New Age Islam
Sun Oct 25 2020, 12:35 PM

Islamic World News ( 25 Feb 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Trump Praises Modi’s Record on Religious Tolerance as Violence Erupts over India’s Treatment of Muslims







• New Delhi Streets Turn into Battleground, Two Hindu Women seen Brandishing Sticks and Threatening Journalists

• ‘Never Thought Hindu-Muslim Riots Are Possible in Delhi, We’ve always Co-Existed peacefully’: Jaffrabad Resident

• US Lawmakers Express Concern over Delhi Violence

• An Exodus Of British Muslims Is Happening Right Under Our Noses – And Still We’re Asking Whether Islamophobia Exists

• Qatar Invites Pakistan for US-Taliban Peace Deal Signing

• Maldives Hires Amal Clooney to Fight for Rohingya Muslims at UN Court

• Singapore New Mufti to Tap Podcasts, Social Media to Engage Muslims

• Trials in Saudi Arabia Not Legal, Sham, Cover for Suppression: Dissident Rights Activist

• Iran Accuses White House of Concealing Facts about Missile Attack in Iraq

• Al-Bashir's Handover Decision To ICC Divides Sudanese

 

India

• Trump Praises Modi’s Record on Religious Tolerance as Violence Erupts over India’s Treatment of Muslims

• New Delhi Streets Turn into Battleground, Two Hindu Women seen Brandishing Sticks and Threatening Journalists

• ‘Never Thought Hindu-Muslim Riots Are Possible in Delhi, We’ve always Co-Existed peacefully’: Jaffrabad Resident

• 23 Dead In Delhi Violence, PM Modi Appeals For "Peace, Brotherhood"

• Muslim Cemetery Desecrated and Shops Set On Fire, But Police Missing In Action in Delhi

• In Delhi's Yamuna Vihar, Hindus And Muslims Wage A United Battle Against Riots

• 20 dead in Delhi violence; Amit Shah, Ajit Doval chair emergency meetings

• Trump praised for raising issue of religious freedom, plight of minorities in India

• There was no Pakistani aircraft within 150 kms of our strike package, says former IAF Chief on Balakot airstrike

• Balakot Air Strike Anniversary: When IAF's Jets Crossed Pakistan Border

• ‘No major terror attack after Balakot as they were scared’: Ex-IAF chief

• PM Modi said he bats for religious freedom: Donald Trump

• Delhi violence: I&B ministry cautions channels against content inciting violence

• Shaheen Bagh protest: SC says ‘too many if’s and but’s’ in interlocutors report

• Trump India visit: Joining hands, from Afghanistan-Pakistan to NSG

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North America

• US Lawmakers Express Concern over Delhi Violence

• US: Bernie Sanders Calls Netanyahu 'Reactionary Racist'

• Time to come home from Afghanistan: Trump

• US Sanctions Chinese Entities for Supporting Iran's Missile Program

• US military says killed militant leader behind attack on base in Kenya

• Pompeo: Iran may have suppressed vital COVID-19 details

• US sanctions 13 people and entities for supporting Iran missile programme

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Europe

• An Exodus Of British Muslims Is Happening Right Under Our Noses – And Still We’re Asking Whether Islamophobia Exists

• UK takes action to ban two right-wing terrorist groups

• US-Taliban peace talks left British and Nato partners trailing Washington’s moves

• Britain sanctions African ISIS affiliate groups

• French to chair Sahel talks aimed at curbing Islamist insurgency

• French extremist trained by Paris attacks leader given 12-year jail term

• Saudi envoy to UK visits London mosque

• First round of Libyan political talks to begin Wednesday

• France jails ISIS fighter trained by leader of Paris attacks

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Pakistan

• Qatar Invites Pakistan for US-Taliban Peace Deal Signing

• Qureshi Lauds Trump’s Praise of Pakistan in India Tour

• At UNHRC, Pakistan demands release of all Jammu & Kashmir politicians

• Punjab govt not to extend bail granted to Nawaz Sharif for treatment abroad

• Asia Bibi, Pakistani accused of blasphemy, yearns to return home

• JI points to no mention of citizenship act by Trump

• 306 Iranians allowed to cross border, return home

• PPP asks CEC to take action against Sindh IGP for ‘misconduct’

• LHC seeks AGP’s help on Maryam’s plea for permission to go abroad

• SC to take up Musharraf’s plea against registrar ruling

• ‘Imran mafia’ can’t hide wrongdoings through tweets: Marriyum

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South Asia

• Maldives Hires Amal Clooney to Fight for Rohingya Muslims at UN Court

• Japan To Extend Another $17M For Rohingya In Bangladesh

• Dozens introduced to Afghanistan’s prosecutor’s office for commenting in Facebook

• Trump talks about India’s position on signing of peace deal between the U.S. and Taliban

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Southeast Asia

• Singapore New Mufti to Tap Podcasts, Social Media to Engage Muslims

• Ex-Selangor PAS youth leader to pay RM80, 000 to Teresa Kok for calling her ‘anti-Islam’

• Fund-raising drive by Muslim community to help those affected by coronavirus

• All 92 Pakatan Harapan lawmakers back PKR chief Anwar Ibrahim as Malaysia's prime minister: Sources

• Factbox: Malaysia's Mahathir masters political art of quitting to assert power

• Barisan Nasional, PAS call for parliament to be dissolved and elections held

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Arab World

• Trials in Saudi Arabia Not Legal, Sham, Cover for Suppression: Dissident Rights Activist

• Death of the ‘Accidental Pharaoh’: Arab And World Leaders React To Passing Of Hosni Mubarak

• Hosni Mubarak: Egypt’s warrior leader left his mark on Middle East history

• Hezbollah says it opposes IMF management of Lebanon crisis

• Iraqi forces kill one protester in Baghdad, wound 24: Sources

• Syrian regime retakes symbolic town of Kafranbel in Idlib: Monitor

• Kuwait suspends all flights to and from Singapore, Japan over coronavirus fears

• Russia’s FM Lavrov rejects Idlib ceasefire as ‘capitulating before terrorists’

• Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has died

• 3 more Iran travelers infected with coronavirus in Bahrain, bringing total to 26

• Saudi-led blockade against Qatari nationals based on racial profiling: Top Official

• Syrian troops press ahead with campaign as strikes kill 16

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Mideast

• Iran Accuses White House of Concealing Facts about Missile Attack in Iraq

• Israel’s Netanyahu revives settlement plan opponents say cuts off East Jerusalem

• Iran’s deputy health minister has coronavirus, test confirms: Adviser

• Iran regime most likely ‘to blame’ for coronavirus spread in Iran: US State Dept

• Aid agencies preparing to suspend aid to Houthi areas in Yemen: US official

• UN Security Council approves resolution extending Yemen sanctions

• Trump confessed Iran hates Daesh, US stole Syrian oil: Zarif

• Iran raps international inaction on repeated Israeli crimes against Palestinians

• UN Security Council urges two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict

• Israel’s desecration of Palestinian corpse in Gaza war crime: Rights group

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Africa

• Al-Bashir's Handover Decision To ICC Divides Sudanese

• My Government Has Weakened Boko Haram’s Capacity —Buhari

• In West Africa, U.S. Military Struggles for Scarce Resources as Terrorism Threat Grows

• 3 Terrorist Camps Discovered in Tunisia’s Kasserine Mountains

• US airstrike kills senior al-Shabaab leader

• Libyan gov't has right to defend itself: Al-Sarraj

• UN: Libya's Warring Sides Agree to Cement Cease-Fire Deal

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/trump-praises-modi’s-record-on-religious-tolerance-as-violence-erupts-over-india’s-treatment-of-muslims/d/121160

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Trump praises Modi’s record on religious tolerance as violence erupts over India’s treatment of Muslims

By Anne Gearan,, Joanna Slater,, Seung Min Kim and Niha Masih

February 25, 2020

NEW DELHI — As violence erupted in the streets Tuesday over a citizenship law that critics say discriminates against Muslims, President Trump defended Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s record on religious tolerance as he closed out a two-day visit to India that served as a celebration of the bond between two nationalist leaders.

Trump avoided any public criticism of his host — whose political biography is also built partly on religious and cultural divisions — along with any comparison of Modi’s policies with his own treatment of Muslim immigrants.

“We did talk about religious freedom, and I will say that the prime minister was incredible in what he told me. He wants people to have religious freedom and very strongly,” Trump said during a news conference that capped the public portion of his largely ceremonial visit.

Modi, who leads the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, has insisted that the citizenship law aims to help persecuted religious minorities in three nearby countries. But critics say it is unconstitutional and discriminates against India’s Muslim minority.

At least 17 people were killed, including a police officer, in clashes in the capital city during Trump’s visit. The violence began when supporters of the citizenship law confronted opponents of the measure.

A heavy police presence in the affected areas failed to stem the violence. Large gatherings were banned, subway stations in the surrounding areas were shut, and schools remained closed. Images of billowing smoke from gutted vehicles and shops were shared widely on social media. Several journalists were attacked.

Trump’s India visit opens with more symbolism than substance as he celebrates ties with a fellow nationalist

The U.S. State Department has repeatedly expressed concerns about the crackdown in Muslim-majority Kashmir after Modi revoked its autonomy. The citizenship law, along with India’s other actions, has drawn bipartisan criticism in Congress, but Trump tread lightly.

The president said he had “asked that question” during a closed-door meeting Tuesday, but he was vague about whether he criticized Modi for his decision.

“I don’t want to discuss that,” he said when asked for his opinion of the law. “I want to leave that to India, and hopefully they’re going to make the right decision for the people.”

He did not elaborate, but that may have been a reference to admonitions from the State Department and elsewhere that India should abide by its secular constitution and refrain from appearing to promote one religious or ethnic group over another.

Protests have broken out across the country since the law was passed in December. It creates a fast track to citizenship for undocumented immigrants belonging to six religions, barring Islam.

The flowering of Trump’s admiration and affection for Modi appeared to be the main achievement of the packed schedule that took Trump to Modi’s home region and the Taj Mahal before arriving in New Delhi.

There was also relief that the visit came off without major gaffes or embarrassment on either side.

Trump has a history of errors related to India and its neighbors. He once surprised Modi by asserting that India does not share a border with China (it does). He publicly mocked India, which has committed billions of dollars to the reconstruction of Afghanistan, for building only a “library” there (he possibly mistook the Afghan parliament building, which India funded, for a library).

Trump joked at the outset of the news conference Tuesday that he would “be not at all controversial because I don’t want to blow the two days plus two days of travel on one answer.” He mistakenly said that India’s population is larger than China’s, but he otherwise got through the 45-minute question-and-answer session without much issue.

Trump’s good mood was evident throughout, buoyed by celebratory events in his honor and the warmth of his relationship with Modi, a fellow nationalist iconoclast.

Instead of the glowering figure Trump sometimes cuts overseas, he appeared cheerful in most public appearances, and he seemed moved by the more solemn occasions, such as a wreath-laying Tuesday in remembrance of Indian independence leader Mohandas Gandhi.

In one of the most striking scenes of the trip, Trump and first lady Melania Trump lofted handfuls of flower petals above the memorial, filling the air with a cloud of red.

“This is not from me. This is from just about everybody that saw, they saw that in the history of India, which has a long history and a brilliant history in so many different ways, there’s never been a reception given to somebody like was given” to him, Trump said. “And I would like to say for the United States of America that nobody else that came here got the kind of reception we have,” Trump said, touting the size of crowds that turned out to see him in Ahmedabad and New Delhi.

Trump is the fourth consecutive U.S. president to visit India while in office.

“It was a great compliment to our country” to be received so warmly, he said.

Trump plays unusual role of warm-up act at massive Modi rally in Houston

The bonhomie and praise for Modi’s leadership was all the more striking for its contrast with an apparent communal riot between Hindus and Muslims.

An image of a Muslim man bloodied and surrounded with stick-wielding men shared by ­Reuters went viral. India is a ­Hindu-majority country but has the second-largest population of Muslims in the world.

Modi came to prominence as the state chief of Gujarat, where some 1,000 Muslims were massacred on his watch in 2002. The incident, in which Modi denies culpability, led to his being refused a U.S. visa for years. A panel appointed by the Indian Supreme Court ruled that there was no evidence to charge Modi with a crime, but the incident has hung over his career.

As a 2016 presidential candidate, Trump called for a “Muslim ban” on immigration to the United States, and he branded nearly all terrorism as “radical Islamic terrorism,” a phrase he used to Modi’s approval during his visit here.

Trump and Modi issued joint statements praising the growing defense cooperation between the two countries, but they did not field questions together. They acknowledged that a trade deal between the two nations remains distant.

“We’ve had a couple of really great days in India,” Trump said Tuesday.

“Prime Minister Modi is a terrific man, he’s a terrific leader, and we have a lot of things going in terms of products being purchased by India.”

Modi was not there to hear the compliment. Although they spent much of the day together, including at a state banquet of salmon and grilled goat, Modi is known for not having held a news conference in his six years as prime minister.

Earlier Tuesday, Trump and Modi claimed progress toward a comprehensive trade deal.

Trump predicted that a successful deal is in the offing, but he gave no deadline. The White House had once hoped to have the agreement ready in September, when Modi visited the United States.

Trump said Tuesday that the pact would probably wait until the end of this year, meaning after the U.S. presidential election.

Modi said he and Trump had talked trade and had agreed “to take it forward and give it legal shape.”

“We have also agreed to initiate discussions for a bigger deal,” Modi said, through an interpreter. “We are confident that this will be a good result that will be in our mutual interest.”

Trump’s 36 hours in India: What you need to know

Updated February 25, 2020

President Trump’s whirlwind, two-day trip to India ended with more symbolism than substance.

On his first day in India, Trump visited the ashram where Mohandas Gandhi lived for 13 years, addressed a stadium of 100,000 with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and toured the Taj Mahal. His second day was full of meetings with politicians and business leaders.

Despite an outbreak of violence in Delhi during his visit, Trump declined to engage in anything that might be construed as criticism of Modi or his government, except on the issue of trade. A long-anticipated trade deal remained elusive.

Trump’s business ties with India: India is home to the largest portfolio of Trump real estate projects outside North America. Here’s what you need to know about his ventures.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-india-modi-citizenship-law-muslims/2020/02/25/9358aef8-57b5-11ea-ab68-101ecfec2532_story.html

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New Delhi Streets Turn into Battleground, Two Hindu Women seen Brandishing Sticks And Threatening Journalists

By Jeffrey Gettleman, Suhasini Raj and Sameer Yasir

Feb. 25, 2020

NEW DELHI — A mob of Hindu men, their foreheads marked by a saffron stripe, angrily patrolled the streets carrying iron bars, clubs and a bright blue aluminum baseball bat. They were itching for a fight.

The streets in the New Delhi neighborhood were littered with scraps of bricks. All shops were closed and almost no women or children were out — except for two Hindu women brandishing sticks and threatening journalists.

Gangs of Hindus and Muslims have been clashing in the neighborhood, Maujpur, and surrounding areas since Sunday, killing at least 11 people, including a police officer bashed in the head with a rock.

While President Trump and his host, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, discussed geopolitics and lunched together in another part of the capital, thousands of furious residents faced off again, hurling petrol bombs, attacking vehicles, hospitalizing several journalists and drawing more and more police officers and paramilitary troops.

The violence is connected to the continuing protests against India’s divisive citizenship law, but this was the first time that the protests have set off major bloodshed between Hindus and Muslims. It is an old and dangerous fault line, and any sign of communal violence raises alarm instantly.

“The situation is volatile and tense,” said Alok Kumar, a senior police officer. “It’s a mixed neighborhood, and in seconds you can have crowds of tens of thousands. Even a small thing can lead to violence.”

In the Muslim quarters, many people felt victimized and accused Mr. Modi’s government of abandoning them. This is a longstanding grievance: that Mr. Modi’s governing political party, which is rooted in a Hindu-nationalist worldview, has taken sides and abetted violent religious extremists.

Mr. Modi had choreographed Mr. Trump’s visit as a demonstration of India’s rising stature on the world stage, seeking to turn the page on months of street protests.

But demonstrations keep breaking out against the citizenship law, which makes it easier for migrants of every significant South Asian religion except Islam to become Indian citizens. Hundreds of thousands of Indian Muslims have protested, joined by students, academics, human rights activists and those worried about the country’s direction. Many of them say the new law is a grave threat to India’s traditions as a secular and inclusive nation.

Since last year’s election handed Mr. Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party another term in power, many Indians feared a resurgence of communal violence, sparked by Hindu triumphalism and Muslim desperation. Until now, however, most of the demonstrations remained peaceful.

Maujpur is a working-class neighborhood about a half-hour’s drive from the center of Delhi. Gray two- and three-story buildings stand along its roads, housing small factories and many migrant workers.

For the past several weeks, Muslim residents, many of them women, have been protesting the citizenship law. On Saturday night, they began to block a major road.

The next day, Kapil Mishra, a local leader from Mr. Modi’s political party, showed up. He threatened to mobilize a mob to clear out the protesters. He said he did not want to create trouble while Mr. Trump was visiting, but he warned the police that as soon as Mr. Trump left India on Tuesday night, his followers would clear the streets if the police did not.

Tensions shot up. As Sunday evening approached, gangs of Hindu men and Muslim men began throwing rocks at each other. This quickly degenerated into wider violence, with Hindu residents accusing Muslims of attacking Hindu statues and Muslim residents expressing fear that a Hindu mob was forming to get them.

Shoaib Ahmad, a Muslim businessman who makes a living repairing tires, said his shop was burned down Monday night by a Hindu mob as he stood on the roof of his house.

“All my dreams were destroyed in those flames,” Mr. Ahmad said.

What made it even worse, he said, was that police officers encouraged the mobs to burn down Muslims’ property.

Images circulating on social media showed a group of Hindu men beating a Muslim man with sticks, leaving him on the ground, curled up in a ball and covered in blood.Several Muslim residents in Maujpur and adjacent neighborhoods said that police officers had stood by while they were attacked. In mob lynchings of Muslims in the recent past in other parts of India, many people have made similar accusations against officials in Mr. Modi’s party, saying that the police officers under their command did not intervene.

India is about 80 percent Hindu and 14 percent Muslim.

A stretch of highway between Maujpur’s Hindu neighborhood and a nearby Muslim-dominated area called Jaffrabad now serves as a no-man’s land. It is lined by deserted shops, the asphalt marred by burn marks. Few people dare to walk through here.

Several police officers conceded that they felt more comfortable deployed in the Hindu crowd that had gathered at one end of the buffer zone than with the Muslims massed at the other. While the Muslim crowd hoisted a big Indian flag, the Hindu crowd chanted religious slogans.

Members of a Hindu mob, armed with crude weapons, begged the police to let them attack Muslims.

“Give us permission, that’s all you need to do,’’ one mob leader said. “You just stand by and watch. We will make sure you don’t get hurt. We’ll settle the score.’’ Then he used a slur to refer to Muslims.

This kind of communal violence has left a lasting mark on Mr. Modi’s legacy. In 2002, when he was the chief minister of Gujarat State, sectarian riots left more than 1,000 people dead — almost 800 of them Muslims killed by Hindu mobs.

He and his state government were accused of quietly ordering the police to stand by as the violence raged. He has denied those accusations, and in 2012, an investigative panel for the Supreme Court found no evidence to charge him. But until he won the post of prime minister in 2014, he was banned from entering the United States because of the suspicion hanging over him.

This week, Delhi police officials, who ultimately report to Mr. Modi’s home minister, Amit Shah, said they were determined to keep the Hindu and Muslim mobs apart. Mr. Kumar, the police official, said he was trying to organize a peace march between the two sides, but by nightfall that was nowhere close to happening. Mr. Shah said in a statement that the violence had been spontaneous, and he appealed for calm.

But the hatred on the streets was heavy. Several Hindu men said they felt Muslims did not belong in India.

“Why should they?’’ asked Rakesh Sharma, one of the Hindu men who had taken it upon themselves to chase outsiders from their neighborhood. “The Muslims have other countries they can go to, like Syria or Nigeria. They need to get out of India.’’

Many Muslims feared that once Mr. Trump left India, the violence would get even worse.

“It’s a little quiet because Trump is here,’’ said Mohammed Tahir, a rickshaw driver. “Their side is scared to give the prime minister a bad name.’’

“But as soon as Trump leaves,’’ he said, “they will attack. They want to uproot us. But we won’t let that happen. We were born here, we live here, this country is as much ours as theirs — and if we need to, we will all die here, together.’’

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/25/world/asia/new-delhi-hindu-muslim-violence.html

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‘Never Thought Hindu-Muslim Riots Are Possible in Delhi, We’ve always Co-Existed Peacefully’: Jaffrabad Resident

FATIMA KHAN, SIMRIN SIRUR and REVATHI KRISHNAN

25 February, 2020

New Delhi: Visible fear and unease enveloped the streets of Northeast Delhi on the third consecutive day of communal violence in the city. Even as most regions wore a deserted look owing to residents refusing to step out of their houses, several mobs were seen taking to the streets with batons and lathis shouting inflammatory slogans and threats in Maujpur, Jaffrabad, Babarpur And Gokulpuri.

The death toll rose to 11 Tuesday, while at least 141 injured people are being treated at GTB hospital. Those dead include a police officer, head-constable Ratan Lal, who died Monday. Six of the fatalities occurred Tuesday.

According to official police figures, around 100 vehicles have been set on fire in the entire region and as many as 80 shops have been damaged.

Many families living in these areas said this is the “worst violence” they had witnessed in the city in several decades.

“We (Hindus and Muslims) have been co-existing here peacefully since our childhood. I never thought I would live to witness this day,” 38-year-old Feroz Ahmed, a resident of Noor-e-ilahi colony near Jaffrabad told ThePrint. “It’s the worst violence I have seen in Delhi. 

“We thought Hindu-Muslim riots aren’t possible in Delhi. This is something we are struggling to digest.” he added.

Babarpur

With the rising death toll and injuries, the most palpable sentiment in the violence-hit areas was anger and frustration at the police, with many residents describing them as “spectators”.

“The police are listening to the orders of the home ministry. Mobs are walking around brandishing lathis and daggers, threatening anyone who looks Muslim. Why is the police not stopping them?” asked 30-year-old Shehzad from Babarpur.

At least one of the 10 civilians killed in the violence, Mubarak Hussain, was a 28-year old labourer was from Babarpur’s Vijay Park colony.

“What BJP’s Kapil Mishra was threatening to do in three days’ time, has already happened. The city is burning precisely because of these statements,” a 50-year-old woman, who was the neighbour of the victim, told ThePrint.

About 200 metres from the Babarpur Bus Terminal, a petrol pump was set on fire Tuesday afternoon consuming the surrounding area in thick billowing smoke.

Maujpur

Right adjacent to Babarpur lies Maujpur, which has become the epicentre of the pro-CAA protests after BJP leader’s Kapil Mishra’s call. On Monday, the violence in the Maujpur-Jaffrabad stretch intensified with several shops and cars set ablaze.

Several mobs took the street in Maujpur Tuesday, threatening anyone attempting to make videos. When asked how the clashes started, a man who was part of one such mob in the stretch between Maujpur-Babarpur told ThePrint, “The clashes started when the Mohammedans gathered to protest against the CAA. They basically wanted to make a Shaheen Bagh here and we Hindus will neither tolerate nor allow it.”

Following the violence, all the shops on the main streets of Maujpur remained shut Tuesday. Piles of clothes from garment shops allegedly owned by Muslims were taken out and burnt in the middle of the Babarpur road.

On one of the predominantly Muslim streets of Maujpur, a young boy said, “All of us have been on guard these past days. I have not slept for the past 24 hours.”

A group of women, carrying lathis, walked around the Maujpur market threatening many shop owners. “If you have Muslims as tenants living above your shops, ask them to leave now. Or we won’t spare you either,” a woman leading the mob said.

Gokulpuri

The streets and main roads of Gokulpuri were deserted, populated only by groups of masked men weilding lathis and chanting “Jai Shri Ram”.

“This whole market was owned by Muslim thieves,” said a bystander outside the tyre market in Gokulpuri. An employee at the petrol pump adjacent to the tyre market said a group of 150-200 men stormed in at around 11 am Tuesday, and set the market on fire.

