New Age Islam
Sat Aug 15 2020, 06:31 AM

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

U.S. Sees Rising Threat in the West from Qaeda Branch in Syria







UK Will Leave the EU on Oct. 31, Finance Minister Javid Says

Muslim Man in Bareilly Striving To Restore A Historic Hindu Temple Of Lord Krishna, 'Mohan Mandir'

Pak Court Allows Hafiz Saeed's Terror Financing Case To Be Shifted From Gujranwala To Lahore

After Questioned over Silence on China’s Treatment of Its Muslim Population Malaysian PM Says It Is Too Powerful

The Taliban Cut off His Finger for Voting, He Defied Them Again

King Salman’s Guard Likely Killed for Info about Khashoggi's Death

Israel Quietly Lets In Gaza Workers in Bid to Ease Tensions

 

North America

U.S. Sees Rising Threat in the West from Qaeda Branch in Syria

Third Libya airstrike in eight days kills 17 ISIS terrorists, US military says

Man Is Charged With Terrorism After Driving S.U.V. Through Illinois Mall

A man accused of threatening to attack a Jewish community center faces federal charges

Congressional panel says will hold hearing on human rights in South Asia

Ex-CIA official: US can use cyber tools as potential response to Iran attacks

UN welcomes release of hundreds of detainees in Yemen

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Europe

UK Will Leave the EU on Oct. 31, Finance Minister Javid Says

SAS Could Be Sent To Bring Children Of Islamic State Fighters Back To Britain

Bosnia police arrest 2 for attack on radio station over news

Catalonia braced for fresh unrest after terrorism raids on separatists 

Former imam wants stronger relationships between Edinburgh’s Muslims and Christians

Muslim journalists to strengthen bonds to counter fake news

Greece wants to return 10,000 migrants to Turkey by 2020

Neo-Nazis face trial for forming terrorist group

British ISIS fighter thought dead is found alive in secret Syrian prison

Anti-Muslim populists sidelined by win for Austria’s Sebastian Kurz

Conservative Party warned that debate over religion must be respectful to all

Soaring religious and race crimes in UK capital ‘normalising’ hate against Muslims - monitor

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India

Muslim Man in Bareilly Striving To Restore A Historic Hindu Temple Of Lord Krishna, 'Mohan Mandir'

Article 370: SC fixes Nov 14 for hearing on constitutional validity of Centre's decision

Hindu group says not ready for mediation on Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute

Security forces kill 6 militants in Kashmir

Ayodhya Dispute: 'Supreme Court cannot judge Babur's sin', says Muslim side counsel

Send all-party delegation led by Manmohan Singh for Kartarpur ceremony: Singhvi to govt

Gurugram’s role in Gandhi’s movements for India’s freedom

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Pakistan

Pak Court Allows Hafiz Saeed's Terror Financing Case To Be Shifted From Gujranwala To Lahore

Pakistan, Malaysia and Turkey to Jointly Launch BBC Type Channel to Counter Islamophobia

Gen Bajwa reaffirms support for capacity building of Saudi land forces

Nine Killed In Bombing, Bus Attack In Pakistan

Pakistan to replace UN envoy Maleeha Lodhi after Imran gets panned for theatrics

Sindh govt decides to turn Nahr-i-Khayyam into recreational point for families

Talks possible with PTM if it follows ‘Pakistan’s agenda’, say ministers

Maryam seeks post-arrest bail

Ex-ambassador of US advises Pakistan to try & reconcile with India

Pakistan faces claim over London flats seized from Nawaz

Police officer martyred in Loralai suicide blast

Pakistan to invite Manmohan Singh to Kartarpur Corridor inauguration

Suicide bomber kills policeman in Pakistan’s southwest

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Southeast Asia

After Questioned over Silence on China’s Treatment of Its Muslim Population Malaysian PM Says It Is Too Powerful

Malaysia, Turkey role crucial during FATF’s Paris meeting

Release Uighurs, shut down detention camps, NGO tells Beijing

Cops probe claim Penang school barred Muslim prayer

Malaysia's church leaders warn of rising religious tensions

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South Asia

The Taliban Cut off His Finger for Voting, He Defied Them Again

Uzbekistani militant among 64 killed, wounded in Faryab clashes

33 militants killed, wounded in Afghan-U.S. forces operations in Logar, Ghazni: Thunder Corps

More than 50 ISIS militants killed, wounded in ongoing operations in East of Afghanistan

Top Ghani rival Abdullah claims victory in Afghanistan election

Taliban attack kills at least 11 policemen: Afghan officials

U.S. urges Afghan candidates, voters not to prejudge the outcome of the election

Special Forces kill, detain 11 Taliban militants; destroy caches of weapons in 3 provinces

Election workers accused of ‘vote-rigging’ in favor of President Ashraf Ghani

‘Join us in peace, or we will continue to fight’, Afghan NSA tells Taliban

Notorious Taliban leader Gul Nabi Mubarez killed in Balkh airstrike

Abdullah: We have won and will form the new government

Afghan officials: Taliban attack kills at least 11 policemen

Afghanistan to Taliban: Peace or ‘we will continue to fight’

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Arab World

King Salman’s Guard Likely Killed for Info about Khashoggi's Death

Saudi Crown Prince: War with Iran Will Lead To 'Total Collapse Of Global Economy'

Amid tension with Iran, U.S. Air Force shifts Middle East command center from Qatar to South Carolina

‘People are dying’: The Shia city where Isis are trying to make their presence known

8 IS militants killed in U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in Iraq

Dissident Saudi Prince Accuses MbS of Killing King's Guards

Homs: US, Allied Terrorists Blocking UN Plan to Evacuate Al-Rukban Refugee Camp

Saudi Arabia welcomes creation of UN-sponsored constitutional panel on Syria

Iraq and Syria open border crossing closed since 2012

New report documents over 1250 violations of press freedoms in Syria

Khashoggi’s son denounces ‘enemies of Saudi Arabia’ for exploiting his father’s murder

Oil prices stabilize as Saudi crown prince talks peace

Iraq and Syria open border crossing closed since 2012

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Mideast

Israel Quietly Lets In Gaza Workers in Bid to Ease Tensions

Extreme Poverty Threatens Yemenis Living under Houthi Rule

Iran can attack enemies anywhere, destroy Israel: IRGC commander

Iraq: Disputes Topple Prominent Leader in the Fight against ISIS

Yemen’s Houthis Release 290 Detainees in Face-Saving Move

Palestinians Set Stage for Arab Investment Conference in Cairo

Houthis claim to have killed 500 Saudi soldiers in major attack

Nasrallah: Hezbollah will ‘enter occupied Palestine’ with improved intelligence

Turkey starts construction of four MILGEM ships to be sold to Pakistan Navy

Iran president refused to take Trump’s call arranged by Macron: Reports

Saudi leaders sent messages to Iran's president: Spokesman

Turkey's president says some of Khashoggi killers enjoy 'impunity' in Saudi Arabia

Iran: EU plan to leave JCPOA 'illegal', snap-back mechanism 'dead'

Coalition dismisses Houthi claims of attack near Saudi-Yemen border

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Africa

Nigeria Warned It Risks Humanitarian Disaster By Expelling Charities

Car Bombers in Somalia Hit U.S. and European Military Bases

Extremists launch 2 attacks on military targets in Somalia

Libya: Haftar’s Forces Strike GNA Militias in Sirte for 2nd Day

Jihadists Kill 9 In Nigeria Attacks

Sudan PM meets Darfur rebel chief in ‘essential’ step to peace: Macron

US shows 'appalling disregard for civilians' in Somalia: Amnesty

Al-Shabab launches attacks against US airbase, EU convoy in Somalia

Boko Haram Executes Two Christian Aid Workers in Nigeria

Army arrests eight foreign nationals working for Boko Haram

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/us-sees-rising-threat-in-the-west-from-qaeda-branch-in-syria/d/119883

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U.S. Sees Rising Threat in the West From Qaeda Branch in Syria

By Eric Schmitt

Sept. 29, 2019

WASHINGTON — American counterterrorism officials are voicing increased alarm about a Qaeda affiliate in Syria that they say is plotting attacks against the West by exploiting the chaotic security situation in the country’s northwest and the protection inadvertently afforded by Russian air defenses shielding Syrian government forces allied with Moscow.

The rise of this latest Qaeda branch in Syria, as well as the operations of other Qaeda affiliates in West Africa, Somalia, Yemen and Afghanistan, underscore the terrorist group’s enduring threat despite the death of Osama bin Laden and being largely eclipsed in recent years by the Islamic State, or ISIS, as the terrorist group of choice of global jihadis.

The new Qaeda branch, called Hurras al-Din, emerged in early 2018 after several factions broke away from a larger affiliate in Syria. It is the successor to the Khorasan Group, a small but dangerous organization of hardened senior Qaeda operatives that Ayman al-Zawahri, Al Qaeda’s leader, sent to Syria to plot attacks against the West.

The Khorasan Group was effectively wiped out by a series of American airstrikes a few years ago. But with as many as 2,000 fighters, including seasoned leaders from Jordan and Egypt, the successor Hurras al-Din group is much larger and is operating in areas where Russian air defenses largely shield them from American airstrikes and the persistent stare of American surveillance planes. Moscow dispatched military aid and advisers to Syria in late 2015 to support the beleaguered government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Hurras al-Din is considered so dangerous that the Pentagon in at least one instance took the unusual step of using a special hotline with Russian commanders in Syria to allow the American military to conduct uncontested airstrikes against Qaeda leaders and training camps in Aleppo and Idlib provinces in June and August. Those were rare attacks west of the unofficial dividing line between American forces to the east of the Euphrates River, and Russian and Syrian government troops west of the river.

“Al Qaeda has been strategic and patient over the past several years,” Nathan A. Sales, the State Department’s counterterrorism coordinator, said last month about the terrorist group and its affiliates. “It let ISIS absorb the brunt of the world’s counterterrorism efforts while patiently reconstituting itself.”

Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, the Dutch counterterrorism coordinator, added in an interview: “There is still a general threat out of Al Qaeda, slowly building.”

Qaeda operatives have moved in and out of Syria for years. In 2013, Mr. Zawahri dispatched senior jihadists to bolster the Qaeda affiliate in Syria, then known as the Nusra Front. A year later, Mr. Zawahri sent to Syria a shadowy Qaeda cell called Khorasan that American officials said has been plotting attacks against the West.

Idlib province, whose population has ballooned to more than three million people during Syria’s civil war, contains a witch’s brew of violent Islamic extremist groups, dominated by the larger Qaeda-linked organization Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, formerly the Nusra Front. Syrian military forces, backed by Iranian and Russian firepower, have targeted the group in a four-month air and ground offensive that has driven hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians, some displaced from other parts of the country, toward Turkey’s closed-off border. A fragile cease-fire brokered in late August has been holding despite some violations.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham has between 12,000 and 15,000 fighters, and has centered its agenda on combating the government of Mr. al-Assad, with no interest in conducting attacks abroad, according to a recent United Nations assessment.

“Hurras al-Din,” the assessment said, “is believed to have between 1,500 and 2,000 fighters, half of whom are foreign terrorist fighters, a much higher proportion than in the case of” Hayat Tahir al-Sham. Hurras al-Din also has a much more international focus, the United Nations assessment concluded.

“This is an opportunity Al Qaeda can use to put them back on the map,” said Colin P. Clarke, a senior fellow at the Soufan Center, a research organization for global security issues, and an author of a recent article in Foreign Policy about Al Qaeda’s resurgence.

While the two groups share a common lineage and ideology, the policy differences have stirred mutual distrust, and analysts say the two groups continue to spy on each other.

Moreover, some analysts question just how much of a threat Hurras al-Din poses to the West given its internecine battles with Hayat Tahir al-Sham, and the fact that its fighters are largely bottled up in Idlib and Aleppo, with Turkish troops deployed along the border to the north and Russian and Syrian government forces from the south.

“Certainly on the individual level, there are people in Hurras al-Din who are thinking about international ambitions,” Edmund Fitton-Brown, a top U.N. counterterrorism official who coordinated the U.N.’s assessment, said in a recent interview with West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center. “I wonder whether Zawahri really sees this as the most promising place to have a dedicated international terrorist group.”

American military, intelligence and counterterrorism officials acknowledge these limitations but express concern that with freedom to maneuver and plan, Hurras al-Din has both the intent and ability to carry out attacks against the West, including against Americans and American interests.

Even so, several of the officials said they were not aware of any specific plots in the works.

The military’s secretive Joint Special Operations Command has seized on intelligence gathered over time to strike Hurras al-Din fighters and leaders. On June 30, the military said it carried out an air attack on a training facility near Aleppo province. “This operation targeted AQ-S operatives responsible for plotting external attacks threatening U.S. citizens, our partners, and innocent civilians,” the Pentagon’s Central Command said in a statement, referring to Al Qaeda in Syria.

Then, on Aug. 31, the military said it conducted an airstrike against an Al Qaeda leadership facility north of Idlib. “Northwest Syria remains a safe haven where AQ-S leaders actively coordinate terrorist activities throughout the region and in the West,” the military said in a statement.

The Pentagon publicly does not distinguish between Hurras al-Din and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, calling them both Al Qaeda in Syria, but American analysts privately say Hurras al-Din poses the larger threat to the West and are the militants being targeted.

The Trump administration has also stepped up diplomatic and intelligence-gathering efforts against Hurras al-Din. This month, the State Department designated Hurras al-Din as a terrorist organization, and offered a reward of up to $5 million each for information on three of the group’s leaders who “have been active in Al Qaeda for years and remain loyal” to Mr. Zawahri.

The State Department and the United Nations have presented descriptions of the three leaders, and the following descriptions are based on those assessments.

Hurras al-Din initially wanted to present a Syrian identity, so a Syrian national, Faruq al-Suri, also known as Samir Hijazi and Abu Hammam al-Shami, was appointed as its overall commander, according to State Department and United Nations assessments. “He fought in Afghanistan in the 1990s,” according to the State Department assessment, “and trained Qaeda fighters in Iraq, among other activities.” Mr. Hijazi had previously been reported killed, but reports differed on when and how he might have died.

A second leader, Abu Abd al-Karim al-Masri, also known as Karim, is an Egyptian national. In 2018, Mr. al-Masri was a member of Hurras al-Din’s leadership team and was a mediator between the group and the Nusra Front.

The third official, Sami al-Uraydi, also known as Abu Mahmud al-Shami, is a Jordanian national. “He previously was involved in terrorist plots against the United States and Israel,” the State Department assessment said.

Hurras al-Din’s “foreign terrorist ranks also include fighters from Central Asia and Morocco,” according to the United Nations assessment.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/29/world/middleeast/syria-qaeda-terrorism.html

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UK will leave the EU on Oct. 31, finance minister Javid says

30 September 2019

The United Kingdom will leave the European Union on Oct. 31, hopefully with a deal, finance minister Sajid Javid said on Monday.

“Hopefully we leave with a deal,” Javid told ITV. “If we cannot strike a deal, I think it is important to leave in any case and leave with no deal. It is not perfect but it is appropriate that we leave on the 31st.”

Javid repeatedly refused to set out how the government could deliver Brexit if there was no deal given a law which demands the prime minister delay Brexit in such a scenario.

“The legislation that parliament has passed of course has made things more difficult, but we are clear our own policy is completely unchanged, we will be leaving on 31st,” Javid said.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/09/30/UK-will-leave-the-EU-on-Oct-31-finance-minister-Javid-says.html

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Muslim Man In Bareilly Striving To Restore A Historic Hindu Temple Of Lord Krishna, 'Mohan Mandir'

Oct 1, 2019

Bareilly (UP), Sep 30 (ANI): In 1857, a temple of Lord Krishna, 'Mohan Mandir' was built in the Patti village located in the Senthal nagar Panchayat of Bareilly district. Its foundation was laid by Mir Mohammad Zafar, the younger son of the then Nawab of Senthal, Galib Ali.

Carrying a huge historical significance, today this temple has completely demolished with only small structure left on the place. So, in order to bring its pervious glory back and get it reconstructed, a Muslim man, Urfi Raza Zaidi who belongs to the same village is making all his efforts for its revival, presenting a big example of communal harmony.

Zaidi's efforts have finally paid off and the government has assigned 10 lakh rupees for the reconstruction of the temple. It would now be developed both a religious site as well as a tourist place.

Villagers believe that once this temple is constructed it will be a symbol of Hindu-Muslim Unity. Its people like Ufri Raza Zaidi and their initiatives that are playing a great role.

https://www.business-standard.com/multimedia/video-gallery/general/muslim-man-in-bareilly-striving-to-restore-a-historic-hindu-temple-91861.htm

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Pak court allows Hafiz Saeed's terror financing case to be shifted from Gujranwala to Lahore

Sep 30, 2019

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Monday allowed a plea by Mumbai attack mastermind and JuD chief Hafiz Saeed to shift a terrorism financing case against him from a Gujranwala anti-terrorism court to one here in Pakistan's Punjab province, citing security reasons, according to a media report.

On July 17, Saeed, a UN-designated global terrorist, was arrested in connection with the terrorism financing case while on his way from Lahore to Gujranwala.

Prior to his arrest, the top 13 leaders of the Jamaat-ud-Dawah, including Saeed and Naib Emir Abdul Rehman Makki, were booked in nearly two dozen cases for terror financing and money laundering under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997.

Lahore High Court Chief Justice Sardar Shamim Ahmed heard a petition filed by Saeed on Monday in which he said that he was being kept in a jail in Lahore but was transported to Gujranwala city for each appearance before the court.

He said that in light of the security situation, appearing before the Gujranwala court was not fitting and added that if he was being held in a jail in Lahore, the case should also be shifted there, the Dawn newspaper reported.

During the proceedings, a lawyer for the Pakistan government said that they had no objection to shifting the case, the report said.

The Counter Terrorism Department of Punjab Police has registered 23 FIRs against the JuD members on the charges of "terror financing" in different cities of the province.

The cases have been registered in Lahore, Gujranwala and Multan for collection of funds for terrorism financing through assets and properties made and held in the names of Trusts or Non Profit Organisations, including Al-Anfaal Trust, Dawatul Irshad Trust and Muaz Bin Jabal Trust etc.

On September 25, Lahore High Court chief justice had changed a two-member bench which was hearing the petition of Saeed challenging his arrest in the terror financing case.

Last week, the sanctions committee of the United Nations Security Council allowed Pakistan to let Saeed, use his bank account to meet basic expenses. Pakistan had frozen his bank accounts in compliance with a UNSC resolution seeking such a ban.

Saeed-led JuD is believed to be the front organisation for the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) which was responsible for carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people. He was listed under the UN Security Council Resolution 1267 in December 2008.

The US Department of the Treasury has designated Saeed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, and the US, since 2012, has offered a USD 10 million reward for information that brings Saeed to justice.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pak-court-allows-hafiz-saeeds-terror-financing-case-to-be-shifted-from-gujranwala-to-lahore/articleshow/71373985.cms

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After Questioned Over Silence On China’s Treatment Of Its Muslim Population Malaysian PM Says It Is Too Powerful

Sep 30 2019

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad who was heavily criticised for calling India an occupying force in Kashmir has now stated that he cannot criticise China over the mistreatment of Uighur Muslims as it is too powerful, South China Morning Post has reported.

This statement came following criticism of Mahathir for being selective after accusing Israel, Myanmar and India of mistreating Muslims but at the same time maintaining a complete silence with regards to Uighurs in China.

China has been accused of illegally detaining thousands of Uighur Muslims in its volatile Xinjiang province and putting them through re-education centres.

In his statement defending his silence, Mahathir also claimed that China was beneficial to his country, “You don’t just try and do something which would any way fail, so it is better to find some other less violent ways not to antagonise China too much, because China is beneficial for us”.

Malaysia recently unveiled a new policy framework whose central focus is to “foster cooperation in the Muslim world” and play a prominent role in the the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

https://swarajyamag.com/insta/government-to-stick-to-fiscal-glide-path-despite-recent-measures-to-boost-economy-says-economic-affairs-secretary

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The Taliban cut off his finger for voting, he defied them again

Abdul Qadir Sediqi

SEPTEMBER 28, 2019

Safi's act of defiance in Afghanistan's 2019 presidential elections on Saturday sparked admiration after a photo of the 38-year old was posted on Twitter showing his missing right forefinger and the left one stained with indelible ink, indicating he had voted. (here)

Samim Arif

@SamimArif

Safiullah Safi got his finger chopped by the Taliban for voting in 2014; he didn’t care about getting his other fingered chopped and voted. All this is for sustaining a citizen centered republic.

View image on Twitter

259

12:40 PM - Sep 28, 2019 • Afghanistan

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Braving the threat of militant attacks and delays at polling booths, Afghans cast their ballots in a major test of the Western-backed government’s ability to protect democracy.

The Taliban regime was overthrown by U.S.-led forces in 2001. But the Islamic insurgency is now at its most powerful since its defeat, violently disrupting the nascent democracy’s elections and carrying out gruesome, often deadly retribution on those who take part.

During the 2014 presidential vote, Taliban fighters cut off the fingers of at least six voters.

“I know it was a painful experience, but it was only a finger,” Safi said by telephone. “When it comes to the future of my children and country I will not sit back even if they cut off my whole hand.”

Safi described how in 2014 he had cast his vote and a day later traveled from the capital Kabul, where he lives, to the eastern city of Khost, his finger marked by the ink from voting.

“The Taliban took me out of the car and away from the road where they set up a court,” he said.

“They cut off my finger, asking why I had taken part in the election despite their warning... My family told me to not do it this time, but instead I took them all to cast our votes.”

The show of resistance was warmly met by Afghans on social media, many of whom fear a return to Taliban rule and the end of democracy and hard-won freedoms.

“He voted in support of democracy and for saying no to the Taliban system,” said Twitter user Kabuli.

In the parts of Afghanistan controlled by the Taliban, a larger territory now than at any point since 2001, voting is especially fraught with danger and turnout tends to be very low. The insurgents shut down many voting centers in a show of their authority.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-afghanistan-election-voter/the-taliban-cut-off-his-finger-for-voting-he-defied-them-again-idUSKBN1WD09I

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King Salman’s Guard Likely Killed for Info about Khashoggi's Death

Sep 30, 2019

Times magazine wrote on Monday that al-Fagham's death immediately led to speculation of palace intrigue, with claims that he had recently been dismissed from the king’s service and may have had information pertinent to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

The media spokesman of the Makkah Province Police confirmed on Saturday evening that the personal bodyguard of the Saudi king was shot dead during a personal dispute.

The spokesman claimed that Maj. Gen Abdul Aziz bin Badah al-Fagham was visiting a friend's house when he was shot.

Meantime, New York Times reported that it was not immediately clear what motivated the gunman, but around the time of the killing on Saturday night, Saudi officials reached out to regional intelligence sources to ask for urgent help in gathering and analyzing information about a number of Saudi citizens, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

The push for information came from King Salman and his powerful son and crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, the person said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media.

It was not clear who the Saudis were seeking information about and whether that effort might have been related to the shooting of General al-Faghem.

Also, the Arabic-language Arabi 24 wrote that the claimed killer Mamdouh bin Meshaal al-Ali was the son of Mashal bin Mamdouh, a former member of the Saudi consultative council from the Shemmer tribe. His aunt was also the divorced wife of Sultan bin Abdulaziz, the brother of King Salman.

It added that different images exist of Mamdouh's family members in celebrations and weddings but his images are less than the fingers of a hand which indicates the importance of the organization he worked for.

Based on the report, Mamdouh worked for a special section of the Royal Guard.

Meantime, the Saudi social media activists wrote on their pages that the death of al-Fagham seems suspicious given the presence of security forces outside his house and their immediate killing shots given to his killer which could have been an attempt to close the case immediately.

Also, Ali al-Ahmad, a Saudi journalist, wrote on his twitter page that al-Fagham was fired from his job a few days ago which makes his death even more suspicious.

He added that the bodyguard was witnessed several days ago while he was walking alone in Jeddah which is strange, given his rank and position, and given the fact that he should have been right beside King Salman.

A social media activist described al-Fagham's death as similar to the brutal killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi who was killed upon a direct order by bin Salman.

Khashoggi was killed and his body dismembered after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, to collect documents related to his planned wedding.

After initially offering contradictory statements, Saudi Arabia confirmed its agents killed Khashoggi, but denied its senior leaders were involved.

US intelligence agencies have reportedly concluded, however, that MbS ordered the murder, and a UN right expert found "credible evidence" linking the Crown Prince to the killing.

Also, Saudi whistle-blower Mujtahid, who is believed to be a member of or have a well-connected source in the royal family, said that bin Salman had several times voiced his willingness to omit the newly-killed bodyguard of King Salman.

The Arabic-language al-Nashrah news website quoted Mujtahid as saying that al-Fagham was in the palace at the time of murder and not at a friend's residence as claimed by the government.

