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Islamic World News ( 30 Jul 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Turkey, Malaysia, Pakistan Propose ‘Islamic Renaissance’

New Age Islam News Bureau

30 Jul 2019

Turkey, Malaysia, and Pakistan to pave the way for the Islamic Renaissance. [Photo: Internet]


 Turkey, Malaysia, Pakistan Propose ‘Islamic Renaissance’

 Calling any Muslim non-Muslim against Sharia, says Pakistan Ulema Council

 Islam and Pakistan's Constitution Guarantees Minority Rights: Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Pakistan

 Muslims Keeping Cows Is Love Jihad: Ranjit Bahadur Srivastava, Barabanki BJP Leader

 Islamic Meeting in Rural England: 35000 to Attend Convention to Break Down Misconceptions

 S. Arabia Recruiting Al-Qaeda to Fill UAE Gap in Yemen

 Top Saudi Court Hands Down Death Sentence To Shia Activist From Qatif

 VP: Iran’s Policy Is To Protect Multilateralism, Confront American Hegemony


Southeast Asia

 Turkey, Malaysia, Pakistan Propose ‘Islamic Renaissance’

 Dr Mahathir Is Right; Muslim Nations Must Harness the Power of Unity

 Jokowi Signs Baiq Nuril's Amnesty Invites Her to State Palace

 Malaysia’s new king calls for racial unity at coronation



 Calling any Muslim non-Muslim against Sharia, says Pakistan Ulema Council

 Islam and Pakistan's Constitution Guarantees Minority Rights: Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Pakistan

 Ten Pakistani soldiers gunned down, military says

 Pakistani military aircraft crashes on training flight, 17 killed

 Pakistan's former president Asif Ali Zardari not using AC in jail: Bilawal Bhuttto

 Azhar praises Pakistan Movement leaders’ honesty

 17 lives lost as Army plane on routine patrol crashes near Mora Kalu Rawalpindi

 National unity needed to achieve enduring regional peace, says Qureshi

 Fazl should refrain from ‘bombing democracy’: Firdous



 Muslims Keeping Cows Is Love Jihad: Ranjit Bahadur Srivastava, Barabanki BJP Leader

 J-K Police Seeks Details Of Mosques In Srinagar, Calls It ‘Routine Exercise’

 Delhi HC Dismisses Plea Seeking Regulation On Madrasa Education

 Muslim Teenager Set On Fire in India ‘After Refusing To Chant Hindu Slogan’

 India and the US must approach the bilateral ties cautiously

 In first 6 months, 82% militants killed in J&K were Valley recruits



 Islamic Meeting in Rural England: 35000 to Attend Convention to Break Down Misconceptions

 British Revolutionaries In Syria Say They Will Defy Home Office's New Terrorism Laws

 Rise in extremist violence puts Germans on edge

 Moroccan king pardons thousands, including ‘Hirak’ protesters

 No tanker swap, obey the law: UK takes a tough new line with Iran

 Greek PM seeks 'brave restart' of relations with Turkey


Arab World

 S. Arabia Recruiting Al-Qaeda to Fill UAE Gap in Yemen

 Top Saudi Court Hands Down Death Sentence To Shia Activist From Qatif

 Human Rights Organization Calls for Saudi Officials’ Trial

 With Isis Plotting a Comeback, Iraq’s Famed ‘Golden Division’ Prepares For The Long Fight

 Syrian rebel town pounded, 11 killed in market airstrike

 Iraqi warplanes kill four Islamic State terrorists in Anbar

 Iraqi Musician Plays Ney in Mosul Ruins Two Years After IS

 Bahrain Executes 3 Men, Including 2 Shiite Activists on ‘Terrorism Crimes’

 Syrian Army Advances in Hama after Military Operations against Terrorists

 Civilians killed in US-led airstrikes on village in Syria’s Dayr al-Zawr



 VP: Iran’s Policy Is To Protect Multilateralism, Confront American Hegemony

 Palestinian Candidates Unite In Poll Threat To Netanyahu

 Right-wing alliance, Arab bloc formed ahead of Israeli vote

 Iran Links British Seizure of Oil Tanker to Ailing Nuclear Deal

 ‘Her Eyes Were Full of Fear.’ Turkey Repatriates Children of ISIS Followers.

 Yemen's Houthis target with drones Saudi Arabia's Abha airport: Houthis' Al Masirah TV

 1 killed, 4 injured in Houthis' shelling in Yemen's Hodeidah

 Houthi attack on Saada market kills more than 10: Yemeni minister

 Yemen drones hit Saudi airbase in precision counterattack

 At least 14 civilians killed in Saudi-led airstrike on crowded market in Yemen’s Sa’ada


South Asia

 At Least 50 Militants Killed, Wounded In Special Forces Raid In Faryab: Special Ops Corps

 Muslims rejoin Sri Lanka cabinet after Easter bombings

 Afghans dying at ‘unacceptable’ level amid peace push: UN

 Confusion Over Afghan-Taliban Talks Further Complicates Peace Process

 Citizenship still the stumbling block for Rohingya repatriation

 Myanmar Holds Repatriation Talks with Rohingya Refugees

 Afghan Special Forces destroy house-borne IED in Kandahar province

 Khost residents clash with Taliban leaving at least 18 militants dead, wounded

 Afghan, U.S. forces kill, wound 11 Taliban militants, defuse 11 IEDs in Ghazni and Paktika

 Ashin Wirathu: The Buddhist bin Laden



 Suspected Boko Haram Attack on Funeral in Nigeria Leaves at Least 65 Dead

 Famine Spreads in Central Mali Amid Ongoing Islamist Violence

 6 African peacekeeping soldiers killed in Somalia

 Nigeria's ban of Shiite Muslim group risks Boko Haram repeat

 Snipers shoot dead at least 5 protesters in central Sudan rally

 Nigeria police on high alert as protesters gathering for Zakzaky release outside court

 UN calls for Eid truce in Libya, warns foreign support fueling conflict

 6 African peacekeeping soldiers killed in Somalia


North America

 US Man Allegedly Wanted To Kill American Soldiers, Arrested While Trying To Join Taliban

 Two US soldiers killed in Afghanistan

 Pompeo: Iranian regime hasn’t accepted my offer to come to Tehran

 Two American soldiers killed in apparent insider attack in Afghanistan

 Alleged 9/11 planner open to working against S. Arabia

 Two US troops gunned down by Afghan soldier in Afghanistan

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Turkey, Malaysia, Pakistan Propose ‘Islamic Renaissance’

28 Jul 2019

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said that Turkey, Malaysia and Pakistan can pave the way forward for development in the Muslim world with an era of renaissance.

“The Islamic world needs a renaissance,” said Huseyin Bagci, an expert in International relations at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Anadolu Agency reported.

“And Prime Minister Mahathir made a right point that these countries at least start new projects which make Muslim world compatible and competitive in Islamic sciences, technology, defense, etc.,” Bagci said, according to Anadolu Agency.

The Malaysian premier arrived in the Turkish capital Ankara on Wednesday evening to kick off his four-day official visit.

Corroborating words of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that solidarity among Turkey, Malaysia and Pakistan “is necessary for the unity of the Islamic world”, Mahathir told reporters at a joint news conference Thursday that it is crucial to relieve the Muslim Ummah from being subjugated by others.

“That is why I proposed that three Muslim countries should work together. At least these three [Turkey, Malaysia and Pakistan]. So that we can speak with a louder voice in terms of many areas; defense, for example,” the Malaysian premier said.



Calling any Muslim non-Muslim against Sharia, says Pakistan Ulema Council

Kalbe Ali

July 30, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Clerics and scholars affiliated with the Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) have declared that branding any Muslim as a non-Muslim is not only against the norms of Sharia, but also an unethical way of politicising Islam.

Speaking to the media on Monday, PUC chairman Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi said elements using Islam for political purposes or for personal gain were bringing a bad name to clerics as well as Sharia.

“It is a more serious threat to Islam than anything done by its enemies that ‘so-called muftis’ have started issuing fatwas which are anti-Sharia in the first place and all this is being done in the name of Quran and Sunnah,” Hafiz Tahir said.

“We have rejected this controversial practice and any organisation or individual will not be allowed to issue decrees declaring a Muslim as a non-Muslim,” he said. “Such irresponsible attitude is not only fanning sectarianism but also giving a bad name to our country.”

The PUC chief said all non-Muslim citizens had their rights defined in the constitution while Sharia too had specified rights they enjoyed in an Islamic state.

“We made it clear at a recent meeting with the interior minister that the status of Ahmadis, as declared in the Constitution, cannot be undone. But at the same time nobody can be allowed to declare any Muslim an Ahmadi and eventually a non-Muslim,” Tahir Ashrafi said.

The PUC recently held a conference which drew 1,500 religious scholars from different schools of thought. The conference extended support to the National Action Plan as well as the drive against extremism.

A resolution adopted at the conference stressed that killing in the name of religion was against the teachings of Quran and Sunnah.

It called upon clerics and scholars belonging to the four mainstream schools of thought — Shia, Barelvi, Deobandi and Ahle Hadis — to dissociate themselves from the elements fanning hatred on the basis of religion.

The conference had also resolved that no Muslim sect would be declared infidel and no one had the authority to recommend the killing of any Muslim or non-Muslim.

The conference called upon clerics to observe court ruling on religious matters and to settle controversial subjects in a court of law.

Hafiz Ashrafi said efforts were under way to have national flags hoisted at seminaries and mosques on the eve of Independence Day.



Islam and Pakistan's Constitution Guarantees Minority Rights: Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Pakistan

July 29, 2019

Ameer Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Pakistan, Senator Sirajul Haq has said that while the life, property and honour of the non-Muslim Pakistani community in the country is fully secure, the laws concerning the minorities rights were not being implemented at international level.

In a message of World Minorities Day, Sirajul Haq said that both Islam and the constitution of the country guarantees the rights of the Pakistani community. He said that large number of Christians, Sikhs, Hindus and believers of other religions living in the country are free to practice their religion. Their worship places were being given due respect and it is the state responsibility to protect these, he added.

The JI Chief said that the Pakistani minority community was playing an effective role in the country’s politics and was also contributing to the national development. He said that the minorities in Pakistani were the most protected and secure as compared to other countries of the world.

He pointed out that he was the first to propose in the Khyber Assembly that the minorities in the country should be called the Pakistani community. He said that the Pakistani Muslims fully share the pleasures and the grief of the Pakistani community. He said nobody in the country was ever forced to change his religion. He said that members of the Pakistani community are serving in all state departments including the armed forces and they had never faced any bias.

Sirajul Haq said that on the other hand, the minorities in India are being targeted every day, their members are killed and their habitations is razed to the ground. The Muslims, the largest minority in India, as also the Christians Sikhs and even low caste Hindus were being treated worse than animals. The worship places of the Muslims and Christians are not safe and mosques and Churches are being set on fire.

The JI Chief said that since the razing of the historic Babri mosque and the setting of the Sikh GoldenTemple on fire, the massacre of the Muslims in Gujrat, there had been numerous incidents which had fully exposed the so-called secularism of India.

He deplored the silence of the world community on the worst human rights violations in Kashmir. He said that the United Nations had promised plebiscite in Kashmir but this right had not been granted to the Kashmiris for the last seventy years.



Muslims Keeping Cows Is Love Jihad: Ranjit Bahadur Srivastava, Barabanki BJP Leader

July 29, 2019

BJP leader Ranjit Bahadur Srivastava on Monday in a controversial statement said that cows belonging to Muslims should be taken away from them at any cost. He also said that Muslims keeping cows is also a "love jihad".

"Cows in the houses of Muslims should be taken back. When we consider girls from our homes going to their homes as 'love jihad', shouldn't we consider 'gau mata' going to their homes 'love jihad' too? This is love jihad. Cows should be taken back from them at any cost," he told ANI.

Srivastava said that cows are essentially Hindus and that they should be cremated in accordance with Hindu rituals.

"Cows are like our mother. We should conduct the final rites of our cows as we do to our mothers. We will create a cremation site for cows," he said.

He also said that Muslims should rear goats instead of cows. "Goat is their mother. They should opt for goat rearing. Why do they rear cows? This is love jihad. I am against it," he said.

The BJP leader said that Muslims should adopt the Hindu religion to end the divide between two religions.

"Muslims when they came to India most Hindus converted into Islam. Looking at this, they are like our brothers and they should come back to their old religion," he said.



Islamic meeting in rural England: 35000 to attend convention to break down misconceptions

Jul 29, 2019

A Hampshire farm temporarily turned "Islamic global village" will see thousands of participants pledge allegiance at the hand of the Caliph, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad. The Caliph aims to tackle key issues and misconceptions about Islam, such as whether it is “a religion of peace or terror.” He said: “No matter what terrorists may claim, under no circumstances are indiscriminate attacks or killings ever justified.

"Islam has enshrined the sanctity of human life in the Holy Quran, which states: ‘Whosoever killed a person, it shall be as if he killed all mankind, and whoso gave life to one, it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind’”

The August event is the longest standing and largest Muslim convention in the UK.

It will address perceptions that Islam is incompatible with British values.

The Caliph said: “The need of the hour is for us to knock down the barriers of fear that divide us.

"Rather than erecting walls that keep us apart, we should build bridges that bring us closer together.

"We must stand up against all forms of oppression, hatred and use all our capabilities to try and foster peace in the world.”

His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Caliph to millions of Muslims, will address the crowds in attendance.

The conference will focus on increasing the spirituality of the participants, whilst also tackling issues facing the world’s second-largest religion, including the rise of so-called Islamic extremism, the growing threat of the far-right and Islamophobia.

The Caliph will also address 15,000 Muslim women about women’s rights in Islam.

At the annual convention, known as the Jalsa Salana, the Union Jack will be raised as a mark of integration and show of loyalty to Britain.

The event aims to show, "that Islam, one of the most misrepresented faiths, belongs to Britain and fight the commonly held disbelief that Islam is a threat to British values".

The event is organised by the Ahmadiyy Muslim Community and will take place on August 2-4.



S. Arabia Recruiting Al-Qaeda to Fill UAE Gap in Yemen

Jul 29, 2019

Sources were quoted by the Arabic-language al-Akhbar newspaper as saying on Monday that Saudi Arabia is attempting to revive the militia loyal to the anti-Yemen coalition, adding that once the UAE announced decreasing forces in Yemen, Riyadh started a new phase of recruitment in the Southern provinces to fill the vacuum created after the Emirati forces' pullout.

According to the report, Saleh al-Mashjari, a Saudi-backed Salafi cleric, has been able to mobilize over 15,000 militants.

Meantime, the Abyan revolutionary youth movement, one of the local movements opposing the Saudi-led coalition, warned of Riyadh's attempts to recruit the young people to send them to the Northern and Western coastal front.

It added that al-Mashjari has invited tens of al-Qaeda members from al-Baydah province in Central Yemen to his base and given them key posts in al-Maniyaseh.

The UAE announced it was reducing the number of its troops fighting as part of a Saudi-led military coalition which presses ahead with a years-long atrocious military aggression against the impoverished Yemen.

A senior Emirati official during a press briefing in Dubai earlier this month claimed that the withdrawal took place because Abu Dhabi was shifting from a military strategy to a peace plan in Yemen.

"We do have troop levels that are down for reasons that are strategic in (the Red Sea city of) Hudaydah and reasons that are tactical" in other parts of the country, he said.

"It is very much to do with moving from what I would call a military-first strategy to a peace-first strategy, and this is I think what we are doing," the official added.

Meanwhile, an official from Yemen's former Saudi-backed government said that UAE troops had "totally vacated" the military base in Khokha, located South of Hudaydah.



Top Saudi court hands down death sentence to Shia activist from Qatif

Jul 29, 2019

Saudi Arabia's Specialized Criminal Court has sentenced an anti-regime activist from the kingdom’s oil-rich and Shia-populated Eastern Province to death, as a crackdown led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman against pro-democracy campaigners, Muslim preachers and intellectuals continues in the country.

On Monday, the Riyadh-based tribunal found Ali Al Rabie guilty in a “sham hearing” that fell short of international fair trial standards, London-based and Arabic-language Nabaa television news network reported.

The report came as Saudi authorities executed two of Ali’s brothers, Ahmad and Hossein, on April 23 over their political activism.

Regime forces killed Ali's younger brother, Thamer, when they raided al-Awamiyah town situated in the al-Qatif region of Eastern Province.

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 oil-rich region.

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

Informed sources, requesting anonymity, said on July 15 that a young Saudi man died more than a week after being injured by regime forces when they raided a district in the province.

Majid Abdullah al-Adam died ten days after regime forces, armed with heavy weapons and artillery launchers, stormed into the al-Jash district of Qatif onboard armored vehicles.

The sources added that the forces fired indiscriminately, inflicting damage on many houses and buildings. Adam suffered critical injuries during the raid.

Saudi regime agents also arrested Muslim preacher Ibrahim Issa al-Ismail at the time.



VP: Iran’s policy is to protect multilateralism, confront American hegemony

29 July 2019

Iran’s foreign policy is to confront American hegemony and protect multilateralism, Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri said on Monday, adding that its reduction of commitments under a nuclear deal could be reversed if other parties upheld their side of the agreement.

Iran and the United States came to the brink of war last month after the Islamic Republic shot down a US drone, nearly prompting a retaliatory attack, which US President Donald Trump called off at the last minute.

“The foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran is to protect multilateralism and confront American hegemony,” Jahangiri said, according to the IRIB news agency.

Iran’s relations with Washington have taken a sharp turn for the worse since Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and major powers, and reimposed sanctions on Iran.

Jahangiri said Iran’s reduction of commitments under the deal could be reversed if the remaining signatories to the agreement uphold their commitments.

Iran said in May it would decrease its commitments under the pact, under which most international sanctions on Tehran were lifted in exchange for Iran curbing its nuclear work.

Iran believes the remaining signatories could do more to counter the fallout from the US withdrawal.



Southeast Asia


Dr Mahathir Is Right; Muslim Nations Must Harness the Power of Unity

Sholto Byrnes

July 29, 2019

On a recent visit to Turkey, Malaysia’s prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad made a call to rebuild and restore the strength of Islamic civilisation and for Muslim countries to be united and work closely together.

He was characteristically blunt about what he sees as the current state of affairs and why action needs to be taken. “Today, we cannot claim to be a great civilisation,” he said. “We are all oppressed and many of us are very backwards to the point of even not being able to set up the government of our own countries.” Muslim countries, he said, should address their dependence on other countries.

