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Islamic World News ( 3 Dec 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Pak Anti-Terrorism Court Jails Yahya Mujahid, Spokesperson of Hafiz Saeed-led JuD to 15 Years

New Age Islam News Bureau

03 December 2020


Hafiz Saeed. File.   | Photo Credit: PTI


• Photo Shows Australian Soldier Guzzling Beer Out Of  Dead Taliban Fighter’s Prosthetic Leg

• Iranian Human Rights Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh Is Back In Prison After Temporary Release: Husband

• Muslim Americans Ran For Office In Record Numbers In 2020: Report By Multiple Organisations

• Pakistan Must Stop Supporting Terrorism To Promote Cultural Peace In South Asia: India

• Afghan Government, Taliban Reach ‘Preliminary’ Deal On Rules For Peace Talks

• Islamist Violence Escalates In Burkina Faso, Making Widespread Hunger Worse

• Statistics Dept: Fewer Marriages, More Divorces In Malaysia In 2019

• UAE Fatwa Council Head Abdallah Bin Bayyah 'Removed' From Islamic Conference Line-Up After Backlash



• Pak Anti-Terrorism Court Jails Yahya Mujahid, Spokesperson of Hafiz Saeed-led JuD to 15 Years

• Murder Of US Journalist Daniel Pearl Was Related To International Terrorism, Supreme Court  of Pakistan Told

• Asad Durrani, The Former Head Of Pakistan’s ISI, Reveals Secrete Links With Taliban

• UK authorities asked to extradite Nawaz Sharif: PM’s aide

• IHC dismisses petition seeking ban on public gatherings: 'Executive's job to enforce judgments'

• Imran slams PDM rallies amid spike in Covid cases



• Photo Shows Australian Soldier Guzzling Beer Out Of  Dead Taliban Fighter’s Prosthetic Leg



• Iranian Human Rights Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh Is Back In Prison After Temporary Release: Husband

• UAE’s UN Mission Calls For Ending The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

• Iran Blasts West’s Double-Standard Policies towards Terrorism

• Spokesman: Suspects in Assassination of N. Scientist Identified, Retaliation Comes after Thorough Investigations

• Rouhani Calls for Global Solidarity to End Israeli Occupation


North America

• Muslim Americans Ran For Office In Record Numbers In 2020: Report By Multiple Organisations

• Biden Sets New Demands For US Return To Iran Deal, Lift Sanctions: NYT

• US takes down websites belonging to Iran-backed groups in Iraq

• Pentagon approves troops drawdown plan in Afghanistan, but keeps larger bases

• Israel behind assassination of Iranian scientist: US official



• Pakistan Must Stop Supporting Terrorism To Promote Cultural Peace In South Asia: India

• Pak arbitrarily transferred management of Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara, violated UNGA resolution: India

• Former Congress corporator Rakib Zakir arrested in connection with Bengaluru riots case

• BJP goes for Muslim-Christian social engineering in Kerala local election


South Asia

• Afghan Government, Taliban Reach ‘Preliminary’ Deal On Rules For Peace Talks

• Rights Groups Urge Bangladesh To Halt Relocation Of Rohingya

• Taliban Battered before Attacking ANDSF in Ghazni

• Pentagon approves troops drawdown plan in Afghanistan, but keeps larger bases



• Islamist Violence Escalates In Burkina Faso, Making Widespread Hunger Worse

• Algeria says soldier killed in clash with Islamists

• 20,000 foreign combatants causing serious crisis in Libya: UN

• UN chief says worried by DR Congo tensions

• UN given ‘unimpeded’ aid access to Ethiopia’s Tigray


Southeast Asia

• Statistics Dept: Fewer Marriages, More Divorces In Malaysia In 2019

• No Sign Of A ‘Truly Interfaith Council’, Says Council Of Churches Malaysia Leader

• Malaysian employers shocked, angry over fines ruling for overcrowded migrant workers’ lodgings


Arab World

• UAE Fatwa Council Head Abdallah Bin Bayyah 'Removed' From Islamic Conference Line-Up After Backlash

• Lebanon says difficulties in sea border talks with Israel can be overcome

• How could a US drawdown in Iraq aid ISIS, lead to greater Iranian presence?

• Bahrain, Israel Sign MoU Covering Tourism Field

• US to downsize number of embassy staff in Baghdad with Iran tensions mounting

• Lebanon indicts eight retired military figures over ‘illicit enrichment’

• Saudi Arabia has not hesitated to defend the Palestinian cause: FM



• France's Macron: No Aid Given To Lebanon Without A Government Capable Of Reform

• German man detained in Turkey for insulting ‘Turkishness’: Report

• Azerbaijan says it lost 2,783 soldiers during Nagorno-Karabakh conflict: IFX

• French govt. to inspect nearly 80 mosques in coming days

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Pak Anti-Terrorism Court Jails Yahya Mujahid, Spokesperson of Hafiz Saeed-led JuD to 15 Years

by Mallika Soni

Dec 03, 2020


Hafiz Saeed. File.   | Photo Credit: PTI


A Pakistani anti-terrorism court has awarded 15 years jail term to Yahya Mujahid, spokesperson of Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed’s Jammat-ud-Dawah (JuD), in a terror financing case.

Mujahid was last month awarded a collective imprisonment of 32 years in two terror financing cases by the Anti Terrorism Court (ATC).

Besides Mujahid, the ATC Lahore on Wednesday also awarded 15 years imprisonment to JuD’s senior leader Zafar Iqbal and six months jail term to Prof Hafiz Abdul Rehman Makki, brother-in-law of JuD chief Hafiz Saeed.

Earlier, the ATC Lahore had sentenced Iqbal for 26 years imprisonment in three such cases.

ATC Judge Ijaz Ahmad Buttar announced the verdict in FIR 42 of 2019 under different provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997.

The three convicts were present in the court when the judge announced the verdict. The Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) of Punjab police had registered as many as 41 FIRs against JuD leaders, including Saeed in different cities. The trial courts have so far decided 25 cases.

The ATC has sentenced Saeed for a collective imprisonment of 21 years on terror financing charges under sections 11-N of Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 in four cases so far.

Saeed-led JuD is the front organisation for the Lashkar-e-Taiba which is responsible for carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attack that killed 166 people, including six Americans.

The US named Saeed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, and the country, since 2012, has offered a USD 10 million bounty on Saeed.


Photo Shows Australian Soldier Guzzling Beer Out Of  Dead Taliban Fighter’s Prosthetic Leg

By Yaron Steinbuch

December 1, 2020


A senior Australian soldier drinks beer from a prosthetic leg that belonged to a Taliban fighter killed by special forces in Afghanistan


A disturbing photograph has emerged of a member of Australia’s special forces guzzling beer from the prosthetic leg of a dead Taliban soldier at an unauthorized bar in Afghanistan, according to a report.

The senior elite soldier, who is still on active duty, was captured in the sick sculling act at the Fat Lady’s Arms watering hole, which was set up inside Australia’s base in Tarin Kowt in 2009, The Guardian Australia reported.

The news outlet obtained several similar photographs, including one showing two soldiers performing a dance with the artificial leg, which could have been an illegal war trophy.

Some of the troops claimed that the practice of drinking alcohol such a way was tolerated among the brass – and that some of the commanders also took part in the activity, according to the Guardian.

The damning images were published just days after Australian defense force chief Gen. Angus Campbell announced that his country’s elite troops allegedly murdered 39 Afghan civilians, a majority of whom had been captured and were unnamed.

Campbell said the alleged atrocities included cases in which new special forces members would shoot a prisoner in order to record their first kill — a practice known as “blooding.”

The illegal killings began in 2009, with the majority occurring in 2012 and 2013, Campbell said recently in announcing the Brereton report, adding that Special Air Service members encouraged “a self-centered, warrior culture.”

Rank-and-file soldiers said they have been unfairly slammed in the report for conduct they claim officers have been aware of for years, Guardian Australia reported.

The prosthetic leg seen in the photo is believed to have belonged to a suspected Taliban fighter killed during an SASR 2 squadron strike at Kakarak in Uruzgan province in April 2009.

It was then allegedly removed from the battlefield and kept in the bar, where it was eventually mounted on a plaque under the heading Das Boot, along with an Iron Cross – a military decoration used in Nazi Germany.

A former trooper told the Guardian that the leg traveled with the squadron.

“Wherever the Fat Lady’s Arms was set up, then that’s where the leg was kept and used occasionally for drinking out of,” he told the outlet, adding that senior officers would have seen the leg and potentially the practice of drinking from it.

The unredacted sections of the Brereton report cited the Fat Lady’s Arms as an example of how ethical leadership was compromised – but did not mention the leg or whether any soldiers were investigated for taking war trophies.

The Brereton report recommended that 19 troops be investigated in the alleged murder of the 39 prisoners and civilians, as well as for the alleged cruel treatment of two others.

The Department of Defense referred the Guardian to the Brereton report when asked if it was aware of the existence of the prosthesis images and what action had been taken if it was.

“The report has been redacted to remove names and details that could identify individuals against whom the Inquiry has found credible information to support allegations of criminal wrongdoing or other misconduct,” a spokesperson told the outlet.

“Where there is information provided to Defence not addressed as part of the Afghanistan Inquiry, these matters will be investigated thoroughly and acted on,” the spokesperson added. “It is critical that all matters are considered carefully, and any actions are undertaken according to the ADF’s longstanding and well-established processes, ensuring the rights of individuals to due process and fair hearing are protected.”


Iranian Human Rights Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh Is Back In Prison After Temporary Release: Husband

03 December 2020


Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh (pictured 2013) was jailed in 2018 after defending a woman arrested for protesting against the requirement for Iranian women to wear the hijab Behrouz MEHRI AFP/File


Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh is back in prison less than a month after her temporary release from a 12-year jail term, her husband said Wednesday.

“Nasrin has returned to prison this evening,” Reza Khandan told AFP on Wednesday evening.

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

Sotoudeh, 57 and a winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov prize, was released from jail on November 7 after being granted a temporary leave of absence.

The lawyer and activist was jailed in 2018 after defending a woman arrested for protesting against the requirement for Iranian women to wear the hijab.

She was told at the time that she had been sentenced to five years in prison in absentia for spying, according to her lawyers.

In 2019, she was sentenced again to 12 years in prison “for encouraging corruption and debauchery.”

According to her husband, Sotoudeh’s health deteriorated badly behind bars, where she had to end in September a 45-day hunger strike that she had launched to seek the release of prisoners during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The judicial “authorities insisted that she return today” to prison, her husband said Wednesday.

The lawyer tested positive for Covid-19 a few days after her temporary release, Khandan said last month.

Iran has registered nearly 49,000 coronavirus deaths and more than 989,000 cases, making it the worst affected country in the Middle East by the pandemic.

Since March, more than 100,000 inmates have been granted temporary release to limit the spread of the disease in prisons, although many have since returned to jail.


Muslim Americans Ran For Office In Record Numbers In 2020: Report By Multiple Organisations

By Umar A Farooq

2 December 2020

Muslim Americans ran for political office in record numbers this year, according to a report published on Wednesday by multiple organisations.

Taking a step up on the ladder of political mobilisation, 170 Muslim candidates were on the ballot this election cycle, running in 28 states and Washington DC.

"Increased political representation and higher civic engagement go hand in hand," said the report, put together by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Jetpac, and MPower Change.

"The high level of voter registration and get out the vote efforts being organized by Muslim-led groups and elected officials in 2020 reflects this symbiotic relationship," it said.

Of the 170 candidates that ran, at least 62 won their elections, another record high since the organisations began tracking Muslims running for political office. In 2018, 57 candidates were elected to office.

The report, while preliminary, highlights an increasing number of Muslims running for office and winning despite representing only a sliver of the entire American population.

It also shows that instead of solely focusing on the presidential election, members of the faith group are running at the local level to help enact positive changes in their own communities.

The report said 23 Muslims won seats in their state legislatures, six won county positions, and at least 12 won seats on their local school boards.

"Muslim Americans are celebrating the election of members of our community across this country – from the school boards to the halls of Congress," Linda Sarsour, founder of MPower Change, said.

"No matter what happens on the presidential level, we will continue to build power, engage voters and focus on down-ballot races because that’s where the real impact on our lives [is]."

Nihad Awad, CAIR's executive director, noted that many of the candidates were successful because they built "grassroots campaigns made up of diverse coalitions fighting for a just future in which every Muslim American's civil rights and freedoms can be upheld and protected."

"Now that the election is over, we all need to work to formulate public policies that promote freedom and justice."

Muslims vote in record numbers

Muslims also came out to vote in record-high numbers, with CAIR reporting last month that more than one million people cast their ballots this election.

And while the majority voted for President-elect Joe Biden, there was also a significant number of Muslims who cast their ballots for President Donald Trump - potentially signalling a partisan divide among Muslims.

Still, more research is needed to show the true level of support for Trump among Muslims, as the faith community is made up of a diverse array of groups.

Tensions among Muslims also ran relatively high in the run-up to the US presidential election after a number of major Muslim organisations cut ties with Emgage, a Muslim political advocacy group.

The issue at hand was over Emgage's endorsement of pro-Israel candidates, ties to the Muslim Leadership Institute - an Israeli-led initiative criticised by pro-Palestinian groups as a faith washing enterprise - and partnerships with the Anti-Defamation League.


Pakistan must stop supporting terrorism to promote cultural peace in South Asia: India

Dec 3, 2020

UNITED NATIONS: If Pakistan changes its current "culture of hatred" against religions in India and stops its support to cross-border terrorism, a genuine culture of peace in South Asia and beyong could be attempted, India has told the United Nations.