"The MbS was not confident about al-Faghan's loyalty to the crown prince and he had several times voiced willingness to omit him," he added.

Meantime, Mohammed al-Moaseri, a Saudi dissident residing in London, had warned 5 months ago about the possibility for al-Fagham's assassination by the MbS.

He had cautioned al-Fagham that bin Salman would one day take him and his team out to replace them a group of Colombian Blackwater agents.

Social media activists have voiced suspicion about al-Fagham's death, describing it as assassination.

Gun crimes are rare in Saudi Arabia, where strict law sees convicted killers and drug smugglers routinely executed. In 2017, there were 419 reported homicides, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980708000814

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Israel quietly lets in Gaza workers in bid to ease tensions

October 01, 2019

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip: Israel is quietly allowing thousands of Palestinians to enter from the Gaza Strip to work, apparently as part of understandings with the ruling Hamas militant group aimed at preventing a fourth war in the blockaded territory.

Israel effectively revoked thousands of work permits when it joined Egypt in imposing a crippling blockade on Gaza after Hamas seized power in the coastal strip from rival Palestinian forces in 2007.

The blockade, along with three wars between Hamas and Israel, has devastated the economy in Gaza, where unemployment is over 50 percent.

But in recent months, Israel has quietly provided some relief as part of an unofficial, Egyptian-brokered truce with Hamas, in exchange for reduced rocket fire from the territory and the scaling back of weekly protests along the border.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1562371/middle-east

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North America

 

Third Libya airstrike in eight days kills 17 ISIS terrorists, US military says

October 01, 2019

The U.S. military said Friday it had killed 17 Islamic State (ISIS) fighters in an airstrike Thursday outside Murzuq in southwest Libya.

The airstrike was the third announced by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) in eight days. Prior to last week, the U.S. military had not hit any targets in Libya since Nov. 29, 2018.

US AFRICOM

@USAfricaCommand

U.S. Africa Command airstrike targets ISIS-Libya - http://go.usa.gov/xVwHQ

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7:45 PM - Sep 27, 2019

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“This ongoing campaign against ISIS-Libya demonstrates that U.S. Africa Command persistently targets terrorist networks that seek to harm innocent Libyans,” said Navy Rear Adm. Heidi Berg, AFRICOM director of intelligence. “We continue to pursue ISIS-Libya and other terrorists in the region, denying them safe haven to coordinate and plan operations in Libya."

No civilians were injured or killed in the airstrike, AFRICOM said.

Islamic extremists expanded their reach in Libya amid the chaos following the 2011 uprising, which killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

Earlier this month, American jets dropped more than 80,000 pounds of laser-guided bombs on “ISIS-infested” Qanus Island in northern Iraq as part of a campaign meant to destroy an area being used by ISIS for operations in the region.

https://www.foxnews.com/world/airstrike-kills-17-isis-terrorists-in-libya-us-military

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Man Is Charged With Terrorism After Driving S.U.V. Through Illinois Mall

By Mariel Padilla

Sept. 29, 2019

A 22-year-old man who drove his black sport utility vehicle into a mall in a Chicago suburb on Sept. 20 was charged with terrorism, the police said on Sunday.

The man, Javier Garcia, of Palatine, Ill., was also charged with criminal damage to property. He was denied bail on Sunday after a court appearance.

No one sustained life-threatening injuries from the episode, though three people were taken to the hospital and four were treated at the scene, the police said.

Prosecutors said that Mr. Garcia walked into a Sears store at the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Ill., which is about 30 miles northwest of Chicago, at about 2:20 p.m.

He did not touch or buy anything before exiting the store, prosecutors said. Four minutes later, he crashed his black sport utility vehicle through the store’s glass and steel entrance.

The shattering glass sounded like multiple gunshots and caused shoppers to first think there was an active shooter, a statement from the Cook County State’s Attorney Office said. More than 100 emergency calls were received by 911 dispatchers.

Surveillance cameras captured the chaos as people ran and jumped to evade the vehicle, prosecutors said. A train attraction, the Woodfield Choo Choo Express, which was transporting children through the mall’s common area, was nearly struck, and stores sheltered patrons and locked their gates, the statement said.

Mr. Garcia drove through the mall, shattering glass and striking multiple structural pillars, until two off-duty police officers pulled him out and detained him.

The damage to the mall was assessed at more than $110,000, according to prosecutors. The charge of terrorism, a felony, was filed under a state law that includes any act that causes substantial damage — greater than $100,000 — to any building containing five or more businesses of any type, the police said.

An investigation revealed that Mr. Garcia acted alone, officials said. A motive has not been determined.

The police said they had no reason to believe Mr. Garcia was targeting any specific person or store within the mall, the police said.

Officers searched his cellphone and found that he had searched for aerial views of the mall and its premises 124 times in less than 24 hours.

The police said Mr. Garcia was released from Amita Health Behavioral Medicine Institute and transferred to police custody on Friday.

Amil Alkass, Mr. Garcia’s lawyer, said on Sunday that the charges were “aggressive and surprising.” He said he believed that Mr. Garcia was being treated for schizophrenia, paranoia and bipolar disorder.

Full report at:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/29/us/mall-driver-charges.html

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A man accused of threatening to attack a Jewish community center faces federal charges

By Dakin Andone, CNN

September 28, 2019

(CNN)A man arrested last month for allegedly threatening to attack an Ohio Jewish community center has been indicted on federal charges, the US Attorney's Office of the Northern District of Ohio said Friday in a news release.

James P. Reardon, 20, was charged with one count of transmitting an interstate communication threat and one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, the news release said.

The New Middletown, Ohio, man was arrested when an Instagram account that allegedly belonged to Reardon featured a video that showed a man holding an assault rifle as audio played of gunshots, sirens and people screaming, the news release said, citing the criminal complaint.

The post tagged the Jewish Community Center of Youngstown, the news release said. The post was accompanied by a caption that read, "Police identified the Youngstown Jewish Family Community shooter as local white nationalist Seamus O'Rearedon" -- a Gaelic version of Reardon's name.

"This defendant used a firearm to threaten people who simply want to worship as they choose, as guaranteed by our Constitution," US Attorney Justin Herdman said in a statement. "Law enforcement will not stand by and allow someone to intimidate others with threats of violence."

An attorney for Reardon did not immediately respond to CNN's requests for comment Saturday.

Last month authorities executed a search warrant at Reardon's mother's home, where they found several firearms -- including an AR-15 and a MP-40 sub-machine gun -- a Hitler Youth knife, rifle bayonet and Nazi propaganda posters from World War II, the news release said.

Local authorities charged him with one count of telecommunications harassment and one count of aggravated menacing.

Police in New Middletown also provided federal investigators with other videos that Reardon appeared in, including a National Geographic documentary about the infamous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a counterprotester was killed in August 2017.

In the documentary, an 18-year-old Reardon said he didn't consider himself a neo-Nazi but did consider himself a white nationalist.

"I want a homeland for white people," he said, per the video, "and I think every race should have a homeland for their race."

The Instagram video that kickstarted the investigation was initially shared with a New Middletown police officer who was on an unrelated call.

Federal authorities used the case to highlight the importance of community involvement when it comes to preventing potential shooting or attacks.

Full report at:

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/09/28/us/jewish-community-center-threat-indictment/index.html

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Congressional panel says will hold hearing on human rights in South Asia

Oct 1, 2019

WASHINGTON: A US Congressional sub-committee on Monday said it will hold a hearing on human rights situation in South Asia with focus on Kashmir on October 22.

Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells, who oversees all State Department policy towards South Asia will testify at the hearing, Congressman Brad Sherman, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Asia, said.

“The hearing will focus on the Kashmir Valley, where many political activists have been arrested and daily life, the internet, and telephone communications have been interrupted,” Sherman said in a statement.

The panel will also review the humanitarian situation in Kashmir and whether Kashmiris have adequate supplies of food, medicine and other essentials, he added.

Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Scott Busby, who overseas human rights efforts in South Asia will also testify.

“We have invited other State Department officials and we also expect to hear from private human rights activists on the issues,” Sherman said.

“In August, I had an opportunity to meet Americans from Kashmir Valley in the San Fernando Valley, along with my colleague Congressman André Carson (D-IN). We heard stories of difficulties encountered by my constituents and others, and the fears they have for their loved ones. Since then I have had several additional meetings with Kashmiri Americans,” he said.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/congressional-panel-says-will-hold-hearing-on-human-rights-in-south-asia/articleshow/71384829.cms

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Ex-CIA official: US can use cyber tools as potential response to Iran attacks

30 September 2019

Cyber tools are a potential option for the US president to retaliate against recent Iranian attacks on Saudi Arabian oil sites, former top CIA official, Norman Roule, said in an interview with the television channel al-Hadath.

Roule’s comments came after US media reports stated that Washington was considering using cyberattacks against Tehran.

“The goal of an operation such as that is to do two things. First, to cause the Supreme Leader and his senior-most advisors to cease their previous activity. And second, it’s to remind the Iranians of the vast power the United States brings to the table,” Roule said.

Roule added that he believes that cyberattacks are unlikely to be used unless regional powers find no other option to prevent another similar attack.

“The goal here would be to prevent an attack which kills nationals in the GCC, as well as Americans and other people who live there, and to deter similar Iranian actions in the future,” Roule said.

The attacks on Saudi Aramco’s oil-processing facilities, which are the core of the firm’s operations, took out 5.7 million bpd, about half of the Kingdom’s oil production, and around six percent of global oil supply.

US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have pointed to southwest Iran as the staging ground for the attack, an assessment based at least in part on still-classified imagery showing Iran appearing to prepare an aerial strike.

“Iran has much bellicose rhetoric but on any scale or any issue the United States’ power dwarfs anything Iran can bring into the table - and now would include cyber tools,” Roule said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/09/30/Ex-CIA-official-US-can-use-cyber-tools-as-potential-response-to-Iran-attacks.html

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UN welcomes release of hundreds of detainees in Yemen

Michael Hernandez  

30.09.2019

WASHINGTON

The UN's special envoy for Yemen welcomed the release Monday of hundreds of detainees by the country's Houthi rebel forces.

“I hope this step will lead to further initiatives that will facilitate the exchange of all the conflict-related detainees," Martin Griffiths said in a statement. "I also welcome the previous steps taken by the Government of Yemen and the Arab Coalition that led to the release of Yemeni minors and supported their reintegration with their families."

The Houthis said it freed 350 captives, including three Saudis, according to the Houthi-run Al-Masirah T.V. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which facilitated the releases, said the group released 290 captives.

In December, Yemeni government representatives and Houthi rebel leaders held a round of UN-brokered talks in Stockholm which yielded a cease-fire agreement in the Red Sea port city of al-Hudaydah.

The warring parties, however, have yet to fully withdraw from the city amid tit-for-tat accusations of truce violations and sporadic clashes in other parts of the country.

Yemen has been beset by violence and chaos since 2014, when Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including Sanaa. The crisis escalated in 2015 when a Saudi-led military coalition launched a devastating air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi territorial gains.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/un-welcomes-release-of-hundreds-of-detainees-in-yemen/1598178

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Europe

 

SAS could be sent to bring children of Islamic State fighters back to Britain

29 September 2019

Plans to send members of the SAS into Syria to bring back the British children of Islamic State fighters are being considered by the government.

There are estimated to be around 30 minors with claims to UK citizenship living in camps after being born to British parents who joined IS.

The controversial plans are being discussed by the National Security Council (NSC) but members are currently split on launching operations.

A final decision is expected early next month and, if agreed, only those aged 16 and under would be extracted.

A government spokesperson said: "The safety and security of our country and our communities remains the government's number one priority."

It is believed the repatriation plans are being led by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and International Development Secretary Alok Sharma.

Chancellor Sajid Javid, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace are understood to be against the move.

While he was home secretary, Mr Javid introduced a law that will see any British citizen who goes to live in a terror hotspot facing up to 10 years in prison.

It is now a specific criminal offence to enter or remain in a "designated area" overseas, under the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019.

The Home Office estimates more than 900 people of "national security concern" have travelled from the UK to engage with conflict in Syria.

About 20% of those have been killed while overseas, and 40% have returned.

It comes as Ms Patel said Islamic State bride Shamima Begum will never be allowed to return to the UK.

Begum, who fled to join the terror group with two school friends in 2015, has begged to be allowed back in Britain for therapy after all three of her children died in Syria.

But Ms Patel said there was "no way" she could return and it was "quite reassuring" to see the 19-year-old still in the war-ravaged country.

https://news.sky.com/story/sas-could-be-sent-to-bring-children-of-islamic-state-fighters-back-to-britain-11822949

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Bosnia police arrest 2 for attack on radio station over news

September 28, 2019

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Two people have been arrested after a group of soccer fans broke into a radio station’s offices in Sarajevo and forced its staff to withdraw a news item, Bosnian police said Saturday.

The two face charges of threatening the safety and limiting the freedom of Radio Sarajevo’s online journalists and editors during the incident late Friday.

The station said hooligans broke into its offices while angry over the news that a fan of soccer club Sarajevo received five years in prison in Belarus for cocaine possession. They threatened the staff and their families.

The station described the incident as “an actual hostage situation.” Faced with death threats, the editor was forced to remove the news item, its statement added.

The incident has sparked widespread condemnation in Sarajevo, the capital of the Balkan country which is still struggling to overcome the consequences of a devastating war in the 1990s.

The U.S. Embassy said on Twitter that “this outrageous attack ... is unacceptable.”

The embassy added that “when journalists are silenced, society suffers.”

Denis Zvizdic, the chairman of Bosnia’s Council of Ministers — the de facto government — said “such acts are a threat to democracy and present an unacceptable attack on free journalism.”

Full report at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/bosnia-police-arrest-2-for-attack-on-radio-station-over-news/2019/09/28/1ad62904-e1ce-11e9-be7f-4cc85017c36f_story.html

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Catalonia braced for fresh unrest after terrorism raids on separatists 

 Alan Ruiz Terol

29 SEPTEMBER 2019

Catalonia is braced for a tumultuous few weeks as protesters vow to reignite mass civil disobedience in revenge for the anticipated convictions of 12 independence leaders.

This week's terrorism raids on separatist activists have only galvanised anger, with what some saw as a Spanish warning shot ahead of the second anniversary of the bloody independence referendum appearing to have backfired.

With lengthy prison sentences expected in the leaders' mass trial, the independence movement has promised “massive civil disobedience to force Spain solve the conflict democratically”. The possibilities include a mass strike that could shut down key cities like Barcelona or another illegal referendum.  ...

Full report at:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/09/29/catalonia-braced-fresh-unrest-terrorism-raids-separatists/

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Former imam wants stronger relationships between Edinburgh’s Muslims and Christians

01 October 2019

A FORMER imam said his recent trip to Ghana has inspired him to build stronger relationships between Muslims and Christians in the Capital.

Yahya Barry, originally from The Gambia but now based in Edinburgh, spent ten days with religious leaders in the West African country.

The aim of the trip was to explore Christian and Muslim relationships as, according to Dr Barry, Ghana is rennowned for fostering peaceful and close bonds between both faiths. Since returning, he said he has felt “more inspired than ever” to bring lessons from Ghana to Edinburgh and the rest of Scotland.

“It was a really motivational trip,” he said.

“The relationships between both faiths in Ghana are established and organic. In Scotland the latest statistics show the Muslim population is about 1.45 per cent, which is a very small minority. We need to factor in that this could be because of the relationships between Muslim and Christianity. Since my time in Ghana I feel strongly about the lessons I learnt and bringing them back to this city which is investing in becoming more multicultural.”

About 77 per cent of the population in Ghana is Christian, with Muslims making up a further 16 per cent, and the two groups have better relations than in many countries in West Africa, according to the PhD graduate. He said the Brexit uncertainty and the rising nationalism in the UK could divide these two faiths.

“I am not saying that the relationships aren’t already okay,” he continued, “I just think in these times of uncertainty, there is the potential that the gap could widen.”

Having recently completed a PhD at the University of Edinburgh looking at right-wing extremism in different cities, Dr Barry found the peace and amicable relationship in Ghana refreshing.

“One of the things that I found impressive was how much effort they make to include everyone,” he said, “and female representation is so important out there. Ghanan women are so celebrated - both Muslim and Christian women were at the forefront. It’s so refreshing.”

The Church of Scotland interfaith officer Mirella Yandoli said the trip’s aim was to provide a transformative experience for key Muslim and Christian leaders in Scotland.

Full report at:

https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/people/former-imam-wants-stronger-relationships-between-edinburgh-s-muslims-and-christians-1-5014653

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Muslim journalists to strengthen bonds to counter fake news

Salim Bokhari

October 01, 2019

SAINT PETERSBURG (Russia)    -     On the concluding day of the two-day Fifth International Forum of Muslim Journalist and Bloggers, a draft Declaration was adopted that outlines the future prospects of such a useful interaction.

Besides the Declaration outlined ways and means to further strengthen these bonds among the participants and those who would participate in future events. The organizers expressed their willingness to hold these forums across the Islamic world. Almost all speakers at the 5th Forum noted the necessity for further close coordination between Russian and foreign Muslim journalists to counter the spread of false information.

In this regard, they called on the mass media to firmly adhere to the principles of journalistic ethics, carry out their professional duty honestly and impartially, which is in line with the provisions of the Global Charter of Ethics for Journalists, adopted in Tunisia in June 2019.

The 5th International Forum of Journalists and Bloggers was held on the 26-27 September, 2019 in St Petersburg. It was organized by the Group of Strategic Vision “Russia – Islamic World”.

The arrangements for organizing such a high-level interaction were excellent and all the participants expressed their gratitude to the organizers as well as the Russian Federation. The Forum was attended by more than 50 foreign and Russian journalists representing the world famous mass media, international experts in the field of information and high-ranking Russian and foreign officials.

Deputy Chairman of the Group of Strategic Vision “Russia – Islamic World”, Doctor of Political Science F.M. Mukhametshin made a speech at the opening of the plenary session “The Impact of the Media on Public Opinion and International Agenda”. The participants of the Forum warmly welcomed President of the Tatarstan Republic, Chairman of the Group of Strategic R.N. Minnikhanov and Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation I.M.-S. Umakhanov.

The Declaration said three thematic sessions were organized within the Forum: “Information-Psychological Wars and their Impact of Public Opinion”, ““Fake News”: Response and Counteraction Strategies” and “Freedom of Journalism in the Context of Human Rights and Information Security”, where both foreign and Russian participants took part, followed by a broad discussion of the most pressing media issues.

It said the Forum participants listened with great interest to the reports of Director of the UN Information Centre in Moscow V.V. Kuznetsov, the First Deputy Director General of TASS M.V. Kalmykov, Deputy Director of the Department of Information and Press of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation A.A. Kozhin, Special Coordinator of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation on the Political Use of Information and Communication Technologies E.V. Chernukhin.

The Forum participants noted that politicized actions in the West often lead to increase in tension and escalation of conflicts in different parts of our planet, resulting in deepening of split in the world on ethnic, confessional and other grounds. Some Western powers often use the mass media to impose their selfish agendas and manipulate public opinion, it added

The Forum participants fully supported the ideas set forth in the article by Minister for Foreign Affairs of Russia S.V. Lavrov “World at a Crossroads and a System of International Relations for the Future”, published ahead of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (the text of the article was distributed to the participants on the eve of the Forum), the Declaration said. The Forum participants highlighted the fact that Russia together with states of the Islamic world can make a significant contribution to the improvement of both political and spiritual situation in the world because their positions on topical international and regional issues are close or even the same, said the Declaration.

It added the Forum participants stated the importance of ensuring security in the field of information technologies and developing the legal and regulatory framework in this area. Besides, there was noted the increasing need for verification of the information disseminated, taking into account significant growth in the number of so-called “fake news” in the world, which in some cases directly threatens the national security of sovereign states and the stability of the world as a whole.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/01-Oct-2019/muslim-journalists-to-strengthen-bonds-to-counter-fake-news

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Greece wants to return 10,000 migrants to Turkey by 2020

30 September 2019

The Greek government said Monday it wants to send 10,000 migrants back to Turkey by the end of 2020, following an emergency cabinet meeting.

Athens would increase the rate from the “1,805 returned in the 4.5 years under the previous Syriza government” of left-wing leader Alexis Tsipras, a cabinet statement said, a day after a deadly fire at a migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesbos.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/09/30/Greece-wants-to-return-10-000-migrants-to-Turkey-by-2020-.html

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Neo-Nazis face trial for forming terrorist group

Ayhan Simsek

30.09.2019

BERLIN

Eight members of the far-right group Revolution Chemnitz went on trial Monday on charges of plotting terrorist attacks in Germany.

The neo-Nazi suspects, aged between 21 and 32, appeared in a regional court in the eastern German state of Dresden for the first time since their arrest last year.

Court spokeswoman Gesine Tews told reporters that eight men were charged with establishing a far-right terror group, planning attacks against foreigners and political rivals, seeking to acquire firearms to overthrow the democratic constitutional order.

The group’s internal communications had revealed that they planned a terrorist attack in Berlin on Oct. 3, during the “Day of German Unity” celebrations.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/neo-nazis-face-trial-for-forming-terrorist-group/1598067

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British ISIS fighter thought dead is found alive in secret Syrian prison

Jack Dutton

Oct 1, 2019

One of the first British men to join ISIS has been found alive in prison in northern Syria and wants to return to his previous life in Cardiff, Wales.

Former ice cream seller Aseel Muthana travelled to Syria in 2015, aged 17, and was believed to have died.

He was following his brother Nasser and their friend Reeyad Khan, who fled from the UK to join the terrorist group in 2013. The other two men are also presumed to be dead.

But Aseel is alive in a secret prison along with about 5,000 other inmates and he reportedly misses his mother in Wales, ITV News reported on Monday.

Nasser and Khan featured in one of ISIS's first propaganda videos aimed at recruits in the West.

Inside the prison, Aseel told the British broadcaster he was lured to Syria by ISIS propaganda, which said that joining the group would mean he would be helping poor people in the country.

“Back then when I first came to ISIS, you have to understand I came way before the caliphate was pronounced," he said. "Before all of these beheading videos, before all of the burnings happened, before any of that stuff.

"We came when ISIS propaganda and ISIS media was all about helping the poor, helping the Syrian people.”

"We stuck with the people from the UK and from Wales ... me and my brother and Reeyad.”

Aseel, now 22, urged his mother to “try to stay strong” while he was in the secret prison.

After seeing the footage showing Aseel was alive, his mother Umm Amin initially said she didn’t believe it.

"I felt extreme joy that my boy is alive and I felt extreme sadness that my boy is in this place,” she said.

Umm Amin appealed to Kurdish officials who were keeping her son in jail.

“My little boy went seduced by ISIS and brainwashed with ideas that were not his, so he doesn’t know what is right and what is wrong, dominated and led by his emotions," she said.

"My boy was gentle and merciful, and didn’t know violence and harshness.”

But Aseel's older brother Nasser has a history of threatening the UK while he was in Syria.

On Twitter he has repeatedly shown hostility towards Britain and openly celebrated deaths of his compatriots.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/british-isis-fighter-thought-dead-is-found-alive-in-secret-syrian-prison-1.917406

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Anti-Muslim populists sidelined by win for Austria’s Sebastian Kurz

Arthur Scott-Geddes

Sep 30, 2019

Voters in Austria have dealt a serious blow to the rise of anti-Muslim populists in the country by giving support to conservative leader Sebastian Kurz in Sunday’s elections.

The ex-chancellor’s People’s Party finished first with 37.1 per cent of the vote, up from 31 per cent in 2017. Austria’s far-right Freedom Party tumbled in the poll and now face a best-case scenario of playing junior members in a coalition partnership.

Mr Kurz’s former coalition partners, witnessed a sharp fall in voter support, winning just 16 per cent of the vote, down from 26 per cent in 2017.

The snap general election was called after the government collapsed when the then-leader of the Freedom Party, Heinz-Christian Strache, was caught on video promising government contracts to a woman posing as the niece of a Russian oligarch.

Dubbed Ibizagate after the Spanish island on which the sting was filmed, the scandal, which erupted in May 2019, brought an end to the Freedom Party’s 17-month long tenure as coalition partners to Mr Kurz conservative People’s Party.

The Freedom Party has indicated it plans to move into opposition to rebuild itself, leaving Mr Kurz with only two realistic options: joining with the second-placed Social Democrats, whose share of the vote was just 21.7 per cent, or the environmentalist Greens, who staged a big comeback after failing to enter parliament in 2017 and received 14 per cent support on Sunday.

The party has taken an anti-Muslim and anti-immigration stance since the 1990s.

In 1993, its controversial “Austria First!” initiative claimed that Austria was “not a country of immigration” and attempted to collect signatures for a referendum on immigration restrictions.

In recent years the party has been vocal in its hostility to Muslims in particular, in a move seen by some analysts as designed to appeal to voters with Serbian backgrounds.

Jacqueline Selbah, a student who voted in Sunday’s elections, said she was “happy that the Freedom Party has lost a lot of votes.”