His words were not much reported outside Malaysia, but they are consistent with a strain of Dr Mahathir’s thought going back to his first time in office from 1981-2003, and form part of a critique that is worthy of more consideration today.

We spend so much time analysing the rivalries and trajectories of China, the US and Russia in particular that we ignore the weight that could be yielded by Muslim countries if they came together in a way that proved more effective than the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation. The OIC is a laudable institution, and the very act of bringing together its 57 member states has value in itself. But even one of its former secretary generals admitted to me that it struggles to achieve concrete results. The assertion that it was a “talking shop” was met with a shrug of familiarity.

If not the OIC, then what? One of Dr Mahathir’s closest strategists and thinkers, Rais Husin, has proposed an Alliance of Muslim Nations, which he believes would have the potential to reshape the world order.

After all, as he wrote: “There is no reason why the Islamic world has to be constantly at the whims and fancies of other external powers, as the Alliance of Muslim Nations [would] control all the major maritime choke points in the Straits of Malacca, the Gulf of Oman, the Straits of Hormuz and the Bosphorus Sea.”

Whether it be the alliance Dr Rais suggests or not, however, it is the principle of greater unity and co-operation that needs to be stressed; the framework is secondary. The bedrock already exists, as there is no doubting that there is a very strong sense of Muslim solidarity around the world. The Middle East may seem quite far away from South-East Asia, for instance, but no Malaysian prime minister ever omits to mention concern for the Palestinian cause when speaking at the UN or at any gathering that touches upon religion.

Likewise, both Dr Mahathir and his predecessor, Najib Tun Razak, have been very outspoken about the tragedy of the Rohingya – and this has not been without cost, as their biting criticism is regarded as being against the principle of non-interference that binds the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to which both Malaysia and Myanmar belong.

In this age of hyper-connectivity, that solidarity has only grown stronger. Researchers in the southern Philippines, for example, found that once poor, remote areas were linked to satellite television (and now of course the internet), local Muslims had a far greater sense of being part of the same community as their fellow believers further to the west.

Turning this into something more tangible, however, has proved troublesome. When still in office in 2017, Mr Najib addressed an extraordinary session of the OIC on the Rohingya, saying: “We must be equal to this challenge. We must show that this organisation is truly the friend and guarantor of Muslims everywhere. We must show that while we may have our differences, the Ummah will come together in defence of our brothers and sisters in their time of need.” It would be hard to claim that the OIC was able to respond to the stirring words with equally vigorous action.

So Dr Mahathir’s urge for unity and development certainly centres on both a great missed potential and, in some cases, a dire and pressing need.

History shows us that times of Muslim unity and civilisation have not just been of benefit to Muslims – they have been a boon to the rest of the world and people of other religions too.

It was the Abbasid Caliphate that saved the treasures of Ancient Greek philosophy and supported research that produced huge advances in science, from medicine and mathematics to astronomy and algebra. The religious tolerance that existed in Muslim Spain was so remarkable for the medieval period that the name “Cordoba” – one of the main Iberian emirates – has become synonymous with interfaith dialogue today.

These precedents have certainly been borne in mind by Arabian Gulf states that have invested so strongly in education, and are echoed in the UAE’s decision to declare 2019 the “Year of Tolerance”. But in much of the Muslim world human development indicators are too low, with adult literacy rates, for instance, around 10 per cent lower even than other developing countries.

The challenge is there, just as it was in 2003 when Dr Mahathir addressed an OIC meeting shortly before stepping down as prime minister for the first time. The Prophet Mohammed preached the brotherhood of Islam to the jahiliah (the ignorant), he said, “and they were able to overcome their hatred for each other, become united and helped towards the establishment of the great Muslim civilisation.”

His question then rings true today. “Can we say that what they could do we, the modern Muslims, cannot do?”

Sholto Byrnes is a commentator and consultant in Kuala Lumpur and a corresponding fellow of the Erasmus Forum



Jokowi Signs Baiq Nuril's Amnesty Invites Her to State Palace

JULY 29, 2019

Jakarta. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo signed a decree on Monday granting amnesty to Baiq Nuril Maknun, the woman sentenced to six months in prison and a Rp 500 million ($35,600) fine under Indonesia's notorious Electronic Information and Transactions Law for defaming the man who allegedly sexually harassed her.

"This morning, I signed the presidential decree for Mrs. Baiq Nuril," Jokowi said, as quoted by Antara news agency.

"So, please Mrs. Baiq Nuril, if you want to receive it at the State Palace, just have it arranged whenever you're ready. I will be happy to meet you," he added.

Baiq Nuril was sued for defamation under the so-called ITE Law by Muslim, the former principal of the high school in Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara, where she worked as a teacher.

Having been uneasy with his sexual advances, she decided to record one of his phone calls to her in which he detailed his sexual relations with a mutual co-worker. A copy of the recording was leaked in 2018, leading to Muslim's lawsuit. 

Jokowi took an interest in Baiq Nuril's case last year, after the Supreme Court rejected her plea for her a case review, trashing her hopes for an acquittal.

However, granting amnesty to an individual, such as Baiq Nuril, would create a legal and political precedent in Indonesia, where only political prisoners have so far been pardoned.  The president therefore thought it necessary to consult with the House of Representatives.

Full report at:



Malaysia’s new king calls for racial unity at coronation

30 July 2019

Malaysia’s sports-loving Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah called for racial unity as he was installed Tuesday as the country’s 16th king under a unique rotating monarchy system.

It was a double celebration for Sultan Abdullah from central Pahang state, who turned 59 the same day. He was picked as Malaysia’s new ruler in January, after Sultan Muhammad V from northeast Kelantan state abruptly resigned after just two years on the throne in the first abdication in the nation’s history.

Nine ethnic Malay state rulers take turns as king for five-year terms under the world’s only such system, which has been maintained since Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957.

In his coronation speech, Sultan Abdullah warned that any attempt to sow racial discord in the country was akin to “playing with fire that will burn not only oneself but also burn down the whole village.

“Unity and national harmony are the country’s pillars of strength. Do not ever stoke racial misunderstanding by raising matters that can threaten national unity and harmony,” he said.

Garbed in black and gold regalia, Sultan Abdullah voiced confidence that Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s government is able to tackle economic and social challenges in trying to rebuild the country after winning last year’s elections.

A large number of ethnic Malay Muslims, who make up about 60 percent of Malaysia’s 32 million people, still support the opposition. While carrying out economic and institutional reforms, Mahathir’s multiethnic alliance has to quell fears among Malays that their privileges under decades-old affirmative action that favors them in jobs, business and education will be eliminated.

Ethnic Chinese and Indians comprise about 30 percent of the population.

Mahathir in his speech acknowledged minor incidents of racial strife and said the government has set up an advisory body to strengthen racial unity. He said the government will step up efforts to bolster the economy and fight corruption to ensure that “no one is above the law.”

Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan also attended the ceremony at the national palace, steeped in centuries-old Malay tradition.

British-educated Sultan Abdullah is a prominent figure in sport bodies. He is a council member of the world football governing body FIFA, president of the Asian Hockey Federation, and an executive board member of the International Hockey Federation.

He took over after Sultan Muhammad V, 49, quit shortly after marrying a 25-year-old former Russian beauty queen last November. Sultan Muhammad however, reportedly divorced his wife recently.

Known as the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, or He Who Is Made Lord, Malaysia’s king plays a largely ceremonial role, since administrative power is vested in the prime minister and Parliament. The monarch is highly regarded as the guardian of Islam and Malay tradition, particularly among the Malay Muslim majority. He is also the nominal head of the government and armed forces.

Full report at:





Ten Pakistani soldiers gunned down, military says

July 27, 2019

Islamabad (CNN)Ten soldiers have been killed in two separate incidents across Pakistan, a military spokesperson said on Saturday.

In the first incident, a military statement said the attackers were "terrorists from across the Afghan border" who opened fire on a border patrolling party in North Waziristan, a mountainous region located in Pakistan's northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which is close to the Afghan border.

Six soldiers were killed in the first attack, according to the military statement.

The second incident took place in the country's southwestern province of Balochistan, where a military operation left four soldiers dead. That attack was also attributed to "terrorists" by the military.

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on Saturday claimed responsibility for an attack in South Waziristan, in which they called Pakistani military "America's slaves." However, the group did not claim an attack in North Waziristan, where the military said it occurred.

Writing on Twitter on Saturday, the Pakistan military's spokesman Maj. General Asif Ghafoor expressed his condolences to the victims and their families, and said: "We shall ensure defense & security of motherland at the cost of our sweat & blood. These are dying efforts of frustrated inimical forces while Pakistan moves from stability to enduring peace. It's time for the world to facilitate regional peace."

Peace deal in the works?

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the spate in violence, saluting the armed forces and their efforts in keeping "the nation safe."

The attacks come less than a week after US President Donald Trump welcomed Khan to the White House for the first time.

The meeting was held as US officials and Taliban leaders continue to hold multiple rounds of talks in Qatar aimed at ending the nearly 18-year US war in Afghanistan. The US has pressed Pakistan to use its leverage over the Taliban to encourage the militant group to reach a peace deal with the US.

Senior administration officials said on Monday that Trump would press the Pakistani prime minister to crack down on militants in Pakistan and provide more support for ongoing US-Taliban peace negotiations.

While Trump said Pakistan had previously been "subversive" to US efforts to combat the Taliban and other militants in Afghanistan, he suggested that any discord was in the past and touted Pakistan's role in forging progress in the US-Taliban talks in recent weeks.

Khan argued that right now is "the closest we have been to a peace deal" in Afghanistan.

"We hope that in the coming days we will be able to urge the Taliban to speak with the Afghan government," Khan said on Monday.

Security concerns

US-Pakistan relations have been on a rocky footing for years over Pakistan's relationship with the Taliban. They hit a low point last year when Trump suspended US security assistance to Pakistan over what the US saw as Pakistan's failure to clamp down on the Taliban and other militant groups operating out of Pakistan.

The US is not at the moment planning to resume its security assistance to Pakistan absent concrete efforts to crack down on the Taliban and Haqqani network, a senior administration official said last week, though Trump said Monday the security aid "can come back depending on what we work out."

"We will consider changing that suspension on certain items if Pakistan meets our security concerns both in Afghanistan and with regard to some of the externally focused groups," the official said on Friday. "As of now, there is no change."

But the invitation for Khan to meet with Trump at the White House was intended to show Pakistan that the "door is open to repairing relations and building an enduring relationship," the official said.



Pakistani military aircraft crashes on training flight, 17 killed

Jul 30, 2019

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani military aircraft on a training flight crashed in a built-up area in the city of Rawalpindi, killing all five crew members and 12 civilians, a statement from the army's communications wing said on Tuesday.

Another 12 civilians were injured in the crash which set off a fire in the city. Rescue teams were at the scene and extinguished the fire, the statement said.



Pakistan's former president Asif Ali Zardari not using AC in jail: Bilawal Bhuttto

Jul 29, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's former president Asif Ali Zardari was not using an air conditioner (AC) in prison, his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said on Monday, days after Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that A-class jail facilities for jailed opposition leaders would be withdrawn. Zardari, the 63-year-old husband of the country's first woman prime minister Benazir Bhutto, was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau in a corruption case on July 1.

Bilawal, the Chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party, who along with sister Aseefa attended the remand hearing of Zardari, told reporters that he found that his father was not using the AC facility during his last visit to the prison.

"When I and Aseefa went to meet President Zardari in jail he himself had the AC shut. When we asked him about this, he replied this was not something big for him. I and Assefa are asking him to use this facility," Bilawal was quoted as saying by the Geo TV.

Bilawal said the former president was not using the AC facility after Prime Minister Khan during his recent visit to the US announced that A-class jail facilities for jailed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Zardari would be withdrawn.

Sharif, 69, has been serving a seven-year prison term at the Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore since December 24, 2018 when an accountability court convicted him in one of the three corruption cases filed in the wake of the apex court's July 28, 2017 order in Panama Papers case.

The PPP chief said his party had a legacy of battling dictatorship and this "puppet" government was no contest for them.

"We will not compromise on democracy, 18th amendment, 1973 system and media independence," said Bilawal.

Zardari, the 11th President of Pakistan from 2008 to 2013, has denied any link with the fake accounts. He has said the allegation was part of a vilification campaign by the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party to malign opposition leaders.

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Azhar praises Pakistan Movement leaders’ honesty

July 30, 2019

LAHORE - Pakistan Muslim League former president Mian Azhar said on Monday the leadership of Pakistan Movement was honest and believed in merit.

Azhar, who is also former governor of Punjab, said these leaders promoted high values in politics and there was no charge of corruption against them. He said that no prediction is possible about the future of politics in Pakistan.

He was speaking at a seminar titled “Political History of Pakistan and Future Prospects” at Aiwan-e-Quaid-e-Azam Forum at Aiwan-e-Quaid-e-Azam. He said the leadership of Pakistan Movement, including the Quaid-e-Azam, Allama Iqbal, Nawab Salim Ullah Khan, Liaquat Ali Khan, Sardar Abdul Rub Nishtar and others were people of character and they led the Muslims of the subcontinent to create Pakistan. He said that creation of Pakistan was a big blow to imperialism and it led to success of freedom movements in many parts of the world.

According to him, a country where politics becomes mature ground realities start matching with books and statutes. Countries like Pakistan where politics is not mature yet, he said, a big mismatch exists on this count. Therefore, a student of politics would have to keep in mind the ground realities while analysing politics in Pakistan, he said.

He said that Punjabi politics took over West Pakistan after the partition. It was under control of landlords, followed by the industrialists. He said that 72 years of history of politics suggest that one needs resources to attain success in Pakistan. “Our politics is a combination of non-party elections, degradation of assemblies to the level of local bodies, Changa Manga politics, forward blocs, sale and purchase of members of parliament, absence of democracy in political parties and hero worship.

Full report at:



17 lives lost as Army plane on routine patrol crashes near Mora Kalu Rawalpindi

Tahir Naseer

July 30, 2019

17 people, including five crew members and 12 civilians, lost their lives after a Pakistan Army aviation aircraft on a routine training flight crashed near Mora Kalu Rawalpindi.

According to an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) press release issued on Tuesday, 12 others were injured in the incident.

The crew members martyred in the incident, including two pilots, were: Lt Col Saqib (pilot), Lt Col Waseem (pilot), Naib Subedar Afzal, Havaldar Ibne Ameen and Havaldar Rehmat.

The ISPR said that rescue teams of the Pakistan Army and Rescue 1122 had reached the site of the incident and a fire had been extinguished. All injured were shifted from the Holy Family Hospital (HFH) to the Combined Military Hospital, Rawalpindi.

Military officials cordoned off the crash site. A cleanup operation at the site of the incident has started in order to clear rubble.

Several men and women who lost their relatives in the crash were seen wailing and crying as rescuers put charred bodies of the victims into ambulances.

One resident of the area told AFP that the crash happened around 2am.

"I woke to the sound of a huge explosion. I stepped out of my house and saw huge flames and we rushed to the site," said Mohammad Sadiq.

"People were screaming. We tried to help them but the flames were too high and the fire too intense, so we could not do anything. The dead includes seven members of one family and most of them were burned to death."

Another resident Ghulam Khan said he heard the plane as it buzzed over his house, adding the aircraft appeared to be on fire before it crashed.

"The sound was so scary," he added.

Prime Minister Imran expressed grief over the loss of precious lives in the incident. According to Radio Pakistan, the premier expressed commiserations with the families of the victims and prayed for the recovery of the injured.

Full report at:



National unity needed to achieve enduring regional peace, says Qureshi

Jul 30, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Monday stressed the need for national unity to enable the government to achieve its goal of creating enduring peace in the region.

Briefing the National Assembly on the security situation of the country, Qureshi said that while there are 100 political differences between individuals and parties, what binds them together is the country’s sovereignty, borders and ideology.

The briefing in this regard was sought by Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif.

Referring to the country’s united stance against Indian aggression in February this year, he said such unity is the need of the hour. “The world expects Pakistan to reaffirm that we are one nation with one objective and we desire peace and stability because our own peace and stability is linked to Afghanistan’s peace and stability,” he said.

Appreciating the opposition’s suggestion of bringing this issue up for debate, he said that he had called a session of the foreign affairs committee of the House so that he can take the committee in confidence regarding Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent visit to the US.

Talking about Pakistan’s foreign policy in the past, he said that in 2017, the US had pinned all its failures in Afghanistan on Pakistan and had suspended security and economic assistance to the country. However, a gradual change of thought has enabled Pakistan, US and allies to reach consensus on the fact that only a political solution can ensure Afghan peace, he added.

Comparing the state of Pakistan’s current foreign relations with those during the previous government, he said the administration of US President Donald Trump had in 2017 announced the South Asia strategy through which the onus of all hardships faced by Washington in Afghanistan was put on Pakistan. Security and economic assistance and even training programmes for Pakistan were suspended by the US and there was a bipartisan agreement in the US Congress against Pakistan, he said.

But there has been a “gradual change of thought” during the PTI government’s 11 months in power, with the US and its allies reaching a “convergence” with Prime Minister Imran that there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict, Qureshi added.

He lauded the parliament for having devised the National Action Plan and voting to amalgamate the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Pakistan also invested heavily in border fencing as part of its efforts to secure regional peace, he observed.

The minister regretted that “elements are still present in Afghanistan who come into Pakistan to carry out attacks, and they have their own agenda”.

“This was also discussed in the US […] there are spoilers, there will always be spoilers,” he said, adding that Pakistan wanted reconciliation in Afghanistan to reach its logical conclusion.

Qureshi said Prime Minister Imran had convinced Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the Trump administration that if Pakistan was engaging the Afghan Taliban, it was an effort to take the peace process forward.

Besides Ghani, Pakistan had also invited representatives of all political parties and ethnic groups of the Afghan leadership, ending the impression that Pakistan “prefers a specific section [in Afghanistan]” and refuting the concept of Islamabad seeking “strategic depth” in its western neighbour, the minister added.

He termed as “positive” the statement by the Afghan Taliban that they would visit Pakistan if formally invited by the government.

It was an acknowledgement of Pakistan’s efforts that its leadership was invited to visit the US after five years, Qureshi said.

“Availing that invitation, the prime minister presented Pakistan’s point of view and stance in the US,” he said, adding that the government has attained “immense success” in turning an unfavourable atmosphere in the Pakistan-US relationship to a favourable one.