As thick smoke billowed and flames rose, dozens of men — and even children as young as 10 years old — gathered outside the gates to chant Jai Shri Ram before storming the compound and overturning a vehicle.

A few hundred meters away, inside Gokulpuri’s A Block, a masjid’s doors had been broken down and its insides vandalised.

“Should we wait for our temples to be destroyed? So many of our Hindu brethren have been hurt and injured in Maujpur — why don’t you go there and shoot? Why come here?” said a resident of A block, before heckling one of ThePrint reporters (and photographer Manisha Mondal), threatening to beat them if they took videos.

The residents of Gokulpuri — a predominantly Hindu neighbourhood — alleged that Muslims of the neighbouring Kardampuri area began the stone pelting. “This whole thing started as a pro-CAA, anti-CAA thing, but first Muslims started pelting stones before the whole thing flared up,” said Indu, who lives next to the tyre market.

When ThePrint moved to Kardampuri, through Yamuna Vihar, hordes of men chanting Jai Shri Ram had set a car on fire and were firing shots in the air while Muslim youth from the neighbourhood retaliated with stone-pelting. “They’re firing bullets, and you’re worried about stones?” said one youth.

A 14-year-old boy, who had gone to buy water from a store, was caught in the cross-fire and injured with a bullet graze wound on his back. His family initially didn’t take him to the hospital for fear that he would be taken to a police station.

“I had gone out to buy a packet of water, and when I was coming on my way back, my foot got stuck in something and I tripped. As I got up, I was suddenly struck by the bullet. I had no idea what had happened,” he told ThePrint.

The boy’s family was later persuaded to take him to the hospital. 

A Muslim woman, who did not wish to be named, fled her home with her two children in Gokulpuri Monday night and moved to her cousin’s house in Kardampuri. “All these men from Bajrang Dal stormed our neighbourhood, and set fire to our neighbour’s houses. We fled without our clothes or even slippers,” she said.

“We escaped with the help of a Sikh neighbour. Without him, I don’t know what would have happened,” she told ThePrint.

The violence affected normal life in the region.

It was Ved Prakash’s (25) wedding today. An event that he had been preparing for the last six months. But on Tuesday with violence spreading in Northeast Delhi, all his preparation was for nothing.

“I nearly managed to get out of my house after getting dressed but the car that I had booked to reach the venue cancelled, the photographer, the vendor, decorator, everyone has cancelled their bookings as they are scared to come out of their homes. None of my relatives are coming for the wedding,” he said.

https://theprint.in/india/never-thought-hindu-muslim-riots-are-possible-in-delhi-weve-always-co-existed-peacefully/370982/

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US lawmakers express concern over Delhi violence

Feb 26, 2020

WASHINGTON: The violence over the amended citizenship act in India's capital New Delhi drew sharp reactions from US lawmakers with the mainstream media prominently reporting it along with the just-concluded visit of President Donald Trump.

Reacting to the violence that has claimed at least 13 lives in the past a couple of days, US Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal said the "deadly surge of religious intolerance in India is horrifying".

"Democracies should not tolerate division and discrimination or promote laws that undermine religious freedom," she said in a tweet, adding that the "world is watching".

The Indian Parliament had passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) last year, resulting in a series of protests across the country.

Pramila Jayapal had last year introduced a Congressional resolution urging India to end the restrictions on communications in Jammu and Kashmir and preserve religious freedom for all residents.

Congressman Alan Lowenthal too termed the violence a "tragic failure of moral leadership".

"We must speak out in the face of threats to human rights in India," he said.

Democratic presidential candidate and Senator Elizabeth Warren also a swipe at the violence, saying, "It's important to strengthen relationships with democratic partners like India. But we must be able to speak truthfully about our values, including religious freedom and freedom of expression, and violence against peaceful protesters is never acceptable."

Congresswoman Rashida Talib tweeted, "This week, Trump visited India but the real story should be the communal violence targeting Muslims in Delhi right now. We cannot be silent as this tide of anti-Muslim violence continues across India."

The violence in Delhi prominently featured in the mainstream media.

The Washington Post reported,"The riots represent a serious escalation of tensions after months of protests in response to a controversial citizenship law and growing frictions between supporters and opponents of the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi."

"As President Trump toured India's capital, at least 11 people were killed in communal clashes that have upended a working-class neighborhood," The New York Times said.

In a tweet, US Commission for International Religious Freedom said it is alarmed by reports of "deadly mob violence targeting Muslims in New Delhi". It urged the Modi government to rein in the mob and protect religious minorities.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/us-lawmakers-express-concern-over-delhi-violence/articleshow/74310829.cms

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An exodus of British Muslims is happening right under our noses – and still we’re asking whether Islamophobia exists

Shayma Bakht

February 26, 2020

British Muslims – many who have lived here for generations – are packing up their belongings, parting ways with their loved ones, established careers and the country they were born in to move to somewhere safer. In recent years, the rates of hate crimes against religious minorities in the UK has rocketed, and for some, it has just become too dangerous to stay. There is an exodus happening in Britain, and no one has even blinked an eye.

Contrary to the mainstream narrative that veiled and bearded people are flooding through our borders, a significant number of Muslims are leaving their homeland because of rising rates of targeted religious hate crimes. Despite this reality, harmful discourse in the media, politics and places of power continues to contribute to an increasingly hostile environment that is driving British Muslims away.

Sama Khan, who requested for her real name to be protected, is moving to Pakistan with her three children, her husband and her mother in the summer. She was born in the affluent London borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and her parents came to the UK during Partition. Sama told me: “I wouldn’t want to leave. This is where I’ve been born and bred. My family’s here … everyone’s here. But I have to think about the future and my kids. If we stay, they’ll face discrimination – and their kids and their kids after them. I don’t want them to feel like second-class citizens. I don’t want them to be miserable.”

Sama’s first experience with Islamophobia came after a lifestyle change in her late-20s when she decided to wear a headscarf day-to-day. In 2018, 720 Muslim women experienced street-based attacks, 480 of them were visible targets like Sama. After putting on the hijab, she said her work colleagues treated her differently. “I was repeatedly intimidated on the road by racist drivers. Now it’s so much worse since Brexit and Boris [Johnson], I know someone whose jaw was broken for being Asian and having a beard.”

Within the British Islamic community, the belief that the EU referendum and the appointment of Boris Johnson as prime minister are to blame for a rise in Islamophobic attacks is widespread. According to TellMama’s latest report, this is not a total misconception. There was a 475 per cent increase in attacks against Muslims following the referendum result, and after Boris Johnson’s comment calling veiled Muslim women “letterboxes” in 2018, anti-Muslim attacks increased by 375 per cent the next week. While Johnson has apologised for “hurt and offence” caused by the Conservative party, who have been accused of Islamophobia more than once, this issue is greater than the individual assailants of hate crimes. Attackers are emboldened by the people in power who continue to fuel their hate with thoughtless and provocative words.

Last week, Michael O’Leary, the CEO of Ryan Air openly linked all men of “Muslim persuasion” to bombers, conflating religious extremists, who form less than 1 per cent of the international Muslim community, with non-threatening, normal travellers. It is this sort of discourse that causes anxiety among Muslim fliers and promotes divisive and dangerous hysteria in Britain. Unfortunately, this country has a reputation for giving a platform to those (Katie Hopkins, Tommy Robinson, and, most recently, Andrew Sabisky) who offer a voice for the alt-right.

While the definition of Islamophobia is still heavily debated in the political landscape – the Police Chief Council controversially suggested that too broad a term could undermine counterterrorism efforts, the Conservative governments rejected the most recent proposed definition, and both were met with mass criticism from protestors – there is still a need to define the motivation driving the 3,500 police-recorded crimes (and the hundreds unreported) that only target this religious group.

Journalist and podcaster Diyora Shadijanova explained to me how her British-Uzbek family have not ruled out moving away from the UK. “If things get more hostile we would consider moving away somewhere safer. I have no idea how far people can take their hate. That’s what scares me. We’re British Muslims, we belong here. This is our home”. The government’s failure to spend the entirety of the £1.6m allocated to protect mosques across the UK, which is in itself a small amount of money given the scale of the issue, is one of many reasons that Muslims are not able to feel safe in this country.

I do not have the words to respond to Sama’s 10-years-old daughter, who told me she didn’t “want to leave Nana’s grave” before saying: “But I don’t think British people want us here.” I can’t explain why young girls like Mariam Moustafa were beaten to death in public, why so many Muslim creatives feel they can only share their fears on social media, why my own grandmother almost got her house burnt down in Kent, or why there is so little coverage of all of this.

Until we address systematic discrimination in the UK, which trickles from the top downwards, and is reproduced through mainstream media outlets, we risk losing the Muslim journalists, doctors, business people, humanitarians, restaurateurs, academics, carers, partners and friends who have helped build the diverse nation that we are so proud of, since the 19th century. In their place, we will allow the radical alt-right to flourish instead.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/islamophobia-british-muslims-brexit-hate-crimes-boris-johnson-a9356531.html

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Qatar invites Pakistan for US-Taliban peace deal signing

February 26, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Qatar on Tuesday invited Pakistan to the signing of the US-Taliban peace deal set to take place on February 29.

Last week, the US and the Taliban announced they were set to sign a historic agreement in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday, that would pave the way to ending America’s longest war.

During a meeting, Qatari Ambassador to Pakistan Saqr bin Mubarak Al-Mansouri, on behalf of the Qatari government, extended an invitation to Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

Qureshi said Pakistan and Qatar had both played a “pivotal role” in the Afghan reconciliation process.

He welcomed the peace deal and said Pakistan had always held the view that there was no military solution to the Afghan conflict, adding that now the world was accepting this stance.

Qureshi expressed confidence that the peace deal would lead to intra-Afghan dialogue.

The foreign minister had on Saturday said Pakistan played its role and “fulfilled all promises” with America after reports of the US-Taliban deal emerged.

Qureshi went on to say now it was the responsibility of the Afghan government to take the peace process forward. He said Pakistan wanted to see the formation of an inclusive delegation for advancing towards the intra-Afghan dialogue.

“My experience shows that the people of Afghanistan want peace. It is now up to their elite whether they take forward the peace efforts or waste it by indulging in power games. All responsibility will be on them [the Afghan government] and not on Pakistan,” the foreign minister had said.

US-TALIBAN AGREEMENT:

The US and the Taliban are set to sign a historic agreement that would pave the way to ending Ame­rica’s longest war, the bitter foes announced on Fri­day, hours after Kabul said a week-long partial truce across Afghanistan would kick off over the weekend.

If the so-called “reduction in violence” holds, it would mark a major turning point in the grueling conflict and set the conditions for a deal that could, ultimately, pull US troops out after more than 18 years and launch Afghanistan into an uncertain future.

Both US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Taliban issued statements saying they had agreed to sign the accord on Feb 29 in Doha, following the one-week partial truce.

“Upon successful implementation of this understanding, signing of the US-Taliban agreement is expected to move forward,” Pompeo said, adding that negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government would “start soon thereafter”.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/02/25/qatar-invites-pakistan-for-us-taliban-peace-deal-signing/

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Maldives Hires Amal Clooney To Fight For Rohingya Muslims At UN Court

February 26, 2020

Colombo, Sri Lanka: The luxury tourist destination of the Maldives has hired prominent human rights lawyer Amal Clooney to represent it at the UN's highest court in seeking justice for Myanmar's persecuted Rohingya Muslims.

The Maldivian government said Wednesday it will formally join the mainly Muslim African state of The Gambia in challenging Myanmar's 2017 military crackdown that sent around 740,000 Rohingya fleeing into neighbouring Bangladesh.

In a unanimous ruling last month, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Buddhist-majority Myanmar to implement emergency measures to prevent the genocide of Rohingya -- pending a full case that could take years.

Amal Clooney successfully represented former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed and secured a UN decision that his 2015 jailing for 13 years was illegal.

With the fall of strongman president Abdulla Yameen in 2018, Mohamed Nasheed, as well as several other dissidents in the Sunni Muslim nation of 340,000 have been cleared of any wrongdoing.

Mohamed Nasheed is currently the atoll nation's speaker in the national legislature.

The government said it welcomed the ICJ's decision to order provisional measures to secure the rights of victims in Myanmar and prevent the destruction of evidence in the ongoing case.

"Accountability for genocide in Myanmar is long overdue and I look forward to working on this important effort to seek judicial remedies for Rohingya survivors," Amal Clooney was quoted as saying by the Maldivian government.

Thousands are suspected to have been killed in the Rohingya crackdown and refugees brought widespread reports of rape and arson by Myanmar's military and local Buddhist militias.

https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/maldives-hires-amal-clooney-to-fight-for-rohingya-muslims-at-un-court-2185814

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Singapore New Mufti to Tap Podcasts, Social Media to Engage Muslims

Hariz Baharudin

February 26, 2020

From podcasts and Facebook posts to articles in news outlets and on blogs, incoming mufti Nazirudin Mohd Nasir is keen on harnessing the power of different forms of media to better engage with Muslims here.

Such forms of engagement - a departure from traditional sermons and lectures - will also help Dr Nazirudin, 43, involve his wider team in spreading important messages such as clarifications about religious rulings and ways to preserve religious harmony, bringing fresh elements to their understanding of Islam.

Speaking to the media yesterday, he said: "The need to engage the community is still very, very important and that will continue, but the ways I engage the community may be slightly different."

The podcast, which will start next month, will be issues-based and in English, said Dr Nazirudin, who will assume the role of mufti - Singapore's top Islamic leader - on Sunday.

Current mufti Mohamed Fatris Bakaram, 49, will be retiring after nine years in office.

Dr Nazirudin will be the fourth mufti in the history of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), and will be supported by two deputy muftis - Ustaz Mohd Murat Md Aris and Ustaz Mohammad Hannan Hassan.

Last March, Dr Nazirudin was appointed deputy mufti, after previously holding the post of Muis' senior director for religious policy and development.

Dr Nazirudin has a PhD in theology from the University of Oxford and has helped Muis develop fatwas, or religious rulings, and religious teacher training.

Speaking at the Harmony Centre in Bishan, Dr Nazirudin emphasised the need for Muslims to continue working to achieve Singapore's unique model of racial and religious coexistence.

"We have actually moved even beyond tolerance. We know our other communities a lot better than in other places. We have also started to build a lot of trust and confidence," said Dr Nazirudin.

This, he said, is because Singapore Muslims have been making adjustments to their ways of thinking, something which has to be upheld to confront future challenges.

He touched on how Muslims here have actively discussed controversial topics, such as the permissibility of human organ donations and the validity of joint tenancy in Islam.

Singapore is a country where developments in science, technology and business occur rapidly and its Muslims will have to be prepared to discuss such topics, said Dr Nazirudin, adding that religious teachers will be more important than ever.

He and his team will continue to address the issue of radicalisation.

He said more can be done to explain to Muslims why the extremist way of thinking is problematic, as this will help them fundamentally reject it so that they will not be susceptible to such radical influences.

He said: "If you reject an idea, you need to provide the alternative, and the alternative has to be very clear - that Muslims can contribute in a very positive way and Muslims must also, from the outset, understand the conflict very well."

He was also asked about an incident earlier this month where an Islamic teacher was placed under investigation by the Ministry of Home Affairs after he said on Facebook that the coronavirus was divine retribution against the Chinese for their oppressive treatment of Muslim Uighurs in China's Xinjiang province.

Denouncing this way of thinking, Dr Nazirudin said that it was important that Muslims avoid making denigrating comments that are "unhelpful".

"I think we make a fundamentally wrong step if we use religion in a negative way when there is a crisis.

"And this is the kind of ideas and teachings that we must reject - that in a time in which there is suffering, we need to come together as one society and one community," he said.

Asked how he feels about taking over as mufti during the coronavirus outbreak, Dr Nazirudin said he sees it as an opportunity for him to play his part and to show how it is possible for Muslims to make adjustments to their lives.

Muslims here are now encouraged to take along their own mats to prayers and to avoid shaking hands to minimise contact, which was initially met with some confusion and rejection.

Such steps will take time to become habits, he added.

"We need to continue to educate our community, and also build the kind of resilience and confidence that we can continue to practise our religion in a safe, responsible way."

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/new-mufti-to-tap-podcasts-social-media-to-engage-muslims

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Trials in Saudi Arabia Not Legal, Sham, Cover for Suppression: Dissident Rights Activist

25 February 2020

An exiled Saudi human rights activist has censured the judicial process in the kingdom, stating that trial sessions there are not legal and genuine, and are indeed a cover for further suppression amid a widening crackdown led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman against rights campaigners and intellectuals.

“While Saudi authorities make claims about the integrity of the judiciary and fairness of the judgments, judges actually obtain papers condemning the defendants even before the trials are held. Therefore, they rule based on confessions extracted under duress, and categorically reject all attempts to defend the detainees,” Taha al-Haji told Arabic-language Mirat al-Jazeera news website in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.

He added, “Saudi trials are not legal, as they are bogus and merely meant to burnish the image of authorities. Such trials are held only to claim that the defendants had obtained their rights before any verdicts were passed against them.”

Haji further highlighted that the Al Saud regime has been stigmatized by oppression as it rejects any dissenting or opposing opinion. 

“Today, there is no person inside the country who can speak out and publicly oppose the rule of the Al Saud. No one can demand reforms or legitimate rights at all. The authorities cannot accept any voice that contradicts theirs. This was the case in the past; nevertheless, current authorities led by Mohammed bin Salman have set a brutal and unprecedented dictatorship that has crossed all red lines socially, culturally, religiously and politically. They do not accept criticism or any call for reforms. They have gone beyond that limit, and do not accept even neutral opinion, moderate voice or even silence. The regime presses silent people to glorify it, otherwise they will not be granted mercy. The elderly, women and children have not witnessed such an unprecedented campaign of mass trials and executions over the past years ever since (King) Salman and his son took power,” the human rights activist highlighted.

“Saudi authorities have moved from religious fundamentalism to secular radicalism. They have kept exercising oppression and even expanded its scope. Such an approach has therefore prompted Saudi men and women to immigrate from the country and seek asylum abroad,” he added.

Haji also pointed to the situation in Saudi Arabia’s Shia-populated Eastern Province, saying that local residents of al-Ahsa and Qatif regions have been facing blatant discrimination, and that they cannot hold sensitive positions in public institutions and departments.

“Saudi authorities initially dealt with the (protest) movement (in Qatif region) with great caution, fearing that the popular demonstrations would depose Al Saud before adopting a policy of brutal repression against the demonstrators,” he underscored.

Eastern Province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the region.

The protests have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown by the regime, with government forces increasing security measures across the province.

Over the past years, Riyadh has also redefined its anti-terrorism laws to target activism.

In January 2016, Saudi authorities executed Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who was an outspoken critic of Riyadh. Nimr had been arrested in Qatif, Eastern Province, in 2012.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/25/619503/Trials-in-Saudi-Arabia-not-legal,-sham,-cover-for-suppression:-Dissident-rights-activist

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Iran accuses White House of concealing facts about missile attack in Iraq

25 February 2020

Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s top national security body, accused the White House on Tuesday of withholding information about an Iranian missile attack on a US base in Iraq.

Shamkhani did not give details in a tweet reacting to accusations by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday that the Islamic Republic may have withheld information about the spread of coronavirus inside the country.

“Pompeo’s expression of concern about what he deems to be a cover-up by #Iran over #corona comes while no exact news about the truth of #Ain al-Asad...has been published by the White House,” Shamkhani tweeted.

Iran fired a barrage of missiles at the Ain al-Asad airbase in Iraq in early January, a few days after the top Iranian military commander was killed by a US drone strike in Iraq.

Watch: Timeline: How the killing of Iran’s Qassem Soleimani by US strikes unfolded

The US military has said that more than 100 US soldiers were diagnosed with traumatic brain injury from the Iranian attack while Iranian military officials have said the missile strike killed several American soldiers.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday the United States was “deeply concerned” Iran may have covered up details about the spread of coronavirus, and he called on all nations to “tell the truth” about the epidemic.

Iran's coronavirus death toll rose to 16 on Tuesday, the highest outside China, increasing its international isolation as nations from South Korea to Italy accelerated emergency measures to curb the epidemic's global spread.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/25/Iran-accuses-White-House-of-concealing-facts-about-missile-attack-in-Iraq.html

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Al-Bashir's handover decision to ICC divides Sudanese

Mohammed Amin

25.02.2020

KHARTOUM, Sudan

A decision by Sudan's rulers to hand over former President Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court (ICC) has drawn mixed reactions in the country.  

Earlier this month, Sudanese authorities said they agreed to hand over four officials, including al-Bashir, to face "genocide and war crime" charges in the western Darfur province. 

The decision marks a major policy shift as Sudan refused any cooperation with the ICC during al-Bashir's rule, insisting that the court had no jurisdiction as Khartoum was not a signatory to the Rome Statue founding the ICC. 

"There is no way for peace in Darfur unless justice is achieved," Ahmed Abakar, a refugee in South Darfur, told Anadolu Agency over the phone. 

"The only way for justice is through the prosecution of all those wanted by The Hague." 

Thousands of displaced people in several camps in Darfur staged a rally last week to celebrate the decision to hand over al-Bashir to the ICC. 

"We don't trust the Sudanese court that has been dominated by the old regime and politicized by its agents," Abakar said.

Mohamed Musa, another refugee in West Darfur state, was also jubilant over the decision.  

"We are celebrating this moment, but we are still worried that the government may back down on the decision, especially the military component in the transitional government as those generals were actually part of the old regime," he said.  

Justice 

The Sudanese Professional Association (SPA), which spearheaded protests that led to al-Bashir's ouster in April, said Sudanese laws were not fit to prosecute the former president and other "war criminals."

In a statement, SPA said the decision to hand over al-Bashir and other officials to the ICC was not against Sudan's sovereignty. 

"The prosecution of [those involved] is very important for achieving justice and peace," it said. 

Darfur was the scene of a ferocious war between the Sudanese government and three rebel movements since 2003. The conflict has left 300,000 people dead and around 2.5 million others displaced, according to UN figures.  

Politicized 

Supporters of the former president, however, decried the decision to hand over him to the ICC as illegal. 

"Al-Bashir is a brave leader and still challenges that the court has no jurisdiction to try any Sudanese citizen," Mohamed al-Bashir, a brother of the former president, said. 

"He still believes that the Sudanese judiciary is qualified enough to carry any investigation or trial of those involved in Darfur," he said. 

The head of al-Bashir's defense team, for his part, described the handover decision as "political". 

"We reiterate that it is impossible to hand over al-Bashir or any other Sudanese to this court because it's political and has no jurisdiction," Mohamed Hassan Alamin said. 

"We believe that this is a political maneuver by the government," he said, citing previous statements by the head of the Sovereign Council, Abdul Fattah al-Burhan, in which he refused to hand over al-Bashir to the ICC. 

"This is also against Sudan's sovereignty, the country's qualified and independent judicial system and the dignity of the Sudanese people and national army, which al-Bashir was its commander for three decades," he said. 

Mohamed Ali, a member of "Supporters of Detainees" group, which rallies for the release of former officials, was also critical. 

"Up from this month, we will organize demonstrations in all Sudanese states against this illegal, unconstitutional and unfair decision," he said.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/al-bashirs-handover-decision-to-icc-divides-sudanese/1744653

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India

 

23 Dead In Delhi Violence, PM Modi Appeals For "Peace, Brotherhood"

February 26, 2020

New Delhi: After more than three days of unprecedented violence in northeast Delhi, in which 23 people have died and at least 200 injured, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today appealed for "peace and brotherhood", and said he has held an extensive review of the situation in various parts of the national capital. "I appeal to my sisters and brothers of Delhi to maintain peace and brotherhood at all times," PM Modi tweeted, in his first reaction to the violence. Stone-throwing between rival groups, arson and vandalism on Tuesday marked unrelenting violence over citizenship law protests that began on Sunday, with reports of fresh arson and stone-throwing this morning. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, who has been put in charge of restoring normalcy in the violence-hit parts of Delhi, visited the violence-hit areas to review security this evening. He had told NDTV that there are enough forces on the ground and that no one needs to fear.

Here are the top 10 updates we know so far on northeast Delhi violence:

"Had an extensive review on the situation prevailing in various parts of Delhi. Police and other agencies are working on the ground to ensure peace and normalcy," PM Modi tweeted. Calling for calm, the Prime Minister said in another tweet, "Peace and harmony are central to our ethos. I appeal to my sisters and brothers of Delhi to maintain peace and brotherhood at all times. It is important that there is calm and normalcy is restored at the earliest."

