New Age Islam
Mon Nov 30 2020, 06:28 PM

Islamic World News ( 18 Jan 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Visit Shaheen Bagh, listen to concerns on CAA, NRC over tea: Protesters to PM








• Muslim organizations plan to restrict use of loudspeakers at mosques in Kerala

• Muslim bodieslike like Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind and Jamiate-e-Islami-e-Hind make a mark with a big rally in Nagpur

• Muslim world leaders visit Auschwitz in 'strong signal' of interfaith support

• Nearly One In Five French Newborns Has A Muslim Or Arabic Name

• UTM denies spreading salafi propaganda, denounces article claiming links as false

• Trump gives dramatic account of Soleimani’s last minutes before death: Report

• UN urges ‘foreign’ players to stop ‘meddling’ in Libya conflict

• Pakistan has come out of toughest economic condition: PM

• Saudi Arabia helps its citizens flee US to avoid prosecution: FBI

• At least 70 Yemeni soldiers killed in Houthi attack

 

India

• Visit Shaheen Bagh, listen to concerns on CAA, NRC over tea: Protesters to PM

• Muslim organizations plan to restrict use of loudspeakers at mosques in Kerala

• Muslim bodieslike like Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind and Jamiate-e-Islami-e-Hind make a mark with a big rally in Nagpur

• India’s Anti-Muslim Immigrant Law: Bangladesh Wants Written Assurance

• If CAA remains on statute book, there will be consequences if not obeyed: Salman Khurshid

• If Adnan Sami can have Indian citizenship, why can't other Muslims? asks Raza Murad Singer reacts

• Unemployment, not Muslim population is India’s real problem: Owaisi to RSS chief Bhagwat

• Pakistan foreign office summons Indian diplomat

• India's anti-CAA protesters launch postcards to PM Modi campaign

• NIA registers case to probe suspended J-K DySP Davinder Singh

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Europe

• Muslim world leaders visit Auschwitz in 'strong signal' of interfaith support

• Nearly One In Five French Newborns Has A Muslim Or Arabic Name

• Chancellor warns British business to 'forget' the EU

• World leaders gathering for Berlin conference on Libya

• Libya cease-fire needed for dialogue: Italy's Di Maio

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Southeast Asia

• UTM denies spreading salafi propaganda, denounces article claiming links as false

• Apostasy a major sin; Constitution provides freedom of worship: G25

• How many Indonesian mosques are there? Indonesia is counting

• Balancing faith and tradition: Indonesia's Chinese Muslims mark CNY in their own ways

• Christian persecution on rise: North Korea, Muslims to blame

• As Dr M takes over MoE, claims abound of Maszlee’s men in key positions

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North America

• Trump gives dramatic account of Soleimani’s last minutes before death: Report

• US right-wing veterans groups wages ad campaign to press end to Afghan war

• Trump's Middle East plan to backfire: Analysis

• Is Wesley Clark's prediction of US war with Iran moving closer to realization?

• Hostile anti-Iran US policy serving Israel lobby: Analyst

• Canada’s PM urges Iran to send black boxes from downed plane to France

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Africa

• UN urges ‘foreign’ players to stop ‘meddling’ in Libya conflict

• Gargash: UAE unreservedly supports Germany efforts to bring peace in Libya

• Four dead, many injured in al-Shabaab car bombing near Somali capital

• Forces loyal to Haftar block oil exports from key Libyan ports

• Turkey deploys more militants from Syria to Libya to help protect Tripoli-based GNA: Report

• Khalifa Haftar is not a force for good in Libya

• Somalia car bomb blast targets Turkish contractors north of Mogadishu

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Pakistan

• Pakistan has come out of toughest economic condition: PM

• Centre left Balochistan ‘alone’ in natural calamity: CM

• PML-N protests ‘arrest’ of workers in Swat

• Pakistan wants US to get it off FATF grey list

• Firdous’ ‘symbolic blood donation’ stirs controversy

• Dar moves SC, seeks suspension of order declaring him proclaimed offender

• Support to US-Taliban talks be linked with FATF case withdrawal: PPP senator

• 5,000 prisoners across country suffer from fatal diseases, IHC told

• PM Imran hails Kuchlak resident for rescuing scores of stranded people in Balochistan

• MQM-P’s demands: PTI between a rock and a hard place

• Qureshi stresses de-escalation in Middle East as US visit comes to an end

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Arab World

• Saudi Arabia helps its citizens flee US to avoid prosecution: FBI

• Airstrikes kill 18, wound 15 others in Syria’s Aleppo: Monitor

• Iraqi forces arrest obese Daesh mufti in Mosul

• Russian strike kills five civilians in Syria

• Almost 400 injured in Lebanon clashes: Rescuers

• Clashes, demonstrations erupt throughout Iraq shutting down roads and bridges

• Protesters burn headquarters of Iraqi Hezbollah militia in Najaf

• Lebanon’s Aoun, Hariri ask army, security chiefs to restore calm in Beirut

• More than 160 wounded in Beirut as security forces face off against protesters

• US official calls for ‘credible’ government in Lebanon

• Syria raises penalty on foreign currency use to seven years of hard labor

• Lebanon security forces, protesters clash near parliament building

• France deploys radar system, aircraft carrier in Saudi Arabia

• Lebanon leader’s hopes in disarray after ministry hopeful quits

• Berlin talks important step in resolving Libya crisis: Egypt FM

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Mideast

• At least 70 Yemeni soldiers killed in Houthi attack

• Yemeni snipers kill nearly dozen Saudi mercenaries in Hajjah

• Iran: Region facing dangerous situation due to US combination of arrogance, ignorance

• Europe to face terror threat if Tripoli-based government falls: Erdogan

• Battle over banknotes threatens to create two economies in Yemen

• Yemen’s warring factions battle over banknotes

• Iran Warns AFC: No Compromise over National Dignity

• Iranian Official: Passenger Plane’s Black Box to Go to Ukraine

• DM: US Assassination of Gen. Soliemani Cowardly Act of State Terrorism

• Iran is sending black boxes of downed plane to Ukraine

• ‘Villainous’ US is lying about standing with Iranian people: Khamenei

• Iran's geography lesson to Macron: Gulf located south of Iran is Persian Gulf

• Iran’s strikes on US bases a ‘very impressive’ display of missile capability: Analyst

• Somalia car bomb blast targets Turkish contractors north of Mogadishu

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South Asia

• Sri Lanka lifts ban on drones imposed after Easter deadly attacks

• Taliban aim to sign deal with US by end of month: Report

• US veterans insist on ending the Afghan war

• Iran and India to expedite work on rail links to Afghanistan

• Highway Extortion Frustrates Afghan Drivers

• US right-wing veterans groups wages ad campaign to press end to Afghan war

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/visit-shaheen-bagh,-listen-to-concerns-on-caa,-nrc-over-tea--protesters-to-pm/d/120829

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Visit Shaheen Bagh, listen to concerns on CAA, NRC over tea: Protesters to PM

Jan 18, 2020

NEW DELHI: Several protestors at Delhi's Shaheen Bagh on Saturday said that they have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi inviting him to join them for tea and listen to their concerns over the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

The sit-in by the protesters has been continuing over a month now.

"I want the prime minister to make the effort of coming here and addressing our issues. Why has he not come here to meet us yet?" asked 80-year-old Bilkis.

Another protestor Sarwari (75) said she also wrote to the PM, urging him to rollback CAA and not implement NRC.

Ninety-year-old Asma Khatoon said she has invited the prime minister to join them for a cup of tea and address their concerns over the issue.

A 40-ft-long banner displaying India's map has been put up at the site with the slogan: "We the people of India don't accept CAA, NPR and NRC".

Several hawkers can be seen daily selling the tricolour at the protest site. Mubarak (49) claimed that so far he has sold about 90 medium and big flags.

The Delhi Police on Friday had appealed to the agitators to unblock the Kalindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch as the residents, senior citizens, emergency patients and school-going children of Delhi and NCR are suffering due to the blockade.

The matter had also come up before the High Court.

"We again urge protesters to cooperate and clear the road in the larger public interest," a police statement said. However, the protestors refused to budge unless the government discards CAA and any NRC exercise.

Torab Niazi, a protester, said they will not leave the place unless their demands are met.

"We want the representatives of the government to visit the protesting women. They are not going to move from here unless the prime minister or the home minister addresses their concerns about CAA and NRC," Niazi said.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/visit-shaheen-bagh-listen-to-concerns-on-caa-nrc-over-tea-protesters-to-pm/articleshow/73361888.cms

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Muslim organizations plan to restrict use of loudspeakers at mosques in Kerala

18th January 2020

MALAPPURAM: Muslim organizations plan to reduce use of loudspeakers at mosques for prayer calls and other religious programmes

The Muslim organizations in Kerala have come forward to restrict the use of loudspeakers at mosques for prayer calls (banku vili) and other religious programmes including religious speeches and meetings. The Muslim Service Society (MSS) will hold a meeting of the Muslim organizations in Kozhikode next week to take a final call on the matter. The MSS state general secretary, T.K. Abdul Kareem told TNIE the representatives of all religious groups -  EK Sunnis, AP Sunnis, Mujahid, Jamaat-e-Islami - will participate in the meeting.

According to the MSS, the firm stands earlier taken on the matter by Panakkad Sayed Hyderali Shihab Thangal, the Kerala State president of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and the vice president of the Samastha Kerala Jamiyyathul Ulama, a supreme body of an Islamic scholar's council in Kerala and C Muhammed Faizy, the state haj committee chairman, inspired them to organize the meeting of the Muslim organizations.

Thangal in a statement earlier said when conducting prayers and other religious ceremonies, the volume of the loudspeakers should not disturb the people who are not part of the function. Muhammed Faizy said some mosques in the state use loudspeakers which creates more volume than actually required for the area. "Loudspeaker with a capacity to call 1000 people are being used in some areas, where we actually need to call just 100 people," Faizy said.

Explaining the agendas of the meeting, Abdul Kareem said the meeting aims to reduce the use of loudspeakers at the mosques. "At present, 5 or 6 mosques in a small area give prayer calls at different times - in a gap of a few minutes. We plan to introduce a rotation system for prayer calls for a particular area. If there are many mosques in an area, we will grant permission to one mosque to give a prayer call for a certain term.  The prayer call from the particular mosque - it may be a mosque of the Sunnis, Mujahid, or Jamaat-e-Islami - should be taken as the call for all groups in the area. Through it, we can reduce the number of prayer calls through loudspeakers at a time," Kareem said.

Kareem also said they would urge the mosques to conclude the religious speeches and other functions at the mosques on or before 10 PM. "The religious programmes - especially the ones with speakers or loudspeaker - should be concluded at 10 PM to avoid inconvenience to other people," he said. He also noted these are just plans of the Muslim religious organizations, but the final decisions on these views will be taken at the next-week meeting of the Muslim organizations.

https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/kerala/2020/jan/18/muslim-organizations-plan-to-restrict-use-of-loudspeakers-at-mosques-in-kerala-2091244.html

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Muslim bodieslike like Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind and Jamiate-e-Islami-e-Hind make a mark with a big rally in Nagpur

Jan 19, 2020

Nagpur: Two days after the series of protests at Samvidhan Chowk ended, a bigger rally, backed by outfits like Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind and Jamiate-e-Islami-e-Hind, was taken out till the venue on Friday.

Even as over 5,000 people assembled at the venue, sources in the police department said that onlookers, nearly four times the number, were present when the rally passed through areas like Mominpura, starting from Teka Naka in North Nagpur.

Former Congress minister Anees Ahmed was also seen on the dais as leaders from Muslim as well as Buddhist organizations addressed the gathering at Samvidhan Chowk. The rally began after Friday prayers in mosques.

“If you want to corner the government, plug its sources of revenues. The government depends on the tax it earns from businessmen. Stop buying from Sindhi and Marwari traders. Buy things that your need from shops of our own people. If these businessmen don’t earn, the government will not get taxes,” said Banthe Gyanbodhi, a Buddhist monk.

“Stop addressing the country as Hindustan. This means a Hindurashtra (a Hindu nation). Call it Bharat,” he said as speeches with emphasis on pluralism continued.

Another speaker, Hafiz Basit, said it was a not protest by Muslims alone. “There’s been support from other sects’ bodies too. The secular character of the constitution means that there will be no discrimination on the basis of ethnicity. However, some right wing organizations have been only trying to spread poison. It’s only because of unity in diversity that they say ‘Sare Jahan se Accha Hindustan Hamara’,” he said.

“They say Muslims don’t utter certain lines. If that is so, here is it,” said a speaker, who sung the initial lines of Vande Matram.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/muslim-bodies-make-a-mark-with-a-big-rally/articleshow/73359958.cms

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Muslim world leaders visit Auschwitz in 'strong signal' of interfaith support

19.01.2020

Christoph Strack

In 2013, the leader of Berlin's Social Democratic parliamentary group, Raed Saleh, visited the Auschwitz Birkenau memorial site with a group of pupils. The fact that Saleh, who was born in the West Bank and came to Germany as a 5-year-old, made his way to the site of a former Nazi concentration and extermination camp garnered national attention. At the time, he was Germany's most prominent Muslim to ever visit the site where Nazis murdered over 1.1 million people, most of them Jews, during the Holocaust. 

"There was this pupil called Mustafa, a really big guy, standing in front of a vast pile of children's shoes," Saleh recalls their visit to bloc 5 of Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. "Each pair had once belonged to a child obviously, and suddenly I noticed how this realization did something with Mustafa." The lawmaker says the pupils in his group had "diverse, multi-religious backgrounds" in Berlin and that "anti-Semitism among young Muslims is not uncommon."  

Few visitors from Arab world

According to the director of the memorial site, Piotr Cywinski, more than 2,3 million people visited in 2019. Yet he says among these "were only a handful of people from Arab world." In 2019, the museum's ticket reservation system registered some 3,200 guests from Arab-majority countries, though visitors' religious affiliations are not recorded. Cywinski says the site also receives Muslims among groups of French, Norwegian, German and other visitors. He is "certain that for all of them, coming to an authentically preserved site of a former camp is an important personal and universal experience."  

On Thursday, the memorial site will be visited by the most senior Muslim figure to date: Mohammed Al-Issa, the secretary general of the Muslim World League (MWL), who represents over a billion Muslims worldwide. Al-Issa, who previously served as Saudi justice minister, will make his way to the former camp with the director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), David Harris. This joint visit by a high-ranking 54-year-old Islamic scholar and a 70-year-old descendant of Holocaust survivors is nothing short of remarkable.

'Shook humanity to the core'

Roughly two years prior to this visit, Al-Issa sent a letter to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, in which he expressed "great sympathy with the victims of the Holocaust, an incident that shook humanity to the core." He underlined that "true Islam is against these crimes" and that "we consider any denial of the Holocaust or minimizing of its effect a crime to distort history and an insult to the dignity of those innocent souls who have perished." 

Following his visit to the museum in May 2018, he described how it made him feel in a Washington Post op-ed: "I saw for myself the mountains of evidence — the videos, the photos, the placards, the interviews, the memorabilia — that testify to the historic truth of the Holocaust. One doesn't have to go to the museum to recognize the enormity of the Holocaust — but no one who does come to the museum can deny it." He continued to write that "I urge all Muslims to learn the history of the Holocaust, to visit memorials and museums to this horrific event." Al-Issa concluded his piece by quoting Elie Wiesel's appeal that "For the dead and the living, we must bear witness," as well as the Quran, which states: "O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah."

Al-Issa's initiative widely welcomed

In his op-ed, Al-Issa recounted how, after sending his letter to Holocaust museum director Sara Bloomfield, he received a "flood of calls, text messages, emails and letters from Muslim religious scholars endorsing the view I had expressed," though some members of the public made their objections known on the internet.

After this, AJC director Harris and Al-Issa got in touch and in May 2019 announced they would jointly visit Auschwitz memorial site on January 27, 2020 — the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the camp by Red Army forces. It is now clear, however, that they will actually make their way there a few days earlier together with their delegations.

False narrative of hostility toward Jews

In response to Al-Issa's initiative, former World Jewish Congress vice-president Marc Schneier penned an opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post, supporting him and arguing that there exists "a false narrative out there that Muslims are inveterately hostile to Jews." Schneier, who has long worked to foster Judeo-Muslim dialogue and understanding, continued to say that "Muslims are speaking out — and acting out — every day in defense of Jews who are under attack."  

Thinking back to his Auschwitz visit, Berlin lawmaker Raed Saleh says that going there was not about feeling "guilty," and that the visit of a senior Muslim leader like Al-Issa will send "a good, strong signal." Saleh says it is important to him to see his generation, and the one after it, keep the memory of the Holocaust alive. This, he says, "is the best antidote against right-wing extremism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia." And Saleh believes the young, Muslim pupils who accompanied him on his Auschwitz visit were profoundly touched by the experience. He says "it was moving. I saw them asking questions that never came up before."

Auschwitz site director Cywinski notes that the Quran contains a passage saying that everything that humans do to each other, whether good or bad, they effectively do to themselves. He says the same logic applies to keeping the memory of the past alive. In Cywinski's mind, "remembrance can help us mature, if we approach it wisely and with a willingness to engage in self-criticism."

Never again

Aiman Mazyek, the chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD), has made numerous trips to Auschwitz memorial site with groups of young Muslims and Jews. He welcomes Al-Issa's move, saying that his visit carries both political as well as religious significance.

Mazyek thinks it could also have a lasting impact on the societies of many Muslim countries. And that "going to Auschwitz is, not only for Jews and Christians, always also a search for God." He is adamant that the lesson of Auschwitz is that something like this "must never again" be allowed to happen — a lesson that "we Muslims" must internalize as well.

https://www.dw.com/en/muslim-world-leaders-visit-auschwitz-in-strong-signal-of-interfaith-support/a-52034131

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Nearly One In Five French Newborns Has A Muslim Or Arabic Name

By Syreeta Palme

January 18, 2020

According to French political scientist Jérôme Fourquet, the number of male newborns with Arabic or Muslim names has gone from 1% in 1960 to 19% today.

Fourquet noted that the drop in the French birth rate – there were 70,000 fewer children born in 2019 than in 2014 – has led to the growth of Arab-Muslim first names among newborns. He added that “sustained migratory flows, particularly since the early 2000s”, have also contributed to this trend, reports Le Figaro.

“The study of the prevalence of types of first names in newborns makes it possible in particular to aggregate the strength of legal and illegal migratory flows, because, with a few exceptions, all children born on French soil are enrolled in the Insee (National Statistics Office)), even if their parents are illegal, “he added.

France: as many Muslims as practicing Catholics in demographic groups aged 18 to 29 https://t.co/KdUU5QUgV4

– Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) May 26, 2019

To fight against the fall in the birth rate, Fourquet did not advocate the German model of mass migration but declared that France should not “lock itself in a binary alternative between natalist policies or the recourse to the immigration”.

“If Germany has favored immigration, it is because the retirement age is already very high and the unemployment rate is at its lowest (3.5%). France could play on these two levers and in particular on the unemployment rate to significantly increase the number of contributors, before resorting to additional immigration, “he said.

Demographic changes have also been observed among religious groups in France, with a report released last year showing that there are now as many practicing Muslims in the demographic population between 18 and 29 years of age as Roman Catholics.

Demographic changes in France have led to several theories on the phenomenon, including the theory of “Grand Replacement” by the French writer Renaud Camus.

A quarter of French people believe that the “elites” use mass migration to “replace” the native Europeans https://t.co/dr2IQVqPQf

– Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) February 7, 2019

Often dismissed as a conspiracy theory, Camus claimed that Western elites – the “Davocracy”, after the participants of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland – consider people to be interchangeable things, rather than human beings, for the sake of profit and ideology.

A survey published in February of last year suggests that up to a quarter of the French population subscribes to the theory that the “elites” use mass migration to replace the European populations.

https://dailygamingworld.com/nearly-one-in-five-french-newborns-has-a-muslim-or-arabic-name/

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UTM denies spreading salafi propaganda, denounces article claiming links as false

19 Jan 2020 

BY SOO WERN JUN

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 19 — Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) today denied that its campus grounds is being used to spread radical Islamic propaganda or that its top officials are linked to Muslim group Ikram as alleged in a regional news publication.

The public university decried the article titled “Islamic Assault on Malaysia’s Higher Education” published by Asia Sentinel on January 15 as false, defamatory and unethical.

“The university would like to stress that the UTM management has never made the university as a platform to spread propaganda and negative indoctrination,” it said in a media statement.

UTM also denied the article’s claims that its current vice-chancellor (VC) and deputy vice-chancellor (DVC) were appointed by former education minister Maszlee Malik based their membership in Ikram.

The university’s corporate affairs department clarified that the present VC was appointed in 2013 by Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin who was the education minister then, adding that the incumbent’s contract was later extended by first Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh in 2016, and it again by Maszlee in 2018.

“All the appointments and reappointments of UTM’s DVC were made while Idris was the minister of higher education,” the statement read.

UTM stressed that its academic staff were all qualified experts in their respective fields of study and the administration, and their support staff come from diverse ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds contrary to the article’s claims.

In the article, Asia Sentinel cited an unnamed former VC claiming Maszlee had appointed at least 26 university officials with salafist leanings from Ikram who were aligned to him and Perlis Mufti Datuk Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin.

Maszlee has not deny links with Ikram, but dismissed claims he was carrying out the group’s agenda.

The former education minister also insisted that he is committed to diversity amid allegations of proselytisation.

The salafi movement is seen as a revivalist crusade within Sunni Islam that emerged in Egypt in the late 19th century as a response to Western European imperialism.

The Asis Sentinel article also claimed that more such appointments would have been made if Maszlee remained education minister.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) had earlier denied that three of its top leaders were appointed by Maszlee for being members of Ikram.

In a statement last Friday, UKM clarified that two of them were initially appointed under the previous Barisan Nasional administration, naming Prof Datuk Mohd Hamdi Abd Shukor who was previously University of Malaya’s DVC for academic and international affairs from 2011 to 2014.

UKM denied the same accusation in the appointments of DVC for industry and community partnership Prof Datuk Imran Ho Abdullah and the former DVC for research and innovation affairs Prof Datuk Mohd Ekhwan.

Imran was said to be appointed and extended by Muhyiddin and Idris respectively in 2014 and 2017, before Maszlee made the same decision in 2019, while Mohd Ekhwan was first appointed by Idris in 2017.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/01/19/utm-denies-spreading-salafi-propaganda-denounces-article-claiming-links-as/1829461

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Trump gives dramatic account of Soleimani’s last minutes before death: Report

18 January 2020

US President Donald Trump gave a minute-to-minute account of the US drone strikes that killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in remarks to a Republican fund-raising dinner on Friday night, according to audio obtained by CNN.

With his typical dramatic flourish, Trump recounted the scene as he monitored the strikes from the White House Situation Room when Soleimani was killed.

The president spoke in a ballroom at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, at a Republican event that raised $10 million for Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign and for the Republican National Committee.

Reporters were not allowed in for the event. CNN said it obtained an audio recording of Trump’s remarks. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The January 3 killing of Soleimani at Baghdad airport prompted Iran to retaliate with missile strikes against US forces in Iraq days later and almost triggered a broad war between the two countries.

“They’re together sir,” Trump said military officials told him. “Sir, they have two minutes and 11 seconds. No emotion. ‘Two minutes and 11 seconds to live, sir. They’re in the car, they’re in an armored vehicle. Sir, they have approximately one minute to live, sir. Thirty seconds. Ten, 9, 8 ...’ ”

“Then all of a sudden, boom,” he said. “‘They’re gone, sir. Cutting off.’”

“I said, where is this guy?” Trump continued. “That was the last I heard from him.”

It was the most detailed account that Trump has given of the drone strike, which has drawn criticism from some US lawmakers because neither the president nor his advisers have provided public information to back up their statements that Soleimani presented an “imminent” threat to Americans in the region.

