New Age Islam
Sat Oct 24 2020, 02:25 AM

Islamic World News ( 8 Dec 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Triple Talaq Issue: Clerics Oppose, Activists Hail HC’s Remarks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: Woman Protests Divorce By Digital Means. (Times Of India.)

 

Muslim Refugees in Germany Convert From Islam to Christianity For Asylum

Pak-Afghan Region Has Highest Concentration of Terrorists: US

Syrian Army in Controls of 93 Percent of Aleppo City

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India

Triple Talaq Issue: Clerics Oppose, Activists Hail HC’s Remarks

Islamic Banking Not Relevant In View Of Fin Inclusion Prg: MoS

Bus runs over 10 Indian, Pak workers in Sharjah, 1 dead

Release Kulbhushan Jadhav, India tells Pakistan

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Europe

Muslim Refugees in Germany Convert From Islam to Christianity for Asylum

Germany Arrests Teens Plotting 'Islamist-Motivated Attack': Cops

Russia Says Aleppo Combat Has Ceased; Residents Disagree

British spies penetrating ISIS to thwart attacks: MI6 chief

France’s Le Pen pledges no schooling for illegal migrants

Spain to send more soldiers to help Iraq forces combat Islamic State

RSF decries Islamic State’s use of British journalist John Cantlie

Dutch court convicts anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders

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North America

Pak-Afghan Region Has Highest Concentration of Terrorists: US

'No Progress' As Kerry, Lavrov Meet On Syria: US

Bloodied Hog Carcass Dumped Outside Lawton Islamic Center

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Arab World

Syrian Army in Controls of 93 Percent of Aleppo City

Almost 8,500 Citizens Leave Militant-Held Districts in Syria's Aleppo

Ahrar Al-Sham Suffers Heavy Death Toll in Syrian Army Attack in Homs

Long Convoy of ISIL's Vehicles Hit Hard in Syrian Air Raid in Deir Ezzur

Activists say IS push killed 49 Syrian soldiers

Terrorists Continue to Prevent People's Exit Eastern Neighborhoods of Aleppo

Syria: Terrorists Fail again to Prevail over Gov't Positions in Lattakia Province

Several Saudi Soldiers Killed in Yemeni Forces' Attacks

Iraqi Army Troops Recapture Three More Districts North of Mosul

Turkish Army to Dispatch More Soldiers to Northern Syria to Assist Ankara-Backed Terrorists

WikiLeaks Claims Prove Turkish Minister's Link to ISIL Terrorists

Several Civilian Casualties Reported in US-led Coalition's Airstrike in Syria's Raqqa

Syrian government forces press attack in east Aleppo

Iraqi army denies bombing civilians in Islamic State-held Qaim

Islamic State seizes more ground near Syria's Palmyra - monitoring group

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South Asia

IS Weakened In Afghanistan, Claims UNSC Report

US Defense Secretary Makes Unannounced Visit to Afghanistan

US Congress Extends SIV Program for Afghans with 1,500 Additional Visas

Plot to attack Kabul city with rockets foiled

Russia-Taliban ties worry Afghan, US officials

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Pakistan

Pakistan: The Minority Protection Bill Is both Islamic and Constitutional

Special Branch Officer Held for ‘Facilitating’ Militants, Says Sindh Police

'Prime minister will not give a button from his clothes, much less his resignation'

Aviation experts suggest pilot error to blame for PK-661 crash

Panama papers leak: Pakistan SC adjourns case against Nawaz Sharif, family till January

Pakistan accuses India of 'negativity' at Heart of Asia conference

Law enforcers detain MQM London activists after tensions simmer in Azizabad, Hyderabad

McCain expresses desire to strengthen Pak-US bilateral ties

Musharraf given one month to surrender

Pakistan, Iran look to revisit gas pipeline agreement

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Africa

Islamic State Looks To Regroup In Libya after Losing Sirte

30 killed in Boko Haram suicide attacks in NE Nigeria: Army

ISIS Remains Threat in Libya Despite Defeat in Surt, U.S. Officials Say

Norwegian Refugee Council Director Expelled From South Sudan

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Southeast Asia

UN Calls on Myanmar's Suu Kyi to End Military Crackdown on Muslim Rohingya

Video showing 'Muslim' toddler tortured by 'Buddhist' in Burma not all it seems

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Mideast

300 Turkish Commandos to Join Operation Euphrates Shield

US denies plans to send crucial stinger missiles to PYD

Press organizations say #FreeTurkeyJournalists for arrested journos

AKP, MHP fully agree on charter shift draft

Iran, Switzerland Keen to Deepen Trade Ties

Iran, Norway Opt for Broadening Mutual Cooperation

Commander: Iranian Army's Ground Forces to Stage Major Drills in Southeast Iran

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/triple-talaq-issue--clerics-oppose,-activists-hail-hc’s-remarks/d/109331

 

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Triple talaq issue: Clerics oppose, activists hail HC’s remarks

TNN | Dec 9, 2016

NEW DELHI: A host of top Muslim clerics on Thursday said courts should not interfere in issues of Shariat even as some women activists hailed the Allahabad HC's observations on triple talaq.

Barelvi cleric Maulana Shahabuddin Razvi said his organisation, All India Jamat Raza-e-Mustafa, will appeal in the Supreme Court challenging the remarks of the HC. All India Muslim Personal law Board, which is a party in the triple talaq case pending before the SC, said the HC's observation will have no influence on the case in the apex court. "To begin with, the HC has said the Constitution is supreme and Article 25 gives Muslims right to freedom of practising our religion," said AIMPLB general secretary Maulana Wali Rehman.

AIMPLB's executive committee member Zafaryab Jilani said, "Though triple talaq is undesirable and condemnable if initiated on frivolous grounds, divorce comes into effect as per the Shariat." Maulana Salman Nadvi of renowned seminary, Nadwatul Ulema, said Muslim Personal Law has been drafted keeping in mind the tenets of Islam. "Issues related to any religion have to be dealt with by the experts of the religion who practise the same," he said.

However, some activists and lawyers hailed the HC observation. Human Rights Law Network founder Colin Gonsalves said: "All personal laws including personal law of Hindus, Christians and others that contravene the equality clause of the Constitution should be declared void."

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Triple-talaq-issue-Clerics-oppose-activists-hail-HCs-remarks/articleshow/55884165.cms

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Muslim Refugees In Germany Convert From Islam To Christianity For Asylum

12/09/16

With Fewer Muslim Pilgrims At Hajj, Mecca Merchants See Drop In Business

Muslim refugees seeking asylum in Europe, particularly Germany, have been converting to Christianity in droves, Agence France-Presse reported Friday.

Since 2015, nearly 900,000 Muslim migrants have arrived in the country, leaving behind families, jobs and, in some cases, even their Islamic faith. Although church leaders weren’t able to confirm exactly how many Muslim refugees have converted from Islam to Christianity, there have been reports of various pastors baptizing hundreds or even thousands of Muslims at a time over the last three years.

Conversion and baptisms was becoming a growing trend among migrants from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran and Syria, Felix Goldinger, a Catholic priest in the southwestern region of Germany told AFP. Goldinger, who has been handling a group of 20 people looking to be baptized in the Christian faith, said many of the refugees looking to convert have turned to Christianity after witnessing the horrors of terrorism in the name of Islam in their home countries.

“They see Christianity as a religion of love and respect for life,” he said.

Pastor Albert Babjan, who has baptized 196 Afghans and Iranians in Hamburg so far this year, told German news site Stern that he expects to help up to 500 people who are “disappointed” in Islam convert to Christianity by the year’s end. One young woman, who was baptized in May, told Stern the reason she converted was because she was “looking for peace and happiness,” but couldn’t find it in Islam.

“In Islam, we always lived in fear, fear of God, fear of sin, fear of punishment. Christ, on the other hand, is a God of love,” one woman, who only went by the name Solmaz, told Stern in regards to her May baptism.

While Goldinger said there were many people who had a “strong desire” to make the switch to Christianity for personal religious reasons, there are some Muslims who are under the impression converting will help their chances of remaining in Germany.

In many of the countries from which refugees have fled, converting to Christianity is punishable by jail or even death.

Pastor Matthias Linke of the Free Evangelical Church in Germany told AFP that he is often contacted by the state Office for Migration and Refugees in regards of Muslims converting to Christianity in an effort to keep their asylum. However, the pastor said there was no way to guarantee if migrant conversions are motivated by genuine interests in the religion or if people are just trying to avoid being sent back to their home countries, which could potentially put them and their families at even greater risks if their conversion became known.

ibtimes.com/muslim-refugees-germany-convert-islam-christianity-asylum-2457936

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Pak-Afghan region has highest concentration of terrorists: US

December 9th, 2016

WASHINGTON: The Pak-Afghan region has the highest concentration of terrorist groups in the world, warns Gen John W. Nicholson, the commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan.

In an annual assessment of US military operations in Afghanistan this year, the general also took credit for rescuing former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s son from a militant hideout in Afghanistan earlier this year and for killing the perpetrator of the Dec 16, 2014 terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar.

At a recent news briefing at the Pentagon, Gen Nicholson said that there were 98 US-designated terrorist groups around the world and 20 of them were in the Pak-Afghan region.

“This represents the highest concentration of terrorist groups anywhere in the world,” he added.

Thirteen of these 20 groups were based in Afghanistan and seven in Pakistan.

Gen Nicholson said that the groups operating in this region often “mix and converge”, which made them even more dangerous.

“For example, Islamic State of Khorasan today is formed of members of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and even some former members of the Afghan Taliban,” he said.

Throughout the year, US counter-terrorism (CT) forces focused on these groups, conducting over 350 operations against Al Qaeda and the militant Islamic State group in 2016 and dozens more against other groups.

In these operations, US forces killed or captured nearly 50 leaders of AQIS (Al Qaeda Indian Subcontinent) leaders. Additionally, about 200 other members of Al Qaeda and the Al Qaeda Islamic State groups were killed or captured as well.

“Our CT forces rescued the son of the former Pakistani prime minister Gilani in a raid against Al Qaeda in eastern Afghanistan… and killed five emirs of these 20 terrorist groups,” he said. “We killed Hamidullah, the emir of the Islamic Jihad Union, and Omar Khalifa, who is the Tariq Gidar Group emir.”

The Tariq Gidar Group carried out the attack on the Army Public School, Peshawar, and killed over 130 children. They also attacked the Bacha Khan University where they killed dozens of professors and students, as well as a Pakistan air force base.

On Oct 23, US forces killed Farouq al-Qatari, the emir of eastern Afghanistan, for Al Qaeda Islamic State.

He was also their external operations director. Qatari and his accomplices were involved in planning threats against the United States last year.

The US forces also killed Mullah Mansour, the emir of Taliban and a designated UN terrorist, Gen Nicholson said.

He said he was not in a position to comment on a recent telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and US President-elect Donald Trump but he was looking forward to meeting the new Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. “I’ll meet him upon my return to the region (this) week,” he added. “And there are many areas of mutual cooperation with the Pakistanis with respect to the border, our joint efforts against terrorism and so forth. And so, we’re looking forward to working closely with them going forward.”

While responding to a question, Gen Nicholson said the Haqqani network still posed the greatest threat to the United States and its coalition partners and to the Afghans.

He recalled that the Haqqanis, who were still holding five American citizens hostage, remained a principal concern for US forces. “They do enjoy sanctuary inside Pakistan,” he added.

dawn.com/news/1301408/pak-afghan-region-has-highest-concentration-of-terrorists-us

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Syrian Army in Controls of 93 Percent of Aleppo City

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army controls 93 percent of the entire city of Aleppo, the Russian General Staff said on Friday.

"As a result of a successful advance, 52 districts of Eastern Aleppo have been freed. The territory controlled by militants decreased by one third over the past 4 days. The Syrian army controls 93% of the city's territory," the Russian General Staff said.

More than 1,000 militants have surrendered arms and left Eastern Aleppo, 953 of them have been granted amnesty, Gen. Lt. Sergei Rudskoy said.

The Russian Peace Coordination Center in Syria said also on Friday that around 8,500 people, including 2,900 children, left militant-controlled districts in the Syrian city of Aleppo in the past 24 hours with the help of Russian servicemen.

"In the past 24 hours alone, 8,461 city residents, including 2,934 children, left districts in the Eastern part of Aleppo city with the assistance of the Russian center of reconciliation," the center said in a statement released by the ministry.

According to the statement, over a dozen militants who had been operating in Aleppo received amnesty after laying down arms.

"Fourteen militants, laying down arms, walked out to the Western part of the city towards Syrian troops. In accordance with the decision of the Syrian president all of them were granted amnesty," the Russian center for Syrian reconciliation said.

Russian servicemen have also demined about 6 hectares (almost 15 acres) of residential blocks in Eastern Aleppo, the Russian center for Syrian reconciliation said.

"The clearance of explosives has been fully completed in residential areas over a total area of six hectares. The central water pumping station has been demined and rebuilt, two power substations have been demined, as well as schools and two mosques," the center said.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950919000826

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India

Triple talaq issue: Clerics oppose, activists hail HC’s remarks

TNN | Dec 9, 2016

NEW DELHI: A host of top Muslim clerics on Thursday said courts should not interfere in issues of Shariat even as some women activists hailed the Allahabad HC's observations on triple talaq.

Barelvi cleric Maulana Shahabuddin Razvi said his organisation, All India Jamat Raza-e-Mustafa, will appeal in the Supreme Court challenging the remarks of the HC. All India Muslim Personal law Board, which is a party in the triple talaq case pending before the SC, said the HC's observation will have no influence on the case in the apex court. "To begin with, the HC has said the Constitution is supreme and Article 25 gives Muslims right to freedom of practising our religion," said AIMPLB general secretary Maulana Wali Rehman.

AIMPLB's executive committee member Zafaryab Jilani said, "Though triple talaq is undesirable and condemnable if initiated on frivolous grounds, divorce comes into effect as per the Shariat." Maulana Salman Nadvi of renowned seminary, Nadwatul Ulema, said Muslim Personal Law has been drafted keeping in mind the tenets of Islam. "Issues related to any religion have to be dealt with by the experts of the religion who practise the same," he said.

However, some activists and lawyers hailed the HC observation. Human Rights Law Network founder Colin Gonsalves said: "All personal laws including personal law of Hindus, Christians and others that contravene the equality clause of the Constitution should be declared void."

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Triple-talaq-issue-Clerics-oppose-activists-hail-HCs-remarks/articleshow/55884165.cms

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Islamic banking not relevant in view of fin inclusion prg:MoS

Press Trust of India

December 9, 2016

Virtually ruling out introduction of Islamic banking, the Finance Ministry today said it has "no relevance" as the government has already introduced a host of financial inclusion schemes like Jan Dhan.

The objectives of the financial inclusion for which Islamic banking was explored by RBI has no relevance, as government has already introduced other means of financial inclusion like Jan Dhan Yojana and Suraksha Bima Yojna for all citizens, Minister of State for Finance Santosh Kumar Gangwar said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.

He further said RBI had set up an inter-departmental group on Islamic Banking and the entire exercise was aimed at promoting financial inclusion, accessing huge market potential to attract finance from Gulf countries for infrastructure development.

"However, on consideration of inter-departmental group report, it is observed that even to introduce limited products, various legal changes would be required," he said.

In another reply, Gangwar said, RBI reduced its policy repo rate cumulatively by 175 basis points during January, 2015 to November 24, 2016.

"In response, the weighted average lending rate (WALR) on fresh rupee loans and outstanding rupee loans declined by 108 basis points and 76 basis points respectively (up to October, 2016)," he said.

With the introduction of base rate system by RBI from July 1, 2010 and thereafter Marginal Cost of Fund based Lending Rate (MCLR) system with effect from April 1, 2016, all rupee lending rates have been deregulated and these rates are determined by the banks themselves as approved by their respective Boards, based on their cost of funds and commercial judgement, he added.

