New Age Islam
Thu Oct 01 2020, 04:15 PM

Islamic World News ( 30 Dec 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

The Forgiveness Special: Kar Sevak Balbir Singh Who Helped Demolish Babri Masjid Is Now Mohammed Amir, a Man Determined To Rebuild 100 Mosques








Photo: Protests continue in at least a dozen cities throughout Iran

 

‘Mullahs Must Get Lost’: Anti-Govt Protests In Iran Turn Into A Revolution Against Islamic Regime?

Taliban Execute Abducted Lecturer and Student in Nangarhar

Five IS Militants Killed In ‘Encounter’, As Many LJ Suspects Held

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India

The Forgiveness Special: Kar Sevak Balbir Singh Who Helped Demolish Babri Masjid Is Now Mohammed Amir, a Man Determined To Rebuild 100 Mosques

 India, Pak NSAs Met In Bangkok A Day after Christmas

J&K: Four jawans martyred, two terrorists killed, in attack on CRPF camp

From Israel to Doklam, a year of many firsts in foreign policy

Muslims in India's Assam anxious over citizen list

After Rahul Gandhi's temple run in Gujarat, Asaduddin Owaisi vows to visit mosques in Karnataka

Govind wants to create Hindu-Muslim amity through cinema

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Mideast

‘Mullahs Must Get Lost’: Anti-Govt Protests In Iran Turn Into A Revolution Against Islamic Regime?

2 Dead As Iran Warns Protesters Will 'Pay The Price'

Rabbinical student explains Judaism to Muslims in Arabic

Iran Condemns Trump, US State Department's Interfering Remarks

Turkey ignores Nato concern, will buy Russia’s anti-missile system

Iran's Non-Oil Exports Hit $31bln in 9 Months

Iran 'Man of Action' In Supporting Islamic Resistance Movement

Turkey detains 20 suspected Islamic State members, including 15 foreigners: police

Turkey Rages After 'Coup' Officer Granted Asylum In Greece

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South Asia

Taliban execute abducted lecturer and student in Nangarhar

Suicide Attack Leaves Ten Dead in Jalalabad City

Bangladesh arrests suspected Islamist militant near Rohingya camps

Explosion in Mazar-e-Sharif city leaves 12 people wounded

Hekmatyar’s alleged support to ISIS detainees should be probed: Saleh

----------

Pakistan

Five IS Militants Killed In ‘Encounter’, As Many LJ Suspects Held

Pakistan Defends Palestinian Envoy's Participation at Hafiz Saeed Event

3,840 lawyer strikes this year hampered judicial proceedings: LHC chief justice

Nisar wants leadership to make ‘wise’ decisions

Qadri-Led Moot Adds Nawaz Sharif to List Of Culprits

Tharparkar court summons UAE royalty for illegal game hunting

Pakistani pilgrims unable to attend Nizamuddin Aulia's Urs after India postpones visa issuance

Pakistan Warns US against Unapproved Military Operations

----------

Europe

Russia’s Muslim Presidential Candidate Calls for Harsh Anti-Wahhabi Effort

Britain’s Muslims ‘Live in Fear of Terror Attacks Too’

----------

Arab World

Terrorists Withdraw from More Key Positions in Northern Hama

More Than 1,000 Ceasefire Agreements Signed in Syria in 2017

Northern Hama: Al-Nusra Front Expels 14 Senior Commanders after Heavy Defeat from Army

Army Makes New Gains in Hama Province

Regime forces advance against jihadists in northwest Syria

Turkish Army, SDF Exchange Heavy Fire in Northern Syria

Damascus: Senior Jeish Al-Islam Commander Killed in Clashes with Army in Eastern Ghouta

---------

Africa

Nigerian Activist: US, Israeli, Saudi Regimes Preventing Freedom of Sheikh Zakzaky

3 Bedouin troops arrested over beating of Muslim soldier

Muslim World League holds global peace forum in South Africa

Islamic State Claims Egypt Church Attack Killing 11

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/the-forgiveness-special--kar-sevak-balbir-singh-who-helped-demolish-babri-masjid-is-now-mohammed-amir,-a-man-determined-to-rebuild-100-mosques/d/113758


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The Forgiveness Special: Kar Sevak Balbir Singh Who Helped Demolish Babri Masjid Is Now Mohammed Amir, a Man Determined To Rebuild 100 Mosques

Mumbai Mirror: Dec 31, 2017

By Murali K Menon

The talk is of madness. The powerful hold it can take on one, and how the fear caused by the idea of madness can in itself be maddening.

Mohammad Amir, physically nondescript, with a triple Masters in History, Political Science, and English, and an itinerant pilgrim, should know what he is talking about: Long ago, 25 years to be precise, he had a dalliance with insanity.

We are sitting, deep into the night, in the well-carpeted office of one of Amir’s well-wishers in Malegaon. Among those ringed around him are a mechanic, a fruit-vendor, some traders and the loquacious principal of a junior college in Malegaon with a penchant for the dramatic and for hijacking the conversation.

Earlier that evening, Amir had addressed a gathering at the Mecca Masjid at Madhavpura. “Woh toh zameen ke neeche ki, aura asman ke upar  ki baate karte hain,” says one of his admiring audience.

Meditations on the afterlife — and on the ethics of Islam and social conduct of Muslims — might dominate his talks, but Mohammed Amir is often at the pulpit because of the torturous chrysalis he has emerged from, he now says.

Twenty-five years ago he was not Mohammad Amir but a certain Balbir Singh, and the highlight of his life until then was that he was among the handful of karsevaks who had clambered up the dome of Babri masjid to strike the first blows. The same karsevaks who were lionised by Bal Thackeray as his men.

“I am a Rajput. I was born in a little village close to Panipat,” he discloses. “My father, Daulatram, was a school teacher and a man of deep Gandhian leaning. He had witnessed the horrors of Partition, and went out of his way to make the Muslims in our area feel secure. He had wanted me and my three elder brothers to do the same.”

When he was ten, Balbir’s family moved from the village to Panipat so that the children could complete their secondary education. Panipat, he says, was a hostile city, especially to children from rural Haryana. Barbs were made about their clothes and gaucheness, and none of the other children played with them. The only place Balbir found he was not discriminated against was at the local RSS shakha. “I remember the first time I was there, they addressed me as ‘aap’. That made me feel so good. It marked the beginning of my association with them.”

About a decade or so later, Balbir, who had by then joined the Shiv Sena, started working with his brother in the family’s loom business and got married. He continued his studies on the side, garnering the triple MA degrees from Rohtak’s Maharishi University. To all appearances, it was the life of normal middle class householder. But a rank bitterness, unseen to the outside eye, ran through the family because of his political views. In that Gandhian household, he was the ‘chaddiwallah.’

The truth of the family lay somewhere in between. “People thought I was a hard-core Hindu fanatic, but that was not really the case. As my father never believed in idol worship, we didn’t go to temples,” he says. There was a copy of the Gita at home but he rarely, if ever, read it. His anger at the beginning of the tragically momentous Nineties was against historical wrongs, against Babur, Aurangzeb and the other conquerors.

“Brainwashing me was easy, because yehbhavnayen (these emotions), they are deep-rooted. Back where I come from, if you did something that was not considered acceptable, even a simple thing like eating a roti with your left hand, people would ask, “TuMussalmanhaike?” (What is this? Are you a Muslim?) I thought that these Muslims came from outside India and had snatched our land and destroyed our temples.”

Plus, in a state like Haryana that valorises machismo, he said he wanted to do something that would effectively show his ‘mardangi.’ “When I left for Ayodhya in the first week of December, my friends told me, ‘kuch kare bina wapas na aana (Don’t come back without achieving something)’,” says Balbir who was among those being tracked by the Intelligence Bureau.

“Ayodhya was abuzz on December 5,” he recalls. “The men from VHP ruled the town and Faizabad. We stayed with thousands of other kar sevaks, heard the chatter going around. Advaniji was not important because he worshipped Jhulelal (the community god of Sindhis), and hence was not considered to be a Hindu; Uma Bharati was a drama queen. I was there with my close friend Yogender Pal. We were all impatient, we wanted to get going.”

A few distinct shards of the following day are still embedded painfully in his memory of it. One of them is an aural one, of the rousing slogans (‘Saugandh ram ki khai hai, mandir yahin banayenge’; ‘Kalyan Singh kalyankaro, mandir ka nirmaan karo’); he remembers mocking senior police officials as he walked along with the other karsevaks towards Babri Masjid on that cold afternoon; and then the final rush and the frenzied scramble atop the central dome.

“I was like an animal that day. Only briefly, I got scared when I saw a helicopter approach us from a distance. Then, the rallying cries from below reached my ears and I felt emboldened again and plunged my pick-axe into the dome.”

A heroes’ welcome awaited Balbir and his friend Yogendra Pal when they returned to Panipat. Two bricks that they brought back from the rubble in Ayodhya were kept at the local Shiv Sena office, he says. At home, though, his father issued an ultimatum. “It was either him or me. One of us had to leave the house, and I decided that it would be me. I looked at my wife but she just stood there, so I left home alone.” As riots erupted across the country, Amir sought places of refuge where “Muslims wouldn’t be able to get him.” He remembers solitary wintry nights spent in fields, decrepit old buildings, drains…

“I would be scared of anyone with a beard.”

He was on the run for a couple of months and only returned home when he learnt that his father had passed away. But his other family members no longer wanted him. His father had specifically instructed that his second-born son shouldn’t be allowed to attend his funeral. “They said I was the reason for his death.”

But an even bigger shock awaited Balbir. His close friend and collaborator at Ayodhya, Yogendra Pal, had become a Muslim. The aftermath of the December 6 frenzy and the riots had left Pal deranged. When Balbir went to meet him, Pal told him that embracing Islam had helped soothe his mad thoughts and fears. “While talking to him, it occurred to me, would I too go mad because of the sin I had committed and what I had helped unleash? In fact, was I already going mad?”

It was at Pal’s instance that in the June of 1993, six months after the climax at Ayodhya, Balbir travelled to Sonepat to meet MaulanaKalim Siddiqui who had converted his friend Yogendra Pal.

Siddiqui heads the Jamiat Imam Waliullah Trust for Charity and Da’wah, which is based in Phulat, near Muzzafarnagar, and runs several madrasas and schools across north India. Siddiqui was in Sonepat for an event, and Amir went up to him and told him what he had done. He asked the maulana if he could come and stay at the madrasa in Phulat for some time. “I was still not sure if I wanted to convert, but he accepted my request. He told me that I had contributed to the destruction of one mosque, but I could always help build several others. They were such simple words. I sat down and began to cry.” After spending a few months at the madrasa, Balbir converted and was given the name Mohammed Amir.

“Aurmerizindagiphir se chalpadi (my life got back on the rails again),” he says simply.

While at Phulat, Amir learnt Arabic and read the Quran, and, since he had majored in English, he taught at the madrasa. In August 1993, he reconciled with his family, and his wife joined him at the madrasa the same year. She converted to Islam soon after (Amir claims that she did it of her own accord). Their four children were all born in Phulat.

His life, anything but calm, took another turn in the early 2000s when his elder brother’s wife died. Amir convinced his own wife to get remarried to his elder brother. “My brother had children who would have become motherless. If not for her they would not have been able to cope. I owe her a great debt.” His brother, too, converted to Islam before marrying Amir's wife.

After his wife left, though, his health began to fail and he was advised to move to the more salubrious south, which he did before going on to remarry, a widowed woman called Shahnaz Begum. But Amir, whose family sends him a monthly stipend, still often travels to Panipat to meet with them and his friends.

Between 1993 and 2017, he claims to have identified and restored several decrepit mosques in north India, especially in Mewat, with the help of the Waliullah Trust. Forty so far, he says, adding that he is especially proud of the work that he has done at a mosque in Mendu, near Hathras, Uttar Pradesh. “There are several mosques in various stages of disrepair across north India that even the Waqf Board is not aware of. I seek out such places, clear them of encroachments, tidy them up and get people to start worshipping there again. At some places, I also set up madrasas, and that is especially important for me, since I believe the bane of the Muslim community is their total disregard for education.” Sometimes, he says, he is helped by Muslims in and around the area; at others, he does it alone. His goal is to repair and rebuild 100 mosques. That would get him something close to atonement.

People associated with the Jamiat Imam Waliullah Trust, describe Amir as a quiet, committed man. “I met him in the early 2000s, and I would call him a gentleman and a social worker. He renovated the mosque near Hathras, which was abandoned after Partition. Some sixty students are now taught at the madrasa in Mendu,” says Zia-ul-Islam, a former section officer at the Aligarh Muslim University. MaulanaWasiSulaimanNadvi, who still teaches at Phulat, remembers Amir as a studious man who preferred his own company.

Presently, he says to the gathering at Malegaon, “When my health allows me and when I am not busy restoring decrepit mosques, this, talking to members of my community, is what I do. I always travel on my own money and return home as soon as my commitments are through.”

What does he talk to them about?

“Look at me, sir, I’m a ghissa-pita aadmi (a man who is worn out). What can I preach about but aman (peace)? That is what Islam has given me, and that is what I want to talk about. I tell my people that I was once a Hindu filled with hatred towards Muslims and ignorant about them, but people like me were, and are, in a minority.”

He advises them on the importance of not getting provoked. “I fear the worst, but I also tell them that Muslims are strong, too, and that while they can retaliate, a better way to engage with your oppressor is to forgive. It is a difficult thing to do when you consider yourself strong, but it sends out such a powerful message.”

Would it be accurate to describe his last 25 years as a quest to forgive himself?

“That would be one way to look at it, for letting down my father, for contributing to the deaths of so many people. But I also know that it’s a work in progress.”

The toughest kind of forgiveness is self-forgiveness and the road that leads to it is a lonely one, but it is also where mad meets the divine.

mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/others/sunday-read/the-forgiveness-special-kar-sevak-balbir-singh-who-helped-demolish-babri-masjid-is-now-mohammed-amir-a-man-determined-to-rebuild-100-mosques/articleshow/62312039.cms

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‘Mullahs Must Get Lost’: Anti-Govt Protests In Iran Turn Into A Revolution Against Islamic Regime?

 

The anti-government protests in Iran spilled into a third night even as reports of clashes and marches spread across the country despite government warnings against any further "illegal gatherings".

Unverified videos on social media appeared yesterday to show thousands marching through the western cities of Khorramabad, Zanjan and Ahvaz and many smaller towns, while reports spread rapidly that several people had been shot dead by police in the town of Dorud.

A swirl of wild rumours, combined with travel restrictions and a near-total media blackout from official agencies, made it difficult to confirm the reports.

Unverified videos appeared on Twitter showing protesters setting fire to a poster of Khomeini, former Supreme Religious Leader of Iran and the leader of the Islamic Revolution in 1979. “Mullahs must get lost,” the protesters said, according to a tweet.