Addressing the House, Leader of the Opposition Shehbaz Sharif lashed out at the government for ‘ill-treatment’ of MNA Rana Sanaullah.

He said that the former Punjab law minister is being kept in solitary confinement without access to a bed and chair in his cell. “He is a member of the House and has served as Punjab’s law minister for 10 year. Does he not have the right to have a proper bed in his cell?” he remarked, adding that even convicted persons are not treated in this way.

“Rana Sana’s wife, daughter and son-in-law are the only people allowed to meet him. I wanted to meet him in jail but my request was denied and when I tried to meet him in court, the government made that hard as well,” he added.

Shehbaz highlighted that many lawmakers were absent from the NA session due to the non-issuance of their production orders. “All members of the House should be present so that they can positively contribute to the workings of the parliament,” he said.

He said that he had been asked by former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who had earlier been arrested in LNG case, to not ask the NA speaker for the issuance of his production orders. He further said that invisible forces had been working day and night to destabilise the country.

Shehbaz also condemned the arrest of Irfan Siddiqui, a former aide to Nawaz Sharif, questioning why he was taken into custody before being released on bail.

Full report at:



Fazl should refrain from ‘bombing democracy’: Firdous

Jul 30, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan has suggested that Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman should “refrain himself from a suicide bombing on democracy and instead turn to his private chambers”.

In a speech on Sunday, Fazl gave an ultimatum to the federal government to step down by August otherwise his party and allies would march towards Islamabad in October.

Responding to Fazl’s remarks, Firdous asked the JUI-F chief to not take revenge for his defeat in the 2018 elections and political deprivation from the democratic system. She said it was for the first time since 1988 that Fazl was not present in the Lower House.

In an earlier statement, Firdous said that PM Imran has summoned a report pertaining to arrest of incarcerated Nawaz Sharif’s close aide and former advisor Irfan Siddiqui.

Firdous affirmed that whoever found guilty of violating the laws will have to suffer the consequences. She further alleged PML-N of making a mountain out of a molehill on the issue only to obtain “political oxygen”.

Full report at:





J-K Police seeks details of mosques in Srinagar, calls it ‘routine exercise’

July 29, 2019

The Jammu and Kashmir Police ordered its five superintendents of police in Srinagar to immediately submit details of mosques falling in their respective areas. The police officials added it was a “routine exercise”. The letter has been sent to all the SPs of Srinagar.

“Please provide details of mosques and their management falling within your respective jurisdictions as per enclosed proforma immediately for onward submission to higher authorities,” reads the order issued by Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Srinagar, Haseeb Mughal.

“It is an exercise only to update the basic beat book of the police stations. This exercise is done periodically,” the SSP told The Indian Express. He, however, maintained that the “timing of the letter is wrong”.

The letter comes a day after another letter, purportedly issued by the office of the Senior Divisional Security Commissioner, Railway Protection Force (RPF), Srinagar, asked its employees to stock ration and drinking water, not to keep their families in Kashmir, and to restrict leave due to the “emergency situation.”

The Ministry of Railways, however, immediately “revoked” the letter on Sunday and stated the officer “was not authorised to issue such a letter and did not have the approval of the competent authority to do so either”.



Delhi HC dismisses plea seeking regulation on madrasa education

July 29, 2019

by Rasia Hashmi

New Delhi [India]: The Delhi High Court on Monday dismissed a petition seeking a direction to Centre and various states for regulation of education imparted to students in Madrasas, Maktabahs, and Gurukuls based in India.

A division bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice C Harishankar were hearing a plea filed by Sunil Saraogi through his counsel Vidhan Vyas.

In the petition, Saraogi submitted that the syllabus of Madrasas, which is of the 18th century, has severely impacted the job prospects of the students.

“Maktabahs, Madarsas, and Gurukuls are acting as a primary source of education to more than 15 lakh young individuals in the country,” the petition stated.

Full report at:



Muslim Teenager Set On Fire In India ‘After Refusing To Chant Hindu Slogan’

Samuel Osborne

Jul 30, 2019

A Muslim teenager has claimed he was set on fire by a gang after he refused to chant a Hindu slogan in the Chandauli district of Uttar Pradesh, India.

The 15-year-old boy said he was kidnapped by four men who poured kerosene on him and set him alight after telling him to chant “Jai Shri Ram”, Outlook India reports.

The Indian magazine said the boy was left in a critical condition with 60 per cent burns over his body.

However, police in Chandauli have claimed the boy set himself on fire and gave contradictory statements, India Today reports.

“He’s admitted in a hospital with 45 per cent burns,” Chandauli superintendent of police Kumar Singh told the ANI news agency. ”He had given different statements to different people, so it seemed suspicious.”

Mr Singh added: “It seemed he had been tutored. Police monitored CCTV footage of places he had mentioned and found that he had not been at any of those places.”

He also claimed witnesses saw the boy set himself on fire.

Several people have been attacked in India after being forced to say “Jai Shri Ram”, which roughly translates to “Hail Lord Ram”, a Hindu god.

In June, a Muslim man died after being beaten by a crowd who forced him to perform Hindu chants.

A recent US government report found mob attacks against Muslims in India had occurred throughout 2018.

The report said: “There were reports of religiously motivated killings, assaults, riots, discrimination, vandalism and actions restricting the right of individuals to practice their religious beliefs.”

Full report at:



India and the US must approach the bilateral ties cautiously

Jul 28, 2019

Frank F Islam

The India-United States (US) relations were thrown off course last week when President Donald Trump offered to mediate between New Delhi and Islamabad on Kashmir. Much to the bewilderment of Indian officials and South Asia watchers in Washington, the president said, at a joint White House press conference with the visiting Pakistan Prime Minister, Imran Khan, that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also requested him to be a mediator.

New Delhi immediately refuted Trump’s claim. While the president’s statement can be explained away as another instance of “Trump being Trump,” unfortunately, it has negated all the good vibes of the past month. The two sides had made considerable progress in addressing contentious issues in two bilateral events held in the last week of June.

Modi 2.0 started with both the countries sparring on the trade issue. This caused growing unease in both the capitals about a potential trade war that would, in all likelihood, derail the ties for the remaining 18 months of President Trump’s tenure, if not longer.

But unlike the US-China trade war, and the US-Mexico disputes, these trade differences were not at the centre of India-US relations. With Washington deciding to end Indian participation in a preferential trade programme, and the India responding to it by increasing tariffs on the US exports, there was a real danger that the trade issue will overwhelm all other concerns.

It was in this backdrop that the two key bilateral events took place. Clearly, the most important purpose of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s two-day India trip — the first high-profile US visit during Modi’s second term — was to address the trade differences. By all accounts, he accomplished his mission.

“Great friends are bound to have disagreements,” Pompeo told the press after his meetings with Modi and ExternalAffairs Minister SJaishankar. “The United States has been clear, we seek greater market access and the removal of trade barriers in our economic relationship.” Jaishankar offered a similar assessment. “It is natural when you have trade, there will be issues and I think the real test of our intentions is our ability to address them effectively. We are committed to making it easier to do business, to provide a level-playing field and to grow with the world economy.”

Another goal of Pompeo’s visit was to set the tone for a Modi-Trump meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in Osaka. By defusing the tension, Pompeo and Jaishankar ensured a smooth summit between the two leaders; The Osaka meeting, a few days later, lasted for more than 45 minutes. (According to Trump, it was in Osaka that Modi had asked him to be a mediator on the Kashmir issue.)

The two leaders vowed to tackle their differences on various issues -- it included major irritants for the US such as India’s decision to purchase S-400 Triumph missile from Russia; its continued dependence on oil from Iran, a country that the US has declared a global pariah; and its purchase of telecom equipment from China.

The relations between the two countries had been plateauing for months -- with Trump being preoccupied with domestic and international battles, and Modi busy with general elections. This face-to-face talk between the two leaders gave an impetus to the talks around bilateral agreements. Though the summit did not solve the major differences, it agreed upon a framework for addressing them.

It remains to be seen, however, to what extent the two sides will be flexible during their discussions and negotiations -- especially the United States, given that being tough, or appearing to be tough, on trade is Trump’s signature style. During its first 30 months, the Trump administration has not been keen on conceding ground on trade disputes with any of allies, and it is unlikely to change now.

It is also not clear how Trump’s latest diplomatic “gaffe” will affect the talks. This was not the first time the president poured cold water on bilateral relations. In the past, he has tweeted criticising India and even mimicked Modi’s English accent on a couple of occasions.

However, one hopes that both sides will look past the president’s unfortunate statement, and reach a compromise that will make the possible, probable, and the probable, actual.

Full report at:



In first 6 months, 82% militants killed in J&K were Valley recruits

by Sushant Singh

July 30, 2019

Of the 121 militants killed in Jammu and Kashmir by security forces in the first half of 2019, only 21 were from Pakistan, which means that 82% of the militants killed in the state were locals. Most of these encounters took place in south Kashmir, with 36 militants being killed in Pulwama, 34 in Shopian and 16 in Anantnag districts.

Recruitment of locals into militancy did not witness a decline in 2019, as 76 locals picked up guns in the first half of the year, with 39 of them joining Hizbul Mujahideen and 21 Jaish-e-Mohammad. The majority of those who joined militancy were from south Kashmir districts: 20 young men from Pulwama, 15 from Shopian, and 13 each from Anantnag and Kulgam joined militancy between January and June this year.

These details about the state of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir are part of a government document which shows that militancy continues to be on the rise in the districts of south Kashmir and is now dominated by locals who are picking up guns. As reported by The Indian Express earlier, there have been no reports of cross-border action or infiltration across the Line of Control (LoC) this summer, with a majority of ceasefire violations from small arms firing, and limited to south of Pir Panjal ranges.

Among the 100 incidents initiated by militants in the first half of the year, 32 of them were in Pulwama, 23 in Shopian, 15 in Anantnag and 10 in Srinagar districts. A majority of these incidents are of militants firing on security forces, but also include grenade attacks, detonation of improvised explosive devices (IED), throwing of petrol bombs, weapon snatching and abductions.

Meanwhile, there have been 228 recorded incidents of stone-pelting, 346 incidents of civilian protests and 10 bandh calls given in the first six months of 2019 which saw the conduct of Lok Sabha elections in multiple phases for security reasons. It was in the month of May that agitations had shot up with 101 incidents of stone-pelting and 114 incidents of civilian protests being recorded by the authorities.

Full report at:





British revolutionaries in Syria say they will defy Home Office's new terrorism laws

Josie Ensor

28 JULY 2019

A group of self-styled British revolutionaries who travelled to Syria to help build a democratic society in the Kurdish north say they will defy new Government legislation which would see them prosecuted on terrorism charges.

The Home Office revealed in May that it planned to designate northern Syria a “no-go area” and that British citizens would have 28 days to leave or face a 10-year prison sentence if they attempt to return to the UK.

It said the law was aimed at tackling terrorism, but the volunteers accuse the Government of failing to distinguish between Britons in the jihadist enclave of Idlib, in Syria’s northwest, and those working in the northeast alongside Kurdish groups that helped defeat Islamic State (Isil).

The law would mean just travelling to or remaining in the northeast would be considered a terrorist act, despite the UK partnering with the Kurds in the coalition against the jihadist group.

Dozens of Britons have been drawn to the autonomous region, known as Rojava: some to fight with the People’s Protection Units (YPG and YPJ) against Isil, while others were attracted by their Marxist-inspired democratic, feminist, anti-capitalist project.

The volunteers have drawn comparisons to the International Brigades, the foreign fighters who travelled to Spain to battle Franco’s fascists in the 1930s and were made famous by author George Orwell.

More than 10 Britons are currently undertaking voluntary work on ecological and community projects as well as medical and media outreach.

The Telegraph last month spoke to three of them in the town of Derik on the border with Iraq, where they said they should not be criminalised simply for travelling to a warzone.

“On the one hand, (the Home Office) talks about the UK's need for international co-operation with the Kurds in fighting terrorism. And on the other, it is punishing those of us who come here to do just that,” said Matt Broomfield, 25, from Shropshire, who left the UK more than a year ago after working in media.

Mr Broomfield has supported local media projects to help get news from the region out to an international audience, as well as writing articles for the British press.

“It’s a ham-fisted attempt to prosecute jihadists under a catch-all law after previous laws proved inadequate,” said Mr Broomfield, referring to the fact that only one in 10 returning Isil fighters have been prosecuted upon return to the UK.

The legislation was announced by new Home Secretary Priti Patel’s predecessor Sajid Javid, but, the Telegraph understands, she will support it.

It is not clear when the 28-day grace period will begin, but it will mark the first use of new powers given to the home secretary in the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act, which became law in February.

“I won't be leaving, regardless of the Government’s draconian actions, as I consider their threats toward those in northeast Syria illegitimate and worthy of resistance,” Mr Broomfield told the Telegraph.

“Yes of course we're very worried - less for ourselves than for what this means for northeast Syria's status in the future and the future of international solidarity with Rojava.”

The Kurds have forged something of a proto-state under the cover of the Syrian civil war, inspired by the revolutionary socialism of Abdullah Ocalan, a Kurdish leader jailed in Turkey whose group is branded a terrorist organisation by the US.

However, their experiment in self-rule has faced threats from Turkey to the north and Syrian government forces to the west and south, as well as a more immediate threat from Isil sleeper cells hiding among them.

Some have accused the volunteers of adventurism and naivety, accusations those here dismiss.

“I’m not just here trying to get arrested, I want to be part of important revolutionary change,” said Theo Stevens, 29, who has been volunteering at the Internationalist Commune of Rojava, a civil society organisation, since arriving in the country five months ago. “Isil may have been defeated territorially, but there’s a lot more work that needs doing than fighting.

“When I heard about the new law I thought about it for 30 seconds before deciding I couldn’t just abandon all we’ve done here,” Miss Stevens, who had been involved in Bristol’s anarchist and Leftist movements before moving to Syria, said, using a pseudonym.

She said her family has a history of participating in revolutionary struggles. Her great-uncle fought in the Spanish Civil War and went on to write the well-known memoir, A Shallow Grave. 

“My mum isn’t too worried about the new law, she trusts my decision. She met others in the community at Anna’s memorial and got to see how strong it is,” she adds, referring to Anna Campbell, from East Sussex, who was killed during the Kurds’ battle against the Turkish army and Turkey-backed rebel forces in the northern Syrian city of Afrin last year.

Anna had been a friend of Miss Stevens’ back home, who had encouraged her to come to Rojava before she died.

Eight Britons died fighting in Syria alongside the Kurdish YPG, including Anna, and Jac Holmes from Dorset, who stepped on a mine the day after helping liberate Isil’s “capital” Raqqa.

Another volunteer said she thought the Home Office’s decision would discourage other Britons from joining them, which she said was a “shame”.

Mr Broomfield said the volunteers were planning to raise their concerns in Parliament via an Early Day Motion. However, he said he was also prepared to fight his case in court should the Government decide to prosecute him.

“The Britons who joined the Kurds went to fight Isil under the RAF in a coalition of which the UK was a part,” Labour MP Lloyd Russell Moyle, who visited Rojava last year, told the Telegraph. “Those still with the Kurds are participating in pluralistic, democratic and feminist social revolution in the heart of a region gripped by authoritarianism and sectarianism.

“This is a lazy law that will cause more harm than good. Locking up returning NGO workers and volunteers is absurd, antithetical to our values and a blow to development in the Middle East.”



Rise in extremist violence puts Germans on edge

Jul 30, 2019

Ever since the attack on his car last year, Ferat Kocak has been noting down vehicle number plates he sees on the streets. He has frequently moved house and sleeps badly. “I wake at the slightest sound,” he said. “The fear is ever present.”

Mr Kocak, an official of the leftwing German party Die Linke, said his life changed one night in February 2018 when unknown assailants set fire to his car. The flames spread to the house where he and his parents were sleeping. If he had not woken up in time, he said, his family could have been killed.

Two men from the hard-right scene in Berlin’s working-class district of Neukölln were detained over the attack but released due to lack of evidence.

In June, Germans were shocked by the killing of Walter Lübcke, a local official in the central region of Hesse and the first German politician in the country’s postwar history to be assassinated by a rightwing extremist.

Such attacks are rare. But they are the product of a changing political culture that has become increasingly brutish in recent years. The appearance of a wooden gallows marked “reserved for Angela ‘Mummy’ Merkel”, the German chancellor, at a far-right demonstration in Dresden four years ago, drew widespread condemnation at the time. But since then, such menacing displays of hostility towards mainstream politicians have become routine.

Germans were once renowned for sober debate. But the influx of nearly 1m migrants in 2015 and the rise of the nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) has led to increased polarisation and a shriller, more aggressive tone that has alarmed the political establishment.

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier recently bemoaned the “provocation, noise and daily outrage” in social media and said Germans needed to “relearn how to argue without foaming at the mouth”.

The authorities’ concern is that verbal attacks have sometimes tipped into something worse. There were 2,098 acts of violence by extremists on the right and left in 2018, compared with 1,678 in 2012 — an increase of 25 per cent.

The AfD itself is not immune. “Who has had to endure the most attacks?” asked Andreas Kalbitz, the party’s head in the east German state of Brandenburg. “It’s the offices of AfD politicians that are routinely destroyed.”

Georg Pazderski, the AfD’s leader in Berlin, has had his car smashed and his house and windows pelted with paint. The AfD official Uwe Jung broke his cheekbone in an attack in 2016. Frank Magnitz of the party’s Bremen branch was hospitalised with concussion in January after being jumped by unknown assailants.

Mr Pazderski has blamed what he calls “the lack of linguistic inhibitions” in modern German politics. “There are no boundaries any more, either on the left or the right,” he said.

Civil servants and other officials have been targeted. “You’re seeing a real increase in verbal and physical violence against public officials, mayors, even administrative staff,” said Andreas Hollstein, mayor of the west German town of Altena.

He experienced the brutality first-hand in 2017, when he was stabbed in the neck by a man who opposed his liberal approach to refugees. Then in late May, he said, an anonymous caller told him that “there would be another attack on me very soon, and this one would be more successful than the first”.

A recent survey found 2 per cent of the 11,000 mayors in Germany had been physically assaulted in the past four years, while more than a quarter of local councillors said they had suffered personal abuse over the government’s refugee policy.