There was fresh violence this morning with reports of arson and stone-throwing. A battery shop was set on fire in Bhajanpura area. The shop was vandalised and burnt batteries were strewn on the road, according to news agency PTI.

The body of an Intelligence Bureau officer - Ankit Sharma - was recovered from a drain in Delhi's Chand Bagh today. He was returning home on Tuesday evening when he was allegedly attacked by a mob on a bridge and beaten to death.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi hit out at the centre, saying the violence was the result of a conspiracy while demanding Home Minister Amit Shah's resignation. "What was the Home Minister doing since last week? What was the Home Minister doing earlier this week? Why were the paramilitary forces not called in earlier when the Home Ministry saw the situation worsening," Mrs Gandhi said at a press conference. "The central government, including the Home Minister, is responsible. The Congress party demands that he resign immediately," she said.

Late last night, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval visited areas such as Seelampur, Jaffrabad, Maujpur and Gokulpuri Chowk which saw violence, and met with top police officers."People were doubting the capabilities and intentions of Delhi Police. This needs to addressed. People need to trust the man in uniform," he told NDTV. He was back in northeast Delhi this evening to take stock of the situation. The move to put him in charge of restoring peace in northeast Delhi has raised eyebrows since Delhi Police reports directly to Amit Shah.

Delhi Police has been heavily criticised for apparent inaction when the violence unfolded and for deploying inadequate forces on the ground. "The Ministry of Home Affairs  is continually supporting us. We have adequate forces," Delhi police chief Amulya Patnaik told news agency ANI on Tuesday.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, meanwhile, suggested that "the army should be called in". On Tuesday, the Home Ministry had ruled out deployment of the army to end the violence, saying there is enough police and paramilitary personnel were on the ground.

The Delhi High Court, in a late-night order, asked the police to ensure safe passage and emergency treatment for those injured in the unprecedented violence in the capital since Sunday. The hearing by a two-judge bench of the Delhi High Court took place at the residence of Justice S Muralidhar. The court was hearing an urgent petition seeking safe passage for the injured to medical institutions with adequate facilities.

The violence, which left neighbourhoods looking as though it was a war zone, also led to the postponement of CBSE board exams to be held in affected areas on Wednesday. Large gatherings have been banned across northeast Delhi since Monday night.

Government sources have said the violence appears to have been "orchestrated", as it came at a time when US President Donald Trump was visiting the country. Mr Trump was asked for his reaction to the violence and said he had not discussed it with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as it is "up to India" to deal with it". However, he did say America appreciated PM Modi's efforts to ensure religious freedom in India.

https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/pm-narendra-modi-tweets-appeal-to-my-sisters-and-brothers-of-delhi-to-maintain-peace-and-brotherhood-2185982

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Muslim cemetery desecrated and shops set on fire, but police missing in action in Delhi

ANANYA BHARDWAJ

25 February, 2020

New Delhi: A group of at least 200 people were gathered around a Muslim cemetery armed with hammers, sickles and axes. This was just 100 metres from the Gokulpuri police station in Northeast Delhi. On one call, all of them raised their tools and struck the building’s boundary wall.

“Jai Shri Ram,” they said, and struck again. There was not a single policeman in the vicinity to stop them.

A part of the mob then ran across the road and set two shops that had ‘Khan’ written on them on fire. And still no policemen, who were clearly outnumbered, tried to stop them.

The Delhi Police and Ministry of Home Affairs Tuesday said there was “sufficient force”, including local police, battalions of the Central Reserve Police Force, Rapid Action Force and the Riot Control Force, but the situation on the ground was far from this claim.

The incidents of violence only worsened Tuesday in areas of Jaffarabad, Maujpur, Babarpur, Yamuna Vihar, Shiv Vihar, Gokulpuri, Brahmpuri, Chand Bagh and Ghonda, with over a dozen shops set afire, 25 houses vandalised and 60-odd vehicles burnt — but there were only four to five policemen deployed every 100 meters in the localities.

A few personnel from the Rapid Action Force too were seen, but only outside the barricades that were placed to block entry to the narrow lanes leading to colonies in Chand Bagh and Gokulpuri.

As men inside the colonies roamed with sticks and rods — their faces covered by handkerchiefs — haggling passersby for their ID cards, the security personnel remained mute spectators.

Police said at least 10 people were killed in the communal violence over the last three days in Delhi and 141 people were injured. Besides, more than 100 vehicles were set ablaze and more than 80 shops vandalised.

Delhi Police chief Amulya Patnaik also gave a statement Tuesday evening saying they have sufficient force on the ground and their priority was to “contain the violence”.

‘Let us do our work’

The mob that demolished the boundary wall of the cemetery in Gokulpuri was then adamant to go inside and damage the graves.

“Now wait and watch. They have challenged us and we will now show them their place,” one man from the mob screamed.

When this reporter tried to ask questions, another man said, “Let us do our work. Just go away. And I am warning you, no one will report from this. No video will be shot, else we will bury you in these very graves.”

This reporter was also heckled and asked to show her phone.

A policeman on bike, doing rounds of the area, crossed at that very moment. He saw the mob, but did not care to stop.

“Do not think the police will help you. They are with us. The entire Hindu community is with us. Go away, else you will meet the fate of the men who have been killed. Till when will we sit and see our men getting killed? It is our chance now,” the second man said.

The mob chased this reporter and at that moment they saw a few people videographing the episode from the opposite carriageway. A group of men then ran to that side to stop the men and the same mob then set a shop on fire.

It is only after the boundary wall of the cemetery was broken and the shop set on fire that the police reached the spot and tried to disperse the crowd. They were, however, unsuccessful.

“They are too many. We send them away but they congregate again. We can’t even use force as it may lead to further violence,” said a policeman on duty.

Just as the policeman was talking to this reporter a man came and threatened, “No report, no video will go out of here. Else you will not be spared,” he said.

The policeman watched helplessly. “Madam please leave from here,” was all he could muster.

‘We are waiting for them to calm down’

The policemen and the Rapid Action Force personnel said they had been asked to “refrain from any coercive action”.

“If we start coercive action, then there will be retaliation. So, we have just barricaded the exit points of these colonies and are waiting for them to calm down,” one RAF personnel told ThePrint.

“We have been told ‘no coercive action’, so we are trying to contain it the other way.”

A policeman warned this reporter to not go inside Chand Bagh as they had just witnessed a man being beaten up.

“They are too many in number. Please go in a group if you have to. We are deployed here to stop them from coming out on the road,” he said.

Another policeman in Jaffrabad said they have been using tear gas shells to disperse the crowd. “We have effectively averted a clash here by dispersing the crowd. Tear gas shells are being used, but the crowd keeps congregating. We are well-equipped to deal with this.”

Delhi Police spokesperson, DCP M.S. Randhawa, too maintained that the police had “effectively” tackled sensitive situations in the area.

11 FIRs, one arrest

In three days of continuous violence, the Delhi Police has registered 11 FIRs of riot and arson but has managed to arrest only one person.

The man who pointed a pistol at a policeman Monday and allegedly opened eight rounds of fire was identified as Shahrukh and was arrested late evening. Apart from the single arrest, the police claimed to have detained over 30 people under different cases, but have not placed anyone under arrest yet.

Full report at:

https://theprint.in/india/muslim-cemetery-desecrated-and-shops-set-on-fire-but-police-missing-in-action-in-delhi/371014/

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In Delhi's Yamuna Vihar, Hindus and Muslims wage a united battle against riots

Feb 26, 2020

NEW DELHI: As northeast Delhi was engulfed by communal clashes on Tuesday over the amended citizenship law, Hindu-Muslim residents of Yamuna Vihar chose to defeat those forces who sought to divide them.

The residents of Yamuna Vihar say they have never seen such a communal frenzy in the past 34 years.

"Hindus and Muslims have been living peacefully in the area for a long time. Such madness is new to the area. This is the reason why we have decided to defeat the communal forces together," Mohammed Sajid, a resident, said.

He said the residents drew away outsiders who had come to the market area of Yamuna Vihar and tried to create disturbance in the region.

The locals are taking turns to guard the region against outsiders.

"Residents armed with sticks and lathis are guarding the region against outsiders. We are trying hard to prevent such elements from slipping inside the colony and creating ruckus," Rahul, another resident of Yamuna Vihar, said.

Raisuddin Rehan said only unity can defeat the divisive elements.

"We have come together against such elements which are hellbent on dividing us. People from both the communities are fighting this battle together," he asserted.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/in-yamuna-vihar-hindu-muslims-wage-a-united-battle/articleshow/74311249.cms

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20 dead in Delhi violence; Amit Shah, Ajit Doval chair emergency meetings

Feb 26, 2020

The number of deaths in Northeast Delhi violence has risen to 20, according to news agency PTI. An official from Delhi’s Guru Teg Bahadur (GTB) Hospital said on Wednesday morning that five more people were brought dead to the hospital, reported PTI. More than 250 people are injured.

The clashes, worst in the capital in over two decades, started at the weekend but turned deadly on Monday after two groups protesting for and against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA clashed with each other. Both the groups were carrying swords, stones and other weapons; they also torched houses and vehicles in Maujpur, Jafrabad and other areas.

Violence erupted again on Tuesday and spread to other nearby localities, just kilometres away from where US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi met for talks.

Huge clouds of smoke was seen billowing from a tyre market that had been set ablaze. The fire tenders took time to reach the spot as mobs wielding sticks and stones walked down streets.

The Centre and Delhi administration sprung into action and a series of meetings were held to find a solution to end the violence. Union Home Minister Amit Shah chaired three review meetings in 24 hours and directed the Delhi Police to take quick action. He also asked for more police force to be deployed.

National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval and Delhi Police chief Amulya Patnaik visited the office of North-east DCP Ved Prakash Surya in Seelampur for a meeting late on Tuesday night. Doval, accompanied by Patnaik and other senior officials visited Maujpur, Jafarabad, Gokulpuri and Bhajanpura to conduct a first-hand review of the situation.

ANIreported that Doval will be closely overseeing the police efforts to restore peace in Delhi.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also held emergency meeting with officials and MLAs of the affected areas, and directed the officials to coordinate with central agencies and end the cycle of violence. He also appealed the protesters to calm down and talk about their issues instead of indulging in violence.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/delhi-news/17-dead-in-delhi-violence-as-amit-shah-ajit-doval-chair-emergency-meetings/story-rqtBfiDfJGTezaFLLyZs6M.html

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Trump praised for raising issue of religious freedom, plight of minorities in India

Feb 26, 2020

WASHINGTON: An organisation of Indian-American Christians has thanked US President Donald Trump for raising the issue of religious freedom and the plight of minorities during his talk with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying political tranquillity is fundamental to economic progress.

The Federation of Indian American Christian organisations in North America (FIACONA) said it "truly hopes" that the Indian government would respond positively to the concern expressed by the president that would be in the best interest of the country.

Asked specifically about allegations that Muslims are being subjected to discrimination and there have been rising cases of hate crime in India, Trump in New Delhi on Tuesday said: "We did discuss that and specifically Muslims. We also discussed Christians".

"I had a very powerful answer from the prime minister. We talked about religious liberty for a long period of time in front of lot of people. I had a very very powerful answer I think," he said.

Reacting to the remarks of Trump, president of FIACONA Koshy George said: "Although we lack any substance from their discussions, we are encouraged to see that the president took the opportunity to include the issue of religious freedom as a priority item at these important bilateral discussions with Prime Minister Modi".

Despite the best efforts to showcase India in a positive light, the world is also watching the ongoing violence "as a result of the policies enunciated by the current BJP regime," said John Prabhudoss, chairman of the FIACONA.

"Political tranquillity is fundamental to economic progress, and by promoting the policies that drive the country towards majoritarianism and intolerance, the Modi regime may be jeopardising the prosperity of its ordinary citizens," he said.

"We call upon the prime minister to uphold India's constitution that guarantees freedom of conscience and religious freedom to every Indian," Prabhudoss said.

Ahead of Trump's India visit, FIOCANA in a letter had urged him to raise the issue of religious freedom in his talks with the Indian leadership.

India has witnessed massive protests over the new citizenship law and National Population Register with opposition parties and several rights groups alleging that the measures are aimed at marginalising the Muslim community.

The national capital witnessed massive violence in the midst of Trump's high-profile visit. The government on Monday said the violence was triggered to tarnish India's image.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/trump-praised-for-raising-issue-of-religious-freedom-plight-of-minorities-in-india/articleshow/74312186.cms

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There was no Pakistani aircraft within 150 kms of our strike package, says former IAF Chief on Balakot airstrike

Feb 26, 2020

NEW DELHI: Former Air Chief BS Dhanoa said that there was no Pakistani aircraft within 150 km of IAF's strike package that bombed the terror camp in Pakistan's Balakot on February 26 last year.

He further said that Pakistan had no knowledge about the Indian air-strike. Exactly a year ago India carried out air-strike at a terror camp in Balakot.

"The technical information that was put out in front of government confirmed that our strike has been successful," Dhanoa said in an exclusive interview to ANI.

"As far as Pakistan is concerned, they need to answer some basic questions. Why will the Indian Aircraft run away? We were firing standoff weapons. Why will we go and hit a forest? They had no knowledge about the targets. They had no knowledge about the kind of weapons that we used, the kind of warheads we used, the fuse setting of that warheads. How much it will penetrate before exploding. They had no knowledge," said the former Air chief.

"When their first pictures came out, it became clear to me that they have no idea how they have been hit. There was no aircraft within 150 km of our strike package," he said.

The former IAF chief said PAF was not in the loop with ISI and national leadership.

"Bhawalpur is known as headquarters of JeM so they thought that IAF will go and hit there to send a message to JeM. As far as air defence alert of PAF goes, they were on a very high alert. After Pulwama happened they had no doubt that the Indian government will respond. We had even responded after Uri," he said.

Dhanoa stressed that three building at the Balakot terror camp was hit and people inside must have died.

"We knew how many people were approximately in every building and the buildings that were targeted were the ones which were of importance.

The highest priority was given to the building where people were undergoing their final stage of training before they are pushed inside Jammu and Kashmir," he said.

"Three buildings were targeted and all three were hit. People inside must have died. They would not have survived that kind of weapon," he added.

However, he refused to give the figure of casualties saying that it has already been reported by intelligence agencies.

The former Air chief underlined that political leadership was willing to take the risk.

"Any mission has got a risk to pilots. It is a very big political risk also. What would have happened if we lost an aircraft across the border in trying to strike the JeM camp? There is no mission without risk. Political leadership was willing to take the risk," said Dhanoa.

Speaking about the aerial dogfight of February 27, Dhanoa said: "PAF under air defence umbrella of F-16 had carried out attacks with stand-off weapons on our forward military installations. I have always maintained that these were a misses because they are the first-generation weapons and second they were all heavy weapons which were dropped fairly close. Were we expecting a response? Of course, we were. That is why our air defence was in a high state of alert."

The former Air chief pointed out that while the Pakistani Air Defence did not come within 150 km of Indian strike package on February 26, the next day, during the aerial skirmish IAF had 10 aircraft in the air to counter them.

"Their Air Defence did not come within 150 km of us. And in our case, we had 10 aircraft in the air to counter them," said Dhanoa.

"One of them (bombs dropped by PAF) hit a tree. Why will they admit that they missed the target? They were using first-generation weapons. Some bombs missed by 500 m, some by 1.5 km," he said.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/there-was-no-pakistani-aircraft-within-150-kms-of-our-strike-package-says-former-iaf-chief-on-balakot-airstrike/articleshow/74311900.cms

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Balakot Air Strike Anniversary: When IAF's Jets Crossed Pakistan Border

Feb 26, 2020

NEW DELHI: On this day, a year ago, Indian Air Force carried cross-border air strike on terrorist traning camps in Pakistan's Balakot in response to the terrorist attack on a CRPF convoy on February 14 in Jammu's Pulwama in which more than 40 security peronnel were killed.

Here is a look at the Balakot air strike and its significance

1

Air strikes by IAF most significant in over four decades: IAF chief

IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Singh Bhadauria, in an interview to TOI, termed the air strikes the most significant by the IAF in over four decades.

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"The air strikes against the JeM training camp at Balakot delivered a clear message from the Indian government that Pakistan’s policy of perpetrating cross-border attacks on Indian soil will no longer be acceptable. These strikes were the most significant air action by the IAF in over four decades, with our fighters penetrating deep into Pakistani airspace, executing a precise attack on the terror camp and returning home unchallenged despite the full air defence alert by PAF," he said.

2

The attack - CRPF convoy targetted, 40 martyred

At 3.00 pm on February 14, 2019, a Pakistan-backed Jaish-e-Mohammed suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden vehicle into a CRPF convoy at Jammu-Srinagar National Highway near Awantipora in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district. The convoy consisted of 78 buses carrying around 2,500 CRPF personnel. The convoy was on its way to Srinagar from Jammu.

Pulwama

The perpetrator was identified as Adil Ahmad Dar, a 22-year old from Kakapora, Pulwama.

Forty CRPF personnel were martyred in the attack and 35 others were injured. It was the deadliest terror attack on India's state security personnel in Kashmir since 1989.

3

The reaction - Countries around the world condemn the attack

Nationwide protests erupted against the dastardly terror attack even as the country bid goodbye to its bravehearts. Leaders across the party lines and civil society condemned the attack and called for an appropriate response.

"I feel the same fire in my heart that's raging inside you," Prime Minister Narendra Modi would declare on February 17, days after the attack took place.

United Nations and several countries from across the globe condemned the Pulwama terror attack and extended their support to India in the fight against terrorism.

China, the "all-weather friend" of Pakistan also backed the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution on the "heinous and cowardly" Pulwama terror attack that was unanimously adopted by permanent and non-permanent member countries of the global body.

Following the dastardly attack, India had launched extensive diplomatic efforts to get JeM chief Masood Azhar designated as a global terrorist, which finally became a reality on May 1 when China lifted its technical hold on a proposal introduced by the US, the UK, and France in the 1267 Committee of the UN Security Council.

4

The retaliation - Air strikes on terror camps in Balakot

Twelve days after the strike on the CRPF convoy, in the wee hours of February 26, Indian Air Force jets bombed the JeM camp in Balakot, in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The airstrike was the first time since the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 that attacking warplanes had crossed the Line of Control.

As per the news reports, 12 Mirage 2000 jets were involved in the operation. The jets were carrying SPICE 2000 & Popeye precision-guided munitions and were supported by four Sukhoi Su-30MKI, Netra and Phalcon airborne early warning and control aircraft, an IAI Heron UAV and two Ilyushin Il-78 aerial refuelling aircraft.

"In an intelligence-led operation in the early hours of today(Feb 26), India struck the biggest training camp of JeM in Balakot. In this operation, a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated. This facility at Balakot was headed by MAULANA YOUSUF AZHAR (alias USTAD GHOURI), the brother-in-law of MASOOD AZHAR, Chief of JeM," the then foreign secretary said in a press conference later in the day.

5

The counter-retaliation - PAF jets cross LoC

"India has committed uncalled for aggression to which Pakistan shall respond at the time and place of its choosing...Armed Forces and the people of Pakistan to remain prepared for all eventualities," Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said following the attack.

A day later on February 27, IAF foiled an attempt by PAF to strike at military installations in Jammu and Kashmir. In the skirmish, IAF also lost a Mi-17 transport chopper.

The Indian military later stated that three Pakistan Air Force jets had crossed the Line of Control from Nowshera, J&K and had dropped bombs over Nadian, Laam Jhangar, Kerri in Rajouri District and Hamirpur area of Bhimber Galli in Poonch, before being pushed back by six Indian airforce jets.

6

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman captured

In the aerial skirmish, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman piloting a MiG-21 Bison aircraft shot down a much-advanced F-16 of PAF. However, his aircraft was also hit and upon ejection, his parachute landed in PoK, where he was taken captive by Pakistani Army.

Later, Pakistan released videos and photographs of Varthaman in custody. He was shown being interrogated by Pakistani soldiers while blindfolded with a bloody face. Other videos showed him receiving first aid and being further interrogated over a tea.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/balakot-air-strike-anniversary-when-iafs-jets-crossed-the-border/articleshowprint/74311539.cms

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‘No major terror attack after Balakot as they were scared’: Ex-IAF chief

Feb 26, 2020

On the first anniversary of the Balakot air strike on camps of terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), former chief of the Indian Air Force Air Marshal BS Dhanoa on Wednesday described it as a “paradigm shift” in Indian military operations.

“Basically, it’s a paradigm shift in the way we conduct our operations. The other side never believed that we could carry out a strike inside Pakistan to take out a terror training camp that we successfully carried out,” he told ANI.

“One year has gone past and we look back with satisfaction. We have learnt a lot of lessons, a lot of things have been implemented after Balakot operations.”

The IAF carried out the air strikes 12 days after a Jaish suicide bomber rammed an explosive laden car into a convoy of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in Pulwama, killing 40 troopers.

Air Marshal Dhanoa who retired last September, said the Balakot air strike also acted as a deterrent against any possible terror attacks during the general elections in April and May.

“After Balakot air strike, there was no major terrorist attack throughout the Indian elections because they were scared that we will respond again in the same manner or even more devastatingly,” the former IAF chief said.

The day after the Balakot air strikes, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) fighter aircraft breached Indian air space over Jammu and Kashmir, prompting the IAF to scramble its own warplanes to repulse the raiders. In that operation, Wing Commander who was flying a MiG 21 Bison shot down a Pakistani F-16 aircraft before his own place was hit and forced him to bail out.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/paradigm-shift-in-ops-iaf-ex-chief-on-balakot-air-strike-anniversary/story-MFdEo6ARqvAxxIUpsDK0MP.html

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PM Modi said he bats for religious freedom: Donald Trump

Feb 26, 2020

NEW DELHI: US President Donald Trump on Tuesday said that he had brought up the issue of religious freedom in India with PM Narendra Modi. “We did talk about religious freedom. I will say that the PM was incredible and he told me that he wants people to have religious freedom. He told me that in India they have worked very hard to have great and open religious freedom,” he said.

Asked about alleged discrimination against Muslims and rise in hate crimes against them under Modi, the president said, “Well, we discussed that and specifically Muslims and we also discussed Christians, I had a very powerful answer from the PM. We talked about religious liberty for a long period of time in front of a lot of people and I had a very, very powerful answer. And the PM said we have 200 million Muslims in India and a fairly short while ago they had 14 million and he said they have been working very closely with the community.”

Trump’s disinclination to speak on CAA must come as a relief for the government, which had billed the visit as a big leap in India-US ties aimed at cementing and advancing a crucial strategic partnership spanning antiterrorism cooperation to trade and commerce.

On another tricky terrain, that of Kashmir, Trump repeated his favourite formulation that he could help or mediate and referred to there being “two sides to every story” but did so without any particular vehemence.

“We talked a lot about Pakistan. I have very good relations with PM Imran Khan. We talked about it at length actually. No question that it’s a problem. But it’s a problem they have been working on. India is a brave nation and I have said I will do whatever I can do because my relations with both gentlemen (Modi and Khan) is so good. But there have been difficulties in Pakistan and we are seeing what we can do about it. Anything I can do to mediate, anything I can do to help, I will do,” Trump said.

He emphasised the convergence between the two nations as well as between him and Modi on terrorism. “We discussed terrorism and I think we have some very good ideas. I feel very strongly against terrorism.PM Modi is a very religious man as you know, he is a very calm man but actually he is a very very strong person. Very tough actually, I have seen him in action and he has got that foremost in his mind — terrorism,” he said.

The tenor of Trump’s remarks reflected the Indian side’s view that India and the US are increasingly moving together on critical areas of national security, energy and technology with ties rebadged as a “comprehensive global strategic partnership” as the two leaders announced earlier in remarks to media.

The president’s remarks were punctuated with strong praise for Modi and an implicit acknowledgement that he found the PM’s response to issues of religious freedom in India and on terrorism sourced from Pakistan convincing.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pm-modi-said-he-bats-for-religious-freedom-donald-trump/articleshow/74310034.cms

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Delhi violence: I&B ministry cautions channels against content inciting violence

Feb 25, 2020

NEW DELHI: The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on Tuesday issued an advisory to all private satellite TV channels asking them to be cautious about content that may incite violence or promote "anti-national" attitudes.