The authorities appeared to respond by temporarily cutting internet access to mobile phones, but full coverage was eventually restored.

Several Iranian news agencies warned Telegram, the most popular social media service in the country, might soon be shut down after communications minister Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi accused one channel, Amadnews, of encouraging an "armed uprising".

One of the few official reports -- by conservative Mehr news agency -- showed protesters attacking a town hall in central Tehran, overturning a police car and burning the Iranian flag.

There was chaos earlier around the capital's university as hundreds took to the streets, blocking traffic and shouting slogans against the regime.

But the authorities could also count on a show of strength, with hundreds of counter-demonstrators seizing control of the university entrance, chanting "Death to the seditionists".

Annual rallies marking the defeat of the last major protest movement in 2009 had already been scheduled for yesterday morning and brought thousands of regime supporters to the streets across the country.

"We urge all those who receive these calls to protest not to participate in these illegal gatherings as they will create problems for themselves and other citizens," said Interior Minister AbdolrahmanRahmaniFazli.

The protests began in the second city of Mashhad on Thursday as an attack on high living costs but quickly turned against the Islamic regime as a whole.

There were even chants in favour of the monarchy toppled by the Islamic revolution of 1979, while others criticised the regime for supporting the Palestinians and other regional movements rather than focusing on problems at home.

State news channel IRINN said it had been banned from covering the protests that spread to towns and cities including Qom and Kermanshah.

"The enemy wants once again to create a new plot and use social media and economic issues to foment a new sedition," Ayatollah Mohsen Araki, a prominent cleric, told a crowd in Tehran, according to the conservative Fars news agency.

Other officials also pointed the blame outside Iran.

"Although people have a right to protest, protesters must know how they are being directed," MassoumehEbtekar, vice president in charge of women's affairs, wrote on Twitter.

She posted images from Twitter accounts based in the United States and Saudi Arabia, voicing support for the Mashhad protests.

US President Donald Trump tweeted later that Iran's people wanted change and "oppressive regimes cannot endure forever".

"The day will come when the Iranian people will face a choice," he wrote, his second time addressing the subject in as many days. "The world is watching!"

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders added: "The days of America looking the other way from the Iranian regime's oppression are over. America stands with the Iranian people."

Trump's tweets on Friday prompted Iran's foreign ministry spokesman BahranGhasemi to dismiss his remarks as "opportunistic".

@ArminNavabi

Iranians chant: "Mullahs must get lost."

Today is the second day of anti-government protests happening in #Iran. What started as a protest against high prices has now turned into protests against the Islamic regime. #Iranprotests #Islam

2:32 AM - Dec 30, 2017

 84 84 Replies   1,380 1,380 Retweets   1,799 1,799 likes

Iranian officials warned against dismissing the public anger seen in recent days.

"The country is facing serious challenges with unemployment, high prices, corruption, lack of water, social gap, unbalanced distribution of budget," tweeted HesamoddinAshena, cultural adviser to President Hassan Rouhani.

"People have the right for their voice to be heard."

 There has been particular anger at welfare cuts and fuel price increases in the latest budget announced earlier this month.

Since the 2009 protests were ruthlessly put down by the Revolutionary Guards, many middle-class Iranians have abandoned hope of pressing for change from the streets.

But low-level strikes and demonstrations have continued, with bus drivers, teachers and factory workers protesting against unpaid wages and poor conditions.

Some of this week's protests were directed against financial scandals linked to unauthorised lending institutions which collapsed with the loss of hundreds of thousands of accounts.

Since taking power in 2013, Rouhani has sought to clean up the banking sector and kick-start the economy, but many say progress has been too slow.

Aware that economic problems can quickly spiral into political chaos, officials from across the political spectrum have called for greater efforts to tackle poverty and the 12 percent unemployment rate.

Protesters in Iran set fire to a poster of Khomeini (Former Supreme Religious Leader of #Iran and the leader of the Islamic Revolution in 1979)#IranProtests #تظاهرات_سراسرى #يحدث_الان_في_ايران #متحد_شویم #IranProtest

:56 AM - Dec 31, 2017

 36 36 Replies   558 558 Retweets   725 725 likes

"Solving people's economic problems is the chief priority in the country," tweeted EbrahimRaisi, the hardline cleric defeated by Rouhani in May's presidential election.

(With agency inputs)

outlookindia.com/website/story/mullahs-must-get-lost-anti-govt-protests-in-iran-turns-into-a-revolution-against/306206

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Taliban execute abducted lecturer and student in Nangarhar

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Dec 31 2017

The Taliban militants have executed a lecturer and a student, days after kidnapping them in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

The provincial government media office in a statement said a lecturer of the agriculture institute and a student were kidnapped b the Taliban insurgents from an area between BatiKot and Jalalabad two days ago.

The statement further added that the lecturer identified as Imam Jan and his student Gulbadin were executed on Friday, two days after they were abducted.

No further details have been given regarding the circumstances surrounding the abduction and execution of the two individuals.

The Taliban insurgents and militants belonging to the other insurgent groups often kidnap civilians on charges of supporting the government and security forces.

The Taliban militants group however has not commented regarding the execution of the two individuals so ar.

Nangarhar is among the relatively calm provinces in East of Afghanistan but the anti-government armed militant groups including the Taliban and ISIS insurgents have started insurgency activities in some remote parts of the province.

khaama.com/taliban-execute-abducted-lecturer-and-student-in-nangarhar-04157

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Five IS militants killed in ‘encounter’, as many LJ suspects held

ImtiazAliUpdated December 31, 2017

KARACHI: Police on Saturday claimed to have killed five suspected militants linked with the Islamic State (IS) in an ‘encounter’ on the outskirts of the city, and in another incident arrested as many suspects belonging to the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi.

Acting on a tip-off, Sohrab Goth police conducted a targeted raid on an alleged hideout of the militants in Gharibabad near Ayub Goth off the Superhighway. In an ensuing encounter, five suspects were killed.

Malir SSP Rao Anwar said he received information from an intelligence agency about the presence of militants linked with the outlawed IS.

‘One was involved in killing of policemen, army men, and members of Shia and Christian communities’

One of the dead was identified as QariHabibullah, alias Abdul Salam Burmi.

“The killed militant was involved in the targeted killing of policemen, army men, and members of Shia and Christian communities,” said the SSP.

Mr Anwar revealed that the law enforcers had conducted a targeted raid on an alleged hideout linked with banned Al-Qaeda in Qayyumabad in 2003 in which a militant from Egypt was killed while QariHabibullah was arrested with other accomplices.

Later on, he abandoned Al-Qaeda and joined the IS.

“He was involved in several acts of terrorism,” the SSP said. He was involved also in armed attacks on workers and women in Sohrab Goth in 2003. The police claimed to have seized an 8mm rifle, a 9mm pistol and two 30-bore pistols.

“Further investigation is under way,” said the officer.

Five LJ militants held

In another incident, SITE Superhighway Industrial Area police arrested five suspects belonging to the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi group.

The police had received information that the LJ militants were present at a place near the Superhighway and were planning to assassinate an important personality belonging to the Shia community.

On Friday night, the police conducted the raid and after an encounter arrested five suspects, said SSP Anwar.

The held suspects were identified as Farhan Shaukat, Nasir Khan, Adnan Asif, SardarAijaz and Qaiser Saeed.

The police claimed to have seized a 9mm pistol, four 30-bore pistols and two motorcycles from their custody.

The Malir SSP claimed that held suspect Farhan Shaukat’s father was a police subinspector posted at Security-11 while his (Shaukat) brother was a police constable posted in the railways department.

Two brothers of another detained suspect, Adnan, were police constables, posted in the anti-car-lifting cell of police.

The third arrested suspect, Qaiser Saeed, is a watchman at a bungalow belonging to the Karachi Port Trust.

During initial probe, the held LJ militants revealed that their ringleader was Qari Amin, who killed a few years ago near Korangi Crossing. He motivated them for jihad and carrying out targeted killings of members of the Shia community.

However, after the killing of Qari Amin, SardarAijaz was appointed local chief of the LJ, said the police officer.

“He established a team which carried out targeted killings of three members of the Shia community in revenge for the killing of Qari Amin,” added the officer.

dawn.com/news/1379795/five-is-militants-killed-in-encounter-as-many-lj-suspects-held

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India

The Forgiveness Special: Kar Sevak Balbir Singh Who Helped Demolish Babri Masjid Is Now Mohammed Amir, a Man Determined To Rebuild 100 Mosques

Mumbai Mirror: Dec 31, 2017

By Murali K Menon

The talk is of madness. The powerful hold it can take on one, and how the fear caused by the idea of madness can in itself be maddening.

Mohammad Amir, physically nondescript, with a triple Masters in History, Political Science, and English, and an itinerant pilgrim, should know what he is talking about: Long ago, 25 years to be precise, he had a dalliance with insanity.

We are sitting, deep into the night, in the well-carpeted office of one of Amir’s well-wishers in Malegaon. Among those ringed around him are a mechanic, a fruit-vendor, some traders and the loquacious principal of a junior college in Malegaon with a penchant for the dramatic and for hijacking the conversation.

Earlier that evening, Amir had addressed a gathering at the Mecca Masjid at Madhavpura. “Woh toh zameen ke neeche ki, aura asman ke upar  ki baate karte hain,” says one of his admiring audience.

Meditations on the afterlife — and on the ethics of Islam and social conduct of Muslims — might dominate his talks, but Mohammed Amir is often at the pulpit because of the torturous chrysalis he has emerged from, he now says.

Twenty-five years ago he was not Mohammad Amir but a certain Balbir Singh, and the highlight of his life until then was that he was among the handful of karsevaks who had clambered up the dome of Babri masjid to strike the first blows. The same karsevaks who were lionised by Bal Thackeray as his men.

“I am a Rajput. I was born in a little village close to Panipat,” he discloses. “My father, Daulatram, was a school teacher and a man of deep Gandhian leaning. He had witnessed the horrors of Partition, and went out of his way to make the Muslims in our area feel secure. He had wanted me and my three elder brothers to do the same.”

When he was ten, Balbir’s family moved from the village to Panipat so that the children could complete their secondary education. Panipat, he says, was a hostile city, especially to children from rural Haryana. Barbs were made about their clothes and gaucheness, and none of the other children played with them. The only place Balbir found he was not discriminated against was at the local RSS shakha. “I remember the first time I was there, they addressed me as ‘aap’. That made me feel so good. It marked the beginning of my association with them.”

About a decade or so later, Balbir, who had by then joined the Shiv Sena, started working with his brother in the family’s loom business and got married. He continued his studies on the side, garnering the triple MA degrees from Rohtak’s Maharishi University. To all appearances, it was the life of normal middle class householder. But a rank bitterness, unseen to the outside eye, ran through the family because of his political views. In that Gandhian household, he was the ‘chaddiwallah.’

The truth of the family lay somewhere in between. “People thought I was a hard-core Hindu fanatic, but that was not really the case. As my father never believed in idol worship, we didn’t go to temples,” he says. There was a copy of the Gita at home but he rarely, if ever, read it. His anger at the beginning of the tragically momentous Nineties was against historical wrongs, against Babur, Aurangzeb and the other conquerors.

“Brainwashing me was easy, because yehbhavnayen (these emotions), they are deep-rooted. Back where I come from, if you did something that was not considered acceptable, even a simple thing like eating a roti with your left hand, people would ask, “TuMussalmanhaike?” (What is this? Are you a Muslim?) I thought that these Muslims came from outside India and had snatched our land and destroyed our temples.”

Plus, in a state like Haryana that valorises machismo, he said he wanted to do something that would effectively show his ‘mardangi.’ “When I left for Ayodhya in the first week of December, my friends told me, ‘kuch kare bina wapas na aana (Don’t come back without achieving something)’,” says Balbir who was among those being tracked by the Intelligence Bureau.

“Ayodhya was abuzz on December 5,” he recalls. “The men from VHP ruled the town and Faizabad. We stayed with thousands of other kar sevaks, heard the chatter going around. Advaniji was not important because he worshipped Jhulelal (the community god of Sindhis), and hence was not considered to be a Hindu; Uma Bharati was a drama queen. I was there with my close friend Yogender Pal. We were all impatient, we wanted to get going.”

A few distinct shards of the following day are still embedded painfully in his memory of it. One of them is an aural one, of the rousing slogans (‘Saugandh ram ki khai hai, mandir yahin banayenge’; ‘Kalyan Singh kalyankaro, mandir ka nirmaan karo’); he remembers mocking senior police officials as he walked along with the other karsevaks towards Babri Masjid on that cold afternoon; and then the final rush and the frenzied scramble atop the central dome.

“I was like an animal that day. Only briefly, I got scared when I saw a helicopter approach us from a distance. Then, the rallying cries from below reached my ears and I felt emboldened again and plunged my pick-axe into the dome.”

A heroes’ welcome awaited Balbir and his friend Yogendra Pal when they returned to Panipat. Two bricks that they brought back from the rubble in Ayodhya were kept at the local Shiv Sena office, he says. At home, though, his father issued an ultimatum. “It was either him or me. One of us had to leave the house, and I decided that it would be me. I looked at my wife but she just stood there, so I left home alone.” As riots erupted across the country, Amir sought places of refuge where “Muslims wouldn’t be able to get him.” He remembers solitary wintry nights spent in fields, decrepit old buildings, drains…

“I would be scared of anyone with a beard.”

He was on the run for a couple of months and only returned home when he learnt that his father had passed away. But his other family members no longer wanted him. His father had specifically instructed that his second-born son shouldn’t be allowed to attend his funeral. “They said I was the reason for his death.”

But an even bigger shock awaited Balbir. His close friend and collaborator at Ayodhya, Yogendra Pal, had become a Muslim. The aftermath of the December 6 frenzy and the riots had left Pal deranged. When Balbir went to meet him, Pal told him that embracing Islam had helped soothe his mad thoughts and fears. “While talking to him, it occurred to me, would I too go mad because of the sin I had committed and what I had helped unleash? In fact, was I already going mad?”

It was at Pal’s instance that in the June of 1993, six months after the climax at Ayodhya, Balbir travelled to Sonepat to meet MaulanaKalim Siddiqui who had converted his friend Yogendra Pal.

Siddiqui heads the Jamiat Imam Waliullah Trust for Charity and Da’wah, which is based in Phulat, near Muzzafarnagar, and runs several madrasas and schools across north India. Siddiqui was in Sonepat for an event, and Amir went up to him and told him what he had done. He asked the maulana if he could come and stay at the madrasa in Phulat for some time. “I was still not sure if I wanted to convert, but he accepted my request. He told me that I had contributed to the destruction of one mosque, but I could always help build several others. They were such simple words. I sat down and began to cry.” After spending a few months at the madrasa, Balbir converted and was given the name Mohammed Amir.

“Aurmerizindagiphir se chalpadi (my life got back on the rails again),” he says simply.