Addressing the UN General Assembly session on 'Culture of Peace' on Wednesday, First Secretary in India's Permanent Mission to the UN Ashish Sharma said that in today's world, intolerance, hatred, violence and terrorism have almost become the norm.

There can be no doubt that terrorism, which is a manifestation of intolerance and violence, is the antithesis of all religions and cultures, he said.

"If Pakistan changes its current culture of hatred against religions in India and stops its support of cross-border terrorism against our people, we can attempt a genuine culture of peace in South Asia and beyond," Sharma said.

"Till then we will only be mute witness to Pakistan driving away their minorities by threat, coercion, conversion and killing. Even people of the same religion are not spared due to encouragement given to sectarian killing,” he said, referring to the reports of atrocities against religious minorities in the neighbouring country.

He said India was troubled by the increase in resources, financial and otherwise, that are being made available to violent and terrorist groups that misuse religion to justify and propagate their agendas.

"We need to be clear that abetting or condoning terrorism is like feeding a monster that will turn around to consume us,” he said.

India called on the UN member states to fight such negative forces together, rather than separately. “Let us build a culture of peace together, rather than fail separately,” Sharma said.


Afghan government, Taliban reach ‘preliminary’ deal on rules for peace talks

02 December 2020

Afghanistan’s government and the Taliban militant group have reached a preliminary deal that sets out rules for further talks, the first written agreement between the two sides since the US-led invasion of 2001.

“The procedure including its preamble of the negotiation has been finalized and from now on, the negotiation will begin on the agenda,” Nader Nadery, a member of the Afghan government's negotiating team, told Reuters on Wednesday.

Mohammad Naeem, a spokesman for the Taliban, also confirmed the news on Twitter.

“A joint working committee was tasked to prepare the draft topics for the agenda (of peace talks),” a joint statement from both sides said.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi, cited the Afghan leader as saying that the agreement is “a step forward towards beginning the negotiations on the main issues, including a comprehensive ceasefire as the key demand of the Afghan people.”

The UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons, welcomed the "positive development" on Twitter, saying that "this breakthrough should be a springboard to reach the peace wanted by all Afghans."

US Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad tweeted that the two sides had agreed on a "three-page agreement codifying rules and procedures for their negotiations on a political roadmap and a comprehensive ceasefire."

"This agreement demonstrates that the negotiating parties can agree on tough issues," Khalilzad said.

Representatives from the government in Kabul and those from the Taliban held the first round of the much-awaited intra-Afghan negotiations in the Qatari capital of Doha on September 12. The talks are also attended by politicians from Afghanistan, international organizations and the United States.

The intra-Afghan talks were set to take place in March, but were repeatedly delayed over a prisoner exchange agreement made as part of a deal between the Taliban and the United States, which was in Doha on February 29.

Under the deal, the Taliban agreed to halt their attacks on international forces in return for the US military’s phased withdrawal from Afghanistan and the prisoner exchange with Kabul.


Islamist violence escalates in Burkina Faso, making widespread hunger worse

DECEMBER 2, 2020

By Edward McAllister

DORI, Burkina Faso (Reuters) - Habibou Sore had to pause for breath as she ran barefoot from the approaching gunmen. She was pregnant with twins, due any day.

Soon after arriving at a nearby town in northern Burkina Faso, her feet cut and swollen, Sore gave birth. Then her battle with hunger began.

Attacks by Islamist groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State have killed thousands of people this year in Africa’s Sahel region, an arid belt to the south of the Sahara Desert.

The escalating bloodshed has worsened food shortages that threaten millions in a region already hit by climate change, poverty and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sixteen months after fleeing her village, Sore lives with relatives in the town of Pisilla and eats one small meal a day.

Her twin sons Hassan and Housein each weigh 7 kg (15.5 pounds), the equivalent of a healthy 4-month-old. Their bony legs are covered in sores, their scalps bare in patches. They scream for the milk their mother cannot provide.

“I am worried about them,” Sore said, as she rocked the boys on her lap in a clinic in the town of Kaya, surrounded by paintings showing mothers how to breastfeed and the foods required for a balanced diet. “They are not doing well.”

Over 7 million people face acute hunger in a vast area comprising landlocked Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, as armed groups cut off access to supplies and farmland, figures from the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) show.

Burkina Faso is deteriorating fastest. Over half a million children under 5 are acutely malnourished, U.N. figures show. WFP said in October that over 10,000 people were “one step short of famine”.

“This year has been worse than anything we have seen in the last decade, a worsening situation that is obviously connected to growing conflicts,” said Christelle Hure, spokeswoman for the Oslo-based Norwegian Refugee Council, which offers shelter for the displaced.


This summer’s rainy season was one of the heaviest in years, bringing life to the hilly northern savannah where neem, eucalyptus and acacia trees tower over a sea of waist-high golden grass. Farmers say the conditions are perfect for crops and cattle - if only they could reach them.

Sayouba Zabre should be harvesting 10 hectares of millet and sorghum and tending dozens of cattle near his hometown in the Soum region. Instead he is in a camp for displaced people in the Center-North region after fleeing an attack this year.

Camp residents collect wood and dry hibiscus pods on the roofs of their makeshift tents - anything to make money. Zabre planted millet and peanuts, but it is not enough to feed his family.

“This is a great loss. There is a lot out there this year,” he said, referring to his farm. “I should be there.”

Many citizens rely on food from aid agencies that cannot reach some of the worst-hit areas.

Twice this year, food deliveries were hijacked, said Antoine Renard, WFP’s country director in Burkina Faso.

Dozens of health facilities have closed and about 200 others are operating at minimum staff levels, government figures show.

Malnutrition is overwhelming the clinic in Kaya where Sore took her twins. Before the crisis, it had about 30 child patients. Now it has 500.

“Every day we take children, every day we have severe cases,” said midwife Aminata Zabre.

Mothers come regularly for sachets of baby food, though sometimes there is little improvement.

“I asked one woman ‘why is your child still coming to us?’,” Zabre said. “She told me her father-in-law was eating the child’s rations.”


Statistics Dept: Fewer marriages, more divorces in Malaysia in 2019

30 Nov 2020


KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 30 — The number of marriages in Malaysia decreased last year, compared with 2018, new data released today by the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DoSM) has revealed.

DOSM, on its website and Twitter page, further disclosed that divorce rates went up.

Fewer marriages in 2019

The body, which is the official source of statistics for Malaysia, said the number of marriages here decreased by 1.2 per cent, from 206,352 marriages in 2018 to 203,821 in 2019.

The stats in 2019 yielded a “crude marriage rate (CMR)” of 6.3 — which means that for every one thousand people, 6.3 individuals are getting married.

In contrast, the CMR in 2018 was 6.4.

DOSM further highlighted that Muslim marriages declined by 1.5 per cent, from 150,098 (7.6 CMR) in 2018, to 147,847 (7.4 CMR) in 2019.

Meanwhile, non-Muslim marriages declined by 0.5 per cent, from 56,254 (4.5 CMR) in 2018, to 55,974 (4.4 CMR) in 2019.

Women waiting longer before getting married

Meanwhile, as a whole, the median age for brides increased from 26 years in 2018, to 27 years in 2019.

The median age for grooms remained the same for both periods, at 28 years of age.

In 2019, Muslim men were getting married at a median age of 27, while Muslim women were doing so at a median age of 26.

The median age in the same year for non-Muslim grooms and non-Muslim brides was was 30 and 28 respectively.

Men had a higher incidence of marriage than women in 2019, with 50.1 of them getting married per 1,000 unmarried males aged 18 and over.

Women were getting married at a rate of 46.2 per 1,000 unmarried females aged 16 and over.

Higher number of divorces in 2019

The number of divorces increased by 12 per cent from 50,862 in 2018 to 56,975 in 2019. The crude divorce rate (CDR) increased from 1.6 per 1,000 people in 2018, to 1.8 per 1,000 people in 2019.

The number of Muslim divorces recorded in 2019 was 45,502, an increase of 13 per cent as compared to the 40,269 divorces in 2018.

CDR increased from 2.0 (2018) to 2.3 (2019) per thousand Muslim population.

Non-Muslim divorces increased 8.3 per cent from 10,593 (0.8 CDR) in 2018 to 11,473 (0.9 CDR) in 2019.


UAE Fatwa Council Head Abdallah Bin Bayyah 'Removed' From Islamic Conference Line-Up After Backlash

2 December, 2020

The chair of the United Arab Emirates' fatwa council will no longer be attending a global Islamic conference following a backlash over the cleric's perceived backing of the Gulf state's targeting of Muslim organisations.

Sheikh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, a prominent Mauritanian Islamic scholar and politician, was scheduled to speak the annual Reviving the Islamic Spirit (RIS) convention on December 26-27.

Bin Bayyah is a regular speaker at the event, which is usually held in Toronto, Canada.

"Program Update: Shaykh Abdallah bin Bayyah will not be participating in this year's conference," RIS said on its official Twitter page.

"We pray that the first RIS virtual conference  provides an uplifting experience, as far removed as possible from the trials of our times, to enter for a few brief days into a shared space of lofty ideas and inspiring heights," the post added.

The New Arab reached out to RIS to clarify whether Bin Bayyah had withdrawn from the convention or had been disinvited, but did not receive a response at the time of publication.

The announcement comes just days after the UAE branded the Muslim Brotherhood a "terrorist" organisation - a move that was slammed by Muslim organisations and leaders around the world.

This was announced in a virtual meeting led by bin Bayyah, just months after a similar decision by Saudi Arabia.

Years earlier in 2014, the UAE designated Islamic Relief Worldwide - the charity which organises RIS - as a terrorist organisation.

Such moves were cited by Imam Khalid Latif, a prominent American imam, in his withdrawal from the RIS conference earlier this week.

"Over the last few years, there have been a lot of dangerous positions from UAE-based councils that have named individual Muslim leaders and organisations like ISNA, Islamic Relief, and CAIR as being linked to terrorism," Latif said in a Facebook post announcing the move.

"The most recent fatwa that Shaykh Bin Bayyah's UAE Council issued deeming the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation simply adds to an already problematic geopolitical agenda," Latif added.





Murder Of US Journalist Daniel Pearl Was Related To International Terrorism, Supreme Court  of Pakistan Told

Nasir Iqbal

03 Dec 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Sindh government’s counsel Farooq H. Naek on Wednesday tried to convince the Supreme Court that the kidnapping and subsequent cold-blooded murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl was part of events related to international terrorism.

To substantiate the claim, he cited the testimony of principal accused Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh who, during the recording of his evidence before the trial court on March 2, 2002, had expressed apprehension that he might be extradited to the United States. Sheikh had also warned that if he was extradited, the US would suffer in the same way as did India.

The counsel said one of the defence witnesses, Rauf Ahmed Sheikh — a close relative of the principal accused — had admitted in his testimony that this was in his knowledge that Omer Sheikh was arrested by the Indian authorities and also tried in India but later released on account of the hijacking of an Indian Airlines aircraft in 1999. However, the witness had stated that he was not sure whether Omer Sheikh was released in consequences of the demand made by the hijackers of the Indian aircraft for his release.

A three-judge Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Mushir Alam, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and Justice Yahya had taken up a set of appeals filed by the Sindh government, the mother and father of Pearl namely Ruth Pearl and Judea Pearl through senior counsel Faisal Siddiqui as well as Omer Sheikh.

The appeals challenge the April 2 Sindh High Court (SHC)’s overturning of Omer Sheikh’s conviction for kidnapping and killing Daniel Pearl.

The 38-year-old South Asia bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal was kidnapped in Karachi in January 2002 while doing research on religious extremism. Later a graphic video showing his decapitation was delivered to the US consulate after a month of his abduction. Subsequently Omer Sheikh was arrested and sentenced to death by the trial court.

Lawyer recalls testimonies of principal accused, others to substantiate his assertion

But on April 2 this year, the SHC modified the sentence of Omer Sheikh to seven-year imprisonment and acquitted three other accused namely Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil and Salman Saqib, who were earlier sentenced to life imprisonment by an antiterrorism court of Karachi.

On Wednesday Mr Naek argued before the Supreme Court that five issues hinged around the question in determining the fate of the appeals with which the court was seized.

The issues that needed to be hammered out were whether Omer Sheikh hatched the conspiracy to abduct Daniel Pearl and demanded ransom after the abduction. Whether Daniel Pearl was kidnapped in pursuance of the conspiracy for kidnapping for ransom and ransom demand was emailed to his wife on Jan 27, 2002 and on her failure to respond another email was sent on Jan 30, 2002 with a threat to kill the journalist with the pictures showing him in shackles.

Was it not true that Daniel Pearl was subsequently murdered due to non-adherence to ransom demand, the counsel argued, adding whether these acts of kidnapping and subsequent murder of Daniel Pearl did not strike terror and instil a sense of fear and insecurity in the society.

Explaining further, Mr Naek cited the testimonies of a journalist, Asif Mehfooz Farooqi, Amin Afzal Qureshi, the receptionist of Akbar Hotel, Rawalpindi, and Javed Abbas, a Karachi-based police inspector of investigation wing.

Asif Farooqi in his statement had acknowledged that he had met Daniel Pearl who was following a story on Richard Colvin Reid — the notorious shoe bomber — who was said to be a mureed (disciple) of Syed Mubarak Ali Shah Gillani.

The witness deposed that Arif, an absconding accused in the case, had told Farooqi that he could arrange his meeting with Omer Sheikh, who was staying at Akbar Hotel in room No. 411 and Omer Sheikh may arrange an interview with Syed Gillani.

But this was all deceit and the real purpose was to kidnap Daniel Pearl, the counsel argued.

Omer Sheikh had booked the hotel room with the name of Muzaffar Farooqi but when he met Daniel Pearl, he introduced himself with the name Bashir.

