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Islamic World News ( 14 Feb 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Valentine’s Day Road to ‘Illicit Sex’, M’sian Mufti Warns Muslims

New Age Islam News Bureau

14 Feb 2017

Pakistan has banned all celebrations of Valentine's Day Associated Press



 Valentine’s Day Road to ‘Illicit Sex’, M’sian Mufti Warns Muslims

 Russian Video Raises Alarm: New Islamic State Damage in Syria's Palmyra

 Pakistan Court Bans 'Un-Islamic' Valentine's Day Celebrations

 Syrian Forces Used Chemical Weapons in Final Push for Aleppo: HRW


Southeast Asia

 Valentine’s Day Road to ‘Illicit Sex’, M’sian Mufti Warns Muslims

 Indonesian Muslim School Students Protest Valentine’s Day

 Some Uighurs fighting in Syria: Exiled leader

 How to tell if your colleague is an Islamic State sympathiser

 Non-Muslim doctor to host hudud forum with PAS in Penang

 Jakarta governor election a 'litmus test' of Indonesian Islam



 Russian Video Raises Alarm: New Islamic State Damage in Syria's Palmyra

 In France, Some Muslims Seek To 'Adapt' Islam to Secular Culture

 The Global Expansion Plan of ISIS and its Affiliates

 Russia gathers stakeholders Afghanistan conference



 Pakistan Court Bans 'Un-Islamic' Valentine's Day Celebrations

 Pakistan: 16 Killed, 53 Hurt as Suicide Bomber Hits Mall Road in Lahore

 Quran reciting made compulsory from Grade 1-5: Yousaf

 Another Pakistan Senator says he was denied US visa

 Two BDS cops killed while defusing bomb in Quetta

 Taliban bomb kills three FC soldiers in SWA

 TTP says it carried out attack on Saama TV’s van


Arab World

 Syrian Forces Used Chemical Weapons in Final Push for Aleppo: HRW

 Dara'a: 45 Terrorists Including Commanders Killed in Clashes with Syrian Army

 Iraqi military: 13 Daesh commanders killed, Baghdadi fate unclear

 Syria: Tens of Civilians Massacred in Turkish Army Attacks in Al-Bab

 Ahrar Al-Sham Commander Killed in Clashes with Civilians in Northern Hama

 ISIL Suffers Heavy Casualties in Syrian Army Attack near Deir Ezzur's Airbase

 Protests, clashes as Bahrainis mark anniversary of popular uprising

 Iraqi forces intercept 200 Daeshis fleeing Syria

 ISIL Executes Own Commander South of Syria's Deir Ezzur

 Syria: Main Position of Tharir Al-Sham Hay'at Destroyed by Rival Terrorist Groups



 Hamas Military Hardliner Elected Group's Gaza Chief

 20 killed as Houthis, Hadi loyalists clash in western Yemen

 Netanyahu non-committal on Palestinian statehood as he heads to US

 Suspected Istanbul nightclub attacker wanted to kill Christians

 US rabbis want potential envoy to Israel rejected

 UN chief ‘deeply’ regrets US veto of Palestinian ex-PM as Libya envoy


North America

 Vietnamese Refugee Priest to Trump: Give My Citizenship to A Syrian

 Bishops Reaffirm Support for Refugees As Judges Scrutinize Trump Policy

 Increasing numbers of Muslim migrants trek north to Canada

 US renews pledge to fight terrorism with Pakistan


South Asia

 Afghan Refugees’ Return Is Forced, Not Voluntary: HRW

 Why Is It Proving So Difficult To Supply Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims With Aid?

 Government employee among four ‘militants’ arrested

 1.5m lives lost to defeat Soviet forces; no external force can defeat Afghans: Sayyaf



 Trump’s Muslim Ban Doesn't Cover India, But Indians Need to Be Concerned

 An Indian American Muslim singer resurrects an old civil rights anthem

 Both Hindu and Muslim traditionalists urge Indian youth not to celebrate Valentine's Day

 Jammu & Kashmir: Civilian killed in pro-independence rallies



 Dozen Dead in Intercommunal Clashes in Mali

 Clashes between Militia, Army Leave 11 Dead In Central DR Congo

 Nigeria: Shocking Revelation - 100,000 Killed, Two Million Displaced By Boko Haram

 Central African Republic: UN Helicopter Kills Four Militants in CAR

 Somalia: New President Wants His Country Off Immigration Ban

 Al Shabaab militants kill two soldiers in continued Somalia attacks

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Valentine’s Day road to ‘illicit sex’, M’sian mufti warns Muslims

FEBRUARY 14, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR — Valentine’s Day is a celebration that leads to vice and illicit sex, Malaysia mufti Dr Zulkifli Mohamad has said, warning Muslims against celebrating the day to mark love today.

In a statement published on his office’s website on Monday (Feb 13), Dr Zulkifli claimed that sex out of wedlock is the main focus of youths on this day.

“We have to state that this celebration is banned in Islam based on clear data that shows that it really leads to a culture of vice and illicit sex, apart from emulating negative cultures outside of Islamic teachings,” he said.

“In fact, relations out of wedlock that becomes the main focus of youths during the day is also prohibited by other major religions in the country.”

A lengthier explanation posted on the website claimed that Valentine’s Day and sex outside marriage are “inseparable”, followed by statistics on baby dumping, teen pregnancies and illegitimate births.

“Agree or not, we cannot reject that Valentine’s Day is surely one of the motivation for youngsters to commit vice and illicit sex,” it said.

In his statement, Dr Zulkifli also reminded Muslims of the 2005 religious decree in the 71st meeting of the National Fatwa Committee for Islamic Affairs prohibiting Muslims from celebrating Valentine’s Day.

He said the that the decree ruled that Islam does not endorse Valentine’s Day, since celebrating love should not be specific to any single day but should be done every day.

“May we be able to see the real philosophy of love and prevent ourselves from falling into the valley of sin and vice,” he added.

This incident is also said to be the latest in a growing trend of religious conservatism in Malaysia, the only country in the world that prohibits non-Muslims from using the word “Allah” and other Arabic terms.

The Malaysian Islamic Development Department has consistently opposed the celebration of Valentine’s Day among Muslims, claiming it possesses Christian elements.

Last week, the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry launched a nationwide crackdown in which more than RM10,000 (S$3,198) worth of brushes suspected to be made from pig bristles were seized. Meanwhile, a youth organisation has launched a campaign on behaviour that should be avoided by women, a day before Valentine’s Day.

Islamic enforcement agencies also regularly hold raids on budget hotels and public parks, detaining and charging unmarried Muslim couples with “khalwat”, or being in close proximity with the opposite sex.

Originally a celebration of a Christian saint who secretly officiated over marriages in ancient Rome when it was banned, Valentine’s Day has long taken a commercial nuance as a mark of romantic love and is vastly popular in East Asia. MALAY MAIL ONLINE



Russian video raises alarm: New Islamic State damage in Syria's Palmyra

February 13, 2017

MOSCOW — Russia on Monday released footage from one of its drones in Syria, revealing for the first time the latest destruction to the ruins of historic Palmyra since it was recaptured by Islamic State militants, as Syrian government forces pushed ahead on the ground in a new offensive to take the city back.

Syrian troops have advanced close to within 20 kilometers (12 miles) of the UNESCO heritage site for which Palmyra is famous and which has already suffered massive destruction at the hands of the Islamic State group.

The drone footage, released in Moscow, showed IS militants have badly damaged the facade of the Roman-era theater and the Tetrapylon - a set of four monuments with four columns each at the center of the colonnaded road leading to the theater.

The video appears to show that only two of the 16 columns remain standing.

The footage also recorded sustained truck movements around the archaeological site, suggesting the militants could be preparing for further demolitions by bringing in explosives, warned the Russian Defense Ministry. It said Russian warplanes last week carried out more than 90 sorties to provide air cover for the offensive.

Meanwhile, in Geneva, the office of the U.N. envoy for Syria said the "formal start" of a new round of U.N.-brokered peace talks for the war-torn country is expected on Feb. 23.

Staffan de Mistura's office said he was "actively engaged" in diplomatic efforts aimed at bringing Syrian government and opposition delegations back to Geneva for the first time since the talks were suspended amid an upsurge in fighting last April.

De Mistura had previously said the talks were expected to resume on Feb. 20 but his office said now the delegations would first hold preliminary meetings with de Mistura's team in the Swiss city.

The Islamic State group has destroyed ancient sites across its self-styled Islamic caliphate in territories it controls in Syria and Iraq, perceiving them as monuments to idolatry.



Pakistan court bans 'un-Islamic' Valentine's Day celebrations

Mubashir Zaidi

FEBRUARY 13, 2017

Islamabad HC forbids its promotions on mainstream and social media ‘with immediate effect.’

In a first of its kind verdict, the Islamabad High Court has banned Valentine’s Day events at public places and directed the media regulator to immediately stop advertisements in print and electronic media promoting the day.

Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui said, “No event shall be held at official level and at any public place.”


The ruling came on a petition filed by one Abdul Wahid who pleaded that Valentine’s Day be declared ‘un-Islamic’. The ruling prompted a outcry on social media. #ValentinesDay was trending on Pakistani Twitter with people largely mocking the ruling. Former Information Minister and Opposition Pakistan Peoples Party leader Sherry Rehman tweeted “Wow. As if #ValentinesDayMorehurt anyone. Am not a fan myself but why deny society a harmless fun-fest? It’s not like we don’t have bigger probz.”

Several twitterati spoke of the government allowing religious congregations but giving no space for love. “We #Ban expression of #Love (in public places) but all such places are open for expression of #Hate #Violence then V complain,” said Amira.Yunis@ay_yunis. “Pakistan needs to be renamed as ‘Prohibistan’...”

PTI adds:

PEMRA should enforce it

The court accepted the petition and ordered the administration to take action to stop the celebration of Valentine’s Day in the country. It said the order should be implemented with “with immediate effect.” It nominated Ministry of Information, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), and Chief Commissioner Islamabad to ensure that ban was carried out in letter and spirit.

Apart from the government, the print and electronic media have also been warned to stop all Valentine’s Day promotions immediately.

It is a hot issue here

Valentine’s Day has been controversial in Pakistan and every year, zealots of religious parties try to terrorise the youngsters celebrating the day.

But it is for the first time that a High Court banned its celebrations.

Only a small minority in the conservative country openly observe the day and that too in the big cities.

Eschew it: President

Last year, President Mamnoon Hussain had also urged the nation not to celebrate Valentine’s Day and has said that it has no connection with the country’s culture and should be avoided.

He had urged the people to maintain Pakistan’s religious and national identity.

The Valentine’s Day activities have often been disrupted in the past in the Muslim-majority country by the supporters of hard-line parties like Jamaat-e-Islami.



Syrian forces used chemical weapons in final push for Aleppo: HRW


uNITED NATIONS - Syrian government forces carried out at least eight chemical attacks during the final weeks of the battle for Aleppo, killing nine people, among them four children, and injuring hundreds more, Human Rights Watch said Monday.

The rights group said it interviewed witnesses, collected photos and reviewed video footage indicating that chlorine bombs were dropped from government helicopters during the offensive from November 17 to December 13. Around 200 people were injured by the toxic gases used on opposition-controlled areas of the northern city, according to HRW.

One of the deadliest bombings hit the neighborhood of Sakhur on November 20, killing six members of the same family including four children whose lifeless bodies were shown on a video taken by the Shabha press agency. The report detailed attacks on a playground, clinics, residential streets, and houses that left scores of people struggling to breathe, vomiting and unconscious.

"The chemicals would affect the children most severely... they inhale these smells and they end up suffocating," said a first responder quoted in the report.

The attacks, which may have involved as many as three helicopters operating jointly, took place in areas where government forces were poised to advance, said the rights group.

"The pattern of the chlorine attacks shows that they were coordinated with the overall military strategy for retaking Aleppo, not the work of a few rogue elements," said Ole Solvang, HRW's deputy emergencies director. For five of the attacks, HRW reviewed photographs or video footage of remnants of at least seven yellow cylinders that carried warnings that they contained gas.

The actual number of chemical attacks could be higher, said the group, adding that journalists, medical personnel and other credible sources had reported at least 12 attacks in that period.

HRW was able to verify eight attacks involving chlorine bombs. Syrian forces, backed by Russia, launched an offensive in November to seize east Aleppo, a key battleground in Syria's nearly six-year war, and the regime announced on December 22 that it had taken full control of the city. The group said there was no evidence that Russia was directly involved in the chemical attacks, although Russian aircraft did play a role in the military offensive against opposition fighters in east Aleppo.

"We don't have any evidence that Russia was directly involved in any of these attacks or that it was aware", said Louis Charbonneau, HRW's UN director.

"What we do know is that Russia is a close military ally of the Syrian government. It is involved on the ground. It was involved in the battle for Aleppo."

"At the very least, they needed to take measures to ensure that these weapons were not being used," Charbonneau told a news conference.

Chlorine use as a weapon is banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria joined in 2013 under pressure from Russia.

The use of chlorine bombs as an indiscriminate weapon could amount to war crimes.

Human Rights Watch urged the Security Council to impose sanctions on senior leaders in the chain of command, but such a move would likely be vetoed by Russia.

France and Britain are pushing the Security Council to ban the sale of helicopters to Syria and impose the first UN sanctions against Syrian military leaders and entities tied to chemical weapons development.

A joint investigation by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) found that several units of the Syrian army had used toxic weapons against three villages in northern Syria in 2014 and 2015.

It was the first time an international probe blamed President Bashar Al-Assad's forces after years of denial from Damascus.

Russia, however, has cast doubt of the panel's findings, saying there were not strong enough to warrant sanctions.

A new report by the UN-OPCW joint investigative panel is expected to be released later this month. HRW has sent its findings to the panel.



Southeast Asia


Indonesian Muslim school students protest Valentine’s Day

February 13, 2017

Surabaya, Feb 13 (AFP) Indonesian Muslim school students today staged a protest against Valentine’s Day, denouncing what they said was a Western celebration that encourages casual sex.