While at Phulat, Amir learnt Arabic and read the Quran, and, since he had majored in English, he taught at the madrasa. In August 1993, he reconciled with his family, and his wife joined him at the madrasa the same year. She converted to Islam soon after (Amir claims that she did it of her own accord). Their four children were all born in Phulat.

His life, anything but calm, took another turn in the early 2000s when his elder brother’s wife died. Amir convinced his own wife to get remarried to his elder brother. “My brother had children who would have become motherless. If not for her they would not have been able to cope. I owe her a great debt.” His brother, too, converted to Islam before marrying Amir's wife.

After his wife left, though, his health began to fail and he was advised to move to the more salubrious south, which he did before going on to remarry, a widowed woman called Shahnaz Begum. But Amir, whose family sends him a monthly stipend, still often travels to Panipat to meet with them and his friends.

Between 1993 and 2017, he claims to have identified and restored several decrepit mosques in north India, especially in Mewat, with the help of the Waliullah Trust. Forty so far, he says, adding that he is especially proud of the work that he has done at a mosque in Mendu, near Hathras, Uttar Pradesh. “There are several mosques in various stages of disrepair across north India that even the Waqf Board is not aware of. I seek out such places, clear them of encroachments, tidy them up and get people to start worshipping there again. At some places, I also set up madrasas, and that is especially important for me, since I believe the bane of the Muslim community is their total disregard for education.” Sometimes, he says, he is helped by Muslims in and around the area; at others, he does it alone. His goal is to repair and rebuild 100 mosques. That would get him something close to atonement.

People associated with the Jamiat Imam Waliullah Trust, describe Amir as a quiet, committed man. “I met him in the early 2000s, and I would call him a gentleman and a social worker. He renovated the mosque near Hathras, which was abandoned after Partition. Some sixty students are now taught at the madrasa in Mendu,” says Zia-ul-Islam, a former section officer at the Aligarh Muslim University. MaulanaWasiSulaimanNadvi, who still teaches at Phulat, remembers Amir as a studious man who preferred his own company.

Presently, he says to the gathering at Malegaon, “When my health allows me and when I am not busy restoring decrepit mosques, this, talking to members of my community, is what I do. I always travel on my own money and return home as soon as my commitments are through.”

What does he talk to them about?

“Look at me, sir, I’m a ghissa-pita aadmi (a man who is worn out). What can I preach about but aman (peace)? That is what Islam has given me, and that is what I want to talk about. I tell my people that I was once a Hindu filled with hatred towards Muslims and ignorant about them, but people like me were, and are, in a minority.”

He advises them on the importance of not getting provoked. “I fear the worst, but I also tell them that Muslims are strong, too, and that while they can retaliate, a better way to engage with your oppressor is to forgive. It is a difficult thing to do when you consider yourself strong, but it sends out such a powerful message.”

Would it be accurate to describe his last 25 years as a quest to forgive himself?

“That would be one way to look at it, for letting down my father, for contributing to the deaths of so many people. But I also know that it’s a work in progress.”

The toughest kind of forgiveness is self-forgiveness and the road that leads to it is a lonely one, but it is also where mad meets the divine.

mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/others/sunday-read/the-forgiveness-special-kar-sevak-balbir-singh-who-helped-demolish-babri-masjid-is-now-mohammed-amir-a-man-determined-to-rebuild-100-mosques/articleshow/62312039.cms

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India, Pak NSAs met in Bangkok a day after Christmas

Sources told The Sunday Express that the December 26 meeting between AjitDoval and his Pakistani counterpart Lt General Nasir Khan Janjua (retd) took place at a ‘neutral venue’ in the Thai capital.

Written by Sushant Singh | New Delhi | Updated: December 31, 2017 5:49 am

A day after the mother and wife of retired Naval officer KulbhushanJadhav met him in Islamabad in exceptional and controversial circumstances, the National Security Advisors (NSAs) of India and Pakistan met for talks in Bangkok. Sources told The Sunday Express that the December 26 meeting between AjitDoval and his Pakistani counterpart Lt General Nasir Khan Janjua (retd) took place at a ‘neutral venue’ in the Thai capital.

The venue and date of the meeting were not linked to Pakistan’s treatment of Jadhav’s wife and mother. It had been decided between the two sides earlier this month, and it was, as sources described it, a “pre-scheduled meeting”.

Official Indian sources refused to comment on the subject.

Besides the offices of the NSA, sources indicated that the top hierarchy of the foreign ministries of the two countries was also in the loop about the meeting. As Pakistan’s NSA is a retired Lt General, Rawalpindi-based General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Pakistan Army was also kept informed of Tuesday’s meeting between the two NSAs.

On Thursday, Janjua met former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif at Sharif’s JatiUmra residence in Raiwind. As per Pakistan media reports, the meeting, which reportedly lasted five hours, included discussions on matters of national security, relations with Pakistan’s neighbouring countries and terrorism.

Dawn newspaper cited a PML-N leader quoting Sharif as saying at the meeting that “There is a dire need to improve ties with the neighbouring countries.” It also added that the former prime minister said he always talked about friendly relations with Pakistan’s neighbours because, without them, problems being faced by the people of the region could not be solved. “War is no solution to any problem,” he said.

The Bangkok meeting came in the wake of a sharp statement by the Pakistani NSA on India-Pakistan relations. On December 18, addressing a national security seminar in Islamabad, Janjua said, “The stability of the South Asian region hangs in a delicate balance, and the possibility of nuclear war cannot be ruled out.” He also stated that special efforts are needed to maintain balance in South Asia, which is “a mistake away” from a major catastrophe.

It was not the first meeting between the two NSAs in a third country. In December 2015, the two NSAs, along with the two foreign secretaries, had met, again in Bangkok, which was not revealed till after the meeting. That was followed, within days, by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise stop-over in Lahore, to wish then-Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif on his birthday on December 25.

Meetings in third countries afford the two officials some space, away from the limelight, which the continual gaze of media on both sides of the border entails. It also gets around the tricky issue of the Pakistan NSA meeting leaders of Kashmir’s Hurriyat Conference, something which had led to cancellation of his visit to New Delhi in August 2015.

Tuesday’s meeting in Bangkok, which is believed to have lasted more than two hours, was kept under wraps, but it is believed that the Indian NSA raised the issue of infiltration of militants into Kashmir from across the Line of Control (LoC) with active support from the Pakistan army. The LoC has been very active this year, with more than 820 ceasefire violations recorded so far. This has included use of indirect firing weapons and cross-LoC raids by Border Action Teams. The Indian Army has lost 31 soldiers on the LoC in 2017.

New Delhi has offered a ‘humanitarian pact’ to Pakistan, which allows the elderly and minor children who inadvertently cross the border to be quickly returned to their home country. Islamabad has not responded to the offer, which is believed to have been reiterated by Doval on Tuesday.

Pakistan’s handling of terrorists, with 26/11 terror attacks mastermind Hafiz Saeed being freed from police custody and attempting to join mainstream politics, and Lashkar-e-Taiba operations commander ZakiurRehmanLakhvi remaining out on bail, is also assumed to have figured in the conversation.

Janjua is believed to have raised the issue of unrest in Kashmir, besides alleged targeting of civilians in villages along the LoC in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).

indianexpress.com/article/india/india-pak-nsas-met-in-bangkok-a-day-after-christmas-kulbhushan-jadhav-security-adviser-5005508/

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J&K: Four jawans martyred, two terrorists killed, in attack on CRPF camp

TIMESOFINDIA.COM | Updated: Dec 31, 2017

NEW DELHI: Four Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) jawans were martyred and three others injured when terrorists attacked a CRPF Training Centre in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir in the wee hours of Sunday, reported news agency ANI.

Two terrorists have been neutralised in the ongoing encounter.

Terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The terrorists stormed the 185th battalion camp of the CRPF in Lethpora village in Kashmir valley around 2am. They first hurled grenades and then opened fire.

CRPF, 50 Rashtriya Rifles, and J&K police personnel had reached the site, said officials.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/jk-four-jawans-martyred-three-injured-in-terrorist-attack-on-crpf-camp/articleshow/62315084.cms

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From Israel to Doklam, a year of many firsts in foreign policy

IndraniBagchi | TNN | Updated: Dec 31, 2017

On OBOR, India was again willing to defy its tested precedent of not seeming to be isolated in world affairs

The decision to take Jadhav case to ICJ surprised even Indians because it is an article of faith in India’s foreign policy template to not take bilateral issues to international level

File photo used for representational purposeFile photo used for representational purpose

NEW DELHI: 2017 was the year when, in foreign policy at least, India tried to defy precedents and confound expectations. The result is that India is venturing into areas it dared never before — whether this is reckless or visionary, only the coming years will tell.

The Doklam crisis was a defining moment in more ways than one. Quite apart from military lessons, India chose this time to object to a creeping action by China that has gone unremarked by Indian governments for years. Doklam has placed India and China squarely on opposite sides, no matter how the two countries try to dress it up. The stand-off and its resolution showed maturing of the two rising Asian powers but also showed once again the precarious nature of Indian defence preparation. India was lucky the crisis happened in an area where India is at a situational and military advantage. There are two takeaways here — first, how would India have shown up against China in a different theatre? on the other hand, India showed it was willing to go far, very far, in its stand against China. That was an inflexion point for both India — and China.

New Delhi's opposition to OBOR put it in a minority of one — that is until other countries gradually discovered OBOR was another mode of Chinese colonialism. Here, India was again willing to defy its tested precedent of not seeming to be isolated in world affairs. In the coming years, India will need to put teeth to this opposition, either by presenting a credible alternative or by getting China to change its ways.

The decision to take the KulbhushanJadhav case to the ICJ surprised even Indians because it is an article of faith in India's foreign policy template to not take bilateral issues to the international level. Successive Indian governments have made "internationalisation" a bad word. The early success of getting the ICJ to stay Jadhav's execution will draw attention to the final arguments and verdict in the coming weeks. But the ghost has been slain.

India's multilateral appetite has only grown in the past year. The campaign to put Dalveer Bhandari back as ICJ judge was brutal to say the least, but once again defied conventional practice that India did not go up against a P-5 member. MEA and PMO burned phone lines and pumped flesh in the kind of outreach that is normally seen in Indian domestic elections. It was tough work — even India's closest buddy, Japan, voted against Bhandari in these elections!

Ironically, India's victory might make it much more difficult for it to get into the NSG — a consequence of the Indian determination to plod along its trajectory to becoming a "leading power" appears to have convinced the Chinese system to double down on its opposition to India. According to sources, their calculation appears to be this — if India gets into the NSG, it would have overcome the "NPT hurdle" and its path to a permanent seat in the UNSC would become easier. China will, therefore, contest India's determination with its own.

So, the jury remains out on whether it's a good thing — or not — for India to have an open global appetite. Some say India should "bide its time", but proponents of this policy in the government say, India should take what is available and wait for the next level to open up.

In 2018, the Indian system will go all out once again to get back into the Human Rights Council — expect another high energy campaign. This is also one of the reasons why India voted the way it did in the recent UNGA resolution on Jerusalem. On the one level, India believes, like most others, that Jerusalem's fate is tied to a final resolution. On another level, India could have defied precedent and changed its vote for two best friends, Israel and US. It did not. In the final calculation in the government, the top leadership decided it made sense for India to stay in the "space" it occupies in the UN — with the developing world and the Islamic world.

Similarly, India took a decidedly left turn when it refused to take up the opportunity of walking out of the Paris accord after Donald Trump opened the way for a cop-out. Instead, India is now a champion of climate change policies, and the forthcoming International Solar Alliance summit will demonstrate that sources said.

Modi became the first Indian leader to visit Israel this year, a sign of the growing relationship between the two countries. But the important piece of signalling was the dehyphenation — that was something no previous government had had the political courage to do.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/doklam-standoff-was-the-defining-moment-of-indias-foreign-policy-in-2017/articleshow/62309105.cms

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Muslims in India's Assam anxious over citizen list

byZeenatSaberin

India is set to publish the first draft of a list of citizens of the northeastern state of Assam after decades of debate, sometimes violent, over immigration from neighbouring Bangladesh.

The draft list, to be published at midnight on Sunday, will ultimately be incorporated into the National Register of Citizens (NRC) after a census carried out for the first time since 1951.

The government claims this register will be used to identify and deport illegal immigrants, but activists warn that hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Assam could be rendered stateless in the process.

"The officials [associated with the NRC project] visited many homes in our village but skipped ours. I am scared about my family being kept off the list. I am an Indian citizen. My father teaches in a school here; my grandfather has a national voter identity card too, [but I] am still petrified," 25-year-old Hussein Ahmed Madani, who lives in the remote Baladmari Char village in lower Assam, told Al Jazeera.

"I have seen many people in my village returning after long fights in the High Court and Supreme Court, vindicated after long battles to prove their citizenship. But there is an atmosphere of fear in the village, in our community here. Who knows who will be thrown out as Bangladeshi."

'Hostile towards Muslims'

Since the country's partition in 1947, Assam has been rocked by protests over "illegal immigration" from across the porous riverine border with Bangladesh, increasing sectarian tensions and riots between the state's indigenous population and Bengali-speaking Muslim migrants.

In February 1983, more than 2,000 Bengali-speaking Muslims, allegedly illegal immigrants, were killed in Nellie in central Assam. In recent years, thousands of Bengali-speaking Muslims have been thrown in detention camps in Assam as "doubtful voters" and "immigrants".

Comprising an estimated 40 percent of the state's population, Muslims have continued to battle the tag of "infiltrator" - and amid such strident rhetoric, many are anxious about the citizen list.

"If it's a free and fair list, no genuine citizen's name will be dropped. But the ones executing the list work directly or indirectly under the right-wing BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] government, which is hostile towards Muslims," AmanWadud, a rights lawyer in the state capital of Guwahati, told Al Jazeera.

"This is the same government which rode to power spewing venom against Muslims, alleging that 35 electoral constituencies are dominated by Bangladeshi Muslims. People are apprehensive that this government might try to manipulate the list and drop legal citizens from the updated list."

To make the list, citizens in Assam must provide documents proving that they or their family lived in the country before March 24, 1971 - a date that accounts for the migration of people from across Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) who were fleeing persecution during the 1965 India-Pakistan conflict, but excludes those who arrived during and after the 1971 war leading to Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan.

Competition for jobs

Upamanyu Hazarika, who founded the PrabajanVirodhiManch anti-immigration group, said that "outsiders" were threatening the state's culture and cornering resources, such as land and jobs.

"By virtue of being Muslims, they become part of the larger Muslim population and their interests are legitimised, overlooking the fact that they are foreigners," Hazarika told Al Jazeera. "Twenty to 25 percent of the state's population are illegal immigrants; they take away our jobs, the jobs of indigenous people. They swarm to the lower Assam region in huge numbers and drive away our indigenous tribes. We are becoming refugees in our own homelands."

