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Islamic World News ( 23 Jan 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Young Boy Executes Nigerian Christian Prisoner In Horrifying ISIS Video After Declaring: 'We Won't Stop Until We Take Revenge For All The Blood That Was Spilled'

New Age Islam News Bureau

23 Jan 2020

A still from a video clip released by ISIS's Amaq 'news agency', showing a child of around eight years old carrying out the execution of a Nigerian Christian


• ‘No One Can Dare Touch Muslim Citizens’: Defence Minister’s Assurance on CAA

• India's Supreme Court Fails To Strike Down 'Anti-Muslim' Citizenship Law

• Pak’s Potential for Trade Will Grow If Ties with India Normalise: Imran Khan

• Indonesia Deploys 'Mosque Hunters' To Check Their Count & 'Monitor Radicalism'

• Bin Salman Hacked Washington Post Owner's Phone by Malicious Whatsapp File: Probe

• General Admits Soleimani's Role in Syria's Civil War Long Before Jihadists Emerged

• US Says Hezbollah Works For the Iranian Regime, Not the Lebanese People

• Hundreds Show Up For Muslim Day At The Capitol In Frankfort

• China Bins US Propaganda, Says CPEC ‘Not A Debt Trap’ For Pakistan



• Young Boy Executes Nigerian Christian Prisoner In Horrifying ISIS Video After Declaring: 'We Won't Stop Until We Take Revenge For All The Blood That Was Spilled'

• Nigeria: UN Condemns Boko Haram Attack on North-East Facilities, Aid Workers

• Seven Nigerian troops killed in militants attack

• West African presidents urge U.S. to stay in the fight against terrorism

• Militants kill 36 civilians in Burkina Faso market attack

• Islamic Extremists Kill Nigerian Pastor, Attack His Hometown

• Haftar forces threaten to hit civilian planes in Libya

• Libya: Haftar's militias bomb Tripoli's Mitiga Airport



• ‘No One Can Dare Touch Muslim Citizens’: Defence Minister’s Assurance on CAA

• India's Supreme Court Fails To Strike Down 'Anti-Muslim' Citizenship Law

• Allahabad HC Upholds Ban on Loudspeakers In Mosques

• Muslim professionals strengthen anti-CAA protests across Telangana

• Before CAA, String Of Government Orders Made It Impossible For Muslim Migrants To Get Indian Citizenship

• Atrocities Inflicted On UP Muslims, Rule of Law Collapsed: Jury

• India to ignore what Trump said on Kashmir to Imran

• Terrorist gunned down in Awantipora encounter

• BSF jawan arrested for delivering parcel bomb at Samba camp

• 644 terrorists surrender along with 177 arms in Assam

• Held Hizbul man planned major attack ahead of Republic Day, says intel

• Militant killed on second day of Pulwama gunfight

• India at UN: Pakistan ‘spews venom’, takes to hate speech as fish takes to water

• A bit of Punjab in Shaheen Bagh

• Muzaffarnagar anti-CAA protests: FIR shows arrests on spot but weapons seized 18 hrs later, 500 meters from thana

• Brazil President Bolsonaro arrives tomorrow, pact on trade, tackling terror on table



• Pak’s Potential for Trade Will Grow If Ties with India Normalise: Imran Khan

• Pakistan Has Little Credibility On J&K: US Report

• Pakistani PM Imran Khan calls for UN action on India dispute

• Another Sikh leader flees Pakistan after threats

• PM asks Facebook to support Pakistani startups

• Pakistan on path to growth after tough economic period, PM Imran tells WEF session

• Lahore High Court moved to review annulment of Musharraf’s conviction

• JI holds protest in Rawalpindi against inflation

• Trump has assured to boost trade with Pakistan, says Qureshi

• Zindagi Tamasha: Pakistan film suspended after religious uproar


Southeast Asia

• Indonesia Deploys 'Mosque Hunters' To Check Their Count & 'Monitor Radicalism'

• Muslim Teachers Group Urges Ministry To Relook Segregation At Training Institute

• Indonesia Considers Repatriating More Than 600 Citizens With Alleged Terror Ties

• What to Do With Indonesia's Foreign Terrorist Fighters?

• Hamas chief praises Malaysia's support for Palestinians

• Malaysia’s hand-made incense craftwork a dying art

• Malaysia jumps 10 spots in corruption perception index

• Stay away from Chinese who support divisive politics, says Guan Eng in CNY message

• Saudi royal family promised £50 mil but gave only £10 mil, Najib tells court

• Zuraida's fate up to disciplinary committee, says Anwar

• Renovation of 92-year-old church in Riau Islands meets resistance


Arab World

• Bin Salman Hacked Washington Post Owner's Phone by Malicious Whatsapp File: Probe

• Al-Azhar Warns of ISIS Efforts to Regain Status

• Lebanon Faces Economic ‘Catastrophe’ Says New PM Diab

• New government shows Hezbollah ‘takeover of Lebanon is complete’

• Joint Syria Raid Killed ISIS Oil Official who Financed Sleeper Cells

• Hashd Al-Shaabi, Iraqi Security Forces Start Anti-ISIL Operations in Najaf, Karbala

• Hashd Al-Shaabi Cautions Against US Heliborne Relocation of ISIL Terrorists to Iraq

• Iraqi president, Trump meet in Davos, discuss foreign troops cut

• Saudi Arabia urges US to remove Sudan from state sponsors of terrorism list



• General Admits Soleimani's Role in Syria's Civil War Long Before Jihadists Emerged

• Palestinians see Holocaust forum as Israel efforts to cover up its crimes

• Minister: Iran to Decode Ukrainian Plane Black Box

• Iranian FM: Trump Never Satiated Even after Drinking Up Europe's Integrity

• Minister Underlines Iran's Astonishing Scientific Progress despite Sanctions

• Turkey says it won’t send more advisers to Libya while ceasefire is observed: RIA

• Iranian police arrest child for ripping up poster of Soleimani

• Iran will never seek nuclear arms, with or without nuclear deal: Rouhani


North America

• US Says Hezbollah Works For the Iranian Regime, Not the Lebanese People

• Trump Wants ‘Significant’ Drop In Taliban Violence before ‘Meaningful’ Talks

• US Iran envoy Brian Hook threatens Ghaani with same fate as Soleimani

• Trump Administration Plans to Add Nigeria and Six Other Nations to Travel Ban List: Reports

• Colombia Asks U.S., E.U. to Include FARC Dissidents on Terrorist Lists

• UN Experts Demand Probe into Alleged MBS Hacking of Washington Post Owner’s Phone

• US Seeks to Corner Hezbollah in Latin America

• Trump downplays US troops’ concussion injuries from Iranian missile attack

• US: Iranians no longer eligible for trade, investment visas

• Salih, Trump discuss American troop drawdown from Iraq

• US urges 'tangible reforms' in Lebanon under new gov’t

• UN chief Guterres urges political solution to end Syria conflict

• US prepared to support if Lebanon commits to reform, says Pompeo

• US troops block Russian forces’ way to oil fields in northeastern Syria



• Hundreds Show Up For Muslim Day At The Capitol In Frankfort

• Macron faces off with Israeli forces at Jerusalem al-Quds church

• ‘EU divided, inward looking, drifting away from values’

• U.K. Promises Stronger Terrorism Laws after Knife Attack by Convict

• Iran must not acquire nuclear weapons: French president Macron

• France will do ‘everything’ to help resolve Lebanon crisis: Macron

• Trump mounts pressure on EU to shun Iran

• Trump meets KRG leader, Iraqi president in Davos

• China assures Germany of supporting Libya peace talks


South Asia

• China Bins US Propaganda, Says CPEC ‘Not A Debt Trap’ For Pakistan

• Taliban Admits ‘Peace’ Negotiations With U.S. Are Merely Means To Withdraw ‘Foreign Forces’

• U.S., Taliban Negotiators Inch Closer to a Deal, Officials Say

• Bangladesh prepares to send 100,000 Rohingya refugees to isolated island

• Turkey to help Afghanistan develop its insurance sector

• Abdullah and Karzai have no written plan for Afghanistan: Ghani

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau



Young Boy Executes Nigerian Christian Prisoner In Horrifying ISIS Video After Declaring: 'We Won't Stop Until We Take Revenge For All The Blood That Was Spilled'

21 January 2020

A video has emerged purportedly showing the execution of a Nigerian Christian by a young boy from an ISIS-affiliated terror group.

The horrific footage, released by ISIS's Amaq 'news agency', shows a child of around eight years old carrying out the execution in an unidentified outdoor area of Borno, Nigeria.

The child in the video warns other Christians: 'We won't stop until we take revenge for all the blood that was spilled.'

An image taken from the distressing footage has been shared online by SITE Intelligence Group, an organisation which tracks the activity of jihadist groups.

Director of SITE Intelligence Group, Rita Katz, said of the video: 'There is no end to ISIS's immorality.'

According to Katz, the video was taken in Borno in north-eastern Nigeria and the boy is from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) terror organisation.

While ISIS has ramped up its attacks on Christians in recent years, Katz added that the video was also a 'throwback' to the terror group's days of children conducting gruesome executions.

ISIS has routinely used young children, dubbed 'cubs of the Caliphate', to carry out the killings of prisoners in propaganda videos.

The Islamic State's West Africa branch was formed after a faction broke away from Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram in 2016.

Last month, eleven Christian hostages were reportedly killed by ISWAP terrorists in Borno on Christmas Day.

A video released last month showed 13 hostages, 10 believed to be Christian and three Muslim. ISWAP claimed they spared the lives of two of the Muslims

The terror group said they killed the captives to avenge for the killing of their leaders Abu bakr al-Baghdadi and Abul-Hasan Al-Muhajir in Iraq and Syria.    

President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the killings, and urged Nigerians not to allow themselves to be divided by religion. 'We should, under no circumstance, let the terrorists divide us by turning Christians against Muslims because these barbaric killers don't represent Islam and millions of other law-abiding Muslims around the world,' he said in a statement at the time.

Jihadis Boko Haram and its IS-affiliated Islamic State West Africa Province faction have recently stepped up attacks on military and civilian targets in Nigeria.

Boko Haram killed seven people on Christmas Eve in a raid on a Christian village near the town of Chibok in northeast Nigeria's Borno state.



‘No One Can Dare Touch Muslim Citizens’: Defence Minister’s Assurance on CAA

January 22, 2020

Meerut: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday said that no one can dare touch any Indian Muslim, as he dismissed apprehensions that the community will be targeted if National Population Register and National Register of Citizens are brought in, and cautioned against forces which are attempting to "create a divide" between Hindus and Muslims over the Citizenship Amendment Act.

Addressing a rally in support of the Citizenship Amendment Act in Meerut, Mr Singh said religious minorities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh have been living a "life of misery" and India has fulfilled its "moral duty" by enacting the bill.

He also questioned those opposing the NPR and NRC, stressing that they were mooted much before the BJP government was formed, and rejected claims that Muslims will be forced to leave the country.

"There has been no discussion on NRC. But, suppose a country wants to create a national register of citizens, why should there be an objection to it? Shouldn't there be a document for people to seek benefits of government schemes," he asked the crowd.

"... But they say you are making NPR register and then you will bring NRC and banish all Muslims. I want to tell Muslims present here that nobody can dare touch any Muslim who is an Indian citizen. I want to assure you. If anyone has any complaint they can come to us... we will stand with that Muslim citizens," the minister said.

Mr Singh said India was partitioned on the basis of religion and even Mahatma Gandhi wanted that Indian government should be sensitive towards minorities of neighbouring countries if they face religious persecution there. He had said such people should be given citizenship.

"We have done what Gandhiji had said (by bringing CAA). Did we commit a crime?"

"There are certain forces who want to create a divide between Hindus and Muslims on the issue of CAA. These forces have vested interests in creating a rift between the communities. I appeal to everyone that communal tension should not be created," he said.

He also cited former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's remarks made in Rajya Sabha in favour of granting citizenship to minorities from neighbouring countries. He said that citizenship law is being viewed from a Hindu-Muslim perspective, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks of justice and humanity.



India's Supreme Court fails to strike down 'anti-Muslim' citizenship law

22 January, 2020

India's Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected demands to suspend the implementation of a new citizenship law widely condemned as discriminatory against the country's 200 million-strong Muslim minority.

The court has given Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government another four weeks to respond to the more than 200 petitions brought against the controversial ammendment which came into effect on 10 January.

Heading a three-bench panel on Wednesday, Chief Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde said that only a full constitutional panel of five judges could rule on the matter.

"We will give you four weeks to file reply to all petitions," Bobde told the government's top lawyer, according to Reuters.

The new law opens a path towards citizenship for religious minorities from three neighbouring countries, but does not include Muslims.

Critics of the law fear it will see thousands of Indian Muslims, who are unable to prove their status, stripped of their citizenship, detained or deported.

A controversial citizenship registry in the northeastern state of Assam that paved the way for the ammendment saw two million people, many of them Muslims, designated illegal migrants.

The Supreme Court has received 144 petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the law.

Since Modi's Hindu nationalist government first tabled the act last year, massive protests have swept across India calling for the law to be scrapped. For many, basing the right to citizenship on religion represents an affront to the country's secular constitution.

The government argues the law will protect Christians, Sikhs, Hindus and other religious minorities who face repression in nearby Muslim-majority countries.

At least 27 people have died in protests against the law and hundreds more have been injured in clashes with police, fuelling public anger.

Nineteen of the deaths have been reported in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, where police have been accused of using disproportionate force against protesters.



Pak’s Potential for Trade Will Grow If Ties with India Normalise: Imran Khan

Jan 23, 2020

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said that his country’s potential for trade will increase exponentially once bilateral relations are normalised with India and Iran.

“We are hoping that peace with Iran will also open up as a market. Even with India in the region, the moment our relations become normal, the trade potential for the region will grow exponentially,” Prime Minister Khan said while speaking at an event of the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) meet in Davos.

Khan’s remarks come almost five months after Pakistan downgraded trade relations with India in the wake of New Delhi’s decision to scrap Article 370 that provided special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Khan also stressed that if the governance in the country gets on the right track, then it may help in resolving a lot of issues. “The way our governance deteriorated, in the past, is one of the main reasons why we have not been able to realise our potential,” he said.

“With our strategic location and a young population, if we improve our governance and our institutions, nothing can stop us from realising our potential,” he added.

Showing signs of progress in trade and connectivity projects, the Prime Minister talked about focusing on skill development, empowering the youth, encouraging young startups and entrepreneurship programmes.

“We’ve got help from China under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). We have got China to help us in developing the productivity of our agricultural sector. This is one area where Pakistan can make strides quickly,” Khan said.

“On one side there is China, one of the world’s biggest markets. On the other side Central Asia with its resources and markets to open up once there is peace in Afghanistan,” he told the forum.

The United States, last November, had warned Pakistan that it faced long-term economic damage with little return if China keeps pursuing its giant infrastructure push.

Top US diplomat for South Asia Alice Wells has said the CPEC has heralded as a game-changer by both Asian countries but this would profit only Beijing.

She has said the corridor is going to take a growing toll on the Pakistan economy, especially when the bulk of payments are to be paid during the next four to six years, according to media reports.



Indonesia Deploys 'Mosque Hunters' To Check Their Count & 'Monitor Radicalism'

KC Archana

Jan 23, 2020

A government team of 1,000 'mosque hunters' is travelling across Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, to count just how many mosques there are.

But this drill, authorities said, is not only for statistical purposes but also a way to 'monitor radicalism,' reports AFP.

For the team government lead by Fakhry Affan, it's a herculean task to count each and every mosque in the country with more than 17,000 islands.

In the world's biggest Muslim nation, mosques are apparently being constructed as you read this article and officials say that no one knows just how many there are.

Mosque, mosque everywhere...

“You rarely ever hear of a mosque shutting down. The number will only continue to rise,” Affan said. That's what the 'mosque hunters' are trying to determine using their drones and snapping aerial shots of every mosque they spot.

"Only God knows exactly how many mosques there are in Indonesia," former vice-president Jusuf Kalla told AFP.  "Some say around one million and people will take it for granted," he added.

So far, Affan's team has registered 554,152 mosques and the census - which kicked off in 2013 - is only about 75 per cent done, Affan says.

Earlier government estimates pegged the total at more than 740,000 nationwide.

Nearly 90 per cent of Indonesia's 260 million people are Muslim and it is home to Jakarta's Istiqlal mosque, Southeast Asia's biggest with room for 200,000 worshippers. 

Spread of radicalism.

According to AFP,  the census mainly aims to combat radicalism, which is often spread through sermons.

“Radical ideologies can develop anywhere, and mosques are one of the easiest places to spread such ideologies,” Affan said. “You don’t need to invite anyone to the mosque, people come on their own. We want to ensure that all imams and mosque staff are preaching moderate Islam.”

Muslim hardliners are becoming increasingly vocal in public and the country is home to dozens of extremist groups loyal to Islamic State group's violent ideology.

In 2018, Indonesia's intelligence agency said it had found dozens of mosques that catered to government workers spreading radicalism and calling for violence against non-Muslims - in one Jakarta neighbourhood alone.



Bin Salman hacked Washington Post owner's phone by malicious WhatsApp file: Probe

22 January 2020

A new investigation shows the mobile phone of Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos was hacked in 2018 after receiving a WhatsApp message sent from a number belonging to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS).

The digital forensic analysis, whose results were published by The Guardian on Tuesday, found that it is “highly probable” that the intrusion into Bezos’ phone was triggered by an infected video file sent from bin Salman’s account.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, sources told The Guardian that the two men had been having a seemingly friendly WhatsApp exchange when, on 1 May 2018, the unsolicited file was sent.

Large amounts of data were acquired from Bezos’s phone within a matter of hours, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The Financial Times reported that the malicious file was sent weeks after the pair exchanged numbers at a dinner in Los Angeles.

Cybersecurity expert Anthony Ferrante, who conducted the analysis, said he determined with a “medium to high degree of confidence” that dozens of gigabytes were exfiltrated, possibly with Pegasus spying software.

Saudi Arabia’s US Embassy denied the hacking allegation against the Saudi crown prince.

Saudi experts told The Guardian that Bezos was probably targeted because of his ownership of The Washington Post and its coverage of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Embassy


Recent media reports that suggest the Kingdom is behind a hacking of Mr. Jeff Bezos' phone are absurd. We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out.


6:54 AM - Jan 22, 2020

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It came one year after private information about Bezos was leaked to the American tabloid The National Enquirer.

In January 2019, it published text messages between the billionaire and former Fox television presenter Lauren Sanchez, saying, Bezos had been “caught cheating on his wife of 25 years with the spouse of a Hollywood mogul!”

A month after the publication of that alleged affair, Bezos accused the American Media Incorporated (AMI), The National Enquirer's parent company, of “extortion and blackmail,” saying it had threatened to publish his intimate photos unless he said publicly that the tabloid’s reporting was not politically motivated.

Bezos also stressed that The Washington Post’s “unrelenting coverage” of the murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, was “undoubtedly unpopular in certain circles.”

In an op-ed for The Daily Beast in March 2019, Bezos’ security consultant, Gavin de Becker, wrote, “Our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos’ phone, and gained private information.”

Khashoggi — an outspoken critic of the heir to the Saudi throne — was killed and his body was dismembered by a Saudi hit squad after being lured into the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2, 2018.

The CIA spy agency concluded that the Saudi crown prince had ordered the assassination.

Agnes Callamard, the UN rapporteur investigating Khashoggi's killing, also found “credible evidence” bin Salman and other senior Saudi officials were responsible for the killing.

Middle East expert Andrew Miller said if Bezos had been targeted by bin Salman, it reflected the “personality-based” environment in which the heir to the Saudi throne operates.

“He probably believed that if he got something on Bezos it could shape coverage of Saudi Arabia in the Post. It is clear that the Saudis have no real boundaries or limits in terms of what they are prepared to do in order to protect and advance MBS, whether it is going after the head of one of the largest companies in the world or a dissident who is on their own,” he said.



General Admits Soleimani's Role In Syria's Civil War Long Before Jihadists Emerged

January 22, 2020

The Syrian Defense Minister has implicitly admitted that the Islamic Republic of Iran's military was closely involved in stopping the uprising against the Assad regime, long before the emergence of jihadists fronts such as ISIS and al-Nusra.

A video circulated on social media shows Syrian Minister of Defense, General Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, paying homage to the Chief Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps' Qods Force, Major General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed by a U.S. drone strike on January 3, outside Baghdad international airport.

In the video, the former Chief of the General Staff of the Army and Armed Forces (July 2012- January 2018), and current Minister of Defense of Syria, Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, praising Soleimani for helping to design a plan for the forces loyal to the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to retake Baba Amr, a suburb of the country's third-largest city, Homs, in March 2012.

"I initially met Qassem Soleimani in 2011, and the 1st battle we planned and carried out was in Homs, Baba Amr," Ayyoub disclosed on January 13, while visiting Tehran.

Military analysts immediately branded the victory as a watershed in Syria's civil war at the time. The insurgents, the Free Syrian Army retreated from Baba Amr, the district of the city of Homs under siege by government forces since February 2012 and allowed the Syrian Army to enter and reconquer it in house-to-house "mopping up" operations.

General Ayyoub's comments on Soleimani's vital role refers to the fact that, contrary to the Islamic Republic's claims, the IRGC's extraterritorial arm, Qods Force, had been engaged in the Syrian conflict long before the emergence of ISIS, and Al-Nusra in the war-torn country.

The forces loyal to Assad killed and wounded thousands of civilians to retake the strategic suburb of Homs.

The Islamic Republic has always claimed that its involvement in Syria was to stop extremist Sunni groups from taking over the country, but this account shows it assisted Assad against Syrian opposition.

Hassan Hassan


A big & unprecedented admission from the Syrian regime about Iran’s role in the Syrian uprising’s earliest moments.

