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Islamic World News ( 19 Feb 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Theresa May Among Thousands Who Visited UK Mosques to Dispel Misconceptions about Islam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

British Prime Minister Theresa May visits a mosque in Maidenhead during #VisitMyMosque day.

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Theresa May Among Thousands Who Visited UK Mosques to Dispel Misconceptions about Islam

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani Calls for Shia-Sunni Unity

Jordanian Paper Warns of ISIL Revival in Iraq by Abu Yahya al-Iraqi

Pakistani Troops Have Advisory Role in Saudi Arabia: PM Abbasi

AQIS Terrorists Work as Advisers and Trainers of Taliban: UN Report

Indonesia Celebrates Unity in Diversity at Janadriyah Saudi Cultural Festival

 

Europe

Theresa May Among Thousands Who Visited UK Mosques to Dispel Misconceptions about Islam

Russia Accused of ‘Erasing Muslim Heritage’ For Restoring Collapsing Crimean Mosque

IS claims responsibility for church shooting in Russia

German 'Islamic State' bride sentenced to 6 years in prison

Russia says Nusra terrorists ‘recovering strength’ in US-controlled zone in S Syria

5 killed in attack on church in Russia’s Dagestan

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India

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani Calls for Shia-Sunni Unity

China Expanding Its Role in J-K, Has Adopted JeM, Says State Minister

25 Terrorists Shifted To Jammu Jails from Valley after Jat's Escape

J-K: Pakistan violates ceasefire in Uri district, three civilians injured

J&K: Army kills Pakistani terrorist, foils infiltration bid

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Arab World

Jordanian Paper Warns of ISIL Revival in Iraq by Abu Yahya al-Iraqi

Islamic State Kills 27 Iraqi Militiamen near Kirkuk

Syria bombardment kills scores of civilians

14 dead, 75 injured in latest Assad raids on eastern Ghouta

Syria sends forces to Afrin amid Turkish siege: TV

War against terror is not over, Iraqi PMU commander warns

Syrian Army to Enter Kurdish-Held Afrin in Coming Hours

Lebanon army chief: Will confront Israeli aggression no matter the cost

UN: Targeting of civilians in Syria’s eastern Ghouta ‘must stop’

Three Egyptian troops killed in anti-militant operation in Sinai

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Pakistan

Pakistani Troops Have Advisory Role in Saudi Arabia: PM Abbasi

‘Pakistan Needs to Build Counter Narrative to Fight Terrorism’

FIA to establish offices in Greece, Iran to check human trafficking: report

2 Afghan-based TTP terrorists killed by security forces in Bajaur: ISPR

‘Terrorism defeated due to Nawaz policies’

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South Asia

AQIS Terrorists Work as Advisers and Trainers of Taliban: UN Report

ISIS Behead Taliban Fighter and Alleged Spy in East of Afghanistan

Bangladesh, Myanmar representatives to meet over Rohingyas trapped at border

We must stop radical Islamism in Bangladesh

Mass grave of hostages kidnapped by ISIS discovered in East of Afghanistan

Rohingya refugees say no repatriation without security guarantee

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Southeast Asia

Indonesia Celebrates Unity in Diversity at Janadriyah Saudi Cultural Festival

Maldives Leader Seeks Approval to Extend State Of Emergency

Philippine Forces Arrest Alleged Ex-Islamic State Commander

Philippines says suspect Islamist militant recruiter arrested

Malaysia to Hold Talks with Thailand, Consider Human Rights in Uighur Issue

Malaysian militant linked to Abu Sayyaf abductions

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Mideast

Israel Plans New Law to Ban Palestinians from Jerusalem

Qatari Envoy Abused, Thrown Out Of Hospital in Gaza

Turkey Renames US Embassy Street After Syria Offensive

Turkey warns Assad regime against support to Kurd militia

Tehran jails 15-year-old boy for pulling down Iranian flag

Iran decries Daesh church shooting incident in Russia's Dagestan

Turkey will confront Syrian forces if they enter Afrin to help YPG: FM Cavusoglu

Syrian government will ‘face consequences’ if it reaches agreement with YPG, Erdoğan tells Putin

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Africa

Why Terror Group Returnees Are Not Heeding State Amnesty

Over 200 Boko Haram suspects convicted in Nigeria

Shabaab terrorist rented room next to city police base

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/theresa-may-among-thousands-who-visited-uk-mosques-to-dispel-misconceptions-about-islam/d/114348

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Theresa May Among Thousands Who Visited UK Mosques To Dispel Misconceptions About Islam

20 February 2018

2017 was a rough year for the United Kingdom, as the country had to endure multiple extremist attacks such as the London Bridge, Westminster, Manchester and Finsbury Park attacks that resulted in many innocent deaths.

Muslims in the country were facing increased persecution and harassment following the attacks, especially by the far-right nationalists.

In an effort to build bridges between Muslims and non-Muslims, over 200 mosques in the country organised an open day for the public to correct any misconception towards Islam.

Led by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), the event on Sunday was a huge success, attracting tens of thousands of curious Brits to learn more about the religion.

High-ranking officials also participated in visiting their local mosques, such as London mayor Sadiq Khan, West Midlands mayor Andy Street, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and most notably the Prime Minister herself, Theresa May.

May visited Maidenhead Mosque and gave a heartwarming speech to the attendees, saying the UK is a country that is open to everyone, regardless of race or religion.

Mosque leaders appreciated May’s embracing gesture and hoped that the annual event, which was organised for the fourth time this year, will educate more Brits about Islam.

“People who are friendly towards Muslims are coming, but we need to reach people who live in the suburbs who won’t have interaction with Muslims,” said Dilowar Khan, executive director of the East London Mosque, to Middle East Monitor.

Visitors were given homemade cakes, guided tours and the recitation of the Quran.

Corbyn, who visited the Finsbury Park mosque where Darren Osborne drove a van through a group of Muslims last June, said Muslims in the UK were subjects of constant abuse.

“Islamophobia is a real problem in our society, as is other forms of racism like antisemitism and racism against people of Afro-Caribbean heritage.

“I've held meetings with Muslim women who have told me horrific stories of routine racist abuse on our streets. If women are abused because they are wearing a headscarf, then it is a wrong against them and it is a wrong against all of us,” Corbyn told The Guardian.

While Khan who was welcomed by the al-Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre, conveyed a message of peace and tolerance to fellow Londoners.

“London is a place where we don’t just tolerate diversity, we celebrate, cherish and embrace it – that’s why I’m so pleased to support this great initiative to help us build a more open and inclusive society.

“Today is a day to increase understanding, celebrate the important role mosques play in bringing the local community together, and in particular, to highlight the major part everybody at this mosque has played in responding to last summer’s devastating Grenfell Tower fire,” Khan said in his speech.

Some Christian leaders have voiced their support for the mosque event as well, in hopes that this would be a step towards loving one another.

Rev Toby Howarth, the Bishop of Bradford, advised that crossing the threshold of a different place of worship can be an important step in learning about and getting to know his Muslim neighbours.

http://www.malaysiandigest.com/frontpage/29-4-tile/723941-theresa-may-among-thousands-who-visited-uk-mosques-to-dispel-misconceptions-about-islam.html

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani Calls for Shia-Sunni Unity

SOROOR AHMED

Feb 19th 2018

A significant aspect of the recently concluded visit by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani got somewhat drowned in the cacophony over Nirav Modi-PNB scam. The maximum the media could highlight is the agreement related to Chabahar port––the issue which has already been discussed in the past. The fact that the visiting dignitary succeeded in sending a message to the Muslims of the country as well as the world got relatively little attention, though this was somewhat very unusual development on the Indian soil. Curiously, his three-day (Feb 15-17) stay in India was very different from that of former Iranian President Hashmi Rafsanjani made in April 1995––that is 17 months before the emergence of Taliban in Afghanistan in September 1996.Rafsanjani’s mention is important because he was the first post-1979 Islamic Revolution President to visit India. The then Indian Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao broke protocol to receive him at the airport. This was the gesture made by the present PM Narendra Modi for his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu last month, but not for Rouhani, who actually first landed in Hyderabad. Rouhani, incidentally, did not make a trip to Lucknow, which has the biggest population of Shias in north India. On the other hand, Shias (not Sunnis) protested against Rafsanjani when he had visited Lucknow and Hyderabad in 1995. They were against some reforms made in Iran, for example, banning Muta (the concept of temporary marriage) and tabarah. However, in the Imambara in Lucknow, he was cheered on by Shias, who had gathered in large numbers. That was the time when Rouhani, as the Deputy Speaker of Majlis (Parliament), was known for his hard-line stand against India. While on his visit to Hyderabad, Rouhani offered Friday (Juma) prayer (on February 16) in Makkah Masjid––where usually Sunni Muslims congregate––and called upon both Sunnis and Shias to unite. He minced no words to denounce President Donald Trump and also referred to the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. True, India did not support the United States on this issue at the United Nations, yet it is a known fact that both Trump and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu are very good friends of Narendra Modi. Yet the visiting Iranian President did not hesitate at all to express his views. Rouhani’s appeal in Hyderabad was underplayed by the media, yet it has its own significance as no Sunni Arab leader, who visit India, has made any such appeal to Indian Muslims and that too at a mosque. Notwithstanding some differences between the two major schools of thought of Islam, post-Revolution Iran has managed to win goodwill of a sizable section of Sunnis around the world, including India. The anti-Israel and anti-America stand–– besides the repeated appeal to Muslims to unite––has made Iranian leadership more popular among average Sunnis than the Gulf monarchies. The latter, especially Saudi Arabia, have failed to whip up the anti-Shia passion even though initially they backed the ultra-Salafist Islamic State, which Iran, and many others in the Sunni world too, alleges is a US creation. Today, friendship with Iran is crucial for India because of oil and Chabahar port which opens an opportunity to trade with Afghanistan and Central Asia. But, with Chinese freight trains already reaching Afghanistan and Iran, Beijing now has an eye on ports of Islamic Republic, including Chabahar. Iran has already welcomed One Belt One Road (OBOR), also called Belt and Road Initiative, of China. This is in total contrast to the Indian position.

https://www.nationalheraldindia.com/international/aware-of-irans-importance-to-india-rouhani-pitches-for-shia-sunni-unity

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Jordanian Paper Warns Of ISIL Revival in Iraq by Abu Yahya Al-Iraqi

Feb 19, 2018

The Arabic-language Amman newspaper reported that Abu Yahya al-Iraqi, one of the notorious ISIL ringleaders, wants to revive the terrorist group in Iraq again.

The daily quoted informed Iraqi sources as saying that al-Iraqi has secretly formed an armed group in Wadi Hawaren region in Western al-Anbar and plans to made a sudden declaration of its existence.

The report came days after dissident-affiliated websites in Syria claimed that ISIL's Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is alive but is in deteriorating health conditions, leaving the terrorist group's commanders in serious disputes over appointing his successor.

The Syrian Arabic-language al-Watan daily quoted militant-affiliated websites as claiming earlier this month that Abu Bakr Baghdadi has been suffering from a severe illness, adding that Baghdadi's critical health condition has kept him away from media.

The daily further said that Baghdadi is suffering from advanced diabetes, adding that ISIL commanders are in row over who should be his successor.

The ISIL commanders have reportedly had an important meeting to appoint Baghdadi's successor but the meeting has failed due to wide rifts over the nationality of new ISIL leader.

The sources further said that the Iraqi commanders of the ISIL are asking for an Iraqi successor for Baghdadi but the Syrian and Saudi commanders of the terrorist group are showing strong opposition.

Well-informed Syrian sources reported last month that al-Baghdadi was living together with a number of his forces in a region in Eastern Deir Ezzur that was under the US forces' control.

The Arabic-language website of Sputnik quoted Deputy Head of the Syrian Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee Amar al-Assad as saying that a group of ISIL militants were deployed East of Khabour that was under the control of the US forces, adding that it seemed that Abu Bakr Baghdadi was living normally in Khabour region under the support of the US forces.

The Arabic Sputnik further said that the US was organizing alternative scenarios for undermining the Syrian Army achievements against terrorism, adding that Washington was investing on the remaining pockets of ISIL terrorists.

Washington has openly announced support for such terrorists, planning to use them in a newly-established militant force known as the Nation Army.

The ISIL terrorist group claimed in a statement last week that al-Baghdadi was to return to Iraq soon, a move seen by analysts as a last ditch effort to boost the morale of the remnants of the terrorist group in Iraq and Syria.

The Arabic-language Asharq al-Awsat daily reported that the ISIL statement said that al-Baghdadi was alive and would return to Iraq in the near future.

"The Asharq al-Awsat report seems to be only a last bid in despair to boost the morale of the ISIL terrorists in the deserts of Eastern Syria who have been entrapped by the Syrian army and its allies," Political Analyst Seyed Mostafa Khoshcheshm said.

The report on the return of the ISIL ring leader to Iraq came as previous reports had declared that al-Baghdadi in the US custody at a base in Syria.

Official Representative of the International Human Rights Committee in the Middle East Haitham Abu Saeed confirmed last week reports that al-Baghdadi was alive and was in the custody of the US forces in Syria.