101 EAST: India - The New Maharajas (25:00)

India says it has implemented a border management plan in conjunction with Bangladesh, but the Bangladeshi government has denied discussing the deportation of migrants with Indian officials. The two countries share a border of more than 4,000 kilometres.

The BJP government says there are about 20 million Bangladeshi immigrants in India, although this figure is disputed.

The release of the NRC comes after the first census in more than half a century. The BJP says it is a "nationalist project" to identify immigrants and thwart "designs of demographic change in the state".

"Demographic changes in Assam owing to illegal immigration of Bangladeshis is alarming to the extent that many districts have become Muslim-majority areas," BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Mittal told Al Jazeera. "This NRC register is a step towards identification and isolation of such elements."

Wadud, however, said the state was making it very difficult for Muslims to prove their Indian citizenship.

"Indian citizens are being branded as foreigners, harassed and targeted," Wadud said. "But this is not new. Massacres against Muslims branded as Bangladeshis in Assam are cyclic. There is a new form of segregation growing."

aljazeera.com/news/2017/12/muslims-india-assam-anxious-citizen-list-171230154118211.html

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After Rahul Gandhi's temple run in Gujarat, AsaduddinOwaisi vows to visit mosques in Karnataka

MayankPratapSingh  | Posted by Sanjay Nirala

December 30, 2017

3He further hinted that his party will be contesting hard in the upcoming assembly elections.

As the dates of elections coming closer, the political statement are becoming more visible in state of Karnataka. All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ulMuslimeen (AIMIM) president AsaduddinOwaisi has hinted that his party will be contesting hard in the upcoming legislative assembly elections.

Targeting Congress government in Karnataka, Owaisi alleged that Chief Minister Siddaramaiah is not allowing his party to do any public rally.

Taking a dig at temple visits of Congress president Rahul Gandhi during Gujarat Assembly election, Owaisi said that like Rahul, he too will visit all the mosques of the state.

Targeting the Muslim voters, he said, if he gets permission to hold a political rally, he will definitely call a public meeting and will give tough challenge to the Congress government.

"I can talk in Parliament, I can talk in front of Modi, but I am not allowed to speak in Karnataka," alleged Owaisi.

He said that AIMIM will fight alone in the elections and will bring forth the mistakes of Siddaramaiah in front of the people.

indiatoday.intoday.in/story/rahul-gandhi-temples-gujarat-asaduddin-owaisi-mosques-karnataka/1/1120853.html

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Govind wants to create Hindu-Muslim amity through cinema

IANS | Mumbai | December 30, 2017 5:06 pm

Actor GovindNamdev, known for films like OMG – Oh My God! and Satya, says he wants to create peace between Hindus and Muslims through movies.

“I wish to star in and write movies which are on Hindus and Muslims, and create peace between them through cinema. That’s what my resolution for 2018 is,” Govind said in a statement.

“My next release is Jhalki… EkAurBachpan. This film is based on child trafficking and I am playing the role of a trafficker who brings children from their village by luring them with employment opportunities.”

“But he earns money by handing over children to unauthorised placement companies and they put kids into hazardous child labour work,” added the actor, who has seven films lined up for release in the coming year.

What kind of films does he want to do in 2018?

“I am looking for a very unique subject with unique and strong role as I always want to accept challenges. I have written plays also,” he said.

thestatesman.com/entertainment/bollywood/govind-wants-create-hindu-muslim-amity-cinema-1502554211.html

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Mideast

‘Mullahs Must Get Lost’: Anti-Govt Protests In Iran Turn Into A Revolution Against Islamic Regime?OUTLOOK WEB BUREAU‘Mullahs Must Get Lost’: Anti-Govt Protests In Iran Turn Into A Revolution Against Islamic Regime?APPHOTOMailPrintShareShareAAA INCREASE TEXT SIZE

 

The anti-government protests in Iran spilled into a third night even as reports of clashes and marches spread across the country despite government warnings against any further "illegal gatherings".

Unverified videos on social media appeared yesterday to show thousands marching through the western cities of Khorramabad, Zanjan and Ahvaz and many smaller towns, while reports spread rapidly that several people had been shot dead by police in the town of Dorud.

A swirl of wild rumours, combined with travel restrictions and a near-total media blackout from official agencies, made it difficult to confirm the reports.

Unverified videos appeared on Twitter showing protesters setting fire to a poster of Khomeini, former Supreme Religious Leader of Iran and the leader of the Islamic Revolution in 1979. “Mullahs must get lost,” the protesters said, according to a tweet.

The authorities appeared to respond by temporarily cutting internet access to mobile phones, but full coverage was eventually restored.

Several Iranian news agencies warned Telegram, the most popular social media service in the country, might soon be shut down after communications minister Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi accused one channel, Amadnews, of encouraging an "armed uprising".

One of the few official reports -- by conservative Mehr news agency -- showed protesters attacking a town hall in central Tehran, overturning a police car and burning the Iranian flag.

There was chaos earlier around the capital's university as hundreds took to the streets, blocking traffic and shouting slogans against the regime.

But the authorities could also count on a show of strength, with hundreds of counter-demonstrators seizing control of the university entrance, chanting "Death to the seditionists".

Annual rallies marking the defeat of the last major protest movement in 2009 had already been scheduled for yesterday morning and brought thousands of regime supporters to the streets across the country.

"We urge all those who receive these calls to protest not to participate in these illegal gatherings as they will create problems for themselves and other citizens," said Interior Minister AbdolrahmanRahmaniFazli.

The protests began in the second city of Mashhad on Thursday as an attack on high living costs but quickly turned against the Islamic regime as a whole.

There were even chants in favour of the monarchy toppled by the Islamic revolution of 1979, while others criticised the regime for supporting the Palestinians and other regional movements rather than focusing on problems at home.

State news channel IRINN said it had been banned from covering the protests that spread to towns and cities including Qom and Kermanshah.

"The enemy wants once again to create a new plot and use social media and economic issues to foment a new sedition," Ayatollah Mohsen Araki, a prominent cleric, told a crowd in Tehran, according to the conservative Fars news agency.

Other officials also pointed the blame outside Iran.

"Although people have a right to protest, protesters must know how they are being directed," MassoumehEbtekar, vice president in charge of women's affairs, wrote on Twitter.

She posted images from Twitter accounts based in the United States and Saudi Arabia, voicing support for the Mashhad protests.

US President Donald Trump tweeted later that Iran's people wanted change and "oppressive regimes cannot endure forever".

"The day will come when the Iranian people will face a choice," he wrote, his second time addressing the subject in as many days. "The world is watching!"

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders added: "The days of America looking the other way from the Iranian regime's oppression are over. America stands with the Iranian people."

Trump's tweets on Friday prompted Iran's foreign ministry spokesman BahranGhasemi to dismiss his remarks as "opportunistic".

@ArminNavabi

Iranians chant: "Mullahs must get lost."

Today is the second day of anti-government protests happening in #Iran. What started as a protest against high prices has now turned into protests against the Islamic regime. #Iranprotests #Islam

2:32 AM - Dec 30, 2017

 84 84 Replies   1,380 1,380 Retweets   1,799 1,799 likes

Iranian officials warned against dismissing the public anger seen in recent days.

"The country is facing serious challenges with unemployment, high prices, corruption, lack of water, social gap, unbalanced distribution of budget," tweeted HesamoddinAshena, cultural adviser to President Hassan Rouhani.

"People have the right for their voice to be heard."

 There has been particular anger at welfare cuts and fuel price increases in the latest budget announced earlier this month.

Since the 2009 protests were ruthlessly put down by the Revolutionary Guards, many middle-class Iranians have abandoned hope of pressing for change from the streets.

But low-level strikes and demonstrations have continued, with bus drivers, teachers and factory workers protesting against unpaid wages and poor conditions.

Some of this week's protests were directed against financial scandals linked to unauthorised lending institutions which collapsed with the loss of hundreds of thousands of accounts.

Since taking power in 2013, Rouhani has sought to clean up the banking sector and kick-start the economy, but many say progress has been too slow.

Aware that economic problems can quickly spiral into political chaos, officials from across the political spectrum have called for greater efforts to tackle poverty and the 12 percent unemployment rate.

Protesters in Iran set fire to a poster of Khomeini (Former Supreme Religious Leader of #Iran and the leader of the Islamic Revolution in 1979)#IranProtests #تظاهرات_سراسرى #يحدث_الان_في_ايران #متحد_شویم #IranProtest

:56 AM - Dec 31, 2017

 36 36 Replies   558 558 Retweets   725 725 likes

"Solving people's economic problems is the chief priority in the country," tweeted EbrahimRaisi, the hardline cleric defeated by Rouhani in May's presidential election.

(With agency inputs)

outlookindia.com/website/story/mullahs-must-get-lost-anti-govt-protests-in-iran-turns-into-a-revolution-against/306206

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2 dead as Iran warns protesters will 'pay the price'

AFPUpdated December 31, 2017

Iran warned on Sunday that protesters will “pay the price” after a third night of unrest saw mass demonstrations across the country in which two people were killed and dozens arrested.

As videos on social media showed thousands marching across the country, an official in the small western town of Dorud confirmed two people had been killed during protests, but denied security forces had fired on the crowd.

A number of people took to the streets responding to calls from hostile groups,” Lorestan province deputy governor HabibollahKhojastehpour told state television.

Unfortunately in these clashes two citizens from Dorud were killed. No bullets were fired by the police, military or security forces towards the people,” he said.

Videos on social media overnight showed demonstrations in Isfahan, Mashhad and many smaller cities but travel restrictions and limited coverage by official media made it difficult to confirm reports.

Semi-official conservative outlets confirmed an evening attack on a town hall in Tehran and showed protesters attacking banks and municipal buildings in other parts of the country.

Those who damage public property, disrupt order and break the law must be responsible for their behaviour and pay the price,” Interior Minister AbdolrahmanRahmaniFazli said on state television early on Sunday.

The spreading of violence, fear and terror will definitely be confronted,” he added.

United States President Donald Trump weighed in, saying “oppressive regimes cannot endure forever”.

In one of the few official reports, an official in Arak, around 300 kilometres southwest of Tehran, said 80 people had been arrested overnight.

Some intended to enter and damage some government places but the attackers did not manage to achieve their goals... and the town is under control,” the unidentified official told the ILNA news agency.

Iranian authorities said the majority of social media reports were emanating from regional rival Saudi Arabia and exile groups based in Europe.

Internet was temporarily cut on mobile phones on Saturday night but was restored not long after.

Spreading protests

President Hassan Rouhani, who came to power in 2013 promising to mend the economy and ease social tensions, has so far not made any statement since the unrest started in second city Mashhad on Thursday.

The protests began in Mashhad against high living costs and the struggling economy before spreading quickly to other areas and turning against the Islamic regime as a whole.

Slogans such as “Death to the dictator” have been heard throughout the protests.

There have been reminders of the regime's continued support among conservative sections of society, with pro-regime students outnumbering protesters at the University of Tehran on Saturday.

Pre-planned rallies to mark the defeat of a 2009 protest movement also saw thousands of regime supporters out on the streets across the country on Saturday morning.

But the anti-government protests appear to have been driven in large part by poorer sections of society, angry over high unemployment, soaring prices and financial scandals.

These protests are driven by the lower levels of society who have been hit by major economic problems, particularly losing their money when credit institutions collapsed,” said PayamParhiz, editor in chief of reformist media network Nazar, which first broke news of the Mashhad protests.

These economic protests are not something that has started overnight, it's been at least a year since these people lost their money in credit institutions and have been protesting at various places,” he told AFP.

Unemployment is particularly high among young people, who have grown up in a less restrictive environment and are generally considered less deferential to authority.

Since the 2009 protests against a disputed presidential election that gave hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a second term were ruthlessly put down, many middle-class Iranians have abandoned hope of securing change from the streets.

But low-level strikes and demonstrations have continued, with bus drivers, teachers and factory workers protesting against unpaid wages and poor conditions.

dawn.com/news/1379938/2-dead-as-iran-warns-protesters-will-pay-the-price

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Rabbinical student explains Judaism to Muslims in Arabic

 

JTA — Is it true that Judaism doesn’t accept converts? Is it true that Jews have to wash their hands before they pray? Is it true that Jews have historically killed their prophets?

These are just a few of the questions Elhanan Miller has heard over the years. A fluent Arabic speaker and former Arab affairs correspondent for The Times of Israel, Miller saw that many Muslims he knew didn’t have a clear understanding of Jewish practices and beliefs. So he decided to start teaching Muslims about Judaism, in a language and context they can relate to.

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Islam purports to tell Muslims about what Judaism is about,” Miller, 36, told JTA. “But I think it’s a value to Muslims to hear what Judaism is about from an actual believer.”

That’s the idea behind Miller’s new project, “People of the Book,” a series of short animated videos that explain Jewish faith and ritual in Arabic and compare them to similar Muslim practices. It appears to be the first video series of its kind: an explanation of Judaism for Muslims in what, for many, is their native language. The first two videos have racked up hundreds of thousands of views on Facebook and YouTube.

The first video, released in July, compares keeping kosher with keeping halal. It explains that kashrut, like halal, forbids pork and has laws around slaughtering animals. But kashrut prohibits eating shellfish, for example, while halal permits eating any creature of the sea.

A second video, released earlier this month, covers Jewish prayer (three times a day vs. five for Muslims, with less kneeling on the floor). Miller is planning more videos on clothing and modesty, Jewish conceptions of God and fasting in Judaism.

There’s a big overlap between Judaism and Islam in those specific areas,” he said. “Islam has dietary laws like Judaism, and the structures of daily prayers at fixed times are similar in Judaism and Islam. I thought it would be good to start with the commonalities before going into the differences.”

Miller is an observant Jew born in Jerusalem to Canadian parents. He fell in love with Arabic when he began studying it in seventh grade, and continued using it during his service in the Israel Defense Forces and in college.

He earned a master’s degree in Islamic studies from Hebrew University, and has been a journalist for eight years, doing much of his reporting on the Arab world. Miller also studies at Beit Midrash Har’el, a traditional egalitarian rabbinical school in Jerusalem. The school has shared links to his videos, and he sees bridging between the two religions as part of his rabbinic calling.

timesofisrael.com/rabbinical-student-explains-judaism-to-muslims-in-arabic/

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Iran Condemns Trump, US State Department's Interfering Remarks

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Iranian foreign ministry strongly deplored the recent comments by US President Donald Trump and State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert in support of the recent economic protests in Iran, describing them as "cheap, worthless and invalid".

"The Iranian people feel no value for the opportunistic claims of the US officials and Mr. Trump, himself," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Saturday.

"Certainly, the great Iranian nation has closely pursued Mr. Trump's active partnership in violating the Palestinian, Yemeni and Bahraini people's human rights" and remember his hostile approach towards Iranians' visit to the US, he added.

"The US officials are not in a position to show sympathy with the great and wise Iranian nation," Qassemi said.

Trump and Nauert had tweeted in support of the recent economic protests in a number of Iranian towns.