The city of Berlin is a particular hotspot for violence. According to Mobile Counselling against Rightwing Extremism (MBR), a non-governmental organisation, there have been 55 politically motivated attacks in the city in the past three years, mostly against leftwing politicians or pro-refugee activists. That is up from 50 such incidents between 2009 and 2015.

The authorities’ failure to solve Mr Kocak’s case and similar incidents seems to have emboldened rightwingers, said Bianca Klose, head of MBR: “Now it’s not just arson attacks, it’s death threats too — a massive campaign of intimidation.”

The authorities deny they are not taking rightwing attacks seriously enough. “Incidents of arson are very hard to solve because the culprits often leave no trace,” said a person familiar with the investigation into the attack on Mr Kocak’s car.

But he confirmed that searches at the homes of the two original suspects, one of whom had connections to the neo-Nazi scene, had unearthed a “hit list” of 26 politicians and police officers, with their private addresses.

Germany’s interior ministry flagged up the issue of such lists last week, saying dozens had appeared containing data on “tens of thousands of people” — ranging from journalists, public officials and activists to private individuals active in the fight against rightwing extremism. The aim of the lists, said Horst Seehofer, interior minister, was to “sow insecurity and fear”.

Mr Kalbitz said the phenomenon of rightwing violence had been exaggerated. “[It] is instrumentalised by the left,” he said. “It’s by no means as widespread as the media is trying to make out.”

But the authorities say there are now 12,700 rightwing extremists in Germany who are prepared to use violence, up from 9,500 in 2010. The potential for bloodshed was underscored last week in the central German town of Wächtersbach, where an Eritrean man was wounded after he was shot by a suspected rightwing nationalist. Also last week, unknown assailants detonated explosives outside the house of a local councillor from Die Linke in the eastern town of Zittau.

Full report at:



Moroccan king pardons thousands, including ‘Hirak’ protesters

30 July 2019

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has marked 20 years on the throne by pardoning thousands of prisoners, including some from the “Hirak” protest movement that rocked the country in 2016.

On the eve of the royal anniversary on Tuesday, an official statement announced 4,764 people were to be pardoned including some detained during the months of protests in the long-marginalized northern Rif region.

No further details were given.

The al-Hirak al-Shaabi, or “Popular Movement”, was sparked by the death of a fisherman but soon spiralled into demands for more development and action against corruption and unemployment.

More than 400 protesters are thought to have been arrested and tried in connection with the demonstrations, but no official figures are available. Around 250 of them have previously been pardoned.

On Monday night the king also pledged a government reshuffle and an injection of “new blood” into political and administrative positions to help tackle inequality.

In a speech at his palace in the northern city of Tetouan, the 55-year-old monarch, who succeeded his father Hassan II in 1999, welcomed progress in infrastructure and freedoms in the country but said the efforts had not had “sufficient impact.”

A new constitution passed by a July 2011 referendum strengthened the powers of the prime minister and parliament.

But the king retains overall authority as head of state, chief of the military and the country’s top Islamic authority as well as tight control over key sectors of the economy.

New development model

The king on Monday announced the launch later this year of a committee charged with elaborating a new development model to tackle social inequalities, while also urging a government reshuffle.

The committee will serve as an advisory body to make suggestions to improve reforms in fields such as education, health, agriculture, investment and taxation, said the monarch in a speech marking twenty years of his rule.

The 55-year-old king enumerated some key achievements of his rule, with emphasis on infrastructure developments such as highways, high-speed railway, ports, renewable energy and urban development.

“What undermines this positive result is that the effects of the progress and the achievements made has not, unfortunately, been felt by all segments of the Moroccan society”, he said.

Special emphasis was also laid on the need to open up the economy to foreign investors and revamp the public sector. Such projects and reforms require new leaders in decision-making positions, he said.

“I ask the head of government to submit to me, after the summer break, proposals to fill executive posts in the government and the civil service with high-level national elites chosen on merit and competence”, he said.

The king also reiterated his “policy of the outstretched hand toward Algeria”, invoking the “brotherhood” and “joy” expressed in Morocco after the Algerian team won the African Cup of Nations.

Shared borders have been closed between the two North African neighbors since 1994. The two countries are at loggerheads over a set of issues including the Western Sahara, a disputed territory considered by Morocco as an integral part of its sovereign lands, but also claimed by the Algerian-backed Polisario Front.’ Morocco has largely been insulated from the turmoil that hit North Africa and the Middle East since the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011 although it regularly sees protests over economic and social problems.

Full report at:



No tanker swap, obey the law: UK takes a tough new line with Iran

July 29, 2019

LONDON, SEOUL: Britain on Monday rejected an Iranian offer to swap seized tankers, and told Iran to obey international law.

The tough line under new Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggests London may be deserting the European consensus on placating Tehran and backing the US policy of “maximum pressure” on the regime.

“If the Iranians want to come out of the dark and be accepted as a responsible member of the international community they need to adhere to the rules-based system,” Britain’s new Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said. “You cannot go about unlawfully detaining foreign vessels.”

Revolutionary Guards boarded a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz this month and forced it to divert to an Iranian port, in retaliation for Britain’s seizure in the Mediterranean of an Iranian tanker carrying oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has suggested the vessels could be exchanged, but Raab ruled it out.

“This is not about some kind of barter,” he said. “This is about international law … being upheld, and that is what we will insist on.”

Raab also rowed back on his predecessor’s proposal for a purely European-led naval force to combat Iranian piracy.

The initiative would require US support to be “viable and effective,” he said.

Meanwhile, South Korea is to send its elite Cheonghae anti-piracy unit to the Gulf to protect ships from Iranian attacks. The 300-strong unit operates from a 4,500-ton KDX-II destroyer equipped with a Lynx anti-submarine helicopter. Most recently it has been on duty off Somalia.

“Given the importance of the alliance with the US, it’s imperative for us to take a role,” a senior officer told Arab News.

In a sign of further pressure on Tehran, the regime asked China on Monday to buy more of its oil.

Full report at:



Greek PM seeks 'brave restart' of relations with Turkey

Fatih Hafız Mehmet 


The Greek prime minister said Monday that he seeks a "brave restart" of bilateral relations with Turkey.

"My goal is to find ways for a brave restart in Greek-Turkish relations," Kyriakos Mitsotakis told reporters during his visit to Greek Cypriot administration, according to Greek media.

However, Mitsotakis said moves toward this goal have to be made step by step and there is need for time and building of trust, newspaper To Vima reported.

Full report at:



Arab World


Human Rights Organization Calls for Saudi Officials’ Trial

Jul 29, 2019

The Berlin-based ESOHR issued a statement on Sunday, lauding the report issued by Agnes Callamard, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings, who investigated the case of the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi by the government of Saudi Arabia.

On June 19, the UN issued a report where it said that Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was the victim of a premeditated extrajudicial execution, for which the State of Saudi Arabia is responsible, according to a report published today by the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings.

In her 101-page report, she stressed that there is “sufficient credible evidence” indicating that the Saudi crown prince bears responsibility for the murder, and that he should be investigated for the murder. Recently, she criticized the United States for inaction over Khashoggi's case.

The ESOHR echoed the report’s finding that Khashoggi was executed in an extrajudicially, and called for a fair prosecution of the perpetrators even if Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS) is one of them.

“The Saudi government targeted Agnes Callamard instead of being responsive to the UN report, and claimed that he had breached his remit and applied an unprofessional methodology,” the statement read.

“Although Callamard was expecting such a reaction, her report is based on material documents and drafted according to professional principles of the UN,” it added.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, at least four Saudis and an Arab dissident in the US told the Middle East Eye (MEE) news portal on July 12 that they had received visits by FBI agents following the killing of Khashogg by a Saudi hit inside the kingdom’s consulate in Turkey's Istanbul in October 2018.

Some of them said the agents had tried to calm them and called first and then meeting in a public location near their home.

“They (FBI agents) were like, ‘Yep, we are worried about your safety. Your name has been flagged here in certain circles and in Europe’,” stated the Arab activist, who had been working with Khashoggi.

He added that the agents had told him that they were sorry about the murder of Khashoggi and that they were “doing everything we can to get to the bottom of it”.

One of the Saudi dissidents, who met with the FBI agents in early November, noted, “I told them that I’m kind of afraid to deal with you guys because the current government has worked closely with [Crown Prince] Mohammad bin Salman and the Saudi government”.

“They said, ‘Don’t worry. We are here to protect people from everywhere. It doesn’t matter who is in the White House',” he stressed.

The dissident also noted he had grown wary when the agents suggested that he could help the FBI in return, if he chose to do so, for assistance with his asylum case.

Another Arab dissident stated that he had been asked if agents could visit him again and replied, “'If it’s just for a chat or something, I’m not available'. I didn’t want to have a regular thing with him”.

Meanwhile, an FBI spokesperson claimed in an email sent to the MEE that the agency “regularly interacts with members of the communities we serve to build mutual trust around protecting the American public”.

Back in May, the Time reported that the CIA and foreign security services had sent warnings to at least 3 Khashoggi associates in Norway, Canada and the US that their continuation of pro-democracy work has made them targets of potential retaliation from Saudi Arabia.

Prominent human rights activist Iyad el-Baghdadi, who lives in political asylum in Oslo, was one of those who had been approached by the CIA.

He told the MEE that the US intelligence agencies’ attempts to stop potential Saudi activity show their level of concern.

“They know that MBS is deeply problematic and a terrible ally, an ally who threatened people on your own territory for God's sakes. What kind of ally does this?” he said, referring to MbS.

“In the end, what does it say that they are unable to convince the guy in the White House that this is a problem? It tells us that US intelligence agencies completely know that this guy is trouble and that the only reason he can continue to do this is [Trump's son-in-law and law and senior adviser] Jared Kushner and Donald Trump,” he added.



With Isis plotting a comeback, Iraq’s famed ‘Golden Division’ prepares for the long fight

Jul 30, 2019

In the summer of 2014, Iraq was staring into the abyss. Isis controlled a third of the country and the army had collapsed. There was only one fighting force capable of leading the fightback.

Iraq’s elite Counter Terror Service (CTS), known as the Golden Division, spearheaded an offensive to recapture villages, towns and cities until it finally took control of the last Isis stronghold of Mosul.

That victory came at a terrible cost. By doing the job of regular infantry, instead of the specialised raids they were trained for, the division lost around half of its fighters due to injury or death during the battle for Mosul.

Today, the caliphate may have been defeated, but Isis is already rebuilding. So too is the Golden Division, and its efforts over the next few years will be crucial in determining whether Isis can rise again to threaten the world.

The person in charge of making sure that doesn’t happen is a man named General Talib Shaghati al-Kinani, the commander of the Golden Division. A veteran of the Iran-Iraq War and the Gulf War, the general became a well-known face during the campaign against Isis as he regularly appeared on television to give updates on the battle.

There are perhaps few institutions that can claim to have had a bigger role in the terror group’s demise, and in preventing its comeback. Speaking to The Independent at the division’s headquarters in Baghdad’s Green Zone, General Kinani says the decision to send his 10,000-strong force to fight Isis was the logical move.

“Isis are not a traditional enemy. The police and army were not trained to deal with them. The CTS is specialised in fighting terror,” he says.

“The security services needed more morale, especially after the fall of Mosul. I had these well-trained fighters under my command. I had a responsibility,” he says.

The Golden Division won a string of quick victories as it pushed outwards from Baghdad, backed by the US-led international coalition with advisers on the ground and jets in the sky. They fought Isis in the urban battlegrounds of Tikrit, Ramadi, Fallujah – all the way to Mosul. They were bolstered by the newly formed Popular Mobilisation Forces, an umbrella group of mostly Shia militias with some 60,000 fighters.

The more battles the CTS won, the more popular they became. It was a dramatic turnaround for an organisation that had once been known as the “Dirty Division”.

The CTS was set up by the US military shortly after the invasion of Iraq. Its soldiers were picked from the best the other security services had to offer, and underwent an intensive selection process overseen by Green Beret special forces. From the outset, they were tasked with carrying out specialised anti-terror raids intelligence operations – which they did effectively.

But by the time the US began withdrawing its forces from Iraq in 2007, things began to fall apart. The CTS became associated with the same corruption and mismanagement as the rest of the security services.

The deeply sectarian Shia prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki – to whom much of the blame for the rise of Isis is attributed – was accused of using the CTS to go after his political opponents.

“Back in 2009, the CTS was seen as Maliki’s praetorian guard, kind of a presidential hit squad,” says David Witty, a retired US army special forces colonel and former adviser to the CTS.

“There was some targeting of political opponents,” he adds. “That was even when the American advisers were there. In their mindset, if they got an order from the prime minister, they had to do it.”

But according to Witty, who was an adviser to General Kinani during two postings to Iraq, that changed when Isis arrived.

“They became as popular as the Nasa astronauts in the 60s,” he says.

The CTS came to be seen as one of the only non-sectarian institutions in Iraq, with Sunni, Shia and Kurdish fighters and commanders within its ranks. In a country that had been torn apart by sectarianism, it was a breath of fresh air to many Iraqis.

Remarkable tales of bravery from the battlefield were commonplace. General Kinani recalls one particular mission undertaken by a Golden Division soldier whose family had been murdered by Isis.

“He lost everyone,” he says. “So he decided to infiltrate Isis. He grew a beard and dressed like them. After staying with them for a week he blew up the whole place. The heroes of the Golden Division did many things.”

The battles soon began to take their toll, however. The Golden Division was engaged in tough street-to-street fighting to recapture the city of Mosul, and suffered heavy casualties.

“They almost ran out of officers,” says Witty. “They were the strikeforce, leading all the operations. We never envisioned the CTS would be used like that. It would be like sending the SAS to clear a city. That’s what an army was for.”

The CTS has remained tightlipped about the losses it suffered, but a US Department of Defence budget document estimated that 40 per cent of its soldiers were killed or injured. Some analysts say the number could be as high as 60 per cent.

In the two years since Mosul was recaptured by his forces, General Kinani says the Golden Division has now recouped the numbers it lost and is back to the same strength it was in 2014.

“At one point we requested another 1,000 recruits, but 312,000 applied. This is because they love the CTS and they know it is the force that beat Isis,” he says.

The US military feels the same way. Seeing it as a key weapon in the fight against Isis, Washington reportedly wants to double the size of the Golden Division to 20,000 troops. But the mission is changing, or rather, the Golden Division is going back to its roots.  

“After its defeat in the cities, Isis now exists in small pockets in the desert, near Mosul and in the mountains,” says General Kinani. “We are getting intelligence all the time about these cells and we are working to eliminate them. We are going back to combating terrorism.”

It is the kind of fighting that the CTS was built for, according to Michael Knights, an expert on Iraq and senior fellow at the Washington Institute.

“They are the primary counterterrorism raiding force, riding on US and sometimes Iraqi helicopters to assault Isis leadership targets in remote areas, often late at night. No other force is routinely performing that mission,” he says.

“Iraqi military ‘clearance operations’ are easy for insurgents to detect and avoid, while [CTS] are launching surprise intelligence raids.”

The CTS is today playing a supporting role in a major operation across Iraq aimed at hunting down Isis sleeper cells. It comes amid reports that hundreds of Isis fighters are crossing back into Iraq from Syria in order to join militant cells in Anbar province.

When Mosul was recaptured in 2017, and later when the last piece of the caliphate fell in the eastern Syrian city of Baghouz earlier this year, few military planners were under any illusions that Isis had been eliminated.

Isis had in fact been preparing for the loss of its territorial caliphate for some time. Its fighters slipped through the lines in several key battles to regroup in remote areas of the Iraqi desert, from where it has begun to relaunch an insurgent campaign.

Much as it did in the prelude to its meteoric rise in 2014, the group has been carrying out targeted assassinations of local political, tribal, and security leaders – and indeed anyone who it deems to be cooperating with the Iraqi government.

According to a report on Isis capabilities published by the Institute for the Study of War in June, the group carried out at least 148 assassinations in Diyala, Anbar, Salah ad-Din and Baghdad in the first 10 months of 2018.

The report’s authors note that Isis “is stronger today than its predecessor Al Qaeda in Iraq was in 2011, when the US withdrew from Iraq”, and that its next breakout “could be even more devastating than its 2014 campaign”.

“Isis likely has the capability to seize another major urban centre in Iraq or Syria,” it adds. “It has chosen instead to pursue political and security conditions that will enable it to seize and hold larger and potentially more enduring pieces of territory in the future.”

General Kinani, however, is sceptical. One of the key factors to Isis's success in 2014 was the considerable support it drew from a large number of disaffected Sunnis. Today, that is not the case. 

“They don’t have any support,” he says. “The citizens don’t like them. They are hiding in the desert and they haven’t been able to achieve anything.”

He adds that the biggest threat to ensuring the defeat of Isis is political instability, which would risk recreating the conditions which allowed it to rise in the first place. 

Full report at:



Syrian rebel town pounded, 11 killed in market airstrike

By Sarah El Deeb

July 27, 2019

BEIRUT — A Syrian government airstrike hit a busy open-air market in the country’s northwest on Saturday, killing at least 11 people, most of them children, according to activists. The town of Ariha has been particularly targeted over the last week as the government escalates its offensive against the country’s last rebel stronghold.

The airstrike in Ariha left an 18-month-old girl with an amputated leg, according to Dr. Mohamad Abrash, a surgeon and chief of Idlib’s central hospital. He said the girl’s father and brother died in the bombing, while her mother is in the ICU in the bed opposite her with a chest injury and internal bleeding in the head.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war, and another activist collective, called Ariha Today, said most of those killed were children. Ariha Today named six children under the age of 14 who it said were killed in the airstrike.

Ariha has been repeatedly targeted over the past week as Syria’s government looks to regain momentum in its stalled offensive, which began in late April. It is one of the main towns in Idlib province, which along with the surrounding rural areas of Hama province, are home to 3 million people.

Separately, local doctors said two medics and an ambulance driver were killed when an airstrike targeted their vehicle in Kfar Zita, a town on the frontline in Hama province, at the edge of the rebel stronghold.

Ghayath, an activist in Ariha who only gave his first name out of fears for his safety, said the strike hit the town during the busy weekly bazaar when people come to buy food and other necessities. He said the death toll could have been higher if it were not for the warning from the local civilian defense team against large gatherings.

“The strike hit the main square, in the center of town,” he said.

“This is a systematic displacement policy to empty the busy town out,” said Abrash, the doctor, who said the injured travel nearly five kilometers (3 miles) to reach Idlib city, which has the most well-equipped hospital for surgery.