Fresh violence tore through northeast Delhi on Tuesday, killing six more people and taking the toll in the communal clashes over the amended citizenship law to 11.

"It is hereby reiterated that all TV channels are advised to be particularly cautious with regard to any content which is likely to encourage or incite violence, or contains anything against the maintenance of law and order or which promotes anti-national attitudes," the advisory said.

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The advisory also called on private channels to be cautious of content that contains attack on religious or communities or visuals or words contemptuous of religions groups or which promote communal attitudes.

It also cautioned against content that may carry "defamatory, deliberate, false and suggestive innuendos and half truths".

The advisory asked channels to ensured that no content is telecast which is violative of the Programme and Advertising Codes as prescribed in the Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act, 1995.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/delhi-violence-ib-ministry-cautions-channels-against-content-inciting-violence/articleshow/74307795.cms

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Shaheen Bagh protest: SC says ‘too many if’s and but’s’ in interlocutors report

February 26, 2020

The Supreme Court will on Wednesday hear the PILs against the Shaheen Bagh protest, two days after the appointed interlocutors submitted there report in a sealed envelope.

Advocate Sadhna Ramachandran, who was appointed an interlocutor along with senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, placed the report before a bench of Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph on Monday. Taking note of the report, the bench had said that it would peruse it and the matter would be heard on February 26.

The report submitted by the interlocutors, it is learnt, is based on the daily updates of their interaction put up for the media by the two interlocutors and a broad compilation of the demands of the protesters. The issues raised by the report will have to be considered by the bench while arriving at a decision. Ramachandran had expressed her thanks to the bench for providing the opportunity, stating that it was a “learning experience”.

The report has neither been taken on record by the bench nor made available to any of the lawyers. When a petitioner sought a copy of the report, the bench said that they were keeping it confidential for the time being, as “the purpose of an interlocutor is different. their report is only for our record”.

Last week, former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said any attempt to “forcibly shift” those protesting against the CAA from the road they are sitting on in Shaheen Bagh, Delhi, “would compromise their safety”. He added that police barricading of unconnected roads was behind the traffic chaos in the area.

Acknowledging that people have a fundamental right to protest, the Supreme Court had last week appointed two advocates as interlocutors with the mandate to persuade anti-CAA protesters at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi to end their blockade of a public road.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/shaheen-bagh-protest-supreme-court-sadhna-ramachandran-sanjay-hegde-6287259/

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Trump India visit: Joining hands, from Afghanistan-Pakistan to NSG

by Shubhajit Roy

February 26, 2020

As India and the US on Tuesday elevated the partnership to India-US comprehensive global strategic partnership, the joint statement covered major areas of defence, terrorism, Afghanistan, and a response to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Parsing the document, and comparing it with the June 2017 joint statement, reveals some new elements and departures.

According to the statement issued late Tuesday, the two countries looked forward to an “early conclusion” of Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), expressed interest in the Blue Dot Network, added Haqqani network and Tehrik-e-Taliban in Pakistan (TTP) in the list of terror groups against which concerted action are to be taken, reaffirmed US support for India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group “without any delay”.

Some key takeaways in the joint statement:

BECA

A thrust on “early conclusion of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement” is a key feature of the joint statement, as this is one of the last of the foundational agreements, and it largely pertains to geo-spatial intelligence requiring information sharing on maps and satellite imaging for defence purposes. The US has already submitted a draft pact, and India has sought more details on the extent of information needed to be shared under this arrangement.

“The leaders looked forward to early conclusion of defence cooperation enabling agreements, including Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement,” the statement said.

“Noting that a strong and capable Indian military supports peace, stability, and a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific, and reaffirming his pledge to support the transfer to India of advanced US military technology, President Trump welcomed India’s recent decision to procure MH-60R naval and AH-64E Apache helicopters,” it said.

Blue dot network

With China moving to expand its strategic footprint through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the Blue Dot network, a new proposal to cover infrastructure and development projects across the region and other countries, found a mention.

Modi and Trump, the joint statement said, “expressed interest in the concept of the Blue Dot Network”, a multi-stakeholder initiative that will bring governments, the private sector, and civil society together to promote high-quality trusted standards for global infrastructure development. It said India and the US recognise that to contain the build-up of sovereign debt in developing and low-income countries, it is important to ensure responsible, transparent, and sustainable financing practices for borrowers and creditors.

Haqqani network and TTP in, CCIT out

There is just one paragraph on terrorism, and it omits any mention of Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, which was mentioned in the 2017 statement. But, names of the Haqqani network and TTP are included, along with terrorist groups LeT, JeM and Al Qaeda, which was missing in the 2017 statement. It mentioned Pakistan, cross-border terrorism and expeditiously bringing justice to the perpetrators of Mumbai and Pathankot terror attacks.

The statement said: “Prime Minister Modi and President Trump denounced any use of terrorist proxies and strongly condemned cross-border terrorism in all its forms. They called on Pakistan to ensure that no territory under its control is used to launch terrorist attacks, and to expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of such attacks, including 26/11 Mumbai and Pathankot. They called for concerted action against all terrorist groups including Al-Qa’ida, ISIS, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Hizb-ul Mujahideen, the Haqqani Network, TTP, D-Company, and all their affiliates.”

Afghanistan

In a major development, the two sides have agreed on a common language, which was very identical to India’s traditional position, and even talked about India’s role in development and security assistance to Afghanistan. While it talks about Afghan-led and Afghan-owned, it does not mention Afghan-controlled –– since in reality the peace process is controlled by other players, including the US.

“India and the United States share interest in a united, sovereign, democratic, inclusive, stable and prosperous Afghanistan. They support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process that results in a sustainable peace; cessation of violence; elimination of terrorist safe havens; and preservation of the gains of the last 18 years. President Trump welcomed India’s role in continuing to provide development and security assistance to help stabilize and provide connectivity in Afghanistan,” the statement said.

The 2017 joint statement, issued during Modi’s visit to the White House, had said Trump welcomed further Indian contributions to promote Afghanistan’s democracy, stability, prosperity, and security. Recognizing the importance of their respective strategic partnerships with Afghanistan, the leaders committed to continue close consultations and cooperation in support of Afghanistan’s future,

Nuclear Suppliers Group

With India in other multilateral export control regimes, it said Trump reaffirmed US support for India’s entry to the Nuclear Suppliers Group “without any delay”.

“PM Modi and President Trump committed to working together to strengthen and reform the United Nations and other international organizations and ensure their integrity. President Trump reaffirmed the support of the United States for India’s permanent membership on a reformed U.N. Security Council. He also reaffirmed U.S. support for India’s entry to the Nuclear Suppliers Group without any delay.”

Trade

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/donald-trump-narendra-modi-india-us-joint-statement-defence-terrorism-china-belt-and-road-initiative-6286855/

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North America

 

US: Bernie Sanders calls Netanyahu 'reactionary racist'

Servet Gunerigok  

26.02.2020

WASHINGTON

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a "reactionary racist" at the Democratic presidential debate Tuesday.

Sanders said if he is elected, he would "take into consideration" moving the U.S. embassy back to Tel Aviv, adding that Middle East policy should be about protecting Israel, "but you cannot ignore the suffering of the Palestinian people."

"I'm very proud of being Jewish. I actually lived in Israel for some months. But what I happen to believe is that right now, sadly, tragically, in Israel, through Bibi Netanyahu, you have a reactionary racist who is now running that country," he said.

Bibi is Netanyahu's often-used nickname.

Sanders said the U.S. has to have a policy that reaches out to the Palestinians and brings nations together.

In late 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, triggering a world outcry. The following May, Washington relocated its embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Jerusalem remains at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with Palestinians hoping that East Jerusalem -- now occupied by Israel -- might eventually serve as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Apart from Sanders, six other candidates vying to take on Trump were on the stage at Tuesday night's Democratic debate in South Carolina.

They included former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and businessman Tom Steyer.

For her part, Warren said the Israelis and the Palestinians should be encouraged to return to the negotiation table, noting the Israeli people have a right to security and Palestinians have a right to be treated with dignity and to have self-determination.

"That is a two-state solution. But it's not up to us to determine what the terms of a two-state solution are," she said.

When asked if the U.S. embassy should be moved back to Tel Aviv, Warren said it is not Washington but Israel and Palestine that should determine the capital themselves.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-bernie-sanders-calls-netanyahu-reactionary-racist/1745020

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Time to come home from Afghanistan: Trump

25 February 2020

US President Donald Trump has said that it is time to end America's longest war in Afghanistan and come home.

Trump told reporters on Tuesday in the New Delhi that he is ready to sign a peace deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan if a temporary truce holds.

He said that the US and Taliban are “pretty close” to sign the deal.

“We’re pretty close,” Trump said. “We’ve got two days now under our belt without violence.”

The US and Taliban have agreed to sign the deal on February 29 in the Qatari capital, Doha, following the one-week partial truce. The deal will be finalized only if a week-long cessation of hostility holds in Afghanistan.

“Time to come home,” Trump said on Sunday. “They want to stop. You know, they’ve been fighting a long time. They’re tough people. We’re tough people. But after 19 years, that’s a long time.”

“We think they want to make a deal. We want to make a deal. I think it’s going to work out. We’ll see,” Trump said.

Trump expressed cautious optimism about reaching a peace deal.

“You know we have a certain period of nonviolence. It’s been holding up, it’s a day and a half so we’ll see what happens. But people want to make a deal, and I think the Taliban wants to make a deal too, they’re tired of fighting.”

Pompeo: Afghanistan 'reduction of violence is working'

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday the partial truce in Afghanistan between the Taliban, American and Afghan forces was holding.

"So far the reduction in violence is working -- imperfect, but it's working," he told reporters in Washington.

Pompeo said the US and Taliban were on the cusp of an "enormous political opportunity."

“Make no mistake about it: we want to make sure that those who want the status quo -- bloodshed, tears, economic challenges; all of those people who have an interest, whether that's because of corruption or because some ideological view -- can't spoil what it is that the Afghan people so richly deserve after they have sacrificed so much fighting alongside of us these past 20 years," he added.

The two sides have been in talks over the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan in return for security guarantees from the militant group.

Washington's decision to exclude Kabul from the peace talks has also received a firestorm of rebukes from the Afghan government.

In September, the US and the Taliban appeared close to signing a deal that would have seen Washington begin withdrawing thousands of troops in return for security guarantees and potentially end almost two decades of war in Afghanistan.

It was also expected to pave the way towards direct talks between the Taliban and the government in Kabul. The Taliban have been saying they do not recognize the Afghan government, which has so far been kept out of previous US-Taliban talks.

Trump ended yearlong talks with the Taliban in September. The negotiations were aimed at ending the 18-year war in Afghanistan.

The US president said at the time that the decision to end the talks was his response to a deadly bomb blast by the militants that killed 12 people in the Afghan capital of Kabul on September 5, including an American soldier.

During a surprise visit to a US military base in Afghanistan in November, Trump said the Taliban "wants to make a deal."

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/25/619508/Time-to-come-home-from-Afghanistan-Trump

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US sanctions Chinese entities for supporting Iran's missile program

February 25, 2020

WASHINGTON: The United States announced on Tuesday it was imposing sanctions on 13 foreign entities and individuals in China, Iraq, Russia, and Turkey for supporting Iran's missile program.

The State Department said the action included new sanctions against three Chinese firms, a Chinese individual and a Turkish company.

It named the Chinese as Luo Dingwen and the three Chinese entities as Baoding Shimaotong Enterprises Services Co. Ltd, Gaobeidian Kaituo Precise Instrument Co Ltd, and Wuhan Sanjiang Import and Export Co Ltd. It named the Turkish firm as Eren Carbon Graphite Industrial Trading Co Ltd.

The statement added that Luo Dingwen had also been involved in supplying sensitive items to Pakistan’s weapons program.

It said the sanctions would include restrictions on US government procurement, US government assistance, and exports.

"The imposition of these measures underscores that Iran’s missile program remains a significant proliferation concern," the statement said.

"The imposition of sanctions against these foreign entities is consistent with our efforts to use all available measures to prevent Iran from advancing its missile capabilities," it added.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1633161/middle-east

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US military says killed militant leader behind attack on base in Kenya

26 February 2020

A US airstrike over the weekend in Somalia killed an extremist militant who helped plan last month’s attack on a military base in Kenya in which three Americans died, the US military said on Tuesday.

The military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) said in a statement the strike carried out on Saturday killed a senior member of the Somalia-based militant group al-Shabaab “who was in charge of planning and directing terrorist operations on the Kenya border region, including the recent attack on Manda Bay” and his wife.

The statement described the wife as a “witting and active” al-Shabaab member.

In the Jan. 5 attack, three Americans - one US military service member and two contractors - were killed during an attack by al-Shabaab on the Manda Bay military base in Kenya used by both US and Kenyan forces.

After that attack, the US military deployed additional forces to Kenya, which borders Somalia.

Africom carried out 63 air strikes in Somalia last year targeting al-Shabaab insurgents. It has carried out 18 this year so far.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/02/26/US-military-says-killed-militant-leader-behind-attack-on-base-in-Kenya.html

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Pompeo: Iran may have suppressed vital COVID-19 details

Beyza Binnur Dönmez

25.02.2020

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday the Iranian regime "may have suppressed vital details" about the deadly coronavirus outbreak in that country.

"All nations, including Iran, should tell the truth about the coronavirus and cooperate with international aid organizations,” Pompeo told reporters at a news conference where he stressed that Iran was second only to China in coronavirus deaths as of Monday afternoon.

He said the number one priority is to protect the homeland.

"We’ve imposed prudent travel restrictions and strong travel advisories to slow the spread of the virus to the United States,” he said. "All known American carriers of the coronavirus are in isolation and treatment, and healthy travelers who traveled from high-risk locations – namely, Hubei Province and the Diamond Princess cruise ship – were placed in mandatory quarantine upon return to the United States.”

The State Department continues to do an "enormous amount" of work outside of borders as well to review developments inside and outside of China, and to help countries who have been stricken by the virus, said Pompeo.

Turning to China's expulsion of three Wall Street Journal journalists, Pompeo said: "Had China permitted its own and foreign journalists and medical personnel to speak and investigate freely, Chinese officials and other nations would have been far better prepared to address the challenge."

Coronavirus has sounded global alarms, with China reporting 2,663 deaths from the outbreak, and health experts grappling to find a cure.

Outside mainland China, the coronavirus has spread to more than 25 other countries including the U.S., U.K., Singapore, France, Russia, Spain and India.

The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak an international health emergency.

Key of Afghan peace deal: Realism, restraint, respect

Noting that U.S. President Donald Trump's foreign policy in Afghanistan has three principles, including realism, restraint and respect, Pompeo said the restraint stage has been reached with an ongoing seven-day reduction of violence period that began Feb. 22.

"So first we have to be realistic. We’re proud of our gains, but our generals have determined that this war is unlikely to be won militarily without tremendous additional resources," Pompeo said. "All sides are tired of fighting. We’ve arrived at a historic opportunity for peace.

"In 19 years of war, this is the first weeklong break in violence by all sides, if we’re successful in achieving it," he said.

Pompeo said the timeline includes a conditions-based and phased troop withdrawal, and for the commencement of intra-Afghan negotiations -- which will be the first time that Afghans representing all sides of the conflict will sit down together.

The U.S. and Taliban had reached an agreement to "reduce violence across Afghanistan," set to be signed Feb. 29.

"Lastly, respect. The Taliban must respect the agreement, specifically regarding their promises of severing ties with terrorists," Pompeo added, saying that the U.S. is not required to leave unless the Taliban demonstrates it is fulfilling its responsibilities.

The agreement that was nearly signed in September sets the timetable for the U.S. exit from Afghanistan in exchange for the Taliban vows to ensure Afghanistan does not become a hotbed for terrorist groups, and beginning of talks with Ashraf Ghani’s government.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/pompeo-iran-may-have-suppressed-vital-covid-19-details/1744896

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US sanctions 13 people and entities for supporting Iran missile programme

Feb 26, 2020

The US announced on Tuesday it was imposing sanctions on 13 foreign entities and people in China, Iraq, Russia and Turkey for supporting Iran's missile programme.

The State Department said the action included new sanctions against three Chinese companies, a Chinese national and a Turkish company.

The man sanctioned was Luo Dingwen, and the Chinese companies were Baoding Shimaotong Enterprises Services, Gaobeidian Kaituo Precise Instrument, and Wuhan Sanjiang Import and Export.

The Turkish company was Eren Carbon Graphite Industrial Trading.

The department said Mr Luo had also been involved in supplying sensitive items to Pakistan’s weapons programme.

It said the sanctions would include restrictions on US government procurement, assistance and exports.

"The imposition of these measures underscores that Iran’s missile programme remains a significant proliferation concern," the department said.

"The imposition of sanctions against these foreign entities is consistent with our efforts to use all available measures to prevent Iran from advancing its missile capabilities."

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/the-americas/us-sanctions-13-people-and-entities-for-supporting-iran-missile-programme-1.984584

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Europe

 

UK takes action to ban two right-wing terrorist groups

Dilara Hamit

25.02.2020

The U.K. took steps Monday in parliament to make membership in two right-wing terrorist groups illegal.

In a statement, the government said it will proscribe Sonnenkrieg Division (SKD) as well as System Resistance Network, an alias of the already banned right-wing group National Action.

"As part of the order to proscribe SKD, the entry for Partiya Karkeren Kurdistani (the Kurdistan Worker’s Party or PKK) will be amended to include Teyre Azadiye Kurdistan (TAK) and Hezen Parastina Gel (HPG) as aliases," it said.

Home Secretary Priti Patel emphasized that recent attacks in Germany have highlighted the threat of violent extremism.

"We are working to keep the public safe by increasing funding for counter-terror police and strengthening the law to keep terrorists locked up for longer.

"By proscribing these groups, we are making it much harder for them to spread their hateful rhetoric," she said.

The decision followed a meeting of the Proscription Review Group, which brings together representatives from the police and other partners to assess the risk posed by groups who may be considered for proscription.

"Proscription renders membership of a group illegal in the U.K. Anyone found to be a member of or offering support to the groups could now face up to 10 years behind bars," the statement said.

"The PKK has long been considered to be involved in terrorism, and these orders will prevent individuals circumventing efforts to counter its activity," it added.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/uk-takes-action-to-ban-two-right-wing-terrorist-groups/1743850

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US-Taliban peace talks left British and Nato partners trailing Washington’s moves

Callum Paton

Feb 25, 2020

British insiders are bemoaning a lack of input in recent peace talks in Afghanistan, despite providing the second largest number of troops to the international coalition after the September 11 attacks in the US.

US President Donald Trump says he is prepared to strike a peace deal with the Taliban if a temporary truce agreed to at the end of last week holds.

UK diplomatic officials supported the seven-day period of reduced violence in Afghanistan.

In a tweet, the UK special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Gareth Bayley, said he hoped the truce would deliver progress towards peace.

“I welcome talks between US and Taliban representatives, as well as the proposed reduction in violence, which needs to happen," Mr Bayley wrote.

"I hope this leads to further progress on peace in Afghanistan."

Elham Sadat

@Elhamsadat111

H.E. Minister @Umerdaudzai2 today met with NATO SCR to #Afghanistan Amb Sir Nicholas Kay @NicholasK111 Both sides have discussed the coordinated efforts 4 the #AfghanPeaceProcess, & the steps forward to reach the direct & official negotiations between the government & the Taliban

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But with British involvement in Afghanistan significantly reduced after the withdrawal of most of its troops in 2014, the country has found itself sidelined in negotiations to end the conflict.

“The British side is not as heavily investment in Afghan security and politics as the Americans,” Umer Karim, a visiting fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, told The National.

“So the UK may have been taken into confidence on these developments by the US but it wasn't involved in the peace talks or in the developments leading to the recent truce."

The UK could become involved in later talks between the Afghan government and Taliban, but it and European nations have not pushed for leading roles.

“The EU has offered its services to be involved more in the peace process but it hasn't actually striven hard or tried to really interject,” Mr Karim said.

Nato has stated its intention to become involved in the intra-Afghan dialogue.

Its senior civilian representative to Afghanistan, Sir Nicholas Kay, Britain’s former ambassador to the country, met officials in Kabul to lay the groundwork for talks between the government and Taliban on Tuesday. But it seems Mr Kay's nation’s role will be secondary.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/us-taliban-peace-talks-left-british-and-nato-partners-trailing-washington-s-moves-1.984531

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Britain sanctions African ISIS affiliate groups

Jack Dutton

Feb 24, 2020

The UK on Monday moved to add IS in the Greater Sahara and Boko Haram to its list of terrorist organisations.

Boko Haram, led by Abubakar Shekau, was was formed in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf and has committed many terrorist attacks in Nigeria.

The Greater Sahara group was formed in May 2015 by Adnan Abu Walid Al Sahraoui and has launched terror attacks in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.

The financial sanctions, announced by the British Treasury, mean the two groups will have their assets being frozen, and are subject to travel bans and arms embargoes.

The assets freeze will apply from 11.59pm GMT on March 24, the Treasury said.

On Sunday, the UN added the two groups to its sanctions list.

On Monday, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari ordered his troops to pursue Boko Haram militants for attacks in the country.

On February 11, militants killed 30 people and abducted women and children in Nigeria’s north-east Borno state.

The decade-long insurgency has killed 36,000 people and displaced about 2 million from their homes in north-east Nigeria.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/britain-sanctions-african-isis-affiliate-groups-1.984006

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French to chair Sahel talks aimed at curbing Islamist insurgency

Feb 25, 2020

France’s foreign minister will chair a meeting in Mauritania on Tuesday aimed at galvanising international support for the mission to defeat the world’s fastest growing Islamist insurgency in the Sahel region of Africa.

Jean-Yves Le Drian will chair the first meeting of the general Assembly of the Sahel Alliance, the group set up in 2017 to support efforts of five Sahel nations trying to combat groups seeking to establish an Islamic state in the region.

France first sent troops to Mali in 2013 and now has more than 5,000 troops across the huge area of central Africa as fighting has intensified and left more than 4,000 people dead last year, according to UN figures. Hundreds of thousands more people have been forced to flee their homes because of the fighting.

France fears that the conflict could drive migrants fleeing the conflict northwards, increasing financial and political pressures on Europe and risking further instability from the armed conflict close to its southern borders.

France has requested help from European allies to support its mission but has been largely rebuffed.

The Spanish foreign minster Arancha Gonzalez and Jutta Urpilainen, an EU commissioner, will also attend to hand over seven armoured personnel carriers, the French foreign ministry said.

The meeting will “underscore the concrete support of France and the EU” for the forces of the G5 Sahel Joint Force, comprising Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

The meeting comes after an ambush on a police patrol in Burkina Faso on Monday left four people dead. The dead included three police officers and another five people were injured.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/french-to-chair-sahel-talks-aimed-at-curbing-islamist-insurgency-1.984235

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French extremist trained by Paris attacks leader given 12-year jail term]

February 25, 2020

PARIS: A French court on Tuesday handed a 12-year jail term to a computer technician who traveled to Syria to wage war and trained under the suspected ringleader of the 2015 Paris attacks.

Reda Hame, 34, who was convicted of participating in a criminal conspiracy aimed at harming people, received weapons training and a mission from Abdelhamid Abaaoud during his eight-day stay in Syria in the summer of 2015.

Abaaoud, who is believed to have coordinated the November 2015 attacks that left 130 people dead in Paris, taught him how to fire an assault rifle and handle a grenade.

He then dropped him off at the Turkish border with orders to return home and carry out an attack on behalf of the Daesh group.

Hame told investigators that Abaaoud, who was killed in a shootout with French police after the Paris attacks, asked him if he would be prepared to shoot into a crowd, giving as an example a rock concert.

But the Paris native, who was arrested on his return to France, insisted that he never had any intention of following Daesh’s orders.

Styling himself an Daesh deserter, he told the court he only pretended to accept his mission to escape the horrors of the Syrian war and regretted ever enlisting with Daesh.

The prosecution had challenged his account of his change of heart, portraying him as a dutiful Daesh “soldier” who had traveled to Syria to join Daesh “at a time when the most hardine, those who will go on to attack Europe and France, are leaving (France for Syria).”