Defense Minister Gen Ali Ayub:

“I met Qassem Soleimani in 2011, and the 1st battle we planned & carried out was in Homs, Baba Amr.”

YouTube @YouTube


9:25 PM - Jan 18, 2020

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Speaking to Radio Farda's Elahe Ravanshad, a Germany-based Middle East analyst, Habib Hosseinifard, says that General Ayyoub's remarks are not surprising, "What the Syrian Defense Minister says is not much different from the information we already had from inside Iran. We know that the IRGC General Hossein Hamadani was directly appointed by the IRGC Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani to be his lead person in Syrian affairs. Hamadani was initially sent to Syria in December 2011, years before the emergence of ISIS, al-Nusra, and other extremists.

Citing an interview by Soleimani’s hand-picked general, Hosseinifard quotes him as saying, "The Qods Force Chief Commander Major General Soleimani personally took me to Damascus and introduced me to Syrian officials."

Major General Hamadani died at 64, on October 7. 2015, in battles over Syria's larges-city, Aleppo.

Hamadani had earlier helped to suppress the 2009 election protests in Iran. He was the most senior IRGC commander killed in war-torn Syria, so far.

While in Tehran, General Ayyoub awarded Syria's highest medal of honor, "Hero of the Syrian Arab Republic," on behalf of Bashar al-Assad, to Qassem Soleimani, asking his host, the Iranian Defense Minister, General Amir Hatami, to present it to the family of the fallen commander.



US says Hezbollah works for the Iranian regime, not the Lebanese people

January 22, 2020

LONDON: Hezbollah works for the Iranian regime and not the Lebanese people, a senior US diplomat said as he urged European countries to impose an outright ban on the group.

Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany, made the plea as Lebanon formed a new government made up of ministers nominated by the militant, Iran-backed organization and its allies

The European Union lists Hezbollah’s military wing as a banned terrorist group, but not its political wing, which has been part of Lebanese governments in recent years.

“The EU thus maintains an artificial distinction between Hezbollah’s ‘political wing’ and ‘military wing,’ a division the terror group itself does not recognize,” Grenell said in an opinion article published by Politico.

“The EU’s stated intent for creating this false distinction is to preserve an open channel with Hezbollah and its representatives in the Lebanese government,” he added.

“An EU-wide designation of Hezbollah is necessary to deny it the vast European recruiting and fundraising networks it needs to survive.”

Department of State


Ambassador @RichardGrenell: Hizballah works for the Iranian regime, not the Lebanese people. …

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1:56 AM - Jan 23, 2020

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Grenell said the German parliament last month called on the government to ban the activities of Hezbollah and for the group to be put on the EU’s terrorist list.

The entire Hezbollah organization is designated as a terrorist group by the US, the UK, Canada, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia and Gulf states among others.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week called on “all nations” to classify Hezbollah as

terrorist after the UK said it had added the entire movement to its terrorism blacklist and frozen all its assets.

“Designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization does no harm to US-Lebanese relations, but it does empower the US to disrupt the international criminal networks that help fund Hezbollah’s support for the (Syrian President Bashar) Assad regime and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” he said.

Hezbollah’s large role in the formation of Lebanon’s new government under Prime Minister Hassan Diab is expected to raise concerns over the scale of the group’s hold over the country. The cabinet formed under Prime Minister Hassan Diab is facing mass protests and a dire economic crisis.

Grenell said EU states struggle to reach a consensus on “Hezbollah’s legitimacy due to its political role in Lebanon.”

Washington is “resolute in its efforts to stop the spread of Hezbollah’s terror, but we cannot contain the threat on our own,” he said.



Hundreds show up for Muslim Day at the Capitol in Frankfort

By Maira Ansari

January 22, 2020

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WAVE) - Hundreds of Muslims from around the state were in Frankfort on Wednesday for Muslim Day at the Capitol.

This is the first time such an event like has taken place at the Capitol.

The goal of Muslim Day was to encourage people to get to know their lawmakers, tour the Capitol and voice their opinions on topics important to them.

“A lot of folks don’t know how the political system works so it’s an educational day,” said Athar Khan, a Muslim from Louisville.

Many visiting came prepared to talk about bills that impact their community.

“Anti-bullying bill,” said Dr. Jamil Farooqui, a Muslim from Lexington. “We are very strongly in favor of that. We met the sponsors.”

For many in the crowd like Hamza Foy, it was their first time visiting the Capitol, and they were impressed.

“The size, grandeur of the building, both outside and inside,” Foy said.

Foy converted to Islam when he was 14 years old, graduated from UofL and now works at Louisville MetroSafe.

“I really believe it’s enriched my life, allowed me to learn about different cultures how to navigate people of different values,” Foy said. “The ethical values how to treat yourself, your neighbors, how to treat loved ones, that really drew me in initially.”

Foy sat down with lawmakers, too, on Wednesday, to talk about topics he’s interested in.

“A bill to restore voting rights to felons that have already served their sentence,” Foy said.

A small group near the Capitol held signs opposed to Islamic beliefs and Muslims having their day in Frankfort. They also made their presence known as Muslim students who were visiting the Capitol were leaving and getting on a school bus.

“As far as protesters go, that’s going to happen,” Khan said. “We wish the best and wish peace upon them as well. There is no reason for hate. They may hate us, but we don’t hate them.”

National representatives from the Council on American Islamic Relations also were in attendance for Muslim Day. Organizers said they plan to make it a yearly event.



China bins US propaganda, says CPEC ‘not a debt trap’ for Pakistan

January 23, 2020

ISLAMABAD: A Chinese Embassy spokesperson said on Wednesday that the total loans for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects were about $5.8 billion, which accounted for 5.3 per cent of Pakistan’s total foreign debt.

The loans would be returned in 20-25 years with an interest rate of approximately 2pc, he added.

The comments came from the Chinese Embassy official in response to the criticism of CPEC by US Assistant Secretary of South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells.

“Having no burden on Pakistan, the repayments will start in 2021, with annual reimbursements of about $300 million,” the spokesman maintained. “As China has never forced other countries to pay debts, it wouldn’t be making unreasonable demands on Pakistan.”

Regarding the so-called debt controversy, the spokesman quoted the statistics of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), saying the total foreign debt of Pakistan was $110 billion and that the global lenders, including the Paris Club and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), were in fact the largest creditors of Pakistan.

“The US keeps fabricating the so-called debt story, their mathematics is bad, and their intention is worse. We take strong exception to US interference into Pak-China relations and negative remarks on CPEC,” the spokesperson said.

He continued that China would be happier to see the US develop its relationship with Pakistan, but it strongly opposed the US interference in the CPEC framework.

“We noted that Alice Wells gave negative remarks on CPEC again. The comments hold nothing new, but the same cliché in her November 2019 speech, which has been repeatedly rejected by China and Pakistan.

“However, the US side still ignores the facts and is obsessed with the story it made for CPEC,” the spokesperson said.

He said, “Although you can never wake up a person who’s pretending to be asleep, we have to make our position clear and reject the negative propaganda by the US.”

Highlighting the so far pace of work on CPEC projects, the spokesperson said China and Pakistan have been firmly committed to the principles of mutual consultation and cooperation for shared benefits.

“Major progress has been achieved in the past 5 years, with 32 projects achieving early harvests,” he said, adding that China had significantly improved local transportation infrastructure and power supply, created over 75,000 jobs directly and contributed one to two per cent of the GDP growth in Pakistan.

“Under the CPEC framework, every project is equally discussed, carefully studied and jointly implemented by both countries. The Chinese government always requests its companies to operate according to local laws and regulations. All Chinese companies joining the CPEC enjoy an international reputation.

“All projects strictly follow the market-oriented and internationally accepted business model, adopt state of the art technology and strict environmental protection standards. The entire process is open and transparent and is in line with the international norm.

“We keep in touch with the relative accountability agencies of Pakistan and it is agreed that the CPEC is clean. The US holds a stick of sanction all over the world blacklists this and that country, but it is not for the global economy, just ways to serve its own political purpose.”

Commenting over the railway infrastructure up-gradation project of ML-I, the spokesperson said the project’s initial design was jointly accomplished by the China Railway No 2 Bureau, the National Engineering Services Pakistan Limited (NESPAK), and the Pakistan Railway Advisory & Consultancy Services Ltd (PRACS).

“The project was launched in 2016, and the initial design was submitted in May 2017. In April 2019, it successfully passed the initial design review, organized by Pakistan Railways (PR), of the complex including Mott McDonald Pakistan (MMP), Canarail and the Crimson. As the project hasn’t yet been approved, the amounts of the project will be adjusted according to the actual condition and the needs of Pakistan.”

“After finalizing the project design, a bidding process would be initiated in accordance with international practice.”





Nigeria: UN Condemns Boko Haram Attack On North-East Facilities, Aid Workers

21 JANUARY 2020

This Day (Lagos)

By Michael Olugbode

Maiduguri — The United Nations has condemned an attack by Boko Haram on its facilities and aid workers in the troubled North-east of Nigeria.

A statement yesterday by the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr. Edward Kallon, condemned Saturday's attack on its humanitarian hub in Ngala, a Nigerian border town with Cameroon.

It had last Thursday expressed apprehension over the growing insecurity in the area, even as some of its workers in some Borno towns had been recalled to the state capital, Maiduguri.

Kallon said: "On the evening of Saturday, January 18, the humanitarian hub in Ngala was the direct target of a complex assault by heavily armed non-state armed groups operatives. An entire section of the facility was burnt down as well as one of the few vehicles UN agencies rely on for movement and aid delivery. Protective security measures deployed at the humanitarian hub prevented any harm to the staff, who were in the facility.

"I am shocked by the violence and intensity of this attack, which is the latest of too many incidents directly targeting humanitarian actors and the assistance we provide.

"I am relieved all staff are now safe and secure. Aid workers, humanitarian facilities and assets cannot be a target and must be protected and respected at all times."

He warned that continuous attacks on UN facilities in the North-east would hinder efforts at assisting vulnerable people who depend on assistance to survive.

"Many of them had already fled violence in their area of origin and were hoping to find safety and assistance in Ngala. This also jeopardises the ability for aid workers to stay and deliver assistance to the people most in need in remote areas in Borno State," he added.

He called on "all parties to the conflict to respect the principles of humanity, neutrality, independence and impartiality", which guide the assistance the humanitarian community delivers in the North-east.

"The United Nations and NGO partners in Nigeria are working to bring vital assistance to over seven million people in the crisis-affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. They are increasingly the target of attacks. Twelve aid workers lost their lives in 2019, which is twice the number in the previous year.

"Two aid workers remain in the captivity of non-state armed groups - ACF staff member, Grace Taku abducted near Damasak in July 2019, and Alice Loksha, a nurse and a mother, kidnapped during an attack in Rann in March 2018. The United Nations and its humanitarian partners call for their immediate and safe release.

"Aid workers are providing assistance to more than 55,000 people in the town of Ngala, near the border with Cameroon. In 2019, over 10,000 people arrived in Ngala, searching for security and basic services. Humanitarian hubs in Borno State are critical to the humanitarian response. They provide operating environments for aid workers in remote locations where some of the most vulnerable people live or have sought refuge," the statement said.



Seven Nigerian troops killed in militants attack

January 23, 2020

Seven soldiers were killed on Tuesday when Daesh-affiliated militants attacked a military position in northeastern Nigeria, two military sources told the media.

Fighters in several trucks fitted with machine guns attacked a military position in Mainok village, 56 kilometres (35 miles) from Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, they said on Wednesday

"We lost seven men in the attack by the terrorists. Two soldiers went missing and five soldiers were injured," the first source said.

The second source confirmed the toll, adding that the militants destroyed two military guntrucks and three anti-aircraft machine guns.

Borno state police spokesman Edet Okon said in a statement that four guntrucks, including two seized from the army in the attack, had been recovered.

The assailants are suspected members of the Daesh West Africa Province (ISWAP), a group that split from Boko Haram in 2016 and has stepped attacks against the military since mid-2018.

The group has increasingly been abducting motorists at bogus checkpoints in Borno state, targeting security personnel, anti-militant militia and Christians.

Mainok lies along the 120-km highway linking Maiduguri and Damaturu, the capital of neighbouring Yobe state.

The village has suffered a rise in militant abductions, prompting increased military deployments.

Last week Wednesday four soldiers were killed and seven injured when ISWAP militants attacked troops in Auno village along the same highway, days after 11 troops were killed in nearby Jakana village.

Full report at:



West African presidents urge U.S. to stay in the fight against terrorism

By Danielle Paquette

Jan. 21, 2020

LOME, Togo — West African leaders are urging the United States to stay in the fight against extremist groups that are rooting deeper into the region as the Pentagon weighs a significant troop pullout from the continent.

Parts of the Sahel, a dry stretch of land south of the Sahara Desert, have fallen to militants linked to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda who are offering shelter to fighters fleeing the Middle East, the presidents of Senegal and Togo told The Washington Post in separate interviews.

“If one actor leaves the chain, it weakens the whole group,” Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé said.

Pressure builds against the Pentagon as it weighs reducing troop numbers in Africa

The heads of state, whose nations border a worsening conflict, said the international community must unite against the attackers. Both expressed concern that terrorism is on the brink of spilling into their countries, which have not previously grappled with such a threat.

Withdrawing U.S. troops as Islamist violence surges would be a “mistake,” Senegalese President Macky Sall said in his first public comments on the matter.

“It would be a mistake, and it would be very misunderstood by Africans,” he said, “because instead of coming to help, you wish to remove the little help there is.”

Gnassingbé, Togo’s leader of 15 years, said militants from Iraq and Syria are slipping into the region through restive Libya, where they aim to radicalize locals and build an army.

“Those terrorists will be stronger here,” Gnassingbé said, so the United States should “fight on both ends — in the Middle East and in Africa.”

The Pentagon is considering a force drawdown in Africa to accommodate a shift in defense priorities to the Asia-Pacific region.

Some 6,000 U.S. troops are based on the continent. About a quarter are stationed in West Africa, mostly in Niger, where they provide training, drone support and intelligence.

French President Emmanuel Macron has called the help “irreplaceable.”

Roughly 4,500 French troops partner with U.S. forces, regional soldiers and U.N. peacekeepers in West Africa.

Islamist militants are targeting Christians in Burkina Faso: ‘They are planting seeds of a religious conflict’

President Trump has tweeted that he wants to remove American soldiers from “ridiculous Endless Wars” across the world. Administration officials say the United States should focus on countering Chinese and Russian influence in Africa.

Authorities and residents in the Sahel are worried that the world is reacting too slowly to a crisis that is killing thousands, displacing millions and threatening to trigger global consequences.

“ISIS and al-Qaeda affiliates that have attacked us in the United States in the past are expanding their reach in the region,” said Andrew Young, the U.S. ambassador to Burkina Faso. ISIS is another name for the Islamic State.

Terrorist attacks in rural Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso have climbed fivefold since 2016, according to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies in Washington.

Assailants are chasing people off their ancestral land and rapidly gaining territory to plot attacks on targets worldwide, Western officials say. They have massacred troops at army bases and stolen sophisticated equipment.

Suspected Islamist militants kill 25 soldiers in Niger

International aid workers who deliver food and medical supplies to victims in these conflict zones say the areas where they can safely travel shrink with each passing month, leaving people to fend for themselves in villages that the government can no longer reach.

West African leaders have pledged to spend $1 billion over the next five years to fight extremism, but governments in the Sahel are struggling against more basic problems, such as a lack of drinking water.

Over the past month, suspected terrorists have attacked a humanitarian outpost in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno state, killing 27, and an army base in western Niger, killing 89.

Fourteen people, mostly children, died in northern Burkina Faso when their bus hit a roadside bomb, and 18 soldiers were wounded in neighboring Mali after assailants struck a United Nations base.

France to deploy more soldiers to West Africa, where terrorist groups are growing

As the violence creeps closer to West Africa’s coastal states, leaders are focused on securing borders and sharing intelligence with their regional counterparts.

The presidents of Senegal and Togo met in the Togolese capital of Lome over the weekend at a conference on fake medicine.

Gnassingbé, the Togolese leader, said “thousands” of fighters from the Middle East have reached West Africa since the collapse of the Islamic State in Syria.

He disputed Trump’s claim that the terrorist group has been “100 percent” defeated.

“Look at the recent attacks,” Gnassingbé said. “More professional, more powerful, and the consequences are devastating.”

Fake drugs kill people and fund terrorism. African leaders hope to do something about it.

There is little data on foreign militants operating in West Africa, but two senior U.S. officials in the region say fighters from Syria and Iraq have turned up in Nigeria and Mali. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media on the matter.

Islamic State and al-Qaeda affiliates that once clashed now appear to be trading advice on building explosives, collecting taxes and recruiting people, and allowing one another safe passage through areas they control, the officials said.

Many militants are homegrown, security analysts say. They are a diverse, complex mix of radical ideologues, men who were captured as children, bandits exploiting chaos and people with nowhere else to turn.

Full report at:



Militants kill 36 civilians in Burkina Faso market attack

JANUARY 22, 2020

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Thirty-six civilians were killed in Burkina Faso on Monday in what the government called a terrorist attack on a market in Sanmatenga province.

Armed militants forced their way into the market of the village of Alamou and attacked people there before burning the structure to the ground, the government said in a statement on Tuesday.

The bloodshed is part of a surge in violence in the West African country that has killed hundreds, forced nearly a million from their homes and made much of the north ungovernable over the past two years.

“These repeated attacks on innocent civilians call for real cooperation between defense and security forces,” the government said.

Full report at:



Islamic Extremists Kill Nigerian Pastor, Attack His Hometown

Jan. 22, 2020

LAGOS, Nigeria — Islamic militants in Nigeria have killed a Christian pastor who had pleaded for his life in a video just days earlier, and a human rights activist said Tuesday that other extremists attacked his hometown on the same day.

The Rev. Lawan Andimi was abducted earlier this month when Boko Haram militants attacked the Michika local government area, where he was the chairman of a local chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria. He was killed on Monday.

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari condemned Andimi's slaying, calling it “cruel, inhuman and deliberately provocative.”

“I am greatly saddened by the fact that the terrorists went on to kill him even while giving signals of a willingness to set him free by releasing him to third parties,” Buhari tweeted.

Osai Ojigho, director of Amnesty International in Nigeria, called it “appalling” that Boko Haram followed up Andimi's killing on Monday with an attack on his hometown in the Chibok local government area of northeastern Borno state.

In April 2014, 276 girls were abducted from the Government Secondary School in Chibok. More than 100 are still missing nearly six years later.

Andimi is the latest Christian to be killed by Boko Haram or a breakaway faction that has ties to the Islamic State group.

On Friday, the Islamic State's West Africa Province, known as ISWAP, released a video which showed a hooded child with pistol in hand execute a Christian man. On Christmas Day, ISWAP killed nine Christians along with two other captives.

Full report at:



Haftar forces threaten to hit civilian planes in Libya

Enes Canli  



Forces loyal to Libya's renegade commander Khalifa Haftar Wednesday declared Libya's capital of Tripoli and its surrounding areas as a "no-fly zone" and threatened to hit civilian planes.

Ahmed Al-Mismari, spokesman for Haftar forces, said on social media forces declared the off-limit area from Giryan, 120 kilometers (75 miles) south of the capital city, to Terhune city, 90 kilometers southeast (56 miles) and to the Tripoli beach, including Mitiga Airport in the capital.

He said all planes in the declared area would be a "legitimate" target.

The militias bombed the Mitiga International Airport with six Grad missiles earlier Wednesday.

On Jan. 12, parties in Libya announced a cease-fire in response to a joint call by the Turkish and Russian leaders. But talks for a permanent cease-fire deal ended without an agreement after Haftar left Moscow without signing the deal.

On Sunday, Haftar accepted terms in Berlin to designate members to a UN-proposed military commission with five members from each side to monitor implementation of the cease-fire.

Since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: warlord Khalifa Haftar in eastern Libya, supported mainly by Egypt and the UAE, and the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, which enjoys the UN and international recognition.

Full report at:



Libya: Haftar's militias bomb Tripoli's Mitiga Airport

Walid Abdullah 



Libyan government forces announced on Wednesday that the militias of warlord Khalifa Haftar bombed the Mitiga International Airport in the capital Tripoli, in a new breach of the cease-fire.

Mohammed Kanunu, spokesman for the forces of the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), said in a statement that the militias bombed the airport with six Grad missiles.

Qanounu did not give further details on human or material losses.

"The bombing is a flagrant threat to the air navigation movement, and a new and repeated breach of the ceasefire by Haftar's militias," he added.

According to an Anadolu Agency correspondent, the first flight has landed at the airport a few hours after the attack.

The arrival of the flight coming from Tunisia had got delayed due to the attack.

On Jan. 12, the conflict parties announced a cease-fire in response to a joint call by the Turkish and Russian leaders. But the talks for a permanent cease-fire deal ended without an agreement after Haftar left Moscow without signing the deal.  

On Sunday, Haftar accepted in Berlin to designate members to a UN-proposed military commission with five members from each side to monitor implementation of the cease-fire.

Full report at:





Allahabad HC upholds ban on loudspeakers in mosques

January 23, 2020

Prayagraj: The Allahabad High Court has refused to quash an administrative order that banned the use of loudspeakers for ‘azaan’ at two mosques in Baddopur and Shahganj villages of Jaunpur district in Uttara Pradesh.

The court in its order on Wednesday stated that no religion advocates the use of loudspeakers for worship.

“No religion prescribes that prayers are required to be performed through voice amplifiers or by beating of drums… If there is such a practice, it should not adversely affect the rights of the others, including that of not being disturbed,” said the division bench of Justice Pankaj Mittal and Justice V.C. Dixit.

The court dismissed the petition filed by one Masroor Ahmad and a fellow resident of Jaunpur.

