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Islamic World News ( 17 March 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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No Loudspeakers in Mosques, Dargahs from 10 PM to 6 AM in Karnataka

New Age Islam News Bureau

17 March 2021


The circular also identified silence zones where use of loudspeakers would attract a penalty. (PTI file photo)


• Islamic Countries Must Join Against Islamophobia, Terrorism: Special Aide to Pakistan PM

• Israel Upgrades ‘Iron Dome’ Amid Fears of Missile Power in Lebanon, Gaza

• Amnesty International Embarrassed, Afghan Gov’t Not Protecting Human Rights Defenders

• Saudi Regime to Displace 521 Families, Raze Houses in Shia-Majority Qatif

• American Soldiers Help Mozambique Battle an Expanding ISIS Affiliate

• UK Columnist, Julie Burchill, Pays Muslim Journalist, Ash Sarkar,‘Substantial Damages’

• Former Islamic Affairs Minister Says ‘Allah’ Court Case Was before Pakatan’s Time in Govt



• No Loudspeakers in Mosques, Dargahs from 10 PM to 6 AM during Azaan, Says Karnataka Auqaf Circular

• 30 Ayodhya Temples, 3 Mosques in Squatters’ List May Be Moved Out

• Ex-Shia Waqf Board Chief Charged for Moving Top Court to Remove Quran Verses in FIR Registered in UP’s Bareilly

• Wife Moves Delhi HC to Seek Mortal Remains of Husband Wrongly Buried As Per Muslim Rites in Saudi Arabia

• 'A Hero for All Indians Too': PM Modi Pays Homage to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman On Birth Anniversary

• Muslim Man Made Financial Contribution and Organised the Wedding of A Hindu Girl



• Islamic Countries Must Join Against Islamophobia, Terrorism: Special Aide to Pakistan PM

• Cleric Muhammad Ali Mirza Concerned At Security Denial despite Repeated Requests

• Pakistan wants to improve ties with Bangladesh, says Alvi

• PM launches advisory portal on national security in 'first' Islamabad Security Dialogue

• Two ‘Sindhudesh’ militants held in Rangers attack case

• Deported To Pakistan: Does Death Await Ahmadis?



• Israel Upgrades ‘Iron Dome’ Amid Fears of Missile Power in Lebanon, Gaza

• Yemen sheds light on ‘direct US-Qaeda relationship under Saleh’

• Iran Enriching Uranium with New Advanced Machine Type at Natanz Plant: IAEA

• Iran’s Top Commander Describes IRGC as Invincible Power

• FM Zarif: West Asia Insecure Due to US Meddling

• FM Lashes Out at Suppliers of WMDs to Saddam

• Over 18 Houthi fighters killed in ambush in Yemen’s Taiz: Yemeni army

• Iran-backed Houthis confirm migrant centre fire, say 44 killed


South Asia

• Amnesty International Embarrassed, Afghan Gov’t Not Protecting Human Rights Defenders

• UN Delegation to Visit Remote Bangladesh Island since Rohingya Moved

• UN Envoy: Myanmar Generals ‘Could Face Same Fate As Saddam, Gaddafi’

• Taliban battered in Kandahar, 34 killed

• John Sopko: Security remains unstable and crucial in Afghanistan

• Taliban to send delegation to Afghanistan peace meeting hosted by Russia


Arab World

• Saudi Regime to Displace 521 Families, Raze Houses in Shia-Majority Qatif

• US Urges International Community to Designate Hezbollah as a Terror Group

• GCC stands with Saudi Arabia against threats to its security: Secretary General

• Lebanon’s Hezbollah plays ‘pivotal’ role in resolving regional challenges: Analyst

• Saudi Arabia urges extension of Iran arms embargo amid increased Houthi attacks

• Syrian air defences respond to Israeli ‘aggression’ in southern Syria: SANA

• At least 12 regime soldiers killed in militant ambush in south Syria: Monitor

• Lebanon releases activist charged for collaborating with Israel

• Saudi Arabia condemns protesters storming presidential palace in Yemen’s Aden

• Arab Coalition destroys Houthi explosive-laden boat off Yemen’s as-Salif


North America

• American Soldiers Help Mozambique Battle an Expanding ISIS Affiliate

• Turkey's new envoy aims to advance relations with US

• U.S. soldier pleads not guilty to plotting ISIS attacks on NYC landmarks

• US report says Russia, Iran and Hezbollah meddled in 2020 election



• UK Columnist, Julie Burchill, Pays Muslim Journalist, Ash Sarkar,‘Substantial Damages’

• EU visit to Xinjiang stalled over access request to jailed Uighur academic: Diplomat

• EU should renew migration deal with Turkey: Borrell

• Stansted Airport: German man admits sharing IS videos

• We shouldn’t forget the horrific crimes of Isis returnees

• Europe's Experience on Islamism Is a Cautionary Tale for the United States


Southeast Asia

• Former Islamic Affairs Minister Says ‘Allah’ Court Case Was before Pakatan’s Time in Govt

• Use of ‘Allah’ a non-issue in Sabah and Sarawak, say Muslim reps

• ‘Allah’ issue to be discussed at session with muftis tomorrow

• Malaysia's Anwar says has met with several Umno leaders to discuss cooperation in next elections



• Algeria Seeks 18 Months’ Prison Sentence for Journalist in ‘Defamation’ Case

• Militants Kill 58 In Separate Attacks in Niger

• Eastern Libya Forces Say Arrested ‘Prominent IS Leader’ Abu Omar

• Armed men attack another Nigerian school, as 39 students still missing

• Suspected Islamists kill at least a dozen villagers in eastern Congo

• Libyan government hands power to unity team

• Tunisian president to visit Libya in show of support for new government

• Niger: Dozens of civilians killed near Malian border

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



No Loudspeakers in Mosques, Dargahs from 10 PM to 6 AM during Azaan, Says Karnataka Auqaf Circular


The circular also identified silence zones where use of loudspeakers would attract a penalty. (PTI file photo)


17 Mar 2021

In an order with far-reaching implications, the Karnataka State Board of Auqaf has issued a circular to all the mosques and Dargahs (mausoleums) in the state, prohibiting the use of loudspeakers between 10 pm and 6 am during Azaan.

In the circular dated March 9, the board said, "The loudspeakers shall not be used at night time, which shall mean from 10 pm to 6 am."

The Board said the ambient noise level around these structures has "deleterious effects on human health and the psychological well-being of people".

However, the Waqf Board has also made it clear that there will be no ban on Azaan, adding that the decision to bar loudspeakers during the specified time was taken to prevent noise pollution.

Further underlining the "silence zones", the circular said any violation will be liable for a penalty.

"The areas comprising not less than 100 metres around hospitals, educational institutions and courts are declared as silence zones.

"Whoever uses sound amplifier or burst sound-emitting firecrackers, uses a loudspeaker or public address system in a silence zone is liable for penalty under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act-1986," the circular read.

These decisions were taken at the board's 327th meeting held on December 19, 2020 regarding a strict adherence to the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 in Karnataka and "it unanimously resolved to create awareness amongst the managements of Masjids and Dargahs".

"It is observed that increasing the ambient noise level around many a Masjid and Dargahs due to generator sets, loudspeakers and public address systems has deleterious effects on human health and the psychological well-being of people," the order noted.

The board reminded the mutawallis and managing committees of the mosques and dargahs that it had issued a circular on July 10, 2017 (when Siddaramaiah headed the Congress government in Karnataka) to follow the ambient noise standards in accordance with the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000.

The circular said loudspeakers should be used only for "azan" and other important announcements, whereas the congregational Salat, Jumma Qutba, Bayans, religious socio-cultural and knowledge-based functions shall be performed with the speakers installed on the premises of the mosques and dargahs.

The noise-governing apparatus may be installed in the institutions in consultation with the local environment officers.

The Khateeb O Imam of Bengaluru's Jamia Masjid, Maqsood Imran, told PTI that he too has received the circular. He added that they have spoken to the CEO of the board about revising the circular since the morning "azan" is an important one.

He shared a letter written by Waqf Board member and MLA Tanveer Sait to the CEO of the board.

In the letter, Sait said, "As the board is an autonomous body, keeping this instruction in the view, you are hereby directed to issue an amended circular at the earliest, considering sunrise timings and use of loudspeakers sensibly between 10 pm to 5 am as the holy month of Ramzan is fast approaching."

Former chairman of the state Waqf Board Anwar Manippady told PTI, "It is a great step towards amiability in the society between the two communities -- minorities and majorities."


Islamic Countries Must Join Against Islamophobia, Terrorism: Special Aide to Pakistan PM


March 17, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The Special Aide to Prime Minister on Religious Harmony and Middle East, Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, on Tuesday said the situation demands that all Islamic countries carry out a joint struggle for the elimination of Islamophobia, extremism and terrorism.

“Islamic countries must develop a joint strategy against extremist organizations, groups and individuals,” he said while talking with the Arab media along with Pakistani and international media here on Tuesday. The Special Aide to Prime Minister on Religious Harmony and Middle East said Pakistan's stance on Islamophobia and Namoos-e-Risalat has been recognized in the entire Muslim world. “Together with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Pakistan is raising the voice of the entire Ummah and the Islamic world at world fora,” he said. He said on the request of Prime Minister Imran Khan and the World Islamic League, the Sri Lankan government has allowed Muslims' burial permission for the coronavirus victims. Ashrafi said that relations with all Arab countries are getting stronger and Pakistan's foreign policy towards the Arab Islamic countries is being praised everywhere. “The stronger the OIC will be, the stronger the Ummah will emerge,” he said. He said that Pakistan wants unity and solidarity among all the Islamic countries. “Harmain Al-Sharifain is the center of the Ummah. If the security and stability of Saudi Arabia comes under threat, the Ummah cannot remain silent,” he said. He said Pakistan welcomes reconciliation between the Gulf countries and Qatar and strongly favours ending all differences among Islamic countries. He said the problems of Islamic countries can only be solved through dialogue. “Wars only bring destruction,” he said. Ashrafi said that an organized propaganda campaign was launched to sour the Pak-Saudi relations but our relations are time-tested and remain very strong. "We also welcome the development regarding the new government in Libya," he said.

SAPM Muhammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi said Pakistan wants to strengthen trade, cultural, economic and tourism ties with Arab Islamic countries. He said Prime Minister Imran Khan's priority is to strengthen trade and economic ties, rather than debt and aid. He said it is unfortunate that the issue of Hijab is creating problems for Muslims everywhere, including in Europe. “Countries and organizations striving for interfaith dialogue and harmony should take immediate steps in this regard,” he said. In the near future, he said it is also planned to hold conferences of important Muftis of the Islamic world on contemporary issues. “Many issues are stalled due to the outbreak of Coronavirus and in all likelihood after Ramazan, the Fifth World Message of Islam Conference will be held besides another important meeting will be held regarding the Pak-Arab Forum,” he said. Replying to a question, Hafiz Ashrafi said that talks could be held with the opposition to eradicate corruption and for development of the country. He said Pakistan belongs to all of us and every Pakistani has to play a role for the development and stability of Pakistan. “We are committed to making Pakistan a moderate Islamic welfare state,” he said.


Israel upgrades ‘Iron Dome’ amid fears of missile power in Lebanon, Gaza


In this file picture, an Israeli missile launched from the Iron Dome missile system, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, is pictured in the city of Sderot on November 12, 2019. (By AFP)


17 March 2021

The Israeli ministry of military affairs says it has upgraded the so-called Iron Dome missile system to intercept additional kinds of projectiles, amid fears in Tel Aviv of the increasing defense capabilities of resistance groups in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

Moshe Patel, who is in charge of the ministry’s missile department, said in a statement on Tuesday that the missile system had completed a series of tests, including interceptions of rocket and missile salvos as well as simultaneous interceptions of multiple unmanned aerial vehicles.

Patel added the new system would be deployed by Israel’s air force and navy in the near future.

The highly-publicized Iron Dome system was designed to detect, assess and intercept a variety of shorter-range targets such as rockets, artillery and mortars, but it has proven largely ineffective in serving that purpose during the military conflicts that the regime has waged over the past years.

The anti-missile project was first installed in 2011 near Beersheba as a mobile all-weather system, years after Tel Aviv’s humiliating defeat in its 33-day war on Lebanon, in which the regime suffered huge losses thanks to the major role that the Hezbollah resistance movement played in defending its homeland.

The Israeli regime long tried to portray the “Iron Dome” as an invincible and all-powerful missile system, but the thoughts of an invulnerable missile shield evaporated during the regime’s military aggression against the blockaded Gaza Strip in 2019.

During that conflict, Palestinian resistance fighters with the Hamas and Islamic Jihad resistance groups overwhelmed the system by firing around 700 missiles towards the Israeli-occupied territories in just two days. Only some 240 of them were intercepted.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad said back then that they deliberately fired enormous numbers of rockets at a specific target zone in a new tactic to saturate Iron Dome. Four Israeli settlers were killed and at least 80 others injured in Gaza’s retaliatory attacks.

Earlier, during Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza, five Israelis were killed in the Palestinian retaliatory rocket fire against the occupied territories, raising serious questions about the accuracy of the system and causing panic among the Israelis living in the southern parts of the occupied territories over what they viewed as the regime’s failure to protect them.

The performance of Iron Dome had likewise come under scrutiny following a similar Israeli military aggression against the besieged Palestinian territory two years earlier in November 2012.

The Israeli regime suffered low casualties during that conflict, with many media outlets attributing the figures to the effectiveness of the missile system; however, close reviews of photographs of Iron Dome interceptor contrails later revealed that system’s success rate had been very low — as low as 5 percent or even less — and that the casualty number was low only as a result of emergency rescue efforts.

The new report about the upgrades came a day after the regime admitted to a dramatic growth of Hezbollah’s missile power over the past years.

Senior Israeli military commander Uri Gordin said the Lebanese resistance group would be able to fire as many as 2,000 rockets at the occupied territories per day in a future military conflict.

His opinion piece, titled “Is Israel ignoring the biggest strategic threat it faces?”, said that while Israeli authorities have been intensifying their acts of aggression against Syria, they have not stopped Hezbollah's efforts to establish an independent capability of producing and manufacturing accurate missiles on Lebanese territory.

