guilty to providing aid to the Shabab terrorist organization in Somalia.

Meanwhile, it was learned on Friday that Rahimi wrote a letter to the judge saying that he began a hunger strike on December 8.

According to the letter, Rahimi went on hunger strike to protest the decision by authorities not to allow his family to visit him in jail.

Rahimi also alleges in the letter that the government has not allowed him to contact his lawyer.

'I am extremely frustrated and physically tired and mentally drained of the continuous run around they are giving me,' Rahimi wrote.

Judge Berman has ordered the government and Rahimi’s lawyer to file responses.

Sabrina Shroff, one of Rahimi’s public defenders, declined to comment to the Times - as did Kim's office and a spokesperson for the jail.

dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5210893/Chelsea-bomber-trying-radicalize-inmates-jihad.html

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Africa

Egyptian film featuring Michael Jackson dance sequence inside mosque angers radical Islamists

December 25, 2017

The movie, Sheikh Jackson is being investigated by top Sunni Islamic authority for allegedly containing blasphemous messages.

KABITA-MAHARANA ByKabitaMaharana

The poster of the controversial Egyptian film Sheikh Jackson Sheikh Jackson/Facebook

A film revolving around pop legend Michael Jackson is causing a huge controversy in Egypt. Sheikh Jackson, a film that narrates the story of a fan of the late pop star has been in hot water for featuring a dance sequence inside a mosque. The film is now being investigated for allegedly containing blasphemous messages.

The Egyptian drama, which is scheduled to release in the US on 5 January, has been referred to Al-Azhar, the world's top Sunni Islamic authority for reviewing its content. Apart from the religious investigation, its director Amr Salama has also been summoned by the General Prosecutor for making the film.

"Where is the freedom of expression? I've been summoned for an investigation by the General Prosecutor for making Sheikh Jackson, so has the censorship committee. And after all that, the movie will be evaluated by Azhar," the prominent Egyptian director wrote on his Facebook page.

Interestingly, the film was nominated to represent Egypt at the Oscars in the best foreign film category and has won accolades at multiple film festivals. "[The] movie has been nominated by the country to represent it in regional and international festivals. It even chose it to represent the country in the Oscar, then decided to initiate an investigation around the same film?" rants the director for the religious scrutiny.

The film narrates the story of a grown-up Sheikh who receives the news of the pop star's death. In the flashback, it was revealed that as a child, Sheikh (known as Khaled as a young boy) was a great fan of the singer and was mocked by his friends and even his father for mimicking Jackson.

As an adult, he starts questioning his religious faith and life choices and starts having hallucinations, including dreams where his idol Jackson himself (an impersonator) dances before him during prayer sessions at the mosque.

If charged with blasphemy under Egyptian law, a person can face up to five years of imprisonment. "Are we forever going to think of all our movies from a religious point of view and make sure if every single take is Halal or Haram [religiously acceptable or prohibited]?" questioned the director. The Al-Azhar is yet to announce its judgment on the controversial film.

ibtimes.co.uk/egyptian-film-featuring-michael-jackson-dance-sequence-inside-mosque-angers-radical-islamists-1652768

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‘10,000 refugees’ to be relocated from Libya to Europe next year

December 25, 2017

ROME: Up to 10,000 people stranded in refugee camps and detention centres in Libya could be relocated to Europe in 2018, the Italian government said on Sunday.

The initiative would be part of an attempt by EU countries to address the deteriorating conditions in Libya, where thousands of people are held captive in inhumane conditions.

“In 2018, up to 10,000 refugees will be able to come to Europe without risk, through humanitarian corridors,” Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti said in an interview with the newspaper La Repubblica.

The announcement comes after a group of 162 “vulnerable” people, from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Yemen, were evacuated from Libya and arrived by military plane in Rome on Friday.

The group included single mothers, unaccompanied children and handicapped people, and was the first time refugees and migrants had been relocated directly to Europe by the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR).

About 400,000 migrants are in Libya, including roughly 36,000 children, the UN children’s agency Unicef and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said earlier this month.

In 2018, the IOM aims to repatriate 30,000 migrants to their home countries as part of a voluntary return programme. Around 15,000 have been sent back this year.

“In accordance with the objectives of the Inte­rnational Organisation for Migration, 30,000 migrants without right to asylum will be able to be repatriated to their countries on a voluntary basis,” in 2018, Minniti said.

“With the help of the Libyan authorities, we have constructed a new management model on the other side of the Mediterranean.” Libya has long been a transit hub for migrants seeking a better life in Europe, but people smugglers have stepped up their lucrative business since the chaos following the 2011 revolution.

dawn.com/news/1378634/10000-refugees-to-be-relocated-from-libya-to-europe-next-year

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North America

Guatemala says it is moving embassy in Israel to Jerusalem

AP | Dec 25, 2017

GUATEMALA CITY: Guatemala's president announced on Christmas Eve that the Central American country will move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, becoming the first nation to follow the lead of US President Donald Trump in ordering the change.

Guatemala was one of nine nations that voted with the United States and Israel on Thursday when the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a non-binding resolution denouncing Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Trump didn't set any timetable for moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and neither did Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales.

In a post on his official Facebook account Sunday, Morales said that after talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he decided to instruct Guatemala's foreign ministry to move the embassy.

No other country has their embassy for Israel in Jerusalem, though the Czech Republic has said it is considering such a move.

Trump upended decades of US policy with his Dec. 6 announcement that he was recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Though Trump said he was merely recognizing reality and not prejudging negotiations on the future borders of the city, Palestinians saw the move as siding with Israel on the most sensitive issue in the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians claim the city's eastern sector, which was captured by Israel in 1967 and is home to sensitive religious sites. Many governments have long said that the fate of Jerusalem must be resolved through negotiations.

Trump's announcement has set off weeks of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces that have left 12 Palestinians dead.

Netanyahu has predicted others would follow the US led. He has made great efforts to reach out to Latin America in recent years as part of a campaign to counter longstanding support for the Palestinians at the United Nations.

The resolution passed by the General Assembly declared the US action on Jerusalem "null and void.'' The 128-9 vote was a victory for Palestinians, but fell short of the total they had predicted. Thirty-five nations abstained and 21 stayed away from the vote.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/rest-of-world/guatemala-says-it-is-moving-embassy-in-israel-to-jerusalem/articleshow/62236210.cms

 

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