Abu Saeed announced in a statement that al-Baghdadi is at T2 Badiyeh (desert) base, adding that he was captured in a heliborne operation of the US commandoes on April 18, 2017.

He further said that a sum of 50 US commandoes were present in the hunting operation of ISIL chief.

"Reports on Baghdadi's capture by the US forces had been previously released, but some did not want to believe in our reliable information about Baghdadi's fate at that time," Abu Saeed added.

The Human Rights Committee is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by its State parties.

Meantime, a Syrian source told the Turkish-language Yeni Şafak daily that al-Baghdadi was captured in Iraq by the US and was then brought to Syria’s al-Karamah region.

The source, who was previously a militant part of Jund al-Aqsa, told the daily that al-Baghdadi was first taken to the US base in Ra'as al-Ein and then to a US base in al-Hasaka-Rmeilan.

The source added that apart from Baghdadi, seven other top ISIL officials were a part of the group (captured by the US) and that one of them was an Iraqi national and the others were from outside of Syria and Iraq.

Spokesman for the Iraqi Defense Ministry General Yahya Rasoul said earlier that al-Baghdadi was alive, adding that al-Baghdadi was hidden somewhere at Iraq-Syria border.

General Rasoul said that the Iraqi intelligence has found evidence proving that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is in a sleeper cell of the ISIL terrorists at Iraq-Syria border.

He further said that sleeper cells of the ISIL were present in desert regions at Iraq-Syria borders, adding that based on intelligence al-Baghdadi was moving from a cell to another in the region.

General Rasoul added that al-Baghdadi was hidden in a region between the Iraqi border town of al-Qa'em in Anbar and the Syrian town of Albu Kamal near the Euphrates River.

Also, one of the commanders of the Iraqi popular forces of Hashd al-Shaabi said in late November that Leader of the ISIL terrorist group is in the US forces' custody in an unknown venue.

The Arabic-language al-Sumeriyeh news quoted Jabar al-Ma'amouri as saying that ISIL Chief was in the US military forces' custody, adding that the US forces would never kill al-Baghdadi unless in a Hollywood-like scenario.

He stressed that people around the world rest assured that the US played a crucial role in the creation of the terrorist groups in last decades, and unfortunately some of the Arab nations embarked on providing financial support for such terrorist groups.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badri), also known as Abu Dua, was born in 1971 in the city of Samarra in Iraq.

According to media reports, al-Baghdadi was brought up in a religious family. His relatives were famous preachers and specialists of the Arabic language, rhetoric and logic. He received a PhD in Islamic law from the University of Baghdad.

Al-Baghdadi was proclaimed the caliph of ISIL, a "caliphate" created on the territories ISIL managed to seize in Syria and Iraq in late June 2014.

Contradictory reports have surfaced the media on the fate of Al-Baghdad in recent years, while some claim that he has been killed in attacks in Iraq or Syria, others say that he is still alive and on the move.

Reports of al-Baghdadi’s death repeatedly appear in the world media. His death was reported in November 2014, April 2015, June, October and December 2016 and January 2017.

Arab media outlet reported early November that al-Baghdadi is still alive, adding that the terrorist group's ring leader has been sighted by eyewitnesses in one of the battlefields in Southeastern Deir Ezzur.

The Arabic-language Elam al-Harbi reported that al-Baghdadi was sighted alive in one of the battlefields near the newly-freed town of Albu Kamal at the border with Iraq.     

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961130001313

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Pakistani troops have advisory role in Saudi Arabia: PM Abbasi

Feb 20, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Monday said that Pakistani troops had an advisory role in Saudi Arabia and they were there for the last 30 years with their number changing.

Around 2500 Pakistani troops were imparting training in Saudi Arabia, he said in an interview to a private media outlet.

The prime minister said he would also take the parliament into confidence on the matter. Pakistan would support any other country wishing to take benefit from its expertise in the war against terrorism, he added.

To a question, he said it was being forecasted that the government’s days were numbered, but it was now established that it would complete its tenure. However, challenges were always there, which the government would face, he added.

When asked about Iran’s decision to hand over the Chahbahar Port to India, the premier said if it was a fact, then it was wrong and Pakistan would take it up with Iran. But, he added, Iran had always termed both Gwadar and Chahbahar as complimentary ports.

PM Abbasi said he had not criticised the judiciary, in fact had talked of the constitutional limits. The country had suffered a lot whenever the institutions crossed their limits, he said.

Breaching privilege of any institution would lead to a free-for-all situation, he said and added, “Such things can never be in the country’s interest. Executive always takes decisions in the national interest, but in case they turn out to be wrong, they must not be made culprit,” he added.

The prime minister said the July 28 verdict had been implemented and it was the people to judge that verdict in the upcoming general elections. The said the controversial decision had no legal precedence as there had not even been the right to appeal. The decisions causing instability in the country needed caution, he added.

Replying to the question if the elections would be held in time, he said that it was a constitutional requirement to hold the polls within 60 days and in case of any delay, the constitution also provided for a year’s extension to the government.

He also criticised the controversial decisions made by the courts in the past, which were “not accepted by the people”.

He said only the people’s elected government could represent them well as no non-elected government had ever delivered in the country.

The prime minister said Chaudhary Nisar’s reservations, which he believed were not justified, would be addressed. Maryam Nawaz neither had any party office nor was she in government. However, if there were any reservations, such matters should have been taken up in the party meetings, not publicly, he added.

He clarified that Ch Nisar would never quit the party as he knew him for a long time. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had delivered and no one would want to leave the winning party, he said.

To a question, he said Shehbaz Sharif’s name was not final for the prime minister’s slot.

After getting a majority in the polls, the central executive committee of the party would decide about it, he said, adding that Nawaz Sharif would be his choice for the premiership.

About the Balochistan situation, he said the parliamentarians would have to answer to the people as their actions were apolitical and unjustified.

He criticised those planning to win the Senate elections through horse-trading or using their riches. The venal politicians would be exposed and boycotted, he added.

When asked about Nawaz Sharif’s arrest, the prime minister said Nawaz was ready for that though he could not be convicted as he was fair and there was no evidence against him in any of the cases. “Nawaz Sharif appeared before the courts but no one could furnish any evidence of corruption against the thrice-elected prime minister,” he added.

About Rao Anwar, the prime minister said it was a provincial subject and the Supreme Court had taken up the case.

The prime minister questioned as to why only in Nawaz Sharif’s case, the accountability court was conducting two hearings in a month. “Was Nawaz Sharif the only accused in the country?” he asked.

To a question, he said if there was any need to put Nawaz’s name on the exit control list (ECL), the government would do so. But was there any such need, as he was willing to appear in the courts, the prime minister asked.

The premier wished Imran Khan well for his third marriage and said that his private matter should not be made part of the media debate.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/02/19/pakistani-troops-have-advisory-role-in-saudi-arabia-pm-abbasi/

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AQIS terrorists work as advisers and trainers of Taliban: UN report

Feb 19, 2018

WASHINGTON: Al-Qaida in Indian Sub-continent (AQIS) recruit personnel from remote areas of India and Bangladesh, and nearly 180 operatives of the group work as advisers and trainers of the Taliban in southern and eastern Afghanistan, a UN monitoring committee report has said.

According to the 21st report of the ISIL (Daesh) and al-Qaida/Taliban Monitoring Team, which was established by the UN Security Council, al-Qaida continues to cooperate with the Taliban in return for sanctuary and operating space.

Al-Qaida leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri is still assumed to be in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, said the report dated January 26, which was made public last week.

The report said that fighters of AQIS operate as advisers and trainers of the Taliban, with 150 to 180 operatives present in southern and eastern Afghanistan. They recruit personnel from remote areas of India and Bangladesh, it said.

And despite concerns expressed by some countries, the report said it was not clear that significant numbers of al-Qaida elements ultimately travelled to Syria to join the fight.

According to the report, one country expressed concern about the vulnerability of the Maldives to returnees, since the number of Maldivian fighters per capita is one of the highest in the world.

Notably the travel of new foreign terrorist fighters from Central and South Asia to the conflict zones has virtually ceased, initially because of measures taken by countries, but later by the lack of appetite or capacity on the part of the ISIL core to receive new foreign terrorist fighters, the report said.

The report said that fighters loyal to the Taliban combined with members of various al-Qaida affiliated groups could number as many as 60,000 fighters, an increase from 2016.

Currently, there are more than 20 groups active in the war-torn country. The Taliban remains the largest, with about 40,000 to 45,000 fighters.

The others are ISIL in Afghanistan and a range of al-Qaida affiliated entities, including TTP, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), Lashkar i Jhangvi (LJ), Lashkar-e-Islam (LeI), Jundullah, the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan or IMU.

The number of foreign fighters currently operating in Afghanistan is estimated to be between 10,000 and 15,000.

However, despite having been further degraded by Afghan and international military operations, ISIL continues to resist and mount attacks, especially in Kabul. In some areas, it is in violent competition with the Taliban; in others there appears to be some mutual accommodation, it said.

Noting that the number and geographic dispersal of ISIL-affiliated elements in Afghanistan has increased, the report said some countries have expressed concern that the presence of ethnic Uzbek and Tajik fighters in northern Afghanistan could potentially lead over time to an ISIL threat to the Central Asian States.

Overall, in the country, ISIL commands between 1,000 and 4,000 fighters, which include former members of the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and IMU, fighters from outside the immediate region, as well as Afghan Taliban defectors.

A significant number of the fighters formerly belonged to TTP. ISIL in Nangarhar continues to lose personnel owing to sustained military pressure but is able to replenish its ranks fairly quickly.

The UN monitoring committee said ISIL in Afghanistan obtains funds by extorting the population and agricultural production in Nangarhar. The group has made some money from timber and kidnapping for ransom.

ISIL in Afghanistan has received some financial support from the ISIL core, but has been encouraged to become more self-sufficient and recognizes that funding from the ISIL core may not continue, the report said.

It is therefore, under pressure to find new ways of raising money, especially if it is to maintain its competitive advantage of paying fighters higher wages than other groups in the region, it added.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/aqis-terrorists-work-as-advisers-and-trainers-of-taliban-un-report/articleshow/62986605.cms

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Indonesia celebrates unity in diversity at Janadriyah Saudi cultural festival

20 February 2018

RIYADH: Indonesia, the Southeast Asian nation made up of thousands of islands and home to hundreds of ethnic groups speaking different languages, is representing Asia at the Janadriyah festival this year.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry invited the Indonesian Embassy in Riyadh to participate in the Janadriyah festival, Arab News learned on Monday.

“This is as a follow-up to the memorandum of understanding signed to bolster cultural affairs between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia that was inked during the historic visit of King Salman to Indonesia in March 2017,” said Sunan J. Rustam, information officer at the embassy.

Acknowledging the honor, Indonesian Ambassador Agus Maftuh Abegebriel said: “The partnership between Saudi Arabia and Indonesia is moving in the right direction. There are many untapped opportunities in cultural cooperation between the two brotherly countries.”

He also said that Indonesia and Saudi Arabia were key countries in the Muslim world, and with the fresh change of open policy in the Kingdom, cultural cooperation could be synergized to promote peaceful, open and moderate Islam to the world.

Notably, this is Indonesia’s first participation in Janadriyah, the national heritage and culture festival named after the village on the northern outskirts of Riyadh, where it has been organized since its inception in 1985.

Indonesia, represented by its embassy in Riyadh, is showcasing its diverse culture and heritage including traditional dances and signature dishes of the country.

Unity in diversity takes center stage in Indonesia’s participation at the festival, sharing primarily the experience of how Islam and democracy can coexist peacefully in a diverse nation, said the embassy official.

The Indonesian pavilion also highlights tourism on the largest archipelago in the world including packages of halal tourism from Lombok and Sumatra and brochures on Indonesian international products.

Lombok, also known as the island of 1,000 mosques, has been recognized as the world’s best halal tourism and honeymoon destination at a recent event held in Abu Dhabi.

Besides Indonesia, other countries representing various continents include Brazil, Algeria, Ukraine, and Ethiopia.

India is the guest of honor country this year. The annual heritage festival, which runs for 18 days, will conclude on Feb. 24.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1249991/saudi-arabia

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Europe

 

Russia accused of ‘erasing Muslim heritage’ for restoring collapsing Crimean mosque

20 Feb, 2018

Russia has been accused of trying to “erase Crimean Muslim culture” by restoring a local mosque. However, workers at the site say they are saving the historic building from crumbling after years of neglect.

Many sites in the Crimean peninsula remain in poor condition because there were insufficient funds allocated for their upkeep and restoration during the years that the region was part of Ukraine. The Big Khan Mosque of the iconic Bakhchisaray Palace was no exception. However, not everyone was happy when Russia started working in January to prevent the 500-year-old building from collapsing.

On Sunday, Qatari network Al Jazeera published an article about the restoration process, entitled, “Is Russia attempting to erase Crimean Muslim culture?” The author of the piece, Moscow-based journalist Mansur Mirovalev, gave an overdramatic depiction of the construction site, comparing the mosque to a “bandaged patient.”