CNN said that in the audio, Trump did not repeat that Soleimani was an imminent threat. Trump said Soleimani was “saying bad things about our country” before the strike, which led to his decision to authorize his killing.

“How much of this …. do we have to listen to?” Trump asked in the audio. “How much are we going to listen to?”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/01/18/Trump-gives-dramatic-account-of-Soleimani-s-last-minutes-before-death-Report.html

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UN urges ‘foreign’ players to stop ‘meddling’ in Libya conflict

Saturday, 18 January 2020

The United Nations has urged all “foreign” players to stop “interfering” in the conflict in Libya, just a day before a peace summit in Germany aimed at establishing a permanent ceasefire between the two warring sides in the North African country.

Since 2014, Libya has been divided between two rival camps: the internationally-recognized government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, known as the Government of National Accord (GNA), and another group based in the eastern city of Tobruk.

Libya’s renegade General Khalifa Haftar, commander of the east-based army, is the self-proclaimed commander of an array of militia groups, collectively known as the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA), and is apparently supporting the eastern government. The LNA launched an offensive to capture capital Tripoli, the seat of the GNA, in April last year, interrupting peace negotiations underway at the time. Despite intense and deadly clashes between the two sides, Haftar has so far failed to achieve his objective and his offensive stalled outside the capital.

Germany will host a peace conference, under the auspices of the UN, in Berlin on Sunday with Sarraj and Haftar expected to show up and hold talks on a permanent truce to put an end to months of bloodshed. The heads of state of Russia, Turkey and France are also due to join negotiations in the German capital.

“All foreign interference can provide some aspirin effect in the short term, but Libya needs all foreign interference to stop. That's one of the objectives of this conference,” said Ghassan Salame, the head of the UN Support Mission in Libya, on the eve of the Berlin summit.

His remarks could be considered as a direct reference to Turkey, which reached a military agreement with the GNA recently and sent troops to the North African country to help Sarraj’s government defend itself against Haftar’s attacks, a move that angered Haftar and prompted him to vow to sink approaching Turkish ships near Libya.

“We must end this vicious cycle of Libyans calling for the help of foreign powers. Their intervention deepens the divisions among the Libyans,” added Salame in his interview with AFP in Berlin, stressing that the place of international players should be to “help Libyans develop themselves.”

In a declared attempt to restore peace in Libya, Turkey and Russia mediated peace talks between Sarraj and Haftar, who spent about eight hours of indirect talks in Moscow on Monday, but the talks ended at an impasse, after Haftar failed to come to terms with Sarraj, sparking fears about a shaky ceasefire, which went into effect days earlier.

On Thursday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that during his trip to Libya Haftar had agreed to abide by the ongoing ceasefire and pledged to show up in Berlin for the upcoming peace talks.

Sarraj, for his part, has already said he is ready to attend the Berlin summit.

Erdogan blasts Europe for failure to back GNA

Separately on Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in an article published in Politico, warned Europe that it could face new threats from “terrorist” groups if the GNA was to fall.

“Europe will encounter a fresh set of problems and threats if Libya's legitimate government were to fall,” Erdogan wrote, warning, “Terrorist organizations such as” the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group “and al-Qaeda, which suffered a military defeat in Syria and Iraq, will find a fertile ground to get back on their feet.”

While condemning Haftar for attacking the GNA and his efforts to oust it, Erdogan further said that “Europe is less interested in providing military support to Libya. [Therefore] the obvious choice is to work with Turkey, which has already promised military assistance.”

Figures show that since April, clashes between the two sides have left more than 280 civilians and 2,000 fighters dead. They have also displaced tens of thousands of people.

Libya plunged into chaos in 2011, when a popular uprising and a NATO intervention led to the ouster of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi and his execution by unruly fighters.

Sarraj’s government has been attempting to establish order ever since.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/18/616504/Libya-UN-truce-

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Pakistan has come out of toughest economic condition: PM

January 19, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday emphasised the need to utilise digital media tool to portray the positive image of Pakistan as well as Islam, besides spreading the voice of oppressed people of India-held Kashmir across the globe.

During a meeting with a delegation of youths from different fields, including the digital media, the prime minister recalled his government’s initiatives for youths, including easy loans and skill training programmes, besides anti-poverty Ehsaas Programme and shelter homes for the poor.

Special Assistant to the PM Zulfiqar Bukhari and Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Digital Media Dr Arsalan Khalid also attended the meeting, a PM Office press release said.

The meeting discussed the national challenges, the government’s measures to address the issues and role of media particularly the social media in the modern era.

The participants also deliberated over the opportunities for youths in the digital media sector, allied challenges and their resolution.

Talking to the delegation, Mr Khan said the country had come out of the toughest economic condition with the reduced fiscal deficit and revival of the investors’ confidence.

He said after 1960 it was the incumbent government that had prioritised the industrial sector which would create job opportunities and grow the national economy.

The prime minister reiterated his resolve to continue his strife against corruption and mafias to the last extent.

He said that the digital media could effectively highlight Pakistan’s immense potential in the tourism sector.

Mr Khan said Pakistan had also been faced with numerous challenges on international front, but it had always desired peace and was also currently playing a role in this regard.

Discussing his government’s strategy and initiatives regarding the growth of digital media, the prime minister said the medium had emerged as the most effective communication tool in this technological era. Even owing to the swift growth of digital media, the information flow knew no boundaries, he added.

The prime minister said the youths having some knowledge and political acumen, were getting active on digital media and called for using the medium to highlight the positive image of Pakistan, Islam and the Muslim world, besides promoting the Muslim brotherhood.

Mr Khan told the delegation that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and its government would observe Kashmir Solidarity Day on Feb 5, as the fascist Modi regime was risking the regional peace and security to realise its dream of turning India into a Hindu Rashtra (nation). The Indian oppression of innocent Kashmir people and amendment of the citizenship law were also the attempts to fulfill the racist designs, he added.

The prime minister urged the youths to realise the world of their obligation of resolving the Kashmir issue in light of the UN resolutions and aspirations of the Kashmiri people.

In his message to the youths, Mr Khan advised them to work hard as it was the only key to success.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1529257/pakistan-has-come-out-of-toughest-economic-condition-pm

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Saudi Arabia helps its citizens flee US to avoid prosecution: FBI

18 January 2020

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) says Saudi Arabia helps its nationals who have committed serious crimes in the United States flee the country to avoid prosecution.  

According to documents obtained from the FBI, Saudi Arabia "almost certainly" helps its citizens escape prosecution in the United States in an attempt to avoid international embarrassment.  

The documents added that Riyadh’s actions are “undermining the US judicial process.”

"(Saudi) officials are unlikely to alter this practice in the near term unless the US Government (USG) directly addresses this issue with (Saudi Arabia) and ties US cooperation on (Saudi) priorities to ceasing this activity," the FBI documents said.

Reports indicate that Saudi nationals throughout the US have disappeared mysteriously after being charged with crimes such as manslaughter or rape.

However, the FBI documents do not specify how Saudi officials help their nationals who are accused of serious crimes escape from the United States.

Under the administration of US President Donald Trump, the United States has strengthened its ties with Saudi Arabia.

Trump wants to get close to the Saudi kingdom for many reasons particularly because Riyadh is hostile to Iran and friendly to Israel.

Saudi Arabia is also the United States’ largest arms client, with over $129 billion in approved purchases.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/18/616488/US-Saudi-Arabia-FBI-document-crimes-prosecution

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At least 70 Yemeni soldiers killed in Houthi attack

January 19, 2020

DUBAI: At least 70 Yemeni soldiers have been killed in a missile attack launched by Houthi militants on a mosque in the central province of Marib, medical and military sources said Sunday.

The Houthis attacked a mosque in a military camp in Marib — about 170 kilometers east of Sanaa — during evening prayers on Saturday, military sources told AFP.

A medical source at a Marib city hospital, where casualties were transported, said that at least 70 soldiers were killed in the strike.

Yemen’s internationally recognized government has been battling the Iran-backed Houthis since 2014, when the militants seized the northern capital of Sanaa.

Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi condemned the “cowardly and terrorist” attack, according to the official Saba news agency. The report did not give a death toll.

“The disgraceful actions of the Houthi militia without a doubt confirm its unwillingness to (achieve) peace, because it knows nothing but death and destruction and is a cheap Iranian tool in the region,” it quoted Hadi as saying.

The Houthis did not make any immediate claim of responsibility.

The conflict, which the United Nations says has caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, has pushed the country to the brink of famine.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1615176/middle-east

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India

 

India’s Anti-Muslim Immigrant Law: Bangladesh Wants Written Assurance

January 19, 2020

By Sajjad Shaukat

Since the leader of the Awami League (AL) and Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina Wajid came to power, she has been fulfilling Indian interests at the cost of Pakistan. In pursuance of Indian secret directions by conducting an anti-Pakistan campaign, after passing of 42 years to the events of 1971, which resulted into the separation of East Pakistan—in connivance with the judiciary, she hurriedly executed her political opponent Abdul Qadir Mullah-leader of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), including some other leaders of the JI.

By setting aside the water dispute and border issue with India, during her visit to New Delhi on April 8, 2017, PM Hasina Wajid signed 22 agreements with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the fields of defence cooperation, civil nuclear energy among other ones. Both the countries also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) through which India would extend a line of credit of $500 million to support Bangladesh’s defense-related procurements.

Bangladeshi newspapers had shown un-easiness among the masses in Bangladesh regarding the defense deal between India and Bangladesh. Opposition parties also criticized the defence deal by saying that Hasina Wajid wants Bangladesh to become a colony of India.

It is notable that, Sheikh Hasina had won the general elections 2014 in wake of bloodshed due to her dictatorial steps. In this respect, head of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Begum Khaleda Zia who was leading the alliance of the opposition parties had boycotted the general elections. Police besieged the Begum Khaleda Zia’s in her office. In order to keep herself in power, Prime Minister Hasina amended the constitution for holding of elections under a non-party setup and the opposition accused her of manipulating the electoral process to establish one-party state. The country’s largest religious party JI was also banned from taking part in the elections.

Regarding general elections 2018, the opposition parties, foreign governments, media and human rights said that the ruling party Awami League was involved in vote-rigging in the elections which were marred by deadly clashes and a crackdown on the media. To what extent Premier Hasina has been strangulating the opposition and her political rivals could be judged from the development that on February 8, 2018, when in collaboration with the government, a court in Dhaka sentenced the two-time—former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia to five years rigorous imprisonment.

Taking cognizance of Hasina Wajid’s pro-Indian tilt, a writer has rightly remarked, “Hasina Wajid again started Honey Moon Period of relationship with India.” But, this relationship proved fruitless since the Indian fanatic government adopted the Anti-Muslims law—the Indian Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 (CAA), passed by the Indian Parliament. The CAA (The National Register of Citizenship) is against the Muslim immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Despite violent protests across India, the Modi-led government has not withdrawn the CAA.

In this respect, quoting sources, the Indian news website The Print.in on December 22 and December 30, 2019: “CAA is one of the world’s greatest discriminatory laws based on religion…The citizenship law is against the Indian Constitution and what it means to be an Indian. Apart from destabilizing the internal situation, CAA has given birth to multiple regional problems and crisis. The implementation of CAA means millions of stateless refugees (mainly Muslims), and Bangladesh being in close proximity and access will have to bear the maximum load…The fundamentalist BJP party, owing to its strength in Parliament has chosen a path to make India a pure breed Hindu country. The amended Citizenship Act is an injustice not only against the Muslim community but also Dalits, Tribal (Adivasi), Vanvasi, Tamil, Gorkha and atheist…Bangladesh has sought a written assurance from the Narendra Modi government that it won’t send immigrants across the border after the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Act. The Bangladesh government had made a similar demand when PM Bangladesh was on a private visit to India after the NRC exercise was carried out in Assam. At the time, India had given a verbal assurance to Bangladesh that those rendered “foreigners” under the NRC in Assam will not be sent to Bangladesh. However, it had refused to give a written assurance, stating that the exercise was carried out as per directions of the Supreme Court. However, after the passage of CAA in Parliament, fresh concerns have cropped up within the political leadership in Bangladesh that India may now “push” Muslim immigrants deemed illegal under the Act across the border. Now the Indian government does not have compulsions of the court, so a written assurance will not be difficult. India does not seem to have given any kind of assurance to Dhaka yet that such a sovereign guarantee will be given. A visit to India by Bangladesh Foreign Affairs Minister A.K. Abdul Momen and Home Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Khan was also cancelled as tensions peaked in India over the CAA.”

Fearing that Muslim refugees, living in India might return to Bangladesh, the Bangladesh government on December 31, 2019 suspended mobile services in areas along the border. The media reported that the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) had issued an order for suspension of services on December 30, 2019. BTRC in its order to telecommunications service providers-Grameenphone, Teletalk, Robi and Banglalink had asked them to suspend the network in border areas “until further notice for the sake of the country’s security in the current circumstances”. The decision has affected around 10 million users in 32 districts of Bangladesh along the border. The decision was taken by the government after a high-level meeting.”

It is mentioned that Bangladesh had faced a similar situation when Rohingyas from Myanmar’s Rakhine State started facing forcible displacement in 2015. They were considered stateless entities as the Myanmar government does not recognise them as an ethnic group—thousands had to escape to refugee camps in Bangladesh. Cox Bazar’s largest refugee camp, as more than 900,000 Rohingyas immigration of Bangalis from India will aggravate the situation.

The international community must be made aware of the mess India (BJP) has created. Moreover, the staunch attitude of the Indian government despite serious indicators and warnings clearly indicate a neo-Nazi mindset driven by the RSS ideology.

The Indian extremist rulers have not paid any kind of attention to voices of concerns from the international community. Western countries, particularly US, UK, EU and OIC have communicated their point of view to New Delhi. But, BJP is taking full leverage of its huge market and trade relations with them and has ignored all kinds of concerns. Therefore, using the CAA-NRC to advance the anti-Muslim political agenda of the BJP and the RSS, besides Pakistan and Pakistan, New Delhi has also targeted Bangladesh. http://kashmirwatch.com/indias-anti-muslim-immigrant-law-bangladesh-wants-written-assurance/

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If CAA remains on statute book, there will be consequences if not obeyed: Salman Khurshid

January 19, 2020

A day after senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said it would be “unconstitutional” for state governments if they don’t implement the Citizenship law, another Congress veteran and former Union minister Salman Khurshid also echoed his remarks. Khurshid said if the Supreme Court doesn’t interfere in the matter, the “CAA will remain on the statute book and there will be consequences if not obeyed”.

“If the Supreme Court doesn’t interfere it’ll remain on the statute book. If something’s on the statute book, you have to obey the law, else there are consequences,” ANI quoted Salman Khurshid as saying.

Underlining the “very serious” difference of opinion between the states and the Centre over the Citizenship Act, Khurshid said, “We would wait for final pronouncement made by SC. Ultimately SC will decide and till then everything said/done/not done is provisional and tentative.”

The remarks by Khurshid come at a time when Congress-ruled state governments have vehemently opposed the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, with the Punjab Assembly even passing a resolution demanding its repeal.

The Punjab Assembly Friday passed a resolution demanding the repeal of the CAA and went beyond Kerala in seeking amendments to the forms/documentation associated with the National Population Register process. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh also announced that the state will approach the apex court on the issue.

On Saturday, Kapil Sibal too said if the CAA was passed, no state could stop its implementation. “It is not possible and is unconstitutional. You can oppose it, you can pass a resolution in the Assembly and ask the central government to withdraw it. But, constitutionally, saying that I won’t implement it is going to be problematic and going to create more difficulties,” Sibal said at the Kerala Literature Festival (KLF) in Kozhikode, according to a PTI report.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/salman-khurshid-citizenship-act-congress-centre-supreme-court-6223982/

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If Adnan Sami can have Indian citizenship, why can't other Muslims? asks Raza Murad Singer reacts

Ravish Pal Singh 

January 19, 2020

Amid the controversial debate on Citizenship Amendment Act, Raza Murad has spoken against the act. Calling it unconstitutional, the veteran actor has said that the government should rollback the act.

Speaking to India Today in Bhopal, Raza Murad said, "I have no objection to the law. But it should be equal for all. In our constitution, every citizen has equal right. But my point is that this law is against our constitution. You cannot treat anyone in the name of religion."

He added, "We should have no objection to the law. But to say that only non-Muslim people will benefit from it, is not right. Hindus, Parsis, Christians, Buddhists, Jains all will be benefitted from it."

Questioning Indian citizenship to former Pakistan national Adnan Sami, Raza Murad said, "Did you give citizenship to Adnan Sami or not? Is he a Muslim or not? He is a Muslim. He was resident of Pakistan. His father was in the Pakistan Air Force and he dropped bombs on India in the 1965 war. I have no objection to Adnan Sami's citizenship. I only object that you are keeping only one community apart and you are showing that they are different. Government should give citizenship to anyone irrespective of religion."

आज तक

@aajtak

CAA पर अभिनेता रज़ा मुराद ने सरकार से पूछा सवालबोले- जब अदनान सामी को नागरिकता दे सकते हैं तो औरों को क्यों नहीं?@ReporterRavish की रिपोर्ट

अन्य #ReporterDiary के लिए क्लिक करें: http://bit.ly/IndiaTodaySocial …

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Murad has requested the government to take back the Citizenship Amendment Act in the present format. Giving examples of demonstrations taking place across the country, Raza Murad said that only Muslims are not involved in these sit-in demonstrations.

He said, "Many non-Muslim Hindu and Sikh brothers and sisters are also protesting against the act. It has often happened that when the budget has been presented and citizens have felt that some things are being taxed more, they have been rollbacked. Prices have been rollbacked, tax percentage has also been rolled back. In such a situation, the government should consider to roll back the Citizenship Amendment Act."

Adnan Sami reacted to Raza Murad's statement. He took to social media and wrote, "I thought that this guy was a villain & talked crap only in Movies!!"

Adnan Sami

@AdnanSamiLive

I thought that this guy was a villain & talked crap only in Movies!!😉😁https://twitter.com/aajtak/status/1218499034861621254 …

आज तक

@aajtak

CAA पर अभिनेता रज़ा मुराद ने सरकार से पूछा सवालबोले- जब अदनान सामी को नागरिकता दे सकते हैं तो औरों को क्यों नहीं?@ReporterRavish की रिपोर्ट

अन्य #ReporterDiary के लिए क्लिक करें: http://bit.ly/IndiaTodaySocial …

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Adnan Sami was granted Indian citizenship in 2016. The singer had applied for the citizenship in May 2015. He had first arrived in India on March 13, 2001 on a visitor's visa with the validity of one year.

https://www.indiatoday.in/movies/celebrities/story/raza-murad-on-caa-if-adnan-sami-can-have-indian-citizenship-why-can-t-other-muslims-1638192-2020-01-19

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Unemployment, not Muslim population is India’s real problem: Owaisi to RSS chief Bhagwat

Jan 19, 2020

Hitting back at RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat over his “two children policy” demand, AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi on Saturday said the real problem in this country is unemployment, not population.

“Shame on you! I have more than two children and several BJP leaders have more than two children. RSS has always maintained that the Muslim population has to be controlled. This country’s real problem is unemployment, not the population,” said Owaisi while addressing a public meeting in Nizamabad ahead of the Telangana Municipal elections.

He asked Bhagwat about the number of youths who have been given jobs in the country.

Cornering the Narendra Modi government over lack of jobs, he said, “36 youths committed suicide per day in 2018 over unemployment issues.”

“Today the demographic dividend in India cannot be seen in any other country. You could not provide jobs to anyone in over five years of tenure. This is the reason why RSS is insisting to bring ‘two children’ policy. 60 per cent of the population in India has people less than 40 years of age,” he said.

“Today’s report is that in 2018 per day 35 unemployed persons committed suicide and 36 employed people have committed suicides. What would you say on that?” asked Owaisi from Bhagwat.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/unemployment-not-muslim-population-is-india-s-real-problem-owaisi-to-rss-chief-bhagwat/story-hZ1ZCqiNPszgbF4VzfiqgO.html

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Pakistan foreign office summons Indian diplomat

Jan 18, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan foreign office on Saturday summoned a senior diplomat from the Indian high commission to reject, what it called, the "mischevious portrayal" by New Delhi of "isolated, fabricated, incidents involving Pakistani citizens as minorities rights issues".

In a statement, the Pakistan ministry of foreign affairs said that the Indian side was conveyed that minorities in Pakistan envoy full protections and rights under the Constitution. It was emphasised that the legal system of Pakistan is fully capable of the rights of its citizens.

The development comes hours after India summoned a senior official of the Pakistan high commission and lodged a strong protest over the recent cases of abduction of minor girls from the minority Hindu community in Pakistan, and urged for the safe return of them to their families, government sources said.

The Pakistani official was conveyed the grave concerns as expressed amongst various quarters of the Indian civil society at "shocking and deplorable" incidents involving minor girls from the minority Hindu community in Pakistan.

Two minor girls, Shanti Meghwad and Sarmi Meghwad, belonging to the minority Hindu community were abducted on January 14. They belong to Umar Village in Tharparkar of Sindh province.

India has time and again lodged several protests over the abduction and forced marriage of women from the Hindu community in the neighbouring country.

Recently, an angry group of local residents pelted stones at Gurdwara Nankana Sahib in Pakistan on January 3. The group was led by the family of a boy who had abducted Sikh girl Jagjit Kaur, daughter of gurdwara's panthi, last year.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pakistan-foreign-office-summons-indian-diplomat/articleshow/73360303.cms

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India's anti-CAA protesters launch postcards to PM Modi campaign

by Bilal Kuchay 

January 19, 2020

New Delhi, India - Protesters in India have launched a postcard campaign in which they plan to send thousands of letters to India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to rollback the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) seen as anti-Muslim.

Demonstrators in the Muslim-dominated Shaheen Bagh area of the Indian capital, New Delhi, on Saturday wrote postcards asking the Hindu nationalist leader to not force them to prove their citizenship.

CAA, passed by the Indian parliament last month, fast-tracks naturalisation of non-Muslim refugees from three neighbouring countries - Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan - who came to India before 2015.

The government says the law is aimed at helping "persecuted" minorities - Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians - in the three countries, but blocks naturalisation for Muslims.

The opposition parties and activists say the CAA violates India's secular constitution and have challenged the law in the Supreme Court, which is due to hear multiple pleas next week.

Fears of losing citizenship 

Coupled with a proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC), Muslims, who form nearly 15 percent of India's 1.3 billion population, fear the moves are aimed at marginalising them, an allegation the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) denies.

However, the BJP government last month also launched a National Population Register (NPR) exercise, which activists say will serve as a database for an eventual NRC that will force people to show documentary evidence of their nationality.

The postcards being collected at Shaheen Bagh, a women-led epicentre of India's anti-CAA protests, appealed to Modi to repeal the CAA and declare that Indians will not be forced to prove their citizenship.

"Modi ji [an honorific in Hindi], please stop CAA, NRC and NPR. We completely reject these divisive acts on the basis of religion. Please don't divide India. We really love India," read one of the letters.

Another postcard by Noor Aisha said Muslims were not asked for any proof of nationality when they were fighting for freedom from the British rule.

"When our country got freedom from British, no one was asked to prove their citizenship to be a part of the freedom struggle. Now, why is there a need to prove our citizenship after such a long time?" she asked.

"I don't need any proof to prove my Indian citizenship."

The postcard campaign has been started by Friends of Shaheen Bagh, an informal collective that includes, apart from women at Shaheen Bagh, journalists, academics and activists.

"We collected almost 1,800 postcards today. This is our first event and we are planning to conduct similar events next week," Samiya Javed, 29, one of the activists behind the campaign told Al Jazeera.

"We are focusing on Shaheen Bagh as of now and plan to expand it to Jaffarabad and Seelampuri, where the movement is being led by Muslim women," she added, referring to the other Muslim-majority areas in the Indian capital.