“This is a positive sign. Well, let’s wait and see,” she added.

Political analyst and pollster Peter Hajek said that if the party is to “reinvent itself” in the wake of election defeat it will have to solve the problem of long-standing leader Mr Strache’s continued involvement.

The youthful leader has emerged from the election with his authority strengthened, but now faces a choice on how to go about forming a government.

“Sebastian Kurz has several options, including a minority government or even new elections,” said Mr Hajek.

“Should he want form a minority government or call for new elections he needs to signal to the public that it’s the fault of the other parties. In terms of communication he could pull that off, but in terms of policies it would be difficult.”

In an apparent glimmer of hope for the Freedom Party, Mr Kurz on Monday refused to rule out any options for forming a minority government, though he said he feared coalition talks “will be a bit more challenging this time”.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/anti-muslim-populists-sidelined-by-win-for-austria-s-sebastian-kurz-1.917347

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Conservative Party warned that debate over religion must be respectful to all

Jamie Prentis

Sep 30, 2019

A senior member of the UK government has suggested people should be allowed to criticise religion as long as it is done respectfully.

But finance minister and Conservative MP Sajid Javid, whose party is embroiled in accusations it is institutionally Islamophobic, said attacking someone for simply being Muslim was deplorable.

“I call it anti-Muslim hate crime, rather than Islamophobia. The reason is because all people, no matter what their faith, should be absolutely protected against anyone that has anything wrong or nasty or any attack against them. It doesn’t matter who they are, what their faith is,” said Mr Javid, who was a key national gatekeeper on hate crimes in the role of Home Secretary, or interior minister.

“Sometimes when people talk about Islamophobia sometimes some people mean that you shouldn’t criticise or shouldn’t have the ability to criticise a religion. Not people, but a religion,” he told the BBC.

“I think in our free society anyone should be able to talk about any religion respectfully but to say ‘I don’t agree with that religion,’ that’s up to them. But attacking someone if their a Muslim is completely, utterly unacceptable. So it’s anti-Muslim hate crime.”

Over the weekend, a number of party members were suspended for posting Islamophobic content online.

Mr Javid insisted a long-awaited inquiry into allegations members were Islamophobic would happen.

“There will be one… I’m sure. The party chairman, James Cleverly, is looking at what best form that inquiry should take.”

Earlier this year, the government rejected a definition of Islamophobia because they said it was too vague and could hamper efforts to fight extremism.

"Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness,” the definition, agreed by a group of cross-party MPs, read.

The party’s attitude to the definition of Islamophobia triggered controversy following a fringe event on the sidelines of the Conservative party conference in Manchester.

Trevor Philips, a member of the Labour Party, was slammed for his comments at a Policy Exchange panel that was supposed to focus on challenging Islamophobia.

He was reported to have said “I’m the only one here who has been nominated as Islamophobe of the Year.” Another panellist, Peter Tatchell, responded “I’m jealous.”

A freedom of speech campaigner, Mr Philips has previously slammed the suggested definition of Islamophobia and argued its vagueness undermined Muslims. His comments in Manchester appeared to reiterate that he does not subscribe to the Islamophobia definition.

Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani said the party had a “zero tolerance” approach towards anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Mr Javid said people at fringe events would say whatever they wanted and had nothing to do with the party.

Sayeeda Warsi

@SayeedaWarsi

When “Islamophobe of the year” is worn as a badge of honour, anti Muslim rhetoric is promoted & colleagues r too scared to say publicly what they’ve told me privately.

Welcome to todays @Conservatives #CPC19

Truly ashamed of my Party & fear for Muslims under this government 😢

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

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In dissent, one senior Muslim Conservative said she was “ashamed” of the party.

“I feel sick to my stomach tonight to see the Party I chaired sink to such depths,” tweeted Baroness Warsi.

“Where British Muslims have become a convenient scapegoat for populism, a butt of insulting language to increase poll ratings [and) an event on Islamophobia is an opportunity to demonise Muslims,” she said.

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/conservative-party-warned-that-debate-over-religion-must-be-respectful-to-all-1.917276

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Soaring religious and race crimes in UK capital ‘normalising’ hate against Muslims - monitor

Claire Corkery

Sep 30, 2019

Racist and religious hate crime in the UK capital has risen by more than 100 per cent in just seven years, according to figures by London’s Metropolitan Police.

A report published on Monday by the police and crime committee of the London Assembly said there were 19,000 hate crime offences recorded in 2018, amounting to 50 offences a day, in comparison with 9,455 in 2011.

Racist and religious hate crimes, which includes faith, Islamophobic and antisemitic hate crimes, made up 87 per cent of all hate crimes recorded by the Met last year. In 2011, there were 7,989 offences recorded, rising to 16,528 offences by 2018. There were also huge hikes in the number of disability, homophobic and transgender hate crimes recorded.

A hate crime in the UK is defined as “any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice” based on a person’s characteristic or perceived characteristic, for example race.

Iman Atta, Director of Islamophobic hate crime monitor TellMAMA, described the figures as “worrying” and said hate against Muslims was becoming “normalised”.

“The majority of the reports that we receive are abusive behaviour in nature. Nevertheless, we are seeing more physical assaults and discrimination cases,” Ms Atta told The National. “In our recent analysis we see that hate is becoming more normalised. Abusive words or discrimination cases are becoming a normal thing that Muslims are having to go through.”

Ms Atta said in the capital, where the majority of Londoners take public transport to work, the Underground and buses had become hotspots for anti-Muslim hate crime.

She said: “The majority of these incidents are taking place in public spaces in particular on public transport, as well as in the workplace. Public spaces allow the perpetrator to be in close proximity with the victim so they can say something and walk off.”

The British Transport Police recorded 2,307 hate crimes in 2018, more than half of which had taken place on Underground tube trains.

There was also a spike in the number of hate crimes reported after key events such as the 2016 Brexit referendum and the London Bridge terror attack in 2017.

Ms Atta said TellMAMA had received frequent reports from Muslim women being blamed in the workplace by colleagues for any terrorist attack that had occurred across the world. She said that women made up 58 per cent of all victims the monitor received reports from.

“London is cosmopolitan, open and diverse and it is a minority that is perpetrating that hate,” Ms Atta said. “But that minority has different routes to amplify their voices. Unfortunately, these voices are getting louder and people are getting hit with hate.”

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/soaring-religious-and-race-crimes-in-uk-capital-normalising-hate-against-muslims-monitor-1.917263

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India

 

Article 370: SC fixes Nov 14 for hearing on constitutional validity of Centre's decision

Oct 1, 2019

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday fixed November 14 to commence hearing on a batch of petitions challenging constitutional validity of the Centre's decision to abrogate Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice N V Ramana allowed the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir administration to file counter-affidavits on petitions challenging scrapping of Article 370.

The top court refused the plea of petitioners that not more than 2 weeks be given to the Centre and J&K administration for filing counter-affidavits.

The apex court also put embargo on filing of any fresh writ petition challenging constitutional validity on abrogation of Article 370.

The bench said one week time would be for the petitioners to file their replies to the counter-affidavit that would be filed by the Centre and Jammu and Kashmir administration within four weeks.

"We have to allow the Centre and the J&K administration to file counter-affidavit otherwise we can't decide the matter," the bench also comprising justices S K Kaul, R Subhash Reddy, B R Gavai and Surya Kant said.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/sc-grants-4-weeks-to-centre-to-file-response-to-pleas-challenging-abrogation-of-article-370/articleshow/71388184.cms

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Hindu group says not ready for mediation on Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute

Oct 01, 2019

The possibility of an amicable settlement in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute case was ruled out on Monday after one of the parties — Ram Lalla Virajman, the deity that has the status of a juristic person under the law — told the Supreme Court that it was not ready for any mediation talks.

Senior advocate CS Vaidyanathan made the submission before a five-judge bench hearing cross appeals against the 2010 Allahabad high court’s verdict, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre disputed land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among the three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla Virajman.

Vaidyanathan said he was making the statement in view of the reports appearing in the media about fresh mediation efforts. “I want to make it clear that we do not want to be part of any mediation efforts.”

The bench, which is hearing the case on a daily basis, did not respond to the lawyer but indicated that it might even sit on Saturday to complete the hearing by October 18, the deadline it has fixed for completing the hearings. As the Muslim side wrapped up its arguments, the Hindu parties began with their counter.

The court was clear that it does not want to prolong the hearing and, therefore, gave two days to the Hindu parties e to complete their counter arguments. The court denied a request made by senior advocate P N Mishra for more time.

A large section of Hindus believes the 16th century mosque, Babri Masjid, was built over a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Ram, whose birthplace is also considered to be at the site.

The mosque was demolished by a mob of thousands in 1992, triggering a cycle of violence and riots across India.

The top court on March 8 asked the contesting parties to explore the possibility of mediation to resolve the long-pending dispute amicably.

A three-member panel led by retired judge Justice F M Ibrahim Kalifulla and comprising Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu tried to work out a resolution but failed.

The court started hearing the case in August.

However, the mediation panel approached the court on September 16 and said it received letters from the chairman of the Sunni Waqf Board and Dharam Das of the Nirvani Akhara to resume settlement talks.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/hindu-group-says-not-ready-for-mediation-on-ram-janmabhoomi-babri-masjid-title-dispute/story-qnwixiH9Q7J8GwcJuA0SML.html

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Security forces kill 6 militants in Kashmir

September 29 2019

Security forces killed six militants in Jammu and Kashmir yesterday, police said, as the region simmers under a lockdown imposed by New Delhi after it revoked its constitutional autonomy in August.

Three militants were killed in the Batote market area of Jammu where, according to officials, they had taken a local civilian hostage inside his house.

The hostage was rescued unharmed, a spokesman for the Central Reserve Police Force told journalists.

Three others were killed in an encounter in Kangan in the north of the region, Dilbagh Singh, director general of Jammu and Kashmir police said.

Singh also said militants had thrown a grenade in the Safakadal area of Srinagar city but that no one was injured in the incident.

Security forces had tightened restrictions in Kashmir and the Hindu-majority Jammu region on Friday, fearing protests ahead of speeches at the UN by the leaders of India and Pakistan.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan warned the body that his country’s dispute with India over Kashmir could escalate into an all-out nuclear war that would have consequences for the world.

Following his speech, authorities tightened restrictions on people’s movements yesterday to prevent possible protests.

Soon after the speech, hundreds of Kashmiris came out of their homes, shouting slogans in support of Khan late on Friday night and calling for the independence of Kashmir.

Yesterday, police vans fitted with speakers made public announcements in some parts of Srinagar about movement restrictions, while additional troops were deployed to prevent protests, according to officials and two witnesses.

The troops also blocked access to the main business centre of Srinagar with razor wire.

“This was necessitated after protests across Srinagar city last night soon after Imran Khan’s speech,” said a police official, who declined to be identified.

India’s crackdown as it revoked Kashmir’s special status was accompanied by severe restrictions on movement, as well as disconnection of telephone services.

Though New Delhi has eased some of the movement curbs, no prominent detainees have been freed and mobile and Internet connections remain suspended.

In some areas in Kashmir - including the Soura region near Srinagar which has witnessed protests in the past against India’s decision - people clashed with security forces by pelting stones on Friday night, forcing police to use tear gas to disperse them, said the Indian official.

According to reports Pakistan has stopped sending postal mails to India.

Media reports quoting Ajay Kumar Roy, deputy director-general of the Department of Posts in India, said Pakistan’s customs department in an order on August 23 stopped both export and import of mails.

The unilateral order came into effect on August 27.

Letters and publications originating from Pakistan were earlier mailed to India via Saudi Arabian Airlines, a report added.

Chandigarh-based Indo-Pak peace activist Chanchal Manohar Singh said the stopping of the postal service was a gross violation of human rights.

Full report at:

https://www.gulf-times.com/story/643003/Security-forces-kill-6-militants-in-Kashmir

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Ayodhya Dispute: 'Supreme Court cannot judge Babur's sin', says Muslim side counsel

Oct 1, 2019

The Muslim side in their fight for title to the disputed Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid site told the Supreme Court on Monday that it had no business to evaluate whether Emperor Babur committed a sin 500 years ago by constructing a mosque in violation of the Islamic Sharia law.

Quoting flagrant violations of the Sharia law committed by Babur himself, the Muslim side sought to argue that Sharia will apply only when the country is governed by Muslim law and not when the sovereign ruler happens to be a Muslim. The Muslim side counsel Mohammad Nizam Pasha made these statements while replying to the contentions made by the Hindu side which said that the structure of Babri Masjid did not qualify as a mosque as per the Holy Quran and Islamic texts.

Pasha said, "The law then applicable was the law of the sovereign and the ownership of the land remained with the sovereign. A constitutional court cannot evaluate the validity of the actions of a sovereign undertaken 500 years ago and hold that his actions were illegal according to principles he should have conformed to." Citing from history, he quoted several Muslim rulers who acquired power by killing their brother, father, etc, which Holy Quran forbids.

Even Baburnama mentions several actions of Babur that were contrary to Sharia law, Pasha added claiming, "Whether or not Babur committed a sin is not the subject matter of jurisdiction of the Court."

Pasha said pictures of lifeless things are not disapproved in mosques by Hadees so long as they do not distract devotees. On the sound of bells in vicinity prohibited in Islam, he said it was difficult to imagine how in a populated country like ours, having a mosque in vicinity of temple would rob it of its character.

Full report at:

https://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-ayodhya-dispute-supreme-court-cannot-judge-babur-s-sin-says-muslim-side-counsel-2793575

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Send all-party delegation led by Manmohan Singh for Kartarpur ceremony: Singhvi to govt

Sep 30, 2019

NEW DELHI: Senior Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi on Monday suggested that an all-party delegation constituted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Manmohan Singh as the head could be sent for the inaugural ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor after Pakistan decided to invite the former PM for the event.

Pakistan's foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Monday that his country has decided to invite Singh to attend the inaugural ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor.

Reacting to this, Singhvi said in a tweet: "Pakistan's invite to Dr Manmohan Singh, I suggest to the government of India, Prime Minister and Home Minister: send all-party delegation to Pakistan. Whole country to show solidarity qua Pakistan."

"PM to personally constitute such delegation of selected individuals. Even more significant than P V Narsimha Rao nomination of (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee to head UN delgation," he said.

"I meant PM should request Dr Manmohan Singh to head this multi individual delegation to Pakistan," Singhvi, a Congress spokesperson, said in another tweet.

Pak’s invite 2 #DRMMS, I suggest to #GOI #PM #HomeMin: send all party delegation to #Pak. Whole country 2show solid… https://t.co/b8QGDGkhfH

— Abhishek Singhvi (@DrAMSinghvi) 1569862203000

Singh's office said it has no information about the invite so far and sources indicated that he is unlikely to attend.

The corridor will connect Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur in Pakistan with the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district of Punjab, and facilitate visa-free movement of Indian pilgrims, who will only have to obtain a permit to visit the revered Kartarpur Sahib.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/send-all-party-delegation-led-by-manmohan-singh-for-kartarpur-ceremony-singhvi-to-govt/articleshow/71381885.cms

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Gurugram’s role in Gandhi’s movements for India’s freedom

Shikha Jain

Sep 30, 2019

The period before October 2, 2019, the day the country celebrates the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, is probably a good time to recall his struggle with the British in India and Gurgram’s role in the entire movement. The year 1919 was an important landmark in the history of India’s struggle for freedom with the advent of Mahatma Gandhi in Indian politics. As the beginning of his non-violence movement and protest, he first declared March 30, 1919, as the day of an all-India hartal (strike). The date was later changed to April 6. Among the districts in Haryana, the hartal was observed in Rewari on March 30, 1919. The Gurgaon District Gazetteer also records hartals in various other areas.

A meeting was organised in Hodal on April 11 and the hartal was observed for a day. In Hassanpur too the hartal was observed on the same day. Firozpur, Nagina, and Taoru were the other areas where the hartal was observed on April 13. In Nuh, there was hartal on April 13 and 14. Partial hartal was also observed in Gurugram on April 10. At night, a large meeting was held in which it was decided to hold hartal on the following day and on the last Saturday of every month till the Rowlatt Act was repealed. However, the latter suggestion was not carried out. As decided, the hartal was continued on April 11 and a Hindu-Muslim meeting was held in the Araianwali Mosque. Section 15 of the Indian Police Act, 1861, was proclaimed in the district on April 17, 1919. In December 1920, Mahatma Gandhi formally launched the Non-Cooperation Movement and it was in full swing by 1921. Mahatma Gandhi made an extensive tour of Punjab in February and March of 1920-21, visiting, inter alia, Bhiwani and Kalanaur in Haryana. Hartals were repeatedly observed in April in the towns of all the districts of Haryana, including Gurugram.

The Gazetteer mentions that on November 24, 1921, the provisions of the Criminal Law Amendment Act XIV of 1908, Part-II, were extended to the Gurugram district, under which all volunteer bodies were declared unlawful. Many persons were arrested and lodged in the police station, which was then attacked by a crowd of two to three thousand people. The police opened fire, killing three and wounding 29. The situation was saved by the timely arrival of some troops of the Alwar state.

The historic Dandi March from Sabarmati Ashram on March 12, 1930, served as a signal for a nation-wide mass movement. Gurugram actively participated in this movement. Several people from Gurugram were arrested and released three years later in 1933. Subsequently, in 1940 and 1942, the Gurugram district participated in the Civil Disobedience Movement and the Quit India Movement respectively, recording several arrests during both the movements.

In the 1940s, the ruling party in Punjab under the leadership of Sikandar Hayat Khan and Sir Chhotu Ram kept an effective check on communal activities, even in the Gurugram district, that were on the rise due to Jinnah’s activities. Communal tension increased in 1945-46 and this had its repercussions in the Mewat area of Gurugram as well. A branch of the All India Muslim League was established there and a large number of Meos joined in. In 1947, a scheme of organising Mewat into a separate Meo province was mooted and it received the sympathies of the All India Muslim League. Meanwhile, the country gained independence in 1947 and Mahatma Gandhi played a significant role in convincing the Meos not to move out during the Partition.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/gurugram/gurugram-s-role-in-gandhi-s-movements-for-india-s-freedom/story-xOQULV5dr5PRtVgF1FratJ.html

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Pakistan

 

Pakistan, Malaysia and Turkey to Jointly Launch BBC Type Channel to Counter Islamophobia

September 30, 2019

Islamabad: The governments of Pakistan, Turkey and Malaysia will launch a BBC type English television channel to highlight the issues of Muslims and fight Islamophobia in the West, according to media reports.

The channel proposal was discussed at a meeting between Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Pakistan premier Imran Khan on the sidelines of the 74th United Nations General Assembly in New York last week.

Taking to Twitter, the prime minister shed further light on the project saying the English language TV Channel will be like BBC which will highlight the issues faced by the Muslim world.

"We felt that many reports about Islam and Muslims were inaccurate, and do not portray what Islam preaches. They label Muslims as terrorists for example, and the world accepts it as the truth when Islam is not a violent religion," Mahathir said.

"We feel there must be an effort to explain what Islam is so that there is no confusion and it won't be accused of being a religion that promotes terrorism," the Malaysian prime minister said.

He said the effort will be spearheaded by the information departments of the three countries without giving the possible date of the channel's launch.

Under the joint venture, web series and films will be produced to spread knowledge on Islamic history, the News International quoted Khan as saying.

"Mis-perceptions which bring people together against Muslims would be corrected; issue of blasphemy would be properly contextualised; series and films would be produced on Muslim history to educate/inform our own people and the world; Muslims would be given a dedicated media presence," Khan said.

Speaking of hatred towards Muslims in his address to the UNGA, Khan said Islamophobia had grown apace after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

"There are 1.3 billion Muslims in the world. It is creating a division, he said. "Muslim women wearing Hijab has become an issue in some countries. It started after the 9/11 [attacks]."

He maintained that terrorism had nothing to do with any religion. He said Muslims were being marginalised in Europe.

"We all know marginalisation leads to radicalism," he said, adding that, "We must address this issue. No religion preaches radicalism."

https://www.news18.com/news/india/pakistan-malaysia-and-turkey-to-jointly-launch-bbc-type-channel-to-counter-islamophobia-2328839.html

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Gen Bajwa reaffirms support for capacity building of Saudi land forces

Oct 1, 2019

RAWALPINDI: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa has reaffirmed Pakistan’s support for the capacity building and training of the Royal Saudi Land Forces (RSLF) in a meeting with its commander on Monday.

According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the army chief met RSLF Commander Lieutenant General Fahad Bin Abdullah Mohammad al Motair at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.

“Matters of mutual and professional interests including regional security situation were discussed during the meeting,” the military’s media wing statement read.

Army pledges support for capacity building of Saudi land forces

The RSLF commander lauded Pakistan Army’s efforts towards regional stability and professionalism.

The visiting dignitary laid a floral wreath at the Yadgar-e-Shuhada and was given the guard of honour.

Pakistan has lent its support to training and capacity building of the kingdom’s land forces in the past as well.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/09/30/gen-bajwa-reaffirms-support-for-capacity-building-of-saudi-land-forces/

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Nine Killed In Bombing, Bus Attack In Pakistan

September 28, 2019

At least three people were killed, including an opposition politician, and seven others injured in a bomb blast on September 28 in Pakistan’s southwestern town of Chaman in the province of Balochistan.

Police officials said the bomb was planted in a motorcycle parked outside the office of a religious party in Chaman, which is located near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.

Officials said the bomb detonated remotely when Maulana Mohammad Hanif, the leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, a right-wing religious party, was exiting the building, killing Hanif and two other men.

"Maulana Muhammad Hanif was the target of the bomb blast,” senior police officer Muhammad Iqbal said.

Hanif, whose party opposes Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government, was planning an anti-government march on the country's capital, Islamabad, next month.

No group has claimed responsibility for the blast, which damaged nearby buildings and shops.

Attacks are common in Balochistan where separatists have for decades fought a low-level insurgency against the government.

In a separate incident on September 28, six people were killed and four others injured when gunmen opened fire on a bus in Pakistan’s northwestern Hangu district.

The district police officer, Ehsan Ullah, told RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal that the motive behind the attack was a personal dispute. He said women and children were among the dead.

Full report at:

https://www.rferl.org/a/nine-killed-in-bombing-bus-attack-in-pakistan/30188719.html

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Pakistan to replace UN envoy Maleeha Lodhi after Imran gets panned for theatrics

Sep 30, 2019

WASHINGTON: Pakistan is replacing its Permanent Representative to the United Nations just 72 hours after its Prime Minister Imran Khan returned home after what was portrayed domestically as a star performance on the Kashmir issue to accolades at the global forum.

Maleeha Lodhi, the envoy who shepherded Imran Khan through his first appearance at the UN, is being replaced by Munir Akram, a former envoy who is being sent back for a second stint in New York after a break of nearly 15 years.

Pakistan had to tactfully call back Akram briefly in 2003 after he was reported for a domestic violence incident in which he allegedly beat up his live-in partner Marijana Mihic. The situation became so serious that the US State Department asked Pakistan to withdraw his diplomatic immunity after New York City prosecutors sought to bring misdemeanor assault charges against him.

Evidently, the matter was settled out of court, and hoping that the issue has been forgotten, the Imran Khan government is sending him back to the UN Given Imran Khan's vituperative outlook towards India, Akram would be the ideal foil at the UN, with a long history of hard positions and toxic commentary against New Delhi.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-to-replace-un-envoy-maleeha-lodhi-after-imran-gets-panned-for-theatrics/articleshow/71381474.cms

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Sindh govt decides to turn Nahr-i-Khayyam into recreational point for families

Habib Khan Ghori

October 01, 2019

KARACHI: The Sindh government has decided to beautify and develop Nahr-i-Khayyam as a recreational point where people could enjoy themselves with their families.

This was one of the decisions taken by the Sindh cabinet which met here on Monday. The meeting, presided over by Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, also endorsed its earlier decision to enforce a complete ban on manufacture, sale, purchase and use of non-degradable plastic bags except with a weight of six to 28 grams of 30 to 40 microns from Oct 1 (today).

The decisions included the recovery of revised tariff of service charges of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) from 2016, and formation of a committee for the removal of difficulties in the implementation of certain provisions of the revived Police Order 2002.

After the meeting, Information Minister Seed Ghani briefing the media said that the cabinet also approved various measures related to Sindh Bank, including a new business viability plan for 2019 to 2020 and also to provide the remaining Rs8 billion out of the Rs14.7bn capital plan to meet the State Bank requirement.

The draft bill for the establishment of The Sindh Rescue Services 1122 was also discussed and a committee was formed comprising the health minister, the adviser on law and the advocate general to revisit the draft law and make it a regulator organisation. The chief minister, while giving approval for signing an agreement with a private party to beautify, modernise and develop Nahr-i-Khayyam, said that this would be a gift to the people of Karachi and it would be for families to have picnic and enjoy sailing in beautiful boats; for literary people to enjoy their reading material and for youngsters to enjoy different flavours of coffee at the bank of beautified Nahr-i-Khayyam.