Both Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Palestinian resistance groups have repeatedly said they will not initiate any military conflict with the warmongering regime in Israel, but warned that they will surprise the regime with their crushing response if it opts to launch an act of aggression against Lebanon and Gaza again.


Amnesty International Embarrassed, Afghan Gov’t Not Protecting Human Rights Defenders

16 Mar 2021

Amnesty International condemned The Afghan government for not being committed to its pledge to establish a functional body for the protection of Human rights defenders.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the global rights watchdog said more than three months ago a Presidential Decree was issued on the establishment of a Joint Commission for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

About three months ago a presidential Decree issues on the establishment of a Joint Commission to protect Human rights defenders, Amnesty International said in a statement on Tuesday.

According to the statement, no practical steps were taken by the government to create an “effective protection mechanism, with a lack of information forthcoming on any plan or strategy to address the escalating threat faced by members of Afghan civil society”.

Referring to UNAMA figures the statement added the dire calamity in Afghanistan has worsened activity conditions to the human rights community in recent months, citing the records that at least 11 human rights defenders and media workers were victims of Targeted attacks since September 2020 and 31 January 2021.

Further delay in the establishment of a functioning mechanism has costed many lives and that there is no sign of the violence “abating”, the statement indicated.

The statement quoted, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director, Yamini Mishra, “The announcement of the Joint Commission was a vital step towards providing human rights defenders across the country with the support and security they so desperately need” but she said, “it’s a body that currently exists in name only. In more than three months, during which we have witnessed a frenzied escalation of killings, attacks, and threats against activists, the Commission has made no tangible progress or taken any meaningful action,”.

“This delay has already cost lives and there is no sign of the violence abating. The Joint Commission must urgently expedite its work and prioritize the immediate security needs of human rights defenders, investigate all cases of threats, attacks and other forms of intimidation, and hold those responsible to account.” Mishra said.

Amnesty International called on the Joint Commission to provide protection to human rights defenders where necessary, and the activists should be given relocation support, relief, and psychosocial facilities.

The international watchdog said that the Joint Commission was established “for the purpose of strengthening human rights advocacy and addressing the national and international concerns of human rights-related issues in Afghanistan”.


Saudi regime to displace 521 families, raze houses in Shia-majority Qatif

16 March 2021

The Saudi regime plans to displace hundreds of families in Saudi Arabia’s Shia-majority Qatif region and raze their houses as part of a crackdown on dissent.

Nashet Qatifi, a renowned Saudi human rights activist, said in a post on his Twitter account on Monday that the Riyadh government had announced plans for the eviction of more than 521 families from Qatif within 90 days as well as the destruction of their houses in retaliation for their children’s participation in a 2011 anti-regime uprising.

Qatifi said the families had been offered a fee but did not intend to sell or move out of the area as the sum offered was not enough to buy a house.

🔴 الحكومة السعودية تهدد بتهجير أكثر من 521 عائلة من #القطيف خلال 90 يوماً من الآن، وتجريف منازلها انتقاماً منهم لمشاركة أبنائهم في الانتفاضة❗️

ناشط قطيفي (@nashetqatifi) March 15, 2021

Local sources in the Shia-majority region confirmed the Saudi plan and said the regime intended to displace hundreds of families from al-Thawra (Revolution) Street in the city center.

Reports said the goal of the Saudi regime was to erase any signs and memories of the demonstrations in 2011, especially al-Thawra Street, which had become a symbol of the revolution and protests in Qatif.

A similar incident took place in the al-Masura district of Qatif in 2017, and many houses were destroyed by bulldozers. In November last year, Saudi officials also leveled to the ground a Shia Muslim mosque south of al-Awamiyah Town in Qatif.

Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the oil-rich region.

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

Ever since Mohammed bin Salman became Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader in 2017, the kingdom has ramped up arrests of activists, bloggers, intellectuals, and others perceived as political opponents, showing almost zero tolerance for dissent even in the face of international condemnations of the crackdown.

Muslim scholars have been executed, women’s rights campaigners have been put behind bars and tortured, and freedom of expression, association, and belief continue to be denied.,-raze-houses-in-Shia-majority-Qatif


American Soldiers Help Mozambique Battle an Expanding ISIS Affiliate

By Declan Walsh and Eric Schmitt

March 15, 2021

NAIROBI, Kenya — American Special Forces soldiers began training Mozambican troops this week as part of an effort to repel a spreading insurgency in northeastern Mozambique that American officials say is linked to the Islamic State. The insurgency, near some of the world’s biggest gas reserves, has killed at least 2,000 civilians and displaced another 670,000.

The American program is modest in size and scope: a dozen Army Green Berets are to train Mozambican marines for the next two months. But it signals the entry of the United States military into a counterinsurgency effort that has been aided so far mainly by South African mercenaries, who have faced accusations of human rights abuses.

The war in Mozambique is part of an alarming expansion of insurgencies believed to have ties to the Islamic State in several parts of Africa. In the past year, militants have captured swaths of territory in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, including a port on the Indian Ocean, and beheaded hundreds of civilians, according to human rights groups.

“I don’t think anyone saw this coming,” Col. Richard Schmidt, the deputy commander of U.S. Special Operations Forces in Africa, said in a telephone interview from Maputo, Mozambique’s capital. “For this to crop up so quickly is concerning.”

Last week the United States formally designated the group, known locally as Al-Sunna wa Jama’a, as a global terrorist entity and imposed sanctions on its leader, named by American officials as Abu Yasir Hassan.

But it is unclear how strong the ties are between the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and this group, as well as some others in Africa.

The insurgency in Mozambique includes some fighters from Tanzania, but most come from the local area, a place of deep poverty and endemic corruption. The main Islamic State publications have not mentioned operations in Mozambique since last fall.

Some experts worry that the American designation of the group as tied to the Islamic State could hamper future efforts to end the insurgency through negotiation.

“There are concerns that this designation could complicate the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Cabo Delgado, and possible dialogue with insurgents there,” said Dino Mahtani, deputy director of the Africa program at the International Crisis Group, who recently visited Mozambique.

Still, the ferocity of the insurgency in Cabo Delgado, the northernmost province of Mozambique, has taken American military officers, diplomats and counterterrorism officials by surprise.

A group that numbered perhaps a couple of dozen fighters in 2017 has grown to as many as 800 fighters, with the ability to carry out strikes in neighboring Tanzania, where analysts believe the group is tied to smuggling and criminal networks that provide weapons and other equipment.

Mozambican counterinsurgency efforts have been hampered by divisions between the country’s military and its powerful police, so it has turned to private soldiers for help.

In 2019, an estimated 160 contractors from Wagner Group, a Kremlin-linked private military company, flew into Cabo Delgado. But they quickly withdrew after at least seven Wagner personnel were killed by insurgents, American officials say.

Then Mozambique turned to mercenaries from South Africa, specifically the Dyck Advisory Group, which have come equipped with small helicopters armed with side guns.

But Amnesty International recently accused the mercenaries of possible war crimes, including killings of civilians. More broadly, their effectiveness against the insurgents has been limited.

John T. Godfrey, the State Department’s acting coordinator for counterterrorism, told reporters last week the United States was “concerned” by the presence of private contractors who have “not demonstrably helped” to win the battle against the Islamic State.

“It’s frankly a feature of the landscape in Cabo Delgado that complicates rather than helps efforts to address the terror threat there,” Mr. Godfrey said.

A senior State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters, said the military training program, which will focus on basic soldiering skills, could lead to more ambitious American help for Mozambique’s military including combat casualty care, planning and logistics.

The United States is also looking to step up intelligence assistance for Mozambique, the official said.

Last week, the State Department also imposed sanctions on a reported ISIS arm in the Democratic Republic of Congo and its leader, Seka Musa Baluku. Islamist insurgents affiliated with the Islamic State are also active in Libya, Mali, Niger and other parts of West Africa.

Regional experts, though, say some of those groups may be using the Islamic State name to sow fear and attract funds, while prosecuting conflicts that are essentially local in nature.

“They may be cloaked in the black flag,” said Mr. Mahtani, the Crisis Group analyst. “But what is motivating them to kill? It could be global jihad, but it could also be local conflicts and grievances.”


UK Columnist, Julie Burchill, Pays Muslim Journalist, Ash Sarkar,‘Substantial Damages’

March 16, 2021

LONDON: British columnist Julie Burchill has apologized to activist and journalist Ash Sarkar — and agreed to pay her “substantial damages” — for offensive social media posts in December.

Following the settlement of a libel and harassment case, Burchill said on Twitter and Facebook that her social media activity had “included racist and misogynist comments” and “played into Islamophobic tropes.”

She added: “Although it was not my intention, I accept that my statements were defamatory of Ms Sarkar and caused her very substantial distress.”

The Sunday Telegraph columnist asked her thousands of social media followers to retweet and share her apology.

In her December posts, Burchill claimed that Sarkar was a terrorist sympathizer and fundamentalist, and speculated about her sex life.

Burchill also “liked” posts saying Sarkar should kill herself and suggesting she was a victim of female genital mutilation, while calling on her social media followers to “wade in on Twitter” against “the Islamists.”

Following the settlement out of court, Burchill said: “I deeply regret having reacted in the way I did. I accept that I should have behaved better. On reflection, I accept that I misjudged the situation, and made statements that simply are not true, which I now want to put right.”

Sarkar said Burchill’s “repeated sexual and degrading comments” had “carried a persistent threatening undertone.”


Former Islamic affairs minister says ‘Allah’ court case was before Pakatan’s time in govt

17 Mar 2021


KUALA LUMPUR, March 17 — The controversial use of the Arabic word “Allah” for God by non-Muslims that was taken to the courts began long before Pakatan Harapan (PH) became government in 2018, Amanah vice-president Datuk Seri Mujahid Yusof Rawa said.

The former Islamic affairs minister today was commenting on the landmark High Court judgment that found Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill, a Sarawakian Bumiputera Christian from the Melanau tribe, has a constitutional right to own books and compact discs that used the word.

“If someone says this issue only became a heavily debated topic while I was minister, it is simply not true. The truth is this issue was brought to court between 2008 and 2009, and has lasted until now.

“It only became a hot topic after the Home Affairs Ministry said that a number of words including ‘Allah’ cannot be used in any non-Muslim publications,” Mujahid told Malay daily Sinar Harian.

He claimed the topic became heavily politicised during his tenure in the PH administration that was cut short in February last year.

On March 10, the High Court ruled that the federal government’s directive issued in 1986 with a total ban on the use of the word “Allah” in Christian publications is unconstitutional and invalid.

The court also declared that Jill Ireland has a constitutional right to practise her religion.

Detractors have vented at Mujahid on social media recently, after the High Court judgment, as he was part of a Cabinet committee formed by the PH administration to look into the court case.

But the committee was led by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin who was at that time the home minister, along with other ministers from Sabah and Sarawak, the late Datuk Liew Vui Keong, Datuk Darell Leiking and Baru Bian.

Muhyiddin said he respects the High Court’s decision and called on Malaysians to focus on safeguarding interfaith harmony.

“It’s been over 13 years that this case has been debated, imagine if we allow hatred and hostility to dominate the situation, this country may remain unsettled,” he was quoted as saying.

He added that the priority should be to safeguard peace in the country and save Malaysia from ridicule.





30 Ayodhya Temples, 3 Mosques in Squatters’ List May Be Moved Out

Mar 17, 2021

Ayodhya: The district administration in Ayodhya has identified 30 temples and three mosques that have encroached upon Government land, in keeping with Allahabad high court’s directive to remove or shift religious structures encroaching on public roads or sideways.

Talking to TOI, Ayodhya municipal commissioner Vishal Singh said, “Religious structures raised before 2011 will be relocated and those built after this cut-off year may be removed. We have sent a list of 33 such religious structures to the government for approval. We are yet to zero in on land for relocation of shrines. Also, we haven’t received a deadline for implementation of court order.”

It will be a painstaking exercise as scores of devotees throng these temples mentioned in the list, he said. Also, for removing three mosques, the administration would have to talk to Sunni Board as these are waqf properties.

Reacting to the civic body’s move to shortlist 30 temples, chief priest of Ayodhya’s Tapaswi Chawni temple, Mahant Paramhans Das, said, “Deities in these temples have been installed after ‘praan pratishtha’ (consecration). Hence, the government must re-think its decision and provide alternate land, where these idols can be placed after temples are removed.”

Talking to TOI, Dr Najmul Hasan Ghani, state working president of Indian Union Muslim League, said, “Namaz is being offered since independence at the three mosques mentioned in the list. These are of archaeological value and Muslim sentiments will be hurt if removed.” Caretaker of a mosque on Ayodhya Road, Rafat Ansari, said, “The district administration should take the Sunni Waqf Board into confidence before initiating any action.”


Ex-Shia Waqf Board Chief Charged For Moving Top Court to Remove Quran Verses in FIR Registered in UP’s Bareilly

March 16, 2021

Bareilly: An FIR has been registered in Uttar Pradesh's Bareilly against former UP Shia Waqf Board Chairman Waseem Rizvi for allegedly hurting the religious sentiments of Muslims with his petition in the Supreme Court seeking to remove some verses of the Quran which he claimed promoted terrorism.

The FIR was registered at the Kotwali police station on Monday evening following complaints by Anjuman Khuddam-e-Rasool secretary Shan Ahmed and an organisation known as Ittehad-e-Millat Council, the police said.

The case was registered under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for "deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs", Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Bareilly, Rohit Singh Sajwan said.

The Chairman of the Raja Action Committee, Maulana Afroz Raja Qadri, claimed sectarian forces were operating behind Waseem Rizvi, and that time has come to unmask them.

On Sunday, members of the Muslim community held a protest in Lucknow against Waseem Rizvi. Shia cleric and senior member of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board Maulana Kalbe Jawwad and a large number of people took part in the protest at the Bara Imambara.

Addressing the gathering that day, Maulana Syed Salman Hasni Nadvi laid stress on Muslim unity and described Waseem Rizvi as a "kaafir (non-believer)" and "mujrim (criminal)".

"We are believers of the Quran and Allah first, Sunni and Shia later. Hence, there are no differences among us as far as the Quran is concerned," Mr Nadvi had then said.

Maulana Kalbe Jawwad had told reporters that Waseem Rizvi was a part of the "jamaat (group)" that goes to the extent of falsifying their own existence and betraying their own religion.