Later Daniel Pearl went to Karachi where he was kidnapped and killed, the witness stated, also admitting that he received a call from the journalist’s wife telling him that Daniel Pearl had not returned after his meeting with someone in Karachi.

The witness had identified Omer Sheikh at the trial court.

The counsel argued that this impersonation on part of Omer Sheikh showed that he conspired to kidnap Daniel Pearl and then demand ransom, adding there seemed no reason to have so many aliases. The only motive was to kidnap Daniel Pearl and then demand ransom for his release, Mr Naek said adding the journalist was not a beautiful woman.

The Supreme Court will continue hearing on Thursday.


Asad Durrani, The Former Head Of Pakistan’s ISI, Reveals Secrete Links With Taliban

By Mohammad Haroon Alim

02 Dec 2020

DG. Asad Durrani, the former head of Pakistan’s ISI, said that despite the pressures, he used to support the Taliban in any way he could.

In a recent interview with the BBC, Asad Durrani said he also had links to the mujahedin and helped them drive the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan.

He says that just as he had influence over the Mujahideen, he did the same with the Taliban and cooperated with the group in any way possible.

He added that the same with the Taliban, despite all the pressure, we influenced them and kept in touch with them.

“Pakistan can use its power against the Mujahideen and the Taliban to talk and whatever decision negotiators make is acceptable to us, there is nothing more Pakistan can do.” According to Durrani.

This is despite the fact that the international community and Afghans have long said that Pakistan has influence over the Taliban and is helping them, but the country has often denied this, some Pakistani officials who have resigned or have been retired, uncovered similar secrets that shows Pakistan’s links to the Taliban and that the country supported their war in Afghanistan.


UK authorities asked to extradite Nawaz Sharif: PM’s aide

03 Dec 2020

ISLAMABAD: Adviser to Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior Barrister Mirza Shahzad Akbar Wednesday said that United Kingdom (UK) authorities have been asked to deport the convicted former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from their country.

Addressing a news conference in Islamabad flanked by Special Assistant to Prime Minister for Political Communication Shahbaz Gill, he said Pakistan has written a letter to UK to cancel the visa of Nawaz Sharif which was issued for medical treatment after taking an undertaking. The six month visa has not yet extended by UK. Negotiations were continuing with UK for the deportation of Nawaz, he said adding that the last two governments did not make effort to deport former head of Mutahida Quomi Movement (MQM) Altaf Hussain from UK.

Shahzad Akbar said PML (N) leader and former Finance Minister Ishaq Dar stood totally exposed in the recent BBC interview. The interview made it clear as to why Dar was an absconder and not appearing before the courts.

Castigating Ishaq Dar, he said Dar had wrongly said that he has only one property in Lahore, whereas the former finance minister has properties/bank accounts in Pakistan as well as in Dubai. The British authorities have also been requested for the extradition of Ishaq Dar. He wondered why Dar had brazenly leveled baseless allegations of custodial killings over NAB in such an important forum like BBC.

It is incomprehensible that on whose orders Dar agreed to interview BBC. It was a desperate effort to negate accusations leveled against him.

The opposition has miserably failed to gather a few thousand people in Multan on Monday last. They had managed to gather only a small number of people in their public meeting. Opposition was now trying to hold another small gathering “Jalsi” in Lahore. They have endangering the lives of the people by exposing them in crowds.

He said the people are also not attending the public gatherings of the opposition parties in large numbers.

The opposition parties must act responsibly and stop playing with the lives of the people as the second wave of Covid-19 is proving to be more fatal. People has forgotten Ishaq Dar like people. The recent results in Gilgit-Baltistan has proved that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf was still the most popular party in the country.

Speaking on the occcasion Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Political Communication Shahbaz Gill said Ishaq Dar was trembling while interviewing. Country's enemies including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leadership were trying utmost to declare Pakistan a fascist country. Their nefarious designs had already been foiled.

Ishaq Dar in his interview said that the general elections in Pakistan were stolenBBC anchor retorted PML-N should have filed an election petition. He said BBC was trying to interview Nawaz Sharif since long.The interview of Dar was combination of shamelessness and humilation.

In Pakistan, he said Ishaq Dar enjoyes the status of midwife in money laundering. Dar should come back to Pakistan and can give interview to Pakistan media but he would have to clear himself from corruption cases.

The people who could not become clerk had remained finance minister of Pakistan, he said Vice President PML-N Maryam Nawaz was a habitual liar.

In his remarks, Special Assistant on Political Communication Shahbaz Gill said the corrupt leaders sitting abroad should come back to the country and face the courts. He said these leaders plundered the national exchequer.


IHC dismisses petition seeking ban on public gatherings: 'Executive's job to enforce judgments'

Tahir Naseer

03 Dec 2020

Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Athar Minallah on Thursday dismissed a petition seeking a ban on public gatherings due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, observing that it was not the court's job to intervene in the enforcement of standard operating procedures (SOPs) after having passed a judgment in this regard.

The petitioner, in his prayer, had said that even though there was a court judgment calling for implementation of SOPs during the coronavirus crisis, public gatherings were still going on unhindered. Rejecting the prayer, Justice Minallah asked the petitioner to go to the parliament and the executive to resolve the issue instead.

In the written verdict issued today, Justice Minallah said the order to implement SOPs had already been given and thus the "court is not inclined to exercise its extraordinary constitutional jurisdiction" if the the executive is unable to enforce it.

"Judgments rendered by judicial forums become meaningless and ineffective in times of crisis when it appears that the executive authorities lack the capacity to implement them in letter and spirit. Judgments, unless respected by the citizens, State institutions and political leadership, remain unenforced and thus rule of law is undermined and consequently it profoundly impacts the confidence of the people in the judiciary," read the verdict.

He also dismissed a part of the petition seeking to restrict Pemra from covering individuals who violate SOPs because it involves elements of freedom of speech and carries "likely implications in the context of the guaranteed fundamental rights under Articles 19 and 19-A of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,1973".

The court said it was up to all members of society to collectively ensure that everyone takes appropriate action in their capacities to ensure the threat of Covid-19 is contained.

Justice Minallah said he understood the concerns of the petitioner since the incidence of Covid-19 had surged within the past few weeks and left the most marginalised vulnerable to harm while aggravating health and economic crises.

Expressing displeasure over the executive's inability to implement the court's decision, Justice Minallah wrote:

"If the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), the supreme forum which represents every citizen, has opted not to play its role nor the elected executive and other political leadership appear to have the will to rise above their differences and unite the nation, then a judgment rendered by this Court relating to the emergency and crisis situation due to Covid-19 is likely to remain unenforced."


Imran slams PDM rallies amid spike in Covid cases

Jamil Nagri

03 Dec 2020

GILGIT: Prime Minister Imran Khan has said the opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) is adamant about holding public rallies despite the mounting pressure of coronavirus patients at hospitals.

“Everyone knows coronavirus spreads when people gather, as doctors and nurses are saying that burden of patients has increased at hospitals with as many as 70 deaths in a single day, yet the PDM is holding public meetings against the government only to hide their ill-gotten money,” said Prime Minister Khan on Wednesday during his second visit to Gilgit in over a month.

Mr Khan, who had earlier addressed a public gathering in Gilgit two weeks before the Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly elections, congratulated the new GB cabinet members at their oath-taking ceremony held at GB Governor House.

The prime minister said whatever they (opposition parties) were doing was an attempt to protect their ill-gotten gains. However, lies cannot remain concealed for long, Mr Khan said. “To hide one lie, you have to say a hundred more.”

The official news agency quoted the PM as saying that the corruption scandals of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz were unearthed through the Panama Papers despite having appointed their crony as National Accountability Bureau (NAB) head and signing Charter of Democracy with the rival party.

While referring to the ex-finance minister Ishaq Dar interview by BBC host Stephen Sackur where he (Dar) was visibly under immense stress for facing questions about his assets and return to Pakistan, Mr Khan said stress was the root cause of all major diseases including heart, blood pressure and even cancer.

“What is the benefit of such wealth that brings destruction upon you and your family?” he said, adding that a person who illegally made money for his children as well as those same children eventually had to lie to save such wealth.

“Sometimes they go to jail. Sometimes they go abroad after lying — all in an effort to save stolen money,” Mr Khan remarked.

While congratulating the new GB cabinet members, the prime minister expressed the hope that the new government would set a “new tradition” and would give a governance system that “sets new standards”.

“No prime minister in Pakistan has seen this region the way I have,” Mr Khan claimed, adding that he was actually aware of the issues being faced by the people and the potential of the region.

The premier said the government would work on a fast-track basis for granting the provisional provincial status of Gilgit-Baltistan to address the sense of deprivation of the people of the region. He said a committee would be constituted and a deadline would be given to it to complete work in this regard.

Highlighting the importance of self-governance, the premier said: “You people know better the kind of development you require. We can’t tell you [while sitting in] Islamabad which project is needed. You can make this decision.”

PM Imran said the government would also focus on promoting tourism in the region. “From what I have seen during the past three to four years, there has been an influx of tourists during summers. [But] sometimes they don’t have places to stay.”

He said his government would promote tourism by providing loans on easy terms to locals for construction of hotels and guesthouses. “In addition, we met an Austrian company that specialises in skiing. A majority of the money earned from tourism in Switzerland is because of skiing. The same is with Austria. “They say that regions within Pakistan are at a higher altitude which allows for skiing to take place for seven to eight months. So we have begun talking to them about developing skiing areas here,” Mr Khan said.

The premier said foreigners would flock to the region all year round instead of just during the few months of summer. “This will also benefit Pakistan as it will bring foreign exchange,” he added.

About other development works, Mr Khan said work on the upgrade of Skardu Hospital and construction of 250-bed hospital in Gilgit was under way. Similarly, he said, work on two hydro power stations was also under way, while micro hydro power stations would also be set up. He explained that 300 megawatt electricity would be generated, which would be more than sufficient for the region.

Unveiling his plan for the welfare of people, the prime minister said the PTI government’s Ehsaas Programme would also be introduced in Gilgit-Baltistan and health insurance cards would be issued to the people.

Mr Khan also announced that a special economic zone would be set up in GB so that industries would relocate there under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. He said development of the less developed areas, including those in GB, merged districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, was a priority of his government.

Earlier, GB Governor Raja Jalal Husain Maqpoon administered the oath to the 14 members of the GB cabinet at the ceremony. Besides the premier, federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan Ali Amin Gandapur, members of GB Assembly, senior civil and military officials were in attendance.

According a press release later issued by PM Office, Mr Khan also approved two new high altitude national parks, spanning over 3,600 square kilometres, which was nearly five per cent of Gilgit-Baltistan land.

The newly notified Himalaya National Park and the Nanga Parbat Park comprise unique ecological areas with very rich high altitude biodiversity as well as precious flora and fauna including snow leopards, Himalayan brown bear, Ladakh Urial, Ibex, Blue Sheep and Pakistan’s national animal Markhor.

The prime minister also approved the formation of GB’s first national parks service “Park Service Nigahbaans” under which 5,000 youngsters would get jobs. They would be trained and employed to manage the parks in GB as “areas for biodiversity protection, safe habitats for wildlife preservation as well as for the promotion of nature-based eco-tourism”,

Besides, Nature Corridor traversing a high altitude area and connects KPK and AJK through GB was also formed to ensure a protected and managed corridor for preserving the wildlife of the area.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister Malik Amin Aslam briefed the premier on the high altitude ‘nature corridor’. Mr Khan also got a briefing on the associated initiative to save the endangered Ladakh Urial for which a breeding enclosure was being established in Skardu.

On the occasion, Mr Khan said his government would have zero tolerance for the timber mafia and approved the deployment of FC platoons especially for the forest protection drive in GB. He also praised the role of GB’s forest department in the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami project.





UAE’s UN mission calls for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Rawad Taha

02 December 2020

The United Arab Emirates Mission to the United Nations called to intensify efforts on ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on Wednesday during the General Assembly's general debate on the Palestinian issue.

The UAE stressed its commitment on working with regional and international partners to find a solution to the Palestinian issue, the mission added.

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The mission considered ending the conflict and achieving peace in the Middle East requires a contribution to creating an environment conducive to peace while rethinking previous approaches and taking new steps.

The United Arab Emirates Mission to the United Nations called on stopping illegal practices in the Palestinian territories.

"The UAE believes that it's signing of a treaty with Israel will support the continuation of the UAE's positive and effective role in efforts to bring peace to the Middle East," the mission added.


Iran Blasts West’s Double-Standard Policies towards Terrorism


“Since the performance of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hashad al-Shaabi in Iraq, and Ansarullah in Yemen are against the interests and policies of the West, they put them on the list of terrorist groups although they know that these streams are the true defenders of the rights of the regional nations,” Baqeri Kani said on Wednesday.

“On the other hand, because Monafeqin (anti-Iran Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization also known as the MKO, MEK, PMOI and NCRI) meets their (the westerners’) illegitimate interests, they remove them from the list of terrorist groups and even provide them with different possibilities despite all their killings and crimes,” he added.

Baqeri Kani, meantime, criticized the countries which voted for the recent UN human rights resolution against Iran but did not condemn the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh which is a clear instance of human rights violation.

The Iranian foreign ministry had earlier lashed out at the US and the European states for supporting and sheltering the terrorist groups, specially the MKO.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry in a post on its official Twitter account commemorated the national Day of Fight against Terrorism.

The occasion is named after the 1981 assassination of then president Mohammad Ali Rajaei and prime minister Mohammad Javad Bahonar.

The two and several other officials had convened at the Tehran office of the Iranian prime minister in a meeting of Iran’s Supreme Defense Council when a bomb explosion ripped through the building.

Survivors said an aide, identified as Massoud Kashmiri, had brought a briefcase into the conference room and then left.