In sentencing Hame to 12 years in jail — the prosecution had sought a 20-year term — the court “showed clemency,” the defendant’s lawyer Archibald Celeyron said.

Hundreds of young French radicals traveled to Syria and Iraq to join Daesh before US-led coalition forces dislodged the insurgents from the last holdouts last year.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1633186/middle-east

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Saudi envoy to UK visits London mosque

February 26, 2020

LONDON: The Saudi ambassador to the UK on Monday visited a London mosque where a prayer leader was last week attacked and injured.

Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Sultan checked on the condition of the wounded muezzin and discussed security measures during a meeting with officials at London Central Mosque and the Islamic Cultural Center.

Dr. Ahmed Al-Dubayan, director general of the Islamic Cultural Center, gave the prince a detailed explanation of the attack and also highlighted the center’s role in the service of Islam and Muslims in the UK in religious, social, cultural and educational fields.

He also pointed out to the envoy the center’s efforts to strengthen ties between Muslims and other communities, its contribution to charitable work, and its cooperation with institutions of the UK civil society. 

During talks with administrators, Prince Khalid was told about the center’s programs, booklets, publications and symposiums and Al-Dubayan thanked the envoy for his visit and support.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1633301/saudi-arabia

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First round of Libyan political talks to begin Wednesday

Peter Kenny  

25.02.2020

The first round of Libyan political talks is scheduled to begin on Wednesday in Geneva, the United Nations said amid uncertainty as Libya’s parliament earlier said it would not participate.

The UN said in a statement on Tuesday that Ghassan Salame, the special representative of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), will host the meeting at the Palais des Nations under the auspices of the UN.

The parliament of Libya’s UN-recognized government said on Monday that for now, it would not be participating in UN-hosted negotiations in Geneva with the other side of the Libyan conflict.

The political talks follow the completion of a second round of the UN-sponsored military talks on Libya between the warring sides that ended in Geneva on Sunday.

“The two parties agreed to present the draft agreement to their respective leaderships for further consultations and to meet again next month to resume the discussions,” said UNSMIL.

The Libyan Joint Military Commission (JMC) talks were in a 5+5 format with five representatives of the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), and five from the forces loyal to warlord Khalifa Haftar.

The JMC is one of the three tracks, which UNSMIL is working on, in addition to the economic and political tracks, in compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 2510 (2020) and it calls upon the two parties to reach a lasting cease-fire agreement.

Since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: Haftar in eastern Libya supported mainly by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and GNA in Tripoli, which enjoys the UN and international recognition.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/first-round-of-libyan-political-talks-to-begin-wednesday/1744846

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France jails ISIS fighter trained by leader of Paris attacks

Feb 26, 2020

A French court on Tuesday handed a 12-year jail term to a computer technician who travelled to Syria to join ISIS and trained to fight under the ringleader of the 2015 Paris attacks.

Reda Hame, 34, who was convicted of taking part in a criminal conspiracy aimed at harming people, received weapons training and a mission from Abdelhamid Abaaoud during his eight-day stay in Syria in the summer of 2015.

Abaaoud, who co-ordinated the November 2015 attacks that killed 130 people in Paris, taught him how to fire an assault rifle and handle a grenade.

He then dropped him off at the Turkish border with orders to return home and carry out an attack on behalf of ISIS.

Hame told investigators that Abaaoud, who was killed in a shootout with French police after the Paris attacks, asked him if he would be prepared to shoot into a crowd, such as at a rock concert.

But the Paris native, who was arrested on his return to France, insisted that he never had any intention of following the orders.

Hame, who described himself as an ISIS deserter, told the court he only pretended to accept his mission to escape the horrors of the Syrian war and regretted enlisting with the extremist group.

The prosecution challenged his change of heart, showing him as a dutiful ISIS soldier who travelled to Syria to join the group "at a time when the most hardline, those who will go on to attack Europe and France, are leaving [France for Syria]".

In sentencing Hame to 12 years in jail, the court "showed clemency," said his lawyer, Archibald Celeyron. Prosecutors sought a 20-year term.

Hundreds of young French radicals travelled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS before US-led coalition forces dislodged the insurgents from theirs last holdouts last year.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/france-jails-isis-fighter-trained-by-leader-of-paris-attacks-1.984582

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Pakistan

 

Qureshi lauds Trump’s praise of Pakistan in India tour

February 26, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Tuesday hailed President Trump’s statement during his visit to India in which he said that the US has a “very good relationship” with Pakistan.

A day earlier, US President Donald Trump, while addressing a packed rally in Ahmedabad after his arrival in India on Monday, said the United States has “a very good relationship” with Pakistan.

“US and India are committed to stopping terrorists and fight their ideology. For this reason, since taking office, my administration is working in a very positive way with Pakistan to crack down on terrorist organisations and militants which operate on the Pakistani border,” Trump had said.

In a statement released by the foreign minister’s spokesperson, Qureshi said that Trump remark about Pakistan was “extraordinary and its importance cannot be denied”.

“Trump wants peace and stability in the region and has asked India to play a positive role in the area and extend a hand for promoting peace and stability in the region.”

The foreign minister said that this will only be possible when the Kashmir issue is solved.

“The current Indian government has further complicated an already complicated problem. India’s measures of Aug 5 have affected the identity of Kashmir and broken it into several parts.

“Kashmir has been under lockdown for 206 days. How can things progress in these conditions?” he questioned.

“Pakistan’s stance on the disturbance caused by the Citizenship Amendment Act in India can be seen by what is happening in Delhi.

“If conditions worsen, the void of peace in the region can affect the whole world.”

The minister added that India needs to “review its behavior and policy”.

Qureshi said Trump “made it clear that Pakistan is a partner of peace in the war against terrorism”. He added that the progress Pakistan has made to defeat terrorism is exemplary.

“Pakistan’s role in the Afghan peace process is there for the world to see … and Pakistan’s role in the region is being commended.

“The Pakistan which India deemed to be a ‘problem’ is now being seen by the world as a ‘solution’.”

He congratulated the “people of Pakistan, the armed forces and the political leadership for the positive change” and said that before [our] government came into power, relations between the US and Pakistan were “cold” and Pakistan was considered a problem.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/02/25/qureshi-lauds-trumps-praise-of-pakistan-in-india-tour/

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At UNHRC, Pakistan demands release of all Jammu & Kashmir politicians

Feb 26, 2020

GENEVA: Pakistan on Tuesday raked up the Kashmir issue at the UNHRC in Geneva and demanded the immediate lifting of the communication restrictions and release of all the politicians and activists in the Valley, saying any ‘inaction’ by the international community will only ‘embolden’ India.

Speaking at the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council which is being held in Switzerland from February 24 to March 20, Pakistan’s minister for human rights Shireen Mazari alleged that India continued to violate the human rights of the Kashmiri people and demanded the immediate repeal of all actions by India on August 5 last year in Kashmir.

She appealed the Council to constitute an independent commission of inquiry to investigate and report the alleged human rights violations in Kashmir as proposed in a UN report.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/at-unhrc-pakistan-demands-release-of-all-jammu-kashmir-politicians/articleshow/74310136.cms

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Punjab govt not to extend bail granted to Nawaz Sharif for treatment abroad

Feb 25, 2020

LAHORE: Pakistan's Punjab government on Tuesday decided not to extend the bail granted on medical grounds to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who is currently in London for treatment, according to media reports.

Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat said the Punjab Cabinet decided that there was "no legal, moral or medical basis without any concrete proof" for the further extension of the bail to the 70-year-old leader.

Amid bickering between the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party and Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the three-time prime minister left for London for medical treatment on November 19, 2019.

On December 23, he sought an extension in his stay abroad on the expiry of the four-week period granted by the Lahore High Court. Following this, the Punjab government constituted a four-member committee to decide on it and sought fresh medical reports to make an "informed decision".

Addressing a press conference alongside other members of the Punjab Cabinet, including provincial health minister Dr Yasmin Rashid, Basharat said: "The committee has decided that Nawaz Sharif's bail can't be extended further."

He explained that the Lahore High Court order said Sharif was granted bail for eight weeks. However, a further eight weeks had passed since then as discussions were underway, the minister said.

"Till the Punjab government had not made a decision, this bail was to be automatically extended, therefore it was extended for 16 weeks," he said.

After the passage of 16 weeks, Basharat said the provincial government wanted to be informed about developments regarding Sharif's health on the basis of which a decision to extend his bail could be made.

"Till today he (Nawaz) has not been admitted in any hospital in London," Basharat said, adding that nothing specific had been shared with the government regarding the PML-N supremo's health.

Basharat said the Punjab government would now share its decision with the federal government, which will decide on the matter.

In January, a picture of Sharif at a London restaurant along with some members of his family had surfaced on social media, raising questions about the condition of the former premier's health.

Following this, on January 15, the Punjab government rejected Sharif's medical reports which had been submitted on December 23.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/punjab-govt-not-to-extend-bail-granted-to-nawaz-sharif-for-treatment-abroad/articleshow/74308024.cms

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Asia Bibi, Pakistani accused of blasphemy, yearns to return home

5 Feb 2020

Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian who spent eight years on death row on blasphemy charges, has described trying to make a new life in Canada and her dreams of returning home.

While safe in Canada, which granted her a one-year stay after she was freed from jail, she has yet to taste true freedom. She does not speak either of Canada’s official languages, English or French, and is largely illiterate.

“Well, I haven’t visited Canada yet. I have stayed at home, mostly ... I don’t go out much because of the cold and the snow,” the 48-year-old said.

Bibi was in France to promote her book Enfin Libre! (Finally Free!), co-written with the French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet.

She said she missed her sisters, brother, father and in-laws back home. But most of all having “four [distinct] seasons, my culture and my food!”

Bibi said she was hopeful things would change to allow her and her family – her husband, Ashiq, 58, and her daughters Eisham, 20, and Eisha, 21, who is disabled – to return to Pakistan one day. She also has three other children.

“I really hope for it, just the way I kept hope when I was in jail that one day I was going to be free,” said Bibi.

The allegations against Bibi date back to 2009, when Muslim labourers working with her in the fields refused to share their water because she was Christian.

An argument broke out and a woman went to a local cleric to accuse Bibi of committing blasphemy against the prophet Muhammad, an incendiary charge in Muslim-majority Pakistan. She was sentenced to death the following year but acquitted by the supreme court in 2018.

In her book, Bibi recounted how she was kept chained in prison and jeered at by other detainees.

A devout Catholic, she said on Tuesday that she had never committed blasphemy. “No way... I cannot even think of insulting any prophet. I didn’t say anything. It was all about a glass of water.”

In Canada, Bibi lives with her husband and daughters in a three-bedroom apartment in an undisclosed location. She said she had not recently received any direct threats.

“I did read in the newspapers that someone was threatening to kill me. But I just keep calm. I’m strong,” she said.

As for the immediate future, Bibi said she did not know where the family would go next. “I have not yet made up my mind,” she said. “I know the European Union is working very hard on my case and they are the ones who will decide where I am going to be living,” she said, adding she would “very likely” discuss possible French asylum at a meeting with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, on Friday.

Full report at:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/25/asia-bibi-the-pakistani-christian-exiled-to-canada-still-dreams-of-going-home

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JI points to no mention of citizenship act by Trump

February 26, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) ameer Sirajul Haq Tuesday said that US President Donald Trump did not utter a single word against the Muslim genocide and controversial citizenship act during his visit to India.

American President’s silence on minorities’ persecution in India and worst human rights violation in held Jammu and Kashmir exposed the so-called claims of the US that it was a defender of rights champion in the world, he said in a statement.

The JI chief warned Islamabad against Trump offer of mediation on Kashmir, saying it was a trap for Pakistan and Kashmiris. He reiterated the Kashmir issue should be resolved according to the resolutions of the UN granting right to self determination to the people of Kashmir. He regretted the PTI government failed to develop a strong foreign policy and fight the case of the people of Kashmir.

Full report at:

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/620077-ji-points-to-no-mention-of-citizenship-act-by-trump

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306 Iranians allowed to cross border, return home

Ali Raza Rind | Saleem Shahid

February 26, 2020

CHAGAI: Pakistan authorities on Tuesday allowed 306 Iranian nationals to return to their country after reopening the Pak-Iran border for a short period of four and a half hours in the Taftan area of Chagai district on Tuesday.

On the other hand, more than 250 Pakistani labourers stranded on the Iranian side of the border, have appealed to the Balochistan government to take measures for their immediate return to Pakistan.

Taftan-based Levies Force officials told Dawn that the Iranian nationals, including 276 drivers and over 25 traders, had been stuck up in Taftan after Pakistan closed the border with Iran due to health emergency to prevent spread of coronavirus which had been found in some areas of Iran.

This development came after Balochistan Home and Tribal Affairs Minister Mir Ziaullah Langove along with some other ministers and officials concerned visited the Taftan border.

250 Pakistanis stranded in Iran appeal to government to allow their immediate return to Pakistan

The Pakistani labourers, who have been stuck up in Mirjaveh, the Iranian border crossing, said in a video clip circulated on the social media that they had been stopped by Iranian officials from crossing the border five days ago and since then they had been suffering due to non-availability of accommodation facilities.

In the video, they expressed despair and anger over the decision of the Pakistan government to only allow the Iranian nationals to cross the border into Iran and called upon the opposition member in Balochistan Assembly Sanaullah Baloch to take up the matter with the government to let them come to Pakistan.

Meanwhile, a senior Immigration Officer of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) told Dawn that over 300 Iranian nationals stuck-up in Pakistan had been allowed to cross into Iran through the Taftan border. He, however, made it clear that the border with Iran was completely closed and none of the Pakistani pilgrims present in Mirjaveh had been allowed crossing into Pakistan from the other side of the border since Pakistan had sealed the border with Iran.

Official sources said that pilgrims and other people would not be allowed to cross into Pakistan from Iran unless they spent 14 days in Iran and then come with a health clearance from Iranian authorities.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1536685/306-iranians-allowed-to-cross-border-return-home

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PPP asks CEC to take action against Sindh IGP for ‘misconduct’

Amir Wasim

February 26, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has requested Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja to take action against Inspector General of Police (IGP) Syed Kaleem Imam over his alleged misconduct and “refrain him from being partial” ahead of the by-election in the provincial assembly constituency of Umerkot.

The request was made by PPP’s central election cell chief and former senator Taj Haider through a letter sent to the CEC on Tuesday, five days after the Sindh police chief, who has been at odds with the PPP-led provincial government for quite some time, through a communication to the ECP sought transfer of the senior superintendent of police and the deputy commissioner of Umerkot.

Mr Haider apprised the CEC that the IGP had written the “controversial letter” eight days after the announcement of the election schedule in contravention of the Section 5(4) of the Elections Act, 2017.

The Election Commission of Pakistan had earlier announced that the by-election for PS-52 Umerkot seat would be held on March 17. The seat fell vacant on Jan 19 after the demise of PPP MPA Syed Ali Mardan Shah who had been elected five times from the same constituency.

“One expects that the officials of the government would have knowledge of a legal provision, which has so often been publicly discussed. Unfor­tunately, the IGP Sindh while raising doubts on the integrity and neutrality of the above-mentioned district officials has once again exposed his partiality and bias which is unworthy of a high-ranking official,” said Mr Haider in the letter, a copy of which was released to the media by the PPP.

Mr Haider requested the CEC “to take action against the official guilty of misconduct and order the said official to refrain from being partial and restore the dignity of the office he holds”.

The ECP had on Feb 19 written a letter to the Sindh chief secretary and the IGP about removal/transfer of the deputy commissioner and SSP of Umerkot district.

The IGP in his Feb 20 reply stated that his office had already sent ‘misconduct’ reports to the Sindh government against the incumbent SSP who had been charged with ‘delinquency, unprofessionalism and dereliction of duty’ as “his actions have been biased and prejudice”.

“Keeping in view the misconduct reports and background related to the continuity of his posting in the district, it would be appropriate to replace him with a non-controversial officer as district superintendent,” according to the IGP’s letter to the ECP. “This will ensure transparency of the by-election in district Umerkot.”

IGP Imam also received the ire of the PPP when last week he took notice of an open display of arms by plain-clothes men accompanying Sindh minister Taimur Talpur at an open kutchehry and reportedly asked the Karachi police chief to take legal action in the light of the finding of an inquiry into the incident, besides submitting a detailed report.

The IGP gave the orders after a video went viral on social media in which Mr Talpur was seen addressing a gathering while two men holding rifles could be seen accompanying the minister.

The minister, however, said he had hired services of private guards for his security in district south. “The guards have licensed weapons and a formal permission has been sought to this effect as per [the requirements of] Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code,” he said.

Mr Talpur accused the IGP of trying to appease the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led federal government.

He said the IGP’s performance was exposed when MPA Shahnaz Ansari and journalist Aziz Memon had been murdered in Naushahro Feroze as both had requested for police protection, but the same had not been accorded to them.

PPP deputy information secretary Palwasha Khan in a statement had alleged that the Sindh police chief had already exposed himself by writing a letter to the CEC.

Ms Khan said that it seemed that Dr Imam had assumed the responsibility of PTI’s Umerkot district president.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1536686/ppp-asks-cec-to-take-action-against-sindh-igp-for-misconduct

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LHC seeks AGP’s help on Maryam’s plea for permission to go abroad

Wajih Ahmad Sheikh

February 26, 2020

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Tuesday sought assistance from Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan on a petition filed by PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz seeking one-time permission to travel to London to inquire after her ailing father former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

“We want to hear point of view of the attorney general on the issue in hand,” Justice Ali Baqar Najafi, heading a two-judge bench, told Additional Attorney General Chaudhry Ishtiaq A Khan.

The judge asked the law officer to apprise the bench of the availability of the top law officer so the next hearing could be fixed.

“The federal government has already filed its reply in the case,” Mr Khan said, apparently to persuade the bench that the attorney general would have the same view as the government had already expressed in its reply.

However, Justice Najafi observed that the bench would like to hear the AGP as well.

“We will summon him [AGP] through an order if he cannot appear,” the judge told the additional advocate general.

Mr Khan, however, said the AGP would definitely appear whenever required by the court.

Meanwhile, the law officer told the bench that the Punjab government had decided against extending Mr Sharif’s stay abroad. Therefore, he said the petition by Ms Nawaz stood infructuous.

The bench adjourned the hearing with direction to the additional-AG to inform it about the availability of the AGP so it could fix next hearing.

Later, the bench fix March 11 for the next hearing.

Earlier, advocate Azam Nazir Tarar argued on behalf of the petitioner and stated that the doctors in London advised surgical procedure to Mr Sharif.

He said the petitioner had already lost her mother and she had voluntarily returned to the country to serve sentence handed down to her by an accountability court.

Mr Tarar said Mr Sharif had not regained his health so far as he was still undergoing diagnostic process as per fresh medical reports filed with the court.

The counsel argued that the petitioner was in a dire need to go abroad to attend to and inquire after her ailing father.

He referred to a Sindh High Court decision wherein an undertrial prisoner was allowed to travel abroad once.

He said the name of the petitioner be removed from the Exit Control List (ECL) and she be given a one-time permission for six weeks to travel to and stay in London.

The reply filed by the federal government said the petitioner, being a convict, could not be allowed to leave the country. It said the name of the petitioner had been placed on the ECL following her conviction by an accountability court.

It further said the petitioner had not challenged the decision of a sub-committee of the federal cabinet on her representation that also refused to permit her to travel abroad. The petitioner had only assailed the impugned memorandum of the ECL, the reply added.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1536744/lhc-seeks-agps-help-on-maryams-plea-for-permission-to-go-abroad

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SC to take up Musharraf’s plea against registrar ruling

Nasir Iqbal

February 26, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Sup­reme Court on Tuesday ordered fixing before one of its benches an application filed by former president retired Gen Pervez Mushar­raf against the court registrar’s decision to return an earlier appeal seeking to overturn the Dec 17, 2019 death sentence awarded to him by the special court in the high treason case.

The decision to fix the matter before a bench was taken by Justice Umar Ata Bandial after hearing Advocate Salman Safdar, Gen Musharraf’s counsel, in his chamber. The matter will be taken up by a three-judge SC bench whenever the case will be fixed.

On Jan 18, the SC registrar office had returned Gen Musharraf’s appeal on the grounds that unless the petitioner surrendered himself, his plea could not be entertained. The former military ruler is presently living abroad.

Order 23, Rule 8 of the Supreme Court Rules 1980 empowers the apex court not to accept any petition unless the convict surrenders to the authorities.

Gen Musharraf in his appeal requested the apex court to set aside the conviction since the trial was conducted and completed “in sheer violation” of the Consti­tution as well as the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898.

The appeal argued that in a nutshell the case of the appellant was that he was being tried for a constitutional crime in an entirely unconstitutional manner. It stated that Gen Musharraf was a highly decorated former four-star general of the Pakistan Army and had a remarkably distinguished career as a servant of this country.

He had served as an army officer for nearly 43 years and through honesty and hard work reached the highest echelons of service. He had served as the 13th chief of the army staff from October 1998 to November 2007 and was also the 10th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee from 1998 to 2001. He had also served as the 10th president of Pakistan from 2001 to 2008, the appeal said.

During his tenure as president and chief executive of the country, Gen Musharraf was instrumental and played a leading role in restoration of the economy after its near collapse in the late 1990s, the petition said, adding that his policies salvaged a near bankrupt economy and transformed it into the 4th fastest growing economy in the Asian region.

On the foreign policy front, the appeal said, Gen Musharraf guided Pakistan through its toughest foreign policy crisis with his astute and exemplary leadership after the Sept 11 attacks in the United States. In the aftermath of these attacks, Pakistan allied with the US and other powers in the global war on terror and the country rose to prominence on the world map, it said, adding that Gen Musharraf had built the foundation of a lasting peace process with India and taken several initiatives for resolution of the disputed territory of Kashmir.

LHC decision challenged

In a separate development, the Sindh High Court Bar Association challenged the Jan 13 Lahore High Court decision to declare unconstitutional the Special Court verdict and sought to set aside the LHC judgement.

Filed by senior counsel Rasheed A. Razvi, the petition requested the Supreme Court to restore the Dec 17, 2019 Special Court judgement convicting Gen Musharraf of subverting the Constitution. It argued that the LHC verdict suffered from gross illegality, mis-appreciation of facts and non-appreciation of law and was, therefore, liable to be set aside by the apex court.

The appeal contended that the high court verdict was based on misreading of evidence without appreciating the material produced by the prosecution during the trial. Moreover, it added, the high court also failed to take note of the fact that the material produced by the prosecution before the special court had not been denied by Mr Musharraf at any stage of the case and it was a well-settled principle of Qanoon-i-Shahadat Order that the facts when not denied deemed to have been admitted by the parties and the admitted facts and circumstances needed not to be proved.

The petition contended that the LHC verdict was contrary to the law laid down by the superior courts as well as against the dicta laid down by the Supreme Court in the 2019 Lahore High Court Bar Association case. “It is a well-settled principle of law that the criminal courts are supposed to take into consideration the overall effect of the prosecution case in order to ascertain whether crime was committed or not and unless the discrepancies, contradictions have impaired the intrinsic value of the prosecution evidence, the same is not liable to be discarded,” it said.

The appeal argued that the two instruments — proclamation of emergency and Provisional Constitution Order 2007 — were issued by Gen Musharraf in his capacity as the army chief, whereas the third instrument — Oath Order 2007 — was issued by him in his capacity as the president.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1536679/sc-to-take-up-musharrafs-plea-against-registrar-ruling

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‘Imran mafia’ can’t hide wrongdoings through tweets: Marriyum

February 26, 2020

LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb on Tuesday said that the “Imran mafia” cannot hide its wrongdoings by posting tweets and staging dramas.

Reacting to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statement, Aurangzeb said: “It does not matter whether you tweet in the morning, in the afternoon or night, a lie remains a lie”.

“Prices of edible items, especially vegetables, have significantly increased as a result of Imran mafia’s focus on inflation. The prices have been hiked deliberately and are not artificial to run [Imran Khan’s] Bani Gala house and to construct [his] Zaman Park residence,” she remarked.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/02/25/imran-mafia-cant-hide-wrongdoings-through-tweets-marriyum/

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South Asia

 

Japan to extend another $17M for Rohingya in Bangladesh

SM Najmus Sakib  

26.02.2020

DHAKA, Bangladesh

Japan has decided to extend approximately $17 million as additional support to Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya minority taking refuge in southeast Bangladesh.