Presenting an agreement for developing Nahr-i-Khayyam as a recreational point to be signed between the Sindh government and a group of nongovernmental organisations with the abbreviation of PANI, led by leading architect Shahid Abdullah, Local Government Minister Nasir Hussain Shah sought approval of the cabinet.

The development of Nahr-i-Khayyam would cost about Rs1.5bn, to be financed by PANI, while the Sindh government would construct a conduit at a cost of Rs50 million to segregate and ensure smooth sewage flow.

Nahr-i-Khayyam runs from the Gizri crossing up to the sea.

The cabinet was told that for the last few years sewage had been discharged into the channel for its disposal into the sea. Solid waste was also disposed of along the banks of the channel.

The cabinet was informed that after a meeting with PANI, a draft agreement was proposed under which a park/recreational place would be developed and adopted by the NGO on the area with Nahr-i-Khayyam on the north and service lane on the south from Khayaban-i-Saadi to Khayaban-i-Iqbal.

The tenure of the adoption of land would be 30 years.

Under the proposed agreement the park will not be used for any political activity and the title of the land will remain with the Sindh government. The adopted park area will not be used for any commercial activity, except for tuck shops etc and the height of any structure will not be more than 15 feet.

Ban on plastic bags

Adviser on Environment Murtaza Wahab on a query told the chief minister that a complete ban on manufacture, sale, purchase and use of non-degradable plastic bags of all sizes had been imposed with effect from Oct 1, 2019. He said that only oxo-biodegradable plastic/shopping bags of different sizes, 10 into 14 to 30 into 40, with a weight of six to 28 grams of 40 microns to 30 microns, single side would be manufactured, sold and used.

The CM directed his adviser to meet manufacturers and sellers and take them into confidence for the enforcement of the ban.

KWSB

The cabinet directed the KWSB to implement water and sewerage service charges/tariff as had been approved by the government in 2016.

The KWSB has implemented the enhancement of nine per cent of its tariff for consumers of all categories.

Arms licence fee

On a request of the home department the cabinet approved enhancement of fees of gratis arms licence (non-prohibited bore) from Rs1,000 to Rs2,000 to meet the expenditures of scanning, lamination, printing, electricity, stationery, software development consumed in issuance of such computerised licences.

New police law

The home department told the cabinet that after the revival, the Police Order, 2002 was currently in field. With the revival of the law, certain new actions were to be taken such as framing of rules, issuance of regulations, executive orders, carrying day-to-day activities related to field operation etc in conformity with new law. There may be certain provisions in the act on which the office of IGP and home department or any other stakeholder might differ on their application/implementation/interpretation which might cause difficulties in giving effect to the provisions of the Police Order.

The chief minister constituted a committee under the adviser on law with the advocate general, prosecutor general, home secretary, finance secretary, secretary (I&C) S&GAD and IG police as members for the removal of difficulties.

Sindh Bank

Sindh Bank new CEO/president Imran Samad gave a presentation to the cabinet on a new business plan under which 20 new branches would be opened. The cabinet approved the bank’s business viability plan for 2019-20.

The cabinet approved an amendment to the Sindh Higher Education Commission by replacing the word ‘secretary’ with ‘executive director’ in different sections of the act of 2013.

The other decisions include provision of 35 cusecs of water to power companies in Thar Block II from Makhi-Farash Canal through pipeline from Nabisar to Vajihar till the LBOD supply system was made functional.

The cabinet also revisited the draft bill for the establishment of the Sindh Rescue Services 1122, draft rules of the Sindh development and maintenance of infrastructure cess. The cabinet formed a committee to revisit the rules of the Sindh Livestock Breeding Service Authority, authorised Minister Nasir Hussain Shah and Adviser Murtaza Wahab to talk to the IBA-pass teachers to redress their grievances and also to resolve the issue of boycott of OPD staff in the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital and losses of the KMDC teachers.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1508276/sindh-govt-decides-to-turn-nahr-i-khayyam-into-recreational-point-for-families

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Talks possible with PTM if it follows ‘Pakistan’s agenda’, say ministers

Amir Wasim

October 01, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on the opening day of its autumn session on Monday witnessed a heated debate between Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar — independent members from the tribal areas backed by the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) — and federal ministers, with the government offering an olive branch to the organisation, but with certain conditions.

The offer to the PTM for talks was made by two key members of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s cabinet — Defence Minister Pervez Khattak and Interior Minister retired Brigadier Ijaz Shah — with the condition that the PTM members would only follow “Pakistan’s agenda” and would not target armed forces in their speeches.

“The army also wants to come out from there [Waziristan]. If your agenda is Pakistan, then I am ready to hold talks with you,” said Defence Minister Pervez Khattak after the house had already witnessed a verbal brawl between Mr Dawar and Communica­tions Minister Murad Saeed.

“However, if you continue to talk against the institution which has ensured security and peace in the country, then you will not be heard,” Mr Khattak said in his brief speech before allowing Speaker Asad Qaiser to give the floor to the interior minister for making a policy statement.

Mr Khattak said the government had previously talked to the PTM and now for almost one year, they had been asking the organisation to come to the negotiating table, but regretted that the offer was being ignored.

“Why don’t you talk? If your agenda is something else, then talks cannot be held,” the defence minister concluded.

Mr Dawar and Mr Wazir, who had been arrested on charges of attacking a military check-post at Kharqamar in North Waziristan on May 26, attended the National Assembly sitting after four months. They were granted bail by the Peshawar High Court’s Bannu bench last week. Mr Wazir had been arrested on the same day whereas Mr Dawar had surrendered himself to law enforcement authorities after a few days.

Taking the floor, Interior Minister Brig Ijaz Shah said the incident which took place at the Waziristan check-post and the language used by the PTM against the armed forces all were “documented”.

The minister said the two MNAs had been arrested by police since the law and order was a provincial subject.

“If you want to become a mainstream party, then come up with your demands. Tell us and we will sit with the prime minister,” he said, recalling that it was Prime Minister Imran Khan who had declared that the demands of the PTM were legitimate.

“Nobody is after anybody,” Brig Shah said, adding that they were not against any organisation.

“Raise the slogan of Pakistan and come with me we will do whatever you want,” the minister said, amid sloganeering by some of the opposition members. He said the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) had already been merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the areas would be developed. He said the development of the tribal areas would become easier if the PTM supported it, otherwise the areas would be developed at any cost.

Responding to Mr Dawar’s speech in which he had criticised some of the ministers for speaking against them in their absence, Mr Saeed said the government was determined for the development, progress and prosperity of the Waziristan area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He said the people of Waziristan wanted elimination of terrorism and restoration of durable peace in the area.

The minister alleged that Mr Dawar and his party had supported the drone attacks in tribal areas, while the prime minister at that time had opposed drone attacks and the military operation in the area. He stated that he stood by his words that Mr Dawar had connections with Afghan intelligence agency NDS (National Directorate of Security), asking why the NDS had refused to hand over the body of police officer Tahir Dawar to the Pakistani government and handed it over to Mr Dawar.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan also delivered an emotional speech, declaring that the PTI, and not the PTM, was the true representative of the Pashtuns. He said that he and his family also became a victim of terrorism, but it did not mean that they should attack their own country at the behest of others.

The minister criticised the PTM for raising slogans against the armed forces and for prohibiting Pakistan flags in their public meetings.

He clarified the statement of PM Khan about the support and training to Al Qaeda by Pakistan was quoted out of context. He said those who lived in Pakistan would have to raise slogans of “Pakistan Army Zindabad” and “Pakistan Zindabad”.

Earlier, speaking on a point of order, Mr Dawar denied the charges that they were involved in any attack on the check-post. He explained that they had visited the area after getting reports that the people were holding a protest against the security forces for carrying out a search operation and maltreating some of the women. He alleged that 15 people were killed due to straight fire on them during the protest.

Mr Dawar said they were facing the case on charges of attacking the check-post but against whom the FIR would be registered for killing of 15 people. He said he had simply asked a question seeking names of the terrorists who had been killed in the Operation Zarb-i-Azb, but he had not yet received a reply. He also criticised the media for blacking out their activities and presenting a “one-sided picture”.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1508305/talks-possible-with-ptm-if-it-follows-pakistans-agenda-say-ministers

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Maryam seeks post-arrest bail

October 01, 2019

LAHORE: PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz on Monday approached the Lahore High Court for post-arrest bail in Chaudhry Sugar Mills/money laundering case being investigated by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

A two-judge bench comprising Justice Ali Baqar Najafi and Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem will take up the bail petition on Tuesday (today).

An accountability court last week denied further physical remand of Ms Nawaz and her cousin Yousaf Abbas to the NAB sending them to jail on judicial remand. They remained on physical remand for 49 days after their arrest on Aug 8.

NAB mainly accused Ms Nawaz of committing money laundering through investments of variable heavy amounts being main shareholder of Chaudhry Sugar Mills (CSM). It said she was involved in money laundering with the help of some foreigners during the period of 1992-93 when her father Nawaz Sharif was prime minister.

Filed through Advocate Amjad Pervez, the petition said all properties of the Sharif family, its business concerns and companies including the CSM had already been thoroughly investigated by the JIT formed by the Supreme Court in Panama Papers case.

It said the SC had not directed NAB to file any reference regarding the CSM or assets owned by Ms Nawaz.

The petition argued that section 9 (a) (v) of the National Accountability Ordinance of 1999 envisaged a single offence, commission of which may result in acquisition of multiple assets or pecuniary resources by an accused person. But, it said, acquisition of each asset or pecuniary resource could not amount to a separate offence under the ordinance.

Therefore, it stated the authorisation of an inquiry regarding same offence and assets tainted with mala fide intention and tantamount to colourable exercise of power by the NAB chairman.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1508219/maryam-seeks-post-arrest-bail

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Ex-ambassador of US advises Pakistan to try & reconcile with India

October 01, 2019

KARACHI: Cameron Munter, a former ambassador of the United States to Pakistan, on Monday suggested to Pakistan to go for smart diplomacy and try to reconcile with India although it was very hard to do so in the current scenario.

Addressing members of the Karachi Council on Foreign Relations (KCFR) at a local hotel, he said Pakistan had the only option of diplomacy for resolution of disputes as neighbours could not be changed.

Mr Munter, also a former president of the East West Institute, said that Kashmir was the key issue but it should not drag Pakistan away from its domestic issues.

The countries of the world have condemned India for atrocities in Kashmir, but for this issue, relations between the two neighbouring countries should not be halted, he said.

He said Pakistan would have to realise that it could take a long time to settle Kashmir but both countries should keep moving forward despite this tough patch in the relations.

“We know that owing to this situation, it is very difficult for Pakistanis to love India but they should try to. I hope this situation will not escalate further to reach a point to even consider atomic misadventure. Nuclear war cannot be handled,” he said.

He said Pakistan’s Kashmir issue with India was just like Mexico had with the United States. Mexico remained an issue for the US for a long time and the world’s superpower had to listen to the other side to resolve the issue, he added.

“President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Imran Khan now have a good chemistry, which is an encouraging sign. Imran Khan has earned a good image in the US. It is just a beginning and this will put relations between the two friendly nations on better tracks again,” said Mr Munter.

Responding to a question, he admitted that it was a fact that many countries had their economic interests in India as Pakistan had with China. But, he added, Pakistan would have to play it very sensibly and should not stick to any side.

“Pakistan should honestly think about what China is going to offer it and how this will impact its culture. There are good cultural relations between the US and Pakistan. Around one million Muslims are in trouble in China and they are re-educating them but Prime Minister Imran Khan will not be interested in talking on it because China is a friend of Pakistan. The US is also a friend of Pakistan. Sometimes, leaders have to make unpopular decisions,” he said.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1508272/ex-ambassador-of-us-advises-pakistan-to-try-reconcile-with-india

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Pakistan faces claim over London flats seized from Nawaz

Oct 1, 2019

Pakistan’s government is facing an embarrassing high court case after allegedly failing to pay a multimillion-pound bill for tracking down properties once owned by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, The Guardian reported on Monday.

The asset recovery firm Broadsheet has launched an unusual claim for about £17 million against the country and its anti-corruption agency, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

It plans to apply to take possession of Avenfield apartments, four luxury flats in Park Lane, central London, which were the homes of Sharif’s family in the capital.

Sharif is appealing against his conviction for corruption from an Islamabad jail. He was jailed for seven years in December last year on corruption charges.

The apartments, in a block next to Hyde Park on the edge of Mayfair, were used to raise a £7 million mortgage and would probably be worth more than £8 million today. The corruption case highlighted the ease with which London’s property market could be used to move money from abroad.

Stuart Newberger, a senior partner at the Washington-based law firm Crowell and Moring, which represents Broadsheet, said the high court had previously ruled in a private hearing that Pakistan owed his client about $22 million for helping help locate and repatriate the corrupt assets of Sharif.

“Pakistan has refused to comply with this final non-appealable court decision, thus requiring Broadsheet to enforce this order by seizing Pakistan’s assets,” he said.

Documents before the high court state Sir Anthony Evans QC ruled in December the Pakistani government and the NAB owed Broadsheet $21.5 million.

Evans also upheld Broadsheet’s reading of the asset recovery agreement as entitling it to 20 per cent of any assets recovered from the targets, regardless of whether the assets were located in Pakistan or abroad.

General (r) Pervez Musharraf established the NAB in 1999 to investigate corruption allegations against public officials, in the wake of a military coup that deposed Sharif, forcing him to flee the country.

Broadsheet, registered in the Isle of Man, entered into the agreement with the NAB in the following year, in which it agreed to help track down the assets of Sharif and more than 200 other politicians, officials and their families. This work was done at the firm’s expense in return for 20% of any sums recovered from the designated targets.

The NAB terminated the agreement in 2003 but Broadsheet’s owner, the Iranian-born Oxford academic Kaveh Moussavi, said he later learned the NAB had secretly entered into settlements with Sharif and other targets.

The company said the agreement entitled it to a commission on any settlement with the targets, even if Broadsheet was not involved in procuring them.

After seven years of exile in Saudi Arabia, Sharif returned to Pakistan during the arbitration and was elected for a third term as prime minister in 2013.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court subsequently disqualified him from public office in July 2017 after incriminating information on Sharif, first brought to light by the Panama Papers, the huge leak of data from law firm Mossack Fonseca in 2015 that shed light on the ownership of thousands of companies in secretive tax havens.

The leaks linked Sharif’s children to the purchase of London properties through offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands in the mid-1990s. At that time the children were minors, and the purchases was assumed to have been made by Sharif.

Pakistan authorities accused Sharif of using a complex series of transactions and shell companies to funnel the proceeds of public funds embezzled at home into assets abroad.

The court ruled in April last year that his disqualification should be for life. Sharif still faces multiple criminal proceedings.

In July 2018 an accountability court convicted him, his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Safdar Awan of corruption relating to the acquisition of flats at Avenfield. Sharif and Maryam were arrested on 13 July after landing in Lahore. Maryam’s sentence was suspended by a court in Islamabad. They deny wrongdoing.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/10/01/pakistan-faces-claim-over-london-flats-seized-from-nawaz/

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Police officer martyred in Loralai suicide blast

Oct 1, 2019

LORALAI: At least one policeman was martyred and three others injured in an exchange of fire with suspected terrorists in Balochistan’s Loralai district on Monday evening.

One suspected terrorist blew himself up and another one was killed by police during the exchange of fire.

Station House Officer Loralai Abdul Rehman said personnel of the police’s Eagle Squad stopped two suspects riding a motorcycle near the Lolarai commissioner’s office.

However, one of the militants blew himself up and the second was shot dead in retaliatory firing by police.

Three policemen were injured during the exchange of fire, SHO Rehman said. They were rushed to District Hospital Loralai for emergency treatment.

While strongly condemning the incident, Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal said: “Our police has valiantly fought in the face of the scourge of terrorism in the province and continues to do so.”

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/09/30/two-suicide-blasts-hit-commissioner-office-in-loralai/

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Pakistan to invite Manmohan Singh to Kartarpur Corridor inauguration

Oct 1, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Monday announced that Pakistan has decided to extend an invitation to former Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh for the inauguration of the Kartarpur corridor, which is scheduled to be opened in November.

“Kartarpur corridor is an important project, the prime minister has a personal interest in it,” said Qureshi in a video message.

“After consultations, Pakistan has decided to invite Manmohan Singh to the inauguration, who we hold in high regard. He will represent the Sikh community.”

“On behalf of the government, as the foreign minister of Pakistan, I invite him to attend the inauguration of the Kartarpur corridor,” said Qureshi, adding that the government also intends to send Singh a formal written invitation.

The foreign minister also invited Sikh pilgrims in his message, saying: “We also await the Sikh yatris […] to come and take part in the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak.”

Earlier this month, Pakistani project director Atif Majeed had said the visa-free border crossing from India to Kartarpur, Pakistan, would be inaugurated on Nov 9, just ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Sikhism founder Baba Guru Nanak on Nov 12.

It was also announced that Pakistan has agreed to allow 5,000 Sikh pilgrims from India to visit on a daily basis the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Narowal through the Kartarpur corridor.

Pakistan has kept the corridor project insulated from the recent tensions with India over annulment of Article 370, subsequent repressive actions in occupied Kashmir and intensified ceasefire violations on the Line of Control. The project had also remained unaffected by the previous episode of escalation between the two sides following the Pulwama attack in February.

Kartarpur corridor connects Pakistan’s Narowal city to India’s Gurdaspur district. Kartarpur Sahib Temple is one of the most revered temples for the Sikh community where Guru Nanak spent the last 18 years of his life.

The distance between the temple and Gurdaspur is merely three kilometres but the closure of this crossing forces Sikh pilgrims from India to travel hundreds of kilometres, via Amritsar and Lahore, to reach here.

In early September, Islamabad reaffirmed its commitment to the special project and urged New Delhi to show flexibility on the matter.

The announcement came after the third meeting on the Kartarpur Corridor at Attari, India. The meeting discussed the modalities of the draft agreement for facilitation of pilgrims visiting Gurdwara Kartarpur by using the Kartarpur Corridor.

The Pakistan delegation was led by Dr Mohammad Faisal, Director General for South Asia and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SA& Saarc) at the Foreign Ministry. The Indian side was led by SCL Das, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs.

In a post-meeting press briefing at the Wagah border, Dr Faisal said that Pakistan had taken unprecedented steps to facilitate the Sikh pilgrims. He urged India to show flexibility and leave political rhetoric aside.

“India needs to show some flexibility as we have taken an unprecedented initiative to reflect our commitment to the minorities,” he said, adding that another round of delegation-level talks would be held to finalise the agreement.

During the talks, the two sides agreed on visa-free travel by Indian pilgrims – in groups and as individuals. The corridor will be open all year round for 5,000 pilgrims every day, Dr Faisal said, adding that the pilgrims will be provided Langar and Prasad.

“We have agreed on at least 5,000 pilgrims from India but we are open to more. There will be local pilgrims as well as international. We will allow entry to as many as we can under the capacity,” Dr Faisal told reporters.

A statement issued by the Foreign Ministry said that both sides agreed that an identification card would be issued by Pakistan to the visiting pilgrims, while a joint working group would be constituted by both sides to facilitate the smooth implementation of the agreement.

“It was stressed that Pakistan’s Kartarpur spirit was aimed at facilitating and promoting Nanak Naamlevas but limiting pilgrims was necessary in the initial phases due to capacity constraints,” the statement said.

As announced by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan will allow visa-free access to pilgrims of all faiths, seven days a week, throughout the year, it said, adding: “Pilgrims will be charged nominal amount as service charges for the upkeep/maintenance of the Gurdwara Sahib.”

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/09/30/pakistan-to-invite-manmohan-singh-to-kartarpur-corridor-inauguration/

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Suicide bomber kills policeman in Pakistan’s southwest

1 October 2019

Pakistan’s police say a suicide bombing has killed a policeman and wounded three others in the country’s restive southwest.

Local police chief Mohammad Zaman says Monday’s attack took place in the town of Loralai in the Baluchistan province.

Zaman said the bomber rode his motorcycle into a police vehicle, killing himself in the blast.

No group immediately claimed the attack.

Baluchistan is the scene of a low-level insurgency by separatists demanding more autonomy and a greater share in the region’s natural resources such as gas and oil.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/10/01/Suicide-bomber-kills-policeman-in-Pakistan-s-southwest.html

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Southeast Asia

 

Malaysia, Turkey role crucial during FATF’s Paris meeting

OCT 01, 2019

NEW DELHI: The role of Malaysia and Turkey, which openly backed Pakistan at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) last week, will be crucial during a meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) later this month in Paris. The meeting of the global money laundering and terror financing watchdog, scheduled for October 13-18, will decide whether Pakistan will continue to be in its ‘grey list’ or downgraded to the ‘black list’.

Islamabad has been on the 'grey list' since June 2018, and requires at least 15 of 36 votes to exit that list. Analysts, however, say attracting support for that will be an uphill task.

Pakistan managed to stay out of the FATF black list for the time being in its June meeting, supported by all-weather friend China, traditional ally Turkey, and Malaysia.

Pakistan needs the support of three FATF members to avoid being blacklisted again, and besides China, is counting on Malaysia and Turkey after its prime minister, Imran Khan, failed to impress other FATF member-states during meetings with their leaders on the sidelines of UNGA, ET has learnt.

Khan’s key objective during his New York visit was not only to sell his narrative on Kashmir, but also to lobby hard from being blacklisted at next month’s FATF meet, ET has further learnt.

While most FATF members are unlikely to back Pakistan, Khan is counting on support from Malaysia and Turkey in particular, and as part of this endeavor, had even the floated idea of a trilateral channel on Islam.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed’s strong remarks on Kashmir and equally strong support from Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdogan at the UNGA signal attempts by both the leaders to appease their domestic constituencies.

Mahathir, who is not known for close ties with India, is making an attempt to woo conservative Malays through his remarks on Kashmir.

Similarly, Erdogan, who has pampered conservatives at home, is attempting to keep his support base intact.

Aiming to checkmate Khan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's statement at the ‘Leaders’ Dialogue on Strategic Responses to Terrorist and Violent Extremist Narratives’ in New York on the politicisation of the FATF process was meant to expose Islamabad.

“PM Modi suggested institutionalising counter-terrorism cooperation at the multilateral level. He said terrorists should not be allowed to get funds and arms. For this objective to be realised, we need to avoid politicisation of mechanisms like UN listings and FATF,” according to A Gitesh Sarma, Secretary (West), Ministry of External Affairs.

Pakistan had failed to satisfy the Asia Pacific Group (APG) under the FATF during meetings earlier this month. Its government submitted answers to 125 questions posed by the FATF on moves it had taken against money laundering and to combat terror financing.

Full report at:

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/business/malaysia-turkey-role-crucial-during-fatfs-paris-meeting/articleshow/71384413.cms

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Release Uighurs, shut down detention camps, NGO tells Beijing

October 1, 2019

PETALING JAYA: An Islamic NGO has called on China to release the minority Uighur Muslims being held in detention camps in Xinjiang and to close all such centres as the republic celebrates its 70th anniversary today.

Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (Abim) secretary-general Muhammad Faisal Abdul Aziz said the issue had undermined global confidence in Beijing’s ability to uphold human rights.

“The atrocities committed against the Uighur ethnic group in the detention camps go beyond the norms of humanity and result in psychological stress, depression and trauma among these ethnic people,” he said in a statement, adding that the Uighurs were prevented from contacting their families and travelling freely.

He also urged Malaysians to reject any justification of Beijing’s treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

“Abim strongly implores the Malaysian government and the Muslim world to continue increasing political pressure so that the atrocities against the Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang cease and their release from detention camps is achieved.”

The NGO’s call comes days after Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Putrajaya did not want to take a confrontational stance towards China over its alleged mistreatment of Uighur Muslims.

In an interview with BenarNews, he cited China’s might as the reason the country did not speak out against Beijing.

“You don’t just try and do something which would fail anyway, so it is better to find some other less violent ways not to antagonise China too much because China is beneficial for us,” he said.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2019/10/01/release-uighurs-shut-down-detention-camps-ngo-tells-beijing/

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Cops probe claim Penang school barred Muslim prayer

Adam Abu Bakar

September 30, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR: Police are investigating a claim that a school in Penang barred Muslim prayer during a recent awards ceremony.

At a press conference today, Bukit Aman Criminal Investigation Department deputy director (prosecution and legal) Mior Farid Al Athrash said they have received a police report on the matter.

“On Sept 27, we received a police report claiming several individuals who attended the awards ceremony at the Methodist Girls’ School in Penang as saying that Muslim prayer was not allowed at the function. But there was a Christian prayer,” he said.