In the Syrian government’s airstrike campaign, backed by ally Russia, warplanes have targeted medical centers, water plants and residential areas, in what the U.N. and rights groups call a deliberate campaign that amounts to war crimes.

The rebel enclave is dominated by al-Qaida-linked militants and other jihadi groups. The government says it is targeting terrorist locations.

Most of the civilians living in the rebel stronghold have already been displaced by other bouts of violence, and have chosen not to live in government-captured areas.

Over the last three years, the government regained control of most of the territories that were initially seized by the opposition in the early days of the civil conflict — now in its 9th year.

Those military victories, backed by Russian airpower and Iranian-backed militias on the ground, followed intense military campaigns and tight sieges that forced rebels to surrender and move north.

Last week, a residential building in Ariha was hit, killing a mother and two of her daughters, while two other girls are recovering in the hospital. The father survived the attack.

The U.N. human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, said Friday that the world’s most powerful nations are failing to show leadership in dealing with the Syrian crisis “resulting in a tragedy on such a vast scale that we no longer seem to be able to relate to it at all.”

Full report at:



Iraqi warplanes kill four Islamic State terrorists in Anbar

by  Mohammed Ebraheem

Jul 28, 2019

Anbar ( – Four members of the Islamic State terrorist group were killed Sunday in an air raid on a terrorist hotbed in Anbar province, a tribal militia commander said.

“Iraqi warplanes have targeted a secret tunnel of the Islamic State militant group in al-Madham district, 90 km south of Ain Assad airbase in western Anbar,” Qatari al Obeidi told Alsumaria News TV channel.

“The airstrike left four Islamic State terrorists killed,” Obeidi said, adding that the bombardment destroyed a large cache of IS ammunition and weapons inside the tunnel.

Earlier in the day, the Iraqi army launched a military operation to purge the desert areas in Ar Rutbah, west of Anbar, from Islamic State cells.

Iraq declared the collapse of Islamic State’s territorial influence in Iraq in November 2017 with the recapture of Rawa, a city on Anbar’s western borders with Syria, which was the group’s last bastion in Iraq.

Full report at:



Iraqi Musician Plays Ney in Mosul Ruins Two Years After IS

By Rikar Hussein, Kawa Omar

July 27, 2019

MOSUL - Amid the bombed-out wreckage of a site that once hosted dozens of Mosul’s traditional maqam players, Iraqi musician Saad Rajab Bacha plays his ney flute to remember the city’s glorious days before it came under the control of Islamic State (IS).

Bacha, 65, fled Mosul in June 2014 after IS fighters overran the city and established a hard-line rule that deemed all musical instruments, including his ney, a violation of Islamic law.

When he returned home two years later, he found that much of his beloved city had been reduced to rubble in the Iraqi fight against IS.

The sad melodies that emerge from his ney come as Iraq this month celebrates the second anniversary of recapturing the city from IS.

City in ruins

Bacha says that despite the initial optimism for a new life after the jihadists’ defeat, much of the city still lies in ruins and its artists, among thousands of residents, are unable to return because of lack of essential services.

“I feel like art has been slayed,” Bacha told VOA, adding that Mosul’s artists were either killed or had to flee because of charges of blasphemy by IS.

“The effort of artists in Mosul has been lost due to those extremists who hate life, music and art,” he added.

Bacha now resides in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region’s capital, Irbil, but frequently visits his hometown, Mosul, to help arrange musical events in the city. He has been playing the Iraqi-style ney flute for more than 30 years, establishing a name among Mosul residents for his contribution to Iraqi traditional maqam music.

Before IS attacked the city and banned music from its residents, Bacha helped organize musical events at Maqam House, which was built 25 years ago in western Mosul’s district known as the Old City.

“This place is now a big wound in my heart,” Bacha told VOA, sitting by the remnants of Maqam House, which was destroyed by an airstrike in 2017. “A few years ago we were all present here, working together, enjoying our times, and playing together. Now this is all a mere memory.”

Mosul is Iraq’s second-largest city with a population of more than 1 million that stayed in IS's grip for three years. Then-Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi officially declared victory in the city in July 2017.

The jihadist group has since lost control of all territories it once ruled as part of its self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and eastern Syria.

The road ahead

Following the IS defeat, the U.N. warned that the road ahead was “extremely challenging” because of the degree of destruction the war left behind. It estimated that more than $700 million was needed to stabilize the city and make it livable again.

Two years after the military operation, local and international organizations say large parts of the city remain unrecovered, particularly in the western part of the city where fierce fighting between IS and Iraqi forces took place.

According to the Norwegian Refugee Council, more than 300,000 residents of the city are still displaced with no homes to return to. The organization found that 138,000 houses were damaged or destroyed during the conflict.  In West Mosul alone, it estimated that there are still more than 53,000 houses flattened and thousands more damaged.

“For them, the suffering of the war that ended two years ago remains a daily battle for survival,” Rishana Haniffa, the Iraq country director for the Norwegian Refugee Council, said on the anniversary of Mosul’s recapture this month.

“It’s a disgrace that after two years, thousands of families and children still have to live in displacement camps and in abysmal conditions because their neighborhoods are still in ruins,” Haniffa added.

Bodies under rubble

People who have returned to the city say many bodies of civilians and IS militants who were killed in the battle still remain under the rubble of the Old City.

Residents who were interviewed by VOA expressed disappointment at the government's failure to rebuild the destroyed infrastructure and compensate the victims, particularly those who were incapacitated by the conflict.

Raad Ahmed is one of the victims who lost both his feet during clashes between Iraqi forces and IS. Having also lost his younger brother in the war, Ahmed needs to work as a vegetable seller to provide bread for his family as well as his brother’s.

“I went to the disabled office and asked them to give me a wheelchair because I work. The manager of the office told me, ‘You don’t deserve it,’ ” Ahmed told VOA, adding that the money he made as a vendor was not enough to provide for his family and obtain his special needs.

He asked rhetorically, “If I don’t deserve this basic right, then what do I deserve? What do we deserve from this country? All we have gained from it is pain, the destruction of homes, and the death of our youth."

Iraqi officials have publicly announced that recovering from damage caused by IS in the war is beyond their means and that they need generous international aid to enable them to restore the nation.

Full report at:



Bahrain Executes 3 Men, Including 2 Shiite Activists on ‘Terrorism Crimes’

July 27, 2019

Bahrain executed three men on Saturday, including two Shiite activists for what officials called “terrorism crimes,” in what was described as attacks orchestrated by Iran-based ringleaders.

A London-based Bahraini activist rights group said the executions made Saturday “one of Bahrain’s darkest days.”

The men were convicted in two separate cases, one involving the killing of a police officer in 2017 and the other the killing of an imam in 2018, the public prosecutor said in a statement.

The Shiite activists, Ali al-Arab and Ahmed al-Malali, were sentenced to death last year as part of a mass trial on “terrorism crimes.” Nineteen men were jailed for life, and 37 others for terms of up to 15 years, on the accusation that they had belonged to a terrorist cell trained to use heavy weapons and explosives.

Mr. al-Arab and Mr. al-Malali were convicted of crimes including using an assault rifle to kill the police officer, according to the prosecutor.

Bahrain, a strategic island where the United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based, has a Shiite Muslim majority population but is governed by a Sunni royal family. It accuses mainly Shiite Iran of stoking militancy in the kingdom, which Tehran denies.

International rights groups — including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and a United Nations rights expert — had urged Bahrain on Friday to halt the execution of the two activists, accusing the kingdom of acting on confessions obtained through torture.

“While in custody, the men were tortured by security officers including through electric shocks and beatings. Ali Mohamed al-Arab’s toenails were also ripped out,” Amnesty International said in a statement.

The authorities have denied accusations of torturing detainees and repressing the opposition, and say they are protecting national security from terrorists.

Mass trials have become commonplace in Bahrain since 2011, when members of the Shiite opposition led a failed uprising. Scores of people have been imprisoned, including politicians and rights activists, and many others have fled abroad.

Full report at:



Syrian Army Advances in Hama after Military Operations against Terrorists

Jul 29, 2019

The Syrian army's special forces engaged in heavy clashes with Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front) terrorists in Northwestern Hama on Monday, killing several militants and regaining control of the strategic region of Tal al-Malah.

Then, they continued their advance towards al-Jabin and gained back control of the town.

Meantime, a Syrian field source reported that the Syrian army cleansed the Mahradeh-al-Saqilbiyeh strategic road after taking back control of al-Jabin, adding that other Syrian army troops are still engaged in clashes with the militants in al-Zawiqat, Talat al-Syriatel and 1154 heights near the border with Turkey in Northeastern Lattakia.

He added that the Syrian army soldiers are now targeting the terrorists' moves near the strategic hills of Kabani towards areas of clashes in Northern Lattakia, killing a number of them and destroying several of their bases.

In a relevant development on Sunday, the Syrian and Russian air forces pounded and destroyed the most important bases and movements of terrorists in Northern Hama and Southern Idlib as the Damascus government dispatched new military convoys to Hama to launch military operations, the Arabic-language media outlets said.

The Arabic-language Al-Watan reported that the Syrian fighter jets conducted massive attacks on terrorists’ military positions in Northern Hama, South and Southwestern Idlib, destroying a network of underground tunnels of the terrorists in the surroundings of Ma’arat al-Numan and a center of terrorists in Ariha, killing tens of terrorists inside the tunnels.

Media reports also said that the Russian Air Force pounded several times and destroyed a military convoy of Tahrir al-Sham terrorists in Taftnaz military air base near the city of Idlib that was trying to attack the terrorists’ military positions in Northern Hama.

Meantime, the Syrian and Russian air forces destroyed a number of arms depots and heavy military equipment of Ansar al-Din and Turkistani terrorists in a joint military operation in Northern Hama and Southern Idlib.

Full report at:



Civilians killed in US-led airstrikes on village in Syria’s Dayr al-Zawr

Jul 29, 2019

An unspecified number of civilians have lost their lives in airstrikes conducted by the US-led military coalition on a village in Syria’s eastern province of Dayr al-Zawr.

Syria’s official news agency, SANA, citing local sources, reported Monday that the US-led warplanes carried out airstrikes on al-Rez village in al-Basira area in the eastern parts of the volatile province.

The aerial aggression killed a number of civilians and wounded others, most of them women and children, it added.

The report further said that the not only the airstrikes caused damage to houses in the village but also created a state of panic among the villagers due to the intensity of the explosions.

The US-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes and ground operations against what are said to be targets of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group inside the Arab country since September 2014, without any authorization from the Damascus government or a United Nations mandate.

The strikes have on many occasions resulted in civilian casualties and failed to fulfill their declared aim of countering terrorism.

Damascus has repeatedly condemned the airstrikes, demanding the so-called coalition to leave Syria.

The Britain-based Amnesty International and Airwars jointly reported in late April that air and artillery strikes by the US and its allies killed more than 1,600 civilians just in four months in the northern Syrian city of Raqqah.

Daesh has been almost entirely purged by the Syrian military and its allies -- including Iran, Russia and the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah -- from the territories it used to control in Syria.

Two Syrian villages liberated

Additionally on Monday, Syrian army troops managed to completely liberate two villages of Tal Mileh and al-Jebeen from the grips of Takfiri terrorists in the southwestern parts of the western-central province of Hama, SANA said in a separate report, citing an unnamed military official.

The report also said that the government troops had established full control over the villages. It added that the operation destroyed terrorist bases and equipment and cut off key routes that they used. The offensive also killed a large number of the terrorists while the rest fled the villages.

The Arab country has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. Damascus says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies are aiding the Takfiri terrorist groups that are wreaking havoc in the country.

Full report at:





Palestinian candidates unite in poll threat to Netanyahu

July 30, 2019

AMMAN: Palestinian politicians in Israel will run on a joint list for election to the Knesset in September.

The rare show of Palestinian unity may thwart a second attempt by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a coalition government, which he failed to do after elections in April.

The Palestinians have contested elections only once before on a joint list, in 2016, when they won 13 seats. Fragmented again in April’s poll, they won only 10.

If the Palestinian list repeats its 2016 performance, Netanyahu will struggle to form a coalition with his far-right allies. His failure to do so in April led to September’s election, and the prime minister’s position is further complicated by his indictment on corruption charges.

“We are fighting racism and we want the voices of the authentic Palestinian minority in Israel to be heard,” Knesset member Ahmad Tibi told Arab News. “We want to be part of the change in the political party landscape by defeating the right-wing forces and bringing down Netanyahu.”

Another Knesset member, Aida Tuma-Suleiman, told Arab News the joint list was a victory for the Palestinian minority in Israel

and for the Palestinian people

as a whole.

“The joining together of different political factions is a unique occurrence in Arab political life,”

she said.

“With hard work we can get our people out to ballot boxes and get rid of Netanyahu once and for all.”



Right-wing alliance, Arab bloc formed ahead of Israeli vote

July 29, 2019

JERUSALEM: A group of religious nationalist parties in Israel announced Monday that they would run together in the upcoming parliamentary elections, the same day four Arab political parties formalized a merger of their own.

The United Right, headed by former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, is the third political alliance formed in recent days ahead of this week’s deadline to finalize party lineups for the September 17 vote. It is expected to back Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should he be tasked with forming a government, potentially helping him to secure a fourth consecutive term in office.

Israel faces an unprecedented repeat election in September after Netanyahu failed to form a majority coalition government following a vote in April.

Last week, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak and the left-wing Meretz party joined to form the Democratic Union. They hope to oust Netanyahu, who became Israel’s longest-serving prime minister earlier this month.

Shaked, who assumed the leadership of her New Right party last week, will also head the newly formed United Right, a constellation of religious nationalist parties.

“Weeks of efforts bore fruit today. We united right wing parties for a joint run,” Shaked wrote on Twitter. Her New Right party failed to garner sufficient votes to enter the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in April’s elections.

The right-wing bloc was announced a day after the Palestinian nationalist Balad party said it would join a reunited Joint List of Arab parties, months after infighting fragmented the political alliance, in order to “increase Arab representation in parliament.”

Ayman Odeh, head of the Hadash party, said Monday that now that the parties have reunited, they can address the “great challenge” facing the country’s Arab minority.

Israel’s Arab population mainly consists of Palestinians who remained in Israel after its creation in 1948 and their descendants, and makes up around a fifth of Israel’s population. They largely identify with the Palestinians and have long complained of discrimination.

Polls published last week projected that the Joint List could become the third largest party in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, after the September elections.

Full report at:



Iran Links British Seizure of Oil Tanker to Ailing Nuclear Deal

By Steven Erlanger

July 28, 2019

BRUSSELS — Iran for the first time tied the British seizure of an Iranian oil tanker to the ailing nuclear deal on Sunday, calling it illegal and a violation of the agreement.

By making that link, Iran appeared to be trying to press the Europeans to make good on the promised financial benefits of the 2015 agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or J.C.P.O.A.

“Since Iran is entitled to export its oil according to the J.C.P.O.A., any impediment in the way of Iran’s export of oil is actually against the J.C.P.O.A.,” Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, said after emergency talks in Vienna with other parties to the nuclear deal.

The United States withdrew from the nuclear deal last year but Iran and Europe are in talks to try to salvage it.

British forces impounded the Iranian tanker in early July near Gibraltar, accusing it of violating European Union sanctions on Syria, an act Britain said had nothing to do with the nuclear deal.

On July 19, Iranian commandos seized a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important waterway for oil shipments, arguing that it had committed violations but formally denying that it was a tit-for-tat response.

Since then, Iran has blown hot and cold over suggestions that both sides release the tankers and Tehran promises not to send the oil to Syria, in part because London insists that the decision on what to do with the Iranian tanker must go through the courts.

Iran also warned against the British idea of sending a European-led naval force to escort tankers in the Persian Gulf, where the United States has already increased its military presence. A government spokesman in Tehran, Ali Rabiei, said the proposal “carries a hostile message, is provocative and will increase tensions.”

At the same time on Sunday, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran congratulated the new British prime minister, Boris Johnson, and said that he hoped that Mr. Johnson’s “familiarity with the issues of the relations of Iran and England and your presence once in Tehran will be a considerable help in getting rid of existing obstacles in the growth and expansion of relations between us.”

Mr. Johnson visited Tehran in 2017 as foreign secretary.

A British-Iranian dual national, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, has been imprisoned in Iran since 2016. A deal that would free both the tanker and Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe would be a significant coup for Mr. Johnson, but he is also expected to come under pressure from President Trump to join the United States in abandoning the nuclear pact and increasing pressure on Iran.

Iran agreed to accept limits on its nuclear program in the 2015 accord in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions against it. After the United States withdrew from the deal last year, the Trump administration imposed even harsher sanctions this year aimed at shutting off Iran’s oil exports, its main source of income.

The new measures include secondary sanctions against third countries that do business with Iran. European countries have been trying to construct an alternative trading platform using barter to allow Iran to bypass the American-linked global financial system to avoid the new sanctions.

Those efforts have so far come to nothing, even though European officials have said for months that the system was nearly ready. Even then, only goods that would not be sanctioned, like food, medicine and medical products, would be traded.

To pressure the other signatories — Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union — Iran has argued that under the terms of the agreement it is entitled to breach the pact’s restrictions since Iran is not getting the benefits it was promised for compliance. So far it has breached limits on uranium stockpiles and levels of enrichment, but not so drastically as to cause the other signatories to do more than admonish Iran to stick to the deal.

On Sunday, Iran threatened another breach — to begin activity again at the Arak heavy-water reactor. Ali Akbar Salehi of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization told legislators of the plan on Sunday, according to state-run media.

He denied, as Iran regularly does, that Tehran has any intention of building a nuclear weapon.

At the same time, Iran’s escalatory tactics in the Gulf, and its seizure of tankers, have been partly counterproductive, hardly encouraging Britain or the other Europeans to go out of their way to defend the nuclear deal. The Europeans have consistently warned Tehran that it must stick to the deal as written if it expects the other signatories to do the same.

“It’s clear that the ongoing escalation, particularly in the Gulf, has been and is playing a big part of the reason why the deal in and of itself is in deeper and deeper trouble,” Nathalie Tocci, a senior adviser to the European Union foreign policy chief, told the BBC.

“Of course that escalation in the Gulf is taking place precisely because there has been a violation of the J.C.P.O.A. by the United States. But as the escalation continues it becomes increasingly difficult politically and therefore technically to summon the will to see this mechanism follow through with its first transactions.”