"He has been indulging in anti-religious activities, but this time, he has broken all barriers by raising a finger on the Quran," Maulana Kalbe Jawwad had said, urging the government to immediately arrest Waseem Rizvi and impose a heavy fine on him.

In Bareilly, Mufti Ahsan Raja Qadri of the Dargah-e-Aala Hazrat, a prominent centre of Barelvi Muslims, too had condemned Waseem Rizvi's move and said not even an iota of change in the holy book is possible.

In a statement, he had said, "Waseem Rizvi is an enemy of the Quran and Islam. He is doing this to gather cheap popularity and to save himself from the Waqf scam."

Waseem Rizvi filed the Public Interest Litigation in the top court on Thursday.


Wife moves Delhi HC to seek mortal remains of husband wrongly buried as per Muslim rites in Saudi Arabia

March 16, 2021

New Delhi: A peculiar case came up before the Delhi High Court on Tuesday wherein the mortal remains of a Hindu man, an Indian citizen, were wrongly buried in Saudi Arabia as per Muslim rites due to incorrect translation of his religion on death certificate by Indian Consulate officials in Jeddah.

The deceased's wife, who has been running from pillar to post to get the mortal remains, has approached the high court seeking direction to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to take steps to urgently exhume the remains and repatriate them to India in a time-bound manner.

Justice Prathiba M Singh said the woman has been approaching the authorities since January, since passing away of her husband, and adequate steps ought to have been taken to bring back the body of the deceased to India to conduct the last rites.

“Accordingly, the concerned officer from the MEA not below the rank of deputy secretary shall join the proceedings on 18 March to apprise this court about the update on steps taken and status on transportation of mortal remains of the deceased,” the judge said, adding that it was an “unfortunate” case.

The Indian man Sanjeev Kumar had passed away on 24 January in Saudi Arabia, where he was working, due to cardiac arrest and his mortal remains were kept at a hospital there.

Petitioner Anju Sharma said in the plea that on getting the news of her husband's death, the family requested the authorities to repatriate the mortal remains.

“Shockingly, on 18 February, the Petitioner was informed that the body of her husband has been buried in Saudi Arabia while the family members of the deceased were waiting for the mortal remains in India.

“The officials in Indian Consulate explained that it was due to a mistake committed by the official translator of Indian Consulate, Jeddah, who wrongly mentioned his religion as ‘Muslim’ in the death certificate. They also shared a letter of apology tendered by the official translating agency of Indian Consulate in Jeddah with the petitioner herein,” said the petition, filed through advocate Subhash Chandran KR and Yogamaya MG.

It also said that neither the woman nor any of the family members gave consent to bury Kumar’s body in Saudi Arabia.

Thereafter, the woman requested the officials of Indian Consulate in Jeddah to ask the local authorities there to exhume the mortal remain of her husband so that it can be transported to India for performing last rites as per the faith of the family.

“Unfortunately, even after seven weeks of the death of the husband of petitioner, the authorities have failed to do necessary formalities to repatriate the mortal remains of Sanjeev Kumar to India for performing last rites,” the plea said.

It also sought direction to the Centre to take appropriate departmental actions against concerned officials of Indian Consulate at Jeddah for their wilful negligence and also direct the authorities to do appropriate actions for obtaining a corrected death certificate of the deceased and supply the document to his wife.


'A hero for all Indians too': PM Modi pays homage to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on birth anniversary

Mar 17, 2021

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday paid homage to 'Bangabandhu' Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on his birth anniversary and said that the founding father of Bangladesh is a hero for all Indians as well.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who is known as the father of the nation in Bangladesh, was born on March 17, 1920.

"My heartfelt homage to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, a champion of human rights and freedom, on his birth anniversary," Modi tweeted.

My heartfelt homage to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, a champion of human rights and freedom, on his birth anni…

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 1615954123000

"He is a hero for all Indians too. It will be my honour to visit Bangladesh later this month for the historic #MujibBorsho celebrations," he said.

Prime Minister Modi will visit Bangladesh on March 26 and 27, his first visit to a foreign country since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) made an announcement on Tuesday on Modi's visit to the neighbouring country following an invitation from Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

"This visit is in connection with the commemoration of three epochal events -- Mujib Borsho, the birth centenary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman; 50 years of the establishment of diplomatic ties between India and Bangladesh; and 50 years of Bangladesh's war of liberation," it said.

Modi had last visited Bangladesh in 2015.


Muslim Man Made Financial Contribution And Organised The Wedding Of A Hindu Girl

Mar 17, 2021

Trichy: A Muslim man has received appreciation for helping a Hindu woman get married according to her religious traditions at Orathanadu near Pattukottai in Thanjavur district. He made financial contribution and organised the wedding.

Priyanka, 23, was working for the last five years in the shop of H Raja Mohamed, 45, who considered her as his family. After the death of her father, she left her mother a few months ago following some differences. Not only did Mohamed give her shelter, he consulted her family members and fixed her marriage with a Hindu groom. “Her family was unable to afford her marriage following which I took up the responsibility,” said Mohamed. More than a staff member, she is like my daughter, said Mohamed who was moved by her responsible nature.

As she is the sole breadwinner in her family, she was struggling to spend on her marriage, so Mohamed made a financial contribution. The wedding of Priyanka with Vijay Kumar was solemnised on March 11 in Visalatchi Amman temple near Orthanadu with Hindu rituals.

“She got both her elder sisters married. However, she couldn’t get back the love from her family so I wanted to do it on their behalf,” Mohamed said.





Cleric Muhammad Ali Mirza concerned at security denial despite repeated requests

Waseem Ashraf Butt

March 17, 2021

GUJRAT: Religious scholar Engineer Muhammad Ali Mirza, who survived yet another attempt on his life, says he has not been provided with security despite requests to the Jhelum police.

Narrating the recent attack, Mr Mirza, who has a huge following online, told Dawn that he delivered weekly lectures after Zuhr prayers on Sundays in his academy where each participant had to pass through a security check.

He said the attacker had managed his entry at around 8am when the academy gate was opened and hid the sharp-edged weapon. He kept on waiting for the lecture to finish at around 3:30pm when the participants usually had photo sessions with the scholar.

“But a participant from Sialkot breached the queue to be photographed to leave a bit earlier and just then the suspect’s blade hit the hand of the Sialkot man who raised some alarm. At this, the suspect rushed towards me to hit me but security men saved me. The attacker again rushed towards me for the second time and the blade hit me on the shoulder,” Mirza said. He was discharged from a local hospital the same day.

He said he had survived a murder attempt in 2017 and sustained multiple wounds on his body. The attacker in that incident was also a Lahore-based man; however, Mirza had pardoned him since he was misled by some religious leaders.

After the attack in 2017, he said, police had deployed two cops for his security, which were later withdrawn. He had then arranged his private security.

Sources in police said a ‘Mufti’ had instigated the accused to attack Mirza.

Engineer Muhammad Ali Mirza does not follow any particular sect and he points out, in almost all sects of Islam, ‘contradictions’ with basics of the religion with reference to books of Ahadith and the Quran. He is a qualified engineer and is stated to be in government service. He does not take any funds from individuals or organisations.

Jhelum DPO Shakir Hussain Dawar says security had not been provided to Mr Mirza because the district intelligence committee had recommended his name to be included in the Fourth Schedule for his `controversial’ statements.

He said the police had recommended the authorities concerned to shut down the academy of Mr Mirza. Fourth Schedule is the list of proscribed individuals suspected of terrorism or sectarianism who are kept under observation.

Jhelum police had arrested Mirza and booked him on charges of uttering remarks against some religious scholars in May 2020 and he was released by court on bail a day later after his arrest.


Pakistan wants to improve ties with Bangladesh, says Alvi

March 17, 2021

ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi has said Pakistan is keen to improve ties with Bangladesh and called for utilising all avenues for improving the bilateral relationship.

Talking to Pakistan’s High Commis­­sioner to Bangladesh Imran Siddiqui, who had called on him at the Presidency on Tuesday, Dr Alvi said: “Pakistan highly values its ties with Bangladesh and wants to further expand cooperation by using the existing bilateral mechanisms.”

Mr Siddiqui had been called from Dhaka by the government for consultations on Bangladesh’s golden jubilee celebrations. Bangladesh is holding its golden jubilee celebrations from March 17 to 27.

Heads of states and governments from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and the Maldives have been invited to the celebrations.

President Alvi wished Bangladesh well on its golden jubilee.

Mr Siddiqui briefed the president on various initiatives taken by Pakistan for improving the relationship with Bangladesh after years of frosty ties.

Last year saw a major improvement and Prime Minister Hasina Wajed met Mr Siddiqui. Islamabad, meanwhile, removed all restrictions on Pakistani visas for Bangladeshi citizens.

Pakistan and Bangladesh have multiple bilateral mechanisms, including foreign secretary-level consultations and Joint Economic Commission, but most have been suspended for years. It is being expected that foreign secretaries’ dialogue, which has not taken place for about 12 years, may resume in the near future.

President Alvi called for using all bilateral mechanisms for improving ties.

The president asked High Commis­sioner Siddiqui to work on improving bilateral ties between the two countries with greater focus.

He underscored the need for enhancing commercial relations, business-to-business cooperation and people-to-people contacts for the mutual benefit of the two countries.

Dr Alvi emphasised the need for enhancing bilateral cultural and political exchanges as well as cooperation in the field of sports.

The Pakistan-Bangladesh relationship took a nosedive after Hasina Wajed resumed the so-called 1971 trial of ‘war crimes’ after starting her second tenure as prime minister in 2009.

Pakistan had always considered the bitter past of the 1971 dismemberment a closed chapter in view of the tripartite agreement signed in April 1974 for repatriation of war prisoners.

Ms Wajed’s father and Bangladesh’s founding father Mujibur Rehman had after the accord agreed that in the interest of regional peace, no one would be put on trial for alleged crimes committed during the 1971 war.

However, Ms Wajed was bent upon reviving the ghosts of 1971. She was further emboldened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s coming into power in India and Pakistan-Bangladesh ties went from one low to another.


PM launches advisory portal on national security in 'first' Islamabad Security Dialogue

March 17, 2021

The National Security Division (NSD) held the "first-ever Islamabad Security Dialogue" on Wednesday and launched an advisory portal on day one of the two-day conference which is aimed at unveiling Pakistan's new strategic direction based on a comprehensive security framework, according to the Prime Minister's Office.

Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed the first day of the conference as the chief guest and launched the advisory portal for the NSD, which will engage think tanks and academia in policy making.

During his address, the prime minister said Pakistan needed to have a debate on the concept of national security, adding that it encompassed more than just matters and affairs related to strengthening the country's security forces.

"We are slowly realising that national security relates to areas which no one thinks about."

The security conference is a strategic forum envisioned as Pakistan's leading intellectual platform for issues of national security.

The premier stressed that it was important for the NSD to connect and coordinate with universities, think tanks and intellectuals so their input could be received on the concept of national security and for the overall cohesion of the country.

"When you start this dialogue then this coordination will bring a lot of benefit for inclusivity, nation building and national security in Pakistan," he said.

The members of the advisory portal will also be able to share policy recommendations directly with the national leadership, according to Radio Pakistan.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Security Dr Moeed Yusuf, while addressing the conference, said the idea of more inclusive policy approaches was very important. He lamented that the public sector had not been able to effectively utilise the "immense talent" that Pakistan had.

"The NSD created a council of experts where the best minds on security have been brought to advise the government," he said, adding that Pakistan should have a platform for exchange of ideas and the NSD's goal was to make the conference an annual event.

Climate change

The premier also pointed to the issue of climate change and said that it was also an area concerning national security. He said the issue was something which no one had paid attention to before, when actually it was a very "frightening thing" which had the potential to overshadow everything else for upcoming generations.

"Pakistan is among those countries taking steps to tackle climate change," he said, adding that the PTI government had been internationally recognised for its '10 Billion Tree Tsunami' initiative.

PM Imran stated that food security was another issue, adding that the government will launch a comprehensive programme regarding this in the coming weeks.

The prime minister said that the economy also played a key role in national security. "National security cannot be [envisaged] in a country where there are some rich people and a sea of poor people."

He said secure nations were those where every citizen felt they had a stake in the government and cited the example of China as a model to follow for poverty eradication. He mentioned initiatives taken by the incumbent government to tackle poverty in this regard such as the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme and targeted subsidies for the poor.

Regional peace

Good relations with countries and neighbours in the region were also paramount for national security, according to the premier. "We will not be able to take full advantage of our geo-strategic location until we have regional peace, until our relations with our neighbours and our trade ties do not improve."

He lauded Pakistan's role in the Afghan peace process and said Pakistan had the "second biggest stake" in the country's peace.

The prime minister also addressed India and said it was "unfortunate" that it had rebuffed the PTI government's efforts for peace.

He said if India gave the people of occupied Kashmir their rights according to the United Nations Security Council resolutions then "the whole region will change and both the countries will benefit".


Two ‘Sindhudesh’ militants held in Rangers attack case

March 17, 2021

KARACHI: The Sindh police’s Counter-Terrorism Department on Tuesday claimed to have arrested two suspected militants allegedly involved in attacks on the Pakistan Rangers and law-enforcement agencies’ personnel, said a statement.

It said that a raid led by SSP CTD Arif Aziz was carried out in Saadi Town which led to the arrest of two suspects. The arrested suspects were later identified as Sadiq and Mukhtiar while arms and a hand grenade were also recovered from their possession.

“The suspects were involved in killing a constable in Kandhkot,” said the statement. “They are associated with the Asghar Shah alias Sajjad Shah group of Sindhudesh Liberation Army (SRA), who were supplied arms by another banned outfit the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) terrorists.”

Earlier, Sepoy Roshan Ali Shaheed of Pakistan Rangers, Sindh who was martyred in Monday’s bomb blast near a Rangers vehicle in Orangi Town was laid to rest with full military honours after his Namaz-i-Janaza in Karachi on Tuesday.

“The martyred Sepoy’s funeral prayer (Namaz-i-Janaza) was attended by Corps Commander Karachi, Lieutenant General Nadeem Ahmed Anjum, Director General Rangers Sindh, Senior civil and military officials and relatives of Shaheed,” said an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) press release.

“The Shaheed was buried with full military honour. Sepoy Roshan Ali embraced Shahadat in Orangi Town Karachi due to bomb blast near Rangers vehicle. The Shaheed belonged to village Budhal Khan Solangi, District Naushahro Feroze and has four sons and a daughter.”