While teenagers in many countries treat the day as an occasion to declare their love for classmates, in the Indonesian city of Surabaya it was a different story as students from one school staged the noisy demonstration.

“Say no to Valentine!” chanted the students, who were aged between 13 and 15 and included many girls wearing headscarves.

It was the latest expression of anger at Valentine’s Day in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, where Islamic clerics and some pious Muslims typically use the occasion to target what they see as Western decadence.

“This protest was organised as we have seen on television that Valentine’s Day tends to be associated with free sex,” said Pandu Satria, organiser of the demonstration that was attended by scores of students. “That makes us afraid.” Ida Indahwati Waliulu, headmaster of the school which is run by an Islamic organisation, added: “There is a certain pride about this positive action carried out by the students.” As well as the demonstration, several cities across the country banned people from celebrating the occasion.(AFP) AMS



Some Uighurs fighting in Syria: Exiled leader


TOKYO: An exiled advocate for China's ethnic Uighur minority said Monday that some of the group were fighting and dying in Syria - including for Islamic State (IS) - though she claimed they had been duped into doing so.

Rebiya Kadeer, who heads the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), said that among the thousands of Uighurs who have fled to Southeast Asia, Turkey and elsewhere in recent years, a small number have ended up in the war-torn Middle Eastern country and have joined militant groups. "Some Uighurs... died after Russian airplanes bombed them, they were killed in Syria," she said at a press conference during a visit to Japan. Russia's militarily backs the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's civil war, which erupted in 2011 and has left more than 300,000 people dead. Numerous groups, including IS, are fighting for control of the country. The mostly Muslim Uighurs, who speak a Turkic language and number some 10 million, are native to the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang bordering Central Asia and have long complained of religious and cultural discrimination.

China has frequently warned that radical forces from outside have inspired terror attacks in Xinjiang as well as in other regions of the country and has launched a harsh crackdown.

It says among Uighurs who have fled are some seeking to train with extremists in Syria to eventually return and fight for independence in Xinjiang.

In 2015, China's security ministry said more than 100 Uighurs that were repatriated by Thailand had been on their way to Turkey, Syria or Iraq "to join jihad".

Once a wealthy and prominent businesswoman, Kadeer, now 70, fell out with the Chinese government and was jailed before her 2005 release into exile in the United States where she serves as president of the WUC.

She said Uighurs who end up in Syria are vulnerable and prone to being "brainwashed" into joining the fighting there, but still denounced them.

"We think they are just like criminal groups in our society," she said.

The WUC describes itself as a "peaceful opposition movement against Chinese occupation of East Turkestan" - their name for Xinjiang.

It says it promotes "human rights, religious freedom, and democracy" for Uighurs and advocates "peaceful, nonviolent, and democratic means to determine their political future".

Full report at:



How to tell if your colleague is an Islamic State sympathiser

February 14, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Supervisors are duty-bound to monitor their staff, especially those in the security line, by learning to identify the common red flags that indicate an individual has been radicalised by militant group Islamic State (IS).

Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, Special Branch counter-terrorism division principal assistant director, told Channel News Asia (CNA) it was important that supervisors paid attention to the early signs of radicalisation in their staff.

“Supervisors tend to see this as a security issue to be handled by the police, hence such monitoring is currently lacking,” said Ayob.

He said among the telltale signs that an individual was likely radicalised was an open display of hatred towards those who did not share their views, or the tendency to challenge those in authority.

Radicalised individuals also tended to spend long periods chatting on social media platforms like Facebook and Telegram, Ayob told CNA, besides promoting violence and possessing IS-related symbols such as the militant group’s flag.

Ayob said it was common for radicalised individuals to liquidate their assets to fund their passage to Syria.

Ayob gave these suggestions when asked about last month’s arrest of an airport security guard for suspected links to the IS, the second such arrest involving airport personnel in the past two years.

While initial investigations revealed he was not planning a terror attack in the country, he was planning to go to Syria to join the IS.

CNA reported Ayob as saying that Malaysian authorities currently conducted security checks on new applicants entering the civil service, military, police force as well as airlines and airport service.

“After the applicants get the job, their supervisors are responsible for monitoring them,” said Ayob.

Full report at:



Non-Muslim doctor to host hudud forum with PAS in Penang

Predeep Nambiar

February 13, 2017

GEORGE TOWN: A private citizen will hold an open forum on hudud law next week in an attempt to promote better understanding among non-Muslims of PAS’ attempt to strengthen shariah law.

Dr Ronnie Ooi, a retired medical doctor who has served in the United Kingdom, will host an open forum titled “PAS explains hudud and Hadi Awang’s parliamentary Bill and asks for feedback”.

The free talk will be held on Feb 25 and conducted in English at the YMCA in Macalister Road, George Town.

The panellists include Kelantan state Exco member and PAS central working committee member Dr Mohamed Fadzli Hassan and Ahmad Jailani Abdul Ghani, from PAS’ national lajnah dakwah committee.

Jailani is also the member of the Shariah Criminal Code federal technical committee, tasked with overlooking the amendments to the Islamic penal code with the Attorney-General’s Chambers and other MPs.

“As non-Muslims, we view the implementation of hudud with fear and anger. But anger provides no solutions.

“We need to tell PAS our objections in a face-to-face dialogue. Opposing hudud does not mean we can’t work with PAS on issues like fighting corruption in the government.

“We must not let the hudud issue split the country into Muslim and non-Muslim groups who do not speak to each other,” Ooi said at a press conference at YMCA Macalister Road here today.

Pesent were Jailani, Penang PAS lajnah dakwah chief Amir Hamzah Abd Hashim and his deputy, Abdul Rahim Kassim; and civil and syarie lawyer Khairul Kamal Razali.

Meanwhile, Jailani said those participating in the forum will be able to ask questions directly from those drafting the amendments to the shariah law itself, including himself.

He said many misconceptions, such as views that the Islamic penal code was against the constitution, would also be addressed at the forum.

“We never had the chance to explain to non-Muslims about the Bill we are presenting in Parliament.

Full report at:



Jakarta governor election a 'litmus test' of Indonesian Islam

14 February 2017

Millions of Jakarta residents will go to the polls on Wednesday in a vote that is being seen as a “litmus test” of Indonesian Islam.

In the capital of the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, the incumbent Jakarta governor Basuki Purnama Tjahaja, better known as Ahok, is battling to retain his seat.

Ahok, a Christian from the country’s ethnic Chinese minority, is clinging to a slight lead in the polls against Anies Baswedan, the former education minister, and Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, son of a former president.

Ahok was favourite to win the vote until he became embroiled in a blasphemy scandal. Accused of insulting Islam, he has been forced to defend what many believe are politically motivated charges.

Mass protests by religious hardliners and the legal proceedings that followed have led some observers to view Wednesday’s election as a test of Indonesia’s much-touted commitment to pluralism.

“I think this is going to be a litmus test of Indonesian Islam,” said Tobias Basuki, a researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Are we tolerant or intolerant?”

The blasphemy case against Ahok came about following immense public pressure from demonstrations organised at the behest of hardline Islamists.

Rumours abound that powerful political interests helped fund and mobilise the protests to chip away at Ahok’s strong popularity.

“You cannot underestimate the effect, the significance of this primordialism and the politicisation of religion in order to achieve political ends [by] those who use religion to win the election,” Aleksius Jemadu, dean of political science at Jakarta’s Pelita Harapan University, told the Guardian.

The effect has been decidedly damaging for Ahok, a straight-talking sometimes brash leader credited with delivering positive changes in the city including mitigating floods, cutting red tape and driving infrastructure projects.

Ahok’s lead has been steadily eroded and at times eclipsed by his contenders. His poll standing has rebounded in recent weeks but remains tenuous.

A poll in December 2016 showed how effectively a conservative religious base had been galvanised against him.

Saiful Manjani Research and Consulting (SMRC) found that 45% of Indonesians believed the remarks at the centre of Ahok’s troubles were blasphemous but 88% admitted they weren’t exactly sure what he had said.

Ahok’s electoral rivals have aggressively courted the Islamic vote – visiting mosques and religious leaders, donning Muslim garb and, in the case of Anies Baswedan, a former education minister, even controversially meeting the head of a hardline Islamic group.

“I think the most critical issue is the unstoppable politicisation – How strong the motivation and aim of Ahok’s enemies is to prevent him from winning by capitalising on this issue of insulting religion,” noted Jemadu of the dynamics at play.

At a time when the country is grappling with the relationship between religion and state, the blowback has also churned up underlying resentment against Indonesia’s often wealthier Chinese ethnic minority.

Full report at:





In France, Some Muslims Seek To 'Adapt' Islam To Secular Culture

February 13, 2017

The carpeted prayer hall at the grand mosque in the French city of Bordeaux is full on a recent Friday afternoon. Behind a sculpted wooden railing on a small raised pulpit, Tareq Oubrou, a popular imam, is delivering his sermon in French as well as Arabic.

Bilingual sermons are rare in French mosques. Most Muslim clerics in France are foreign and speak in Arabic, which most young French Muslims don't understand. Oubrou says that's one reason why Muslim religious leaders are out of touch with a generation of French Muslims.

The interpretation of Islamic scriptures is often out of sync with modern times, too, he says. He's working to change that. Oubrou says a reformation is long overdue, and he's become a leading force in working for change.

France has suffered two major terrorist attacks in recent years, both carried out by home-grown Islamist extremists. The country is home to Europe's largest Muslim population, and many French Muslims like Oubrou believe it's time to create a uniquely French brand of Islam — one that is compatible with the country's secular values and responds better to the needs of modern Muslims.

"We have to rethink Islamic doctrines in light of our times," says Oubrou. "One of the reasons for the violence is that some people are interpreting these medieval canons literally. So we have to take Islam out of the context of ancient Arab-Muslim civilizations and adapt it to a modern, globalized, secular society, like France."

Oubrou has received death threats from radicals who don't agree with him, but he has so far refused the French government's offer of protection.

"Everyone in France feels threatened by terrorists," he says. "Why should I get protection?"

In any case, he is not scared. And he wants to be free. "It's their goal to create terror and fear," he says. "As long as people keep their rhythm and serenity, it is a victory over the terrorists."

Oubrou came to France from Morocco when he was 19, originally to study medicine. Now 52, he's raised four children in France and says he's proud to be French.

The French model of society is based on the teachings of enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau – it's one of assimilation, Oubrou says, where all differences are meant to be erased. He says France emphasizes equality rather than liberty. This, he says, is the opposite of Britain and the U.S.

"In the Anglo-Saxon model, there's a preference for liberty," says Oubrou. "So the system doesn't promise equality and equal salaries. France promises equality, but falls short. And this is what creates the frustration that can lead to violence."

Oubrou says young Muslims face discrimination and often don't feel they're fully French. He says their Muslim culture is one reason for the discrimination.

"We're living in the most secular country in the world on the most secular continent, Europe," says Oubrou. "Any kind of religion in the public sphere is suspect, because French secularism was won by opposing the Catholic Church. People fought to liberate themselves from religion."

Oubrou says the French thought they'd solved the problem of religion in the public sphere when religion and the state were officially separated in 1905, and the Catholic Church's pressures receded from public life.

Then, in the 1970s, Muslim immigrants arrived from North Africa, with religion a part of their culture. "So the old demons have been awakened," he says, "and French society views the Muslim faith as a threat."

Oubrou says young Muslims are often ignorant of the spiritual side of their faith but some embrace Islam as a cultural identity — and as a shield, to protect themselves from what they see as a hostile society that considers them second-class citizens.

"Religion is supposed to be for sharing. And once we transform it for protection, we are confiscating God and spirituality," he says.

For young French citizens with Arab origins, "If you want to express a revolt [against French society], you are a fundamentalist Muslim," says Hakim El Karoui, a Muslim writer and business consultant.

He's the author of a recent study titled "A French Islam Is Possible," published by the Montaigne Institute, an influential Paris think tank.

To complete the study, El Karoui and his team did something illegal in a country where everyone is supposed to be equal: They collected demographic statistics to find out how many Muslims live in France. The French population census does not note religion, race or ethnicity.

"I don't know [how] you deal with a problem if you are not able to have a clear picture," says El Karoui. "So getting statistics to find out who French Muslims are was compulsory."

El Karoui says he and his team of researchers discovered there are fewer Muslims in France than people assume. He says there are around 4 million, and not the widely accepted and cited figures of 6 million to 8 million, or about 10 percent of the population.

For the purposes of El Karoui's study a Muslim was anyone who identified as such. The study found 1,000 out of 15,000 total respondents self-identified as Muslim. Many French with one Muslim parent did not. El Karoui says about half of French Muslims are integrated into society and are more or less secularized — believing in French laws above all else — even if they fast during the month of Ramadan and avoid eating pork.

When his report came out last fall, one figure shocked people: that a quarter of Muslims in France do not believe in core French values, such as equality between the sexes and the separation of religion and the state.

"This group uses religion to send a message against French values," says El Karoui. "So of course, they are the ones that get all the attention of the media and politicians."

El Karoui says there are certainly some radicalized people within this group and most of them are young, under 25.

El Karoui's study proposes eight pragmatic solutions for developing a French Islam that is compatible with the country's values and free from foreign funding from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Qatar and Saudi Arabia — which provide support to imams and some large mosques with religious schools.

Some of the proposals include recruiting French-born imams and training them in France, and offering Arabic courses in the secular public schools — so kids can learn the language outside the mosque.

And El Karoui says that French political leaders should do more to embrace French Muslims.

"Saying you are French, you are not a foreigner, and you are a part of the national community is very, very important," he says. "It's important to remind the rest of the population that Muslims are French, and that their problems are everybody's concern."

Oubrou, who says his four children are gainfully employed or studying and are all active in the life of Bordeaux, says there are tens of thousands of Muslims working in French hospitals, offices, universities and politics. "But they're invisible," he says. "We don't talk about them. We only talk about the delinquents."