Mior said the case was being investigated under Section 505C of the Penal Code for intent to incite any class or community of persons to commit any offence against any other class or community of persons

The education ministry said yesterday it had issued a stern warning to the school.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2019/09/30/cops-probe-claim-penang-school-barred-muslim-prayer/

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Malaysia's church leaders warn of rising religious tensions

September 19, 2019

Church leaders in Malaysia are alarmed that conservative Muslim politicians are continuing to paint Christianity as a threat to the Muslim-majority nation.

Their unease comes after two Malay-dominated opposition parties, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) and the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), formally joined forces last week under the banner of Islamic unity. The union of the once-sworn political enemies has raised fears of worsening racial and religious tensions in the multicultural nation.

The Council of Churches of Malaysia on Sept. 18 denounced a statement by PAS deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man that some in the new government were pursuing a “Christianization agenda.”

General secretary Herman Shastri said in a press statement that the council was disturbed that a national unity forum held in a church hall was being described as religious involvement in Malaysian politics.

The forum, held on Sept. 14 in the Mega Chinese Methodist Church in Kota Damansara, a township on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, was aimed at encouraging participants to "play their role within the unfolding story of a 'new Malaysia’ by understanding our shared historical heritage, and calling for better understanding of our shared destiny as citizens of our country," he said.

Shastri said the forum, titled "Anak Malaysia? Our story of past, present and future Malaysia,” was part of the church’s National Day observance.

It was held in a church "to help church members to contribute to nation building by participating in a shared narrative that would promote peaceful coexistence and goodwill among all communities," he said.

"To that end, the PAS leader should not imply that the forum was used for political propaganda, and therefore stop insinuating that the church was promoting it."

Deputy Youth and Sports Minister Steven Sim, a Christian and one of the speakers at the forum, said on Sept. 18 that the forum was hosted for Christians to discuss their responsibilities as Malaysians.

“In my speech, I highlighted values from the Bible as a guide to becoming good Malaysians — for example, justice, transparency, helping the meek and poor, rejecting corruption, oppression and racism,” he said.

"I did not criticize or touch on other religions, and in fact urged Malaysian Christians to be good citizens who practiced such values.

"As such, I urge Tuan Ibrahim to respect freedom of religion as enshrined in the federal constitution and stop spreading hate and division among Malaysians of various races."

Divisive politicking

This is the second time in three weeks that church leaders have spoken out against extremism and anti-Christian rhetoric in the country.

On Aug. 28, the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) chairman, Catholic Archbishop Julian Leow Beng Kim of Kuala Lumpur, said government leaders needed to speak out against divisive politicking if its vision of a “new Malaysia” was to be achieved.

“If this vision is to be realized to benefit all Malaysians including our indigenous people and the poor and marginalized, we need to major on the majors and not labor on the minors," he said in CFM’s Malaysia Day message.

“Our leaders must rise up strongly and courageously spearhead a concerted effort to stamp out extremist communal and religious rhetoric, hate speech, before hearers are incited to commit criminal acts that undermine peace and public order.”

Archbishop Leow said enforcement of the law without fear of favor was imperative to maintain peace in the nation.

“The exuberance and hope which buoyed us up only a mere 15 months ago after GE14 [the 14th general election] is giving way to disappointment, dismay, distrust and discontent and racial and religious tensions which jeopardize the unity we need to take our nation forward.”

He made the comments after accusations by a coalition of Malay-Muslim groups that CFM was intent on placing as many Christians as it could in the country’s political leadership as part of an evangelical drive.

The claim was made by the chairman of Ummah (community of Muslims) and Ikatan Muslim Malaysia president Aminuddin Yahya in his speech during the National Ummah Unity Convention on Aug. 25.

Aminuddin also claimed Christian evangelism was a major threat to the majority Malay-Muslim community along with liberalism and human rights and accused Christian evangelists of converting Muslims.

His comments drew condemnation from the Council of Churches, who demanded action be taken against Ummah for attempting to derail interfaith relations.

Full report at:

https://www.ucanews.com/news/malaysias-church-leaders-warn-of-rising-religious-tensions/86136

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South Asia

 

Uzbekistani militant among 64 killed, wounded in Faryab clashes

30 Sep 2019

The security forces killed or wounded at least 64 Taliban militants including an Uzbekistani militant during the clashes in Faryab province.

The 209th Shaheen Corps said in a statement the clashes took place Qaisar, Almar, Khwaja Sabzposh, Sherin Tagab, Garziwan, Dawlatabad, Kohistan and Bulcheragh districts.

The statement further added the security forces killed at least 45 militants including an Uzbekistani national and wounded 19 others.

The Shaheen Corps also added that 5 security personnel lost their lives during the clashes and 11 others sustained injuries.

According to Shaheen Corps, the majority of the clashes took place after militants attempted to attack the election sites.

https://www.khaama.com/uzbekistani-militant-among-64-killed-wounded-in-faryab-clashes-04159/

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33 militants killed, wounded in Afghan-U.S. forces operations in Logar, Ghazni: Thunder Corps

30 Sep 2019

The Afghan and U.S. forces killed or wounded at least 33 Taliban militants during the operations in South-eastern Ghazni and central Logar provinces.

The 203rd Thunder Corps said in a statement the U.S. forces conducted airstrikes in Arzoo area located in the outskirts of Ghazni city, Deh Yak and Andar districts.

The statement further added the airstrikes killed 17 Taliban militants wounded, wounded 3 others and destroyed 4 motorcycles of the militants.

Furthermore, the Afghan forces killed 6 Taliban militants, wounded 4 others and destroyed a mortar launcher during the clashes with Taliban militants in Moqor and Gilan districts.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/33-militants-killed-wounded-in-afghan-u-s-forces-operations-in-logar-ghazni-thunder-corps-04161/

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More than 50 ISIS militants killed, wounded in ongoing operations in East of Afghanistan

01 Oct 2019

The security forces have killed or wounded more than 50 ISIS militants since the launch of joint operations in Achin district of Nangarhar.

The 201st Silab Corps said in a statement the security forces have so far killed 44 ISIS militants and wounded 12 others.

The statement further added the security forces also destroyed various weapons, munitions and explosives during the same operations.

The 201st Silab Corps also added that the security forces have so far cleared 90 percent of Achin from the presence of ISIS militants.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/more-than-50-isis-militants-killed-wounded-in-ongoing-operations-in-east-of-afghanistan-04163/

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Top Ghani rival Abdullah claims victory in Afghanistan election

Sep 30, 2019

KABUL: Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan's chief executive and President Ashraf Ghani's top rival, claimed victory on Monday after the weekend's first round of voting in the presidential election, ahead of the release of any official tally.

"We have the most votes in this election," Abdullah said at a news conference.

"The results will be announced by the IEC (Independent Election Commission), but we have the most votes. The election is not going to go to a second round."

Abdullah, who is seeking the presidency for the third time after losing in 2009 and 2014, said his team would "make the new government".

Senior IEC official Habib Rahman Nang immediately slammed Abdullah's announcement as premature.

"No candidate has the right to declare himself the winner," he said.

"According to the law, it is the IEC that decides who is the winner."

Initial results from Saturday's poll are not expected until October 19.

Without giving details, Abdullah also mentioned reports of "some government officials" meddling in the election process.

His remarks follow the release on social media of several videos purporting to show election workers stuffing ballots.

Candidates need more than 50 per cent of the vote to be declared outright winner, or else the top two will head for a second round in November.

Despite a large pool of candidates, the election is seen as a two-horse race between Abdullah and Ghani.

The men are bitter rivals and fought a contested election in 2014.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/top-ghani-rival-abdullah-claims-victory-in-afghanistan-election/articleshow/71375976.cms

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Taliban attack kills at least 11 policemen: Afghan officials

October 01, 2019

Afghan officials said a multi-pronged Taliban attack on a district headquarters in northern Balkh province has killed at least 11 policemen.

Munir Ahmad Farhad, spokesman for the provincial governor, said the attack started early on Tuesday morning and triggered a gunbattle that is still underway around the Shortepa district headquarters.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the insurgents had overrun the district, a claim that Farhad denied. The spokesman said reinforcements were on their way to Shortepa.

Mohammad Afzel Hadid, head of the Balkh provincial council, said he feared the casualty toll could rise further unless reinforcements arrived promptly as the district is in a remote area.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1508374/taliban-attack-kills-at-least-11-policemen-afghan-officials

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Taliban attack kills at least 11 policemen: Afghan officials

1 October 2019

Afghan officials say a multi-pronged Taliban attack on a district headquarters in northern Balkh province has killed at least 11 policemen.

Munir Ahmad Farhad, spokesman for the provincial governor, says the attack started early on Tuesday morning and triggered a gun battle that is still underway around the Shortepa district headquarters.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid says the insurgents have overrun the district - a claim that Farhad denies. The spokesman says reinforcements are on their way to Shortepa.

Mohammad Afzel Hadid, head of the Balkh provincial council, says he fears the casualty toll could rise further unless reinforcement arrive promptly as the district is in a remote area.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/10/01/Afghan-officials-Taliban-attack-kills-at-least-11-policemen.html

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U.S. urges Afghan candidates, voters not to prejudge the outcome of the election

30 Sep 2019

The State Department has urged the Afghan candidates and voters not to prejudge the outcome of the election or speculate on partial returns.

A spokesperson for the Department of State said Monday “While waiting for an announcement of authoritative results by the Independent Election Commission (IEC), we urge both candidates and voters not to prejudge the outcome of the election or speculate on partial returns.”

The spokesperson further added “We applaud the courage of Afghan voters who showed up at the polls despite technical challenges and threats of violence. We also commend poll workers and the Afghan security forces who worked to secure voters and polling sites for their courage.”

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/u-s-urges-afghan-candidates-voters-not-to-prejudge-the-outcome-of-the-election-04162/

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Special Forces kill, detain 11 Taliban militants; destroy caches of weapons in 3 provinces

29 Sep 2019

The Afghan Special Forces killed four Taliban militants and arrested seven others during the raids in Kapisa, Ghazni and Wardak provinces.

The military officials said Sunday the Special Forces killed 3 Taliban militants during a raid in Nijrab district of Kapisa province.

The officials further added that the Special Forces also destroyed a cache of weapons during the same raid.

Furthermore, the Special Forces killed a Taliban fighter during a raid in Deh Yak district of Ghazni.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/special-forces-kill-detain-11-taliban-militants-destroy-caches-of-weapons-in-3-provinces-04152/

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Election workers accused of ‘vote-rigging’ in favor of President Ashraf Ghani

30 Sep 2019

Several videos have gone viral on social media which purportedly show the workers of Independent Election Commission stuffing ballot boxes in favor of Ashraf Ghani in Saturday’s presidential elections.

According to reports, the videos were taken in Southern and South-eastern parts of Afghanistan.

Humayoun Humayoun, former Deputy House Speaker of the Lower House of Parliament said massive frauds were committed in Khost province.

Humayoun further added less than 35 thousand people participated in the elections in Khost province but the officials report the number of voters manifold higher.

He also added that the officials including the governor of Khost, provincial police chief, provincial intelligence chief, district chiefs and provincial directors committed systematic fraud in Saturday’s election in Khost.

According to Humayoun, the voting process was not transparent in the cities between 2 pm to 5 pm and ballot boxes were stuffed in favor of Ashraf Ghani in remote districts during the night.

He had earlier warned regarding vote-rigging in 5 districts of Khost province. “Ballot boxes were stuffed during the night time in favor of President Ashraf Ghani in remote districts. They transferred the ballot boxes to district administrative compounds and used 10 finger prints to manipulate the biometrics system.”

Meanwhile, Bismillah Afghanmal, the former member of parliament said massive vote-rigging took place in Kandahar and Zabul provinces as well.

Afghanmal further added that the level of fraud committed in the two provinces is beyond imagination. “I voted in Zarghoona High School and was there until 11:00 am where only 10 people came to vote.”

He also added that he was confident that the voters turnout in Kandahar was not more than 30 thousand people but the figures provided by the officials are shocking, expressing hopes that the election commission would separate fraudulent votes.

Furthermore, Afghanmal said that the majorit of officials in Kandahar and Zabul including governors and district administrative chiefs committed fraud in favor of President Ashraf Ghani in the two provinces. “Ballot boxes were stuffed in the houses of powerful individuals in Arghandab, Panjwai and Spin Boldak districts, in collusion with the election workers and in coordination with the governor and district administrative chiefs.”

In regards to Zabul province, Afghanmal said less than 3 thousand people cast their votes in Zabul where the authorities claim more than 20 thousand people voted.

Accusing President Ghani of fraud, Afghanmal said the communication services were down in Kandahar until late Sunday on instructions of the government in a bid to cut connections in the province.

On the other hand, Hawa Alam Nuristani, the chairperson of the Independent Election Commission said the commission would introduce those election workers to Attorney General’s Office who committed fraud.

Nuristani further added that the commission would introduce the election workers to Attorney General’s Office as per the internal bill and procedures to ascertain how and on whose instructions, they committed fraud.

However, Nuristani said the election commission would only act if credible evidences and documents were available to prove the involvement of the election workers in vote-rigging.

In the meantime, a member of the Stability and Partnership team led by Abdullah Abdullah claimed that Abdullah has secured more than 70 percent of the votes in the central, North-eastern and Western parts of Afghanistan besides securing considerable votes in the South and South-eastern parts.

However, Amrullah Saleh, the running mate of Ashraf Ghani claimed on Sunday that their team has secured the most votes in the election.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/election-workers-accused-of-vote-rigging-in-favor-of-president-ashraf-ghani-04160/

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‘Join us in peace, or we will continue to fight’, Afghan NSA tells Taliban

01 Oct 2019

The National Security Adviser of Afghanistan Hamdullah Mohib has called on Taliban to join peace or the Afghan forces would continue to fight.

Speaking during high-level debate of the 74th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations on Monday, Mohib said “To the Taliban and their foreign sponsors, HEAR THIS NOW, a message from the Afghan people: Join us in peace, or we will continue to fight.”

Mohib further added “And, as my colleague Ambassador Adela Raz said last week here at the United Nations: “This is a fight we can win.””

This comes as the Afghan and U.S. forces have stepped up counter-terrorism operations against Taliban and other militant and terrorist group across the country, specifically after the U.S. President Donald Trump called off peace talks with Taliban.

President Trump called off peace talks with Taliban group on 8th of September in reaction to a deadly attack in Kabul city which killed at least 12 people including an American service member.

He was due to meet with President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and Taliban leaders at Camp David before the attack jeopardized the peace efforts.

Meanwhile, President Trump said his administration was pursuing the hope of a brighter future in Afghanistan.

He made the remarks at the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly late last month.

President Trump said “Around the world, our message is clear: America’s goal is lasting, America’s goal is harmony, and America’s goal is not to go with these endless wars — wars that never end.”

Furthermore, he said “With that goal in mind, my administration is also pursuing the hope of a brighter future in Afghanistan.”

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/join-us-in-peace-or-we-will-continue-to-fight-afghan-nsa-tells-taliban-04165/

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Notorious Taliban leader Gul Nabi Mubarez killed in Balkh airstrike

01 Oct 2019

An airstrike killed notorious leader of the Taliban group Gul Nabi Mubarez in northern Balkh province of Afghanistan, the Afghan military said.

The 209th Shaheen Corps said in a statement Mubarez was the shadow district chief of Taliban in Chemtal district.

The statement further added that he had facilitated an attack on election sites in Chemtal few days ago but came under airstrike and lost his life.

Furthermore, the 209th Shaheen Corpss said Mubarez had sustained critical injuries last year and had recently came to Balkh province to coordinate more attacks.

The Taliban group has not commented in this regard so far.

https://www.khaama.com/notorious-taliban-leader-gul-nabi-mubarez-killed-in-balkh-airstrike-04164/

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Abdullah: We have won and will form the new government

30 Sep 2019

Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the leader for “Stability and Convergence” electoral team claimed victory after appearing in a press conference.

Our two-day survey clearly indicates that we have received the highest number of votes in the 2019 presidential election, there will not be a second round and we will form the new government, Abdullah said.

Some high-ranking provincial government officials have interfered in the election, who will face legal treatments, he said.

Abdullah said that the non-biometric votes is a concern to the transparency of the election which will be disregarded by the Independent Elections Commission.

“Stability and Convergence” electoral team led by Abdullah Abdullah is supported by a number of community elders and political leaders that are said to be the “King Makers” in Afghanistan.

General Abdul Rashid Dostum, Sayed Mansoor Naderi, Mohammad Mohaqqiq, Mohammad Karim Khalili, Wahidullah Sabawoon and Salahuddin Rabbani are the popular community figures that have endorsed Abdullah Abdullah in the 2019 presidential elections.

This comes as, Amrullah Saleh, the running mate of Ashraf Ghani claimed on Sunday that their team has secured the most votes in the election.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/abdullah-we-have-won-and-will-form-the-new-government-56432/

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Afghan officials: Taliban attack kills at least 11 policemen

October 01, 2019

KABUL, Afghanistan: The Taliban launched a multi-pronged attack on a district headquarters in a remote district in northern Afghanistan early on Tuesday, killing at least 11 policemen and triggering a gunbattle that was still underway hours later, officials said.

The attack on the Shortepa district headquarters in northern Balkh province started early in the morning, according to Munir Ahmad Farhad, spokesman for the provincial governor. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the insurgents had overran the compound.

Farhad denied the claim, saying Afghan security forces were still in control of the district headquarters and that reinforcements were on their way to Shortepa.

The district is very remote, said Mohammad Afzel Hadid, head of the Balkh provincial council, adding that he fears the casualty toll could rise further unless reinforcement arrives promptly.

“I hope reinforcements arrive sooner rather than later, it is a remote area with very poor communications,” he said.

Taliban attacks have continued unabated even as Afghanistan held presidential elections on Saturday and the US-Taliban talks over a peace deal collapsed last month.

There were at least 68 attacks by the Taliban across the country during election day, most of them rockets fired from distant outposts. At least five people were killed, including one policeman, and scores more were wounded.

Despite upgraded security, authorities said 431 polling stations stayed closed because it was impossible to guarantee their security since they were either in areas under Taliban control or in places where insurgents could threaten nearby villages.

Results of the vote are not due for weeks.

The Taliban control or hold sway over roughly half the country now and they had warned voters not to participate in the election.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1562391/world

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Afghanistan to Taliban: Peace or ‘we will continue to fight’

1 October 2019

As Afghans await the results of a presidential election roiled by Taliban threats, the government used its platform at the UN General Assembly on Monday to tell the insurgents: “Join us in peace, or we will continue to fight.”

Afghanistan was not the only country sending a message: North Korea had one for the United States, saying it was up to Washington whether now-stalled nuclear negotiations “become a window of opportunity or an occasion that will hasten the crisis.”

Monday morning’s speeches came as this year’s UN gathering of world leaders - marked by global worries over rising tensions in the Gulf region and the earth’s warming temperature - was beginning to wind down.

Afghan National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib spoke two days after Afghans voted in a presidential election in which hundreds of polling centers weren’t opened because the country couldn’t secure them against the Taliban. The militants control or hold sway over roughly half the country and warned voters not to go to the polls.

Results of the elections aren’t due for weeks.

Mohib trumpeted the democratic commitment of Afghans who voted despite the threats - some despite having had fingers cut off by the Taliban during prior elections, he noted.

In a country where a new generation of leaders has grown up in wartime, “the opportunities afforded to us through the gains of the past 20 years have allowed us to change hope into something much more powerful - belief,” Mobib said.

“We believe in our abilities to bring about the peace we have hoped for all our lives.”

The path is far from clear. US-Taliban peace talks collapsed earlier this month as a deal seemed imminent to end America’s longest war. It began in 2001 as a US effort to dislodge Afghanistan’s then-ruling Taliban for harboring al-Qaeda leader and 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.

The Afghan government had been sidelined in the talks; the Taliban refused to talk directly with an administration the insurgents see as a US puppet.

For North Korea, two summits with the US haven’t yielded a definitive plan for ending the North’s nuclear program and the sanctions imposed because of it.

Negotiations have apparently been frozen since a summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un broke down in February, though the two met in June at the Korean border in an effort to spur progress.

“The situation on the Korean peninsula has not come out of the vicious cycle of increased tension, which is entirely attributable to the political and military provocations perpetrated by the US,” North Korean Ambassador Kim Song said.

North Korea complains that the US has boosted sanctions and resumed US-South Korean military drills that Pyongyang has long decried.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/10/01/Afghanistan-to-Taliban-Peace-or-we-will-continue-to-fight-.html

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Arab World

 

Saudi crown prince: War with Iran will lead to 'total collapse of global economy'

Sep 30, 2019

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS) has warned that a war with Iran would entail a “total collapse of the global economy,” calling for a “peaceful” settlement with Tehran in an apparent break with his trademark bellicose rhetoric.

Speaking during an interview with CBS News aired on Sunday, bin Salman said a “political and peaceful solution is much better than the military one” in tensions with Tehran.

“The region represents about 30% of the world's energy supplies, about 20% of global trade passages, about 4% of the world GDP. Imagine all of these three things stop,” the crown prince said.

Bin Salman urged the “world” to act on easing tensions, saying further escalations in the region could push oil prices to “unimaginably high numbers that we haven't seen in our lifetimes.”

Anwar Gargash, minister of state for foreign affairs of the United Arab Emirates, made similar remarks in an op-ed published by the Financial Times on Sunday.

Gargash, whose country is a close Saudi ally, called for talks with Iran in a bid to decrease tensions and "reduce the potential for miscalculations, missteps and retaliation on all sides".

Bin Salman’s comments, along with those of Gargash, represent a stark break with their provocative rhetoric in the past against Iran.

In May 2017, the Saudi crown prince accused Tehran of attempting to dominate the Muslim world and pledged to take the war “inside Iran.”

Saudi Arabia has since been a main backer of Washington’s campaign of “maximum pressure” against Tehran, pledging to ramp up its oil output to weaken Iran and strengthening ties with various anti-Iran groups.

Political solution in Yemen

In his interview with CBS News, the crown prince also signaled a withdrawal from his ambitions in Yemen, expressing interest in a “political solution” and welcoming a recent Ansarullah peace proposal.

When it launched its invasion of Yemen in 2015, Riyadh looked forward to a decisive victory which would return the pro-Saudi government of former president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi to power and crush the Ansarullah movement. Four years on, none of those objectives have been achieved.

The Saudi crown prince’s apparent about-face comes two weeks after an attack launched by Yemeni forces inflicted substantial damage on the oil-rich kingdom’s Khurais and Abqaiq oil facilities.

The attacks effectively shut down about half of the kingdom’s crude and gas production.

Washington and Riyadh were quick to blame Iran for the devastating raid without any evidence, reasoning that they did not expect Yemen to be capable of such a high-profile raid.

On Sunday, Yemeni armed forces announced a major victory against Saudi troops and their mercenaries on the battlefield, claiming to have inflicted hundreds of casualties on enemy forces in a war which is increasingly turning into a quagmire for Riyadh.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/09/30/607489/War-with-Iran-will-cause-global-economic-collapse

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Amid tension with Iran, U.S. Air Force shifts Middle East command center from Qatar to South Carolina

By Adam Taylor

September 30, 2019

AL-UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar — For 13 years, the United States has used a single building in this tiny Persian Gulf state to command fighter jets, bombers, drones and other Air Force assets in a region that stretches from Northeast Africa through the Middle East to South Asia.

And yet on Saturday, as 300 planes were in the air in key areas such as Syria, Afghanistan and the gulf, hundreds of seats at the Combined Air and Space Operations Center at al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar sat empty.

Instead, the air power of the United States and its allies was being controlled by teams at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina — more than 7,000 miles away. Though the move was only temporary — al-Udeid took back control on Sunday after 24 hours — it was a significant tactical shift.

The unannounced operation, which The Washington Post was invited to observe, was the first time U.S. command and control had been moved out of the region since the center was established in Saudi Arabia during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

While Air Force commanders say moving functions to a different base was a long-held ambition enabled by new technology, it comes amid renewed tension with Iran, a country that lies only a couple hundred miles across the Persian Gulf from al-Udeid.

“The functions that the CAOC provides for air power are so critical and so essential that we can't afford to have a single point of failure,” said Maj. Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, using an acronym for the center.

Air Force officials said recent incidents involving Iran helped add urgency to the project. Iran shot down a U.S. surveillance drone in June; this month, key oil facilities in Saudi Arabia suffered a devastating surprise attack with what appeared to be Iranian-supplied weapons.

Billions spent on U.S. weapons didn’t protect Saudi Arabia’s most critical oil sites from a crippling attack

“Iran has indicated multiple times through multiple sources their intent to attack U.S. forces,” said Col. Frederick Coleman, commander of the 609th Air and Space Operations Center.

“Frankly, as the war against ISIS winds down and as we continue to work through a potential peace process in Afghanistan, the region is calming down and potentially more stable than it has been in decades,” he said. “Except for Iran.”

Analysts say that if a conflict with Iran were to break out, it’s likely that the combined air and space operations center at al-Udeid could be targeted and that there is little guarantee that it could be defended.