Javed said the postcards, written in English, Hindi and Urdu languages, will be collected over the weekend and sent to the Indian prime minister on Monday.

'Join us for tea'

Meanwhile, the women of Shaheen Bagh, who have been holding a sit-in at a highway for more than a month, also invited Modi to meet them on Saturday at their protest site.

"We invite the Prime Minister of India to Shaheen Bagh to join us for tea, witness our resolve and listen to our concern," read a poster with hashtag #TumKabAaoge (When will you come).

On India's Twitter, a similar hashtag in Hindi, which translates to 'Modi, when will you come to Shaheen Bagh' was one of the top trends on Saturday.

But BJP spokesman Syed Shahnawaz Hussain told Al Jazeera Modi will not meet the Shaheen Bagh protesters.

"Why would Prime Minister Modi go there? There are protests going at multiple places across the country. Does that mean the prime minister will go everywhere?" he told Al Jazeera.

"Both Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have made it clear that no Indian will lose citizenship under CAA. It's to give citizenship and not to take away anyone's citizenship," Hussain added.

Full report at:

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/01/india-anti-caa-protesters-launch-postcards-pm-modi-campaign-200118172928622.html

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NIA registers case to probe suspended J-K DySP Davinder Singh

January 18, 2020 

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) Saturday registered a case to probe suspended Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Davinder Singh who was caught with two Hizbul Mujahideen militants in the Valley last week. The central agency took over the probe today, two days after the Ministry of Home Affairs asked it to initiate the process of investigating the case, reported news agency PTI.

The J&K Police had earlier recommended the NIA take over the case. Director General of Police Dilbag Singh Wednesday said, “We have already recommended an NIA probe into the matter as things of wider magnitude may come out.”

“We do not believe in sheltering anyone… we show no leniency towards anybody involved in such crimes, irrespective of one’s rank or the organisation,” he added.

Police sources told The Indian Express Davinder Singh and the arrested militants have revealed during interrogation that the militants were hiding at Davinder’s residence in Srinagar’s Indira Nagar. A highly fortified locality, Indira Nagar is in Badamibagh Cantonment area and several top Army, police and civil administration officers, as well as politicians, live there.

The police later raided the residence and recovered two rifles. The police also conducted searches at nearly half a dozen other places.

Davinder Singh’s arrest last week also brought back questions about his alleged role in the 2001 Parliament attack case.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/nia-registers-case-to-probe-suspended-j-k-dysp-davinder-singh-6222621/

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Europe

 

Chancellor warns British business to 'forget' the EU

18 January 2020

The chancellor, Sajid Javid, painted a hard right ideological picture of Brexit today by warning that “there will not be alignment” with the European Union (EU) once Britain leaves in a fortnight.

In an interview with the Financial Times provocatively entitled “Forget staying close to the EU after Brexit”, Javid sends a stern warning to British manufacturing and business by demanding they “adjust” to new regulations.

On the all-important question of impact on British business and manufacturing, Javid said: "There will be an impact on business one way or the other, some will benefit, some won't".

Javid even drew a far-fetched comparison to Japan's car industry as an example of a manufacturing sector which has found success without following EU rules.

His over-confidence notwithstanding, Javid has been evasive on details in so far as failing to outline which EU rules he is planning to drop.

Negative reactions 

Immediate reaction to the Chancellor’s hard Brexit agenda has been less than reassuring. The Food and Drink Federation said it sounded like the "death knell" for efficient trade with the EU and was likely to spark food price inflation.

Meanwhile, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said the automotive industry in the UK and EU was "uniquely integrated" and the priority should be to avoid "expensive tariffs and other 'behind the border' barriers".

Only the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) struck a mildly positive tone by tentatively welcoming the chancellor's "ambitious" vision but with the caveat that the government should not feel it has an "obligation" to depart from EU rules.

Brexit fears 

The negative reaction to the Chancellor’s hardline vision is in keeping with warnings last year by the automotive, food and drink and pharmaceutical industries that moving away from key EU rules would be inimical to economic stability.

As the exit date draws near (with just a fortnight to go) fears are growing that the newly invigorated hard right Tory government is going to bring as much dogma as possible into the Brexit process.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/18/616507/UK-Brexit-Chancellor-Sajid-Javid-Manufacturing-Business

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World leaders gathering for Berlin conference on Libya

Ayhan Şimşek   

19.01.2020

BERLIN

Leaders and top government officials, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, are gathering in Germany on Sunday in a bid to thrash out a lasting cease-fire in Libya and pave the way for a political solution.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will co-host the Berlin conference, which will seek a stronger commitment from the world powers and regional actors to non-interference in Libya, to genuinely support the cease-fire and adhere to the UN’s arms embargo.

Turkish President Erdogan, who brokered a tentative cease-fire last weekend together with Russian counterpart Putin, urged the international community on Saturday to assume more responsibility to end the violence in the country.

“The world has not done enough to support pro-diplomacy and pro-dialogue actors in Libya,” Erdogan said in an op-ed he wrote for Politico.

Libya’s internationally recognized government in Tripoli had been under attack by the warlord Khalifa Haftar since April last year, and fighting over the last nine months and killed more than 1,000 people.

“Turkey fully supports Libya’s U.N.-backed, legitimate government,” Erdogan stressed ahead of the conference, and criticized Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for their support for Haftar’s forces, which, he said, “seek to carry out a coup d’état in the country.”

Germany invited leaders of around a dozen of countries, including UN Security Council members, regional powers and some of the neighboring countries for the conference.

Erdogan and Putin already announced that they would attend the conference in Berlin. French President Macron, British Premier Johnson and Italian PM Giuseppe Conte also confirmed their attendance.

The German government also announced that both Libya’s Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and the eastern-based commander Haftar accepted invitations for the conference.

The U.S. administration confirmed that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would attend the Berlin conference.

Top officials from Egypt and UAE, main supporters of the Libyan warlord Haftar, will also to take part in the conference.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/world-leaders-gathering-for-berlin-conference-on-libya/1707078

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Libya cease-fire needed for dialogue: Italy's Di Maio

Baris Seckin  

18.01.2020

ROME 

A cease-fire in Libya is an indispensable condition for political dialogue, according to the foreign minister of Italy, the country in Europe closest across the Mediterranean from Libya.

Amid rising tension in the Eastern Mediterranean due to hydrocarbon exploration activities and the Libya issue, on Saturday Luigi Di Maio told Anadolu Agency about Italy’s policies and views on the latest developments in the region on the eve of talks in Berlin on Libya due to start Sunday.

On hydrocarbon exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean, Di Maio said these activities brought new possibilities for the region's energy security, especially for Italy and the EU.

He said there must be a spirit of cooperation to make energy resources in the Mediterranean help the development and growth of all countries in the region.

Di Maio stressed the importance of the Berlin talks to solve the Libya issue and bring a sense of peace to the region.

Highlighting the significance of the recent cease-fire in Libya, which began a week ago, Di Maio called it a positive but fragile step.

"However, a cease-fire is an indispensable condition for political dialogue. Therefore, the Turkish-Russian proposal, which stopped the hostilities among the groups in the region for a while despite it being temporary, is of course welcomed. The cease-fire is the first and important step in the right direction," he said.

On the Berlin talks, he added that working together is very important to end the hostilities.

On this week’s cease-fire negotiations in Moscow, Di Maio said the Italian government noted who signed the agreement and who did not.

"We noted the signatures of Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of the UN-recognized government in Libya, and Khalid al-Mishri, Libya's chairman of the High Council of State. But the rejection of [Khalifa] Haftar of the agreement showed how complex the Libyan equation is," he said.

Di Maio also added that he hopes that Haftar will confirm his commitment to the cease-fire with a sense of responsibility.

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

On Jan. 12, the warring sides of the Libyan conflict announced a cease-fire in response to the call of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On Monday, the sides in the Libyan conflict gathered in Moscow to discuss a more formal cease-fire, but after al-Sarraj signed the deal, Haftar refused to do the same, and left Russia.

Italy's expectations

Di Maio said Italy hopes that the countries which attend the Berlin conference take the first operational steps for a permanent cease-fire.

He said “foreign interventions” in Libya should be stopped and all countries should abide by the weapons blockade.

Di Maio added that an international mission to monitor the cease-fire should be established.

Italy proposes tripartite mechanism

On possible peace solutions in Libya, Di Maio proposed a tripartite mechanism between Turkey, Italy, and Russia.

Stressing the constructive and effective role of Turkey and Russia, Di Maio said it is very important to deepen and strengthen joint consultations with Ankara and Moscow in light of Italy's national interests in Libya.

Asked why Italy did not sign the final statement of the Jan. 15 Cairo meeting on Libya, Di Maio called the statement extremely unbalanced against Turkey and the al-Sarraj government.

“Power is related to balance, and all efforts should be directed towards supporting the Berlin conference,” he said.

On Jan. 15, the Egyptian government held a meeting to discuss the latest developments in Libya, where the foreign ministers of Egypt, France, Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration published a statement. Though Di Maio attended on behalf of Italy, he did not sign the statement.

EastMed Pipeline Project

On the Eastern Mediterranean (EastMed) Pipeline Project, Maio said the project could be a feasible plan in the medium and long term, but only after evaluating its cost and construction process.

Asked why Italy did not attend the EastMed signing ceremony in early January despite being invited, Di Maio said the project should prove that it is economically sustainable.

“I believe that this infrastructure, which can play a positive role in diversifying European resources, must prove that it can attract the necessary capital for its construction and it can be economically sustainable,” he said.

On Jan. 1, Greece, Israel, and the Greek Cypriot administration signed a pact to build a 1,900-kilometer (1,180-mile) natural gas pipeline from Israel through Southern Cyprus, Crete, Greece, and ultimately to Italy.

Relationships between Turkey, Italy

On political developments between Turkey and Italy, Di Maio said the two countries have a key role to stop irregular migration influx and to provide security in the Middle East.

“Despite disagreements in the Eastern Mediterranean in recent months, Turkey is an important NATO member and it is a key actor for Italy and the EU,” he said.

He added that cooperating with Turkey to discuss security and migration issues is very important for the Middle East as well as generally.

He also stressed bilateral ties between Turkey and Italy, saying the two big countries of the Mediterranean traditionally have strong political and trade ties.

Asked about June’s UEFA EURO 2020 football match between the Turkish and Italian national teams, Di Maio said he believes that “friendship” will win the match.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/libya-cease-fire-needed-for-dialogue-italys-di-maio/1706492

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Southeast Asia

 

Apostasy a major sin; Constitution provides freedom of worship: G25

January 19, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR:  Civil group G25 stressed that it neither condones nor encourages Muslims from leaving the faith as it is a major sin in Islam, and they must be persuaded as much as possible from doing so.

However, the group said those who insist on leaving Islam must not be charged with a criminal offence, as the Federal Constitution guarantees freedom of worship to each citizen of Malaysia, including Muslims.

 “If they insist, and especially if they are converts to Islam, they should be allowed to do so as the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not only for non-Muslims, but to all Malaysian citizens,” it said in a statement.

he group made of former top-ranking civil servants compared the situation to other Muslim-majority countries, such as Morocco, which does not make apostasy a criminal offence, as it interprets “apostasy” as a matter of treason.

It said that apostasy was punishable by death during the times of Prophet Muhammad, as those who did so, would desert for the enemy’s side and oppose the Islamic state.

 “That was the political situation at that time, and it was not a religious doctrine. Because apostasy was linked to treachery (unlike solely becoming an apostate) and is considered high treason, it was reasonable back then to punish it with death,” it said.

On Saturday, G25 released its report titled “Administration of Matters Pertaining to Islam”, based on extensive research on the background and history of Islamic administration over the years.

Laws on apostasy among Muslims differ according to states, with heavy prison, fine, or caning sentences in some after very long period of “rehabilitation”.

Kelantan and Terengganu’s hudud enactments prescribe death for apostates who fail to repent, but cannot yet implement it due to restriction in federal laws.

In its latest report on religious restriction, US-based think tank Pew Research Centre ranked Malaysia as having “very high” government restriction on religion, with a worse score compared to 10 years before.- Malay Mail

http://www.dailyexpress.com.my/news/146510/apostasy-a-major-sin-constitution-provides-freedom-of-worship-g25/

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How many Indonesian mosques are there? Indonesia is counting

01/18/2020

Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) – How many mosques are there in the world’s most populous Islamic country? This is the question a team of a thousand people has been trying to answer since 2013, tasked by the Indonesian government with counting all the Muslim places of worship in the country’s 17,000 islands.

This is monumental task since new mosques open all the time for Fakhry Affan’s team. So far, their number count stands at 554,152 mosques, or 75 per cent of their work. Previous government estimates put the number at more than 740,000.

“I always say there are 800,000 [mosques] but 1 million is also possible,” said Vice President Jusuf Kalla a year ago. At the time, the Religious Affairs Ministry website reported only about 240,000.

The government is also planning to launch an app called Info Masjid, so that Muslims can use their smartphone to find the closest place of worship.

Many ordinary Muslims and clerics hope the move will bring greater transparency, especially in light of the large sums of money imams manage.

For the government, the "mosque hunt" is also a way of monitoring extremists. In fact, “Radical ideology can mushroom anywhere and mosques are one of the easiest places for it to spread,” Affan said.

"Why? Because you don't need to invite people to the mosque, they'll come anyway,” he explained. So “We want to ensure that all imams and (mosque) committees are moderate because Islam in Indonesia is moderate.”

The latter has been put to the test in recent years as Muslim hardliners become increasingly vocal in public and dozens of extremist groups who share the ideology of the Islamic State group find home in the country.

In November 2018, just over six months after brutal attacks against three churches in Surabaya (East Java), Indonesia’s state intelligence agency (Badan Intelijen Negara) announced a worrying discovery. In one Jakarta neighbourhood, the imams of 41 places of worship were preaching extremism to government officials.

Indonesia’s new Vice President Ma'ruf Amin, a conservative cleric-turned-politician, said that the government will begin to certify preachers and mosques nationwide in order to screen out extremists.

At present, Affan's team have counted 258,958 large mosques and another 295,194 smaller ones, those with a maximum capacity of 40 people. The official and his team hope to finish a first round of counting this year.

Full report at:

http://www.asianews.it/news-en/How-many-Indonesian-mosques-are-there-Indonesia-is-counting-49064.html

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Balancing faith and tradition: Indonesia's Chinese Muslims mark CNY in their own ways

19 Jan 2020 

JAKARTA: Like other Chinese Indonesians, Mr Naga Kurniadi looks forward to spending time with his family this Chinese New Year, as well as participating in some of the customs and traditions associated with the celebrations.

While his family gathers for reunion dinner and hands out red packets - monetary gifts given to children and unmarried relatives - there are some rituals and beliefs which he does not participate in. There are also some dishes he avoids.

Mr Kurniadi is a Muslim and is married to a Javanese Muslim woman. But he always brings his wife and their two children along for the Chinese New Year festivities at his parents’ home in Tangerang, just west of Jakarta.

“For me (Chinese New Year) is a time to strengthen bonds with the family. I want to show that even though I have converted (to Islam), I can still show respect to my family, my tradition and my heritage,” the 44-year-old told CNA.

“There are also values (associated with Chinese New Year) like togetherness, respect for the elders and generosity, which I want to show to my children.”

There are more than 150,000 Chinese Muslims in Indonesia, who mark their tradition and heritage in their own ways.

Another Chinese Muslim, Mr Fauzan Priyanto said he celebrates Chinese New Year with his Catholic parents and two Christian brothers at his parents’ home in Cipinang, East Jakarta.

“Me, my wife and my children will wear red. We wear Chinese outfits. My wife wears a red hijab. I hand out red money envelopes to my nephews and nieces. My children also receive money envelopes from their grandparents and uncles,” Mr Priyanto told CNA.

“It feels just like lebaran (the Indonesian word for Eid). That’s why people call (Chinese New Year) Chinese lebaran.”

BALANCING FAITH AND TRADITION

How do Chinese Muslims reconcile the differences between Chinese traditional beliefs and Islam?

Mr Kurniadi said it is important to respect the traditions and beliefs observed by other people, even though not all traditions and beliefs are in line with hs religion.

For a start, he doesn’t light up firecrackers that are believed to chase away evil spirits, although he and his children like to watch them. However, he likes to help his family put up the decorations.

Traditionally, people pray to their ancestors during Chinese New Year. 

"In my family, the prayers are only performed by the senior members of our family. The younger generations don’t want to do it,” he said.

“Once, I saw my grandmother performing the ritual all on her own. I felt sorry and decided to accompany her and help her burn joss paper. But I didn't recite any prayer,” he recounted.

Mr Rustiadi Tanoto, 66, who converted to Islam in 1982 said he would patiently wait while his siblings perform prayers and rituals at reunion dinner time.  

“Even though my family is Catholic, they still pray and make offerings to ancestors. They summon the spirits of our dead parents and offer our parents their favourite food. We are supposed to wait until the ritual is done before we can start our dinner,” Mr Tanoto said.

“I don’t participate and my siblings respect that. Just as I respect them for performing the rituals.”

Under Suharto, Chinese New Year celebrations were confined to temples and private homes. 

When Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid was in office, he allowed Chinese Indonesians to celebrate their important days and freely express their culture.

ISLAM CELEBRATES DIVERSITY OF CULTURES: CLERIC

Islamic cleric Yusman Iriansyah believes that it is acceptable for Muslims to participate in Chinese New Year celebrations.

“Islam encourages visiting relatives and maintaining close ties with their families even if they are not Muslim,” Mr Iriansyah told CNA.

“Chinese New Year is a product of culture and tradition. Islam celebrates the diversity of cultures as long as they are not in direct conflict with the teachings of Islam.”

Mr Iriansyah is one of the caretakers of the Lautze Mosque, a place of worship for the Chinese Muslim community in the predominantly Chinese neighbourhood of Sawah Besar, Central Jakarta.

And Chinese traditions are observed at the mosque, adorned in the auspicious colours of red and yellow.

The mosque’s exterior, converted from a four-storeyed shop, bears a slight resemblance to a traditional Chinese house. Inside, the walls are adorned with words of the Quran but written in Chinese-style calligraphy.

“This is another example of how Islam celebrates diversity and can accommodate different cultures and traditions,” Mr Iriansyah said.

According to a 2010 census - the last time Indonesians were asked to identify their ethnicity - 1.2 per cent (around 2.8 million people) of Indonesia’s 242 million population identified themselves as being of Chinese heritage.

Out of Indonesia's Chinese population, 5.4 per cent were Muslims (around 153,000).

PERIOD OF ADJUSTMENT FOR ISLAM CONVERTS

For Chinese Indonesians who convert to Islam, some undergo a period of adjustment as they navigate new identities.

Mr Priyanto said it took him quite a while to overcome the awkward feeling of being both the only Chinese at a mosque and the only Muslim in his family.

“I used to be afraid of going into a mosque because I felt like people would stare at me for being different,” Mr Priyanto, who converted to Islam in 2009, recounted.

“At first, my family couldn’t accept me converting to Islam. But eventually, they saw how I remained the same person. Particularly, how I still came to celebrate Chinese New Year with them.”

Mr Kurniadi said he once considered avoiding family gatherings, including those during Chinese New Year, particularly in the first few years after he converted in 2002.

He said it was very tough during his first Chinese New Year reunion dinner after he converted, as his family asked why he didn't eat his favourite dishes made with pork.

Over time, his family’s attitude changed, especially after he got married and had children. 

Full report at:

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/indonesia-chinese-new-year-muslims-celebrations-12273376

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Christian persecution on rise: North Korea, Muslims to blame

By Cheryl K. Chumley

January 18, 2020

Once again, Open Doors, the nonprofit that tracks and reports religious persecution around the world, finds in its 2020 World Watch List that it’s increasingly dangerous — fatal, in many instances — to claim Christianity as a faith, particularly in North Korea and in Muslim-dominated countries.

Once again, of the top ten anti-Christian countries of the world, eight slots go to nations with predominantly Islam populations.

And once again, the news of Islam’s radical tendencies will very likely fall on deaf Democrat ears.

In 2017, Pew Research Center found this: “Republicans and Republican leaners … are more likely than Democrats and those who lean Democratic to say they are very concerned about extremism in the name of Islam, both around the world (67% vs. 40%) and in the U.S. (64% vs. 30%). In addition, a December 2016 survey found that more Republicans than Democrats say Islam is likelier than other religions to encourage violence among its believers (63% vs. 26% of Democrats).”

See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil.

But that hardly takes away the evil. Or some politically uncomfortable truths.

Among those truths? Each and every day, and on average, eight Christians in the last year were killed; 23 raped or sexually harassed; 182 churches and 102 homes and businesses belonging to Christians attacked, burned or destroyed; and 309 Christians jailed — all of that simply for the crime of following Jesus, Open Doors reported.

Also among those truths: “Today,” Open Doors wrote, “more than 260 million [Christians] face persecution for their faith” — “an increase of 15 million” “in only one year.”

Also among those truths: Islam is to blame for a good chunk of the Christian persecution.

For the 19th consecutive year, North Korea is the world’s Number One persecutor of Christianity. Of course, atheist dictatorship North Korea persecutes all religions — save those that worship the communists’ dear leader as god.

The next biggest persecutors, though, do so because they’re Muslim and their religion cannot tolerate diversity.

In order, they’re Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Eritrea, Sudan, Yemen, Iran and India. In all, Islam is either the state religion or predominantly practiced religion — except for India. Hinduism dominates there, followed by Islam. Eritrea, meanwhile, has a large Christian population, but they’re increasingly subjected to attack from the Islamic regime.

“Christians who aren’t members of state-approved churches are considered agents of the West and threat to the state,” Open Doors reported. “From June to August 2019, more than 150 Christians were arrested in [two cities]. … This extreme pressure and state-sanctioned violence are forcing some Christians to flee Eritrea — often called ‘Africa’s North Korea.’”

News from the other anti-Christian hot spots of the world is similarly grim.

On Pakistan, Open Doors wrote: “An estimated 700 [Christian] girls and women abducted each year are raped and then forcefully married to Muslim men in the community, usually resulting in forced conversions.”

On Afghanistan: “An Islamic state by constitution, the country does not permit any faith other than Islam to exist. … Those who are discovered to be Christians may be sent to a mental hospital … beaten or even killed by family members, or members of Islamic extremist groups.”

On Libya: “Migrant Christians who have been arrested and detained while trying to reach Europe often end up in one of the overcrowded detention centers around Tripoli … [where] they are forced into heavy labor in the agricultural sector or pushed into prostitution.”

On Somalia: “Islamic militants have intensified their hunt for people who are Christian and in a position of leadership. … Christians in Somalia remained so vulnerable to attacks by Islamic militants that in the interests of security, Open Doors could publish no specific examples of persecution.”

Following Jesus shouldn’t be so dangerous — or fatal.

And maybe it wouldn’t be if so many in so many positions of power and influence didn’t turn blind eyes to the truths of the roots of the persecution. Yes, Democrats, that means you.

Full report at:

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2020/jan/18/christian-persecution-rise-north-korea-muslims-bla/

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As Dr M takes over MoE, claims abound of Maszlee’s men in key positions

January 19, 2020

PETALING JAYA: One of Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s first tasks as he takes over from Maszlee Malik in the education ministry is to review key posts in the government’s education agencies and higher education institutes, an insider in the ministry told FMT.

This comes amid criticism that they have been filled with those aligned to a certain Muslim organisation that the former minister has been active in.

FMT understands that there have been concerns over the appointments made by Maszlee, not least whether the appointees were truly qualified for their jobs.

These include the posts of the vice-chancellor (VC), who is the de facto head, in several public universities, as well as education agency heads and ministry officials.

There were worries that the Malaysian Qualification Agency, the government body tasked with accrediting academic programmes in higher learning institutions, was also to have been headed by someone closely aligned to Maszlee.