The court cited a similar 2000 Supreme Court judgment — Church of God (Full Gospel) vs KKR Majestic Colony Welfare Association — where the apex court said that freedom to practice religion was subject to public order, morality and health.

The division bench also dismissed the petitioners’ argument that using loudspeakers to call people to join in the ‘namaaz’ at specific times was an essential part of their religion.

“The fundamental right to religious freedom under Article 25(1) of the Constitution is not absolute. It is subject to Article 19(1)(a) (freedom of speech and expression), and thus both of them have to be read together,” the court pointed out.

The petitioners had submitted an application in March last year, seeking permission to use loudspeakers.

The circle officer of Shahganj had also said in his report submitted to the court that the areas in which these two mosques were located had a mixed population of Hindus and Muslims and allowing the use of amplifiers could lead to a law and order problem.



Muslim professionals strengthen anti-CAA protests across Telangana

Jan 23, 2020

HYDERABAD: Recent weeks have seen thousands of people from across the city and the state taking to the streets protesting the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). However, one of the striking features about these protests is that several Muslim professionals have slipped into the role of an activist. Many of them organised or helped organise the protests in a big way.

For instance, as many as 800 advocates, mostly from the community, joined Telangana State Advocates Joint Action Committee (JAC) within just 15 days after it was floated.

There are about 7,000 practising advocates in the state. The JAC approached several professionals who can help out with the protests, and the committee includes a few non-Muslim advocates, and women, too. “We are trying to get in touch with as many people as possible, we were very active at Nampally criminal court, and other courts around the city,” founder of the group, Suhail Malik, who now dons the role of a public relations officer, told TOI. “Many people from the districts will also join us soon.”

The group mainly renders legal help free of cost to activists who were arrested during the protests, besides participating in anti-CAA protests. “Group members debate on these subjects to enhance their knowledge and to help people,” said Hameed, one of the key members of the JAC. He said that the group has been able to help many people.

Interestingly, the group is being approached by several NGOs and religious groups to seek clarity and information on National Population Register (NPR) and National Register of Citizens (NRC). “Many people are worried as they do not have birth certificate, so we explain them about NPR and how to apply for birth certificate,” said a member of the JAC.

Full report at:



Before CAA, string of government orders made it impossible for Muslim migrants to get Indian citizenship

Jan 22, 2020

BENGALURU/MUMBAI: Even as protests over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act rage across India, a review of government orders (GO) by TOI shows that the government has been steadily placing hurdles in the way of Muslims seeking Indian citizenship since December 2014.

The most significant GO is the October 22, 2018 amendment to the Passport (Entry into India) Rules, 1950 and Foreigners Act, 1946, discriminating against Muslims and atheists for the grant of long-term visas (LTVs). The changed LTV regulations say, “Only members of minority communities in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, are eligible to apply for long-term visas.”


Under the Citizenship Act of 1955, a residential permit, or LTV, is one of the main requirements for getting Indian citizenship through naturalisation. Denying LTVs to Muslim migrants, in effect, filters them out of the process from the start, regardless of the passage of the CAA this year.

Lawyers have now moved the Supreme Court seeking the repeal of the CAA and some of these government orders. The first hearing on the plea is scheduled in the Supreme Court on January 22. The Joint Forum Against NRC has been working on this since 2016, when the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) was introduced, said activist Prasenjit Bose, who has challenged the CAA and some of these government orders in the SC. “We realised that the foundation for the CAA was laid long before it was enacted,” Bose said.

Lawyers say the orders discriminate on grounds of religion and should be deemed unconstitutional as per Article 14 of the Constitution. “The LTV rules could have been separately challenged as being ultra vires the act,” said Sanjay Hegde, a Supreme Court lawyer. “Amendments to the Citizenship Act now seek to put parliamentary approval on what prima facie appear to be discriminatory rules. The mere existence of earlier discriminatory rules does not in any manner validate discriminatory legislation,” Hegde said.

“As human rights workers, we feel the government orders of 2015 and 2017 amending the passport rules are violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. We demand that they be immediately repealed or amended to include all migrants, irrespective of religion, from all neighbouring countries,” said Teesta Setalvad, activist with the Centre for Justice and Peace.

Emails sent to officials at the ministry of external affairs remained unanswered. However, an MEA official who declined to be named said, “No one should feel jealous or angry towards refugees. These are people fleeing extreme conditions of violence and unrest, so the government has granted a special exemption to them.”

Lawyers say the government’s moves are a human rights issue more than a legal one. “When it comes to the CAA-NRC-NPR, they have already said Aadhaar, voter ID cards and passports are not proof of citizenship, only ancestry is. When you place the burden of proof on a country with more than 270 million people living below the poverty line, it would be fair to surmise many do not have such documents,” said Nikhil Narendran, a lawyer.

Narendran pointed out the government orders are also problematic as they recognise only religious persecution of specific communities. “Ahmadiyya Muslims from Pakistan and Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar also face religious persecution, as do atheists in Bangladesh. There are other forms of persecution, such as ethnic persecution that Sri Lankan Tamils faced. There’s also the question of linguistic persecution, which led to Bengali-speaking Muslims fleeing to Assam in large numbers, giving rise to the current NRC exercise there.”

Full report at:



Atrocities inflicted on UP Muslims, Rule of law collapsed: Jury

January 21, 2020

Lucknow: Little do we know about the Yogi government violence that targeted only one section of people that is the Muslim community, brutally killing people, shooting them to death.

The ruling government’s barbarism against protestors opposing CAA, NPR, NRIC is not only witnessed in UP but also in varsities where the future generations has been attacked, assaulted, shamefully by none other than the uniformed keepers of law and order, the Telegraph reported.

Jamia Millia Islamia University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Aligarh University were targetted, the keepers of law turned savage against these centres targeting students, staff.

Meanwhile, the women of Shaheen Bagh continue to silently protest as they shed light through wintry nights on the aspirations of their fellow citizens across India.

Surprisingly, however, very scant attention has been paid to the extraordinary horrors inflicted on the hapless Muslims of Uttar Pradesh with the State CM misusing power, sheltering behind the Constitution claiming to take revenge against this community with inadequate reportage from media that has kept these chilling details under wraps not exposing it to the outside world.

UP State’s administration, including the police, did become clear as a reign of terror that was unleashed on the Muslims.

Soon after little reportage of the terror, the police army unleashed on Muslims, a “people’s tribunal” was held in Delhi on January 16 to expose the shocking chain of events that swept the capital as well as the western Uttar Pradesh.

The fate of UP Muslims became a casualty in the state with increased hate assault by the keepers of the law.

Following the incidents, assaults against the community, a jury for the people’s tribunal was set up comprising of former justices of the Supreme Court, a former chief justice of Delhi High Court, eminent academics and retired civil servants.

The jury was “deeply worried and dismayed by the testimonies placed before it. It is convinced that the entire state machinery, led from the top, acted with grave prejudice and perpetrated violence targeting one particular community, the state’s Muslim population, and the social activists leading the movement”.

Having heard the testimonies of lawyers, field workers, human rights defenders, civil society activists, doctors and eyewitnesses and watching the videos of victims, the jury opined that “the UP police has been guilty of inflicting enormous violence targeting the Muslim community, peaceful protesters, and not even sparing those (who) were not involved in the protest”.

The police brutality also included “the arrest of and filing of false cases against innocent people; the destruction of vehicles and property by entering people’s homes, as well as CCTV cameras; threats to and intimidation of people picked up (for) speaking the truth about what happened; communalized abuses against victims; custody violence even on minors; firing and killing people without following the law; preventing medical personnel from treating the injured and threatening the injured against accessing medical care”.

The jury also came to the understanding that the victims’ complaints about police brutality, violence and destruction of property were either not filed or were filed incorrectly while, on the other hand, thousands of FIRs were filed against unnamed people on the charge that they had become violent, the intention to continue harassment and intimidation.

The jury also found that the notices issued to the public for the damage allegedly caused to public property, without specifying culpability in a court of law, was entirely illegal.

Surprisingly, one of the most chilling revelations to have emerged from the tribunal was the repeated charge that none of the hospitals would admit even seriously injured people as they were apparently concerned about displeasing the government, as a sequence many individuals lost their lives.

Such conduct on the part of the state or the institution would be a violation of Article 21, Supreme Court rulings and international treaties to which India is a signatory, besides the matter of the Hippocratic oath.

Allegations of ambulances were not provided when necessary, when the Red Cross is honoured even in war also made it to the jury.

Full report at:



India to ignore what Trump said on Kashmir to Imran

Jan 23, 2020

NEW DELHI/ISLAMABAD: India is not likely to react strongly to US President Donald Trump’s remarks on Kashmir to Pakistani PM Imran Khan during their conversation in Davos even as Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Trump had assured Khan that he would visit Islamabad soon.

Apart from the view in government there isn’t really anything significant that the US president has committed to, New Delhi would not like to sour the atmosphere before Trump’s visit here next month. Trump is scheduled to visit India for the first time on February 24.

Senior government sources said, “Our position on the Kashmir issue has been clear and consistent. There is no role for any third party in this matter. There is nothing further to add.” They also pointed out that Trump did not himself mention either “mediation” or “facilitation” in his remarks.

Asked if he would visit Pakistan while heading out to India, Trump said, "We are visiting right now, so we won't really have to. But I wanted to say hello for both a relationship standpoint...we have had a great relationship.” He added that US-Pakistan relations were at their closest at present.

Qureshi, however, claimed Trump had assured Khan that he would visit Pakistan soon but did not specify when the visit would take place. Ahead of US elections, it is difficult to see Trump embarking on a politically fraught visit.

On Kashmir, sources said Trump’s position had not changed, and he had stuck to saying US is “following it very, very closely” without committing to any particular direction. "We are talking about Kashmir and with relation to what's going on with Pakistan and India. If we can help, we certainly will be helping. We have been watching it and following it very, very closely," Trump said.

The president’s visit to India will be used to sign off on a trade deal that has been remarkably difficult to close. This week, commerce minister Piyush Goyal is expected to hold another round of talks with his counterpart Robert Lighthizer in Davos.

US ambassador Ken Juster recently led a group of foreign envoys to J&K on a visit that was intended to show that while the internal conditions may not be optimal, there was enough to be optimistic about. Balancing out the positive feedback was a cautionary tweet by the US state department urging the Indian government to release local politicians who had been detained and to restore internet communications in the Valley.

Khan, however, kept India upfront. In his remarks, he said, "There are issues that we want to talk about, like Afghanistan. Fortunately, we are on the same page... India, of course, it is a big issue. We always hope that the US will play its part in resolving that because no other country can."

Full report at:



Terrorist gunned down in Awantipora encounter

Jan 22, 2020

SRINAGAR: Security forces killed a terrorist in Awantipora, in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, on Wednesday, a day after an Army jawan and SPO of J&K Police’s special operations group (SOG) were slain in an encounter at the same site. The exchange of fire continued in the area till reports last came in.

The two-day-long anti-insurgency operation began early on Tuesday with a joint team of Army’s 50 RR, CRPF’s 185 Bn and J&K Police’s SOG launching a cordon-and-search operation in Zantrag area of Khrew, Awantipora. The holed-in terrorists opened fire at the search party, triggering an encounter in which the two security personnel lost their lives.

Soon after, the joint operation was halted even as the forces launched a search in the area for slain or hidden terrorists. The search continued all night till early Wednesday. “In the morning, when the debris was being cleared, holed-in terrorists opened fire at the forces, triggering off the encounter again. In the ensuing gunbattle, one terrorist was killed. His identity is yet to be ascertained,” said a police spokesperson.

Full report at:



BSF jawan arrested for delivering parcel bomb at Samba camp

Jan 22, 2020

JAMMU: A BSF jawan, said to be an expert in handling explosives, was arrested in connection with the delivery of a parcel bomb at his camp in Jammu and Kashmir’s Samba district, official sources said on Wednesday. The suspicious parcel containing an improvised explosive device was seized on January 5.

“The parcel, addressed to the force’s second-in-command Gurvinder Singh, was delivered by unidentified persons at the main gate of 173 Bn headquarters at Panjtella. Singh got suspicious about it and informed the bomb disposal squad,” said a police officer.

A case was subsequently registered under relevant sections of the IPC and Explosive Substances Act and an investigation launched, which led cops to zero-in on constable Samarpal. A native of Kolkata, the jawan was detained from his residence in Hubli area on January 10 and later arrested, said the officer. “He was produced before the court for police remand and further investigation,” he added.

Full report at:



644 terrorists surrender along with 177 arms in Assam

Jan 23, 2020

GUWAHATI: A total of 644 terrorists of eight banned insurgent outfits surrendered in Assam on Thursday along with 177 arms, police said.

The members of the insurgent groups -- ULFA (I), NDFB, RNLF, KLO, CPI (Maoist), NSLA, ADF and NLFB -- surrendered in presence of Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal at a programme here.

"This is an important day for the state and the Assam Police. Altogether 644 cadres and leaders of eight terrorist groups laid down their arms," director general of police Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta told reporters.

Full report at:



Held Hizbul man planned major attack ahead of Republic Day, says intel

Jan 23, 2020

The Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) militant arrested along with a Jammu and Kashmir police officer this month was planning to deliver explosives in Pulwama for major attacks his group was planning to launch ahead of the Republic Day celebrations on January 26, according to a Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) input shared with the security agencies last week.

Naveed Babu, the HM’s operations chief for south and central Kashmir, was arrested while he was travelling to Jammu with deputy police superintendent Davinder Singh and two others on January 11.

According to an input, Babu was to deliver the explosives to his HM associates, who were likely to carry out attacks in Zadoora and also plant an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) on the Niwa-Pakherpora road near Pulwama. The January 15 DIA input, a copy of which HThas accessed, calls Babu the “master terror recruiter” and an “IED expert”.

A car bomb attack on a paramilitary convoy in Pulwama last year left 40 troopers dead and prompted India to launch an air strike on a terror camp in Pakistan.

Babu is HM’s second-in-command after Riyaz Nikoo. He is accused of involvement in a spate of civilian killings last year and also those of police officers and snatching of weapons from security forces.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is probing Singh’s links with Babu and other terror operators in the Valley, on Wednesday raided Singh’s residence in Srinagar. It is scrutinising the documents recovered from Singh. His staff will also be questioned about the people who would visit Singh’s at his residence and office, according to the officials aware of the matter.

An officer said records and CCTV footage from the Srinagar airport, where Singh was last posted with the anti-hijacking unit, will also be checked to see if any unauthorised people were given entry.

Another officer added that inquiries were being done in Srinagar, Qazigund and Kulgam districts. Singh’s call records and emails were also being checked to find whether any sensitive information had been shared with militants.

The second officer cited above said they will also examine Singh’s role in other cases pertaining to the capture of militant and over-ground workers over the last few years in districts where he was posted.

The Jammu and Kashmir police have dismissed Singh and stripped him of a medal for gallantry. They have said that they will also investigate Singh’s links with 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.

Full report at:



Militant killed on second day of Pulwama gunfight

Jan 22, 2020

Ashiq Hussain

Srinagar: One militant was killed in a gunfight with security forces at Khrew in south Kashmir’s Pulwama after the operation resumed on Wednesday. The encounter, which left an army man and a cop dead, had begun on Tuesday.

J&K Director General of Police Dilbag Singh said the counter insurgency operation resumed at Khrew in the morning. “The Khrew operation was resumed in the morning after being suspended late on Tuesday,” Singh said after the wreath-laying ceremony for the slain policeman here.

In a tweet later, Kashmir police confirmed the killing of one militant. “The operation is still going on,” deputy inspector general of police, south Kashmir, Atul Kumar Goel said in the evening.

“Security forces had launched an operation in Khrew and there were inputs that two terrorists were hiding in a house. As the operation started, there was exchange of fire, in which an army jawan [Rahul Rainswal] and SPO Shahzad Ahmad were martyred,” DGP Singh said.

He paid tribute to both the slain security men. “The lives of our martyrs won’t go waste,” he said. Chinar Corps Commander Lt Gen KJS Dhillon also paid tribute to late Sepoy Rahul Rainswal at BB Cantt.

An army spokesman said that Rainswal was part of a Cordon & Search Operation team when he was fired upon, causing him severe injuries. He was immediately evacuated to 92 Base Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

Twenty-six-year-old Rainswal had joined the Army in 2013. He belonged to village Riyasi Vamangaon of Champawat District, Uttarakhand, and is survived by his wife and a daughter.

Full report at:



India at UN: Pakistan ‘spews venom’, takes to hate speech as fish takes to water

January 23, 2020

India has slammed Pakistan for “spewing venom and false narratives” of monumental proportions in the United Nations, saying it takes to hate speech like fish takes to water and “obfuscates” the international community from the truth as Islamabad yet again raked up the Kashmir issue at the world body.

Last week, Islamabad failed in its efforts to get any traction from the membership of the UN Security Council when its ‘all-weather ally’ China made another pitch to raise the issue in the 15-nation Council. There was consensus among the rest of the Council members that Kashmir is a bilateral matter between India and Pakistan.

India’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador K Nagaraj Naidu, speaking at a session of the General Assembly on ‘Report of the Secretary-General on the Work of the Organization’ on Wednesday, said Pakistan “indulges in confabulations and obfuscates the international community from the truth” instead of putting an end to the “bellicose and vitriolic diatribe” and taking steps to restore normal ties.

“Just like a fish takes to water, one delegation has again taken to hate speech. Every time this delegation speaks, it spews venom and false narratives of monumental proportions.

“It’s extremely surprising that a country that has completely decimated its minority population talks about protecting minorities. Pakistan’s practice of using false pretenses to distract from addressing the malaise that afflicts it has run its course. Pakistan needs to reflect that there are no takers for its false rhetoric and should get down to the normal business of diplomacy,” Naidu said.

The Indian diplomat’s strong response came after Saad Ahmed Warraich, Counsellor at Pakistan mission to the UN, raised the issue of Jammu and Kashmir in his remarks during the session, saying no other situation reflects the “abdication” of the UN’s responsibility to discharge its responsibilities more than the decades-old Jammu and Kashmir issue.

China’s latest attempt to raise the Kashmir issue at the UN Security Council on Pakistan’s behalf failed last week, with an overwhelming majority of the body expressing the view that it was not the right forum to discuss the bilateral issue between India and Pakistan.

It was China’s third such attempt to raise the Kashmir issue at the UNSC since August last when the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution was scrapped by the government, and the state was bifurcated into two union territories.

“We once again saw an effort made by one member state of the UN, fail in plain view of all others. We are happy that neither alarmist scenario painted by the representatives of Pakistan nor any of the baseless allegations made repeatedly by representatives of Pakistan in the UN fora were found to be credible today,” India’s Permenent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin said last week.

Full report at:



A bit of Punjab in Shaheen Bagh

by Raakhi Jagga

January 23, 2020

Over the past week, several organisations from Punjab have been heading to Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, the epicentre of protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, where countless people, especially women, have been participating in a sit-in for more than a month now.

Among the first to reach there, last Wednesday was a group of Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahan). They arrived armed with ration and cooked langar for the protesters. “We cooked langar for them for a day. We also provided them with ration items like milk, wheat flour, rice, tea leaves, sugar etc. Around 350 of us went in 5 buses and a tempo traveller. Members of Punjab Students Union (Randhawa), Naujawan Bharat Sabha and Lok Morcha Punjab had also gone with us. We participated in their dharna for a day, did langar Sewa and came back on January 16. It was our way to extend support to them as we too want that no one should be discriminated against in CAA,” Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan, general secretary of BKU (Ugrahan), told The Indian Express.

He added, “Now we will be participating in a state-level anti CAA dharna in Malerkotla on February 16. We are on the same page with Shaheen Bagh protesters, but we will be extending support to them from Punjab only for the coming days.”

Not only the above-mentioned unions, on January 19, a group of workers of SAD (Taksali) along with their leaders also went to Shaheen Bagh. Confirming the same, Sewa Singh Sekhwan, SAD Taksali leader said,” Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, Karnail Singh Peer Mohammad, Bir Devinder Singh and few other leaders went in this dharna where we extended our support to them. We are of the opinion that Muslims should not be left out in CAA.”

A joint action committee comprising 70 organisations is also staging an indefinite protest in Malerkotla. On Wednesday, they entered the 14th day of their protest at Sirhindi gate. Nadeem Anwar Khan, the convener of this committee, said, “We went to Shaheen Bagh on January 18 and came back on January 20. We took some dry ration along with us for children like tetra packs of milk, water bottles, biscuits, rusk, as well as colours, pencils, copies etc. This Malerkotla dharna is also going on in solidarity with the Shaheen Bagh protest only. In the coming days, we may visit Shaheen Bagh again. Otherwise, we will be organising a state-level protest on February 16 in Malerkotla itself. This is our way to extend support to the Shaheen Bagh protest.”

Full report at:



Muzaffarnagar anti-CAA protests: FIR shows arrests on spot but weapons seized 18 hrs later, 500 meters from thana

by Kaunain Sheriff M

January 23, 2020

In Muzaffarnagar on December 20 last year, the Uttar Pradesh police said, protesters “armed with weapons” indulged in rioting and arson in protests against the new citizenship law. In the FIR filed at 2.30 am on December 21, police named 107 people, charging all of them with attempt to murder. However, despite making 73 arrests, the FIR had one glaring discrepancy: it made no mention of when and where the weapons were seized by the police and what type these were.

Those details, now available in court records accessed by The Indian Express, raise questions over the police version of the incident.

Despite the case being related to rioting and alleged damage of public property by the accused, the police did not seize any weapons from any of the identified accused on the day the incident took place.

Second, the police now claim that they seized the weapons many hours later.

These startling facts have been put on record by the Muzaffarnagar police before the court of District & Sessions Judge, which is hearing a clutch of bail petitions.