In Vienna, there were talks to try to de-escalate tensions.

All parties agreed to preserve the nuclear deal and “to continue to implement the J.C.P.O.A. in a balanced manner,” said Fu Cong, China’s representative at the talks. “All sides have expressed their strong opposition against the U.S. unilateral imposition of sanctions,” he said. At times during the talks there were some “tense moments,” Mr. Fu said.

Full report at:



‘Her Eyes Were Full of Fear.’ Turkey Repatriates Children of ISIS Followers.

By Carlotta Gall

July 27, 2019

ISTANBUL — Sitting on a chair swinging her legs, 9-year-old Nisa flashes a rare smile at the memory of her mother kissing her the last time they saw each other. Barely a month back from a prison camp in Iraq, where her mother remains incarcerated on a life sentence for aiding terrorism, her short life has been one of untold trauma and upheaval.

She lived for five years in the Islamic State’s caliphate after her father took the family from Turkey to join the terrorist group. And she lost her baby brother and father to the war. She then spent more than a year in an Iraqi jail with dozens of other Turkish families affiliated with the Islamic State.

Now, she is one of more than 200 Turkish children the government has repatriated from Iraq. She was handed over to her maternal grandparents in Istanbul, who know only snippets of what she has been through.

“She was really skinny. Her eyes were full of fear,” said her grandmother Bedia, who, like the relatives of other children, asked that the family’s last name not be used to protect its privacy. “In the last month, she got herself together because we took care of her.”

Turkey, like many Western countries, has been slow to take back citizens who ran off to join the Islamic State as it extended its violent rule across Syria and Iraq starting in 2014. Now that the movement has lost its territory in Syria and Iraq and thousands of fighters and their families have been captured or dispersed, there are growing fears that the remnants could bring terrorism home with them.

More than 12,000 foreign women and children are detained in Syria and Iraq. This poses a difficult quandary for their home countries, most of which have refused to repatriate their citizens.

The reluctance to repatriate these loyalists has extended to family members as well, such as wives and children. But under pressure from anxious relatives — some of them grandparents who have never even met their grandchildren — Turkish officials have changed their tune.

They began to help the families negotiate Iraq’s legal bureaucracy and secure the release of at least some of the children being held in a jail near the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

Nisa’s family and others like it insist that the wives and children of Islamic State members do not deserve to be treated as criminals, as they frequently are, but should be considered victims of the movement instead.

Experts say that some women were indeed taken to the caliphate against their will. But many actively supported the cause and served as enforcers or fighters. How to sort the terrorists from the victims is a question many countries are still grappling with, though some seem content to leave the women in Iraq and Syria.

Roughly 1,000 Turkish women and children tied to the Islamic State were captured in Iraq, the majority outside the Iraqi city of Tal Afar in August 2017. Sixteen of the most vulnerable, sick and orphaned children were the first to return seven months ago. Then in May, another 188 children, ages 1 to 16, came home to families in time for the religious festival of Eid al-Fitr in early June.

Dozens of Turkish women held in northern Iraq have also returned home, and 60 more children are expected in the coming weeks, according to families and friends in Turkey. Roughly 800 Turkish women and children are still believed to be detained in Iraq.

Families in Turkey are working for the return of the mothers of the repatriated children as well. But most of the adults have already been tried and sentenced in Iraq in a process that human rights organizations and the United Nations have criticized as summary justice.

The 188 recently repatriated children left behind 84 mothers who are still in detention, 26 of whom have been sentenced to death, according to a judge familiar with their cases in Baghdad.

Turkish government officials declined to comment on the repatriations.

There is no doubt the children have been through harsh times and need care. Families are dealing with everything from scabies and malaria to frenetic behavior and nightlong crying.

Nisa is clearly traumatized. She is afraid of the dark and will not even go to the bathroom on her own, her grandmother said.

“She panicked when she saw an airplane. She said, ‘Grandma, they are going to bomb us. Hide.’”

Huseyin, a pastry chef in the town of Denizli in southwestern Turkey, traveled four times to Baghdad to rescue his 2-year-old grandson, Halit, who was among the first group of 16 children brought home.

“He had malaria and scabies,” Huseyin said. “The first week, he was crying very hard. It got to a point that he could not cry anymore,” said his grandmother, Nevin.

Halit played happily on a recent afternoon on the couple’s sitting room floor, lining up toy trucks in a convoy. But when he first arrived, he kept biting their 4-year-old daughter, Huseyin said. When they took him to a shopping mall, they said Halit went into a frenzy, laughing wildly and giddy over candied apples.

The jail in Baghdad, where dozens of Turkish mothers and children shared a communal cell, was a rough place, recalled 12-year-old Hattab, another returnee from the Turkish city of Konya who was held there for a time.

“The guards, they treated us like animals. They pushed us when we went outside,” he said. “Little kids got their hands squashed so many times.”

Part of an extended family who settled in Syria before the war, Hattab came home with three small boys belonging to his elder sister, 22.

“We do not know how old they are,” said his grandmother, Hacer.

She guessed that Abdullah, Gudami and Muhammad are 5, 4 and 2. All were underweight, and Gudami bore shrapnel scars on his head. They did not know half the foods she put in front of them, she said, breaking into tears.

There are deeper problems, too.

“Hattab has been through a lot and forgets things,” Hacer said. “I would not allow my other children, but for him we keep the lights on.”

The Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Services has handled the returns, vaccinating and registering the children and providing new clothes before handing them over to relatives. Officials have visited the families at home and have offered psychological help, although none interviewed had received it yet.

Some of the first children to return were traumatized and have had problems at school, Hacer said.

“My feeling is no psychologist is as good as a mother.”

The families insist that some of the imprisoned women are just as much victims as their children.

Halit’s mother, Rumeysa, was only 16 and in high school when she ran off to Syria with a Turkish man 10 years her senior without telling her parents. Now 22 and widowed, she has been sentenced to life imprisonment in Iraq, most likely on charges related to aiding the Islamic State.

“It’s obvious that we have proof she was 16, and we have proof she was a child,” her father, Huseyin, said. “She is a victim and anyone would accept that. But Iraq does not.”

Huseyin is preparing a fifth trip to Iraq.

“If I had to go to the moon,” he said, “believe me I would.”

Nisa’s grandfather, a tailor named Mehmet, said his daughter Leyla was forced to go to Syria when her husband threatened to take the children, ages 5 and 6 months, without her. On her first Skype call home after leaving, Leyla would not even look at the camera. Her mother, Bedia, said she knew immediately that something was wrong.

“Would you not know your own child? I understood she was unhappy,” she said. “Whatever they do there is out of fear,” she said. “I don’t believe anyone who has been there would still like the idea of the Islamic State. My daughter was begging last year ‘Mom, please save us.’”

Full report at:



Yemen's Houthis target with drones Saudi Arabia's Abha airport: Houthis' Al Masirah TV

JULY 29, 2019

CAIRO (Reuters) - Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group said it launched on Sunday a drone attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abha airport, Houthis’ Al- Masirah TV reported citing the group’s military spokesman.

There was no immediate confirmation from Saudi authorities.



1 killed, 4 injured in Houthis' shelling in Yemen's Hodeidah


SANAA, July 28 (Xinhua) -- The Houthi rebels' shelling in Yemen's war-torn port city of Hodeidah on Sunday killed a man and injured four children, a government security source and a medic said.

The shelling targeted a dairy factory and government military positions in the area of Kilo 16, as well as residential quarters in Jiraybah area, they said.

The killed man, identified as Mohammed Wanis, was a worker of the dairy factory in Kilo 16, while the four children were wounded by the shelling in Jiraybah area. Both areas are on the southern outskirts of the port city.

There was no comment from the rebels.

The Iran-allied Houthi rebels control much of Hodeidah while the Saudi-backed government troops have advanced to the southeastern districts.

Hodeidah is the lifeline entry point for Yemen's most food imports and humanitarian aid. The more than four-year civil war has pushed over 20 million people to the verge of starvation.

The Yemeni warring parties reached a peace deal on Hodeidah in December last year as the first step toward a comprehensive political solution.

Full report at:



Houthi attack on Saada market kills more than 10: Yemeni minister

29 July 2019

A Houthi attack on a market killed more than 10 civilians including children in Yemen’s northern Saada province on Monday, Yemen’s minister of information has said.

The Arab Coalition spokesman accused the Houthis of attacking the Al Thabet.

“The attack carried out by the Houthis on al-Thabet market is a terrorist act to spite Yemenis and the tribes of al-Thabet,” Colonel Turki al-Malki said in a statement sent to Reuters, adding that the tribes were against the group.

For his part, Yemen’s Minister of Information Moammar al-Eryani said that the Houthis have “committed a heinous massacre of civilians by shelling the market in Saada.”

Full report at:



Yemen drones hit Saudi airbase in precision counterattack

Jul 29, 2019

The Yemeni army says it has launched several drones against an airbase in southwestern Saudi Arabia after the kingdom and its allies slew more than a dozen people in northern Yemen.

On Monday, army spokesman Yahya Sare'e was quoted by the al-Masirah television network as saying that the aircraft had stricken the King Khalid Airbase in the kingdom’s Asir region. The counter-raid used unmanned aerial vehicles of the Qasef 2K make, he added.

“The attack targeted warplane hangers and important military sites accurately,” Sare’e was cited by the network as saying.

Using ample Western support, the kingdom and its most important regional allies have been hitting Yemen in an indiscriminate invasion since March 2015. The military aggression has been seeking to restore the impoverished country’s former Saudi-allied government, whose officials have fled the country and refused to negotiate power.

Most recently, Saudi-led airstrikes killed at least 14 people, including children at a market in Yemen’s Sa’ada Province.

"There are two children among the martyrs," the manager of the local al-Jomhouri Hospital, Saleh Qorban told Reuters, adding that the sorties had also injured 23 others, including 11 minors

The army official said that the retaliatory drone strike had come in response to the continued aggression against the Yemeni people, which has been compounded by a siege employed against the country by the Saudi-led coalition.

A spokesman for Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement, which has been defending the country against the invaders shoulder to shoulder with the army, strongly condemned the deadly strikes.

Mohammed Abdul-Salam said the kingdom’s heinous crimes were enjoying the support of the United States and the United Kingdom. He was referring to Washington and London’s generous arms support and logistical backing for the invasion.

Full report at:



At least 14 civilians killed in Saudi-led airstrike on crowded market in Yemen’s Sa’ada

Jul 29, 2019

At least 14 civilians have been killed when Saudi-led warplanes conducted an airstrike on a crowded market in Yemen’s northern province of Sa’ada, as the Riyadh regime presses ahead with its bombardment campaign against its southern neighbor.

Yemen’s Arabic-language al-Masirah news website reported that the Saudi-led jets pounded the Al Sabet market in Qataber district of the province on Monday afternoon, killing 13 civilians, including two children.

It further said the aerial aggression also left 23 others, including 11 children, wounded. The report added that the airstrike occurred at a time when the market was overcrowded.

Yemen’s health ministry also said at least 10 of the wounded were in critical condition, warning that the death toll was likely to rise.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the country’s former regime back to power and crushing the popular Houthi Ansarullah movement.

The Houthi fighters have been playing a significant in defending the impoverished nation against the Saudi war machine by backing the Yemeni army.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the Saudi-led war has claimed the lives of over 60,000 Yemenis since January 2016.

Full report at:



South Asia


At least 50 militants killed, wounded in Special Forces raid in Faryab: Special Ops Corps

30 Jul 2019

The Special Forces killed or wounded at least 50 Taliban militants during the operations in northern Faryab province.

The Special Operations Corps in a statemetn said the Special Forces conducted joint clearance operations along the highway of Bulcheragh and Gurziwan districts in Faryab.

The statement further added that the security forces inflicted heavy casualties on Taliban militants during the operation.

Furthermore, the Special Operations said preliminary reports indicate the security forces killed or wounded at least 50 Taliban militants.

The Special Operations Corps also added that the security forces have fully cleared the areas along the highway.



Muslims rejoin Sri Lanka cabinet after Easter bombings

July 30, 2019

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s Muslim ministers who resigned en masse in the wake of the deadly Easter Sunday bombings have rejoined the government, officials said Tuesday, after police cleared them of any involvement with extremists.

Nearly 100 people linked to a local extremist group were arrested after the April 21 attacks on three churches and three luxury hotels that killed 258 people.

Nine government legislators, several of them cabinet ministers, resigned in early June after a Buddhist lawmaker demanded their sacking and accused them of terror links.

“The ministers, state ministers and deputy ministers who resigned recently were sworn in before the president last night,” a statement from the president’s office said.

A spokesman for the lawmakers said they decided to accept their old portfolios after police cleared them of any links with extremists involved with the bombings.

Muslim leaders had said their community — which makes up 10 percent of Sri Lanka’s 21 million population — were victims of violence, hate speech and harassment after the attacks.

Sri Lanka Muslim Congress leader Rauff Hakeem said his community had cooperated with security forces but faced collective victimization.

In the wake of the bombings, anti-Muslim riots spread in towns north of the capital, killing one Muslim man and leaving hundreds of homes, shops and mosques vandalized.

Full report at:



Afghans dying at ‘unacceptable’ level amid peace push: UN

30 July 2019

Civilians are being killed and wounded at a “shocking and unacceptable” level in Afghanistan’s war despite a push to end the 18-year-old conflict, the UN said Tuesday.

The latest information from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan shows an almost 30 percent drop in casualties for the first half of 2019 compared to the same period last year -- which was a record -- but nonetheless, 1,366 civilians were killed and another 2,446 injured.

While the UN welcomed the drop, it “continues to regard the level of harm done to civilians as shocking and unacceptable,” UNAMA said in a statement.

The agency “acknowledges that parties have announced efforts to reduce civilian casualties, but they are insufficient.”

UNAMA also said that for the second quarter running, US and pro-government forces caused more civilian deaths than the Taliban and other insurgent groups.

During the first half of 2019 pro-government forces, including the US, killed 717 civilians, an increase of 31 percent from a year earlier.

Most of the deaths came from US and Afghan air strikes, often in support of national forces on the ground.

Afghanistan’s bloody toll is climbing amid a months-long, US-led push to forge a peace deal with the Taliban that would see foreign forces quit the country in return for various security guarantees.

Earlier this month as part of that effort, Taliban officials met at a historic summit with Afghan representatives at an “intra-Afghan dialogue” in Doha.

Delegates issued a vague resolution that included a pledge to reduce civilian casualties to “zero”, but in the weeks since, ordinary Afghans have continued to be killed and wounded.

“Everyone heard the message loud and clear from Afghan delegates in the Doha talks -- ‘reduce civilian casualties to zero!’” UNAMA head Tadamichi Yamamoto said in a statement.

“We urge all parties to heed this imperative, to answer the call of Afghans for immediate steps to be taken to reduce the terrible harm being inflicted.”

Child casualties represented almost one-third of the overall total of civilian casualties, with 327 deaths and 880 injured, UNAMA said.

Full report at:



Confusion Over Afghan-Taliban Talks Further Complicates Peace Process

By Mujib Mashal

July 27, 2019

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Afghan government on Saturday announced that it was preparing for direct negotiations with the Taliban in the next two weeks, a major step in efforts to end a war so long that it has left record casualties in its wake.

But the Taliban quickly rejected it.

The militant group’s spokesman said the Taliban was steadfast in its refusal to directly negotiate with the Afghan side until the United States announces a schedule for withdrawing the remainder of its 14,000 troops in the country. Analysts questioned the point of the government’s announcement when the Taliban’s position on the withdrawal of U.S. troops was clear all along.

The episode was the latest bit of confusion in a prolonged peace process. The insurgents and the Americans are nearing a deal after seven rounds of protracted negotiations in the Qatari capital of Doha — talks that have excluded the Afghan government. As part of that agreement, expected to be completed soon, the United States and the Taliban would settle on a timeline for the withdrawal of American troops — one believed to be under two years with conditions attached.

But American diplomats, recently aided by Germany and Norway, have struggled to advance the process to its next step, in which the Taliban would negotiate with the Afghan government over the political future of the country after the American-led NATO mission ends its military presence. Afghan and Taliban leaders have yet to meet, except for a recent summit where a small number of officials attended in a personal capacity.

President Ashraf Ghani has been skeptical of the American-Taliban talks that have excluded his government, expressing concern that the United States was leaving the hard gains of the Afghan state vulnerable to a hasty deal that benefits only the Taliban. His officials have vented their anger openly.

But critics say Mr. Ghani’s foot-dragging is also personal. In their view, he is prioritizing September presidential elections, in which he is running for a second five-year term, over a deal that would most likely end his presidency. Campaigning for those elections begins on Sunday, with 17 candidates challenging Mr. Ghani.

The Afghan government’s announcement of direct talks with the Taliban, in the form of a statement from the country’s recently appointed minister for peace, came after senior American officials held extensive talks with Mr. Ghani over the past week to ease his concerns over the initial Taliban-American agreement.

In return, the insurgents would provide assurances that Afghanistan would not be used by international terror groups such as Al Qaeda to launch attacks on the Americans and their allies, and that it would sit down with the Afghans to negotiate the country’s political future.

Saturday’s announcement by the Afghan government said it was settling on a 15-member negotiating team that would represent different cross-sections of society and that talks would be in a European capital, believed to be Oslo.

“Following efforts of the government for direct negotiations between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban, these negotiations will begin in the next two weeks,” read the statement by the office of Salam Rahimi, the peace minister.

Less than an hour after Mr. Rahimi’s announcement, the Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid rejected it by repeating the group’s long-held position — that it would turn to “intra-Afghan” issues only after its deal with the Americans was completed.

The only likelihood of reaching common ground is if the U.S. and Taliban complete their deal and announce the withdrawal schedule between now and the end of the two-week mark the Afghan government has laid for direct talks to begin. Even then, the Taliban would need to bend on their position that they would not negotiate directly with the government, but rather with a wide range of Afghans that could include government officials.

“And we will not sit and talk with the Kabul administration as a government,” Mr. Mujahid added.

Barnett Rubin, a former state department official who was part of the Obama administration’s negotiation efforts, said it was understandable that the Afghan government, “on the eve of an election campaign,” was reassuring its public of its full engagement in the peace process.

“The risk is that, since the Taliban have not yet formally agreed to talk to the government, and since they will not do so until they agree with the U.S. on troop withdrawal, they may feel compelled to deny that they have agreed to negotiate with the government,” Mr. Rubin said. “That would be a setback for the process.”