Trump has refused to re-certify a 2015 deal between Tehran and world powers that curbed Iran's disputed nuclear program in return for a lifting of most international sanctions. Washington has so far violated the deal with regard to its undertakings.

The mainstream media in the West has given a wide coverage to the Friday economic protests in a few Iranian towns that each comprised of a few hundred protesters, but none  has covered the massive pro-government rallies held in more than 1,200 cities and towns on Saturday.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961009001496

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Turkey ignores Nato concern, will buy Russia’s anti-missile system

APUpdated December 30, 2017

ANKARA: Turkey has finalised a deal with Moscow for the purchase of Russia’s S-400 anti-missile system, Turkish defence officials announced on Friday, despite concerns voiced by some of the Nato member’s allies.

The deal, which would make Turkey the first member of the military alliance to own Russia’s most advanced air defence system, comes amid strengthening ties between Turkey and Russia and Ankara’s deteriorating relations with the United States and other western countries.

The Turkish Defence Industries Undersecretariat said in a statement that Turkey would buy at least one S-400 surface-to-air missile battery with the option of procuring a second battery. The delivery of the first battery was scheduled for the first quarter of 2020, the statement said.

The two countries on Friday also finalised a financial agreement for the project, under which part of the cost would be financed through a Russian loan, the Defence Industries body said, without revealing details of the deal.

Turkish media reported that Turkey would purchase four S-400 units at a cost of $2.5 billion. Sergei Chemezov, head of Russia’s state-controlled Rostechcorporation, also told the business daily Kommersant in an interview published on Wednesday that the contract was worth $2.5 billion and that a Russian loan would account for 55 per cent of the sum.

Chemezov said Turkey would buy four batteries and that the first deliveries would start in March 2020, according to Kommersant.

It’s the first Nato country to purchase our most advanced S-400 system,” he said.

The reason for the discrepancy over the number of batteries Russia would supply Turkey was not immediately clear. The Defence Industries body would not disclose the cost of the project or other details, citing “principles of secrecy” agreed to by the two countries.

The S-400 has a range of up to 400 kilometres and can simultaneously engage multiple targets. It’s capable of shooting down ballistic missile warheads along with aircraft and cruise missiles.

Russia deployed the S-400s to its base in Syria to deter Turkey when the two nations were on the verge of conflict after a Turkish jet downed a Russian bomber on the Syrian border in Nov 2015.

Turkish President RecepTayyip Erdogan announced in September that Turkey had signed a deal to buy the Russian system and made a down payment, drawing concerns from some of Turkey’s Nato allies.

Some Nato countries have expressed worries that the S-400 system is not compatible with the alliance’s weapons systems.

The Defence Industries agency said the Russian system would be operated under the full control of the Turkish military and “in an independent manner, without any links to any outside elements.”

The system’s operation, management, and systems recognizing friends and foes will be undertaken through national means,” the Defence Industries body said.

dawn.com/news/1379734/turkey-ignores-nato-concern-will-buy-russias-anti-missile-system

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Iran's Non-Oil Exports Hit $31bln in 9 Months

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iran boosted its non-oil exports in the first nine months of the current Iranian year (March 22-December 22) as compared with the previous year's corresponding period.

According to the latest statistics, Iran exported over $31 billion during the said period.

Iran’s main export products during the said period comprised gas condensates ($5.98 billion), liquefied propane ($1.68 billion), methanol ($835 million), light oils and other products, including gasoline ($810 million) and hematite iron ore ($756 million).

The main importers of Iranian products during the period were China ($ 6.527 billion), Iraq ($4.628 billion), the United Arab Emirates ($4.458 billion), South Korea ($3.11 billion) and Afghanistan ($2.4 billion).

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961010000922

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Iran 'man of action' in supporting Islamic Resistance Movement

Salih al-Arouri

News ID: 4187175 - Sun 31 December 2017 - 09:10

TEHRAN, Dec. 31 (MNA) – Hamas Deputy Chairman Salih al-Arouri reiterated Iran's commitment to the Palestinian cause.

Salih al-Arouri added that Iran's support for Resistance is real, explicit and intriguing.

Iran's support for Palestinian resistance reflects Tehran's serious opposition to the Zionist regime, he added.

He noted that Hamas' relationship with Iran is based on the fact that the country is ready for real and open support for Resistance.

Salih al-Arouri also added that "Palestine is ready to exchange prisoners with the Zionist regime, but the occupiers did nothing about it."

Earlier, Salih al-Arouri also had referred to the meetings in Iran as the continuation of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s commitment toward Palestine and the Resistance in Palestine, saying "we hope this support will continue and grow until the Resistance will be able to defeat the occupation."

en.mehrnews.com/news/130774/Iran-man-of-action-in-supporting-Islamic-Resistance-Movement

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Turkey detains 20 suspected Islamic State members, including 15 foreigners: police

 

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish police have detained 20 people, including 15 foreign nationals, on suspicion of links to Islamic State during raids in Istanbul, tightening security ahead of the anniversary of a nightclub attack in which dozens were killed.

The raids by the anti-terrorist branch of the Istanbul police took place on Saturday and targeted four locations across the city, the police said in a statement on Sunday. They did not give the nationalities of the foreign suspects.

The state-run Anadolu news agency said the suspects were believed to have been planning an attack during New Year’s Eve celebrations in the city.

Turkish police have been ramping up operations against suspected Islamic State militants in recent days, detaining around 195 on Thursday and Friday.

During New Year’s celebrations a year ago, a man with an assault rifle shot dead 39 people including Turks and visitors from several Arab nations, India and Canada at an exclusive nightclub in Istanbul, the country’s biggest city.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for that shooting, one of a series of attacks believed to have been carried out by the jihadists and Kurdish militants in Turkey in the last couple of years. A trial of those allegedly involved in the nightclub attack began this month.

On New Year’s Eve, the number of police officers on duty in Istanbul will be doubled to 37,000 and public celebrations will be canceled or banned in some districts for security reasons, officials have said.

Many roads in central Istanbul districts will be closed, while heavy vehicles will not be allowed to enter some areas, police have also said.

reuters.com/article/us-turkey-security-islamic-state/turkey-detains-20-suspected-islamic-state-members-including-15-foreigners-police-idUSKBN1EP07M?feedType=RSS&feedName=worldNews&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Reuters%2FworldNews+%28Reuters+World+News%29&&rpc=401

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Turkey rages after 'coup' officer granted asylum in Greece

AFPDecember 31, 2017

The Turkish foreign ministry on Saturday slammed a decision in Greece to grant asylum to a Turkish helicopter co-pilot, who fled the country after last year's failed coup, as "politically motivated" and warned of a negative impact on bilateral relations.

The co-pilot — who flew seven other Turkish military officers to Greece — was granted asylum after Greek authorities ruled that his human rights would be at risk, despite repeated requests for his extradition by Ankara.

The decision "once again reveals that Greece is a country that protects and embraces plotters," the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that the ruling was "politically motivated".

"Greece has not shown the support and cooperation we expect from an ally in the fight against terrorism," the statement added, warning of an impact on bilateral relations between the two countries.

The ruling is an embarrassment to RecepTayyip Erdogan, who asked for the officers to be extradited during a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in December, as part of the first official visit to Athens by a Turkish president in 65 years.

Late Saturday evening, Tsipras tried to contain any fallout from the asylum ruling by calling for the decision to be annulled.

"The Greek government filed on Saturday a request for annulment of the asylum decision taken the day before by the asylum authority," the office of the Greek Prime Minister said.

The co-pilot, who landed in the Greek city of Alexandroupoli hours after the putsch was defeated on July 15 2016, had denied being part of the coup attempt.

Despite Turkey's assertions, the asylum judges said there was no evidence to suggest the co-pilot had participated in a plot to unseat Erdogan.

According a judicial source, the ruling took into account reports from human rights groups and the Council of Europe that warned Turkey has regularly committed human rights abuses against coup suspects.

A ruling on the seven other military officers is expected to be made in the coming weeks.

The decision follows a Greek Supreme Court ruling in January that blocked the extradition of the officers, saying that they would not have a fair trial in Turkey.

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

Turkey claims Gulen ordered the attempted coup, something he denies.

dawn.com/news/1379944/turkey-rages-after-coup-officer-granted-asylum-in-greece

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South Asia

Taliban execute abducted lecturer and student in Nangarhar

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Dec 31 2017

The Taliban militants have executed a lecturer and a student, days after kidnapping them in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

The provincial government media office in a statement said a lecturer of the agriculture institute and a student were kidnapped b the Taliban insurgents from an area between BatiKot and Jalalabad two days ago.

The statement further added that the lecturer identified as Imam Jan and his student Gulbadin were executed on Friday, two days after they were abducted.

No further details have been given regarding the circumstances surrounding the abduction and execution of the two individuals.

The Taliban insurgents and militants belonging to the other insurgent groups often kidnap civilians on charges of supporting the government and security forces.

The Taliban militants group however has not commented regarding the execution of the two individuals so ar.

Nangarhar is among the relatively calm provinces in East of Afghanistan but the anti-government armed militant groups including the Taliban and ISIS insurgents have started insurgency activities in some remote parts of the province.

khaama.com/taliban-execute-abducted-lecturer-and-student-in-nangarhar-04157

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Suicide Attack Leaves Ten Dead In Jalalabad City

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Dec 31 2017

An explosion rocked Jalalabad city, the provincial capital of eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan this afternoon.

The incident took place during a funeral ceremony after a suicide bomber detonated his explosives among the participants of the ceremony.

A local security official confirmed that ten people have been killed and several others have been wounded in the attack, citing the preliminary casualties toll.

No individual or group has so far claimed responsibility behind the attack.

This story will be updated as new information becomes available…

khaama.com/explosion-rocks-jalalabad-city-in-east-of-afghanistan-04158

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Bangladesh arrests suspected Islamist militant near Rohingya camps

31 December 2017

Bangladesh police Sunday arrested a suspected Islamist militant from the border district of Ukhia, near camps where thousands of Rohingya Muslims fleeing a military crackdown in Myanmar have taken shelter.

The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), an elite police tasked with tackling Islamist extremism in the Muslim-majority country, said it detained 30-year-old SharfulAwal for allegedly communicating with international Jihadist groups.

Awal was freed on bail in January after he was charged with anti-terrorism and explosives-related offences in the Chittagong region, RAB local chief Ruhul Amin said in a statement.

But after his release, Awal "communicated with various international militant groups through social media in an effort to establish Khilafat (a caliphate) through so-called Jihad," Amin said.

Police allege Awal is a member of a new faction of the JamayetulMujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a homegrown Islamist group, and was involved in organising local extremists.

The new JMB faction has been blamed for a wave of attacks on foreigners and religious minorities, including the deadly attack on a posh Dhaka cafe last year in which 18 foreigners were shot and hacked to death.

But the RAB's Amin said authorities have not found any connections so far between Awal and Rohingya refugees.

An estimated 655,000 Rohingya have left Myanmar since late August to escape what UN officials have termed ethnic cleansing with possible "elements of genocide".

Most of the refugees have settled in Bangladesh's southeastern border areas like Ukhia.

Bangladeshi authorities have stepped up security and surveillance efforts in the Rohingya camps over fears the squalid settlements could be perfect recruitment grounds for homegrown and international extremist groups.

The country's border forces have also tightened patrols to prevent Rohingya militants -- who have carried out a series of attacks on Myanmar security posts since October last year -- from entering Bangladesh territory.

dailymail.co.uk/wires/afp/article-5224327/Bangladesh-arrests-suspected-Islamist-militant-near-Rohingya-camps.html

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Explosion in Mazar-e-Sharif city leaves 12 people wounded

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Dec 31 2017

At least twelve people were wounded in an explosion in Mazar-e-Sharif city, the provincial capital of the northern Balkh province of Afghanistan.

According to the local officials, the incident took place late on Saturday night after explosives planted in a vehicle went off in a crowded part of the city.

Provincial police Chief Abdul RaziqQaderi confirmed that the explosion took place in a taxi vehicle due to a magnetic bomb explosion and as a result ten people were wounded, including the taxi driver.

However, the provincial hospital sources are saying that twelve people were wounded in the explosion and a number of them are in critical condition.

No individual or group has so far claimed responsibility behind the incident.

Balkh is among the relatively calm provinces in North of Afghanistan where terrorist-related incidents are rarely reported although the anti-government armed militant groups often try to stage attacks in some key parts of the province, including the Mazar-e-Sharif city.

The local officials had earlier said that the signs of ISIS activities were also noted in some remote districts of Balkh besides the Taliban insurgents are attempting to expand their insurgency in this province

khaama.com/explosion-in-mazar-e-sharif-city-leaves-12-people-wounded-04155

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Hekmatyar’s alleged support to ISIS detainees should be probed: Saleh

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Dec 31 2017

The former Afghan intelligence chief Amrullah says a delegation should be formed to investigate the alleged support of Hezb-e-Islami leader GulbuddinHekmatyar to ISIS supporters who are being kept in the custody of the Afghan security forces.

In another online statement posted on social media, Saleh said more than 20 former and current members of Hezb-e-Islami are being kept in the prisons for supporting the ISIS terrorist group and helping the terrorists in staging the attacks.

Saleh also added that the leader of Hezb-e-Islami has repeatedly intervened to secure the release of the detainees as well as preventin any legal procedures against them.

According to Saleh, a delegation comprising of the parliament and civil society activists should be formed to investigate the issue.

He also added that the people must know how many prisoners have been released from the jails due to the interferences of Hekmatyar.

The ex-Afghan intelligence chief also expressed doubts regarding the faith of Hekatyar about the peace deal and said “Has Hekmatyar truly joined peace and has surrendered or he has established a training ground for the terrorists in Dar-ul-Aman?”

This comes as the Hezb-e-Islami officials have rejected the allegations by Saleh against Hekmatyar saying such claims are baseless.

khaama.com/hekmatyars-alleged-support-to-isis-detainees-should-be-probed-saleh-04156

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Pakistan

Five IS militants killed in ‘encounter’, as many LJ suspects held

December 31, 2017

KARACHI: Police on Saturday claimed to have killed five suspected militants linked with the Islamic State (IS) in an ‘encounter’ on the outskirts of the city, and in another incident arrested as many suspects belonging to the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi.

Acting on a tip-off, Sohrab Goth police conducted a targeted raid on an alleged hideout of the militants in Gharibabad near Ayub Goth off the Superhighway. In an ensuing encounter, five suspects were killed.

Malir SSP Rao Anwar said he received information from an intelligence agency about the presence of militants linked with the outlawed IS.

‘One was involved in killing of policemen, army men, and members of Shia and Christian communities’

One of the dead was identified as QariHabibullah, alias Abdul Salam Burmi.

“The killed militant was involved in the targeted killing of policemen, army men, and members of Shia and Christian communities,” said the SSP.