“…After the incident took place on December 20, 2019, a day later on December 21, 2019 and from the spot where the incident took place, three country-made pistol, .315 bore, three country-made 12 bore, three SBBL 12 bore, one DBL country-made gun, three knives, three swords, 30 khoka bullets, seven live bullets, eight khoka bullets 12 bore, three bullets .315 bore, four khoka bullets 32 bore, one live bullet 31 bore, two live bullets 12 bore and four live bullets 12 bore revolver have been seized,” the police reply to the court states.

Court records show that these weapons were seized by the police 18 hours after the incident and at a place barely “500 m from the Civil Line police station.”

“Clearly, people have been falsely implicated,” said one of the lawyers of the accused. “Were the weapons lying near the police station all this while?”

Significantly, rules say that seizure of weapons has to be done in the presence of an independent witness. But records show no such witness present.

Replying in court, the police said that their officials who were present on duty “suffered injuries and were taken for medical examination” on the day the incident took place.

The Muzaffarnagar SP did not respond to calls and messages seeking a comment.

Full report at:



Brazil President Bolsonaro arrives tomorrow, pact on trade, tackling terror on table

by Shubhajit Roy

January 23, 2020

An action plan to boost strategic partnership, a pact on combating international terrorism and transnational organised crimes, a bilateral investment cooperation and facilitation agreement, and a mutual legal assistance in criminal matters are among the 15-odd pacts on the table as Brazil’s President Jair Messias Bolsonaro arrives on Friday for a three-day state visit.

Sources said the two countries are working overtime to sign pacts on social security, judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters, health and medicine, cyber security, geology and mineral cooperation, bio-energy, oil and natural gas, cultural exchanges from 2020-24, science and technology cooperation 2020-23, among other topics.

Bolsonaro will travel first to Agra and then meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on January 25. He will attend the Republic Day celebrations on January 26 as the chief guest and then attend the President’s ‘At Home’ reception.

Bolsonaro will be accompanied by seven ministers, chairman of the Brazil-India Friendship Group in Brazilian Parliament, senior officials and a large business delegation.

The last Presidential visit from Brazil was by President Michel Temer in October 2016 on the sidelines of the eighth BRICS Summit in Goa. Modi visited Brasilia to attend the 11th BRICS Summit in November 2019.

While this is Bolsonaro’s first state visit to India, New Delhi has hosted the President of Brazil as Republic Day parade chief guest in 1996 and 2004.

“Bilateral relations were elevated to Strategic Partnership in 2006, heralding a new phase in India-Brazil relations. The relations are strong not only at the bilateral level, but also at plurilateral fora such as BRICS, IBSA, G-20 and in multilateral bodies particularly the UN,” the MEA said, announcing the visit.

While trade between India and Brazil increased to $8.2 billion in 2018-19 — $3.8 billion as Indian exports to Brazil and $4.4 million as imports by India — the two countries are locked in a dispute over sugar subsidies given by India. Brazil, along with Australia and Guatemala, have approached the WTO.

Major Indian exports to Brazil include agrochemicals, synthetic yarns, auto components and parts, pharmaceuticals and petroleum products. Brazil’s exports to India include crude oil, gold, vegetable oil, sugar and bulk mineral and ores.

Full report at:





Pakistan has little credibility on J&K: US report

Jan 23, 2020

NEW DELHI: Pakistan has “limited options” to respond to India’s decision to abrogate Article 370 on Jammu & Kashmir and can only hope to gain from “self-inflicted” damage caused by New Delhi’s policies in Kashmir and on the citizenship law, US Congress’s research arm, the Congressional Research Service, has said.

“Given also that Pakistan and its primary ally, China, enjoy limited international credibility on human rights issues, Islamabad may stand by and hope that self-inflicted damage caused by New Delhi's own policies in Kashmir and, more recently, on citizenship laws, will harm India’s reputation and perhaps undercut its recent diplomatic gains with Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE,” the CRS said.

In a new report, the CRS said Pakistan’s diplomatic isolation as well as its “reduced” capability to alter the status quo in J&K through military means limited its options.

“Many analysts view Islamabad as having little credibility on Kashmir, given its long history of covertly supporting militant groups there. Pakistan’s leadership has limited options to respond to India’s actions, and renewed Pakistani support for Kashmiri militancy likely would be costly internationally. Pakistan’s ability to alter the status quo through military action has been reduced in recent years, meaning that Islamabad likely must rely primarily on diplomacy,” the CRS said, noting that Pakistan appeared diplomatically isolated on the Kashmir issue and had only Turkey as its explicit ally.

The CRS said following India’s August 2019 actions, numerous members of the US Congress went on record in support of Kashmiri human rights. A House resolution introduced in December and currently with 40 co-sponsors, urged the Indian government to end the restrictions on communications in J&K, it said.

“Yet, any US impulse to tilt toward India is to some extent offset by Islamabad's current, and by most accounts vital, role in facilitating Afghan reconciliation negotiations. President Donald Trump's apparent bonhomie with Pakistan's prime minister and offer to mediate on Kashmir in July was taken by some as a new and potentially unwise strategic shift,” it said.

Pakistan has been working hard to bring diplomatic pressure on India, including though China. China has called for a special discussion on Kashmir three times in the past six months. On August 16, the UNSC met for the first time in decades to discuss Kashmir.



Pakistani PM Imran Khan calls for UN action on India dispute

January 23, 2020

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan called on Wednesday for the United Nations to help mediate between nuclear armed India and Pakistan over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

"This is a potential flashpoint," Khan said during a media briefing at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, adding that it was time for the "international institutions ... specifically set up to stop this" to "come into action".

The Indian government in August revoked the constitutional autonomy of Indian-administered Kashmir, splitting the Muslim-majority region into two federal territories in a bid to integrate it fully with the rest of the country.

Kashmir is claimed in full by both India and Pakistan. The two countries have gone to war twice over it, and both rule parts of it. India's portion has been plagued by separatist violence since the late 1980s.

Khan said his biggest fear was how New Delhi would respond to ongoing protests in India over a citizenship law that many feel targets Muslims.

"We're not close to a conflict right now ... What if the protests get worse in India, and to distract attention from that, what if ..."

The prime minister said he had discussed the prospect of war between his country and India in a Tuesday meeting with US President Donald Trump. Trump later said he had offered to help mediate between the two countries.

Khan said Pakistan and the United States were closer in their approach to the Taliban armed rebellion in Afghanistan than they had been for many years. He said he had never seen a military solution to that conflict.

"Finally the position of the US is there should be negotiations and a peace plan."

In a separate on-stage conversation later on Wednesday, Khan said he had told Trump in their meeting that a war with Iran would be "a disaster for the world". Trump had not responded, Khan said.

Khan made some of his most straightforward comments when asked why Pakistan has been muted in defence of Uighurs in China.

China has been widely condemned for setting up complexes in remote Xinjiang province that Beijing describes as "vocational training centres" to stamp out ""extremism and give people new skills.

The United Nations says at least one million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims have been detained.

When pressed on China's policies, Khan said Pakistan's relations with Beijing were too important for him to speak out publicly.

Full report at:



Another Sikh leader flees Pakistan after threats

22 JANUARY 2020

New Delhi/Islamabad, Jan 22 (IANS) The Sikh leader who deactivated his Twitter account and moved to Lahore from Peshawar after he was assaulted by "unidentified" armed men a few weeks ago, has fled Pakistan, fearing threats to his life.

Sources in Islamabad said that Radesh Singh Tony, a minority rights activist and Sikh leader along with his family from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa left Pakistan due to threats and is likely to take asylum in India.

Tony has been target of Islamist extremists and has received threats several times. He has also been critical of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government and complaining about the deteriorating law and order situation in Pakistan.

Sikh community, a miniscule minority in Pakistan have been, facing severe insecurity since the recent attack on their holy shrine at Nankana Sahib, the birth place of Guru Nanak. One Sikh youth was also killed by unidentified men following the attack.

Radesh Singh Tony was the only minority politician from Peshawar in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province to have contested last year''s election as an independent candidate. He had earlier contested local government elections for a minority general councillor seat and was elected with a majority. He resigned from his seat to contest the last general election for an assembly seat. However, he lost the election.

Recently, Tony suspended his social media accounts and moved to Lahore after he received threats by Islamist extremists on phone and was assaulted by a group of young men, sources said. He attributed threats to his rising popularity as a leader in Peshawar.

Full report at:



PM asks Facebook to support Pakistani startups

Ramsha Jahangir

January 23, 2020

KARACHI: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday met several heads of digital and technology firms, including Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and YouTube Chief Executive Officer Susan Wojcicki.

During the meetings held on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF), the prime minister invited the tech firms to invest in Pakistan. He asked Facebook to consider investments to support Pakistani incubators and help in digital literacy initiatives.

According to a press release, the premier said social media platforms should establish third-party fact-checking services for more responsible digital journalism.

Sheryl Sandberg invited Prime Minister Khan to visit Facebook headquarters.

The meeting was attended by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Syed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari, Ambassador Ali Jehangir Siddiqui, State Bank Governor Raza Baqir and head of Digital Pakistan Tania Aidrus.

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki also called on Prime Minister Khan in Davos. Discussions on utilising digital platforms for building Pakistan’s image were held. The Pakistani entourage also discussed the possibilities of promoting tourism, education and attracting investment through digital platforms.

Tania Aidrus said on Twitter that in the “great meeting”, the two sides discussed efforts to support the thriving content creator community in Pakistan and how the country can work with YouTube to promote responsible digital journalism.

The meeting comes days after the prime minister held an interaction with leading influencers of YouTube and digital publishers in Islamabad. It had deliberated on the opportunities for youths in the digital media sector, allied challenges and their resolution.

According to PM’s focal person on digital media Arslan Khalid, the meetings with YouTube and Facebook were in line with the government agenda to expand the digital footprint of tech companies to Pakistan.

“The prime minister is committed to bringing a revolution in the digital media industry and building an economy around it to create more jobs for our youths,” he told Dawn.

The prime minister also met Telenor chairperson Gunn Waersted and CEO Sigve Brekke. Mr Khan appreciated Telenor’s confidence in Pakistan due to its presence in the country since 2005 with an investment of around $3.5 billion. He also emphasised the government’s focus on investment in training and development of youths for skills enhancement.

Discussions were held on enhancing application of digital solutions for good governance, poverty alleviation through use of connectivity and increased economic transactions through mobile.

Telenor reiterated its strong commitment to Pakistan’s technology sector and shared their ideas on developing the sector.

The prime minister also met the chief operating officer of SAP — a European software cooperation. During the meeting, Christian Klein expressed SAP’s commitment to training young software engineers in Germany and using them for software development in Pakistan, a tweet from the Prime Minister Office said.

Full report at:



Pakistan on path to growth after tough economic period, PM Imran tells WEF session

January 22, 2020

Taking the stage at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday acknowledged that Pakistanis are "hurting" under his government's economic stabilisation programme, but expressed the hope that 2020 will bring growth and job opportunities for the people.

Recalling that his government had inherited the "worst economic crisis" in the country's history, the premier said he has never had to face the kind of "public attitude" that he encountered in the last one year due to the tough economic decisions taken by the government.

"People are hurting. We have gone through this very tough period," he told the audience, adding that the economy has now been stabilised. "This year we are looking towards economic growth."

The premier began his speech by talking about his government's tree plantation campaign, which he said was expanded across the country after seeing its success in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

He said the government aims to plant 10 billion trees in the next four years to deal with the consequences of climate change.

Prime Minister Imran said forestation was crucial because not only is Pakistan vulnerable to global warming but because pollution has become a "silent killer" in cities across the country.

Recounting how militancy took root in Pakistan since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the premier said: "You cannot make your economy grow unless and until there is peace and stability."

He said his government had decided upon coming into power that, "From now onwards, Pakistan will only partner with another country in peace. We will not become part of any other conflict."

In line with that policy, he said Pakistan has tried to ease tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia as well as Iran and the United States. In addition, "it is the nearest we are to some sort of a peaceful solution in Afghanistan", the prime minister said. He said Pakistan's top advantage is its youthful population but regretted that "we have neglected this young population because we did not concentrate on skill development [and] equipping them to become entrepreneurs." He noted that the government has now launched a programme for skills development and made funds available for startups.

Another advantage that Pakistan has is its "untapped" mineral wealth, Prime Minister Imran said, adding that the government's attention is now on developing these resources.

Talking about Pakistan's strategic location, the premier highlighted the trade potential among the regional countries. "The moment Pakistan and India's relationship becomes normal and trade starts between the two countries", immense opportunities for growth will emerge, he said.

Prime Minister Imran said Pakistan has not been able to fulfil its potential because of the way governance deteriorated in the country. "From now on my government's biggest challenge is how we can improve our state institutions so we can improve our governance so we can tap our potential," he told the audience.

'US-Iran war would be a disaster'

During a Q and A session with WEF President Børge Brende following his speech, Prime Minister Imran said the year 2019 was the safest year for Pakistan since the 9/11 attacks and that was reflected in the country's tourism, which he said doubled between 2018 and 2019.

"Whatever terrorism now comes into Pakistan every now and then is from Afghanistan," he said, stressing the importance of the Afghan peace process.

In response to a question, he reiterated that a conflict between Iran and the US and its allies will be a "disaster" for Pakistan and the developing world. Prime Minister Imran said he had expressed the same fear during his meeting with US President Donald Trump as well.

When asked by Brende whether Trump had agreed with his concern, the prime minister responded: "He didn't say anything."

Prime Minister Imran also highlighted his government's efforts to synthesise the various education systems that exist in the country, saying the disparity had created "economic differences" among people.

'No Pakistan-India conflict imminent'

Prime Minister Imran earlier on Wednesday said that although Pakistan and India are currently not close to engaging in an all-out conflict, international powers including the United Nations and United States "must act" to prevent tensions between the two nuclear-armed countries from reaching a point of no return.

Speaking during an interview with the International Media Council on the sidelines of WEF in Davos, the premier said he fears that India might attempt to raise tensions at the border in order to divert attention from domestic protests against two government measures that have been criticised as anti-Muslim.

"You cannot have two nuclear-armed countries even contemplating a conflict," he said, adding that it for this reason that the UN and US must take steps. He also demanded that UN observers be allowed along the Line of Control.

The prime minister recalled that he "came across a brick wall" when he reached out to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi after assuming office in 2018, and the relationship deteriorated with India sending fighters jets into Pakistani territory in retaliation for the Pulwama attack in occupied Kashmir.

But "things went from bad to worse" when New Delhi unilaterally annexed occupied Kashmir in August last year, he said, terming the existing state of affairs in India a "disaster" for the people of India and occupied Kashmir.

"I just think that the path which India is going [on] is a disaster for India."

Prime Minister Imran said the close relationship between India and the US was "understandable" because of the former being a huge market for the latter. But he said his main concern is the "direction" in which India is going and that the sequence of events taking place in India bears "striking resemblance" to Nazi Germany.

Answering a question, the premier said his is probably the first government "that has totally been supported by our military" and that there are no differences between the civilian and military leaderships.

"The reason why the previous clashes used to take place was that [...] the civilian leadership always wanted to control the military because they were scared [and] vulnerable because the military always knew the extent of corruption that was being done.

Full report at:



Lahore High Court moved to review annulment of Musharraf’s conviction

January 23, 2020

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court has been asked to review its decision of striking down complaint, trial and special court that tried and awarded death penalty to former military ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf for high treason.

“Where there is a statutory right of appeal available in the Supreme Court, a constitutional petition does not lie in the high court,” pleads a review application filed by Lawyers Foundation for Justice through its counsel A.K Dogar.

The application has been filed under section 114 read with Order 47 Rule 1 Civil Procedure Code and PLD 1970 SC 1 for review of the order passed by a LHC full bench on Jan 13 on a writ petition by Musharraf. The full bench is yet to issue its detailed order.

The review plea states that section 12(3) of Criminal Law Amendment (Special Court) Act 1976 clearly provides that any party aggrieved by final judgment of the special court may prefer an appeal to the Supreme Court within 30 days of the passing of the judgment.

It relies on a SC judgment titled “Muhammad Raza Hayat Hiraj verses Election Commission-2015”, which ruled that interlocutory orders passed by the election tribunal impugned before the high court were not liable to be set aside in its constitutional jurisdiction as the petitioners before the court had a remedy available to them by the way of appeal under section 67 of the Act after disposal of the election petitions.

The foundation had also filed a civil miscellaneous application before the full bench challenging its jurisdiction to hear the petition of Musharraf.

In its review, it says the full bench had observed that the application will be considered but soon thereafter it was announced that the order would be announced later in the day.

It argues the writ petition of Musharraf was allowed by the bench without hearing the applicant as required under the law. It argues that the decision passed by the full bench is in violation of the principles of natural justice.

“Article 12(2) of the Constitution clarifies that the constitutional position by providing that the principle of protection against retrospectively does not apply to any act or action which is relatable to abrogation and subversion of the Constitution,” pleads the review against an argument by Musharraf about retrospective enforcement of the law in his case.

Full report at:



JI holds protest in Rawalpindi against inflation

January 23, 2020

RAWALPINDI: The Jamaat-e-Islami on Wednesday launched a countrywide protest against skyrocketing inflation and unemployment by holding the first protest demonstration in Rawalpindi.

Addressing the rally, JI chief Senator Sirajul Haq warned the government to reduce inflation or get ready to be sent home.

“The government should reduce the prices of basic commodities or get ready to go home,” Siraj said. He added that demonstrations against price hike will be held in every city under the banner of the JI.

He said that it seemed the only objective of this government was to suck the blood of the poor masses. He said those who created the shortage of flour and increased the price of sugar were all sitting in the power corridor. “How can the prime minister take action against his own colleagues?” he asked.

Full report at:



Trump has assured to boost trade with Pakistan, says Qureshi

January 23, 2020

ISLAMABAD: A day after the meeting between US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Wednesday said that the US president assured the Pakistan premier of cooperation in trade and a US delegation would visit the country for the very same purpose.

The foreign minister, however, did not specify the date of the potential visit.

Speaking about the meeting, Qureshi said several “important issues” were discussed in the hour-long “productive” meeting between Trump and Prime Minister Imran. The foreign minister said he was also present during the meeting, which was attended by Trump’s “entire team”.

The FM also disclosed that the US president will also visit Pakistan “soon”. However, during his meeting with Imran on Tuesday, Trump avoided the response to a question by a reporter whether he will “also visit Pakistan” when he makes a trip to India and responded that “we [Imran and Trump] are meeting right now. I wanted to say hello”.

Trump said that from a relationship standpoint, the US and Pakistan “are getting along very well”.

“We have never been closer to Pakistan than we are right now.”

President Trump is expected to visit India on Feb 24 and 25 on his maiden visit as the head of a state.

Qureshi said the premier informed Trump of measures taken by Pakistan to get off the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) grey list and also asked for US support on the matter.

The premier also asked for improvements in the US travel advisory to Pakistan, Qureshi added. Prime Minister Imran also discussed the ongoing human rights violations in occupied Kashmir and Trump agreed that the “Kashmir dispute should have a solution”.


Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday reiterated his desire for mediation by the United States on the Kashmir issue between Pakistan and India.

“The Pakistan-India conflict is a very big issue for us in Pakistan and we expect the US to play its part in de-escalating the tensions, because no other country can,” PM Imran said at the start of his meeting with President Donald Trump on the sidelines of World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos.

This is the third meeting of the two leaders in less than a year amid reports that the US and Afghan Taliban are close to striking a peace deal after over yearlong painstaking process.

“I would say we’ve never been closer than we are right now,” Trump said at the start of meeting with PM Imran. He said the two sides will discuss trade, but also the border issues, Kashmir and India.

“We’re talking about Kashmir […] if we can help, we certainly will be helping. We’ve been watching that and following it very, very closely,” said Trump.

The premier, in turn, said: “Mr President, it is good to see you again. Yes, there are issues we want to talk about. The main issue is Afghanistan because it concerns the US and Pakistan.

Full report at:



Zindagi Tamasha: Pakistan film suspended after religious uproar

22 January 2020

Pakistan has suspended the release of an award-winning film, after an Islamist political party objected to its portrayal of a struggling cleric.

The party said the film "might lead [people] to deviate from Islam and the prophet", with officials warning screening it could lead to unrest.

Zindagi Tamasha (Circus of Life) is about a man shunned after a video of him dancing at a wedding goes viral.

The film's director said he never intended to offend anyone.

Before the suspension, renowned Pakistani filmmaker Sarmad Khoosat, who made the film, had said he, his family and team had been subjected to bullying and threats.

"Don't spew hate, fear and anger in the name of religion."

The controversy over the film has again revealed the deep divisions in Pakistani society as religious groups have grown more vocal in recent years.

A spokesperson for the political party Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) was quoted in local media as saying the film's content was "blasphemous".

The blasphemy accusation is a highly sensitive one in Pakistan which has seen those accused targeted by hardline groups. A number of the country's highly controversial cases have grabbed global headlines.

'A grave test'

Zindagi Tamasha had its world premier at the prestigious Busan International Film Festival last year, where it was awarded the top fiction prize.

It was to have hit Pakistan's screens on 24 January, and ahead of that date a trailer for the film was released showing a bearded man who is a singer of naat (religious poems).

But despite being cleared by the country's main censor board as well as provincial boards, the film is now on hold.

Last week Mr Khoosat published an open letter to the prime minister, saying he was being inundated with complaints and threatening calls and was considering not releasing the film.

TLP then called for mass rallies across the country to protest at the planned release of the film.

"The characterisation of the naat-reader in the film is such that it can cause discomfort to the public and might lead them to deviate from Islam and Prophet (Muhammad)," the group said in a statement.

"Thus this movie must not be released as it could otherwise be a grave test of the Muslims of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan."