The Global Expansion Plan of ISIS and its Affiliates

February 13, 2017

New Delhi – ISIS global jihadist expansion is not a myth with jihadist groups around the world pledging allegiance to so-called ”self-proclaimed” caliph Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. ISIS’ state-of–the-art propaganda material triggered a huge number of defections in al-Qaeda ranks and those of other major radical groups influencing the top leaders to support ISIS’ global vision of one sharia state guided by their own radical interpretation of Islam.

Soon after ISIS proclaimed its caliphate in June 2014, many jihadist groups in close proximity to ISIS’ jihadist ideology immediately pledged allegiance to the newly formed militant state. The quick influx of numbers and support included many radical jihadist scholars who quickly evangelized their mission statement of a global Islamic caliphate extending from Spain to Indonesia and parts of Central Asia — a vision dating back to the golden era of Islam which they claim will bring back the glorious period of Islamic history with its dominance over one third of the world.

Due to the ideological difference between al-Qaeda and ISIS, many jihadist groups quickly adhered to ISIS propaganda and started to extend their allegiance by accepting the authority of Islamic state over their groups to consolidate new geographical positions. ISIS not only accepted their allegiance but organized them as provinces, governed by its central command. It restructured the command in these newly added provinces and groups and gave them new identities. The new alliance with various jihadist groups around the world strengthened the central position of ISIS and these groups fulfilled the requirement of battle-tested fighters who would help train and equip the new recruits in Syria. This mass migration of radical jihadists from across the world gave global recognition and created a channel of recruitment that helped ISIS create sleeper cells across Europe and West and Central Asia, extending the reach of ISIS globally.

ISIS and its affiliate groups are prolific in producing propaganda imagery depicting its gruesome executions of hostages, combat training and threats aimed at spreading fear among Western countries and inspiring radicalized youth from around the world to join the Holy War. We tried to understand many of these affiliations as their numbers have grown in the 32 months since the proclamation of Baghdadi as the leader of faithful.

With the majority of mainstream Muslim scholars and populations rejecting its claim of caliphate, there are no Muslim states that have recognized or supported the Islamic State. Many Muslim countries have been victims of ISIS’ brutality. Among the top Muslim nations who have led the fight against ISIS are Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Morocco, the UAE, Egypt and Qatar. These countries have been strong allies of the West against ISIS, and they werepart of Obama’s anti-ISIS coalition. After the Arab Spring, most Arab countries have seen instability and security crises which have led to the formation of radical groups and jihadist control of some territories within their borders. These states have tried to check and eradicate these elements, but what once were pockets of al-Qaeda strongholds are now launch pads of the Islamic State’s global mission, so committed and extreme that even Al Qaeda prefers to stay away from them.

ISIS has formed about nine provinces (wilayah) in Libya, Sinai, Algeria, Khorasan, Yemen, West Africa, North Caucasus, Southeast Asia and Gaza. Hundreds of radical groups have pledged their allegiance to ISIS from these provinces, and ISIS has united most of them to form unified operational groups fighting their own governments over anti-ISIS military support to Western forces.

Abu Muhammad al-Adnani al-Shami, ISIS’ official spokesman was reported to have said, “If you can kill a disbelieving American or European — especially the spiteful and filthy French — or an Australian, or a Canadian or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way — however it may be. Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him or poison him.”


It was during the overthrow of Dictator Muammar Gadhafi in 2011 that the Islamic State took root amid the political chaos in this North African nation. Three armed Islamist groups have claimed allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi since late 2014. Bound by a central command, the three groups are distinguished by location: Tripoli Province in the west, Barqa Province in the east, and Fezzan Province in the south. They have fighters in Tripoli and the major cities of Misrata, Benghazi and Derna triggering frequent battles with security forces.

According to the U.S. and Libyan secret services, there are around 5,000 fighters present in these three provinces. It is the only major area outside Syria and Iraq controlled by a group related to the Islamic State. ISIS’ Tripoli faction also controls Gadhafi’s birthplace in the city of Sirte along the Mediterranean coast. The U.S. has been successful twice in neutralising Islamic State figures that controlled the Tripoli Province while the other two factions operate to amplify the economy by controlling the oil reserves.

Some pro-ISIS groups in Libya are the Islamic Youth Shura Council, the Lions of Libya, the Shura Council of Shabab al-Islam Darnah and Islamic State Libya. All of these groups pledged their allegiance about three years ago.

Algerian Province

Fighters of Jund al-Khilafah pledged allegiance to ISIS in September 2014, when ISIS gained infamy after beheading French tourist Hervé Gourdel. Since then, the group has been largely dormant after reports suggested its leader, Khalid Abu-Sulayman, was killed by Algerian counter-terrorism forces in December 2014.

Some other major groups that pledged allegiance to ISIS are al-Huda Battalion in the Islamic Maghreb on June 30, 2014, al-Ghurabaa on July 7, 2015, Al-Ansar Battalion on Sept. 4, 2015, and Djamaat Houmat ad-Da’wa as-Salafiya (DHDS) on Sept. 19, 2015.

Khorasan Province

Consisting mainly ofdefectors from the Pakistani Taliban, the Afghan Taliban, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and other militant groups, this province (wilayah) was formed after an announcement by ISIS in January 2015. Often fighting with Afghan military and the Afghan Taliban, Khorasan Province has established a stronghold in Eastern Nangarhar province.

Joint operations of the U.S. and Afghan military have led to the deaths of many of Khorasan’s new leaders. On Jan. 16, 2016, the ISIS combatants of this province carried out their first attack in Afghanistan on a Pakistani consulate in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad. At least seven members of Afghan security forces were killed, after which Ashraf Ghani, the afghan president, vowed to “bury” local ISIS-affiliated groups. The Afghan government says the number of rebels is in thousands. They have marked their presence in Helmand province too.

The Islamic State’s Khorasan wing is committed to expanding into Kashmir (A conflict zone disputed between India and Pakistan) to fight Indian forces. They are joined by defectors from Lashkar-e-Taiba — a splinter group of al-Qaeda, as well as some Indian and Bangladeshi jihadists.


In March 2015 the first affiliate to the Islamic state in Yemen announced itself in Sana’a. A series of deadly bomb blasts at mosques in Sana’a followed, and ISIS claimed responsibility. They took advantage of a security lapse which was a result of a war between a Saudi Arabia-led military coalition and Houthi rebels.

Ranks in smaller aligned groups and Sana’a province are filled mainly by defectors of the Yemen based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, this al-Qaeda group was one of the most dangerous terror groups. The two tools the Islamic state uses to enforce their ideology are brutality and well-organized propaganda. Their numbers are believed to be in the hundreds but still very dangerous, according to expert analysts.

Islamic State West Africa

Boko Haram pledged allegiance in March 2015 and was renamed Islamic State West Africa Province. Boko Haram doesn’t control as much territory in northeastern Nigeria as it once did after a recent Nigerian military action. Boko Haram means “Western education is sinful” in English; the group is intolerant to Western influence over Muslims.

Boko Haram’s war on the Nigerian government has claimed more than 28,000 lives, according to a New York-based council on foreign relations and another 2.5 million people have been displaced, according to the U.N. Though they are responsible for all major Nigerian attacks, the most hideous of their crimes is the abduction of school girls which triggered a global outrage against Boko Haram in 2014.

Northern Sinai Peninsula, Egypt

Believed to be in the thousands by researchers, radical groups in Egypt pledged their allegiance in November 2014. This province is considered to be the hub of the most powerful militant group, formerly called Ansar Beit al-Maqdis. Made up of Egyptian radical jihadists who have fought alongside the local Bedouins and Egyptian defectors from al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Iran, it operates mainly in the northern Sinai Peninsula.

Using the latest technology has been a trademark of their attacks that are growing in strength. They killed at least 21 security personnel in Egyptian army outposts in a series of suicide bombings in July 2015. The attacks were well organized, and every move was carefully arranged. After three months they claimed responsibility for killing 224 passengers and crew when they shot down a Russian airliner flying over northern Sinai.

Egyptian military operations have attacked the province and claim that there is no major support for ISIS.

Full report at:



Russia gathers stakeholders Afghanistan conference


MOSCOW: Russia is hosting a conference in Moscow this week that will bring together Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, India and Iran to discuss a possible solution of the conflict in Afghanistan.

This meeting is part of Russia's effort at playing a more pro-active role in Afghanistan for the first time since its invasion of the country in 1979.

The last conference Moscow hosted on Afghanistan in December included only China and Pakistan, prompting a strong protest from the Afghan government.

The one this week is more inclusive of the regional stakeholders, but excludes the United States or NATO, leading to speculation that Russia is more interested in undermining the Unites States than in solving the regional problems.

At a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Chairman Senator John McCain said Russia is propping up the Taliban to undermine the U.S.

“Given how troubling the situation is in Afghanistan, any efforts by any outside stakeholder to look for regional solutions to the war there should be welcomed,” said Michael Kugelman, deputy Asia director at the Washington based Wilson Center. The question he asked, however, was what Russia is trying to do.

Full report at:





Pakistan: 16 killed, 53 hurt as suicide bomber hits Mall Road in Lahore

Feb 13, 2017

At least 16 people were killed and 53 more injured when a suspected suicide bomber set off his explosives during a protest outside the Punjab Assembly on the main thoroughfare of the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Monday evening.

The blast occurred as a large number of chemists and pharmaceutical manufacturers were staging a demonstration against a new drug control act on the Mall Road, where several key government buildings are located. It was not clear if the protest was the target of the blast.

The media reported that the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, had claimed responsibility for the attack.

Lahore’s traffic police chief Ahmad Mobin and two other senior police officials were among the dead, authorities said.

Drone camera footage aired on Samaa TVchannel showed a powerful blast shortly after a man approached a group of protesters on the Mall Road. “Apparently it was a suicide blast, but police are still investigating to know the exact nature of the blast,” Punjab police spokesperson Nayab Haider told local media.

The blast shattered windows of nearby buildings and some cars caught fire. Ambulances and fire tenders rushed to the scene as contingents of soldiers and paramilitary Pakistan Rangers were deployed. The injured were taken to Mayo Hospital and Ganga Ram Hospital.

An Easter Day bombing in Lahore last year killed more than 70 people in a public park. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar had also claimed responsibility for that attack.

Full report at:



Quran reciting made compulsory from Grade 1-5: Yousaf

February 14, 2017

Islamabad-The Minister for Religious Affairs, Sardar Muhammad Yousaf on Monday said that government has made the Holy Quran’s reciting compulsory from grade 1 to 5.

The minister was speaking on the competition held on ‘Qirat and Naat’ at Islamabad Model College for Girls f-6/2 (ICG).

He said that Quran reciting is compulsory from grade 1 to 5 while government has taken steps to teach the holy book with translation from grade 6 till intermediate.

“The implementation has been started in all government and private schools of the federal capital,” stated the minister.

Students from various colleges participated in the competition, while Hafiz Qari Ikhlaq Madni, Hafiz Qari Gulzar Ahmed Madni and Hafiz Qari Muhammad Azam presided over the competition.

Ayesha Musaddiq from IMCG, G-10/4 secured the first prize in Qirat, Sawaira Shahbaz from IMCG, F-7/4 stood second and third prize was awarded to Kulsoom Bibi from IMCG F-7/2.

In Naat Tayyaba Shakeel from IMCG, I-8/3stood first, Hira Hashmi from IMCG, F-7/4 second and third prize went to Iqra Riasat from IMCG, F-10/2 & Aneela Bibi IMCG (PG) F-7/4.

The Minister Sardar Muhammad Yousaf also announced Umrah ticket for winner of completion and also promised for the renovation of college mosque.

Parallel to Qirat completion, flower arrangement competition also arranged in Fine Arts Lab.

Full report at:



Another Pakistan Senator says he was denied US visa

Feb 13, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Another Pakistani Senator on Monday said his US visa application was turned down without a valid reason, a day after reports said the Senate Deputy Chairman, belonging to the same Islamic party as the legislator, was denied visa to visit New York.

Hafiz Hamdullah said he had to wait in a queue for over four hours inside the US embassy's consular section before being told he could not be granted a visa+ , The Express Tribune reported.

Though the incident dates back to October, just days ahead of the presidential polls in the US on November 8, it comes a day after it was revealed that the Senate Deputy Chairman and secretary general of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri was also denied a US visa+ .

Haideri's visa denial led to the cancellation of his visit to New York for a meeting of Inter-Parliamentary Union at the UN on February 13-14. He was to lead a two-member delegation.

"I was not given any reasons. After a four-hour wait, I was simply informed by the visa office that my application could not be entertained," Hamdullah said.

Haideri and Hamdullah belong to the same JUI-F party.

The JUI-F, headed by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, is a coalition partner of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party.

Fazl's party is known to be inclined towards Taliban and critical of US policies in the region. This could be a possible reason behind the visa denials to the politicians.

Haideri's case is being linked to the controversial immigration policy of US President Donald Trump. But the case suggests that the policy of strict vetting of visa applicants from religious parties was in place even during the previous Obama administration.

The US embassy did not comment on Hamdullah's case, citing 'privacy laws', according to the report.

Full report at:



Two BDS cops killed while defusing bomb in Quetta

February 14, 2017

QUETTA - Two bomb disposal squad personnel were killed while defusing a planted improvised explosive device (IED) while 16 others sustained wounds in Quetta’s most sensitive area on Sariab Road.

According to police sources, a bomb disposal squad, on receiving information that a mysterious thing was lying near Sariab Bridge, reached the spot. As they saw an IED, they started to defuse it. All of a sudden, the IED exploded, killing two bomb disposal squad personnel on the spot and injuring 16 others. Those killed were BDS Commander Abdur Razzaq and Head Constable Abdul Majeed while the injured consisted of five personnel of security forces and 11 civilians. The police sources said six to seven kg explosives had been used in the blast.