Mr Anwar revealed that the law enforcers had conducted a targeted raid on an alleged hideout linked with banned Al-Qaeda in Qayyumabad in 2003 in which a militant from Egypt was killed while QariHabibullah was arrested with other accomplices.

Later on, he abandoned Al-Qaeda and joined the IS.

“He was involved in several acts of terrorism,” the SSP said. He was involved also in armed attacks on workers and women in Sohrab Goth in 2003. The police claimed to have seized an 8mm rifle, a 9mm pistol and two 30-bore pistols.

“Further investigation is under way,” said the officer.

Five LJ militants held

In another incident, SITE Superhighway Industrial Area police arrested five suspects belonging to the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi group.

The police had received information that the LJ militants were present at a place near the Superhighway and were planning to assassinate an important personality belonging to the Shia community.

On Friday night, the police conducted the raid and after an encounter arrested five suspects, said SSP Anwar.

The held suspects were identified as Farhan Shaukat, Nasir Khan, Adnan Asif, SardarAijaz and Qaiser Saeed.

The police claimed to have seized a 9mm pistol, four 30-bore pistols and two motorcycles from their custody.

The Malir SSP claimed that held suspect Farhan Shaukat’s father was a police subinspector posted at Security-11 while his (Shaukat) brother was a police constable posted in the railways department.

Two brothers of another detained suspect, Adnan, were police constables, posted in the anti-car-lifting cell of police.

The third arrested suspect, Qaiser Saeed, is a watchman at a bungalow belonging to the Karachi Port Trust.

During initial probe, the held LJ militants revealed that their ringleader was Qari Amin, who killed a few years ago near Korangi Crossing. He motivated them for jihad and carrying out targeted killings of members of the Shia community.

However, after the killing of Qari Amin, SardarAijaz was appointed local chief of the LJ, said the police officer.

“He established a team which carried out targeted killings of three members of the Shia community in revenge for the killing of Qari Amin,” added the officer.

dawn.com/news/1379795/five-is-militants-killed-in-encounter-as-many-lj-suspects-held

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Pakistan defends Palestinian envoy's participation at Hafiz Saeed event

TIMESOFINDIA.COM | Updated: Dec 30, 2017

NEW DELHI: Hours after the Palestinian ambassador to Islamabad was recalled from his post, Pakistan came out in defence of the envoy, whose presence at a rally organised by Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief and 26/11 Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed had sparked outcry from India.

"The people and Government of Pakistan respect the Palestinian Ambassador's active participation in events organized to express solidarity with the people of Palestine," Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) said in a statement.

Islamabad also viewed Hafiz Saeed's participation at the event in Rawalpindi with relative latitude, observing that his designation as a global terrorist by the United Nations does not entail that he can't exercise his right to free speech.

"This public rally was attended by thousands of people from all walks of life. More than 50 speakers addressed the rally, including Hafiz Saeed. Contrary to the impression being created, UN proscription does not place any restrictions on the freedom of expression," the MoFA said.

They said that the public rally on Friday was one of many such meetings attended by the Palestinian envoy and was "another demonstration of the Pakistani strong sentiments in support of the Palestinian cause."

Earlier in the day, India issued a strong demarche to Palestine after its ambassador to Pakistan, Walid Abu Ali, was seen sharing a stage with JuD chief Saeed during an event in Rawalpindi organised to express solidarity with Jerusalem.

Following this, Palestinian Authority described the envoy's participation at the event as "not justified" and ordered his immediate recall from Islamabad.

"On the basis of the principled and firm Palestinian position, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates considered the participation of our Ambassador in Pakistan in a mass rally in solidarity with Jerusalem, held in Rawalpindi on Friday and in the presence of individuals accused of supporting terrorism is an unintended mistake, but not justified," a statement from the Palestinian Authority (PA) said.

"Accordingly, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, under the direct instructions of the President of the State of Palestine , decided to recall the Palestinian Ambassador to Pakistan immediately," it said.

The statement from the PA described Palestine as a "real partner" of India in its war against terrorism and also expressed its appreciation for New Delhi's vote in favour of the resolution at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on the issue of Jerusalem.

Palestinian ambassador to Pakistan Ali reportedly attended the Difah-e-Pakistan Council rally organised in LiaquatBagh in Rawalpindi on Friday.

Difah-e-Pakistan Council is an association of religious and extremist groups in Pakistan, headed by Saeed.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pakistan-defends-palestinian-envoys-participation-at-hafiz-saeed-event/articleshow/62310890.cms

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3,840 lawyer strikes this year hampered judicial proceedings: LHC chief justice

Dawn.comDecember 31, 2017

Dismissing the notion that judges were not working hard, Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice Mansoor Ali Shah said on Sunday that the court system suffered this year because of 3,840 strikes by lawyers in just 10 months.

As a result of the strikes, around 2.2 million cases were not heard in Punjab, Justice Shah said. "0.24 million cases could have been decided according to our calculations had the strikes not taken place," he added.

According to the judge, of the 3 million cases, 2.1 were wrapped up by the courts this year while 12 million are still pending.

While addressing a ceremony in Lahore, he said that strikes are justified when they are done for a purpose. The chief justice pointed out that in reality, most of these strikes are called for reasons devoid of substance, such as "situation worsening in Turkey or United States".

Elaborating on difficulties faced by judges, Justice Shah said that there was only one judge in Punjab for every 62,000 residents while there was one for every 4,000 in Germany.

"Some people say that the Lahore Chief Justice is against lawyers," he said. "If I say that the courts [in Punjab] run the way courts all over the world run and nobody misbehaves with anyone, is that wrong? Is it something to be angry about?"

"They are angry about why the system is changing."

Echoing Chief Justice of Pakistan MianSaqibNisar's comments on judiciary not taking 'dictation' from anyone, Justice Shah rejected speculations that decisions were being "imposed on courts".

Justice Shah said that he had initiated the process of accountability from his own home, yet he had still faced backlash.

Earlier this year in July, Justice Shah had voluntarily made details of his family business and expenditures incurred on the treatment of his son public.

A lawyer, Anwar Dar, had filed a petition before the Islamabad High Court alleging that LHC Chief Justice had got bank's loan written off, and asking the court to seek money trail from Justice Shah and details of his family business.

A letter written to the Punjab Information Commissioner on behalf of Justice Shah had stated that while the law does not bind the chief justice to disclose the information sought in an application filed before the information commission, Chief Justice Shah had desired to release the information voluntarily in the public interest.

dawn.com/news/1379945/3840-lawyer-strikes-this-year-hampered-judicial-proceedings-lhc-chief-justice

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Nisar wants leadership to make ‘wise’ decisions

AmjadIqbalDecember 31, 2017

TAXILA: Former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has said the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is going through a critical phase as the ruling party.

He was addressing the party workers in DhokeNadar in Taxila and a youth convention organised by the PML-N youth wing’s local chapter at a hotel in WahCantt on Saturday.

Mr Khan advised the PML-N leadership to take decisions on the basis of wisdom and not emotions. “Some decisions require political consultations,” he added.

The PML-N leader said that political parties should avoid unnecessary confrontations.

In view of the prevailing circumstances and the upcoming elections, he said, it was important for the PML-N to devise an effective and consensus-based narrative.

He said that Pakistan was facing threats at internal and external levels and unfortunately some “friends” were also involved in hatching a conspiracy to weaken the “pillars of the country”.

He ruled out quitting the party and said that despite reservations and differences over some issues, he would remain loyal to the PML-N.

Without naming anyone, Mr Khan said, “I do not remain silent on different issues of national and political importance and voice my opinion at all forums whether it is acceptable to some or not.”

He said that the PML-N had always practised the positive politics of development and welfare. “We have given priority to the agenda of public service and national development during every tenure of our government) and set wonderful records in these fields.”

The former interior minister said that he always stood for the rights of the employees of the Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF) and continued his struggle to protect their rights.

He said that all commitments made with the workers by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif during his visit to the POF would be fulfilled. “Politics is the name of public service and solution of their problems. We have served the masses as we deem it our sacred mission.”

Mr Khan said that best utilisation of the resources had been ensured as resources were a sacred trust of the people and added that all resources were being utilised for the welfare of the people.

He said that different steps including transparent development projects and public welfare schemes were proof of it.

Mr Khan said that transparency and merit-based policies had been adopted in Punjab and billions of rupees saved through different measures were being spent on providing basic facilities to the people.

He said that the PML-N lived in the hearts of the people because of its record of public service and because it had taken measures for the development of the country.

“There is nothing more important for me than serving the masses of Taxila, Wah and other areas of the constituency,” the PML-N leader said.

dawn.com/news/1379901/nisar-wants-leadership-to-make-wise-decisions

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Qadri-led moot adds Nawaz Sharif to list of culprits

Ahmad FrazKhanUpdated December 31, 2017

LAHORE: The participants of a multi-party conference (MPC), hosted by the Pakistan AwamiTehreek (PAT) on Saturday, added former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to the list of those responsible for the Model Town incident, and pledged to oppose another ‘National Reconciliation Ordinance’ (NRO), or any other relief, offered to grant him immunity from prosecution.

The gathering, which included leaders from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), MuttahidaQaumi Movement (MQM), Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and Sheikh Rashid’s Awami Muslim League (AML), also agreed that provincial assemblies should pass resolutions calling for the resignation of those allegedly involved in the June 2014 incident that resulted in the deaths of at least 14 PAT workers.

The resolutions are meant to ramp up the pressure on the embattled Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). The PPP, an increasingly vocal PAT ally of late, can easily get such a resolution passed in Sindh, while the PTI-JI coalition in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa can do the same.

The 13-party meet extended the deadline for the resignation of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Law Minister Rana Sanaullah to Jan 7, and also called for the hundreds of Punjab government officials — implicated in the Model Town incident in one way or the other — to resign in the first week of 2018.

Twelve-party meeting forms steering committee, without MQM, to plan joint protests if Shahbaz, Sana don’t resign over Model Town incident

Justifying the decision, PAT chief TahirulQadri said that the earlier deadline was issued unilaterally, “but since other parties have joined the struggle and own the deadline now, they needed time to make preparations of their own, therefore the extension”.

Jointly signed by the heads of all delegations and later jointly read out by PTI’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi and PPP’s Qamar Zaman Kaira, the 10-point joint declaration also envisioned the creation of a steering committee to strategise in case Shahbaz Sharif and Rana Sanaullah did not resign.

“This committee would meet immediately after the deadline [to resign] expires and will announce the protest plan, which will be owned and joined by all the parties present,” Mr Qadri told a post-meeting press conference.

No party head — except Sheikh Rashid and Mr Qadri himself — attended the meeting. MQM leader Farooq Sattar came, but left early; while the JI was represented by Liaquat Baloch, who has been looking after party affairs since party emir SirajulHaqproceeded abroad.

The MPC declaration also noted that the PML-N government had disturbed “the very basis of the Muslim faith by tinkering with the Khatm-i-Nubuwat text. Nawaz Sharif and his party are responsible for this legal terrorism and have not exposed those who committed the act. After this change, the party has lost the right to rule. This moot warns the PML-N that this dispute will stay alive as long as they do not punish the culprits”.

Calling the Model Town incident “the worst kind of state-sponsored terrorism”, the declaration said that all those who had lost lives or were maimed that day were not only PAT workers, but also Pakistanis. “Struggling for justice for them all is a joint responsibility. That is why all parties in the moot not only own this struggle, but pledge to continue it.”

The heirs of those killed have spent three and a half years struggling for justice, but in vain. Not even one of the 125 policemen involved in the incident have been punished, and this only shows that as long as Shahbaz Sharif, his law minister and those behind the incident stay in power, justice will hard to come by, the declaration said.

The Punjab government had formed two joint investigation teams (JITs) after the incident, but neither made the heirs of the deceased a party to the investigation. “The chief justice of Pakistan should form another JIT, to be headed by a Supreme Court judge, to reinvestigate the entire incident,” the declaration said.

The PPP was represented by Qamar Zaman Qaira, Sardar Latif Khosa and Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo. Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Jehangir Khan Tareen and Shafqat Mahmood came to represent the PTI.

Mr Sattar’s early exit raised eyebrows among the media. Mr Qadri tried to satisfy reporters by saying: “The MQM delegation had to leave early because of some pressing issues, but our decisions have their blessings.” However, their absence from the composition of the steering committee, where every other party found a berth, led to suspicions that all was not well on the MQM front.

dawn.com/news/1379892/qadri-led-moot-adds-nawaz-sharif-to-list-of-culprits

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Tharparkar court summons UAE royalty for illegal game hunting

HanifSamoonDecember 31, 2017

A district and sessions court in Tharparkar on Saturday acted upon a local villager's complaint and summoned members of the UAE royal family, who are in Pakistan for small game hunting.

Muhammad Yousuf, a resident of Lorio village, had complained to the court that Shaikh Ahmed Bin Khalifa and his entourage's presence near Tharparkar's Diplo town has greatly disturbed the lives of local residents.

Apart from the inconvenience caused by the contingent's VVIP movement, the complainant had also claimed that Khalifa and others have been hunting the rare houbara bustard in the region for years despite not having the permit to do so.

It was also alleged that Khalifa, a relative of UAE Prime Minister Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, had been using the hunting permit issued by the federal government to Al Maktoum.

However, the permit issued to Al Maktoum was limited only to Badin district, Jungshahi (Thatta district) and Dhabeji (Malir district) and did not allow him to hunt the houbara bustards. Despite their permit's limitation, the visiting Khalifa group allegedly encamped in the JatTarai area of Thar.

The court has also summoned SSP Badin and District Game Officer (DGO) Ashfaque Ahmed Memon, who told Dawn that not only would he appear in the court but also submit a report detailing how the local hunting rules are being brazenly violated by the dignitaries.

The DFO further said that the royal guests had yet to end their hunting expedition despite the issuance of the court's summon.

Meanwhile, Rangers sources maintained that the security provided to the royal family was on federal government's orders.

dawn.com/news/1379778/tharparkar-court-summons-uae-royalty-for-illegal-game-hunting

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Pakistani pilgrims unable to attend NizamuddinAulia'sUrs after India postpones visa issuance

Naveed SiddiquiDecember 30, 2017

In a last-minute decision, India has postponed the issuance of visas to 192 Pakistani pilgrims who wished to attend the annual Urs of Khawaja NizamuddinAulia, which is to take place in Delhi from January 1-8, 2018, a press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Saturday.

According to the press release, the move has effectively "deprived" pilgrims from attending the death anniversary of the 13th century mystic, who is revered by many on both sides of the border.

The non-issuance of visas before the Urs ceremony is also a violation of the spirit of the 1974 Pakistan-India Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines agreement, the press release said.

The decision comes just two days after Pakistan freed 145 Indian fishermen as a goodwill gesture amidst a war of words between New Delhi and Islamabad over the circumstances of the meeting between convicted Indian spy KulbhushanJadhav and his family. Pakistan had allowed Jadhav's wife and mother to meet him on "humanitarian grounds".