On Tuesday, Firdous Ashiq Awan, adviser to the prime minister on Information and Broadcasting, said on Twitter that the producer of the film had been told to delay the release until the film censor board consulted with the Islamic Ideological Council, an advisory body which is influential but has no binding authority.

After the announcement, the TLP cancelled its call for a nationwide protest.

Who are the film's opponents?

The TLP is the political arm of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYRA) movement which has previously gathered huge crowds to protest over blasphemy issues.

Led by Khadim Hussain Rizvi, it came to prominence for its opposition to the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri, a policeman who killed the governor of Punjab Salman Taseer in 2011 because he spoke out against the blasphemy laws.

Under Pakistani law those found guilty of insulting the prophet Muhammad can face the death penalty.

The TLP showed its power in 2017 when it staged a lockdown of the federal capital for weeks to protest against the government of then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


Muslim teachers group urges ministry to relook segregation at training institute

23 Jan 2020


KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 23 — The Education Ministry should review the racial segregation of candidates applying to the Institute of Teacher Education (IPGM) to promote harmony, said the Malaysia Muslim Teachers Coalition (i-Guru).

Berita Harian reported i-Guru president Mohd Azizee Hasan as saying this was necessary as the segregation for some subjects was not in line with the country’s education philosophy.

“Isolating races according to certain subjects, particularly in vernacular schools, which are offered to potential teachers in the five years of study at IPGM will retard national integration and unity efforts,” he said in a statement.

He said his group was proposing this as teachers were responsible for social integration via education, adding that the suggestion would also lead to lower placement costs of trainees.

Citing his group’s study, he said some programmes did not need segregation regardless of whether the trainee is intended for national schools or vernacular ones.

“For example the Bahasa Melayu subject should take teaching candidates with high skills and someone who is a native speaker (penutur jati) so as to augment and strengthen the learning of the language.

“Likewise i-Guru also recommends the undergraduate degree programme for Physical Education does not need to be separated and isolated among national schools, Chinese schools, and Tamil schools,” he said.

The group also recommended that the placement of science and maths teachers should not be by school type, as they can be combined under one course and placed in any school.



Indonesia Considers Repatriating More Than 600 Citizens With Alleged Terror Ties

By Sasmito Madrim, Rikar Hussein

January 22, 2020

JAKARTA / WASHINGTON - Indonesia is discussing the possible repatriation of 660 citizens with alleged links to terrorism — foreign fighters and dozens of their family members — who have been detained abroad.

Mahfud MD, the country’s coordinating minister for politics, law and security, told VOA that his government had started talks about the future of the fighters and their families, and expects to reach a decision by midyear. He said the citizens in question are being held in a number of countries, with the majority in Syria and Afghanistan. 

"This [repatriation] involves many ministries. The Social Ministry, which, for example, accommodates its social consequences. The Ministry of Political, Legal and Security [Affairs], concerning the law and citizenship. There are also the tourism and investment aspects, which can be impacted if, for example, there is still a perception of terrorism, and so on. Everything will be considered," he said.

The rise in recent years of Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria and the Maute militant group in the neighboring Philippines have led to hundreds of Indonesians traveling abroad to join the extremist groups. 

Held by SDF

When IS lost its final enclave in Syria in March 2019, however, dozens of the fighters and their family members there were detained by U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. 

Mahfud said officials in Jakarta are concerned that the return of fighters and their family members could spark radicalization in the country and affect the tourism and investment sectors.

“There are pros and cons from the public about the repatriation of former FTFs [foreign terrorist fighters]. Some believe that repatriation is a right as Indonesian citizens. But there are also those who argue that they do not need to return for fear of becoming a new ‘virus’ in Indonesia," he said.

The world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, Indonesia has witnessed a rise in radicalization over the years along with occasional terrorist attacks. A series of bombings by al-Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiah in 2002 on the tourist island of Bali killed 202 people.

The National Agency for Combating Terrorism, the government body tasked with preventing terrorism and extremism, has taken different approaches in the past to address the issue, including organizing “reconciliation meetings” between former jihadists and their victims. 

Counterterror step

Some experts charge that repatriating the Indonesians with suspected terror affiliation can serve as an effective counterterrorism measure. 

Al Chaidar, a Jakarta-based counterterror analyst, told VOA that government refusal to allow the return of these citizens risks retaliatory attacks by militant groups. He said the government could deradicalize them by addressing their grievances and providing equal economic and health opportunities at home.

Full report at:



What to Do With Indonesia's Foreign Terrorist Fighters?


JANUARY 21, 2020

Jakarta. The government says it is trying to find a way to bring home 660 Indonesian foreign terrorist fighters now stranded in several overseas countries including Syria, Afghanistan and Turkey.

The Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Mahfud M.D. said his ministry has discussed the issue with other related ministries to find the safest and most efficient way to repatriate the fighters.

"The Social Affairs Ministry will have to calculate the social impacts when these fighters return home. The Justice and Human Rights Ministry has to decide their citizenship status. [Their return] could also affect tourism and investment since many people still consider them as terrorists," Mahfud said at his office in Jakarta on Tuesday.

"Some of these fighters have already asked to be repatriated. But their host countries want them to follow their regulations. Some of them will only let go of the orphans and others say they will let go of the women and children," Mahfud said.

The former Constitutional Court chief justice also said that according to Indonesia's 1945 Constitution, no one should ever be left "stateless," which means these fighters still retain their rights to return to Indonesia.

However, Mahfud admitted that many in Indonesia fear repatriating these fighters – some of whom have renounced their Indonesian citizenship – will spread a new "terrorist virus" in the country.

The minister said the government already has deradicalization programs in place to re-educate former terrorists and help them reintegrate with society.

"Deradicalization can be in the form of programs tailored for terrorist convicts or preventive programs to stop radicalization," Mahfud said on Jan. 10 after meeting the director-general of Japan's counterterrorism unit, Shigenobu Fukumoto.

The current deradicalization programs in Indonesia are provided by the Justice and Human Rights Ministry working together with the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) and the National Police's anti-terror unit, Densus 88.

Terrorist Convicts Pledge Loyalty to Republic

The head of the Justice and Human Rights Ministry's correctional department, Sri Puguh Budi Utami, said on Thursday that 48 terrorist convicts would soon pledge their loyalty to the Unitary Republic of Indonesia as part of the department's deradicalization program.

She said the convicts had been assessed by their specially-appointed guardians after going through the deradicalization program.

"The guardians say they've seen positive changes in the behavior of these terrorist convicts. Last year, a total of 117 terrorist convicts pledged their loyalty to Indonesia," Sri said at East Jakarta's Cipinang Prison, where many of these convicts are held.

Many terrorist convicts had renounced their citizenship because Indonesia is not a caliphate that implements sharia laws.

Indonesia's correctional institutions have also been providing skills training to help the terrorist convicts become economically independent once they are out of prison.

Full report at:



Hamas chief praises Malaysia's support for Palestinians

Jeyhun Aliyev


Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh on Wednesday hailed the "courageous" Malaysian leadership for supporting the rights of Palestinians.

He met Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in Putrajaya, the administrative capital of the country, where they reviewed the current situation in Palestine, especially the latest Israeli violations against Jerusalem, according to the Palestinian Culture Organization Malaysia (PCOM).

The Hamas leader, who was accompanied by a delegation, also stressed the importance of "thwarting Israeli plans", the statement from PCOM went on to say.

Mahathir reiterated his strong position in supporting the Palestinian people and their "just cause".

He expressed the need for a "comprehensive strategy" to strengthen the Palestinian people.

The delegation, which includes senior members of the Hamas political bureau, such as Ezzat Al-Rishq, Nizar Awadallah and Maher Salah, is also scheduled to have several meetings with senior Malaysian officials, PCOM added.

Malaysia, a Muslim-majority country and a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause, does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

Israel’s 13-year-old blockade of the Gaza Strip has shattered the coastal enclave’s economy and deprived its 2 million inhabitants of free movement in and out from Gaza, preventing the entry of many basic amenities.

Full report at:



Malaysia’s hand-made incense craftwork a dying art

January 23, 2020

KUBANG SEMANG: Thousands of giant incense sticks, many decorated with dragon heads, line the walls at a Malaysian business where they are made by hand ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday.

In the rural town of Kubang Semang in Penang, workers spend months using a traditional method to craft the sticks – some as tall as two metres – before sending them to stores.

Business is brisk ahead of Lunar New Year celebrations towards the end of this month, when people of Chinese descent worldwide burn incense in temples and at traditional ceremonies.

Malaysia is a Muslim-majority country but is home to a substantial ethnic Chinese population, and the holiday is marked in many places.

Ong Chin Chye, who runs the business in a series of wood and corrugated iron buildings, said his colourful hand-made sticks look a lot better than those churned out by machines.

“With machines, can you make the dragon head like this?” the 60-year-old asked AFP, pointing to his intricately carved creations.

Ong’s sticks are primarily made from sawdust, using a mix of locally-grown “meranti” timber – a common hardwood in Southeast Asia – and aromatic agarwood. These are combined with water to make a sticky paste that forms the sticks.

The next 12 months will be the Year of the Rat – the first creature in the Chinese zodiac’s 12-year cycle – but Ong said his buyers weren’t keen on depictions of the whiskered rodent.

“People don’t want rats. They steal food, and that’s not good,” he laughed.

On the other hand, dragons – also one of the zodiac animals – are ever-popular symbols of power, strength and good luck in Asian culture.

Ong said his sticks typically sell for between RM8-80 apiece, depending on quality and size. As well as Lunar New Year, he makes them for other major Chinese festivities.

He estimated there were at most 30 incense-making businesses like his across Malaysia, adding the industry had been declining in recent years.

Young people “don’t want to work these jobs, it’s hard work… there is no air-conditioning,” he said.

Many incense sticks sold nowadays in Southeast Asia come from overseas, particularly China.

Full report at:



Malaysia jumps 10 spots in corruption perception index

Sean Augustin

January 23, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s ranking in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2019 jumped 10 places to 51 compared to the previous year, Transparency International Malaysia (TI) revealed today.

It scored 53 points compared to 47 points in the 2018 index when it was ranked 61 out of 180 countries surveyed.

A higher score indicates better public perception.

TI’s CPI measures public sector corruption including bribery, diversion of public funds, use of public office for private gain, and nepotism in the civil service.

Singapore occupied the fourth spot, scoring 85 points, while Indonesia was ranked 85th.

Thailand and the Philippines were ranked 101st and 113th respectively.

Malaysia also ranked fourth among the 10 Islamic counties surveyed, tying with Saudi Arabia.

The United Arab Emirates occupies the top spot among Muslim countries, followed by Qatar and Brunei.

TI-M president Muhammad Mohan said among the reasons for Malaysia’s improved score was the swift action by the Pakatan Harapan administration in addressing the 1MDB, SRC International, Felda and Tabung Haji scandals when they came into power.

This, he said, was followed by the arrest of several political figures who were later charged by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

Other factors for the improved ranking include greater media freedom, asset declaration by PH members of parliament, the Corporate Liability Provision (Section 17A) which will be enforced in June and the government’s five-year National Anti-Corruption Plan.

Muhammad also said that while the present government had done a lot to improve the ranking, it still did not know how to communicate its achievements to the public.

“There are some good things done, but it must be conveyed to the public or they wouldn’t know.”

Muhammad urged the people, including civil servants and enforcement officers, to help the country achieve a higher score next year.

“Otherwise, when we come back next year, we might see a lower score,” he told reporters.

When asked what his expectations were for the 2020 CPI ranking, Muhammad said there were only two options, either up or down.

“There are still a lot of institutional reforms that have been delayed.”

Muhammad said Putrajaya should accelerate institutional reforms such as making the MACC more independent, pushing for the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) bill and enact a political financing law.

Full report at:



Stay away from Chinese who support divisive politics, says Guan Eng in CNY message

January 23, 2020

PETALING JAYA: DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng has called on the Chinese community to distance themselves from some Chinese personalities and institutions that support those resorting to dangerous, divisive and destructive politics.

In his Chinese New Year message, the Bagan MP said such politics included opposing funding for vernacular schools and calling for their closure, boycotting non-Muslim products and businesses, barring non-Muslims from becoming Cabinet ministers, showing contempt for religious celebrations of non-Muslims and spreading lies against non-Muslims on the basis of their faith.

“If these racists, religious extremists, and chauvinists gain ascendancy in their respective communities, then everyone will be the loser, whether Malay or non-Malay, Muslim or non-Muslim.”

This, he said, was not just limited to RM150 billion in losses due to the previous administration’s financial scandals but losses due to incompetently run and practically bankrupt state governments.

“Despite not being able to afford to pay the salaries of the state civil servants and having to borrow from the federal government to do so, there are state government leaders who can still reward themselves with expensive luxury vehicles (Mercedes Benz) and a special RM50,000 bonus.”

Lim previously criticised the Kelantan state government’s decision to buy 14 German luxury cars for its menteri besar and state executive council members when it couldn’t pay civil servant salaries, saying “something is not right”.

The state also recently confirmed that it’s leaders were given a special RM50,000 payout.

Lim said moderation based on democracy, rule of law, performance and integrity was the way forward, and that being moderate was neither appeasement or confrontational.

“All must be willing to look at issues from a national, and not sectional, perspective in accordance with the Federal Constitution, democratic norms and basic human rights.”

He said the de-escalation of the US-China trade war would see Malaysia’s economy improve in 2020 compared to last year.

He added that PH was delivering on its manifesto promises through the reduction of petrol prices to RM2.08 per litre (RON 95) and giving an 18% discount on toll rates for PLUS highways from Feb 1.

“The solidarity and unity of PH component parties in nation-building and succession plan from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, should provide continued political cohesiveness and stability.

Full report at:



Saudi royal family promised £50 mil but gave only £10 mil, Najib tells court

Ho Kit Yen

January 22, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Former prime minister Najib Razak told the High Court in his SRC International trial that he did not receive the full amount that the Saudi royal family had promised to give him in 2014.

In responding to ad-hoc prosecutor V Sithambaram’s questions over the four tranches of “donations” he received between 2011 and 2014, Najib said he received over £10 million from the Saudi family in 2014 instead of the £50 million that was promised.

The lawyer, who is leading the prosecution in the trial, pointed out that Najib had received a sum of US$1.05 billion from 2011 to 2013 from the late Saudi ruler King Abdullah.

Sithambaram said that in Najib’s witness statement, the former prime minister had testified that £10.4 million was deposited into his account from two entities, Vista Equity Commodities International Partners and Blackrock Pty Ltd, in 2014.

“In the letter dated June 1, 2014, addressed to you, the Saudi royals promised to provide you an additional sum of £50 million as they were ‘impressed by the significant work you have done in governing Malaysia using Islamic principles and how you were reintroducing Islam to the rest of the world’.

“But they only gave you over £10 million, and it was short of £40 million,” Sithambaram said.

Najib replied: “If you want to put it that way, they did not deliver the full amount.”

The lawyer then said: “I find it astonishing that £40 million was not delivered and you were not aware.”

“I was not managing my account,” Najib replied, adding that his then secretary Azlin Alias and Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil were tasked with managing the account and updating him.

He also told the court that he returned the majority of the US$681 million that he received in 2013 to the Saudi royal family four months after the 13th general election on his own accord.

Sithambaram commented: “I don’t want to get into the details of the fund as it is the subject matter in the 1MDB trial.”

On another matter regarding his Ambank account, ending with 694, Najib said in the application form to open the account, it was stated that the bank would send the statement to his Langgak Duta house every month.

He said fugitive financier Low Taek Jho (better known as Jho Low) recommended Ambank to him and introduced the bank’s then managing director Cheah Tek Kuang to assist in the opening of the account in 2011.

However, Najib said he could not recall if he had received and seen the bank statements from 2011 to 2013.

Sithambaram, who was amused by the reply, questioned Najib on whether he had ever checked that the “RM2.6 billion donation” was deposited into the bank account.

“I was told about it,” Najib said.

The hearing continues tomorrow (Jan 23) before High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali.

Najib is facing six charges of money laundering and criminal breach of trust in the transfer of RM42 million to his account from SRC International.

Full report at:



Zuraida's fate up to disciplinary committee, says Anwar

By Rosli Zakaria

January 23, 2020

KUALA NERUS: PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim will not interfere in deliberations of the party’s disciplinary committee on the fate of vice-president Zuraida Kamaruddin who was issued a show-cause letter earlier this month.

“The decision will be made by the disciplinary committee and it cannot be forced to make a decision. They are waiting for Zuraida’s reply and I believe the decision (by the disciplinary committee) will be good,” he said.

Anwar, who is also Port Dickson’s Member of Parliament, was asked about the fate of Zuraida, who was given a show cause letter over remarks she made at an event in the Renaissance Hotel in December last year.

Anwar said although the disciplinary committed was appointed by the leadership, it does not mean that he could force a decision.

“Datuk Ahmad Kassim (PKR disciplinary committee chairman) said he had written something but has not explained the details to the party leadership and I believe that was part of the process within the committee,” he said after opening the International Conference on Social Islam as Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin in Gong Badak today.

On the demand by 46 PKR leaders who defended Zuraida and wanted the party to drop all disciplinary proceedings, Anwar said the committee would make a decision in less than two weeks.

The group of 46 PKR leaders, comprising 15 MPs and 28 state assemblymen, had said that the show-cause letter against Zuraida was issued in bad faith.

Meanwhile, on whether the meeting between Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed and Pas president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang yesterday would change the political landscape, Anwar said it was normal for the Prime Minister to have meetings with anyone.

“That (changing of political landscape) is a perception created by Pas. My meeting with him (Dr Mahathir) is more frequent,” he said.

Asked if he would meet Abdul Hadi, Anwar said he has no enemies and has no problem meeting Hadi.

Full report at:



Renovation of 92-year-old church in Riau Islands meets resistance

January 22, 2020

In yet another example of religious intolerance in Indonesia, a local group named the United Muslim Forum (FUIB) has urged the Karimun regency administration in Riau Islands to revoke a building license (IMB) for renovation work on Santo Joseph Church. The group staged a rally on Jan. 17 in front of the regent's official residence, which is located next to the 92-year-old church.   FUIB chairman Abdul Latif claimed the residents feared that the church would turn into an icon as it was located in the center of Karimun’s capital of Tanjung Balai. "This is wrong. This is a Muslim-majority region. We shouldn’t have a big church built right in the heart of the city. We can’t even build a mosque there," Abdul said. He also claimed the church could cause “traffic congestion and social disturbances”. "We would welcome the idea ...

Full report at:



Arab World


Al-Azhar Warns of ISIS Efforts to Regain Status

21 January, 2020

The Al-Azhar Observatory for Combating Extremism warned against ISIS efforts to regain the group’s status and compensate for losses incurred following its defeat in Iraq and Syria over the past months.

In Iraq, according to the Observatory, a reformation attempt has been detected and feared to give initiative for renewed deployment of the terrorist group.

Security expert Major Farouq Al-Megrahi told Asharq Al-Awsat that ISIS will continue to rely on the recruitment of young enthusiasts that have been radicalized.

Megrahi added that ISIS heavily depends on the recruitment of lone wolves, individuals, and sleeping cells.

Speaking on ISIS reinstating itself to its former strength in Iraq, Megrahi said: “I don’t think ISIS will return with the strength it enjoyed during 2014 and 2015.”

Megrahi attributed his belief to regular state forces and the international coalition regaining control over large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria. He, however, warned of the terror group resorting to guerilla warfare.

ISIS sleeper cells in Iraq are difficult to capture given that they stay in rural hideouts nestled in mountains and tough terrain.

The Observatory also noted that digital platforms have become popular among extremist and terrorist movements and groups. They use the digital space to communicate, spread their ideology and contact supporters.

“World governments and institutions, especially those specialized in the field of technology, must unite efforts among themselves to address ISIS’ resurgence schemes,” the Observatory said, expressing its appreciation for the continuous operations carried out by Iraqi forces to arrest the remnants of the terrorist organization.



Lebanon faces economic ‘catastrophe’ says new PM Diab

22 January 2020

Debt-ridden Lebanon faces an economic “catastrophe”, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said Wednesday as his newly unveiled cabinet met for the first time.

“Today we are in a financial, economic and social dead-end,” he said in remarks read by a government official after the new cabinet's inaugural meeting in Beirut.

President Michel Aoun told Lebanon’s new government it must tackle the country’s economic woes, win back international confidence and gain the trust of the Lebanese.

“Your mission is delicate,” the president’s office cited him as saying at the cabinet’s first meeting. He also said the government would have to work to make up for lost time.



New government shows Hezbollah ‘takeover of Lebanon is complete’

January 22, 2020

BEIRUT/PARIS: The formation of a Lebanese government headed by Hassan Diab showed that “Hezbollah has completed its takeover of the Lebanese state,” former minister Marwan Hamade told Arab News.

Hamade, a leading member of Lebanon’s Druze, led by Walid Jumblatt, said that Hezbollah regained a parliamentary majority in 2018 thanks to an electoral law designed to benefit the pro-Iranian party.

“Now Hezbollah completes its takeover through the new government where we find the fingerprints of the Syrian regime. The majority of the new ministers in key positions depend either on Hezbollah or on the former security chief, the pro-Syrian Jamil Sayyed, or on Gebran Bassil, their ally,” he said.

Hamade said that the new government will face the same factional tensions and rivalries as previous leaderships, with a pro-Iranian Syrian faction controlling the state along with factions allied to Hezbollah.

The focus will be on Lebanese central bank governor Riad Salame. “They hold him responsible for implementing US sanctions on Hezbollah, and there is a tendency to make him pay and to destroy the financial sector. Lebanon is turning into a battle front in the conflict between the US and Iran,” Hamade said.