The article cited Ukrainian officials and the Tatar community’s self-proclaimed leaders, who chose to leave Crimea after it reunited with Russia in 2014. Those who were interviewed called the restoration a “part of Kremlin’s drive to reshape, ban and erase the cultural identity of Crimean Tatars.” A Crimean official during the Ukrainian rule, Edem Dudakov, claimed that “the palace will be lost; what they're building is a sham.”

However, it seems more likely that the mosque would have been lost to history if the urgent restoration work did not start. The Big Khan Mosque was built in 1532 using wooden materials, which have not passed the test of time. RT Ruptly video agency has visited the site and examined the damaged tiles and dried out beams that were removed from the historic building – the wood was so fragile that it could be broken with bare hands.

The wooden beams “lost their bearing capacity completely,” Aleksandr Yasko, a construction supervisor for the ATTA company, which is carrying out the restoration, said. “They’re doty; damaged by timber beetle. A mycological examination was carried out and it established that the beams are all infected with fungi. It lives there, in 100 percent of the structural beams.”

Yasko emphasized that the historic building is treated with extreme care and showed the tiles that were removed from the roof of the mosque. “Not even a single piece of tile has disappeared. It’s all stored on the territory of the open-air museum as well as the rotten beams.”

Removing the roof tiles was “a very complicated job… as every piece had to go through the hands of several workers. Besides, it had to be taken down from the height of 13 meters,” he said. The mosque has been losing tiles for centuries because the roof, which was redesigned after the 1736 fire, turned out to be too steep. Yasko said that the historic shape of the Big Khan Mosque will remain unchanged after the restoration, but the newly-placed tiles will be equipped with a special fixing system that will prevent them from sliding.

https://www.rt.com/news/419280-crimean-tatar-mosque-restoration/

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IS claims responsibility for church shooting in Russia

February 19, 2018

MOSCOW — The Islamic State group on Monday claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on churchgoers in Russia’s predominantly Muslim Dagestan region.

At least five people were killed and four wounded when a gunman opened fire with a hunting rifles on people leaving a Sunday service at a Russian Orthodox church in the Dagestan city of Kizlyar.

Authorities say the gunman was a local resident, and his wife has been detained for questioning. But police haven’t commented on the possible motive for the attack.

Dagestan is a predominantly Muslim region situated between Chechnya and the Caspian Sea. Following two separatist wars in neighboring Chechnya, an Islamic insurgency spread to Dagestan.

A statement from the Islamic State group, posted Monday on an IS-affiliated militant website, claimed responsibility for the shooting, saying a Muslim fighter attacked “a Christian temple” in Kizlyar. The authenticity of the statement couldn’t be confirmed, but the website is regularly used by IS for posting militant statements.

Full report at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/is-claims-responsibility-for-church-shooting-in-russia/2018/02/19/43abed66-1554-11e8-930c-45838ad0d77a_story.html?utm_term=.708592f0ce8a

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German 'Islamic State' bride sentenced to 6 years in prison

19.02.2018

A German schoolgirl who ran away to join the "Islamic State" terror group has been handed a six-year jail sentence in Iraq, according to media reports. Linda W. was arrested by Iraqi troops during the battle for Mosul.

A court in Iraq has sentenced German teenager Linda W. to six years in prison for her involvement with "Islamic State" (IS) jihadists, German media reported on Sunday.

Citing judicial sources in Baghdad, broadcasters NDR, WDR and the Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported that the 17-year-old was given five years for being a member of IS, as well as an extra year for entering Iraq illegally.

The trial took place before a juvenile court in the Iraqi capital and was not open to the public, the reports said. The verdict could not immediately be independently verified by authorities in Germany.

Linda W., a student from the eastern German town of Pulsnitz, ran away from home in mid-2016 after talking to extremists online and converting to Islam. According to her own account, she made her way to Iraq via Turkey and Syria and married an IS fighter from Chechnya.

Linda W. was arrested by Iraqi authorities in Mosul last summer, when government troops drove the extremist group out of the northern city. She was then transferred to a Baghdad prison.

In a televised interview recorded soon after her arrest, the young German said she regretted joining the Islamist militia.

"I want to go home to my family," she said. "I want to get out of the war, away from the weapons, the noise."

"I don't know how I came up with such a dumb idea. I've completely ruined my life."

Linda is one of hundreds of foreign women in Iraqi custody accused of having links to IS. In January, an Iraqi court sentenced a German from Mannheim to death for joining the terror group. The unnamed woman, who admitted to travelling to Syria and Iraq with her two children, was convicted of "offering logistic support and helping the terrorist group to carry out criminal acts."

Hundreds of foreign fighters from Europe joined IS after the jihadist group seized large swathes of territory in Iraq and neighbouring Syria in 2014.

Many of them, including women, were arrested as Iraqi forces expelled militants from the country. Many other IS rebels and their wives are thought to have escaped capture by blending in with civilians fleeing the fighting.

Full report at:

https://en.qantara.de/content/german-islamic-state-bride-sentenced-to-6-years-in-prison

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Russia says Nusra terrorists ‘recovering strength’ in US-controlled zone in S Syria

Feb 19, 2018

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has strongly urged the US to immediately shut down its so-called zone of control in southern Syria, saying Washington has practically made the area a safe haven for terrorists of the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham Takfiri terrorist group, formerly known as al-Nusra Front.

The Russian top diplomat was referring to a 55-kilometer zone near the southeastern Syrian town of al-Tanf, in Homs Province, which the US unilaterally declared to be under its protection last year. Among other things, it contains the Rukban refugee camp, which, according to Moscow, is home to many terrorists, including those of the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham outfit.

“Inside the al-Tanf zone, which the Americans unilaterally declared under their protection, and inside the refugee camp” terrorists “are regularly reported to recover strength,” Lavrov said at the Valdai Club conference on the Middle East in Moscow on Monday.

“On several occasions they conducted raids from there into other territory of the Syrian Arab Republic. This zone must be shut down immediately,” he further said, adding that the US was turning a blind eye to such abuses of its protection.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Lavrov also criticized, without mentioning by name, some member states of the UN Security Council for being hesitant to say that the humanitarian convoys could not enter the US-controlled al-Tanf zone, because Washington “would not guarantee their safety.”

“Instead they focus attention on the humanitarian situation in Idlib or Eastern Ghouta,” he said, adding that Russia has increasing evidence that the US has no intention of fighting the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham outfit.

Lavrov also dismissed reports that hundreds of Russians had been killed in Syria recently, saying that such reports were an attempt to use improper means to exploit the war in the Arab country.

On Thursday, the Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova denounced the presence of US forces in al-Tanf, saying the so-called zone of control had become a shelter for the remaining members of Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.

Russia has time and again accused the US of attempting to hamper a Syrian full victory against Daesh, which is on its last legs in eastern Syria and in neighboring Iraq. Moscow has already released evidence revealing that US forces deployed in Dayr al-Zawr’s border regions and in Jordan have been collaborating with Daesh and other terrorists, including those of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, through providing intelligence about Syrian and Russian forces.

Moscow has backed Syria’s fight against terror since September 2015 when Russian air force and troops arrived in the Arab country at an official request of Damascus to help the government fight against Daesh and other Takfiri terrorists. Russia’s assistance has proved to be a major success as Syria has managed to liberate key areas over the past years, including the country's second largest city, Aleppo.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/19/552938/Russia-Syria-US-Jabhat-Fateh-alSham-alTanf-Rukban-Daesh

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5 killed in attack on church in Russia’s Dagestan

Feb 18, 2018

A man in Russia's southern province of Dagestan shot into a crowd of people leaving a church on Sunday, killing five and injuring at least five others, Russian news agencies reported, citing the local health ministry.

The attack occurred in the village of Kizlyar in the Muslim-majority republic of Dagestan, agencies said.

The small republic in the Caucasus mountains borders Chechnya, where Moscow has led two wars against separatists and radical religious groups since the 1991 Soviet collapse and which has seen a large number of people join Daesh.

Russian news agencies said the attack occurred as churchgoers celebrated Maslenitsa, a Christian holiday marking the last day before Lent according to the eastern Orthodox calendar.

The assailant was identified as a 22-year-old man local to the region, the TASS news agency said, citing the investigative committee.

He was shot and killed by security services who were on duty nearby, TASS said, adding that a hunting rifle, bullets and a knife were discovered on his person.

Initial reports suggested all five victims were women, TASS said, citing the local branch of the interior ministry.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/18/552824/Russia-church-shooting-Dagestan-village-victims-assailant

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India

 

China Expanding Its Role in J-K, Has Adopted JeM, Says State Minister

by Muzamil Jaleel

February 20, 2018

Jammu and Kashmir Public Works Minister and official spokesman of the J&K government Naeem Akhtar has said that China is on its way to assuming a “much bigger role in Kashmir” and the Jaish-e-Mohammad, the group responsible for most of the terror attacks, has been veritably “adopted” by Beijing.

It’s the “growing influence of China” which has made it imperative to engage with Pakistan, he said.

“Unlike earlier, the great game is literally being played inside Kashmir,” Akhtar, a senior PDP leader, told The Indian Express. “The Kashmir issue isn’t limited to the fight between India and Pakistan now. There is another major factor involved.

It isn’t Pakistan alone, it is China too. General (Bipin Rawat) said that the Army is ready to fight on both fronts. But there aren’t two fronts anymore. Now it is one single front, circling around. From Bhutan to Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Valley to Jammu, Sri Lanka and Maldives, it is all one front. Pakistan and China aren’t separate”.

“All the big attacks inside J&K or even outside during last more than three years are attributed to Jaish-e-Mohammad, a group led by Masood Azhar,” said Akhtar. “How can one not see that he (Masood Azhar) has been adopted by China? There are reports of some action taken against Hafiz Saeed. What about Masood Azhar? Even a lesser figure like Salahudin has been listed as a global terrorist in UN but the great wall of China has been erected around Azhar. China has been regularly vetoing attempts to designate him (Azhar) as a terrorist in United Nations. Such things don’t happen without reason. Why only him? Why not others? Why didn’t China block such moves in UN against other people? The China connection needs to be understood”.

“At this point, talking to Pakistan and initiating policies of reconciliation inside Kashmir is in the national interest. It is in our national interest that Pakistan doesn’t get irretrievably sucked up by China,’’ he said. “And when we say talk to Pakistan, we are addressing our own Central government because they have to take that step. We aren’t seeking anything from anybody other than the central government. That’s our right”.

“(The then) Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif comes to attend the oath ceremony of PM Modi. The environment was turning conducive for the beginning of a fresh process between the two countries. Prime Minister Modi goes to attend a wedding in Pakistan…a great gesture to start the process. Pakistani leadership too had been forthcoming,’’ Akhtar said. “But once he (PM Modi) returns (from Pakistan), Pathankot attack (January 2016) takes place. Who did it? Jaish. And if you don’t understand the seriousness of China’s role in our current situation, you won’t understand the need to engage Pakistan or initiate a process to engage separatists inside Kashmir”. He said that “the youngster who throws stones in Kashmir is doing so only because he lacks a gun…and in this new great game, these guns can come from China too”.

“Unlike 1990s, the flow of guns (inside Kashmir) hasn’t been happening. It hasn’t started as yet. So lets use this time to initiate talks ,” he said. “This is why Mehbooba Mufti isn’t only governing a state, she is fighting a huge challenge. And the need is to understand the changing contours of that”.

Akhtar said that “the new situation that has emerged in Kashmir would have happened irrespective of PDP’s alliance with BJP”.

“People like me, leaders of mainstream political parties in Kashmir are living at the mercy of Pakistan. When militants can sneak inside such fortified army camps like what happened in Sunjuwan (in Jammu), what can stop them to walk into our homes and kill us and our families?’’ he said. “Our (PDP’s) stance isn’t mere political rhetoric. We are at the forefront of this war and we see the entire picture”.

On November 2, 2017, China blocked a bid to list Masood Azhar as a global terrorist. The bid was made by the US, France and Britain at the behest of India. In fact, China has been repeatedly blocking India’s move to designate Azhar a terrorist under the Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council. Jaish, however, is already on the UN’s list of banned groups. In August last year, China extended by three months its technical hold on the proposal to list Azhar as global terrorist which was backed by US, France and Britain after it had blocked it in February. In March, 2016, China was the only member in the 15-nation UN organ to put a hold on India’s application with all other 14 members of the Council supporting New Delhi’s bid to place Azhar on the 1267 sanctions list that would subject him to an assets freeze and travel ban.

J&K Police said that Jaish is responsible for every fidayeen attack over the last year. Though Jaish was launched with a suicide attack in Srinagar in May 2000, it disappeared from the militancy scene in 2003 after a crackdown by Pakistan. It returned, police say, in 2014. Few of the major Jaish attacks are Tangdhar, Kupwara army camp (November 2015), attack on Lethpora camp (December 31, 2017), Pulwama attack (August 27, 2017) and the attack on 182 Batallion of BSF outside Srinagar airport (October 3, 2017).