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy for Afghan peace, took to twitter “to clarify” the confusion around direct negotiations.

“Those negotiations will occur after we conclude our own agreements and will take place between the Taliban and an inclusive and effective national negotiating team consisting of senior government officials, key political party representatives, civil society and women,” Mr. Khalilzad said.

Khalilzad has been in Kabul for the past week and has met with Mr. Ghani four times for detailed discussions, the presidential spokesman, Sediq Sediqi, said. Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also arrived in Kabul, and the American secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, held a long phone call with Mr. Ghani.

Full report at:



Citizenship still the stumbling block for Rohingya repatriation

July 30, 2019

Fresh repatriation talks between Myanmar officials and Rohingya refugees have ended in stalemate, with citizenship still demanded by thousands of people sheltering in Bangladesh before they are willing to return home.

On July 27-28, a 12-member Myanmar delegation and five officials from ASEAN held talks with 35 Rohingya leaders in the southeastern coastal town of Cox’s Bazar to advance the stalled repatriation process.

During the two days of talks, the refugees’ representatives demanded the full rights of citizenship and a guarantee of their safe and dignified return to Rakhine State.

Myanmar officials would not offer immediate assurances but reportedly pledged to convey the refugees’ demands to the Naypyitaw government and return for further dialogue.

Ro Sawyeddollah, a Rohingya youth activist who met with the Myanmar delegation, said officials repeated their demand for refugees to accept national verification cards (NVC) instead of citizenship.

The cards don’t guarantee citizenship, merely invite holders to apply for citizenship at a later date, and Sawyeddollah said on Twitter: “We told the delegation that we would never accept the NVCs only.”

The late-July meetings were the second visit by Myanmar officials to the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar … and their second failure to persuade refugees to return to Rakhine.

Aye Lwin, a Myanmar Muslim leader and former member of the Kofi Annan-led Rakhine Advisory Commission, said the barriers to citizenship needed to be removed if tens of thousands of refugees were to feel confident enough to go back.

He said the government’s NVC process was only intended for people without documents so those who do have documents don’t need to apply for it.

“The political willingness is the important thing for the repatriation of thousands of refugees,” Aye Lwin told

Kyaw Hla Aung, a Rohingya lawyer who lives at the Thetkaepyin IDP (internally displaced persons) camp near Sittwe, the capital city of Rakhine, is not optimistic about the Rohingya being repatriated as their demands for rights to citizenship, land and security remain unfulfilled.

He said NVC cards were only introduced in recent years and were not mentioned in the country’s 1982 Citizenship Law.

“We, Rohingya, have been living in the country with our own land and properties so why does the government ask us to apply for NVCs now, regarding us as foreigners,” Kyaw Hla Aung told

John Quinley, a human rights specialist at Fortify Rights, confirmed that Rohingya who agreed to return to Rakhine would have to take part in a National Verification Card system which gave them no security.

“The NVC does not allow Rohingya to self-identity and is based on the problematic 1982 citizenship law,” he said on Twitter. “Many Rohingya reject the NVC altogether.”

Bangladesh and Myanmar had agreed that a group of more than 2,000 Rohingyas would go back to Rakhine State last November but that was postponed when many of the refugees refused to return out of fear for their safety.

In fact, Myanmar has made minimal preparations for the return of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who fled Rakhine State and have taken refuge in Bangladesh, according to a recent report by an Australian think-tank.

The controversial 1982 law states that only ethnic nationalities whose families entered the country before 1823 are entitled to Myanmar citizenship. The Rohingyas have thus been denied citizenship, accompanying rights and been marginalized in access to education and other government services.

Full report at:



Myanmar Holds Repatriation Talks with Rohingya Refugees

July 28, 2019

DHAKA, BANGLADESH - A Myanmar government delegation has met with representatives of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees in Bangladesh to discuss creating conditions for their safe repatriation, officials said Sunday.

Myanmar's permanent foreign secretary, U Myint Thu, led a 10-member delegation for the weekend talks in refugee camps in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar region. He said he told the refugees about the preparations being made for their repatriation and agreed to continue talks with them.

"We will continue to discuss with the Bangladesh government at the ministerial level as well as the working level at the joint working group,'' U Myint Thu told reporters. "I will be meeting (Monday) with the Bangladesh foreign minister in Dhaka and then we will continue to discuss further on the repatriation process and at the ministerial level there will be a meeting in New York on the sidelines of the General Assembly ... "

He said the Myanmar delegation will bring along representatives of ASEAN, a grouping of Southeast Asian nations, for the next round of talks with the refugees.

Buddhist-majority Myanmar has long considered the Rohingya to be "Bengalis'' from Bangladesh even though their families have lived in the country for generations. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless, and they are also denied freedom of movement and other basic rights.

The long-simmering Rohingya crisis exploded in August 2017 when Myanmar's military launched what it called a clearance campaign in Rakhine state in response to an attack by a Rohingya insurgent group. The campaign led to the mass Rohingya exodus to Bangladesh and to accusations that security forces committed mass rapes and killings and burned thousands of homes.

Full report at:



Afghan Special Forces destroy house-borne IED in Kandahar province

29 Jul 2019

The Afghan Special Forces destroyed a house-borne improvised explosive device during an operation in southern Kandahar province.

The military officials said Monday that the Special Forces destroyed a house bomb in Maiwand district.

The officials further added that the Special Forces destroyed a small weapons cache during a separate raid in Sayyidabad district of Wardak.

Furthermore, the Special Forces arrested 2 Taliban militants during a raid in Sangin district of Helmand.

Full report at:



Khost residents clash with Taliban leaving at least 18 militants dead, wounded

28 Jul 2019

The residents of Khost clashed with Taliban militants leaving at least 18 insurgents dead or wounded.

The Afghan Intelligence, National Directorate of Security (NDS) said in a statement that the residents of Ismail Khel in Mandozai district clashed with the militants.

The statement further added that the residents of Ismail Khel resisted Taliban militants who were looking to inflict casualties on the area residents.

Furthermore, the National Directorate of Security said the NDS Special Forces also assisted the local residents during the clash.

According to NDS, the Ismail Khel residents and NDS Special Forces killed 6 Taliban militants and wounded 12 others.

The security forces also confiscated some weapons and munitions following the clash.

Full report at:



Afghan, U.S. forces kill, wound 11 Taliban militants, defuse 11 IEDs in Ghazni and Paktika

30 Jul 2019

The Afghan and U.S. forces conducted separate operations in Ghazni, Paktika and Paktiya killing or wounding at least 11 Taliban militants.

The 203rd Thunder Corps said in a statement said the U.S. forces killed 4 Taliban militants and wounded 6 others by conducting an airstrike in Khogyani district of Ghazni.

The statement further added that the airstrike also destroyed 6 motorcycles of the militants.

Furthermore, the Afghan forces killed a Taliban militant during an operation in Khoshamand district of Paktika province.

The 203rd Thunder Corps also added that the Afghan forces defused 11 Improvised Explosive Devices during the operations in Paktiya, Paktika and Ghazni provinces.

Full report at:



Ashin Wirathu: The Buddhist bin Laden


July 30, 2019

DHAKA: Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu, who was born on July 10, 1968, in Mandalay, Myanmar, has been labeled an extremist and ultranationalist by international media.

The outspoken preacher is known as the “Buddhist bin Laden,” in reference to the late Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Wirathu stepped into the limelight in 2001 when he became involved with the nationalist 969 Movement, which is described by the international media as Islamophobic.

That is when he started spreading hatred in Myanmar against the Muslim minority of the predominantly Buddhist country, urging Buddhists to boycott all Muslim shops.

Wirathu was jailed in 2003 by the military junta for 25 years for distributing anti-Muslim leaflets and preaching about evicting Muslims from Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

But he was released in 2012 under an amnesty and began touring Myanmar, spreading hatred against Muslims through his sermons.

In September that year, Wirathu led a rally of monks in Mandalay to promote then-President Thein Sein’s controversial plan to send Rohingya Muslims to another country.

A month after the rally, brutal violence escalated in Rakhine, driving thousands of Rohingyas from their homes. In July 2013, Time magazine described Wirathu in its cover story as “the face of Buddhist terror.”

In 2017, he supported the persecution of Rohingyas in Rakhine, which was orchestrated by the country’s military.

In May 2019, Myanmar authorities issued an arrest warrant against Wirathu for speeches against the government and its leader Aung San Suu Kyi, accusing her of hampering the ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas. He is on the run, and authorities are preparing to put him on trial in absentia.

Munshi Faiz Ahmed, chairman of the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies, told Arab News: “Myanmar’s military was in need of a mass medium to reach the country’s Buddhists. Monks have more influence on Buddhists in Myanmar than politicians, so the powerful military recruited Wirathu to serve its purpose as the extremist monk has some fanatic followers.”

Ahmed, who was Bangladesh’s ambassador to China, described it as a “nexus of two evil forces.”

He said: “On one side, the ambitious Wirathu wanted to increase the number of his followers, and on the other side the military wanted to consolidate its power. So the army generals started backing the extremist monk in his spreading of hate against the Rohingya Muslims.”

Ahmed added: “Extremists such as Wirathu always use religion to create unrest in society. He became more powerful as democratic practices are almost absent in the governance of Myanmar.”

Prof. Delwar Hossain, an expert in South Asian politics and a teacher of international relations at Dhaka University, sees Wirathu’s rise as a “historic problem.”

Hossain said Myanmar’s first constitution, which was formed in 1948, was mostly democratic and liberal, and recognized the rights of 135 ethnic groups, including the Rohingyas.

“The problem started when the military junta took power in 1961 and discarded the constitution,” he added.

“Myanmar has been ruled by the army since 1961, and the spirit of Buddhist nationalism has been patronized in the country for many decades. Wirathu is the latest outcome of this Buddhist nationalism.”

Hossain said the spread of hate crimes against Muslims in Myanmar represents a “mutual understanding” between the government and extremist groups.

Myanmar is transitioning from military to political government. It had general elections in 2012 and 2016, and the next one is scheduled to take place in 2020.

“In this transition, the country’s influential monks want to establish more influence in the political arena,” Hossain said.

He identified “the absence of civil society” in Myanmar as one of the main reasons for the rise of extremist monks such as Wirathu.

“For many years, the country has been mostly run by an autocratic system that has created an acceptance of ultranationalist beliefs among the people,” said Hossain.

Prof. Amanullah Ferdous, an leading social scientist and political observer, said Wirathu is “nothing but a puppet” of Myanmar’s authorities.

“He is instructed, managed and guided by the influential forces of the country,” Ferdous said.

“Wirathu is blessed by the Myanmar Army and Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling party, the National League for Democracy. He has connections with China also.”

Ferdous said Wirathu has gained significant influence in Mandalay, Rakhine and adjacent areas through his sectarian comments.

Full report at:





Suspected Boko Haram Attack on Funeral in Nigeria Leaves at Least 65 Dead

By Ibrahim Sawab, Anemona Hartocollis and Mike Ives

July 29, 2019

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — Villagers in northeastern Nigeria are fleeing their homes, leaving everything behind, after armed men on motorbikes roared into their area and gunned down funeral mourners on Saturday, killing at least 65 people, officials said on Monday.

Officials attributed the attack to Boko Haram, the Islamist extremist group that has terrorized the region for the last 10 years, although there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the assault.

The attack on Saturday, in the village of Badu Abachari, north of the city of Maiduguri, was in retaliation for an earlier clash, officials said.

Villagers have formed defense groups, armed with hunting guns and knives, to resist Boko Haram. People in the village that was attacked had repelled a militant assault two weeks earlier, said Mohammed Bulama, council chairman of the Nganzai area in Borno state. He said the villagers had killed 11 Boko Haram fighters and seized 10 AK-47 rifles.

Mr. Bulama said that Boko Haram gunmen had been moving freely around Borno state, rustling cattle and “carting away foodstuff from our people.” Villagers who inherited their cattle and had spent all their lives herding them felt the “unbearable pain” of losing them, he said.

Around noon on Saturday, the Boko Haram fighters “came on a reprisal mission, attacking mourners at a graveyard in the area,” Mr. Bulama said. In addition to those confirmed killed, at least 10 people were injured and dozens were still missing, so the toll could rise.

One survivor, Aji Gaji Mallam, said he had escaped death by pretending that he was dead as the slaughter went on around him, lying still for three hours. He said that four of his brothers had been killed in previous Boko Haram attacks.

“These people have been stealing from us so we decided to come together because we could no longer wait for an eternity for soldiers to defend us,” Mr. Mallam said.

Another villager, Ba’ na Modu survived the attacks with gunshot wounds in both upper arms and was taken to a hospital in Maiduguri. But he had not heard from his wife and seven children since the attack and no one could tell him what had become of them.

“I don’t know their whereabouts,” he said. “It is just unbearable for me. Where do I start from?”

Villagers said that the militants had attacked the funeral procession and then returned and attacked people who went to help. Most of the dead were in Badu Abachari, but the killings spread to at least two other villages, and bodies were recovered from the bush around several other villages.

The attack came just over a month after at least 30 people were killed in a triple suicide bombing in Borno that bore the hallmarks of a Boko Haram operation.

Last week marked 10 years since the first outbreak of violence by the group, which has declared allegiance to the Islamic State but has operated independently.

In a region devastated by violence, displacement, climate change and the resulting widespread malnutrition, confrontations have occurred when Boko Haram fighters demand food from villagers who are themselves hungry and dependent on donations from humanitarian organizations, said Hamsatu Allamin, a Nigerian human rights advocate who has worked with foreign aid groups.

“Food insecurity is an issue for everyone,” she said. “So these Boko Haram boys now go to these villagers demanding food, demanding money, demanding the animals. The pressure is all on the common man. And if you deny them, the government will not come to your aid.”

Beginning in 2015, Nigeria’s government and military have claimed repeatedly that Boko Haram was being subdued, even on the brink of defeat, its hiding places decimated.

But human rights groups, aid organizations and local Nigerians have long disputed such claims, and attacks have persisted.

“People like us who have been operating in the field, we know that what the government is saying is far from the true reality on the ground,” Ms. Allamin said.

President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the attack in a statement issued on Sunday and ordered the military to hunt down those who carried it out.

Boko Haram, whose name is often approximately translated as “Western education is forbidden,” has been blamed for tens of thousands of deaths, and has prompted more than two million people to flee their homes in northeastern Nigeria and neighboring areas of Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

The group has kidnapped women and girls, forcing them into marriage and slavery, and has used children as suicide bombers. It is perhaps best known for having kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from the village of Chibok in April 2014, many of whom are still missing.

Ibrahim Sawab reported from Maiduguri, Nigeria, Anemona Hartocollis from Dakar, Senegal, and Mike Ives from Hong Kong. Olatunji Omirin contributed reporting from Maiduguri.



Famine Spreads in Central Mali Amid Ongoing Islamist Violence

By Bokar Sangare

July 27, 2019

At least 10 people died of hunger last week in food-starved central Mali, where dozens of villages are blocked off from the outside world because Islamist militants have planted landmines near major roads.

The presence of Islamist militant groups and militias in Mali’s center is preventing farmers from growing crops, and cattle herders have moved elsewhere because of theft and the inaccessibility of grazing land. That’s led to severe malnutrition, with an estimated 550,000 people in urgent need of food aid, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said July 25.



6 African peacekeeping soldiers killed in Somalia

Jean Bosco 


Atleast six soldiers from East African country of Burundi, were killed in an attack near Somali capital Mogadishu, an official said.

The soldiers were part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

"Elements of the al-Shabaab terrorist group have attacked Burundian soldiers of the Somalia Peacekeeping Mission (AMISOM) in Balad district, located about 30 kilometers northeast from the capital city of Mogadishu," Colonel Floribert Biyereke, spokesman of the Burundian army said late Sunday.

"Six soldiers were killed on the spot. Three others sustained serious injuries. Two soldiers are missing," he added.

Attack came just few days after six people including two district commissioners were killed, in a suicide bomb attack on a government building in the country's capital.

Somali-based al-Qaeda affiliated group al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the deadly suicide attack.

With a strength of 22,000 troops, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is an active, regional peacekeeping mission, working under the mandate of the African Union and the UN. It was created by the African Union’s Peace and Security Council in January 2007, with an initial mandate for six months.

The Burundi contingent is the second largest within the AMISOM with 5,432 troops, after Uganda which has more than 6,000 troops.

Burundi has been active in the African Union Peacekeeping Force in Somalia since 2007.

Full report at:



Nigeria's ban of Shiite Muslim group risks Boko Haram repeat


Announcing a government ban on the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), presidential spokesman Garba Shehu accused the Shiite Muslim group of running "terrorist activities, including attacking soldiers, killing policemen, destroying public property and consistently defying state authority."

IMN followers have been holding protests to demand the release of their detained leader, Ibrahim Zakzaky. At least 20 members of the group were killed over the past week in a series of demonstrations that have shown little sign of abating, increasing pressure on the government.

Read more: Nigerian Shiites brave terror threat

Zakzaky, a pro-Iranian cleric, has been in detention since 2015 despite a court order to release him. On Monday, a court adjourned his bail hearing until August 5.

Ibrahim Musa, a spokesman for IMN, has denied the government accusations. "All the people we interacted with know that we are not terrorists, because we don't carry arms even during our processions," he said.

Who are the IMN?

Zakzaky founded the organization — originally a student movement inspired by Iran's Islamic revolution — in the late 1970s. The Nigerian cleric convinced fellow students that an Islamic revolution was also possible in their country. The group's first reported march in 1980 was in support of Iran after a joint US-Canadian operation to save US diplomats trapped in Tehran in 1979.

The number of Shiites in Nigeria is estimated at 3 million, a number big enough to scare the central government.

In recent years, the country has seen frequent clashes between security forces and IMN followers during protests and religious processions. Apart from demanding Zakzaky's release, the Shiite group has claimed it only seeks freedom to practice its faith in northern Nigeria, where it has many followers.

The group's Shiite ideology is in opposition to the establishment ideology, Wahhabism, a strict Sunni version of Islam from Saudi Arabia.

Ban on Shiite religious practice?

IMN followers say they are being persecuted by the country's majority Sunni Muslims. But the government has said the ban does not cover the general Shiite Muslim sect — just its founding organization, IMN.