This was after its CEO Rahmah Mohamed’s tenure ended just a day before Maszlee’s resignation, with no replacement named.

“Now that he has resigned, the MQA may be spared from getting a Maszlee man as its head, but that is not the case with many key academic positions,” said the source.

It said there were some truth in recent claims that universities and educational agencies were being filled up with people “who shared the same religio-political incubator” as Maszlee.

The source was referring to Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia, a Muslim organisation with various networks throughout the country, whose religious outlook resembles that of Ikhwan Muslimin, or the Muslim Brotherhood, the pan-Arabian Islamic movement seen as the more progressive offshoot of Salafism.

Salafism is a more friendly name given to Wahhabism, the doctrine that has inspired decades-old oppressive laws in Saudi Arabia.

“There were rumblings about how Maszlee ran the show, there are reports that he was putting Islamists in very important positions but this is not entirely correct,” the source told FMT.

But he said not all those he appointed, some of whom he knew personally, could be lumped as Islamists, “let alone salafists”.

Maszlee resigned as education minister on Jan 2, just as schools opened nationwide. He said he was asked by Mahathir to vacate the post following complaints on his performance. The Cabinet later agreed to appoint the prime minister as a temporary replacement for the portfolio.

There have been rumblings of Maszlee’s choice of vice-chancellors in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Teknologi Mara and Universiti Malaysia Sabah, as well as senior positions in the higher education department and the government’s national language development agency, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, which comes under the education ministry.

But the most contentious of these appointments were those for the VC post in public varsities.

“These appointments usually go through the Public University VC Selection Committee, which hunts for the most qualified candidates to be proposed to the education minister,” a source told FMT.

“What happened was that people who were supposed to search for candidates were given names by influential people in the committee and there were allegations that some of these candidates were not qualified.”

An article published on Ikram’s website has rubbished such claims, saying VCs were appointed based on merit in a departure from past practices under the Barisan Nasional administration.

“After various feedback from academia and a town hall session in mid July 2018, a new selection process and system were introduced,” wrote Dr Musa Nordin, a staunch defender of Maszlee, his fellow active member in the Muslim Professionals Forum (MPF).

MPF recently had to battle allegations that a half-day conference it co-organised with a body chaired by Anwar Ibrahim was to prop up the Islamic credentials of the PKR president after being sidelined in the high-profile KL Summit last December.

Musa said the VC Selection Committee made recommendations based on “academic excellence, meritorious scholarship, visionary and intellectual leadership”.

He attacked Maszlee’s critics as “despicable characters” who were eyeing the giant pie of the national budget given to the education ministry.

“Besides, the education ministry sits on a gold mine, RM64.1 billion to be exact, which under Maszlee’s minister-ship, none of these scumbags and cronies could smell a penny.”

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/01/19/as-dr-m-takes-over-moe-claims-abound-of-maszlees-men-in-key-positions/

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North America

 

US right-wing veterans groups wages ad campaign to press end to Afghan war

19 January 2020 

A right-wing US veterans group has begun a TV advertising campaign aimed at urging American voters to demand from their congressional representatives to put an end to “endless wars,” focusing on the need to pull out of Afghanistan.

As part of the effort, the first order of business for the sponsor of the ad campaign, Concerned Veterans of America (CVA), is to press US lawmakers to “get America out of Afghanistan,” US-based military news outlet Task & Purpose reported Friday.

In the 30-second television ad that is due to be aired in states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, five US veterans of the country’s 18-year military occupation of Afghanistan speak against the longest war in American history.

"When will it end?" asks US Army veteran Laura Hechel in the ad. "Over 60 percent of veterans like me think it's time to get out of Afghanistan," further states another veteran, former Marine Adam Miller.

"We would like to see a full withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan as soon as possible," said Nate Anderson, an Army Green Beret and executive director of CVA, as quoted in the report.

"The reality for us is that leaving our forces there only puts them at further risk in a country where we don't have a strategic objective that we have not already met," Anderson said, pointing to the assassination of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, “punishing” the Taliban for harboring al-Qaeda, and “largely uprooting the terror group” from the country.

"All those things happened," he added. Yet, his group supports Trump administration peace talks with Taliban and submitting to its demand the US troops should pull out from Afghanistan with or without a deal.

According to the report, “18 years, 3 months, and 9 days after ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ was officially launched in Afghanistan, the war continues to grind on, albeit under a different name – Resolute Support, purportedly a NATO-led mission to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces.

In addition to the human cost of more than 2,400 American troops killed and tens of thousands wounded, the US government has spent nearly $2 trillion on the war in Afghanistan.  Meanwhile, secret documents published by The Washington Post in December showed that top officials in Washington had repeatedly lied to the American public about the war in Afghanistan, which many believed was unwinnable.

Quoting Ryan Crocker, former US ambassador to Afghanistan in 2002 and then again from 2011 to 2012, The Post wrote: "Our biggest single project, sadly and inadvertently, of course, may have been the development of mass corruption. Once it gets to the level I saw, when I was out there, it's somewhere between unbelievably hard and outright impossible to fix it."

Despite these fundamental failures, according to the daily, top American officials have said in public that the US military was making progress in Afghanistan, in part by distorting statistics to "present the best picture possible," as one counterinsurgency adviser said.

"Candidate Trump campaigned heavily on the need to end our endless wars," Anderson said. "I think his gut is right on this issue, but the establishment is pushing back hard. That's why we're taking action now."

The issue is personal for Anderson, who served five years on active-duty with Army Special Forces, deploying twice to Afghanistan as a communications sergeant. The five other veterans in the ad, also CVA staffers, served in the Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps.

"When you're on the ground as an operator or an infantryman, you want to do your part in the mission. You want to demonstrate success in whatever mission that you are part of. We certainly did our best to do that," said Anderson, but "it felt like we were running in place... that's demoralizing."

Meanwhile, the Taliban and the United States have resumed peace talks aimed at ending the war, though their outcome is far from certain.

This is while critics insist that an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan could result in a Taliban takeover of the war ravaged nation, risking the possibility that the country will once again turn into a safe haven for “terrorists.”

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/19/616540/US-concerned-veterans-of-America-CVA-Afghanistan-war-military

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Trump's Middle East plan to backfire: Analysis

18 January 2020

A US media outlet has predicted that President Donald Trump's plans for the Middle East are to backfire amid growing resentment regarding the presence of American troops in the region.

A CNN analysis on Saturday indicated that Trump's cowardly decision to assassinate Iran's Lt. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, and the second-in-command of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, started the countdown for the exit of US troops from Iraq.

Following the attack Iraqi lawmakers called on the government to work towards ending the presence of foreign troops from the country.

CNN cited Fawaz Gerges, a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science, predicting that cost/benefit analyses will prompt Trump to take US forces out of the Middle East.

"If the US leaves, people across the region will think that despite his flowery rhetorical devices, Trump does not really have a strategy for the Middle East and at the end of the day will fold and go home," Gerges said.

Being forced out would be a humiliating end to America's long occupation of Iraq, which has sucked up hundreds of billions of US taxpayers' money and left thousands of US soldiers dead.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has denied the US will exit, however, he hinted that the number of troops would be reduced.

In the meantime, according to the CNN analysis, "Iran is the most influential state in Iraq now ... [and] that power is only going to grow if the US leaves."

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/18/616527/US-Trump-CNN-Iraq

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Is Wesley Clark's prediction of US war with Iran moving closer to realization?

18 January 2020

The United States is moving to a point of confrontation and crisis with Iran, according to retired US General Wesley Clark. A warning that Iran has been a target of malicious US intentions issued more than a decade ago appears to be moving closer to realization following the US assassination of Iranian General Soleimani in Iraq.

US President Donald Trump and his hawkish foreign policy advisers such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been stepping up pressure against Iranians in the wake of Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Trump’s policy on Iran has been defined by military threats and economic sanctions. He adopted a hostile approach from day one.

On January 3, the US military carried out an airstrike on the order of Trump at Baghdad’s international airport, assassinating General Soleimani and the second-in-command of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, as well as eight other companions.

Iran responded by launching missiles at Iraqi military bases that house US troops.

The US secretary of state said the assassination was part of a “bigger strategy of deterrence,” and Trump claimed the prominent anti-terror commander was "saying bad things about our country."

Earlier, Trump said Soleimani posed an impending threat to the United States but also said that was not important given his past, after NBC News revealed that Trump had authorized the US military to assassinate General Soleimani seven months ago.

Independent analysts have said General Soleimani’s assassination by the Trump administration was “an act of war on Iraq where he was killed and on Iran where he served for decades with courage, dedication, and distinction — from US-orchestrated Iraqi aggression on Iran in the 1980s until his US state-sponsored murder.”

General Soleimani was fighting in Iraq against Daesh which the US created as a result of its illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. Soleimani was a brave, selfless and resourceful Iranian commander who fought US-backed terrorists in Iraq and Syria.  

Democratic presidential contenders have said that Trump’s action has put the United States on a warpath with Iran. They condemned Trump from ordering the deadly strike and said his decision was reckless and could lead the United States to another war in the Middle East.

Senator Bernie Sanders warned that a war with Iran which would be worse than the Iraq War. Representative Tulsi Gabbard, he 38-year-old Iraq war veteran, also warned Trump that war with Iran will make previous wars in the Middle East region look like "a picnic."

Clark, the retired 4-star US Army general and Supreme Allied Commander of NATO during the 1999 War on Yugoslavia, said in the 2007 interview that the purpose of the 9/11 attack was to take out the governments of seven countries in five years. These seven countries were Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, and Iran.

The interview serves as a reminder regarding the diabolical timeline of the American Empire’s hegemonic project. All of these countries have been directly or indirectly been the object of US aggression.

Following are excerpts of General Clark’s interview with Amy Goodman, the host of Democracy Now! -- an hour-long American TV, radio and internet news program hosted by Goodman and Juan González.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, let’s talk about Iran. You have a whole website devoted to stopping war.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Www.stopiranwar.com.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you see a replay in what happened in the lead-up to the war with Iraq — the allegations of the weapons of mass destruction, the media leaping onto the bandwagon?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, in a way. But, you know, history doesn’t repeat itself exactly twice. What I did warn about when I testified in front of Congress in 2002, I said if you want to worry about a state, it shouldn’t be Iraq, it should be Iran. But this government, our administration, wanted to worry about Iraq, not Iran.

I knew why, because I had been through the Pentagon right after 9/11. About ten days after 9/11, I went through the Pentagon and I saw Secretary Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz. I went downstairs just to say hello to some of the people on the Joint Staff who used to work for me, and one of the generals called me in. He said, “Sir, you’ve got to come in and talk to me a second.” I said, “Well, you’re too busy.” He said, “No, no.” He says, “We’ve made the decision we’re going to war with Iraq.” This was on or about the 20th of September. I said, “We’re going to war with Iraq? Why?” He said, “I don’t know.” He said, “I guess they don’t know what else to do.” So I said, “Well, did they find some information connecting Saddam to al-Qaeda?” He said, “No, no.” He says, “There’s nothing new that way. They just made the decision to go to war with Iraq.” He said, “I guess it’s like we don’t know what to do about terrorists, but we’ve got a good military and we can take down governments.” And he said, “I guess if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail.”

So I came back to see him a few weeks later, and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan. I said, “Are we still going to war with Iraq?” And he said, “Oh, it’s worse than that.” He reached over on his desk. He picked up a piece of paper. And he said, “I just got this down from upstairs” — meaning the Secretary of Defense’s office — “today.” And he said, “This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.” I said, “Is it classified?” He said, “Yes, sir.” I said, “Well, don’t show it to me.” And I saw him a year or so ago, and I said, “You remember that?” He said, “Sir, I didn’t show you that memo! I didn’t show it to you!”

AMY GOODMAN: I’m sorry. What did you say his name was?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: I’m not going to give you his name.

AMY GOODMAN: So, go through the countries again.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, starting with Iraq, then Syria and Lebanon, then Libya, then Somalia and Sudan, and back to Iran. So when you look at Iran, you say, “Is it a replay?” It’s not exactly a replay. But here’s the truth: that Iran, from the beginning, has seen that the presence of the United States in Iraq was a threat — a blessing, because we took out Saddam Hussein and the Baathists. They couldn’t handle them. We took care of it for them. But also a threat, because they knew that they were next on the hit list. And so, of course, they got engaged. They lost a million people during the war with Iraq, and they’ve got a long and unprotectable, unsecurable border. So it was in their vital interest to be deeply involved inside Iraq. They tolerated our attacks on the Baathists. They were happy we captured Saddam Hussein.

But they’re building up their own network of influence, and to cement it, they occasionally give some military assistance and training and advice, either directly or indirectly, to both the insurgents and to the militias. And in that sense, it’s not exactly parallel, because there has been, I believe, continuous Iranian engagement, some of it legitimate, some of it illegitimate. I mean, you can hardly fault Iran because they’re offering to do eye operations for Iraqis who need medical attention. That’s not an offense that you can go to war over, perhaps. But it is an effort to gain influence.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/18/616526/Is-Wesley-Clark's-prediction-of-US-war-with-Iran-in-sight

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Hostile anti-Iran US policy serving Israel lobby: Analyst

18 January 2020

An American writer and former professor has warned against a broad bipartisan hatred towards Iran in Washington, citing its roots in the Israel lobby.

The problem with American politics right now is that there is this broad anti-Iran consensus across the entire spectrum of US politics ranging from Republicans to Democrats and Liberals, said E Michael Jones, the current editor of Culture Wars magazine.

The entire spectrum of politicians in Washington from Donald Trump on the right, all the way to Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) on the left, consider Iran as the enemy, Jones said on Saturday in an interview with Press TV. 

Jones insisted, however, that "Iran is not the enemy of the American people, Iran is the enemy of the Israel lobby."

The former professor previously noted that the anti-Iran policy advocated by the Israel lobby addressed a wide spectrum of US politicians"for the benefit of Israel."

Jones noted, however, that the anti-Iran sentiments spread by the Israel lobby did not benefit Americans.

"The American people have no benefit whatsoever from this war and they’re not buying it,” Jones noted.

Jones cited Sanders recommendation at Tuesday night's Democratic presidential primary debate for a return to diplomatic means as the right way for Washington to de-escalate recent tensions with Tehran.

Sanders said he fears Trump could "drag" the US into a war with Iran that would be worse than the Iraq War.

"What we have to face as a nation is that the two great foreign policy disasters of our lifetimes were the war in Vietnam and the war in Iraq. Both of those wars were based on lies," Sanders noted.

"And right now, what I fear very much is we have a president who is lying again and could drag us into a war that is even worse than the war in Iraq," Sander said, pointing out,"We have to return to the path of diplomacy."

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/18/616511/US-Iran-Israel-Policy-US-Congress-Interview-Mike-Jones

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Canada’s PM urges Iran to send black boxes from downed plane to France

17 January 2020

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday urged Iran to send the flight and cockpit data recorders from the downed Ukrainian plane to France for analysis and said the first remains of victims should soon arrive back in Canada.

Trudeau told a news conference in Ottawa that France was one of the few countries with the ability to read the plane’s so-called black boxes, which he said were badly damaged.

“Iran does not have the level of technical expertise and mostly the equipment necessary to be able to analyze these damaged black boxes quickly,” Trudeau said.

“There is a beginning of a consensus that ... (France) would be the right place to send those black boxes to get proper information from them in a rapid way and that is what we are encouraging the Iranian authorities to agree to.”

Trudeau said about 20 families of Canadian victims had requested the return of the bodies and told reporters he expected the first remains to be repatriated “in the coming days.” He did not give more details.

On Thursday, the five countries whose citizens died in the downed plane said that Tehran should pay compensation to families of the victims.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/01/17/Canada-s-PM-urges-Iran-to-send-black-boxes-from-downed-plane-to-France.html

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Africa

 

Gargash: UAE unreservedly supports Germany efforts to bring peace in Libya

18 January 2020

UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, tweeted on Friday that his country “unreservedly” supports Germany in its efforts in hosting the Berlin peace conference on Libya.

He tweeted that “the UAE unreservedly supports German efforts in convening the conference & the international community’s goals of peace & stability in Libya.”

The minister added that he is “Looking foreword to a successful Berlin Conference” and stressed the joint efforts towards an end to the conflict in Libya.

د. أنور قرقاش

@AnwarGargash

Looking foreword to a successful Berlin Conference in our joint efforts towards an end to the conflict in Libya. The UAE unreservedly supports German efforts in convening the conference & the international community’s goals of peace & stability in Libya.

395

1:39 AM - Jan 18, 2020

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Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday a conference in Berlin on Sunday must try to get a weapons embargo enforced again.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will take part in the peace conference on Libya in Germany on Sunday, as world powers step up efforts to find a lasting ceasefire.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/01/18/Gargash-UAE-unreservedly-supports-Germany-efforts-to-bring-peace-in-Libya.html

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Four dead, many injured in al-Shabaab car bombing near Somali capital

18 January 2020

Four people were killed in a car bombing in Somalia on Saturday that apparently targeted Turkish engineers working on a road near the capital Mogadishu, police and witnesses said.

The attack was claimed by the al-Qaeda-linked extremist militant group al-Shabaab, which has stepped up its activities in Somalia and neighboring Kenya in recent weeks.

The bomb struck near the town of Afgoye about 30 kilometers (20 miles) west of the capital, killing four people and wounding several others including several Turkish nationals, said local police officer Abdirahman Adan.

The blast was huge, it destroyed a container used by the Turkish engineers who work on the Afgoye road construction,” said witness Muhidin Yusuf.

There were police who were guarding the Turkish engineers and several other people gathering near the checkpoint where the temporary shelter is located,” said another witness Ahmed Said.

I saw the dead bodies of several (people) and Turkish workers who were wounded in the blast.”

The extremist group, which has fought for more than a decade to topple the Somali government, has carried out a series of attacks in recent weeks including a massive car bombing in Mogadishu on December 28 that killed 81 people.

And on January 5, the extremists stormed a military base used by US forces in Kenya’s coastal Lamu region, killing three Americans.

Last week, al-Shabaab warned that Kenya will “never be safe”, threatening tourists and calling for more attacks on US interests.

Kenya sent troops into Somalia in 2011 as part of an African Union peacekeeping mission fighting against al-Shabaab, and has seen several brutal retaliation attacks both on its troops in Somalia and civilians in Kenya.

Earlier reports said that at least two people were killed and more than 20 others wounded when a suicide car bomber targeted a construction site along a highway outside Somalia’s capital.

Six Turkish nationals were among the wounded, with two in serious condition, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.

The Turkish construction workers appeared to be the bomber’s target, Somali police Col. Abdi Abdullahi said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/01/18/Car-bomb-targeting-Turkish-contractors-explodes-in-Somali-town.html

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Forces loyal to Haftar block oil exports from key Libyan ports

19 January 2020

Forces loyal to Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar blocked oil exports from the war-ravaged country's main ports Saturday, raising the stakes on the eve of an international summit aimed at bringing peace to the North African nation.

The move to cripple the country's main source of income was a protest against Turkey's decision to send troops to shore up Haftar's rival, the head of Tripoli's UN-recognized government Fayez al-Sarraj.

It comes ahead of Sunday's conference in Berlin that will see the United Nations try to extract a pledge from world leaders to stop meddling in the Libyan conflict -- be it through supplying troops, weapons or financing.

"All foreign interference can provide some aspirin effect in the short term, but Libya needs all foreign interference to stop. That's one of the objectives of this conference," UN Libya envoy Ghassan Salame told AFP in an interview.

The presidents of Russia, Turkey and France as well as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are to join the talks, held under the auspices of the UN.

Haftar and Sarraj are also expected, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas confirmed Saturday, ahead of the first gathering of such scale on the conflict since 2018.

After months of combat, which has killed more than 2,000 people, a ceasefire took effect on January 12 backed by both Ankara and Moscow, which is accused of supporting Haftar.

But Saturday's blockade raised fears over the conflict.

The disruption to oil exports is expected to more than halve the country's daily crude production, to 500,000 barrels from 1.3 million barrels, translating to losses of $55 million a day, warned Libya's National Oil Company.

"Our line at the UN is clear. Don't play with petrol because it's the livelihood of the Libyans," warned Salame just hours before the blockade.

Jalal Harchaoui, an expert at the Hague-based Institute Clingendael, said the petrol blockade was part of "the logic of blackmail".

"It can work, but there's also a risk that Washington will react badly" he said. Washington was deeply opposed to any move that could drive up crude prices, he added.

The oil-rich North African country has been torn by fighting between rival armed factions since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi and toppled his regime.

More recently, Haftar's forces launched an assault in April on Sarraj's troops in Tripoli, according to AFP.

Although Sarraj's government is recognized by the UN, some powerful players have broken away to stand behind Haftar -- turning a domestic conflict into what is essentially a proxy war with international powers jostling to secure their own interests.

Alarm grew internationally when Ankara ordered in troops early January to help shore up Sarraj. Russia has denied accusations it provided weapons, financing and mercenaries to Haftar.

"We must end this vicious cycle of Libyans calling for the help of foreign powers. Their intervention deepens the divisions among the Libyans," said Salame.

The place of international players should be to "help Libyans develop themselves", he added.

The UN envoy said Sunday's meeting will also seek to "consolidate" the shaky ceasefire.

"Today we only have a truce. We want to transform it into a real ceasefire with monitoring, separation (of rival camps), repositioning of heavy weapons" outside urban zones, he said.

Although the UN has tried repeatedly to broker peace, talks have repeatedly collapsed.

On the eve of the Berlin talks, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Europe to stand united behind Sarraj's government, as Tripoli's fall could leave "fertile ground" for extremist groups like Daesh or Al-Qaeda "to get back on their feet".

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also lashed out at Greece for hosting Haftar ahead of the international conference in Berlin, saying that the move by Athens would "sabotage" peace efforts.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/19/616539/Libya-conflit-haftar-forces-leave-ra

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Turkey deploys more militants from Syria to Libya to help protect Tripoli-based GNA: Report

18 January 2020 

Roughly 2,000 members of Turkish-backed Takfiri terrorist groups in Syria have reportedly arrived in Libya to fight on the battlefields in support of the embattled Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).

Informed sources, requesting anonymity, told Syria’s official news agency SANA that more than 1,700 Turkey’s proxies, who have been accused of war crimes and human rights abuses while fighting on behalf of Ankara in northern Syria, had recently reached the North African country to come to the aid of Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj in the face of a months-long campaign by his rival, renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar.

The sources added that Turkish forces continue to recruit Takfiri militants in the Kurdish-populated city of Afrin and other areas in northern Syria to send them to Libya.

British daily newspaper The Guardian reported on Wednesday that some 650 fighters from Turkish-backed militant outfits in Syria are in Libya already, and a further 1,350 crossed to Turkey in January to support the Tripoli government.

Media reports said that Turkey had begun sending militants from Syria to the North African country after Libya’s GNA and Ankara signed security and maritime agreements back in late November last year on paving the way for the Turkish troop deployment.

Libya's eastern-based parliament later voted unanimously against the deals.

The accords drew the ire of Mediterranean countries, including Greece and Cyprus, which are seeking to exploit energy resources in the area.

On Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged the European Union to support his country’s deployment of troops to Libya in support of the GNA, if the 28-member bloc seeks to end conflict in the North African country.

It would be a mistake of historic proportions to leave Libya at the mercy of a warlord. Keeping in mind that Europe is less interested in providing military support to Libya, the obvious choice is to work with Turkey, which has already promised military assistance,” Erdogan said in remarks in a column published on the Politico website.

He added, “We will train Libya's security forces and help them combat terrorism, human trafficking and other serious threats against international security.”

POLITICO

@politico

Opinion: Europe will encounter a fresh set of problems and threats if Libya’s legitimate government falls https://www.politico.eu/article/road-to-peace-in-libya-goes-through-turkey-khalifa-haftar/ …

Erdoğan: Road to peace in Libya goes through Turkey

Europe will encounter a fresh set of problems and threats if Libya’s legitimate government falls.

politico.eu

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7:39 AM - Jan 18, 2020

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The Turkish leader then warned Europe about new threats if it fails to back Libya’s “legitimate” government, stating that Takfiri militant groups such as Daesh and al-Qaeda “will find a fertile ground to get back on their feet.”