Full report at:



Taliban bomb kills three FC soldiers in SWA

February 14, 2017

PESHAWAR - Three personnel of Frontier Corps martyred in a blast of improvised explosive device in South Waziristan Agency.

Official sources said the Frontier Corps (FC) men were on routine patrol on Sunday night at Toikhula area of the agency, when an explosive device planted by Taliban militants exploded near their vehicle. Resultantly, there FC soldiers embraced Shahadat while the vehicle was also destroyed. The dead bodies were rushed to the nearby combined military hospital (CMH). Security forces cordoned off the area and started search operation in the area.

"Three FC soldiers were martyred in a bomb blast during a patrol in South Waziristan," a senior security official told AFP, adding that the bomb had been detonated remotely.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra strongly condemned the bomb blast. They extended heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families of the martyrs and prayed for eternal peace of their departed souls.

The attack came a day after Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s visit to the agency, where he spent a busy day and met soldiers.


INP adds: The outlawed TTP on Monday claimed responsibility for deadly attacks on FC men in South Waziristan that killed three personnel and the murder of an assistant cameraman of Samaa TV.

TTP spokesperson Mohammad Khorasani in a statement said, “The media is not impartial and we’ve issued several warnings to them.”

An assistant cameraman of Samaa TV was killed when a DSNG van of the channel came under attack in Karachi on Sunday night.

Reacting to the incident, military’s media wing, Inter-Services Public Relations, said killing of the assistant cameraman was a sad incident. “Share the grief of media, Samaa and Taimoor’s family,” DG ISPR Maj-Gen Asif Ghafoor tweeted.

Full report at:



TTP says it carried out attack on Saama TV’s van

February 14, 2017

KARACHI - Banned militant outfit Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility for the targeted attack on the DSNG van of a private news channel on Sunday, while police on Monday registered a case against unidentified persons for attacking the DSNG van and killing an assistant cameraman of the channel.

Taimoor Khan, 22, was shot dead when armed motorcyclists targeted a Digital Satellite News Gathering (DSNG) van of Samaa TV near KDA Chowrangi in North Nazimabad when it was on its way to the site of a cracker attack on police’s armored personnel carrier. Two separate special police teams, headed by District Central SSP Muqaddas Haider and SP Samiullah Soomro, have already been constituted by Sindh IGP Allah Dino Khawaja following the directives of the Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah.

The initial police investigation has suggested that at least four armed men on two motorcycles were behind the incident. DSP Naeem Khan said that the initial investigation pointed towards the involvement of the same group of militants in both the consecutive attacks; the one on DSNG van and the other on policemen. Police investigators have also obtained the forensic report of the empty shells of 9mm pistols used in the incident.

“The empty shells, recovered from the crime scene, have no previous history of being used in any criminal activity in Karachi,” said an officer of the Forensic Division of Sindh Police.

Meanwhile, the funeral prayers for Samaa TV employee Syed Imtiaz Ali were offered at Bilal Masjid near his residence in Orangi Town and later he was laid to rest at Paposh Nagar graveyard.  People from different walks of life attended the funeral.

Police have registered an FIR No 28/17 under Sections 302 (murder) of the Pakistan Penal Code and 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act against unidentified persons, while further investigation is underway.

Reward for those giving details

of cameraman’s killing:

Additional IG Karachi Mushtaq Mahar has announced that anybody who provides information about the killing of Samaa TV cameraman will be awarded one million rupees and his identity will also be kept confidential.

In Karachi, attacks on media persons have become a routine. This was the fifth such incident to have taken place in Karachi, resulting in the death of five media employees. Two suspected members of a banned religious outfit, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, had been arrested on January 2016 for their alleged involvement in targeted killings of media men. On the other hand, journalists protested in front of the Karachi Press Club against the brutal killing.  The protest was organised by Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ). Chanting slogans, they demanded the government to arrest the assailants and give compensation to the victim’s family.

Full report at:



Arab World


Dara'a: 45 Terrorists Including Commanders Killed in Clashes with Syrian Army

Feb 13, 2017

Al-Nusra and other groups of the newly-formed Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board) carried out a large-scale attack on government forces' positions in the districts and neighborhoods of al-Manshiyeh, Sajineh, Hamideh al-Taah and Busra square in the Central and Western parts of Dara'a city, targeting residential areas including al-Sajari neighborhood by mortar shells.

The army soldiers, in the first hours of the terrorists' attack, retreated tactically to regroup and further engaged in fierce clashes with terrorists, killing 45 terrorists and destroying five military vehicles and a tunnel.

Several commanders were amongst the killed terrorists.

The army troops managed to stop advances of the terrorists and carried out counterattack against Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at to take back lost positions.

The army has driven terrorists out of the entire entrances of al-Manshiyeh, Sajineh, Hamideh al-Taah and Busra square now.

Field sources said that a number of ambulances of the terrorist groups have been dispatched to the battlefield to take away the injured to militant-held regions.     

Reports said earlier today that the army troops repelled a large-scale offensive of al-Nusra Front on government forces' positions in the Southern city of Dara'a, killing 20 terrorists including their emir.

The army soldiers fended off Nusra's attack on their positions in al-Manshiyeh neighborhood, killing 20 terrorists and wounding tens more.

Nusra's Field Commander Abu Rayan Ordoni was amongst the killed terrorists.

Nusra's bomb-laden suicide vehicles were also destroyed in the failed attack.



Iraqi military: 13 Daesh commanders killed, Baghdadi fate unclear

Feb 13, 2017

Iraqi Air Force says it has killed at least 13 commanders of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group during an airstrike that targeted a house in the country’s west where the group's ringleader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was thought to be meeting with other extremists.

The military said in a statement on Monday that Iraqi F-16 warplanes had targeted the house in the border city of Qa'im in Anbar Province two days earlier. It also published the names of the 13 senior members of the terrorist group killed in the airstrike, but the list did not include Baghdadi.

Iraqi sources raised the possibility that the ringleader had been hit and injured in the Saturday strike.

The statement also noted that during the same wave of airstrikes, three other positions belonging to the Takfiri group had also been targeted in western Iraq, where 64 terrorists had been killed.

The military said Baghdadi had moved in a convoy from the Syrian city of Raqqah to Qa'im in Iraq last week to discuss with commanders "the collapse happening in Mosul and to chose a successor for him."

Baghdadi, whose real name is Ibrahim al-Samarrai, has been reported wounded several times in the past.

The leader of the Daesh terrorist group, Ibrahim al-Samarrai, also known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (File photo by AFP)

Daesh has been ravaging Iraq and Syria since 2014. The terrorist group has overrun territory in both countries and has declared the city of Raqqah in Syria and Mosul in Iraq as its so-called headquarters.

Full report at:



Syria: Tens of Civilians Massacred in Turkish Army Attacks in Al-Bab

Feb 13, 2017

The sources said that the entire members of several families have been killed and many more have been wounded in the attacks of the Turkish warplane and militants of the Euphrates Shield Operation.

The sources further added that there is no exact report on the number of the civilians massacred in al-Bab, but bodies are scattered all over the region.

Field sources disclosed on Saturday that over 60 civilians were killed or wounded in a fresh round of Turkish bombardments in the town of al-Bab

The sources said that Turkish warplanes bombed again the town of al-Bab, leaving at least 20 civilians dead and 40 more wounded.

A monitor disclosed late in January that ten civilians, including a child, were killed in Turkish airstrikes and shelling in and around a Syrian town held by the ISIL terrorists.

The bombardment hit the Northern town of al-Bab and the nearby area of Tadif, both held by ISIL, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at the time.

Turkish forces regularly carry out air strikes in support of a ground operation it launched in Syria last August targeting both ISIL and Kurdish fighters.

ISIL is not included in a fragile nationwide ceasefire in force since December 30 that led to peace negotiations jointly organized by Turkey, Russia and Iran in Kazakhstan this week.

Full report at:



Ahrar Al-Sham Commander Killed in Clashes with Civilians in Northern Hama

Feb 13, 2017

The websites said that residents of Kafr Nabouden started clashing with the terrorists of Ahrar al-Sham and Jeish al-Nasr that had attacked Kafr Naboudeh and tried to enter the town.

The media outlets added that the civilians blocked terrorists' path into the town, defending Syrian army soldiers deployed in Kafr Naboudeh.

Fierce clashes broke out between the pro-government civilians and terrorists at Kafr Naboudeh entrace gate, leaving several militants dead including commander of Jund al-Sonah Brigade known as Abu Hazen, said the websites.

Several militant vehicles equipped with missile-launchers were destroyed in the clashes in Kafr Naboudeh, they added.

The terrorist groups' Saudi Mufti (religious leader) Abdullah al-Muhaysini expressed dissatisfaction over the incident and said Kafr Naboudeh's residents are forces of the Syrian army.

On Friday, intensified infighting among the rival terrorist groups of Jund al-Aqsa and Ajnad al-Sham in the Northern part of Hama province resulted in the abduction of 100 terrorists from the latter group by the former.

At least 100 Ajnad al-Sham terrorists were kidnapped by Jund al-Aqsa in Kafr Zita after several hours of clashes between the two rival terrorist groups, the Arabic-language media outlets reported.

Full report at:



ISIL Suffers Heavy Casualties in Syrian Army Attack near Deir Ezzur's Airbase

Feb 13, 2017

The army units and warplanes hit jointly the movements of a group of ISIL terrorists near al-Tamin Brigade in the Southern countryside of Deir Ezzur city, leaving most of the militants dead and their hardware destroyed.

In the meantime, the army troops and fighter jets targeted ISIL's gatherings and movements in Deir Ezzur's outskirts, killing a number of terrorists and destroying their military vehicles.

Reports said on Sunday that Syrian and Russian fighter jets carried out a joint preemptive attack and targeted the gatherings and movements of the ISIL terrorists in the Southern countryside of Deir Ezzur, preventing their move towards government forces' positions.

The warplanes pounded ISIL's positions in al-Makbat region Southwest of Panorama and foiled ISIL's attack on government forces' defense lines, killing most of the terrorists and destroying two military and two bomb-laden suicide vehicles.

In the meantime, Syrian Army troops targeted two groups of ISIL terrorists that had planned to use al-Huweiqa passage and nearby regions of the faculty of agriculture in al-Hosseiniyeh, killing and wounding most of militants.

Full report at:



Protests, clashes as Bahrainis mark anniversary of popular uprising

Feb 14, 2017

Thousands of people have been taking to the streets across Bahrain to mark the sixth anniversary of a popular uprising against the ruling regime in the country and denounce the crackdown that has ensued.

Protests to mark the anniversary of the February 14, 2011 revolution in Bahrain began on Monday and continued on Tuesday morning. People braved security forces, who were quickly deployed to crack down on the protests.

On Monday evening, people took to the streets in the northern village of Abu Saiba, west of the capital Manama, chanting slogans against King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah and demanding the downfall of the regime.

They also held the monarch fully responsible for the crimes being perpetrated against the nation, the detention campaign against ordinary citizens and religious figures, and the killing of protesters.

Elsewhere, in the small north-central village of Bu Quwah, dozens of demonstrators expressed solidarity with distinguished Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim, who has been stripped of his citizenship and whom Bahraini authorities seek to put on trial on politically-motivated charges.

As part of the crackdown on dissent, Bahraini authorities have dissolved several opposition groups, including the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society and the Islamic Enlightenment Institution, which were founded by Sheikh Qassim.

Skirmishes broke out in the Nuwaidrat Village, where Bahraini regime forces intervened and fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Tear gas fills the area during clashes between Bahraini forces and anti-regime protesters in the village of Nuwaidrat, Bahrain, on February 13, 2017.

The protesters also expressed solidarity with slain pro-democracy campaigners and opposition figures during a protest in the village of Buri.

Similar demonstrations were staged on Sitra Island, situated south of Manama, the villages of Daih, Shahrakan, Bani Jamra, Karbabad, and Sanabis, as well as the Saar residential area west of the capital and Manama’s Bilad al-Qadeem suburb.

Full report at:



Iraqi forces intercept 200 Daeshis fleeing Syria

Feb 14, 2017

Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units have blocked the escape of around 200 Daesh terrorists who were attempting to flee the city of Tal Afar and enter Syria.

On Monday, PMU spokesman Ahmed al-Assadi told reporters that the terrorists were using tanks in their attempt to escape Tal Afar, which is located to the west of Mosul.

"The attack by the Daesh terrorist gangs started at around 7:00 pm (1600 GMT)” and lasted for around six hours, he said.

PMU forces, also known as Hashd al-Sha'abi, have been stationed around Mosul since October 17, when Iraq launched massive operations to retake the city from Daesh.

The coalition of anti-terror forces has so far fully liberated the eastern half of the flashpoint city -- home to more than one million people -- and are gearing up to liberate its western side.

Iraqi forces regain control of two more neighborhoods in east Mosul

"This was an attempt by Daesh to open a breach, flee to the Syria border and exfiltrate some leaders and fighters," he added.

A soldier of the Hashd al-Sha'abi (Popular Mobilization Units) looks at a car convoy in the desert near the Tal Afar airport on November 20, 2016.

He noted that Iraqi military helicopters aided the PMU in thwarting the Daesh attack, in which at least 50 of the terrorists were killed and 17 of their vehicles destroyed.      

Full report at:



ISIL Executes Own Commander South of Syria's Deir Ezzur

Feb 13, 2017

The sources said the senior commander of terrorists in al-Maqaber (Deir Ezzur's cemetery) has been killed by the ISIL after the Syrian army could score more victories against militants in Southern outskirts of the city.

In the meantime, the army units attacked the gatherings and movements of ISIL near Qasan Aboud square inside Deir Ezzur city, destroying ammunition depots and a vehicle carrying heavy artillery.

ISIL also suffered major casualties in the attack.

Also, a number of ISIL militants were also killed after a multi-storey base of the terrorists was destroyed in the army's attack.

Reports said on Sunday that Syrian and Russian fighter jets carried out a joint preemptive attack and targeted the gatherings and movements of the ISIL terrorists in the Southern countryside of Deir Ezzur, preventing their move towards government forces' positions.