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/china-expanding-its-role-in-jk-has-adopted-jaish-e-mohammad-state-pwd-minister-naeem-akhtar-5070594/

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25 terrorists shifted to Jammu jails from Valley after Jat's escape

Feb 20, 2018

NEW DELHI: As many as 25 terrorists lodged in Kashmir Valley's jails have been shifted to prisons in the Jammu region as a precautionary measure after the dramatic escape of jailed Pakistani terrorist Naveed Jat from Srinagar's SMHS hospital.

Sixteen of the 25 relocated terrorists are Pakistanis. The shift is expected to minimise the chances of dreaded terrorists conspiring with other like-minded inmates, visitors including terror accomplices as well as jail or hospital staff to pull off an escape and resume violent activities.

The NIA, which is probing Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist Jat's escape amid a shootout at SMHS hospital that left two J&K police personnel dead, is expected to unravel the conspiracy angle and investigate how a "dreaded" terrorist like Jat managed to get "favourable" orders from jail authorities as well as doctors, said an officer. Sources said the NIA will examine the role of jail doctors as Jat, who was not suffering from any notable ailment, was referred by jail doctors to SMHS for check-up at short intervals.

The NIA will investigate possible collusion on part of jail doctors, particularly a woman medical officer who referred Jat to SMHS hospital, other members of the jail staff, prison inmates as well as SMHS staff in his well-planned escape from the hospital's out-patient department. The NIA is currently questioning the five suspects arrested in the case. However, it is still on the lookout for Hilal, the suspected mastermind who hatched the conspiracy and also fired the fatal shots at the two policemen. Hilal, believed to have planned the escape along with top Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naikoo, was earlier an overground worker but subsequently joined militancy.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/25-terrorists-shifted-to-jammu-jails-from-valley-after-jats-escape/articleshow/62990806.cms

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J-K: Pakistan violates ceasefire in Uri district, three civilians injured

by Mir Ehsan

February 20, 2018

Three civilians were injured in north Kashmir’s Uri area when Indian and Pakistani soldiers resorted to ceasefire violation along the Line of Control on Monday.

Locals said that in the afternoon, Indian and Pakistani soldiers restored to firing at Churanda village. However around 5 pm, heavy shelling started from both sides that left three civilians injured. They also added that that shelling continued up to 7 pm. “Both the sides used heavy shells,’’ a local villager in Churunda told The Indian Express.

“Ceasefire violation by Pakistan in Churanda, Silikote area of Hajipeer Sector of Uri. Three civilians sustain injuries and are being evacuated to hospital. No loss of property reported so far,’’ the police spokesman said. Churanda is the last village on the Line of Control in Uri located on a mountain beneath Hajipeer. The area had earlier also witnessed ceasefire violation between India and Pakistan. In October 2012, three civilians including a woman were killed in the incident of ceasefire violation. Two months ago, a lady was injured at Kamalkote village in a similar incident of ceasefire violation.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/j-k-pakistan-violates-ceasefire-in-uri-district-civilians-injured-indian-army-5070721/

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J&K: Army kills Pakistani terrorist, foils infiltration bid

February 19, 2018

A Pakistani intruder was killed as alert Indian army troops in Poonch district’s Gulpur area of Jammu and Kashmir foiled an infiltration bid from across the Line of Control on Sunday night.

Sources said that the unsuccessful infiltration attempt was made under the cover of unprovoked firing by Pakistani troops. The body of the slain intruder was recovered by the Indian army on this side of the LoC on Monday morning.

Pakistani troops suddenly resorted to unprovoked firing on forward Indian positions at around 5.15 pm. Under the cover of fire, a group of 3-4 people infiltrated into the Indian side of the border.

However, the alert Indian troops had already noticed some movement near the LoC and, while retaliating to Pakistani firing, they challenged the intruders. The intruders also opened fire at Indian troops at a post.

During the exchange of fire, one Pakistani intruder was killed, while others managed to escape. Four Indian soldiers were also hurt in the encounter.

This was the second infiltration foiled by the Indian army since Thursday as terrorists had earlier made an unsuccessful bid to infiltrate through Mendhar’s Dehri Dabsi area.

Last week, Northern Army Commander Lt General D Anbu had said that an over 300 terrorists on Pakistan side of the LoC were waiting for an opportunity to infiltrate into the state to carry out terror attacks. Pointing out that Pakistani army has a direct role in planning terror attacks in the state, he said that between 190-225 terrorists in the North of Pir Panjal and 185-220 in south are always stationed at launch pads ready to infiltrate from across the LoC.

Pakistan continues in its nefarious designs of supporting and abetting infiltration from across the LoC, the army said, adding that the troops have been keeping a strict and constant vigil along the border and they are prepared to thwart any nefarious design of Pakistan sponsored terrorists.

The slain intruder was in combat fatigue. The list of items seized from the intruder include: Three live RPG grenades, four disposable rocket launchers, two IKOM radio sets, an AK Magazine, two Molotov cocktails, four UBGL grenades, seven hand grenades, one PIKA belt, a mobile phone, three backpacks, a medical satchel and a Pakistan national flag.

The modus operandi adopted by Pakistan army and their sponsored and supported terrorists in this instance is similar to the previous attempts made in the recent past in incidents like one at Keri, Gambir and Sunjawan, the army said. Pakistani army and SSG have provided fire support and abetted the operation by “non-state actors” who have been utilised as dispensable “cannon fodder”, it added.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/jk-army-kills-pakistani-terrorist-foils-infiltration-bid-5069997/

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Arab World

 

Islamic State Kills 27 Iraqi Militiamen Near Kirkuk

Feb. 19, 2018

KIRKUK, Iraq (Reuters) - Islamic State militants ambushed a convoy of pro-government militia fighters near the northern Iraqi oil city of Kirkuk late on Sunday, killing at least 27 of them, the government-backed Popular Mobilisation Forces said on Monday. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.

A security official said Iraqi forces were pursuing the militants, who had disguised themselves in police uniforms to carry out the ambush.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi offered condolences to the families of the dead and ordered security forces to bring those responsible to justice, his office said in a statement.

Iraqi forces launched an operation this month to consolidate control of a mountainous area near Kirkuk that is intended to be used as a transit route for Iraqi oil trucks heading for Iran. Two armed groups are active in the area.

Iraq declared victory in December over Islamic State, which had seized control of nearly a third of the country in 2014. However, the group continues to carry out attacks and bombings in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq.

https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2018-02-19/islamic-state-kills-12-iraqi-militiamen-near-kirkuk

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Syria bombardment kills scores of civilians

February 20, 2018

HAMMURIYEH - Heavy Syrian bombardment killed 44 civilians in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta on Monday, as regime forces appeared to prepare for an imminent ground assault.

The escalation came as pro-government forces were expected to enter the northern Kurdish-controlled enclave of Afrin, to take a stand against a month-old Turkish assault there.

Held by rebels since 2012, Eastern Ghouta is the last opposition pocket around Damascus and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has dispatched reinforcements there in an apparent bid to retake it.

A barrage of air strikes, rocket fire, and artillery slammed into several towns across Eastern Ghouta on Monday, killing 44 civilians and wounding dozens more.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 20 were killed in air strikes on Hammuriyeh and nine others in bombardment on Saqba.

The rest were killed when other areas were pounded. Four children were among the dead. “The regime is bombing Eastern Ghouta to pave the way for a ground offensive,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

Residents of Hammuriyeh could be seen rushing inside in a panic as soon as they heard the sound of airplanes. Alaa al-Din, a 23-year-old Syrian in Hammuriyeh, said civilians were afraid of a potential government offensive. “Ghouta’s fate is unknown. We’ve got nothing but God’s mercy and hiding out in our basements,” he told AFP on Monday. “There’s no alternative.”

Shelling also hit the town of Douma, where an AFP correspondent saw five toddlers brought to a hospital, covered in dust and wailing uncontrollably.

Medics offered them biscuits to calm them down, to no avail. Eastern Ghouta is held by two main Islamist factions, but militants control small pockets including one directly adjacent to the capital.

The Observatory and Syrian daily newspaper Al-Watan had said negotiations were under way for the evacuation of militants from Eastern Ghouta. But escalating military pressure indicate that the regime would opt for a ground assault instead of talks, the monitor said. Government troops carried out a relentless five-day bombing campaign earlier this month that killed around 250 civilians in the enclave and wounded hundreds. Around the same time, the monitor said, the regime began dispatching military reinforcements to Eastern Ghouta.

After days of relative calm, the government sent more than 260 rockets sailing onto Eastern Ghouta on Sunday. Those rockets, as well as artillery fire and air strikes, killed 17 civilians, said the Observatory.

The regime is keen to regain control of Eastern Ghouta to halt the deadly salvo of rockets and mortars that rebels fire on Damascus.

About half a dozen rockets hit the capital Sunday night, AFP correspondents said. State news agency SANA reported that one person was killed. More than 20 civilians have been killed by rebel fire this month alone in regime-held Damascus.

All was quiet in the capital on Monday but since rumours of an imminent assault on Eastern Ghouta started spreading, people living close to the rebel enclave started packing their bags.

Jawad al-Obros, 30, said he was looking to move to a hotel in the western sector of the city to escape his home in an east Damascus neighbourhood that has been regularly hit by rockets from Ghouta.

“We’re tired of this situation. It seems that there’s no solution but a full-blown military one,” he told AFP.

More than 340,000 people have been killed since Syria’s conflict erupted in 2011 with protests against Assad’s government.

It has since evolved into a war that has carved up the country into rival zones of influence among the regime, rebels, militants, and Kurdish forces.

The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) control the northwestern region of Afrin, target of a month-old assault by the Turkish army and allied Syrian rebels.

Turkey sees the YPG as a “terror” group linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), outlawed by Ankara, and wants to clear it from its southern border.

The YPG has controlled Afrin since 2012, when Syrian troops withdrew from it and other Kurdish-majority areas.

Syrian state media said Monday that pro-regime forces were preparing to enter the area to “join the resistance against the Turkish aggression”.

Speaking during a visit to Jordan, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned against any bid by the Syrian regime to help the YPG.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/20-Feb-2018/syria-bombardment-kills-scores-of-civilians

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14 dead, 75 injured in latest Assad raids on eastern Ghouta

19 February 2018

Around 14 people were killed and over 75 injured in the latest air raids and artillery attacks by the Assad regime on eastern Ghouta, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported.

The observatory added that among those killed many were women and children. The attacks came as an escalation by regime forces as a prelude to the large-scale military operation aimed at ending the control of opposition factions in eastern Ghouta.

Regime forces targeted several towns with hundreds of rockets, according to the SOHR, where more than 270 rockets were fired within hours of the attack.

The Assad regime sent military reinforcements surrounding Ghouta which indicates that an imminent attack will occur against the remaining opposition factions, the SOHR said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/02/19/14-dead-75-injured-in-latest-Assad-raids-on-eastern-Ghouta.html

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Syria sends forces to Afrin amid Turkish siege: TV

Feb 19, 2018

Syria's state television says government-backed forces will soon enter the northern region of Afrin, which has been under Turkish attacks for a month now.

Turkey began attacking the region on January 19, prompting local authorities to ask Damascus for help.

On Monday, state news agency SANA cited its correspondent in Aleppo as saying that government-backed forces would enter the city shortly.

"Popular forces will arrive in Afrin in the next few hours to support the steadfastness of its people in confronting the aggression which Turkish regime forces have launched on the region," it said.

A senior Syrian Kurdish official said on Sunday that Kurdish authorities and the Syrian government had reached a deal for the Syrian army to enter Afrin, and that it could be implemented within two days.

“We call on the Syrian state to carry out its sovereign obligations towards Afrin and protect its borders with Turkey from attacks of the Turkish occupier," Kurdish authorities in Afrin said in a statement late last month.

Ankara began its incursion with the express aim of confronting YPG militants which it views a terror organization linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebels fighting for autonomy on Turkish soil.

It came after the US announced plans to set up a 30,000-strong force with the help of Syrian Kurdish militants close to the Turkish border in Syria.

YPG constitutes the backbone of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militants which are being trained and equipped by the US, much to Turkey's dismay.  

On Monday, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told a conference in Moscow that the use of proxies by the United States is dangerous for the region.

"We believe that the anxiety of our Turkish neighbors about the US designs in the region are understandable, but this is not the way to address those anxiety… Incursions in others' territories is not the way to address the problems," Zarif said.

Turkey has threatened to expand its attacks to the nearby area of Manbij, where American forces are present.

The US military has called on Turkey to halt its military action in Afrin. Ankara, for its part, has urged Washington to either stop supporting Kurdish militants or risk a confrontation.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/19/552875/Syria-Turkey-Afrin-Kurds-YPG-United-States

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War against terror is not over, Iraqi PMU commander warns

Feb 19, 2018

A senior commander of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) has vowed "revenge" after 27 members of its troops were killed in a Daesh ambush.

Hadi al-Ameri (seen below) made the remark on Monday at a military airfield in Baghdad where the bodies of the killed PMUs where being flown in, he further called on security forces to be vigilant, stressing that "the war against terrorism is not over yet."

Late on Sunday, the PMU fighters, commonly known by the Arabic name Hashd al-Sha’abi, were killed when the remnants of the Daesh terrorist group staged an ambush on their convoy in the country’s oil-rich northern province of Kirkuk.