In a separate reply, Minister of State for Finance Arjun Ram Meghwal said after withdrawal of the Legal Tender of Specified Banknotes (SBNs) various offices of RBI have provided Rs 238 crore in cash to the post offices.

business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/islamic-banking-not-relevant-in-view-of-fin-inclusion-prg-mos-116120900777_1.html

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Bus runs over 10 Indian, Pak workers in Sharjah, 1 dead

PTI | Dec 8, 2016

DUBAI: One person was killed and nine others, mostly Indians, were injured after a bus ran over a group of workers waiting on the side of a road in Sharjah in United Arab Emirates, police said on Thursday.

The workers -- eight Indians and two Pakistanis -- were waiting on the side of the road in Al Hamriya area for a ride to their accommodation when they were run over by the bus, Khaleej Times reported, citing police.

A 34-year-old worker was killed while the injured were rushed to Khalifa Hospital, it said, without identifying the nationality of the deceased worker.

The police was immediately notified after the accident and a team of patrol, traffic experts and ambulances were rushed to the spot.

The Asian driver of the bus was taken into custody.

The body of the deceased worker was shifted to the morgue, it said.

This is the third major accident involving Indians in Dubai in a week.

A 60-year-old Indian was killed and four others were injured in a massive 26-vehicle pile-up due to dense fog in Ras Al Khaimah city of the UAE this week.

On Sunday, two Indian workers were killed in a bus accident.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Bus-runs-over-10-Indian-Pak-workers-in-Sharjah-1-dead/articleshow/55878870.cms

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Release Kulbhushan Jadhav, India tells Pakistan

TNN | Dec 9, 2016

NEW DELHI: After Pakistan's foreign ministry chief Sartaj Aziz was said to have declared that there was inadequate evidence against Indian "spy" Kulbhushan Jadhav, the government on Thursday demanded his immediate release saying that there was not even a shred of evidence to prove the allegations against Jadhav.

The government also officially said for the first time that it had issued as many as eight note verbales for consular access to Jadhav. Pakistan though is yet to respond to India's request.

"We have seen conflicting media reports about this issue. This is a pattern we have seen in the past as well. Government has always maintained that Pakistan's allegations against Jadhav, an Indian national and a former Indian Navy officer, were completely baseless," said MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup.

"Even after more than nine months of keeping him wrongfully and illegally in custody, Pakistani authorities have not found a shred of evidence against him. We demand immediate consular access to him in accordance with relevant international conventions and his earliest release from wrongful confinement. We have also sent eight note verbales to the Pakistan foreign office on this issue," he added.

Aziz, adviser on foreign affairs to the Pakistan Prime Minister, reportedly told Parliament that the government has been provided with "insufficient evidence" against Kulbhushan Jadhav who was arrested in March this year after allegedly entering Pakistan from Iran.

Pakistan foreign ministry though later denied the report. "There is irrefutable proof against Kulbhushan Yadav who had also made a public confession in March this year," a Pakistan foreign office spokesperson said in a statement. "The adviser had said that the investigations regarding the network of Kulbhushan Jadhav are ongoing and the dossier shall be completed upon conclusion of the investigation," the statement said. The government also said that it was closely following up the case of Indian prisoner Hamid Ansari and that it had already issued 42 note verbales to the Pakistan foreign office.

"In response to our latest note verbale dated November 15, Pakistan responded on November 25 stating that concerned authorities in Pakistan are mindful of their responsibilities regarding Mr Hamid Nehal Ansari who is safe, secure and in good health," said the MEA spokesperson. However, he said, it must be noted that Pakistan has yet to provide India consular access to Ansari.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Release-Kulbhushan-Jadhav-India-tells-Pakistan/articleshow/55884190.cms

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Europe

Muslim Refugees In Germany Convert From Islam To Christianity For Asylum

12/09/16

With Fewer Muslim Pilgrims At Hajj, Mecca Merchants See Drop In Business

Muslim refugees seeking asylum in Europe, particularly Germany, have been converting to Christianity in droves, Agence France-Presse reported Friday.

Since 2015, nearly 900,000 Muslim migrants have arrived in the country, leaving behind families, jobs and, in some cases, even their Islamic faith. Although church leaders weren’t able to confirm exactly how many Muslim refugees have converted from Islam to Christianity, there have been reports of various pastors baptizing hundreds or even thousands of Muslims at a time over the last three years.

Conversion and baptisms was becoming a growing trend among migrants from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran and Syria, Felix Goldinger, a Catholic priest in the southwestern region of Germany told AFP. Goldinger, who has been handling a group of 20 people looking to be baptized in the Christian faith, said many of the refugees looking to convert have turned to Christianity after witnessing the horrors of terrorism in the name of Islam in their home countries.

“They see Christianity as a religion of love and respect for life,” he said.

Pastor Albert Babjan, who has baptized 196 Afghans and Iranians in Hamburg so far this year, told German news site Stern that he expects to help up to 500 people who are “disappointed” in Islam convert to Christianity by the year’s end. One young woman, who was baptized in May, told Stern the reason she converted was because she was “looking for peace and happiness,” but couldn’t find it in Islam.

“In Islam, we always lived in fear, fear of God, fear of sin, fear of punishment. Christ, on the other hand, is a God of love,” one woman, who only went by the name Solmaz, told Stern in regards to her May baptism.

While Goldinger said there were many people who had a “strong desire” to make the switch to Christianity for personal religious reasons, there are some Muslims who are under the impression converting will help their chances of remaining in Germany.

In many of the countries from which refugees have fled, converting to Christianity is punishable by jail or even death.

Pastor Matthias Linke of the Free Evangelical Church in Germany told AFP that he is often contacted by the state Office for Migration and Refugees in regards of Muslims converting to Christianity in an effort to keep their asylum. However, the pastor said there was no way to guarantee if migrant conversions are motivated by genuine interests in the religion or if people are just trying to avoid being sent back to their home countries, which could potentially put them and their families at even greater risks if their conversion became known.

ibtimes.com/muslim-refugees-germany-convert-islam-christianity-asylum-2457936

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Germany Arrests Teens Plotting 'Islamist-Motivated Attack': Cops

12/09/16

MAINZ, Germany — Two German teens have been arrested on suspicion of plotting an Islamist attack on a public building, law enforcement officials said Friday.

The 15 and 17-year-old were detained in the city of Mannheim and county of Aschaffenburg in the southwest of the country, officials said. They are suspected of planning an Islamist attack within the next two months.

Prosecutors would not release personal details about the suspects other than to confirm they were both born in Germany. Authorities also did not detail the exact nature of the target, other than to say it was a public building.

The teens were planning an "Islamist-motivated attack on a public installation in the county of Aschaffenburg," for which they were hoping to obtain firearms, according to prosecutors in Karlsruhe and state police in Baden-Wuerttemberg.

Investigators found Islamist propaganda, ISIS flags and electronic data storage devices, as well as cellphones in the suspects' apartments, according to a statement. Firearms were not found, it added.

There no evidence that the suspects were ready to implement any attack immediately.

But a spokesman for prosecutors in Karlsruhe told NBC News that the suspects had already identified their target, the type of operation and were planning to act within the next two months.

nbcnews.com/news/world/germany-arrests-teens-plotting-islamist-motivated-attack-cops-n693966

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Russia Says Aleppo Combat Has Ceased; Residents Disagree

By ANNE BARNARDDEC. 8, 2016

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Russian officials said Thursday that the Syrian Army had stopped combat operations in the divided city of Aleppo in order to evacuate civilians, but residents of the rebel-held enclave reported that after a day of intense bombardment, fighting was continuing.

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, said that the pause would allow for 8,000 civilians to be evacuated, after forces loyal to the Syrian government recaptured three-quarters of the territory rebels had held for four years.

Mr. Lavrov, who spoke on the sidelines of a meeting of foreign ministers in Germany, did not offer specifics on an evacuation plan. But civilians inside the remaining rebel-held districts of eastern Aleppo were in a state of panic after a day in which rescue workers said 150 airstrikes had killed at least 50 people and in which residents said they were unable to flee because of the intense combat.

Residents said by telephone that they could hear drones and tank fire and that they feared government forces were closing in on the few neighborhoods still held by rebels. Several said they had not heard of evacuation offers and begged to be told of any chances to escape.

At the United Nations, the agency’s envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, told reporters he could not verify whether the fighting had stopped or whether civilians were being allowed to evacuate, and he pressed the government authorities to let them leave safely and with protection from United Nations staff.

His remarks followed a closed-door session of the Security Council, in which Mr. de Mistura said that government forces could take control of the remaining rebel-held parts of Aleppo by the end of the year and that rebel forces should be allowed to leave the city safely, if they wished, according to diplomats present.

The United States, which has backed elements of the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, cautiously welcomed Mr. Lavrov’s remarks.

Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman, called them “an indication that something positive could happen, but we’re going to have to wait and see.” He added, “Our approach to the situation has been to listen carefully to what the Russians say, but scrutinize their actions.”

Pleas for help from eastern Aleppo escalated on Thursday, with doctors warning that they could no longer provide more than first aid. Some residents reached via telephone and text message were fleeing from the front lines into the center of the shrinking enclave, while others stayed near the edges, hoping to evacuate but complaining that the combatants would not pause to let them escape.

The recapture of most of the rebel-held part of Aleppo by the government is a potential turning point in Syria’s war, which began in 2011 with largely peaceful street protests demanding political change and evolved into armed conflict after government crackdowns.

Mr. Assad told Al Watan, a pro-government newspaper, that victory in Aleppo “doesn’t mean the end of the war in Syria. It is a significant landmark toward the end of the battle, but the war in Syria will not end until terrorism is eliminated,” he said, referring to insurgents.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said that it had evacuated more than 140 civilians from a part of Aleppo’s old city that had been retaken by the government, mainly residents of a home for older people, and that it had recovered the bodies of 11 people who had died of lack of medical care.

The White Helmets organization, which rescues people from bombing sites and has financing from Western countries, issued a statement saying that it feared a massacre, and asking to evacuate its volunteers, who have been accused by the Syrian government of colluding with terrorists. “If we are not evacuated, our volunteers face torture and execution in the regime’s detention centers,” the statement said. “We have good reason to fear for our lives.”

Bombs containing chlorine, banned as a weapon by international law, fell on the front line near the Kalasseh neighborhood, sickening about 30 people, the White Helmets said.

Salem Abul Nasser, a dentist, said he had hoped for a few quiet hours after Mr. Lavrov spoke and had fallen asleep, only to be wakened when a corpse of a man newly killed on the front line and another person apparently suffering from chlorine inhalation were brought to his clinic.

Showing the body over an online video chat, he broke into tears, saying: “I was hoping it would be a real cease-fire. Now I’m deeply disappointed and pessimistic. The shelling resumed now; I can hear it.”

The United Nations humanitarian chief, Jan Egeland, expressed frustration that aid deliveries had not been approved by the Syrian government in November — when front lines were more stable — and that now the United States and Russia, as well as the Syrian combatants, could not agree on a plan to deliver aid and evacuate civilians who want to leave.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued an angry and sarcastic response to a statement from six Western countries a day earlier that had warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in Aleppo. The ministry said that Russia was providing aid to residents it said had been liberated from a terrorist occupation.

“If you are ready to render aid to residents of Aleppo, let us know where this aid is located,” the statement said. “And if you just don’t have any aid, letters and empty promises won’t fill bellies of Aleppo’s residents!”

Mr. Lavrov’s comments on a halt in fighting came on the eve of new efforts, albeit entirely symbolic, at the United Nations to press for a pause in fighting. Led by Canada, the United Nations General Assembly is scheduled to vote on a draft resolution that calls for a “cessation of hostilities” for an undefined period of time and that allows humanitarian aid to be delivered. It would have no force of law.

The Russian ambassador, Vitaly I. Churkin, described it as “not very effective.”

nytimes.com/2016/12/08/world/middleeast/syria-aleppo-rebels-russia-lavrov-assad.html?ref=world

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British spies penetrating ISIS to thwart attacks: MI6 chief

PTI | Updated: Dec 9, 2016

LONDON: British spies are taking the fight to the enemy by penetrating the dreaded Islamic State and other terror groups to prevent attacks on the UK, the chief of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service MI6 has indicated.

Alex Younger used a first-of-its-kind speech within MI6 headquarters in London to warn that a "highly organised" ISIS external cell was planning to unleash more violence on the West and that Britain's intelligence services had disrupted at least 12 terrorist plots in the UK since June 2013.

"We need to take the fight to the enemy, penetrating terrorist organisations upstream. By which I mean as close to the source as possible. In footballing terms, it is about always ensuring that you are playing in the opponent's half... They (agents) know that the result of being identified as an MI6 agent could be their death.

"But they do what they do because they believe in protecting their country and religion from the evil that Daesh (ISIS) and other terrorist organisations represent," he said.

"I will not seek to hide the challenges that come with work against an organisation as murderously efficient as Daesh (ISIS), but MI6 and GCHQ intelligence has on numerous occasions given MI5 and the police the information they need to identify and stop threats in the UK and to our allies," he added.

The head of the Secret Intelligence Service also described the scale of the terrorist threat to the UK as "unprecedented".

"As I speak, the highly organised external attack planning structures within Daesh... are plotting ways to project violence against the UK and our allies without ever having to leave Syria," he warned.

Younger, the 16th chief since MI6 was founded in 1909, is known as "C", rather than "M" as in the James Bond films based on Ian Fleming's famous fictional spy.

C is the only member of MI6 who can be publicly identified.

The 53-year-old former army officer who joined MI6 in 1991 took charge of his new post from Sir John Sawers in November 2014.

This week's unusual on-the-record speech was part of a wider attempt by the spy agency to step out from the shadows and explain what it does to the public to attract wide support and recruits.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/uk/British-spies-penetrating-ISIS-to-thwart-attacks-MI6-chief/articleshow/55895113.cms

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France’s Le Pen pledges no schooling for illegal migrants

December 9th, 2016

PARIS: French far-right leader Marine Le Pen proposed on Thursday that the children of illegal immigrants should be refused public school places as part of tough proposals to restrict state services.

“I’ve got nothing against foreigners but I say to them: if you come to our country, don’t expect that you will be taken care of, treated [by the health system] and that your children will be educated for free,” Le Pen said.

“That’s finished now, it’s the end of playtime,” she told an audience at a conference organised by a polling group in Paris.

Opinion polls suggest the leader of the National Front (FN) will finish second in next year’s presidential election but she is hoping for new momentum after Donald Trump’s victory in the United States.

Speaking to AFP afterwards, she clarified that she wanted to block education for immigrants who are in France illegally, not all foreigners.

Such a move would contravene current French law which guarantees school places for all children.

She also said that any foreigner using the public education system without paying tax in France would have to contribute. “We’re going to reserve our efforts and our national solidarity for the most humble, the most modest and the most poor among us,” Le Pen told the conference.

The staunchly nationalist FN sees itself as part of a global revolt against immigration, established political parties and globalisation epitomised by Trump’s victory last month.

Its leaders regularly criticise the use of France’s chronically over-budget social security system for foreigners, arguing that needy French people should be prioritised.

Le Pen falsely claimed on Thursday that anyone aged over 65 could arrive in France and start claiming old-age social security payments.

Polls currently show her qualifying for the second-round of May’s election where she is forecast to face — and be defeated by — right-wing Republicans party candidate Francois Fillon.

Illegal and condemned

Trump made controlling illegal immigration a key part of his pitch to American voters, regularly railing against crime committed by foreigners and the country’s “open borders.” Immigration was also crucial in swinging Britain’s referendum on the European Union in June when many voters backed the Leave campaign to gain control over their borders.

Le Pen’s proposals have echoes of plans reportedly drawn up by the interior ministry in Britain in 2015 when it was headed by Theresa May, who is now prime minister.

Leaked documents revealed by the BBC last week showed that her department had argued for immigration checks in schools and suggested headteachers could withdraw places for the children of illegal immigrants.

French Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem immediately attacked Le Pen’s proposal as shameful and unworkable on Thursday.

“With these words, which I condemn with the greatest force, Madame Le Pen proves ... her complete indifference to the terrible human circumstances faced by young children,” she said in a statement.

She underlined that France guaranteed free education for all school-age children on its territory under its national laws and the international conventions it has signed.

“I remind you that it’s a matter of honour for the French republic to guarantee to children, to all children, the right to an education — in other words, the right to a future,” she said.