The warplanes pounded ISIL's positions in al-Makbat region Southwest of Panorama and foiled ISIL's attack on government forces' defense lines, killing most of the terrorists and destroying two military and two bomb-laden suicide vehicles.

Full report at:



Syria: Main Position of Tharir Al-Sham Hay'at Destroyed by Rival Terrorist Groups

Feb 13, 2017

The sources said that two terrorists of Jund al-Aqsa in a suicide bomb attack detonated a main positon of Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at in the town of Kafr Zita, killing or wounding a number of militants.

Jund al-Aqsa's attack came after terrorists of Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at entered the town of Kafr Zita in Northern Hama and seized control without any clashes with Jund al-Aqsa.

Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at along with al-Turkistan party in a joint attack against Jund al-Aqsa in Northern Hama and Southern Idlib seized control over the town of al-Tamanna and other positions of Jund al-Aqsa in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Southern Idlib.

Media sources disclosed on Sunday that Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at declared war on Jund al-Aqsa after the latter managed to take control of several towns in Southern Idlib.

The sources said that Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at declared war against Liwa al-Aqsa, a branch of Jund al-Aqsa in Hama province.

They added that one of Abu Abdul Malek al-Shami, a commander of Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at, underlined his forces' firm will to annihilate Liwa al-Aqsa.

The sources said that combatants of Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at have driven Liwa al-Aqsa forces out of the town of al-Tamanna in Southern Idlib.

The Hay'at's decision to open war on Jund al-Aqsa came after the Liwa al-Aqsa took control of the town of Kafr Sajneh in Southern Idlib.

Later, Jund al-Aqsa terrorists continued their advances in the region and seized control over the town of Khan Sheikhoun and al-Tamanna. 

Also, a group of terrorists affiliated to the newly-formed Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at entered a government hospital in the town of Ma'arat al-Nu'aman in Idlib province on Wednesday, using force, and took several guards of the medical center that were members of Ahrar al-Sham hostages.

Full report at:





Hamas military hardliner elected group's Gaza chief


GAZA CITY: Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas elected a hardline member of its armed wing as its new Gaza head on Monday, Hamas officials said. "Yahya Sinwar was elected to head the Hamas political office in the Gaza Strip", the officials said.

He will succeed Ismail Haniya, who is seen by many observers as the most likely successor to Hamas's current exiled leader Khaled Meshaal.

In September 2015, Sinwar was added to the US terrorism blacklist alongside two other members of Hamas's military wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades.

A graduate in Arabic, he was born in the Khan Younis refugee camp in southern Gaza and founded "Majd," one of Hamas's intelligence services.

Arrested by Israel in 1988 for "terrorist activity," Sinwar was sentenced to four life sentences.

He was released in October 2011 under an agreement to exchange more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured five years earlier.

Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip for a decade, has been conducting internal elections for several months.

The process is shrouded in mystery and it is unclear when the other appointments will be announced.

After his release from jail, Sinwar initially made a number of public appearances.

Later, however, he disappeared from public view and was presented in Hamas media as the commander of al-Qassam's elite units.

Influential and close to many Hamas military leaders, Sinwar represents for some observers the hardest line within the Islamist movement.

Washington accuses him of continuing to advocate kidnapping of Israeli soldiers as a bargaining chip for Palestinian prisoners.

Hamas currently claims to have four Israelis in captivity in Gaza, though Israel says the two soldiers among them were killed in the 2014 war.

Kobi Michael, an analyst and former head of the Palestinian Desk at Israel's Ministry for Strategic Affairs, said the appointment would cause alarm among Israeli politicians.

"He represents the most radical and extreme line of Hamas," he told reporters. "Sinwar believes in armed resistance. He doesn't believe in any sort of cooperation with Israel."

Israel has fought three wars with Hamas since 2008, the last of which in 2014.

The Jewish state maintains a crippling blockade on Gaza which it says is necessary to maintain Hamas but which the United Nations says amounts to collective punishment.



20 killed as Houthis, Hadi loyalists clash in western Yemen

Feb 13, 2017

Nearly two dozen people have been killed in overnight clashes between fighters from the Yemeni Houthi Ansarullah movement and militiamen loyal to resigned president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in the country’s strategic western province of Hudaydah, military and medical officials say.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Monday that skirmishes in the Red Sea port cities of Midi and Mukha have claimed the lives of 14 Ansarullah fighters.

Pro-Hadi militia forces, backed by the Saudi air force, began a major offensive on January 7 to recapture Mukha, which overlooks the strategic Bab el-Mandeb Strait connecting the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden, from Ansarullah fighters. Tens of people from both sides have been killed so far in the ongoing clashes.

Yemeni snipers shoot dead Saudi trooper

Meanwhile, Yemeni soldiers, backed by fighters from Popular Committees, have shot dead a Saudi trooper in the kingdom’s southwestern border region of Jizan as the Riyadh regime pushes ahead with its aerial bombardment campaign against its crisis-hit southern neighbor.

Yemeni forces shot and killed the Saudi trooper in Soudah military base of al-Khoubah district on Monday afternoon, Arabic-language al-Masirah television network reported.

Yemeni soldiers and their allies also fired a locally-developed al-Sarkha 3 (Shriek 3) missile at a gathering of Saudi troops in the Eastern Umm al-Qotb district of Jizan, located 969 kilometers south of Riyadh, but there were no immediate reports of possible casualties or damage.

This photo provided by the media bureau of Joint Operations Command in Yemen shows an Emirati armored vehicle on fire in an area of the central Yemeni city of Sirwah on February 13, 2017.

Later, Yemeni forces and their allies targeted an Emirati armored vehicle in an area of the city of Sirwah, which lies about 120 kilometers east of the Yemeni capital city of Sana’a, killing all those onboard.

Also on Monday, Saudi military aircraft launched an airstrike against an area in the Baqim district of the northwestern Yemeni province of Sa’ada, leaving three civilians dead and four others injured.

Full report at:



Netanyahu non-committal on Palestinian statehood as he heads to US


TEL AVIV: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sidestepped a question on whether he still supports the creation of a Palestinian state as he left for the United States on Monday on his first visit since President Donald Trump took office.

Netanyahu has never publicly abandoned his conditional backing for Palestinian statehood, which he first stated in 2009, but Palestinians say that commitment has been rendered worthless by Israeli settlement building on occupied land.

Hours before Netanyahu's departure for Washington, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Army Radio that "all members of the security cabinet, and foremost the prime minister, oppose a Palestinian state". The forum convened on Sunday ahead of Wednesday's White House meeting between Netanyahu and Trump.

On the Tel Aviv airport tarmac, Netanyahu was asked if he still stood behind the so-called two-state solution. "Come with me, you'll hear very clear answers," he told reporters accompanying him on the flight.

If confirmed, a departure from a two-state policy would present Israel with diplomatic, political and demographic challenges as it contends with the complex question of how to deal with a Palestinian population now under limited self-rule.

Far-right partners in Netanyahu's coalition have called for the annexation of parts of the West Bank, a demand he has resisted.

Last month, Israel's Haaretz newspaper said Netanyahu, in a closed-door meeting with Likud ministers, coined a new term "Palestinian state-minus" to describe his vision of limited Palestinian sovereignty in the territory.

He has already conditioned Palestinian statehood on demilitarisation, long-term presence of Israeli troops in the West Bank and Palestinian recognition of Israel as the "nation-state" of the Jewish people.

Full report at:



Suspected Istanbul nightclub attacker wanted to kill Christians


An Islamist gunman, who has confessed to the killing of 39 people at an Istanbul nightclub on New Year's Day, told a court that he had aimed to kill Christians during his attack, Hurriyet newspaper said on Monday, citing testimony given this weekend.

Abdulgadir Masharipov initially planned to attack the area around Taksim Square but switched to the upscale Reina nightclub due to the heightened security measures around the square, Hurriyet said, without saying how it had obtained the document.

Reuters was not given access to the confidential document.

"I did not take part in any acts before the Reina event. I thought of carrying out an act against Christians on their holiday, to take revenge for their killing acts across the world. My goal was to kill Christians," he was quoted as saying.

"If I had decided to do so, I would have used a gun and killed the people there (Taksim). There was no entrance to Taksim, it was swarming with police. I changed my mind after that," Huuriyet quoted him as saying in the court document.

Turkey is a majority Muslim nation. Turks, as well as visitors from several Arab nations, India and Canada, were among those killed in the attack. Victims included a Bollywood film producer, a Turkish waiter, a Lebanese fitness trainer and a Jordanian bar owner.

Islamic State claimed responsibility the day after the attack, saying it was revenge for Turkish military involvement in Syria. Turkey is part of the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State and launched an incursion into neighboring Syria in August to drive jihadists and Kurdish militia fighters away from its borders.

Masharipov, an Uzbek, acknowledged his membership of Islamic State and said the jihadist group would develop a presence in predominantly non-Muslim countries if it had the power, Hurriyet said.

Masharipov said he and his family had originally planned to travel to Syria from Uzbekistan, but stayed in Turkey because they were unable to do so. He said he had not taken part in any meetings or phone calls with the group while in Turkey.

He was caught in a police raid in Istanbul on Jan. 16 and was formally charged with membership of an armed terrorist group, multiple counts of murder, possession of heavy weapons and attempting to overturn the constitutional order, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.

In his testimony this weekend, he told officials he would prefer the death penalty as a sentence, and said he did not regret his actions, which he believed were not targeting Turkey, but rather were acts of revenge.

"It would be better if a death penalty was ruled. I threw the stun grenades after my ammunition had finished, nothing happened. I remained alive, but I had gone to die there," he said, according to Hurriyet.

Full report at:



US rabbis want potential envoy to Israel rejected

Feb 14, 2017

Hundreds of American rabbis have signed a letter against the appointment of David Friedman as the United States’ ambassador to Israel, describing his ideology as “extreme.”

The open letter, which was released on Monday, has been signed by as many as 600 American rabbis and cantors, The Times of Israel reported.

The signatories took issue with Friedman’s fervent and oft-repeated support for Israel’s settlement activities in the West Bank and his strong opposition to the “two-state solution.”

“Mr. Friedman’s pro-­settler positions and opposition to the two-­state solution are in conflict with our views and the majority of American Jews who see settlement expansion as an obstacle to peace and who strongly support a two­-state solution,” they said.

They called his views not representative of the American society, and his general behavior unbefitting of an envoy.

“An ambassador is charged with representing our entire nation,” they wrote, adding, “We are very concerned that rather than try to represent the US as an advocate for peace, Mr. Friedman will seek to mold American policy in line with his extreme ideology.”

New US President Donald Trump announced his decision to nominate Friedman for the job late last year, before he had assumed office himself.

Friedman has caused controversy by saying that he plans to work at “the US embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.” The indication of intent to move the American embassy to East Jerusalem al-Quds is meant to be a sign of the recognition of the city as the capital of an Israeli “state.”

Full report at:



UN chief ‘deeply’ regrets US veto of Palestinian ex-PM as Libya envoy

Feb 13, 2017

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has expressed his “deep” regret for the opposition mounted by the United States to the designation of former Palestinian premier Salam Fayyad as the world body’s special envoy to crisis-hit Libya.

The UN chief made the remarks at the annual World Government Summit in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), on Monday, saying that he did not see “any reason” for the US opposition to the appointment of Fayyad, whom he described as “the right person for the right job at the right moment.”

Guterres also said that Fayyad, a Texas-educated former International Monetary Fund official, had a track record of fighting corruption and criticized the US for blocking his appointment, which he said had been “a loss for the Libyan peace process and the Libyan people.”

Libya has been engulfed in political and security turmoil since the NATO military intervention which followed the 2011 uprising that led to the toppling and killing of longtime dictator, Muammar Gaddafi.

Fayyad, 64, who served as the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority from 2007 to 2013, had on Wednesday been proposed by Guterres to the UN Security Council to replace Martin Kobler of Germany.

File photo shows ex-Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority Salam Fayyad.

The UN chief needs the unanimous support of all 15 members of the council for the appointment of special envoys to conflict regions. On Friday night, however, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley blocked the designation by voting against Fayyad, saying that US President Donald Trump’s administration “was disappointed” to learn that Guterres had proposed such a person.

She also accused the world body of being “unfairly biased” in favor of the Palestinian Authority to the “detriment” of Washington’s allies in Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the US veto of Fayyad’s candidacy as going against the “free gifts constantly given to the Palestinian side.”

However, Guterres dismissed Nikki’s allegations and said that the world body “needs to be able to act with impartiality” and its loyalty should only be to its charter and not to any particular person.

Full report at:



North America


Vietnamese refugee priest to Trump: Give my citizenship to a Syrian

By David Gibson 

February 11, 2017

A Catholic priest who fled to the U.S. from war-torn Vietnam as a youth has written to President Trump offering to surrender his American citizenship so that the president could confer it on a Syrian refugee who would be barred under Trump’s controversial order banning travelers from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries.

The Rev. Chuong Hoai Nguyen, a member of the Salesian order, also told Trump he would ask his religious superiors for permission to go live and work in one of the seven countries on the banned list.

“Yes! I am a refugee,” Nguyen, who works with the Vietnamese community in Los Angeles and runs a Catholic youth center there, wrote the president.

“I am an American and I have made America great in my own way for the 42 years since I was granted asylum in this great country. But now, I would like to relinquish my U.S. citizenship and ask that you grant it to a Syrian refugee,” he wrote.

“I am certain that they, like all refugees, will not squander this gift of life. I believe they will also ‘make America great,’ alongside your children and grandchildren.”

The letter was posted Friday (Feb. 10) on the blog of the Catholic magazine Commonweal by Peter Steinfels, a prominent Catholic intellectual and former New York Times religion columnist. A friend of Steinfels had sent it to him.

The letter was dated Jan. 27, the start of the Vietnamese New Year, a time of hope and celebration, as Nguyen noted.