Erdogan has said Turkey would not refrain from “teaching a lesson” to Haftar if his eastern-based forces continue attacks against the Tripoli-based GNA.

If the putschist Haftar's attacks against the people and legitimate government of Libya continue, we will never refrain from teaching him the lesson he deserves,” the Turkish president said in a speech to his AK Party legislators in parliament on Tuesday.

It is our duty to protect our kin in Libya,” he said.

Erdogan said Turkey had historical and social ties with Libya, asserting that Haftar would have taken over the entire nation if Ankara had not intervened.

The putschist Haftar did not sign the ceasefire. He first said yes, but later, unfortunately, he left Moscow, he fled Moscow,” Erdogan said.

Despite this, we find the talks in Moscow were positive as they showed the true face of the putschist Haftar to the international community,” the Turkish president added.

On January 2, Turkey's parliament approved a bill to deploy troops to Libya.

Parliament Speaker Mustafa Sentop said at the time that the legislation had been passed with a 325-184 vote. 

Libya plunged into chaos in 2011, when a popular uprising and a NATO intervention led to the ouster of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi and his execution by unruly fighters.

The North African country has since been split between two rival administrations based in the east and west amid a conflict drawing increasing involvement from foreign powers.

According to the latest UN tally, more than 280 civilians and roughly 2,000 fighters have been killed since Haftar launched his offensive in April to seize Tripoli. An estimated 146,000 Libyans have been displaced.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/18/616510/Turkey-sends-more-Syria-militants-to-Libya-to-help-protect-Tripoli-based-GNA:-Report

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Khalifa Haftar is not a force for good in Libya

18 January 2020 

By Robert Inlakesh

Robert Inlakesh is a journalist, writer and political analyst, who has lived in and reported from the occupied Palestinian West Bank. He has written for publications such as Mint Press, Mondoweiss, MEMO, and various other outlets. He specializes in analysis of the Middle East, in particular Palestine-Israel. He also works for Press TV as a European correspondent.

There is currently much dispute over which side, in Libya’s ongoing civil war, is a force for good in the region and which side should be treated with the most legitimacy. Many will argue that the LNA (Libyan National Army) forces, commanded by warlord Khalifa Haftar, are indeed what is needed for Libya to see progress and to make its way back to operating as a normal State in the Middle East, however, there are many problems with this argument.

For those who value the independence of Arab peoples - including the people of Northern Africa - Khalifa Haftar is not a figure to revere. His LNA forces have aligned themselves with a number of regional enemies of the Palestinian people and also the people of the wider region, including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Israel and France. Using the airpower of both Egypt and the UAE as an integral part to play in Haftar’s plot to control Libya.

Who is Commander Khalifa Haftar?

The now internationally well known leader of the LNA opposition forces in Libya, Khalifa Haftar, is not a new figure unknown to the Libyan people. He first emerged to prominence as a colonel under Muammar Gaddafi’s rule, aiding Gaddaffi in his 1969 military coup which removed King Idris from power.

After enjoying a large public following in Libya, he was eventually arrested as a prisoner of war during the Chadian-Libya war and was disavowed by Muammar Gaddafi. The condemnation coming from Gaddafi due to Haftar’s military operation having violated an agreement brokered between Libya and Chad at the time. Khalifa Haftar feeling he was betrayed by his leader, then went on to form a militia, based in Zaire, which was aimed at overthrowing Gaddafi.

As part of a CIA-sponsored deal with Kenya, in 1990, Khalifa Haftar was then welcomed into the United States, being given citizenship to the country. Once in the US, Haftar built close connections within the nations’ intelligence services. In fact, when Haftar resided in the US, he chose to live in close proximity to the CIA’s headquarters.

Khalifa Haftar continued then to support a number of attempts to overthrow the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, the most notable case being in the 1996 uprising. 

Later, come 2011, Khalifa Haftar became an influential figure in the overthrow of Gaddafi, leading to the bloody chaos we have seen since, in Libya. Keep in mind that this was all possible due to NATO forces having supplied both air support and also weapons to Libya’s opposition militias - who were fighting Gaddafi - leading to their eventual victory. Meaning that the legacy of Khalifa Haftar is one of Western collusion, aiding in the mass murder of Libyan’s, for personal political gain. Leading him towards his current campaign.

Khalifa Haftar and his ‘Friend’ Israel

After forming an alliance with Russia, Khalifa Haftar has formed alliances and garnered the support of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, France and even Israel. 

Many have attempted to dispute the open support for Haftar’s LNA from Israel, however, in 2014 Haftar openly stated that he wouldn’t mind cooperating with the Israelis. In 2018, it then emerged that the LNA was directly supplied with Israeli weapons. The UAE mediated between the two, resulting in the supply of Sniper rifles and night vision equipment to LNA forces, according to reports.

An IDF (Israeli military) source even reportedly defacto referred to Haftar as a friend of Israel, stating the following: "A friend of our friend - and an enemy of our enemy - is our friend, and Haftar is a friend of Egypt, Jordan and UAE. He also fights ISIS."

Israel evidently has an interest in building new alliances with Sunni Muslim States in the Middle East, working to achieve new trade relationships and to destroy the Palestinian people. Israel has now signed a deal with Egypt’s illegal coup leader, el-Sisi, under which Egypt will buy its gas from Israel. Israel has also worked to get cheap oil from a number of different areas in the region, after losing 77% of its required oil needs from the Kirkuk oil fields (in Iraq). Israel lost the formerly Kurdish controlled oil, sold to it through Turkish ports, which was taken out of the hands of the KRG (Kurdish Regional Government) following an Iraqi offensive against northern Iraq.

ow Israel may be seeking to do a deal with a willing partner in Libya, this willing partner seemingly being Khalifa Haftar. Already Haftar’s forces preside over the countries resources, but delivering a final blow to the UN-recognized GNA government in Tripoli, would be a complete takeover of the country.

Khalifa Haftar is often referred to as Libya’s el-Sisi and this is exactly what Haftar’s ally’s are betting on, in order to extend the influence of the pro-Western block in the Middle East.

Why people are deceived by Khalifa Haftar and the LNA

With recent decision by Turkey to deploy forces - including ex-Syrian opposition fighters - to Libya in support of the GNA government, many supporters of the Syrian Government are taking the side of the LNA in Libya. However, applying their distaste for certain actors in the war of Syria is not considering the wider picture in the case of Libya.

The justification of those who support the Russian role in aiding the Syrian government, to defeat the opposition forces which included al-Qaeda and Daesh, is that the internationally-recognized government of Syria asked for its allies help. If consistent and we don’t apply a double standard, this is what is happening with the GNA-Turkey alliance. 

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/18/616506/Libya-Khalifa-Haftar-Tripoli-

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Somalia car bomb blast targets Turkish contractors north of Mogadishu

Saturday, 18 January 2020

A car bomb targeting a group of Turkish contractors exploded on Saturday in Afgoye, northwest of the Somali capital Mogadishu, police said.

There was no immediate word on any fatalities.

A speeding suicide car bomb rammed into a place where the Turkish engineers and Somali police were having lunch,” police officer Nur Ali told Reuters from Afgoye.

It was not know who carried out the attack but residents and police said al-Shabaab fighters had tried to attack Afgoye, about 30 km from Mogadishu, late on Friday and were repulsed.

The al-Qaeda-linked militant group has claimed responsibility for past attacks in its campaign to overturn Somalia’s UN-backed government.

Residents and police said al-Shabaab fighters had tried to attack Afgoye, about 30 km from Mogadishu, late on Friday but they were repulsed.

We heard a huge blast and soon clouds of smoke into the air. Before the blast, several Turkish engineers and well armed convoy of Somali police were at the scene,” Farah Abdullahi, a shopkeeper, told Reuters from Afgoye.

 “We see casualties being carried but we cannot make if they are dead or injured.”

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/18/616489/Somalia-Afgoye-town-Mogadishu-car-bomb-Turkish-contractors

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Pakistan

 

Centre left Balochistan ‘alone’ in natural calamity: CM

Saleem Shahid

January 19, 2020

QUETTA: Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan Alyani expressing his displeasure over the federal government departments’ attitude during the relief and rescue operation in snowfall-hit areas of the province said that “Islamabad had left Balochistan alone”.

Presiding over a meeting that reviewed relief and rescue operation in the province on Saturday, he said that no help had been provided by the federal government’s departments concerned to the provincial government.

“All officials and departments, including the federal secretary energy, NHA chairman, NDMA chairman and SSGC managing director have completely ignored Balochistan,” the chief minister said, adding that they should have reached Balochistan as the province suffered badly in the snowfall and rain calamity.

He said the federal government had proved that Balochistan had never been under its consideration.

Provincial ministers Zahoor Ahmed Buledi and Saleem Ahmed Khosa, Balochistan Chief Secretary Fazeel Asghar, the additional chief secretary home, senior member Board of Revenue, secretary finance and other government officials attended the meeting.

Mr Alyani criticised the role of the National Highway Authority and said that it did not fulfil its responsibility of clearing blocked highways which caused great difficulties to people. It was provincial government and its departments which restored these highways with their own resources.

He said that the NHA must establish its permanent centre in Muslim Bagh.

The chief minister said that one or two departments could not confront a natural disaster because the calamity could have been controlled by launching joint efforts.

He said that instead of helping the most neglected province of the country in natural disaster, the federal government had left it alone which sent a negative impression among its people.

The chief minister directed the Provincial Disaster Management Authority to establish a strengthened coordination system in order to handle a natural calamity with more professional way. He said trained staff should be available in the PDMA office.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1529249/centre-left-balochistan-alone-in-natural-calamity-cm

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PML-N protests ‘arrest’ of workers in Swat

January 19, 2020

MINGORA: The activists of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Saturday staged a protest against the police for arresting the two workers of the party.

The workers and leaders led by district president Qaimus Khan and Habib Ali Shah staged sit-in in Kabal Chowk against the police excesses and blocked the road for a few hours for traffic. They chanted slogans against the police.

Speaking on the occasion, they said that the party president for Kabal tehsil, Abdul Ghafoor and Usman Ghani were called to the police station on Friday night and since then they had gone missing.

“It’s really strange that the police are now expressing ignorance about the whereabouts of the workers,” Habib Ali Shah said.

They alleged that the victimization of the workers had continued in the district, adding, they were peace-loving and law-abiding citizens.

They asked the district and regional police officers to take notice of their missing party workers after being called to the police station.

Full report at:

Meanwhile, son of Abdul Ghafoor moved a local court against his missing father.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/600938-pml-n-protests-arrest-of-workers-in-swat

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Pakistan wants US to get it off FATF grey list

Anwar Iqbal

January 19, 2020

WASHINGTON: Pakistan has urged the United States to get it off the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which monitors global money laundering and terror financing.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said at a news briefing here on Friday night that Pakistan hoped the US would back its efforts to get it off the list at the FATF’s Beijing meeting next month.

“This meeting is very important for us as it leads to a plenary meeting in Paris in April where the world body will decide whether Pakistan remains on the list or is taken off,” he said.

The FATF has placed Pakistan on a list of countries that have failed to eradicate money laundering and where terrorists can still raise funds for their activities. If not removed off the list by April, Pakistan may move to a blacklist of countries that face severe economic sanctions, such as Iran.

Mr Qureshi concluded his three-day visit to the United States on Friday after a series of meetings with key US lawmakers and officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien. The foreign minister spent the week touring Iran, Saudi Arabia and the US on a diplomatic mission meant to defuse tensions between Washington and Tehran.

At his news briefing, Mr Qureshi also urged the US to review its travel advisories for Pakistan and encourage investments in the country. US travel advisories still present Pakistan as a country Americans should avoid travelling because of terrorism threats.

“Reviewing the advisory can boost tourism in Pakistan,” he said while reminding Washington that the United Nations had recently included Pakistan among 10 top tourism destinations. The United Nations and several European countries also had once again declared Islamabad as a safe city for diplomats and their families, he said while asking Washington to do the same.

Asked why the FATF’s Beijing meeting was important, Mr Qureshi said that decisions taken in China’s capital would also impact the Force’s Paris plenary, which would decide whether Pakistan stayed in or was taken off the gray list.

“We want our American friends to tell us what’s their policy,” he said. “You share with us what measures you have taken or intend to.”

The minister acknowledged that removal from the FATF list could not happen overnight, but said that the US could enhance its engagements with Pakistan while waiting for the removal.

“Please consider how you can help improve Pakistan’s exports, increase our forex reserves, we need your guidance there too,” he said. “We also need your investment in the tourism industry.”

Mr Qureshi noted that in his meetings with Prime Minister Imran Khan last year, US President Donald Trump had said that he wanted to see Pakistan off the FATF gray list. “So, we expect US officials to work for it now.”

The foreign minister said Islamabad had taken several concrete steps to meet FATF demands and the time had come for the US to fulfil President Trump’s pledge.

Mr Qureshi recalled that when Secretary Pompeo came to Islamabad in 2018, “I told him that we are interested in resetting our bilateral relationship. Mr Pompeo said this could only be routed through Kabul.”

And “today, I told him we fulfilled our promise. The Taliban came to the table. Then you said the delegation should be authoritative and powerful, we did that,” he said.

“Then we were told the insurgents were holding two Western hostages. If they are released, it will create goodwill and break the stalemate. Our security establishment held 72 meetings and you saw two hostages reach home safely.”

When Pakistan got that done, “they said the Taliban must give this understanding that they will stop blood-letting and hostilities. This was not an easy task, but this too has happened. The Taliban are willing to end all hostilities,” Mr Qureshi said.

“So, now my message for them is: this is a golden chance.

There’s no military solution to the Afghan conflict. All regional powers, including Iran, are supporting it. So, avail it and sign an agreement. That agreement will lead to an intra-Afghan dialogue. They should follow this pattern,” he said.

He reminded Washington that “Pakistan fulfilled your expectations. Now’ we too had some expectations, what have you done?”

APP adds: Later, the foreign affairs minister arrived in Doha on an important visit.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1529245/pakistan-wants-us-to-get-it-off-fatf-grey-list

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Firdous’ ‘symbolic blood donation’ stirs controversy

Zulqernain Tahir

January 19, 2020

LAHORE: Following the tradition of the government functionaries going to great lengths to ‘inspire’ people, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan underwent an elaborate ritual associated with the blood donation in the city on Saturday.

The incident that created some controversy took place at the Sundas Foundation Centre where she had gone to raise awareness about thalassaemia patients.

In an about three-minute ‘blood donation’ activity, a foundation official first registered her on the ‘Blood Donors Registration Card’ mentioning her age 46. (Her profile on Wikipedia shows her age 50). A doctor placed an infusion set without needle on her arm, showing as if she was donating the blood (which she wasn’t).

The staff present there said it needed the ‘footage and pictures’ of Dr Awan that would help the cause for thalassaemia (children) patients. The staff brought a bagful of blood showing that it was donated by the PM’s aide.

Speaking to Dawn, a member of Dr Awan’s personal staff said it was a “symbolic” donation drive for the thalassaemia patients. “She had asked the foundation for donation of blood but it insisted on a symbolic one,” he said and regretted that it was given a colour that she was faking it.

“I have donated blood to the Sundas Foundation 22 times in the past, in addition to today’s one,” APP quoted Dr Awan as having said. “It is nothing short of a reward if someone’s blood saves anyone’s life,” she said and added that Prime Minister Imran Khan appreciated social work a lot.

“Sundas Foundation was launching an awareness campaign for blood donation for children suffering from thalassaemia and the media coverage was a part of it. Presenting the footage and pictures of the event in a misleading way on certain sections of mainstream and social media is condemnable,” she later tweeted.

Ms Awan further said a law regarding thalassaemia had been enacted in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and it would be introduced in the Centre and Punjab soon.

Later, at the Meet the Press programme, Dr Awan said an information centre would be set up at the Lahore Press Club for telling the people about government’s policies and declared that 2020 would be a year of good governance providing relief to the common man.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1529187/firdous-symbolic-blood-donation-stirs-controversy

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Dar moves SC, seeks suspension of order declaring him proclaimed offender

Nasir Iqbal

January 19, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Former finance minister Ishaq Dar on Saturday approached the Supreme Court, seeking suspension of the Nov 11, 2017 order of the accountability court which had declared him proclaimed offender and directed for taking over and putting to sale his assets.

“This Honourable Court may kindly be pleased to suspend the operation of the order of Nov 11, 2017, the proclamation issued in pursuance thereof as well as any proceedings, steps or action taken pursuant thereto,” said an application moved by Advocate Qazi Misbahul Hassan on behalf of Senator-elect Ishaq Dar.

Through a separate application, Mr Dar also pleaded that the present plea be fixed before the Supreme Court in the week commencing from Jan 20 preferably on Jan 24 for expeditious disposal of the matter.

Through its order of Nov 11, the accountability court No I Islamabad had declared Ishaq Dar a proclaimed offender for his continued absence from proceedings in the reference against him.

Former finance minister pleads he is suffering from serious medical complications

The accountability court was seized with a reference concerning assets beyond known means of income, filed against Mr Dar by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Supreme Court orders.

Mr Dar is facing a corruption reference for amassing assets and pecuniary interests/resources in his own name or in the name of his dependants of an approximate amount of Rs831.678 million, which were disproportionate to his known sources of income for which he could not reasonably account for.

Now before the Supreme Court, the senator-elect has pleaded that he will suffer irreparable loss and damage if the interim relief prayed for is not granted.

It was pertinent to point out that in pursuance of the Nov 11, 2017 order, different assets of the petitioner were being put to sale or had been taken over, the application regretted, adding that the balance of convenience as well as equity strongly favours the petitioner.

Mr Dar pleaded that he was 69 years old and suffered from angina on minimal exertion in the year 2013. In November 2013, he underwent medical treatment for his heart-related issues which included coronary, angiogram, PCI with stenting of major diagonal branch.

Air travel

Later in August 2017, the application argued, Mr Dar again underwent CT Coronary angiogram on account of a typical chest discomfort. The petitioner had also been advised not to undertake any air travel, the petition said.

On Nov 20, 2017, he applied for leave in terms of Section 17 of the Federal Ministers and Ministers of State (salaries, allowances and privileges) Act, 1975, from the office of the federal Ministry of Finance, the petition said, adding the said request was acceded to by then prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Nov 22, 2017.

While undergoing medical treatment, the petition said, Mr Dar underwent a cervical procedure with respect to multi-level disc herniation and was again advised and recommended not to undertake any air travel on account of severe spinal and heart-related issues, the application said.

Faced with the same, Mr Dar again requested the then prime minister on Feb 19, 2018, for a further unpaid leave for a period of 45 days. This request was again accepted by the then prime minister through a notification of March 1, 2018.

Since the petitioner’s arrival in the United Kingdom, he had been undergoing various medical procedures and therapies on account of long-standing medical issues, the application said.

The petition contends that Mr Dar holds the Supreme Court as well as all other subordinate courts in utmost esteem and respect and he cannot take any step or action to disrespect the courts by avoiding presence in any proceedings.

In view of his health issues and advice of medical professionals, the petitioner is unable to personally appear in the accountability reference, which is pending before the accountability court No I, Islamabad.

The application also highlighted that Mr Dar was wrongly proceeded under Section 87 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) despite the fact that after being present before the accountability court on numerous occasions until the stage of recording of evidence of prosecution witnesses and before proceeding abroad on account of his medical condition and treatment, never absconded nor hid himself from the accountability court or proceedings in the reference.

Rather the bona fide of the petitioner is further evident from the fact that he himself volunteered that the trial in the matter be proceeded in the presence of his pleader.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1529255/dar-moves-sc-seeks-suspension-of-order-declaring-him-proclaimed-offender

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Support to US-Taliban talks be linked with FATF case withdrawal: PPP senator

Iftikhar A. Khan

January 19, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Rehman Malik on Saturday asked the government to link its support to the US-Taliban dialogue with the withdrawal of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) case against Pakistan.

Speaking to reporters in the parliament hosue on Saturday, he said the government had been playing a key role in US-Taliban talks selflessly and still the US was pursuing its complaint against Pakistan involving serious implications for the country.

The former interior minister said Pakistan suffered the most in the war on terror and it must make the support conditional and request the US to withdraw its case in the FATF.

He said the US should show courtesy of withdrawing the unnecessary case which was highly discriminatory and looked to be the specifically targeted action against Pakistan, which had a record of rendering invaluable support in the war on terror.

The PPP leader, who heads the Senate standing committee on interior, said Pakistan had been suffering from day one after committing the blunder of plunging into the Afghan-Soviet Union war to support the US, and after 9/11, once again it opted to be part of the US-motivated war on terror.

He said that historically speaking, Pakistan had suffered heavily both in terms of loss of human lives and damage caused to physical infrastructure worth tens of billions dollars.

Mr Malik said the Afghan war gave birth to Jihadis against whom Pakistan was fighting a war post 9/11 till today.

He said unfortunately Pakistan was today being penalised because of those Jihadis who were actually brought in by the US and subsequently used by it in the Afghan- Soviet Union war, and had been trained and financed by the CIA.

“The sufferings of Pakistan as per public record are because of our participation and backing of US logistics in the war,” he remarked.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1529251/support-to-us-taliban-talks-be-linked-with-fatf-case-withdrawal-ppp-senator

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5,000 prisoners across country suffer from fatal diseases, IHC told

Malik Asad

January 19, 2020

ISLAMABAD: A high-level commission, constituted by the Islamabad High Court (IHC), has revealed that jails across the country are not only over crowded but that over 5,000 inmates suffer from fatal diseases like HIV and hepatitis. Despite the situation, about half of the sanctioned posts of medical jail staff are lying vacant.

Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari, who is chairperson of the commission, submitted the report before IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah on Saturday.

According to the report, the overall occupancy in jails of four provinces is 73,661. It said that “as compared to the total population, the overall authorised capacity of prisons across Pakistan is only for 56,634 inmates”. In Punjab alone, out of 29 of the 41 prisons are overcrowded whereas in Sindh eight prisons are overcrowded.

The report said: “Amongst the total prison population, there are currently almost 2,100 prisoners with physical ailments, approximately 2,400 inmates who are suffering from contagious diseases like HIV, Hepatitis and Tuberculosis and approximately 600 prisoners who suffer from mental disorders.”

The report pointed out that an overwhelming majority of inmates in jails comprised of under trial prisoners (UTPs). In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, out of the 9,900 prisoners, 7,067 are UTPs — which is 71 per cent of the total number of prisoners.

In Sindh, 16,315 are the total prisoners and the UTPs are 11,488 (70pc). In Balochistan, out of 2,122, UTPs are 1,244 (59pc) and in Punjab out of 45,324 prisoners, 25,054 (55pc) are under trial.

Ironically, the UTPs have to be kept with convicted prisoners, which is against global rules.

The report disclosed that about half of the posts of medical staff are vacant. It said: “The Pakistan Prison Rules contain provisions of adequate medical and legal assistance, however, the primary problem is that of implementation of these rules.”

The data received from the prison departments across Pakistan revealed that almost half of the sanctioned posts of medical staff remain vacant. Every prison is not equipped with medical and dental equipment and very few prisons have functioning labs and paramedical staff, it said.

The prison departments lack adequate provisions of medical and technical equipment such as ECG machines, X-Ray machines, ultrasound machines, oxygen cylinders, dental units, laboratories and beds in the prison hospitals.

The report pointed out that the data provided by the Punjab Prison Department showed that 10pc of the prisons don’t have ambulances and those that do are not well equipped. The Balochistan Prison Department, in the report, shared that they only had four ambulances for the entire province. The commission discovered that approximately 200 prisoners were unable to receive medical assistance due to lack of ambulances in prisons in Sindh.