After a string of terror attacks over the last two years and the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II, hard-line rhetoric on immigration is seen as a vote-winner on the right.

dawn.com/news/1301360/frances-le-pen-pledges-no-schooling-for-illegal-migrants

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Spain to send more soldiers to help Iraq forces combat Islamic State

Published: December 9, 2016

MADRID — Spain says it plans to send an additional 150 soldiers and police to Iraq to help train Iraqi security forces combatting the Islamic State group.

Government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo said Friday the 125 troops and 25 police officers would form part of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the IS group.

The Spanish Parliament must approve the decision.

The defense ministry says the soldiers and police officers would not take part in any combat operations.

Spain already has 300 soldiers training Iraqi forces, mostly in explosives handling, land mine clearance and logistics.

stripes.com/news/europe/spain-to-send-more-soldiers-to-help-iraq-forces-combat-islamic-state-1.443585

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RSF decries Islamic State’s use of British journalist John Cantlie

12/09/16

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns Islamic State’s continuing exploitation of one of its hostages, British journalist John Cantlie, who looks extremely thin in a new video shot in the IS-controlled city of Mosul in northern Iraq that was posted on the jihadi group’s online TV channel Amaq yesterday.

The twelfth Islamic State propaganda video to use John Cantlie, it shows him on the streets of Mosul for eight minutes, commenting on the destruction of the city’s bridges and interviewing residents.

He looks pale and emaciated in the footage, indicating that he has suffered a dramatic physical change since his last appearance in an IS video in July.

“We roundly condemn this obscene use of British journalist John Cantlie in videos,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Islamic State has been using him for propaganda purposes in Syria and Iraq for the past two years. His detention and exploitation amount to unspeakable acts of torture. We urge the British government to do everything possible to obtain his release and get him home safely.”

This is the third video with Cantlie to be published this year by IS media outlets such as Amaq and its Al-Hayat media centre. He has previously been filmed by IS cameramen in such Syrian and Iraqi cities as Aleppo, Kobani and Raqqa, as well as Mosul. Articles with his byline have also appeared in the magazine Dabiq and other IS print media.

The former Sunday Times reporter was kidnapped near the Turkish border in northern Syria in November 2012 along with US video reporter James Foley, who was one of the three foreign journalists to be beheaded by IS. The others were US reporter Steven Sotloff and Japanese video journalist Kenji Goto.

According to RSF’s tally, around 21 professional and non-professional journalists and media contributors are currently held hostage by IS in Iraq and Syria,

Ranked 158th and 177th respectively in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index, Iraq and Syria are among the world’s deadliest countries for journalists.

rsf.org/en/news/rsf-decries-islamic-states-use-british-journalist-john-cantlie

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Dutch court convicts anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders

 

A Dutch court has convicted populist anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders of hate speech charges at the end of a trial he branded a politically motivated "charade" that endangered freedom of speech.

Presiding Judge Hendrik Steenhuis said the court would not impose a sentence on Wilders, saying that the conviction was punishment enough for a democratically elected politician.

Wilders was not in court for the verdict, which came just over three months before national elections.

His Party for Freedom is currently narrowly leading a nationwide poll of polls and has risen in popularity during the trial.

Even before the hearing, Wilders vowed not to let a conviction muzzle him.

"Whatever the verdict, I will continue to speak the truth about the Moroccan problem, and no judge, politician or terrorist will stop me," he tweeted shortly before the verdict.

Prosecutors had asked judges to fine him 5,000 euro (£4,200).

In a tweet, Wilders called the verdicts "madness" and said that he had been convicted by three judges who hated his party.

He had denied the charges and insisted he was performing his duty as a political leader by pointing out a problem in society.

Before declaring Wilders guilty, Judge Steenhuis stressed that freedom of speech was not on trial as the politician had claimed during the case.

"Freedom of speech is one of the foundations of our democratic society," the judge said.

But he added: "Freedom of speech can be limited, for example to protect the rights and freedoms of others, and that is what this case is about."

The politically-charged prosecution centred on comments Wilders made before and after the Dutch municipal elections in 2014.

At one meeting in a Hague cafe, he asked supporters whether they wanted more or fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands.

That sparked a chant of "Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!" - to which he replied: "We'll take care of it."

Prosecutors said that Wilders, who in 2011 was acquitted at another hate speech trial for his outspoken criticism of Islam, overstepped the limits of free speech by specifically targeting Moroccans.

On Friday, he was convicted over the interaction with the crowd of supporters in the Hague cafe, which judges said was carefully orchestrated and broadcast on national television.

He was acquitted over similar comments he made in a radio interview a week earlier.

asianimage.co.uk/news/14957611.Dutch_court_convicts_anti_Islam_politician_Geert_Wilders/

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North America

Pak-Afghan region has highest concentration of terrorists: US

December 9th, 2016

WASHINGTON: The Pak-Afghan region has the highest concentration of terrorist groups in the world, warns Gen John W. Nicholson, the commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan.

In an annual assessment of US military operations in Afghanistan this year, the general also took credit for rescuing former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s son from a militant hideout in Afghanistan earlier this year and for killing the perpetrator of the Dec 16, 2014 terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar.

At a recent news briefing at the Pentagon, Gen Nicholson said that there were 98 US-designated terrorist groups around the world and 20 of them were in the Pak-Afghan region.

“This represents the highest concentration of terrorist groups anywhere in the world,” he added.

Thirteen of these 20 groups were based in Afghanistan and seven in Pakistan.

Gen Nicholson said that the groups operating in this region often “mix and converge”, which made them even more dangerous.

“For example, Islamic State of Khorasan today is formed of members of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and even some former members of the Afghan Taliban,” he said.

Throughout the year, US counter-terrorism (CT) forces focused on these groups, conducting over 350 operations against Al Qaeda and the militant Islamic State group in 2016 and dozens more against other groups.

In these operations, US forces killed or captured nearly 50 leaders of AQIS (Al Qaeda Indian Subcontinent) leaders. Additionally, about 200 other members of Al Qaeda and the Al Qaeda Islamic State groups were killed or captured as well.

“Our CT forces rescued the son of the former Pakistani prime minister Gilani in a raid against Al Qaeda in eastern Afghanistan… and killed five emirs of these 20 terrorist groups,” he said. “We killed Hamidullah, the emir of the Islamic Jihad Union, and Omar Khalifa, who is the Tariq Gidar Group emir.”

The Tariq Gidar Group carried out the attack on the Army Public School, Peshawar, and killed over 130 children. They also attacked the Bacha Khan University where they killed dozens of professors and students, as well as a Pakistan air force base.

On Oct 23, US forces killed Farouq al-Qatari, the emir of eastern Afghanistan, for Al Qaeda Islamic State.

He was also their external operations director. Qatari and his accomplices were involved in planning threats against the United States last year.

The US forces also killed Mullah Mansour, the emir of Taliban and a designated UN terrorist, Gen Nicholson said.

He said he was not in a position to comment on a recent telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and US President-elect Donald Trump but he was looking forward to meeting the new Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. “I’ll meet him upon my return to the region (this) week,” he added. “And there are many areas of mutual cooperation with the Pakistanis with respect to the border, our joint efforts against terrorism and so forth. And so, we’re looking forward to working closely with them going forward.”

While responding to a question, Gen Nicholson said the Haqqani network still posed the greatest threat to the United States and its coalition partners and to the Afghans.

He recalled that the Haqqanis, who were still holding five American citizens hostage, remained a principal concern for US forces. “They do enjoy sanctuary inside Pakistan,” he added.

dawn.com/news/1301408/pak-afghan-region-has-highest-concentration-of-terrorists-us

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'No progress' as Kerry, Lavrov meet on Syria: US

AFP | Dec 8, 2016

HAMBURG: US secretary of state John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov failed to make progress on a Syria truce in talks in Germany early Thursday, an American official said.

Kerry and Lavrov met twice Thursday on the margins of a foreign ministers' meeting of the 57-member Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said a US official.

Their meetings lasted 10 minutes each and "no progress, no conclusion were reached on Aleppo", the devastated north Syrian city where Russia-backed regime troops are battling rebel forces, the official said.

However, leaving the talks with Lavrov in the northern German city of Hamburg, Kerry told Russian journalists that he remained hopeful and would continue to work for a solution.

Moscow launched an air war in support of Assad's forces last year, while Washington has supported rebel forces battling the regime.

On Wednesday the United States, Britain and France led a joint call for an immediate ceasefire to allow aid to reach Aleppo, in an appeal backed by Canada, Germany and Italy.

Kerry said at a meeting of Nato foreign ministers in Brussels on Tuesday that he would work for a relaunch of peace talks between the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition, with the help of Russia.

"Russia says Assad is ready to come to the table ... and I am in favour of putting that to the test," Kerry said in Brussels.

Lavrov said in Hamburg on Wednesday, before a meeting with Kerry, that Russia backed a US proposal made on December 2 involving a rebel withdrawal from eastern Aleppo, which Moscow has accused Washington of since backtracking on.

Kerry has denied any change of plans and Washington itself has accused Moscow of stalling after Russia and China blocked a UN Security Council resolution on Monday calling for a seven-day ceasefire.

Kerry will on Saturday take part in a Paris meeting on Syria organised by his French, German and Qatari counterparts, the State Department said.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/No-progress-as-Kerry-Lavrov-meet-on-Syria-US/articleshow/55878617.cms

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Bloodied hog carcass dumped outside Lawton Islamic center

Dec 9, 2016

LAWTON, Okla. (AP) —Authorities are investigating after the carcass of a wild hog was dumped in the parking lot of an Islamic center in Lawton.

Lawton Police spokesman Sgt. Tim Jenkins says security cameras showed a person dropping the carcass at about 2 a.m. Wednesday at the Islamic Center of Lawton, about 75 miles southwest of Oklahoma City. The Lawton Constitution reports that a police sergeant spotted the bloody carcass Wednesday morning and contacted the city's animal control division, which removed the hog.

The Quran, the holy book of Islam, prohibits Muslims from eating pork, and pigs have been used to taunt or offend Muslims.

Hassan Ahmed, the director of the center, says he's not particularly concerned about finding the culprit and instead wants to educate the community about Islam.

koco.com/article/airline-passengers-soon-to-be-allowed-to-make-in-flight-phone-calls/8482751

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Arab World

Syrian Army in Controls of 93 Percent of Aleppo City

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army controls 93 percent of the entire city of Aleppo, the Russian General Staff said on Friday.

"As a result of a successful advance, 52 districts of Eastern Aleppo have been freed. The territory controlled by militants decreased by one third over the past 4 days. The Syrian army controls 93% of the city's territory," the Russian General Staff said.

More than 1,000 militants have surrendered arms and left Eastern Aleppo, 953 of them have been granted amnesty, Gen. Lt. Sergei Rudskoy said.

The Russian Peace Coordination Center in Syria said also on Friday that around 8,500 people, including 2,900 children, left militant-controlled districts in the Syrian city of Aleppo in the past 24 hours with the help of Russian servicemen.

"In the past 24 hours alone, 8,461 city residents, including 2,934 children, left districts in the Eastern part of Aleppo city with the assistance of the Russian center of reconciliation," the center said in a statement released by the ministry.

According to the statement, over a dozen militants who had been operating in Aleppo received amnesty after laying down arms.

"Fourteen militants, laying down arms, walked out to the Western part of the city towards Syrian troops. In accordance with the decision of the Syrian president all of them were granted amnesty," the Russian center for Syrian reconciliation said.

Russian servicemen have also demined about 6 hectares (almost 15 acres) of residential blocks in Eastern Aleppo, the Russian center for Syrian reconciliation said.

"The clearance of explosives has been fully completed in residential areas over a total area of six hectares. The central water pumping station has been demined and rebuilt, two power substations have been demined, as well as schools and two mosques," the center said.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950919000826

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Almost 8,500 Citizens Leave Militant-Held Districts in Syria's Aleppo

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Around 8,500 people, including 2,900 children, left militant-controlled districts in the Syrian city of Aleppo in the past 24 hours with the help of Russian servicemen, the Russian Peace Coordination Center in Syria said Friday.

"In the past 24 hours alone, 8,461 city residents, including 2,934 children left districts in the Eastern part of Aleppo city with the assistance of the Russian center of reconciliation," the center said in a statement released by the ministry.

According to the statement, over a dozen militants who had been operating in Aleppo received amnesty after laying down arms.

"Fourteen militants, laying down arms, walked out to the Western part of the city towards Syrian troops. In accordance with the decision of the Syrian president all of them were granted amnesty," the Russian center for Syrian reconciliation said.

Russian servicemen have also demined about 6 hectares (almost 15 acres) of residential blocks in Eastern Aleppo, the Russian center for Syrian reconciliation said.

"The clearance of explosives has been fully completed in residential areas over a total area of six hectares. The central water pumping station has been demined and rebuilt, two power substations have been demined, as well as schools and two mosques," the center said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced on Thursday that Syrian government forces suspended “active military activities” against militants in Eastern Aleppo to enable the withdrawal of civilians from the city.

The Russian foreign minister also urged the UN special envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, to “stop sabotaging” the Geneva Syria peace talks, RT reported.

Speaking to reporters, he also expressed hope that those responsible for the recent attack on a Russian mobile hospital in Western Aleppo will be brought to justice. The assault happened earlier this week and left two female paramedics dead and one chief pediatrician severely injured.

"We are just doing our job, probably not everyone likes it, and a recent targeted strike against our hospital is yet more proof of that. But I am convinced that all measures will be taken to punish those responsible, and to prevent similar (attacks) in the future," Lavrov said.

He noted that the US State Department previously expressed regret over the incident, but emphasized that “it has to clarify” all the circumstances. However, according to Foreign Minister “in cases when the Syrian government can be suspected, Americans are not clarifying anything, but are immediately heading to the microphone, demanding (the perpetrators) be punished."

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950919000535

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Ahrar Al-Sham Suffers Heavy Death Toll in Syrian Army Attack in Homs

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Over 20 members of Ahrar al-Sham terrorist group were killed or wounded in the Syrian Army troops' offensive in Northern Homs.

The army men targeted a gathering of Ahrar al-Sham in the village of al-Qanto in Talbiseh region, leaving over 20 terrorists dead or wounded, destroying their vehicles and mortar launchers.

Tariq al-Ahdab, Mohammad Abdul Rahman Lola, Tahir al-Asmar, Hassan al-Hassan and Seifulldeen al-Omar were among the dead militants.

Also military sources said on Thursday that the army men repelled the ISIL terrorists' massive attacks against their positions in the Eastern parts of Tadmur (Palmyra) in Homs province, adding that clashes resumed near the two oil-rich regions of al-Maher and al-Sha'er.

According to the sources, heavy clashes erupted between the Syrian army units and the ISIL terrorists in al-Sawame and the Northern parts of Palmyra in Jabal Antar district with the army inflicting casualties and damage on the militants.

Meantime, the Syrian troops launched fierce artillery attacks against the ISIL gathering centers in the region.

Also, the Syrian army's clashes with the ISIL militants near Huweises region and the two al-Sha'er and al-Maher oil fields in Eastern Homs were resumed.

Meantime, the Syrian fighter jets pounded the ISIL's strongholds in al-Sukhnah and the nearby areas.

Also in the Northern parts of Homs, the Syrian troops targeted the terrorists' centers in al-Rastan city and the Syrian warplanes heavily bombed their positions in al-Qanto and al-Houla towns.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950919000184

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Long Convoy of ISIL's Vehicles Hit Hard in Syrian Air Raid in Deir Ezzur

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Syrian Air Force targeted a long convoy of ISIL in the Eastern province of Deir Ezzur, inflicting major damage on the military column on al-Mayadeen-Thayem highway and killing a number of militants, including their commander.

The fighter jets bombed ISIL's convoy of nine military vehicles that came from Iraq and was carrying a large number of ISIL's Inghimasi (Suicide) fighters along with their commander, 'Abou Aisha Marsillia' - a French national.

Several cars with militants inside them were destroyed while the rest managed to escape the bombing raid making their way to a canyon East of a local power station complex.

Yet, the warplanes targeted the ISIL militants at the station and destroyed all the remaining cars, killing their passengers in process.