Subsequent investigations revealed that Kashmiri was an MKO operative, who had infiltrated the then-prime minister’s office disguised as a state security official.

“Aug. 29, the national Day of Fight Against Terrorism, is the time to remember President Rajaei and PM Bahonar who, 39yrs ago today, were martyred in a bombing by the MEK terrorist group. Despite assassinating 1000s Iranians and fighting alongside Saddam, MEK is sheltered by the US and EU,” the Foreign Ministry wrote on its twitter page.

The MKO is listed as a terrorist organization by much of the international community. Its members fled Iran in 1986 for Iraq, where they received support from then dictator Saddam Hussein.

The notorious outfit has carried out numerous attacks against Iranian civilians and government officials for several decades.

In 2012, the US State Department removed the MKO from its list of designated terrorist organizations under intense lobbying by groups associated to Saudi Arabia and other regimes adversarial to Iran.

A few years ago, MKO members were relocated from their Camp Ashraf in Iraq’s Diyala Province to Camp Hurriyet (Camp Liberty), a former US military base in Baghdad, and were later sent to Albania.

Those members, who have managed to escape, have revealed MKO's scandalous means of access to money, almost exclusively coming from Saudi Arabia.

The MKO terrorist group specified the targets as martyred Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, who commanded the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and Iranian Judiciary Chief Seyed Ebrahim Rayeesi.

The terrorist organization said it would “welcome” their assassination, adding that it desired for the ranking officials to “join” Asadollah Lajevardi, Tehran’s former chief prosecutor, and Ali Sayyad-Shirazi, a former commander of the Iranian Army’s Ground Forces during Iraq’s 1980-88 war against Iran.

Earlier in June 2019, a leaked audio of a phone conversation between two members of MKO, revealed Saudi Arabia has colluded with the MKO elements to frame Iran for the recent tanker attacks in the Persian Gulf.

In the audio, Shahram Fakhteh, an official member and the person in charge of MKO’s cyber operations, is heard talking with a US-based MKO sympathizer named Daei-ul-Eslam in Persian, IFP news reported.

In this conversation, the two elements discuss the MKO’s efforts to introduce Iran as the culprit behind the tanker attacks in the Persian Gulf, and how the Saudis contacted them to pursue the issue.

“In the past week we did our best to blame the [Iranian] regime for the (oil tanker) blasts. Saudis have called Sister Maryam (Rajavi)’s office to follow up on the results, [to get] a conclusion of what has been done, and the possible consequences,” Fakhteh is heard saying.

“I guess this can have different consequences. It can send the case to the UN Security Council or even result in military intervention. It can have any consequence,” Daei-ul-Eslam says.

Attacks on two commercial oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on June 13, and an earlier attack on four oil tankers off the UAE’s Fujairah port on May 12, 2019, have escalated tensions in the Middle East and raised the prospect of a military confrontation between Iran and the United States.

The US, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE have rushed to blame Iran for the incidents, with the US military releasing a grainy video it claimed shows Iranian forces in a patrol boat removing an unexploded mine from the side of a Japanese-owned tanker which caught fire earlier this month.

It later released some images of the purported Iranian operation after the video was seriously challenged by experts and Washington’s own allies.

The MKO which is said to be a cult which turns humans into obedient robots, turned against Iran after the 1979 Revolution and has carried out several terrorist attacks killing senior officials in Iran; yet the West which says cultism is wrong and claims to be against terrorism, supports this terrorist group officially.

After the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the MKO began its enmity against Iran by killings over 17,000 Iranians and terrorist activities. Several members of the terrorist group and its leaders are living in France now, freely conducting activities.

The MKO terrorist group has martyred 17,161 Iranian citizens, including late president Mohammad Ali Rajayee, former prime minister Mohammad Javad Bahonar, late Head of Supreme Judicial Council Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, late Deputy Chief of the Iranian Armed Forces General Staff Ali Sayyad Shirazi, and 27 legislators, as well as four nuclear scientists.


Spokesman: Suspects in Assassination of N. Scientist Identified, Retaliation Comes after Thorough Investigations


“The intelligence ministry has identified individuals related (to the assassination) and all dimensions are being scrutinized and when everything is certain, the reciprocal reaction will be planned,” Rabiyee said on Wednesday.

He underlined that the enemies have not been able to leave a negative impact on Iran’s nuclear technology know-how through the assassination of its nuclear scientists.

“One of our plans is strengthening the defense-research knowledge,” Rabiyee said.

Iranian Intelligence Minister Seyed Mahmoud Alavi had said on Monday that the country has found several clues on the culprits behind the assassination of Fakhrizadeh.

“Our investigations started after assassination of martyr Fakhrizadeh,” Alavi said.

“Our colleagues have found many clues and they are investigating all aspects,” he added.

Alavi said that the results of investigations will be declared after all details go under thorough study.

Fakhrizadeh's car was targeted by an explosion and machinegun fire in Damavand's Absard 40 kilometers to the East of Tehran on Friday.

The nuclear scientist and one of his companions were immediately taken to a nearby hospital but he could not be saved.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted on Sunday that the assassination bears all the hallmarks of the Israeli regime.

An informed source told Press TV on Monday that the remains of the weapon used in the Friday assassination of senior nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh show that it was made in Israel.

The history of Tel Aviv’s sabotage targeting Iran’s nuclear energy program is as old as the program itself.

Many observers believe Israel is not able to carry out such dangerous operations without the prior information and support of the United States which left a landmark nuclear deal with Iran in 2015.

Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani said that electronic equipment has been used in the “highly complicated” assassination of Fakhrizadeh, and further underlined the role of Israel and the anti-Iran Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO, also known as the MEK, PMOI and NCRI) in the terror attack.

“Unfortunately, the operation was very complicated and was carried out by using electronic equipment and no one (terrorist) was present on the scene. But some clues are available, and the identity and records of the designer of the operation has been discovered by us,” Shamkhani said on Monday.

“Certainly, Monafeqin (hypocrites as MKO members are called in Iran) have played a role and certainly, the Zionist regime and Mossad are the criminal mastermind of this incident,” he added.

Early in 2018, the Israeli sources had acknowledged that Mossad had tried to assassinate an Iranian nuclear scientist, but its operation failed.

According to Fars News Agency, Mossad had gained access to Fakhrizadeh's name via a UN list which referred to him as a senior scientist of Iran's Defense Ministry's Physics Research Center.

After the terrorist attack on Friday, Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Major General Hossein Salami underlined that assassination of Fakhrizadeh may not undermine Iranians' resolve, and said revenge for the terror attack is already on the country's agenda.

General Salami extended condolences to Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, martyr Fakhrizadeh's family, and the Iranian nation over the martyrdom of Head of the Research and Innovation Organization of Iran's Defense Ministry, Dr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was assassinated in an organized and pre-planned terrorist attack by the child-killing Israeli regime.

"The enemies of the Iranian nation, specially the masterminds, perpetrators and supporters of this crime, should also know that such crimes will not undermine the resolve of the Iranians to continue this glorious and power-generating path, and harsh revenge and punishment is on agenda for them," the IRGC chief commander stressed.

Also, Ayatollah Khamenei in a message condemned assassination of Fakhrizadeh, ordering officials to take action to punish the masterminds and perpetrators of the terror attack.

“Mr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a prominent nuclear and defense scientist of the country, was martyred by criminal and cruel mercenaries. The unique scientific figure gave his dear and precious soul in the way of God for his great and lasting scientific efforts, and the high position of martyrdom is his divine reward,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in his message on Saturday.

“Two important issues should be seriously put on the agenda by all relevant officials; first, probing the crime and the definite punishment of those who perpetrated and ordered it; and second, pursuing and continuing the martyr's scientific and technical efforts in all the sectors in which he was engaged,” he added.

Ayatollah Khamenei also extended his condolences to martyr Fakhrizadeh’s family, students and the scientific society of the country, wishing him the highest position before God.

President Rouhani had on Saturday condemned assassination of Fakhrizadeh, vowing retaliation for the criminal act.

“All think-tanks and enemies of Iran should know well that the Iranian nation and officials are too brave and too couragous to leave this criminal act unanswered,” Rouhani said, addressing a meeting of the national coronavirus campaign headquarters in Tehran.

“The relevant officials will give a response to their crime in due time, and in addition, the Iranian nation is too wise and too smart to fall into the trap of the Zionists’ plot,” he added.

President Rouhani said that it seems some parties are after stirring chaos but “they should know that we are aware of their plots and they will not succeed in attaining their malicious goals”.

“The Zionist regime and those standing against Iran should know that the path of the country’s development and research will be paved rapidly” and a large number of other Iranian scientists like Fakhrizadeh will emerge to help, he added.

Iranian nuclear scientists have been the target of the western and Israeli spy agencies' assassination attempts in recent years.

In June 2012, Iran announced that its intelligence forces had identified and arrested all terrorist elements behind the assassination of the country's nuclear scientists.

All the elements involved in the assassinations of the country's nuclear scientists have been identified and arrested," Iran's Intelligence Ministry announced in a statement.

"A number of countries, whose territories and facilities had been misused by the Mossad-backed terrorist teams, have provided the Iranian officials with relevant information," the statement added.

"Over the course of the investigations, all other elements behind the assassinations of the Iranian scientists Massoud Ali-Mohammadi, Majid Shahriari and Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan as well as Reza Qashqaei (Roshan's driver) have been apprehended," the statement read.

"Some of the perpetrators of the assassination of Dr. Fereidoun Abbasi, the current head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, are among those arrested," the ministry added.

According to the statement, Iran's Intelligence Ministry had detected some of Mossad's bases within the territories of one of Iran's Western neighbors, which provided training and logistical support to the terrorist networks.

In the fifth attack of its kind in two years, terrorists killed a 32-year-old Iranian scientist, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, and his driver on January 11, 2012.

The blast took place on the second anniversary of the martyrdom of Iranian university professor and nuclear scientist, Massoud Ali Mohammadi, who was also assassinated in a terrorist bomb attack in Tehran in January 2010.

The assassination method used in the bombing was similar to the 2010 terrorist bomb attacks against the then university professor, Fereidoun Abbassi Davani – who became the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization - and his colleague Majid Shahriari. While Abbasi Davani survived the attack, Shahriari was martyred.

Another Iranian scientist, Dariush Rezaeinejad, was also assassinated through the same method on 23 July 2011.

In a relevant development in January, 2015, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) announced that it had thwarted an attempt by the Israeli intelligence forces to assassinate an Iranian nuclear scientist.

“In the last two years, the Zionist enemy (Israel) was trying hard to assassinate an Iranian nuclear scientist, but the timely presence of the IRGC security forces thwarted the terrorist operation,” Deputy Chief Liaison Officer of Flight Guards Corps Colonel Ya’qoub Baqeri told FNA in 2015.


Rouhani Calls for Global Solidarity to End Israeli Occupation


Rouhani, in a message to the UN General Assembly, urged the international community to take measures against Israel’s flagrant violation of human rights, as well as the UN resolutions.

“On the occasion of the International Day of solidarity with the Palestinian people, I would like to express, on behalf of the people and government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, our strong and everlasting support for the Palestinian people in the achievement of their legitimate aspirations,” he wrote in his message.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Here is the full text of Rouhani's message:

"In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

On the occasion of the International Day of solidarity with the Palestinian people, I would like to express, on behalf of the people and government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, our strong and everlasting support for the Palestinian people in the achievement of their legitimate aspirations.

November 29th marks more than seven decades of the Zionist regime’s occupation of Palestinian land, and more than seven decades of continued suffering, subjugation and injustice against the oppressed Palestinian people.

Over the course of this occupation, we have witnessed the intensification of the aggressive and racist policies as well as organized crimes of this regime against the Palestinian people that occur on a daily basis, including through the implementation of annexation plan, the killing of innocent Palestinian people, the continuation of anti-human rights sanctions against the people of Gaza in the time of the coronavirus pandemic and their deprivation from accessing minimum basic medical requirements and health assistance.

The existence of more than five million Palestinian refugees, the expansion of occupation through new settlement activities in the West Bank and Al-Quds-al-Sharif, the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians and the cruel blockade on Gaza are among the tragic consequences of the occupation of Palestine.

In this regard, extensive measures taken by the Zionist regime in Judaizing al-Quds-al-Sharif, changing its demographic and geographical nature, supporting the Zionist extremists in violating the rights of Palestinians are all actions that occur at a time when illegal settlement expansion and forcible eviction of non-Jewish people have already endangered the situation in the region.

In fact, such an approach aims at Judaizing al-Quds-al Sharif and destroying all of its historical and Islamic characteristics, with the goal to fully occupy Palestinian lands in order to prevent Palestinians from returning to their homeland which once again reveals the racially-charged intentions of this regime in occupying even more Palestinian territories and ignoring their inalienable rights.

The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that these measures not only drastically deteriorate the situation in the occupied territories, but also have grave regional and international security consequences.

Unfortunately, all of these actions take place while the international community has not taken any effective measures to end this tragedy and restore the rights of defenseless Palestine people.

Due to the support provided by a few members of the Security Council, the Zionist regime has actually increased its inhumane actions against the Palestinians.

Meanwhile, by adopting such aggressive actions and policies in West Asia, especially in Syria and Lebanon, and advancing a secret production of weapons of mass destruction, this regime has seriously endangered peace and stability in the whole region.

Emphasizing its continued full support for the humanitarian and emancipatory ideal of the Palestinian people, and for honoring their admirable and legitimate resistance against the Zionist regime’s aggression and occupation, the Islamic Republic of Iran urges international community to take action against such illegal measures taken by the child- killer regime of Israel which flagrantly violates human rights as well as the UN resolutions.