Ms Mazari told the court that due to the slow disposal of cases in the trial courts, the number of UTPs was higher than of the convicted prisoners.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1529229/5000-prisoners-across-country-suffer-from-fatal-diseases-ihc-told

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PM Imran hails Kuchlak resident for rescuing scores of stranded people in Balochistan

January 18, 2020

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday lauded the "courage and selflessness" Suleman Khan, a 30-year-old who reportedly rescued about a 100 people who were stranded on snow-covered roads during the recent snowfall in Balochistan.

"The whole nation is proud of Suleman Khan who showed great courage and selflessness to help people stranded in the snow."

The premier also shared a news report published in The News on January 16, according to which Suleman not only rescued stranded residents but also provided them with food, water and shelter at his house in Kuchlak — a town near Quetta.

According to the news report, Suleman also bought fuel for those whose vehicles had run out.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1529108/pm-imran-hails-kuchlak-resident-for-rescuing-scores-of-stranded-people-in-balochistan

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MQM-P’s demands: PTI between a rock and a hard place

January 19, 2020

KARACHI/ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) on Saturday held another round of talks to iron out differences and convince Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui to return to the federal cabinet, but the dialogue remained inconclusive owing to the demands put forth by the junior coalition partner.

The PTI delegation comprised senior party leader Jahangir Tareen, Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar, Federal Minister for Defence Pervez Khan Khattak, whereas the MQM-P was represented by senior leaders Amir Khan, Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Kanwar Naveed Jamil, Khawaja Izharul Hasan, Aminul Haq and others.

The relations between the two parties strained after the MQM-P chief and then IT minister Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui quit the cabinet, citing reservations over the non-fulfillment of commitments made during formation of the cabinet last year.

Addressing a press conference following the meeting, Siddiqui, flanked by PTI leaders, said the talks were fruitful and claimed that “visible progress” was expected to take place in the next few days if the government responded positively to their demands.

The MQM-P’s demands are the formation of a university in Hyderabad; development budget for Hyderabad; implementation of a package of Rs162 billion for Karachi; and opening of MQM’s closed offices that were shut down after its founder Altaf Hussain’s infamous speech.

“The PTI knew about the problems faced by Sindh, particularly Karachi before we joined hands with them to form the federal government,” he said, adding that the MQM-P had given the ruling party “unconditional support” during its time of need.

The MQM-P convener said talks held with the PTI delegation were “encouraging” and added that the demands put forth by them were for the welfare of the people of Karachi and Sindh. He said these demands were not meant to benefit any individual or political party but the people in general.

“The PTI is a witness to the demands we put forward before them and even you [reporters] may have the main points [of the demands] in your hands,” he said.

Siddiqui also brought up his issues with the 18th Amendment during the presser and claimed that the legislation failed to provide any benefit to people of the province despite propagating the devolution of powers.

He said as per the amendment the power has yet to be devolved to the district level.

He said Sindh’s urban areas “are in the Intensive Care Unit” and those areas of the country should be taken care of by the government whose shopkeepers, traders and industrialists were “fulfilling their responsibilities” and generating revenue.

“Sindh’s urban areas need immediate relief,” he said.

‘NO MAGIC WAND’:

Speaking about the MQM-P demands, PTI leader Khattak said the government does not have a “magic wand” to resolve the problems faced by the allied party at once and that it would need time to fulfill the demands.

“We have invited them [MQM-P] to return to the federal cabinet. They are with us but MQM-P has to decide for themselves,” he said, adding that the talks were held in a cordial atmosphere.

“It’s ultimately up to the party to decide whether it would return to the coalition or not,” he added.

He rubbished the rumours that the MQM-P would break away with the PTI, saying: “We will spend five years together Insha’Allah.”

Khattak said when the PTI had taken reins of the country in 2018, Pakistan was facing numerous problems, but Prime Minister Imran Khan lead the country out of the economic crisis.

Though the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) and the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) have seemingly mended fences with the ruling PTI, the MQM-P has continued to ramp up pressure on the government.

HERCULEAN TASK FOR PM IMRAN:

Meanwhile, a PTI source told Pakistan Today’s Mian Abrar in Islamabad that though talks with coalition partners have made some breakthrough, it would be a herculean task for Prime Minister Imran Khan to carry the coalition government forward.

“There are grim chances for a longtime coalition as the smaller parties are arm-twisting the PTI for more share in power,” the source added.

“Most of the demands made by the BNP-M and GDA are genuine and we are trying to address them, but some demands from the MQM-P and PML-Q cannot be fulfilled,” the source said.

He said that the PML-Q leadership was asking for another ministry and a slot for parliamentary secretary which could be accommodated. “However, the PML-Q wants the ministerial position for Chaudhry Moonis Elahi, which is unacceptable since he is yet to be cleared by NAB.”

“Prime Minister Imran Khan is willing to add a minister of state from PML-Q but the Chaudhrys are demanding the federal ministry for industries. They also want bureaucrats of their choice appointed in Gujrat, Chakwal, Mandi Bahauddin, Sargodha and Bahawalpur,” the source said, adding that conceding to this demand might upset PTI lawmakers elected from these five districts.

The PTI leader said that PML-Q is also asking for another ministry and an advisory position in Punjab with full powers.

The source said that the provision of development funds is another demand from allied parties but the prime minister wanted local governments to have autonomy in development projects.

“As far as MQM’s demands are concerned, the party wants the federal government to allocate huge development funds for Karachi and Hyderabad. Another lingering issue is that the MQM and BNP-M want the government to produce the missing persons in courts. Though there has been some development in the missing persons’ return, however the issue remains complicated due to various reasons,” he said.

As for the MQM-P’s demand of reopening its offices in Karachi and Hyderabad and reconstruction of the establishments demolished during anti-encroachment operations, the PTI government can’t give any assurances as this issue falls under the domain of the security agencies and the Sindh government, the source said.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/01/18/pti-fails-to-convince-mqm-p/

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Qureshi stresses de-escalation in Middle East as US visit comes to an end

January 19, 2020

WASHINGTON: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has emphasised the need for de-escalation and dialogue to reduce tensions in the Middle East as he ended the final leg of his tri-state tour on Saturday.

Qureshi has spent the week touring Iran, Saudi Arabia and the US on a diplomatic mission meant to defuse tensions between Washington and Tehran, on the direction of Prime Minister Imran Khan. Tensions between Iran and the US have soared after the latter killed Iranian Gen Qassem Soleimani in a drone attack in Baghdad. Iran retaliated by a missile strike on a US military base in Iraq, in which 11 people were injured.

During a meeting with United States National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien at the White House on Friday, Qureshi conveyed Pakistan’s concern that instability in the Middle East would affect the neighbourhood and the global economy.

“He underscored Pakistan’s willingness to play its role for peace in the region,” a statement issued by the Foreign Office (FO) stated.

The two discussed a range of issues, including the situation in the Middle East, human rights violations by the Indian authorities in occupied Kashmir, peace talks between the US government and Afghan Taliban. Bilateral relations between US and Pakistan were also discussed.

Qureshi reminded O’Brien of President Donald Trump’s offer to mediate between India and Pakistan to solve the Kashmir dispute which was made during Prime Minister Imran’s visit to the US last year. The foreign minister told the national security adviser about the human rights violations being committed in occupied Kashmir by the Indian authorities, following New Delhi’s decision to strip the region of its special status in August last year.

The foreign minister insisted that the Kashmiris should be given the right to self-determination in accordance with United Nations resolutions.

Qureshi also recalled President Trump and Prime Minister Imran’s “shared vision for a broad-based and enduring partnership” between US and Pakistan and said that bilateral trade and economic ties would help to strengthen relations between the two countries.

He also reaffirmed Pakistan’s support for talks between Afghan Taliban and US in order to establish peace in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s ambassador to the US Asad Majeed and other officials of the Pakistani embassy saw Qureshi off on his departure.

During his visit, he held meetings with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the President of the UN General Assembly, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande in New York, where he conveyed Pakistan’s reservations over the situation in occupied Kashmir. The meetings came soon after the UN Security Council held a meeting on the Kashmir dispute on China’s request.

Qureshi also met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as well as US Under Secretary of Defense John Rood and members of the US Senate including Lindsey Graham, Chris Murphy and Mitt Romney among others in Washington.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/01/18/qureshi-stresses-de-escalation-in-middle-east-as-us-visit-comes-to-an-end/

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Arab World

 

Airstrikes kill 18, wound 15 others in Syria’s Aleppo: Monitor

18 January 2020

At least 18 people have been killed and 15 others were wounded in airstrikes by the Syrian regime and Russia in the western countryside of Aleppo on Saturday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

The regime forces targeted several areas in Aleppo with aerial and artillery shelling, the report stated.

No further details of the attack were provided.

Syrian government warplanes hit a market and an industrial area on Wednesday in Idlib, the last territory in rebel hands. The attacks killed at least 15 people, opposition activists said.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/18/Airstrikes-kill-18-wound-15-others-in-Syria-s-Aleppo-Monitor.html

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Iraqi forces arrest obese Daesh mufti in Mosul

18 January 2020 

Iraqi forces have arrested an overweight Daesh ‘mufti’ in the city of Mosul who advocated enslaving, raping, torturing and ethnic cleansing.

The 560-pound (254kgs) Abu Abdul Bari, also known as Shifa al-Nima, was taken into custody on the back of a pick-up truck because he was too heavy to be put in a police car, Iraqi security officials said in a statement on Thursday.

Bari, a preacher known for “provocative speeches against the security forces” is considered one of the top leaders of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.

He issued religious decrees — or fatwas — ordering the execution of scholars and clerics who refused to pledge allegiance to Daesh when the terror group occupied Mosul in 2014.

Bari also ordered the destruction of Mosul’s cultural heritage, specifically the ancient Mosque of Prophet Jonah, which sparked outrage and condemnation in the Islamic world

The mosque had been built over the reputed burial site of the biblical prophet revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims who know him as Nabi Yunis.

Photos of the Daesh leader being captured and taken away in a truck have been widely circulated online.

Maajid Nawaz, founder of the London-based anti-extremism think tank Quilliam Foundation also shared images of Bari’s arrest.

“He was so overweight, maybe from remaining sedentary in his hiding place, that he had to be taken by police in the back of a pick-up truck,” he wrote on Facebook.

“Most religious justifications provided to ISIS (Daesh) for enslaving, raping, torturing, ethnic cleansing and massacring Iraqis, Syrians and others are from this paltry beast who can’t even stand on his own two legs,” he wrote, adding that the images of his arrest would strike the terror group a psychological blow.

Daesh began a terror campaign in Iraq in 2014, overrunning vast swathes in lightning attacks.

Former Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, declared the end of military operations against Daesh in the Arab country on December 9, 2017.

On July 10 that year, he had formally declared victory over Daesh in Mosul, which served as the terrorists’ main urban stronghold in Iraq.

In the run-up to Mosul's liberation, Iraqi army soldiers and voluntary fighters from the pro-government Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) – better known by the Arabic name Hashd al-Sha’abi – had made sweeping gains against Daesh.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/18/616479/Iraq-Daesh-mufti-Iraqi-forces-police-Mosul

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Russian strike kills five civilians in Syria

January 19, 2020

BALA: An air strike on Saturday by Syrian regime ally Russia killed five civilians, including four members of the same family, in an opposition bastion in the country’s northwest, a monitor said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said three children were among those killed after midnight Friday in the village of Bala in the jihadist-run Idlib region.

“A man, his wife, and their two little girls were among those killed,” said the head of the Britain-based monitoring group, Rami Abdel Rahman.

A correspondent at a hospital in the area saw the bodies of two of the children wrapped up in thick winter blankets.

The strike created a massive crater of rubble near a two-storey home flanked by an empty outdoor swimming pool, the correspondent said. A rescue worker found a stuffed toy cockerel inside the building. Another first responder retrieved two slain rabbits.

The Observatory, which relies on sources inside Syria for its information, says it determines who carried out air strikes according to flight patterns as well as aircraft and ammunition involved.

The Idlib region has witnessed an uptick in violence this week, as the Syrian government presses a deadly offensive despite a ceasefire arranged by its Russian ally and rebel backer Turkey.

Home to three million people, the jihadist-run bastion is made up of a large part of the Idlib province, as well as slivers of the neighbouring Aleppo and Latakia provinces.

Fighting there since Wednesday has killed 28 civilians including eight children, according to the Observatory.

It also took the lives of 58 pro-regime fighters and 67 fighters most of them jihadists, it added.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1529237/russian-strike-kills-five-civilians-in-syria

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Almost 400 injured in Lebanon clashes: Rescuers

19 January 2020

Almost 400 people were wounded Saturday during running battles between anti-government protesters and Lebanese security forces in the capital Beirut, rescuers said.

It was the heaviest toll since the protests erupted three months ago, with the Red Cross and Civil Defense saying 377 people at least were rushed to hospital or treated at the scene.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/19/Almost-400-wounded-in-Lebanon-clashes-Saturday-Rescuers-.html

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Clashes, demonstrations erupt throughout Iraq shutting down roads and bridges

19 January 2020

Clashes, demonstrations and road closures continued throughout Iraq on Sunday as the January 20 deadline for authorities to meet the demands of the people approaches.

Multiple roads and bridges in various regions throughout the country have been shut down by protesters using burning tyres. Most government offices and schools have been shut down for the day as well, according to Al Arabiya sources.

Clashes between demonstrators and riot police have erupted in different areas including the capital Baghdad where forces fired tear gas into the crowds. Multiple injuries and cases of suffocation were reported, according to local media.

Protesters on Saturday burned the Hezbollah headquarters in Iraq which is located near the housing bridge in the Najaf province.

Angry demonstrations have rocked Baghdad and Iraq’s south for the last three months, denouncing the country’s corrupt political system.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/19/Clashes-demonstrations-erupt-throughout-Iraq-shutting-down-roads-and-bridges-.html

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Protesters burn headquarters of Iraqi Hezbollah militia in Najaf

19 January 2020

Protesters on Saturday burned the Hezbollah headquarters in Iraq which is located near the housing bridge in the Najaf province.

They had deliberately closed the government departments in Najaf as the Monday deadline set by the popular movement of protesters in Iraq approached.

The movement, seeking sweeping political reforms, and better jobs and services, had confirmed the resumption of protests in Iraq from Friday.

The popular movement has also called for an escalation on January 20, with the expiry of the deadlines granted to the authorities to agree on the demands of the citizens, especially in the southern provinces.

A large number of protesters flocked to the demonstration squares in the southern governorates, including university students and clansmen. The demonstrators also renewed their threat to the ruling class of a peaceful escalation during the next two days in the event of failure to respond to the demands of the movement.

Civil activists pointed out that the demonstrations engulfed the main roads and surrounding streets, amid chants against foreign interference and singing of national anthem.

The protesters chanted slogans against the continuation of Adil Abdul Mahdi as prime minister, and the failure to prosecute the killers of demonstrators.

The protesters also condemned the campaign of intimidation, abductions and assassinations carried out by pro-Iranian militias.

Angry demonstrations have rocked Baghdad and Iraq’s south for the last three months, denouncing the country’s corrupt political system.

Since October, the unrest has seen around 460 people killed and some 25,000 wounded, the vast majority of them demonstrators.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/19/Protesters-burn-headquarters-of-Iraqi-Hezbollah-militia-in-Najaf.html

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Lebanon’s Aoun, Hariri ask army, security chiefs to restore calm in Beirut

18 January 2020

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun asked the army and security commanders to restore calm in central Beirut, where security forces clashed with protesters on Saturday night.

Aoun called on them “to protect the safety of peaceful protesters and of public and private property, and to restore calm to central Beirut,” the president’s office said.

For his part, caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri denounced via Twitter “the scene of confrontations, fires and acts of sabotage in the center of Beirut,” this evening, deeming it “a suspicious and unacceptable scene that threatens civil peace and warns of the gravest consequences,” according to the Lebanese news agency NNA.

“Beirut will not be the arena for mercenaries and deliberate policies to attack the peacefulness of popular movements,” stressed Hariri.

“Rafic Hariri’s dream of a unified capital for all Lebanese will not burn with the fires of outlaws and those devouring from the peaceful movement. We will not allow anyone to render Beirut, once again, an area of destruction, devastation and contact lines,” he warned.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/18/Lebanon-s-Aoun-Hariri-ask-army-security-chiefs-to-restore-calm-in-Beirut.html

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More than 160 wounded in Beirut as security forces face off against protesters

18 January 2020

Clashes between angry protesters and security forces in Lebanon’s capital Beirut on Saturday wounded more than 160 people from both sides, the Red Cross said.

“Over 65 people... have been taken to nearby hospitals and over 100 people have been treated at the scene,” a spokesman said, after violence broke out in the afternoon in reaction to continued deadlock over forming a new cabinet.

Earlier, security forces in Beirut fired tear gas and used water cannons on Saturday in clashes with protesters armed with tree branches and sign posts near Lebanon’s parliament.

 The protest movement rocking Lebanon since October 17 has revived this week over delays in forming a new cabinet to address the country’s growing economic crisis.

After a lull in largely peaceful protests, people filled the streets across the country again. They are furious at a ruling elite that has steered the country towards its worst economic crisis in decades.

No progress appears to have been made towards a final Cabinet lineup, which protesters demand be comprised of independent experts and exclude all traditional political parties.

On Saturday afternoon, demonstrators set out from various spots in Beirut in a march towards the city centre under the slogan “We won’t pay the price.”

Police wielding batons and firing tear gas have wounded dozens of people at protests in recent days, alarming human rights groups.

Anger at the banks - which have curbed people’s access to their savings - boiled over, with protesters smashing bank facades and ATMs on Tuesday night.

Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces said on Saturday that police in Beirut were being “violently and directly” confronted at one of the entrances to the parliament. In a tweet, it called on people to leave the area for their own safety.

Witnesses said they saw young men hurling stones and flower pots towards riot police, while protesters tried to push through an entrance to a heavily barricaded district of central Beirut, which includes the parliament.

Hundreds of protesters marched and chanted against the political class in other parts of the capital. A large banner at one of the rallies read: “If the people go hungry, they will eat their rulers.”

Security forces sprayed young men with two water cannons and lobbed tear gas over a metal fence to disperse remaining protesters on the wet tarmac.

“A direct and violent confrontation is taking place with anti-riot police at one of the entrances to parliament,” the Internal Security Forces said on Twitter.

“We ask peaceful protesters to keep away from the site of the rioting for their safety.”

An AFP photographer saw young men uproot parking meters.

He also saw around 10 people faint from the tear gas.

A female protester named Maya, 23, said she was attending the protest because politicians still seemed to be ignoring demands for an overhaul of the old political class.

“I’m here because after more than 90 days in the streets, they’re still squabbling over their shares in government... It’s as if they didn’t see our movement,” she told AFP.

“Popular anger is the solution,” the young protester said.   

“Outrageous that the Riot Police attacked people and fired tear gas inside the Mohammad Al Amin mosque, where women, children, and the injured were taking refuge,” tweeted human rights researcher Aya Majzoub.

Aya Majzoub

@Aya_Majzoub

Outrageous that the Riot Police attacked people and fired tear gas inside the Mohammad Al Amin mosque, where women, children, and the injured were taking refuge!!! #LebanonProtests #لبنان_ينتفض

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Protest camp on fire 

A fire engulfed a protest camp in central Beirut on Saturday evening, burning tents and sending plumes of smoke into the air, as security forces faced off against protesters near parliament.

It was not immediately clear what had caused the fire. The Internal Security Forces (ISF) denied media reports that some of its forces had set the camp on fire.

Activists set up the camp in recent months as part of protests against a political class that plunged the country into its worst economic crisis in decades.

The unrest, which stemmed from anger at corruption and the rising cost of living, forced Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri to resign in October. Feuding politicians have since failed to agree a new cabinet or rescue plan.

Forming a new cabinet is often convoluted in Lebanon, where a complex system seeks to maintain balance between the country’s many political parties and religious confessions.

But protesters say they want to scrap the old system, and demand only impartial technocrats staff a new government to address their growing economic woes, including a severe liquidity crisis.

The last government stepped down under pressure from the street on October 29, but has remained in a caretaker capacity until a new cabinet takes shape.

The World Bank has warned that the poverty rate in Lebanon could rise from a third to a half if the political crisis is not remedied fast.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/18/At-least-75-injured-as-security-forces-face-off-against-protesters-in-Lebanon.html

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US official calls for ‘credible’ government in Lebanon

18 January 2020

A credible government is one that will act in the interests of all Lebanese and is broadly perceived by the Lebanese people as such, and is able to restore international confidence in Lebanon,” a US State Department official in Washington told Al Arabiya in exclusive comments.

Senior Lebanese political sources have said on Thursday “that a new government that is expected to be formed soon.”

The test of any government will be its actions,” the official said on the issue of the formation of the government in Lebanon.

As we have previously said, Lebanese leaders need to commit to and implement the reforms necessary to respond to the Lebanese people’s demands for an end to endemic corruption, better governance, and economic opportunity. As we have also repeatedly said, we believe Lebanon must have a credible and capable cabinet able to take those steps,” the official added.

Only a government that is capable of undertaking real and tangible reforms will restore investor confidence and unlock future international assistance for Lebanon. There is a strong international consensus on this point. There is no route to international assistance other than through concrete reforms taken by a credible and capable government.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/18/US-official-calls-for-credible-government-in-Lebanon-.html

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Syria raises penalty on foreign currency use to seven years of hard labor

19 January 2020

President Bashar al-Assad has increased the punishment for transacting in foreign currencies to seven years of hard labor, as part of the government’s efforts to prop up the Arab country’s pound.

A decree issued by President Assad “upped the penalty for anybody who deals in anything other than the Syrian pound for payments or any kind of commercial transaction,” the presidency said in a statement on Saturday.

The punishment, which also applies to transactions in precious metals, was stiffened from up to three years in detention to seven years of hard labor, as well as a fine, the statement read.

President Assad also increased fines for circulating information that seeks “to undermine confidence in the strength of the country’s currency,” the presidency said.

The Syrian pound has plummeted to 1,200 to the dollar on the black market in recent weeks, despite an official exchange rate fixed at 434 to the greenback.

The rate stood at 47 pounds to the dollar in 2011, when the foreign-backed conflict broke out in Syria.

International sanctions against Syria, damage to the country’s industry from the nearly nine-year war and panicked Syrians sending their money abroad have pushed the currency down sharply.

Prices for key staples such as sugar and rice have risen to record highs amid Western-backed sanctions against Damascus.

The devaluation of the Syrian pound has been exacerbated by a liquidity crisis in neighboring Lebanon, which has long served as a conduit for foreign currency into government-held areas of Syria.

According to the Financial Times, some 80 percent of wealthy Syrians keep their money in Lebanon, which has been hit by tough capital control since the protests erupted in October.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a former Syrian banker told the Middle East Eye (MEE) that the Lebanese crisis closed a major door for Syria to get dollars.

The European Union has imposed harsh economic sanctions against Syria since 2011.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/19/616548/Syria-President-Assad-currency-punishment

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Lebanon security forces, protesters clash near parliament building

18 January 2020 

Security forces in Beirut have fired tear gas and used water cannons in clashes with protesters armed with tree branches and sign posts near Lebanon's parliament.

After a lull in largely peaceful protests which broke out across the country in October over the state of the economy, people filled the streets again this week. They are furious at a ruling elite that has steered the country towards its worst economic crisis in decades.

Police wielding batons and firing tear gas have wounded dozens of people at protests in recent days. Protesters are also angry at the banks - which have curbed people's access to their savings - with protesters smashing bank facades and ATMs on Tuesday night.

Lebanon's Internal Security Forces said on Saturday that police in Beirut were being "violently and directly" confronted at one of the entrances to the parliament. In a tweet, it called on people to leave the area for their own safety.