According to a Syrian military intelligence source, Abou Aisha Marsillia was killed in the air raid as well.

Also, the army troops thwarted attacks by terrorists on two major airfields in Deir Ezzur and imposed heavy losses on them on Thursday.

The Syrian Air force targeted the ISIL terrorists near the Deir Ezzur Airport while they were preparing for an offensive on the Syrian Army in the premises of the airport.

Syrian warplanes also bombed the ISIL terrorists in Deir Ezzur districts of al-Huweiqa, al-Hamidiyeh and al-Rashidiya as well as their positions in Panorama, West of Deir Ezzur, inflicting heavy losses and damage on the terrorists.

The Syrian Air Force also carried out several aerial attacks on ISIL positions in Hatla and al-Hoss

einiyeh in Eastern Deir Ezzur as well as al-Jafreh and Jabal al-Thardah, South of Eastern Deir Ezzur Province, killing a number of militants and leaving their equipment destroyed.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950919000132

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Activists say IS push killed 49 Syrian soldiers

Friday, December 9, 2016

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the Syrian conflict (all times local):

A Syrian opposition activist group says 49 Syrian soldiers have been killed in an advance by Islamic State militants near the historic city of Palmyra.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday that the Islamic State group advanced along several fronts around Palmyra in central Syria, driving back government forces.

The IS group's Aamaq News Agency distributed video showing what it says were Syrian soldiers fleeing their positions in the badlands west of Palmyra.

The Syrian government, backed by Russian forces, recaptured Palmyra from the extremists in March, to great fanfare. The militants had destroyed numerous monuments dating back to Roman times during their hold of the city.

The two militaries have since diverted their attention to fighting local opposition forces around Damascus and Aleppo.

___

1:30 p.m.

The U.N. human rights office says it has received reports that hundreds of men have gone missing after crossing from rebel-held eastern Aleppo into government-controlled areas of the Syrian city.

Spokesman Rupert Colville said Friday that family members have reported losing contact with the men, who are between the ages of 30 and 50, after they fled opposition-held areas of Aleppo around a week or 10 days ago.

Colville says the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights is also concerned by reports that some civilians trying to flee are being blocked by armed opposition groups and in some cases being fired upon.

In a briefing in Geneva, he said "civilians are being used as pawns and prevented from leaving."

___

9:30 a.m.

The Russian military says it has helped more than 8,000 civilians leave the rebel-controlled eastern part of Aleppo.

The military's Center for Reconciliation in Syria said early Friday that 8,461 civilians, including 2,934 children, have left Aleppo's eastern neighborhoods in the last 24 hours. The center said 14 militants surrendered their weapons and were granted amnesty.

The statement came hours after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Syrian government troops suspended their active operations in Aleppo to allow the evacuation of civilians. Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces have retaken large parts of eastern Aleppo in recent days.

The Russian military said its sappers have cleared mines from 6 hectares (15 acres) of Aleppo, allowing the restoration of a water facility, two power stations, two mosques and two schools.

lmtonline.com/news/world/article/The-Latest-UN-says-hundreds-go-missing-after-10785092.php

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Terrorists Continue to Prevent People's Exit Eastern Neighborhoods of Aleppo

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The UN announced in a statement that the terrorist groups in Eastern Aleppo keep blocking civilians' exit path despite the humanitarian pause in the city.

The UN announced that almost 100,000 civilians have been trapped in militant-held districts in the Eastern part of Aleppo city, adding terrorists continue to prevent civilians' escape from the war-hit city.

The UN also announced that tens of thousands of civilians have been evacuated from the Eastern districts of Aleppo, including over 8,000 people who left the city on Thursday.

Around 8,500 people, including 2,900 children, left militant-controlled districts in the Syrian city of Aleppo in the past 24 hours with the help of Russian servicemen, the Russian Peace Coordination Center in Syria said Friday.

"In the past 24 hours alone, 8,461 city residents, including 2,934 children left districts in the Eastern part of Aleppo city with the assistance of the Russian center of reconciliation," the center said in a statement released by the ministry.

According to the statement, over a dozen militants who had been operating in Aleppo received amnesty after laying down arms.

"Fourteen militants, laying down arms, walked out to the Western part of the city towards Syrian troops. In accordance with the decision of the Syrian president all of them were granted amnesty," the Russian center for Syrian reconciliation said.

Russian servicemen have also demined about 6 hectares (almost 15 acres) of residential blocks in Eastern Aleppo, the Russian center for Syrian reconciliation said.

"The clearance of explosives has been fully completed in residential areas over a total area of six hectares. The central water pumping station has been demined and rebuilt, two power substations have been demined, as well as schools and two mosques," the center said.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950919000734

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Syria: Terrorists Fail again to Prevail over Gov't Positions in Lattakia Province

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Syrian Army troops fended off terrorist groups' offensive on government forces' positions in Northeastern Lattakia, inflicting major losses on the militants.

The army soldiers repelled terrorists' attack to capture the strategic town of Ein Issa.

The army men also clashed with militants of Jeish al-Fatah, including those from Chechnya and Caucasus region, who stormed government positions in villages near the border with Turkey and along Turkmen mountain.

Terrorists started their attack from the surroundings of Ein Issa from the direction of the villages of Sallour, Qalabeh and Shahroureh.

The army troops, who had been deployed in Ein Issa and al-Jahar mount, overlooked the region and managed to prevent terrorists' advances towards Ein Issa.

The terrorist groups left behind at least 16 dead and many more wounded members and retreated from the battlefield towards the village of Sallour.

If Ein Issa was captured by the militants, other nearby regions including Hasamo, Beit Laman and al-Hajar mount could be under militants' threat.    

Also, the army troops and their allies also clashed with the militants who sought to enter the army's positions in Ein Issa near Turkmen mount in Lattakia on Thursday and killed a large number of terrorists and forced others to flee the battleground.

The Syrian air and ground forces, meantime, targeted the terrorists' gathering centers in Kabani district in Kurds mountain .

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950919000630

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Several Saudi Soldiers Killed in Yemeni Forces' Attacks

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- At least 10 Saudi soldiers were killed in the Yemeni army and popular forces' attacks in the Southern part of Saudi Arabia, local media said.

A sniper of Yemeni forces gunned down a Saudi soldier at the Faridah military base in the Southwestern province of Jizan in Saudi Arabia, al-Masirah tv reported.

This was followed by an assault in the al-Raboah region of Saudi Arabia's Assir province which led to the death of nine Saudi soldiers.

A volley of rocket and artillery attacks by the Yemeni soldiers then smashed the Saudi military bases of Faridah, Hamraa and al-Ghawya in the same province.

In relevant developments earlier this week, the Yemeni army and popular forces continued their advances in Southern Saudi Arabia, inflicting losses on the military hardware of the kingdom's government troops.

The Saudi military bases, positions, hardware were hit hard in the Yemeni forces' attacks in Assir, Jizan and Najran provinces in retaliation for Saudi Arabia's continued airstrikes on the Yemeni civilian population.

"The Yemeni army destroyed an armored vehicle of the Saudi army in Sahveh military base in Assir province," the Arabic-language al-Mayadeen satellite TV quoted an unnamed military source as saying on Monday.

The source noted that seven military vehicles of the Saudi army came under Yemeni forces' mortar attacks in Sharqan region.

The Yemeni army and popular forces also destroyed the gathering center of Saudi soldiers in al-Meysal region of Assir province.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950919000760

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Iraqi Army Troops Recapture Three More Districts North of Mosul

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iraqi Army soldiers managed to take back 3 key districts of Mosul city after several hours of clashes with ISIL terrorists, informed sources disclosed on Friday.

"The districts of Nawafel, Simyak and Abbasiyeh were freed from ISIL by the Iraqi army men," security sources were quoted by Iraqi press as saying.

According to the Defense Ministry’s War Media Cell, the number of districts recaptured from ISIL terrorist group now stands at, at least, 24.

Military and police commanders claim the government forces now control nearly 50 percent of the Eastern part of Mosul.

However, they admit that ISIL terrorists show fierce resistance, using booby-traps and suicide attacks.

The commanders also underlined that one of the factors that slow down operations against terrorists holding Mosul is security of civilians that are caught within the battlefield.

The operation in Mosul has been ongoing since October 17.

Fierce clashes erupted in Mosul’s al-Salam neighborhood on Wednesday, as Iraqi forces made gains against ISIL terrorists deep inside the Northern city and advanced closer to the Tigris River, which divides the city into Eastern and Western sides.

The Iraqi army's 9th Armored Division announced the recapture of al-Salam Hospital in Eastern Mosul on Tuesday, however, fighting continued on Wednesday in the al-Salam neighborhood, where the five-storey medical institution is situated.

The ISIL elements were said to have been using the hospital’s upper floors and roof as sniper positions for some time.

"We advanced in al-Salam district but the situation is difficult, there is heavy fighting," said Iraqi Brigadier General Shaker Kadhem, adding, "We took control of al-Salam Hospital, which was a command Center for ISIL."

He further noted that the latest push in Mosul was aimed at meeting up with the elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) forces on the banks of the Tigris in Mosul’s Southeast.

A senior unidentified CTS officer also said the fighting in al-Salam district was fierce and the Iraqi army had called for backup.

"The 9th Division's situation is difficult and they have called for support. We are sending a regiment there," he said, noting that the soldiers “are surrounded now in al-Salam Hospital... and we are on the way so we can open a passage for them.”

Meanwhile, the ISIL-affiliated Amaq news agency reported that the militants had carried out five car bombings in the al-Salam area.

The Iraqi Federal Police also confirmed that several car bombs were exploded while bombers set off their explosives in the flashpoint district around al-Salam Hospital.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950919000580

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Turkish Army to Dispatch More Soldiers to Northern Syria to Assist Ankara-Backed Terrorists

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Turkish media disclosed that Ankara plans to send up to 300 commandos to Northern Syria to support the militants of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

300 elite Turkish commandos will enter Syria to take part in the fight against ISIL and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) whilst supporting the Free Syrian Army and other militant groups, Anadolu reported.

The commandos will come from the 11th Command Brigade.

A source told Anadolu News that the 11th Command Brigade have already been airlifed to Syria from the Cardak Military Airport in Western Turkey.

Turkish forces crossed into Syria on August 24 under the pretext of expelling ISIL from the border region.

A senior commander in the operations room of Syria and its allies said on Thursday that several delegations from Turkey traveled to Damascus to hold talks with the Syrian government officials.

"After surprising political, international and regional comments by Ankara, today, we are have no way but to disclose the visits made by the Turkish delegations to Syria which were not confined to meetings with the Syrian officials, but included Russia and Iran too; the delegations promised peaceful solutions and ignored all preconditions that they had set during the war against Syria. It is obvious to us that the Turkish rulers will not keep their promises and their measures can be described only as mere political hypocrisy," the commander was quoted as saying by al-Safir newspaper on Thursday.

He underlined that the Turkish government should know that it has been entangled in the quagmire of Syria and will be drowned in it.

Asked about the possibility for reconciliation in Aleppo, the commander said that this week was the last chance for the terrorists inside Aleppo and no negotiations would be held after it.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950919000253

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WikiLeaks Claims Prove Turkish Minister's Link to ISIL Terrorists

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- WikiLeaks released thousands of emails of Turkish Minister Berat Albayrak, the son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, proving his links to deals concluded with ISIL-controlled oilfields in Iraq, media sources said.

Wikileaks released a cache of emails, demonstrating his insider knowledge of Powertrans that have had complete monopoly of Iraqi Kurdistan's roads and rail system into Turkey, while Albayrak denied in the past that he had any connections to Powertrans, massdar news reported.

Powertrans have consistently been accused of facilitating ISIL blood-oil from reaching the fields in Iraq to Turkey.

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, justified the email release because of Erdogan's crackdown on free media.

“The people of Turkey need a free media and a free internet,” Assange said.

In December 2015, sources close to the ISIL confirmed that Ankara supplies the Takfiri militants with weapons and ammunition through Qatari brokers in lieu of the oil the Takfiri terrorist group sells to Turkey through the same channel.

"The ISIL regularly sells crude it obtains from Iraqi and Syrian oil wells to Turkey through some Qatari middlemen," the Arabic-language Al-Akhbar newspaper quoted unnamed sources inside ISIL as saying at the time.

The sources reiterated that Turkey also sold part of the oil it bought from the ISIL at cheap price to some East European countries.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950919000301

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Several Civilian Casualties Reported in US-led Coalition's Airstrike in Syria's Raqqa

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- At least 20 civilians were killed and several more were wounded in a US-led coalition airstrike North of ISIL's stronghold city of Raqqa in Northeastern Syria, reports said.

The US-led coalition’s warplanes carried out several combat sorties in Northern Raqqa and targeted residential buildings in al-Msheirfeh region North of Raqqa, killing 20 people and injuring others.

The attack left a trail of destruction in the site.

According to the sources, the death toll is expected to rise as there are critical cases among the injured.

In November, at least 12 civilians were killed or wounded in a US-led coalition airstrike on a village North of ISIL's stronghold city of Raqqa in Northeastern Syria.

Al-Mayadeen TV channel reported that the coalition fighter jets targeted al-Rahiyat village North of Raqqa, killing at least four local residents and wounding eight more.

The airstrike came less than a week after over ten civilians were killed in a similar raid by the US-led coalition on a makeshift camp of the displaced people who had fled an ISIL-held town North of Raqqa.

Syrian state news agency, SANA said the US-led coalition fighter jets bombed the tents erected for the civilians who had escaped from the ISIL-held town of Hazimeh and at least 10 people lost their lives in the aerial attacks.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950919000368

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Syrian government forces press attack in east Aleppo

Reuters | Dec 9, 2016, 02.59 PM IST

Syrian government forces pressed an offensive in Aleppo on Thursday night and into Friday with ground fighting and air strikes, Reuters witnesses, rebels and a monitoring group said, part of a push to retake all of the city's besieged rebel-held east.

"Helicopters, warplanes and rocket bombardment like every day. Nothing has changed," a Turkish-based official with the Jabha Shamiya rebel group told Reuters, describing the situation as of 9:30 a.m. on Friday.

The official added that despite the bombardment, "the guys are steadfast".

Syrian government and allied forces have in the last two weeks driven rebels from most of their territory in what was once Syria's most populous city. The rebels have controlled the eastern section since 2012, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview published on Thursday that retaking Aleppo would change the course of the civil war across the whole country.

A military source told Reuters: "Until now 32 neighborhoods have been liberated out of an original 40 in east Aleppo... The advance is going according to plan and is sometimes faster than expected."

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict, said government rocket attacks continued overnight into Friday morning on frontline areas of east Aleppo.

During a tour of Old Aleppo, Reuters journalists counted the sound of nine air raids in about half an hour.

A Reuters witness in rebel-held Aleppo said there were intense clashes in Sheikh Saeed on Friday. That is in the south of the eastern sector, where the Observatory and a Syrian military source said government forces advanced on Thursday.

Russia's RIA news agency quoted Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov late on Thursday as saying the Syrian army had halted military activity to let civilians leave rebel-held territory. Russia's air force and Shi'ite militias from Arab countries are also fighting in Aleppo on the government side.

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Iraqi army denies bombing civilians in Islamic State-held Qaim

Published: December 9, 2016

Iraq's military responded to what it called a "fake story" that alleged its air strikes mistakenly killed dozens of civilians in the ISIL-held city of al-Qaim, accusing media and politicians of doing propaganda work for the armed group.

Iraq's Joint Operations Command said on Thursday the air raids a day earlier targeted dozens of foreign fighters of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) — not civilians.

It said the first of two air strikes was conducted at 09:00 GMT and struck a two-storey building housing 25 mostly foreign would-be suicide bombers, led by a fighter it named as Abu Maysar al-Kawkazi.

Another strike was carried out during a second mission at 09:55 GMT, hitting a building hosting 30-40 ISIL cadres, also mostly foreigners, according to a military statement.

It also said the air force made great efforts to protect civilians, and the targets "were determined based on accurate intelligence and verified by our sources in the area.

"Everyone should refrain from spreading Daesh lies and fabrications and follow accuracy," it said, using the Arabic term for ISIL.