Deported to Pakistan: Does death await Ahmadis?

Luisa von Richthofen


The Ahmad family lives in uncertainty. They have no German residency permit. The father, a qualified engineer, is not allowed to work in Germany.

They live in a refugee shelter but they can expect a deportation order any day. They have recently learned that the next collective deportation to Pakistan will take place on March 17 — and they are afraid they will be on that flight.

Back in Pakistan, they say, their lives would be in danger.

Second-class citizens in Pakistan

The Ahmad family are members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim religious community, a movement that originated in British India in the 19th century.

The adherents of the movement referred to as Ahmadis, follow the Islamic scriptures. But they also believe their movement's founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was a messiah. Many Muslims, therefore, regard the Ahmadiyya teachings as heresy.

"The exclusion of Ahmadis is even enshrined in the constitution [of Pakistan]," explained Mohammad Suleman Malik, spokesman for the Ahmadi community in the German states of Thuringia and Saxony.

Ahmadis have been forbidden to call themselves Muslims in Pakistan since 1974. They are also not allowed to call their houses of prayer "mosques," and the adhan, or call to prayer, is forbidden.

In a country with some of the strictest blasphemy laws in the world, an "As-salaam-alaikum" greeting by Ahmadis could result in the death penalty. As non-Muslims, Ahmadis are second-class citizens.

UNHCR and Amnesty see the need for protection

Ahmad and his wife Sahar Kalsoom have also experienced severe hostility. Kalsoom says she had to change schools and has been called a "kafir," an infidel. She did not finish her education.

When her cousin was murdered, the entire family had to flee their home village of Khureyanwala. After she married Ahmad and the couple had children, they decided to go to Germany to give their daughters a better future.

According to Amnesty International, Pakistani authorities have long downplayed violence against Ahmadis, even supporting it in some cases. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says Ahmadis in Pakistan represent a persecuted minority and should be entitled to protection.

For this reason, Ahmadis in the UK, the US, and the Netherlands have not been deported for a long time. This is not the case in Germany.

Germany: 'Cases are examined individually'

Some 535 Ahmadis are currently being threatened with deportation in Germany. A spokesperson for the interior ministry told DW that merely belonging to this religious community is not sanctioned under criminal law in Pakistan. This is why "cases are examined individually on the basis of the individual circumstances."

German administrative courts often point to safe places for Ahmadis in Pakistan — for example, to Rabwah, the seat of the largest Ahmadi community in the country

Spokesman Malik was skeptical about this. "Ahmadis in Pakistan are not safe anywhere," he said. "Ahmadis are also regularly murdered in Rabwah."

For Malik and the Saxony Refugee Council, the deportations, which are now becoming more frequent, are politically motivated. After the pandemic put them on hold temporarily, the council claims that the German government wanted to make their mark with a tough migration policy in this important election year.

"I think there is a lack of knowledge or political will. This, unfortunately, comes at the detriment of the persecuted people who live here and are now being deported in droves," Malik said, shaking his head.

"It's a matter of life and death for these people," he added.

'Where can we go?'

The Ahmad family is not optimistic about their prospects.

"Germans live in freedom, they may not understand — but when you come here from Pakistan and leave everything behind, you carry a pain with you," said Sahar Kalsoon, the mother, struggling through tears.

"It's not easy to leave a country and leave everything behind. And now that we're here, we're told we can't stay here. But where can we go?"

Her husband fears there will be repercussions if they return, as happened to his uncle who returned from the UK in 2005. A rumor circulated in the village that he, an Ahmadi, was a foreign spy. He was lynched by a mob.

The family has long since exhausted all legal possibilities. A petition by Malik to the state of Saxony was also rejected. They can only wait for the deportation notice. The walk in the wind is one last moment of normality.





Yemen sheds light on ‘direct US-Qaeda relationship under Saleh’

16 March 2021

Yemeni armed forces say they have obtained evidence that point to the existence of a “direct relationship” between the United States and the Takfiri al-Qaeda terrorist group as well as a former Yemeni administration’s role in the formation of the ties.

The armed forces issued a statement on Tuesday, saying it had come by the contents of telephone calls between former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh and George Tennet, an ex-chief of the US’s CIA spy agency.

One of the conversations pointed to the existence “of direct relationship between the CIA and al-Qaeda terrorists and cooperation on the part of the Saleh government’s officials in formation of the relationship,” the statement noted.

In the conversation, Tennet is insisting that the Yemeni government release an al-Qaeda member that had been arrested in relation to the terror group’s alleged attack against American missile destroyer USS Cole in 2000.

Speaking to al-Masirah, Abdul Qader al-Shami, head of Yemen’s intelligence agency, identified the person in question as a dual American-Yemeni national, named Anwar al-Awlaki. Washington assassinated Awlaki in 2011 once it had no more use for him, he added.

Explaining the extent of Yemen and al-Qaeda’s cooperation in Yemen, he said, the Americans train terrorists on the Yemeni soil before sending them overseas to carry out terror operations. Once these terrorists return to Yemen, Washington accuses the country of providing safe haven for them, Shami stated.

The armed forces also detailed the US’s ambitions concerning Yemen during Saleh’s second tenure as Yemen’s president that lasted from 1990 until 2012.

Among the documents were a 1998 US State Department report that featured complete details of Yemen’s geographical, demographical, and economic configurations as well as details concerning the presence of foreign forces in the country.

The State Department advises in the report that the United States deploy its forces to Yemen in support of the country’s Jewish population, in the capital Sana’a and the northwestern Sa’ada Province.

It outlines the locations of some notorious amusement centers in the southern city of Aden, noting that these spots could be used to serve the American forces that could be stationed in Yemen.

The State Department report also makes mention of the potential construction of a US naval base in the southern province of Aden’s al-Buraiqeh District, saying the facility should be able to be used by reconnaissance aircraft, warplanes, bombers, aircraft carriers, and warships.

Anthony Zinni, commander of the US Central Command (CENTCOM) between 1997 and 2000, reportedly signed an agreement with Saleh’s government in 1998 towards provision of support for the US Navy in Aden.

The USS Cole incident that took place in Aden’s coastline, allegedly killing 17 US Navy sailors and injuring 37 others, provided an excuse for Washington to seek a political and military foothold in the Arab Peninsula country.

Citing the signs of cooperation between the US and al-Qaeda, observers have cast the circumstances surrounding the incident into serious question, speculating that Washington might have enabled the explosion to conjure up a pretext for its interference in Yemen.


Iran enriching uranium with new advanced machine type at Natanz plant: IAEA

17 March ,2021

Iran has started enriching uranium at its underground Natanz plant with a second type of advanced centrifuge, the IR-4, the UN nuclear watchdog said in a report reviewed by Reuters on Tuesday, in a further breach of Tehran’s deal with major powers.

Iran has recently accelerated its breaches of the deal’s restrictions on its nuclear activities in an apparent bid to pressure US President Joe Biden as both sides are locked in a standoff over who should move first to save the deal.

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Tehran’s breaches began in 2019 in response to the US withdrawal from the deal and the reimposition of US economic sanctions against Iran under Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, who opposed the agreement and sought to wreck it.

Last year Iran started moving three cascades, or clusters, of different advanced models of centrifuge from an above-ground plant at Natanz to its below-ground Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP). It is already enriching underground with IR-2m centrifuges. The deal only lets it enrich there with first-generation IR-1 machines.

“On 15 March 2021, the Agency verified that Iran began feeding the cascade of 174 IR-4 centrifuges already installed at FEP with natural UF6,” the International Atomic Energy Agency said in the report to member states dated Monday, referring to uranium hexafluoride, the form in which uranium is fed into centrifuges for enrichment.

Iran has indicated that it now plans to install a second cascade of IR-4 centrifuges at the FEP but installation of that cascade has yet to begin, the report said. Iran has already increased the number of IR-2m machines, which are far more efficient than the IR-1, installed at the underground plant.

“In summary, as of 15 March 2021, Iran was using 5,060 IR-1 centrifuges installed in 30 cascades, 522 IR-2m centrifuges installed in three cascades and 174 IR-4 centrifuges installed in one cascade, to enrich natural UF6 up to 5% U-235 at FEP,” the IAEA report said, referring to the fissile purity of uranium.

Iran is enriching up to 20% purity at another plant, Fordow.


Iran’s Top Commander Describes IRGC as Invincible Power


“Relying on the eternal divine power and with the support of a strong nation, the IRGC has shown that no power can defeat the dear Revolutionary Guards. Today we have both the power of combat and resistance; meaning that we can attack the centers of threat and resources of the enemy camp when the day comes in any size, and at any scale and any intensity,” General Baqeri said in a message on the occasion of the IRGC Day in Iran on Tuesday.

“The mission fields of the IRGC and the actions of the Revolutionary Guards prove that today the power of the Islamic Republic of Iran is a credited,” he added.

General Baqeri referred to the IRGC’s seizure of a British military vessel which had illegally entered the Iranian waters and downing of an intruder US drone over the country’s territories in the past few years, and said, “The capacity has been developed for destroying the Zionist regime and, with the help of God, removing the fake, child-killer and ominous regime from the political geography of the region.”

His comments came a day after the IRGC Navy unveiled a new missile town containing a big variety of systems and ballistic missiles with state-of-the-art equipment.

The IRGC new missile city was unveiled in a ceremony on Monday in the presence of the IRCG Commander Major General Hossein Salami, IRGC Navy Commander Rear Admiral Alireza Tangsiri and a number of top military commanders.

The missile city is equipped with different systems and cruise and ballistic missiles enjoying different ranges.

The new systems and equipment make IRGC Navy capable of launching pin-point missiles from underground, laying naval mines with various ranges, firing missiles at 360-degree, confronting electronic warfare, and increasing the range and destruction power in operations.

All the mentioned systems have been produced by Iranian experts at defense ministry, knowledge-based companies, and IRGC research centers.

One of the newly unveiled missile systems is capable of changing the target after being launched.

“Today, part of our missile power that gives superiority in the battlefield and has been developed by domestic experts enter the operational section of the IRGC Navy,” Brigadier General Tangsiri said in the ceremony.

“The process of making IRGC Navy stronger will continue,” he said, warning enemies that they will receive a “deadly blow” in case of any aggression against Iran.

Major General Salami also noted in the ceremony that four decades of enemies’ attacks against Iran has only resulted in their defeat and frustration.

“After being defeated in military and proxy wars and cultural aggression, enemies are pursuing other strategies including the imposition of sanctions and waging an economic war,” he said, adding, “IRGC’s empowerment is aimed at promoting the grandeur of the Iranian nation.”


FM Zarif: West Asia Insecure Due to US Meddling


No doubt the US interference in West Asia has caused the highest level of insecurity and instability in the region, Zarif said at Tehran Dialogue Forum 2021 on Tuesday, adding that the US wicked activity hasn’t been limited to military intervention.

"US economic war against Iran has consequences, including obstacles in fighting the coronavirus in Iran," he noted.

"Iran is ready to hold talks with all its neighbors and there is no need for strangers to outline the future of the region," Zarif went on to say.

He explained that the US agencies’ reports on wasting seven trillion dollars for futile wars and military intervention in less than two decades in the region proved that Washington has made the region the most unstable and the most insecure spot in the globe.

In relevant remarks in late December 2020, Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani said that regional security can be materialized only through expulsion of foreign forces, adding that the US military activities in the region stem from their fear of past criminal acts.

Shamkhani wrote on his Twitter page that security will be brought to the region only if foreign anti-security forces leave the region, and stressed that the recent activities of the US troops stem from their vicious measures in the past.

He went on to say that such moves further spread insecurity in the region.


FM Lashes Out at Suppliers of WMDs to Saddam


He wrote in a post to his Twitter account on Monday that the Western governments which provided Saddam with chemical weapons intend to forget the crime of massacring 5,000 innocent people of Halabja.

On March 16, 1988, former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussain dropped chemical bombs on his own people in Halabja to punish the Kurds who did not agree with his war against Iran.

Tens of thousands of Iranians were also killed and wounded by chemical weapons during the 1980-1988 Iraqi imposed war on Iran. Around 100,000 Iranians are still living with the effects, which include long-term respiratory problems, eye and skin problems as well as immune system disorders, psychological disorders, genetic disorders, and probably cancers.

The chemical materials were supplied to Iraqi Saddam regime by a number of German, French, and Dutch corporations.


Over 18 Houthi fighters killed in ambush in Yemen’s Taiz: Yemeni army

Tamara Abueish

17 March ,2021

Over 18 fighters belonging to the Iran-backed Houthi militia were killed in an ambush in the Maqbanah District of Yemen’s Taiz, the Yemeni Army said on Wednesday.

The army announced on Tuesday that it made significant advances on several position in western Taiz as the Houthis retreated.

“Yemen army troops keep on advancing, managing to take control over many positions & hills western Taiz amid retreating of Houthis coup militia after experiencing huge losses” the army’s official media center wrote on Twitter.

Fighting between the internationally-recognized Yemeni government and the Houthis has recently escalated in the disputed Taiz in the southwestern region of the country.


Iran-backed Houthis confirm migrant centre fire, say 44 killed

Tamara Abueish

17 March ,2021

The Iran-backed Houthis confirmed that 44 Africans migrants were killed in a fire at a detention center last week in Yemen’s Sanaa, the group’s al-Masirah television quoted an official as saying.

This is the first official statement made by the group about the incident.

“The victims are 44 migrants and the wounded are 193, most of whom have gone to hospital, and there is an investigation into the reasons for the incident,” the channel quoted Hussein al-Azi as saying.

Survivors and local rights activists said the deadly blaze erupted when guards fired tear gas into the crowded warehouse, trying to end a protest against alleged abuses and ill-treatment at the facility.

The United Nations on Tueasday called for an independent investigation into the cause of the fire.

“There must be an independent investigation into the cause of the fire,” the UN envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, told the Security Council.

A total of 160 African migrants were transported out of Yemen on a UN-sponsored flight, the Arab Coalition said on Tuesday.

The Arab Coalition said the flights were organized in coordination with the international-recognized Yemeni government and come as part of the coalition’s humanitarian efforts.

“The Houthi militia committed a gross and heinous violation of the right of migrants in Sanaa,” the coalition said in a statement.