But it was also the date that Trump signed his executive order barring refugees from the countries as part of what Trump has called a “ban” on Muslims entering the U.S. — a move the president claims will keep the country safe from terrorist attacks.

Critics have noted that refugees almost never commit terror attacks and that, as CNN reported, “the primary perpetrators of the major terror attacks have mostly been US-born citizens or permanent legal residents originally from countries not included in the ban.”

A federal appeals court also ruled that Trump’s ban was unconstitutional and the administration is reportedly debating whether to take the battle to the Supreme Court or revise the order in hopes it will pass muster with the lower courts.

When Nguyen read about the order, he wrote the president, “My heart and my soul were frozen.”

Nguyen went on to detail his harrowing journey from Vietnam in 1975, along with hundreds of thousands of other “boat people,” as Communist forces overran the country following the American withdrawal.

Nguyen’s parents put him and his siblings, ranging in age from 6 to 21, on an overcrowded boat with no captain or crew and little food or water. A week later, under escort from U.S. naval forces, they made it to safety in the Philippines. Hundreds of thousands of others drowned trying to make the journey.

“Becoming a refugee is a choice one makes when there are no other options,” Nguyen wrote.

He then recounted how he came to the U.S., became a priest and dedicated himself to building up the nation that gave him and others like him sanctuary.

Now Nguyen says he is ready to yield his citizenship to another refugee, if Trump will allow it.

It was not immediately known whether the White House had responded to the priest’s letter or whether such a citizenship swap would be possible.



Bishops reaffirm support for refugees as judges scrutinize Trump policy


Washington D.C., Feb 10, 2017 / 03:46 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. bishops welcomed a federal appeals court ruling that affirmed a legal injunction against a Trump administration executive order on refugee resettlement and travel bans targeting Muslim countries.

“We respect the rule of law and the American judicial process,” said Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, Texas, speaking in his role as chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration.

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to resettling refugees and all those fleeing persecution,” Bishop Vazquez said Feb. 10. “At this time, we remain particularly dedicated to ensuring that affected refugee and immigrant families are not separated and that they continue to be welcomed to our country.”

“We will continue to welcome the newcomer as it is a vital part of our Catholic faith and an enduring element of our American values and tradition,” he added.

The three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, by a 3-0 vote on Feb. 9, upheld a lower court’s temporary restraining order against several provisions of an executive order on refugee resettlement.

The provisions under judicial scrutiny included a 120-day halt on U.S. refugee resettlement program; an indefinite ban on resettling Syrian refugees; and a 90-day prohibition on entry for individuals from seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

On Thursday, the panel said that the Trump administration did not present any evidence that any alien from the countries it named has carried out a terrorist attack in the U.S. It said the public has an interest in national security and the ability of a president to enact policies. It added that the public also has an interest “in free flow of travel, in avoiding separation of families, and in freedom from discrimination.”

President Trump had said the order would stop terrorists and allow federal agencies to develop stricter screening for those entering the country.

He pledged to fight the ruling in court, saying on Twitter “the security of our nation is at stake.”

Full report at:



Increasing numbers of Muslim migrants trek north to Canada

February 13, 2017

Out of fear that he would be persecuted for his bisexuality, Seidu Mohammed fled from Ghana in an attempt to find a new home in the U.S. The 24-year-old man was denied asylum in late 2016. Mohammed and another Ghanaian native, Razak Iyal, decided to illegally cross from the U.S. into Canada, as the AP reported recently. The two took a bus from Minneapolis to Grand Forks, N.D.

On a bitterly cold Christmas Eve, they paid a taxi $200 each to drop them off in remote North Dakota, as close to the Canadian border as possible. There they hiked north for hours, through snowdrifts that rose as high as their waists. When they could walk no further, they waited by a freeway in the hopes someone would stop.

“We were standing in front of the highway looking for help for almost seven hours. Nobody was willing to help, no traffic stopped,” Iyal told the AP. “We gave up. That was our end of our life.” A passing driver rescued the men from the elements, but not before the cold claimed all of their fingers. Still, they said to the AP, the men were glad to have successfully crossed into Canada.

Frostbite was just one of the troubles to emerge in recent months at the border between the U.S. and Canada. There has been a surge in immigrants making illegal crossings into Canada — particularly from Minnesota, which has a large Somali population, into the neighboring province of Manitoba. Minneapolis’ City Pages, speaking on Friday with Rita Chahal of the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council, reported that the average number of people who made the trek for the 70 previous years was about 50 annually. In 2016, 300 asylum seekers crossed into Manitoba. In the first week of February, as many as 30 people crossed over.

And over the weekend, 22 immigrants entered the small Manitoba town of Emerson-Franklin. A bartender at the Emerson Hotel told Winnipeg’s Metro News that his establishment had become a popular rest stop for migrants.

“They’re cold. They’re wearing their winter boots and their winter gear, but they’re cold,” the bartender, Wayne Pfiel, said. “They end up taking their boots and socks off right in the lobby or else I’ll let them in the bar and offer them a coffee and something to eat.”

After President Donald Trump signed an executive order barring travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, Canada adopted a welcoming stance. “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith,” tweeted Justin Trudeau on Jan. 28. “Diversity is our strength.” As the Washington Post described Canada’s message to stranded migrants on Jan. 30: “Live in Canada, for a while, if you want.”

Traveling in the other direction — from Canada into the U.S. — has also become fraught. A few Muslim Canadians said they have been told to turn back.

Fadwa Alaoui, a Moroccan-born woman who is a citizen of Canada, said she was denied entry into the U.S. during the first weekend in February. Alaoui told the CBC’s “As It Happens” radio show that U.S. border officials questioned her at length about her visit. They wanted to know about her thoughts on Trump (she was of the opinion he could do with the country as he wished, she said) and asked her about the prayers saved on her phone, La Presse reported. Alaoui, who wished to go shopping with her cousin and two children in Burlington, Vt., said she was fingerprinted and dismissed after four hours.

And a 19-year-old student at the University of Sherbrooke, in Quebec, said he was not able to attend an indoor track-and-field competition in Boston. Like Alaoui, the student said he was turned away at the Vermont border.

Full report at:



US renews pledge to fight terrorism with Pakistan


WASHINGTON: In its first remarks on the situation in Pakistan since coming to power, the Trump administration on Monday renewed the US pledge to work with Pakistan to defeat terrorism.

“We will continue to work with our partners in Pakistan and across the region to combat the threat of terrorism,” said a statement released after Monday’s terrorist attack in Lahore.

Full report at:



South Asia


Afghan refugees’ return is forced, not voluntary: HRW


KABUL: Pakistan is conducting the mass repatriation of Afghan refugees through coercion, threats and abuse, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a scathing report on Monday, accusing the UN refugee agency of complicity in promoting the exodus.

Hundreds of thousands of Afghans have been forced to return to their homeland, which is racked by conflict, poverty and unemployment, joining more than half a million others uprooted by war inside the country.

The report, entitled "Pakistan Coercion, UN Complicity: The Mass Forced Return of Afghan Refugees", called the repatriation the world's largest forced return of refugees.

"After decades of hosting Afghan refugees, Pakistan in mid-2016 unleashed the world's largest recent anti-refugee crackdowns to coerce their mass return," said Gerry Simpson, a refugee researcher at the Human Rights Watch.

"Because the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) didn't stand up publicly... [against refugees' forced return], international donors should step in to press the government and [the] UN to protect the remaining Afghan refugees in Pakistan."

The report claimed a combination of insecure legal status, the threat of deportation during winter and police abuses - including extortion, arbitrary detention and nocturnal raids - had left the Afghan refugees with no choice but to leave Pakistan.

"In July, 11 soldiers and police came to our home at 3am. They entered without asking and threw all our things on the floor. They demanded to see our refugee cards and said they were expired," a 26-year-old Afghan was quoted as saying.

"Then they... told us to leave Pakistan," said the man, who returned to Kabul with his wife and two children.

The report was also critical of the UNHCR, saying that by doubling its cash grants to Afghans returning from Pakistan to $400, it was effectively encouraging the exodus.

"The UN refugee agency should end the fiction that the mass forced return of Afghan refugees from Pakistan is, in fact, mass voluntary return," Simpson said.

"If UNHCR feels that giving cash to returning refugees is the best way to help them survive in Afghanistan, it should at the very least make clear it does not consider their return to be voluntary."

There was no immediate reaction to the report from the Pakistani government, which has previously cited security concerns and strains on its resources after nearly four decades for the repatriation.

It has repeatedly extended deadlines for refugees to leave, most recently until December 2017.

On the other hand, the UN Refugee Agency said it "shares concerns" of the Human Rights Watch regarding the pressures on Afghans in the late summer, which affected the repatriation last year, but "does not agree with the conclusions of its new report".

"The multiple drivers behind this surge... include pressures by authorities amidst broader security operations, changing attitudes among host communities, uncertainty about the renewal of refugee ID cards, economic hardship, stricter border controls disrupting trade and family ties," the body said in a statement.

Some Afghan refugees have been sheltering in Pakistan since fleeing the Soviet invasion of 1979.

Up to 2.4 million registered and unregistered Afghan refugees were estimated to be in Pakistan last year, though the figures have not been updated since the repatriation began. The UNHCR listed it as the world's third-largest refugee-hosting nation.

Conflict-torn Afghanistan is struggling to reabsorb large masses of refugees and failed asylum-seekers being sent back from Pakistan, as well as from Europe and Iran.

The Afghan government, heavily reliant on foreign aid, has promised refugees land and cash grants but is struggling to deliver.

The growing influx has sent living costs soaring and daily wages falling in many areas. Safe areas are in any case decreasing as the government steadily loses territory to insurgents.



Why Is It Proving So Difficult To Supply Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims With Aid?


When a ship crammed with 2,200 tons of rice, emergency supplies and aid-workers tried to dock at Yangon port on 10 February, it arrived to protests by hard-line Buddhists. The aid was from Malaysia, and part of it was meant to deliver relief to the Rohingya Muslims experiencing a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine and Maungdaw states. The ship successfully docked in Bangladesh on 13 February.

Initially the boat was banned from entering Burmese waters, but was later allowed through by Port Authorities, though expressly forbidden to enter a river north to Sittwe, capital of the Rakhine region. It was permitted to dock just outside Yangon, where it began to unload 500 tons of produce. The rest was destined for southern Bangladesh where up to 70,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled since the military crackdown in October and are living in atrocious conditions in official and unofficial refugee camps.

They are displaced citizens, seen as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh in Myanmar, and illegal immigrants from Myanmar in Bangladesh. The government has reportedly returned thousands of Rohingya to Myanmar according to Amnesty International; the organization says it is a violation of international law, which states you cannot forcibly return people to a country where they are at risk of human rights violations.

A group in Muslim-majority Malaysia, frustrated by reports of inaction and persecution in Rakhine, put an aid ship together to support the refugees. Unusually for Southeast Asian stability, Malaysia has been openly critical of Myanmar’s actions.

When the boat arrived, a group of Buddhists, including monks, held up signs saying “No Rohingya,” One of the most vocal groups present was a faction of Buddhist monks belonging to the Patriotic Myanmar Monks Union, a nationalist group.

Recent reports by the U.N. and its workers have said the death toll of Rohingya Muslims could number in the thousands and that the situation has worrying similarities to ethnic cleansing. Refugees from the group are not always welcome in Bangladesh either, where Amnesty International has reported “callous” actions against the minority.

“Their desperate need for food, water and medical care is not being addressed,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director in a November report.

Here, Newsweek reviews the events that have led to Burmese Buddhists attempting to deny the distribution of aid to a needy minority, and the role both countries have played so far.

Who are the Rohingya?

Described by the U.N. as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities in 2013, there are around 1 million Rohingya in Myanmar, out of a population of 50 million. The majority live in Rakhine State, and speak Bengali, rather than Burmese. Many (approx 140,000 Rohingya) live in camps in Rakhine that they cannot leave without government permission.

Why did Malaysia send aid?

The Malaysian boat carried 1,000 tons of rice, 1,200 packets of instant noodles, hygiene kits, chapati flour, and a legion of aid workers. The aid has not come directly from the government, but was instead organized through the Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organisations, and a number of local NGOs, including 1 Putera Club.

As residents of one of the wealthiest Muslim-majority countries in Southeast Asia, many Muslims want to help their northern neighbors.

In January Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak warned Myanmar could be a target for the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) if the Rohingya  crisis is not resolved, and stressed that the potential exodus of refugees could cause the region to be “destabilized.”

"This must happen now…The government of Myanmar disputes the terms 'genocide' and 'ethnic cleansing,' but whatever the terminology, the Rohingya Muslims cannot wait," Razak said, according to Al Jazeera.

Indonesia has also offered to act as a facilitator to ease the crisis in Myanmar, after Razak described Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya as a “stain” on the ASEAN bloc, and called on other countries to help.

Why are people protesting against the aid shipments?

For external observers, the presence of people protesting against the aid shipment might seem strange. For ordinary people, it could be considered a boon for a country to receive free aid in any context, but especially for people it does not see as citizens.

However, monks believe they have a responsibility to defend and protect Buddhism, explains Matthew Walton, Aung San Suu Kyi senior research fellow in modern Burmese studies at St Antony's College, Oxford.

“It can be difficult to say whether the people who are going to rallies or sharing their Facebook posts actually support [the monks’] specific aims or whether it’s just social pressure to support monks, especially when those monks present their activities as being done in defense of Buddhism,” he says.

Why do some people deny the Rohingya exist?

Some of the protesters meeting the aid shipment made claims there are no Rohingya in Myanmar.  Despite the government having established a commission to look into Rohingya abuse, the government of Myanmar does not recognise the Rohingya as official citizens.

The stance stems a concern over what could happen if the Rohingya were recognized as an official ethnic group.