The Islamic Republic of Iran condemns the recent killing of Palestinians in Zionist regime's custody and the torture of its prisoners, especially the women and children in its captivity, as well as the annexation and continued siege of the Gaza Strip.

Furthermore, the Islamic Republic of Iran emphasizes the need for immediate and urgent actions by the international community including the Islamic countries in order to end this brutal siege. It is our firm belief that a just solution for the issue of Palestine cannot be achieved through the normalization of relations with the Israeli regime.

Rather, such a solution can be achieved by enhancing unity among Islamic countries as well as the international community while taking decisive measures against the aggressive and inhuman policies of this regime.

The artificial agreements between the Israeli regime and some countries in the region, which were in fact established previously and are just now being revealed, are considered a betrayal to the Palestinian cause and as such are condemned by Iran and all Palestinians.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is of the opinion that the termination of the long-lasting conflicts in West Asia and the establishment of a durable and just peace in the region are only possible through the settlement of the Palestinian issue, ending the occupation of all occupied territories, restoration of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, return of all Palestinian refugees to their homeland and establishment of a unified Palestinian State with al-Quds-al-Sharif as its capital by holding a referendum with the participation of all Palestinians.

While expressing its full solidarity with the Palestinian people, the Islamic Republic of Iran once again emphasizes the important responsibility of the international community, in particular the United Nations, to put an end to the occupation of the Palestinian territory and help Palestinians achieve their inalienable and fundamental rights.



North America


Biden sets new demands for US return to Iran deal, lift sanctions: NYT

02 December 2020

US President-elect Joe Biden will insist Iran agrees to new demands if it wants the US to return to a nuclear deal and lift sanctions, The New York Times said Wednesday.

The Times said the Biden administration would seek to extend the duration of “restrictions on Iran’s production of fissile material that could be used to make a (nuclear) bomb” in a new round of negotiations.

Iran would also have to address its “malign” regional activities through proxies in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen in the talks that would have to include its Arab neighbors like Saudi Arabia, the report said.

President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal in 2018 and has reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran as part of a “maximum pressure” campaign against the US’s arch enemy.

Biden, who defeated Trump at the ballot box last month, said during campaigning that he intends to offer Iran a “credible path back to diplomacy.”

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In the Times interview published on Wednesday, the incoming US president stood by those views, saying: “It’s going to be hard, but yeah.”

“Look, there’s a lot of talk about precision missiles and all range of other things that are destabilizing the region,” Biden was quoted as saying.

But, he added, “the best way to achieve getting some stability in the region” was to deal “with the nuclear program.”

Biden warned that if Iran acquired a bomb, it would spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, “and the last ... thing we need in that part of the world is a buildup of nuclear capability.”

“In consultation with our allies and partners, we’re going to engage in negotiations and follow-on agreements to tighten and lengthen Iran’s nuclear constraints, as well as address the missile program,” he told the Times.

Biden was cited as saying that the United States always had the option to international snap back sanctions if need be, and that Iran knew that.

The 2015 nuclear deal – known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA – gave Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

In response to Trump’s withdrawal, Iran has retaliated by rolling back its commitments to the accord.

Iran’s government has offered a cautious welcome to Biden’s victory, but conservatives have accused it of yielding to what they say is an “illusion” of a change by the “Great Satan” of America.


US takes down websites belonging to Iran-backed groups in Iraq

Lauren Holtmeier

02 December 2020

The US Justice Department has seized a website belonging to Iraq’s paramilitary Badr Organization in what one expert said is part of a broader US attempt to pressure Iran-backed groups in the country.

“There’s been much more pressure on the groups as a whole,” Phillip Smyth, an analyst at the Washington Institute told Al Arabiya English.

The latest site taken down belonged to al-Ghadeer TV, which was affiliated with the Iran-backed Badr Organization, a political party and paramilitary group that is one of Iran’s oldest proxies in Iraq.

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Articles on the site were critical of the current US president and US foreign policy, “while anti-Israel narratives were also observed,” a Justice Department affidavit published online read.

“At least three articles appeared to have pro-Iran sentiments regarding oil and sanctions, specifically, opposition to US sanctions on Iran,” read the affidavit that lists nearly 30 other sites registered on sites owned by US-based domain registrars that have been seized since October 7.

Iran-backed groups in Iraq have targeted protesters and claimed attacks on US forces and Western interests in the country. They have also been blamed for a string of assassinations, including that of Iraqi researcher Hisham al-Hashemi. While Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi promised to rein in the groups, little progress has been made, and attacks over recent months have increased.

In September, the US seized the websites for Al-Etejah TV, a satellite television channel affiliated with Iran-backed Kata’ib Hezbollah, which the US designated as a terror organization in 2009. Before Hashemi’s death, he received death threats from Kata’ib Hezbollah members. The group is one of several under the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) umbrella militia group.

In November, the US Department of Commerce took down another militia's website that belonged to Iraq’s Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba’s and was associated with Nujaba TV.

“This year has been quite a big one in terms of listing media groups that are linked with Iranian proxy groups,” Smyth said.

Many of these Iran-backed groups have sleek websites and videos designed to push their narrative forward in Iraq.

The groups and their associated media have pushed the narrative that the US and its allies created ISIS and that the US helps to resupply ISIS militants or evacuate the organization’s leaders from the battlefield, a November 2019 report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies read.

“Following the destruction of the Iranian consulate in Basra in September 2018, and several offices of Iraqi Shia parties/militias aligned with Iran, media outlets linked to both Tehran and its Iraqi allies have pushed the narrative that the US consulate helped foment the protests and the destruction of these facilities,” the report continued.

Smyth previously told Al Arabiya English that while physically countering these groups is key, countering these groups’ narratives online – and promoting the notion that Iraq is a sovereign state – is also important.


Pentagon approves troops drawdown plan in Afghanistan, but keeps larger bases

03 December 2020

The Pentagon has approved plans for partial withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, under which the US will remain in control of two larger bases in the war-ravaged country.

Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, made the announcement on Wednesday, saying the United States plans to remove some 2,500 troops from Afghanistan and focus on a smaller number of bases, Reuters reported.

Offering the first details about the drawdown plan ordered by President Donald Trump last month, Milley told an event hosted by the Brookings Institution think tank that Washington would, however, keep “a couple of larger bases, with several satellite bases.”

The top US general declined to disclose which bases in Afghanistan would be closed.

The largest American bases in Afghanistan include Kandahar Air Field in the country’s south and Bagram Air Field in the east, just north of the Afghan capital of Kabul.

Milley also said the US would keep up what he called its two core missions, namely helping Afghan security forces involved in a fight with local Taliban militants and carrying out operations against Takfiri militants, including Daesh, who have exploited the US-led invasion of the country and strengthened their foothold there.

Trump has ordered the partial drawdown of US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan to be completed by January 15, five days before he leaves office.

The pullout would leave about 2,500 troops in Afghanistan and 2,500 in Iraq at the beginning of the next US administration.

In an agreement reached between the US and the Taliban on February 29, the Trump administration promised to pull out all its troops by mid-2021 in return for the Taliban to stop their attacks on US-led occupation foreign forces in Afghanistan.

The Taliban agreed to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula with the Afghan government.

Milley’s announcement came hours after the Afghan government and Taliban representatives reached a preliminary deal to press on with peace talks.

US Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad tweeted on Wednesday that the two sides had agreed on a “three-page agreement codifying rules and procedures for their negotiations on a political roadmap and a comprehensive ceasefire.”

Representatives from the government in Kabul and those from the Taliban held the first round of the much-awaited intra-Afghan negotiations in the Qatari capital of Doha on September 12. The talks were also attended by politicians from Afghanistan, international organizations and the United States.

The intra-Afghan talks were set to take place in March, but were repeatedly delayed over a prisoner exchange agreement made as part of the February deal between the Taliban and the United States.

The US invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban regime in 2001 on the pretext of fighting terrorism following the September 11 attacks in New York. Afghanistan has been gripped by insecurity since then.


Israel behind assassination of Iranian scientist: US official

02 December 2020

A senior American official has acknowledged that the Israeli regime was behind the assassination of an Iranian scientist, CNN reports.

The official, however, “declined to give details about whether the Trump administration knew about the attack before it was carried out or provided support," according to the report released Wednesday.

“The official said that in the past, Israelis have shared information with the US about their targets and covert operations before carrying them out but would not say if they did so in this instance. The Iranian nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was killed Friday, had been a target for the Israelis for a long time,” read the report.

Prominent nuclear physicist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated in a terrorist attack near the Iranian capital Tehran.

The attack targeted the vehicle carrying Fakhrizadeh — who headed the Iranian Defense Ministry’s Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research (SPND), the agency said.

“President Donald Trump has given [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo carte blanche to continue carrying out the administration's "maximum pressure" campaign over the next two months,” added the report.

The anonymous US administration official further suggested that the assassination of the top Iranian scientist could hamper efforts by the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden to pursue diplomacy with Tehran.

“An Iranian move to take kinetic action against the US -- particularly killing Americans -- would make it harder for Biden to lift sanctions on Iran when he gets into office in order to jumpstart diplomacy,” read the report.

Iran has vowed to continue its nuclear program despite the US and Israel's attempts to disrupt it. Tehran has also vowed to retaliate the brutal assassination by the Zionist regime.





Pak arbitrarily transferred management of Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara, violated UNGA resolution: India

Dec 3, 2020

UNITED NATIONS: India has strongly hit out against Pakistan for arbitrarily transferring the management of the Sikh holy shrine Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara and violating an UN General Assembly resolution, saying Islamabad's move goes against Sikh religion and its preservation and protection.

In November, Pakistan transferred the management and maintenance of the Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara from the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee to the administrative control of the Evacuee Trust Property Board, a non-Sikh body.

“Pakistan has already violated the earlier resolution on Culture of Peace passed last year by this very assembly. Last month, Pakistan arbitrarily transferred the management of the Sikh holy shrine, Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara, from Sikh Community body to the administrative control of a non-Sikh body,” First Secretary in India's Permanent Mission to the UN Ashish Sharma said in the UN General Assembly on Wednesday.

Sharma said this act goes against Sikh religion and its preservation and protection. Sharma said the General Assembly would recall that the holy Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara finds mention in its resolution of December 2019. “That resolution stands violated by Pakistan,” he said.

The UNGA resolution ‘Promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace' adopted in December last year “welcomes the initiative to open up the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor in the spirit of interfaith harmony and peaceful neighbourhood, and appreciates the agreement between the Governments of India and Pakistan to allow visa-free access to pilgrims of all faiths, especially 'Nanak Naam Levas' and the Sikh community from across the world, as a landmark initiative for interreligious and intercultural cooperation for peace.”

India in November called Pakistan's decision as "highly condemnable", saying it runs against the religious sentiments of the Sikh community.

"This unilateral decision by Pakistan is highly condemnable and runs against the spirit of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor as also the religious sentiments of the Sikh community at large," India had said.


Former Congress corporator Rakib Zakir arrested in connection with Bengaluru riots case

Venkatesha Babu |Edited by: Amit Chaturvedi

Dec 03, 2020

Rakib Zakir, a former Congress corporator and a key accused in Bengaluru riots case, has been arrested by Central Crime Branch of Bengaluru Police.

Joint Commissioner of Crime Sandip Patil said on Thursday morning that Zakir was arrested late on Wednesday night. He was on the run.

On August 11, an angry mob enraged over a derogatory social media post, had burnt down more than 60 vehicles as well as DJ Halli and KG Halli police stations in Bengaluru apart from the house of Congress legislator Akhanda Srinivasa Murthy.

Three people were killed in the police firing when cops were trying to control the riots. At least 60 policemen were injured in the violence.

More than 400 people were arrested in the incidents of violence and a preliminary charge sheet filed by the police in the case said that intra-party rivalry within Congress was one of the key reasons for riots.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had in September taken over the investigation in which the provisions of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) were invoked by the state police.

The NIA has carried out searches at multiple locations in connection with the case and arrested a number of people.


BJP goes for Muslim-Christian social engineering in Kerala local election

Prabhash K Dutta

December 2, 2020

Afew days back, senior BJP leader and Karnataka minister KS Easwarappa created a flutter with a stereotype “no ticket to Muslims” remark in the upcoming Lok Sabha bypoll in Belagavi constituency. However, the BJP has no qualms in fielding more than 100 Muslim candidates in the panchayat polls in neighbouring Kerala.

The elections to local bodies -- panchayats, municipalities and corporations -- will be held in Kerala on December 8, 10 and 14. The BJP has fielded 500 Christian and 112 Muslim candidates for election to panchayats, block panchayats and district panchayats. And, among those seeking votes for these candidates would be Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

This comes as part of the BJP’s outreach to the minority communities in Kerala. Muslims and Christians roughly comprise 45 per cent of Kerala’s population. Hindus form about 55 per cent of Kerala’s headcount. Kerala has been one of the strong bases for the RSS but the BJP has not reaped the benefits of the strong Sangh Parviar presence in elections.

With Kerala Assembly election just six months away, the BJP is trying to emerge as the third power centre in the state, where the CPIM-led LDF and the Congress-led UDF have alternated in government since 1980. Strong Hindutva has failed to boost the BJP’s chances in elections in Kerala leading the party to adapt to the political reality of the state.

A definite shift in the BJP’s inclusive strategy was seen in the high-profile induction of Tom Vadakkan in April and AP Abdullakutty in June last year. Tom Vadakkan was a senior leader in the Congress for about 20 years. Abdullakutty had been with the CPIM and the Congress.

Abdullakutty is a special case for the BJP. A two-time Lok Sabha MP on the CPIM ticket, Abdullakutty was expelled by the communist party in 2009 after he praised Narendra Modi, the then Gujarat chief minister. Abdullakutty had back then joined the Congress.