The statement came after several Iraqi politicians, including parliament speaker Salim al-Jabouri, said on Wednesday that dozens of civilians were killed in air strikes on a market area in al-Qaim, close to the border with Syria.

They alleged more than 50 people were killed - including many women and children - some while lining up to receive their salaries.

"The speaker holds the government responsible for such mistakes, asking them to open an immediate inquiry to find out the truth of the incident, and to guarantee that civilians are not targeted again," said the office of Jabouri, the most senior Sunni-Muslim politician in mainly Shia-ruled Iraq.

The military denied striking a market area, as reported on Wednesday, and said a blast there was caused by a car bomb that either went off accidentally, or was detonated by ISIL for propaganda purposes.

Amaq, an ISIL media arm, released a video showing scenes of chaos in a market area, with bodies strewn across a street and the wounded being treated.

Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from Erbil in northern Iraq, said the incident was not helpful amid the major ongoing operation to take ISIL-held Mosul in the north.

"These kinds of incidents are not going to help anyone, certainly not the Iraqi government. You have the military operation going on, but you also have a very fierce propaganda war going on," Hamid said.

Sunni-Shia divide

Qaim, and the western province of Anbar in which it is located, is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim.

The town lies on the Euphrates River, northwest of Baghdad, part of a remote region near the Syrian border which also remains under ISIL control.

"Qaim has always welcomed foreign fighters, ever since the US invasion in 2003," said Hamid.

"It was one of the strongholds of al-Qaeda at a certain point simply because the Sunni population there - like elsewhere in Anbar province - felt alienated ever since the new rulers came in Baghdad and created a Shia-dominated government."

Wednesday's air strikes took place as Iraqi forces and their allies continue to wage a seven-week-old campaign to crush ISIL, which seized control of Mosul, about 280km northeast of Qaim, in 2014 and declared a caliphate.

stripes.com/news/middle-east/iraqi-army-denies-bombing-civilians-in-islamic-state-held-qaim-1.443593

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Islamic State seizes more ground near Syria's Palmyra - monitoring group

Dec 9

Islamic State seized more territory from Syrian government forces near the ancient city of Palmyra on Friday in fierce clashes that raged for a second day, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.

The jihadists launched an attack late on Thursday in which they captured grain silos northeast of Palmyra and have since taken at least partial control of oil and gas fields to its northwest.

Dozens of Syrian troops have been killed in the fighting, the British-based Observatory, which tracks the war using sources on the ground, said.

Syrian warplanes were carrying out air raids in the area in an effort to take back positions lost.

The fighting was some of the fiercest in the area since the Syrian army recaptured Palmyra after nearly two years in March, driving out the ultra-hardline militants who had destroyed large parts of the city's UNESCO World Heritage ruins.

Islamic State has been on the back foot in both Syria and Iraq since late last year, losing much of its territory in both countries as well as some of its most senior figures, killed in air strikes.

The group took advantage of chaos during Syria's civil war to seize territory there and in Iraq in the summer of 2014.

Syria's civil war pits President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Iran, Russia and Shi'ite militias against mostly Sunni rebels. (Reporting by John Davison; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

reuters.com/article/mideast-crisis-syria-palmyra-idUSL5N1E43P1?rpc=401&

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South Asia

IS weakened in Afghanistan, claims UNSC report

Indrani Bagchi | TNN | Dec 8, 2016

NEW DELHI: Despite impressions to the contrary, the presence of terror group Islamic State (ISIS/Daesh) in Afghanistan has significantly weakened from 2015 to end 2016. This is the observation by the UN Security Council's 1267 monitoring committee, which recently issued its seventh update on the security situation in Afghanistan. The 1267 monitoring committee's findings on ISIS is distinctly different from the Pakistan-Russia narrative which is pushing ISIS as the greatest threat in Afghanistan.

"The position of ISIL in Afghanistan has distinctly weakened since 2015." Quoting Afghan government officials, the report said, "at the high point of its influence in 2015, the group had been able to temporarily control up to nine districts in Nangarhar Province. Currently, however, the most active part of the group has been reduced to influence in, at most, three and a half districts within the province." The growing number of ISIS-Taliban clashes had contributed to their denuded control over territory.

The committee noted the "number of ISIL fighters in eastern Afghanistan had dropped to about 1,600 ... located mainly in the districts of Deh Bala, Kot, Achin and Naziyan in Nangarhar Province. About 200 ISIL fighters were based in Kunar province."

The UNSC panel observed that around half of ISIS members in Afghanistan were foreign, "with a large portion of fighters hailing from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border" and returning Afghan fighters. ISIS pays its fighters a joining fee of around $500, and offer $1000 to Taliban fighters willing to switch over. ISIS, the report says, runs a fairly effective propaganda programme, apparently led by a professional video producer and journalist, a graduate of the University of Jalalabad, Sultan Aziz Ezan. But ISIS' core funding in Afghanistan still comes from the parent body in Iraq and Syria, through hawala channels.

As Ashraf Ghani, Afghan president clarified in Amritsar last week, Afghanistan's precarious security situation is mainly foreign-fuelled, with the largest coming from Pakistan. The UNSC report appears to bear him out, listing four kinds of foreign fighters. The first group of over 7,500 comprises those "who had fled Pakistan owing to the military operation Zarb-e-Azb and were currently fighting alongside the Afghan Taliban. Those fighters hail from the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Lashkar i Jhangvi, Jaish-i-Mohammed, Harakat ul-Mujahidin, etc." LeT fighters, the report says provide training to new Taliban recruits in Kandahar, while HUM fighters are working with the Haqqani network.

The second group, according to the report, comes from China, Russia and Central Asia. "Those militants are currently fighting with IMU, the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), the Islamic Jihad Group, Jundallah and Jamaat Ansarullah." Then there are "fighters of Uzbek and Tajik origin" who may be "members of the Katibat Imam Bukhari group who took the oath of allegiance to the new leader of Taliban, Haibatullah Akhundzada."

The third group is about 1,600 fighters, mainly of ISIS persuasion, located in Nangarhar and Kunar provinces. They mainly come from three agencies in Pakistan: Orakzai, Khyber and Bajaur.

The fourth group is mainly Al-Qaida, but these have lost a lot of relevance in Afghanistan, the report notes. "The members of al-Qaida are not significantly engaged in fighting in Afghanistan but act mainly as embedded trainers and advisers to the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and IMU."

Speaking to journalists last week, Gen John Nicholson, commander of US-NATO troops in Afghanistan said, there was concern about the malign influence of external actors, particularly Pakistan, Russia and Iran.

"We're concerned about the external enablement of the insurgent or terrorist groups inside Afghanistan, in particular where they enjoy sanctuary or support from outside governments," Nicholson said. The convergence of terrorist groups is also a continuing issue, he said. "[With] 13 [terror groups] in Afghanistan and seven in Pakistan, the morphing of these groups into more virulent strains or the fact that sometimes they cooperate ... the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts," Nicholson said, adding the groups participate from complementary alliances, capabilities and networks, which requires continuous pressure to prevent them from becoming "something worse."

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/IS-weakened-in-Afghanistan-claims-UNSC-report/articleshow/55879241.cms

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US Defense Secretary makes unannounced visit to Afghanistan

By KHAAMA PRESS - Fri Dec 09 2016

The US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter arrived in Afghanistan on an unannounced visit to meet the US troops and senior Afghan officials.

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said the Secretary of Defense will receive an update on efforts to support the Afghan forces besides meeting with senior officials and US forces based in the country.

“#SecDef arrives in Afghanistan to visit troops, receive an update on efforts to support Afghan security forces & meet with senior officials,” Cook said in a Twitter post.

According to reports, Carter will also meet with President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani this afternoon.

The visit by Carter comes as the US forces have stepped up counter-terrorism efforts by supporting the Afghan forces.

The US forces in Afghanistan conduct regular airstrikes to support the Afghan forces in their fight against the Taliban militants and insurgents belonging to other militant groups including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group.

The Obama administration granted broader role to the US forces to conduct counter-terrorism raids amid concerns that the militant groups are attempting to expand foothold in the country.

khaama.com/us-defense-secretary-makes-unannounced-visit-to-afghanistan-02445

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US congress extends SIV program for Afghans with 1,500 additional visas

By KHAAMA PRESS - Fri Dec 09 2016

The United States Congress has reportedly extended the visa program for the Afghans to be resettled for helping the US mission in the country.

According to reports, the measure passed by the Congress also allows an additional 1,500 Special Immigration Visas (SIVs) for the Afghan nationals facing severe threats.

However, the renewal of the program imposes more eligibility restrictions amid concerns that the renewal will not be enough considering the number of the pending applications which is around 13,000.

Rep. Doris Matsui said “I’m pleased that we have taken a step forward by extending the program.”

However, she said it doesn’t go far enough, insisting that there’s a need for more visas and resettlement help for the Afghans.

Matsui further added that more than 10,000 Afghans and their families have applied to use the visa program, and advocates say the additional 1,500 visas in the bill falls far short of the need.

This comes as a Senate panel, Appropriations Committee, decided late in June this year to grant 4,000 more visa to Afghans who have helped the coalition forces.

Earlier, the Senate Armed Services Committee opposed to extend or authorizing new visa for the Afghan Special Immigration Visa Program.

The United States Department of State expressed concerns regarding the decision by the Senate Armed Services Committee for not extending or authorizing new visa for the Afghan Special Immigration Visa Program.

A spokesperson for the State Department, John Kirby, told reporters in mid-May “I do want to note that the department’s disappointed that the Senate Armed Services Committee did not extend or authorize new visas for the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Program.”

khaama.com/us-congress-extends-siv-program-for-afghans-with-1500-additional-visas-02444

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Plot to attack Kabul city with rockets foiled

By KHAAMA PRESS - Fri Dec 09 2016

The Afghan security forces foiled a plot by the anti-government armed militant groups to attack Kabul city with rockets.

The Ministry of Interior (MoI) said two rockets were confiscated before the militants managed to fire them on the city.

A statement by MoI said the counterterrorism forces discovered and defused the two rockets which were planted in Mirbacha Kot district.

The statement further added that no suspect has been arrested in connection to the attack plot so far.

According to MoI, militants belonging to Mullah Wahiz were likely behind the attack plot and efforts are underway to arrest the militants.

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

This comes as two rockets were fired on Kabul city which landed in the vicinity of the key diplomatic area, Shashdarak, late last month.

The officials confirmed that the attack did not incur any casualties to the city residents or security personnel.

The rocket attack last month followed days after a deadly suicide attack targeted a mosque in the west of Kabul city ten days ago, leaving at least 32 people dead and scores of others wounded.

The loyalists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group claimed responsibility behind the attack.

The attack on Baqir-ul-Olum mosque took place almost one and half month after a similar attack ripped through a shrine in Kabul city, leaving at least 18 dead and several others wounded.

khaama.com/plot-to-attack-kabul-city-with-rockets-foiled-02443

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Russia-Taliban ties worry Afghan, US officials

December 9th, 2016

KABUL: Afghan and American officials are increasingly worried that any deepening of ties between Russia and Taliban militants fighting to topple the government in Kabul could complicate an already precarious security situation.

Russian officials have denied they provide aid to the militants, who are contesting large swathes of territory and inflicting heavy casualties, and say their limited contacts are aimed at bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table.

Leaders in Kabul say Russian support for the Afghan Taliban appears to be mostly political so far. But they say a series of meetings taking place recently in Moscow and Tajikistan has made Afghan intelligence and defence officials nervous about more direct support including weapons or funding. A senior Afghan security official termed Russian support for the Taliban a “dangerous new trend”, an analysis echoed by the top US commander in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson.

He told reporters at a briefing in Washington last week that Russia had joined Iran and Pakistan as countries with a “malign influence” in Afghanistan, and said Moscow was lending legitimacy to the Taliban.

Russia’s ambassador to Kabul, Alexander Mantytskiy, told reporters on Thursday that his government’s contacts with the militant group were aimed at ensuring the safety of Russian citizens and encouraging peace talks.

“We do not have intensive contacts with the Taliban,” he said through an interpreter, adding that Russia favoured a negotiated peace in Afghanistan which could only happen by cultivating contacts with all players, including the Taliban.

Mantytskiy expressed annoyance at persistent accusations of Russian collaboration with the Taliban, saying the statements by American and Afghan officials were an effort to distract attention from the worsening conflict. “They are trying to put the blame for their failures on our shoulders,” he said.

Afghanistan has long been the scene of international intrigue and intervention, with the British and Russians jockeying for power during the 19th Century “Great Game”, and the United States helping Pakistan provide weapons and funding to Afghan militants fighting Soviet forces in the 1980s.

Taliban officials said the group has had significant contacts with Moscow since at least 2007, adding that Russian involvement did not extend beyond “moral and political support”.

“We had a common enemy,” said one senior Taliban official. “We needed support to get rid of the United States and its allies in Afghanistan and Russia wanted all foreign troops to leave Afghanistan as quickly as possible.”

Moscow has been critical of the United States and Nato over their handling of the war in Afghanistan, but Russia initially helped provide helicopters for the Afghan military and agreed to a supply route for coalition materials through Russia.

dawn.com/news/1301365/russia-taliban-ties-worry-afghan-us-officials

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Pakistan

Pakistan: The minority protection bill is both Islamic and constitutional

December 9th, 2016

It is clear to me that there is enough room in Islam to accommodate a piece of legislation that sets some ground rules for conversion including age. PHOTO: FILE.

The Sindh Criminal (Protect of Minorities) Bill 2016, passed by the Sindh Provincial Assembly seeks to outlaw forced conversions. This has led to a backlash from certain quarters, the self-styled thekaydars of Islam in particular, who say that the bill is unconstitutional and unIslamic.

Unfortunately, these people who are agitating against the law have neither an understanding of the constitution nor that of Islam. But then very few people, including I am sad to say our black coat brethren, have any understanding of constitutional law.

“Holy Quran and Sunnah are supreme under the Pakistani constitution” they scream.

Their reference is to Article 227 of the Constitution which is the repugnancy clause – no law can be made which is in conflict with Quran and Sunnah. The makers of the Constitution intended for the superior judiciary to sit in judgment on this question. General Ziaul Haq however created a parallel court called the Federal Shariat Court. What is clear, however, under the Pakistani scheme of the Constitution is that it is the fundamental rights chapter that is supreme and cannot be abridged.

Here Article 20 may be considered.

“20. Freedom to profess religion and to manage religious institutions. — Subject to law, public order and morality —

(a) Every citizen shall have the right to profess, practise and propagate his religion; and

(b) Every religious denomination and every sect thereof shall have the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions”

The most important thing to note in this hallowed constitutional article is that it gives every citizen, without distinction of faith, the right to (i) profess (ii) practise and (iii) propagate his faith. This means that every citizen is not only free to practise his faith but is also free to propagate it – convert others to his faith. Again the Constitution makes no distinction as to this being only applicable to Islam. A Christian or a Hindu or an Ahmadi for that matter, at least to the extent of this Article of the Constitution, has the right to convert people of other faiths, including Muslims, to their his or her faith, whatever it may be. This is the legal position.

Obviously this right is subject to law, public order, and morality. The use of the word “law” in particular led to the incredibly facetious and terrible judgment in the case of Zaheeruddin v State 1993 SCMR 1718 which for all practical purposes negated this fundamental right but that is an issue for another time. The question that arises – especially in light of the present anti-conversion law – is that whether or not any government in the land curtail this right for those below the age of majority?

The classification of population, according to age, is standard practice all around the world. If the state can decide that individuals below the age of 18 cannot vote, cannot drive and cannot enter into a valid legal contract, the state can also decide that an individual – at least in the eyes of the law – cannot convert out of the faith of the family he or she was born in unless the person reaches the age of majority. Therefore, the decision to bar someone from conversion before he or she has turned 18 makes perfect sense and does not offend the spirit behind Article 20 of the Constitution any more than the idea that a person below the age of 18 cannot enter into a contract offends Article 18 of the Constitution which deals with trade and profession. So it is quite clear that in terms of freedom of religion, the law is quite sound and should be defensible.