Witnesses said they saw young men hurling stones and flower pots towards riot police, while protesters tried to push through an entrance to a heavily barricaded district of central Beirut, which includes parliament.

Hundreds of protesters marched and chanted against in the political class in other parts of the capital. The unrest, which stemmed from anger at corruption and the rising cost of living, forced Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri to resign in October.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/18/616523/Lebanon-protest-security-parliament-tear-gas

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France deploys radar system, aircraft carrier in Saudi Arabia

18 January 2020

France is beefing up its military presence in the Middle East, sending a radar system and an aircraft carrier to the region gripped by heightened tensions.

French officials told Reuters Friday that the country had deployed a radar system as part of the Jaguar Task Force mission on the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia, but declined to provide further details.

Speaking to the French military late Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron said in the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf, "where tensions are mounting, we have deployed in record time the Jaguar Task Force, which contributes to reassuring the Saudi kingdom."

Macron also announced that France would deploy the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier to join the US-led coalition purportedly fighting the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.

"The aircraft carrier will support Chammal operations (in the Middle East) from January to April 2020 before deploying to the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea," he said, referring to the French component of the US-led mission in the Middle East.

"Once more our plane carrier will be the center for combined operations amongst several European countries," he added.

Macron further noted that the nuclear-powered carrier would be escorted by a European squadron, including vessels from Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and Greece.

French forces would remain in the alleged fight against Daesh, he said, warning that while the terror outfit no longer holds territory, "its menace remains, in another lurking, more insidious form."

There are some 1,000 French troops in the region, with French warplanes operating as part of the US-led coalition.

Saudi Arabia is one of the major clients of France, which is the world's third-biggest arms exporter. The kingdom is using French tanks, artillery and Caesar howitzers in its bloody war on Yemen.

In September 2019, the UN said in a report that the US, Britain and France may be complicit in war crimes in Yemen by arming and providing intelligence and logistics support to the Saudi-led coalition that starves Yemenis as a war tactic.

The legality of arms transfers by France, the United Kingdom, the United States and other States remains questionable, and is the subject of various domestic court proceedings," the report read.

In December 2019, the Houthi Ansarullah movement, which has been defending Yemen against the Saudi aggression, accused France of providing arms and logistics to the Riyadh-led coalition in addition to being complicit in war crimes in the impoverished state.

Top Houthi official Mohamed al-Houthi said France had conducted three attacks on Sa'ada Province only in December 2019, killing and wounding a total of 89 Yemenis.

He also complained that the French legal system was turning a blind eye to the fatal attacks.

Saudi Arabia and a coalition of its vassal states launched the war on Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall a Riyadh-backed former regime and eliminate the Houthis.

The offensive, coupled with a naval blockade, has killed hundreds of thousands of people and plunged Yemen into the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/18/616476/France-radar-Saudi-Arabia-Middle-East

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Lebanon leader’s hopes in disarray after ministry hopeful quits

January 19, 2020

BEIRUT: Lebanese prime minister designate Hassan Diab’s hopes of forming a government were dealt a further blow on Saturday with the withdrawal of a senior candidate in line for the interior ministry portfolio.

Talal Al-Ladki, deputy leader of the National Islamic Gathering, a Sunni bloc loyal to Hezbollah, announced that he was withdrawing his name “once and for all” because of “personal reasons.”

The retired army major-general’s statement flew in the face of claims by Hezbollah and its allies in recent days that obstacles to the formation of a government in the crisis-wracked country are “simple and solvable.”

Al-Ladki’s withdrawal is the latest setback for Diab whose efforts to form a government and end months of political and social upheaval have been hindered by disputes over party quotas and conflicts between parliamentary rivals.

The Future Movement, led by former prime minister Saad Hariri, is boycotting negotiations over the future leadership, while Dar Al-Fatwa, the Sunni authority in Lebanon, has yet to voice support for Diab. Many Sunni politicians have also refused to be part of Diab’s government.

Lebanese Forces spokesman Charles Jabbour told Arab News that the latest setback shows “the political establishment is unable to form a government and will be unable to save Lebanon from a financial crisis unprecedented in its history.”

The same political class had brought Lebanon to a state of bankruptcy, both economically and politically, “but its priorities are now the struggle for influence and quotas, and it cannot save the country,” he said.

With hopes of forming a government in free-fall, the Lebanese dollar again lost value in exchange shops.

The country’s financial situation remains perilous in the absence of a new government and with no prospect of the economic reforms needed to ensure international help.

Street protests also escalated on Saturday with activists taking to the streets and squares surrounding Beirut under the banner “We refuse to pay the price.”

Meanwhile, pharmacy owners in southern areas of the capital staged a sit-in protest to condemn what they described as “systematic and repeated” raids on pharmacies by gunmen.

Local markets are witnessing a price increase on daily food items in light of the high unofficial exchange rate of the dollar to the local currency.

President of the Consumer Protection Association Zuhair Berro said that prices had jumped by up to 40 percent in the past four months.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1615046/middle-east

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Berlin talks important step in resolving Libya crisis: Egypt FM

MOHAMED EL-SHAMAA

January 19, 2020

CAIRO: A conference taking place in Berlin on Sunday will be an important step in efforts by the international community to resolve the conflict in Libya, said Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.

The conference will bring together world powers following a series of consultations and negotiations. Egypt’s president is due to attend.

Dr. Tarek Fahmy, professor of political science at Cairo University, said: “Perhaps the Berlin conference would renew hopes of reaching a peaceful settlement in Libya.” He added that for the talks to succeed, they need “political will” from all participants.

In addition, a “comprehensive vision for solving the Libyan crisis” must be drafted, and there should be a timetable to determine priorities and responsibilities, he said.

Dr. Mohamed Sadeq, director of the Arab Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said he expects Egypt to unveil its vision for solving the conflict at the conference.

The vision, he added, will stress the unity of Libya’s territory and people, support for its army, and nonintervention in its affairs by any country, especially Turkey, which is attending the conference. If such a vision is adopted, the conference will be successful, Sadeq said.

Dr. Ahmed Hassouna, an expert on Libyan affairs, said Ankara could never be an honest mediator in the conflict.

Turkey “flagrantly violates UN resolutions on disarmament and combating terrorism. It totally took the side of the GNA (Government of National Accord), which represents the political front of the armed militias controlling the (Libyan) capital,” he told Arab News.

In a statement, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said Turkey’s announcement that it plans to send troops to Libya is proof that Ankara “violates relevant UN resolutions, heralding more politicization of the Libyan crisis.”

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1615051/middle-east

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Mideast

 

Yemeni snipers kill nearly dozen Saudi mercenaries in Hajjah

18 January 2020

Nearly a dozen Saudi-backed militiamen loyal to former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi have been killed or injured when Yemeni army soldiers and fighters from allied Popular Committees launched separate attacks in Yemen’s northwestern province of Hajjah. A Yemeni military source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Arabic-language al-Masirah television network that Yemeni forces and their allies shot ten Saudi mercenaries in various areas in the Harad and Hayran districts of the province on Saturday. Separately, Yemeni soldiers and Popular Committees fighters targeted the positions of Saudi mercenaries in the Qaniyah district of the southwestern Yemeni province of al-Bayda’, inflicting heavy losses on them.

Elsewhere in the Qa'atabah district of Yemen’s southwestern province of Dhale, several Saudi-paid militiamen were killed or injured when bomb attacks struck their positions.

Also on Saturday, Saudi mercenaries lobbed a barrage of artillery shells at several residential areas in Yemen’s strategic western coastal province of Hudaydah, damaging a number of houses and private property.

A local source, requesting anonymity, said a house caught fire after the Saudi-backed militiamen targeted it with medium caliber projectiles. There were no immediate reports of casualties available though.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of Hadi back to power and crushing the Ansarullah movement.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the war has claimed more than 100,000 lives over the past four and a half years.

The UN says over 24 million Yemenis are in dire need of humanitarian aid, including 10 million suffering from extreme levels of hunger.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/18/616503/Yemeni-snipers-pick-off-nearly-dozen-Saudi-mercenaries-in-Hajjah

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Iran: Region facing dangerous situation due to US combination of arrogance, ignorance

 18 January 2020

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says the region is facing a "dangerous" situation due to the US combination of arrogance and ignorance.

"It is very dangerous because we have in fact a very dangerous combination in the United States: arrogance and ignorance," Zarif said in an interview with Times Now in responses to a question about the future in the region.

"They (the Americans) do not know what is happening in this region and they are arrogant enough not to look for correct answers but simply to be gun-happy and take absolutely unacceptable, illegal measures," he added.

He added that the US assassination of top Iranian commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani has created a quite dangerous situation in West Asia.

The top Iranian diplomat emphasized that the ongoing regional situation was a direct result of the United States’ “arrogance” and its callous attitude of not trying to find out the details and implications of the provocation.

He said the US should learn that 430 cities in India along with peoples across the world, including in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Algeria, have mourned for the assassination of the top Iranian commander by the US while the Daesh terrorist group "celebrated" it.

"I think that enough should be a lesson for the United States to start learning about our region rather than just completely pushing in total darkness with a disastrous policy," Zarif pointed out.

On January 3, the United States assassinated General Soleimani, who commanded the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), among others in a set of airstrikes against the Iraqi capital of Baghdad on US President Donald Trump's order. General Soleimani has earned reputation as West Asia’s most revered anti-terror commander due to his indispensable contribution to defeating terrorist outfits such as Daesh across the region.

The strikes also led to the martyrdom of second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis along with eight other Iranians and Iraqis.

In retaliation, the IRGC fired volleys of ballistic missiles on January 8 at the US’s Ain al-Assad air base in the western Iraqi Anbar Province, and another facility in Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, both of which housed American forces.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said on Friday that the assassination of the top Iranian commander disgraced the US as it had to own up to the "terrorist" action and see its image dealt a blow by Iran's retaliation.

"The day the missiles of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps crushed the US base is one of the days of God. The Guards' response was a major blow to America's fearsome superpower image," the Leader told a huge crowd in Tehran Friday.

Elsewhere in his interview, Zarif said he "had very good conversations on all issues" both in economic and political relations with his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar in Tehran in December.

He added that India is an "important player" with an "important presence" in Iran's southeastern port city of Chabahar.

"We expect India to play a positive role in engaging in serious discussions about the future of cooperation in this region rather than the current confrontation," the Iranian foreign minister said.

After meeting Iranian officials in Tehran, the Indian foreign minister said Iran and India agreed to speed up the development of Chabahar port which New Delhi views as a gateway to access Afghanistan and Central Asia.

“Just concluded a very productive #IndiaIran Joint Commission Meeting,” Jaishankar tweeted as he wound up the two-day visit to the Iranian capital.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/18/616509/Zarif-Times-Now-India-Iran-arrogance-US-Soleimani-Chabahar

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Europe to face terror threat if Tripoli-based government falls: Erdogan

18 January 2020 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned Europe it could face new threats from terrorist organizations if Libya's UN-recognized government in Tripoli were to fall.

In an article, published on Saturday on the eve of a Libya peace conference in Berlin, Erdogan said the EU's failure to adequately support the Government of National Accord (GNA) would be "a betrayal of its own core values, including democracy and human rights."

The GNA led by Fayez al-Sarraj has been under attack since April from strongman Khalifa Haftar's forces based in the east of the country, with fighting killing over 280 civilians and 2,000 fighters.

"Europe will encounter a fresh set of problems and threats if Libya's legitimate government were to fall," Erdogan wrote. "Terrorist organizations such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda, which suffered a military defeat in Syria and Iraq, will find a fertile ground to get back on their feet."

In a joint initiative, Turkey and Russia have brokered a ceasefire but Haftar walked away from talks in Moscow this week aimed at finalizing the truce agreement.

A furious Erdogan has accused Haftar of fleeing Moscow adding that he would "teach (him) a lesson" if he ever resumed fighting.

Erdogan's government backs Sarraj and the Turkish parliament earlier this month approved the deployment of troops to Libya after the signing of controversial security and maritime deals between Tripoli and Ankara.

"To leave Libya at the mercy of a warlord would be a mistake of historic proportions," he said, in a veiled reference to Haftar.

'Litmus test'

World powers are trying to mediate a lasting ceasefire at the international conference in Berlin on Sunday which the warring parties are expected to attend.

"We hope what comes out of Berlin is renewed demonstration of international unity in supporting the intraLibyan political process, ending foreign interference, leading to full respect of the UN arms embargo," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said at a press briefing on Friday.

The conference will aim to agree six points -- including a permanent ceasefire, implementation of a much-violated UN arms embargo and a return to political efforts for peace.

Erdogan, who is also due to attend the Berlin talks, wrote in Politico that the Libyan civil war served as a "litmus test" for the EU to show whether its leaders would abdicate their responsibilities and watch the crisis uphold from the sidelines.

"The EU needs to show the world that it is a relevant actor in the international arena," he said.

"The upcoming peace conference in Berlin is a very significant step toward that goal. European leaders, however, ought to talk a little less and focus on taking concrete steps."

An interim truce that came into force in Libya last Sunday has mostly held, despite accusations of violations from Haftar's forces and the rival GNA.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/18/616487/Turkey-Recep-Tayyip-Erdogan-Europe-threats-Libya-GNA

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Battle over banknotes threatens to create two economies in Yemen

18 January 2020

Yemen’s warring sides opened a new front in their five-year conflict on Saturday, a battle over old and new banknotes that threatens to create two economies in the same country.

As of midnight, the Houthi militia which controls the capital Sanaa outlawed the use and possession of crisp new Yemeni riyal bills issued by its rivals in the internationally -recognized government based in the southern port town of Aden.

The Iran-allied Houthis, who say people should only use the old bills, have defended the ban as a move against inflation and what they call rampant money-printing by the government.

The government has branded the ban an act of economic vandalism. And the population, as ever, have been left stuck in the crossfire.

Yemenis from both sides told Reuters the ban had effectively created two currencies with diverging values, adding to the turmoil in a state already governed by two powers and brought to its knees by the war.

In the one-month build up to the ban, people in Houthi-controlled areas have been queuing to try to exchange their new riyal notes for old, turning the grubby and torn bills into a prized and relatively scarce commodity.

The riyal stood at about 560 to the dollar across Yemen before the ban was announced in mid-December. The rate has since slipped a little in Houthi-controlled areas to around 582, but slumped much further to 642 in the south, an area now awash with new bills.

That relative strength might look like a boon for northerners, if only they could get hold of enough of the old notes in time to keep afloat in the largely cash-based economy.

“We go for the exchange and they won’t take [the new notes] from us. Or say they need three, four or five days,” craftsman Abdullah Saleh al-Dahmasi told Reuters on a Sanaa street a week before the ban came into force.

“The new one isn’t accepted and the old one is worn out, they have to find a solution,” the 27-year-old said.

A few days before the ban came in, around 20 angry men and women were turned away from one exchange which said it had filled its quota for the day. Many had been coming there for three days in the hope of swapping their cash.

North-south trade has become far more expensive as traders have to buy and sell two types of riyal - told apart by the state of the paper and the different sizes and designs.

Many people in Sanaa told Reuters they felt the ban was needed to constrain inflation. But they were facing difficulties in the short-term.

“When people saw that new currency come into circulation, they held onto it as it was new and shiny. But now it’s a problem that they have it,” said 28-year-old Abdallah Bashiri, a private sector worker in Sanaa.

In that city, legal exchanges will swap 100,000 Yemeni riyals (around $172) in new notes for electronic currency that can be spent on things like phone credit or electricity bills, for a small fee of around $1.50.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/01/18/Battle-over-banknotes-threatens-to-create-two-economies-in-Yemen.html

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Yemen’s warring factions battle over banknotes

January 19, 2020

SANAA: Yemen’s warring sides opened a new front in their five-year conflict on Saturday — a battle over old and new banknotes that threatens to create two economies in the same state.

As of midnight, the Houthi movement which controls the capital Sanaa outlawed the use and possession of crisp new Yemeni riyal bills issued by its rivals in the internationally recognised government based in the southern port town of Aden.

The Iran-allied Houthis, who say people should only use the old bills, have defended the ban as a move against inflation and what they call rampant money-printing by the government.

The government has branded the ban an act of economic vandalism.

Yemenis from both sides said the ban had effectively created two currencies with diverging values, adding to the turmoil in a state already governed by two powers and brought to its knees by the war.

In the one-month build up to the ban, people in Houthi-controlled areas have been queuing to try to exchange their new riyal notes for old.

The riyal stood at about 560 to the dollar across Yemen before the ban was announced in mid-December. The rate has since slipped a little in Houthi-controlled areas to around 582, but slumped much further to 642 in the south.

North-south trade has become far more expensive as traders have to buy and sell two types of riyal — told apart by the state of the paper and the different sizes and designs.

Many people in Sanaa said they felt the ban was needed to constrain inflation. But they were facing difficulties in the short-term.

“When people saw that new currency come into circulation, they held onto it as it was new and shiny. But now it’s a problem that they have it,” said 28-year-old Abdallah Bashiri, a private sector worker in Sanaa.

After the Houthis stormed Sanaa in 2014 and ousted the government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, Yemen’s central bank split into two branches — one in Sanaa, under Houthi control, and one internationally recognised branch in Aden, which has access to money printers.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1529258/yemens-warring-factions-battle-over-banknotes

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Iran Warns AFC: No Compromise over National Dignity

Jan 18, 2020

“The decision adopted by the AFC will not be an easy go for them and will cost them dearly,” Salehi Amiri said on Saturday, warning that Iran will boycott the competitions if the decision is ratified.

The official added that his country has conveyed its protests to Asian officials, reminding that sport officials of Iran have undertaken firm stances in this regard.

“The official position of the Islamic Republic of Iran will soon be disclosed,” Salehi Amiri noted, stressing that the national dignity will not be bargained.

He went on saying that the decision is a political move intended to contribute to psychological warfare against the Iranian nation, highlighting that it is intended to dispirit, discourage and disappoint the nation.

“An unfortunate event happened last week but the Islamic Republic shouldered the whole responsibility for it. And the continuation of the blame game is aimed at taking revenge from the Iranian nation,” he said, referring to the unintentional downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane on last Wednesday.

Salehi Amiri then added that those who have broached the issue at the AFC are using fake and forged claims. “Those behaving like this, lack genuine might and are proxies. They practically act as pawns of the Arrogance.”

“We will never put up with such a humiliation and pressure in a bid to preserve our Establishment’s might,” underscored the official, cautioning that Iran will not take part in AFC events if such a destructive behavior is not stopped.

“This decision shows that Salman, who earlier had claimed belief in separation of politics from sports, is now heeding others and is making decisions based on orders from outside,” he added.

The remarks came after the AFC banned Iran from hosting international soccer competitions for no clear reason, in a move which many see as driven by third-party pressure. 

The Football Federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran (FFIRI) said on Friday that the AFC had sent a letter announcing all international matches involving Iranian teams would have to be held in a third country.

The FFIRI said it held a meeting on the matter shortly after receiving the letter.

The FFIRI also said in the upcoming days, it would announce its eventual stance on the AFC decision which would deprive Iran of a main advantage.

So far, the AFC has not provided details on the ban or reasons behind its decision to impose the ban.

Spokesman for the FFIRI Amirmahdi Alavi said that the AFC should avoid “false” notions regarding Iran.

“Iran is fully ready to host various teams as it has repeatedly proven during the past several years,” he said.

One day before the FFIRI received the letter, Waleed al-Faraj, which hosts a popular soccer program on the Arabic-language SBC channel from Saudi Arabia, said that “informed sources” had notified him of the ruling.

He said the decision had been taken due to Iran's “security situation”.

The host said Iran’s rivals could host competitions with Iran in their own countries, despite the new ruling.

Al-Faraj’s revelations were picked up by Iranian media, which pointed at Saudi Arabia’s long interest and past attempts in lobbying against international competitions held in Iran.

The AFC is currently led by Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, a member of the House of Khalifa, the royal family of Bahrain, which has very close ties with Riyadh.

The controversial decision comes a few months after the International Judo Federation (IJF) banned Iran from taking part in international competitions for its athletes’ refusal to compete with Israeli opponents.

The decision was greatly welcomed by Israeli officials who enjoy good ties with IJF's chief Marius Vizer.

Observers noted at the time that Israeli-backed lobbies might be seeking to ban Iran from competing in other international sports - such as chess competitions - due to the refusal of Iranian athletes to compete with Israeli rivals.

The Sports Ministry has given the required security guarantees to the Asian Football Confederation, highlighted Alavi.

He called on the AFC to stand against any inaccurate remarks and claims about Iran’s ability to host matches.

Earlier, Al-Anba newspaper claimed that the matches between Esteghlal and Kuwait SC, which is due to be held on January 21, has been postponed due to Kuwaiti officials' concerns over the security situation in Iran which they have discussed with the AFC officials. The daily also claimed that Doha has been chosen as a neutral venue for holding the match at the 2020 AFC Champions League Preliminary Stage Two.

All the four Iranian clubs present at the tournament have stressed their defiance of the AFC astonishing ruling.

Esteghlal Football Club – which is usually one of Iran’s main contenders in international competitions – has officially rejected the latest decision of the AFC to ban its country from hosting international soccer matches, cautioning that the move is politicizing sport.

Esteghlal has issued a statement saying it will refuse to compete in any competition in a third country, underlining that the football club rejects the AFC decision and believes it is for “political” reasons.

Mahdi Mohammad Nabi, member of the board of directors of the high-ranking Persepolis Football Club, also said that the AFC ruling was based on groundless claims.

“This decision was taken without justifiable evidence and in disregard for international and national laws of member states,” he said.

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13981028001005

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Iranian Official: Passenger Plane’s Black Box to Go to Ukraine

Jan 18, 2020 

Rezayeefar declared today that after numerous rounds of meetings with Ukrainian experts and technicians, and after failure in fully decoding the flight data recorder (FDR) and cockpit voice recorder (CVR), Iran has agreed with the Ukrainians’ request to send the boxes to Ukraine.

“Accordingly, we will try to tap into the expertise of France, Canada and the US to decode the FDR in the Ukrainian capital city of Kiev,” he noted, adding that the FDR will be transferred to France if the operations in Kiev fail.

Carrying 167 passengers and nine crewmembers, Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 crashed outside Iran’s capital last Wednesday, moments following takeoff from the city’s Imam Khomeini airport, after being mistakenly targeted by Iranian air defenses with an incoming cruise missile.

The General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces said in a statement on Saturday that the Ukrainian Boeing 737 plane was shot down as a hostile object due to human error at a time of heightened US threats of war.

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei in a message on Saturday extended his condolences again on the death of the Ukrainian plane's passengers, and ordered the Armed Forces to take the needed measures to find faults and flaws that have led to the bitter incident and prevent repetition of similar incidents in future.

Also, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani extended condolences to the families of those killed in the Ukrainian plane incident, and promised that all those who have been guilty in the unforgivable mistake of shooting down the jet will be prosecuted.

Russian State Duma (parliament's lower house) Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin blamed the United States for the exacerbation of tensions in the Middle East that led to the launch of the Iranian missile at the passenger plane of the Ukraine International Airlines near Tehran.

On Tuesday, a tripartite investigation team, made up of experts from Iran, Ukraine, and Canada, was formed in the Islamic Republic’s capital city to open probe into the causes of the unfortunate Ukrainian passenger plane incident in the Southwestern outskirt of Tehran.

On Friday, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Seyed Abbas Mousavi reminded the government of Canada that Tehran has been fully cooperative with all affected countries whose nationals have lost their lives during the plane incident of January 8, and called on Ottawa to avoid politicizing the incident.

“This is strange that the Canadian FM, only a day after doing initial measures and besides Iran’s full cooperation, reads such a statement and asks for a consular access, which was agreed upon and delivered accordingly by Iran on the first day of the incident due to human aspects of the issue,” Mousavi said, after the London meeting of officials from 5 countries whose citizens died in the unintentional downing of Ukrainian flight in the Southwestern outskirt of Tehran.