In June this year, several Sikh pilgrims travelling to Pakistan for the death anniversary of Guru Arjan Dev as well as Maharaja Ranjit Singh were stopped by the Indian government despite issuance of visas by the Pakistani High Commission in India.

Only 16 pilgrims were able to arrive in Pakistan to attend the death anniversary of Guru Arjan Dev in the second week of June, after India kept more than 200 Sikh pilgrims from visiting over "technical grounds". The handful of pilgrims that managed to arrive came aboard the Samjhota Express instead of the special train arranged for yatrees.

Later in the same month, India stopped over 300 Sikh pilgrims, who wished to attend the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, from crossing the border citing refusal from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs to clear their names for travel.

dawn.com/news/1379762/pakistani-pilgrims-unable-to-attend-nizamuddin-aulias-urs-after-india-postpones-visa-issuance

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Pakistan Warns US against Unapproved Military Operations

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Pakistan's military warned the US against taking unapproved action against armed groups on its territory.

In what is seen as the strongest response yet to unilateral US military action on its territory, Pakistan military Spokesman Major-General Asif Ghafoor rejected the notion that Pakistan is not doing enough to fight armed groups, Islam Times reported.

"We have sacrificed a lot. We have paid a huge price both in blood and treasure," Ghafoor said. "We have done enough and we cannot do any more for anyone."

He said Pakistan would continue to fight armed groups in the region in Pakistan's self-interest, rather than at the behest of other countries.

"Had we not supported (the US), al-Qaeda would not have been defeated," he said.

Earlier this month Pakistan ordered its air force to shoot down any drones violating the country’s airspace, including those of the US military, which are deemed responsible for a high number of civilian deaths in the Asian state.

Islamabad has condemned US drone raids on Pakistani soil, describing them as a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. 

Washington’s drone operations are also highly unpopular among Pakistani people, who have held numerous protest rallies over the past years against the civilian deaths caused by such aerial assaults.

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Europe

Russia’s Muslim Presidential Candidate Calls for Harsh Anti-Wahhabi Effort

 

Staunton, December 28 – In the carefully scripted events collectively known as the Russian presidential campaign, all of the candidates play a role either intended by Vladimir Putin or one he can easily exploit directly or indirectly to promote his own policies and, of course, his own power

Perhaps the clearest indication of that comes in the person of AynaGamzatova, the wife of AkhmadAbdullayev, the head of the Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) of Daghestan, who is running for president on what might seem the improbable platform of supporting Kremlin’s harsh approach to Wahhabism, the Russian term for Islamist radicalism.

Indeed, one Russian commentator, VladislavMaltsev, argues “the nomination for president of Russia of the wife of the Daghestani mufti should be considered as a desire to publicly declare and support at the federal level a harshly anti-Wahhabi line” against those who would like to see a more cooperative approach (iarex.ru/articles/55010.html).

In short, what some may want to see as a distinctly Muslim candidacy possibly aimed against the center is in fact a nomination in support of Putin and his approach, one that many Muslims as well as others in fact oppose but that has significant support among the Muslims of Daghestan for good and understandable reasons.

Gamzatova and her husband, as supporters of the Sufi trend that dominates Islam in their North Caucasus republic, have been active opponents of Wahhabism or as it is sometimes called in Daghestan Salafi Islam for more than two decades, viewing it as a threat to their distinctive form of Islam.

She and those who support her position have had to fight not only the growing number of Salafis in Daghestan and across the North Caucasus, Maltsev says, but also many in Moscow and in the region who argue that the best way to deal with this new trend is to seek points of contact with it, a position both she and Putin reject.

As long ago as 2010, Gamzatova, when asked about the Salafis, responded, “When I am asked ‘why do you treat all Wahhabis as potential militants?’ I answer that the reason is because ‘they are potential militants.’”  Putin and those who support him could not define their stance more clearly.

Again and again, she says, she has seen those some at the center and in the region would like to treat as just another group of Muslims as the source of attacks on the government and on the kind of Islam she, her husband and other Sufis have long defended as the true version at least for Daghestan.

To advance their position, Gamzatova and the Sufis earlier organized a political movement, People against Corruption, and recruited many from the force structures as candidates. But when it appeared the group was about to win half of the seats in the republic parliament, the Makhachkala authorities, backed by some in Moscow, sought to block it.

Now, she is pushing the same cause, Maltsev says, and thus her nomination “should be considered not in the context of clericalism or attempts of Muslims to create a competitor to Vladimir Putin but as a desire to publicly declare and support at the federal level the tough anti-Wahhabi line” Putin has pushed but that some in Moscow and Makhachkala have opposed.

Gamzatov is thus Putin’s candidate every bit as much as some of the others who are nominally running as his opponent.

windowoneurasia2.blogspot.in/2017/12/muslim-presidential-candidate-calls-for.html

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Britain’s Muslims ‘live in fear of terror attacks too’

Fariha Khan: divided society. Picture: Contributed AINE FOX Published: 08:24 Sunday 31 December 2017 Share this article 2 HAVE YOUR SAY Fear of terror attacks is as real for ordinary Muslims in Britain as it is for anyone else, the leader of a faith group said, as she and others told of worsening Islamophobia in the wake of atrocities this year. Those who look on Muslims with suspicion risk causing a more divided society, and misunderstand the true teachings of the religion, said Fariha Khan, president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association in the UK. Dr Khan was among those who stood on Westminster Bridge just days after Khalid Masood’s terror attack in March, in which five people died. The 40-year-old GP, from Surbiton, south-west London, accompanied dozens of others at the event, organised by the Women’s March On London, to openly condemn the murderous rampage. Since then, more people had been killed in atrocities in Manchester and London, and with this came discrimination and Islamophobia, Dr Khan said. “People have to consider that fear of these attacks is as real for us as it is for them. We are also out there commuting to work or out with our families and children,” she said. “Being suspicious of ordinary Muslims, and the majority of Muslims are peaceful members of the society, will only create divisions among the society.” For hijab-wearing women the attitude has become more hostile, according to two who said they have heard comments in the street and have both had to report online trolls. Mother-of-two Navida Sayed said: “I’ve definitely felt the coldness in the sense, you know, no-one smiles any more.” The 49-year-old Hounslow resident, whose mother came to the UK from Pakistan in the 1960s, said she had never felt such Islamophobia.

scotsman.com/news/uk/britain-s-muslims-live-in-fear-of-terror-attacks-too-1-4650677

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Arab World

Terrorists Withdraw from More Key Positions in Northern Hama

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army troops stormed the positions of Al-Nusra Front (Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at or the Levant Liberation Board) in Northeastern Hama and SoutheasternIdlib, forcing the terrorist group to pull fighters back from more regions, field sources confirmed on Sunday.

The sources said that the army men engaged in heavy fighting with Al-Nusra and captured two strategic hills in Jadou'a and al-Za'atar in Northeastern Hama.

The sources added that the army men further imposed control over the village of al-Jadou'a in SoutheasternIdlib.

The army's engineering units started to defuse bombs and landmines planted by the terrorists in the region as soon as militants withdrew from their positions.

Field sources reported on Saturday that the army men drove the Al-Nusra out of the villages of al-Saloumiyeh and Abu Omar and Atshan Southwest of the village of al-Hamdaniyeh.

The sources said that the Al-Nusra has suffered heavy casualties in the battlefield and the remaining pockets of its forces fled the region.

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More Than 1,000 Ceasefire Agreements Signed in Syria in 2017

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- More than 1,000 ceasefire agreements have been signed with Syrian towns and settlements in 2017, the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria said Saturday.

"This year, more than 1,000 ceasefire agreements have been signed with towns and settlements. Leaders of illegal armed formations have signed 140 ceasefire application forms," the center said in a statement, Sputnik reported.

The main objects of socially significant infrastructure in Syria have been recovered in 2017, it added.

"Due to joint work of the Russian Centre and leadership of the Syrian provinces, 88 medical establishments, 178 schools, 35 kindergartens, 152 water and electricity supply facilities have been recovered," the center said.

It also said that the further activities held by the Russian Centre for reconciliation of opposing sides would be aimed at reaching political settlement of the crisis and providing all-around assistance to Syrians.

The Center also reported that the number of UN humanitarian convoys delivering aid to de-escalation zones in Syria increased by 50 percent in the fourth quarter of 2017 compared to the third quarter.

"Number of UN humanitarian convoys delivering assistance in de-escalation zones has increased by 50% in comparison with the third quarter of 2017. Volumes of delivered humanitarian assistance have increased by 31% reaching more than 7,000 tons," the report said.

It is noted that since the beginning of 2017, the Center had provided security to more than 140 UN convoys delivering 18,000 tons of humanitarian cargo.

The Center itself has carried out 1,296 humanitarian actions in 2017, delivering over 2,000 tons of food, medicines and household items and providing medical care to 67,000 Syrians.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961010000435

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Northern Hama: Al-Nusra Front Expels 14 Senior Commanders After Heavy Defeat From Army

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Al-Nusra Front (Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at or the Levant Liberation Board) has dismissed several of its senior commanders after the terrorist group sustained heavy losses and casualties in tough battle with the Syrian army, websites close to the terrorist groups reported.

At least 14 senior Al-Nusra Front commanders were laid off for not resisting the Syrian army's military advances in different battlefields of Hama, Idlib and Aleppo, the terrorist-affiliated websites said.

They noted that eight Al-Nusra commanders were expelled after the defeats of the past two days in Hama and six others were from Idlib and Aleppo, and said some of Al-Nusra commanders have been transferred to al-Aqab prisons.

Meantime, reports indicate that Nouralddeen al-Zinki has dispatched its military convoys to Eastern Hama and Southern Aleppo in a bid to prevent the Syrian army advances in Idlib province.

The Syrian Army troops imposed control over more regions in Northeastern Hama, and forced the terrorists of Al-Nusra Front to escape from the battlefields in groups, field sources reported on Saturday.

The sources said that the army men drove the Al-Nusra out of the villages of al-Saloumiyeh and Abu Omar and Atshan Southwest of the village of al-Hamdaniyeh.

The sources said that the Al-Nusra has suffered heavy casualties in the battlefield and the remaining pockets of its forces fled the region.

Militant-affiliated websites said earlier on Saturday that the terrorist groups stationed in Northern Hama resumed infighting concurrent with the Syrian army's military advances from several directions in the region and in Southern Idlib.

The ISIL terrorists penetrated into the military positions of Al-Nusra Front in the town of Abu Khanadeq in the Northern outskirts of Hama, the terrorist-affiliated websites reported.

They also reiterated that the ISIL penetrated into Northern Hama after a group of Al-Nusra Front terrorists joined ISIL and withdrew from their military positions in Abu Khanadeq.

The terrorist-affiliated sources also said that clashes among terrorists erupted after a terrorist group affiliated to Al-Nusra Front attacked the ISIL stronghold in the village of Kafroumeh and killed senior ISIL commander Mohammad EbrahimJoulaq nom du guerre Shimiayee.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961010000386

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Army Makes New Gains in Hama Province

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army continued its military operations in Northeastern Hama by purging terrorists from strategic villages.

The army units drove back the al-Nusra Front (Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at or the Levant Liberation Board) terrorists from key villages in Northeastern Hama after destroying the defense lines of terrorists there.

The Syrian troops killed several terrorists and injured many more in fierce clashes over controlling of the strategic regions. They also destroyed military equipment of the terrorists.

The Syrian army also continued its advances in other key provinces across Syria.

Hama

The Syrian Army troops imposed control over more regions in Northeastern Hama, and forced the terrorists of Al-Nusra Front to escape from the battlefields in groups, field sources reported on Saturday.

The sources said that the army men drove the Al-Nusra out of the villages of al-Saloumiyeh and Abu Omar and Atshan Southwest of the village of al-Hamdaniyeh.

The sources said that the Al-Nusra has suffered heavy casualties in the battlefield and the remaining pockets of its forces fled the region.

Militant-affiliated websites said earlier on Saturday that the terrorist groups stationed in Northern Hama resumed infighting concurrent with the Syrian army's military advances from several directions in the region and in Southern Idlib.

The ISIL terrorists penetrated into the military positions of Al-Nusra Front in the town of Abu Khanadeq in the Northern outskirts of Hama, the terrorist-affiliated websites reported.

They also reiterated that the ISIL penetrated into Northern Hama after a group of Al-Nusra Front terrorists joined ISIL and withdrew from their military positions in Abu Khanadeq.

The terrorist-affiliated sources also said that clashes among terrorists erupted after a terrorist group affiliated to Al-Nusra Front attacked the ISIL stronghold in the village of Kafroumeh and killed senior ISIL commander Mohammad EbrahimJoulaq nom du guerre Shimiayee.

Dara'a

The terrorist groups have started abducting civilians in the Southern province of Dara'a to later demand their families to pay a hefty amount of money, informed sources said on Saturday.

A fresh wave of insecurity and tension has covered terrorist-held regions in Dara'a province, the sources said, adding that kidnapping civilians and plundering their properties by the terrorists have increased in the region in an unprecedented manner.

The sources said that terrorists abduct civilians and then ask their families to pay $200,000-250,000 in ransom.

Damascus

The Syrian army dispatched reinforcement troops and military equipment to Eastern Ghouta along with intensification of clashes in the region.

Battlefield sources reported that a large number of Dara al-Qalamoun forces of the Syrian army have been dispatched to Eastern Ghouta in tens of military and armored vehicles.

The sources pointed to the intensification of clashes in Eastern Damascus, and confirmed that the Syrian army's special forces have engaged in tough battle with the terrorists at the Vehicle Management region of Harasta.

On the other hand, the Syrian army's security forces seized a truck carrying a large volume of ammunition and highly-explosive materials from the Dara'a-based terrorists destined to reach their compatriots in Eastern Ghouta.

In a relevant development on Saturday, the Syrian army repelled the terrorists' attack on the government forces' strategic military positions in Eastern Ghouta in Damascus province, inflicting heavy losses on the militants.

The army units engaged in heavy clashes with the terrorists who had attacked the army's military positions at the Vehicle Management region of Harasta in Eastern Damascus.

Meantime, a battlefield source confirmed that the Syrian troops managed to destroy the terrorists' bomb-laden vehicle that was driven by Saudi terrorist Abu Dajaneh al-Jazravi before the vehicle could reach the army's military points and therefore foiled the terrorists' attack.

Also concurrent with the terrorists' failure, the Syrian army's artillery and missile units targeted the terrorists' military positions and inflicted heavy losses on them.

The Syrian army units also managed to destroy a tunnel of Ahrar al-Sham terrorists North of Vehicle Management in Harasta city, killing or wounding all terrorists inside the tunnel.

DeirEzzur

The Syrian army said it has seized a large volume of American-made weapons and ammunition from the terrorists during the mop-up operations in DeirEzzur.