Walton says that the 2008 constitution allows for special representation for minority groups within regional and state parliaments and the former military government created several semi-autonomous zones for different ethnic groups. “The fear that some people, particularly Rakhine Buddhists, but Buddhists across the country, have is that if the Rohingya were recognized as such, their population numbers would make them eligible to demand certain special treatment and would also allow them to contest for parliamentary seats in the Rakhine State Parliament, challenging the near-monopoly that Buddhists have there… [thus] upsetting the balance of power in Rakhine State.”

Full report at:



Government employee among four ‘militants’ arrested

February 14, 2017

Police have arrested four suspected members of blacklisted militant organisation Allahr Dal on Monday night, one of whom is a government employee.

The public servant was housing the other militants, including the head of the organisation, in Thakurgaon-Panchagarh region.

Police raided a house at Shahpara in Thakurgaon on information from detective sources around 10pm on Monday and arrested the alleged militants who have been living in the house for the past couple of years.

They seized a number of radical Islamist and anti-government publications from the house.

Farhat Ahmed, police superintendent of Thakurgaon, told reporters at a briefing in his office that Fakrul Islam Babu, 31, one of the arrested militants and the main tenant of the raided house, is a government employee.

Also Read- Jamaat-backed militant group Allahr Dol active in the north

He also added that Fakrul hails from Pabna and is the son of Md Abdul Motalib and Firoza Khatun. He was housing the three other arrested militants in his house. Farhat, however, did not reveal any further information on Fakrul.

Police sources said the house belongs to Motahar Hossain, who is an official at Krishi Bank in Thakurgaon municipality.

According to the SP, another arrestee Khandaker Mojibul Islam Miron, 32, heads some active 200 members of Allahr Dal in the districts of Thakurgaon and Panchagarh.

Miron hails from Kushtia, and is the son of Khandaker Abdul Halim and Monowara Begum.

The other two arrestees are Md Rabbani Haque Fazlu, 24, and Md Arif Hossain, 22. Both of them are locals of Thakurgaon.

Full report at:



1.5m lives lost to defeat Soviet forces; no external force can defeat Afghans: Sayyaf

Feb 14 2017

A prominent Jihadi figure and former Afghan lawmaker Abdul Rab Rasool Sayyaf has said the Afghan nation achieved victory against the Soviet forces with almost 1.5 million human lives lost in the campaign.

Sayyaf was speaking during a gathering to mark the withdrawal of the Soviet forces from the country 28 years ago.

He said the whole Afghan nation should be proud of the day to mark the withdrawal of the Soviet forces, insisting that no external force can defeat the Afghan people.

Sayyaf further added that any provocative act or insult against Jihad will be considered as an attack on the religion.

He was apparently gesturing towards the growing frustration against the Jihadi leaders who were involved in a devastating civil following the withdrawal of the Soviet from the country.

Full report at:





Trump’s Muslim ban doesn't cover India, but Indians need to be concerned

Feb 14, 2017

The Trump administration has repeatedly stated that the Executive Order signed by US President Donald Trump, titled Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States, which imposes an immigration ban on citizens of seven Muslim majority countries, is not a “Muslim ban”.

Indeed, this order has been carefully worded because, out of the seven countries whose citizens are affected, it only mentions Syria explicitly. It says: “the entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States.”

Cryptic cross-references to the Immigration and Nationality Act, which deals with countries whose citizens are subject to restrictions under the Visa Waiver Program, confirms that the Executive Order applies not merely to Syrians, but also to citizens of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.

Does the American Constitution, however, reward legal sleight of hand? Can state action, which invidiously discriminates against a particular group, marking out individuals within that group for a special disfavour, avoid constitutional repercussions with a nudge and a wink so long as the group being singled out is not identified by name?

The answer, quite simply, is “no”, and the reason for this can be found in a judgment of the US Supreme Court dealing not with Islam, but with the syncretic Caribbean religion called Santeria.

‘A religious gerrymander’

Central to Santeria is animal sacrifice and, in 1993, the US Supreme Court was looking into a set of city ordinances that, though appearing neutral at first glance, essentially looked to end the ritual sacrifice practiced by adherents of the Santeria faith.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is still on the US Supreme Court, in striking down “government hostility which is masked, as well as overt”, christened laws that discriminated on the basis of religion under a veil of neutrality as “religious gerrymanders”, using the effect and operation of the law (and not merely its text) as proof of the real purpose behind it, apart from using “circumstantial evidence” of events preceding the enactment of the ordinances to ascertain their true object. According to him, the object of the law, in that case, was the “suppression of Santeria’s central element.”

Trump’s Executive Order is clearly a “religious gerrymander”.

First, even though the Executive Order does not mention Islam, it allows the US Secretary of State, for instance, to “prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.”

This is nothing short of an official preference given to Christian immigrants, which is backed up by President Trump’s own public position.

On the other side of the coin, it clearly shows that Muslims, forming part of the religious majority of these seven countries, are being singled out, and are virtually being labeled by the executive government as foreign terrorists by virtue of their faith.

Second, and more important, is the fact the Executive Order cannot be divorced from events surrounding its promulgation, pointing towards its real object, and I would argue that this would include all of Trump’s anti-Islamic invective on the campaign trail. We need to remember here that, when it comes to this Executive Order, we don’t need to grapple with deep philosophical questions as to whether one can ascertain the real purpose or motive behind the acts of a collectivity like the legislature.

The Executive Order is the act of one human being, granted wide powers under Article 2 of the US Constitution, and the ends sought to be achieved by such an individual can definitely be extrapolated from his words and conduct.

This is not merely about the disproportionate impact on Muslims, or about trying to guess a hidden motive. This is a case where the real object of the Executive Order is conspicuous from a close reading of its text, from an analysis of context and on mapping its actual impact, yet the mere absence of the word “Muslim” is being used to emphasize neutrality.

Why India should care

However, why should we in India concern ourselves with this Executive Order or follow the developments in the US, where Federal Courts are stepping in to mitigate its effects? Why should we care about whether this Executive Order is violative of the American Constitution, which prohibits the unequal treatment of people and as well as preferences given to one religious group over another?

First, as a people, we should be aware of how easy it is for a populist leader to undermine constitutional principles with the stroke of a pen, and how important it is for us to closely scrutinise both the form and substance of official attempts to interfere with liberties and discriminate against groups, uniting in defence of the Constitution regardless of our political valence.

Second, for our courts, it is a reminder that their role is to protect individual liberties against the onslaught of officially sanctioned discrimination, regardless of whether such discrimination is overt or covert.

Our courts have recently taken the easy way out when it comes to facially neutral statutes, and nowhere is this more evident that in Suresh Kumar Kaushal vs Naz Foundation, where our Supreme Court concluded that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises same-sex love, “merely identifies certain acts which if committed would constitute an offence”, but “does not criminalise a particular people or identity or orientation”.

The role of constitutional courts, above all else, is to go behind the chicanery of facially neutral laws, and strike them down if, both in impact and in overt purpose, a law singles out a group for unfavourable treatment, looking upon them with “an evil eye and an unequal hand.” Anything less amounts to the abdication of the judiciary’s role as the guardians of the Constitution.

Karan Lahiri is an advocate practicing in the Supreme Court of India, with an academic background in American constitutional law.



An Indian American Muslim singer resurrects an old civil rights anthem

February 13, 2017

Zeshan Bagewadi is always looking for a new song. Recently, he found a great one — except it wasn't exactly new. It was more than 45 years old, George Perkins' 1970 song "Cryin' in the Streets." 

It was written as a reaction to the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. two years earlier. 

But Bagewadi was convinced "Cryin' in the Streets" was a song for today's civil rights struggles, too. So he repurposed it. 

"'I see somebody marching in the street. I see somebody crying in the street. I see somebody dying in the street.' [I was] struck ... how simple it was, how poignant it was, how elemental it was," he says of the original lyrics.

Cryin' in the Streets" also resonated with Bagewadi's own experiences growing up as a Muslim, an Indian American and a Chicago native. He grew up listening to his father's extensive collection of blues, soul and gospel: "Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Curtis Mayfield, James Brown ... that was sort of the soundtrack of my childhood."

His father was a freelance journalist, living in India, and from there followed the civil rights movement in America. "He wrote editorials on black expression in literature," says Bagewadi. "My father was always drawn to the black artistic expression and read Langston Hughes, Zora [Neale] Hurston." 

That made a huge impression on Bagewadi, who has aligned himself with the Black Lives Matter movement. "What needs to be done here is simple. Us Muslims need to ally ourselves with those who have paved a path for us and who has been on the front line of the struggle. So we need to appropriate their struggle. We need to appropriate their pain." 

Full report at:



Both Hindu and Muslim traditionalists urge Indian youth not to celebrate Valentine's Day

Dr. Lalit Kishore

14 February, 2017

Considering the celebration of Valentine's Day in India, a cultural contamination from the West and commercial-interest based aspect of globalization, both the Hindu and Islamic religious groups and traditionalists have warned the young couples to refrain from public display of love on February 14.

This time, the Muslim activists from Student Islamic Organisation of India (SIOI) have asked the Indian youth not to celebrate Valentine's Day 'in the larger interest of the country' and not to spend money on the purchase of valentine cards, outing, gifts and eateries to celebrate the day.

The printed pamphlets, highlighting India's socio-economic problems and urging the youth not to blow up the money on a western celebration, are being distributed in major cities.

As usual the extreme rightist groups have also urged the youth to shun the 'public displays of sexual affection' and not fall into the trap of the 'valentine card industry' because of such acts being 'alien to Indian culture' since it leads to 'vulgar exhibition of love at public places'.

Full report at:



Jammu & Kashmir: Civilian killed in pro-independence rallies

13th Feb 2017

By Zahid Rafiq

SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir,  India, (AA): Thousands of unarmed civilians in the disputed Jammu and Kashmir took to the streets in massive pro-Independence demonstrations and clashed with the Indian forces in the region after the killing of four Kashmiri militants and one civilian by Indian forces during a gun-battle on Sunday morning. Three Indian soldiers were also killed in the morning gun-battle.

As soon as news spread about the killing of four Kashmiri militants in Frisal village in Kulgam district in the morning, people came out in protests. According to eyewitnesses, the Indian forces shot at the civilian protestors, killing one and wounding several others.

The Indian police, in a statement on Sunday evening, confirmed the death of the civilian but kept quiet about the injuries to the dozens of civilians.

“In the aftermath of encounter, law and order situation occurred in which some individuals sustained injuries. Among the injured, one person identified as Mushtaq Ibrahim Itoo, a resident of Hatigam, succumbed to his injuries. In this connection investigation is going on,” the police statement said.

Soon after the bodies of the slain militants were returned to their families, thousands of people participated in their funeral prayers. Eyewitnesses told Anadolu Agency that several villages across the south Kashmir resounded with pro-independence slogans asking for Kashmir’s independence from Indian rule.

“In villages across Kulgam, Anantnag, Pulwama, thousands of people went out on streets calling for Aazadi (freedom) from India and hailing the martyrs. It was just like it was during the uprising summer last year when hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets,” Mohsin Ahmad Rather, a 27-year-old college student from Frisal in Kulgam, told Anadolu Agency.

The resistance leadership called for a shutdown to be observed on Monday and also called for a Kulgam chalo (rally to Kulgam)- where the gun-battle happened and most of the civilian injuries took place.

“Leaders strongly condemn the use of brute force against civilians in Kulgam. The Indian forces action is the worst kind of state terrorism and such merciless acts will never be tolerated and we are obliged to resent and raise our voice against state sponsored terrorism,” a statement by the United camp of pro-independence leadership said.

Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full.

Full report at:





Dozen dead in intercommunal clashes in Mali


BAMAKO : A dozen people were killed in clashes between herders and farmers from separate ethnic groups over the weekend in central Mali, as jihadist tensions drive conflict in rural communities.

Increased availability of arms from Libya has contributed to intercommunal violence in Mali, experts say, while drought has forced herders into areas traditionally cultivated by farmers.

The clashes between ethnic Peuls and Bambaras "led to the deaths of 13 civilians and huts were set on fire," a source at the security ministry told AFP on Monday. Local politician Djiguiba Keita put the death toll at 10 while Bekaye Samake, mayor of Macina, the closest major town to the village hit by the violence, said seven bodies had been recovered.

The clashes were triggered by the murder of a Bambara farmer on Saturday named by Samake as Cheickna Traore.  It was followed by retribution killings against Peuls accused of being jihadists who had organised the assassination.

A report last month by Human Rights Watch described an "Islamist armed group presence and intimidation of the population" that has "steadily increased" in central Mali, as well as an uptick in banditry and criminality.

The South African-based Institute for Security Studies has highlighted drought driven by climate change as leaving herders unable to feed their animals.

They have since been "forced into the valleys where conflicts often arise with farmers over land and water," according to a report released last year.

Peul people are frequently accused of colluding with jihadists who have sowed chaos in Mali in recent years, and especially since the founding of an armed group by radical Peul preacher Amadou Koufa.

That group has allied with the Tuareg leader of Al-Qaeda allied Ansar Dine, Iyad Ag Ghaly.

The Malian army mounted an operation against a hideout of Koufa's acolytes in central Mali last week, arresting 20 people and killing one.

Since the overthrow of Moamer Kadhafi's regime in Libya, weapons have travelled from the chaotic state in an arc of unrest through Mali and Niger.

Northern Mali fell under the control of Tuareg-led rebels and jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda in 2012 who were largely ousted by a French-led military operation in January 2013.

But the implementation of a peace accord struck in 2015 has been piecemeal with insurgents still active across large parts of the region.



Clashes between militia, army leave 11 dead in central DR Congo

Feb 13, 2017

At least 11 people have been killed in a series of violent clashes between the army and fighters loyal to a slain militia chief in central Democratic Republic of the Congo, a local activist says.

Jean Rene Tshimanga, a local activist, said that the clashes took place between the DR Congo soldiers and the militia loyal to a traditional chief killed in fighting with security forces last year. He added that the violence occurred near the town of Tshimbulu in Kasai-Central Province on Monday.