South Asia


UN delegation to visit remote Bangladesh island since Rohingya moved

MAR 17, 2021

A United Nations (UN) delegation will on Wednesday start a three-day visit to a remote Bay of Bengal island where Bangladesh has moved more than 13,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees since December despite criticism from rights groups.

Bangladesh wants to eventually transfer 100,000 of the more than 1 million refugees living in overcrowded border camps to Bhasan Char island, which emerged from the sea only two decade ago and is considered vulnerable to floods.

"This initial three-day visit will bring together experts from UN agencies engaged in the Rohingya refugee response in Bangladesh," the UN refugee agency told Reuters in an email.

"The visit will look at the current situation and facilities on Bhasan Char, appraise the needs of the Rohingya refugees relocated there, as well as discuss with the authorities and others currently working on Bhasan Char."

The United Nations earlier said it had not been allowed to conduct a technical and safety assessment of the island and was not involved in the transfer of refugees there.

Bangladesh says the relocation is voluntary, but some of a first group to be moved spoke of being coerced.

The Rohingya, a minority group who fled violence in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, are not allowed to move off the island, which is several hours' journey away from the southern port.

Bangladesh has dismissed safety concerns over the island, citing the building of flood defences as well as housing for 100,000 people, hospitals and cyclone centres.

It also says overcrowding in refugee camps fuels crime, while some Rohingya said frequent violence in the camps had driven them to relocate.

"We hope it will remove any concerns that the UN has about the relocation and they will get involve in the relocation and provide Rohingya people the support they need," a senior official at the Foreign Ministry said.


UN Envoy: Myanmar Generals ‘Could Face Same Fate As Saddam, Gaddafi’

March 16, 2021

LONDON: Myanmar military figures have been told that they are following in the footsteps of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi as fears of an imminent civil war mount in the country.

Since the Feb. 1 coup, 138 protesters have been killed in demonstrations, the UN has said. Dr. Sasa, the special envoy to the UN of Myanmar’s now-dissolved Parliament, told Sky News that if fighting continues without a reaction from the international community, his country’s people will be “forced to defend themselves.”

Sasa appealed to the military chiefs now in control of the country to stand down, free newly detained prisoners and oversee a return to democracy.

He warned that a failure to do so will result in coup leaders “arrested or killed,” comparing them to Gaddafi, Saddam and Osama bin Laden.

Sasa said India, China, the US, the UK, Europe and Myanmar’s neighbors must work together to pressure the generals who have taken control of his country.

“If we do not form this international coalition on Myanmar as soon as possible, it will bring, I’m afraid, the greatest civil war that we have ever seen,” he added.

“We don’t need statements anymore. We don’t need the words anymore. We need actions. So we are asking for action from the international community.

“What we mean is coordinated, targeted and tougher sanctions, both diplomatically, economically and politically.”


Taliban battered in Kandahar, 34 killed

17 Mar 2021

The Ministry of Defense in a press release on Wednesday reported that 34 Taliban fighters were killed in Arghandab, Panjwai, Zherai, and Spin Boldak districts of Kandahar province.

According to MoD as part of the clearance operation, Afghan National Defense and Security Forces backed by Airforce targeted Taliban militants in Panjwai, Zherai, and Spin Boldak districts of the province.

The bulletin added, that 34 Taliban fighters were killed and further nine members of the group were injured during the operation.

Two Taliban strongholds,  8 motorbikes, a large number of weapons and ammunition were also destroyed in the operation.

Taliban have not yet commented on the attack.

In a separate security incident, two policemen were killed between the Kabul and Maidan Wardak route.

According to Kabul police, the incident happened when a police Ranger-vehicle was heading towards Maidan Shahr, the vehicle was ambushed by the Taliban in the Shah Qadam area of Paghman district in which two policemen were killed.Taliban so far has not commented on the incident.


John Sopko: Security remains unstable and crucial in Afghanistan

17 Mar 2021

John Sopko, U.S Inspector General during testified at the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on National Security on Tuesday. 

“Security remains the most crucial and enduring high-risk area for Afghanistan,” Sopko added, “Terrorist groups in Afghanistan like Daesh and al-Qaeda, although reduced, remain in the country”, Tolonews Quoted Sopko

Sopko also indicated that peace talks between the warring parties raise concerns and questions about the fragile gains made by women in the past decades and will these gains be preserved.

“Discrimination persists, and possible policy changes by whatever form of government might follow an Afghan peace agreement could undermine women’s gains,” he said. 

 “If there are no boots on the ground, we lose leverage for all of these issues—women, girls, and all that.  And if there’s no oversight, you can just forget about any of that money that we appropriate for women and girls ending up helping women and girls”, Sopko indicated.

According to the report, Sopko also testified that civilian casualties remain high and many innocent people are violently killed and wounded.

Casualties in the last quarter of 2020 were the third highest in the last two years, Sopko added.

The US Inspector-General for Afghanistan Reconstruction indicated that Afghanistan remains reliant on foreign aid, he said “risks to a potential peace if they reduce assistance too much, too fast, or insist on conditions that cannot be achieved by the parties to the conflict.”

Sopko referred to the UN development program estimating that poverty in Afghanistan is defined by the 2,0464 Afghanis of income per person per month that makes around $1 a day, the poverty and this analysis has worsened to 68% from its pre-pandemic level of 55%.

“Afghanistan is poor and suffers from illiteracy, inadequate infrastructure, weak governance, and now, heavy impacts from the COVID19 pandemic,”, Sopko was quoted by Tolonews.

In regards to corruption investigation conducted by SIGAR identified corruption at every level of Afghan state- from salaries paid by international donors for Afghan soldiers and police (ghost soldiers who do not exist) to the theft of US-military-provided fuel on a massive scale.

“While the Afghan government has repeatedly assured the international community that it has the political will to combat corruption and make needed institutional reforms, it has a mixed record of completing them,” Sopko told the Committee. 

House Committee Oversight and Reform quoted Sopko in their website saying, “I believe most would agree with our report that achieving our counterterrorism and reconstruction objectives depends on a strong, stable, democratic, and self-reliant Afghanistan.  Unfortunately, as our report discusses in great detail, Afghanistan is far from that reality and maybe fighting for its very survival.

“Afghanistan is heavily dependent on foreign financial assistance…Yet, as we report, because international donors have largely lacked the will to impose, and more importantly, enforce, concrete conditions on their assistance, the Afghan government has made little, if any progress in combating corruption or illicit narcotics production, both of which provide critical oxygen to the insurgency”, Sopko added.


Taliban to send delegation to Afghanistan peace meeting hosted by Russia

Mar 16, 2021

The Taliban will send a 10-person delegation to an Afghanistan peace meeting hosted by Russia this week, the insurgent group's spokesman said on Monday.

The delegation will be led by Mullah Baradar, the Taliban's deputy leader and chief negotiator in US-brokered talks in Qatar, spokesman Mohammad Naeem said in a statement.

The Russian-backed conference is scheduled for March 18, one of a number of diplomatic initiatives to attempt to jumpstart the stalling Afghan peace process. The Afghan government confirmed on Saturday it would participate in the conference.

The U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, has this month been travelling around the region trying to shake up the peace process and spark progress as a troop withdrawal deadline nears and Washington reviews its policy for Afghanistan.

A spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Khalilzad had met with Ghani in Kabul on Monday and updated him on his recent trips. Khalilzad had previously been in Doha, where negotiations are taking place, and also visited Pakistan.

Khalilzad has also proposed a meeting among main players to be held in Turkey with heavy United Nations involvement next month. The Afghan government has said they would take part in that conference, but the Taliban has not yet confirmed whether they would attend.

It comes at a crunch time for the peace process as a May 1 deadline for foreign troops to withdraw from Afghanistan looms. U.S. President Joe Biden's administration, which is reviewing arrangements including a deal with the Taliban made under his predecessor, Donald Trump, has said all options remain on the table.

Peace talks have failed to gain momentum since starting in September with both sides yet to agree on an agenda, while violence has risen.

On Monday, a blast tore through a minivan in Kabul, according to police who said 15 civilians were injured. It was not clear who was behind the blast.



Arab World


US urges international community to designate Hezbollah as a terror group

16 March ,2021

Joseph Haboush

The United States Tuesday called on the international community to push ahead with designating Lebanon’s Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in its entirety, shortly after a delegation from the group met with Russia’s foreign minister in Moscow.

On Monday, the head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc led a four-member delegation to meet with Russia’s top diplomat, Sergei Lavrov.

A State Department official condemned the visit and the invite from Russia. “We urge all countries to reject the false distinction between Hezbollah’s so-called ‘military’ and ‘political’ wings and to take action with respect to the group in its entirety as a terrorist organization,” a State Department spokesperson told Al Arabiya English.

“Hezbollah is designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under US law,” the spokesperson added.

Hezbollah’s TV station, Al-Manar, quoted Mohammed Raad, who headed the delegation to Russia, as saying the meeting touched on developments in Lebanon and Syria.

Alongside Iran and its proxies, including Hezbollah, Russia intervened in the Syrian war to prop up President Bashar al-Assad when the regime’s numbers appeared to be numbered years ago.

Apart from Russia, France, which holds significant influence in Lebanon, has also given Hezbollah’s so-called political wing legitimacy.

French President Emmanuel Macron met with Raad during one of his trips to Lebanon after the Beirut blast in August 2020.

The European Union continues to differentiate between Hezbollah’s military and political wings.

In recent years, a growing number of countries have designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

Germany, the United Kingdom and Canada are some Western countries that have designated the group as a terror organization.

A majority of the Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain also consider the Iran-backed Hezbollah, a terrorist organization.

Hezbollah is responsible for one of the deadliest attacks on US personnel and troops on foreign soil.


GCC stands with Saudi Arabia against threats to its security: Secretary General

Tamara Abueish

17 March ,2021

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) stands with Saudi Arabia and supports all the measures the Kingdom takes to preserve its security, Secretary General Nayef al-Hajraf said during a meeting held with the foreign ministers of the member states.

Any future negotiations with Iran must include discussions on the Iranian regime’s ballistic missiles and nuclear program, he said.

Iran continues to support militias and destabilize the region, al-Hajraf added.

The Secretary General condemned the Iran-backed Houthi militia for using civilians as shields in the ongoing conflict in Marib in Yemen.

He also condemned the heinous fire at a migrant detention center in Sanaa, which lead to the death of dozens of African migrants.

For his part, Bahrain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullatif al-Zayani expressed the Gulf countries’ support for Saudi Arabia.

“The GCC stands united with Saudi Arabia in the face of the ongoing threats it faces,” Bahrain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullatif al-Zayani says.

“We have witnessed widespread international solidarity with Saudi Arabia against the Houthi terrorist attacks,” he added.

Al-Zayani condemned the Iran-backed Houthi militia’s attacks on civilians in the Kingdom.

The difficult and critical circumstances countries in the region are facing require a united front, he said, adding that the Al Ula Declaration stressed the need for Gulf countries to have a united front.


Lebanon’s Hezbollah plays ‘pivotal’ role in resolving regional challenges: Analyst

17 March 2021

Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement plays an "active and pivotal role" in resolving the challenges in the West Asia region, a Lebanese analyst says, adding that a recent meeting between the top Russian diplomat and a delegation of high-ranking Hezbollah figures shows that Moscow has come to understand that the popular organization should be viewed as an "independent power."

Nasser Qandil, a well-known journalist and editor with the Lebanese newspaper Al-Binaa, made the remarks in an exclusive interview with Press TV on Tuesday, in which he described the meeting of Hezbollah representatives with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov beyond the issue of forming a government in the Arab country.

Lavrov received a day earlier a delegation of high-ranking Hezbollah figures led by Mohammad Raad, the head of the Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc — the political wing of Hezbollah — and media reports indicated that the two sides had held “open and friendly” talks.

Stressing that the meeting was different from Moscow's previous ones with Hezbollah as it was the first since the new US administration took office, Qandil told Press TV that the meeting was held at Moscow’s request and it showed Russia has come to understand that Hezbollah should be seen as “an independent power.”

“The meeting goes beyond assessing Hezbollah's field role and tactical plans in the Syrian crisis, especially in the battles of Aleppo and Russian air support,” the political analyst said. “Russian leaders have concluded that Hezbollah is not merely a military and ideological power, but it is a power with political, strategic and ethical insights that can have a realistic reading of developments and changes.”

Qandil also noted that Russia, with Hezbollah delegation's visit to Russia, seeks to make it clear to Washington and Tel Aviv that its relationship with Hezbollah is not a bargaining chip.

During his exclusive interview with Press TV, the Lebanese analyst underlined that, “Hezbollah, in Russia's eyes, has the pragmatic power to devise appropriate tactics because it recognizes the camps of enemies and allies.”

Qandil also said that Russia seeks to make it clear to Hezbollah and its Syrian and Iranian allies that it will not clinch a deal with the United States on regional issues without considering them.

“Moscow and its allies believe that they will not reach a strategic compromise with the new US administration, and if there is some compromise, it would be based on a background of strategic hostility,” he said.

Hezbollah was established following the 1982 Israeli invasion and occupation of southern Lebanon. Since then, the popular resistance movement has grown into a powerful military force.

During the 2000 and 2006 Israeli wars on Lebanon, battleground contribution by Hezbollah proved an indispensable asset, forcing the Israeli military into a retreat and shattering the myth of the occupying entity’s invincibility.

Moreover, Hezbollah has played a critical role in the Syrian military’s counter-terrorism operations over the past years with the aim of preventing the spillover of the Syria crisis into Lebanon.

The US has labeled the entire Hezbollah a terrorist organization and levied several rounds of sanctions on the Lebanese resistance movement as well as its top officials.

Unlike the Western countries, Russia does not consider Hezbollah a terrorist organization.


Saudi Arabia urges extension of Iran arms embargo amid increased Houthi attacks

Ismaeel Naar

17 March ,2021

Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers has urged for an extension of the weapons embargo on Iran amid increased drone and missile attacks from the Houthi militia in Yemen.

The statement came following a cabinet session on Tuesday chaired virtually by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman.

“The Cabinet underlined the importance of extending weapons embargo on Iran as it is continuing to provide the terrorist Houthi militias with advanced weapons and drones used to terrify the Yemenis and target civilians and civil objects in the Kingdom deliberately and systematically,” read a statement on the cabinet session published by the Saudi Press Agency.