The additional funds will also be used for the betterment of host communities in the town of Cox’s Bazar, the Japanese embassy in Dhaka said Tuesday.

The support includes site management of refugee camps; community empowerment; shelter upgrade; child protection; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities; medical services and training; environmental rehabilitation; life skills and livelihood improvement and nutritional improvement, the statement said.

The Japanese government took the decision on Jan. 30 this year, it added.

Since the massive influx of Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh in August 2017, Japan had granted approximately $95 million to international organizations and non-governmental organizations, which now totals approximately $112 million in assistance.

The Japanese government will extend assistance in Cox’s Bazar through UN agencies.

They comprise the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and the World Food Programme, Japan Platform (JPF).

Persecuted people

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, pushing the number of persecuted people in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience".

Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down while 113,000 others were vandalized, it added.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/japan-to-extend-another-17m-for-rohingya-in-bangladesh/1744943

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Dozens introduced to Afghanistan’s prosecutor’s office for commenting in Facebook

25 Feb 2020

Dozens of social media users have been introduced to Afghanistan’s General Attorney office for the charges of writing comments said to be insulting on Ghani’s running mate’s Facebook posts, an official said.

The Afghanistan Green Trend, led by Amullah Saleh, a running mate to Mohammad Ashraf Ghani in the 2019 Presidential elections, has introduced at least 39 people to the General Attorney office to be investigated for the insulting Facebook comments, Jamshid Rasuli, a spokesperson to General Attorney office said.

The organization has complained against all those who have written insulting comments or criticism beneath Amrullah Saleh’s Facebook posts, Rasuli added.

“Our colleagues at the General Attorney office have summoned all those against whom the Afghanistan Green Trend has filed complaints”, said Rasuli.

In the complaints letter sent by the Afghanistan Green Trend, 39 people have been accused of writing offensive and insulting words on social media in reference to Amrullah Saleh, Jamshid Rasuli further added.

According to Afghanistan’s law, insulting and mistreating is a crime, he said.

According to Rasuli, some of the suspects are government employees who work for the Interior, Defence, Economy, and Higher Education Ministries.

This comes as Amrullah Saleh has said in another Facebook post that he has not complained, but his organization has done it for the protection of its privacy and its members’ security.

Saleh was Ghani’s running mate as the First Vice-President candidate in 2019 Presidential elections.

Media Watch, Experts & Analysts Reactions

Nai, Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan published a statement criticizing the introduction of the Facebook commenters to the Attorney General Office and said any complaints against media should be referred to Media Offense and Complaints Commission rather than referring them to judicial authorities.

We believe that freedom of expression is the basic right of every Afghan citizen graned by the existing laws and naturally criticizing actions and other performances are guaranteed by this part of laws, Nai said in a statement.

“Even if the criticism is not precepted positively by those faced with, he/ she should follow a case through Media Offense and Complaints Commission”, the statement added.

According to the law, the Attorney General office must refer the complaints to Media Offense and Complaints Commission to be assessed, Nai said in a statement.

Mujib Khelvatgar, the CEO of Nai, Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan said introducing people to the General Attorney office by the President or his deputy Saleh is illegal and in contrast to the law and the judicial institutions must take this into consideration.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/dozens-introduced-to-afghanistans-prosecutors-office-for-commenting-in-facebook-87678689/

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Trump talks about India’s position on signing of peace deal between the U.S. and Taliban

26 Feb 2020

The U.S. President Donald Trump has said India would like to see the conclusion of peace deal between the United States and Taliban.

President Trump made the remarks during a press conference with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday in New Delhi.

Responding to a question regarding India and Pakistan’s role in the region amid ongoing peace efforts, Trump said “Well, I think India would like to see it happen.”

Trump further added “I spoke with Prime Minister Modi today, and I think they would very much like to see it happen.”

“And we’re pretty close. We’ll see what’s going on. We’ve got two days now under our belt without violence or, I guess, a minimum of violence. And we’ll see what happens. But people want to see it,” Trump concluded.

This comes as the U.S. and Taliban representatives reached to an initial agreement during the final phases of the talks in Qatar earlier this month.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/trump-talks-about-indias-position-on-signing-of-peace-deal-between-the-u-s-and-taliban-04457/

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Southeast Asia

 

Ex-Selangor PAS youth leader to pay RM80, 000 to Teresa Kok for calling her ‘anti-Islam’

Ho Kit Yen

February 26, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court here ordered a former PAS Selangor youth leader to pay RM80,000 to Seputeh MP Teresa Kok for saying she was “anti-Islam”.

High Court judge Mohd Firuz Jaffril ordered Syarhan Humaizi Halim to pay the damages after ruling that he was liable for publishing the defamatory statement on his Facebook account.

“She (Kok) has proven two out of the three elements required under the law for defamation cases and that the statement made reference to her.

“I think that RM80,000 is sufficient enough.

“This is not to punish the defendant (Syarhan) with a large sum in damages and it is not meant to enrich the plaintiff (Kok),” he said.

Firuz also said that freedom of speech is guaranteed under the Federal Constitution but this right is subject to laws such as the Sedition Act and Defamation Act.

The court also awarded RM10,000 as costs to Kok after Kok’s lawyer K Murali said he was leaving it to the court’s discretion to decide on the amount.

Syarhan was represented by Wan Rohimi Wan Daud. Rohimi said he will speak to Syarhan on whether to appeal over today’s decision.

Kok filed the suit against Syarhan last year, claiming he had suggested that she was a racist and a bigot, adding that it could have “serious negative implications” on her reputation.

She sought damages as well as an injunction to stop Syarhan from further publishing articles accusing her of being anti-Islam.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/02/26/ex-selangor-pas-youth-leader-to-pay-rm80000-to-teresa-kok-for-calling-her-anti-islam/

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Fund-raising drive by Muslim community to help those affected by coronavirus

Jean Iau

February 26, 2020

SINGAPORE - A fund-raising drive will be launched by the Rahmatan Lil Alamin Foundation (RLAF) together with all mosques here to support vulnerable people and families who have been affected by the coronavirus.

RLAF, which is a charity foundation set up by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) in 2009, said in a statement on Tuesday (Feb 25) that its drive will collect funds for The Courage Fund, and will launch online on Wednesday.

There will also be a mosque donation collection from Friday at all 70 mosques in Singapore, as a way to show compassion and solidarity with fellow Singaporeans, RLAF said.

Both online and mosque collections will end on March 5.

The Courage Fund was set up in 2003 amid the Sars outbreak to help people affected by serious infectious diseases.

Vulnerable people the RLAF's drive hopes to help are healthcare workers and those whose jobs have been affected by Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, such as those in the tourism, hospitality and transport industries.

Funds collected will be handed over to the Community Chest, who will channel the donations to The Courage Fund, which has received more than $1 million in donations as of Feb 15 to help people affected by the outbreak.

Members of the public can donate online through the Muslim.SG app and Muis' website.

They can also offer their donations in cash or cheque. Cheques should be made payable to "RLAF" with the words "Support for Singaporeans affected by the Covid-19 situation" along with their contact information written on the back of the cheque.

Cash and cheque donations should be sent to the RLAF office in Masjid Yusof Ishak in Woodlands Drive, or the Singapore Islamic Hub in Braddell Road.

RLAF executive director Zainul Abidin Ibrahim said the fund-raising efforts were "in line with our aim to nurture a Singapore Muslim community that participates actively in building a caring and compassionate society".

Full report at:

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/fund-raising-drive-by-muslim-community-to-help-those-affected-by-coronavirus

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All 92 Pakatan Harapan lawmakers back PKR chief Anwar Ibrahim as Malaysia's prime minister: Sources

February 26, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR - Pakatan Harapan (PH) lawmakers have backed Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Anwar Ibrahim as Malaysia's prime minister, even as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong continues the search to determine who commands the numbers to form Malaysia’s new government.

The Straits Times has learnt that all 92 MPs from the three-party coalition voted for Datuk Seri Anwar when interviewed by Malaysia's King on Wednesday (Feb 26), following through on the transition plan agreed prior to their shock May 2018 electoral victory - for Tun Mahathir Mohamad to resign and Mr Anwar to takeover mid-term.

Dr Mahathir had resigned as premier on Monday following the apparent collapse of the PH government after members of his own Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) and some PKR rebels allied themselves with the opposition. However, he was reappointed interim prime minister by the Agong, Malaysia's King, until the political impasse can be resolved.

"PH doesn't want to govern with Umno or Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) leaders whether as a coalition of parties, or a collection of individuals," an official source had said.

The move could mean that no candidate commands a majority, as it is learnt some Umno and PAS legislators indicated they did not support Dr Mahathir as per their official party stance, and wanted a snap poll.

Malaysia's King was set to complete interviews of all 222 parliamentarians by Wednesday evening (Feb 26), with 132 MPs slated to inform him whether they back interim Premier Mahathir Mohamad to continue leading the country, or if they preferred a snap election less than two years since the May 2018 polls.

Despite the rest of the now collapsed Pakatan Harapan (PH) government affirming on Monday that they wanted Tun Mahathir to return as prime minister, PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution told reporters after leaving the palace that the party is voting someone from the party to be PM, while Wangsa Maju MP Tan Yee Kew said they were supporting Datuk Seri Anwar as Malaysia's eighth prime minister.

Dr Mahathir became Malaysia's seventh prime minister after leading PH to victory in 2018 and ending six decades of Umno rule.

"Tun (Dr Mahathir) resigned. Made the interim prime minister. Give a chance to DSAI (Mr Anwar) to prove whether he has support to become the eighth PM. It is a position that cannot simply be inherited or handed down. You must have the support of the majority of MPs. We hope PPBM fulfils its promise. Tun the seventh PM, DSAI the eighth PM," Parti Amanah Negara communications director Khalid Samad posted on Twitter earlier on Wednesday.

Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) MPs were the first to arrive from 10am and later issued a statement that all its MPs (25, not including Tun Dr Mahathir) want the interim prime minister to be given the job permanently.

The Straits Times understands that those still in the coalition agreed in a meeting on Tuesday night to collectively support the return of Dr Mahathir, who resigned from the position on Monday, and reject the need for polls less than two years after they ended six decades of Umno rule.

The unprecedented move for the King to interview MPs individually instead of meeting party leaders appears to be in line with Dr Mahathir’s plan to form a grand coalition across the political spectrum instead of trying to band together parties with diverse ideologies.

But already, the Umno-led Barisan Nasional pact and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) said in a joint press conference after their audience on Tuesday that they would not enter a government if it included the Democratic Action Party (DAP), a Chinese-dominated outfit they accuse of undermining Malay Muslim interests, and would prefer to head to the ballot in such a situation.

Umno secretary-general Annuar Musa also said they rejected the move to form a government via a majority of individuals, instead of parties, as this ran contrary to Malaysia's principles of parliamentary democracy.

Dr Mahathir's leadership of the PH government since May 2018 has been hemmed in by ethnocentric criticism, especially from Malaysia’s two largest Malay Muslim parties Umno and PAS.

DAP sources also told ST that the party would lose its legitimacy if it worked with “corrupt and extremist” leaders from Umno and PAS. It is understood that other PH partners, PKR and Parti Amanah Negara, are of the same view.

Meanwhile, PKR would likely baulk at the prospect of reconciling with sacked deputy president Azmin Ali, who exited with 10 MPs following his expulsion for allegedly betraying PH by trying to undo the agreed transition of power from Dr Mahathir to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Datuk Seri Azmin was a key figure in the so-called National Alliance, which on Sunday brought together pro-Mahathir leaders in PH and opposition parties to call for the 94-year-old to stay in power for the full term instead of handing the reins to Mr Anwar, who is president of PKR.

But Dr Mahathir did not accept the mandate, with sources saying he refused to accept Umno into his government, and resigned not just as premier, but also as chairman of his own Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, whose president Muhyiddin Yassin was also a key proponent of the National Alliance.

Full report at:

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/malaysia-political-turmoil-king-to-meet-132-mps-in-second-day-of-interviews

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Factbox: Malaysia's Mahathir masters political art of quitting to assert power

FEBRUARY 25, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Having stunned Malaysia by resigning as prime minister on Monday as a power struggle erupted within the ruling coalition, 94-year-old Mahathir Mohamad was immediately asked by the Southeast Asian nation’s king to stay on as an interim premier.

Mahathir also resigned as the chairman of his own party, and on Tuesday, according to sources, he proposed forming a unity government, inviting lawmakers from rival parties to join a new coalition.

Here are some facts about Mahathir, who returned to power in 2018, having first stepped down in 2003 after 22 years in power.

** Born on July 10, 1925. Mahathir hails from Malaysia’s Muslim ethnic Malay majority. He is the youngest of nine children. His father was a school headmaster in the northern state of Kedah.

** A former doctor, Mahathir has been in politics for more than 70 years. Known for being outspoken, his acerbic, blunt style has at times upset his own people as well as foreign leaders.

** He championed the economic empowerment of the Malays, which some say may have come at a cost for Malaysia’s Chinese and Indian ethnic minorities.

** His first stint from 1981 to 2003 made him Malaysia’s longest-serving prime minister. He was Malaysia’s fourth and seventh premier.

** At the age of 92, he re-entered politics to defeat his former protege Najib Razak and end the uninterrupted 60-year rule of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the party he had once led.

** He is credited with transforming Malaysia, a country of 32 million, into an industrial nation from a mainly rural one. The 88-storey Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, the world’s tallest twin structures, were built under his watch.

** Critics say his first spell in office was tarnished by disregard for human rights, the jailing of political foes, and the weakening of institutions such as the judiciary.

** Writing in a blog in 2018, Mahathir said: “Looking back now, I realize why, as prime minister of Malaysia, I was described as a dictator. There were many things I did which were typically dictatorial.”

** He has often spoken out against bigger countries, including the United States and India, over issues affecting the Muslim world. A recent row with India hurt Malaysia’s exports of palm oil to the world’s biggest buyer.

* Mahathir is strongly critical of Israel, and supports the Palestinian cause. Before stepping down in 2003, he delivered a controversial speech in which he said that Jews ruled the world by proxy and described them as “hook-nosed”.

Full report at:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-malaysia-politics-mahathir-factbox/factbox-malaysias-mahathir-masters-political-art-of-quitting-to-assert-power-idUSKCN20J1AX

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Barisan Nasional, PAS call for parliament to be dissolved and elections held

By Vincent Tan

25 Feb 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Barisan Nasional (BN) and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) on Tuesday (Feb 25) called for parliament to be dissolved so that political parties can seek fresh mandate from the people, amid political turmoil in Malaysia which saw lawmakers exiting the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition.

In a press conference, the party leaders also ruled out their participation in a unity government proposed by Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was appointed the interim prime minister following his resignation as head of government on Monday.

They insisted that a Cabinet comprising candidates chosen by Dr Mahathir is against partisan democracy practised in Malaysia.

United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) secretary-general Annuar Musa said members of parliament (MPs) from BN and PAS, as well as Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) have asked Malaysian King Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah to dissolve the parliament.

“Let the people decide,” he said.

PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan added: “We are ready to explain to the people, we give back the mandate to the people, and people can choose which government to lead them.”

BN comprises UMNO, Malaysian Chinese Association and Malaysian Indian Congress. PBRS was part of the coalition until 2018, after BN was defeated by PH in the general election.

UMNO, meanwhile, formalised a pact with PAS in September last year under the banner of Islamic unity.

Their Tuesday presser was held after the king called MPs for an interview at Istana Negara to gauge which prime minister candidate commands the majority of the House.

The unprecedented move by the king came after PH lost its parliamentary majority following the departure of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) and a Mr Azmin Ali-led faction of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) from the coalition.

According to report by New Straits Times, the MPs were asked to choose between naming a prime minister candidate or dissolving the parliament. 

BLOC REJECTS UNITY GOVERNMENT

On Sunday, leaders from six political parties - Bersatu, Mr Azmin-led splinter group, UMNO, PAS, Gabungan Parti Sarawak and Parti Warisan Sabah - had sought an audience with the king.

It was confirmed at the Tuesday press conference that they had presented a Statutory Declaration (SD) to the king to support Dr Mahathir to form a new coalition that does not involve Democratic Action Party (DAP).

However, the proposal for a unity government, which comprises rival political parties, has forced them to retract the SD, said Mr Annuar.

“The SD we presented to the king to support Dr Mahathir was contingent on him building a new coalition without DAP.

“Anything other than that, our support is invalid,” he said.

Mr Annuar added that a unity government would allow the prime minister to select individual MPs, instead of party nominees, to join the Cabinet, and this conflicts with the parties’ stance.

MCA president Wee Ka Siong also questioned the utility of a unity government.

Full report at:

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/malaysia-barisan-nasional-pas-dissolve-parliament-mandate-12469714

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Arab World

 

Death of the ‘accidental pharaoh’: Arab and world leaders react to passing of Hosni Mubarak

ALAA ABDEL-GHANI

SALMA AHMED

February 25, 2020

CAIRO: Middle East and world leaders paid tribute on Tuesday to Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian air force officer who never expected to become president but ruled his country for 30 years.

Mubarak, who was 91, took office in October 1981 after six years as vice president, when Anwar Sadat was assassinated in Cairo by Islamist militants. He was forced to stand down in February 2011 after 18 days of protests during the so-called “Arab Spring.”

The former president died in the intensive care unit of a Cairo military hospital, where he underwent surgery a few weeks ago.

Mubarak was admired and detested in equal measure, both in Egypt and in the wider Middle East, a paradox reflected in reactions to his death.

The office of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi offered condolences and described Mubarak as one of the “heroes of the October 1973 war against Israel.”

In Saudi Arabia, King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent their “deepest condolences and sincere sympathies” to Mubarak’s family, and the Egyptian president and people.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, described Mubarak as “an Arab leader who worked loyally for Arab unity and stability and stood firmly against extremism and terrorism.”

Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, said he was “a statesman ... who espoused nationalistic and historical positions.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he mourned Mubarak’s death “with great sorrow” and praised his support of the Palestinian cause.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of his “deepest sorrow” on behalf of Israel and its people. “President Mubarak, a personal friend of mine, led his nation to peace and security,” he said.

The former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed El-Baradei, a key opposition figure in Mubarak’s declining years, also paid tribute. “May God have mercy on the former president ... and grant his family patience and comfort,” he said.

Protesters who took part in the revolution that unseated Mubarak were also forgiving. “He was loyal and loving of Egypt,” said opposition activist Wael Ghoneim. “He took on a great responsibility toward the Egyptian people.

“He was right a lot of the time and also wrong a lot of the time ... history will decide.”

Former presidential candidate Ayman Nour, who ran against Mubarak in the 2005 elections and was later jailed, was also conciliatory. “I promise to God I personally forgive him,” he said.

Ordinary Egyptians, many of whom admired Mubarak but complained of corruption, oppression and unemployment under his rule, had mixed feelings about his death.

“We had good and bad memories,” said Sherin Saad, a woman in her 30s, who criticized graft and the privatization of public companies, which Mubarak’s critics say enriched the elite.

Atef Bayoumi, walking on the Nile Corniche in central Cairo, said: “He was a patriot. Regardless of the final events, he surely did good things for the country.”

However, Gamal Eid, a prominent human rights activist, said: “My condolences to all tyrants, they lost one today.”

Such views, however, will be in a minority for the rest of this week. Mubarak’s funeral will take place on Wednesday, with full military honors, followed by three days of official mourning throughout Egypt.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1633036/middle-east

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Hosni Mubarak: Egypt’s warrior leader left his mark on Middle East history

ABDELLATIF EL-MENAWY

February 26, 2020

CAIRO: Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who passed away on Tuesday, ruled Egypt for 30 years. His rule began in a spirit of reform, with the release of political prisoners, support for the independence of the judiciary and the freedom of the press and a great deal of tolerance for his political opponents.

What is certain is that Mubarak’s role in the contemporary history of Egypt lies mainly in the military, as he belonged to a generation of warrior leaders. He was chosen by Gamal Abdel Nasser after the defeat of 1967, when he was a colonel, in order to rebuild the destroyed air force and prepare it for the victory of October 1973.

Some may disagree about Mubarak’s legacy, but it is unfair and transgressive to underestimate his value and role as a pilot.

I will not forget a comment, from a friend of mine from the Gulf, on the change he witnessed in the character of Egypt during the country’s rush to try Mubarak, and even execute him, after his fall. “The crisis that the Egyptian people suffer from is that, for the first time, they have lost their two most important characteristics: Patience and tolerance,” he told me.

I will also never forget the comment of an English friend during Mubarak’s trial, and his transfer from his home to the hospital, and from there to the courtroom cage that had been specially built for him, and then to prison. At that time, my friend wondered: “Didn’t Mubarak fight with the army one day?” I replied: “He even participated in three wars: The Suez war in 1956, the June 1967 war, and finally the October 1973 war, which was truly the most important victory in the history of the Arabs.” The man marveled at the insult Mubarak had to endure, saying: “Had he been in my country, the situation would have been different.”

For sure, Mubarak belonged to the generation of great warrior leaders, and that is an undeniable role that cannot be erased. At the same time, he was the ruler of Egypt for 30 years, and he is certainly subject to criticism, agreements and differences.

It is possible to explain a part of Mubarak’s behavior on the eve of his removal from power in order to preserve the blood of the Egyptians, and his decision to remain in the country, by saying that he was a leader who fought for the sake of Egypt. He did not kill tens of thousands or destroy cities to remain in power. He did not run away from the accusations leveled against him. Rather, he was tried in his country as a former president — acquitted in some cases and convicted in one — which gave a symbolic value to Egypt.

I still remember when he said to me with love and pride, after I interviewed him in 2009, how he preserved all of Egypt’s history and topography, and how he had visited all of its cities. He spoke with a real passion, one that explains why he did not leave the country when he abdicated.

The trials of the former president were not the most severe acts against him — that,  I think, was the moment when his successors decided to withdraw all the medals and decorations he had received from him. I think that was the most difficult moment.

Many believe — and I am one of them — that a politician’s accountability for his errors should be in political action. I do not agree that accountability and justice for what are deemed political errors should be meted out through the use of vindictive punishments.

There are those who considered Mubarak’s reign as three decades of darkness and dictatorship, of looting, corruption and retreat, but it can be noticed that the number of these people has decreased significantly during recent years. On the other hand, there is a large sector that believes Mubarak made right and wrong decisions, and these people believe that, had Mubarak decided to withdraw from public life after the death of his grandson in 2009, and the surgery he underwent, he would have had a distinguished position in the hearts of the Egyptians. There is a third group that calls itself “Mubarak’s children.” These people find in their former president nothing but good, and their position was strengthened because of the way the Muslim Brotherhood ruled.

So, as we see, there are understandable difference in assessing Mubarak’s legacy. What was not understood, however, was the sweeping and overpowering attack not on Mubarak the president, but on Mubarak the fighter pilot — Mubarak the man.

God was merciful to him. He gave him the chance to see a large part of his rehabilitation after he suffered a lot during the long months following the fall of his regime in 2011. He was ultimately cleared of all charges but, more importantly, he began to talk again about the role of the air force. His memoirs, which he wrote when he was vice president, were published to show him as a military commander and a fighter pilot who fought for his country.

For many Egyptians, it seemed he had been helped through  divine intervention. He entered intensive care about a month ago. A few days before his death, he received the news that his sons, Alaa and Gamal, had been acquitted in their final case. And one of the last things Mubarak said, according to his lawyer, Farid Al-Deeb, after he learned of the news of the innocence of his two sons, was: “Praise be to God. Our Lord has done justice to us after so many years.”

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1633331/middle-east

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Hezbollah says it opposes IMF management of Lebanon crisis

February 25, 2020

BEIRUT/LONDON: Hezbollah is against allowing the International Monetary Fund to manage Lebanon’s financial crisis, the powerful group said on Tuesday, indicating opposition to any IMF bailout that would impose tough conditions on the heavily indebted state.

Hezbollah, backed by Iran and designated as a terrorist group by the United States, is one of the main parties that backs the new Beirut government as it struggles with the unprecedented crisis.

Facing a huge public debt burden and a liquidity crunch, the government on Tuesday appointed international investment firm Lazard and law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP as its financial and legal advisers on a widely expected sovereign debt restructuring.