Hashd al-Sha’abi said in a statement that the attack took place in the al-Saadounya area, southwest of the provincial capital city of Kirkuk, when the voluntary forces were conducting overnight raids.

The assailants were disguised in army uniforms and pretended to man a fake checkpoint.

Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, an Iraqi military spokesman, announced that  Daesh "sleeper cells" were behind the attack and that Iraqi troops are currently searching the area to locate the perpetrators.

The Daesh Takfiri terrorist group later claimed responsibility for the attack.

Karim al-Nouri, a Hashd al-Sha’abi spokesman, described the attack as a "heinous crime," and called for thorough scrutiny for those returning to their liberated areas.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's office also released a statement offering  condolences to family members of the victims. It also announced that orders to hunt down those responsible for the recent attack and other sleeper cells have been issued. 

At least 11 of the troops killed in the ambush were from the southern city of Basra, where three days of mourning has been announced.

Meanwhile, a mass funeral has been held for those killed in the attack in the country's southern city of Basra.

Hashd al-Sha’abi is an Iraqi state-sponsored umbrella organization composed of some 40 groups, which are mainly Shia Muslims. The force reportedly numbers more than 100,000 fighters. Iraqi authorities say there are between 25,000 and 30,000 Sunni tribal fighters within its ranks in addition to Kurdish Izadi and Christian units.

The fighters have played a major role in the liberation of Daesh-held areas to the south, northeast and north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, ever since the terrorists launched an offensive in the country in June 2014.

Last November, the Iraqi Parliament approved a law giving full legal status to Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters. It recognized the PMU as part of the national armed forces, placed the volunteer fighters under the command of the prime minister, and granted them the right to receive salaries and pensions like the regular army and police forces.

On December 9, 2017, Abadi declared the end of military operations against the Daesh terrorist group in the Arab country.

The Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January 2017 after 100 days of fighting, and launched the battle in the west on February 19 last year.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/19/552946/daesh-iraq-pmu-ameri-revenge

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Syrian Army to Enter Kurdish-Held Afrin in Coming Hours

Feb 19, 2018

The state-run SANA news agency reported that the Syrian popular forces will enter Afrin to face the Turkish military aggression.

Also, the Arabic-language Al-Mayadeen TV reported that agreement on deployment of the army forces in Afrin is nearing implementation and might go into force in coming hours.

Al-Mayadeen further quoted Spokesman for Democratic Society Movement Abdulrahman Salman as saying that the army's arrival in Afrin will give a crushing response to the Turkey.

Salman hoped for further agreements between the Kurds and Damascus to foil threats against Syria.

Al-Mayadeen pointed out that the Syrian Army has been in control of military points in Qastal, Jandou and Ein Daqna since the start of the Turkish army operation in Afrin.

It added that a non-military delegation from Sheikh Maqsoud region in the Northern part of Aleppo city and the town of Manbij have entered Afrin for supporting the agreement.

A high-ranking Kurdish commander declared on Sunday that a Kurdish fighters and the Damascus government agreed on deployment of the Syrian Army troops in Afrin region.

The Kurdish-language Rudaw news quoted Shikho Balu, a senior commander of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (or PYD) in Northern Syria, as saying that according to a newly-concluded agreement with the Damascus government, the Syrian Army men would enter Afrin on Monday.

The commander further added that the army's deployment was aimed at defending the Afrin town and region.

In the meantime, the Arabic-language al-Mayadeen TV quoted a Syrian source as saying that logistical preparations were underway for the army's deployment in Afrin, adding that the exact date for the army's deployment to the town and region was not been specified.

Al-Mayadeen TV quoted well-informed sources as saying on Friday that the Syrian government and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) agreed on the deployment of the Syrian Army troops in Afrin region which has come under attack by the Turkish army troops and their allied militants in recent weeks.

It added that the newly-concluded agreement is aimed at confronting the Turkish's operation in Afrin.

Other Arab media outlets said that the Syrian Army has refused the offer from the YPG to enter the Afrin region of Aleppo.

The AMN quoted sources in Aleppo province as saying on Friday that the Syrian Army rejected the YPG offer because the latter refused to hand over their weapons to Damascus.

The Syrian Army has repeatedly requested that the YPG turn in all of their weapons before their forces would enter the Afrin region and fend off the Turkish-led incursion.

However, the Syrian Army maintains that they will continue to allow the Kurdish forces to resupply the area from within their own territory in Aleppo.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961130001095

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Lebanon army chief: Will confront Israeli aggression no matter the cost

20 February 2018

The Lebanese army posted on Twitter a clear message stating that it is ready to face any possible Israeli aggression.

Lebanon's army will use every available means to confront any potential "Israeli aggression" no matter the cost, its commander said on Monday.

"I affirm again our categorical rejection of the Israeli enemy infringing on Lebanon's sovereignty and its sacred right to exploit all its economic resources," the Lebanese army quoted General Joseph Aoun as saying on Twitter. "The army will not spare any method available to confront any Israeli aggression, whatever that costs."

Israel says it is building the wall on sovereign Israeli land. The Lebanese government insists that it passes through Lebanese territory, but it is on the Israeli side of the Blue Line, where the United Nations drew the border after Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/02/20/Lebanon-army-chief-Will-confront-Israeli-aggression-no-matter-the-cost.html

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UN: Targeting of civilians in Syria’s eastern Ghouta ‘must stop’

20 February 2018

Heavy Syrian bombardment of the militia-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta is targeting civilians and must stop immediately, the United Nations warned Monday.

"It’s imperative to end this senseless human suffering now. Such targeting of innocent civilians and infrastructure must stop now," Panos Moumtzis, the UN’s Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis said in a statement.

Several days of bombardment on Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, has killed hundreds of people, with one monitor of Syria’s seven-year conflict saying that at least 77 people had died there on Monday alone.

Held by rebels since 2012, Eastern Ghouta is the last opposition pocket around Damascus and President Bashar al-Assad has dispatched reinforcements there in an apparent concerted effort to retake it.

Moumtzis, whose organization has repeatedly called for a cessation of fighting in Eastern Ghouta to allow in desperately needed food and medical aid, said the humanitarian situation in the rebel enclave was "spiraling out of control".

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/02/20/UN-Targeting-of-civilians-in-Syria-s-eastern-Ghouta-must-stop-.html

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Three Egyptian troops killed in anti-militant operation in Sinai

19 February 2018

Egypt’s military says three troops, including an officer, were killed in restive Sinai in fighting with militants.

They are the first casualties Egypt has announced from an offensive Cairo launched on February 9.

Military spokesman Tamer al-Rifai said Monday that two other officers and a conscript were wounded in the fighting, part of the sweep aiming to end a years-long insurgency by Islamic militants.

He says four militants were also killed.

The operation covers north and central Sinai and parts of Egypt’s Nile Delta and the Western Desert, along the porous border with Libya. It involves land, sea and air forces, and the army claims to have destroyed hundreds of targets and killed dozens of fighters.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/02/19/Three-Egyptian-troops-killed-in-anti-militant-operation-in-Sinai.html

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Pakistan

 

‘Pakistan needs to build counter narrative to fight terrorism’

Feb 20, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Farhatullah Babar has said that we cannot employ the enormous power of the media to fight extremism until we come out of the state of denial and call a spade a spade.

The PPP senator said this while addressing a workshop on countering terrorism through media organised by the Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services (PIPS) here for members of the Parliament on Monday. Members of provincial assemblies of Punjab, KPK and Balochistan, GB and AJK attended the workshop.

Farhatullah Babar said that item 14 of the National Action Plan (NAP) calls for demolishing the structures of militants’ narrative but little attention has been paid to it.

He said that narratives were made up of words and have tremendous power and significance. ‘Quran says that the universe was created with one word “kun” (Be it) and Bible expresses the same thought that in the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God’, he added.

The PPP senator said that the militants narrative began to be constructed in 80’s when special syllabus was created in seminaries that taught ‘Alif sai Allah, be se bandooq (gun), jeem se Jehad, jeem se Jahannum (hell), kaaf se Kafir (infidel) and meem se mujahid, he said.

This syllabus was reinforced when Zia adopted motto of “Iman, Taqwa, Jehad fi sabillillah” and privatised Jehad inside and outside Pakistan’s boundaries. ‘Today we are reaping the fruits of that syllabus’, Farhatullah Babar said.

‘Building counter narrative requires intellectual infrastructure based on academic freedom, tolerance for dissent, plurality and critical thinking’. It will not be built in garrisons and barracks where the emphasis is on unity of command and not to encourage dissent. Most importantly it requires us to come out of the state of denial’.

‘Proscribed organisations are protected from UN action, banned outfits are allowed to reappear under different names and promises made to choke terror financing are not fulfilled but few speak up. We are still living in a state of denial and until we come out of it, there is little hope of success in countering extremists’ narrative’, he said.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/02/19/pakistan-needs-to-build-counter-narrative-to-fight-terrorism/

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FIA to establish offices in Greece, Iran to check human trafficking: report

Feb 20, 2018

RAWALPINDI: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is planning to establish its offices in Greece and Iran to check the activities of organised criminal networks and illegal movement of Pakistanis, according to a report by a private media outlet.

An official said the FIA had been seeking the assistance of the Foreign Office (FO) for establishing its offices in the two countries. He said an FIA officer of the deputy director rank with required staff would be posted in Iran and Greece.

The move came after a boat with a majority of illegal Pakistani immigrants capsized off the coast of Libya on January 31, leaving several people drowned.

FO spokesman Moham­mad Faisal said Pakistan’s embassies had already been working in the two countries to facilitate Pakistanis. He stressed the need to launch a campaign led by the FIA across the country to create awareness among people about consequences of going abroad illegally.

“The most important thing is to stop young people from going abroad, especially to Europe, by boats illegally,” he said.

When asked about the total number of Pakistanis killed in the boat tragedy in Libya, the FO spokesman said the accurate number was not available because they were illegal immigrants and officially nobody had any information about their voyage.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/02/20/fia-to-establish-offices-in-greece-iran-to-check-human-trafficking-report/

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2 Afghan-based TTP terrorists killed by security forces in Bajaur: ISPR

February 19, 2018

Two Afghan-based Tehreek-i-Taliban (TTP) militants were tracked down and killed by security forces in Bajaur Agency during an intelligence-based operation (IBO), an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) press release said on Monday.

The suspected terrorists entered Bajaur Agency via the Kagha Pass. They were tracked down by security forces and surrounded by a cordon near the Ghatki Kaga area, the ISPR said, and were killed when they attempted to escape.

Suicide jackets, anti-tank mines, magnetic mines, prepared remote-controlled Improvised Explosive Devices, remote-controlled receivers, detonators and communications equipment "bearing [an] Afghan mobile company's signature" were recovered from the possession of the militants, ISPR said.

The ISPR added that, through the IBO, the security forces had foiled a major terror bid in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Islamabad.

Pakistan and Afghanistan accuse each other of harbouring terrorists. Islamabad has strongly denied harbouring terrorist safe havens, and maintains they have been wiped out during counter-terror operations particularly in the tribal areas and places close to the shared porous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan has also begun fencing the border in order to prevent cross-border movement of terrorists.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1390390/2-afghan-based-ttp-terrorists-killed-by-security-forces-in-bajaur-ispr

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‘Terrorism defeated due to Nawaz policies’

February 20, 2018

ISLAMABAD - Minister of State for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb Monday said that due to the visionary policies of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, scourge of terrorism had been defeated and sports, cultural and tourism activities had been revived.

Talking to the media here at a sports event, she said that the country suffered for 30 to 35 years due to terrorism , and tourism, sports activities and film industry were badly affected.

Aurangzeb said the present government had promised to revive peace and thanks to the implementation of the anti-terrorism policies through the efforts of the federal government, cooperation of the provincial governments, sacrifices of the armed forces and the law enforcement agencies and the people of Pakistan, the country would become a cradle of peace.

She announced that the prime minster would soon announce national film policy for revival of film production in the country. The minister said that cinema would play an important role in projection of true and real face of the Pakistani society. She said that media besides providing latest information to the nation had also played its role in promotion of healthy activities in the society.

The minister said the present government had launched mega development projects such as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which would benefit the generations to come.

She said the present government rid the nation of the darkness of load-shedding by launching and completing record number of energy projects during the past four years, more than the power projects installed in the past 66 years.

Moreover, the present government has taken revolutionary steps for overhauling the health and education system in the country, she added.

Aurangzeb said now the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had vowed to restore the sanctity of vote and system of justice in the country, and he would fulfil this promise as well and in future. She said no future prime minister would be sacked the way 17 former prime ministers were sent home.

The minister said that the 2018 election would be held on time and consultations with the opposition about caretaker set up would be done in due course of time.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/20-Feb-2018/terrorism-defeated-due-to-nawaz-policies

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South Asia

 

ISIS behead Taliban fighter and alleged spy in East of Afghanistan

Feb 20 2018

Militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group have beheaded two men on charges of having links with the Taliban group and spying for the government in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

The loyalists of the terror group have published the photographs of the two men on social media.