“The Cabinet expressed the Kingdom's support for the international efforts aimed at ensuring that the Iranian regime does not develop a nuclear weapons system and ballistic missiles, making the Arab gulf region free of all weapons of mass destruction, and respect the independence and sovereignty of countries and not to interfere in its internal affairs,” the statement added.

The Cabinet also reaffirmed the Kingdom's support for the efforts of the United Nations envoy for Yemen to reach a comprehensive ceasefire and a start of an inclusive political process according to the three references: The GCC Initiative and its executive mechanisms, the outcomes of the national dialogue and the UN Security Council Resolution 2216.


Syrian air defences respond to Israeli ‘aggression’ in southern Syria: SANA

17 March ,2021

Syrian air defenses fended off an Israeli airstrike on Tuesday night, state-run Syrian media reported.

“Air defense systems thwarted an [Israeli enemy] aggression in southern Syria,” the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the Israeli strikes targeted at least two weapons depots for Iranian militias and military sites for the regime forces, a few kilometers from Damascus International Airport.

The Syrian Television added that explosions were heard in the skies of Damascus.

The air defense system downed several missiles before they reached their target, SANA added.

Israel has carried out hundreds of raids in Syria since the civil war broke out in 2011, targeting Iranian and Hezbollah forces as well as government troops.


At least 12 regime soldiers killed in militant ambush in south Syria: Monitor

16 March ,2021

Armed men killed 12 Syrian soldiers in an ambush in the southern province of Daraa on Tuesday, a war monitor said.

“At least 12 members of the Fourth Armored Division and the regime’s intelligence units were killed in an ambush by militants,” the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The soldiers were en route to the al-Mzairib district in the rural west of the province to arrest a former opposition commander when they came under fire by militants loyal to him who sought to thwart his capture, Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman said.

“The militants attacked two military trucks and two small buses carrying regime forces,” he added.

That sparked a gunfight which forced Damascus to deploy reinforcements to the area, Abdul Rahman said.

Russia-backed regime fighters recaptured Daraa from armed factions in 2018, in a symbolic blow to the anti-government uprising born there in 2011.

State institutions have since returned, but the army is still not deployed across the whole province, the Observatory says.

Many former opposition fighters stayed instead of evacuating under a Moscow-brokered deal, either joining the army or remaining in control of parts of the province. They were allowed to keep their light firearms.

Al-Mzairib is among the districts controlled by former opposition forces.

Since it came under regime control, Daraa has witnessed a spate of bombings and assassinations targeting regime forces, former opposition figures and civilians. Most of them remain unclaimed.

Syria’s war has killed more than 388,000 people and displaced millions since it started with anti-government protests in 2011.


Lebanon releases activist charged for collaborating with Israel

16 March ,2021

Rawad Taha

A military court in Lebanon has approved a request to release Kinda al-Khatib, an activist who was previously charged for collaborating with Israel, the state-run National News agency reported Tuesday.

Khatib’s release on bail for 3 million Lebanese pounds ($2,000 at the official exchange rate) comes one year after her arrest.

The military court had previously imposed a three-year prison sentence against her.

For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Lebanon and Israel are technically at war, and Lebanese citizens are prohibited from entering Israel or communicating with Israeli citizens.

Upon her release, al-Khatib said in a video that she was happy to see some roads blocked by protestors due to the worsening economic situation. “This means that freedom still exists in this country .” Lebanon has been facing an unprecedented crisis with approximately 1.7 million people estimated to have fallen under the poverty line.

“I am the daughter of Akkar region; Akkar shouldn’t be treated with injustice. It is unjust to say that the region of Akkar is a collaborator [with Israel]. Akkar is home to the biggest number of Lebanese Army soldiers,” she said.

Khatib left the women’s prison at the Barbar El Khazen police station in Beirut and headed to the her hometown in Akkar, accompanied by her brother.

Military Tribunal Judge Fadi Akiki had charged Khatib with collaborating with “the enemy,” entering the occupied Palestinian territories, and dealing with Israeli spies and those working for Israel’s interests.

Khatib’s family and supporters insisted on her innocence and staged multiple protests over the past year demanding her release.

After Khatib’s arrest from her home in Akkar, her supporters speculated that she had been targeted because of her social media posts criticizing Hezbollah and President Michel Aoun.

Meanwhile, opponents of hers alleged that she had been arrested for actual charges of spying for Israel.


Saudi Arabia condemns protesters storming presidential palace in Yemen’s Aden

Ismaeel Naar

17 March ,2021

Saudi Arabia has condemned in the strongest terms the storming of the al-Maasheeq presidential palace in Yemen’s southern city of Aden, according to a statement from the Kingdom’s foreign ministry.

“The Kingdom affirms the support of the Yemeni government, which began its duties in the temporary capital of Aden on December 30, 2020 headed by Dr. Maeen Abdulmalik, and the importance of giving it the full opportunity to serve the Yemeni people in light of the current difficult humanitarian and economic conditions,” the statement from the Saudi foreign ministry read.

Saudi Arabia also called on the parties to the Riyadh Agreement for an urgent response and the meeting in Riyadh to complete the implementation of the rest of the agreement, affirming that the implementation of the deal “is a guarantee to unify the ranks of the various spectrums of the Yemeni people.”

Protesters stormed the presidential palace in Yemen’s southern city of Aden on Tuesday, where the internationally-recognized government of Yemen currently resides.

The Riyadh Agreement signed last year set up a power-sharing structure between the Southern Transitional Council and the Yemeni government, consisting of 24 ministers from both groups, according to SPA.


Arab Coalition destroys Houthi explosive-laden boat off Yemen’s as-Salif

Ismaeel Naar

16 March ,2021

The Arab Coalition said it has destroyed an Iran-backed Houthi explosive-laden boat before an imminent attack off Yemen's coastal village of as-Salif.

“Yemen's Houthis continue to threaten maritime traffic and international trade and are using the Stockholm Agreement as an umbrella for the attacks from the Hodeidah Governorate,” the Arab Coalition said in a statement.

Earlier in the day, the Arab Coalition destroyed a drone launched by the Iran-backed Houthi militia heading towards Saudi Arabia’s Khamis Mushait, the coalition said.

The latest attacks come less than 24 hours after the Iran-backed group fired two missiles towards Khamis Mushait on Monday evening.



North America


Turkey's new envoy aims to advance relations with US

Servet Günerigök  



Turkey's new US ambassador said Tuesday that he aims to advance relations with the US, a day after taking office in Washington, DC.

In a video message addressed to the Turkish American community, Hasan Murat Mercan said transatlantic relations have been important for Turkey and will continue to be of importance. 

"It will be among the most important tasks of all of us to carry the existing political, economic and cultural relations between the two countries much further," said Mercan.

During his time in office, he said he would work with members of the Turkish-American community to promote Turkey better in the US and do his part for the development of Turkey.

"You can be sure that we will need your support, participation and advice," he said.

The embassy and consulates in the US will work 24/7 to promote Turkey and explain its interests, he added.

Mercan, Turkey’s former ambassador to Japan, arrived in the US on Sunday and officially took office on Monday.


U.S. soldier pleads not guilty to plotting ISIS attacks on NYC landmarks

MAR 15, 2021

A U.S. Army soldier pleaded not guilty Monday to plotting terrorist attacks on city landmarks with an undercover FBI employee posing as a member of ISIS.

Cole Bridges faces a maximum of 40 years in prison for attempting to provide material support to ISIS and attempted murder of U.S. military service members. Prosecutors say Bridges, 20, shared his disenchantment with the military in online chats with the undercover FBI employee starting in 2019.

The radicalized soldier eventually began advising the fake ISIS sympathizer on how to thwart U.S. military attacks in the Middle East and “provided advice” on potential targets in New York City, including the 9/11 Memorial, according to a complaint.

Bridges, a resident of Stow, Ohio, and member of the Third Infantry Division, was arrested in January at the Army base at Fort Stewart, Ga.

The accused traitor even recorded a video of himself in body armor in front of an ISIS flag and narrated another video hyping what he believed was an an imminent ISIS ambush of U.S. troops, authorities say.

Bridges’ attorney Sabrina Shroff said during the Manhattan Federal Court hearing that she expected to discuss a “disposition” of the case before it goes to trial — meaning the soldier could soon plead guilty.


US report says Russia, Iran and Hezbollah meddled in 2020 election

March 16, 2021

WASHINGTON: Russian President Vladimir Putin knew of and likely directed a Russian effort to manipulate the 2020 US presidential campaign to benefit former President Donald Trump with “misleading or unsubstantiated allegations” against challenger Joe Biden, US intelligence officials said on Tuesday.

The assessment was made in a 15-page report into election interference released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It underscored allegations that Trump’s allies played into Moscow’s hands by amplifying claims made against Biden by Russian-linked Ukrainian figures in the run-up to the Nov. 3 election. Biden, a Democrat, defeated Trump, a Republican, and became president on Jan. 20.

US intelligence agencies found other attempts to sway voters, including a “multi-pronged covert influence campaign” by Iran intended to undercut Trump’s support. Trump pulled the United States out of an international nuclear deal with Iran and imposed fresh sanctions.

The report also punctured a counter-narrative pushed by Trump’s allies that China was interfering on Biden’s behalf, concluding that Beijing “did not deploy interference efforts.”

“China sought stability in its relationship with the United States and did not view either election outcome as being advantageous enough for China to risk blowback if caught,” the report said.

US officials said they also saw efforts by Cuba, Venezuela and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah to influence the election, although “in general, we assess that they were smaller in scale than those conducted by Russia and Iran.”

US intelligence agencies and former Special Counsel Robert Mueller previously concluded that Russia also interfered in the 2016 US election to boost Trump’s candidacy with a campaign of propaganda aimed at harming his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

The Russian, Chinese and Cuban Embassies in Washington did not immediately return messages seeking comment. The Iranian mission to the United Nations and the Venezuelan Ministry of Information also did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Moscow, Beijing and Tehran routinely deny allegations of cyberespionage and subterfuge.

The new report said Putin knew of and “probably directed” the election interference efforts. As an example, Putin “had purview over the activities of Andriy Derkach,” a Ukrainian lawmaker who played a prominent role in the effort and has ties to Russian intelligence, the report said.

“We assess Russian leaders preferred that former President Trump win re-election despite perceiving some of his administration’s policies as anti-Russia. We have high confidence in this assessment,” the report stated.

A key role was also played by a second man with Russian intelligence ties, Konstantin Kilimnik, according to the report. Kilimnik and Derkach met with and gave materials to Trump-linked people to push for formal investigations, and Derkach released four audio recordings to try to implicated Biden in corruption, it said.

That refers to conversations that right-wing figures in the United States cited as evidence that Biden tried to protect his son Hunter from a probe in Ukraine.

Kilimnik was an associate of Paul Manafort, who served as Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman. Trump last year pardoned Manafort for a criminal conviction that stemmed from Mueller’s investigation.

Russian agents also tried to “phish” employees of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, “likely in an attempt to gather information related to President Biden’s family,” it said. Hunter Biden had served on Burisma’s board.

As in the 2016 election, the Russian so-called troll factory formerly known as the Internet Research Agency pushed disparaging stories on social media about Biden and Democrats and complained about censorship by the tech companies, the report said. It also sought to exacerbate US divisions on racial justice issues, the report said.





EU visit to Xinjiang stalled over access request to jailed Uighur academic: Diplomat

17 March ,2021

A visit by European Union ambassadors to the Xinjiang region of China has stalled over their request for access to jailed Uighur academic Ilham Tohti, a diplomatic source confirmed Wednesday.

Since 2019, China says it has invited foreign diplomats and UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet to visit Xinjiang, where rights groups allege more than one million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are detained in internment camps.

But there has been little sign of progress.

A European diplomat told AFP it was because the mission wants to visit Tohti, a Uighur economist jailed for life on separatism charges in 2014.

He received the Sakharov Prize - the EU’s top human rights award - in 2019.

“Negotiations are in a stalemate because of Tohti and other conditions,” the diplomat said. “I don’t think they are going soon.”

China’s ambassador to the European Union, Zhang Ming, on Tuesday said “almost everything had been arranged” for EU member states’ ambassadors to visit Xinjiang.

But it had snagged on “unacceptable requests,” he added.

“They insist on a meeting with one criminal convicted by Chinese law,” he said. “This is unacceptable, I’m so sorry.”

China strongly denies allegations of abuse involving Uighurs in Xinjiang and says all inmates have “graduated” from “vocational training centers”, which it claims have helped stamp out extremism in the region and raise incomes.

A delegation of three EU officials who took part in a carefully organized Xinjiang visit in January 2019 previously said they believed the people they met in a “training center” were reciting a dictated speech.

Zhang added that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi extended an invitation to Bachelet on March 7, after she called for an “independent and comprehensive assessment of the human rights situation” in Xinjiang late February.

He insisted that Xinjiang is “open to foreign diplomats, journalists and tourists.”

All foreign journalists face extensive harassment and surveillance from Chinese authorities when attempting to report from Xinjiang over the past year, according to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China.


EU should renew migration deal with Turkey: Borrell

Agnes Szucs 



The European Union will seek the renewal of the 2016 migration deal with Turkey, the EU foreign policy chief said Monday.

Speaking at a press conference following a joint meeting of EU foreign affairs and interior ministers, Josep Borrell said EU member states and institutions first among themselves and then later with Turkey had to discuss the renewal of engagement that the bloc and Turkey concluded.

The deal “has been very much criticized” but “has produced tangible results. It has led to a significant decrease of loss of human lives, a reduction in irregular crossings and improved the situation of refugees and migrants in Turkey,” Borrell pointed out.

He also explained that under the deal, the EU had pledged €6 billion ($7.2 billion) in assistance for the refugees, and nearly all of the sum had already been contracted.

The EU foreign policy chief also stressed that the refugees were still in Turkey and “they continue to need our support.”

The bloc’s future relationship with Turkey will be partially based on the renewed agreement, he noted, adding “it is our common interest” to “prevent irregular migration, avoid losses of lives” and to “help Turkey to support the burden” in hosting “such a big amount of people on its territory.”

The 2016 deal was reached to stop irregular refugee flows and to improve the conditions of Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Turkey is the largest host country for Syrian refugees and provides protection to 4 million people who fled the neighboring country.