Ten years later, Abdullakutty met the same fate of expulsion for praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi for leading the BJP-led NDA to second consecutive victory in the Lok Sabha elections. The Congress expelled him. He joined the BJP.

In September this year, when BJP president JP Nadda made fresh appointments to the party's organisational positions, Abdullakutty was made vice-president and Tom Vadakkan spokesperson. This was a clear signal how the BJP was going about its expansion in Kerala beginning with the local body polls.

Keeping in mind the popular sentiments, the BJP supported the Sabarimala devotees in their agitation following the Supreme Court ruling throwing open the gates of the temple to all women. It also cobbled up an alliance with Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SNDP)-backed Bharath Dharma Jana Sena (BJDS) in the run up to the Lok Sabha election last year.

The local body polls, particularly the panchayat election would be a key indicator of the BJP’s progress in Kerala ahead of the assembly election next year. In 2015, the BJP-led NDA polled 13.28 per cent of votes. The BJP won 933 of the 15,962 grama panchayat wards, 21 out of 2,076 block panchayat wards and three out of 331 district panchayat divisions. In urban body polls, the BJP in 2015 won 236 of 3,122 municipal wards and 51 of 414 corporation divisions.

Interestingly, while the BJP has fielded Muslim candidates including a number of women, the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) -- the political wing of the Popular Front of India (PFI), whom the BJP often accuses of Islamic extremism -- has fielded Hindu women on about a dozen seats in the local polls.



South Asia


Rights groups urge Bangladesh to halt relocation of Rohingya

03 December 2020

Human rights groups have urged Bangladesh to immediately stop its plan to relocate thousands of Muslim Rohingya refugees to a remote, flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal.

There have been reports that the Dhaka government is planning to start the relocation of some 4,000 Rohingya Muslims to Bhasan Char next week in a bid to ease overcrowding in the refugee camps at the district of Cox’s Bazar, on the border with Myanmar.

“Bangladesh should halt this hasty relocation process,” Ismail Wolff, the regional director of Fortify Rights, said on Thursday. “Not one refugee should be moved until all human rights and humanitarian concerns have been resolved and genuine, informed consent is assured.”

In a separate statement on Thursday, Saad Hammadi, a South Asia campaigner for Amnesty International, said, “The authorities should immediately halt relocation of more refugees to Bhashan Char.”

“The relocation of so many Rohingya refugees to a remote island, which is still off limits to everyone, including rights groups and journalists, without prior permission, poses grave concerns about independent human rights monitoring,” Hammadi said.

He said Bangladesh had to first let the United Nations (UN) and humanitarian agencies carry out independent assessments of Bhashan Char’s habitability. The Amnesty official, too, said the “full and informed consent” of the refugees was necessary for any relocation.

A senior local official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters that “many families” had been moved out of the camps in Cox’s Bazar as of Wednesday night, but declined to give a number.

Bangladeshi officials also said the first 400 of the 2,500 refugees would leave on Thursday evening.

Mohammed Shamsud Douza, the deputy Bangladeshi government official in charge of refugees, said housing had been built for 100,000 people and authorities wanted to relocate them during the November to April dry season, when the sea is calm.

He also claimed the relocation was voluntary, and said the government had taken all measures to mitigate the impact of disasters on the island.

The UN has said that it has been given “limited information” about the relocations and has not been involved in preparations, stressing that “any relocations to Bhasan Char should be preceded by comprehensive technical protection assessments.”

The number of refugees in Cox’s Bazar has swelled since August 2017, when a state-sponsored crackdown in neighboring Myanmar prompted some 740,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh. The country was already hosting some 200,000 Rohingya when the 2017 exodus began.

Since 2018, Bangladesh has been planning to relocate Rohingya to the desolate site.

But human rights groups have voiced concern about the plan because the island is remote and prone to devastation from cyclones.

In the past five decades, powerful cyclones have killed thousands of people in the Meghna River estuary, where the island is located.

More than 300 refugees were brought to the island earlier this year after spending several months at sea while attempting to flee Bangladesh. Rights groups say they are being held against their will and have complained of human rights violations.


Taliban Battered before Attacking ANDSF in Ghazni

By Mohammad Arif Sheva

01 Dec 2020

GHAZNI, Afghanistan – At least nine Taliban killed and further eight wounded during clashes with Afghan National and Defense Security Forces (ANDSF) in Giro district of Ghazni province, said the Ministry of Defense in a statement Tuesday.

“9 Taliban were killed and 8 others were wounded in Giro district and the outskirts of Ghazni city yesterday,” said the MoD in a tweet.

According to the statement, the Taliban insurgents were fully prepared to attack against the national forces in Giro before they were targeted by the Afghan National Army.

“They had prepared to attack #ANDSF positions when they were targeted by #ANA,” the tweet added. “Additionally, a stronghold and large number of their weapons were destroyed.”

Earlier, at least 19 Taliban insurgents killed during an operation carried by Afghan National Army (ANA) in Dehrawood district of Uruzgan, said the Ministry of Defense in a statement.


Pentagon approves troops drawdown plan in Afghanistan, but keeps larger bases

03 December 2020

The Pentagon has approved plans for partial withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, under which the US will remain in control of two larger bases in the war-ravaged country.

Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, made the announcement on Wednesday, saying the United States plans to remove some 2,500 troops from Afghanistan and focus on a smaller number of bases, Reuters reported.

Offering the first details about the drawdown plan ordered by President Donald Trump last month, Milley told an event hosted by the Brookings Institution think tank that Washington would, however, keep “a couple of larger bases, with several satellite bases.”

The top US general declined to disclose which bases in Afghanistan would be closed.

The largest American bases in Afghanistan include Kandahar Air Field in the country’s south and Bagram Air Field in the east, just north of the Afghan capital of Kabul.

Milley also said the US would keep up what he called its two core missions, namely helping Afghan security forces involved in a fight with local Taliban militants and carrying out operations against Takfiri militants, including Daesh, who have exploited the US-led invasion of the country and strengthened their foothold there.

Trump has ordered the partial drawdown of US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan to be completed by January 15, five days before he leaves office.

The pullout would leave about 2,500 troops in Afghanistan and 2,500 in Iraq at the beginning of the next US administration.

In an agreement reached between the US and the Taliban on February 29, the Trump administration promised to pull out all its troops by mid-2021 in return for the Taliban to stop their attacks on US-led occupation foreign forces in Afghanistan.

The Taliban agreed to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula with the Afghan government.

Milley’s announcement came hours after the Afghan government and Taliban representatives reached a preliminary deal to press on with peace talks.

US Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad tweeted on Wednesday that the two sides had agreed on a “three-page agreement codifying rules and procedures for their negotiations on a political roadmap and a comprehensive ceasefire.”

Representatives from the government in Kabul and those from the Taliban held the first round of the much-awaited intra-Afghan negotiations in the Qatari capital of Doha on September 12. The talks were also attended by politicians from Afghanistan, international organizations and the United States.

The intra-Afghan talks were set to take place in March, but were repeatedly delayed over a prisoner exchange agreement made as part of the February deal between the Taliban and the United States.

The US invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban regime in 2001 on the pretext of fighting terrorism following the September 11 attacks in New York. Afghanistan has been gripped by insecurity since then.





Algeria says soldier killed in clash with Islamists

2 December, 2020

An Algerian soldier was killed Wednesday during a clash with armed Islamists in the country's northeast, the defence ministry said in a statement.

Lelmaya Sifeddine was killed "during a new clash with a terrorist group" during an ongoing operation in the province of Jijel, it said.

On Tuesday, the ministry had reported that three Islamists were killed during a clash with the army in the same area.

Algerian authorities use the term "terrorist" to describe armed Islamist groups who have been active in the country since the early 1990s.

Wednesday's death brings to five the number of Algerian soldiers killed in Islamist attacks since the start of the year.

Two soldiers were reported killed in late June when a bomb exploded during an operation in the north of the country, while another was killed earlier that month during a clash with "an armed terrorist group" in the central province of Ain Defla.

Another died in a February attack claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group in Timiaouine, on the southern border with Mali.

A civil war during the 1990s pitted Islamist militants against the Algerian government, leaving 200,000 people dead.

Despite a 2005 charter for peace and reconciliation designed to turn the page on the conflict, armed Islamist groups still remain active in some areas of the country, largely targeting security forces.

The army regularly announces the arrest or death of militants in various regions of the country.

In 2019, it said it had killed 15 armed Islamists and arrested 25 others, while another 44 had handed themselves in to authorities.


20,000 foreign combatants causing serious crisis in Libya: UN

03 December 2020

The United Nations (UN)’s acting Libya envoy has warned that the presence of at least 20,000 foreign combatants and mercenaries in war-torn Libya is causing a “serious crisis” there and constitutes a “shocking violation” of the North African country’s sovereignty.

“That is a shocking violation of Libyan sovereignty… a blatant violation of the arms embargo,” the head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Stephanie Williams, told an online meeting of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) on Wednesday.

Her remarks came as weapons reportedly continue pouring into Libya despite a UN arms embargo that has been in place against the country since 2011.

Since 2014, two rival seats of power have emerged in Libya, namely the UN-recognized government based in the capital, Tripoli, and another camp based in the eastern city of Tobruk, backed militarily by armed rebels.

The Libyan government receives major backing from Turkey, and the rebels from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, and Jordan.

The rivals agreed during talks in Geneva in September to hold elections within 18 months and restructure the government.

The 75-member LPDF, which is part of the UN efforts to end the chaos in Libya, is trying to get the country’s warring sides to reach an agreement on a mechanism that would set up a transitional administration to lead the country through presidential and parliamentary elections in December 2021.

In October, the two sides signed a ceasefire deal, which also set a three-month deadline for foreign combatants and mercenaries to leave Libya. However, no progress has been made on the departure of those forces.

According to UN experts, the foreign forces, including Syrians, Sudanese, and Chadians, have purportedly been brought in Libya by rival sides.

“It is incumbent upon all actors to respect Libyan requests for them to depart the country so that Libyans can come together, so that the ceasefire can actually be implemented, that military forces can withdraw,” Williams separately told Al Jazeera.

“Time isn’t on anyone’s side here. There is now a constituency of change in the country to come together. There are well-justified fears, a justified lack of confidence between the different parties. But the country is slipping away,” she added.

The UN official also denounced unspecified foreign governments for “behaving with complete impunity” and intensifying the Libyan conflict with mercenaries and weapons.

Williams also warned that 1.3 million of Libya’s more than 6.8 million people are expected to need humanitarian assistance in January.

Libya, which sits atop the largest oil reserves in Africa, initially plunged into chaos in 2011, when a popular uprising and a NATO intervention led to the ouster of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.


UN chief says worried by DR Congo tensions

02 December 2020

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has sounded a warning about tension in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where President Felix Tshisekedi is locked in a crisis with supporters of his predecessor, Joseph Kabila.

In a report to the Security Council on Monday, Guterres said he was "concerned by the political tensions within the (DRC's) ruling coalition."

These "could undermine the fragile political stability, reverse the gains made since the 2018 elections and the resulting peaceful transfer of power, as well as divert efforts to address security challenges" in the east of the vast country, he warned.

The report, obtained by AFP on Wednesday, coincided with a video circulating on social media in which the head of the elite Republican Guard – which is tasked with protecting Tshisekedi – is seen ordering his men "not to plot against the government."

The upper ranks of the armed forces are dominated by officers appointed by Kabila, who stepped down in early 2019 after 18 years in power.

His handover marked the DRC's first peaceful transition since independence from Belgium in 1960.

But Tshisekedi's manifesto of reform has been crimped by the need to work within the constrictions of a coalition dominated by Kabila loyalists.

Their Common Front for the Congo (FCC) has an overwhelming majority in parliament.

Problems erupted into the open this year, forcing Tshisekedi to launch consultations last month on issues such as national security, management of state assets, the independence of the judiciary and the organization of elections.

He is preparing to announce his decisions after the consultations.

Late Tuesday, Tshisekedi held "nearly four hours" of talks with senior members of the armed forces and police, his office said on Wednesday.

They "gave an assurance about your supreme authority -- no campaign of sedition, of any kind, will shake our civil commitment and our determination to remain apolitical... and (faithful) to the republic," the army's spokesman, General Leon Kasonga, said in a video released by the presidency.

Leaders in the president's own party, the UDPS, have been urging Tshisekedi to walk away from an unpublished pact that he forged with Kabila in January 2019.

In a video that began circulating on social media on Monday, the head of the Republican Guard, Major-General Christian Tshiwewe, told his troops: "I urge you not to plot against the government by taking part in clandestine meetings."

"Remain patriots, imbued by loyalty (and) allegiance to the head of state," he said.


UN given ‘unimpeded’ aid access to Ethiopia’s Tigray

02 December 2020

Ethiopia has granted the United Nations full access to deliver aid to the northern region of Tigray, following weeks of lobbying amid military operations there, according to an agreement seen Wednesday by AFP.

The agreement, signed by Ethiopia's peace minister, allows for “unimpeded, sustained and secure access for humanitarian personnel and services to vulnerable populations in [government]-administered areas in Tigray and bordering areas of Amhara and Afar regions.”

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, last year's Nobel Peace Prize winner, announced military operations against leaders of Tigray's ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), on November 4, saying they were in response to TPLF-organized attacks on federal army camps.

Thousands have died in subsequent fighting and tens of thousands have fled into neighboring Sudan.

The government blocked phone and internet connections and restricted access to Tigray, making it difficult to assess conditions within the region.

The UN has been warning for weeks about a possible humanitarian catastrophe.