Asked about the new foreign minister, Nassif Hitti, a former Arab League envoy, Hamade said: “Hitti will be able to do minor things through his personality, but Lebanese policy and diplomacy will not be within his hands — regrettably it will be in Hezbollah’s.”

After the first meeting of Lebanon’s newly formed Cabinet on Wednesday, Prime Minister Hassan Diab attempted to reassure the public that their concerns are being addressed, but warned that there would be no quick solution to the “economic catastrophe” the country is facing.

The new coalition government was formed on Tuesday after almost 100 days of widespread public protests about the state of the economy, corruption, high unemployment and a lack of basic services, The majority of its 20 ministers belong to Hezbollah and its allies. Its announcement was greeted by calls for further protests by those skeptical of its ability to take the action needed to address the problems it has inherited, the greatest of which include the need to resolve the economic crisis and a lack of confidence in the government, at home and abroad, which is stifling investment.

Diab tried to reassure the public after the Cabinet’s first session that it is up to the job. He said he has already met many foreign ambassadors and all had shown “willingness to cooperate.”

He added: “We are facing a financial and economic catastrophe that needs a long time to be resolved and I am sure that each of the ministers is aware of this.”

Diab also called on the security forces to “deal wisely with the protests and differentiate between riots and peaceful protests.”

He also revealed that Riad Salameh, the governor of Lebanon’s central bank had not been fired. He did, however, acknowledge that some coalition parties, and many of the protesters, blame Salameh’s financial machinations for the country’s economic situation.

Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni said: “Lebanon is witnessing a banking, monetary and economic crisis on a scale that has never been seen before. If the crisis persists, we will reach bankruptcy. The government must prepare a comprehensive rescue plan or program.

“The country is in a state of economic contraction, and confidence must be restored. The crisis needs external support. We will be in big trouble if the government fails to gain that external support.” He added that it was impossible for Lebanon’s currency to return to it’s previous exchange rate against the dollar.

The new Cabinet includes six women, including Zeina Akar, the minister of defense and deputy prime minister. The prime minister nominated four members of the Cabinet. Of the rest, President Michael Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement supplied six, while Hezbollah, the Amal Movement, the Marada Movement, the Lebanese Democratic Party each supplied two ministers. The Sunni Consultative Gathering and Tashnag each have a single minister.

A Cabinet committee was scheduled to meet on Thursday, and the government is due to present its political, economic and social vision to the parliament for approval. This will require a simple majority, which means 65 votes in total. If it fails to win this vote of confidence, the new administration will become a caretaker government.

After the traditional memorial photo of the new government was taken, parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri expressed his “optimism about the government despite the Lebanese media’s pessimism.”

Diab described it as “the government of exceptions. It is a rescue team. The government’s task is very difficult, but not impossible.”

Full report at:



Joint Syria Raid Killed ISIS Oil Official who Financed Sleeper Cells

21 Jan 2020

IRBIL, Iraq -- An Islamic State group official who oversaw oil and gas operations and helped finance sleeper cells was killed last week in a joint coalition special operations raid with Syrian partner forces, the military said.

The ISIS official known by the pseudonym Abu al-Ward al-Iraqi was killed along with another militant who officials have not yet identified during the raid in Deir al-Zour province on Jan. 14, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said in a statement on Sunday.

Al-Iraqi's death "disrupts and degrades" ISIS's ability to finance terrorist activities in the Middle Euphrates River Valley along the Iraq-Syria border, said U.S. Army Col. Myles B. Caggins III, a military spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, via email. It's among the latest takedowns of top ISIS leaders since the killing in late October of the group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but it comes as the future of the coalition's continued presence in Iraq remains uncertain, which some fear could allow the group to resurge.

In the fallout of a U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani earlier this month, Iraq's Shiite-dominated parliament demanded the government expel coalition forces, but acting Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi has since said that would be up to his successor. A new prime minister has not yet been selected.

Though ISIS has been routed from the last of its territorial holdings in Iraq and Syria, the group continues to carry out insurgent-style attacks in both countries. Officials in Iraq's Kurdistan region have warned of increasing ISIS attacks and said that the coalition's support is still needed.

Washington does not intend to negotiate a withdrawal of the roughly 5,000 U.S. troops there, the State Department has said, but would instead focus on discussing recommitment to strategic partnership and determining the appropriate U.S. presence.

Coalition forces had paused their support to Iraq's anti-ISIS operations to focus on force protection in the face of rising threats from Iran and its proxies in recent weeks, but some operations resumed and work to restart training of security forces was underway, unnamed officials told The Associated Press last week.

Meanwhile, more than 500 U.S. troops are still spread at small outposts mostly in eastern Syria's Deir al-Zour and neighboring Hassakeh provinces, training and assisting local forces and working keep ISIS from seizing oil infrastructure there.

"ISIS would love to get their terrorists' hands on the oil," Caggins said. "We're helping our Syrian commando partners prevent that from happening."

During the height of its control, ISIS gained hundreds of millions of dollars in oil revenues from an enterprise that at one point produced an estimated 45,000 barrels a day, the coalition has said. In Syria, three-fourths of its revenues came from Deir al-Zour, Caggins said.

In 2015, a year that saw ISIS oil operations bring in an estimated $500 million, U.S. special operations killed the terrorist group's top oil emir at the time, known as Abu Sayyaf, and captured his wife during a rare raid into eastern Syria.

Full report at:



Hashd Al-Shaabi, Iraqi Security Forces Start Anti-ISIL Operations in Najaf, Karbala

Jan 22, 2020

"Hashd al-Shaabi (Iraqi popular forces), the army, the police and border guards started Mantaqat al-Forat al-Awsat operations in 8 directions on Wednesday morning to establish security in Jazirat al-Najaf and Sahra al-Karbala regions," General Ali al-Hamdani, a commander of Hashd al-Shaabi participating in the operations, was quoted by the Arabic-language Wa'a news agency as saying on Wednesday.

He added that the operations have been planned based on precise intelligence gained after chasing and monitoring the moves by ISIL remnants in the region.

Al-Hamdani underlined that the Iraqi military forces will continue cleansing operations against the ISIL as scheduled despite bad weather conditions.

Hashd al-Shaabi forces have actively been involved in Iraq's fight against the terrorist groups, specially in bordering areas.

Reports said last Sunday that Iraq's Kata'eb Hezbollah popular forces would establish and transfer its members to a new military base near the borders with Syria after the US destruction of its headquarters last month.

"Kata'eb Hezbollah has chosen a new base on Akashat-al-Qa'em road to be its main base in the bordering areas between Iraq and Syria," an Iraqi border guard official told the Arabic-language al-Arabi al-Jadid.

He added that Hezbollah's new base is actually an old base belonging to the Iraqi army, noting that it will be reconstructed to replace the US-destroyed headquarters.

"Members of Kata'eb Hezbollah will likely be transferred to the new base in less than two weeks," the official said.

Late last month, the US drones bombarded a Kata'eb Hezbollah's base near the border with Syria in Iraq's Western province of Anbar, a Hashd Shaabi statement said.

Full report at:



Hashd Al-Shaabi Cautions Against US Heliborne Relocation of ISIL Terrorists to Iraq

Jan 22, 2020

"The security forces are stationed and guarding the Iraqi-Syrian borders, but the airspace of these regions are fully open to the US planes and helicopters, including Chinook cargo helicopters," Kazzem al-Fartousi, a commander of Kata'eb Seyed al-Shohada, told the Arabic-language al-Ma'aloumeh news website on Wednesday.

He warned that the US planes and helicopters are never checked by the Iraqi authorities and they easily transfer the terrorists from Syria to safe zone in Iraq in heliborne operations.

Al-Fartousi joined many other senior military commanders and officials deeply wary of what seems to be a scheme by the US to escalate tensions through a revival of terrorist operations by the remnants of ISIL militants to undermine the central government in Baghdad and justify the US buildup in Iraq.

In relevant remarks on Sunday, an official revealed that the US forces in Western Iraq are relocating ISIL ringleaders from Syria to Wadi Houran region in Western al-Anbar province after the area was cleansed by Hashd al-Shaabi.

"After the US forces prevented Iraqi forces from approaching Wadi Houran and the Western desert of al-Anbar, finally, Hashd al-Shaabi could remove the existing obstacles and defeat the ISIL terrorists in the region and cleanse Wadi Houran completely," Head of Badr Organization's Office in al-Anbar Qusai al-Anbari told al-Ma'aloumeh.

"But after the cleansing operations, the US forces stationed near the region facilitated the trafficking of the ISIL terrorists and their transfer to Wadi Houran and the Western desert by reopening a number of roads and heliborne operations," he added.

Full report at:



Iraqi president, Trump meet in Davos, discuss foreign troops cut

22 January 2020

Iraqi President Barham Salih met US President Donald Trump in Davos on Wednesday and discussed reducing foreign troops in the country, the Iraqi presidency said, after Washington spurned an Iraqi request earlier this month to pull out its troops.

“During the meeting, reducing foreign troops and the importance of respecting the demands of Iraqi people to preserve the country’s sovereignty were discussed,” the statement said.

The White House also issued a statement saying that President Trump and his Iraqi counterpart agreed during their meeting on Wednesday on the need for a continued US military role in the country.

“The two leaders agreed on the importance of continuing the United States-Iraq economic and security partnership, including the fight against ISIS,” the White House said. “President Trump reaffirmed the United States’ unwavering commitment to a sovereign, stable, and prosperous Iraq.”

Iraq’s parliament passed a non-binding resolution on Jan. 5 requesting the government to end the presence of foreign troops in Iraq following US air strikes that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

The killing of Soleimani, to which Tehran responded with a ballistic missile attack on two Iraqi military bases housing US forces, has highlighted the influence of foreign powers in Iraq, especially Iran and the United States.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi asked Washington to prepare for a US troop withdrawal in line with Iraq’s parliament decision, but Trump’s administration rebuffed the request.

Full report at:



Saudi Arabia urges US to remove Sudan from state sponsors of terrorism list

January 22, 2020

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for African Affairs Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz Qattan urged the US on Wednesday to remove Sudan from its state sponsors of terrorism list.

Qattan met with the US special envoy to Sudan Donald Booth in Riyadh and expressed Saudi Arabia’s support for the safety, stability, and people of Sudan.

He also stressed the necessity for the international community to coordinate and cooperate in order to prevent any obstructions to the transitional period and its aims.

Washington has included Khartoum on its list of state sponsors of terrorism since 1993 on charges of collaborating with extremist groups, notably Al-Qaeda.





Palestinians see Holocaust forum as Israel efforts to cover up its crimes

22 January 2020

Mona Kandil

For the first time in its history, Israel has invited high-ranking delegations from over 40 countries including world leaders to attend an international conference titled “Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Anti-Semitism in occupied Jerusalem al-Quds”.

Presidents of France, Russia, and Italy and the vice-president of the United States are among the invited leaders.

The ideal of holding the conference has sparked outrage among the Palestinians who maintain that the conference is part of Israel’s efforts to cover up its crimes in the Palestinian territories.

Till Friday, several events will be held through the international conference. Thousands Of Israeli police and counter-terrorism officers have been deployed throughout the streets of city. Police checkpoints have also scattered all around the area, and random checks have been conducted to secure the city. But observers say these military measures and crackdown has already turned al-Quds into a military base and would paralyze the life of the Palestinians living.

At the end of the day, Palestinian officials ask world leaders visiting al-Quds to exercise pressure on Israel to stop its crimes against Palestinians.

Observers say Israel insists on convincing the world that Jewish people have always been oppressed in an attempt to drag even a simple sympathy to cover on its own crimes committed against the people of Palestine.



Minister: Iran to Decode Ukrainian Plane Black Box

Jan 22, 2020

"Black box is an inseparable part of investigations into the incident and the incident has happened in Iran and the Iran Civil Aviation Organization is responsible to probe the incident, and this [investigation] is underway, and the hardware and software needed is being prepared," Eslami told reporters in Tehran on Wednesday after a cabinet meeting, elaborating on the latest developments with regard to the decoding and downloading the data of the Ukrainian plane's black box.

He noted that a delegation from Ukraine has traveled to Iran to review the documents and evidence, ensuring that an international group of investigators from all the countries involved in the incident, including Ukraine, will be present in investigations into the incident as required by rules and regulations.

The Ukrainian airliner was struck by a missile inadvertantly on Jan. 8 shortly after it left Tehran's International Imam Khomeini Airport for Kiev. Iran admitted it had shot down the Ukrainian plane in error. All 180 people onboard, including nationals of five foreign states of Canada, Ukraine, Sweden, Afghanistan and Britain, lost their lives.

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.

Iran's forensics organization announced on Sunday that its experts have so far identified 169 bodies of people who were killed in the Ukrainian plane incident and delivered 150 of them to the families.

The organization said in a statement that 169 bodies have been identified in its diagnosis and laboratorial center, 150 of whom have been delivered to the families.

Full report at:



Iranian FM: Trump Never Satiated Even after Drinking Up Europe's Integrity

Jan 22, 2020

"Sorry to say I told you so: When E3 sold out remnants of JCPOA to avoid Trump tariffs last week, I warned that it would only whet his appetite. After selling their integrity and losing any moral/legal ground, another tariff threat (came to be posed by Trump)," Zarif wrote on his twitter page on Wednesday.

"EU would do better to exert its sovereignty," he added.

Zarif had on Thursday lashed out at the European states for making a deal on their integrity with Trump.

He wrote on his twitter page on Thursday that the European signatories to a 2015 nuclear deal- France, Britain and Germany- chose to bow to American bullying and sell out the “remnants” of the multilateral agreement only to appease the US and avoid its sanctions.

"Appeasement confirmed. E3 sold out remnants of JCPOA to avoid new Trump tariffs. It won't work my friends. You only whet his appetite. Remember your high school bully?" he said.

"If you want to sell your integrity, go ahead. But do not assume high moral/legal ground. You don’t have it," Zarif stressed.

Zarif made the remarks after the Washington Post reported that the administration of Trump had threatened to impose a 25 percent tariff on European automobile imports if the trio — known as EU3 or E3 — refused to formally accuse Iran of violating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The report was published shortly after the European trio said in a joint statement last week that they had triggered the JCPOA’s dispute mechanism, which amounts to a formal accusation that Tehran had broken the terms of the deal.

The European measure could lead to the restoration of anti-Iran UN sanctions, which had been lifted by the JCPOA.

In relevant remarks last Wednesday, Zarif lashed out at the 3 European signatories of the nuclear deal — the UK, France and Germany—for abiding by unilateral pressures of the US, underlining that the trio’s unconstructive move was a strategic blunder.

Zarif denounced as a “strategic mistake” the European trio’s decision to trigger a dispute mechanism under the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Full report at:



Minister Underlines Iran's Astonishing Scientific Progress despite Sanctions

Jan 22, 2020

"Iran's scientific condition has certainly improved a lot compared with the period before the Islamic Revolution and the interesting point is that we have been able to rank 16th in the world under the hard conditions of sanctions and restrictions," Gholami told FNA on Wednesday.

He added that progress and advancements in Iran, including setting up science and technology parks, growth centers and knowledge-based companies, have all taken place as the country has been faced with the harshest sanctions.

Gholami had also announced last January that the country had come to stand atop other world nations in the production of different scientific contents in quantitative terms.

"Based on ISI and SCOPUS data, the Islamic Republic of Iran is the first world country in terms of the growth of scientific productions in quantity," Gholami said, addressing the inauguration ceremony of the third workgroup of scientific cooperation between Iran and the EU in Brussels.

"Having over 4.3mln students and high-level universities, Iran is an important actor in area of international science and technology," he added.

Gholami also underlined the necessity for the further expansion of scientific cooperation between Iran and the EU.

He had also stated in December 2018 that Iran stood the first place in global rankings for the fastest momentum in production of science.

"Our universities enjoy very good capacities at scientific levels. Certainly, you know that our country has ranked 16th in the production of science and first in rapid production of science in the past year (2017)," Gholami said, addressing the inauguration ceremony of an exhibition of research achievements in laboratorial tools in Tehran.

He added that Iran has outpaced even China and Russia in rapid growth of scientific production.

Full report at:



Turkey says it won’t send more advisers to Libya while ceasefire is observed: RIA

23 January 2020

Turkey does not plan to send more military advisers to Libya while a ceasefire is being observed, Russia’s RIA news agency cited Turkey’s foreign minister as saying on Thursday.

A Libya peace conference will take place in Berlin at the start of February, but Germany has not yet named a date for the event, the minister was quoted as saying.



Iranian police arrest child for ripping up poster of Soleimani

22 January 2020

Iranian police officers arrested a child in Tehran simply for ripping up a poster of slain military commander Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency reported on Wednesday.

“This individual was under 18 years of age, and was identified by the police within 24 hours,” said Tehran’s police chief Hossein Rahimi.

Rahimi claimed the child admitted to being influenced by “online propaganda” during interrogation, “regretted” the action and was then released on bail.

Anti-government protests, largely led by students, broke out in several Iranian cities after Tehran admitted it shot down a Ukrainian plane, killing all 176 passengers, despite vehemently denying responsibility several days before the announcement.

The protesters chanted slogans against the country’s highest authority Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, as well as the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Protesters were also filmed chanting slogans against Soleimani and ripping posters of his face off walls.

Full report at:



Iran will never seek nuclear arms, with or without nuclear deal: Rouhani

22 January 2020

Iran will never seek nuclear weapons, with or without nuclear deal, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday, calling on the European powers to avoid Washington’s mistake of violating Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with major powers.

“We have never sought nuclear weapons ... With or without the nuclear deal we will never seek nuclear weapon ... The European powers will be responsible for the consequences of violating the pact,” said Rouhani, according to his website President.Ir.

In reaction to Washington withdrawal from the deal in 2018 and the reimposition of sanctions, Iran has gradually rolled back on its commitments. Rouhani said Iran remained committed to the deal and could reverse its steps away from compliance if other parties fulfilled their obligations.



North America


Trump wants ‘significant’ drop in Taliban violence before ‘meaningful’ talks

22 January 2020

US President Donald Trump told Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday that he wanted to see a “significant” drop in violence by Taliban fighters before any “meaningful” negotiations can happen.

At the meeting of the two presidents in Davos, Switzerland, “President Trump reiterated the need for a significant and lasting reduction in violence by the Taliban that would facilitate meaningful negotiations on Afghanistan’s future,” the White House said.

Washington has for weeks been calling for the violence to be reined in, posing it as a condition for resuming formal negotiations on an agreement that would see US troops begin to leave Afghanistan in return for security guarantees, after a near two-decade fight.

Militants sources told AFP last week they had offered to initiate a brief ceasefire of seven to 18 days, but there was no announcement of the proposal by either party.

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 a deal, their chief spokesman said this week.

The two sides had been negotiating the deal for a year and were on the brink of an announcement in September 2019 when Trump abruptly declared the process “dead,” citing Taliban violence.

Talks were later restarted in December in Qatar, but paused again following an attack near the US-run Bagram military base in Afghanistan.

Any agreement with the Taliban is expected to have two pillars - a US withdrawal from Afghanistan and a commitment by the militants not to offer sanctuary to extremists. It would ultimately have to win final approval from Trump.



US Iran envoy Brian Hook threatens Ghaani with same fate as Soleimani

23 January 2020

Esmail Ghaani, the new Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force commander, will face the same fate as his slain predecessor Qassem Soleimani if he follows in the same path, said US special representative to Iran Brian Hook to Asharq al-Awsat on Wednesday.

He added that the death of Soleimani, the former commander of the IRGC Quds Force killed by a US airstrike operation in Baghdad weeks ago, “created a void that the Iranian regime will not be able to fill.”

Hook, who accompanied President Donald Trump and his delegation to Davos for the World Economic Forum, also stressed that his country judges the Iranian regime based on its actions rather than what the Iranian Foreign Minister, Muhammad Javad Zarif, says. --------

Zarif is well-known for advocating for the Islamic Republic’s positions via statements on Twitter.

Full report at:



Trump Administration Plans to Add Nigeria and Six Other Nations to Travel Ban List: Reports

Jan. 21, 2020

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is planning to add seven countries - Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania - to its travel ban list, U.S. media reports said on Tuesday.

Some countries will face bans only on some visa categories, the Wall Street Journal reported. The list of countries was not final and could yet change, website Politico said.

U.S. President Donald Trump said in an interview with the Journal that he was considering adding countries to the travel ban, but declined to state which ones. Politico said an announcement was expected as early as Monday.

The move is likely to sour ties between the United States and the countries affected under the expanded ban.

Nigeria, for example, Africa's largest economy and most populous country, is a U.S. anti-terrorism partner and has a large diaspora residing in the United States.

A senior Trump administration official said that countries that failed to comply with security requirements, including biometrics, information-sharing and counter-terrorism measures, faced the risk of limitations on U.S. immigration.

The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The State Department declined to comment.

Full report at:



Colombia Asks U.S., E.U. to Include FARC Dissidents on Terrorist Lists

Jan. 21, 2020

BOGOTA — Colombia is asking the United States, the European Union and other countries to include dissidents from the former FARC rebels on their lists of terrorist organizations, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) demobilized under a 2016 peace deal after more than five decades of conflict with the government, becoming a legal political party.

But several top commanders have rejected the accord and chosen either not to demobilize or to return to arms. The government considers the dissidents to be criminals without an ideological motivation unlike the traditional FARC.

"The foreign ministry announces the beginning of diplomatic efforts through embassies for the inclusion of organized residual armed groups as terrorist organizations on the lists of the E.U., the U.S. and other countries," the ministry said on Twitter.

The effort is in line with a resolution adopted by a regional anti-terrorism conference held in Bogota on Tuesday, the ministry said in a statement.

Conference attendees, including U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, among others, rejected acts of terrorism and crimes committed by the National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels and residual groups.

Full report at:



UN experts demand probe into alleged MBS hacking of Washington Post owner’s phone

22 January 2020

Independent United Nations rights experts have called for an investigation into the involvement of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman into the hacking of the phone of Jeff Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post for which murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi was writing a column.