EU leaders will discuss the future of EU-Turkey relations during their summit next week.


Stansted Airport: German man admits sharing IS videos

Mar 17, 2021

A German man arrested as he was about to board a flight at Stansted Airport has admitted sharing propaganda videos by the Islamic State (IS) group.

Florian Flegel, 23, was set to fly to Germany on 12 October when he was arrested at the airport in Essex.

At Woolwich Crown Court, Flegel, from Dusseldorf, pleaded guilty to six counts of disseminating terrorist publications including IS videos.

He is due to be sentenced at the same court on 26 April.

Judge Andrew Lees ordered a pre-sentence report to be prepared.


We shouldn’t forget the horrific crimes of Isis returnees

16 March 2021

Summer 2015. A five-year-old girl is chained up and left outside in the desert sun in Fallujah, Iraq – a punishment for wetting the bed while feeling unwell. The little girl slowly died of thirst in temperatures exceeding 50 degrees Celsius. Condemned to the same inhumane punishment was the girl's mother, made to endure the additional and unimaginable horror of helplessly watching the life drain from her daughter's tiny body.

The mother and child were members of Iraq’s Yazidi religious minority. Their captors, members of Islamic State (IS), are said to be German and Iraqi. At the time, Islamic State recruits felt invincible. They taunted the West and ruled over civilians in their territory with cruelty and terror. Four years later, their ‘Caliphate’ had crumbled and the German jihadist, Jennifer W., was facing war crimes charges in her native Munich.

This case set an important precedent, opening the gates for a handful of other charges to be brought against German citizens. The little girl’s mother testified at the trial in Munich: ‘It is very difficult to see your own daughter die in front of your eyes. I want the whole world to know what they have done.’ But the biblical scenes which dominated news cycles when IS first descended on the Yazidis are already fading from memory, and so far, justice for the genocide has not been delivered.

At least 6,000 people from Western Europe abandoned their lives to join Isis’s doomed state-building project, with dozens more from North America and Australasia. Many were killed, but 450 have returned to Britain, 300 to France and 150 to Sweden, whereas several hundred who stuck it out until the end are now stranded in Northern Syria under the watch of Kurdish forces.

So far, the discussions of the fate of these ‘foreign fighters’ has been parochial. Largely absent from an emotive and polarised debate has been the suffering these recruits inflicted on local civilians, none more so than the Yazidi people – whose terrible fate was captured in the chilling words of one UN inquiry:

‘The date of 3 August 2014 would become a dividing line, demarcating when one life ended, and – for those who survived – when another, infinitely more cruel, existence began.’

Many of the international recruits to IS joined after this dividing line, and after the genocide and sexual enslavement of Yazidis was well publicised – mostly by the group’s own grisly propaganda, loudly trumpeting the restoration of a glorious ancient institution.

Troubled by the lack of accountability and debate on their crimes, I wanted to build a more complete picture of the role of Westerners in the genocide. The findings, published by the Counter Extremism Project, are uncomfortable, and point to much more widespread involvement than either debate or court cases indicate.

An American fighter is reported to have prayed and ritually cleansed before and after raping his captive. A Frenchman kept his slave in a house with his mother and two sisters. Brits and Australians bragged about slaves on social media. A German woman is reported to have enslaved a 13-year-old girl before returning home and updating her LinkedIn to settle back into the life she previously abandoned.

Among a network of Yazidi survivors we polled, at least half had contact with Westerners in captivity, despite Western recruits comprising a minority within IS. Some gave details of their rape and torture by British and European captors. One survivor told us of her heartbreak and confusion that Europeans would travel thousands of miles to harm a people they had never met. Others have lost all hope of justice.

Domestically, an infantilising discourse strips jihadist travellers of their agency, as women are labelled ‘brides’ and we speculate over their supposed manipulation into joining such a bloodthirsty cause. Yet according to Yazidi testimony, the Isis women could be just as vicious as men. In some cases, these ‘brides’ prepared Yazidi women for rape: applying makeup, choosing outfits; even chaining their helpless victims down to thwart resistance. Notably, all of the German jihadists charged for war crimes are women.

As the fate of hundreds of Westerners hangs in the balance in Northern Syria, governments must investigate whether crimes against humanity were committed by their own citizens. This is not only a moral and legal imperative, it can be effective counter-terrorism. It could help to secure longer sentences and ease the burden on overwhelmed security services.

Several hundred people have already returned to Europe and been able to pick up their lives, while the communities they devastated in Iraq and Syria will not recover for generations, if at all. Above all, we must not send the message to future extremists that it is possible to travel overseas to rape, oppress and kill people already less fortunate, only to return when the going gets tough to little or no sanction. As a great man once wrote from jail: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.


Europe's Experience on Islamism Is a Cautionary Tale for the United States



Is anyone paying attention to what's happening in Europe? If you care about freedom in the West, take a look now. Fault lines between Islamists and the secular West, etched over generations and deepened and fortified by failed post-9/11 policies, have tectonically shifted. Nearly written off by some, European nations are suddenly taking serious and significant action to push back in earnest against encroaching Islamist separatism and radicalization. And the United States, as an observer, stands to learn a lot.

In 2020, as the world remained deeply embroiled in the pandemic, France, Austria, and much of the rest of the European Union (EU) began to confront the Islamist ideological monster within their borders. Led by French President Emmanuel Macron and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, European leaders seem to have woken up from their slumber and realized it wasn't just the militant Islamist acts of terrorism that they needed to defeat—rather, it was the ideas that incubated them, political Islam or Islamism.

The importance of this moment in history and the accuracy of Macron's diagnoses of Islamism within his country's borders is highlighted by the fact that some of the world's leading Islamist demagogues, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, called for the boycott of French products in late October. Macron swiftly and defiantly responded, "We will not give in, ever."

France's 2020 front in the cultural war against Islamism was sparked by the October 16 beheading of Samuel Paty, a middle school teacher who had the courage to simply discuss what happened in the massacre of the Charlie Hebdo staff in 2015, when the magazine staffers showed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

After Paty's murder, Macron responded swiftly by defending free speech and defending France's character and values. He sped up his plans for a coordinated, all-of-government approach against "Islamist separatism." Macron has thus begun to lead his country in a long-overdue conversation that targets the root cause of the Islamist threat to France—"Islamist separatism." Many of us dedicated to Muslim reform against Islamism have been actually calling for such an open conversation for a long time.

In a series of speeches since Paty's murder, Macron has laid bare why Islamism is inherently separatist and "rejects freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and the right to blaspheme." He correctly laid the diagnosis and blame at the feet of leaders across the globe who are in "crisis" and fomenting "jihad." He has called for the de-"ghettoization" of Muslim communities. Macron introduced legislation reawakening France's "republican principles" and directly confronting Islamism's incompatibilities. He lifted up "laicite"—France's dominant constitutional principle and consciousness of secularism—as the nation's "cement." Macron essentially declared war on foreign influence in Muslim institutions, blocking funding while surveilling mosques and imams as well as other professions.

To be clear, Islamism is the religio-political-cultural belief system that the state should have an Islamic identity and be guided only by shariah law (Islamic jurisprudence). Islamists are part of a global political movement that ultimately seeks power and international hegemony. Like all totalitarian systems, Islamism is not compatible with Western secular democratic ideals. Not all Muslims are Islamists, but all Islamists are Muslims. And while Muslim migrants in Europe are not a monolithic bloc, among them are innumerable Islamists and Islamist-sympathizers.

Macron rightly stated that the "republican reawakening" could help nourish a form of Islam compatible with Enlightenment values. It is this kind of tough love that is essential to embracing Muslim immigrants with dignity, as adults—rather than with a bigotry of low expectations that leaves them vulnerable to radicalization.

In parallel, Austria's 2020 front in its cultural war against Islamists was sparked by a terror attack conducted by an Austrian ISIS supporter in Vienna on November 2, 2020, which left four dead and 23 injured. The attack spurred Austria into action, as Chancellor Kurz almost immediately announced a new policy:

"In the fight against political Islam, we will create a criminal offense called 'political Islam' in order to be able to take action against those who are not terrorists themselves, but who create the breeding ground for such. There will be further possibilities for the closure of places of worship, the introduction of an imams register...and measures will be taken to drain financial flows for terrorist financing."

This is a culmination of programs that began when Kurz took office. Austria had already implemented a hijab ban in primary schools, as well as a face veil ban. Austrian law enforcement raided the offices of 60 Hamas- and Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated organizations last November, following the Vienna attack, and shut down some mosques connected to the terrorist ideology. On December 9, President Macron and Chancellor Kurz met with fellow EU leader German Chancellor Angela Merkel in order to develop a pan-European strategy of decreasing the infiltration of radical Islamist ideology into their nations.

Hany Ghoraba wrote for IPT News that these leaders looked to apply "swift removal of terrorist content online and establish one common instrument for all member states to this effect. ...This would give the European Parliament authority in EU member states to order service providers to remove terrorist content or disable access to it."

But Europe—and Austria, in particular—should take note here. "Bad ideas"—like political Islam—will only be defeated by "better ideas." The U.S. legal system has long upheld a very narrow definition of incitement of violence (Brandenburg v. Ohio), lest the government head down the slippery slope of censorship that violates our unalienable right to freedom of expression.

The outlawing of "hate speech" historically never works well. Time and again, the suppression of Islamist movements has only empowered them as they flourished underground and were shielded from the antiseptic effect of public exposure and competition from more appealing movements.

Will this cultural war declared by Macron and Kurz work? In the end, there is no other option. The sooner they confront political Islam, the better. Continuing the prior policy of appeasement will only invite continued attacks on our secular and liberal way of life.

Europe is a cautionary tale for the United States. We must not continue the course that France and Austria are now only attempting to alter at great cost. We must also recognize that Americanism is uniquely situated to be the West's "last best hope" against Islamism.

We must stand together against foreign ideas that are incompatible with our social and constitutional compact. Mobilize our greatest weapons against separatism and theocracy—Americanism on every plane and every front we can. Lead with an offense of reform-minded Muslims who would die for our secular republics and reject the supremacist appeal of the jihad. The sooner we stand up for our shared American values, the better off we will all be.

M. Zuhdi Jasser is the president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and a co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C. and a former U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander. Twitter: @DrZuhdiJasser.



Southeast Asia


Use of ‘Allah’ a non-issue in Sabah and Sarawak, say Muslim reps

Willie Jude and Goh Pei Pei

March 17, 2021

KOTA KINABALU: Two assemblymen from Sabah and Sarawak today said the use of the word “Allah” among non-Muslims was never an issue in their states.

Idris Buang, the Muara Tuang assemblyman representing Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) in Sarawak, said Christians have been using “Allah” and “Tuhan” for a long time.

Recalling the days when he was a pupil at a primary missionary school, Idris said he even followed his classmates to a church, but had never prayed or took part in rituals there since he was Muslim.

“There cannot be a monopoly on the term ‘Allah’, others can use it, too,” he said.

He said the majority of Christians in Sarawak used “Allah” to refer to God in their Malay-language or Iban bibles.

He added that authorities had the right to appeal against the court decision allowing Christians the use of the word “Allah” in their religious education and books, reiterating that it was never an issue for Sarawak or its governing party, GPS.

Sabah’s Sugut assemblyman James Ratib said the “Allah” issue was a “sensitive” topic in the peninsula, which was “likely being played up in the run-up to the next general election”.

“The issue is not a problem here. Many Muslims in Sabah are related to families who are not Muslims. The unity spirit without looking into race and religion is still strong here,” he said.

James, who is also a state assistant minister, said Sabahans should not pay too much attention to the issue and should focus instead on combating Covid-19 and reviving the economy.

On March 10, High Court judge Nor Bee Ariffin ruled that a Dec 5, 1986 home ministry directive to prohibit the use of the words “Allah”, “Baitullah”, “Solat” and “Kaabah” by non-Muslims was illegal and unconstitutional.

The judge said the directive was wrongly issued as it went beyond the aim of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.

The government filed an appeal against the decision on Monday.


‘Allah’ issue to be discussed at session with muftis tomorrow

March 15, 2021

KUALA LUMPUR: A munaqasyah session to scrutinise the issue on the use of the word “Allah” will be held with muftis from around the country tomorrow, said religious affairs minister Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri.

Zulkifli said the opinions of leaders of Islamic non-governmental organisations would also be sought.

“I just visited the headquarters of Pertubuhan-Pertubuhan Pembela Islam (Pembela) to hear the views and thoughts of leaders of Islamic NGOs on the issue (on the use) of the word Allah.

“I spent almost 45 minutes exchanging views and trying to find a common understanding between the government and Islamic NGOs on this issue,” he said in a Facebook posting today.

He said the government always regarded NGOs as strategic working partners in all fields.

Last week, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur ruled that Christians in Malaysia can use the word “Allah” and three other Arabic words – Baitullah, Kaabah and solat – in their religious publications for educational purposes.


Malaysia's Anwar says has met with several Umno leaders to discuss cooperation in next elections

Nadirah H. Rodzi

Mar 17, 2021

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said on Tuesday (March 16) he has met with several Umno leaders to discuss possible political cooperation but it was too early to come to a decision.

His press conference followed whispers that political enemies Umno and the Pakatan Harapan (PH) opposition coalition would work together in the next general election, which could turn Malaysian politics on its head.

“I’ve already said it would be premature to indicate any possibility of cooperation in the next general election. At this stage, we are just discussing,” he said, confirming what he said in an interview over the weekend with the Mingguan Malaysia newspaper that a PH-Umno cooperation is possible. “We are just in the midst of initial discussions.”

Umno is a member of Malaysia’s governing Perikatan Nasional (PN) alliance led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin in the last one year. But Umno has been at loggerheads with Tan Sri Muhyiddin’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, which leads the 12-party PN.

Umno’s internal schism over whether to continue working with PM Muhyiddin has reached fever pitch this year.

Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamid’s faction, which includes former premier Najib Razak, want to cut ties with the premier’s Bersatu, claiming they have been handed a raw deal despite being the largest party in government.

But others, like Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein and Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa believe the party must unite with other major Malay parties which include Parti Islam SeMalaysia to ensure victory in polls expected later this year.

Mr Anwar, asked if his discussions included meeting with Najib, said he met with any and all lawmakers.

“What is the need for me to deny? I have talks with everyone. I even discussed cooperation with Tun Mahathir before,” he said, referring to another ex-premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, an ally-turned-political nemesis again.