"This morning, we learned again that (the militia) attacked the men in uniform [who] repelled them," Tshimanga, the president of the Civil Society of Kasai-Central Province, said.

The activist  did not specify how many of the dead were militia members and how many army soldiers. 

The town, where the army killed more than 60 militia members in fighting last Friday, has been the scene of constant clashes between the soldiers and armed groups over the past few months.

Similar clashes in recent months have killed hundreds and uprooted thousands across the troubled region.

The militia's leader, Kamwina Nsapu, was killed by police last August after having vowed to rid the province of all state security forces.

Full report at:



Nigeria: Shocking Revelation - 100,000 Killed, Two Million Displaced By Boko Haram

13 FEBRUARY 2017

By Sani Tukur

Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno state on Monday released the grim statistics of deaths and material losses suffered by the state due to the Boko Haram insurgency.

Mr. Shettima gave the data at the annual Murtala Mohammed memorial lecture held at the Shehu Yar'Adua Centre in Abuja.

The governor, who delivered a paper "Managing the Boko Haram Crisis in Borno State, Experiences and Lessons for a Multiparty, Multiethnic and Multireligious Nigeria", said theinsurgency has led to the deaths of almost 100,000 persons, based on estimates by community leaders in the state over the years.

"The Boko Haram insurgency has led to deaths of almost 100,000 persons going by the estimates of our community leaders over the years," he said.

This casualty figure is the highest ever provided by any government official from a state where remote areas which witness attacks by the insurgents are difficult to reach.

"Two million, one hundred and fourteen thousand (2,114,000) persons have become internally displaced as at December of 2016, with five hundred and thirty seven thousand, eight hundred and fifteen (537,815) in separate camps; 158,201 are at official camps that consists of six centres with two transit camps at Muna and Customs House, both in Maiduguri.

"There are 379,614 IDP'S at 15 satellite camps comprising Ngala, Monguno, Bama, Banki, Pulka, Gwoza, Sabon Gari and other locations in the state. 73,404 persons were forced to become refugees in neighbouring countries with Niger having 11,402 and Cameroon having 62,002.

"We have an official record of 52,311 orphans who are separated and unaccompanied. We have 54,911 widows who have lost their husbands to the insurgency and about 9,012 have returned back to various communities of Ngala, Monguno, Damboa, Gwoza and Dikwa," the governor said.

Mr. Shettima also said based on the post-insurgency Recovery and Peace Building Assessment, RPBA, report on the north-east which was jointly validated by the World Bank, the European Union, the Presidency and the six states of the north-east, Boko Haram has inflicted damages to the tune of $9 billion on the region.

He said "of this amount, the destruction in Borno State amounts to $6 billion and they are supported by grim statistics".

Conspiracy theories hampered effort to tackle insurgents early

Mr. Shettima also gave accounts of how conspiracy theories hampered the fight against Boko Haram under the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.

"For me, the most critical experience and lesson I have had and learnt within the last five years has been the power of conspiracy theories and how they can strongly undermine the fight against insecurity and the management of the humanitarian crisis," he said.

The governor said Boko Haram insurgency grew from strength to strength because of an initial conspiracy theory that began after the 2011 general elections.

"Distinguished Ladies and gentlemen, after the Boko Haram carried out its first suicide attack on the headquarters of the Nigerian Police Force in June 2011 and a later attack on the UN building in August, both in Abuja, a conspiracy theory emerged immediately alleging that the Boko Haram was set up by Muslim-majority northern leaders to target Christians and make Nigeria ungovernable for His Excellency, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.

"Given the fact that both attacks took place in June and August, which were within three months after President Jonathan was sworn-in, this conspiracy hypothesis immediately assumed a life of its own," he said.

He also said those who believed the theory did not care to recall that the first major attacks by Boko Haram in Borno and Bauchi states which took place in June 2009, had occurred under the late President Umaru Yar'Adua, a Northern Muslim from Katsina State.

Former President, Goodluck Jonathan

"The proponents of this ridiculous conspiracy theory didn't care to recall that a Northern Muslim from Kaduna State was actually the Director-General of President Jonathan's 2011 elections campaign.

"Surprisingly, when it suited their narrow political agenda even pro-Jonathan northerners propagated that the insurgency reflected the collective will of the Northern opposition to undermine the federal government.

"What that meant in effect, was that the theory changed from all Northerners using Boko Haram to undermine Jonathan into a narrower theory that northerners in the opposition were using Boko Haram to destabilise Jonathan's administration. The end result was an alibi for the state not to admit its failure to rout the Boko Haram at the earliest opportunity.

"It appeared the President himself initially believed the conspiracy theory. For instance, when he visited Borno State on Thursday, 13th of March, 2013, President Jonathan requested to meet differently with officials of the Borno State Chapters of the Christian Association of Nigeria and the Jama'atul Nasril Islam.

"The President neither invited nor stopped me from participating but I understood he wanted to meet each group without me. Both meetings were arranged for the President without me knowing the agenda.

"To his credit, I must acknowledge, President Jonathan was actually on a fact finding mission because the following day, during his courtesy call at the Government House in Maiduguri, he said that officials of the Christian Association in Borno State had told him that Boko Haram was not targeting only churches and Christians but rather, had attacked many Mosques and killed many Muslims.

"President Jonathan went further to say that from his findings, the Boko Haram had actually attacked more of majority Muslim communities in the state. The President's revelation was an indication that he didn't understand the crisis before March, 2013.

"Whether his initial lack of understanding of the situation caused his ineffective response to the crisis before 2013, is a matter for conjecture.

"But Borno people consigned to the receiving end of poor policy articulation and response, were simply victims of the resultant inaction or paralysis. And they paid with their lives and property, for which the Nigerian Constitution in its fundamental directive principles, compels the state to use its exclusive possession of the organised means of violence to guarantee," he said.

Mr. Shettima also said he got upset over the Chibok schoolgirls' abduction of April 14, 2014 and the conspiracy theory that followed it.

He said that the abduction gave him the impression that the correct lessons were not learnt at the presidency despite Mr. Jonathan's personal findings in Borno.

He said instead of both the federal and state governments to combine strength towards rescue efforts, a conspiracy theory was immediately created that denied that an abduction of the poor schoolgirls was real.

The theory, he said, presumed that key politicians in the opposition APC cooked up the abduction story mainly to embarrass Mr. Jonathan and the PDP.

He said days later; when the Bring Back Our Girls campaigns began, the theory was changed from cooked abduction story to one saying it was designed and masterminded by the opposition led by his administration.

"Meanwhile, the failure by the state to perform its constitutional duty in rescuing the schoolgirls and bringing back the Sambisa forest into the Federal Republic of Nigeria, by whatever means necessary, were glossed over as an embarrassed nation sought refuge in yet another conspiracy to undermine a Christian and Southern President.

"As God would ordain it, President Goodluck Jonathan, in May, 2014, constituted an investigative panel to gather facts regarding the abduction. The panel had credible persons from all segments, including representatives of the majority Christian community in Chibok, serving and retired personnel of the armed forces, local and foreign-based women and civil rights activists, journalists and some persons believed to be very close to both President Jonathan and his wife.

"The panel met all stakeholders from heads of security establishments, leadership of the West African Examination Council in Borno State, and the panel was also in Chibok to meet agonizing parents and community members. After an exhaustive investigation, the panel submitted its report to President Jonathan.

"The Presidency didn't disclose the content of the report and didn't point any more accusing fingers at Borno State Government," he said.

Mr. Shettima said despite these experiences, the conspiracy theorists are still at work under President Buhari.

He said months after the 2015 elections and the inauguration of Mr. Buhari, another conspiracy theory was "cooked up" following resumed attacks by militants in the Niger Delta.

"There were some northerners who began to create a conspiracy theory that the militants were regrouped and being funded by those who lost out in the 2015 elections, in order to destabilize President Buhari's administration.

"There were those who even believed and supported the theory in the south and they went as far as posting through the online and social media, that it was the turn of the Niger Delta to exact revenge on how Boko Haram was used to destabilize President Jonathan's administration.

"Again, the main issue, namely the inability of the state to guarantee production of oil and secure vital strategic investments in the Niger Delta, being the only variable outside the price of oil in the international markets within the ability of the Nigerian state to influence for good, was side-tracked.

Full report at:



Central African Republic: UN Helicopter Kills Four Militants in CAR

13 FEBRUARY 2017

By Ole Tangen Jr (Reuters, Dpa)

A UN helicopter fired upon militants advancing into the town of Bambari in the Central African Republic. MINUSCA troops said that the militants had crossed a "red line."

One top leader and three other fighters from the Popular Front for the Renaissance of Central African Republic (FPRC) were killed in a helicopter attack by UN forces in the town of Bambari in the Central Africa Republic (CAR). The fighters were advancing on the town and according to a spokesperson for the UN's mission in CAR known as MINUSCA, the fighters had crossed a "red line" it had set in the north of the town.

"We were looking to prevent war in Bambari," said spokesman Vladimir Monteiro, referring to the town about 250 kilometers (155 miles) northeast of the capital Bangui.

A final death toll has yet to be established but Azor Kanite, the FPRC's deputy commander, said that at least four people were killed.

"Our top commander (Joseph Zonduko) and three civilians were killed by the bombings," said Kanite.

The FDRC is one of the largest groups of militants in the CAR and were a part of the mostly Muslim rebellion known as Seleka which overthrew then President Francois Bozize in 2013.

Elections in 2016 have led to relative calm in the CAR between Muslims and Christians with the UN attempting to keep the peace in many parts of the country.

There has been violence between Mulsim groups in the west of the country, including fighting between the FPRC and the Fulani Union for Peace.

According to the UN, the FPRC has carried out house-to-house searches, killing, looting and abducting Fulani residents in the town of Bria, also in western CAR. Dozens have reportedly been killed and an estimated 20,000 have been displaced.

Full report at:



Somalia: New President Wants His Country Off Immigration Ban

13 FEBRUARY 2017

By Falastine Iman And Salem Solomon

Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, more commonly known as “Farmajo," told VOA of his plans in a phone interview late Thursday, a day after his unexpected victory in the Somali presidential election.

“It is part of my responsibility to talk about this issue with the U.S. government by conveying our message to the president and his government that the Somali people are really good, hard working people," Farmajo said. "They raise their families in the United States. So we will see if he can change that policy and exclude Somalis from that list."

The future of the so-called "immigration ban" is in doubt after the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a judge's restraining order against directives that temporarily halted refugee resettlement programs and barred visitors from Somalia and six other Muslim-majority countries.

President Donald Trump has vowed on Twitter to challenge the decision, setting up a possible showdown in the Supreme Court.

Farmajo is a dual U.S. and Somali citizen who has spent much of his adult life in the United States, mostly in the northern city of Buffalo.

That didn't stop Somali parliament members from choosing him Wednesday over incumbent leader Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and 20 other candidates to become the nation’s 9th president.

Farmajo told VOA his first priority is to appoint a new prime minister who will be in charge of dealing with Somalia's security problems and a developing humanitarian crisis.

“There is a huge drought everywhere in Somalia which definitely will produce a famine,” he said. “We have to appeal to the international community to provide humanitarian assistance to those affected people in Somalia.”

Following two seasons of weak rainfall, the country is experiencing severe drought and the United Nations has warned of the potential for a repeat of the 2011 famine that killed more than 250,000 people.

He said he expects that the new prime minister can assemble a new cabinet in 30 days, and said they will roll out a plan of action in the coming 100 days.

The new president admitted Thursday he is still adjusting to his new role.

“My feeling is surreal. My feeling is something I cannot imagine because I have been working hard for the past fifteen, sixteen months and I have been campaigning in Somalia as well as in Nairobi,” he said.

Broad public support

Farmajo previously served as prime minister for eight months in 2010 and 2011 and has remained extremely popular since then, said Sakariye Cismaan, a London-based Somali political analyst.

During his time in office, Farmajo was credited with ensuring that government workers and soldiers were paid on time, cracking down on corruption and helping liberate territories from al-Shabab.

“The Somali people really trust him and believe he will put the common good before his own self-interest,” Cismaan said. “The whole country is extremely optimistic now.”

Wednesday’s election was conducted by the 328 members of the two houses of parliament. This is different than previous elections where clan elders played a significant role in choosing the president, Cismaan said. He said it was also more representative of the will of the people.

Full report at:



Al Shabaab militants kill two soldiers in continued Somalia attacks


Two soldiers were killed early Sunday morning after Al Shabaab attacked two small military camps.

Despite the free and fair election of a new Somalia President, which had raised hopes of a peaceful future, Al Shabaab is continuing to carry out attacks in that country.

Even though the Somali military supported by African Union (AU) peacekeeping forces has made gains, Al Shabaab remains a threat.

Two soldiers were killed early Sunday morning in the villages of Tihsile and Warmahan, 45 and 60km west of the capital Mogadishu, respectively. This after the Al Shabaab attacked two small military camps in a close distance from the villages.

About 40-50 government soldiers were stationed in each of the two camps, the Voice of America (VOA) reported.

The two casualties were killed in Tihsile, while casualties from Warmahan are not yet known.

Later on a reinforcement convoy sent from Ballidogle military base was hit by a roadside explosion near the town of Wanlaweyn, 90 kilometres west of Mogadishu, wounding eight soldiers.

After withdrawing from the villages Al Shabaab claimed to have seized ammunition and two military vehicles.

In an earlier attack by the militants late on Saturday, two other government soldiers were killed near the town of El Wak at a government checkpoint, while a third wounded soldier was captured.

These are the first attacks by the jihadists since President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo won the presidential elections on Wednesday.

Despite the new government, Al Shabaab preachers have been telling congregations that the elections have not changed their view of the authorities in Mogadishu.

Meanwhile, the parliament of the breakaway republic of Somaliland has overwhelming approved a deal to allow the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to establish an air and naval base in the port town of Berbera.

On Sunday, Somaliland President Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo stated in parliament that the move would attract investments while not impacting negatively on the country or the region.

Full report at:




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