Around 600,000 people living in Tigray depended on food handouts before the fighting began, among them 96,000 Eritrean refugees. Food, fuel and cash are in short supply, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), while the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says basic medical equipment is lacking.

A senior UN official told AFP Wednesday the aid agreement would allow the UN and humanitarian partners to administer assistance “wherever people are in need.”

The officials said needs assessments would begin “as soon as we get clearance from our security staff.”

Caretaker administration

On Saturday night Abiy declared military operations were "completed" after federal forces took control of the regional capital Mekele.

The TPLF leadership, however, has vowed to fight on and says combat continues in multiple locations.

Tigray head Debretsion Gebremichael said Tuesday that fighting persisted in at least three locations, two of which were "around Mekele" and another near the town of Wukro, 50 kilometers (30 miles) north.

The communications blackout has made it impossible to verify claims from both sides on how the fighting is going.

Abiy intends to establish a caretaker administration in Tigray headed by Mulu Nega, formerly a senior official at Ethiopia's higher education ministry.

On Wednesday, Mulu announced administrators had been installed in the town of Shire, located roughly 250 kilometers (155 miles) northwest of Mekele, according to a report by state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate.

Analysts warn, however, that Mulu's administration could meet resistance from the Tigrayan population. The TPLF dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly three decades before anti-government protests swept Abiy to power in 2018.

Since then TPLF leaders have complained of being removed from top positions, targeted in corruption prosecutions and broadly scapegoated for the country's woes.

Tensions escalated dramatically after Tigray went ahead with regional elections in September, defying a nationwide ban on polls because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Federal officials declared the Tigray elections “illegal,” while the TPLF dismissed Abiy an illegitimate ruler who no longer had authority to make decisions affecting the region.

Ethiopian refugees suffer from lack of food and shelter at Sudan’s Um Raquba

With many Ethiopian refugees fleeing conflict in the Tigray region, Sudan's Um Raquba reception camp is becoming overcrowded, which left some scrambling to find an adequate shelter and enough food to keep them from going hungry.

More than 45,000 people have escaped from northern Ethiopia since November 4.



Southeast Asia


No Sign Of A ‘Truly Interfaith Council’, Says Council Of Churches Malaysia Leader

Jason Thomas

December 2, 2020

PETALING JAYA: Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM) general secretary Hermen Shastri says the setting up of a “truly interfaith council” has been hindered by a “majority vs minority” mentality.

Malaysia has several interfaith groups such as the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST), but Hermen pointed out it has yet to form one which engages with the majority Islamic community.

“And the reason given to us is, ‘We are the majority, you are the minority’ or ‘Our religion is the religion of the federation, and you are minority religions’,” he said in a webinar yesterday.

“Would that be a valid argument? Would that be in consonance with the deepest aspirations of your religious teachings?

“Would that in any way give clarification to ‘the dignity of all persons, the equality of all persons and the right of all persons to live together in community and carry out their religious beliefs’?

“These are the difficulties, it seems, when we come to the ground. The aspiration and the vocation is true, but there are social forces at work that we always need to think about,” he said.

Hermen was speaking at a panel discussion hosted by Komuniti Muslim Universal (KMU) titled “The Role of State and Religious Leaders in Protecting Freedom of Religion and Belief”.

While state and religious leaders should play a vital role to protect the freedom of religion and belief through their executive power and social legitimacy, KMU noted that the leaders’ role in this regard has not been adequately accounted for.

The civil society group noted that some state and religious leaders have even produced policies, speeches and actions that are insensitive to religious and ethnic minorities.

Hermen emphasised the need for structural reform in Malaysia with regard to how state and religious leaders approach freedom of religion and belief, stressing that such ideals should be enjoyed by all levels of society.

“What is the role of state and religious leaders in protecting freedom of religion?” he asked.

“I think they are the principles of governance … that will uphold the basic freedoms such as enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

He noted that under Article 18 of the declaration, everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

“I think it (the declaration) has a universal basis,” Hermen said.

“(If) all governments support it, it will become a basic international instrument to engage in meaningful dialogue in today’s world.”

The other panellist, Universiti Malaya lecturer Wendy Yee Mei Tien, also called for more dialogue, not only inter-religious but also intra-religious.

Yee, who designed a course in peace and humanities at the university, said there should be a focus on the common values of all religions such as humanity, unity and peace.

Noting that in Malaysia, politicians regularly use religion as a tool to cause divisiveness and discord among the races, she urged the younger generation, civil societies and NGOs to pressure the leaders to engage in religious dialogue.

“There are a lot of positive narratives out there in our daily lives which we can share and are loud enough to counter these negative narratives,” she said.

“We must have the wisdom to recognise that religion is being used to divide our society, and we need to counter that.”


Malaysian employers shocked, angry over fines ruling for overcrowded migrant workers’ lodgings

November 30, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian employers on Monday expressed their shock and anger over the government’s decision to impose a $12,277 fine for each foreign worker found to be living in overcrowded lodgings.

A number of company bosses said they were in a race against time to fall in line with the new criteria and avoid being hit with heavy penalties.

“Although many employers are rushing against time to fulfil the requirements, one of the main challenges industry players face is with the local councils,” Soh Thian Lai, president of the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM), told Arab News.

He said local councils throughout the country were not prepared “to assist the industry with the required endorsements” to comply with the terms of the Employees’ Minimum Standards of Housing, Accommodations, and Amenities Act 446.

“This has led to the main reason for the delay (in providing more space for migrant workers),” he added.

The decision came as a surprise after the Human Resources Ministry (HRM) had set March 2021 as a deadline for all industries to comply with the act which requires employers to ensure that their workers had sufficient residential space.

Malaysian government minister, Ismail Sabri Yaakob, announced last week that the penalty would be imposed from Nov. 26, sending shockwaves through businesses.

Soh said to provide housing facilities for each worker, employers were being forced to create additional space.

“There is, however, a lack of suitable accommodation as there are limited hostels available. Converting shop-lots to dwelling space will take time and costs to renovate the space according to the specifications outlined in the regulations as well as meeting other requirements by local authorities,” he added.

Act 446 was fully implemented in September this year after the country’s parliament amended the previous jurisdiction which only covered housing aspects of more than 20 acres of the plantation and mining sector.

The new amendment, however, extends the rules to all employment sectors that provide housing for workers.

“Most companies are currently juggling their operations toward business recovery while trying their best to adhere to this legislative requirement to readjust the living quarters for their workers,” Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) Executive Director Shamsuddin Bardan told Arab News.

Shamsuddin said that “the spike in (coronavirus disease) COVID-19 infections at a workplace involving foreign workers may have triggered the government” to call for the full compliance of Act 446 with immediate effect.

While the government “needs to contain the new infections” among foreign workers, it was also important to “assist employers,” he added.

“Many employers still depend on various government assistance, such as wage subsidies, to remain in business.

“It was only introduced on Aug. 30 and the government then decided to enforce the act in November, so the lead time given to employers to fully comply with the act was too short.

“It is costly to upgrade accommodations on the backdrop of a decreased cashflow from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Shamsuddin said.

Soh said Minister of Human Resources Saravanan Murugan had acknowledged some of the challenges involved and agreed, in principle, to a more educational approach for enforcement of the act.

“Following several taskforce meetings with the ministry to address compliance to labor laws by industry in recent months, it has been agreed that given these challenges, including the challenges faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, industries would need some time to make the changes and improvements to the housing facilities,” he said.

The FMM said it had written to the government and reiterated a previous request “for a 12-month grace period, without the imposition of any immediate penalty.”

Meanwhile, Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association (MARGMA) president, Supramaniam Shanmugam, told Arab News that 59 members of the association had expressed concerns over the “lack of time” to comply with all the requirements of Act 446.

“The Act 446 talks about the welfare of workers and one of the items to fulfil are the certificate of accommodation, which is done online, and our members have been advised to apply for it. So, what we are asking for is time,” he said.

MARGMA represents rubber glove manufacturers and employers, including leading industry players such as Top Glove and Supermax.

The HR minister and government labor department were both unavailable for comment.

The Malaysian director general of health, Noor Hisham Abdullah, recently called for employers to adhere to Act 446 “as a matter of public safety,” adding that “infections involving foreign workers needed to be addressed. The Ministry of Health urges employers to play a bigger role in tackling it.”

On Tuesday, Malaysia reported more than 1,200 new COVID-19 cases, adding to the national caseload of 65,697 infections.

According to the World Bank’s estimate, Malaysia houses at least 3 million foreign workers and is the sixth-largest migrant-receiving country in East Asia.

Indonesian workers make up to 39 percent of the total migrant workers population, followed by Nepal and Bangladesh at 24 and 14 percent, respectively, according to a report published in August by the Southeast Asia office of the Heinrich Boll Stiftung foundation.

Foreign workers in Malaysia are restricted to low-to-medium skilled industries such as construction, services, plantation, agriculture, manufacturing, and domestic work.



Arab World


Lebanon says difficulties in sea border talks with Israel can be overcome

02 December 2020

Lebanon wants maritime border talks with Israel to succeed and difficulties that surfaced in the last session round can be overcome, President Michel Aoun told a US mediator on Wednesday, after the latest round was postponed.

The negotiations between the old foes were launched in October, with delegations convening at a UN base to try to resolve a dispute about their maritime border that has held up hydrocarbon exploration in the potentially gas-rich area.

But a session scheduled for Wednesday was postponed with US officials instead pursuing separate contact with the sides.

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Aoun told visiting US official John Desrocher that Lebanon wanted the talks to succeed to strengthen stability in southern Lebanon and allow for oil and gas investment.

“The difficulties that appeared in the last round of negotiations can be removed through in-depth research based on international law and the articles of the law of the sea,” Aoun told Desrocher, the presidency said in a statement.

Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Monday it had been agreed with the Americans that talks would be postponed for a few weeks.

The talks are the culmination of three years of diplomacy by Washington.

Disagreement over the sea border has discouraged oil and gas exploration near the disputed line.

The Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah, which fought a month-long war with Israel in 2006, has said the talks are not a sign of peace-making with Israel. The group exercises significant influence in the state and backed the now caretaker government of Hassan Diab.

Israel already pumps gas from huge offshore fields but Lebanon has yet to find commercial gas reserves in its own waters.


How could a US drawdown in Iraq aid ISIS, lead to greater Iranian presence?

03 December 2020

In a quest to root out ISIS group hideouts over the summer, Iraqi forces on the ground cleared nearly 90 villages across a notoriously unruly northern province. But the much-touted operation still relied heavily on US intelligence, coalition flights and planning assistance.

While the planned US troop drawdown in Iraq from 3,000 to 2,500 by mid-January is unlikely to have an immediate impact on the campaign against ISIS remnants, there are concerns that further withdrawals could set the stage for another resurgence of the extremist group.

Although Iraqi forces have become more independent in combat missions, the country is reeling from ongoing anti-government protests, rampant corruption and political divisions that reach into the security apparatus. All of that means foreign support is still crucial.

There are already signs of a possible ISIS comeback as the group exploits security gaps widened by a year of protests and the pandemic. It’s a worrying trend for Iraq’s security forces, whose collapse in 2014 allowed ISIS to seize a third of the country and sent American troops rushing back less than three years after they had withdrawn.

So how could the American drawdown help ISIS and Iran? Here are three key ways.

1. Security could worsen

American forces returned at the invitation of the government after ISIS seized much of northern and western Iraq, including its second largest city, Mosul. A US-led coalition provided crucial air support as Iraqi forces, including Iran-backed militias, regrouped and drove ISIS out in a costly three-year campaign.

Pressure has been escalating for a US troop withdrawal since the defeat of ISIS in 2017, particularly among Iraqi factions loyal to Iran, which have stepped up attacks on US interests. Both the US and Iraq are in favor of a scheduled withdrawal but have been unable to agree on specifics.

Read more: Shadowy new militias in Iraq targeting US forces as new front for Iran

Senior Iraqi military officials in Baghdad say the withdrawal of 500 American troops will have little, if any, impact. But local officials in areas liberated from ISIS, where reconstruction has lagged and services have yet to be fully restored, fear a security vacuum if the Americans leave.

“It’s true we have a stronger army, stronger security forces,” said Najm Jibouri, the governor and former head of provincial operations in Nineveh, which includes Mosul. “But we still need training, support with intelligence gathering.”

“If the US leaves us now, it will be a big mistake,” he said.

Senior coalition and Iraqi officials say Iraqi forces will continue to rely on US air cover, reconnaissance and intelligence gathering for the foreseeable future.

Iraq’s security apparatus is still plagued by many of the same vulnerabilities that enabled the rise of ISIS, including poor coordination among different branches and rampant corruption. Tensions have mounted as Iran-backed Shia militias – now incorporated into the armed forces – have accumulated more and more power.

“These vulnerabilities remain and risk weakening the Iraqi armed forces when they are most needed,” Benedicte Aboul-Nasr, project officer at UK-based Transparency International - Defence and Security, wrote in a recent analysis.

There’s more. The Iraqi military has also reduced its troop presence in some areas because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the US has withdrawn from some northern bases after rocket attacks blamed on Iran-backed groups.

2. Militants could become more resilient

ISIS lost the last territory under its control in 2017 but quickly returned to its insurgent roots, carrying out hit-and-run attacks on Iraqi forces across a wide stretch of territory in the north.

A longstanding political and territorial dispute between the central government and the semi-autonomous Kurdish authority in the north has hindered coordination against ISIS. The US has long served as a mediator, a role that would be difficult to fill if it were to completely withdraw.

ISIS has also struck further south, including an attack on a convoy in Hilla, south of Baghdad, on Nov. 10 that killed and wounded more than a dozen Iraqi soldiers and paramilitary forces. Last week, it claimed a rocket attack that temporarily halted oil production in a small refinery north of the capital.