The diplomat added that Tehran is surprised with some of the remarks made on the sidelines of the quinquepartite meeting in London.

Mousavi described that “in past years, the Islamic Republic has asked Canada to let consular representative offices be active in the two countries; however, the Canadian government has refused the issue due to the US pressure on Iranian citizens," he said, "The motivation of the Canadians’ latest remarks are not clear to us.”

Expressing condolences with the families of the victims of the flight, the Iranian spokesman underlined that the Islamic Republic has had very good cooperation with the dispatched foreign delegations studying the case in Iran.

“All the bodies of the victims have been identified and Iran is in full cooperation with all the affiliated countries and will continue doing so as far as the regulations require,” he added.

To respect the families of the victims, he called on all the parties to let the procedures be done without any marginal disputes and not to mingle the issue with political motivations.  

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13981028000955

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DM: US Assassination of Gen. Soliemani Cowardly Act of State Terrorism

Jan 18, 2020 

In a telephone conversation with Hulusi Akar, the Turkish National Defense Minister, Hatami noted that the assassination of top Iranian commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani was a “cowardly” move by the United States and a real example of state-sponsored terrorism.

"The Americans once again showed their criminal face to the world and proved their terrorist nature to all," the Iranian defense chief said.

He pointed to US President Donald Trump's "miscalculation, strategic mistake and savage act" in assassinating the IRGC commander and said martyrdom of General Soleimani and his companions would not definitely put an end to resistance but would further strengthen it.

On January 3, the United States assassinated General Soleimani, who commanded the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), among others in a set of airstrikes against the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. General Soleimani has earned reputation as West Asia’s most revered anti-terror commander due to his indispensable contribution to defeating terrorist outfits such as the ISIL across the region.

The strikes also led to the martyrdom of second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis along with eight other Iranians and Iraqis.

In retaliation, the IRGC fired volleys of ballistic missiles on January 8 at the US’s Ain al-Assad air base in the western Iraqi Anbar Province, and another facility in Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, both of which housed American forces.

Hatami further said that Iran attacked the US base by its domestically-manufactured missiles and added that the Americans have realized that if they carry out an act of stupidity once again, they will receive a more severe response.

"We expect all independent countries in the world including regional governments to strongly condemn this terrorist move by the Americans," the Iranian defense minister pointed out.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei said on Friday that the assassination of the top Iranian commander disgraced the US as it had to own up to the "terrorist" action and see its image dealt a blow by Iran's retaliation. 

"The day the missiles of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps crushed the US base is one of the days of God. The Guards' response was a major blow to America's fearsome superpower image," the Leader told a huge crowd in Tehran. 

The United States military has said that 11 of its troops were wounded in an Iranian retaliatory missile attack last week despite Washington's initial claim denying casualties.

"While no US service members were killed in the January 8 Iranian attack on al-Asad Air base, several were treated for concussion symptoms from the blasts and are still being assessed," US Central Command Spokesman Captain Bill Urban said in a statement on Thursday.

The Turkish defense minister, for his part, offered his condolences to the Iranian government and nation over the assassination of General Soleimani.

The creation of tension and instability in the region would not be beneficial to any country, Akar said, adding that Ankara has always called for the establishment of sustainable security.

He also stressed the importance of boosting bilateral cooperation on regional and international developments.

In a phone call with the Turkish defense minister on Thursday, Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Baqeri said the Islamic Republic is not interested in the escalation of tensions in the region, but is ready to give a crushing response to any act of aggression.

“Iran is not interested in further escalation of tensions, but will give a crushing response to any irrational action and act of aggression, and we hope that withdrawal of the US from the region would put an end to all [the existing] chaos and conflicts,” Major General Baqeri said.

In April, Ankara had denounced US President Donald Trump’s move to designate the IRGC as a terrorist group, saying the decision would stir "instability" in the region.

First, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned that the Washington move was a step outside international law which will pave the way for further instability in the region.

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13981028000375

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Iran is sending black boxes of downed plane to Ukraine

18 January 2020

Iran is sending to Ukraine the black boxes of the Ukrainian passenger plane that its military shot down this month, said an aviation official.

The Iranian authorities are also prepared for experts from France, Canada and the United States to examine the data from the boxes, the semi-official Tasnim news agency cited Hassan Rezaifar, a director in charge of accident investigations at Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization, as saying.

All 176 people aboard the plane were killed when the Ukrainian International Airlines flight was shot down on January 8 shortly after take-off from Tehran en route to the Ukrainian capital Kiev.

“With the use of the expertise of the countries of France, Canada and America we will try to read the (flight data recorder) in Kiev,” Rezaifar said. “If this effort is unsuccessful then the black box will be sent to France.”

The black boxes will not be read in Iran, Rezaifar said.

Fifty seven of the dead were Canadian. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has been pressing for a full investigation into the plane downing, said on Friday that Iran should send the black boxes to France for analysis.

France was one of the few countries with the ability to read the flight and cockpit data recorders from the jet, which he said were badly damaged, Trudeau told a news conference in Ottawa.

Iran has faced a deepening crisis abroad and at home over the plane disaster, with authorities taking several days to announce that its military had accidentally shot the plane down.

The downing occurred as Iran was on high alert for possible retaliatory action following its strikes on Iraqi bases housing US troops.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/18/Iran-is-sending-black-boxes-of-downed-plane-to-Ukraine.html

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‘Villainous’ US is lying about standing with Iranian people: Khamenei

18 January 2020

The “villainous” United States government is lying about standing with the people of Iran, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said on Friday on his official Twitter page, in the latest addition to the ongoing social media rift between the leader and US President Donald Trump.

“The villainous US govt repeatedly says that they are standing by the Iranian ppl. They lie. If you are standing by the Iranian ppl, it is only to stab them in the heart with your venomous daggers. Of course, you have so far failed to do so, & you will certainly continue to fail,” the tweet said.

Khamenei.ir

@khamenei_ir

The villainous US govt repeatedly says that they are standing by the Iranian ppl. They lie. If you are standing by the Iranian ppl, it is only to stab them in the heart with your venomous daggers. Of course, you have so far failed to do so, & you will certainly continue to fail.

View image on Twitter

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5:33 PM - Jan 17, 2020

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The supreme leader also shared a screenshot of a tweet posted by Trump supporting recent demonstrations in Iran.

Khamenei’s tweet came a few hours after the supreme leader gave his first Friday sermon in eight years, in which he said that the day Iran attacked US targets in Iraq was a “day of God” and a “blow to America’s image” in his first Friday sermon since 2012.

Trump on Friday responded to Khamenei’s speech with a warning on Twitter, saying that Khamenei “who has not been so Supreme lately should be very careful with his words.”

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

The so-called “Supreme Leader” of Iran, who has not been so Supreme lately, had some nasty things to say about the United States and Europe. Their economy is crashing, and their people are suffering. He should be very careful with his words!

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Tensions in the region have been heightened since Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps General Qassem Soleimani was killed in US airstrikes, to which the Iranian regime responded by firing missiles on US targets in Iraq.

Earlier that week, Trump tweeted, in both Farsi and English, that he has been following the ongoing protests in Iran “closely” and that he was “inspired” by the courage of the Iranian people.

“To the brave, long-suffering people of Iran: I’ve stood with you since the beginning of my Presidency, and my Administration will continue to stand with you. We are following your protests closely, and are inspired by your courage,” Trump said.

Hundreds of angry protesters have taken to the streets of Iran in the wake of the regime’s announcement that it was responsible for the downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane that left all 176 people on board dead.

On January 9, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s official twitter account posted a photoshopped photo of the US president showing slap marks across his face with a caption reading “just a slap, revenge is another matter.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/18/-Villainous-US-is-lying-about-standing-with-Iranian-people-Khamenei-.html

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Iran's geography lesson to Macron: Gulf located south of Iran is Persian Gulf

19 January 2020

Tehran has blasted French President Emmanuel Macron for using a fictitious name for the Persian Gulf, saying the mistake is as wrong as France's military presence in those waters.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi tweeted in three languages of Persian, English and French late Saturday, reminding Macron that "the gulf located south of Iran has only one name and that is the #PersianGulf."

It came two days after the French president said in a tweet that his country had deployed the Jaguar Task Force mission in "the Arabian Peninsula and in the Arab-Persian Gulf," claiming that the  military buildup was meant to strengthen maritime security in the strategic region.

"Your military presence in the Persian Gulf is as wrong as your naming it. Both mistakes are huge but compensable," Mousavi stressed.

S.A MOUSAVI

@SAMOUSAVI9

 • 11h

Je tiens à rappeler à @EmmanuelMacron que le Golfe se trouvant au sud d’Iran, n’a qu’un seul nom : Le Golfe Persique. Votre présence militaire dans cette zone est autant erronée que sa dénomination à ce titre. Ces  deux grandes erreurs sont  pourtant corrigeables. https://twitter.com/EmmanuelMacron/status/1217926080717258752 …

View image on Twitter

Emmanuel Macron

@EmmanuelMacron

Dans la péninsule arabique et dans le Golfe arabo-persique, nous avons déployé en un temps record la Task force Jaguar, et par les initiatives avec nos partenaires européens, nous renforçons la sécurité maritime dans cette région si stratégique pour nous. S.A MOUSAVI

@SAMOUSAVI9

I remind Monsieur Macron that the gulf located south of Iran has only one name and that is the #PersianGulf. Your military presence in the Persian Gulf is as wrong as your naming it. Both mistakes are huge but compensable.

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2:54 AM - Jan 19, 2020

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The Persian Gulf — which spans some 251,000 square kilometers —  is bounded by the Arvand River in the north, which forms the frontier between Iran and Iraq, and the Strait of Hormuz in the south, which links the Persian Gulf to the Sea of Oman and the Indian Ocean.

The inland sea is an international trade route connecting the Middle East to Africa, India and China.

It has been referred to by historians and ancient texts as "Persian" since the Achaemenid Empire was established in what is now modern day Iran.

Every year, Iranians observe the Persian Gulf Day on the 10th of Ordibehesht, the second month on the Persian calendar, which usually falls on April 30.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/19/616546/Iran-Persian-Gulf-France-Emmanuel-Macron

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Iran’s strikes on US bases a ‘very impressive’ display of missile capability: Analyst

18 January 2020

The Islamic Republic of Iran’s defensive missile capability, as evident in the country’s retaliatory strikes on American military bases in Iraq, was “very impressive,” and proved that Tehran was prepped in every way to counter any possible attacks on the part of the United States, says a political commentator in New York.

Daniel Lazare, an American journalist and author, made the remark during a Friday edition of Press TV’s The Debate program while commenting on sermons delivered by the supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, as well as the missile attacks on the US airbases and the blow that this dealt to the so-called US grandeur.

The attacks were in retaliation for the US assassination of Iran's top anti-terror commander Qassem Soleimani, with Washington having finally been pressed to disclose the extent of damage to its bases and troops after ten days.

“The [Iran’s] display of missile capability was very impressive; the attack was very well calibrated, Iran was careful to destroy mainly equipment and to spare human casualties… Iran showed that it has very advance missiles which it could deploy to great effect in the event of a major US attack,” Lazare told Press TV on Friday.

The American political analyst also underlined the Europeans’ subservience to the administration in Washington when asked whether the US and the three European signatories to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal were depriving the country of its deterrence.

“The US and Europe are in different positions; the US is bent on regime change, it is on a collision course with Iran, the Europeans — Britain, Germany and France — are wringing their hands on the sidelines and try to somehow contain the damage but they have been mainly trying to appease the United States and sort of play a good cop-bad cop game with the Iranians,” Lazare said.

James Jatras, a former Senate foreign policy adviser in Washington, was the other panelist invited to The Debate program, who reaffirmed the impressiveness of the Iranian retaliatory attacks on US bases.

“I think anybody that has been really paying attention was impressed by the accuracy of the Iranian strikes in hitting targets that showed their capability to (reach) American bases in the region as well as our regional partners like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Israel and so forth,” Jatras said.

Ayatollah Khamenei said on Friday that the assassination of the top Iranian commander disgraced the US as it had to own up to the "terrorist" action and see a blow dealt to its global image by Iran's retaliation. 

The United States military has said that 11 of its troops were wounded in an Iranian retaliatory missile attack last week despite Washington's initial claim denying casualties.

On January 8, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) fired volleys of ballistic missiles at Ain al-Assad, and another outpost in Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan.

The missile operation was in response to the January 3 assassination by US terrorists of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), and a group of their companions in Baghdad. The cowardly operation was conducted under US President Donald Trump’s direction. The US Department of Defense took responsibility for the assassination.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/18/616474/Iran-defensive-missile-capability-impressive-Daniel-Lazare

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Somalia car bomb blast targets Turkish contractors north of Mogadishu

18 January 2020 

A car bomb targeting a group of Turkish contractors exploded on Saturday in Afgoye, northwest of the Somali capital Mogadishu, police said.

There was no immediate word on any fatalities.

“A speeding suicide car bomb rammed into a place where the Turkish engineers and Somali police were having lunch,” police officer Nur Ali told Reuters from Afgoye.

It was not know who carried out the attack but residents and police said al-Shabaab fighters had tried to attack Afgoye, about 30 km from Mogadishu, late on Friday and were repulsed.

The al-Qaeda-linked militant group has claimed responsibility for past attacks in its campaign to overturn Somalia’s UN-backed government.

Residents and police said al-Shabaab fighters had tried to attack Afgoye, about 30 km from Mogadishu, late on Friday but they were repulsed.

“We heard a huge blast and soon clouds of smoke into the air. Before the blast, several Turkish engineers and well armed convoy of Somali police were at the scene,” Farah Abdullahi, a shopkeeper, told Reuters from Afgoye.

 “We see casualties being carried but we cannot make if they are dead or injured.”

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/18/616489/Somalia-Afgoye-town-Mogadishu-car-bomb-Turkish-contractors

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South Asia

 

Sri Lanka lifts ban on drones imposed after Easter deadly attacks

18 January 2020

Sri Lankan authorities have lifted a ban on drones that was imposed after the Easter Sunday attacks that left more than 263 people dead in the Indian Ocean island nation.

The lifting of the ban comes amid a growing demand for flying drones from media institutions, foreigners, wedding videographers and photographers, and commercial advertising companies.

However, drone operations will continue to be restricted in dangerous and restricted flying zones.

All civil drone operators will be required to obtain approval from the Defense Ministry to fly drones, the ministry said on its website on Saturday.

The ministry said the ban was lifted on the instructions of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Authorities imposed the ban last May, citing security concerns a month after seven suicide bombers from a local Muslim group, National Thowheed Jammath, blew themselves up at three churches and three luxury hotels in the deadliest violence by ISIS group-linked militants in South Asia. The attacks wounded about 500 people.

Sri Lankan leaders and the security establishment have been under fire for not acting ahead of the attacks on near-specific intelligence information on possible attacks on churches. Government leaders have acknowledged that some intelligence units were aware of possible attacks weeks before the bombings.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/01/18/Sri-Lanka-lifts-ban-on-drones-imposed-after-Easter-deadly-attacks.html

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Taliban aim to sign deal with US by end of month: Report

18 January 2020

The Taliban are aiming to reach a withdrawal agreement with the US by the end of January and are prepared to “scale down” military operations ahead of signing the deal, according to their chief spokesman.

The statement by Suhail Shaheen to Pakistani daily Dawn comes as the group and the US held discussions in Doha this week, after insurgent sources told AFP they had offered to initiate a brief ceasefire.

“We have agreed to scale down military operations in days leading up to the signing of the peace agreement with the United States,” Shaheen told Dawn in a report published Saturday.

He added that the Taliban were “optimistic” a deal with Washington could be signed before the end of the month and that the reduction in fighting across the country would also include the targeting of Afghan forces.

“It’s now a matter of days,” said the spokesman.

Washington has for weeks been calling on the militants to reduce violence, posing it as a condition for resuming formal negotiations on an agreement that would see US troops begin to leave the country in return for security guarantees, after a near two-decade fight.

The Taliban and the US had been negotiating the deal for a year and were on the brink of an announcement in September 2019 when President Donald Trump abruptly declared the process “dead”, citing Taliban violence.

Talks were later restarted between the two sides in December in Qatar, but were paused again following an attack near the Bagram military base in Afghanistan, which is run by the US.

Any agreement with the Taliban is expected to have two main pillars -- an American withdrawal from Afghanistan, and a commitment by the insurgents not to offer sanctuary to jihadists -- and would ultimately have to be given final approval by Trump.

The Taliban’s relationship with Al-Qaeda was the main reason cited for the US invasion more than 18 years ago.

A deal would hopefully pave the way for intra-Afghan talks.

Many observers agree that the war can no longer be won militarily, and that the only route to a lasting peace in Afghanistan is for an agreement between the Taliban and the US-backed government in Kabul.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/01/18/Taliban-aim-to-sign-deal-with-US-by-end-of-month-Report-.html

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US veterans insist on ending the Afghan war

19 Jan 2020

A group of veterans of America is running a campaign aiming to press US lawmakers to get out of Afghanistan, the US-based military news outlet Task & Purpose reported on Friday.

Five US veterans who served in the military occupation of Afghanistan speaks against the longest war in American history, in the 30-second television ad, which is to be displayed to the public in Michigan state soon enough.  

Anderson said, “leaving our forces behind only puts them at further risk in a country where we don’t have strategic objectives to achieve.

We assassinated Osama Bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, in a special mission in Pakistan back in 2011, and currently, the Trump administration supports peace talks with the Taliban in Doha Qatar. In return, the US forces should pull out from Afghanistan with or without a deal, is what the Taliban demand.

The ongoing was surpassed 18 years, the longest war of its kind in modern American history, albeit under a different name – Resolute Support, purportedly a NATO-led mission to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces.

According to reports, more than 2,400 American troops killed and tens of thousands wounded, ignoring the number of Afghan civilians, government forces and insurgent groups. Additionally, the US government has spent nearly $2 trillion on the war in Afghanistan. 

Meanwhile, the Taliban and the US have resumed peace talks aimed at ending the war, though their outcome is far from certain.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/us-veterans-insist-on-ending-the-afghan-war-87987543/

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Iran and India to expedite work on rail links to Afghanistan

18 Jan 2020

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s Foreign Minister on Friday, said India and Iran need to work together to accelerate rail connectivity to Afghanistan and the procurement of equipment for the development of Chabahar Port. He added that India’s good relations with Iran, Afghanistan, and the US could play a promising role in bringing sustainable stability and economic and trade connectivity in the region.

Following Afghanistan’s efforts to find out alternative trade routes to access global markets other than Karachi Port, Chabahar Port was considered a suitable option, and the port is considered significantly crucial for Afghanistan and Central Asia. Fortunately, enough, Iran’s parliament recently approved the expansion of the free zone, which can further regional trade among countries.

“One of the problems in the progress of the Chabahar Port project is that India has found difficulty in procuring the necessary equipment for the port despite the exemption.” Said Zarif.

“Connecting Chabahar to Afghanistan and Central Asia through rail is another issue. To complete the Chabahar-Zahedan rail network, Iran needs more rails for which we will negotiate with India to provide us rails. Therefore, by cooperating, Iran and India can procure the equipment for the port and finishing the rail link,” Zarif added.

According to economic experts, the completion of Chabahar Port will play a significant role in trade connectivity between India and Afghanistan as well as the wider region.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/iran-and-india-to-expedite-work-on-rail-links-to-afghanistan-97897632/

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Highway Extortion Frustrates Afghan Drivers

18 Jan 2020 

Rising extortion along some of Afghanistan’s major highways by the Taliban and government forces have caused great concern for drivers – which is why they demand the Afghan government to take serious action and improve transportation security.

As the Taliban are expanding their domain of operation across Afghanistan, they have started disturbing ordinary people’s lives in one way or the other. According to reports, the Taliban take ransom money from drivers along the Kandahar-Kabul, Kandahar-Herat and Kabul-Torkham highways.

Alim, a truck driver who travels the Kabul-Kandahar highway, said,  “The Taliban have established checkpoints in certain locations, particularly in Muqur region and they collect money from us.”

“It is not only the Taliban who harass us, but the local police also harass us,” said Mohibullah, who drives the Kabul-Kandahar highway.

Due to insurgent groups’ active operation over the past couple of years,  the highway connecting Kabul to the northern parts of Afghanistan has also become insecure, “The Taliban collect Afs. 30,000 per truck, dozes of which come from Aqina, Hairatan, and Sher Khan port daily,” said MPAbdullah Qarloq.

Experts say that the security of highways plays a vital role in the economic development of Afghanistan. Thus, the government needs to come up with practical strategies to make these routes safe and enhance better transportation of commercial goods across the country.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/highway-extortion-frustrates-afghan-drivers-98796324/

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US right-wing veterans groups wages ad campaign to press end to Afghan war

19 January 2020

A right-wing US veterans group has begun a TV advertising campaign aimed at urging American voters to demand from their congressional representatives to put an end to “endless wars,” focusing on the need to pull out of Afghanistan.

As part of the effort, the first order of business for the sponsor of the ad campaign, Concerned Veterans of America (CVA), is to press US lawmakers to “get America out of Afghanistan,” US-based military news outlet Task & Purpose reported Friday.

In the 30-second television ad that is due to be aired in states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, five US veterans of the country’s 18-year military occupation of Afghanistan speak against the longest war in American history.

"When will it end?" asks US Army veteran Laura Hechel in the ad. "Over 60 percent of veterans like me think it's time to get out of Afghanistan," further states another veteran, former Marine Adam Miller.

"We would like to see a full withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan as soon as possible," said Nate Anderson, an Army Green Beret and executive director of CVA, as quoted in the report.

"The reality for us is that leaving our forces there only puts them at further risk in a country where we don't have a strategic objective that we have not already met," Anderson said, pointing to the assassination of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, “punishing” the Taliban for harboring al-Qaeda, and “largely uprooting the terror group” from the country.

"All those things happened," he added. Yet, his group supports Trump administration peace talks with Taliban and submitting to its demand the US troops should pull out from Afghanistan with or without a deal.

According to the report, “18 years, 3 months, and 9 days after ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ was officially launched in Afghanistan, the war continues to grind on, albeit under a different name – Resolute Support, purportedly a NATO-led mission to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces.

In addition to the human cost of more than 2,400 American troops killed and tens of thousands wounded, the US government has spent nearly $2 trillion on the war in Afghanistan.  Meanwhile, secret documents published by The Washington Post in December showed that top officials in Washington had repeatedly lied to the American public about the war in Afghanistan, which many believed was unwinnable.

Quoting Ryan Crocker, former US ambassador to Afghanistan in 2002 and then again from 2011 to 2012, The Post wrote: "Our biggest single project, sadly and inadvertently, of course, may have been the development of mass corruption. Once it gets to the level I saw, when I was out there, it's somewhere between unbelievably hard and outright impossible to fix it."

Despite these fundamental failures, according to the daily, top American officials have said in public that the US military was making progress in Afghanistan, in part by distorting statistics to "present the best picture possible," as one counterinsurgency adviser said.

"Candidate Trump campaigned heavily on the need to end our endless wars," Anderson said. "I think his gut is right on this issue, but the establishment is pushing back hard. That's why we're taking action now."

The issue is personal for Anderson, who served five years on active-duty with Army Special Forces, deploying twice to Afghanistan as a communications sergeant. The five other veterans in the ad, also CVA staffers, served in the Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps.

"When you're on the ground as an operator or an infantryman, you want to do your part in the mission. You want to demonstrate success in whatever mission that you are part of. We certainly did our best to do that," said Anderson, but "it felt like we were running in place... that's demoralizing."

Meanwhile, the Taliban and the United States have resumed peace talks aimed at ending the war, though their outcome is far from certain.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/19/616540/US-concerned-veterans-of-America-CVA-Afghanistan-war-military

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