In online statement posted in Arabic, the group claims that the two men have been beheaded in eastern Nangarhar province.

One of the men has been identified as Zabit and has been accused of having links with the Taliban group while the other man has been identified as Abdul Salam and is charged with espionage for the government of Afghanistan.

This comes as at least fifteen militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group offshoot, ISIS Khorsan, were beheaded by their own comrades in this province late in November last year.

According to the local officials, the incident took place in Surkhab Bazar area of Mamand Dara in Achin and after infighting erupted among them due to unknown reasons.

The officials also added that the beheading of the fifteen men resulted into a major crack among the ISIS ranks in this province.

https://www.khaama.com/isis-behead-taliban-fighter-and-alleged-spy-in-east-of-afghanistan-04522

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Bangladesh, Myanmar representatives to meet over Rohingyas trapped at border

Feb 20, 2018

Representatives from Bangladesh and Myanmar will meet on Tuesday to discuss the repatriation to Myanmar of more than 6,500 Rohingya Muslims trapped on a strip of unclaimed land between the two countries, Bangladeshi officials said.

“It is about taking them back to Myanmar,” relief and refugee repatriation commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam, told Reuters on Monday. “They are on the zero line and actually on the Myanmar side.”

However, several officials contacted in neighbouring Myanmar said they were not aware of plans for a meeting, which Kalam said would take place on the ‘zero line’ near a place called Gundum.

A spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which will not be involved in the talks, said the agency was concerned the Rohingya may be forcibly returned to Myanmar without due consideration for their safety.

Nearly 700,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state and crossed into Bangladesh since last August, when attacks on security posts by insurgents triggered a military crackdown that the United Nations has said amounts to ethnic cleansing, with reports of arson attacks, murder and rape.

Buddhist-majority Myanmar denied the charge and says its security forces are fighting a legitimate campaign against ‘terrorists’ it blames for the attacks on the security forces.

The vast majority of Rohingya who fled are in camps at Cox’s Bazar on the southern tip of Bangladesh, but several thousand who arrived in a buffer zone along the border are now stuck.

Bangladesh security forces have been instructed not to let these Rohingya cross the border, and many of them have said they would rather stay there to avoid becoming refugees in Bangladesh.

The no-man’s land, which is about the size of 40 soccer pitches, used to be an area of paddy fields, but is now dotted with the tarpaulin and bamboo shacks of displaced Rohingya.

NO TIMELINE FOR RETURNS

“We are concerned about the reports of pressures directed at this group of people at the border,” said Caroline Gluck, UNHCR Senior Public Information Officer at Cox’s Bazar.

“People who fled violence and discrimination in Myanmar should not be forced to return against their will,” she told Reuters in a message sent on Saturday.

Bangladesh’s Kalam said there was no timeline for repatriations, that anyone going back must do so voluntarily and that Myanmar must provide a safe environment for their return.

“We cannot send them forcibly,” he said.

Most Burmese consider the Rohingya as unwanted immigrants from Bangladesh, and the army refers to them as “Bengalis”.

Myanmar has said it will accept back people holding “national verification” registration cards. This card, which falls short of offering citizenship, has been rejected by Rohingya community leaders who say it treats life-long residents like new immigrants.

A leader of the Rohingya group in the buffer zone, Dil Mohammed, told Reuters in a text message: “Our no-man’s land camp demands are that there must be a safe return, we need security and all basic rights, including citizenship.”

He said the group would never accept the national verification card, that its members must be allowed to return to their own homes, paid compensation for losses and damage, and provided with protection from a U.N. mission.

Full report at:

http://en.prothomalo.com/bangladesh/news/171377/Bangladesh-Myanmar-representatives-to-meet-over

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We must stop radical Islamism in Bangladesh

Feb 19, 2018

According to a group of researchers at Dhaka University, radical Islam is on the ascent among the youth in Bangladesh. In the study titled “Bangladesh: Facing Challenges of Radicalization and Extremism,” Imtiaz Ahmed, Amena Mohsin and Delwar Hossain of Dhaka University found that a majority of the students do not believe that they can get a job upon graduation if they behave honestly and this pushes them to support radical Islamism. Given this study, I would say that recruitment to madrasas among the youth is becoming a bigger and bigger problem by the day and helps to reinforce the persecution of the Hindu minority within my country. 

This ground-breaking study found that Bangladeshi young people are increasingly speaking in Arabic even though their native tongue is Bangla. In addition, more and more Bangladeshi young women are wearing the hijab. In fact, some are even wearing the niqab. And these radical young people are increasingly looking down upon Hindus and moderate Muslims. Mongol Shova Jatra, which marks the Bangla New Year, is frowned upon as Hindu culture. And Mughal Emperor Akbar is not considered a true Muslim for he started the tradition of celebrating Pahela Baishakh, the Bangla New Year. 

The way that a country’s youth conducts itself is a reflection of the society at large. Before the rise of anti-Semitism throughout American society at large, there was a noticeable rise in anti-Semitism on the American college campuses that nobody paid attention to until it was a bit late. Now, the anti-Semitism that plagued the campuses engulfs all of American society. Given this, as a Bangladeshi, I am concerned that what we are now witnessing on the Bangladeshi campuses is a prism for what is happening in the rest of the country. Based on current events, it appears that this is the case.

In Bangladesh, the Hindus are regularly raped and killed by the ruling government. For example, Awami League supporters raped a housewife in Ramgati in Laxmipur District and the police did not want to take on the case initially due to the rapists’ connections to the ruling government. In the end, Bangladesh Minority Watch investigated the incident and found that the Ramgati Police Station’s Acting Officer Iqbal Hossein apologized over the case and later contacted Rabindra Gosh of the Laxmipur District, who was able to file a case against the accused. The victim’s relative Ramesh Chandra Das, however, still complained about the lack of a case against the accused.

There are hundreds of stories like this across Bangladesh. In January 2018, there were over 50 violent incidents directed towards Hindus yet the Bangladeshi government takes zero actions not only against those who rape Hindu women but also those who seize Hindu lands and who murder Hindus. Sheikh Hasina’s government is silently trying to make Bangladesh a Hindu free state by implementing grave human rights abuses against the Hindu population. Hindu homes are systematically being burned to the ground. Recently, a Hindu village was attacked. They ransacked every home, vandalizing and looting them. The land robbers went from home to home torturing people. They tortured mainly women and children. In addition, they even took tractors and destroyed homes. 

The Hindu community of Mahajanapara of Sivananda village in Patiya, Chittagong, is in the worst humanitarian crisis. Up to 20 out of 22 homes have been destroyed by fire. These families could not save anything except the clothes that they were wearing. In the bitter cold of winter, hundreds of Hindu families are passing the night under the most inhumane conditions. They urgently need blankets, winter clothes, rice, oil, salt, etc.  

I am seeking cooperation with other Hindu organizations to help out my people back in Bangladesh.  However, it is critical to note that under this present ruling regime, those who are working to help out the minorities of Bangladesh are presently facing a crackdown from the Bangladeshi government. For example, Dissident Aslam Chowdhury, who has done much to help the minorities in Bangladesh, is now sitting in prison.

Full report at:

http://www.jerusalemonline.com/blogs/shipan-kumer-basu/op-ed-we-must-stop-radical-islamism-in-bangladesh-34651

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Mass grave of hostages kidnapped by ISIS discovered in East of Afghanistan

Feb 19 2018

The mass grave of at least nine people who were executed by the ISIS militants more than a year ago has been discovered in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

Provincial governor’s spokesman Atauallah Khogyani said the mass grave was discovered from the vicinity of the Achin district.

He said the militants affiliated with the ISIS terrorist group abducted a group of twelve people nearly one and half years ago executed nine of them shortly after they were kidnapped.

Khogyani further added that the mass grave of the nine hostages executed by the ISIS militants were recovered from Mamand area of Achin on Sunday.

The anti-government armed militant and terrorist groups including the ISIS terrorist group has not commented regarding the report so far.

In the meantime, reports indicate that the hostages were the local tribal elders who were rounded up by the ISIS militants on unknown charges.

Nangarhar is among the relatively calm provinces in the East of the country but the anti-government armed militants including the Taliban and ISIS insurgents have been attempting during the recent years to expand their foothold in some remote districts of the province.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/mass-grave-of-hostages-kidnapped-by-isis-recovered-in-east-of-afghanistan-04520

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Rohingya refugees say no repatriation without security guarantee

19 February 2018

Over 6,500 Rohingya protesters from Tambru’s no man’s land are reportedly among the 8,032 named in the initial repatriation list, which Bangladesh handed over to Myanmar on Friday, reports Tarek Mahmud after returning from Bandarban’s Ghumdum.

The Rohingya refugees living in the no man’s land between Myanmar’s Tambru and Bangladesh’s Konapara border areas and protesting the repatriation process have found renewed justification for anxiety.

Demonstrating in Tambru’s no man’s land on Saturday and Sunday, the refugees said they want the Myanmar government to accede to their demands, including ensuring their safety and rights, before they are sent back.

Dil Mohammed and Arif Hossain, two Rohingya leaders of the area, claimed that Myanmar army and Mogh extremists were still bulldozing Rohingya houses, villages, and markets, as well as torturing those who are still living in the Rakhine state.

They said: “The Rohingyas of no man’s land feel threatened and concerned that putting their names in the repatriation list will be put them at risk again.” The protesters demanded deployment of UN peacekeeping force in Rakhine’s Rohingya majority areas and recognition of the Rohingya as citizens of Myanmar.

They also want international organizations and media to be engaged in the repatriation process and monitor the overall situation, along with the full implementation of the recommendations made in the report of the Kofi Anan-led Advisory Commission on Rakhine State and the five-point proposal of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Dil Mohammad said the refugees would not go back to their homeland until their demands are met. Over 6,500 Rohingya protesters from Tambru’s no man’s land are reportedly among the 8,032 named in the initial repatriation list, which the Bangladesh government handed over to Myanmar on Friday.

The Dhaka Tribune could not independently verify the reports, but repatriating the Rohingyas living in this area first was discussed during the home minister-level meeting of both countries Friday.

No man’s land

The Rohingyas in the no man’s land have been subjected to intimidating efforts by Myanmar security forces over the past few months. But the situation worsened after Myanmar’s Deputy Home Minister Major General Aung Soe visited the Tambru border area on February 8.

Since that visit, the Myanmar army and Border Guard Police (BGP), using loudspeakers, have asked the Rohingyas to return to Rakhine from the no man’s land. But at night, the Myanmar army reportedly fires blanks to scare them and stop them from going back. “We used to escape to Bangladesh territory at night and return at day. But now the army and BGP are giving warnings over loudspeakers every hour,” said Siddique Ahmad, an old Rohingya man living in the no man’s land.

On Saturday night, Myanmar security forces issued instructions about repatriating the Rohingyas from the no man’s land, prompting at least 50 of them to cross over into Bangladesh, where they were detained by Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB). They were later sent to a refugee camp with basic provisions.

“The Rohingyas of the no man’s land are under strict BGB surveillance,” Lt Col Khalid Hasan, director (operations) of BGB’s Cox’s Bazar Ad-hoc Region, told the Dhaka Tribune.

Myanmar crackdown

After a Myanmar army crackdown in Rakhine started in August 25 last year, over 6,500 Rohingya people from Tambru, Medipara, Raimongkhali, Deybuinna, Laipuiya, Ponduiya, Khuyangcipong villages and Maungdaw’s Panirchora had moved to that no man’s land and been living there, a place that is adjacent to Naikhongchhari’s Ghumdum border in Bandarban.

Since then, more than 10,000 Rohingyas have sought shelter in the no man’s land bordering Ghumdum union’s Konarpara area, Sadar union’s Sapmara Jhiri, Boro Chonkhola, and Dochhari union’s Bahir Math area under Naikhongchhari.

In January, all the Rohingyas living in the no man’s land were taken to the Rohingya camps at Ukhiya’s Kutupalong, Cox’s Bazar. However, the refugees living in the Konarpara bordering areas, despite promises that they would be taken too, are still living in Tambru.

The government’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission said nearly 700,000 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh till February 11 fleeing the brutal persecution termed as “ethnic cleansing” by the UN. They joined the several hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who had been living in two upazilas of Cox’s Bazar for years.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2018/02/19/Rohingya-refugees-say-no-repatriation-without-security-guarantee.html

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Southeast Asia

 

Maldives leader seeks approval to extend state of emergency

Feb 19, 2018

Maldives President Abdulla Yameen has called for parliamentary approval to extend a state of emergency by 30 days as political turmoil continues in the South Asian island country.

The plea was made on Monday as the 85-member parliament was expected to vote on the proposal and a day before the current state of emergency expired.

The state of emergency allows police and security forces to make arrests without warrant, while they could enter and search homes.

The Maldivian president declared a state of emergency on February 5 for 15 days to annul a Supreme Court ruling that ordered the release of a group of his imprisoned political opponents, including nine opposition leaders, who had been convicted in widely criticized trials.

Yameen's administration has also arrested former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and a Supreme Court judge under the emergency law on allegations of attempting to overthrow the government.