The next question is whether the law is repugnant to Islamic injunctions or not, under Article 227 of the Constitution. Allama Iqbal in his famous lectures on the “Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam” argued that that Islamic law had suffered on account of immobility and that it was this immobility that needed to be rectified through the principle of eternal movement – Ijtehad. He argued therefore if a Muslim State outlaws polygamy, it would be perfectly Islamic. Similarly in his pamphlet “Islam and Ahmadism” which the right wing does not tire quoting for its arguments against the Ahmadi sect, Iqbal defends the reforms of Kemal Ataturk (such as the introduction of Swiss code, ban on polygamy etc) as being more or less in line with Islamic thought.

More specifically, on the question of non-Muslims converting to Islam, one needs not a better example than from Sulh-e-Hudaibiyah (Treaty of Hudaibiyah) from the life of the Holy Prophet (pbuh). Abu Jundal, the son of Suhayl bin Amr, converted to Islam in the immediate aftermath of this treaty and was persecuted by his father. One day not long after, breaking his chains, Abu Jundal escaped to join the Muslims. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) returned him to his father, saying that he is a true Muslim, God would ultimately deliver him. The same thing was repeated in the case of Abu Baseer who too had converted and sought refuge with the Holy Prophet (pbuh).  This was because the Holy Prophet (pbuh) had bound himself by treaty of Hudaibiyah which he had entered into with the Meccans. Such a compact or compromise therefore is very much possible in Islamic law. It is clear to me that there is enough room in Islam to accommodate a piece of legislation that sets some ground rules for conversion including age.

Islam does not force people into conversion. La Ikrah fid deen - there is no compulsion in religion – is the cardinal principle of Islam. In this day and age, the age of majority is considered important for consent in all sorts of matters including financial matters. Why then must age of majority not play a role in determining whether a person’s conversion is genuine or not.

It is for these reasons that I believe the law passed by the Sindh Provincial Assembly is both constitutional and Islamic.

blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/43848/the-minority-protection-bill-is-both-islamic-and-constitutional/

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Special Branch officer held for ‘facilitating’ militants, says Sindh Police

IMTIAZ ALI — 09 December 2016

The Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) of Sindh police on Friday claimed it has detained a Special Branch officer for leaking sensitive information to suspected militants regarding raids conducted by law enforcement personnel, owing to which the police failed in apprehending them.

CTD SSP Naveed Khowaja told Dawn that the officer, identified as Irfan, worked as a 'locator operator' in the Special Branch.

Whenever the CTD team would raid suspected militant hideouts, the locator could not be reached as his phone would be switched off, Khowaja said.

"This raised suspicion that someone was leaking information to the suspects about the raids," the senior police officer added.

The CTD SSP alleged that it was because of Irfan that his team failed to apprehend at least seven militants involved in terrorism and sectarian cases.

A case has been registered against the officer for ‘facilitating’ terrorists.

An investigation is underway to determine whether Irfan informed the suspected militants about the raids for monetary benefits or due to ideological reasons.

dawn.com/news/1301442/special-branch-officer-held-for-facilitating-militants-says-sindh-police

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'Prime minister will not give a button from his clothes, much less his resignation'

DAWN.COM — 09 December 2016

Former information minister Parvaiz Rasheed said on Friday that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will not even give a button from his clothes, much less his resignation following the Panamagate revelations. .

Rasheed criticised Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf(PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, saying the PTI chief is taking a "U-turn" from his own demand for a commission to be set up to investigate Panamagate case.

This was the first time the former information minister had addressed the media after being asked to step down following the publication of Dawn's story.

"Instead of providing evidence for the Panama case, he is calling for a boycott of the commission," the PMNL-N senator said, accusing Khan of going back on his words.

"The case was already closed when the court declared PTI's evidence against PM Nawaz bogus," he said.

Rasheed was referring to the Supreme Court's judgment of Nov 16 where Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed had said that it seemed as if the petitioners were trying to bury the truth under their evidence that consisted mostly of newspaper clippings.

The PML-N senator further said, "It is our right to sue Imran Khan for his baseless allegations against the prime minister," and that he must apologise to the public for wasting its time.

Earlier today, a five-judge larger bench of the Supreme Court adjourned hearing of the Panamagate case till the first week of January 2017.

The decision was taken after a short session of the court in which Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) counsel Naeem Bokhari announced the party's decision to boycott a commission, if it is formed, to probe the Panamagate scam.

Justice Asif Saeed Khosa remarked during the hearing that the court will be on vacation from Dec 15 to Dec 30, and it will not be possible for the bench to reach a verdict after just two more hearings, hence the hearing should be adjourned till January.

The SC's decision to adjourn the Panamagate proceedings till January means that the new chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar, who will take oath on Dec 31, will form a new larger bench to hear the case.

dawn.com/news/1301445/prime-minister-will-not-give-a-button-from-his-clothes-much-less-his-resignation

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Aviation experts suggest pilot error to blame for PK-661 crash

By Qadeer TanoliPublished: December 9, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Aviation experts have not ruled out the possibility of human error in the PK-661 crash.

They believe that engine failure “should not have led to the plane crash as the aircraft was still flyable on the operative engine”.

Pakistan International Airlines’ flight PK-661 crashed on the way to Islamabad from Chitral on Wednesday.

IA crash victims to be identified by DNA

ir Marshal (retd) Shahid Lateef insisted that the crash could have been avoided. According to him, the aircraft could still fly if one of its engines failed, adding that the aircraft could then be diverted to a nearby airfield for an emergency landing.

“Since it was a single engine failure, as we know, the captain of the aircraft should have flown and landed it safely. The aircraft does not even require a proper landing strip in case of emergency landing. The aircraft captain should have handled the emergency in a proper manner.”

He said that he believed that the crash had occurred because of pilot error, adding that pilots were unable to cope with the emergency situation.

“The crash also may have occurred because of lack of coordination between the pilot and co-pilot,” Lateef added.

Highlighting plane crashes under unavoidable circumstances, he said that if the aircraft caught fire and burnt in midair, it was considered ‘unavoidable circumstances’.

Another UK-based Pakistani aviation expert Malik Riz Awan said that although this was the first air crash in Pakistan, one needed to rule out a few things before making any assertion.

“The possibility of a lightning strike or storm must be ruled out. The last message sent by the captain to the control tower is also very important,” he said.

Agreeing with the assertion that multi-engine aircraft were capable of flying with just one working engine, he said that the pilot only needed to “adjust the throttle and control fuel flow”.

Informing that investigation into aircraft crashes generally took months to complete, he said that the aircraft’s load factor also needed to be checked, adding that improper loading might create a fatal center of gravity.

He claimed that even if the “aircraft is out of fuel, it may fly for 20 minutes”.

PIA announces Rs0.5 million compensation for PK-661 crash victims

AirBlue Crash Affectees Association (ACAA) and Bhoja Air Crash Families Association demanded a transparent and impartial investigation into the latest crash on Thursday. They said that the probe should not be under the influence of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Stressing the need for compiling the report as soon as possible, they said they were disappointed with the attitudes of carriers and regulators of civil aviation matters.

They said that over the past six years, there have been a number of accidents in the country in which more than 350 lives had been lost.

“This latest tragedy has once again exposed the gaping holes in the system and standard operating procedures currently in place (or lack thereof) in the (domestic) civil aviation sector,” they said.

tribune.com.pk/story/1257996/pilot-error-suggested-aviation-experts-believe-aircraft-still-flyable/

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Panama papers leak: Pakistan SC adjourns case against Nawaz Sharif, family till January

Omer Farooq Khan | TNN | Updated: Dec 9, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's Supreme Court on Friday adjourned hearing of the Panama papers leak case against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family for holding undisclosed offshore assets till January next year.

When the court will resume hearing, the new Chief Justice (CJ) Mian Saqib Nisar, who will take oath on Dec 31, will form a new larger bench to hear the case. The case will be heard from the beginning before the new bench, the outgoing CJ Anwar Zaheer Jamali said, adding the lawyers will have to present evidence again before the new bench.

Unconvinced with the way, the petitioners and the government, developed their case over nine days of proceedings of the scam, the Supreme Court on Wednesday had proposed formation of a commission for a thorough, independent probe of the opposition allegations, the government claims and the documentary evidence brought to light by the Panama Papers leak.

The court had asked the counsels for PM and the PTI chief to come up with their stance after seeking instructions on forming the judicial commission.

The court's Friday's decision to adjourn the case was taken shortly after Naeem Bokhari, the counsel for Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), the petitioner, announced the party's decision to boycott a commission, if it is formed, to probe the Panama scam.

Salman Aslam Butt, Nawaz Sharif's counsel, said the PM will have no issue if an inquiry commission is formed. Akram Sheikh, the lawyer representing Sharif's children also said that he was in favour of the formation of a commission.

Rejecting the formation of a judicial commission, Imran Khan, the PTI supremo, demanded that the Supreme Court directly and itself settle the case.

"We will not let this case be forgotten... it will not die down. While the case is adjourned we will go to the public," Khan told media after the court hearing.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Panama-papers-leak-Pakistan-SC-adjourns-case-against-Nawaz-Sharif-family-till-January/articleshow/55894363.cms

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Pakistan accuses India of 'negativity' at Heart of Asia conference

Omer Farooq Khan | TNN | Dec 8, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday blamed India for spoiling the Heart of Asia platform by negating the aim and objective for which the conference was held in Amritsar last week and said that it wanted meaningful, sustainable and result-oriented dialogue with New Delhi on all issues, including the problem of Kashmir.

"The conference was called for promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan but India's 'negativity' at the multilateral event exposed its claims of commitment to prospects of peace in Afghanistan," said Nafees Zakaria, Pakistan's Foreign Office spokesperson.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said at the conference on December 4 that inaction against terrorism in the region would encourage terrorists and their facilitators.

While addressing a press briefing, Zakaria criticized India's behaviour as "poor" with the Pakistani delegation during the ministerial conference. "It ruined the atmosphere and proved that India is attempting to divert attention away from Indian 'atrocities' in Kashmir," he said.

The spokesperson said that Islamabad wants meaningful, sustainable and result-oriented dialogue with New Delhi on all issues, including the problem of Kashmir.

"Any dialogue with India should lead to ultimate resolution of the Kashmir dispute in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions," Zakaria said.

"Despite a number of gestures by Pakistan, India remains defiant and intransigent to resumption of dialogue," he added.

Regarding Ashraf Ghani's comments at the conference, the FO said that Pakistan is committed to take target all militant outfits without any discrimination. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had said, "We need to identify cross-border terrorism and a fund to combat terrorism."

Zakaria maintained that Afghan soil has long been used against Pakistan by India's RAW.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Pakistan-accuses-India-of-negativity-at-Heart-of-Asia-conference/articleshow/55879305.cms

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Law enforcers detain MQM London activists after tensions simmer in Azizabad, Hyderabad

December 9th, 2016

Rangers detained several Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) London activists while they tried to hoist the party flag and write slogans on Liaquat Ali Khan Chowk, DawnNews reported on Friday.

While talking to the media about the incident, Rangers sector commander Brig Naseem Ahmad said, "Some people sat on the road reciting the Holy Quran. Some women came to us and requested permission to do recitation and the permission was granted."

"When these women returned, some male party workers raised party slogans and started putting up party flags in the area. The police took action on this and arrested some of the workers," he added.

When asked about the number of people detained, he said the people creating chaos were taken in.

As a result of the detention many party workers conducted a sit in on the road leading from Ayesha Manzil to Yadgar-e-Shuhada, disrupting the flow of traffic.

Liaquat Ali Khan Chowk was previously known as Mukka Chowk and holds a symbolic significance for MQM party workers.

Unrest at Pakka Qila

Around half a dozen activists of Muttahida Qaumi Movement-London were taken into custody after a heavy contingent of police resorted to teargas shelling and baton charge against them when they raised pro-Altaf slogans at Pakka Qila after Friday prayers.

Around 1,000 people gathered at the graves of their slain workers after entering the Qilla from its rear side.

After holding a memorial programme, the activists started raising pro-Altaf slogans. The slogans continued after they were asked by a senior police official to leave as the memorial had concluded.

Police then resorted to baton charge, tear gas shelling and aerial shooting. It led to a stampede in and outside Pakkaa Qilla, causing minor injuries to some protesters.

At some distance from the graveyard at Pakka Qilla, MQM - Pakistan was also observing a memorial inside Pakka Qilla. While permission to hold a memorial was denied to MQM – London, it was granted to MQM – Pakistan.

Protesters also pelted police officials with stones. A case has been registered at Fort police station under sections 6/7 of ATA against the protesters.

SSP Irfan Baloch said protesters were raising anti-Pakistan slogans.

“They (MQM - London) had no permission to organise any event and they tried to intrude therefore police had to resort to tear gas shelling to disperse them”, he said.

dawn.com/news/1301439/law-enforcers-detain-mqm-london-activists-after-tensions-simmer-in-azizabad-hyderabad

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McCain expresses desire to strengthen Pak-US bilateral ties

December 9th, 2016

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi on Thursday held meetings with top US officials including Senator John McCain, the Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), in Washington DC.

Fatemi also met with officials of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC).

In both meetings, the growing tension across the Line of Control (LoC) came under discussion. Fatemi highlighted the human rights violations in India-held Kashmir, said a statement issued by the Foreign Office.

Fatemi gave a briefing on the increasing negative implications for prospects of peace in South Asia "because of Indian hostility and belligerence".

The leadership of the SFRC and McCain acknowledged Pakistan's role in promoting peace and security in the region, the statement said.

They expressed the US desire to strengthen bilateral ties with Pakistan, which was "a longstanding and important partner of the United States".

During his meeting with McCain, Fatemi informed the senator about the overall security situation in the region and referring to Operation Zarb-i-Azb, highlighted significant gains made by Pakistan's armed forces. Pakistan's relations with Afghanistan were also part of the discussion.

The senator "appreciated Pakistan's efforts to eliminate terrorist outfits from the region and assured the SASC's continued support in realising the common objective of defeating terrorism".

He congratulated Pakistan on successful transition in the military command and reiterated the US commitment to remain engaged with Pakistan in promoting lasting peace and stability in the region.

Fatemi was accompanied by Ambassador Jalil Abbas Jilani when he met with the SFRC.

They were welcomed by Chairman of the committee Senator Bob Corker and Ranking Member Senator Ben Cardin, together with their senior staffers.

Fatemi conveyed the good wishes of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to the leadership of the Senate and thanked the SFRC for its support and assistance to Pakistan.

Fatemi appreciated role of the US Congress in authorising the critical counter-terrorism assistance that helped Pakistan in eradicating the terrorist networks operating from Federally Administered Tribal Areas and promoting peace and stability in the region.

The SFRC oversees the US foreign policy priorities across the globe and also authorises the US economic and humanitarian assistance for partner countries.

dawn.com/news/1301427/mccain-expresses-desire-to-strengthen-pak-us-bilateral-ties

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Musharraf given one month to surrender

December 9th, 2016

ISLAMABAD: An anti-terrorism court (ATC) here on Thursday gave one-month’s deadline to former president Pervez Musharraf to surrender in the judges’ detention case.

The court warned that the former military ruler would be declared a proclaimed offender if he failed to comply with the deadline. After directing to the counsel for Gen Musharraf to produce his client before the court, ATC Judge Sohail Ikram adjourned the proceedings to January 13.

On November 22, the judge had asked Advocate Akhtar Shah to argue how he can represent Musharraf even after he was declared a proclaimed offender in a high treason case by the special court.

The lawyer replied that doctors checked his client after every two months and the security situation was not favourable for him in the country. He claimed that under Article 10-A of the Constitution, which ensures fair trial, he can represent Musharraf even in his absence.

Public prosecutor Amir Nadeem Tabish, however, said being a fugitive of the law Gen Musharraf could neither seek any relief nor any lawyer could represent him unless he surrendered to the court.

The court then ruled that the counsel cannot seek a relief for Gen Musharraf unless the latter appears before the court.

He said in case Gen Musharraf does not surrender, the court would declare him an absconder.

The judges’ detention case was registered by the Secretariat police on Aug 11, 2009, on the complaint of Advocate Chaudhry Mohammad Aslam against the former military ruler for confining 60 judges of the superior courts for over five months and restraining them from administering justice.