Beirut has sought IMF technical but not financial aid.

“We will not accept submitting to (imperialist) tools ... meaning we do not accept submitting to the International Monetary Fund to manage the crisis,” said Hezbollah’s Sheikh Naim Qassem, deputy leader of the heavily armed Shiite group.

“Yes, there is nothing to prevent consultations ... and this is what the Lebanese government is doing.”

An IMF technical team visited Beirut from Feb. 20-24. “The discussions on the challenges and the authorities’ plans to address them were very informative and productive,” IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said.

“Staff is available to provide further technical advice to the government as it formulates its economic reform plans.”

The crisis came to a head last year as capital inflows slowed and protests erupted against the ruling elite over corruption and bad governance — root causes of the crisis.

Banks are imposing tight restrictions on access to deposits and transfers. The Lebanese pound has slumped: dollars were being offered at 2,470 pounds on Tuesday, a dealer said. The official rate is 1,507.5.

“Hezbollah is very adamantly opposed to the IMF and that makes it very, very difficult and means Lebanon will have to get to a point where the situation is bad for longer,” said Steffen Reichold, portfolio manager at Stone Harbor Investment Partners, which holds some Lebanese Eurobonds.

“That could mean the exchange rate getting to 3,000 and significantly more inflation.”

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Monday his government was looking at options to help Lebanon recover, including an IMF program if Beirut seeks one.

Foreign states which have backed Lebanon in the past want to see implementation of long-delayed reforms before any assistance is forthcoming this time.

Some of Lebanon’s Eurobonds intensified their sell-off.

The government must urgently decide how to handle a $1.2 billion Eurobond maturing on March 9.

“It’s pretty likely they will go down the debt restructuring route and the question then becomes will the March 2020 bonds be brought in to that,” said Nick Eisinger, principal, fixed income emerging markets, at Vanguard.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1633146/middle-east

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Iraqi forces kill one protester in Baghdad, wound 24: Sources

26 February 2020

Iraqi security forces killed at least one protester in Baghdad on Tuesday and wounded 24 others, police sources told Reuters.

The death was due to birdshot fired from a hunting rifle, the sources said, adding that five of the injuries also resulted from birdshot. The remaining injuries were tear gas-related.

At least 23 members of the security forces were also injured, the sources said.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/26/Iraqi-forces-kill-one-protester-in-Baghdad-wound-24-Sources.html

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Syrian regime retakes symbolic town of Kafranbel in Idlib: Monitor

26 February 2020

Syrian regime forces recaptured Kafranbel in Idlib province on Tuesday, a war monitor said, a symbolic victory in a town that was among the first to rise against Damascus.

Supported by Russian airstrikes, pro-regime forces advancing on the last major opposition-held bastion in northwest Syria captured Kafranbel and 18 nearby towns and villages over the past 48 hours, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Observatory said regime airstrikes and artillery fire had killed 19 civilians in Idlib, in towns north of Kafranbel.

From the first days of the peaceful uprising against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad in 2011, Kafranbel gained worldwide renown as a bastion of protest.

In 2012, it was rocked by fighting between regime fighters and defectors from al-Assad’s army, soon slipping out of the government’s control.

A town of some 20,000 people, it became known for the often humorous signs in English and Arabic that its residents held up at weekly demonstrations.

“Down with the regime - and the opposition,” a sign at one of the town’s protests read in 2011.

Activists from Kafranbel became famous for speaking out against Damascus as well as criticizing extremists and the radicalization of the uprising against al-Assad.

Prominent activists Raed Fares and Hamod Jnaid were killed by unknown gunmen in the town in November 2018.

In recent weeks, Damascus has pressed a major offensive against the remaining territory still held by extremists and Turkish-backed fighters, which has shrunk to an area roughly the size of Majorca.

The area hosts more than three million people - half of them already displaced by violence elsewhere.

The offensive has killed more than 400 civilians, according to the Observatory, and displaced close to a million people amid bitter cold.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/26/Syrian-regime-retakes-symbolic-town-of-Kafranbel-in-Idlib-Monitor-.html

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Kuwait suspends all flights to and from Singapore, Japan over coronavirus fears

25 February 2020

Kuwait's civil aviation authority announced on Tuesday it had suspended all flights with Singapore and Japan over coronavirus fears, state news agency KUNA reported.

The statement was issued in accordance with the Kuwaiti health ministry's instructions.

On Monday, Kuwait suspended flights with South Korea, Iran, Thailand, Italy and Iraq because of the coronavirus.

Kuwait has registered nine cases of coronavirus, all coming from Iran.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/02/25/Kuwait-suspends-all-flights-to-and-from-Singapore-Japan-over-coronavirus-fears-.html

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Russia’s FM Lavrov rejects Idlib ceasefire as ‘capitulating before terrorists’

25 February 2020

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday rejected calls for a halt to a Russia-backed Syrian offensive in Idlib in northwest Syria.

“This is capitulating before terrorists and even a reward for their activities in violation of international treaties and numerous UN Security Council resolutions,” Lavrov told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Lavrov accused some governments of “a desire to justify outrageous acts committed by radical and terrorist groupings.

“Otherwise, it would be difficult to explain admonishments about the possibility of concluding peace agreements with bandits,” he said, referring to the situation in Idlib.

A months-long offensive by Russia-backed Syrian troops against factions backed by Turkey in Idlib has seen hundreds of thousands of people flee the violence.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he is planning to hold a summit on March 5 with the leaders of Russia, France and Germany over the escalating conflict.

But on Tuesday he said he might instead hold face-to-face talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on that date, either in Istanbul or in Ankara.

The Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross also on Tuesday said in a statement it was “deeply alarmed” by the situation for civilians fleeing the fighting.

“This is the worst wave of displacement we’ve seen during the Syrian conflict. Amid the harsh winter conditions in Idlib, we see people trapped, isolated and running out of ways to cope. It’s completely unacceptable,” said Fabrizio Carboni, the ICRC’s director for the Near and Middle East.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/25/Russia-s-FM-Lavrov-rejects-Idlib-ceasefire-as-capitulating-before-terrorists-.html

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Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has died

25 February 2020

Muhammad Hosni El Sayed Mubarak, former Egyptian president and military leader has died at the age of 91. He was admitted to the intensive care unit on Saturday, his son Alaa Mubarak said on Twitter. On Monday, Alaa said his father had underwent surgery and he was in stable condition.

He is survived by his wife Suzanne Mubarak and two sons, Gamal and Alaa Mubarak.

Following Anwar Sadat’s assassination in 1981, Mubarak stepped into the spotlight and became president of Egypt on October 14, 1981. Mubarak was known as a Western ally and made efforts to improve Arab-Israeli relations during his time in office. The Arab Spring that erupted in Egypt in 2011 brought an end to Mubarak’s tenure, as he was forced out of office and was tried for crimes against protesters and embezzlement in the following years.

Education and early career

Hosni Mubarak was born in Kafr-el Meselha, Minufiya, on May 4, 1928. Educated at the Egyptian Military Academy and the Air Force Academy, he began his career in 1952 working as a flight instructor at the Egyptian Air Force Academy. He quickly rose through the ranks and was named commander of the Air Force Academy in 1967, where he led the academy until 1969.

In 1972, he earned the title of Commander in Chief of the Egyptian Air Force and Deputy Minister of War, a post he held until 1975, when he was named as Egyptian Vice President under President Anwar Sadat.

Mubarak survived at least six assassination attempts over the years and was next to Sadat when he was assassinated by a group of Islamic fundamentalists on October 6, 1981.

During the nearly 30 years Mubarak reigned over Egypt, he was reelected four times before stepping down in 2011.

Mubarak was cozy with Western officials and had met in March 2002 with US Vice President Dick Cheney and pledged to pressure Saddam Hussein to allow United Nations inspectors to return to Iraq.

Mubarak also held multiple meetings during his tenure on the Arab-Israeli peace process. In June of that same year, Mubarak met with US President George W. Bush in Washington to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Mubarak’s peace plan for the region. In 2006, he hosted a summit with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in an effort to coordinate security measures along the countries’ shared border. Also in 2006, he met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to ask for renewed peace talks between Israel and Palestine. He also met with US President Barack Obama in 2011 to discuss Middle East Peace.

Tumultuous tenure

Despite visible efforts on resolving the region’s longest standing conflict, domestic pressures would prove to be the fateful blow for Egypt’s long-time president.

When the Arab Spring swept through Egypt in January 2011, Hosni Mubarak, facing immense pressure from the street, announced he would not run again for president on February 1, 2011.

Protests continued in the country’s streets that winter, and on February 10, Mubarak said on state television he would hand over powers to Vice President Omar Suleiman, but would remain as president and said that the promised reforms in Egypt would proceed under his government’s supervision.

The next day, the vice president announced that Mubarak was stepping down; the military’s supreme council would run the country. President Mohamed Morsi, who died in June 2019, would succeed Mubarak following elections in 2012.

Post-presidency tribulations

In May 2011, Egyptian judicial officials announced that Mubarak, along with sons Alaa and Gamal, would be tried over deaths of anti-government protesters. He would be found guilty of complicity in the murder of Arab Spring demonstrators. He and his former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly were sentenced to life in prison for their crimes.

Mubarak was released from Tora prison in August 2013 and was placed on house arrest before being transferred to a military hospital.

In 2014, Mubarak once again found himself in an Egyptian court – this time for embezzlement. He was sentenced to three years in prison. The convictions were initially overturned, but a retrial reinstated the guilty verdict.

In November that year, Mubarak was acquitted in a retrial of conspiring to kill protesters in 2011 and was also acquitted of corruption charges related to gas exports to Israel.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/25/Former-Egyptian-President-Hosni-Mubarak-has-died-Egyptian-sources.html

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3 more Iran travelers infected with coronavirus in Bahrain, bringing total to 26

26 February 2020

Bahrain announced on Wednesday that the number of coronavirus infections has risen to 26 after 3 new cases were confirmed, according to the state news agency (BNA).

The three were identified as Bahraini women who arrived at Bahrain international airport on indirect flights from Iran.

Bahrain had previously reported 23 cases on Tuesday after six more cases came from Iran.

Bahrain taking precautionary measures

Bahrain has announced several precautionray mesaures to combat the spread of coronavirus, including closing schools, a travel ban from Iran.

Bahrain suspended all private and public schools, universities, and nurseries across the kingdom for two weeks from Tuesday.

Bahrain will test all citizens and residents who traveled to Iran in February in an effort to control the spread of coronavirus, announced the Health Ministry on Wednesday, according to Bahrain News Agency.

The ministry provided a hotline for those who have been to Iran this month to schedule test appointments, noting that all citizens and residents must comply with the implementation of all instructions and preventative measures issued by the ministry to ensure the safety of everyone, Bahrain News Agency reported.

Concerns over spread from Iran

Iran, a close neighbor of Bahrain across the Arabian Gulf, witnessed an explosion of cases over the last week.

The Iranian government has officialy recorded 95 cases, with 15 deaths, but an Iranian MP alleged that there had been 50 deaths in the city of Qom alone, prompting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to voice concern that Iran is suppressing the details of the outbreak.

The number of people infected with coronavirus in Iran could be as high as 1,500, experts told Al Arabiya English on Tuesday.

“If we assume that the rate of death per case is in the same range in Iran that it is elsewhere, then that implies that there are between 750 to 1,500 symptomatic cases in Iran. But that would be making the assumption that the Iranian severity is similar to the severity elsewhere,” said Dr. Marc Lipsitch, a professor of epidemiology at Harvard University.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/02/26/Bahrain-to-test-anyone-who-traveled-to-Iran-in-last-month-for-coronavirus.html

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Saudi-led blockade against Qatari nationals based on racial profiling: Top Official

25 February 2020

A senior Qatari official has strongly condemned the ongoing Saudi-led economic and diplomatic embargo against the energy-rich Persian Gulf country, describing the punitive measures as a violation of human rights and all international conventions.

Speaking at the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council in the Swiss city of Geneva on Monday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Lulwah al-Khater said the embargo in place against Qatar since 2017 “violates human rights and targets its citizens racially,” noting that the blockade constitutes a grave violation of human rights and all international principles.

وكالة الأنباء القطرية

@QatarNewsAgency

مساعد وزير الخارجية والمتحدث الرسمي لوزارة الخارجية تؤكد في اجتماعات الجزء رفيع المستوى للدورة الثالثة والأربعين لمجلس حقوق الإنسان في جنيف أن تداعيات حصار قطر ما زالت ماثلة في انتهاكات عديدة لحقوق الإنسان.#قنا

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She added that the repercussions of the blockade on Qatar “are still present in numerous human rights violations as regards religious and educational rights, freedom of movement and basic freedoms.”

Such violations have targeted Qatari citizens based on their nationality,” Khater noted, stressing that the matter constitutes a serious and clear violation of all human rights regulations – the foremost of which is the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

On February 20, Qatar censured Saudi Arabia over barring its health minister from a recent emergency meeting of Persian Gulf countries in the Saudi capital Riyadh to discuss the growing concerns over the coronavirus, and means to unify regional efforts to combat it.

Qatar expresses its concern that the Saudi authorities did not grant (Health Minister) Hanan Mohamed al-Kuwari permission to enter Riyadh and attend a meeting on coronavirus preventive measures organized by the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council... until the meeting had actually started,” Qatar's Foreign Ministry said in a statement at the time.

The statement added, “Saudi Arabia has repeatedly claimed that the (P)GCC, especially the technical committees, have not been affected by the crisis. Yet we are surprised to see that (Riyadh) is politicizing a humanitarian sector.”

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar on June 5, 2017, after officially accusing it of “sponsoring terrorism.”

Libya, the Maldives, Djibouti, Senegal and the Comoros later joined the camp in ending diplomatic ties with Doha. Jordan downgraded its diplomatic relations as well.

Qatar's Foreign Ministry later announced that the decision to cut diplomatic ties was unjustified and based on false claims and assumptions.

On June 9, 2017, Qatar strongly dismissed allegations of supporting terrorism after the Saudi regime and its allies blacklisted dozens of individuals and entities purportedly associated with Doha.

Later that month, Saudi Arabia and its allies released a 13-point list of demands, including the closure of al-Jazeera television network and downgrade of relations with Iran, in return for the normalization of diplomatic relations with Doha.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/25/619512/Saudi-led-blockade-against-Qatari-nationals-based-on-racial-profiling:-Top-Official

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Syrian troops press ahead with campaign as strikes kill 16

February 25, 2020

ANKARA: Airstrikes on rebel-controlled northwestern Syrian killed at least 16 people Tuesday, including two students and two teachers, opposition activists said, as government forces closed in on a town considered a symbol of the uprising against President Bashar Assad.

The violence came as Turkey’s president announced that a Russian delegation would arrive the following day to resume talks aimed at easing tensions in the northwest Idlib region. The area is the country’s last rebel-controlled stronghold and the Syrian government’s military campaign there, backed by Russia, has created a humanitarian catastrophe with nearly 1 million people displaced from their homes since Dec. 1.

Most of them are now crowding areas close to the border with Turkey, living in camps, shelters, abandoned homes and in open fields. It is the largest single displacement of Syria’s war, now in its ninth year.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said no consensus was reached for a four-way meeting next month between the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Turkey meant to address the crisis. He added, however, that Russia’s Vladimir Putin may still come to Turkey next week for a bilateral meeting. Moscow has so far not confirmed a March 5 visit by the Russian president to Turkey.

Tensions have been running high between Turkey and Russia, which support opposing sides of the war in Syria. The Syrian government offensive has shattered a fragile cease-fire agreement that Turkey and Russia reached in 2018 and Turkey has threatened military action unless Syrian forces retreat to positions they held before the advance by the end of February.

“Russia supports Syria at the highest level,” Erdogan told reporters before departing for a visit to Azerbaijan. “Even if they deny it, we have evidence. We are forced to be in this fight.”

Turkish officials had reported small progress in two previous rounds of Turkey-Russia meetings but said the results were not satisfactory.

Turkey had set up a dozen observation posts as part of the 2018 agreement, many of which are now behind Syrian government lines. Ankara also sent thousands of additional troops into Idlib in recent weeks and has frequently engaged in military exchanges with Syrian troops.

At least 16 Turkish soldiers were killed in clashes this month during the Syrian government’s push on the last rebel stronghold.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a news conference at the State Department Tuesday that the Syrian government’s offensive “only heightens the risk of conflict with our NATO ally, Turkey,” adding that the US was working together with Turkey “on seeing what we can do together.”

He called for a permanent cease-fire, saying “the regime will not be able to obtain military victory.”

The fighting appeared to intensify, however, with dozens of airstrikes reported Tuesday.

Opposition activists and a war monitor said at least 16 people were killed in Idlib province Tuesday. They included two students and two teachers who were killed in Idlib city when a school was struck with a cluster bomb-filled rocket, and 10 civilians who were killed in airstrikes on the town of Maarat Misreen in Idlib province. The deaths were reported by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Idlib-based opposition activist Hadi Abdullah.

The Observatory and Idlib-based opposition activist Taher Al-Omar said insurgents captured the village of Nairab late Monday after intense fighting with government forces that had captured the village earlier this month. The village is close to the town of Saraqeb where two major highways in the country meet.

To the south of Nairab, Syrian troops captured two new villages raising to 10 the number of areas captured in the province since Monday, according to state media.

The capture of Maaret Tamater and Maaret Seen brings government forces closer to Kafranbel, a major opposition-held town that gained attention in the early years of the Syrian conflict during weekly anti-government protests because of humorous English-language banners carried by protesters.

The banners were initiated by anti-government journalist Raed Fares who was shot dead in the town along with his friend Hammoud Al-Juneid in November 2018. Fares was a harsh critic of Islamic militants that control much of Idlib.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1633131/middle-east

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Mideast

 

Israel’s Netanyahu revives settlement plan opponents say cuts off East Jerusalem

25 February 2020

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Tuesday he was reviving Israel’s most contentious settlement plan, a proposal that opponents say would split the West Bank, cut off East Jerusalem and make a contiguous Palestinian state impossible.

Netanyahu’s announcement, six days before an election in which the rightwing leader needs backing from settlers and their supporters, would give the go ahead to 3,500 homes for Jewish settlers on a parcel of barren hills known as E-1.

Israel had frozen a plan to build settlements there since 2012 because of objections from the United States, European allies and other world powers who considered the project a threat to any future peace deal with the Palestinians.

Palestinians say it would split the Israeli-occupied West Bank in two, and cut off its residents from access to East Jerusalem, also territory Israel captured in a 1967 war, and where Palestinians hope to locate the capital of a state.

“I have given instructions to immediately publish for deposit the plan to build 3,500 housing units in E-1,” Netanyahu said in a speech, describing the first phase of a planning process. “This had been delayed for six or seven years.”

The E-1 plan would expand the large Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim, effectively connecting it to Jerusalem, about a 15-minute drive away.

Nabil Abu Rudeinah, a spokesman of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said Netanyahu’s announcement “crossed all red lines” and he called on the international community to act.

“Dangerous policy”

Palestinians and much of the world view Israel’s settlements in the West Bank, captured in the 1967 Middle East war, as illegal under international law. Israel disputes this, and the United States under President Donald Trump has shifted its policy to lift previous objections.

“This is dangerous policy and we consider this an act of destroying the peace process,” Abu Rudeinah said about Israeli settlement activities.

Citing a “historic opportunity” provided by a peace plan unveiled last month by Trump, Netanyahu has pledged to apply Israeli law to the settlements and the West Bank’s Jordan Valley after the election, a step considered de facto annexation.

The US proposal, unveiled by Trump with Netanyahu at his side and boycotted by the Palestinians, would recognize Israeli sovereignty over settlement areas. It envisages a Palestinian state, but with limited control over security and stripped of strategic land, which Palestinians say is non-viable.

Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving leader, is struggling to keep hold of power in a third vote after failing to secure a majority in two inconclusive elections last year. He also faces criminal corruption charges.

His main opponent, centrist Benny Gantz, has been more circumspect about how far he would go in taking advantage of the shift in US policy under Trump to further expand and formalize Israeli control of occupied territory.

Last week, Netanyahu announced he was reviving a separate project, also frozen after international opposition, to build 3,000 new settler homes at Givat Hamatos in the West Bank, on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

The E-1 project has symbolic resonance for supporters of the settler movement, with Netanyahu an early backer.

In 2005, Netanyahu toured the area to kick off a bid for the leadership of the rightwing Likud party. He told reporters who accompanied him that if he became prime minister, he would defy international pressure and build on the site to create a “Greater Jerusalem,” under Israeli control.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/25/Israel-s-Netanyahu-revives-settlement-plan-opponents-say-cuts-off-East-Jerusalem.html

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Iran’s deputy health minister has coronavirus, test confirms: Adviser

25 February 2020

Iraj Harirchi, the deputy minister for health, has been infected with coronavirus, according to a tweet posted by an adviser to the health minister and reports from the semi-official news agency ILNA on Tuesday.

A spokesman confirmed that Harirchi is now under quarantine.

Harirchi had held a press conference on Monday with government spokesman Ali Rabiei, he was seen sweating profusely and coughing, prompting questions as to whether he had contracted the virus.

During the conference, Harirchi rejected claims made by an Iranian member of parliament that the coronavirus had claimed the lives of around 50 people in the city of Qom alone. “If the number of coronavirus victims in Qom is a quarter of what media outlets are reporting, I will resign. The figure is incorrect, and we are sure of our statistics,” he said.

The announcement of Harirchi's contraction of the virus comes after countries across the region have closed their borders to Iran as authorities trace the spread of the coronavirus back to the Islamic Republic.

The number of coronavirus fatalities in Iran increased to 15 on Tuesday, making it the most deadly epicenter for the disease outside of China. The Health Ministry added that the number of infected people has increased to 95.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/25/Iran-s-deputy-health-minister-has-coronavirus-test-confirms-Adviser.html

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Iran regime most likely ‘to blame’ for coronavirus spread in Iran: US State Dept

26 February 2020

“If anyone is to blame for the rapid spread of coronavirus in Iran, it is the Iranian regime itself,” a US State Department spokesperson told US weekly news magazine Newsweek on Tuesday.

The number of coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, fatalities in Iran increased to 15 on Tuesday, making it the most deadly epicenter for the disease outside of China. The Health Ministry added that the number of infected people has increased to 95.

Iraj Harirchi, the country’s deputy minister for health, announced that he has been infected with coronavirus earlier on Tuesday. The news was followed by an announcement from Iranian member of parliament Mahmoud Sadeghi that he too has tested positive for the deadly virus.

“The regime is notorious for lying to its people, even at great risk to their safety and well-being,” the State Department spokesperson said.

“We saw this when the regime repeatedly lied and sought to cover up its grievous error in the shootdown of a civilian Ukrainian airliner in January, killing all 176 people onboard, including many Iranian citizens.”

There have been allegations that Iranian authorities are not accurately reporting the number of figures in the country. Using global estimates, which place the death rate per symptomatic case in the range of 1 to 2 percent, the number of infected in the country could be as high as 1,500, Dr. Marc Lipsitch, a professor of epidemiology at Harvard University said on Tuesday.

“There are widespread reports that regime officials acted to conceal accurate information about this current outbreak,” the spokesperson added.

Countries across the region have already begun to break travel links with Iran. Eleven countries have closed their air and land borders to the Islamic Republic, including the vast majority of its neighbors.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/26/Iran-regime-most-likely-to-blame-for-coronavirus-spread-in-Iran-US-State-Dept.html

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Aid agencies preparing to suspend aid to Houthi areas in Yemen: US official

26 February 2020

Donors and aid groups are planning to suspend humanitarian aid to areas of Yemen controlled by the Houthis in the coming months if the group does not stop hindering the delivery of assistance, a senior US State Department official said on Tuesday.

Aid agency sources told Reuters earlier this month that Houthi authorities in northern Yemen were obstructing efforts to get food and other help to those in need, to an extent that was no longer tolerable, and that operations would be scaled down.

Read: Yemen’s Houthi militia impeding UN aid flow, demand a cut

The senior US State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed those plans.

“Each donor and implementer is drawing up plans on how to, what to do if the Houthis do not change their behavior on the ground,” the official said. “The plans involve suspending a lot of assistance programs with exceptions for truly lifesaving programs feeding sick children and things like that.”