An Iraqi military commander, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief media, said the country sees five to six attacks every week. “These attacks have not been to hold and control land, but to attack and go back into hiding,” he said.

A previous incarnation of ISIS staged similar attacks in the years before the group exploited the chaos in neighboring Syria to seize large parts of both countries.

3. Iran’s influence could deepen

A wider American withdrawal would also enable Iran to deepen its influence in Iraq, where it already has strong political, economic and security ties forged since the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The US strike that killed Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani, and senior Iraqi militia leaders near Baghdad’s airport in January sparked outrage and led Iraq’s parliament to pass a non-binding resolution days later calling for the expulsion of all foreign troops.

The government later retreated from such threats, but Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi still faces pressure from Iran-aligned groups to eject US forces.

The US has waged a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran since the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from Tehran’s nuclear agreement with world powers in 2018 and restored crippling sanctions.

President-elect Joe Biden has said he hopes to return to the agreement while also addressing Iran’s military involvement in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. A significant drawdown of US forces in Iraq – while popular at home – could reduce his leverage.


Bahrain, Israel sign MoU covering tourism field

Rawad Taha

03 December 2020

Bahrain and Israel signed a memorandum of understanding covering the tourism field in Tel Aviv on Wednesday with the presence of Bahraini Industry and Commerce Minister Zayed bin Rashid Al-Zayani and Israeli Minister of Tourism Orit Farkash-Hacohen, reported state-owned Bahrain News Agency (BNA).

Minister Zayed bin Rashid Al-Zayani said that tourism in the Kingdom of Bahrain is one of the active sectors endowed with developed infrastructure thanks to the great interest of the Government, BNA added.

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“The tourism openness with the State of Israel within the framework of the declaration of support for peace concluded between the two parties will have a great impact on enriching the tourism sector and supporting it between the two countries”, Al-Zayani added.

The Israeli minister praised the reputation enjoyed by the Kingdom of Bahrain in the field of tourism, stressing that the cooperation of the two countries in this field would open more prospects for joint work, looking forward to cooperation and joint projects in the coming period, reported BNA.

BNA added that Al-Zayani pointed out that openness with the State of Israel would contribute in the future to a greater revitalization of the tourism movement between the two countries, in a way that meets aspirations and serves their common interests.


US to downsize number of embassy staff in Baghdad with Iran tensions mounting

Joseph Haboush

02 December 2020

The United States is preparing to downsize the number of employees and staff at its embassy in Baghdad, sources familiar with the decision said Wednesday, ahead of the one-year anniversary since Iran’s Qassem Soleimani was killed by a US drone.

Apart from the increased level of preparedness, US troops have been on high alert since a top Iranian nuclear scientist was killed last week while driving in Tehran.

Iraq has been a point of targeted attacks against US troops and bases by Iranian-backed militias and proxies.

Following the uptick of attacks on US interests in Iraq, US Secretary of State Pompeo delivered a strongly-worded statement to Iraqi leaders earlier this year, threatening to close down the embassy and withdraw US forces from the capital.

Read more: US threatens Baghdad with sanctions over Iran-backed militia attacks in Iraq: Sources

Asked about the decision to downsize embassy staff temporarily, a State Department official told Al Arabiya English that the US “continually adjusts its diplomatic presence at Embassies and Consulates throughout the world in line with its mission, the local security environment, the health situation, and even the holidays.”

The official noted that US Ambassador to Iraq Matthew Tueller would remain in Iraq. “The embassy would continue to operate,” the official said.

But the official said the State Department does not comment on details of any adjusts, but that the US remained committed to a strong diplomatic partnership with Iraq.

The Washington Post first reported news of the US decision.

As for fear of an Iranian attack on US forces or interests in Iraq, the official said: “Ensuring the safety of US government personnel, US citizens, and the security of our facilities, remains our highest priority.”

On Nov. 27, Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in Iran.

Fakhrizadeh was long described by Western, Israeli and Iranian exile foes of Iran’s clerical rulers as a leader of a covert atomic bomb program halted in 2003.

Iran accused Israel of being behind Fakhrizadeh’s killing, and various Iranian newspapers published stories on the need to respond.

“US security officials have been concerned about an increase in Iranian rocket attacks on US assets in Iraq ahead of Jan. 3. These concerns took on a sense of urgency in the aftermath of Fakhrizadeh's assassination in Iran,” Senior Fellow at the Washington-based Middle East Institute Randa Slim told Al Arabiya English.


Lebanon indicts eight retired military figures over ‘illicit enrichment’

02 December 2020

A Lebanese prosecutor on Wednesday indicted eight retired military figures including a former army chief over “illicit enrichment,” a judicial source said, in a first under a new anti-graft law.

Popular anger has grown in the past year over alleged corruption among the political elite in Lebanon, where a dire economic crisis has pushed the poverty rate up to more than half the population.

Since mass protests erupted in October 2019, the under-fire ruling class has repeatedly pledged to root out graft, and this year the parliament passed a new law to combat illicit enrichment.

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But critics have expressed little trust in a system they say is riddled with nepotism.

Those accused of graft on Wednesday included former army chief Jean Kahwaji, who held the post from 2008 to 2017, and several former military intelligence chiefs, the judicial source said.

The Beirut state prosecutor launched proceedings over their alleged “illicit enrichment, and using their official positions to reap vast wealth,” the source said.

A preliminary investigation showed a lack of correlation between their wealth and their income, the source said, adding that they would be questioned on December 10.

The official National News Agency said it was the first time such indictments were made since the law was passed.

It also made mention of a bank that several years ago had allegedly allowed Kahwaji and members of his family to deposit sums of up to $1.2 million in their accounts, without justification as to the origin of the funds.


Saudi Arabia has not hesitated to defend the Palestinian cause: FM

Ismaeel Naar

02 December 2020

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan has reaffirmed that the Palestinian cause is a fundamental Arab issue and that the Kingdom has not hesitated to defend it since the era of King Abdulaziz.

The reaffirmation of the Kingdom’s stance came during Prince Faisal’s message to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

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“The position of Saudi Arabia remains constant on the Palestinian issue as well as in defending the legitimate rights of the Palestinians, and in adhering to the Arab Peace Initiative that was drawn up by the Kingdom and adopted by the Arab countries at the Beirut Arab League summit of 2008,” Prince Faisal was quoted as saying by the Saudi Press Agency in a report.

“The Kingdom stresses the importance of a halt to settlement building by Israel on Palestinian land, and supports what was stated in Security Council Resolution 2,334, which affirmed that the Israeli occupation of settlements on the Palestinian land is a flagrant violation under international law and an obstacle to achieving a lasting and comprehensive peace,” the foreign minister added.

In the conclusion of his message, Prince Faisal affirmed that the Kingdom's support for Palestine “stems from its belief in the importance of the Palestinian cause, defending the rights of Palestinians and a decent life, and the importance of promoting peace between the conflicting parties.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Prince Faisal met with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shukry where they also discussed the importance of the Palestinian issue as the central issue of the Arab nation on the sidelines of the Saudi-Egyptian Consultation Committee.

Prince Faisal’s statements come a month after he had told an Arab League meeting that Saudi Arabia supports all efforts to reach a comprehensive solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.





France's Macron: No aid given to Lebanon without a government capable of reform

Rawad Taha

02 December 2020

There will be no international aid to Lebanon unless the country’s politicians form a government to implement reforms, French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday.

"I will return to Lebanon in December to put pressure on the political class," to form a new government, Macron said during his opening his opening remarks of the International Conference in Support of Beirut.

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The French president also revealed that the international community would establish a fund managed by the World Bank to oversee and distribute the humanitarian aid pledged to Lebanon, which has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic and the Aug. 4 Port of Beirut explosion.

France and the International community would not give up on the need for reforms and thorough investigations into the Port of Beirut.

On the Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s part, he said a forensic audit was needed to unmask those responsible for the economic collapse in Lebanon. Aoun was referring to decades of rampant corruption in the country where billions of dollars were provided for supposed infrastructure and government projects.

But Aoun said the priority was to form a new government. Lebanon has been without a fully functioning government since Aug. 10, when Hassan Diab stepped down due to pressure from protesters.

"Our priority is to form a government by adopting single standards that apply to all political forces and which are required to launch a reform workshop," he added.

"There is no doubt that the countries meeting today can provide Lebanon with basic assistance, through the means available to the United Nations and the European Union, to combat the theft of public funds," Aoun added.

Aoun said that Lebanon was currently negotiating with the World Bank over a loan of $246 million to establish a social safety net program and to help the country cope with its response to the coronavirus.

World Bank President David Malpass has renewed the call to the Lebanese authorities to set up a social safety net and engage in necessary comprehensive reforms, including financial sector reform.

“The World Bank is ready to help the Lebanese and institutions in Lebanon by contributing with other institutions and countries, and we affirm our commitment to help Lebanon implement the provisions of the roadmap to better rebuild Beirut Port,” he added.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations said that the international community must call on the leadership in Lebanon to put political differences and interests aside and meet the needs of citizens and the United Nations will continue to support Lebanon and its people to restore stability.


German man detained in Turkey for insulting ‘Turkishness’: Report

Emily Judd

02 December 2020

A German man is facing trial in Turkey for “insulting Turkishness” during a disagreement with a Turkish citizen, according to media reports.

The man, identified as Kristian B., is a 63-year-old German dentist, according to Ahval news, which cited leading Turkish news outlet Sozcu.

If found guilty, Kristian would face a six month to three-year prison sentence in line with Article 301 of Turkey’s penal code, which criminalizes public denigration of “Turkishness, the Republic or Grand National Assembly of Turkey.”

The alleged offense occurred at Antalya Airport’s baggage carousel when Kristian questioned the democratic nature of Turkey.

“This is what you Turks are like. This can’t be considered a democratic country any way,” Kristian allegedly told a Turkish national, who was filming the incident and then gave the footage to Turkish police.

Turkish authorities detained and released Kristian, but have kept his German passport and additional documents pending trial, according to Sozcu.

Imprisonment for insulting Turkish leaders, past and present

Earlier this year, Turkish authorities arrested a journalist for “insulting” a medieval Turkish sultan on Twitter.

Freelance Turkish journalist Oktay Candemir told Al Arabiya English he was arrested, and his house raided due to “a tweet that satirized Ottoman history.”

Candemir now faces the charge of “insulting the memory of a dead person,” according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), for his September 3 tweet about a historical drama series produced by Turkey’s state news agency TRT.

“Authorities allege that the tweet insulted Ertugrul Ghazi, a sultan who died around 1280,” according to CPJ citing Turkish reports.

Candemir, who could face up to two years in prison if convicted, said the tweet intended to make fun of the television series - not to insult historical figures.

Insulting the current Turkish leader also comes with penalty.

Over 3,800 people in Turkey received prison sentences for insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last year, Turkish media outlets Cumhuriyet and BirGun reported in September.

Turkey’s penal code criminalizes insulting the president, with an offender typically facing a prison term of up to four years.

The sentence can be increased if the insult is expressed in the public sphere.

As arrests have continued to increase over the past four years, human rights organizations have called on Turkey to end prosecutions for acts of “insulting the president,” and accused the government of using the law to silence dissenting voices.


Azerbaijan says it lost 2,783 soldiers during Nagorno-Karabakh conflict: IFX

03 December 2020

Azerbaijan said Thursday that nearly 2,800 of its soldiers were killed in recent fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, the first details it has released of military losses in weeks of clashes with Armenian forces.

The defence ministry in Baku said in a statement that "2,783 servicemen of the Azerbaijani armed forces were killed in the patriotic war," adding that 100 more soldiers were missing.


French govt. to inspect nearly 80 mosques in coming days

03 December 2020

The French government will inspect nearly 80 mosques in the coming days as part of unprecedented measures against "separatism."

In a Twitter post on Wednesday, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said state services would be inspecting 76 mosques, adding that some of them could be closed as a result.

He said 16 mosques in the French capital, Paris, and 60 in the rest of the country would be checked, and that 18 of them would be targeted with "immediate actions" at his request.

According to the French newspaper Le Figaro, Darmanin has sent a circular to French governors on the inspection of the mosques.

The French government has adopted an anti-Islam stance in recent months, intensifying raids and pressure on mosques and Muslim associations.

In September, two people died in a knife attack outside the former offices of French weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo.

On October 16, Samuel Paty, a history teacher was allegedly beheaded outside his school in a suburb of Paris. He raised controversy and provoked anger by showing blasphemous cartoons of Islam's Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to his students. Paty was murdered by an 18-year-old assailant, identified as Chechen Abdullakh Anzorov, who was shot dead by police soon after the killing.

Also on October 29, three people, including a woman, were killed following a knife attack, which was considered a "suspected terror attack," at the Basilica of Notre-Dame in Nice.

Following those incidents, French President Emmanuel Macron described Islam as a religion "in crisis" and declared war on "Islamist separatism," which he claimed was taking over France's estimated six-million-strong Muslim population.

French Muslims criticized the remarks, voicing concern that the speech would trigger hate crimes against them.

Macron's comments have angered not only the Muslim community in France, but all Islamic nations, leading to protests and calls for the boycott of French goods.

As part of a crackdown against Muslims, French authorities have already ordered a six-month shutdown of the Grand Mosque of Pantin in a low-income Paris suburb.

On November 3, Darmanin said 43 mosques had been closed in the last three years since  Macron took office.

Anti-Muslim sentiments have been on the rise across Europe in recent years in the wake of terrorist attacks in the continent. The attacks were carried out by the sympathizers of the terrorist group of Daesh or those of its members who had returned home following defeat in Iraq and Syria.

Muslim leaders in Europe and around the world have reiterated their unequivocal condemnation of the terrorist attacks.



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