“It doesn’t take a whole heap of imagination to look at it and think, if push came to shove and it was a full-blown conflict, it would be one of the priority targets,” said Douglas Barrie, a senior fellow specializing in aerospace at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

The bases’ defense systems, which include Patriot batteries and other high-end missile defense, are designed mostly to combat planes and ballistic missiles that come in fast and from a high altitude, rather than low-flying cruise missiles and drones like those believed to have been used in the attack on the Saudi oil facilities.

Saltzman said the practicalities of missile defense made complete protection impossible.

“It’s really probably better to think about this as an immune system,” he said. “There’s going to be germs that get into the body. It’s about how fast and how resilient you can fight it off.”

In standoff with Iran, Trump is reaping what he sowed

By making the command and control operations mobile, the United States could rebound from an attack far quicker. That flexibility would also make the building that houses them at al-Udeid a less valuable target, which would allow them to redeploy air defense systems to other critical infrastructure.

The operation to move the center was the culmination a number of measures that the United States has taken to broadcast to the region that its Air Force is not only the world’s strongest — it’s also agile.

These moves included deploying formidable fighters such as the F-35 from their home base at al-Dhafra in the United Arab Emirates to bases in Saudi Arabia and Qatar — movements that require considerable logistical coordination, given that support staff such as maintenance teams need to travel, too.

Byron Pompa, U.S. Air Force Central Command operations director at al-Udeid, said moving facilities and equipment often could compensate for not having a huge footprint across the region.

“In times like today,” he said, “we can’t have a ton of permanent-fixture operating bases throughout the area of responsibility.”

“Our goal is deterrence,” Saltzman said, not conflict. But the lack of communication with Iran can make sending that message difficult. The United States has to use other measures, he said, including turning off radar from time to time or planning flight routes to make it clear it does not intend to attack.

Iran’s gamble: Analysts say brazen attack aimed to pressure U.S. with little fear of reprisal

The aim now is to run the center remotely once a month and remain the rest of the time at al-Udeid. Commanders want to work up to a schedule in which the center is operated remotely for eight hours of every 24-hour period, either at Shaw or elsewhere.

Officials at al-Udeid said there was no plan to close the center permanently. They said some functions there could not be replicated remotely. But they plan to transfer some of the 800 positions to U.S. soil in the future.

“The goodness here is now we’re saving taxpayer dollars that we’re giving back to America,” Coleman said. “And, you know, America’s sons and daughters aren’t abroad in the Middle East. They’re home.”

For gulf allies that have invested in facilities used by the United States in the region, the move might be worrying. Qatar in particular has spent heavily on al-Udeid in recent years, spending as much as $1.8 billion to renovate the base, the largest in the region, capable of housing more than 10,000 U.S. troops.

Full report at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/amid-tension-with-iran-us-air-force-shifts-middle-east-command-center-from-qatar-to-south-carolina/2019/09/29/67d93834-e216-11e9-be7f-4cc85017c36f_story.html

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‘People are dying’: The Shia city where Isis are trying to make their presence known

Oct 1, 2019

At about midnight on 20 September, a young man got off a white minibus at the entrance to the Shia shrine city and pilgrimage centre of Karbala, southwest of Baghdad. A few minutes later, he pressed a remote control, detonating the explosives he had left in a bag under his seat on the bus.

The bomb killed 12 people and injured a further five: footage shows the bus engulfed in flames and a voice screaming that “people are dying.” Iraqi security sources say that the alleged bomber was swiftly identified from CCTV pictures and was arrested with two other men, whose families hail from the Sunni town of Jurf al-Sakhar. Isis claimed responsibility for the attack.

The bombing made an impact out of proportion to its size because, for the last two years, Iraqi cities have been largely free from the devastating bombings by Isis, the worst of which once killed hundreds of civilians at a time.

The latest attack is a sign that Isis is not completely destroyed and is trying to rebuild its strength, though it has never recovered from the loss of its capital Mosul after a nine-month siege in 2017.

“They have lost their territory, but they still have core supporters,” says Ali al-Talkani, a researcher at the Centre for Security in Karbala. “They will try to win back the support of those who were temporarily Isis at the height of its power.”

Among those whom it particularly seeks to recruit are those from Sunni communities that suffered badly during the ferocious civil war that raged in Iraq between about 2013 and 2017 and which has left a legacy of deprivation and hatred.

It is this legacy that makes the place of origin of the three-member Isis cell that allegedly carried out the Karbala bombing so significant. Jurf al-Sakhar, which once had a population of 90,000, was one of the few Sunni towns south of Baghdad and was notorious as a stronghold of al-Qaeda and later of Isis.

They exploited its strategic position close to Baghdad and on the main route to Shia southern Iraq to launch bomb attacks in the capital and against Shia targets in and around Karbala.

The town was stormed by Shia paramilitary groups in 2014 and the entire Sunni population was expelled – many families who had once owned large farms being reduced over the last five years to living in shacks or being packed into a single room. Jurf al-Sakhar became a ghost town, largely occupied by hardline Shia militias.

Its inhabitants have long been asking for permission to go home, but this basic privilege is unlikely to be granted any time soon. The representatives of the majority Shia population in surrounding Hilla province, much relieved that Isis no longer has a territorial base close to them, have threatened legal action against any politician who calls for the people of Jurf al-Saakhar to be allowed to return to their old town. 

People living in Karbala say that at least the latest bombing did not penetrate the city’s outer defences. A crucial test of security will come in the next few weeks as millions of Shia pilgrims from all over the world take part in the Arbaeen religious walk to Karbala. The gigantic columns of marchers waving religious flags are vulnerable to bombers, but have been relatively safe in recent years because of tight security.

Karbala itself is in the middle of a construction boom, with cranes everywhere, particularly around the shrines to Imam al-Hussein and Imam al-Abbas, whose golden domes and walls covered with mosaics dominate the centre of the city.

Officials say that “we have to build places to stay for the millions of people who come to the shrine”. As a result, construction machinery is everywhere and there are giant holes in the ground where foundations for hotels and hostels are being built.

The shrines employ great numbers of black-clad young men – 15,000 at the Imam Hussein shrine and 7,000 at the al-Abbas shrine – to safely shepherd the great masses of pilgrims from place to place.

They do not always do so with success: on 10 September a stampede by crowds at the entrance to the Imam Hussein shrine left 31 crushed to death and 100 injured. It happened during Ashura, the climax of the commemoration of the death of Imam Hussein and his family, when a traditional run called the Twareej takes place over the last hundred metres before the pilgrims enter the shrine.

On this occasion, an old man tripped and fell just by the al-Raja gate. The crowd was particularly dense as only two of the shrine’s doors were open – construction work meant the other eight were closed or inaccessible, leaving pilgrims trapped in the narrow entrance.

The physical expansion of the shrines of Karbala and the millions of pilgrims from the rest of Iraq, and from across the Shia world, marks the triumph of the Shia majority in Iraq since the US invasion overthrew Saddam Hussein in 2003.

This marked the end of the Sunni Arab predominance that Saddam had embodied, but was also a feature of British and Ottoman rule. In 1991, the Shia shrines in Karbala were the last bastion of resistance against Saddam as his tanks and Republican Guard stamped out the Shia uprising with massacres and destruction.

Iraqi tanks – British Challengers captured from Iran during the Iran-Iraq war – were positioned outside the shrines and Iraqi soldiers were encamped within its precincts, where they put up pictures of Saddam to celebrate their victory.

Full report at:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/iraq-isis-bombing-attacks-karbala-shrine-shia-city-a9123801.html

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8 IS militants killed in U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in Iraq

2019-09-29

BAGHDAD, Sept. 28 (Xinhua) -- Eight Islamic State (IS) militants were killed on Saturday in airstrikes conducted by the U.S.-led coalition aircraft in the central Iraqi province of Salahudin, the Iraqi military said.

Acting on intelligence tip-off, a joint force from Salahudin's Operations Command, backed by Iraqi and U.S.-led coalition aircraft, conducted an operation to hunt down IS militants in a desert area in west of the provincial capital Tikrit, said a statement by the media office of the Joint Operations Command (JOC).

During the operation, the coalition aircraft pounded IS positions and killed eight IS militants, while the troops destroyed four of their hideouts, of which one was booby-trapped, the statement said, adding that the militants were using the hideouts as warehouses for their various supplies.

According to the statement, the operation also resulted in the destruction of an IS shelter, three of their pick-up vehicles and a truck.

The security situation in Iraq was dramatically improved after Iraqi security forces fully defeated the extremist IS militants across the country late in 2017.

Full report at:

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-09/29/c_138431875.htm

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Dissident Saudi Prince Accuses MbS of Killing King's Guards

Oct 01, 2019

Khalid bin Farhan al-Saud wrote on his twitter page on Monday that "we will soon witness the betrayer bin Salman to introduce himself as the king".

He referred to the death of Faisal al-Sho'aibi, one of King Salman's bodyguards, in August 2015 in Morocco and the recent killing of Major-General Abdul Aziz al-Fagham, 47, who had been widely known as the king’s most trusted personal protection officer, and said MbS plans to soon declare himself as the king after excluding his father's royal guards.

Farhan revealed that the plan is being implemented in collaboration with the CIA, saying that they want to replace the royal guard with the Blackwater mercenaries to pave the ground for the MbS to ascend to the throne.

The media spokesman of the Makkah Province Police confirmed on Saturday evening that the personal bodyguard of the Saudi king was shot dead during a personal dispute.

The spokesman claimed that Maj. Gen Abdul Aziz bin Badah al-Fagham was visiting a friend's house when he was shot.

The Saudi social media activists wrote on their pages that the death of al-Fagham seems suspicious given the presence of security forces outside his house and their immediate killing shots given to his killer which could have been an attempt to close the case immediately.

Also, Ali al-Ahmad, a Saudi journalist, wrote on his twitter page that al-Fagham was fired from his job a few days ago which makes his death even more suspicious.

He added that the bodyguard was witnessed several days ago while he was walking alone in Jeddah which is strange, given his rank and position, and given the fact that he should have been right beside King Salman.

A social media activist described al-Fagham's death as similar to the brutal killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi who was killed upon a direct order by bin Salman.

Khashoggi was killed and his body dismembered after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, to collect documents related to his planned wedding.

After initially offering contradictory statements, Saudi Arabia confirmed its agents killed Khashoggi, but denied its senior leaders were involved.

US intelligence agencies have reportedly concluded, however, that MbS ordered the murder, and a UN right expert found "credible evidence" linking the Crown Prince to the killing.

Also, Saudi whistle-blower Mujtahid, who is believed to be a member of or have a well-connected source in the royal family, said that bin Salman had several times voiced his willingness to omit the newly-killed bodyguard of King Salman.

The Arabic-language al-Nashrah news website quoted Mujtahid as saying that al-Fagham was in the palace at the time of murder and not at a friend's residence as claimed by the government.

"The MbS was not confident about al-Faghan's loyalty to the crown prince and he had several times voiced willingness to omit him," he added.

Meantime, Mohammed al-Moaseri, a Saudi dissident residing in London, had warned 5 months ago about the possibility for al-Fagham's assassination by the MbS.

He had cautioned al-Fagham that bin Salman would one day take him and his team out to replace them a group of Colombian Blackwater agents.

Social media activists have voiced suspicion about al-Fagham's death, describing it as assassination.

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980709000369

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Homs: US, Allied Terrorists Blocking UN Plan to Evacuate Al-Rukban Refugee Camp

Sep 30, 2019

“Two groups of refugees, comprising 2,500 civilians, were planned to exit al-Rukban refugee camp in al-Tanf region of Homs province within the framework of a UN plan, but the US Army and its allied militants blocked their passage,” the Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper quoted Advisor of Syria’s National Peace Plan Ahmad Monir Mohammad as saying on Monday.

He noted that the US Army uses the civilians as human shield for launching its attacks on the Syrian Army.

A sum of 10,000 civilians are willing to exit al-Rukban refugee camp and move towards the regions and towns in safe areas under the Syrian Army’s control.

The head of Russia’s Coordinating Office for Return of Syrian Refugees has said that according to the UN Coordinating Plan for exit of the remaining refugees of al-Rukban Camp several groups of civilians comprising some 3,000-3,500 people are scheduled to leave the refugee camp within 30 days.

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980708000612

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Saudi Arabia welcomes creation of UN-sponsored constitutional panel on Syria

1 October 2019

Saudi Arabia welcomed on Monday the creation of a United Nations-sponsored constitutional committee by the Syrian government and the opposition, after two years of negotiations.

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the UN, Abdallah al-Mouallimi, told the Security Council at its monthly meeting in New York on the conflict in Syria, that the Kingdom welcomes this announcement “which is in accordance with the UN Resolution 2254.”

Saudi Arabia considers it a vital step toward reaching a political solution which will put an end to the Syrian people’s plight, guaranteeing a safe return of the Syrian refugees, he said.

Al-Mouallimi said that the meeting comes amid difficult challenges in the Middle East, “but what was announced earlier this week sends a glimmer of hope on the situation in Syria,” stressing that the Syrian negotiating committee showed cooperation with the UN envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, whose efforts are commendable.

“In response to the requirements of this phase, the Syrian negotiating committee will hold a meeting of its candidates for the constitutional committee and its advisors to prepare the constitutional papers for this purpose, in Riyadh on October 7,” he added.

The Saudi ambassador to the UN added: “The government of my country calls on the Syrian authorities to seize this opportunity and to engage seriously and honestly at the first meeting of the constitutional committee to be held at the end of October and not to hinder it. It must prevail in order to lift Syria out of its long-standing crisis eight years ago, and exploited by the enemies of the Syrian people and the enemies of the Arab nation to implement foreign agendas aimed at plunging the region into destruction as part of a destructive sectarian policies that seek to engulf the region and keep it burning in the service of these agendas.”

“We must realize that the Iranian-backed terrorist sectarian militias that have penetrated into Syrian territory have played a key role in the destruction that has taken place in Syria. Therefore, any solution to the Syrian issue requires the removal of these militias from Syrian territory, and Iran must realize that Syria is an Arab country and its natural place is among its Arab brothers and its blatant interference in Syria is the best proof that the terrorist regime of Iran has transformed it from a normal state that respects international conventions and laws and good neighborliness to a rogue state that is wreaking havoc on the ground regardless of the suffering of the people of the region as a result,” he said.

Al-Mouallimi said “The government of my country rejects and condemns the killing and displacement of civilians and the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and calls for holding accountable the perpetrators of these inhumane crimes. The crimes committed in Idlib should be halted immediately and unconditionally. The Saudi Kingdom supports the Syrian people with all honest ways to put Syria back on track and to spare its people further destruction and suffering, and to ensure the safe return of refugees in accordance with international laws.”

The UN envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, said during the UN Security Council monthly meeting on Monday that the committee’s formation marked the first concrete political agreement between the government and the opposition.

“It is also a shared promise to the Syrian people to try to agree under the auspices of the United Nations on new constitutional arrangements for Syria - a new social contract to help repair a broken country,” he said.

The committee’s 150 members are supposed to hold their first meeting on October 30 in Geneva.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/10/01/Saudi-Arabia-welcomes-creation-of-UN-sponsored-constitutional-panel-on-Syria.html

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Iraq and Syria open border crossing closed since 2012

30 September 2019

Iraq and Syria have opened a key border crossing between the two neighboring countries, seven years after it was closed during Syria’s civil war.

Monday’s opening of the crossing between the Iraqi town of Qaim and Syria’s Boukamal is expected to strengthen trade between the two countries.

It’s also a boost to Iran’s influence in the region, allowing Iran-backed militias in Iraq easier access to eastern Syria amid soaring tensions in the region between Iran and the US.

The opening of the crossing was postponed several times in recent weeks.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/09/30/Iraq-and-Syria-open-border-crossing-closed-since-2012.html

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New report documents over 1250 violations of press freedoms in Syria

30 September 2019

Kidnappings, killings, arrests and forced disappearances – This is what hundreds of journalists covering the Syrian war have been suffering from since the Syrian revolution began in 2011. With just camera lenses, smartphones, and pens, journalists in Syria have been purposefully targeted.

The Syrian Center for Press Freedoms documented 1251 violations of press freedom between the beginning of the Syrian revolution in March, 2011, and August, 2019. More than half of the violations were committed by the Syrian regime and government forces, followed by ISIS.

The center’s database shows that 452 Syrian journalists were killed and 250 had been detained or kidnapped during the period of documentation. The whereabouts of 36 journalists are still unknown.

Also read: Japanese journalist apologizes, recounts days as hostage in Syria

Alkadi Ibrahim Hussein, the director of the center, told Asharq al-Awsat in a recent interview that “all sides of the Syrian conflict have proven that their greatest enemy is whoever tells the truth.”

In its last annual report, the press freedoms NGO Reporters Without Borders categorized Syria as the second most dangerous country in the world for journalists.

Also read: Million dollar reward for information on missing US journalist in Syria

The Syrian Center for Press Freedoms is a branch of the Syrian Journalists Association, which has been documenting violations against journalists since the beginning of the Syrian revolution in March 2011. The center issues monthly statements and reports, in addition to its annual studies, of the situation of the press in the war-torn country.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2019/09/30/New-report-documents-over-1250-violations-of-press-freedoms-in-Syria.html

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Khashoggi’s son denounces ‘enemies of Saudi Arabia’ for exploiting his father’s murder

September 30, 2019

JEDDAH: Jamal Khashoggi’s son said on Monday that his father’s  death is being exploited to undermine Saudi Arabia and its leadership.

“The opponents and enemies of the homeland exploited my father’s cause to undermine my country and my leadership,” Salah Khashoggi said on Twitter, adding that he will not allow his memory to be undermined.

During the year since Jamal was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul “opponents from the east and west have sought to take advantage of his case,” Salah said

“My father, in his entire life, has never tolerated any abuse or attempt to harm (the Kingdom), and I will not accept his memory or his cause being taken advantage of to achieve that after his demise.”

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1562096/saudi-arabia

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Oil prices stabilize as Saudi crown prince talks peace

October 01, 2019

JEDDAH: Oil prices stabilized on Monday after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman called for diplomatic solutions to the crisis with Iran and the war in Yemen. Armed conflict with Iran would be catastrophic for global growth, the crown prince said. “Oil supplies will be disrupted and prices will jump to unimaginably high numbers that we haven’t seen in our lifetimes. This means a total collapse of the global economy, and not just Saudi Arabia or the Middle East. “The political and peaceful solution is much better than the military one.” The price of oil had been edging upwards after an attack on Saudi oil facilities last month, widely blamed on Iran. Prices fell by 1 percent on Monday after the crown prince spoke. In an interview with journalist Rosie O’Donnell on the CBS show “60 Minutes,” he also answered tough questions on the war in Yemen, the treatment of Saudi women in jail and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “If Iran stops its support of the Houthi militia, then the political solution would be much easier,” the crown prince said. “Today we open all initiatives for a political solution in Yemen.” The crown prince was pressed on claims that Saudi female activists had been tortured in prison, which he promised to investigate. “If this is correct, it is very heinous,” he said. “Islam forbids torture. The Saudi laws forbid torture. Human conscience forbids torture. And I will personally follow up on this matter.” Khashoggi’s murder last year in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was “a heinous crime,” he said. “But I take full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia, especially since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government. This was a mistake. And I must take all actions to avoid such a thing in the future.” Khashoggi’s son Salah said on Monday his father’s death was being exploited by enemies of Saudi Arabia and its leadership, and he had the “utmost confidence in the Kingdom’s justice system.” “My father … never tolerated any abuse or attempt to harm (the Kingdom), and I will not accept his memory or his cause being taken advantage of to achieve that,” he said.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1562231/saudi-arabia

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Iraq and Syria open border crossing closed since 2012

September 30, 2019

QAIM, Iraq: Iraq and Syria on Monday opened a key border crossing between the two neighboring countries, seven years after it was closed during Syria’s civil war and the battle against Daesh.

The opening of the crossing linking the Iraqi town of Qaim and Syria’s Boukamal is expected to strengthen trade between the two Arab countries.

But it is also a boost to Iran’s influence in the region, allowing Iran-backed militias in Iraq easier access to eastern Syria at a time of soaring tensions in the region between Tehran and Washington following the collapse of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers. The area has been a point of friction between US-backed Kurdish fighters, and Syrian government troops and their Iranian-backed allies.

In a symbolic gesture, Syrian Interior Minister Maj. Gen. Mohammed Khaled Rahmoun, accompanied by Syrian troops, crossed onto the Iraqi side of the border, where troops from both countries hugged and took selfies. Scores of Iraqis and Syrians who live in the border towns also attended the ceremony.

“The opening of this border crossing is the result of victories achieved by our people in Syria and Iraq against terrorist organizations,” Rahmoun said.

The Boukamal crossing was closed in 2012 as rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad seized large parts of eastern Syria.

Qaim and Boukamal were then controlled by Daesh until 2017, when Syrian and Iraqi troops captured the towns from the extremists. The group’s territorial defeat was announced in Syria earlier this year.

Kadhim Mohammed, who represented Iraq’s prime minister at the ceremony, said the opening of the border “opens a new page that represents reconstruction.”

The border brings further relief to Assad’s government after border crossings with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights manned by UN peacekeepers were reopened last year. After eight years of war, Assad — with strong backing from Russia and Iran — has recaptured most of the country from rebels, and there is growing support within the Arab League for Damascus’ readmission.

Iraqi authorities had set up tents for Monday’s ceremony amid tight security, with troops deployed around the crossing. Despite their official defeat, Daesh sleeper cells are still blamed for deadly attacks on both sides of the border.

“The opening of Boukamal-Qaim crossing is a victory for Syrian and Iraqi friendship against takfiri terrorism,” read a banner placed on the Syrian side of the border, a reference to Daesh’s extremist ideology. The group once controlled large parts of Syria and Iraq where its leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi declared a so-called caliphate in 2014. The group lost its last sliver of land in eastern Syria in March.

Opening the borders, however, could benefit Iran as it tries to secure a land route to the Mediterranean through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Tehran enjoys wide influence through its allies in all three countries.

Omar Abu Laila, a Europe-based Syrian activist from the eastern province of Deir Ezzor that borders Iraq, told The Associated Press that the opening of the crossing will not chiefly benefit residents of the region, but Iran and the militias allied with it.

“The opening of the crossing will be a means for Iranians, Shiite militia and Hezbollah to boost their activities,” he said. “The opening of the crossing is an Iranian defiance to America and the international community.”

Some 800 freight trucks are expected to cross from Syria once the crossing has been opened, Syria’s state news agency said.

Qaim was once a thriving stopover on the highway linking Damascus and Baghdad. Long before a hard border materialized in the latter half of the 20th century, tribes sent their grooms and brides across the frontier to marry, extending the branches of their families on both sides.

The opening of the crossing was postponed several times in recent weeks. Earlier in September, Syria blamed Israel for a nighttime airstrike on an arms depot and posts of Iranian-backed militias in Boukamal that opposition activist said killed at least 18 fighters.

Israel considers Iran to be its greatest enemy, and as Syria’s civil war winds down, it has repeatedly warned that it will not allow Iranian troops — who have been fighting alongside Assad’s forces — to maintain a permanent presence in postwar Syria.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1561976/middle-east

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Mideast

 

Extreme Poverty Threatens Yemenis Living under Houthi Rule

30 September, 2019

Since the coup by the Iran-align Houthi militias in Yemen in September 2014, 75 percent of the population slid into poverty and 230,000 were killed. The tragedy transformed into the worst humanitarian disaster in the world, according to international reports.

Several recent reports seen by Asharq Al-Awsat revealed the extent of damage to the country’s economy as a result of successive crises caused primarily by the Houthis systematic and repeated targeting of the sector.

A report released and prepared for the UNDP by the Pardee Center for International Futures at the University of Denver revealed the war will triple the number of people living in extreme poverty if the fighting persists. It will skyrocket from 19 percent of the population in 2014 to a projected 65 percent in 2022.

The surge in poverty across Yemen is driven by factors attributed to war, including a breakdown of the economy that has seen USD89 billion in lost economic activity since 2015.

The conflict has disrupted markets and institutions and destroyed social and economic infrastructure. Gross domestic product per capita has plummeted from USD3,577 to USD1,950, a level not seen in Yemen since before 1960.

Yemen is now ranked as the world’s second most unequal in the world in terms of income, surging past 100 other countries in inequality levels in the last five years.

In the absence of conflict, Yemen could have made progress toward achieving the SDGs, the global anti-poverty framework agreed in 2015 with a target date of 2030. But more than four years of fighting has set back human development by 21 years, the report added.

The intensity of poverty has also surged, with Yemen projected by 2022 to have the largest poverty gap—the distance between average income and the poverty line—in the world.

The report identified spikes in malnutrition across the country. Thirty-six percent of the population is malnourished and could reach nearly 50 percent if fighting continues through 2022.