The judges, including former chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, were detained after the proclamation of an emergency in the country.

dawn.com/news/1301394/musharraf-given-one-month-to-surrender

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Pakistan, Iran look to revisit gas pipeline agreement

December 9th, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has shared with Iran amendments to gas sale and purchase agreement (GSPA) to extend implementation schedule and revise pricing under the $1.35-billion gas pipeline project.

A senior government official on Thursday told Dawn that the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet hasn’t yet allowed the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources to start formal negotiations with Iran over fresh pricing.

He said the ministry requested the ECC in July this year to revive a committee to start formal talks and “we are still waiting for the approval”.

The petroleum ministry told parliament a few days ago that for the Iran-Pakistan (IP) project to be implemented in the extended period, “amendment to the GSPA was required”. It said a draft amendment had been shared with Tehran that agreed to negotiate it along with some other changes.

The official explained that the two key amendments were required to be made in the GSPA that had been “under suspension” for a few years. These proposed changes related to extension in timelines under the original agreement Pakistan should have completed the pipeline on its side by Dec 31, 2014 and gas flows should have started with effect from Jan 1, 2015.

Secondly, the pricing formula has to be revised based on latest market situation, prevailing prices from competitive sources and international best practices. Both Tehran and Islamabad wanted extension in dates and prices that would trigger a series of actions in line with best international practices.

The talks on the project were revived after a few years of suspension in March this year during the Iranian president visit to Pakistan. The two sides agreed to GSPA amendment for extension of time to finalise workable implementation schedule, price negotiation as per review clause in GSPA and Iranian proposal regarding amendments to the GSPA.

Since the project could not be completed due to unilateral withdrawal from government-to-government cooperation agreement by Iran, the Pakistani side proposed to extend the time for completion of the project for which proposed amendments to the GSPA were shared with Iran. The Iranian side also verbally suggested making some amendments to the GSPA. It, however, did not share any draft despite repeated requests.

The federal cabinet approved signing of the Iran-Pakistan GSPA on June 3, 2009. The petroleum ministry also sought permission to constitute a price negotiation committee led by the secretary petroleum and comprising secretaries or their nominees of the ministries of finance, law, foreign affairs and managing directors of the Sui Southern Gas Company, Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Ltd and Interstate Gas Company.

The sources said Pakistan discussed the issue of “snap back” of sanctions besides setting realistic time frame for achieving financial closure and construction timelines. Iran assured alternative preparations to the sanctions issue through contractual frameworks.

Iran has told Pakistan that the pipeline segment on the Iranian side will take about one-and-a-half years to complete. Pakistan has stressed the need for setting the right timelines targeting early completion yet adequate provisions and flexibility for long-term measures and all eventualities towards achieving an amiable financial closure and construction.

On the matter of price review, Pakistan has referred to new and transformed gas market dynamics, including the availability of liquefied natural gas as a cheaper alternative fuel to the Iranian gas. Iran has officially conveyed that there was no difficulty in reviewing the price mechanism under the price review trigger.

To satisfy Iran over payments and banking arrangements, Pakistan has already taken a few steps in lifting restrictions on banking transactions with Iran, including a notification by the State Bank of Pakistan a few months ago. Iran has already indicated revisiting the price formula indexation from Japan Crude Cocktail to Brent and a discount for peak off-takes in summer.

Pakistan is currently building the 700-kilometre Gwadar-Nawabshah gas pipeline through Chinese assistance.

dawn.com/news/1301271/pakistan-iran-look-to-revisit-gas-pipeline-agreement

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Africa

Islamic State looks to regroup in Libya after losing Sirte

Published Friday, Dec. 09, 2016 10:26AM EST

Islamic State has lost senior figures in an unsuccessful seven-month battle to defend its coastal stronghold in Libya, but there are already signs it will try to fight back through sleeper cells and desert brigades.

Libyan officials say hundreds of Islamic State militants may have escaped before the start of the battle for Sirte in May or during its early stages.

That has prompted fears of a counter-attack or insurgent campaign that could enable the militants to show they are still in business despite the rout, a heavy blow for a group that is also under intense military pressure in its core territory of Iraq and Syria.

Some cells have already been active. Islamic State is thought to be behind at least two dozen attacks or attempted attacks to the south and west of Sirte since August, said Heni Nsaibia of Menastream, a risk consultancy that monitors jihadist activity in the region.

Before May, IS was thought to have several thousand fighters stationed in Sirte - estimates of the exact number varied widely. Both leadership and rank and file had a heavy foreign presence, drawing on recruits from north and sub-Saharan Africa, according to Sirte residents and security officials in Misrata, the city that led the campaign to retake the jihadist stronghold.

Much of that force has likely been wiped out over the past seven months, with dozens killed on both sides during the heaviest days of fighting. Islamic State was targeted by nearly 500 U.S. air strikes since Aug. 1.

Local officials say a number of high-level Libyan figures perished, including preacher and commander Hassan al-Karami, and senior official Abu Walid al-Ferjani.

Foreign commanders have also died, according to messages of mourning posted on social media accounts close to the militant group, though it is unclear how far up the hierarchy they were or how important to the group's future operations, said Marco Arnaboldi, a researcher of political Islam specializing on Libya.

FEW PRISONERS

Misratan officials refused to comment on reports of Islamic State militants being killed after capture, but fighters and commanders say they took few, if any, prisoners.

Ibrahim Baitulmal, head of Misrata's military council, estimated that 1,700 jihadists' bodies had been recovered during the campaign, adding that the number killed would have been higher since the militants retrieved some of their own dead.

He said among those killed in the final days of the battle in Sirte was Abu Habib Jazrawi, a Saudi who is thought to have taken the name Abdul Qadr al-Najdi before being named as Islamic State's leader in Libya in March.

Islamic State has not announced his death. Regional media reported that Najdi was replaced in September by a Tunisian, Jalaludin Al-Tunsi, possibly appointed to carry on the fight outside Sirte. "He's one of the leaders who is going to prepare the next wave of Islamic State from south of the city," said Arnaboldi.

The jihadist group has made no secret of its plans to continue the fight, in a country still roiled by the turmoil it exploited in the past. In August, the new leader of its east Libyan branch, Abu Musab al-Farouq, said high-level figures who had escaped from Sirte were helping it regroup not far away.

In late October the head of the west Libyan branch, Abu Hudhayfah al-Muhajir, acknowledged that the group had been suffering, but said it would continue its campaign for "conquest and empowerment" and was still attracting a steady flow of foreign fighters.

"Most of our people in Sirte have moved to neighbouring areas six months ago - and are still moving - during which they experienced the worst," he said in an interview with Al Naba, an Islamic State newsletter.

"The mujahideen in the Libyan provinces are still well ... Their security detachments are still spread in all the cities and the areas, and their brigades move in the east and west of the desert."

(Additional reporting by Mohamed Lagha in Misrata; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

This content appears as provided to The Globe by the originating wire service. It has not been edited by Globe staff.

theglobeandmail.com/feeds/thomson-reuters/canada-top/islamic-state-looks-to-regroup-in-libya-after-losing-sirte/article33280313/

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30 killed in Boko Haram suicide attacks in NE Nigeria: Army

Dec 9, 2016

KANO: At least 30 people were killed on Friday when two female suicide bombers detonated their explosives in a busy market in northeast Nigeria, the military said.

"At least 30 people have been killed in the suicide blasts carried out by two female suicide bombers in the market" in the town of Madagali, military spokesman major Badare Akintoye told AFP..

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/rest-of-world/30-killed-in-Boko-Haram-suicide-attacks-in-NE-Nigeria-Army/articleshow/55897980.cms

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ISIS Remains Threat in Libya Despite Defeat in Surt, U.S. Officials Say

By ERIC SCHMITTDEC. 8, 2016

WASHINGTON — The Islamic State, though driven from its coastal stronghold in Surt this week, still has several hundred fighters who have dispersed across Libya and pose a threat to the country, its neighbors and, potentially, Europe, according to American officials and the Pentagon’s Africa Command.

The government’s top counterterrorism official, Nicholas J. Rasmussen, said the Islamic State’s defeat in Surt had dealt a major setback to the militancy’s ambitions to expand its caliphate in North Africa. But he said he remained “very concerned” about the ability of surviving fighters to exploit the country’s economic and political vacuum.

“The concern we have about external attacks from Syria and Iraq extends to Libya if ISIL is able to maintain a stable foothold there,” Mr. Rasmussen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told a security conference here on Wednesday. The Islamic State is also known as ISIL or ISIS.

That assessment, which echoed other recent warnings from senior American officials, underscores the resilience of what had been considered a potent Islamic State affiliate outside the group’s main territory in Syria and Iraq.

Jonathan Winer, the Obama administration’s special envoy to Libya, told Congress last month that the Islamic State, as it suffered defeats in Surt at the hands of Libyan fighters and American warplanes, was most likely forming cells around the country. He called on Libyans to unite behind the country’s fledgling Government of National Accord to combat the terrorists.

“Most of those who have not been killed probably have stayed in Libya and gone underground, forming cells elsewhere in the country,” Mr. Winer said in testimony to a House panel on Nov. 30. “We believe they are waiting for opportunities to engage in further attacks in Libya or its neighbors, and if possible to reassert ISIL geographically.”

A recent analysis by the American Enterprise Institute, a policy organization in Washington, found that Islamic State militants operating as “desert brigades” south of Surt had ambushed Libyan military positions, disrupted supply lines with explosives and established checkpoints on key roads. The Islamic State is recruiting foreign fighters into southern Libya and is most likely relying on the same havens used by the group Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, according to the analysis.

In a telephone interview this week, an official at Africa Command’s headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, said that several hundred Islamic State fighters remained in the eastern, southern and western portions of the country, and that counting fighters aligned with Al Qaeda brought the militants’ ranks in the country to more than 1,000.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity under the command’s ground rules for news media interviews on intelligence matters, said many of the remaining Islamic State fighters had been drawn to the conflict from Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan and other countries in the region.

American intelligence agencies have offered wide-ranging estimates on the peak number of Islamic State fighters in Libya — mainly in Surt, but also in Benghazi and Tripoli — with some assessments this year topping 5,000 militants.

Although the Islamic State has lost its main base in Libya, it could reorganize as an underground terrorist network by activating the pockets of support it enjoys in cities like Tripoli and Benghazi, and by tapping into the networks of other jihadist groups like Ansar al-Shariah.

“Is jihadism down and out in Libya? No,” said Frederic Wehrey, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. He pointed to a cocktail of factors that helped the jihadist cause, including economic collapse, the contraction of civil society and the rise of authoritarianism in eastern Libya. “These are not good signs for the destruction of radicalism,” he said.

Last year’s Islamic State assault on the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli, which killed 10 people, including an American, provides a possible template for future actions intended to destabilize the country’s fragile United Nations-backed unity government.

But since the assault on Surt started in May, the Islamic State has not carried out any major bombings in Tripoli, which raises questions about the group’s capabilities. In February, American warplanes devastated a major training camp outside the western town of Sabratha, killing at least 43 people, including a commander linked to attacks against Western tourists in Tunisia last year.

The siege of Surt revealed tensions between local and foreign fighters inside the Islamic State ranks. As the forces from nearby Misurata pressed the siege in recent months, Libyan news media outlets reported divisions between Libyan militants who wanted to surrender and foreign jihadists who were determined to fight to the death.

This past summer, the Obama administration deemed Surt an “area of active hostilities,” after the Libyan prime minister asked for assistance in dislodging Islamic State militants from that city. The move exempted the area from 2013 rules that restrict drone strikes and other counterterrorism operations away from battlefield zones, which President Obama had announced in a major speech that year that sought to turn a page in the long-running war against Al Qaeda.

As of this week, Africa Command had carried out 495 airstrikes against militants in Surt since August.

Pentagon and Africa Command officials said there were no plans to expand authorities to conduct airstrikes beyond Surt, although United States officials have said they will consider additional requests from Libyan officials.

Under the procedures set up for the Surt operation, Libyan ground commanders meet at a Libyan operations center outside Surt with American Special Operations forces who have been in the country for months. The Libyan commanders request targets they want the Americans to hit, such as T-72 tanks.

The American forces, working with military spotters and officials at Africa Command, analyze the prospective targets using imagery from American surveillance drones and other intelligence. If deemed valid and not too great a risk to civilians, the targets are approved for attack.

The United States began flying unarmed surveillance drone missions this summer in Libya from bases in neighboring Tunisia, a significant expansion of that country’s counterterrorism cooperation with the Pentagon.

Tunisia, which has suffered several devastating terrorist attacks, had already built a 125-mile earthen wall, which stretches about half of the length of its border with Libya, in an attempt to prevent militants from infiltrating. “We are ready,” Faysal Gouia, Tunisia’s ambassador to Washington, said in an interview.

Declan Walsh contributed reporting from Cairo.

nytimes.com/2016/12/08/us/politics/libya-isis-sirte.html?ref=world

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Norwegian Refugee Council Director Expelled From South Sudan

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESSDEC. 9, 2016

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — South Sudan has expelled the country director of the Norwegian Refugee Council, the aid group announced Friday.

The group's secretary-general, Jan Egeland, gave no details in a statement but called the expulsion of Victor Moses "a serious setback to our humanitarian work" in the East African country where civil war erupted three years ago.

Earlier Friday, NRC spokeswoman Tuva Bognes told The Associated Press that a staffer had been detained by South Sudan's National Security Service after its officials came to the aid group's offices in the capital, Juba, on Thursday.

Bognes said the NRC had no idea why their colleague had been taken away.

South Sudan Minister of Information Michael Makuei and other South Sudanese officials could not be reached for comment.

The NRC has been in South Sudan since its independence in 2011, and it stepped up its activities after civil war broke out. Tens of thousands have been killed in the fighting, and more than one million people have fled the country.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently warned that there is "a very real risk of mass atrocities being committed in South Sudan, in particular following the sharp rise in hate speech and ethnic incitement."

Egeland, the NRC secretary-general, called on South Sudan's government to reverse its decision to expel the country director, saying the removal "may negatively impact the ability for humanitarian organizations at large to operate in South Sudan."

Last week, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator said South Sudan's government had placed a series of restrictions on the delivery of aid. In the month of November, the U.N. recorded more than 80 incidents where aid workers had been attacked or blocked from doing their job.

South Sudan's government has repeatedly promised aid workers full access across the country.

Lynch reported from Kampala, Uganda.

nytimes.com/aponline/2016/12/09/world/europe/ap-eu-norway-south-sudan.html?ref=world&_r=0

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Southeast Asia

UN Calls on Myanmar's Suu Kyi to End Military Crackdown on Muslim Rohingya

December, 09, 2016

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – The United Nations urged Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi to visit the north of Rakhine state to put an end to a brutal military crackdown on the Muslim Rohingya minority.

The Nobel peace prize winner has faced growing international criticism for not stopping the military's campaign, which has pushed more than 20,000 Rohingya over the border to Bangladesh.

Escapees have told AFP shocking stories of mass rape, murder and arson at the hands of security forces, which took control of the area after raids on police posts in October.

Malaysia has accused Myanmar's army of "genocide", a charge Myanmar officials have vehemently denied.

Suu Kyi, a so-called democracy activist who came to power in March, has described the situation as "under control" and asked the international community to stop stoking the "fires of resentment".

In a statement released in New York on Thursday, UN special adviser on Myanmar Vijay Nambiar appealed directly to the peace icon to intervene.

"The adoption of a generally defensive rather than proactive approach to providing security to the local population (has) caused frustration locally and disappointment internationally," he said, according to AFP.

"I also appeal to Daw Suu to visit Maungdaw and Buthidaung and reassure the civilian population there that they will be protected," he added, referring to the locked down area in Rakhine.

The bloodshed presents the biggest challenge to Suu Kyi since her party won Myanmar's first democratic elections in a generation last year.

It has galvanized Muslim nations around the region, with protesters decrying the crackdown as the culmination of years of discrimination and abuse suffered by the stateless Rohingya.

On Sunday, Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak taunted Suu Kyi before a crowd of some 5,000 protesters in Kuala Lumpur.