PH consists of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) which is led by Mr Anwar, the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party (DAP) and small Islamic faction, Parti Amanah Negara.

PKR was formed in 1998 as a splinter of Umno following Mr Anwar’s sacking and has always been a thorn in Umno’s side, while the DAP is constantly used by Umno as a bogeyman.

On the flip side, the opposition parties have been attacking Umno for decades.

There is thus scepticism that Umno, which dominated Malaysian politics until it lost in the 2018 general election, would be able to work with PH.

There are also questions whether Umno would let Mr Anwar lead such an alliance to achieve his burning ambition to become Malaysia’s prime minister.

Amanah communications chief Khalid Abdul Samad said on Tuesday that Umno had long been synonymous with “racism, corruption, and power abuse”.

“It has to be asked, is Umno willing to play second fiddle to Harapan? I think we all know the answer,” he added.

Mr Anwar in his news conference said to work with Umno, PH will not compromise on its reform agenda and the principles of good governance.

“We are not going to compromise on the principles, the policies, and the values that we have adopted this far,” he said.

Earlier, Umno information chief Shahril Hamdan said that it has not budged from a decision by its top policy-making policy body, the Umno supreme council, of not working with PKR or the DAP.

“The decision made at Umno’s annual meeting 2019 is still in effect and numerous statements by top party leaders made no mention of cooperation with PKR and DAP.

“Rejecting cooperation with Bersatu does not mean immediately being together with another party,” Mr Shahril said in a statement on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Mr Anwar at the news conference also addressed the defection of three PKR MPs in the last three weeks. They defected to support PN.

Mr Anwar claimed the defections were caused by harassment by the police, anti-corruption agency and income tax department, and that four other PKR MPs are being intimidated to cross to PN to get alleged criminal cases against them removed.

"This is not politics. This is an abuse of power through exercising pressure," he said at the press conference at a hotel in Petaling Jaya.

The PKR president earlier on Tuesday held a meeting with all 36 party federal lawmakers who gave their assurance that they won't defect. Both Mr Anwar and his wife Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail are also MPs.





Algeria seeks 18 months’ prison sentence for journalist in ‘defamation’ case

16 March ,2021

Prosecutors in Algeria are seeking an 18-month prison sentence for a journalist on charges including defamation, a penalty Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has slammed as “disproportionate.”

The communications ministry has accused Abdelhakim Setouane, editor-in-chief of Arabic-language news site Essafir Broadcast, of “defamation,” “invasion of privacy,” “journalistic blackmail,” and “publishing malicious information.”

The accusations stem from an article alleging the speaker of the lower house of parliament was having an extra-marital affair, the media rights group said Monday.

The court in Sidi M’hamed on Monday sought 18 months in jail for Setouane, who has been in custody since October 20.

RSF in a statement called the proposed penalty “disproportionate” and called for the journalist’s immediate release.

Algerian media said the verdict was expected on March 29.

Algerian authorities have detained and prosecuted a number of journalists in recent months.

Among them is Khaled Drareni, founder of online news site the Casbah Tribune and a correspondent for RSF and French-language TV5 Monde.

Drareni was provisionally released last month following a presidential pardon.

“An unstable political environment is increasing the threats to the freedom to inform in Algeria,” according to RSF.

“As a result of judicial harassment, the Algerian media struggle to fulfil their role.”

RSF ranked Algeria 146 out of 180 countries and territories in its 2020 World Press Freedom Index, a 27-place drop since 2015.


Militants kill 58 in separate attacks in Niger

17 March 2021

Unidentified armed "bandits" in Niger have staged several attacks in the restive region of Tillaberi, killing dozens of people, inflicting damage, and stealing vehicles, the government says.

"The toll from these barbarous acts (is) 58 dead, one injured, a number of grain silos and two vehicles burned, and two more vehicles seized," the government said in a statement read out on public television on Tuesday.

The attacks took place on a bus coming from the Banibangou market and nearby villages located in the "tri-border area" — a flashpoint zone where the frontiers of Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali converge — on Monday.

The government, which announced three days of national mourning for the deaths, called for "greater vigilance" on behalf of the local population in the area.

The tri-border area is one of the most volatile places in the Sahel region. Earlier this year, 100 people were killed in attacks on two villages in Tillaberi.

Niger is also the target of attacks by militants from Nigeria, where a decade-old militancy by the Boko Haram terrorist group has been ongoing.

Thirty four villagers were massacred in the southeastern region of Diffa, on the Nigerian border, in December 2020.

More than 30,000 people have been killed and nearly three million displaced in a decade of Boko Haram violence in West Africa, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Militants ambush soldiers in Mali

Separately, 11 Malian soldiers were killed and 11 more went missing after militants staged an ambush on a military patrol in Gao in northern Mali on Monday.

The Malian army said on Tuesday that 14 soldiers had also been wounded in the ambush and that eight of them were in serious condition.

It said that seven militants were also killed in the attack.

Last year was Mali's deadliest on record due to militant attacks, tit-for-tat violence between rival ethnic groups, and killings by security forces, according to data compiled by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).

France has deployed its military to the Sahel region with a declared objective of suppressing the militancy.

Last month, France's President Emmanuel Macron, who faces an upcoming election, ruled out any immediate decrease in the number of the French troops deployed to the restive region.


Eastern Libya Forces Say Arrested ‘Prominent IS Leader’ Abu Omar

MARCH 15, 2021

Forces loyal to Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar announced Sunday the arrest of a top Islamic State group figure in the south of the North African country.

The eastern-based marshal’s forces led an operation in the southern desert town of Ubari targeting the “most prominent leader” of IS in Libya, Mohamed Miloud Mohamed — who goes by Abu Omar — leading to his arrest, said a statement by Haftar’s spokesman Ahmad al-Mesmari.

Abu Omar was among the top IS leaders in Libya when the group took control of the central coastal city of Sirte in 2015, the statement added.

The jihadists made Sirte a stronghold where they trained fighters and orchestrated attacks, including killing scores of foreign tourists in neighboring Tunisia, before they were driven out of the Libyan city in 2016.

IS gained a foothold in Libya amid the chaos that reigned in the country after dictator Moamer Kadhafi was toppled and killed in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011.

Described as a “dangerous terrorist,” Abu Omar had “close ties” with Abu Moaz al-Iraqi, the head of IS in Libya, who was killed last September by pro-Haftar forces, Mesmari’s statement said.

Abu Omar is also accused of having abducted in 2015 four Italian engineers, who were freed after payment of a ransom estimated at four million euros ($4.8 million), it added.

A political crisis in the wake of Kadhafi’s overthrow saw the oil-rich country split between rival authorities in the east and west and the disintegration of security apparatuses, creating fertile ground for jihadist groups like IS to take root.

After IS was ousted from Sirte the group was significantly weakened in Libya, but its members have retreated into the desert or blended in with the population on the Mediterranean coast.

A new transitional government was recently approved under a UN-sponsored inter-Libyan dialogue to unify the country’s institutions and is due to be sworn in on Monday.


Armed men attack another Nigerian school, as 39 students still missing

March 15, 2021

Kaduna, NigeriaArmed men attempted to kidnap more students in Nigeria's Kaduna state overnight on Sunday, a state government official said, as 39 others from an earlier attack remain missing.

Attacks by armed gangs, usually referred to as bandits, have intensified across northwest Nigeria in recent years. Four school kidnappings since December have provoked nationwide outrage.

Some 39 students, including a pregnant woman, are still missing from Thursday's abduction from the Federal College of Forestry Mechanization, in northwest Nigeria.

Samuel Aruwan, Kaduna state commissioner of internal security and home affairs, said police, army and others had repelled attacks on another school and at a local government office near Kaduna airport.

"The Kaduna state government extends its unequivocal solidarity to the military, police, Department of State Services and other security agencies, whose swift intervention prevented the bandits from abducting more persons," Aruwan said.

All 307 students at the Government Science Secondary School in Ikara were accounted for, Aruwan said, adding that the army and air force also repelled an attack on senior staff quarters in Ifira village in Igabi local government area.

Aruwan did not refer to a video that circulated on Saturday of missing students from the Federal College of Forestry Mechanization, showing them being beaten and cowering.

In that video, a college student said their captors wanted a 500 million naira ($1.3 million) ransom.

"As a government, our focus is on getting back our missing students and preventing further episodes of school abductions," Aruwan said.

President Muhammadu Buhari, speaking in a video message posted on Twitter on Sunday, ordered states to tackle security issues at every level and said military service chiefs would quickly address broader security issues.

"We are going to be very hard on the criminals," he said, adding that "confidence must be restored in governance within the next six weeks."


Suspected Islamists kill at least a dozen villagers in eastern Congo

MARCH 15, 2021

By Erikas Mwisi Kambale

BENI, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) - Attackers killed at least a dozen villagers in an overnight raid on a village in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a witness and two civil rights groups said on Monday.

They blamed the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan militia active in eastern Congo since the 1990s, which has committed dozens of brutal reprisal attacks on civilians since the army began operations against it in late 2019.

Men armed with knives and other weapons attacked the village of Bulongo, around 30 kilometres (18 miles) east of Beni, on Sunday night, the sources said.

“There are 12 bodies lying on the ground,” said Mambo Kitambal, head of a civil society group in Bulongo.

“We fear that this toll could increase especially since the enemy operated for several hours. The victims were executed with pickaxes and machetes,” he said.

On Wednesday the United States designated the ADF as a foreign terrorist organisation, accusing it of links to Islamic State (ISIS), although U.N. experts have not found evidence of any direct relationship between the two groups.

The ADF killed about 850 people last year, according to U.N. figures.

“Here in the rain they savagely killed our brothers and sisters with knives and pickaxes,” said Paul Sakata, a resident of Bulongo.

“We regret that the army did not respond last night, which reinforces the fear in the heads of people in this part of the country, who were beginning to hope for peace.”

Congo’s eastern borderlands with Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi are home to around 120 different militias, many of which are remnants of the country’s brutal civil wars that officially ended in 2003.


Libyan government hands power to unity team

16 March 2021

Libya's internationally-recognized government has officially handed over power to a new interim executive that is expected to unify the war-torn African country after decade-long violence and division.

Fayez al-Sarraj, who had been prime minister since 2014, resigned from his post in a ceremony in the capital, Tripoli, on Tuesday, one day after new interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah and a three-member presidency council took the oath of office in the Libyan parliament.

Dbeibah, selected through a United Nations (UN)-facilitated process early last month, was sworn in to lead the new Government of National Unity (GNU) until elections are held on December 24.

The new administration replaces both the Tripoli-based government and a parallel administration headquartered in the east, which is protected by rebel forces under the command of a renegade general named Khalifa Haftar.

During the ceremony on Tuesday, Sarraj gave a brief speech and pointed to the "endless difficulties" his government had faced over the past several years, including the war on terrorism, the failed 2019 offensive by Haftar's rebels to seize the capital, and the interference of foreign forces.

He said his administration had never won the support of the eastern-based administration.

Dbeibah, for his part, expressed the GNU's determination to continue the reforms Sarraj had started.

Libya's parliament granted a vote of confidence to Dbeibeh's new unity government last week.

Dbeibah has called for the departure of some 20,000 foreign militants present in the country, adding that he would coordinate with the militants' countries of origin to arrange for their withdrawal.

On Sunday, the UN Security Council welcomed the formation of the national unity government in Libya and called for an immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces and mercenaries from the conflict-ridden African country.

Libya, which sits atop the largest oil reserves in Africa, has been grappling with violence since the overthrow of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi in an uprising and military intervention by NATO in 2011.

The country descended into chaos last year after the rebels under the command of Haftar moved toward Tripoli to seize the city. They were later repelled by government forces, however.

The conflict has escalated into a regional proxy war fueled by foreign powers pouring weapons and mercenaries into the country, with the Tripoli government receiving major backing from Turkey, and the rebels from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Jordan.


Tunisian president to visit Libya in show of support for new government

16 March 2021

Tunisian President Kais Saied is set to head to Libya in a show of support for the country's newly formed, United Nations-backed unity government, the first presidential trip between the neighboring countries since 2012.

Saied will travel to Libya on Wednesday, his office announced in a statement on Tuesday, adding that the visit aimed to show "Tunisia's support for the democratic process in Libya" following the swearing-in on Monday of a new interim prime minister.

The office did not specify who Saied would meet with during his trip to Libya.

Abdul Hamid Dbeibah was sworn in as Libya's interim prime minister until elections are held on December 24, following years-long violence and division in the North African country.

Dbeibah was selected through a UN-facilitated process early last month.

Tunisia hosted UN-backed talks between delegates from Libya's warring sides late last year, which helped pave the way for the fragile breakthrough.

Dbeibah’s new interim government replaces two rival administrations, an internationally-recognized government based in the capital, Tripoli, and another camp based in the eastern city of Tobruk, backed militarily by armed rebels.

Libya descended into unprecedented chaos in 2019 after the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA), under the command of renegade general Khalifa Haftar, moved toward Tripoli to seize the city. The rebels were eventually repelled by government forces, however.

The conflict has escalated into a regional proxy war fueled by foreign powers pouring weapons and mercenaries into the country.

Libya was a major destination for Tunisian farm produce and building materials as well as migrant labor before plunging into chaos in 2011 following a popular uprising and a NATO intervention that led to the ouster of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

The years of conflict have resulted in prolonged border closures that have hit the volume of business.


Niger: Dozens of civilians killed near Malian border

Kane Illa and Rodrigue Forku  



About 40 Nigerien civilians were killed in an attack in southwestern Niger near the Malian border on Monday, a security source said.

"They were villagers returning from a weekly market who were attacked by unidentified gunmen," the source told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity due to restrictions to speak to the media.

The government has yet to issue an official statement on the incident that took place in the Banibangou town of Tillaberi region.

An ethnic group was targeted in the attack, according to local Actuniger website.

The Tillaberi region has been frequently targeted by terrorist groups based in Mali since 2017, with a state of emergency declared in the area.

Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali in the Sahel are at the epicenter of one of the world's fastest-growing displacement and protection crises.

The region is already hosting 851,000 refugees and nearly 2 million displaced people, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

In January, around 100 people were also killed in attacks after the first round of presidential elections. The incidents occurred in two villages in Tillaberi.



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