Reports said ruling and opposition party leaders engaged in disputes about whether parliament's approval was required to extend the state of emergency under the constitution.

"If the opposition wants to annul this declaration, they have to go to the parliament and ask for a vote," said Ahmed Nihan, ruling party group leader in parliament. "The ... emergency does not become void because parliament does not approve it."

Opposition parliamentary group leader, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, however, said the constitution "clearly states" parliament's indispensable role in extending an emergency.

"If this is not approved (by parliament), it is going to be invalid. Once the emergency becomes void everything done under that state of emergency also will be void and invalid," he added.

Former president Gayoom, a charismatic and high-profile campaigner against climate change, was convicted in 2015 on a terrorism charge widely criticized as politically-motivated and sentenced to 13 years in jail.

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/19/552944/Maldives-Abdulla-Yameen-parliamentary-approval-emergency-state

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Philippine Forces Arrest Alleged Ex-Islamic State Commander

Feb. 19, 2018

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine police and army troops have arrested an Arab man they believe was a former commander of the Islamic State group along the Syria and Turkey border in a raid on a Manila apartment, where they found bomb-making materials and an IS-style flag, the national police chief said Monday.

Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa said Fehmi Lassoued, who is reportedly from Egypt, and his Filipina companion, Anabel Moncera Salipada, were arrested last week based on intelligence provided by foreign counterparts.

He said investigators were looking into possible links between the two suspects and local and foreign militant groups, and whether they were involved in any terrorist activity.

Dela Rosa said at a news conference that Lassoued has a fake Tunisian passport and may be a militant recruiter, but did not offer any evidence.

Clad in an orange detainee shirt, handcuffed and held on both sides by soldiers, Lassoued stood with his head often bowed in front of a table where bomb-making parts and other evidence were displayed at the news conference.

Salipada is from the southern town of Upi in Maguindanao province, where Muslim militants operate, according to her identity card.

Lassoued apparently entered the Philippines in July 2016 from Iran using a fake passport which Philippine immigration personnel failed to detect, dela Rosa said, adding that he traveled to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and the Turkish city of Istanbul from 2016 to 2017.

Investigators were also trying to determine if Lassoued was involved in a siege by hundreds of Islamic State group-aligned militants on the southern Islamic city of Marawi last year, dela Rosa said. The five-month uprising left more than 1,100 combatants dead, mostly Muslim militants, and displaced hundreds of thousands of villagers before troops crushed it with ground assaults and airstrikes.

Full report at:

https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2018-02-19/philippine-forces-arrest-alleged-ex-islamic-state-commander

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Philippines says suspect Islamist militant recruiter arrested

February 19, 2018

Philippine security forces have arrested a foreigner suspected of recruiting domestic fighters for pro-Islamic State militant groups, including an alliance that occupied a southern city for five months last year, police said on Monday.

Director-General Ronald dela Rosa paraded before the media Fehmi Lassoued and his Filipino girlfriend, Anabel Salipada, three days after they were arrested in a rented apartment a few blocks away from the U.S. embassy in Manila, the capital.

“A thorough investigation is now underway to determine the extent of their involvement with international and domestic threat groups,” dela Rosa said, adding that an undisclosed foreign intelligence ally gave details of Lassoued’s identity and activities. --------

Police also displayed handguns, ammunition and components for making improvised explosive devices and an Islamic State black flag, which were confiscated from Lassoued and Salipada.

“Most likely, he is here with the intention to recruit ISIS sympathizers in Mindanao,” dela Rosa said, using another acronym for Islamic State.

He said Lassoued has been traveling to Malaysia, the philippines and Turkey in the last two years and first arrived in Manila in June 2016 on a Tunisian passport, which was found to be fake.

Lassoued was born in the United Arab Emirates and is of Libyan and Tunisian descent but lived in Syria for many years, he added.

The suspect may have helped recruit for the pro-Islamic State Maute group, which led a siege of southern Marawi City last year, he added.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/19-Feb-2018/philippines-says-suspect-islamist-militant-recruiter-arrested

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Malaysia to hold talks with Thailand, consider human rights in Uighur issue

20 Feb 2018

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Hamidi says the country will hold further talks with Thailand on the future of 11 Uighurs who escaped detention in Songkhla province and are now wanted for extradition by China.

"We are liasing with officials from Thailand, where some of them were held, and we will take action that won't offend any country and the decision God willing will be the best decision"

"We will have further talks that will touch on diplomatic and security issues between the countries involved and we will take into account the feelings of humanitarian groups and also human rights (groups) from this country, Southeast Asia, and globally." The 11 ethnic Uighur from China were among 20 that escaped from Thailand last year by digging through their cell walls with broken tiles.

Malaysia is investigating if they were involved in any terror activities as China put in an official request to extradite the members of the ethnic, Muslim minority.

Full report at:

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/malaysia-to-hold-talks-with-thailand-consider-human-rights-in-9973752

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Malaysian militant linked to Abu Sayyaf abductions

Feb 20, 2018

KOTA KINABALU • Wanted Malaysian militant Amin Bacho is among the 40 remaining Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) gunmen who have joined the Abu Sayyaf group on Jolo island where they are believed to be abducting locals to fund their network in the east coast of Sabah.

According to intelligence sources, Tawau-born Amin, who escaped the Philippine military's recapture of the ISIS-occupied Marawi city last year, was in hiding in Jolo in the Philippines with his father-in-law, Abu Sayyaf commander Hatib Hajab Sawadjan.

The group has terrorised Sabah's east coast with numerous kidnappings in the past decade.

Last Thursday, the Ajang Ajang group, a sub-group of the Abu Sayyaf, abducted Mr Enrico Nee, a Department of Public Works and Highways engineer, in Jolo and handed him to Sawadjan, who is in control of 70 gunmen.

"So far, they (the militants) have carried out local kidnappings in Jolo itself but they are likely to look beyond soon," the sources said.

The intelligence sources said the group was eyeing shipping vessels and fishing boats at sea borders between southern Philippines and the east coast of Sabah as targets.

The group also planned to carry out raids in Sabah waters but could not slip through the high level of alert put in place by Eastern Sabah Security Command, added these sources.

Tawau-born Amin, who escaped the Philippine military's recapture of the ISIS-occupied Marawi city last year, is in hiding in Jolo in the Philippines with his father-in-law, Abu Sayyaf commander Hatib Hajab Sawadjan.

They said that Amin, who is wanted in Malaysia for his involvement with Darul Islam Sabah, has also teamed up with Owayda Marohomsar, whose alias is Abu Dar - one of the key figures in last May's siege of Marawi City led by Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who was later killed.

Full report at:

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/malaysian-militant-linked-to-abu-sayyaf-abductions-0

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Mideast

 

Israel plans new law to ban Palestinians from Jerusalem

20 February 2018

AMMAN: A proposed new law will give Israel wider powers to strip Palestinians of their right to live in occupied East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

The legislation follows earlier attempts to remove social security benefits and family reunification rights from Palestinians in Jerusalem. “This time they are going after the right to residency,” Sani Khoury, a lawyer in Jerusalem, told Arab News.

The draft law approved by the Israeli parliament’s legislative committee allows the government to withdraw residency from any Palestinian deemed by Israel to be “involved in terrorism,” whether they have been convicted of a crime or not.

Right-wing Knesset members appear to be in a race to see who can sponsor the most racist law against Palestinians, Khoury said. “Note that they did not withdraw social benefits or the residency rights of Yigal Amir, the killer of former prime minister Yitshaq Rabin.”

Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967 and the Golan Heights in 1980. People who live there may remain if they abide by certain Israeli administrative procedures.

Palestinians with permanent residency cannot lose their right to live in Jerusalem provided the city is the center of their lives, Hanna Issa, a lawyer in Jerusalem who specializes in international law, told Arab News. “But if they are away from Jerusalem for seven years, or if they get residency elsewhere, this right can be withdrawn.”

Even living in nearby Ramallah or Bethlehem constitutes not living in Jerusalem and can be used against Palestinians to withdraw their residency, Issa said.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has documented the cases of nearly 15,000 Palestinians in Jerusalem who have lost their residency rights because of these administrative orders.

The new draft law appears to be aimed at thwarting an attempt by four Palestinians from Jerusalem to have their administrative banishment from the city overturned by the Israeli Supreme Court.

The former Palestinian Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, Khaled Abu Arafeh, and three elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council — Ahmad Ottwan, Mohammed Totah and Mohammad Abu Tier — were banned from Jerusalem shortly after the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections. Their crime, according to the Israeli prosecutor, was that by taking part in the elections on behalf of the pro-Hamas Islamists Change and Reform List, they showed that they were “not loyal to the state of Israel.”

The four men have been arrested three times since 2006, and are engaged in a legal battle to have the ban reversed.

Abu Arafeh lives in a temporary home in Ramallah, and has been unable to travel or attend family events in Jerusalem or elsewhere.

“My son is graduating from university this summer in Jordan and my daughter will graduate from high school in Jerusalem’s Beit Hanina neighborhood, and I will not be able to attend,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Israeli government has also approved a draft law punishing the Palestinian government for making payments to the families of prisoners and those who have died resisting occupation. The new law will cut tax revenues allocated to the Palestinians by the same amount as those payments. The Palestinian government has called the law “theft of Palestinian money.”

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1250046/middle-east

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Qatari envoy abused, thrown out of hospital in Gaza

19 February 2018

The Qatari ambassador in Palestine was kicked out from a hospital by the staff and public images and video shared on Monday revealed.

The video showed angry staff at the Shifa hospital in Gaza showing Qatari envoy, Mohammed al-Emadi, being forced out, throwing shoes at him and tearing up the flag of Qatar while chanting slogans against Qatar.

Ambassador Al-Emadi planned to hold a press conference at the hospital before being attacked and thrown out by staff.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/02/19/Qatari-envoy-in-Gaza-thrown-out-of-hospital-and-cursed-.html

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Turkey renames US embassy street after Syria offensive

Feb 19, 2018

The street in Ankara where the US embassy is located was renamed after Turkey's offensive against Kurdish militia on Monday, just days after the two sides agreed on the need to normalize relations.

Already tense ties were strained further when Ankara started a ground and air offensive dubbed "Olive Branch" last month against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in its enclave of Afrin in western Syria.

Ankara views the YPG as a terrorist offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), an insurgency in Turkey which is listed as a terror organization by the US and the European Union.

But in Syria, Washington has been providing arms to the YPG against Daesh, much to Ankara's chagrin in a dispute that has ignited the biggest crisis in bilateral ties since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

The US has previously called on Ankara for restraint and said operation "Olive Branch" risked becoming a distraction from the fight against militants in Syria.

The renaming of the street follows a visit by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Ankara last week when he met Turkish officials including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the two sides agreed to cooperate in Syria.

"We are not going to act alone any longer, not US doing one thing, Turkey doing another," Tillerson said after talks with Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.

The two sides said they would set up working groups to solve key issues affecting relations.

Ankara mayor Mustafa Tuna mooted the plan to change the name from Nevzat Tandogan (a former Ankara governor) to Olive Branch avenue before Tillerson arrived on Thursday.

City workers switched the actual signs on Monday.

Although the American embassy is located on what is now Olive Branch avenue, the mission's official address is given as the street behind the building, which is named after Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish republic.

Renaming streets has become a favored diplomacy tool for Ankara.

Tensions with the UAE flared last month when the emirate's Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan retweeted a post on Twitter critical of the former Ottoman rulers of the region.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/19/552919/Turkey-Ankara-US-embassy-street-rename-Afrin-YPG

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Turkey warns Assad regime against support to Kurd militia

February 20, 2018

AMMAN - Turkey’s foreign minister on Monday warned against any intervention by Syrian pro-government forces alongside Kurdish militias in northern Syria, saying it would not prevent Ankara from continuing its month-old offensive.

Mevlut Cavusoglu was reacting to a report from Syrian state news agency SANA saying pro-government forces were expected in the Afrin region to counter the Turkish offensive against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia. turkey views the YPG as a terrorist offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), blacklisted by Ankara, the United States and the European Union.

“If the regime is entering (Afrin) to oust the PKK, YPG, there is no problem. But if they are entering to protect the YPG, then no one can stop us and Turkish soldiers,” Cavusoglu said during a visit to Jordan.

“This is true for Afrin, Manbij and the east of the Euphrates River,” Cavusoglu added at a joint news conference in Amman with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi.

On Monday, SANA said “popular forces will arrive in Afrin within a few hours to support its people’s stand against the Turkish regime’s attack on the area and its people,” citing its correspondent in Aleppo.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has previously threatened to expand the operation to include the YPG-held town of Manbij and other towns leading to the Iraqi border.

The Turkish army, backed by Syrian rebels, has been conducting a ground and air offensive against the region since January 20 to drive out the YPG.

Cavusoglu said the aim of the operation, dubbed “Olive Branch”, was aimed at “removing terrorists” from its southern border.

Damascus previously denounced Ankara’s “aggression” in Afrin but had never explicitly said it would intervene before Monday.