"What's the use of Aung San Suu Kyi having a Nobel prize?" he asked the protesters.

"The world cannot sit and watch genocide taking place."

Before the current escalation in violence, over 120,000 Rohingya Muslims had already been trapped in squalid displacement camps dating back to the last major outbreak of violence by Buddhists in Rakhine in 2012.

tasnimnews.com/en/news/2016/12/09/1262793/un-calls-on-myanmar-s-suu-kyi-to-end-military-crackdown-on-muslim-rohingya

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Video showing 'Muslim' toddler tortured by 'Buddhist' in Burma not all it seems

 

Horrifying videos showing a man using an electronic device to torture a toddler have been circulating on social media over the past few days. Several media sources as well as many social media users claimed that the video showed a “Rohingya Muslim child” being tortured by a “Buddhist” in Burma. However, in reality, this awful scene took place in Cambodia, not Burma, and the victim isn’t Rohingya.

France 24 decided to only use blurred screen grabs of the videos. The footage shows a man, crouching on the floor, who extends a device like a taser towards a tiny child. The toddler screams. The man also tries to put something in the child’s mouth. He then grabs the little boy’s hair and shakes the child’s head before tying a blindfold over his eyes.

Screengrab of one of the videos circulating online. France 24 blurred the image.

The man in the video points his electronic device towards the child’s genitals. (Screengrab, image blurred by France 24).

The man also blindfolded the child, as you can see in this screengrab of the video that was widely shared on Facebook.

Since Tuesday, this footage has been widely shared online, especially by several Arabic-language media, which claimed that the little boy is Rohingya, a persecuted Muslim minority in Burma, where the majority of the country is Buddhist. Most Rohingya people live in Arakan state in western Burma.

“A Rohingya child is tortured with a Taser”, reads the headline in Jordan Zad. This Jordanian news site is far from the only media source that claimed that the boy in the video is Rohingya. France 24 blurred these images.

Suivre

 أموي نيوز @ALAMAWI

شاهد كيف يتم تعذيب طفل مسلم من الروهنجيا بصاعق كهربائي .. منظمات حقوق الاطفال ﻻ يظهرون الا اذا كان الطفل ليس مسلمtwitter.com/muslim3un/status/806181852558032896/video/1 …

15:19 - 7 Déc 2016

  186 186 Retweets   67 67 j'aime

Look how this baby was tortured. Human rights NGOs only intervene when the child isn’t Muslim,” wrote this angry social media user. Many people expressed their anger after seeing these images on Facebook and other social media sites.

READ MORE ON THE OBSERVERS: Fresh wave of violence against Rohingya, leaving behind charred corpses

The Saudi website "No rumors", which specialises in debunking false information quickly identified the real source of this footage. The video was published earlier this week by the daily English-language newspaper “The Cambodia Daily” in an article called Child Torture videos lead to three arrests”.

 Suivre

 هيئة مكافحة الإشاعات @No_Rumors

ماتم نشره عن بوذي يعذب طفلًا مسلمًا في #بورما غير صحيح، والصور مأخوذة من فيديو تعذيب لطفل كمبودي بواسطة رجل فيتنامي بمزرعة في كمبوديا.

14:53 - 8 Déc 2016 • Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

According to this daily newspaper, the Cambodian police launched an investigation after these videos were published online. On Tuesday, they arrested three people in Kompong Cham province. One suspect is a Dutchman who owns a plantation in Mondolkiri province in eastern Cambodia. Two Cambodians who work who him were also arrested. Police are still searching for a fourth suspect, a Vietnamese national who is thought to have tortured the child on camera.

Police confirmed that the incident occurred at the Dutchman's plantation. The child’s mother was his employee. She told police that the boy had also likely been raped.

The incident has received wide coverage on Vietnamese television.

While the Rohingya people are victims of real persecution in Burma, a lot of false information about the crimes committed against them circulates online. Last June, another video showing a child being tortured was widely shared as proof of further abuse against the Rohingya people. However, the video turned out to have been filmed in China.

observers.france24.com/en/20161209-video-apparently-showing-muslim-toddler-tortured-not-seems-burma-cambodia-rohingya

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Mideast

300 Turkish commandos to join Operation Euphrates Shield

December/09/2016

The special troops of the 11th Command Brigade departed from the Çardak Military Airport in the western province of Denizli, said a source who spoke on condition of anonymity.     

The special operation forces known as the Blue Berets were airlifted to the Syrian border, the source added.

The forces are being sent to northern Syria to reinforce the troops. Around 20 Turkish soldiers have been killed since the launch of the operation on Aug. 24, with the aim of clearing its border with Syria of terrorist groups, which include the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG).

Meanwhile, Ankara-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters have largely seized control of the al-Bab-Manbij highway as a part of the Euphrates Shield operation, the Turkish Armed Forces stated on Dec. 9.

The military said in a statement that FSA fighters had mostly seized control of the highway, along with the Zarzur residential area, on the 108th day of the operation.

Turkish warplanes also conducted an air operation in the region, destroying 34 ISIL targets, militant bases, shelters, vehicles mounted with guns, and ammunition depots, a second military statement said on Dec. 9. Ten targets had also been hit the day before.

According to military, the jihadist group also hid its armed terrorist elements in al-Bab near hospitals and public buildings to minimize the influence of FSA fighters in the region.

“There is a major assault under way,” a fighter with the Turkmen Sultan Murad brigade speaking from inside Syria told Reuters. “God willing we will break [ISIL] resistance this time. Very powerful troops were sent last night.”

Syrian government forces press attack in east Aleppo

The Syrian army pressed an offensive in Aleppo on Dec. 9 with ground fighting and air strikes in an operation to retake all of the city’s besieged rebel-held east that would bring victory in the civil war closer for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, one day after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the Syrian army had halted military activity to let civilians leave rebel-held areas, RIA news agency reported.

“The advance is going according to plan and is sometimes faster than expected,” a Syrian military source told Reuters on Dec. 9, adding that the Syrian army and its allies had recaptured 32 of east Aleppo’s 40 neighborhoods, about 85 percent of the area. 

Reuters witnesses, rebels and a monitor on Dec. 9 confirmed the military thrust. There were no reports the Syrian army had made significant gains.

Despite Lavrov’s announcement, there was no sign on the ground that fighting had slowed.

Russia’s air force and Iran-backed Shiite militias are also fighting in Aleppo on the government side. Rebel leaders have given no sign they are about to withdraw as the civilian population is squeezed into an ever-decreasing area.

The Russian military said on Dec. 9 it had helped more than 8,000 Syrian citizens flee parts of eastern Aleppo still controlled by rebels in the last 24 hours, including almost 3,000 children. This could not be independently verified.

hurriyetdailynews.com/300-turkish-commandos-to-join-operation-euphrates-shield.aspx?pageID=238&nID=107096&NewsCatID=352

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US denies plans to send crucial stinger missiles to PYD

December/09/2016

A U.S. official has categorically denied recent media reports claiming that Washington was preparing to send Stinger missiles, an effective weapon in air defense, to the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Ankara considers a terrorist group.

“It’s not true,” a U.S. official told the Hürriyet Daily News while commenting on reports that appeared in the media on Dec. 9.

“They appear to be confused about how our congress works,” the official said on condition of anonymity, elaborating on the U.S. regulation to send arms to foreign groups.

“It is true the congress authorized the administration to provide Manpads to the Syrian opposition. This would allow the president to do so if he chooses to – but it does not require him to do so,” the official said.

Reports in the Turkish media said both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate had approved the sending of Stinger Man-Portable Air Defense System (MANPADS) to the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the armed wing of the PYD.

“It will be the president’s decision whether he decides to do so. So far, he has not chosen to – in part because of concerns that they could end up with groups that would use them against civil aviation in Turkey, Europe or elsewhere,” the U.S. official said.

“Second, this is aimed at the groups fighting under the Free Syrian Army [FSA] to address the problem they face from regime air strikes. We don’t provide equipment to groups if there is not a need for it. And we have been very careful not to provide anything in Syria that would end up improving the PKK’s [the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] capabilities,” the official said.

Turkey and U.S. have been engaged in a split since Washington backs the PYD in the ongoing fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Turkey, on the other hand, supports Syrian rebels as part of its ongoing Euphrates Shield operation to clear its borders of both the PYD and ISIL.

hurriyetdailynews.com/us-denies-plans-to-send-crucial-stinger-missiles-to-pyd-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=107122&NewsCatID=352

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Press organizations say #FreeTurkeyJournalists for arrested journos

December/09/2016

The hashtag “#FreeTurkeyJournalists” circulated on Twitter on Dec. 9 by Turkish and international press organizations as part of a social media campaign to bring attention to 146 journalists imprisoned by decree laws ordered under the state of emergency declared after the July 15 coup attempt.

The journalists will enter the new year in prison.

Press organizations took to Twitter on Dec. 9 at 11 a.m. with the #FreeTurkeyJournalists hashtag in English and #GazetecilikSuçDeğildir (journalism is not a crime) in Turkish.

The social media campaign will be followed by a demonstration outside Istanbul’s Silivri prison on Dec. 10 on World Human Rights Day.

Among the press organizations that will stand in solidarity with the imprisoned journalists are International Press Institute (IPI), PEN International, Turkish Journalists Association, Turkish Journalists Union, DİSK Basın-İş, Haber-Sen, PEN Turkey, Turkish Writers Union, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), International Journalists Federation, the European Journalists Federation, WAN-IFRA, EAJ, SEEMO, IFEX, Article 19 and Index on Censorship.

The organizations are demanding the 146 journalists be tried without arrest and ensure press freedom is implemented in the country.

Press freedom groups have continuously criticized prison conditions, which have prevented them from accessing books and letters sent to them and banned from meeting supporters in prison visits.

hurriyetdailynews.com/press-organizations-say-freeturkeyjournalists-for-arrested-journos.aspx?pageID=238&nID=107126&NewsCatID=339

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AKP, MHP fully agree on charter shift draft

December/09/2016

The constitutional amendment package introducing a shift to a presidential system will be submitted to Turkey’s parliament on Dec. 10, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has said, calling for the public to vote in favor of the change “for a stronger democracy.”

“With this proposal, Turkey and the Turkish people will experience a new period that introduces strong parliament and strong executive for a stronger democracy and ends the era of coalitions … We will submit our proposal to parliament tomorrow,” Yıldırım said in an address at a rally in the northwestern province of Zonguldak on Dec. 9.

His statement came after officials from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) concluded weeks-long efforts on the blueprint late on Dec. 8. Officials from the two parties were trying to finalize the preamble of the constitutional changes through Dec. 9.

Respective representatives from the AKP and the MHP, Abdurrahim Gül and Mehmet Parsak, are expected to make a joint statement on Dec. 10 before the draft is submitted to parliament. The AKP had already collected the signatures of its 315 lawmakers by late Dec. 8 in order to submit the draft to parliament without delay.

Speaking to reporters in Istanbul on Dec. 9, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the changes, contained in a package of around 20 articles, would most likely have to be passed via referendum.

“The chairmen [of the AKP and the MHP] have come to an agreement. This process will follow with works at the commission and [with a vote] at the General Assembly … We will make our deliberations after [it is passed at parliament] and will then take it to the people [in a referendum],” Erdoğan said.

Any constitutional change needs the support of at least 330 deputies in Turkey’s 550-seat assembly to go to a referendum. The AKP has 316 lawmakers eligible for voting and the MHP has 39.

Presidential powers to be expanded

The planned constitutional amendment package envisages the expansion of the president’s powers as the sole head of the executive. The president will have two vice presidents and will appoint ministers. The new system will abolish the position of the prime minister.

The president will have the authority to issue decrees on issues other than personal rights and fundamental freedoms according to the content of the amendments. The system will begin to be implemented by 2019 and until that time current President Erdoğan will be given some additional powers through provisional articles.

The president will also be able to retain links to the political party he or she is a member of and will be able to continue as its chairman while serving as the head of state.

The system will begin to be used in full after presidential and parliamentary elections in 2019, which will be held simultaneously.  

Referendum scheduled for spring 2017

Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli told private broadcaster A Haber on Dec. 9 that the government plans to hold the referendum by next May. 

“The referendum looks like it could be held around March or April, but it could also be pushed to May,” Canikli said, ruling out any early election before 2019. He also said he expected all members of the AKP to vote in favor of the proposal, in addition to the MHP.

The shift to presidential system will put an en do the era of coalition governments, PM Binali Yıldırım says.

hurriyetdailynews.com/akp-mhp-fully-agree-on-charter-shift-draft.aspx?pageID=238&nID=107121&NewsCatID=338

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Iran, Switzerland Keen to Deepen Trade Ties

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Chargé d'Affaires to Switzerland Mehdi Abedi voiced his optimism about the prospects of trade relations between Iran and Switzerland, saying that the two countries' economic ties are entering a new phase of cooperation.

"The expansion of ties with Switzerland is important as the country is regarded as one of the world's most important financial and economic center," Abedi said on Friday.

He reiterated that after the implementation of the JCPOA, Switzerland also removed sanctions on Iran and new movements were started in different economic fields like last year's visit of the Swiss president to Iran during which both sides agreed on drawing a road map of all-out ties.

Abedi said that Iran's Presidential Chief of Staff Mohammad Nahavandian's meeting with the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) on Thursday was held to develop banking ties.

Nahavandian arrived in Switzerland on December 7 (Wednesday evening) to discuss promotion of bilateral banking relations and financial cooperation in meetings with the Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann and bankers.

President Schneider-Ammann, heading a 45-member delegation, had traveled to Iran on February 26, 2016.

The Swiss president met with the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as well as a number of other senior Iranian officials.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950919000886

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Iran, Norway Opt for Broadening Mutual Cooperation

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Ambassador to Norway Mohammad Hassan Habibollahzadeh and Norwegian King Harald V in a meeting in Oslo on Friday underlined the need for expanding bilateral ties.

During the meeting in the Norwegian capital today, Habibollahzadeh and King Harald V explored avenues for bolstering and reinvigorating mutual cooperation.

During the meeting, Habibollahzadeh proposed a cooperation framework for broadening of bilateral ties between Iran and Norway in political and economic fields, and said, "Tehran is ready to further develop ties with Oslo."

In early October, Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende announced that Oslo has opened a one-billion-dollar credit line to help the Norwegian companies with export of their commodities to Iran.

"About $400 million dollars of that credit line ($1 billion has been used to export the modern technologies to Iran," Brende said in a meeting with Iranian Economy Minister Ali Tayyebnia in Washington.

In March, Norwegian Ambassador in Tehran Odyssey Norheim underlined that Norway and Iran are keen to boost the level of their bilateral relations.

"The Norway-Iran relations are booming after the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and the removal of sanctions," Norheim said in a meeting with Kerman Governor-General Alireza Razmhosseini.

She pointed to a recent visit by the Norwegian foreign minister to Tehran, and said, "Norway's foreign minister traveled to Iran after 12 years and this will result in enhancing our mutual cooperation."

Norheim said she met the CEOs of the Norwegian companies in Iran and the heads of Iranian firms in Oslo to find out more about the existing capacities for cooperation in oil, gas, marine industries and alternative energies.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950919000872

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Commander: Iranian Army's Ground Forces to Stage Major Drills in Southeast Iran

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Ground Force Commander Brigadier General Kioumars Heidari announced on Friday that his forces are preparing to stage major military exercises in the Southeastern parts of the country to enhance their combat preparedness.

"These exercises will be staged at three tactical phases with the use of state-of-the-art equipment,” Brigadier General Heidari said.

He noted that the three-day drills will start on Sunday.

"Such modern equipment had been deployed in previous drills but the Iranian Ground Forces have upgraded their quality and will study their new precision and range during the upcoming exercises," the Iranian commander added.

Iran has conducted major military drills over recent years to enhance the defense capabilities of its Armed Forces and to test modern military tactics and state-of-the-art army equipment.

Iran has reiterated that its military exercises pose no threat to other countries, saying that its defense doctrine is merely based on deterrence.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950919000858

 

URL: http://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/triple-talaq-issue--clerics-oppose,-activists-hail-hc’s-remarks/d/109331

 

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