“Everyone’s looking at a timeline of a month or two ... That’s the point at which different implementers will start to suspend some of the programs,” the official said.

The United Nations describes Yemen as the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis and says millions of people are on the verge of starvation. The world body did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it was planning to suspend some operations to Houthi-controlled areas.

Read: Iran's arm shipment to Houthis, example of state-sponsored terrorism: Pompeo

Aid agencies have for the past year publicly and privately complained of worsening operating conditions, lack of travel permits and other access restrictions.

“It can’t be tolerated anymore,” the State Department official said.

Yemen has been mired in conflict since the Iran-aligned Houthis ousted the government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi from the capital Sanaa in late 2014. A Saudi-led military coalition has fought to restore Hadi.

At the United Nations on Tuesday, the Security Council adopted a resolution to extend targeted sanctions and an arms embargo on the Houthis for another year. Thirteen countries voted in favor and Russia and China abstained because they said the text was not balanced.

In the resolution the council expressed “serious concern at the devastating humanitarian situation in Yemen and all instances of undue hindrances to the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance, including the recent interference in aid operations in Houthi-controlled areas.”

The United States and other Western powers have long-accused Iran of supplying weapons to the Houthis. Iran has repeatedly denied the accusations.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/02/26/Aid-agencies-preparing-to-suspend-aid-to-Houthi-areas-in-Yemen-US-official-.html

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UN Security Council approves resolution extending Yemen sanctions

26 February 2020

The UN Security Council approved a resolution Tuesday extending targeted sanctions in Yemen following contentious negotiations including on whether to refer to UN experts’ findings that Yemen’s Houthi Shia militias are receiving parts for drones and weapons, some with technical characteristics similar to arms manufactured in Iran.

Britain, which drafted the resolution, and the US and other Western nations supported the experts' findings, but Russia and China objected.

The much-revised British draft voted on Tuesday afternoon eliminated all references to the Houthis and Iran, but Russia and China said their demands were not fully met and abstained.

That appeared to be a surprise to Britain and its Western allies who thought after negotiations into the early afternoon that all 15 council members would vote “yes.”

The resolution does ask the UN panel of experts, whose mandate was renewed, to report on commercially available components used by individuals and entities under UN sanctions, without referring to any party.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/02/26/UN-Security-Council-approves-resolution-extending-Yemen-sanctions.html

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Trump confessed Iran hates Daesh, US stole Syrian oil: Zarif

26 February 2020

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has underscored a confession by US President Donald Trump that the Islamic Republic hates the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group, and that the presence of American forces in Syria was for plundering the Arab country's oil resources. 

Zarif made the remarks on Tuesday in a tweet accompanied by a video clip that showed Trump making a confession about the US troops withdrawal after they "have taken the oil" in Syria.

Trump has on several occasions publicly pointed to stealing Syria’s oil reserves.

In October last year, after ordering the withdrawal of American forces from Syria, Trump said he wanted the US firm ExxonMobil to go to the Arab country to tap its oil.

The US president also boasted in the footage about his country's purported fight against the Daesh (ISIS) terrorist group and urged Tehran to fight the Takfiri outfit as "Iran hates ISIS."

In a post on his Twitter account, Zarif said, "Trump just admitted what we all knew: US troops in Syria to "have the oil”" adding that, "Russia, Syria, & Iran can fight ISIS, confessing, “Iran hates ISIS”"

Denouncing the US assassination of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad last month, the top Iranian diplomat censured the so-called US counterterrorism efforts, and said Washington, instead of fighting against Daesh, "cowardly murdered" the terrorist group's number-one enemy.

Javad Zarif

@JZarif

.@realdonaldtrump just admitted what we all knew: US troops in Syria to "have the oil”

Also, that Russia, Syria, & Iran can fight ISIS, confessing, “Iran hates ISIS”

But not only did US NOT fight ISIS, it cowardly murdered its #1 enemy—with ONLY Trump cronies & ISIS celebrating

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On January 3, a drone strike, conducted by direct order of Trump, martyred Soleimani, the former commander of the Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), known as Hashed al-Sha’abi in Arabic, and their companions outside Baghdad International Airport.

Both commanders were admired by Muslim nations for eliminating the US-sponsored Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in the region, particularly in Iraq and Syria.

Soon after General Soleimani’s assassination, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said Washington was to face a “harsh revenge” for the atrocity.

On January 8, the IRGC unleashed volleys of ballistic missiles at the American military airbase of Ain al-Assad in Iraq’s Anbar Province, which housed US forces. The Leader later described the retaliatory strikes as “only a slap.”

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/26/619527/Iran-Mohammad-Javad-Zarif-Daesh-Takfiri-terrorist-group-Donald-Trump-Syria-oil-resources

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Iran raps international inaction on repeated Israeli crimes against Palestinians

25 February 2020

Iran has denounced the Israeli regime’s attacks on civilians and targets of the resistance front in Gaza and Syria, criticizing the international community’s inaction on Tel Aviv’s repeated atrocities in Palestine and its violation of the neighboring countries’ sovereignty.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi on Tuesday hailed the Palestinian nation’s legitimate and brave resistance in the face of Israeli occupation, describing resistance and national unity as the only option for the Palestinians their fight the occupying regime.

Pointing to the Israeli military’s “inhumane” desecration of the body of a Gazan man killed by the regime’s forces, saying the insult once again exposed the brutal nature of the Tel Aviv regime and its lack of commitment to the most basic “moral and human principles in its behavior towards the defenseless Palestinian people.”

Mousavi said the Israeli perpetrators of the move should be prosecuted and punished in international courts as war criminals.

The comments followed yet another flare-up of tensions between the Israeli military and Gaza-based resistance fighters.

The Islamic Jihad resistance movement fired dozens of rockets and mortar rounds towards the Israeli-occupied territories after the regime’s forces killed one of its fighters on Sunday morning.

A video later went viral on social media showing what appeared to be the lifeless body of the resistance fighter dangling from an Israeli military bulldozer as it removed the corpse, in what human rights activists have denounced as a “war crime” and a blatant violation of international law.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/25/619507/Mousavi-Iran-Palestine-Gaza-resistance

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UN Security Council urges two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict

25 February 2020

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has renewed the call for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict weeks after the United States unveiled a “peace” plan that runs counter to such a solution and the entire international law.

All 15 Security Council member states approved a Belgium-drafted statement on Monday that urged all parties to adhere to the two-state bid.

“Council Members reiterated their support for a negotiated two-state solution, recalling previous relevant UN resolutions, and in accordance with international law,” the statement read.

Security Council resolutions have in the past called for the two-state solution based on the 1967 boundaries.

UNSC Resolution 2334, adopted in December 2016, pronounced settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds “a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution.”

“All parties should refrain from undermining the viability of the two-state solution in order to maintain the prospects for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace,” the Security Council statement added, referring to Israel’s recent settlement construction plan in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Elsewhere in its statement, the UNSC “stressed the need to exert collective efforts to launch credible negotiations on all final status issues” and expressed “grave concern about acts of violence against civilians.”

The statement followed two days of intense fighting between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement in the Gaza Strip, which ended with a ceasefire on Tuesday.

Violence has surged in the occupied lands following the release of US President Donald Trump’s self-proclaimed “deal of the century,” which his administration has drafted in close cooperation with the Israeli side.

The scheme largely meets Israel’s demands while creating a Palestinian state with limited control over its own security and borders.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/25/619480/UN-Security-Council-Palestine-Israel

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Israel’s desecration of Palestinian corpse in Gaza war crime: Rights group

25 February 2020

Human rights activists have expressed outrage after a video widely shared on social media showed an Israeli military bulldozer dragging the body of a Palestinian man killed by the regime’s forces in Gaza, calling the action a “war crime” and a blatant violation of international criminal law.

“This is a war crime,” tweeted the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel known as Adalah.

On Sunday, Israeli troops killed 27-year-old Mohammed Ali al-Naim, a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement, east of Khan Yunis, for allegedly trying to plant “an explosive device” near the fence separating Gaza from the Israeli-occupied territories.

The video went viral on social media over the weekend showing what appeared to be the lifeless body of the resistance fighter dangling from an Israeli military bulldozer as it removed the corpse. Two other men were wounded while trying to retrieve Mohammed’s body.

Adalah, which is dedicated to Palestinian legal rights in the occupied territories, further demanded in a letter that Israeli military immediately launch an investigation into the incident.

“In the letter, Adalah attorney Sawsan Zaher detailed a series of international laws—including the Rome Statute, the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment, and the Hague Regulations—which classify the Israeli military actions depicted in the video as war crimes and blatant violations of international criminal law, and international human rights, and humanitarian law,” the NGO said in a statement.

Dan Cohen

@dancohen3000

After seeing countless videos of Israel  murdering Palestinians over the years and witnessing the carnage firsthand, this footage shocked (but didn’t surprise) me. The #StartUpNation is constantly inventing new ways to degrade human life. https://twitter.com/ShehabAgencyEn/status/1231572462665699328 …

Shehab Agency

@ShehabAgencyEn

🇵🇸#Palestine : New Israeli Crime

Israeli occupation forces use a bulldozer to pull the body of Palestinian young man after killing him near the barbed fence in the south of Gaza. .

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The images of Mohammed’s lifeless body being carried away by the bulldozer have caused widespread outrage among Palestinians.

His family has demanded the body’s swift return for burial.

Islamic Jihad later fired a barrage of rockets into Israel in retaliation for the Israeli move. The Gaza-based movement said in a statement the video showed a “brutal crime.”

A spokesman for the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas told Al Jazeera that the incident was reflective of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories and its treatment of Palestinian people.

“There are hundreds of similar crimes that haven’t been documented by the camera. Israeli occupation continues its crime without any legal or ethical deterrence,” said Hazem Qassem.

In a statement reported by the Middle East Eye, Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum said Mohammed was unarmed.

“Desecrating the dead body of a young unarmed man on the borders of the Gaza Strip in front of the cameras of the whole world is a heinous crime that adds to the occupation’s list of crimes against our Palestinian people,” said Barhoum.

Mohammed’s mother, Mirvat, 56 said, “Isn’t it horrendous enough that they killed my young man? What they did is a great crime against humanity.”

“All I want is for them to bring my son back ... It’s my right to see him for the last time and bid farewell to him and bury him near me to be able to visit him,” she said.

Some journalists and politicians denounced the Israeli military's conduct on Twitter Sunday:

Hanan Ashrawi

@DrHananAshrawi

Too painful to watch let alone experience this unhinged sadistic cruelty of the occupation and persistent #IsraeliCrimes https://twitter.com/marianhouk/status/1231510341793800192 …

Marian Houk

@Marianhouk

> An Israeli military bulldozer runs over the body of a Palestinian youth, using a military bulldozer in a hideous/gruesom manner; it also hit one of the youths who tried to retrieve the downed, east of Abasan al-Jadida, east of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip today.. https://twitter.com/SafaPs/status/1231472878845075457 …

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Aida Touma-Sliman, a member of Joint List in Israel’s parliament (Knesset), said the Israelis “steal a body, abuse it with a bulldozer, and still argue that the army is the most moral in the world.”

She said “hording bodies to bargain with is Israel’s declared policy” since Naftali Bennett took office as Israel’s minister for military affairs last year, describing him as “the minister of death and brutality.”

IMEU

@theIMEU

Israel's brutality has no limit. Today, Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian man in occupied Gaza. Then, Israeli bulldozers dragged his body by his clothing. All of this was caught on video. https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/video-israeli-bulldozer-dragging-body-palestinian-after-gaza-border-incident-sparks-outrage?fbclid=IwAR3H9RX9DWOWUO45aw3rUCHoVPh3gwcmvJwME7eezJ8iCJLQr6_Lr6G5e58 …

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Another Joint List lawmaker, Ofer Cassif, said, “Abducting a body is the nauseating, blood-thirsty act of vampirism. Here is what [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu has to offer: Siege, killing, and abducting bodies. We need to put an end to their celebration of death.”

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/25/619472/Israel-bulldozer-Palestinian-Mohammed-Ali-al-Naim-Gaza-Strip-Khan-Younis

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Africa

 

My Government Has Weakened Boko Haram’s Capacity —Buhari

FEB 24, 2020

President Muhammadu Buhari has claimed that his government has weakened the capacity and strength of Boko Haram sect.

Speaking through his special adviser, Garba Shehu, Buhari said the sect was now restricted to attacking soft spots.

There has been an increase in Boko Haram attacks in the Northern part of the country in recent times.

On Friday, the insurgents reportedly broke into a town in Adamawa State around 7pm, shooting sporadically.

The insurgents succeeded in burning down several houses during the raid.

President Buhari said, “These attacks on soft targets by terrorists are obvious signs of frustration because my administration has significantly weakened Boko Haram’s military capability to invade and hold Nigerian territory unchallenged.

“Our gallant forces deserve our appreciation for repelling the attackers but they must go beyond this point.

"They have our full support to go after the terrorists and have them pay a huge price. I want to assure the country that terrorists will continue to face the combined power of our military until they give up their mistaken ways."

https://saharareporters.com/2020/02/24/my-government-has-weakened-boko-haram%E2%80%99s-capacity-%E2%80%94buhari

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In West Africa, U.S. Military Struggles for Scarce Resources as Terrorism Threat Grows

BY LARA SELIGMAN

FEBRUARY 24, 2020

NOUAKCHOTT, MAURITANIA—Every February, hundreds of special operations forces from around the world gather in West Africa for Flintlock, a unique U.S.-led exercise that provides critical training for regional militaries struggling to counter growing terrorist activity in the Sahel.  

This year, the threat is more urgent than ever. Despite the presence of 4,500 French troops and a 13,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force, violent extremist attacks in the region have skyrocketed in the last 18 months. The Sahel saw the most rapid increase of such events of any African region in 2019, with roughly 2,600 fatalities from 800 attacks—a number which has nearly doubled every year since 2015. Burkina Faso bore the brunt of the new violence, primarily from groups linked to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, as the locus of terrorist activity shifted from Mali across the border.

But even as terrorist activity explodes in the Sahel, the United States is considering withdrawing some or all of its roughly 5,000 troops across the continent—including approximately 1,000 in West Africa—in order to move resources toward preparing for a potential future conflict with China or Russia, a concept the Pentagon calls “great power competition.”

While the U.S. military no longer accompanies West African forces on combat missions—a practice that was largely halted after a fatal ambush in Niger killed four U.S. service members in October 2017—the United States plays a key role in facilitating French and other Western military operations here, providing air refueling, transportation, and drone surveillance. The so-called G5 Sahel Joint Force, a framework of about 5,000 troops from five countries in the region—Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger—was created in 2017 with French and international backing to address the growing terrorism threat. But French officials say the U.S. military’s support to their operations here is irreplaceable.

At the same time, tensions with Iran have put unforeseen strain on U.S. military resources in the Sahel. Due to the increased demand in the Middle East, only one U.S. Air Force C-130 airlift plane could be spared for Flintlock this year, U.S officials said—and it broke down on the second day of the two-week exercise, leaving reporters as well as U.S. and foreign officers stranded for four days in Senegal.

In fact, if the Moroccans had not offered additional C-130s to support the exercise, Flintlock might not have happened at all, U.S. officials said.

Critics, including influential lawmakers such as Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, have spoken out against the potential drawdown, warning that such a move would further degrade the security situation in this region of West Africa, where deep religious and ethnic divisions, climate change, poverty, and vast ungoverned spaces provide an ideal breeding ground for extremism. Prompted in part by talk of a potential U.S. withdrawal, French President Emmanuel Macron convened a G5 Sahel summit in January to discuss the fight against armed groups and reiterate French commitment to the mission.

As violent activity increases, U.S. and foreign officials in the region are concerned that the Sahel may become the next major front in the global war on terrorism. As the Islamic State struggles for relevance in the Middle East, particularly after the killing of its leader, Abu Bakr al–Baghdadi, in a U.S. raid last year, the group has increasingly leaned on its African affiliates for new recruits, said Brig. Gen. Dagvin Anderson, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command Africa, during an interview here ahead of the exercise.

Due to long–standing ethnic and tribal ties, leaders from al Qaeda and the Islamic State cooperate here in ways they do not anywhere else in the world, enabling more sophisticated attacks.

Full report at:

https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/02/24/in-west-africa-u-s-military-struggles-for-scarce-resources-as-terrorism-threat-grows/

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3 Terrorist Camps Discovered in Tunisia’s Kasserine Mountains

24 February, 2020

Tunisia’s interior ministry confirmed that security units had discovered, between February 10 and 22, three terrorist camps in the Kasserine Mountains in western Tunisia.

The Ministry of Interior confirmed that these camps were uncovered during combing operations across mountainous highlands, and through intelligence provided to security services.

In the three camps, equipment used in the manufacture of conventional mines, which terrorists had previously used to hinder army and security units that were chasing them, was found.

Also found were cooking utensils, medicinal residues, water sterilization material and drilling tools.

Tunisian extremist groups experts emphasized that the recent use of these camps confirms that the battle with terrorism has not ended yet and that hostility against the civilian state is still harbored.

Specialized security studies have indicated that recruitment operations to attract new terrorists for ISIS and al-Qaeda have mostly taken place online, making it difficult for security units to monitor newly joined terrorists.

Many of the new recruits are not found in records of security services and they act as lone wolves.

Full report at:

https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/2147216/3-terrorist-camps-discovered-tunisia%E2%80%99s-kasserine-mountains

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US airstrike kills senior al-Shabaab leader

Andrew Wasike

25.02.2020

NAIROBI, Kenya

An American airstrike killed a top al-Shabaab leader associated with an attack on a Kenya-U.S. military base that killed three Americans, according to officials.

The U.S. said in a statement that “post-strike assessments confirm the two terrorists killed in the Feb. 22 precision airstrikes were an individual associated with the attack on Manda Bay, and his wife, who was also a known al-Shabaab member.”

The U.S. also said the top al-Shabaab official was “in charge of planning and directing terrorist operations on the Kenya border region, including the recent attack on Manda Bay, and his wife, who also was a witting and active member.”

U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of the U.S. Africa Command, said in a statement that since Jan. 5 the U.S. has continued pursuing those responsible for the attack that killed three Americans and injured others on the joint Kenya-U.S. military base.

“This strike demonstrates that we will continue to relentlessly pursue those responsible for Manda Bay and those wishing to do harm to Americans and our African partners.”

Townsend added that al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate, is “an evil and remorseless enemy of peace, stability, and freedom in East Africa and threatens the very way of life of people there, as well as Americans and U.S. interest in the region and abroad.”

The U.S. vowed to continue supporting its allies and partners in East Africa to prevent the al-Shabaab militant group from planning and conducting external attacks.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/us-airstrike-kills-senior-al-shabaab-leader/1744908

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Libyan gov't has right to defend itself: Al-Sarraj

Ali H. M. Abo Rezeg  

25.02.2020

Head of Libya's internationally recognized government, Fayez al-Sarraj, said the presence of Turkish forces in the country comes within the legitimate right of self-defense against aggression of East Libya-based forces.

"The current situation in Libya and the resistance against the aggression on the capital [Tripoli] and cities in western Libya is the framework that we work on it with Turkey," al-Sarraj told Anadolu Agency on the sidelines of the 43rd regular session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

"This is a legitimate right for the GNA [Government of National Accord] and a duty towards our people to defend them against this aggression," he said.

The Libyan prime minister went on to highlight the historic relations between Libya and Turkey on political, social, economic, security and military levels.

"We addressed many countries including the U.S., U.K., Italy and Turkey," al-Sarraj said, adding that Turkey positively responded to the Libyan request.

Al-Sarraj said that the memorandum of understanding on military cooperation with Turkey includes training, anti-terrorism and illegal migration.

On Nov. 27, Ankara and GNA signed two separate agreements, one on military cooperation and the other on maritime boundaries of countries in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Commenting on efforts to reach a lasting cease-fire in Libya, al-Sarraj said: "First of all we are peace advocates; we did not call for this war".

"We fought this war to defend ourselves, our people, our homes and our goal to establish a civil democratic state against the coup [Haftar plotted] against legitimacy," he said.

Al-Sarraj stressed that the UN-brokered joint military talks 5+5 were still underway, pointing out that "definitely the road is long in this regard".

"Unfortunately, we did not find a partner during the last years in hope that this would be an achievement in this road to stop this war," the Libyan premier said.

"There is no winner in this war, everyone is losing" he asserted, citing the destruction of infrastructure and facilities as well as internal displacement of civilians.

"What he [Haftar] committed amounts to war crimes that he must be held accountable for and those with him and those involved," he added. 

Since the ouster of late leader Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: one in eastern Libya supported mainly by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and the GNA in the capital Tripoli, which enjoys UN and international recognition.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/libyan-govt-has-right-to-defend-itself-al-sarraj/1744378

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UN: Libya's Warring Sides Agree to Cement Cease-Fire Deal

Feb. 24, 2020

GENEVA — The U.N. mission in Libya said Monday that the country’s warring sides had agreed to turn a shaky cease-fire into a formal deal, stirring modest hopes after weeks of sporadic violence that derailed negotiations.

As the latest round of U.N.-mediated talks between rival military leaders wrapped up in Geneva, both sides reached a draft deal “to facilitate the safe return of civilians to their areas,” according to a U.N. statement.

The return of thousands of displaced civilians will be monitored by military representatives in Geneva with support from the U.N. mission in Libya.

The delegates negotiating on behalf of Libya’s rival administrations must now send the draft for approval to their respective leaders who have the power to halt the fighting, a prospect that faces further obstacles. The representatives promised to reconvene in Geneva next month to hammer out details of the deal’s implementation.

Monday's apparent breakthrough came days after eastern-based forces under the command of Khalifa Hifter escalated their attacks on the capital, Tripoli, which is held by a rival U.N.-backed government. The attacks hit Tripoli's civilian seaport, narrowly missing a highly explosive liquefied petroleum gas tanker and prompting the Tripoli administration to pull out of talks. The negotiations resumed days later, with expectations for an agreement low.

A key sticking point throughout the talks has been the disarmament of fierce militias defending the capital against Hifter's assault. Officials from Libya's Tripoli government expressed willingness to demobilize militias at the latest Human Rights Council session in Geneva on Monday. But it remains unclear whether the administration has the power to rein in the scores of disparate militias.

Tripoli “is not opposed to disbanding militias,” said Mohamed Taher Siala, the U.N.-backed government's foreign minister, while addressing reporters in Geneva. “There are unlawful militias who abduct people and jeopardize their lives.”

The current cease-fire was brokered in January by Russia and Turkey, which back opposite sides in the conflict. But Libyan leaders never signed a pledge, let alone met face to face.

A high-profile international summit followed in Berlin, where world powers with interests in the oil-rich North African country promised to push for the cease-fire and uphold a widely flouted arms embargo.

Developments on the ground have repeatedly defied diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis. Foreign backers keep pouring weapons into the country, the U.N. alleges. Clashes continue around the capital, as each side accuses the other of violating the cease-fire.

The latest round of fighting in Libya started last spring, when Hifter launched his assault on the capital in a bid to wrest power from the U.N.-backed government. The siege has killed thousands of people, and displaced over 150,000, according to the U.N.

The United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russia, support Hifter's self-styled Libyan Arab Armed Forces. The embattled Tripoli administration, which controls just a shrinking corner of western Libya, has increasingly relied on Turkey for military aid.

In the latest twist of the nine-year conflict, Turkey, which has long trained and funded opposition fighters in Syria, has started airlifting hundreds of them over to support the Tripoli-based government.

Siala, the Tripoli foreign minister, acknowledged for the first time on Monday the deployment of Syrian fighters to the front lines in western Libya, a contentious subject that for months had been shrouded in rumor and secrecy. Dozens of the fighters have links to extremist groups such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.

“There are some Syrians” repelling Hifter's offensive, he said. “They have Turkish nationalities and are carrying Turkish passports.”

Turkey's offers of citizenship to Syrian recruits has helped entice them to fight in Libya. This way, experts say, Turkey conveniently avoids risks to its own forces while establishing a sphere of influence in the eastern Mediterranean and securing rights to offshore oil and gas exploration.

Full report at:

https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2020/02/24/world/middleeast/ap-ml-libya-.html

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URL: https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/trump-praises-modi’s-record-on-religious-tolerance-as-violence-erupts-over-india’s-treatment-of-muslims/d/121160

 

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