The report contains especially dire projections if the war continues for the next decade. If the fighting continues through 2030, 78 percent of Yemenis will live in extreme poverty, 95 percent will be malnourished and 84 percent of children will be stunted.

Economists told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Houthi coup and looting of public and private facilities was a low point for Yemen.

According to the World Bank, the war waged by the militias led to the destruction of the Yemeni economy.

It is estimated that more than 40 percent of households have lost their primary income source and find it increasingly difficult to purchase the minimum food requirements. Welfare analysis suggests that poverty has increased to an estimated 71 to 78 percent, with women more severely affected than men, the World Bank added.

https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1925121/extreme-poverty-threatens-yemenis-living-under-houthi-rule

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Iran can attack enemies anywhere, destroy Israel: IRGC commander

30 September 2019

Iran is capable of attacking its enemies anywhere, said the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Hossein Salami on Monday, adding that Israel’s destruction is an “achievable goal,” the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

“Today, we can attack the enemy with any intensity and precision and in any area,” warned Salami.

“In the first phase of the Islamic Revolution, we created the capacity to destroy the illegitimate Zionist regime, but in the second phase, we must remove this regime from the world’s geography … this is no longer a dream and is an achievable goal,” he added.

On the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the official website of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei published a document entitled “The Second Phase of the Revolution Statement” in February 2019. The document offered a set of guidelines about the state of affairs in the future as envisaged by Khamenei.

In the document, Khamenei gave “advice” on various matters, such as foreign policy, the economy and lifestyle.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/09/30/Iran-can-attack-enemies-anywhere-destroy-Israel-IRGC-commander-.html

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Iraq: Disputes Topple Prominent Leader in the Fight Against ISIS

28 September, 2019

The decision of Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to move Lieutenant General Abdulwahab al-Saadi, commander of the Iraqi CTS (Counter-Terrorism Service), to the Ministry of Defense has sparked various reactions.

While some saw it as a normal procedure that falls under a military context, other politicians and experts said that it came in the wake of deep disputes inside the CTS – led by General Talib Shaghati al-Kinani.

A security source announced Friday that Abdul Mahdi referred Saadi to the ministry of defense. Saadi is a prominent leader who participated in the latest liberation operation in some provinces, also he was in charge of several important posts in the Iraqi Special Operations Forces and the CTS.

He had a major role in the operations against ISIS since the Battle of Ramadi – Anbar province in 2014 until liberating Mosul in 2017. He is seen as the most popular leader who fought against ISIS in Iraq.

Further, his name surfaced as a prime minister candidate last year.

In a press statement on Friday, Saadi described this decision as an embarrassment for him as an officer and a fighter. Yet, he said he had no clue why it had been taken.

Saadi inquired about the motive behind this decision through a phone call with the Iraqi PM – who in his turn praised his skills.

He continued that he rejected an offer by Iraqi Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbusi to lead the ministry of defense because the battles against ISIS were ongoing. Regarding leaks on disputes with Shaghati, he stated that it was Shaghati who asked the PM to distance him without knowing the reasons.

In a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, former head of parliament's security and defense committee Hakim al-Zamili described the PM’s decision as a regular matter that falls under military contexts.

Zamili said that officers were regularly transferred inside the military institution, and that was necessary to ensure reforms in the security system.

Full report at:

https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1922476/iraq-disputes-topple-prominent-leader-fight-against-isis

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Yemen’s Houthis Release 290 Detainees in Face-Saving Move

1 October, 2019

Houthi militias claimed on Monday having released 350 detainees from Sanaa prisons, as a kind of face-saving strategy.

Their claim was an attempt to show the group’s commitment to the Stockholm agreement struck with the Yemeni government last year.

While the International Committee of the Red Cross issued a statement clarifying Houthi fabrications concerning the exact number of released persons, Asharq Al-Awsat learned from interviews it conducted with those released Monday, that none was a prisoner of war or had fought in the ranks of the legitimacy.

On Monday, Houthis brought journalists to the vicinity of the central prison in Sanaa to give the impression that they were respecting the Stockholm agreement concerning an agreed prisoner exchange.

One of those released told Asharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity that he was kidnapped three years ago from north Sanaa by Houthis that claimed he was acting against the militia.

Another released man said the insurgents also kidnapped him three years ago when he was traveling to Maarab.

An injured person who walked out of prison on Monday said he was hurt when a military camp where he was detained with others, was hit, denying having fought in the ranks of the legitimacy.

On Monday, the ICRC said Houthis released 290 kidnapped persons.

A statement said 42 of the detainees were used as human shields by Houthis during an attack on a military site and arms depot in Dhamar, where the men had been held three years ago.

Franz Rauchenstein, the ICRC chief in Yemen, said the Red Cross facilitated the release following a request from the Houthis. He expressed hope that this would open the door to “further releases to bring comfort to families awaiting reunification with their loved ones.”

The ICRC said it helped confirm the identities of the detainees, determined where they would like to go upon their release, assessed detainee health and provided financial assistance.

Full report at:

https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1926266/yemen%E2%80%99s-houthis-release-290-detainees-face-saving-move

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Palestinians Set Stage for Arab Investment Conference in Cairo

30 September, 2019

The Palestinian Authority's Minister of National Economy Khaled al-Osaily has stressed the importance of an Arab investment conference on Palestine that is set to be held in the Egyptian capital by the end of 2019.

During a press conference he held in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday, Osaily said preparations for the first such Arab conference have made headway.

The Palestinian government has launched a comprehensive review of Israeli products in the local markets “at a time when Israel stops our products from reaching the Israeli market.”

He revealed that the Palestinian Authority will seek international arbitration through a specialized court on Israel’s circumvention of the "Paris Protocol” which was signed between the Palestinians and Israel in 1995 to govern their economic relations.

Such an Israeli move has paralyzed the development of the Palestinian national economy, charged Osaily.

He referred to commerce agreements signed with Jordan to increase the volume of trade between the two sides to 1 billion dollars annually, and a request made to Israel on importing oil from Iraq.

The Palestinian government has also signed cooperation agreements with Arab federations to support several sectors.

According to Osaily, the PA is engaged in discussions with several states, mainly China, Russia, India, Indonesia, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland and others to consolidate economic cooperation.

Full report at:

https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1925106/palestinians-set-stage-arab-investment-conference-cairo

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Houthis claim to have killed 500 Saudi soldiers in major attack

29 Sep 2019

Houthi rebels in Yemen say they have killed 500 Saudi soldiers, captured a further 2,000 and seized a convoy of Saudi military vehicles.

The extraordinary claims at a press conference on Sunday, involving still photographs and inconclusive videos of captured soldiers, many not in uniform, could not be corroborated, and there was no independent confirmation from Saudi Arabia.

The Houthis, showing pictures of upturned Saudi vehicles and immobilised convoys, claimed the attacks had occurred over the past three days in the southern Najran region of Saudi Arabia, which borders Yemen, and would continue with greater intensity.

“Operation Victory from God is the largest military one since the brutal aggression began. The enemy suffered heavy losses … and wide swathes of territory were liberated in only a few days,” said the Houthi spokesman, Mohammed Abdul Salam.

He also claimed hundreds of Saudi soldiers lay dead or injured on the battlefield, and Riyadh had little option but to consider how to withdraw. He said the Houthis would end their attacks if the Saudis took reciprocal measures.

The attacks, if verified, would be a remarkable show of force inside Saudi Arabia and mark another embarrassment for the kingdom, after its US-made Patriot missile defence system failed to protect two Saudi Aramco oil sites from an attack by drones and cruise missiles earlier this month.

On Saturday, the Houthis claimed they had captured three Saudi brigades – a major proportion of the kingdom’s army. The group also says it was responsible for the oil attacks, but this has been disputed by western and European governments.

Saudi Arabia made no comment on the latest claims.

A Gulf coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, intervened in Yemen in March 2015 on behalf of the internationally recognised government after the Houthis ousted Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi in a coup as they seized the capital, Sana’a.

It was reported over the weekend that Saudi Arabia had agreed to end its bombing campaign in some parts of Yemen in an attempt to kickstart political talks on the country’s future.

Western diplomatic sources have confirmed a limited Saudi offer to restrict its bombing campaign to some regions and exchange prisoners is imminent. The United Arab Emirates pulled some of its troops out of Yemen earlier this year after deciding there was no possibility of an outright military victory.

A week after the attack on the Saudi oil sites, the Houthis surprisingly offered to end drone strikes in Saudi Arabia.

The UN security council welcomed the announcement and hinted at a process that might lead to discussions on a future political settlement.

Current talks between Houthis and the UN-recognised government of Yemen are confined largely to mutual troop withdrawals from the Red Sea port of Hodeidah and measures such as prisoner releases.

In a statement issued last week, the security council described the Houthi offer as “an important first step towards de-escalation, which will need to be followed with positive action on the ground by the Houthis as well as restraint by the coalition”.

The security council also gave its full support to a plan floated by Martin Griffiths, the UN special envoy for Yemen, to hold informal consultations with Yemeni political actors and establish an advisory group in preparation for the resumption of formal negotiations.

Full report at:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/29/houthis-claim-killed-hundreds-saudi-soldiers-captured-thousands

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Nasrallah: Hezbollah will ‘enter occupied Palestine’ with improved intelligence

28 September 2019

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Saturday issued further threats against Israel, saying the Lebanese terror organization’s “unprecedented levels of intelligence” would soon lead to its fighters “entering occupied Palestine.”

In an interview series published this week on the website of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Nasrallah boasted of the terror group’s intelligence capabilities.

“We have extensive, unprecedented information on all the events that happen to the enemy, both by public and secret means,” Nasrallah said. “We have very good information.”

“In various ways, Hezbollah obtains the necessary information for any future war or military action on the part of the Israeli enemy,” he said. “The enemy is on the defensive — we have always been on the defensive, now we are in attack mode,” said the leader of the Tehran-backed terror group, according to Channel 12 news.

“We are threatening them, and we will enter occupied Palestine,” Nasrallah said.

The website also released a “never before seen” photo of Nasrallah alongside Khamenei, and Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards Quds Force.

The three men are shown in front of what appears to be a door covered by a curtain and surrounded by shelves stacked with books — decor associated with Khamenei’s Tehran office.

The picture will make the inaugural cover of a new magazine — Massir (the Path) — soon to be launched by khamenei.ir, the supreme leader’s website said, while noting that the issue will publish elements of a “five-hour interview” with Nasrallah.

Hezbollah is seen by Israel as one of its most dangerous enemies, with an arsenal of rockets and missiles larger than that of most countries.

The Israel Defense Forces on Thursday completed a week-long training program for its senior combat officers aimed at preparing them for a war against Hezbollah, providing them with the latest intelligence, fighting methods and operational plans.

Both Israel and Lebanon had a small taste of what a conflict between the two sides would look earlier this month, when there was a limited skirmish along the Lebanese border on September 1, in which the terror group fired anti-tank guided missiles at Israeli positions, causing no injuries. The attack was in response to an Israeli airstrike on an Iranian-controlled base in Syria several days prior that killed two Hezbollah members. The IDF retaliated with strikes on Hezbollah positions.

Israel has fought two wars in Lebanon, one in 1982 against Palestinian terrorist groups and the second in 2006 against Hezbollah. The Second Lebanon War is seen in the IDF as having suffered a large number of failures and poor management, brought on by communication issues and insufficient preparation for war.

The Iran-backed Hezbollah group, with its massive rocket arsenal and its thousands of fighters, who are well-trained from fighting in Syria, is generally seen as the standard by which the IDF measures its preparedness.

While Israeli military officers often discuss a future conflict with Hezbollah as a matter of “when, not if,” assessments by the IDF say that the terror group is not currently interested in renewed warfare with Israel.

Also on Saturday, the deputy commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) threatened that if Israel attacks Iran, it will have to collect “bits and pieces” of Tel Aviv from the Mediterranean Sea.

“Iran has encircled Israel from all four sides. Nothing will be left of Israel,” said Abbas Nilforoushan in an interview with the Iranian news agency Tasnim. “Israel is not in a position to threaten Iran,” he said according to a translation published by Radio Farda, the Iranian branch of the US government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Full report at:

https://www.timesofisrael.com/nasrallah-hezbollah-will-enter-occupied-palestine-with-improved-intelligence/

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Turkey starts construction of four MILGEM ships to be sold to Pakistan Navy

October 01, 2019

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday attended a dual ceremony commissioning a new Turkish naval ship while starting construction of a ship set to be sold to Pakistan’s navy.

Turkey is one of 10 countries worldwide able to build, design, and maintain warships using its own national capabilities, President Erdogan told the ceremony for the TCG Kinaliada, commissioned today for the Turkish navy, and a MILGEM (Turkish national warship programme)-class ship being built for Pakistan.

In his speech, Erdogan said he hopes the Kinaliad, an Ada-class corvette, will benefit the Turkish nation and its sailors and further hopes Pakistan, a friendly sister nation to Turkey, will also benefit from the ship whose construction started today.

In July 2018, Pakistan’s navy signed a contract for the acquisition of four MILGEM-class ships from Turkey. MILGEM vessels are 99 metres long, have a displacement capacity of 24,00 tons and have a speed of 29 nautical miles.

MILGEM anti-submarine combat frigates, which can be hidden from the radar, will further enhance the defence capability of the Pakistan Navy.

While two corvettes will be built in Turkey, the next two will be built in Pakistan through technology transfer.

"Our navy, rich with glorious victories, is carrying this legacy into the future by further strengthening it," said Erdogan.

Its top-class "equipment, discipline, qualified personnel and all the accomplishments it undertakes" makes Turkey proud, he said.

Erdogan said recent events globally and especially in the Mediterranean point to the need to strengthen Turkey at sea, as in all other areas.

Greece and Greek Cyprus have recently challenged Turkey’s right to use the energy resources of the Eastern Mediterranean, but Turkey has not backed down, and continues to send drill ships to the region with military escorts.

Turkey is resolved to reach heights domestically in all areas including shipbuilding, artillery, missiles, torpedoes, and electronic systems, Erdogan said.

Turkey making more and more defence equipment

Erdogan said the time is also close for Turkey to build its own fighter jets, just as it has built its own manned and unmanned aerial vehicles and satellites.

"We have not forgotten the time when we could not buy ships, planes and tools that we wanted, even when we wanted to pay for them," he said.

Erdogan stressed that the corvettes that have been put into service to date have successfully fulfilled their duties by taking part in numerous national and international exercises.

"We have many more projects to strengthen our navy, and work on the diesel-electric submarine project, which will meet the needs of both our country and friendly states, is ongoing," Erdogan said.

Erdogan stressed that Turkey’s dependence on foreign trade in the defence industry has dropped from 80 per cent to 30pc.

"Today, we have five firms among the world’s top 100 defence companies, and hopefully this number will continue to climb.

"Our goal is to eliminate our dependence on the foreign defence industry completely by 2023," he said. Turkey will celebrate its centennial in 2023.

Pakistan, Turkey cut first metal plate of MILGEM Ada class corvette

Pakistan Navy Commander Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi and Erdogan cut the first metal plate of the first of the four MILGEM Ada class corvette during the ceremony.

Erdogan told the audience that Pakistan-Turkey relations had great potential for cooperation in the field of defence production.

Referring to the Jammu and Kashmir issue, Erdogan said the world should know the sufferings of the occupied territory.

He likened the situation of occupied Kashmir to Palestine and added that more than 8 million Kashmiris are braving Indian atrocities in an open-air prison on their territory.

Erdogan declared that he would continue to raise the Kashmir issue and the sufferings of the Kashmiri people.

Admiral Abbasi in his speech, described the project as another proof of Pakistan-Turkey brotherhood. He also briefed the guests on the latest situation in Jammu and Kashmir that is under Indian administration.

Abbasi talked about the toxic Hinduvta ideology in India and its threats to regional and international peace. He emphasised that Indian cruelty has risen to new levels after the Indian government's decisions on August 5, which are against the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and international law.

The admiral extended his gratitude to the President Erdogan for raising the Kashmir issue in the United Nations General Assembly and added that the people of Pakistan and the occupied region owed unwavering support to Turkey.

Turning to the ongoing problems in Jammu and Kashmir, Erdogan decried how no other countries besides Turkey and Malaysia have spoken out on the issue.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1508373/turkey-starts-construction-of-four-milgem-ships-to-be-sold-to-pakistan-navy

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Iran president refused to take Trump’s call arranged by Macron: Reports

Oct 1, 2019

In New York, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran refused to engage in a phone conversation with his American counterpart, Donald Trump, which had been secretly arranged by French President Emmanuel Macron, leaving Trump waiting on the line, US media reports say.

The New Yorker magazine reported on Monday that Macron had tried to engineer a three-way conversation by having technicians set up a secure line in a meeting room on Rouhani’s floor at the Millennium Hilton Hotel across the road from the UN General Assembly (UNGA), on September 24 evening.

The French leader, it added, hoped that the telephone conversation would lay the groundwork for the first meeting between an American president and an Iranian president since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Sources familiar with last Tuesday’s events said, “The call to Trump’s line came through at 9:30. Macron took the call. But Rouhani never emerged from his room.”

“As we have been doing for several months, we worked in New York to get Iran to make new commitments and for the US, in exchange, to ease sanctions,” a French diplomat told The New Yorker. “We made technical arrangements in the event that a telephone call could take place. That call did not take place.”

Later on Monday, The New York Times confirmed the report, saying that Rouhani had left Trump hanging and Macron waiting outside his hotel suite.

“The telephone line had been secretly set up. President Trump waited on the other end. All President Hassan Rouhani of Iran had to do was come out of his hotel suite and walk into a secure room where Mr. Trump’s voice would be piped in via speaker,” it said.

According to three people with knowledge of the developments, Macron, accompanied by a small team of advisers, “awaited an answer” outside Rouhani’s suite.

“Messages were passed between them via Mr. Rouhani’s aides,” they said. “In the end, Mr. Rouhani refused even to come out of his room. Mr. Macron left empty-handed and Mr. Trump was left hanging.”

Macron has been seeking to play a mediatory role aimed at easing Washington-Tehran tensions, which have been on the rise since the US withdrawal from a 2015 multilateral nuclear deal in May 2018.

The French leader has also been leading European efforts to save the accord, whose fate remains in doubt since Washington’s exit.

Iran has repeatedly rejected Trump’s offer of talks, saying it would not engage in such negotiations unless the US returns to the deal and lifts its unilateral sanctions.

Tehran says negotiations with Washington would be possible within the framework of the P5+1, comprising the US, France, Britain, Russia, China plus Germany, which successfully negotiated the deal with Iran, if Washington meets those conditions.

In a speech at the General Assembly on Wednesday, Rouhani reaffirmed Iran’s position and said he was not interested in a “memento photo” with Trump on the sidelines of the UN meetings, while the US was piling economic pressure on Iran.

“Memento photos are the final stage of negotiations, not the first one,” Rouhani told the world body.

In 2013, Rouhani and then US president Barack Obama held a telephone conversation as the Iranian president was wrapping up his visit to New York for the 68th annual session of the UNGA, as diplomatic efforts were underway between the two sides within the P5+1 format in the run-up to the nuclear deal.

The New York Times cited Cliff Kupchan, chairman of the Eurasia Group, a political-risk consulting firm in Washington, as saying that Trump’s desire for negotiations with Iran was meant to “flip the news cycle” from the Ukraine scandal.

“Trump really wants a foreign policy win and can’t find one,” he said. “He thinks talks with Iran now may be his best shot.”

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/10/01/607567/Iran-Hassan-Rouhani-Donald-Trump

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Saudi leaders sent messages to Iran's president: Spokesman

Sep 30, 2019

The spokesman for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's administration has confirmed that Saudi leaders have been sending messages to Iran's president through a head of state, though refraining to give any details on the nature of those messages.

Ali Rabiei made the remarks during his weekly press briefing in Tehran on Monday, when he was asked about reports denoting that the Saudi leadership has been sending messages to Iran's chief executive.

“Yes, this is true that they have sent messages to Mr. Rouhani through a head of state,” Rabiei noted, adding, “We must see signs of it [Saudi’s goodwill] without any ambiguity, and the first sign of it is to stop the aggression against Yemen and put an end to the massacre of Yemenis.”

The Iranian official said Yemen’s retaliatory attacks on Saudi Arabia proved the “military might” of Yemeni forces, adding that Riyadh had earlier denied their power to do this, but Yemen’s attacks on Saudi oil giant Aramco's refining facilities proved their might.

Reiterating that Iran would welcome a “genuine” change in Saudis’ behavior, Rabiei noted, “If they genuinely sought to change their behavior, we would welcome that.”

Asked about the prospect of Tehran-Riyadh ties, Rabiei said, “Iran’s message was clear from the very beginning; we were after an end to the Saudi aggression and massacre in Yemen and considered ceasefire the solution to the conflict.”

Iran still endorses the ceasefire as the solution to the Yemeni conflict and will do its utmost to contribute to this end, he stressed.

Yemeni armed forces announced on Saturday that three Saudi military brigades were completely destroyed after they mounted a large-scale military offensive in the kingdom’s southern border region of Najran.

Speaking at a press conference in the capital Sana’a, the spokesman for Yemeni Armed Forces, Brigadier General Yahya Saree, termed the operation, dubbed Victory from God Almighty, as the biggest-ever since Saudi Arabia and some of its allies embarked on an atrocious military campaign on Yemen more than four years ago.

The military official said Yemeni forces had killed some 200 Saudi-backed mercenaries and took 2,000 others prisoner in the offensive.

Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement also said in a statement that the operation inflicted dramatic losses – both in terms of military hardware and personnel – upon the enemy.

The operation came less than two weeks after Yemen’s Ansarullah movement and their allies in the Yemeni army deployed as many as 10 drones to bomb the Abqaiq and Khurais oil facilities run by the Saudi state-owned oil company, Aramco.

The unprecedented attack knocked out more than half of the Saudi crude output, or five percent of global supply, prompting Saudi and US officials to claim without any evidence that it probably originated from Iraq or Iran.

Yemen has rejected claims that Iran and Iraq might have played a role in the attack.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crushing Ansarullah.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the war has claimed more than 91,000  lives over the past four and a half years.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/09/30/607522/Iran-Ali-Rabiei-Saudi-leaders-messages-Hassan-Rouhani

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Turkey's president says some of Khashoggi killers enjoy 'impunity' in Saudi Arabia

Sep 30, 2019

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country will keep pushing for the truth behind the gruesome murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, who is believed to have been killed on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s direct order.

In an article published in the Washington Post, for which Khashoggi was a columnist, the Turkish leader said some of the killers of the ill-fated journo appeared to be evading justice.

Khashoggi, a former advocate of the Saudi royal court who later became a critic of bin Salman, was killed after being lured into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, and his body was dismembered by a Saudi hit squad.

The Saudi government initially claimed Khashoggi left the consulate on that day, but Riyadh later said that, after a thorough investigation into the case, it had reached the conclusion that he had been killed by a “rogue” group and not by direct order from the crown prince, who is also known as MbS and seen as the de facto ruler of the Arab kingdom.

“The 15-member assassination squad that murdered Khashoggi inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul and chopped his body into pieces served the interests of a shadow state within the kingdom’s government,” Erdogan said, without giving more details regarding the so-called shadow state.

The Washington Post reported in November last year that the CIA had concluded that bin Salman had ordered the killing. Furthermore, an investigative team led by the United Nations also said it believed MbS was the prime suspect in the state-sponsored murder. Washington has refused to formally implicate Mohammed, however.

The Turkish president further wrote that some of the killers seemed to enjoy impunity once they returned to Saudi Arabia, and this is “perhaps more dangerous.” There was an almost total lack of transparency on the court proceedings in the Arab kingdom, Erdogan argues.

“It is no secret that there are many questions about the court proceedings in Saudi Arabia. The near-complete lack of transparency surrounding the trial, the lack of public access to hearings and the allegation that some of Khashoggi’s murderers enjoy de facto freedom fail to meet the international community’s expectations and tarnish the image of Saudi Arabia,” Erdogan wrote.

In his first public remarks on the matter, bin Salman attempted to portray himself as not having been involved in the brutal murder. In a PBS documentary, while denying an ability to keep an eye on everything, Mohammed said he bore responsibility for Khashoggi’s murder “because it happened under my watch.”

In another article in the Washington Post in early November last year, Erdogan had said that “we know the order to kill Khashoggi came from the highest levels of the Saudi government.”

While the Turkish leader stopped short of naming Mohammed, he said the order did not come from Saudi King Salman. In his Sunday’s article, Erdogan almost echoed what he had said last year.

“My administration, therefore, made a clear and unmistakable distinction between the thugs who murdered Khashoggi and King Salman and his loyal subjects.”