The UN experts cited a forensic analysis that showed that Bezos's phone was hacked on May 1, 2018 with an MP4 video file sent from a WhatsApp account belonging to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

"The alleged hacking of Mr Bezos's phone, and those of others, demands immediate investigation by US and other relevant authorities," UN Special Rapporteurs Agnes Callamard and David Kaye said in a statement in Geneva on Wednesday.

Callamard, the special rapporteur for extra-judicial killings, and Kaye, special rapporteur for free expression, said they were "gravely concerned".

"The information we have received suggests the possible involvement of the Crown Prince in surveillance of Mr Bezos, in an effort to influence, if not silence, The Washington Post's reporting on Saudi Arabia," the experts wrote.

The experts said any investigation into the alleged incident should also look at the "continuous, multi-year, direct and personal involvement of the Crown Prince in efforts to target perceived opponents".

The hacking reportedly took place months before the murder of the Saudi dissident journalist Khashoggi at Riyadh's consulate in Istanbul.

Referring to the circumstances and timing of the hacking incident, the UN experts said the it gave grounds for further investigation into "allegations that the Crown Prince ordered, incited, or, at a minimum, was aware of planning for" the operation to kill Khashoggi.

Khashoggi, a former advocate of the Saudi royal court who later became a critic of bin Salman, was killed after being lured into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, and his body was dismembered by a Saudi hit squad.

The Saudi government initially claimed Khashoggi left the consulate on that day, but Riyadh later said that, after a thorough investigation into the case, it had reached the conclusion that he had been killed by a “rogue” group and not by direct order from the crown prince, who is seen as the de facto ruler of the Arab kingdom.

The Washington Post reported in November 2018 that the CIA had concluded that bin Salman had ordered the killing. Furthermore, an investigative team led by the United Nations also said it believed MbS was the prime suspect in the state-sponsored murder. Washington has refused to formally implicate Mohammed, however.

Hackers used Israeli spyware

The forensic analysis -- which reportedly had been commissioned by Bezos and which the rapporteurs considered credible – said that Bezos's phone saw an "unprecedented exfiltration" of 126 MB of data, hours of receiving the video file. This continued undetected over a period of "some months" with rates of as much as 4.6 GB higher than the baseline.

The analysis added that the crown prince sent WhatsApp messages to Bezos in November 2018 and February 2019 in which he disclosed information about Bezos's personal life that was not available from public sources.

It also suggested that the hackers may have used a type of spyware used in other Saudi surveillance cases, such as the Pegasus-3 malware. The Israeli English-language Haaretz daily newspaper said in a report that Israeli cyberarms firm, NSO Group, offered Pegasus 3 technology to high-profile Saudi officials back in 2017.

Riyadh rejected as "absurd" the allegation that the kingdom hacked Amazon boss Bezos’s phone.

"Recent media reports that suggest the Kingdom is behind a hacking of Mr Jeff Bezos' phone are absurd," the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington wrote in a tweet.

Full report at:



US Seeks to Corner Hezbollah in Latin America

21 January, 2020

The United States provided information to Argentina, Colombia, Brazil, Uruguay and Peru about “support and financing networks” affiliated with Lebanon’s Hezbollah, as part of its efforts to restrict the party’s activity in Latin America and to exert maximum pressure on Iran and its proxies.

Diplomatic sources in Washington told Asharq Al-Awsat that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested a number of persons, who are involved with dealing with Hezbollah or suspected of planning to expand their activities inside the United States.

These moves came in parallel with the holding of the Third Regional Conference Against Terrorism in Bogota, Colombia, during which the US is seeking to unify the stance of 20 Latin American countries against the party.

US State Secretary Mike Pompeo, who is attending the conference, called on “all nations” on Saturday to classify Hezbollah as a terrorist group.

“We call on all nations to designate Hezbollah as the terrorist organization it is,” Pompeo wrote on his Twitter account.

The diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Honduras and Guatemala have indicated their intention to designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization, following a similar move by Argentina and Paraguay.

According to the US State Department, Pompeo met in Colombia on Monday with President Ivan Duque, stressing “the importance of uniting efforts in “fighting all forms of terrorism and “targeting the financial activity of Iranian proxy groups.”

US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said that during the conference, Pompeo talked about the activities of pro-Iranian terrorist organizations in Latin countries, following the campaign of arrests carried out by Paraguay, Brazil and Peru against Hezbollah’s agents over the past few years, on charges of terrorism, money laundering and others.

Full report at:



Trump downplays US troops’ concussion injuries from Iranian missile attack

23 January 2020

US President Donald Trump has downplayed the traumatic brain injuries suffered by American troops in Iran’s retaliatory missile strike, describing the injuries as “headaches.”

At a press conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Wednesday, Trump said military officials told him about the injuries “numerous days” after the strikes on the military bases hosting US forces in Iraq.

“I heard that they had headaches, and a couple of other things, but I would say, and I can report, it's not very serious,” said the president when asked if he doesn’t consider brain injuries as serious.

“I don't consider it very serious relative to other injuries that I've seen,” Trump added.

Also on Wednesday, the US central command spokesman said several more troops had been “identified as having potential injuries” and were being transported to Germany for treatment.

“Given the nature of injuries already noted, it is possible additional injuries may be identified in the future,” Bill Urban said.

Concussions are not always apparent immediately after they've been suffered.

Trump and the Pentagon had initially said that the January 8 Iranian missile strikes had caused no casualties.

Immediately after the Iranian retaliatory missile strike, Trump tweeted that initial casualty assessments were “so far, so good.”

But last week, the Pentagon announced that 11 American troops had been flown to medical hospitals in Germany and Kuwait to be “treated for concussion symptoms from the blast”.

Citing a military official, CNN also said that after the evacuation of the initial 11 troops, more injured soldiers could be identified.

On January 8, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) fired volleys of ballistic missiles at Ain al-Asad, a large airbase hosting about 1,500 US troops, and another outpost in Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan.

The missile operation was in response to Washington’s January 3 assassination of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, who led the IRGC’s Quds Force.

The assassination also claimed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).

Full report at:



US: Iranians no longer eligible for trade, investment visas

22 January 2020

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services agency has announced that Iranian nationals will no longer be eligible for E-1 and E-2 trade and investment visas.

According to a statement released on Wednesday by USCIS, the decision was made following the termination of the 1955 Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations and Consular Rights with Iran.

"E-1 and E-2 non-immigrant visas are based on trade and investment treaties or specific legislation providing for reciprocal treatment of the respective countries’ nationals. The existence of a qualifying treaty or authorizing legislation is therefore a threshold requirement for issuing an E visa," USCIS said.

"Due to the termination of the treaty, USCIS will send Notices of Intent to Deny to affected applicants who filed applications after the Department of State’s Oct. 3, 2018, announcement. Iranians currently holding and properly maintaining E-1 or E-2 status may remain in the US until their current status expires," it added.

The administration of US President Donald Trump put a travel ban on Iranian citizens and those of six other nations shortly after inauguration in 2017.

During the 2016 presidential race, Trump called for "a total and complete shutdown" of Muslims entering the United States allegedly on the pretext of preventing terrorist attacks.

Although the new development was somehow expected, it comes at a time of tension between Washington and Tehran.

Full report at:



Salih, Trump discuss American troop drawdown from Iraq

22 January 2020

Iraqi President Barham Salim and his US counterpart Donald Trump have exchanged viewpoints about a reduction in the number of American military forces in the war-ravaged Arab country, weeks after a parliamentary bill demanded the withdrawal of all US-led foreign troops.

“We've had a very good relationship. And we're down to a very low number. We're down to 5,000. So we're down to a very low number, historically low, and we'll see what happens,” Trump told journalists following a meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss Alpine resort of Davos on Wednesday with the Iraqi leader.

Salih and Trump also discussed the importance of respecting the demands of the Iraqi people to preserve the country’s sovereignty.

“We have a lot of common interests, the fight against extremism, stability in the neighborhood, and [a] sovereign Iraq that is stable, friends of the neighbors and friends of the United States,” the Iraqi president commented.

On January 5, Iraqi lawmakers unanimously approved a bill, demanding the withdrawal of all foreign military forces led by the United States from the country.

Late on January 9, Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi called on the United States to dispatch a delegation to Baghdad tasked with formulating a mechanism for the withdrawal of US troops from the country.

According to a statement released by the Iraqi premier’s office, Abdul-Mahdi “requested that delegates be sent to Iraq to set the mechanisms to implement the parliament's decision for the secure withdrawal of (foreign) forces from Iraq” in a phone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The prime minister said Iraq rejects violation of its sovereignty, particularly the US military's violation of Iraqi airspace in the airstrike that assassinated Lt. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, the deputy head of PMU, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and their companions.

“The prime minister said American forces had entered Iraq and drones are flying in its airspace without permission from Iraqi authorities and this was a violation of the bilateral agreements,” the statement added.

The US State Department bluntly rejected the request the following day.

‘Friday anti-US demonstrations in Iraq will mark new revolution’

A high-ranking official from the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), better known by the Arabic word Hashd al-Sha’abi, says Friday’s march against the presence of United States troops in the country will turn a new page in Iraq’s history.

“Our beloved country is undergoing special and exceptional circumstances. After the US aggression targeted the sons of Hashd al-Sha’abi and counter-terrorism leaders, the truth behind US military presence finally came to light, and it was revealed that American troops have not been deployed in order to help Iraq, and will not withdraw whenever the Iraqi government requests them to do so,” Qais al-Khazali, leader of Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, which is part of the PMU, said in a statement released on Wednesday.

He added, “Our country is now living in an occupation phase… The Iraqi nation rejects humiliation, shame, occupation and aggression. (US President Donald) Trump has said that he wants to control the Iraqi oil… Iraqi people have thwarted the US scenario of Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.”

Khazali further noted that Friday’s demonstrations to condemn the American presence in Iraq will not only be the day of sovereignty defense, but will rather be the day of the second revolution – a century after the Great Iraqi Revolution of 1920, when people staged mass demonstrations against British forces that had occupied Iraq during the First World War.

Full report at:,-Trump-discuss-possible-American-troop-drawdown-from-Iraq



US urges 'tangible reforms' in Lebanon under new gov’t

Servet Günerigök



The U.S. on Wdnesday called for "real and tangible reforms" in Lebanon after a new government was formed there following months of protests.

In a statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the new leadership's test will be its actions and ability to respond to the Lebanese people's demands for reforms and the rooting out of corruption.

"Only a government that is capable of and committed to undertaking real and tangible reforms will restore investor confidence and unlock international assistance for Lebanon," said Pompeo.

Lebanon formed the new government Tuesday with Hassan Diab, known for his close ties to Hezbollah, as its new prime minister, which comes nearly three months after the previous government resigned amid mass protests.

The top U.S. diplomat said the political leaders in the country should put aside partisan interests and act in the national interest, citing "unified, non-sectarian and largely peaceful protests over the last three months."

"We urge the government, army and security services to guarantee the safety of citizens as they engage in peaceful demonstrations," said Pompeo, adding violence does not have a place in civil discourse.

Diab said his cabinet was formed in line with protesters’ expectations, adding they would work for the return of looted public funds and the independence of the judiciary.

Lebanon has been rocked by protests since October last year. The small country of six million suffers from high unemployment, slow growth and one of the highest debt ratios in the world, with the debt burden reaching $86.2 billion in the first quarter of 2019, according to the Finance Ministry.

Full report at:



UN chief Guterres urges political solution to end Syria conflict

23 January 2020

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued “a very strong appeal” on Wednesday for a political solution to Syria’s nearly nine-year conflict, and he called for a global “push-back against the push-back” on ensuring human rights.

In a wide-ranging speech and question-and-answer session with diplomats from the 193 UN member states, Guterres painted a gloomy picture of a world where tensions are at their highest in years, mistrust is growing, new technologies are being abused and people face “an existential climate crisis.”

Speaking at the start of the United Nations’ 75th anniversary year, he warned that those threats endanger progress in the 21st century and said “the risk of a great fracture is real.”

Guterres pointed to devastating conflicts, terrorist attacks taking “a merciless toll,” a growing “nuclear menace,” rising inequality, and war and persecution forcing more people to flee their homes than at any time since World War II.

“Disquiet and discontent are churning societies from north to south,” Guterres said. “Confidence in political establishments is going down. Young people are rising up.”

He said decision-makers “continue to fiddle” about seriously tackling climate change as “our world is edging closer to the point of no return.”

Despite enormous benefits, Guterres said, “new technologies are being abused to commit crimes, incite hate, fake information, oppress and exploit people and invade privacy.”

“Artificial intelligence is generating breathtaking capacities and alarming possibilities,” he said.

“Lethal autonomous weapons - machines with the power to kill on their own, without human judgment and accountability - are bringing us into unacceptable moral and political territory.”

He called for fresh efforts to bring order “to the wild west of cyberspace.”

Guterres used the General Assembly meeting to launch a “Decade of Action” to deliver UN goals for 2030 that call for ending extreme poverty, preserving the environment, achieving gender equality and achieving “a fair globalization, boosting economic growth and preventing conflict.”

Today, he said, the world is “off track.”

“At present course, half a billion people will still be living in extreme poverty by 2030,” he said.

“And the gender gap in economic participation would have to wait more than 250 years” to close.

Guterres said he is deeply concerned about the different ways that respect for human rights are being eroded around the world.

“There is indeed a push-back in relation to human rights,” he said. “I think the push-back that we need is a push-back against the push-back.”

He pointed to the backlash against gender equality in many countries, saying that “women’s rights are human rights and ... it’s very important to fight the backlash ... and work seriously for gender equality.”

On Syria, Guterres stressed the need to move toward ending the conflict and said the first step must be to “unlock” the work of the committee established to draft a new constitution. Its second meeting in late November ended in failure because Syria’s government and opposition couldn’t agree on an agenda.

Responding to a Syrian question about support for the country’s reconstruction, the secretary-general said, “The truth is that ... in the absence of a more clear visibility of a political process, many donors and probably the most important donors, be it in the Gulf, be it in the Western part of the world, will be very reluctant to support a true reconstruction process.”

Full report at:



US prepared to support if Lebanon commits to reform, says Pompeo

23 January 2020

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, commenting on the new Cabinet in Lebanon, said that the US was “prepared to engage, provide support, but only to a government that’s committed to reform. That’s important for America.”

“We want a non-corrupt government that reflects the will of the people of Lebanon. If this government in responsive to that and there’s a new set of leaders that’s prepared to make those commitments and deliver on that, that’s the kind of government that we’ll support around the world and the kind of government we would support in Lebanon,” Pompeo said in exclusive comments to Al Arabiya.

About the new government headed by Hassan Diab, with support from the Hezbollah, Pompeo said that Washington will “have to look” at the situation in Lebanon.

“I saw what happened over the last 24 hours. We have been very clear about the requirements for the United States to engage. Lebanon has a terrible financial crisis that lies in front of it in just the weeks ahead,” noted Pompeo.

The US Secretary of State referred to the protests taking place across Lebanon. “If you look at the protests that are taking place in Beirut and cities outside of Beirut, you can see, just like in Baghdad – go look at the protests in Baghdad – these aren’t anti-American protests; these are protests demanding sovereignty and freedom. The protests taking place today in Lebanon are saying to the Hezbollah, “No more.”

In a statement issued by the US State Department, Pompeo said: “The unified, non-sectarian, and largely peaceful protests over the last three months reflect the Lebanese people’s aspirations for their political leaders to put aside partisan interests and to act in the national interest.”

Full report at:



US troops block Russian forces’ way to oil fields in northeastern Syria

22 January 2020

US military forces present in areas controlled by militants of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in Syria’s northeastern province of Hasakah have reportedly stopped a Russian military convoy from reaching oil fields there.

Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency reported on Wednesday that the Russian convoy, which consisted of five armored personnel carriers and a pickup truck, turned back and returned to their home base the previous day, after US troopers stopped them and did not allow them to reach their targeted oil fields.

The report added that the standoff ended without any significant clashes or any real risk of violence between the two sides.

The development took place amid an ongoing dispute between the US and Russia over Rumeylan oil field, which lies in the northeastern flank of Hasakah province.

On January 16, the United States dispatched dozens of truckloads of military and logistical equipment to oil-rich areas under its control in Syria’s eastern province of Dayr al-Zawr and Hasakah province.

Local sources from the Kurdish-majority northeastern city of Qamishli, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Syria’s official news agency SANA at the time that a convoy of 75 trucks crossed the Semalka border crossing, which is a pontoon bridge across the Tigris, and headed towards US positions in the two provinces.

In late October last year, Washington reversed an earlier decision to pull out all of its troops from northeastern Syria, announcing the deployment of about 500 soldiers to the oil fields controlled by Kurdish forces in the Arab country.

The US claimed that the move was aimed at protecting the fields and facilities from possible attacks by the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group. That claim came although US President Donald Trump had earlier suggested that Washington sought economic interests in controlling the oilfields.

Pentagon chief Mark Esper then threatened that the US forces deployed to the oil fields would use “military force” against any party that might seek to challenge control of the sites, even if it were Syrian government forces or their Russian allies.

Syria, which has not authorized American military presence in its territory, has said the US is “plundering” the country’s oil.

On December 18, 2019, China’s special envoy for Syria said the United States’ pretext for extending its military presence in the Arab country, namely to protect Syrian oil fields, was untenable.

“Who have given the Americans the right to do this? And, at whose invitation is the US protecting Syria’s oil fields?” Xie Xiaoyan said at a press conference in Moscow.

Full report at:





Macron faces off with Israeli forces at Jerusalem al-Quds church

22 January 2020

French President Emmanuel Macron has confronted Israeli forces during a tour of the Old City of Jerusalem al-Quds.

The French tricolor has flown over the Church of St. Anne in Jerusalem's walled Old City since it was gifted by the Ottomans to French Emperor Napoleon III in 1856.

France views it as a provocation when Israeli police enter the church's sandstone complex, in a part of Jerusalem al-Quds occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.

Wednesday's incident was a case of deja vu all over again. In 1996, former President Jacques Chirac lost patience with Israeli agents at the same church, telling one of them that his treatment was a "provocation" and threatening to get back on his plane.

Chirac refused to enter St. Anne until Israeli forces left the site.

Video showed Macron, jostled in the center of a crowded circle between his own protective detail and Israeli forces, including several forces in uniform, under an archway leading into the church.

Macron then stopped the shoving and shouted at the Israeli forces in English, "I don't like what you did in front of me."

Lowering his voice, he then said, "Go outside. I'm sorry, you know the rules. Nobody has to provoke nobody."

An Israeli spokesman did not immediately provide comment on behalf of the Shin Bet internal security agency, which also helps guard foreign dignitaries.

French diplomats had cautioned that they want to leave little room for mishaps on Macron's trip. Earlier on Wednesday, a separate squabble ensued when Israeli forces tried to enter St. Anne ahead of Macron's visit.



‘EU divided, inward looking, drifting away from values’

Büşra Nur Bilgiç Çakmak  


Turkish foreign minister on Wednesday said “EU is today divided, inward looking and drifting away from values.”    

Mevlut Cavusoglu attended Ascendant Europe meeting during the 50th World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“Attended Ascendant Europe Meeting. EU is today divided, inward looking and drifting away from values. It should abandon discriminatory, populist and protectionist policies. To regain power, it should adopt its core values such as democracy, free market and multiculturalism,” he said on Twitter.

Cavusoglu also attended Diplomacy Dialogue on Syria meeting and shared views on “establishing calm in Idlib, progressing the work by Constitutional Committee and facilitating safe, voluntarily and dignified return of refugees,” he said in another Twitter post. 

The Syrian Constitutional Committee -- made up of opposition, civil society, and regime members -- began its work on Nov. 20 in Geneva with the UN facilitation. 

The committee is mandated within the context of a UN-facilitated Geneva process to prepare and draft for popular approval of constitutional reforms paving the way for a political settlement in Syria. 

On Nov. 25, the Assad regime delegation left the talks on the first day of the second round. 

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people are believed to have been killed and millions more displaced by the conflict. 

Turkey and Russia agreed in September 2018 to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

Since then, more than 1,300 civilians there have been killed in attacks by the regime and Russian forces as the cease-fire continued to be violated. 

Full report at:



U.K. Promises Stronger Terrorism Laws After Knife Attack by Convict

By Elian Peltier

Jan. 21, 2020

LONDON — The British government said on Tuesday that it would toughen terrorism sentences and end early release for serious offenders, following through on promises made by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in November after a convicted terrorist who had been automatically released carried out an attack that killed two people near London Bridge.

The attacker, Usman Khan, 28, who was released in December 2018 after serving eight years of a 16-year sentence for his involvement in a bomb plot, began a knife attack while attending an event on prison rehabilitation at Fishmongers’ Hall, a central London conference venue. Wearing a fake explosive vest, he fled over the nearby bridge, and he was shot and killed by the police shortly afterward.

The attack, during the final weeks of a British general election campaign, set off a heated debate over jail sentences for convicted terrorists and their overall reintegration into society.

Under the new legislation, which could be introduced in Parliament this spring, terrorism offenders would serve a minimum of 14 years in prison. The number of probation officers specializing in counterterrorism would be doubled, and the counterterrorist police would receive a 10 percent funding increase, the British Home Office, the government department responsible for policing and national security, said in a statement.

“The senseless terror attack at Fishmongers’ Hall in November confronted us with some hard truths about how we deal with terrorist offenders,” Home Secretary Priti Patel said.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said that law enforcement officers could also use lie detectors on terrorism offenders in order to better assess possible threats. The reliability of polygraph testing is often disputed, but Britain already uses it with some sexual offenders — though the use that can be made of the results is limited and they are not admissible in British courts.