"We all know this a mere semantics," AG Bello, lawyer based in the northern town of Kaduna, told DW. "The followership of IMN is the Shiite sect. It's still technically the Shiite and their activities that have been proscribed by the federal government."  Many Nigerians in Kaduna have interpreted the government prohibition as a blanket ban on Shiite Muslim practice in Nigeria. "We have been practicing our faith for years, so there is no need for banning us, we are not terrorists," Zainab Gashua told DW.

"It is mischievous for anyone to believe we are terrorists. We are not terrorists; we are just an Islamic movement," said another woman, Zainab Katsina.

Boko Haram deja vu

Monday's ban has raised fears the IMN could go underground, providing a potentially serious security challenge for a government already dealing with the threat posed by Muslim militant group Boko Haram in the country's northeast. Civil society has called on the central government not to repeat its past mistakes.

But the movement itself has denied any plans to take up arms. In the past, IMN spokesman Musa has rejected analogies between his movement and Boko Haram: "The Islamic movement is guided by and led by the principles of Islam, and Islam is a religion of peace. It only calls on people to understand it, it doesn't force people to follow it," he said.

Boko Haram also began as a non-violent group that turned deadly after its leader, Mohammed Yusuf, and more than 700 people were killed in a clash with Nigerian forces at Maiduguri's central mosque in 2009. Ibrahim Gwamna Msheliza, a political analyst from Maiduguri, told DW last October that central authorities have learned nothing from what happened in the northeast.

Full report at:



Snipers shoot dead at least 5 protesters in central Sudan rally

Jul 29, 2019

At least five demonstrators, including four students, have been shot dead during a protest rally in a city in central Sudan, as an ongoing political turmoil worsens in the crisis-hit African country.

According to a doctors committee linked to the opposition, the victims “succumbed to direct wounds from sniper bullets during a peaceful rally in al-Obeid”, the capital of central province of North Kurdufan, on Monday.

The committee added that several others also sustained wounds at the rally without giving further details.

Separately, the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), a key protest group, said in a statement that the school students held the rally and confirmed that “live ammunition” was used against them.

“We are calling on all citizens and medics to go to the emergency ward of al-Obeid hospital and other hospitals that are receiving the wounded from the live ammunition fired on the rally of school students,” the SPA said on its Facebook page.

There was no immediate statement from the state security services, or from Sudan's military leaders who ousted former president, Omar al-Bashir, through a coup in April as the protests mounted.

Videos circulating on social media purported to show pupils protesting outside El-Obeid's main hospital against the killings and injuries, Reuters said.

The African country has been the scene of numerous protest rallies over the past seven months. On April 11, the Sudanese military unseated and then imprisoned 75-year-old Bashir after some four months of widespread protests over dire economic conditions and soaring prices of basic commodities.

Following the ouster of Bashir, who had come to power through a military coup in 1989, Sudanese military leaders established the so-called Transitional Military Council (TMC) with the task of running state affairs.

However, generals of the TMC also moved to consolidate power and faced popular protests, which called for a civilian body to govern the country.

The protest rallies against the military leaders have on many occasions turned bloody in the face of a heavy-handed crackdown.

In the most violent case of the clampdown, gunmen in military fatigues raided the site of a weeks-long sit-in outside Sudan’s army headquarters in capital Khartoum on June 3, leaving hundreds dead or wounded.

Last week, the findings of an investigation, conducted by prosecutors and the TMC, into the massacre showed that 87 people had were killed in the violence, a death toll much higher than the Sudanese Health Ministry's previous estimate of 61.

The officials number of death is a far cry from unconfirmed numbers released by opposition medics, who claim at least 127 people  were killed and 400 sustained injuries after security forces fired live ammunition at protesters.

The investigation blamed the bloody dispersal on “rogue” military personnel.

On Sunday, hundreds of people flocked to the streets in the capital, protesting the results of the probe.

The TMC and an alliance of opposition groups are working with Ethiopia and the African Union to finalize a power-sharing deal for peaceful transition to a civilian rule, but the process has repeatedly stalled.

Under the power-sharing agreement negotiated earlier this month between the two sides, an 11-member body will govern the country for just over three years.

The governing council consists of five military members, five civilian ones, and an 11th civilian chosen by both sides. A military general will head the council for the first 21 months, and then a civilian leader will replace the military one for another 18 months.

Negotiations on other aspects of the transition are still continuing. On Tuesday, the two sides are due to meet to settle the remaining issues regarding the forming of a civilian administration.

Egypt and the oil-rich Persian Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), perceive Sudan as a strategically important country in the region. They have boosted their political and financial involvement in the African country since Bashir’s ouster.

Additionally on Monday, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the deputy leader of the TMC and the second most powerful man in Sudan right now, met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo.

The opposition regards Dagalo’s feared paramilitary RSF as the prime suspect on June 3 massacre.

A night-time curfew was also imposed on Monday in four towns in Sudan's North Kurdufan state, including its capital Al-Obeid, after five protesters were shot dead at a rally, authorities said.

The curfew will be effective from 9:00 pm (1900 GMT) to 6:00 am for an indefinite period, the office of North Kurdufan's governor said in a statement.

In a related development, Sudan's main protest group demanded the ruling military council immediately agree to a final transition deal after at least five people were killed in the city of El-Obeid.

Full report at:



Nigeria police on high alert as protesters gathering for Zakzaky release outside court

Jul 29, 2019

Police in Nigeria have tightened security ahead of a bail hearing for imprisoned Muslim cleric, Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zakzaky, whose supporters are expected to stage protests for his release during the court hearing.

The Kaduna State High Court will on Monday decide whether to grant bail to the cleric, who is in dire need of medical treatment overseas.

The cleric, who has been in prison since December 2015, was reportedly poisoned in prison and requires urgent medical care abroad, according to members of Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN).

IMN members regularly take to the streets of the Nigerian capital to call for the release of Sheikh Zakzaky, who has been in detention since 2015. Nigerian forces have used live ammunition against the protesters.

Just days ahead of the court hearing, a Federal High Court in the capital Abuja granted the government permission to label the Islamic movement a "terrorist" organization.

Police in Kaduna said in a statement on Sunday that they have deployed a security detail to the city in anticipation of protests as a result of the court hearing.

Security forces killed at least 20 members of the movement during protests on Friday, according to a spokesman for the IMN.

Protests have also been underway in recent weeks outside the Nigerian embassy in the British capital, London.

On Monday, Zakzaky's supporters were staging protests outside the Nigerian embassy in London ahead of his appearance in court.

The London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission, (IHRC), have previously called on the Nigerian government to immediately release the cleric and send him abroad for urgent medical treatment.

The IHRC, which sent a medical team to Nigeria in April to examine the health and overall condition of Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife, has already said the specialist treatment they require can only be fully accessed outside the African country.

Sheikh Zakzaky, who is in his mid-sixties, lost the ability to see using his left eye in a 2015 raid by security forces, which left more than 300 of his followers, and three of his sons dead. His wife also sustained serious injuries.

The cleric was charged in April 2018 with murder, culpable homicide, unlawful assembly, disruption of public peace and other accusations. He has pleaded not guilty, vehemently rejecting all accusations brought up against him by the authorities.

Full report at:



UN calls for Eid truce in Libya, warns foreign support fueling conflict

July 29, 2019

UNITED NATIONS: A United Nations envoy called on Monday for a truce to be declared in Libya around Aug. 10, and warned that an influx of weapons from foreign supporters in violation of an arms embargo was fueling the conflict.

The truce should be declared to mark the Muslim Eid Al-Adha holiday, UN Libya envoy Ghassan Salame told the Security Council, and be accompanied by confidence-building moves like an exchange of prisoners and remains and release of those arbitrarily detained.

Libya has been riven by violence since the fall of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.

“In the course of the current fighting, serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by all parties have been committed,” Salame told the 15-member Security Council.

“More than ever, Libyans are now fighting the wars of other countries who appear content to fight to the last Libyan and to see the country entirely destroyed in order to settle their own scores,” he said.

“Armed drones, armored vehicles and pickup trucks fitted with heavy armaments, machine guns, recoilless rifles, mortar and rocket launchers, have been recently transferred to Libya with the complicity and indeed outright support of foreign governments,” Salame said.

Following a truce, Salame proposed a high-level meeting of concerned countries be convened to “cement the cessation of hostilities, work together to enforce the strict implementation of the arms embargo to prevent the further flow of weapons to the Libyan theater; and promote strict adherence to international humanitarian and human rights law by Libyan parties.”

He said this should then be followed by a meeting of leading and influential Libyans to agree on a way forward out of the conflict.

“This triple action will require consensus in this council and among the member states who exert influence on the ground,” Salame said.

In a statement earlier this month, the UN Security Council called for the warring parties to commit to a cease-fire and urged other countries not to intervene or exacerbate the conflict.

Full report at:



6 African peacekeeping soldiers killed in Somalia

Jean Bosco  


Atleast six soldiers from East African country of Burundi, were killed in an attack near Somali capital Mogadishu, an official said.

The soldiers were part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

"Elements of the al-Shabaab terrorist group have attacked Burundian soldiers of the Somalia Peacekeeping Mission (AMISOM) in Balad district, located about 30 kilometers northeast from the capital city of Mogadishu," Colonel Floribert Biyereke, spokesman of the Burundian army said late Sunday.

"Six soldiers were killed on the spot. Three others sustained serious injuries. Two soldiers are missing," he added.

Attack came just few days after six people including two district commissioners were killed, in a suicide bomb attack on a government building in the country's capital.

Somali-based al-Qaeda affiliated group al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the deadly suicide attack.

With a strength of 22,000 troops, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is an active, regional peacekeeping mission, working under the mandate of the African Union and the UN. It was created by the African Union’s Peace and Security Council in January 2007, with an initial mandate for six months.

The Burundi contingent is the second largest within the AMISOM with 5,432 troops, after Uganda which has more than 6,000 troops.

Burundi has been active in the African Union Peacekeeping Force in Somalia since 2007.

Somalia, located in the Horn of Africa and bordered by Ethiopia to the west, the Gulf of Aden to the north had witnessed multiple terror attacks over past two decades.

Full report at:



North America


US man allegedly wanted to kill American soldiers, arrested while trying to join Taliban

July 27, 2019

A 33-year-old American man living in New York City's Bronx borough faces terror charges after his arrest at a New York airport while allegedly en route to join the Taliban in Afghanistan to kill U.S. soldiers, according to federal court documents.

Delowar Mohammad Hossain, who is originally from Bangladesh and later became a U.S. citizen, was arraigned Friday in federal court in New York City. He was arrested Friday at John F. Kennedy International Airport as he was about to board a flight to Thailand on the first leg of his journey to Afghanistan, prosecutors said.

Hossain is accused of allegedly trying to provide "material support" for the Taliban, a U.S.-designated terrorist group, by joining their ranks.

According to prosecutors, Hossain had been under surveillance since at least September 2018. He was allegedly recorded telling an FBI informant that "attacking the U.S. Army, attacking stuff like that is legitimate because the world is against the American government, not its people."

At one point, according to court documents, he told the informant: "I just want to take a frickin' machine gun and just shoot everybody and kill 'em all."

More than 2,400 U.S. service personnel have died in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led coalition invaded the country after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The coalition sought to crush the Taliban and hunt down al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

In the past eight years, almost 80 Americans have gone abroad to join jihadist groups, CBS News reports, although most have sought to join ISIS or al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq.



Two US soldiers killed in Afghanistan

29 July 2019

Two US soldiers were killed in action in Afghanistan on Monday, NATO announced, the latest international military casualties as Washington seeks a way out of America’s longest war.

“The name of the service members killed in action is being withheld until 24 hours after notification of next of kin is complete,” Resolute Support, the US-led NATO mission in Afghanistan, said in a statement.

The death brings to 12 the number of members of the US military to be killed in action in Afghanistan this year.

Full report at:



Pompeo: Iranian regime hasn’t accepted my offer to come to Tehran

29 July 2019

Last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he would “happily” go to Tehran to address tensions between the two countries over US sanctions on the nation, an offer that he says was not accepted by the Iranian regime.

“I recently offered to travel to Tehran and speak directly to the Iranian people. The regime hasn’t accepted my offer,” Pompeo said in a tweet on Monday.

Secretary Pompeo

• Jul 29, 2019

I recently offered to travel to Tehran and speak directly to the Iranian people. The regime hasn’t accepted my offer.

Embedded video

Secretary Pompeo


We aren’t afraid of @JZarif coming to America where he enjoys the right to speak freely. Are the facts of the @khamenei_ir regime so bad he cannot let me do the same thing in Tehran? What if his people heard the truth, unfiltered, unabridged?


3:30 AM - Jul 29, 2019

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“We aren’t afraid of [Mohammad Javad Zarif] coming to America where he enjoys the right to speak freely. Are the facts of the Khamenei regime so bad he cannot let me do the same thing in Tehran? What if his people heard the truth, unfiltered, unabridged?” the secretary of state added.

Earlier this month, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif traveled to the US for a UN meeting.

Zarif and the Iranian delegation arrived in New York to attend a UN Economic and Social Council ministerial meeting.

Pompeo explained in an interview with Bloomberg he would willingly appear on Iranian television to explain US reasoning behind the sanctions.

Full report at:



Two American soldiers killed in apparent insider attack in Afghanistan

Jul 30, 2019

Two American soldiers have been killed in an apparent insider attack in Afghanistan’s southern province of Kandahar.

The NATO military alliance’s so-called Resolute Support (RS) mission announced the deaths in a statement on Monday, without giving further details.

Mohammad Qasam, a deputy police chief in Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan, said the attack took place at an Afghan army base during a visit by US forces.

“Initial information was two US forces have been killed and one more wounded,” Qasam said.

A US official, who asked not to be named, similarly said initial information showed it had been was a “green-on-blue” attack (or an insider attack) — in which Afghan service members or militants disguised in Afghan uniforms fire on US or coalition troops, Reuters reported.

The source said the incident happened in Kandahar Province, stressing that the initial information could change.

The deaths bring the number of US forces killed in Afghanistan this month to three and at least 11 in 2019.

The US and its allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001. While the invasion ended the Taliban’s rule in the country, it has failed to eliminate the militant group. The Daesh terrorist group has also emerged in the Asian country more recently.

The attacks come as the United States continues to negotiate a peace deal with the leading perpetrator of attacks across Afghanistan, the Taliban militant group, which targets mostly Afghan civilians and security forces.

Nearly 4,000 Afghans killed, wounded in 2019: UN

Meanwhile, a United Nations (UN) report released on Tuesday said that at least 3,812 Afghan civilians were killed or injured in the first half of 2019 in the war in Afghanistan.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in its report that most of the civilian casualties were caused by ground raids and fighting, followed by bombings by militant groups and aerial attacks.

According to the report, Taliban and Daesh militants killed 531 Afghans and injured 1,437 in the above mentioned period.

The UNAMA said that the militant groups deliberately targeted 985 civilians, including government officials, tribal elders, aid workers, and religious scholars.

The casualties attributed to the pro-government troops increased in the six months to June 30 by 31% compared to the same period in 2018 as 717 Afghans were killed and 680 others wounded between January 1 and June 30.

The report added that 519 civilian casualties were caused by airstrikes, 150 of whom were children.

“Parties to the conflict may give differing explanations for recent trends, each designed to justify their own military tactics,” said UNAMA human rights chief Richard Bennett.

Full report at:



Alleged 9/11 planner open to working against S. Arabia

Michael Hernandez 



The man suspected of masterminding the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S. is open to cooperating with victims in their lawsuit against Saudi Arabia, according to a report published Monday.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed offered his support if the U.S. federal government drops the death penalty in its prosecution of him in a military tribunal, the Wall Street Journal reported based on a court filing made Friday.

The lawsuit accuses the Saudi government of helping to coordinate the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 victims. Terrorist hijackers took over passenger aircraft and crashed two into the World Trade Center, and another into the Pentagon.

A fourth plane that was likely headed for either the White House or the U.S. Capitol Building was prevented from reaching its target after passengers wrested control from hijackers before it crashed in an empty field in rural Pennsylvania.

Saudi Arabia has denied any role in the attacks.

A previous attempt to broker a plea agreement with Mohammed and four other defendants was scrapped over concerns that dropping the death penalty would serve as an official censure of the government's torture of the detainees.

A person familiar with the military proceedings told the Journal that one of the primary goals in those negotiations was gaining the defendants' cooperation.

“One of the main things that the 9/11 defendants have to offer is closure, particularly closure for the victims,” according to the person whom the Journal did not identify. “With capital charges gone, there is an opportunity to tell the story of 9/11 once and for all.”

Full report at:



Two US troops gunned down by Afghan soldier in Afghanistan

Joyce Karam

July 29, 2019

Two US troops were shot dead by an Afghan soldier in Afghanistan on Monday, US officials have confirmed, as Washington’s envoy Zalmay Khalilzad visits the country.

The Nato-led Resolute Support mission gave no further details and withheld the names of the soldiers until next of kin were notified.

US President Donald Trump last week said that he could wipe out the country if we wanted to, leading to greater tension between the two countries.

“I have plans on Afghanistan that, if I wanted to win that war, Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the earth. It would be gone,” Mr Trump said from the White House last Monday as he received Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“It would be over in 10 days. I don’t want to go that route."

Mr Trump's comments outraged the government in Kabul. The presidential palace said that “the Afghan nation has not and will never allow any foreign power to determine its fate".

A crowd at a rally in Kabul for presidential candidate Gulbuddin Hekmatyar chanted "Death to America, Death to Trump" last Friday, the Voice of America reported.

But on Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated that more than 8,000 American troops in Afghanistan would start to leave the country next year.

Under a directive from Mr Trump, American troops would start moving out of Afghanistan before the November 2020 elections, Mr Pompeo told an event at The Economic Club in Washington.

John Hudson


Not sure if I’ve seen such a concrete timeline on U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

Q: "Before the next presidential election… would you expect we reduce our presence in Afghanistan?

POMPEO: “That’s my directive from the president of the United States”


7:19 PM - Jul 29, 2019

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US Special representative to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad is currently in Kabul and visited Afghan soldiers injured in the 18-year-long war.

U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad


Visited wounded Afghan soldiers at Daoud Khan National Military Hospital, and the dedicated medical staff that looks after them. Their bravery & loyalty to #Afghanistan knows no limit. They showed no bitterness, and welcomed a durable peace agreement with those they have fought.

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5:16 PM - Jul 28, 2019

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Full report at:




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