Until now, and despite the international attention that the state-sponsored murder has continuously received, 34-year-old Mohammed had refused to speak about his role in the killing.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/09/30/607514/Turkey-Erdogan-Saudi-Arabia-Khashoggi-Mohammed-bin-Salman-CIA

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Iran: EU plan to leave JCPOA 'illegal', snap-back mechanism 'dead'

Sep 30, 2019

Iran has dismissed its nuclear case being sent back to the UN Security Council should the country go ahead with its pledge to take new steps away from the 2015 deal in response to European failures.

The reaction by Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi on Monday came after a British paper said the European Union had told Iran that it would start withdrawing from the nuclear deal in November if Tehran further forwent its commitments.

According to The Guardian, this would trigger the deal's dispute mechanism and if necessary a worldwide sanctions snap-back would occur, where Iran's case would be sent back to the Security Council.

The council removed the case from its docket when it endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed between Iran and the P5+1 group of world countries on July 14, 2015.

Speaking to reporters in Tehran, Mousavi said Iran's referral to the Security Council again is "dead and from the legal standpoint, there is no possibility of Europe using the snap-back mechanism."

Iran has already taken three separate calibrated steps away from the deal, and has warned it will take a fourth in November unless the Europeans do something about their obligation to protect Tehran from US sanctions.

The Europeans have, instead, told Iran that they would put the issue of Iran's further moves into the agreement’s formal dispute mechanism if the next Iranian move away from the deal were significant, The Guardian reported on Friday.

Mousavi described Europe's alleged plan to withdraw from the JCPOA as "illegal."  He also criticized the Europeans for not being able to separate their foreign policy from that of Washington.

Under President Donald Trump, the US has adopted a campaign of "maximum pressure" on Iran after withdrawing from the nuclear deal and reimposing sanctions on the country.

Iran has responded to the US withdrawal and the reluctance of European signatories to protect Tehran from Washington’s sanctions by reciprocally suspending its own nuclear commitments as allowed under the JCPOA.

Answering a question about the fate of a French initiative led by French President Emmanuel Macron to solve the nuclear issue, Mousavi said Europe has failed to uphold the deal by "tying" its implementation to Tehran’s relations with Washington.

“Until practical and significant steps are taken from their side to persuade us, Iran will continue suspending its nuclear commitments based on the nuclear agreement,” he added.

Yemeni attacks "defensive"

Mousavi also said Iran supports “Yemen’s legitimate government against the invading forces”, adding Tehran has always provided the country with political support.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015 seeking to reinstall a Riyadh-friendly government and crush the Houthi Ansarullah Movement.

Resistance by Yemen’s armed forces, however, has managed to bring the Saudi-led war effort near to a complete standstill.

Mousavi stressed that the solution to the conflict lies in Saudi Arabia’s acceptance of a ceasefire in Yemen and a cessation of its bombing of civilian targets.

Mousavi also rejected claims by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman accusing Tehran of being behind Yemeni reciprocal attacks against Riyadh.

Seeking to pressure Iran, Riyadh, along with Washington, have sought to blame Iran for Yemen’s retaliatory attacks against Saudi Arabia, notably accusing Tehran of involvement in the major Yemeni strike on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco oil facilities earlier this month.

Addressing reports about a probable visit by Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi in Tehran to mediate the tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Mousavi said Tehran was open to any such talks.

He added that the trip has not been finalized yet and that further details will be released if it is confirmed.

The Iranian spokesman also added that details regarding Tehran’s Hormuz Peace Endeavor (HOPE), a peace initiative seeking to stabilize the Persian Gulf region, will be published soon.

Mousavi said the initiative will include Iran, Iraq and all six members of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), comprised of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Saudi Arabia.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/09/30/607498/Yemeni-attacks-defensive-measures

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Coalition dismisses Houthi claims of attack near Saudi-Yemen border

September 30, 2019

RIYADH: The Arab coalition fighting in Yemen dismissed on Monday claims from Houthi militants of a major attack on the Saudi border.

Spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said the claims came from media belonging to a “terrorist coup militia” and “often there is no need for the coalition to respond to these allegations.”

Al Maliki noted in the briefing that Houthi losses between Sep. 16 and Sep. 30 were 881 deaths and 421 weapons

The Iran-backed Houthis, who sparked the war in Yemen when they seized the capital Sanaa in 2014, said on Sunday they had carried out an attack capturing coalition troops and seizing hundreds of square kilometers of territory.

But Al-Maliki said the Houthis had a long history of claiming military victories that were not true.

“Unfortunately there are international channels that broadcasts these stories and this is very sad,” he told a news conference in Riyadh.

“There is no doubt that this is misleading media information.”

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1562161/middle-east

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Africa

 

Nigeria warned it risks humanitarian disaster by expelling charities

29 Sep 2019

Nigeria has been warned it risks a humanitarian disaster if the government goes ahead with its threat to throw aid agencies out of the north-east of the country, claiming they are in league with extremist Islamic groups.

A spate of aid offices have been forcibly shut after unproven claims they have been acting as conduits for cash that has ended up with Boko Haram, or Islamic State West Africa Province (Iswap).

The Nigerian army is stepping up its 10-year effort to drive out extremists and claims that despite several warnings, agencies continue to provide aid to terrorist groups.

Two aid agencies have had offices closed in the past few days, and there are fears in the charity sector that Nigeria is targeting as many as 10 independent humanitarian organisations. Talks are under way to try to defuse the breakdown in relations, and the charities say they often avoid transporting cash by road to avoid the risk of seizure.

The reprisals came at the same time as the execution of a kidnapped Nigerian aid worker last Wednesday by extremists. The charity worker was among six aid workers employed by the Paris-based charity Action Against Hunger captured in July by Boko Haram during an ambush on a convoy close to the border with Niger.

Action Against Hunger is the biggest NGO involved the international humanitarian response in the region. On 18 September, its office in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, was forcibly shut by the Nigerian army without warning or notice.

The army claimed it had credible intelligence the charity was one of a number involved in subversive activities and was aiding and abetting terrorists, including by supplying drugs and food to extremist groups.

In an angry rebuttal, Action Against Hunger said it strongly rejected the accusation. “Action Against Hunger delivers neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian aid to millions of people in Borno and Yobe states by providing basic services to the most vulnerable people, especially women and children,” the charity said.

Action Against Hunger said it was ready “to support any investigation, and will work tirelessly with the Nigerian authorities to allay any concerns they may have about our operations in the region”.

Another international aid agency, Mercy Corps, also said it had suspended operations in the north-eastern Borno and Yobe states, two of the worst affected by the violence. The Nigerian army had closed five of its offices, initially not providing any official explanation.

Boko Haram effectively runs four of the 10 zones inside Borno, near Lake Chad, but the army and the government are reluctant to admit the counter-insurgency is failing.

Mercy Corps’ head of media and communications, Amy Fairbairn, confirmed the organisation was seeking to work with the Nigerian army to resolve the position.

In December 2018, the army also suspended Unicef from operating in the north-east over claims it was training “spies” who supported Boko Haram – only to lift the ban later the same day after a meeting with the aid agency.

Iswap is a splinter faction of Boko Haram that swore allegiance in 2016 to the Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It has repeatedly attacked military bases and targeted aid workers in north-east Nigeria.

The UN humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, said he was appalled by the killing of the aid workers and “extremely concerned by the increasingly dangerous and restrictive operating environment for humanitarian assistance”.

In remarks aimed at the Nigerian army, he insisted the humanitarian community was working in line with the agreement reached between the government and aid workers, in place until 2021, to provide assistance to 6.2 million of the most vulnerable people.

The army has announced a fresh nationwide crackdown, starting on 7 October, designed to find and arrest criminals and terrorists.

Jeremy Hunt, the then foreign secretary, visited the area earlier this year, where he was briefed by a small British military team helping to advise the Nigerian army, but the degree of the UK military’s day-to-day influence over the Nigerian army’s strategy can be exaggerated.

One worker from an aid agency based in Nigeria that could not be named for fear of reprisals said: “If humanitarian agencies are kicked out of north-east Nigeria then thousands of Nigerian civilians will needlessly die, including many children – it will be a humanitarian disaster.

“Someone needs to ask the Nigerians and the UN some serious questions about how the government of Nigeria is getting away with this while it sits on stage in New York, presiding over the UN general assembly and preaching about ending conflict and fighting poverty in the drive to reach the sustainable development goals.”

The war with Boko Haram has devastated the population in rural north-east Nigeria, one of the poorest regions on earth. More than 2 million people have fled their homes, tens of thousands have been killed, and many more injured, abducted and conscripted to join the fight.

Last month, the International Committee of the Red Cross said about 22,000 Nigerians had been reported missing during the decade-long crisis, nearly half of them minors.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/29/nigeria-warned-it-risks-humanitarian-disaster-by-expelling-charities

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Car Bombers in Somalia Hit U.S. and European Military Bases

By Richard Pérez-Peña

Sept. 30, 2019

A car bomber and a group of gunmen on Monday struck an air base in Somalia that American forces use in the fight against the militant group known as the Shabab, which claimed responsibility for the attack.

Another car bombing took place later in the morning in Mogadishu, the capital. The explosion missed its apparent target, a group of Italian peacekeeping troops, but injured Somali civilians, according to local news reports.

The first attack hit the Bale Dogle airfield, about 55 miles northwest of central Mogadishu, in the Lower Shabelle region in southern Somalia. A suicide bomber detonated a vehicle packed with explosives at the gate of the airstrip, according to Lt. Cmdr. Desiree Frame, a spokeswoman for the United States Africa Command, and Yusuf Abdourahman, a security official with the Lower Shabelle regional administration.

The Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in a statement that its fighters had “stormed the military complex, engaging the crusaders in an intense firefight.” There were reports of gunfire at the base after the explosion.

Africa Command reported that the attackers did not succeed in killing or injuring anyone at the base. It said that United States and allied forces repelled the Shabab fighters, killing 10 of them, and conducted two airstrikes in response.

“Incidents like this will not compromise the pressure being placed on this terrorist network by the federal government of Somalia and international partners,” said Maj. Gen. William Gayler, director of operations for Africa Command.

Commander Frame declined to say whether there had been any casualties.

The Shabab, an extremist Islamist group seeking to overthrow the Western-backed government, has lost much of the territory it once controlled. But it continues to pose a persistent threat, carrying out a string of attacks in Somalia and elsewhere in East Africa.

American helicopters based at the Bale Dogle base carry out airstrikes against the Shabab, and the base is also used by United States forces to train the Somali army’s elite Danab units.

Full report at:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/30/world/africa/somalia-us-eu-attacks.html

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Extremists launch 2 attacks on military targets in Somalia

Sep 30, 2019

Somalia's Islamic extremist rebels on Monday launched two attacks on U.S. and European military targets, officials said.

In the first attack, an estimated 25 fighters of the al-Shabab rebel group were killed when they attempted to storm the Belidogle military airstrip which hosts Somali and U.S. forces, said a Somali intelligence officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The attack started with suicide bombings at the gate and around the airstrip and were followed by heavy gunfire across the air base in the Lower Shabelle region in southern Somalia, said Gen. Ahmed Yusuf, a senior Somali military officer based in Lower Shabelle region.

Al-Shabab, which is allied to al-Qaida, have claimed the responsibility for the attack.

The U.S. military uses the Belidogle airstrip base to launch drones that attack al-Shabab targets and to train Somali troops.

"This attack, though ineffective, demonstrates the direct threat al-Shabaab poses to Americans, our allies, and interests in the region," said Maj. Gen. William Gayler, U.S. Africa Command director of operations, in a statement released later Monday.

The U.S. Africa Command carried out two airstrikes and used small arms fire to target al-Shabaab fighters fleeing the airstrip, killing an additional 10 rebels and destroying a vehicle, according to the statement.

Full report at:

https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/extremists-attack-us-military-base-somalia-65949553

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Libya: Haftar’s Forces Strike GNA Militias in Sirte for 2nd Day

30 September, 2019

The Libyan National Army, led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, struck for the second day in a row positions held by militias loyal to the Government of National Accord in the coastal city of Sirte.

GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj, who considers himself the military commander, admitted for the first time that there is no army in the country. Sarraj deplored the ugly truth, “there is no army in Libya”, adding that attempts continue to rebuild the military institution as he expressed confidence that the US ally could be helpful in this regard.

He accused Haftar of crippling the political process following his offensive on Tripoli on April 4. Victory is a matter of time and Haftar’s wish to enter Tripoli is inconceivable, he affirmed.

LNA’s Karama operations media center announced Sunday that in the past two days, militia positions and headquarters suffered huge material and human losses due to the strikes.

Sirte Protection Force (SPF), which is loyal to Sarraj, admitted that three airstrikes had struck the city. Local media channels quoted SPF Commander Al-Naas Abdullah as saying that gate 17 in the city’s east was targeted by four airstrikes with no human losses.

Full report at:

https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1924996/libya-haftar%E2%80%99s-forces-strike-gna-militias-sirte-2nd-day

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Jihadists Kill 9 In Nigeria Attacks

October 01, 2019

KANO - Nine people, including a soldier and a policeman, were killed in two separate attacks by jihadists in restive northeast Nigeria, officials and vigilantes said Saturday.

Fighters from the IS-aligned Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) group attacked Nigerian and Chadian troops in the town of Gajiram late Friday, prompting a fierce battle in which eight people were killed.

"We lost eight people in the attack including a policeman, a local hunter and six residents," local district official Shettima Maina told AFP.

The militants in several pickup trucks fitted with machine guns attacked the town, 80 kilometres (50 miles) from regional capital Maiduguri, and engaged Nigerian and Chadian troops assisted by local hunters in battle, Maina said.

The jihadists lost a truck when it was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade during the fight, killing all fighters on board, said Maigana Maidurama, the head of Borno state hunters union.

"We dealt them a heavy blow and forced them to flee as one of their vehicles along with all those on board was destroyed by our RPG," Maidurama said.

ISWAP is a splinter faction that broke away from Boko Haram in 2016.

In a separate attack Friday evening suspected Boko Haram fighters attacked a military post in the town of Banki on the border with Cameroon, killing a soldier and destroying a military vehicle, military and militia sources said.

Gajiram and Banki have been repeatedly attacked by the jihadists in the past year.

The decade-long insurgency in northeast Nigeria has killed 35,000 people and displaced some two million people.

Full report at:

https://ewn.co.za/2019/09/29/jihadists-kill-9-in-nigeria-attacks

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Sudan PM meets Darfur rebel chief in ‘essential’ step to peace: Macron

30 September 2019

Sudan’s prime minister has met a senior Darfur rebel leader living in France, President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday, hailing an “essential step” for peace in the troubled east African nation.

“We facilitated talks that Prime Minister (Abdalla) Hamdok had yesterday with Abdel Wahid Nour, who is in our country,” Macron said at a press conference with Hamdok after talks in Paris.

“I think the step taken yesterday is an essential step,” he added. “The Sudanese deserve to finally live in peace and security.”

Hamdok said that his meeting with Nour, which he had expected to last 30 minutes, went on for nearly three hours and involved “very profound exchanges.”

“We discussed the roots of the Sudanese crisis and possibilities for a solution and... we are going to lay the first stones for this edifice of peace,” he said.

Darfur fell into widespread conflict in 2003 when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated government of Omar al-Bashir, who was toppled in April this year.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/09/30/Sudan-PM-meets-Darfur-rebel-chief-in-essential-step-to-peace-Macron-.html

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US shows 'appalling disregard for civilians' in Somalia: Amnesty

Oct 1, 2019

Amnesty International says the United States has killed civilians in one of its airstrikes in Somalia, and failed to investigate claims they were farmers with no ties to Al-Shabaab.

Amnesty said its investigations revealed the three civilians killed in the March 18 strike in southern Somalia were innocent, despite US Africa Command (AFRICOM) saying the men were extremists.

The US has stepped up drone strikes in Somalia in 2019 against what it says are fighters from Al-Shabaab, a militant outfit linked to Al-Qaeda, and the Daesh in Somalia.

But Amnesty says civilians have been among the dead, claiming it has documented more than a dozen cases of innocent people being killed in US air raids.

The international rights group said AFRICOM had provided no evidence to support its assessment the three men were militants.

It also accused the US military of failing to follow up claims the men were innocent despite promising to do so, or make any effort to contact their families.

"It's bad enough that the US Africa Command appears not to know who its airstrikes are actually killing and maiming in its secretive war in Somalia," Abdullahi Hassan, a Somalia researcher for Amnesty, said in a statement.

"But it's reprehensible that AFRICOM offers no way for those affected to contact it and has failed to reach out to the families of victims after its version of events was called into question in this case."

Amnesty says it interviewed 11 people about the March 18 strike, including co-workers and family of the men killed when their car was hit in Lower Shabelle, a hotbed of the radical insurgency in southern Somalia.

It said all those interviewed in the investigation "were adamant that none of the men was a member of Al-Shabaab".

In a March 19 press release confirming the strike, AFRICOM said "it assessed this airstrike killed three (3) terrorists" and it was aware of reports of civilian casualties.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/10/01/607560/Amnesty-international-US-airstrike-AFRICOM-Somalia-civilians

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Al-Shabab launches attacks against US airbase, EU convoy in Somalia

Sep 30, 2019

The al-Shabab terrorist group has launched two separate attacks on a US military base and a European Union military convoy in Somalia.

The militants initially raided a base operated by US forces in the Somali town of Baledogle on Monday, witnesses and security sources said.

“Two heavy explosions occurred, the first one bigger than the other. There was also a heavy exchange of gunfire after the blasts, but we don’t know about the details,” witness Mohamed Adan told AFP.

Police said the attack was directed at the US forces deployed to the base, which Washington uses for its drone operations in the African state.

The second attack was carried out by another bomber against an armored vehicle with EU military personnel on board in the capital, Mogadishu.

Italy’s Defense Ministry confirmed in a statement that an Italian military convoy had been hit by an explosion.

Somali security officer Omar Abikar also confirmed the attack and said “there are casualties.”

The al-Qaeda-linked al-shabab militant group claimed responsibility for the assaults.

The terrorist outfit was forced out of Mogadishu with the help of African Union forces in 2011. However, it still wields control in large parts of the countryside, and every now and then carries out deadly attacks against government, military, and civilian targets in the capital as well as regional towns.

It has fought successive Somali governments as well as neighboring governments in Kenya and Uganda.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/09/30/607505/Somalia-bomb-attack-alshabab-mogadishu-EU-US

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Boko Haram Executes Two Christian Aid Workers in Nigeria

September 30, 2019

JOS, Nigeria, September 30, 2019 (Morning Star News) – Islamic extremist group Boko Haram released a video last week showing the execution of two Christian aid workers in Nigeria, sources said.

Lawrence Duna Dacighir and Godfrey Ali Shikagham, both members of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) in Plateau state, are shown kneeling while three masked, armed men stand behind them in a video posted Sept. 22 on Boko Haram's Amaq news agency site. The two young men, who had gone to Maiduguri to help build shelters for people displaced by Islamic extremist violence, are then shot from behind.

Speaking in the Hausa language, the middle one of the three terrorists says in the video that they have vowed to kill every Christian they capture in revenge for Muslims killed in past religious conflicts in Nigeria. Dacighir and Shikagham, originally from Plateau state’s Mangu County, were captured by Boko Haram, now called the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), as they carried out their work in displaced persons camps.

Ethnic and religious tensions resulted in large-scale clashes between Muslims and Christians in Jos in 2001 and 2008.

It is not clear from the video, temporarily posted on YouTube, when the two men were executed. Their identities were confirmed by a relative, the Rev. John Pofi, a COCIN pastor.

Pastor Pofi, a cousin of the two executed Christians, told Morning Star News in a text message statement also shared with others that the two Plateau state natives had gone to Maiduguri from Abuja.

“Lawrence and Godfrey left Abuja for Maiduguri in search of opportunities to utilize their skills for the betterment of humanity and paid with their lives,” Pofi said. “We will never get their corpses to bury. The community will have to make do with a makeshift memorial to these young lives cut short so horrifically.”

If the federal government had created economic opportunities for those tempted to join extremist groups and had returned security to the country, his cousins would not be dead now, Pastor Pofi said.

“We must ask ourselves if this is the kind of country we want where young men who are earning an honest living are brutally killed while those who abduct and kill others are invited to dialogue with government and paid handsomely,” he said.

In a letter last week to the United Nations secretary general, attorney Emmanuel Ogebe of the U.S.-Nigeria Law Group, a legal consulting firm with an emphasis on human rights, expressed concern that the Nigerian government did not condemn the killing of the two men even though they were helping to provide shelter for displaced Nigerians.

“Lawrence and Godfrey ... were using their skills to provide a basic human need of shelter to others when they were killed,” Ogebe stated. “Your excellency, we wish to draw your urgent attention to the fact that taken together with the execution of aid worker Hauwa  Liman (ICRC) this time last year, the recorded number of aid workers slaughtered by terrorists in Nigeria over the past decade is now in excess of 40.”

Ogebe asserted in his letter that the killing of the two Christians was Boko Haram’s first execution on the basis of “ethnic cleansing.” The two victims were from the predominantly Christian Mwalghavul ethnic group. Previous ethnic/religious clashes took place between the predominantly Muslim Hausa and Fulanis against the predominantly Christian Berom, Irigwe, Afizere, Tarok, Ngas and Mwalghavul peoples.

Ogebe wrote that workers for international aid group Action Against Hunger kidnapped in July issued a distressed plea for government help with no notable administration response. On Wednesday (Sept. 25), Action Against Hunger announced that one of its workers being held hostage had been executed.

“More executions of humanitarian workers could yet occur,” Ogebe wrote to the U.N. “Despite these humanitarian organizations’ resilience in still serving victims, the Nigerian Government has since just last week suspended Action Against Hunger and Mercy Corp on dubious grounds.”

International aid agency Mercy Corps suspended operations in Borno and Yobe states in northeast Nigeria after the Nigerian army closed four of its offices in the region without explanation, the agency announced on Wednesday (Sept. 25).

Ogebe urged the U.N. secretary general to obtain an assurance from Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari that all hostages will be released before the country’s Independence Day on Tuesday (Oct. 1).

“We also ask that you implore him to lift the suspension on humanitarian groups providing urgent services to victims,” Ogebe wrote. “We urge the secretary general to remind President Buhari of Nigeria’s obligations under international humanitarian law to negotiate the protection of aid workers and non-combatant civilians in its dialogue with BH/ISWAP [Boko Haram/Islamic State in Western Africa Province].

Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.

If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit http://morningstarnews.org/resources/aid-agencies/ for a list of organizations that can orient you on how to get involved.

Full report at:

https://www.christianheadlines.com/blog/boko-haram-executes-two-christian-aid-workers-in-nigeria.html

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Army arrests eight foreign nationals working for Boko Haram

October 1, 2019

Troops of the Nigerian Army have arrested a bus driver and seven passengers who are illegal immigrants and believed to be working for the Islamic State West Africa Province and the Boko Haram fighters along Yola Road in Borno State.

The eight suspects were rounded up by troops of 331 Artillery Regiment deployed at a checkpoint along the road. The army identified only the driver as Musa Ibrahim.

According to a release from the army headquarters, Abuja, on Monday, the arrest was made between September 25 and 28, after troops also arrested one “notorious logistics supplier of the criminal insurgent group, Alhaji Kolomi Modu, at Ndollori area of Maiduguri.”

The army operations media coordinator, Col Aminu Iliyasu, said the troops on operations Lafiya Dole, Mesa and Swift Response would continue to conduct more arrests ahead of the 2019 yuletide season to deny criminals and bandits a freedom of action.

He said, “Within September 25 and 28, the troops deployed in the North-East continued to dominate the areas with aggressive fighting patrols and ambushes to fix and neutralise the fleeing Boko Haram and ISWAP elements.

“Troops of 25 Task Force Brigade in conjunction with some vigilantes arrested one Abubakar Musa, a suspected logistics supplier of the insurgents at Kumsem village in Damboa Local Government Area of Borno State. Items recovered from the suspect include 12 yards of black fabric suspected to be used for making of Boko Haram flags, a large quantity of drugs and some groceries.

“In a similar operation, troops of 27 Task Force Brigade acting on a timely intelligence arrested another logistics supplier of the insurgents, Mohammed Isa, at a checkpoint in Maina Hari. During preliminary investigation, the suspect confessed to his membership of Boko Haram in Kimba village in Biu LGA of Borno State.

“Similarly, the vigilant troops of 231 Battalion in conjunction with troops of 331 Artillery Regiment arrested a commercial driver, Musa Ibrahim, and seven passengers believed to be illegal immigrants from a neighbouring country. Suspects are believed to have links with ISWAP. Additionally, troops of 7 Division Garrison, in a joint operation with the Office of the National Security Adviser’s tactical team, arrested one notorious logistics supplier of the criminal insurgent group by name Alhaji Kolomi Modu at Ndollori area of Ajilari in Maiduguri.

Full report at:

https://punchng.com/army-arrests-eight-foreign-nationals-working-for-bharam/

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URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/us-sees-rising-threat-in-the-west-from-qaeda-branch-in-syria/d/119883

 

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