Syria’s Kurds have gradually implemented a self-rule model across much of the country’s north, including Afrin, since 2012.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/20-Feb-2018/turkey-warns-assad-regime-against-support-to-kurd-militia

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Tehran jails 15-year-old boy for pulling down Iranian flag

19 February 2018

An Iranian member of parliament revealed that the Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced a 15-year-old boy to five years of jail after being accused of dragging down an Iranian flag during the wave of protests against the regime.

The head of Iran’s judiciary committee, Mohammad Kazemi, told the online news site Etemaad that he spoke to the boy during his visit to the prison in the city of Hamadan in the center of Iran. He said that the flag was pulled down in Malayer Square.

The Iranian regime had arrested several high school students during the recent protests. The Assistant Minister of Interior for Security Affairs, Hussein Zulfiqari, said that more than 90 percent of those arrested were boys and young men.

Iran’s Center for Human Rights had warned that the Iranian judiciary system accused protesters of “corruption” and “fighting”, the penalty of which can be death if approved by the court.

They added that several protesters have already been arrested in Hamadan and face the possibility of getting such a penalty.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2018/02/19/Tehran-jails-boy-five-years-for-pulling-down-Iranian-flag.html

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Iran decries Daesh church shooting incident in Russia's Dagestan

Feb 19, 2018

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman has condemned a deadly Daesh shooting incident in Russia’s Dagestan region.

On Sunday, a man in Russia's southern province of Dagestan opened fire into a crowd of people leaving a church, killing five and injuring at least five others.

"The killing of innocent worshipers in holy places... is the mark of groups who would do anything to spread fear and hatred throughout the world," said Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi early on Monday.

The Takfiri Daesh terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attack on the Telegram messaging app.

Russian news agencies said the attack occurred as churchgoers celebrated Maslenitsa, a Christian holiday marking the last day before Lent, according to the eastern Orthodox calendar.

The assailant was identified as a 22-year-old man local to the region, the TASS news agency said, citing the investigative committee.

He was shot and killed by security services who were on duty nearby, TASS said, adding that a hunting rifle, bullets and a knife were discovered on his person.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, said that he was “stunned” by the attack and called for a thorough investigation to be held over the incident.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/19/552846/russia-daesh-iran-shooting-condemn

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Turkey will confront Syrian forces if they enter Afrin to help YPG: FM Cavusoglu

Feb 19, 2018

Turkish foreign ministry says it will confront any Syrian pro-government forces entering in the Kurdish-controlled enclave of Afrin to protect the US-backed People's Protection Units (YPG), as Damascus reportedly intends to send pro-government forces to the flashpoint region to join forces with the Kurds against Turkish troops.

Mevlut Cavusoglu’s remarks on Monday came a month after Ankara waged the “Operation Olive Branch” in Syria’s Afrin region to eliminate the “terrorist” YPG group, which is considered by the Turkish government as the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The latter has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984. 

“If the regime [in Damascus] is entering there to cleanse the PKK and PYD, then there are no problems,” he said, referring to the Kurdistan Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is considered as the YPG’s political wing.

“However, if it comes in to defend the YPG, then nothing and nobody can stop us or Turkish soldiers,” Cavusoglu’s further told a press conference during a visit to the Jordanian capital Amman.

His comments came a few hours after Syria's official SANA news agency reported that government-backed “popular forces will arrive in Afrin in the next few hours to support the steadfastness of its people in confronting the aggression which Turkish regime forces have launched on the region.”

The report came a day after a senior Syrian Kurdish official said that Kurdish authorities and the Syrian government had allegedly struck a deal for the Syrian army to enter Afrin in a bid to end the Turkish offensive in the northern region.

The developments come a few weeks after Kurdish authorities in the Afrin district appealed to the government of President Bashar al-Assad to send troops and help defend them against the Turkish incursion in line with protecting Syria’s sovereignty.

On late Saturday, the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed anti-Damascus militant group, announced that that it had, for the first time, carried out a special cross-border operation against a gathering of Turkish troops and their allied Syrian factions in Kirikhan, a district in Turkey's southern Hatay province. The YPG forms the largest part of the US-backed SDF coalition.

On Sunday, the Turkish General Staff said in a statement that a total of 1,614 militants had been “neutralized” since the start of Operation Olive Branch in Afrin. Turkish authorities use the word “neutralized” in their statements to imply that the militants in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.

It added that a total of 674 “terrorist targets” had also been destroyed in airstrikes since the start of the operation.

The Syrian government has given a degree of authority to the Kurdish regions to run their own affairs in the face of a foreign-backed militancy. The US, however, has used the vacuum to establish a foothold in those regions with the help of militants.

Assad has described US-sponsored Kurdish armed elements as “traitors” to the nation but has also denounced Turkish incursions as an act of aggression.

Operation Olive Branch in Afrin region is Turkey's second major military intervention in Syria during the unprecedented foreign-backed militancy that broke out in 2011.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/19/552910/Turkey-Syria-YPG-Afrin-PKK-PYD-Cavusoglu-Assad

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Syrian government will ‘face consequences’ if it reaches agreement with YPG, Erdoğan tells Putin

February 19 2018

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has told Russian President Vladimir Putin that the Turkish army will “continue its advance towards Afrin with determination,” warning that the Syrian regime’s attempts to enter the enclave will bring about unwanted consequences, sources have told daily Hürriyet.

Erdoğan and Putin spoke on the phone on Feb. 19 after news broke that the Syrian army and the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) had agreed that the latter would leave control of Afrin to the regime forces.

However, the Turkish president reportedly voiced Ankara’s commitment to “clear Afrin of terrorists” and vowed that “Operation Olive Branch” will continue as planned.

“If Syria opts for such a move, there will be consequences,” Erdoğan reportedly told his Russian counterpart.

Turkish presidential sources say Putin said he was “not in a position to confirm an agreement” between the Syrian regime and the YPG in Afrin, while “reiterating Moscow’s understanding” over Turkey’s military operation into Afrin.

Full report at:

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/syrian-government-will-face-consequences-if-it-reaches-agreement-with-ypg-erdogan-tells-putin-127588

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Africa

 

Why terror group returnees are not heeding State amnesty

FEBRUARY 20 2018

Hundreds of Al-Shabaab returnees are facing difficulties surrendering to authorities for fear of reprisals despite running away from being killed in Somalia after falling out with the militia leaders.

Some of the de-radicalised youth said they had run away from harsh conditions in Somalia after realising the high life they had been promised was hot air or falling out with their commanders who suspected them of being spies. Others escaped the increased operation and bombardments by the Kenya Defence Forces.

KILLED

The returnees who sought anonymity for fear of victimisation said a number of them had been killed especially in Lamu, Mombasa and Kwale counties by al Shabaab sympathisers who accused them of betrayal or security personnel.

According to authorities, hundreds of the youth who had joined the militia had returned following a government amnesty issued in 2015, with some successfully reintegrating into the society.

Others are living in fear of both the government and the militants.

“They do not know where to go. Police are after them and so is their group. Life is miserable for them,” said a community policing official from Kwale who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

SLIPPED BACK

Intelligence sources indicate that at least 140 al Shabaab returnees had slipped back at the coast by April last year.

“These include those who went three years ago. The figures cover the coast region alone,” said the source.

Police sources revealed that a number of those who have returned are based in Kwale, Mombasa and Malindi in Kilifi County.

“Kwale leads in the whole region and they are the same people who have been carrying out attacks targeting police officers,” revealed the source.

In Kwale, the returnees were linked to the killings of two staff of Technical University of Mombasa, Mabokoni Campus.

The staff were shot dead by gunmen in ambush on a vehicle that they were riding in last September.

Outgoing Coast regional police boss Larry Kieng said the returnees have integrated with locals making it difficult to deal with them.

NO AMNESTY INTEREST

He said they have been working closely with the locals to get information on the suspects who have not shown interest in government’s amnesty.

“There are those who do not want to take advantage of the amnesty and those are the ones we want to deal with. We believe they are part of those terrorising people in the county,” said Mr Kieng.

Mombasa County commander Johnstone Ipara urged the returnees to surrender to the government to be rehabilitated and live a normal life.

“If you were misled and left the country for ‘greener pastures’ just surrender. Terrorism is headed nowhere. Our officers are everywhere including the borders,” urged the county police boss.  

He urged parents with details of their missing children to help the government with information.

Contacted, Assistant Inspector-General of Police  and commander in charge of Operation Linda Boni Douglas Kirocho expressed confidence that the war on al Shabaab will be won.

He said since the inception of the Operation Linda Boni in 2015, they have rehabilitated a number of returnees.

https://www.nation.co.ke/news/Shabaab-returnees-not-heed-State-amnesty/1056-4311894-6jxgfhz/index.html

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Over 200 Boko Haram suspects convicted in Nigeria

20 February 2018

A total of 205 Boko Haram militants have been convicted and 526 others freed for lack of evidence in the second round of mass trials of persons arrested in connection with the insurgency in northeast Nigeria, according to a statement.

In the statement issued on late Monday, Salihu Isa, Justice Ministry’s spokesman, said 73 cases were adjourned by the special panels trying the terrorism cases at a heavily guarded prison yard in central Niger state.

Isa said the panels comprising four judges tried a total of 301 cases.

Up from 475 last week, the spokesman said most of the 526 persons freed were minors or people with mental illness.

The first round of the mass trials took place last October.

One of the convicts had confessed to being involved in the abduction of 276 schoolgirls from northeastern Chibok town, sparking international outrage and deepening global anti-terrorism collaboration.

http://www.worldbulletin.net/africa/199011/over-200-boko-haram-suspects-convicted-in-nigeria

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Shabaab terrorist rented room next to city police base

FEBRUARY 20 2018

Security officers in Nairobi were Monday evening piecing together details of a plot to bomb the city, and cordoned off a room in a prime city hotel where the would-be terrorists booked a room since the Friday of February 9 this year.

The terror plot was foiled by hawk-eyed police officers hundreds of kilometres away in Merti, Isiolo County on Thursday last week, but the possible scale of devastation in the city, and the gallantry of the officers in the dusty hamlet up north, are just emerging.

The details started flowing following the arrest in Merti of two men who were part of a group of five transporting a cache of weapons.

BOOKED HOTEL

A police investigation revealed that one of the suspects had been booked into a hotel opposite the Central Police Station in Nairobi ten days earlier.

Abdimajit Adan, 24, was arrested alongside Mohammed Nane on Thursday after a brief exchange of fire. Police found five AK-47 assault rifles and 36 fully loaded magazines in their car.

A third suspect was killed at the scene.

Moments earlier members of the public had alerted police officers returning from a security patrol at Yamincha that they had spotted a car, registration number KBM 200D, hidden in a thicket.

Merti Deputy County Commissioner Maiyo Julius, Police Commander Gifinalis Barasa, and his Administration Police counterpart Hussein Ibrahim immediately assembled a team and rushed to the hideout.

“When we got there, one of the occupants in the vehicle came out and started shooting at the officers,” a police report reads.

“The officers returned fire, killing him instantly.” Four others dashed for the bush but two were arrested.

Yesterday, the manager of Delta Hotel in Nairobi told the Nation Adan had stayed at the hotel since February 9 and left in the early morning of Thursday, February 15. He was arrested hours later in the unforgiving, sun-baked plains of Merti.

“When he came in he filled a computer-generated form and we attached it to a photocopy of his national identity card,” said the manager, who requested anonymity.

“His room had been occupied since then, but on Thursday at about 11.30pm police officers from the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) came to the hotel and told me that one of our clients had been arrested.”

ITEMS

Police found Adan’s clothes, an air ticket from Elwak to Wilson Airport used on February 9, one Safaricom sim card, and two unused Airtel sim cards in the room. Adan had also left a note to the hotel management:

“Please reserve the room for me,” he urged. “I will pay when I return tomorrow.”

Police searched all the occupied rooms in the hotel to confirm the identities of all visitors.

They also arrested two other people in the Central Business District, believed to have been part of a larger terrorism cell that was planning to carry out a massive attack in Nairobi.

PROBE HOTELS

The city’s divisional police commanders were also immediately ordered to investigate the occupants of hotels within areas under their guard.

On Sunday morning, two days after Adan and Nane were arrested in Merti, police nabbed two more suspects and found on them receipts of two motorcycles.

The motorcycles — registration numbers KMEE 180R and KMEE 372R — had been purchased by a Mr Abdimajit Adan, and were recovered from two other suspects in Garbatula later.

A confidential report seen by the Nation indicates that the two suspects had been spotted by the public in a bush at Manyangab in Modagashe, about two kilometres west of a local police station.

They were identified as Ahmed Issack Ibrahim, 46, and Said Mohammed Salat, 19. Ibrahim claimed Kenyan citizenship while Salat is from Somalia.

It is not yet clear where the suspects were planning to attack, but police officers attached to the ATPU said the improvised explosive devices and grenades recovered from them would have been powerful enough to bring down more than one multi-storeyed building.

Normally, terrorists using such bomb contraptions connect the IEDs to the motherboards of phones they have linked using such applications as WhatsApp. After they place them in their target locations, they trigger them, causing a lot of destruction.

Full report at:

https://www.nation.co.ke/news/How-city-dodged-big-Shabaab-bomb/1056-4311896-yo4mjhz/index.html

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