“We get a lot of people who are superficially very compliant with the regime,” Mr. Buckland told the British broadcaster Sky News, referring to terrorist offenders in prison. “You can get people who are in fact ‘sleepers’ for many years and then suddenly back come the hatreds and the prejudices.”

While in jail, Mr. Khan had assured officials in letters that he wanted to follow a deradicalization program and that he no longer embraced radical views. He had been given an indeterminate sentence in 2012 for his involvement in a terrorist cell that planned to bomb the London Stock Exchange, which was later replaced by a 16-year fixed-term sentence.

Referring to Mr. Khan and two other defendants in the same case, a judge said in 2012 that “these offenders would remain, even after a lengthy term of imprisonment, of such a significant risk that the public could not be adequately protected by their being managed on license in the community.”

David Videcette, a former antiterrorism detective, said on Tuesday that some of the proposed changes were incremental, such as the use of lie detector tests, while others, like more funding for counterterrorism police, seemed more urgent.

He said the domestic terrorism landscape had changed, with fewer “large scale attacks, and more lower-tech ones.”

“The individuals involved in them are much harder to catch because they don’t always interact with wider networks,” Mr. Videcette added. “So it’s more labor intensive to monitor them and potentially catch them.”

Several European countries have been grappling in recent years with their response to the threat posed by radicalized individuals who may carry small-scale attacks on their own, or regroup with larger cells. They have warned that zero-risk situations do not exist, while trying to reassure a wary public with additional funding and tougher security measures whose impact often takes years to assess.

In France, officials have reinforced intelligence resources in prison to monitor soon-to-be-released inmates, as a majority of its 500 terrorist convicts and more than 1,200 inmates suspected of radicalization are scheduled to leave prison within the next few years.

After the November attack in London, politicians on both ends of the spectrum accused their opponents of having slashed resources dedicated to the monitoring of convicted terrorists.

It was also seen as an echo of a terrorist attack near London Bridge in 2017 that left eight people dead, also during the closing stages of an election campaign. The political response to that attack included a focus on cuts to police numbers under Mr. Johnson’s predecessors, David Cameron and Theresa May — cuts that Mr. Johnson began his own campaign by promising to reverse.

“I have long argued that it is a mistake to allow serious and violent criminals to come out of prison early,” Mr. Johnson said in November, as he announced that the security services would review the parole conditions of 74 people who had been convicted of terrorism and released early. Mr. Johnson was later accused of exploiting the attack for political gain, including by the father of one of the victims.

David Merritt, the father of Jack Merritt, a rehabilitation worker who was killed by Mr. Khan, said that his son would have been furious at Mr. Johnson’s response to the attack.

Full report at:



Iran must not acquire nuclear weapons: French president Macron

22 January 2020

French President Emmanuel Macron said France was determined Iran would never gain a nuclear weapon but it wanted to avoid any military escalation in the Middle East, after he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday.

Macron started his visit with a morning meeting with Netanyahu at his official residence in Jerusalem, where the two discussed Iran’s nuclear program and regional security issues from Libya to Turkey, according to Netanyahu’s office.

“In the current context, France is determined that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon, but also that we avoid all military escalations in the region,” Macron said afterwards.

Netanyahu’s office said the Israeli leader urged Macron to put pressure on Iran over what he called its aggression in the region.

France, along with Britain and Germany, declared Iran in violation of the 2015 nuclear pact last week and they launched a dispute mechanism that could see the matter referred back to the Security Council and the re-imposition of UN sanctions.

Full report at:



France will do ‘everything’ to help resolve Lebanon crisis: Macron

22 January 2020

France will do “everything” to help resolve Lebanon’s “deep crisis,” President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday, as a new government in Beirut faces a tenacious protest movement and a nosediving economy.

“We will do everything, during this deep crisis that they are going through, to help ... our Lebanese friends,” Macron said, speaking alongside Israeli President Reuven Rivlin during a visit to Jerusalem.

The comments came as new Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab convened his first cabinet, which donors hope can spearhead reforms, unlock foreign aid and help stabilize a plummeting currency.

Full report at:



Trump mounts pressure on EU to shun Iran

22 January 2020

Apparently, at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland Donald Trump, in no uncertain terms, warned European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen there will be dire trade consequences for the EU unless the bloc toes Washington's line with respect to its maximum pressure policy against Iran. In a speech less than 24 hours later Von der Leyen intimated that heightened tensions in the Middle East and Libya show the EU must develop greater autonomy when it comes to foreign policy.

Amid almost unprecedented US-Iran tensions, some are certainly bowing to Trump's demands. At a European Parliament foreign affairs committee meeting in Brussels the head of NATO was asked if he would be increasing the military alliance's presence in Iraq, as requested by Trump, despite a decision by the Iraqi parliament for foreign troops to leave the country.

So Trump clearly seems to be successfully calling the shots at EU and NATO level. However, some lawmakers say in reality he is very disliked and more effort should be made to fight his agenda.

But as key EU players Britain, Germany and France appear to be moving further away from the Iran nuclear deal, at the behest of Trump, political commentators are skeptical the bloc can show backbone.

Full report at:



Trump meets KRG leader, Iraqi president in Davos

Servet Günerigök



U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday met with Iraq's Kurdish Regional Government's leader Nechirvan Barzani and his Iraqi counterpart, Barhem Saleh, in Switzerland. 

Trump's separate meetings took place on the sidelines of World Economic Forum in Davos.

Barzani used the gathering to thank the U.S. leader, saying "we've been, quite a long time, waiting for that moment."

He said Washington and Erbil worked together to defeat the Daesh/ISIS terror group. Trump responded "right".

While hosting the Iraqi president, Trump highlighted cooperation between the two countries on military and anti-Daesh efforts.

Saleh echoed the U.S. president, saying both countries "had an enduring relationship"

"The United States has been a partner to Iraq and in the war against ISIS. This mission needs to be accomplished," said Saleh.

On a question if Washington will withdraw troops from Iraq, Trump said the U.S. and Iraq are talking about "a lot of different things and you’ll be hearing whatever we do."

He said the U.S. had 5,000 troops and called it "a very low number".

"So we’re down to a very low number, historically low. And we’ll see what happens," Trump added.

Earlier this month, Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' (IRGC) elite Quds Force, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad.

His death marked a dramatic escalation in tensions between the U.S. and Iran, which have often been at a fever pitch since Trump chose in 2018 to unilaterally withdraw Washington from a 2015 nuclear pact world powers struck with Tehran.

Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei, who bestowed the country's highest honor on Soleimani last year, vowed "severe retaliation" in response to his killing.

Iran's IRGC launched more than a dozen of ballistic missiles against U.S. military and coalition forces in Iraq.

The tension risked the lives of Iraqis and Iraq's sovereignty.

Therefore, the Iraqi parliament decided Jan. 5 to end the military presence of all foreign troops in the country, including the U.S.

On Jan. 10, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi called U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to demand Washington send a delegation to Iraq for establishment of a mechanism to withdraw its forces from Iraq.

Full report at:



China assures Germany of supporting Libya peace talks

Ayhan Şimşek  



China has pledged support for Libya peace efforts in a phone call between President Xi Jinping and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, her office said on Wednesday.

A statement by the German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Merkel and Xi had a phone call on Wednesday to discuss bilateral relations, international issues and Libyan conflict.

“They discussed implementing the conclusions of the Berlin Conference on Libya held on January 19, 2020. President Xi has pledged his further support [for the process] ,” Seibert said.

Major world powers and regional actors agreed at the conference to support UN efforts for a lasting cease-fire and abide by the arms embargo on Libya.

Germany was seeking support from the UN Security Council members to adopt a legally binding resolution on the outcome of the conference.

Since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: warlord Khalifa Haftar in eastern Libya, supported mainly by Egypt and the UAE, and the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, which enjoys the UN and international recognition.

Haftar promised last week to respect a cease-fire brokered by Turkey and Russia, but his militias launched various attacks, including an attack that targeted the Mitiga International Airport in the capital Tripoli on Wednesday.

Full report at:



South Asia


Taliban admits ‘peace’ negotiations with U.S. are merely means to withdraw ‘foreign forces’


January 21, 2020

The Taliban admitted this week that current negotiations with the “arrogant” U.S. – often billed as “peace talks” that will purportedly end the fighting in Afghanistan – are merely being conducted to facilitate “the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.”

The Taliban made the statements in its latest commentary, titled “Powerless shall always remain shareless…!,” which was published in English on Jan. 20 on its official website, Voice of Jihad.

In addition, the terrorist group called the Afghan government “impotent,” “powerless,” “incapable,” “a tool of the invaders,” and a host of other insults in the statement. The Taliban was clear, as it has consistently been clear, that it would not deal with the Afghan government, which has been “sidelined [by the U.S.] in every major decision regarding Afghanistan.”

The statement opened with the Taliban referring to itself as “the Islamic Emirate,” the name of its government. The Taliban has repeatedly stated that the only acceptable outcome to the war is the reimposition of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and a return to its brutal form of “islamic governance.”

“After nearly two decades of armed struggle and resistance by the Islamic Emirate against foreign occupation, the invaders have come to the conclusion that this war unwinnable …” the Taliban said. “It is due to this realization that arrogant America has pursued negotiations with the Emirate and is holding talks about the withdrawal of their forces …”

The Afghan government is an “an impotent and incapable governing system” that “has consistently been sidelined in every major decision regarding Afghanistan,” including ongoing negotiations.

“[Y]et again the stooge administration remains marginalized and has not even yet even been informed about the latest developments by the lead American negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad,” it continued.

Khalilzad, the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, has desperately been attempting to cut a deal with the Taliban and has excluded the Afghan government numerous times in an attempt to make it happen. While billed as a “peace” deal, an agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban would not bring peace to the country.

The Taliban has refused to negotiate directly with the Afghan government, which it holds in contempt, but has agreed to consider vague “intra-Afghan talks.” As part of that accord, the U.S. was willing to accept the Taliban’s supposed counterterrorism assurances, despite the fact that the Taliban has harbored al Qaeda to this day and refuses to denounce the group by name. In fact, the Taliban has glorified al Qaeda’s attack on Sept. 11, 2001 in its propaganda as recently as July 2019..

Over the past decade, the Taliban has consistently stated that it will not share power with a “puppet” Afghan government that it considers “impotent” and “un-Islamic.” A statement released as far back as Jan. 2016 highlighted that position.

“The Islamic Emirate has not readily embraced this death and destruction for the sake of some silly ministerial posts or a share of the power,” the group said in an official statement.

“The people of Afghanistan readily sacrifice their sons to achieve this objective [the ejection of U.S. forces and the restoration of the Islamic Emirate]. And the Emirate – as the true representative of our people – will not end its peaceful and armed endeavors until we have achieved this hope of Afghanistan.”

The Taliban drove this point home by quoting what it calls “a famous Afghan proverb,” in the headline to its statement:

“[The] Powerless shall always remain shareless.”

Full text of the Taliban statement, Powerless shall always remain shareless…!

After nearly two decades of armed struggle and resistance by the Islamic Emirate against foreign occupation, the invaders have come to the conclusion that this war unwinnable and that Afghanistan is not a place that can be used as a permanent outpost. It is due to this realization that arrogant America has pursued negotiations with the Emirate and is holding talks about the withdrawal of their forces with them as a decisive force shaping the future of Afghanistan.

From the very onset of the invasion, America sought to create an impotent and incapable governing system with the aim of attaining their objectives in Afghanistan in tandem with deceiving its people; a fact that has explicitly been made clear by the former head of this administration (Hamid Karzai) in multiple media interviews. This supposed administration has consistently been sidelined in every major decision regarding Afghanistan and has been used as a mere tool by the invaders for their own interests over the course of this protracted period.

At this very moment, negotiations between Talib envoys and America about the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan has entered a crucial stage and hopes are high that both sides shall reach an agreement about the withdrawal of America forces from Afghanistan. And yet again the stooge administration remains marginalized and has not even yet even been informed about the latest developments by the lead American negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad as evidenced by the remarks of Ghulam Siddique Siddiqui, the spokesperson for the incumbent head of the Kabul administration Ashraf Ghani.

A famous Afghan proverb says “Powerless shall always remain shareless” and this saying distinctly describes the Kabul-based administration. They have continually remained loyal to the interests of the invaders and toed the official line of their masters over the past two decades and therefore, they shall continue to remain an insignificant party when it comes to major issues.



U.S., Taliban Negotiators Inch Closer to a Deal, Officials Say

By Eltaf Najafizada and Nick Wadhams

January 21, 2020

The U.S. and Taliban leaders are moving toward a peace deal that would see the eventual withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and an end to the 18-year long conflict, according to the militant group’s spokesman and a person in Washington familiar with the talks.

It’s the second time in recent months the two sides have appeared close to announcing an agreement. In September President Donald Trump abruptly called off talks in response to a suicide bombing in Kabul that killed an American soldier.

Led by special envoy on Afghan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. delegation is discussing the Taliban’s offer of a 7-to-10 day halt in its military operations in talks underway in Doha, where the group has a political office, the militant group’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said via a series of messages on Tuesday. The talks will also decide when and where the agreement will be signed.

Khalilzad has imposed a communications blackout on his team, wary that any leak could result in the deal again being scuttled at the last minute, the person said. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus declined to comment.

General Scott Miller, the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, is also attending the meeting that began Monday night, Mujahed said. The American embassy in Kabul was unable to provide a comment, it said in an emailed statement Tuesday.

Troop Withdrawal

The militant group controls or contests half of the country, more territory than any time since they were toppled in 2001. And the U.S. now has 13,000 of the 22,673 foreign troops in Afghanistan, down from a peak of 100,000 in 2011.

Mujahed said there were no changes to the terms of agreement that had been decided before Trump called off the talks last year.

“After the deal, the U.S. will only have an embassy in Kabul for diplomatic relations,” Mujahed said. “All their military will leave the country,” he said, adding that according to the agreement the U.S. would pull out some 5,000 of the 13,000 American troops in the war-torn nation within 135 days. The rest would follow gradually.

Washington had asked for a complete long-term cease-fire before a peace deal. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has said the Taliban must first accept a nationwide cease-fire before any direct peace negotiations. The militant group has said it will open direct talks with Afghan officials after the U.S. troop withdrawal deal.

The militant group’s offer is a key step forward to persuade the U.S. to sign the agreement, said a former Taliban official, Sayed Akbar Agha, by phone.

Full report at:



Bangladesh prepares to send 100,000 Rohingya refugees to isolated island

By Rohantha De Silva

23 January 2020

On January 16, Bangladesh Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mahbub Alam Talukder declared that Bhasan Char, a small island in the Bay of Bengal, was “ready for habitation,” and had “everything in place” to accommodate 100,000 Rohingya refugees.

Around 700,000 Rohingyas fled Burma, or Myanmar, following genocidal repression by the Burmese army in August 2017. Together with those who previously fled Burma, there are more than 1.1 million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, most living in makeshift dwellings in overcrowded camps without clean water and proper sanitation.

While Commissioner Talukder claimed the island was “ready for habitation,” the isolated and previously uninhabited island, which emerged from the Bay of Bengal’s muddy waters about two decades ago, is physically unstable and prone to cyclones. Domestic and international human rights organisations have questioned the suitability of the government plan.

Irrespective of the truth of the government’s claims, any accommodation and infrastructure facilities that may exist on the island will be grossly inadequate and prison-like.

Prime Minister Sheik Hasina’s Awami League-led government has banned foreign journalists from visiting the island, and not announced when the Rohingya refugees will be sent there. So far, only 3,500 have agreed to move.

More than 610,000 refugees are currently living in grossly congested camps, surrounded by barbed-wire fences, on Cox’s Bazar in southeastern Bangladesh, about 350 kilometres from Dhaka. Refugees are banned from leaving the camps and the government has installed checkpoints on nearby roads. Dhaka has launched a crackdown inside the camps, shutting down shops run by refugees, blocking internet services, confiscating mobile phones and imposing a daily 8 p.m. curfew.

In addition, government authorities have warned employers not to hire Rohingya refugees, many of whom attempt to earn a living as casual porters, night guards and construction labourers. Over 40 non-government organisations, which do most of the refugee relief work for the poverty-stricken refugees, have been suspended by the government on various pretexts.

These brutal measures, which are designed to force the Rohingyas onto Bashan Char or leave Bangladesh, were stepped up after government’s attempts to repatriate Rohingya refugees—that is force them back into Burma—failed again last August.

The Bangladeshi government does not recognise the Rohingyas as refugees, the vast majority of whom are women and children. It defines them as “forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals.” Facing this worsening situation and in fear of forcible relocation, some Rohingyas have attempted to flee Bangladesh. Last month, the Burmese navy seized some 200 refugees, including 69 women and 22 children, as they were trying to reach Malaysia or Indonesia.

Over 500,000 Rohingya children in the Bangladeshi camps cannot attended public schools and are barred any access to formal education. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and its partners teach Burmese, English, mathematics and life-skills to about 145,000 Rohingya children, aged 4 to 14, for two hours daily at some 1,600 learning centres inside the refugee camps.

There are no educational facilities in the camps, however, for young people aged 15 to 18. Some children, mostly boys, receive religious education from Islamic religious institutions or madrasas.

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report in December stated that only ad hoc classes were allowed for refugee children and warned about a “lost generation” of young men, who were vulnerable to criminal gangs.

HRW said the situation was worse for girls outside the camps, who were being preyed upon by human traffickers who falsely promise jobs and forcing some into prostitution. Even in the camps, the girls faced the prospect of sexual abuse and child marriages. “Rohingya refugee children have been watching their chance for an education and a better future evaporate, and two years on there is still not even a plan to enroll them in schools,” HRW’s associate children’s rights director Bill Van Esveld told the media on December 3.

“Rohingya people have said this to me: If the kids have no access to a better future if they have no access to education, what are the alternatives? Despair, which leads to being prey to human trafficking … criminality, and being prey to radicalisation,” Van Esveld added.

Prime Minister Sheik Hasina, in line with her government’s anti-Rohingya refugee rhetoric, told the Dhaka Global Dialogue 2019 last November that the Rohingyas are not “only a threat to Bangladesh but also to regional security.”

Rohingyas are not the only Muslim refugees in Bangladesh living in appalling conditions in violation of their basic democratic rights. There are also the “Bihar Muslims” or the “stranded Pakistanis” who fled the eastern Indian state of Bihar during the 1947 partition of the former British-ruled Indian sub-continent.

Confronted with rising anti-Muslim pogroms in Hindu India, they escaped into East Pakistan, later to become Bangladesh. The poverty-stricken “Bihar Muslims,” who speak Urdu instead of Bengali, are poorer and less educated, working as mill workers and small shopkeepers.

The Bangladeshi government’s persecution of refugees is part of a global phenomenon. Under conditions of an intensifying world crisis of capitalism, the ruling elites in every country attempt to divide the working class by vilifying oppressed minorities and whipping up communalism to divert attention from the failure of the profit system.

Full report at:



Turkey to help Afghanistan develop its insurance sector

22 Jan 2020

The Afghanistan General Directorate of Insurance Affairs (GDIA) has signed a memorandum of understanding with Turkey’s General Directorate of Insurance (GDI) to Assist Afghanistan in developing its insurance sector, an official said.

Mosa Kamawi, the head of Afghanistan Insurance Affairs told Khaama Press that he has signed an MOU with Turkey’s insurance authority on the exchange of information and cooperation in the field of insurance regulation and supervision.

“The MOU signed on January 16 is valid for 3 years aiming to receive technical and advisory assistance from Turkey to help us with sharing information, experience and capacity building’, Kamawi said.

Turkey’s cooperation will also assist Afghanistan with new investment facilities and development of the country’s insurance market, Kamawi added.

This comes as insurance is one of the least developed industries in Afghanistan. Certain lines of insurance which are compulsory anywhere else in the world for the sustainability of the economy and proper risk management, are optional in Afghanistan.

The state insurance firm used to issue ‘third-party auto liability’ insurance coverage on an exclusive basis as the sole insurance provider in Afghanistan before 2008. It was made optional for the vehicle owners following the entrance of private insurance firms into the market.

Currently, there are five insurance companies in Afghanistan including a state-owned firm, they all provide group insurance coverages to cooperate and businesses only.

Afghanistan’s Banking and Telecom industries have had rapid growth in the past 19 years, but insurance remained less developed mainly due to the country’s legislation issues, no law enforcement and lack of state attentions to developing this sector.

Almost all government agencies and state-owned enterprises have never included insurance in their annual budgeting plans.

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Abdullah and Karzai have no written plan for Afghanistan: Ghani

23 Jan 2020

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani spoke at a side event of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Wednesday criticizing Abdullah and Karzai, saying none of them have written plans for the Afghanistan future and peace process.

Ghani used the ‘your hands do not reach to take the grapes and you say it’s sour – not tasty –‘ phrase for Abdullah and Karzai saying they cannot do anything, but criticize.

“If the Taliban are not ready to stop violence, I will not allow them to return to power misusing peace negotiation opportunities with the United States”, Afghan President warned the Taliban.

The Taliban had earlier announced their chief Mullah Haibatullah had agreed to a brief ‘ceasefire’ before signing a deal with the United States, but the Afghan government insists on a complete ‘ceasefire’ plan before Intra-Afghan talks start.

Afghanistan Chief Executive Officer, Abdullah Abdullah and former President Hamid Karzai had recently criticized President Ghani accusing the President of the sabotaging the peace negotiations.

In response to a moderator’s question at a side event of the Davos Forum, Ghani praised himself claiming he was successful in starting peace negotiations with the Taliban, but Karzai failed to do it, he said.

“I am busying working with the public, people trust me, I have plans which I am working on them”, Ghani said.

“What’s the plan of President Karzai and CEO Abdullah? Please show me at least one page written plan of them for the country”, he added.

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