While purging terrorists from different districts of the city of DeirEzzur, the army units gained access to a large cache of mortar rounds, different types of machine-guns, rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and shoulder-mounted rockets, including some manufactured by the US.

The army forces also seized wireless and radio broadcasting stations in one of ISIL's headquarters while purging terrorists from al-Sayyal village in the outskirts of Albu Kamal city East of DeirEzzur.

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Regime forces advance against jihadists in northwest Syria

AFP | Dec 30, 2017

BEIRUT: Syrian regime forces advanced against jihadists on Saturday on the edge of the northwestern province of Idlib, the last outside government control, a monitor and the state news agency said.

Government and allied forces backed by Russian warplanes have since Monday been fighting mostly jihadist fighters in an area straddling the border between Idlib and Hama provinces.

The fighting, which could signal the start of a major offensive to seize Idlib province from rebels dominated by a former al-Qaida affiliate, escalated on Thursday.

On Saturday, regime troops advanced, seizing several villages and surrounding areas, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said.

State news agency SANA said regime forces had taken control of five villages, areas and "strategic hills" in the northeast of Hama province.

An AFP correspondent said civilians continued to flee areas near the battle zone, heading north towards the provincial capital of Idlib with their belongings piled high on pick-up trucks.

Since Thursday, the clashes have killed 32 soldiers and allied members of paramilitary units, as well as 29 rebels from Islamist groups or from former al-Qaida affiliate Fateh al-Sham, the Observatory said.

Twenty-one civilians have also died.

Government forces' first aim to take control of the southeast of Idlib province, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

This would allow the regime to have full control of a road that links the capital Damascus to the government-held second city of Aleppo.

Russia intervened on the side of President Bashar al-Assad's regime in 2015, helping it to take back control of swathes of territory including Aleppo.

The war has killed more than 3,40,000 people and displaced millions from their homes since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/regime-forces-advance-against-jihadists-in-northwest-syria/articleshow/62308619.cms

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Turkish Army, SDF Exchange Heavy Fire in Northern Syria

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Turkish Army, backed up by allied militants, exchanged heavy fire with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the outskirts of the town of Afrin in Western Aleppo, injuring a number of gunmen from both warring sides, a Kurdish media outlet reported on Saturday.

The Kurdish-language Hawar news reported that the mortar units of the Turkish Army and their affiliated militants shelled heavily the SDF's positions in the villages of Daqnah and Ma'anaz and Tal (hill) QastalJandu near Afrin in Western Aleppo.

It went on to say that the SDF, meantime, pounded the positions of the Turkish army and Ankara-backed militants in Western Aleppo, leaving seven Turkey-backed militants injured, two of them in critical conditions. 

Dissident-affiliated websites reported earlier today that the Turkish Army has forwarded another military column to Western Aleppo to enhance its forces for an imminent operation against the SDF in Afrin.

The news websites reported that another convoy of the Turkish military vehicles left the village of KafrLoseen and crossed the border into Syria's Idlib.

The websites further said that the convoy, consisting of several personnel carriers and cargo vehicles and engineering machinery, moved to the positions of the Turkish army troops in Afrin region in Western Aleppo. 

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Damascus: Senior Jeish Al-Islam Commander Killed in Clashes with Army in Eastern Ghouta

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army continued its advances in Eastern Damascus, killing several terrorists, including a senior commander of Jeish al-Islam terrorist group.

Mohammad al-Khanshour nom du guerre Abu Orveh, senior commander of Jeish al-Islam, along with seven other terrorists were killed and 17 others were also injured in fierce clashes with the Syrian army.

The Syrian army, meantime, rapidly took control over four strategic regions in Eastern Ghouta.

The Syrian army troops engaged in tough battle with the terrorists in al-Nashabiyeh, Hazarma and Zarboqiyeh after launching counterattack on the terrorists.

The army men took full control of al-Ehsan grand mosque, Housh al-Salehiyeh western farm and a key region in Tal al-Farzat.

In a relevant development on Saturday, the Syrian army's advances came as they had warded off terrorists' heavy attack on their military positions in Harasta town.

The Syrian army dispatched reinforcement troops and military equipment to Eastern Ghouta along with intensification of clashes in the region.

Battlefield sources reported that a large number of Dara al-Qalamoun forces of the Syrian army have been dispatched to Eastern Ghouta in tens of military and armored vehicles.

The sources pointed to the intensification of clashes in Eastern Damascus, and confirmed that the Syrian army's special forces have engaged in tough battle with the terrorists at the Vehicle Management region of Harasta.

On the other hand, the Syrian army's security forces seized a truck carrying a large volume of ammunition and highly-explosive materials from the Dara'a-based terrorists destined to reach their compatriots in Eastern Ghouta.

In a relevant development on Saturday, the Syrian army repelled the terrorists' attack on the government forces' strategic military positions in Eastern Ghouta in Damascus province, inflicting heavy losses on the militants.

The army units engaged in heavy clashes with the terrorists who had attacked the army's military positions at the Vehicle Management region of Harasta in Eastern Damascus.

Meantime, a battlefield source confirmed that the Syrian troops managed to destroy the terrorists' bomb-laden vehicle that was driven by Saudi terrorist Abu Dajaneh al-Jazravi before the vehicle could reach the army's military points and therefore foiled the terrorists' attack.

Also concurrent with the terrorists' failure, the Syrian army's artillery and missile units targeted the terrorists' military positions and inflicted heavy losses on them.

The Syrian army units also managed to destroy a tunnel of Ahrar al-Sham terrorists North of Vehicle Management in Harasta city, killing or wounding all terrorists inside the tunnel.

In a relevant development on Thursday, the Syrian army troops regained control over one of the terrorists' key bases in Southwestern Damascus after the al-Nusra Front violated an earlier agreement to leave the region.

Field sources reported that the army units entered the village of Mughur al-Mir and retook control of the region, one kilometer away from Beit Jin farm, after the militants refrained from leaving Southwestern Damascus.

Also, a member of Alviyeh al-Forqan's media center, Mohammad Zamol, underlined that the army has cut off all roads used by the terrorists to transfer goods and weapons after taking back control of Mughur al-Mir.

Meantime, a field source said that the army has given the terrorists a 72-hour deadline to leave the region towards Idlib and Dara'a along with their personal weapons.

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Africa

Nigerian activist: US, Israeli, Saudi regimes preventing freedom of Sheikh Zakzaky

December 31, 2017

(AhlulBayt News Agency) - A senior member of Nigeria’s Islamic Movement highlighted the reasons behind the continued imprisonment of top Muslim cleric Sheikh IbraheemZakzaky by the Abuja government and said the US, Israeli and Saudi regimes are behind the move.

“Despite a ruling issued by the Federal High Court of Nigeria to release of Sheikh Zakzaky, the head of the Nigerian government has not done so yet,” Dr. Abdullah Danladi said in an interview with the Tasnim News Agency.

The issue has its roots in the orders given to the Nigerian government by the US, Israeli and Saudi regimes, he said, adding that they want the cleric to be held captive.

The activist further pointed to the health conditions of Sheikh Zakzaky and said he has already lost his left eye and his right eye was also damaged.

According to physicians, Sheikh Zakzaky should be sent abroad to treat his eye, but the Nigerian government is preventing this, Danladi said.

In early December 2016, Abuja division of the Federal High Court of Nigeria ruled that Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife Zeenat should be released unconditionally.

The prominent cleric and his wife were taken into custody on December 14, 2015, after deadly clashes between the supporters of the IMN and Nigerian troops.

Buhari regime killed Hundreds people of the movement. The sheikh was brutally injured and his house was reportedly destroyed by the army in the incident.

en.abna24.com/news/interview/nigerian-activist-us-israeli-saudi-regimes-preventing-freedom-of-sheikh-zakzaky_875058.html

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3 Bedouin troops arrested over beating of Muslim soldier

YoavZitun and Hassan Shaalan|Published:  31.12.17

In recordings obtained by Ynet that took place before the violent incident, one of his commanders stationed in an IDF outpost near the Gaza Strip border can be heard saying shortly before the attack: “I don’t give a f*** about you or the brigade commander.”

 One of the people arrested was a company commander of the attacked soldier.

 Audio recording of abuse (Arabic and Hebrew)

 According to suspicions, one of the commanders of the soldier, identified as Corporal J., cursed and threatened him. Shortly after, two soldiers beat him up until other soldiers arrived to put a stop to the violence.

Cpl. J. was treated in Soroka University Medical Center in Be’erSheva having sustained injuries to his eyes. He was also bleeding from his face and suffering from severe pain in his back.

 He was discharged from hospital the same night and sent home for five days.

 In the audio recording of the violent attack, comments made by two of the soldier’s commanders minutes beforehand can be heard, with one of them saying to Cpl. J: “I don’t give a f*** about you or the brigade commander. Don’t speak too much. Go to the brigade commander, I don’t care.”

 Another commander can be heard saying: “You should be ashamed of yourself. You’re a man, not a woman. Shut your mouth and that’s it. Work. Don’t be like weak children.”

 After the incident, the soldier can be heard saying: “I don’t want to talk about anything. When I spoke they suddenly they attacked me. Both of them attacked me.”

 The motive behind the attack remains unclear, and is being investigated by the unit.

 Ali, the father of Cpl. J, explained that his son had volunteered as an Arab-Muslim to serve ten months ago as a combat soldier in the IDF, but due to harassment he faced from soldiers in his reconnaissance unit he went AWOL for just short of a month.

Last week, he returned to his unit and was summoned for a disciplinary hearing in a military court, where he was sentenced to spend 34 days in military prison.

Until the beginning of his sentence, the soldier was instructed to perform administrative tasks such as kitchen duty. For reasons that remain unclear, he consistently faced violent and humiliating treatment from the soldiers.

“He is in a serious mental state,” the father said Saturday night in an interview with Ynet, while also expressing concerns over the conduct of the investigation.

“We will request that he be transferred to serve on another base. We put him in the army so he could contribute and in the end this is what they did to him. We have other family relatives who serve in the police and the army. This is our country that gives us rights and (good) conditions so we need to contribute towards it too,” Ali said.

In a statement issued by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, it was said that “the matter is being investigated by CID and once the inquiry concludes, its findings will be given to the Military Advocate General for review. The IDF handles any instances of violence with the utmost severity, and shows zero tolerance for them."

ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-5064181,00.html

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Muslim World League holds global peace forum in South Africa

MOHAMMED AL-SULAMI | Published — Sunday 31 December 2017

MWL: Extremism has little foothold in Muslim world

RIYADH: The Muslim World League (MWL) held an international forum in Durban, South Africa, on Dec. 25.

The event, entitled “For a Safer World: Followers of Religions Unite Against Hatred, Extremism and Terrorism,” was inaugurated by Mayor of Durban ZandileGumede, in the presence of MWL Secretary-General Mohammed Al-Issa, a number of South African government ministers and representatives from many different religions.

Al-Issa thanked all those present for their cooperation and partnership with the MWL in organizing the forum, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

He stressed the need to promote the values of love and cooperation, and the league’s desire to fight all kinds of abuse of people of all religions, races, cultures and countries.

Al-Issa also said that the MWL is an international bridge promoting forgiveness, coexistence and peace, and that it has many international partners who welcome a moderate Islamic stance promoting coexistence and efforts to fight extremism and terrorism.

The secretary-general stressed that the true interpretation of Islamic texts is revealed by traditional mainstream scholars, not by isolated extremists falsely claiming to represent Islam.

He concluded that the MWL does not discriminate religiously or ethnically, and aims to serve everyone, as “Islam is a religion that serves God without expecting anything in return.”

Gumede thanked the MWL for letting Durban be a part of its program on its African tour, organized in cooperation with eThekwini Municipality.

She also praised the league’s international message that “spreads the culture of forgiveness, peace, understanding and love among religions and cultures around the world,” and for its efforts to enhance communication throughout the world.

arabnews.com/node/1216806/saudi-arabia

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Islamic State Claims Egypt Church Attack Killing 11

December 31, 2017

CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)-- The Islamic State terror group has claimed responsibility for shootings at a Coptic Orthodox church and a Christian-owned shop near Egypt's capital Cairo that left at least 11 people dead.

Government and church officials said the suspect involved in the violence Friday, December 29, was wounded and detained.

The Coptic Church explained that the gunman, who arrived on a motorcycle, first shot at a Christian-owned shop 4 kilometers (3 miles) away, killing two people, before proceeding to the Mar Mina church in the southern Cairo suburb of Helwan.

Egypt's Interior Ministry reported that he opened fire at the entrance to the church and tried to throw an explosive device.

The gunman killed at least nine people, including a policeman, at the site, according to Interior Ministry and Coptic Church accounts. The Church said a young woman died later from her wounds, bringing the civilian death toll at the church to eight.

CHRISTIANS INJURED

In separate remarks, the health ministry said five people were wounded, including two women in a severe condition.

Initial reports by security sources and state media said at least two attackers participated in Friday’s attack, and that one was shot dead, and another fled the scene. The interior ministry did not explain the reason for the different accounts, news reports said.

Sama’anFarag, a church keeper at the Mar Mina church, told local media that he quickly shut and locked the gates of the building when he heard gunfire, saving the lives of dozens of children attending an after-school prayer at the church.

"I was sitting behind the door, and I heard gunfire outside. I managed to run and close the door and we took the people upstairs," he was quoted as saying. [But] I heard that there was a paralyzed man who was killed with his wife. We felt sad for him and the other people and the officer who died."

Soon after a joint funeral for eight of those killed was held on Friday evening at the Virgin Mary church in Helwan. The head of the Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II, led mourning for the victims.

MORE VIOLENCE

Friday's attack was the latest violence targeting the country’s embattled Christian minority who comprise roughly 10 percent of Egypt's mainly Muslim population.

Islamic militants have claimed several attacks on Egyptian Christians, also known a Copts, in recent years, including two bombings on Palm Sunday in April and a blast at Cairo’s largest Coptic cathedral in December 2016 that killed at least 28 people.

Egypt's government has come under pressure to improve the security of Christians and other minorities amid ongoing Islamic attacks.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ordered security forces to increase safety measures at sensitive sites, after offering his condolences to the families, his office said in a statement. The Interior Ministry also said that security forces had “immediately dealt with the (attacker) and arrested him after he was wounded” following Friday's attack. It added that "legal measures have been taken,” without elaborating.

Police reportedly stepped up security measures around churches ahead of Coptic Christmas celebrations on January 7. Officers were seen outside Christian places of worship, and police set up metal detectors at some of the larger churches. Egypt is also facing a deadly Islamic State insurgency in the North Sinai region.

Questions remained Friday, December 29, whether the announced security measures would be enough to prevent more attacks.

bosnewslife.com/38231-breaking-islamic-state-claims-egypt-church-attack-killing-11


URL: http://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/the-forgiveness-special--kar-sevak-balbir-singh-who-helped-demolish-babri-masjid-is-now-mohammed-amir,-a-man-determined-to-rebuild-100-mosques/d/113758

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